.:Author's Note:. Please read before continuing:
Hey all, sorry about the long hiatus. Rewriting this story has been difficult, and I actually took the time to go back and add some minor and major edits to the whole story that I've been meaning to make for a while. Feel free to reread the story from the beginning, or just skim over the past few chapters. Some edits are pretty minor, but I did make the choice to remove some characters I felt weren't vital or could be replaced (eg. Trey is no longer with us) and change a few things. The last chapter (18) in particular changed a lot, so I recommend re-reading that at least, or you'll get lost in this chapter really fast.
If not for the support of a few loyal readers/reviewers, I'm not sure I would have clung to this story as much. Writing is still slow, as college is busier than ever, but I will try to write when I can.
Thank you for your patience,
"Madame Laurent must be really sick of seeing your face," Damian said, chewing on a stick of jerky.
"You know, we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave," Naetili offered with a hesitant smile.
"I told you, I'm fine," Jake insisted, shoving a handful of blueberries in his mouth. Destiel, Damon, and Naetili had come by to visit him the following morning, bringing along a bag with fresh fruit and ham sandwiches.
"Last night was no accident," Naetili insisted. "Dorian was targeting you specifically – who knows the reason for it, but someone is after you."
Jake munched pensively on the blueberries, swallowing. "Actually, I had a question about that," he said. "Naetili, Doctor Vaska said that… blood was used for something called dark magic. Do you know anything about that?"
Naetili frowned, biting his lip. "I don't know, Jake," he said, glancing at the doctor's office. "I'm not sure I'm supposed to talk about this. In fact, I shouldn't even know anything about this."
"When has that stopped you?" Jake snorted. The faery narrowed his eyes and sniffed.
"Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you," Naetili said, lowering his voice. "The shadow arts are an old, ancient magic. You remember how I told you about magic requiring permission to be taken from a living organism?" Jake nodded. "Well, dark magic bypasses that law. It forcefully tears the magic from living things, damaging them in the process – possibly killing them. Because it is forceful, it requires a ridiculous amount of power to use. Only extremely powerful creatures could harness that kind of power."
"Extremely powerful creatures," Jake echoed. "Like what?"
"Who knows," Naetili said with a bitter sigh. "There are legends of ancient gods, demons… creatures with no names that existed in the dawn of time. Creatures of raw magic – magic in its earliest and purest form. Aside from that, shadow arts were only said to be successfully practiced once every millennium at the most."
"You… said that dark magic is taken forcefully," Jake mused. "If this requires so much energy, why use it instead of regular magic?"
"When you withdraw magic from living organisms to recharge your own powers, there is a limit to how much you can take from the organism and how much you can absorb into yourself. Regular magic only uses a small percentage of outside magic, and primarily simply to help recharge your own supply. It can never exceed your abilities. Dark magic, however, is limitless. Because the taking is forceful, it can take as much as it wants, and the magic can be stored in the harnesser, like a kind of infinite battery. This allows for the practice of far more powerful arts."
"I see," Jake said, feeling slightly sick. "Why don't more people try to harness it then? I mean, besides the difficulty. I feel like most unseelie wouldn't have too much trouble attempting dark magic…"
"The shadow arts were banned millennia ago, considered a moral taboo by all races of Magi. The Adaptation and Integration Committee officially forbade it, and any dabbling whatsoever is a one way ticket to the execution squad."
"You have an execution squad?" Jake asked, shocked. Naetili smiled wryly.
"We don't exactly have the same moral customs as modern humanity."
"Wow," Jake breathed. "Um, well… so what can shadow magic be used for? I mean, why would, whoever, want to use dark magic on me?"
"I'm not sure," Naetili said, worrying his bottom lip concernedly. "Blood in dark magic is only used for very particular magic – things considered close to the body. It's never anything good though. You never want a dark-magic user to acquire your blood. They can use it for terrible things – controlling your body, your mind, altering your memories or perceptions of reality. Blood magic can change you. Whatever your enemy was planning, it's a good thing he never got that blood."
