This event forces writers out of their comfort zone and into the challenge presented. Every day a new prompt will be available for writers to look at and take up the challenge of. The writer is given 48 hours to complete the prompt. Each entry must have 100 words but can go over. There is a maximum of 1000 words.
Day 01: All Hallow's Eve
The morning air was crisp as the sun cleared the horizon. Frost obscured most windows as the snow from a few days prior still had the grass buried beneath a blanket of white. Children were already bundled and playing in the snow, thrilled to be out of school for the weekend and finally able to enjoy what fall had brought them.
It was only a glance of the scene but his brief gander outside filled him with content. He turned away, tapping at the tablet’s face as he focused back on her.
It wasn’t overly cold in the room but it certainly wasn’t cozy warm either. They were both in sweaters, though he dared not take his off because he happened to be contently warm, but he wasn’t sure if she was still in hers for the same reason or something else.
The sweater was clearly not hers. In fact, he was fairly certain it was from the unspoken depths of his closet. The sleeves fell a few inches beyond the tips of her fingers, a point she was currently utilizing to keep her hands warm rather than scalded by the hot mug of cocoa steaming in her grip. He could smell the shot of coffee that had been added to the hot chocolate. The bottom hem settled near her mid thigh, a fact most women would have exploited but she was dressed in jeans and a turtleneck underneath, said turtleneck covering what the collar of the sweater left exposed.
It was almost like she had been taken from some festive magazine cover and turned into a cardboard cutout placed before the window. Even her hair - with nothing more done to it than what she normally did - was draped around her shoulders in soft waves, silky locks reflecting the morning sun as natural highlights.
He pulled out his phone and quickly took a few pictures. She didn’t notice, not that he expected her to. He was prone to taking pictures at random and with the highest end camera setup one could by on mobile devices at his disposal, he took a ridiculous amount of pictures.
A goofy grin graced his face as he played with a few of the shots he had gotten, adding filters and adjusting lighting here and there and posting his favorites - a raw and two edits - to his Instagram.
There was a chirrup from her person and she blinked, whatever thought or place she had been in disturbed by the notification. She shifted the mug into one hand before freeing the other from its sleeve and fishing out her phone. Giddiness filled him at the arch of her eyebrow and he waited excitedly.
“Impressive,” she spoke, amusement pulling her lips into a smile. She looked up at him, the smile settling on her lips. “I like them. Can I use one?”
“Of course,” he assured her, his tone playfully harsh. “And how many times will it take for you to stop asking?”
Her smile grew. “Oh, a few more, at least,” she teased.
“Few more what?”
He looked over, finding his roommate stumbling out of his room looking disheveled and grouchy. Said roommate paused, eyes narrowing. “I smell coffee.”
“Fresh pot in the kitchen,” she explained and his roommate made a beeline for the aforementioned pot. “Morning Aiden.”
She gained a grunted response but didn’t appear put off by his rather lacking reply.
“A few more reminders that Pandora has rights to use any photos I make of her, barring if it was taken for free and she makes money off of it, I at least get lunch,” he in turn answered Aiden’s first question.
“I don’t remember the lunch part,” Pandora helpfully interjected, a sleeve covered finger tapping against her chin.
He shrugged. “I just instated it.”
“As in our starving artist is currently starving,” Aiden drawled from the kitchen.
Pandora laughed behind him and he scoffed, though it was hard to not smile. He could see the smirk peaking out around Aiden’s coffee cup as the man took a drink. “Oh please. Don’t oversell me. I’m just your resident black hole. Always starving. None of this artist biz.”
Aiden snorted, shooting him a look. “Don’t let Maria hear you say that. She will have your hide if you up and quit before the holidays are out.”
His eyes got comically large as he sputtered in mock horror. “Abandon Maria before the busiest time of year? I would never dream of such a thing. She buys me lunch once a week because of it and it’s the only good meal I get.”
Pandora was bend over wheezing with laughter as Aiden rolled his eyes. The smirk was still on the man’s scruffy face. “I did not ask for a drink with a show, Peter.”
He just beamed at his roommate.
As Pandora calmed down, there was a scattering of screams and laughter out on the grounds and, despite not actually seeing anything from where he stood, he glanced towards the window, catching Aiden pulling at the blinds in the kitchen window to peak outside.
“You planning on hanging around and giving out candy tonight?” Aiden asked, gaze still out the window.
He shook his head, offering, “I got invited to the "office party”-“ he rolled his eyes with the air quotes, "but I wasn’t planning on staying for very long.”
Aiden frowned at him before his gaze moved to Pandora. “You going with?”
Pandora shrugged. “Maria said she wasn’t sure how I ended up with an invite seeing as I’m not actually staff there but she wasn’t about to say no to me showing up for their ’All Hallows’ Eve’ shindig.”
Aiden snorted. “‘All Hallows’ Eve’? Really?”
Pandora shrugged. “Wasn’t my idea.”
“I don’t even think it was Maria’s,” Peter offered, amused. “She had the same reaction when we first got the invites. Heard her muttering something about suffering through event planning meetings just to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Day 02: Pumpkin head
Aiden threw back what was left in his coffee before asking, “Those things usually come with plus one invites?”
“Why? Wanting to come along?” Pandora teased.
Where she had found humor, he had found confusion, and he clarified on the tail of her words, “I though you had been planning on hitting up Marcus’s house party tonight.”
Aiden turned the tap on and rinsed out his cup. “It doesn’t start till 9. Marc said I was good to show up whenever but if I get to check out this ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ office party with my own eyes beforehand, I wouldn’t say no to tagging along.”
“It does start at 5,” Pandora added, walking over to pass Aiden her mug. She looked to him as Aiden took it without comment. “Would give you a reason to leave early.”
“Such a pity I’m out of a ride and Marcus lives too far out for us to stay long,” Aiden commented,
Peter chuckled. “That the excuse we’re going to run with, then?”
Aiden shrugged. “Not much of an excuse if it’s the truth.” Aiden fixed him with a look. “No point in taking two cars to an office party when you know that Marcus would be thrilled to see you guys.” His look moved to Pandora. “Barring you’re game on leaving early too.”
Pandora shrugged. “I’m not opposed to it.”
Peter clapped his hands together. “Then we’ll leave here at four thirty, get there when we get there, and leave by six at the latest?”
He gained a nonverbal affirmation from Aiden as Pandora agreed, “Sounds good to me.”
“Great.” Peter turned his attention to his roommate. “Is Marcus’s party a costume party?”
Aiden blinked at him. “Dude, you know Marc. Any excuse to throw a costume party, he’s going to jump on it.”
“You have a costume, then.”
Aiden’s look turned flat. “Why.”
Pandora shifted forward, gaining the scruffy man’s attention. “Office party is costume mandatory. Costume contest and all.”
Aiden made a face. “Seriously?”
Peter chuckled. “Hey, should be interesting to see what an office full of artists throws together.”
Aiden arched an eyebrow, clearly not sharing the same thought. “There are enough snobs in that 'office’ of yours that I’m expecting half those costumes to be half-assed.”
“Like none at Marcus’s party will be.”
Aiden pointed a finger at him threateningly. “Hey. At least they’ll be in good taste and actually meant to be something. Buying a child’s caplet and shoving those plastic ring teeth and calling yourself a vampire is a cop-out.”
“Wait,” Pandora cut in. “People do realize they make adult versions of those capes, right?”
Peter shifted his weight back, arms crossing over his chest. “I’d bet good money we see at least two of the same cheap store bought costume tonight before we leave the office party.” He met Aiden’s gaze. “And a shitty vampire walking in just as we’re leaving already sloshed to the wind.”
The grin that streaked across Aiden’s face was dangerous. “I’d take that bet. Shitty vampire already there, two of the same cheap costume but one is only wearing a piece of the costume over normal clothing.”
“Loser buys breakfast?”
“Oo!” Pandora jumped in. “I’m in on this. Shitty vampire is with third of the cheap store costume and they get there when we do.”
Peter nodded. “Ok. Winner gets to choose breakfast joint?”
Aiden frowned. “How’s the winner decided.”
“Person that has the most points,” Pandora piped in. “We’ve all got about three points total we could get.”
Peter chuckled. “We can’t do simple bets, can we?”
“Nope,” Aiden confirmed over his shoulder as he wandered towards the coffee table. “That’s why I’m writing this shit down.”
Peter focused on the tablet in his hand as Pandora bounded over to help his roommate. It turned it on, logging in without a thought. The email app was still open and he quickly refreshed the page before he started to scroll. Most of it was from his work email but a few were from his personal. Mostly ad stuff, what with him on a few mailing lists, but he found one from his mom rather easily and starred it before scrolling back up. It was one of the work ones that kept him from closing the app.
“Maria wants to know what we’re going as,” Peter announced, reading through the email.
“Why?” Pandora asked still bent over the back of the couch.
“Her original plan fell through and she doesn’t have any ideas that aren’t already beaten into the ground.”
“Well, I’m going as a witch,” Pandora offered, pushing herself upright and rolling over so that her lower back was pressed against the back of the couch between her hands. “You were going as a scarecrow.”
Aiden’s head came up. “I thought you were doing something with that pumpkin head mask of yours.”
Peter’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “I am. I’m going as a pumpkin headed scarecrow.” The incredulous look he gained was unnecessary in his opinion. “What? It’s a good costume.”
Pandora leaned back, looking down at Aiden. “It actually is. Throw him in a corn maze and he’d be scaring everyone just by standing still.”
It was Aiden’s turn to raise his eyebrows in surprise, though the disbelief hadn’t left yet. “Really?”
Peter shrugged, a bit defensive. “What are you going as, then?”
Aiden gave him a feral grin. “A werewolf.”
Peter snorted. “That’s original.”
Aiden puffed out his chest. It just made Peter want to laugh. “I will have you know that I look badass in it.” His roommate pointed a finger at him. “And it’s not going to be anything anyone else has.”
Peter rolled his eyes. “Unless you’re going in some realistic fur suit, I’m sure I’ve seen some version of it before.”
Aiden scoffed. “I’ll have you swallowing your tongue come this evening.”
“Well, as much fun as it is watching you two bicker like a married couple,” Pandora interjected, “I have somewhere to be.”
Day 03: From the beyond
Peter blinked at her. “I thought you were staying in today to finish the last of your costume.”
She laughed. “That was yesterday. I’m meeting Jasper for breakfast. He wanted to talk business of some sort.”
“You still consorting with that one?” Aiden drawled. Peter was surprised his roommate hadn’t been more explicit.
Pandora rolled her eyes but there was a smile on her face. “Hey, I don’t like him as much as you do. But if it’s a good job, I could do with some extra cash.”
“If you need any backup with Jasper, you know we both have our phones on us,” he offered. He gave her an encouraging smile. “I do hope it’s a lucrative offer. It’s been a while since you’ve had a good project to focus on.”
“Me too,” she added. She looked down at what she was wearing before looking back at him. “I’m keeping the sweater.” She winked at him. “Hopefully it’ll keep any talk of romance at bay.”
He put his hands up in surrender, a chuckle edging his words. “The unspoken depths of my closet have always been at your disposal. I’m clearly not using it.”
She nodded. Aiden shifted forward on the couch, his arm resting on the back. “You want anything of mine or are you covered?”
Her smiled twitched higher. “I’m certain I’m ‘covered’ in this massive sweater.” Peter snorted, realizing Aiden’s pun now. Aiden rolled his eyes but there was amusement in his serious expression. “Thank you, though.”
Aiden nodded. “We’ll see you shortly, then?”
“I don’t see me being gone for more than three hours,” she confirmed.
Aiden stood as Pandora made her exit, stretching. “I’m going to go stop by the store. Marc wants me to grab a specific booze only sold near us. You manning the fort till we leave?”
He nodded in turn. “I have a few last minute adjustments to make on my costume.” Aiden started for his room and Peter called after him. “Hey, while you’re out, mind picking up lunch? I’m open to either making something or eating take out.”
“If you’re paying,” Aiden shot over his shoulder, “I’ll shoot you a message when I leave the liquor store.”
The Saturday seemed to just fly by from there. Aiden and Pandora returned at the same time and Peter made them all lunch before anyone could get too caught up in preparations.
Peter was also the first ready to go, pumpkin head resting on the couch beside him as he absently stitched a patch that wasn’t overly necessary for the costume but killed time. He looked up when he heard someone entering and found himself staring.
Aiden was, indeed, a werewolf. There was no mistaking it. But the way the costume looked made him uncomfortable and he wasn’t sure what.
“Well?” Aiden snapped, teeth flashing. Peter could see a number of them were sharper than normal.
“Well what?” Peter asked, his brain too focused on trying to figure out what was wrong with what he was seeing.
Aiden rolled his eyes. “What do you think? Original enough for you?”
Peter blinked a few times as he forced his brain to focus on the questions. Aiden was in a tank top, sweats, and sneakers, all rather basic in the sense of costume clothing, but it was the aspects that spoke werewolf that were the more impressive bits.
The clothing was in prime condition, looking a little worn but undamaged. In lieu of the outfit, Aiden’s arms, chest, throat, and hands were covered in fur. Most of it was short, especially around Aiden’s rather human looking hands barring the short claws the other had instead of nails, but there was quite a bit of longer fur around Aiden’s neck and shoulders, all of it the proper length for a wolf. It even went up into his roommate’s hair, blending seamlessly with some short fur like on the man’s arms and hands edging out onto his cheekbones. His chin was the normal scruffy it always was.
It was simple but made a very solid point.
“You were right,” Peter finally responded. “You’ve effectively made me swallow my tongue.”
Aiden smirked, crossing his furred arms over his broad chest, muscles flexing. Peter frowned as something in his mind told him that there was something wrong with Aiden’s costume.
“Ready to commune with those from the beyond?”
Peter turned, looking to Pandora as she entered the space, her question full of light and teasing. Just like Aiden, her costume wasn’t a traditional witch. Unlike Aiden’s, it didn’t send his brain into a frenzy.
She wore a leather vest over a dark blue button up shirt with sleeves far billowier than modern sleeves and simple black pants. Fabric that was closer to the size of a small blanket than a scarf was draped around her waist this way and that patterned to look like a vibrant night sky. He could make out hints of what looked like a galaxy in among the folds. Her knee high leather boots had no more heel than a man’s boot and looked just as rugged with belts and laces. Several belts laden with pouches and vials filled with interesting liquids were hanging from her person; she even had a satchel slung over one shoulder to rest on the opposite hip, the perfect size for a large tomb with an assortment of things hanging from it. A wide brimmed hat with a crushed pointed top sat on her head looking far more ancient than it had any right to be. The cloak hanging from around her neck was a near black blue with faint silver creating more stars in the lining.
He huffed in amusement, commenting, “You are certainly a whirlwind of a witch.”
She beamed at him. “I even have a staff.”
That strange wrong sense that had come with his first sight of Aiden returned when she pulled out a staff as tall as her from inside her cloak.
Day 04: Scarecrow's Scream
Or, at least, it had seemed as tall as her? That strange wrong sense didn’t leave as she stood proudly with a staff that came to her shoulder and looking as if it was made from a long tube of some kind with paper wrapped around wire to make it look like a branch at the top. He wasn’t sure what the crystal was made out of but it looked fake. Well made, but fake.
He suppressed the wrong sense and smile. “That’s pretty good.”
She rolled her eyes, though her expression never lessened. “You and I both know it looks like crap. I can sew like the best of them but any sort of crafting I’m as good as a toddler.”
“Now that’s just insulting to toddlers,” Aiden commented.
Peter blinked and he saw the latter of her throwing motion. He had no idea what she had thrown at his roommate but there was an indignant squawk from behind him with the sound of something making contact.
Peter glanced over but there was no sign of whatever hit Aiden even as the man straightened, a feral grin on his face. He shuddered as the strange sensation intensified at the sight and he quickly looked away. “We about good to go, then?” he interjected, looking to Pandora.
She tore her attention away from the silent battle between her and Aiden to give him a nod. “I’ve got everything I need,” she assured him, patting some pouch for an emphasis he didn’t understand completely. He at least took it to mean she had everything in that pouch if not most of it.
He looked to Aiden. The man pointed his thumb back towards his room. “Let me grab a jacket so that my phone and keys have a place to be. I’d rather not lose my pants because my phone was too heavy.”
Peter shook his head and picked up his pumpkin head.
“I regret this already.”
Peter didn’t actually have to turn his head to see Aiden but he did so anyways before looking back to the center of the office party.
He couldn’t blame the man. Five minutes late and it seemed the party had started without them an hour ago. People were laughing and making a ruckus. A few outer pieces of costumes had been removed but that was the extent of the demolishing of costumes. Peter was certain with how some were already far more drunk than sober that there would be more costume pieces draped and laying about than the cheap party decorations. There weren’t that many decorations to begin with.
“Oh thank heaven,” a familiar voice cut through the noise. Peter turned enough to spot Maria approaching. She was dressed as, well, Peter hoped it was some character he didn’t know because she looked rather plain to him. “For a minute I thought I was going to be alone in this madhouse.”
Pandora grinned, leaning on her staff. “That bad already, huh?”
Maria rolled her eyes, exasperated. “Kings spiked the drinks with something really strong.” She glanced back towards the party. “I’m just glad that he’s the only one that’s dumped anything in it. Otherwise I’m sure we would have had a few alcohol poisonings already with whatever he had brought.”
“Jasper brought the strong booze?” Pandora asked, her words heavy with disbelief.
He found himself in the same boat. As much as he didn’t like Jasper, the man didn’t seem the type. But he knew better than to assume it had been Jasper because Jasper wasn’t the-
Something heavy and unfamiliar landed across the back of his shoulders before his insides rolled over. He went from looking at Maria to finding himself facing a drunk chicken costume that was laughing too hard to remain upright as Aiden kept his arm across Peter’s chest. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought his roommate was actually growling.
“Aw man,” the chicken wheezed, looking to the sunny side up egg and wall socket. “Did you hear thatscarecrows’ scream?”
