No one’s POV
You don’t really notice these things.
It’s easy not to when you live in a peaceful area. You know about what happens; you hear about it and you see the consequences.
But they never really hit you. You’re a passionate observer – but just that, an observer.
And surprisingly unprepared.
“You’re very distracted today,” Papa Philip said, taking a break from pulling weeds. “Is everything good in that noggin of yours?”
“It feels really weird to be uprooting weeds with everything that’s happened.” Ashlynn admitted tugging on a more difficult one. Even weirder to realize that if she hadn’t met Nikolas prior to this – she wouldn’t be so bothered by the explosion. Weeding gardens hadn’t felt as inappropriate when that school was bombed.
Even though it makes sense – she didn’t see the consequences of that bombing first hand. She did, however, see the state of Nikolas’ house as well as the dozen of injured up close. It’s normal that it affects her more. She was worried for Nikolas as well – she was aware of how many people he’d lost. She was aware of a lot of the things he’d gone through lately.
But why did it take all of that for her to care as genuinely as she did now? It’s almost horrifying how easy it had been to say a few ‘I hope the students survived, that’s horrible’ and to carry on with her life afterwards without a hint of worry.
It’s such a common… symptom too. It’s so easy to ignore the suffering everyone else goes through when none of it affects you. You can deliver some genuine weak concern and go back to your normal routine.
“There’s not much else you can do right now, so helping your grandpa clear up his garden is probably the best thing to do for now.” Papa Philip said.
Ashe pulled away and sat down, closing her eyes with a frown as she waited for the sleep-inducing headache to pass. When it did, she turned back to her grandpa. “It feels like I should’ve told him about the cat while I could. I didn’t because it didn’t really feel appropriate then, but grandma says I probably should’ve.”
“No, no, your grandma likes being informed, but the boy hardly needs something else to worry about right now. The cat situation can wait till after this has cleared up.”
“Is there anything we – I can do to help him, you think? I know you said giving him some space for now was the best idea, but isn’t there anything at all?” She felt restless, but there truly was nothing she could think of doing. Apart from checking in on him, all that was left was to wait for the deaths to be announced and for the wounds to heal. The bomber herself had died in the explosion.
No wait – she could still solve this cat mystery for him meanwhile.
He was..something else. Ashlynn was so used to living in Cloverfield where nothing happens. It’s so peaceful it felt fake now. They barely get any noise – their supernatural population is low and it’s a small town. Everyone has a good vibe going on, but Nikolas…he has a real vibe.
And yesterday had confirmed it, she’d only seen portions of his life in astral, but he’d already lived through so much more than most of the people she knew here – who’ve already lived their lives. She used to think just the trial he’d gone through was a lot.
Yet the strength he showed still standing up – he’d lost nearly everyone he’d ever known, more than most of the other survivors. But when she checks in to say hi, to ask how he’s doing, to offer support – he’s offering it to someone else.
How does he do it? She didn’t know if she could do the same.
Nikita had a faint idea of how – which is why she’d ordered her brother to stay by her side for a bit at least. The police, the friends, the injured – it was all getting to him, she had no doubt even if he wasn’t showing it.
Seeing as Nikolas had promptly fallen asleep on the chair inside twenty minutes – she felt she’d been right.
“There we go.” Nikita said sadly as the news confirmed another death. “Tyzel’s dead.”
Nikolas opened his eyes then, staring blankly at the screen. Another one for the list.
“There’s not many people left to kill now.” Nikita joked humorlessly.
“Who’s left?” Nikolas asked.
“I…I don’t think there’s anyone else.” Nikita realized.
“James.” Nikolas finally said. “That’s the last one.” The vampire had been in surgery from the moment Nikolas had reached the hospital. He’d been told his grandfather had been pierced in the side with broken mirror pieces – apparently that demanded intensive hours of long surgery.
