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Nephylim

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Everything posted by Nephylim

  1. Nephylim

    Chapter 41

    I knoooooooooow!
  2. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    I hope I don't disappoint. The confrontation is not as explosive as it could have been but I'm very satisfied with the way it panned out
  3. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    All stories end, but there's more to come of this one, don't worry
  4. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    Thank you. There's a lot coming next. A lot.
  5. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    I love that! Thank you. Your comments are always so thoughtful and astute. The next chapter will be interesting for sure. In fact, the next few chapters will be...er...interesting.
  6. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    Thank you. I think your anticipation will not be disappointed.
  7. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    Spot on. Alicia will have her day and don't worry I'll let you spy on their next meeting.
  8. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    It won't go on forever, I'm afraid to say There is an ending and it's coming in the reasonably near future but there's a lot to fit in there. We've got more than five chapters left so you can at least console yourself with that.
  9. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    I wasn't surprised. Amara is a passionate person. He speaks his mind and feels things very deeply. Personally, I think he pushed Jay too hard, but he's eighteen and upset for his friend, someone he truly cares about
  10. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    They are absolutely true friends, just like Jay is to them. You're welcome
  11. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    They did. Long time coming but it only gets better from here
  12. Nephylim

    Chapter 41

    Jay was asleep. Going through their story again seemed to have been easier this time, especially with the twins petting them and promising over and over that they still loved Jay and they’d make things right. Even so, it had completely exhausted them and they’d fallen asleep mid-sentence. Amara had immediately telephoned Alexei and told him in a quick, succinct way, exactly what had happened. It had seemed clear from hearing only one side of the conversation that Alexei had said all the right things as far as Amara was concerned. Amara had then called what appeared to have been a family lawyer. That conversation had been more strained but again appeared satisfactory to Amara. Finally, Amara collapsed onto the sofa and stared at Aria in silence for a few moments before saying, “Do you want to, or shall I?” Aria pursed his lips. “I will,” he said. “How honest should I be?” “Completely.” Aria sighed but nodded firmly. Drew wondered who was going to be on the other end of that conversation, he was very glad it wouldn’t be him. “We know,” Aria said without preamble as soon as the call connected. Drew was shocked by the coldness in his voice. “We know everything. We don’t want reasons or excuses, we just want to know why you didn’t tell us about Jay and why you were nice to them.” Alicia. This was one conversation Drew didn’t feel he had any part in or any right to overhear. What was said between the boys and the person they’d relied on and trusted for half their lives, should be private, at least at this stage. Drew would have his own conversation with her later. He therefore wandered over to the kitchen, where Jeff and Ceriann were deep in conversation. “Are you coming,” he asked Jeff. Jeff nodded grimly. “Me too.” “You need to stay here with the boys,” Drew said, laying his hands gently on his sister’s shoulders. “I know you want to come and I know why, but this needs a cool head and I don’t think you’ll be able to keep your temper. Also, I need someone to make sure they don’t come running after me when they realize where I’ve gone. This doesn’t need to burn bridges, but if the boys go steaming in now, it will. They need someone like Lady Jane in their lives and despite everything, I think she was trying to look out for them in her own way. It was the wrong way and she’s going to find out exactly what that cost, but for now I want the boys to stay away.” “You know I won’t be able to hold them if they really want to go storming in. Especially that Amara. Christ, who would have known he had all that inside him.” “You’ve obviously never heard him sing,” Jeff said. Drew had to chuckle. He was learning fast, but he suspected he still had a long way to go before he even scratched the surface of understanding the twins. It was something that both excited and terrified him. “So, what do you think of Lady Jane?” Drew asked Jeff as they made their way up the stairs. “She’s a strong lady. I can see a lot of similarities between her and the boys.” Drew paused. “Hmm. I suppose. Now you mention it.” Jeff chuckled. “Oh boy you’ve got some fun coming.” “What do you mean?” “I mean you need to take your blinkers off. I have to admit I’ve been hoodwinked with the rest of them but the last couple of days have been real eye openers for me.” “I still don’t understand.” “Those boys are not what they seem.” Drew frowned and stopped Jeff in his tracks, holding his arm. “What do you mean by that” Jeff laughed, then he sobered. “Calm down, boy, you’re losing your head and that’s dangerous in any situation. Aria and Amara are not the fragile little flowers we all thought they were.” “Trust me, I’ve never seen them as fragile flowers.” “Oh, but you have. We all have. Maybe not in so many words, but we’ve all been fooled by those big eyes and soft voices. Did you know how closely Amara works with his business manager and lawyers? He’s involved in all the major decisions in his life and career? That’s almost unheard of for performers of his