“That was uncalled for,” Pandora snapped and Peter shuddered. His brain wasn’t functioning well if he thought he could actually feel her anger rolling over him in waves. “I should kick your wasted ass to the curb.”
The drunk’s face turned dark and Peter instinctive surged against Aiden’s arm, the pull to place himself between Pandora and the creep overpowering his thoughts. Aiden didn’t so much as twitch.
“Oh?” the drunk challenged, his attention solely on her. “I would like to see you try.”
“That’s enough, Brutus,” cut through the scene. Jasper grabbed at the drunk’s arm, a stormy expression on his face. “First you spike the drinks and now you’re harassing everyone that so much as looks away. If you don’t correct your attitude, I’ll personally kick you to the curb. Pretty sure you’ll be sober once you finally make it home. On foot.”
It wasn’t an idle threat, either. Jasper was smaller than Brutus but that didn’t mean anything. Looks could and have been deceiving.
“Friend of yours, Jasper?” Aiden spoke up, cutting through the tension.“
Jasper sighed. "Brother, actually.” Point to Peter. He wasn’t surprised neither Pandora nor Aiden had previous knowledge of said brother. Peter only knew of the man because he actually worked in the office.
“Pleasant,” Aiden nearly spat.
“Hardly,” Jasper amended, lips pulled in a tight, humorless smile. He turned his attention back on his brother. “Come on. We’re going to see if you’re too drunk to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
“A kid’s game?” Brutus whined as his brother dragged him away. Brutus’s two lackies followed without a word. “You’re kidding, right?”
“If you can get through it without vomiting, I’ll buy you breakfast,” Jasper appeased.
Peter rolled his eyes. He had very little doubt that Brutus had been trying to extort that out of Jasper since the beginning.
“Fun guy,” Pandora commented, her face twisted into disgust,
“You have no idea,” Peter fully agreed.
Day 05: Rotten to Grotesque
Pandora’s face twisted into disgust. “That experience went from rotten to grotesque far too quickly.” She looked at them. “I almost feel bad for Jasper.”
“I do feel bad for him,” Aiden interjected. “Jasper may be creepy from time to time but at least he tries. Brutus seems like a brute.”
“He is,” Peter informed them. “Brutus isn’t any better sober but at least sober he’s able to keep from doing anything that could get him written up.”
Maria let out a heavy sigh. “If the HR reps weren’t equally drunk, I’d have already talked to them about this scene. If nothing else, he needs a good talking to about spiking office party drinks.”
Peter gave a weak chuckle at that. “Not that it’ll change anything. You know that he’ll just do it again and say he forgot or make it so it can’t be traced to him.”
Maria scoffed. “If anything gets ruined, I’m taking it out of his paycheck.”
“Just don’t drink the punch,” Aiden teased, a smirk on his face.
She returned the smirk. “Trust me. I’m going to keep sober so that I can make sure no one drives home drunk.”
Peter watched her walk off, losing her in the swarm of costumes far faster than he would have cared for.
“Whelp, I’m all for ditching this drunk fest,” Aiden announced, stretching. “Who’s with me?”
“I am,” Pandora confirmed, already making for the door. “I’d rather been in good drunk company than this.”
Aiden touched his arm and Peter looked over, willing the foreboding feeling to go away. He didn’t want to focus on the thoughts that had wandered through his mind. He didn’t want it to become real.
“You ready to go?” Aiden asked gently. “You the one with the keys.”
Peter offered him a soft smile, touched by the concern he could see. “Yeah. Sorry. Just lost in thought.”
“Nothing bad, I hope,” Pandora spoke up, standing between them and the exit.
He shook his head, his smile growing. “Nothing bad. I promise.”
There was doubt edging their expressions but he knew they wouldn’t call his bluff. He was too skilled for that in spite of their keen sense for his lies. She nodded, her expression turning amused. “Good. We don’t need a mopey scarecrow. If I had wanted one, I’d have gone to the nearest cornfield and grabbed a stuffed one.”
Peter chuckled as Aiden gave a bark of a laugh. He nudged Peter, joking, “Hey, you know how to rag doll? I’m certain I could carry your scrawny ass.”
Peter pushed him back without any force as he followed his friends out the door.
“This where the party is located?”
Peter turned and had to take a steadying breath. He had thought that Brutus had come bid them farewell in his own way but it was someone else in the same cheap chicken costume supporting a sloshed, shitty vampire. It was a miracle the man was even able to speak around the plastic teeth with how drunk he was.
“Yeah, already in full swing with most of the guests in a similar state as you,” Aiden replied hotly. He focused on the chicken. “If you don’t want your friend to end up in the hospital, keep the punch out of his hand. It’s been spiked with some strong shit.”
The chicken’s expression quickly filled with relief. “Thank you.”
Aiden nodded as the trio stepped around them. Peter glanced back, watching the pair disappear into the party. The chicken had been talking softly to the sloshed vampire, and that strange wrong sense tickled the back of his mind.
The drive to Marcus’s wasn’t long and Peter climbed out into the quickly cooling air. He let out a breath and watched it curl skyward. He quickly followed after Pandora and Aiden as they approached a familiar house. The hairs started to stand on the back of his neck but he ignored the faint feeling.
Aiden knocked heavily on the door, grip adjusting around the bag in his hand. Peter pulled his pumpkin head on.
The door opened and Peter blinked. He found himself staring at another shitty vampire but this time lacking the plastic teeth. “Aiden!” the vampire greeted. The vampire’s gaze turned to him and Pandora. “Hey, guys! Aiden. You were supposed to tell me if you were able to wrangle them into coming.”
Aiden snorted. “Come off it, Marcus. You don’t care either way.”
Marcus grinned at them. “You’re right. I don’t.” He opened the door fully. “Come on in, guys. Yer early so there’s no one else here.”
“Need any help with prep, Marc?” Aiden asked as he led the way to the kitchen.
Marcus took over the lead, stealing the bag out of Aiden’s hand. “Well, I could use some help with the last of the cooking. I’ve got a few more things set up to make so if I could get extra hands, that would be good.”
“I’ll help,” Pandora spoke up. “I’m the only one that knows how to cook here.”
“How rude,” Peter interjected. “Did I not make us lunch?”
She grinned at him. “You did, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good.”
He pressed a hand to his chest, unable to act properly affronted when a grin was pulling at his lips.
Aiden patted his shoulder. “Go see if Marc left any decorations laying about and leave the kitchen to Pan. I’ll go prep the backyard.”
Peter chuckled as Pandora and Marcus disappeared into the kitchen. “Alright. Call if you need any help.”
Aiden nodded and disappeared out the back door.
Peter suddenly found himself alone with only the sound of Pandora and Marcus’s voices drifting in from the kitchen too soft for him to hear any of the words. That strange wrong sense settled over him heavily and he turned away from where everyone had disappeared to.
He found the decorations easily; it seemed Marcus had just dumped them on and around the coffee table.
Day 06: Casting Spells
The strange wrong sense was electricity through his body as he dug through the decorations, separating things out as he went for the different areas. It got so bad he found himself frozen half stretched towards one pill with a bag of streamers dangling from his hand waiting for something to happen.
He shook himself and put the bag down.
He yelped when his phone chirruped at him and fumbled for it with shaking hands. There was no reason for him to be so jumpy. Everything was fine.
“You alright in here?”
Peter looked over to find Marcus sticking his head out of the kitchen, a splotch of flour on the man’s cheek. Peter gave him a sheepish grin, holding up his phone. “I’m fine. Just got a bit startled was all.”
Marcus relaxed and Peter wondered if the strange wrong sense was getting to him. It looked like Marcus had been expecting bad news. “That happens. You good with the decorations? There enough?”
Peter looked at the organized chaos around him. He gave Marcus a look. “With the whole party store in your living room?” He grinned, sarcasm heavy as he finished, “Absolutely not.”
Marcus beamed at him. “Let us know if you need a hand with any of it.”
Peter nodded and the other left.
Alone once more, all of his attention went to his phone. Marcus had been expecting bad news. Regardless if he was seeing things or not, he was not about to let go of the fact that he had seen relief when he had responded.
He found a voicemail waiting for him with no indication he had missed a call. Slightly annoyed at the lack of any further notification, he tapped his voicemail and brought his phone to the ear.
“You have one unheard message,” came the automated response.
There was a brief pause before the message started.
“Peter.” He jumped, becoming ramrod straight. There was the sound of a massive party muffled beyond Maria’s quiet voice. “Listen to me. For the next 24 hours, you have to be exceptionally careful. There are….people looking for you and your friends. You guys aren’t safe. I’ve stalled what I can but I’m not able to stay here and keep an eye on things.”
There was a pause filled with the faint sound of fabric shuffling. “Tell Aiden….tell Aiden that it’s time we removed the veil. It’s been on long enough and we need-” She choked and he pressed the phone closer to his ear, a lump in his throat as his heart went out to her. He could see her huddled in some empty office trying not to cry. “We need what was obscured back. We need to be able to see, regardless of the consequences, because right now the veiled cannot speak for themself. Please Aiden.”
A sob broke her words and she choked it and others down. When she continued on, her voice was steadier, stronger. “We cannot be blind anymore. They’re coming, whether we want them to or not.”
He shuddered. He may not know the context but the warning was clear. Whatever or whoever was coming was something that they needed to be prepared to face in whatever fashion that was.
He turned as the automated voice started talking and crossed to the sliding glass door. It slid without hindrance and he found Aiden unstacking some chairs in the grass around a large fire pit already prepped with kindle and wood. Aiden looked to him as he stepped out of the house, a frown quickly overtaking the happy expression. “What is it?”
Peter brought his phone back to his ear, hearing some chunk of the automated voicemail system and pulled it away just as quickly to press a button. He shoved the phone at Aiden. Confused and worried, Aiden took the phone and listened.
That strange wrong sense increased. He almost wanted to say it had returned but he knew it had never gone away since the moment he entered Marcus’s home. But the longer he waited for the message to reach its end, the more Aiden’s expression closed off.
Aiden removed the phone from his ear. “You listen to it?”
Peter gave a sharp nod. “All of it.” He stepped forward, almost begging, “What did she mean? What’s after us? What’s after me?! What’s veiled?”
Aiden didn’t answer his questions. He did wait till Peter had finished asking before stepping around him and starting for the sliding doors. Something potent washed over him and he suddenly reached out, grabbing AIden’s arm. Something was telling him if he let Aiden enter that house before him, without him, he would never get answers.
He ignored the part that was telling him that he wouldn’t even remember he had questions.
Aiden stopped, startled even as he looked back at Peter. Peter’s grip convulsed as he demanded, “What are you going to do.”
“Tell Pandora,” Aiden responded.
“Then give me my phone.”
Aiden frowned at him. “What? Why? I’m going to give it to Pandora to listen to.”
He shook his head. “Marcus had asked me if there was anything wrong earlier. I want to be able to amend things before you go storming in.”
Aiden seemed hell bent on pushing the matter. It left the phone in easy reach and Peter snagged it before Aiden could even notice the mistake. He was through the sliding door before the other could grab him.
He didn’t give the others a chance to speak. Quickly restarting the message, he shoved the phone at Pandora. “Listen to this.”
Confused, she pressed the phone to her ear as Aiden stepped into the house. Slowly her expression changed just as Aiden’s had but there was a sort of sorrowful resignation to it. She met what Peter assumed was Aiden’s gaze over his head. “We can’t ignore this.”
“So, what, you’re just going to start casting spells without explaining anything to him?”
Day 07: A Witches' Brew
Peter’s gaze snapped to Aiden, cutting in, “Casting spells on who?”
“I’m not that eager to follow through with her urging,” Pandora countered as if Peter hadn’t even spoke. “I’m the one that had put the veil on in the first place. If I had thought it wasn’t a good idea, I wouldn’t have done it.”
“But to remove it now?” Marcus interjected, apparently in on whatever was happening. Peter felt jealous. “Wasn’t it put on to keep things hidden for a reason?”
“Reasons Maria doesn’t believe matter anymore,” Aiden ground out, crossing his arms.
“So, what?” Pandora challenged. “I just erase this and we move on with the party? What if Maria is right? What if we’re in danger - if Peter’s in danger?”
“Peter would like to know what he’s in danger of,” he interjected sharply.
He was, unsurprisingly, ignored again.
“Then we put up necessary protections and leave it at that,” Aiden stated as matter of fact but even Peter could tell it wasn’t that simple and he wasn’t even in on the conversation.
“Doing that would create problems with several of my guests ,” Marcus spoke up, sounding affronted. That peaked Peter’s interest but he had learned that he wasn’t about to be told anything any time soon. “I will not risk that. This event is important to me and the others. If you’re that concerned, remove the veil or leave but you cannot stay here.”
Peter was starting to get the impression the conversation was about him.
A little voice certainly was adamant about it.
“Leaving would just draw attention to us,” Aiden countered but Pandora was on his heels.
“Staying is going to do so moreso.” She shook her head. “As much as I don’t like it, I think we should go with Maria’s word. We need to be able to see what’s coming.”
“But removing the veil will only make him a beacon!” Aiden shouted. It’ll make it harder to stay in one place for too long, let alone getting away at all. For all we know, they could be right outside.“
The silence rang in his ears but he ignored it in favor of meeting Aiden’s gaze. At least now he had everyone’s attention. “They’re not right outside,” he repeated. He wasn’t sure who ‘they’ were but he knew in his every being that 'they’ were not right outside. In fact… “Maria was good on her word. We have probably an hour.”
Something in the room shifted and that strange wrong sense settled over Peter again. It was Marcus that broke the silence. He looked to the other as the man shifted. The strange wrong sense intensified when he focused on Marcus’s face as the man smiled tentatively. “Peter, this is going to sound weird, but what do you feel when you look at my face?”
He bristled, suddenly feeling very exposed. “Feel?” he tested. “Not see?”
Marcus’s gaze flickered over his shoulder to Aiden but it told him nothing. “We can do that one next. But first, I need you to tell me what you feel.”
Peter made a face, feeling wrong just saying it but a part of him knew he had to do it, trusted in this in a way he didn’t understand. “I don’t know how to describe it beyond a strange wrong sense. It’s not quite a feeling and it’s not quite a sensation but it’s very tangible.”
“Do you get that with me?” Aiden questioned.
He looked to Aiden still in full costume and the strange wrong sense didn’t diminish. He nodded, explaining, “But unlike with Marcus, it’s with all of you.” He made a face. “Well, barring your legs.”
There was a thunk of something tapping against the floor. It flared the strange wrong sense for a moment. “Anything with me?”
Peter turned his gaze on Pandora, already speaking by the time he faced her fully. “Not with you specifically, but I have it when I look at your staff.”
If he had thought that would let him in on the conversation, he was sadly mistaking. Pandora’s gaze snapped over his head to Aiden. “It’s already lifted.”
“But he hasn’t said anything,” Aiden countered.
Peter gave him a bewildered look as Marcus inquired, “So what does that mean? Is it failing?”
Pandora scoffed. “My spell? Failing? Not a chance.”
“If it’s not failing, then it’s got to at least be wearing thin,” Aiden pointed out sharply.
“But the only way for that to happen would be if he was in constant contact with High Magic,” Pandora denied. “He’s been around us since I put it on him and none of us are High Magic.”
“Could he-” Marcus started but Pandora cut him off with a scoff.
“He’s far more human than magic.”
“Gee, thanks,” he commented, finding it odd that he found the comment familiar when pointed at him.
Pandora’s gaze snapped to him, her hands going to her hips. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” she defended and he threw his hands up in the air, finally getting fed up with all of it.
“No of course not!” he agreed, the sarcasm there at the edge of his words. “The only thing wrong here is that you all seem to be having a discussion about me without me.” He gave them all dirty looks. “And last I checked, I’m just as much part of this group as Marcus was.”
Marcus blinked before shooting him a grin. “Hey, thanks!”
Peter gave him a flat look. “That wasn’t a compliment.”
“Awe,” Marcus moaned, sagging. The sight was amusing.
Aiden seemed to growl with his sigh. “Fine. Say we do remove it. Do you need to create a witches’ brew or something?”
Pandora opened her mouth with a retort but seemed to think better of it as she stated instead, “No, nothing like that. It’s a simple spell. Takes no preparation and little to no participation from either party.”
“Then remove it.”
All eyes were on him again.
Day 08: Heart Attack Zombies
“Remove it,” he repeated. When no one responded, he pressed, “I don’t want do be the only one with no clue what we’re running from and why. Yes, I’ve gathered it’s something to do with me,” he shot at Marcus as the man opened his mouth, “but I don’t know why or what is after us and I don’t want to be dragged about half blind and inadvertently get us caught.”
Pandora started shaking her head, her expression belaying her hesitation. “It’s not that simple, Peter.”
“Why not?” he challenged. “It seems that simple to me. A half clinging spell needing that final shove to release, right?”
Pandora closed her eyes at that. “You make it sound so easy.” The air was heavy with something he didn’t understand. She looked at him. “But it’s not. A half clung spell is far more dangerous than one that is complete. Trying to remove it could have dire consequences, consequences far worse than death, and I don’t want to risk that with you.”
“And if I asked you to?”
“Peter!” He looked to Aiden as both the other men’s voices echoed in the home shouting his name.
“You can’t ask her that,” Aiden ground out, a snarl escaping the man as he took a step forward.
Peter held his ground, a flat look on his face. “It was a question, not me actually asking her to do it.” There was a pause full of confusion. He could almost taste it. He looked back at Pandora. “And if I asked you to?” he repeated, his voice soft, gentle.
Her arms were wrapped tight around her torso as she stared at him. He wasn’t certain if she was looking for anything and whether or not she had seen what she wanted. She shrugged. “I’d deny you, do what I could to keep you from pushing the issue.”
Peter nodded. “And what would it take for me to convince you it’s what we have to do.”
Aiden stepped closer, growling, “Peter-”
He was surprised when Aiden actually stopped when he raised his hand, his attention on Pandora. Her gaze was searching his.
