So, this is the sequel to Soundproof. I know it's been a few months since it ended, and sorry for the wait, but if you've been following me, you know a lot has been going on at home and whatnot. Life sucks right now. Sucks all the life out of life. Anyway, I'm still not quite sure about the beginning to this story, but I do hope it sounds okay. I've agonized over how it should start and what should happen for far too long now, so I've decided to just go ahead and post this first chapter. I have the second chapter done as well, but I am not sure when I will post that. Maybe next week. I might be on this update schedule I've put on my profile, wherein I will try to always have a chapter ready to post at some point, but will only post at the most once a week. This way if I don't write a chapter a week, I still have something to post and the momentum keeps going. But if I deem it worthy of two updates a week - like if a chapter was relatively short or lacking or something - then I might do so, but otherwise...
I'm rambling, sorry.
Anyway, I do hope this sounds okay. If you have followed the series thus far I don't think you'll hate it, but if you're new, you might not understand it that well. I haven't really explained much but then if you are on book 4, I expect you to know the basic premise ;) If you don't, that's okay, and things will probably be explained in due time, but I probably won't go too in-depth of the backstories and what happened previously in the books. Just so ya know. I don't require you to read the first 3 books first; but at least read Soundproof first. After all, this is a continuation of that, literally.
Anywho I shall stop rambling now ;)
Let us begin!
Sequel to Soundproof
Warnings: Story contains strong violence, possible M-rated situations, slash M/M, and angst. If this is not your glass of pineapple juice, please return to the fridge for a second try.
Chapter One: Dead Ends
There was a time every morning, just before conscious thought entered Lo's brain, when he reached across the spacious bed, fingers stretching toward a body which was never there. It didn't matter that the body should have been there – was supposed to be there – because every time he reached, his fingers only knocked against cold covers. And then reality would seep in, clarity would consume his mind, and he'd have this moment of…
Right. He's gone. Just me.
There was no way he could describe that moment. It was a moment when he realized reality was the nightmare and dreams were a safe haven, because at least when he was asleep, he got a bit of peace. Instead, in reality, he felt so damn tired he could barely force himself to roll out of bed each morning. He didn't even know where he was – Ohio? Indiana?
But he still rolled out of bed like he always did. He still opened his duffel bag and changed clothes. He still pulled out that little manila folder and scoured the contents, despite the fact he could recite every word verbatim. He still shifted through photos, phone calls, anything he could find, still held onto that thought that today, today would be different, today would be when he would find him and they could both just go the fuck home.
It was as he was pulling a sheet of paper out of the folder that he realized why he felt so tired. He stared at the paper, at the photo in the upper right corner, at the words scribbled across the middle by a shaky hand. Stared at the words, at the phone number, at the words he himself angrily wrote down just last night.
Another fucking dead end. Angrily, Lo fisted his hands in the thick locks of his hair and tugged. He didn't care that dark blonde strands ripped away from his scalp, instead relished in the pain because at least it gave him something to think about. Again, it was a dead end. He came up empty again. Another week wasted chasing down a dead fucking end. Another week gone. Another week Taylor…
There he stopped and set his jaw, glaring down at the paper before he growled and shoved it aside, watching as it slipped off the bed and hit the floor, taking other papers – and the folder – with it.
Another dead end. Another empty lead. Another cold trail.
Another wasted week.
Another wasted month.
Lo scrubbed a hand across his face, palm scratching against the rough stubble. He'd steadily been growing some facial hair, mostly because there was no time to worry about trimming it. Not to mention the fact it was another way to keep track of time. When was the last time he shaved? A month ago? A little less? Fuck, he didn't remember. Another thing wasted.
"I don't blame you. And…and know that I love you."
He sighed and closed his eyes, unsure of what to do next because he had nothing. No new leads, no trail to follow, nothing. It was like Red just fucking disappeared, and took Taylor with him.
Lo sighed and pinched at the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb.
Taylor was his friend. More than that, he was Lo's boyfriend. Lo hated the term but he'd grown kind of used to it in the time they'd been together. Taylor knew him in ways no one ever had before, in ways no one ever could. Unlike so many others in his life, Taylor actually gave a damn about him. He really, truly, cared about him. Despite all that had been done to the emotion taster, he managed to keep his kind, sympathetic nature and despite the fact Lo tried so damn hard to keep everyone out of his life, Taylor somehow managed to squeeze through the tiny cracks in those carefully structured walls and began breaking them down from the inside out. Despite how Lo tried to ignore him, Taylor managed to squirm into his life.