class. And Aria doesn’t even have a manager. He deals with everything himself.” “I know.” Drew glowed with pride. “They’re geniuses. God knows what they might have achieved if that bitch had allowed them to have a normal childhood and go to school.” “You still don’t understand. It’s not just about the facts and figures. It’s about attending high powered meetings with tough businessmen and lawyers, about negotiating contracts and organizing events. I had a brief chat with Alexei at the hospital and he told me that even he’s backed down to Amara on occasion. He said, quote When that boy is really set on something, I pity anyone who gets in his way.” Drew frowned. Part of him could get behind that. Christ, he’d seen the steel in Amara, in both of them. He could understand Aria being skilled in negotiation, too, and organization for sure, but it was hard to imagine Amara being as focussed and single minded in the face of adult high-powered opposition as Jeff was suggesting. Sure, he would have had Alexei at his side, but still… “I think Alexei might have been over exaggerating.” “Do you really?” “Oh, come on, you’ve seen how vulnerable Amara can be. You weren’t there for the whole Ben incident. Amara was a wreck.” “Everyone can be vulnerable, Drew, and it’s very different to face down someone in a business setting to someone in your own home who is threatening to hurt someone you love. Amara might have a lot of experience out there in the world, but emotionally… Part of him is a hurt little boy, and that’s the part that you’ve seen and is calling out to your soft heart, but that’s not all there is to him, to either of him and I can’t wait to watch you find that out for yourself.” “You’re an evil bastard, do you know that?” “Of course. Someone or other is yelling it at me all the time—mostly at home.” Drew chuckled and they continued on their way. Jeff had given Drew a lot to think about, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized that Jeff was right about one thing—Lady Jane and her grandsons were far more similar than he’d first thought. Oh God, there was going to be a bloodbath, because if Lady Jane was as stubborn as the twins they were screwed. They first made their way to the office, but when they knocked there was no response. They tried a few more times, then walked in. It was empty. The temptation to read the files in the cabinet by the window was strong, but fortunately Drew didn’t have time to dwell on it for too long because they’d barely set foot over the threshold before a polite cough from the doorway heralded the arrival of the older man Drew had seen with Lady Jane earlier. He wasn’t dressed in a tail coat, but he gave off an air that made Drew think he’d look perfectly at home in one. “Can I help you gentlemen? As you can see, Her Ladyship is not currently at her desk so perhaps we should step outside.” Drew was fascinated. He’d never met a butler before but was pretty sure this guy was one. He had a military stance and sharp eyes, and although his lips were curved upwards his eyes held an expression that said “Mess with Her Ladyship and I will end you.” It didn’t frighten Drew, in fact he respected it. No security worth their salt, especially someone who worked as closely with their employer as the butler—Robert?—did would allow such a blatant intrusion of their employer’s privacy go by without comment and a warning is a warning even if it’s a polite one. “Of course,” Jeff said while Drew was still sizing the man up. “Our apologies. We shouldn’t have walked in uninvited. However, it’s very important we speak to Lady Jane as soon as possible. It’s regarding her grandsons.” “Please follow me. You can wait in the sitting room while I enquire whether Lady Jane is able to see you this evening.” “It’s very important,” Drew repeated, feeling like a dick as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Dammit, he was not going to be intimidated by a jumped-up fart with a stick so far up his arse it was choking him. “She probably knows what it’s about and you can tell her that she’ll either talk to us now, or her grandsons later, and they’re neither as patient nor polite as we are.” Robert turned on him and glared down his nose. “Are you threatening us, Mr Chance?” Drew straightened and met the man’s glare with a cold look of his own. “No, but I know Aria and Amara better than you do. Better than she does. While I might be prepared to sit around waiting while you go looking for her, do you honestly think Aria or Amara would?” Robert gave them one more glare, waved, with a flick of his wrist, at a door, then swept up the stairs. The sitting room was the most formal room they’d been in so far, with high backed chairs, polished wood and so many patterns, in wallpaper, carpet and upholstery, it made Drew’s head ache. He wandered around, checking out books in the book cases, and peering at fine china ornaments in the tall cabinets. Jeff was more interested in the art hanging on the walls that included two tapestries, hung between the three windows, that were so pale it was difficult to see what the pictures were. Jeff said it was an indication of age and murmured with awe that they might be originals, Drew didn’t care. He thought they were ugly and couldn’t be bothered to put in the time to work out what was going on. That actually extended to quite a few things in what Drew considered to be a generally ugly room. Time wore on and Drew began to wonder if Lady Jane was deliberately keeping them waiting. He wondered what her motives might be, because he was quite sure she had a motive for everything she did. Was she trying to put him on the back foot? To intimidate him with her wealth? To make a point that she wasn’t going to be at their beck and call? Probably all three but in this situation, she wasn’t doing herself any favours because the longer he waited the more he remembered how devastated Jay was, and the more wound up he got. Jeff warned him against it a few