Ryan's just all sorts of screwed.
And suddenly I opened my eyes and I was on my back on the floor of a hallway in Brendon’s home. He was kneeling beside me, saying my name, a look of worry on his face, and I rubbed my head as I sat up. “How did I get here?”
“You… walked through the door?”
I looked around and realized I was just outside of my bedroom, in the same bloody clothes from before. I frowned at Brendon, more than confused.
“Ryan, where did you think you were?” Brendon asked me, his look of worry deepening.
“I was at my apartment,” I responded. “The sun set and you were still sleeping and I went to my apartment to see Spencer. He… tried to kill me.”
“That didn’t happen, Ryan… I woke up and heard you stumbling in the hallway. When I came out, you had collapsed.”
“There’s no way. I distinctly remember going to the apartment and using the spare key to get in because he was sleeping.” This was too weird. “D-did that thing happen, that you said Pete could do to me? To make me imagine things that aren’t real?”
“I think so.” Brendon got up, then helped me up, keeping a hand on my shoulder to steady me. “You said that Spencer had tried to kill you?”
“He may be trying to alienate you from the people you trust, so you have no choice but to turn back to him. Your conversation with your friend did not actually happen, you do realize that? You’ve been here this entire time.”
“Just in case this happens again, I would like you to know that I will never do anything to hurt you, or to hurt your friends, or to put you in danger. If I do anything like that, it’s not real. That’s how you will know, okay? If it happens again, you have to try and realize it and wake yourself up. It is like realizing you are having a nightmare and trying to end it. You have to find some way to tell yourself it isn’t real.”
I nodded, and once again I felt my chest tightening up, tears starting to prick at my eyes. I hugged Brendon hard, burying my face into his shoulder and pressing my eyes shut. “I’m scared, Brendon,” I said, feeling kind of like a wimp. I was too overwhelmed to care. “I can’t control anything anymore. I couldn’t control my body and I killed that poor woman and maybe other people and now I can’t even control my mind. I feel like I’ve gone crazy.”
“Shh, you will be alright.” He wrapped his arms around me, rubbing circles into the small of my back to calm me. “I’m going to help you get through all this.”
I just nodded, hugging him closer and trying to enjoy the comfort. This was real, definitely real. This – the contact with Brendon – felt so much more real in retrospect than the encounter with Spencer had been. At the time, it felt completely real. But now, in Brendon’s embrace, it felt like a dream state.
“This is real. I can tell this is real,” I whispered in his shoulder.
“How can you tell?”
“It just feels different. It’s too…sincere.” It was his smell, it was Brendon’s strong arms around me, it was the soft cotton of the shirt Brendon had been sleeping in, the way he supported me when I let my sleepy weight lean against him a little. These were tiny details that no one could fabricate in a dream sequence, not even Pete Wentz.
We stood there for a while longer, but eventually Brendon pulled back to look at me. “The sun will be setting soon. If you like, I can go with you to your apartment so you can speak with Spencer in reality.”
“That would be awesome.” I managed to smile a little, and was rewarded with one of Brendon’s smiles in return.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, and when I nodded, he replied, “me too. We should eat before going to see Spencer anyway.”
I followed him down the hallway and, missing the contact, quickly took one of his hands in mine. I felt safer almost instantly. He looked at me, and I looked down, thinking that if I had the capability to blush anymore I’d probably be doing it. “It’s helping me keep a hold on what’s real,” I told him. “You’re like my anchor.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself,” he responded, squeezing my hand gently. I focused on the pressure, on how warm his skin felt against mine although I knew we both ran cold. Yep, still real.
We reached the kitchen and Brendon got two bottles from the fridge, handing one to me. “Thanks,” I replied as I uncorked it. I took a drink, trying not to focus on what it was that I was drinking, focusing more on how much better it made me feel. This was so against my vegetarian lifestyle.
When Brendon decided it was safe for us to go outside, we left for my apartment. Brendon didn’t want to use his “teleporting” trick because he said it might call attention to us, so we just ran. Even then, it barely took any time to get there, and soon we were standing on the doorstep. With an intense feeling of déjà vu, I found the key on top of the doorframe and opened it, stepping inside, taking care again to miss the squeaky boards. I invited Brendon inside, then closed and locked the door behind him when he stepped in.
“What if I go crazy?” I whispered to him, suddenly nervous. What if I tried to eat him or something?
“I’ll stop you,” he whispered back. “It’ll be alright.”
I nodded and walked silently down the hall to the bedroom, finding Spencer asleep in bed. Again, I approached him and shook him by the shoulder.
“Spencer,” I said, shaking him a little more. “Spencer, wake up.”
