Chapter 3.51 – Super Magic

Disclaimer: violence, blood

Thanks to Mercuryfoam for creating the fist fight animations that I couldn’t bring myself to make.
Sorry that ‘yellow sim’ and ‘blue sim’ weren’t the pairing you had in mind! 😬

What is the worst way in the world to be woken up?

Wyatt had experienced quite a few of them, surely. Bucket of cold water, check. Upturned mattress, check. Hell, Sage had even jolted him awake with a swift lightning bolt once, after a particularly heavy session. That one hurt. But none of those rude wake-up calls even came close to the latest one; April, frantic, crying and screaming his name.

The drug-induced stupor he’d been dozing in was immediately shattered by her screeching, which simultaneously shredded both his eardrums and his heartstrings. Why was she so loud? What had happened?

Where was he?

His head, which felt at least three times bigger than usual, rolled over his shoulder, past the wailing vampire, until he spied the empty tea jug on the table.

Ah, right. Shit.

Wyatt had experienced this a few times; the fuzzy, phased memory recall as his previous night’s antics came flooding back. He and April were alone in the room, there was no sign of Caleb. And April was freaking out. Wyatt reckoned he must’ve seriously screwed up his datura dosages and rendered them all zombies. Vampire zombies? Whatever. He could fix it.

He struggled upright, wondering what time it was and hoping he had enough time to haul ass, whip up the antidote and get everyone seeing straight before his mum—

“—Is bleeding!” He caught in the midst of April’s ramblings.

“Bleeding?” he repeated stumbling over the coffee table and letting out an involuntary shower of sparks. His head spun a full circle before coming to an uncertain stop. Shit. He’d once accidentally doubled the measurement and hadn’t been this wasted. And there’d definitely never been any, ugh, blood before. Apart from the time that Broof was so loaded that he walked into a door. Or that time Becky fell down the steps. Or… OK, there was sometimes blood. He sighed.

Groaning against the brightness of the light and the high-pitched noise that April kept emitting, he allowed her to take his hand and to start dragging him from the room. Woah, her hands were so cold.

“Apes,” he moaned as he jerked his arm from her frozen grip and tried to slow her down. “Not so fast—”

“We need to hurry!”

“Why? Whatever he’s injured, it’s OK – he’s a dead dude, he won’t get any deader from a few flowers or a cut.” I think. “Lemme go to my room for a bit,” Wyatt said as calmly as he could, given the fact that his ears felt like they were going to explode. “I’ll fix up an antidote in no time—”

“There is no time!” April cried. “He’s going to kill her!”

“Wha—?”

“He attacked Mel,” she sobbed. “They’re on the roof! There’s blood everywhere! Weren’t you listening to me?!”

“Blood… everywhere?” Woah, no. Obviously he hadn’t been. “Sorry, I guess I missed that. Shi—oot,” he hissed. “They’re on the roof? Why did he attack her?”

“Because of me!” she wailed, creepy black tears streaming down her face as she attempted to resume dragging him along. “Because he saw me kissing her!”

“You kissed her?”

April nodded. Her body folded into sobs; her were words broken. “Please. You have to do something before he really hurts her.”

Yeah, he really did, but he had no idea what. The effort of waking up and dragging his feet this far had him knackered – how was he supposed to restrain a bloody ancient vampire? With renewed vigour – or high on trepidation, he wasn’t sure – he sped up his jelly-legged canter towards the roof ladder.

From above he could hear sounds of some sort of struggle punctuated with snarling and shouts of, ‘you missed again, fopdoodle!’

“Oh, she’s alive!” April gushed in relief. “In that case, there’s something else you should know…”

“Oh goddess,” Wyatt groaned, wondering how this situation could be worse. “Let me guess; he’s naked and covered in whipped cream?”

April sniffed back a sob in surprise. “Yes. Well, not the whipped cream part. And more than that, I… um, how did you know that he was naked?”

“I-I didn’t, it was a joke… I… fudge. He’s naked? Really?” Wyatt breathed sharply, looking back up the ladder.

“Now is not the time for jokes,” April said, sounding very much like her mother for a moment. “Yes, he’s naked. Wyatt, tonight Caleb and I… we, um,” she paused, twiddled the fabric on her shorts and looked like she was psyching herself up to say something. “Well, we did… you know.”

He did know. “Do I need to get the chart?” he half-joked.

April’s eyes shot wide. “N-no! I wanted to do it! It was fine,” she whispered, somewhat unconvincingly. “But I think… I think somehow, during it, I broke the binding.”

Wyatt was beginning to feel like he was the one being repeatedly punched in the face. “Woah, really?” was all he could manage.

April nodded. “Really. See, I drank his blood—”

Ick. “Uh, OK.”

“I know, it’s revolting.” April grimaced. “After I drank I felt really weird. And he told me not to stop drinking, but I did stop. And previously, he’d told me not to kiss anyone and then I went and kissed Melinda straight afterwards.”

“Wait – hold up. You kissed Melinda right after bonking Caleb?”