And, damn it, he couldn't just fucking walk away now.
"You'll be okay."
It wasn't Taylor's fault, really, Lo knew. Red was the one who made that deal – Taylor's freedom for Lo's life. Shot and bleeding out in the stairwell of their apartment complex, Lo's memory of that night was a bit hazy, but he remembered Taylor kneeling next to him, with that sad little smile and quiet yet shaky voice. He remembered the words, remembered how he knew the deal had been made despite how he tried to tell Taylor to say no.
And he remembered waking a week later to find Taylor gone. Missing.
That was just over three months ago.
Lo leaned his forehead against the wall, taking in a long, slow breath, but when he released it he didn't feel better. He closed his eyes for a long moment but the silence was shattered when his cell phone stammered to life in that odd, fractured rhythm Blaise assigned it.
He lunged at the dresser and tore the phone off his dirty shirt from last night and brought it to his ear. "What?" he growled.
"Logan," Corbin said, "how are you today?"
"Fucking great, what do you want?"
Corbin was his boss, and was a good man thus far, but lately his efforts seemed to focus anywhere but finding Taylor, and Lo just wasn't on board with that plan. Corbin was his best way of tracking down the emotion taster – he had leads Lo didn't, connections, histories, phone numbers, abilities…
"I believe I have found something," Corbin said.
Lo swallowed, thoughts halting momentarily. "Found something? Be specific."
If he meant 'I found Taylor's body', then he should come out and say it, not dance around the topic. He'd done that before, when Lo was in the hospital, and both Corbin and Blaise had managed to sidestep any mention of Taylor, thus leaving Lo to believe the emotion taster dead for a few unfortunate days. He did not wish to go through that again, and the only thing keeping him going right now was the fact he had a target in mind.
He'd find Taylor. And Red. He'd kill that maniac and take Taylor home and everything would be perfectly fucking fine.
Corbin breathed out a long sigh – odd, coming from the man who was always so damn calm. "Logan," he said slowly.
"Dead?" he asked despite the sudden lump in his throat, the way he had to wheeze around it to ask the question.
"We have not found Taylor," Corbin said, and for a moment, he could breathe again. "However, we did manage to recover something from him."
"What? Speak English," Lo groaned. "I'm running on empty here. Give me a break."
For weeks he'd barely slept; only slept when absolutely necessary, when his body demanded it and shut down. Otherwise he was in action, hunting, searching, because he had a job to do. Sleep was something he could catch up on when this was over. As it was, it only got in his way. However, this did make him a little out of it at times, and edgy, and he didn't have time for Corbin's usual analytical crap.
"We found Taylor's necklace."
Lo paused. Let that sink in. Ignored what it meant. "How do you know it's his?" he asked, even as he frantically tugged on his shoes, not even bothering to change clothes. Didn't have time for that. "Might just be a random necklace, you know. There could be others-"
"Logan," Corbin broke in calmly, "it's his."
Lo snapped his mouth shut. Took in a deep breath. Released it slowly. "Right," he breathed. "Okay. Yeah. So he must be nearby – we need to search the-"
"Enough," Corbin repeated. "You have been running yourself ragged for months, and it is enough. I wish to find Taylor too, but this is not the way."
"Then what is the way?" Lo asked, frowning. "Because I don't see any other option."
"The necklace has a lot of blood on it," Corbin said.
Lo swallowed and closed his eyes for a moment, scrubbing a hand over his face. "Yeah. Okay."
"The chain is caked in it."
"Fuck, okay. So?"
What did that have to do with anything?
"Logan, it has been three months."
"That's twelve weeks."
"I know." Did he not know Lo spent the majority of his time counting how long it had been since Taylor vanished? Since he failed him? Each week was worse than the one before. Each month was another notch of failure.
Corbin sighed, a knowing sound Lo didn't like. "You are tired, and so is Blaise. It is time to rest."
"I will when-"
A breath. "You need to stop this. Call off this search, for Blaise's good if not for your own."
"Call off the…? Are you fucking crazy?" Lo hissed, appalled Corbin could even suggest that. How dare he ask Lo to stop looking? He had no fucking say! He wasn't the one out there hunting down every available lead, scribbling down phone numbers, growling at himself when it lead only to another fucking dead end…
Corbin had no idea what it was like.
"It has been months, Logan. You know as well as I do that after two weeks, it is pretty hopeless."
"No, I don't fucking know that," Lo snapped, "and neither do you! I'm not calling off the search! I'm finding him!"
