Chapter 8: Compassion

I took my time getting ready to go outside and talk with Dr. Hayashi. It probably took me about a half hour before I felt dry enough to get back in my clothes, spending minutes at a time on pretty much everything. I even blow-dried my hair, something I hate doing, just to waste time.

It wasn't that I was desperately nervous about a one-on-one conversation with the same vampire that tracked us down for Mutt's blood… which, of course, I was only by a tiny fraction. I was merely questioning why he was here all of a sudden just to talk to me. Whatever his purpose, it must've been pretty big if I was the only one he was here for after all we'd been through.

After a long enough wait, I was ready to go, so I headed downstairs, running into no one along the way, and stepped into the backyard. I found Dr. Hayashi patiently waiting for me in a lawn chair, already sitting up by the time I came outside. His expression was unreadable, though much gentler than I was used to, matching that soft look he gave me moments after being turned human again.

He stood up but stayed where he was. "What took you so long?"

"Sorry, I was… taking a bath when you showed up," I replied, freezing up by the door and not daring to come closer. "What, uh… How'd you get here so quickly?"

I figured out the answer immediately after I asked the question, and we both said it out loud simultaneously. "Sora."

"…Right…" I breathed.

Awkward silence.

"Do you mind if we take a walk?" Dr. Hayashi finally asked. "I'd rather be out of earshot of Mr. Kanker in there."

"Oh, uh…" I nervously felt my pockets, assuring myself that I was armed if it came to that. "Sure, I… I guess so."

"Thank you." He smiled, turned towards the woods and motioned for me to follow.

I didn't budge for a moment, then I started moving towards him slowly and cautiously, not caring how ridiculous my slow motion Rolling Stones walk had to look.

Dr. Hayashi had to suppress a laugh. "That's not necessary, you know. I only want to talk."

"So I've been told," I mumbled. "What is it you want to say that Mutt can't hear?"

"It's just nothing that concerns him. Besides…" He looked up at Mutt's bedroom window. "I'm a little more worried about what I might do if I have to stay this close to his scent."

That stopped me cold. I put on the best straight face I could manage. "Are you still after his and Shane's blood?"

"In all honesty, I'd still like that very much." He turned back to me. "But I won't do that. Not here, not now. As I said, I'm here to talk to you. After that, I'll leave."

"Promise?"

"By all means."

I still wasn't sure if I was ready to trust him yet…

Dr. Hayashi looked down at the ground and smiled sheepishly. "Natalie, it's my understanding that you can read emotions. If you're still suspicious, then read mine."

Oh yeah. I almost forgot about that.

I focused on his psyche, picking out the various emotions he was feeling. I was almost surprised by what I found; while there was still a subtle hint of desire for Mutt's blood, the dominating feelings I read were curiosity, interest, trust and hope. There was even a little bit of shyness and remorse deep in him, but there wasn't an ounce of anger, aggression or cunning to be found.

I felt my head tilt to the side a little bit until I finally snapped back into my own perspective. "Okay." I walked, my pace much quicker, though not at all anxious. "Let's go."

"Lead the way," Dr. Hayashi politely offered, letting me pass and waiting a beat before following.

"Maybe you should go up front."

He chuckled once. "Still don't trust me?"

I was about to reply, but my words got stuck in my throat.

He shrugged. "I guess I can't blame you. It's not like I've earned it." He took a few steps ahead of me and fell quiet for a moment.

Once there was a fair distance between us and the cul-de-sac, Dr. Hayashi spoke up again. "Has Sora told you about how persistent I am?"

"Well…" I had to sort through my brain real quick. "She told me you've never walked away from a hunt empty-handed."

"Yes, I expected her to say something like that."

"So why did you just walk away?" I asked. "If werewolf hunting is so important to you, why didn't you just do something about it?"

He didn't answer right away. He just stopped and leaned against a tree. "Those two had something that no other prey of mine has had."

"…What's that?"

"Someone to intervene for them."

Half of me expected a response like that, but it was still weird to hear it from him. "You mean me?"

