Warning: THIS IS A BIT OF A RIDE GUYS. You’ve been warned.
Also, it’s a REALLY big chapter. Oh and one more thing! Next chapter is the last chapter in arc 5! We’re reaching a season finale here…
I think something happened. At the end of the game…that glitching really wasn’t normal. And Niko was on the ground looking like he couldn’t move…and he had this weird grin too.
To top it off, the woman is pestering Niko with questions on how he’s feeling.
No definitely, something went wrong.
“It’s not a difficult question!” Nikolas exclaimed in a rather…shrieky voice. “Your hair sort of looks like an insect cocoon and I was wondering whether you really liked insects or if there actually is a baby insect in your hair.”
The woman scorned. “I take it you’re feeling okay?”
“Not too shabby! There’s a little spring in mah step.” Niko replied with a really bad cowboy like accent.
The game must’ve messed with Niko’s brainwaves.
She rolled her eyes and drifted over to the other volunteers. I gravitated towards Niko with slow steps.
“Hello…” He exclaimed with erratic eyes, looking like he was searching for a word. “…you! You were Firefly right? Nice shooting!” I resisted a grimace.
“Are you really okay Niko? The game got really weird at the end. And well…you’re acting a little-”
The lady came back around and declared with a loud booming voice that we follow her back to the lobby so we could get our money.
Right! The 1000$! Finally!
The ecstasy of finally havinge the money I needed for my mother was replaced by worry for Niko again. I can’t help it, he really seems weird. Maybe it’s the way he walks? Or the way he talks…or his eyes. They seem different to me.
He was walking in front of me, when I tapped his shoulder. “I’m sorry I shot you in the neck…and blew you up.” I tempted, wondering if maybe he was acting weird because of this – for some really far fetched reason.
He flipped around, shook his fingers before giving me a double thumbs up.
“Are you kidding? It was great! All good! Fantastic!” He grinned with a smile that showed too much teeth.
On top of that-
“Niko! Your headband??”
“Yeah, that’s just a sweat producer. But if it’s that important to you, don’t worry, it’s in my back pocket!” He said, slapping his butt.
My face instantly reddened up as he turned back to the front. I clasped my face.
OKAY SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG WITH NIKO.
The lady took out the envelopes with our names on them almost instantly, passing them around.
“Thank you.” I said, clasping the money tightly. “Um, I was wondering, did the experiment go well?”
She nodded and smiled. “Yes, you all did wonderfully.”
“Are…are you sure? Because there was some weird glitch-”
“There are a few glitches you helped us discover. We’ll be able to fix them now.” She replied with the same smile.
“Is there anyway the game could-”
“Now you have your money, and we have our very helpful results. We have other experiments to attend to. If you have other questions you can email us.” She said, gesturing to the door.
I got the message.
I looked down at the envelope in my hands, a smile creeping up on my face. Then I noticed something weird inside my palm.
I rubbed the dark lines, but they didn’t smudge.
“Madam,” I said before the lady could run off. “What is this?” I said, practically shoving both my hands in her face. Because with a quick look, I realized my other palm held the exact same lines.
“Oh that’s just the ink surfacing.” She said, almost shrugging.
“Don’t worry it’ll fade in a few weeks, max. Now I really need to go.” She said, this time escaping through the screen door.
I turned to Niko who had shrugged off his jacket and carelessly thrown it on the couch. I could faintly see dark lines on his neck. Guess the ink was surfacing on his skin too.
He cast an interested glance at the telescope before practically skipping for the door.
I grabbed his jacket, and caught up to him.
“Niko, wait up!” He didn’t respond till I tapped his arm.
“You were forgetting your jacket.” I said, eyeing him for any sign of – anything.
“You’re all about my wardrobe aren’t you Firefly.” He grinned.
Why does he keep calling me that? I know that was my username, but it’s not like I started calling him Reaper. “Please stop calling me that.”
“Oh, uh ok!” He said. “Hey, you shouldn’t be carrying that, I’ll take care of it!” He said, taking his jacket back.
I bit my cheek.
Is it just me? Am I just looking too much into this?
Because I swear, he may be smiling, but his eyes look angry. No not angry, frustrated and worried, basically not happy. Not the way they usually do.
There’s this odd feeling too…like we’re being watched. But everyone’s left already.