"I know he means a lot to you," Corbin said slowly, calmly, in that way he did when negotiating with volatile rogues, "but think about this for a moment. Taylor would not want you to be doing this to yourself, and you know it."
"Fuck you," Lo snarled. "You don't get to say that! You don't know what he would want because he's not fucking here!"
"Logan, please be reasonable. I know he's your friend, but I think it is time to stop this nonsense."
"We have been searching for Red for years, and have yet to find anything conclusive. What makes you think we will find him now?"
Lo swallowed because that was true. He knew Corbin looked around for Red off and on over the years, had connections working their asses off to find the man, but nothing ever stuck, and trails led to dead ends, much like they were now.
"Nothing has changed," Corbin said quietly. "We are no closer to finding Red now than we were years ago. Do you understand? We have no idea where he is, or where he is keeping Taylor, but Taylor did escape once. Maybe he can do it again." A pause, then a small sigh. "I'm sorry, Logan, but that is the only way we are going to find him. If he escapes, we will know. Otherwise…"
"Fuck that," Lo said. "I'm finding him."
There was no other option. Taylor willingly went back with Red, for Lo, and Lo was going to get him out of it, even if it killed him.
"You are tired, and I understand that," Corbin said, "but you have to know if there was a way to find him, you would have found it by now. How many leads have you run down?"
Lo didn't bother to answer.
"And they were all dead ends," Corbin continued. "Every single one of them, and it will keep being that way if you keep looking. The best thing to do right now is pretend Red has won. Maybe then he will make a move, and we might get a decent lead."
"So you're saying I should just…not look for Taylor?" Lo asked incredulously. "Really? That's your fucking plan?"
"I did not say it would be easy, but perhaps it is the only way. Besides, you are running yourself ragged like this, Logan, and as your friend I cannot have that."
"You're not my friend," Lo growled. He only had one friend, and Taylor was missing at the moment, and he was going to find him.
"Then as your boss," Corbin said, voice more cool and collected now, more serious, "I am ordering you to stand down and leave it be."
"Leave it be?" Lo echoed. "Leave it be? Fuck you! Just because you don't give a damn enough to look doesn't mean I'm going to stop! So fuck you!"
With that, he ended the call and tossed it onto the bed. Then he spun away from the bed and the dresser and growled as he tugged at his hair, pulling more strands out as he paced toward the window.
He pulled open the blinds and looked outside. The town below looked peaceful and happy.
Fuck. Where are you? Damn it.
He closed his eyes and sucked in a slow breath, but didn't feel better once the air left his mouth. He never seemed to anymore.
Give me a sign. Okay? Fuck.
Blaise pocketed the keys and ran a hand through her curly red hair, tucking a few locks behind her ear before she finally pushed the car door open and exited the vehicle. She held the bag tight in her grasp and glanced up at the building looming before her. Lo was here, according to Corbin. Another dead end, too. She knew this was hard for him – hell, it was hard for her too.
With a breath, she entered the hotel and soon found herself riding up the elevator to the third floor. She seldom got to take the elevator if she was anywhere near the blonde's presence, but lately she took it more than she really cared to admit. It had been a while since she last saw Lo, but that was not her choice. If possible she would have been there with him the whole time, but sadly, Lo rarely told her of his plans. She only knew he was here now because of Corbin.
She knocked tentatively on the door of room he was supposedly in and waited. It took longer than she liked, but the door finally opened and she stared hard at the pale face looking back at her.
"Lo," she breathed, "you look terrible."
It was true – he was too pale for his own good, making the dark rings around his eyes far too vibrant for such a dark color. His hair was disheveled, and while the blonde wasn't particularly known to really care about his appearance, he at least attempted to comb it, but now it appeared as though he hadn't in a while.
"What?" Lo hissed, glaring at her with glazed blue eyes.
Her nose wrinkled. "Are you drunk?"
"S' wha' if I am?"
She sighed and shook her head, pushing her way into the room. Lo glared at her but didn't stop her, instead closed the door behind her. The room was dark. Papers cluttered the floor. An empty manila envelope lay on the bed. Empty beer bottles covered the bedside table.
Lo grabbed a half-full bottle and brought it to his lips, taking a long drag of the liquid before he pulled it away. The room reeked of alcohol.
"Lo…what have you done to yourself?" she asked, frowning at him. When Corbin told her he was worried about Lo, she hadn't thought he meant this. Now she knew to be worried as well.
"Wha' d'ya want?"
