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Chapter Text


There's a place I know

If you're looking for a show

Where they go hardcore

And there's glitter on the floor



Stale beer, sweat, and a host of sickly-sweet, floral perfumes assail his nose as he walks through the doors of the club. It's instinctive to duck his head and try to block out the offensive odors, but he masters the impulse to avoid drawing attention to himself. The club is friendly to those of the Second Curtain, but not all of the patrons are. He's here looking for information; Ran has kept a tight lid on his madness so far and he's been able to keep up a good front. If there's anything to be known, they'll know it here.


It still reeks. He wrinkles his nose in disgust, unable to cope with the overpowering stench. Before his transformation, enhanced senses had seemed like such a good idea, too.


Making his way over to the bar, there's a beam of pure sunshine sitting there, lighting up the dark club. Blinking, he realizes it's just a human, but - maybe not just a human. He's never seen anyone literally glowing before. Not even fairies glow unless they're actively accessing the magic of the earth - he's heard ten different names for it: soulstream, lifestream, the Gaia Spirit, the deep soul. It's something he can't access, himself, so he doesn't care what they call it. He can see through the glamors, and he can smell the use of magic, and it's nowhere to be found on this brightly gleaming human child. He smells of earth and sunlight, gasoline, leather, and soap. No sharp tang of magic, or any musky scent of a mythological monster. Pure mortal, pure sunshine.


He slips up beside the unnatural human and slams a fist down on the bar to get the attention of the brewman.


“Josten,” says Roland. “Haven't seen you in a while.”


It's not his real name, but it's been his for so long that it feels like it. 'Neil Josten’ scowls at the bartender. “Have you heard from Ran?”


The improbably sun-filled human scowls at him. “Rude, much?” His voice is deliciously husky, a trembling tenor that perfectly complements his face - which, Neil is alarmed to notice, is infuriatingly attractive. He doesn't have time for a fling, though, even if he was given to dealing with humans.


“Necessity takes precedence,” is all he says, and turns back to Roland.


Roland has been watching them carefully. Neil is pretty sure he's an incubus, which means Neil's flash of attraction was like a clarion call to the friendly bartender. Fuck , he thinks. Roland is eyeing him speculatively. “He hasn't been by,” is all he says. This time the 'fuck’ is audible.


Neil digs a wad of dollars from his pocket and flings it at the nosy bartender. “I wasn't here,” he says. “And I'll double it next time if you tell me when you see him.”


“Done,” Roland says easily. There's a very good reason Neil keeps coming back to this club. “This is Andrew,” he adds, and Neil is taken aback.


“I care?” He asks. The pool of sunlight has a decidedly thunderous expression on his face.


“Roland,” Andrew says. “I already said no.”


“He said no,” Neil reiterates. He has no idea what Andrew said no to, but he's not hanging around long enough for Roland to try hooking them up, or anything else. Incubi are straight from hell, Neil thinks, and Roland proves it every time he opens his mouth. “Call me if you see Ran.”


Mission accomplished, Neil threads his way through the mass of bodies in Eden's Twilight and escapes into the night. He's on the edge of town when he sheds his human form and howls at the night for the sheer joy of running. Roland is a nosy busybody, an interloper, and an annoyance, but he's one of the good people of the world. He'll find a way to inform Neil if his old pack leader comes around looking for him. It's Ran’s fault he's on the run in the first place, but Ran went bloodmad when he broke the rules and attacked a human. Outcast from his pack, far from everything familiar, Neil throws his head back and howls his grief at the moon, and doesn't think about how a human could be so magical.


Second Curtain : a veil of magic that separates the mortal world from the supernatural. Especially gifted mortals can see past it, but are rarely believed by those who think there is only one way of seeing the world.

Chapter Text


When the dark of the night comes around
That's the time, that the animal comes alive


It's almost a week to the day when Neil finds himself pushing back through the crowd at Eden's Twilight. The pool of light in human form is missing, to his fantastic relief.  Roland is behind the bar again, feeding off the energies of the couples scattered throughout the dim club. Neil can smell sweat, come, and latex mingling from a pair in the corner by the bar.  


“I haven't seen him,” Roland says instead of a greeting.


Neil almost smiles, except that he'd forgotten how about fifty years prior. “I know,” he says. “I just came for a drink.”


Roland acts shocked - Neil isn't one for letting his guard down, especially in public - but he's had verifiable proof that Ran is in England for the next 72 hours, and he took the rest of the pack with him. Neil is, for the next two and a half days, completely safe. He wants a drink. He wants as many drinks as Roland can sell him in the next six hours, in fact. He's going to have his celebration, then sleep off whatever ill effects it leaves him with, and then he's going to use the remainder of the time to get the hell away from this city. Bangkok must be nice this time of year, he thinks.


“You should settle down,” Roland tells him. This isn't getting Neil a drink, and Neil tells him that in return.


“Yes, I'll just nip out to the nearest shopping center and pick a nice girl up off the shelf, shall I? And then what, die horribly and alone when she finds out I turn into a wolf sometimes and my pack framed me for murder?”




Andrew can't get the other man out of his mind. His time with Roland was extra special just because the rude stranger was so much in his head.


It's not a problem he's accustomed to dealing with, and he doesn't like it. He especially doesn't like the fact that Roland picked up on his interest before he'd even finished processing it. Roland has been trying to set him up with a nice guy nearly from the moment Andrew stepped through the doors of the club. The fact that he keeps going has a lot to do with Roland himself, though. It backfired immediately when Roland's first attempt was with Andrew's own cousin, Nicky.


'How was I supposed to know that he was your cousin?’ Roland had asked. Since there was no logical way he could have, Andrew had forgiven him, and Nicky still laughed about it.


If only Andrew could succeed in convincing Roland that he neither wants nor needs a 'nice guy’ and is in fact only looking for someone to get off with. Or to. He still has trouble with letting people touch him, but he's working through it.


Nicky wanders absently into the kitchen, his gaze vacant.  “You should go back to the club,” he says. Andrew's head comes up. Nicky has a gift for knowing things. Aaron looked it up once and called it precognition. It doesn't always come in visions of the future, said Nicky, and was usually more like very strong gut feelings, but it was never wrong. Andrew is out of his chair almost as soon as the words leave Nicky's mouth, his body moving far more quickly than his mind as he hasn't even consciously decided to go yet.


Self-preservation kicks in when he's halfway to the hallway. “Why?”


Nicky is still caught up in his gift. Andrew thinks it might be a vision this time. “Neil is going to need you,” he says.


“Alright,” Andrew agrees, but it's not until he's in the car and driving that he stops to wonder - who the fuck is Neil?




“Ah, good, crazy people.”


The voice goes through Neil's skin straight down to his bones and shudders along his nerves. He doesn't have to turn around - he recognized Andrew's voice the moment he spoke.


He turns anyway. The sight of Andrew, in his own personal, impossible pool of sunshine, is blinding. No one else seems to see the golden light spilling over Andrew's shoulders, although Neil has no idea how they could miss it. It's not being reflected in any of the mirrors, however, and it's not actually illuminating anything around him, it's just draped over him like a cat, shining on his face and glinting off his hair. His breath catches, his heart rate spikes, and Roland is giving him a smug smile that he doesn't even have to see to know is there. Stupid incubus.


“Andrew, hello,” Roland says cheerfully. “This is Neil.”


All of a sudden, Andrew's puddle of light goes out. Neil blinks into the unexpected darkness, trying to force his eyes to adjust faster.


“No,” Andrew declares, and spins on his heel. Neil is completely baffled by the strange mortal behavior, but he's had centuries to get used to humans doing odd things. He's still looking in Andrew's direction when he sees Ran sweep into the club like a king.


Neil drops his drink, but the sound of shattering glass is far away. He stumbles to his feet, but he's out of time. Ran is going to look over and see him, and then he's going to die.


“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” Neil hears himself saying. Andrew has turned back to him, but Neil is beyond caring about mortal mysteries. He needs to get away. In the distance, Roland says, “Ex-boyfriend, bad breakup.” It's meaningless noise. Then someone is touching him, holding his hand, and tugging him into the crowd. Ran disappears behind a wall of seething bodies.


“Don't ever expect me to dance with you again,” Andrew is saying in his ear. Neil looks through the glowing sunlight into Andrew's hazel eyes. Ran is at the club ordering a drink; he hasn't seen Neil.


Then the words penetrate. The only thing he can think to say is a stupid, “Why?”


Andrew levels a flat stare on him. “I don't deal with crazy people,” he says.


I'm neither crazy nor a person, Neil thinks, but he keeps this to himself. For whatever reason, Andrew has hidden him from Ran's eyes, and Neil thinks it might have something to do with the golden sunlight pouring down over them both in the dim club. Neil realizes he's made a mistake somewhere. Andrew is anything but a normal human. He doesn't say that, either. “Thanks,” he mutters. “I appreciate the help anyway.” Human niceties. He's been dealing with them a lot lately.   Bangkok, he reminds himself. It'll be fantastic.


It'll be crowded and noisy and smelly, but Ran will never even think to look for him there, and neither will anyone else.


“That's why I came here,” Andrew mutters, almost sullenly. It's weird enough to draw Neil's attention back to his unwilling partner.




“Nicky said you'd need my help,” Andrew explains. “It's easier not to argue with him.”


Something between dread and fear trickles into Neil's stomach like ice. Who the fuck is Nicky, and how did he know about Neil? Maybe Bangkok won't be far enough away after all, if complete strangers know his name.


At the bar, Ran is shoving a stack of cash at Roland and scowling. He leaves as abruptly as he arrived, and Neil almost sags in relief. Andrew turns him loose, and he does stagger back now that nothing is holding him upright. He belatedly realizes he was leaning on Andrew, and hadn't even noticed it.


“Tell me about him,” Andrew demands. Honor says that Neil owes him an answer for his work in keeping Neil safe. Neil silently tells honor to go fuck itself.


“No,” Neil says. He begins pushing through the crowd, making his way back to the bar. Roland is looking pale.


“He asked about you,” he says. “Said something about a trap. Neil, what's going on?”


“Yeah, Neil, what's going on?” Andrew echoes. Neil scowls at him.


“Thought you didn't deal with crazy people?”


Roland interjects. “He knows you're not crazy,” he tells Neil.


