A/N: Oh my God I'm so so so sorry for not updating for over a year! School got so hectic that it just sapped all my energy and with it, my enthusiasm to write. I love this story though and I really want to finish it soon. Quick recap of last chapter: Chad turned out to be Steven Michaels and trapped Sidney in a cabin with him and another Cupid called Luke that Chad was doing experiments on, she and Luke managed to escape because of a ghostly figure that caused a fire in the cabin and Sidney later woke up in bed with Cole, thinking that Leo's ghost had finally found her. Just to warn you, this update is over 5000 words, please R&R :)
Chapter 19: The Book of Luke
And if everything I ever believed in crumbled around me, if everyone I knew turned against me, if I lost the only family I have left; I know I'd still have you. Without question or doubt or fear. For always…
I was nervous as I tiptoed my way into the silent room. The only sound I could hear was his slow, measured breathing, as if every inhale was as excruciating as the last. Every slow breath added another layer of melancholy to the room until I could almost see his depressed mood like a dark cloud hovering over the room, covering everything and seeping into every object, every particle; even me. I had never seen anyone suffer like that and I wondered if he was even conscious enough to recognize me and if he could manage to struggle through his pain and talk to me.
Taking a seat beside his bed I asked the question to which the answer was obvious.
"How are you?"
"Honestly?" he coughed "I've had better days,"
"Right." I said, avoiding looking at him as yet another wave of guilt assaulted me.
Despite getting him away from Chad, Luke, the Cupid I had escaped with from the cabin, was getting worse. I had spent the past three days alternating my time between his bedside and Cole's, I knew modern medicine couldn't help them, but that didn't make it any easier to deal with when they became feverish and weaker by the hour. For the past few days I had been nurse to both Cole and Luke, praying that both of them would get better, or at least stop getting worse. Even now, as I saw my hand clenching Luke's bedpost and felt my heart pumping frantically, I realized that I had been fixating on Luke, pinning all my hopes for Cole on the possibility of Luke's recovery. Luke had spent almost two weeks away from the mortal girl he was in love with, and though I would never admit it to myself, he was my test to see if removing the mortal would slow down the spread of the Cupid mark. It had to work, because if it did, then that meant at least Cole would have a chance at living without me to get in the way. And that I wouldn't have to listen to the darker thoughts swirling around in my head. Instead I could listen to my other thoughts, the ones that told me that maybe if I left him, his feelings for me would fade with time. The ones that commanded me to ignore the pain I felt at the idea of leaving him. The thoughts that still held hope. But they were dying as surely as Luke was.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Luke flinch with pain and I turned to look at him, seeing the turmoil and misery in those brown eyes of his, reminding me of our time trapped in the cabin with Chad. I opened my mouth to say something, something to comfort him and ease his pain, but when he looked at me expectantly, I was lost for words. It was like we were locked in this moment, and we knew it was important, we knew sad things were going to happen, but anything we said would just sound empty…or forced. So the moment dragged on. And died. I knew we couldn't get it back; all that was left was the sadness and the inevitability of his condition. It was Luke's turn to look away now.
"You should leave," he muttered, and even his voice sounded raw.
I tried to smile and knew I was failing.
"I don't even know your middle name," I answered, even though the lump in my throat was making it harder for me to talk.
I sighed, and with that went the last of my hope. Realizing that it had just been holding me back, I looked at him, not caring if he saw the emptiness in my eyes; telling myself that I couldn't care about anything anymore. I spoke slowly; every word sounding like it belonged in a sentence of its own.
"I, I…have heard you scream. Watched you pray. Felt the agony coming off you in waves. I've seen you cry those man-tears that only happen when someone dies. I, have watched you writhe in pain. In. Your. Sleep." I told him, refusing to break eye contact, to let him look away. "I have seen you at your most vulnerable; when your dignity had been stripped away. The way I've seen you is a way that no-one ever wants to be seen. And I don't know where you live. I don't know where you grew up, or went to high school. I don't know if you have a brother or a sister, or if your friends are worried about you. And I don't even know your middle name,"
For a long moment, his eyes bored into mine. Then he shook his head and said "Does it matter?"
After that I cried. He was right- it really didn't.
