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Chapter 20

The next few days went slowly by, everyone on edge, just waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. There was no stir in the Council (though they had called Cei to let her know her pater was dead), no unusual deaths, not even a sign that Ashton or Carmilla had even noticed Lios was gone. Zuriel even asked Charon if it had received any orders: not a single one. It was a bit unnerving how peaceful it had suddenly become, and that had Ju especially worried.

"I've been listening in on every conversation they've had," he explained to Jezz one evening while he went over the notes he'd taken. "There is nothing here; not a single thing. I know Ashton is angry, but Carmilla seems to have him on a pretty tight leash. He hasn't done a lick of investigation into his own pater's murder."

The noctis removed his glasses to rub his face.

"God, this is frustrating. Either they know they're being watched or they simply don't care."

Jezz handed him a cup of coffee.

"Maybe it's Carmilla who doesn't care," she suggested. "At least this gives us time to keep planning. We can't just wait around for them to react. That will get us in trouble," she said softly. Ju sipped his coffee and nodded his agreement.

"Then I don't know why we're not doing anything. We know Ashton has to go next, and the sooner the better. Maybe things are slow because the play's this weekend and Will's got all those rehearsals..."

He put his glasses back on to look over his notes again.

"I just don't understand why there's nothing here..."

Jezz moved beside him and put a hand on his shoulder.

"I understand that you're worried, but try to relax. If you worry too much about it, you may miss something. Maybe what they're doing is more subtle and we're missing it because we're looking for something big. What have they been talking about? Maybe there's something hidden in that?" she asked, biting her bottom lip.

He straightened the pile of notes before pushing them towards her, lining them up about a centimeter away from the edge of the table.

"You're welcome to look at my transcripts of the conversations. I think you're right; I should probably stop looking at them for a bit and come back later. It's all one big blur right now. Besides, the brownies are done."

A beeping sound came from the kitchen just as soon as he finished his sentence. Ju left the table to get the pan out of the oven.

Jezz smiled as he got up and left. She took the seat and began to look over them. She didn't touch them, just let her eyes scan the pages, reading what he had written. She wondered if she would find something he hadn't. She doubted it (Ju was very intelligent) but it wouldn't hurt to try.

About halfway through the stack, however, something did catch her eye: it was the transcript for the last Council meeting, the one after Lios had met his end. Carmilla was speaking with one of the other elders about how they handle punishment in Caligo. His response was that they were "very Old Testament: an eye for an eye and that sort of thing. Why?" She said there was no reason in particular, that she wanted to know the next time she or one of her allies was wronged, so that it could be handled in the proper fashion.

Jezz stilled. She read it again. Maybe it wasn't important, but that certainly sounded dangerously so. She lifted her head.

"Ju?" she called. "I don't know if I'm reading too much into this, but this sounds... foreboding..."

"What is it?" he called back, busy cutting the brownies into even squares. "I don't recall anything out of the ordinary when I read my notes; what did I miss?"

"Carmilla asked about how the deal out punishment here. An eye for an eye. You also wrote that she said that she wanted to know for the next time she or one of her allies was wronged, so it would be handled in the proper fashion..."

Jezz looked towards the kitchen.

"That's... that's not an idle threat, is it?"

Ju returned to the table with a plate of the warm brownies and sat down, placing the plate between them. He took up his notes and read them again.

"Hmm," he mumbled. "I can't say this is particularly strange, Jezz. The practice is relatively common among cruenti, but usually only for crimes that result in death. If one cruentus kills another's ancilla, for example, the wronged party is within his right to either take possession of or kill one of the perpetrator's ancillae. Most choose some other form of reimbursement, such as a fee, as killing off mortals doesn't help anyone. It's rather barbaric, if you ask me, but it's still part of cruenti law."

Ju looked up from his notes and adjusted his glasses.

"Some cruenti establishments have set up new laws in place of the old ones, so it's only expected that she would ask what laws were in place in Caligo."

"Yeah, but right after one of her allies die?" she asked. "It's like she wants to know if she's within her right to kill one of us for us killing Crudelis."

Jezz looked worriedly at him.

"If she finds out how you're related to Cei she may let Ashton take the revenge that's in his rights."

Ju went quiet, running her words through his head again. He'd been so focused on finding something directly related to Lios's death that he'd completely overlooked that detail. What if Jezz was right?

"No one on the Council knows that Cei is my mater," he said after a moment. "We've all been very careful to keep that secret guarded. The only ones who know are our small group."

Despite what he said, Ju sounded more like he was trying to convince himself that there was no way Ashton or Carmilla could find out.

"They might not know yet, but if they're going for that 'eye for an eye' thing, they might be investigating. Ju, we're all in danger. They could come after any of us in order to get their justified revenge. Mr. Jon and Mr. Brendan... they weren't vampires. They don't count, do they?"

Ju shook his head.

"No. They were just friends of Cei's, and although Jon was drinking her blood, he wasn't considered her ancilla because he was not blood bound to her, thanks to her formula."