Maxwell knocked once before entering the door, greeting the siblings with a sympathetic smile. Max had lost even more than Nikolas had – if he thought about it. He’d lost his mom and his stepdad – and his twin siblings, Veronica and Joel, along with it. Yet somehow the man carried along as if Niki and Niko had lost more.
Niko was hesitant to admit it, but he was an inspiration to him right now.
“I’m guessing you had trouble at the vending machines.” Nikita said, noticing his lack of snacks as he sat at the foot of her bed.
“Well those two Dragon kids, uh, Tristan and Bianca, I think, raided the nearby ones.” Maxwell explained.
Nikolas snorted. “They announced another death.” Niko stated before grabbing the remote and closing the tv with some annoyance.
“It was Tyzel.” Nikita glumly explained.
“How are you two holding up?”
“Maxwell do you see them?” Nikolas asked – Max didn’t need a clearer question.
He took in a slow breath. “Yes, some. Before they fade.”
“Is Salandra in them?”
“Want to go take a walk Niko? Get some fresh air?” Maxwell said in a jovial voice as he got up.
“Yes! That’s a perfect idea! You could stop by a grocery store and get some food too!” Nikita smirked, reaching over and pushing his foot off her bed.
“Alright, ok!” Nikolas rolled his eyes before getting up and leaving with Max.
Nikita would’ve gone along if it hadn’t been for her knees. They’d gotten shaken too harshly in the explosion – she just needed some rest and monitoring. She wrestled with her hands anxiously. She wanted Nikolas to come live with her and Maxwell.
There wasn’t a lot of space – there was only a couch for him really – but he was all she had left. With one of their fathers dead, and the other at this point presumed dead…with most of their family gone save for their grandfather’s side…it felt lonely and she wanted to keep her brother close.
But she’d already tried and he didn’t seem that open to it – maybe if she had a bigger place? But he also didn’t seem that enthusiastic of staying with the Dragons.
She wished he’d talk to her more, but she understood he was angry right now. Very angry, and with no one alive to blame.
It was a common state for most of the survivors – though a young 12 year old boy was more focused on feeling lonely and sad than angry. Just a few hours had passed – in a flurry of chaos and confusion – but he still felt like it had only been a few minutes ago. He’d had the luck of stepping outside to play with Nato when the explosion had gone off. He’d gotten thrown so hard he’d lost consciousness for a bit, and when he’d woken up the house was on fire and people were rushing to put it out.
So many people had died – every time he thought about someone he had to correct himself. ‘I wonder where Veronica-’ ‘Miss Charlotte’s husband is a detective he can-’ ‘Lucas was-’ ‘I wish mom and dad were here.’
The only people who’d survived were the group of kids that had gone outside and the few people who’d stood near the front entrance. Everyone else…
Jesse reached the currently popular room of the hospital. One of the kids who’d survived had had to go through intense surgery – if Jesse had heard right there was a very strong possibility of him being paralyzed waist down. Apparently he’d protected the pink-haired girl during the explosion and gotten his back sheared by the exploding windows as a result.
It didn’t look like anyone was worried on whether or not he would walk again, they all just seemed ecstatic that he was alive. He had all these people, still, loving and supporting him. His friends were there, his parents were there. He had a reason to smile.
Jesse felt his eyes fill with tears. This was such a horrible event. And right now was maybe the only time he was going to get to breathe. He was an orphan, anytime now he expected to see a social worker, ready to drag him to a family.
He didn’t have a family left anyway.
Nikolas noticed him at the doorway and motioned him over.
Panic seized Jesse and he shook his head, preferring to walk away rather than cry in front of such a large group.
As tempting as the warm atmosphere had been, it didn’t feel welcoming to him.
He’d barely gone a few steps that Nikolas had come after him, lightly grabbing his shoulder. Jesse turned around, fully expecting to need to justify his tears. Concussion! Was his best excuse so far.