It had started to snow. In California. I remember brushing a few flakes off my fingers as I stood near the big oak tree in the corner of the graveyard. The whole scene seemed wrong somehow, the muffled silence that the blanket of snow provided adding to the eerie atmosphere. A part of me had expected the funeral to take place in the dead of night. Perhaps under a full moon, with all the cloak and dagger theatrics that my cliché-riddled mind could come up with. But it was noon, in broad daylight (or whatever light filtered in through the overcast sky) and aside from the casket being lowered into the ground, everything was strangely still. The air was thick, tinged with grief and regret and a slow fear which seemed to cling to everything and everyone. At least that's what it felt like to me. I stood apart from the rest of the mourners, being a stranger to most of them and feeling like an outcast to those I knew. Several times I caught myself reaching for Cole's hand before remembering that he wasn't there to comfort me. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't. All I felt was a cold, hard knot in my chest. I thought it might be my heart.
Luke was dead. It turned out that when we escaped from the cabin, I didn't save him after all, not really. In the week that he was with Chad, he'd been tortured too much. Had too much mutated blood injected into him for him to survive the accelerated spreading of the mark. It had only been three days after we escaped from the cabin when Luke died. In the end, the mark covered his entire body. The official reason his family gave for his death was a car accident, specifically a hit and run. It turns out that there are Cupids who work in every occupation, including medicine, and a lot of cover-ups take place in order to protect their secret from us mortals. I wasn't sure how to feel about that. A couple of months ago, I would have been shocked. I would have wondered how many accidents were really accidents. How many Cupid deaths had been covered up over the years? But on that day, standing at the funeral of someone who was almost a stranger to me, I didn't care. My fist clenched over the locket that had suddenly appeared in my hand. I hardly noticed anymore when it did that, a part of the curse I guessed, though what did it really matter? It was two days before Christmas and there was only a week left until the end of the year. I looked at Luke's grieving family and friends and couldn't help thinking about Cole, wondering if in a week's time I would be right back here, at this graveyard mourning his death. I began to feel a lot colder, and I couldn't tell if it was because of the weather or the dread that was winding its way around my heart. My hope was fading, flickering like the Roman candles I had seen in the church where the funeral service was held. At first I had been desperate, trying to figure out a way to contact Leo's ghost, pleading with Cole to at least try the heart experiment cure. He refused. And then Luke died and sadness and fear became my constant companions, energetic pacing was replaced with a tired resolve and hope turned to desperation. But not anymore.
I allowed myself one last glance down at Luke's casket, and vowed then and there that I didn't care what it took; I would not let this happen to Cole. We had been arguing about how to save him for weeks now, and as much as I knew that I should respect his decision, it wasn't really his choice anymore. I couldn't stand by and watch him die any more than he could if the situation was reversed. There was one way that I knew of how to save him. He didn't want me to do it, and truthfully the thought of going through with it terrified me. But better I do something that might kill me but will save him, rather than him definitely dying. The first option at least offered the slim chance that we might both survive. And besides, what good was my heart to me, when guilt and pain had turned it into ice? No, Cole needed it more, he needed my blood. But there was only one person I knew of who was crazy enough to withdraw it from my heart. Only one person who wouldn't consider it murder, or rather suicide on my part. I stopped as I found myself standing outside Cole's house. One last goodbye before I did something he would never forgive me for. I rang the doorbell, annoyed at how its cheerful tone contrasted with my dark thoughts. And as the door opened, I finally acknowledged why they never did find Chad's body.
Cole's brother Daniel was unaware of the morbid path my thoughts had taken as he wordlessly led me through the house. When I first met him, I had almost mistaken him for Cole, they looked so much alike. Daniel was taller and had a slightly bulkier build but other than that he looked just like his younger brother. If it weren't for their eyes being completely different colors, they could have passed for twins. Despite the fact that his face made my heart twinge, Daniel also hated me. He may have saved my life when he got me and Luke far away from that cabin, but I wasn't too fond of him either. He preferred to be called El but Cole was the only one who called him Dan. I tried not to call him anything, since our mutual dislike of each other made social pleasantries unnecessary. Once we stopped outside of Cole's bedroom I made to move forward but El blocked my way.
"Every time he sees you, his condition gets worse," he accused.
His anger combined with his height and linebacker physique made me feel about as tall as Tinkerbell as he loomed over me. Everything about him was intimidating, or at least that's how it felt when he confronted me.
"Don't worry," I told him, knowing all too well the frantic feeling of helplessly watching whilst someone else suffered. When I continued, my voice came out softer than I intended. "This'll be the last time,"
I moved to step past him but he moved as well.
