Thursday, June 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Rave!

  A/N Happy 18th birthday, Raven! I wrote you a story! [About time, right?] I don't really know how I came up with it..., but I hope you like it and don't mind anything that happens in it xD. It took long enough to complete, lol, but then, I AM a very, very slow writer, so I believe the longness is my fault entirely :P [technically finished it yesterday, edited it a bit today.] Now, along and along I've been editing it, but I didn't read the WHOLE thing today and edit again, [only the last, oh, 10 paragraphs or so] so hopefully everything is good and not awkward or anything :P.
  It's in first person, by the way, because I write better in first person :P.
  Basically that's it. Basically..., HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND ENJOY! 


  My name is Nights Raven, and I'm not sure how I came to be here in this cave, in a forest.

  Next to a dead body with my arrow sticking from his chest.

  I blink. I feel my brow knit in confusion. I blink again. My first thought is, unsurprisingly, "what the hell?" I'm standing, my bow on the ground a short distance away. With surprise, I feel dampness on my cheeks, and, touching them, I think maybe it's tears. I step cautiously towards the man laying supine next to me, a puddle of blood on his chest, caught in his shirt where the arrow- seemingly my arrow- killed him. I crouch and look at his face, handsome enough, but more interestingly, incredibly, horribly sad.

  A worm of fear and worry takes hold of me. I don't recognize this dead man. I look around, but I don't recognize my surroundings. I feel for my phone, but I don't seem to have it on me. I lurch from the cave, the strangeness of my amnesia taking hold of me, and suddenly I'm running, running as quickly as I can, away, just away, not looking where I'm going, just fleeing as far and as fast as I can go.

***
Two weeks later

   It's been a couple weeks since I was in those woods, not too far from here. I still don't know what happened, and I try not to think about it. There hasn't been anything on the news or in the newspaper, and I've switched apartments, not too far away, but far enough to feel safer. I would have tried to find out who he was, the man in the forest, but I don't even know his name...

  I still have nightmares. I wake up screaming, crying. Most of the time, I didn't even know or remember why.

  So I go on with life... unsure of the right thing to do, pretending nothing has happened.

  Hoping nothing will.


***

  I decided to disappear today. Today, my birthday. I know it sounds strange, but I didn't feel like celebrating. I'm not even sure why myself. I woke up at 4:06 A.M., and, thinking about what my friends were probably planning, I sighed and somehow decided I was going to avoid them. I'm still not entirely sure why, but now I am in Starbucks, the first person here.

  I stand at the register, a brightly smiling barista standing in front of me, waiting for my order. I feel a prickle on my neck and  glance behind me. Nobody. The prickle doesn't go away. I look over my other shoulder. At first, I don't notice anything, but then, in the corner, a dark figure, brooding over a cup of something hot. His green eyes look away when I see at him.

  I'm the second person here, I guess. "Wwwwould like something, ma'am?" The bright barista asks politely. I don't, actually. "Um, a blueberry muffin, please."

"Yes, ma'am! Would you like that heated?"

"... Sure..."

"That'll be $2.62, please." I give her the money. I have that irritating sensation that someone is watching me. I dart a look at the fellow in the corner, and this time, he doesn't look away.

"Hey," I say a little rudely, "can I help you with something?" Silently, he shakes his head, takes a sip of his coffee, and continues staring at me.

  I leave without my pastry.
***

  Having nothing planned for the day, I kind of wander. I stroll downtown, hands in my pockets. All the shops are closed at this time of the morning. There's a circus, but it doesn't open til eight. I go in anyway, nobody at the gate. I walk past unwinnable games, the Ride of Relics, the closed popcorn stand, and inevitably end up at the Ferris wheel. My feet stop, my eyes rise up, up. It isn't the biggest I've ever seen, but it's awfully tall. One would be able to see most of the city from the top of that. The carriages are brightly colored, suspended above ground by long metal poles.

  On an impulse, I climb into one, a green one, and sit in the small white seat. I hear cars rushing in the distance, birds chirping up above somewhere. I smell popcorn and metal and grass. I don't know why I'm here. A breeze rustles through my hair making the blond strands dance. I shake my head, stand, about to climb back out again.

  "Nights," someone quietly says my name. I flinch, startled more than I should have been, but not many people can sneak up on me, and besides, there wasn't supposed to be anyone here. "You!" I murmur. It's the guy from Starbucks. "Why are you here?" I'm angry. "Why are you following me?" In reality, I'm more exasperated with myself than with him. I should have noticed him.

"Nights, we've met before.... Think about it. Remember." I look at him quizzically. "Remember," he repeats.

  I want to question it; I should question it, but instead, I find myself trying to associate the mild sense of deja vu I have with a memory in the back of my mind. He looks sort of familiar. I tilt my head slightly, a strand of blond hair falling diagonally across my face, and suddenly... I'm recalling being somewhere with lots of people, people everywhere, but I'm sitting. I'm here. This circus. This Ferris wheel, but some other time, another time when it's broad daylight, and open, and the wheel is spinning, higher and higher. And... and across from me is Auron. Auron, this man who brushes a stray lock from my eyes.

  I recoil, bouncing off the seat behind me, nearly falling out of the Ferris wheel carriage before my reflexes can react, but the stranger is in front of me, catching me, pulling me up. Steadying me. My heart thuds, his palms on my arms, suddenly close, too close. Who is this man? He isn't Auron. I've seen Auron- whoever Auron is- and this man isn't him..., and yet, I feel as if he is, somehow, the same person. It frightens me that I know that I know him, yet can't remember, and he remembers... what? What does he know that I don't?

  It's too much, too many questions, too strange, too unnatural. I pull from his grasp and shove past him. I jump to the dirt ground and I run the way I came, past the rides, past the popcorn stand. I reach the exit and keep going. The dirt changes to cement. I don't stop, my feet hitting the ground faster than my heart beats.

  Why are you running? My brain asks. What are you afraid of? But I ignore those thoughts and just keep going, living only gut instinct, living on what I rely on daily. No, stop, you shouldn't be running. This is ridiculous. What are you afraid of? But I don't know the answer to that.

  I hear footsteps behind me. I look over my shoulder and see the man. Auron? Again. He's chasing me, a desperate look on his face.

"Just leave me alone!" I shout at him.

"I- I can't. Please, Nights. Come on, Nigh! Just let me talk to you!"

  It's the "Nigh" that stops me. My feet slow, my face flushed, the hairs sticking to the back of my neck. I pant slightly, and slowly turn to face him. He stops five paces away, hands on knees, trying to catch his breath. I don't know what it is about his calling me "Nigh," but it... it just felt right.
I don't know how to explain it, and the way this day is going I'm beginning to wonder if I'll be able to explain anything by the time it ends.

"What?" I say. He holds up one finger while he continues huffing. I tap my foot impatiently, and with a half smile, he glances up at me.

"You always were the fastest girl I knew."

"You- how do you know me? How do I know you?"

"It's... a long story. We should... go someplace and-"

"No, stop right there. I've seen the tv, you know. You're going to tell me- whatever it is- here. Now. Or I will leave."

"Here? But we're in the middle of the street." He waves his arms around to indicate this, as if it isn't obvious. "How can I tell you everything here. Cars could run us down any second."

"It's- what- five in the morning now? Six at the latest? Not many people are out at this hour. I don't think you have to worry about being run over, but if worse comes to worst... then save yourself."

Inexplicably, he laughs. "Same old Raven, aren't you?" I don't have anything to say to that. "Look," he says, "you aren't going to believe me at first. Remembering is always the hard part.... But... you just have to listen and try."

