Author: Diane A. Doty
Summary: Derek gets a wish, only to have it shattered.
Spoilers: Subject: The Harbingers
Disclaimer: I don't own Freakylinks. If I did, you can only imagine what would happen, and 'Snoop Dog' wouldn't be in the picture. Also, Alice In Wonderland is quoted here often, I don't own that either...I have no idea who has the rights to all of this, but not me, and no infringement intended. If you want to sue me, I think there's five bucks in my bank account...hell I'll throw in my car too...That'll take it up to 15 dollars easily!
Author Notes: 'This is the fic that wouldn't end. Yes it goes on and on my friend...' This entire thing was written before Subject: The Harbingers in 3rd person, then changed to 1st person and to fit into that episode a little better. I wrote the whole thing, and decided I didn't like the ending. So I wrote a new one. And now I can't choose which I like best, so you, the reader, get to choose which ending you want to read. The 'It's So Perfect My Teeth Ache' (to quote our favorite American in the Uncharted Territories) or the 'Realistic, Less Happy Ending'. I can't make up my mind, okay?
Thankyous: Michelle, Lena, and everyone else I forced to read rough drafts of this and assured me that the characterization was right...This would be crappier without the help, trust me.
Enough blabbing. I'm sending the different endings in separate emails, so you don't have to read both if you don't want to....Feedback good...
By Diane A. Doty
I was feeling better then I had been in years when I went to the cemetery. To say that isn't saying all that much, considering for the past three years I was convinced I was responsible for killing the person who I was visiting. But, for the first time in three years I felt I had finally started my penance. I finished what he had started in Cassadega, and that was a start.
I was there because of the one question that still spun around in my head. Why? I wanted to know what drove him over the edge. Obviously, he knew how to stop the Harbingers. But he killed himself before finished. Why?
Going to a cemetery to think maybe an odd thing to do, but I felt that being close to Adam's final resting place would help, as insane as that sounds. Maybe he'd hear my questions better that way. I dunno. I just deiced that that was where I was supposed to go, so I went.
It was raining. I think that I've visited Adam's grave once when it wasn't raining. Life isn't a damn movie, but it seems to enjoy trying to imitate it sometimes. Anyway, I just stood there, looking down at his grave, and started talking. Talking to yourself is supposed to be a sign of insanity, but I wasn't talking to myself, I was talking to Adam.
"Hey. You're never done with the surprises, are you? I don't even know if you are really down there. God, I hope not. You have no idea how much I wish you were here, right now, next to me...Laughing at me for crying about all of this."
"Sometimes people get their wishes."
I jumped when the all too familiar voice came from next to me. I turned and was faced by my not-so-dead-dead-brother grinning at me. I nearly fainted in shock. I couldn't talk, couldn't think, hell I couldn't even breathe. All the shocks I had seen from the website, including that damn QuickTime in October, didn't add up to the extreme surprise of having the dead standing next to me.
I tried to speak, to say something, even if I couldn't think of anything to say, but I couldn't get my body to listen. My chest was completely locked up, stuck halfway between breathing in and exhaling. I felt dizzy, black spots floating around me. My legs didn't want to support me. I was really going to pass out from shock; I realized this as dimly as I realized that my heart was racing.
Adam just kept grinning at me, though there was concern in his eyes. "Whoa, don't pass out on me, Derek."
I forced myself to gasp in air. "You...you...Adam?" I managed to say, still not mastering the art of breathing very well.
All the emotions I had felt in the past three years reared up at the moment, and for some reason, anger won out. "You son of a bitch!" I swung out at him.
My fist connected with solid flesh. Surprisingly solid flesh. Solid flesh that stumbled backwards. I don't know who was more surprised by the punch, him or me. He looked back at me with the same surprised look that was undoubtedly on my face.
For a full minute there was silence, then Adam grinned. "Glad to see me?" He asked, putting a hand to his bleeding lip.
"I thought you were dead you bastard!" I heard myself screaming, still not in full control of my anger. I never thought that anger would come out before everything else. At least I was breathing somewhat regularly, that was better then two minutes before.
"I know. You had to." Adam said, after yet another silence.
"How'd I fake it?"
I nodded quickly, still dazed by surprise.
"That's a long story for another time. I don't have enough time."
"Time?" I echoed. His time was limited. I didn't like that idea.
"I can't stay...not yet." He looked at the muddy ground.
It was like he slapped me in the face. "You're leaving again?"
"I regret calling you that night." Adam said, as if I didn't ask the question. "I knew you'd blame yourself. But you would've blamed yourself no matter what. The call made it real...And I wanted to see you one last time...But it had to be done then. I don't think you can understand it. Not yet. Soon. I swear I'll explain it all."
"When?" I snapped, angered once again. Why did he have to leave? I didn't want that.
"Eventually. I'm taking a lot of risks being here. More then you can imagine...You've only seen the tip of it, Derek. You were right. The Harbingers were only the tip of the iceberg. There's more...So many more. They watch you, like they were watching me. Telling you to back off isn't going to stop you. It didn't stop me. But keep your eyes open, and keep medallion protected, okay? Its power is infinite."
I felt myself nodding dumbly. Shock was sitting on the edge of my mind, threatening to completely takeover.
"Look, you can't tell Mom or Chloe. All right? It's important that you don't. There's a lot more at stake then just my soul, Derek."
"I don't..." I swallowed, trying hard to stay focused on what he was saying and not on the fact that he was leaving. "I don't understand this, Adam!"