"Give me one good reason why I don't throw you out of here right now," he demanded, crossing his arms over his chest and looking at me with disgust.
"Because I have to say goodbye,"
He must have seen something in my expression that was adequately pathetic because he stepped aside and finally allowed me to go into Cole's room.
Things were starting to look really bad for Cole. He didn't move when I walked into the room and his breathing was much slower than it should have been. I stood on the threshold for what felt like minutes but was probably only a few seconds before I stepped into the room. It felt like my argument with El had sapped away the small reserve of courage that I had been preserving for this moment, and I had the alarming thought that now when I was about to face Cole and do the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life, I may not have the strength to do it. I forced myself to meet Cole's heavy gaze and when I saw him lying in that bed, I was reminded so strongly of Luke and the night he died that I knew with a hard certainty that I could never let that happen again. I was going to make a decision that would probably have serious repercussions that I couldn't even admit to myself. I couldn't admit to myself that if things didn't work out, what I was about to do might just devastate my family and my friends. What, a little voice whispered in my mind, what if in the end it would kill Cole to find out what I sacrificed to save him? His life for mine, it whispered, was I prepared to make that trade? I ignored that little voice. I knew that if I thought too much about the consequences of my actions, I would change my mind. Or that Cole would guess what I was up to and change my mind for me. I had to focus on the here and now and not worry about the future. However stupid that plan sounded…even to my own ears.
He looked up as I entered the room, but I looked down at my hands, suddenly feeling a lot less courageous and a lot more unsure. He watched me as I stood there, staring at my clasped hands as if they had the answers to life. When I finally drew in a breath and met his eyes, he spoke before I could.
"Don't," he pleaded. I grimaced as I understood that he knew what I was planning to do.
We were both tired of arguing, so I just stood there and said nothing. After a while though, I knew I had to speak.
"It could work," I said quietly.
"It will kill both of us," he said, surprisingly evenly for someone struggling to breathe.
"You don't kno'-"
"Yes. I do," Cole interrupted me.
His struggle to breathe became more obvious by the sound of his shallow gasps, and we both pretended that we didn't notice.
"I can't- I can't, risk killing you. I'm supposed to save you. You're my, my final case…remember?"
I gritted my teeth, not believing that I was in the same situation that I was three days ago. In a room with a dying Cupid. What was worse, he was dying sooner than even I had predicted.
Bracing myself against a wave of nausea, I fought against admitting the truth to myself. Another battle lost, because I still knew that awful truth. It was simple really. When I woke up tomorrow, Cole wouldn't. I stared at him, and saw the same truth mirrored in his eyes. The only difference was that he had accepted it.
Shaking my head slowly, I whispered "I can't do this,"
"Then leave," he whispered back.
"I know you don't want me to do that," I told him.
He wasn't angry with me for admitting my weakness at a time when anyone else would have tried to be strong. And a part of me that I'm not proud of was too tired to be angry at me either.
"What I, don't want…is for you, to watch me die," he replied.
"I really wish this wasn't the first thing we've both agreed on," I smiled, for the first time in what felt like forever.
"You're stalling," he smiled briefly but then grew somber. "You should leave,"
I flinched at his choice of words; they echoed Luke's words to me on the day he died. I felt my hands clench and a sudden weight in my left hand that told me that the mystery locket from my past life had appeared again.
I could feel Cole's gaze on me as I stared down at my left hand.
"You know," he rasped "I wouldn't, let, you leave without, telling you…that I love you,"
Despite the heaviness in the room, I felt a grin break out on my face.
"You have the worst timing," I blurted out, and saw him smile.
But even our smiles couldn't keep our depression at bay. I thought I could almost see mine, fighting to break through the temporary lightness that our smiles had created. He closed his eyes and I wondered if he would open them again.
My voice was almost as raspy as his when I said "I'm going to leave now," and I knew I wouldn't be able to speak for a while when he nodded in return.
I turned to go. Or at least I told myself that's what I was doing, but my feet remained rooted to the floor. The locket I was holding slipped out of my grip and landed on the floor and Cole opened his eyes at the muffled thunk on the carpet.
As I bent down to pick up the locket, his eyes widened in surprise "You're…"
"Still here," I breathed.