Niko nodded slowly. “Ok….I’m gonna go.” He opened the door and left.
What did they do to you? You were right weren’t you. This may not have been the best of ideas…but if you hadn’t come- For goodness sakes, it said supernaturals weren’t allowed, maybe that’s-
I followed him outside.
I’m not sure how long we’d been there, but a heavy fog had managed to settle down on Ridgevalley.
I stayed at his side, casting him worried glances, while he cast me confused ones.
I don’t know where he was heading, but it wasn’t home. And from the looks of it, I don’t think even he knew where he was going. It was weird. A car would pass by and he’d freak out in an excited way. He almost tried stepping in front of one, waving his arms around. I had to pull him back. And when I called him an idiot, he laughed.
When I tried broaching the subject, about how weird he was being, he cut me off.
“You’ve been clutching that envelope pretty tightly. Got big plans for the cash?”
“Of course!” I said, hugging it. “I’ve been waiting for this for months. This is going to help my mom get better.” I said with a small smile.
God I can’t wait to tell her, to see her smile when she realizes it’ll get better! Even with everything they said…she’ll get better.
“Let’s not waste any more time!” He exclaimed so loudly I jumped a little. “Let’s go drop that money off now!”
“Yes! Lead the way.” He said, with a big gesture.
Part of me wanted to say no. I should lead Niko back home, and at least tell his parents of my worries. No matter whether they seemed ridiculous or not.
But then there was this other part of me, the selfish one, that had been festering for months, that needed to go drop this off as soon as possible. It was killing me, the simple idea that the longer I waited, the longer she went without treatment, and the higher the probability was that something would happen to this money.
I could worry about Niko after, it told me, just get that money where it belongs.
“You’re lagging!” Niko called after me, already heading towards the hospital’s general direction. The decision was made.
The moment we reached the hospital he gave me a wave, and took off running. “Sorry gotta go!” He shouted, before chuckling every time he jumped over a rock.
Maybe this is just a phase?
Maybe the game gave him like a caffeine effect?
I knew it wasn’t that simple.
But the selfish part of me was more than satisfied with those explanations.
And when one of the nurses I often spoke to, opened the front door, asking me what I was doing outside, I had no hesitation. I headed in, proudly holding up the envelope.
I’ll check in with Niko after. Yes. I will.
No one’s POV
The teen finally found his way home, eventually, once one of the neighbors found him wandering downtown at midnight and asked him if he wanted a ride home.
He got in, wrinkling his nose at the lavender scent filling the house.
He tossed his jacket on the ground and got attacked instantly.
“Nikolas, where have you been!? It’s past midnight! I called your friends and none of the kids knew where you’d run off to. A Salandra called and left a message? Something about making sure you’d gotten home okay? Where did you two go!? Tell me you didn’t go to that. You promised me!” Xavier assaulted. He’d spent the night worried sick, and he’d apparently been the only one. Edmund and Nikita had shrugged his worries away, told him it wasn’t worth using his magic. It was the weekend, Nikolas would find his way home eventually. But Xavier had known, he’d had a feeling this weekend would be bad news. He should’ve kept Nikolas at home after all.
“I didn’t even know where I lived give me a break here.” The boy snorted.
Xavier frowned, his sixth sense bristling. “What?”
“Boy are you high strung!” He said. He playfully tapped Xavier’s chest. “You gotta loosen up a bit! Take it as it comes. Nothing’s that dramatic!”
“Nikolas what are you-” Xavier began in a warning tone, before Nato jogged into the room.
The dog’s steps weren’t excited, they were cautious. Nato sniffed the teen’s pants.
“What is-OH a dog!” He exclaimed in disgust. He jumped back several steps.
“I am,” The boy said, backing into the stairs. “going upstairs, and finding myself a room to hide in. Don’t come any closer dog! And you just – stay there and don’t let it eat me!”
Nato looked up at Xavier who was frowning so much his forehead was beginning to hurt.
It was getting late after all, tomorrow was Sunday. He could question him then.
“To be honest, I don’t really like your name. I don’t want to be offensive, Nikolas is a fine name! Just…doesn’t feel like me you know?” The teen said, talking to the mirror. But not to himself. To the boy he knew was watching from the sidelines. Possibly fuming slightly.
