Chapter 1: Food Source
Chapter 1: Food Source
Just a few more hours. Just a few more, I can make it a few more hours.
Nico’s throat was dry, drier than it had ever been since the night he was Turned. He clenched his hand into a fist, the skin pulled taut over his knuckles. He bit down drawing blood without meaning to. He grimaced and pulled his hand away. The pinprick healed instantly, closing itself up. Nico ran a tongue over his mouth checking his teeth. They were normal.
His vision shifted from regular sight to colorful, seeking the warmth of blood, and he shut his eyes. If anyone saw the way they changed, he’d be done for. They’d never let him return to school. He swallowed, a human habit he still couldn’t get rid of, but it did nothing to fix the sandpaper texture of his throat. He craved the warmth of velvet colored blood, the sweet metallic taste of it.
A pounding began in his ears. Several poundings. The heartbeats of the classmates around him. There was one that stood out, stronger, faster. Nico glanced around, keeping his head low, his vision changing into red, yellow, blue, and green colors. There it was. The person with a better heartbeat than the rest.
Nico’s eyes returned to normal- as normal as they got after he became what he was- and he looked at his prey. A teen boy with golden skin, bright blue eyes, and messy blond hair. He was in shorts and a loose shirt, but Nico could see the muscles in his arms and the rise and fall of his chest.
“Nico, perhaps you’d like to explain to us what the significance of the Federalist papers are?” said his teacher, slamming a hand down on his desk. Nico jumped and felt his fangs elongate, preparing for an attack and possibly food. Keeping his head down, he gulped and forced them back to normal.
“Uh, no, no sir,” he mumbled, trying not to breathe. He glanced up and saw the vein pounding in the corpulent man’s neck. Again, his fangs began to grow, his throat begged for the drink that kept him alive. “Can I go to the bathroom?” he asked in a tight voice.
“Not until you-”
Nico stood anyways, pushing past the man and disappearing through the door so quickly he couldn’t even hear him over the pounding in his ears when he’d called his name.
He left the school and started for the park that rest past the apartment complex in front of the school. During the day, there were always creeps hanging around, waiting to catch a girl on her run off guard or a child that strayed too far from their parents. And Nico did his best to stop it and promptly reward himself for it.
He sat at a bench and kept himself from breathing. The sun made what little skin he had exposed prickle like the beginning of a nasty sunburn, but that was the worst it could do. All those myths about burning in the sun were made up so people wouldn’t be afraid to venture out during the day. And that stupid book about glittering? God, Nico couldn’t believe it.
The worst the sun ever did to him was make him itch.
He glanced around, keeping his eyes away from the children playing, knowing their hearts would be pumping like crazy. The children were not his prey.
A few yards away, Nico noticed a man making balloon animals. The children ooh’d and ahh’d as they watched. He seemed harmless, but something in the way his eyes gleamed made Nico uneasy.
The human face had very minor changes when it came to certain expressions. Changes that would go unnoticed to naked, normal human eyes. But for a vampire, it may well be the change between a frown and a smile.
When a person smiled genuinely, there was something in the curve of their lips, the shape of their eyes that spoke happiness. When someone smiled because of a twisted plot in their mind, Nico had noticed the more sinister features, like the look in their eyes, the rigid position of their jaw and teeth, the strain of their neck.
Nico kept his eyes on the man as the children disappeared slowly. Then one little girl came up asking for a princess crown. “Oh, gee,” the man said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m all out of balloons, sweet pea.” The little girl’s face fell. “But if you want to come to my truck, I’ve got lots more in there. I’ll let you pick your favorite color.”
Nico scowled and stood up slowly. “My mom says I’m not supposed to go with strangers,” she said.
“Oh, it’s not too far. We’ll be right back, your mommy won’t even notice.” Nico’s fangs poked out and he hissed, receding to the shadows of the trees.
He walked silently through the brush, his eyes turning into snake-like slits as he followed the heat image of the man and the little girl. He followed them to a red pickup truck where he watched as he told her to wait. Nico sniffed and smelled the sweet scent of ether. Chloroform.
As he got back out from the back seat of the truck, Nico saw the rag in his hand and moved before he could think about it.
He gripped the assailant’s arm and pulled him away, showing his fangs before hitting his head against the mirror, sending glass shattering to the floor. The little girl screamed behind him. He turned to her as he let the balloon man fall to the floor. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, stepping back instead of toward her. “He was a bad man. Go back to your mommy.” She stared at him with wide, gold eyes before turning away screaming for her mom.
Nico turned back to the man and scowled, throwing him over his shoulder like a rag doll. He walked into the shade of the trees, away from plain sight, and sunk his teeth into his neck. His heart was still pounding from the shock of the hit, and blood rushed into Nico’s mouth, warm and thick. When the flow began to slow, Nico snapped his neck and held the limp body closer, sucking the remaining blood.
His throat felt warm and smooth again. He stood up and stared at the corpse at his feet. The man’s eyes were wide open, his body gray and still. “Sick bastard,” Nico muttered, kicking him away. He sighed.
This was the frustrating part. Although he’d needed the blood, and the human had been a pervert, Nico still had to bury him so the stench of rotting insides didn’t lure anything else near or bring attention to the body and the pinpricks at his throat.
He kneeled down and clawed at the dirt, making a large hole. A squirrel sat near a tree root and watched him. “What? You want to be next? Nobody cares about a dead squirrel,” Nico told it.
The squirrel scurried up the tree. Nico finished his makeshift grave and dumped the man inside, covering him up with dirt. “This ought to be the mutts’ job. Digging and pawing at the dirt,” he snarled. Once it was fully covered, Nico started walking back to the school.
The only problem was that it was over already. He sighed and made his way home, running over buildings and through the alley ways so quickly that if anyone saw him, he’d be gone by the time they did a double take. He dug his heels into the dirt as he approach his house to stop himself.
He glanced at the dirt under his nails and on his clothes. Oh well.
The second he got inside, his sister leapt down from the second floor. “You skipped class,” she accused.
He rolled his eyes. “I walked out of class,” he corrected. “There’s a difference.”
“Father told us not to draw attention to ourselves,” she hissed. “And you hit the teacher and walk out of class?”
“I didn’t hit him,” he spat back. “He was in my way and I pushed him with my shoulder. Besides, if I’d have stayed in there, I would’ve definitely drawn attention to myself.”
She made a rumbling noise in her throat and hit him on the head. “You’re not a fledgling anymore, Nico! When will you stop acting like one?”
He reacted quickly, swiping at her, and biting, but she jumped back before he managed. “Maybe if you let me eat more than once a week, Bianca!” he shouted.
“Don’t blame me! You know how humans are!”
“No, I don’t, because you don’t let me act like one!” She bared her fangs and Nico hissed at her. “Human blood fills me for three days, five if it’s healthy. I-”
“Enough, both of you.” His father’s booming voice echoed through the house and both he and Bianca straightened up and let their teeth recede. “Why are you dirty, Nicolas?”
“I was hungry,” he said softly, more out of respect than shame. “I had to leave school before I hurt anyone. I hunted and had to hide the body.”
Bianca twitched beside him, a nervous habit she never got rid of even in her vampire state. He looked up at the man with coal black eyes and dark shoulder length hair. He was albino white, as though he had been sucked dry before Turning.
He was not his father. Bianca and Nico couldn’t remember their real parents. But this man had found them, lured them away, and changed them into what they were now. They aged only for a handful of years before their state was frozen. That was another thing the myths never told- vampires could change.
Whatever age a vampire was turned, they grew for about three to seven years before no longer aging. Only the elders could change their “age” and appearance. Adult vampires could create their own clans but each one responded to the elders. Whoever Turned you became your patron. They were regarded as your mother or your father and treated with the same respect if not more.
Bianca had been twelve and Nico had been ten when they were bitten. Now, Bianca looked about eighteen and Nico looked seventeen, aging a little longer than his sister. But they had been bitten decades ago. If they had aged normally, they would have been nearly a century old.
“And who, might I ask, did you take as prey?”
Nico let his gaze fall again. “A man at the park. He was a bad man, looking for children to hurt. I stopped him before he could hurt a little girl.”
“Did anyone see you?” he hissed.
“No,” he said, in a softer voice. “Except for the girl, but she couldn’t have been older than five. Her word means nothing.”
There was silence for a moment. “You will both go to hunt every other day. This is the third time this month that Nico has had to escape to feed.”
“Father, it will draw attention to us,” Bianca protested. “That many humans dying every week, it won’t go unnoticed.”
Their father smiled a cold, humorless smile. “Then I suggest you feed on the animals in the trees and the streets and the hills. Humans only once a week.” Nico grimaced. He hated the taste of animal blood. It always tasted like dirt and leaves and shit. But it helped him survive. Bianca paled and looked away. She hated hurting animals. Feeding on them was her worst nightmare. “Try not to prey on any of the other Mystics,” his father added before disappearing into the dark room that was off limits.
The Mystics were the other creatures people told stories about but never believed. The fairies, the werewolves, the witches and warlocks, the merpeople, the shapeshifters, the trolls, the imps, the kelpies, and of course the vampires. These all had blood that called to a vampire. Even other vampires. Among your own clan, bites only stung like bees, but for other clans, it was an inviting scent. Biting another clan’s vampire resulted in either lustful encounters or clan wars.
Nico had never experienced another vampire’s bite, but he’d read of it. Of the pleasurable heat that coursed through the bitten one’s body after years of not feeling temperature, and the sweet music that sounded in their ears, making them beg for more until they were either dead or dancing in between sheets. It made him shiver to think of it. The patron was always the one to kill the offender. And if the patron were the one at fault, the elders would handle it. The first Turned of the clan became the new patron.
The other Mystics, well they didn’t trust the vampires. Nobody could trust a bloodsucker. They were sirens in shape of gods and goddesses and thus, the most suspicious of them all. The Mystics had a truce among themselves, but there was always prejudice against vampires. They were believed to be the first ones who would turn on the rest and cause mayhem. Nico couldn’t blame them. But he had done his best to be the more moralist kind of vampire.
Nico’s world was filled with rules, but with those rules were loopholes. And Nico enjoyed finding all of them. He glance at his sister, hollow with defeat and smiled. “I don’t know about you, but I am not going to live off of animals.”
He walked away and she stalked after him. “Well what do you plan to do?” she asked. “We can’t defy father’s orders.”
Nico shrugged. “It wasn’t an order. He suggested we feed on the animals. He said we should try not bite the other Mystics. I never heard a command.” He smiled and raised an eyebrow at her. “Unless you want to go ahead and take little Lucky from the neighbor’s and stain his pretty white fur red.” Bianca paled and looked away. “Trust me,” he insisted. “I’ve been doing this for months. I wouldn’t get caught if you didn’t tell.”
“Fine,” she hissed. “But keep it under control.” He gave her a two fingered salute before leaving. “Where are you going?” she called.
“To see a friend.” He hopped down the steps and started for the seaside a few miles away. He glanced around to be sure nobody was watching and sat in the sand. He closed his eyes and began humming the song he’d been taught.
When he opened his eyes, he was looking into sea green irises. “Hello, Nico,” the merboy greeted.
“Percy,” Nico answered with a smile. “You answered quickly this time.”
His blue and green tail flicked, spewing water at Nico’s face. “It’s been a long time since you called for me.” He sniffed the air. “You smell like blood.”
“I’m a vampire,” he answered. “Don’t tell me anything about luring men to their deaths, merman. You do the same.”
His eyes gleamed and his tail swished. “Yes. That’s why I like you. We’re alike.” Nico raised an eyebrow. “You’re dirty. Come into the water so I can clean you.”
Nico bit his lip. “Nice try,” he said. “I know your tricks.” He flicked a handful of sand at him playfully and let his fangs grow out. “I have my own, Percy.” Again Percy doused him with water.
The merpeople were very sly folk, perhaps the only ones vampires were wary of. They could lure a man into the depths of the sea, let them think they were in heaven as they feasted on their flesh like piranhas. This one was young and he and Nico had an ongoing game of cat and mouse.
“So tell me- why have you come?” he asked.
Nico reached out, surprised when the merboy let his hand touch his face. “I have a favor to ask.” Percy nodded. “My sister and I have had our food sources limited. It’s hard to act normal when you’re hungry…. Is it true that a mermaid’s blood can heal you and strengthen you?”
“A mermaid’s tears can heal. Blood will strengthen and curse you.”
“Curse?” he asked.
“If you take a mermaid’s blood by force, you will grow strong. But the resistance in her blood will also cause you pain and curses worse than any warlock or witch can cast.”
“And if the mermaid gives it voluntarily?”
“Then it will strengthen you only.” He flicked his tail anxiously. “What are you asking?”
Nico drew his hand back and felt his pupils thin into slits. “Do you trust me, Percy?”
“No,” he answered honestly, unfazed by the predatory eyes.
Nico laughed and leaned forward, kissing the merboy despite his fangs. He pulled back and raised an eyebrow. “You see? I didn’t hurt you. Even though my fangs were out, and my eyes are meant for prey, I didn’t hurt you.” Percy gazed back at him steadily. Nico let his eyes go back to normal and forced his fangs back. “My sister and I will need food. But we do not want to hurt more humans than is necessary and draw attention to ourselves. Would you be willing to be our voluntary merblood?” Percy narrowed his eyes. “It won’t hurt,” he promised softly. “It feels rather nice when we bite. And it won’t be for long. I won’t let you get hurt. I only ask that you help us.”
“And what’s in it for me, vampire?” he asked.
Nico smiled mischievously, his fangs elongating again. “I can show you,” he whispered. He leaned forward, as though he might kiss him again, but instead tilted his head to the side and let his lips hover over the skin. He could feel the pulse in his veins, such clean, pure, blood. After waiting a few moments to be sure Percy wouldn’t resist, he sunk his teeth into the soft skin.
Percy gasped and let out the beginning of a scream before turning it into a moan. The blood that filled Nico’s mouth was sweet and cold. It was thinner than human blood, but it tasted so much better. Percy’s tail swished in the water, his hands pulled Nico closer.
He had to remind himself to stop. He ran his tongue over the bite to stop the blood flow and pulled away. “Do we have a deal?” he asked the boy who had to catch his breath.
“Yes,” he said finally. He smiled at him and stood. “Are you leaving already?”
“Yes, I can’t be gone long. My father gets upset. And it’s getting dark. The wolves will be lurking about soon.” Percy pouted and hummed a gentle tune. “I’ll come back,” he promised.
He watched as Percy turned away and dove into the water, his tailfin flipping up dramatically to say goodbye. Nico ran back to his house and went to Bianca’s room. The change in time was evident in her room which seemed to have part of the wall sectioned off to whatever was popular at the time. From World War II propaganda, to hippie protests, to the Beatles, to Nirvana, to today’s social media memes.
She was pacing anxiously. When he came in she looked at him questioningly. “I found us a food source when we can’t have our humans. A merman.”
“A merman?” she nearly shrieked. “Are you insane, Nico?”
“He agreed to it,” Nico said nonchalantly. “It will keep us strong enough to last the week without human blood. Just make sure you stop. I promised we wouldn’t hurt him.”
She looked panicked. “That’s a terrible idea! They could see it as a declaration of war!”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Bianca,” he said. “The boy agreed. He has the bite marks to prove it.”
“You bit him?” Nico nodded. “How did it taste?” she asked curiously.
“As wonderful as their songs make you feel,” he answered. “That’s why you should be careful. We can’t leave him too weak.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “Technically, he’s part animal,” he offered. “We’re not really breaking any rules.” She looked at him wearily.
“Fine,” she said. “But no more skipping school.”
“You got it,” he said going to his own room. He laid back and watched the stars twinkle in the sky. As he watched, he heard the howl of the wolves, the giggles of the fairies and the imps, the grumbling of the trolls. The sounds of the world no human knew.
Chapter 2: The Rogue
Chapter 2: The Rogue-
The moon was bright, a silver beacon in the night sky. Will could feel its tug on his limbs, begging him to Change. But he was stronger than that. The pup beside him, however, was not. He fell to his knees, curling into himself, whimpering like a hurt puppy. Slowly, fur sprouted from his hands, his ears became pointed as his skull morphed, his jaw elongating, his teeth sharpening. His arms and legs repositioned themselves to his sides as he howled in pain.
“It’s alright, Cecil. It’ll be over in a bit,” Will said in a low, husky voice. He petted his side, the fur growing thick and brown between his fingers.
Transformation hurt, especially when it first happened. Cecil was sixteen, but Will still called him a pup because he had recently joined the pack as a wolf. Age didn’t matter. A pup was a pup the second they began to Change. Bones had to reposition and stretch, tendons and muscle had to accommodate, organs had to shift, follicles and pores had to change. The whole process was agony.
Cecil was fully Changed then, pawing at his ears and whimpering. Will closed his eyes and let his hand hover his body. His eyes became golden and a soft, gentle light flowed from his hands. Cecil’s whimpers died away. He pulled himself up on all fours and shook himself, turning his head to Will. In wolf form, Cecil reached his ribcage. He still needed to grow a bit to be full wolf’s size, which was typically the size of a grown man. He was a mix of colors, dark brown along his body, white along his snout, black near his paws.
“Stay close,” Will commanded. “If you go too far from me this early, animal instincts can take over and you can hurt someone.” Cecil made a sneezing sound, dipping his head in understanding. “Lou Ellen!” he called. A white and grey wolf trotted up to him, morphing into a girl, her skin glinting against the moonlight. “Take him to hunt. Make sure he doesn’t stray.”
“Didn’t you hear?” she asked. “There’s a meeting. The witch is calling for it.”
“Madame Levesque?” he asked. She nodded. “It’s Cecil’s first Change. I can’t leave him.”
“I can go for you,” she offered. “I’ll report back.”
“Be careful,” he told her. “You know how the alphas can be with a second in command.” She nodded and morphed back to wolf form, her ears twitching as she got over the sting. She turned and pounced away, breaking into a run for the bayou. Will heard a soft whimper and felt a cold nose bump his hand. “It’s alright. I’ll take you hunting.”
He glanced at the moon and let it tug at his body. His change was faster than Cecil’s, but painful all the same. He growled softly and shook his head out. He towered over Cecil still. Being the alpha made him the largest. His fur was light brown, almost golden like honey. Where Cecil’s wolf eyes were grey, Will’s were golden. Every alpha’s were golden, infused with the healing power that was their responsibility. He pawed at the ground and Cecil perked up.
Will barked and started for the hills away from humans. It was hard to find prey so close to civilization. Cecil’s padding paws followed behind, and he began barking questioningly. Will growled. Even as a wolf, Cecil couldn’t shut up. He barked at him again and Cecil went quiet.
Part of the way to the hills, Cecil strayed and started chasing a mouse, causing Will to trot back and bite his ear, tugging him away. The roan coated wolf pup whimpered and his ears flattened when Will let him go. He growled at him, his eyes glowing in the night, and let out a stern breath thorough his nose.
The wolves had to learn the meaning of noises and gestures. They couldn’t communicate with human words or read each other’s thoughts. But as a wolf, the gestures made sense due to the innate animal instinct rooted into their brain after the Bite.
As they went further up the hill, Will felt a change in the air. It was colder. It smelled different. Pleasing, but at the same time distressing. Like a mixture of too many perfumes. He bared his teeth and growled, stepping in front of Cecil protectively. He tilted his head back and let out a howl, calling for his pack.
“Down, boy,” a hissing voice said. The trees rattled and Will glanced up to see a dark shape perched on a branch. He growled, this time louder, more menacing, as he looked up at the vampire. “What brings you up here, mutt?” he asked. He leapt down and stood, towering over Will. He was albino white, and looked like the very embodiment of Dracula without the accent. Will heard the low grumbles of the other wolves as they came closer and surrounded the man. “Ah, the smell of wet dog. Wonderful,” he said.
Behind Will, Cecil snarled and leapt for the vampire, causing Will to jump at him and pin him down. Cecil snapped his jaws at him and Will growled, baring his teeth, letting his eyes glow and commanding his pup to behave.
Cecil stilled and continued to grumble like a punished child. Will yipped and a black wolf sat beside Cecil as Will jumped off of him. He went around a bush and returned to his human form. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “Vampires aren’t supposed to be out at this hour.”
“You forget, mutt, that we are children of the night. It is our original schedule before a few naïve ones decided to merge with the humans.” He looked around in distaste and slid his tongue over his teeth. “I’m not looking for trouble, pup.”
“Alpha,” Will growled. Suddenly Lou Ellen, in her white and grey form, trotted up to Will barking nervously. She positioned herself in front of Will, standing between him and the vampire. “Lou Ellen, fall back.”
Reluctantly, she did. She came around to Will’s side and morphed, covering herself with her arms. “They’ve been going rogue,” she said gesturing to the vampire. “One of the vampires tried to attack a witch child.” Will furrowed his eyebrows, and he heard the vampire hiss. “Madame Levesque’s daughter.”
The vampire hissed at them and the wolves snarled and snapped at him. “Get back to our meeting point. Hunting’s over.” Lou Ellen morphed back and howled. The others howled and followed her as she left. Only Cecil remained with Will. “Do you know something about that?” he asked.
“Of course not,” he answered angrily. “Keep your mutts under control, Alpha. Wolf’s blood tastes much better than you’d think.” He turned and escaped in a blur.
Will looked back at Cecil with a stern look. “Never attack a vampire, Cecil. Ever. Unless they attack first, you do not attack.” He tilted his head to the side and whimpered in question. “A vampire’s bite can put you in a trance. Our blood is not repulsive to them. It’s actually inviting. The second they bite you, you’ll let them until you’ve run dry. Do not attack.” Cecil lowered his body and flattened his ears against his skull. “It’s alright. Come on.” He Changed and led Cecil back to the meeting point.
Once his pack was together, he had them all change back, except for Cecil. He didn’t have that control yet. When they were all changed into clothes, they surrounded Will, pacing nervously. “What if they try to hurt us?” one asked. “We had an agreement with them,” another said. “They aren’t supposed to attack us.”
“Enough!” Will barked. “We’re not being attacked. Go home, get some rest, go to school tomorrow. The vampires keep to themselves. If one does attempt to attack, you have the right to defend yourself. Whatever you do, do not let them bite you. Do not attack. Understood?” They made a yipping noise and dispersed.
Cecil sniffed at the ground and Lou Ellen walked over to Will. “She wants the Mystics to revolt.”
“We’re not interfering in anything unless we get attacked,” Will answered. “That is not out war. One child after years of a peace declaration? It’s not enough reason to revolt.” She huffed and pulled her hair back. “Go home, we have school tomorrow.”
“Oh yeah,” she said with a smile. “I bet you can’t wait to see your little trouble maker.”
Will felt the blush creep into his cheeks and nudged her away. “Shut up. That’s an order.” She laughed and bounded away, leaving Will with his pup. “You’ll be back to normal a little before dawn,” he promised. “Would you mind being my pillow?” Cecil laid down and put his head on his paws. He looked at Will with wide angular eyes and huffed. Will smiled and laid down, falling asleep instantly.
The next day, he let Cecil stay at his place to recover from the effects of the Change. His father had allowed the house to be a sort of refuge for Will’s pack.
Will’s father wasn’t a wolf. He was a regular human. Will wouldn’t have told him about the wolves if he had a choice, but once he became an alpha, he had to explain his disappearances and sudden change in confidence. At first his father had wanted to take him to see a doctor, then Will morphed down into his wolf form, causing his father to panic before he placed his head on his lap wagged his tail. Now almost two years later, his father was used to the idea and never questioned Will’s late night disappearances or the naked teenagers that arrived at their doorstep.
Meanwhile, Will went to school like a normal teenager. He saw Lou Ellen at the doors and she had a worried look on her face. “Your trouble maker looks like he got into trouble yesterday,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean he looks like he got hurt. He has bruises on his face, and probably more but he’s wearing that jacket.” The bell rang and Will frowned, following Lou Ellen to their first class.
He was in there too, in his usual seat in the back of the class and Will gasped quietly when he saw him. His cheekbone was purple, as well as the curve of his jaw. He looked angry, almost scary. But Will had faced worse than an angry teenager.
Class didn’t start for another five minutes. He started for him before really realizing what he was doing. “Hey,” he said softly.
The boy looked at him through strands of raven black hair. He had brown eyes, so dark they looked black. His lashes were long, and they shadowed his angular cheekbones. “Hello?” he answered questioningly.
“Um, I have you for a few classes.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen you,” he answered. He ran his tongue over his teeth and cleared his throat. “Look if you’re trying to get to my sister, she’s not interested. And you’d have a better chance if you went up to her yourself.”
He blinked and took a small step back. “Your sister? No, I’m not here to ask about your sister.”
“Oh,” he said. “Well, what’s up?”
Will hesitated and took a seat beside him. “Uh, I wanted to ask if you needed any help in history. I could tutor you, you know. I need hours anyway.” It was a total lie, but it was the only thing he could think of. “I’m Will,” he added.
“Nico,” he answered. Will already knew that. Nico was very popular among girl gossip and Lou Ellen told him everything. Nico had that dangerous, mysterious aura that seemed to attract girls like moths to a flame. “Uh, I guess that’d be cool,” he said. “History is a forte from World War II on. Before that, well, I’m pretty bad at it.” He smiled like he’d made a joke Will hadn’t caught. “But not at my place. My dad isn’t very nice with visitors.”
“Yeah, no problem. We can go to the library or my place if you want.” Nico smiled timidly and nodded, one hand trying to cover the side of his face with the bruises. “Did you get into a fight?” he asked gently.
“Uh, no. Not necessarily. My dad has a bad temper is all. It only hurts if I touch it.”
Will bit his lip and grabbed his backpack. “You know, I think I might have something for that.” He scavenged his bag for a small lotion bottle Lou Ellen made him carry around for her. “Do you mind?” he asked.
“I don’t think that’ll work, but okay,” he answered, turning his face.
“Close your eyes,” Will said. “The, uh, smell can irritate them.” Nico closed his eyes and Will focused on the bruises, his fingers hovering gently over them. A soft golden light connected their skin and Will heard Nico let out a low breath. He pulled back and blinked before telling Nico to open his eyes.
His eyes fluttered open and he touched the bruises absently. They weren’t completely gone of course. If Will had done that, he would’ve freaked Nico out. But he’d made the pain diminish. “That actually worked really well,” he said startled. “What cream is that?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he lied. “It didn’t come with a label.” He wasn’t sure how he would explain the healing miracle of Bath & Body Works cucumber melon lotion. “Uh, so-”
“Mr. Solace, if you would kindly return to your seat so we can begin class,” the teacher said in irritation.
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” He glanced at Nico and smiled. “I’ll see you later,” he whispered, moving back to his seat next to Lou Ellen.
She kicked him under the desk and shot him a glare. “Did you just do what I think you just did?” Will slumped in his seat. “Will. That power is only for the pack!”
“Keep your voice down,” he hissed. “I know, okay? But it looked painful.” She gave him an exasperated look and rolled her eyes. “I really wish these people wouldn’t wear so much perfume and cologne,” he said, scrunching his nose. “It makes me anxious.”
Will glanced at Nico now and then and sometimes he would find Nico looking back at him curiously. It was a long shot. Will wasn’t sure if Nico would be interested in him at all. Anytime he’d heard of him, it was a girl talking about him. But surely he couldn’t be blind to what Will was hinting at. Not with the way he’d blushed when he saw Nico looking back at him.
The next time he caught his eye, he raised a dark eyebrow and the corner of his mouth twitched slightly causing Will to suppress an embarrassed smile and look away. He pawed at the back of his ear nervously, a bad habit he’d gotten ever since he became a werewolf. The bell rang and Nico appeared at his desk almost instantly. “So since we have a test today, do you think we could study a bit during lunch?” His voice was soft, smooth, and inviting.
Beside him, Lou Ellen snorted and changed it into a cough. Nico’s eyes flickered to her and she cleared her throat. Will nudged her before answering. “Uh, yeah sure. Where do you want to go?”
“Library. I’ll meet you there at the bell.” He turned away and walked out of the room in his usual confident walk.
“God I hope he likes guys,” Will muttered.
Lou Ellen burst into laughter and shoved him out of the room. “If that wasn’t flirting, I’ll give you the game I hunt tonight.”
For the rest of the next couple of classes, Will couldn’t sit still. His foot kept tapping against the floor, and he imagined that if he were in his wolf form, he’d be wagging his tail. The seconds seemed to tick by slowly before the bell for lunch rang. He raced out of his seat and started for the library, his senses picking up the way they did when he was nervous. The smell of perfume, sweat, and food filled his nose, making him sneeze. The sounds of laughter and gossip, catcalls and whoops, key jangles, footsteps, and backpack thuds filled his ears, causing a low whine to form in his throat. His hand twitched as he tried to keep himself under control.
You are an Alpha, he berated himself. Do not let this boy have you acting like a puppy. He pawed at his ear again and went into the library. There were a few other people, their whispers filling the dome shaped room. Their heartbeats sounded like soft bass drums in his ears. At least the smell of teenagers was softer in here. Prominent, but endurable.
“Boo,” someone said behind him. Will turned, surprised that he hadn’t heard his footsteps. “Hey,” Nico said, smiling.
“Hi,” Will answered, breaking into a smile of his own. “You want to sit at the tables over here?” Nico nodded and followed him. “You sure you don’t want to get food before we start?”
“No,” he answered, smiling mischievously. “I had a very filling dinner last night. I’m not hungry. Are you?”
“No,” he answered. “I don’t like the school meat. It’s too processed.” Nico nodded and sat down, pulling out a textbook and pushing it aside. Something told Will that he didn’t plan on studying very much. “Well, uh what’d you eat last night?”
“Fish,” he answered. “But I had pork before that so I guess it filled me up enough to last through today.” He furrowed his eyebrows, cleared his throat, and took a deep breath. “Uh, I know this is pretty random, but do you have any pets?”
“Um… a few dogs,” Will answered. “Why?”
Nico hummed. “Everyone has dogs. I don’t understand why people are so crazy about them.” Will laughed at the irony. A phone went off and Nico jumped, moving to silence it before getting in trouble. Then he saw the number and his face hardened. “Give me a second.”
He moved toward a bookcase and began talking. Will let his ears morph, hiding them under his hair. It hurt to force only part of him to change, but it was bearable. He listened for Nico’s smooth velvet voice. Only now it wasn’t so smooth. It was harsh and sharp. “You did what? Bianca, Father already got mad- yes, yes I know. I know, I should’ve taken you. Stop crying. We’ll fix this. Just hold on, make sure nobody else is around. I’ll be there in a bit.” He hung up and started walking back, his face tight with worry. Will morphed his ears back and looked at him questioningly.
“Look, I was really looking forward to this, but something happened to my sister and I…. Look, I’ll give you my number and you can call me later, okay? I’m really sorry.” He grabbed a paper and jotted down a phone number, sliding it over to Will. He left the pen and ran out of the library.
Will took the paper and looked at the doorway Nico had disappeared through. He reached for the textbook Nico had left when noticed a dark blue puddle spreading across the table. The pen Nico had been using had burst and the ink was slowly dripping out and over the edge of the table.
Before Will could question it further, the fire alarm sounded, causing him to fall to his knees and whimper like an injured dog.
Chapter 3: Blood Troubles
Nico looked at the body and scrunched his nose. The alarm was ringing obnoxiously in his ears as Bianca paced behind him. “Went a little overboard, don’t you think?”
“It was an accident,” she insisted.
“It’s the freaking quarterback,” he snapped. “We can’t hide this.” He put a toe under the teen’s stomach and flipped him over. “Father already thinks I breached the stupid peace pact with the Mystics, and now you’re killing kids at our school?”
“He tried to hurt me!” she shouted. “I only meant to knock him out, but then the blood…. I was so hungry, Nico.”
“I know,” he said. “Sorry. Just stressed. I was on a date.”
Her eyes turned into slits and she snarled. “Look around you!” she hissed. “Look at the trouble we’re in and you’re worried about a stupid date?”
Nico rolled his eyes and hefted the body over his shoulder. “Alright, calm down. We just have to make it look like an accident.”
“What about the blood?” she asked, her eyes turning back to normal. “What about his family? Nico….” She fell to her knees and started crying again.
It made Nico uncomfortable when she was like this. She was the older one. She was supposed to be the one that made everything else make sense. She should have been taking care of him. But there had always been an unbelievable amount of goodness in her. Even as a vampire, a creature made for killing and hunting and seducing, she had her morals. She ate as little as she could, and even then felt guilty.
Nico had been consumed by the long drone of immortality. Years blurred together, decades even. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt guilty about anything. He killed to eat and that was that. Although he usually stuck to other horrible people, he never felt bad.
With a sigh, he put the body down and walked over to her. His hands were stained with blood, though he had no urge to drink it. The merblood was so effective, he hadn’t even craved Will’s blood as badly as he had yesterday. “Bianca. He was going to hurt you. And I have no doubt he must have hurt other girls before. Girls who couldn’t fight back.” She looked at him with her human brown eyes and Nico felt his heart clench. “He wanted to hurt you, Bianca. If you hadn’t killed him, I would have. It’s not that different from what I do. We’re just… ridding the world of the scum they don’t catch. Now come on-”
He cut off suddenly, catching a strange scent. The smell of dog was prominent throughout the school as it was. Many students had one if not more. But this time, the scent was laced with something pleasant.
“Bianca, take the body and get out of here. I’ll meet you at the woods by the park. Stay hidden.”
“Go,” he insisted, shoving the body towards her. “We have company.” He hissed as his fangs grew out, his eyesight turning colorful. The alarm continued to stab his ears, but he had a more pressing matter. “Bianca.” He heard the whip of wind as she turned and sped out the back door.
Nico pulled out one of the locker cabinets and threw it at the ceiling, causing the lights to flicker. There was no sunlight streaming into the locker room, and Nico realized a storm was brewing. He hissed softly, glancing around the locker room, listening for a growl, a whimper, something.
“Come out, come out wherever you are,” he hissed, his voice sounding like a viper’s vicious hiss. He whistled and finally heard the growl. A large wolf leapt onto the cabinets and sniffed for him. The dark had given Nico an advantage. If it couldn’t see him, it wouldn’t be able to report anything. He crept around the fallen lockers and glanced at the wolf with normal eyes for a second.
A large wolf with honey golden fur and thick hind legs stalked back and forth, tense and ready for an attack. An alpha. He could tell by the golden eyes. What the hell was an alpha doing at the school? Another wolf jumped toward the alpha, this one white, shining almost in the dim light. Its eyes a startling blue that searched for him as well.
He had to keep himself from hissing. He couldn’t take on two wolves alone, especially if one was an alpha. The golden one barked, but it sounded almost like a roar. The sound hurt Nico’s ears and he scowled. He grabbed the same set of lockers and, using the alarm to cover the sound of his steps, swung it at the wolves. He just had to get to the door.
The white one saw the cabinet and shoved the alpha away, letting out a loud howl of pain as the lockers hit it full on… and landed it right by the door. The alpha snarled and turned to look for Nico, but Nico was already gone. He’d jumped into the shower stalls and grabbed for a pipe, causing the water to stream out. He heard the wolf yip and the other whining. The golden one stalked into the showers, its teeth bared as it searched for Nico in the dark. Nico switched his eyes into better heat sensitive vision to keep an eye on it.
There was a window above the showers against the wall. If he could open it and slip out without the wolf seeing him, he’d be able to leave without causing more trouble than he already had.
He took a step back to go to it, but the squeak of his shoes against the wet tile had made the wolf’s head snap towards him. Before it could get a view of Nico, he’d dashed around it and hit it with the pipe using all of his force. The wolf howled, snapping it jaws, and flew against the wall of the showers, causing several others to burst open. The smell of wet dog filled Nico’s nose, making him want to gag.
As the wolf tried to lift himself, Nico jumped for the window and leapt out. He heard the sirens of fire trucks mingle with the sound of the fire alarm. He took one second to listen for the wolf before heading for the woods, moving incredibly fast, even for a vampire.
He reached the spot where Bianca was waiting as thunder rumbled across the sky. “Why are you wet?” she asked.
“Wolf troubles,” he muttered. “I had to make sure they didn’t see me so they wouldn’t go telling the other Mystics. We’re in enough trouble.”
“Stop saying that!” she hissed. “Stop reminding me how screwed up we’ve made everything. Get rid of that.” She pointed to the body and Nico sighed.
He crouched over it, to inspect it. The quarterback was attractive, no doubt about that. He had a chiseled jaw, full lips, perfect light brown skin. Well, it wasn’t so perfect anymore; it was tinged gray with lack of blood. The back of his head was dented in slightly, his hair sticky and matted down with blood. The bite Bianca had left on his neck stood out against the pallor.
“He still has so much blood,” Bianca whispered hungrily.
Nico glanced at her over his shoulder and frowned. “We’ll get you food before we go home. Meanwhile…. Don’t look and don’t breathe.” She turned away and Nico tore at the side of his throat, his face twisted in disgust. He just had to get rid of the vampire mark. “You drank enough so he wouldn’t Turn, right?”
“I don’t know, Nico,” she answered impatiently. He groaned in frustration and grabbed a rock nearby. He chipped it until was sharp and used it to make a cleaner slice against the boy’s throat. Blood trickled out slowly. He lifted him like a rag doll and shoved him against a tree, making sure to stain the trunk of the tree. He let him slide down and left him, limp and cold on the floor. “What was that for? He’s already dead.”
“To make it look like someone attacked him. Hit his head against the tree, threatened him, slit his throat, left him for dead. We just have to make sure he stays dead.”
“Just drink the blood.”
“One, I’m not hungry, and it’s not very appealing. Two, he needs to have a considerable amount left in him so that whoever does the autopsy doesn’t wonder why a healthy teenage boy was lacking every ounce of blood just because of an assault.” He stepped back and grimaced at his hands. “Now we wait. Can you still sense his blood?”
“Yes,” she said softly. “It’s still coursing, but not very strongly. There’s no new blood to push it forward.” Nico nodded grimly and sat by his sister as the rain began to pour. “He has to be dead,” she muttered. “His skull….” Nico didn’t answer. “Why can’t we just bury him like you did with the perv yesterday?”
“Because the police drag on a missing case more than an assault. Besides, if we bury him, a dog could find it, or those stupid mutts could come looking.” He paused and took a breath. “You’re going to be the one to find him.”
“What?” she asked.
“You’ll say you were going for a jog and you smelled something weird. So you looked into the woods and you found the body and screamed your head off.”
“I’m the one that did this, Nico!”
“So be the one to fix it!” he insisted. “They won’t suspect you. You’re just a girl shaken up by a dead body. That’s all they will see.” He took her hand. “You have an angel’s face Bianca. They won’t suspect you. And the other Mystics won’t care about a stupid human assault.”
She took a shuddering breath. “The blood stopped completely. He’s not Turning.”
“Let’s get you fed then.” They stood, remaining hand in hand. Nico took her to the sea where the ocean churned angrily and the clouds looked like black smoke above them. “Don’t drink too much. If we hurt him, the merpeople will be upset too.”
“He won’t Turn?”
“He’s a Mystic. Mystics can’t Turn. Read a book.” She rolled her eyes and Nico smiled. He sat down and closed his eyes, beginning his song. He heard Bianca gasp and opened his eyes. There was the merboy, swishing his tail behind him, looking at him with sea green eyes that somehow didn’t seem all that mesmerizing anymore. “Hello, Percy.”
“Nico,” he said with a mischievous smile. “Who’s the girl?”
“My sister. Bianca. Bianca, this is Percy.” Bianca neared them slowly and sat by Nico, her eyes on Percy’s tail. “Remember that favor I asked you yesterday?”
“Yes,” he said. “Although I was told not to trust you and your kind. I heard you attacked a witch child.”