Dr. Hayashi nodded. "As you can probably well imagine, more often than not, the werewolves I hunt can't speak for themselves by the time I show up. And there's never been someone there to speak for them. …Someone that I could hurt. Or feel guilty for."

"So I was right." I turned away slightly. "You went easy on them because of me."

"Well, that's not the only reason, but… mostly, yes."

A sudden burst of sympathy hit me. "Have you fed recently?"

"I have some rations to hold Oliver and me off, but we haven't had a decent intake in weeks."

I nodded. "It must be hard… being able to survive off of only one thing."

He turned back around, looking rather confused by my sensitivity. "Yes…"

We were hit with another round of silence. Dr. Hayashi's eyes trailed up the tree he was just leaning against. "Can you climb?"

"No," I replied with a smirk. "Not to save my life"

That made him smile. "But you can fly."

"Yeah, so that solves that problem, huh?"

Even if I didn't know where he was going with this, we shared a good laugh over my little joke. Then he gave me a playful smirk and started to climb the trunk as gracefully as a cat.

"Wait, what're you doing?"

"Are you coming or what?" he called down to me.

I raised an eyebrow and pulled a kernel out of my pocket. Once my wings were out, I shot up after him, matching his speed, until we were both perched on a high branch. From this spot we could see all of Peach Creek; the moonlit creek, the calm forests, the lights shining on the streets and out of houses, and perhaps what I loved the most: the clear, sparkling night sky, illuminated by the twinkling stars, the crescent moon and a relatively low amount of light pollution.

"I love it out here," I randomly spoke up, not sure why I said it at all.

"I would too," Dr. Hayashi softly replied. "Though… I'm more of a full moon person, if you catch my drift."

A nod was my only response.

"Tell me," he said, changing the subject. "What was it like? Being a hybrid?"

I pondered that for a moment. "It felt… weird. Like I was walking in someone else's body. I felt stronger, more powerful… but my conflicting emotions and thirst…" I sighed. "It was a little scary, yet almost exciting. The freaky part is… I don't know if I miss it or not."

Dr. Hayashi stared at the sky, taking this in. "It's a burden sometimes. What bothers me the most is how hard it is for most people to see past the eyes and fangs… to realize that even though I don't have a pulse, it doesn't mean I'm heartless."

A pang of guilt hit me when he said that. After my time as a hybrid, I understood what he was saying, but Dr. Hayashi faced this all the time. He couldn't change what he is.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he sighed, looking away. "Don't apologize for something you didn't do."

A question popped into my head and formed into words against my will. "Hey, Doc? What about Oliver? I mean… is he really your…?"

"Yes," he mumbled. "He's really my son. His mother left a long time ago."

"Oh…" I looked down at the ground, momentarily forgetting we were in a tree, then quickly averted my gaze to the horizon. "That's sad."

"I really miss her," Dr. Hayashi breathed quietly. "And after all my family's been through, Oliver and Sora are my only living relatives."

My wide eyes shot back to him. "You mean everyone else in your family is dead?"

"Fate does not smile happily on the Hayashi family," he groaned, half sarcastically and half anguished. "We seem to be made to suffer."

"Don't say that," I said, much more firmly than I had intended. "You all have a purpose; I believe that. I also believe that everyone has the power to speak things into existence, whether they're positive or negative."

Dr. Hayashi looked impressed with me. "Really?"

"You are what you think," I added.

"That's… actually very informative. I've never really thought about that."

I nodded and we both turned towards the horizon again. "Blame that on me growing up in a Christian heritage."

He smiled and let out a stiff exhale through his nose. "I've heard a lot of things about church."

"You've probably heard a lot of stereotypes about church." I smirked. "Trust me, my church is nothing like you've ever experienced."

"I'm sure," he joked.

Another silence, but this one was much more gentle and calming than before.

"Now I have a much more serious question to ask you," Dr. Hayashi spoke up after a minute or so.

"Yeah?"

"What exactly is your duty as the Blue Star successor? I've heard rumors and legends, but I think a straight-forward answer would be better sought in you."

