Chapter 1: A New Life
Find him, Finn.
The boy squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment, trying to escape the harsh fluorescent lighting. The door to the other room was locked tight, and he was left to drum his fingers on the rectangular table where he sat all alone. It hadn’t been explained to him- why exactly he was there. Here. Wherever Mummy & Dad had dragged him.
Without explanation however, he could hear snippets of conversation from the secured room. Voices trailed over to him, separate from the ones that intruded in his mind.
“He’s a good boy… won’t be hardly any trouble.”
He glared towards the door.
Find him, Finn. Find the Voyager.
He- Finn- rubbed his eyes now, as if that would silence the voice.
“...An angel, really. We just can’t take any chances with the new baby on the way.”
The room was all white, like the hospital he had visited when he caught the flu. It even smelled like the hospital, so sanitary and unwelcoming. Plain carpeted floors, an area with books and toys for small children to play in the corner. Tables, much like the one where he sat, stationed all over. Windows giving a glimpse of the sunny day in the garden outside.
“He’s always been different. But it’s just recently that he’s taken this turn for the worse.”
Finn distracted himself by thinking about the man Mummy and Dad had introduced him to before they skittered off to their private meeting. He was boring, flooding Finn with the most unexciting greyness. As if on cue, the door rattled open and the three paraded out. Mummy and Dad sat at the chairs to Finn’s left and right while the Grey Man stood, observing.
“Baby boy?” Mummy started, her voice soft and inoffensive.
Finn felt some sort of turn in the atmosphere surrounding them. He looked with confusion to Dad, who would not meet his stare.
“Can we go home now, Mummy?” Finn blurted out, overcome by this heavy discomfort.
Mummy cradled her stuck-out tummy; having just past her second trimester for her fifth child. Finn, the third child, appeared to be no older than ten, despite just passing his thirteenth birthday. Brown hair had grown long, framing his face.
“I wanna go home…” Finn mumbled when they failed to answer promptly enough.
“...You’re not coming home. Not just yet.” She explained slowly.
“What?” He asked, whipping his head back and forth between them, wishing to find some glimmer of humor.
Dad grew more distant, the hand he had placed on the table curled into a fist.
“Finn, darlin’, don’t get upset. We’ve been talking with the doctor here. He’s going to have ya stay here with the nice nurses for a while, remember them?”
“Mummy, I don’t want to stay here! I don’t want to stay with the nurses!” Finn fidgeted in his chair.
She struggled to put together a response. “Finn, you’ve got to. It’s not forever, dear, just until you feel better.”
“I’m fine, Mummy! I told you that!” A tear spilled from his eye as he gripped the edge of the table in his tiny hands.
Too little too late, perhaps, but his father spoke up.
“Finn, we can’t have another incident. Not with the baby coming. You’ll be a good boy for the doctors, alright?”
“Dad!” Finn grew frantic. “I told you it wasn’t me! I said it wasn’t me and you said you believed me! You can’t leave me here!”
“I do believe you, son.” He still refused to make eye contact. “And you’ve got to believe me that this is good for you.”
“B-but…” Tears streamed from Finn’s eyes as he looked around all three people in the room.
“I love you, baby boy. This will be good for you. You’ll see.” Mummy said, sounding exhausted.
Papers were signed, officiating Finn’s stay. Mummy and Dad gave kisses and hugs as he wept and begged for them to reconsider. It was soon obvious that all of his protests were for naught as he was shown to his room. It was the same as the waiting room, just white and cold.
He learned that the place was a sort of group home, intended to rehabilitate troubled teens from whatever hindered their success or happiness or ability to conform with their peers. Some of the parents of the children had waived their parental rights, allowing the inhabitants to either be adopted or grow old enough to take care of themselves. Finn did not know which scenario applied to him and wasn’t given any clarity by an adult.
Nurses and doctors rotated like days of the week, prodding and interviewing him, trying to get a grasp on why his parents felt the need to leave him there. Finn had always been told that ‘honesty is the best policy’ so he restated his story over and over to indifferent or skeptical faces. They would murmur amongst themselves and scribble down notes in their clipboards, give him a lifeless goodbye and whatever nurse was nearest would offer Finn a consolation cookie.
Mummy and Dad assured that they would visit weekly to check on Finn’s “progress” and they faithfully did for the first couple of months. He’d was given kisses and letters from the siblings, as if any of that could make him feel less like a discarded broken toy. Mummy would pet his hair as Dad told him how missed he was.
Then, a newborn joined the family and the visits turned into once-monthly.
Once-monthly gradually became every few months.
By the time Finn had passed his one year anniversary of having only the four white walls to keep him company, he was struggling to remember what his family looked like.
Journals kept him company now. He wrote down everything he could, from what was discussed in the therapy sessions, to the nurses comments, to what the unrelenting voices whispered to him every day.
Find the Voyager, Finn… The Voyager will take you home.
Lowell Heritage Center was overlooked mostly by underpaid nurse maids. Their duties ranged from cooking, offering shoulders to cry on, aiding in medicine distribution or breaking up fights between the children.
Finn sat up in his bed, scribbling furiously in his journal, tonguing at the swelling in his lip from the punch he received at breakfast. He wasn’t sure who had suggested that he join everyone else that morning but surely the scuffle he endured taught them that he was in solitude for a reason.
Downstairs, the double doors leading to the lobby from the garden swung open and an ominous figure stepped inside. A long black cloak, dark brimmed hat and gloves camouflaged the man underneath. He walked with a cane, wooden in the staff with a silver skull at the base. He surveyed the office and found the check-in desk with only one person present.
Michelle, the most authoritative of the nurses, glanced up from her paperwork and flinched at the sight.
“H-Hello, sir? Can I help you?”
“Madame.” The man touched the brim of his hat.
From her seated position, Michelle could vaguely make out his face. She went from confused to alarmed upon noticing a tattoo under the man’s eye.
“I’ve been told by my associates that you have a young man here with particularly special needs. I’m interested in speaking with him.”
Michelle blinked at the voice. It was stern and accented, but from where she could not identify.
“Um. I’m sorry, sir, might I ask who you’re with? And your name?” She cleared some papers from the desk so she could access the computer keyboard.
“Oh. How foolish of me, my apologies.” He removed a glove to offer her a tattooed hand.
“Ah.” She reluctantly shook his hand. “And your agency is, which?”
She moved to turn back to her computer, but he refused to let her hand go. About to protest, she tried to yank her arm back but he spoke quickly.
“Take me to see the young man who claims he speaks to spirits.”
Michelle, to no fault or control of her own, relaxed as her face turned from disturbed to complacent. She could not remember what she was upset about a mere moment ago. In fact, she felt as though she’d never be anything other than calm ever again.
“Of course, Mr. Black, right this way!”
He released her hand and followed her lead as she eagerly sprang from her chair, around the desk and over to the staircase. They walked and talked.
“What’s this boy’s name?”
“You must be talking about Finn. He’s such a sweetie.”
“Finn.” Aleister relied on his cane as he climbed the stairs. When they reached the second floor corridor, he grimaced at the sight of the unembellished identical doors and what he could assume were unembellished identical rooms inside. “Do you interact much with Finn?”
“Oh, yeah. He’s been in therapy for over a year now, spoken to over six doctors. I observe his sessions usually. He says that ghosts follow him around and talk to him.” They walked together past the doors. Some gave way to children crying, a few distant televisions.
“Hmm.” Aleister considered. “What say the doctors?”
“Well that’s just the problem.” Michelle hushed her voice quickly. There was only one door left in the corridor, farther down a curve in the hall, as if it didn’t belong with the others. No crying, no speaking and no television came through from this one.
This one was much different. Michelle couldn’t see it, but it nearly blinded Aleister.
“They don’t know what to think about him. He’s gone through so many doctors. They say he’s too emotional to be schizophrenic. Y’know, sympathy and empathy and all that? His parents were at a complete loss. At first they thought he had just an overactive imagination.”
“At first?” Aleister tried to focus his ears on what she was saying, but felt an energy radiating from that last room, seeming to make the door glow and vibrate.
“Yeah. Then Finn attacked his little brother and told them ‘the spirits’ did it. Messed him up pretty bad, from what I hear.” She used finger-quotes.
“He’s been living here ever since, I gather?” Aleister removed his hat, as if the shadow it cast over his eyes prevented him from seeing the door. His long blonde hair was tied at the base of his skull.
“Not even. They just kept him away from his siblings, I guess. Til the mom got knocked up again. Then they brought him here.”
“Brought him here so he could be kept away from the other children… Why is his room separated?” He squinted.
Michelle sighed. “We didn’t want it to be… but he blew through his three strikes pretty quickly.”
Aleister cocked an eyebrow to her, wordlessly questioning.
“Each child is given three strikes before they’re put into seclusion. Finn kept telling the other kids what their dead relatives were saying about them. No one wants to hear that, y’know?”
He shook his head and muttered, “This is no way to treat a child.”
“He says he can’t control it, what the dead people say. Between you and me? The other kids are scared of him.” She mimicked his motion, shaking her head and staring at the door. “Completely unnecessary, he’s a sweet kid.”
“Does he speak of anything else? Besides the spirits?” Aleister asked.
“Oh, Mummy. Always Mummy. This kid loves her so much.” Michelle, intruding, side stepped around him to knock at the door.
“And where is she?”
“His parents stopped visiting months ago… They sent a letter in tellin’ us that they wouldn’t be back. None of us have had the heart to tell him…”
She said, louder now, “Finn, sweetie?”
“Yes?” A small voice answered.
“You have a visitor, hon!” She called.
“Mummy?!” The small voice yelled back, eager.
Michelle returned to yelling. “N-no, honey it’s not Mummy. Can we come in?”
Another pause. The small voice, much less enthusiastically, said “Yeah, okay…”
She turned the knob. Aleister was instantly grateful for his cane, because without it, sight of the child may have sent him tumbling to the floor. The glowing and vibrating of the door lead to sparks and explosions of effervescence around the child. For Aleister, it was stunning.
He stepped into the box-like room and, despite the amazement he felt over what he was seeing, a sickening, worrisome feeling overtook his body as well, making him feel nauseated and tired.
Michelle, unbothered, ran to the bed and attempted to smooth back Finn’s unruly hair.
Finn saw, as the stranger walked in, a smoldering type of white light follow him in. It was as if he was staring at an angel. The voices, ever present and noisy, shut up as soon as the door closed, leaving a ringing in his ears.
“This is Finn! He just won’t let me do anything with this hair, goodness.” Michelle preened over the boy.
“My Mummy likes it long…” He mumbled, closing his journal and looking anywhere he could other than the bright white.
“Thank you, Michelle, you’re not needed anymore.” Aleister said, setting his hat down on the dresser across from the bed. Adjacent to that was a table with two chairs. He could only imagine how many interrogations Finn had sat through at that very table.
“Okay! I’ll let you two get to know each other! Call downstairs if you need anything, Finn knows how!” She said, chipper as could be, and scampered out of the room, closing the door behind her with a bang.
Nervously, Finn pointed. “She’s… not supposed to leave?”
“Worry not.” Aleister pulled a chair out and sat, resting his elbows on his thighs with folded hands. “I am not here to diagnose you.”
“You’re not a doctor?” Finn whispered.
Aleister noted the nervousness. Finn stayed in a defensive, almost fetal position on his bed. The locks of brown hair had quickly fallen away from where the nurse pushed them back. Finn made no effort to move them away, although his vision was definitely affected.
“I’m not a doctor. Although I am interested in the stories you’ve been telling your doctors. Please.” Aleister stood after only a minute of sitting and offered his hand.
Blue eyes, shielded by the curtain of hair, studied the hand, as if it were a flame threatening to burn.
“I’m Aleister Black. And you’re exactly who I’ve been searching for.”
Finn sniffed. “What does that mean?”
Aleister took his rejected hand back and regained his seat. The blinding white seeped into his body, making him more human and approachable to Finn. More human. From what Finn could see, Aleister couldn’t have been much older than himself, making his visit even more odd.
“It means you’re special.” He said, matter-of-factly.
Finn pouted slightly. “That’s not a good thing…”
“Everyone thinks I’m weird…”
“Hmm.” Aleister considered his next words, reading Finn carefully. “I have a bit of an issue with that. You’re not weird at all, Finn.”
“How do you know…” Finn mumbled.
“Well. I know from experience.” Aleister nodded, holding back a gag as the nausea he felt nearly doubled.
“But I don’t know you…” Finn tried to fold his body in even more, as if to be as small as possible.
“True. You don’t know me, yet. But I can assure you, Finn… You and I are exactly alike.”
Finn jolted up straight. With a panic-stricken expression, he swept all the hair from his face to stare, wide-eyed.
“How did you do that?!” He said, strained in voice, as if he wanted to scream.
“The same way you can.” Aleister said, gaze focused.
He had not opened his mouth, had not made any noise, but Finn heard him loudly and clearly, as if the words were spoken an inch away from his ear.
“This…” Finn started. “This is how they talk to me.”
“The spirits?” Aleister asked even though he already knew.
“Yeah, they…” Finn gulped, now with trembling hands and tear-filled eyes. “They talk to me all day and night.”
“Did they attack your brother?”
A nod. “He wouldn’t stop calling me a freak… they don’t like it when people are mean to me.”
Aleister nodded back. “That’s what I figured. How many are there?”
“Wait, you believe me?” Finn asked out loud. To his shock, the man snickered.
“Of course I believe you.”
“I... “ Finn’s eyes searched his face. “You... “
“Go on?” Aleister answered out loud, understanding that the ‘mental speak’ could be hard to swallow for anyone, especially a socially and emotionally stunted child.
“Are you… You’re the Voyager...” Finn said quietly, more to himself than to Aleister.
Aleister bowed his head.
“I’ve been called that, yes. Who told you that name?”
“They… They told me to look for you but I didn’t… I didn’t know how…” Finn clasped hands over his eyes. “There’s two of them…”
“Headaches are normal when you’re first exercising your gift.” Aleister explained nonchalantly. “And if you’d allow me, Finn, I have three questions to ask you, then, if you wish, I’ll explain everything.”
Finn whimpered. “Okay…”
“Were you born with your gift?” Aleister asked.
“Yes.” Finn said, clutching his eyes.
“Have you ever used your gift to hurt anyone?”
“No… But they… they hurt people without me tellin’ em to.”
“Hmm.” Aleister nodded. “That makes the last question moot, I think.”
“Wha?” Finn looked up, squinting.
“Are you in control of your gift?” Aleister finally asked.
“Oh…” Finn sniffled dejectedly.
“Well. As it were: My name is Aleister Black. I’ve been called The Voyager before. I didn’t come up with it but it seems to have stuck and spread. I have a camp just outside of downtown Salem. I live there with more people who are gifted like you and I are. More special people. If you’d like, I want you to come back to the camp with me and live there.”
“Mmmf… How did you find me?” Finn rubbed circles into his temples.
“The spirits, of course.” He answered, as if it were obvious.
“They told you? How?”
“They communicate with each other. And then with you and I.”
“But I can’t... “ Finn sighed as the pain eased away. “I can’t leave here… my Mummy is coming back for me and I gotta… be here.”
“Finn, your mother is not coming back for you.” Aleister said, stoic. “Not here.”
Finn pushed the hair away again to study. “What do you mean?”
“Your parents have chosen to keep you here, Finn. None of the nurses wanted to tell you. But I am not afraid to tell you everything that you have a right to know.”
“I… no, you’re…”
The sparks that Aleister saw surrounding the child multiplied and whizzed around his unkempt head. Aleister himself felt a pain, similar to a stabbing knife, in his stomach at the same time.
“I know it’s hard to understand, Finn. I’d like to you to consider coming back to camp with me.” Aleister said, masking the pain he felt by averting his eyes. He couldn’t pinpoint what these sparks were; whether they be untapped power or the manifestation of the spirits attached to the child. Either way, they were something truly to behold.
“But, I don’t… I… Are you sure?” Finn asked. Aleister could hear the struggle as Finn focused all his efforts into the communication.
“Quite sure. And for that, I am terribly sorry.”
“How... How do you know?” Finn asked again, unable to hide the welling of tears.
“Your parents told the nurse… The nurse told me… But I’ve collected your parents information from them. Don’t worry. We can send them a letter. They can visit.” Aleister softened slightly.
Finn bit his lip, wondering what the difference really was between Mummy visiting him at the group home or at this camp.
“You said… there… are… others?” If Finn was speaking audibly, he would have been out of breath. However, Aleister did not fail to notice how quickly he was catching on… Already miles ahead of where he himself had been at fourteen.
“I did. My family.” Aleister cleared his throat. “I need an answer from you now, Finn.”
“Oh…” Finn trembled again, either from exhaustion or shock or both. “I don’t… I don’t know, sir.”
“I know it’s a lot to consider, and I’m not allowing you much time to do so. But consider this, young man… You’ll never be called a freak again.” Aleister said, eyeing towards the door when sounds of footsteps out and about sounded.
“There’s... “ Finn tried to manually relax his body. “There’s really more of us? You promise?”
Aleister stood and collected his hat from the dresser. The upset stomach was beginning to dissipate as Finn grew more comfortable with his presence. No way that was a coincidence, he noted to himself.
“Finn. I absolutely promise. Come with me?”
“But… and you’re sure that-” Finn started.
“You’ll never be lonesome again.” Aleister said, grabbing his cane from the bed.
The words hung in the air for a fleeting moment. Maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was the fascination and curiosity that had already been leading Finn along before. But the idea- the promise- of acceptance? It was too much to pass up.
“Okay.” He brushed his hair aside a final time. “I’ll go.”
Surprisingly, Aleister flashed a smile.
“Gather your things.”
Finn only had to repack the suitcase his parents made for him when he was dropped off. A few filled journals were hastily thrown in while Aleister stood, staring towards the door.
“Did you already sign the like, paperwork and stuff?” Finn squeaked after everything was collected.
“Oh, no need.” Aleister said with a shrug.
“Are you adopting me?” He asked, hope coming through in his voice.
“Something like that.”
“Oh… okay!” Finn said, “I’m ready, then.”
It was odd. This whole situation was odd. But perhaps Finn’s lack of familiarity with anything other than oddness, made him accepting of it.
They left together and shut the door behind them. The footsteps Aleister had heard belonged to Michelle and the nurse accompanying her on medication rounds. The women saw Finn with his suitcase and obviously wanted to say something.
Before they could, Aleister approached quickly, cane in his elbow and took hold of both women, one palm of his hand on either of their foreheads. They gasped and may have fought him but turned docile when he spoke.
“Finn is leaving with me. He’s going where he belongs. You’re both very happy for him.”
When he regained his form, the women’s faces were smiley and dumb.
“Oh, wonderful! Bye, sweetie!” Michelle said, leaning in to kiss Finn’s forehead.
“Good for you, buddy! Have fun!” The other nurse did the same.
“Um…” Finn looked between them, then to Aleister, who looked bored, at best. “Okay… thank you? Goodbye…”
“Come along now.” Aleister extended an arm to take Finn’s tiny hand in his and lead him down the stairs, past the abandoned desk, out the double doors and into a fancy looking black car.
Finn gawked out the passenger side window as Aleister drove, taking in all the sights of the land, as though he’d never seen it before. It was just some chain restaurants, residential buildings, maybe a public park or two. To Finn, however, they were all the places he hadn’t been allowed to go to. All the sights he was forbidden from seeing. It was freedom.
They drove for maybe an hour, mostly in quiet. Finn had so many questions and so much excitement and confusion, it all blended together in a way that caught in his throat whenever he tried to speak. If he was going to live with Aleister, surely they would have plenty of time to discuss everything he wondered about.
Another wave of amazement overtook him when Aleister took a turn up a massive hill. Once they left the road for a gravelly trail, the house was in sight. Having lived such a short life with so little privilege, Finn saw what he assumed what a mansion.
Aleister just saw home.
It was a five-bedroom house that Aleister himself had assisted in building when he took claim of the land. It seemed to rest right at the peak of the hill, with nothing but trees and lawn surrounding. Perfectly in the middle of nowhere.
“Wow…” Finn sighed as Aleister parked before the giant house. Now able to take in all the features, he saw the white trim under the charcoal shingles, a wide porch with a swing built in and an extensive colorful garden like a moat surrounding the area.
“This is it.”
“It’s amazing!” Finn looked back to the driver with a Cheshire Cat grin.
“I’m glad you think so…” Aleister said. “One more thing before you come inside, Finn?”
“What!?” Finn bounced in his seat.
Without anymore warning, Aleister’s hand came down like a firm strike on Finn’s forehead. The boy froze in fear for half a second, then all faded to black.
Aleister held Finn’s head as he found and collected all memories of his parents and erased them completely, assuring that Finn would never miss them or question their absence again. Aleister left only the history of Finn’s gift, the torment it had caused him, and the warm feeling of acceptance that Finn had harbored upon meeting him. Finn would now assume that he had spent his entire life in that cold, white room.
All the memories that Aleister considered unpleasant were stored under lock and key, somewhere Finn couldn’t find them.
Once Aleister was satisfied, he took his hand back and politely waited for Finn to wake up. He did, like a baby from a nap, stretching and yawning and looking around the area with a content and peaceful expression.
“Are you ready to meet your family?” Aleister asked.
Finn looked around, sleepy with half-lidded eyes.
“Uh huh…” He nodded, a little smile on his face.
Aleister gestured for him to follow. Together, they stepped out of the vehicle, up the curve of the hill, and into Finn’s brand new life.
Finn trotted behind Aleister, up the stairs to the front door of the house. To his amazement, he heard nothing but the occasional cry of an animal in the surrounding forest.
No voices. The spirits weren’t bothering him.
He was unable to place exactly why, but he knew this house had something to do with the calmness he felt in his head and his heart. This man had something to do with it.
“Come along.” Aleister unlocked the door. “You have much to see.”
Finn stepped inside with him, and as promised, was instantly wide-eyed at the sheer amount of decorations there was to see. The first space had chestnut shelves on each wall, adorned with candles and jewels of all colors. Above and below the shelves hung framed photos of black and grey art, some cryptic and some beautiful. On the floor, there were two opposing couches, black in color. No doors separated this space from the next, instead velvety curtains hung in the frames.
Aleister was using the front of the house as a shop front, though what he was selling was unclear.
Finn followed him past the curtain, swiveling his head every direction. A hallway lead to a collection of closed doors, reminiscent of the group home but much warmer and more inviting. Another section of seats made it look like a waiting room.
In the very back of the space, there was a door marked ‘Do Not Enter’ but Aleister stormed right in. It lead to a forked space- stairs to the left, a huge kitchen to the right. Aleister took left and they noisily stomped up. At the top, the house became more like a home. Mimicking the downstairs, the first room entered was like a relaxation space with couches and a television, carpeted floors and framed photos of family members instead of art. Aleister hung his jacket and hat in a closet off the top stair.
“Brianna?” Aleister called, startling Finn slightly.
A moment passed with no reply.
“They must be out back… Here, give me this.” Aleister reached for Finn’s suitcase and opened the nearest door. He stepped inside and glanced out the bedroom’s window, leaving Finn’s belongings on the bed.
Finn took a peak, seeing a pink-walled space with a cushy bed and a fantastic white vanity mirror and chest, littered with makeup. Aleister shut the door again before Finn could investigate further.
“They’re all outside. Back downstairs we go.” He muttered, summoning Finn along.
He followed dutifully down the same stairs, holding his hair back so he could see where he walked. Aleister turned left around the stairs to the kitchen. The countertop was spacious, taking up two walls with cabinets high above. Past the kitchen was a dining room with a long table, already set up with plates and cutlery.
The back door of the house lead to a vast backyard like a field. It went on for what had to be an acre before trees eclipsed any further sight.
“Do you ever see animals here?” Finn squeaked.
“A few. Deer mostly. The occasional raccoon.” Aleister squinted into the distance, able to make out four bodies just before the trees.
“I erm…” Finn hesitated, overwhelmed with questions and wondering which one he should ask first, but was invited to speak by Aleister’s nod.
“I’m really nervous...about the people.” He admitted, feeling a pit growing in his stomach.
They continued, into the green grass, towards the others. Finn noticed, as they got closer, everyone had turned to look in his direction. He wondered if Aleister could communicate with them mentally, like they had together back in Finn’s room.
“You have nothing to worry about here, Finn. These are trustworthy people. Not just anyone is allowed here… You’ll see.”
“Promise?” Finn mumbled, almost inaudibly.
With only about fifty more feet to cover, Finn could make out four distinct bodies waiting for him, not by their physical traits but from the amazing colors that shimmered off of them. He noted to ask Aleister if he also experienced this sensation; if he also saw glowing lights coming from people’s personalities. It was one of a probable hundred questions he had.
Before he could dwell more, Finn saw a person emitting a lavender essence run toward them, wind an arm back and hurl something directly to Aleister’s face. Right as Finn could identify the ‘something’ as a football, it stopped.
Aleister stared at the football where it stayed, suspended in mid-air.
“That’s not funny, Lev.” Aleister yelled, before holding a hand out for the ball to drop into.
“It’s a little funny.” A voice yelled back.
“Come and meet your little brother.”
Finn gawked, looking from Aleister to the ball to the lavender energy that rapidly approached. Right as the color seeped into his skin, Finn blinked and was pulled into the air, into a rib-cracking embrace.
“Hey, buddy! Welcome home!” The voice was joyous and deep.
Finn yelped and almost wriggled away, but allowed himself to relax and be hugged as the energy gave off a safe and pure vibe. Warmth. Loyalty. Happiness.
“What’s your name, bud?”
“Erm… Finn.” He said as he was dropped back to his feet.
Staring up now, this boy had to be only a bit older than Finn himself, but far more blessed in terms of height and size. Black hair just passed his shoulders and a half-finished tattoo sleeve was visible from under his tank top.
“Hey Finn… I’m Roman. Welcome home, brother.” He said again, now offering a hand to shake.
Finn felt himself smile and took his hand, then felt one of Aleister’s rest on his shoulder.
“You see Finn, Roman has a truly incredible gift. He can move or manipulate any object just from looking at it.” Aleister threw the football back to Roman.
“Eh. Runs in the family.” Roman shrugged.
Finn didn’t have time to ask a question or even really recover from the amazing gift he had just witnessed when a soft pink colored energy ran over to join them.
“Oh my gosh, hi!” It said in a voice so sweet. The pink melted into the shape of a girl, about Roman’s age but Finn’s size.
The polite thing would have been to greet her back, but Finn found his tongue tied as he looked into the prettiest face he had ever seen. She smiled at him, and he felt the most addicting excitement from her presence. Beauty. Charm. Intelligence.
“Finn, this is Brianna.”
“Brianna?” Finn repeated, dumbstruck. She giggled.
“You can call me Brie. Or Bird. Everyone else does.” She gently poked at the swollen spot on Finn’s lip. “Sweetie, does that hurt?”
“Oh, it’s… it’s nothing.” Finn cleared his throat as two more colorful entities walked up to join the group. Hot pink; sharper than Brie’s. Loud. Crass. Golden yellow; bold. Arrogant.
“Let me just…” Brie ran a thumb over Finn’s lip.
The swelling disappeared under her touch. The blood spot vanished, as well did the dull pain and stinging inside his mouth.
“There… That’s better, huh?”
Finn’s hand flew to his face, frantically feeling around. His fat lip was completely gone; repaired by just a touch.
“Bravo, Brie.” Roman smirked, arms crossed.
Aleister chuckled to himself. “Brianna’s gift… Healing.”
Wide-eyed, the only thing could offer was “Wow.”
“You and I…” Brie beamed at Finn, “... are going to be the best of friends.”
Hot pink and gold faded into a girl with hair to match her energy and a boy with a smug smile plastered on his face.
“Roman and Brie are your family now, Finn. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know them better. But, understand that we entertain company all year. People like Sasha and Adam come and go as they please.” Aleister explained. Sasha and Adam bowed dramatically as they were introduced.
“Sasha is the best spellcaster in this side of the country, I’d wager.”
“Damn right.” She said proudly.
“And Adam… a hypnosis expert. He can make any person follow any command of his choice with just a touch.”
Adam winked at Aleister. “You’re not so bad at it yourself.”
Roman interjected before Aleister could react. “So d’you wanna hang out in the grass all day or we goin’ inside sometime soon, brother?”
Aleister shot Adam a wary glance, but Finn, still poking at his healed lip, was none the wiser.
“Of course.” Aleister gestured back. “You can show Finn everything he needs to see. Brianna, his suitcase is in your room for now. Meet me in my office?”
“Yessir.” She took Finn’s hand and lead the way back to the house.
Roman sloppily scribbled “F I N N” into an empty column on a dry-erase board hung in the kitchen.
“Everyone takes turns doing the dishes, cooking dinner, vacuuming, that kinda shit. We’ll figure out where you fit in the schedule soon.”
“Okay!” Finn stared, bright eyed, at the chart.
“We have dinner as a family every day. Every day!” Roman stressed. “You can’t miss dinner or he’ll freak.”
“Aleister will?” Finn whispered.
“Yep. He runs it. Him an’ Brie are the only ones who live here twenty four-seven. Well, them an’ you now, too.” Roman wiped away a check mark from the board, under a row labeled ‘Groceries’.
“He runs… the house?” Finn asked. It felt strange to whisper when referring someone who could read his thoughts, but he figured it was best to be safe.
“He runs the shop. And the house, I guess. He has his rules, you’ll learn.” Roman said plainly, without taking his attention away from the board.
“What do we sell?” Finn fidgeted awkwardly, feeling dumb.
Roman laughed and capped the dry-erase marker in his hand. “The gift.”
“The gift?” He squeaked.
“Yeah. You talk to ghosts, ain’t it? Most people can’t do that. They pay you to do it for them.”
“Uh… Oh.” Finn’s face fell to the floor as anxiety wracked his body. He couldn’t remember exactly why or how but he knew he wasn’t equipped to deal with that type of job. The idea of any human interaction outside of with Aleister or his new family members frightened him to his core.
“Don’t worry, dude.” Roman said, still a little laugh in his voice. “You’re not doin’ it until you’re ready. Gotta control that shit before you can start chargin’ for it.”
“Oh!... Phew.” Finn’s shoulders slumped.
“Yeah, Voyager does all the client work for now. Him an’ Baron.”
Finn’s ears perked up at Aleister’s nickname. He wanted to ask Roman how he knew it, but shook it off for now. There were more interesting questions to ask now.
“How can you um…” Finn started.
Roman, smiling, extended his arm towards the fridge across the room. Its door opened, seemingly on its own. A glass beer bottle floated away from the shelf inside and over to Roman’s hand. The door closed.
Finn choked on his own breath. “Y-yes!”
“Just born with it. Like you. Wasn’t til I was about your age that I figured out that I could do it like my mom can. What are you, twelve?” Roman removed the bottle cap with his teeth.
“Uh… Fourteen.” Finn admitted shyly.
Roman barked a laugh. “Ah… don’t worry, bud, there’s still time for you.”
In the distance, a loud revving engine met their ears, growing louder with each moment passing. Roman took a gulp of beer.
“What!?” Finn looked towards the front of the house, where the rumbling stopped.
“You see bud…” Roman drank the rest of the bottle in one swig. “Everyone here has a nickname. You’ll get yours eventually. This-” He pointed to the door, but it swung open before he could complete his thought.
Aleister and Brie stepped in casually.
“Roman, my office?” Aleister asked.
“Of course.” He dropped the bottle in a recycling bin on the floor.
“Are you drinking at…” Aleister checked the watch on his wrist. “Quarter to one?”
“I had a rough day, lay off me, mom.” Roman sneered and sauntered through the door, up the stairs, to wherever the office was.
“Adam beat him at Capture The Flag before we switched to football.” Brie explained when Roman was out of earshot.
“Ah.” Aleister grinned. He had changed into a black tee shirt and comfortable pants, exposing more tattoos and making him look ten years younger than the suit did. Finn was both shocked and comforted by seeing his outfit and his smile.
“See you at dinner.” Brie said as he saw himself out. Finn was awkwardly pressed against the sink, unsure of what to do, say or think.
Brie pulled out a chair at the dining table. “Finnie, do you wanna-”
The door burst open again, this time with such force that it banged against the wall behind. A tall figure walked in, tense and rigid, but all Finn saw was an ominous deep violet. Almost the opposite of Roman’s lavender, this purple read for trouble. Insecurity. Animosity.
“Where is he?” The figure boomed to Brie.
She didn’t falter, or even bother facing the figure.
“He’s in a meeting with Roman. Shouldn’t be long.” She mumbled, walking around the table to pull a second chair out.
“Well, where is this-”
The violet seeped into broad shoulders, tattooed arms and long black hair. The figure- Baron- looked to Finn and scoffed.
“A kid? What is he thinking?” Baron asked, voice thick with disdain. Finn tried to shrink into himself to get away from the cold stare.
“Do you have a problem?” Brie snarled back, suddenly enraged.
Baron made a face, horribly appalled. With a growl, he turned and stormed back out of the kitchen, climbing each stair with an audible stomp.
“Ugh!” Brie balled fists up. “I can’t stand him sometimes!”
“Is…” Finn cleared his throat, voice now hoarse. “Is he here all the time?”
Brie opened her arms to summon him to the table. Finn shuffled his feet over.
“He’s here most of the time… He goes on runs when Aleister can’t leave.”
“Oh…” Finn said, even though he did not know what she was referring to. He fell into her open arms, immediately sighing with relief.
“Don’t worry about him…” Brie said, ruffling Finn’s hair. “Do you want me to make you something to eat? You must be starving after this day.”
Finn took a minute to relish in the smell of her shampoo and perfume.
“Yeah… Okay. But I can help.” He mumbled.
She pat his back. “We’ll do it together. We’ll be doing most everything together from now on.”
“That sounds really nice.” Finn let her go, feeling the same complacent smile on his face that had been there earlier.
“What was it? Holland first, then England, then Japan? Then here?” Roman asked, his mouth full.
“Germany was in there somewhere.” Aleister said, sawing into a grilled chicken breast. He sat at the head of the dinner table, with Roman at his right hand and Brie at his left. Finn was next to Roman, Adam next to him, with Sasha and Baron on the other side.
“Yeah.” Roman continued. “So he’s the Voyager because like… dude voyages.”
“It’s not that original of a nickname but I didn’t come up with it.” Aleister stabbed a broccoli floret with his fork.
“Brie’s everyone’s mom so she got called Mother Hen one time. We went with that for a while but it was too long so now she’s just Birdie.”
Brie shrugged and took a bite of her mock-chicken. “I like it.”
“You’ll find yours eventually.” Roman jabbed an elbow at Finn’s side, earning a giggle.
After dinner and Brie’s homemade vegan ice cream, Finn was given a proper grand tour of the house.
The front room was a shop front. Clients could make appointments to have readings done by Aleister or Baron, or get a tarot session with Sasha. Brie handled the book-keeping and scheduling. Apart from ‘the gift’, Aleister made blessed candles that he sold. Each one had a purpose and a prayer to accompany them, and if the buyer believed, they would be blessed with fortune, luck, love or whatever else they desired.