“Oh my goodness! When you put it like that…” April squirmed and covered her face. “That makes it sound so… so slutty!”

The corner of Wyatt’s lips jerked into a small smile. Like father like daughter, he thought, before realising the weight of the words. His face fell as the struggling and snarling above temporarily paused with a sickening thud before resuming.

“Wait down here,” he instructed in a whisper.

“Why?” she whispered back.

“Because there’s not enough room for all of us on the roof thanks to all the props required to cover up Caleb’s non-existent penis.”

“What?”

“Never mind,” Wyatt muttered. “Seriously though, stay down here. This could go so badly and if it does, I’ll need you to get help.”

“How can it go badly? You’re Wyatt! You’ve got super magic!”

“Yeah, that’s the problem—“

“You can do anything! I believe in you! Wipe the floor with him!”

“Geez,” he sighed. “OK, first, I’m not gonna ‘wipe the floor with him’, I’m gonna restrain him. Second, look at me. I’m wasted as balls, Apes. Look, I’m gonna go up there and do… something. But if this all goes tits up – and it really might – I’ll need you to get help, OK?”

“How do I do that? Call Broof?”

“No, that’d be pointless, unless Lilith is with him…” Wyatt thought for a second. “Better option, faster option, would be to summon Mum. You can try and leave, via the store – it’ll probably hurt to try and traverse the barrier, I would think, I dunno how she rigged it, but she’ll know you’re trying, she’ll come ‘porting. Or if you want the slower, more unreliable method use my phone to call her and hope she can remember which button to use to answer it – it’s in my room.”

April pouted, no doubt disappointed that Wyatt wasn’t going to go in, guns blazing and turn the naked vampire into a pile of ash. She seemed to be mulling something over as Wyatt struggled up the ladder, missing rungs and almost falling back down at one point as his limbs and brain refused to communicate.

With way more effort than should have been required, Wyatt finally managed to reach the hatch and, with a final pull, hauled himself, face-first, on to the roof terrace.

It took him a while to steady himself and the sudden whack of fresh air didn’t help with reminding him how trashed he was. Why was he up here again?

Oh, right, yeah. He’d come to break up the dogfight.

Through the hazy blur of both his actual vision and the swiftly-moving objects before him, he could just make out a pair of grey, humanoid shapes that appeared to be Caleb and Melinda. He had hoped from April’s description, that they would be upright in some easily-distinguishable and totally separatable position that involved minimal magical intervention. 

They weren’t, of course.

Heaving a sigh that went completely unnoticed by the duelling duo, Wyatt managed to find his feet and tried to make a plan. Caleb was on top so maybe he could cast some sort of elevation? That wouldn’t hold him for long, but maybe long enough for Melinda to wriggle out from under him.

Heck knows what would happen afterwards. Maybe Caleb would turn on him. Or turn him on.

Wyatt’s thoughts had rapidly descended into filth as they seemed prone to do around Caleb, so it was no surprise to him that his first attempt at casting backfired.

By some miracle, he managed to avoid falling down the ladder and regained enough composure to notice that the pair before him had fallen suspiciously still and quiet.

Shit.

As Melinda stopped moving it all got very real, very fast.

Wyatt had defended Caleb when his Mum had insisted that he was dangerous, that everyone was capable of redemption, that his infliction didn’t immediately make him a monster. But maybe she’d been right. Maybe there was no hope for him.

Wyatt’s heart sank. He wondered if the better option here was to just get his Mum and let her do whatever she needed to do.

But as he peered down the ladder, April was looking up at him. She had remained dutifully mute throughout but she didn’t need to speak for him to hear her, clear as day.

She was terrified and, like it or not, she was relying on him to pull himself together and step up. He knew that attempting to cast was risky, especially when blitzed, but he couldn’t rely on his mum forever. He’d made this whole damn mess, he needed to sort it. And maybe it could still be done amicably.

Unfazed by the unconscious girl at his feet, Caleb rose with an eerie level of calm.

“Where is she?”

Wyatt kept his eyes scrunched firmly shut as he drew up his energy. Hindered by distraction, he whipped his thoughts to imagine his mum in her bathing suit – the slightly-too-small one with the thong. It usually always worked to rein in the horniness, but even that image struggled to block the mental image of Caleb’s phenomenal physique which still pervaded his thoughts.

He needed to focus.

I’ve got this. Holy crap, his ass is so damn peachy… No! Focus!

Wyatt watched as Caleb slowly drifted skywards, supported by the strings that he had woven, until he hit something none of them could see only a few feet above the ground. Wyatt pouted, feeling the resistance trembling through his suspended guest and himself via their invisible bond as he repeatedly nudged Caleb’s face against Sage’s defences and wondered what the heck to do next.

Caleb smirked. “What are you trying to do? Bang my head against this thing until I fall unconscious? It would take more than that,” he laughed, gesturing to the ground beneath him.

