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A Specter Legacy Ch 12

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A Specter Legacy Ch 12

  1. 1. Ch12 Soundtrack: “Aha!” by Imogen Heap; “Talk” by Coldplay; “Butter” by The Bloody Beetroots; “Popular” by The Veronicas; “My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson; “Frontload (Designer Drugs Remix)” by Freezepop
  2. 2. Welcome back! Don’t mind the ninja here—he just likes to taunt me. Thanks toeveryone who has been reading and enjoying the legacy and an extra specialthanks to those who have been leaving comments. Before I start I’ll warn you thatthe chapter’s very long and I’m very wordy. But that’s not such a bad thing, right? Alot going on means more fun for you. Anyway, that’s the reason why you might seemore or less of a character in one chapter than in another; I’ve certain plotelements to get to at specific times. And speaking of things to get to, why don’t Iget started?
  3. 3. “Mr. Specter…. Mr. Specter, you will not gain anything from these sessionsthrough silence.”Zephyr sighed and leaned back in the chair.“Let’s start with something simple. How was your week?”“Pointless.”
  4. 4. “Your week was pointless?”“No, these sessions are. I don’t see why I need to talk about anything and—”“If I am not mistaken, your current method of burying your feelings and willingthem to go away has ceased to be effective, correct?”“I—”
  5. 5. “And what could be more pointless than performing the same action repeatedlyand expecting different results?”“Uh…” Zeph didn’t really have an answer. “I guess you’re right.”“Of course I am. I am the doctor here, after all.”Zeph smirked and shook his head. There was only reason why he was still sittingin that office. He had to make an effort. For Liz.
  6. 6. “Alright,” he sighed. “My week was fine. Liz and I went out a few times. Dinner, amovie, that sort of thing.”“And have things with Elizabeth been going well?”“More than well. I’ve been staying home more so we spend more time together.We’ve been talking more.”
  7. 7. “What sorts of things do you talk about?”“I don’t know. What movie to see, what to get for dinner, her job at the hospital…”“Do you ever talk to her about you? About your feelings or dreams?”“No.”“Hmm.” Zephyr shifted in his seat a bit. “Tell me more about your time with Liz.”
  8. 8. “Well, I proposed.”“Really,” the doctor said with practically no emotion. “And how did that go?”Zeph scowled. “She said yes.”“Interesting. How do you propose to deal with your communication problem as amarried couple?”
  9. 9. “Liz and I don’t have a communication problem.”“Let me see if I get this straight. You and your girlfriend—sorry fiancé—”“Wife.”“I beg your pardon?”
  10. 10. “Wife.” Zeph held up his hand. “We were married over the weekend. We didn’t seeany reason to wait,” he shrugged.The doctor’s eyes narrowed.
  11. 11. “So you and your wife decided to get married even though you spend a significantamount of your time together quarrelling—”“I said we were doing good lately!”“And have yet to discuss matters of significant import, namely your past and therelated emotional turmoil and subsequent drug use, not to mention future plans,life goals, and the fact that you both clearly disagree on issues regarding certainlifestyle choices.”
  12. 12. “You make it sound like we barely know each other—like we first met. We’ve beendating off and on since we were teens; we’ve known each other half our lives,”Zeph stated defiantly.“Hmm.”“I thought you were supposed to be nonjudgmental.”
  13. 13. “Mr. Specter, forgive me if I seem disproving or confrontational. I am merely tryingto understand you and your thought process.”“Sure.”“Please. Perhaps if you tell me more about your relationship with Elizabeth, I willunderstand you better. Why are you so reluctant to talk to her, if you know her aslong and as well as you say?”
  14. 14. Zeph sighed and rubbed his head. “It’s… complicated.”“Take your time.”“It’s not Liz, exactly, I just don’t like to talk about my past with anyone. It’s toopainful.”“Would you care to explain that statement?”
  15. 15. “Huh?”“Just how, exactly, is it painful? What sort of pain are you feeling?”“I feel… I feel real pain. Physical. Every time I remember it… it’s like my bodytenses up. It’s like I’m back there. And when I talk about it—well, I don’t really talkabout it at all. Why would I want to bring those sensations back?”“I see.”
  16. 16. “Tell me, Zephyr, have you ever actually talked about ‘the event’ with anyone? Indetail, I mean? Have you given it more than a cursory mention?”“Uh, no. I just said I didn’t.”“And so, you’ve never actually experienced physical pain while discussing theevent, have you?”“Um…”
  17. 17. “Do you think it’s possible that the reason you’ve been so reluctant to talk toanyone was because of an irrational fear of bringing up the sensations youdescribe?”“I… I wouldn’t say irrational…”“Mr. Specter, have you ever experienced any pain or flashbacks or unpleasantsensations while discussing the event with anyone?”
  18. 18. “Look, I know what you’re getting at, but you’re wrong, okay? It doesn’t take muchto relive it. I close my eyes and I’m back there. I’m breathing in smoke, I’m hearingmy siblings scream, and my skin feels like it’s on fire. The slightest thing sets mymemory off. I just can’t seem to let go. To forget.”“And what kinds of things set your memory off?”“I don’t know… Anything. Everything.”
  19. 19. “All I know is that it keeps happening and I can’t control it. This wave of anger justwashes over me and I—I’m one step away from hurting something. Everything isso intense and it’s only gotten worse since—since , uh, recently.”“And why is that?”“I don’t know, lady, aren’t you supposed to be telling me?”
  20. 20. “You’re deflecting, Mr. Specter. Attempting to distract me from the fact that youneglected to answer the question.”“I—”“Why is that? Is there something that happened recently?”“Wha—no.”
  21. 21. “Nothing happened recently. Look, I don’t want to talk anymore. Can we end thisnow?”“Your session is not over for another thirty minutes, Mr. Specter.”“Well, I’m leaving early,” Zeph rose.“Mr. Specter—”
  22. 22. “Your session is not over,” she said, but she was speaking to an empty room. Hehad already stormed out of her office. She couldn’t help but shake her head as sheheaded for the computer to transfer her notes on the session.*****
  23. 23. “Thanks again for tonight,” Dagmar smiled over her shoulder at Taz. “I had a greattime.”“Me too,” Taz admitted. His smile faltered a bit when he realized that they werealmost at his door. Should he invite her in? Walk her up to her apartment? Kiss hergoodnight? Did he even want to kiss her? Taz glanced sideways and stared at herred dress and the way it outlined her body, showing off her curves and giving apeek at her bra.
  24. 24. “Uh, um and dinner was great, too. That crème brûlée thing… and that movie—”“Taz?”“Yeah?”“You’re stalling.”“I am?”
  25. 25. “You are.”He sighed. “I guess I’m not really sure what the protocol is here.”“And I get that.”“You do? I swear, Dag, you’re the most understanding sim ever.”
  26. 26. “Well, I am pretty amazing.”“That you are,” Taz grinned.“Look,” Dagmar shifted, seemingly a little more impatient than usual. “This is like,what, the fifth date we’ve been on?”“Uh, really? It’s been five?”