He ran his hand through his hair, still shaking his head as the realization fully hit him.

"No, I'm the only one blood related to Cei, outside of Ashton."

"Which is why they would be after you if they find out about you," Jezz said, worry etched in her voice. "But if they don't know about you, they could go after Will because he's the only other one that's close to Cei that they know of. I don't think Carmilla will give Ashton the go ahead to kill Evey."

"Carmilla already wants Will for something, so there's no way she'd..."

He cut himself off, listening in on some distant conversation. Ju's eyes narrowed as he hastily rose from his seat, tugging on Jezz's sleeve.

"Get up. You need to hide."

"What, huh?"

Jezz stumbled as he tugged her from the chair. Her brow knotted up as she looked at him in confusion.

"What is it?"

"No time," was all Ju would explain as he dragged her towards one of the storage closets. "Just get in and stay quiet. Don't move; don't speak. Okay?"

"What? But Ju..."

She stumbled into the closet from his small push. The door closed, and Jezz stared at it in shock. Her mouth fell open when she heard it lock. What was going on?

"Jezz," Ju said through the door. "I'm sorry, but I almost killed you once. I won't let that happen again."

She could hear someone knocking on the front door, and Ju sighing.

"Please, stay quiet."

His footsteps faded as he went to answer the door.

Jezz stared at the closed door, still in shock. No. She was not going to let anything happen to Ju. She tried the door knob – quietly. Yup, definitely locked. Her eyes got used to the dark and she searched around the closet as she grabbed her cell phone from her pocket.

She dialed Evey.

"Yeah, Jezz, what is it?"

"Evey, Ju locked me in a closet?"


Her voice was puzzled.

"Why would he do that?"

"I think something is happening, but he won't tell me what. He's... protecting me."

"Do you need me to come over there?"

"No," Jezz whispered. "No, don't come. Whoever is here I don't want them to hurt Ju because back up comes. I just need to see what's going on. If I need you, I'll call you."

"Okay..." Evey said, her voice uncertain. "But if I don't hear back from you in half an hour, I'm coming over."

"Fine," Jezz whispered. "I just... I need you to walk me through picking the lock. I need to get out of the closet. I know you taught me a couple of times but I need you to couch me now."

"All right. Do you have any tools with you?"

"Just a couple of hairpins."

"That could work. But let's see if we find anything better. Look around the closet. Tell me what you see."

Jezz began to search around.

Like virtually every corner of the cruentus's home, the closet was immaculately clean and organized. It was a storage closet with all varieties of computer parts and accessories, for when he needed to repair his unusual computer. Each shelf was dedicated to some piece of computer hardware. There was even a small cabinet totally dedicated to small, oddly shaped tools: the ones that were just right for tinkering around inside of a computer tower.

"Thank god for Ju and his meticulous attention to organization," Jezz whispered, inciting a quiet chuckle from Evey. She carefully went through the small cabinet with the tools for the computer tower and found two that would work perfectly for picking a lock. She had enough lessons from Evey to know what they looked like at least.

"Okay, I got them, Evey. Tell me what I have to do."

Evey led Jezz through the steps. She listened to Evey carefully, following everything she said and asking quiet questions when she wasn't sure.

After five minutes, the door made a quiet click. Jezz smiled.

"Ju is going to be mad at me, but I can't let him be by himself. Evey, promise. If I don't call in half an hour, hurry over."

"I will, Jezz, but be careful. Don't do anything stupid. Ju could use a little protecting, but remember, you're not..."

"I know, I'm just human. I'm no one special."

"That's not..."

"It's okay, Miss Evey," Jezz said. "I'll talk to you soon."

She hung up and took a deep breath. She hoped.

Jezz pocketed the tools and opened the door of the closet, slipping out and then closing it quietly behind her. She followed the sound of the voices.

"So which is it, Mr. Kent?" an unfamiliar voice asked, sounding very agitated. "You can't or you won't?"

"I told you, sir," Ju's voice followed, explaining in his usual tone. "I cannot simply give you any information you request. I must judge whether or not it is in my best interest and in the interest of any of my other clients to share any information I have, especially if it concerns one of them. Being acquainted with a member of the Council, you should know I must weigh all of their interests first."

The noctis had kept his guests from moving much further than just to the edge of the living room area. There were three of them, none of whom she recognized. The one who had spoken had his arms akimbo, and his face was beginning to turn as red as his hair with anger.

"Fuck all this red tape!" he growled. "Then tell me what I must do to get this information! It's a damn simple question, if you ask me."

Jezz was already upset with the way this man was talking to Ju. She knew he could probably handle himself, but she was a little afraid he would hurt Ju for this information he wanted.

She debated only a moment on what to do. She was afraid, but she buried her fear. She wasn't going to let anyone hurt Ju.

She made a quick decision based on the little training she had from Evey on being a detective. Don't reveal any information you have that someone could use against you.

Since she didn't know who these men were, and she wanted to protect Ju, best thing to do was to pretend she was dumber than she was.

"Mr. Kent? Are you all right?"