Chores worked on a cycle. Finn was added in, scheduled to be taught how to sort and clean all the laundry starting the next day. The house was a well-oiled machine and, from what he was told, very strictly maintained by Aleister.
Still, Finn was confused. His head remained foggy on exactly how he even had been thrown into this life, this house. He was told that he would just need rest and then he’d feel okay. A lack in confidence kept him away from questioning anything. This was home now, and anything was better than the glaring white room he had left from.
“Everything will be explained in time… This all takes a lot of getting used to,” Brie told him as they accompanied Roman on the couch. “You’ll see.”
“He’s on me.” Roman glared down at his side, where Finn had fallen asleep. His small body was curled up, much like a cat, nearly in Roman’s lap.
“He’s exhausted! Let him rest.” Brie snapped back.
“He has a bed!” Roman eyed a newspaper on the coffee table. Opening his palm towards the paper, it floated over and met his hand. He carefully began rolling up the paper, as if to use it to whack Finn awake.
“Don’t you dare!” Brie gave him a death glare.
“But he’s on me!”
“You hit him, I’m gonna hit you!” She poked his shoulder, hard.
“AH!.... Fine.” Roman put the paper away on the couch side table.
“You heard what Aleister said… Let him snuggle. Can you even imagine? A little baby dumped off in that awful place. With no mama to love him, no daddy. It’s a shame that it took us so long to find him.” Brie gently ran her fingertips through the boy’s shaggy hair.
“I’m not arguing with you, I know it’s awful. But I ain’t a pillow. I got enough kids of my own, I don’t need him getting used to this.” Roman said, maybe only half-sarcastically.
“Rome.” Brie gave him an irritated look. “Your girlfriend being 20 weeks pregnant does not mean you ‘have kids’.”
“Doesn’t it?!” He threw his hands up, still careful to not disturb Finn.
Brie, playfull now, rolled her eyes. “Let’s get him into bed.”
Roman nodded, snaking a forearm under Finn’s legs and hoisting him up into his arms. The boy barely stirred as he was carried up the stairs and placed on Brie’s soft bed. She tucked him in then patted Roman’s shoulder.
“You’re gonna be the best dad.”
“Hell, I hope so.” He smirked before giving her a tight squeeze.
“Goodnight. Drive safe, okay?”
Roman gave her a peace sign and saw himself out.
Finn kept sleeping soundly as she got in beside him.
He didn’t know it then, but he would sleep soundly and happily in that bed for many, many nights to come.
Six Years Later
Finn was sprawled out, covering the entire queen sized bed with limbs as he snored.
He groaned and rolled over, pulling a blanket over his head. He could sense Brie as soon as she entered the room, but now felt her weight on the foot of the bed.
“Duckie, come on!”
“Five more minutes…” He said, gravelly with sleep.
“I gave you five more minutes ten minutes ago!” She laughed.
His toes brushed something fluffy, moving about under the blankets. He clicked his tongue to summon the fluff up to cuddle.
With each passing year, Finn grew.
His growth spurt was late, but blessed him with the height he’d always been missing, as well as a calming, deep voice and a muscle-toned body. His hair remained a chocolate-colored curtain in front of his eyes. For some reason, he never allowed Brie to cut it.
Apart from physicality, his mentality grew with him. His gift grew. Strengthened.
Starting the first day at the camp, Aleister would sit him down and teach him all about maths, geography, history of the world, and science, as well as theology, psychology, and the gifts that blessed the family around him. Aleister seemed to know something about everything.
Away from the academics, Aleister helped Finn train his gift. He learned how to pinpoint and speak directly with one exact spirit, instead of being overwhelmed with the sounds of voices clamoring over each other. He learned how to speak to the spirits- use direct, specific questions, Finn- and how to speak vaguely enough that the clients he saw would want to come back. Never give them the entire answer, Finn…
He was told over and over by Aleister or anyone else who would observe, that not only was he a quick learner, but he caused others around him to think differently. Finn couldn’t see anything as black or white.
Often times, his lessons would be cut short when Brie came home from work. She’d drag Finn away to watch a movie or help her cook. Aleister may have shaken his head or vocalized some sort of disdain, but he never stopped them from playing together.
Brie worked as a hair stylist in downtown Salem, and walked to work every day.
Roman stayed home and parented his daughter while his girlfriend- soon turned wife, Giselle- worked and studied for her PhD.
Many faces came and went with the years. Clairvoyants. Mind-readers. Divination experts. Tarot readers. A levitator from Toronto that used his gift to work as a street illusionist. An empath from Texas who could communicate emotions with animals.
Aleister studied them all; eager to know all he could about their gifts and where they came from. Finn struggled with each person that came along. Something deep in his stomach made him naturally averted to new people. He couldn’t explain why- just a looming sense of anxiety and threat. Brie had tried to take him out on her errand runs, but overwhelming panic attacks left him bound to the house. After a while, Aleister stopped allowing her to try.
With coaxing, Finn got more comfortable, only with those just like him. He wanted to hear their stories of travel and experiences, since he had none of his own. At his core, he wanted to make friends.
And when he would open up, an incredible happenstance occurred with all of his new friends.
Everyone would report back to the camp, either after they had left or during their stay, that they felt more in tune with their gifts after spending time with Finn. Something about his energy brought out the best in everyone, both in attitude and in extra abilities, as it turned out. Even Aleister found himself able to hear voices more clearly; Roman soon learned how to lift multiple items at once… It wasn’t long before Finn’s nickname found him.
It was something he wore with pride. He loved thinking that he was bettering his family. Loved being a part of something grand. Loved seeing his friends proud of themselves and their abilities.
Right now, however… He just wanted to sleep.
His face broke a smile as he felt a soft head butt against his chin.
“Oatmeal!” He lovingly cooed at his beloved cat. She had appeared, seemingly by magic, in the bushes of the camp garden the day after he arrived. After Brie helped him beg and plead for her stay, Aleister agreed. He had no idea of course, that multiple cats would appear on their doorstep in the years to come, and Finn would ask to keep them all. Something about him attracted local animals, especially those in need of help.
Oatmeal was only one of Finn’s six cats.
“Are you hungry?” He asked, finally opening his bright blue eyes to meet her amber ones.
“Oh, okay, you’ll get up for her? Figures.” Brie said. “Roman’s here with Rory.”
“I’m comin’.” Finn sighed and threw his blankets away, gathering the chubby cat up in his arms.
Sundays were bliss.
The shop was closed for business, so everyone stayed in their pajamas all morning and cooked a massive breakfast. Roman brought his daughter over, usually so his wife could catch up on business or simply get her nails done without having to juggle a five-year-old.
Finn padded down the stairs in his bare feet, clicking his tongue to gather up his army of cats and lead them to their food bowls.
By the time the cats were fed, Roman was passed out, face down on the breakfast table. Aleister had Roman’s daughter- Aurora- in his lap, listening intently as she explained the names and personalities of all her dolls.
Finn smiled at the scene in kitchen while Brie went off to make a plate. He checked the mail cubbies Roman had built and mounted to the wall in the entrance hallway. They were labeled accordingly: Chief. Bird. Levi. Baron. Conductor.
He grabbed the index card inside the Conductor mailbox and read over his list of appointments for the following day. Two regulars and three new people… Seems like the new people were getting more frequent by the week.
Sasha had snarled on one of her visits since Aleister had recommended Finn to some of her regulars. He tried to shrug it off but still decided to make her favorite dinner next she returned. Roman told him that families bicker and it wasn’t something to fret. He put the card back in the cubby and joined the breakfast party.
After breakfast, he played with Aurora and helped clean up. Roman’s wife called and they chatted a bit while he snored at the table. When company left, he and Brie returned to their bedroom to watch a movie, like they always did. Sappy romance was Finn’s favorite, shamelessly. He sighed and clutched his pillow while Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams kissed the rain.
At bedtime, he gathered all his cats in the air conditioned bedroom and was fast asleep in minutes. Everything was normal, and he dreamed of playing in a park with the cats.
The clock struck 2AM and Finn was jolted awake by the feeling of two harsh energies in the house. His eyes shot open in an instant.
He heard voices downstairs.
I am absolutely overwhelmed by the love and support I received so soon after posting this. Thank you for the loving compliments, the kudos, the comments. It truly means the world to me.
Finn looked over and saw Brie’s motionless form, fast asleep with a content smile on her face.
He tried to move his legs but was stuck in place from the two cats laying on him.
“Eileen! Peaches! Scoot over!” He focused his thoughts towards them and, reluctantly so, they stretched and moved over to Brie’s side.
He snuck over to his bedroom door and carefully pried it open. Away from the noisy air conditioner, the voices were clearer.
Two. Two voices. Both with very ominous energies, radiating through the ceiling and into Finn’s gut, causing him to retch for a moment. Imitating the slick movements of his cats, Finn got over to Aleister’s bedroom door. He didn’t want to wake him in a panic, but his hands were shaking so badly that he couldn’t help but look a little frantic as he shook his caretaker awake.
Aleister slept on his back, as if he was in a coffin. Finn shook at his shoulder and focused all his energy into communicating without noise.
“Chief! Come on, you gotta get up!”
Ever the light sleeper, Aleister awoke suddenly, pushing Finn away so he could turn on his night-side table lamp.
“Finn? What are you-” His face was coated with concern, heavy bags under his eyes.
Finn pressed two fingers to his lips to silence him.
“There’s people in the house!”
Aleister’s face turned.
“Downstairs! You’ll hear them if you get-”
A crash sounded from downstairs. The shop front was littered with knick-knacks and furniture so it only made sense that the intruders would run into something.
Aleister whipped the blankets away and stood. His shirtless chest was covered in tattoos.
“Get Baron. Now.”
Aleister grabbed his cane and carefully tread out of his room.
Finn was nervous about disturbing Baron, but it was necessary at this point. The next room over was his, and like he had with Aleister, Finn crept inside and shook him awake to inform him.
In a flash, Baron was up and on-edge, but never without a few snarls in Finn’s direction.
The three of them made their way to the staircase door, but Aleister held a hand over Finn’s chest to stop him from following.
“Stay here.” He commanded.
“I’m not letting you go alone!” Finn complained.
“He’s not alone, little man. Stay here.” Baron growled at him.
They, Baron and Aleister, looked at each for a moment, then nodded, obviously having a conversation that Finn wasn’t invited to. Quickly, they stormed the door, slammed it behind them and ran down the stairs.
Finn was left in the pitch darkness of the family room, met with the sounds of four screaming voices now. Loud banging noises. Pleading.
The energies… Finn fell to one knee when the energies of the strangers became stronger and just… worse. He couldn’t explain this phenomena. Almost crawling now, he felt his way back to the bedroom, where Brie was now very much awake; her face full of worry.
“What’s happening?!” She said in a hushed scream.
“There’s strangers here… I think they broke in.” Finn said, suppressing a retch.
“How?! This place is a fortress!”
Finn just shook his head, grimacing from the negative energy. “They’re… something else.”
“Did you tell Chief?”
“He’s down there… with Baron… Wouldn’t let me come.”
“Oh, bullshit.” Brie spat. She jumped out of bed and made her way to the staircase door, clad in only her pink flannel pajamas.
“Come on! And hush!” She instructed and opened the door, creeping down the stairs and waving Finn over.
With a groan, Finn followed, hearing the voices magnify with each step.
“I swear to God, my brother lives here!” One voice said. It was nasally, whining. “He’s like you, I swear!”
“I said, how did you find us?” Aleister boomed back.
“Dude, we don’t want any trouble!” The other stranger said, it’s voice scratchy and gruff.
“You got trouble, dumbass!” Baron said.
Brie slithered through the door behind Finn, and nested right up to the curtain separating the house from the shop front, crouching to the ground, as if to be undetected. Finn couldn’t believe her bravery as she peeled the curtain back just enough to peek.
“Call my brother, please! Is he here?” The whiney voice begged.
“Who?” Aleister cut him off.
“Roman! Roman Reigns! He lives here, right?” It said.
Brie looked back at Finn, her eyebrows knitted. Roman didn’t have any family besides Giselle and Aurora. They both thought that.
“How do you know that name?” Baron yelled.
“He said he’s his brother, dude, are you serious?” The scratchy voice retorted.
Finn heard a smack, making him cringe. Brie flinched in time with the sound.
The energies swirling around became darker- filled with dread and hopelessness. He couldn’t take it anymore and hurried over to accompany Brie on the floor. Hesitantly, he looked through the peep-hole she had made with the curtain.
Finn had always been able to see energies. It was how his gift introduced him to strangers, like a warning almost. The people who visited the house all had enhanced colors, very vivid and clear. Aleister had guessed that it had something to do with their abilities, something about spirits pinpointing them and highlighting them. Most other people’s colors were nearly identical. Lots of grey. Particularly creative people might have a hint of green, more romantic people may have bits of pink.
What he saw behind the curtain was a whole new color.
His eyes were filled with the most dazzling red he had ever seen. No fabric or art piece could compare to how it shown, glaring and brilliant as it filled the entire room, not just the silhouette of the person. Orange and yellow flickered around the red as the person spoke, twisting and changing with emotion. It was absolutely gorgeous, filled with chaos, stubbornness, insecurity, compulsion.
Finn’s jaw dropped as he observed, waiting for it to sink inside and become a part of the human before him.
Once it did, he saw not a face, as the person was on their- his- knees, with his hands up in surrender. Long, greasy hair obscured the face as his head was ducked in mercy. Aleister had his cane stabbing directly into this person’s chest. It looked uncomfortable, at the least.
The red had taken over the whole room, so Finn almost didn’t notice the navy blue surrounded the scratchy voice owner.
The blue was more subdued than those he had seen on other family member’s- it felt wise, confident. It sank into a man with straggly fair hair and a reddened cheek from Baron’s slap. Finn gasped when he saw the defiant smirk on this man’s face. He wasn’t afraid at all.
His friend however, wasn’t doing as well.
“Just call him, please, he’ll vouch for me.” The Red Man said, now more exhausted than whiney.
Aleister bared his teeth in the man’s direction.
“Brianna.” He said sternly.
She yelped a little at first, but then accepted that she’d been caught.
“Yeah?” She called through the curtain, moving her hand behind her back to push Finn away, as if that would obscure his presence.
“Get Roman on the phone this instant.”
She leapt from the floor over to the old landline in the kitchen, leaving Finn there alone. The curtain fell back, hiding the scene. Finn slumped to the floor, panting, stomach growling. He tried to blink away the blinding redness that he had seen. It wouldn’t leave his brain.
“Ro? I’m so sorry…. You’ve gotta get here now, we have a situation…”
Brie’s voice melted into the background as Finn thought. His hands itched to pull the curtain back and get a good look at the man. He wanted to ask him why his color was so vibrant. Finn didn’t care at all that he had broken in and invaded their peace. He wanted answers. He wanted to see that red again.
Brie hung up the phone with a loud clang and walked back over, through the curtain.
“He’s on his way.” She announced.
“You’ll see…” The Red Man whimpered.
“Shut it.” Baron said.
Finn heard a snicker from The Navy Blue Man.
Keys jangled against the front door while Finn was still on the floor, flabbergasted.
The loud steps could only belong to Roman, who always had a habit of announcing his presence one way or another.
“Ro, oh thank god, please tell them-” The Red Man started, but was cut off by a sickening sounding gag.
Finn jumped to his feet and ran through the curtain, apathetic over being caught.
Roman had this man lifted off of his feet, pressed against the shop wall, holding him with both hands by the throat.
“How did you find me?!” He screamed. Finn had never heard his voice reach this high-pitched anger that it held right now.
Through gurgling and straining, the man said “Mom… told me… where…”
Roman dropped him and he crumpled to the floor, gasping for breath. Once he had recovered the slightest bit, the man pushed his long hair away from his face to look up at Roman.
Finn’s own breath caught in his throat, as if he had been the one being choked.
Nothing in the traditional sense would label this man as beautiful, but Finn found himself blinking through the same amazement the red had given him.
To Finn, he was stunning. Everything about him was magnetic. Finn had to plant his feet firmly down to make sure he didn’t run to this stranger’s aid, but god did he want to. Finn didn’t even notice the peculiar look Aleister was shooting his way. He wouldn’t have cared if he did notice.
“He’s… like you guys…” The man said, pointing a finger at his Navy Blue friend.
Aleister turned to look Navy Blue in the face.
“How.” He said, barely a question, more of a command.
Lips pursed, Navy Blue refused to answer.
“Dude, tell him!” Red shrieked, still holding his throat protectively.
“Go on.” Roman asked now, standing tall and firm with fists clenched.
Navy Blue considered him for a moment, then shrugged.
“I can see shit before it happens… Predict things that don’t make sense. Been doin’ it since I was a kid. I could tell people how many kids they were gonna have or like, what the Powerball numbers are gonna be.” He said.
“He was…” Red started, moving to sit cross legged on the floor. Roman eyed him cautiously. “... was giving people their future at a bar in Cincinnati when we linked up… He’s legit.”
Aleister hung his cane in his elbow.
“What’s your name?” He asked, after a pause for consideration.
“Fuck off.” He responded curtly.
“He’s Dean!... Dean… and I’m Seth... I promise you, we don’t mean any harm. We needed a place to stay, we’re out of options… Roman please…” He- Seth- ended his sentence with a sigh.
Aleister and Roman locked eyes for a tense minute.
“Dean.” Aleister said, emphasizing every letter, as if to taste the name. “I’d like to speak with you… And you, Seth, what is your gift?”
“He ain’t got no gift.” Roman spat. “Unless you count lock-picking. Stealing. Lying.”
Seth whimpered and looked dejectedly to the ground. “I don’t… I don’t have one.”
Baron was passing his gaze around to every figure in the room, probably trying to read each in turn.
Now, Finn realized that he was awkwardly standing amongst all of them. Hyper aware of his position, he tried to coil into Brie’s side, as if to hide behind her. She patted his arm instinctively.
Aleister crossed his arms over his chest. “Roman?”
“Alright… Everyone lock up your shit. They can stay the night.” Roman proclaimed.
Dean seemed satisfied, and agreed to meet Aleister in his office for a talk.
“As long as Kat Von D stays back, I’m cool.” He said, gesturing to Baron as he sauntered away with Aleister.
“Don’t give him the time of day…” Finn heard Aleister mutter.
Seth was still on the floor, visibly shaking.
Finn felt Brie tug at his sleeve, trying to pry him away from the situation. Finn kept his eyes on Seth as he was dragged, until the curtain fell and the lack of sight broke the spell.
“Come on, Duckie…” She whispered.
Upstairs, she coaxed him back into the warm bed with the cats.
Finn laid awake for the entire night, visions of red fire dancing behind his eyes, fighting the urge to run downstairs and care for Seth.
For the first time in Finn’s life, he had seen a stranger that he wasn’t anxious about. This one didn’t alarm him in the normal way that others did. He wanted to guard and save this one.
It was honestly a much scarier feeling.
Despite not sleeping, Finn waited until he knew everyone was awake and collected downstairs. Brie had long since gone to work, not attempting to ‘wake’ him like she usually did.
He felt something menacing about having to face Aleister. Perhaps it was the fear of getting in trouble for disobeying his order to stay upstairs. Maybe he would still be angry about the whole ‘home invasion’ thing and take it out on Finn.
Regardless, he knew he couldn’t hide forever. The cats needed to be fed and his appointments would be starting soon, as the clock neared noon.
With great caution, he went about his morning routine. Feed the cats, set an outfit aside, take a shower, brush teeth, write in journal, work out, eat breakfast. Every day was supposed to be the same. Today he couldn’t focus. After his appointments, he either had a training session with Aleister or a hangout with Brie.
Finn couldn’t even recall what day of the week it was today.
He trotted downstairs and through the door to the kitchen. To his absolute horror, Dean and Seth were still there, in the same torn black clothes they had last night. It was obvious that neither of them had slept either. They each had plates in front of them, with only a few crumbs on each.
Finn tried his hardest to not stare directly at Seth. Something about it hurt. He wasn’t prepared for the feeling in his stomach. It was strange, and brand new. Like a kind of airy fluttering. He would have to ask Brie later if she could heal him of this ailment.
“Finn.” Aleister had been leaning against the kitchen counter, out of sight until Finn turned.
“Y-yes sir?” He cleared his throat.
Aleister, ever the dramatic, gestured to each man.
“This is Seth. This is Dean. They’ll be staying.”
“Oh!” Finn smiled timidly as they both nodded their acknowledgements.
‘Oh’ was all he could offer the situation. Last night was so intense and scary, and Aleister had been so furious… What could have possibly changed? Finn wanted so desperately to make his plate and take it upstairs, away from the guests, away from the questions he had, but Aleister would never allow such a thing.
To his relief, Roman stormed in behind him. He was tired.
“Hey, Duck…” He gave Finn a gentle pat on the back then went to join Dean and Seth at the table.
The breakfast table was much smaller in the kitchen, unlike the massive dining room table they had for when everyone was over. Finn grabbed some rye and stood beside Aleister at the counter, which was unfortunately where the toaster was placed.
“I asked Dean to stay. He said he wouldn’t unless Seth stayed… Roman isn’t happy.” Came through Finn’s head. He glanced over and saw that Aleister was still standing, facing forward like The Terminator, unmovable.
“How come?” Finn asked.
“I haven’t gotten it out of him yet.”
Finn gulped, wondering if now was a good time to tell Aleister about the marvelous red. How would he even tell him?
“What?” Aleister asked, feeling tension growing.
Finn paused and tried to collect some words accurate enough to describe. Failing to do so, and feeling Aleister’s agitation growing, Finn remembered something he was taught.
Sometimes Aleister referred to the gifted people who would come and go as ‘collections’. He studied their gifts, questioned them about their control and their origin, and, to everyone’s amazement, was usually able to teach himself their ways. His mind was limitless, and ever-expanding in his knowledge and talents. Roman had said that Aleister taught himself levitation under Roman’s influence after they had only known each other one month.
A brilliant thing that Adam had taught Aleister, who then taught Finn, was mental manipulation. He was able to make people feel things that weren’t genuine to their character or their mood. He could transfer pain sensations, like when he hurt his knee but couldn’t describe to Brie exactly where for her to heal it. But perhaps the most impressive of it all, was Adam’s ability to transfer memories. Sensations. Emotions. All of this by touching their skin.
That had taken Aleister a while to learn. It took Finn a week.
Clandestine as possible, Finn snuck two fingers under the back of Aleister’s shirt, just enough to make contact with his hip. Closing his eyes, he focused all of his thought into the amazing red, which hadn’t been difficult since he had thought of nothing else all night. He gave these thoughts to Aleister, including the feeling of bewilderment that had accompanied.
When Finn opened his eyes, he saw Aleister’s own wide with awe. He looked from Finn, who nodded, over to Seth with a kind of perplexion that Finn had never seen him wear.
“What is that…” Aleister thought, more to himself, but loud enough for Finn to hear.
“He’s special.” Even Finn’s mental voice sounded weak. He dared to peer over his shoulder. The three were talking, so quiet that Finn couldn’t make out their words.
“Roman won’t believe it… Hurry and eat now, or you’ll be late.” Aleister concluded, turning away and out of the kitchen. Now that he was gone, Finn snuck upstairs behind him to eat in privacy.
Brie struggled to get through the front door as she was weighed down by Target bags.
A few guests idly hung around the shopfront, checking out this and that item. She smiled politely at each of them, but brushed through the curtain, making a bee line for Seth and Dean.
Aleister hadn’t offered either of them a room, even though they had one to spare while Sasha was away. His lack of hospitality was abhorrent and she was going to make any attempt to fix it. Bad blood with Roman or no, they were still humans.
In the upstairs family room, she found both of them sitting silent on an overstuffed couch. They obviously hadn’t sleep, nor were they comfortable enough in their surroundings to sleep. It hurt her heart to see them so out-of-sorts, so dirty and unhealthy.
“Here ya go, boys.” She threw each of them a plastic bag, stuffed to the brim with everything they’d need to feel better: Shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, dental care supplies, razors and shaving cream, moisturizer, chapstick and a few new changes of clothes.
“I had to kinda guess with the sizing, so I’m sorry if anything’s too big.”
“What, you…” Seth’s eyes switched from her to the bag with a kind of incredulously that not even his knotted hair could hide. “B-but, I can’t pay you back for this, I-”
“I don’t want you to.” Brie crossed her arms.
“But this is-”
“This is what you need. You can’t get better and feel at home here in filthy clothes, smelling like a wet rat… No offense.”
“I kinda like the wet rat smell…” Dean mumbled, sorting through his goodies.
“Oh… Come here, you.” Brie walked over to him and helped herself to cup his face in her hands, concerned about the red blotches on his cheeks. As if he had been zapped or hurt, Dean flinched away dramatically.
“Hey! Let me help! I can make the pain go away!” Brie tried explaining.
“You’ve helped enough, thank you!” Dean said gruffly. “It doesn’t hurt.”
Brie sighed but accepted defeat, knowing full well that he was lying. She moved to leave but Seth grabbed her shoulder lightly.
“Hey… Really, thank you.”
“You’re welcome… Dinner’s at 7… Meet me back here after your shower so I can fix your hair.” She gave him a wink and slipped into her bedroom to grab her shears and apron.
Aleister and Baron were gathered at the table while Finn finished the final touches on everyone’s dinner. He watched the clock nervously, as it ticked closer and closer to 7PM. He hadn’t seen Brie yet either, since his appointments ran long and he had to get right to cooking afterward.
Just as Finn was setting a massive plate of baked ziti on the center of the table, Brie came running down the stairs like a little kid in a candy store.
“Wait ‘til you guys see!” She said, giddy.
“What did you do?” Aleister raised an eyebrow, inviting her to sit beside him.
As if on cue, Seth came around, looking like a completely different man.
Brie had clipped away half of Seth’s hair, leaving it shoulder length. It was clean and straight now, framing his shaved face. She had bought him a thermal top that fit snugly around his chest. His nervous eyes darted around the table at his company, and for a fleeting moment, connected perfectly with Finn.
Finn had never fainted before but he was almost certain that the wobbly feeling in his knees was giving way to him crashing to the floor. That awful feeling in his stomach was acting up again, making his insides feel like they were doing backflips around each other. Never in his life had he seen such pretty, big eyes before.
Much less nervous, Dean came stomping down a minute later. He too was clean, shaved, good smelling and dressed in new clothes but Finn honestly barely noticed him.
“I know, I know…” Dean said. “I look good. I know.”
“Yes, you do. C’mon, time to eat.” Brie summoned them both over. Seth sat next to her, Dean next to him. Finn regrettably had to sit next to Baron, meaning he was directly across the table from Seth.
Everyone dug in, making light conversation as they did. Finn could feel tension, thick like butter, coming from Baron, who he could assume had protested the new guests as much as possible.
Seth quickly went through his plate, barely taking time to breathe as he ate.
“God… this is the best fuckin’ dinner I’ve had in months, easy.” He said, letting his fork fall and clang against the cleaned plate. “You made this? Finn? Jesus Christ.”
Brie couldn’t help but laugh as Aleister glared at Seth over his language.
“Oh, I uh… Yeah. It’s… It’s easy, I… I could make anything you’d like, really.” Finn stammered, letting his shaggy hair fall from behind his ear and conceal his face as much as possible. What a terrible first sentence to speak to Seth.
After plates were made and bread was passed, Roman was heard coming through the front of the shop. When he reached the kitchen, he plopped down a collection of papers on the table.
“Got what you wanted, Chief.” He grumbled, then took his seat at the opposite end of the table. Roman had tunnel vision for the delicious meal ahead of him and was a few bites deep before acknowledging Seth and Dean.
“Y’all look good… Are you up to date on the plan?”
“Haven’t told them yet.” Aleister said.
“What?” Seth, Dean and Brie all said together. Finn felt his body freeze up, anticipating bad news.
“Seth… Your brother told me that you worked in construction while with your mother.”
“Uh… Yeah, for a while.” Seth said, his face scrunching up.
“Well. As much as Brianna and Finn love being together, I think a young man should have his own space. I’ve been thinking for quite a while about how all this land could be put to use. I’ve started gathering a team to build Finn a house out back. And you, Seth-” Aleister pointed with his fork for dramatic effect- “You are going to lead the team.”
“What?!” Baron snarled.
“What?!” Seth repeated, horrified. “I’ve only ever apprenticed with architects, I-I don’t think I’ll be able to-”
“It doesn’t have to be big! Or perfect! I don’t need… a lot…” Finn interjected, feeling disturbed by Seth’s insecurity.
He had known about Aleister’s plan for him to have his own space for quite a while. Contractors had been in and out for months, examining the area, taking photos and such. The only thing about it was, Finn wasn’t so eager to be separated from Brie so he never asked about the progress. He was kind of hoping Aleister would drop the idea.
But, of course, he did not.
“You do this for me,” Aleister said, completely jumping over Finn’s interruption, “and you’ll be allowed to stay here… Free housing, free food, for as long or as short as you’d like. The door will always be open for you. While you’re here, if you’d like, we can give you the training you need to discover your gift.”
“But I don’t-” Seth shook his head.
“What about me?!” Dean asked, arms thrown up.
“Don’t worry, Dean… You’ll find your way with a little training, as well. I think you’ll be an excellent asset. Not only will you live here for free, but you’ll be making your own money.”
Dean blinked in confusion, as if he was trying to come up with an argument or dispute.
“Look, we’ve only been here ten minutes and you’re already puttin’ us to work? What do you think this is?” He came back with, pretty much just for the sake of arguing.
Aleister didn’t look up from his plate, just waved a fork by the doorway.
“Door’s open right over there, Dean. Your car’s outside where you left it. This is a planned living arrangement, not a prison… and for the record, no one has ever complained about living here.” Aleister actually chuckled, something he only did about twice-yearly.
Dean huffed. “Listen man… Alright. But I ain’t doing no crystal-ball horseshit.”
He received a quick punch to the shoulder from Seth.
“You can not be serious!” Baron growled in Aleister’s direction.
The Chief was seated calmly in his desk chair, eyes more focused on the macabre decorations he had strewn about his work space. The desk was in front of a grand bookshelf, stacked high with book after journal after essay collection of gift analysis, dream coding, and anything else that applied to Aleister’s life. He had paintings and sketches hung all over the walls, amidst animal skulls on mounted platforms and shelves.
“Dead serious.” He said, nodding.
“What makes you think this is a good idea? You heard what Roman said. You really are willing to ignore Roman’s warning and endanger all of us? For what? For some cheap party trick? This kid really claims to have a gift? Give me a break!” Baron ranted, pacing back and forth around the planchette-shaped rug before Aleister’s desk. Brie had found it at Party City last year and given it as a ‘gag gift’, unprepared for how much he would actually love it.
Baron always paced when he spoke, and it had to be Aleister’s biggest pet peeve about the man. He got so worked up over trivial things so easily. He was impatient and at times, cruelly judgemental. If it hadn’t been for his talent, Aleister wasn’t so sure that he would still be invited to stay.
“I think it’s an excellent idea for quite a few reasons. Had it ever occured to you that I know some things you don’t?” Aleister teased, but the inflection flew right over Baron’s head.
“What does that mean?!” He said, making another lap around the rug.
“It means I know more than you.” Aleister said frankly.
Baron stopped flat, his face growing redder with each passing moment. “Are you going to share?”
Aleister, for a second, considered leaving Baron in the dark, mostly because he didn’t like his attitude. But with Roman already peeved, he didn’t want another person needlessly upset.
“Finn saw something grand… on Seth. Something we need to explore.” Aleister concluded.
There he went again: Baron picked his pace back up around the rug. “Finn?! Are you serious? You’re gonna keep these guys here because of the effing kid’s opinion?”
Even in a rage, Baron didn’t dare challenge Aleister’s aversion to swearing.
“The kid,” Aleister said slowly, as one would talk to a toddler, “knows what he’s talking about. You, presently, do not.”
A knock sounded from Aleister’s office door. He got up to answer it when Baron stayed pacing.
Finn was waiting, scowling, behind the door.
“Ah. 9PM already? Where does the time go?” He turned back inward. “Baron, you’re dismissed. Goodnight. Finn, come in.”
Baron rolled his eyes so hard, it’s a miracle that he didn’t pass out. He saw himself out regardless.
Finn actually felt grateful for all the Baron distaste souring his mood, since it would disguise the dizziness he got over bumping into Seth on the way up the stairs minutes ago. Aleister would sniff out any abnormality in Finn’s mood in an instant.
“What are we workin’ on?” Finn sniffled. He squirmed a little when Aleister looked at him funny. Frantically, Finn tried to make himself think about cats, or dessert, or anything innocuous.
Much like refraining from swearing, and never missing dinner, another rule of Aleister’s camp was never to intrude on someone’s thoughts without their consent. It was considered an unjustifiable invasion of privacy and completely forbidden, although also undetectable. It was upholded only on an honor system.
“I have a project that I’ve wanted to work on with you for quite some time.” Aleister said, smiling a little. Finn held in the sigh of relief, trapping it in his chest.
“You see Finn, some spirits don’t wish to be detected. They don’t wish to speak. Some spirits are held back from speaking due to nefarious means surrounding their death… You know this.”
“I do.” Finn nodded.
“It’s time, ‘den,” Aleister continued. His Dutch accent was always thickest when he was speaking about something with passion, or when he was too tired to mask it. “It’s time for me to bring you along on a journey that I myself have been on for almost 10 years. You and I are going to find a way to connect with these spirits. We’re going to get to the bottom of why they cannot, or will not speak. We’re going to find exact people and locate their exact trauma. We’re going to find what holds them back, despite having no assistance from the living or dead. We’re going to do this, together.”
Finn’s eyes widened. He knew about this project. He knew what started it nearly a decade ago, but only because Brie had shared Aleister’s secret in confidence.
He gulped. This wasn’t something to take lightly. This was Aleister’s life mission; the most important thing in the world to him.
“If you think we can do it together, I’m absolutely honored, sir.” Finn kept his voice steady, even if the feeling banging around his chest was anything but.
Aleister smiled, but the happiness didn’t reach his eyes. “We’ll start tomorrow, after you’ve had some rest. I have a team coming over to formulate a plan with Seth tomorrow… if you’re comfortable with it, I’d like you to spend some time analyzing him. His actions. See what you can see. Does that sound good?”
Finn’s hand clenched into a fist in his lap.
“Mhm… Sounds great!” He squeaked.
“Go on.” Aleister jerked his head towards the door.
Finn was up and out like a ghost, ran to his and Brie’s bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
this chapter works best if you imagine Seth and Dean as they were in their 'Tyler' and 'Jon' prime. Fresh faced beebs.
Chapter 4: A New Chance
holy hell, sorry for the delay everyone! Work has been nuts and I haven't been feeling my best but I assure you, I intend on updating much more frequently until this work is done!
in attempts of an apology, I accidentally made this the longest chapter yet.
again, thank you so kindly to everyone who has bookmarked, commented, or liked. It motivates me more than you know.