His skin felt scorching hot against mine, and the smell he gave off was so much more potent than in the dream state from before. It was overwhelming, so I shook him once, hard, and backed up a few steps when he jolted awake.
“Who, wha….” he rubbed at his eyes, looking up at me. “The fuck?”
“It’s me, Spence,” I said. He looked surprised, then relieved.
“Oh my god, Ryan, where have you been? Everyone’s been so worried!” He threw the blanket off and jumped up, hugging me tight. “God, you’re freezing.”
“I know,” I said, hugging him back. “I missed you, I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve just been worried about you.”
I just shrugged and stepped back, away from him. I was starting to feel dizzy from the smell, and tried to shake the fog out of my head. “Listen, Spence, promise me you’re not gonna freak out or anything.”
“About what? Ryan, you’re kinda scaring me.”
“Just, don’t freak.” I reached over to click the light on so that his human eyes could see me. “A lot’s happened to me over the past month.”
As the realization hit him, I could hear his pulse quicken, could smell his fear begin to course through his blood. He stepped back. “Please, Spencer,” I begged him. “It’s still me. I’d never hurt you. Don’t be scared.”
“You’re a vampire.”
“I know, it’s… it’s really bad. I couldn’t stop it. It was terrible.”
He was silent, just staring, taking me in. I knew this was a lot for him, but honestly, any reaction besides the one Pete had shown me would be good. After what seemed like forever, his pulse started to return to normal.
“So are you here to like, eat me or something?”
“No way. I think I might get alcohol poisoning if I drink your blood,” I joked with him, regarding the empty rum bottle on the dresser. “Alcoholic.”
“Oh, shut up. It hasn’t been easy having you gone. The police said you were kidnapped.” And then, quieter, “everyone thinks you’re dead. The apartment was trashed. There was a goddamn car in our living room. Everyone knew there was no way for you to survive something like that.”
“I technically didn’t.”
“Be quiet. I don’t want to hear about you being dead.” He stepped forward and hugged me again. “I was so worried about you, Ryan. I thought I’d never see you again. Everyone’s so upset. Me, Haley, Jon, your mother, everyone’s beside themselves.”
“Well, I’m alright. Kind of, I guess.” It came out sounding kind of strained, but I couldn’t even think about Spencer’s smell right now, too relieved that he wasn’t trying to kill me. Or yelling at me. Or freaking out.
He stiffened up, suddenly, and whispered, “Ryan, there’s another vampire in our house.”
“I know.” I pulled back, motioning for Brendon to enter instead of hovering in the hallway. “Spencer, this is Brendon. Brendon, Spencer.”
“Charmed, I am sure,” Brendon said, smiling, a hand extended to Spencer. “Ryan talks about you all the time.”
Spencer just regarded his hand, obviously iffy on his being there. “Uh huh.”
I rolled my eyes, getting irritable. “Spencer, be nice. Brendon’s the only reason I’m even semi-alive right now. He rescued me. And he’s helping out a lot with the whole not letting me kill you thing.”
“Hmm.” He didn’t look sure, but I guess it was a plus that he wasn’t going at him with a stake. “So how did this all happen, anyway?”
“It’s a really long story.” He looked at me expectantly, so I sighed and continued. “It started the night I had to work late. I found him behind the shop when I went to take out the trash and he was hurt. I tried to help him. Well, his family and this other vampire family are fighting. They saw me try to help and decided I was a threat, and they tried to kill me the night you were at Haley’s. Luckily Brendon was around, and he rescued me. But the next day the other family found me, and took me… Somewhere. I don’t even know where. That’s when all this,” I gestured to myself, “happened. I escaped and went back to Brendon’s. He helped me a lot.”
“You escaped and the first place you went was this vampire’s house?” He looked hurt. “You should have come here, I was so worried-“
“I killed a woman, Spencer,” I said, my voice breaking. “Maybe I’ve killed other people too, I don’t know. I was scared I’d kill you too.” I sighed, running my fingers through my hair. “The head of this family, his name is Pete. He’s so powerful, Spencer. He can control me, make me do things. Plant things in my head so that I never know what’s real or what’s not. The only reason I’m even here now is because Brendon’s around to stop me if I try to hurt you. Being here, it’s so dangerous.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to me, Ryan. I’m going to be fine. I’m not worried.”
He stepped toward me, and suddenly it was all too much. The smell of his warm blood, the heat exuding from his skin, the sound of his heartbeat pounding in my ears. Everything faded from around me except for him, like a camera focusing, pinpointing on its subject. I could hear Brendon say my name, ask me what’s wrong, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was the blood standing two feet away from me. He wasn’t even a person anymore – just blood. I launched myself at him, and he was so easy to overpower. So easy to break. I bit into his neck, over and over, ripping at his skin until blood rushed into my mouth. He was screaming, and Brendon was trying to pull me off him, but I just kept biting and drinking and I felt his wrists snap in my hands and I bit down harder and the blood came harder and it all felt so good and so right and so
unreal, I realized, as I opened my eyes and found myself held up against the wall by Brendon and his ever-worried eyes. One hand keeping me steady, he used the other to straighten my face, to make me look at him.