  27. 27. Dagmar cocked her head. “Yes.”“I—I had not noticed that.”Dagmar sighed. “Look sweetie, I’m a girl and you’re a guy and I’m wearing thissexy red dress…”Taz looked down at the dress and gulped. “Yeah, I know, and…”
  28. 28. “And this is the part where you kiss me,” Dagmar teased, putting her fingersunderneath his chin.Taz froze and time seemed to slow down for a second or two. His heart poundedin his chest and as he looked into Dagmar’s eyes, he felt a bit mesmerized. Hefound himself leaning in, getting lost in the moment, her scent, her touch, herstare.
  29. 29. He didn’t know how long they stood there, how long their lips touched. All he knewwas that he couldn’t pull himself away.
  30. 30. “I don’t know what it is about you…” he muttered. His forehead crinkled as hecontinued to speak. “I never expected to fall in love again. And definitely not sofast.”“Aw, Taz. Did you just say you love me?”“Wha?” His brows furrowed again. “Did I? That’s not what I—”
  31. 31. “Shh, it’s okay. I love you, too.”“Dagmar—”“Just kiss me again okay?”“O-Okay,” Taz found himself saying.*****
  32. 32. Aerith shut her book with more force than she’d intended to. She didn’t reallymean to damage the old tome, but damn it was getting boring sleeping all day andreading all night. She was staying with Wesley at the House of Fallen Leaves, amansion downtown, and supposedly she was there to learn about her vampiricroots. So far, however, she’d mostly just seen the library and learned how to readlots of vampire lore.
  33. 33. She bit her lip as she returned the book to the shelf and looked for another. Whatshe needed was something that told her how to undo the curse, not what shecould do with her undead powers. She had a life to get back to. With that thoughta pang of guilt spread through her. But then again, maybe not, she remindedherself. She’d broken up with Taz. He’d probably moved on and married someoneelse by now. It had been ages since she last saw him. And why shouldn’t he havemoved on? Aerith asked herself. He has every right to--
  34. 34. “There you are.” Wesley’s voice interrupted her thoughts.Aerith turned around. “Hey. Please tell me you’re here to save me from all thisreading.” And thinking, she added silently. The thinking was just as bad as thereading.
  35. 35. “Well,” Wes said, sauntering up to Aerith, “I do have plenty of ideas on what wecould do instead.” His eyes took their time as they looked her up and down.“Uh…” Aerith blushed, unsure of what to say. “Wesley… You know that I’m notreally… That I don’t really want to date right now…”Wes looked unconcerned. “Yeah, you told me, but you can’t blame a guy for trying,right?”
  36. 36. “Uh, sure,” she smiled hesitantly. “So… What’s up.”“I wanted to talk to you. About something other than the whole graceful, quietbeauty thing you have going on, I mean.” He smiled. “Do you remember when Itold you about the other vampires in the neighborhood? Well, I’d like you to meetthem.”“Why? I mean, I don’t even want to be a vampire. And you’re supposed to behelping me find a cure, remember?”
  37. 37. “Aerith, I think it’s time to accept the facts. This is your life now. Embrace it. Beinga vampire isn’t all that bad.”“It just isn’t how I thought my life would go,” she sighed. “How I wanted it to go.”“Things happen. That’s life.”Aerith shook her head. “You sound like my brother. Or how he used to soundanyway.”
  38. 38. “In any case,” Aerith continued, “you’re wrong. Things didn’t just happen. TheContessa made it happen. She bit me and I wanna know why. And you, if I’m notmistaken, were supposed to help me speak to her.”“I never made any promises,” Wesley squirmed. “I’d said I’d try. And I have—”“Well, then I might as well leave because it’s the only reason why I came here. Ican read up on vampires somewhere else.”
  39. 39. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just hold on a sec, okay? You’re still a vampire and you don’twant to be all alone.”“Why not?”“You’re still just a fledgling and that’s exactly why I want you to meet the others.You can learn from each other and protect each other.”“I already have a family.”
  40. 40. “But no one else is a vampire like you, right? Listen, if there’s one thing aboutvampires it’s that we stick together.”“Really? I thought they were more of the lone warrior type.”Wes shook his head. “What I mean is that there are rules. Society and order andstructure are key for vamps. You don’t always have to live with others of your kind,but you sure as hell must know which side you’re on. You’re one of us, Aer. Youneed to know more about your kind before you run off alone.”
  41. 41. “Fine, then teach me already,” Aerith exclaimed. “What does meeting the othershave to do with that? Can’t you just show me the handbook and let me be on myway?”Wes ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s better to meet them and form a clan. Youwould protect each other.”“From what? Is there something hunting us?”
  42. 42. “Right now? This century? Not exactly, no.”“Then you need to come up with a better reason because I’m not exactly a joiner.”“You’d be bound by certain rules and protocol. It keeps vampires from going offand performing every ill-planned scheme that runs into their head. It provides ameasure of supernatural order in the world.”“Again, not seeing how this is beneficial to me.”
  43. 43. Wes sighed. “I know. It used to be that protection was a major reason whyvampires banded together, but nowadays no one buys the ‘safe from potentialthreats’ argument.” He shifted his weight. “Alright, look, I really don’t like tellingsims this but…” he shrugged. “Most modern vampires join a clan for power.”“Power?”“Yes. Think about it. Supernatural you are, but even age wouldn’t make you aspowerful as a group.”
  44. 44. “I suppose.”“And a clan bond is a magic of itself. You would bind yourself to each other. Justlike a coven of witches becomes a powerful force, a clan of vampires holds poweras well. Not as much, because we aren’t witches, but we are still supernatural andour powers combined, over time, becomes strengthened and powerful. And that’swhere the vampire advantage comes in,” Wes gestured. “We’re the only ones withtime on our side. A group of vampires binding their powers together over time canbe an unstoppable force.”
  45. 45. “Really? Then how come—”“Well, usually what happens is that eventually fights break out over what to use thepower for and the magic dissipates as the bonds are broken.”“Oh. But I’m not sure I get it. How do vampires bond together anyway? Is it magic?Why would witches ever help vampires?”“Well, like I said—vampires are supernatural, so in a way, we are magical.”
  46. 46. “Plus there’s a bit of magic in everyone, as the saying goes,” Wesley joked. “As forthe actual binding, well, that goes back to the older meaning of clan. It’s a familybond. You share blood.”“And that means?”“A little blood, a lot of willpower, and a few magic words and bam—you’re bonded.”
  47. 47. “Look Aerith, I know you didn’t want this, but I truly believe that it’s the best thingfor you. You have your family now, but in a few decades or centuries, what then?Think about the long term. Why not make a few friends? Have one or two peopleyou can call in case something goes awry or someone does start hunting you.Right now you’re alone, with no one to watch your back when the sun comes up.”“Unless I just bite somebody.”
  48. 48. Wes straightened, suddenly becoming very stern. “Turning a vampire is not atrivial thing, Aerith. It’s serious and complex. You can’t just go off biting people.”“Really?” Aerith raised a brow.“Really. There’s a lot involved. And for someone like you, it gets even morecomplicated.” Seeing the look on Aerith’s face, Wes explained. “We believe thatthe originals used to possess magic like witches but as the blood diluted, so didtheir powers.”