"Oh." I lifted my shoulder up and peaked back at my wings for one moment. "Well, the Blue Star's equal opposite is the Gold Star. Its power is controlled by creatures called Minusions, whose goal is to bring a downfall to human society so their leader, King Minusion, the physical manifestation of the Gold Star, can reign in a new world order."

"What do these creatures look like?"

"They kinda look like wolf-bear hybrids in my opinion, with hazel fur, red or blue fans on their ears, spikes on their legs and bright golden eyes." When he didn't reply, I looked up at him, finding him in a stunned silence. "Why?"

"Because Oliver and I just fought one."

"You what?" I yelped, sitting up straight.

"One of them attacked us back at Blue Ridge. …Well, I say 'us' but I think it was really after Oliver. He said that he could understand a little bit of the sonar frequencies it was emitting, and when it attacked him, I ordered him to bite it, and that seemed to be enough to kill it."

That shocked me. "But… Minusions can only be destroyed by the Blue Star."

"Which got me thinking: If Oliver and Mutt's energies were transferred to you when you three were electrocuted, who's to say it didn't work the other way around too?"

I blinked a few times; my eyes were so wide that they were dry as heck. "So you're saying that… Mutt and Oliver received energy like I did?"

"Partially," Dr. Hayashi replied. "If Oliver and Mutt received trace amounts of each other's energies, their own signatures would cancel them out. The only effect that could occur for both of them would be acquiring a tiny amount of the Blue Star."

And with that, I found myself in a cycle of deep breaths. If this was true, Mutt had a small piece of me inside of him. "Wow…"

Once again, silence. "I guess that's all I really wanted to say," Dr. Hayashi murmured.

"Well, thanks for telling me," I said. "I never would've thought of that."

He nodded, reached inside his coat and checked his pocket watch. "Well, I guess I don't want to keep you out here too long, so if you have nothing else to say, we can wrap it up."

"Yeah, I guess so." I then jumped off the branch and parachuted onto the ground. Dr. Hayashi, on the other hand, fell like a lead weight but managed to land on his toes.

Once we were both straightened out, Dr. Hayashi gave me a warm smile. "Thanks for talking with me."

"You're welcome." I couldn't help but smile back. Something about the way he was acting tonight rocked my perspective of him. He just wasn't the same as he was before. It was like there was a gentler, friendlier side to him that had been buried beneath the man Mutt and I had seen so many nights ago.

Weird. He reminded me of someone. I just couldn't put my finger on it.

"Say," I spoke up as we walked back to Mutt's house. "You wanna come to church with me sometime?"

"…Church?" Dr. Hayashi looked at me like I had just asked him to do something illegal.

"Yeah, I'm sure you'd like it if you gave it a shot."

His expression softened up a bit, turning into a light smile after a bit of thought. "I guess I could check it out when I get the chance."

"Great. You, uh… You got something I could write with?"

"No, sorry."

"Oh. Well, then, I'll be right back."

I quickly bolted through the trees and back into Mutt's house, making my way to the kitchen, swiping a note pad and pen and writing down the name and general direction to my church. Then I took the note outside and met up with Dr. Hayashi again in the trees. "Here."

"Thank you."

"You can't miss it," I giggled. "It's the big building less than a mile away from the airport."

He smiled at me, nodded and put the note in his pocket. "Alright, then. I guess I'll be seeing you soon."

"Yep. See ya." I turned around and started to leave.

"And thanks again."

"Anytime!" When I looked back, Dr. Hayashi was already gone.

With that, I let out a deep breath and walked back into the house, satisfied by our little talk, to say the least. I had a feeling I was the first person in a long time that Dr. Hayashi had opened up to, and if that was the case, I was glad to have helped him.

As I bounded up the stairs and down the hall, it was hard for me to miss the strong aura of animosity coming from Mutt's room. Though I knew I'd probably regret it later, I walked up to his door and prepared to knock. Before I even touched it, Mutt firmly said, "Come on in."