Nico groaned and slammed his fist against a jutting rock, causing it to crack and crumble. “For the last time, I did not!” he shouted. “I attacked the man that was going to hurt her. I only scared her that’s all!” He stood up angrily and hissed at nothing. “Does that mean you won’t help us then?”
The merboy didn’t answer. He simply held out his arm to Bianca, palm up. His eyes remained on Nico, suddenly serious. Hesitantly, Bianca neared him and took his arm gently in her hands. She looked at Nico as though for permission, but he didn’t look at her. He kept his eyes on Percy, his jaw clenched. As Bianca bit him, Percy’s mouth fell open and his head fell back. His other hand dug into the sand.
Bianca held his arm closer and Nico tensed. “Bianca,” he said. “Bianca that’s enough. Enough!” She yanked away, holding a hand to her mouth as Percy swayed. Nico kneeled next to him and he leaned against him, his tail swaying weakly. “Hey, hey, keep your eyes open,” Nico urged. He took his arm and sealed the wound. “Crap,” he muttered.
“He needs to pump more blood through his body,” Bianca said, sounding sure and strong. “Tell him to swim. Get his heartbeat up.”
“He can barely lift his tail, Bianca,” he snapped. “Hey wake up,” he snapped. He lifted his face and an idea came into his head.
He pressed his lips against Percy’s feverishly, listening for the sound of his heartbeat. Slowly it began to steady and Nico pulled away. Will’s face hovered behind his eyelids before he opened his eyes and he felt uncertain. He wanted to go home.
“I’m sorry,” Bianca said.
“I’m fine,” Percy answered tiredly. “I just need a second.” He glanced at Nico. “So what happened with the witch?”
“How did you hear about that?” he asked.
“There was a meeting at the witch’s home. Near the bayou.” He looked at their confused expressions and sat up. “Didn’t you go? There were werewolves, fairies, imps, trolls, and even my mother.”
“We didn’t get told,” Bianca said. “We didn’t know there were any meetings.”
Percy’s tail swished nervously. “She wants them to revolt. Many didn’t want to because it seemed such a minor cause. But there were some who agreed. They think you have too much power.”
“Did Father know? Is that why he left and came back so angry?” Bianca questioned. At Percy’s confused look she said, “Yesterday, our father came home- we didn’t even know he’d left- and he immediately started yelling at us. He hit Nico.”
“‘Just a five year old,’ he told me. He thought I lied about the kid. He thought I’d actually attacked a kid.”
A cold hand came to his cheek, startling Nico. “Is that what this is?” he asked touching the bruises on his face. Nico nodded and looked at the storm clouds. “Maybe I-”
“You should go home. We have to make sure nobody at school noticed we’re gone. Thank you for your help, Percy.” He squeezed his hand and moved away, standing as Percy swam a little further away. The merboy gave him a steady look before turning and diving into the water. “Let’s go,” he told his sister tiredly.
“He’s cute,” she said.
“I have blood all over me. We should go change first.” Bianca gave him a strange look before nodding. They had to sneak into their rooms so their father wouldn’t know they were there. But Nico soon realized their father was not home. “He’s been leaving a lot, don’t you think?” he asked as Bianca zipped up her sweater.
“Maybe he went to hunt,” she suggested. “It’s not our concern. Let’s go.” Nico shrugged and started walking away before he felt her hand on his shoulder. “Wait. You said you were on a date. With who? What about the merboy? You know how those girls get when you mess with them.”
“Bianca, relax,” he groaned. “It was a guy. He’s in a couple of my classes. And… the merboy is for fun. It doesn’t matter. You know I never take any of it serious.”
“Oh, little brother. Just wait till someone makes you fall in love.”
“Love is for the weak. Now let’s go.” He took her hand and they returned to the school where everyone had been herded into the cafeteria since it had begun to rain. He gave Bianca a subtle nod and they parted ways, threading through the crowd, feigning confusion. “What’s going on? What happened? Was it a drill?”
“Someone pulled it. But they found something in the girl’s locker room,” someone told him. “I bet they found a couple trying to, you know,” he smirked, pushing his tongue against his cheek and motioning with his hand.
Nico laughed. The reality was so much more gruesome, so much more serious. He glanced around searching for a mop of blond hair. The smell of dogs and cats and sweat overwhelmed him. He listened for his voice, for his special heartbeat.
Where was he?
Chapter 4: The Brink
Lou Ellen was whimpering as Will dragged her by the scruff of her neck to the alley between the gym and the school. It was empty, the concrete stained with water and rust He could hear the firemen and the police talking in the locker room. There was so much blood in there, but Will had no idea where it had come from.
Will dropped Lou Ellen gently onto the concrete and whined softly, nuzzling her snout. She’d be okay. He put a large paw on her hind leg and felt the growl that rolled through his body. His eyes began to glow and the golden light stood out against the dark gray atmosphere outside.
Slowly, Lou Ellen’s whimpers lessened and she managed to pull herself up and shake herself off, the rain caught in her fur splattering the cement floor. Will gestured away from the school and let out a quick bark. Lou Ellen dipped her head and they set of to his house. They went around the back and both Changed back to their human forms. Shivering, Will knocked on the door and his father opened it, looking at them in surprise.
“Hi, Dad,” he said, trembling.
“You’re bleeding!” his dad said. He ushered them inside and Lou Ellen went to get towels and clothes as Will’s dad sat him down on a cot. “What happened?” he demanded.
“Someone pulled the alarm at school. I smelled blood and went to check with Lou Ellen. There was a vampire but we couldn’t see who it was. I don’t know what they’d be doing attacking a girl’s locker room.” He hissed as his dad disinfected the wound. “Stupid bloodsucker tossed the lockers at Lou Ellen and hit me with a freaking- ow- pipe.”
“I still don’t see why you can’t heal yourself if you can heal your whole pack.”
“Hey, what happened? Are you guys okay? You know I’m still not used to seeing everybody naked. Why are you wet?” Will groaned as Cecil came down the stairs and began his string of questions. “Here, Lou Ellen told me to give you this.”
Will took the clothes and put on the bottom half, leaving his torso expose for his dad to keep working. “You get used to it, buddy,” he told him as his dad put a large gauze patch over the bloodied side.
As he put on his shirt carefully, Lou Ellen came down the stairs dressed in Will’s clothes which fit her way too big. She tied her wet hair back and crossed her arms. “Well, we just got attacked. Do we get to interfere now?” Cecil turned his head to Will in alarm. “The vampires are obviously not keeping to themselves anymore.”
“Was it the same one from last night?” Cecil asked.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t see it.” He scowled at his own incompetence. He was a wolf for crying out loud. He should have been able to see a stupid bloodsucking parasite despite the lack of light. But everything had happened so fast and then Lou Ellen had gotten hurt. “The pack isn’t strong enough to join a war, Lou Ellen.”
“The pack? Or you?” she snapped. Will’s eyes widened. “Then why did you become alpha?” she continued.
“Not to fight,” he snarled. “I became alpha to help the kids that get turned. Kids like Cecil who are too young to deal with this kind of crap, kids who get screwed over. A bunch of teenagers and almost teenagers can’t fight vampires, Lou Ellen.”
“That’s what we’re made to do, Will!” she yelled. “We’re supposed to fight them and get rid of them we’re the only Mystics strong enough to do it!”
“Hey!” his dad yelled at both of them. “No yelling in the house,” he snapped. “Now, I don’t understand this world of yours, alright, but war is never a good thing. If you’re getting attacked though…. Will, be careful. I don’t like seeing you come home with injuries like that.”
“This is unbelievable,” Lou Ellen said. “We’re just going to let them get away with it?”
“We have to get back to school,” Will muttered. “Before they realize we’re missing. Maybe we can figure out whose blood that was.”
His father made a sound of disbelief, but he didn’t ask questions. He’d learned after some time that it was easier to just let Will be alpha and not question everything, so long as he came home safe and mostly intact.
Cecil on the other hand? “Blood? There was blood? Where? Can I go to school too? Did the vampire kill someone? Is that against the rules?”
Finally Lou Ellen growled and Cecil became quiet. “We don’t know everything yet,” Will said gently. “We’ll talk tonight when the wolves get back together and we have more information. Can you take us, Dad?”
He nodded and grabbed his keys, whistling at the three of them to get into the car. It was his personal joke, and Will always rolled his eyes. Cecil stayed in the car as Will and Lou Ellen got out and managed to get in without anyone noticing.
The office and halls were empty. The sounds of teenage gossip were spilling from the lunchroom and Lou Ellen and Will managed to slip in without being noticed.
After roaming through the crowd for a bit, dealing with the different smells, someone grabbed Will’s arm. He turned and saw Nico looking at him with a world of worry in his eyes. “Hey, I wondered where you’d gone.”
“Yeah, I was wondering the same,” he said. “You left your book in the library…. And I left all of my things in there.”
“I don’t think they’ll let us out anytime soon. I saw a lot cops.” He stood close to him glancing around worriedly. One girl was passing through the crowd with a frantic look in her eyes, calling for a boy named Ethan. “Is she calling for the quarterback?” Nico asked, his voice so low, Will might not have heard him if his hearing weren’t so enhanced.
“I think so. It’s the only Ethan I know.” Nico glanced around nervously. “Are you looking for your sister?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I didn’t see her when we got put in here.” He fidgeted, not straying too far from Will as though he were worried to get separated. “Bianca!” he called. A girl, a few feet away, turned and looked at him with relief. “There you are,” he said engulfing her in a hug. She looked stricken, nervous.
Will could see why Nico had thought he wanted to talk to his sister at first. She was a very pretty girl, with similar dark eyes and dark hair. Her hair fell in luscious waves down her back. She had light freckles splattered along her nose and Nico’s plump lips. But where Nico was all sharp angles, darkness, and shadows like a charcoal drawing, his sister was all soft elegant curves like a watercolor painting with a kind of childish look about her, a shyness and gentleness that was inviting.
The two di Angelo siblings were so different yet both so enrapturing in their own way. Will might have thought they were twins if he hadn’t known they were in different grades.
“Everyone’s looking for Ethan,” she said with a trembling voice.
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Nico assured.
Will glanced over at a table near the back away from the rest of the crowd. “Maybe she just needs to sit down. There’s a table over here.”
“Who are you?” Bianca asked, suddenly refocusing.
Before Will could introduce himself, Nico said, “Will, this is my sister Bianca. Bianca, this is Will. He was helping me study when you called.”
“O-Oh,” she said. Something about the way she said that made Will’s cheeks flare and he cleared his throat, gesturing for the table. When they sat down, she said, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” he said.
Suddenly, Lou Ellen was at their table. “Um hi! Sorry to interrupt, but Will, I need you like right now.” Will furrowed his eyebrows, but Lou Ellen dragged him out of the booth and away from the siblings before he could question her. She pulled him all the way to the other side of the lunchroom and ran a hand through her tangled ponytail. “I think it was the quarterback’s blood. Everyone’s in here except for like the kids who are always skipping. The only one that’s not here is Ethan. His girlfriend and all the other team members are looking for him.”
“Lou, calm down,” he told her. “What would Ethan be doing in the girl’s locker room?”
She turned in a frustrated circle with her hands on her hips. “Well it’s someone’s blood, Will!” He shushed her, his eyes turning golden as he forced her to keep her voice down. “Don’t you do that to me. You promised not to use that on me.”
He sighed and blinked his eyes returning to their natural blue. “I’m sorry. But you can’t just go shouting about blood with so many people around. We’ll talk tonight. With the whole pack. For now, we’re just confused teenagers.” She huffed and nodded. She nudged him and walked away to her group of friends.
When he returned, Nico was looking at Lou Ellen curiously. “Is that your girlfriend?” he asked, with an angry undertone that was almost undetectable.
“What? No, why?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Those are your clothes aren’t they?”
Will felt his cheeks flush again and he sat down. “Uh, yeah. She got hers dirty and so I lent her some. I mean, she’s like a sister to me, really.” Nico hummed and eyed him warily. As Bianca kept herself distracted, looking at the other students and biting her nails, he leaned over and said, “I’m not into girls. She knows that.”
He leaned back and saw Nico smirking, glancing at him with dark mischievous eyes. He looked away, feeling his cheeks burn.
A moment later, the door opened and the principal walked in, looking grim. “Boys and girls!” he called over the raucous banter. “Attention!” he shouted again, causing the noise to die down. “There’s….” He looked out at them and Will noticed Nico tense. “Classes have been cancelled until further notice. Please make your way to the front doors. All belongings left during the alarm will be gathered and kept in the front office. Thank you.” Several kids cheered, oblivious to the tension the principal was obviously feeling.
Will heard a girl’s desperate cry, muffled by the others’ excitement. “Wait! Mr. Brunner! We can’t find Ethan!” Bianca turned to Nico, her eyes wide and fearful.
Across the cafeteria, Will caught Lou Ellen’s eye and he shook his head ever so slightly. “Hey guys, relax. I’m sure he’s fine,” he told the siblings who both looked tense. “He probably skipped like the others.”
“Yeah, probably,” Nico mumbled. “I guess we get to go home.” He stood and waited for his sister. Will stood too, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I guess we can postpone that study date, huh?”
The mention of the word ‘date’ left Will slightly dumbfounded and he found himself stumbling over his words. “Uh-da-ah-we-um, I mean y-yeah.” He scratched the back of his head and chuckled. “Actually, I left your number in the library. So could you…. Could I get it again?”
Nico smiled and held out a hand to his sister. She glanced at it distractedly and gave him a pen. He took Will’s wrist in his hand and he felt a jolt of electricity shoot through his arm. The pen moved smoothly against his skin and suddenly the contact was gone. Will glanced at the neat numbers on his arm. “Maybe we can hang out while there’s no school,” he suggested.
“Yeah definitely,” he smiled. “I’ll text you. Or call you, whatever.” Nico nodded and smiled. He ran his tongue over his teeth and chuckled.
“Nico,” his sister said, tugging his arm.
“Right, yeah, sorry I….”
“Have to go. Yeah, me too.” Nico smiled apologetically before turning and squirming through the crowd with his sister.
Lou Ellen appeared at his side and growled. “Honestly, Alpha. We’re at the brink of a war and you’re flirting with an Ordinary.”
“Is there something you want to tell me?” he asked tiredly. “You want to be alpha? Go ahead. I didn’t want this in the first place.”
“No!” she said, horrified. “I just want you to own up to your role!”
“I am doing my job. I’m keeping my pack safe and I’m patient and I’m teaching what I know. And I’m keeping us off the radar. That’s my job. We are not at the brink of war. We’re not part of any war.” He glanced at the thinning crowd. “Besides, I’m a teenager. I get to have a teenage life too.” She crossed her arms and sighed. “Let’s go.”
They started away from the school as the rain lessened to a light sprinkle. “I still think it was him. Maybe the vampire took him in there as he was passing.”
“Then where was the body. The vampire wasn’t holding a body when it left. It kept throwing things.”
She sighed and shrugged. “We have to go back to look, you know? Once the police are gone. I bet they’ll start looking for a girl’s DNA first.”
“Not if his friends and girlfriend keep asking about him. God, how will the family take it? Do you think they’ll even get a body?”
“A body with bite marks probably,” she muttered. “Unless he got Turned.”
The next day, Lou Ellen and Cecil were sitting in Will’s living room, scarfing down fried chicken like there was no tomorrow. After the consensual vote that none of the other wolves wanted to get involved in a civil war between Mystics, Lou Ellen had relaxed on her pro-war rampage. As long as the wolves weren’t attacked directly, they didn’t want to fight. They were just kids after all. And they always would be.
“Okay, but what do I tell my mom if I start shedding?” Cecil asked as he tore through a leg. “And how come-”
“Cecil can it,” Lou Ellen said suddenly. She turned up the TV where a reporter was at the park. The headline read: Missing High School Teen Found Mutilated in Hatten Park Woods
“-a horrible, violent assault. Detectives have investigated the scene but have found no external DNA or evidence that could give a lead to the assailant. Millicent, back to you.”
The screen changed and Will nearly choked on his half chewed food. Bianca was standing next to a small female reporter, shaken up and dressed in jogging clothes. “Bianca, sweetheart, I know you must be shaken up, but can you answer a few questions?” Nervously, Bianca nodded. Her hands were twitching despite the fact that she’d tucked them under her armpits. “Can you tell us how you came across Ethan Nakamura’s body?”
In a shaking, unsteady voice, she said, “I came to run in the park.” She gulped. “They cancelled school, so I figured I could come early. But then I smelled something weird. Rotting.” She took several deep breaths and looked like she was going to cry. “I went into the woods and then… he was there. The flies and ants and-” She gasped and put a shaking hand to her mouth.
“Okay, okay, sweetie, that’s enough. Thank you.” She turned back to the camera. “Due to the injuries on the body, police believe he may have been mugged and dragged away from the public eye. Ethan Nakamura was Riordan High’s quarterback. A boy of eighteen, a football scholarship in the palm of his hands. Yesterday, several teens-”
Will turned off the television. “There. See? Ethan skipped school and got jumped. No vampires.” Lou Ellen looked like she was going to sick. “Poor Bianca. She actually had to find the body.”
“You should check to see if she’s okay,” Lou Ellen said.
Will started for his phone before realizing Cecil had been unusually silent. When he looked at him, he was staring dumbly at the blank screen. “He was my friend,” he whispered. “He was going to help me get on the team next year.” He turned to Will, his expression unusually serious. “We have to find out who did this. Mystics aren’t the only monsters.”
“What do you want to do? Kill a human that wanted cash and jumped a high school kid? It happens all the time, Cecil. We can’t-”
He stood angrily and growled. Fur began to sprout from his limbs. “Lou Ellen is right about you. You’re just scared to fight. You don’t want to get your hands dirty, but that’s what we’re here for. If I’m-” He winced as the Change began to roll through his body. “If I’m going to be a werewolf for the rest of my life, I at least want to do something good with it!” He screamed and fell to his knees, his body morphing slowly.
Suddenly there was a large, roan-coated, angry wolf in Will’s living room, snarling at him. Will sighed glanced at Lou Ellen. She wouldn’t look at him. “Fine. You want to find out who did this? We’ll go to the place where they found him tonight. But there’s a lot of people here, Cecil. I can’t guarantee we’ll find the culprit.” He crossed his arms and looked at Lou Ellen. “What can I say? I’m a pacifist. Help him Change back. I’ll bring some clothes.” He went upstairs and pulled out his phone.
He hesitated before calling Nico, unsure exactly what to say. He picked up after a few rings. “Hey,” Will said. “I saw the news. How’s your sister doing?”
“She won’t stop crying,” he said tiredly. In the background he could hear Bianca’s cries. “She just needs to get this all out. Dead body, you know, it… it’s traumatizing.”
“Of course,” Will said softly. “If you guys need anything…. Well, you’ve got my number. I’ll leave you to help her out, okay?”
“Yeah, thanks. Be careful, Will.”
He hung up and went back downstairs with a change of clothes for Cecil. Things were changing. Will could feel it, like the weather. There was something big coming and it made him uneasy. “Here,” he said to Cecil as he covered himself with a pillow. “Ugh, really? Lou Ellen is used to this. And so am I,” he said. “Don’t mess my dad’s pillows up.”
For the rest of the day, Cecil paced back and forth, munching on chips noisily and Lou Ellen sat frigidly, looking out the window as though she were watching for the quick movements of vampires. Will’s father had to stay late at the hospital, so he left a note and yipped at the two shortly after sunset.
They walked to the park and as they did, Will glanced up at the trees surrounding. He remembered his father driving him to the park to ride his bike when he was younger. He remembered looking up at the trees that seemed giant and imagining the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park lurking in there, hiding from everyone. He remembered feeling slightly afraid but mystified and curious. A time when the woods were only a place a child’s mind could see dinosaurs in, not dead bodies and vampires.
The trio slipped into the woods and discarded their clothes, making a pile near a trunk and morphing. Cecil struggled less this time and Will sniffed at the air. The smell of blood was still strong and the three of them found the spot quickly. There was police tape surrounding the tree and the blue and red lights from the police cars seeped through branches, illuminating their eyes.
Policemen were talking nearby and they called out when they heard the rustling. Will nudged Lou Ellen with his nose and then turned his head away, sniffing. Lou Ellen bounded away and a few moments later the policemen were calling for back up further into the woods. As they left, Cecil ducked under the tape and sniffed the tree and the ground. Will watched him, sitting patiently, his tail lazily moving side to side.
Suddenly, Cecil snarled and bared his teeth, hunching his wide furry shoulders. Will got on all fours, alert and curious. Lou Ellen came back and barked questioningly. She followed Cecil’s lead and sniffed. She stepped back and snarled, her front crouched as if preparing for an attack. The Change rolled through her body as she morphed back into herself. “Vampires!” she snarled. “It reeks of them.” Will moved forward and sniffed. There it was.
The mix of perfumes, both enticing and revolting. With one look into his companions’ eyes, Will knew there was no staying out of it. A war was starting, and the vampires were making things worse for themselves.
Chapter 5: Dates & Damnation
It was late. Their father’s study had been empty all day and part of Nico believed he had abandoned them. Which was fine; Nico wouldn’t mind the absence. It only meant he wouldn’t get yelled at and punished so much.
Bianca came downstairs with a pint of ice cream, wearing sweats and her hair was up in a very messy ponytail. Her eyes were red and puffy. Nico grimaced at her. “Jeez, you look like you just got broken up with, Bianca.”
She fixed him with a steely gaze and stabbed her spoon into her ice cream. “I killed someone and had to find them and deal with all those questions and see all those people crying over something I did while you stayed here and watched it on the stupid television!” she shouted. “You don’t get to judge!”
He raised his hands up in defeat. “I wasn’t. It’s just…. Bianca we’re vampires. Human lives are nothing. Stop beating yourself up over it and stop eating ice cream you don’t even need it.”
“No, but dead or alive it helps cope with horrible things. Like break ups and murders.” She turned away, stuffing the spoon into her mouth.
Nico rolled his eyes and stepped outside onto the porch. After spending so much time in the cafeteria with all the kids smelling like sweat, dirt, dog, cat, and God knows what else, Nico craved the fresh air. He didn’t need to breathe, and he knew that, but not breathing felt weird. It was like trying to keep your jaw clenched all day. You could do it, but it wasn’t comfortable, not because it was painful, but because it just wasn’t right.
As he looked out at the acres of land, he found himself thinking about Will. About the way his blue eyes were so bright, and how attentive he was. How a certain stubborn strand of hair would keep falling in his face, despite the many times he unconsciously pushed his hair back. The easy going smile and the scarlet flush that so filled his cheeks and made his freckles stand out. He thought of his voice, low and husky and soft.
A loud whistle overhead brought him out of his reverie. He glanced up and saw Bianca poking her head out of her window. “You’re daydreaming,” she said.
“No I’m not. I’m calculating the amount of grass in the yard.”
She smiled and tipped her head back in laughter. It was the first time she smiled since they’d dealt with Ethan’s body three days ago. “It’s that boy isn’t it!” she said. “Aw little brother, you’re growing up!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She rolled her eyes and threw her legs out over the sill. She let herself fall and she landed with a light thud a few feet away from him. She walked up to him with a smile and her hands on her hips. “You were staring at the air with a smile on your face. You were thinking about him.”
Nico rolled his eyes and leaned against the porch railing. “Alright, so what if I was? It’s just another person to flirt with. I get a new one every five years, remember.” He shrugged and glanced in the direction of the sea. “Then I have my usuals. The fairy, the merboy, and that one vampire girl we met last summer. What was her name?”
“I try not to keep track of your romantic endeavors, little brother.” She crossed her arms and sighed. “This one’s different. Yeah you’ve been around after all these decades, but… you’ve never daydreamed about anyone before.”
Before Nico could retaliate, his phone rang, making him jump. He pulled it out and when he saw it was Will, he answered and said, “Hello?” an octave higher than he’d meant to. He cleared his throat as Bianca giggled. “Uh, hello?”
“Hey,” Will answered. “How’s your sister holding up?”
“She’s uh, she’s fine. She’s better, but not great, you know?”
“Of course,” he answered. “So, Lou Ellen and Cecil and I were about to go to an arcade. I wanted to see I you guys wanted to come. Get your mind off the drama. I totally understand if you don’t.”
“Uh, y-yeah, o-okay. Let me uh, let me ask my sister.” He looked at Bianca, and imagined that if he were still human, his heart would be pounding and his hands would be shaking. “Want to go to an arcade?”
She was stifling a laugh. “You’re stuttering!” she teased.
“Yes or no?” he hissed. She nodded quickly. “Uh, hey. She said she’d like to go.”
“Okay cool. It’s not too far, we were going to walk. Is that cool?”
“Yeah, sure,” Nico said. “We can meet you guys there.”
Will told him which arcade and when he hung up, Nico went to change. Bianca followed him, laughing still. “What are you so worked up for? You’re a vampire, you lure people regardless of the amount of cologne you wear.” Nico shot her a look and continued rummaging through his clothes looking for a nicer shirt. “I mean seriously, I could go in my ice cream stained sweats and probably still get one of them flustered.”
“Don’t go in sweats!” he said. “That’s completely emba-” He stopped and looked at Bianca whose eyebrows were raised as she smiled mischievously. “Alright, fine. I have a crush on this human. So what? Just go change!”
As she left, laughing victoriously, Nico ran a hand through his hair. He found himself shifting his weight from his heels to the balls of his feet, rocking himself nervously. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done something so human. It caused a sense of déjà vu and he rubbed his neck anxiously.
Bianca was right. Will was just a human and it wouldn’t be hard to impress him. He just had to relax and be his usual vampire self and he’d have Will eating out of the palm of his hand.
They waited about fifteen minutes, Nico trying to keep himself from fidgeting and Bianca casting knowing glances at him, before leaving for the arcade. They ran and came to a human speed as they turned the corner by an alley. As they walked, Nico could see the effect they had on the others. Girls stared at him or jeered at Bianca. Boys got a hungry look in their eyes when they saw Bianca but didn’t do anything with Nico standing beside her. She hadn’t dressed up. She simply put on a shirt, a light sweater, and jeans. Even her hair was simple, only pinned on one side and spilling over her shoulders with her favorite floppy green hat on top of her head. Of course, that didn’t matter when you were a vampire.
He put a protective arm around her shoulders, glaring at any guy who stared too long. Bianca could take care of herself, she’d made that clear. But still, Nico couldn’t help the defensive instinct that overcame him any time any form of harm towards his sister was imminent.
He realized Bianca had been playing the role of traumatized teen girl as they walked, keeping her head down and hugging herself. When they got to the arcade, Lou Ellen, dressed in her own clothes this time, skipped towards them and gestured them to a booth where Cecil was scarfing down large slices of pizza.
“Cecil, chew with your mouth closed at least,” Lou Ellen chided. “This is Cecil. Cecil, the di Angelo siblings, Nico and Bianca.”
He looked at them and his mouth hung open. Nico furrowed his eyebrows for a second before Cecil gulped and wiped his hands on his jeans, never taking his eyes off of Bianca. He held out his hand and looked at her admiringly. “Hi. Cecil.”
Bianca hesitated before shaking his hand gently. “Bianca,” she repeated. She glanced at Nico and the look in her eyes said, Told you so. Nico rolled his eyes.
Just as Nico was about to ask about Will, a happy, husky voice behind him said, “You guys are here! Great!” Nico turned and the words died in his throat. His eyes always did that to him.
“Yeah,” he breathed. “I was just about to ask where you were.”
He held up several cards. “Games require cards. I got us all one with a bunch of tokens. You up for playing, Bianca?”
“I think I’ll just sit for a bit,” she said.
“I can stay with her,” Cecil offered.
But Lou Ellen had yanked him by the shirt. “Come on, Lover Boy. Leave the lady alone. The last thing she needs is a puppy hitting on her.”
Nico raised an eyebrow. “Puppy?”
“He’s the youngest of all of us. Freshman,” Will explained. “Lou’s right, Cecil. Don’t bother her.”
“It’s not a bother,” Bianca said. “But I would appreciate a moment. I’ll join later. Maybe for laser tag or bowling.” Nico gave her a questioning look but she only gestured toward the games and gave him a small smile.
So Nico went with the others into the arcade where several other people were playing games. Nico could hear various heartbeats and he slid his tongue over his teeth to be sure his fangs hadn’t come out. His throat wasn’t dry. The merblood had kept him full for several days. But the itch for a snack was coming back and he forced himself to limit his breaths.
The next few moments were a blur of laughter and blue eyes and warmth. Will was excellent at the basketball game and Lou Ellen seemed to have incredible luck at the ticket roulette. Cecil loved Dance, Dance Revolution and he was so hyper Nico found himself smiling just watching him go at the game. Eventually, Bianca met back up with them and they decided to go bowling.
“Have you ever bowled before?” Will asked.
Nico shook his head. “It never got my attention.”
“Well come on,” he said gesturing to the array of different weighted bowling balls. “Just tell me which one feels most comfortable.” He handed Nico a ten pounder and Nico lifted it easily. He handed him a fifteen pounder, and Nico couldn’t really tell a difference.
“I’ll take this one,” he said. Will returned to the others and set up their game on the tablets set up at each table.
Lou Ellen went first. After her two shots, she only had one pin standing. Then Cecil, who ended up with a gutterball. Will stood and gestured to Nico. “Come on, so I can show you.” He took his ball and stood a few paces behind the line. “Don’t put your fingers all the way in, first of all.” He blushed a little and cleared his throat. “It could hurt your fingers when you try to let the ball go. So, when you let it go, you want to flick your wrist a bit so when it rolls, it’s spinning too. It keeps it straight or even curves it once you get the hang of it. Taking a few steps back helps. Then just swing back and let go.” He took a few steps back and let the ball roll for the pins. He missed one, but he got it the second time.
“Alright,” Nico said, taking the bowling ball Will gave him. He bit his lip. He felt jumpy and… nervous? He cleared his throat and Will placed his hand over Nico’s to help him get a better hold. Nico felt a jolt of heat and almost jerked back. It was like the time he’d given him his number. If he were human, he knew he would have been shaking as badly as he should have been now. He smiled nervously and sensed the jump in Will’s pulse.
He stepped back then and Nico focused on the pins. He did as he was told and managed to knock all the pins down. “Hey, good job!” Will said with a wide smile. Nico stared in shock. He hadn’t expected to knock them all down. “Nice one, Nico,” Will praised. “That gives you the most points.” He turned and called Bianca over, giving her the rundown quicker than he had for Nico. Bianca also managed to knock them all down.
“Beginner’s luck!” Lou Ellen laughed.
“Or natural talent,” Cecil sighed dreamily. Nico suppressed a smile and noticed Will doing the same.
They finished their game and started another. After that one, they started for their homes. “Hey,” Will said as Cecil and Lou Ellen talked to Bianca. “Uh, I had fun. I’ll be sure to invite you if whenever we go somewhere. Bianca’s welcome too. It’ll make Cecil happy.”
Nico laughed and stuffed his hands in his jeans. “That sounds nice….” He didn’t say that he’d hoped they could go somewhere one day without the entire group. Because hope was a word Nico didn’t tend to use. And the funny feelings he’d been experiencing the whole time were making him wary and frankly scared the hell out of him. Before he could think of something else to say, he stumbled over a protruding piece of broken cement. Will helped him steady himself by grabbing his arm, a gesture that made Nico gasp.
“You okay?” he asked, his eyes wide with shock.
“Y-Yeah,” he mumbled. “Sorry. I’m not usually this clumsy, I swear.” Will smiled at him, melting away any embarrassment he may have felt. “Ah, this is the street we go down.”
As Will opened his mouth to respond, Lou Ellen hit him on the arm and gasped. “Will,” she said anxiously. She showed him her phone and his eyes became dark.
“Is everything okay?” Bianca asked standing next to Nico.
“Yeah,” Will said in an assuring tone. “Yeah, everything’s fine. Uh, we go this way. I’ll call you, okay?”
“Okay,” Nico said awkwardly.
“It was great hanging out with you guys,” Lou Ellen said tugging Cecil away. They turned, Will glancing over his shoulder before they all left.
Bianca nudged Nico. “It’s something about Ethan,” she murmured. “I saw her phone before she tried to hide it.” Nico frowned as Bianca pulled out her phone and Googled the most recent updates on the murder of Ethan Nakamura. She made a horrified expression and moaned. “They connected the blood in the locker room to him. Crap! We should have known that was going to happen!”
“Hey! Relax! What do you think they’ll do? If anything they stumped themselves further. Trust me, vampire is not the first thing they’re going to think. I made sure of that.” He glanced in the direction where Will and his friends had gone. “But what do they care?”
“Cecil was telling me Ethan was his friend,” she said softly. “I guess they wanted to tell him somewhere private.”
Nico nodded in understanding. They began to walk behind the alley before breaking into a run for their home. They watched the news the whole day and Bianca curled into a ball on the couch. Nico kept looking for ways it could backfire, but he couldn’t see how anyone would figure it out. The Mystics didn’t watch the news. They weren’t interested in Ordinary deaths and kidnappings. Unless something blew incredibly out of proportion, they never suspected another Mystic. And even if they did, they wouldn’t suspect a vampire.
Vampires weren’t supposed to be messy. The bodies weren’t supposed to have as much blood as the boy did. They were fine. Bianca was fine.
“You’re thinking about it, aren’t you? How we could get caught?”
“I’m actually thinking about all the reasons we won’t get caught,” he said. He muted the television. “We’re fine, Bianca. Look the Mystics don’t know who ‘attacked’ the witch child. And they won’t suspect a vampire in this murder case that they’re only dragging on for statistical viewing. Eventually the family will shut them up.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I’m more worried about Father’s incessant absence in the house.”
“He never tells us where he goes, it’s not much different.”
“He’s never gone this much,” Nico pointed out.
“Father,” a deep voice said, causing Nico to fight the urge to stand at attention. “Was trying to clean up your mess.” Their father walked into the living room dressed similarly to Nico, but making it look somehow elegant rather than troublesome. “The witch won’t be bargained with. She wants a trial.”
“A trial? What does that even mean? Do Mystics have trials?” Bianca asked.
Nico let himself fall against the sofa and sighed. “Yep. A Mystic from each group form a judge panel and the plaintiff basically leads the whole thing. It makes the entire case biased, but if you did nothing wrong, bias shouldn’t matter. Still, when the defendant is a vampire that nobody trusts….” He felt a weight drop in his stomach.
“What will they do? He never hurt the girl. On what grounds could they punish him?” Bianca demanded.
Their father sat, expressionless and rigid. “Attempted attack on a Mystic. Which usually wouldn’t matter, except he got caught and it was Madame Levesque’s child. She’s one of the most powerful witches in the world. The most powerful on this hemisphere.” He clasped his hands together. “And endangerment of the species.”
“What?” they said together. “I didn’t endanger anyone!”
Coal black eyes flickered to him, making Nico fall silent despite his rage. “You don’t think so. But the others, if they truly want you to be punished, will find a way to make it seem so. You attacked a human in front of a child. Even if you thought she was an Ordinary, it leads to the assumption you’ve done it before. How many children claiming to have seen a monster with vampire teeth will it take before the Hunts begin again?” Nico cringed. “And there’s this mess,” he said pointing at the television. “You didn’t tell me about that.” At their shocked expressions, he said, “You pair of idiots, I could hear you from the doorstep. I am your father, your leader. You tell me the stupid problems you get into so I can fix them. Otherwise, you’ll be digging your own grave and pulling the lever on the guillotine.” He stood and shut himself in his office.
After moments of terrified silence, Bianca said, “What could she possibly get out of damning a teenage vampire?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “But she seems pretty damn adamant about taking me down.” He stood, feeling miserable, the weight of inexorable doom dragging him down. He took a deep breath and went to his room, pulling out his phone.
If he was going to die, he would at least die without regrets.
Will hadn’t answered the first time. But he called back a few moments after. “Hey, sorry I was busy.”
“Oh, sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt anything,” Nico said.
“No, it’s fine. What’s up?”
Nico looked out the window at the moon as it began to chip away after having reached the full moon. He took a breath and cleared his throat. “So, I know you said that you’d invite us whenever you and your friends hang out again,” he started. “But…. Why don’t we go on a regular date?”
“Date?” Will said, almost choking the word out.
“Y-yeah. You know. Just you and me, no sisters or friends. If you want.” He winced, mouthing several berating, derogatory terms to himself.
Finally, his husky voice came through the speaker. “That sounds great. When?”
The events of the past week came to him in a fast blur, his father’s words echoing in his ears. He felt a sting around his neck and took another unnecessary, steadying breath. “Now?”
Chapter 6: Reckless Behavior
I don't proofread guys, I'm sorry.
“What do you mean going on a date? We have to-”
“Lou Ellen!” Will barked. “Will you stop? So we found out the blood is the same, what can we do about that right now? All it does is back up the idea that it’s a vampire. If you want to do something useful, figure out what vampires live in the area.” He turned away from her and started for his room.
He grabbed another shirt and messed with his hair a moment before she barged into the room with him. “He’s making you reckless,” she accused. “It’s just a crush and you’re already throwing your responsibilities out the door!”
Will growled and clenched his fists. “Lou Ellen, I’ve never been on a date, okay? I’ve never been liked back especially by someone like him. I want to be a teenager for once, a normal… gay teenager. Instead of an alpha werewolf freak that has to hunt for vampires and go to wars started by witches and warlocks. It’s just a few hours.”
“The vampire could kill someone else in ‘a few hours,’ Will.”
“You need to rest,” Will said. “When’s the last time you even slept?” He left the room and she started after him, yelling about how irresponsible he was being. Finally, he turned, towering over her. “I’m the alpha,” he yelled, the undertone of a wolf’s growl in his voice. “Stop berating me. I know what I’m doing. Go home.”
Lou Ellen stepped back, her head lowering a bit in submission. He felt a horrible twist in his gut. He never snapped at his pack like that. He never snapped at anyone like that. But an apology didn’t seem fit at the moment. With a last rueful glance over his shoulder, he left the house and started for the mall.
Nico was already there by the time Will got there, dressed in his usual dark clothes. The leather jacket gleamed under the fluorescent lights outside the bookshop, as well as the metal buckles on his boots. He looked relaxed and statuesque. As he stepped closer, his head came up and his brown eyes met Will’s, causing him to flush. He smiled easily, like he always did.
“Hey,” he said as Will got within hearing distance. “Sorry for the sudden notice.”
“No worries,” he assured. He smiled nervously and glanced at the glass doors. “Want to go in?” Nico nodded and opened the door, gesturing for him to walk through. Nico followed beside him, seemingly lost in thought.
Then he said, “Something’s wrong.” Will glanced at him questioningly. “Did something happen? You seem a little… distressed.”
“Oh,” he said, surprised. He didn’t think Nico would be able to notice, considering Will was always smiling. “I just… I got into an argument with Lou Ellen. It’s nothing. We’re not used to fights.” He shrugged. “It’s not important, really.”
“If you say so,” he said, though he obviously didn’t believe it. “So, do you want to watch a movie or break into a store?” Will looked at him with wide eyes causing him to laugh delightedly. “I’m kidding,” he assured. Then, softer, he added, “Though we totally could.”
“Troublemaker,” Will said with a smile and shake of his head.
“You don’t know the half of it,” he said. “Come on.” He took his hand and led him through the mostly empty mall. Will had to try not to trip over his feet in the dizziness that overcame him the second Nico’s fingers slipped into his hand. He didn’t go the usual route to the theaters, but instead glanced around and ducked into the ticket booth, Will following in confusion.
“What are you doing?” he whispered.
Nico glanced at him and winked. “Hey,” he said to a girl who was working. “How’s the shift?”
“Almost over. What do you want?” she asked not looking up from her phone.
“Two tickets,” he said.