  49. 49. “The old ones used to use—still use, actually—a kind a ritual involving a trance toturn others. But as vampire blood diluted over the centuries, most of us lost thatpower. In short, an old one turning a sim is a big deal; it takes a lot more effortthan usual. You have the old ones’ blood in you since the Contessa bit you, yetyou’re still young. You don’t have nearly enough power behind that flawless skin. Ifyou tried to turn someone by yourself, you’d kill them.”“But then can other vampires even turn sims? I mean, how did you—”
  50. 50. “They can. It’s just a different process. An old one’s transformation involves moremagic. I can turn someone no problem, but you—you better know what you’redoing.” Wesley’s forehead crinkled. “Listen to me, Aerith: someone bitten by an oldone is closer to the original vampire blood line, meaning they have more magic,more powers.” Wes assessed Aerith for a second. “That means you. You will be avery powerful vampire. Others will be attracted to that. It’s best you protectyourself by aligning with a clan.”
  51. 51. “Others like you?” Aerith challenged.Wes smiled and leaned in a bit. “I am attracted to you, but mostly it’s just yourbody.” He laughed as she blushed and rubbed her nose. “Seriously though, you’renot quite there yet. You still haven’t come into your full powers, remember? Andthere’s still so much you don’t know about yourself. For one thing, you ought tolearn that you can’t turn just anybody, even if you had the power.”“Don’t tell me—there are rules for turning sims. Rules which clans enforce.”
  52. 52. “Yes,” Wes agreed, but without his playful smile. “And the rule is that a sim has tobe dying.” Aerith’s eyes grew wide. “Usually,” Wes continued, “a clan would ensurethat sims aren’t killed needlessly or on purpose, simply to increase a clan’snumbers.” He paused. “That’s my ulterior motive, why my brother is so adamantabout finding fledglings and helping them form their own covens—well one of thereasons anyway. If my brother were to perform the binding ceremony, then hewould also bind rules like that one into the bond, ensuring the group’s commitmentto upholding certain vampire ideals.”
  53. 53. Aerith took a breath. “You’ve given me a lot to think about. I mean, you’ve said alot of stuff.”“I have… But then you are here to be taught.”Aerith gave Wes a look. “There is one thing that sticks out the most right now,though. You said a sim has to be dying in order for them to turn.”“I did.”
  54. 54. “I wasn’t dying.”“So you say.”“No, really, I swear Wes. I was not dying. I was perfectly fine.”“It’s the rule, Aerith. For everyone.” He paused. “There are only so many ways tocheat death. That is how vampires do it.”
  55. 55. “Well, then I guess one thing’s certain now.” He raised a brow. “I absolutely haveto talk to the Contessa.” Wes slumped a bit. “What? She obviously knowssomething I don’t! And as an old one, isn’t she more qualified to teach me aboutmy powers anyway?”“True, but it’s doubtful she’d ever do so.”“Please, Wes. You have to get her to see me. Can’t you just tell me where she isor—or something, please?”
  56. 56. Wes stared at Aerith. “Alright, alright, I’ll try again and see what I can do. But willyou at least promise to think about the meeting the others? And forming a clan?”Aerith nodded. “I’ll think about it.”*****
  57. 57. Zeph and Liz were in the kitchen making dinner together when suddenly Zephglanced over at his wife and felt a wave of emotion. Normally, he stifled suchwaves, but this one was an overwhelmingly happy one so he dropped what was inhis hands and gathered Liz up in his arms.“Wow, what’s gotten into you?”“Nothing, just happy.”Liz smiled at him. “So the sessions are going okay, then?”
  58. 58. “Uh huh,” Zeph said before he twirled her.“Zeph—”“It’s fine I swear. But who wants to talk about that? Tell me again why you have towork so late tonight.”Liz gave in. “I’m on the night shift this week, remember?”
  59. 59. “Bah, who needs night shifts? You should be here with me.”Liz grinned at him, her smile buoyed by Zeph’s happiness. His mood wascontagious and made her think of when they were kids and the first time they met.She relaxed in his arms and let him talk about nonsense.Things are changing, she thought. I can feel it.
  60. 60. Pretty soon the couple forgot all about dinner and headed upstairs.*****
  61. 61. Wes found himself painting again. He just couldn’t seem to get her out of his head.Aerith. There was just something about her, more than just her beauty. Maybe itwas because she didn’t seem interested in him and that certainly had neverhappened before. Or maybe it was because she was different, a semi-old one.Wes smiled. He wasn’t quite sure what to call her, but he was sure that whilehaving her around was bad for his head, it was great for his art. He paused in hispainting, sensing his brother’s presence.
  62. 62. “Ah, I see we are painting the young lady again.”“Leave me alone.”“Oh, but why? To see you so infatuated is amusing.”“Not to me. You know what she said to me, Dom? She said she’s not interested. Inme. Who could not be interested in me?”
  63. 63. “I think I like her already.”“Haha. So what’s the word?”“As I told you before, the Contessa refuses.”“Shit.”“Just tell her no, Wesley.”
  64. 64. “I’m trying to impress her. Besides if I tell her that then she’ll leave.”“And go where? Is there some other vampire house in the area that I do not knowabout? Didn’t you speak to her of the clans?”“She doesn’t wish to be one of us, Dom.”“Does any of us ever really do? Just tell her how foolish it would be for her to beon her own, without proper wards or protection.”
  65. 65. “I’m trying, but it’s a hard sell.”“So sell her the power aspect.”“I did.”“And?”“And I don’t know, okay! She’s determined to be on her own, do things her way.”
  66. 66. “Get her to change her mind. You know that I cannot allow someone of her powerand naivety to remain unbound.”“I know.”“Furthermore, a clan is the only way to keep her and the others out of serioustrouble. It is the only way to keep this area secure.”“I know.”
  67. 67. “Look, believe me I’m trying.”“That famous charm of yours failing you?” Dominic raised a brow.Wes glowered at him. “Neither side wants this. And why should they? Why shouldshe pair up with a group trying to resurrect their shady dead relatives and whyshould they pair up with someone who’ll never let them bring back said relatives?”“She is the only one here who can keep them in line. You have to make it work.”
  68. 68. “Show them that they need each other,” Dominic insisted.“I will. Eventually. But I need you to throw me a bone, here.”“To help you form the clan or to impress the girl?”“Please, Dom. She’s special. I can feel it. Can’t you pull some strings?”Dominic regarded his brother carefully.
  69. 69. “The Contessa will never agree to talk to her. She’s very adamant about that—nearly staked me for bringing it up again. You know how she hates fledglings.” Hepaused, thinking. “But perhaps I can arrange to speak with her on your younglady’s behalf. Will that do?”*****
  70. 70. Aerith paced her room, thinking.Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty-bitty living space.She took a deep breath and stretched. She could definitely use a bit of magic rightnow.