But instead he saw Nikolas with his arms extended and an oddly understanding smile. It was a reminder to Jesse that he hadn’t lost his entire family just yet. And as annoying as Nikolas was at times, that’s what a brother was anyway.
“Can we adopt him?” Oscar asked, gesturing at the sleeping boy.
Nikolas snorted and shrugged. “Why not?”
Seemingly satisfied, Oscar plugged himself in the wall and laid down to recharge.
Most of their friends had left for home already. Terrance had tried to get Nikolas to come as well – as there was little point to him staying at the hospital – but he’d refused. James still wasn’t out of surgery, and no one else was waiting for him.
Oscar had obviously decided to stay, but surprisingly so had Jesse. The Dragons had offered him a roof for the time being, but ever since Nikolas had spotted him in the corridor, Jesse was glued to him.
Nikolas distracted himself with the tv and its mindless commercials. He’d already been asked twice to identify a body and to recount the events for the police. It was still in the process of sinking in – and it’s in the small silent moments like this one that Niko found himself drastically drained mentally and emotionally. Ads about magic toilet paper did nothing to enhance his mood.
The news came back on, still talking about the explosion. He’d heard about all of the wild theories. People were making this out to be so much more complicated than it needed to be.
It was really simple.
Someone he thought was his friend, had killed most of his family in a psychotic meltdown. He’d really wanted to give her a way out. The tattoos were doing this to her. But he knew that was false, and his trip down memory lane with Ashlynn had only enhanced this.
The signs had been there, and maybe if Nikolas knew how to look for them, he could’ve stopped this. But it was all on her. This whole shitfest was on her shoulders and hers alone. Anger couldn’t describe it. It was a stone cold determination – or truth.
He watched as the reporter elaborated on more wild theories on how a natural managed to magically explode a house. People seemed to really enjoy trying to find a way to pin the blame on Nikolas himself – which he found more ridiculous than insulting.
“-possibility that the suicide bombing was not a suicide. People have claimed to notice a flash of blue and red escaping in the background. Though unclear, we can perceive it in the background here. According to witnesses, Salandra Grace was the only one to be wearing those colors-”
Nikolas sat up so fast he should’ve been afraid of breaking something. He activated astral to stop time, so he could walk up and stare at the screen. It was unmistakable. Someone had to have photoshopped this. He saw her explode. She COULDN’T have survived this.
He knew there was a way he could make sure. But he didn’t want to revisit the scene of the explosion itself just yet. He went back to his body, letting time continue.
Why would anyone even bother photoshopping her in? There was no point to it. It was real. Which made everything that had happened all the more worse.
He felt a familiar tapping – or a knocking if you will – through astral.
Ashlynn, using his response to pinpoint where he was, joined him on the sofa. She looked back at the tv and got her confirmation – he had seen it.
“You saw it too huh?” Nikolas stated, doing his best to control his irritation over this news.
“I don’t know, and I don’t really care right now. I’m just really…” Nikolas inhaled, finding sitting still to be very difficult at the moment.
“Angry? Justly so, I can’t believe she’s alive. But if they’ve spotted her, that means the authorities will be looking for her, right? They’ll find her.” She assured, but Nikolas didn’t quite share her faith in the police. Then again, this was getting people riled up for the whole supernatural vs natural debate. The police wouldn’t have any other choice but to focus on this.
“Yeah, only for her to explode again.” Nikolas grumbled, clutching the armrest, but logic started to soften him up. “Though, this is probably all her tattoo’s fault. Magic like that, I’d be surprised if she still had it.”
“So she’s a crazy girl running around with no powers. My dad’s a cop here in Ridgevalley, if I ask him, he’ll tell me when they find her. Before they announce it on tv. And then of course, I’ll tell you. I’ll use astral express it’s faster.” She said with a complicit smile.
“That’d be appreciated.” Niko said with a short laugh.
He was still angry – obviously, but he knew there was little point in staying angry. It wouldn’t do much right now, and he just wanted it all to be over so he could go back home – wherever that was.