“I don’t know,” she confessed. “It would have to be some rather powerful points, if nothing else.”
“Peter, please,” Aiden urged.
Peter couldn’t spare him a look as he spoke, “I don’t know what’s going on, Pan. I have no idea what we’re up against and why it’s after me. I have no idea what to look for, what to listen to, and certainly no idea what we’re in for. Please. I’m not asking for it to be lifted immediately, nor am I asking you to go against your beliefs in this because I’m still trying to just wrap my head around the fact that there’s supposedly a spell on me.” There was an involuntary twitch at her tight frown like she had wanted to smile. He smiled softly for her. “And, quite honestly, it’s going to keep me freaked out for the rest of the evening.” He sobered a bit. “What I’m asking instead is for you to figure out a way to remove what of the spell remains. I’m certain Marcus would be willing to help where he could and I know that Aiden is always willing to help.”
“Without question,” Aiden assured before giving a cheeky grin. “Unless it’s heart attack zombies; then I’m out.”
There was a joke there that he didn’t get but it was clear how both Marcus and Pandora relaxed and laughed at it that Aiden had done well to break up some of the tension.
She didn’t give in completely. Her grip on her staff flexed, drawing his eyes. That strange wrong sense settled over him but now that it had been faced in a half sort of way, it almost felt familiar. He let the sense be, wondering if he could see what was hidden.
He wasn’t stupid. That or he was overthinking things. Marcus had not dismissed the ‘see'ing aspect of the sense. In fact, it had come across as if he should be seeing something different. Focusing on her staff, he tried to figure out a way to see beyond what had to be a magical illusion.
The staff was taller than Pandora by almost a head. His eyes must have gotten comically large because the others noticed. Marcus even started laughing at him as Pandora swatted at the ball of laughter slowly curling to the floor. She turned her gaze on him, concerned. “What’s wrong? What-”
“Why is your staff taller than you?” he blurted out, cutting her off before she could get going.
She stared at him so long he feared he wouldn’t get an answer. When tears welded up in her eyes, he grew concerned. As they spilled over and down her cheek, he nearly took back his words as she reached up to rub away the tracks.
She gave a watery chuckle. “I never thought I’d hear you say that again.”
Peter floundered and looked to Aiden, lost and confused. Marcus was no use. Peter didn’t trust the man as far as he could throw him.
He took a step away from Aiden in shock.
The sense was gone but what he had believed to be a costume looked very real. Even Aiden’s face was a bit more wolfish, ears peaking through the nest of hair shaped far closer to wolf ears than human. The fur stood on end as Aiden bristled and Peter could see the other put up walls against an attack.
Peter wondered why Aiden expected so little out of him after all these years.
Had their first meeting not gone so well?
“How do you get away being half transformed like that in public?” he asked, his voice taking on a chastising tone without his consent. “Are people just that ignorant?”
“Yes,” Aiden said with so much conviction and surety that it made Peter laugh, He gave the other a smile. “Alright. Fair enough.”
Day 09: Poisoned Apple
He found himself steeling himself against what he would see when he turned to look at Marcus’s face. Whatever he had been expecting had been far worse than what he saw. Marcus’s face didn’t change like Aiden’s had, not structurally, at least. Instead, Marcus’s face now sported some new features; freckles that looked more like stars than actual freckles - he wasn’t even sure if he was seeing things or if they were actually twinkling at him - dusted the man’s nose and cheeks under eyes that had gone from a normal brown to such a complexity of yellows and reds that it was almost like he was looking into a sun. Marcus’s skin had also gained a sheen of color Peter couldn’t name.
He made a face. “Should I know what you are?”
Marcus gave a bark of a laugh and every hair on the back of Peter’s neck stood on end. There were far more sharp teeth in that mouth than he was comfortable with. “Not out of the water, no,” Marcus assured him.
He frowned. “Merfolk?”
Marcus grinned at him. “Of some variant, yes.”
Peter looked to the others, a sheepish smile on his face. “Is it kind of sad I was hoping for a vampire?”
Laughter filled the room and Peter found himself relaxing. Though this explained nothing, it was nice to have some of the truth. To think his friends were supernaturals was wild.
Which left the question…
“So what does that make me?” Peter voiced, looking around as the others grew somber. “Am I just the human tag-along?”
The group shared a look and, had they done so earlier, he would have thought they were keeping things from him. But now that he could ‘see’, it was easy to tell that it wasn’t that.
“Well, you are the most human out of all of us,” Aiden confirmed.
“But that’s not why we stayed around,” Pandora assured him. She moved her staff in her conviction. At the top, the wood thinned, branching off into three stick branches that curled at their ends to create a sort of alcove. The vine that wound its way up the staff created a loose weave around the branches turning the alcove into a loosely confined space. In that space was a stone or crystal or a combination of the two that shifted about reflecting light even as it glowed. It shifted against the motion of the staff even as it remained perfectly centered in the enclosure. “You are, uh…”
Her words died as she flicked her gaze to Aiden. The man supplied, hopefully far more crass than he had intended, “You’re a psychic. A Seer. You are able to See things we can’t, understand things before we even get a glimpse there’s something to understand.”
“I can see the future?” he asked, bewildered.
Pandora stepped forward, clasping both hands around her staff and leaning on it. “From what you had told us, it wasn’t that straightforward. It was more you saw the consequences, the most likely thing to happen, and sometimes you saw things that shouldn’t happen. You never really spoke of it as 'seeing’ so much as it being a feeling.”
“I came into the picture farther down the road after you guys had been on some wild adventures,” Marcus interjected, his weight shifting backwards into a nonchalant stance. “This meant you had time to come into whatever it was that had these guys rather hesitant to introduce us. And a chance to figure out how you explain what you do to others.”
There was a pause as Marcus’s gaze moved away in thought. It settled on the stone in Pandora’s staff. She didn’t seem to care. “Pandora and Aiden were arguing in the kitchen over something and you were just standing awkwardly in the entryway even after being encouraged to enter the house proper. So, to break the ice, I asked you what made you so special?”
“So what makes you so special?”
Peter’s gaze snapped to the other in the room. It was easy to see beyond the man’s illusion, to see the signs of the merfolk on the human like face, but he let himself see beyond it only briefly. He didn’t want to be caught off guard again. “I’m just their human companion,” he tried.
Marcus laughed. “Oh please. Aiden toting around a normal human? Not a chance.” There was a flash of a mouth full of very sharp teeth. “So what makes you so special?”
He knew what Aiden and Pandora were arguing about, could feel the conflict in them both on whether to tell this merfolk anything. But he knew too well how much of an asset this particular merfolk was going to be, regardless how infuriated his friends were going to be.
“I can See.”
Marcus gave him a flat look. “No shit. So can I.”
He chuckled. “No. I’m a Seer. I see things others don’t.”
Marcus frowned. “Like a fortune teller?”
Peter tipped his head to the side. “More like knowing things about the present I shouldn’t be able to.” He gestured at the apple abandoned on the coffee table in among a mess of things. “I would be able to tell you if you received a poisoned apple in a bushel given to you or what consequences awaited you should they be dire enough. I would be able to tell how powerful death tolls for you and, if it’s close enough, how you will die and if it can be negated. I’m able to See beyond magic, beyond our perception of the world into something new. But it isn’t necessarily through sight that I See. Many times it’s through a sense of knowing than actual images.”
“So you’re a psychic?”
Peter chuckled at Marcus’s lack of understanding. The man would come to understand in time. Far sooner than any of them would have liked if his Sight was to be believed. “I guess in a way I am a psychic.”
Day 10: It's Close to Midnight
“It was shortly after our conversation that you nearly got me killed.” The words seemed teasing as Marcus smiled at him. “Or, as you put it, saved my life. I’m still not convinced you weren’t toeing that very thin line to make me see what you did, to make me understand.”
Peter shook his head, frowning. “I would never force anyone into something they don’t want.”
Marcus chuckled. “You said the same thing when I yelled at you for it.” Something in Marcus’s expression eased. “But even with that mentality in the beginning you knew how to get us to go with what you See even with our stubbornness.” Marcus’s gaze flickered to Aiden. “I don’t know what transpired just before the spell was placed on you, but I do know that you had changed. I wasn’t around you long enough to know the details but you certainly had no hesitation in doings things not so kind from time to time.”
Peter shuddered, glancing to Aiden and Pandora. Aiden had a hard look on his face while Pandora didn’t even seem to be conscious of the conversation anymore, her gaze locked on some spot on the floor. He focused on Aiden. “Tell me I didn’t become some horrible person.”
Aiden started as if he had been just as checked out as Pandora was. He shook his head, taking a step forward as he open his arms towards Peter. “Not a chance. You were a bit more crass and certainly didn’t shy away from having to force people to stop, but you never hurt anyone without trying every other option available. You just…” he glanced at Pandora. “You became numb to it all.”
“The nightmares didn’t help.” Pandora looked up to meet his gaze before continuing, “You never slept well even when we had first met but you had always passed it off to intense dreams, things that you didn’t categorize as nightmares.” A heaviness settled over the room as she dropped her gaze. Something dark crossed over her features. “That is, up till a month before I put the spell on you. You didn’t always wake up screaming or crying but you always had a nightmare.” The look she gave him was so complex, he wasn’t even sure he could interpret anything from it. “The worst ones were the ones you woke up from and stayed in a catatonic state till Aiden or I stirred you. You never responded to anyone else.”
Peter frowned. “Catatonic?”
“You would wake up without making a sound hours before either of us woke,” Aiden supplied, taking a step forward. “We would find you staring off into some distance, sometimes nose to nose with a wall.”
Peter ran both hands through his hair bewildered. Too much seemed to come crashing down in his mind that he couldn’t make sense of what was his Sight and what was meant to be memory. There were no images in any of it to help him figure it out. He dropped his hands, looking between the others. “Did I ever say what the dreams were about?”
Pandora shook her head. “Only that they were from what you Saw.” Her head tipped down till she was looking up at him from under the brim of the hat. “The spell hadn’t been planned when I cast it. We were waiting for something but you never told us what. Then, one morning after I woke you from a catatonic state, you grabbed my arms and begged me to cast it. You wouldn’t explain anything. You just kept saying there was no time, no time to explain any of it. That we just had to trust you on this.”
“So you cast it.”
She shook her head vehemently, stepping forward as her arm slashed through the air. “I had no choice! You were begging me to, saying you couldn’t take the nightmares anymore! What was I supposed to do? Let you suffer?!”
Peter took a step back, his tongue feeling fat from too many words he wanted to say. “That’s not what I had meant, Pan.” He brought his hands out to his side. “If what you guys have said has been true, I was probably manipulating you for whatever reason. For whatever reason, the spell had to be cast at that point in desperation so that whatever I had or hadn’t Seen would occur.” As much as he felt that as true, logic made him bite his tongue. “Though, without my memories, it’s just mere speculation at this point.”
Aiden shifted his weight. “Could that have affected the spell?”
Pandora rolled her eyes. “Of course it could have.” She gestured at Peter. “Clearly it did.” Peter watched as she paused, eyes closing as her chest expanded in a slow breath. She released it slowly. When she opened her eyes, they were clear and her entire being seeming far calmer than she had been previously. “Spells are affected by everything. That’s why the more powerful ones are more ritualistic than the simpler ones.” Her gaze flickered to Peter. “While the spell wasn’t overly complex, I didn’t know much of how anything affected it. It could have been influenced by the time of day, the lunar stage, star placement, even the tides could have added some sort of interference.”
“Do you remember when you had cast it? What time of day?” Marcus interjected, startling Peter. He had forgotten the man was there, not that he was sure how he had forgotten. The man wasn’t subtle in any sense of the word.
“Who was it that had said ‘Let’s clock some midnight’?” Aiden asked, hand on his chin.
“'It’s close to midnight’.” Peter looked to Pandora. She was staring at the stone gem in her staff as it turned and rolled. “I was exhausted after casting the spell in high stress. Peter was unconscious again with his head on my lap. You were making sure we were both taken care of, if I remember correctly.”
Day 11: Spooky Time
She dropped her gaze, blinking a few times before looking up at them. “I had mentioned it was close to midnight because the new day was about to start. It never crossed my mind that it would have had any affect on the spell at the time. In fact, I would have thought it would have made it stronger if nothing else.”
“How long has the spell been active? Could that have caused something?” Marcus interjected. “As mythical as my kind can be, the only magic we ever deal with is lunar and tidal and even then it’s nothing more than stage magic.”
Pandora looked to Aiden. “Do you remember? Too many of those days have blended since then.”
Aiden frowned. “Couldn’t be more than a year.” His face twisted up into a show of concentration and frustration. “No, I remember it being cold that night, the threat of snow on the wind.”
Pandora gained an incredulous look. “There’s no way it’s been a year.”
Peter actually found something to note with that. “I don’t know how much of my memory is reliable, but what of my memory is certain starts back after last year’s Halloween.”
Aiden buried a hand in his hair as he let out a sharp breath. “Seriously? It’s been a whole year?”
Pandora shook her head but the unease written on her face countered her statement. “It can’t have been that long.” Her sharp gaze came up and worry edged it. “Even if it has been, there is no way time has affected the spell. It’s got to be something else.”
“What about the day itself?” Peter asked, his gaze on the themed salt and pepper shaker on the counter across from him. He looked up and sought out Pandora’s gaze. “Is it possible it got tied to the veil between worlds thinning?”
She started to shake her head but stopped. There was conflict in her expression. “I…I want to say that I wouldn’t have done something so stupid but it would make sense if I had forgotten the structure of the spell. I wouldn’t have thought of the consequences if I thought having a year to finish it was enough.” Her gaze met his, something burning there he didn’t understand. “What I don’t understand is why I can’t remember more than that brief moment in the aftermath of the spell. Why can’t I remember anything else around it?”
“Does it matter?” Marcus interjected. “Right now, there are things coming after you guys and the spell has not removed itself enough for Peter to be of any use. So either figure out how to remove the spell or come up with a plan that can work around it.”
Pandora looked to Aiden. “Could we do that?”
Aiden huffed. “There’s only so much planning we can do. I still don’t know what we’re up against and it sounds like you’ve gained no more insight yourself since that night.”
She shook her head. “None.” She turned her attention to Peter even as an image started to swirl at the edge of his mind. “Can you See what’s after us?”
He started to say no but Aiden quickly said, “We don’t care if your Sight is accurate or not right now. Anything we have to work with - even if you’re making it up - would be something.”
“You can’t honestly believe that me just guessing at it would be anywhere close to accurate,” he challenged even as the image stilled.
Aiden’s eyes narrowed. “Peter. What do you See?”
He ducked his head at that. He hoped he wasn’t blushing. “Nothing like that.”
Pandora’s touch was barely there on his arm. “Come on, Pete. Your instinct is usually right.”
The image got stronger. He tried denying them a folly. “I don’t want to risk causing more damage than good.”
“Keeping this kind of thing from them will do that, Pete,” Marcus imputed, turning away from the small group to tend to things in the oven and on the stove. “Chat away. I’ve got a few things I’ve got to keep an eye on before spooky time.”
“Spooky time?” Pandora teased despite the tension clinging to her body. “Really?”
Marcus grinned at her and the image seemed to scream at him. Aiden’s hand was heavy when it landed on his shoulder. “What do you See, Peter?”
Peter let out a sharp sigh as he gave in, running a hand through his hair. “Not much, honestly. Mostly dark figures that are there but they’re not. They are ignored or invisible but still very much there.” He half threw his hands up taking a step back. “I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Do you feel any magic?” Pandora asked.
He looked at her like she had grown a second head. “What? No,” he immediately responded. He found himself having to amend that. “Maybe? I don’t know. It’s weird.” He screwed up his face. “They’re weird.”
Aiden’s hand tightened on his shoulder and he shoved it off, pointing a finger at the man. He knew what Aiden was intending, knew what the man wanted and would say. “No,” he snapped. “You have far more experience in my Sight than I do and you know that I cannot always describe what I See. It just is. It is just weird.” He gestured broad. “They’re just weird. If I had the knowledge of before the spell, maybe I could explain what was weird about them but I have no context - nothing to base my impression on - and asking me to elaborate is going to get us nowhere.”
“Can you at least tell if they have magic?” Pandora tried again. He gave her a flat look and she gave him a pleading look. “Please, Peter. We need to know if they’re going to be a magical threat or not.”
He tore his gaze away as he clenched his jaw. He wanted to berate her, to deny her, but the answer was slipping out without his consent.
Day 12: Did I just see it?
“They’re of magic,” he told her, bitter as the words left him without his say. It didn’t help the words didn’t quite fit. “That’s the best way I can word it.”
“Of magic?” Aiden questioned and Peter almost chewed him out. The only thing that stilled his tongue was the fact that the other was looking at Pandora and not him. “So we’ll have to worry about magic being a factor in their search, then?”
The wording rang wrong in his ears but he had nothing to supplement or correct it with.
“That was always something we had to keep as a factor,” Pandora reminded him. “There are only so many ways one can track someone. And if they are targeting Peter because of his Sight, then that means they have a way of tracking and the only way I can think of is through magic.”
Peter didn’t like the sound of that. “Am I that easy to track, then?”
Pandora’s gaze drifted in his direction but she didn’t turn to face him. “In a sense. Seers are not overly common.”
“Rather rare, in fact,” Aiden added cheekily. The man’s weight shifted as he continued, “Scent wise, you’ve got a unique scent like any other thing on the planet but nothing that stands out. I couldn’t say anything for the magical part of things.”
Pandora shook her head. “He feels human to me.” She focused on him again. “If there is something they are picking up on, we’re still not sure what it is. I’m not the greatest at sensing through magic but I’ve worked hard to be above average at minimum and I have yet to figure out why they are being drawn to in you.”
Peter sighed. This was not how he had ever imagined he would spend a Halloween. Not only was he friends with two magical beings, he was some sort of special token that was drawing danger in like a lamp did moths. But a part of him didn’t feel the need to fear as the others did and he wondered if that was due to his lack of memory or something else.