“Not cool, dude,” Wyatt hissed through his teeth, like a kettle releasing its steam. His insides bubbled as they boiled, threatening to spill over. “Apes,” he called, without breaking his hold. “You severed the bind, right?”

“No!” Caleb called out, twisting in the air, fighting the hold and forcing Wyatt to channel even more energy into keeping him put. “She didn’t! April, come here!”

“Yes!” April called back. “I did!”

Wyatt’s arms shook as Caleb writhed and attempted to rip his way free. “So, if I blow this jerk to bits, you’ll be OK, right?”

“Oh my goodness.”

“Is that a yes?”

April fell silent. By this point, Wyatt’s extremities were numb. Everything told him this was a terrible idea, that he needed to stop before nature forced him to. But one look at the girl on the floor and back at the snarling, smug face in the sky and nothing else mattered. There was no amicable here. This guy needed to go, one way or another.

“Apes! Yes or no!” Wyatt shouted, hearing her only whimper in response. “April! Yes or nooooo!” he roared over the deafening crash of waves in his ears as he lost all control of his magic, sending Caleb powering through the barrier and shooting through the night sky like a monkey strapped to a rocket.

The roaring in his head turned to ringing and Wyatt felt deflated.

He didn’t hear April approach from behind him, barely registered her as she slipped past and ran straight to Melinda.

“Is… is she OK?” he asked.

April ran her fingertips over Melinda’s lips and gently cradled her face. Wyatt wondered what she was looking for. What signs of life did a vampire have?

“Mel,” April whispered, nudging her friend. “Wake up Mel, he’s gone. You can wake up now.”

The weak, squeaky voice that responded was music to Wyatt’s shattered eardrums.

“Did I win?” Melinda asked.

April laughed and kissed Melinda’s forehead. “Yes, you won. You were so brave and awesome. Then Wyatt sent Caleb flying over the rooftops like it was nothing!”

“Walk in the park,” Wyatt said brightly. He wiped his blood-covered hand on his sweatpants as he blindly felt around for the ladder. “I’m just gonna go lie down because that was… so easy.”

“Can you help me get Mel downstairs?” April asked. “The sun will be up soon.”

The pulsing in Wyatt’s veins grew hotter, boiling him from the inside. The tile beneath his hand bubbled and crackled at his touch. If he tried to help them now, he’d turn them to ash for sure.

“No,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “I mean, Mum’ll be here in literally a minute – there’s no way in hell that she wouldn’t notice that. She’ll help you.”

“Are you OK?”

“Me? Yeah, awesome,” he croaked. “I just drew a little too much magic, that’s all. I’ll be fine.”

Just fine.

I’ll be…

…fine.

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Chapter 3.50 – Apes Harper

Disclaimer: violence

I’m not really sure what happened, but something happened.

It wasn’t simply the way that Caleb was staring at me as if I’d grown a second head. Nor was it the tingly feeling I had in my legs. And it definitely wasn’t because I’d eventually stolen a sneaky peak at a lamp and thought that they looked like two ice cream cones stuck together. No, it was more than that.

It was the surge of rebellion that coursed through me at the first taste of his icky blood. It was the same feeling I used to get when I defied Mother, even slightly. Like that time, at my birthday party, when Broof told me he’d cover for me if I sent Faith and Melinda to my bedroom instead of home. Or the time I told Mother that her new chin looked like a ball sack. Or that time, when I was thirteen and went to Wren’s pet cat’s baby shower.

Wren was a girl from my school whom Mother insisted that I hang out with, even though Wren and her girlfriends hated and called me ‘fish’. I never understood why.

Anyway, her father owned a few successful record labels so Wren’s parties were almost as extravagant as Mother’s. And being Wren’s ‘friend’ I always had to go and always had to ensure that I was in plenty of photographs, looking like I was having fun and not simply wishing to drop dead.

The most important photograph to be in though was the one of Mother collecting me at the end. At the baby shower I stood with Mother while she flirted with the paparazzi, claiming that her outfit she’d spent five hours curating was ‘simply thrown on!’ and pretending to care if I got home safely. I played along, because that was my role.

Little did she know, that day while I stood beside her acting the perfect Del Sol Valley socialite daughter, I had strange items in my underwear and a bra full of frosting.

See, I was given a gift bag to commentate the momentous occasion of a pet giving birth which wasn’t unusual. This bag contained, amongst other things, an item of jewellery, a CD and a sliver of cake. The cake was purely for decoration. Not a crumb of it was ever supposed to pass the lips of any true Del Sol Valley girl, and we all knew it.  

I knew that Mother would confiscate the bag the second she arrived, so I slid the CD into the waistband of my briefs and slipped the necklace into my shoe. I hesitated as I looked at that delicious, sugary slice of cake before deciding that something that smelled so good simply had to be eaten.

I did consider shovelling the whole thing into my mouth, but fear told me not to, that Mother would know, so instead I hid it in my bra. A bra that I wasn’t quite filling yet but that Mother insisted I wear, padded full, as my breasts were ‘embarrassingly underdeveloped’.

