Title: Guided By
Author: Edana [email protected]
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, possibly strong, non-explicit sexual situations in later chapters)
Summary: Because of his powers, Laine unwillingly offered himself to a dark creature that won't stop until it claims him. Can Brennan, a descendant of higher beings, protect the boy from the darkness and his own powers?
Disclaimer: All owned by me
Warnings: Shounen ai, yaoi, male/male relationships but also male/female (shock horror)
Chapter One – Laine
The hunger was a burning pain, hard, if not impossible, to ignore. It was an agony that made him feel completely hollow inside, as though his stomach was eating itself away, drowning itself in acid just to keep him alive, and yet the ache was a strangely pleasant feeling.
Sometimes he wondered if he was even still alive, and he didn't know the answer, he really didn't. Time stretched, age became decayed and rotting flesh and even though his beauty never seemed to crumble like it should have, something inside of him wasn't right. His liver, his kidneys, all those useless organs, had probably decomposed into nothing but mush, and maybe his brain had too. But as long as he fed it, his loyal heart would keep pounding, would keep the blood flowing through his veins, through his perfect body.
He didn't know if he was still alive. He didn't really care either way, because if he was dead, then life after death wasn't something to bitch about.
Haden stepped out of the smoky bar into the street, not surprised to find that it was raining. Smirking to himself, he let the door swing shut behind him, the water smashing into his body in torrents, relentless, uncaring of the small creatures that scuttled across the earth's surface. The rain preyed on them like he did.
It was dark, only early but a winter evening, and night seemed to start blissfully early in harsh winter. Dark clouds, deep grey and almost black, smothered out any blue that might be there and burst open, letting the water pour down hard. It smashed into the concrete and into Haden's own body, and in seconds he was soaked to the bone, dark hair plastered to his scalp, skin damp, shirt moulding itself to the hard muscles beneath. But Haden simply smirked as if enjoying the feeling of being pummelled by water, and quickly he reached into the pocket of his leather coat and pulled out a cigarette, placing it to wet lips. He lit the end with a flick of his hand, not a lighter in sight, the flame burning on his fingertip before dying away and leaving a glowing red light in the darkness.
The streets were empty, every creature taking cover but one, a solitary being. Or maybe not . . . Haden smirked as he saw the woman rushing towards him, hunched over and desperately gripping an umbrella above her head, a briefcase in her other hand, the bottom of her suit sprayed with crystal drops. Swiftly, with lightning-quick movements, he reached out and grabbed the woman who tried to hurry past by the forearm, letting her shocked and confused cries wash over him, shivering in delight as they plucked at his soul.
"Excuse me," he said sweetly, letting his charm ooze out from every pore of his gorgeous body, flicking dark hair from his intense grey eyes. "But could you tell me where the train station is?" He was stunning, and he knew he was. Ebony hair that fell around his face and touched the base of his neck, cloudy eyes framed by the longest and darkest lashes and also, currently, a hint of eyeliner. He was dark beauty, something that shouldn't exist but did; something that made other people uneasy about how they reacted to him. But, like a siren his beauty only lead to destruction one way or another.
The woman whose arm he was still clutching looked up in annoyance, lips pursed, but the expression died away quickly. Haden held back a chuckle of amusement. How simple these people were. How trusting of beauty that made them ache inside. The rain was long forgotten as the woman said, "Um, yeah, sure. I'm heading there myself, so . . . I'll show you. If that's all right."
Haden took a slow drag of his cigarette and wondered how much nerve it had taken the woman to say that. But he smiled and breathed, "Thank you, I appreciate it," and dropped the cigarette to the floor. He didn't bother crushing it beneath his boots; it landed in a puddle and the light was quickly extinguished, red flame dying, the only light in the darkness gone.
They didn't get very far. At the next alleyway, Haden grasped the woman's arm again, harder this time, with strength that she couldn't overcome and pulled her into the shadows, the hunger inside raging, tearing him apart even as her fingernails dug into his skin, drawing blood. He didn't mind a fight. In the end, it only made the triumph taste all the sweeter.
The building was either old, or built to look old: made of dark stone, engraved with ancient Greek designs, supported by thick columns, and a triangular roof with at least two dozen stone steps leading up to the entrance. Laine didn't care if it was old, he only cared that it was a current sanctuary from the rain, not that he really minded getting wet if he admitted it to himself. But still he stayed where he was, sitting on the first step closest to the door, the roof over his head but water spray coating him in a fine layer, legs pulled to his chest and chin resting on his knees, looking at nothing and everything all at once.
