I was already on my fifth sheet of paper when I noticed Taryn's breath and color coming back to him, a gentle gasp beginning the steady rise and fall of his chest as his sleep cycle came to an end. I was sitting on the side of the bed, pen in hand, trying to see if I could somehow conjure up Kyra's extra from Dash's sanctuary and possibly catch a glimpse of something significant in the near future before it happened. I hadn't been anywhere near her extra for a long time now. Does the potency of these things wear off after an extended period? Am I unable to access the hidden ability, or is the truth just hiding within me some place where I can't find it?
Come on...show me something. Give me a sign. Warn me of danger. If Alec is still out there somewhere, I need to be able to see him coming before he gets too close.
I let my thoughts wander, relaxing my arm and wrist, waiting for things to make sense so the images would appear. Thoughts of Kyra's sullen expression and piercing eyes did what they could to bring about a spark of her ability...but the stuff that I was drawing wasn't making any sense to me. A cloak of darkness...a bus full of vampire teens...a man hanging, chained against a wall...tortured. What did any of this have to do with me and Taryn. Come ON!!! Give me something I can use!
Please? Give me a hint that I can decipher...better than the one that I got about Dylan before he...
As more life returned to Taryn's slumbering body, he began to fidget slightly. Arms and legs loosening, body heat firing up in his golden heart. Then a soft moan as he stretched both arms over his head, his toes pointed downward. He yawned before allowing his pretty green eyes to flutter open at last.
I took a moment to look down at the meaningless scribbles I was making on the current page, and could barely make out any images at all. So I turned the paper upside down and pushed it aside to scoot back and lay at my lover's side. "Morning, baby..." Taryn grinned, a sleepy haze in his voice as he wrapped his arms around my neck and gave me a squeeze. For someone who had basically just woken from the dead a moment ago...he was awfully warm. Amazingly soft.
I nuzzled my face into the side of his neck, my nose and lips rubbing against the silky skin...feeling his flat tummy pressed against mine. I've never felt so close to another person before. It's hard to imagine myself being more complete.
"If you bite me, I'm totally gonna bite you back." Taryn giggled sweetly.
I rolled on top of him, pressing my growing hardness between his splayed legs. "If I stain these sheets tonight...it won't be with blood, believe me." Looking down at him, I leaned in to kiss those beautiful lips, and enjoy the feel of his body going limp with a single relaxing sigh. Taryn's hand gently caressed my cheek, but he seemed a bit confused when I chuckled at his appearance.
"What? What'd I do?" He asked.
Taryn's reddish brown hair had grown back to its natural length from last night, brushing the sides of his face somewhere between his chin and his cheekbones...but the gel that was used to keep his experimental faux hawk in place was still doing its best to hold its previous form together, creating a clumped up, sticky, mess at the ends. I used my fingers to twirl some of the knotted strands with a smile. "Hehehe, you're such a poser." Taryn rolled his eyes, and it was so adorable that I found myself kissing him all over again.
"You liked it. I know you did." He grinned.
"Maybe I should shave my head completely bald tonight. Just to see what I look like."
"Noooooo!" He wailed, immediately running his fingers through my hair. "Don't."
"Why not? It'll be cool."
"No, it won't."
"It's just for one night..."
"Hehehe, NO!" He demanded. "I like my blond angel just the way he is. He's perfect."
As his kiss landed on my lips, I felt the rest of reality slip away, simply to shine a spotlight on this moment and the intense love that we shared between us. A love that would outlive time itself...as long as I could keep him safe.
He asked me, "Why don't you stay here with me tonight? I, honestly, don't want to leave this bed. It is the very definition of comfort. God, I'm going to be so spoiled when we go back to the lot."
As tempting as that sounded, I hesitated. And I told him, "I think...I'm going to find The Jeweler and try my training out again."
Taryn's expression changed. "You mean you're gonna let him beat you up again."