Upon my return to the mansion, Mother ordered Broof to dispose of the bag and, after checking my purse for contraband, banished me to my room, so she could supervise Broof disposing of said bag.

I would gift the necklace, a silver ring on a silver chain, to Melinda and the CD, which had two interlocking triangles on the cover, to Faith. As for the cake…

I broke it apart into even smaller pieces than my tissue-stuffed bra had. Then, I took a teeny, tiny piece with me down to breakfast each morning, in my bra, of course.

I politely nibbled whatever garnish was served with my breakfast while Mother insulted me, praised herself or moaned about the world and then, the first moment she was distracted, I stuffed that sweet, sweet strawberry flavoured bite of cake into my face. I savoured the miniscule morsels right under her nose every single day until I had eaten the whole slice.

That moment in bed with Caleb, right after I’d bitten him, felt just like that, but without the sticky boobs. It felt better, even. It felt like the biggest piece of cake ever and like I’d realised that everyone else was missing out on all the glorious cake because they were following their stupid rules. I felt like I’d rebelled at Wren’s stupid party and eaten the whole damn cake until I was fat and sick and disgusting.

I felt like, instead of smiling beside Mother like everything was fine, I’d shouted from the rooftops about how much I hated my ‘perfect’ life. Ungrateful. Proclaimed for all to hear about how often I’d fantasised of jumping from my balcony just so I could leave, one way or another.

Biting Caleb felt like finally peeling off the last layer of the pampered illusion of April Moss, shedding everything I was meant to be and revealing the girl beneath. And that girl was unashamedly flawed; she was super weird.

She liked movies where everyone died in grisly and absurd ways. She liked eating things that were eighty percent sugar and twenty percent artificial colours and flavourings. She didn’t care if her jeans got tight or that her boobs didn’t fill their DD-sized cups. She thought girls were much nicer to touch and kiss than boys were.

One girl in particular.

At that thought, that liberating realisation, I felt like April Moss had taken her last choked breath and curled up and died in an overly-perfumed ball of sadness. I was no longer April Moss: Sandy Moss’s daughter. No. I was Apes Harper.

And Apes Harper didn’t have to pretend to be anyone. She was her own person. She was free.

I had been staring at the ceiling while Caleb half-dozed beside me. He suddenly reached out to pull me into an embrace, turning my face towards him a moment before the bedroom door opened a crack.

Panic fluttered in my chest.

“It’s no one,” he whispered, settling me back against him and nuzzling my hair. I relaxed a little and heard the door close, leaving only the faintest hint of candied violets in the air.

“I need to go to the bathroom,” I lied, wriggling from his arms.

He held me firm and smirked. “I didn’t know that vampires needed to use bathrooms,” he teased, mimicking our first encounter. I pushed his arms away with a little more urgency, the lies coming easier than they had for a while.

“I still do, sometimes, rarely. I think perhaps because I’m a new vampire and my tummy isn’t shrivelled up?” He shook his head and held me firm. “Or… or maybe,” I tried again. “Maybe as I’m so new, I just still have some residual um… poo to get rid of.”

His hand, which had been idly caressing my naked bum, immediately left me. He grimaced.

“Humans are revolting. Fine, but once you’ve, ugh, emptied come straight back here,” he murmured, as he fell back to his pillow. His pale body and all its taut muscle was almost glowing, ghostly white in the low light. His thing rested on his belly, already looking like it was ready for more. A smile appeared on his face as he caught me looking at it.

“Don’t be long.”

I blushed, I think, and scrambled on the floor for my discarded shorts, the fading scent of Melinda’s perfume spurring me on through the nerves. “I’ll be five minutes,” I said robotically.

I had zero intention of ever coming back.

I followed the trail of sweet fragrance and partly-closed doors to find myself on a cute little roof terrace. Melinda was leaning against the balustrade in only her pyjamas, the cool night air blowing strands of her hair astray where they caught the moonlight making her look like she was alight.

My chest thumped almost like my heart was trying to beat. My sludgy brain slowly stirred to life, kicking itself in realisation. Mother had set me up on dates with numerous boys, each one richer and more handsome than the last, despite me having no interest in them. Mother had told me repeatedly that girls can’t love girls.

I had never stopped to ask myself why Mother felt the need to do those things.

I had never stopped to wonder why I’d cheerfully invite Melinda over and then spend the visit running through everything that made me miserable until I was crying in her arms.

I never did that with Faith.

I had never asked myself why I’d lure Melinda into dull conversations simply so I had a reason to press mouth to hers and physically stop her from talking. I had never admitted, even to myself, that her amazing mind, her lithe frame and her soft tongue dancing with my own occupied my most private thoughts.

April Moss hadn’t realised that she’d had a huge crush on Melinda, but I did. Apes Harper did.

April Moss couldn’t have done a damn thing about it anyway, but Apes Harper sure could.