But he just couldn’t help it! Today had been so much fun! He’d walked around the town for hours, interacting with random people on the streets. He’d slipped into a buffet and ate so much his stomach almost burst. Then he’d taken a rubik’s cube from one of the stores and spent an hour solving it on a car in one of the parking lots. He got chased away though and he found himself in a laundry mat, to which he’d attempted to climb into the drying machine. He’d almost fit in, but an old lady kept knocking on the machine asking him to come out. He’d tried to climb one of the flags near city hall, and then he’d juggled tomatoes at the grocery store.
“You’re probably wondering what I’d actually like to be called, and I’m not too sure but….maybe Da-no no, something else.” The boy looked around at the posters hanging on the walls before it came to him.
“Oscar! Yeeaaahhhhh,” He smirked at himself. “Oscar sounds about right! What’s mah name? OSCAR!” He grinned, making jazz hands. “Isn’t this great? You get to keep being Nikolas, and I can be Oscar!”
Oscar started to feel his shoulders sag and he glanced at the bed.
“I hope tomorrow is just as much fun as today. Thanks for letting me have fun Nikolas.”
“HA!” The boy shot up from his position on the bed with a short loud shout. He clutched his rapidly beating heart, panting heavily. “Ha fuck I did it! Oh god finally!”
Nikolas sat on his bed, holding his head and mumbling to himself. “Jeesus fucking christ I thought I’d be like that forever!”
He got up, shaking his arms, feeling energized. He jogged on the spot a bit, relishing having control of his own body again.
Then he glared into the air, knowing that somewhere Oscar was watching now. Where he was, in his head, or in astral form like he had been, didn’t matter. He just needed to hear him.
“I’m going to fix this. I don’t know what you are Oscar, but you clearly cannot be trusted to live my life. I will not go to sleep again until I’ve fixed this. Mark my words.” Niko crossed his arms. “You don’t get to step into someone’s life without permission you know.” He mumbled.
The door slowly swung open, letting in a curious dog.
This time he sauntered over, tongue and tail wagging to welcome his master.
“Ah buddy! Oh Nato!” Nikolas exclaimed reaching down to hug his dog. “It’s great to know someone knew for sure who I was. Boy, you must have a really good nose, because both Sal and my dad didn’t seem too sure.” He petted Nato’s forehead. “You going to stay up with me? I’m going to spend the night brainstorming and thinking about this problem. I could use someone to bounce this off of.”
“It was a really weird game, a little too real, but it was fun picking up a bow again. I mean I did during summer camp, but the bow was rigid and the string was a little loose. At least in the game, my bow was exactly what I needed it to be.” Salandra said, pacing around her mother’s bed. “Ha, the game gave me the name Firefly you know, the nickname you have for me. I found that a little amusing.”
Amelia let out a small groan, before humming. Salandra was at her side in an instant.
During the last few weeks her mother had been drifting in and out of sleep constantly. The nurses had told her, however, that her mother could still hear her most of the time.
Her condition had been progressively growing worse, and the hospital had long since put Amelia in intensive care. She was considered an advanced case. And Salandra’s uncle had been repeating his usual phrase more often ‘You have to accept it, that it’s too late.’
They all thought she couldn’t do it.
“Long story short mom, I did it. I got the money! You’ll be fine now. Can you believe it? The nurses didn’t want to accept my money at first. I almost lost my temper at how ridiculous it was. I was giving them money to help you! Why would they refuse!?” Salandra scoffed ignoring the truth nipping in the back of her mind.
Her mother’s eyes fluttered open.
Salandra sighed with involuntary relief.
“Did you hear mom? It’s going to get better now.” Amelia would heal, she’d beat this, she would. Salandra could still remember her mother, what she used to look like, who she used to be, before this disease steadily took over. It wasn’t just a dream. Soon, they’d be together again, living off her mother’s guitar.
It was only a period of a few months, before they went to live with her uncle Chase, a few months of living on the road and music. All Salandra could remember were the smiles, the laughs and how happy her mother had been.
She couldn’t remember why they’d even gone to live with her uncle anymore. Was it being low on cash or her disease that had come first?
Amelia readjusted her position on the bed, slowly, with some difficulty.
She didn’t say anything at first, but the expression she wore chilled Salandra to the bone.
“Mom…” She mumbled as Amelia closed her eyes, as if preparing herself. She reached for her daughter’s hand, who clasped it eagerly.