“Then what do we do?” he asked. He met both their gazes. “What did we do before I was spelled?”
“Kept moving,” Pandora supplied. “We had some goals but you kept us moving.”
Pandora shrugged. “You never really explained it.” Confusion edged her expression before she looked to Aiden. “Had he ever explained it?”
Aiden had the same look on his face as the man slowly shook his head. “Not that I can recall. I just remember we kept moving,” his gaze focused on Peter, “that you had an urgency about you that had us moving. If you had explained it, I don’t remember what it had been.”
Peter shook his head. “I don’t even understand the situation enough to even have a glimpse at that urgency so whatever we’re doing, I’m all for us doing it now.”
Aiden looked to Pandora. “We had been looking for something before we had to stop. What was it?”
“A book, I think.” She pulled out the tomb from the bag on her hip. “If we’re lucky, I’d written it down.”
He watched her bring the book to just beneath chest height and let it hover there as it fell open. A number of pages flipped over without her touch, settling on a page. Her hand flew to the words scrawled there so he assumed it was the page she needed. “Did you write down our journey, then?”
“Only certain things from time to time.” She turned the page and kept skimming. “I’m not a good record keeper but I did try and write down the important things.” Her hand stopped and her gaze flicked upwards at them, a smile on her face. “And it would seem our last hunt was important enough for me to write down. Look at this.”
Peter and Aiden stepped closer, closing her in on either side. Peter dropped his gaze to the book only to find he couldn’t read the runes she had written in. They made his brain itch with familiarity but he couldn’t decipher any of it. He fought off the disappointment.
She traced her finger under the words as she read, “Finally something to go after. We’ve been told about some book that’ll answer all our questions. The downside of it all is that it was with a more traditional Mage-” Pandora scoffed. “Old coots always talk in riddles.”
“I don’t remember this, Pandora,” Aiden voiced, his words gruff and almost sounding threatening to Peter’s ears.
She gave him a flat look. “And you think I do? I had to look it up.” She turned back to the book, continuing, “A more traditional Mage that left us more riddles than answers. Supposedly this book is stowed in some wayward town of Little Hagshire and we’re supposed to find the true house on the hill, whatever that means.” She made a face at that. “Have to agree. I have no idea what that means, nor where this Hashire might be.”
“Sounds European,” Marcus quipped. Pandora threw something at him but Peter didn’t give much thought to what she had thrown.
“He does have a point,” Peter spoke up. Marcus sent him a grin but he ignored it in hopes of not encouraging the other. “It’s not like this whole thing’s been a walk in the park.”
Pandora said something rather snide and sharp, and he knew he deserved to bear the words she had just thrown at him, but he was suddenly drowning from the image of a book old and worn resting on top of a pile in the back of a dingy, cluttered room, before being thrown backwards, revealing the building and its home.
His heart was pounding in his chest as he sucked in air, hope suddenly choking him as much as the image itself had. “Did I just see that?”
Day 13: House on the Hill
His gaze snapped to Pandora and he pushed off the counter, his hand reaching out for her. He grabbed at her arm. There was a buzzing under his skin that made him want to cry. “Pan. Pan, I think…I think I saw it. The book. I think I saw the book in a house on the hill.”
“What?” she breathed. “Are you sure?”
“Does it matter?” Aiden cut in. “He Saw something that has him shaking like a leaf.” Aiden’s attention turned to him but Peter couldn’t pull his gaze from Pandora. “We’re going after whatever you saw and going from there. If it’s the book we need, great. If not, it’s at least something to do.”
Peter sagged, relief heady. He couldn’t stop yet. “It wasn’t Europe.” There was silence but he didn’t care. “They-the cars had licence plates. Plates from…” He knew he had seen them clear enough. He wasn’t about to let it go yet. It tumbled from his tongue. “Pennsylvania.” His brought his gaze up. “They had been Pennsylvania plates.”
“Oh good.” Peter looked to Aiden. The man had his arms crossed but his expression was pleasant enough. Aiden explained, “There’s a pack in Pennsylvania I’m in good standing with. You as well, though it’s going to be hard to explain the memory loss.” He looked to Pandora. “This was before you tagged along.”
Pandora closed her tomb. “I gathered as much, though I too know people there. A clan and a coven of all things. It’ll be nice to reinstate contact if both are still in good shape. You may actually like both of them, Aiden.”
He dipped his head. “I’ll give them both a chance at your discretion.”
“Good.” Pandora shifted about, asking Marcus, “Mind if we use your backyard? I don’t want to end up marking your living room with the transportation spell.”
“Wait, we’re leaving now?” Peter squawked.
Pandora looked at him. He wasn’t sure what to make of her expression; or lack there of in this case. “I trust the coven, if nothing else, and I know the waypoint they use for magic travel. It’ll be discrete and we’ll be welcomed warmly enough. Besides, we don’t have time to waste getting a plane ticket and flying there. That’d take too long.”
Aiden guided Peter after Pandora with a large hand just below his shoulder blades. “Do I have to remind you that I have no recollection of ever doing magical travel before?”
He pressed against Aiden’s touch, delaying his exit of the kitchen enough to shoot off, “Bye Marcus. Thank you and have a great night!”
The merfolk grinned at him, waving a sauce covered utensil while calling back, “Have fun you guys! See you soon.”
The patio door thudded shut as Aiden used a bit more force than was strictly necessary in Peter’s opinion.
Pandora commented, “You had no issue traveling by it before. I doubt enough’s changed in the last year for you to dislike it now.”
“She isn’t wrong,” Aiden piped in. “I have a natural aversion to any travel that isn’t my own feet if I’ve shifted recently but I’ve never had it when it came to Pandora toting us around.” Aiden’s expression darkened. “Though, I would have preferred a method that didn’t wear you out.”
Pandora waved him off as she stepped into the middle of the yard. “Oh please. I’ll be just fine.”
There was a sudden burst of light and Peter recoiled into Aiden’s hand in shock. It was like the dust particles around them had become mini suns, giving off their own light and drifting about aimlessly as Pandora made a motion with her arm. Her tomb came out of its bag on its own, the pages fluttering to settle on a specific section. He watched in awe as runes started to glow on the page as she started speaking in a language that echoed strangely in his ears.
The glowing particles in the air started to move with a purpose as a sigil made of light started writing itself into the earth beneath the grass. It was incredible to watch as the magic in the air condensed and streams of it bent this way and that around them.
He now understood why Aiden was concerned for Pandora. Despite its beauty, he could See how much magic this required, how much she had to pour into it, and he knew that if she was without her tomb and staff, this would cost a much steeper price. He shuddered to think it costing her life.
Something told him the leap would have to be greater than this to take her life from her completely.
To what capacity counted as “greater than this” he didn’t care to dwell on.
He felt the spell finish at the same time the magic vanished. The world around them had changed and he hadn’t even noticed.
It looked like they were standing in a cathedral of all places and he suddenly felt very inappropriately dressed. At least his pumpkin head was sitting back on Marcus’s couch. His hands quickly pressed against his pockets. He had his phone and wallet but no keys. Hopefully those were on the pumpkin head he had left on Marcus’s couch, then.
“Marcus will be nice to my car, right?” he voiced to no one in particular.
“If he isn’t, I’ll punch him for you,” Aiden supplied, hands going out to wrap gently around Pandora’s arms. The tomb fell heavily into her hands still open wide but nothing was glowing and her face held a tired smile.
“I’m fine, Aiden,” she assured him. She tucked the book away before looking at them both. “Let’s go greet our hosts before they decide we’re unwanted guests.”
“You already are, Pandora Kind.”
The trio turned to find a group of people standing in a line across the front of the church, a single person standing before the line. Peter felt his stomach drop at the sight.
Day 14: Flying on a broom
Pandora turned, sweeping her hat from her head in the fluid motion of a deep bow. The hat pressed over her cloak on the same side as her tomb. “Lord Ezekiel.”
Aiden chuckled not so quietly. The person standing before the line snapped their gaze to the man. “Something funny, mutt?” the person demanded, confirming they had been the one to speak.
Aiden grinned and it held a promise that made Peter’s hair stand on end. “You will have to forgive my blasphemy, rat. The irony in your name is hard not to laugh at.”
Lord Ezekiel narrowed his eyes and Peter moved, thoughts flooding his mind even as he worked to deny them. His hand covered Aiden’s eyes as he kept his gaze on the man opposite them. That gaze moved from Aiden to Peter just as quickly and Peter froze, refusing to drop the gaze of a vampire.
Lord Ezekiel frowned. “What are you doing?”
Peter found himself smiling as he responded calmly, “To be honest, my Lord, I cannot say. Part of our haste to get here is on par with my lack of understanding even my own actions now; I belief Pandora was just about to explain had our companion not interrupted.”
Pandora finally straightened at that, though she kept her hat from her head. “I apologize for the intrusion, Lord Ezekiel,” she tried again, her hands worrying the brim of her hat. “I knew of no better way to get to this area quickly without using the waypoint.”
“Surely the clan has a waypoint claimed for their own?” Lord Ezekiel drawled without removing his gaze from Peter.
“If they do, they have yet to share it with me as the coven has.” She took a step forward, her knuckles turning white as the brim of her hat crinkled. “Please. It’s All Hallows’ Eve. The veil is thinning and there are dangers we are trying to…” She hesitated and Peter sucked in a breath. “…evade. The faster we reach our destination, the sooner we no longer grace your doorstep.”
Lord Ezekiel’s expression didn’t lose its hard edge but he did sigh as he finally looked at Pandora. “Fine. You will meet with me before you leave so that I may decide whether it is worth putting forth the effort to help you.” The others relaxed, Aiden going so far as to remove Peter’s hand from his face, but Peter could feel the other words waiting to be said. “But only after the next hour is out,” Lord Ezekiel amended sharply. A soft edge curbed his expression. “During the time till our meeting, I expect you to rest, Pandora Kind.” The vampire’s gaze was on Peter again. “For now, you will keep the dog with you while I speak with your other companion. I wish to speak with him privately.”
His friends both made to surge forward but Peter was faster and stepped forward, away and out of reach of his friends. He pivoted, smiling sweetly at them as he encouraged, “It’s alright. I’ll see you guys in an hour. We’ve got time and you do look like you need a good nap, Pan.”
Aiden looked about ready to stomp over to him and drag him with by his hair as Pandora sagged against the inevitable. She nodded, her tired gaze settling on him once more. “Be careful, Pete. No flying on a broom.”
“Is that like flying by the seat of my pants?” he wondered out loud, still grinning. She gave him a look despite it being a true inquiry masked by a quip and he laughed. “I will,” he assured her, the words far heavier than he had intended. He turned. It was nigh impossible to not jump when he found Lord Ezekiel within arms reach. Aiden’s growl only made the hairs on the back of his neck stand taller. Right, vampire. Quelling his sudden adrenaline rush as best he could, he gave the Lord a soft smile. “Shall I follow you, my Lord?”
Peter found that sentence odd on his ears and tongue, and by Lord Ezekiel’s arched eyebrow, the other thought similar. Without a word, the Lord turned and started walking towards where the line of people had been. Peter found it easy to match the other’s even strides step for step.
The silence of the building was only broken by their shoes against the stone floor till they were so isolated, Peter wondered if he was either going to be killed or if he was going to die from starvation before he found his way back.
He jumped when an arm appeared in front of him out of nowhere. It took a moment too long for his brain to register it belonged to his dangerous companion, of who was watching him with an expression he didn’t understand.
“Are you alright?” Lord Ezekiel asked, his voice far warmer and softer than it had been upon their first meeting.
He offered the other a soft smile, dipping his head. “Of course, my Lord. Simply too lost in thought to pay much attention to what is going on.”
Lord Ezekiel’s expression darkened but Peter couldn’t figure out why as the other pulled open the door to a rather impressive office. Peter entered as soon as he was permitted to, though another odd look seemed to cross the Lord’s face when the man gestured for him to enter.
The walls were obscured by floor to ceiling bookshelves full to the brim with books. A few shelves held trinkets and objects but these were squished between bookshelf and books more times than not. The only wall not completely obscured was the far wall where floor to ceiling windows opened onto a balcony and he gaped at the view of a city light filled night landscape. Lanterns on the balcony’s banister softly illuminated the small outdoor space without obscuring the view beyond.
“Do you see this every night?” he asked, transfixed with a hand on the cool glass.
Day 15: Lucky candy
“Most, yes,” the man offered tentatively. “Do you not have a similar view back home? Certainly a city nightscape is nothing new for you.”
“Well, no,” he confirmed before turning to face the man. “But it’s nothing quite so picturesque. I live in the heart of the city so I don’t get to see the night like this often.”
He found it hard not to look back out as he spoke. A sort of melancholy settled over him but it was weird and complex in a way that made it hard for him to focus upon. So, instead, he focused on the thoughts drifting through his head and he soon found himself speaking again.
“When I was, I don’t know, 6? There was this kid that had convinced most of the other kids that he had lucky candy and if they gave him a quarter, he would bestow this lucky candy upon them, though probably not quite so eloquently.” He gave into the temptation to press his forehead against the cool glass, letting it sooth whatever had become frayed. “I wasn’t ever really part of any group of kids so I hadn’t been included in this amazing thing. But I knew that it was a scam, that the candy was nothing more than a baggie filled with Skittles and M&Ms. And I had said so, has said it over the noise of the group.”
He stepped away from the window, looking to Lord Ezekiel. He didn’t care to try and decipher the rather emotionless mask. He knew he could figure something out but there was no need. “That was probably not the first time I had demonstrated my gift of Sight, Lord Ezekiel, and, for some reason, I can’t remember anything pertaining to Seeing or the supernatural. I am trapped in a spell that has robbed me of my memories in order to delay the inevitable and now my friends are on a wild goose chase after some book that may not even be the right book.”
There was a pregnant pause. Peter wasn’t sure he knew how to interrupt it.
“So what do you want from me?” Lord Ezekiel asked.
Peter shrugged. “The opportunity for Pandora to say her piece? To offer what aid you had been willing to offer in the beginning?” He gave a humorless chuckle as he looked back out the window. “As much as I wish I could say I came at this conversation with a plan, I cannot. For me, this is simply another bizarre hour in a very bizarre evening.”
The sound of fabric shifting came from behind him and despite its sudden appearance, it did not frighten him like he had expected. He turned, finding Lord Ezekiel standing once more within arm’s reach. He met the other’s gaze without hesitation. “Please, my Lord. I have no more idea of what is coming after me as you do and the only clue I have is a half realized Sight.”
Another pause but this one was nowhere near as heavy as the last.
“I may actually know something.”
Peter stared after Lord Ezekiel as the man crossed to one of the bookcases. “You do?” he nearly squawked.
“If what you say is true, then you have no recollection of our….” Peter found himself uncomfortable with the break in Lord Ezekiel’s words. “…interactions over the years. You met young Pandora Kind through me, though it had never been my intent for such a thing to occur. She had been here while you visited and after shared introductions, you two were quite the pals.”
Lord Ezekiel stepped away from the bookcase, an old hand-bound book in hand. He offered it to Peter. “This is a collection of information you had chosen to share with me.” Peter undid the tie and let the book fall open in his hand. “The information you are looking for should be more towards the back of the book, should it be a newer topic.”
Peter stared at the pages displayed before him.
His own handwriting stared back up at him.
“This…” The words died on the back of his tongue and he swallowed thickly before trying again. “This is my handwriting.” He wasn’t sure what kind of response he had been looking for but silence had not been it. He brought his gaze up half expecting to find Lord Ezekiel had ditched him. To his surprised, Lord Ezekiel was still standing in the same spot he had last seen the other, though the man’s gaze was anywhere but on him. “Lord Ezekiel.” It took a moment for the man to finally look at him. The resignation that was there twisted Peter’s insides. “What is this?”
“It is as I had said it was,” the man cryptically replied. Thankfully, for Peter’s sake, the man explained, “It is a collection of notes you chose to leave in my care on what you discovered of the supernatural world. Though I doubt that is enough to explain the complexity of the book in your hands.”
Peter looked back down at the pages still staring up at him. There were things here he did not understand and flipping through the book gave him nothing to grasp upon. As much as it was his handwriting, he recognized none of it. The words started becoming difficult to read and he didn’t even realize he was having a hard time breathing till Lord Ezekiel startled him by gently grabbing his arms, effectively bringing his attention to the fact that he was crying.
One of Lord Ezekiel’s hands was suddenly on his cheek, thumb wiping away escaping tears. He flinched from the initial contact, startled, but found the gesture oddly comforting even as confusion ate at him. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head without dislodging the other’s touch. The confusion was quickly building into anxiety as he started drowning under the desperation to accept the offered comfort by this complete stranger. “I don’t know. But I can’t stop crying.”
Day 16: The beauty of the lie
The hand on his face was in his hair at the same time the book vanished from his hands. He felt it press against his back as his face collided with something firm and he found himself being held by Lord Ezekiel.
His initial reaction was to shove at the man, to get away from this dangerous stranger that was behaving in a way that should not be allowed, but there was no fight left in him when the first breath he took in this position filled his senses with Lord Ezekiel’s scent. He didn’t understand why it made him so weak, why it made him cry harder, and he didn’t want to know.
Something in him told him that if he knew, there would be things he would have to live with that - right now - he would not be able to stand strong under. So, instead, he grabbed at the fabric on the other’s chest and held on as the sobbing rid him of any thoughts for a blissful moment even in the height of the confusing blend of emotions.
He didn’t know how long he had been standing there crying but now he was too tired to even care. A numbness had settled over him. It left him with nothing and he was quite content with that. Though he did find himself faintly marveling at the fact that Lord Ezekiel was still supporting him. He was certain his entire weight was on the vampire at this point.
He finally registered the soft touches in his hair, too; Lord Ezekiel’s hand was carding through his unruly hair in such a soothing manner.
“Do you want to lay down?” the man asked, voice soft, hesitant almost, as it washed over his ears. From the sound of it, Lord Ezekiel’s face must be near the top of his head. The warm breath on his scalp was a rather obvious giveaway now that he thought about it.