At first she resisted me and I worried that she didn’t like me anymore, and then…

Even though I’m also a cold, undead thing, nothing quite compares to how it feels when one of the ancient vampires enters the vicinity. It’s like someone turning the thermostat way down, bringing up all those tiny bumps on your arms. Despite spending most of the night with him, and supposedly being his puppet wife, I didn’t feel any regret or shame or anything much at all as Caleb appeared, his face frozen somewhere between hurt and anger.

Melinda’s eyes were naturally drawn to faces, but this time she had a hard time lifting her gaze that high. At least she could say that she had also now seen a willy in real life, I thought.

“Oh! Caleb, you silly goose!” I laughed. “You forgot to put your trousers on.”

Caleb seemed completely unbothered by the fact that he was naked on the roof where the neighbours could see. He looked between me and Melinda and shook his head.

“April, come here.”

Our fingers had not fully untangled at Caleb’s appearance but Melinda immediately began pulling away. Although I had no compulsion like I’d had before to answer to Caleb, after a lifetime of conditioning to obey the direct orders from an angry superior, I still felt a need to obey.

Melinda was whispering to me in a strange voice, it’s OK; I will survive if you choose Caleb.

I turned to her and was amazed that even though her lips weren’t moving, I could still hear her. It’s OK, if that’s what you want I’ll be OK. But I won’t give you another chance, she thought, I can’t give you another chance.

“No,” I whispered.

“No?” Melinda repeated.

“No,” I reiterated, squeezing Melinda’s hand firmly. Confidence roared through me with that slender hand in mine, squeezing back. I could do anything; I was Apes Harper. “No, Caleb, I’m not coming with you. I’m happy here.”

Caleb nodded and for the briefest, most fleeting moment, I thought that he’d simply give up. Maybe he’d go and get dressed and gracefully accept that he couldn’t just bully me into doing whatever he wanted me to. Maybe then we’d all go and have a nice cup of blood and watch some more movies.

I think believing that may have been a touch naïve of me.

I could sense the rising panic in the air, I wasn’t sure of the source, as Caleb’s fine features completed their shift into something beyond life, something cold and demonic.

“Get over here,” he ordered, “now.”

“N-no—”

Caleb roared and stomped his foot, like a toddler having a tantrum. Like I’d been doing since he’d turned me.

“…can you blame him for treating you like a child, April? Since you became a vampire you’ve been throwing tantrums, getting jealous over nothing…”

“Get over here!” Caleb shouted. “You’re not hers, you’re mine! You belong to me!”

“No! She’s mine. She’ll go to Lilith… I’m not letting her go!”

Faced with those glacial eyes and that rabid expression the fight rapidly evaporated from me. As he stormed towards me, April Moss crawled back out of the grave she’d fallen in. I covered my face waiting for the worst. I sensed a shadow appear before me and dared to open my eyes, only to see the back of Melinda’s head.

“Caleb!” she squeaked. “She doesn’t belong to you – she is not a toy!”

He tried to push her out of the way, but she held her ground.

“No,” she said firmly. “Look at what you’re doing! You’re scaring her! I’m not letting you anywhere near her when you’re like this. Go and calm down.”

He laughed, a horrible mocking kind of laugh and he grabbed Melinda’s arm. Or, at least he tried to. She snapped it from his trajectory and dodged him. He grabbed her other arm, managing to fling her towards the edge of the balcony.

Like some kind of slippery ninja, she managed to shrug off his grasp and leap up on to the fencing.

Then I watched in slow motion as she lost her footing and fell over.

I think I screamed as she vanished from view then immediately turned my scream into a sound of choked confusion as she bounced straight back.

Caleb looked as confused as I was but Melinda understood. She was so smart.

“Sage’s barrier – we can’t get through,” she explained as she snarled at Caleb. “You can’t get rid of me that easily, you pasty noodle.”

“What are you doing?” I whispered frantically. “Don’t antagonise him!”

“I’m distracting him while you go wake Wyatt,” she whispered back.

“What? Distracting him how?”

She swallowed hard, rising to her full height. “You lost to me again, Caleb,” she sneered. “Can’t win a race, can’t outwit me, can’t keep your girl. Is there anything you’re good at?”

Frothing at the mouth, Caleb lunged directly at Melinda. Maybe she wasn’t fast enough to dodge, or maybe that was part of her plan, I didn’t know. The pair became a moving smudge.

I knew that I needed to go and find Wyatt, but my feet were glued to the floor in my panic. I could only watch the wind changing colour before me as Caleb and Melinda fought in a blur of flying limbs.

I’d only seen a few fights in my lifetime and they were mostly the hair pulling and insult throwing kind that were easily separated by someone who wasn’t a huge scaredy cat, like I was. But I wasn’t even really seeing this fight. How could I break up a rift between two vampires who were faster than me?

“Stop it!” I cried out. “Caleb!”

That didn’t work.

I heard a gargled yell, a vicious crack and a spray of black fluid emerged from the angry blob to land near my feet. It looked like the stuff I got from my wrist when I did my pregnancy test—

Oh my goodness.