“Okay, so uh… the bathroom can go here. The bedroom can be like… here.” Seth said, brows knit together. Sharpie marker in hand, he scribbled circles and arrows all over the blank paper on the clipboard, being held by the architect Aleister hired.
By the time he was finished with his mock plan, the cluster of lines and shapes could only be interpreted by Seth himself. The architect gave it another once over, confirmed that yes, the bedroom will be open to the kitchen, it’s a small place and nodded, unsure, before rejoining his team.
Seth anxiously palmed the back of his neck, already feeling it clammy with sweat from the dry August air. His hair was tied and the tee shirt Brie bought him clung to his back. He squinted over to the team huddle going on past his shoulder, where the men scratched their heads to decipher his plan.
There was nothing in this world that Seth couldn’t apply the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ mentality towards and this was no different. Confidence was practiced, after all.
He swore to himself that whatever lessons or training sessions he would have, starting tomorrow, for fuck’s sake, he would apply that same attitude. Maybe he would be able to trick his body into levitating something.
Thinking, he walked along the stakes in the ground, marking the area in which ground would be broken for this house. Supplies littered the team’s feet, taken from their collection of silver pickup trucks. Seth sighed, grateful for the opportunity for free housing, but not for the flashbacks from his late teens, when he was doing similar work for much less reward.
He rejoined the team, to elaborate further on his open-floor concept, wondering in the back of his brain how things were going inside.
“Do we have to hold hands?” Dean grumbled, words slurred slightly from the tobacco stuck inside his lip.
“What do you usually do?” Aleister asked casually.
The four of them- Dean, Aleister, Brie and Roman- were sat at the dinner table. Aleister and Roman at opposing heads like always, Dean and Brie across from each other, hands cupped, more tense than intimate.
“I just kinda eyeball ‘em and I can see things.” Dean shrugged.
“Okay,” Aleister nodded. “Keep in mind, the point of the training is to practice and perfect your natural talent… So I encourage you to try something new.”
Dean wanted to protest again, but was silenced by the look of patience on Brie’s face.
“Give it a shot, Ambrose.” Roman said, voice hopeful but expression skeptical.
Dean’s nose wrinkled. “Alright… So… Whaddaya wanna know?”
“Um…” Brie bit her lip in thought. “Am I ever going to get married?”
“That’s… a lot to start… but, alright, let’s find out.” Dean took a moment to really feel her tiny hands in his. He knew his own were rough and calloused many times over, probably smelling permanently of car oil and spilled beer. He shook the thought away, causing his unruly locks to fall into his face. He closed his eyes to ignore them and focus harder.
He held on and channeled all of his energy into Brie. Searching through the air, the very atmosphere around them all, he found her essence; her core. A scent of cotton candy filled his nose, and the blackness behind his eyelids was transformed into a thin mist, swirling and manipulating into shapes and colors.
He opened his eyes- but no longer saw the long dinner table and his new companions behind him.
Everything was pink.
Rubbing his eyes, he made out the distinct shape of a baby’s crib. Inside, pink sheets, pink blankets, pink stuffies. Even the damn wood that built the thing was painted pink. The crib was inside a room- a nursery- small and cute. Dean felt his limbs become heavy as his body was overcome with a smooth, warm calmness. He contemplated squeezing his lanky frame into the crib, or even onto the fluffy carpet beneath for some sleep.
Before he could succumb to temptation, the cotton candy smell intensified, joined by a humming filling his ears. He turned to face the humming and gasped upon coming face to face with Brie again.
But she was… different.
She looked like herself, for sure. He recognized her right off the bat. But her face was filled in with a delightful roundness, partnered with the subtle wrinkles of older age.
The most different thing and new thing, by far, was the bundle wrapped up in her arms.
A baby; no way it could have been older than a few weeks. Brie walked right past Dean, slowly swaying her precious bundle as she hummed.
“Time for your nappie, darling…” She cooed. The baby whined softly in response, and Brie nuzzled its little face lovingly before kissing it and laying it down in the crib; safe as could be.
“I love you, angel.” Brie whispered before blowing one last kiss to the infant and floating out of the pink room, leaving a trail of the sticky sweet scent behind her.
Dean inhaled as much of it as he could, before visions of that same strange mist he saw before, formed at his feet, twisting and turning up around his whole body, consuming him. The mist turned to black, dark behind his eyelids once again. Slowly and beyond his control, his eyes rolled away from the darkness and dizzily focused back onto the scene before him.
He was back in the dining room. Back with his housemates.
And the looks on their faces was not nearly as welcoming and pleasant as the vision he just exited.
He shook off any remaining fuzziness from the mist.
“What?” His eyes switched from person to person when he asked.
“Your… your eyes!” Brie said, astonished. Her own eyes were wide, mouth ajar to match.
“They’re listed as ‘blue’ on my license, what about it?” Dean shrugged again.
“They-they completely turned white! Like a zombie or-or-or-” Brie detached her hands from his to flail them around, struggling to grasp the right words to describe.
“Wha- really?” Dean’s nose wrinkled. He had never gotten that review before. Mostly the guys in the bars where he worked would just ask him who was going to win the hockey game so they could bet accordingly. They’d slip him a hundo and move on, usually without so much as a handshake.
“Well, hey, what did you see?” Roman asked, bringing the group back on subject.
“Oh! Right… You’re gonna have a baby, I know that… A girl.”
Brie gasped, and her hands found a new home covering her mouth.
“I didn’t see a man around but… I mean, you had to have one at some point for the baby-makin’...”
“Young man…” Aleister leaned back in his chair, uncharacteristically casual. “You have something truly grand here.”
“Y’think so, Chief?” Dean said. “Are you sure?”
“Is he sure…” Roman repeated, bewildered. “My dude, you didn’t see what we just saw.”
“Yeah, I was busy seein’ Brie’s baby.” Dean gestured to the woman.
“I’m gonna have a baby…” Brie muttered, not speaking to anyone in particular.
“You uh… You’re gonna do really well here.” Roman nodded.
“I agree.” Aleister said, causing Dean’s gaze to swing back and forth between them. “I would wager that you don’t even have much training to do… Remember how quickly Finn learned the trade, Ro?”
“Oh, I remember... “ Roman said solemnly, involuntarily looking towards the front hallway. Finn was in an appointment right now, probably blowing the mind of whoever was sat across from him.
In the background, past the open kitchen windows, a banging sounded as hammer hit wood. Construction was officially underway. Aleister stared fixedly in the direction of the noise.
Change is coming, brother. Roman’s voice echoed.
All at once. Aleister agreed, turning over to lock eyes with Roman briefly, then examine Brie. She was still in shock, hands firmly planted to her cheeks.
“Was there something… something about a tattoo? A painting maybe?” Finn rubbed his temple, eyelids squeezed shut.
“A tattoo! We had matching ones!” His client exclaimed.
They were sat at a small circular table in Finn’s office- the first door off the shop front. Aleister’s office was filled with doom and gloom, but Finn preferred framed photos of the family and the cats adorning the walls. Between him and his client, a lavender colored candle burned, homemade by Aleister. The people who visited the shop thought that the candle aided Finn’s clairvoyance, and some of them did, sure, but he just really liked the dramatic ambiance that this one provided.
“She wants you to know that the tattoo meant a lot to her… More than you could understand, she’s telling me.” Finn bit his lip, deep in thought.
Focusing in on one spirit was easy when he was in the camp. It was when he went outside into the ‘real world’ as Roman called it, that all the spirits jumped on him, attacking his thoughts and stealing any sense of privacy. He wasn’t exactly sure why the house was the safety zone and why he was the only one affected so strongly, but it had stopped bothering him a long time ago. He didn’t even have a desire to interact with the real world anymore. He got enough taste of it from all the movies he watched.
“Is she happy, Finn? That’s my biggest concern…” The woman said.
Finn pondered her question, sending it to the spirit he was communicating with. She was a boisterous one; her messages coming in more like shouts than the faint mumbles he usually got.
“She’s not in pain anymore… I think the last couple years of her life were really rough. Hard to enjoy, but she’s grateful that you always made time to see that she was comfortable and cared for.” Finn said.
The woman gasped, tears welling in her eyes.
It may have been strange, but Finn loved it when they cried. When someone was so strongly affected by whatever their loved one had to say, and he was blessed enough to provide them with it? The tears were priceless.
His childhood was a vague blur- Aleister suggested it was due to trauma- but he could recall feeling a shame over possessing his gift. Now he wanted to use it to help as many people as humanly possible, making sure to tell Brie whenever he had open time for people to walk in for meetings. He just wanted to help. He wanted to provide the comfort and closure that so many people were missing out on.
Money was a cool perk to his job, but he gave most of it to Aleister anyway to help pay for groceries and running all the air conditioners in this massive house. It didn’t even cross his mind to hang on to any of it.
Once this client was a sobbing mess, she thanked Finn about a dozen times, even giving him a hug and a wet kiss on his cheek. She trembled her way into the shop front to pay Brie and look around at the odds and ends they offered.
Finn noticed a spacey look on Brie’s face and noted to get whatever gossip she was thinking about later.
Right now, with two hours to dinner time, the shop would be closing down and Finn had a personal mission to attend to.
He scampered away from the shop and up the stairs, making a beeline for Aleister’s vacant office. Normally, he wasn’t allowed in here when it was unoccupied, but he promised himself that he would only be inside for a few moments, so it didn’t count.
Besides, he was trespassing because he was doing what he was told.
‘Spend some time analyzing him…’ Aleister had said.
Finn slunk around the skulls and death that was Aleister’s interior design, over to the back window of the office. It had a pretty good view of the area being renovated into Finn’s personal home; much better than the view his shared bedroom with Brie had. This window was only about 50 feet away from the building site, whereas his bedroom was more like 70 feet and was on an angle.
Not that Finn had spent much time comparing views or anything like that.
Seth was knelt in the ground, rolled out papers all around him. He was drawing something out, and even from the distance, Finn could see the scrunchy concentration face he was making.
Again, Finn felt that stupid fluttery feeling in his stomach. Gosh, what is that. He rubbed little circles into his tummy, over the cotton grey sweater that Brie had gotten him for Christmas. She got Seth a really similar sweater… wouldn’t it be so funny if they accidentally wore the same thing one day?
He shuddered and told himself to get back on track. He was supposed to be looking for some evidence of a hidden gift on Seth’s being. Squinting, he tried to tell if the red hues had come back or if the air around Seth was just vibrating from the sun’s rays beating down. He was probably so overheated, it was sweltering today… Some fresh lemonade would be really nice right now, Finn could bet.
Another shake. Focus!... Oh he has a water bottle, thank gosh.
Finn watched Seth stand, snatching a plastic bottle from the ground. He uncapped it and poured the remaining liquid over his face and down the back of his shirt, shivering visibly, even from Finn’s perch.
Instead of thoughts or spirits or whatever, the only thing Finn could hear was his own noisy exhaling, breath fogging up the window.
Seth’s head turned in the direction of the house and Finn dashed to the floor. Just in time as well, as he heard a Dutch accent yelling something to Roman or Brie.
“Oh dear…” Finn tumbled out of the room, nearly knocking about six things over in his way. He made sure to leave the door the slightest bit open, imitating how it had looked before he crept in. Just before Aleister turned the corner from the stairs, Finn dove into his bedroom and all but slammed the door. The less-appealing point of view would have to be enough for now.
Usually after work, he would write down any highlights from the day’s appointments. It helped him remember his repeat clients better and was also used to see any patterns or changes in his gift. Aleister’s idea, of course.
A tupperware storage unit of all of his notebooks was set up next to the little window in the bedroom. The pane was just wide enough for Finn to sit on, and still held a wrinkled blanket from the last time he had snuggled up there to observe “the construction”.
Finn figured he could do both, write and watch, no issue. He grabbed his 2010 appointment notebook, on top of the stack of previous years. He curled his right leg under the left and pressed his back against the wall. Flipping the notebook open to the next empty page, he marked the date ‘8-2-10’ and poised his pen-wielding hand to start the entry.
Scribbling a few notes, barely a cohesive sentence, Finn looked through the window with every other word written. In case there was a development, of course, he had to keep a close eye. He hastily threw together another collection of notes, noticing now that the trembling in his leg was causing his ink to smudge.
With an exasperated groan, he got up from his window and scurried over to the bedroom closet, attacking the bag of little chip bags Brie had hidden inside. He usually didn’t snack so close to dinner, but figured that maybe something to chew on would help his uneasy stomach.
Back to the window, right leg under left, notebook in lap, pretzels popped in his mouth.
“I saw Alisha again today and she was particularly upset this time…” he wrote, slowly and clearly now. “ Very concerned about her mother’s happiness on the…”
“Uhh…” Finn had lost his train of thought, but it was quickly replaced with curiosity over if Seth would like any reading done for him. Everyone remembered when Roman’s mother passed; although at the time they had no idea that she had another son.
“Why, though…” Finn’s pen found its way to his mouth while he stared outside.
Finn could hear pitches of Seth’s voice, but was unable to make out exact words. Something about concrete? Finn sat and strained his ears to make out what was being said for so long that he nearly gave himself a headache, jumping back to reality when his neglected notebook slid from his lap onto the floor.
With a yelp, he got up to retrieve it and placed it safely back where he had been sitting. He muttered something to himself about how ridiculous this all was and padded over to Brie’s vanity. Their shared iPod Touch was in the only drawer not occupied with makeup and he snatched it up.
Brie managed to stay up to date with modern music, but Finn just didn’t care for any of it. The music selections were split pretty clearly down the middle. Finn opted for his favorite Stevie Wonder playlist, determined to finish his entry without the temptation of eavesdropping.
Once it was about time for the team to depart, Seth had a genuine idea of how to go about the project. Concrete would have to be poured to work as a base for the whole house, and after pouring it would take nearly a month to dry. What he was to do with that entire month, Seth had no idea.
By the time he had ventured back into the house and had a shower, business hours had long since ended. Unsure where to rest or if he even had earned the right to rest, he found his way to the kitchen and to an ominous dismay, found Roman chopping vegetables.
Aleister’s kitchen was impressive, probably recently renovated if Seth was judging correctly. Roman had an entire colorful display sorted out- carrots, celery, cabbage, red onions. It looked like a lot to handle, and although Seth truly wanted to tuck tail and get out of dodge, he challenged himself to greet his brother.
Stepping up like a careful cat, Seth awkwardly leaned against the counter, maybe five feet away.
“Hey… Need some help?” He asked, voice cracking slightly.
Roman gave him only one sideways glance, but amazingly said: “Sure.”
Seth blinked in shock for a second. “Oh… What uh… what can I do?”
Roman pointed with his knife to a bag of potatoes on the other end of the counter. “If you wanna chop those guys up, it’s all going in the oven.”
“Ah… Got’cha.” Seth gulped and washed his hands up.
They worked in silence together for a few minutes without incident, but Seth was convinced that his jaw would be shattered come dinner time because of how tightly his teeth were clenched. So many people occupied this space and somehow none were around. Seth was strongly considering they put some music on- maybe casually asking Roman about his kid… kids?... He wasn’t even sure.
Roman broke the silence-
“So you got dumped, huh?”
-and Seth felt as though that knife he was holding had been plunged into his stomach.
“I… uh… I…” He tried to come up with something to say. Something sarcastic, or funny, or deflecting from the question. Anything to distract from the acid he felt creeping up his esophagus and what surely was a reddening in his cheeks.
“That’s what I thought.” Roman said, ever the smart-ass.
Seth’s knife holding hand slammed against the counter, more involuntarily than not.
“I didn’t get dumped… exactly.” Seth muttered.
“What happened, then?” Roman asked, but Seth strongly doubted his sincerity.
Seth released the knife and gripped the ledge of the counter with both hands, as if to steady himself for an earthquake.
“Things went south...I left.” He choked out.
Seth’s teeth gritted, bringing a sickening screech to his ears. He tried swallowing the disgusting burning feeling away.
“I told you something bad was gonna happen.” Roman shrugged.
“I can’t just listen to you my entire life, Ro!” Seth spat, whipping around now to face his brother and his apathetic expression. “I can’t make mistakes and learn from them if I listen to you forever!”
“I don’t want you to listen to me forever!” Roman threw his own knife down. “I didn’t want you to get hurt!”
“Well, I did!” Seth screamed back. “I did, and you were right! You were right about everything! Are you happy now?”
“Of course not!”
“How can you say that? These people didn’t even know I existed! Why do you hate me so much?” The burning moved from Seth’s insides, crawling all over his skin until it reached his eyes, filling the lids with tears.
“You’re so dramatic!” Roman swatted his words away, like they were an annoying pest.
“No, I’m not!” The tears splashed down Seth’s cheeks now, only to be quickly wiped away. “These p-people are your best friends and they never knew you had a b-brother? Are you just that ashamed of m-me?”
“Jesus Christ, you never came up? I don’t know! What do you want? You want me to say that I hate you so bad that I kept you hidden away? Is that what you’re getting at here? Get over yourself.” Roman rolled his eyes.
Seth sniffled as he struggled to think of a comeback. Something hurtful would have been preferred. Pressure built up in his chest from the sobs he kept locked away, nearly choking him.
It would make sense, according to Seth’s luck, that Aleister, Brie and Dean would all come downstairs right as he was unable to hold it in anymore.
Seth cried, almost hysterically, into his hands, still standing idly by the counter.
He couldn’t see that Roman was pinching the bridge of his nose, more irritated than sympathetic.
“What has gone on here?” Aleister asked, throwing his hands up.
“Just catchin’ up with my little brother.” Roman mumbled.
Dinner was tense.
Finn hated it when dinner was tense.
Roman had made his roasted vegetables, a house favorite, and instead of humming their delights and showering compliments, everyone kept to themselves.
Seth’s face was puffy and he avoided looking up from his plate, which may have been a blessing since Finn wasn’t so sure in his abilities to not faint if they made eye contact again.
Despite that fear, Finn was brainstorming a conversational topic. He could ask about the house, about Seth’s favorite color, anything. Rightly or wrongly, his voice was held back; captured on the tip of his tongue.
The only person who didn’t have a sludge-like negativity clouding their aura was Baron. Finn tried his best to ignore the way he smirked, looking satisfied, as he ate.
Maybe Finn could wiggle the gossip out of Aleister during their lesson.
Seth had already showered once he came inside, but there he was again, surrounded by white dripping tiles, minty shampoo tingling his scalp.
The powerful jets splattering onto the tub were loud enough to drown out his weeping, which had been his intention in taking a second shower.
He could tell that Dean wanted to speak in some way, but he was never much comfort. It wasn’t in his nature; Seth didn’t fault him for it.
Weirdly enough, Seth had also caught Finn giving off similar vibes. He stared through his long bangs at Seth for the entire duration of dinner. He was always staring…
A sob racked through Seth’s chest.
This place was so fucking weird. And now he was stuck here; an architect amongst psychics.
He had been in the shower for at least ten minutes now, so he focused on getting his breathing back to normal and shut the water off.
The couch in the upstairs living room had become his crash space. Apparently one of the rooms in the house was being moved around and adjusted to make room for Dean, and Dean alone.
Another sting of hurt crept up and threatened to bring another cry session with it. Seth squeezed his eyes shut and stepped out of the shower to towel off and get some rest. He craved some music to listen to, an aid in forgetting the pain in his heart, but all of his belongings including his CD’s were left at his place.
Seth was supposed to have some sort of training or soul-search type nonsense with Aleister today, but after his little spar with Roman, it had been pushed to the wayside.
He was always pushed to the fucking wayside.
Shaking the excess moisture out from his hair, he wrapped the towel around his waist and brushed his teeth. He caught glimpse of himself in the mirror above the sink and angrily opened the medicine cabinet door so the mirror was out of sight.
Just as he finished rinsing his mouth out, there was a knock at the bathroom door.
“One second!” Seth called over, instantly cringing at the sound of his own crackily voice.
“Seth?” Brie’s voice answered.
“Can I come in?”
Seth’s lips pursed. He glanced down. The towel was covering everything important so he shrugged and reached over to open the door.
“Hi?” He said quizzically.
“Hey.” Brie said, seeming oblivious to his lack of clothes. Seth presumed living in a house of exclusively men and only two bathrooms probably desensitized her to this type of thing.
“Do you wanna join me in my room when you’re done? Finn’s in a lesson and I’m not in the mood to be alone.”
“Oh.” Seth said. “Uh, yeah, totally… Just lemme get dressed.”
“Great!” Her face perked up. “I have an idea for something fun we could do. See you in a few.”
And away she went before he could ask, or even really process what she said. Seth snuck into the living room and rummaged through his new clothes, quickly pulling on basketball shorts and a plain tee shirt before anyone could come around.
He searched through the bags for a hair tie, face scrunching up when he couldn’t find any. So with remaining droplets falling down his back and neck, he sauntered into Brie’s pink paradise of a bedroom.
She was bent over, looking for something in her closet when he came in. The center of the room was her massive bed, a table each on either side. On a far wall, there was a massive vanity littered with this and that accessory or makeup piece. An entertainment system sat at the wall farthest from the foot of the bed. Stacks of DVD’s, organized alphabetically, surrounded the television. Two dressers and storage units were shoved into the cramped space. There was a window by the closet with a sitting nook set up on the pane.
Seth invited himself inside. The bedside table closest to him had a framed photo on it, which he picked up to examine. It held a photo dated ‘7-25-06’ and featured Brie and Finn hugging on the couch that Seth currently slept on.
It was precious. There was a lit up cake on the table before them. Finn was smiling… Seth had never seen his smile before. Seth hadn’t been able to notice how blue his eyes were either, since he had that mop of hair concealing his face. Seth felt himself smiling down at the photo, as if Finn’s happy face was transferred to him. He put the photo down.
“Nice place ya got here…” He mumbled.
“Thank you!” She stood up, juggling a few plastic containers. One, he could tell, had about fifty different nail polishes inside.
“I thought…” She dumped all the stuff onto the messy bed, “that you could benefit from a nice manicure.”
Seth sputtered a little. “A manicure? I’m building a house right now.”
“It might not last, but it’ll still be fun!” She said, holding one perfectly sculpted nail up as she made her point.
Seth couldn’t argue with that.
“What is even in Iowa?” Brie laughed as she filed away at Seth’s nails with professional precision.
“Couldn’t even tell ya… but if I’m honest, I miss it.” Seth shrugged.
The two were sitting, facing each other, both cross-legged with the box of assorted paints and polishes between them. Brie had her manicure supplies splayed out like a mechanic with a tool kit.
“How did your mom even end up there?”
“She found a job up there in the middle of nowhere… Met my dad after her and Rome moved up, had me. She was there ever since.” Seth sighed. Brie had no qualms about asking him personal questions. It was only slightly alarming.
“What does your dad do?” She asked, switching from his thumb to his pointer finger.
“I dunno. Never met him.” Seth said. He felt a little twinge of shock after the words left his mouth, and stopped to wonder if he’d ever told someone that before.
“Oh, you poor thing.” Brie made a face. “Well, you turned out great, with or without him.”
Seth chuckled. “Tell that to my brother.”
Brie looked him in the eyes. “I will.”
Seth clicked his tongue. “Thanks… but he hates me, so don’t waste your breath.”
She went back to her work. “He’s… I love your brother but he’s a real piece of work.”
“You could say that again.”
She moved onto the next fingernail. “What was all that fighting about? If he said something ignorant, I’m gonna kick his ass.”
“Ah…” Seth paused. “He said uh… He said some stuff that I think he’s been meaning to say to me for a while.”
“But what happened?”
She wasn’t giving up.
Seth exhaled hard from his nose.
Dean had been there when the shit hit the fan, but he and Seth hadn’t spoken about it since. Roman had merely made assumptions about what happened. Seth had spent countless nights tossing and turning, coming to conclusions and realizations all by himself. He had punched through a window out of frustration and screamed until his voice was hoarse and hurting. Mentally, he had gone through hundreds of fictional conversations, imagining scenarios where he could finally say what was on his mind. He had rehearsed and perfected his insults and accusations in case the time ever arose to properly shout them at their intended target.
After all that… maybe discussing wouldn’t be so bad.
It could have just been the ambiance of the room, or the relaxation from the pampering he was receiving, but Seth declared this space safe enough to finally tell the story.
“Um… So a while ago… I was apprenticing with some construction company, y’know? And I met this guy who was uh, a lot older than me…” Seth proceeded with caution. Brie was focused on what she was doing, but nodded along to encourage him to continue.
“Roman is a little bit older than me, y’know, and we never really got along… I think my mom always liked him more and that’s probably immature or whatever. But I met this guy at the agency and we like…”
He bit his lip.
“Started dating?” Brie suggested.
“Uh… sure. I guess in hindsight that’s what it was. But we didn’t, go out or anything. It didn’t feel like a relationship. It felt like, um.”
“Been there.” Brie nodded again.
“Yeah… “ Seth repeated, a little uncomfortable with how accurate her assumption had been. He didn’t like feeling like an open book, and was already regretting opening up. Flashbacks ran through his brain of the attention he got. If one could call being thrown money at whim and only meeting up in hotels and parks at night was attention.
“It was mutually beneficial at the time, I guess. He gave me what I needed… Then I got it in my head to leave Rome and Moms and run away with him… But he didn’t want that because he had his own stuff to take care of… y’know?”
“Oh, he was married?”
Seth cursed to himself. This version of the story made him sound like a spoiled brat. He had considered over and over that that’s all he ever was. Drunk off of any affection or listening ear that he could get. That’s how Roman had seen it anyway.
“He was, yeah… Still is, actually. So it ended really badly… He was putting me and Deano up at some skeevy motel towards the end of it. I don’t know what happened or if his wife found out… I’ll probably never know but we got woken up by the police in the middle of the night on some bullshit report that we were drug addicts. We had to leave in a hurry… It must have gotten too real for him, since he changed his phone number… I went a little crazy and went to his house at 3AM… Got my ass beat, but couldn’t go to a hospital so me and Dean just started driving until we ended up here.”
“But what was so bad about it? Like why did it end so poorly?”
Seth involuntarily groaned.
“I’m sorry, this doesn’t sound easy to talk about.” Brie said.
“It’s fine.” Seth lied. “Basically he cut me off and told me we couldn’t communicate anymore, but he was still paying for the motel… It was bad before then, of course. We got into a bunch of fights because I just, I dunno, was under the impression that he was gonna leave his family? He made it seem like I was the only thing that mattered to him… Like, seeing me do well made him happier than being with them. He told me all this bullshit about how he was gonna get me the best job at the agency, I was gonna have this and have that… None of it was true, of course.”
“Asshole…” Brie muttered, switching to Seth’s ring finger.
“You said it.” Seth surprised himself by laughing. “I’m still not sure how Roman ever even found out about it but he tried to sit me down and stage an intervention.”
Brie smirked. “You don’t have to tell people like us anything for us to figure stuff out.”
“People like us…” Seth snorted. Of course.
“But anyway, my brother tried to talk to me about it today but he was just... Rude. About it.”
“It still hurts, I know…” Brie said, finishing off Seth’s left hand. “But if you hadn’t gone through all that, you’d never be here. You’re smarter now. And much safer.”
“Good point…” Seth said, unsure if he believed her, but knowing she meant what she said. “What about you? How’d you end up here?”
Her face lit up.
“I was found!”
“Yeah! Aleister has this like, way of figuring out people with the gift. He goes around the world and finds people. Mind you, I was in Arizona for my whole life. I was working at a Supercuts right out of high school, living in a studio apartment I couldn’t afford. I actually have a twin sister but she wasn’t talking to me and convinced the entire family to not talk to me… She knew I had the gift and she just couldn’t understand it.”
“I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t get it either.” Seth said frankly.
“Oh, you will… Just wait.” She said with a wink. “But yeah, I was minding my own business in a Starbucks one day, just reading a book and this creepy, tattooed guy just walked in and sat across from me. I was super weirded out but… I dunno, he just got to me! He knew about my gift without me telling him… That of course was Aleister. He came all the way to Arizona to sweat his Dutch ass off and pick me up.”
“That’s him.” Brie pointed with her emery board to dramatize the point. “He has like, a whole army of spiritual forces that tell him where to find people. It’s nuts.”
Seth laughed again at how plain and simple she made it all sound. This house was filled with impossibilities and freaks of nature, but to her, they were just the dudes she loved.
“How is this place even real?” Seth shook his head.
“It’s all because of him!” She said cheerfully, gesturing for him to pass over his right hand. He did so obediently.
“He…” She finally looked up from her filing and quickly glanced over at the door, making sure it was closed.
“He lived in a house really similar to this…” She got back to work, but spoke much quieter now. “It was in Florida, and that’s where he met your brother.”
“Huh…” Seth said. “I remember when he went over there… He stayed way longer than anticipated.”
“Yup… ‘cause he met Aleister… They were all in a house like this, filled with gifted people like this. Aleister was learning from this guy named Regal… That was his nickname. Aleister totally stole the nickname concept from Regal, but don’t tell him I told you that.”
Seth zipped his lips.
“But yeah he lived over there and learned all about the gift and stuff. The art of it, and how to teach different gifts. I think the plan was always for him to start his own house, and obviously he did. But it didn’t happen until his husband was killed.”
“Wait, Regal’s husband?” Seth asked.
Brie shook her head.
“Aleister was married?!” Seth whispered his shock.
“Mhm… Regal had this idea that Aleister’s abilities would increase and improve if he was married to another gifted person. His husband was called Dream, and from what I understand, they had a really wonderful relationship… Your brother knew him a little, I never met him. Something awful happened and Dream was killed and that’s when Aleister decided to move up here and round up as many ‘psychics’ as he could.” She stopped to make finger quotes around the p-word.
“As you can imagine, it really devastated him… Since Dream died, Aleister hasn’t been able to communicate with him. And this dude can talk to any spirit, mind you… Except this one. So he’s been trying to find people ever since then who can break through whatever… spiritual… boundary… that’s keeping them apart.”
“Holy shit…” Seth’s eyes widened as this information was dumped on his head.
“Between you and me?” Brie started, cocking an eyebrow. “Aleister thinks Finn is the one who’s gonna make the connection. That’s what they’re working on. But he’s not telling Finn the whole story. I’m the one who told him.”
Seth was silenced as the door opened behind his back. Brie jumped at the sound, in fear that she had been caught telling the story.
To her relief, it was only Finn, tip-toeing inside, holding a grey cat.
“Oh!... Um, hello there.” Finn said, clearly surprised at the extra person in the room.
“Duckie, come here!” She called over, then addressed Seth. “I’ve been trying to do his nails for days but he’s always ignoring me.”
Finn gave an artificial sounding laugh. “I’ve got to um… Feed the cats and I’ll be back.”
He was gone in a flash.
Seth felt an odd sadness pang in his chest over watching Finn leave.
He turned back to Brie.
“So what’s his story?” He mumbled, in case Finn was still in ear shot.
Brie looked up at him with a sassy smirk.
“How much time you got?”
Roman and Seth sat next to each other in Aleister’s classic office chairs. Both had arms crossed over their chests and identical foul expressions.
Aleister was behind his desk, rubbing the back of his own neck.
“The two of you are family. Everyone here is family. We need to behave like family.” He said slowly. “Disagreements happen, and feeling gets hurt. You can act like children and scream at each other over it, or we can improve our attitudes and open our minds to be forgiving and accepting.”
The brothers each shifted uncomfortably as they were scolded.
“I know some unfortunate things happened between you in the past. I’m going to challenge you both to treat these past events as water under a bridge so we can all move on together, and better each other as well as ourselves.” Aleister gestured to everyone in turn, like a motivational speaker at a high school.
“Yeah… that’s all cool, but he started the problem.” Seth threw a thumb in Roman’s direction.
“What! You started the problem years ago!” Roman snarled back.
“Nothing would have ever happened if you weren’t such a jerk-off!”
“I swear to God, you stupid brat-” Roman moved to climb out of his chair.
“Better. Each other. As well as. Ourselves.” Aleister enunciated each word loudly and clearly.
Seth and Roman bit the inside of their cheeks at the same time; Aleister nearly rolled his eyes over their identical mannerisms and piss poor attitudes. Roman slumped back into his seat in a huff. Seth turned as far away from his brother’s direction as possible.
“You’ve gotten it off your chests… You know how you feel about each other. Now it’s time to fix it. We are all moving forward. Together. I don’t want to leave either of you behind in the forward shift of our lives. Neither of you want to be left behind, correct?”
The brothers muttered their reluctant agreeances.
“Excellent. So you’ve both done your damage. Now you both have to heal… Lev, you’re working with Dean today. Seth, back to work on the concrete plan… Consider this the first day of your new lives, coexisting.” Aleister sighed and sat back in his chair.
Roman gave Seth a sidelong glance. Hesitantly, he offered an outstretched fist to his brother. Seth returned the gesture, bumping Roman’s fist with his own, but not without a forlorn smirk.
“What’s on your nails?” Roman asked quietly.
Seth displayed his open hand, showing his symmetrical and smooth fingernails varnished in shiny black paint.
“Brie got to you, huh?”
“She wouldn’t take no as an answer.” Seth mumbled.
The three of had the closest thing to a laugh that they could muster.
“I could tell ya who’s winning the Superbowl.” Dean said, words slurred as he gnawed the cap off of a beer bottle.
“I don’t wanna know that!” Roman exclaimed.
“Oh, come on.” Dean came up victorious against the metal cap and spit it over the railing.
“The game won’t be fun to watch if I know who’s gonna win!” Roman took a quick glance over his shoulder at Aurora, playing chase with Finn’s cats in the vast open lawn.
The shop was particularly busy, as it always was in the middle of August: tourist season. Finn, Aleister and Baron were all booked down to each minute, from noon to five. So, the downstairs was too noisy, upstairs was a mess, and Seth was busy with the construction team out back, so Dean and Roman decided to talk and train on the front porch. Interruptions from the occasional customer came, but most of the visitors just gave them wary glances and went on their way.
“That’s like my best trick!” Dean shrugged.
“We’re not talkin’ about tricks here, brother. You’re gonna be really helping people! I told Chief to just let you at ‘em today but he don’t listen- Baby, be careful with that one!” Roman called to his daughter when he noticed her attempting to pick up Oatmeal.
“You guys are expectin’ me to answer all this heavy shit! It ain’t easy, man. Goddamn Brie asked me about husbands and shit. And I don’t wanna hold anyone’s hand!” Dean was leaning so far back in his chair that the front legs of it were off the floor.
“I guess that’s all part of the training… That’s why he wants you to get better before you talk to paying customers.” Roman took a sip of his iced tea. Finn always made it extra sweet, exactly how he liked.
“I don’t like the training!” Dean protested, now rocking back and forth on his barely stable chair.
“You’re not gonna like everything in this world! But it’s good for you! That’s why we’re practicing every day, and you’re gonna practice with everyone in the house and would you sit up straight, you’re makin’ me nervous, goddamn.” Roman wagged a stern finger.
With his trademark defiant, crooked smirk on his face, Dean allowed the chair to fall back into proper place with a loud bang. His long hair fell into his eyes and he made no attempt to fix it.