Neil takes a deep breath. Bangkok, Bangkok, Bangkok. “He framed me for murder,” he tells Andrew. It's the pure and only truth, but no one has believed him yet. Ran had been a Gifted mortal - persuasion, Neil thinks - and being turned into a werewolf had only made him more powerful. He's sent his Will into the deep soul of the earth and set up a sort of command. Neil will always be seen as untrustworthy, a liar, and a killer, unless the person has enough strength of will to resist the deep command, knows Neil well enough to know that it's not true, or is protected by a powerful enchantment. Because the club itself is warded against enchantments, Roland has believed Neil's word while he's inside, but Neil has never dared test it outside of these walls.


Andrew directs his next words at Roland. “A bad breakup, huh?”


“We weren't together,” Neil informs them both.


“That's why he did it,” Roland says, as if dropping momentous Truths into people's laps is an everyday occurrence. Stupid incubus.


“You wouldn't date him so he framed you for murder?” Andrew asks, incredulous. Neil doesn't blame him. He's only mortal, and even inside a warded club, Ran's command must be working at him.


“Something like that,” Neil says. “I need to leave,” he tells Roland. He won't be back, but he doesn't need to say that aloud. Incubi deal with emotions, after all.



Something in the back of his mind is telling him that Neil is lying somehow, that whatever the reason Ran broke up with him over was a good one. It doesn't feel right, however. Andrew has been coming into the club for years, long enough now that he trusts Roland, and Roland obviously trusts Neil. Nicky sent him out here for Neil, and even though he'd never admit it to anyone else - could barely stand to admit it in the privacy of his own mind - he trusts his cousin, too. It's two people who've earned his good opinion versus a suspicious feeling in his mind.


He used to see monsters as a kid, and it got him sent away from his family for almost fifteen years. His own mind is the last thing he's going to trust.


“You can't leave,” Roland is telling Neil. “He'll find you. He was supposed to be on the other side of the ocean tonight.”


Andrew listens in and doesn't bother to hide it. Neil has plucked his curiosity. Neil claims he can turn into a wolf, his thoughts remind him. He'd been coming up to the bar to ask Roland who Neil was when he overheard the rude stranger telling the bartender why he was going to die horribly and alone.


Then Roland admitted that the rude stranger was the Neil Nicky had sent him here after.


Andrew was beginning to give himself a headache.


“How do you know?”


“Because he was pissed he had to waste energy on a teleport spell to get here, and he was broadcasting so loudly I'm surprised the TV sets didn't pick it up.”


Roland is crazy too?


Spells, Andrew can deal with. But a teleport spell? The one who could market that would be rich for the next hundred million years. “Teleportation is impossible,” he informs them. The twin looks of pity and scorn are a silent insult.


That's what your problem is? Magic is okay but werewolves aren't?”


“Magic exists,” Andrew says simply. “Werewolves are a myth. A movie monster.”


The looks of pity and scorn are back tenfold. Andrew squirms motionlessly, and remembers his first rule. Never trust your own mind.


“So he framed you for murder because you wouldn't date him,” he recaps.


“That's not-” Neil begins, but Roland shushes him.


“Essentially,” the bartender agrees.


“And now you need to leave.”


“I should have been gone five minutes ago,” Neil mutters, shooting a dark look at Roland.


The feeling isn't coming from his mind, which is why Andrew pays attention to it. It's coming from somewhere near his stomach. If you let this man walk away, it's telling him, you will regret it forever.


Andrew doesn't believe in regret, but he also doesn't believe in setting himself up for it, either. “So come with me instead,” he hears himself say.



Second Curtain : a veil of magic that separates the mortal world from the supernatural. Especially gifted mortals can see past it, but are rarely believed by those who think there is only one way of seeing the world.

Deep Soul : a sphere of energy that manifests like liquid around the Earth. Immortals, guardians, and other supernatural beings can sense it, but not all of them can manipulate it. In essence, it is the soul of a planet. It is the source of magic in the world. Gaia Spirit, soulstream, and lifestream are some of the other names for it.

Chapter Text


My fingers claw your skin,

try to tear my way in
You are the moon that breaks the night

for which I have to howl




There are wards carved into the doorframe. Neil is hanging back, studying them. Andrew hasn't shown any signs that Ran’s curse is affecting him outside the warded club, but Neil is pathetically relieved that there are wards here too. Only a fool or an infant would go without basic wards and protections, and Andrew is neither of those things. He can't figure out how he ended up here, however. Come with me, Andrew said, and suddenly the idea of going to Bangkok evaporated like dew in the sunlight.  


Neil isn't susceptible to spells and enchantments. He can smell the magic when it's being used, and can sidestep it. He can smell the charms on the windows, and the wardsigns cut into the walls, and even a faint hint of the burnt herbs laid down on the foundation when the house was being built. Andrew continues to smell like mortal blood and flesh and a fresh, bright sunny day. There's absolutely no trace of magic anywhere on him. So how, Neil wonders , did I end up following him back to his home? Just because he asked?


It's absurd.


It's the only explanation he has.


Andrew unlocks the door, and Neil is taken aback by the mirror on the other side, just inside the threshold. It seems an...odd...sort of protection, but it's damaged in some way, not a perfect reflector -


He feels like a complete fool a moment later when the 'reflection’ steps back to allow Andrew into the house and he realizes it's not a mirror after all, but another person who looks almost exactly like Andrew. A twin. The other man is also drenched in light, but it's dimmer, less all-encompassing.


“You can come inside,” Andrew says to Neil, and the twin suddenly realized Andrew is not alone; his scent changes to fear and alarm, with anger simmering just beneath the surface.


“Andrew, what the fuck,” he starts, and a third man, much taller than the twins and dark where they're light, appears behind him.


“Who's this?”


“Neil Josten,” says Andrew. “He's staying here for a while.”


The tall human grins widely. “Ahh, Neil. I thought he looked familiar.”


Neil takes a step back, adrenaline surging through him. Ran has found out about his plans somehow, sent this man here to stage an ambush, and somehow Andrew must have been in on it - Neil feels stupid, he didn't even stop to think about it, so sure of himself and so confident in his own abilities -


“Nicky Hemmick,” says the man, and the grin turns to something darker. “Please tell me you swing my way,” he says, leering at Neil with obvious interest.


This is the one who sent Andrew to the club, Neil thinks, and the panicked self-recriminations cease as quickly as they'd come. He doesn't know how to answer the implied question, though; he's not entirely sure what's being asked of him.


“This is Aaron, Andrew's brother, obviously,” Nicky says, apparently not waiting for a response from Neil regarding the strange question. “So, are you gonna tell us how you ended up coming home with my cousin? He's not the type to bring strangers back with him.”


Andrew is scowling, and his light is dimmer than usual. “Leave him alone, Nicky,” he warns. Neil isn't pleased. He can fight his own battles. He'll stay here for a day or two, and then head for Canada.


“Cousin?” Neil asks when Nicky's words catch up with his thoughts. He looks between the three of them and can't see it. They don't even smell like family. Neil is beginning to get suspicious again.


“Unlikely looking, huh? My dad, their uncle, found my mom in Mexico while on a trip to spread the Word. I take after her.”


It sounds too neat. There doesn't seem to be any hint of duplicity in him, but the last half hour has been surreal enough as it is. Neil inches back towards the door.


“You don't have to worry about us,” Nicky says, startling Neil with his understanding. “Any friend of Andrew's is a friend of ours. You can stay in the guest room.” The leer is back again. “And I promise we don't bite - hard.”


“Nicky, shut the fuck up,” Aaron growls, drawing Neil's attention back to him. Andrew has been watching Nicky and Neil interact, but Neil has no idea what he could be thinking. He considers telling them that they should worry about being bitten by him instead, but the leer only grows on Nicky's face.


“Oh really?” he purrs, as if Neil has spoken. “What kind of club did you say that was, Andrew?”


Neil doesn't bother to hide his retreat, pressing up against the door. His back tingles where the wards buzz angrily at the contact. He's definitely not staying. Nicky's face undergoes a complete shift in expression, turning grey under the tan.


“You can't leave this house tonight,” he says ominously. “Ran is looking for you.”


The blood drains out of Neil's face so fast it leaves him dizzy. Who the fuck are these people? How the hell does Nicky know that name?


“Precog,” Andrew says suddenly, watching Neil. It's half a relief, half alarming, but at least it explains how Nicky knows him.


“You better have a damn good explanation for this, Andrew,” Aaron says, and he leaves in a swirl of thunderous energy, storming up the stairs and deeper into the house.


“Not that I'm complaining,” Nicky says, turning to him. “But why did you bring him back?”


Andrew stares at Neil unnervingly. “I don't know,” he says.


That makes both of us, Neil thinks.




Neil is visibly uncomfortable with Nicky's attention, and it's getting on Andrew's nerves. He wants to see what Neil will do, however, and forcibly stops himself from interfering. When Nicky brings up Ran, Andrew thinks Neil is going to pass out or simply break down the door in an effort to leave, and he finally steps in to explain why Nicky is the way he is. It's a damn aggravation to have his questions answered before he asks them, to have actions he hasn't even committed yet commented on. He's a little bit smug about having caught Nicky off guard for once by bringing Neil with him, but he still can't satisfactorily explain why he did it. Instead of trying, he motions for Neil to follow him down the hallway, and shows him to the guest room. Neil moves stiffly, head pivoting around as he takes in the details of the house. Andrew is willing to bet he already knows how many steps it would take to get to each of the windows and back to the door.


He leaves Neil in the room alone, and hears the door locking as he walks away. He's wondering why Neil agreed to come with him if it's clearly so difficult for him. Unbidden, his mind offers up an image of himself on his knees in front of Neil, who’s looking down at him with half-lidded eyes and a sleepy, sexy expression on his face.  His cheeks burn. I already know I'm attracted to him, he tells himself. No need to get graphic.


It would be very nice to see that sort of look in real life instead of his imagination, however, especially because he's only seen disinterest and fear on Neil's face so far. Something tells him that Neil is going to be very important somehow.


He sees the sleep-sexy look again, and this time, he allows it to stay as he makes his way up into his room.





Second Curtain : a veil of magic that separates the mortal world from the supernatural. Especially gifted mortals can see past it, but are rarely believed by those who think there is only one way of seeing the world.