I didn't hesitate as much as I normally would when opening the door. I found Mutt sitting on his bed, leaning against the wall, arms tucked behind his head. "So," he said, rather accusingly. "What'd he say?"

"He just told me about a Minusion that attacked Oliver and him," I responded plainly. "Then we just talked a little bit about ourselves and I invited him to church."

"What did you tell each other?" Mutt's tone was far from pleasant.

"Not much. I told him about the Blue Star. He told me a little about his family. No biggie."

His eyelids lowered. "That's it?"

"That's it."

"He didn't say anything about me."

"Only when I said something about you first."

"And what did he say after that?"

"Mutt, I'm tired. Can't we just-?"

"What did he say?"

"He just said that he wasn't here for you! He just wanted to talk to me! I thought he had made that clear to you!"

"Well, yeah…" He tuned one of his guitar strings and muttered, "So that's it. That's all you'll tell me."

"Why should I bother?" I sighed flatly. "You wouldn't understand." I started to turn around.

"And why wouldn't I?" Mutt snapped.

"Mutt, face it." I tried sounding as matter-of-fact as possible. "You have a hard time trusting people that do you wrong. No matter what I tell you about Dr. Hayashi, it won't change your opinion of him."

"So you're saying you know something about him that I don't? Is that it?"

"Well, considering he just opened up to me, I'd say I do know a thing or two about him!"

"So why can't you tell me?"

"I just said it wouldn't matter to you either way!"

"Really, Nat? You're just gonna keep secrets from me? What's so gosh darn important that you can keep between you and that leech and not tell me? Your own boyfriend!"

"Don't call him that!" I suddenly felt very protective of Dr. Hayashi. "Yeah, he's a vampire, but he's not some heartless killing machine! His kind's way of life isn't his fault!"

Mutt then got on his feet and stormed up to me. "I don't get it. Why are you suddenly on his side? Need I remind you this is the same guy who followed us all the way to eastern Pennsylvania just for my blood? He doesn't belong in our world!"

"Our world?" I repeated. "Mutt, I have my own life! I don't need you to decide who I can and can't trust!"

"And what if you're wrong? HUH? What if this is just some sick trick?"

"If it was- which it isn't- then I'd be wrong! Simple as that! But I read his emotions like an open book, Mutt, and I can tell you right now that he has no intention of hurting me!"

"Nat, can you just think logically for a minute? I'm only trying to do what's best for you! If he has the power to kill me, he could just as easily kill you!"

"WELL, SO COULD YOU!"

Okay, that was probably pushing it too far. The wide shine in Mutt's eyes and the strong waves of betrayal were enough to make me hate myself for turning his Star Wolf nature against him. But I was too frustrated to apologize. I just wanted to explode in privacy. As far away from Mutt as possible. So I slammed the door in his face, stomped down the hall to the guest room, locked the door, collapsed onto the bed and burst into tears.

It wasn't fair. I understood Mutt's standpoint, but why couldn't he understand mine? I was only trying to be considerate of Dr. Hayashi. If that didn't matter to him, then fine, but he didn't have to be so judgmental of my feelings. I knew I could trust him. I just knew it!

Now I was being torn between them. Dr. Hayashi, who seemed bad at first but was hiding a ripped-apart soul, and Mutt, who always looked out for me not matter what. And we were having our first real fight because of it. Because they didn't trust each other the way I did.

And for the time being, Mutt seemed the most reasonable person to pin the drama on.

"Stupid wolf…"

There was a knock on the door.

"What?"

"Natalie, it's me," Elizabeth replied. "I heard you and Mutt. Do you need to talk?"

"No." I didn't want to say another word for the rest of my life.

"Oh… Well, please tell me if you need anything."

"Thanks."

Her footsteps echoed down the hall as she left. I knew I had nothing better to do, so I just put my pajamas on and crawled into bed, wanting to get this troublesome day over with. I didn't cry much more after that. I decided to apologize to Mutt in the morning after I had slept some of this anger off.