To the people walking past he was just a teenager, barely even sixteen years old, nothing but a boy and probably a troublemaker at that. His hair was the palest shade of blonde, almost silver-white, and it fell in soft waves across his eyes and down to his chin, the tips dyed lilac to match the almost unnatural shade of his eyes. Beneath long, pale lashes and smudged eyeliner, Laine's eyes were wide and innocent, a washed-out lilac that was almost blue but not quite. The colour, annoying enough, often meant that it looked like he was about to cry.
Trembling because of the cold, Laine closed his eyes and exhaled gently. He was dressed in a pair of torn jeans and a black shirt that was a little too big for him, not that it could be helped. Around his neck, both above and beneath the shirt, there were chains, dozens of them. Gold and silver and almost every other metal, precious or not, with pendants and amulets cold against his skin. The Churchill Pendulum, the Krena Amulet, the Coin of Apollo, the ankh, and semi-precious stones: staurolite
for protection, emerald for rejection of evil, zircon for safe passage.
Laine wasn't the usual teenage boy that they expected him to be.
It was pouring hard, rain smashing into the streets, a fine spray coating the steps, and it was achingly dark. If Laine hated anything, he hated the dark, because he'd learnt slowly, painfully, that they came out when the sun disappeared beneath the horizon or the clouds, it didn't matter to them. It seemed to be a personal choice and not a necessity, but it affected Laine, because they affected him.
He didn't know what they were. He didn't know what power had decided to screw up his life. All Laine knew was that a year ago something had awoken in him, some kind of psychic power that he couldn't control no matter how hard he tried. If anything it controlled him, and after abandoning everything he had, Laine had become nothing more than a wanderer spending day-to-day hoping that soon he could escape them and the power that hid inside.
Laine was young and sweet and innocent, but vulnerable and horribly confused about the deal that life had given him; he just couldn't understand what this power was for, what it would lead to, where it would guide him. But that didn't matter, not now. It was raining hard, dark and cold, a winter evening, and he was sitting alone on a stone step and most of his physical feeling had gone and left him with numbness inside and out. It was time to go home, to the place that was his current home, the last of a long list. Smiling gently despite the pain inside, Laine stood and ran quickly down the steps and into the flood of water, soaked to the bone within minutes. It was easy to slip unnoticed between the people and the shadows, and pretty soon he was gone.
He had only gotten within ten minutes of the train station when everything changed. He felt the slow burning inside, and he shook his head in disbelief and rejection of the feeling as it overtook. Biting his bottom lip, the boy knew what was to come, and he braced himself for it. A second later something seemed to physically slam into him, and he cried out in pain as everything tensed inside, hit by the impact. His heart was strained, his stomach knotted, his lungs burning. Gasping for breath, he tasted the blood in his mouth as he groaned lightly, hating this, hating that it had to happen to him.
Another sharp blow, another wrenching pain that seemed to smash everything within him to pieces. Laine fell to the ground, his muscles suddenly weak, his legs giving way. "No," he murmured. "No, no, please. Oh God, please." His last word was a sob, and Laine squeezed his pale eyes shut, feeling the pain rush through him like hot electricity, frying his veins, burning in the back of his throat, splitting his head, his skull, apart. He screamed as another invisible blow smashed into him and he was emotionally ripped limb from limb.
Suddenly the pain was gone, as if it had never been there at all. Breathing hard, chest rising and falling quickly, Laine knew that even though it was over it didn't stop him wanting so badly to die in those few agonising moments. "Damn," he muttered as he realised he was on his knees, water soaking his jeans and the skin beneath them, his entire body drenched and racked with sobs. Trying to be strong, he pulled himself onto his feet despite how badly his body wanted to collapse.
Something was near. Something was close. He'd felt the unnatural power, he reacted to it, and now, despite every instinct that screamed for him to run, Laine was being drawn towards that power like a magnet.
This was his curse, his horrific destiny. His body torn apart by their power, and then his very soul screaming for them, wanting to be near them, taking him there against his will. Like a wife returning to her abusive husband because she just couldn't live without him, some part of Laine seemed to be punishing himself.
He belonged with them. He belonged to them.