Jezz hoped that if these men were vampires too, they would follow the rules Ju had told her about.

"I heard yelling from the room I was cleaning."

She looked over at the other men and then back to Ju.

"I didn't know you had guests. Should I offer refreshment?"

Ju turned slowly to face her. He had known she had gotten out of the closet, but he had hoped she would have least kept herself out of sight. But now...

"Who's this?" the redhead asked, raising one of his eyebrows, the anger briefly leaving his voice. "Your doll?"

"My assistant," Ju corrected as he turned to face him again. "Maintaining my records is a chore unto itself. You don't expect that I spend all my time organizing my inventories, do you?"

He looked over his shoulder at Jezz. Even though he hid his nervousness well enough from these men, she'd known him long enough now to know he was very worried.

"Would you please put a pot of coffee on for my guests?" he asked. "Just three mugs: one each for Mr. Rutilare and his two friends."

Ju made a glance to the men on either side. They looked like they could take on Jezz or himself with ease, cruenti or not.

Jezz smiled, not looking the least bit worried, though internally she was.

"Of course, Mr. Kent."

She made to leave and then paused. She looked at the three men.

"How do you like your coffee, gentlemen?" she asked with gentle politeness.

"Black," Mr. Rutilare answered bluntly, then looked at his two sidekicks. "Theirs too. Can't say I expected to be here that long."

"I'm sorry I can't help you right now," Ju tried to explain again, but was waved off as the men started towards the living room.

"You know, I had my hopes up when you were recommended to me," the redhead whined sarcastically. "All of this hoopla about how you just know everything that there could possibly be to know, and you can't even answer a simple yes or no question!"

"You're asking the wrong question. I'm sorry..."

"Wrong question? Fuck that!"

He slammed his fist on the corner of the sofa, sliding it forward a little. Ju bit his lower lip, trying to ignore that it was no longer in place.

Jezz returned quickly with the three cups of coffee (the pot was almost always on these days – Ju still wasn't used to the hours). She handed one to each of the two men, not looking the least bit perturbed by them standing and went by them as if they didn't exist.

The sofa, she thought as she got to Ju and the redheaded man who clearly didn't know how to behave. She wondered if he was the one who Ju was trying to protect her from. She wondered if she should even give him the coffee. She put the last mug on the table, partially out of reach so Mr. Rutilare would have to move away from Ju to get it.

She frowned as she looked at the two.

"Mr. Kent," she said firmly. "Do you want me to call the police? You don't usually have people here, and this guest seems very threatening."

She looked at Mr. Rutilare.

"I'm sorry, sir, but all of Mr. Kent's other guests have always been very courteous. It's part of the agreement for his services."

She clasped her hands in front of her, still polite and professional, as if she indeed was just an assistant and oblivious to the true nature of the situation.

The redhead actually laughed.

"She's cute, Mr. Kent," he said with a little sneer. "I can see why you keep her."

Folding his arms (and ignoring the coffee entirely) he leaned against the edge of the sofa, shifting it a little more. A smile began to spread across his face.

"Alright, let's try this again then. I'll humor your assistant, if it pleases you, with a little more civility. So you understand, miss, the subject at hand is the murder of my father, and Mr. Kent likely knows who committed it. I just need a few questions answered, and then I'll be on my way."

In that moment, Jezz realized exactly who this was and what was going on. She covered her surprise by exaggerating it and looking sympathetic.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, sir."

She moved to stand closer to Ju. She wasn't going to leave him alone with Mr. Ashton Rutilare, no matter what. She didn't know what she could do if things got ugly, but she just hoped they could stretch it out until Evey and Will got here.

She then noticed the state of the sofa. Oh, dear.

"I'm sorry for your loss, sir," Jezz said, (mentally thanking her drama teacher for her lessons in high school) as she moved toward Ashton in a sympathetic way. She continued to talk as she stood beside him, fixing the couch.

"But if Mr. Kent can't give you that information, that's not his fault. He has a strict client confidentiality clause, and he's very rigid about those rules because that is what his clients require of him. I'm sure you understand. You wouldn't want to be a client whose confidentiality had been exposed because Mr. Kent wasn't fastidious."

She straightened once the couch was back in place and smiled as if what she had said (and moving the sofa back) had solved the entire conflict.


Ashton gave her a queer look when she shifted the sofa back, not entirely sure what to make of this girl. When she brought up the confidentiality issues, he scoffed.

"That, my dear, is what loopholes were made for," he said, as if it were obvious. "I'm not asking for Mr. Kent to name names; I don't even need to mention whom I suspect. A simple yes or no will suffice to give me all the information I need."

He spotted the brownies in the kitchen and considered them for a moment, but shook his head.

"No brownies for me. I'm not fond of chocolate. Oh, and seeing as the issue seems to be with this confidentiality clause, mind if I see the print copy?"

Ashton shot them both a grin.

"You know, to make sure I fully understand its boundaries?"

Jezz pursed her lips.

