par après avs yeux

- a jalex story-

a/n: I am officially the worst updater ever, and I apologize. It's been four months now since my last update, but to be completely truthful, I haven't felt any passion for writing lately. Series of events in my life recently have left me feeling like taking a break from writing. Honestly, I wrote this two-three months ago, and just never got to publishing it. The wonderful CallYouByYourName helped me revise this chapter and made it ten thousand times better. Not even sure she remembers doing it :p You should check out her story Alternate Endings, which focuses on the ends of episodes and adds a little something extra. She accomplishes this in a breathtaking way, so I highly recommend you find her stuff and read it.

Now that I have blabbed on, I hope you enjoy the chapter. Not sure I will update again soon, but we'll see (:

chapter eight – justin

Je pourrais entendre les racines de solitude qui rampe par moi quand le monde a été fait taire à quatre heures dans la matinée.

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning. - anonymous

I stay awake two hours and twelve minutes past my self-imposed bedtime, tracing the mess of covers on Alex's side of her bed with loathing eyes. Loathing stirring in my chest because she's off gallivanting with the werewolf, loathing because she has the sweetest sugary tone whenever she wants something but with me her voice drips with a sour aftertaste. Loathing with myself because no matter what Alex says or does to me, I still cling on to her tightly. Perhaps some part of doesn't want to know how far I'll fall the moment I decide to let go.

The spell-book on my lap tumbles to the side and I let it, too tired to move. Gathering fistfuls of the purple covers, I laugh morosely to myself. I'd come racing back to Alex's bedroom earlier after putting every library book back in its proper place. It had been a habitual mistake, considering that I'd been sleeping in Alex's bed for the past few weeks just so I could be close to her. Well, I won't give it up now. It's the least I deserve for dealing with her ever-changing moods and her out of the blue desire to go have tea and crumpets with Mason.

Moments later, I hear the front door squeak open and then gently shut, followed by footsteps on the stairs. Alex passes by the bedroom door a moment later, her hair a beautifully disheveled mess and her lips smudged with pink lipstick. She's wearing one of Mason's sweaters and there is a dazed look in her dark eyes. My fingers curl into fists.

"You should have been back a long time ago," I growl, struggling into a seated position. My tone is hard, but on the inside I'm begging her to say something, or do something…do anything to prove that the girl I fell in love with is still in there. I act irritated because I don't want to show how worried I've been about her. An hour ago, my mind had begun concocting scenarios of rape and murder.

Alex jumps. "You're still awake," she says, as though surprised that I would dare to stay awake past my self-imposed bedtime. How else would she have me behave?

"Yeah," I say, coughing past the buildup of phlegm in my throat. "I wanted to make sure that you were safe."

Alex's lips part ever so slightly as she stares at me. I wonder what she's thinking. Either way, it's amazing how sexy she looks, even in such an unkempt state. "You don't have to check up on me," she says at last, but she doesn't sound mad. "I'm not five, Justin."

"I know," I tell Alex, wanting so badly to reach out and pull her into a hug. But she's so far away from me, so unmovable. And plus, I remind myself, I'm supposed to be angry with her. "But you're still my sister."

Hurt flashes in Alex's eyes, but she quickly conceals it. "Your sister," she echoes slowly, lingering over each syllable. When she finally looks up at me again, there is a forced smile hoisting her lips up. "Mason took me back."

"Did you ever doubt that he would?" I ask coldly. She knows that I don't like talking about the narcissistic werewolf she's seemingly deluded herself into loving.

She can't love him, not when there is this thing between us. She can't.

"No," Alex says. "I love him. He loves me." She shrugs. I see her eyes flick towards the other end of her room as my whole body jerks at the word love. Then she adds, "You should have been asleep a long time ago." The lingering gaze she gives me tears my heart into little pieces.

"Obviously I'm not asleep," I tell her, biting my tongue to keep from leashing the words I really want to say.

Alex rolls her eyes, as though silently telling me I'm being dense. But her whole face softens when she sees how tired I look. "Did you get my texts?"