"Lo…" She shook her head and stepped toward him, hand lightly grasping the bottle. He watched her for a moment, grip loosening on the bottle, and she slowly pulled it away. "What's wrong? I mean…I know what's wrong, but…what happened? Why…?"
She gestured at the room and looked back at him.
He blinked slowly. " 's a dead end."
Lo shrugged and turned away from her, reaching for another beer from the mini-fridge in the room. Blaise scowled at him.
"Stop that, Lo, you know that's not going to help," she said, snagging it from his loose grasp.
Exhausted blue eyes shot toward her. "Nothin' is gonna help, but this makes me feel better," he said, and the sincerity in his words left Blaise momentarily frozen, giving Lo the opportunity to snag the drink back from her.
"We'll find another lead," she said.
Lo snorted bitterly. "Not accordin' to Corbin."
"What'd he say?"
"Wha' are you doin' here, Blaise?" Lo asked, eyes narrowed as he searched her face.
"What am I…? Lo, you took off! Again! It's been weeks since I last saw you, you idiot! Taylor was my friend too, okay? But you're also my friend and I want to find him just as much as you do!" she said, glaring at him. The blonde blinked at her. "Okay? Taylor's my friend too. I miss him too."
Lo shook his head and took a long guzzle of his frothy beer. Blaise sighed.
"Please don't drink."
"Because you're…you're hurting yourself," she said. "And you know Taylor wouldn't want you to-"
"So help me God, if you're gonna say he wouldn't want me to do this to myself, I'm gonna kill you," Lo growled, glaring at her, and she snapped her mouth shut.
"But…you know it's true," she said quietly, watching him.
He spun away from her, facing the window. "Go away, Blaise."
"No. You think I'm not sad? You think I'm not scared? I want to find him too!" She stepped toward him and lightly grabbed his arm, unprepared for the violent way he shoved away from her, causing her to stagger back somewhat, staring at him. "Lo, please. Please let me help."
"You can't," Lo hissed, "so go the fuck away."
"I can help if you'll let me!"
She wanted to help him. She wanted to be there for him, and she wanted to find Taylor. If not for herself, and not for Taylor's own safety, then for Lo. She had never seen the blonde like this before. She knew, deep down, the only one who could help him was Taylor, and try as she might to be there for him, she just wasn't the emotion taster. She'd tried Taylor's tactics – light, comforting touches; the promise of a cooked meal; making Lo eat soup and take medicine – but she just wasn't Taylor. It just wasn't working.
For three months, she'd tried. She'd tried so hard to be there for him, to be what he needed, to help, but she couldn't do it. It was painfully obvious only one person in the world could do it, could help and be what he needed, and that was the missing emotion taster.
She wanted to find Taylor. So bad. He was her best friend, and while she loved Lo, loved arguing with him, she hated seeing him without Taylor. Just as it had been hard to be around Lo alone in the hospital, without Taylor, it was hard to see him now. There was nothing she could do to fix this, even though she wished things would just go back to normal.
She wished they would just find Taylor and go home. She wished they would find Taylor and things would go back to normal. She wished she didn't have to see Lo so…like this.
If Taylor ever dared to doubt Lo's love for him again, as he had on the road trip, she was going to have to seriously reconsider her policy of 'no hitting anyone'.
"I can help, Lo, if you let me," she said, watching him.
The blonde scowled.
"You can't help, so leave!" he snarled, rounding on her.
She swallowed. "Lo…please. Please don't do this. I want to find him too. Let me help."
Please let me help you, Lo. I hate seeing you like this.
For a moment, it looked like Lo was going to listen to her. His expression softened somewhat, his shoulders drooped a little, and the anger dispersed from his eyes. She took a step forward and he watched her, not stopping her but not stepping toward her either. She took this as a good sign.
She lightly rested her hand on the blonde's shoulder like she'd seen Taylor do on so many occasions. For a moment, it worked. For a moment, Lo closed his eyes and took in a slow breath, and things were fine. Things were okay…for a moment.
Then the moment shattered and Lo's eyes snapped open, equipped with an angry glare, and she barely felt the push before she staggered back, away from him, staring at him as she held her arm toward her.
"Ow," she breathed, "that hurt!"
Lo had never hurt her before. He threatened, and yelled, and glared, but he never hurt her. Now he'd forcefully twisted her wrist and shoved her away, and while it didn't hurt that much, it still hurt.
For a moment the two just stared at each other. Then Lo looked away.
"Sorry," he sighed, shaking his head, tugging at his tussled hair, "sorry, just…just leave. Go away."