He smiled again. That was the same smile he gave me when he talked about the things he was learning is his college classes --'You don't get it, Derek.' -- the smile that drove me nuts. "I know. Just promise you won't say a word to anyone."
"I..." It was hard, considering Mom's and Chloe's pain. "I promise."
"It's to protect them. I may have just endangered you." He paused, looking away. "I just had to come. I know how much of this is hurting you...I read the page. I'm sorry you received that file in October, I really am."
I remembered the late night conversation with Chloe in Cassadega. "This hurts Chloe too."
He was looking once again at the ground. "I know." He looked back up at me, smiling once again. "Thank you for finishing Cassadega for me."
"Why didn't you do it yourself?" I asked. If he hadn't really been dead, then why did he let that go on in the town?
He didn't answer me. Instead, he pulled me into a hug. This all was way too surreal.
Before anything else could be said, Adam had him in a tight hug. I returned it, my eyes closed. This was all too surreal. It was like all those dreams I had about him. Finally getting to hug him, to feel that he was real. To be complete again.
"It'll be okay." Adam said, not letting go. "I promise. Soon, I'll be back and you can help protect me from Chloe. I hear she boxes now. I bet her right hook is worse then yours. And yes, I deserve it."
I smiled at the rush of words. I missed my brother's excited A leads to B leads to C way of talking.
"She needs you." I said, reluctant to let go of the hug. I really thought that if I kept holding him then he wouldn't leave, and I wouldn't be half of a whole anymore...A childish thought, I know, but I thought it all the same. "I need you too." I added.
Adam leaned back, breaking the embrace. I was surprised to see that he was grinning. "You were right about me laughing at you for getting like this."
I didn't return the smile. "I thought it was my fault."
"I know. You have no idea how many times I wished I could call you, Derek...I have to go now. Please this has to say between just you and me."
"Don't go. Whatever happens, I'll help you." I felt close to tears. Three years of pain and guilt, and now that the one thing I wanted in the world was back, and he was going to leave me again. "Please, Adam."
"I walked into this all myself. I'm going to get out of it myself."
"No!" It was the only thing I could think to say, and totally ineffectual. I knew that just by looking at his eyes.
"Derek, I have to. More is at stake then me. Good verses Evil, Derek."
"This is not some goddamned war, Adam!" Anger was back.
"It is. It is and you know that in your heart as well. I have to go. I'll be back. I promise."
He just turned and left me, not even looking back once. I took everything I had in me to stay standing there in the rain, watching him leave and not run after him. I had seen enough already to know that this was bigger then me or Adam and that he was right.
But why did it feel like half of my heart was being ripped away?...Again.
That night all I wanted to do was be alone, but Lan and Jason had different ideas. After that trip, the two of them seemed dedicated to proving to me that I wasn't alone. Not that I minded, and not that I need them to prove that too me. I already knew that I had they would both be there, hell Jason had proven it by calling me on things he was right for saying.
Long story short, the dragged me out to a bar. And I, being the wonderful griever that I am, drank more then I should've. Lan even followed me into the house. She seems to enjoy the mother hen mode. Who am I to stop her?
"Are you all right? You want me to crash on the couch?" Lan asked. She seemed to be talking from far away.
"I'm okay." My words were slightly slurred, and I was aware that I was yelling, I just couldn't help it. "I'm just gonna go t' sleep. Promise I won't do anything else, Mom."
"Very funny. Just remember to thank Jason when you wake up." Lan said, smiling.
I had no idea what I should be thanking Jason for."For wha'?"
"Saving your ass. If you didn't notice, that big guy standing behind that blond was her boyfriend."
"Oh." That was the only response I could think of. I only had vague memories of the guy, not very clear ones of the girl either.
"You aren't gonna fall going up the stairs, are you?" Lan asked after a brief silence.
"I hope not." I answered, finding the thought funny for some reason. I giggled. Lan just stared at me, unamused. "Sucks to be the designated driver, huh?"
"Big time. You sure you're okay? I don't mind staying."
I didn't doubt that. I pulled her into a hug, surprising her and myself. "'S okay, Lanny. Really. I'm perfectly fine." The fact that perfectly was a real pain to get out and the fact that I was holding her in a bear hug didn't seem to help prove my point.
Lan had to physically pull my arms off of her. "Yeah, sure, Derek."
"I'm fine! Want me to walk in a straight line, officer?" I started to attempt to walk a straight line, but she stopped me.
"No. Just drink a glass of water and go to bed, okay?"
I saluted, still grinning. Part of my mind told me I was acting like an idiot, but that part and the part that was controlling my actions didn't seem to be listening to each other.
Lan smiled as she went to the door, then turned around. "You'll call me if you need me, right?"
I nodded, a little too vigorously and nearly lost my balance. Once Lan was out the door and heading to a sleeping Jason (apparently the car ride and alcohol was enough to knock him out), I let the smile drop.
I moved to the kitchen, hating my clumsy movements, but eventually managing to fill up a glass of cold water and down it. I had learned that drinking water and non-aspirin pain relievers really helped with a hangover...Too bad I was out of the non-aspirin stuff.
Abandoning that idea and really too drunk to care, I stumbled up the stairs and flopped face down on the bed. All thoughts of Adam had been pushed away by my buddy Jack D. At least; they had been until I heard a familiar laugh. Feeling odd and foggy, I managed to turn around and make it to a sitting position eyes locked on the corner of my previously empty room. Jason's words popped into my mind. 'Oh, man that freak is everywhere.'