times, but it wasn’t really getting though. Footsteps in the hall had both heads jerking toward the door, but it wasn’t Lady Jane, or Robert. Drew couldn’t work out if it was Amara or Aria. They’d changed and seemed to be prepared for battle. Tight black jeans were tucked into buckled ankle boots with stilettos that could have been used as weapons. A belt slung low on the hips jangled with chains that were the only decorations. A plain black tee showed bare arms without any of the usual bracelets and there were no necklaces or earrings. Even the platinum blond hair was caught back by a simple band. Drew had never seen either twin quite so…raw. From the determined stride and even more determined expression in the pretty blues, Drew’s first instinct told him Amara, but the stance was too straight, too easy. “Go back downstairs, Aria,” he said. “Jay needs you right now.” Aria glided across the room and paused before Drew. Even with the high heels, he was nowhere near eye-to-eye. Even so, Aria locked gazes with Drew, commanding his full attention. “Whatever happens in this conversation,” he said in a tone that was both very much like Aria, and also unlike him, “you will only tell us the good parts. Ssh.” He laid two fingers over Drew’s lips. “I know this, so don’t bother denying it. You’ll protect us, like you always do, and that’s not what we want. If we’re going to have a relationship with her we need to know her—the good and the bad. Jay is our friend. They’re our responsibility, not yours. I really want you to be there, Drew, but it’s up to us to sort this out, and I will. Don’t worry, I’m not going to blow a fuse—that’s why it’s me and not ‘Mara—and I’m not going to cry. Probably not cry. Even if I do it will be anger, so pretend it isn’t happening. I just need to be there.” Drew glanced at Jeff who shrugged. Just great. This was not a side of Aria he recognized, and he realized it was exactly what Jeff had been talking about. He was about to witness the Aria who ran his own successful business, the Aria who connected with millions of people all over the world every day, the Aria who was fiercely loyal to his friends and was not about to let anyone fight his battles for him. Wow. Hot damn was this Aria sexy as hell. As if reading his mind, Aria smiled and stood on tip toe to tease Drew’s lips with a soft kiss, that deepened into one that made his toes curl. He moaned and pushed Aria gently away. “Don’t do that. I can’t focus.” “That was part of the plan,” Aria said with a smile and a coy look that had Drew biting his lip hard to keep his body under control. Aria turned and sauntered across the room, heels clicking and hips swaying. Drew glanced at Jeff again, but this time Jeff was staring at Aria, his eyebrows almost disappearing into his hairline. Drew elbowed him. “Stop looking at my boyfriend like that,” he growled in mock irritation. “Can’t help it,” Jeff said. “I never realized he was quite such a bad ass.” Then Aria went and spoiled it all by turning to say over his shoulder with one of the brightest smiles Drew had seen. “Oh good, I’m doing it right. Amara said I’d blow it, but hey he’s not the only one with balls.” Aria then giggled and stalked out of the room. Drew and Jeff exchanged astonished glances and followed him. “Wait,” Drew said when they hit the hall. “Where are we going? The butler told us to wait in there.” “Robert? Pft. Don’t let him scare you. He’s all bluster. He used to shout at us all the time but he never did anything, even though he told us he’d “tan our hides” if we slid down the bannisters again, or skidded about on the rugs in the hall or a whole host of things he didn’t approve of. We never listened to him then and I have no intention of listening to him now.” “But where are we going?” “To grandmother’s private sitting room, of course. She’ll be either there or her personal office. They’re next to each other.” Feeling completely thrown off step, Drew followed Aria up the stairs to the first floor and around to the right. Aria didn’t even pause at the door, but opened it and walked straight in. Drew and Jeff scuttled after him, warning him not to, a little too late. The room was far more relaxed than the one they’d been in downstairs. The furniture was leather and the art on the walls was modern. Robert stood to attention in front of the window gazing out, but there was no sign of Lady Jane. “I thought I told you to wait downstairs,” Robert said, clearly affronted by their unannounced entrance. He was looking at Drew when he spoke, and Drew simply shrugged. “You didn’t tell me anything,” Aria said, looking Robert straight in the eye. “Where’s my grandmother?” “Lady Jane is busy with estate business. She doesn’t wish to be disturbed.” “We all have wishes, Robbie,” Aria said. Drew almost choked and didn’t miss the flush that coloured Robert’s stiff neck. “And I didn’t ask what my grandmother was doing. I simply asked where she was.” “Master Aria, I don’t think—” “No, you don’t. You don’t think, you just tell me what I want to know.” “I will not have you speak to me like this, Master Aria, I shall tell Her Ladyship how rude—” “Don’t worry, I’ll tell her myself. I presume she’s in the office.” He turned and stalked back out into the corridor, heading toward another door at the end. “Master, Aria, don’t you dare.” Robert started after Aria, but Drew and Jeff blocked his way, even as they hurried after Aria. They were right behind him when he opened the door and walked in. The office was much smaller and less formal than the big one downstairs. It contained soft furnishings, a small desk bearing a computer with just one monitor, and a few small book cases. Lady Jane was not sitting at her desk, but standing in front of the window. “I do apologise, Your Ladyship,” Robert blustered, pushing past Drew to get into the room. It was crowded with the five of them. “I told them to wait downstairs.” “That’s quite alright, Robert. Would you be so kind as to arrange