He found his numb state being interrupted by the question. Without his say, reality came back and he shook his head, pulling away from Lord Ezekiel as he forced his legs to take his weight. “No. There…my friends and I have things we must do. I cannot allow myself to delay them anymore than we have already been delayed by taking a nap.” He looked up at the other’s face, trying to offer the man a soft smile. It didn’t feel right but he hoped it looked fine regardless. “Though I do appreciate your intent, my Lord. I have had very few show such gestures of kindness when I…”
The words stalled out. He wasn’t even sure he knew where he had intended for those words to go but it didn’t seem to matter for Lord Ezekiel’s frown had deepened. “You truly do not remember anything, do you?”
A watery chuckle bubbled up from his chest without his consent and he fought back the new waves of tears as he shook his head no. There was something there on the edge that he could not grasp - or did not want to grasp - that terrified him and filled him with so much sorrow just by simply recognizing it. Lord Ezekiel either somehow knew what was going through his head or simply acted out of a kindness in his heart because the man had wrapped him in a hug again, the book no longer in the man’s hand. Distractedly, he wondered where the book had gone.
He could feel the words Lord Ezekiel wanted to share, could almost speak them for the man, but Lord Ezekiel never settled on anything to say and they simply stood there for another long moment as Peter grasped at the back of the man’s outfit, face buried in the man’s chest once more knowing it was futile to wish for it all to disappear.
“You are not alone in this,” Lord Ezekiel started to mutter. “You have companions that care dearly about you, that are doing their best to support you. You have so many allies waiting for you to reach out to them and all you have to do is See beyond the limits of whatever has your memory locked away. Nothing says you have to suffer alone and I would much rather you didn’t, if I had any say in it.”
He gave another watery chuckle. It lacked any real humor. “And why would you care to worry about a nobody like me, my Lord?”
Perhaps the other had finally realized how weird it was two strangers were clinging to each other while one was being irrationally emotional for Lord Ezekiel pulled away, leaving Peter’s hands to fall back to his sides. Lord Ezekiel proved him wrong when the man’s hands cradled his head, keeping his gaze on the man’s face. “Would you hate me if I showed you?”
“I could never hate you,” he responded, the words tumbling out almost before the other had finished asking. He wasn’t sure where the conviction came from but he truly believed he could never hate Lord Ezekiel.
Lord Ezekiel gave a humorless chuckle. “The beauty of the lie for which is offered me, taken as truth by the speaker at hand.”
The words rang oddly familiar but any thought he had been intending to give it was whisked away when Lord Ezekiel kissed him.
And it was no little peck; it was a full blown kiss on the mouth that set every nerve ending Peter had buzzing. He grabbed at the other and stilled, not sure if he intended to push him away or pull him closer as he was suddenly trapped between how wrong this was and how right it was. Every part of him was focused on the kiss, drowning in the soft touch of Lord Ezekiel’s hands on either side of his head and the man’s lips on his own.
Lord Ezekiel pulled away, gingerly pressing their foreheads together as Peter tried to calm his shuddering breath.
Day 17: I see clearly
Peter found himself shaking, struggling to grasp at the strange, twisting familiarity that had been with the kiss, drowning his thoughts when the kiss wasn’t, when the other’s touch wasn’t. And it scared him that he didn’t know why.
Except for those strong hands in his hair, the other’s lips against his own, the strong body pinning him down, caresses and kisses. Soft words shared in moments of solidarity.
He choked on the sudden sob. His hand flew to his mouth as if it would stop the sudden onslaught of tears. A second sob choked him and he found he couldn’t fight the grief from washing over him.
Long nights filled with words, passing moments filled with love and care, all of it suddenly came crashing down on him and there was nothing he could do beyond waiting out the storm.
He wasn’t sure if it had lasted a few minutes or a few hours but when it finally came to an end, he felt like he had been sobbing for days. Ezekiel was holding him tight, shielding him against anything else that may want at him now.
“Peter?” Ezekiel coaxed, his voice soft, careful, even as it was choked with worry.
Peter had scared him, had suddenly broken down without a word and it churned bitterly in his chest. He shifted so that he could press his face into Ezekiel’s neck and ignore the horrible feeling of his tears trapped between their skin. “I’m so sorry, Ezekiel,” he muttered, words tumbling hard and fast past his lips while he still remembered. “I hadn’t-I don’t think it had been in my plan to cut you off like that, to suddenly vanish without a word. So much must have happened that I had forgotten to reach out to you, to keep you in the loop, and I’m so sorry.” He tried to fight the new wave of guilt. “I’m so sorry.”
Ezekiel’s arms tightened around him. There was a slight buzz to Ezekiel’s body and the words confirmed the sensation. “You remember? Just like that?”
He shook his head, refusing to remove his face from Ezekiel’s neck. “Too much has suddenly returned that I can’t-I can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake, what happened when. I’m so confused and drowning in all of it but I know - I see clearly what had been between us, what I had left unfinished and unsaid between us, and right now that’s all that matters.”
Ezekiel pulled away and Peter couldn’t help but feel like he deserved the hurt that came at the gesture. Clearly it wasn’t enough and he looked away, not wanting to see what the other was thinking. He knew that if he looked, he would be able to see the nuances in the other’s expression that was born out of years of close proximity.
It seemed Ezekiel was having none of that. The other cupped Peter’s cheek and gently guided his head about to meet the man’s steady gaze. He didn’t belief the relief and the love that he saw blended in with the rest of the emotions he could pick out.
“Seeing and remembering are two different things, my love,” Ezekiel offered softly. Peter flinched from the endearment. He didn’t deserve it but it seemed Ezekiel was going to drop it any time soon. “You knew that better than anyone I have ever known. My love, there is nothing to be ashamed of and if I have to wait till all of this has settled to even get the chance to help you through your confusion on the matter, what’s another few hours - or, the stars forbid, a few more years - when I have already waited this long?”
He grabbed at Ezekiel’s wrist as a lifeline as the guilt tried to drown him again. Tonight was just not his night, was it? “But you shouldn’t have to wait on a fool like me,” he tried, the words sounding desperate even to his own ears.“
Ezekiel pressed a kiss to Peter’s forehead. "You are and forever will be my fool even if you choose to leave my side. Much has happened to you since we last spoke and even more since the last we had shared the same space. My love, do not feel as if you owe me anything. All I ask is the chance to talk this out when all is said and done so that we can decide together what to do next.”
The single word felt inadequate but it seemed to be enough for Ezekiel. The other kissed his hair before stepping away, offering in turn, “It is approaching the time for me to speak with Pandora Kind. We still have some time, should you wish to see if this book of yours draws anything more out of that spell. Or you are welcome to go speak to your companions about what has happened, especially since the caster of this spell is one of your companions.”
He found himself shaking his head. “I don’t want to tell them.” It was strange how adamant he was with that statement. He knew logically that it was wise to share what had just transpired but a much larger part of him wanted to keep such a private thing private. “Besides, she doesn’t know anything more than I do about the spell. Maybe I had at some point, maybe she had as well, but whatever that had been, I don’t know it now. And I don’t think she does either.”
Ezekiel picked up Peter’s book from the desk, offering it to him with a patient look. “As I had once promised, this remained here untouched and unopened. If it had not been of any significant threat, you may have written about the spell.” Peter looked at the bound pages, apprehension filling him. Ezekiel added, “And just as my opinion, I think it would be wise to at least share the aspect of your memories returning with them.”
Day 18: Oh mummy!
Peter took a hold of the book but Ezekiel didn’t let it go. The man pulled on it gently, gaining Peter’s gaze again. The man’s hard expression softened. “Sometimes there are repercussions to spells failing. If nothing else, Pandora Kind and Aiden Evanworth need to be as prepared as possible.”
Peter’s shoulders sagged as he gave in. “Ok. I’ll tell them.”
The man’s expression gained a bit of its edge back. “Before I speak with Pandora Kind?”
Peter gave a breathy chuckle, an endearing smile on his face. “Immediately upon our reunion.”
Ezekiel let go of the book and Peter took its full weight. It wasn’t truly heavy but there was something about it that made it seem heavier than it was. With a steady hand, he opened the bound pages once more.
The first pages was oddly familiar now as he slowly started flipping through. At some point he had wandered to the desk and sat down because when someone tapped on the desk near the corner of the book, he started, his back connecting with the back of the desk chair. Pandora and Aiden were looking at him with odd expressions but his attention quickly moved to Ezekiel as the man set down a mug of steaming liquid. “It’s been about an hour. Pandora Kind and I have already had our discussion.”
“Shit,” he hissed, running a hand through his hair and grabbing for the mug. The warm liquid was edging on hot as he took a drink, enjoying the familiar taste. He let out a content sigh as he lowered the mug back to the table, half of the mug’s content gone. He gave the object an endearing smile, faint as it was. “It’s nice finally being able to taste such an elusive brew again. Do you still blend it yourself?”
Ezekiel hummed an affirmation. “As well as mix in the other ingredients. I still have yet to find anyone that can add the right amount of honey and milk.”
“Pity.” He paused halfway back to his book. “Have I managed a good run with it yet or does it still turn out a burnt, watery mess?”
“Last I remember, it wasn’t quite the worst you had done but it was close,” Ezekiel teased.
Peter chuckled, his gaze going back to the page he had been on, eyes flickering over passages that were growing more and more familiar the more he read.
He blinked, his gaze coming up from the page as his hand slid to mark his spot. Oh, right. His friends. “Ah, sorry,” he offered with a sheepish grin. He stood up. “I guess I’m just getting caught up in my notes again.”
Pandora frowned at him. “So the spell has dispelled some more, then?”
Reality snapped back into place and immediately he became aware of the magic emanating from the writing on the bound pages. A sentence was slowly pulling itself off the page letter by letter to rise in slow snaking chains and at least one picture had long since pealed itself from the page to float a few inches above its original location. Words that could only be read through magic glowed on or hovered over sections, hits of a spell that protected bits of text from others’ sights as he read, all of it visible for him to see and understand.
He wondered if Pandora saw any of it or understood the significance. He certainly didn’t, not that he didn’t have a suspicion; he was already a solid chunk through the book and already there was far more for him to read than he thought a book that size could hold.
He pulled his hand away and immediately the magic vanished. All that was left was a ragged looking bound set of pages.
“I…” An apology was on his tongue but he didn’t understand it, let alone even know what it had been. So, he went with what he did know. “Yes. Quite a bit of it quite suddenly, actually.” Ezekiel shifted somewhere off to his left and he glanced at the man, continuing, “I’m still piecing most of what memories have returned at this point but it would seem diving into my notes wasn’t probably the wisest idea I’ve ever had.”
“Probably not,” Pandora offered him and he grew wary of her. She gestured to the book. “How much magic is poured into that thing?”
He shook his head, hands coming up in surrender. “I don’t have any clue. I didn’t even realize there was magic in it till you asked about the spell.”
“Did you cool the drink on purpose, then?” Aiden inquired, his gaze scrutinizing.
Peter gave him a bewildered look. “I did what now?”
“I don’t think he would have even noticed had he not lost his memory,” Ezekiel spoke in turn. Peter’s attention went to him but did not interrupt. “That particular action had become quite habitual to him even before we had met. It never occurred around those that did not know about his use of magic…” A sharp edge came to Ezekiel’s gaze as the words slowed briefly. “…though by your reaction I would say you were unaware of it.”
“Of him being able to perform magic? Yes,” Pandora stated hotly. “He’s never registered more than a human to me and he has certainly never performed such a spell around either of us.”
Ezekiel looked to Peter but Peter shook his head. “I can’t remember anything to even help the situation one way or the other. If I did what Aiden is accusing me of doing, I don’t remember even doing it. I can remember grabbing the mug and taking a drink but never performing any sort of magic.”
The doors to the study burst open and a lanky man with large glasses came bursting in disrupting everything. But the determined look on the man’s face immediately vanished and Peter wasn’t sure of if the man actually muttered, “Oh mummy!” or something else.
Day 19: This is hell
“Lord Ezekiel,” the man said, dismissing whatever muttering he had released. That strange wrong sense whispered at him from the back of his mind. “I apologize for intruding. We have guests at the door that are being rather adamant about seeing you and your company present. They spoke of each by name.”
“It is alright, Azar,” Ezekiel spoke, his hand falling upon Peter’s shoulder. “They are trustworthy.”
Azar’s hand flicked up to the large glasses, adjusting them. The strange wrong sense steadily grew louder as Peter took in the form before him: thin - lanky, even - with pale skin, pale hair, and pale blue eyes. There was nothing that spoke of strength in that form and Peter gave into the strange wrong sense’s urge to see beyond the magic.
The change was instantaneous. Azar went from a lanky, pale of a man to a creature just as lanky but very clearly powerful. Pale skin had turned the richest of blue hued blacks he had ever seen, hair appearing to be made of starlight. Azar’s eyes became similarly colored as his hair pupilless. Peter found himself in awe with what he saw.
Peter jerked back to reality, finding his breath ragged in his chest and Ezekiel’s arms around him. Pandora and Aiden were standing between them and Azar but even with them in the way - with this strange creature’s pupilless eyes - he knew that Azar was speaking to him.
Azar took a step forward, a hand rising to reach for him, but Aiden took a step forward, growling. He was fluffier than he had been. Azar paid him no mind. “My Light, are you alright?”
“Why do you call me that?” Peter asked around his ragged breath.
Confusion flickered over the other’s face. “Are you not?”
Something pulled at him as Ezekiel shifted around him. He ignored that something as Ezekiel spoke. “Azar. It would seem that quite a lot has happened to our Light-” Peter recoiled from the term on Ezekiel’s tongue. “-since last we had seen him. If you would at least inform our guests that we will be present in a moment, it would be appreciated.”
Azar bowed deeply before slipping out of the room. As soon as the door clicked shut, everyone rounded on him.
“Are you ok?” Pandora asked as Aiden demanded, “What the hell was that?”
Ezekiel’s words were far calmer than his companions’. “How are you feeling?”
He focused on himself, finding he wanted to know the answer to Ezekiel’s question as well. But beyond his now calming breath, “I’m fine. Though I’m not sure what happened.”
That thing pulling at him started screaming. He tried to ignore it.
“Azar had released his illusion and had called you by ‘my light’,” Aiden offered. “Next thing we know you’re convulsing. I honestly thought Azar had harmed you.”
Peter shook his head. “Azar’s harmless. The Moon ones always are. It’s the Star ones you have to keep an eye on.”
“Star ones?” Pandora parroted.
Aiden gestured towards the door. “You know what he is, then?”
Peter stared between them, confused. “You don’t?” They gave him an identical bewildered look. “Azar’s a Ona. A, ah…” He rubbed the back of his head. “I’m not sure if I can explain what he is beyond that. There are generally two kinds, the M-Ona and S-Ona, though Azar tells me there are others. He won’t tell me what they are called though.”
“Generally the Ona and Seers don’t cross paths and for good reason,” Ezekiel explained. “Ona are able to enhance a Seer’s ability but there is no true control on how that affects the Seer. A Seer influenced by an Ona could see beyond their limits but at the cost of their own sanity. Some never recover from an Ona’s influence, Moon or Star. Moon Ona, or M-Ona, are not as volatile as their Star counters, meaning that their influence is far smaller and softer on a Seer.”
“So he collapsed because of Azar’s influence?” Pandora clarified.
He shook his head, cutting off anything Ezekiel was going to say. “No. I was unable to feel his influence. Azar’s good at making sure to keep a distance unless absolutely necessary or I say to.”
“Then what sent you into a fit?” Aiden all but demanded.
The hold he had over the thing screaming at him broke and the Sight rushed him. He fought to keep his appearance unaffected. “Those asking for us aren’t bringing good news and for whatever reason, my Sight was refusing to let me go into this meeting blind.”
The other two gave a start but Ezekiel only moved closer, asking softly, “Anything you can disclose?”
He pushed himself to his feet. “They’ll be able to explain it better.” He looked down at Ezekiel still kneeling where he had left him. “I’m not sure I could put it to words as eloquently as they can.”
For the second time, the door to the study slammed open. Peter looked towards the crowd storming in, not surprised to see Azar tailing the lead.
“Madam, please,” the Ona was urging. “They will see you when they are ready.”
Ezekiel rose to his feet as the lead snapped, “We do not have time to wait on their whim.”
“Madam Van,” Ezekiel spoke evenly. “I am surprised to see you within my coven’s walls.”
“Enough of the formalities, Eza, there’s no time for it,” she spoke heavily. “I’m calling on the Summons. Fourteen and Seventeen were taken out not even an hour ago, Two, Sixteen, Five, and Nine within the hour prior to that. I’ve received confirmation from Twenty-six and Twenty-seven that the Shadows are on the move again.”
Ezekiel tensed at that and Peter noticed that Pandora and Aiden were behaving in a similar manner. Did they understand any of this because he was lost when the woman started spewing numbers. At least he had Seen enough to know what they were intending. “This is hell, then,” he said carefully.
Day 20: Birthday in the holiday
All eyes were on him in an instant. He tried to ignore the fear that surged through him. Must not have worked. Ezekiel’s hand closed around his and his friends took steps closer. He didn’t break his gaze away from Madam Van, at least. “I….am not as well into the know as I probably ought to be but I Saw enough to understand what you intended to get across; that hell is breaking down the door and the only thing we have is a toothpick and a sock.”
Someone laughed in the back but it was quickly choked silent. He wasn’t able to see who had laughed. He wish he knew. He liked them. He offered all those around him a soft smile. “The Shadows, the things that Maria warned me about, you think that they are responsible for the disappearances.”
“We don’t just think they-” some dude started but Madam Van raised her hand. Her gaze was hard, her expression equally so, but her voice held a kindness to it her expression did not translate.
“There is some evidence leading to us believing they are at least involved. But, no. I do not think they are the sole cause for my people’s disappearances.”
“Madam,” the same dude started but her hard gaze was a glare when it landed on him.