“I have something…to say, to you and your uncle.” She said, and Salandra leaned in to hear her better. “Can you…go get Chase?”
Salandra nodded enthusiastically. “Of course!”
Amelia squeezed her hand and smiled. “Thank you.” Then she closed her eyes and drifted off again.
Salandra closed the door gently behind her and was welcomed by a nurse she knew well.
“She went to sleep again.” She explained. The nurses eyes drifted to the teen’s open palms. She put her hands behind her back.
“How are you?” The nurse asked.
Salandra nodded with a smile. “I’m good, I’m fine, it’s all-”
The woman stepped forwards to give the girl a strong hug.
A little surprised, Salandra welcomed the hug. Hugs were always welcomed, but it was confusing when she didn’t know the source.
“If you’d like,” The nurse began, talking in a low voice in Salandra’s ear. “I can refer you to people who can help you get through this.”
Salandra pulled back harshly.
“Get through what?”
The nurse frowned a little before smiling kindly. “Your mother dying.”
Something in Salandra snapped. “SHE’S N-” Her quick outburst was cut short by a ring coming from her pocket.
A sudden stillness formed as Salandra battled with herself to apologize to the kind nurse for nearly shouting, but seeing the pitiful smile the woman was wearing made her angry all over again.
Biting her cheek, she spun around and pulled out her phone. Well the one her uncle had been lending to her for the last 4 or so years.
It was Nikolas.
“Hi,” She said, in a small voice. Guilt was washing over her. She hadn’t been able to reach him yesterday. She’d tried calling his house a couple of times, but he was never home, and it had started to get late. She’d gone to sleep and forgotten about how weird he’d been.
“Hey Sal!” He replied energetically. And just like that her worries vanished. She could clearly see his grin through the phone and his eyes lit up with excitement. With just two words, she’d concluded that whatever she’d thought she’d seen yesterday….Niko was back to his normal self now. “Can we…meet up? Soon? In like 10 minutes? We should – I’d like to talk to you. Face to face.”
I want to talk to you too, Salandra thought, but she swallowed the words down. They came with emotions she wasn’t ready to face.
“Yeah, how about the bridge? It’s midway between the hospital and your house.”
A small silence. “Sounds good, I’ll see you there.”
I hopped down the stairs, nearly missing a step as I did so, and landed the last step like I was jumping on a skateboard. I was feeling buzzed. I’d managed to stay up all night with Nato, but hadn’t come to much of a solution. As an idea bouncer he was lacking several necessities. Which is one of the reasons I’d called Sal as early as I could.
I glanced around the entrance, searching for the jacket I remembered Oscar had carelessly thrown on the ground.
“Oh hey dad! Um, have you seen my jacket anywhere?”
“The one you left on the ground last night? It’s with the dirty laundry.” Dad said, slowly crossing his arms with a stone cold gaze.
“What? But I was going to wear it…”
“Were you planning on leaving?” He asked, raising an eyebrow. I glanced in the kitchen, where Nikita and her boyfriend were silently looking at us. I gave Tyzel a quick wave, who replied with the same.
Dad took my arm and dragged me out of sight.
“Mind explaining to me what happened yesterday?”
“Ah yes, um, something happen-” Maybe dad could help after he’d get done scolding me.
“You went to the poster thing didn’t you? Even when I told you not to?” He interrupted.
“…Yes, I did. But-”
“But!? There are no buts! I made it clear Nikolas, that you were not to go under any circumstance. You promised me and I dared to believe you would keep your word.” Dad snapped. I started to fume.
“I didn’t go for me! It was important for her so I-” I attempted to explain it to him, but he clearly didn’t want to listen to a word I had to say.
“And if people told you it was important for them that you jump off a bridge, you’d do it?”
I gritted my teeth. “Well, yeah!”
Dad shook his head in disbelief. “Sit down. Here’s what’s going to happen.”
“Ah wait dad, can we do this…later?” I tempted. “I kind of made plans-”
“Oh ho! You think after your fiasco last night that I’m going to let you leave the house? Did you actually think you weren’t going to be grounded?”
“A friend is dealing with things and I wanted to che-”
“Sit. Down.” Dad growled and with an exasperated sigh I slumped down onto the chair.