Deep Soul : a sphere of energy that manifests like liquid around the Earth. Immortals, guardians, and other supernatural beings can sense it, but not all of them can manipulate it. In essence, it is the soul of a planet. It is the source of magic in the world. Gaia Spirit, soulstream, and lifestream are some of the other names for it.


Bloodmadness: werewolves are forbidden by an ancient code from drinking human blood. If a lycanthrope takes a life and drinks the blood of a human, they will rapidly descend into a homicidal insanity, becoming nothing more than a ravening, bloodthirsty monster.

Chapter Text

You are the sound that I hear

You are the sound that I hear
We are not standing
We are falling



Neil is beneath him, clutching at his shoulders. He moves slowly, hearing Neil's breath catch as his hips flex. Neil exhales on a broken moan, Andrew's name lost somewhere between his tongue and his lips. Pleasure builds slowly in the pit of his stomach, curing through him in lazy, heated ripples. Neil clenches around him, shuddering under a particularly forceful thrust. Andrew can't think clearly, heat and need are overwhelming him. He wants to keep this slow, but sensation drives him higher, pushing him to go faster. Neil drags his fingers down Andrew's back, not digging in hard enough to be painful, but the sharpness of his nails against Andrew's skin is a jagged counterpoint to the aching pleasure surging in his veins. The rhythm breaks suddenly as Neil arches under him, and Andrew can feel his cock throb as Neil spills between their stomachs. Another thrust and he's coming, pouring into Neil's body in spurts until he's drained and sated. Andrew collapses to the mattress, panting with exertion, and takes care to avoid falling onto Neil.


When he opens his eyes, he's alone in the bed, an uncomfortable wetness spreading in his boxers. A dream, he thinks, and is vaguely horrified by it. He hasn't had a wet dream since he was a teenager and still figuring out his sexuality. The fact that he should dream of Neil is alarming and unnerving. He's barely known the man a week, and only interacted with him twice. Roland trusts him, and Andrew trusts Roland, so it's a mark in his favor, but that's not a good reason to be having sexual fantasies about the other man. I need to get laid , he tells himself, and then jumps half out of his skin when his alarm goes off a second later.

Neil is in the kitchen when he wanders downstairs half an hour later, toweling his hair dry. Andrew looks him up and down, thinks about those slim hips between his palms, and forcefully aborts the thought before it can go any further. Neil turns around with a guarded look, recognizes Andrew, and visibly relaxes. He stiffens again a moment later, and Andrew would give almost anything to be able to read the thoughts in his head. Aaron knows a spell that could give him a few hours of telepathy, but the one and only time Aaron had tried it, he’d said he couldn't control it and had heard every thought from every person in a five mile radius. It had given him a terrific migraine. Andrew doesn't want to be incapacitated when Neil is in the house, not while Ran is somewhere nearby and hunting him.


“Good morning,” Andrew says when the silence between them has stretched beyond comfortable levels. Neil reacts slightly, the merest hint of a recoil, then nods once.


“Good morning,” he returns. The coffee pot beeps, and Andrew belatedly realizes that Neil has been preparing breakfast. The toaster is out, and there's butter melting in a pan on the stove. “I hope you don't mind me raiding your kitchen,” he adds.


Andrew can't remember the last time any of them bothered making breakfast, and is pleased by the prospect. “It's fine,” he says.


Neil watches him from the corner of his eye while cooking. Andrew perches on the sideboard and shoves a window open to smoke. The silence stretches again, but this time it's not as uncomfortable - until Nicky stumbles in blearily and makes for the coffee pot. He nearly trips over Neil before realizing the smaller man is there.


“Sorry, boo, didn't see you there,” Nicky says absently, then does a double take, eyeing Neil with interest.


“I'm not that short,” says Neil, grumpily. “Andrew is shorter than me.”


“Yeah, but he's...lighter.”


Neil looks at Andrew. “Yeah, he is,” he agrees, and Andrew is slightly mystified by the considering look Neil sends him.




Andrew looks exhausted and smells like sex and soap. Neil is bewildered by his own aggravation over this fact. He can't smell another person on Andrew, at least not anyone strange - Nicky, Aaron, and Roland, as well as Neil himself are the only ones Neil can smell. He's beginning to wonder if Nicky lied about the cousin thing, and if it's some sort of cover to let Andrew keep a live-in lover. Then why invite me?


He slams the egg into the edge of the pan so hard it splinters instead of cracking neatly, sending shards of eggshell into the pan. This is fucking ridiculous. I'm only staying here for a few days to keep Ran off my trail. I'm definitely not here because I'm interested in sleeping with Andrew.


The fact that he has to remind himself of this is even more irritating than the thought of Nicky and Andrew being lovers. He's fishing the eggshell out of the pan when Nicky bumps into him from behind. It's been a long time since Neil dealt with mortals, and Nicky's absent use of a petname startles him badly. When the tall man comments on Andrew's light, Neil's attention is arrested. I wonder, can he see it too? Is Andrew aware of it? If he asks, maybe it'll give him a clue as to why Andrew is constantly bathed in sunlight.


He's still trying to think of a neutral way of asking that won't make him sound like a lunatic when Aaron arrives in the kitchen, drawn by the smell of eggs and coffee. He scowls in Neil's direction, but helps himself to a cup and settles at the table. Nicky, having sucked down one cup already, is chattering about his night at work while he makes his way through a second. Andrew hasn't said anything since the stunted exchange of greetings earlier, and with Aaron's presence in the kitchen, the atmosphere is noticeably tense.


Neil adds bacon to the pan while the eggs cook, and wonders how the hell he ended up cooking in the first place. Andrew's presence is cutting the connections in his brain, and the light-filled man isn't even doing anything. He's fairly sure that it was Andrew he was thinking of when he decided to cook. I must be losing my mind.




The serene domesticity is bizarre and unusual for their household. Andrew's body is still buzzing from the dream, making it difficult to concentrate on anything but the lithe and graceful way Neil moves, and the slight sway in his hips as he pads between the fridge and the stove. It's mesmerizing to watch. He finds himself looking over, staring, and looking away in a repetitive cycle. He's getting on his own nerves when a feeling shudders through him. Aaron and Nicky both swivel around, so he knows he's not imagining things.


Neil, in the process of plating up the food for them, watches in obvious consternation as the three of them try to decide what to do.


“Something hit the wards,” Nicky says.


“No shit,” Aaron snaps. “Is this your fault?” He turns accusingly towards Neil, who suddenly seems to understand.


Before Neil can reply, Andrew is up off his perch and heading for the door. There's someone behind him, but he doesn't stop to find out whether it's Nicky or Aaron. The wards shudder again under the force of another blow.





Second Curtain : a veil of magic that separates the mortal world from the supernatural. Especially gifted mortals can see past it, but are rarely believed by those who think there is only one way of seeing the world.

Deep Soul : a sphere of energy that manifests like liquid around the Earth. Immortals, guardians, and other supernatural beings can sense it, but not all of them can manipulate it. In essence, it is the soul of a planet. It is the source of magic in the world. Gaia Spirit, soulstream, and lifestream are some of the other names for it.

Bloodmadness: werewolves are forbidden by an ancient code from drinking human blood. If a lycanthrope takes a life and drinks the blood of a human, they will rapidly descend into a homicidal insanity, becoming nothing more than a ravening, bloodthirsty monster.

Wards : magical energy that is concentrated in runes, sigils, or other powerful signs and laid down around buildings to protect them. It is impossible to ward a person or animal directly, though there are other protective spells. 

Chapter Text


The whole world trying, to tame the spark
But we've got fire, burning bright, hidden
Catch the shimmer of showering stars
The sky gets dimmer, and your light shows



Andrew opens the door and sees an unfamiliar woman standing just outside the threshold. He's instantly guarded. Beside him, Neil makes a noise halfway between a whimper and a groan.


“Dan, what -”


She smiles. It's not a pleasant expression. “I thought I smelled you with some mortals. How far you've fallen, Neil. How long until you kill one of them?”


Behind him, Aaron is swearing and Nicky is expressing vocal confusion. Neil trembles at his side.


“I didn't,” he starts, but to Andrew’s immense bewilderment, she starts shrinking. Fur sprouts on her lengthening face and before he can blink again, there's a mottled grey and brown wolf standing on his front porch.


Werewolf, he thinks. Neil is gone and there's a second wolf, russet brown with a white splash down its muzzle, rushing at the grey and brown wolf. The snarling is deafening as the two wolves clash. Neil's voice rings out in Andrew's mind:


*Close the fucking door, you idiot, you're leaving a gap in your wards!*


Andrew slams the door shut.


“He - he - he -” Nicky can't seem to figure out what he needs to say.


“He turned into a wolf,” Aaron says for him.

The only thing Andrew can think is how Neil claimed Ran framed him for murder and his pack ousted him for it. He'd thought he was dealing with a psycho, initially.


He yanks the door back open, but the two wolves are gone. There's a splash of blood on the step, and Andrew feels cold all over, wondering which one it belongs to.




Neil has wounded her slightly, but due to a quirk in their genetic makeup, werewolves heal quickly and it wasn't incapacitating. He's cursing himself for letting her get this close to him in the first place. She could have lain in wait just outside the wards, and attacked one of the others as soon as they stepped beyond the safety of their walls.


*I could have told Ran where you were, Neil!*


*Just leave me alone!*


*You killed a woman! A human! It's forbidden!*


Neil isn't ready to have this conversation again. He sees an opportunity to attack, but chooses to run. If Ran figures out that she tracked him down, he'll come after Andrew and the others just to punish Neil for leaving. He has to get as far away as possible. He makes it to the outskirts of town when Dan's partner Matt slams into him from the side, sending him rolling.


*Neil, how could you do it?* Matt demands, anguished. Neil howls his frustration.


* It wasn't me!*


They won't hear him; Ran's command is too deeply embedded in them. He dodges another attempted strike by Matt, and runs.




“He turned into a wolf,” Aaron says again. Breakfast is cooling on the table, and Andrew sits down and mechanically starts eating. After a moment, the other two join him. The shock is wearing off, and Andrew can feel Nicky gearing up for an epic explosion.


“What the fuck.” Nicky slams his fork down. “He's a werewolf! I didn't see that coming at all!” He turns a betrayed pout on Andrew. “Did you know?”


“Did you know he killed someone? Before you brought him into this house?” Aaron demands.