“Ryan,” he said, and it sounded a little muffled. “Ryan. Look at me. Come back, c’mon. You’re okay.”
I saw Spencer hovering over Brendon’s shoulder, and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Spencer’s okay.”
“Yeah, he’s fine, we’re all fine. What did you see?”
“I… I think Pete knows I’m here. I was talking to Spencer, and suddenly, I… I attacked him, and it felt so real, I could taste his blood, and his bones breaking, and, and, god, it felt so real.” I spoke lowly so only Brendon could hear. “Brendon, I liked it. I think Pete knows I’m here and he’s making me see that and like it and I think he wants me to really do it and Brendon, I want to do it. We have to get out of here.”
“You’re not going to hurt him,” he said firmly, but quietly.
“I want to hurt him.” I didn’t speak quietly this time, and I felt my eyes fix on Spencer. I knew this was real, could feel Brendon’s hands on my shoulders and I knew it was real.
“Uh… Brendon,” Spencer said, uneasy, backing away. “His eyes are getting all black…”
“Step away from him,” Brendon said, and Spencer did. This made me mad, and a growl ripped from my throat as I bared my fangs at him. I struggled to push Brendon off me, but he held tight.
“Let me go!” I yelled, and my voice came out sounding angry and cruel. I freed one of my arms from Brendon’s grasp and hit him as hard as I could across the face, causing him to stumble back. Finally free, I leaped at Spencer and knocked him to the floor. One of my sharpened nails sliced his arm, and the smell of fresh blood just made me more ravenous. I was so close. So close to the warm, sweet blood I wanted so badly.
But then Brendon had me by the waist, dragging me away, and Spencer was scooting himself backward, frenzied, hand clamped over the cut on his arm.
“I’m getting him out of here,” I heard Brendon tell Spencer over my snarling. “Don’t allow anyone you don’t know into your house. Vampires can’t come in unless they’re invited. Keep a stake close. I doubt anyone will come looking for you, but just in case.”
Before I knew it I was outside, and I could no longer smell the blood, and Brendon was sitting me on a park bench, kneeling in front of me and holding me by the face and trying to bring me back to reality. Finally, I felt myself calming down, and everything came back into focus. I squeezed my eyes closed and took a deep breath, taking in the clean air. “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m good.” I opened my eyes again, looking at Brendon pleadingly.
“Don’t let me go back there. I can’t believe… I was gonna…”
“I know. I know.”
“God, Brendon, what’s happening to me.”
“It’s not your fault, not all the way.”
“I wanted to kill him, Brendon. I wanted it so bad. I’m this… killing machine, now. I’m a killing machine and I don’t know what’s real anymore. Is this real? Who the hell knows!”
“This is real.”
He kissed my forehead.
“This is real.”
He kissed my cheek.
“And this is real.”
He kissed me gently, on the lips, and yeah, this was real.
My eyes fluttered shut, and when he pulled away, I looked at him with hooded eyes. “I’m taking you home,” he said, and I realized he meant his house, but yeah, that was home. “And then I’ll stay with Spencer a while to make sure he’s okay.”
I could only nod, and suddenly we were in his room.
“It’s a few hours until morning,” he said. “I’ll be back before then. I’m just going to make sure Spencer’s not hurt, and then take him somewhere safe.”
“Tell him I’m sorry,” I said in a sigh. “I didn’t mean it. I… I’m really ashamed.”
“I will. He’ll understand.”
“I hope.” I rubbed at my eyes and sat on Brendon’s bed. “This is all just a big mess.”
“It’ll turn out okay.”
“We have to do something about all this, Brendon. I have to do something. I can’t live for, well, the rest of eternity not knowing if what I’m seeing is real. I can’t just live as a bomb for Pete to detonate whenever he sees fit.”
“I know. We’ll fix this. We’ll talk about it when I get back.” He stepped up to me, close, and the bed was so high up and that when I was sitting, I was at eye level with him.
“I’m scared, Brendon.”
“I know you are.” He leaned in close, standing between my legs in order to wrap his arms around my waist. I hugged him around the neck, pressing my nose into the spot where his neck met his shoulder. “I am too,” he said, quietly. My fingers curled into the stiff material of his blazer, pulled tight over his broad shoulders.
He kissed at my neck once, whispered, “everything’s going to be fine,” and then he was gone, and I was just hugging air.