“I can’t ask for help if nobody listens.” I mumbled under my breath, a headache growing with every word my father was saying.
“I’m going to make a list of chores for you to do today, all at home, starting with your dog. Nato stinks, he needs a bath.” And then dad started listing off a whole bunch of unfun things to do, like clean the fireplace, weed the yard, clean the toilets, wipe the windows, you get the gist. And each and every time I tried to stick a word in, about anything really be it about Sal, about Oscar or about the fact that I hadn’t eaten in hours, he’d shut me up after the first syllable.
At the end I just sat and listened, keenly aware of the time passing by. Why did I have to tell Sal to meet up in ten minutes? That’s not enough time, I should’ve known dad was just waiting for me to wake up.
After his long speech, and a promise that it wasn’t over, I was sent off to do my first task.
Washing Nato, probably the most fun of all of them.
Dad went to go join Niki and Tyzel back in the kitchen before he did a double take.
“Your neck is dirty.” He said with a frown once I was halfway up the stairs.
“I’ll add clean my neck to the list too.” I rolled my eyes and reached the top, calling Nato over.
Nato licked my face as I rubbed the soap into his thick fur. A wave of fatigue washed over me, but I forced it away.
“Yeah bud, you’re absolutely right. I cannot spend the day doing mindless chores. I don’t know how long I can actually stay awake. I’m already messing things up bad and it’s only been 24 hours.” I cleaned his ears. “I need to find a way to get out of this…”
“You remember the plan right? Run downstairs and act crazy like you just saw a squirrel. I’ll slip through the front door.” I re-explained.
I’d just finished giving Nato a bath, and I’d taken the five seconds needed to grab another jacket, before dad realized I’d finished task #1.
I’ll do all the chores he wants me to do! I don’t really care that much, but I just need to fix this first…and to check up on Sal.
I went downstairs a little too fast and nearly got myself caught.
Dad was right there, in front of the fireplace, talking to Tyzel. He’d see me the moment I went for the door.
Nato sat down and stared at the adults very unhelpfully, as if he was guarding my pathway.
Tyzel glanced my way, noticing me first, and he closed his left hand, all except his index finger, as if telling me to wait. When it was his turn to talk he walked around my father, forcing him to turn his back to me.
“I don’t know much about my family. They don’t contact me that often.” Tyzel continued, and I made a silent thank you gesture before I sped out the front door. Here’s to hoping I haven’t surpassed my ten minutes.
No one’s POV
Nikolas had definitely surpassed his ten minutes, but Salandra herself had gotten there barely on time and had been so entranced by the view that she’d barely seen the time go by.
She felt stressed, still a little restless, often finding herself frowning, and the spring view was calming her nerves.
Why was she so tense? Everything was supposed to be fine. Why was her own mind fighting the joy?
The rapid pitter patter of feet caught her attention and she noticed Nikolas running up to her.
Had the time really passed that fast?
Still feeling tense, her hand unconsciously gripped at the stone.
“Hi Niko,” She said, waving her free hand. In a flash her waving hand was suddenly immobilized.
An out of breath Niko had taken her hand in his own, leaning onto it as he caught his breath.
“I thought I’d taken too long!” He wheezed out. “Sorry, didn’t mean to take so long.”
“No, it’s fine.” She blabbered out. He looked out of sorts and it was putting her out of sorts.
He stayed there a few moments longer, still leaning his forehead on their hands, as his breath normalized.
“Niko…” She went to ask if he was okay, or if something had happened, but he picked up at her pause.
He looked up at her with big eyes. “Can I borrow your shoulder, for like, two seconds?”
“You can have a hug. It’s even better.” Salandra replied with a smile.
He chuckled and let go of her hand. “I’ll take it.”
The two gravitated towards each other, arms wrapping around one another, with the river as their audience.
Nikolas hadn’t realized he’d needed a hug until right then and there. But the exhaustion had taken him over, and he was relaxing in her grip, exhaling softly into her shoulder. The last day had just been…a little much.
Salandra felt him practically fall asleep on her shoulder. “Are you okay?” She whispered into her ear.
“I’m just tired.” He mumbled into her shoulder.
She hugged him a little tighter, wondering if it had anything to do with his weird attitude yesterday.
“Did something happen? In the game?” She asked. He seemed to sink a little deeper in her shoulder.