Violet strands were plastered to his face; his entire body was damp from the rain, trembling from the cold. Completely numb inside, Laine followed the pull and knew somehow where to go, as if a chain had been wrapped around him. His throat was tightened by grief but he kept moving, walking through puddles, through pitch-black alleyways, a pale beacon in the darkness.
He heard the scream, the struggle. His fingers slowly found the green stone – emerald, for rejection of evil, and he prayed to any god who would listen. But he found himself at the entrance to an alleyway, and looking down it through the shadows he saw whom he was searching for. There was a couple there, a man and a woman, and he was pressed desperately against her, mouth to her mouth as she fought against him, trying to swallow her down it seemed. Laine could see the raw hunger and power, and he was sucking something out of her into his own body, something that could quench that painful hunger and keep his own heart pounding. Fingers grasped her throat, and she was shaking now, barely fighting, all strength fading as he took it from her. Soon the man let go of his prey, not content to let her slip down to the ground, but actually throwing her hard against the wall with a smile on his face, delighted in the sickening crack that echoed in the silence.
Laine held his breath as the man, the person he was here for, the person that he would suddenly give his very life for, turned and faced him. Black hair, stormy grey eyes, darkly beautiful, one of them. They called to him, and silently this man was calling him too, some part of him recognising Laine for what he was, for what he could offer. And Laine was offering himself. Some part of him wanted to be taken by this creature so badly that the emotion itself was killing him.
The man took a step towards him, and suddenly, without warning, the spell was broken. Like being pulled from a dream, Laine blinked and found himself in a different world, one that was confusing but familiar. He realised what had happened, and what he was standing in front of, what was looking at him. Without much coherent thought, his primitive instinct kicking in, Laine turned and ran. Haden, grinning like a hungry wolf, followed him.
Brennan was walking down the street towards his house, a plastic carrier bag in one hand, annoyed that he'd been caught in the rain, but more wary of the darkness than anything else. This place crawled with them; he could feel it. His night vision wasn't much better than anyone else's, but he couldn't complain. If he could still feel them, especially with the loss of one of his senses, then it was enough.
Tonight something strange was happening. There was a feeling burning inside of him, apprehension maybe, perhaps even a sixth sense warning, maybe simply his own anxiety at being caught off guard. He wondered why the sensation wasn't clearer – the fuzziness of the emotion was unusual for him, and it worried him more than a little. He wished that he could see the moon behind the clouds, or at least remember what phase it was in, but he couldn't.
The rain was starting to ease up, but the feeling inside definitely wasn't. In fact, the closer he got to his house the more painful it became, his stomach twisting in knots, muscles burning. This was a warning, it had to be; there was no other explanation. Suddenly alert, heart racing in unease, Brennan pushed wet hair from his eyes and scanned the area around him. It didn't look like anyone was there.
The next thing he knew, Brennan was down on the floor, flat on his back, the wind knocked out of him. "What the hell?" he cried, feeling a weight pinning him down, pain flaring through his body. Something had knocked him down. Something had broken through his barriers. It was impossible.
"I'm sorry!" the boy on his lap cried. "I'm really sorry. Please . . ." He trailed off, not knowing what to ask, what he was begging for. Pale violet-blue eyes were wide in horror, lips parted, and Brennan felt something mental rather than physical slam into him. He couldn't explain the feeling, the need, the sudden desire to know whom this boy was, and how he'd broken through his shields, but it was there, eating away inside. Relentless.
Moments later the pale boy had scrambled off him and was running away without another world, wet and trembling and desperate, and Brennan knew that something was chasing him. He could feel the power creeping around the pit of his stomach, and he made a split second decision. Something was pulling him to this boy, maybe even guiding them together; he could read the signs, and quickly he reached out and grasped the stranger's arm.
"Come with me," he half offered, half begged. "You need help, I'll help you. Just come with me."
It was either keep running forever or trust a complete stranger. Laine had less than seconds to make up his mind; he could hear the footsteps pounding on concrete, following him, trying to claim what some part of Laine had unwillingly offered. So he looked up into eyes that were a warm red-brown and said, "Please help me."
Brennan was still clutching the boy as they disappeared into his house much faster than it seemed possible, slamming the door behind them, a sound of finality that didn't make the anxiety any less painful. Moments later Haden turned the corner and found himself in an empty street, his prey gone, the soaked carrier bag the only indication that anyone had been there at all.
