Hi! waves Sorry, I don't know why it's all in caps. Anyway, I only wish I owned the wights to Lj SMith's books. The final Night World would be out. The song on teh radio is 'Remember Me' by Journey. Please, review, and enjoy!!
Why was it so damn cold?
Jenny pulled her coat tighter around her as she walked down the sidewalk towards her next class. She turned her head as she heard her name called and waited while Dee caught up to her.
"You're running late?" Dee dramatically put her hand to her chest. "Did the world stop turning?"
"No," Jenny said, her grim mood about the weather fading fast. "Audrey was running late, making me late."
"Ah, that explains it."
Jenny watched Dee from the corner of her eye as they entered the school building. Dee had done the work and started class with Jenny in the fall. They shared this class, Psychology, and Jenny found it was her most interesting class. So interesting she had changed her major to it. It was something that had shocked all her friends, except Tom.
Tom had kept silent about it for several days until Jenny brought it up while fixing dinner for them. Tom had given her a small smile. "Nothing you do will ever surprise me, Thorny." Jenny might have imagined it but she thought he'd glanced at the ring on her finger when he said it.
Yes, she still wore the ring. She had never sat down and tried to reason out her feelings for Julian, but she had cared for him, and he had died for her. She hadn't told Tom but she would always wear Julian's ring. Then again, Tom probably already knew.
"Audrey called me last night, we were thinking of meeting at my place this week," Dee said casually.
The group didn't see each other everyday, but at least once a week, they would call each other and spontaneously plan a get-together. Most of them saw each other seperately everyday. Audrey and Michael gave Jenny a ride to and from college each day though they didn't share any classes.
Zach was working at a small photography studio. It had shocked all of them, Zach most of all when the older man who ran the studio called Zach and said he'd seen his work and wanted him to work for him. Zach had accepted without hesitation. He hadn't actually dated Summer yet, but there was still that interest in his eyes, something Jenny had thought would wear off but had lasted almost a year.
Summer had caught up her school work, and would be starting the spring semester at the same community college the rest of them attended. To say her parents had been shocked at her re-appearance would have been an understatement. They both considered it some sort of miracle, and Summer had politely refused all of their attempts to try to make her recall her time while missing.
The police, oddly, had mostly left them alone. PC and Slug were still considered suspects in her disappearance, but they still hadn't been found and not a lot of effort went into it anymore.
Jenny nodded at Dee and they took their seats in class. "Sounds good. Want me to bring anything?"
Dee shook her head.
Jenny had taken interest in life in the last year, seeking out hobbies, learning to cook, paint. She'd even tried photography until Zach begged her to stop.
"Good morning class," their professor came in and stood at his podium. "Today we're discussing obsessive love. What sparks it? Is it always dangerous? Is it ever beneficial?"
Jenny and Dee exchanged a long look, and Dee rolled her eyes. Jenny even managed to crack a smile as students began giving their opinions.
Oh, if only she could explain her experience to the class. Oh, yes, I was a subject of obsessive love. The guy kidnapped me and my friends twice, and then we had to chase him into another dimension to recover two other friends. Why another dimension? Because he was a Shadow Man, stuff of legend.
But in the end he proved he wasn't so bad, he died to save us.
He died to save me.
Jenny couldn't help but look down at her ring. The writing on the inside of the band seemed cool to her finger.
I am my only master.
"Ms Thornton? Your opinion?"
Jenny looked up at her name and realized the entire class was looking at her expectantly. "Oh, um, I don't know, I kind of believe it's a double-edged sword."
The professor rose a single eyebrow and gave a slight nod for her to continue.
"Um, it can be very dangerous for someone to be obsessed with you, especially if you don't care for them. They might easily take the rejection too far, hurting people around you, or even you. Anyone you do care for would be a potential target."
Your friends might suffer. They're all playing the Game.
Jenny saw Dee shoot her a supportive look and wink.
"On the other hand, if you do care about someone who loves you that much, you'd never have to worry about anything. You'd always be taken care of."
"Taken care of in what way?"
I'll be anything you like, give you anything you want. I can make your wildest dreams come true.
Jenny almost smiled, she'd imagined once, herself as a sort of princess with a prince of darkness as her consort. A queen of light.
I wouldn't let anyone else hurt you, ever.