“Yeah.” He said. “But I’ve got it under control for now.” He pulled back a bit. “First things first, how did it go? At the hospital?”
Salandra was surprised by the sudden turn over of the conversation. He was the one looking about ready to pass out, and now it was about her? And the hospital? And what everyone was saying? And looking and thinking and assuming and-
One look at Niko’s genuinely curious eyes reminded her that all Nikolas knew was her motivations for going to the video game experiment. The reasons for wanting money. Nothing about the aftermath. He probably just wanted to know that whatever was plaguing him right now was for a good reason. For a good cause.
And it was for a good cause right?
“It went-” Her mind had been all ready to say the same phrase she’d been repeating all day long. It went fine. It’s all going to be fine. Her mouth on the other hand, suddenly refused to say it. “The nurses refused the money…at first.”
“How come? Wasn’t that for your mom?”
“Yes, for her treatments. But they refused it because…” She swallowed. “And mom sent me to – they were giving me – Chase was-”
She couldn’t get the words out, and when she finally managed, it was in an embarrassing display of gross sobs.
“They ALL keep saying she’s going to die! The nurses, my uncle, even my mom herself! I thought they just didn’t believe I could do it,” She said with an angry sniffle. “But I DID do it and they all keep chanting the same thing! What if – what if there really isn’t anything to be done!? What if, it really is too late!?”
Disgusted at herself for breaking down like this, Salandra tried to take a step back, to turn tail, run and hide somewhere until she’d gotten better control of herself. But Niko’s hands were still on her arms, gently holding her in place, and instead she found herself seeking a hiding place in his shoulder.
“Damn it.” She muttered into his shoulder. “It’s like we’re taking turns.” He laughed softly in reply.
She inhaled sharply. “What do I do?” She whispered to herself. “What do I do if they’re right?”
There was no response from Niko, just a tall, strong, silent support for her to lean on. And she couldn’t ask for more of him, she already felt she’d asked for too much, without even asking.
He was so strong and so sweet and he cared and she didn’t want this to end.
Nikolas grimaced. “Just ignore it.”
His phone rang again and he winced. He knew exactly who was calling him. He’d hoped for at least a few minutes more. Nato might’ve accidently ratted him out.
She was heavily, oh heavily, tempted to ignore it, but it was a small callback to reality. She’d promised her mother she’d go and get her uncle Chase. She’d already made her wait long enough.
“You should probably answer that.”
“Should I really? It’s nothing interesting.” He insisted with false assurance. It warmed her heart to see she hadn’t been the only one who didn’t want to leave.
“You should.” She said, leaning in and placing her lips on his cheek. His hold on her loosened, his eyes widening in surprise. His brain slowed down, attempting to process the event as Salandra took a step back.
She bit her lip, unable to look him in the eye, and for fear of finding something she didn’t like, she slowly turned on her heels and began making her way back home.
Nikolas stood rather still, his hand slowly coming up to touch his cheek.
A confused expression pulled itself on his face along with an odd little smile.
He couldn’t quite make sense of it, but his heart was doing a weird jump and he could still feel the kiss on his cheek and his frown kept morphing between confusion and a grin.
His eyes were glued to the ground, and eventually they noticed a pair of shoes that hadn’t left.
Salandra had dared to glance back and seen something she hadn’t expected.
Nikolas’ face instantly reddened, from the tip of his ears to his nose. It was so instant you’d think he’d fall over from the sudden rush of blood to his face.
Salandra was trying her best not to chuckle, to spare him some of the humiliation he was obviously feeling. She was so giddy she couldn’t help the grin spreading wide on her face. This time, when she turned around and headed home, it was because she was afraid she couldn’t help herself anymore at the sight of Niko’s red face.
Niko stood still, glaring at the river as he waited for the blood to subside. His mind was completely blank, he tried to think of something, but it was impossible, his mind refused to be anything other than a blank canvas. That is, until his phone rang again, and he was reminded of how angry his dad must be that he left without saying anything (again) – or doing any other chores.
For someone who was about ready to pass out, starting to wonder, really, why he was still on his feet, Nikolas was crossing the boundaries to his home with a renewed vigor. His encounter with Salandra had given him an unexpected energy boost.
He’d just about forgotten again what was inevitably waiting for him.