Vince Elsing just smiled at me, as if I knew he'd be showing up sooner or later. I tried to stand up and wound up loosing my balance and falling back to the bed. I didn't like that he was here. I thought I had been done with the man. Apparently not.
He pulled me to my feet by the front of my shirt. "You picked a really bad time to get shit faced, boy!"
The fact that I am twenty-seven and being referred to as 'boy' annoyed me. I almost said something about that; my mind focused on the word and not the rest of the sentence. It was, until Vince shook me. The world spun around me, and for a minute, I was convinced I was going to loose it on Vince's shoes.
"Are you listening' now?" Vince asked. "This is important. You are in a lot of danger if you do what you are thinking of."
"What am I thinking of?" I snapped, annoyed by the intrusion into my house, annoyed by the damn riddles.
"You want to find your brother. Big mistake going to see you. Now you're in even more danger. They were watchin'. Damn fool nearly got himself killed. Now they're really watchin' you. I'd keep my eyes open if I were you. And not do anythin' foolish like go searching or putting your nose were it shouldn't go. You're started to become as much of a threat as Adam. You go after him and they'll use you to get to him, and then they'll kill you both."
I just found myself nodding, my mind spinning even further out of clear thought. I wasn't exactly surprised when Vince pushed me roughly backwards. I got tripped up on the back of the mattress and fell. When I finally got to my feet again, Vince was gone. Big surprise there.
With a groan, I laid down on the bed, my mind still running in circles. I thought of everything that happened that day. Adam reappeared then left. Sat in the dark until Jason and Lan showed up. Got piss drunk while hitting on women with big boyfriends. Came home and Vince showed up, making about as much sense as Adam did.
Where did that leave me? Confused. My mind was running in circles, enjoying its little caucus-race like the characters in Alice in Wonderland did. I felt like Alice, trying to get the thoughts to stop, and being pulled along despite the fact that I didn't want to be.
I fell asleep while reciting the Dodo's words.
My waking thought was that I really needed to think about my obsession with Alice in Wonderland. The second was about how stupid and totally off that the first one was from what I should've been thinking about. The third was that I was thirsty, making the forth the all-important 'My bladder is gonna explode' thought.
A few minutes later I was downstairs, smiling when I saw Lan at one of the terminals already. I felt a little bit of embarrassment for the night before, but I did my best not to let it show.
I wanted to tell her about Vince, I had learned that not mentioning Vince wasn't a good idea, but part of me didn't want to. It was me that was in danger, and if I told her about that, I'd have to tell her about Adam showing up. That would be breaking my promise to my brother, and I wouldn't do that.
"You're alive!" Lan said, smiling at me.
I returned the smile. "I am. What time is it?"
"Almost three. You feel okay?"
I nodded, trying my hardest to ignore a growing headache. "Fine."
"Good. I was just updating the message boards."
I smiled again and sat at the one computer I could handle using without breaking something important. Jack informed me I had sixty-seven emails. I almost groaned, scanning through the subject lines, looking for anything that seemed important.
Then I saw the all too familiar sender. Lazarus. The sender of the QuickTime that had Adam in it. I bit my lower lip, debating deleting it without opening. Curiosity killed the cat and...
"That's what happened to the oysters."
"What?" Lan asked, startling me.
I turned in the chair to face her, realizing that I had spoken that out loud. "Sorry." I mumbled, then spun back around, so I didn't have to see the confusion on her face. I really had to drop the Alice in Wonderland thoughts. Deciding that it was sent for a reason, I opened the mail, and downloaded the file. To say I was horrified by what it was is an understatement.
Adam, his hands tied in front of him, being lead to the center of the room. People whose faces that were magically not caught by the camera forced him to his knees, facing the camera. Words not picked up by the camera, Adam's face incredibly serious. Not scared. A gun held by a faceless killer. A shot. I could almost hear the thud. That was when I noticed an even more disturbing thing: the time code gave yesterday's date.
I was lucky I made it to the bathroom before loosing the contents of my stomach.
I locked the bathroom door after throwing up, not wanting Lan to come in. I stared at myself in the mirror, my mind running a thousand circles. I couldn't hold one thought. 'He'sdeadohmygodthefuckingbastardshe'sgoneagianhe'sdeadgoneforevernomorechanceshe'sreallygonenomorepoofmurderedbysomeassholeohmygodhe'sgonehe'sreallydeaddeadagainforrealthistimeohmygodi'mgonnakillthebastardsthatdidthisohgodadam'
All the time my relfection was staring back at my through the mirror. Like Adam. Anger rose in me. Not at the people that killed him, but at him. He had to leave. He had to run away instead of letting me help. He wouldn't listen to me and now he was dead, gone and nothing was ever going to be the same again!
I put my hand through the mirror before I even realized I was going to do it. One minute I was staring into the mirror, the next there was glass in the sink and my hand was cut up. The pain didn't do much to stop the circle of thoughts, but it did scare the shit outta Lan, I'm sure.
She was pounding on the door, calling my name. All I could do was stare down at the mess in the sink, shards of glass reflecting my face at odd angles. I thought about how easy it would be to just pick up one of those pieces...
"DEREK!" Lan screamed, louder now, more frantic. She sounded like she knew what I was thinking.
Without saying a word I just opened the door and looked at her. She saw the file; I could see that much in her eyes. All the compassion and concern in them made me loose it. I leaned back against the wall, and slid down it. I was sobbing before I hit the floor.