It didn't take long for loneliness to overcome me. I remembered last night, sleeping with Mutt's warm embrace around me. I wanted that back, but I still didn't want to be around Mutt. Not now. So I just laid there, staring at the wall, my near-sighted eyes blurring the image into nothingness.

I closed my eyes and whispered a prayer. Tomorrow would be different. Better. We'd continue searching for my family and everything would return to normal.

I sighed. What was normal anymore?

After lying there for about an hour, the sound of silence finally lulled me to sleep.


Saturday morning. I woke up after a dreamless sleep and trudged downstairs without even taking a moment to think about what I would say to Mutt. Fortunately, he wasn't even awake yet. Only Elizabeth was; she was reclining on the couch, reading a book I couldn't recognize from my angle.

"Morning."

She looked up and smiled. "Good morning. Do you want me to make you breakfast?"

"If it's no trouble, that'd be great."

With her ever-present trademark smile, Elizabeth led me into the kitchen and got to work on some eggs over-medium while I stuck some bread in the toaster.

"So did you hear what Mutt and I were fighting about?" I asked.

"Not entirely," she answered. "Though I had a feeling it was about that vampire that came to talk to you."

"Yeah…" I paused, trying to decided what the right question was. "Mutt still doesn't trust him, which I don't blame him for. But… I do, so do you think it's fair for him to try and change that just because he doesn't?"

"Well, I think it's up to you to put your trust in someone. No one else can decide for you."

"Thank you," I breathed, taking a sip of the water I had unconsciously poured myself.

Mutt still hadn't woken up by the time I finished eating, so I decided to take advantage of his sleep-in and head out to continue my search, narrowly avoiding a touchy conversation with him. Little did I realize that by purposely avoiding him, I had hurt Mutt even more than before.

So while I continued my search in downtown Peach Creek and everywhere south of it, Mutt wandered aimlessly through the woods and the northern areas, keeping his nose open for the Gold Star's scent but finding his mind miles away.

Just like I didn't understand why he was making a big deal out of our trust (or lack thereof) of Dr. Hayashi, he didn't understand why I wasn't. He thought I should've still been at least a little suspicious after everything Dr. Hayashi put us through. But more than anything else, Mutt just wanted to make it clear that he was thinking about my safety. He didn't want anyone or anything to hurt me.

But now he was, so the whole purpose was defeated.

"Nat, can you just think logically for a minute? I'm only trying to do what's best for you! If he has the power to kill me, he could just as easily kill you!"

"WELL, SO COULD YOU!"

That was the part that hurt Mutt most of all. If the argument had gone on any longer, that could've actually happened. If his temper got the better of him, the wolf could've been forced out and done some serious damage. To think he was this close to letting that happen… he never would've forgiven himself.

Feeling hopeless, Mutt sat down on a rock and took a moment to just breathe. He tried to take his mind off of that, reminding himself that there were other things to worry about. We'd sort this out in due time. For now, he had a job to do.

He lifted his head up and took a deep whiff of the forest air.

The first scent he caught was just about the last one he would've hoped for.

"Go away, Masterson!"

"You don't own the woods, Kanker! I don't have to obey everything you say!" Shane shouted back, still hidden by the trees.

"Look, you've already done everything I asked you to do! I don't need your help anymore!"

Shane finally emerged, scowling at Mutt. "And what about Natalie? I'm sure she'd be more than grateful for an extra set of senses. I mean, look where you are now: nowhere. You're not one iota closer to finding her family. If you ask me, you need all the help you can get."

Mutt was about to shoot a rebuttal but was tongue-tied by the truth of that statement. Did he want Shane's help? No, of course not. Was it a good idea? More than likely, yes.

He sighed with defeat. "Fine. Just keep your distance. I don't wanna be smelling you all day."

"The feeling's mutual," Shane mumbled back.

As Mutt stood up and Shane passed him by, something I said last night worked its way back into Mutt's brain: "Mutt, face it. You have a hard time trusting people that do you wrong."