Laine didn't know why he felt in that moment that he could rely on a complete stranger. He trusted by nature, maybe he was even a little naïve despite everything that he'd seen and been through, but the boy had experienced some things he didn't care to remember. Not everyone was as dependable or even as kind as they pretended to be. Most of them wanted something in return.
But he was being chased by some kind of dark creature that he didn't really want to contemplate, because if he closed his eyes he could still see that woman pressed against the wall, could still hear the shattering of her body as she was thrown hard and mercilessly. Now that creature, that thing, that hauntingly beautiful man, was after him, and he couldn't explain why. What was so different about him, a boy of sixteen, that drew them to him, needing to claim him?
On that day, an evening like any other, he bumped into his saviour – quite literally. "I'm sorry!" he cried, practically sitting on the man's lap, and the rain was still pouring hard and soaking them both and the darkness around them was relentless. His heart was pounding hard against his ribs and his breaths were shallow and he wished so desperately that he could just stop running. "I'm really sorry. Please . . ."
In that moment their eyes met, violet-blue and reddish-brown, and Laine felt everything dropping away beneath him. Gasping for breath, the boy felt as though he was falling, his stomach in his throat and everything a rush inside; he was being pulled to this man, this stranger, and the feeling was so different from the smashing pain that led to his unwilling offer to the dark creature. He vaguely realised that he was silently begging, for what he didn't know.
He heard the footsteps, louder, closer, faster. Laine stumbled onto his feet without a word, as quickly as he could, and ran. It was instinctive, illogical, and completely primitive because everything inside was screaming for him to run and keep running until he was safe.
The stranger grabbed his arm, and Laine turned quickly in shock, eyes wide. "Come with me," the man almost pleaded, a little out of breath himself. "You need help, I'll help you. Just come with me."
He barely even hesitated, and that was what he found strange. This man was nothing to him, but Laine said, "Please help me." His decision was made. He hoped that he wouldn't regret it.
The adrenaline and the panic inside swallowed him whole, sickening and all too real and they gripped him hard and made everything seem a little fuzzy. Laine followed the man through the shadows and the rain was still smashing into the concrete around them, roaring, and with every step he was achingly aware that soon he would turn the corner and see what was happening, and how long would either of them stay alive once that happened?
When the door slammed behind them, the relief that exploded inside of him was sweet if not a little nauseating. He was aching all over, but the panic never really faded. "He's still out there," he said to the man. "He isn't going to leave, is he?"
"Who is it?"
"I don't know," Laine said bitterly. And then, "You . . . you wouldn't understand anyway." He was just a normal, average person. He wouldn't have any idea about the things that walked in the darkness around them.
The man frowned, turned away and ran into the closest room. Confused and trembling, Laine followed him quickly as if unwilling to be left by himself, but every moment was one of alertness, readiness for whatever followed. He found himself in the living room, the man at the window, standing carefully to the side and pushing back the nets with his long fingers.
"What's going on?" Laine asked, anxious.
"He's still out there," the man explained.
Oh God, oh God no. "He'll know, won't he? He'll know that I'm here."
"Calm down. Even if he does, he won't be able to break the shield around this house."
The words were spoken so calmly, so seriously, that the bizarreness of them almost escaped Laine. But a second later, the nervousness and the fear twisting his stomach into knots, the boy said, "Shields? What are you talking about? You can't be serious!" He was just a man, wasn't he? There was nothing abnormal about him. This was . . . this was so strange and confusing. And add to that the thing outside, and Laine was suddenly feeling more than a little sick.
Brennan resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He should have grown used to ordinary people not understanding what he was talking about by now, but being around his sister meant that he often forgot he was different. Now the boy was standing in the doorway looking at him, pale and soaked and with pained eyes, lips parted, chest rising and falling quickly. What on earth had happened earlier that day? This wasn't your normal daily occurrence. "He can't get into the house because it's protected. Got it?"
"Don't snap at me!" the boy said. His hands were fists and his eyes were suddenly angry, but Brennan could see the way his mouth trembled. He was probably close to the edge right now.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled before looking out of the window again, the nets against his fingers. He saw the dark figure standing there in the shadows and the rain, and his own heart was pounding in fear as he continued to observe the motionless figure. The silence was painful, almost deadly, and Brennan began to think that the man wasn't real at all; like looking as a statue for too long, he had the vague thought that if the figure moved, he might cry out in shock.