"It wasn't like that. He's just...he's trying to teach me what I need to know. I don't exactly know what he's getting at, but he clearly has a purpose and a plan for doing things the way he does. Somehow, he's going to show me how to keep these abilities strong and under control so I can protect you. All of you." I told him. "I'll figure out this Vampire Dawn business and then we can get out of here. Ok? We can go back to it just being you and me. We can go home...to our family. I promise."
Taryn hesitated with his response. He looked away from me, and quietly mumbled, "I'm gonna go jump in the shower." He gently rolled me off of him so he could get out of bed. He doesn't usually have any trouble walking around me naked, but he was quick to put on a bathrobe this time as soon as he got on his feet.
Was he upset with me? Or just worried? Or both? "Taryn...there's so much more that I need to learn. Don't you get that? I can't do this without The Jeweler's help..."
"Justin..." He started, but took a breath to keep from snapping at me. "...Look, I don't know what it is...but there's just something about this whole situation that rubs me the wrong way. Ok? The guards and the hunters and the heavy security. The fight in the lobby. And that Jeweler guy gives me the creeps. And as nice as this room is and all of the pampering and the extra hospitality...I'm starting to wonder if this is more of a prison than a paradise." He said. "I know you feel it too, Justy. There's just something very odd about this place."
"I know, babe, just...let me find out what I can from him. I'm getting closer to an answer, I know it. I actually believe that he has a way of helping me understand what it is that I'm supposed to do."
"You're 'supposed' be happy with who you are...and share the inner peace that brings you with whoever else will listen."
I know that Taryn was trying to help, but...how am I supposed to walk away from an opportunity like this? "If he turns out o be full of shit, we're out of here. But if he's not...then maybe I can finally take a few steps forward from where Comicality and Vampire Zero dumped me off. I can learn to be better."
Taryn gave me a concerned look, and replied, "I never thought you needed to be 'better'. Just being you was always more than enough for me. I can't see why it wouldn't be enough for the rest of the world too." And with that, Taryn walked into the bathroom and closed the door.
I heard him turn the shower on to get it warm, and I just sort of laid there. Am I doing this right? Am I being a bad boyfriend for not listening to him? I'll admit, there are a lot of fishy things going on in this building that seem out of place, but...Mr. Lockheart seems to have some deeper knowledge of how this Mimic thing is supposed to work. He has access to a level of understanding that I haven't grasped yet, and may desperately need in the dark times to come. Why can't he understand that Bryson and Doc and the others can't help me with this? Not even Comicality can help me with this. If I just push myself harder, I can evolve. I can sharpen my skills and carve out a special place in this world for Taryn and I to spend the rest of eternity together. All I have to do is find the key. The key within me.
Maybe Taryn just needs a break from this place. Maybe we both do.
It wasn't long before I had a few loyal human 'escorts' knocking at our door to take me down to The Jeweler's chambers for the evening. I noticed that they were always so careful to keep their heads down, and not look me directly in the eye for more than a brief second or two to relay a message or ask a question. One of them even asked me, "Would you like one of us to stay behind to hear out Master Taryn's wishes for the evening?"
Master Taryn? Hehehe, I think he would get a serious kick out of that title. "No. No, thank you. I think he'll be alright on his own for tonight." I replied, but after thinking about it for a moment, I asked, "Say...can you guys bring up some soft serve vanilla ice cream in a sugar cone for him? And a bag of tropical flavored Jolly Ranchers. He likes those a lot."
"We will process the request as soon as we able." One of them said, and the others lowered their gaze, nodding in agreement. Was it that easy? Do they even know where to get this stuff at this time of night? I wonder what else I could ask for...
They waited, silently, for me to take the first step or two towards the door before moving to guide me out as instructed. So obedient. And I haven't even proven that I'm worthy of their loyalty yet.
The stares I got from some of the people in the building's hallways were just as penetrating as the looks I used to get from the bullies and gossip hounds back in high school. Making me self conscious about my every step, every blink, every turn of a random corner. That seems like a lifetime ago now, but the feeling remains the same. Funny how certain emotions repeat themselves in different situations.