She didn't know about my meeting yesterday, she didn't know that I had hope. She didn't know that I had been crushed once again, this time even harder. All she knew was that I just saw my brother being shot. I guess that was enough. She held me while I cried. I held her tight, drowning, trying to hold onto something real. Something that didn't hurt...I held on even after I ran out of tears. My legs had gone numb, I was sure she was no better crouching in front of me like that.
Crying didn't do anything to help. My soul was still torn apart for one final time. It didn't even have a chance of being mended this time. This was for real. He was gone, and I was alive, alone. Half of a whole. I guess that's when I kinda took a step into insanity. It was enough, hell more then enough, to push me into insanity.
"But I don't want to go among the mad people." I said, voice hardly above a whisper. I managed to get to my feet, Lan hovering close, looking at me with concerned eyes.
Another part of my mind sprang to life. 'Loosing it Derek, really loosing it, man.' It taunted, sounding frighteningly like Adam.
"Derek?" Lan asked, still with that damned concerned look in her eyes.
My head was still spinning, mind racing in a thousand different ways, making me dizzy almost. "Round and round and round we go, and dance for evermore, once we were behind but now we find we are be-forward, backward, inward, outward, come and join the chase!" I replied, pushing away from her and moving into the living room. Those words were the only thing I could focus on besides the pain. I repeated them several times, until Lan grabbed both my shoulders. I stopped and tried to focus on her eyes.
"I'm gonna call Ch-" Lan started.
I didn't like that idea! I pushed Lan's hands off of me, having enough sanity left to know that Lan calling Chloe was a bad idea. "NO!" I screamed, then once again started saying the words.
"Derek, I really think I should--"
"--I SAID NO!" I screamed. She didn't understand it all. I had to tell her. But she was looking at me with those huge, worried eyes. And hurt. She looked hurt for some reason I can't figure out.
"I can't tell Chloe what happened yesterday." I said, dropping to the couch. My head was throbbing. I fought hard to stay focused on telling Lan about what happened. "I can't tell you, but I have to Lan. I can't tell her. I can't tell you. But I gotta tell someone!"
She sat next to me, and put her arm around my shoulder. I leaned into her, wanting something that she couldn't give me. I wanted to be fixed, to be made whole again. I wanted Adam sitting next to me, laughing at me for crying. Hell, even him ranting about they would be great...
"What happened, Derek?" She prodded after a long silence.
I closed my eyes, trying hard to get my mind to stop racing. "I went to the cemetery yesterday," I started, my voice sounding odd, strained almost. "I wanted to know why. Why he checked out...But..." I took a deep breath. "He, he, he was there, LAn! He just showed up...and he was talking about it not being over, and that I couldn't tell Chloe or Mom..." Big tears started rolling down my cheeks again. "I-I-I thought I had him back, ya know? He left, but he was alive. I didn't kill him...and now he's gone again..." I trailed off, once again holding Lan in a death grip.
"So, if you call Chloe, you'd have to explain what happened yesterday."
I nodded into her shoulder, not caring that I had done well to ruin her shirt, between the tears and the blood from my hand. "Chloe still has hope, Lan." I swallowed hard again. "She still thinks that he could be alive...I can't take that away from her."
I pulled back and looked up at her, seeing relief in her eyes along with the compassion. I was a little confused as to why she was looking at me like that, and then I realized it, slowly. I was making some kind of sense, not singing words to a damn Disney movie...
I just sat there, holding onto her like she'd keep me from drowning. My hand was throbbing in time to my head, but I didn't care. I couldn't let go. I guess I feel asleep like that, though I'm not sure how I could ever do that. I was convinced I'd never sleep again. The next thing I knew I could her Lan talking.
"...Something about the oysters." She was finishing.
I froze where I lay with my eyes still closed. If that was Chloe in there, I planned on faking sleep for as long as I could get away with it. I considered getting up and running out the front door, but I was certain they'd catch me first. For the first time, my thoughts weren't on my pain, but on Chloe's.
That was when Jason talked. "The oysters?" He asked, sounding just as confused as Lan probably was.
"'That's what happened to the oysters.'" Lan quoted. "After that he was quiet for a little bit and then flew out of the chair and into the bathroom. I went to his computer to see what was wrong...and." There was a pause. "Someone sent him a QuickTime...It had Adam in it."
"Again?" Jason asked, sounding just as surprised as she had been.
"It showed him being killed...It had yesterdays date on it."
There was silence. Then Jay spoke again. "How'd D. hurt himself?"
I winced at the words.
"He put his hand through the bathroom mirror...The door was locked. He opened it and just started crying, Jay! And then when he stopped he started ranting about all this stuff that didn't make any sense and I wanted to call Chloe and he wouldn't let me..."
Guilt hit me hard. I had probably scared Lan half to death just smashing the damn mirror, let alone my actions afterward. I felt horrible, lost in my guilt I only half head what Jason was saying to Lan.
"It'll be okay." He said, so softly I almost didn't hear him. "Did you try to see if the footage was a fake?"
Why the hell didn't I think about that? I had made her check out the file when it said he was alive, why not the other way around. Oh yeah, I was too busy crying.
"Why don't you do that and I'll sit with him until he wakes up, okay?" Jason continued.
Faking sleep would be too hard now, after hearing all that. I sat up, not at all surprised to see Jason looking surprised to see me awake.
"Good summary of the day's events." I said, watching him as he sat in the armchair. I didn't like the look in his eyes as he watched me. He was really afraid. I've never seen Jay afraid. That caused another wonderful stab of guilt to go through me.
"You all right?" He asked breaking the heavy silence that had fallen over us.
I couldn't hold back the sarcasm. "Wonderful, you?"