"Well, I guess it would depend on the person. If they were rich, you'd never have to want for anything, you'd be protected all the time. If they were just normal, then you'd never have to worry about being lonely, you'd always have someone there to care for you."
"But would it be a healthy relationship? Could someone survive in a relationship like that? We've discussed before the human need to be free. Surely that wouldn't be possible in such a relationship."
Jenny blinked, considering. Julian, would you have let me live a seperate life from you occasionally? Would I have been my own free person?
There was no answer, just like there never was when she asked a hypothetical question to the dead Shadow Man. She gave one of her small smiles. "I don't know. It doesn't sound healthy at all."
The professor nodded and took opinions from other class members. Dee reached over and squeezed Jenny's hand. "You good?"
Jenny smiled at her and whispered back. "I'm fine."
The professor made his way back to the podium. "Ok, so what triggers the obsession? A particular shared interest? An amazing personality? What makes people who may have had multiple failed relationships fall so deeply in love that they can't let go?"
Would you like a list?
Dee raised her hand, possibly for the first time ever, and the professor nodded at her. "I think they find something in that person they've never had with anyone else, something that makes them think that person is their perfect mate."
Jenny grinned at her friend and the professor's nod of approval.
Light to my darkness. Pure gold.
"So why, if they are so in love, do they become so violent when the one they love rejects them. Aren't we supposed to love someone enough to let them go?"
Jenny bowed her head and tried to seem busy with notes. She didn't want to touch this one. She wasn't sure she trusted herself on how to answer.
The professor looked right at her though and she sighed knowing he wouldn't look away until she said something.
"Love is blind," she said shortly.
The professor's eyebrow rose a whole inch. "That's it?"
Jenny shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. "If you think you can't exist without a person, then how can you let them go?"
Simple as light or air - things people take for granted but that they'd die without.
Dee jumped in suddenly. "It'd be like suicide."
The professor frowned and Jenny sat up straighter. "We need air to survive, and some people look at the ones they love as their air."
The professor nodded again and looked to the other students.
Finally the class was over and they gathered their things to leave. Dee and Jenny walked down together.
The professor nodded at both of them. "Good participation today, ladies."
Jenny gave him a small smile.
It was Tom who had changed the most next to herself, Jenny knew. He wasn't over-bearing, over-protective, at least not out loud. He still watched over her though. It was what she loved about him, that he was caring and giving, but not her shadow.
He loved her too, and he understood her to a point that no one else alive did. No one else alive could.
No, never would he be her shadow.
He kissed her as they got to Dee's and held her close and she felt warm. He always made her feel warm and safe. Dee opened her door and took their coats and lay them on her bed along with everyone else's coats.
They had been the last to arrive and as they entered the living room Jenny took a moment just to look at them all.
Audrey and Michael were sitting on the loveseat and Audrey was chatting with Summer who was standing in the kitchen with Zach. Michael was looking at Audrey as though she were the only girl in the world. Summer was getting a plate of snacks while Zach waited his turn, watching Summer talking, a small twitch at the corner of his mouth as though he were trying not to smile or laugh. Dee came into the room behind them and went to the tv, putting a movie in.
Zach looked over at them then and smiled. "Hey guys."
Jenny smiled back. "Hello."
The movie passed quickly, though, as usual, Jenny wasn't sure it was really being watched. Everyone talked over it, to each other. Jenny smiled as she listened to the decision that ranged from politics to movies to makeup.
While Tom and Zach were debating something from school Jenny went in to the kitchen to grab some chips.
The radio in the kitchen had been left on, music drifting from it quietly.
"ill live on somewhere in your heart you must believe remember me. you know i'd give my life for you, more than words can say. be there to watch over you. remember me don't you think of this as the end i'll come in through your dreams."
The words struck Jenny and she turned to stare at the radio, sudden apprehension filling her. Not long ago, something similar had happened in tom's car. It had been a message from Julian. A message he was back.
This time, though, when the song ended another simply began. After a moment, Jenny turned back to her snacks.
"Hey, Jenny?" She turned as Michael motioned her into the corner and spoke softly as she followed him. "Something wrong?"
"Um, no, not really." Michael was quiet a moment. "My dad and I are talking about doing a book together. We were just sitting and talking about stories and he asked me for an idea. I told him about Julian."
Jenny was quiet a moment, watching his nervous face. "Ok."