"I'm sure there is a printed copy somewhere, but I don't know much about Mr. Kent's association with his clients. All the paperwork I've handled is in code, that is how strict the confidentiality is."

She shrugged.

"All of Mr. Kent's paperwork is in code, so I'm afraid I wouldn't actually be able to find that for you, sir. I'm sorry. I handle the filing, the cleaning and the cooking."

She smiled.

Ashton looked at her skeptically.

"If the clause is so important for business, then shouldn't the clients be able to read it? That seems a rather unusual thing not to have on hand..."

"Things have been fairly hectic in the past few days," Ju interrupted, not liking at all where the subject was going. "Especially after the fiasco at the charity ball. I'm sure you heard about that, if you were not in attendance yourself. Needless to say, I've had little time to get all my files back in order, and unfortunately things get misplaced. I'll see what I can find for you, Mr. Rutilare. Would you wait here please?"

The other cruentus rolled his eyes, but nodded.

"Fine. How convenient: it got misplaced..."

Ju pushed up his glasses and gestured for Jezz to follow him towards the back of his library, where they would at least look like they were trying to find something. Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm himself as he turned to her.

"Confidentiality clause? I commend you for your inventiveness, but how am I to produce a paper that doesn't exist?"

"Well, don't you have to be secretive all the time? You don't tell us stuff all the time because you can't. Why should he be an exception?" she whispered, shifting through papers. "There has to be some Council paper that says that you can speak to council members and give them information as long as it doesn't interfere with the information asked by another council member."

"That isn't how it works, Jezz," he said with a frown, going through papers on the opposite shelf. "I'm their adviser: I let them know which projects are in the best interest of most of them, without the need for anyone to share any secrets because I already know who will be affected by what. When I'm asked for more information, it is purely at my own discretion."

"Evey said that there's a man-hunt out for," her voice lowered further, "for him. Wouldn't it be in his best interest not to find out who killed his father because of that threat? He would be tempted to act," she reasoned, "and therefore put him and his 'boss' in danger."

"I know this, Jezz," Ju sighed. "Problem is that it's actually in his best interest to know. The Council will support – maybe even help – him should he decide to act on the knowledge. It isn't in our best interest, however, and I know I don't need to explain why."

His eyes suddenly widened and he began to turn just as there was a loud rumble of furniture being moved.... and not in a good way at all.

Jezz immediately reacted. She didn't really think. She hurried quickly to the sound of the noise so she could right what had been moved immediately.

"Jezz wait!" Ju called after her, but by then she'd already reached the living room. Ashton and his two cronies had already moved the sofa clear across the space and turned it on its side, and just as she got there the coffee table was split in two. Ashton looked up from his work and gave her a casual smile, as if he were doing nothing wrong.

"Found my loophole," he said. "You really can't be blamed if I just take the information I want by force, now can you?"

Jezz stared at the couch and the coffee table, her mouth slightly ajar. Then she looked up at Ashton, eyes bright with anger and closed her mouth. She whirled on her heal to walk back to Ju, heading toward the phone. The police were looking for Ashton. Time to throw threats back in his face.

One of the men walked around and stepped in her path, crossing his arms, daring her to try and pass him.

"And where do you think you're going?" he asked with a deep growl. Ju rounded the corner from the other side of the bookshelves and was starting towards them, but the other man blocked his way. Ashton began fiddling with the pieces of the coffee table, shaking his head with a small chuckle.

"I was hoping this would be short and sweet, but I don't suppose it would hurt to have a little fun, now would it? Oh, and don't bother with the police; I took the liberty of cutting the lines already."

Jezz was still for a moment. Then she smiled up at the man in front of her, bright, shining and cheerful. And for the second he was confused, she quickly bypassed him heading toward Ju.

Once beside him, she turned and faced the other three men.

"That was very smart, sir. But I called the police the moment I heard yelling. They'll be here in about five minutes. The lady on the emergency line reassured me that they would be here as soon as possible, no later than half an hour to investigate. I asked why so long, and she said that most of cops were out on a man-hunt for the man who destroyed an entire precinct and killed everyone. Every cop has got a bid on his head, so they're a little short on man-power."

She smiled.

"It's been almost half an hour, so they should be here any minute."

"Oh?" Ashton asked, seemingly unfazed. "I guess I'll have to be quick about this then. What's another corpse on my resume anyway? While you were busy looking for your papers, I had one of my men here idly skim through your computer, Mr. Kent. I see now why you're being so guarded. I knew you seemed familiar..."

Ju tensed as both of Ashton's men started towards him and Jezz.

"I'm sure my friend on the Council will love to hear this news..."

Jezz moved in front of Ju, hands clenched into fists, lips firmed. She knew she was just a normal human. She couldn't do anything to protect Ju. She just wanted Evey to get here already with the cavalry. Ashton knew who Ju was, though she didn't understand how. It's not like he and Cei had any family resemblance. They're not really related.

"Go away," she said. "Would your friend on the Council be happy you've made more of a spectacle? Would your friend be pleased if the cops started hunting her too because you couldn't control yourself?"