“You’re a real pain in the ass, y’know that?” Roman asked.
“I’ve heard that before.” Dean sipped his beer.
“Alright…” Roman sighed. “What can we do… What can we do that doesn’t require holding hands since you wanna be difficult.”
“Getting me a sandwich doesn’t require holding hands.” Dean grumbled.
Roman glared at him, nostrils flared.
Dean had a way of always sounding bored or tired when he spoke. Roman wasn’t able to detect if it was all the tobacco and cheap alcohol deteriorating his vocal chords, or if he really just didn’t give a fuck about anything. It was frustrating; Dean was frustrating. Aleister was able to use the busy shop as an excuse to pass his training off on Roman, who now wasn’t certain that this wasn’t some sort of punishment.
“So... “ Roman stared across the lawn as Aurora ran around, surrounded by cats, drenched in sunshine. It would be an easy out to have Dean predict something about her… What would her college major be? Her job? Any particular people to avoid?
But to Roman’s absolute horror, Seth’s words rang in his ears.
People should be able to make their own mistakes, and be given the opportunity to learn from those mistakes. Roman could use Dean to dig around and gain insight on her future, and try to save her from any mishaps or pain. But would that only result in another Seth situation? More heartache and severed ties?
Maybe his brother was a bit of an extreme example, but goddamn him, he had some solid points.
“Did Aleister ask you the questions?” Roman said.
Dean fidgeted in his chair, though not from nerves. It seemed like he genuinely just had a hard time keeping still.
“He asked me a lot… What questions?” Dean said.
Roman folded his hands in his lap.
“Were you born with your gift?” He asked.
“Yeah.” Dean said, taking another gulp from his bottle.
“Have you ever used your gift to hurt anyone?” Roman continued.
“Yeah.” Dean nodded.
Roman made a face. That would be a story (or stories) for a different day.
“Are you in control of your gift?” He said finally.
“Yea- huh?” Dean stopped fidgeting.
“What do you mean ‘control’?”
“You want me to get the dictionary out?”
“No, I mean-” Dean swatted away Roman’s sarcasm.
The question process was always more intense when Aleister did it.
“-I mean, I can turn it on and shit… We did that at the dinner table. Do you mean like that? Control? ‘Cause sometimes I see shit without making it happen.” Dean offered, looking unsure of himself and the entire situation.
Roman sat up suddenly. “Really? Wha- how?! What brings it on?”
Dean shrugged. “Dunno.”
“Why didn’t you mention this earlier?!” Roman looked flabbergasted.
“No one asked!” Dean said.
Roman grasped at anything to say.
Being unable to bring on or manage this level of clairvoyance was dangerous, to say the least. Aleister had met people like Dean in the past who had been driven nearly insane by the nonstop flood of images and visions. They often felt like they weren’t alone in their own brains, thus that they had no privacy and no ‘down time’ from the gift. It was no way to live- similar to how Finn was under constant attack of intrusive spirit voices when away from the safety of the camp.
“What are you seeing? And how often?” Roman found his words.
“All sorts of stuff.” Dean said. “It comes and it goes. Sometimes it’s important. Sometimes it’s not… like did you know your wife is making pizza for dinner later? I saw that earlier.”
“What?!” Roman yelled.
“It’s just pizza dude, don’t be upset. It looked delicious.”
“When did you see that?” Roman said, trying to keep Dean on track.
“Uh, when I was in the shower.”
“Does it happen in the shower a lot?”
Dean shrugged and downed the rest of his beer. “Sometimes. I think ‘cause I shower first thing in the morning? A lotta the time, I see shit in my sleep and I can’t tell if it’s a dream or like a vision deal, y’know? So maybe it happens more when I’m like… first turning my brain on every day… Or somethin’.”
“There’s nothing to differentiate them? Dreams and visions?” Roman asked, now nervously clinking his fingers against his glass of tea.
“Uh, yeah… Dreams are dreams and the shit I vision about actually happens. But y’know, you can’t always tell which is which until it’s happenin’.” Dean said, kicking his chair back onto its back legs.
“Are you not concerned about this at all?” Roman lowered his voice; trying to be genuine.
“Wha- how come? Why would I be?” Dean cocked his head to the side like a puppy.
“Shit’s happening without your permission? The visions and all that mess?” Roman mentally noted that he never cursed this much. Something about Dean brought it all out.
Dean stopped for a minute. Stopped moving, stopped fidgeting, stopped talking and seemed to really think, hard, about the question. Roman watched the blond locks fall about his eyes as he was stuck; his face twisted into a more insightful smirk.
Finally, he answered.
Roman exhaled the breath he had been holding through his nose. He couldn’t, for the life of him, tell if Dean just had some sort of arrogant front held up. It was entirely possible that he was unbothered by his visions; it just seemed so extremely unlikely. But hell, this kid was pretty adjusted to disorder and probably never had much control of anything in his life. That much was obvious. No wonder he got along with Seth so well.
Dean wasn’t going to be informed until it was happening, but Roman was formulating a plan for his next training session.
“Alright let’s get you that sandwich.” He waved for Dean to follow him into the house and whistled for Aurora.
“You never came back!” Brie swung a wooden spoon in Finn’s direction, splattering cream sauce here and there as she did. “I gave Seth an amazing manicure and he had already gone to sleep by the time you came back, you nerd.”
“I got err, caught up!” Finn lied.
What he had actually done, after feeding the cats like he said he was doing, was go downstairs to the shop front and move every knick knack and dust under it with a wet washcloth for over two hours until he declared it safe enough to return to his Seth-free room.
“You’re such a liar! Why did you disappear?” Brie faked being angry.
“I was doing things!... and… stuff…”
“You’re so weird.” She teased now, eyes rolling. She returned to the pot of sauce on the stove and Finn slunk around her to peer around the kitchen window.
A massive truck was backing into the designated house space, being lead by Seth, who was walking backward and waving it along. Finn could see that his grey tee shirt was soaked with dark patches of sweat along his back.
Today had been insane and Finn barely had a chance to eat his lunch, much less peer out and study Seth for any amount of time.
“What are you doing?” Brie asked from behind him.
“What?! Oh, uhm, just… watching.”
“Did you see what I did to Seth’s hair? I did the undercut, all the way around.” She prattled on.
Of course Finn saw what she did, and had already gone through quite a few daydreams involving petting the shaved sideburns that framed Seth’s face.
“Yeah, I like that…” Finn nodded, not breaking his gaze from the scene outside.
“He’s really working hard. I just wish it wasn’t so gross outside for him.” Brie continued.
It had to be the hottest week of the year right now. Seth had been going through water bottles like nobody’s business.
As if on cue, Finn watched as Seth broke away from the group momentarily, much closer to the house.
Finn knew he was in danger of being caught staring, but right before Seth could realize that he was being watched, he stopped and peeled the sweat-drenched tee shirt from his body.
Finn’s voice caught in his throat at the sight.
Seth’s natural tan accentuated his muscled frame and the too-big jeans Brie had gotten him hung dangerously low at his hips. He turned back to rejoin, giving Finn a small glimpse at an impressively painful looking tattoo down his spine.
Finn, feeling his eyes glazed over with admiration, lust, wonder and who knew what else, had to remind himself to unclench his jaw, which had been held tight to the point of grinding.
Brie was still cooking, minding her own, but Finn shook himself back to reality and figured he ought to speak.
“He’s awfully handsome, isn’t he…” He muttered- the only thought his brain was able to process.
“Seth is?... Yeah,” Brie hesitated, “He’s… he’s uh… he’s unique looking.”
Before Finn could get defensive over her disagreeing, or realize how weird it was to be defensive over that, Aleister came around the corner, hair wet from a shower and expression frantic from how busy the day had been.
“Are they finished out there?” He pointed to the window.
“I don’t think so.” Brie shrugged. “Seeing as how they’re all like, still here.”
“God.” Aleister growled. “I’m so behind- I haven’t gotten to train with Seth yet.”
“You know all this craziness won’t last.” Brie ignored his chaos and stirred the sauce. “That concrete’s gonna take at least two weeks to set. You’ll have plenty of time.”
Finn gave her a look. Two weeks?! He wondered what on earth Seth would be doing with all that free time… and how exactly was Finn supposed to study him in the meantime.
“Let me know when he’s finished.” Aleister concluded, storming back out of the kitchen within a minute of coming in.
“Can’t handle all this testosterone…” Brie mumbled, more to herself than to Finn.
Roman had gone back home after working with Dean, and Baron was out and about come dinner time. Aleister was sat in his usual spot, with Brie at his left and Finn at his right. Seth sat next to Brie, across from Dean. Everyone quietly enjoyed their meal; too tired to keep up a conversation.
“Can someone sit at the opposite head please?” Aleister gestured mournfully to Roman’s empty chair.
Dean quickly gathered his plate and drink up and moved to the end of the table to keep the seat warm.
“I love that you can’t handle his absence.” Brie suppressed a laugh.
“I hate it when he’s gone…” Aleister mumbled, uncharacteristically wiping his hand down his face, muffling his own words.
“He’s an alright guy. We had a good time.” Dean said, his mouth full.
“I’m glad to hear it… But we’re not getting nearly as much accomplished as I’d like.” Aleister sighed.
“Maybe you should call Adam?” Brie suggested. “Remember how much he helped with Finn and Ember… It’d be nice to have an extra set of hands as well.”
Finn blinked at the mention of his own name. He had been only half listening to the conversation since his mind was predominantly occupied with the one strand of hair out of place in Seth’s messy bun, laying across his high cheekbone.
“Is he still in Philadelphia?” Aleister asked.
“He was when I called him last week.”
Seth must have noticed the hair finally and pushed it back behind his ear. Finn felt a sinking pit in his stomach, wondering if anyone would have ever thought he’d have such a strong desire to touch a stranger so badly.
“Any word from Sasha?”
Brie threw a hand up. “She won’t return my texts, but what’s new?”
Aleister sighed, muttering. “I don’t know how to mend a bridge that was never burned…”
“She’s just busy, I’m sure… I’ll call Adam back tomorrow, see what his schedule is. I’m going to the farmer’s market in the morning if you want anything special. Boys?”
“I need cigarettes.” Dean grumbled.
“That’s… not… Alright.” Brie sighed and stabbed a carrot with her fork.
Seth took a polite sip from his water and shook his head.
Finn, watching every move and noting how grateful he was for Seth re-hydrating, perked up when an idea popped into his head. He opened his mouth to tell Brie, but instantly recoiled.
Aleister noticed, so Finn thought quickly and replaced his initial idea with a different one.
“Uhm, can I come?” He spat out.
Brie scrunched her nose up, as if to do an impression of Seth.
“You wanna come? Are you sure?” She asked.
Looking more agitated than confused, Aleister mimicked her question. “Yes, why?”
Finn fidgeted under their criticism. “Uh… I mean. Uh. I just want to…”
“Are you sure you can handle that?” Aleister asked.
Finn’s face grew hot.
He hadn’t properly left the house since the beginning of May when Brie dragged him along to shop for Aleister’s birthday. They had been in the mall for about fifteen minutes before Finn became too overwhelmed and caused a scene in the food court.
But Seth didn’t know any of that, and Finn really didn’t want to seem like a weirdo in front of Seth.
“I mean, it’s pretty laid back.” Brie said, placing a soft, reassuring hand on Aleister’s tattooed one. He considered it for a second and either didn’t notice or just chose to not acknowledge the blush in Finn’s cheeks.
“Well. It’s alright with me… Just be careful and stay together.”
Brie gave Finn a brilliant smile. “It’s a plan, then.”
If Seth hadn’t been awoken by Brie’s voice carrying over from the other room, he would have definitely been awoken by the weight and the prickling feeling on his chest. His heavy eyelids opened and, blinking away blurriness, he came face-to-face with an orange, fluffy, whiskered face.
Since arriving in the house a week ago, he had seen an assortment of cats skittering all about, but none had any interest in approaching him until now.
“Hey kitty... “ He grumbled, voice gravelly with sleepiness. He scratched the white marking under the cat’s chin and staggered to his feet with a groan. The cat leapt from the cushion and attempted to follow him into the bathroom.
“What, are you hungry?” Seth paused before the bathroom door and allowed the cat to spin circles around his ankles.
“Brie, did you-” He started to call over to her through her ajar bedroom door but was cut-off by whatever phone conversation she was having. Something about organizing a visit with whomever she was speaking with. Seth was a little too sleepy to properly eavesdrop.
“Hmm…” He turned his attention back to the cat and raised an eyebrow at the absolutely rotund shape of its middle. “You don’t look hungry…”
Clicking his tongue at the precious display of bright, amber eyes shown up at him, Seth slunk his frame into the bathroom, leaving the creature purring behind the door.
Finn tried to dress as ‘normal’ as possible.
He was still completely covered, in jeans and a long sleeve shirt, and was scolded and warned by Brie several times because of it. Despite the blistering heat index, he would rather sweat than risk being noticed by anyone. Brie was unfortunately stylish, in a beautiful sunflower dress and matching yellow headband, which would surely turn gazes in their direction.
Now Finn sat, curled up on their bed while Brie danced around the room, cell phone pressed to her ear, ironing out details with Adam Cole about their next meet-up.
“I’ll see what he wants to do, he’s really feeling stressed over how busy we are lately… No, I know…. What do you expect though…”
Finn fidgeted uncomfortably. The task ahead of him was daunting, and surely to everyone else at the farmer’s market, it was just a fun thing to do.
“Let me double-back with him and Rome and see what they’re up to. I’m taking Finn to the farmer’s market now… No, he’ll be fine!... No, you shut up!” Brie snickered into the phone, unknowingly making Finn’s skin crawl. Adam was one of the people closest to the house without actually living there- but still, Finn had a hard time with getting his ‘humor’ and was not interested in knowing what he had said to Brie just then.
She ended the call after a few more laughs with Adam and shouldered her pink backpack that was resting on the floor.
“Alright, let’s do it.”
They trotted downstairs together, not without some hesitation from Finn who could have sworn that he heard Seth coming out of the shower. Brie dragged him along and found Aleister reading over his upcoming week’s appointment list at the mail cubbies, short sleeve tee shirt showing off his tattoos and sculpted arms.
“Any requests? And I need the keys.” She asked.
Without taking his eyes off of the index card in hand, he fished the car keys out of his jeans pocket and tossed them over, connecting with Brie’s opened palm perfectly.
“If they have those fresh pretzels, get ten of them.” He muttered, flipping the card over. “And don’t leave each other’s sight. Hold hands.”
“I’ll just piggy-back him around the place, don’t worry.” Brie rolled her eyes, but more affectionately than obediently, took Finn’s hand in hers while they strolled out together.
Seth shook his hair dry, running the dampened towel back and forth across his scalp. Over the sounds of the tap he turned on to brush his teeth, he could hear scritching from the other side of the door. Confused and apathetic to his own nudity, he reached over and opened the bathroom door wide open. In a flash, the same goddamn cat that had followed him earlier ran into the room with a frantic meow.
“What is your damage, kitty-kitty? I don’t have any food for you. I don’t even have pants on.” Seth scolded. The cat responded by sitting its fluffy butt on the floor mat and staring up at him, eyes full of wonder and love.
Seth smiled and shrugged and continued to brush his teeth and dry off.
‘What exactly does one wear to a psychic-medium-telekenisis-whatever-the-fuck lesson?’ was not a question Seth thought he would ever be asking himself, yet here he was, wondering if a black v-neck was too casual for his meetup with Aleister.
With a brrt! and a whip of the tail, the cat jumped onto the couch cushion that was Seth’s humble living space and twirled around the shirt.
“You think that one?” He asked.
The cat responded by flipping onto its back, spreading orange hairs all over the black shirt.
“Ah… Thank you. Thanks for the blessing.” Seth deadpanned, giving the presented belly a quick few rubs and pulling the shirt out from under the animal. He pulled the shirt on and paired it with the only pair of jeans Brie had gotten him that fit correctly.
He clicked his tongue for the cat to follow him as he made his way downstairs. It padded in-step with him and he tried not to dwell over how weird that was.
He just missed Brie and Finn, and Roman was preoccupied with his real family today so he wasn’t around.
“Huh… Real family.” Seth mumbled, realizing he had excluded himself from that category.
Aleister was sat the kitchen table with Dean, and thankfully neither of them had heard him.
“Ready to get goin’?” Seth asked, trying to sound eager and optimistic, but of course just sounding shaky and fake.
“You need to eat first.” Aleister said, nodding to Dean who was absolutely destroying a homemade breakfast sandwich.
“How come? I’m not super hungry.”
“It’s hard to focus on expressing and exercising your mind when other parts of your body that you’re more familiar with are being neglected.” Aleister said, casual as ever.
“Oh… Yeah, totally.” Seth nervously wiped at his nose.
“I’ll fix ya up, pal. And Brie is bringin’ back some vegetable crap for after.” Dean said gruffly.
Two pieces of Texas toast, gutted and cooked in the toaster oven. The inside of the toast was preserved and left off to the side.
Dean chewed a toothpick while he cracked two eggs into the still-hot pan on the stove.
“There’s a timing method here that I’ve perfected,” he slurred, covering the pan and heading to the counter for a deli package of cheddar slices. The toaster oven dinged and he removed the crisped breads bare-handed, dressing them each with one slice of cheese and leaving them on a paper plate.
Seth bit his lip, in awe of how one person managed to be so systematic and precise in certain aspects of life but then also is okay with wearing the same ketchup-stained tank top for a week.
Company came around as he watched; the orange cat leapt onto the kitchen table where Aleister was to receive chin scratches and some loving praise.
Dean turned off the heat after the eggs had cooked for only about three minutes and slid one in each piece of hollowed out bread, on top of the cheese. To complete the masterpiece, he recovered the insides of the bread and smashed them back in place.
“Happy bowl sandwich.” Dean grunted, sliding the paper plate of cheesy carbs over to Seth.
“You’re a madman.” Seth shook his head but gratefully took a chomp from one of the steaming hot sandwiches.
Aleister, who had watched Dean’s process twice now from the kitchen table, seemed satisfied that Seth was eating and excused himself.
“Meet me outside when you’re finished, Seth.”
“Will do,” Seth said, mouth full, ripping off a piece of egg to feed to the cat.
Dean turned his attention to the coffee machine on the counter. “Are you bonding with Whatshisface’s cat?”
“Finn?” Seth said, scratching the cat’s ears. “I guess so.”
“That dude’s fucking weird.” Dean grumbled.
Seth’s nose wrinkled at the remark, but he chose to leave it alone.
Only about two dozen tents were set up around Derby Square- only about a fifteen minute drive from the house, just past all the spooky seasonal tourist attractions in Salem.
Brie was a bit of a reckless driver, which Finn always seemed to forget about until he was clutching the handle on the roof and feeling the edge of his seat belt cutting into his neck. She had parked somewhere that was almost certainly illegal but insisted that it was fine because they wouldn’t be long.
All of that was manageable, and would have been downright fun if Finn wasn’t struggling with his usual horrors that were associated with leaving the house.
The moment that the house was no longer visible from the rear-view mirrors was when the spirit sounds came back. Finn was almost able to forget what they sounded like, since they were never present in the camp.
It always started the same- first a handful of whispers, sounding so faint that he couldn’t pick out specific words or phrases. At times, he was sure that the spirits were speaking something other than English, but for the life of him, he couldn’t decipher which language it was.
The spirits themselves were tolerable. It was always whenever he reached the company of strangers that the voices bombarded him uncontrollably.
Everyone has known someone who has died, either directly or intimately or distantly. Everyone in the world has dead relatives. And for some ungodly reason, the relatives of everyone surrounded Finn- in this case, at the farmer’s market- decided that they had something to say. Impatient, as spirits commonly were, they spoke over each other and tried to yell to be heard. Any time Finn looked at a specific person running a tent or walking around, a new spirit would pipe up with something to say to their living loved one.
Brie kept giving him sidelong glances, obviously wanting to check in but not wanting to baby him. Finn smiled softly at her, lucky that she looked away satisfied before he winced at a particularly loud voice.
“Did you wanna look at anything in particular?” Brie asked, sounding faint in comparison.
Finn directed all of his energy into listening to her, thinking of a way to turn off all other sound.
It helped that he had an ulterior motive to focus on- one that he couldn’t share at the dinner table.
“Can we get something for Seth?” Finn whispered.
“What?” Brie turned her sunglasses up to rest on the top of her head.
“Uhm…” Finn squeezed his eyes shut to make putting the sentence together easier. “I thought it would be nice… if we found something for Seth… or made him something special.”
Brie clicked her tongue. “Aw. That’s so sweet. Okay, let’s look around. You really like him, huh?”
Finn cleared his throat awkwardly, but nodded.
“Yeah, me too. Ooh, look, there’s the bakery that Aleister likes, let’s go!”
Brie yanked Finn over to the tent and ordered an absurd amount of fresh baked sourdough pretzels, along with cookies and scones. Finn tried to listen intently to every one of her words and analyze them properly, so as to not let his mind wander into open territory for the spirits to attack.
He allowed himself to wonder after a while, which cookie would Seth like the best. What treat would make him happiest? How could Finn properly show his gratitude and elation over Seth’s existence? And how could he present the thing to Seth without having to actually talk to him or look at him?
While deep in thought, the voices had amazingly subsided. Finn blinked when he noticed, leaving himself vulnerable and unoccupied long enough for them to increase in volume. He tried to shake them away while Brie pulled him over to a stand with greens and roots and all sorts of natural deliciousness.
“Maybe we could make like a stir fry…” Brie thought aloud, again grasping Finn’s hand in hers. He grounded himself by feeling the warmth and smoothness of her skin, while his eyes wandered to a couple nearby.
They were kneeling on the grass, petting and loving a puppy on a baby blue leash. The pup was fed an organic treat, sold from the stand beside them.
Finn watched them smile and laugh; watched the way they looked at each other with such admiration.
Maybe someday Seth would look at him that way.
How incredible would it be, Finn wondered, to be alone with him? The thought now gave him a nervous stomach ache. But maybe someday he would be strong enough to move past that.
He pushed his long hair out of his eyes to watch as the puppy gleefully danced around its owners, yipping and wagging its tail.
Maybe he and Seth could get a dog.
Finn jumped from shock now as Brie took a grasp of his chin and turned his face to her own.
“Are you okay? Do you wanna leave?” She asked, hushed.
“Oh!” Finn shrugged out of her hold and tore his eyes away from the couple. Soon as he did, there were the overwhelming voices again. He grimaced as they rejoined him, some sounding angered from being ignored.
“N-No, I’m great! Did you get what we need?” Finn asked, spitting out the most and innocuous sentence he could imagine.
“Yeah! But I wanna go over to that farm stand, they have fruit and stuff… Are you sure you’re okay?” Brie’s eyebrows knitted with genuine concern.
Finn nodded enthusiastically. Beyond Brie’s shoulder, he could see the couple and their pup scamper off together to enjoy the rest of the market. He wished he could thank them for the fantasies they unintentionally caused.
Hand-in-hand, Finn and Brie walked through the long tables displaying all sorts of beautiful apples, peaches, pears, plums and more.
Distracted now, but doing his best to hang on to the present moment with Brie, Finn noticed a tray of newly picked lemons- uncommon for New England farmers.
He tugged at Brie’s dress sleeve and pointed.
“Wha- you wanna get some lemons?”
He grinned the best that he could. Brie considered his reaction for a moment before it dawned on her:
“You wanna make Seth lemonade, don’t you?” She asked, with one eyebrow raised.
Finn bit the inside of his cheek, feeling his face redden, this time not from the direct sunlight.
Brie laughed. “I think he’d really appreciate that… Wonder how his lesson’s going over there.”
Finn sighed and worked out a list of every ingredient he’d need.
And in what scenario could he present Seth with fresh lemonade and receive a kiss in return.
Feeling his blush intensify, he thanked his lucky stars that Brie couldn’t read his thoughts without his permission.
wow sorry for the delay! I'm figuring out how to exist with a new work schedule and y'know, depression or whatever.
this should be the last "filler" or 'set up' chapter.
let's get into The Goods, shall we?
With a full belly and a cat in tow, Seth slunk out the kitchen back door to meet up with Aleister. Dean’s comment left a weird taste in his mouth but he shrugged it off once he got a view of the strange set up Aleister had prepared.
A folding table, like one would use for TV dinners, was opened about a dozen feet away from Seth’s construction site. Aleister had placed an expensive looking glass vase on the table, and was now standing patiently beside it.
“What’s all this?” Seth said, nose scrunched and eyes squinting in the sunlight.
“Glad you asked!” Aleister exclaimed, unusually loud.
Seth side-eyed the dug up earth and the concrete slabs baking in the sun. Aleister met him where he stood and escorted him a few yards away, opposite direction from the house, the site, the table, and invited him to have a seat on the grass.
“So, something I’ve learned from being around your brother and people like him…” Aleister began, “... all of their abilities come from different places. No one seems to be the same. Roman summons his gift by focusing on the atoms surrounding an item.”
Aleister sculpted his words as they left his mouth- a trait that he probably picked up from Roman himself. Seth tried not to feel offended over the fact that a stranger was telling him more than he ever knew about his own brother.
“Roman has told me that he can actually visualize the energy, the charges, around an object and that’s what he manipulates to his will. It’s absolutely incredible.”
“That’s wild…” Seth nodded, squinting harder at the vase. The air around it was normal as it could possibly be. He saw nothing special- nothing remarkable and certainly nothing to manipulate or whatever.
“But, of course…” Aleister shifted so he could sit cross-legged. Seth mimicked. “That’s just Roman. Someone very dear to my heart has a gift similar to Roman’s, but she uses emotions to control it, and to control the objects in question.”
“Can I, uh, interrupt?” Seth asked.
“Is there like, any way you can explain this uh, a little more simply?” Seth was embarrassed to ask, but was also barely following Aleister’s archaic way of explaining things.
“Uh…” Aleister paused. “She gets mad, then things move.”
“There we go.” Seth said.
“I suppose putting it that way brings us closer to our lesson for the day.” Aleister gestured over to the vase. “I have a hunch that your ability would be more on the emotional side, rather than the scientific side like your brother.”
“Not sure what gave you that inkling…” Seth mumbled sarcastically.
“Just a hunch.” Aleister chuckled. “But I could be wrong. That’s why we do this.”
“So what do I do?”
“That’s the fun part.” Aleister said. “I want you to focus on two things at once. Do your very best. See this vase? I took it from the upstairs living room, do not tell Brianna. Anyway, focus all your visual energy on the vase. Do not look at anything else, even for a second.”
“Got’cha.” Seth blinked a few times, as if to prepare his eyes for the task at hand.
“So visually- physically- that’s where your energy is. Mentally, emotionally, will be a little different.” Aleister held up a finger to accentuate his point. “I want you to think of a time in your life that brought you extreme emotion. It doesn’t matter what kind of emotion right now- we can try different ones as we progress. Just whatever is strongest. Your most infuriating rage, your most mournful sadness, your most elated joy…
Seth barely listened to the other options listed. As soon as Aleister uttered your most infuriating rage, a flood of images attacked Seth’s mind. The same images that hadn’t left him alone for nearly a month. As if he was dropped into a movie of his own life, Seth watched himself being ejected from a sleazy motel room by a scowling police officer. He saw his own battered and bloodied body after taking the beating of a lifetime. He heard all of the lies- all of the beautiful sounding, heart swelling, yet never-to-be-fulfilled fucking lies.
Seth saw his face.
“I’m there.” He spat between gritted teeth.
“Do not let go.” Aleister warned. “Focus every single thread of what you’re feeling into your eyes. Feel it flow through your veins, from your brain to your heart, all about your limbs.”
“I feel it…” Seth choked out.
Seth saw his horrible fucking face. Looking down on him while he lay bleeding on the sidewalk. Dean’s cracking voice, screaming in the background. The look of disgust in his face while he looked down.
He was always fucking looking down on Seth.
“Do not close your eyes, no matter how tempting it is.” Aleister said, just loud enough to be audible.
Seth exhaled hard through his nostrils as he felt the sensation of pins and needles prickling up and down his arms, his back. Not even the August air could make him sweat like this; make his body feel as though it was cooking from the inside out.
Eyes locked on the vase, he imaged it exploding. Shattering into a million pieces and then those pieces stabbing him all over, making him feel the pain that Seth had felt. He saw himself breaking it over his back, then stomping his face into the dirt while he was down.
‘You’re nothing without me. I made you.’
Bullets of sweat dripped down Seth’s neck, soaking his shirt. His body felt weighed down to the grass like the cement bricks he had laid.
His eyes bore into this stupid vase, unsure of what he was even looking for. He knew that Roman would have already levitated, broken, or spun the thing around with ease by now.
A whimper escaped Seth’s throat.
It was Roman’s fault that any of this even happened. Seth always hated being home alone with him. How could Roman even blame him for running off? It was his fault! He did this! He did this!
‘Run back to Daddy, like I know you will.’
Seth’s pained whimper evolved to a guttural growl as he remembered the horrific things Roman had screamed at him. His fists clenched up in his lap, knuckles turning white.
“Don’t lose focus.” Aleister mumbled. He had moved to rest on one knee, as if in a defensive position.
Seth stared this goddamn thing down, keeping his jaw and his neck so still that they ached. Roman’s voice, his face, all of the fucking guilt he felt but didn’t know why- it was almost unbearable and attacked his skull with the force like that of a knife into his temple.
In the same moment, Seth felt a splatter of wetness, like a raindrop, plop onto his hand. Startled, he broke his contact with the vase and glanced to his lap, finding a small puddle of blood developing. In a panic, he sucked in the first breath he had taken in at least a minute and grasped at his own face. The blood had been leaking from his nostrils; for how long, he didn’t know.
“Stop! Wait. Don’t move too much.” Aleister lurched forward, placing reassuring hands on Seth’s shoulders.
“I’m bleeding!” Seth almost screamed, voice hoarse from strain.
“I know! It’s alright. It’s okay. What are you feeling?” Aleister asked.
“Uh… Like I’m bleeding?!” Seth manually unlocked his jaw, giving his body instant relief. He took a deep breath, and upon exhaling, was rocked with another agonizing stab in his head. He yelped and clasped his blood splattered hand over his forehead, finding it hot and soaking.
“You have a headache? That’s a good sign!” Aleister nodded.
“Yeah, awesome.” Seth sighed, finally squeezing his eyes shut for a rest.
Aleister was excitedly praising but Seth couldn’t give any more energy out, not even to listen to him. He slumped to the ground, back against the grass, and almost immediately after was greeted again by a set of four fluffy paws jumping on and pressing against his stomach.
“You did so well!” Brie hugged Finn before they got back into the car. They carried three bags each, full of fresh produce and warm baked goods.
Finn smiled, despite the spinning sensation he felt throughout his body. The spirits had not ceased their onslaught, but he managed to ignore and focus his attention elsewhere long enough to get through.
It was amazing what he could accomplish with a little personal motivation.
During the ride home, the spirits that had attached themselves to him in the market slowly faded away, but were replaced by others that hissed and moaned and demanded attention like hungry dogs. Finn tried to give each of them a moment or two to appease their wants, but soon found himself shaking at the hands and nauseated from the overwhelming stress.
Right before he felt the urge to vomit, Brie was pulling into the massive hill where their home sat atop. Stumbling, Finn clamored out of the car, leaving the bags to Brie. He would later apologize but right now just needed the warmth and safety of the house.
Once he stepped foot onto the front staircase, the voices were hushed away, as if they never were.
“Oh, thank gosh…” Finn whispered to himself as he opened the door and dragged his exhausted body inside. Certainly Brie could juggle the bags back into the house. How heavy could a bunch of lettuce and pretzels and lemons possibly be?
“Oatmeal?” Finn called once he passed the threshold from the shop front to the house. After a morning so tiresome, all he wanted now was a nap and a cuddle from his chubby cat. Brie shuffled in behind him but he kept exploring the house, gradually feeling his heart rate slow back down.
“Oatmeal kitty?” Finn yelled a little louder. He walked by Peaches, who was fast asleep on Roman’s sweater, left on the kitchen table. Eileen was grooming herself by the stairs. Thunder invited herself to run around Finn’s legs and beg for treats. Soon, Pumpkin and Dottie Mae joined in to yowl and butt their heads against any part of Finn they could reach.
“Hush, all of you. You have kibble in your bowls!” Finn scolded. Brie followed him to the kitchen, tip toeing around tails and fluffy bodies, eventually dumping all of the goods on the counter.
“Thanks for helping me carry everything!” Brie snarled.
“You’re welcome. Have you seen… Oh dear.” Finn began to ask, right as his eyes drifted over to the open window in the kitchen. Not too far from the house, Seth and Aleister were in the dirt and grass, just talking, while Finn’s prized tabby sat, dignified, in Seth’s lap.
“Oh no, are you going to have to talk to him?” Brie put a hand over her mouth in sarcastic shock. Finn gave her a sidelong glare.
Oatmeal was absolutely not an outdoor cat, and the vast field behind the house was surely a breeding ground for fleas and ticks. Finn knew he should go get her, bring her inside and give her a bath but…
“Wait, Seth is bleeding!” He spat out, voice unfortunately riddled with concern.
“Is he?” Brie peered through the window, abandoning the groceries she was sorting. “D’you think he accomplished something? Or did Aleister just punch him? Wait, is that my vase?!”
Finn was met with the same wrenching in his heart that he had felt the first time he ever saw Seth. Lip-quivering, he imagined himself running outside and nursing Seth’s wounds, kissing his face and stealing him away from Aleister and the no-doubt strenuous work he was being put through. God, isn’t building a house enough of a task?
Finn shook the visions from his head, forcing himself back to earth. His own body and especially his mind was still shaken up from the morning, but he could focus only on Seth and how to make him feel better. Perhaps Oatmeal was working on that very task right now.
“Keep squeezing… Yeah, flip it… No, like really get in there.” Brie commentated as Finn crushed every drop of juice out of the fresh lemons, letting them fall into a pitcher.
“I’m getting in there!” Finn winced as a fly-away citrus drop almost splattered into his eye.
“Do it for Seth.”
“I literally am.”
As Finn and Brie were hard at work, attempting to accumulate two full cups of juice, their ears caught on to the sounds of Baron’s motorcycle pulling into the backyard. Being that the engine was so loud, they couldn’t hear the jingling of keys against door as another guest let themselves in without notice.
Outside, Baron didn’t even bother waving to Seth and Aleister as he stomped into the house through the back kitchen door. His eyes burned as he walked in from the mass amount of lemons the two weirdos were draining on the counter. Brie gave him a stiff nod, but kept her mouth tight-lipped and vaguely disapproving. Whatever.
He made his way up the stairs, past the living room where Seth was crashing, past Finn and Brie’s room, and landed adjacent to Aleister’s office where his bedroom was exactly the way he had left it a couple days ago. Thank God no one messed with his stuff. The only new addition to his space was the index card dropped onto his pillow with his appointments on it.