I screamed, unable to tear my eyes from the splatter of blood on the floor. There was definitely no Seth this time. No one was going to intervene. I needed to be brave. I needed to get to Wyatt. And I needed to be fast.

I think I must have fallen down the ladder, bumped my head and lost consciousness for a moment. Either that or I teleported, because I reached the snug almost instantly. Wyatt was still exactly where we left him; snoring and oblivious.

He looked so peaceful and content in whatever dream he was having that I almost hesitated to wake him with this nightmare.

Almost.

“Wyatt!” I wailed like a banshee. “Wake up! Wake up!”

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Chapter 3.49 – Hot and Bothered

Disclaimer: morbid self-harm

He had allowed her to leave and then he’d trashed the apartment just because.

Because he had no idea how this new power worked. It simmered hot in his sluggish veins, taunting him with a ferociousness that felt like Faith herself. And, just like Faith, it was stubbornly refusing to cooperate with his will. It amplified and reflected everything he did, that much was clear, but only insofar as to thwart him endlessly.

Seth didn’t understand; when he had taken Lilith’s ability to rewind and Caleb’s mind control, he had slipped into his new powers like one might don a custom-made pair of gloves. Instinctively, he had known what to do, how to use his new gifts. He had, of course, had to train himself to master them, but right off the bat they were usable, they felt right.

But this one? It didn’t fit. It didn’t feel right.

And even if it had – whisper it – he wasn’t sure it was worth it.

His full stomach lurched at that thought. When he had taken from the Vatores, the only regret he’d had was that he hadn’t done it sooner. But the second Faith had fallen limp in his arms, the second he thought he might have lost her, he had realised that those feelings, those pesky, interfering sentiments weren’t simply borne of the desire to rob her of her delicious power. Nor were they a product of her own mind, manipulating him.

No. They were, unfortunately, genuine. He really did love her.

“You don’t know what love is.”

The bitter irony that that moment was the only one in his waking existence where he honestly did know what love was. He had felt it through Faith’s feelings for her sister and he woefully, too late, realised that he felt it for Faith herself.

And so, after he had watched her stagger from the apartment, down the street, into the darkness and out of his unlife – where she deserved to be – after trashing the apartment and fighting, fruitlessly, with the spoils of his favourite game, Seth had done what Seth did best.

He needed to soothe his desire to rip out a few hearts just because.

Because he’d royally buggered things up. Because he’d wanted everything and ended with nothing.

Because he’d hurt someone he cared about. Again.

Because he’d allowed himself to care.

Again.

He rampaged to blind himself of every memory of her. He savaged until he was almost black-out drunk on blood, on endorphins, on adrenaline, on the chemicals of life that repeatedly passed him by. He had no idea whatsoever who any of his prey were; every time he’d tried to read them, he’d failed and ended up reading himself.

“You try my patience, Seth, and see what happens…”

A few weeks ago, he’d have loved this, explored every memory, every thought he could find, but not now. Now there was no denying it; every emerging memory seemed worse than the last. There had been so little hope, scarce pleasure, no lasting happiness.

Perhaps never more so than present. After all the blood was shed, after all the rage was gone, with the liquor of a half-dozen fresh corpses on his tongue he could still taste her. As he’d wandered through the countryside, bombarded with endless memories he didn’t want, his inners sloshing as if he were nothing but a glorified bucket, he’d seen glimpses of her from the corner of his eye, in the trees, in the shadows. She’d haunted him with her pale grey eyes; her ghosts of irises. As he’d climbed the water tower, she’d followed him.

As the stars faded and the world approached sunrise, he’d been obsessing over every detail of her, inside and out. He knew that he needed to let her go, but, as his memories were proving over and over, he couldn’t let anything go.

Seth rose to his feet to leave and his worn boots slipped slightly on the sheet metal roof of the rusty tower. Steadying himself, he felt a brief moment of relief that he hadn’t fallen, followed by a pang of disappointment at that fact.

Morbidly curious, he inched his way to the edge and peered over. He knew it wouldn’t kill him, unless he was mightily unfortunate with his landing, but he wondered how much it would hurt, what he would break, how long it would take to heal.

He wondered if it would compare.

He’d watched her go, battered, broken and defeated, with a swelling ache in his chest. He’d done that; he’d wounded her. Every beat of hope he had that he could keep her went with that realisation. Of course she wouldn’t stay.

Whoever would?

“I’ll be back at sunset to clean up your remains because someone will have to…”

“…You selfish arse!”

Melinda had awoken just before sunrise, on her bed, in her pyjamas, with an ashen taste in her mouth, a thumping in her head and sense of dread. She’d sworn it to herself the last time she’d consumed mind-bending beverages, but this time she was adamant – she was never ever drinking again.

The room swayed slowly into focus as Melinda pushed herself upright and groggily scoped her surroundings. April didn’t know how to make a bed properly, so the fact that the pristinely-pressed sheets were still tightly tucked in perfect pinfolds told Melinda that her blonde buddy hadn’t used it.

