Nox stepped out of the glass room and waved for me to join him in the doorway of a hot brunette who was tapping away at her computer when he spoke, “Dae’lin.” She looked up from her computer with a frown. “I’m leaving the boy with his mom. Give them a few hours then take him back down to the Academy. If she talks, see about getting him to spend the night with her instead of in the fire rooms. He’s three he was crying in the corner when we got there.”
She looked at me and her frown got deeper, Nox was just grinning like he always did. “Alex this is Dae’lin, my boss and my former mentor, the only other woman who gives a fuck about me.”
She rolled her eyes. “A pleasure I’m sure.” She looked at me, “I’ll do my best, Nox. You know Gary doesn’t like it when you bring them back alive. She’s going to be dead with in the week if the Dragon Council doesn’t step in and the boy’s going with them.”
“No he’s not. There should be signed adoption papers. Dorian got all the paperwork to do it right. You might need to clear it with the Council but Dorian will file it regardless of what you and they say. He’s mine – in a very short while.”
She growled and he tapped me on the shoulder to say he was going, “Later Dae’lin. Oh, and I want her cell phone. I need it asap. Have it dropped off at my apartment.”
“Bossy, bossy!” She sighed. “I’ll see that it gets done.”
“Thank you, Dae’lin. I appreciate it.” He gave her another bright grin before he left.
“Yeah, yeah. Go waste your smile on someone else.” She called after him.
And then he turned to me with an even brighter smile, “I’m all yours.”
We headed for the stairwell and I was a little leary of climbing all those stairs but I didn’t think it was that many. So I tried to distract myself by asking, “So you really are going to adopt him? How long do you think that will take?”
“Officially, as soon as she signs the paperwork I could take him by Venatori law. By human law it’ll take a little while to file the paperwork as the parents are both still living and have to sign some forfeiture of rights or something. They’ll then disappear in the system and no one will be the wiser unless you dig deep.”
I wasn’t sure about the whole illegal paperwork and the way it worked, “You have hackers to do that?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s all on the up and up. We have people to do the job. It’s illegal in terms of we shouldn’t be doing it, but we aren’t hacking into systems or doing things the wrong way.”
Fucking bunch of hypocrites., “You’re entire race is a hypocrite! Breaking human laws.”
Oddly enough he didn’t take offense and grinned at me. “The difference is, we don’t get caught doing it.” But then he got all serious on me again, “The only time the supernatural pose a problem is when they start revealing our nature to the humans. When that happens things need to stop. Murdering people because you were hungry isn’t an excuse. But the fledgling can also be trained and taught to behave. They shouldn’t be destroyed because they made a few bad mistakes.”
“You really believe that?” This wasn’t the first time that he said that. He believed he was truly different. Though I wasn’t really seeing it. He was just logical.
“I do. We all make mistakes. Il Cane straight out of her training slaughtered an entire village of people because she was hungry. Her sires didn’t feed her properly. Expected she knew how to feed. But she didn’t. She’s clinical in her own right, much like I have my issues she has an entirely different set of them. The biggest being lack of empathy. You’d call it a sociopath. Cari Giovanni was an assassin, a prostitute and a thief before she became a vampire. She was raised by a psychopath who put her into that state of mind. And the blood lust she had as an assassin only grew worse with her embrace. She was hungry didn’t know better. She’s still a sociopath but hasn’t killed any humans since then except one, but she turned him, so not really a bad thing since it was to save his life. But that’s another story.”
I listened as he explained more about how fucking scary his friend’s mom was. And that she was a sociopath raised by a psychopath. What the fuck! But he kept on going, as he always did, “So yeah, if the biggest, baddest of the supernatural world can get a reprieve, however unintended it may have been and come back a better person for it, everyone deserves that chance.”
He paused long enough so I could speak, “I don’t know what to say about all that. Holy fuck, comes to mind the most.” He pushed his door open and stepped inside. He felt less anxious but he was starting to feel it again. I was about to say something when he asked, “Something to drink?”.