  71. 71. Wesley had presented a lot to her, which had only led to more questions.Apparently witches were a thing. Magic was everywhere and family bonds heldsome of that magic. Apparently her vampire powers were actually unique—andnameless, faceless others might hunt her for them. And, apparently, she was morethan a bit upset to learn that her gut instincts were right: she shouldn’t turn anothersim, at least not for a while. Because they would die. Aerith had never felt morealone before. “Okay,” she told herself. “Maybe the clan thing isn’t such a bad idea.”
  72. 72. She tried to remember what Wes had told her about the others.First there was Lila Bradshaw. Aerith thought she remembered seeing the girlaround school, way back in high school. She was in drama. Playful. Artsy. A bit toointo the history of Crystal Springs.
  73. 73. Then there was Andrzej Cho. She barely knew anything about him and Wes hadn’tbe able to fill her in either. ‘He’s quiet,’ was all Wes had said. ‘A watcher.’
  74. 74. And finally, Tina Custer. ‘A firecracker,’ Wes had told her. ‘Brass and impulsive,determined to get her way.’
  75. 75. They called themselves the Tricous; Aerith didn’t know why. What she did knowwas that there was absolutely no reason to join them. They’d out number her andwere sure to have their own agenda. But still… They were the only other vampiresin Crystal Springs. Joining with them would accrue more magic that much faster. Ifwhat Wesley said was true, then maybe, just maybe, she could use this clanmagic to turn herself human again.
  76. 76. “It’s risky,” Aerith muttered. And there’s no way to tell how long it would take toacquire the proper amount of magic… But it was a chance. And that’s more thanshe had before. At the very least she could give meeting them a try.*****
  77. 77. Sydney was doing pretty well. She was a straight A student and received theemployee of the month award at her part time job her parents made her get tohelp build ‘character.’ She was a regular overachiever but that wasn’t enough--Rose was one too. No, to complete her Be Awesomer Than Rose Plan, she had toconqueror high school popularity.
  78. 78. Step one was getting new clothes and a cell phone. She even invited a fewclassmates out to hang out. Steps two, three, and four involved getting a cuteboyfriend, winning Battle of the Bands, and being crowned queen at a schooldance.
  79. 79. She’d already completed step two.Houston wasn’t exactly the boyfriend she’d planned to have when she’dtransitioned, but her heart did flip every time they met in the hallway, so shesupposed that would have to do.“Hey, Syd, you free this afternoon? Wanna hang out downtown?”
  80. 80. “Sorry, can’t.”“Why not?” Houston looked disappointed. “Isn’t tonight your only night off thisweek?”“Yeah, but Battle of the Bands is coming up.”“So?”
  81. 81. “So, my Be Awesomer Than Rose Plan?”“Aw, Syd, not that again… Can’t you give that up?”“I’m going to pretend like I didn’t hear that. Anyways, I have band practice.”“Well, I’m in the band—shouldn’t I be there?”“Today’s practice is only for the backup singers. We’re going over the dances forthe songs.”
  82. 82. “You have backup singers?”“Of course, duh. I recruited Ginger and Meadow. If I can get Spencer to playguitar, I’ll be all set.”“Didn’t he vow never to join anything you’re in charge of—”“Yeah, yeah but he’s my twin. He’ll cave eventually.”
  83. 83. “Sydney, couldn’t we just—”“Oh, there’s the last bell, gotta go! See you tomorrow.” And with a quick kiss and awave she was off to dance practice.
  84. 84. “Okay, ladies, my schedule’s very tight so I only have a few days to teach you theroutines and then I expect you to practice on your own and get everything perfectbefore our final rehearsals. Mrs. Lamar said we can use this room as our practiceroom so whenever we meet, we’ll meet here. Now I see you both got yourcostumes—”“Which are stupid by the way.”
  85. 85. “What?” Sydney asked Meadow.“I said these costumes are stupid.”“Yeah.” added Ginger. “Couldn’t we just practice in our regular clothes?”“I told you guys before—my time is limited so all rehearsals are dress rehearsals.And we’re going for a certain look.”
  86. 86. “Well, your look is stupid,” Meadow muttered. “And anyways how come you get towear the red one?”“Because I’m the lead singer.”Meadow scoffed. “I could be the lead.” Sydney rolled her eyes.“Maybe we should just get started,” Ginger suggested.“Yes, let’s.”
  87. 87. “Okay, one and two and—no, no, stop. Ginger it’s supposed to be a shimmy duringmy solo; look at Meadow. Let’s try that again. From the top.”
  88. 88. “Stop! Ginger you’re going the wrong way and Meadow, you’re supposed to besmiling! Let’s start it again.”
  89. 89. “Okay, stop! Meadow, you’re a bit early—start it again.”
  90. 90. “Crap it, Ginger, you’re still a half a beat behind—try it again, from the top.”
  91. 91. “Alright, finally, we’re getting it…”
  92. 92. “And we’ve lost it. Ginger, no. Just no. That’s not what we’re doing. Again. Fromthe top.”“Oh, come on!” Meadow exclaimed.
  93. 93. “What’s your problem?”“My problem? My problem is that we’ve been here for four hours and we didn’teven finish the first routine yet!”“Well it’s not my fault you guys aren’t getting it,” Sydney frowned at Ginger whoscowled in return.“Oh, please,” Meadow rolled her eyes. “I’m a way better dancer than you.”
  94. 94. “And the only reason we haven’t finished it is because you make us start over fromthe top every time we mess up, even if it’s something little!” Ginger added.“How else are you gonna learn? These routines have to be perfect!”“Well, I need a break,” Ginger said.“We don’t have time for breaks!”
  95. 95. “If this were my band, we’d take breaks whenever we want.”“That’s nice Meadow, but this is my band and I say we don’t take breaks until wefinish a routine perfectly.”“We just learned it today,” Ginger complained. “And we’ve been here forever andthese stupid costumes itch.”“Oh, yeah, they totally do! Thank Plumbbob you said that, I thought it was me.”
  96. 96. “Meadow, will you just shut up? I told you I don’t have a lot of time and we need toget at least one routine down before—”“Oh, no,” Ginger cut in. “I’m not practicing anymore. Four hours is my limit. I’mgoing home.”“Yeah,” Meadow added. “Like, the only reason I joined is because you saidSpencer was in the band and he isn’t even here. Today totally sucked.”“Are you serious?”
  97. 97. “Yeah, I was wondering why he never called me back and—”“Okay, okay, look. I didn’t form this band so you could try to get a date with mybrother. If you’re not here to dance, then you might as well leave.”“Okay.”“See ya.”“Wait, Ginger, you too?”
  98. 98. “Well, your brother is one of the hottest guys in our year, but frankly, all thispractice isn’t worth the introduction. I’ll just bump into him in the hall or something.”Sydney just stared at her, dumbfounded. “Good luck with your band thingy,”Ginger tossed over her shoulder as she left with Meadow.Meadow just snorted. “Whatever; I’m out.”“Wha? Well, fine, who needs you anyway!”*****
  99. 99. Back at the Specter house, the had grounds received a new addition: a wishingwell.