some refreshments?” “I…” Robert glanced around, his gaze settling on Drew with a glare. “As you wish, Your Ladyship.” He gave a curt bow of the head and backed out, closing the door behind him.” “I’m not accustomed to being interrupted in my private chambers, Mr Chance. You’re lucky security isn’t in here having you removed.” “It wasn’t Drew who interrupted you, grandmother,” Aria said, throwing himself onto one of the sofas and lounging back, one ankle on the opposite knee. The silver stiletto glinted like a throwing knife. “They were waiting downstairs very obediently.” “And you should have done the same. It’s very rude to just barge into someone’s private rooms.” “Don’t talk to me like a child, Grandmother. And don’t talk at all about being rude, not after what you’ve done today.” Something in Aria’s tone seemed to hit a nerve. She straightened her back, but clearly took a mental step back. “Shall we go back to the sitting room. We can all be more comfortable there.” “I’m comfortable enough where I am, thank you, and you’ll forgive me if I don’t really care how comfortable you are. Jay certainly isn’t comfortable.” Lady Jane’s expression hardened. “Is that boy still here?” Aria took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Would you come and sit down, Drew please?” He patted the seat next to him. “Jeff can sit on the other one. Would you tell my grandmother what you know about Jay? Not about today.” Drew knew what Aria was doing and was impressed, even though he doubted it would have much impact on Lady Jane.” “Jay is Aria and Amara’s best friend. I first met them at a party and I thought they were a bad influence. Well no, to be honest, I have no idea quite what I thought they were. I’d never met anyone like them before, but I thought they were a party animal, a frivolous, flighty pixie who was encouraging the boys to take drugs and be promiscuous.” “What?” Aria snapped. Drew glanced at Aria and shrugged. “You wanted it, so you’re getting it all. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Aria sat up, his body language tenser and Lady Jane seemed smug. “But…” Drew continued as Lady Jane seemed about to say something, “the more I got to know them, the more I realized how wrong I was. Jay has been a good friend to the twins. They’re a stable—well stable-ish—influence on them when almost no one else in their lives is stable at all. I’ve never seen Aria and Amara smile as much as they do when Jay is around and for all their frivolity a lot of sense comes out of that wise assed mouth of theirs. I have no idea where the boys would have been now without what Jay’s done for them since the kidnapping. They’re sunny, bright, fiercely loyal and so much fun to be with.” “They are, aren’t they,” Aria said with his special smile arching between them. Drew returned the smiled, then frowned at Lady Jane. “But anyone who knows them can see there’s something dark underneath the glitter. They’ve always been sort of fragile, broken and I’ve never known why.” “Neither have we,” Aria said, “and we’ve known them a lot longer than Drew has. We’ve worried about them a lot. We’ve tried to get them to talk but they never would. We knew it had to be something bad.” Lady Jane snorted. “Something bad is one way to put it. The boys a criminal. He’s been to prison. He’s a murderer.” Drew glanced at Aria who’d gone pale. Drew could tell he was making an effort to control himself. Nevertheless, he straightened his spine, sitting upright. “Do you honestly think that makes a difference to us? And even if it did, you should have come to us, not tortured Jay and treated them like dirt.” “You were children.” “So were they?” Lady Jane snorted again. “Don’t let him fool you. He’s not the vulnerable little-boy-lost he likes to portray. Do you have any idea what it could do to your reputations, your careers if this got out?” “And yet you threatened to go to the press with it?” Now it was Lady Jane’s turn to pale. She turned and strode to the window. “I wouldn’t have done that.” “Then why did you tell Jay you would?” Drew, watching Lady Jane caught the precise moment she decided not to lie and deny she’d said it. She turned. “Because I’ve tried everything else I could think of. He just wouldn’t go.” “Of course, they wouldn’t go. Why would they? They’re our friend. What is it about that you don’t understand? Or do you think that friendship means nothing, that friends can just be thrown away if the stop being useful? That our careers and reputations are more important than the people we love?” “People come and go, Amara and all you have left are your careers and reputations. You’ve been protected from anything that could hurt you. You’ve been nurtured and sheltered, and all as it should be. You’ve got a wonderful life ahead of you, but something like this… If it comes out that you’re associating with someone who was a prostitute and murdered one of his…customers. It could ruin you.” “You’re living in the wrong century, Grandmother. Yes, probably our fans will be shocked, but they all know Jay, and do you think they’ll really care in the long run? And don’t forget, Jay has an amazing career with madly loyal fans. They’re more successful than me by a long shot. People love them. Besides, that’s what we pay managers and publicists for. That’s why we have lawyers on retainer. We’re not helpless and we’re not on our own. The people who care about us will all pull together to make sure we all get through fine.” “Amara, you’re being incredibly naïve if you think there wouldn’t be an enormous scandal, and it would bring us all down.” “Us? No, you. Your reputation. That’s what you’re really worried about, not us.” “No. Yes. Partly.” She moved around to lean on the front of the desk, gazing at Aria, sizing him up. “You have no idea how much hard work it takes to run our family businesses. Your father has been running around the world, spending money like water since he met your mother, and yes, he’s making plenty