A/N: Wow, it's been a while, hasn't it? Hey, guys. waves sheepishly So, basically I've had the biggest case of writer's block known to man. For a long time, I stopped knowing where to go with this – but it seems I've finally overcome my difficulty with the original ending. A chapter or two more, and this adventure will be over. It's already the longest thing I've ever written, even after a year of being ignored!
I owe it to everyone who read this once upon a time and to myself to finish it, once and for all. Thank you for waiting.
"So: a picnic in Old Man Thompson's fields followed by an evening of star-gazing and pizza. Whaddya say?"
Nick's voice jerks rudely me out of my reverie; Liam had been stroking my hand in an especially teasing manner. It's after school, and my unnoticed companion and I are by my locker, preparing to make the now-familiar walk over to Laura's house. I close the locker door and come face-to-face with Nick and Naomi, who are touching fingers but not holding hands. They wear twin expressions of thinly-veiled concern.
"No thanks," I mumbled, throwing my backpack over one shoulder and staring decidedly down at my feet. "I'm busy." Liam walks behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders: the gesture would have been protective had anyone been able to see it.
After four days of using every available hour to see Laura in the hopes of discovering new information, people are beginning to become suspicious. It's unfortunate, but unavoidable. I've made a promise to myself that I won't give up until I have hard facts, even if it means creating some… casualties.
"Busy?" asks Naomi, incredulity and anger lacing her voice. "Alex, what do you mean 'busy'? I know your schedule as well as I know my own, and you're not part of anything that would take up this much time." She breathes deeply, then continues. "Alex, we're getting nervous for you. You said you were with your mother last night, but when we called her he said –"
"You called my mother?" My voice is louder than I'd anticipated. There's a sudden foreign feeling within me, like the straining of a non-existent muscle until it snaps apart. All at once, molten rage is welling within me. I've never been this angry – this disgusted – at anyone. I barely feel Liam's hands fly off my shoulders like they've been burnt. It's difficult to breathe, difficult to think.
Nick's expression distorts in confusion. "Alex," he says, overly-calm. "We didn't mean to intrude. We're just scared; you're not acting like yourself."
"Oh, really? And how, exactly, would you know what I act like?" I slam the door to my locker closed. Words are spilling out of my mouth like water through a hole in a dam. "You two can only see as far each other, can't you? This whole relationship thing you two have – it's a fucking accident. It's your fault, me acting this way! It's your fault!"
I storm away, my feet carrying me down the hallway and aggressively through the double doors to outside. It's only when I'm halfway to the bus stop that the blind, towering anger evaporates. My knees give out at the soccer goal, and my head flops into my hands lifelessly, my hands tugging at my like as though to rip it out. I feel physically ill at the recollection of hurt in their eyes.
When I manage to lift my head, Liam is in front of me with his arms crossed. There is an unreadable expression on his face.
"What was that?" he demands quietly. At my lack of response, he continues. "I know you, Alex. I know you better than anyone. And there is no way you would ever speak to your friends that way without provocation. So tell me: what was that?"
I'm at a loss. "Liam, I don't know what happened back there. Something… something happened inside of me. Something bad. I couldn't control what I was saying, what I was doing – oh God, please believe me, you have to believe me –"
The grovelling is instinctual, but it does the trick. He cuts me off with a hand to the mouth, crouching down so that he's on my level. "Alex. While you were in there, you felt… different. Bad, and somehow familiar. Now, I need you to promise me that the feeling you had in there is completely gone."
He grabs my chin, angling my face toward him roughly. His blue eyes bore into mine, holding the unspoken promise of I'll know if you're lying. I search myself, and come up empty-handed.
"It's gone, at least for now," I state heavily. He nods, then helps me to my feet.
"Come on," he says. "We're going to Laura's."
But when we arrive at Laura's complex after a stilted and touch-free bus ride, there's a note taped hastily onto her door.
Sorry I'm not here; I've had a family emergency over in Wallisville. I tried to call your house to tell you, but your mother said you weren't home. I'll be back tomorrow, so come and see me then.
The muscle-twinge feeling sneaks up on my again. It stands out like the snapping of a twig or a clap in a silent auditorium. I shove the feeling down, down, down. Liam mutters something under his breath, and leads me by the hand back to the bus stop outside. I spend the entire ride home breathing slowly and deeply, with Liam periodically giving me looks that clearly say we'll talk about this when we're alone.
The bus stops; we get out and walk the two blocks to my apartment building. After half-dragging myself up the dilapidated staircase, Liam's steadying hand is the only thing that allows me to aim my trembling key into the lock. Fury pounds within me like a second heartbeat. When the door swings open, in the least opportune timing in history, my mother stands wearing a dressing gown with her arms crossed in the living room. Confrontation is evident in her body language.
She stares at me for an empty moment, then opens her lipstick-less mouth. "I got a call from Naomi yesterday." Her words are slow, but full of meaning. "She was asking where you were. Odd, isn't it, since you claimed you were spending the day with her and Nick?"
I say nothing, my teeth clenched. Words are pounding at the insides of my mouth, trying to escape.
"I waited up for you to come home, but you never did. Where were you, Alex?"
It's your fault! The strain of keeping my mouth closed hurts.
"Where have you been this past week?"
You're just a whore, aren't you? I can't breathe, I can't breathe…
"Is it drugs? Are the hallucinations back? Tell me!"
A fucking whore!
With one burst of energy, I hurtle into my room, slam and lock the door. I can hear her yelling at my from the other side, banging on the wooden frame and demanding that I open it for her. I slide down the wood slowly, eyes shut, both hands clamped onto my mouth. I'm shaking all over, and tears are dripping off my chin.
Slowly, slowly, the banging and the yelling stops. I remain where I fell, gasping breaths rocking my whole body. When I open my eyes, there he is standing above me – perfect, fucking perfect. That pretty white hair, and that mouth –
Before I can register my actions, I spring to my feet and mash my mouth against his in a bloody caricature of a kiss. It's all teeth and tongue, and my hands are fully of his hair, yanking him closer. I want more, more of him – now. I spin us around and pin him brutally to the door, giving the flesh of his lower lip a hard bite.
Something is off about the two of us, as though some vital order has been reversed. This is wrong. The thought is foggy and far-away as my teeth descend to the pale, pale skin of his throat.
I'm a heartbeat away from ordering him to his knees when the words crash through my consciousness like a slap to the face: THIS IS WRONG.
My breath catches in my throat, and I shove myself as far away from him as I can. He's frozen against the door, ordinarily in-control blues eyes stark with shock and fear. He's breathing heavily; a long-fingered hand reaches up curl around his neck.
I'm going to be sick. No person can feel this much hate and disgust at themself and not be. I take a steadying breath and look him in the eye. "Knock me out," I command, voice wobbly but determined.
"W-what?" The stutter breaks my heart and supports my proposal.
"Knock me out, Liam. I'm not safe to you right now – I'm not safe to anyone. I don't know what it is, but –" Inside me, the snapping feeling resonates like a bomb exploding. "Oh, God, it's back it's back do it Liam oh God do it please –"
His hand, semi-translucent, glides through my chest cavity. My breath catches. The world turns upside down and collapses into dark.