“Two?” she asked glancing at him. “Oh.” Will felt himself turn red. Why did everyone say that when they saw him? “Well… alright,” she said. Will glanced at Nico and the smug look on his face. “Here. Be nice,” she said.
Nico rolled his eyes and left the booth, again pulling Will along. “Wait, can’t she get in trouble for that?” he whispered.
Nico let him go and walked at an easy pace beside them as they got past the person taking tickets. “Don’t worry, I do it all the time. She never gets in trouble.”
An uneasy feeling came over Will. “You bring people to free movies all the time?”
Nico stopped and turned to him. “Wow that sounded bad.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I meant she usually helps me get in without paying. I’m not trying to be cheap or anything. If you want, I’ll go back and pay-”
“That’s not what I meant,” he interrupted. “Just… you said you do it all the time.”
An understanding gleam twinkle in his eyes. He took a step closer and looked at him, the corner of his mouth tugged upwards. “With my sister. We like superhero movies.” Will nodded and looked at his hands. “Come on,” he said nudging him.
They went into the screening and sat in the middle. It was almost empty considering how late it was. As they sat, Nico’s knee bumped Will’s, but he didn’t move it. He just smirked at Will, his tongue sliding over his teeth. As the movie went on, Will found himself so distracted, his heart pounding so much, his wolf senses increased.
The smell of buttery popcorn, sweat, feet, and the several colognes and perfumes people on dates went overboard with all attacked his nose. The sound of the whirring film and the distant coughs and shifting were amplified in the air. Even the small particles of dust that floated through the air were visible to him through the projector light. And every miniscule touch from Nico sent a thousand waves of icy heat through his body, making him tense.
The knee pressed against his own, the shoulder that only barely brushed against his arm, the hand that seemed to be getting closer and closer to his own. It was almost impossible to focus on the movie. He wondered if Nico knew the effect he had. He had to especially with the way he flirted at school. Lou Ellen had heard so many stories.
He got up without realizing it and hurried down the steps and to the exit. He stood, pacing in the hall that was carpeted a strange violet color. He slid down against the wall and took several deep breaths. What was he doing? He knew what type of guy Nico was. He knew that Nico took people on dates and had his fun and forgot them.
There was a vampire somewhere doing what he wanted and Will was at the movies with a troublemaking boy instead of being the alpha he was supposed to be.
“Hey,” he heard. He looked up and saw Nico looking at him warily. “What happened?”
Will stood and leaned against the wall. “I… I don’t know,” he breathed. “It’s just….”
“Are you feeling sick?” he asked stepping closer. Will clenched his jaw and looked away. “Will…?”
“Why are you here with me, Nico?” he asked softly.
“Because I like you,” he answered so honestly that Will had to look back to him, his mouth falling open. “Why else?”
He shrugged and furrowed his eyebrows. “You go on a lot of dates. You like a lot of people.” Nico crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “I’ve heard the gossip about you. How you take girls out and do what you want and then leave them broken hearted.”
“You’re saying I’m a flirt. Well, if you see me as a troublemaker and a flirt, why did you start talking to me? Why are you here with me?”
Will felt his cheeks flush. “I-”
Suddenly, Nico was in front of him, tilting his chin so he would stop looking at the floor. “I am a troublemaker. And I have been a flirt. But that’s just because I have nothing to lose, Will. I want to make the best of the rest of my time on earth and if that means being reckless, then I don’t care.” His hands rested against the wall on either side of Will, causing him to press himself back against it, his heart hammering, his senses going crazy, his breaths shallow and nervous as he looked into his eyes. “Have you always played by the rules, Will?” he asked softly.
“Have you always broken them?” he answered just as quietly, trying not to show how nervous he felt. Nico was leaning into him, his ebony eyes turning somehow darker, his raven hair adorning his face perfectly, his lips parted and so inviting. Will looked away and took a quick breath. “We hardly know each other Nico.”
Nico was so close to him, that if Will turned his head back to face him, they’d be kissing. Will felt his breath against his cheek and resisted the urge to close his eyes. He was laughing. “Is that what you want?” he asked. “To know me?”
Will shrugged. “I don’t want to kiss you and then have you disappear. If you kiss me I want it to be because you want to be with me. And you’re not ready to say that yet. And neither am I.” Nico stepped back, allowing Will to relax and look at him. “What?” he asked when he saw Nico’s incredulous look.
“This is new to me. I have no idea what just happened.” He tipped his head back and laughed, shocking Will. “Alright. So tell me what you want me to know about you. And ask me whatever you want to know about me.”
They sat against the wall and began to talk. It shocked Will how open Nico was. He was once a riveting, enrapturing mystery to him and all of a sudden, he was just a beautiful open book for Will to flip through, captivated. Even more surprising, maybe, was how easily Will found himself answering.
Some time later, in the middle of conversation, the people in the theater began to leave and didn’t give them a second glance as they exited.
They stood and followed, walking through the streets, to kill time. “So what were you and Lou Ellen fighting about?” he asked finally.
That was the one time Will hesitated. “She’s just worried about me becoming reckless.”
“Like me?” he asked, without a trace of a joke. Will shrugged. Nico stopped and pulled him back gently. “What if she’s right? What if I’m not good for you?”
“Is this you backing out?” he asked in a monotone voice, looking at him wearily.
“No,” Nico assured. “I mean it. What if I’m so messed up, have so many troubles following me, and I mess you up too?” he sounded sincerely afraid and the look in his eyes was so vulnerable it frightened Will. “You’re so good, Will. So pure. And I’m not.”
“I don’t believe that,” Will whispered. “After everything you’ve told me, I won’t believe that.”
He sighed as though in defeat. He took Will’s hand and said, “Tell me what you know about me.”
“Your favorite color is red. Your birthday is on January 28th. You like to learn but you hate school. You can’t remember your mom. You used to live in Italy, and you’re fluent in several languages. You hate being told what to do. Your sister is the most important thing to you and you’ll do anything to protect her. You like to live in the moment and you love being reckless. But you know when not to be.”
He smiled slowly, peacefully. “Your favorite color is gold. You like being outside. You were in archery lessons as a kid. You love playing basketball, but you get competitive. It’s easy to trust you. Your dad has been a doctor since you can remember and although he’s gone a lot, he cares so much about you. Your mom died in a car accident. You were with her in the passenger seat. The song Iris reminds you of her. You’re level headed and rational.” Will smiled at him, nodding. “I played by the rules for once,” he whispered, putting a hand to his cheek. “Can you be reckless for me?”
He didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. Simply by not pulling away, letting Nico lean into him, and closing his eyes, he was agreeing.
The shock that went through his body as Nico’s lips pressed against his own was vigorous and pleasant. His senses went overboard so much, he wasn’t really aware of them. He’d never known what it was like to experience a kiss like this. Nico’s lips parted, his tongue forcing Will’s mouth to only a bit. Will slid his arms around Nico’s torso, tugging him close as Nico sucked on his lower lip. All of a sudden, a burning desire for more coursed through Will and it didn’t matter that he’d never really kissed anyone before. His lips seemed to know what to do and Nico seemed to feel the same as he pushed him back against the hard brick wall of a building and hissed in pleasure. Will could feel a growl begin to tear through his throat when Nico left his lips and, with one hand tangled in his hair, pulled his head back and began to kiss his neck. Will’s growl turned into a gasp. He felt his eyes change color, becoming an alpha gold, as Nico’s teeth skimmed his skin.
A car passed by and like that they split apart. Nico wasn’t looking at him, but he was breathing heavily. His head was ducked down, a hand over his mouth. Will closed his eyes and felt them cool back down to their natural blue. He opened his eyes and saw Nico’s flushed face. He looked almost guilty.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t think it’d… get that far.” He looked at him, as though he were afraid Will would yell at him, but Will was just trying to make the world stop spinning.
His breaths were as fast and deep as Nico’s. He felt like he’d just run a marathon. He wondered if this was what it was supposed to be like when you kissed someone. Was it supposed to feel like a rollercoaster? Like such an intense adrenaline rush? “Don’t apologize,” he said breathlessly. “I’d have stopped you if it made me upset.” He cleared his throat and suppressed a sheepish smile. “I should… go home,” he whispered.
“O-okay,” he said. He seemed anxious and afraid. “I’ll walk you.” They walked silently, both still pondering the fervid kiss. Nico kept a small distance between them and moved carefully as though he were afraid to hurt him. As they neared his house, Nico cleared his throat. Before Will could start for the door, Nico pulled him aside. “Hey, before you go, I just…. I need you to know that Lou Ellen might be right. I’m troublesome, Will. I have so many problems and I don’t want to mess up your life with them. I might not be good for you.” Will narrowed his eyes and shifted his weight. Before he could protest, Nico stopped him with a shake of his head as he said, “It’s not because I’m trying to back out of anything. I’m just warning you. I don’t know what’s coming my way. That’s why I’m so impulsive. If you still want to talk to me-”
“Nico, I’ve dealt with worse that a trouble-making seventeen year old. I can take care of myself. You won’t scare me away.” Nico looked at him with a mixture of pain and hope which created a beautiful contrast in his eyes.
“Okay,” he whispered. He took his hand again and looked him in the eyes. “I promise you, Will. You’re different.” He gave a small smile before turning away and starting down the street. Will bit his lip and smiled to himself.
He went into the house and started up the stairs to his room, finding his way in the dark. Suddenly the lights flickered on and he stopped before he could get to the fourth step. Lou Ellen, Cecil, and the rest of his pack were in the living room. “What the hell?” he asked, feeling slightly creeped out by the fact that they’d been waiting in the dark like that.
“You didn’t even notice us,” Lou Ellen sneered. “Would you like to tell the pack where you’ve been?”
Will scowled. “Are we doing this again?” he asked. He looked at the others. “I was on a date. I was trying to be a teenager. And I suggest you all do the same.”
“Date with who?” one of them asked.
“Nico di Angelo,” Cecil chimed in. “You know that one goth-y looking kid.”
“Oh, nice going,” one of the girls teased. Lou Ellen’s eyes widened in shock.
“What’s on your neck?” Cecil asked.
“Why is your lip bleeding?” Lou Ellen added.
Will put a hand against his lip and when he looked at it noticed the red smear against his fingers. “I bit my lip. I didn’t notice.”
“Did you bite it or did he?” someone snickered. “What about your neck?”
Still confused, Will put a hand on his neck. He dashed into the guest bathroom and looked at the mirror. His eyes widened when he noticed the dark mark against his skin. There was no other explanation besides Nico. But Nico hadn’t even kissed his neck long before he pulled back and shut down.
He heard the others chanting, “Hic-key, hic-key!”
Maybe he had just been too lost in the emotions that had dizzied him to have noticed anything. “Shut it,” he snapped. “Anyway, are we agreed that a night out does not make me the worst alpha ever? Lou?”
She rolled her eyes at him and the others gave a quick yip, all of them smiling in spite of their obviously flustered alpha. “What about the vampire?” Cecil asked. “How are we supposed to find it?”
“We go to the witch,” Lou Ellen suggested. “Or rather, our alpha does.” She looked at Will expectantly.
“Why are we looking for a vampire? I thought we weren’t supposed to go looking for them,” one girl asked.
“There was one at school. And we smelled the vampire’s scent at the place where they found Ethan’s body. It wasn’t as strong as usual, but that was probably because it’d been a couple days,” Will added. “So Lou Ellen feels we should consider joining the civil war. On the witch’s side.”
“War?” one boy asked. He was a senior at school, older than Will. “Dude, I have prom this year. I don’t want to go to war. Like you said, we should be normal teens for a change.”
“Look, I know I’m new, and I’m the youngest out of us,” Cecil said. “But Ethan was my friend. Will got hurt when the vampire attacked them at school. And the whole threatening a witch child, I’m thinking is pretty big. The witch, and Lou Ellen, are right. The vampires are going out of control. Maybe it’s just a few here in the city, maybe it’s just one. But if we leave it alone and let them or it, then what makes you guys think the other ones in other places won’t do the same?” The others glanced at each other, but Will kept his eyes on the floor. “Ethan was my friend,” he repeated. “And it’s not fair to his family or his friends if we let this go. We have to do something.”
“I’ll meet with the witch,” Will said quietly, wearily. “I’ll see if she can help, but we won’t go to war. Not if we can deal with this fast.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Go home, everyone.” They left his house as Will’s father came up the steps in his scrubs. They greeted him and he greeted them back, not even wondering why about nine teenagers were leaving his house at nearly one in the morning. “Hey, Dad.”
“Wolf business?” he asked. Will nodded. “I’ll be asleep.” Will looked after him as he went upstairs and sighed. “Lou Ellen, tomorrow both of us will go to the bayou to meet with her. Hopefully she takes walk-ins. We have to be ready to offer something in return.”
“Our alliance in the war.” He rubbed his temples in exhaustion. “Unless you can think of something she’d want more, that’s our only choice.”
He licked his lips and tasted the sharp metallic slit that burned at the contact. He hummed. “Wolf’s blood,” he said. “It’s powerful. She could use it.”
“Will, no. You can’t give her your-”
“I’m being the responsible alpha, Lou Ellen. Putting the safety of the pack first.” He said with so much bitterness she couldn’t even retaliate. “Go home, Lou. I’m just tired.” She nodded and left the house, squeezing his arm before leaving him alone.
Suddenly, Will understood what Nico meant when he’d said he was reckless because life was so unpredictable. With the possibility of dying to keep his pack from fighting, he felt a sudden urge to go out and do every stupid thing he ever wanted to do. What did consequences matter when in the end, you were dead anyways?
Chapter 7: The Day After
As he returned home, Nico still wouldn’t let himself breathe. He was far from Will at that point, but he kept himself from breathing anyway. He raced up to his room and shut the door, taking a deep breath as he collapsed to the floor. His hand went to his mouth shakily as he touched his lips. He took a panicked breath and pressed his hand against his mouth.
A gentle knock came at the door. “Nico?” Bianca called. He couldn’t bring himself to answer or even move. A few moments later, Bianca was outside of the window, clinging to the ledge as she opened it. She leapt inside with a soft thump. Her eyes were filled with worry. “What happened Nico?”
“I almost bit him,” he said, his voice sounding strangled. “Oh crap, I almost bit him.”
“What? How? I thought the merblood was supposed to keep you full longer.”
“So did I,” he said. He sighed. “His heart was thumping like crazy in the theater. Then he left and I went to look for him and he was freaking out about something and then he…. He managed to break the trance.”
“What trance were you trying to put him in?” Bianca asked, the shock apparent in her voice.
“I just wanted him to kiss me. But he broke it and it was so weird.”
“So what do you mean you almost bit him?” she asked.
Nico pressed his hands into his eyes, groaning in embarrassment. “I kissed him before I walked him home,” he muttered. “At first… it was gentle. Then…. His heart was pounding. And just because I felt his hands pulling me closer, I- I lost it. I bit him too hard and…. Bianca, his blood.” Nico’s mouth began to water just thinking about it. “I’ve never tasted anything like it,” he whispered. “I would’ve bit his neck but a car passed by and I realized what I was doing.”
“What did he say?” she asked, her tone sharp and alarmed.
He looked at her in disbelief. “What does anyone that gets bitten by a vampire say? He had no idea there was anything wrong!” She put a hand to her head and paced his floor. “I wouldn’t breathe the whole time I walked him home.”
“You can’t see him anymore, Nico. You know that right?” Nico looked at her in shock and pain. It was enough to startle her; she had never seen so much emotion on her brother’s face. “Nico, it’s too dangerous. You could hurt him.”
“I won’t,” he promised. “I’ll visit Percy before I see him. I won’t breathe. I’ll behave-”
“Nico,” she said gently. The one word with finality, an end to the argument. Nico sighed in defeat. She sat beside him and wrapped her arms around him. “It’s alright, Nicky.” She kissed his forehead and held him close, like she did when they were first Turned. “It’s alright.”
The whole day, Will didn’t message Nico. Nico hadn’t messaged him either. Part of him was glad- he wouldn’t have to have a whole speech about having to leave and not being able to explain why or where. Part of him was disappointed- maybe Nico didn’t really care after last night.
Whatever the case, Will wasn’t going to talk to him. Not if all he would be able to say was goodbye. Eventually, Lou Ellen stopped by and with a grim expression nodded at Will. His father had left some time before, and Will had to keep himself from letting him notice anything was wrong.
As he followed Lou Ellen through the streets and toward the woods they tended to meet at when the full moon rose, she said, “There has to be another way, Will.”
“Let it go, Lou Ellen,” he said tiredly. He felt his muscles tense, the imminent danger making his instincts gnaw at him, begging him to Change and defend himself. He forced it back and squared his shoulders.
They reached the bayou. It looked dull and boring in the light of the sun, though as it began to set, Will could see the shadows that began to pool through the trees, through the murky water, and around the small house that rested between it all. The hair on the back of his neck stood, the wolf in him tremored, desperate to take over his human body. “Madame Marie Levesque,” Will called in a voice that sounded stronger and surer than he felt. “I seek a meeting with you. As an alpha wolf, I implore you accept my request.”
For a few moments, nothing happened. Then the door creaked open and Marie Levesque stepped out, freezing Will in place with her ghostly, milky eyes. She wore a long purple dress with many folds, a black shawl that fell to the floor as it draped over her shoulders and upper arms, several golden bracelets that all tinkled and glinted against the fading sunlight, her hair in thick braids, pulled back and decorated with colorful beads. Her chocolate skin looked smooth, making her look decades younger than she must have been. In truth, she was beautiful. It was only her eyes and the hard, almost maniacal, look in them that made Will fearful of her.
“You wolves and your arrogance,” she said in a soft voice, like a whispered song. “Do come in, puppies.”
Hesitantly, they did, and he was surprised by what he saw inside. He had imagined her house to be dark, filled with shadows and eerie darkness, and admittedly, a crystal ball. That wasn’t at all what it was. The house glowed a gentle golden glimmer, looking much more like a grandmother’s house than a witch’s. There was a fireplace with a low fire burning, a couch, a bookcase, a few scattered dolls, a kitchen, wooden chairs, and small cot against the wall. Will realized there was a small girl at the table, playing with jewelry. She glanced up at him and he was taken aback by her bright golden eyes. Her skin was darker still, her hair in tight, natural, loose curls around her heart shaped face. She wore normal clothes, and Will thought her to be about five or six.
Only a truly heartless person would think to harm such an innocent thing.
Her eyes were filled with maturity, and that surprised Will more than their color. She seemed saddened, tired, as though she knew more than she felt she should. And maybe she did.
“Well, are you going to tell me your request or not? Forgive me for not inviting you to sit, I don’t want you shedding on my furniture.”
“We don’t shed,” Lou Ellen muttered.
Madame Levesque fixed her with a hard gaze. “Madame Levesque,” Will intervened. “We have reason to believe that a recent Ordinary murder was committed by a vampire. We heard of your daughter getting attacked-”
“Momma-” the girl spoke, interrupting Will.
“Quiet, Hazel. Go play outside. This talk is not for you.”
“Now, Hazel.” The small girl stood, her eyes filled with frustration, but she did as she was told. “Continue,” she said.
“We heard of her getting attacked. We were attacked as well, and I believe it was the very day of the murder. My pack and I want to ask for your help in finding the vampire that has caused so much trouble. One or more, my pack will hunt them down and-”
“What an interesting mark you have here,” she said, her fingers reaching out to touch Will’s neck. He froze, her fingers as cold as ice as she pressed against his throat gently.
Some time later, Nico heard their father’s voice calling for them. Both he and Bianca descended the stairs and stood in front of him, waiting. His face was grim and Nico felt his stomach clench. “The date has been decided,” he said, his voice filled with defeat. “I attempted to placate the witch, but she wouldn’t have it. Your trial will be in two days.”
“And there’s no way I can win, is there?” he asked numbly. He glanced at his father and saw him shake his head only slightly.
Bianca seemed frozen in shock. “No. No, they can’t do that. Not to Nico!” she shouted as she recovered enough sense. “There’s no real reason! He didn’t attack anyone, surely the girl-”
“The girl was afraid, screamed, and ran,” Father said patiently. “She wouldn’t stand up for the vampire she saw.”
“Nico can explain-”
“They won’t take my word for it,” Nico said. “I’m just a bloodsucker. Nobody trusts us, Bianca.”
“Then we can run,” she said desperately. “We can leave this place and go somewhere safe.”
“They’d follow us,” Father pointed out.
“It would only make me seem guiltier,” Nico added.
Finally, she lashed out at them both, baring her fangs, tears streaming down her cheeks. She hit their father first, raking her nails across his cheek, shoving him back hard enough so that he fell back against the couch of the other side of the room. Then she turned to Nico. She screamed at him, pushed him back with all her force but she kept her grip on his arm so he wouldn’t get too far away from her.
“How could you, Nico?” she screeched. “How could you just give up this easily?” She pushed him again, causing Nico to stagger. He didn’t have the strength or the heart to stop her. “You pushed through the Turn. You made me hold on. You pushed through the wars, through the hiding, through everything! You’ve fought for everything for the past almost hundred years, and you want to give up now?”
“Bianca,” he said softly.
“No! No, you can’t just give up! You can’t just leave me to this life alone! I need you, little brother. I need you.” She stopped hitting him and slumped against him crying.
“Okay,” he promised. “I’ll fight, Bianca. I promise.”
Will cringed away from her touch. “We want your help. We’re willing to give-”
“Our alliance,” Lou Ellen interrupted. Will shot her a glare, but she ignored it. “We’re willing to offer our alliance in the war you want if you help us find the vampire that murdered Ethan Nakamura.”
The witch looked at them both in turn. She held out her hand, and when neither of them moved, she grasped Will’s wrist and held up his palm. She raked her fingers across his palm and he tried not to tense. She smiled an eerie malevolent smile and cackled with glee. “Oh, my little wolf pup,” she crooned. “So little that you know. So very little.” She turned away, still cackling with glee. “Come, dogs.” She went to her kitchen and pulled out a pot. She grabbed a few vials and a few unidentifiable plants. She mixed as she giggled and talked too quickly for either Will or Lou Ellen to follow.
Whatever she made began to boil and she poured the mix into two ceramic mugs. She pushed them toward the wolves and smiled unkindly. “Drink,” she said.
“Madame Levesque are you going to help us or not?” Will asked, his patience wearing thin. He didn’t trust anything given to him from the witch.
But instead the woman smiled, this time obviously entertained. “You poor, naïve alpha,” she chided the way a patient mother might chide a child who spilled their drink. “You already know who it is. Surely you do. But you are blinded. Now, if you want my help in revealing who the vampires are, you’ll have to drink this.” She held up the mug. “Considering you wanted to give me your blood in exchange for the information, this seems a much fairer trade, no?” Will’s eyes widened. “Relax, wolf,” she said carelessly. “I won’t take your blood. I don’t want it. The allegiance, perhaps, but I don’t think I’ll need you to swear your allegiance once you figure this little mess out. Go on, drink.”
He glanced at Lou Ellen, unsure of what to do. “I’ll do it,” she said, taking a mug.
“You both must. It won’t hurt you. I swear it upon the Mystic laws.” She drummed her fingers lightly on the counter.
Hesitantly, Will took his mug. Locking eyes with Lou Ellen, he took a sip, expecting a bitter taste. He was pleasantly surprised by the subtle sweetness of the thick liquid that warmed his throat. He didn’t feel any different, so he drank the entire thing and was even tempted to ask for more. Lou Ellen had obviously enjoyed the drink as well, though she seemed even more wary because of it.
“Okay,” she said, licking her lips. “Now can you help us find out who committed the murder?”
Madame Levesque giggled. “Like I said, you already know. You don’t need my help.”
“But you said you’d help us!” she shouted.
“And I have. I didn’t take your alpha’s blood, I didn’t bind you to a war, and I gave you a wonderful drink all free of charge. Personally, I think that’s the most generous I’ve been in years.” She started away from them and opened the door. “Go on now, you ungrateful mutts. I have business to attend to.”
Lou Ellen snarled, but Will held her back. “Stop,” he said. He kept a grip on her arm and started out of the door. The witch shut the door, receding into the house again. The noise made Hazel look up from her rock collection by the murky waters.
Her gold eyes followed them as they left, and before they got very far, she muttered, “She’s wrong.” Will glanced back at her, wondering if he had heard correctly or if she had spoken at all. But by then she was stuffing her rocks into her overalls and walking back to the house.
“This is ridiculous,” Lou Ellen sneered. “What was the point of that?”
“I don’t know,” Will muttered. “I don’t get it. How did she know about the blood? How did she know… anything at all?”
“She’s a witch, Will. She sees everything.” Will shivered at the thought.
Bianca had calmed down enough and was addressing the wounds she’d left on Nico with an embarrassed tinge of red on her cheeks. Their father hadn’t said a word. Not to reprimand Bianca or to soothe her or to attempt to fix anything. He’d only closed himself in his study again.
“What are we going to do?” she asked quietly. “How does the witch even know it was you? What you look like?” Nico shrugged.
“She’s a witch, Bianca. She knows everything.” He watched as his skin sealed itself back up despite the ragged tears Bianca’s nails had left. “But if she knows everything, then she has to know I didn’t do anything bad.”
Questions began to swarm in his head, trying to find explanations or solutions. Suddenly their father strode out of the study and looked at them with crazed eyes. “Who did you tell?” he snarled.
“About that boy! Who did you tell?” he shouted, angrier still. He neared him and Nico immediately stood at attention. The first name that came to mind was Will, but his father never knew anything about Nico’s… adventures. “The boy you left in the woods, Nico!” he shouted.
“N-nobody,” Nico said in shock. “We didn’t tell anyone. There’s no one to tell.”
“Well then someone saw you,” he accused. “Because Marie just sent a message saying that a witness just accused you of the murder.”
“But that wasn’t him!” Bianca protested. “I did that! That was my fault, not Nico’s!”
“Great, then both of you will be going to trial!” he yelled angrily. “You stupid, stupid boy, you stupid, stupid girl!”
“Bianca is not getting a trial. The boy could have lived, but I made sure he didn’t,” Nico said angrily. He didn’t care what happened to him. He just wanted Bianca to be safe. “I was already going to be killed anyway, what’s the difference?”
“The difference is that you had a chance, however miniscule it was,” Father growled. “Now you don’t.” He took a breath and hesitated. “But… she pushed the trial back,” he said.
“How long?” Bianca asked hopefully.
“A few months.” Nico’s mouth fell open. “I don’t know why. She wouldn’t explain. But the least you can do is be on your best behavior. Show the judge panel that you simply had a bad week. That you know better than to break the rules.” He nodded dumbly as Bianca flung her arms around him.
Again, their father went into his study, perhaps wondering why he ever Turned the pair of siblings. But Nico didn’t care. He had more time to exist, more time to think of a way to win or at least escape death. He hugged his sister tightly and laughed in relief.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.” She pulled him away from the house and they raced through the woods, two blurs that stepped with so much lightness and grace they didn’t even ruffle the leaves in the trees or alert the critters in their burrows.
Bianca climbed up a tree like she used to when they were recently Turned and had delightfully realized tree bark would no longer harm their skin. Nico followed her and swung onto a branch, lifting himself like a gymnast to another branch where he laid on his back. Bianca perched herself onto the branch beside, crouching and looking out at the night sky. “You know, school starts back up tomorrow. I think they closed off the gym area, but everything else should be back to normal.”
“Do you want to go back?” Nico asked. “Will you be able to handle the crying cheerleaders and somber jocks and the shrine they’ll probably put up in memory of that pervert? Remember, you’re supposed to be the one that found him. If we go back, you at least have to act like you’re still traumatized.”
“I want to leave,” she admitted. “We’re vampires for crying out loud. We should be traveling all over the world whenever we want not repeating high school and learning about the stupid presidents and the wars that we actually lived through.” She sighed. “I just didn’t know if you wanted to go back. Maybe say goodbye to….”
Oddly, Nico felt his chest constrict. He furrowed his eyebrows and sighed. “Yeah. I should at least say goodbye to Will.”
Despite the way visiting the witch had completely backfired, Will couldn’t help the relief that made him giddy throughout the night. He would live. He was frustrated that he had gotten no information, but he was alive.
And school started tomorrow. That meant he’d probably see Nico. And considering the last time he’d seen him had been filled with several intense emotions, he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. Especially since Nico had never bothered to try to reach him despite the promise of Will being different from his previous flings. Whatever the case, Will would figure it out tomorrow. He had time.
The next morning, he dressed somewhat nervously and started for school. Lou Ellen and Cecil and a few other wolves met him at the end of his street where they automatically began for the school as Will fell into step with them.
“So?” Cecil asked. “Did she tell you who it was?”
“No,” Will sighed. “I’m sorry, Cecil. But we’ll find them. I promise.” Cecil visibly slouched and whimpered. But he didn’t press Will. They got to school and Will scanned the area for the boy with shaggy black hair. He thought he saw him at one point, but when the boy turned, it was just one of the goth kids that always skipped in the auditorium.
“You would think,” Lou Ellen said beside him, humor thick in her voice, “that after leaving you with such a dark hickey, he’d at least look for you the first day back.” Will rolled his eyes and gave her a glare. “Come on, lover boy,” she said tugging him away. “We have a class to go to.”
Nico wasn’t in class. Will didn’t see him in the halls either. Not until lunch anyway. He noticed him walking away from the crowd, slithering through the students as agile as a snake. Will furrowed his eyebrows and followed. When he was close enough he called his name. Nico’s shoulders stiffened and he looked over his shoulders.
Will was surprised to see the worry in his eyes. He was more surprised when instead of stopping to wait for him, Nico kept walking, picking up his pace. Will froze and stared after him, not even calling his name again for fear of looking like an idiot. He went back to the lunchroom where his anger began to simmer until he was shaking and holding back his growls.
He left before lunch was over, starting for the library where Nico had surely gone to hide. When he was about two classrooms away, the bell rang. Almost immediately, the halls were filled with a mass of teenagers making their way to the next lunch. He noticed Nico slip out of the library as he started down the hall. When he looked up, he noticed Will. His eyes widened and he turned back, starting for another hallway.
With a scowl, Will started for the same hallway, passing him up by a few feet before he turned and put his arm up, blocking his way. Nico stumbled back, his face portraying the shock he tried to hide behind anger. “Hey,” he said simply, raising an eyebrow at him.
Nico stepped back and looked at the floor, oddly quiet. “I have to go,” he muttered. He tried to go around him. Will wasn’t sure what came over him, whether some hormonal teenage adrenaline or some wolfish alpha dominance, but he reached out and yanked Nico back, pushing him against the lockers where he let out a gasp and stared at Will with wide brown eyes.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “What’s your deal? At least tell me to my face that you don’t want anything to do with me.”
“That’s…. That’s not it,” he breathed. Will tilted his head slightly, not changing his expression. “Will….” Nico sighed and closed his eyes. “I like you. A lot. And that… scares me.” He opened his eyes and looked at him sadly. “I told you I wasn’t good for you. And it’s true.”
“Well what if I don’t care?”
“Then you’re stupid,” he snapped.
“I don’t care about that either,” he added. Nico let his head fall back against the lockers. Oddly enough, Will’s mind had never been clearer. There were no senses overwhelming him, no timid fear holding him back. There was nothing except the need to keep Nico where he was and make sure he didn’t get away.
Then Will leaned forward and kissed him, shocking them both. And just like before, the feeling of Nico’s lips against his own took his breath away. When he pulled back, his cheeks were flushed with the embarrassment he knew he should have felt, but didn’t. His hand hovered Nico’s cheeks as he looked at him, surprised and gasping heavily.
“Well okay,” he mumbled before pulling Will back in. When he pulled away, he chuckled. “Is this you asking me out?”
“That depends. Are you going to keep running away from me?” Nico laughed a beautiful musical laugh and kissed him again. For the first time since he could remember, Will felt completely human.
Chapter 8: Sudden Suspicions
Bianca would be so upset. She would lose it. But he could deal with that later.
At the moment, he was trying to keep himself from ripping Will’s clothes off behind the school building. He didn’t have any explanation for it. Only a few days ago, being around Will made him nervous, made him conscious of every scent, sound, and touch around him. He was wary and afraid to be too close to Will, afraid to lose control.
And Will…. Whatever had happened to him, Nico liked it. He wasn’t reserved or gentle or playing by the rules at all. His fingers pressed into his skin, pulled him closer, giving him warmth that he hadn’t felt in decades. His breaths were ragged and low and husky. And the way he kissed him actually made Nico dizzy.
“What the hell happened to you overnight?” Nico gasped.
“Realization,” he growled. “You left a hell of a mark on me, Cecil and Lou Ellen won’t let it go.”
Nico winced thinking about the almost-bite. “Yeah let’s not talk about that,” he said as Will’s head dipped down. “Oh, what is this payback?” he managed to moan.
Will chuckled huskily against his throat.
“Will Solace, where the hell are you?” they heard someone shout. Lou Ellen.
A few seconds later a head of brown hair popped up around the corner stopping dead at the sight of them. Nico and Will pulled apart anxiously as Cecil stared at them. His expression was wary. How had Nico not heard him? How had he not smelled him?
“Cecil, what are you staring at?” Lou Ellen asked. She jogged up beside him and glanced in the direction he was looking. “Oh there you are. Hey, Nico.”
“Hi, Lou Ellen,” he answered sheepishly at the demanding stare she gave him. “Sorry, I sort of stole him away.”
She smiled and rolled her eyes. “Get a room, why don’t you?” Nico ran a hand through his hair and realized how unruly it was. He blushed and turned away to fix it. “So are you guys just going to stand there? We could at least get a pizza.”
Will’s hand snaked around Nico’s waist, surprising him. He was used to people keeping their distance, being afraid of him. And then there was Will not even slightly intimidated by Nico, shutting him up with kisses that made him feel like he never had before. “Sure, why not?” He nudged Nico’s temple with a brush of his lips. “Pizza sound good?” he asked.
“Sure. I just have to tell Bianca I’ll be home late.” He pulled his phone out and gave the trio an apologetic smile as he moved away to dial Bianca. He bit his lip and waited for her to answer.
Her voice was gentle and apologetic. “How’d it go? You okay?”
“Um… well… I’m going to get pizza with Cecil, Lou Ellen, and Will.”
There was a pause. “Why?” she asked.
Nico took a breath. “Something… happened. I’m not sure how to explain….”
“Nico,” she snarled.
“I’m sort of dating him,” he said so quickly, the words blended together. He heard the static of a silent line. “Bianca?”
“I heard,” she said softly. “So… he’s… you’re his boyfriend now?” He made an affirmative grunt. “You realize what that means, right? You have to be there emotionally. You don’t get to mess around with the fairies and the merboy anymore.”
“I know how to be faithful, I just never had a reason to be before,” he answered, slightly annoyed at the way she talked to him like a six year old. “I have a few more months, Bianca. I want to know what it’s like. I want to try this out.”
“What about his blood? You said it was strong and-”
“Yes, I know,” he interrupted. He glanced over his shoulders to where Will and Lou Ellen were talking animatedly and Cecil’s eyes drifted toward and away from him. “But it’s not anymore. I don’t know why. Maybe I got scared enough to where I don’t want it anymore. I’m not even paying a lot of attention to his heartbeat anymore.”
Bianca sighed. “We’ll talk later,” she said in her big sister voice. She hung up, and Nico took it as permission to go eat- well, permission to accompany the others to eat.
He went back to the others and smiled. “All good. I just have to go get something from her. Can I meet you guys at the pizzeria?”
“Sure. You know which one right?” Will asked. Nico nodded. “See if your sister wants to come. The more the merrier.”
Nico smiled and nodded, but he was not going to ask Bianca to tag along. She would just give him that reprimanding look the whole time.
He started away from them but Will caught his arm and turned him. “What no goodbye kiss?” he asked. Nico smirked and kissed him. He knew that if he’d had a heartbeat, it would’ve been beating hard and fast through his chest. He could almost imagine it. Still, the demonic venom that naturally circulated his body as it was seemed to rush through his veins and make him dizzy all the same. “I’ll see you in a bit,” Will smiled.
“Mm-kay,” Nico sighed. He turned away and started for the park. He wanted to disappear through the trees and race to the beach without anyone seeing him. As he walked, his senses returned. He was aware of the heartbeats around him, their scents, and most importantly the scent of their blood.
His throat flared and he choked as though he had a cough. He was so hungry. His canine teeth began to shift into his fangs, the sharp end probing the inside of his lip. His vision shifted from normal to thermal, making him dizzy.
Sweet scented blood made a low rumble begin in his throat as he fought back a hiss. He kept his head down and walked faster. A little boy eating chocolate ice cream ran past him, his blood rushing through his veins, his heartbeat loud, healthy, and fast. Nico’s mouth watered and he covered his mouth. He ducked into an alley trying to get a grip on his hunger.
Unlike most would believe, a vampire’s hunger did not control them. Nico often saw in movies or television shows that smelling blood put a vampire in a trance-like state, pushing them until they reached their blood source desperately, unaware of their actions.
That was wrong. It was like any food source. You wanted it, needed it to survive, but it didn’t make you lose control or sense. A person could see a large piece of steak and want to eat it more than anything in the world, and still hold back from eating. It was the same with vampires. Despite how inviting that boy’s blood had been, Nico wasn’t going to go after him and take it just because he was starving.
He knew he was hungry, but he hadn’t known he was this hungry. He could only be thankful that he didn’t get like this when he was with Will. Otherwise, he wasn’t sure he could have resisted with him so close. That was like putting an alcoholic in a room filled with glasses of the finest wine for free.
Taking a final breath, he began to run. Between buildings, through trees, over rooftops, until he reached the sandy shores of the sea. He sat near a large rock and began to hum, closing his eyes and thinking of Will. He only opened his eyes when he was splashed with water.
Percy looked healthier than ever. The bite marks at his neck and wrist were a glistening silver, but they hadn’t seemed to have an effect on him. He was giving Nico a mischievous, troublemaking smile, well-known among the merfolk. His tousled hair glistened in the sunlight as drops of water fell and slid down his chiseled face.
He was handsome as ever, his eyes a captivating sea green, his body strong and muscular, the body of a fighter, tanned skin, and that flirtatious smirk. Yet, Nico had no desire to play his usual game of cat and mouse with him.
“Hello, Percy,” he said formally.
“Nico,” Percy nodded. “I can’t help but feel like you’re using me, you know?”
“What makes you say that?” Nico questioned. Though he wasn’t wrong.
Percy shrugged and sat along the shallow end where the sand was wet, but only because of the way the water lapped against it after each wave. His scales shone in a mosaic of blues and greens in the sun. “You don’t visit as often. And when you do it’s because you need my blood.”
“My apologies,” he said sincerely. “The days have been…. Well shit. My life is not… in its prime at the moment.”
“Yes, I heard,” Percy said, swishing his tail so the water splashed against his body. “You’ve been summoned to a trial. My mother is on the panel to represent the merpeople.” He paused for a moment. “Now they’re saying you murdered an Ordinary. For sport.”
“The body had too much blood for you to have fed. He was too well-known. So I heard.”
Nico clenched his jaw. “Do you believe them?”
“Go ahead and feed. Your voice is hoarse. It only gets like that when you get hungry.” Percy took his hand and Nico looked at him. He tilted his head, exposing the same mark Nico had made the first time.
Somewhere in his mind, he felt this was wrong. He was dating Will now. Was he allowed to continue feeding on a merboy he used to flirt with? But then, in another part of his mind, Nico knew if he didn’t, he would go hungry much longer than he could comfortably manage.
He leaned over and placed a hand at his neck, dipping his head as if he was going to kiss him. Instead, his fangs elongated, the pulse thumping through his veins and against Nico’s hand making his mouth water. His skin was soft and cold, and as he sunk his teeth into his neck, he heard Percy whimper.