"Yeah," Jake said, shivering. "Definitely a good thing."
"Well," Damian suddenly interjected after a chilled silence. "To shift away from that unpleasant topic, the PO has been rescheduled. We're going to Liverpool next weekend."
"Serious?" Jake said, hopeful. "Jesus that's good news. No offence guys, but I seriously need to get out of here. This place is out to kill me, I'm sure."
Damian laughed and clapped him on the back. "Don't worry. We'll make sure you make it in one piece before the PO."
The following week went by fairly quickly. Word quickly spread around of Dorian's attack and Jake's part as the victim. The looks of pity mixed with disappointed eye-rolls made Jake sick. He hated getting pitied, and the constant apologetic glances from his own friends were driving him up the wall. It didn't help that Destiel and Pietre looked at him like he was about to break down any second, and his other friends treated him like a piece of glass. All but Damon and Naetili, who treated him as usual. For that he was infinitely grateful.
On his way back to the dorms one day, he nearly ran into Loki.
"Hey," he said, noticing the fae was by himself, rather than surrounded by his usual unseelie friends. The fae glanced at him, then away, but didn't move away. "I'm… sorry about Dorian."
"That wasn't Dorian," Loki muttered, still avoiding his gaze. Jake frowned.
"Um, I'm fairly certain it was him. I was there, you know. He did stab me in the neck."
Loki shot him an irritated glare, and this time met his eyes. The fae's golden eyes glowed heatedly.
"That wasn't Dorian," he repeated insistently. "That wasn't something Dorian would do. I know he wasn't perfect, and he's not exactly a nice guy, but…" the fae trailed off, quickly looking away. Jake began to notice the red rims of the fae's eyes, the pallor of his skin, and the disheveled appearance of his clothes and hair.
"I understand," Jake said quietly. "The professors don't think he was working alone. They think someone coerced him into doing it. I don't know why, but… I don't think he really wanted to do it." It was only half a lie. He may not have wanted to do it, but the unseelie fae hadn't looked too put off by the idea of stabbing him in the neck. Loki met his eyes again, and this time Jake detected a faint hint of thankfulness. The fae nodded and pushed past him, rushing off in the opposite direction.
A few days before the PO, Jake was called in by his councilor, Ms. Woodstone. The were-iguana woman greeted him warmly, hands resting on her faithful typewriter.
"I've typed up your PO release form," she announced, sliding two pieces of paper over toward him. "I only need you to sign both copies, this one for you to keep and this one for myself." Jake signed both paper, smiling as he folded and pocketed his copy.
"I hope you don't mind my asking," Ms. Woodstone said as she filed his release form in a cabinet below her desk, "but we haven't received a letter from your father yet. It's been a few months now, and normally it is customary for us to receive a few letter for new students within the first few weeks. Is he attempting to contact you with one of those computer devices?"
"No, we don't exchange much mail," Jake assured her. "It probably means nothing." The pretty counselor frowned.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to write him a letter at least? It would be good for you to connect with your family a bit, especially with what's been going on lately. I'm sure he would like to know."
'Like as not, he probably wouldn't care," Jake thought bitterly, but simply said, "I'll think about it after I get back from the PO." Ms. Woodstone smiled and waved as he left.
Outside, rain wept from a dark, clouded sky. Jake hurried across the slushy courtyard, head ducked against the wind so that he never saw the approaching figure before colliding.
"Oh, sorry!" Jake apologized, stepping back.
"And here I thought I was the only one who took evening strolls in the rain."
Jake looked up, feeling his heart irrationally skip a beat. Dresarian looked down at him with a small smile on the edge of his lips, as if sharing in an amusing joke.
"Oh, Dresarian," Jake said, mouth suddenly dry. "Hi."