Jason looked down, sending more guilt through me. I felt angered again. I shouldn't feel bad for feeling like shit! "I'm just worried and confused." Jason answered.
"Join the club."
Silence. It felt heavy, tense. Once again, it was Jason who broke the silence.
"Lan thinks your hand needs stitches." He said.
I looked down at my hand; it looked a lot worse then it felt, but then again, I really wasn't feeling it. Everything else was hurting way too much for me to care about a few gashes. I looked back up at Jason and knew that he was waiting for me to say something, anything. I just shrugged.
"I'll drive you to the hospital." He offered.
I shook my head, said nothing.
"Please, D. Lan's worried. So am I, man."
More guilt. It made me mad again. I am and was aware that it was irrational anger, but at least I could focus on that and not all the other things my mind wanted to wander to. No more circles, just anger at my friends for worrying about me...
"I'm fine." I said. I'm not always a great lair, and this time was no exception. Jason just looked me in the eyes, saying nothing. He didn't need to say anything. "All right." I finally agreed. Anything to get him to stop looking at me like that.
I guess I spent a lot of the time after I got that footage angry. Hell, I was angry right up until the time it ended, but at least half of that was justified anger. Screaming at Lan because she wanted to stay at my house for the night wasn't justified at all.
"GO HOME!" I screamed, knowing that one of us was going to have to back down eventually and it sure as hell wasn't going to be me.
Lan planted her hands on her hips. "NO!"
For a minute all I could do was stare at her in disbelief, I mean she was getting mad at me! I was the one that was right --if I wanted to be alone in my own house I should've been allowed, no argument. She was getting mad!
"Lan, I'm fine." I said at last, through nearly clenched teeth. All I wanted was to be alone, and she wasn't letting me. It was my own damn house!
I don't remember who said it to me, but fine stands for 'fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional'. The last two definitely applied to how I was feeling.
"I'm staying!" Lan insisted, still glaring.
I looked towards Jason who stood near the door, watching the two of us fight back and forth like we were playing a tennis match. No help from him. If I asked for it, he'd probably want to stay as well.
"Then I'm leaving!" Right, I was thinking oh so clearly.
"WHAT!? It's your house! You're being ridiculous!"
"You are! I'm fine. I will be fine. Just leave me alone! All right?"
Lan looked hurt for a few seconds. I almost wanted to take back the words, but my own stubbornness wouldn't let me. I was twenty-seven years old, and perfectly capable of taking care of myself! I wasn't going to do what she was afraid I was going to.
Without another word, Lan stormed out of the house. Jason stayed behind. I didn't even need turn around and look at him to know what was on his face. Disgust. Annoyance. Maybe, if I was lucky, a small hint of concern.
"She's just worried D." He said at last, breaking the silence.
I didn't turn around, just stared at the floor and said nothing.
"Fine. Try to get some sleep."
I almost laughed at the thought of sleeping as Jason shut the door a little too hard behind him.
I'm not sure how I did actually fall asleep. All I know is that I had one of the worst nightmares about Adam that I had ever had. I'll save you all the gory details, but know that it had me waking up at two am screaming like a nut and crying.
I felt some of that same almost irrational anger that I had earlier. The thought of seeing Lan again after hurting her didn't appeal to me, nor did seeing Jason again. I wasn't sure how I was ever going to be able to look at Chloe again...So I dunno, I guess that's the reasons why I ran. I felt trapped in my own damn house.
And, I'm not going to lie; I wanted to somehow find the bastards that killed him and watch them die. I couldn't stop that desire just like I couldn't stop the pain. I've never sent that dark side of me before, I don't pray I never will. It scared me, but I had to act on it.
So I ran. I gathered up clothes and took the laptop Lan left there by accident. I copied the file and took it with me. It was my only clue...I stood there in my living room, holding the duffle bag and the laptop case, trying to figure out what I was missing (besides my sanity). I knew what it was, though I still don't know why I knew to get the amulet I found in Adam's house. I just did.
I almost stopped again, leaving the house. I was going to write Lan and Jay a note, knowing the two of them would be by in the morning. I didn't. I guess it was that same stubbornness that made me send Lan away...Either way, I didn't. I just ran.
Never in my life have I been so glad my truck was an automatic (not counting the fact that I really can't drive stick...). Just using the turn signal with my right had was a bitch. It felt like it was on fire, but I deserved the pain. It was a stupid thing to do.
Anyway, I found myself at some Orlando hotel near the airport, faced with a dilemma. I didn't have enough cash to pay for more then a night at most hotels, but I wanted the option of having a connection to the 'net too. I had my credit card, of course, but I didn't want to use that, Lan could easily trace it, I'm sure.
Then I realized that I just didn't care. All I wanted then was to get a room and try to sort out everything that was running through my head. My mind was still a mess; I didn't even know how I had gotten to the hotel. I'm lucky I didn't kill anyone driving there. I don't know if I would've noticed.
Seven hours after getting to the hotel, I was still running on an hour and a half of sleep. I had already thrown up twice while going through that damn QuickTime. I couldn't find anything at all to go on, except a small part of a tattoo on the bastard that pulled the trigger.
Angered, I stood and resisted the urge to chuck the entire laptop across the room. That wouldn't get my anywhere but further succeeding in pissing off Lan. So I decided that I needed to get rid of all my excess energy, or anger.
I was in the hall for a whole two seconds before things got weird. I saw an all too familiar figure standing at the end of the hall, by the stairwell. Vince went down, and I ran after him. He had a good jump, but I knew what he was doing --going just slow enough so I could follow him.