"Well, you have five minutes to make me want to listen, so say something good."

He's exasperated, I can tell. "I can't... five minutes?" He shuts his eyes and pauses, takes a deep breath.

  "Alright..., alright," his hands are palm out, giving in."I'll summarize. I don't know anything else I can do. I just hope that you can will believe me.... It started two years ago. We bumped in to one another. We started chatting, we got along. We got...," he lifts a shoulder, "better than along... This went on for a long while- we were seeing each other practically every day doing... nothing, everything. We went to bookstores, movies..., we would just meet and watch the sunset.... Any excuse was a good one."

I cross my arms and don't say anything. I feel I know him, but... watching sunsets?

  He continues, "then... something happened."

"What happened?"

"It's hard to explain. There were these people, and they were after us- well, not us, they were after ME. They captured me. I... don't really remember much of what happened... just lots of pain... But you came and got me. We escaped. Just... not before they had unlocked something... something I didn't know was inside of me, a monster inside of me. It would come out and rampage, hurting people. It was only you who could turn me back into me again, Nigh, and then... only sometimes."

I shift and stare at the ground, not wanting to see his soul searching eyes. This isn't the craziest thing I've heard, but it's pretty high on the list.

  "... They were still after me, though, the people. They thought they could control the monster. We fled, disappeared into a forest, leaving all technology behind, to keep them from tracking us, living by our wits, trying to learn to keep the beast from coming out. I couldn't always..., and I hurt you," he looks down, ashamed. "More than once... You wouldn't leave, though. You would stay and try to stop me, try to keep me from unleashing it..."

  "One day," he continues, "I just couldn't control it any more. I turned into the creature, and I was going to kill you." He pauses.

"What happened?" My mouth asks against my will. I shut it.

"I was killed instead."

"...What?"

"A hunter had seen me, shot me... That didn't stop me right away, and I went after him. I heard you shouting, but I can't remember well when I'm... Anyway, several shots later, I was on the ground, life leaking from me. The hunter had fled, I think... Dying, I turned back into a man, but I only had a few more breaths.... I saw your face, crouching over me, crying, beautiful... before my heart stopped beating."

  Was he insane? A vampire? This was impossible. More than that, though, it scared me. Dying? In the woods? No civilization, no phones. This sounded like my... experience.. two weeks ago. "You couldn't have, though." I finally say. "You're here, right here, not dead."

"I know. I don't know why, but I woke up in those woods, alive. The bullet holes were gone, and I had healed, somehow, inexplicably. But you weren't there, and when I went searching for you, I found out it had been days, days I had been laying in the woods, healing, somehow. There was no trace of you anymore, though, and of course, I had to find you! It took a while because you had moved and covered your tracks well, but then... then I did find you.... And you didn't remember me."

"You're saying... Wait, this has happened before then. I don't- this doesn't make sense."

  "I know. It's crazy and confusing, but true. I've died two more times since then, one from the people who are after me, and... another by you, not long ago." He murmurs gently. I feel my cheeks burning. This person knows. Is he trying to trick me into confessing something I don't even remember doing? He wasn't the person in the woods. I had gotten a good look at him- I had nightmares, and he wasn't in them. Proof, then, he was lying? But it felt as if he was telling the truth.

I scoff, "I killed you. Right. How did I do that?"

"You... shot me, Rae, with your bow. You didn't have any choice," he adds. "You couldn't run, you couldn't hide, you couldn't talk me down, not that time. It was absolutely the right thing to do."

"But... if I had been there, shot you..." I tried to figure out how to say this without giving anything away. "Surely I would have seen you, even if I did have amnesia. Surely I would recognize your face..."

"I know where you're going with this." He shakes his head sadly. "This is going to be hard to believe..."

"Harder than the rest of this story?" He smiles, not a real smile, just smiling because he's supposed to.

"Whenever I come back, wake up... Nobody remembers me, you know, but more than that... I.. look different. My face has changed, my height, my hair color..., everything. I'm a new man... with memories no one else has.... At least not at first. You've always remembered me eventually. It just takes a lot of determination." The corners of his mouth lift hopefully.

  So then, no proof. All I had to go by was his word. His word and my memories, if there were even any I possessed. "But if I tried to remember you, would I see you as... this body?"

"No, you've told me before that you see my other faces and somehow still associate them with... with this- with whatever face I have." He struggles to find the right words.

I have one more question- for now. "What's your name?"

"It's Auron."

***

  I'm at home. Auron gave me a phone number, and I left with lots of things to think. I took a very long walk, sorting through everything he had told me, aligning it, rearranging it, trying to decide what to do with it. At last, I came here, deciding if I was ever going to believe any of it, I would have to see it in my own mind first.

  It's seven in the morning now. I'm suddenly famished. Opening my fridge I notice something that wasn't there before, a small round ice cream cake that has tiny blue writing on the top. I lean closer to read it. "Happy birthday, Rae! From all of us [but especially me]. Also, turn on your phone. I've been trying to call you since midnight! -Kal" I frown. It's my birthday. I had forgotten. And apparently, I was going to have to change my locks again....

Quickly, I write on a post-it-note and stick to the outside of my door: I have gone to visit Aunt Becky. Might stay there a while. Don't worry, just wanted to get away for a bit. P.S. My phone broke. I'll call all of you when I get a new one. P.P.S. Stop breaking into my apartment!

  I don't have an Aunt Becky, but fortunately for me, nobody knows that. Looking at my phone, I see eleven phone calls with eleven consecutive messages, all from Kal plus two from Skyril and Israel. I chuckle but shut off my phone, figuring I'll listen to them later when I have less on my mind. With a sigh, I let myself sit gratefully on the couch. I don't realize til afterwords that I didn't get anything to eat, but I'm too worn out to get back up.

  I stretch out, determined to remember something of Auron, if that's even possible. I yawn, very comfortable. As I lay there, my eyelids get heavy, drifting closed. I do try to stay awake, but I can't even concentrate hard enough to do that. "Just a few minutes, then I'll try to remember you, Auron," I tell myself.

  I sleep and dream of him instead.

***
 
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" his palms are out, his eyes apologetic.

"No, it was my fault, don't worry about it."

"But I spilled your drink. At least let me get you another," he smiles charmingly.

***

  The Ferris wheel is rising higher. The lights of the city are bright. It's beautiful here. Auron's hand overlaps mine, and instead of pulling back, I just look at him, strangely happy.

***

   I'm happy. He's leaning towards me. His arm is around my shoulders as we rise higher and higher in the Ferris wheel. This was the perfect place to come, the place we met. It's been weeks since we've been here. I was so glad the circus was still in town. 

  His hand caresses my chin, and I grin at him as he turns my face into his for a kiss.

***

  "No!" I cry, tears streaming down my face. Blood seeps from the ragged holes in his chest. I fall by his side, uncaring of the hunter who has fled. "I'll fix it!"
 
"..N.. no," he coughs up blood. 

"I can fix this! I just have to get you back a doctor! To the Sanctuary! You're going to be fine."

"You can't do an-y-thing,"

"Don't talk..." I mewl, trying to stop the bleeding, but there are too many wounds, too many! "Please" I whisper, "please." Please what or to whom I don't know.

With little strength left, he brushes my knuckles with his fingertips, and I grasp that hand, touch it to my face, close my eyes, comforted by his touch. "S-smile for me, Nigh," he murmurs. I choke over the lump in my throat, bite my lip. I can't do it, I can't. I still have his hand to my face, stubbornly refusing to let go, and from that, I take the strength I need.