Ashton laughed, then sneered at Jezz.

"So you do know more than you let on. How do you know my friend is female? I never made mention of that."

The man nearest her grabbed onto her arms and pulled her away from Ju just as the other clamped his hands down on the vampire's shoulders. Ju fought against it, but Ashton's ally was no mere ancilla; he was a noctis too.

Sirens sounded outside. A moment later, there was pounding at the door.

"Open the door. This is the police. You have ten seconds, then we break down this door."

The cop began to count down.

Jezz struggled against the man holding her, trying to get to Ju. She stomped on his feet and kicked his shins.

"Ju! Help! Please, officers, help!"

The count was over and a well-place kick echoed through the warehouse. The hinges screeched. There was another resounding kick and door the flew off, soaring ten feet before crashing into the floor and sliding.

Cops rushed in. But unlike normal ones who would have their guns ready and threatening, these cops didn't bother with their guns. They tackled all three of the vampires, three to four cops on each, two of them managing to pry Jezz free.

Mike – still partially bandaged from his burns – was right behind them and pulled out a pair of stakes. The techie cop's eyes were ablaze with rage when he recognized Ashton. Mike went straight for him.

While Ashton's lackeys struggled under their dog piles, the older vampire had no trouble throwing his attackers off, sending them colliding into various pieces of already overturned furniture. He spotted Mike just before he reached him and jumped out of the way, landing nimbly on top of a bookshelf.

"I should have had that idiot angel kill all of you!" he growled, eyes briefly flashing red before he jumped down, landing beside the noctis that had Ju. Leaving his bodyguard behind, he yanked Ju out of the fray, taking off down the rows of bookshelves towards a back window at a speed no mortal could even dream of matching.

Mike cursed a blue streak and jabbed a stake into the heart of each of the other two. He didn't know what to expect, but he wasn't that surprised when they suddenly collapsed, the cops on top of them.

The officers got up and Mike took a good look at them. They were still alive, just paralyzed.

Holy shit. The guy on the phone had been right.

"Ju!" Jezz screamed as the cops who had pulled her to safety lost their grip on her. She barreled past Mike to the window.

Mike grabbed her arm and yanked her back.

"We'll go after them, Miss. You need to stay here."

"No!" she shouted, struggling against him. "I need to save Ju!"


Jezz froze as she saw Evey and Will come through the door. Evey's face was in shock at the state of Ju's place and flood of cops.

"What happened?"

Jezz burst into tears.

"Ashton came and threatened Ju. We tried to hold them off until you got here, but then he just ran off with Ju. He's going to kill him or worse!"

Evey hurried to Jezz and to Mike. She recognized Mike. She knew he had been the survivor of the fire, and she had met him on previous visits to the precinct. He recognized her too. Graham's PI friend. His "partner" that he'd always joked about.

"We'll go after him right now. Every cop wants a piece of his ass."

His hands fisted.

"God knows I want to kill him."

He turned to the two men on the floor with stakes in their hearts. The other cops were just looking at the two men in shock. Their minds couldn't deal with what they were seeing. Mike barked out orders.

"Get back to your squad cars and start tailing that asshole! He couldn't have gotten far."

The slew of cops hurried out.

Once they were gone he glanced curiously at Will. Then he looked back to Jezz and Evey.

"What do we do with them?"

Jezz pulled free of Evey's arms. She ran to a room in the warehouse where she knew Ju kept a sword. She'd seen it while cleaning. She grabbed it, and rushed back.

Evey was talking to Mike quietly, her expression confused. She started when she saw Jezz with the blade.

It looked foreign and horrible in her hands. It was almost as big as she was.

"Jezz, what are you...?"

Jezz lifted the sword and with all her strength and weight, let it fall down on the neck of one of the vampires. Tears streaked down her cheeks.

"What the hell!?" Mike shouted and moved toward Jezz. Evey grabbed his arm.

Before Mike could tug away, Jezz lifted up the blade again and then let it slam down on the neck of the other vampire. Then Jezz collapsed. She dropped the sword with a clatter as she fell to her knees, and wept. She kept calling Ju's name over and over.

"Would someone mind telling me what the hell is going on?!" Mike yelled.

"Do you really want to know?" Evey asked him. "Think about it. You staked two guys in the heart with a wooden stake and realized afterward they weren't dead."

"And she just cut off their heads!!"

"And we better burn those bodies fast or those heads will reattach."

Mike's mouth dropped open. He ran a hand through his hair and then rubbed his temples. Then he dropped his hand, looking defeated.

"You know what? I don't want to know. The last month has just been surreal."

Jezz looked up from her sobbing.

"Why did you all come so late? Why didn't you come sooner?" she accused. "Ju...."

Evey rushed over to her friend.

"Jezz, I waited the half hour like you asked and then we rushed over here the moment I hadn't heard back from you. To the minute. In fact, I was rushing Will out a moment before. We left Jared and Amelie with Cei."

"You.... you didn't call the police...?"

"Uh, no... I thought you did when I saw them here."