Removing his jacket and hat, Baron stretched and yawned. His trip to New Hampshire had proved to be completely useless. Why he agreed to do Aleister’s dirty work was completely beyond his comprehension anyway. He already knew that later on, he would be thoroughly questioned about why he came back empty handed. If you wanna find him so bad, do it yourself, Baron said to himself, always planning his retorts ahead of time.
Just as he was ready to tuck into bed for a quick nap before dinner, he grabbed up the index card to see what his week looked like.
Before he could even settle his eyes on Brie’s swirly handwriting however, a terrifying shriek pierced his ears and made him jump back onto his feet.
“Who the hell are you?!” Sasha screamed. “Why are you in here?”
“I live here?!” Dean screamed back, clutching a towel over his naked body.
This girl, whose voice was as loud as her neon pink hair, had just barged right in as he was getting dressed for the day.
“I live here! This is my room!” She said. Her eyes frantically took in the space, seeing that none of her possessions were where she left them. A stack of tupperware containers laid in the corner of the otherwise stripped bare room. Sasha could only assume that all of her clothes and books were inside those.
“What the hell is happening?!” Baron ran into the room from up the hall, looking disheveled and tired.
“Oh great, Morticia’s here.” Dean rolled his eyes. “Can I get dressed before we talk about this?”
Sasha growled in his direction and backed away, slamming the door behind her.
“Who is that!?” She bellowed at Baron.
“Aleister’s found some new people. You’ve been gone a while!” Baron held his hands up in defense.
“So you give my room away?!”
“I didn’t do this!” Baron said. “Trust me, I’m just as upset as you are!”
Footsteps clamored up the stairs, just past the living room.
“Baron? Oh my god, Sasha!” Brie exclaimed. Finn was right behind her, cowering as he always did.
“Don’t ‘ohmigawd, Sasha’ me, bitch.” Sasha spat, mimicking Brie’s voice.
Brie’s jaw dropped at the sudden aggression.
“Sasha, that’s completely unnecessary!” Finn stepped up.
“Oh, shut up, I don’t want to hear anything you have to say.” Sasha rolled her eyes now.
“Yeah, you’re the only reason they’re here.” Baron said, suddenly jumping sides to agree with Sasha.
“What?!” Finn said.
“What is happening?!” Brie’s hands were in her hair as Aleister and Seth also stomped up the stairs in a hurry.
The offending bedroom door opened up again.
“Hi, I’m Dean Ambrose.” Dean said plainly with a smile, now fully clothed, offering a hand to Sasha. She looked at his outstretched hand as if it was some disgusting monster.
“Sasha.” Aleister stepped forward, calm as ever. “Welcome home. Some things have changed in your absence, we’ve tried calling-”
“Yeah, some things?” Sasha growled. “I just drove three hours to get here, which I only had to do because of you. And you’re gonna tell me some things have changed.”
“What are you speaking of?” Aleister asked.
“‘What are you speaking of, duh’” Sasha mocked Aleister’s accent. “You’re giving all my clients away to your Golden Boy so I’ve been in Boston trying to find work!”
“Sasha, there’s plenty of room for everyone… I have a plan to rearrange the rooms and-”
“And now you give my room away because Finn thinks you should?” Sasha accused, venom in her voice.
“For these two?!” She gestured to Dean and now Seth, who didn’t even have time to clean the crusting blood from his nose.
“What?!” Finn said again, much louder now.
“Sasha, that’s not what-” Brie started.
“Fuck. You.” Sasha said, staring Brie directly in the eyes.
“Why me specifically!?” Brie threw her hands up.
“Sasha, if you don’t want to have a discussion, you may as well just leave again.” Aleister cleared the distance between them, towering over Sasha’s petite frame. “If you choose to leave, please refrain from returning again.”
Sasha smiled sarcastically. “Well, you’ve already packed my things, haven’t you?”
“You’ve made your point very clear, Sasha.” Aleister said sternly.
“I’m sure you can’t wait to see me gone.” Breaking away from the group, Sasha ran back down the stairs and out the front door.
Aleister turned his heartbroken glare to Baron’s direction, who struggled to stay still under it.
“Your friend seems nice.” Dean said gruffly.
While Sasha made extremely awkward trips up and down the stairs, retrieving this and that personal item and filled tote, some house members attempted to move on as normal.
Seth hopped back in the shower. Dean foraged for snacks in the kitchen. Brie and Finn returned to their lemonade assembly.
Aleister didn’t find moving on quite so simple. He asked Baron to follow him into his office and the door was shut tight behind them.
“Do you have something to tell me?” Aleister asked, leaning his body against his desk with arms crossed instead of having a seat.
“She came in the same time I did… Dean was in the room and she lost her mind. That’s it.” Baron shrugged and fidgeted nervously, as if his body was protesting the stillness it kept.
“Ah.” Aleister said. “And what was that about Finn?”
“What about him?” Baron played dumb.
Aleister paused, taking a deep breath.
His calm reaction to confrontation and extreme emotion had to be one of the more intimidating aspects of his person.
“Did you come up with anything in New Hampshire?” He asked, stare unbroken.
“Uh… No.” Baron admitted after failing to come up with a lie on the spot. “He’s harder to uh, catch than you’d imagine.”
Aleister nodded and stepped away from his desk, towards the office door.
“In that case, Baron…” The door was opened. “I suggest that you don’t bother unpacking.”
“Excuse me?!” Baron’s voice raised suddenly.
“You seem extremely unhappy with living here and entirely incapable of completing basic tasks… Customers complain about you, and I can’t rely on you being here when I need you.”
“Wha- Why don’t you go find him then?!” He spat out the retort he had planned earlier, even if it didn’t quite fit the scenario.
“You should see yourself out.” Aleister nodded to the door. “Take as much of your things as you can. We’ll send whatever you can’t bring once you find your next home.”
“You’re really kicking me out?” Baron blinked, nearly tearing his own hair out.
“I’m asking you to leave because I think it would benefit everyone here, as well as yourself.”
Baron huffed and ran out, nearly knocking Sasha over as she made a final trip out of her former bedroom.
“He just kicked me out!” Baron screamed at Sasha, but informing the entire house with his volume.
“What?!” Sasha snarled. Dropping the pile of clothes she was holding, she stormed over to the office.
Aleister hadn’t even bothered to close the door after Baron’s departure. He and Sasha maintained exact opposite expressions- his was peaceful, almost bored, and hers was the definition of sheer rage.
“Don’t take your shit with me out on him, asshole!” She yelled.
“Sasha, might I recommend minding your own business?” Aleister said, void of emotion.
At this time, Seth could hear the escalation taking place over the sound of the shower jets. He turned the water off and stepped out, shaking off excess droplets here and there and pulling on the clothes he had just stripped away, including his blood stained tee shirt.
In sync with Seth, Finn and Brie sighed at each other and made their ways back upstairs to try and assist or dissipate the situation.
Depending on which person’s opinion you asked, this was either the most horrible choice they could have made or the best.
“Guys, are you-” Finn started to say as he reached the top step.
Baron looked at him, first in surprise, then in fury, and snatched Finn up by the collar of his shirt. With a massive thud, Baron used all his strength to slam the much-smaller Finn against the wall, causing the back of his head to knock against a shelf. Finn let out a pained yelp and tried to wriggle out of Baron’s grasp. Tears filled his eyes, keeping him from seeing Brie’s efforts to tug at Baron’s arms and to separate them.
“This is your fault! All of this is your fault! You stupid kid!” Baron bellowed as he shook Finn’s entire frame, smashing him into the wall a few more times.
Finn squeezed his eyes shut as his body turned limp- unsure if this would be his final moments on earth or if he would faint or what. The sounds of screaming voices overlapped in his brain, reminiscent of the events of the morning. Brie, Baron, Aleister and Sasha as well, all shouting different things in his direction, making his head spin more than the whiplash he was experiencing now.
One voice stuck out in particular, as everything else stopped right after this one sounded.
“I said, leave him alone!” Seth screamed, both arms cocked behind his head, holding a framed family photo he had grabbed from a side table. Swinging down onto Baron’s head, the frame snapped, glass shattered, and Baron’s eyes rolled back as he slumped to the floor.
Finn fell to the floor in a heap, right beside Baron, barely conscious from how many blows he had taken. He tried to blink away the bleariness in his eyes as he felt his body being turned over.
“Buddy… Come on, bud…” He heard.
Focusing for one perfect moment, Finn’s eyes made out the shape of Seth’s- deep brown and wide, framed by long lashes. Filled with concern.
Finn felt himself involuntarily smile before passing out.
Roman knelt in the vestibule, one knee on the front porch, one in the shop front portion of the house. He was twisting a screwdriver into the slot where he had removed the front door knob. Aleister couldn’t call someone to rekey the house doors on a Sunday, especially on such short notice, but thankfully Roman knew a little bit about everything handy.
“You should have called me the moment an issue started.”
“I didn’t have time to call you… Everything happened so fast.” Aleister shrugged, sitting next to Roman on the shop floor.
Roman had miraculously shown up right as Dean, Seth and Aleister were struggling to physically remove Baron and Sasha both. Being gifted both in levitation and in great strength, Roman had picked up both offenders and tossed them into the front porch, then created a type of impenetrable force field around the house until they left. The ability to turn air into a solid by packing atoms together was a new sensation for Roman and he used it every chance he got as of late.
As for the now former-family members, Aleister wasn’t so sure that they wouldn’t attempt to return.
“The last thing we need is enemies.” He mumbled, in the off chance that someone else was listening in.
“I find it very unlikely, brother.” Roman said, squinting at his work. “And if they do come back, just call me. Maybe if they do, they’d just wanna talk… It’s tough out there, y’know?”
“I’d have no issue welcoming them back, it’s just…” Aleister sighed.
“They both singled out Finn...” Aleister said, looking to the floor. “Perhaps I’ve favored him over others in the past.”
“Yeah, and a closed mouth don’t get fed.” Roman shrugged. “They wanna be as good as him, they gotta work as hard as him. I ain’t hearin’ any of that shit… ‘Scuse the language. But don’t feel sorry for them getting their feelings hurt over their own incompetence.”
Aleister nodded solemnly. “I suppose you’re right.”
Brie chose not to revive Finn until all the drama was concluded.
He was laid out on their shared bed while she sat next to him, shards of glass and splintered wood spread across the duvet. She had managed to save the photo that had been inside the frame- one of her favorites of her, Aleister and Roman from the Halloween party a few years ago where her and Roman just painted whiskers on their faces and called themselves “sexy cats”.
Seth was sitting at the foot of the bed, cradling the same fluffy orange cat that wouldn’t leave his side. It was nice to hold onto something while his hands were shaking from anger and adrenaline.
“This is done for…” Brie said, shaking her head at the pieces of frame.
“Sorry…” Seth mumbled.
Brie clicked her tongue. “Don’t apologize… I’m glad you were there… Duck’s knight in a blood-stained tee shirt.”
Seth smiled and allowed the cat to lovingly chew on his finger. “Thanks. You wanna wake him up?”
“Yeah…” She brushed away Finn’s long hair to place a hand on his forehead. It only lasted a moment but Seth tried to take in all that he could of Finn’s features. He had high cheekbones, a perfectly angled nose. Good-looking guy for sure. Seth would have never been able to notice the beauty mark under his eye without this exposure.
“Roman’s gonna want to talk to him, I know it.”
“I told him everything, don’t worry.” Seth said, scooting the cat off of his lap so he could crawl over to Finn’s side.
With a whine and a stretch, Finn slowly came back awake.
“Hey…” Seth whispered, leaning over Finn to make sure he was alright.
The same thing Finn last saw before blacking out was the first thing he saw upon waking up: Seth’s soulful eyes peering down at him with worry.
“Hey…” Finn croaked back; feeling the room around him spinning. “I made you lemonade.”
“What?” Seth barked a laugh.
“Oh my gosh…” Brie sighed with relief.
Another brrt! noise as the cat climbed up Finn’s legs, running his body to meet and lick at his face, purring loudly.
“Oatmeal… Where have you been?” Finn asked, struggling to sit up from the dizziness.
“She’s been following me all day… Her name is Oatmeal?” Seth asked skeptically.
“Good girl…” Finn whispered as he finally made it to a cross-legged sit. His head cleared out quickly, thanks to Brie’s gift.
Of course, once he began to feel better from his ailment, he was smacked in the face with a looming dread over the events of the day, partnered with a harsh anxiety over how close Seth was sitting right now. With a shudder, Finn untucked his hair from behind his ear so it fell into a protective curtain. Seth must have caught on as he twitched uncomfortably after; looking around as if for an exit.
All three jumped when Brie’s phone started ringing suddenly.
“God, it’s Adam… I told him I was gunna check with Aleister about dates…” Brie grabbed the phone up from the bedside table and scampered out of the room, leaving Finn and Seth alone.
Finn watched her leave from the seclusion of his long hair. Clearing his throat, he tried to come up with something cool to say to Seth. Something cool or smart. Or interesting.
For the love of god, say something!, his subconscious screamed.
“Hey, so uh-”
They both started at the same time.
“Oh, sorry I cut you off!” Finn sputtered.
“Please, you go ahead!” Seth faked a laugh.
“Oh, um… Okay.” Finn patted the bed so Oatmeal would meet his hand there. “I just… wanted to say thank you… for what you did.”
Finn felt his own body constricting, nerves tensing up, as he tried to make himself as small as possible.
Seth laughed again, this time for real. “No problem… and I was going to ask you uh… What’s this about lemonade?”
Finn managed a real giggle. “I’ll show you!”
Brie had joined Aleister and Roman on the floor and turned her cell phone on speaker so everyone could speak with Adam Cole. Finn and Seth avoided them completely by slinking around the back staircase into the kitchen.
Oatmeal was clutched tight to Finn’s chest, enjoying the attention.
“We got fresh lemons at the farmers market and I thought… since it’s so hot that maybe you would uh… like this.” Finn heard his own voice becoming quieter and almost inaudible once he reached the end of the sentence.
“You thought of me? That’s awesome!” Seth said, grabbing the pitcher from the fridge.
“We got you cookies too…” Finn mumbled into Oatmeal’s butterscotch fur.
“Wow… I’m so lucky.” Seth shook his head in disbelief.
Why do you like me so much? He asked while fishing for a glass in the kitchen cabinets. The thought was instantly shaken away from his head when he remembered that Finn may have been listening in.
Seth looked back to see if Finn appeared to have heard. All he saw was vague flashes of bright blue shining from the behind the hair as Finn blinked.
“Hey um…” Seth started again, turning around to face Finn and cleared the distance between them in one step. Finn flinched as Seth was suddenly right before him. In attempts to appear non threatening, Seth petted the cat, pretending that that was his intention the whole time.
“Hey if anyone ever gives you a problem of any kind, I want you to tell me, okay?” He said, trying to make eye contact with Finn. “Anyone who says something rude to you or definitely if they try to touch you or harm you like he did… I wanna know about it. And I’ll take care of it, okay?”
“Really?” Finn asked, nose scrunching. “Yeah… Yeah, okay… Thank you, again.”
“You’re welcome… I should be thankin’ you guys for making me feel so at home. Y’know, despite everything.” Seth chuckled.
“This is your home.” Finn squeaked.
“Yeah.” Seth nodded, unable to vocalize his bewilderment over that statement.
He gave Oatmeal a few final scritches on her chin, and the both of them smiled at her.
An idea brewed in Seth’s head and he quickly contemplated the risk-reward of his potential actions, deciding that what he wanted was worth pursuing. Maybe he should have asked before doing so, since Finn jumped at the touch, but Seth invited himself to push the hair away from his face like Brie had done to him before.
Finn blinked, looking all across the kitchen, anywhere except directly at Seth.
“I wish I could see your face more… Sorry if that’s weird.” Seth said, extra quietly in case anyone else was in ear-shot.
Amazingly, Finn’s mouth turned up ever so slightly and he was able to lock his eyes with Seth’s.
“It’s not weird… Thanks.” He said, feeling a trail of tingly fire across his forehead where Seth’s fingertips had brushed.
Seth pushed the hair back behind Finn’s ear, then squeezed his shoulder in a much more casual display of friendly affection. Finn’s nerves jumped all over his body, almost making his knees knock together.
As if on cue, Aleister marched into the kitchen dramatically.
“Alright, everyone.” He announced, louder than usual. “This family is taking a road trip!”
does anyone know where the cat's name, Oatmeal, comes from? it's a hyper-specific reference, I'm wondering if anyone is as weird as I am.
anyway thanks everyone for reading. i'm really trying to get this back on track for more frequent updates and plot progression. yeehaw.
Chapter 7: Take A Chance
WOWO WOAH so sorry about the massive delay! I hate to be away from this story but in the time since the last update was made, I got a new job and a new apartment! Moving is hell, turns out. Anyway please forgive me, I will do my absolute best to be more consistent. I truly love this work and I hope no one has forgotten about this. The positivity I've received on this work really keeps me motivated. Thank you all!
Last minute decisions were made: Brie called in and informed work that she’d be missing a week. Roman got babysitting arrangements for Aurora so his wife wouldn’t have to uproot her schedule. Aleister printed up a few signs and updated the shop website to inform potential guests that they were closing for a week.
Only one issue persisted: An unguarded house.
The family was sat around the dinner table like usual. The only difference in this night was that no one had the energy to cook, so a massive pizza box took up most of the table top.
Brie balked. “I thought what happened today would have left you sulking in your office but you wanna plan a road trip.”
Aleister scoffed. “I never sulk.”
“You just told me you’re worried about them being angry and comin’ back… Now you wanna leave the house empty for a week.” Roman said, folding a slice of pizza in half.
“Nonsense!” Aleister shrugged. “You’re going to stay back and stand watch.”
“What!” Roman exclaimed, mouth full. “I ain’t stayin’ back! I got the sitter! And I haven’t seen Adam in months! Brie can stay back, she just seen him.”
“No way!” Brie piped in. “If I’m taking off work, I’m going somewhere. And I haven’t seen him since May, when we broke up.”
Seth and Finn, who were sitting next to each other, watched the chaos unfold.
Dean had a garlic breadstick in each hand and, voice muffled, offered himself to stay back.
“No, Dean, I want you to come along!” Aleister insisted. “You’ll like Adam a lot, the two of you are very similar.”
“That means they’ll hate each other.” Brie rolled her eyes.
“Can’t we put a hex on the house or something? Make it impenetrable or like, whoever comes near it gets smacked in the mouth?” Roman suggested.
“Surely we could find a way,” Aleister said, “but what would that say to any potential customers who come around? We don’t wanna scare people away.”
“Well, why doesn’t Duck stay back? Right? You don’t even like Adam.” Roman said, gesturing to Finn.
“What? You don’t like Adam?” Brie interjected.
Finn quickly chomped the rest of his pizza to keep himself from speaking.
“No. Finn is not staying here alone.” Aleister said sternly, before he could speak for himself.
“Why not?” Roman asked.
“Because I said so.”
Finn’s nose wrinkled; something he’d picked up from Seth.
“He can stay back, it’s not a problem.” Roman insisted.
“No.” Aleister said, shrugging, as if to dismiss even the idea.
Finally, Finn was able to swallow, clear his throat and collect the courage to speak up. “I don’t mind, I don’t!”
“Absolutely not.” Aleister said.
“I’ll stay back with ‘em.” Seth spoke now, throwing his thumb in Finn’s direction.
Finn looked back at him with sparkly-eyed shock. “Really?”
Seth met him with a kind but small smile. “Of course.”
“No can do, Seth.” Aleister said, ruining what could have been the best moment of Finn’s life. “You’re the whole reason we’re planning this trip! To get you some training with one of the best.”
“Oh…” Seth said, eyes falling to the floor dejectedly. “That’s cool, too, I guess.”
“Oh…” Finn mirrored him, but quickly remembered that the family was watching and perked up. Luckily they weren’t able to see how much his heart sank.
“Duck, you’ll be fine by yourself, right?” Roman asked.
“Yes!” Finn nodded. “Yeah, I can do it!”
“No!” Aleister said again, shooting Roman a scathing glare.
“Drop it!” He hissed to only Roman.
“Why are you treating him like a baby? He’s a grown man!” Roman shot back.
“He’s going to be too nervous, he’s never been all alone before-”
Roman’s lip curled while he mentally shouted. “Are you gonna treat him like a baby his whole life? What’s he gonna do when something happens to one of us? He’s not gonna know what to do!”
“Nothing is happening to either of us!” Aleister snarled.
“Uh, boys?” Brie asked loudly.
“You don’t know that! He’s entirely unprepared to be on his own right now!” Roman said.
“He has no need to be on his own! That will never be necessary!”
Aleister and Roman both were angrily clutching their corners of the dinner table, staring daggers into each others eyes, completely silent. Roman’s jaw was flexing and un-flexing while Aleister was reddening in the face. Everyone at the table looked back-and-forth between them, and they seemed to not notice as they were engrossed in their argument.
“Boys!” Brie shouted, accompanying her voice with a bang on the table.
“Okay! Finn, you’re staying back!” Aleister barked.
“And you’re gonna be fine!” Roman added.
Dean snickered from his seat. “You guys are so fucked up, I love it here.”
After all the emotional ups and downs, and being physically assaulted and whatnot, Finn was beyond excited to enjoy a hot bath before bed. Oatmeal sat on the edge of the tub as he eased his body into the steaming water with a sigh. Comfort wrapped around his sore muscles.
“We’re gonna be home alone, Oatmeal.” He stated, trying to sound excited but mostly just falling flat. “Seth said he would stay but… he can’t.”
Oatmeal swished her tail, listening intently.
“You like him, huh?” Finn asked.
The cat slowly blinked her amber eyes.
“Yeah, me too.” Finn sighed again.
Closing his eyes, he wasn’t shocked to be met with visions of Seth behind them. So bravely he had defending Finn from Baron, yet so sweetly he had comforted him after.
Finn let his head sink under the water, breath bubbling, feeling all the tension from the day exit through his open pores. When he came up for air, his mop of long hair was stuck to his face, heavy and dripping wet. With a smirk, he pushed it away from his eyes.
“Did you hear what Seth said?” He asked Oatmeal, who responded by licking her paw.
“I wish I could see your face more… he said.” Finn mumbled, too stuck in his own head to notice that the cat was completely ignoring him. He carded his fingers through the wet shag. Brie had offered more times than he could count to cut his hair for him. Something just felt wrong about it. Something made him think that he was just supposed to have long hair.
That was, of course, how everything had been before Finn met Seth. Before his life was changed by the red glowing aura. Before he had the courage to go to the farmers market. Before he was allowed to stay home alone.
Finn did not believe that he was a changed man ever since Seth appeared. That would be absurd. He was merely… a more inspired man.
And maybe this inspiration could bring upon a change.
Finn slowly lurched out of the water, stepped out of the bathtub and wrapped a towel around his waist. Oatmeal’s ears flattened with irritation from the odd droplets that dared to fall upon her coat.
Tearing the drawers under the bathroom sink open, Finn rummaged through this and that storage container. Brie had a bad habit of buying extra hair cutting and styling accessories and using everyone’s shared spaces to store it all. Half of Finn’s journal drawers were filled with eyeshadow compacts.
As he searched, fat drops of water traveled from his hair, down his spine, making him cringe and shiver. He couldn’t remember ever being annoyed by that feeling before, yet here he was now, barely able to stand it.
“Ah!” He exclaimed when he found what he sought. Brie had hidden a brand new, still-in-package pair of shears behind the cleaning supplies under the sink because she ran out of other spaces for them. These ones she had bought just because the safety handles were neon leopard print in design.
To each their own, Finn remembered thinking at the time.
He ripped the packaging open with his teeth. The thick plastic seemed to be the loudest thing he had ever handled so he tried to dispose of it as quickly as possible.
Leaning into the mirror above the sink, he grabbed the offending curtain of wet hair that always obscured his vision and hid him from the world. With his other hand trembling, he opened the shears and fitted them around the hair.
Before he could close them around the hair and start his life anew as a Short Haired Man, a nausea settled into his stomach. He dropped the shears into the sink, possibly scratching the porcelain, but too dizzy and sick to notice.
Something was pulling at his insides, filling them with doubt and guilt and mostly leaving his head full of confusion. He wracked his brain for a moment, trying to understand why he was so opposed to cutting his hair. Why did it feel so wrong? Squeezing his eyes shut and biting his lip, he attempted to banish the bad feelings away.
This is stupid, he thought. If I hate it, it’ll grow back. I’m not doing this for Seth, I’m doing it to be a grown-up. It was just Seth’s idea. Calm down, idiot!
He snatched the shears up, took the long hair in hand and with a dramatic and sudden chop, took the hair off and watched it fall into the sink into a clump.
In an instant, he was sobered from his overzealous mania and watched all color fade away from his cheeks. From his long uniform hair, there was now a nearly squared chunk missing, directly in front of his eyes.
“Oh… Dear.” His eyes switched back and forth from his own dumbfounded reflection to the shears still clasped in hand.
“Oh dear.” He looked over to Oatmeal, who was now irritatedly licking her paw.
Panicked, he hit the drain on the bathtub and dried himself up. Tail tucked between his legs, he skipped across the hall to his shared bedroom, hands pressed over his forehead to avoid having his spur-of-the-moment mistake be seen.
“I’m just… afraid that he’s wasting his time, that’s all.” Seth mumbled.
“We’ll find out. Man, what if he’s wasting our time? Then what, huh?” Dean asked, taking a long drag from his cigarette. Seth’s had long-since burned out from lack of attention.
“Easy for you to say.” Seth sighed.
“You call it a gift, I call it a pain in the ass.” Dean said gruffly.
Even in the dark of the night, the air hung thick and wet. No relief from the heat was given from the lack of sun. The boys were sat on the front porch steps, halfway keeping an eye out for unwanted returning guests, halfway trying to calm down before bed.
“What… what am I even doing here, man.” Seth hung his head. “I don’t belong here, this is crazy.”
“You’re doin’ your best, huh?” Dean offered.
“My best isn’t enough, Deano. It never has been.”
Seth was grateful for the limited light provided by the moon as his lip started to quiver. Seems like all he’d done since he’d arrived in Aleister’s Camp was start trouble and then cry about it. His entire life, leading up to this night, had been people telling him about how little he’d ever accomplish and how insignificant he was. And here he was, proving them all right. Without a gift, without a talent, what was he, other than someone taking up space?
Pathetic. Fucking pathetic.
“That kid really likes you, y’know that?” Dean said, voice thick with smoke.
“Hmm?” Seth sniffled, avoiding opening his mouth to speak since he couldn’t be sure a sob wouldn’t sneak out.
“Finn. He likes you.”
“Oh…” was all Seth could muster. A smile dared to tug at his lips as he thought about the treats Finn had gone out of his way to prepare.
“You c-can tell?” He asked.
“Oh yeah… I’ve seen some stuff.” Dean mumbled ominously, flicking his cigarette butt and immediately lighting a new one.
Seth perked up momentarily, this time not because of Finn.
“Hey… Deano can you see if any of this training goes anywhere? Does something happen with me?” Seth asked, amazed that he hadn’t thought of asking this sooner.
“Ah, yeah.” Dean nodded. “I see more about you than anyone else, I think.”
Seth fidgeted uncomfortably. “And?”
“And what?” Dean raised an eyebrow.
“What do you see?! Do I have a gift? You’re gonna tell me, right?” Seth said, bordering on hysterical.
“What?” Dean smirked. “And ruin the surprise?”
“I can’t believe you wouldn’t come to me first! What were you thinking?!” Brie whisper-shrieked.
Finn was sat in the middle of their shared bedroom, hair cutter’s cape around his neck. He had changed into his pajama pants and a clean tee shirt before sitting down, but still shivered in his chair, mostly from embarrassment.
“I don’t know what I was thinking.” Finn said, only half-lying, really.
“I can’t believe you.” Brie rolled her eyes, shears safely tucked away in her palm while she planned around her work. She was in her pink pajamas, and had been reading a book when Finn burst in, soaking wet and panicked.
“I’m gonna have to take most of it off to even this out.”
“Okay…” Finn whimpered, feeling as though his skin was vibrating from anxiety.
“The least you can do is stay still!” She scolded. Grabbing a fine-toothed comb in her other hand, she got to work.
A few dozen snip, snip, snips later, followed by the buzz, buzz, buzzes of her clippers, Brie was holding a massive handheld mirror in front of Finn’s face. He grimaced before peeling his eyes open to take in the sight.
All his chocolate brown hair was now around his feet on the floor, surrounding him like a moat. Brie had given him a very grown-up looking fade, leaving a few inches worth on top to fall strategically into his forehead like Clark Kent.
“Did you know that you have ears?” Brie asked. She shook the remaining hair around.
Finn blinked into the mirror, turning his face this way and that, learning and examining his own face.
“I guess this is okay…” He muttered. His heart banged around his chest, shocked at the reflection that he did not recognize. Something felt so sick and wrong about what he was seeing. He gulped, trying to swallow down all the negativity. It made absolutely no logical sense for him to be losing his nerve over a haircut. The only possible redemption, he regrettably thought, was if Seth liked it better this way.
“It’s great!” Brie opposed his nervousness. “Now as payment for me being such an awesome friend, go grab me one of those cookies.”
“Alright…” Hands trembling, Finn undid the cape from his neck and forced his legs to navigate his body out of the room and down the stairs. Instinctively, he went to push his bangs from his eyes before taking the first step.
Finn never knew how to be comfortable crying.
No matter how high the stakes, or intense the situation, he always kept his emotions as secluded as possible. It wasn’t deliberate and he occasionally found himself wishing he could release some of the pent up sadness inside. He wanted to cry when he remembered a mother who couldn’t love him, or for a childhood lost in a mental hospital, but the tears never budged.
Now however, in his delicate and traumatized state, he crept around the hallway to the kitchen, it took him a moment to decipher that the sniffles and sobs he heard were not actually coming from himself.
To his horror, Finn stepped into the kitchen, linoleum cold on his bare feet, and found Seth hunched over the sink, body quaking with suppressed sobs.
“Seth?” Finn squeaked, almost inaudible.
Seth jumped from the surprise guest, looked back for about half a second, and after realizing that he’d been caught, broke down completely.
“S-sorry…” Seth managed to choke out before covering his face in his hands.
“Hey, come on.” Finn took another step in and reached out to take Seth into a hug, to offer any type of comfort, but hesitated. He awkwardly cleared his throat instead.
“Do you wanna maybe talk about anything?” Finn offered, instantly cursing himself over how lame that sounded. Seth was obviously embarrassed but thinking about leaving him alone didn’t feel right.
An idea snuck up on Finn, and while other people in the house may have disapproved, he tip-toed through the remaining distance between him and Seth and gently placed an open palm on the back of Seth’s arm. An electrical charge sparked as their skins touched, and while it caught Finn’s breath in his throat, he pressed on.
If Seth was soon to meet Adam, he was soon to learn about his gift of emotional twisting and coaxing.
Finn focused all his thoughts on calm. Steady, even breaths that ease the entire body into relaxation. All muscles unwinding, releasing any anxiety or stress that may be held. The tranquility of the backyard after its rained and the green grass is at its brightest. The warmth and comfort of Oatmeal when she’s purring in her sleep. Everything Finn could think of that brought him peace; he sent it to Seth through their shared touch.
Gradually but quickly, Seth let go of the tension in his body. He unclenched his jaw and let his hands fall to the counter. There was a tangible clarity in his brain as he saw his sadness, manifested as a black cloud, melted away. Air filled his lungs for the first time in what felt like an hour. His eyes dropped to the hand on his arm. The fingernails had matching paint, identical to his own.
Seth blinked hard and met the concerned look on Finn’s face.
“How did you do that?” He asked, voice hoarse from strain.
“Adam taught me.” Finn whispered. “He’s gonna teach you.”
Seth nodded. “Adam.”
He took the hem of his tee shirt and peeled it up to wipe his face. Finn diverted his eyes and stared at the blender on the kitchen counter to avoid memorizing the plain of muscle that was Seth’s exposed stomach.
“Are you alright?” Finn tried again, still looking anywhere but at the person he was speaking with.
Seth took a hard sniff and crossed his arms. “I have no idea if I’m honest with you.”
“Wanna talk about it?” Finn blurted out, forgetting entirely that Brie was waiting for a cookie or something.
“Yeah, I don’t…” Seth trailed off with a sigh. “I just don’t know what I’m doing here, that’s all. Same shit.”
Finn’s nose wrinkled. “I know what you’re doing here… You belong here.”
Seth struggled to come back with a response.
“I know you uh… you keep saying that but…” Seth sighed and wiped at his eyes again.
Finn made a face. Although Seth’s expression was calming and his voice steadying thanks to the gift Adam had taught- the sadness was obvious in his eyes. It seemed to be something he couldn’t control.
His eyes always looked so full of sorrow.
Finn swallowed his nerves and took an extra step towards Seth. He placed his hand back on Seth’s arm, and the flesh underneath his touch jumped from surprise, or horror, Finn couldn’t tell.
“Please… don’t… don’t work your magic on me again, okay? I’m fine.” Seth snapped.
“I… I wasn’t going to.” Finn mumbled, feeling his courage shrink. Seth cut him off before he could defend himself properly.
“I can’t expect you to understand what’s going on, anyway… You’re already perfect.”
Finn’s mouth dropped open in shock but he quickly shut it. He took his hand away from Seth and glared at it. His hands suddenly looked so horrendous, offensive. The gift that flowed through him, through his hands and his mind, was making Seth resent him in a hurry.
“You think this is perfection?” Finn asked, more confused than accusing.
Seth snarled, but only his mouth displayed any anger. Finn saw right through it.
“I told you that you wouldn’t understand.”
Finn held in a sigh. This conversation wasn’t going anywhere, so he silently decided to drop it. Seth was still tensely standing his ground, leaning against the counter, eyes so sad.
Finn went for what he tried to do before Seth pretended to be mad. He took another extra step forward and wrapped his arms around Seth’s slender waist, bringing him close, holding him nice and tight.
Seth reacted like he’d been frozen in place for the first couple heartbeats. Finn rested his head under Seth’s neck and closed his eyes.
For a split second, Seth’s mouth gaped as he tried to recall the last time he had been hugged. He commanded his arms to relax and fold around Finn. Seth ran his hand across the soft fabric of Finn’s tee shirt, feeling the firmness of the muscular back underneath. Dipping his head slightly, Seth took a clandestine sniff of Finn’s clean hair- pleasantly fruity and welcoming. They molded into each other completely; two pieces of a massive puzzle finally finding their match.
Finn forced his cheek off of Seth’s chest when he felt himself liking the contact too much.
Seth didn’t release him completely; holding him at arms length. His face had some sort of amazement mixed in with the ever present sadness.
Finn cleared his throat. “You belong here… I hope you’ll understand that soon.”
And with that, Finn tore himself away from Seth’s arms dramatically. He slunk out and away, the heartbeat clanging around his chest so loud that it threatened to disturb his housemates.
Seth was left in the kitchen, alone and dumbfounded. Coldness attacked the front of his body, and he palmed at his sides where phantom sensations of Finn’s arms remained.