  Through force of will I lift the edges of my lips, my brow furrowed in helplessness. He stares up at me, a small flicker of lightness in his eyes at my poor attempt of a smile. There's blood on his face, but all I see are his eyes, his beautiful eyes.

  With a sharp intake of breath, the life goes out of his those eyes. They close.

  I can't breath. A whining cry sounds, and all I know is that I'm fiercely kissing his rough cheek and burying my head in his shoulder, wailing, my arms strung across his bloodied chest. I cry and cry and...

  with a start, I sit up, look down at the dead man before me, feel the dampness on my cheeks, wonder where I am.

***

  I'm screaming when I awake and claw at my face, the tears from that dreadful feeling of loss burning in my chest. I sob, a tortured, strangled sound. I curl into a ball on the couch, my mind still in that past, that painful, wonderful, horrible past. 

***


  It's after noon when I call Auron. How much of that time I spent sleeping and how much of it I spent weeping I don't know.

He answers, a hopeful tone in his voice. "Raven?" My throat constricts. He might not have the same face, but that voice... I swallow.

"I'm hungry."

"... Where would you like to go?"

"McDonalds." I hear the smile in his voice.

"Which one?"

"The one on Sherwood."

"Ok... Meet you there?"

"Yeah... Bye."

"Wait!"

"..."

"I just... I just wanted to say thank you... for giving me a chance." 

I swallow again.

"See you there," he murmurs quietly. I hang up.

  I look at myself in the mirror. My blond hair drifts over my face. I've already scrubbed the tears off, but it seems to me I can see the streaks on my skin. I splash cold water on my face. I watch as water drips from my chin and clings to my hair.

  Before I leave I sweep the hair out of my eyes and pin it up with a beret I never use.


***

  He's standing outside when I get there. The temperature has warmed from the early morning to comfortable, and neither he nor I are wearing jackets. I don't talk when I see him, though, just nod and walk inside, ordering something from the menu, waiting as long as possible to sit down and have the conversation I know we need to have. It doesn't take them long to prepare my food, though, and I sigh, sitting in a back corner away from the prying eyes and ears.

  "So..." Auron speaks first, haltingly. "Have you... remembered anything?"

I duck my head, wishing I hadn't pinned up my hair so that I could hide the blush I feel coming on with the memory of that simple kiss, high in the air. "I remember... a little. I remember enough. It wasn't very hard, though. To be honest, I wasn't even trying, I was dreaming... How I know what I dreamed was more than a dream... I just do."

"You dreamed it?" Surprise colors his voice.

"Is that unusual?"

"Well... last time it was easier for you to remember, but it wasn't as easy as dreaming. If you remembered me that quickly, than I'm afraid others might too."

I munch on a fry. "Do the people who are chasing you have a name? Are they a group?"

He sighs, "LOST."

"... Seriously."

"Yes, it means 'League of Scientific Testers.' Basically, they search out strange people like me who aren't really magic but are also far from normal."

"That has got to be the dumbest acronym I have ever heard."

"I know. 'Testers' because they get it wrong... a lot... and end up torturing and eventually killing innocent mortals." He shakes his head in a helpless show of regret.

"So... if they're mortals and I'm a sorcerer... what are you?"

He looks down, "I'm not sure what you would call it. You know how there are sea hags and... I don't know... other strange creatures."

I can't help but laugh, "So you're kind of like a sea hag, then?"

"Uh... well, I'm one of those.... I'm sort of like... Well, some people would call me... Big Foot."

I drop the potato I had grasped between my forefinger and thumb. "You're Big Foot? You're kidding me." I think he's blushing.

"Well... I'm sort of Big Foot. Maybe. I don't know. What is Big Foot but a legend? Maybe I'm that legend... or have become it... Maybe it's more of a genetics thing passed down through generations. Big Foot was just a hypothesis. Your hypothesis, actually."

"My hypothesis?" I laugh again, first just a chuckle, but then I'm throwing my head back and clutching my stomach as tears leak from my eyes. I swipe at them, but they just keep coming. Auron is obviously trying to keep a straight face, but he isn't doing a very good job. Suddenly he's laughing too, and every time I look at him, I howl again until I can't breath, and I'm screaming "It hurts! It hurts!" People are looking back at us either with amused smiles or weird expressions, but I don't care, and it takes a long time for me to stop. And I'm not even sure what I was laughing at!

 We slowly compose ourselves, still catching our breaths, I lean back and grin at Auron.

He smiles back- shyly for some reason. "What are you smiling at?" he asks.

"Nothing. This. You," my smile widens, "I think you're one of the most interesting people I've ever met."

"I can see how you would say that," he nods, eliciting another laugh from me.

"So then," I ball up my trash and indicate the nearest trash can, "do you think I can make it?"

"What, from here? Easy." Grinning ridiculously as Auron happily provides the narrator's voice, I toss the trash "she shoots... She scores! A perfect shot! And team Raven wins the game in the nick of time!" He raises his hands and makes crowd cheering sounds. "Aaaahhhhhhh...."

  "Auron?" I murmur.

"Yes, Nigh?"

I barely know him, other than a few disjointed memories of another face, another time, a dead man in the woods, two strange conversations.

I don't want to lose him.

"What are we going to do? We've tried- and failed- three times already. Have we made any progress? Who knows how many times you'll come back to life. I don't want-..." I shut my mouth abruptly. "...As far as you know, this could be your last chance."

"I know, I know.... We have learned some things, but we just haven't succeeded-" his eyes grow wide all of a sudden.

  "Raven. It's happening. I have to get out of here, away from all these people!" He looks around him, panic etched into every core of his being. It doesn't take me a second to figure out what he's talking about, but before I do, he's up, making a mad dash for the back door, crashes through a pair with a tray, knocking everything to the ground "Hey!" the pair says angrily. Fear, anxiety, concern shoot through me, and I chase after him, muttering, "sorry!" on the way.

  I slam through the back door he just flung open, and I'm shocked to find he's already across the parking lot, his lope unnatural, longer than it should be. He's going to the the thin, sparse woods behind McDonalds, the only possibly place to put a monster in such a short time frame. All around us are businesses, homes. I have to do something, but what? Tell everyone to flee? That Big Foot is going to come eat them? I follow Auron, my legs pumping, my boots hitting the ground. I get deja vu from this morning, except this time, I'm the one doing the chasing.

 I enter the woods myself, leaping over brush and tree trunks. I skid down a small slope calling, "Auron!" He doesn't answer, but I hear him cry out, and I track the sound. He's in on his knees, head down, hands fisted at his sides. He growls savagely, his voice unnaturally deep, gravelly, "get away, Raven! I don't have- much..."

"No, Auron. I'm going to stay with you." I'm determined. There's no other choice anyway.

I can tell he already can't talk, but his face contorts painfully with a look of agony and fear and deep rooted worry for my own life. He shouts, and the shout turns into a scream, and the scream turns into a roar as his body grows, his muscles bulge, his clothes, shred, falling to pieces around him. Fur sprouts along most of him, fingers turn to claws, his teeth sharpen, his jaw grows around them. His eyes are the last to turn. Red, with slashed pupils like a canine.

  I stare at this transformation, so unexpected, so wrong, unlike anything I've seen before. He rises. It rises. His mouth opens and screams at me like an ape but deeper, more vicious. I snarl, slide my fingers in my boots, withdraw my twin daggers. I can't let him kill anyone. I can't.