Both women looked at Mike. He looked frazzled.

"Don't even ask. I got an anonymous tip saying that the fucker who destroyed my precinct and killed my friends was here. I hauled ass out of the hospital and got a task force here who have been searching for him on the fucking double."

"What happened to the door?" Evey asked.

"One of the cops kicked it in."

Evey stared at where the door was. She looked at Will. He shrugged his shoulders, collecting the heads from the corpses.

"I doubt he was the only one, Evey," he said, knowing she would understand what he meant. It was possible that there were other werewolves who were cops. The hunter made a glance over at Mike and took a deep breath.

"Give me a ring if you change you're mind about wanting to know what's going on. That was some rather impressive maneuvers you pulled there, especially against fuckers this old, and I could really use a hand sometimes."


Ashton was avoiding the police rather well, especially after he made it back to his car. In a hurry to get as much distance between himself and the cops, he didn't even bother trying to stake his captive (as he had originally planned when he first broke the coffee table), and instead dropped Ju unceremoniously inside the trunk before slamming it shut and hopping into the driver's seat. Ju didn't bother to break out either, knowing Ashton would be able to out-muscle him no matter what. He wouldn't be able to escape on his own.

He waited for the right time.

Knowing the exact location of every person searching for Ashton had its definite advantages, and when the noctis drove down an alley that was very close by to several of them, Ju tore into the lining of the trunk and ripped apart every visible wire. The old car didn't stand a chance against this assault, and after crossing a few of the colors, the battery shorted out. Ashton cursed up a storm as he stomped out of his car, ripping the hood of the trunk off and glaring down at Ju.

"Fuck you!" he growled, acting on his original plan and driving the table leg through Ju's chest. "I didn't want to have to carry you all the way!"

Ashton pulled him out of the car and dropped him on the ground, breaking Ju's glasses as they flew from his face.

A howl of sirens echoed in the street by the alley. The bright blue and red lights flashed past. One, two, and then several loud screeches. A third squad car squealed as it turned dangerously into the alley, followed by the squad car that had passed them the first time.

On the rooftop just above them hovered a man in a street cop uniform hidden in the shadows.

Ashton stumbled back at the sudden glare of lights that filled the alley. He growled angrily, knowing he wouldn't be able to outrun them if he had to carry Ju. So, giving up his hostage, he ran down the alley and leapt over the back wall, never stopping to give them a chance to catch up.

If Ju could have smiled at that moment, he would have. Before the cops could get out of their cars (one had seen Ashton fleeing and was already calling back up for the direction the perp was headed), the shadow on the roof dropped down the five stories.

He landed on the ground by Ju with silent grace, his clothes slightly strained from the swelling and growing of his muscles. He grabbed the table let and jerked it out of Ju's chest before he tossed it into the trunk.

"We'll talk later," the shadow said before disappearing into the darkness of the alley as the cops rushed out of their cars and ran toward Ju to help him.

Ju wasn't sure he would like that discussion, but certainly had no time to argue. Unable to see at all, the first thing he asked for was his glasses. Though the frames were a bit twisted, at least the lenses were intact. Unfortunately, once Ju was able to see again and fully realize just how many officers were there, a knot began to form in his stomach as anxiety began to overwhelm him, his agoraphobia kicking in full force.

One of the men, the veteran with dealing with hostages ordered the others back and talked quietly to Ju.

Are you hurt anywhere?

Do you want an ambulance?

Yes, of course we'll take you home.

The gentle cop had the others return to their squad cars and resume the chase. He gave Ju space, put him in the back seat of his car carefully and drove back to the warehouse.

Back at the warehouse, Evey and Will had disposed of the bodies. Mike was outside, waiting by his own car to hear anything from anyone. The moment he got the call that the hostage had been rescued, he heaved a sigh of relief.

This whole time he had been thinking about whether to take up the offer of that strange guy who had calmly taken those heads and burned those bodies. He didn't think he could handle this. He just wanted closure. He wanted the redheaded asshole dead. He wanted justice for his friends. He would hunt the bastard down as much as he could. But he didn't know if he was ready for whatever the hell was really going down.

But when the old cop pulled up with the guy the redheaded, murdering bastard –
Ashton – had taken, he heaved a sigh of relief. That sweet little woman there would finally stop flooding the place with her tears.

Thank the sweet lord.

He hurried to the officer, Finnegan, and... Ju. The girl kept saying it, so he was pretty sure it was the guy's name. He gave Officer Finnegan a shake and then turned to the guy with the broken glasses.

"You better get in there and show your girl you're all right. She's been crying, shaking, yelling and cleaning for the last fifteen minutes," he told Ju.

"I know," the cruentus answered simply, still somewhat shaken from his ordeal. "At least she remembered to clean the sword."

He walked past Mike and through the broken doorway, trying not to have another anxiety attack because almost nothing was in its place. He said nothing to Will or Evey when he passed them, heading straight for Jezz.

Finnegan asked what the hell was that bit about the sword and Mike quickly waved it off.