It was certainly not a place that Zac had anymore. He’d been lucky, he hadn’t suffered any major injuries. A few cuts and bruises on his limbs, but that was all. His mother, however, hadn’t been so lucky. There’d been some hope for a while, but that had gotten squandered just an hour ago. She was dead.
He probably had a lot of things to do. He wasn’t 18 yet, but he needed to take steps to see if he could keep his current roof. He had no other family and no job – the list was growing by the second on things he needed to start on now.
But he’d locked himself in a bathroom stall to accept what had happened, and now he was wandering the hospital aimlessly. Turns out he was searching for something – without really realizing it.
Nikolas looked up from his tic tac toe game, and grinned at the sight of his friend. “Zac!”
Zac waved back tentatively as he noticed the girl sitting with Nikolas. He’d thought he’d seen someone else at the house – someone else in astral that is. He hadn’t been entirely sure then, but he was now.
It’s like the ability was becoming a disease.
Nikolas – the boy who’d lost about 20 times more people than Zac had – got up and with a smile introduced the two.
“This is Ashlynn,” He said. “she’s got the same ability with astral that I do. And this is Zac, he can’t move or do what we can in astral, but he can see it.”
“And I can teleport with it too.” Zac stated. “In itself, it’s much better than your version. Much more useful.”
“Well, I don’t know about that. We can teleport too you know.” Ashlynn said, making a show of ‘teleporting’ her left hand only.
“Pfff, yeah ‘teleporting’.” Zac snorted along, a smile coming back to his face.
As Nikolas enthusiastically recounted their experience with the cowplant, Zac internally nodded to himself. Yes, taking a moment to chill, to laugh a bit, to get distracted, was something he was allowed to do. There was strength to be had from it.
Something Ashe felt the victims had in abundance. It was inspiring to see really.
And it was contagious as well.
If it had been up to her, she would’ve stayed up till she’d heard from Nikolas that his grandfather was okay. But another big wave of fatigue had washed over her – which Ashe suspected was in part due to all the astraling she was doing. She hoped she was wrong, but she’d noticed a tendency lately.
Her grandparents had picked up on it, and considering her collapse the day before, they’d insisted she at least go take a nap.
She sat on her bed and set about unclasping her watch. She usually slept with one. She was usually afraid of sleeping without one. She didn’t know why or how it worked in her brain – but she used to have nightmares when she was a little girl. Intense nightmares. It’s only after she began wearing a watch to sleep that they stopped. She hadn’t dared sleep without since.
But the events had inspired her to be strong. And if Nikolas could live through all of that, she could sleep without her dream catcher.
In an odd way, it felt more right at the moment anyway, to be without a watch.
“This surgery sure is taking forever.” Zac mumbled from the couch. He’d tried to nap, but it hadn’t worked out well. Leaving the hospital kind of meant having to face everything that had happened, and even though he and Niko had talked about the events and the losses – well let’s just say that this small corner of the hospital had become a comfortable bubble away from reality. Zac had every intention to stay here as long as he could.
Still, the whole reason Nikolas was here was for James, and Zac hadn’t heard of a surgery lasting this long. Or, the ones that do weren’t applicable here.
“I know. It shouldn’t be.” Nikolas agreed with a frown from his chosen spot on the floor. “But each time I ask the nurses they tell me they’ll come see me when it’s done.”
“Still.” Zac said. He groaned. “There’s nothing good on this tv.”
“Ah, Nikolas, finally!” Sebastien exclaimed, suddenly appearing in their space. “Is there some place safe you can go to? Outside of the hospital?” He asked urgently.
Nikolas got up, confused. “Yeah, but I’m waiting on James.”
“I’m going to need you to go there right now, as soon as possible. Just for the time being. Just to be safe.” Sebastien said with uncharacteristic worry.
“What’s wrong? The nurses said I could stay.”
“It’s James. He’s been kidnapped.”