Andrew contemplates saying nothing, but in the end, he owes them some kind of explanation. “I knew,” he tells Nicky. “I didn't believe him at first. I don't think he killed anyone, though.”


Nicky falls silent, which is rarely a good thing. Aaron scowls, but Andrew notices that he's still eating.


The next time Nicky's fork drops, it's because he's deep in the clutches of a vision.


“He didn't do it,” he says hollowly. “Ran is gloating about getting away with it because Neil took the fall. Blood, it makes them insane. Ran is going to kill him!” Nicky throws himself away from the table as the future releases him. Andrew is used to this, but the food turns to ashes in his mouth.


“When, Nicky?”


“Not before next week,” Nicky says, shaking. “Wait…”


Andrew waits, but his patience is evaporating. “ Nicky.”


“No, before the week is out,” Nicky amends. “I can't quite focus on him. There's too many variables.”


Which means that anything could change at any time, and throw the future into a new lane.


Nicky rises from his seat. “Come on,” he says. “If we catch him now, we can keep him safe.”


“Why would we want to?” asks Aaron, angrily. Nicky leans down and whispers, not quite softly enough that Andrew doesn't hear him.


“Because we need to if you care about your brother at all. He’s going to be very important to Andrew one day.”




Neil lost them somewhere just over the North Carolina border, but he hasn't stopped running. He's going to need to eat and drink something soon, and while he doesn't have a problem hunting, he'd rather do it as a human. It doesn't take him long to find one of his caches, and he changes back to a man to collect the cash and identity cards he secreted away.


The new card still gives his name as Neil Josten, but his birthday is now June 27, 1996. It means he's supposedly 21 years old, which he can almost pull off believably. He looks closer to 15, with his height and youthful features. It also states that he's from Lunenburg, Massachusetts. It's been a long time since he was up north, but his memory and brain function were enhanced with his first change along with his physical senses, and he's sure he recalls enough of the accent and mannerisms to make it believable.


Once more familiar with himself and his new identity, Neil gathers the cash and change of clothes, redresses himself, and sets off on foot for Crowders, the nearest town.  


He walks into the Groovy Beast Grill on a whim, amused by the name of the restaurant, and stops short when a familiar face smiles almost cheerfully at him from one of the tables.




Second Curtain : a veil of magic that separates the mortal world from the supernatural. Especially gifted mortals can see past it, but are rarely believed by those who think there is only one way of seeing the world.

Deep Soul : a sphere of energy that manifests like liquid around the Earth. Immortals, guardians, and other supernatural beings can sense it, but not all of them can manipulate it. In essence, it is the soul of a planet. It is the source of magic in the world. Gaia Spirit, soulstream, and lifestream are some of the other names for it.


Bloodmadness: werewolves are forbidden by an ancient code from drinking human blood. If a lycanthrope takes a life and drinks the blood of a human, they will rapidly descend into a homicidal insanity, becoming nothing more than a ravening, bloodthirsty monster.


Wards : magical energy that is concentrated in runes, sigils, or other powerful signs and laid down around buildings to protect them. It is impossible to ward a person or animal directly, though there are other protective spells.


Lycanthropy : werewolfism. From the Greek lukos meaning wolf, and anthrōpos, meaning human or man. Legends say the original weres were meant as guardians of nature, and as such, the nature of the transformation varies from place to place. Wolves are most common in Europe and North America, but were-jaguars can be found in South America, and Africa is home to were-hyenas. Weres and vampires are considered mortal enemies after an ancient werewolf was bitten by a vampire, twisting the magic that powers the transformation and introducing evil into the world.


Chapter Text


The whole world trying to blind the way home
But we've got shelter, deep inside, secret
Tame the whispers of winds as they blow
Feel my shivers in your arms stop



What, he thinks to himself, the actual fuck.


“Neil!” Nicky rises from his chair and urges Neil to come sit down. There's four plates already laid out, four drinks sitting ready. Yet the table only has three occupants. Nicky ushers him into the unoccupied chair and smiles warmly at him. Aaron looks pissed off. Andrew looks blank.


“I knew you'd stop in here,” Nicky explains. “What part of 'if you leave this house in the next three days he will find you’ didn't make it through your beautiful head?”


The part where he needs to spend the better part of a week being flirted with by Nicky, scowled at by Aaron, and ignored by Andrew - which isn't a bad thing, he tells himself. He should be perfectly alright with being ignored by Andrew. Especially because Andrew already has a lover.


I'm not looking for a lover, he reminds himself, and scowls down at the medium rare steak steaming on his plate. He can't smell anything on it except salt, pepper, and some other innocuous and pleasant-tasting herbs. It's been a very long time since he had a good steak. It's exactly what he would have ordered for himself, and that's almost even more annoying than being found so easily. Nicky has proven that he can foresee Neil's actions, but to follow him closely enough to foresee what he'd order…


Neil does not want Nicky for an enemy.




He's furious. They've slipped away again.




They've been in the small town for just over an hour when Nicky says it's time to go order, and leads the twins into a restaurant called the Groovy Beast Grill. Aaron scoffs.


“You can't be serious.”


“Yep.” Nicky is visibly amused. Andrew finds it funny, too, but he keeps a lock on his emotions. Nicky orders for all of them - including their unseen runaway fourth. Andrew is accustomed to Nicky knowing things and doesn't take issue with it. The food has just arrived when the door swings open and admits Neil, who looks amusingly shocked at their presence. Neil joins them and sniffs suspiciously at the food, but it's not long before he's eating with gusto. Nicky chatters inconsequentially while they eat, and Andrew takes advantage of Neil's distraction to study him.


He doesn't look hurt. He does look tense. There are lines around his eyes that Andrew can't recall seeing there before.


“Why do they think you killed someone?” Aaron bursts out suddenly. Neil freezes like a deer in the headlights, swallows slowly, and lowers his fork to the plate. It barely clinks against the edge.


“You saw me change,” he says cautiously, aware that there are other people nearby. “There are ...rules… for being what I am. My leader broke them and blamed it on me.” Aaron scoffs, clearly disbelieving. Neil smiles sadly, as if he expected this reaction. “He has a gift for persuasion,” Neil continues. “He used it to convince everyone it was me. It's acting on you now.”


Aaron looks distinctly uncomfortable with this idea. “How do I make it stop working?”


Neil shrugs. “Wards help.”


Andrew does some rapid introspection, and realizes that he's not being affected by whatever spell Ran cast. He fully believes Neil is innocent. Nicky is wavering between what he can See and whatever the spell is telling him. Why am I different? Andrew wonders. He can't think of a way to ask without sounding crazy or implying anything he might not want to admit to, and scowls down at his pulled pork sandwich. There's nothing I don't want to admit to.


The bell over the door tinkles loudly, drawing their attention. Neil freezes again, tucking his chin into his shoulders and trying to make himself smaller. A pretty young woman with long blonde hair bounces over to him.


“Neil!” Her voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard. “I was worried about you!” She wraps her arms around him and pulls him in for a hug. Andrew wants to kill her. Nicky looks surprised, which is never a good sign, and Aaron -


Aaron looks like the sun just came out.


“Are you going to introduce us to your friend?” he asks.


Andrew clenches a fist around Neil's steak knife.  Neil looks like he'd rather drink bleach.


He gives their names, though, and finishes with, “This is my sister, Katelyn.”




She's not really his sister, and he can't stand her. She's a siren, and for some reason, he's immune to her voice. It intrigued her, initially, then annoyed her, then amused her. She's got more moods in five minutes than he goes through in a week, though. She adopted him shortly before Ran killed her real sister, and witnessed the attack. It makes her the only one who isn't affected by Ran's command while outside a heavily-warded building, though he's beginning to suspect something about Andrew.


“Kate, what are you doing here?”


She dims. “Ran is furious,” she says. “I've been watching him, and he nearly killed Matt. He's called for someone to come hunt you. Does the name Kevin mean anything to you?”


Neil is completely adrift at sea. He never asked Katelyn to look out for him, and she's usually two steps behind. The fact that she caught up to him in North Carolina is a Bad Sign. Her news is even less welcome. The pack must be nearby, if she could overhear everything and then find him within two hours of it happening. He has no idea who Kevin could be, either.


“How bad is it?” Nicky asks her, apparently looking for a trigger to his gift.


Aaron's reaction is even more confusing. “Do you have somewhere to go?”


“It's bad,” she tells Nicky, and then looks at Aaron and smiles sweetly. He's captivated. Neil doesn't need to be a precog to know what Aaron's next words are going to be. “No, I don't,” she says. “I've been watching Ran for Neil, since he's my baby brother and everything.” She gives Neil a squeeze.


“You should come with us,” Aaron says, proving Neil's suspicions correct. Andrew growls beside him.


“No,” he says.


“You invited Neil,” Aaron reminds him smugly. Neil just wants them all to go away.





Incubus : a type of vampire which feeds on the emotional energy generated from sexual feelings in humans. They can get this energy directly, either by being nearby and siphoning energy, or by being a physical participant. They can also absorb the energy from afar, by appearing in the victim's dreams. Incubi are male; their female counterparts are known as succubi.

Chapter Text


You are the vision I'm looking for
Make me remember all I forgot
Watch me become just an animal
Naked to nothing more than who we are




All five of them are in the car. Aaron was torn between sitting next to Katelyn and letting her take the front seat, but she wanted to sit beside a clearly-uncomfortable Neil. Andrew wasn't about to let Neil sit with an unknown agent by himself, and so the three of them are squished into the back seat, while Aaron pouts up front and Nicky drives. Despite his best efforts, Neil's warmth beside him coupled with the soothing motion of the car has Andrew nodding off. He dreams of Neil -


Straddling his hips, riding him in slow, deep thrusts. Neil's hands are on his thighs, holding him down, as Neil rocks over him. Andrew tucks his hands under his head and watches Neil throw his hair back, ribs heaving as he sucks in breath after breath. A playful twist of his hips draws a moan out of them both.