"No," I say shortly. Actually, I'd gotten both of them, re-reading the "I'm sorry" and "I don't think this kind of love ever dies" until my brain had screamed in protest. But I wasn't about to tell her that.

Alex's face closes off. "Oh," she answers, hesitating by the doorframe. "Well…look, Justin. You can't blame me for thinking that this isn't going to work." She gestures between us and I feel like she's stabbed me in the chest. "We've tried every avenue. The only thing left to do is fight it out in the Wizard Competition until one of us wins. Beats losing our memories," she says.

After all this time, I thought she would have changed. But she still backs out when the going gets tough. I am not worth it to her, apparently. The thought hurts.

"Call me crazy," I respond dryly, gesturing to the spell-book on the floor. "I thought you meant it when you said that you loved me, that you'd fight for us. But I guess I was wrong."

"I haven't given up-"

"You went back to him," I hiss, my face frozen with loathing for a moment. I don't know where this encompassing anger is coming from, but I can't seem to stop it. "I've been searching every spell-book known to man in the hopes of finding something to save us, but I guess that just isn't as important to you as getting Mason back. My bad, Alex."

Alex's lower lip trembles and my traitorous heart wants to take every word back just so that she'll be happy again. But I won't. I can't. I'm sorry, I think, watching the emotions work their way across her face, each one hitting me worse than the previous one. After a drawn out silence, Alex inhales shakily and flashes me a look brimming with confusion, anger and teardrops. Then she walks away from me, down the hall. I hear a door slam. She's stolen my bedroom, darn her. And I was so hoping she'd have to sleep on the couch, which she hates. I should have put a padlock on my door, or even spelled it shut. By morning Alex will probably have burned all of my Captain Jim-Bob Sherwood collectables and sullied my covers with the jar of jam she always keeps in her purse. But oddly enough, I'm too upset to care. I just don't care. She's already done far worse to me.

I'm done, I think with a bitter scowl, ignoring the tears in my eyes. In this moment, I hate her so, so much. More than that, I hate how I can't seem to stop the guilt pounding into me, butchering me for letting my tongue loose. I hate how much I love her. I hate how we share the last name and yet how that doesn't even matter, really. We don't need to find a way around it. We just crash right through it.

But now, all of those talks about ignoring the Council, fooling our parents and finding our own happiness, all of those little promises we made, feel null and void. It scares me how easily Alex seems to give up, especially when I'm trying to do the exact opposite.

This is how the Council wanted us to be in the first place: normal, manageable. Well, they've gotten their wish.

I blink back the sudden moisture in my eyes (stupid allergies) and reach for my flip phone. Scrolling down the list of text messages- most of which are from Alex, though a few are written in Zeke's favorite Alien dialect – I look for the two messages I'd claimed not to read earlier.

You should already know who this is, because honestly, who else texts you? I'm sorry I made plans with Mason, Justin. No matter how much I want to reconnect with him, it wasn't fair to you. Call me back when you can (because you take way too long to text. Like wayyyyy too long.)

It was so typically Alex, the first message. I'd been kind of surprised to see an apology, as those were as rare as Dad's workout sessions, but she'd quickly followed it up with insults. I hadn't been expecting the second message, which had been broken up into several texts due to the length.

I think some stories don't have happy endings. And obviously, if the Council has sucked us here and made us young again and threatened to take away our memories, we can't expect a happy ending. I care about you. I'm never going to forget the night that we had, because I don't think this kind of love ever dies. But there's nowhere for us to go. We're trapped, Justin. I know you probably think I'm being really immature about this, and maybe I am. But this is the decision I'm making. I'm going to work on my spells and win the Wizard Competition. It's the only way I can see out of this twisted mess. You should do the same, but you know, you've never listened to me. So do what you want, I guess.

Alex would send her goodbye message to me in a text. It's just so her.

"Stupid, freakin' allergies," I grumble under my breath, wiping at my wet cheeks and glancing over at my wand. It rests against the lamp on her nightstand, the light casting a warm glow over its wooden length. Reaching over, I pick it up and run my fingers over the smooth span, Alex's words echoing in my mind.