"Let's go. I'll drill Miss Grant later."


Evey saw Ju pass by and she fell against Will in relief.

"Oh, thank god," she breathed, clinging to him.

Jezz had gotten the couch back to its place on her own. She had already cleaned up all the blood off the floor (and of course off the sword). She had put the sword back. She had washed the coffee mugs and put them away (the ones that hadn't been destroy).

Now she was on her knees by the coffee table. Her fingers were covered with cuts and splinters as she picked up each last piece, putting it into one of the plastic bags for garbage. One of her hands had a large cut from cleaning the sword. She silently sobbed there on her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks, blurring her eyes. Her shoulders shook. She picked up another large piece of wood and put it into the plastic bag.

"Julian..." she whispered before covering her mouth to stifle a wail.

Ju silently knelt down behind her, not saying a word as he carefully placed one hand on her shoulder and the other on top of the wrist of her wounded hand. He breathed a small sigh.

"I'm right here, Jezz," he said quietly, resting his forehead against the back of her head. "I'm alright."

Jezz froze, but only for a moment. She shifted her head gently, so as not to hurt him.

The moment she saw his face and his broken glasses, she let out a cry of relief. She threw herself at him, her free hand clinging to his jacket, hugging him tight as she cried tears of relief against his shoulder. Between her sobs were cries of "thank god you're all right" and "I was so scared" and "I thought I'd lost you forever."

After a minute or so of the clutching hug, her tears, her sobs and her words, she stilled. Jezz slowly lifted her head. Her eyes were red and swollen, her nose was bright red, and tracks of tears had stained her cheeks. She looked at him a long moment, as if she was making sure it was really him and that he was really there.

"I love you, Julian."

Then she kissed him. Hard, desperate, and begging for him to kiss her back as her good hand clutched his jacket.

At first, Ju's immediate instinct was to pull away, his cheeks turning almost as red as her hair. The last time he'd been kissed (and the first time, really) had been that quick little peck Jezz had given him ages ago, at Jon's funeral. This was nothing like that, and initially, the sensation frightened the vampire. But the shock quickly faded, and before his instincts got the better of him, Ju gave in to Jezz's begging and returned the kiss in kind. A little hesitantly, perhaps, but with the same passion nonetheless.

Jezz melted. She was so happy he was alive, that he was safe. She wanted him so much, and she was thrilled when he began to kiss her back, even if hesitantly. She felt the passion behind his kiss and wanted to weep with joy. Instead she kissed him so he could mimic her. Ju was a smart man. So very, very smart. Without words, just holding onto him and kissing him, she showed him how to kiss her. Jezz lost herself in the kiss, her body sighing against his.

While Ju was learning what to do, Will glanced over, only slightly surprised by what he saw. He couldn't help but smile as he tapped Evey's shoulder.

"I think we should leave. Give them some alone time."

Evey nodded. She took Will's hand and headed outside. Jezz and Ju deserved this time. Besides, she and Will had to figure out a way to protect Ju from Ashton now.

They had only just left when Ju carefully pulled back from Jezz, his eyes drifting over to her wounded hand.

"Let me see," he said. "You need to be more careful with that sword."

Jezz searched his face, her own flushed, for a long moment before looking down at her hand. Her hair hung over and around her face, hiding her expression.

"I was careful not to get any of my blood on it," she said softly. She looked up at him, smiling, and tears peaked out of the corners of her eyes.

"I was so mad at myself for not being able to protect you. I didn't care about being hurt."

Ju shook his head a lifted her hand, looking over the wound through his broken glasses.

"Don't ever blame yourself for things outside of your control. It'll drive you mad."

He brought her hand to his mouth and bit it gently, breaking the skin just next to the wound. He'd be able to close it then when he finished lapping the blood away. Ju didn't need to feed, but this way he could heal Jezz's wound.

Jezz shivered, pleasure rushing through her. She let out a little gasp, her breathing hitched as she fell forward a little. Her good hand continued to clutch at his coat.

"Ju..." she gasped. God, she didn't understand it. Why it just felt so incredible... For a moment, Jezz wondered what it would be like actually make love to Ju. The thought only intensified the feelings, leaving her panting in pleasure.

When at last her wound was closed, Ju pulled his lips away and looked up at her. His glasses had fallen slightly askew, but he still smiled at Jezz, cheeks flushing because of her reaction. He began to speak, but changed his mind, a little embarrassed and not sure what to say.

Jezz didn't know what the say either. She had already spilled out what was in her heart. She had already told him she loved him.

Instead, she acted. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, let a hand run into his hair and pulled him down for a kiss. She kissed him again, parting her lips against his. She closed her eyes and pressed her body against his. Jezz just wanted to kiss him forever.

Ju was becoming more comfortable with this new experience and this time didn't hesitate in returning Jezz's affections. He kissed her deeply, as she had shown him how, and within minutes they were both lost in each other. Unfortunately, the vampire's insecurity eventually caught up with him, and when he realized how they were now lying on the floor of his living room (not to mention a few physical changes he was wholly unfamiliar with) he bashfully pulled himself away.