Neil is halfway between amusement and aggravation when Andrew falls asleep with his head on Neil's shoulder. Andrew is making small noises under his breath and not even Neil can decide if they're words or just something Andrew does when he sleeps.  On his other side, Katelyn is snoring against the window. Despite the strangeness of having someone in contact with him, the gentle rumbling of the engine and the exertion of the day soon draws Neil into a nap of his own. He finds himself sitting on Andrew's hips, looking down at a broad, bare expanse of skin. There's a faint trace of stubble on his chin but nothing on his chest, and Neil takes a moment to appreciate the sight before he realizes that Andrew isn't the only naked one. A flex of hips and Neil feels pleasure shoot through him. He moans involuntarily and grasps at Andrew's thighs, trying to ground himself. Andrew grunts quietly, which just sends Neil spiraling higher. He hates it when people make a lot of noise in bed. Then, realizing it's just a dream, he smiles. He can do anything. He takes control, lifting himself up faster. Andrew moves his hands to Neil's hips, guiding him. Neil throws his head back, giving himself over to the feeling washing through him. They climax almost simultaneously, and the sensation of Andrew coming inside him wakes him up.


He's surprised to realize he recognizes where they are. The dream seemed to last only five minutes, but they've been driving for nearly two hours and have arrived back at the house in Columbia. Next to him, Andrew jerks awake, gasping. Neil is once again supremely grateful none of them are telepathic. His face burns in the darkness while his treacherous mind files away the sound of Andrew's ragged inhale. Andrew rubs his face, and Neil hears himself say, “Bad dreams?”


Andrew looks at him with an indecipherable expression.


“Not exactly,” he says huskily.


Oh. Oh.


Both of them were having sex dreams?




Neil's pale face glows in the light of the street lamps. He looks stupid and gorgeous in the wan wan yellow lights, somehow wearing the exact same half-lidded expression as in Andrew's dream. Despite the nap, Andrew is too tired to be interested, however, and resolves to ask Neil about any romantic partners in the morning.


“Wakey wakey,” Nicky says softly. On Neil's other side, the girl, Katelyn, stretches with a quiet moan. It grates against Andrew's ears. He hates her already - hated her on sight, actually, and it's getting worse every time she speaks. He can't wait to get Neil alone and ask him how he can stand listening to her. He has an endless amount of questions he wants to ask, starting with how Neil became a werewolf in the first place. He stifles a yawn; he'll ask in the morning.




Neil is feeling refreshed, but Andrew looks even more tired despite sleeping. It's painting a very unpleasant picture in Neil's mind. He follows Andrew up the stairs once they return to the house, and pauses outside Andrew's bedroom door. “Tell me about your dream.”


Andrew freezes. “I'd rather not.”


Neil can smell arousal and frustration on him, and something else. The tang of magic. “You're being targeted,” he tells Andrew, urgently. “I think it may be a succubus.” Or , he realizes, reconsidering the nature of the dream, an incubus. “How long have you been having sexual dreams?”


Andrew is obviously uncomfortable and obviously unhappy with the topic. Neil is pleased with the way he answers anyway. “Two days,” he says. “They started last night.”


Probably not Roland, then. He got the impression that Roland and Andrew have known each other for a while. If Roland was feeding off Andrew, there would be no need to hunt him in his sleep.




“Why what?”


“Why are you asking? Why do you know? Why do you care? Pick one.” Andrew sounds exhausted.


I know because I shared it since we were touching. He's not about to say that. “It could be dangerous,” he says instead.


“Hey genius, I'm a big boy, I can take care of myself.”


“You're what, eighteen?”


“Twenty one!” Andrew sounds so aggravated, Neil certain it's true.


He's still a child. Neil doesn't realize he's said that last thought out loud until Andrew slams for in his face, scowling.


“You look 14, furboy. You can't say shit about me.” The words come through the door. Neil finds himself on the verge of smiling. Furboy. That's a new one.


The smile fades before it can form. “I was born in 1895,” he says quietly, and turns from the door. He pretends like he doesn't hear it opening again behind him, waiting to see if Andrew will say anything.


The door clicks shut again a moment later.




Andrew is overwhelmed. He collapses into bed, and thinks about what Neil has given away tonight. He's heard of the 'ubis, of course, but he didn't give them any more credence than he did werewolves. Having Neil turn into a wolf beside him proved him wrong on one count already. He's not going to wait for proof of the rest.


He's more curious about how Neil knew what kind of dream it was, and thinks back over the details. Dream-Neil changed halfway through, became more like the Neil he's learning about in real life. The implications are staggering.


Before he can think about what he's doing, Andrew is out of bed and making his way to the guest room. He slams the door open and is greeted by a pair of female breasts, accompanied by an ear-piercing shriek. His ears hurt and his eyes are burning.


“Gross,” he mutters. Neil laughs softly. From inside the room, he notices. When he opens his eyes again, Katelyn has turned around, and Neil is leaning against the door.


“She knows I'm not interested,” Neil explains. “Apparently this makes me 'safe.’”


“If I could unsee that,” Andrew vows, “I'd do anything.”


Katelyn makes an annoying mou. “You're gay too? Why is it always the hot ones?”


“Aaron's straight,” Neil offers. Andrew scowls.


“Keep your harpy claws off my brother.”


“Siren, not harpy,” Neil corrects.


“Is there a difference?”


Katelyn shrieks again, proving his point for him. “Hopefully he's got better manners.”


“Andrew’s manners are fine,” Neil says, looking amused. “Only one of us was raised by wolves, you know.”


“Really?” Andrew came down for answers, and the information pricks his ears. Neil shrugs.


“Mostly. I was ten.”


Jesus Christ. “Can werewolves dreamwalk?” Andrew demands suddenly.


Neil blinks owlishly at him. It's Katelyn who answers.


“Not unless that was their gift before they were changed,” she says. “Lycanthropy enhances mortals, it doesn't change them.”


“And you know this because…?” Andrew asks snidely.


Suddenly she's all business. “My sister was killed by a werewolf,” she tells him. “Wouldn't you want to know everything about the beast that killed your sibling?”


What if it was Aaron, is her question. She's right. If a monster killed his brother, he wouldn't rest until he'd brought it down. “How'd you end up with Neil, then?”


Her smile is suddenly vicious, and Andrew wonders what kind of person they've allowed into their house. Considering that Aaron was asking him that about Neil, he resolves to be a little easier on her.


“He's supposed to be the one who did it.”


Andrew is instantly guarded, but Neil looks neutral. He relaxes almost immediately, realizing the implications. “You know it wasn't him,” he says.


“I watched Ran tear her apart.”


Behind him, Aaron swears. Andrew jumps; he didn't even realize Aaron was there.


“So what now?”


“We need to get rid of your tag,” Neil says.


“Then we find a way to kill Ran,” Katelyn adds.


“Killing the leader of a werewolf pack,” Andrew says dryly. “Should be a walk in the park.”


Chapter Text


No goodbyes, I'd rather die.
So let's dance across the line,
Say your love is mine.



“You're not thinking of staying here forever, are you?”


Neil is in wolf form, curled up on the floor at the foot of the bed. Katelyn is leaning over the edge of the mattress to look down at him while she talks. Andrew and Aaron have gone to bed, and it's clear that Katelyn is as interested in Aaron as he is in her. Neil wonders again if Andrew is actually interested in him, or if it's just a ploy by a hunting 'ubi, playing off Neil's own interest. He shakes his head.


“There's danger here, but I can't tell where it's coming from,” she tells him. Neil puts his head down.


Figures. He's just not meant to have anyone in his life . I've tried to leave, though. It didn't quite work out, as Nicky just tracked him down. Neil is momentarily grateful Ran doesn't have any precognitives in his pack.


/ Get up and go upstairs. /


Neil's on his feet before he realizes he doesn't know where the thought came from. Katelyn has rolled over and is settling into the blankets.


“You can sleep in the bed if you want,” she tells him sleepily. “One, I know you're not into me, and two, you're a wolf right now.”


/ Get up and go upstairs. /




There's no room in his mind for Katelyn right now; he has to go upstairs. He makes his way out of the guest room and heads for the second floor. He balks when he realizes Andrew's door is open.


/ Go inside his room. /


Neil is growling softly. He tries to back away, but the voice becomes more insistent.


/ Go into his room! /


The door swings open, revealing Andrew, one arm curled under his pillow, mouth slack in sleep. He looks younger without his ever-present flat stare.


/ Kill him. /




/ Tear his throat out! /






Andrew twitches in his sleep, the only sign that he's heard Neil. One arm slides off the edge, dangling until his fingertips drag the floor. Neil takes a step forward, steps back.


/Bite him,/ says the voice. /Turn him. Make him yours forever./


Neil doesn't want to, but he can't help taking another step in Andrew's direction.


/ Kill him, / demands the voice.


Neil growls. *Andrew,* he says, projecting his thoughts into Andrew's mind. *Wake up!*


Another unwilling step forward. Andrew is deeply asleep.


/ Bite, tear, kill! /


* Andrew! *


Andrew jerks in his sleep and opens his eyes. Relief floods Neil, and he collapses like a puppet whose strings have been cut. The weight of the voice is gone from his mind.


“The fuck…”


Neil shivers, and involuntarily finds himself changing. Andrew is immediately awake, pressing himself against the wall to get as far from Neil as possible. Neil smells fear, and swallows his disappointment. No one can be with someone they're afraid of. Andrew has effectively removed himself from Neil's attention. He pretends like the twinge in his chest is apprehension over the mysterious voice, and not the first sign of impending heartache.




Andrew is so deeply asleep, he's not even dreaming. He hears Neil call his name, and there something in Neil's voice he's never heard. Panic. Certain it's a dream, Andrew ignores it until he can't, until consciousness is tugging too hard to be ignored. There's a huge dog in his room, reinforcing the thought that he's still asleep and dreaming, until it changes into a person, and he recoils automatically at the sight of an unknown assailant in his bedroom. His eyes adjust quickly to the darkness and he recognizes Neil, but he doesn't like the devastated expression Neil is wearing.


“Neil? How did you get in here?”


I locked the door. I know I locked the door.


Neil doesn't look at him. “The door was open,” he says dully. “I must have been... sleepwalking.”


I know I locked the door.


The whole situation seems off somehow.




Neil looks at him with a blank expression. Andrew opens his mouth, but before he can organize his thoughts into something that makes sense, his door flies open so hard it hits the wall and Nicky barges in. Nicky shoots Andrew a panicked look, sees Neil on the floor, and then sags to his knees.


“A bad dream?” He's talking to himself. Andrew is annoyed at the sudden party in his bedroom, but before he can tell them to get out, Neil is getting to his feet.