I barely missed being hit by a car trying to follow my favorite tattooed freak across the street. I kept after him though, running almost three blocks before he finally stopped running and went into a store.
Like a lamb to the slaughter, right?
I didn't even stop to think about anything like that, this was Vince after all. He was the one that tried to save my ass more then once. So I just went right in, and got the Bible thrown at me. One of the odder things to have chucked at your head, I know. I mistakenly put up my right hand to catch it --at least block it from hitting me in the face.
A teenager not much bigger then me had me against the wall with only one hand. The teen's hair was dyed a lovely shade of dark purple, and he had a ton of metal in his face. I only focused on the wild look in the kid's eyes.
"You're not welcome here, Demon!" The teen screamed.
"What the hell are you talking about!?" I asked, totally confused as to why I was suddenly being called a demon.
"The Bible burned your hand! Out of my store!"
I started laughing, unable to stop myself. The kid relaxed enough for me to push him back, away from me. For a few seconds, he just stared at me while I laughed like a maniac. I couldn't talk I was laughing so hard at someone that was more insane then I was, so I just held up my right hand that was wrapped up in a bandage, hoping that was enough of an explanation.
Apparently, it was. "Oh, dude, I'm sorry, man."
Slowly, I came to the realization that the kid was stoned out of his mind. I fought back another laugh; this time at the irony that had became my life and just smiled. "Do you throw The Bible at all your costumers?"
"Only the ones that are supposed to be dead, man."
Now, that took me by surprise. "What?"
"Those guys...I saw them shove you in a car two days ago. I was sure they killed you, dude!"
"Yeah you. You do remember right? Oh dude, did they like give you amnesia or something?"
"That wasn't me." Already, I know who it was.
The teen gave me a doubtful look. "Who was it then, you're evil twin?"
I winced at his choice of words. "My twin yeah, evil no."
More wide-eyed surprise. People say my eyes go wide, I thought this guy's blood shot, and red rimmed eyes were going to fall out of his head if they got any wider. "Oh, dude...I'm sorry."
I just nodded my mind on the fact that Adam had been there, not the accidental insult. "Did he, my brother, come in here two days ago?"
A slow nod.
"What did he want?"
"Uh..." The kid whacked himself in the head a few times as if that would help jog his memory. "Uh! Books with protection spells. He knew the real deal too...Guess he got 'em a little too late."
"Guess so." I said; running my left hand through his hair, feeling a little lost in my own thoughts. Anger and that damn desire for revenge popped up again. "Did you recognize any of the guys that shoved him into the car?"
A longer pause as the kid tried to think past a drug hazed brain. "Yeah, dude!" He sounded surprised about this himself. "One of the guys, the bigger one...I've seen him before..." More whacking himself in the head, it was almost comical, but I really didn't feel like laughing. Finally, after about two minutes of silence, the kid's eyes once again lit up with realization. "He hangs out in a bar I sometimes go to, man!"
Oh the wonders of underage drinking. "Where?"
"I can take you after I'm off."
Sounded like fun. "When's that?"
The teenager, Shawn, turned out to be a pretty good guy, discounting the fact that he was half out of his mind from drugs. He let me hang out in the break room, not worried about that because he was the only one in the small bookstore. He even gave me the one thing I really needed --a pen and paper.
I chickened out in leaving Lan a note the night before; I wasn't going to do it again. And considering what I wanted to do, it didn't seem like a bad idea to give her and everyone else a little something for closure should I not return. Always the optimist, huh? I wrote everything that was on my mind.
The only reason you'd be getting this would be if I did something stupid. Knowing me, it's a good chance you will read this. I hope you don't, but I have to do this. I thought I had him back, at least a little. I mean, watching him walk away from me in the cemetery was the hardest thing I've ever done, but knowing that he was alive and breathing made me feel better. You have no idea how much guilt was lifted from my shoulders, how much lighter my entire soul felt when I got over my shock and realized he wasn't dead.
But now he is dead. Seeing that damn file tore my heart and soul apart. I'm sorry if I scared you the other day. I think I lost myself in my pain and confusion. But now there's only one thing on my mind and that's getting back the bastards that shot him. I have a chance to do it, thanks to Vince. He held me to the right place, and sometime after midnight tonight, I'll get to do something for Adam. Hopefully. All I'll probably do is get myself killed, but I have to at least see the bastard, Lan, if you can understand that. I understand if you don't get it, and I don't blame you.
The other day my mind was spinning in a thousand circles, too many thoughts, and too many emotions. Now everything's clear, only one thought as dark as it is. I don't like the side of me that's here right now, but I need it. I've never thought I'd be able to kill someone, and now, I know I will if I find them. That probably scares you, but then again, if you're reading this, then I screwed up and probably didn't succeed.
I know what I should do is go back to the hotel room, gather all my things and call the police. That's the smart thing. But "Uh hi, someone killed my brother that's already dead" probably won't get much attention, will it? Maybe I shouldn't go at all, I should just go back home and try to pretend that none of this happened. But how can I do that and live with myself? I know Adam would do the same if the situation was reversed. I've dealt with the guilt over his apparent death for so long, I can't deal with it again. If you don't
understand that either, I understand. I hope you never have to feel any of that pain.
I'm sorry. For what exactly, I'm not sure. I'm sorry for making you leave the other night. I just wanted to be alone. I'm sorry for leaving without a note or anything else but I didn't know what to say. I'm sorry for doing this too.
I don't want you to have to read this letter, but at least if you do you can get an idea of why I'm doing this...Adam didn't leave a note after his 'suicide' and the whys always made me wonder. You know why. That's the best I can give you.