Once again, truth struck him on the head like a hammer. Here he was, prancing in circles, trying to find where the Minusions had my family; Shane comes in and offers a hand, and Mutt just wants him gone because they don't like each other. Why was that the only thing standing between them and peaceful cooperation?

"Hey, Shane?"

Shane stopped and turned around, looking rather shocked by Mutt's calm tone.

"Why do we hate each other?"

It seemed like an odd kind of question to him. Nonetheless, he thought it over relatively quickly. "Well… I think it's mostly because you have what I want."

"Right…" Mutt nodded. Rival lovers. That was all. "Look, I understand you like Natalie as much as I do. Who could blame ya? But let's face it: she depends on both of us. So as long as we're gonna be on a team together, we might as well try to get along. We don't have to pretend to like each other. We just have to learn how to cooperate… for Nat's sake."

Shane looked genuinely touched by Mutt's words. A light smile crept up on him and he nodded slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, we might as well."

"Good. So… I'll take care of everything within town limits. Why don't you head north and see if there's any sign of the Gold Star beyond Peach Creek?"

"Can do." He turned around and was about to take off. "Oh, and Mutt?"

"Yeah?"

"Nat would be proud of what you just said."

Mutt smirked and tilted his head. "I'm sure she would be."

"Maybe in the near future, once we've learned to get along, you'll go a bit easier on my pursuit of Nat-"

"Okay, don't push it."


Come lunchtime, I decided to take a break and sit down at the Peach Melba. I still wasn't ready to confront Mutt, so lunch by myself didn't sound so bad. Every so once in a while, my school friends would pass by and offer their condolences. The Eds even sat down with me for a while until Edd caught on and they politely left me.

I took my time- even though I knew time wasted meant more time in the Minusions' grasp for my family- idly gnawing on my mozzarella sticks and sipping my milkshake, occasionally looking up at the cartoons they were showing on TV.

At one point, the door opened and I turned my attention towards it. Half of me expected Mutt, but that half was proven wrong. It was the other Kankers, Mutt's deranged cousins.

"Oh goodie, goodie!" May squealed. "I can't believe we finally worked up enough money to come in here!"

"May, those odd jobs were awful enough," Marie griped. "But your attitude almost makes it not worth it."

Having barely heard her sister, May asked, "What should I get? A banana split, a turtle sundae, a milkshake… Ooh, they've got malt shakes, girls!"

"Just order something and get outta the way already!" Lee gripped. "I've got a serious hot fudge jones!"

Boy, if I believed in karma…

I sunk into the back corner of my booth, desperately trying not to be seen. After my last run-in with the Kanker Sisters, I dreaded what another encounter with them would bring. And with Mutt not by my side, I felt outnumbered.

Unless, of course, the Kankers, like pretty much every other minor in this town, knew my identity.

While May anxiously tried to decide what kind of ice cream to buy and Lee openly threatened her to get a move on, an exhausted Marie wandered my way and briefly made eye contact with me. I turned away a split second after she did, pretending to take interest in my lunch, but when I looked up out of the corner of my eye, I saw her calmly heading my way.

Her emotions carried no sense of hostility, so I didn't object as she walked up to my booth. But I still couldn't get rid of that sense of foreboding.

Finally, without a single word, Marie slipped into the seat opposite of mine and rested her arms on the table. "Hey."

"…H-Hey…?"

A smile briefly flashed across her face, then she took on a serious expression that looked so foreign on Marie.

I didn't know what to think of her sudden shift in attitude. I was used to Marie being the loud, angry, arrogant sister, so a one-on-one with her seemed far from pleasant. Sure, I was thankful it wasn't Lee, and I probably would've preferred May, but with all things considered… why?

"Where's Mutt?" she asked.

"Not sure," I answered.

"Huh. I figured he'd be with you 24/7. You're all he ever talks about when he comes to our place."

"Really."

"Yep." Marie leaned back, folding her arms behind her head in a manner similar to the way Mutt was sitting last night. "Look, I know this sounds out of character for me, but if I said I was sorry about that wedgie, would you forgive me?"