of his own now, but that wasn’t always the case. Then, when your grandfather died a lot of clients weren’t happy to deal with me, a woman. Yes, they are that old fashioned. They don’t like change, and like it or not reputation is important. A scandal like this would irreparably damage many of our business associations. “Think about this, Amara please. Your career won’t last forever, and with everyone around you taking a cut of your hard work it will be years before you make appreciable money. Even then, it goes so fast when you’re young. Look around at others who’ve chosen this career path. So many fail, and the pressure is enormous. I don’t want you ever to turn to addiction because you feel there’s no way out and you have no other choice. And think of Aria. What is he going to do? I’m not working myself to death for me, or that good-for-nothing father of yours, I’m doing this for you.” Aria pondered for a long while. Drew wondered why he hadn’t told Lady Jane he wasn’t Amara. Drew sorely wanted to, especially when she seemed to imply that Aria’s work meant nothing. But this was Aria’s business and if Aria wanted to keep her in the dark for now then so be it. Finally, Aria got up and walked over to stand in front of his grandmother. “We’re from different generations,” he said, as if he felt sorry for her, “and very different worlds. I don’t blame you for not knowing how things work anymore. I understand everything you’ve said, and you’re right. I know you are. Yes, reputation is important, and yes if there was any kind of scandal I suppose some clients would run away screaming, but you need to understand a few things. The most important one, so much more important that any reputation or business or client, is that people matter. Everyone matters, and no matter what you think, or what your clients think, or what your motives are, there’s no excuse for treating anyone like you treated Jay. “Jay has never done anything to hurt you, and never would. They’re our best friend. They will always be our best friend. We will never push them out of our lives because of something that happened in the past, something that wasn’t their fault. They didn’t choose what happened to them, but they did choose to move on, to remake themselves, to build a fabulous life and they don’t deserve to be treated badly. They don’t. No matter what you say or do, no matter where our relationship goes, or doesn’t go, if you want us in your life you have to understand that our friends are important and you can’t screw with them. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to treat them with respect. If you can’t do that, then we’re not coming here anymore. Ever.” Lady Jane opened and closed her mouth, her eyes very wide. “The second thing you need to know,” Aria pressed on, “is that we don’t need your company, or your house, or your reputation. We have our own. Our careers are not something we’re playing at until you hand over the companies. They’re our lives. They’re important. They’re the most important. Maybe we will take over the companies, maybe we won’t, but it will be on our terms and our own careers will always come first. We can put in managers, like we do now.” “The last thing you need to know.” Aria raised his hand and laid it on his grandmother’s cheek. There was a tear in the corner of her eye, but he if he saw it he ignored it. “The last thing you need to know is that Amara isn’t the only one with balls and brains. You should work harder at learning how to tell us apart.” Leaving a dumbstruck Lady Jane staring after him, Aria stalked to the door. Both Drew and Jeff stood to accompany him. “Oh,” he said before he opened the door. “I forgot the most important part. We’ve already got the wheels in motion. We’ve spoken to Amara’s manager and our lawyers, and our publicists…oh and Alicia. We’re handling this, but if you want to get your people involved, give Alexei a call. Alicia will have his number. Whatever you decide to do we are expecting, at the very least, an apology to Jay, and a promise you’ll at least get their pronouns right from now on. If you can do that, we’ll work with you on trying to sort out a relationship, but were not seven anymore, and we’re not empty-headed bimbos either. Goodnight, Grandmother.” Without waiting to see if there was any comment from Lady Jane, Aria opened the door and strolled out. Drew shot a look over his shoulder as he followed. Lady Jane was still standing, immobile, staring after them, but Drew was sure there was a tiny smile tugging at her lips. His heart was less heavy when he closed the door.
  13. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    Yes, I did wonder about that. Amara shouldn't have pressured Jay, but he's coming from a position of love and worry. If anything, I was concerned about people coming down hard on Drew for not being more proactive on Jay's behalf. I just think he was stunned by the force of Amara's emotion
  14. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    Thank you so much! Sadly it is happening far too often
  15. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    I agree. Sadly, cases like Jay's are by no means isolated incidents. It really happens. In the UK it's the CPS who make the decision whether to bring a case to court, and if so how - what charges to bring etc. The CPS are swayed by political thinking as well as the letter of the law and at the moment (at least when I was practicing) the political climate was to bow more to pressure for tough sentencing rather than compassionate treatment. I think you might be surprised by the "chat" with LAdy Jane for a couple of reasons.
  16. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    I one-hundred-percent agree.
  17. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    Me too! And what happened to Jay is one of the reasons it doesn't get stamped on a lot harder. What is it with people that they seem to feel the need to punish the victims?