This is it then. This is what has to happen. If Alex is going to strive to win the Wizard Competition, I can only do the same. I can't just let her saunter across the finish line, not when I deserve it so much more. No. Now it's on.

Bring on the Wizard Competition, I think gravely.

The alarm goes off way too soon and it takes me several consecutive minutes of blinking to dismiss the drowsiness. My head pounds a jagged rhythm. Morning light peers through the curtains. The alarm beeps two seconds later (I always wake up before it goes off, always.) Sliding out from between the covers and hissing at the cold, I head out into the empty hallway.

"Why were you in Alex's bedroom?"

I turn and meet my mom's suspicious look, gulping. "She stole my room," I say, hoping that my voice isn't wobbly. Technically it's the truth.

Mom shakes her head and sighs. "I would have thought you two would have grown past that," she responds. "Aren't you getting a little old for the practical jokes?"

My laugh comes out a little high pitched. "Try telling Alex that," I answer.

Shaking her head again, Mom heads downstairs and I hurry over to my room, praying that Alex still isn't in there. I need to get dressed and I can't do that if she's lying in my bed glowering at me.

But it seems that for once in her life, Alex got up early. My door hits the wall behind it softly and I creep inside, half expecting her to jump out at me or squirt pepper spray into my eyes while waving a tomahawk. But nothing happens. The only sound is my labored breathing. Stop being so paranoid, I tell myself with a frown, heading for the closet. One favorite t-shirt and pair of jeans later, I head downstairs to get breakfast.

"You look terrible," Max tells me when I enter the kitchen. I don't bother responding, and he doesn't seem to need an answer. Hopping a little on his chair, Max cranes his head around and asks, "Can I have my breakfast now? I can't construct my Pile of Trash on an empty stomach."

"Say please or the only thing you're getting is coal," Mom answers sharply. Max gives her an abashed look and mutters "please" under his breath.

"You're making another Pile of Trash?" I ask him, eyebrows furrowing.

Max nods excitedly. "The first one sold for so much I decided to make a whole bunch of them," he tells me, grinning. "Next thing you know, I'll be a billionaire."

"Good luck with that," I say, turning to give Mom a hug. She smiles up at me and wraps her arms about my waist, hugging me tightly. Pressing my face into her neck, I inhale the comforting scent of her cinnamon body lotion that always reminds me of my childhood. She's worn it since before I was born.

As I'm pulling away, I glance surreptitiously about to see if Alex has come down yet, but she hasn't. Something like disappointment settles in my stomach, and I try to tell myself that it's just because I'm hungry.

If that's the problem (which it is,) I can solve it. I head over to the fridge and pull out a protein shake.

"You're going to need more than that," Dad says as he lumbers down the stairs.

I frown as I take in his too-tight shorts and orange bandanna. "Did you accidentally sign up for another marathon?" I ask him.

"No," he says, then frowns as if reconsidering. "Well…"

"As a matter of fact, he did," Theresa says, walking over to stand beside her husband. She hands him a white pamphlet with the words Unicorn Derby written on it in squiggly letters, flashing him a weary look. "But that's another story for another time."

"I didn't even know there was such a thing as a Unicorn Derby," Jerry muses, studying the paper intently.

"So, why are you dressed like that?" I ask after pulling the paper from his hands and throwing it in the trash.

"We're training for the Wizard Competition."

Alex stomps down the stairs wearing spanky pants and a peach colored tank-top that fit her slim body way too well. I swallow uncomfortably as my eyes travel up to meet hers. Something warm blossoms within me and for a moment Alex looks just as I feel. However, she quickly brushes a scowl onto her lips and the warmth in my heart crumbles into cold remains.

"Oh," I say, wondering how I didn't know about all this.

"Cardio and all that, I guess," Alex adds, giving me a one-over. "What, you didn't know?" Her eyes glimmer darkly and I wince at the bite in her tone. "I asked Dad first thing this morning. That's what you get for sleeping in."

"Alex," Mom reprimands half-heartedly, just as confused about Alex's new determination to get fit for the competition.