  100. 100. Asher had taken to gardening ever since Paige had grown up and he foundhimself with loads of free time, and soon he joined the gardening club. He andMelanie could often be found out there, getting their hands dirty while the kidswere busy with friends and school.
  101. 101. It had taken a while—a long while—but eventually the snooty garden club ladyagreed that the Specters deserved a prize: their very own wishing well to addcharm and picturesque views to their backyard. What else would they need it for?
  102. 102. Well, as it turns out, Spencer also hung out a lot in the backyard—but only sincethe wishing well arrived. The truth was, Spencer was a bit unhappy. Oh, sure hehad a nice house and nice things and his own room and a great family—and itwasn’t that he was ungrateful. If you ever asked him, he’d deny every thing andsay life was great. But deep down, what he couldn’t help feeling, what he was tooguilty to admit, was that he was lonely. He’d seen how soon Sydney had fallen inlove right after they transitioned. He’d watched Rose gush over Heath for weeks.And then there were his parents.
  103. 103. Spencer knew, of course, that his parents were absolutely boring. They didn’t domuch, hardly ever went anywhere, and as much as he loved his dad, he had toadmit that his father was becoming a boring old man in a boring old couple. But atthe end of each day, after his mom had come home from work and did someskilling, and after his dad had worked on his novel or did some gardening andmade dinner, they would give each other a look. And it didn’t matter if they were bythemselves or in a crowded room; they’d look at each other and you could tell theywere thinking the exact same thing: I love you.
  104. 104. They’d share that special smile, that crinkle in their brows, and that sparkle in theireyes. And he might lightly touch her hair and she might lean into his shoulder andeverybody would know. They loved each other.Now Spence had met a lot of girls and sure, hanging out with them was nice—verynice—and sure, they’d always had a good time—a very good time. But he wantedwhat his parents had, and he didn’t think he’d found it just yet. He couldn’t explainit. He knew he was young but there was something inside him yearning to findlove, to find that special someone.
  105. 105. Hence, the wishing well. Every night, he’d make a wish, hoping this time to getthings right. Hoping that night to get a little luck.
  106. 106. And every other day, he’d meet a girl and go on a date. And even if, a few hoursin, he started to feel that little nagging feeling of disappointment, he made surethey had a good time. He smiled, he flirted, he laughed.
  107. 107. But eventually he’d move on. Somehow he just knew she wasn’t it; that he had tokeep searching. He didn’t lose hope though. After all, he was just a teen and therewas a whole world out there. He believed deep in his heart that he’d follow hisdad’s footsteps, that he’d find what his dad had: true love.*****
  108. 108. Rose was another Specter with love on her mind. She and Heath had hit it off andafter their first date, they were practically inseparable. Heath always came overafter work with the excuse to chat with Asher on the business.
  109. 109. Afterward the two would chat, play games, or simply hang out on the couch. Prettysoon it was obvious to everyone that Rose and Heath were a serious couple.
  110. 110. Most of her nights were spent with Heath and some nights she even stayed outlater than her parents knew.
  111. 111. But tonight wasn’t one of the sneak out nights, however. Just a good old fashioneddate downtown.“So, I’m not really sure what to tell them,” Rose confided.“Well, you’re going to have to tell them something soon, I mean you transition inlike a week or so, right?”“Yeah…”
  112. 112. “What’s your dream, Health?”“Hmm, you know I never really thought about it before. Kinda like I just thought I’dbe working at your family’s store forever, you know?” He laughed. “But I guess it’dbe nice to work for myself, open my own store and have my own family.”“Cool. What kinda store?”
  113. 113. Heath shrugged. “I don’t know. Besides I’ve been busy working at a nightclub forso long, I don’t even know if I remember how to do anything else.”“Hey, that’s what you could do! You could run a club and I could sing!”Heath smiled. “That’s brilliant! You could build a following and try to get a recorddeal.”“Exactly!”
  114. 114. The pair got excited and started designing their dream club. They didn’t know whatthe future held, but one thing was clear—they wanted to stay together.
  115. 115. Rose was young but she was confident that she’d already found the right partner.*****
  116. 116. The next night, the Specters sat down for a family dinner. It was getting a bitharder to gather the whole family together as the teens grew, made friends, andfound jobs, but that night they’d managed it. Asher and Melanie had somethingimportant to tell the kids.“Sorry I’m late,” Rose said as she walked in. “Heath was on the phone—”“And you just couldn’t pull yourself away, yeah we know,” Sydney cut in.
  117. 117. “Says the one who stays up all night texting her boyfriend, right?” Rose quipped.“Okay girls,” Melanie cut in as Sydney began to pout, “Settle down. Your fatherand I want to tell you something.”“Come on already mom, just tell us what it is!” Spencer piped up. “The suspense iskilling me.”
  118. 118. “Really?” Melanie raised a brow.“Yeah!” Spencer paused. “And my show’s coming on in a half hour and I don’twanna miss it.”Melanie chuckled. “That’s more like my boy. Anyway, we’ve very good news. Wedecided we need a bit more family time—” Melanie was cut off as her childrenstarted groaning.
  119. 119. “What? Don’t you want to spend time with your family?”“Mom, no offense,” Spencer responded, “but I see enough of you people everyday.I mean, don’t get me wrong—I love you all, but you drive me crazy.” He pointed athis sisters, “All they do is talk about their boyfriends. There’s only so much I cantake of that.”
  120. 120. “I have to agree,” Paige said. “The levels of mushy teen romance have definitelybeen rising uncontrollably and it needs to cease immediately, if not for my studiesthen for my own peace of mind.”
  121. 121. “Oh, hush squirt. You don’t know anything about teen love—”“Nor do I wish to.”Sydney frowned. “You’ll change when you get a boyfriend, you’ll see. AndSpencer, if you actually saw a girl more than once you’d know what it’s like too.”
  122. 122. “The point,” Asher finally spoke up, trying to get them back on track, “is that we’regoing on a family vacation!”“Cool!”“Sweet!”“Where?”“Can Heath come?”
  123. 123. “I’m afraid not, Rose. It’s a family vacation. Besides, if we let Heath come, thenwe’d have to let Syd invite Houston and Spencer bring–well, to be honest I don’treally know who Spencer would bring.”“Aw, mom, no worries—I don’t want to bring anyone.”“Really?” Melanie looked over at her son again.
  124. 124. “Yeah. Everybody knows you go on vacation alone and hook up with new honeyswhen you get there. Basic logic, mom.”“That gives me so much comfort to know,” Melanie said dryly.
  125. 125. “Oh, but if Heath’s not going… I’m not really sure I want to go.”“Aw, come on, Rose! Since when did you two become attached at the hip?”Sydney teased.“It’s a family vacation, Rose, of course you have to come,” Melanie added.