  18. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    For sure
  19. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    Thank you for commenting. I wholly agree!! Prison is way too good for them. Maybe a few hours in a room with the victim's family!
  20. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    Unless things have changed in the last five years (since I stopped practicing as a solicitor) it's not possible in the UK to adopt a person over the age of 18. That being said, I have every confidence that Drew's mother will adopt Jay in all but the legal sense
  21. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    There are some people who excuse their current behaviour on a bad past. There are others who use that past to springboard them to better things. Anger can be turned into passion. Pain can be channelled into drive and focus. This is exactly what Jay did
  22. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    It's really sad. Things have been changing in the UK. Not sure about the US, and it's partly our fault - the stupid general public. I'm sick of laws being passed and decisions made as a reaction in anger and the whole sense of justice and fairness is skewed. There was a time when the victim of domestic violence, or any other kind of violence, was treated with compassion, until there was "public outcry" about people "getting away with murder", usually in reaction to the families of the murdered person who were amazingly blinkered by the harm done by that person. Maybe they didn't deserve to die but to push someone to the point where they would do that is opening the doors to whatever comes as far as I'm concerned. At the end of the day no human being takes the life of another without being affected in some way and someone who kills in these circumstances carry their own punishment with them every day for the rest of their lives, they don't need the law to heap on more. This whole idea of "reasonable person" is skewed too. How could anyone say what would be reasonable when faced with something like this. Sorry for the rant. My own professional experience together with the research I've done made me mad about this and in a way ashamed to be part of the legal system that would do this.
  23. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    Yeah, he had it rough, but he's a survivor, a fighter and he's earned every single thing he has, including the twins' frienship
  24. Nephylim

    Chapter 40

    After three cups of coffee, some tears, some laughter and a whole lot of hugging, Jay decided they were ready to go back inside. Drew assured them they didn’t have to tell anyone anything, and that Drew would stop the twins asking questions if Jay didn’t want them to. He’d also offered to speak to Lady Jane. Jay made him promise not to, but it was one promise he had no intention of keeping. Jay stalled at the front door, but before Drew could say anything, they squared their shoulders and tilted up their chin. Taking a breath, they stepped over the threshold and Drew followed. If he’d seen anyone in the hall things would not have gone well, but they made it to the flat without coming across a soul. Once again, Jay paused, staring at the door as if it would open into a prison cell. “You don’t have to,” Drew murmured. “You can sleep on the bus. I’ll sleep out there with you, or I’ll send Ceriann out.” Jay glanced at him, and the bright flare of hope took his breath. It died fast, a light going out somewhere deep inside that hurt Drew. “I don’t want her to win,” Jay said softly. “I-I don’t think I can tell them, but… I want to be…” “You know the boys better than I do, and I don’t think they’ll press you for something you’re not ready to give. Ceriann, on the other hand, will probably hound you. Would you object if I took her outside and beat the shit…er…have a word with her?” Jay flashed a brief smile that faded fast. They took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You can tell her,” he said. “I don’t mind her knowing. I trust her.” A wave of emotion that he couldn’t quite name washed over Drew and he squeezed Jay’s shoulder. “This is all down to you,” he said. “It’s your pace, your decision.” Jay nodded once, then opened the door. Every eye swivelled to them as soon as the door opened. “Where have you been?” Aria demanded. “I wanted to look for you, but Jeff wouldn’t let me. What happened? Oh no! She made you cry. What happened? Please tell us.” Aria threw his arms around Jay, and Jay broke again, clinging to their friend. “What the fuck…” Amara struggled a little to get up, but he was quickly at his brother’s side. He glared at Drew as if it was Drew’s fault Jay was upset. “What happened?” he demanded. “Jay got upset. It’s not for me to tell you why and I promised Jay you wouldn’t press them for an explanation. Can we just leave it that Jay’s upset and they need your support? You don’t really need to know why.” “Like hell we don’t. This was her. This is something she’s done. She’s always hated Jay and I should have made her tell us why when she was a bitch to them earlier. I’m sick of it. I understand what happened with her and our mother, and I can forgive a lot, but no one ever told her she couldn’t be nice to Jay and she’s always treated them badly. “He straightened to his full height, only wincing slightly. “If she wants any chance of us trusting her or making a relationship with her she has to realise she can’t treat our friends like this. What the hell did she say?” Amara was so angry he was shaking. Drew was surprised by the strength of his reaction, but the thought was quickly followed by another—why was he surprised? Aria and Amara had always been fiercely protective of their