Cool, thin, sweet blood rushed into Nico’s mouth, sating his hunger and soothing his throat. Percy was moaning, pulling him in by his arms. The bite made his heart beat a little faster, though weakly. Nico unhinged his fangs, and shrunk them back to normal. He ran his tongue over the punctures gently, sealing them.
As he pulled back, Percy pulled him into a kiss. Nico gasped in surprise and toppled over him. “Again,” Percy whispered, biting his lip.
Nico pulled himself up and away from him. “No, Percy. I can’t take too much from you. You know that.”
Percy sat up and crossed his arms, a brooding look taking over his features. The waves lapped furiously at Nico’s feet, and he got the feeling that the water was reacting to Percy’s emotions. Nico stood awkwardly, unsure of how to calm him down.
“There’s something you’re not telling me,” Percy said. “Isn’t there?”
“Am I supposed to tell you anything?”
Percy glanced at him and tilted his head. “You smell strange. I’m used to your sweet scent, like ocean flowers and cakes. But there’s something else to it. Something… tangy.” Nico took a nervous breath. “I can’t tell what it is, but I assume it’s someone else’s scent. And it’s not your sister.”
“Percy-” Suddenly his phone rang making them both jump. Nico pulled it out of his pocket and answered. “Hello?”
“Hey, Neeks!” Will said. “We’re about to order pizza, is pepperoni good?”
“Yeah, whatever toppings, I don’t mind.”
“Cool, see you in a bit.” Will hung up and Nico put his phone away. He sighed and looked at Percy who looked ready to drown him in a tidal wave. “I’m seeing someone,” he muttered. “I didn’t think it’d upset you.”
“Oh really? Well why don’t you tell him that you’ve been kissing and biting a merboy and see how he feels about that?”
“Oh, come on. He’s an Ordinary, he wouldn’t understand. But I thought you would.” Percy blinked, his expression going from anger to confusion.
“Ordinary? But his-”
“Percy, please.” He sighed and rubbed his temples, more a sign of agitation than a headache. “Look, just tell me if this is going to make you stop helping me or not. I need to know how my diet is going to go.”
Percy continued to look at him with a confused expression. “I’ll think about it,” he muttered. He dove back into the sea, giving Nico a final splash of water with his tail.
“Oh, come on. Really?” Nico shook his hair out and groaned. He went home, sneaking into his room to change. Bianca was watching a show downstairs, so hopefully she wouldn’t notice he was home. Nothing could sneak past a vampire- except another vampire.
He changed quickly and dashed back out, heading for downtown where the pizzeria was. He went inside, overwhelmed by the smell of marinara sauce and garlic. He scrunched his nose and looked for Will. The trio were in a booth at the far end of the restaurant, seemingly deep in conversation. When Will spoke, his words were quick and his face hard and angry. Lou Ellen looked frustrated too. Cecil looked more hurt than angry, but he was obviously getting berated for something. Nico didn’t try to listen; he didn’t want to intrude.
As he neared the table, pretending to look at his phone, he noticed Cecil sit up straight and turn to look at him. His gaze was hard and angry which shocked Nico.
Will said Nico’s name and apparently kicked Cecil under the table because the boy yelped and turned to look at him accusingly. Will slid out of the booth and greeted Nico with a kiss. Lou Ellen changed sides and sat beside Cecil so Nico could sit with Will. A large pepperoni pizza had been placed in the middle of the table.
“Hey,” Nico greeted. “Sorry if I took a while.”
“Not at all,” Lou Ellen assured. “We were waiting for you before eating.”
Nico tried not to grimace. It wasn’t that he couldn’t eat human food. He could. He just didn’t like to. It was like being forced to eat liver and spinach for dinner, which Nico vaguely remembered was his least favorite dish. “Thanks, guys.” He grabbed a pizza and bit it, forcing himself to chew and swallow.
Cecil nudged Lou Ellen and whispered in her ear. Nico took the chance to lean over to Will and whisper, “Is everything alright with Cecil? He seems upset.”
Will’s expression darkened. “He’s fine. It’s nothing really.” He smiled at him, his blue eyes twinkling. “Don’t worry.”
Nico nodded and turned back to his pizza, but he was aware of the death glare Cecil was giving him. Nico glanced at him, and saw his eyes narrow. Lou Ellen nudged him, and Cecil looked down, but Nico was still uncomfortable.
“Bianca didn’t want to come?” Lou Ellen asked.
“Uh, no. She’s still a little freaked out over Ethan, and with school starting back up, she wasn’t sure she could face it.” Suddenly, Cecil stood up in his seat and jumped over Lou Ellen. He walked past tables angrily, his fists clenched at his sides until he barged into the bathroom. Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you guys sure he’s okay?”
Lou Ellen and Will shared a look over the table. “He’s just really upset about Ethan. He wants to know who murdered him. They were friends, after all.”
“Oh,” Nico managed. He pushed the guilt away. He hadn’t killed the guy. He had only… made sure he wouldn’t Turn. Besides, it wasn’t Bianca’s fault either. It was self-defense. He was going to hurt her. “I’m sure they’ll find the person who did it.”
“That’s what we keep telling him,” Will agreed. “But he’s young. He doesn’t get it.” Will took his hand under the table. “Really, don’t worry. We’ll help him out.”
Nico nodded, but he couldn’t help the uncomfortable knot that had formed in his throat. Cecil would never get peace and it was his fault. “I’ll go check on him,” Lou Ellen said.
“It’s a boy’s bathroom,” Will pointed out.
“You actually believe he went into the bathroom?” she said with a raised eyebrow. She left and disappeared into the hallway that parted for the bathrooms.
Meanwhile, Will tilted Nico’s face to him. Nico let out a sharp breath and chuckled. “You keep catching me off guard,” he whispered. Will cocked his head to the side like a puppy. “I’m used to people being scared of me. Keeping a distance.”
Will smirked. “I told you, I’ve dealt with worse than a troubled teenager like you.”
“Oh really like what?” Will laughed and shook his head then he leaned in to kiss him. “Are you avoiding the question?” Nico whispered against his lips. Will shook his head and kissed him again. “I thought I was the mysterious one.”
“Would you shut up and kiss me back?” Will said trying to hold back his laughter. Nico complied until someone cleared their throat. They broke apart and Nico saw a little girl staring at them from a table away, her mother glaring daggers at them. “Oops,” Will muttered. “Come on, the pizza is pretty lame anyway.” Nico followed him out of the booth and they left the pizzeria.
They walked down the street as Will texted Lou Ellen their whereabouts. “I’m sorry I tried ignoring you,” Nico said, lacing his fingers with Will’s. “And that I didn’t text you yesterday.”
“I get it,” Will answered. “You freaked out. You’re not used to relationships. But you already learned the first lesson- no running.” Nico laughed and shook his head. “You won’t run from me anymore, right? You won’t just disappear?”
Nico thought about his trial which was supposed to take place in a few months. Without a doubt, he would get convicted. No matter how much he fought, how far he ran, how hard he tried, he would get convicted. He knew that. He would be at the guillotine in a few months, and shortly after that, burned in a pit so deep the flames wouldn’t reach the top. He would disappear. He had no choice.
But he wasn’t going to give up either. He was smart. He could find a way to fix this, to turn this around. Maybe if he didn’t have Bianca, he wouldn’t care. Immortality wasn’t great. It extended the pain, the loss, the hurt. He had to train himself to feel nothing just so he could stop hurting over the people he lost. The only reason he bothered was because of Bianca. He still had her, and he couldn’t leave her. And then there was Will. The emotions, the warmth he gave him. He didn’t want to give up on that either.
“No, I won’t,” he told Will, though he also said it as a promise to himself. “You’re stuck with me now. Suffer the consequences.”
Lou Ellen caught up with them, dragging Cecil along as well. “He’s alright. But I think I should take him home.” Her words were strained, but Nico wasn’t sure why. Will sighed and nodded.
“How can you not-?”
“Cecil, stop it,” Lou Ellen warned.
“Why don’t you tell them? Tell them I’m right!” Cecil snapped at Nico. Nico stepped back in surprise. “I know you-”
Lou Ellen clamped a hand over his mouth and tugged him back. He was shaking, his eyes fixed on Nico like a lion would fixate on its prey. Something about the way he said that unfinished sentence made Nico’s skin prickle. He stared at Cecil, trying to figure out what he meant, even smelling the air with more concentration, but he couldn’t sense anything out of the ordinary. If anything, he felt less overwhelmed by his senses than he ever had, now that he paid attention.
“Let’s go,” Lou Ellen growled at him. “Now,” Cecil’s head dipped down, and Nico furrowed his eyebrows. She gave them an apologetic look before taking Cecil away.
“I’m sorry,” Will apologized. “He’s… he hasn’t been himself. It’s strange.”
“What… what does he think he knows?” Nico asked staring after the receding figures. “What did he want me to tell you?”
Will shifted uncomfortably. “We’re not sure, Nico. Ethan’s death has messed him up. We’re not sure he knows what he’s saying half the time. Really, just… ignore it. I’ll walk you home.”
“Alright,” he muttered. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Cecil knew something and the other two just weren’t taking him serious. Who would believe a kid who claimed to see things from the Mystic world? And more importantly, how had he figured it out?
Suddenly, Nico was pulled behind a building. Will stood in front of him looking at him with calculating blue eyes. It made Nico think of the doctors he saw on television. “You seem upset.”
“Well, yeah,” Nico admitted. “Cecil was nice and all of a sudden he just snaps at me. I don’t know what I did.”
Will frowned and took a deep breath as he regarded Nico carefully. Nico returned the gaze with his own. He tried to take in his scent, tangy as Percy had said. But he couldn’t. Not as strongly as before. He couldn’t even smell the dog scent he’d noticed when he started talking to him. His senses were diminished. Better than humans, but not as strong as they were supposed to be.
He felt like it should bother him, but oddly, it didn’t. That meant he could be with him without worrying about hurting him. He could stay and be in a relationship.
Slowly, Will leaned in and kissed him, his lips soft and hesitant. Nico closed his eyes and listened to his heartbeat, strong and steady, but no longer tantalizing. Nico wrapped an arm around his torso and pulled him closer. The satisfaction of an increase in heartrate made him smile. Will cupped his face and kissed him with more fervor, causing Nico’s head to swim.
Will pulled away and smiled. “Let’s get you home before Lou Ellen comes back to look for us again.”
Nico shook his head and pressed Will against the wall of the building. He kissed him again, enjoying the laughter it caused Will. “I like it here,” he whispered.
“Yeah, cat piss and garbage dumps. Very romantic.” Nico rolled his eyes and dipped his head down to rest on Will’s shoulder. Just being near him made him feel warm and happy. Such human emotions. Emotions he’d wanted to get rid of once upon a time. He had never realized how lonely it was to force yourself to feel nothing, to force yourself to be empty. “I really like you, Nico,” he whispered into his hair.
Nico smiled and hummed thoughtfully. “I would hope so. We’re sort of dating you know?”
Will chuckled and rolled his eyes. “That’s when you were supposed to say something cheesy. Like, ‘Not as much as I like you,’ or-”
Nico covered his mouth and rolled his eyes. “I’m dating you. You’re the first person I’ve ever actually dated. That should tell you how much I like you.” Will blushed and Nico could feel the warmth of his blood rush to his cheeks under his palm. To his delight, he didn’t get the urge to bite.
His boyfriend began to say something as he pulled his hand away, but suddenly, he tensed. “What is it?” Nico asked.
“Nothing. Nothing, it’s just… I might not be able to walk you home.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “I have this bad feeling. I need to make sure Cecil’s okay. I don’t know if Lou Ellen can handle it.”
“Oh. Oh, sure. Of course.” Nico smiled and pecked him on the lips. “It’s okay.”
Will blushed again and took his hand, heading for the streets. “I’ll call you okay?” Nico nodded before he turned the other way and started running for his house. Meanwhile, Nico turned the other way and walked for his own home.
He walked leisurely, enjoying the human pace. He noticed that his senses were returning. He could hear the laughter of children in the park a few blocks away. He could hear the heavy bass of a car going south on the highway that ran to the left of downtown. He could smell the marinara sauce from the pizzeria he’d left behind and the cat piss from the alley he had walked away from. The smell of dogs and sweat and blood clogged his nose, making him want to sneeze.
Was that normal? He wasn’t sure. Obviously his loss of senses was only when Will was around, and they improved the second he got away. But he didn’t understand why. Was it because of what he felt for him? Did affection affect his abilities? On one hand it was good- he wouldn’t be so focused on his blood. On the other not so much- how would he know when he needed to defend himself or Will?
As he got closer to his home, he saw Bianca waiting on the patio. She was swinging on the wooden bench, her hair rustled only slightly by the wind. When she heard Nico coming up a few yards away, she turned. “So we’re not going to Italy tonight, I assume,” she said. “What happened?”
Nico sat beside her and explained the day’s events. From the way he’d tried avoiding Will to the shock when he realized he could kiss him without a problem, to agreeing to date him.
Bianca furrowed her eyebrow. “That’s strange. I’ve never heard of that happening before.” She bit her nail and huffed. “But…. Oh, Nico, I can’t even be angry with you. I’ve never seen you act like this with anyone before. I’ve never seen you care so much.” Nico blushed and ducked his head down. “We’re going to fix our problem with Madame Levesque. And we’ll stick around and you’ll be able to be with him.” Nico smiled at her optimism. After a slight pause, she wondered, “Will you ever tell him? What you are?”
“What? Of course not!”
“What if he falls in love with you?” she asked. “He should know if he comes to tell you that one day.”
“He won’t fall in love, Bianca.”
She hit him on the head and hissed at his stubbornness. “Nico, what do you think relationships are? They’re the pathway to falling in love. Of course, you’re not in love yet, but you’re getting there. With a relationship there’s only two ways to go- you either fall in love, or you realize you’re not meant to be.”
His expression softened almost in defeat. “If I told him, he wouldn’t love me. Mortals don’t love bloodsuckers, Bianca. They’re scared of us. I’d rather he believe I was an Ordinary like him.”
She frowned but didn’t press the subject for which he was grateful. It was the first time he’d felt this way for someone since the 1940’s. And that had not gone well. It was new and scary for him.
In the distance, he heard the howl of a wolf, strong and steady. His face wrinkled in disgust. “The wolves are out early tonight,” Bianca noted, her distaste masked better than Nico’s.
“Let’s get inside before we get dragged into any more trouble,” he answered, scowling at the echoing howls. Something about the howls were filled with agony and pain, but Nico didn’t have it in him to pity the mutts. Just like a mutt would never pity a vampire.
Chapter 9: Keeping Quiet
Cecil’s wounds were bleeding ruby red. He laid on his side pawing at the ground, whimpering. Will threw his head back and howled again, calling for the others to be on defense. Lou Ellen had transformed back to her human form and tried to keep Cecil still, but he was thrashing too wildly.
Slowly, his body lost the energy to maintain his wolf form and it began to transform in to his small human one. He remained curled into a fetal position and dug his nails into the dirt beside him. He let out screams through clenched teeth, his face colored and sweaty.
“Why isn’t he healing?” Lou Ellen sobbed.
Will tried again, sniffing the wound that reeked of vampire venom. As he tried to exert his healing power, it felt like he was pushing two magnets with the same polarity towards each other. It wasn’t working at all. He Changed back and kneeled at his side. “Cecil, hey calm down.”
“Ah- hurts!” he choked.
“I know, Cecil, I know.” Will touched the torn skin just under his ribcage. “Let’s get him to my dad.”
“Three naked teens? Think that won’t cause a scene?” Lou Ellen pointed out.
“We don’t have a choice!” he snapped.
Something rustled in the trees and the alpha and beta’s heads turned, quick and alert. A woman with chocolate skin and flowing purple and gold robes, a black shawl draped over her stepped forward studying them with a milky white gaze.
“Oh dear, little pups,” she crooned. “What have we here?”
“Madame Levesque,” Will breathed. “Please, do you know how to heal?”
She arched an eyebrow and her eyes skimmed Cecil’s writhing body. “I suppose so,” she said calmly. “Bring him along.” She turned away and began walking. Will lifted Cecil up, ignoring the awkwardness in lack of clothes. He was an alpha. This was his job.
His beta walked beside him smoothing Cecil’s hair as they walked. Sticky, warm blood trickled down, staining Will’s hand and arm. Cecil was becoming quieter. What were once muffled screams were now weak protesting grunts and heavy panting. “Cecil, hey, open your eyes. Stay with me, buddy.” His eyes fluttered, but they didn’t open.
Will held him tighter and tried to concentrate as they walked. His eyes began to glow golden, his hands were enveloped by wisps of golden light, but still, it had no effect on Cecil’s wounds. Soon they approached the witch’s house and they stepped inside. She cleared the counter and motioned for them to set Cecil down.
Will did and stepped back, too high on adrenaline and fear to be that embarrassed of his naked state. The witch began to mush plants and liquids together, creating a strange orange colored paste. She scooped it with her hands and applied it to his side where Will heard it sizzle. Cecil let out a soft sigh and his head lolled slightly.
Both Will and Lou Ellen started for him, but the witch held a hand up. “He’s fine. He’s tired.” She put a thick cloth over the paste and taped it down so it resembled a gauze pad. She left the kitchen and returned with piles of cloth in her arms. Will realized they were clothes. She handed them to Will. “Cover yourselves up. I have an eight year old here.”
“She’s eight?” Will asked, handing Lou Ellen a flowing shirt and loose drawstring pants. Madame Levesque nodded. They both put on the clothes, and Will put some pants on Cecil’s sleeping body but left his torso bare. “It was a vampire,” Will said. “The scratches smell of it.”
“I don’t doubt it. Vampires are strong creatures. A flick of their hand will leave a searing scratch on any Mystic. This was obviously intended.”
“I don’t get it,” he said. “They’ve stayed under the radar all this time. Why act up now?”
“Alpha, vampires do not respond to rules. They feel they are untouchable. And nobody ever puts them in their place.”
Will glanced at Lou Ellen who had put her hair up in a messy ponytail. She returned his gaze with a worried look of her own. “Why didn’t his healing work?”
“I don’t have answers for every little question, puppy.” Lou Ellen snarled. Madame Levesque looked at her coolly. “Perhaps the vampire was simply too strong.”
Cecil began to grumble. His eyes opened slowly and he glanced around. “You guys have food?” he croaked. The two teens laughed and hugged him gently. “Where are we?”
“Madame Levesque’s house. She helped patch you up,” Lou Ellen explained.
The witch looked at him curiously. She reached out with her thin hand, her long fingers tilting Cecil’s head to her. She took his hand and studied it. A strange shadow passed over her features before she regained her composure. Without a word, she turned and began cooking something.
“It must have been him,” Cecil said, tearing his eyes away from the witch. “It had to be.”
“Cecil, I was with Nico the whole time. It wasn’t him. I told you he’s not-”
“Yes he is!” Cecil shouted. “How can you not sense it? Anytime he’s near I just want to wolf out. At first I thought that it was just because I’m new this, but I noticed that I don’t get like that around everyone. Just him. I’ll bet his sister’s one too. I’ll bet they made up that story about finding Ethan. They did it, Will! They did it!”
Will shared a worried look with Lou Ellen. “Cecil, I’ll say this one last time. Nico is not a vampire. I would be able to smell it. But I didn’t smell anything non-human about him. I even felt a heartbeat when I-” He cut off and glanced at the witch. “Anyway, Lou Ellen didn’t sense anything either. If they were vampires, they wouldn’t be our friends. Vampires and wolves have enemy roots that stem from the beginning of time. It’s literally in our blood to hate each other.” Cecil began to protest again, and Will growled. He felt his teeth sharpen into a wolf’s and his eyes turned gold. When he spoke, an underlying growl echoed each word. “I don’t want to hear it anymore, Cecil. Not another word.”
Cecil shrunk back and opened his mouth to speak. Instead, he whimpered and pressed a hand to his throat. He bowed his head in obedience, looking like a kicked puppy. It made Will feel guilty. He sighed and looked away as Madame Levesque walked over with a mug. “Drink up, little wolf. You need to regain your strength.” Cecil took the mug from her and took a sip. He sighed in content and continued to drink. “Alpha,” she said. Will looked at her. “When I find this vampire, I plan to take the rotten thing to the Mystic court. As you know, Mystic courts require a representative of each Mystic race. Would you like to represent the werewolves on the panel?”
Will’s eyes widened. “Madame Levesque… that’s a big honor. But there are many older, more experienced alphas than me. Are you sure you want to ask me?”
She smiled, but Will wasn’t sure whether it was a warm or cold smile. “I’m certain. I believe you may have greater interests in the case than other alphas.” Will furrowed his eyebrows. “Well, with your omega here getting attacked, his Ordinary friend getting murdered, I would only assume.”
“She has a point Will,” Lou Ellen said. She nodded encouragingly and after a moment of hesitation, Will nodded at Madame Levesque.
The next day, Cecil was better behaved. Nico was hesitant around him, wary even. Cecil, however, looked confused and unsure. “Apologize,” Will told him under his breath. Cecil frowned but grumpily did as he was told.
It was strange to go through the school day with his arm around Nico or Nico’s around him. People looked at them like it was the strangest thing they’d ever seen. And maybe it was. Nico was notorious for fun nights out, not public relationships. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that Will was a boy; Nico had admitted the day they’d gone to the movies that he’d had his fair share of boys he flirted with. They were just better at keeping quiet about it than girls.
As they walked through the halls, people whispered and stared. The shier, human part of Will wanted to hide. Meanwhile the dominant alpha side of him was resisting the urge to shove Nico against the lockers and show everyone exactly what was going on between the two. They balanced out and allowed Will to simply walk with Nico confidently. Nico, of course, had no problem at all. He was used to attention, used to surprising people, used to doing whatever- or whoever- he wanted.
Throughout the day, the rumor of Nico and Will’s relationship had spread like fire. By the time school was over, everyone knew.
“You know it’s weird-“ Cecil choked. “I mean I-” He choked again. “What the hell did you do to me?” he accused Will. “Why can’t I talk?”
“Well that depends. What are you trying to talk about?” Cecil tried to talk but could only let out a low grumble. “Is this about Nico again?” he sighed. Cecil seesawed his hand. “He’s not a freaking bloodsucker, Cecil.”
“I know!” he snapped. “That’s the weird thing. I-” Will sighed and gave him permission to speak. “I can’t smell it anymore. That weird mix of good smells that’s so overwhelming it’s gross. I don’t even get all wolfy anymore. At all.” Will furrowed his eyebrows. “Look ever since I got bit, I’ve had this cool wolfy feeling that I was very aware of. Now around Nico, I feel… human again.”
Will narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Are you trying to tell me something?”
“Jesus, you’re impossible!” Cecil groaned. “Never mind. Just know that I’m not going to be bugging you about him, okay?” He shrugged and winced as he held his side. “I’m going home. Hopefully I’m not grounded for sneaking out so much this last week.” He sighed and walked away.
Almost immediately, he felt someone take his hand. He turned and saw Nico smiling cheekily at him. “Do you have to be home right after school?” he asked. Will shook his head. “Great. I wanted to show you something.”
He tugged him along and started walking not telling Will where they were going. As they passed through some woods, he nervously asked, “Is this when you tell me you’re obsessed and try to skin me alive? Am I going to die?”
Nico gave him a confused look. “I don’t know what T.V shows yours watching, Will, but now I’m a little worried.” He laughed and squeezed his hand. “I won’t hurt you. I promise.” There was something in those words, something raw and gentle at the same time that made Will feel warm. He believed them.
Then Will heard the waves. “Whoa there’s a beach here?” Nico smiled excitedly and they burst out of the trees to a sandy beach.
“I like to come here when I want to get away,” Nico explained. “It’s relaxing.” He plopped down and Will sat beside him. “I see the way Cecil and Lou Ellen are with you. Like you’re their older brother. You take care of them.” Nico glanced out at the ocean. “I think sometimes you might need a break too.”
Will smiled. He’d been an alpha for about two years now, and it was no easy task. He was a leader and the stress of everyone looking to him sometimes got overwhelming. Especially now with the war that was brewing. “Thank you,” he whispered. “For showing this place to me.”
Nico smiled sheepishly at him. “Listen,” he started. “I know that we’ve known each other for a short time. We just started dating yesterday. But… you have to believe me when I say you’re special. You can ask my sister. I’ve never… settled down and actually dated before. That’s why I’m so sure about this. About showing you my secret getaways and…. I don’t know. I’m not the kind of person that usually gets shy or nervous, but… you make me get that way.”
Will smiled and scooted closer, pushing a strand of hair that had stuck to his lip back. He let his hand rest against his neck, feeling the steady pulse of his heartbeat. After Cecil’s episode, he couldn’t help but find it reassuring. “I believe you,” he said. “You know I’m not the kind of person that starts dating someone so soon. But you make me sort of reckless.”
Nico smiled and said, “Ooh, don’t tell Lou Ellen, she’ll murder me.”
He laughed and continued. “But even though it’s reckless… it feels right. I really like you, Nico.”
“I really like you too,” Nico whispered, his cheeks glowing with warmth. He leaned forward and kissed Will gently, slowly. As opposed to the heated kisses they’d shared behind the gym, this one felt much more intimate.
As he shifted forward, Will began to lean back. His hands explored the strange clothes his boyfriend wore, clothes that Will could never associate with- the cold leather covered in metal buckles and buttons, the coarse jeans and chains clipped to the belt loops, the tears and frays in the fabric, the thin bead chain around his neck. Then he focused on Nico. The way his hair fell forward and tickled Will’s face, the sharp and chiseled edge of his jaw, the way it moved when they kissed, the plumpness of his lips, the texture of his tongue as it grazed over his lips, his warmth.
Nico pulled away and stared down at him affectionately. “You know, your hair blends into the sand.”
Will arched an eyebrow. “And yours is long enough to tickle my face when you’re on me like this.” Nico chuckled and laid his chin on Will’s chest. He could feel Nico’s heartbeat against his stomach, hammering to the same pace as his own. “Your heart is beating really fast,” Will whispered, running a hand through his hair.
Nico sat up, looking at him questioningly. “What?”
Propping himself up on his elbows, Will said, “That’s not a bad thing, Neeks.”
But it seemed like Nico was no longer there. His gaze was distant and confused. “I… I have to go. Bianca will be wondering where I am and my phone’s out of battery.” He leaned over and pecked Will on the lips before hurrying to his feet and leaving before Will could answer.
Confused, and slightly hurt, Will frowned and sat up completely. He let his hands dig into the sand and looked out at the sea. It had been calm when Will and Nico arrived. Over the few minutes they had been there, the sea was suddenly thrashing, building waves and allowing them to crash so hard, the ripples reached past the shore. There was no wind, no storm, nothing that would cause the sea to get like this.
A strange sense of understanding settled over Will. The sea responded to merfolk. There must be one, or rather a few of them nearby if the sea was reacting that way. Maybe they weren’t happy with a werewolf so close to their territory.
“Hello?” Will called out. He decided against calling “mermaid” in case anyone else was nearby and mistook him for a crazy person. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I can leave now.”
Slowly, the sea began to settle. Will stood and started away from the beach. “So you are a Mystic,” a voice said. Will froze and turned towards a large rock further down the shoreline. To his astonishment, there was a teenaged boy leaning against it. Only it wasn’t a teenage boy. It was a merman. Merteen?
Whatever. Will neared him slowly, making sure not to scare him. His tail glistened in the sun. The scales were turquoise blue, but they gleamed green and purple in the sunlight. He had dark tousled hair, dripping with water, and sea green eyes that were fixed on Will like a hawk’s. “Hello,” Will greeted.
His large tailfin flicked and Will was doused with ocean water. He screwed his eyes shut and scrunched his face. “It is you,” the merboy said.
“Uh, sorry?” Will asked, spitting water out.
“The smell. I’ve never smelled it before.” He tilted his head and regarded him with cold eyes. “Tangy.”
“And you smell fishy.”
“Not the first time I hear that.” Will grunted and shook out his head. “So what race are you? Troll? Fairy? I thought those were smaller.”
“Werewolf,” he answered.
The merboy’s face went slack. “Werewolf?” He looked like Will had just told him he had a deadly disease. “No. You can’t be.”
“Why not?” he asked offended. “I’m an alpha, actually.” His sea green eyes met Will’s and narrowed. “I can prove it.” Will took a breath and made his eyes change to their wolfish gold. His hands began to glow with golden light. The boy stared at him with a mixture of admiration and horror. Will allowed himself to go back to normal. “I’d show you my wolf form, but I don’t have any spare clothes here.”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Percy.” He licked his lips nervously and said, “What are you doing on my beach?”
He blushed slightly and chuckled. “I was just with a friend.”
“A friend,” he repeated emptily.
Percy’s expression hardened and his tail swished in aggravation in the water. He looked away and the sea began to churn again. “Wait a second, is it just you doing that?” Will asked, forgetting to ask why he was so upset.
“Yes,” Percy grumbled. “I’m a prince here, you know,” he said with a tone of superiority. “My father is king of the merfolk. He has smaller kingdoms run by smaller, less powerful kings.”
“So in other words, you’re pretty powerful yourself,” Will asked, ignoring his patronizing look. Percy nodded. “Well, I guess I should go then. I didn’t mean to intrude on your beach.”
“No I suppose you didn’t. You were just following your… boyfriend. Tell me, does he know what you are? Or does he think you’re an Ordinary?”
Will scowled and stepped back. “He thinks I’m an Ordinary, like him. And I won’t tell him otherwise.” Percy raised a dark eyebrow. “I don’t see why it matters to you anyway.” His expression became dark and brooding, enough to make Will step back again. Now, even the sky was reacting to Percy’s anger. It had darkened with the threat of a storm. “A pleasure to meet you, your majesty,” Will said sarcastically, complete with a curtsey. Then he turned away and started to leave the beach.
All he heard was the splash when the merboy returned to the sea.
When he got home, Lou Ellen was helping his father cook dinner. A few other wolves were there too in their human forms. “What’s going on?” he asked looking at the others.
“They don’t want to be home,” Lou Ellen said. “After Cecil got attacked, they all want to stay together.” Will sighed. It made sense, but he didn’t want them all crowding his house for the next unknown amount of time. “Where’d you go?”
“Beach,” he muttered. He felt unsettled and wary. Does he know what you are?
Should he tell Nico? If so, when? It wasn’t exactly something you said after a few days of dating…. But it would also be bad if he hid for too long.
Suddenly, Lou Ellen nudged his shoulder and gave him a worried look. “Is everything okay?”
Will nodded, shrugging it off, but Leo Ellen knew better. She glanced at the other wolves who were enjoying themselves by taste-testing the food and watching television. Then she dragged Will up the stairs to his room. “What is it?” she asked. “Did he hurt you? I’ll rip his head off, I swear. What did he-?”
“He didn’t do anything,” Will assured. “Although I am flattered that you would murder for me.” He smiled, but she only looking at him expectantly. He sighed and rubbed his neck. “We were at the beach. He left and when he did, I realized there were merfolk in the ocean. It was just one. A boy who looked about our age. He was… pretentious.” Lou Ellen raised an eyebrow. “He saw me with Nico. Asked if he knew I was a werewolf. But he said it in this way that was just… I don’t know.” Will furrowed his eyebrows. “I feel… bad for not telling him. I mean… what if I tell him, and he… doesn’t like me anymore? He’ll think I’m a freak or something.” He sighed and sat on his bed. “Television shows and movies and books they all make it seem like this really cool thing, you know? Everyone imagines what life would be like if they were like this… but if they knew it was real, they would see us as freaks.”
“We’re not freaks, Will. We didn’t choose this.”
“But would the Ordinaries understand that? Would Nico?” He sighed and looked out at the setting sun. “But if I don’t tell him….”
“You don’t have to tell him anything, Will. You’re controlled enough to behave yourself around him. You won’t be like this forever. We can stop Changing.” She sat beside him and wrapped her arms around him for reassurance. “You’re a good person, Will. He’d be crazy to ever think otherwise. Werewolf or not.”
Will smiled gratefully at her. “Come on, Lou. I think the food’s ready. I can’t hear the others yipping away.”
As they made their way back downstairs, his phone buzzed with a message. Hey, I’m sorry I left so suddenly. Can I make it up to you this weekend? Will smiled at his phone and the butterflies that burst in his stomach. He responded before returning downstairs to eat with his family.
Chapter 10: Fish Troubles
Nico had yanked nearly every book out of the bookshelf. He’d searched the internet and even snuck into his father’s study to check older archives. Bianca had watched him in confusion, but Nico didn’t think she’d believe him if he told her.
Will had felt his heartbeat. Something Nico hadn’t had since the 1930s. And yet when Will mentioned it, Nico became aware of it- the strange thumping in his chest that wasn’t supposed to be there anymore.
When he’d gotten away from Will, his thirst had overwhelmed him, crippled him, despite the fact that he had eaten just the day before. He hadn’t let himself quench it, so as he searched, he was half mad with his thirst for blood.
Finally, Bianca pried him away from his research and noticed the pain in his eyes. She gave him some old blood they stored for emergencies and Nico drank it greedily. She’d calmed him down until he explained what he was so paranoid about. Then she’d made him text Will an apology for leaving and put away the books and archives.
“Nico, don’t freak out over it. Maybe it’s something good.”
Nico doubted it, but he listened. He stayed in his room the rest of the night and listened to the rest of the Mystics as they revealed themselves in the night. Wolf packs and fairies and trolls and imps rustled through the woods, mermaids splashed in the ocean, and warlocks and witches tested their spells. With a pang, Nico thought of Percy. He had been angry with Nico, though they had never established any sort of relationship. Still, Nico considered him a friend and he hated the idea of Percy being angry with him.
Nico spent the night pondering over the effects Will’s presence had on him and what they meant. It didn’t make any sense. He wasn’t becoming human. He knew that much. There was no heartbeat now. He thirsted for blood still despite having calmed the urge with the pint of blood Bianca had provided. He still had his strength which allowed him to squeeze the metal header of his unnecessary bed like a stress ball. He was still a vampire with demon venom running through his veins.
But around Will, he had a heartbeat. He couldn’t hear as well, smell as well, or even make his fangs elongate around him. He could forget that he was a monster. Maybe Bianca was right. Maybe it was a good thing. Maybe it meant that Will was special, someone Nico needed to keep in his immortal life at least for a few years.
He sighed and watched reruns of shows from the 50s throughout the night until he had to go back to school. The rest of the week was relatively the same. He was still wary around Cecil. Even though he had apologized, the rage and fury he had shown before made Nico nervous. Each time he was with Will, Nico forgot his thirst. But as soon as they were apart, Nico would be overwhelmed by the thirst that dried his throat almost instantly.
Friday, he stopped by the ocean, his hands fidgeting as an aftereffect of his hunger. Finally he sat down and tried to sing.
Instead of a playful splash or teasing laughter, he heard Percy’s voice, sharp and angry. “Oh, do you need to drain me further?”
He opened his eyes and sighed. “I’m actually not here for that,” he said. “My hunger has increased too much for me to continue using you.” Percy raised an eyebrow. “I want to know if you’re okay.”
“Fine,” he answered curtly.
“You’re upset with me,” Nico noted.
“Why don’t you just go back to your pretty blond boyfriend, Nico? What do you want from me?”
Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “How do you know he’s blond?” Percy’s tail flicked anxiously. “What the hell? Were you spying on us when I brought him here?”
“Why would you bring him to my beach?” Percy retaliated.
“I didn’t think you would see, I didn’t call for you. The beach was special to me since before I met you. What the hell were you doing spying on us?”
Percy scowled and doused him with water. “My beach. I see everything.” He tilted his head. “You obviously do not.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “How well do you know your precious boyfriend? As well as he knows you? Less? More? Frankly, I don’t think you know enough.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he answered in frustration. “I won’t bring him anymore. Stay away from him. He doesn’t know anything about the Mystic world.”
Percy scowled again and the sky turned dark. The ocean began to swirl and the waves became hectic. Without another word, Percy turned away and splashed back into the water. Nico sighed and turned away as the clouds rumbled and the sea roared.
He was looking forward to his weekend with Will. It was the only time he didn’t have threats looming over his head or thirst making him suffer.
The next day, Will and Nico went to the museum. Nico recalled several people and artifacts from his own memory. He found it a bit humorous that the “facts” the museum offered were sometimes not as accurate as historians liked to believe. But he didn’t feel like correcting it.
They decided to stop by the burger place in the food court and as Nico drank from a soda, Will devoured a double patty bacon burger. Nico smiled fondly at him and his total Ordinary vulnerability. He actually felt his heart stutter. It still took him by surprise, having a heartbeat. Even more so when it reacted to Will.
They continued and stopped by the nature exhibit. Will winced at the stuffed wolves by the woodland habitat as Nico wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Can I ask you something?” Will asked.
“Anything,” he answered, taking his hand.
“What do you think about secrets?” Nico furrowed his eyebrow. “I mean… we gave each other a basic idea of our past. But I’m sure that there’s things… you’re not proud of. I know I have things I’m not proud of. But… should we keep it to ourselves? Tell each other?”
“Well you’re not in jail. You’re not a trouble maker. I don’t really know if it matters to me what happened in your past if you don’t want to tell me.” Besides, you’ve learned most of my past from history books and horror movies.
Will shrugged and glanced around at the rest of the stuffed animals. “I don’t know. I mean some couples have this thing where they want to know everything about the other. Like how many people they’ve slept with before them or something.”
Nico cleared his throat. “Uh… how… how many have you slept with?”
Will turned red and laughed nervously. “None, Nico. I promise. It was just an example.” Nico let out a breath of relief. Though he hoped Will didn’t ask him the same question. “I’m just saying… is it okay to have secrets from each other?”
Nico pulled him to a stop and put a hand to his cheek. “I don’t care about the bad things in your past, Will. I care about now and us. If you want to tell me something, go ahead. But don’t feel like you’re required to. Sometimes things are better left unspoken.” Will’s eyebrows furrowed and his blue eyes darted back and forth between Nico’s eyes. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
Will’s lips parted. Nico could feel his heartbeat quicken under his fingers as they rested against his throat. Then he let out a long breath and said, “No. It’s not important.”
Nico smiled and pulled him into a kiss. “It’s okay,” he assured. “Come on. I hear the mummy exhibit shows you how to make a mummy.”
They continued walking through the museum laughing and joking with each other, taking moments to hide in the shadows and kiss without other people staring at them. Suddenly, Nico’s phone went off and showed Bianca’s number, confusing him. “Hello?” he said into the receiver.
“Nico, you have to come home, now,” she said urgently. “Father’s angry.”
“What happened?” he asked, his unnatural heartbeat quickening.
“The merboy.” Nico’s face paled. “Nico, hurry.”
She hung up and left Nico panicking in the middle of the museum. “Nico?” Will questioned. “What happened?”
Nico felt the panic grip his chest and twist his stomach. “M-My father. Something happened. I- I have to go home. I’m so sorry, Will, but we have to go.”
“What happened, is someone hurt?” he asked in alarm. “My dad’s a doctor-”
“No. No, Will. It’s just- we have to go, come on.” He took his hand and tried not to break into a vampire-paced run. He dragged him through the streets of downtown to the neighborhoods and to his house in a panic. Will followed, but stopped asking questions when he realized he needed his breath for running. When they arrived at his house, Nico took his face in his hands and kissed him desperately. “I’m so, so sorry, Sunshine,” he whispered between kisses. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” A wave of dread overwhelmed him when the thought of never getting a chance to see or talk to Will again crossed his mind. He pulled him into a closer hug and kissed him again. He took in the confused and dazed look on his face for a second before turning away and running down the street, out of eyesight. Then he broke into a run.