She swallowed and released her arm. "I'll go…but I won't be far, okay? You have my number. If you find anything…or you just want to talk…please call me, Lo. You don't have to go through this alone."
Lo didn't respond, didn't move or shift or even acknowledge her, and she sighed and turned toward the door, only remembering the bag she'd previously brought with her now as she stared at it near the exit.
"I brought you some food – nothing much, just a cheeseburger and some fries." She paused. "Please call me, okay? I…yeah. Okay. Bye, Lo."
She watched him a moment longer and then disappeared out the door.
Lo stared at the empty beer bottle in his hands. Hours ago, Blaise had left after leaving him a cheeseburger. Against his better judgment he ate the food, even though he wasn't hungry. Hunger was trivial at this point. Everything was, really.
Corbin wanted to call off the search. Wanted to just forget about Taylor, like nothing ever happened, like Taylor was never taken. Like he wasn't in danger being with Red. Like he couldn't already be fucking de-
He growled and tossed the bottle across the room, where it collided with the dresser and shattered into a thousand tiny shards. He watched, detached, as the shards rained down to the ground and coated the carpet. Watched the leftover drops of beer stain and darken the floor. Watched the glass shards glisten in the dim light of the room.
Evening. Late evening now. Hours ago Blaise had been by, when the sun hurt his eyes and his head throbbed incessantly, but he hadn't been nearly drunk enough. Food made him stop drinking for about an hour, but upon making several calls and still getting nowhere, he thought more drinks were in order. Alcohol was his only friend here. It couldn't help, but it could numb him for a while – make him forget for a time.
Fuck. T. Where are you?
It was like Red just fucking vanished. Like Taylor just vanished. The desire to find Taylor kept him going when he thought it was over, but today…
They found Taylor's necklace. Covered in blood.
That could mean anything, but Corbin had yet to be able to track Taylor via his energy signature, even though he said once before he could do so if Taylor was alive.
Months went by, and still no reading, no way to track him through his energy. Now the necklace was found, and there was a lot of dried blood on it. Who knew how old it was, how long it had been there, how lucky they were to have even come across it…
Corbin was right. For all they knew, Taylor was dead. They were chasing another dead end because the prize wasn't waiting for them at the end anymore. For all they knew, Red won. Red won and Taylor was gone.
Lo didn't want to believe it. Didn't want to believe it was all for fucking nothing. Didn't want to believe he searched for so damn long only to come to this fucking dead end, the worst of them all.
But even he had to admit there was the slightest possibility Corbin was right. Taylor might be dead. Lo could be running himself into the ground for no reason because the fight was already over. But he couldn't just accept that.
He was going to find Taylor. If it was too late, he was at least going to get him out of there. Take him home. Bury him.
He growled and snagged another empty beer bottle, flinging it across the room. Watched it shattered and hit the ground. Watched the little drops flood the carpet.
If Taylor was dead…
He closed his eyes. Took in a breath.
If Taylor was dead, he was going to find Red. He was going to find him, and he was going to kill him. Make him suffer and scream and beg for mercy, make the suffering last as long as he could, then destroy him so he wouldn't hurt anyone else ever again.
Fuck. Just be alive. Bastard.
He fucking told Taylor to say no. Told him to say no and ignore the deal, but the emotion taster went against him and took the deal anyway, left Lo alone in that stairwell only to wake up a week later and find the emotion taster missing. But could one be missing if they agreed to go with their kidnapper of their own free will? If they knew what they were getting themselves into?
Because Taylor knew what he was going back to. He knew. Lo remembered how scared Taylor was, remembered the defeat on his face when Que mentioned how Red was looking for him specifically. Remembered comforting him, telling him how Red wouldn't find him, wouldn't get him…
But words meant nothing because Red got him anyway, and all because of Lo. Taylor wouldn't have agreed to go with him if it hadn't been for Lo. Had Lo not been shot, Taylor would have been fine. Had he not made that fucking deal, he would have been fine.
Had the two of them never met…Taylor would have been fine. He wouldn't have had to make that deal. Lo wouldn't have been shot and Taylor wouldn't be gone now.
Fuck you, you bastard. Told you to fucking say no. Fucking told you.
He swallowed and snagged a new beer. Popped the top off. Guzzled down some of the frothy liquid and then sighed, holding the cold bottle to his forehead. The cool glass soothed his headache somewhat but he knew it wouldn't help in the long run. Nothing would.
Can't do this. Fuck. You bastard. Where are you?
And there's that chapter ;) Hope it sounds okay for a first chapter. It's rather long for this story, but I hope that's okay. Thanks for reading and please review!