  "Auron!" I shout, "stop. I don't want to do this. Please," he howls at me again, lopes toward me with inhuman speed. I cry out, fall to one side, his claws grazing my arm. He spins on me before I can get up, and I barely have enough time to roll away, just missing a thrash that would have gutted me. He's too fast! I leap again, my instincts telling me to move. Adrenaline makes me fast, but I don't know if I'm fast enough for him.

  I manage to gain my feet, but he's right in front of me, attacking with the strength of a bear, the speed of a cheetah, and rage, so much rage. I can't put on any form of assault, my whole purpose is jumping back, back, side, again, trying to keep out of his deadly reach, hoping I won't trip, won't hit a tree. I don't have such luck, I skitter backwards, and I don't expect the ground to dip. I fall back, his talons lacerating my stomach. I scream in pain, tumbling, rolling down a valley. He's at the top, but he sees me. He won't stop. He's going to kill me. He screams at me, thumps his chest.

  "It was only you who could turn me back into me again, Nigh, and then... only sometimes." Auron's words suddenly leap into my mind. How? How can I stop the beast? I feel warm blood sticking to me. I know I'll die if I don't do something. I can't fight him. I don't have a chance.

  "Auron!" I scream at the top of my lungs. He doesn't flinch though, and he charges towards me on all fours, teeth gaping, frothing in helpless fury. "Auron! Wake up!" Ten paces. I crawl backwards, the daggers still clutched instinctively in my hands. Five paces. With a sudden idea, I cast off all caution, show him the daggers in my hands, and toss them as far away from me as possible. He won't stop, he almost in front of me, running full pelt. I raise my palms, hide my face, reflexes trying to protect me, I sob out, knowing I'm going to die.

  Wind hits me from his speed. I hear a small avalanche of dirt and twigs and leaves as nature tries to catch up with the gust he caused with his descent. I feel his snarling breaths snorting, hear him growl, something- his fist- slamming into the tree above my head. I flinch instinctively, but nothing happens. Moving slowly, not knowing what will set him off, I look at him. He's right in front of me. So close, almost touching me. He's looking back and forth, growling, as if he doesn't know what to do with himself. His claws curl and uncurl. "A-auron?" I whisper. His eyes flick to mine, and he howls at me again. I don't look away, though. I can almost, almost see the humanity in those eyes.

  "Auron... It's Raven. It's Nigh." I talk slowly, plaintively, my voice higher-pitched than I would have liked. I touch my palms to my chest to further indicate that he knows me. "You don't want to do this... Please... Please turn back back into a man." He's still snarling, he takes half a step towards me. My body screams danger, but I shut that out. Slowly, so slowly I get to crouching position, making calming submissive gestures the whole time. Even slower than before, I straighten til I'm standing before him. He growls and huffs, and I can see he's holding himself back... I don't think he knows why.

"Auron. You're Auron. You're not this. You're Auron, and I trust Auron. Auron would never hurt me." I swallow thickly, and gently extend my hand to him. He shrieks at me. I cringe, but he doesn't gut me. His eyes keep flickering from my face to my hand like a cat deciding if it should smell me or bite me. Instead, he grabs my arm before I can react, and I flinch, forcing down every instinct that tells me to pull back, to run. His claws dig into the soft flesh of my forearm, pools of blood forming around his talons, sliding down my arm, dripping onto the dirt.

  I shake, staring at his eyes, willing him back to humanity. He leans forward, breathing in the scent of my blood. He pants, his damp breath on my arm, and strangely croons like a wounded animal. He releases me, steps back, falls to one knee. I stumble back against the tree behind me, leaning on it for support, sweat dripping from my brow. He shakes, cries out, and suddenly he's shrinking, the fur disappearing, his talons turning into fingers, and I close my eyes before I see any more. It looks so painful. I don't want to see it. I hear bones crack, a pained groan, then....

  "Nigh!" Auron's bereft cry is the happiest thing I have ever heard in my entire life. I open my eyes, but the poor man is stark naked. Out of a sense of modesty, I shut them again. I feel strangely woozy, and I absently remember the laceration on my stomach. It doesn't hurt yet, just throbs to the rhythm of my heartbeat. I sigh, dizzy. I'm not sure whether I'm sitting or standing, and I feel breeze on my face before Auron catches me, scoops me into his arms. I look up at his face. "Auron..." I murmur.

"I've hurt you! I have to get you to a doctor."

"I'm fine." I wag one hand, "you need clothes." He's striding determinedly, where, I don't know. Maybe he has a change of clothes in his car... if he has a car.

"Raven, I need you to think. Where should I go? Who can heal you?"

"Um... Skyril always has some herbs on her."

"Where is she? Raven? Stay awake just another minute. Where is Skyril?"

"If she's in the States- she probably is right now- she'll be in an apartment on 5th. Bayou Oaks, number 27."

"Ok... You're going to be alright, Nigh."

I didn't know, but I wanted to hear him say that... one more time. "Call me Nigh again," it comes out at a whisper. He swallows, his eyes glisten strangely.

"Nigh... I'm going to take care of you. You're going to be alright, Nigh..." he continues murmuring soothingly. His voice is so comforting it lulls me into sleep.

***

  There are three short steps to my waking up: I open my eyes. The pain hits me. I suddenly remember everything. In that order.

  My stomach feels as if it's on fire. I growl, reaching my hand towards it. I can feel it throbbing with my heartbeat, but this time, it hurts. Every thump shoots a wave of pain through me. My fingers brush something gooey, and I make a sound, sudden visions of raw flesh appearing in my mind. I look down, panicky, but it isn't blood and skin, rather, some kind of green goo.

"Nah-ah-ah! You lay back down, Rae. You're going to make yourself worse."

I look up sharply, but I recognize the voice as Skyril's. She's coming in the room from the kitchen. "How long will this healing stuff take?" I mumble "It hurts," I complain.

"Alas, I am not Kenspeckle. It will take at least overnight, Rae, and even then, you shouldn't be moving around too much. That was a bad cut. Even with magical healing it could open up again." She sits down in a chair beside the bed I'm laying on. "Do you need anything?" Concern abruptly colors her voice. "Would you like something to drink? Some iced tea? Something to eat to get your strength up? Are you cold or too hot or-"

"No..., Sky, thank you- for everything I mean."

  "What did this to you?" Her face turns hard, "was Auron involved?" I look at her, surprised.

"You know Auron?"

"Well, if by 'know' you mean exchanged a couple of frantic sentences when he showed up on my doorstep wearing nothing but pants and carrying you, bloodied, in his arms.... Is he a boyfriend?" So my friends don't remember him either. I guess that makes sense... In the way that none of this makes any sense at all.

I clear my throat. What should I tell her? The pain is fogging my mind. "Um, yeah, he's sort of a boyfriend, I guess, but it isn't exactly what you think.

"Well, what is it then?"

"I... I can't get it into it right now."

She gestures, brushing me off, "we have all night so you might as well tell me now."

I don't think I should get my friends involved in this. As capable as they are, LOST seems like the type of organization that divides and conquers. I'm generally better fighting alone anyway. Besides, I hardly knew what I was getting myself into, and I wasn't willing to drag others in after me.

"I can't tell you, Skyril. Just trust me, ok? Auron... is a good person. Don't worry about it."

"How am I supposed to not worry about it? You utterly disappear on your birthday and then show up at my apartment unconscious, mauled and bruised! Auron wouldn't tell me anything, but I figured I just had to wait for you to explain."

"I'm sorry, Sky. I just can't. Please trust me. I'm going to be fine." Skyril throws her hands up and sighs, acquiescing. "Did, um," I murmur, "did you tell the others that you found me?"