I saw the question in his eyes, asking why I stayed, and I answered "Because we should have had more time,"
"Not…like this," he argued
"No Cole. We're seventeen, we deserve more time. In the beginning, if we had spent less time fighting, if we had spent less time hesitating over our feelings for each other…" My voice trailed off as at last, I managed to make sense of some of my guilt. Yes, I wanted a future with Cole, but what I really wanted more than anything was a chance to do it all over again. Do things differently.
"Sidney," Cole whispered.
I looked at him, clutching the locket tightly between my fingers, impervious to the burning heat that I could feel emanating from it. Unable to take Coles' searing gaze, I stared at the locket instead. Absent-mindedly noting the pattern I had made when I wound the chain around my hand. It almost looked like a pentagon shape. Knowing I couldn't avoid looking at Cole for much longer, I glanced back up at him, and I wanted so badly for us to do it all over again. If only we could slow down time. Stop, rewind, do everything all over again. Save Cole. I was so focused on this thought that it surprised me to realize that my vision had blurred, tears obscuring the sight of the locket that had begun to scorch my hand. I stared at my palm with almost clinical detachment, knowing my pain was nothing compared to Cole's. Only when it started to sear my flesh did I try to let go. But my hand wouldn't unclench. I could see the pentagon pattern burning into my flesh, and Cole. Cole was saying something, but I couldn't hear him, all I could focus on was the locket. . All I could do was stare at the locket, wishing that time would just stop.
A brief blinding pain jolted me from my intense focus, as I saw that I had tried to yank my hand away from the locket and succeeded only in creating a wide gash across my palm as it caught on the locket's clasp. I watched transfixed as my blood dripped slowly into the open heart, the pain in my hand reaching white-hot levels as the locket started to glow red. Everything sounded distorted, as if I was hearing it from a long distance. Even so, I think someone was screaming. Maybe it was me. The light in the room flickered and went out. But instead of being plunged into darkness, the locket continued to glow red, in fact I think it glowed even brighter. Almost like my blood had been…absorbed. And then the locket was gone from my hand, and the glow disappeared from a moment before it reappeared across the room. Before it reappeared on Cole. His scream pierced through the room like a whip, momentarily cutting through my foggy brain. The light continued to grow until it reached blinding proportions and, in a daze, I threw up my hand to shield my eyes. I tried to see what had happened to Cole but I couldn't see a thing. I started calling his name, but by that time, I couldn't even hear anything, or use any of my other senses as the light filled my vision. The intense light grew so bright that I shut my eyes tight…and then there was nothing. A sharp pain shot through my entire body, and I felt as if I was being ripped apart from the inside out, I began to squirm with my fists clenched, until the pain immediately faded. I lay there for a few minutes, completely exhausted, and shifted slightly on the cold, uncomfortable ground.
I glanced up at the stars blinking in the night sky, noticing that for some reason, I was in a forest. I groaned and sat up, staring in shock as through the trees, I watched three horses pulling a carriage. And not one of those flimsy-looking Central Park ones. This one looked like something out of Pride and Prejudice. I shook my head, hoping that this was a big mistake and I would somehow find myself back in Cole's house. There was absolutely no way that I could have a waking vision at such a crucial moment. My curse couldn't be cruel enough to steal my last moments with Cole. Could it? I felt dread and anger roll over me as I glared at the locket in my hand. Or the locket that should have been. Instead of the locket, there was a pentagon-shaped scar on my hand. I shoved back the tears that threatened to spill over and vowed to get out of this waking vision and get back to Cole. I had to. A low groan from a few feet away prompted me to roll over, and stare in shock at the man who was standing and clutching his head. A streak of moonlight spilled over his face, a face that I recognised.
"Oh God," I said as I watched him walk towards me. Cole looked…healthy and strong, and when he held out his hand to me, I couldn't see a Cupid mark anywhere.
I didn't understand what was happening. How was Cole suddenly okay? Nothing made sense. He crouched down next to me and smiled, those eyes of his almost making me forget everything but him.
"Sidney," he grinned.
"I don't understand," I told him
"I think I do," he replied. At my questioning look he pulled me to my feet and gently pushed my back against a nearby oak tree.
"You're in my vision," I said, slightly dazed. "How is that possible?"
Cole stared at me, his face becoming serious. "Because this isn't a vision,"
"I need you to listen because I don't know why we're here but I know what you did,"
"What did I do?"
He gave me a mysterious smile and then said something unexpected.