“No,” he says. “Something almost happened.” He stops by the door and looks back at Andrew. “Lock your door,” he says, and the painfully empty expression on his face strikes Andrew like a blow. He's gone before either of them can say anything.


“Nicky, what the fuck?” Andrew demands.


“A nightmare,” Nicky mumbles. “I dreamed Neil - nevermind. Sorry.” He gets up stiffly and makes a show of locking Andrew's door, closing it, and checking it. Andrew doesn't think he'll get back to sleep after all this, but the next time he opens his eyes, the sun is shining through his window. He feels fully rested for the first time since Neil barged in on his conversation with Roland at the club, a week ago. The night's events seem like a distance memory. He showers and goes downstairs, greeted with the scent of cooking food again, but it's Katelyn standing over the stove today.


“Where's Neil?”


She turns around with a sunny smile. “Still sleeping,” she tells him. “How do you like your eggs?”


“Not cooked by you,” Andrew says, completely honest. She giggles like he's joking, and then her smile widens.


“Good morning, Aaron,” she says. Andrew turns and sees a tender smile on Aaron's face. It's an expression he's never seen before, and he looks back at Katelyn. It seems as if she's going to be around for a while. He shoves past Aaron and goes in search of Neil.


Neil is sitting propped up against the bed, staring into space with the same vacant expression he wore during their nighttime encounter. He looks up at Andrew, and an inscrutable look passes over his features before he looks away.




“The bimbo is cooking. Are you going to come eat?”


Neil seems to deflate. “Yeah.”


There's an air of hopelessness about him that Andrew doesn't like. He argues with himself as they return to the kitchen, but doesn't come to a conclusion before they're surrounded by other people. He notices that Neil positions himself as far from Andrew as he can, however, despite the fact that this puts him close to Aaron.




How fast can someone fall in love? Neil wonders. He's never been in love before, and never cared enough about it to give it any thought. He knows almost nothing about Andrew except that he's criminally young, foul-tempered, and glows like a warm morning. Yet something about the other man has drawn him since the beginning. It's over before it could begin. Andrew fears him.


He tries not to look at Andrew, and hears a tiny whisper in the back of his mind.


/ He doesn't just fear you, he hates you. /


It makes him flinch. It's probably true.



Chapter Text

Oh, life is far too short to fight 

Loose yourself, let go of your pain 

Taste the air you breathe and kiss the sky



Neil follows Andrew down to the kitchen, where Nicky is telling Katelyn how to prepare everyone's breakfast. The events of the night feel like a bad dream, and he can almost dismiss them until he intercepts Nicky's expression. It flickers between Neil and Andrew with deep concern, although he masks it well. Then his face falls blank and his expression shutters. He turns away before Neil can identify the emotion in his features.


Andrew settles himself at the window again, and Neil inhales the scent of smoke from his cigarettes. It's oddly comforting.


“Neil,” Aaron says suddenly, and tosses something long and glittery at him. Neil catches it automatically, and then drops it immediately as it burns against his skin. The length of silver chain lays coiled on the floor like an incandescent serpent. “Huh.” Aaron is impressed. “Why silver?”


“Any heavy metal will cause pain to anyone of the Second Curtain,” Neil explains. Behind him, Katelyn is giving Aaron a sour look. “It disrupts our connection to the deep soul.”


Nicky scoops up the chain and slips it into his pocket. “Could you come upstairs with me for a few minutes?” he asks. Neil can't see any reason he shouldn't - Nicky's precognition has probably told him something, and he doesn't want to alarm the others. He glances in Andrew's direction, but Andrew is studiously avoiding his gaze. Neil ignores Katelyn, murmuring quietly to Aaron, and follows Nicky out of the kitchen. Nicky waits outside a room Neil has never gone near; it smells heavily of Nicky himself, and Neil assumes it's his bedroom. Nicky gestures for Neil to precede him into the room. Neil steps in, and then a bright web of silver links fall on him from above. The sudden shock of pain forces Neil to the ground, and Nicky kneels over him, draping more of the silver chain over him. It's not heavy; Neil could easily shove the delicate links away. But it feels like ropes of fire are pressing into his wrists and hips, with a streak of white-hot flame brushing across his stomach where his shirt has ridden up and exposed his abdomen to a length of the chain.


“Nicky, what-”


Nicky's voice is hollow, nothing like his usual cheer. “I told you to kill them,” he says, eyes vacant. Neil understands suddenly. The unknown telepath has gotten to him; Nicky isn't in control of himself. “If you raise your voice, I'll kill you,” ‘Nicky’ says, busying himself with wrapping the chains around Neil's wrists and binding him more fully. Calling out is the last thing on Neil's mind; it's taking all of his concentration to keep from letting the pain show.  



Andrew watches his brother and the siren flirt with each other in disgust. Apparently Andrew is the only one who finds her voice aggravating; no one else has made any comments about it, at least, and Aaron seems to actively enjoy listening to her coo.


“It's not like they're relatives,” she's saying coyly. Aaron is understandably confused.


“Siren,” Katelyn says. “Half bird.”


Andrew is taken aback. He abandons the pretense that he hasn't been eavesdropping, and interjects. “I thought sirens were mermaids?” He was apparently closer with that harpy comment than he realized.


“Depends on where you get your myths,” Katelyn replies and for once her voice sounds sweet. Her smile is vicious, however. “Don't worry, I've sworn off man-eating.”


Aaron looks like she just brought the word of God back from heaven. Andrew is pretty sure she's not joking. This reminds him that he needs to question Neil about the Second Curtain, and find out what he can do, what his limitations are, and what they need to be aware of, but when he looks around for their resident werewolf, he realizes that Neil and Nicky have been gone far too long for a simple exchange. He suddenly has a very bad feeling.


Leaving the birdwoman and his brother to their petting, Andrew scrambles out of the kitchen and hurries upstairs. There's no sign of Neil anywhere. He checks his room, the bathroom, passes over Aaron's room, and then at last comes to Nicky's. The door is partially open, and he pushes on it to reveal Nicky shoving Neil out the window. He doesn't have enough time to react - Neil vanishes through the gap in the wards as Nicky crumples to the floor. Andrew goes to his cousin first, checking to make sure he's alright. He's breathing, so Andrew moves to the window. Neil is sagging in the arms of a stranger, with white bracelets glinting on his arms. Vivid green eyes meet his gaze.


/ Would you believe I'm sorry about this? /


The voice echoes inside his mind. Andrew puts it together quickly, but the green-eyed man is gone, taking Neil with him. At his feet, Nicky stirs.


“Fuck,” he mutters. “I feel like I got hit by a frying pan.  Andrew?”


“What the hell did you do?” Andrew demands. Nicky looks puzzled, then horrified.


“I didn't do it!”


Andrew is inexplicably furious. “I watched you hand him over!”


“It wasn't me! I heard a voice in my head, and then it was like I was watching my own body without being in control!” Nicky wails. The sound of their voices has drawn Katelyn and Aaron upstairs. Aaron looks amused, but Katelyn is almost grey.


“You what?”


Her voice shakes the roof. Aaron flinches, and it's Andrew's turn to be amused. Not so charming now, is she?


He doesn't have time for it, though. “Who was it?” he asks. “What do you know?”


“A rogue team,” she tells him. “A telepath and an empath.”


“What's so terrifying about that?” Aaron inquires. Andrew is glad he didn't have to ask. “Isn't empathy a good thing?”


“Not this time,” Katelyn says grimly. “I only know them by their reputation. They call themselves the Ravens. Telepaths can read your thoughts, put their thoughts in your head, and if they're strong enough, or you're weak enough, they can control you.” She scowls at Nicky. “Empaths are worse. They can manipulate your emotions.”


“I still don't get what's so terrifying about that,” Aaron says.


Katelyn looks like she's seriously reconsidering his brother's worth. “A powerful empath can make you feel hopeless,” she says. “They could make you hate someone you love. They could take away everything you could ever feel, so there's nothing left but emptiness.”


Andrew feels cold all over. This is the pair that has Neil, thanks to Nicky's weakness. “We have to get him back,” he says.


“Like a quest,” Nicky adds, trying to inject some humor into the situation, but Andrew has no patience for it.


“Did he tell you anything?”


“Just a comment that he couldn't get to Neil directly, so he was going to use me,” Nicky says miserably. “Last night I Saw Neil attacking Andrew, but when I got to him, they were both fine. Neil has more willpower than I do, huh?”


Goosebumps shiver up Andrew's arms. Nicky's bad dream, Neil's sleepwalking. He'd been in more danger than he realized.


“The eggs!” Nicky says suddenly, and a moment later the fire alarm is shrieking. Katelyn scurries to turn the stove off, and Andrew thinks about those penetrating green eyes.


I've got you, telepath. You tried to use Neil to kill me for some reason, and now I'm not going to let you turn him over to Ran. You better hope Neil kills you first. In the center of his stomach, Andrew feels a flare of - something - and in its wake is a gentle tug, showing him which direction Neil is headed.


“I'm going,” Andrew says. “ You stay here.”


Nicky curls up on himself and nods silently. Across the room, Aaron watches him evenly. Andrew can't begin to guess what his twin is thinking. He's fairly sure Katelyn is going to insist on coming with him, though, and resigns himself to her screeching voice.


“I'm coming too,” Aaron says, unprompted. “You're going to need someone useful.”


And then, to Andrew's complete and utter astonishment, Aaron holds up one hand, displaying the magic crackling around his fingers.



Chapter Text

I can't feel anything at all

This life has left me cold and damned
I can't feel anything at all
This love has led me to the end


He's on fire. His wrists are burning, his throat is scorched, and his blood has turned into a river of flame flowing through his veins. He's only vaguely aware of the man carrying him.


/ The good news is, Riko didn't want to hand you over to Ran. /


Neil can make only the barest sense of the words. He's overwhelmed with the irony of Nicky insisting he should stick around, and then being the one to betray him.


/ Neither of us have any choice, / the man says in his mind. / I'll help you if I can. /





Andrew doesn't stop to ask questions. He can still feel the tug of Neil's location in his stomach, moving away quickly. They're in a car, so he doesn't waste any time rushing back to his room for the car keys. Something in the back of his mind tells him to get his knives, and he doesn't question it; he digs his armbands out of his drawer, checks the sheathes, and tests the blades. He hasn't carried his knives in years, but the weight of them on his forearms is familiar and comforting. No matter what he's about to face, he can handle it. In the back of his mind, he wonders why it's so important that he get Neil back, but he disregards it. The why doesn't matter right now, only the how.