Share this with Jason and Chloe. Chloe will be pissed when she hears about all this, but it'll be over. I don't think you can avoid telling it all to her. Sorry to leave that burden to you, Lan, but I'd rather you do it then me send her a letter.
I lied about how I was feeling...I'm scared, Lan. I've never been this scared. I have an opportunity to do something for Adam, and I'm terrified I'm going to screw it up and only end up getting myself killed. I'm scared that you'll read this. I don't want to die. I don't want you to read all of this and hate me for doing this. Please don't be mad.
I wish I could call you and talk to you about all this, but if I do that I know where I'll wind up, at home. You'd talk me out of it even if you didn't set your mind to it. This is insane, I know, but you'd say so and then I'd listen, and I can't do that. So I'm chickening out and writing this.
All right, enough pouring my heart out, right? You're gonna think someone else wrote this, but it's me, I swear. One last, final gushy part, and then I'll stop.
Thank Jason for watching my back and always being there. Thank Chloe for putting up with my way of doing things and for coming back after every case...And thank you, Lan, for being the sunshine in my darkness. I was never kidding about that, ya know?
I'm gonna stop now before you start to think I really did lose my mind. Back to normal Derek now. I promise.**
I fought the urge to sign love above my name and folded the three-page letter up. I flipped to the next page and wrote Lan's name and address on it. Holding all that, I went back out to the front of the store where Shawn was rearranging books.
"Shawn, can you do me one last favor?" I asked, already owing the kid a lot.
The teen snapped his head up, then nodded. "Yeah, sure man."
I handed him the folder papers, the one with Lan's address on top. "If I don't call you in three days, would you send this to that address?"
Shawn gave a quick nod. "Just what the hell are you planning on doing?"
I shrugged. "I have no idea."
I really didn't.
Time went slowly. I don't even remember what I did after giving Shawn the letter and when he told me it was closing time. I don't think I slept, but I don't think I just sat there either. That kinda disturbs me that I lost that much time, but frankly, I didn't care as we walked to the bar. All I could think of was finally doing something for Adam.
My stomach was tied in a knot so bad I was almost afraid I was going to throw up. The fact that my stomach was empty didn't help the situation. I felt so many emotions at once as we waited in line that I was actually dizzy.
The wait in line was agonizingly long. When we finally did get in, I was surprised by the size of the place. At three levels high it was more of a club then a bar, but I cared about that as much as I did the fact that there was music blaring --not at all.
"He's up on the second floor," Shawn said, leaning close to me so I could hear him over the noise. "The dude with the brown hair and tattoos on his arms...See him?"
I could only nod and mumble my thanks to Shawn who turned and went another way. Feeling heavy, I managed to get through the sea of thrashing dancers and over to the bar, ordering a beer. I wanted to charge up the stairs and attack the guy, but for the first time, I realized I had no plan whatsoever.
'Do the smart thing and leave, Derek.' A voice in my head advised. The voice sounded like Lan. 'Before you do something you can't fix.' Good sound advice, but that didn't mean I had to take it. Nor did it mean I could take it.
I nursed the beer, sitting at the bar. That was at least better then attempting to dance to the unbelievably loud music. By the time I reached my second beer I had no plan and two offers to dance from women who had enough metal in their bodies to set off metal detectors. Getting drunk was no way to think up a plan, but I really didn't know what to do. I hadn't chickened out exactly, but I hadn't made a plan either.
The alcohol stung my empty stomach, but I didn't really care. I finished the second beer and was about to get a third when someone, male this time, sat next to me. I didn't look at the guy; instead I ordered another beer, not yet feeling the first two.
"You've been looking' for me." The guy said.
For the first time, I looked at him; it took all the willpower I had to keep my face deadpan. I shook my head but said nothing.
"Shawn said you were."
I decided to play dumb, I'm not sure why. "Who's Shawn?"
"The kid you walked in with."
Again nothing. My beer arrived, and I drank it slowly, trying not feeling paranoid towards the guy sitting next to me, or in the very least, not looking it. I made my mind up to get up and leave. I couldn't do anything there in the damn club, and it wasn't like I head a weapon on me anyway. I don't know what I was thinking of doing after I left, maybe wait for the guy, because what he said next literately made me see red.
"It was incredibly easy, killing him."
For the first time I spun in the seat and stared into cold blue eyes. "Who?" I choked out.
Rage rose, so dark and so intense that it almost scared me. I think I would have been willing to rip that bastard's throat out with my bare hands, hell, I'd probably have enjoyed it. I kinda lost myself in the moment, but I do remember going for the beer bottle that was in front of me, half-empty. I remember some of it running down my arm as I arched it up to hit the son of a bitch with it, and I remember the tight grip he caught my upraised arm in. The bastard didn't even stand up.
I was about to try to hit him with my other hand, but three pairs of arms were suddenly rapped around me. They pulled me back, and the son of a bitch held on to my wrist. They kept pulling, and he just kept his grip on my arm. It didn't take a genius to know what was going to happen, but I still was expecting the amount of pain that went through my shoulder when it happened.
I cried out, and the bastard gave it an extra tug before letting my arm go. I was suddenly thrown into the three holding me, and fell to the hard floor. The pain didn't help to ease my anger --it only intensified it.
I was back on my feet, right arm hanging uselessly at my side, now more then ever wanting to rip the lungs outta the bastard. He hadn't even gotten off of his damn stool! Again the three bouncers tried to restrain me. And of course I'm oh-so muscular, so you can imagine who won the struggle (after a rather painful blow to my jaw).