Michael took that as his signal to continue. "Well, I didn't tell him everything of course, and I put some twists in it, made Julian into an alien, not a Shadow Man. Anyway, after I told him this story, I started feeling sorta guilty. I wanted to run it by you, you know, see what you thought. See if it was ok with you?"
Jenny was quiet another long moment, a thousand thoughts running through her mind. Was this right? Would Julian have let that happen? What would it mean? What if somehow the Shadow Men found out and wanted to destroy the evidence of their existence? What if not enough things were changed and people started noticing similarities to things that really happened?
Michael was watching her and finally sighed. "Listen, if you want to think about it or if you don't want me to, just say so."
Nothing really dies as long as it's not forgotten.
The story wouldn't really be theirs, it would be different. People would read it and make it their own, and it would keep Julian alive. Julian would like the whole thing, she thought he might find it amusing. If the Shadow Men didn't like it...
Well, they'd deal with that if it came to it.
Nothing really dies as long as it's not forgotten. His dying breath...he had told her that...
The words whirled around in her mind and she looked up at Michael, and nodded. "Do it."
Michael stared at her and she realized he hadn't expected her to agree. "Really?"
Jenny couldn't help it, she smiled, a real true, brilliant smile. "Really."
Michael nodded and they walked back out to the living room, Tom putting his arm around her as she sat.
Suddenly the clock chimed and Jenny looked up at it, startled. It was later than she realized. She had wanted to take a walk on the beach before she went to bed. It was a new nightly ritual, the hair on her face, the smell of the sea.
Jenny stood slowly, and a moment later so did Tom. Summer was asleep already, her head against Zach's shoulder. Zach looking uncertain as to what to do. Dee was smirking at him, then turned to Jenny and smiled. "Night, girl."
"Night," Jenny murmured not too loudly. Audrey and Michael waved at them as they left.
Jenny sat quietly in the car on the way to her apartment until she heard Tom clear his throat. She looked over at him, a smile on her face. "I'm sorry, I'm not very talkative tonight am I?"
Tom smiled. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, just tired. Thinking about the term paper due next week."
Tom gave her a look of alarm. "I thought you had finished it."
"I did. I'm thinking about adding onto it."
Tom nodded and as they pulled up to the curb in front of her apartment he leaned over and pulled her to him. His hold on her was tight, and his kiss soft and full of feeling. He pulled back and looked deep in her eyes. "I love you, Thorny."
"I love you. Good night." Jenny slipped out of the car and pulled her coat tight around her as she watched him drive away. Then she walked down the small stairway to the beach.
The air coming off the ocean was freezing as normal, but the moon was bright. Jenny kept her pace brisk to keep herself warm, and her mind clear as she looked out over the water, stopping only at the water's edge to peer out at the moon's reflection.
"A bit chilly for a walk this evening, Ms Thornton."
Jenny turned, startled. Her psychology professor stood less than ten feet from her, looking amused that he'd snuck up on her. "May I call you Jenny?"
Jenny hesitated only a moment. "Yes, Professor."
He smiled at her and motioned out at the water. "Lovely isn't it?"
Jenny started to agree, then stopped, really looking at her professor. He looked...different...and she couldn't put her finger on why.
He was watching her, an amused look on his face, and she realized what was different.
Her professor was not an ugly man by any means, but this man, he radiated beauty with a capital B. It was otherworldly, and remined her suddenly of Julian, but at the same time was nothing like the beauty he had projected.
Jenny took a step back, away, suddenly afraid.
"No, Jenny, it's all right. I'm not here to hurt you."
"You're not one of the Shadow Men," Jenny said slowly.
"No, I'm not."
Jenny shook her head. "Who are you? What do you want?"
The man smiled at her. "For tonight, you may call me your Professor. I'm here to talk to you about Julian."
Jenny took another step back. "Why?"
"Call it curiosity," he gave a crooked smile. "Perhaps I'm doing a study on obsessive love."
Jenny shook her head, he was teasing her! "I'm not playing any games with you."
"Yes, I know," he said and his voice was serious. "I don't want to play games, dear. I truly have questions for you."
Jenny hesitated. "All right."
"Do you consider yourself his Persephone?"
Jenny blinked. "Huh?"
The man tilted his head at her in a strange impersonation of her professor. "You heard me."
"Um, no, I don't."
Jenny frowned. "I don't know. I just never have. Maybe because he never forced me to come to Hades with him."