"The heart is just a muscle," he told me
"No, listen to me Sidney. Those experiments Chad was doing…he was right. What he did was horrible but when he used the heart…"
"What are you talking about?"
"You have a past life,"
He grabbed my shoulders and looked into my eyes "No Sidney, I mean you have a past life. So your heart, the one beating in your chest right now. That heart is different from the one you had before, because you were a different person,"
I could see that he really wanted me to understand, but I just couldn't see where he was going with this. He saw my confusion and rolled up his sleeve, revealing a fresh heart-shaped scar on his arm. Roughly the size of the heart on my locket. "That locket is your only physical connection to your past life. It's in the shape of a heart and that heart represents…"
"Love," I answered, seeing where he was going with this. "And if the heart is just a muscle then Chad's Cupid cure only worked because the heart…"
"Represents love," Cole finished softly.
I started to feel excited as I realised just what exactly Cole was implying. "So if I wanted to cure you. I would have to give you blood from my heart. Not because the heart muscle is special, but because my heart represents love. But I have two hearts. My heart and the locket. Both of them represent love,"
"Exactly, Cole grinned "And you bled into your locket. Which then proceeded to burn that blood into my skin. It's not an injection, but it might as well be,"
All I could do was smile up at him, feeling almost delirious with happiness, after the emotional rollercoaster we had just been through.
His arms twined around my waist "You cured me," he said softly
I couldn't help but laugh. "I can't believe I ever hated having a past life! Best. Curse. Ever,"
I leaned in to kiss him but stopped as I heard a twig snap in the forest.
I frowned. "All of that doesn't explain how we ended up in the forest,"
Cole sighed, clenching his hands around my waist and then, regretfully, letting go. "Yeah, here's the twist. One which you're not gonna like,"
I felt my heart rate speed up, I didn't want anything to go wrong, not when we had only been happy for a few minutes. Cole even had his serious face on again, whatever it was, it was bad.
"This isn't a waking vision Sidney. We're really here, in the flesh,"
"Where is here exactly?" I asked, praying it wasn't the answer I already suspected.
"England, about three centuries ago. Your locket brought us here,"
"No," I said, refusing to believe him. "That locket is not a time machine. No way. Won't believe it,"
"It doesn't matter what you believe Sid, look at what we're wearing,"
I took a good look at Cole and realised that he was wearing, tight pants and a flowy white shirt. He looked like the cover of one of those romance novels my mom pretended she didn't read. Then I looked down at myself and realised that what I thought was laboured breathing due to our wacky locket experience was actually due to the corset that was currently pinching my sides. I hadn't noticed it in all the excitement of seeing Cole healthy, but God did I feel it now. And over that corset was a floor length empire-waist dress with a flared waist, the likes of which I had only ever seen in movies about Jane Austen novels.
"Oh no," I said, Cole was staring at my dress too.
"Can you even walk in that?" He asked
"Can I- Cole we have to get out of here! Hand over the locket and maybe if we click our heels and wish real hard, we'll end up back home,"
"As foolproof as that plan sounds, I don't have the locket, don't you?" he asked
"Oh great," he started to say but stopped halfway through as an elaborate carriage came to a stop less than ten feet in front of us.
Both of us watched, transfixed as the carriage door opened and a man stepped down. He looked straight ahead and I gasped instinctively, recognising him immediately. Cole tried to cover my mouth but it was too late, the man knew we were there.
"Who's there?" he called. We stayed silent until he got out a pistol and aimed it at the trees.
"On the count of three I will fire this pistol into the trees until I hit something. It may be a deer, it may be you. At this moment, I don't particularly care. Although I assure you, any plans to rob us will end in your unfortunate demise,"
Cole and I hesitated until the man raised his pistol and we realised that a stray bullet would probably hit us. Without an ER or any sort of modern medicine around, it was safer to just step out and convince the man that we weren't thieves or anything like that. Cole and I looked at each other and nodded. Then we stepped out with our arms raised. I felt sure the man wouldn't hurt us, after all Leo was a good guy. When we appeared, Leo started, and then stared at both of us. His eyes focused on mine and something about him wouldn't let me look away. He was staring at me with such intensity…and then I saw recognition flicker in his eyes.
He took a step toward me and Cole put his arm around mine protectively.
Leo ignored this and continued looking at me as he asked uncertainly, "Sophie?"
A/N: Twist! I think. Tell me what you think!