“Am I going to need something stiff or will coffee or water be fine?” I smirked. I was hoping to lighten the mood a little I knew he was about to drop his entire life in front of me. And I wasn’t sure I was prepared for it all but his reaction to my words made it worth it.
He was so fucking cute when he was being shy. “Maybe a little of both.”
He had no TV so I picked up a magazine as I sat down on the couch. “You read any of these?” I was currently flipping through a girlie magazine, one with a sex quiz and how to tell if you and your boyfriend were meant to be together type quizzes.
Nox sat down with two cups of coffee I assumed had whiskey in them considering the bottle was sitting on the counter next to the coffee maker, “No. I think Dorian or Sage bought them.” They didn’t buy this one, I showed him the cover and he laughed. “That would be Mia. The whole gay best friend thing.”
“You didn’t read it though?”
He shook his head. “They are for my guests who find my lack of a TV annoying.”
I looked at him with a smirk “It’s not annoying, it’s unusual.” Who the fuck didn’t have a TV in their house – not one!
He shrugged. “I don’t watch it, no point in it when it would just hang on the wall unused.” He sipped his coffee with two hands wrapped around it like he was taking comfort in it. If he was anxious then I was not going to like this conversation at all His voice was soft, “So… everything.”
But he wasn’t ready and there was more packets sitting on the counter when we walked in, “I have a question first.” I interrupted his train of thought, “What’s that packet on your bar? Looks like the packet Dorian gave you for Drake? Your copy? Already?”
He looked behind him and shook his head, “No that’s housing papers. There are a lot more people moving back into the building we are running out of space. They are offering double stipends on those who would move off campus into the human world.”
“And Dorian thinks you should?” I got up and grabbed the packet and started unpacking it. There was signed paperwork, recommendation, a dollar amount even a fucking apartment in that paperwork.
I whistled and sat it down on the table, “That’s a nice place, three bedrooms, a balcony, away from the AU building. I’m betting that’s a hint.”
“So you think I should do it?”
I smirked. “Pretty boy, this place is fucked up, so yeah. If you can get the hell outta Dodge, then do it.” I pushed a piece of paper over to him, “It looks like all you have to do is sign it.”
“Everyone thinks it’s a good idea.” He sighed, his thoughts said more though, he thought everyone just wanted to get rid of him. It was his self destruction all over again. And yet Dorian said he was better. If this was better I’d fucking hated to have seen him then.
“You don’t?” I asked.
He laughed nervously, “Sure, it’s a great idea. I don’t have to follow Venatori rules, my friends would more comfortable.” Nox turned to look at me, “It’s a great idea in theory. But I know me. I don’t cope well with change. The move will upset the balance I have, it’s not just my living arrangements changing, it’s the schedule change that will come with it, the extra space I have to manage.”
I rolled my eyes. But the mere thought that this was some sort of challenge he did some magic. It was just a stick dripping with ink but he signed the paper. He was like a fucking magician with that, pulling things out of thin air. “I’m going to be a mess for weeks.”
I wanted to tell him I’d be there but I wasn’t sure I would be. I didn’t know how long Poet wanted me to do this charade, so I made a joke instead, “You’re already a mess, what’s the difference.”
“Thanks.” He said sarcastically, it was almost good to hear the dry humor in his voice.
“No problem.” I smirked, but it was time to let him air his truths, so he could feed me. I was fucking hungry. “Alright, pretty boy, lay it on me.”
Nox got up off the couch and walked over to his bed. He reached under his pillow and pulled out a notebook and he looked defeated as he walked back from his bed to drop it on the table in front of me. “Every night since I was six years old I’ve had one singular dream that I remember. I have notebooks full of drawings like that.”