Laine couldn't take any of this for much longer – the suspense was killing him. Slowly he reached up and found the emerald around his neck, and he closed his eyes and concentrated his powers. The stones didn't tend to work unless psychic power was channelled through them, keeping them purified, and despite his lack of control on his energy, Laine tried his hardest to surround the stone with it.
Brennan didn't see what the boy was doing because he was still looking out of the window, and suddenly the truth slammed into him. "No way," he breathed, shaking his head in disbelief. "It can't be him. It can't."
"Haden," Brennan explained. It meant nothing to the boy.
Suddenly everything began to spin, and Laine realised that the house itself was trembling, the floor rising and falling beneath his feet. He cried out, looking around in disbelief, which made the sudden dizziness all the worse. The furniture was jumping and the deep rumbling sound was almost deafening, and the sudden rush inside of Laine made his squeeze his eyes shut tightly. He wasn't used to this, and he couldn't really understand, but everything was shaking, juddering, glass smashing, lamps crashing to the ground, and his body was lurching from the feeling and making him feel unbelievably nauseous. "What's going on?" he cried above the roaring. "What on earth is happening?"
Outside, Haden looked at the house with a maniacal grin on his face.
Brennan, caught unaware by the sudden movement of the house, felt everything give way. With a shocked cry he fell to the ground, pain flaring through him, heart in his throat and stomach knotted from the violent vibrations beneath his body. He hadn't expected anything like this to happen, but he saw the boy on his knees in the doorway, hands over his head, teeth clenched and eyes squeezed shut as if willing this all away. "Don't worry!" Brennan shouted over the din. "Don't worry! It's okay! It'll stop!"
"Then make it stop!" Laine cried, desperate pleading in his voice.
Brennan didn't know why he suddenly felt so protective of this boy. Maybe it was his own compassion, maybe it was their being together when something terrible was happening, but he didn't question it much. Instead he moved forward and embraced the boy quickly, wrapping his arms around the smaller body and resting the silvery head on his shoulder, hiding him almost completely from sight. They were both shaking hard and it was numbing and painful, but Brennan squeezed his eyes shut and murmured the chant under his breath, weaving his own power into the words, bringing them deeper meaning. He repeated the chant and still he churned his energy into them like Laine had tried to do with the emerald, and only a moment later, though it seemed an eternity, the shaking stopped.
Just stopped. It was like a roller coaster ride coming to an end, and both of them exhaled shakily, trembling a little, their bodies pressed together and still damp from the rain. And suddenly Brennan was alert again, and he pulled himself to his feet, running shakily towards the window, this time simply pulling the net down until it landed in a pile at his feet.
Haden was standing there watching him. Fingers pressed against the window, a hungry grin on his face, there was only a sheet of glass between them. Brennan stepped back in shock, his heart suddenly in his throat, and all he was aware of in that moment was the darkness and the rain pattering against glass and the man, the shadow, standing threateningly at his window. The boy was whimpering and everything was frozen and not a single thought was running through Brennan's head; inside he was achingly numb.
And then he was gone. Brennan blinked, and Haden was gone, and he couldn't believe it, he just couldn't. Stomach twisting, he pressed his hands against the window and looked desperately, eyes searching for the man in every shadow and yet he couldn't find him. He really was gone.
It took a long time for the calmness to claim them again, because their sense of security had been so badly smashed. He didn't know how much time had passed when he turned and looked at the pale boy on the floor, examining him properly for the first time. Young, only fifteen or sixteen, with silver-blonde hair tipped with violet and the strands were plastered to his head by the rain. He looked so lost and almost pitiful, sitting in the darkness, soaked and recovering from the adrenaline rush. Brennan smiled gently.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Laine," the boy murmured.
The blonde considered the question for a moment before looking away. "Just Laine."
Brennan simply nodded. He wasn't going to force anything. "My name's Brennan. Brennan Aiello." And then, kneeling on the ground before Laine, very lightly taking the boy's chin in his hand he said, "He's gone, you know. You don't have to be frightened anymore."
Laine looked up at him with angry eyes. "You said he couldn't get past the shields."
"He can't," Brennan said softly. "He can't get inside a snow globe either, but it doesn't mean he can't shake it up a little."