“Enough. Of the years I’ve served, this is the first time the Shadows have ever hinted at posing a threat to anyone.” Her gaze returned to him, lacking the heat she had sent the other. “I do not think the Shadows have the capacity to harm but some of my people claim to have witnessed shadow like creatures taking the specified personnel out. However, that was the extent of the description I received and no one could offer me a better description than that.”
Ezekiel took a step forward, a frown on his face. “Because they couldn’t see it well enough, hadn’t seen it well enough, or something else?”
Madam Van met his gaze. “A small few hadn’t seen it well enough, one couldn’t see it weil enough, and the rest seemed to simply have a block against being able to describe it any more than that.”
Madam Van shook her head. “If it is, it’s got a magical twist to it. Some of the healers found traces of nasty magic left behind in their minds. Trying to free them of it has been…unsuccessful.”
Peter flinched at the involuntary Sight of what she meant.
“I want all of the Summons on alert for this, if nothing else,” Madam Van continued. “From there, the Council and the Network. The rest of the word can be spread by word of mouth once we’ve gotten more information about what we’re up against.”
Peter took a step forward, cutting through this before things got rolling out of reach. “There is something I must find, a book.”
Madam Van looked at him, her gaze searching in a way that made him uncomfortable. “You once told me that I would have to let you do something stupid in the face of something dire. Please tell me this is not what you meant because I do not want to send you and yours off to find a book when we have bigger problems.”
Peter gave a sheepish grin. “I’ll let you know when I remember that conversation.”
Her gaze narrowed, but eventually she sighed and gave in. “Fine. But I get your fiance for a few minutes before you leave.”
Peter whipped his head around to gape at Ezekiel, mouthing, ‘We’re engaged?!’
Ezekiel looked to Madam Van, gently grabbing Peter’s arm. “Just give me a moment with him and I’m all yours.”
Peter willingly followed Ezekiel to a secluded corner of the study. He caught sight of Pandora greeting Madam Van happily and Aiden easily mingling with those that had trailed after her before Ezekiel’s body got in the way. He looked up at the man, asking in a rushed whisper, “When were you going to tell me we were engaged?”
“It wasn’t something that needed to be mentioned till a later date,” Ezekiel tried to assure him. It only made him mad. “There was no ring or anything. We had talked about it before you dropped off the face of the planet and Madam Van has always teased us about being forever engaged. She’s an annoying woman once you get past the stuffy professional air.”
“I can assure you that I am no such horrible creature, thank you very much.”
Ezekiel moved to the side so that Peter could see Madam Van standing a few paces behind Ezekiel, her entourage and his entertaining themselves. She offered him a soft smile and Peter was certain this was a different woman.
“You have done stupid things these past few years, haven’t you, Peter,” she softly chided, the teasing tone only heightening her smile. “Had I’d known before hand of the loss of your memory, I would have had so much more fun with that.”
“Please no,” Ezekiel all but begged. “It’s almost worse than a birthday in The Holiday.”
Peter blinked, looking up at the man. “Why does that sound capitalized?”
“Because he doesn’t like calling it Christmas,” Madam Van stage whispered to him.
He blinked owlishly at her as Ezekiel scoffed. “That holiday should no longer exist in my opinion.”
“Oh, posh,” Madam Van countered. “You like the excuse to spoil your friends and family. With that said…” Her gentle gaze returned to him. “Before you left all behind, you came by for a final visit and left something with me. When this is all said and done and you remember what it is, my doors are open.”
Peter felt the weight of her words heavy on his shoulders. He nodded, offering, “Hopefully I can quote the conversation word for word by the end of this.”
Madam Van laughed. “That would certainly be impressive. You were never one to remember things well to begin with.”
Day 21: toilet decoration
His gaze moved with the others to the intruder. The young man bowed towards them all. “i apologize for the interruption. You wanted me to keep us moving.”
Madam Van’s expression suddenly hardened. “Right.” She looked to Ezekiel and Peter once more. “With the pleasantries over, we must get down to business.” She focused on Peter. “As much as I don’t want to send you and yours off on some wild goose chase, it would seem I don’t have much choice in the matter. I will send Ezekiel after you when we are done making sure everything else that can be prepped is prepped for the coming war.”
Peter nodded. “The only snag with that is we don’t know where a Little Hagshire is at. Or, at least, we can’t remember where it’s at. All I know is that it’s somewhere here in Pennsylvanian.”
Ezekiel frowned as Madam Van gave a hum. She offered, “Speak with the pack your companion knows. They travel the state rather regularly so I would be surprised if there wasn’t one that didn’t know where it was located.”
“None of your clan knows?” Ezekiel asked.
“I would be surprised if they did. We tend to stay in the same area of which there is no Little Hagshire. Would one in your coven know?”
“I’m not sure,” he confessed, his hand going to his chin. “I know I’ve heard of the place before but I don’t know where from.”
Peter touched Ezekiel’s arm. “See if you can’t find the answer. In the meantime, we’ll go check out this pack Aiden knows.”
He wasn’t sure if it was hurt or something more that flashed across Ezekiel’s expression. “Are you sure you don’t want to wait for me to come with?”
He offered the other an encouraging smile. “It’ll be faster to go our separate ways for now. But unlike last time, we’ll actually see each other in an hour or so.”
“Might be longer than an hour, my love,” Ezekiel pointed out. “I have a lot of ground to cover.”
Peter nodded, fishing out his phone. “Then make sure I have your number. Text me and I’ll tell you where you can come meet us.” Ezekiel took the device and tapped at its screen. Peter turned to Madam Van. “Would it be too much to ask for you to aid him in searching?”
“Not at all,” Madam Van assured him as Ezekiel returned his phone. Peter smiled at the sight of the contact picture. “If Eza is open to it.”
“I can give you a list of those that would be more receptive to you asking than me.”
Madam Van clapped her hands together. “Perfect. Xavier.” The young man that had interrupted them straightened. “I’m going to send you with Peter and his friends to go meet with the pack. You will be the stand-in for the swap spell.”
Xavier nodded even as Peter asked, “Swap spell?”
“A faster way of traveling if there ever was one,” Madam Van explained happily. “Though generally it’s done between objects, it can be done well when the object you are bringing back has magic to help it trade places with the other object. While Ezekiel does have some magic in him innately, it is of no use in spell work. Xavier will be a strong anchor point as well as be able to help boost the spell on his end so that the swap is far more simpler.”
“I am used to this, my Light,” Xavier explained helpfully. “I have the natural ability of creating doorways between to points. If I have been there, I can go there. But to take another along or to pass through the same doorway, there needs to be someone as an anchor on the other side. I am familiar with both Lord Ezekiel and Madam Van that there would be no issue even if they were in some location I have never been. Especially since Madam Van will be the one to instigate the swap.”
Peter shook his head. “I’ll have to trust you all in this, then.” He looked to Ezekiel. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Very,” Ezekiel amended, capturing Peter’s lips in a chase, loving kiss before sending him off.
Peter glanced back towards Ezekiel and Madam Van only when he was with his companions again.Whatever conversation the pair was having, it was rather serious and he did his best not to See what it was they were discussing. He found he didn’t really want to know.
“How you holding up?” Aiden asked as Pandora and Xavier shared a brief hello. It would seem introductions were unnecessary, then.
“Decent enough, I guess,” he replied.
Pandora nudged him with her elbow, teasing, “And finding out you have a hot, vampire boyfriend?”
Peter’s face burned at that. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Aiden laughed, slinging an arm around Peter’s shoulders. “Of course not. It’s not like we all didn’t see that goodbye kiss.”
Peter shoved Aiden off despite the smile creeping onto his face. A part of him was very relieved by all the teasing, as strange as that was. It brought to light, though, some of their previous comments. “I don’t get one thing, though: when we were talking about coming to Pennsylvania, you acted as if you didn’t know I had a boyfriend who happened to be the Lord of the coven we were visiting. Had you guys forgotten or were you trying to act like it was something that needn’t be mentioned like Marcus’s toilet decorations?”
“Should I be blissfully unaware what sort of toilet decoration this Marcus does?” Xavier asked as both Pandora and Aiden reacted in ways that could be depicted as negative reactions.
Peter offered him a soft smile. “Marcus likes any excuse to decorate.”
“Such a weird trait for a dude,” Aiden muttered.
“Says the dude that is content with belly rubs and chick flicks,” Pandora teased.
Aiden chuckled at that. accepting his loss.
Day 22: Light vs. dark
“That still doesn’t answer my question.”
Aiden and Pandora sobered up at that. Aiden shrugged. “I knew you had a vampire boyfriend but I had thought you two had broken it off a few years ago.”
Pandora shook her head. “I never knew. When I had first met you, I had thought you had just been passing through the coven as I had. I had thought that coming here would be familiar for you in that sense. Not in breaking apart a large section of the spell.”
Peter gave them both a bewildered look. “How did I manage to hide my vampire boyfriend from both of you?” They unhelpfully shrugged at him. He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter now. Madam Van suggested checking in with the pack you know, Aiden, and seeing if any of them have come across Little Hagshire.”
Aiden arched an eyebrow, glaze flickering towards Madam Van. “She truly believes that the pack will know something the clan and coven don’t?”
“The clan doesn’t travel much,” Pandora interjected, parroting Madam Van’s earlier words. “I wouldn’t know about the coven, though.”
“From what the few vampires I know have said,” Xavier interjected, “they can be either always traveling or have settled in a given area. Generally any settling is in magical communities.”
“What are the chances of Little Hagshire being one?” Aiden asked, though it sounded a bit rhetorical to Peter’s ears.
“Very small,” Xavier answered, the comment heavy with something close to regret. “Despite our lack of travel, we do converse quite regularly with the other magical communities around. We’re looked upon for healing and wisdom - or, at least Madam Van’s clan is - and so we know the majority of the magical communities in the surrounding area.”
“And the pack would know of it before the clan would?” Aiden tested. “What would make her think that?”
“Do the packs travel to specific locations or do they just go wherever there’s food?” Pandora interjected.
Aiden blinked at her. “Food,” he responded, now sounding hungry. Peter found himself hungry too but kept the sudden realization to himself. “We’d go where there was food. I don’t know about this pack specifically but I can see her thinking now. If they had wandered close enough to this Little Hagshire, they would have entered it looking for something to eat, even if it was one lone wolf.”
“Speaking of food, can we detour on our way to the pack and grab food?” Peter glanced at all of them. “Even it it’s a stop at the kitchen.”
Peter jumped and spun around, startled by the sudden appearance of a new person. A few feet away Azar was watching on. Peter focused on the youth before him and the item they carried. “The Lord had requested the kitchens prep food for you and yours for your journey.”
Peter’s gaze flickered over Ezekiel and the hard expression looked pleased even if he never glanced their way. Peter took the bag with a soft thanks before focusing on Azar. “When he is done, will you please let Ezekiel know we appreciate the food and gesture and that we look forward to seeing him soon?”
Azar nodded as the youth bowed and scurried over to Azar. Azar turned, placing a hand on the youth’s back and showering them with praise. Peter smiled at the sight before turning and gesturing with the bag. “Food obtained. Any more talking can be done on the road. I want to get moving while there’s still time.”
“How much time do we have left?” Pandora asked as the group started for the door.
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Enough, hopefully.”
Peter hadn’t thought on how they were going to locate the pack till they had been driving for an hour. He was still taken aback by how giving the coven had been, what with the food and now the car they were letting them use, that he hadn’t even realized it had been an hour till Aiden growled, “Where in the Moon’s good graces are they?”
Pandora patted his shoulder. It did nothing for the death grip Aiden had on the steering wheel. “We have just a few more stops. We’ll find them.”
Xavier curled in on himself, muttering, “I hope we find them soon. I don’t like this place.”
Peter couldn’t blame the other. Wherever Aiden had taken them, the scene outside his window was eerie. The thick night was not helping the matter but he felt that it would have been just as eerie in broad daylight. Wherever they were, it didn’t want them staying long.
There was the sound of rushing air before a repetitive muffled thumping of sorts. Aiden bit out several cuss words and quickly pulled over.
The rear driver tire was flat.
“At least it wasn’t shredded,” Peter commented, trying to see light in a situation that was making Aiden pissed.
“Yeah, well, a flat ain’t gonna get us anywhere.” The man turned a sharp gaze at the two magicfolk. “Either of you got a spell for this?” They both shook their head no. “Then help me get the spare out of the trunk. I ain’t doing this by myself.”
Peter wandered to the front of the car, feeling as if he was in the way as Pandora started talking with Aiden in a hushed voice. Xavier quickly joined him after he caught a few words.
“Are they together?”
Peter looked to Xavier watching the pair empty out the trunk. “As far as I know. But, then, I’ve been under some magical spell so I don’t know how accurate that is.”
“What’s a battle of Light vs. Dark without the threat of a loved one getting harmed?” Xavier joked. The smile on his face spoke of the stress of that statement.
“Do you have a partner?” Peter asked, trying to decipher what the stress was stemming from.
Xavier chuckled, though it came off both parts sad and dark. “Not like that.”
Day 23: It's almost time
Peter frowned. “Then how?”
Xavier looked to him, studying him before replying, “I have someone I’ve worked with for quite some time, someone I care about.” His gaze drifted back to Pandora and Aiden. “But it’s nothing like what you have with Lord Ezekiel nor what they have. We’re just friends. Almost family, even, but lovers? I’m not even sure that’s what I want in the end.”
Xavier looked to him, his expression curious. “Was Lord Ezekiel your first partner?”
Peter shrugged. “If he wasn’t I don’t remember any of my previous relationships.”
He also couldn’t tell how old he was anymore but Xavier nor the others needed to know that.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t my first relationship. Otherwise I probably would be taking the risk and asking Orion out.” Xavier sighed and focused on the trees that surrounded them. “I grew up in a world where being gay was punished by an assortment of violences and when I started dating, I never thought to look towards the same sex. But then I met this boy that could see how much of a lie I was living and changed my whole view on life itself. It was easy to be friends in public and lovers in secret. He had been so kind and caring….”
Peter fought the lump in his throat as Xavier’s words petered out. Despite everything, he could See what Xavier was struggling to admit. “You don’t have to tell me, Xavier,” he softly urged. “There is no need for me to hear any of this.”
Xavier gave him a soft smile. “No, but I want you to hear it if you want to listen, my Light. Maybe that way I can finally get beyond my past and take a leap that I want to take despite my apprehension.”
Peter reached out without knowing what he was intending to do. He found his hand sliding into the hair at the back of Xavier’s neck and he pulled the other closer, pressing their foreheads together. As awkward as his logic was telling him this was, he knew that Xavier would find it familiar and far more reassuring than anything else he would have done. He wasn’t sure he knew exactly how he became privy to that information - he was going to blame his Sight but even that didn’t seem quite right - but it didn’t seem to matter as Xavier relaxed. The tension that had been there the moment he had intruded in on Peter’s conversation with Ezekiel and Madam Van finally eased.
“I am sure if you spoke with Orion about this, there would be no hard feelings,” Peter tried, not sure if he trusted his own words. “There may be an awkward period but it will pass.”
Xavier gave a weak chuckle. “Why are you being so tolerant, my Light?”
“Because despite popular belief, I actually have a heart and taking being people’s guiding light seriously,” he chided and Xavier laughed. He felt the other test his hold on the back of Xavier’s head but did not relent and Xavier did not force himself free. He carefully amended, “And because I lose nothing right now offering you comfort. You don’t have a partner to rely on and despite remembering that I have had one for years, I’ve spent quite some time getting through life without one while watching everyone else have one.” He gave a slightly sad smile. “It’s not fun.”
Xavier gave a stronger chuckle at that, the edges sounding watery. “No it is not.”
Peter pulled away, allowing Xavier his personal space again. “Feeling a bit stronger?”
Xavier nodded. “Still concerned for you and yours, my Light, but more confident in your abilities, if nothing else.”
Peter laughed at that.
A bang echoed through the trees.
His shoulder collided with the street painfully, a ringing in his ears so loud, he couldn’t even think straight. Gravel scrapped against his hand as he tried to shove himself upright but there was something pinning him down, something trying to harm him, and he rolled over to face his assailant.
Xavier’s worried face came into view and he stumbled, looking around as panic pounded against his chest. Pandora and Aiden were rushing over looking just as worried as Xavier but Peter didn’t give them much attention. He snapped his gaze this way and that, ignoring their voices calling to him, before turning to them, choking out, “We’ve got to go.”
“What?” was echoed at him.
“Pete, calm down,” Aiden commanded. “The tire isn’t all the way on yet.”
He shook his head, feeling as if he was coming undone. “No. We have to go. We have to leave. It’s almost timeand we’re exposed.”
Pandora moved between them before Aiden could argue against him again, putting her back to Peter. “The tire’s on and bolted, Aiden. Whatever Peter Saw freaked him out enough to accidentally spell the thing done.”
“I thought you said you didn’t have a spell for changing a tire,” Aiden challenged.
She must have given him a look because he cowed at it. “There are spells for each step but weaving them together and getting it to be a seamless process would be a waste of magic when we have the tools to do it properly and your strength behind it. Tightening bolts isn’t an easy spell anyways. A touch of magic in either direction could destroy the bolt or not tighten it at all.”
Aiden let out a sharp breath. “Fine. Help me shove everything back into the truck then.”
Pandora was right behind him. Xavier gave his arm a squeeze before hurrying after the others. Suddenly alone, Peter curled in on himself, hands going to his head. He didn’t want to See it again. He got the message so why was his Sight trying to show it to him over and over again? He was trying to get them out of there as fast as he could!
“Take a calming breath.”
Day 24: Don't forget 3 Oct 11
His entire being froze as he opened his eyes. He found a well lit hardwood floor beneath his shoes and he carefully raised his head, his breath still coming in strangling gasps. Her hands buried themselves in his hair as he looked up at her face. “Easy, sweetie. Calming breaths.”