“You cut your hair.” Seth whispered right before a tremble ran through his tattooed spine, giving him goosebumps.
Finn fidgeted in his seat, across from Aleister in his office. On Aleister’s face was some kind of confusion, his eyes directed to his cane that was held in hand.
“I haven’t been completely honest with you, Finn.”
“Oh?” Finn asked.
“I think you realize,” Aleister continued, now running a finger along the grooves and bends of the cane’s wood, “that this is an extremely important possession of mine.”
“Do you know where this comes from?” Aleister asked without looking up.
Finn looked around the office as if for an answer. Yes, he knew, but did Aleister know that he knew? Was this a test?
Finn decided to be honest.
“Your… your husband made it for you.” He said, almost inaudibly, like a shy child.
Aleister stomped the hilt of the cane on the office floor.
“Correct.” He said. “I know Brianna told you… I appreciate your honesty.”
Finn nodded solemnly. He loved Brie more than anyone else in the world, but secret keeping was not her forte.
Aleister stood up, making Finn flinch. Like he noticed everything else, Aleister noticed Finn’s jumpiness and of course had to say something.
“Something on your mind, Finn? Is something upsetting you?”
Finn ran a hand through his new short locks. Last night had been a whirlwind, from Baron and Sasha, to sudden aesthetic changes, to hugging Seth, to lying to Brie about all the cookies in the kitchen being snatched up.
One was rattling him a bit more than others, however.
Breakfast had been awkward. He and Seth sat across from each other, nibbling their eggs and toast in stone silence while Brie and Aleister chatted, normal as ever. A million ideas ran through Finn’s head about why Seth was being so quiet. Finn had hugged him without his permission. Maybe it was that? Maybe Seth knew how much Finn enjoyed hugging him and was perturbed by that?
Or maybe… Did Seth like it as much as Finn did?
“I just… Y’know the week without you is going to be weird.” Finn said, forcing himself to look into Aleister’s stern hazel eyes.
Weird, for sure. Negative? He didn’t think so. He was almost looking forward to it. Aleister didn’t need to know that, however.
“Oh… Finn, I’ll call the whole thing off. It’s okay. Roman can take Seth and Dean alone, myself and Brianna don’t have to-”
“No, it’s okay!” Finn jumped to the edge of his seat. “I promise you I’ll be okay and I’ll call you every day if you want. I’m just thinking… about what I’m gonna do with the time?”
“Well. If you insist.” Aleister’s nerves settled. “You don’t have to call us everyday, only if you’d like to… But I asked you here before we leave so I can give you… I suppose a type of homework to keep some of your time occupied while we’re out.”
“Mhm?” Finn beckoned him to continue, but was afraid to do so with words, in case a retelling of his interaction with Seth spilled out.
“This cane you see-” Aleister began.
Finn’s attention trailed away to note that he’d never been this jumpy before Seth arrived. He’d never told lies. Never concealed his feelings. There was no need to. And he had especially never had this ache in his neck before- a physical manifestation of all the stress he was keeping inside.
“- made from a water oak tree… they were all around us where we lived. When we lived with Regal… I’ll tell you all about him someday, Finn, but not today.”
Finn nodded when he picked up a pause in Aleister’s train of thought.
“This cane is…” Aleister knocked at the side of the wood. “Hollow.”
“He was… brilliant.” Aleister swallowed hard, his face darkening for only a moment.
Aleister never showed vulnerability for too long.
“Proficient with herbs and incredibly well-versed in their properties. Inside the cane, Finn? Calendula, for development. Dandelion, for clairvoyance.” Aleister turned the cane over and around as he spoke. With a sharp ear, the dried herbs inside could be heard shuffling lightly.
Finn shook the thoughts of Seth and his strong arms away from his mind to pay close attention.
“Horehound… for protection. Yarrow to repel fear… and patchouli to ward off evil.” Aleister sniffled with the last one.
“I am not of the opinion that I am dependent on this cane… but I do think it makes me stronger. The herbs make me stronger, the gift is heightened… I do believe that. Having this with me… It binds me… Binds me to him even in his death.”
Finn thought for a second that Aleister forgot he was even sitting there.
“Because it binds me to him, I am empowered.” Aleister snapped out of his brief fog. “But I still cannot reach him. All the spirits in the world can manage to reach out to me and tell me things I couldn’t care less about. The one I want to speak with evades me at every turn.”
Finn was startled when Aleister managed a chuckle.
“You uhm, you want me to try though, right?” Finn choked out, as inarticulate as possible.
“Yes.” Aleister handed the cane over. “I want you to keep it for the week.”
“What.” Finn blinked.
“Keep it.” Aleister nodded. “I don’t need to have it at my hip at all times.”
“But how come you want me to keep it?” Finn asked, breath hitched just the smallest bit.
“Simple, Finn… well, perhaps not simple.” Aleister kept a careful eye on the way that Finn held the sacred item. “I want you to hold it. Feel the power that it gives me. Keep it with you… By your side instead of mine.”
“Okay…” Finn whispered, now studying the intricate design carved into the wood.
“I’m hoping that with this belonging of… of Dream’s…” Aleister swallowed hard after uttering the name. “That it’ll help you tap into the greatest part of your gift and bring him to me.”
Finn stopped fidgeting as the weight of that task crashed onto him. He felt stuck to his chair and as if his voice had been snatched away.
“I know it sounds daunting, Finn, but I’m depending on you to just try. There is no harm in failing here. Failing just helps us realize what we’ve done wrong the first time.”
Finn made the best eye contact that he could and gave Aleister a weak smile.
“I-I’ll do my best… sir.” Finn’s voice cracked.
“I know you will.” Aleister said and gave a quick nod to the door. “Now come along… Brianna has been itching to leave.”
Aleister ruffled Finn’s hair, making him genuinely laugh, breaking the tension. Aleister stomped downstairs to meet the rest of the camp while Finn ran to his bedroom to protectively rest the cane on his bed until everyone had left. Three cats resting on the quilt gave him peculiar looks, but then returned to their naps without a second worry.
“Gonna be a weird week, babies.” He muttered to them before trotting downstairs as well.
“This is Adam’s phone number, and here under it are everyone else’s number, and the emergency services are here and please remember that if you need anything else it’s not that long of a drive and we can turn around and-” Aleister rambled while pointing a tattooed finger at each number listed on the notepad.
Brie noticed and came over to push him towards the door. His larger body allowed her smaller frame to shove him away.
“Okay, he gets it!” She said to Aleister, before pushing him completely out of the front door and closing it in his face. “Go help Roman do something!”
Finn laughed nervously. He had seen Seth, just minutes ago, putting what little possessions he had together in plastic grocery bags. Dean hadn’t made an appearance yet and from what Finn understood, had very recently just woken up.
Brie trotted halfway up the stairs.
“Seth, sweetie, let’s go! Dean, you too!” She came back down and directed her attention back to Finn, who had been standing idly, watching the action occur.
“Okay, I love you so much, have fun, don’t worry about anything!” She said, then coated his face in chaste kisses, making him giggle and squirm.
With that, she slung her backpack over her shoulder and picked up her suitcase from the door entry and was gone in a flash of long brown hair.
As if on cue, Dean came parading down, carrying nothing. He gave Finn a silent squeeze of the shoulder and a wink and followed her path outside.
Finn sighed and looked around the dining room, wondering if there was anything to clean or organize to take up some of his free time. He could hear Seth rummaging around upstairs and figured it would be best to let him be and carry on as normal. With a frown, Finn trudged to the kitchen to start up a bin of soapy water for the breakfast dishes. On the short walk there, he felt something under his foot and checked to see what it was: a black hair elastic. The cats had been enthusiastically stealing them from Seth, as they had always done to Brie before. Finn picked it up and stretched it around his wrist for safe-keeping.
In the kitchen, he reflected on the previous night’s encounter with Seth, as he had been doing all day. The event was tattooed in his brain, playing on constant loop like a broken record. Seth had called him ‘perfect’, but in nowhere near a complementary fashion.
Not being able to know what would happen on the trip with Adam was affecting him more than he had predicted it would. Maybe while they were out, Seth would discover his own incredible gift. He would find whatever it was that made his aura glow so magnificently bright red. He would realize his own potential… and then what? Would he take what he’d gotten and leave? Would he stick around and train, like so many had before him? What about the house being built for Finn? Maybe they could live in it together, Finn wondered with another deflated sigh.
He heard footsteps behind him as the hot water splashed about the sink, cascading off the ceramic plate he was washing. He wasn’t planning on giving it a second thought, as it was probably just Aleister. Surely he snuck away from Brie’s rushing grasp and came back in to give Finn another lecture about safety or whatever.
However Finn’s heart leapt into his throat when he felt the soft touch of a surprisingly coarse hand on his shoulder.
“Hey.” Seth said quietly, as if to not disturb.
Finn suppressed a gag. He tried to take in as many breaths as he could without appearing hysterical, but the lump in his throat restricted his ability to be normal.
“H-hi…” Finn spat out with great difficulty.
“We uh, we’re about to leave, I think.” Seth took his hand back and threw a thumb over to the door, as if Finn wouldn’t know what he was referring to.
Finn nodded and pretended to be happy about Seth leaving.
He hadn’t felt this way before. He was trying to give Seth space but with every bit of his being, Finn just wanted to hold him again and never release him.
He locked eyes with Seth, even though it hurt.
God, he wanted to wrap the beautiful man up in his arms and shield him away from all that had harmed him before. Wanted to make sure nothing and no one could ever hurt him ever again. Seth would be safe and warm within his touch forever, he just knew it.
Instead of saying any of that, though, Finn mustered up: “You’re gunna have fun.”
Seth nodded with the same pretend-happiness that Finn had grown accustomed to seeing him wear.
“So I’ll see you when we get back, huh?” Seth said.
Finn mimicked his nod.
Seth smiled and started a backwards walk to the kitchen door exit.
Finn turned his head and closed his eyes so he didn’t have to watch him walk away.
“Hey, wait.” Seth said, coming back to stand right next to Finn.
“Yes?” Finn said, hope spiking his voice up a tone.
“I just… uh…” Seth started, looking confusedly at his hands. “I just…”
Finn watched Seth’s expression change from confusion to apathy as he unclenched his shoulders and shrugged.
“I just wanted to give you-” Seth said, but his actions cut off his words as he leaned in, gently touching his lips to Finn’s cheek.
The contact was like a bolt of lightening striking down. All air left Finn’s lungs and his nerves jumped all about, as if trying to burst through his skin. Seth must have felt the same thing, as he let out a gasp.
Running on pure instinct, with a look of bewilderment or awe or who knew what else, he brought his gaze up to meet Seth halfway.
Seth took the invitation and pressed his lips against Finn’s, tender and light, contrasting the super-charged energy rattling around their bodies.
Finn’s body fell completely loose now, his legs barely stable enough to keep him upright. The jolts of energy calmed away as Seth kissed him deeper and longer, turning his head and parting his lips. Finn felt his limbs threaten to crash beneath him and let out a whimper.
Seth pulled away, only slightly, pressing their foreheads together.
“Please don’t go…” was the only thing Finn could say when he found the strength to speak.
“I don’t want to.” Seth said, his voice breaking. Before either of them had time to say anything else, he cupped Finn’s face in his big hands and brought their lips together once again, kissing like his health, his well-being, his future all depended on it. As far as Seth could tell, kissing Finn felt so fucking good that it may overshadow all the other things.
Finn dropped whatever dishware he was holding back into the sink and, hands soaking wet and soapy, brought Seth into his arms, much less gracefully than he had originally planned.
Behind them, past the hallway, the front door whipped open.
Brie called through the walls: “Seth Rollins, I’m going to drag you out here by your hair!”
Just as Finn was starting to wonder if water from his hands had splashed down onto his face, Seth broke them apart. Like the night before, tears were streaking his cheeks, but for the first time that Finn had seen, he was smiling so genuinely that it dared to reach his beautiful eyes.
Finn commanded his arms to betray his wishes and let Seth go.
His lips tingled and stung after the contact separated, and an overwhelming cold ran over his body. Although he couldn’t tell if the accompanying shivers were from the temperature drop or from the way Seth looked at him after.
“I gotta… I really gotta go.” He gestured towards the door, then brushed the tears from his cheeks away on his hand.
“Why are you crying…” Finn whispered, terrified to hear that he did something wrong but desperately needing to know.
Seth suppressed a sob, or maybe a laugh. He probably didn’t know which was which right now.
“I don’t wanna leave you.” He shrugged, out of pure disbelief.
Finn let out another nervous laugh; an action that was quickly becoming his trademark. He quickly licked his own lips, tasting Seth’s lip balm.
“I don’t want you to… Oh here.” Finn tried to collect himself. He noticed, then removed the elastic from his wrist and handed it over.
“The cats keep stealing these from you.”
Seth smiled and wrapped his still-damp locks up in a perfectly imperfect bun. Finn wondered if he would faint from watching something so simple become so mesmerizing.
“I’ll see you when I get back.” Seth repeated. He leaned in to give Finn one last quick kiss before scurrying out of the kitchen.
As soon as Finn was sure that everyone was gone, and that he vaguely heard the truck rumbling away from the hill, his body was allowed to give out and he slid onto the linoleum floor, where he would stay long enough to watch the sunset through the window.
Seth grabbed the plastic bag of his belongings on the way out and stumbled over to the truck, face poised to the ground so his tear-streaked cheekbones weren’t so obvious. Roman was in the driver’s seat, head sticking out of the window in search for Seth. Dean was scrunched up in the passenger seat with Aleister behind him. Brie was sat in the middle of the back seat, arms crossed and furious.
Seth sniffled and pawed at his eyes one more time, breaking into a jog to catch up. He climbed into the tall vehicle and received a chorus of boos from his brother and friend to greet him.
“Yeah, yeah…” Seth mumbled, snuggling in next to Brie and fixing his seat belt.
Her stern expression softened when she got a good look at him.
“Sweetie, what happened?” She whispered right as Roman started the engine. Luckily, they weren’t heard as Roman and Dean were bickering up front.
“I bashed my shin on the waiting room table on the way out.” Seth lied and faked a laugh.
“Oh, you silly.” Brie rolled her eyes and gestured towards his leg. He allowed her to run her healing hands over his perfectly-unscathed leg and work her magic. Since he wasn’t actually hurt, instead of the fading of pain, he felt a nerve-skittering tingle wherever she touched. Some other time he would ask her if her gift just rearranged damaged nerves, or if they had even figured out how it worked.
“Thanks.” He said for now, and slumped back into a comfortable position, elbow on the car door shelf, eyes staring down the house as it grew smaller and farther as Roman made their way down the hill. His teeth anxiously gnashed and tore at the inside of his cheeks, an anxious tic rivaling the way his knee shook in place.
One by one, a different body part of his made its irregularity known. It had only been about ten minutes now since his lips disconnected from Finn’s, but as far as he could assess, nothing was working normally since.
His stomach churned and rumbled, but he had just eaten before leaving. His head spun and vision blurred as it did on the shitty fair roller coasters back home… but he was sitting comfortably still. Images of Finn flashed around his mind in millisecond increments, like a movie reel that had been chopped up. His emotions were on a roller coaster of their own, making him go from a deep sadness over leaving, to a fiery anger about being forced to go at all, to an insatiable lust that shot goosebumps all up and down his spine and tightened the muscles in his thighs.
Apart from his own body, he kept hearing a sound that added to the distortion and confusion rumbling around his head.
“Oh my gosh, would you calm down?!” Brie said, laughing through her scolding voice.
Aleister had been, since they left, completely silent and unmoving, like a statue. Seth shook his head to try and snap out of his trance, and noticed the camp patriarch’s body jolting and his face grimacing each time a stress-induced hiccup crawled up his throat.
“You’re gonna make yourself sick…” Brie switched to soothing voice and took Aleister’s bigger frame into her arms. He shook from another loud hiccup. He allowed himself to be babied, resting his head against Brie’s shoulder.
“He’s gonna be fine.” Brie reassured, running her fingers through Aleister’s fair hair.
If Seth hadn’t already been uncomfortable, seeing Aleister this way would have surely done it.
From the front of the vehicle:
“I’m just saying, I don’t want you to think I can’t drive a car this big.” Dean grumbled, shifting so he could sit on one of his long legs.
“I know what you can drive, don’t worry.” Roman said. “Hey, you wanna grab the CD case in the glove compartment?”
Brie overheard that request and took her attention away from Aleister.
“NO. Roman, no! Don’t play your ‘Dad Rock’ hits the entire way!”
“It’s my road trip playlist!” Roman said, unfolding his sunglasses from the collar of his shirt and sliding them on.
“Dean, I’m begging you, don’t!” Brie yelled.
“Sorry, Princess! Driver’s in charge!”
Brie frowned dramatically. Aleister hiccuped. Dean popped the CD in the player.
Seth was just happy that the attention wasn’t on him.
The next six hours weren’t going to pass by easily.
Finn blinked, dreaming, out the kitchen window as the sun slowly vanished behind the trees outside. He had no idea how long he had been sat on the floor, and had grown accustomed to the cold of the linoleum creeping through his clothes to chill his skin. It seemed as though Seth had taken Finn’s perspective of time with him when he got into the van. Seth had taken Finn’s vision of how his life operated away. He had taken Finn’s comfort zone away. He had taken all these things that Finn hadn’t even realized meant to much to him.
Somehow, he wasn’t bothered.
Finn licked at his lips, even though the taste of Seth’s cherry chapstick was long since gone. He had seen it again- he was almost certain of that. The vibrant red had shown up again, glowing faintly off of Seth’s skin as he ran to catch up with everyone outside. It left a trail like smoke and dissipated away when Finn had slumped to the floor. So while his eyes were bleary and vision was coming in and out, pointed in the direction of the kitchen window, Finn could only see that red.
Startling him back to the real world, a flash of grey fur and glowing green eyes interrupted his thoughts with a yowl. One of the many household cats had made a point to stand her front paws on his foot.
“Oh, hi Peachy.” Finn cleared his throat, voice coming out in a squeak.
At the acknowledgment, the grey cat climbed up his outstretched leg to excitedly meow and paw at his chest.
“Are you hungry?” Finn asked, realizing right after the words left his mouth that it was probably past the cats’ dinner time. Knowing this, he still elected to stay on the floor for an extra few minutes, scooping Peaches up into his arms and burying his face into her soft fur. His neck cracked with the movement after being kept still for so long.
“What do you think of Seth,” he asked her, voice muffled by fluff. Peaches lovingly rubbed her face against the arm that held her.
“I’ll introduce all of you when he gets back.” Finn said, surely getting more than a few fur strands in his mouth.
“C’mon, let’s eat.” He said, releasing her and crawling to stability on mostly-numb legs.
“Hands… Touching hands!” Roman and Dean screamed along together.
Aleister and Brie sat, arms crossed, in the backseat.
“Reachin’ out! Touching me! Touching you!” The performance continued in the front of the vehicle.
All Seth wanted to do was sleep. Painstakingly slowly, the hypnosis that Finn had put on his body had settled. His had limbs stopped jumping and twitching on their own around hour three of driving. The mood swings had gotten so bad, just as they were crossing state lines, that he had considered diving out of the moving car once or twice. Had to stifle his own crying by squeezing his eyes shut. Had to bite his own tongue to stop himself from insisting that they turn around and bring him back home so he could be with Finn.
Now all he wanted was sleep, after such an exhausting ordeal. But that was proving to be an impossibility with his brother and best friend in the car, bonding faster than any two people have ever bonding.
“SWEET CAROLINE!” They bellowed in unison, with Dean headbanging along with the famous following beats.
This was perhaps the fourth “Sweet Caroline” thus far, as Roman had just been replaying the same CD on loop. Brie wasn’t sure what was worse- this, all the Styx on the CD, or the anxiety-induced stomach aches that Aleister kept getting that she had to keep curing.
Just as she was reaching her wits end, the scenery became familiar and signs identified them as ‘Entering Philadelphia’. She didn’t quite know where Adam Cole was staying at the time, but knew he had three roommates in the “downtown area” so it was safe to hope that the car ride would end soon.
It took only a few extra minutes of Roman and Dean bickering about directions for them to find themselves in the right direction, twisting and turning around the packed streets, cursing at stop lights, until the correct street was discovered. It was a much nicer area than expected, but knowing Adam, nothing but the best would have been tolerated.
Roman crept up the block, eyes peeled like a hunter, until he gasped at a familiar shape on one of the trimmed front lawns of the neighborhood. Stepping on the gas, he sped past the few houses and stopped suddenly, making everyone in the car lurch forward, except Dean who just laughed hysterically.
Adam waved them over, smiling and casual with his long hair tied back. He was holding a garbage bag and, as everyone noticed once they climbed out of the truck, collecting scattered beer cans from all over his lawn. The bag was dropped when Roman locked him up in a big hug.
Roman broke his cool exterior to squeeze and shake Adam around, both of them unable to contain childish laughter.
Aleister tried to shake himself away from his anxiety to take his turn giving Adam a hug, followed by Brie, who received a chaste kiss on the cheek from their host.
Dean sauntered over to the new friend and offered him a fist to bump.
“Adam, this is Dean Ambrose. You’ll be helping him along with…” Roman began, looking over this and that shoulder for his brother.
Seth was holding up the back, shuffling along with his hands in his pockets, looking at the beautiful homes with their exposed brick and their professional-grade floral arrangements. He was busy wondering if Finn liked exposed brick before Roman took a few steps back to grab him and pull him along like a toddler.
“... and this is Seth Rollins.” Roman concluded, giving Seth a rough pat on the back to snap him back to real life.
“Dean, a pleasure. Seth, a pleasure.” Adam greeted them both, via fist bump and handshake respectively. “You guys are gonna have a great time. I hope, at least. ‘Scuse the mess, there was quite the rager last night.”
Adam gestured to the mess he was mid-clean when they arrived, grabbed his bag of cans and summoned everyone inside. Right before they crossed the threshold of the house, Adam paused, turned around and surveyed the group following him with a confused look.
“Where’s your little buddy?” He asked, making Aleister grimace.
Brie jumped in to answer before anyone else could. “He’s staying back to watch the house… We have a lot to uh, update you on.”
“Woof… Alright come on in. Watch your step.” Adam waved them in again, almost immediately having to very delicately step over what appeared to be an unconscious body strewn right before the front door.
“Don’t mind Roddy, he’s a lightweight.”
Adam walked them through the massive living room that was to the left of the front door. Two extra people were passed out on the couches. Brie noticed that Adam, the one identified as Roddy, and these two all were wearing matching tee shirts. The area was decorated exactly how one would imagine a home occupying four single men would be. Flags were hung on the walls instead of photos, none of the furniture matched. Everything was worn but cozy.
From the living room to the dining room, where Adam had left an assortment of cleaning supplies on the table, they took a right turn into the kitchen. Thankfully it was unoccupied and Adam had plenty of chairs arranged in a circle for everyone to take. As he sat himself down, he grabbed a notebook from the kitchen table, produced a pencil from his tied up hair and flipped the book open to a page full of scribbles and crosses.
“I gotta say…” Dean said as everyone was making themselves comfortable, “I already really dig how you’re livin’, my dude.”
Everyone laughed, except for Seth.
He objectively understood that this was a very warm and casual environment. He was among friends, or at least those who could be friends. He started squirming in his chair the second he sat down. This just wasn’t right.
An architect among psychics.
Adam went over his game plan of how the next week would pan out. Dean would study this, Aleister could help here, Brie would do this, Roman work on this.
Seth was included in everything of course. He had a recurring role in every activity: Observer. He could do his very best job! at paying attention and listening well. Dean would be working on advancing his talents to new heights and even learning brand new abilities. Seth’s job was to smile politely and have a good time! Surely, given the crowd that was surrounding him, the disdain that seeped from his pores had to be tangible. But he started working on his job now, and just sat there, eyes half lidded and frown tattooed on his face.
Perhaps the worst part of the entire situation, was that Seth knew, but tried not to dwell over the fact that he wouldn’t feel so goddamn alone in a room full of people if Finn was there. Finn would make him feel more welcomed, maybe even remind him of how wanted he was.
Finn would make him feel like more than a fucking architect amongst psychics.
Due to the length of their drive, the gang decided to relax for the evening and get straight to work first thing next morning. Adam’s roommates eventually awoke and groggily introduced themselves as Kyle, Bobby, and Roddy. After they left, Adam assured his guests that they wouldn’t be much interruption as they mostly spent their time playing video games or practicing with their crappy garage rock band.
It was hard to imagine that a home already holding four men would have enough room for an additional five guests, but somehow Adam convinced his roommates to take the couches and give up their spaces. Seth and Dean split one bedroom, Roman took another, Brie stayed with Adam, and Aleister stayed awake for most of the night pacing. So it worked out.
Seth spent a little time being skeptical of exactly how Adam could swindle such a gracious gesture from his roommates, but forgot all about it when he remembered that sharing a bed with Dean meant getting punched and shoved all night.
He was anxious and unsure about this whole scene, and his nerves only increased when Adam grabbed his roommate by the wrist and instructed him to make breakfast for everyone. Bobby just blindly agreed and did it.
Seth reminded himself that he had only six more days here.
Finn awoke the next day at the wondrous time of 10AM. Cats were strewn all about him, despite having the opportunity to curl anywhere around the now-open bed. Stretching and yawning, he tumbled out of bed, careful to not catch a fluffy tail underfoot.
He ran down the stairs, collected enough cans to feed the meowing chorus around him, and made sure to slide around the kitchen floor in his socks like he had always wanted to. He had to get every part of the morning routine finished as quickly as possible so he could write down everything that had happened the previous afternoon.
With the cats munching away at their breakfast, Finn reached to the top of fridge for a bag of organic cookies. He snatched it up, just able to reach when standing on his toes. With his prize acquired, Finn ran back up the stairs and collapsed into his bed. Fiddling with the remote for a moment, he found his favorite channel, broadcasting exclusively sappy love movies. A handful of cookies were shoved in his face as he opened the bedside table and grabbed his journal.
Between glances at the screen, and glances at his writing, Finn started frantically scribbling. He didn’t even write this entry’s date because he couldn’t remember it.
“It finally happened!” He started, following that sentence up with several underlines and additional exclamation marks. “I’m in absolute amazement that I can write this… I finally had my first real kiss!”
Oatmeal headbutted the bedroom door open and invited herself to join Finn on the bed and stick her fluffy head into the cookie bag.
“I know a first kiss at 21 is pretty pathetic. But I knew that as long as I kept on being a good person and helping other people that eventually it would work out for me. Aleister said so, Brie said so. She said there’s no time limit on life experience. Roman called me a name but I know he was joking and that he’d be happy for me. I never gave up on finding the right person. I knew it would happen.”
Finn read back what he had written and sighed. He shooed Oatmeal away from his treats and tried to keep his heart from pouring out all over the page as he continued.
“Aleister helps me so much with the gift. He helps me with everything, really. I think he knows that as much as the gift stuff is fun, it’s just not… I don’t know. Not enough? Is that bad to say? It’s difficult to talk about with him. His heart is still aching.” Finn looked over at Dream’s cane, now resting against his wall. He would get to studying with it next, surely.
“Besides all the amazing stuff I’ve done here with work. All I’ve ever wanted is a boyfriend or girlfriend. And now I have one.”
The last line made a tremble run through Finn’s body, rattling him down to his pen-wielding-hand.
“Seth is incredible.” He wrote slowly. “I can’t believe he likes me. Being away from him hurts so much, though. I hope he’s having fun with everyone. He’s probably accomplishing so much, I know it. But I miss him so much. God, I miss him.”
He looked again at the neglected cane, and wondered to himself if Aleister had felt this same type of euphoria the first time he kissed Dream.
“Think of it like lifting weights.” Adam said to Roman.
The group was sitting around the collection of mismatched couches, discussing Roman’s goals.
“You can’t just walk in on your first day and deadlift five-hundred pounds. You gotta work towards everything, start with a hundred, one-fifty, two-hundred.”
Roman was nodded, but his gaze was directed at the ball of air he was pushing back and forth between his palms.
“If you wanna be able to make a force-field, start with one square panel and push that. Then add one adjacent to it. Eventually give it a roof. Create the whole shape after you’ve perfected the building blocks.”
Roman agreed solemnly.
“You’ll get it, Rome.” Brie said, braiding her own long hair. “You don’t even have a reason for such a thing anyway. There’s no rush.”
“Yeah, I just… Hm.” Roman started, but stopped himself suddenly, his lips forming a flat line. “Hey Adam, d’you think you could do that thing you did with me to the boys?”
Adam’s eyebrows raised and Aleister sat up straight.
“That’s a brilliant plan!” He said, smiling towards Seth and Dean.
“You think? It’s kinda dangerous for people who haven’t-” Adam was cut off.
“Dean, at least!” Roman suggested.
“I wanna do it…” Seth mumbled, feeling his heartbeat flare up a little, as it always did when the feeling of isolation kicked in.
“What is it that you’re volunteerin’ me for?” Dean grumbled.
“What I would be doing, Dean…” Adam said, standing and rubbing his hands together. “... is taking all of the energy in my gift and using it to bring on a vision or a burst of power among someone else... That way, you’ll be able to feel what it's like to have, in your case, a forced vision, and hopefully after a few goes, you’ll be able to imitate it. Take the feeling that I shove into your brain and take it back to use for yourself. I guess. Me and Roman did it all the time in Pensacola.”
“Rock n’ roll.” Dean mumbled, scooting forward on the couch and taking a swig from his sugary energy drink. “Let’s do it to it.”
“Uh, right now?” Adam asked.
“Let’s go.” Dean summoned him over.
Adam looked over to Aleister warily.
“This is what we’re here for, eh?” Aleister said.
Adam shrugged and carried on, grabbing a chair from the dinner table in the other room and inviting Dean to it. He stood behind the chair and cracked his knuckles.
“Bird told me that your visions are already pretty strong on their own, so hold tight for this one.”
“I’m warning you, Dean, this much concentrated energy can be overwhelming.”
Adam blinked and visibly swallowed any other warning he may have cared to offer. Hands warmed up, he placed one palm each on either of Dean’s cheeks, ignoring the way he flinched away from touch.
“Focus on my voice the whole time.” Adam said sternly.
“You got it, hoss.” Dean put his drink down on the coffee table and sniffled; apathetic.
Adam closed his eyes and took in a deep, slow breath.
“The point of this, Dean, is for me to force your gift into action. Stay with me the whole time. Stay on the same track I’m on. Try to grab onto my energy.”
“Let’s go.” Dean repeated and nodded around Adam’s hands.
With another breath, this one much sharper and faster, Adam summoned the most demanding and convincing parts of his personality. He envisioned the traits not as feelings but as physical streams of energy. He visualized them like flows of a rushing canal, wild and unpredictable, needing to be captured and used. He forced the energies into a twisting unified strand, and injected every part of it into Dean, through his skin.
Upon contact, Dean yelped and balled his hands into fists.
“Stay with me. Find my energy.” Adam commanded.
Dean felt as though he had been struck by a gust of winter wind as the energy hit him. The blood in his veins turned icy cold, running frantically through his body. He tried to speak, but felt a restraining claw on his voice, making him gasp and pant for air.
“Stay with me, Dean!” Adam said again, using the dominance flowing through him as an advantage.
If Finn was here, he would have found Adam’s golden aura to be sparkling bright like never before.
Brie, Seth, Roman and Aleister sat on the edge of their seats, observing with bated breath. Like the time before when they had managed to get a vision out of Dean, they watched his blue eyes turn milky white and sink back into his skull.
“Keep it up, Adam, that’s it!” Aleister said.
Dean moaned involuntarily as he caught a glimpse of the energy strand that Adam was sending to him. He could vaguely hear Adam telling him, Stay, stay with me, Dean as if Adam was talking to him a few rooms away. Dean didn’t think he was strong enough, or even had enough control of his body to grab ahold of the strand, so he allowed himself to fall into it, like he used to fall into the community pool back home.
The ice in his veins burst into a heat from the energy, making him sweat now instead of shiver. He felt his body riding this wave of energy; completely submissive to its ebbs and flows. Unwilling to be manipulated against his will, Dean saw himself plant his feet firmly into the non-existent ground below him. The energy splashed and shook around him, until it all began to fizzle and pop around him. A black mist circulated from below, spinning and engulfing him completely.
He landed, in his own body with his own thoughts once again, in an unfamiliar place. Looking here and there, he saw that he was in a brand new home. Rooms were small, floors uncarpeted, no furnishings or appliances anywhere. Dean moved to take a step deeper into the home, but was met with a sinking pit in his stomach, like the worst anxiety he’d ever felt.
“What the fuck…” He mumbled.
As if on cue, Finn came padding out of a room that seems to be intended for a kitchen. He was nearly naked, with only a pair of boxer briefs covering him.
Dean heard a knock at the door, echoing through his head like a surround-sound speaker. He turned to face it as Finn ran to answer.
“You can’t be here!” Finn whispered through a crack in the door.
“I’m sorry, baby boy, I can’t wait!” A hushed voice answered. A man’s voice.
“You’re so bad…” Finn scolded, more playful than serious. He opened the door all the way and allowed his guest inside. Before the other person even set a foot all the way inside, Finn was taken up in their warm embrace.
Dean blinked and squinted at the scene.
“I don’t have any clothes on…” Finn whispered.
“That’s okay…” The person responded coyly.
Dean squeezed his eyes shut momentarily and when they opened, bleary, he made out the image of who it was.
It was… Holy shit.
Before he could process his thought, the black mist appeared once more, accelerated now. It hissed and twirled around him, consuming him and snatching him up and away from his vision.
He was dropped back into the river of energy, splashing and swimming around, being tossed here and there, zooming about in every direction. He closed his eyes to avoid worsening the dizziness that accompanied the feeling and when he finally reopened them, he found himself sat on the couch with his friends, gasping for air like he had never breathed before.
His knuckles were bright white from how hard he grasped the seat of the chair beneath him, and he felt his messy bangs sticking to his forehead.
“Fuck… Fuck…” Dean panted, closing his eyes again to try and subside the nausea.
Adam took a few steps away, crossed his arms and Seth could have sworn he shot him a dirty look.
Roman was on the ground in a flash, crawled over to Dean and squeezing his leg, patting his back, as if he was looking for physical wounds.
“Deano, you got this? You okay?” Roman asked, worry plastered all over his face. “Talk to me!”
Dean retched and shook briefly, but recovered fast.
“I’m fine, MOM!” He shouted and shoved Roman away, but did so with a faint smile.
Roman fell back and sat on the floor at Dean’s feet. “Alright, alright. What did you see?”
Dean scanned the living room floor, as if the answer would lie somewhere on the carpet.
“Packer’s are winnin’ the Superbowl.” Dean spat out.
“FUCK!” Roman yelled. “Dean, you asshole!”
“I’m sorry!” Dean threw his hands up. “Alright, Sethy Boy, uh you’re up next.”
Adam opened his mouth, as if to protest, but was cut off by Brie.
“Woah, hold up.” She said, standing at the same time that Seth did. “Bad idea, time out.”