"But I thought it was just about spell-work," I mutter, stumbling over the words in my confusion.

The look that Alex gives me is rather queer this time. I don't know what to make of it, only that she looks rather sad, wistful almost.

"You should know better than anyone that it's not all about the spell-work," she says.

I have to keep clutch the counter's edge to keep myself upright as the meaning behind her words hits me and I get it. The sadness in her eyes seems to echo my own, and all at once I'm reliving the memory that slips into my head sometimes at night.

The heat from the crackling fire it took us so long to build. Her fingertips gently brushing mine as we sit cross-legged and talk without antagonism. I remember wondering if we'd be able to save our family. I remember Alex, struggling not to cry as she folded her body into mine, still sniffling as she found her way into slumber.

You can't hate me, I think as I take a deep breath, still looking into Alex's brown eyes. Not after everything we've been through. That kind of love never dies.

"Yeah," I say. "Right. But I haven't been – I never implemented a workout into my daily schedule."

"Liar," Alex scoffs, giving me a one over. "If you haven't been working out, then how did you get those nerdish muscles?"

I accept the back-handed complement with a tiny smile, and she glowers at me all the more. It only means that some part of her still cares.

"No time like the present," I respond at last. "But maybe we should start with spell-work first?"

"I thought it would be best to do spell-work after we're done with cardio," Jerry responds. "You could take a shower and then snuggle up with Advanced Spell Casting, Volume XVI."

"But my hypothalamus will be in no condition to keep up with my advanced level of retention skills," I argue.

Alex growls under her breath. "Look," she snaps, "are you coming or not?"

"Well, you don't seem to want me along in the first place," I retort, letting some of the venom from last night seep back into my voice. Alex backs up ever so slightly, glaring. I can feel our parents' eyes boring holes into our backs but I ignore them, focusing only on Alex. "Just go, Alex. Go work out and get fit. Pretend that you're not making the worst decision of your life. Be the good person, whatever that means. Maybe then you'll feel like you have a chance." I head for the stairs, then turn back to look at her. Alex's eyes are wide, framed by those long, dark lashes and if I look closely enough I can make out the beginning of tears. The color bleeds from her cheeks and lips. She looks devastated, and a cruel part of me rejoices that she finally gets how I've been feeling these past couple days. The rest of me just feels sick.

"Justin," she whispers.

My mouth is moving without my permission. "You can delude yourself all you want," I hiss, "but from where I'm standing, you're nothing but a selfish brat." My heart thunders in my ears and the room spins dangerously. A tear slides a slow trail down Alex's cheek. "We both know who's going to win in the end," I add viciously, heading for the safety of my bedroom and the pillows tinged with my sister's scent.

After 23 minutes of dedicatedly pondering all of life's questions, I roll over onto my back and sigh. The house is strangely silent and I wonder if they've actually left without me. Doesn't matter even if they did, I think. I've got everything I need right here. I'm perfectly happy with the stack of spell-books on my nightstand. One can never study too much. As I do so, my mind dredges up the memory of how Alex had looked earlier, how her shorts had clung to her curvaceous hips and how I'd seen a line of cleavage disappearing underneath her shirt.

"She did it on purpose," I tell myself, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. "Forget her. Forget them." Brushing away the memory of Alex's tear-stained face after I'd finished snapping at her, I reach for one of the spell-books. I flip past the easy sections Alex is only just managing and reach the advanced spell-work. The wording seems strangely familiar. Oh yeah, I memorized this last summer. I gently place the book to the side and reach for the next, but run into the same issue. I've memorized every word in every one of these spell-books and know the spells backwards and forwards.

Sitting up, I stretch my arms above my head and flex my fingers. Then I set the spell-books in a neat pile on top of Alex's covers. "You're just that good," I tell myself with a smug smirk, getting up and leaving my sister's room. The halls are oddly silent; not even a peep from Max's room. Weird.

Once in the lair, I head for the spell-books lying in a heap on the table and shake my head. Can't even put them on the shelf, Alex? However, after flipping through each and every book, I realize that I've memorized all of these too. I must have read them sometime after the Wizard Competition, I determine, trying to remember. But I can't seem to recall anything past my first term as Headmaster of Wiz-tech, no matter how much I try.

