Authors Notes: - Eh… maybe?
Home had never looked so sweet to Carol's tired eyes. It was perfectly normal and just as it had always been. The madness that had swept into her life didn't affect her quiet apartment building in anyway, something that made her very happy. The joyful feeling that filled her when she walked inside quickly faded though. She looked around the small apartment and her heart grew heavy. David's friends had surrounded him with support and comfort, not doubting his innocence for a moment. She couldn't help but wonder how many people would come to her side if she were to get into trouble, or worse, hurt.
Emby was a given. They'd been partners long enough that he'd come to her defense or at least offer her some weak comfort. Outside of him she had no one else to turn to. The friends she had as a child were left behind when she'd moved away to the big city for college. Outside of being a friendly acquaintance and fellow cop she wasn't very close to anyone at work. Donovan's remark about them being family drifted through her mind. They couldn't be any different but still their connection was apparent. She could feel something, almost a physical force, binding the group together. It felt strongest between Seth and David but somehow Donovan and Elwyn figured into the equation.
Carol flopped down onto the love seat in front of her TV, the only real furniture in her apartment and turned on the TV. She didn't really pay attention to what was only, merely observed the pretty colors flashing across the screen as her mind wandered, a million miles away.
She couldn't believe that she felt jealous of David. Or that he lingered so stubbornly in her mind, but every time she closed her eyes, there his smiling face was. Thinking about his awkward little grin made a smile tug at the corners of her mouth. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Through her closed eyelids she could still see the light of the TV bathing the room, dancing and flickering across the walls. She'd never felt so alone in her entire life.
A loud lump on her door made her jump. She sat up and looked over, her breath catching her in throat. It wasn't too late in the night for a visitor to be strange but it was unusual for her to get a visitor at anytime. Carol reluctantly got up; happy she was still wearing her sidearm. She peered out the peep hole and found herself staring into a distorted blue eye that seemed to smirk at her. Even though she couldn't make out who it was, she had a pretty good idea. She reluctantly opened the door and leaned against the door frame, resting the door against her chest, so that only part of her was exposed.
"What do you want?" She asked of the smirking punk.
"Carol was it?" Seth asked, tilting his head to the side curiously as he examined her. His gaze was less than subtle and left her somehow feeling slightly molested.
"Seth was it?" She countered, not really in the mood for whatever he wanted.
"I'm happy that you remember me."
"How could I forget? Not only did I just see you less than an hour ago but…" She motioned to him. "But you're… you."
"I'm happy we've reached an understanding," he said putting a hand to his chest. "That I'm me, and you're you."
Carol couldn't help but giggle; it was a flirtatious noise that she hadn't made in years. She shook her head and gave him a more patient curious look. "What do you want?"
He extended his other hand, which had up until that point been hiding behind his back. In his proffered hand he held a small simple bouquet of flowers, the kind you'd be able to buy at most gas stations. Despite being a rather pathetic looking bunch of white carnations with a smattering of crumpled baby's breath, Carol was touched. It was the first time anyone had brought her flowers.
Trying to hide her surprise she met his eyes and asked: "What's the occasion?"
"Well, I don't think it's your birthday, we don't have an anniversary to celebrate and it's not Valentines Day so… how about, because I think you have pretty eyes?" He shrugged with a disarming smile.
She gave him a doubtful look. "Right."
"Ok, fine. David sent me to give them to you so they're not really from me." He shrugged.
"Why would David send me flowers?" Carol asked, looking at the bouquet. It really did look just like the kind of flowers she'd imagine he'd buy. Seth struck her as more a rose guy. He was just that much smoother. "Especially being carried by you?"
"Because he trusts me." Seth suggested wit a shrug. Apparently he didn't have any greater insight into David's methods than she did.
"I suppose I should invite you in…" She said reluctantly, pulling away from the door, pulling it open as she stepped back.
"Thank you." He responded, walking inside. His expression blatantly showed he wasn't very impressed with what he saw. Still, he announced in a pleasant tone: "Nice place."
"Don't like, you think it's terrible." Carol said, taking the flowers from his hand and walking into the small kitchenette.