He didn’t make it far before the pain of his thirst crippled him and left him gasping and choking on the concrete floor. Pedestrians stopped and asked if he was fine, but he waved them away angrily, his eyes alternating between snakelike slits and human pupils. The heartbeats around him began to increase in volume and suddenly he was even aware of the rushing of the blood through their veins. It sounded like a waterfall- a delicious, bright crimson waterfall.
He growled and stumbled away from the people, holding his breath. He couldn’t feed on them. On any of them.
He stumbled into an alley and tried to get a grip on himself. Then someone followed him, their footsteps as loud as their heart as they splashed through puddles of murky water. “Check it out, teenage druggie,” a gruff voice said. “Take whatever he has.”
Another pair of steps started for Nico, but Nico lashed out, scratching the man who tried to grab him. “Little piece of shit,” he spat at Nico. He went for a punch, but Nico caught his hand and twisted without mercy until he heard the bones at his elbow crunch and snap. The man let out a bloodcurdling scream for a fraction of a second before Nico threw him against the brick wall, silencing him with a thud.
He lifted his gaze to the other man who had commanded for the assault, feeling his predatory side take over his body. The slow movements, tense with the anticipation of an attack but filled with confidence from the knowledge that he would win. His fangs extended and his eyes thinned into frightening slits that narrowed in on the man.
The man began to back away in panic as he realized he wasn’t dealing with a regular teenage kid. Nico hissed as he turned to run back down the street. He ran, appearing in front of the man before he could blink. “Can’t have you opening your fat mouth,” he crooned. “Can I?”
“I-I won’t say anything, I swear!” he pleaded. The vein in his neck bulged and throbbed with the rise in tempo of his heartbeat. It made Nico’s mouth water.
Without any more stalling, Nico sunk his teeth into his neck. He drank quickly and greedily, soothing a bit of the burn in his throat. He drank until the man was dry, and even then, he was still thirsty. He turned to the other one that lay limp against the wall, his arm twisted at an unnatural angle. His head was matted with blood from the impact and Nico pulled him by his hair and finished his meal. He piled them together and stared at them in disgust.
“Thanks a lot guys. I was trying to be good.” He continued to look at their mutilated bodies, their eyes still wide with fear. He sat down and shook his head. What if they had families? What about their friends? Who was Nico to take their life so easily? What would Will think if he saw Nico for his true form? The idea of Will seeing Nico standing over or sitting beside pale dead bodies that he had drained made him feel nauseated and hateful. “Stupid Ordinaries,” he muttered.
Then he hefted them onto his shoulder and dumped them into the trash bin. If he was lucky, they’d decompose or get eaten before they were found.
He sighed and started for his house, feeling more in control of himself after eating. As soon as he got to the house, he was thrown against the wall, causing it to shudder and a few frames fell to the floor.
“You idiot!” his father yelled. His hand left a searing pain on Nico’s cheek. “What did I tell you?” His father lifted him from the ground and pinned him against the wall. “I ought to kill you myself before you cause any more trouble you stupid fledgling!” He threw him again until he hit the staircase railing and fell over it onto the steps. Even as a vampire, the impact hurt.
“Father stop it!” Bianca shrieked, immediately moving to cover Nico. Nico often got tossed around when he made a mistake, but Bianca was never touched. Their father never lifted a hand against her. Even now when rage was so evident in his eyes, he didn’t reach for her. “Nico?” she asked over her shoulder.
Painfully, Nico pulled himself up. He nodded at his sister and glared at his creator. “What now?” he spat.
“You bit a merman?” he hissed. “I told you to behave, and instead, you bit a prince merman!”
“He agreed to it,” Nico protested. “He agreed to let us use his blood because we had to hunt less.”
His father’s jaw clenched. “We?” he questioned with a silent threat.
“Me,” Nico corrected. “It was all me, Father. Please. All of it was my idea.”
His father scowled and hissed in agitation. He turned away as Nico and Bianca made their way back downstairs. “You’re an imbecile,” he said with disgust. “What made you think a sea prince was a good idea for a blood donor?”
“How did you find out?” Bianca asked.
How else? Nico thought bitterly. He knew Percy must have told. He was so angry with Nico he told on him just to help frame him further.
“His mother informed the witch and the witch informed me. Quite triumphantly, I might add. She has everything against you Nico. Everything!”
“Why does she care about Nico so much?” Bianca cried. “What will she gain out of killing off a teenaged vampire in an inconsequential town like ours?” Instead of answering, their father turned away and locked himself in his study again. Bianca turned to him. “I told you it was a bad idea.”
“He found out about Will. He got angry,” Nico said. He still felt the pain in his cheek from his father’s lashes. “I’m going to see him,” he muttered.
“It’s the only time I feel normal, Bianca. The only time I don’t get hungry or murderous, the only time I don’t think about the fact that I’m going to be executed in a few months.” He sighed and sat on his couch in defeat. “Only with him.” He felt a weight in his chest and scoffed. “I haven’t even known him for a full month.”
“You have me,” Bianca said softly. “I want to be with you too.” Nico looked at her and nodded.
“I know,” he whispered. “I’ll be back. Will has to sleep. We don’t.” She looked hurt but she nodded and went to her room. Meanwhile, Nico pulled out his phone and dialed Will. He answered, worriedly asking if he was okay. “I’m fine, Will,” he answered tiredly. “Listen, can I go over to your place?”
“Ah, my place is full of people at the moment,” Will answered. “But we can go to the beach?”
Nico winced. “What about the park?”
“That works,” he answered, slightly confused. “I’ll meet you there, okay?”
“Okay.” He hung up and started for the park. He walked at a human pace, and when he got there, Will was already sitting on a bench, scrolling through his phone. Nico slid a hand along his shoulders before turning to sit. “Hey,” he said.
“What happened to you?” he asked in alarm, taking Nico’s face in his long nimble hands. Hands that made Nico think very unholy things. “Nico, what did he do to you?” he asked as a new look formed in his eyes.
Nico wasn’t used to an angry Will. He was used to happy, flustered, dorky Will. But the look in his eyes was almost murderous. He wondered what he looked like; he hadn’t looked at himself in the mirror. He pulled out his own phone and checked his reflection. He winced when he noticed the large bruise on his face decorated with three red gashes that looked like burns. The venom that had tried to heal his skin. Since it had been a vampire’s hit, it hadn’t worked, and instead it scarred.
“It looks worse than it feels,” he muttered. He pushed his hands away. “Could you just….” Nico stopped, unsure of what he was asking for. What exactly were the human boundaries? What exactly did he need? Affection. Presence. But how?
Will’s eyebrows furrowed and he looked at Nico, waiting for him to continue. Then, he felt Will’s arms envelope him, and he realized it was all he wanted. Nico burrowed himself in his arms, and hid his face in his chest. He just wanted to be held. Caressed instead of hit, held instead of thrown, someone gentle rather than someone angry and rough, someone to whisper soothingly in his ear rather than someone screaming at him.
He didn’t know what this was. He didn’t know why he needed Will so much. He didn’t understand how his attraction to him had become so intense from the first time they touched. But he didn’t care. All he knew was that the need and want were there and Will was fulfilling them. Nico didn’t want to let this go. He didn’t want to give it up.
Suddenly, Will began to sing softly in his ear, a sweet calming melody filled with affection and tenderness. He sighed in relief and before Will could keep singing in his low husky voice, Nico kissed him. He kissed him desperately and passionately, trying to put all of his affection and gratitude into it. Even his apologies for what he was and what he had to do to survive.
Vaguely, he wondered if he was falling in love. Was it supposed to happen this fast? Was this what it was like? Was Will falling in love too? Every part of this experience was new and it frightened Nico. But then it was also so exhilarating, so exciting and wonderful.
“Nico,” Will said, a smile spreading on his face as he pulled back. “There’s children and very conservative mothers and fathers here,” he reminded him softly.
“They’re around anywhere I go and if I worried about that anytime they were around I’d never be able to be myself,” Nico muttered. “I’ve learned not to care.” Will laughed and shook his head disapprovingly. Then he raised a hand to Nico’s cheek and looked at him sadly. “Don’t pity me,” Nico mumbled.
“I’m not. I just hate seeing you hurt.” He smiled sadly and continued to caress Nico’s injured cheek with his feathery touch. “You know that’s how we began talking,” he remembered. Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “You were hurt. And I asked if you were alright. And somehow we agreed to a study date.”
Nico smiled at the memory. “That’s right. I guess I should thank my father then.” Will scoffed and brought Nico into a protective hug. It made Nico feel safe. He was so used to being the protector, the stronger one. But with Will, his vampire side didn’t matter. With Will, Nico felt small and that was okay, because he was safe. “I don’t ever want to lose you, Will,” he murmured.
“You won’t,” he promised. “You won’t lose me.”
No, Nico thought. But you might lose me.
Chapter 11: The Last Night
Over the last two months, there had been several Ordinary deaths. Of course those were Nico’s fault. Bianca controlled herself much better, but Nico found his hunger intensifying nearly tenfold the more he was around Will. As the weeks and months went by, Will seemed to become more stressed and tired. If Nico asked, however, Will would shrug it off and smile.
Nico himself could feel panic and anxiety building up in him. His court date was soon. The Ordinary deaths weren’t going to be lost on the panel. That in addition to the several problems Nico had already caused were enough to convict him without doubt. But there was so much more that they didn’t understand.
It was the weekend before his trial, and Nico was returning from his last date with Will. “Hey,” he said before Nico could start for his own house. “So my dad has this meeting he wants to go to, and since we’re out of school, he wants me to go with him. I’ll be gone for a few days. But I’ll tell you as soon as I get back.”
“Oh,” Nico said, unsure of whether he felt hurt or relieved. “When are you leaving?”
“Tonight,” he said.
“Oh.” It would be the last time Nico ever saw him. It would be the last chance to kiss him, hug him, feel his arms around him, hear his soft husky voice. The fact made Nico feel grief like he never had before. “Okay,” he said.
“Are you okay?” Will asked worriedly. Nico looked into his crystalline blue eyes and was surprised to see the dark circles forming under his eyes. “Nico?”
“I’m fine,” he assured. “I’ll miss you.” Will smiled and pulled him close.
“I’ll miss you too,” he whispered. He pressed his lips against Nico’s, and Nico felt warmth flood through his venom-filled veins. Will began to pull away, but Nico, knowing it would be the last time they would be together, wasn’t having it. He tangled his hands into his sandy hair and pulled him in, kissing him fervidly and greedily.
As he did, he heard Will moan and felt his fingers dig into his skin and press against his hipbone. Nico pressed against him until he had Will against the brick wall of his house. Will’s hands slid around him, and Nico was overwhelmed with the affection he had for this sandy haired teenage Ordinary.
They pulled apart, desperate for air, and their breaths came fast and shaky. Nico glanced at him and his wonderful blue eyes, and his puffy parted lips. “Will,” he started. But the words died in his throat.
Then Will’s gentle hand came to rest on his face, and his thumb slid across Nico’s lower lip. “When I get back,” he said softly, “I want to talk with you. It’s not bad,” he assured when Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “I don’t think.” He laughed nervously and pecked his lips.
“Okay,” Nico whispered. “You sure you… can’t tell me now?” While I’m still alive, he added in his head.
But Will laughed and hugged him tightly before letting go. “I have to go. It’s getting late and my dad will be worried.”
“Okay,” he said. He watched as Will opened the door and gave him a final smile before going inside.
He braced himself for the burning sensation that cut through his throat the way it did each time Will was far enough away. As he walked home, he made sure not to breathe. He’d already killed too many people, no matter how despicable they were.
How many families were mourning because of him? How many families waited for someone who would never come home? How many people had Nico indirectly hurt?
The house came into view quickly. And outside stood three imps, two large and one smaller, their bat-like wings beating impatiently, their sharp tails swishing, and Bianca and his father. They were waiting for him, Nico knew it. Bianca paced nervously, uselessly pleading with them.
As Nico approached, the smallest imp, leaped onto the porch railing and looked at Nico with large brown eyes. His features were oddly human, not as shriveled and gargoyle-like as the larger. His eyebrows suggested mischief as did his smile.
“Well you don’t look like a trouble maker. You’re a kid!” he said.
“Stand back,” one of the larger ones said.
The smaller imp let his tail curl around the roof ledge and his body turned until he was hanging upside down, swinging in front of Nico. “Heard you did a lot of bad stuff,” he said, his voice inappropriately excited and upbeat.
“Didn’t do half of it, but nobody will listen to me, will they?” he answered sarcastically. The imp frowned and stopped swinging.
A larger one knocked him out of the way and scowled at Nico, his large sharp nose and gnarled mouth twisting in disgust. “You are to come with us, vampire.”
“I know,” he said tiredly. “I’m not fighting it, am I?”
“Lock him up,” he told the other.
Nico’s eyes widened. “I don’t need to be cuffed, I’m going willingly!” Still the other imp grabbed his arms and twisted them behind his back before tying them.
Bianca began to protest, but their father held her back and began to whisper in her ear. He tried to calm her down, but Bianca was already shaking. Nico tried to rip through the binds by pulling his hands apart, but screamed in agony as a sharp pain paralyzed his arms for a fleeting moment.
“Don’t fight it,” the smaller imp said. “They’re bound by fairy magic. They will hurt you the more you try to break free. Like a shock collar.” His expression suddenly wasn’t playful anymore. It was sad and filled with pity.
“Please,” Bianca cried. “Please, don’t hurt him!”
“Bianca,” their father said, pulling her back. “Be quiet.”
“Let’s go,” one of the imps said. “Take him.”
The imp that had bound Nico’s wrists grabbed him in his claws and shot up into the sky. Nico heard Bianca scream once before the other two joined and they began their flight. Nico looked down at the city and felt his throat burn almost as bad as his arms had. There was so much fresh blood down there, and Nico was starving.
Once, the imp carrying him almost dropped him, and Nico automatically tried to extend his arms, only to twist into the claws holding him as he let out a guttural scream. The imp laughed and Nico slumped wearily. He was taken the rest of the way like a rag doll.
Finally Nico fell to the ground, groaning and wincing. The smaller imp helped him up, his three fingered hands clamped gently around his arms. “They’ll take them off when they get you to the cell,” he assured.
The other two looked at the smaller imp with distaste, obviously not pleased at the hospitality he tried showing Nico. They led him inside a large building that looked like a church, ironically enough. It was silent, and Nico’s footsteps echoed throughout the room. Near the front stood a handful of thrones, each identical. Facing them, in the center, one chair with straps for arms and legs. There were no other chairs or pews, but Nico knew the room would be filled with Mystics waiting to see a vampire executed.
Then they took him through a door and down the hall into another room. This one was made of cement. It had a single cell with the bars drilled into the floor and ceiling. Only the cell door was mobile and it opened smoothly as one imp pulled it. He gestured inside and the kind imp that had taken him began to undo the binding at his wrists.
“Leave them,” the larger one commanded. “Madame Levesque’s orders.” The smaller imp began to protest, and the larger’s eyes began to glow red. “You useless spawn, I gave you an order! Leave the bindings and step away from the prisoner.”
Immediately, the smaller one did. The one who had bound him in the first place, the one who had carried him here, shoved him into the cell. Nico lost his footing and fell to the cold stone floor, spasming as his hands pressed against their binding. He groaned and struggled to get into a sitting position.
His fangs had grown out and he hissed at the imps who laughed in spite of him. They left, and the smaller one gave Nico a final apologetic glance before bounding after his mentors. Nico could smell his own blood from the claw wounds at his side, and though it would do nothing to satiate his hunger, his mouth still watered in yearning. His throat was raw and his limbs were becoming weak.
He didn’t know how long he would have to wait to be fed. Did Mystics offer a last dinner? Of everything Nico researched about his own trial, he didn’t research that.
The next morning, the imps arrived at Will’s house, scaring his father horribly. Will couldn’t blame him. The imps were creatures you had to get used to. Their dry coarse skin varied from murky brown to demonic red, their wings were large and their tails all ended in a triangular point. They had three fingers with long black claws, and the adults had the faces of the demons Will had scene in secular statues. The younger ones were lucky enough to look a bit more human. It had taken Will the last two months to get used to seeing them and hearing them talk.
“Will, are you sure this is safe?” his father asked as they waited for Lou Ellen.
“No worries, Mr. Solace. Will isn’t the one on trial. He’ll be treated just fine,” Leo said, wrapping an arm around him.
“You’re a bit young to be part of the guard,” his father noted.
Leo shrugged. “The other two are… intimidating. They let me tag along because of my humor and good looks.” He winked and smiled, the soothing effect broken by his sharp teeth. Finally Lou Ellen arrived and shuddered as she passed the other two imps. “Hey there, foxy.”
She glared at him. “Wolf,” she corrected. “Are we ready?” Will nodded and Leo became a bit more solemn. The larger imps, which Will always forgot the names of, but referred to as Thing One and Thing Two, each got a hold of one of them and dashed into the bright sky. They muttered, obviously uncomfortable with the amount of light.
Leo flew right below them, keeping them company. Surprisingly, he remained silent the entire time until they reached the Mystic Court. Thing One and Two walked away, but Leo stayed beside them. “You know,” he said, “when I was little, all I ever wanted was to be one of the guards. It’s the most important job an imp could get. But… yesterday, seeing the way they are with the prisoners….” He shook his head sadly.
“Leo, they’re prisoners,” Lou Ellen said. “They’re the bad guys. You’re not supposed to be nice.”
Leo shook his head. “Not this one. The vampire we picked up last night wasn’t fighting us. He didn’t even badmouth us. And… I don’t think he did the bad things Madame Levesque is accusing him of. But they treated him just the same.”
Will frowned. “The witch knows everything, Leo. Her word is basically law around here. She’s powerful.”
Leo still looked troubled, and Will had to step back as his tail flicked in frustration. “I guess. I’ll see you guys later. She’s waiting in the panel room.”
He left and Lou Ellen followed Will into the court where several other Mystics waited. The only race missing were the vampires. As they started to walk into the room that was hidden behind the panel thrones, the witch herself stopped them.
“Go ahead, dear,” she told Lou Ellen. “I just need your alpha.” Lou Ellen frowned and went into the panel room. “This, my dear, is a very serious matter,” she crooned. “It requires a blood oath.”
“Blood oath?” Will repeated. She extended her hand and Will gave her his hand. Instead of inspecting it, she gripped it and held it upward. A sharp pain made Will yelp and he saw a thin line at his wrist begin to open with scarlet colored blood. As it dripped down his wrist, it fell into a small cup that she was holding. That’s when Will noticed the small triangular stone dagger she gripped with her pinky.
Once the cup was filled, she used her robe to wipe his wrist clean and a strange ointment from a vial around her neck to heal the cut. It faded into a scar and she allowed him to enter the panel room.
When he did, he saw the fairy queen of their area sitting beside a smaller fairy, much younger. Beside them, two trolls that Will preferred to steer clear from. They were awfully clumsy and easily distracted, but being near them, one often lost their belongings. Next to them, the king of the sea and his wife, each with legs instead of a fish tail. Beside them, two young women who looked like sisters, their blond curls pinned up elegantly, their grey eyes observing the others. Perhaps they were witches. Madame Levesque might lead the panel, but the Wiccan side of the Mystic community still needed unbiased representation. Then, thankfully, Lou Ellen.
She hurried to his side as they sat, waiting for the witch to return. He grabbed his wrist absently, still feeling the sting of the blade.
The door burst open and Will was surprised to see Percy running in. “Mom! Dad!” he cried. It was strange to see him with legs. “Please, you have to listen to me, he wasn’t-”
“Perseus,” his mother chided softly. “We’ve been through this. Enough.”
“But, Mom,” he insisted. “I’m begging you, would you just listen? All of you,” he said as he turned in a circle to look at the others who would be on the panel. When he saw Will his green eyes went wide. “Will!”
“For crying out loud, Perseus, you know a werewolf too?” his father said tiredly. Percy ignored them and rushed over to Will.
He stepped back automatically, still not fond of the sea prince. “Will, you have to listen to me, okay? You’ll believe me, I know it-”
The door opened again and Madame Levesque walked in, her eyes immediately zeroed in on the intrusion. Percy gasped and turned to Will, but when he opened his mouth, Madame Levesque had already grabbed him by the arm to pull him away. “My dear boy,” she chided. “This is no place for you. I suggest you wait with the others. Your parents will return to you shortly.”
“Will, he didn’t do it!” Percy called over her shoulder before she shut the door on him. Will furrowed his eyebrows and shared a look with Lou Ellen.
“Poor boy,” Madame Levesque said sadly. “Bitten by the vampire and brainwashed.”
“They can do that?” one troll asked.
“The proof is right there. The son of royalty enraptured by the bloodsucker, forced to believe him, defend him even.” She shook her head, the beads in her hair clicking together. “Don’t worry. I will help him when this is all over,” she said, patting the queen’s hand. “Now, I must thank you all for being on my panel. I trust that you all will be home shortly, for this case should not be very long. The allegations against the vampire are numerous and quite heinous. There is no way to prove otherwise.” Will glanced around as everyone held to her every word. Except for one of the grey eyed sisters. She looked wary and suspicious. “Excuse me, while I prepare the prisoner for the trial. You may all take your seats at the panel thrones.”
She left the room, her robes sweeping regally behind her. She reached out a hand and the small girl, Hazel, walked to her side. Will hadn’t seen her standing so silently by the wall. She looked solemn and upset as she followed her mother out of the room. Meanwhile, Lou Ellen took his hand and they started for their seats.
They walked behind the sisters and Will heard them arguing. “Mother, something’s wrong,” one insisted.
“Annabeth, be silent. Let’s get through this trial before jumping to conclusions.”
Will shared a look with Lou Ellen. They sat at their chairs, and he looked out at the other Mystics. The rest of his pack was there in wolf form. Fairies hovered in their place anxiously, trolls and imps strolled along the edges unable to sit still. Will caught Percy’s eyes where he sat beside a young girl covering her face with her hair and hand. Beside them was the vampire Will had seen in the woods.
Silence settled over the room as they waited for the witch to return.
Chapter 12: Red Herring
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Nico had spent the entire night without anyone else near him. His throat was raw from coughing and he couldn’t feel his limbs after hours of trying to break past the fairy magic. The hours ticked by, feeling like days. There was no way for him to know what time it was.
So when he heard footsteps and the rustle of robes, he immediately scurried to a corner like a rat. The shadow of the witch appeared at the door and Nico hissed at her.
“Oh come now, little one,” she said mockingly. “I brought you food.” Despite his position, Nico couldn’t help but perk up when she revealed the cup in her hands. He didn’t understand why he hadn’t smelled it when she came in, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to get rid of the burn in his throat. She beckoned to him and he stumbled over to her and pressed his face between the bars. She lifted the cup to his lips and he drank greedily, his fangs extended even if there was nothing to bite causing some of the blood to drip from the corners of his mouth down to his chin.
The taste…. Oh the taste was wonderful. It made Nico dizzy. It was sweeter than the merboy’s, warmer and filling. It gave Nico strength and a longing for more. He gasped greedily as the cup emptied. He licked the remaining blood from his lips and sighed.
Madame Levesque began to laugh and she caressed his face with one cold long finger that Nico flinched from. “Oh, little vampire. Were you so hungry you didn’t recognize the taste of the blood you drank?” Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “I know you’ve tasted it before. Yes?” She tilted her head, a cold smile on her lips. “Let me jog your memory…. A certain someone with… blond hair… blue eyes… freckles?”
The blood drained from Nico’s face and he stopped breathing. Suddenly, he wanted to puke, throw up every last bit of blood he drank. Instead, he threw himself against the bars and screamed at her. “No! You rotten witch! What did you do to him? What did you do!” He hissed began to struggle against his bindings, no longer caring about the bindings or the pain that shot up his arms. “Where is he?” he screeched. “What did you do?”
The witch only smiled and turned away. With a flick of her hand, a guard imp opened the cell and grabbed him roughly by his arms. The little girl which Nico remembered vaguely from the park stared in horror and silence. Her mother took her hand and led her away toward the court room as the imp followed, towing Nico’s struggling body with him.
As the court door opened, Nico continued to hiss and struggle, his eyes changed from slits to his own human ones. His shouts echoed through the room until he was thrown against the floor. He opened his eyes and saw a roan colored wolf looking at him with its teeth bared. Nico hissed at it, but his fangs were no longer there. As much as he tried, he couldn’t extend his fangs or change his eyesight.
Nico turned to the voice that made his still heart pound. Then he saw Will at one of the thrones next to Lou Ellen. He was standing, staring at him in anger.
“Will?” Nico looked at the others on the panel and it dawned on him. “No,” he whispered. His heart was pounding the way it did any time he was around Will. It was pounding so hard that he hadn’t realized he was screaming in protest until the imp that dragged him in hit him to shut him up.
A werewolf. He was a werewolf. Will was a werewolf. His boyfriend was a werewolf. And Nico had just chugged his werewolf boyfriend’s blood.
Nico began gasping for breath as Will came down from the throne. He lifted Nico from the floor by his shirt, his face twisted into one of disgust. It was so unlike the Will that Nico knew, he wasn’t sure what to do.
“It was you?” he sneered “You’re a vampire?” he growled, shaking him. Nico tried finding words, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t even smell him. “Answer me!”
“Oh dear,” Madame Levesque said. “We seem to have a problem.”
“Step away from the prisoner,” the imp said.
“Shove that tail of yours up your ass,” Will bit back. He turned to Nico, the look in his eyes murderous. “You.”
Suddenly there was an invisible wall that kept Will from lunging at him. Madame Levesque clicked her tongue. “Take him back to the cell. It seems we have another problem here.”
Nico didn’t have the strength to fight the imp as he dragged him back to the cell with Will following close behind, his hands in fists at his sides. Before he was thrown inside the cell, Will reached for him and threw him against a wall. “You’re a goddamn bloodsucker?” he snarled. “And you didn’t tell me!”
“Why would I?” Nico yelled back. “You didn’t exactly jump to tell me you’re a werewolf!”
“You lied to me!”
“No, I just didn’t tell you the whole-”
“You lied!” Will shouted, pushing him back against the wall again, causing Nico to wince. “About Ethan. You said your sister found him. You’re the one from the gym that day.”
Nico felt his face slack. “You’re the alpha,” he whispered. “And… Lou Ellen…. She was the white wolf?” Will growled. “No. No, no, no.”
“You killed him,” he snarled. “You watched Cecil mourn him. Cecil knew about you! And I didn’t listen.”
Nico recalled the roan wolf that had been glaring at him a few moments before. “You don’t understand, Will! He was trying to hurt Bianca! He followed her into the locker room, cornered her. She hit him too hard and she was hungry, she couldn’t help it!” Will growled again and threw him against the opposite wall.
“The merboy,” Will remembered. “You bit him?”
Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “How do you know about Percy?” Will bared his teeth. “He was… a friend.” Nico didn’t feel like going into specifics about that particular relationship. “He agreed to it. I wouldn’t have used him if he hadn’t. Merblood keeps us fed longer than human blood.”
“I don’t want the facts about your sick diet, you leech.” Nico gasped and his face contorted in pain. “This whole time…,” he whispered. “From the start…. You were one of them.”
“So were you,” Nico whispered.
Will shoved him back and shut the cell door on him. “You deserve to rot in this cell. You deserve to get soaked in holy water and burn in the pit. You’re a monster.”
Nico whimpered in pain, this one swelling from inside his chest rather than the debilitating manacles at his wrists. As Will began to walk away, he called out, “I can’t smell you.” Will stopped. “I can’t smell you or hear your heart. I can’t trigger my fangs. I have a heartbeat right now and I shouldn’t. Can I guess that you can’t smell me either? You can’t transform?”
Instead of answering, Will continued walking, slamming the door behind him. The further he got, the better his senses became. The weaker his heartbeat was until it ceased. He was thirsty again. He threw his head back against the wall and screamed through clenched teeth.
A mocking cackle echoed through the room and Madame Levesque’s shadow was at his cell door again. “Quite the heartbreaking twist, isn’t it, my poor, poor boy?” Nico scowled at her and turned away. “Oh now,” she said. “Don’t you want answers, vampire?” Nico’s eyes drifted to her, but his body remained still. “Don’t you think it’s strange that you can never smell each other? That you become so humanized when he’s near?”
“Did you do that?” he asked in a flat voice.
She laughed softly. “Indeed I did. He stopped by one day asking for help in finding the vampire that killed his friend. You left quite a mark on him.” Nico remembered their first kiss. The ecstasy that had coursed through him when he’d bit him too hard, the way he’d almost bitten his neck until the car passed by. “Little alpha and little beta,” she said. “With the answer right in front of them, but too inexperienced to see it. I gave them both a little something to decrease their senses around your kind. It let his feeling for you… blossom,” she giggled.
Nico felt his chest compress. “He never cared about me then? That was your doing?”
“Oh no,” she assured. “Your feelings for each other are very much real. I simply facilitated the process. My potion was simply to reduce your Mystic abilities. It decreased their power, and the power of Mystics around them, like you. That heartbeat of yours? Triggered by the block that flooded their veins and powered by the Ordinary blood that coursed through yours. That miserable, painful thirst you felt after? You’d used up your entire supply.”
“Why did you do this?” he said miserably. “Why let me fall for him? What did you get out of it?”
She sneered at him then, breaking the façade of sympathetic smiles. “For the satisfaction of having you know what it’s like to have love at your fingertips and ripped away.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “Hazel,” she said. “Come say hello to your brother.”
The small girl from the park peeked out from behind her robes and looked at Nico sadly. Nico stared at her then at the witch. “What?”
“Your father,” she spat, “has a wonderful way with words. And far too much free time. And now, I get my revenge in sending his son to death.”
“V-Vampires don’t reproduce,” he protested.
“No, not with each other. But as you’ve found out, they can very well fall for other species. Reproduce with other races.” Nico looked at the little girl whose bright golden irises seemed to glow. “I’ll give you the day to think this all over,” she said as though she were doing him a favor. “Tonight, we will continue the trial. And you will be dead by dawn.”
She turned away and started out of the door. The little girl kept her eyes on Nico and for only a fraction of a second they darted to the floor before she followed her mother. Nico glanced down and frowned when he saw a small brass key. He started for it and surprised himself further when his hands came free.
His wrists were raw and red, and at his feet were a tangle of vines adorned with jagged thorns. He crawled to the key and turned it over in his hand. Several questions swarmed through his head, but he knew he didn’t have time to find questions or let himself muse over them. So instead of questioning it, he tried the key on the cell door’s lock. It opened without creaking or triggering any alarms.
Nico took a breath of relief and tried to ignore his heartbreak. He dashed past the room and down the corridor until he heard footsteps. He went into the bathroom and checked to be sure nobody was in any of the stalls. Then he locked the door and sighed.
“Thank goodness you’re not as stupid as the others,” a high voice said. Nico jumped and found himself staring at the little witch with golden eyes. His sister.
“What are you-? This is the men’s room. And… you’re not turning me in?”
“I’m trying to save you,” she protested. He frowned. “It’s a long explanation and we don’t have the time. My mother thinks I had to pee. Are you strong enough to run?” Nico bit his lip. His throat felt sore, but he could manage. He nodded. “Take this. It’ll make you almost impossible to track. Then go to the beach. Stay hidden in the woods.”
“Why would I go there? That’s one of the first places they’ll look for me.”
“Exactly. My mother knows you’re not stupid. She wouldn’t let them search an obvious place. Now go,” she insisted.
“My sister,” Nico protested.
The small girl shoved a vial in his hands. Her eyes were wide, and they seemed older than her. She couldn’t be older than five years, and yet she was telling Nico what to do and how to escape. “I’ll tell as many of your friends as I can. But you have to go now.” She turned away before Nico could ask any more questions.
Warily, he looked at the vial. It was a soft orange color, and he didn’t really know how much a five year old could know about witchcraft, but he had nothing to lose. So he tipped the vial back and gagged at the bitter taste of orange peels. He wiped his mouth which had begun to crust with Will’s dried blood. The thought made him shiver, so he washed his face clean before jumping onto a stall to break through the high window.
As the glass shattered, he heard the wing flaps of the guard imps. Before he could turn, the smallest one saw him. His brown eyes widened, and Nico froze for only a second before he began to run. Within seconds he was dashing through the city and between cars speeding to get to their jobs. A few seconds later and he was zipping through the trees behind the park and finally he broke through and fell onto the sand of the beach.
He finally let his confusion and grief creep up on him.
Only last night, not even a full twelve hours ago, he’d been in Will’s arms, kissing him, wrapped in him. And now… Will wanted him dead.
Surprisingly, he felt tears well up in his eyes and spill hot and thick down his face. For the first time in decades, he’d felt something. Something besides lust and indifference. Something strong and beautiful and strengthening. And it was all in vain. They were enemies. They always had been. It was a fact known by even Ordinaries, a fact that made it into movies and books and myths. So why couldn’t he manage to feel the disgust and rage he should have felt for the wolf? Why were pain and longing the only things he managed to find in himself?
He picked up the sound of wings and he scrambled to get back to the trees, climbing like a monkey until he was hidden on the thinnest branch surrounded by leaves. He held his breath and watched the misshaped forms of the imps and their dull colors sifting through the beach. Their tails swung wildly, their teeth bared as they looked.
“Idiot!” Ugly number one said to the smaller one. He backhanded him and the smaller imp fell to the ground. “One job! One fucking job, Leo!”
“He’s fast! I didn’t even see him!”
“We have to tell Madame Levesque,” Ugly number two said. “She’ll punish this one enough. But I’m not picking anything up here.” The first one scowled and lifted Leo by his neck.
“Let’s go.” The three of them took off and Nico let out his breath. Looked like Hazel’s potion worked.
They left and Nico began counting his breaths. He’d lost track by the time he heard a wolf’s howl pierce the air. It was far away and filled with grief. Nico felt it like a dagger to his heart.
He waited in the trees for a few hours, watching the sun rise and begin its descent again. He assumed it was about five in the afternoon when he heard footsteps. “Nico?” Nico sat up in his branch and furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you sure he’s here?” Percy asked.
“If he listened to me, yes. If he didn’t like everyone else, then no,” came the small girl’s voice. Nico let himself fall from the branch and landed softly on the ground. Hazel smiled. “He listened.”
“Oh thank the gods,” Percy said in relief. Nico fixed him with an angry glare. “Okay, I know you think I told on you, but I swear I didn’t. I got angry and I wasn’t careful when I got home. My parents saw the bites and they lost it. They went straight to the bayou to tell the witch and they wouldn’t listen. You never called for me again, you never appeared at the beach, and even if you had, I couldn’t get to you. My parents stopped letting me leave the palace.”
Nico sighed as Percy spoke. The honesty was clear in the features of his face. “You have legs,” he noted. Percy looked down at his human legs and shrugged. “It’s good to see you,” he told him, stepping forward and wrapping his arms around his friend.
“I’m so sorry,” Percy murmured. “I should have told you. I should have told you about Will.”
Nico stepped back and tilted his head in confusion. “You knew?”
Percy looked at him with is innocent sea green eyes and nodded. He looked away in shame. “That day that you took him. He noticed something was in the sea and so I showed myself. I had smelled him and I knew there was more than Ordinary blood in him. When he called out, I knew I was right. And I asked him what he was and he told me he was a werewolf. But I didn’t understand how you could be with him if he was. Then he called you an Ordinary. And I realized neither of you knew about each other.” He looked Nico in the eyes again. “I was going to tell you. But you made me so mad, I decided not to. And then… my parents.”
Nico wanted to tell him off, but at the same time he just wanted to forget about Will. Before he could answer, though, Hazel spoke up. “Okay, as fascinating as it is to have all of these heart to heart revelations, we need to go. Follow me.” She took Nico by the hand and began walked through the woods. Nico glanced back at Percy who shrugged and followed. They reached a denser part of the woods where a small teepee was set up. There were coloring books and dolls scattered on the floor, flowers of all colors growing around the teepee, and jewels of every size and type separated by color in dirt holes. It was enough to make anyone rich. “I come here when I want to be away from her. We can use it as headquarters.”
“We?” Nico questioned.
“Headquarters?” Percy added.
“For the war,” she said as though it were the most obvious thing. “We have to fight.”
Nico’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Fight?” He walked over to her and went down on one knee. “First of all, sweetie, you’re like five.”
“I’m eight,” she growled. “And I’m telepathetic.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows and looked back at Percy who looked just as confused. “Look.” She raised her hand and several of the jewels by the teepee rose and drifted toward her, looking like cheesy special effects. Still Nico’s mouth fell open as the shining gems plopped into Hazel’s small brown hand. “See?”
“Telekinetic,” Nico whispered.
“Whatever. I’m part witch, part vampire. I’m kind of a big deal. And I helped you escape. I know what my mother is planning and you need to get off your butt and stop your little pity party. You have things to fight for.”
Nico looked into her wide golden eyes and for a moment he saw a full-fledged war- wolves, vampires, trolls, fairies, imps, and other things he didn’t know about all at each other’s throats. Sparks and mist covered much of his view, and he suspected it was the magic from the witches and warlocks playing their part. He saw the faces of his father, his sister, Will, Cecil, Lou Ellen, and Percy. And then they faded.
Her warm hand cupped his cheek and brought him back to the present. “We have to stop it. And if we can’t then we have to win.” She lifted her chin. “And I can help.”
Nico scoffed and stood back up. “Okay, Shortstack.”
“Hazel,” she corrected, frowning at him.
“Munchkin,” Nico nodded.
She huffed. “I thought having a brother was supposed to be a good thing.”
Nico lost his humor and bit his lip. “Speaking of which…. Where’s my sister? Bianca.”
“You have a lot of people willing to help. They all have to find a distraction before they get here though. So it may take a while. Your- Our sister is one of them.”
Hesitantly, Nico asked, “And… Will?”
Hazel pursed her lips and shook her head sadly. “He’s too angry with you. I didn’t trust him enough to tell him.” Nico looked away trying to mask the pain that gave him. “Everyone’s looking for you already. It’s safe here.”
Nico didn’t answer. But Percy put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a sad smile before turning to Hazel. “You said you knew what your mom was planning? Well, what is it?”
Hazel took a deep breath. “Have you ever heard of a red herring?”
Judging by the silence, Nico assumed Percy was confused. “It’s a distraction while something bigger is going on in the background,” he answered. “So what, my trial is just a red herring?”
She shrugged. “Haven’t you wondered what it matters to her whether or not a teenager gets justice? I told her that you didn’t hurt me, that you scared me only. But she took her chance. Suddenly all these other things were happening to you and she was using it all against you. On the one hand, it’s revenge against… your father. For not staying with her. I was an experiment in the first place, but she made the mistake of getting attached.
“Mainly though, this is just a distraction. A way to turn everyone against vampires so that she can be the one with the most power. It’s all about power with her. It’s why she had me and it’s why she’s doing all of this. But I know her, and she can’t handle it. It’s already gone to her head before. She’ll let everyone think this war is against vampires for their safety, but it’s… it’s just a war to get rid of your race.”
“She’s fighting her way up the hierarchy while pretending to be a martyr,” Percy said. Hazel nodded grimly. “She’s good with words, Nico. She convinced my father and discredited me in one sentence. How are we supposed to rally anyone against her?”
Nico began pacing. “I don’t know.” He felt the rage coursing through his veins. He heard her cold cackle in his ears and the bitterness in her voice as she revealed the twisted way in which she’d manipulated Nico’s emotions. “But we’re stopping her. We have to.”
Chapter 13: Bad Blood
Yes, hello, hi!
So it was brought to my attention that this story is far from up to date here, so I'm fixing that.
I also hope to continue through reading and revising these chapters!
If you're still reading, thank you so much for you patience <3
His heartbeat was pounding in his ears, make it impossible to think. He couldn’t see the hallway in front of him, and even when he closed his eyes, all he could see was Nico being dragged in, hissing and shouting. He could only relive his confusion and anger at seeing him get thrown down and the blood that stained his chin and lips. Lips that Will had kissed.