“What? No, it’s okay.” Seth assured her.
“Yes, it’s fine!” Aleister added.
“I don’t know about that, my guy.” Adam said, relaxing and rubbing the back of his neck. “Dean could take it, he’s a natural talent. Seth, I’m worried about injecting him with all that energy.”
“Nonsense. This is Roman Reigns’ brother!” Aleister gestured proudly. “Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Adam pondered the potential consequences. “Worst case? He could die on the spot from over exertion. Maybe have a heart attack.”
“I don’t mind.” Seth mumbled and received a swift punch in the shoulder from Brie.
“Adam’s right, I don’t trust this.” Roman chimed in, shaking his head.
Seth did his signature nose crinkle. “I can take anything Dean can take.”
“I’m not doubting that, Seth.” Adam held up a hand in defense. “Maybe next year, after you’ve trained some more.”
“I can do it.” Seth assured.
“Dude, I dunno… “ Dean gruffed. “I think I can smell my own brain cookin’. Might not be such a hot idea.”
“I wanna do it.” Seth ignored him completely.
“He wants to do it!” Aleister added. “Here, I’ll help.”
Now everyone was standing and the air was even more tense than it had been when Adam was electrocuting Dean.
“How are you gonna help?” Seth and Adam asked together, then gave each other a sidelong glare.
“I’ll uh… Um.” Aleister looked around the room briefly until he came up with something. “We can hold hands.”
“That’s gonna help?” Seth asked.
Aleister looked a little desperate and tried to coax some assistance out of Adam.
“Well…” Adam scratched his chin as he thought. “Maybe if all three of us hold hands… or something similar to it… It’ll absorb a bit of the pressure and make it easier on Seth. I don’t think that would backfire?”
“Fantastic!” Aleister said enthusiastically.
“I guess, yeah…” Adam was still thinking about possible negative consequences.
“Okay let’s do that this time,” Seth said, “but next time I can do it myself, yeah?”
Roman and Brie made faces at each other.
“Let’s take this one outside.” Adam said.
“I just wanna know.” Finn said, clutching the cane tight to his chest.
He was laying flat on the floor of Aleister’s office, back against the hardwood floor, staring straight at the white ceiling above. The action almost reminded him of the white walls in the hospital where he spent his youth. Even without a blanket, this was much more comfortable than that ever could have been.
“You were in love, right?” He asked. “You loved each other, that’s why you got married… Did something change?”
He moved his fingers lightly around the grooves and textures of the cane, convincing himself that he could smell the dried herbs inside.
“Do you miss him like I miss Seth? I would give anything to talk to him right now, and we haven’t even known each other that long. Why won’t you talk to Aleister?”
Before he had taken his position on the floor, he had tried just holding the cane tight, seeing if the power it held could be felt. But cats meows and his tummy rumbled, distracting him from the only chore he had to focus on in his family’s absence.
“Even if you don’t really want to talk to him, you can talk to me… I won’t even tell him if you’re not comfortable with that yet.”
Finn closed his eyes and searched through the vastness of his mind to see if any new voices could be accessed. The two spirits that followed him everyone chimed in louder than anyone else, as they always did, and he shooed them away to continue peering around. They were easy enough to ignore when inside the house. Aleister never told him exactly why, but Finn had some theories about a potential spell or hex that could have been cast.
“You don’t even have to tell me anything important…” Finn whispered, praying that Dream could at least hear him. “Just give me a sign that you’re there. That’s all.”
The two spirits, and god Finn wished he knew their names so he could scream at them, made their presences louder, manifesting as Finn’s own heartbeat clamoring in his ear drums.
“Go away…” He snarled and held the cane tighter. Softening his voice, he continued his plea.
“Dream, come on… Just tell me that you hear me. That’s all I want… If you don’t wanna talk, we can try again on a different day. I only want a sign right now. Just a sign… Come on.”
Finn ran through as many spirits as he could, but found nothing new or exciting and grew extremely weary of the two barking at him from beyond their banishment wall.
“Goodness…” He sighed and sat upright. “Not today, then?”
As he staggered to his feet, he gave the cane in his hand a sympathetic look.
That’s okay. He thought, either to Dream or himself. He couldn’t tell.
Finn brushed the wrinkles out of his tee shirt and went to open the door up and rejoin the cats, maybe watch a movie, maybe take a bath and think about the waves in Seth’s hair.
His hand touched the door knob as the sound of glass breaking hit his ears. With a gasp, he flung the door open and searched the hallway quickly to see if the cats had knocked something over and gotten hurt. But there was no accompanying yowl, and no mess, so he backtracked into the office again.
Sure enough, just beyond where Aleister’s left foot would be when he sat at his desk, a vile was on the floor, smashed to bits. Finn stepped towards it with caution, looking all around each corner of the room for an entity or spirit who may be playing tricks on him. When he determined the coast to be clear, he knelt on the floor. Among the glass was a dried substance; safe to assume another blessed herb like the one in the cane. Finn pinched a couple shreds of the stuff and brought it to his noise, finding the scent unpleasant but not familiar.
He got back up and examined the shelf where the vile could have fallen. There was a faint clean circle, distinguished from the dust on the shelf. To his amazement, the space had to be at least four inches towards the back of the shelf- no way gravity brought it to the floor.
Finn couldn’t help but grin. He looked back to the mess on the floor, and grinning turned to giggling. Giggling turned to hysterical laughter, and he brought his gaze up to the ceiling once more.
“Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you, Dream!” He called. Running away from the office to get a broom, he repeated the mantra all throughout the house.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!”
Seth was sitting cross-legged in the backyard. One of Adam’s hands was firmly on his cheek, the other interlocked with Aleister’s. Seth took Aleister’s free hand in his, forming a complete connection.
Brie and Roman were standing off to the side, looks of concern being passed back and forth. Dean was chugging his energy drink faster than anyone ever should.
“Seth, the first time you trained, what did Aleister tell you to focus on?”
“Emotion.” Seth involuntarily squeezed both hands in his. “Extreme emotion.”
“And it didn’t go well?” Adam asked.
“It went well.” Aleister said.
“Coulda gone better.” Seth deadpanned.
“We’ll switch gears today then.” Adam suggested. “I’m gonna have you be… blank. Clear your mind as much as humanly possible. No thoughts, no nothin’.”
Seth took a clarifying breath. “I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I ask. I’m gonna build the same strand that I built with Dean and see if I can find something in there.” Adam disconnected his hands from the other two briefly to crack his knuckles again.
“Here we go, baby.” Reattaching and re-gripping his hands in theirs, Adam did not issue the layers of warning that he gave to Dean. He merely repeated:
“Stay with me the whole time.”
Before Seth could nod that he understood, Adam surged every ounce of power in his being into Seth’s subconscious, as if to dig around the actual tendons and muscles that held his brain together. Seth let out a groan as he felt the intrusion hit him, hot like stabbing knives. Aleister flinched from the contact, feeling only a minor shock compared to what Seth was taking.
What Adam had brought Dean into manifested itself as a rushing and unpredictable riverbend, twisting and turning. Inside Seth’s mind, he rooted around by way of force, straining to connect with a strand of energy. Dean’s had been almost too easy, which made it so wild. Seth’s was putting up quite a struggle.
Determined to not become frustrated, Adam pressed on deeper, making Seth whine and his teeth grind. Aleister’s face scrunched from the pressure, but he kept his grip strong on them both.
Brie and Roman stepped closer, ready to intervene at any moment, but unsure how to do so.
“Gimme somethin’ Seth…” Adam said hoarsely. His words hit Seth’s ears in a muddled way, as if Adam had been speaking underwater.
Seth felt the knives penetrate deeper, making his spine curve away from Adam. He tried to keep himself from writhing in pain, but when he remembered that he was supposed to clear his head, lost focus of his pain control and let out a pained howl.
“Adam, let him go!” Brie shouted. Roman extended his arm over her chest to keep her from running in.
“Give him a chance!” Roman commanded. Brie looked at him in horror.
“Somethin’, gimme somethin’, man…” Adam said again, visualizing himself as an arrow piercing through the confinement of Seth’s internal structure.
Right when Seth felt himself breaking a sweat, from more than just the August air, the three of them felt their bodies dropped, like the very ground beneath them had sank. Instead of falling into water, like he had with Dean, Adam found himself engulfed by a bright, sparkling red.
Aleister gasped when he saw it; the same aura that Finn had showed him the morning after Seth’s arrival.
August or not, the harsh atmosphere could not compare to the inferno that surrounded the three as the scarlet took them over. Adam and Aleister felt as though the walls of Seth’s mind were collapsing in, unable to stay upright amid the brilliant red and overwhelming heat.
Adam knew he had to get them out of there, otherwise Seth was in danger of succumbing to his own untapped potential. Channeling the arrow, he pierced straight through the most dazzling wall of ember.
It was his mistake to expect peace on the other side. While the heat drifted away, he was bombarded by a flood of memories, hitting like a freight train.
Adam and Aleister watched memories exactly as Seth had lived them, flashing like strobe lights.
A hug from his mother.
Seven candles on a birthday cake.
A short-haired and tattoo-less Roman winking and ruffling his hair.
Running in a vast backyard after a football.
High school lockers covered in graffiti.
Wires buzzing together under the steering wheel of a vehicle.
A pool table attended by a younger Dean with a halo of cigarette smoke around his head.
An older man in a suit offering a handshake.
Opening the bedside table of a motel to find a Bible in the drawer.
Moonlight cascading through tattered curtains as the motel bed creaked and the older man hushed any words.
Dean yanking his clothes on in a hurry, screaming.
The red came back: This time as splatters of blood painting a cement sidewalk. Adam and Aleister felt as though their vocal chords were tearing as this manifestation of Seth let out a agonized shriek.
The shriek transitioned into car tires screeching.
Aleister’s shop front.
Brie’s warm smile.
Blueprints hastily drawn in Sharpie marker.
Finn’s blue eyes finally revealed after his bangs were sheared away.
Kissing Finn again.
“Let him go!”
Brie screamed as loud as she could, right before she landed a kick directly into Aleister’s presented stomach. With a grunt, he fell to the ground in a heap, snapping the connection between the three of them apart.
All of Adam’s energy snapped back into his face like a broken rubber band, knocking the wind out of his lungs and all stability from his limbs. He fell to the ground beside his friend, twitching and moaning, but conscious and otherwise unharmed.
Seth, however, as Brie, Roman and Dean had been able to see, had what seemed like a river of blood flowing from his nose. Brie fell to his side and took him into her arms as he sputtered and choked. His eyes rolled around in his skull without purpose or direction. For a moment, she feared he may begin seizing, so she used her gift to soothe him into breathing regularly, then calmness, and finally sleep.
Roman’s arms were still outstretched after she had torn herself out of his grip.
Aleister tried to compose himself, but was reeling from the experience, the sudden departure from it and the developing bruise on his solar plexus.
“Why would you do that?!” He wheezed.
“You’re going too far!” She screamed, not daring to release Seth from her embrace, as if merely Aleister’s eyes could hurt him.
“We were making progress!” Aleister pushed himself to a sitting position. Adam was still on the ground, having probably passed out at this point.
“This isn’t progress!” She snapped. “You think this is right? No matter what everyone says, you pushed him because he wanted to impress you! You almost killed him! You want Dream back so badly that you don’t care who you hurt?! Is that what you think he’d want?”
Aleister’s jaw dropped; hers tightened.
“You should be ashamed of yourself, Aleister Black.”
She pulled the hem of her tee shirt over to mop up the blood from Seth’s drenched face.
Even Dean couldn’t come up with something smart to say.
i think this is the longest chapter thus far.... is that preferred? what do you guys think? on my last multi chaptered work, I would try to cap it off at 5k words, this one is almost 7. I worry that its too much to digest for one reading session. Opinions? anyway, enjoy.
His eyes had been blinded by redness that shone through his lids even when he closed them.
What the fuck was that?
But the way Finn looked up at him stood out, away from the red light. It was a look like Seth was the source of everything pure and grand in the world. Blue eyes had never been so clear and gorgeous before, and those heart shaped lips were too tempting.
Fuck, he’s pretty. God.
Seth couldn’t remember how it happened exactly, but their lips had moved together like a synchronized dance. Nothing could have been more flawless, while also being as spontaneous as it was.
I didn’t ask… I should have asked.
He recalled trying to slip a little tongue, but Finn had made a little noise that he couldn’t interpret as positive or negative so he had pulled away.
It couldn’t have been negative.
‘Please don’t go’ he had said afterward.
There had been water.
Seth had felt drops of water dribbling down the back of his shirt, while Finn’s hands were wrapped up in his hair.
He was doing the dishes.
Brie had yelled something and he was forced to tear himself away from the beautiful boy.
Brie was yelling. Brie is yelling.
Seth bolted awake, dropped on his ass back into the present day, in an unfamiliar bed with a pounding headache. He thrashed about, kicking and tearing the blankets away from his sweat coated body. Brie was standing over him, hands held up in defense.
“You’re okay! You’re safe, relax!”
“What the fuck?!” Seth exclaimed, trying to find something he recognized around him.
“We’re in Adam’s house! You passed out. I’ve been trying to wake you up ever since.”
“Three days ago.” Brie said, crossing her arms. “We were scared we lost you for a while there.”
“Three- wha- ow, oh fuck!” Seth clasped his own forehead when a wave of pain nearly knocked him back out.
“Shh, shh, come on now.” Brie said, kneeling beside the bed now and gently removed his hands. She tucked his long hair behind his ear and ran her fingertips along his temple, making the pain melt away.
“Thanks…” Seth sighed with relief.
“You’re welcome.” She said, then yelled over her shoulder, “Boys, we got a live one!”
There was some commotion as Seth took the water bottle she offered him.
Like a moving mountain, Roman came storming into the small room, crashed onto the bed and took Seth into a massive bearhug.
“Thank god, brother! Thank the fucking lord!” He yelled.
Seth let his ribs be cracked by the tight squeeze, mostly because he was in too much of an awestruck state to protest.
Adam appeared in the doorway. “Oh, good… Fuck dude I couldn’t forgive myself if I killed him.”
Brie shot him a glare.
Aleister joined the group, nearly shoving Adam out of the way to come inside.
“Seth- thank the universe that you’re okay!”
Seth took the water down in one swig and patted his brother on the back; a subtle plea for release. Roman let him go and gave him some space, getting up from the bed and regaining his composure off to the side. Seth swung his legs out of the bed, joints cracking and muscles straining from lack of use.
Dean completed the gang, cautiously walking in and holding a mug that was filled to the brim and steaming hot.
“Black… Just like ya like it.” He said and carefully handed the coffee over to Seth.
“Oh, you wonderful human, you.” Seth took it gratefully and sipped.
“Seth,” Aleister started, “Once you’re feeling up to it, I’d like to speak with you about your training.”
“I don’t think that’s wise.” Brie said before Seth could accept or decline. Disdain was carved into her face, directed 100% towards Aleister.
He didn’t say anything to retort, but met her stare with matched animosity.
Seth cleared his throat, feeling his nerves start to quiver from the tension.
“No, that’s… that’s good, dude. I’m good. Let’s talk.” He set the mug on the bedside table and wiped any grogginess away from his eyes.
“Thank you.” Aleister said, and one-by-one, the group made their exits as fast as they had entered. Brie left in a huff, last one out the door, ponytail whipping around as she did.
Aleister closed the door behind her, no doubt having been given another scathing glare.
Adam had a chair by the doorway with various clothing items strewn over it. Aleister hastily threw them all to the floor and pulled the chair over to the bedside. As he was throwing things around, he caught sight of Adam’s closet door, slightly ajar. The lightbulb on the inside of the wall had recently exploded; glass shards littered the carpeted floor beneath it. He smirked, but returned his attention to Seth.
“What do you last remember?” He asked as he sat.
“Mmm…” Seth thought for a moment and was met with a shudder when he realized the last thing in his memory was the softness of Finn’s lips.
“Not a damn thing… Three days of my life, gone. Fuck.” Seth reached for his coffee.
“That’s what I figured.” Aleister mumbled. “Don’t worry about the days gone… You’ll make up for them. That’s fine. That’s not quite important right now. What I wanted to ask you about, if you’ll allow me, is something I happened upon during your training with Adam.”
Seth’s nose wrinkled. “Uh huh?”
He felt a little surge of anxiety, making his skin break out in new beads of sweat.
“Uh huh.” Aleister repeated. “I don’t want you to be nervous at all, Seth, I just need some honest answers and opinions from you.”
Seth gulped down more coffee, almost unaware of the way the scalding liquid scorched his mouth.
“I’ve done my best, Seth.” Aleister said, crossing one leg over the other. “I did my best to raise Finn… Taught him everything I could teach him. Mathematics, science, history, kick-boxing, cooking… Everything I thought would help him.”
Seth felt his own breathing become labored as he struggled to keep calm and still.
“Unfortunately, I never knew how to teach him to be a man.”
“And now he’s all grown up, and a prisoner in the house that he’s too nervous to leave. He’s too plauged by his gift and too in-tuned to the spirit world to turn it off. I failed him there. I don’t know how to help him.”
“What um…” Seth finally interjected, clearing his throat. “I mean, can I help? Is that what… you want?”
“Oh, yes.” Aleister said. “Very much so. I could go on all day, I’m sure, about Finn’s brilliance and the subsequent weight on his mind due to it. But. You’ll find all of that out. You’re going to work on it together.”
“You are… If you say ‘yes’ that is.”
“Yes?” Seth’s nose wrinkled. “What’s the question?”
“Oh, of course.” Aleister shook his head. “Probably could have mentioned that. Well. I think it would beneficial for your development and training, and for Finn’s social skills, if the two of you were married. The symbiosis of the relationship would help both of you immensely.”
If Seth had taken another sip of coffee during the latter portion of Aleister’s soliloquy, it would have ended up spat all over the floor.
“You want me to get married?!”
“Yeah.” Aleister nodded casually. “I mean, not unless you agree. I’m not a monster.”
“I can’t get married! I’m nineteen!” Seth’s hands flailed about.
“I got married when I was eighteen, it was marvelous.” Aleister retorted. “But that’s me. We’re talking about you. Where does your resistence lie? What are you concerned about?”
Seth pulled his sore body out of bed, stumbling as he did.
“We barely know each other.” He said, attempting to pace around the room to get some blood flowing through his legs.
“You’ll get to know each other better than anyone else… Besides, what little you know about Finn, you already like quite a bit. Am I wrong?” Aleister’s eyes followed Seth around the room.
“I… uh… “ Seth stopped short and sighed. “You saw that, huh?”
Seth patted his own body and found his clothing damp. He pulled his shirt off desperately, getting tangled in fabric for a moment.
“It was a mistake.” He huffed.
“It didn’t look like one.” Aleister said, standing up as well. “Regardless… Give it some thought. Dean will be taking appointments once we return. Pulling his weight. You’ll return work on the house… Say yes and it’ll be your house that you’re building, as well as Finn’s.”
“Aleister, dude, I-”
“I know, I know… You’re hesitant. Just thought. That’s all I’m asking from you right now.” Aleister turned and offered a hand to Seth, which he hesitantly shook.
“You showed some mighty bravery on our first day. I know you want to prove your worth… This could be a quicker way to do so. Finn has proven time and time again how useful he can be in that regard.”
“You’ll see.” Aleister made his way to the door, but paused for a moment to gesture to the bedside table. “Brie got you a radio. Thought you might like some music while you’re resting. You did a marvelous job on your first day, but I think you should sit the next few out. We’re cutting the trip short. Probably leaving in a few hours. Until then- Relax.”
And he left.
Seth stared at the closed door for a minute or so; his head suddenly feeling foggy from the information dropped on top of him like bricks. Burying his face in his hands, he went back to the messy bed and slumped into it. Some commotion downstairs made him feel worse, so he flicked the radio switch on and let himself fall into the bed.
As he scratched his uneasy body, the radio played a song he had heard a thousand times before, but never quite understood until this listen. The lyrics cut through the implosion of thoughts crashing into each other and running in circles around his brain.
”Save tonight, and fight the break of dawn. Come tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be gone.”
Marry Finn? How absurd. There was no way he would be able to swing that. No matter how sugary sweet his kisses were, or how brightly his eyes sparkled. That was all they had together. No bond; no relationship. It couldn’t be. Shouldn’t be.
”There’s a log on the fire, and it burns, like me for you.”
But what the fuck was that red light?
”It ain’t easy to say goodbye-”
He was immensely curious, no matter how hard he tried to deny to Aleister’s face that he was. That had never been there before Finn happened. He had never seen that color before. Never felt an electric shock from a kiss. Never longed so fucking badly to be back with another person before. Not even with…
”-Darling please, don’t start to cry.”
He looked at his own hands, bending and wiggling his fingers about. Was he more in tune with his own body now? Or did it just feel brand new after three days on the shelf? He could barely sit still in the car ride over to Philly. Was that a coincidence? He was pretty shaken from everything that had been happening, after all.
”You know I’ve got to go, and Lord I wish it wasn’t so.”
“What the fuck…” He breathed, turned over on his side and cleared his thoughts to the best of his ability so he could get some more sleep. He laid, restlessly, for about thirty seconds before getting up again and grabbing a random towel from the floor to grab a shower before they took off.
Finn was laid up on his back on the floor of Aleister’s office, holding Pumpkin the calico over his head, lowering her only so he could kiss the pads of her paws while she tried to claw his face.
The solitude had quickly become boring, and he had eaten his fill of junk food twice over.
His heart ached a dull, throbbing pain, from both the sugar rush and the lack of Seth in his life. He had already organized a meeting with the cats to promise them that they would all have a formal introduction with Seth upon his return.
He had already journaled in great detail about what happened with the mysterious vial on the shelf, but it paled in comparison to all the notes he had written down of things to discuss with Seth. What was his favorite movie? Color? Animal? Finn hoped it was a cat.
Despite having pretty solid evidence of a spirit in the house- something that Finn had thought was impossible- he had felt extremely alone the whole time. No presence, no communication. Just alone with his thoughts and his daydreams of brushing Seth’s hair. This week was probably brutal on him.
It was already 5PM, and he was starting to lose track of the days. All of his favorite movies had been watched, the cats had played outside every day, and the library of Brie’s iPod had been exhausted, albeit helpful for creating his ‘Seth’ playlist.
With nothing else to do, he decided on a nap to pass the time before dinner. Pumpkin was set down so she could scurry away. He crossed the hall to his own bedroom, but paused before he got comfortable.
He was already in Seth’s sweater, so he may as well maximize his Seth intake and sleep where he slept. Finn tumbled onto the couch and snatched up a throw pillow. Holding it to his face, the scratchy fabric had Seth’s smell practically burned into it.
From this position, he could see a stolen hair-tie laying arms length on the floor. He reached over to grab it, chuckling at the cats and their obsession with snatching these things from poor Seth. Idly, Finn wrapped the elastic twice around his left ring finger so it would stay put. Finn admired his makeshift jewlery with a satisfied smirk, nuzzled his nose into the pillow, closed his eyes, and gave a few odd kisses to the Seth-replacement pillow.
Aleister picked at the breakfast that Adam’s roommate had prepared. Riley? Roddy? Richie? Whoever. Seth’s horror at the idea of marriage wasn’t unpredictable but it still upset him. Marriage was the best thing that ever happened to Aleister. Surely Seth was too young and stubborn to understand what he was missing out on.
And of course, his thoughts rattled about with the possibilites of what Seth could be holstering beyond his grasps.
Adam trotted downstairs, hair wet and shirtless.
“Have you spoken to Brie?” He asked.
“Good morning to you, as well.” Aleister mused.
Adam sighed. “I wanted you to hear it from her… but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. She’s gonna stay back with me for a little bit after you guys leave. I’ll bring her home.”
Aleister’s mouth dropped but he quickly shut it up. “That’s fine. She can do what she wants.”
“Uh huh…” Adam rolled his eyes out of Aleister’s sight. “You wanna meet me upstairs right quick? The boys are packing up. One last thing I gotta make you aware of.”
Aleister pushed his plate to the side, already with a sneaking suspicion of what this was about.
The two of them trotted upstairs, towards Adam’s bedroom, passing the closed bathroom door where Seth was showering and a spare bedroom where Dean was attempting to smoke what he could out of a burned out pipe.
“You know…” Adam started, closing the door once they were safe inside. “And I’m just theorizing here. But I’m pretty sure Seth wouldn’t have survived if he hadn’t been kissing on ya boy before.”
Aleister sighed. “You’ve got to know I was thinking the same thing… but I have confidence in him. Finn will be a great asset to his advancement.”
“Yeah, emphasis on ass, dude.” Adam smirked.
“... Not funny.” Aleister said with a grimace. His eyes wandered back to the open closet door to the right. The shattered light bulb.
“Set yourself up for that one…” Adam said, crossing his arms. “You uh… you think Seth’s the one?”
“I have truly no idea.” Aleister said honestly. “I can hope. I’ve got a very good feeling about him. But I can’t know right now. I still have much more work to do with Finn.”
“Yeah, you’ll figure it out.” Adam said. “So uh. Have you talked to your sister recently?”
Aleister pointed to his discovery. “I can see that you have.”
Adam nodded and smiled at the closet. “Ah. Missed one. Yeah, she was here a little bit before you guys came by.”
“Anything to report?” Aleister asked, unwilling to wade through niceties for information.
Adam shrugged. “I think so, yeah… She told me something that you’d wanna hear, for sure.”
“I’m listening.” Aleister crossed one leg over the other and Adam sat on the unkempt bed.
“I might have two reasons for bringing Brie back a little later. Ember’s got a lead.”
Aleister leaned in forward. “Tell me absolutely everything she told you.”
Seth’s cheeks were tickled by Brie’s long hair as she hugged him tight.
“Tell Duckie that I love him so much. And that I don’t know when I’ll be home, but it’ll be soon. And give him a big kiss from me. Make sure he remembers his appointments.”
“Okay, okay.” Seth rubbed her back. “He’s made it this far without ya. But I’ll take care of him, babe.”
Brie gave him a sympathetic look and whispered so only he could hear: “Don’t let them convince you to do anything you’re not comfortable with.”
“Okay, Brie, I-”
“Promise me!” She said, hushed.
“I promise.” Seth nodded. “Y’know Finn wouldn’t let me, anyway.”
She smirked, but released him.
Adam came stomping down the front steps of the house with Roman, who was carrying both his and Dean’s things.
“Train’s leavin’! Let’s go, Deano!” Roman called over his shoulder.
Dean came galloping out of the house, beer in hand. “Shotgun, bitch!”
Seth squeezed Brie’s hand as Adam came up next to her and put his arm around her shoulder. Aleister was already in the backseat, having made his goodbye brief. He would see Adam soon.
“Call us, huh?” Seth asked, and she nodded. Her happy-face was fake, at best.
Just like that, still barely awake from his miniature coma, Seth was climbing into the backseat with Aleister- anxious as ever. These next six hours weren’t going to be any easier than the previous ones were. The entire first ride, all he had thought about was running back to the house in Salem and kissing Finn longer and harder. Now he had no idea how he was going to look the psychic prodigy in the eyes.
Finn sat on the bed with his salad. His stomach had taken a beating from all the cookies and candy it had processed in the past few days, so he thought he’d give his body a rest. His nap had been peaceful but was cut short by hungry cats with pin-pricking claws. Now that everyone was fed, he picked another romantic movie to spend his time with.
Brie had bought both him and Seth the same grey sweater, but he actively chose to wear Seth’s today. It smelled of cigarettes and cheap cologne and this incredible fragrance that clung to his boyfriend’s skin. It was comforting.
He was only a few minutes into Titanic when a commotion sounded downstairs, making his nerves jump and his heart beat faster.
This had to be Sasha or Baron come for their retribution. Maybe both of them together.
He sprang from the bed and ripped the many dresser drawers in his shared bedroom open, looking for Brie’s taser or her knives or anything else he could use for some semblance of protection. Nothing was found, so he slunk away and towards the doorway.
He poked his head out of the bedroom door, hearing the jangling of keys.
“I have a knife!” He lied, yelling to whomever would listen.
A brief pause, accompanied by silence. All footsteps stopped, and all Finn could hear was his own heart pounding in his chest.
“Where’d you get a knife?” was yelled up the first floor staircase and Finn almost fainted from pure relief alone.
“Aleister!” He exclaimed.
Finn ran away from the room and down the stairs to greet the Chief and to his extreme shock, was pulled into a hug.
“Finn!” Aleister said, squeezing him tight. “It’s so wonderful to see you. I have much to tell you!”
“That’s great!” Finn replied, words muffled from his face being pressed against Aleister’s chest. “But I have something to tell you too, and it’s kind of important maybe? Can I show-”
“Yes, soon!” Aleister gave him a firm pat on the back and released him. “Soon. I just need to get everyone settled in, and have a brief discussion with Seth. After dinner, we’ll talk!”
Finn stammered for a bit. “Uh, yea- That’s good but I think you’ll really wanna see what-”
“And you’ll really want to hear what I have to tell you.” Aleister said, actually smiling. With that, he wouldn’t hear another word out of Finn as he stomped off through the house.
“Oh… okay! See you… then…” Finn trailed off.
Surely Aleister would notice the missing glass vile from the shelf. That man had an unmatched eagle eye for detail. Finn had really wanted to tell him before he inevitably noticed, but that seemed like it wasn’t going to happen so he turned his attention back to the door as his remaining family filed in.
Roman came in, holding many more bags than he left with. He gave a wink but was silent. Dean followed, carrying nothing, cigarette dangling from his lips. He held his hand up for a high-five which Finn met perfectly. Still, no words.
Finn’s nose wrinkled with his confusion over everyone acting a little strangely, but his nerves began jittering about and he forgot the whole thing when Seth walked in. How that man managed to make a messy bun look so beautiful was a mystery. Despite himself, Finn’s face broke into a massive grin and Seth dropped his things to run over and pull him into his arms.
Finn closed his eyes and allowed himself to be held; much differently than the way Aleister had held him just moments before. He ran his hands up and down Seth’s toned back, memorizing the muscle. All the time spent aching to be held by Seth again came flooding back, almost strongly enough to make him cry. His fingernails wanted to dig into Seth’s back and ground him; keep him there forever to be held and smelled and loved without limit.
Seth inhaled the scent of Finn’s shampoo, exactly the same as he had right before leaving for this hellish trip. It was intoxicating after the week he’d had.
“I missed you so much.” Finn whispered into Seth’s shoulder.
“I missed you.” Seth said, moving one of his hands to the back of Finn’s head.
Remembering that other people were closeby, Seth tried to shake off his own desperation for Finn’s touch and turned the motion into a friendly ruffling of his short hair.
They both chuckled awkwardly as they let each other go. Finn’s eyes darted to the front door, more just to make sure no one was lurking about, but Seth made a point that he hadn’t yet noticed.
“She uh… She didn’t come back with us.” Seth muttered.
Finn wasn’t concerned at first. “Oh… yeah. She likes Adam a lot… Are they getting back together?”
“Uh, I don’t know, but,” Seth crossed his arms, not daring to raise his volume. “Shit went down. I’ll tell you later if no one else does. I um…”
Seth looked over both shoulders nervously.
“I have to tell you something…” He muttered.
“Oh?” Finn wrang his hands, instantly expecting the worst. “What’s going on?”
Once Seth’s eyes connected with Finn’s, he felt a strength like that of a steel padlock around his throat. He could almost see sparkles and stars glimmering around Finn’s angelic face as he waited so patiently for the fucking bomb that Seth now realized he didn’t have the emotional or mental strength to drop.
“You can tell me, it’s okay.” Finn said, faking a smile and Seth wasn’t sure if he had actually blinked in slow motion or if his own brain caused that effect.
“I just um…” Seth shoved his hands into his pockets now, unable to keep still.
He couldn’t tell Finn what Aleister had asked of him. It just didn’t feel right.
Not now at least, he told himself.
“I just really missed you… really badly.” Seth said. It wasn’t necessarily a lie, so he didn’t feel too guilty about saying it.
“Oh!” Worry melted away from Finn’s expression; pure happiness shown through instead.
“I missed you every second.” Finn said, holding his arms out to welcome Seth in for another warm hug.
“Are you wearin’ my sweater?” Seth mused, fitting himself perfectly in place in Finn’s embrace.
“How could you tell?”
“It’s two sizes too big on you.”
The stairs creaked as Aleister came back down and made his way back to the front door, now changed into a casual hoodie and jeans. Seth and Finn broke apart in a hurry, as if they had been caught doing something scandalous.
“Seth, upstairs?” He asked, still keeping up his chipper disposition. That was the part that put Finn into a bit of a nervous state.
Seth nodded and followed, giving Finn’s arm a pat before going.
“Okay... I’ll see you later!” Finn called as they left together.
He looked around and blinked. Just like that, he found himself all by his lonesome once again.
“Alright.” Aleister shut the door tight and took the seat behind his desk. “What do you think?”
Seth shuffled his feet. “Wh-what do I think? I uh… haven’t had much time, don’cha agree?”
“You’ve had ten hours. I think that’s enough.” Aleister shrugged like he really genuinely believed what he was saying.
“Uh. Maybe for others, but I might need a little more time to make a life altering decision.” Seth whispered the final part.
“You say that like it’s negative.” Aleister chuckled.
“I don’t know if it is or isn’t!”
“One way to find out is to say yes.” Aleister said. Seth noticed him fiddling with the wedding band on his own ring finger.
“You don’t think you’re being a little uh, relaxed? About this whole thing?” Seth heard his voice heighten from the stress.
“Well, perhaps, but I know I’m right. Relaxation comes with confidence.” He retorted.
Seth started a snarky sentence, but swallowed it down. He decided to slightly change subjects to avoid getting angry or pressed even further.
“Did you ask Finn about this already?”
“No.” Aleister answered plainly.
“Why not?” Seth raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t need to ask him. He’s not going to say no.” Aleister shrugged again and Seth felt an urge to punch him in the face. While surely later he would mentally dissect that statement for all that it could be worth, at this moment, he was ready for this conversation to be temporarily over.
“I need more time.” He said, short.
“You may have it.” Aleister said, as if all of this was completely up to him. “I’d like you to know before the week is out. At least check in with me by then.”
Seth forced himself to accept that.
“I know you don’t want my opinion,” Aleister started, “and perhaps right now you’d rather punch me in the face than listen to me.”
“But I’ll tell you this: If you say ‘no’ now… This will always be an option for you. I don’t necessarily approve of in-camp dating but, if that’s what you need, I’ll consider it. If you say ‘yes’ now, however… Everything you’re searching for will come to you much earlier than it otherwise would. Just think about that.”
Seth’s ribs felt like they were turning in on each other, threatening to break from the pressure. Aleister was sitting there with the blankest expression on his face, talking about a human being that he practically raised as if he was a magical elixir for sale. An item for auction. He was overcome with horror, disgust. Surely there was a positive ulterior motive, or maybe something that Aleister just wasn’t telling him, but Seth was unable to see the possibility of one right now. If he didn’t already understand why Brie had stayed back with Adam, this solidified why. There were plenty of things he wanted to say, accusations he could throw, but before too much silence could pass, he decided to excuse himself.