She gives me a look, "it was a serious temptation, but I was waiting until you woke up. I suppose you don't want me to tell anyone now?"

"Yes, Sky, I would really appreciate it if you just didn't tell anyone until I've contacted all of you.... later."

"I don't like it, Rave, but I do trust you. I won't tell anyone. I just hope you know you can trust us enough to tell us anything." I think the best tactic at this moment is to remain silent. It isn't about trust. Of course I trust them... I just want to protect them too

  "Well," she slaps her palms on her knees. "I suppose I ought to go tell your sort of boyfriend that you aren't dead. I don't think he believed me when I told him you'd be fine... And someone's going to start yelling at him for loitering on my front porch."

"Wait, Auron's here? How long has he been here?"

"Uh, well," she checks her watch, "it's seven at night now, so I'd say he's been here six-ish hours."

"Six hours! Why is he on the porch?"

"Raven, when you've lived over seventy years, you learn it's better not to let a handsome shirtless man into your apartment when your friend is unconscious.... Although I do think he found a shirt somewhere. I glanced out at him once or twice... Not knowing, however, how he was involved with your injury, I haven't spoken to him since I sent him out."

"Oh, Sky... could you go get him for me?"

She grins. "Sure."

  I am not exactly presentable. My shirt is torn off around the stomach. I'm probably dirty, and I can feel the bruises on me... I have cuts on my hands and arms where I fell down the hill and a bandage where Auron's claws had slashed my arm.... Not to mention the green slop on my belly.

  I sigh just as Sky shows Auron in. He does have a shirt now. It's plaid and baggy, hanging on him even though he roughly attempted to tuck it into his jeans.

"Nigh..." he murmurs, freezing as soon as he sees me.

"Ok," Skyril says, "I'll leave you two alone... Raven, I'm within shouting distance, you know." I shake my head at her as she walks out.

  Auron's just looking at me, at my wounds, at my face. I have to say something or the silence itself is going to kill me, "Um, I- I'm sorry about Skyril's over-protectiveness. She's just-" my words seem to break whatever spell was over him, and he's suddenly kneeling on the floor next to the bed- making us eye level- taking my hand in his. He touches his lips to my knuckles, and I just let him, my heart speeding for no reason at all.

"How you manage to look at me like I'm not a monster breaks my heart every time, because I am one, and one day, I'm going to kill you-"

I shake my head "Auron don't-"

"-I shouldn't have come back to you. I shouldn't have awoken your memories. I knew you'd get hurt, but I selfishly couldn't let you go. It's happened before; I don't know why I thought it wouldn't again-"

"Auron-" He lets go of my hand and stands, still talking.

 "-Just forget everything, Rae. I've been thinking about this, and I think it's best if you just forget I existed, forget everything I told you. I'm going to go, disappear-"

"Shut up!" He shuts his mouth, frowning grimly down at me.

  "Auron...," I shake my head angrily, not even sure how to put into words what I need to say. "Kneel, Auron, and take my hand again because you are not going anywhere." It takes a few seconds, but eventually, he does, picking up my hand delicately, as if I'm made of glass. "I haven't really known you long... Well, I have, at least it feels as if I've known you forever... But whether I've known you one day or one thousand, I know you're a good person, a good person in so many ways..., and there's no way I could let a good person fight by himself, let alone you, Auron. Auron, you know me, you know I'll just come find you if you try to disappear, or if I can't, then you know I'll face this LOST group head on. It's either together, or separately, Auron. Let me fight with you.

  He stares at me with this green eyes, and I can only hope my face doesn't look pale and feeble. He leans close, gently placing his hands on my cheeks. His eyes gaze into mine, searching my face. His thumbs brush my temples. Leaning forward, he lightly presses his lips to mine. It's a gentle kiss, afraid still of breaking me, but his hands hold me as if he can't let go. My heart races in my ears, and I can feel his heartbeat in his lips, beating as mercilessly as mine. When he pulls back, he lets out a long sigh against my neck and whispers so  quietly, "thank you, Nigh. I'm sorry, and thank you for being you. You're always you. You're always exactly what I need." My breath catches in my throat, but I don't say anything.

  He straightens but runs his finger down my face before as he does. "I'll leave you to sleep. See you in the morning?"

I nod, just managing to croak out "the morning." He smiles beautifully at me and leaves.

  It's a long while before I can sleep, though.

***

  It's unfortunately morning, and I'm very tired. It's past nine, but I wish it were still three so that I could have six more blessed hours of sleep. There isn't a whole lot of logic in that, though.

  I glance at my stomach and see most of the green gunk has disappeared, probably absorbed into my body. The rest of it is crusted around my stomach. A dark purple bruised scar has appeared where I was lacerated, and I grimace at the sight of it, my stomach tensing, which makes my bruises flare with pain. I grind my teeth together and lay my head back down, just laying there a bit before I gather my wits enough to do anything else.

  "Sky?" It comes out as little more than groan. I search nearby surfaces and happily find a bottle of water on the stand beside me. I take a long drought and try again. "Skyyy!" this time, it comes out better.

"Rave!" Sky mutters, almost instantly strolling into the room. "Sleepyhead, you, but then, I suppose I'm not surprised. Do you want something to eat first or shower?"

"Shower please!"

"Haha, sure thing, and I'll lay out some of my clothes for you. Black, right?" I give her a look, which is more than enough of an answer.

"And Sky?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you let me borrow a good bow and quiver of arrows?" Skyril knits her brow in concern, but she nods.

"I cleaned and sharpened your knives. They're over there." She indicates a chair in the corner of the room.

"Thanks."

 "No problem... Ok, do you want me to help you up or..."

"No, no, I ought to be able to manage, thanks." She nods and disappears the way she came.

  A painful ache accompanies sitting up, and I pause a few seconds to groan and let the dizziness fade. I take a deep breath and keep going. It's going to be a long morning, but there's much more to come.

***

  The sky has become a shroud of grey, lightening occasionally flashing in its clouds. Rain hasn't yet begun to fall, but it probably won't be long. 

"You're sure you actually know where we're going?" I triple-check. Auron looks at me.

"I know where we're going." He slightly tightens his grip on the steering wheel. How he has a car. How, I'm really not sure, but I'm not going to ask. Maybe it's his, maybe it wasn't always. Whether it was impounded or stolen, it would have been difficult to get, and I'm not about to complain.

"And... where we're going isn't going to be a serial killer's house, right?" The woods around us are dark, and I've seen a pair of eyes staring out at me, probably a fox, but horrifying anyway.

"Well..." Auron hesitates.

"Uh 'well-' that's the best reply you can give me to that question?"

"Sorry. Technically, it's call the Mansion. Technically, there's more than one murderer. Technically, they call themselves scientists. Technically-"

"That's enough technicallys. I think I've got the picture..."

"Well, LOST is a fairly large association. I was taken to their laboratories when they first captured me so we've known their base of operations for quite some time. Fortunately for us, they always forget that I know where they are... They do tend to remember at some point thanks to notes or reports or... Dante Blackwell."

"Blackwell? Judging by the curious name... sorcerer?"

"Actually, no. He's strange. Blackwell did take a new name to protect himself, but he has no use for magic, says 'it interferes with the natural way of things.'" Auron shrugs half-heartedly. "He likes torture by the usual means." I grimace and, not knowing what to do, brush the knuckles of Auron's hand. He entwines his fingers in mine and gives me a small smile. "It's ok. They've already done what they wanted to do. They can hardly hurt me now."