"I... uh..." he stuttered, face bright red.

Jezz smiled up at him. Actually, she beamed. Her face was flushed, she was breathing hard and fast, and she was excited. Ju liked her! He wanted her! She followed him as he moved away and put her hands on his shoulders.

"We should probably go to a room," Jezz said quietly. "It'll be private and we can talk. And maybe," she flushed an even brighter red, her freckles standing out. "You'll keep kissing me."

Ju's lips moved, but no words came out, so he just nodded his agreement. Eventually, he managed a shy, "Okay," and helped Jezz to her feet, walking towards one of the more closed off rooms. As they walked, his voice slowly returned.

"I... uh... have never been with anyone before..." Ju told her, fiddling nervously with his glasses.

"It's okay," Jezz said softly. "I've only been with one person before, and he wasn't very nice."

She blushed.

They got to the room a moment later. She closed the door behind them. Jezz looked up at him. Her eyes were aglow with her emotions and her pale skin flushed down her neck and to her ears.

"The best way to figure it out," she whispered. "Is to learn."

She moved away from the door and took his hand.

"Touch me anywhere you like, anyway you like. Study me, Ju. You can learn what brings me pleasure that way. And then..."

Jezz bowed her head a little, looking up at him from under her lashes.

"Maybe you'll let me learn you too?"

Ju couldn't stop messing with his glasses, but still nodded.

"Um... uh..." he stuttered again. "How should we begin? I'm so sorry... I just... don't want to do this wrong..."

He sighed, trying to calm his nerves.

"God, I'm being so ridiculous... but... but I just can't help it."

Ju pulled away from her and sat down on the bed, burying his face in his hands.

"Please, don't be upset with me..."

Jezz sat down beside him and put her hand on his knee. He really did want her. He could've just told her to go away. She pulled his hands away and made him face her. She smiled at him, open, giving, understanding and incredibly loving.

"Don't worry. I can't be upset at you. I'm too happy."

She stood up and faced him.

She'd never done anything like this before, but she wanted to make it as easy on Ju as she could. So Jezz, with trembling, nervous hands, slowly began to take off her clothes.


So it was true; sex was better than being bitten.

Jezz held onto him, her body trembling with the aftermath. She knew sex could be good, and she knew sex with Julian would be incredible, but she hadn't expected this. This was just... god, there were no words. She freed a little sound of ecstasy and pressed close, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him.

"You all right," she whispered against his lips, her breath warm. "Ju... that was... wow..."

She didn't want to move. She was so comfortable with him inside her, their bodies close.

"So that's what making love is like," she whispered and she flushed.

She didn't know if he loved her back, but for her – that's what it had been. She had made love to Ju. With Ju. And she would hold it forever even if he never wanted to do it again.

He nodded a little, brushing his lips against hers.

"That was exhausting... and surprisingly invigorating at the same time," he sighed, closing his eyes. "I seem to have misplaced my glasses during our experiment..."

True enough, they had fallen off at some point while they were enthralled with each other and slipped off somewhere on the floor. Ju laughed a little, blushing.

"You're a very pretty blur."

"Are you far sighted or near sighted?" Jezz moved very close to his face and kissed his lips. "Now can you see me or do I have to move back a little?" She grinned.

Jezz snuggled up her body against his and then kissed his chin.

"Or do you want me to find your glasses for you?" she whispered.

"Doesn't really matter," he said with a small shrug. "You look beautiful either way. You just look like a Monet right now. I'm very, very near sighted, boarding on astigmatism."

Ju rested his head on her shoulder.

"I don't mind not being able to see anything at the moment. You're comfy."

Jezz flushed with pleasure. She snuggled closer, laying her head on his shoulder too and kissed his neck.

"You're comfy too," she said, her voice soft. She closed her eyes, holding back tears of happiness.

"Thank you, Ju," she whispered into his skin. "I love you."

She kissed his shoulder.

The cruentus felt his heart jump. Love. She actually loved him. Ju immediately wanted to say something back, something amazing and poetic.

"I love you too."

Well, it got the point across.

Jezz froze in surprise. She had said it earlier and he hadn't said anything. She didn't think he would now, but... She pulled back and looked into his face, her eyes searching.

He meant it. He really meant it.

Her expression erupted with a surge of happiness. Jezz kissed his lips then his chin and cheeks and jaw and nose, and then his lips again. Long and deep.

"Oh, Ju," she said as she pulled back for breath. She kissed him again.

"I'm so happy."

She kissed him again. God, he was wonderful to kiss.

He smiled bashfully but didn't say a word. He didn't have to, because that rare smile he gave her said everything: he was truly happy too.
Also available on :icondulcis-absinthe:'s page, as we format it a little differently.

This chapter has been severely cropped for censoring, but :icondulcis-absinthe: will post the full version. Things start to get even more serious, and Ashton is not happy...

Oh! And if you like the story and are a member of Gaia, check out my contest, the OMG Art Contest!
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October 27, 2008
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