He growled in disgust and punched the wall beside him. The jolt of pain that shot up his arm cleared his head and fueled his anger. He burst back into the court room and into the panel room where the other members were waiting, hushing their voices as Will barged in.
When the witch returned, Will couldn’t refrain from pinning her against the wall with one arm at her throat, and the other pulled back in a menacing claw. “You knew,” he growled. The imps started for him, but the witch choked out a protest and they stopped.
She turned her milky gaze to Will and began shaking her head. “No, my dear Alpha,” she wheezed. “I did not.” She pulled at his arm, but Will kept it there, overwhelmed by the animalistic bloodlust he felt. “Please, I swear I did not know!”
Lou Ellen’s hand rested on his bicep and she pulled him away gently. “Will, stop. This isn’t you.”
He pulled away and the witch fell to the floor, gasping for breath. She looked at Will, her face filled with sorrow. “If I had known, I would have told you. All I knew was that you had come in contact with the vampire you searched for. I did not know… I did not know you-”
“I’m not,” Will growled, interrupting her before she finished. “What did you do to me? Why couldn’t I smell him? Why couldn’t I transform and rip his throat out like I should’ve from the start?”
“I do not know!” she said as she lifted herself up. “Perhaps the same reason I could not detect him through you. He must be powerful. Enough to confuse you and your pack. I told you, he could brainwash! He tricked you, alpha!”
As the anger built back up in his body, threatening to make him Change, the door opened and the smaller witch came in, taking in the scene with her old eyes. Her eyes rested on Will, but she remained speechless.
Her mother draped an arm around her and pressed one hand at her own throat to soothe the sting from Will’s attack. “We will continue the trial tonight. If you would like, I can ask another wolf to take your spot on the panel,” she said.
“No,” Will snarled. “I’ll stay. I want him killed.” He turned away and started out the door with Lou Ellen at his heels. Cecil and the rest of his pack were waiting, dressed in long robes that had been supplied for them. “Cecil,” he breathed, feeling the guilt creep up on him. Cecil turned to him, confusion clear in his features. “I’m so sorry,” Will told him. “I should have listened to you. You were right.”
But Cecil looked over his shoulder and muttered, “Bianca.”
Will turned and his features immediately twisted into a scowl. “Get away from us,” he said menacingly.
Bianca only looked at him with her large brown eyes as she searched for words. “Will, wait,” she pleaded. “He wanted to tell you.” Will furrowed his eyebrows and looked away. “He wanted to tell you what he was, but he was scared.”
“He should be,” Will snapped.
“Will, please,” she insisted. “You mean so much to him, and I know he means a lot to you too-”
Before she could continue speaking, heat rolled through Will’s body. He’d held back his anger and pain long enough. He couldn’t hold it in anymore. His limbs shifted until he was on all fours, looking down at Bianca, teeth bared and his back arched. She gasped and looked up at him. Another figure approached her, pushing her back.
“Down, boy,” the vampire hissed, standing eye to eye with him. It was the one from the woods. “Leave my daughter alone.” Will remained in his protective stance, ready to attack. But the vampire seemed unimpressed. He looked at Will like a vet would inspect a puppy. It made Will growl, and the vampire’s coal black eyes returned to his face. “So it was you my son kept leaving to see. I knew he has a tendency to allure other Mystics, but you? Well, that’s unlike him,” he said. Will snapped his jaws at him, barking loudly as he did.
Before he could say anything else, the doors to the court slammed open and a bloodcurdling screech echoed through the room. Three imps tumbled into the room, stumbling over each other. “Imbeciles!” the witch screeched, her hands in fists at her sides. “Useless!” Her eyes swept across the room until she saw the only other two vampires in the room. “Take them in!” she screeched. “Now!”
“What?” Bianca cried as another imp that had been standing guard started for her. “No! Why?” Cecil took a step forward, but Will barked and slammed his paw down, stopping him. “Father?” Bianca called as another imp took hold of the adult vampire.
“What’s going on?” Lou Ellen asked.
“The little leech escaped,” Madame Levesque hissed as she approached.
Bianca’s head snapped up. “Nico?” The witch sneered at them and waved a hand. The imps dragged the two into the hallway, presumably to the cell Nico had been in, with Bianca kicking and trying to fight her way free.
Will forced himself to Change back, and once he did, another boy from his pack offered him a robe. “Now what?” he asked.
“We have to hunt him down,” she snarled. “I don’t know how he could have escaped, those fairy binds are too strong! And the key-” she reached into her pocket to check if it was still there. She pulled out a silver key and scowled. “This is the wrong key,” she growled through clenched teeth.
“We can hunt for him,” Will said. “We can find him-”
“You spent the last couple of months with his tongue down your throat and you still didn’t know what he was!” she spat. “You are useless in this search. No. You and your pack go home. I will handle this.” She snapped her fingers and an imp appeared at her side.
“Will,” Lou Ellen said gently. “Will, none of us knew. Don’t blame yourself.”
“He tricked all of us,” Cecil agreed. “Let’s just go home.”
He pulled away from them and exited the court. He broke into a run until he’d left the robe behind and was on all fours. He dashed into the trees, his heart pounding loudly in his ears. He kept running, trying to put as much distance as he could between himself and the Mystic court. He didn’t stop until he’d exhausted himself.
Nico was a vampire. The boy who had made his heart leap, the boy who taught him to bend the rules a little- a bloodsucker. How many times had Will kissed him in the last few months? How many times had Nico’s tongue left him dizzy and warm? He’d let himself fall apart in his arms, he’d held him and comforted him. A murderer.
A howl that had built in his chest ripped through his throat, causing his head to fall back and the birds to scatter from their trees. He let out another howl, and another, until they were only whimpers hidden among the trees and hills.
He let himself lay down and rested his head on his paws, trying to stop recalling his short lived relationship. Nico wasn’t who he thought he was. He was a monster. A killer. Will looked down at the fur of his paws and grumbled. He wasn’t exactly a dream come true either.…
But at least he didn’t kill people. At least he didn’t leave them bloodless in alleyways and in the woods after luring them away.
The sun had begun to set by the time he heard Lou Ellen looking for him. Her paws padded on the ground until she laid down beside him and nuzzled against him. Will whined and turned his head away. He heard her huff before he felt her teeth pulling at his ear. She tugged until she’d managed to force him to stand and barked angrily at him. Will sat on his hind legs and watched her as she paced back and forth in front of him, barking lowly and growling. She seemed to be chiding him, but Will didn’t care. If he tried to lay back down though, she’d snap and snarl at him, so he stayed sitting until she sat in front of him too.
Her blue eyes held his gaze, alert and attentive. She yipped and Will huffed allowing himself to Change back. He sat down, feeling exhausted from having spent so long in his wolf form. Lou Ellen Changed too, and she sat beside him as they looked at the trees respectfully.
“They haven’t found him, in case you’re wondering,” she said. “The Mystics were allowed to go home, but several have gone missing. The child is gone, and so is the merboy.” Will wrinkled his nose in disgust. He remembered the blush that had flooded Nico’s cheeks when Will had mentioned him, the way Nico said his name. “There’s also Leo…. Though they’re not too worried about that.”
“Have the pack keep a look out for him. I might not be able to find him, but the others can. Kayla and Austin are the oldest, have them lead a few hunts.”
“What do we do if we find him?” she asked softly.
“Turn him in,” Will snapped.
She didn’t answer for a few seconds. Then, “They’ll kill him. You know that. Are you willing to let that happen?”
“He’s a monster, Lou. He’s not who we thought he was.” She sighed and remained silent. “Give the order. Meanwhile, it looks like we should get ready to start school again.” Classes would resume in a few weeks. Summer was over. Will wanted to gag at the idea that his little fling had been the definition of a doomed summer love.
No, not love. Will didn’t love him. He was a vampire. It was all a mistake.
He rubbed his face in agitation and gestured to Lou Ellen that they should go. They morphed to their wolf forms and returned to their homes.
That night, Will couldn’t help but try to find Nico. He left his house and started for the woods. He was caught by surprise when he saw Lou Ellen staring at the trees with a dubious look on her face. She jumped when she heard him and scowled. “Jesus, Will.”
“What are you doing out here?”
She sighed and crossed her arms. “Probably the same thing as you. Looking for a rogue vampire.” She glanced back at the trees. “But I don’t know if I should bother here. He wouldn’t hide somewhere so obvious.”
“That’s exactly why we should look there,” Will said. “The bloodsucker is smart. And everyone knows he’s smart. He knows nobody would think he’s hiding in an obvious place, so it’s exactly where he’d hide.”
“What, like reverse psychology?” Lou Ellen asked. Will nodded. “Alright.” He started into the woods and kept his eyes peeled for any type of movement. He managed to corner a few squirrels and rabbits, but no vampire.
Eventually, the dirt floor changed into sand as Will broke out of the trees and was met by the sea breeze. He felt a knot in his throat and his eyes immediately fell to the spot where Nico had taken him when he showed him the beach. He remembered the kisses, the gentle strokes of his hand, the lazy smile as he looked at Will. How could a monster have been hiding underneath all of that? He remembered the panic and confusion in his eyes when Will mentioned his heartbeat.
Maybe Nico had cared for him. Maybe the smiles and gestures had been sincere. None of that changed the truth, though. None of that changed the fact that Nico had been lying the whole time, hiding a horrible secret. Will growled and turned away, his heart pounding and his chest heaving.
“Will?” Lou Ellen called after him as he dove back into the woods. The moonlight hardly made it through the trees, but Will managed to see well enough to make his way. “Will.”
“I’ll find him,” he swore. “I’ll find you, di Angelo!” he shouted at the trees. “I’ll find you and I’ll rip your throat out. You’ll pay for every horrible thing you’ve done, do you hear me? I know you’re out there you rotten leech!”
He turned and saw Lou Ellen staring at something behind him. He turned, but he didn’t see anything besides trees. When he turned back to her, there were tears sliding down her cheeks. “What are you looking at?” he snapped.
She jumped, her gaze returning to him, and wiped her face clean. “Nothing. It’s just you’re acting so different….” She stepped back and furrowed her eyebrows. “Look at your hands, Will.”
He looked down and was surprised to see the extended claws and fur sprouting. As he watched, the claws receded, and his hand returned to normal, the hairs receding into his skin gruesomely. Lou Ellen was still looking at him. “We can do that? Half-Change?”
Will frowned and shook his head. “I’ve always done it,” he admitted. “It doesn’t matter right now. Let’s go. We’ll visit Madame Levesque tomorrow and figure out how we can help find N- the leech.” She frowned at him. “What?” he growled.
“He has a name,” she snarled back. “You’ve liked him for so long, Will. You’ve been dating him for almost three months now! You can’t just turn-”
“Shut up!” he shouted with the undertone of a growl putting power in his words. Lou Ellen choked on her words and gasped for air. “He lied,” he insisted. “He’s a vampire, and nothing more. I feel nothing for him. Nothing.” Lou Ellen opened her mouth and again, she could only manage a dry coughing fit. “Let’s go,” Will said, without sympathy.
As he turned Lou Ellen looked back at the spot Will couldn’t see. She saw several Mystics she knew and didn’t know. But her eyes were drawn to the boy in a torn leather jacket on his knees with his hands at his ears as he shook his head and rocked back and forth. She couldn’t even manage to choke out an apology.
Will didn’t bother waiting on Lou Ellen. He walked away from the woods, and eventually Lou Ellen joined him on the street. Before reaching her house, she touched her throat and looked at Will with uncensored anger. He gave her permission to speak again, but she only let out a sigh of relief. Then she turned away without another word.
The next day, Will arrived at the witch’s house as soon as he could, ready to offer any sort of help. She seemed distressed and edgy. “Mystics are going missing,” she said. “There’s another wolf pack, the whole lot is gone. The King and Queen of the sea haven’t seen their son since shortly after the vampire’s escape yesterday. My daughter….” She scowled. “She’s disappeared too. Even one of the guards has gone missing. They’re with him I know it.”
“They’re… helping him? Despite all he’s done?”
She looked at him with narrowed milky eyes that made the hair on his neck stand. “I’ve told you, alpha. Vampires have silver tongues. They can convince anyone of anything.” She looked him over and gave a cold smile. “Even of being in love.”
Will sneered and clenched his fists. “A killer like him can’t love. And I’m no idiot. I feel nothing for him. Nothing but hatred. I’ll do anything to help you find him and bring him in.”
She sighed and tapped her fingers anxiously on the table. “I’ve got search parties out for each missing person, the vampire being a priority. For the time being, since your senses are too weak whenever you’re near him, you are to do nothing. Once we’ve located him, we could use the weakness against him.”
“Meaning?” he questioned.
“He gets a heartbeat around you, yes?” Will felt his cheeks warm, but he ignored it. He nodded. “And his senses dull as well?” He nodded again. “That means he can’t fight back. Once we find him, we’ll use you to weaken him and bring him in.”
“Fine,” he breathed. “Keep me posted. Now that he’s a fugitive there’s no need for a trial. He can be killed on sight.”
“True,” she said smiling wickedly. “However I have something else planned before granting him that mercy.” Will furrowed his eyebrows, and strong tug in his gut made him feel suddenly wary. “Worry not, little wolf. Go home now.”
Instead of going home, Will went to see Lou Ellen. Her father opened the door and looked at him in frustration. He had always believed that Will was seeing Lou Ellen behind his back, despite the fact that Lou Ellen had already explained countless times that Will was gay. He let him in with a grunt and Will went to look for Lou Ellen in her room and found her sitting on her bed with a book in her hand.
She looked up at him and scowled. “What?” she snarled.
He sighed and sat at the edge of her bed. “I’m sorry, Lou Ellen. I was a mess yesterday. I mean, cut me some slack, I just found out I’ve been making out with… a vampire.” Lou Ellen continued to glare at him. “Look, I know I shouldn’t have let that all out on you. You’re my beta. We’re in this together. Please forgive me.”
She huffed and put her book down. “Don’t you ever stop me from speaking again, Will. Do you understand?” He smiled and nodded. She relaxed a bit and took her lower lip between her teeth. “I just don’t get it. Did you really just stop feeling everything you felt for him? Are you really willing to kill him?”
“He doesn’t get that option anymore, Lou Ellen. We’re supposed to track him down and bring him in. That’s it. You wanted to be on her side of the war, didn’t you?”
“Not like this, Will.” He took a deep breath and shook his head. “What about what he feels for you? You heard Bianca. He really cares about you.”
“Stop,” he growled, feeling the tension returning to his muscles. “We’re not going into this again. Please.” She furrowed her eyebrows and nodded. “Why do you look like you haven’t slept?”
She looked away from him and shrugged. “I didn’t. Rough night.”
“Do you want me to let you sleep? There’s not much we can do anymore. Madame Levesque will tell us when she needs us.”
She flinched at the name but nodded. Before he left, she said, “Wait. If she tells you anything, you’ll tell me, right? I want to help you. I don’t want you doing these things alone.”
He nodded and went back home.
Two days, and a handful of more missing Mystics, later, Madame Levesque requested a visit from Will. Immediately, he called Lou Ellen so she could go with him.
The pair went to the house at the bayou and seated themselves at Madame Levesque’s table. “I have an idea,” she said with a twisted smile. “Alpha, would you say the vampire truly felt something for you?”
Immediately, Will’s cheeks flushed and he felt tense. “Excuse me?”
“Before you knew the despicable creature he was, did you believe he truly cared for you?”
Will couldn’t bring himself to answer. He had a knot in his throat and he didn’t trust his voice. Thankfully Lou Ellen did. “As a bystander,” she said, “I think he did. He looked at him a certain way. Not like a predator. Like a protector.” Will glanced at her and gulped. Was that true?
“Perhaps he was that good an actor,” Madame Levesque mused, causing his stomach to twist. “Regardless, I believe we should take the chance. His sister doesn’t do well under pressure, and we believe we may have an idea of his location.”
“His sister?” Lou Ellen asked sitting up.
“Where?” Will questioned.
“Near the beach. It makes sense if that sea prince is with him. So what I need you to do is go there and call for him. Call for him as though you’ve forgiven him. Make him think you want to protect him. And when he reveals himself to you, the guards will take him.”
“You want Will to lie to him?” Lou Ellen scoffed.
“It’s no worse than the lies he gave your alpha, little she-wolf. It is simply revenge. It will end in justice.”
“You have a twisted idea of the term ‘justice,’” Lou Ellen snarled. “He won’t-”
“I’ll do it,” Will interrupted. Lou Ellen’s mouth snapped shut and she looked at him in shock. “I learned a lot about him these last few months. I know how to get to him if he was sincere. If not, we’ll just keep looking, right?”
“Wonderful,” Madame Levesque said, patting his hand. “We will go tonight. We will put them in their place, alpha. Do not worry.”
Will nodded and signaled to Lou Ellen that they should leave. She followed him out of the house, remaining unusually quiet. “What? No thoughts? No, ‘What do you think you’re doing, this isn’t you, this isn’t right’ speech?”
She shook her head and looked at him with a blank expression. “I told you- I’m going to help you.”
“You can’t come tonight.”
“Okay,” she said shocking him further. Then she walked down a different path to get home, leaving Will on his own.
Chapter 14: (In)Sincerity
He hadn’t moved from his spot on the ground. Will’s words continued to echo through his mind, leaving him paralyzed and unable to think of anything else.
How could his emotions have changed so drastically so quickly? How could Will have gone from giving him that easy going smile that made his heart flutter to sneering at the mention of his name, from promising to protect him to threatening to kill him, from calling him sappy pet names to insulting him for what he was?
Nico finally stood in aggravation as the emotions began to overwhelm him. The other Mystics that had been nearby jumped and scrambled away quickly. They had all been waiting for him to burst and were afraid of what he would do once he did.
Only Percy remained where he was, watching him carefully as Nico started for the trees and scrambled into one, throwing down branches in his angry haste to climb. Nico perched himself on a branch and sat staring at the leaves and the bugs crawling around on the bark.
A few moments later, he heard a whistle and glanced down to see Percy looking up at him from the forest floor. “You want to give me a hand? I mean, I’m still not used to these legs.”
He frowned and jumped down to a lower branch so he could extend his hand out for Percy to take. Gripping his arm tightly, Nico pulled him up and over his back. Percy held on as Nico jumped up the branch he had been at.
For a few seconds, Percy didn’t say anything. He just sat down in front of him, holding on to the branches to be sure he didn’t fall. “It’s funny. I’ve spent all my life in the depths of the ocean. Now I’m up in a tree. Like a bird.” Nico hummed, unable to even smile. “Nico, he didn’t mean it. You know that, don’t you?”
He scoffed and hit head against the bark. The bark chipped away and a soft indent was left for Nico to rest his head on. “He sure sounded like he did. I mean unless he’s that good of an actor.”
Percy frowned and scooted closer slowly, wincing at the roughness of the bark. “I’m serious. People do and say stupid things when they’re upset. Especially if the person that upset them is someone they really like.”
“What you mean this is like that Disney movie with Hercules?” Percy furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “Never mind,” he said. “I don’t know, Percy. I told Bianca from the start. Who could ever love a monster like me? I drink blood for crying out loud.”
“Anyone could,” Percy insisted. “Because you’re not only someone who drinks blood to survive. You’re… smart and… sarcastic. You can be nice though. You also defend the people who are important to you. You’re sincere. Persuasive, of course. Funny. Mature.” Nico let out a soft breath of surprise. Percy looked over at him and shrugged. “You’re more than just a vampire Nico. To be a vampire you have to be a person. And anyone could fall in love with you.”
Nico held his eyes for a moment and saw that he meant it. He truly believed that Nico was more than a bloodsucker. In his green irises, he saw innocence and sincerity. Without giving it much thought, Nico leaned forward and pressed his lips against Percy’s.
His hand rested on his cool cheek, as he gasped softly and accepted the gentle kiss. Nico pulled back and gave him a small grateful smile. Percy chuckled softly. “We should really work on your way of saying thank you.”
Nico scoffed and smiled. “Ah. It was also an apology.” He shrugged. “I mistreated you. I let you feel used. And I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Percy assured.
Before he could talk again, they heard fast footsteps and immediately tensed. Then Nico recognized Lou Ellen as she broke the barrier. “Nico? Hazel?” she called. The other Mystics swarmed her waiting for news. “Where’s Nico?”
“Come on,” he whispered to Percy, gesturing for him to get on his back. Together they leapt down from the tree, and Percy stumbled away dizzily as Nico walked toward Lou Ellen. “Yeah?”
“He’s coming tonight. He wants to lure you out for the witch, so he’s coming tonight to try and persuade you to come out of hiding.”
“How does he know we’re here?” Leo the imp asked. “I thought nobody knew except the people Hazel told.”
Lou Ellen started to pace as she searched for words. Then the other wolf alpha stepped forward and said, “How do we know she didn’t tell? She’s an alpha’s beta, she has to remain loyal to him.”
Lou Ellen growled and stepped forward to face the other alpha. “I may be a beta, but that doesn’t mean I have to tell him everything. I’m helping him but he doesn’t know how. I’m not ratting you guys out.” She turned to Nico and bit her lip. “It’s because of your sister.”
“Excuse me?” he hissed. Suddenly, he felt a thump in his chest. Then another. “He’s here,” he said. Hazel began chanting softly and the other Mystics remained silent, waiting.
The sound of crunching leaves turned Nico’s attention to the far edge of the barrier. “Nico?” he heard him call. “Nico, I know that you’re here somewhere. I know you can hear me.” Nico clenched his teeth and tried to slow his heart rate. The more blood he wasted, the hungrier he’d be when it was over.
His eyes were immediately drawn to the head of blond hair. Ironically, Will was wearing black clothes as though he wanted to be inconspicuous. But with that hair? It made Nico smile.
Will walked a few paces before stopping, his eyebrows furrowing. “Nico? Look, I- I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything I said before. You know I didn’t mean it.” He stopped and looked around. As he turned, Nico noticed how dim his eyes looked. The last few days seemed to have sucked the light of him. Was that his fault? “It’d be a lot easier to talk to you if you would come out and answer, you know? Please? Remember, I promised I’d keep you safe.” He paused again and Nico noticed the other Mystics were beginning to close in on him, as though expecting him to burst out and run into Will’s arms, exposing the rest of them.
He wasn’t stupid. Especially after Lou Ellen had warned him.
Will sighed at the lack of response. Then suddenly he fell to the ground as though his knees had been knocked out from under him. Nico gasped and his immediate reaction was to help, but Lou Ellen put a hand on his shoulder. “This is your fault, Nico! This is all you! You should have told me! God, you should have fucking told me!” he yelled. “The moment Cecil-” He stuttered for a moment then shook his head. “The moment Cecil found out, you should have admitted it. Instead of me having to see you get dragged into that damn courtroom!” He took a few ragged breaths and hunched over, growling. “I know you’re here!” he growled. “I can’t Change. I know you’re here.”
“It hurts,” Lou Ellen explained in a whisper. “Not being able to Change. It’s like not being able to take your hand out of a fire.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows and looked at Will again.
“Please, Nico!” he begged. “Please just let me know you’re okay.” He began breathing deeply through clenched teeth, his hands dug into the dirt, whimpers escaped his throat. “They have your sister,” he choked. “They have your dad and your sister in that cell. They’re torturing them, Nico, and I can help you get them out. But you have to talk to me.”
Nico gripped Lou Ellen’s arm. “Is that true?” he hissed.
“I don’t know,” she said fearfully. Nico looked up and debated his options. Would he really help? Or would Nico stepping out only result in him being captured?
“Nico! Nico, you are not the victim here! You hurt me too! You lied to me and you hurt me, don’t you dare act like this is all you!”
“The boy doesn’t even know which tactic to use,” Annabeth, a blond witch that had joined them, muttered under her breath. “He’s going from his own emotions to Nico’s and back.”
“Because he’s insincere,” Percy muttered.
“They didn’t think this plan through,” Hazel whispered.
Nico screwed his eyes shut and covered his ears. He turned away from them and dove into Hazel’s tent, muffling Will’s shouts and getting away from all the other Mystics’ whispers and criticism.
A few minutes later, an uncomfortable itchy feeling began in his throat. His stomach burned and his tongue was dry. He groaned and laid down on the floor wishing he could still sleep. If he could sleep everything would just go away.
Will didn’t mean any of it. He didn’t care. Not really. It was a trap. And even though Nico should hate him… he couldn’t. Not after he’d torn through decades of empty feelings and broken through to remind Nico what it was like to feel… warm.
“Nico?” he opened his eyes and saw Hazel crouching at the entrance. “Your fangs are out.”
“I’m hungry,” he muttered. She frowned and went back out. A few seconds later, Percy opened the tent. “No,” Nico said immediately. “I’ve used you enough. No.”
Percy rolled his eyes and rolled up his sleeve. “It’s fine. You’re hungry. You need to be strong. Besides, we put all that behind us, remember?” He held out his arm and looked at Nico expectantly.
He scoffed and after a moment of hesitation, he took his arm. Instead of biting it, he pulled him closer until he could cup his face with one hand and tilt it with the other. “It flows better from here,” he whispered.
“O-okay,” he stammered.
Nico noticed the vein in his neck pulse faster. With a smile, he pressed his lips against his neck and heard his breath hitch. His eyes shifted into heat-sensitive vision. He closed his eyes and sunk his teeth into his tender neck. Percy sighed. His breaths turned into pants. His hands pulled Nico closer. Once Nico’s thirst was sated by sweet, surprisingly warm, salty blood, he licked the wound shut, but continued to kiss his neck, moving up slowly until they were face to face.
He looked into his sea green eyes that seemed more pupil than iris at the moment. Percy’s breaths were ragged and unsteady. Nico dropped his eyesight to his parted lips and kissed him. He kissed him rougher than he had in the tree, slipping his tongue into his mouth, biting his lip.
At first Percy kissed him back. At first, Percy was pulling him closer until Nico’s legs were on either side of him, until there was no space between them. His hands had gone into Nico’s hair, tangling and bringing him closer.
Then he pulled his hands away and pressed them against Nico’s chest. He pulled away from the kiss, stopped reacting to it until Nico stopped. They were still close, but Percy looked away from him. “Nico, you’re hurting right now.”
“Exactly. So help me stop.”
“Nico,” Percy protested. “That’s not how it works.” Nico began to object and pull him in again, but Percy pushed his hands away. “This isn’t how friendship works. This is you using me again, Nico.” Nico slouched and sat back. “I’m sorry.”
“Mm, you really know how to kill the mood, huh?” Percy looked down, his cheeks as red as his lips. “Hey, that was a joke,” Nico said quickly. He tilted his face up and tried for a smile. “You’re right. I’m sorry. You shouldn’t be.” He gulped and shook his head. “It’s just… how could he just…?”
“Yeah, I know,” Percy assured, pulling him into a hug. “Let’s just take this all step by step. Right now Hazel and Annabeth are trying to figure a new place we can go since they know we’re here. Lou Ellen and Leo are trying to see if there’s a way to break in and get your dad and sister.”
“Oh shit, Bianca,” he remembered guiltily, scrambling out of the tent. He looked around for Lou Ellen and raced towards her. “I have to get her,” he said. “I have to.”
“You’re the one she wants, we can’t put you-”
“Oh come on, Hazel said so herself. I’m just a red herring! A distraction from something bigger! She only wants to make me out to be the bad guy so nobody realizes it’s her. It’s not like I’m important right now.”
“Then why is she making Will try to lure you out?” Leo asked.
“To keep Will on her side,” Lou Ellen muttered. “That bitch is good at manipulation.” Leo and Nico looked at her in surprise. “Sorry, I meant witch.”
“Sure you did,” Leo smirked. “Anyway, we’re not risking you.”
“Who made you lead imp?” Nico snapped. Leo frowned and swiped at Nico with his pointed tail. “Ah! Ow!”
“Boys,” Annabeth interrupted. “As fun as it is to watch you two banter, we actually have a plan.” The other Mystics were gathered by Hazel. Once they were all together, Annabeth began. “School starts up in a bit, right?”
“Yeah like two weeks,” Nico confirmed.
“Okay. So that’s when you’ll go back. Hazel thinks the spell should wear off by then. If not, she’ll give you one that makes your powers stay strong even around him. An anti-potion if you must.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows. “Now, two weeks of absence is enough to make the witch doubt if we’ll ever make a move. Now, Nico you have a certain mission. You have to convince Will of the truth. The truth about you, the truth about Levesque. Piper,” she said pointing at the fairy, “will help you figure out the right thing to say. Persuasion is strong with fairies.”
“And merpeople,” Percy interjected. Annabeth gave him a side look and he shrugged. “Sorry.”
“And vampires,” Nico added.
“Yes, but your persuasion is in your scent, your voice, your appearance. Fairies have it in their voice. And merfolk,” she said acknowledging Percy, “in their mystery and song. So you’ll need her help.” Nico sighed and nodded.
“Why would I go up to him in school though?”
“Because he’s not likely to attack in a place where there’s a lot of teenagers. Especially after the incident in the gym,” Hazel said. Nico frowned and nodded.
“Meanwhile, I will distract Levesque. She doesn’t know I’m missing yet. And during that time, Lou Ellen and Leo can break your sister and dad out.”
“How exactly am I supposed to skip school? He’ll be suspicious,” Lou Ellen pointed out.
“Fake being sick,” Leo suggested.
“Wolves don’t get sick. Their cells are too strong for human viruses and bacteria,” Nico muttered. The other wolf pack and Lou Ellen looked at him in surprise. “What? I read.”
“I’ll go with her,” Piper spoke up. “She’ll need some persuasion on her side.”
“And I will be providing the spells and potions needed to keep you all from being caught,” Hazel added. “Your scents have to be masked, your powers enhanced. I know a lot from my mom… but I am only eight years old.”
“And about relocation,” Annabeth added. “My mother has a workshop where she used to go and study and create potions. She’s left it alone and it looks like an old library from the outside, but it should be safe for us there.”
“We want to go tonight,” Hazel said. “While the discretion potion is still strong in your bodies.”
Nico waved his hands frantically, calling for a pause. “Okay wait, hold on. Did you hear what he said? They have my sister. And for her to have given away our location…. Hazel, they’re hurting her. She won’t make it two weeks. We have to get her out now.”
“They’ll expect you now!” she said. “If my mom sent him out here with that information, she’ll expect you to go after them tonight. She’ll let the guards off duty, make it seem easy enough, and then you’ll fall right into her hands and she’ll have all three of you.”
“If anything happens to her-”
“Nothing will,” Annabeth assured. “Not fatal at least. She needs them as bait for you.”
All of the information was overwhelming. Nico could feel the panic in his chest. He was absolutely useless at that moment, and he was being targeted for no reason. Or rather, for being the unlucky vampire bitten by his father. “This is bullshit!” he shouted, as his fangs came out and the others took a few steps back. “This isn’t my fault! Why do I have to be the distraction, why does she have to hurt them? What is the point in this when in the end it’ll be a full war anyway?”
“To give you a bad look,” Leo muttered. He had his arms crossed and a solemn look on his face. “She wants to make an example of you and then use it to stereotype the rest of your race. That’s what happened to the imps. They took a few and made them brutal, used only for strength, and now that’s all we are. We’re just used for our strength. And if you don’t have that strength or hard exterior….” He sighed gestured to his cheek where he’d been struck by another imp. “Useless.”
“Leo’s right,” Annabeth said. “If she can make you out to be nothing but a killer…. The Mystics will believe that’s all your kind is. And they’ll want to get rid of you, strip you of power.”
“Meanwhile she’ll be gaining it and nobody will notice,” Nico mumbled. He rubbed his face and groaned. “What about you guys? Can’t you get the word out and convince everyone that she’s lying?”
“She discredits us,” Percy said. “When I went to talk to my parents about you, to tell them you weren’t hurting me, they wouldn’t listen because the witch told them you brainwashed me.”
“Yeah, we heard her tell us. She said a vampire could confuse our sense of right and wrong and manipulate us,” one of the trolls said.
“That’s what she told Will,” Lou Ellen said. “She told him you manipulated him so he wouldn’t know what you were. That you tricked him into liking you.”
His hands turned into fists at his sides. He wasn’t the manipulator. That was her. The one with the silver tongue was her and she had the nerve to accuse him. The thought made his blood boil.
“Let’s go to that workshop,” he said. “Recruit as many Mystics as you can these next two weeks. But my sister will not be waiting for two more weeks. We won’t go soon, but we’re not waiting that long. And we need a plan of attack.”
“Should I keep playing the mole?” Lou Ellen asked tiredly. “She’ll find me out soon.”
“No she won’t,” Hazel assured. “Just keep acting like you want to protect Will and hate Nico. You need to pretend that you hate him as much as-” She cut off as Nico’s eyes flickered to her and bore into her like razor blades. She gulped and reworded. “As much as you used to hate vampires. Pretend you still want to be on her side of the war.”
Lou Ellen nodded and sighed. Her phone started ringing and she winced. “I get service here?” She pulled her phone out and answered. “Hello? Will, hey,” she looked at Hazel with wide eyes. “No. No I’m not home, I’m- Will are you… are you crying?” Nico felt his chest constrict and his throat knot. “I’ll meet you in a bit, okay?” She hung up and gulped. “It’s fine. I’ve got this. I’ll let you know any new information.”
“Here’s the workshop address. Memorize it, then burn that paper,” Annabeth said. Lou Ellen nodded and stuffed it in her pocket. “Time to pack up everyone,” she told the others.
They all scattered, but Nico remained where he was, looking at the ground. Slowly, Lou Ellen went up to him and placed a nervous hand on his arm. “He’s just angry. And hurt,” she said. “From the moment we get bitten, we get told to hate and distrust vampires. And… as not only Will’s beta, but his best friend, I can promise you that his feelings for you were genuine. Since before he got up the nerve to talk to you.” Nico looked away and clenched his jaw. “He just needs to get this out of his system. I know you can convince him to believe you whenever we get back to school. That so-called hatred is just the affection he thinks he shouldn’t feel.”
“Right. Thanks Lou,” he muttered.
“Hey, if you could convince me, you can convince him. He’s blinded by pain right now. Even Cecil knows-”
“Lou Ellen, I know you’re saying this to make me feel better,” he interrupted. “But seeing as in this last week he has gone from kissing me like there’s no tomorrow to threatening to rip my throat out and pretending to care just to help the witch catch me, it’s really not.” She took a deep breath and nodded apologetically. “Just… keep him safe. From her. And himself. Please?”
“Of course,” she promised. “I’ll get back to you with any information.” She turned away and started running through the trees until Nico couldn’t hear her anymore.
With that out of the way, he turned to see if he could help carry any of Hazel’s toys or jewels. She was stuffing them into her overalls and, at that moment, she looked so small, so child-like, it was hard for Nico to remember that she was leading this rebellion. And even harder to remember that she was his sister too. That vampire blood or DNA or whatever it was that passed on and had allowed for her creation was running through her veins.
“Hey, Shortstack,” he said as he walked up to her. She glared at him with golden eyes that were full of magic and mystery. “Want a piggy-back ride? I’m pretty fast, it’ll be fun.”
With a bit of trouble, she replaced her frown with an excited smile and nodded. Nico helped her onto his back and turned to see if the others were ready. The fairies were ready to fly, and Leo had one troll in each clawed foot as he flapped his wings slowly enough to hover above the ground. Meanwhile, Percy and Annabeth had each gotten onto a wolf’s back as they prepared to run.
“Alright then,” Nico said. “Time to go.”
Immediately, the Mystics each took off for their new hideout. Nico could hear Hazel’s delighted laughter as he ran. In the background, he heard distant flapping or fluttering of wings and the pants of the wolves as their paws hit the ground.
Chapter 15: Pack Loyalty
The lack of activity was unnerving. None of the missing Mystics, including Nico, had been heard from. They hadn’t tried to break Bianca and her father out of the cell or tried to attack anyone who was helping Madame Levesque.
Will had returned to the place in the forest again a few nights ago. But his senses remained strong. Nico wasn’t there anymore. And try as he might Will couldn’t pick up a trail on him.
He’d tried telling the witch that as she dragged Bianca to the forest that night, but she wasn’t listening to anyone. Will and half of his pack, as well as a few imps had followed her to the area where she believed Nico to be. Bianca had rusted metal cuffs around her wrists, and chains at her feet.
She looked paler than normal, her veins showed in spidery black lines against the pallor of her skin. Her eyes had become dim, and dark gray circles surrounded them, making her look more like a corpse that a young girl. Her hair was a mess of frizzy tangles and she could barely keep her eyes open as she tumbled over her feet. In that state, it was impossible for her to even try breaking her restraints.
“I thought vampires were supposed to be beautiful and graceful,” Austin muttered behind him.
Cecil growled and turned. “She is beautiful. But she hasn’t eaten. She’s weak.”
“Oh little vampire!” Madame Levesque called. “Come out, come out wherever you are!” The hair on the back of Will’s neck stood. “Don’t you want your sister back? Look at her.” She gripped Bianca’s chin in her hands, her long nails digging into Bianca’s skin. Bianca grunted weakly, but Madame Levesque continued her taunting game. “What will it take for you to save your sister? Don’t you care about her?” When there was no response, she growled and snapped her fingers.
An imp stepped forward and handed her a bottle with a cross on it. “What’s that?” Will asked against his better judgement.
Bianca seemed to recognize it. She began breathing heavily, as though she were afraid, but she couldn’t move away. Her eyes remained fixed on the bottle as she tried to struggle against her bindings. Slowly, Madame Levesque uncapped the bottle and glared at the forest, as though she were waiting for Nico to stop her.
When he didn’t she flung the bottle in an arc and Bianca’s scream pierced the air along with a sickening sizzling sound, causing the wolves to step back. “Is that what you need, vampire? Do you need to hear her scream?”
She turned to Bianca and pour the water on her head slowly. As it trickled down her face, Bianca let out an unnatural guttural scream. Oddly enough, the scent of sweet flowers filled the air as Bianca’s skin burned. A strong hand gripped Will’s arm and he turned to see Cecil staring at Bianca in horror. “Holy water. Will, you have to stop her! Please!”
Will wanted to believe Bianca deserved it. That her pain was only fair in comparison to the death she must have caused as a vampire. But he could remember the days when she had accompanied them to the arcade, or bowling, or just to get a snack. He remembered her laughing and telling jokes with them, once stopping to help a stray dog with a limp. Nico had once said that Bianca was incredibly good despite the world she was in. Will had believed he meant their abusive father, but now he knew. Bianca was incredibly good despite being a vampire.
Before he knew what he was doing, he’d stepped forward and grasped Madame Levesque’s wrist, squeezing so she’d let go of the bottle. It clattered to floor, but Bianca continued to cry out in pain, sobbing so badly, Will could imagine the sound literally ripping through her throat. “He’s not here,” he growled. “You know that!”
“Are you forgetting who she is?” Madame Levesque hissed, twisting her arm free. Her bracelets jangled, and her several robes fluttered in the wind. “She’s a vampire!”
“She’s a teenaged girl!” he shouted back. “And you’re torturing her in vain!”
“But is she?” Madame Levesque asked. She turned to Bianca and pulled her up to her feet by a fistful of hair. “How old are you, my darling? Fifty? Sixty? Could you be a hundred?” Bianca sneered at her and managed a good, nasty spit at her face. The witch groaned and threw her back in disgust.
Due to her chains and cuffs and weakness, when Bianca fell, she stumbled over her chains and was unable to block her fall properly. Cecil immediately went to her side to help her up.
Will turned back to Madame Levesque. She grabbed him by the neck and placed him in front of her, facing away. She had something at his neck. It felt dangerously sharp against his Adam’s apple. The rest of his pack began growling; the younger ones, like Cecil, Changed, ready to defend their alpha.