Perhaps April was still in the snug, with Wyatt and Caleb, ‘doing magic’ and talking nonsense.

Melinda left the bedroom and quietly walked the series of corridors that led to the snug. She listened outside but could hear no voices. Gently pushing it open, she saw Wyatt asleep on the sofa, snoring loudly with a puddle of drool under his cheek. There was no sign of April or Caleb.

Her heart sank. Oh no. How long had Wyatt been out? Melinda gently pulled the door closed behind her and paused to listen, to contemplate. The apartment was still and silent.

She walked slowly around, listening for any sign of the wayward couple, looking for any hints of struggle or… worse. The living room was empty, the kitchen was empty, Wyatt’s room was empty.

Melinda paused with her fingers on the handle leading to Sage’s bedroom. She hadn’t explicitly been told she couldn’t come in here, but being so close to this door felt like a violation. She was tempted to knock, but changed her mind, silently turning the handle and peering in.

In the dim light of the bedroom, she could see two figures, limbs entwined, cuddling on the bed. Caleb shifted, pulling April closer and nuzzling into her hair. April moved into his arms with a contented sigh.

The sinking heart feeling transitioned from slow, gradually-lowering, dead weight to a straight down plummet from chest to floor.

She wasn’t even sure that she’d closed the door, she just needed to get away from it. Melinda briefly considered fleeing to her workshop, but couldn’t have promised that she’d leave all the pots intact and some of them were really darn pretty, in her opinion – her painting lately really seemed to be taking on an edge.

Instead, she scrambled back through the corridors, reaching what looked at first glance like a cupboard and climbed inside, feeling around until her fingers caught on to the rails of a ladder.

She and Wyatt had been up here a few nights back, watching the stars. It had been really nice, having someone new to point out constellations to, even if Wyatt, like his daughter, hadn’t genuinely been that interested.

At least he hadn’t tried to kiss her to shut her up.

The sun hadn’t come up yet. Melinda lingered at the edge of the balcony, trying to push the darkened, blurry image of Caleb and April from her mind. She should be happy, right? That he appeared to have taken all his lessons to heart and was being sweet with her? She should be happy that April was happy, right?

Right?

But she wasn’t. Melinda wasn’t happy at all.

“Mel? Oh my good god,” she said breathlessly. “It really is you.”

Melinda almost lost any shred of cool she had, hearing that sweet, melodic voice. She flicked her gaze briefly to April, taking in her crumpled clothes and sheepish expression before looking back over the view.

“I see you and Caleb got close,” she whispered.

April twisted the fabric of her blousy shorts in her fist, and nodded. Something about this action irritated Melinda. What was she expecting from April? Denial? Regret?

She cleared her throat, fighting against the jealousy and the spite. “Did he hurt you?”

Please say yes – I mean, no. Yes, no, yes… no, ugh! Was she a horrible person for wishing that Caleb had treated April badly so that she could pick up the pieces?

Yes. Yes that was horrible thing to wish for. Fudge.

April shrugged and rolled her eyes up to meet Melinda’s, briefly, before focusing on the floor. “No… he didn’t. He was quite gentle really. For Caleb,” she added quickly. “And it was my idea. Sort of. Mostly. I didn’t not want to.”

For a moment nothing was said, Melinda just watched April as she memorised the floor pattern.

She looked back out over the view. “I see.”

That was clearly not the reaction April was hoping to elicit. With confusion written all over her beautiful face, she reached out towards Melinda, the way she used to. She playfully swung her arms as she hummed a little tune, turned her face towards the sky and said,” Is that Mars?”

Something in Melinda simply snapped.

“No it’s not Mars!” she squeaked, her voice doing that gosh darn annoying thing it did when she was emotive. “Quit it, April!”

April pouted and reached out again, only to be rebuffed. She looked at her hand, at Melinda’s arm, back at Melinda’s face.

“What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?! Don’t you realise what you’re doing?”

April hesitated. She reached out again, without conviction and then continued to fumble with her shorts as she shook her head. “I just… I,” she gulped. “I wanted to touch you…”

Melinda felt her eye twitch. With the after effects of the tea, it seemed to be making her whole head twitch like she had lice.

“You’re with Caleb,” Melinda reminded her. “You spent the night with Caleb. You even smell like Caleb.”

“I do?”

Melinda wrinkled her nose and turned away. “You can’t come to me after that and just expect me to be OK with… whatever this is.”

“What is this?” April whispered.

Melinda growled to cover the fact that she didn’t really know. A one-sided crush? A game April liked to play; tease the lesbian? She licked her lips, but her mouth was so dry that her tongue stuck to them. She turned away for a second so April couldn’t see the failure she was having before rounding back.

To her surprise, she came almost nose to nose with April.

She was so close. Oh gosh. So close. Barely dressed. Melinda took a step back, for sanity.

April reached for Melinda’s slender hand and linked their fingers.

“I’ve realised something,” she whispered, so quietly, as if divulging a huge secret. “I don’t like him very much.”