  126. 126. “Why would you pass up a chance to see new sights and learn about anotherculture?” Paige shook her head. “It’s official; having a boyfriend impairs judgment.Where are we going anyway, dad? Is it Takemizu? I have always wanted to visitthe Far East. The culture there is fascinating–I bet they have an extensivehistorical library. The research there alone—”
  127. 127. “Oh, boo. Who goes on a vacation to do research? I vote for Twikkii Island.”Sydney interrupted.Paige seemed taken aback. Quickly, she racked her brain for all she knew on thetropical isle. “Ok, I don’t get it. Why Twikkii Island?”“Uh, hello, the beach?”
  128. 128. “I’ll second that. Girls in bikinis and I’m there.”
  129. 129. Asher laughed. “Sorry kids, we’ve already picked. We’re going to Three Lakes. Webought a cabin and—” Asher was drowned out as the kids groaned. “What? I wentthere when I was a kid and had a great time. The cabin will be really nice.”“Yeah, sure dad,” Sydney pouted.“Aw, come on,” Asher tried to cheer everyone back up. “It’s going to be fun!”
  130. 130. “Look kids, your father and I just thought it would be nice to spend some timetogether. Everyone’s so busy lately and with Rose going off to college in a week, itmight be the last time we can all get together for a while.”“Yeah, about that…” Rose began.
  131. 131. “I’ve decided I’m not going to college.” Rose’s announcement was met with silenceand stunned looks. “…So you see,” she rambled on, “you won’t miss me cuz I’mnot going anywhere! We don’t have to go on vacation after all.”
  132. 132. Rose trailed off, staring at her parents. They stared back.After a beat, they stared at each other.“What?” they said in unison, turning back to face her.“Rose…” Asher began.“When did you decide this?” Melanie finished.“Oh, well you know…”
  133. 133. “I just realized there’s no real point. I wanna be a rock star. I don’t need college forthat. Plus this way Heath and I don’t have to break up since he didn’t get into theAcadémie. We’re gonna move in together after graduation and start a nightclub.”“What?” Her parents said again.
  134. 134. “It’s official. Having a boyfriend impairs judgment and makes you retarded.”“Hey!” Rose shifted in her seat while her parents stared. “Look, college is reallymore your thing, Paige. It’s just not for me. I don’t even need to go.” Paige justshook her head.
  135. 135. “Rose, you can’t be serious,” Melanie finally said. “College is a great opportunityand you’re going to just—just throw it away?” Her voice got a bit hysterical.“Melanie,” Asher cut in. “Calm down. Nothing’s been decided yet.”“But I have decided,” Rose was adamant. “I don’t need to go. It’ll only delay myrock career.”“Rose,” Melanie tried again, “college isn’t just about studying and classes.”
  136. 136. “Yeah, I mean think of all the people you’ll meet. The dorms, the sports, theparties, the girls. Heh, girls.” Spencer got a dreamy look on his face. “College is allthat too.”“Well, I already have a boyfriend,” Rose responded. “And the only people I need tomeet are ones that are going to give me a record deal. I doubt I’ll meet recordproducers and managers on the Académie’s campus.”
  137. 137. “Rose—” Asher started but didn’t get to finish because Sydney, who was in astunned silence before, suddenly decided to speak up and cut him off.“You HAVE to go to college! You can’t just not go! You’re supposed to go and I’msupposed to go and then you’re supposed to rush and—oh my Plumbbob, whatabout the sororities and the frat parties? You CANNOT not go.”
  138. 138. “She can’t not go, right?” Sydney turned to her dad. “I mean, she like, HAS to go.Right? Right?”
  139. 139. “Okay, okay, everyone calm down. Rose, you’ll talk about this with your motherand I later, okay?”“But—”“No buts,” Melanie added.“Everyone else, let’s lay off Rose and talk about what we’re going to pack for thevacation, shall we? We leave Saturday.”
  140. 140. Asher sighed and sat back in his chair. It had been an interesting dinner to say theleast.*****
  141. 141. “So what’d you think of dinner?”“It was great, as always. Though you really ought to let me cook for you moreoften.”“Hmm, well, I suppose you could cook me breakfast every now and then,” Dagmarsmiled.“Uh…”
  142. 142. “That doesn’t bother you, now, does it?”“Um, n-no, I just—”“Great! I wonder what’s on?” Dagmar turned on the TV. “Oo, a PleasantviewStories marathon. That okay?”“Uh, yeah, I guess.”
  143. 143. “Great! Now come here.”Taz raised a brow.“Closer,” Dagmar beckoned.
  144. 144. Finally she just grabbed him and dragged him over.“See, isn’t this better?”“Uh…”
  145. 145. “Yeah. I suppose it is.”*****
  146. 146. Zeph moved around his bedroom at a glacial pace, trying to convince himself toget ready. Liz had an important event at the hospital—some kind of fancy-pantsfundraiser—and he’d been recruited to go. She wanted to show off her husband toher bosses and make a good impression. She was in line for another promotion.Zeph scowled in the mirror, rubbing his temples.
  147. 147. It was more than just the fact that he didn’t want to schmooze with hot-shotdoctors, he thought to himself. He didn’t think he should go. He’d been edgy allday. Tense. Pent up with frustration. Like he’d fly out of control any second now.Zeph put a hand on the mirror to steady himself. Just thinking about his angermade him angry. He told himself to calm down, to take deep steady breaths. Hetried to make his muscles relax, but it wasn’t happening. Something was up. Hecouldn’t—
  148. 148. “There you are, come on! I’ve been calling you downstairs for the past fifteen—”Liz stopped as she came in the room and caught a full view of Zeph. “You’re noteven finished getting dressed.” There was an edge to her voice. “What’s the deal?”“Liz…” Zeph trailed off. He rubbed the back of his neck, not sure what to say.“Oh, no you don’t.”“But—”
  149. 149. “Don’t.” Liz paused for a moment and then tried to smile. “Come on Zeph, it won’tbe so bad. They’ll be appetizers and champagne and dancing and…” she stopped,seeing the expression on Zephyr’s face. “Zeph, you know how important tonight isfor me,” she said quietly.“I do. And I get it, I really do. I just don’t feel up to it, okay? I just… I need to sit thisone out, Liz.”She shook her head. “That’s just it right there, Zeph. You always ‘sit this one out.’ ”
  150. 150. “That’s hardly fair—”“But it’s true. You’re never there—”“I’ve been changing! I have been here—”“When I need you,” Liz insisted. “You’re never here when I need you. When there’ssomething I need or want, when *I* need to talk—you check out, Zeph.”
  151. 151. “Oh, please, Liz; you’re exaggerating.”“I’m not! This is just one more example. If it’s something serious, if it’s notsomething lighthearted or fun or sex, then you don’t want any part of it. You shyaway from any sort of responsibility, from any meaningful, long-lasting—”“Oh, bullshit.” Zeph blurted. He couldn’t take it anymore. The grip on his angerloosened.
  152. 152. Liz sighed then tried again. “Okay. Why?” Zeph looked at her blankly. “Why can’tyou go? And I swear, Zeph, if you tell me it’s because you need to go to Roxie’s…”Zeph didn’t say anything for a moment. “Liz, you know there’s nothing going onbetween Roxie and me.”Liz let out a grunt of frustration. “It’s not just Roxie I disprove of; it’s what you do atRoxie’s. I can’t believe that after all this time—” She stopped abruptly when sherealized Zeph was tuning out.