The lycanthrope raised an eyebrow. "Hi to you," he said. Jake suddenly noticed that the lycan was wearing only a pair of cargo shorts and a short-sleeved white shirt that hugged his water-slick torso, causing his heart to pound far faster than it ought to. "How you holding up?"
"Uh, what?" Jake said, brain suddenly jumbled.
"The wound on your neck," Dresarian said, snorting softly.
"Oh… it's fine," Jake said, hoping his voice sounded more even then it felt. Dresarian reached out and pulled Jake's shirt collar back to expose the small round scar in the side of his neck. The lycan narrowed his eyes before retracting his arm. Jake smoothed out his collar, hoping the flush crawling up his neck wasn't as visible as the scar.
"Quite the victim lately, aren't you," Dresarian said. Jake frowned.
"I'm not a victim," he growled. "I can take care of myself."
"Really? It didn't look that way to me." Dresarian commented. Jake's face heated up, but it was out of humiliation this time, and he quickly turned away, heading for the dorms.
"Wait, Jake I didn't mean it like that."
Jake stopped, hugging his quickly-soaking blazer. Dresarian walked back in front of him, rubbing his neck.
"I just meant," the lycan started, "…that was uncalled for. I just mean that you've been attracting a lot of trouble lately."
"Yeah, I noticed the pattern, thanks," Jake mumbled, looking away. Dresarian nodded, looking slightly awkward as he struggled for the next words to say.
"Look, I don't know what's going on, but I promise I'll help you get to the bottom of this. I don't like this any more than you do."
Jake blinked in surprise, looking over at the lycanthrope.
"You'd do that? Help me?"
Dresarian narrowed his eyes. "I'm not helping you; I'm just going to keep a lookout for some crazy attempting dark magic. That isn't good news for anyone."
"I see," Jake managed a small grin. "You really aren't as bad as you make yourself out to be, you know."
Dresarian rolled his eyes. "Keep telling yourself that and one day you'll end up with a knife in your gut."
"With my record, it's bound to happen," Jake responded curtly. Dresarian laughed – a sound so true it momentarily took Jake aback – and suddenly reached out and ruffled Jake's hair almost fondly.
"Keep at it Jake, and you might just survive here," Dresarian said and strode past the human, heading off in the direction of the forest. Jake touched his hair, where the lycan's touch still lingered, and looked back, wondering.
"I'm so excited!"
"We got that, Destiel."
"But I mean, guys, this is so cool!"
"Hey D, turn around before you fall out of your seat."
The selkie pouted as he turned around and slumped back into the bus seat before Alex could pull him down by his shirt. Jake glanced out the window, squeezed between Pietre and Naetili, watching the landscape wiz by. Dreary clouds hugged the horizon, but no rain had fallen yet. He looked around the bus, glancing over the chattering students. The fae bunched in the front had glamoured their wings, eyes, and hair to relatively normal colors, as had most of the other students. A group of vampires dozed in the back, unglamoured for the most part as they looked relatively human enough.
"What are you smirking at?"
Jake met Naetili's expectant gaze and grinned. "It's just strange seeing everyone looking so… normal," he said.
"Well, we can't exactly walk around in our regular forms," Damian added from behind.
"I know," Jake said. "It's just… different. I almost feel like I'm in a normal school, you know?"
Naetili snorted. "Right. Fat chance of you forgetting that."
When the bus finally slid into a parking spot in front of a large hotel, the students were practically hanging off their seats in apprehension. Professors Finnoire and professor Dekior stood at the front of the bus, both in semi-formal wear and full glamour.
"Alright listen up!" Dekior yelled over the chatter, which quickly ebbed away. "We've arrived. Now, you have until six o'clock to wander around as you please. I should not need to remind you to adhere to all rules and restrictions, including those defaulted by Fernwood. This includes remaining at all times fully glamoured, using no magic whatsoever unless necessitated by an emergency, and adhering to all human customs as appropriate. The violation of any of these is a one-way ticket back to Fernwood as well as detention for a month. Understood?" Dekior took the silence as an assent. "Now, you are to remain within ten blocks of the hotel at all times. If anything happens, you are to contact either professor Finnoire or I by runes. You will remain at all times with at least one other student. Remember, back by six!"