“What about this one?” she shouted at the trees. “What if I sliced right through the pretty neck you kissed so many times, you bloodsucking parasite?” Will winced against the pressure and the memory. He really wished she would stop reminding him.
“He’s not here!” Will shouted again as waves of anger rolled through his body. Being an older wolf, he could control his Change better, but she was obviously not going to listen unless Will proved that Nico was nowhere near.
He pulled her arm away, though the small dagger still managed to nick him before he moved away, and allowed himself to Change, falling on all fours, his chest heaving, his teeth bared. Madame Levesque scowled, though there was no surprise on her face. Only disappointment. She put her dagger away and gave a head jerk to the imps, signaling for them to take Bianca. Cecil growled, and the imps hesitated, but they feared the witch more than a young wolf.
The witch walked up to Will and fixed him with that other worldly clouded gaze, her eyebrows narrowed. “If you interfere with me and my prisoners ever again, little Alpha… you will regret it.” Will snarled but the witch wasn’t even slightly fazed. “Let’s get back,” she ordered.
Will morphed back and Austin offered him a trench coat he’d brought. Will accepted it gratefully and began to lead his pack back. “Will, this is crazy,” Cecil whispered beside him.
“We can’t keep following her, Will,” Kayla agreed. “She has no humanity.”
“They’re not humans,” Will mumbled, furrowing his eyebrows.
“You’re joking right? Hello, Sherlock- neither are we technically,” Cecil snapped. “You had to stop her yourself, Will. And we can all read that look on your face. You’re just as uncomfortable with this as the rest of us.”
“Listen, school starts up soon. She won’t be calling us for errands then.”
“Then who’s going to watch out for Bianca?”
“I don’t like vampires,” Kayla muttered, “But I really hope her brother comes for her soon. It’s not right what she’s doing to her.” Will felt his stomach twist at the indirect mention of Nico.
“Whose shift is it today?” he asked tiredly.
“Me and you,” Cecil answered. “But I don’t know if she’ll trust me enough for it now. She’ll probably call Lou Ellen to do it.”
“I thought Lou Ellen was busy tonight?” Will questioned.
“Well, yeah, but every time the witch needs her, she comes racing to help.” Cecil scowled. “She’s a literal puppy for the witch.”
When they arrived at the courthouse, the witch told Cecil to go home. She told Will to ask Lou Ellen to take the guard shift for the vampires, and Cecil just gave him an I told you so look. She had Will lock Bianca back up.
He took her to the cell where Nico had been that first day in the courthouse and nudged her inside gently. She scrambled to her father’s side immediately, shivering and shaking. Her father looked weak as well, but not as badly as she did. He still managed to wrap his arms around her tightly so that Will wished he could go home so his father could do the same. He wanted to forget the war. Forget Nico. Forget what he was, forget everything about the Mystic world.
But he couldn’t do that. Still as he saw Bianca shivering against her father, looking sick and the complete opposite of what a vampire should, he couldn’t help the pity that sparked in his heart. He looked over his shoulder and pushed up the sleeve of the trench coat. “Here,” he whispered. “I don’t know how long your kind can go without eating. But I know Mystic blood fills you better than human blood.” Bianca sat up and furrowed her eyebrows. “Go ahead. What you went through… wasn’t right. Please.”
Her father held her back, but she shoved his hand away. She crawled across the floor until her cold hand wrapped around Will’s wrist, causing him to clench his jaw automatically.
Instead of biting, she pulled him forward against the bars and lifted herself to be face to face with him. “I don’t need your pity,” she said in a hoarse voice through clenched teeth. “I want my brother to be safe. I want the witch dead.” She let go of him and returned to her father.
Will stared at her in surprise for a few seconds before the door behind him opened. “What happened? Did you find him?” Lou Ellen asked.
“N-no. You got here fast.” She shrugged and looked around him into the cell. “She threw holy water on her. I kept trying to tell her Nico wasn’t there but she wouldn’t listen.” Speaking his name made his throat tighten.
“Are you starting to feel bad for them?” she asked. “I have to say it’s surprising.” Will rolled his eyes and Lou Ellen glanced over at the two vampires sitting against the wall. “Do vampires die of starvation?” Will glanced over at her and saw the worried look in her eyes which shocked him.
“I don’t know. I’m going to get a change of clothes. This coat is uncomfortable.” He walked away from the cell and went to the room that had been the panel room when the court was supposed to start. Madame Levesque had filled it with spare clothes for the wolves in case they Changed and ended up having to parade around naked.
He redressed and when he got back to his post with Lou Ellen, he slumped into a chair and sighed. “This is pointless. We’re just sitting here losing sleep, and nobody’s coming to get them,” Lou Ellen muttered.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Will muttered. “I know he was there when I said she was being hurt. Doesn’t he care for her at all?” Lou Ellen snorted and Bianca hissed weakly. “It always seemed like he cared….” Then again, he did turn out to be an amazing actor.
Lou Ellen didn’t answer for a moment. Then she walked over to him and sat down beside his chair. “Will, I know you’re hurting over him…. I mean, do you think you could talk to him? If it ever came down to it, would you just talk to him instead of turning him in?”
“No,” he scoffed. “Are you insane? He’s a vampire. He did bad things and he ran away. He’s just a criminal, okay? I’m not hurting over anyone.”
Before Lou Ellen could answer, they heard the clinking of chains as Bianca scurried to the bars, her face twisted into a sneer. “How could you?” she spat. “Nico cared about you more than he’s cared for anyone since he was bitten! The way he was with you, I’d never seen him act like that before. How could you turn on him the way you have?” she bared her fangs and hissed angrily. “You’re lucky to have ever met him, Will! And you’re a shit person if you can’t see past the things none of us can control!”
Will felt her words like a punch in the gut. Lou Ellen stood and shooed her away from the bars. “Easy now,” she threatened, “The witch gave me that stupid holy water bottle to use on you if you don’t behave.” Will frowned, but Bianca remained where she was, staring angrily at Lou Ellen.
Will wasn’t sure how much time had passed before Lou Ellen started eating some candy from her pocket. He’d spent the time trying not to remember what it was like to have a boyfriend. Considering how horribly he was failing, the distraction of the noisy wrappers was a relief for him. He turned and raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged and offered him a sweet.
He took it and focused on unwrapping it before eating it. Then, just to keep his mind off Nico, he focused on the taste. It was tangy, sweet, like strawberries and cream. It had a very strong flavor that took him back to when he was a kid. Back when his mom was still alive, and she’d take him to the store with her. She would always let him pick out a bag of candy and they’d share it on the way back home.
The memory made him smile as he closed his eyes and sighed.
Within seconds, he was fast asleep. Lou Ellen couldn’t help but wince when she saw his head loll against the wall. As she stood, Bianca said, “Are betas supposed to trick their alphas like that?”
“Shut up,” she growled. “Don’t you want to get out of here? Besides… he’s on the wrong side.” She heard a thud and several angry grunts from the hallway. Levesque was long gone by now, but she’d left Dumb and Dumber as guards outside the cell room she and Will were supposed to guard.
Lou Ellen opened the door and saw Piper, her thin wings fluttering slightly as she put her feet on the ground. Her midriff was exposed, which wasn’t normal for Piper. Usually she kept herself completely covered except for her back so her wings could expand. She turned to Lou Ellen. “Is he asleep?”
With a grim expression, she nodded. Piper walked over to her and behind her, Dumb and Dumber were piled over each other, each with a large welt on their heads. Together they entered the room where the cell was.
Piper noticed Will before turning to the cell. She inspected him and smiled. “I can see why Nico was so taken to him. He radiates courage and kindness.” She tilted her head. “Naivety and pain too.” She pushed a strand of his hair back and smiled again. “He’s handsome. I couldn’t get a good look at him back in the woods.”
“Okay, not to rush, but we need to get Bianca and her father out. You can swoon over Will later.” Piper rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“Humans,” she muttered. Then she placed her hands on the lock and her hands began to glow. Plants and vines began to grow along the metal, thick and green. Piper stepped back and snapped her fingers, causing the vines to tighten until the metal creaked and the lock was broken. “Come on you two,” she said, swinging it open.
The two vampires staggered out of the cell. Bianca turned to Lou Ellen and frowned. “You’re good at playing both sides.”
Lou Ellen winced and shook her head. “It’s just until I can get Will on the right side. I’m sorry for the holy water deal.” Bianca shivered and shook her head. “They haven’t eaten since they got locked in here,” she told Piper.
“I can’t offer enough blood for both of them,” Piper said.
“I don’t mind,” she answered quickly. She pushed her sleeve up and offered it to Bianca. “Just, you know… don’t drain me.”
Piper held her wrist out to Bianca’s father who didn’t look as weak as he felt. “Same here, sir.”
Hesitantly, the vampires neared the food source. At first, it hurt, and there was nothing Lou Ellen wanted to do more than Change and claw at Bianca. She felt her eyes turn into the icy blue they were when she was a wolf. Then the pleasure started.
She entered a stage of bliss, and a lazy smile spread on her face. There was nowhere she would have rather been.
But then it was over. Bianca had managed to pull away, gasping. Her skin didn’t look as translucent and her eyes looked brighter. Searing red marks, like faded burns covered her face, but they didn’t seem to bother her.
Piper looked bored, maybe slightly grossed out as the adult vampire pulled away from her. “Bianca are you alright?” he asked going to his daughter. His voice resonated, strong and deep. “Where’s Nico?”
“I’ll be taking you to him. Are you both strong enough to run?” Piper asked. Bianca stood up straighter, determination clear on her face. Her father nodded. “Great. Let’s go.”
“I’m staying,” Lou Ellen said. “I’m not leaving Will.” Piper frowned but she nodded. She gave made a strange symbol over her heart, and Lou Ellen assumed it was something important for fairies. Then she led the vampires away from the cell.
She took a deep breath and rummaged in her pocket for another candy like the one she’d given Will. She looked at her alpha and felt guilt settle over her. Then she popped the candy into her mouth.
She focused on the tangy taste, like sherbet. It reminded her of a time when her mother and father would take her to the ice cream shop on her birthday. She always got orange sherbet and topped it with gummy bears. That was before her mom left. Before she got bitten and had to distance herself from her father. It was a good time.
Her eyelids became heavy until, like Will, her head lolled to the side against the cell bars and she was fast asleep.
Will woke up when he realized an angry imp was shaking him in the air. He growled and scratched at its ugly face. The imp dropped him, and Will landed on the floor in a crouch.
He stood up and remembered he was supposed to be guarding the cell, but he was nowhere near it. He was in the courtroom and Lou Ellen was standing a few feet away rubbing her cheek as Madame Levesque began screeching at them.
“You’re a pair of idiots! Useless idiots!” she shouted. The beads in her hair and the bracelets on her arms began to jingle together. “What happened?” she scowled.
“I don’t know!” Lou Ellen shrieked. “I had candy and I was eating it and then I fell asleep!” The witch raised her arm to hit her again, but Will pushed Lou Ellen behind him and caught her arm.
“Do not touch my beta.” He shoved her arm back and stepped closer. He was the same height as the witch, and while she scared the wits out of him, he couldn’t stand to see her mistreat anyone in his pack. “You do one more thing to hurt any of my wolves and we stop helping you. Do you understand?”
The witch sneered. “Who do you think you are, puppy? I don’t need you. And if I did, I could easily imprison you.”
“Yes, because imprisonment has worked so well for you, hasn’t it?” Lou Ellen scoffed. Will furrowed his eyebrows. “Why don’t you ask your stupid body guards what happened? Anyone who breaks in would have had to gone through them first.”
The witch clenched her jaw and turned to the imps whose tails had begun to flick nervously. “Though I hate to admit it, the girl has a point. What happened?” she asked. The imps glanced at each other and the witch screamed in frustration. “Tell me what happened!” she shouted.
“There was a fairy!” one said anxiously. “She came in and she was dancing and… and she looked so pretty,” he said dreamily.
“And then she attacked us,” the other added.
“And you didn’t do anything when she walked in?” the witch said through clenched teeth.
“She said we didn’t have to worry…,” the second one said in confusion, as though barely realizing that it didn’t make any sense.
With the witch distracted, Will turned to Lou Ellen and pulled her away. “What happened?” he asked.
With a sigh, Lou Ellen said, “The vampires escaped.” Will sighed and shook his head in frustration. “Will?” He looked back at her. “Are you really willing to stop helping her?”
He wasn’t sure what was in her voice. Fear? Hope? Regardless, he answered honestly. “This trial has gone to her head. She has no sympathy. She’s worked us to the bone, insulted us, the way she tortures the people she doesn’t like, and trying to hurt you….” Will shook his head. “I understand her cause. But I don’t like the way she’s fighting for it.” He looked back at the witch and took Lou Ellen by the arm. “Come on, let’s go home. We don’t need to do anything for her.”
They left the court quickly and Will took Lou Ellen home before going to his own. He went to his room and sat on his bed with a sigh. His eyes fell on a set of pictures he’d placed on his bedside table a long time ago.
A strip of four small pictures from a time Nico had taken him to a carnival. Will picked up the pictures and stared at them numbly. “I thought vampires couldn’t take pictures…,” he mumbled to himself.
He studied the pictures, the expressions on their faces. Nico looked so sincerely happy…. And so had Will. Even the kiss looked so sweet and filled with…. Could Nico have been faking it all? Could he really have felt nothing the entire time?
Will wasn’t sure what he was feeling as he looked at the pictures. He felt angry, of course. But… he also felt something else. He missed Nico. Even though he shouldn’t, he did. Because even if Nico had been faking it the whole time, Will had not.
For that, Will hated Nico. He hated what he felt for him, hated himself for feeling it. If it was the last thing he did, he would find Nico. Though he wasn’t quite sure what he would do when he did.
Chapter 16: Action & Reaction
As soon as Piper had flown in, Nico had rushed to greet his sister and father. He was horrified to see how weak and pale they looked. Bianca had red marks on her skin that looked like splashes, her hair was tangled, and he could see the black spidery veins like fissures against her skin. His father looked pale as well, and if Nico hadn’t known him for so long, he wouldn’t have noticed just how tired and weak he really was. As soon as they reached the building, they both fell to their knees in exhaustion. Nico kneeled beside them, and Bianca lifted her head, a weary smile spreading on her face when she saw her brother.
“Nico, you’re okay,” she said with a tone of relief.
“Me?” he breathed. “Look at you.” He turned to his father and helped him sit up. “What did they do to you? Father, couldn’t you fight them?”
He shook his head. “If I fled they’d have hurt Bianca more. Besides, I had to be sure you never ended up back in that cell.” His coal black eyes steadied and focused on Nico. “I told you. It’s my job to protect both of you. No matter what.” Nico furrowed his eyebrows and wrapped his arms around him.
Annabeth walked up to him and offered him a glass of scarlet water. It wasn’t blood, Nico could tell by the consistency. She offered another glass to Bianca. “Hazel made this for you both. Lou Ellen told us they weren’t letting you feed.” Nico gave her a questioning look. “She’s not exactly ready to meet… her father.”
“Wait you’ve never met her?” Bianca asked, her voice stronger after drinking half of the liquid. “Isn’t she like five already?”
“She’s eight,” their father said tiredly. He drank from the cup and closed his eyes. “Marie never let me meet her.” He finished the drink and handed it back to Annabeth. “You look just like your mother.” Annabeth’s eyes widened. “Yes, she’s well known for Mystics. Very smart. Marie is powerful and cunning, but your mother… she’s strategic. If you’re anything like her, it’s a good thing you’re on this side of the war.”
“War?” Bianca questioned.
“The witch is trying to use me as an example for all vampires. She wants to get rid of us and slowly take control of the rest of the Mystics,” Nico explained. “Hazel knows all of her plans. Well most of them. Lou Ellen has been filling us on the rest.”
“We might not have that source anymore,” Piper said, her wings fluttering nervously. “Once the witch finds her and Will asleep and these two gone, they might not be trusted anymore.”
“At least if they’re not trusted it might be easier to get to Will,” Annabeth said. Nico clenched his jaw as Will’s name bounced around the conversation.
“Will, that’s the wolf that offered his blood?” Nico’s head snapped up. His father was talking to Bianca, who was nodding.
At Nico’s confused expression, she said, “He’s still good, Nico. And so is Cecil.” She said his name fondly and Nico furrowed his eyebrows. She gestured to the red marks on her skin. “Holy water. The witch was trying to lure you out, so she… she was throwing it all over me. Will stopped her and when we got back to the cell, he offered me his blood to drink.”
“Hey, Bianca!” Nico heard behind him. Percy crouched down to hug her then turned to Nico’s father. “Hello. I’m Percy.”
“The sea prince Nico would meet,” his father murmured. Percy blushed and scooted closer to Nico. Nico heard his heartbeat- faster and lighter than a normal human’s- pick up and he knew his father had heard it too.
“I’ll go let the wolves know we have two new vampires,” Percy said awkwardly before standing and leaving.
Meanwhile, Nico’s father had fixed him with an apprehensive gaze. “Really? A merboy and a werewolf? We need to have a chat about the people you tend to swoon over.”
“Well, at least I didn’t have a kid with a power hungry witch,” Nico snapped. “I’m not swooning over anyone.” His father narrowed his eyes. “There’s more important things right now. Come on, both of you need rest.” He stood and pulled Bianca to her feet. His father followed.
Before Nico could lead them to the old empty offices on the floor, his father had stopped beside Annabeth and said, “Please tell Hazel I look forward to meeting her when she’s ready.” Annabeth nodded and stared after them, Piper hovering in place beside her.
The next day, Nico had been watching the wolves fight and snarl on the top floor when Bianca joined him. “Do you miss him?” she asked.
“I try not to think about him,” he muttered, watching the alpha move quickly as he attacked, his chocolate colored fur was hard to distinguish among the old dusty book cases. Only his bright golden eyes gave any indication of where he was. “It’s not working,” he added. He leaned against his sister and sighed. “I missed you so much, Bianca.”
“Thanks for sending out a rescue mission for me,” she said. She winced as the wolves rolled over each other, biting and snapping and growling, leaving slobber on the floor. “So is this supposed to be our army?” she asked.
“I don’t know what we are. We’re just kids, technically. We haven’t trained or recruited anyone.” Bianca frowned. “I only know I’m supposed to try and get Will on our side. But what happens then? We march bravely to our deaths?”
Bianca stood and glanced over the railing to the other floors. She look back at the wolves and crossed her arms. Then she gestured for Nico to join her. When he did, she said, “You know they’re looking to you. The wolves fight because they have to Change and release that energy, but everyone else is waiting on you. While you’re sitting here heartbroken and moping, everyone else is tense, unsure. You have to lead them.”
“They look to Hazel,” he corrected.
“For answers. To you for action.” Nico frowned and looked down at the rest of the Mystics. There were few, but they all had that uneasy tension in their limbs that screamed uncertainty. Nico doubted they noticed it, but he did. His senses were much stronger after being away from… well, him for so long. He was once again able to see the miniscule details that only his eyes could pick up.
He whistled and the wolves stopped snarling, turning their heads to him in question, some with a roll of eyes as if to say, Really, a whistle?
“Change back and get dressed then meet the rest of us on the first floor, okay?” A few snarled, not used to receiving orders from anyone but their alpha, much less from a vampire, but the alpha dipped his head. Nico took Bianca’s hand and went downstairs where Leo and the trolls were hanging from the ceiling. “Leo, Stolls, downstairs, meeting,” he said straight to the point.
They hopped down and jumped over the railing to the bottom floor. Piper, Annabeth, and Percy got to their feet when they noticed everyone coming together. Hazel popped out of her tent which she’d set up near the children’s books, and behind her, their father followed. Nico raised an eyebrow but didn’t question it in front of everyone.
With their small group all looking at him expectantly, Nico felt nervous. He wasn’t a leader. He was a trouble maker who liked finding ways around rules and doing as he pleased. He didn’t like responsibility. But now he had one. Whether it was for Will or himself or just to get rid of the witch who’d mistreated him and his family, he didn’t care. He just had to set things in motion.
“Okay, guys. We can’t sit on our a- uh butts all day anymore. Breaking my father and sister out will have only fueled the witch’s rage and there’s no way we’re stopping the war she wants to start. This isn’t about my trial anymore. This is about keeping Mystic life the way it always has been. We have to fight. And we have to get others to fight with us, we have to let them know the true cause behind this war.” He took an unnecessary breath and raised his chin. “School starts up soon. So while I try to convince the other pack that seems to follow her so devoutly, the rest of you go to your own communities and try to convince as many as you can to join us.” He turned to Annabeth. “Do you think you can help Hazel cast enough protection spells for them?” She nodded, her grey eyes dark and determined. “Okay. We need all the witches, all the trolls, the imps, the merfolk, and any other Mystic we can get on our side. And when we’re not recruiting we need to train.”
“We have been,” Charles, the wolf alpha said.
“Yes, but you’ve trained with each other. We need to train altogether. Witches against wolves, fairies against vampires, that kind of thing. We need to know how to fight every possible species of Mystic.” They nodded, each of them standing a little straighter, though Nico doubted they noticed it. “Each of you bring out the strong fighting traits in yourselves.”
“We have to remodel a bit, so the place can withstand that level of activity,” Annabeth said. “I can do it.”
“I can help,” Leo said, swinging his tail and beating his wings.
“Okay. Looks like we’ve got our plan. Let’s get to it.” The others each parted quickly to confer, each with more enthusiasm than they’d had since the day Nico was broken out.
He turned, ready to return to Bianca when Piper fluttered in front of him and stopped him. “Ah-ah. Like you said, school starts soon. You need to learn Charmspeak if you want that pretty human wolf boy to come back to you.”
Nico stiffened. “I want him on the right side. It’s not so he’ll come back to me.”
She rolled her colorful eyes. “You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to me,” she said.
“Isn’t it the other way around?” Nico muttered.
She rolled her eyes again. “Not when it comes to fairies. Look, it’s all over your perfectly chiseled vampire features. You miss him. I don’t blame you, he’s a very pretty human, but I’m assuming you miss more than his freckles.” Nico scowled. “If it makes you feel any better, when I saw him, he radiated the same amount of heartbreak as you. But it was mingled with anger and confusion. So instead of acknowledging his heartbreak, he’s tricking himself into thinking he hates you.”
“Yes, that makes me feel so much better,” Nico mumbled. She sighed and put a hand on her hip.
“Nico, the heartbreak is there. If you can break through to it with Charmspeak, it’ll be so much easier to get him back.”
With a sigh, Nico nodded and followed her for his lessons. As they went to a far corner, Nico saw Hazel talking animatedly to her father- their father. And he noticed the excitement in her features, the joy of finally meeting the parent who wasn’t just using her for power.
Piper’s translucent wings fluttered, creating a soft breeze that smelled like open plains and forestry. “Okay, the key to Charmspeak is emotion,” she began.
For the rest of the week, Nico met with her, training himself to use the magical strength in his voice. Meanwhile, Annabeth and Leo had begun tearing apart and rebuilding pieces of the old library and creating a wider space filled with an arena and special bases to help build specific Mystic strengths. Annabeth also helped Percy grow accustomed to controlling water in his humanized state, resulting in frustrating douses for herself the first few times. The wolves had set out to scope the rest of the city for more Mystics without engaging with them just to get an idea of how many would need convincing. Hazel had set to work on spells and potions, telling her father and her sister about everything she knew, and showed off her telekinesis whenever Leo and Annabeth needed anything.
While Hazel prepared that special scarlet mix for Bianca and their father to drink in order to satiate their hunger, Nico kept to his merboy. He didn’t have to feed as often as Bianca did, but he had required Percy’s blood twice since they’d moved to the library.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” Percy asked as he sat beside Nico on the roof of the library the night before school started. Nico tended to go there at night to get a break from the reminder of war. There was a door to a storage room on the third floor. In it was a ladder that led up to the roof which Nico had only told Percy about.
Nico shook his head in response to the question. “I feel like I will always be a monster to him. There’s no changing that.”
“Well,” Percy said in a light tone, “he’s the one who morphs into a giant snarling dog. I know some people wouldn’t exactly call that a blessing. Is he a monster to you?”
“No,” Nico answered, without missing a beat. “No. He’s Will. I mean when I first found out, I was angry. I was shocked. How could I have dated someone I was meant to hate?” He sighed looked up at the night sky. “But I’ve lived long enough to know that the fact that I felt anything around him meant more than the fact that he’s a wolf.”
Percy shrugged. “Maybe you could tell him that?”
“Doubt it’ll mean anything to him.” He sighed played with a small piece of lint which had landed on his jeans. “I don’t want to have to use Charmspeak to convince him of anything. I want him to want to listen, to want to join us, to….”
When he didn’t finish, Percy did it for him. “To want to come back to you.” Nico gave him a sideways glance and sighed, flicking away the lint. “Then don’t use it. If what everyone has said is true, you shouldn’t have to. If he truly has enough compassion to offer Bianca his blood, if he really is heartbroken, if he really is willing enough to go against Levesque’s orders of torture, then… you shouldn’t need it. It’s not like he has a choice whether or not he wants to listen to what you have to say. It’s school. He can’t just wolf out.” Nico snorted. “Just tell him the truth about the witch. It’ll make sense to him.”
Nico looked over at him and nodded. “Yeah. You’re right.” Percy smiled and looked up at the sky. Nico heard his heartbeat pound a little faster. He noticed the gulp he thought he could do subtly enough for Nico not to see. With a roll of his eyes, Nico nudged him gently. “Hey, it’s okay.” Percy looked at him in confusion. “I know what you were going to ask. I’m telling you it’s okay.”
His cheeks reddened. “How could you possibly have known what I wanted to ask?”
Nico shrugged. “I’m good at body language. Besides, I’ve seen you with her when she’s helping you with your powers. That giddiness in you. You do well at passing it off for energy, but… I know it’s for her.” Percy dipped his head in embarrassment. “She’s pretty,” Nico encouraged.
“I was scared you’d be mad.”
“I went and started dating someone without even telling you,” Nico said. “I would have had no right to be mad. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a little hung up over a certain werewolf.”
Percy laughed, releasing the tension from his body. “Good point.” For a few hours, neither of the two said anything. Then, as the sky began to lighten just a small shade, Percy cleared his throat. “You should feed before you go. There’s going to be a lot of fresh blood there.” Nico nodded as he stood and turned to help him up.
As Percy stood, Nico pulled him in. Percy tilted his head slowly, and Nico could hear the rush of blood in the vein at his neck. His fangs grew out and as he bit down, his vision turned the dark night into an array of blues, greens, reds, and oranges. Then he bit into his neck. Percy sighed and his grip on Nico’s shoulders tightened. When Nico pulled away, his body stronger from the blood he’d consumed, Percy let go of him. His cheeks were flushed, his chest rose and fell quickly.
“That’s still exhilarating,” he said nervously.
“Sorry,” Nico muttered.
But Percy shrugged. “It’s what friends do. At least in the Mystic world.” He gave him a tired smile. “Good luck. I’m going to see if I can sleep before we get back to training.” He opened the door to the ladder and returned to the library while Nico watched the sun rise.
He sighed and returned to the library to get his jacket. Bianca came out of the tent where she stayed with Hazel while she slept. “Hey little brother,” she said softly.
“I take it you’re not coming?” She shook her head.
“Bad memories.” He nodded and ran a hand through his hair. “You’ll do fine.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous.”
She rolled her eyes and stepped closer, buttoning up one more spot on his button up shirt and fixing his collar. “What about the first time he asked you to go out?”
“That was different. He liked me.” She ran a hand through his hair, positioning most of it to one side. “What if he gives me that look again?” he whispered. “That hateful, disgusted look?”
“You know,” she said lightly, “usually that worry would stem from liking boys. But no, yours has to stem from the fact that you’re both these magical creatures meant to hate each other.” Nico gave her a tired look and she sighed. “Nico, he likes you. I know he does. He’s hurt, but that’s only because he never got the chance to understand. Everything happened so fast.”
“I hope you’re right,” he muttered. “I have to go.” She nodded and kissed his forehead. He leaned into her and felt her place something in his hand. “Hazel said she wasn’t sure if Will’s potion has worn off yet. So just in case, drink that. It’ll enhance your senses enough to override the weakness his gives you.” Nico nodded and gripped the vial in his hand. He uncovered it and drank it like a shot.
Immediately, he felt the blood in his veins buzz. He felt lighter, stronger, more confident. “Be careful,” Bianca warned.
He nodded. “I’ll be back,” he promised.
He left the library and started for the school at a leisurely walk. The closer he got, the more afraid he felt. He had no doubt he could beat Will in a fight, but he didn’t want Will to try to fight him. And if he did try, Nico didn’t want to fight back. He cared about him too much. He was afraid of the way he would look at him.
As he arrived at school, an incredibly Ordinary place considering the war he was preparing for, he noticed the rest of the students lounging around the front of the school or going inside. He saw the freshmen’s new faces, recognized several familiar.
A few girls giggled and glanced at him, blushing when he looked their way. At one point, Nico would’ve played along, encouraged it. Now, all he could do was manage a small nod before walking. The scent was stronger now- perfumes and colognes and lotions all meant to impress on the first day. The blood.
“Hey, Nico!” He turned and saw an old classmate waving at him. “What’s up dude, you disappeared over summer.”
“Ah, yeah, you know me,” he shrugged, not really answering.
“Where’s Will? Are you two still a thing?” Nico hesitated, the question felt like a hit to his stomach. “Oh,” he said, immediately understanding. “I’m sorry dude. Nah, come on, it’s senior year. You’ll find someone new, I know it.”
Nico managed a smile. “We’ll see,” he said. “I’m going to go get my schedule, okay? I’ll see you around.” He waved and turned away. He started walking down the hall.
That’s when the scent hit him. That’s when he heard the heartbeat. It was distant, but Nico knew. A strong, steady pounding, the scent of antiseptic and wood smoke and sharp yet sweet cologne and… dog.
Chapter 17: Echoes of Love
It was almost funny to be worried about going to school when so much was happening in the Mystic world. Will hadn’t returned to the witch since the night the vampires broke out, and if he was honest it was a relief.
“So, you’ll help me around school?” his new neighbor asked. He gave him a hopeful smile and Will managed to return it.
“Sure, Paolo, don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, well I have to go to the front office first, but… I’ll see you later?” Will nodded and Paolo ducked into the office.
Meanwhile, he and Lou Ellen continued down the halls. Lou Ellen stopped walking suddenly and gripped his arm. He turned back to her, but before he could ask, she breathed, “Looks like your troublemaker’s back.”
Will felt a ball of lead fall in his stomach and he turned back to face the hallway. Sure enough, down the hall a figure was standing, rigid in a leather jacket, dark jeans, and worn boots. Will felt ice water course through his veins as he turned his head first, followed by his body.
And suddenly Will was staring at his ex-vampire-boyfriend’s face. He suddenly felt out of breath and weak. Was this really the first time he’d seen him in person since the morning of the trial? Nico’s eyes were fixed on him, dark and inviting. He looked nervous, and somehow completely in control.
“Oh for crying out loud,” Lou Ellen muttered under her breath. “Are you both going to stand there like statues or are you going to talk or what?” she said, mainly to Will, but Nico scoffed as though he’d heard her… because he had- he was a fucking vamp. Then he started walking toward them.
Will felt his body tense, preparing for an attack. Until Nico was right in front of him in all his vampire grace and confidence. “Will,” he breathed.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he growled.
Nico rolled his eyes and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I mean, I go to school here so….” He shrugged. “Oh you’re talking about the fact that I’m a wanted man? Ah, I’m used to it. Everyone wants me.” He smirked and it took all of Will’s self-restraint not to claw at his stupid face.
“Really?” Lou Ellen snarled.
Nico slumped and sighed. “Sorry, I’m a little nervous. Sarcasm is my defense.” He looked at Will and bit his lip. “It’s not every day I have to face an ex that wants to kill me.” Will sneered and Nico raised his chin. “I’m here to talk to you. Without you trying to choke me or throw me into a cell.”
Someone passed by them and did a double take at their conversation before walking away awkwardly, mumbling something about “kinky.” Will’s grip on his backpack tightened. He stepped toward Nico, evidently shocking him, and focused on his eyes. “You’re lucky we’re in a public place. Otherwise you’d be dead. Stay away from me and anyone in my pack.” He stepped past him, shoving him with his shoulder. A few moments later, Lou Ellen fell in step beside him.
“He’s a monster, Lou.”
“So are we,” she whispered. He gave her a look as they walked and she groaned. “Look, I just don’t think he would’ve risked coming to school if whatever he has to tell us wasn’t important.”
Before he could answer, Cecil came barreling toward them. “Did you guys know Nico’s here? Is he supposed to be here? What is he doing here?”
Will groaned and walked away from them, but they quickly flanked him anyway. “I think your teenage heartbreak is getting in the way of your alpha duties,” Lou Ellen said.
“Okay, enough,” he said whirling on them. “Stop mentioning my heartbreak, okay, stop- stop reminding me that I was ever associated with that leech.” The bell rang and Will winced at the piercing sound. “I’ll see you guys later.”
He raced quickly to get his schedule and went to his first class. Of course, Nico was in it too, and Will made sure to sit as far away from him as possible. Regardless, throughout the class, Will found himself glancing up at Nico who looked like he always had- confident, dangerous, enticing. A troublemaker.
His mind wandered back to their dates, the kisses they’d shared, the laughter, the affection. He realized with a start that as he had begun daydreaming, Nico’s eyes had met his. He looked hopeful. Will clenched his jaw and looked away.
He had to know. He had to know if it was all a lie.
When lunch came around Will had to lead Paolo through the basics of the lunch tables and the different lines for different lunch options. He saw Nico glancing at them and automatically took a step away from Paolo before berating himself for even caring about what Nico would think. He couldn’t concentrate on lunch knowing that Nico was so close. Knowing that he was here, that he was okay, perfectly healthy and very much himself.
He stood and left the cafeteria hoping to get away from the noise long enough to clear his head. He couldn’t keep obsessing over Nico. He couldn’t keep tearing himself apart.
“You know the last time I ever saw you under amicable conditions, you said you had to tell me something,” a voice said so familiar, his body still reacted to it. His heartbeat raced and his breath hitched, his limbs flooded with adrenaline. He didn’t turn, but Nico stepped beside him, his hands in his pockets. “Were you going to tell me you’re a werewolf?”
“I thought I told you not to talk to me.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t feel anything,” Nico muttered. He turned to him and Will tensed. “I can hear the way I make your heart beat faster,” he whispered. “The sudden increase in your breaths.” He tilted his head and stepped in front of him, keeping his hands to himself but his gaze alone made Will blush. “I heard you in the woods,” he added. “I didn’t trust it, but I was listening. You said I hurt you.” Will clenched his jaw and looked away from him. “I never meant to. You have to know that.”
“You’re a liar. A manipulator.” Will hissed. “How much of it was a lie, Nico?” He furrowed his eyebrows and looked truly confused. But Will wasn’t buying it. “How much did you fake? How much did you force me to feel?”
He blinked in surprise and shook his head. “What are you talking about? None of it, Will. I swear to you, none of it. I only ever tried entrancing you once and you broke it. That day at the movie theaters when I tried to kiss you and you didn’t let me.” Will blushed again and turned away from him. “Will,” he murmured, “I was falling in love with you too.”
The phrase made Will turn back to him immediately. He must have looked murderous because Nico took a step back before Will gripped his jacket lapels. “I never said anything about falling in love with you, bloodsucker,” he spat through clenched teeth.
Nico furrowed his eyebrows and gripped Will’s wrists. “That’s what the whole point of dating is, isn’t it? To get to the point where you can tell someone you love them? That’s why you’re angry, that’s why it hurts, that’s why I can still make your heart race.” Will scowled at him and shoved him away, but Nico’s grip on his wrists never loosened. “Would you let me explain?” he begged.
Will pulled his hands away and raked them through his hair. He was shaking. His heart was pounding so hard, he doubted Nico needed to be a vampire to hear it. “Will,” he whispered. “Will, I’ve been alive for a long time. Almost a century.” Will winced, keeping his gaze on the floor, trying to steady his breaths. “Will, as a vampire, we only ever feel empty. We don’t feel warmth, or cold, or… anything. Not unless we get a mate from another clan or something.” Again he stepped in front of Will to face him. “I felt everything with you.” Will raised his eyes to meet Nico’s. “I felt warm. And safe. Protected and happy and nervous and excited and everything wonderful. Things I hadn’t felt since I was Turned. And when I thought I was never going to see you again, I felt so scared and helpless….” He reached a hand toward him then froze as Will tensed. Instead, the ghost of his fingers hovering above his skin made Will sigh. “You still feel something for me, don’t you?” he asked hopefully.
Of course he did. He felt so many things it was driving him crazy. He hated Nico, hated that he was a vampire, Will was angry that he never told him, hurt that he could so easily manipulate him. And still he couldn’t deny that his heart was pounding, that his hands were itching to hold him again. “Nico-”
Suddenly he felt his lips, soft and familiar against his own. Desperate and needy. Will kissed him back automatically, his heart thumping so fast, it drowned away his thoughts. He put his hands on his hips, the leather of his jacket familiar and cool against his fingers. Nico’s hands slid into his hair, pulling him in.
Then he felt Nico’s teeth graze his lip and his instincts kicked in. Suddenly he had Nico against the wall with an arm at his throat, and his other hand digging into his shoulder. Nico stared at him in shock and stopped breathing. His eyes were wide and frightened.
Will remembered what Nico was and what he’d done. He had murdered people. Innocent people. The deaths in the city had spiked because of him. He had attacked a child, a merman. This was the vampire he had been hunting from the start. The one who had manipulated his emotions and weakened him. Vampires were perfect liars, and Nico was no exception.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he pleaded in a tight voice.
“Don’t… ever touch me again. Or I swear to any god in existence I will rip your throat out like I should’ve the moment I found out about you.” Nico tugged at his arm, but Will’s strength was fueled not only by his wolf abilities but the adrenaline and anger that rushed through his body. Will growled, and to his surprise, Nico responded with a fanged hiss. His eyes had turned into demonic slits and Will felt the urge to swipe at him with his claws.
He let him go and stepped back as Nico coughed away the feeling of a crushed windpipe. “Do it then,” he croaked after him. “Go ahead and kill me now. You can Change, can’t you? By now the witch’s potion must have worn off?” Will froze. Potion? He turned and saw Nico, his eyes back to normal, but his fangs still out. “Go ahead,” he prodded. “I won’t even fight back.”
But Will couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t bring himself to hurt him anymore. He turned away and raced back into the cafeteria until he was stopped by Cecil and Lou Ellen. “What happened?” she asked worriedly.
“Will?” Will realized he was shaking, gasping for breath. He was an alpha. He was not supposed to be losing control over some stupid bloodsucking leech. “What the hell happened?” Cecil questioned.
“No one talks to the vampire,” he growled. “No one, is that understood?” The two of them stared at him worriedly. “We’ll tell Madame Levesque after school-”
“No!” Lou Ellen cried. Her eyes were wide. Even Cecil had taken a step away. “No, Will. You can’t just give him to her. You saw what she did to Bianca-”
“Dude, come on, he’s just a kid like us,” Cecil said.
“No he’s not!” he snapped. “He’s a vampire, he’s… way older than he looks.” He looked at them both in turn. “What’s the deal with you two? You were dying to hunt him a few months ago now you’re both standing up for him?”
Lou Ellen looked down and sighed. Cecil shifted and shrugged. “Bianca explained what happened with Ethan,” he said. “I had to watch her cell once and she explained. Nico took the blame for her. He just did what any of us would do for the other; he protected her.”
“He didn’t scare the witch child,” Lou Ellen added almost desperately. “He didn’t hurt the merboy either.” Will scowled and shut his eyes to control his anger.