"Oh, that?" The wedgie they had given me the day I met Mutt seemed so insignificant to what had happened afterwards and had thus been pushed to the back of my memory. "Um… Yeah, sure. It's no problem."

"Good. I was afr- I mean May was afraid that you'd come back and blast us for it."

That made me chuckle, both from the idea and that flat-out lie. "Well, don't worry about that. I'm not really the revenge type."

Wow. Marie made me laugh.

"So… those powers of yours. They're pretty cool."

"Thanks."

"I guess it goes well with Mutt, too."

"You know about that?"

"Oh, yeah. Uncle Henry told us that old story a long time ago. What matters to us is that we can't pick on him like we used to anymore."

Again, she made me laugh. Marie was on a roll today. "Hey, I've seen you girls in action. I bet you could take down that big ol' wolf."

Now I was making her laugh. "We'll have to try that sometime."

"You still give him what for every now and then, right?"

"Oh, you know it!"

Okay, this was weird. Here I was, making light conversation with Marie Kanker, of all people! I think I was blowing off some steam leftover from my fight with Mutt last night, but this was the last circumstance I would've expected to do so. And yet… I was enjoying it.

"Yo, Marie!" Lee called. "You getting ice cream or what?"

"Oh, hold your sauce! I'll be right there!" Marie's trademark attitude returned and faded away very briefly. Then she grinned at me again. "Make sure you keep Mutt in check, alright?"

"You got it," I replied, smiling right back at Marie as she got up and rejoined her sisters.

I sighed contently, knowing I'd have to remind myself to do just that later. Then I finished off my milkshake and headed outside, relieved and ready to continue my search.


Sunset. Still no luck. With a heavy heart, I pushed myself back to Mutt's house, asking myself how much longer Mom, Dad and Jared would last down there. I was considering keeping my search up through the night, but before that, I knew there was no more dodging it. I had to talk to Mutt. I was already starting to miss him.

I stepped into the house, instantly finding Mutt sitting on the couch, looking my way. "No luck?" he asked.

"Nothing," I replied. Both of our tones carried no emotion, as if in preparation for whatever we were about to pour out.

Mutt stood up and walked up to me, gently taking my hands in his. "Nat, I… Well, first off, I talked to Shane. He's gonna help us out."

"Oh… Great."

He paused, then sighed. "Look, Nat, we obviously have different views of Dr. Hayashi, but I don't understand why-"

"Mutt," I cut in. "Sorry, but I don't wanna debate this anymore."

"Of course. Me neither."

"So can we just settle with the old forgive and forget routine. We need to be on each other's side."

"Right." He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry for yelling."

"Me too." I leaned on him and he wrapped his arms around me. "And I'm sorry about what I said. I know you wouldn't hurt me."

"That doesn't mean I don't have the ability to," Mutt murmured. "If I had said one more thing last night, I probably would've lost control of myself."

"Well, you didn't, and that's what counts."

"…Yeah, I guess."

That's when I remembered something. Dr. Hayashi had told me that Mutt and Oliver had received a small amount of the Blue Star, and I had meant to tell Mutt before our argument broke out.

"So…" Mutt said as he brought me up to eye level with him. "Tomorrow we should figure out a new approach, because we're obviously not getting anywhere the way we're working now."

"Right."

"Let's just try not to worry anymore." He gave me the old sideways smile. "Things will work out."

I smiled and nodded once, then turned serious again. "Mutt, there's something I forgot to-"

And just my luck, my cell phone interrupted me. I scowled hard and pulled the phone out of my pocket, telling Mutt to hold on real quick. I perked up again when I saw Shane's name flashing on the screen.

"Hello?"

"Natalie, it's me." Shane sounded breathless and anxious.

"Yeah, I know. What's up, Shane?"

"Are you doing anything right now?"

Other than telling Mutt what could very well be a vital piece of information, "No, not really. Why? What's up?"

"Can you and Mutt come up to Lemon Brook?" He took a deep breath. "I think I found something."