  "So... Dante Blackwell... He's the boss?"

"We thought he might have a superior, but we've never proven it."

"I wish I could remember! You wouldn't have to explain all this for the hundredth time." Auron squeezes my hand just as the first drops of rain splash on the windshield.

"I know, Nigh. When it comes to this, you just have to be... patient."

"That's not a strong suit."

"I know."

"What was that?"

Coughing suddenly, he corrects himself, "Oh, me? I said... uhh... it's snow! Which... it isn't... But for a second there I thought the rain was... you know... snow."

"Uh-huh."

"Weird, right?" I arch a brow at him.

"What? Really! When the light hits it... You know what? I think we need to come up with a plan, a strategy per-say...."

"Smooth, Auron, smooth." A laugh accompanies it, though. The rain intensifies, huge drops competing with the windshield wipers.

  "Plan..." I murmur... "plan... How about we run in there, guns blazing? Or rather... arrows... blazing..."

"Subtle. I like it!"
***

  We ditched the car as deep in the forest as we could when we were about mile or so from the LOST Mansion, hiking our hoods over our eyes to keep what rain we could out. Of course, we still got saturated the moment we stepped out anyway, but it was better than nothing.

  Auron popped the trunk as we got out, and to my surprise, put a revolver in the back waistband of his pants and slung a rifle over his shoulder, filling his pockets with more rounds. I looked at him quizzically, but he didn't provide an answer, only handed me a handgun for which I shrugged and stuck in my own waistband.

  Before we left completely, I shot several arrows, almost emptying my quiver, to get the feel of a different bow. Fortunately, it wasn't too different from my own, and I silently thanked Sky for that.

  At the moment, I use it more or less as a walking stick as I glance around at the dark forest, thunder rumbling above me. I don't mind woods, but I do mind mud, and I'm not especially fond of monsters jumping out to eat me.

  Auron walks a little bit in front of me, leading the way along some sort of rough deer track. Talking would waste breath, and we'd have to nearly shout to be heard over the downpour, so we don't. I glance at him often, wondering what things were like in the beginning, when I was just getting to know him, and he me, and all of my memories were intact. I know enough, of course, to be walking with him now, fighting for him.

  Although, I'm not entirely sure for what we're going to be fighting. We're heading towards this... this Mansion full of mad scientists who kidnap people and hurt them until they can't take it anymore and either die or turn into monsters! What are we going to do? Kill them all? To be honest, that's actually ok by me, based on what I know of them, but do we have more of a goal than that?

  And why do they create monsters anyway? That question leads me to the only viable answer I can think of.... To control them, to have power. But... but how? I have witnessed firsthand the nearly unyielding wrath and power of Auron when he's transformed. There is no stopping that. At least not by a stranger's hands. Could they mean to use me against him? That doesn't make sense. I could barely stop him, and there is certainly no way I could have commanded him to do something, not that I would have in the first place. They didn't try to take me, anyway, according to Auron. LOST only cared about getting their hands on him.

  So what is their angle here? I don't get it.

  The rain lessens enough to hear our own footsteps through the growth. "Auron," I finally say. He looks over his shoulder at me, mildly surprised I broke the silence. Rainwater beads on his forehead, a limp lock of hair falling into his eyes. I ignore that, "did LOST ever give you any clue how it was going to control you? Or... do with you?" He slows his pace to think.

"Hmm... not really. No one talked in front of me much, and most of the time I was out of it, anyway, one way or another. When I changed the first time... Well," he looks down, then forward before continuing. "I came to myself with the chains that had bound me- nearly every link broken. The cement walls were gouged worse than a vamp's, and.... one of my torturer's remains... scattered about...  After that it was... maybe a day before you arrived- just as they were moving me somewhere else- and we escaped. Most of the time I was held prisoner is blocked from my own memory, and what fragments I recall..." He looks at me again, "they aren't about the torture. I created worlds in my mind to escape when I could... Worlds with you, Night. Without my memories of you, I don't think I would have been able to take it."


  I take a deep breath of moist air and reach out, clutch his hand. He grasps back and, without warning, pulls me into an all-enveloping hug, my arms pinned to his chest, my bow fallen from my grip. We're both sopping wet, but somehow, the hug is warm anyway. I look up at him, his slightly stubbled chin, his mouth, his eyes. Before I can say a word, he kisses me, and I kiss him back until neither of us can take it, and we just stand there, holding each other up. Auron hugs me closer somehow, his face in my hair.

  "I miss you so much," he murmurs so quietly I can barely hear over the rain. "I miss you when you've...," he sighs and doesn't finish the sentence.

"I don't want to forget again, Auron. The few memories that I have... I can't lose them again."

He shakes his head, looks at me, finally releases me to touch his palms to my cheeks. "You won't, Nigh. You won't. Not this time. This time, we're going to beat them, we're going to figure... something out. Then we're going to go away on vacation, a nice long vacation, and you're going to remember every last detail, and you'll never forget again... Ok?" I nod into his hands, blinking, trying to stop the sudden salty tears mixing with the raindrops. He places one more gentle kiss on my lips and takes my hand in his, smiling. "Let's go," he says, and we continue to the Mansion.

 ***

  The headquarters of LOST looms out of the forest like a sudden ten-thousand foot cliff, and I stifle a gasp, retreating with Auron back into the foliage. "It surprises me every time I see that place," he says. 

"Yeah, I get that!" It's huge, spires and steeples stabbing the sky angrily, a gothic castle if I've ever seen one. There's a wall around the perimeter, ivy covering much of it and the Mansion itself. Made of brick and mortar, it shows no apparent sign of having a weakness. "How on earth did we get in there before?" I'm reluctantly in awe of it.

"The good thing about LOST- or rather-" he corrects himself, "the weakness with LOST, is that it's made up of strategists and doctors and scientists who use tranquilizers and potions and scalpels. There are very few sorcerers, and the ones they have know very little; LOST isn't an army. Few have proper weapons, and those who do have only fundamental knowledge of how to use them. They don't even have guards, relying on their obscurity and technology to keep them safe."

"Well," I murmur, "that does lighten my mood a bit." I flick a curl of wet hair off my face. "So how do we get in?" I lean my bow against a tree to braid my hair before it becomes a problem. "Up the vines, to the roof, down a chimney? Or perhaps one of those windows?" Auron looks at me like I'm crazy.

"I realize you're a bit of a ninja, but how about we try to front door?"

"And that isn't locked?"

"Of course it's locked. And I have a gun."

"And that won't set off an alarm?"

"Of course it will set off an alarm. And I have a gun. Plus a ninja."

"... You can't be serious."

"Of course I'm serious. Why can't I be serious? I'm often serious. Shall we go?" Before I get a chance to reply, he walks off along the perimeter of the forest towards the front gate. I shake my head at him and follow.

  "What exactly is the goal here, anyway?" I ask. 

"Dante Blackwell. If he isn't the leader of the entire organization, he is at least the leader of this... sector, or whatever. If anyone knows something, he will. If we can get to him, we can find out if there's any... anything that can be done. Even if there isn't- well- we can rid the world of one more loony, and that might also be enough to stop LOST from dogging our every move."

  The front gate is made of cast iron, of course, intricate iron. There are also cameras, however, on either side, waiting for someone to come into their sight. "Ok," I say, "shoot the cameras, climb over the gate?"

"You read my mind."

"It's about time I got something right." Auron laughs and wraps one arm around my waist, pulling me in for a quick kiss.

"You get lots of things right, trust me."

"Shall we?" I susurrate.