As he spoke I picked up the notebook and started flipping through the pages. ” Every dream is always the same. Every night the darkness forms, the fog rolls in, and a pair of eyes stalks me. When I was younger, before I knew the rules, the demon, my demon would make me spread my legs, put my hands on an invisible wall. ”
Each image was almost precisely the same like he’d been drawing it for years, and apparently he had been. I stared at the sketches in disbelief. How could something like this be happening to him every night. And why wasn’t his therapy working? ” And every night it would lay into my flesh with whips made of elements – fire, water, earth and air. Each one sharp and meant to do more than flay the skin off my back. Sometimes the dreams manifest with my own power. That’s why the scars on my back. I do it to myself.” And then I had a thought maybe he was making it up to make me feel sorry for him. For hurting himself. For the suicidal thoughts he had, the worst parts of him.
Nox was sitting on his bed now pulling something from underneath the bed. My body froze as I recognized the box. For the first time in my life I wanted to panic and run and I knew that this was the moment of truth. Fuck!
Nox didn’t skip a beat as he went clutching the box to his chest like a lost treasure, “But after I graduated from the Academy, and on my first hunt I woke one night to the realization that I’d been having other dreams. Ones that were eclipsed by the nightmare. A trama so large that I didn’t remember anything before it. He said I had been having them for the same time. But how could a figment of my dreams be real? I don’t know if he was, or if it was my mind playing tricks on me. But I believed he was real then. I found this where he told me to. Everything in there was his except the matchbook I threw in there. I was in love with him. I didn’t know his name. Fuck I didn’t even know what he looked like. The two of you share the same eye color and I’m terrified that I’m projecting my feelings of him on to you and that in doing so you are going to get scared and run away.”
I honestly had no idea what to say, or do as he set the box down. I had the urge to grab it, to open the box and see all the things that I thought I’d never see again. I felt like screaming as the anger welled up inside. What kind of game was he playing? Why would he keep my things after all these years? I should just take them from him.
“But we said we’d met, he never showed up.” I growled to myself. I did show you your fucking friend told me you weren’t interested.
But Nox was oblivious to my thoughts, but I felt the pain he had felt as he thought about those memories. I saw how much I’d hurt him. “And every night for two weeks when I tried to get to him in the dream, I got a nightmare. Instead of the red eyes, they were blue. When the blue eyes come it’s worse, because it happens twice.” And to make things worse his nightmares got worse. I doubted everything I knew about the dream in that moment. I was going to need to talk to Kish. I didn’t understand any of it.
“So for years I did my best not to think about it. But no matter how many times I push this box to the back, it always winds up back in the front and I stumble over it on Sunday morning. Which is why Ant started coming by Sunday evenings to pull me out of my self sabotaging funk.” The idea that this fucking vampire was there for him and I wasn’t stung, but he had stood me up. He deserved the pain. But I couldn’t show him how I felt. How my life had fallen too when he hadn’t shown up. Fucking bastard making me feel bad for him.
Nox pointed to the camera that he’d crushed. The black mounting plate still screwed into the ceiling and kept going. He was going to lay it all out for real. No more secrets. And here I was hiding every fucking thing from him, including my feelings. “I installed the camera, to see if I could figure out why my power kept being used against me. But it was a pointless endeavor, you can’t catch the invisible weaves, all we ever saw was my skin breaking open. And Sage did use it for other purposes, we had an agreement. He can’t stand to be touched, so his kink is watching others.”
It didn’t surprise me that his friends used him. “You let him watch you?”
He nodded and I could tell he was trying too hard, and when he looked down at the floor in that fucking submissive pattern he had I wanted to growl and tell him to stop, but I had to pretend to be okay with it all, “So you’ve never had sex with your friend?”
“I didn’t say that.” He looked up at me with those big brown eyes full of self hatred and loathing and he spoke clearly, “I had sex with Sage once. I was his first, his wife is the only other person he’s ever allowed to touch him like that. He wanted me to show him how to touch her. What it would be like because he was terrified of it. I was safe. But I’ve slept with Mia and Jace countless times. But I haven’t done that since well before I left the Academy. Mia was a sexual deviant and she lead Sage and I down some pretty weird rabbit holes. But I don’t hang out with them much anymore. My friends now are more productive and it’s not about sex.”