The students streamed out of the bus, chattering excitedly among each other. Jake stretched and took a deep breath, inhaling all the familiar scents of gasoil, sewage, car exhaust, and wet pavement. Dark clouds hung ominously over the city, but no rain fell yet, only a sharp cold. He noticed the second bus has also deposited the other half of the students before following the first to the hotel parking garage. A number of pedestrians glanced curiously at the accumulation of school boys, and Jake noticed a small group of girls giggling and glancing coyly in their direction. Jake did notice then how, despite the glamour, the majority of Fernwood magi did look rather attractive for humans – especially the fae.
"You'd think they could glamor on a few pimples or a crooked nose or something," Jake muttered.
"Don't hold your breath," he heard Naetili add from behind him. "Faeries are far too proud for that."
"Too pompous, more like," Jake retorted with a grin. Naetili frowned but said nothing, following the twins, Damian, Pietre, and the two selkies.
"So what's this about runes?" Jake said, catching up to the fae. "Is it like magic transfer runes?"
"Not quite," Naetili said. "Runes are like a conduit for magic, right? Well, that magic can be anything. In this case, it's communication. Runes can be used to communicate with other magi from far away, simply by using that person's unique rune-code and a bit of magical energy."
"So kind of like a cell phone?" Jake asked.
"Is it difficult."
"Not really," the fae replied. "It doesn't require that much magic. I'll show you how to do it tonight. I'm sure you'll get the hang of it really fast."
"You said the same thing about finding my magic," Jake grumbled, and then whispered more quietly, "I don't have to fuck anyone to get this rune thing down, do I?"
Naetili smiled bemusedly. "No, I don't think you'll need to go that far."
"Hey guys!" Destiel suddenly interrupted. "So where are we going first?"
"We have to go to the Cavern Club!"
"I didn't know you were a fan of the Beatles, Pietre."
"The Liverpool Cathedral is supposed to be quite lovely."
"I want to see Albert's Dock!"
"What about Albert's cock?"
"Shut up Damian."
"Guys, what happened to staying within ten blocks of the hotel?" Jake laughed.
"The professors don't monitor us that strictly," Alex assured him. "Besides, we have two days to explore!"
"Alright," Jake conceded.
They ended up wandering around the Anfield Stadium, stopping by a few malls to check out the displays.
"Urgh, another vampire movie," Montag complained, glaring at a looming billboard plastered on the side of the street. "They just get girlier by the second. And they sparkle! What kind of hunting technique is that?"
"I don't think it's supposed to be a hunting technique," Jake mused.
"Looks like one of those horrid romantic chick-flicks," Naetili muttered, grimacing in disgust.
"Please, they're clearly gay," Damian interjected. "I mean, look at the way the werewolf is gazing at the vampire so intently. He's obviously got it hard for him."
"That dark brooding look certainly reminds me of a certain werewolf we know," Alex admitted with amusement.
"He's a lycanthrope, not a werewolf," Jake corrected.
"Still, you got to admit it kind of does look like him. I mean, the brooding anyways," Arias laughed.
"Dresarian doesn't brood," Jake interrupted. "He just doesn't smile a lot."
"Are you defending the lycan?" Alex exclaimed, gasping dramatically.
"I think Jake has the hots for him," Arias continued, grinning mischievously.
"I do not!" Jake retorted, blushing madly.
"Look, he's blushing!" Montag exclaimed, joining in the taunting. "It must be serious."
Jake bit back a retort and glanced over his shoulder, and stopped when he noticed the figure approaching them, broad-shouldered and hard-faced.