Chapter 4: Consuming Fire

Author's Note: Thanks for voting on my last poll. I was relieved that everyone said yes. Here are my thoughts. I believe that if Ghassan were really intending to benefit society, rather than just carrying out murder, because of greed, then maybe his motive would be a little bit better, but I wouldn't go as far as to call it justified. Ghassan had given those gems to Caiden. Now it shouldn't matter if Ghassan wants them back or not, they were rightfully Caiden's gems to decide what to do with. If Caiden hadn't wanted these powers to be introduced yet to the world yet, then maybe it just wasn't meant to be, at least not yet.

"Um ... Well Caiden ... He had an excellent smile. Ghassan said. He wasn't sure where the smile thing came from, but he'd go with it. "I'll admit that in all my time with Caiden I never bothered to really get to know him, but whenever I saw Caiden's smile it felt like there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."

Thijs smiled. "That's really sweet."

Even Ottilia smiled, causing Ghassan to feel just a little guiltier, not just for Caiden's death, but for lying. Ghassan never noticed Caiden's smile. Had he even seen it? He couldn't picture it. All he could remember was the scowl on Caiden's face as the man's eyes dimmed and shut completely.

Ghassan looked up and stared out of the kitchen and toward the front door. He sort of wished for a way to bring Caiden back. Perhaps if Ghassan shut his eyes and thought about Caiden enough then he would come back and start knocking at the door. At that very moment the doorbell rang, but Caiden wasn't the one who rang it. It was Norbert. Of course Ghassan didn't know that yet. No one realized who was over until Thijs had unlocked the door and let Norbert into the house.

"Where's my baby sister?" Norbert asked, practically pushing Thijs over as he ran into the house.

"I'm right here." Ottilia said, walking into the room. She didn't seem pleased in the slightest to see him.

"Come on Ottilia, let's leave this place! I don't want you staying around here, especially with a killer on the loose." Norbert said. He reached out for Ottilia's hand, but she pulled back.

"What? No way! I'm not leaving!" Ottilia protested.

Norbert shot Ottilia a stern look. "Ottilia, listen to yourself! These people ... They're brain washing you! You sound crazy! Any one of them could be the killer!"

Ottilia snorted. "Me crazy? Norbert, these are my friends! I want to stay with them."

"Fine." Norbert said. He let out a sad, frustrated sort of sigh. "If you're staying here then I'm staying too!"

"Now just hold on a moment ..." Thijs started, but seemed to stop himself when he couldn't think of a good enough counter argument.

"We'd love to have you over, but I'm not sure if we have enough room in our house for more company." Susann added.

Norbert frowned, but didn't say anything back; instead he made his way to the kitchen just as Ghassan was heading out to see what was going on.

"Outta my way." Norbert snapped, shoving Ghassan away. Ghassan scowled, but didn't speak.

As soon as Norbert was in the kitchen, Ghassan walked over to Ottilia and whispered in her ear. "You're right. I don't like him."

"Told you." Ottilia replied blandly.

"How do you get rid of him?" Ghassan asked.

Ottilia shrugged. "How should I know? Believe me; if I could have gotten rid of him, then I would have done it years ago."

"I guess we'll just have to put up with him then ..." Thijs said with a sigh.

About an hour later, Thijs came out from the basement carrying an old Monopoly game.

"Hey Ottilia, want to play?" Thijs asked. "It's a good way to pass the time and take your mind off of everything."

Ottilia shrugged. "I guess it wouldn't hurt." She turned to her brother, who was resting beside her on the couch and coldly asked, "Are you playing?"

"Oh me? I thought you'd never ask!" Norbert said sarcastically.

"Look, do you want to play or not?" Ottilia asked.

"I'll play." Norbert said, standing up and leaving the room to help Thijs set up.

"I don't like your brother." Ghassan muttered resting beside Ottilia.

"Yeah, not many people do." Ottilia said with a sigh.

"Why does he act like that?"

"You know what, I don't know. I always just figured he was just naturally bad with people skills, but there may be more to that. I just don't know ..."

"Some people are hard to figure out. You can imagine them one way, but they'll be completely different." Ghassan said solemnly.

Ottilia looked over at Ghassan in surprise. Those words were surprisingly deep coming from him. Actually the whole day Ghassan had been full of surprises. She let a small smile purse her lips and looked down to cover her blush.