"What the heck," I mutter, fighting to remember what had happened after Freddie had visited my office and I'd placed him in Alex's delinquent class. It's all a fog. "How did we trigger the curse?" I ask myself, my brows furrowing. "How-"

I can't remember.

I can't remember.

"You have to win the Wizard Competition," I tell myself, lips trembling as I exit the lair and head for the double doors of the Sub-Shop.

The Wizard Council wasn't kidding when they said that we'd lose our memories. It's really happening, I think, trying to stay calm. But terror is quickly spreading through me, numbing.

Mom and Max are sitting on the front steps outside the Sub-Shop, dressed in their work clothes. Max has several trash bags situated to his right and seems to be utterly focused on the mutilated Coke can in his hands. Just then, Alex jogs by, her shorts riding up just enough to give me a good view. I shiver and she frowns, her eyes studying my face. I know there is fear in my eyes, easy for her to see. Her lips open, probably to ask me what's wrong, when suddenly she pauses. She's still mad, I think with a sinking heart as her face closes off and she keeps running.

Dad walks by just a minute later, wheezing uncontrollably, his face as red as a tomato. "What-are you-doing –he-here," he manages to get out between gasps.

"I, um," I stutter, glancing in the direction Alex has gone.

Dad notices and, giving me a rueful smile, he beckons me into the street. "Co-come join us," he pants.

I shrug, "If you want me that bad." Flashing a matching orange t-shirt and shorts from last year's Alien-Brother convention, I follow Dad down the street, waiting for him to catch his breath. "Where are we running?"

Dad gives me an odd look, then chuckles in a weird wheezy way. "You," he clarifies, "are going to be following Alex down Waverly Place. Make a right onto Almond and follow that. Alex will show you the rest."

"You do realize that Almond leads into an unstable neighborhood, right?" I squeak. "I mean, not like it's a big deal or anything-"

"Justin, don't be a baby," Dad says, sounding so much like Alex that I have to swallow away the sudden lump in my throat.

"I'm waiting for you to tell me to apologize to Alex," I answer slowly.

Dad shrugs, taking another shuddering breath and wiping at his sweaty face. "I trust that you've figured that out for yourself," he rasps, giving me a last smile before turning to head off.

"What about Max?" I ask suddenly, gesturing towards the boy covered in trash.

Dad gives Max a quick glance. "I'm pretty sure he's more productive where he is."

Max looks up and sees us. He waves, smiling.

"Is he even training?" I ask, remembering how Max had reacted when Alex had won the last Wizard Competition. Max had been happy enough to receive the Sub-Shop but later, he'd admitted to me that it would have been nice to keep his powers. I look back at my dad and ask, "Are you going to help him train?"

"Relax, Justin." Dad places a sturdy hand on my shoulder. "I've got Max. You worry about yourself." He mumbles something like "when have you ever done that" under his breath but I don't quite catch it. "You should probably catch up to Alex."

"She's not going to wait for me," I say, shaking my head and pulling my right leg back, stretching. After doing the same thing to the other leg, I start walking in the direction Alex had disappeared, slowly transitioning into a jog.

It takes twenty minutes of running (and an energizing spell) to reach my sister. Alex is just turning onto Almond Street, her dark hair bouncing in a loose ponytail. Her breathing sounds perfectly normal and as I'm cursing my weak lungs, I wonder when she started to work out. Last time I checked, Alex's idea of fitness was watching Biggest Loser and stuffing her face with chocolate ice-cream.

As I approach her, Alex's muscles stiffen a little, but she doesn't turn around. She's probably heard my tennis shoes grinding against the ground. The roads are terrible around here, little more than potholes surrounded by patches of dirt.

"Did you want something?" she asks calmly.

"It's always wise to have a running buddy," I answer, glancing slowly around me and wincing as the buildings seem to close in over our heads, the brick walls and mailboxes covered in trails of graffiti.