"Didn't he? He forced you to come to the Shadow World to save your friends."
Jenny smiled. "Who are you really?"
The man shrugged. "Maybe I'll tell you when you've answered all my questions."
"All right. Yes, he made me come to the Shadow World. The thing is, I'm not still there, he didn't force me to stay, and he could have."
"He offered you the world. Why reject him?"
He didn't just offer me the world, Jenny thought suddenly. He offered me everything and the world. She smiled. "I love Tom."
"Do you?" He waved a hand at her. "Never mind. What about this one? Three games he forced you to play, with you and your friends in constant danger. Why don't you hate him? "
"We won the games," Jenny shrugged. "No one died, not really. He brought us all together in a way that never would have happened. We all owe him our lives."
"If you had lost you would have been his and never seen your friends again."
Jenny shrugged, summoning all of her knowledge of the men who had once played dice with Shadow Men. "Then it's good that I won."
He gave her a slow smile, the kind that had made her speechless when Julian had done it. With this man she felt...nothing...at all. His smile changed to one of genuine amusement and Jenny wondered if he had read her mind.
"Did you love him? Were you in love with him?"
Jenny froze. This was a bad question, one she couldn't answer, because she didn't really know.
"I cared about him."
"That's not what I asked."
Jenny said nothing and when he realized she wouldn't say anymore he smiled. "You know, don't you, that you were a shadow in your own way? Now...you're everyone's light, and a force to be reckoned with."
"WAs that a question?"
"No, an observation. Here's my question: Do you really believe Julian is responsible for all of the changes in you and your friends? If so, doesn't that make him more light than shadow?"
"Well, yes, to both."
His voice took on an ominous tone. "then you're responsible for his death aren't you? you and all of your friends? he saw qualities in you that made him die."
jenny frowned. "Yes. Yes, that's true."
"Then don't you deserve to die for making him die? he lived an eternity before you, and then he died with you on his mind." his voice had taken on an angry tone, and jenny took another step back.
"he chose the way he would die. he could have just stayed back, let the shadow men have me."
he threw his head back and laughed. "very good, Jenny!"
Jenny frowned and glanced around, she didn't understand what was so funny about what she'd said.
"He taught you not to fear. I thought, you know, that once some of his prescence faded away, you'd go back to being that scared shell of a girl, a shadow in your own right. " HE shook his head. "What would you have done to save him, if given the chance?"
Jenny frowned. "There wasn't a chance. But...I wouldn't have let him die, not for me."
"You would have fought the shadow men?"
"I don't think I could have fought them and won." She took a deep breath. "No, I think I would have taken his place."
HE considered her several moments. "You really mean it, don't you?" His voice betrayed his surprise and wonder.
"I think so. If they would have let everyone else go safely, and spared Julian. I would have taken his place."
They regarded each other in silence for several moments. Then a slow smile spread across his face. "Thank you, Jenny." He took a step back from her, then another. "It's been an enjoyable evening."
Jenny realized suddenly the interview was over. "WAit. Who are you? What was the point of this?"
"What's the point of anything?" He smiled and gave her a long look. "What would you do if given the chance to make Julian alive again?"
Jenny froze, the idea shooting through her like lightning. It was something she'd thought of since Michael had first mentioned the idea, within just a few hours of Julian's death.
She opened her mouth to answer, and discovered she had no answer.
"Ah, yes, that's what I thought." He smiled at her. "Good night, Ms. Thornton." He faded away. It wasn't sudden, it was like mist flowing out into the ocean.
Jenny stood and watched the mist until it was completely gone. Then, with a shiver, she turned and made her way back to her apartment.
As she opened the door, she heard it. Music, drifting out of her bedroom. With a cold feeling settling over her, she moved towards the door and realized as her hand reached for the knob that she was trembling.She took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Her clock radio was on, music playing softly. It was the same song, she realized, the one from Dee's kitchen.
"found myself all alone in darkness without you. now i can't turn away from what I must do. you know i'd give my life for you more--"
Jenny couldn't help it, she leapt across the room, hiiting the radio's off switch so hard, she thought she might have broken it. She stood back and panted, looking around her room. It was obvious though, that she was alone in the room. She realized some part of her was disappointed. Had she actually expected Julian just to appear?
She sat on the edge of the bed and took a very long and deep breath.