"You're right about that." She sighed. "I feel so weak right now. Caiden was my best friend, you know? But I'm really happy you and the others are so comforting."

"Anything for you." Ghassan replied. He stood up and made his way to the door.

"Where are you going?" Ottilia asked as Ghassan reached in the closet for his winter coat.

"I'll be back, there's just ... something on my mind. I think I need some air."

Ghassan left the room and shut the door behind him, before Ottilia could question him further. He sat down on the front porch and reached for a cigarette. He had spent the past couple of months trying to quit, but he never could turn away from the stuff completely. When he was stressed like he was now or when Caiden had first died he'd find himself smoking a lot. It seemed to relax him. After Ghassan lit his cigarette, he found himself lifting it into the air as if to offer it to the sky.

"Caiden, if you're still out there, please give me a sign." Ghassan said.

He half expected something supernatural to occur, perhaps the earth would split in half, a fire would consume him, anything, but he was only answered by the sound of a bone chilling wind that blew the cigarettes smoke back at his face. Ghassan started coughing and the cigarette back in his mouth.

He just had to get through this moment of grief and then things would be back to normal, wouldn't they? He, Ottilia, Thijs, and Susann would mine again, he could sell the power gems at a black market, and he could go back to his happy, wealthy life again. Ottilia may need some cheering up too; perhaps he could lend her a bit of money as well.

"I almost wish a flame would consume me right now." Ghassan muttered to himself. "Death almost seems better than this."

Even suicide was starting to sound pleasant. He couldn't kill himself though. Ottilia was counting on him to be there for her. It wasn't right, but he had to play that role for her. He'd find a way to play two roles, both her hurter and healer.

Ghassan quickly turned his head as the door behind him opened up. He was half expecting to see Ottilia's face, wondering why he left the room so fast, but Norbert stood beside him instead.

"The game's about to start. Are you coming?" Norbert asked casually as he took a seat beside Ghassan.

"Yeah, give me a moment." Ghassan replied.

"Something on your mind?"

Ghassan shrugged. "No more than usual, I suppose."

"Sounds like something's up." Norbert replied. He held out his hand and Ghassan offered him a cigarette. "Look, I get that you don't like me. I heard what you and Ottilia said about me. But that doesn't mean you can't open up."

"I wish I could. I really do."

"Is it about me? Are you upset that I'm here?"

"No,"

"Is it about Caiden?"

Ghassan sighed. "I suppose you can say that."

Norbert pouted and hesitated a moment before speaking. "Want a hug?"

"No,"

Norbert's face reddened. "Um ... me neither! Anyways let's get inside. It's cold out here."

"I'll meet you in a little bit."

"No, come on, we should go now! Can't leave the others waiting!" He took Ghassan's arm and tried to pull the man inside, but Ghassan used his free hand to slap Norbert across the face.

"I'm staying here." Ghassan replied firmly.

Norbert rubbed the sore spot on his cheek. "Fine, see you inside." He said bitterly.

After the board game, the group agreed that an early sleep was good for them all. Ghassan found himself sharing a guest bed with Norbert. He hated the idea of sharing a bed at first, but after a bit of tossing and turning Ghassan was eventually able to drift off into sleep.

Norbert was a light sleeper. He'd awaken with every little movement of Ghassan's, but was willing to share a bed with the other man just as long as it meant he didn't have to sleep on the hard wood floor. Sometime around midnight, just as Norbert was about to drift back off to sleep himself, he heard Ghassan mutter a single word under his breath.

"Sorry, what was that?" Norbert whispered back.

"Caiden,"

"Caiden?" Norbert questioned. He sat up to get a better look at his friend. Ghassan still had his head to the pillow seeming almost in a trance of some sort. Had he fallen back asleep? Norbert was about to lay back down himself when Ghassan repeated himself.

"Caiden,"

Norbert yawned. "What about Caiden?"

"I'm sorry Caiden."

"Sorry? What do you mean?"

"I'm sorry Caiden."

"Caiden's dead." Norbert said with another yawn. Something wasn't right with Ghassan; his words weren't even making sense. Norbert remembered back to a time where he had heard Ottilia in a similar situation. Was Ghassan a sleep talker too?

"Of course Caiden's dead." Ghassan said. "He's dead 'cause I killed 'im."

~ phantom130 5 (April 2013)