Melinda couldn’t hold back her sarcastic laugh. But April never had been good with sarcasm and, misunderstanding, she laughed too.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it? But, Mel, last night Caleb and I were making love for hours. Hours,” she emphasised quietly, as Melinda wondered what point she was trying to make. Was she being her usual, slightly clueless self, or was she simply rubbing salt in the wounds?  

“Hours,” Melinda repeated. Her voice was deadpan but inside she was falling to bits.

April nodded. “Yes. Oh my goodness, Mel. It was never-ending. It was so boring!”

“What?” Melinda asked, genuinely surprised. “It was boring?”

“Yes. Well it did feel quite nice, some of it. The start of it was super nice, oh gosh. But then after it didn’t feel – I don’t know how to explain it.” She laughed a little, shyly. “My body felt all tingly and happy but my mind was… not on the same page. Does that make sense?”

Melinda swallowed, hard, trying not to read too much into anything.

“Perhaps because of what happened before? Perhaps you’re still healing,” she offered.

“Hm,” April mused, sadly. “I felt super bad for him. He could tell I wasn’t having any fun and he tried all these things but even then, it didn’t make me feel… anything, really. It just felt like, going through the motions? In the end I just lied and I, um…” she squirmed. “I pretended I was having more fun than I was until he had had enough of me. Then we cuddled. That bit was quite nice.”

Melinda made a noise that almost sounded like a word but by this point, was more a cry for help. Again, April didn’t catch it. She looked at the floor, her voice breathy and full of giggles as she whispered, “Have you ever seen a willy up close in real life, Mel?

Melinda didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “No,” she replied. Nor do I want to.

“They’re so weird-looking,” April said with amazement. “Like… a stiff noodle. Faith once told me that looking at naked men made her all hot and bothered, but I had to try really hard not to laugh at Caleb when he got naked because it was so funny, just bobbing there! He said I could do whatever I wanted with it, but I didn’t want to do anything with it, perhaps other than grab it and wave it around like one of those noisemaker rattles. That wasn’t what he meant, though.” She huffed. “Anyway, remember how Faith told us that biting Seth was the hottest thing ever—”

“Faith lies a lot,” Melinda mumbled then her chin shot up. “Wait a second; didn’t Caleb tell you not to talk about Seth?”

April tilted her head to her shoulder and her face slowly morphed into a huge grin. “Oh! Yes! He did.”

“So, did he undo that command, or…”

April shook her head. “No. I think… maybe being in the magic house has done something? Because he also told me not to stop drinking from him, but I defied that too,” she said proudly.

Melinda’s brain, which had been confused and grossed-out by thoughts of naked Caleb was immediately buzzing. “You drank from him? You stopped even though he said not to? You defied him?” April nodded along. “Oh my gosh, April, that’s huge!”

“I know.” April smiled, moving nearer. In her newly heightened state, Melinda went willingly; April’s big, blue eyes getting closer… closer… until her face was all she could see in her field of vision.

Melinda had been wrong. April didn’t smell like Caleb at all; she smelled glorious.

“There was something else Caleb told me not to do,” April whispered playfully, invading Melinda’s space. “He told me I wasn’t allowed to kiss anyone except him. I think we should test if I can defy that.”

Bang! Back to Earth.

“Right. April, I don’t know what game this is, but you can’t keep treating me like this.”

“Like what?”

“Like I mean something!” Melinda growled. “You’re with Caleb! You told me that you didn’t like being apart from him, that you ‘love’ him. You spend the night with him and then come up here and try to kiss me? You don’t understand how much that hurts. You know how I feel about you.”

“No, you don’t understand!” April whined, even though she was making no sense. She smacked herself on the forehead. “Gah! I don’t know how to explain. Stupid girl. Look, I don’t want to be with Caleb – I think my bind wants to be with Caleb! My bind wants his weird man bits, not me!”

“Whatever,” Melinda huffed. “So what do ‘you’ want?”

I want to be with you.” She stroked a stray lock of hair from Melinda’s eyes. “Being around you makes me all ‘hot and bothered’, Mel. I think that last night started so good because I had been cuddling with you. And the second I got up here and saw you, I felt so… happy.”

“You don’t mean this; you’re buttering me up.” And it’s working, darn it!

“I do mean it. You’re so soft and so gentle and so, so pretty.”

“I’m pretty?”

April nodded. “You’re super pretty, Mel. I don’t care what Mother said; I think she was wrong about a lot of things. Like when she said that all poor people should be eaten by cowplants and that ‘girls can’t love girls’. I think girls can love girls, don’t you?”

April allowed her soft, pink lips to brush against Melinda’s now arid ones, gently causing them to part. Melinda whimpered, back in a place she never thought she’d be but desperately never wanting to leave it. Aprils hands tangled into her hair, her own hovered at April’s waist, not daring to touch her as she fought not to lose her head completely.

She was afraid to move, afraid to open her eyes, afraid that she’d find she was hallucinating, that none of this was real.