He almost trips over Katelyn coming back downstairs, and she lets out an ear-piercing shriek. It's almost enough to incite him into pushing her off the step, but he remembers Aaron's unexpected revelation and decides that until he knows more about his brother's newfound power, he's not going to deliberately antagonize him.


“Sorry Andrew,” she says, surprising him. “You startled me.”


He bites back on the urge to snarl at her for startling him. Neil is getting farther away and he's still inside the house.


Nicky and Aaron are waiting for him in the kitchen. Nicky is holding a plate out to him, and Andrew almost takes it just to throw onto the floor, because he doesn't want to eat anything the bird has cooked, especially not if it's being given to him by Nicky, but he tamps down on that urge as well, priding himself on how masterfully he's controlling his violent tendencies, and accepts the plate. He'll need to eat something to be fit enough to fight this Raven duo who've taken Neil. He carefully doesn't think about what might be happening to the wayward werewolf.



The pain abruptly disappears, and Neil breathes a sigh of utmost relief. The chains are still draped around him - pitiful, to be taken down by costume jewelry, but pure silver is pure silver - but the agonizing burn has vanished.


Neil feels a crashing sensation, as if someone has struck him telepathically, and glowers at his abductor. The green-eyed man - who still hasn't admitted to a name - matches his stare evenly.


/ It's Kevin. / There's a pregnant pause. / And I'm not doing anything to you. /


The empath, then, Neil decides. Kevin nods silently.


“What's his range?”


/ We'll meet with him in about twenty minutes. /


Fucking ridiculous, then.


The feeling of irritation turns into fascination. Neil blinked, and Kevin gives him an apologetic look.


/ Riko is very powerful, / he says. Neil scoffs, then gasps as the pain of the silver burns back through him. / He's the one who took it away, / Kevin tells him. / He can make it worse. /


Neil almost challenges it, but decides he doesn't want to deal with that. Riko's gift sits heavy in his veins, curling through him, learning and tasting him.


/ He says to tell you that's exactly what he's doing. He has a plan. /


Neil's momentary horror turns into pleased anticipation. He misses Andrew with a sudden and shocking fierceness, but that fades after a moment too. Kevin frowns. The pain disappears. Neil meets Kevin's green, green eyes, and suddenly it's the only color that's ever mattered.



“Neil disappeared,” Nicky announces. Andrew is driving, and doesn't spare him a single look. Aaron leans forward, frowning.


“What does that mean?”


Nicky gestures vaguely at his temple. “I was watching his future, and it just... disappeared.”


It is, as prophecies go, spectacularly unhelpful.


“But what does that mean ?” Katelyn asks, with considerably more care than Andrew would have managed.


“It means something changed so dramatically that the future I was watching doesn't exist anymore.”


The bright tone is at odds with the chilling message. Nicky is still trying to make up for his lapse that led to Neil being handed over in the first place. Andrew grips the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white.


“Is he dead?” Aaron asks.


“No-o,” Nicky says slowly. “It's a possibility, but he's alive for now. If they turn him over to Ran he'll die before we see him again,” Nicky's voice turns deep and distant, as his gift latches onto his vocal chords. “But Riko doesn't want to give him to Ran. He's getting far too much enjoyment out of -”


He cuts off abruptly. Andrew grits his teeth.


“Nicky,” Katelyn says, and the darkness is back in her voice. Andrew realizes she actually cares about Neil, and suddenly his opinion of her rises without his consent. Neil is important to them both, so he can only hate her for being an aggravation and a harpy.  He veers sharply left, cutting off another driver and receives a ten second horn and a one finger salute for his trouble.


“We have to get both Kevin and Neil away from Riko,” Nicky announces, his voice normal again.

“Who the hell is Kevin?” asks Aaron.


“The telepath,” Katelyn answers him. “Riko's partner.”



He has been scraped clean of everything that ever came before this moment. The only thing that matters is the man in front of him. Kevin doesn't speak - Neil doesn't know if he can't or just won't - but the emotional turmoil in his viridian eyes is an almost physical ache in Neil's chest. He wants to fight anyone who makes Kevin sad; he will kill anyone who comes between them. He shrugs off the chains and shifts form, feeling his hackles rise as Kevin maneuvers the car into a parking spot. Something has changed Kevin's scent to fear - it is an enemy that must be destroyed.


A Japanese man with madness in his dark eyes approaches, and Neil snarls for a moment until he realizes it's not Ran. The unhinged look is almost indistinguishable from his former pack leader. The man smiles, but the expression doesn't reach his eyes.


“Hello, Nathaniel,” he says. “I've always wanted to meet you.”


Shocked into silence, Neil retreats. Confusion reigns supreme. It fades. He reaches for anger, but it isn't there. Something isn't right, but he has no way of knowing what. The mad smile widens.


“Change back,” the Japanese man orders. Neil curls his lip, and then realizes he's being an idiot. Of course he needs to change back. They can't rely on Kevin to translate for them all the time. He shifts back into human form and studies the dark-eyed man. The resemblance to Ran is purely superficial; something about the mongoloid shape of his eyes. He doesn't know why he thought this man was insane a moment ago; he's the picture of health. Neil turns to face Kevin, and is swept up in his jade-glass eyes once more.

I would die for him, he realizes. His breath catches. He is undeniably, irrevocably in love.


Chapter Text

Is this the fate we fall between?
Deface the life inside of me
Drain the heart with atrophy
And take away the remedy




“We have to get the telepath away from a psychotic empath who has complete control over him and Neil both?” Aaron asks, disgusted.  Andrew wonders why he bothered to come along when he obviously distrusts Neil and isn’t happy about Katelyn trailing behind them, either.  He says nothing, however, focusing on driving and not killing them by accident.  The feeling in his stomach that they’re getting closer to Neil is getting stronger.  He has no idea what he’s going to do when he gets there, and sets his prodigious mind to thinking up a plan.  The words of the others wash over him, and it starts to come together.  There’s just one thing he needs to take into account, and he grits his teeth at the prospect.



“Hey, featherhead,” he says.  Aaron bristles in the back seat, but beside him, Katelyn laughs.  It’s like hearing nails scrape down a chalkboard.  Andrew flicks his gaze up and meets her eyes in the rear-view mirror.  “What can you actually do?  Can you turn into a bird?  Scream really loudly?”



Something in the air tingles, and she smiles viciously.  Aaron makes a helpless noise.  “I lure men to me and eat them,” she says, and for the first time since she swept into their lives, Andrew doesn’t find her voice repulsive.  He wants to go to her.  Alarm flares in his gut, and the feeling fades as he yanks his eyes back to the road, clutching at the steering wheel while his heart pounds in his throat.  It feels like he dodged a bullet.  Nicky is looking longingly into the backseat, and Aaron is nearly in her lap.  “Huh,” she says, sounding put out.  “You’re immune?” Her voice is the sound of angels singing, and every syllable that falls from her lips is like heavenly bells.  Andrew liked it better when her voice made him want to stab pencils into his ears.  The tingling sensation against his skin fades, and Nicky visibly sags in his seat.  “That’s not fair,” she says, and her voice is grating again. 



“Your voice changed,” he tells her.  “But I can’t see how useful that is.”



The vicious smile makes a triumphant return as their eyes meet once more.  “Can’t you?  All I have to do is call them to me.”



“I wonder if an empath can overpower a siren song?” Nicky wonders aloud.  “Can he make himself not want to go to her?”



Everyone wants to come to me,” Katelyn says, pouting again.



“Except Andrew,” Aaron puts his oar in.  “Why is that?  What do you mean her voice changed?”



Andrew explains what he felt and heard, and Aaron looks annoyed.  “Figures,” he mutters, but won’t explain it.  Katelyn is pondering Nicky’s question. 



“I’ve never tried it against an empath,” she says.  “But they have typically weak control over themselves.  Telepaths are the same; they usually go crazy.”



Nicky looks alarmed.  “Why?”


“Because they literally can’t hear themselves think,” she says.  “Most of them never learn how to hear their own thoughts, and if they can’t block out the thoughts of other people, they end up in asylums or killing themselves really young.  If a telepath makes it into their teens, they go crazy before they hit thirty.  Twenty-five is typical.”



“You say that like it’s inevitable,” Andrew says.  Despite himself, he’s curious.  He wonders what werewolves can do. 



“It is,” she replies easily.  “Their brains can’t handle the strain.  Precognitives are supposed to be much more stable,” she reassures Nicky, who has been quietly panicking in the passenger seat.  “They usually only go blind.”


Nicky switches from relief to horror so quickly it’s almost funny. 


“Half-breeds like me are the most stable,” she tells them proudly.  “We have enough human blood to balance out whatever craziness goes along with our magical blood, so most of us get all the benefits without the negatives.  Shifters like werewolves, or things that rely on the life force of others like vampires and incubi are pretty stable, too, although werewolves have this weird thing about them.”  Andrew perks up, listening hard despite the screeching overtones in her voice.  “The legend is that werewolves – and other shifters, wereleopards and whatnot – were originally created by the Deep Soul to be guardians of the Earth, but their ancestor was bitten by a vampire, and the vampire curse twisted in their blood.  Vampires are the enemy of life, and shifters are the guardians of it.  It means that if they take life unnecessarily, they go insane as the vampire curse tries to take over the shifting part of their blood.  That’s what happened to Ran, if you were wondering.  He killed my sister, and now he’s going completely berserk.  There’s literally no way of knowing what he’s going to do next.”




Neil watches the light play over Kevin’s skin like he’s never seen sunlight before.  The shadows are gleaming, and he’s wondering what it would taste like if he leaned over and licked him.  Kevin turns one arched eyebrow on him, and Neil is lost in his vibrant eyes once more, drowning in an ocean of green.  Hazel flickers through his vision, obscuring the green for a moment, and Neil physically recoils from the thought.  He doesn’t like that color for some reason, but he can’t remember why.  Ran has black eyes, the same as Riko, and he – almost – remembers… someone…


The thoughts disappear in a swirl of confusion, which dissipates a moment later when Kevin looks at him again.  It obviously doesn’t matter, because the only one he’s ever cared about is right in front of him, smiling warmly at him.  He wants to hear Kevin speak, wonders if the sound of his voice is the same as his mental tones. 