"It's just how I imagined it." He said, watching her from where he'd come to a stop in the middle of the living room.
She gave him a fleeting curious look while she searched the cabinets for something that could serve as a vase. Seth smiled benignly as he watched her.
"You're home is a reflection of yourself. It's your soul, laid bare for all to see." He said motioning around.
"Then what does it say about me?" She asked, selecting a fluted wine glass she'd never previous had a use for.
"You're very straight forward, with little to hide." He walked towards the couch and ran his fingers across the plush cotton back. "But you're empty, filled with only the bare necessities. It's not enough though…"
Carol paused, his words striking her in a way she hadn't expected. The water she'd been filling the glass with overflowed and splashed over her hands, shocking her back from her bleak thoughts. She poured out a little bit of water and stuck the flowers into the glass. When she looked back up Seth was standing on the other side of the kitchen counter at the breakfast nook that separated the kitchen from the living room. She hadn't felt or heard him move, it was like he was just suddenly there, with no movement from point A to point B.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you." Seth said softly, leaning his arms against the counter.
She looked down, studying his toned arms. He was wearing a black wife-beater that showed off his perfectly muscular arms as well as several unusual tattoos and piercings, each on their respective arms. Seth shifted slightly, giving her a better view of the trio of kanji on his right arm and the four metal bars through his forearm just below the bend of his left arm.
Carol forced her eyes back up to his. "You didn't offend me."
A smirk tugged at his almost too full lips. "Alright, read too deeply into you?"
"Apparently it isn't very hard."
He shook his head. "No, most people probably wouldn't think that deeply into the décor of your apartment," this time he full out smirked. "I'm just a weirdo like that."
She crossed her arms over her stomach and leaned back against the fridge, feeling more secure and safe having the counter between them. He watched her closely, his eyes almost predatory.
"How did you meet him?" Carol abruptly asked.
The question obviously caught him off guard. For a moment he hesitated, as if not understanding what she'd said. "Who? David?"
"I knew his dad…" He shrugged and looked away, but not quickly enough that she didn't see the darkness cloud his eyes.
Carol decided to leave that vein of questioning alone. After a moment she asked: "What about Elwyn and Donovan?"
Seth grinned at her. "You're just wondering how it is a bunch of freaks like us get together."
"Pretty much." She shrugged.
"Alright…" He bent forward, resting his upper torso on the counter. "Elwyn is… one of those people that everyone knows. At least if you travel in the right circles. You either know him, know of him, or you're blissfully ignorant."
"I guess I fell under that last category."
He nodded. "Most norms do."
"Norms?" She raised an eyebrow.
Seth looked slightly embarrassed and shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry."
"Sorry?" Carol laughed. "Why are you apologizing? I'm just a little curious about what makes me a 'norm'?"
"The simple answer: because that's what you are. The more complicated answer I'm not giving." He smiled cryptically.
"God." She groaned and dropped her head back, hitting it lightly on the fridge. "You people, I can tell you're hiding something from me and it drives me nuts! I can't imagine what it is but it still…"
"You just have to know?" He asked.
"Yes, yes I do." Carol said meeting his eyes firmly.
His head slowly dropped to the side and he lowered it onto his forearms. "I almost wish I could tell you, but I'm not allowed."
"Who's stopping you?"
His smile grew and he didn't answer her question.
Seth shook his head no.
This time he nodded. "Bingo."
"So you've got a skinny little kid telling you what to do?" She said in disbelief.
"Hey, he's twenty-one."
"And how old are you?"
"Why would you do what he tells you to?" She asked.
Seth lazily shrugged, not as if he didn't know the answer, it was plan to her that, that wasn't the case. He just didn't want to tell her.
"What form of control does he have over you? Is it blackmail? Is he threatening you?" Even as she said it she knew it was crazy. The mere idea of David trying to be threatening almost made her laugh.
Apparently it did make Seth laugh. He pulled upright and threw his head back with laughter. After a few hearty guffaws he met her eyes and grinned. "How about this: I do it because I love him."
That wasn't the sort of answer she'd expect from an average American heterosexual. She slowly looked him over and shook her head. "Wow, I was way off."