He sighs, "I suppose we must," and releases me.

  Hefting the Sky's bow, I pull an arrow from my quiver as Auron takes his revolver and aims. "On three?" He suggests. I put the arrow to the string and pull back slowly until the tip brushes my ear. Accounting for the slight drizzle that still falls, I raise it a notch. I notice the western-blowing zephyr and edge it just a tad to the right. I take a nice long ten seconds to do this, using a bow I've hardly used before. "On three. One... two...," I take a breath, "three!" Release the arrow, the revolver's bang ringing in my ears, feel the bowstring hit my armguard, hear the thwack and twang of it followed immediately by shattered glass, a rain of plastic, and a short burst of sparks from both cameras.

  Without saying a word, Auron exchanges his revolver for the shotgun, and I loop the longbow over my shoulder to scale the gate. I bring the air in around me and shoot myself over. I soften my landing, but I still grunt and touch my stomach as pain flairs up with the jarring landing. Auron, climbing the gate, lands next to me. We exchange a nod and lean against either side of the front door, made from thick carved mahogany. There's a panel on Auron's side with numbers and letters to enter a password. He covers his eyes as he shoots it, causing an explosion of plastic and brick. It sparks, makes an irritated sound, then we heard the door unlock.

  Auron kicks it open, wood chips spraying everywhere, and we enter into a grand hall, a staircase leading upwards in the center of the room. with a smaller stairwell on either side. Around the entire room are giant pillars to the ceiling. There's no alarm clanging in our ears as I expected, but that probably means they have an alert some other way. "Up or down?" I ask. Auron hesitates.

  "Well, down, I'd expect," says a voice from the top of the stairs that faintly reminds me of Moriarty, "if you're looking for Doctor Blackwell, as I assume you are." A tall man with dark hair and strangely yellow eyes steps onto the first step. "But then, you don't expect to get there so easily, do you?" I ready my bow.

"Who are you?" Auron takes half a step forward, his shotgun trained on the lanky stranger.

The man growls deep in his throat like canine, reaching the bottom of the stairs. "I work for Blackwell, in a manner of speaking, but that doesn't really concern you."

"Why do you work for him, though?" He seems irritated at the question.

"Because I do." That isn't a very good answer, but I don't press it.

"But who are you? What's your name?" I ask.

"Names. Names. Why are names so important? But I'll tell you what I'm called. I'm Livid." His face contorts, his teeth sharpening into points.

"Vampire?" Auron asks.

"No," I say, "this is something different."

"You're not wrong," Livid growls, his speech slurred by the teeth trying to fit in his mouth, "I'm like you, Auron." He falls to his knees and howls, his body growing, his ears turning to points, his jaw stretching until he's no longer human.

"He's transforming of his own free will," Auron mutters. "How is he doing that?"

 The transformation is complete, Livid now some strange combination of gorilla and wolf, something different, but similar to Auron.

  Auron raises his shotgun and shoots, but unbelievably fast, Livid dodges. On all fours he races behind pillars and comes at us. I get off an arrow, but just like Auron, Livid is too fast, even faster than Auron. I run. Auron fires again and chalky stone bursts from the pillar in front of me, followed by Livid, his fangs barred. "Woah," I try to say calmly, "stop thi-" Livid leaps at me before I can finish the word. My reflexes save me, and I duck, Livid's talons raking my right elbow to shoulder. A scream escapes me. I turn, but Livid is gone again, and across the hall is Auron, clutching his stomach, growing, transforming also. His shotgun has fallen to his feet. Run he mouths to me. Before he can finish turning, Livid attacks him, cutting, slashing. I scream again and with my left hand, pull the gun from my waistband. I fire a shot that shockingly grazes Livid. The enraged yellow canine eyes barely glance at me, but it's enough time for Auron's transformation to complete. Now Livid's on a totally different playing field.

  I clench my teeth and drop my bow, my right arm not strong enough to grip it. Auron swipes at Livid but misses. Livid leaps around Auron, a bit smaller, a bit faster then the powerful beast Auron is. I turn away before I see more and get to the stairs leading down, praying that Livid spoke truthfully when he said Blackwell was downstairs.

  There's a door, unlocked. I push it open and go through. A dirty white hall greets me. Only, it isn't really dirty, I realize, it's bloody. Blood speckles the walls and floor, drips down the grooves in the floor and sticks. I gasp in disgust. What do they do here? Too many experiments. I turn my eyes away, my lifeblood from my arm splashing to the floor, adding to the macabre atmosphere. I clutch my the bloody arm with my gun hand.

  Breathe in.
  Breathe out.

  I place one foot in front of me and ignore the shrick as I take a step, the floor sticking to my shoes. The door slams behind me, cutting off any sound from just one floor up, leaving me in silence. The smell is so awful I gag, but I swallow, my eyes watering at the stench of it and keep walking. My destination is the rust colored door at the end of the hall, the only door with color, other than the dark red of dried blood.

  I'm losing blood too fast, but I can't think about that right now. I keep walking, the stuff dripping between my fingertips. Doors with eye slots and peepholes pass by on either side. There's a window through which I see burbling medicines, tubes, and gruesome jars of  fingers and other things I think are livers and intestines and hearts, but no scientists. I mildly wonder why, but the room is too gruesome, and I look away, keep walking.

  When I reach the door, I don't bother to check whether it's locked. I raise my left hand, blinking the sweat from my eyes, and shoot the door enough times that it swings open uneasily on rusty hinges. Inside is another lab, and there's a table with a man on it, carved up, dissected, and standing over him, a bloody scalpel in hand is a tall, thin, black man.

  I raise my gun. "Dante Blackwell?" He glares at me over the ridge of his glasses and sighs.

"Nights Raven," he says. "You do have a habit of showing up when most inconvenient." I raise my chin.

"You remember me."

"Of course I remember you. And your little pet up above. More than one creature of Auron's unusual nature causes amnesia, which is why I had a tonic made some time ago to keep me from forgetting, at least for very long...." A roar sounds faintly from above, and I'm worried that it sounds like Auron. "Fortunately, Livid will soon have him in custody." Blood splashes to the floor. "Hm," Dante murmurs, "he seems to have just nicked you as well, hasn't he?" The doctor smiles sanguinely.

  "Livid- you made him able to change at free will. How?" Blackwell sets down his scalpel, and steps around the grisly cadaver. I move into the room, my gun aimed at his chest.

Blackwell arches his brows at my question, "it wasn't really hard, you know, once we figured out how. Don't you see, my dear, Nights? That's what science is all about: experimentation to make life better."

I scoff, "you don't make life better. You torture and murder human beings! Innocent human beings who know nothing of magic and monsters!"

"Yes, yes," he drones. "But I haven't quite figured out how to know positively whether a person is as... outlandish as some, and when in doubt, torture is sure to bring out the monster in everybody."

I stare at Doctor Blackwell, at his big round eyes staring at me, at his little mouth as it turns into a snarl, and I think of Auron strapped to a wall, or hanging from the ceiling, or sitting in a chair, being whipped, electrocuted, bloodied for this man, by this man. I clench my teeth, an animal growl of my own vibrating in my throat. I don't think. I shoot Blackwell in the kneecap. Predictably, he falls to the ground, howling at the top of his lungs, his knee gouged, a ragged hole torn in it.

  A flicker of a smile appears on my face for a moment. Unfortunately, I don't get a chance to enjoy it further.