His father had completely lost his temper once he’d gotten home. Edmund could do nothing to ease his husband’s anger, not that he was particularly inclined to. Just when they were starting to think Nikolas could be trusted again, he starts pulling out more stunts like this.
They’d tried an endless amount of things, but they were quickly realizing that Nikolas simply, clearly, had no respect for them. It didn’t matter if he listened to the things they said, he evidently felt no need to actually listen.
Nikolas had kept silent for most of the scolding and the endless lecturing on what he did wrong and what he needed to fix. He knew at this point that he couldn’t get a word in even if he wanted to. It’s when his fathers exchanged a glance and his dad took in a deep breath, as if preparing for a difficult decision, that Niko began to worry.
“Short of sending you to a camp,” Xavier began with a sigh. Nikolas tensed up, already more than afraid. How had they already gotten to the point where they were two options left? The last one being a troubled teen facility? Was he really that bad!? “We’re going to give you another chance. Show us we can trust you-”
“You can-!” Nikolas cut in with a little panic. Xavier shot him a warning glare.
“I’m going to put a locating spell on you.”
“Um…” Nikolas glanced around. “What do you mean a locating spell?”
“It’ll tell me where you are at all times. Like a GPS. A lot more accurate and longer lasting than the simple one I taught you.” Xavier declared.
“Um, pa…” Nikolas glanced at Edmund who smiled politely.
“It’s for your own good Nikolas.” Edmund explained and Xavier nodded.
“You won’t notice it’s there. This way you have the opportunity to show us that you’re not diving into any more Dealer’s Avenues 24/7.” Xavier added.
Nikolas still couldn’t believe his ears. He held his hands up, pacing in a circle twice before shedding his jacket. His temper was beginning to rise and that coupled with his fatigue was making it really warm. He rolled his jacket up in a ball and tossed on the ground with enough strength to get his fathers to frown disapprovingly. Before they could issue a verbal warning however, Niko grabbed his own foot.
“Why don’t you put an ankle bracelet on me while you’re at it!?” Nikolas snapped harshly, gesturing with his foot in case they were tempted. “Cause that’s what I am at this point isn’t it!? A prisoner!”
“No it is! I’m such a problem kid you just don’t know what to do with me anymore! Talking is no longer an option!” Niko exclaimed, waving his hands in the air.
“No it isn’t! You don’t listen Nikolas. It’s not a conversation if I’m talking to thin air.”
“I do listen!” Nikolas insisted. “I’ve done my best these last few months! I haven’t gotten in any fights, I’ve been home on time – you’re just nitpicking on the few times that I can’t follow the rules!”
“Those few times shouldn’t even exist. Those few times have you coming back home beat up!”
“That was once!”
Edmund put a hand on his husband’s shoulder, feeling the tension rise. Xav shook him off. “What about yesterday? I told you not to participate and you did anyways. I told you I had a bad feeling. Yet you went anyways, without any regards for my warnings.”
“I wasn’t going to go.” Nikolas replied. “But the situation changed. And you know what, you were right. Something happened, bad.”
Xavier’s features softened with sudden concern, but that pissed Nikolas off. Why hadn’t that been his dad’s first reaction? Xavier reached forwards, but Niko took a step back.
“But I have it under control.”
Xavier repressed a snort. “What happened?”
“I have it under control.” Nikolas replied.
“What happened?” Xavier demanded.
“I’m going to do this without your help. This is how I’ll show you how wrong you are not to trust me.” Nikolas said, gradually taking steps back towards the stairs.
“Nikolas come back here, we’re not done.” Xavier said, reaching for his son, but Edmund put a hand on his arm.
“I am.” Nikolas said head held high, before hopping up the stairs.
As his son turned his back on him, Xavier got a perfect of view of his neck. What he’d earlier mistaken for some dirt was actually a tattoo, one that set his sixth sense tingling.
He moved forwards to grab Nikolas back and question him at length on the origin of the marking, but Edmund kept his hold on him tight.
Xavier gestured helplessly at the stairs. “Edmund on his neck he-”
“I know, I know, but you have to let him calm down.” Edmund said. Xavier clenched his fists.
“Our son’s safety is more important than-”
“If you push too much you’ll push him away.” Edmund said. “Just give him time.”
Xavier calmed himself. “Okay, one day. I’ll give him the day. But tomorrow we’re figuring out what’s wrong.”