"I'm not gay." He chuckled, his tone suggesting he wasn't in the least bit offended.
"But you love him?"
Seth nodded. "I do."
"Like a brother?" She asked warily.
He was silent for just a breath too long, then he slowly nodded. "In a way…"
Seth chuckled. "I'm not the romantic type."
This answer didn't surprise her. She barely knew him and she could already tell he wasn't the most relationship oriented kind of guy.
"Is he gay?" She couldn't help but ask.
"No, sadly he'd very straight." Seth sighed dramatically.
"Gee that answers my next question." Carol rolled her eyes.
"And what was that?" He asked mischievously.
"Are you bi?"
"I don't like to label my sexuality." Seth said languidly, bending back over to resume his half sprawled position on her countertop.
Carol was silent for a long while. Not because his answer shocked her, in fact it was just about what she expected him to say. When she spoke again her tone was grave: "Can't you at least give me a hint?"
"About what?" He asked, even though he knew what she meant.
"About what you're hiding from me. About the world that you live in that's apparently so different from my own."
He closed his vivid blue eyes for a long moment and when he opened them the look within them made her blood run cold. It was the haunted gaze of someone who had been to hell and back. She could tell he'd set aside all his little games, lowered his defenses and carefully constructed illusions and just for a moment, shown her a glimpse into his very soul.
"Believe me when I say this detective: once you enter our world, there is no turning back. The instant you open the door it can never be shut again. You have a choice to make. You can proceed forward and never again in your whole life be able to feel safe, anywhere at anytime but know the truth or you can live in glorious ignorance and savor you're illusory safety." His tone was carefully neutral but still echoed with the chilly emptiness that reflected in his weighty gaze.
Carol hugged herself and looked down at the floor. She could feel the carefully constructed walls of her reality crumbling all around her. Her choices were obvious. She could either take his offer and permanently tear down the walls or turn away and mend them. Even if she turned back now there would always be a chink in the wall. A small hole that looked into a reality that she couldn't understand and may not want to.
The answer abruptly came to her. She looked up at him and stood upright. He righted himself and watched her closely. Carol took a deep breath and nodded.
"I've never really felt all that safe before anyway. I've always known that there were worse monsters out there than the one's I've locked up. I can feel it, like a current of electricity always pulsing under my skin." She reflexively rubbed her arms and shivered, even though her apartment was pleasantly warm she still suddenly felt very cold inside.
Carol closed her eyes and sighed heavily. This time she felt Seth move. He came around the counter and stood beside her in the cramped kitchen. For some reason she couldn't open her eyes, some little part of her mind refused to let her, as if it knew what was coming and wanted to protect her from it.
His hand gently touched her arm and caressed across her bare skin. Where his hand touched her she felt a warm current, like a hot breeze accompanied by a constant pulse of electricity. It lingered for a moment and slowly faded, leaving behind a powerful visceral memory.
Slowly he lifted his hand up her arm and across her shoulder, fear suddenly spiked within her as his touch passed across her throat. She forced it aside and held very still. His hand paused on her cheek and gently turned her face towards him. As if by his bidding she opened her eyes.
Seth's one gentle blue eyes were replaced by solid blackness. Panic began to flood her mind. He grasped her chin gently and forced her to look at him. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. His other hand rose to her face and pushed back her hair.
"Then I'll show you the truth… if you can accept it."
His hand returned to her vision at first she didn't catch the change it was so subtle, then all at once it was obvious. The bones in his fingers elongated, the silver piercing, akin in appearance to a talon shimmered and flowed into his flesh. She could see as it traveled under his skin and passed into the nail bed of his thumb. His well cared for nails grew into sharp white talons with the claw extending from his thumb coated in silver. The change became even more pronounced and his hand looked less and less human but still somehow maintaining an air of humanity.
She could feel the walls of her reality shatter and fade away. The darkness that lurked behind them surged froth, filling her world with darkness. The reality of what held her in place hit her all at once and she screamed in terror. Seth's cold black eyes didn't waver and his grip on her grew stronger.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he said in a voice that was less human. "I won't let them hurt you…"
Blackness filled her vision and she welcomed the nothingness it brought with it…