The giant doors were opened before me, the sounds of classical music pouring out into the hall as I was politely guided inside. The glimmering jewels that were hanging from the ceiling were hard to ignore. I knew what they were, but figured that it was much better than looking at the corpses in Jeremy's blood shack, so maybe I should be thankful for their elegant presentation. Not that I was ever going to be comfortable walking through any virtual morgue, whether it looked pretty or not.
Mr. Lockheart was sharing a small glass of wine with a woman who looked as though she had been crying for the last week and a half straight. Her eyes were red and weathered with pain, her body emaciated and weak. So thin that I could see her flesh falling between her bones at every joint and hinge. Long, thin, hair hung down to her narrow shoulders, doing its best to cover a neck so slender that I was surprised that it was able to support the weight of her head without snapping in two. And yet...she seemed to find some level of solace in being there. She listened to his whispered words and nodded in agreement. It didn't take a mind reader to figure out that she came here to die. And to possibly end up as another 'trophy' in Lockheart's vast collection of lost souls.
Where the constant bowing and scraping was such an uneasy state of 'cringe' for me to live in, The Jeweler seemed to truly appreciate his elevated status among the people who were dedicated to serving his every spontaneous whim. I don't think I'll ever be able to get as comfortable with the idea as he was. But I also think that's a good thing.
"Justin. I take it that you are ready to further your journey towards greatness this evening?" He smiled wickedly. He turned to the lady beside him and gave her a little kiss on the back of her knuckles. "Fear not. This is not the end for you. You are completing the circle that was designed specifically for you. You are close enough to glean the very purpose of your existence. You have reached the point where you may celebrate all you have accomplished, and release the burden of suffering in a future that may go on and on with no real meaning at all." He brushed some of the loose strands of hair out her face in such an intimate way. "Go, my child. Enjoy these last hours before the dawn. We will make sure that you are provided every comfort, and we will provide you with a respectful and dignified exit. A new circle awaits you, my princess. New answers are on the horizon."
I saw a single tear roll down her cheek as she leaned in to find comfort in the Jeweler's embrace. It's not something that I would have been lured in by, but the woman seemed to truly feel liberated and relieved by his softly spoken words. So...who am I to take that from her in her final moments? As much as I had rejected religion in my life...I remembered how faithful Dylan remained to his beliefs, even when they had failed him in the most catastrophic way possible. Perhaps there's something to be said for having something to believe in. Something to stand for. Even when others don't completely understand why.
As the woman was gracefully lifted to her feet and guided out of the room by some of Fabian's followers...or, I guess...my followers, he looked over at me with a smirk. "I trust that you have had time to do some soul searching?"
"I've had time to think about what I hope to get out of my time here." I said, defiantly.
"And what might that be?"
"I want to learn how to gain control over my abilities."
"Wrong." He said. "Gaining control over your abilities is merely a side effect of something else. Finding that 'something else' is the key. Until then, you are simply a lazy mind trying to find easy solutions to complex issues. There are no shortcuts here, Justin. No evasion of pain. You will have to 'break' in order to be rebuilt from scratch. Trying to scamper around that fact will merely be a waste of time."
"There's nothing to break." I said. "I'm fine. I just want to know what I need to know so my boyfriend and I can go home again. You said that you were going to HELP me!"
But he smiled and told me, "Then why haven't you left already?" A question that...for some odd reason, froze me up in terms of an answer. "You're not looking for the tools you need to carve out a path towards the Vampire Dawn. You're simply looking to submit to another solid 'structure' in terms of your thinking. Why? Because you've decided that I'm an authority figure? What if the message I have to give you is one of malice and hatred? Will you follow me without question? Why? Because it takes no thought or rationality on your part? Am I the influence that you will be proud of when the world crumbles and falls apart, due to your blind devotion of a philosophy that you never questioned once given to you?" He said. "This is not what makes for a credible Vampire Mimic. You are still miles from seeing the incentive to think for yourself."