Edmund nodded, satisfied. “Sounds good.”
Nikolas was surprised when his parents let him go up the stairs after his outburst. He was even more surprised when they left him alone for a prolonged period after that. He hadn’t dared leave his room, though, in case that brought on some more shouting.
He’d sat on his bed, visited from time to time by a clean Nato, and thought. Pinching himself when he started to doze off, he tried to think on how this had happened to him. If he could figure out how the glitch had followed him out of the game, maybe he could figure out how to fix it. He was thinking it had something to do with that bony hand he saw at the beginning, two avatars. But if that was the cause…maybe the problem wasn’t entirely from the game. Maybe being a supernatural really had an impact.
He thought about how he would’ve liked someone to brainstorm with. His parents were officially out of the question. His sister…well supernatural things weren’t really something that caught her interest. He’d been tempted to talk to Tyzel, but he hadn’t seen him since. He’d probably gone home.
And that led him to think about his usual brainstorm buddy – Salandra. Who was dealing with her own things at the moment. If there was anyone at all to talk to, it was her. She was in the game with him after all. He didn’t have to explain the whole situation to get to the problem.
But…it was more than that.
His brainstorm buddy.
The ringing of a phone downstairs snapped him awake. Just in time too, because he hadn’t even realized he was dozing off again.
Maybe it was time to look into coffee. Even though he worked at a café, he’d never actually taken one. His coworkers often joked that he didn’t need any. But now, he was going to need it if he was ever going to stay awake.
He rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms, but it seemed to only make him more tired. He got up from his bed and started to pace, trying to get the blood flow going. He was on his 7th circle when the door to his room opened after a knock.
Nikita came in, closing the door gently behind her.
“The phone’s for you.” She said. “It sounds pretty urgent.”
“Who is it?” Nikolas asked.
“Look, dad and pa are outside, it’s the perfect opportunity to sneak downstairs.” Nikolas grimaced. His parents were probably still angry if Nikita was talking about sneaking. “Well anyway, if I were you…”
“Yeah I get it, thanks.”
“Vero? What’s up?”
Nato sniffed, looking out the window, as if expecting a bird to crash into it.
“What? Why didn’t you call me before? Right sorry. Just wait, I’ll be there in a few.”
Veronica, Lucas and Elvis were already present, motioning Nikolas over when they saw him reach their floor. One of the nurses, an old lady, watched him join his friends with a small relieved smile.
“Is…” Nikolas began in a whisper, but he didn’t know what to ask. Nothing seemed appropriate.
Veronica gestured at one of the doors. “That’s the one.”
“We don’t know how long she’s been in there.” Veronica added solemnly. “We haven’t been here very long. Maxwell’s the one who told me. He was over here for his toe fungus.”
“TMI.” Lucas mumbled.
“She won’t come out.” Elvis said, staring pointedly at the door.
“We tried, but…” Veronica sighed.
“It was like talking to a statue.” Elvis admitted. “We were there in the room for a while. Trying to get her to talk, show some kind of life.” He sighed, looking defeated. “I even brought up Dexter…”
“We tried individually. One at a time.” Lucas said. “But it’s like she couldn’t see us. Just kept staring straight ahead.”
“We didn’t know what to do, so we left. And the nurses started to get worried. They know her well around here, and they also didn’t have much luck. They don’t want to force her out though, so it’s a bit of a dilemma. We’re worried.” Veronica added. “You didn’t have to come. We’re just crowding the corridors.”
“Can I…?” Nikolas asked, gesturing at the silent door.
“You can try if you want.” Veronica shrugged. “The nurses called her uncle. He should be here soon.”
Nikolas nodded and headed for the door, grasping the doorknob and opening it silently – as if he was afraid of waking the dead.
The room held a heavy atmosphere, that instantly dragged any mood down. But somehow, it helped keep Niko wide awake. There were only two people in the room…though at this point I suppose you could consider there was only one left.
He located Salandra instantly, sitting on a chair at the bedside. She sat straight, her hands resting on her knees, her breathing regular and deep, and her eyes glued to the floor and empty.
If she noticed him enter, she showed no sign of it. He didn’t say a thing, not knowing where to even start. There was nothing to say really. He took small steady steps towards her, dropping to his knees once he was close enough.