What had he been thinking, asking her that last question??
She stood and turned to the doorway, and froze. There, leaning against the doorframe, was a very familiar stick, or rather, runestave.
She realized she was having trouble breathing and backed up to sit on her bed. "Julian?"
"No." A voice said softly, and she turned, her hand on her mouth to cover her scream. The professor was sitting on the head of the bed. She fell off her bed, and scrambled away, thinking of a hundred ways to fight or run.
"Very good, I knew you were a fighter. I think he liked that about you too, though it wasn't so close to the surface at first." He motioned behind her to the runestave. "You can bring him back, you know. No consequence. Michael and his father will even be allowed to write their book, no interferrence." He leaned forward, still several feet away, but too close for Jenny's comfort. "The only condition is that it has to be you, Jenny, the light to his darkness, that brings him back. Do you remember his symbol on the staff?" He sketched the symbol in the air and gave her a wicked grin. "So, it's up to you, and my debt repaid, either way."
"Debt?" Jenny couldn't help but ask.
"Oh yes. I've played games with Julian for many years, since perhaps before this planet even existed. We gambled once on the subject of love. I did not believe him capable of it. Not even he did, but he argued angrily that he was, if he ever met the right woman. I asked him what type of woman he would love, and he could not answer me. Then one day I was watching him play a game..." He gave her another wicked grin. "He lost. He doesn't lose very often, so I paid attention. He lost a lot more than a game though, eventually. He truly loved you, and I was curious, what could make him love you?"
"So, all those questions?"
"Ah, just for your benefit. I see everything he saw in you my dear. He was moved by what he saw to love, and I am not. Yet, I feel a strange affinity towards you. Perhaps because you caught his eye? I don't know, really. I tested you more for the benefit of you looking inside yourself for the answers. Know thyself, someone wise once said."
Jeny stared at him and suddenly felt anger flash through her. "I know who I am," she said angrily, and stood, glaring at him.
"Oh yes," he said softly. "You are Jenny Thornton, yes? Your only master. You could have been queen of a million kingdoms, and yet you gave it up for your version of normal."
"You promised no games, yet that's all this was."
He nodded. "One final game for the champion of games." He gestured towards the stick again. "Will you do it?"
Jenny shook her head. "I don't know."
He smiled. "That is the one thing, not he or anyone else can figure out, not even yourself. You know you loved him, with a fire that burned hot enough to rival a sun. You love Tom too, oh yes, but when he kisses you do shivers run up your spine? And when you pull back and look into his eyes, how often do you hope to see that they've turned the blue of a morning sky?"
"Shut up," she hissed.
He rose an eyebrow at her. "So it's every time then." He stated it so surely, so confidently, she wanted to slap the smirk from his face.
"You're so afraid of hurting people, others, that you never think of yourself. An admirable quality, yes, but also a stupid one."
"YOu're one to talk. You probably think of nothing but yourself!"
He gave a slow dangerous smile, and his eyes seemed to cloud. "Oh, my dear. Do you think that I've given you your chance because the shadow men relented in their hate or bitterness. Oh, no. I paid them for it dearly, and it will be a long time before they think to check on your progress with the runestave, believe me. You think Michael and his father would be allowed to live if that book reveals too much. Oh, I'm sure they'd live, but perhaps you would like to see them as amusement park toys, such as you grandfather became?"
Jenny shut her eyes, realizing she was close to tears. "Stop it."
"Then don't insult me," he said good-naturedly. "I'll leave you now to think on your decision. Just remember, though, only you can do it, only you know the symbol. There are no second chances if you say no now, and then change your mind."
Jenny shook her head. "Why are you doing this?"
He smiled. "I like to watch." Then he was gone. No mist this time, he simply vanished as though he had never been.
Jenny couldn't move, all she could do was stare at the runestave. She shouldn't. She should call Dee, or Tom, or even Michael. Someone to talk some sense into her, someone to remind her of all that Julian was.
And yet...in that moment, it was none of Julian's pretty words that she thought of, none of his tricks, and none of the professor's. It was SUmmer's words, on that morning after. When she had said that Julian had proved to be just the opposite of everything he had said he was.
She stood and very slowly made her way to the doorway, and picked the runestave up, holding it, feeling its power, terrified. And then she pulled her knife from her pocket, where she always kept it, and began to carve.