I know he’d told me before but I was still jealous of the only one I considered a threat to my relationship with him. Other than myself that is, how fucking crazy was that. I was jealous of my prior fucking self. But the vampire, he was a constant threat to Poet’s goals. “So you’ve never slept with the vampire?”
Nox shook his head, “We came close once, when we first met. I remember he stopped me from finding his mother, and he bought me a drink and after Ryan left, he got too close to me.” I remembered that time. I remembered the dream he’d had. I remembered how he’d made me feel. But most of all I remembered the fucking mark on his neck. And I remembered letting him go to with the darkness. Fuck, had I given him to the nightmare? But there was no lie in his head.
“My power called to him, and his pheromones overpowered me. I made him bite me and I wanted nothing more than to be fucked by him. But that’s the call of the vampire, it’s the reason vampires can feed off of humans willingly, because they can make it feel unfucking believable. Unlike most vampires like Ant, he can’t control the lust he sheds when bites you. That part of his venom he’s incapable of changing. He’s cursed with it because he’s not quite born vampire and he’s no where close to an embraced vampire. He sits in the middle unable to tip to one side or the other.”
He hadn’t been in control, neither had his friend. “It was out of your control?” I knew the answer but I was just clarifying. I wanted to hear him say it. I wanted to hear him say he hadn’t really wanted it. It was all fucking magic.
“It was. We stopped to go back to my room. And when we got there thoughts of my dream guy made me backup. We didn’t have sex. But it started a fucking great friendship. Without Ant I’d never have survived the lost of the idea that I was worth loving. That somewhere out there some loved me. And then when he never showed up, I was close to doing stupid things. But Ant saved me.” My heart sank. I’d caused him to relapse into bad habits. Or maybe it was the start of these good ones – without me. Without our nightly dreams Dorian said he got better. How fucking depressing for me.
“If he hurt you so bad, why did you keep these things?” There was so much here I didn’t understand and I didn’t want to before, now, maybe I should. But none of it mattered to Poet and this boy wasn’t going to wrap me around his finger, not again.
Nox sighed. “I loved him. I still do sorta. But I don’t, if he walked into my dreams again and said I’m sorry I made a mistake, before, I might have said okay. I forgive you. But now, now I’ve met you. And I know you don’t love me, and you might never get there, but it’s real here. You’re real. I can touch you. I can remember you. You’re real.” I didn’t believe him. I could almost with a certainty see him going back to the man in his dream. I knew I was just a substitute. He didn’t love me, he said he was projecting. And I was grateful for those feelings. He’d fucked me up good, it was only fair I did the same. But not yet, Poet still needed whatever he needed.
“This is me. The darkest parts. My life is filled with danger and threats and I’m a broken mess. But it’s what I am, it doesn’t define me, or stop me from doing what I should. I don’t have any secrets from you. Not now.” He didn’t have anymore secrets. I highly doubted that, but these were the deepest darkest secrets he had. And now I had to go back to falling for him, playing like none of this means anything when all it did was confirm to me that I shouldn’t be here.
Nox was sitting next to me again, lost in his own little world, his hands wrapped around his cup of coffee but he wasn’t drinking it. He was waiting for me to leave. And I almost did. I shoved the papers in the envelope, he’d signed them. The least I could do is get him out of this hell hole, into the real world before I left him high and dry. Make his life a little better. Maybe he’d have less anxiety.
I didn’t know why I fucking cared, but I did. The same reason why I didn’t want Poet to send someone else, no matter how much he’d hurt me, and how much I wanted to hurt him, he was still mine. I stopped by his door and turned towards him with a welcoming smile, “Come on. We’re getting out of here. We’ll drop this off and I’ll give you a taste of who I am.” Not that I really knew who I am. But I’d give him as much as I could for now. I couldn’t tell him my secrets. Not the way he’d done, but I could show him my life, who I was. All so I could get closer, so he’d trust me with all his secrets. Enough to control him for Poet’s designs, whatever the fuck they were.