"I AM thinking for myself!" I said.
But he replied, "No. You are angrily demanding that I do your thinking for you. You are still searching for someone to TELL you right from wrong. Do you not have enough faith in your own morality to figure that out for yourself?"
"Well, what's supposed to be the standard then? How am I supposed to know what to think?"
He stared deep into my eyes. "Is that what you believe? That there's a 'standard'?"
"Isn't there?" I asked.
"And who determines that standard? Who declared that there was a default setting for life and sanity? And what happens if you fall outside of that standard? Are you insane, Justin?" He replied. "Does the majority opinion eradicate the minority to the point where they can deny its very existence? Should those people be hunted down and murdered? Should their voices not be heard? And how would the majority feel if they were asked to take your place?" As he stood up from his chair, long flowing robe hanging to the floor, he said, "Nobody creates a 'standard' that would be discriminatory to themselves, now would they? No one judges others on issues that would work against their own best interests. Therefore, you can't have a standard without bias. Without hypocrisy."
"So what am I supposed to do, then?"
"You're supposed to think for yourself, Justin. And demand that this 'standard' respect your choices the same way that you respect theirs." He said. "This is not a team sport. We all have different paths to follow. Infinite paths. Our evolution does not come from the following of mundane doctrine for the sake of appearing 'normal', when...in reality...NONE of us are 'normal'. The Dawn is not about surrendering to what is acceptable. It is in the understanding that it is ALL acceptable. And that beauty exists in everything unless you actively ignore it."
"I want to know what you know." I pleaded. "I'm trying, I just...I don't see how to get past this...this..."
I was searching for the words, but The Jeweler answered for me. "Anger..." He said. "There is something to be said for the realization that you've been lied to for so long. An embarrassment that comes from the fact that you've been programmed to think a certain way for so long that an opposing point of view is difficult to grasp. Just imagine if you finally took a look at the lies and the pressure and the game that you've been forced to play...and you simply decided not to play anymore? Imagine what you could accomplish, if you were able to generate some truly amazing thoughts of your own making...and not just reactions to the toxic world views that you've been fed without your consent?" He said, and stepped behind me so he could place both of his hands on my shoulders. "The world doesn't need another structure, Justin. It doesn't need another loudmouth demagogue, telling the people what to think, what to believe, or how to feel. Leading them down a dark path by a league of control freaks who crave applause more than an opportunity to make the world a better place. No. We've been down that road many times before...and we know where it leads." He told me. "What we NEED is a generation of people who aren't too lazy or too offended to have their ideologies challenged and held accountable. People who aren't afraid to define sanity for themselves, instead of having it dictated to them by those who will never understand or agree with their way of life. People need the courage to stand for something real. Something true. Until we breach that level of community, then this spiral down into hatred and darkness will continue. We will keep feeding it and allowing it to fester and rot into violence and prejudice until it devours us all from within."
"I don't know how I'm supposed to DO, that!" I said, misty eyed.
"Yes, you do." He said. "You've been on the other side of torture and disgust. You've felt what it was like to be on the other side of the situation. Some people, both in darkness and in daylight, will NEVER know what it's like to be that chosen scapegoat who is made to suffer from the torment and pain of a society that barely values them at all. You can be their window, Justin. Their window into what is coming their way when it's their time to be punished for who they are."
"You're not making it seem like this is something that a 14 year old can pull off any time soon. I'm barely figuring myself out right now." I said.
"I have faith in you, Mimic." He said. "I believe that the concepts you need to grasp are easily within reach. You simply have to let go. A new foundation has to be built for you. One based on who you truly are. Once we accomplish that, I believe that everything else will rapidly begin to fall into place." He said. And then, stepping in front of me, he took my hand into his, seeing my desperation and my confusion battling for supremacy...and he simply said, "Shall we begin?"
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