“I’ll give it more thought.” Seth said, turned on his heel, and left.
Dinner came and went. Seth and Finn sat next to each other, squirming, trying to pay attention to their spaghetti and not each other.
Post-meal, Aleister insisted to Finn that plans had changed and they didn’t actually have a reason to meet.
“Okay but I still have to tell you something kind of important!” Finn exclaimed, following Aleister around the house, up the stairs, through the hallway.
“I know that, Finn, but I promise you it can wait until tomorrow! We should discuss everything at once.” Aleister said, stopping before his office door. “I appreciate all that you do. Now I want you to do me a favor, alright?”
Finn stammered. “Uh, y-yeah, sure?”
Aleister firmly gripped both of Finn’s shoulders. “I want you to enjoy some time back with the family. Don’t think about work. Don’t think about your obligations. Just for tonight. Can you do that for me?”
He’s being strange.
Finn shook the thought away.
“But… well… yes sir.” He gave up arguing and just nodded.
“That’s my boy.” Aleister squeezed him. “I’ll not be out again. Lots of think about. Goodnight, Finn.”
“Goodnight…” Finn mumbled and tried to smile.
Aleister patted his cheek before he closed the door in his face. The Chief never was the best at displaying affection.
Just two rooms away, Seth had snuck into Dean’s space moments before Finn and Aleister had come upstairs. Dean was reading a book in bed, barely clothed, cigarette within reach on the bedside table. Seth knew what he was here for, and didn’t really need Dean’s help or advice or bullshit sarcasm to find it. He and Roman had spent the entire ride back the same way they had been the ride towards Philly, singing and practically fucking holding hands while Seth writhed in the back seat.
Seth had opened most of the drawers in Dean’s room before he finally peeled his eyes away from the book and acknowledged his friend’s presence.
“Can I help you with something, champ?” Dean asked, gravelly and sarcastic as ever.
Seth climbed to his feet, away from the closet door he had been rummaging through.
“I need weed. I know you have some.” He said.
Dean wordlessly took the cigarette on the table off of the cut-open pop can he was using as an ash try and offered it over. Seth took it and stormed off, slamming the door behind him.
“Wha- hey!” Dean considered getting up and chasing after him for a moment, but simply sighed instead. He tilted his head and recovered another tightly wrapped masterpiece from behind his ear, lit that one, and went back to reading.
Seth wanted to dramatically run away from everyone and go catch a decent buzz on the front porch in solitude, but Finn had been looking and waiting for him just past the stairs. They nearly knocked heads when they bumped into each other.
“Oh hi!” Finn said, flustered by the anger carved into Seth’s beautiful face. “Um, are you okay? I’ve been uh, waiting for you…”
“Uh.” Seth looked from Finn to the weed in his hand. “You wanna go outside?”
“Sh-sure, yeah.” Finn said happily and Seth made a B-line for the front door.
“-and by the time I woke up, it had been three days later. I guess. I don’t fucking know.” Seth said, voice thick. “You want some of this?”
“Yeah.” Finn sighed and invited himself to take the smoked-down cigarette from Seth.
“Woah, really?” Seth laughed and passed it over. “I was being polite, I didn’t think you’d really be down. What with you being a little angel and all.”
“I’ve done some stuff…” Finn rolled his eyes and took a hit like a professional. “Brie really enjoys this stuff.”
“Impressive.” Seth took it back. “But yeah… Not great.”
“I’m so sorry you had such a bad time… Especially since you didn’t even wanna go. I didn’t want you to go, anyway.” Finn mumbled the last bit. “Adam has done his shock treatment thing to me before. I really hated it… How did Dean acclimate to it?”
“Psh. Are you kidding me? Fucking star pupil… Y’know this whole trip woulda been fine if my brother and Dean weren’t writing their fuckin’ wedding vows to each other the whole time.” Seth grumbled as he shook his head. “They fucking love each other.”
“Wha… Now, Roman…” Finn whispered. “Why is he so cruel to you?”
He snaked of his arms through Seth’s. Their fingers interlocked.
“I can’t believe the way he treats you. The things he says… Gosh, it’s just not like any Roman I’ve ever seen before. He’s so mean with you.”
“Eh.” Seth smoked with his free hand. “He’s not wrong for it. It’s whatever… No matter how much I apologize, he’s gonna do and say whatever he thinks I need’a see or hear.”
Finn fidgeted for a moment, far from satisfied with that answer.
“If you’re not comfortable with me knowing, that’s fine...” He started, barely audible. “But may I ask what happened? With you and him?”
“Gah.” Seth looked over the hill the house rested on as he spoke. “It’s no secret. It’s not a long story but it’s a stupid one. I guess.”
Finn ran his thumb over Seth’s fingers. “I’d like to know it.”
Seth took another hit.
“I dunno, it’s just uh… I’ve never really been good at anything? I know it. Roman knows it. My ma sure as shit knew it. Roman was perfect from the beginning, fuckin’ psychic just like her. Going back and forth between the camp in Florida and helping us pay the bills in Iowa. Meanwhile I was bein’ a piece of shit and getting in fights in school or whatever. Just a moody, shitty kid.”
“What could they have expected from you though?” Finn asked.
Seth shrugged. “Better… Just better… than I was. But uh, anyway. Moms got sick, as I think you know. Roman was living here full time by then, makin’ everyone so fuckin’ proud with his kid and his wife and all of his goddamn talents. My house was full all the time, people in and out, taking care of Mom… I dunno. I felt like I didn’t matter. No one really gave a fuck if I was there or not. I wasn’t going to school, anyway.”
“Did no one notice that you were struggling?”
“They didn’t have time to… then Roman came back because she was headed south fast. Then I met… him… and uh. You see how that turned out.” Seth sucked down the rest of the cigarette and flicked it somewhere off the porch.
“Roman is angry with you because you met someone?” Finn asked slowly now, not wanted to pressure Seth into anything.
“Nah.” Seth let go of Finn’s hand and reclined until his back was flat on the front porch. Dean’s cheap weed hadn’t done much for him.
“I got it into my dumbass head that my life would be better with him… So I put Roman, Moms, Iowa, fucking all of it in the rearview mirror.” He threw his hands up. “I didn’t think anyone would even notice. Met Deano along the way. Then Roman came looking for me after I missed the memorial service.” He sat up only a few seconds after laying down.
“I didn’t know any of this was going on…” Finn shook his own head.
“Yeahhh…” Seth continued. “So, he found me. Found my ex… Told me that we deserved each other or whatever… I um… I didn’t know that he was already married…”
Finn sat and listened intently, but Seth was quiet for a long time after that. His gaze was set beyond the hill, towards the road. Far away. Finn placed a delicate hand on his back, and rested his head on Seth’s shoulder.
Together, for a while, they just breathed.
Finn didn’t know what to do. He didn’t even know what to think about any of this. Did he think less of Seth for leaving his family? Surely not, although it was something he himself couldn’t even fathom ever doing. He could feel how uneasy and upset Seth was from the stiffness of his body.
Finn decided to break the silence with his own story.
“I never met my mommy or daddy, y’know.” He said quietly.
Seth finally moved, turning his head towards Finn’s. “No?”
“Mm-m.” Finn said. “Teenagers, from what I understand. They couldn’t take care of me. But I guess they didn’t want me either… Aleister said he’s reached out a few times. Nothing.”
“Fuck…” Seth whispered. “I’m sorry, baby.”
The pet name slipped out of his mouth without thought.
“Thanks, it’s… Yeah, it’s sad and I get pretty down about it sometimes. But the fact is?” Finn sat up straight and reconnected their hands. “The fact is, if they had kept me, I dunno where I’d be right now. I don’t know if I’d be this happy. I certainly would never have met my best friends. My family… “
He turned to Seth, close enough for their noses to touch. “I would have never met you. And now that I have met you, I know I wouldn’t trade anything for you.”
Seth held in a gasp and closed the minimal space between them to kiss Finn softly. His chest was getting tight again, threatening to explode from the multiplying pressure of the proposal that Finn didn’t even know about, the impossibly kind words coming from his pretty mouth, and fucking Christ, what was Seth even doing kissing him right now.
“I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve you.” He breathed against Finn’s lips.
Finn cupped Seth’s jaw with his free hand.
“I wish I could take all of your pain away.” He said as their foreheads gently touched. “I didn’t think I’d ever deserve to have a boyfriend- much less one as perfect as you.”
“Fuck…” Seth squeezed his eyes shut so the never-failing tears wouldn’t flow. Something in him of course wanted to ruin this moment and correct Finn. I’m not your boyfriend, or some such petty bullshit. Surprisingly, the majority of his psyche was touched by the label.
Finn’s hand tightened a little on Seth’s shoulders.
“I know this week was hard on you… I was thinkin’ that maybe… if you’d like to… since Brie isn’t here, maybe you’d like to sleep in my bed with me tonight?”
Seth sniffled and answered without thinking. “Y-yeah. Yes please.”
“Okay.” This time Finn pressed their lips together. “Why don’t you come upstairs and I can give you a massage?”
Seth opened his eyes and thanked the moon for illuminating Finn’s flawless features.
“Really? You’d do that?”
“I want to.”
Seth sniffled and let himself be guided inside the house.
If you'd like to read about how Finn & Seth's night went, and you're a registered user, you can read about it here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17424773
Chapter 10: A Beautiful Life
There is a description of what is (kind of) violence against animals in this chapter. Heads up.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was lucky than Finn had the decent mind to set his alarm before taking Seth into his bedroom, otherwise he probably would have never gotten up. The buzzing from the clock stirred him at precisely 8AM, and he could feel the rays from the sun shining through his bedroom window.
To his absolute delight, Seth was still laid shirtless on top of him, long mane splayed across Finn’s pillows. Happy as could be, Finn curled his arms around his body and kissed the top of his resting head.
Seth whimpered a little as he woke; Finn smiled at his noises.
My angel. He thought, and squeezed Seth a little tighter.
“Mmf… Far from it.” Seth said, voice groggy and low.
Finn blinked. “What?”
Seth pushed himself away from the hug and the coziness of the bed so he could wake up properly.
“Far from an angel, baby boy.” He said with a yawn.
Finn sat up straight with a jolt.
“Seth!” He exclaimed.
Seth’s nose wrinkled at the sudden burst of loudness.
“Seth, I didn’t say that out loud!” Finn said, covering his own mouth from the shock.
“I heard you.” Seth said, stretching his arms out.
“Exactly!” Finn almost yelled.
A minute passed before the pieces interlocked in Seth’s brain.
“Wh… What, you didn’t?” He said, now wide awake.
“Touch your nose if you can hear me.” Finn thought.
On command, Seth delicately placed one finger on the tip of his own nose. Immediatley after, took the finger away and stared at it in shock.
“What… the fuck.”
“You did it!” Finn leapt forward and snatched Seth up in a big hug and kiss. “Darling, you did it! You’re so close, you’re so close!”
Seth hugged him back, mouth agape and eyes widened from disbelief.
“Seth, you did it!” Finn repeated, kissing him here and there joyously.
“Just… just one night… with you…” Seth thought out loud.
“You did this all on your own, my love!” Finn exclaimed. “I knew you could! I knew you could!”
“Uhhh…” Seth lost his train of thought as all the nerves in his skin seemed to begin to dance around. A sensation of extreme energy washed over him, as though he had just taken five shots of pure espresso.
“Baby, I uh… I gotta go, I uh… Gotta…” Seth rolled away from Finn’s embrace and out of bed, pacing for a moment before figuring out where he had discarded his clothing the previous night.
“Oh! Well, do you still want me to make you breakfast?” Finn reminded Seth, looking wounded for a second before shaking it off.
“Uh… No, I’m not very uh… hungry and I uh… Wow, my mind is racing, baby boy, is that normal?” Seth stopped fidgeting and grasped his forehead.
“Don’t be surprised if you get a migraine… Happens to everyone.” Finn shrugged.
“Alright, I gotta… Shower.” Seth ran his hand down his face, snatched up his jeans and shirt and hastily threw them on. He went to run straight out the door, but reconsidered.
Finn was still on the bed, hair ruffled from sleep, slightly pouting. Seth actually managed a chuckle at the expense of his puffed lips. He leaned in to give Finn a proper kiss.
“I’ll see you later on, okay?” He whispered.
Finn licked his lips and looked at Seth with the most awestruck beauty.
Without knocking, Seth burst into Aleister’s office door. The Chief was reclining in his chair, polishing his old cane, seemingly deep in thought.
“I’ll do it.” Seth said breathlessly.
“Hmm?” Aleister looked up nonchalantly.
“Yes. My answer is yes.”
“Seth!” Shock painted Aleister’s face as he sprang from his chair. “Amazing news! Incredible!”
“Yeah, I… I wanna do it.” Seth said, perhaps assuring himself more than Aleister.
“This is fantastic.” Aleister came around his desk and offered Seth a handshake. “Phenomenal! We’ll tell him the good news tomorrow.”
“What?” Seth asked. “Tomorrow? I thought you wanted to do this, like, yesterday.”
“I do, Seth.” Aleister squeezed his hand and nodded. “I’m very ready for it to be official; however something has come up for me today. Tomorrow will be perfect.”
“O-Okay, you got it.”
“Oh - even better! Here’s an idea!” Aleister grinned. “This will give me time to call the construction team you’re working with. Just write me up a list of what’s left to do on the house, and I’ll send that over to them. We’ll get double the team over here- finish the house even faster! You can put whatever finishing touches you want on it, as it’ll be both of your house now!”
Seth chuckled, more from surprise than anything.
“And with twice the team… You’ll be married before the snow falls.” Aleister nodded to himself. “Yes… yes that’ll work out fabulously.”
“Woah…” Seth said, unable to think of anything smarter to say. It was the first week of September now, and if Massachusetts was anything like Iowa, snow was just around the corner.
“This is marvelous… So, so good.” Aleister clapped Seth’s shoulder before turning back to his desk and began rifling through some papers. “I’ve prepared a type of script for this exact moment and you can look it over… Or…”
Seth raised an eyebrow.
“How about this,” Aleister said, one finger raised. “You can ask him yourself if you’d like to! It would be much more traditional- which I believe is what you want, yes?”
“Uh… Yeah. That… that could be nice.”
“Think it over! If you don’t want to, we can all tell him together! Both options are great, Seth. There are no wrong choices here! Not with something this wonderful.”
Despite his nerves feeling aflame, Seth put on a big smile. “Yeah… Yeah, you got it. I’ll try to think of something poetic, I guess.”
“No pressure!” Aleister reminded him. “Remember this is a happy occassion, Seth.”
Seth wrang his hands and could feel his breathing getting shallow, but agreed.
“I am happy.” He said.
Finn craned his neck towards the mirror, examining the dark blotches that colored his otherwise pale skin. Seth had really done a number on him and without Brie here to make the hickies disappear, he would have to come up with some other way to mask them.
He opened the drawers of her vanity until he found her collection of powders and creams. There was a concealer, nearly white enough to match his skin tone and he hastily globbed the stuff onto his fingers. The wet and sticky consistency made him grimace, but he spread as much of it onto his bruised skin as he could without making it look too obvious.
In the same drawer, Brie had those tear drop puffy things he had seen her use a million times, and he snatched one up. He was grateful for the knowledge he did have about makeup, thanks to his best friend, and did his best work on blending the stuff out. He tilted his head again and if he looked hard enough, he could still see the red patches and teeth imprints showing through. This would have to be enough, though, otherwise he’d be late for his first client.
He threw on his favorite jeans, a plain tee shirt and a cardigan and ran downstairs. Seth had vanished either somewhere throughout the house or outside. He had been acting strangely again.
Finn sighed and moved on to make himself something to eat, even though the odd morning after such a blissful night had his stomach uneasy.
Finn, I know we’re not super close and we’re just getting to know each other but uh… Hmm. No. Okay. Finn. When it’s right, it’s right and baby, you’re right… for me? No. That sounds like a fucking Valentine’s card.
Seth snarled to himself as he pounded the sturdy nails into place. He knew he had accidentally been acting weird earlier. If he knew anything about Finn, he was definitely over analyzing the behavior.
Seth wondered if he had any inkling of what was being planned. Was he reading Seth’s thoughts? Did he already have something good planned for a proposal?
He focused as hard as he could on something romantic, without being cliche. Something witty, without being sarcastic. How he could make up for his early morning erratic behavior. All the while trying not to drive a nail through his own hand. His skin crawled from the anxiety of holding in such a monumentous secret.
Life was growing more and more stressful with each passing moment of this single day alone.
Seth still felt like he barely knew anything about architecture and yet, Aleister was expecting a drawn up list of furnishings and attachments still needed from him.
His work took him away from the potential romancing over and over - usually whenever he began to feel some sort of rhythm or clarity on what he wanted to say. There were too many people around for him to think about Finn anyway. He still felt jittery and sensitive after waking up with the Physic Prince, and didn’t want to risk making himself start crying.
After finishing what he had left on the roof, Seth sat on the baking ground and attempted to write up the list of remaining furnishings and features. Wires, tubes, pipes, walls, shingles. All of these things sounded so foreign and fake - like empty words representing ideas that were beyond him entirely.
But they weren’t.
If Seth came up with something romantic to say… and Finn said ‘yes’...
He was building his own house, too, Aleister had reminded him.
“Fuck.” He repeated, out loud this time. Somehow the premise of this vague structure being his very own just made his shoulders clench even more.
“This is crazy…” He mumbled to himself. “This is all fucking crazy.”
Maybe because Aleister had pushed the day of proposing back later, Seth had time to change his mind and retract his agreement.
Finn wouldn’t ever have to know, that way.
Seth sighed hard and buried his face in his hands.
“Fuck my fucking life.”
“I have an assigment for you.” Aleister started.
Roman tread carefully, as that sentence was usually his lead-in for something important.
“Adam met with Ember.”
Roman smirked immediately.
“I know, I know…” Aleister held up a hand to stop him. “I’m skeptical, too. But then last night, I had this incredible dream.”
“Oh yeah?” Roman crossed his arms.
“Yes! It reminded me of the one I had the day before we found Finn.”
“I’m listening.” Roman nodded him along.
“There’s a building… not too far from here, in Lowell. It looks deserted from what they showed me in the dream. I think that’s where he is.” Aleister nodded and showed a glimmer of a smile.
Roman dropped his skepticism for the moment and leaned in. Hushing his tone, in the off chance that nosy ears were about, he asked: “Did you see him?”
“I believe so.” Aleister said. “The description that Ember gave Adam matches my vision. I could have sworn I saw something, someone, that looked exactly like him.”
Roman considered the information.
Aleister had been on a hunt for every type of psychic, every gift, ever since Dream died. He had studied and manipulated every person who came through the house, to try and see if they were the ones who could break through the spirit barrier that kept him separated from his love.
One person continuously evaded Aleister’s Camp. This person who was rumored to have exactly what Aleister could use to convince spirits - the spirit - to talk to him.
“So where do I come in, Chief?” Roman asked.
“Ah… Well. As confident as I am about this mission, I’m not all too certain that I can do it by myself. If possible, I’d love for you to accompany me on this trip.”
“Done.” Roman nodded. “But what makes you think he’ll come with me, if he didn’t go along with Ember?”
Aleister’s shoulder slumped. “I don’t think that, I just… Something is telling me that you have to come with me.”
Roman stood, having heard enough, and offered Aleister a fist to bump.
“I’d follow you to Hell and back, my brother.”
Aleister met Roman’s fist with his own. “Some days that feels closer than others. Would you be able to leave with me? Today? Soon?”
“R-right now?” Roman laughed and grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair to start heading out.
“Yes.” Aleister stopped him from leaving. “If you will… Something is telling me we have to leave today. I’ve rescheduled a… rather important meeting for this.”
“Yeah…” Aleister said. “I think we should leave now.”
Roman shrugged on his jacket. “Long as I’m home by dinner, brother.”
“But I mean… You do see his work ethic, right? He’s improved from… back then?” Aleister asked, tap-dancing very delicately around what he actually intended to ask.
Roman crunched down on a hard candy. “Y’know man, they say near death experiences make you reconsider your whole life. Dunno if that’s how I’d describe what happened. But he seems to at least be attempting to screw his head on the right way. I’ve noticed. He’s workin’ on it. About time if you ask me.”
The drive to Lowell had been a simple one; a breeze on the freeways all the way there. Without a GPS or a map, Aleister’s intuition could guide them anywhere in the world. He was in-tune to the directions the spirits provided, but some thoughts lingered back in the house with Seth and Finn.
“I really like him, Lev, I think he has a ton of potential.” Aleister admitted. “I was wondering your opinion on this idea I-”
The drive was winding down and Aleister’s nerves sprung into high alert as an abandoned lot became visible over a city hill. He sprung up in his chair, interrupting his own sentence, activating the seat belt and scaring Roman.
“Got’cha. Wait, what did you wanna ask?” Roman flicked on the turn signal and rumbled into the unkempt lot.
“I’ll tell you later…” Aleister whispered.
The massive building looked like it hadn’t even been thought about for months. It was large enough to hold something like a department store inside, but now probably just held homes for spiders.
Roman parked the car in the first spot he found, leaving quite a distance between them and the building. Aleister didn’t protest, just in case their point of interest was anticipating their arrival. He locked the car, more out of habit than anything else, and walked against Aleister’s side.
They moved towards the building in silence, heads on swivels, ready to snap at every sound or movement. Despite their preparedness, the summer day was still and unassuming. Not even a seagull was around to make a noise. The sun beat down, baking their foreheads and threatening melanoma.
This location had to once be a thriving place of buisness, and the ghosts of past sounds rang around Aleister’s head like a record playing from a different room. Walking through the abandoned lot gave the feeling of shadows lurking here and there, but without so much as a tree there now, Aleister assumed he was imagining his paranoia. At this point, he wasn’t sure if that was worse than an actual presence.
Once they approached a front door, which had since been boarded up then broken into, Aleister held a hand in front of Roman’s chest like a protective mother and stepped inside before him. His nerves were bouncing all over with every additional inch he covered of this place. There was energy everywhere - and none of it was positive.
Inside, the building looked like it was seconds away from crumbling to dust and smelled of mold and decay.
Roman looked overhead as he gently pushed Aleister’s hand away so he could enter.
“Why would he be here…” Roman whispered. His deep voice rumbled through the walls and shook them.
“No one would expect it.” Aleister answered internally, peering around pillars with a careful eye.
This place had to previously hold a Walmart or something equally as huge. Metal shelves were still standing, colors turning dingy and yellowed from lack of attention. Spider webs and layers of dust clung to everything in sight, and only the sun beating in from the pane glass windows lit their way. Roman’s sneakers and Aleister’s boots clacked against the linoleum floor no matter how gently they stepped, creating echoes around them.
“This isn’t good, brother.” Roman thought. “We shouldn’t be here.”
“He’s here.” Aleister nodded, more to himself than to Roman.
Without warning- and startling enough to make bother Roman and Aleister nearly jump out of their skin- a single strum of a guitar sounded.
Both of their eyes shot about, in search the sound, and as promised, there he was, casually leaning against a wall, guitar in hand, only a few yards away from where they had just walked in.
“Elias!” Aleister exclaimed.
“Welcome, boys.” Elias said, aimlessly strumming now as he spoke. For being inside this dilapitated building, he was dressed impressively well. Brand new jeans, wing-tipped boots, long hair and beard maintained flawlessly.
“Took ya long enough.”
“Elias, if you would.” Aleister started, turning his body towards this fabled acquisition.
“I’d love to have you return to camp with us, even for only an hour or two. We’ve come a long way to meet you-”
“Y’know, they call you the Voyager.” Elias said, as if he hadn’t heard a word Aleister spoke.
“But it seems like all your voyages involve Elias. This time you’ve brought your guard dog to hunt me down.”
“I’ve been following you for a while now.” Aleister took a step forward; never taking an eye off of the target. “Roman is my best friend; he nor I mean you any harm.”
“Be that as it may.” Elias held the strings of his guitar for a moment; all sound ceased. “Elias enjoys his privacy. You can’t seem to respect that, Voyager.”
Aleister folded his hands. “Elias, my apologies. I’ve heard stories about your gifts and-and I’ve never encountered one of your kind before. If you would allow me to work with you for only an evening, I would be forever-”
“In my debt?” Elias asked, raising an eyebrow and finally looking Aleister dead in the eyes. “What could you possibly have that Elias wants?”
“Why is he talkin’ like that…” Roman asked under his breath, eyes shifting uncomfortably between the two.
“You can live with us… Entirely for free, if you’d like. Take whatever you need. We can work together. Surely, this can be a symbiotic relationship!” Aleister said, high pitched and nearly pleading.
“Uh-huh, yeah.” Elias returned his attention to his beloved instrument. “Living amongst you and your slaves holds no interest for me.”
He started idly strumming again. Roman’s hands tightened to fists.
“And I’ll tell you what, Voyager- Elias is pretty tired of you following him around.”
“Elias, do this for me once and you’ll never see or hear from me again-”
“You see now-” Elias pushed off from the wall and took a step towards the two. Aleister and Roman both felt their nerves bouncing around and planted their feet firmly on the ground, as if in battle stances.
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice.” Elias sang now. “You bring your dog to hunt me down- You’re not the only one with friends in this town.”
“Wha-” Roman didn’t know whether or laugh or be even more creeped out by the sudden sing-a-long. He looked to Aleister for some sort of solidarity, but found only fear on the Chief’s face.
“Elias, please.” Aleister said, voice shaking slightly.
“Forget my name, forget my face.” Elias continued singing, pausing for only a moment to laugh.
“That is, if you make it out of this place.” He sang, smiling so confidently and nonchalantly.
He took one step closer to the pair.
“Voyage, no more.”
Before Aleister and Roman could diagnose the severity of Elias’ threat, a booming growl sounded through the empty warehouse.
Roman’s head whipped around as padding footsteps and clacking claws echoed in.
Elias snickered as his demons - disguised as massive dogs, with eyes as black as their matted coats, closed in on the pair, coming from the broken down aisles. They resembled Dobermen, with pointed ears and agile bodies, though Mother Nature herself couldn’t have created dogs of this sheer size and power. Roman quickly counted five of them, but the vast store could have been housing many, many more.
“I’ve got guard dogs of my own.” Elias whispered, barely audible over the beasts’ snapping jaws.
“Elias…” The name fell one last time from Aleister’s lips, before the animals, in unison, leapt onto The Cheif, snarling and barking as they did.
“Aleister!” Roman involuntarily jumped back as the beasts sank in their teeth, completely eclipsing his view of his brother as they overcame him with ease. Aleister toppled to the dirty ground with a blunt thud, letting out a shriek of agony.
Briefly, Roman caught sight of Elias walking away, casual as ever, without so much as a look behind. Any other time, Roman would have been determined to seize the enemy, take him down and beat his ass.
Acting on impulse now, Roman tackled the nearest demon, slamming it to ground. He focused all of his energy on force field, force field, force field, the mental feat that had since been out of touch for him. Before the first beast could regain its balance, Roman threw back an elbow, connecting with the snout of another one.
A third, who had been busily rag-dolling Aleister’s arm around like a chew toy, yipped and jumped towards Roman. Instinct kicked in and Roman threw a massive blast of force towards the demon, sending it flying into an overturned shelf. He was impressed with himself for a moment, but quickly caught the jaws of the first, sank into his outstretched left hand.
Roman yelled, more from surprise than pain, and used the demon’s own power against it, to pull it towards him and punch into its ribs. The monster released its grip with a yelp of pain and Roman redirected the force to this one, throwing it away from the others in a heap.
Force field, force field, force field.
With two down - Roman stumbled briefly before he could stand. One of them pounced onto his presented back. Roman reached back to grab the beast by the neck and caught more gnashing teeth into his forearm. Through the pain, he pulled the creature over his own head and slammed it with all of his might onto the back of the one biting Aleister’s face.
Four down - and a pool of blood had long since formed around Aleister’s now motionless body. Roman didn’t have the time or means to think of anything clever, so he resorted to landing a kick into the chest of the final, and largest, monster. Ripped black clothing and blood decorated the beast’s face. It was caught off guard by the kick, where the other ones would have been completely incompacitated. It ceased its attack on Aleister, only to turn the focus to Roman himself. It roared, unlike any earthy animal, and charged the closest thing to it’s sickening mouth - Roman’s shin.
Roman screamed in pain again and rained his massive fists onto the demon, landing anywhere they could. Another one was beginning to stir after being dazed by Roman’s strength and dragged its injured legs over to the scene.
The bloody images faded away as Roman’s eyes were filled with a soothing lavendar color - the same color Finn had told him described his energy. His head spun as flashes of Aurora came over him as he started to resign from the battle. He found himself thinking of his brother, and how he would proceed to influence her life if Roman was bested by these demonic creatures.
Like water draining from an opened bottle, the lavendar fell away, as did the piercing teeth around his leg.
Aleister had managed to crawl over - though Roman could barely recognize his brother from the blood soaked mess his face had become. Aleister had one fist around the monster’s back leg and somehow, someway, manipulated the creature’s body, stopping its heart. It dropped dead, directly onto Aleister’s chewed up body.
Roman snapped back to reality and pushed the horrific creature off, using only his impressive physical strength. With everything he had left, Roman knelt and pulled Aleister onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. Aleister was dead weight, all six feet and two-hundred pounds of him rested haphazardly on Roman’s unsteady shoulders. Almost instantly, Roman’s wounded leg gave out and he stumbled, but did not drop the Cheif, or lose focus of the mission.
The car was parked back the way they had came, and now two of these monsters had risen and were standing directly in their path. Over the sound of his heart pounding in his ears, Roman heard Aleister give out a defeated moan.
“Don’t give up on me, brother!” Roman screamed, the words coming out breathlessly.
Force field, force field, force field.
The monsters were hurt, limping as they yipped and licked their blood-soaked fangs.
“Do not give up!” Roman screamed again.
Force field, force field, force field.
Pushing all his weight onto his good leg, Roman closed his eyes.
FORCE FIELD, FORCE FIELD, FORCE FIELD.
When his eyes opened, his vision was blurred by a lavendar tint, like a filter over a photo.
He held his hand out before him, spraying blood here and there from his wounds.
Visible only to him, a screen of energy came over him and Aleister, blasting the monsters back a few feet and onto their sides.
FORCE FIELD, FORCE FIELD, FORCE FIELD.
Roman powered through all the searing pain, all of the danger, past the wounded beasts, and all of the thoughts of abandoning his family. Aleister felt closer to a thousand pounds as he ran through the same door they had entered, back into the blistering heat and vast nothingness.
The car was parked as far as it possibly could have been and Roman dragged both of them over to it. Behind him, he heard growls and barks as the creatures regained their consciousness and surely would be following close behind.
Roman’s ragged breath narrated his struggle as each step he took became more labored and slow.
The car was within reach after what may as well have been a year of efforts. Throwing a cautionary glance over his shoulder, Roman saw the pack closing in, moving just as slowly as he himself had been.
Roman cursed himself for even bothering to lock the vehicle. Hands trembling, he fumbled through his own pockets, making sure to keep Aleister as steady as possible. After a few moments of advantage for the beasts - success!
He unlocked the car and as carefully as possible, unloaded Aleister into the passenger seat.
“We made it brother, stay awake, stay awake with me-” Roman gasped and tripped over to the driver’s side door. He crashed into the car and started it up, almost feeling relief when the engine roared. Without even looking around, Roman threw the vehicle into ‘drive’ and sped out of the parking lot, leaving the demons in the dust, only able to howl after the escaping vehicle.
The gas pedal was being pressed right against the floor of the vehicle, and the spedometer reached its limit within seconds.
“Do not die on me, brother!” Roman shrieked. “Do not fucking die on me!”
Aleister’s body slumped with each directional change. Faintly, Roman could hear his ragged breathing.
Desperate, and now all too aware of the forty-five minute drive back home, Roman thrust his right arm over Aleister’s exposed tattooed chest.
“Take it! Take it, brother! Take my energy, take whatever! Fucking take it!”
Aleister managed to choke out a small groan.
“Fucking - I can’t live without you, bro! DO NOT DIE ON ME!” Roman’s voice boomed inside the small space. “We’re gonna make it, brother! Stay with me! You hear me?”
Aleister grazed Roman’s hand with his fingertips; barely there.
“I’m gonna get you home and Brie’s gonna - wait, FUCK.” Roman yelled once he remembered. Brie was over three hundred miles away, and in no mood to come home to The Camp. And now, back onto the city streets with pedastrians and stop lights, Roman was running out of options and running out of time. He scanned the horizon for any large building that could possibly be a hospital.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck! Stay with me, brother! Do not fall asleep!” Roman tried to grab onto Aleister’s shredded shirt to shake him.
Roman’s attention was split halfway on the road and halfway on Aleister’s dimming light. He caught a glimpse of what he thought could be something and turned down a side street without signaling or waiting for a light, resulting in quite a few angry honks from surrounding drivers.
There was a massive chance that man-made hospital equipment wouldn’t be able to help wounds directly given from Hell itself. But there was absolutely no chance whatsoever that Aleister was going to live through the drive home. He didn’t want to acknowledge it but he could tell that his own vision was starting to blur; a migraine was starting to form. He was losing his own blood, fast.
His inkling had been true and he sped into the hospital parking lot, all caution thrown to the wind. The tires screeched as he whipped around here and there. Not even bothering to look for an emergency room sign, Roman stopped and parked at the nearest door, turned off the car and pocketed his keys. Like before, he carefully but quickly removed Aleister from the passenger seat and stumbled into the hospital, not bothering to even check if the car doors were closed.
The next moments, in hindsight, were a mirage.
Roman screamed for help. Employees flocked to the injured brothers. He made up a lie that he wouldn’t be able to maintain about how this happened. Aleister was taken from him and strapped into a gurney. Help was offered and refused and offered and refused until the last thing Roman saw was the hospital’s linoleum floor before he fainted into it.
No one back at the Camp would have been wiser, since everyone had been wrapped up in their own business and their own work. Roman and Aleister had checked in before leaving; said they would be home for dinner.
It was Finn’s job to cook that night, and while he was deep in thought about the color of Seth’s eyes, and what he could have been so anxious about lately, a voice he had never heard before rang through his head. All focus was shattered and the hot pan of vegetables was dropped as this stranger shrieked for Finn’s attention.
Find the Voyager! Find him, Finn!
The Voyager will take you home!
First installment of 'The Conductor' series in the bag! Watch this space for the following fics in the series. Chapter 1 of the immediate sequel coming soon! Will Finn find out what Aleister was planning? Will Seth have an anxiety attack? Is Brie gone forever?? Will Dean do a thing?! All will be revealed in 'Pyro' - coming extremely soon.
Thank you so much for everyone who has read thus far. This story is far from over. The format will (hopefully) make sense soon.
Also also - if you wanna know what happened during Seth & Finn's night together, registered user or not, check it out here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17424773
Let me know what y'all think.