They literately threw me out the back door (and you that things like that only happened in movies). I couldn't have cared less that I landed on the damn bar's trash. Hell, if they had thrown me into the Stunk Ape's lap I don't think I would've noticed or cared. All I cared about was the deep sense of failure. Not for the first time in my life, I felt like I failed Adam.
So, instead of getting up and going to a hospital which I needed thanks to the murdering bastard, I just laid where I was wallowing in self-pity. I probably would've stayed there all night, if my new best friend hadn't showed up when he did.
"I knew you'd still be here." He said, smiling, standing down at the other end of the ally.
I got to my feet, and just glared at the man. I tried not to show that even moving that much hurt my shoulder. I fought the urge to fling myself at the bastard, to get revenge. I only dimly knew it then, but the revenge was for myself, not for Adam. I thought that if I was killed Adam probably would be waiting for me on the other side or whatever ready to tell me how stupid it was to loose my life fighting a fight I couldn't win. I suppose I would've told him the same.
"Now, Mr. Barnes, fighting me will get you know where." The man said, knowing what I wanted to do.
"Go to hell you son of a bitch!" I spat back, body tensing.
Hate filled me so totally that I was unaware of anything other then the man walking slowly towards me --almost like tunnel vision. I couldn't feel the pain from my shoulder any more, hell I wasn't even aware I had a body other then the strong pulsing in my temples. I once again felt dizzy almost.
Then I was running, for the first time in my life, I had no control over myself at all. Even now, it's almost like watching a movie and I'm not even in my own body. I see myself running at the bastard at full speed, rapidly crossing the twenty feet separating us. I see him put his hand up. No thoughts are going through my head at all, just pure, animal hatred.
Something hits me hard in my chest, enough to knock me off my feet. He didn't hit me and nothing else did. I would develop quite a bruise there, but I didn't care at the time, because I was mid air and falling fast. I hit the ground hard, so much pain radiating from my shoulder that for a minute I couldn't even breathe.
"I told you, Mr. Barnes fighting will get you no where. You can't win, so stop trying."
I said nothing, just struggled to my feet.
The man sighed. "This is all your fault, you know. You and your brother brought this on to yourselves. I'm only doing what I'm told."
"Go to hell." I said for the second time. Something burned in my chest, but I ignored it.
"Only you are Derek." The man smiled. "Now, please, don't get yourself injured any further and come with me peacefully."
"No." All I could think to say. The knowledge that I had lost hit me hard. I doubted the man in front of me really was a man at all, how could I fight him? I was going to die, probably just like Adam, on my knees.
"Glad you see it my way. Come with me."
I didn't move, couldn't move.
"Have it your way."
The next thing I knew, I was falling again. I don't even remember hitting the ground.
"I wanted you awake when you died, Mr. Barnes. There's something I have to tell you before I end your pathetic life."
Groaning, I opened my eyes, trying to think past the pain that filled my body, focusing on the current situation. I was laying face down on a bare, dusty floor. I was glad for one thing: they didn't tie me up. I didn't want to think about the kind of pain that would cause my damn shoulder.
"On your feet." The commanding voice was from behind.
With another groan, I no longer cared who heard, I got to my feet. My legs didn't seem to want to support me, but I managed to stay standing, facing away from the man who shot my brother.
"Turn around, I have a surprise for you."
Defeated, I did as told, my stomach twisting as I did so. Not for the first time in the past few days, I was looking into the face of the last person I expected to see --Adam.
Adam grinned at me. It made me want to throw up. "That wasn't your brother on the file, Mr. Barnes. It wasn't your brother forced into the car that Shawn saw and it wasn't Vince Elsing that lead you to Shawn."
Once again, my mind was spinning. 'Forward, backward, inward, outward, here we go again! No one ever looses and no one can ever win.'
I had been lead so easily...Adam wasn't dead...Adam changed back to the face of my captor, soon to be murderer. Another grin, this one just as sickening. Looking away for the stomach turning grin, I realized there were others in the room, nearly a dozen, all looking at me with the same stone faced look. 'Like a lamb to the slaughter.' I thought, realizing how stupid I had been, believing that I actually deserved to die for stupidity alone.
"Your brother is a lot harder to find then you, Derek. But, like the real Vince warned you, we plan on using you to get to him. I have a good feeling his desire for vengeance will mirror your own."
"Go to hell!" I shouted, the stinging once again in my chest. A sudden realization hit me so hard I nearly jumped in surprise. It worked with Virginia. The simplicity of it all still surprises me.
I pulled it out from under my shirt by the string. Not for the first time, I held the amulet awkwardly in my left hand. I closed my eyes and sent up a prayer to whoever chose to listen to me that it would work. I was dead if it didn't.
"Go to hell!" I screamed, eyes still closed. I was too scared to open them.
I expected to hear laughter. I expected to feel a bullet slam through my chest or skull. I even had time to wonder how long it would take me to die. I expected to hear anything other then the heavy silence. Silence except for my own harsh, rabid breathing.
When I opened my eyes, I nearly fainted. I was alone. It worked; either that or they had all run out the door. I honestly didn't care which one it was as long as they didn't come back. I let the amulet fall back against my chest, still disbelieving that it was over.
I started laughing, knowing that I was once again near hysterics and not caring. I was alive. Adam was alive...
I stopped laughing when the door to the room was flung open.
Now it gets complicated choose your ending...
So Perfect My Teeth Ache
Realistic, Less Happy