  153. 153. “And there you go again, checking out.”“Oh, please, just because I don’t want to listen to you nag me, doesn’t mean I’vechecked out.”Liz shook her head. “I can’t keep having these arguments, Zeph. I can’t keeppretending that everything’s okay—”“Everything is okay! I just need you to back off!”
  154. 154. “All I’ve done is back off and it’s not working. Nothing ever changes and nothinggets better!” She stopped yelling and took a calming breath. She looked up,meeting his eyes. “I’m going to try this one more time. Are you coming with metonight, Zeph?”“No.”“Are you going to Roxie’s?”Zeph shrugged. “Probably.”
  155. 155. “You know, I meant what I said before, Zeph. I won’t keep doing this. If you don’tcome with me tonight, if you go to Roxie’s… I might not be here when you getback.”Zeph crossed his arms. “If you want to leave, then leave. Nothing’s stopping you.”******
  156. 156. “I’m glad you all came,” Wesley smiled and got comfortable in his armchair.Finally all his charges were getting together. If all went well that evening, CrystalSprings would have its own vampire clan in just a few short days.
  157. 157. “It’s not like you gave us much of a choice,” Aerith muttered as she scratched herchin. She gave a tight smile in the direction of the others.
  158. 158. “Look, cut the chit chat. Tell us why we need this barbie.”“Tina!” Lila exclaimed.Andrzej gave a tiny smile. “So much for first impressions.”“Well, it’s not like we have all night. Clock’s a-tickin’.” Tina scowled.Wes laughed. “Actually, you have all the time in the world. Be patient.”
  159. 159. “She does have a point though,” Lila’s soft voice rose up in Tina’s defense. “Iassume Wesley has been as adamant about getting you to start this—this coven?”She looked at Aerith who nodded. “Then we all know why we’re here. True weknow little to nothing about you, Aerith and you us, but I doubt anyone in this roomwants to take the next several years skirting the issue under the guise of getting toknow each other better. Let us discuss the crux of the matter now: Why should wejoin together?”“Well spoken, sister.”
  160. 160. “Wait, are you related?” Aerith asked, confused.“You could say that.” Andrzej replied. “Tina, Lila, and I all share an ancestor, JonTricou. Perhaps you have heard of him or his family?”
  161. 161. “Can’t say that I have, actually.”“The Tricous were once a very powerful noble family, back in the very early days ofCrystal Springs, when it was still apart of the Lysalian empire,” Lila took over.“They were given most of Crystal Springs by the regent.”“Really?” Aerith asked.
  162. 162. “They were given care of this area along with a few other noble houses because oftheir connections.”“Vampire connections,” Tina added.“Yes,” Lila continued. “This area has always been heavily wooded and dark, andso vampires often sought haven here. Eventually the crown decided to section offthis area and let the vampires rule themselves, to curb the vampire-human feuds.”
  163. 163. “The Tricous always held great power here, until the Great Purge a few centuriesback. In their conquest, the Crosbyrians stamped out all the vampires, along withall other mythical and magical creatures. The Tricou lands were greatly reducedand the family floundered for a time until they lost all their holdings and all thefortune. Then about eighty years ago, they started to make a comeback. Theytried to rise again in the modern world, reclaim their heritage, human and vampiric.But such moves brought attention.”
  164. 164. “Get to the point, Lila; we’re falling asleep here,” Tina interrupted. She turned toAerith. “They were murdered, one by one. About twenty-five years ago the lastdescendants of the main family line were killed by vampire hunters. We want toright that injustice and bring the family back to reclaim their rightful place in thevampire hierarchy. Now what’s your story?”“Uh…”
  165. 165. Aerith didn’t know where to begin. She was still processing their story. “Well, Ican’t really say I share your ambitions. Or your rich history. My family barely goesback one generation,” she laughed nervously. “And, um, I’d much rather be cured,if that’s even a possibility, I mean.” She stared back at the faces scrutinizing her.“The Contessa—Contessa Lauren—she bit me but I didn’t—”
  166. 166. “Let me get this straight,” Tina interrupted again. “You were bitten by a grandvampire and you wanna be a human?” She scoffed. “Power is wasted on you.”“Yes, but she does have power,” Andrzej said softly. He looked at Aerith. We havethe knowledge and she has the power. If we join with her some of that power staysin the clan. We could use that.”
  167. 167. “And there lies the gist of the matter.” Wes spoke up. “You all do need each otherin some way. You three need Aerith’s vampire abilities, her connections and power,and Aerith you need a family—a vampire family,” he clarified. “And what’s more isthat you all are connected. You aren’t just vampires, but you all are from here. Youshare a home. That can be a very powerful bond.”
  168. 168. “I don’t get it, why can’t they just bond with you and your brother?” Aerith askedWesley.“My brother and I are a clan all by ourselves,” Wes admitted. “Besides, like I said,you all are from here, I’m not. We’re not here to run the show, but rather to teachyou how to. It’s you all who’d be calling the shots in this neighborhood.”
  169. 169. “So, wait, we could do whatever we wanted?” Tina cut in.“Well, there are certain rules that my brother and I would ask you to uphold,” Wesreminded. “…But basically, yes, you’d have full control. I could not tell you whatyour clan would do, how to run this area.”
  170. 170. “We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, though, aren’t we? I haven’t agreed toanything—”“But you will,” Lila said confidently. “You want to.”“No offense, but I’d have to be out of my mind to join you three. I mean, comeon—it’s just basic logic.”
  171. 171. “What the hell you’d just say to me?”“Easy, Tina,” Andrzej spoke.“You taking her side?”“Her concerns are valid. There are three of us and one of her. She simply meansthat she’d be at a disadvantage.”
  172. 172. “If we were to do this,” Lila reasoned, “We would have to skew the dynamics sothat everyone is on equal footing, so that you feel as if you have a voice.” Shepaused. “What if we named you leader? Or if you had a majority vote?”“W-what?” Aerith flustered. “Are you crazy? Why would you do that?”“I have to agree, Lila,” Tina spoke. “Have you lost your mind?”
  173. 173. “It’s an olive branch, Tina, and a good one. The group wouldn’t be fair otherwise.”“Who gives a rat’s butt about fair?”“Yes, but she needs a compelling reason to join us.”
  174. 174. “And now she has one,” he added softly.
  175. 175. All eyes were on Aerith. “I-I don’t know. It seems like a lot of responsibility.”“Which fits someone of your stature,” Wes put in his two cents. “In time you’d bemore powerful than all of them. It makes sense for you to be chosen leader.”
  176. 176. “First leader, not permanent leader,” Tina interjected. Her siblings looked at herand nodded, agreeing.“Okay,” Aerith went along with it. “If we were to join together, we’d rotateleadership, like in that vampire movie.”“But what about new members? What if the clan grows?” Tina asked.