Alex still doesn't turn around. She's probably rolling her eyes. "You're so lame," she says.

"I know."

Finally, she spares me a cautious glance and asks, "What do you want?"

"I already told you," I say.

Alex barks a laugh. "That's just an excuse to get close to me, Justin."

"Is it working?" I ask my sister, unwilling to admit that I really don't want to be alone in a place like this. Everything about our surroundings, from the thin veil of sunlight overhead to the cobwebs trailing across porch railings and the driveways covered in cracks, looks like one of those scenes in a scary movie. But, of course, I have no intention of mentioning my understandable misgivings to Alex. She'd only call me a coward, which I'm not.

Her shoulders tense even more and when Alex looks at me again I'm worried that she's carrying some kind of weapon. Please let it be a bomb, I think. At least then I'll perish quickly.

"No," Alex says. She slows down just enough for me to catch up and I watch her eyes linger on my armpits. Her nose crinkles. "You're really not into this whole working out thing, are you?"

"Just out of practice," I mutter, tightening my arms against my sides.

"Sure," Alex answers.

I cough into my hand and eye the graffiti-stained buildings to either side of me with great trepidation. It's not that I'm scared. I just find it highly probable that a gang is waiting around the corner to massacre me, is all. I'm not scared.

"When did you start working out?" I ask, unable to stop myself from staring at the way the sweat gleams on her olive skin.

"After the first Wizard Competition," Alex says immediately.

"Do you mean the one that you won?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

She shakes her head vigorously.

I remember the tears staining her cheeks as she begs me not to go. "Please don't leave me here," she whispers, her brown eyes sparkling. My lips waver as I look at this beautiful girl whose name I don't even know and I feel a little ache stir in my chest. The moment I tell her that I have no intention of leaving, she flings her arms around me and I bury my cheek into her hair. I feel at home.

"Why?" I ask. We're still jogging, faster now.

"I never wanted to feel so helpless again," Alex tells me. Our eyes meet. Something burns between us and before I'm even aware of it, I'm slamming her against the wall to our right and smothering her lips with mine. Her fingers dig into my back and she whimpers.

When I pull back, her eyes are glazed. I kiss her neck and whisper, feeling oddly seductive, "And yet we're stuck here."

"Exactly," Alex hisses back, beginning to struggle in my arms. I release her immediately, feeling like an idiot for man-handling her. When she tears up, I feel even worse.

"Alex, I-" I'm not sure what I want to say, but I have to say something. If I really wanted to, I could probably cut the tension between us with a knife.

"Don't," Alex says harshly, taking a step away from me. "Just don't, Justin. This doesn't change anything." She begins to walk away, back towards Waverly Place. The alley feels a lot more intimidating without her by my side.

"I'm forgetting."

I blurt it out without meaning to. Alex freezes.

"What?" she asks.

"I'm forgetting," I say again, not trusting my feet enough to move. "I can't remember anything past Freddie's visit to my office. I've tried everything, I swear." My legs quiver when I walk, but I manage a few steps. Tangling my hand in my hair, I croak, "I thought that if we stayed away from each other then we'd be able to keep our memories."

Alex looks stricken and I wonder if she's afraid for me or her own memory.

"Well," she says, taking a deep breath, "obviously, we're not doing a good job of that." She bites her lip. "Look, we'll figure it out, okay? We always do." I watch her eyes roam about and wonder what's making her so antsy. Finally she says, "I've been jogging every day at ten. If you're a minute late, I'll go without you."

"Why are you doing this?" I ask her, something like hope fluttering in my chest.

Alex shrugs. "Call it my good deed for the year," she says with a quirk of her mouth. "Besides, it's always good to have a running buddy." Pulling her wand out from her shoe where she'd magically shrunken it, Alex disappears; she's probably already lounging about on her favorite spot on the couch.

I stare at the place where she was for a minute, trying and failing to keep from smiling. This kind of love never dies, I think, my smile falling away as I feel something crinkle in the palm of my hand. The blue post it note gleams mockingly up at me.

We warned you.

..::.:.:::être continué:::.:.::.. be continued..::..:.:::.:..