Laine simply lowered his head again, and he hated how everything was aching inside so badly. Shaken up, that was a nice way of putting it, because right then the blonde felt as though he could easily throw up, followed by curling into a ball and wishing everything away. Head pounding, Laine bit his bottom lip and fought back the stinging of his eyes. He was cold and clammy and didn't really know what was going on.
"Do you want to take a shower?" Brennan asked.
Laine shook his head. "Why am I here?" he asked.
"Because you bumped into me?"
"No," Laine said, completely serious as he looked into Brennan's strange reddish-brown eyes. Was there a name for that colour? "What am I doing here really? I don't get why this is happening. I don't get why I'm here!"
Brennan tried to smile reassuringly when he said, "I don't know. I don't even know you, or your past, or why Haden of all people if after you. I don't know the answers to your questions, Laine, because I'm just as confused as you are."
With those words, Laine looked up at the other man with curiosity clear on his face, the hopelessness fading away into intrigue. He didn't know what it was about Brennan that made him feel suddenly safe, a slow warmth burning inside. He remembered that feeling of the ground giving way beneath him and he studied the man crouched beside him. Dark hair, almost impossibly dark, not very long but brushing his shoulders and falling across his face, those warm eyes and skin that was lightly tanned. He was probably in his early twenties.
"Who are you?" Laine asked. "What are you?"
Brennan grinned. "Why? Can't you trust me?"
"It's not that." He didn't want to admit just how untrue the question was. Looking around the room, he suddenly realised how much damage the creature had caused. Most of the furniture had toppled over and Laine felt the guilt burning inside. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to cause you so much trouble."
"Don't worry about it," Brennan said. "It's just stuff." And then he noticed the chains and the cords around Laine's neck, dozens of them, some of the pendants resting against the huge black shirt that the boy seemed to be hiding under. Intrigued, he reached out slowly and grasped one between his fingers, studying it in the dark. "A Yarobi Luck Ring?" he questioned. "The Krena Amulet. Is there something you're not telling me? Oh, you have an Archimedes Medallion too? You do know that's for boosting your sex appeal, don't you?"
"What?" Laine cried, blushing instantly. "N-no! I didn't know that, honest!"
Brennan simply grinned again, but he knew there was more to Laine that met the eye. Having all these charms and semi-precious stones, most of them carefully picked out for protection or enhancing psychic powers – there was definitely something he was keeping hidden, not that Brennan could blame him. He wasn't exactly being forthcoming with his secrets either. "Will you stay the night?" he asked.
"Stay the night?" Laine echoed. "What do you mean?"
Brennan rolled his eyes. "I'm not suggesting anything. I just . . . you asked me to help you, and I said that I would. I don't break my promises, Laine. If you want somewhere to stay, you can stay here. If you want someone to talk to, you can talk to me. Do you see the pattern here? So, is there anything you want?"
Laine knew that no matter how naïve he was being, or how unbelievably trusting, he didn't really care. Something had drawn him to Brennan, perhaps even guided him here, and he wasn't about to give up the one thing that crashed into his insecurities and tried to draw him back into reality.
Looking up, smiling sweetly if not a little cheekily, Laine said, "Can I have a shower?"
He peeled the wet clothes from his body, carefully removed the chains and cords from around his neck and placed them in a neat pile on top of the toilet seat lid. It was easy to move around the bathroom and pretend that everything was okay, because for some reason this place reminded him of his own home. His old home, the place that he'd left over a year ago when the powers had awoken.
Laine closed his eyes at the thought, breathing deeply. So hard, it was still hard now, roaming from place to place and wondering why. He was only sixteen, independent but lonely and confused, and staying in a place like this for one night as least would probably do him some good.
It was strange that he felt safe enough in this house to voluntarily strip and place himself in danger. But he didn't think of it like that, because with Brennan there was no suspicion, no doubt, just a warmth inside that smothered away everything else. He shouldn't feel like that, he knew he shouldn't, but as he stepped into the shower, sighing as the hot water pounded into aching muscles, he thought about the man who had almost unintentionally rescued him. Brennan Aiello. He was different too; he radiated something that wasn't normal, something powerful.
It didn't scare him. Maybe it should have.