Before Lou Ellen continued, he said, “Listen to me both of you.” They both grew quiet and looked at him anxiously. “I’m your alpha. You are part of my pack. And if I say we turn him in, we turn him in. He’s a vampire.”
“That you fell for,” Lou Ellen growled. “And now you’re so upset and heartbroken because he didn’t tell you, that you can’t even get your facts straight. God, Will, how can you be so stupid? Don’t you see how many things don’t add up? Don’t you-”
“Lou Ellen enough!” he snarled, surprised when he realized his teeth had turned into the pointed canine incisors of a wolf. He growled and calmed himself down until his teeth were flat again.
“Well, that was almost vampire-esque,” Cecil muttered. “Come on Lou. He won’t listen.” They both walked away from him and Will sighed. He sat down in an empty booth and recalled the time the school had shut down.
Both he and Nico had found each other in the cafeteria all that time ago, unaware that they had just fought each other in the gym.
Don’t you see how many things don’t add up?
Will frowned and pulled out a journal. Of course he’d noticed. But he found it easier to just accept his hatred for Nico and follow orders he was given than to think about the things that didn’t add up. But he couldn’t keep doing that. Not if all it was doing was making him reckless.
The first thing he wrote down was Potion. And with that word came all of his doubts. Every plot-hole in the story he had been told. When he was finished, he stared at the paper filled with his quick writing. The only thing it did was make him unsure of who to trust.
The bell rang and Will returned to class. Nico was supposed to be in this class too, but he was gone. Will swallowed his guilt and sat down. His absence seemed all the more pronounced.
When school was over, Lou Ellen and Cecil followed him home, ignoring Paolo completely. As they went into Will’s house Paolo frowned. “They don’t seem to like me very much.”
“Ah, don’t take it personal,” he said. “They take getting used to. So did you find your way around okay?” He nodded and gave Will a half smile. “That’s great to hear. Let me know if you need help on anything okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” Will began to turn away, but Paolo held him back with a hand on his arm. “Hey, um….” Will felt his stomach clench. “So… I mean, I heard some stuff at school, and it sort of made me feel a little more comfortable with uh….” He cleared his throat and ran a hand through his glossy hair. “Do you think you’d… I don’t know, maybe want to watch a movie with me? This weekend?”
Will furrowed his eyebrows and sighed. “Paolo…. I mean, that sounds great, really, but….” He gulped and shut his eyes. “I’m still getting over a really bad break up right now. I’m just not… ready to start trying again.”
“Oh,” his neighbor said. “Oh, okay. Well, that’s okay…. Um, well, if you ever want to just tell me. Yeah?”
“Okay,” he answered with a small, insincere smile. Paolo nodded and turned away to get to his house. Will picked up the scent of sweet colognes and perfumes mingling together gently and turned instinctively. But the space was empty. He walked hesitantly until the scent was stronger and turned in a circle. “Nico?” he whispered.
Before he could follow the scent, Lou Ellen and Cecil came out of his house and called for him. Frowning, Will returned to his house.
“Tell me he did not ask you out,” Lou Ellen muttered, chewing on some spare ribs that had been leftovers from the night before.
“And if he did, tell us you said no,” Cecil added, munching on chips.
Will rolled his eyes. “He did, and I did. Now stop eating all of my food supply, you animals.”
“We are animals, and we’re hungry.” Cecil shrugged. He licked his fingers and glanced at Will. “Personally, I’m sticking to Team Nico.”
Lou Ellen hummed in agreement. “What the hell, you guys?” Will muttered. He shook his head. “I’m going to bed. Long day.”
“It’s barely four,” Lou Ellen said, but Will wasn’t listening. He locked himself in his room and laid on his bed, staring at the ceiling.
The feeling of Nico’s lips were still on his. The feeling of his long slender hands twisting into his hair. It wasn’t fake. He knew that much now. There was no possible way. Not with the way those eyes looked at him, not with the way his soft voice whispered to him. His voice was so raw so broken and hopeful….
After so long without him, to have finally seen him again and to have kissed him. God, it was like giving a rehabilitated meth addict a new dose of their drug. It was exhilarating and wonderful but so wrong and self-destructive. He ran his hands through his hair in frustration and stood up to pace anxiously.
He missed Nico. He missed the feeling of his body against his own, the way Nico fit against him, the way he seemed so vulnerable when he was Will instead of cocky and nonchalant the way he was with everyone else. The only person Will had ever seen him act that way with was Bianca. And Nico loved Bianca more than anything….
I was falling in love with you too.
Is that what this was? Had Will fallen in love with… a vampire? He was going to tell Nico what he was at one point. He was going to expose his second identity to him. Surely that meant something….
Will’s mind flashed with images of laughter filled dates, feathery caresses, sweet gentle kisses, rough desperate ones, hushed murmurs and the look Nico gave him each time they were together. At that time it hadn’t mattered that they were meant to be enemies. They were just two teenagers who couldn’t get enough of each other. Two teenagers that were falling hard and fast.
Suddenly a quick knock came at his door and Lou Ellen’s voice carried through. “Will, it’s the imps. The witch is calling for us.” He opened the door and frowned. “I think it’s Nico,” she whispered.
Will furrowed his eyebrows and went downstairs where Cecil had pressed himself against a wall. He hated the imps. “Witch needs reinforcements. We found your little bloodsucker. Madame Levesque thought you’d want the chance to get rid of him yourself.”
Lou Ellen opened her mouth, but Will spoke over her. “Well it’s about time,” he scowled. “Let’s go.”
“Will,” they both began to protest.
He growled and his eyes glowed gold. “Are you part of my pack or not?” They hesitated and nodded. “Then let’s go.” They looked at each other and fell in step with him as they walked. How had they caught him? How had they found him? The imps led them to the woods then further still until they were almost at the beach. It made Will’s stomach tighten.
As they drew closer, Will saw about a handful of Mystics poised to attack, surrounding Nico’s dark figure. He had his fangs bared, his eyes were slits, and he was standing in a half crouch. The witch was a few paces in front of him, a twisted smile on her face.
“Ah, hello, little alpha. And others.” Nico’s eyes returned to normal and darted over to Will. He looked at Will with wide, frightened eyes.
“Will,” Lou Ellen hissed beside him.
“Get ready to attack,” he snarled, as the Change rolled through his body and he fell on all fours.
Chapter 18: War Talk
Chapter 18: War Talk
Watching Will transform was both gruesome and fascinating. With his vision, he could see each bone under his skin morph and position itself into another spot as it elongated. He could see as the fur sprouted from his skin. He saw the way his face melted into that of a snarling wolf, the way his protective wide hands twisted and contorted into paws.
Nico looked into the golden alpha wolf eyes of the boy he’d fallen in love with and was vaguely aware of his two companions- Nico’s friends- Changing right along with him.
Whatever it took, he was getting away from here, and he was getting away without hurting any of the werewolves.
He hissed at the imp that stood in front of him and darted for him, sweeping his bulky legs out from under him. He moved quickly, too fast for the imps to catch. Then a fairy flashed in front of him, in all her glittering, flowery glory, moving as quickly as he did. He managed to duck under her arm and shove her away, sending her barreling into a tree.
He hopped up to a tree branch and hissed, his fangs long and menacing enough to make a few of the Mystics step back. He saw the witch standing a few feet away, looking up at him with her milky gaze, agitated and hateful. He made a vicious hissing sound at the woman who had tortured his family, who had toyed with his emotions and manipulated Will, the woman so power hungry, her own daughter couldn’t stay by her side.
Without thinking twice, he leapt for her. If he could finish her off, maybe everything else would stop too. Cut off the head and the body stops working.
But in the air, an imp had tackled him down to the ground. Nico felt his skull scrape against the tree bark and winced. The imp’s claws tore into him, making him grit his teeth. He bent his legs and dug his boots into the imp’s stomach hard enough to throw him off. Immediately, Nico raced back, slashing and clawing at every Mystic that even stepped toward him.
But then he was facing a golden eyed, golden furred wolf. His body went still switching to flight mode instead of fight. “I won’t fight you, Will,” he insisted. “Please don’t do this.” Will began to move toward him slowly, growling low, his teeth and gums bared. He snapped his jaws and Nico fumbled back. If he had a heartbeat, he knew it would have been pounding in fear. Instead, the blood in his veins began to rush, filling him with adrenaline. “Will,” he whispered.
But before he could say anything else, a Mystic Nico had only ever read about knocked him down and they rolled down the inclination of the woods. The skin was grotesque and bumpy, and anywhere Nico scratched at, puss-filled lumps burst open. The shapeshifter’s hand came down in the shape of a hawk’s talons and scraped down Nico’s face to his chest.
Nico screamed and pushed the shapeshifter off, using what strength he still had to throw it against a low, broken tree branch. He watched in horror as its misshapen arm was skewered by the branch, but that had only angered it.
Suddenly he felt a sizzling hot pain at his back and a guttural scream ripped from his throat as he fell to his knees. Silver colored cords wrapped around his wrists and yanked him back. Someone grabbed a fistful of his hair and lifted him from the ground.
The witch’s long finger slid across his face and when she pulled it back, she grimaced at the thick black liquid on it. “That’s enough,” she said, sounding almost bored. “I gave him to the wolf. This one is his to finish off.” She tilted her head, a smile cracking its way across her face. “Though you did well to tire him out. Just for extra measure, however-.” She tightened the silver ropes and they sizzled into his skin, making him yelp in pain.
He was vaguely aware of angry snarls and barks, but the witch only said, “No need to worry. There’s plenty left to kill.” She uncapped a bottle and Nico knew what it was before she splashed it on him and it seared through his clothes and into his skin.
As the holy water seeped into his body, it felt like his blood was fighting itself. The demonic venom that filled him wasn’t strong enough to fight the sanctity of the water, but it wasn’t enough water to kill him. It was only enough to leave him shaking and screaming on the forest ground.
He wasn’t sure what had happened while he writhed on the ground, but the next thing he knew, a wolf was on him, pinning him down to the ground. Will.
He barked angrily at him then barked on either side of him to Cecil and Lou Ellen. Nico tried to speak but before he was unable to form a coherent word. Will’s head dipped down and snapped at him, his wolf teeth grazing the skin at his wrist. Then again on the other.
Nico furrowed his eyebrows as Will’s snout sniffed at him and yipped softly. In the background, he could hear Lou Ellen and Cecil’s snarls and the thumps of bodies and the flap of wings as they attacked. Will nudged him with his nose and he folded his legs down, using his teeth to pull Nico toward him.
Once he realized what he was doing, Nico managed to roll over and pull himself onto Will’s back. His fingers dug into his fur, holding on as Will stood to his full height. He gave a loud, demanding bark and began running. Nico winced and buried his head into his back, filling his mouth fur. Ew, he thought. But more importantly- Ow.
Eventually Will stopped running and he kneeled again. Nico rolled off of him, too tired to stand. Will was suddenly gone and Nico lifted his head to see his surroundings. He was in a backyard.
A few moments later, Will came back, dressed in different clothes and looking as shocked as Nico felt. He kneeled beside him and pulled him onto his lap. “Stupid vampire,” he muttered, pressing his hand against Nico’s side. Nico hissed and Will shut his eyes. Slowly, the pain ebbed and it felt like his body was slowly warming up until he could take a deep, relieved breath. He sat up and Will slumped, letting out a tired groan.
“Will,” he said in surprise. His beautiful blue eyes, currently ringed with a fading gold, looked at him anxiously. “What changed your mind? You were going to kill me, you-”
“No I wasn’t,” he interrupted. He stood and pulled Nico to his feet. “We can’t stay here. They’ll trace my scent. They’ll trace yours. It’s incredibly strong.” Nico frowned, wondering if that was a bad thing, but Will’s hand was still in his, so he didn’t ask.
“Do you like piggy back rides?” he asked.
“What?” Will asked in disbelief. Before he spoke again, Nico pulled him onto his back and began running. The buildings and shapes blurred past him, and Will’s arms gripped him tightly until they reached the rooftop to a publishing building. Will hopped off of Nico and sat on the floor with his head between his legs. “Warning next time,” he muttered.
“I did ask,” Nico said. He looked around the roof. The sun was just starting to set. He could hear the ongoing battle in the forest. “They’ll still find us here. Don’t go anywhere.”
“There’s nowhere to go,” Will called after him as he jumped off the building. He ducked into the shadows then began walking, blending in with other pedestrians. He saw a girl leaving a clothes store, talking animatedly with a group of friends. Perfect.
He neared her and did his best to look normal despite the burns and frays of his clothes. “Hey,” he said, using the Charmspeak Piper had told him. He used the fear of what had just happened and the hope and elation of Will saving him, and he saw the effect in their eyes immediately. “So, I don’t mean to intrude, but I lost my phone. Could I borrow yours for just a moment?” He settled his brooding eyes on her, one corner of his mouth quirking up slightly.
“Sure,” she said dreamily. Nico took it and turned away from her, dialing Bianca.
As soon as she answered, “Bianca, I’m on the roof of the publishing company and I need two anti-tracking potions. It’s a long story I’ll explain when I can but hurry it’s important.”
“Got it,” she said. He loved that about his sister. She knew when things were urgent. He turned and gave the girl her phone back before walking past them and disappearing down an alley to jump back onto the roofs.
He returned to the publishing house where Will was stretched out watching the sun. He tensed when he heard Nico’s feet land on the roof, but quickly relaxed. “I have to go back for Cecil and Lou Ellen,” he said.
“They know the way.” Will turned and gave him a questioning look. “It’s a long story. But I promise you’ll know everything you want to know, okay? You’ll come with me?”
“I think that was established when I decided to save you instead of kill you,” he muttered. Nico gulped and shoved his hands in his pockets.
Before he could answer, Bianca appeared next to him, the wind still ruffling her hair in the wind. “Oh my- Will?” she questioned, shocked. “It worked?” she asked Nico.
“Not necessarily. I’m not sure what happened, but…. Anyway, you have the potions?” She held out two mint shaped candies and Nico took them. “Will?” Will stood and walked over to them. He gave Bianca a nod which she returned with a small smile. As Nico handed the candy over, he said, “I should thank you for saving my sister, by the way.”
Will popped the candy into his mouth after looking at it warily and shrugged. “You always said she was too good for the world she was in.” Bianca’s eyebrows went up and her hand slipped into Nico’s. Meanwhile Nico felt the blood in his veins rush like a rapid river just from being near Will. “Now what?” he asked, tossing the candy around in his mouth. Nico held out his free hand and Will slowly put his own into it.
He felt familiar. Strong, steady, large hands that fit perfectly in his own. “Close your eyes this time,” Nico said. Will groaned and when Nico made him get on his back, he burrowed his face into the crook of Nico’s neck.
Thankfully, Nico managed to get to their headquarters without getting too distracted. Will hopped back onto the floor and glanced up at the old building. “A library?”
“It has protections. From Hazel. And it’s been renovated inside,” Bianca said. “Go on in. Everyone’s friendly.” Will hesitated and walked into the building, followed by Nico then Bianca.
Nico glanced back at his sister and when he turned back around, the rest of the Mystics were rushing downstairs. Will had turned in a circle, looking at the expanse of the library, the books, the floors, the additions Leo and Annabeth had made. As Nico watched him, he saw the disbelief on his face.
Suddenly, someone came barreling toward Nico, nearly knocking him over. “You idiot, how do you forget to take an anti-tracking potion right before going out there, huh?” Percy reprimanded with his arms around him. He pulled back and frowned, punching him on the shoulder. “Idiot! Are you okay? Bianca scared us all when she just left, I mean, what-?”
Percy stopped talking when he saw Nico looking over his shoulder. Will was looking at them with an eyebrow raised and set jaw. Percy cleared his throat and nodded as Will walked back over to them. “Ah, Percy, Will. Will, Percy,” Nico muttered, scratching his neck anxiously.
“We’ve met,” Percy said.
“The sea prince,” Will said with a tone of distaste. Nico suddenly wanted the earth to open up and swallow him. He was aware of the others looking at the trio in confusion and Nico felt even more embarrassed.
Bright sky blue eyes and vibrant sea green eyes levelled with each other and Nico looked between the two anxiously. “Um, okay,” Nico said. “Will, why don’t I introduce you to everyone?” He pulled him by his shirt and Percy looked after them for a moment before returning to his place beside Annabeth.
“Charles?” Will questioned at the sight of the other alpha. “You… you’ve been on this side?” The werewolf nodded.
“The witch child explained it to us. It seemed liked the right thing to do.”
Will nodded and glanced at Nico. Nico gestured to Piper. “This is Piper. Fairy, obviously. She’s one of the princesses.”
Piper held out a hand for Will to shake. “It’s nice to meet you while you’re awake. Now I get to see your eyes.” Will’s eyes widened and he pulled his hand back. “I’m the fairy that broke the vampires out.” Will clenched his jaw and Nico bit his lip.
“Um, come on. This is-”
“Leo!” he yelped. Leo gave him an impish grin and spread his wings out. “We thought…. We thought the other imps had… hurt you.”
Leo raised an eyebrow. “Me? Nah. I’m too slick for them.” He smiled and held out a fist. “It’s nice to see you on the good side.”
Will smiled hesitantly before the trolls barreled into his legs. “That’s Connor and Travis,” Nico said. “They keep our spirits up and pull pranks and try stealing things.” The two tackled Leo back and suddenly, Leo spread his wings and they shot up to the second floor.
“Everyone keeps saying ‘the right side,’ ‘the good side,’ ‘our side….’ I mean what does that even mean? What sides are there? Why is this one the right side?”
“Did you think witch’s side was the right side?”
“At first,” he admitted. “When I was helping her, I thought that was the right side to be on. Now I don’t think so. But I’m not sure about this side either.” Nico clenched his jaw and gulped.
“But you saved me,” he whispered, feeling embarrassed though he didn’t know why.
Will looked over at him and hesitated. His cheeks turned a rosy color and he took a steadying breath. His blue eyes skirted the floor, not meeting Nico’s. “Yeah,” he finally said.
“Hello,” a little voice said. Nico glanced over at Hazel. “You mister are in trouble. You can’t be so reckless.” Nico rolled his eyes. “And you,” she said looking at Will. “I imagine you have a lot of questions. I can answer them.”
“You’re eight,” Will noted.
Hazel beamed, happy that someone got her age right. “Yes I am.” Will frowned and glanced at Nico.
“Trust her. She’s telepathetic.” Hazel glared at him and Will tilted his head in question. “She’s telekinetic,” he amended. “But in all seriousness, she’s smart. She knows her mother’s plans.”
“Come on,” she insisted. She took his hand and pulled him to her tent. Will didn’t look back at Nico.
A few minutes after Will had gone into the tent, two wolves burst through the door, much to Annabeth’s annoyance. “I can’t keep fixing that door, you two!” she snapped.
Bianca peeled away from their father and greeted the roan colored wolf with her arms around his neck. Nico watched with a smile as the wolf licked her face, causing Bianca to laugh. Charles came over with a change of clothes for both which they took between their teeth before going back outside.
Bianca lifted the door and set it against the wall before she stood beside Nico. “So…. Cecil, huh?” he asked with a knowing smile.
She shrugged and smiled at the ground. “He’s sweet.” When the two came back inside in their human form and dressed, Nico realized that Lou Ellen was limping. “What happened?” Bianca asked.
“That stupid shapeshifter got my leg. I’m fine.” She huffed and blew her hair out of her face. “Where’s Will?”
“Talking to Hazel,” Nico said anxiously.
“How exactly do you explain that Lou Ellen was a double agent and I ended up joining? He’ll be upset,” Cecil said, rubbing his arm.
“Are you hurt too?” Bianca asked, taking his arm. A long red gash went up his forearm and he pulled back.
“I’ll be fine,” he assured. Nico and Bianca shared a look.
“We’re not hungry if that’s what worries you,” she said softly.
Cecil’s eyes went wide. “No! No, that’s not it at all!” He glanced at Lou Ellen and sighed. “We’re hoping that if we’re hurt, Will might take some pity on us. And he’d heal us and not be too angry with us.” He caught Bianca’s eyes and smiled. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”
“Lou Ellen, what happened?” Nico asked, not really wanting to watch his sister fidgeting over a boy. Lou Ellen looked away from Cecil and her suspicious look turned into a tired one.
“I don’t know. One second he was ready to follow through and the next, we understood his commands to be ‘attack the others.’” She shrugged. “But he’s here, isn’t he?”
Nico frowned and looked back at the tent. He could hear them talking, mainly Hazel. He could hear the different speeds of Will’s heart as he was told different things. But he wasn’t sure what to make of it. Suddenly a hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Stop pacing,” Lou Ellen said. He frowned and ran a hand through his hair. “What are you worried about? This clears your name.”
“But I’m still… a vampire. Maybe he knows I’m a good person, but I’m still a monster.”
Lou Ellen lifted his chin and regarded him with hard brown eyes. “I know Will, okay? He really likes you. Everything will be fine.” She glanced around. “What’s been going on here?”
She had been absent from their headquarters ever since Bianca and his father had been freed. Instead, Cecil had begun to visit, claiming Lou Ellen had sent him, but Nico had the suspicion that he only wanted to check on Bianca. Lou Ellen’s lack of knowledge only confirmed his suspicions.
“Not much. We’ve been training. Annabeth and Leo have been making arenas and special stations for each Mystic to enhance their abilities. We’re supposed to send out scouts to get more Mystic allies soon. For now, we just need to stay hidden.”
Lou Ellen suddenly stood up straighter and Nico turned to see Will exiting the tent with a tired, stoic expression. “Lou Ellen, Cecil,” he called. Cecil turned away from Bianca and Lou Ellen turned away from Nico, immediately flanking their alpha. He spoke to them in a hushed voice, and Nico did his best not to eavesdrop.
As Hazel came out of the tent with some sacks in her arms, she called for Charles, Piper, and her father. Nico stayed beside her, casting glances at Will every now and then. “We need to start recruiting. If what Will recounted is true, then my mom won’t waste any time in attacking or finding a way to track us. While the wards are strong… my mom might be stronger. So we have to hurry. Once we have enough new faces, I’ll send Leo, Annabeth, and one of the Stolls.” She looked at them each in turn. “Be careful. I made some survival packs, the potions are labeled. Bianca made sure I spelled everything right. Try to keep in contact. Okay?” She handed them each a sack.
They nodded, and Charles and Piper left. Meanwhile their father stayed and took Hazel’s small hand. Bianca came closer and frowned. “So you’re leaving?” she asked.
“I’d rather it be me than you two. I don’t want any of my kids separated again.” Bianca glanced at Hazel and pulled her into her arms. Their father smiled and ruffled each of their heads. “It’s fine. This will all be over soon. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Nico said. Hazel hid her face in Bianca’s neck.
Their father sighed. “Take care of each other.” He smiled and disappeared through the door into the night.
“I didn’t want to send him,” Hazel said. “But vampires are the strongest. We need more.”
Bianca shushed her and rubbed her back. “It’s okay. Come on, you want to go play? I know someone who can be Ken for us.” She walked away with Hazel on her hip and they dipped into the tent.
He glanced around and saw Annabeth helping Percy with his water abilities, he saw the rest of Charles’ pack chowing down on a kill one of them had brought back, he saw Will still talking to Cecil and Lou Ellen, evidently aggravated, and he saw Leo and the trolls working on speed and stamina on their floor.
With everyone busy, he decided to find something to do and went to the third floor where a freestanding heavy bag that Annabeth had filled with metals was placed. Nico had never really been a fighter. He never had to be. Sure he’d been in wars. He partook in the Vietnam War and even the Gulf War, but that was different. That was filled with mortal trials, guns, and troops.
This was different. This was magic and powers and abilities and people that could be much more powerful, much more experienced than him. It showed that afternoon. He’d been cornered and attacked and the best he could do was push his attackers away.
He frowned at the bag, unsure of whether he could imitate Charles and his punches and kicks. He had been a boxer for a few years before he Changed. And Nico had watched with envy as he hit the normal, sand-filled punching bag on the other side of the floor.
Before Nico could decide whether or not to try, he heard the strong, steady thump of Will’s heartbeat. He smelled the comforting wood smoke scent of him mingled with sweat and of course the tinge of dog. He turned and saw him coming up the steps in his faded jeans and plaid button up open over a solid gray shirt.
His breaths were ragged as his piercing blue eyes lifted to meet Nico’s. He gulped and took a breath. Pushing a strand of hair out of his face, he said, “Um, can we talk?”
Mutely, Nico nodded and gestured for the room with the ladder.
Chapter 19: Curiosity & Satisfaction
Maybe following a vampire into a dark empty room went against everything Will ever knew from the moment he first watched a horror movie as a kid. Still, it didn’t seem that crazy now that he was actually doing it.
Nico started up a ladder and opened a door that led to the roof. Will followed after him, feeling his heartbeat in his throat. Nico was keeping his distance. Will could tell by the way he stuffed his hands in his pockets and took a few steps back for each step Will took forward.
He sat down on the ledge, facing the sunset. Most of the sky was dark now, and the moon was bright against the sky. Nico’s hair glistened against the light, and every chiseled edge and shaded hollow was accented.
“So,” he said clearing his throat as he sat beside him. “You set my pack against me.”
“What? No, of course not!”
Will snorted and shook his head. “No, I know,” he said. Nico relaxed and took a breath. “The witch was the one who attacked Cecil. Hazel told me. She wanted to fuel our hatred and find an excuse to feed him the same potion she gave me and Lou Ellen.” Nico frowned and shook his head. Will swallowed and took another breath. “How old are you?”
“About seventeen,” Nico whispered.
“You know what I mean.”
He cleared his throat. “I was born in 1929. I was Turned at ten years old in 1939. By the time World War II was over, I looked like this. If I aged normally, I’d be 89.” Will gulped.
“And… you feed on humans?”
“Yes,” he breathed. “Animals when it’s necessary. Animals are like a snack, though. Humans fill me for a day. Mystic blood is better. I can be filled for up to five days.” Will furrowed his eyebrows and looked down at the street, trying to mask the horror on his face. He just couldn’t imagine letting someone take blood from you, much less drink it. He couldn’t imagine knowing you were dying while someone sucked every ounce of blood from your neck. “Will,” Nico whispered, placing his hand over Will’s. Will drew his back automatically. Nico let out a shocked breath and scooted away from him.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. “It’s just a lot to process.” Nico didn’t answer so Will glanced over at him. His jaw was set, his hands clenched over the edge of the roof, his eyebrows furrowed as he looked away. He was absolutely beautiful. So beautiful it was terrifying.
“I only kill humans who are… bad,” he said softly, a tense edge to his voice. “Men who try to hurt kids, or killers, or anyone who abuses someone else in any way. I don’t just go for anyone, Will.” He hesitated and looked over at him. Somehow the moonlight made his eyes look darker- wide, mysterious, and black specked with glistening white. “The witch gave me your blood,” he said in a broken voice. Will’s breath hitched, followed by rapid nauseous breathing as Will tried to keep the bile down. “I didn’t know it was yours. She’d been starving me and she just gave me this cup to drink from. That’s when she told me it was yours. And I thought she had hurt you. I panicked and I thought they had somehow found you, and I-”
“That’s why you were fighting back so much when they brought you into the courtroom,” Will realized. “You were screaming, but I wasn’t paying attention to what you were saying.” Will had a memory of the red stains on Nico’s mouth that day. The horrified, disbelieving look on his face as Will shook him and yelled at him.
“If I had known, I wouldn’t have taken it.” Will took a deep breath and shook his head. “Will?” He hummed in response. “If you don’t want to have anything to do with me anymore, I understand. I’m a monster, and I can’t… I can’t change that. If I could I would, and I hope you know that.”
“God, Nico, shut up,” Will groaned. He looked over at him and sighed. “Do you think I’d be here, talking to you, if I…. If I didn’t want to be with you?” Nico’s eyes widened and his mouth parted in surprise. Will shook his head and yanked at his own hair. “I tried so hard to hate you. To forget you. I thought it was just a trick of yours, making me feel this way… a way to knock me down. But it didn’t make any sense. The surprise on your face, the dates, the little gestures, the fact that you didn’t know about me either. I hated you for making me feel the way I do.” He shook his head and tilted his head back, looking at the sky. “But I can’t hate you anymore.”
Nico scrambled back from the edge and stood up. He began pacing and Will stood as well, following him with his eyes. “I mean…. The things you said-”
“Some of it was true. I was angry that you didn’t tell me. But then I don’t know what I would have done if you had. But it’s not your fault. We both had secrets.”
Nico stopped pacing and stood in front of him. He looked into his eyes in that way that had made Will’s heart stutter for months. “You said you weren’t going to kill me. What happened?”
Will cleared his throat and looked down at his hands. “I’d been thinking all day. After what happened at lunch. The way nothing made sense.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “About how much I missed you. And when the imps came, I had to let them think I wanted to hurt you. I wasn’t going to. But then you decided to go all vampire-ninja on everyone, so I had to wait to get you to stay still. Then she… she started hurting you and I- The sound of your screams, Nico.” His voice broke and Nico brought a hand up hesitantly, waiting for permission to rest against his cheek. He was cold. He always had been. “I don’t think I could bear hearing you scream like that again.”
Nico managed a nervous smile and he tilted his head. “I told you I was falling in love with you. To be completely honest, I think I already am.” He leaned close enough for their noses to touch. Some part of Will was reacting to the proximity in a way that made him want to defend himself, prepare to fight. That was overridden by the sound of his heart pounding like a jackhammer and the nervous excitement of having Nico so close, of his body so familiar under his hands. “Were you falling in love with me?” he murmured. His breath was cool against Will’s lips. Nervously and slowly, Will nodded. “Would you still be able to? Even if I am a monster? Even-”
Unable to stand it anymore, Will closed the space between their lips and kissed him. He kissed the boy who had taught him to bend the rules, who had turned to him for comfort, for warmth and joy, the boy who made him laugh and never failed to make his heart beat faster. The vampire he had already fallen completely in love with.
His lips were soft, sweet. His tongue parted his lips and Will lost himself further. Even as Nico’s teeth bit gently at his lips, Will felt nothing more than the need to hold him closer. As he pulled him in, wrapping his arms around his torso, Nico’s hands were on either side of Will’s face, cold and smooth. The smell of sweet colognes filled Will’s nose without giving him a headache. Instead it was pleasant and inviting.
He pulled away only a bit for air and breathlessly said, “You’re not a monster. And I’ve already fallen in love with you, you idiot.” Nico smiled and let out a gasping laugh of relief before pulling him in again.
After kissing him once more, Nico dipped his head down to Will’s neck and wrapped his arms around him tightly. “I missed you so much,” he whispered. Will held him tighter and let out a shaky breath. He couldn’t put into words how badly he had needed Nico back.
Eventually they laid down, staring up at the sky with their hands interlocked, their shoulders pressed together. “So this is why you never told me anything about your past,” Will said softly. He knew Nico could still hear him before the night swallowed his words.
“Yeah,” Nico said.
“Can you tell me now?” Nico groaned and when Will looked over at him, he was biting his lip. “I want to know.”
“Isn’t it weird? I’m supposed to be really old and… you know.”
Will shrugged. “I’ll get used to it. Really, I want to know. Your life before you got Turned. And after.”
“Well, I don’t really remember life before I was bitten. I was too little. I know I’m from Venice, Italy. I know I had a mom. My father- or patron- said she’d been killed and that’s why he bit us. She was his best friend and he didn’t want to leave us in an orphanage.” Will could hear Nico’s voice slipping into that melodic voice he used for stories. “I remember the day I was Turned. Bianca and I were playing when my father asked if we wanted ice cream. But somehow we ended up far from the city. I never asked questions. He gave us ice cream and then let us play in the fields. Bianca asked for our mother and he suggested we go to sleep. He said when we woke up we’d see her.” He paused for a moment and Will glanced over at him. Nico rolled toward him and pulled his jacket and shirt off his shoulders.
There was the crescent shape of a bite mark, lined white against his olive skin like an old scar. “Then I woke up because I felt something biting me. Bianca was still asleep and he was covering my mouth. It was so painful…. Then it started feeling nice. Like I was flying. Like I was being tickled. When he pulled back, I saw the blood at his lips and I wanted to scream, but the pain suddenly became so strong I became paralyzed.
“He went to Bianca next. I remember the worry and pain in his face as he bit her too. And even though I was ten, and I had no idea what was going on, I remember thinking, ‘At least I’ll be with Bianca.’ I fell asleep. Or I passed out, one of the two. And when I woke up, everything was sharper. Enhanced. And I was thirsty.”
“I thought the human blood in you would have kept you strong,” Will said. Nico raised an eyebrow at him. “I might have read Twilight.”
Nico rolled his eyes and shook his head. “My human blood kept me alive through the process. It kept me alive while the venom coursed through me and it was the first source of energy I used as a vampire. And like I said, human blood only fills me for a day. In that case, it filled me for the night.” He shook his head and looked back at the stars. “Bianca wouldn’t talk to him for months. I just didn’t want to talk at all. I was scared.” He shrugged. “He explained, eventually. We got used to the lifestyle, we grew up. Now we’re this.” He turned on his side and tilted Will’s face over to himself. “What about you? The day you were bitten?”
Will shook his head. “I don’t remember it. I just remember feeling really sick and when the next full moon came, I left the house for some reason and Changed in woods.” Nico frowned and sat up. “What? I’m being honest.”
“Will, every wolf that was bitten can remember the day they were bitten. They Change that day regardless of the moon phase.” Will furrowed his eyebrows and shook his head. “How did you become alpha?”
He sat up and shrugged. “The wolves just started coming to me. They were drawn to me, I guess.” He looked at Nico and rolled his eyes. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“The only way a wolf becomes alpha is by killing another alpha or biting others and taking care of them when they Change instead of letting them loose,” he said, a tinge of frustration in his voice.
Will threw his hands up and scoffed. “Well, maybe I’m an exception, Neeks. I just Changed one day and after that the kids from school and the neighborhood would start showing up at my door, showing me their bites.”
“Do you have a bite mark?”
Will shook his head. He thought his body had simply healed from it. But he knew Lou Ellen had hers near her hip and Cecil had his on his shoulder. Austin had his on the top of his thigh and Kayla had hers along her bicep. “I guess being an alpha makes it go away.”
Nico stood and scoffed. “Do you have any idea what you just described?” he questioned. Will raised an eyebrow at him. “Will, you were never bitten. You were born with this. How old were you when you first Changed?”
Will blushed and scoffed, standing up. “Um, what the hell?” Nico looked at him expectantly and he shrugged. “Fifteen,” he mumbled.
Nico took his face in his hands. “Is your dad a wolf?” Will shook his head. “Then it must have been your mom.”
“My mom is dead, Nico,” he reminded him.
He sighed and shook his head. “I know. I remember. But it’s the only explanation. Trust me, I’ve spent years learning about Mystics and the politics, biology, and sociology of the lifestyles.”
“That’s really nerdy,” Will muttered.
Nico groaned and hit Will’s head with the palm of his hand. Will growled and Nico flashed a pair of snake-slit eyes at him before they returned to normal and he smiled. “Will, when a werewolf is bitten, they remember the day vividly. They Change that night. And they have to find an alpha, or an alpha finds them. They carry the bite mark for the rest of their lives. They age to a certain point before their body freezes, usually at the prime of their health- between 20-25 years of age. So long as they continue to Change, they stay in that state, but many times they don’t because they want to age with their friends and often, they fall in love. So they stop Changing and begin aging again.”
“Okay, and?” Will questioned, trying not to focus on the fact that he would stop aging just like Nico.
“Usually the virus leaves women barren.”
“That makes you a wolf,” Nico explained. “The virus that enhances your cells and allows you to morph and strengthens you.” Will furrowed his eyebrows and let out an exasperated breath. “Those women who are lucky enough not to be barren have kids that have the virus in their bloodstream- it’s a dominant trait.” Will winced at the biology term. “Sometimes the men can pass it down, but usually an Ordinary woman’s body isn’t strong enough to handle a child of that nature. It either doesn’t begin or… it fails early on.”
“You mean a miscarriage,” Will whispered. Nico nodded.
“Many times two wolves can mate, but since they still Change, the women can’t get pregnant. Not until they start aging again. The bond is too strong of a family nature to become romantic, and typically when a wolf decides to stop Changing, they get as far away from the reminder of what they were as they can.”
“So you’re telling me that my mom was a werewolf and managed to have a kid and passed it on to me?” Nico nodded again. “No, but then… my dad would have known.”
Nico took his hand gently and pulled him close. “Maybe she didn’t want him to think she was a monster,” he said softly.
Will’s breaths hitched and he gulped. “Then wh-what does that mean for me?”
“That you’re stronger than you know. Pups are attracted to you for your sense of power and protection. An innate alpha trait that comes from a born wolf. It’s not in a bitten wolf.” Will felt dizzy and slowly lowered himself back to the floor. “You’re still you, Will,” Nico assured.
He whimpered bravely and rubbed his temples. “I really didn’t want more responsibility than I already have.”
Nico kneeled beside him and used a feather light touch to push the hair from his face. “It’s the same amount of responsibility, love,” he whispered. “If anything, what I told you should reassure you that you’re more than capable.”
Will gulped and nodded. “Yeah. Yeah okay.” He took a breath and looked over at Nico. “So what’s your biology? A virus too?”
Nico shook his head. “No. Just the demon poison. It took the place of my blood and enhanced everything about me.”
He pulled Nico’s hand into his own and pushed the sleeve up, revealing a faded scar where the witch’s ropes had held him. “is that why holy water really does burn you?” he asked softly. Nico’s screams still rang in his ears, making him tense and pained all over again.
Sure he was a vampire, but Will still had the urge to protect him from anything that could hurt him.
Slowly, Nico nodded. “Yeah. It’s not that we’re evil. We just happen to have blood that’s incompatible with holy things.” Will sighed and pulled Nico onto him, tugging his sleeve back down.
He put a hand to his cheek and Nico leaned into it with his eyes closed. “I won’t let her hurt you again,” he promised in a soft, husky voice. Nico opened his eyes and bit his lip.
“I missed this,” he answered. His hand rested over Will’s, holding it in place. “Your warmth. Your touch. Your protectiveness. You.”
Smiling, Will pulled him in for another kiss. It felt like he was trying to make up for the time lost to stupid misconceptions and blind loyalties. Suddenly Nico pulled back and gave him a glare. “Who was that guy that kept following you around at school?” Will tilted his head in confusion. “He lives next to you.”
“Oh,” he answered, feeling his face burn. “That was just Paolo. He’s my new neighbor.” Nico raised an eyebrow. “He asked me on date, but I turned him down.” The corner of Nico’s mouth twitched and Will pulled him in for a soft peck on his lips. “I told you I couldn’t get over you.”
“Good,” Nico answered, pushing him back so they were laying down. Will missed being able to hear his heartbeat when he laid over him like this. Hazel had explained how that had happened, and Will still couldn’t wrap his head around it. The witch had gone to so much trouble to make Will think Nico was an Ordinary. Just so that when Will found out, he would be that much angrier with him.
Instead, it had backfired. Instead, he was head over heels for someone who should have been his enemy. Instead, he felt all the more need to bring the witch down from the pedestal she’d made herself.
“What are you thinking?” Nico murmured, tracing patterns onto Will’s chest.
“I’m wondering how we’re supposed to fight a witch as powerful as Madame Levesque.” Nico pulled himself up and hovered over Will, looking down at him with a pensive smile. “What?”
“Don’t worry about it right now. Right now it’s just you and me on this roof. Nothing else.” He leaned down and kissed him. “I love you,” he whispered. His breath was cool and sweet against Will’s parted lips.
A smile spread on his face as he looked up at Nico in all of his perfection. “I love you too,” he answered.