  The door through which I came bursts open, cracking it, and Livid and Auron, as humans, come through the door, Livid, clutching Auron's arm in a painful grip. Auron I anxiously examine. He's limping, a gash on his thigh leaking at every step. His nose is bleeding, and he's covered in cuts and slashes, but most are superficial. Livid appears to be just as bad, if not worse, but on his face is rage, and his grip is unyielding, nasty lacerations on his arms and torso. There's both wearing torn jeans.

  "Where do you want him, Doctor?" Livid growls, his voice harsh. He shoves Auron into the room, but doesn't seem to care that his master has been shot. Auron, dismayed, looks at me.

Through clenched teeth, the doctor shouts, "put him in the chair, nitwit!" He grasps a desk on the right side of the room he's fallen by and pulls himself into a half-way sitting position. The chair to which he's referring is closer to me on the left, metal with straps to hold someone in it still.

"Wait! Why would I let you do that?"

"Because, Nights Raven, I'm going to cure him," Blackwell grabs a vile and syringe from the desk and, filling the syringe, injects himself above the knee. He's sighs almost instantly, and his body immediately relaxes a fraction. Some kind of magical pain reliever I would guess. "That's what both of you have always wanted, yes?" Blackwell continues in a slightly calmer voice. "For your monster to be able to control himself? Put him in the chair, Livid."

I glance at Auron. He lifts a shoulder in a shrug, mouths it will be ok. "How," I ask, "do I know you'll give him the right.... serum?"

The doctor sighs, "what else am I going to do? Do you not remember that poison doesn't affect him? That his body is immune to most diseases? Injecting him with chemicals would benefit me in no way." Auron nods.

"It's true," he murmurs.

"Injecting him with the cure," Dante mutters, "might finally rid me of the two of you."

I take a breath, close my eyes. Can I do this? But I must, of course. As far as I know, it's the only chance we've got. I nod.

  Livid puts Auron in the chair, doesn't bother with the straps, and removes a vile from a refrigerator by the wall. He fills a syringe, and without ceremony, stabs a vein in Auron's arm, depressing the syringe fully. Behind me I hear a click and turn in time to see the doctor flicking a switch on the other side of the desk.

"What was that?" I demand, but he doesn't have to answer the question. In a second, twenty white-clad scientists surround me and Auron, machine guns aimed at us from all angles. I suddenly realize why no one was in the lab. Our unceremonious entry alerted them all of our presence. I gnar at Blackwell, then Livid, then everyone else in the room. Blackwell smiles.

"Before you kill her, let her watch."

  I look at Auron desperately, but his eyes have rolled up, showing only whites, and he shakes in his chair, screams, his teeth growing, then shrinking, then growing. His body bubbles like it can't figure out what form to take.

"What's happening?" I shout, afraid that Blackwell lied.

"I'm curing him, just as I told you. It usually takes a few minutes for the horrible pain to begin to ebb, however."

  Auron groans as a human, staring at me with bloodshot eyes. He blinks, and some understanding passes between him and me. I duck just as a gun goes off, hitting someone behind me. Auron howls, and he's all beast, faster than I've seen him transform. Before I know what's happening, he's throwing scientists against the walls, and I jump over the desk. Blackwell stares at me, a startled expression in his eyes. He opens his mouth to say something, shout a command perhaps, exclaim surprise at the abrupt turn of a events, but I shoot him in the forehead and look away before he hits the ground. Some of the scientists flee, but most aren't fast enough for Auron. He rakes them with his claws, snaps at them with his jaws, or smacks them with his fists.

  I see in the far corner Livid staring listlessly in my direction, a small frown on his face. He notices my look, but instead of turning into a monster and fighting back, as I expect, he turns and walks from the room. I half raise the gun in my hand, but Livid turns a corner and disappears before I can decide to shoot him.

  A lab-coated man flies over my head, and I duck under the desk as the sounds of shattering glass and grunts fill the room. Auron roars savagely, crushing something I can't see. Some smoke wafts around, but I don't think it's fire, probably some kind of mixing chemicals. I cover my nose in case it's toxic and wait until all is silent. Someone's gun goes off again, and dust rains down on the desk above and beside me. I cover my head and duck lower. A man tumbles next to the desk, his face a mix of anger and fear. I unsheathe a knife from my boot, but he doesn't even look at me. A second he's there, the next he's running. I clutch the knife regardless, taking calming breathes.

  Eventually, everything stops, the room almost soundless. I hear husky breathing and wonder if it's Auron or something else.

  Hesitantly, I crawl from under the desk and peer over the top. Auron, as a beast, stands in the middle of chaos, everything turned over, everybody out cold. He looks over at me, and my body tenses, preparing to run. I search his eyes, and to my surprise, find recognition looking back at me. Instead of flying into a rage again as I expect, he does something strange. The beast grins at me. He shrinks, his claws retract, his fangs turn back into teeth, and the beast is Auron, nodding, grinning, stark naked Auron.

"It worked!" He says, his grin spreading to me. "We did it, Night; we did it."


***

Two days later

  We blew up the mansion. I know, huge waste of awesome free building, but... Too many unpleasant things happened there. Plus, Auron could never live there with his memories anyway. It was the best thing to do. It wasn't even very hard. They had enough explosive materials to demolish the place. I didn't enjoy it so much at the time, but thinking back on it, that was pretty awesome.

  Then we walked away into the sunset! Technically, it was more like mid-afternoon... And we couldn't see the sun behind the rain clouds... And we more or less limped to the car patting our wounds with the few safe herbs I recognized and calling for backup ... but still, it was pretty epica. A little epic? Nevermind.

  LOST might try to find us now. I don't know... I can see them being crazy enough to try. We did destroy a lot of their work, murder a leader, let one of their monsters escape. At least, I assume Livid escaped. I'm really not sure where he went after he left the fight. He never showed up again after that. Did he find another LOST headquarters? Decide to live for himself? He seemed a bit confused after Doctor Dante Blackwell died. Maybe he was under Blackwell's control the whole time.... I have no idea....

  Frankly, though, I really don't care. At least at the moment. Because right now? Right now we're victorious. Right now? I'm in a Ferris wheel rising higher and higher. Literally. Next to me, holding my hand is Auron, safe and sound. Across from me are my friends: Kal, Sky, and Israel. And what are we doing you ask? Why, celebrating my birthday, of course! 

  Israel grins at me, "is that distant look in the birthday girl's eyes mean she's narrating in her head again?"

"What?" I say, aghast, "I never do that."

"Mm-hm," Kallista laughs. "Just like you of course have an Aunt Becky, right?"

"Why, yes, of course she does," Auron murmurs. "She's a very nice lady." 

Skyril laughs and says, "well, in case your Aunt Becky forgot to say, I'll just say it for her: Happy Birthday, Rave! Are you having fun?"

Grinning, I look out at the world, being at the highest point on the Ferris wheel, and reply "why thank you, Skyril. Today is going pretty well so far."


2 comments:

  1. This was brilliant!! :D Thank you so much for this :D *hugs*
    I loved it! :D The writing was amazing (as usual :D) and, yeah, nothing else really to say except that I LOVE THIS!!! :D
    Thanks for writing it! :D *hugs again*

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  2. WOWoWOWoWOWWOWWOWWWWWW!!!!!!!! BRILLIANT! This had me at the edge of my seat the whole time! What a great exciting gift for Raven! Lucky girl that she is. :D
    There were so many feels as I was reading this. I can't help but fangirl scream. I love this. It was funny, intense, suspenseful, sad, tragic, and had a great ending!
    Masterful writing Sky!!! *hugs tight*
    HAve a happy birthday Ravenistalalalaaaaa! *hugs her too* XD

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