  177. 177. Lila shook her head. “Only one of us. Only one of the original founders should everlead, unless we all agree on someone.”Aerith sighed. She didn’t really want to continue this train of thought, but she hadto speak up. “Whoever leads shouldn’t really have absolute power though…”
  178. 178. “So we vote,” Andrzej proposed, “On all the major stuff. The head vampire wouldonly have authority on certain matters, run the day to day things. But for majordecisions like new members and clan actions, we vote. Wesley can help us outlinethe specifics like the problems and decisions we’d most likely encounter.”“A vote isn’t really in my favor, though,” Aerith reminded him.“It’d be seven total votes,” he explained, “not four. One each for Tina, Lila and me,two for you, and an extra two for whoever’s leader.”
  179. 179. Lila nodded at Andrzej. “Giving Aerith the majority first as a concession for joiningwith us. It’s fair.”Tina scowled. “Who leads next and when the hell is that?”“How about me, then Andrzej, Lila, then you?” Aerith asked.“Why the hell do I have to go last?”
  180. 180. Andrzej raised a brow. “It’s alphabetical. Now about terms…”“Oh, but wait—let’s come up with a cool name first!” Lila exclaimed. Aerith,Andrzej, and Tina all groaned. “What? We need something to call ourselves.”“Rules first,” Andrzej responded.“Seconded,” Aerith and Tina agreed.
  181. 181. Wesley looked around the room at his charges as they discussed rules andregulations. That was usually a sign that the clan was pretty much a done deal. Herelaxed a little and let them talk, getting to know each other. Who knew? hethought to himself. They seem to be getting along well. This may work out wellafter all.*****
  182. 182. Shit, Zeph thought. Just that one word, over and over. The night definitely didn’t golike he thought it would. He found himself saying things he didn’t really mean,taking everything out on Liz. He rubbed his forehead. He was only feeling worse.He had a pounding headache and his muscles ached. He needed to relax. Andthere was only one way that was going to happen.“I need to get out of these stupid pants, he muttered, rising.
  183. 183. By the time Zephyr reached Roxie’s house, he was a bit delirious. He raced up thesteps, unable to take it anymore. The dreams had started. If he wasn’t smellingsmoke, he felt a spasm of pain. If he wasn’t in pain, he was hearing screamsringing in his ears. And because all that wasn’t enough, he also kept thinking aboutLiz and their fight. The way her shoulders drooped when he expressed his doubts,the way her eyes lost their excitement when she realized he wasn’t going with her.She expected so much of him. Maybe too much. Every time he closed his eyes hefelt anger and a storm of emotions. There was no way he’d sleep tonight.
  184. 184. As he climbed up the familiar steps and knocked on the door, he couldn’t helpfeeling a bit guilty. He had made a promise after all. But he couldn’t stay at home.He needed to get out. Escape. Too much was going on inside his head, too manyconflicting emotions, too much pain. He just needed a little relief. A quick break.Everything was changing so fast and he just wanted things to stay still for onesecond. There was only one person who ever really understood that. There wasonly one person who didn’t question him, who made no judgments, disprovingfaces, or nagging comments. She let him make his own decisions.
  185. 185. “Hey,” Zeph nodded sheepishly as Roxie answered the door.“Another bad night?” Zeph nodded. “You’ve no idea,” he said as Roxie stood to theside to let him through.He made a beeline straight for the back of the house and made himselfcomfortable.
  186. 186. Another wave of guilt rose up inside of him but he pushed it down. He needed this.There was no other way to forget everything that had happened over the past fewdays. No other way to make the dreams and the anger and the pain and thememories go away.
  187. 187. “Hey.”Zeph looked up at Roxie’s voice. “What is it?”“It’s just…”“Not you, too.”Roxie hesitated. “Well, she does have a point.”
  188. 188. “So you’re on her side now?”Roxie shook her head. “I’m on your side, Zeph. Always am,” she said softly. Shelooked at him. Gave him a deep assessing look before she continued.
  189. 189. “I just hope this is what you really want.”In a blink, she was gone and out the door and Zeph was left alone. He waited amoment, looking at the bubble blower, before deciding that it was just what heneeded.As he took in his first deep breath, his body already began to relax. Nobodyunderstood.
  190. 190. Roxie sighed as she headed back to bed. Her heart always went out to Zeph, andmaybe a tiny piece even wondered if she should say no, just once. But the thoughtof him being alone terrified her more than anything. Ultimately, she knew therewas only one person who could ever fight Zeph’s demons.*****
  191. 191. “Gather round, gather round,” Dominic commanded in his smooth baritone. “I’mglad you all decided to do this.”“You’ve made the right decision,” Wesley agreed.
  192. 192. A couple of nights later, Aerith found herself standing in front of a smoking altarwith Andrzej, Lila, and Tina.What am I getting myself into? She sighed.
  193. 193. “Ladies. Gentleman. I invite you all to the altar and this circle of kinship. Let usbegin.”*****The End.
  194. 194. To: You <bossofeveryone@simstudios.com>From: Me <DPhilippine@simstudios.com>Subject: Today’s Session Journal Log************************************************************************************************************************I have proceeded according to the new guidelines, just as youasked. The operations are currently a success and I see nopossible failures. Operation No. 1 is proceeding according toplan and is presently on schedule. Operation No. 2 is on thebrink of completion. Though an amusing diversion, I hardlythink it was worth the effort or my time.I have attached my notes on this cycle’s sessions. Nothing out ofthe ordinary occurred, though I’m sure you know this.Your favorite villain,DP.S. Please tell me you are working on my other roles. When isthe new script going to be ready?
  195. 195.
  196. 196. —— —
  197. 197.
  198. 198. To: D <DPhilippine@simstudios.com>From: Me <bossofeveryone@simstudios.com>Re: Today’s Session************************************************************************************************************************Why the hell are you talking like that? Look, I don’t mind youhaving fun with the role but you gotta remember to remainconsistent, okay? And certainly don’t start talking like that to“Subject No. One” or else he WILL notice that something is up andyour cover will be blown.And for the last freakin’ time, don’t send me your journal log.You know that I already know all of this. While “an amusingdiversion,“ I hardly think it’s worth *my* time to read a bunch ofstuff I already know. Stop playing around and focus on thetasks at hand. I think I’m going to move one of your PEs up a fewcycles--I have to rearrange some of them to keep on track. I’llsend you the new schedule next week.P.S. I’m working on it, okay? Stop bothering me already.
  199. 199. Alright, that’s it for now—hope you all enjoyed that little bit of foreshadowing. Ch 13 isalready underway should you want more. It’ll be up soon and I’m returning to the mainfamily in it, so say goodbye to Aerith for a little while. Oh and sorry there wasn’t a loton Zeph’s wedding—I know I glossed over it but it really wasn’t in my script and wasmore of a spur of the moment thing. As I was shooting pics one day, they both rolledthe want for it and I caved. I assure you they had a kick ass party with all the familythere. Finally, I know Aerith has a LOT going on and some of you may be wonderingwhere I’m going with all of this and why I’m even still talking about Taz. I promise it’llall come together as the next gen goes to college and I’ll try not to keep you guyshanging for too long. Later simmers, and happy reading.