She audibly breathed in slowly and he found himself immediately mimicking her. She held it for a brief moment and he held his, releasing his slowly along with her release. He found it easier to breathe in the next one, no longer needing to mimic her to follow the exercise. When even his pounding heart had calmed in his chest, she pulled away offering a soft, careful smile. “There we go. Better?”
“Good. Now, tell me what you Saw.” He shook his head vehemently, tears springing to his eyes. “Sweetie,” she softly cooed, “keeping it in and to yourself will only make it worse. You have to tell me what you saw so that we can face it together.”
He rubbed at his face, muttering a watery, “I don’t want to.”
“Don’t want to what?” she gently encouraged.
“I don’t want to see it,” he whispered. “I don’t want you to see it.”
She ran her hand over his hair. “Sweetie, it’s ok. Just tell me what you Saw.”
He sniffled. “I saw you die.”
He wrapped his arms tight around his torso. “And I can’t change it.”
There was silence as her hand stilled on the top of his head and for a moment he felt horrible because he made her sad but then her hand moved to his cheek and she brought his gaze up to meet hers. Her expression was warm, happy even, as she offered, “Do you want to know what I Saw?”
He nodded, sniffling again.
“I Saw you with someone very dear to your heart, someone who you left behind for a number of years to protect them from what had to be done, and then reuniting despite you no longer remembered them.”
He made a face against the same Sight, though his was just impressions where hers would have been as clear as the moment they were sharing. “That sounds awful.”
She chuckled. “As awful as it sounds, can you change it?”
He twisted up his expression more. “No.”
“Do you want it to change?”
He Saw where it all ended, even if it was just an impression. He was loved by this someone so completely and he the same for them, that he found himself shaking his head. “I want the ending.”
“Do you know what my ending is?”
His gaze snapped up to her face, eyes wide. “But I don’t want you to have that ending.”
“But you See the ending that happens should mine never come.”
And he could. He could See it very clearly. If she did not meet her ending as openly as she was right now, if she denied herself that ending, she was denying the ending for many. He pressed his hands into his eyes, not wanting to See how happy she was to create so much joy out of her death. She kissed the top of his head. “Most Seers do not get the ending you do, sweetie. Too many have been hunted and persecuted or worked too hard to live. But now, now there is a chance for future Seers to live a joyous, unbound life till their end comes. Your end extends beyond so many that you will become the guiding light for far more than you can see right now and that, that is the greatest gift any Seer can receive.”
He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
She kissed his forehead. “I know, Sweetie. You will. Just remember, if you don’t forget, then you will never make it to your ending.”
He shook his head, words of denial in his throat, but when he opened his eyes to look up at her, he found himself on the edge of the road in front of the car. The others were still loading the trunk back up oblivious to what had just happened and even he himself didn’t understand.
He slipped back into the car, grateful when they didn’t so much as glance his way. He dug into the bag they had been given and pulled out his book. None of the others had mentioned anything about it being in the bag so he wasn’t sure if they knew he had it again or not.
Maybe he was overthinking things.
The bound pages fell open rather close to where he needed to be. A couple of more pages and he found it scrawled in the margin: Don’t forget 3 Oct 11. There were other notes to it, jokes of how other things were being correlated with the date and all that, but none of it explained what it was he wasn’t supposed to forget. Because clearly he had forgotten it as that woman had told him he would all those years ago but it only made him have more questions.
The trunk thudded shut loudly and the others clambered in.
Pandora turned around in her seat, looking at him. “How are you doing? Still freaked out?”
He shook his head. “No, but I will be glad when we get moving again.”
“Working on it,” Aiden assured him as he turned the car on.
“What had you seen?” Xavier gently inquired.
He started to shake his head, to deny them what he had seen, but the memory - or hallucination for all he knew - stilled his initial instinct and he found himself sharing, “We were attacked. Someone was shot but I don’t know who. I was slammed into the street by something that pinned me down to stab me with something, I think.” He rubbed at his face, feeling far too tired. “I don’t know. It just filled me with a panic that I couldn’t shake.”
Silence settled in the car.
Day 25: Growing in the dark
“Can we avoid it?”
Peter looked up at Aiden but the other’s gaze was on the road. Peter shook his head, offering, “If we hadn’t been able to, we would have already succumbed to it.”
He stilled his tongue before he could jinx them.
“So we’re safe now?” Xavier asked, his voice belaying his confusion.
Pandora interjected, “It’s not always that simple. As straight forward as you would think a Sight would be, sometimes trying to avoid them only causes them.”
“Or something worse happens,” Aiden added. The man glanced towards him through the rear view mirror. “Can you See if there are any consequences, Pete?”
He shook his head. “I don’t have any clue on how my Sight works, let alone how to See something specific. I’m still at the mercy of my Sight at the moment.”
“Great,” Aiden growled.
“Uh, guys?” Xavier called out.
“What’s wrong?” Aiden all about snarled.
“I think we’ve found Little Hagshire.”
The car started to slow immediately as Peter snapped his gaze out his nearest window. Sure enough, a ‘Little Hagshire, Population 1,347’ sign flashed passed, leaving Peter with a sense of foreboding.
“Guess we didn’t need the pack,” Aiden grumbled, the illusion settling over the still half shifted werewolf.
“We can still drop in to say hi,” Pandora assured him even as her gaze was out the window. Peter returned his gaze to the town.
It was surprisingly easy for him to recall where the house was despite how awkward his viewing angle of the streets had been. Fifteen minutes later, they pulled up to the start of a drive. Aiden shifted the car into park before leaning over Pandora to look up at the house. “Charming,” he commented. “So who’s going up to ring the doorbell.”
“I doubt that’ll work.”
Aiden looked at Xavier, drawling, “And what makes you say that?”
“I’m fairly certain we’re in a ghost town of sorts.”
Peter’s stomach dropped. A ghost town. No people, just abandoned homes and buildings. He shook his head. “But I had seen licence plates, people milling about.”
“Another illusion, then?” Pandora asked, looking at all of them. “Something keeping outsiders from seeing what’s really here?”
Xavier shook his head. “I didn’t feel anything when we entered the city.”
“Nothing except dread,” Aiden commented flippantly. He was startled when everyone else confirmed the feeling. “No way.” He focused on Peter. “You know anything about that, then?”
Peter shook his head. “I may remember a lot but I don’t remember enough to be of any use and I doubt my book has anything on Little Hagshire in it.”
“How did you get that, anyways?” Pandora asked. “I thought it got left behind.”
“It had, but Ezekiel had made sure it got stuck in the food bag for me.”
Aiden made a face. “You’ve got one weird boyfriend.”
Peter shrugged before looking to Xavier. “Will you get a message of some sort or were they waiting on me to let them know to send Ezekiel?”
Xavier shook his head. “I doubt it would hurt to text Lord Ezekiel. That way he knows that we’ve stopped, at least.”
Peter nodded, grabbing his phone.
“So who’s traversing the house?”
He looked up at Aiden, answering, “Pandora and me.”
Aiden gave him a flat look. “I was joking.”
“I’m not.” Aiden opened his mouth to argue but Peter cut him off. “I know you want all of us to go but I think it would be best to have as few people trespassing as possible. And as much as I would have preferred to go in alone, I know you all would fight me on that so I’m going to take Pandora.”
“Why me?” she asked, clearly startled by his initial claim.
“Because I need a magic user with me, rather than a shifter, and as much as I would like to take Xavier instead, I can’t risk the chance of Ezekiel coming in the middle of us breaking in.” He pressed send on the message. “Besides, I would feel more comfortable having Aiden and Xavier covering our flanks than in the middle of whatever mess we get into.”
“How much time am I allotting you before I come barging in?” Aiden demanded.
Peter offered him a soft smile, grateful the man was willing to put up with the plan for now. “20 minutes. I know where it’s at. I’m just concerned on getting there.”
Aiden gave a sharp nod before looking to Pandora. “Be careful, the both of you. I don’t want to have to come save your scrawny asses any time soon.”
“Stay alert yourself,” Pandora replied. “I don’t want to come back to find you two had been ambushed.”
Peter opened his door and climbed out. He turned and passed his book to Xavier. “Hold onto this for me and make sure Ezekiel receives it if he comes while we’re in the house.”
Xavier nodded, carefully holding the bound pages in his hands as if it was a precious, ancient tomb that would fall apart if he brought it to his chest.
Closing the door, he started up the drive. Pandora lit the way with the gem of her staff but Peter felt exposed in the light. He moved as quickly to the door and tried opening it.
“I’ve got it,” Pandora breathed. A few muttered words and the lock clicked open. She opened the door, leading the way with her illuminated staff. Peter glanced back at the car to see Aiden leaning against the passenger side. He let the door close completely, cutting off his line of sight back to the car.
It was oppressively dark in the home. Pandora had wandered off, probably checking the first floor, but he didn’t go after her. Instead, he took to the stairs as quietly as he could. He was determined on doing this part on his own and he found the room rather easily.
Something was glowing in the dark depths of the room.
Day 26: Shivers
Shivers raced down his back - from fear, excitement, or something else, he wasn’t sure - as he stepped into the room trying to decipher what exactly was glowing. But the glow was just too dim for him to properly see it and he didn’t dare pull out his phone to light up the space. He still couldn’t shake the exposed feeling crawling up his spine.
He closed his eyes.
When he had Seen it originally, the room had been lit. Not completely but certainly far better than it was now. He concentrated on the Sight he had seen and tried to recall how the room had been arranged. Slowly the image swirled into view in his mind’s eye. He reached blindly back and closed the door. It barely even clicked as it slid shut.
Before him should be a precarious pile of books on a table. It wasn’t an overly large pile but it was enough to make reaching for the book on top a challenge. Other books and an assortment of other things littered the floor and he carefully started crossing the ten feet or so between him and the book.
His searching hand found the edge of the table first. He stepped right up to it and tipped his head back a bit. If he was right, it should be just above his reach. With his hand braced on the edge of the table, he reached up as high as he could go.
Something pressed against his eyes just before something else pressed against his back. Before he could panic or move in any way, Ezekiel’s scent washed over him and the other’s familiar hand wrapped around his raised wrist.
“Why didn’t you wait for me?” the vampire muttered in his ear. “I thought we were going into Little Hagshire together.”
“I had forgotten about that,” he confessed, pressing into Ezekiel’s body. “Did Aiden fill you in, by chance?”
“I was told the gist of it, yes.” Ezekiel gently guided his outreached hand back down to his side without letting him touch anything. “You should have waited.”
“But it’s right there, up at the top.”
“I know. And you shouldn’t be touching it.”
He frowned, eyebrows furrowing against Ezekiel’s hand. “Why?”
The sound of footfall alerted him to company. Thankfully it was good company.
“Lord Ezekiel, what-for the grace of Magic, was he going to touch that?” Pandora exclaimed as best one could do in a low voice.
“Unfortunately,” Ezekiel confirmed, forcing Peter to walk with him as the vampire turned about. “Thankfully he wasn’t actually looking at it.”
“Small favors,” Aiden growled out. “Should we even be taking that thing?”
He tried to remove Ezekiel’s hand from over his eyes. The man didn’t even so much as acknowledge his attempt. “Guys, it’s fine. It’s the book we need. There’s no harm in me grabbing it.”
“I would trust your boyfriend on this one, Pete,” Aiden urged. “You don’t want to be touching that thing.”
Peter frowned. “Ezekiel.”
“Yes, my love?”
“Let me go.”
Ezekiel’s touch convulsed. “I can’t-”
“I am in no danger, Ezekiel. Please let me go.” His voice was steady, calm. It denied all of them the watched feeling he was still feeling.
But he knew he had won. Ezekiel took his sweet time letting him go but Peter could See he had won. Ezekiel would not deny him this. The man released him and slowly moved away. He did heed Ezekiel’s nonverbal warning and kept his eyes closed. It made it easier for him to pretend the room was still too dark to see in. Turning right about, he found the edge of the table again and reached up.
His touch was true and he found the top of the stack just underneath his touch. He gently pulled at the book, bringing it off the top of the stack into his hand and down to his chest. As soon as he had the cover against his chest, Ezekiel pulled Peter to his chest and took off. Peter let out an undignified squawk that was muffled by Ezekiel’s shoulder. Before he knew it, the night air was ruffling his hair and Ezekiel was putting his feet down on gravel. He opened his eyes, turning to look back at the house, but Ezekiel had placed him down with his back to the home and so even just a twitch to try and see was caught by the vampire and denied.
“They are almost here,” Ezekiel assured him. “Don’t look back.”
He shot the other a confused look but the sound of footfall proved Ezekiel right. His friends came up on either side of him and stood before him so that he would have no reason to look back. He wondered why they were doing that but felt no need to push his luck.
He had the book. Whatever was in this was supposed to help them. Pulling the cover from his chest, he saw the same detailing he had seen in the Sight, though there was a faint glow coming from the golden green inlays. There was no title on the front and the one on the spine was too worn to be read so he opened to the title page. Startled, he read it out loud. “A Written Collection of the Supernaturals?”
“That’s it?” Aiden demanded. “We go into a cursed house for an encyclopedia?”
He started flipping pages. “Would seem like it.”
“But why?” Pandora asked, shaking her head. “What’s so important about an encyclopedia of the supernatural?”
“I think it was worth it,” Peter interjected. He looked up from some creature he couldn’t even pronounce the name of. “I still don’t have much of my memories back so a lot of these are new to me.”
Ezekiel’s hand was heavy on his shoulder. “Regardless of the book’s importance, we have it. Now it’s time to get out of here and back to the others. I would like to not be so exposed much longer.”
Day 27: White cat, black cat
Peter went to climb into the back seat but Ezekiel had opened the passenger door instead and he didn’t feel like arguing. He watched Pandora and Aiden climb into the back seat through the mirror and realized why Ezekiel had done that. Pandora looked just as shot as Aiden did and Peter started to fret about what had happened until Ezekiel was taking a-hold of his hand as he got in.
“It wasn’t anything they couldn’t manage,” Ezekiel assured him as the pair in the back settled down with soft voices. Peter glanced at them again to find Pandora in the middle seat leaning against Aiden who was seated behind him. A furry arm was wrapped around Pandora, holding her close, soft words being shared between them. “They’ll be fine.”
Peter wasn’t sure he agreed but situated himself all the same. Ezekiel started the car and pulled away from the curb.
The book was utterly fascinating. He was certain he had known about most of these creatures at one point but now it was all foreign to him. He had flipped between his friends’ and lover’s passages, enjoying the information there before he started to flip about by random.
A passing thought had him briefly pausing before flipping to the ’S’s. With a careful eye, he started skimming the entries for a specific one.
It was one of the shortest entries he had seen yet, lacking even a picture. Still, the little paragraph held enough information to satisfy one question and generate several more.
Shadows: The entities known only as Shadows have no true depiction. Unlike the Ruh, Shadows do not have a standard form one could expect to see them in or be able to identify them as. Shadows are the dangerous, volatile counter-creature to the Walkers.
He quickly flipped to the back of the book, backtracking pages till he found the one he was looking for. This time the passage he found was lengthy, accompanied by a few illustrations and one picture.
Walkers: Though commonly misnamed as Shadows, Walkers are considered harmless supernaturals. Despite their ghastly appearances, Walkers are not know to harm anyone. What does put them under the cautionary symbol is the unpredictable behavior of them whisking away souls.
Walkers are not the only supernaturals to whisk souls and body away (see image 3b, pg vi) however they are one of three that will whisk away all form of sentient beings. There have been reports that Walkers will take magicfolk, merfolk, humans, shifters, and vampires to name only a few groups. No one is sure why a Walker will take a certain soul. There have been no cases of the body or soul ever being seen again.
“What did you find?”
Peter glanced over at Ezekiel before looking out the window. They were back at the coven location.
“I found an interesting thing,” he offered. “Apparently there are these things call Walkers that are often mistaken as Shadows but Shadows are actually the counter-creature to the Walkers.”
“And how did you come across that?”
“Madam Van’s statement about people being attacked by what they thought could be Shadows but how she had never actually heard of a Shadow attacking anyone. I think she was talking about Walkers with that last one.”
He clambered out of the car as Ezekiel grabbed the bag from the back. Aiden and Pandora were both unconscious and Peter almost left them there. Opening the door carefully, the lack of back support woke Aiden up. He gave Peter a hooded look and Peter offered the other a soft smile. “We’re back.”
“Ok,” Aiden assured him around a yawn. “We’ll be right behind you.”
Ezekiel took Peter’s free hand and gently tugged him towards the entrance. Peter fell in step with his lover, apprehension washing over him.
“Ezekiel.” The vampire gave a hum. “What do we do now? Maria said that something was coming after me, that I had 24 hours to keep my head low and my friends safe, but we still don’t know what is after me.”
Ezekiel was quiet as they passed through the front doors. Peter gave a start, not expecting so many people bustling about the halls.
“For now, you stay in the safety of the coven,” Ezekiel offered simply. “Madam Van’s priority is the Summons and whatever is taking them out. A number of the Summons are part of my coven so I have made sure the that the coven proper has been well fortified against most attacks. Madam Van has since then been using it as a base of operations.”
“Thus all the people.”
Ezekiel offered another hum. “There will be more of the coven present as well but you should be safe enough inside these walls.”
The statement did nothing for his apprehension.
Ezekiel stopped on their way to what Peter was assuming was the study they had first been in and called out, “White Cat, Black Cat, come here for a moment.”
A pair seemed to appear out of nowhere, one dressed in mostly white, the other in mostly black.
“You called, oh Lord of ours?” the one in white asked, flicking their white fedora from their head in a flourished bow.
“How can we assist you and our Light, dear Lord?” the one in black added, flicking their black fedora from their head in the same flourished bow as their counterpart. Peter wondered if he would be able to tell the two apart if they weren’t wearing their specific attire.
“Black Cat,” Ezekiel said to the one in white and Peter’s eyes got hide as his mouth got very flat. Whelp, there went that thought. “Would and White Cat do me a favor and keep our Light company while I deal with business matters?”