/No,/ Kevin says into his mind.  Neil is crushed.  /I can’t talk,/ he clarifies.  /I never learned how./


This is the strangest thing Neil has ever heard, but he accepts it easily because he knows Kevin wouldn’t lie to him.  Riko seems to like the sound of his own voice, though, because he hasn’t stopped talking to Kevin the entire time they’ve been driving together, even though he could have easily just thought his conversation at the telepath and left Neil in silence to worship Kevin. 


“Can’t decide if we should turn him over to get her, or if I can try to bargain for something more,” Riko is telling Kevin.  He gestures regally with one hand, smiling darkly when the other drivers suddenly decide they want to get out of his way and allow him to have the entire lane to himself.  Neil’s alarm spikes as his better sense takes over for a moment; he’s pretty sure Riko is talking about taking him away from Kevin.


“No,” he says.  Riko’s smile is arrogant and awful. 


“You’ll go where I tell you and like it,” he says.  Neil shifts suddenly and Riko jerks so roughly that the car swings into the other lane before he regains control. 


*You already took -*


He can’t remember who Riko took from him, can’t remember why it’s important.  Then suddenly it’s not. 


“I can take Kevin from you as easily as I took everything else,” Riko reminds him darkly.  Neil is hollowed out, empty of the overwhelming devotion he’s been filled with since he laid eyes on Kevin, and everything else he’s ever felt.  He’s not angry or unhappy about the sudden lack; those emotions have never been a part of him.  It’s dizzying, but Neil simply lays down and wonders what the point of everything is.  It doesn’t make a difference if he disagrees with Riko or not; he’s just waiting until he can die anyway –


The love is overflowing, and his heart is already so full of respect and a little bit of fear when it comes to Riko, and Kevin is the greatest thing that’s ever walked on the earth –


Neil snarls in Riko’s direction.  Riko laughs. 


“You’re mine,” he says.  “Dance, doll.”


Neil wants to dance more than he’s ever wanted anything, even to get into Kevin’s pants.  He shifts back to human and chair-dances, arms raised as he sways to the music pouring out of the speakers. 


Can you hear me?

I'm screaming for you.

Day by day,

I'm slowly replaced in your picture frames.

A brand new face on your pillowcase.

Come the night you dim the lights and close the blinds,

But I still see them running down your spine,

Cause I illuminate the room,

Just enough to watch you.  



Chapter Text

Into the bottom I will go

I feel the daylight choking
Into the vile I've become
I am forever changing


When they finally pull over and stop, Neil is exhausted. Riko has entertained himself by fucking with Neil, making him hollow and then full, scraped clean and then overflowing, by turns. He's so tired that he almost misses the sight of the pair they've apparently driven all this way to meet.


He sees the girl first, a delicate, pale woman with white-blonde hair that brushes her shoulders in an exuberant spray of color. For a moment, he wonders if the color is leaching out of her shirt and into her hair, and then realizes he's being ridiculous and that she's got the tips of it dyed in rainbow hues. There's an enormous red-haired man looming behind her, and Neil's fuzzy brain takes a moment too long to recognize him.


“The prodigal son returns,” he says, and fear spikes through Neil at the sound of his father's voice. It's been decades since he last heard or saw anything from the man who fathered him. Nathan looks a little older, a little more lines around his eyes and bracketing his mouth, and his hair is a little longer than Neil remembers, but the face - the hated face - and the voice are exactly the same.


Neil starts to shift automatically, and then finds his fear, hatred, and anger washed away. He relaxes, knowing he's doing it unwillingly, but unable to fight against Riko's control of him. Kevin moves to stand next to him, and Neil smiles, overcome with warmth at the show of support.


“I want the girl,” Riko says. Nathan laughs horribly. Neil flinches.


“What will you give me for her?”


“Nothing,” Riko replies. Suddenly, Neil is free of the awful weight of his power as Riko throws the full force of his gift into Nathan. He staggers into Kevin, who holds him up.


/ Riko has been trying to get Renee to join us for years, / he says to Neil, explaining. / Nathan turned her, and he's somewhat immune to Riko's power. /


Neil shudders with his whole body. His father's vampirism killed his mother, and nearly killed him. If Ran hadn't gotten him away and given him the gift of lycanthropy instead, it would be him at Nathan's side instead of the rainbow girl. She smiles pleasantly at him, as if Riko and Nathan aren't engaged in a battle of wills over her, but then ruins the expression when her fangs flex out like a snake.


/ Stay close to me, / Kevin tells him urgently. / Neither of them have fed recently, and she's thinking about how to attack without doing herself harm. /


Neil doesn't need any encouragement to press closer to Kevin's side. To his pleased astonishment, Kevin wraps an arm around his waist and holds him tightly. He can smell sweat and fear coming off Kevin, and something unfamiliar. He's tempted to call it fondness.


And then, desperately late, he wonders if Riko has made Kevin love him in the same helpless, devoted way he loves Kevin.



Neil has finally stopped moving away, according to the feeling in Andrew's gut, and he breathes a sigh of relief to himself. He's about to tell the others when Katelyn beats him to the punch.


“When we get there, everyone stay behind me,” she orders. “I can't block out certain people, but I can project it forward, so you should be okay if you can't see my face.”


Andrew is vaguely baffled and mostly annoyed. “What do you think you're going to do?” he demands.


“I'm going to distract Riko,” she says. “Aaron will be ready with a spell.”


And suddenly Aaron's dabbling in magic makes nauseating sense. Of course he always has spells around; he's a mage. Andrew is mostly pissed off that he never noticed it before Aaron shoved it into his face that morning.


Then again, they barely manage to speak civilly to one another most days. It's not actually surprising that Aaron hasn't been forthcoming with his power.  Though if Nicky knew, Andrew might just kill them all.


“You and Nicky be ready to get Neil and Kevin.”


“Why Kevin?” Andrew's voice sounds weird to his own ears, and then he realizes he and Aaron spoke at the same time.


Nicky's voice is distant. “Neil won't come with us unless we bring Kevin first,” he says. “It… it doesn't make sense, but that's what I'm seeing.” There's a pregnant pause. “I'll get him,” Nicky says. “He'll come with me.” Twisting in the seat until he can look Andrew straight on, Nicky continues, “You get Neil, but don't worry. Everything’ll work out.”


When a man who sees the future gives advice like that, Andrew wants to point out that it serves no other purpose than to make him more worried than he otherwise would be.


Before he can say anything, there's a screeching alarm ricocheting through him, and a group of people standing on the side of the road draws his attention. He doesn't see Neil initially, and so the sight of him tucked into another man's side brings a flare of jealousy to the forefront. He hasn't even stopped the car when Katelyn is throwing herself out the door, leaving Aaron scrambling behind her. Andrew is almost impressed when she walks calmly up to an unknown group of enemies, plants her hands on her hips, and stares them all down.


She opens her mouth, and sings.



The car is only noteworthy because it stops. Neil twists around in Kevin's embrace, and sees Katelyn climb out of the back seat. Completely adrift at sea, he watches her approach, and waits to see what she's going to do.


He not expecting the noise that bursts from her. Like an opera singer, music flows from her like a river. It's enchanting, and overwhelming. Everything else falls away until it's just him and Katelyn in the world. He wants to go to her, but something holds him back. Kevin's grip tightens, reminding him that he doesn't even like Katelyn that way. It's only ever been Kevin.


Lies, whispers a voice. He ignores it, but it's enough of a distraction that he can see Riko turning towards her, and then everything happens at once.


He's struck from two sides, four arms crashing around him and pulling. There's a sharp pain in his shoulder, just above his collarbone, and then he's torn away from Kevin. A blinding light strikes Riko, and Neil can hear him screaming in the distance. Kevin's breathing is sharp in his ear, and then he's being lifted off his feet. There are spots in his vision, and he blinks rapidly to clear them away, but the light doesn't fade. He smells sunshine and warmth, and hears thunder rumbling beneath him before it resolves itself into the pounding of feet against asphalt.


“Get in!


Neil is thrust into a vehicle, and his vision finally begins to clear. Kevin is hunched over him, gasping, and Neil reaches for him.


/ Don't touch me! /


Devastated, Neil withdraws his hand, and then realizes there are others piling into the car above and behind him. Tires screech, gasoline burns, and the car leaves rubber behind as it speeds away from the little pull-off.


Neil is thrown into the footwell, his legs tangling with others, and from his new vantage point, he can see Aaron, Katelyn, and Renee sitting squashed into the backseat of the car next to Kevin.


“What. The. Fuck.


Neil looks up into angry hazel eyes, and remembers Andrew.



It seems to happen at the same time. Katelyn draws Riko's attention, as well as everyone else. Aaron doesn't hesitate, but throws something that looks like a fireball into the small crowd, sending Riko backwards into the tall, red-haired stranger. While they're trying to put out the flames, he and Nicky lunge for Kevin and Neil, but there's a flaw in the plan - none of them have accounted for someone else lunging at Neil. The white-haired girl hisses as they tangle, but Andrew focuses on getting Neil away. The girl doesn't let go, and ends up being shoved into the back of the car along with their rescues.


Andrew yells at Katelyn, who turns and runs, and Aaron, who waits until she's in the car to get moving, himself. He peels away, leaving a pair of burning corpses on the side of the road.


He hopes they're corpses, at any rate. He doesn't think anything could have survived the fireball, but with the way things have been going lately, he's not about to put his faith in anything he can't see for himself. Then he turns slightly, gets a look at the way Neil is looking at Kevin, and realizes that Riko's so-called gift has done damage in the scant hours Neil has been gone.


Neil is looking at Kevin like Kevin is the only thing that ever mattered. Nicky's words make sense in hindsight.


How do we undo emotional fucking?


Then he notices their addition has fangs, and there's blood on her mouth. There's blood on Neil's shirt, too.


“What. The. Fuck.


Neil turns around, looking disheveled and blank, and then horrified. He climbs into Kevin's lap, and Andrew has to forcibly remind himself that Riko has done something to Neil to make him trust them, and break the bonds Neil was forming with Andrew. The telepath looks frantic and more than a little horrified, himself.


“Sorry,” says the addition. “Couldn't help myself.”


The car erupts in chaos as everyone else realizes she's there. The last thing Andrew hears is Nicky shouting, “Andrew, watch the road!”