That thing, Haden, was gone and yet Laine couldn't find himself thinking that he would be safe from him for very long. He'd offered himself to the creature, unwillingly but still . . . it was his own fault. The hook was in the fish's mouth, and no matter how much Laine pushed against the feeling, he was reeling the creature in. And that had happened so many times in the past before that he could do nothing but keep running.
He turned off the shower and stepped out of it, drying himself quickly and pulling his dirty clothes back on. It wasn't like he had anything else to wear anyway. Maybe he would confide in Brennan. He wasn't exactly looking for help or support, but it might be therapeutic or something to finally tell someone everything he kept bottled up inside.
Stepping out into the hallway, Laine was surprised to see a small black kitten on the floor by the top step, looking at him with curious green eyes. For a moment he felt a little uneasy, as if the kitten was actually studying him, wondering who he was. The thought unnerved him. "Who are you?" he whispered. If the cat answered him, he was going to have a heart attack; he knew he was.
The kitten said nothing, walking up to Laine and rubbing against his leg instead, purring lightly. The boy wasn't really sure what to do. He wasn't used to animals, especially tame ones that came right up to him, so it was a little awkward when he bent and gathered it into his hands, it was that small, but warm and very soft. Still, Laine kept a wary eye on it as he entered the kitchen where Brennan was sitting.
"You're a witch, aren't you?" he asked.
Brennan looked up from whatever he was reading, one eyebrow raised. "A witch?"
"You have a black cat," Laine explained, laughing.
"Oh. No, I'm not. Shadow belongs to my sister. And by the way, a male witch is known as a warlock."
"A warlock?" Laine echoed. "I thought that was a goblin or something."
"Close your mouth before you embarrass yourself further," Brennan advised with a grin, gesturing for Laine to sit on the chair opposite him. He studied the boy; saw the water droplets clinging to strands of pale hair, and the sudden sorrow in those violet-blue eyes. "What's wrong?"
"It . . . it just came straight up to me."
"The kitten." He made it sound like nothing so miraculous had happened to him before.
"Oh." Brennan didn't really know what Laine meant exactly, but he said, "Of course she did. All animals are drawn to psychic powers, especially tame animals that live with humans. They're in tune with things like that."
"Psychic powers," Laine murmured. "How did you know? Was it that obvious?"
Brennan grinned again, hands behind his head. "No, not really. I just took a stab in the dark." Laine was chewing on his bottom lip, head lowered, the kitten cradled protectively against his chest like a child with his favourite stuffed toy. "Look, I'm sorry if you didn't want me to know or something."
"It's not that."
"Okay, good, be -" But a violent blow that left him gasping cut off his words; something invisible slammed into his head and Brennan felt the nausea exploding inside. Another blow to his skull and he cried out in pain, clutching his head with desperate fingers, breathing hard and willing the agony away. Everything was a sick rush inside and he tasted the bile on his tongue and his vision was blurred – he could barely hear or see anything, not even Laine who was beyond worried and panicked.
"Brennan, what's wrong?"
He couldn't answer, he just couldn't. Even when the pain died away he couldn't find the words because his whole body was aching and he felt completely and utterly drained. He looked up slowly but he couldn't see Laine, not properly – everything was blurred, smudged like paint, nothing but outlines. "I'm okay," he gasped, feeling the boy's hand on his back. "I just . . . can't see anything."
"What?" Laine cried in horror. "You're blind?"
"Kind of, but it's only temporary. This always happens when I overuse my sixth sense. One of the others tends to take vacation time for a while."
"You've got to be joking."
"Nope, not really," Brennan said, and his smile was a little bitter. "But don't worry about me, Laine. When you've got a sixth sense as strong as mine, you have to get used to this pretty quickly."
"This is so weird. You're really blind?" Laine asked, waving his hand in front of Brennan's eyes, noticing the sudden dullness.
"If you're doing what I think you're doing, you better stop that right now."
Brennan hesitated for just a moment before he said, "You'll stick around for a while, right?"
Laine could hear the deeper meaning in the words, in the request, and he was glad that Brennan couldn't see the blush that was slowly staining his cheeks. "Yeah," he answered. "I'll stay."
Outside, Haden was standing in the rain, smoking a cigarette, the red light burning in the darkness. He studied the house for a long moment, pondering the protection placed on it, wondering whom the man at the window had been. It didn't really matter though, not in the end. Grinning, he dropped the cigarette and crushed it beneath his foot before turning and disappearing into the shadows.