“I don’t need babysitters,” Peter complained, feeling affronted. Honestly, why was he suddenly being ditched?
Ezekiel’s hand was in his hair, warm breath on the curve of his ear. “This isn’t supposed to be a punishment, love.”
Day 28: No more mister nice guy
“He’s actually doing you a favor. my Light,” the one in black offered gently.
The one in white continued, “The work our Lord Ezekiel is getting into will be very boring.”
“Especially for one that does not remember any of it,” the other one finished.
Peter pressed into Ezekiel, eyes still on the pair before them. “Truly, Ezekiel?”
“If I could avoid it, I would, but this way you are farther from potential harm and protected by the best I have to offer.” Ezekiel kissed his ear, sending a shudder down his spine. “Please. To put me at ease for the next few hours.”
“I have to keep moving,” Peter urged on a breath.
Ezekiel’s arms tightened around him. “I know. Just give me a few hours.”
Peter sighed. “Ok.”
Ezekiel kissed his temple. “Thank you. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
He turned his head to say something but found that the kiss Ezekiel pressed to his lips far more important. It was brief and soon he was left with two people he did not know and wasn’t certain he had known. Their only saving grace was Ezekiel’s trust in them and so he gave them a chance. He pointed to the one in black, “White Cat?” he asked. He received a smile and a nod. He pointed to the other one. “Black Cat?” He received a Cheshire grin. “Why the opposite clothes?”
“We like to confuse people,” Black Cat explained immediately.
“Only Lord Ezekiel and yourself have ever been able to tell us apart,” White Cat amended.
Peter’s eyebrows rose to his hairline at the familiarity of the situation. “So I did know you two at some point?”
The pair gained a kicked puppy look he did not like but the look they shared was honest in their disappointment. Thoughts stirred too far out of reach at the back of his mind to know if they were memories or not. He huffed. “With as much as I don’t remember, you two do not have to treat me like we have just met. If you are disappointed to hear that I am without my memories of our time together, I’m sorry to prove such rumors right. Some of my memories are back but not enough for me to know every face I had once known. But the kicked puppy look will not get you very far.”
It was Black Cat who laughed at his statement. White Cat was far more sober about it, looking as if to be on the verge of tears. Those thoughts whispering at him from beyond his reach turned into images, into memories, and he left them be for a little bit longer.
“You will have to forgive Brekon’s amusement. That is near identical to the speech you had given us upon our first proper interaction,” White Cat offered, expression clearing out and leaving behind a tight smile. “While I can see his amusement with it, the reminder is far too bittersweet.”
“Awe, come on Warren,” Black Cat countered. “Admit that you found it just as funny.”
Peter didn’t need his Sight to see how close to tears Black Cat- Brekon was. He was slowly starting to understand how he and Ezekiel could figure out how to tell the two apart even if they traded appearances, the flickers of memories of such times aiding his understanding. He opened his arms to the both of them, giving a tight smile of his own. “I know it doesn’t mean much, what with how I can’t remember either of you fully yet, but if it helps, it’s ok to grieve if even for a moment.”
There was a pause, a breath where Peter thought he had gone about it all wrong, but then the pair’s resolve broke and he found himself engulfed by the two young men, both crying in their own ways. Peter held onto them tight, letting the new wave of released memories to finally flood his mind.
“Why didn’t you say goodbye?” Brekon asked.
Peter felt his heart break. “I don’t know,” he offered. “As I told Ezekiel, when the memories come back, they’re too blended for me to make sense of what is real and what is not, what happened when.”
Warren pulled back, rubbing at his face swiftly. “But you are remembering?”
Peter gave him a weak smile. “Bit by bit. But that doesn’t-”
The sound of a gun firing echoed like thunder off the walls. Warren’s head jerked back and for one terror filled moment, he expected Warren to collapse dead at his feet. Instead, the young man hit the ground, groaning as he curled in on himself, hands pressed to the top of his head. Peter could already see the long line of blood in Warren’s hair where the bullet had grazed him. Brekon called out his brother’s name as he hit his knees at his brother’s side.
Peter felt something sliding down his neck and he reached up, finding a sticky substance on his neck. His fingers were red when he pulled them away. He turned, finding Aiden struggling to keep the assailant from firing a second shot.
There was the click of a gun behind him and Peter turned his head slowly to find Brekon and Warren pinned down by two people a piece. A fifth assailant was standing behind him, pointing a gun at his head. “Pity we have to kill you, Seer,” the assailant spoke gruffly. “Rumors had it that you were quite the nice guy.”
“Oh?” Peter asked, the word trilling almost as if sung. His head pounded as whatever held his memories back broke under the force of his magic surging forward to heed his rage. “Well, then I guess I should fix that, shouldn’t I?”
There was a flash of light and the assailant collapsed at his feet.
“No more Mister Nice Guy.” Peter sneered at the assailants pinning his boys down. “I would get off of them if I were you.”
Day 29: 13 is unlucky number
The two on Warren hesitated and it was enough for an opening for the youth to utilize. One of the ones on Brekon launched at him, giving Brekon an opening to take out the remaining assailant. Before the assailant could finish with is second step towards him, there was another burst of light and the assailant was thrown into the wall.
A second gunshot rang through the hallway and Peter turned to watch Aiden headbutt the assailant he was fighting. The assailant dropped like a rock, gun skittering away on the ground. Aiden took a step back but his leg gave out from under him. Even with the distance between them, Peter could make out the bullet wound. He took off, covering the distance between them in no time Pandora ran over to Aiden’s side.
Before he could say anything, Aiden ground out, “Did you just kill that guy?”
He felt his face heat up. “What?!” he sputtered. “No! Of course not! He attacked my boys and threatened to shoot me. I wasn’t about to give him the chance to actually go through with his threats. What did you want me to do, go easy on him?”
Aiden stared up at him and for a moment he wondered why the other wasn’t saying anything until two bodies collided with his back. The only reason why he didn’t lash out was because he immediately recognized the dual flames of life in either body.
“He remembers!” they cheered right into his ears. He flinched from the assault on his ear drums but didn’t push them off or away. Instead, he grabbed at their arms, holding them close.
“For a moment, I thought you were never going to remember,” Brekon muttered into his shoulder blade. Peter’s heart clenched in his chest as Warren added with a mutter into Brekon’s hair, “That we were going to have to try and create our little family again.”
Peter twisted around in their hold, pressing his head between theirs when they made room. “Oh, boys,” he softly cooed. “I could never forget you. Not completely.”
“But you remember us now?” Brekon asked in a small voice.
He pulled back and cupped Brekon’s cheek. “I remember just about everything.”
Peter whipped his head around at the voice, the motion made difficult when he refused to let go of the twins at the same time. Thankfully Ezekiel was ahead of him, wrapping his arms around Peter. No longer able to keep a hold on the twins even if he still wanted to, he buried his hands in Ezekiel’s hair as the man pressed a desperate kiss to his lips.
When they separated, Peter found himself shaking. He flinched when Ezekiel covered his ear with his palm. That explained the blood at least. The man kissed his other temple, muttering, “It’s ok. You’re safe. The boys are safe. I’ve got you.”
“What was that?” he muttered. He pulled back, ignoring the twinge of pain in his ear from the friction. “Why did they attack us?”
“They’re members of a radical group called the Balance,” Warren supplied, his voice echoing in the quieting hall.
Brekon continued on. “Their goal is to return balance to the world by taking out Seers and other Powerfuls.”
Peter frowned. “What kind of balance does that even bring?”
“A balance of power.” Peter looked up at Ezekiel, the man’s words a low rumble for Peter that still carried through the silent hall. “This way when war is declared, the sides are more evenly matched in strength.”
That sent the hall into an uproar and Peter ignored it, asking over the ruckus, “Do you truly believe a war is coming?”
“You were the one to warn us about it,” Madam Van explained, joining the small group. Peter took a step back, welcoming her into their little circle. “It had been the last times we were all together before you disappeared. It certainly hadn’t been the main reason but it hadn’t helped the mood at all.”
“That would explain why I can’t remember anything about this Balance group,” Peter offered. “The only thing I’m able to remember from that strip of time is a piece of paper with ’13 is unlucky number’ printed on it. It’s driving me a little nuts, actually.”
Ezekiel chuckled. “Well, there were bound to be side effects from that spell, after all.”
“Which brings us to my question,” Pandora interjected, joining the group with a limping Aiden in her wake. Peter took a step back to make room for them, sending the man a smile. He received a grin in turn before Pandora rounded on him. “Why did you have me place a spell on you that you knew was going to fail because of you being of high magic? Why didn’t I know about you being of magic like that?”
He offered her a weak smile. “I honestly don’t remember, Pan. That stretch of time is the only area that isn’t back yet.”
“Awe man. Does that mean I don’t get to reintroduce you to the pack?” Aiden teased.
The laugh was there in his chest as he opened his mouth to respond but for the third time that night, the sound of gunfire rang through the hall. It was like someone had fired a starter pistol. The crowd ducked as one and started to scatter. Aiden transformed mid turn, taking off into the crowd with Madam Van on his tail. Pandora placed herself between Peter and the crowd as Ezekiel’s fear filled expression dominated his line of sight, Brekon and Warren’s fear stricken, battle ready faces over Ezekiel’s head at an angle he didn’t understand.
He didn’t understand it till pain suddenly flared to life when his back was pressed against the stone floor, the pain turning into a white hot flame that exploded from a point on his chest he could no longer pinpoint. The pain ate him alive like living fire, spreading from his chest to consume everything.
Day 30: Ego Zombie
The only thing he knew for the longest time was pain. Blinding pain. He couldn’t think, couldn’t See, couldn’t do anything but be swallowed by whatever pain had decided to devour him. After what felt like an eternity, he found himself opening his eyes to a dim ceiling, the pain a throbbing in his chest but nothing more. It took a while before his brain caught up with past events enough for him to remember why he was in pain.
Someone had shot him. He couldn’t remember if it had been from the front or the back but he trusted his family and had to guess it had come from the crowd he had been facing.
At least he wasn’t dead.
Sitting up was a chore but he managed it. It caused the pain to become a stabbing sensation rather than a throbbing but he could deal. At least now he could look around.
It seemed he had been stuck in a rather secluded little room. If nothing else, it didn’t look like one of the ones he had frequented enough to remember. He wondered if there was a battle raging on in some part of the compound or if he had missed the fight completely. He rubbed at his face, hoping his family was safe and alive.
There was a way for him to check but even a well controlled Sight could be tricky. There would be very little to tell him if what he Saw was accurate or not and that kind of false information was dangerous.
It seemed fate was kind and sent him the answer instead.
“Oh thank the stars above.”
He looked at the door in surprise only to find his face against a familiar chest. He went to raise both arms but raising his left one made his chest hurt so he left it limp at his side as he grabbed at the fabric on Ezekiel’s chest. He pressed his face farther into the dusty, dirty clothing, muttering, “You’re gross. Why are you gross?”
Ezekiel chuckled, carding his fingers through Peter’s hair. “Because someone decided to wage war in my home and I was not about to let them live it down. Someone thought it would be funny to try and drop the upper floors onto my head.”
“Did you prove them wrong?” he asked, already knowing the answer.
“With Death at my side.”
An involuntary laugh caught in his throat as a raw memory of him and Ezekiel arguing over such a flippant belief on Death sprung to mind. It had ended in fits of giggles and laughter when he had called Ezekiel’s blood lust ego zombie mode. The humor faded quickly and he gripped the fabric tighter. “And the boys?”
“Alive and in one piece each,” Ezekiel assured him in a softer voice. “They’ll be by as soon as they’re done chasing a few mice. Aiden Evansworth and Pandora Kind have managed well with the only serious injury between the two of them being the one Aiden got before the actual battle broke out.”
Peter chuckled at that. “Aiden probably enjoyed ripping people a new one for what they did to his leg.”
Ezekiel hummed an affirmation. “As well as fighting alongside the local pack. It would seem Madam Van’s word reached them in time.”
Peter pulled away, slumping against the pillows behind him. “I’m glad.”
Ezekiel’s hand ran over his hair. “Get some rest, my love. I’ll make sure we’re all still here for when you wake next.”
Peter didn’t even get the chance to comment. Sleep took him the moment Ezekiel stopped talking and he didn’t wake again till much later.
The room was barely lit by the gem in Pandora’s staff. It allowed him to see all that were present and it warmed his heart to see Aiden and Pandora asleep on the couch, Ezekiel passed out in the chair beside his bed with Brekon and Warren a pile of bodies at the feet of his chair, Xavier and who he was going to assume was Orion sleeping in two chair so close to each other that it looked like one large chair with how they were leaning against each other, and Madam Van passed out in a chair near the door.
A strange sensation started rolling in his chest separate of the dull hum of pain from his wound. It spread till he couldn’t stay in the bed any longer and he got up on quiet toes, making sure not to step on either of the twins. Crossing to the door was fine but opening it was going to be a challenge. Madam Van’s arm was hanging over the chair’s arm in clear path of the door. Not want to wake her, he carefully lifted her arm and returned it to her lap. Madam Van shifted in her sleep but did not wake and Peter let out a soft breath. He slipped out the door, closing it just as quietly as he had opened it.
The hallway was equally dark in either direction so he just up and picked a direction. It turned out to be the right direction because he quickly found himself in familiar territory. A turn this way, a flight of stairs that way, and through a set of doors had him out on one of his favorite balconies.
Only, there was someone already there.
He stared at the figures but his mind was already telling him they weren’t dangerous.
They were Walkers here to whisk souls away but it was more than that now. He could See their intent and where they wanted to take him.
He stilled with his hand hovering over a Walker’s offered one and looked back to find Ezekiel in the doorway, a bewildered look on his face that quickly turned into fear. “Peter, what-”
The tears came too quickly but he smiled through them. “I’m sorry, Ezekiel.”
He took the Walker’s hand.
“I love you.”
Day 31: this is Halloween
It was easy for him to silence the chime charm she had placed on the front door. The door clicked shut behind him without much difficulty and he took a moment to take in the home around him. It had been years since he had last stepped foot in her home and it was most likely going to be years more till he did so again. It hurt that he could not drop by and catch up over a cup of tea but the Walkers had asked for just a few years of separation, just till he was strong enough to come back and be able to stay back.
He never fought them on their request. The only thing he had asked was for a compromise.
He paused at the door to her workshop. It hadn’t changed in the past few years - barring the new plants and herbs here and there and the natural change over of the different vials and ingredients - and it left him feeling nostalgic. He found himself standing there watching her for far longer than he had time for and he quietly stepped away from the doorway, grateful she was still the type to get absorbed by her work.
It wasn’t hard to find her room and the door opened easily to reveal a rather empty room compared to the rest of the home. Very little was in it, beyond two doors, a large bed unmade from the previous night, and a few shelves on the walls adorned with pictures, books, and knickknacks. He went straight to one of the shelves and reached behind a picture frame. He wrapped his fingers around a small box tucked away out of sight.
It was rather light and he found himself opening not because he didn’t trust her - she already knew what it was, there was no need for her to peak at it; that wasn’t her - but because he found himself only remembering impressions of the thing inside.
The spring hinge resisted but did not refuse the motion. Inside was a silver band of metal meticulously carved by a skilled and steady hand. Minuscule amounts of other metals were melted into specific details, coloring some of the carvings spectacularly. It had cost him an arm and a leg but that was nothing compared to how treasured he knew the ring would be. Carefully closing the box, he quickly tucked it into an inner pocket and left her home.
A Walker was waiting for him outside and he greeted them with a smile. “One last stop and then we can go back.”
The Walker nodded and offered him a hand. He took it and the world changed. With a dip of his head in thanks, he quickly strode to the building.
The main entrance was out of the question but he had lived here for years and knew where to enter. And since he had his magic back, it was easy to get up onto one of the balconies unseen and enter through its doors.
He cut through the compound with a single room in mind. While he desperately wanted to stop by and check in on a pair of youths, he had promised he would be quick and the fewer that knew he was still ok, the better. Oh, how he hated that he had to choose but at least he was being given this chance to make amends.
The suite door was unlocked and opened without a sound. It gave a soft click as he closed it and he smiled when a voice snapped from the bedroom, “I swear, Brekon, if that’s you, I’m going to string you up by your toes and-”
The man’s words died in his throat when he stepped out into the sitting room. He offered the other a watery smile as tears sprung to his eyes. He didn’t have time to be overly emotional so he pushed through it, asking, “What has Brekon been up to now that you’re threatening to string him up by his toes again?”
He should have expected the kiss, the careful hands carding shakily through his hair and over his back, the tears they both cried as they clung to each other.
“I thought-” Ezekiel pulled back, cupping Peter’s face between his hands. “I saw you leave with the Walker. You willingly took its hand. I don’t understand. How are you here?”
Peter gave a laugh, the edges heavy with sorrow. Oh how he regretted taking that Walker’s hand but he knew that it would be for the better. “This is Halloween, remember? All Hallow’s Eve when the veil is thinnest?”
The color drained from Ezekiel’s place. “So you are-”
Peter shook his head, gripping at Ezekiel’s wrists. “I am very much still alive and I will be for years to come. The Walkers are able to bridge worlds for the living when the veil is at its thinnest. They’ve taken me and several other Powerfuls to the other realm to keep this world’s balance from being destroyed.”
“Then when are you coming home?”
Peter shook his head. “I don’t know. Even the Walkers don’t know the exact year but I’ve Seen it enough to know it’s only a few.” He reached into the inner pocket. “I wanted to make sure you knew I was coming back, though, so I made a deal with the Walkers.” He offered the box to Ezekiel and waited till the other had opened it before continuing, “I want to promise you eternity when I get back, if you’ll still have me after all the awful things I’ve put you through.”
Ezekiel kissed him again before he could say anything else. When they separate, Peter was crying again. Ezekiel gently pressed their foreheads together, muttering softly, “You will always and forever be my fool, Peter.” He kissed Peter again. “I love you.”
When they said goodbye on the same balcony as the year prior, Peter had no regrets taking the Walker’s hand.