friends, and Jay in particular. He wondered for a moment whether they actually knew. “You’d better spit it out, Drew,” Ceriann said, coming to stand beside him, “because if you don’t, I’m going to track that bitch down and beat it out of her. This is my Jay she’s fucking with and that means she’s fucking with me, too.” That caught Jay’s attention and they pushed Aria away gently. “Don’t. Please. It would just make it worse. I can’t… I…” “Jay?” Aria ducked his head to look up into Jay’s face. He put one hand against Jay’s cheek. “You know you can tell us, whatever it is. We’ll help you. We’ll make it better. If she’s horrible to you, we’ll leave. We’ll never come back. I won’t be friends with someone who treats you like this. I won’t.” Jay shook their head. “You don’t understand.” “No, we don’t,” Amara said, hands on hips. “We don’t understand at all. Why does she hate you so much? Is she going to be like this with all our friends?” “Not Alice,” Aria said, his voice strangely tight. “She likes Alice because she’s important.” “Jay’s important too,” Amara came back instantly. “I know that, but she clearly doesn’t.” “Then we should tell her.” The twins exchanged their twin stare, then both nodded. “Agreed.” Amara headed for the door, with Aria close behind. “I’m coming too,” Ceriann said. “Hang on there.” Jeff, as usual stopped everyone in their tracks. “I think this is one of those situations where we all need to take a breath. Jay, you look like you’re going to pass out on your feet. Come sit down here. Drew, put the kettle on. Ceriann, get that blanket and tuck Jay in, they’re bloody freezing. Aria and Amara, plant your arses. You’re going nowhere until we know what we’re dealing with. Wading in with two feet at this point isn’t going to help anyone.” Drew smiled with relief as he headed for the kitchen, leaving Jeff issuing orders. As he walked, he slipped out his phone and texted Ceriann to meet him in the kitchen. He was still searching for the kettle when he heard Ceriann telling Jeff she was going to help Drew. “Look at him. He’s so bloody useless. I partly blame you. You told him to put the kettle on. Has he never heard of a coffee maker or a tea maker? See that thing that looks like an unexploded bomb?” She clattered around the kitchen flicking switches on some weird looking machines. “All mod cons here,” she said cheerfully. After a few minutes, when the others’ attention had moved on, Ceriann glanced at Drew, while still going through the motions of making hot drinks. “So, what’s going on, little brother?” “What I’m going to tell you can’t go further than us. Jay asked me to talk to you because you’re the only person they feel they can trust right now. They don’t want the boys to know.” “Why the hell not? Not that I’m not chuffed to bits that they trust me but Christ, the twins are their best friends and I’m just some crazy old woman they’ve just met.” “God knows why, but they seem to like you.” “Cheeky.” She cuffed him and he ducked, grinning. He sobered fast though and explained as quickly as he could what he’d seen and what Jay had told him. “Fucking hell,” she said. “That goddamn fucking bitch. I’m telling you now, Drew, I don’t know I can control myself if I see her. I want to rip her hair out at the roots. Jesus, that poor kid. No wonder they seem so…sad. Even when they’re laughing their eyes are….” “Haunted.” “Yeah. Not surprising, huh?” “Not at all.” “So, what are you going to do?” “I don’t know. I can’t tell the boys because Jay asked me not to. I really hope they’ll tell them themselves because it’s a hell of a burden to keep a secret like that, especially now when the boys know something’s up.” “Yeah, but you can understand why they don’t want to.” “Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to tell them either, if it was me.” “What are you going to do about her? You’re not going to let her get away with it?” “God no. I thought I’d take Jeff with me a bit later, when everything’s settled down, and have a quiet word.” “Why Jeff and not me? I want to come.” “You’ve just eloquently told me exactly why you shouldn’t come.” “Eh, what’s a bit of hair here and there?” “That’s it. No fucking way.” Drew’s attention was jerked back to Amara, who was on his feet heading for the door. “Wait,” he called. “Where are you going?” “I’m going to talk to her, of course. Look at them. They’re a mess. Jay won’t tell me what’s she done, so I’m going to find out for myself. Don’t look like that, Drew. Don’t even try to talk me out of it. I know what you’re going to say and maybe it won’t solve anything, and maybe it will make things worse, but hey… we’ve got nothing to lose. She’s the one who’s going to lose her grandchildren again, and if we’re as important as she says we are she’ll get her head out of her arse and realize that she can’t treat our friends like this. Hell, she can’t treat anyone like this. Look at them?” Amara motioned to where Jay was still weeping in Aria’s arms. “I’m not putting up with it, Drew. No one no one, not even my own grandmother treats my friends like this. No one treats Jay like that. Jay’s not just a friend, and you know that. Jay’s our adopted brother.” It wasn’t the first time Drew had heard Aria and Amara refer to Jay as their brother. Never had it been so clear to Drew how deeply that went. From the expression on their face, it had never been as clear to Jay either. “Please don’t,” Jay said. “I love that you want to, but it really wouldn’t help.” “What can she do? Throw us out?” “No. She could… She could… Please don’t talk to her. Please.” Amara narrowed his eyes, focussing on Jay now. His voice was curiously soft when he spoke. “What did she say to you, Jay? What are you afraid she’s going to say to us?” Damn Amara and his perceptiveness. That look flashed between the twins again. This time, Drew could read it clearly enough. I told you so. “Amara, please don’t push this,” Drew said. “If you want to help Jay, let it drop because this is hurting them. Can’t you see that?” Amara glared at him. “Yeah, I can see that. We’ve known for a long time that something’s wrong. We’ve talked about it so many times. Jay’s hurting. Jay’s not alright. Jay’s hiding something. We know something’s horribly wrong and we love Jay so much that it’s hurting us too. I’m not going to make Jay talk to us. I’m not going to make them tell us what’s wrong, even though it hurts that they don’t trust us, but I won’t let this go, and if Grandmother tells us something Jay doesn’t want us to hear well sorry, so be it. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind huh?” He glared at Jay. “Sometimes you’ve got to let it go and trust that the people who care for you will pick up the pieces after.” “Please don’t ‘Mara,” Jay croaked. “Why?” “Amara.” Amara shook off Drew’s hand. “I know your business is your business, Jay, but how many more times are we going to get to this point? You’re breaking our hearts and we can’t take it anymore. What the hell are you so scared of? That we’re not going to like you anymore? That we’re going to throw you to the lions?” “No. You know I don’t.” “Then you don’t trust us?” “No. It’s not that. I swear.” “Then what is it, Jay? What the hell is it that turns you into a fucking wreck and is taking our best friend away from us. Don’t think we haven’t noticed it’s been getting worse. And it always gets worse when you’re here.” “I-I didn’t think…. I didn’t know.” “What? That we care about you? That we love the fuck out of you? That we can see you fading away in front of our fucking eyes? We’re scared to death Jay. Don’t you know that? Can’t you see that?” “’Mara, maybe we shouldn’t—” Not even Aria was able to cut through Amara’s anger. Drew had never seen him like this, and to be honest, he was a little bit scary and a little bit magnificent and whole lot bloody sexy. “Shut up, Aria.” Still glaring at Jay, Amara sighed and his anger dropped away. “Do you have any idea how fucking awful it is to lie in bed wondering if this is the night you’ll get a call to tell you the person you love more than anyone else in the world, except Aria, has done something bloody stupid because they’re too damn stubborn to ask for help?” Jay shook their head, stunned into silence. “Do you know how many times we’ve talked about it? About what we can do, what we’d do if anything happened, how we could stop it happening?” “I’d never do anything like that Amara. I’m not suicidal.” “You sit there looking like that and I’m sorry but I don’t fucking believe you.” “Trust me, if I was suicidal, I wouldn’t be here right now.” “You did it once,” Aria said, his voice trembling Jay’s head jerked down. “That was different.” “That’s what you keep saying, but you’ve never told us why it was different.” “Because…. Because…” “That’s enough, Mara,” Drew said firmly. “I understand how you feel but if you really do care for Jay you won’t put them through any more of this. You’re putting unfair pressure on them to tell you something they’re not ready to share.” “But they shared with you.” Amara turned his blazing eyes on Drew who actually took a step back. “It’s their choice, not yours.” “Fuck you. You know nothing about us, about Jay and us. If you want to stay in our lives don’t even try to get in between us.” “I wouldn’t dream of it, but please think about this. It’s you who are hurting Jay right now.” “No, Drew, it’s not. It’s the big fucking secret, whatever it is. That’s what’s hurting them and it’s going to keep on hurting them, over and over and over, and if we don’t ask and don’t talk and don’t push then it’s never going to change.” “How do you think Aria would have felt if someone was trying to force him to talk about his sexuality?” Amara stopped as if Drew had slapped him in the face. “How could you even say that?” he gasped. “It’s the same thing.” “It’s not the same thing. It’s not anything like the same thing.” “Trust me, it is. More than you know.” Amara turned to stare at Jay. Then he narrowed his eyes. “If it is then it needs to come out like Aria did. Aria suffered for years for nothing. We can hardly believe how much better it is now it’s out in the open. Aria might never have done what he did if Mother hadn’t practically forced him to.” “That doesn’t mean you have the right to force someone else into doing what Aria did. It’s not your choice. I know you’re not stupid, so you have to see that.” Amara sagged. “I know it’s not my choice, but it’s hard to see Jay like this when I know it would be so much better if they’d just talk about it.” “How do you know? You don’t know the facts. You don’t know the implications. You don’t know what it would mean for Jay or for you if they talked about it.” “Okay, you know. You can tell us. What are the implications? What would it mean for Jay or for us if they told us?” “Don’t Amara, please. Please just leave it. Please.” Amara sighed and returned to the sofa. He sat and took Jay’s hand. “I’m angry, Jay. I’m so bloody angry because I hate to see you like this. I want to smash something, to hit someone. I want to smash her fucking face in for doing this to you. I don’t want to hurt you. I really don’t. I’m only angry because I love you.” “I love you too,” Aria said. “And I want to hurt someone too, but gentler than Amara. Maybe I can wire up her television to explode or something. Or mess up all the books in the office.” Jay smiled and relaxed a little. “I love you both, too, but I just can’t talk about it. I can’t. It was hard enough talking to Drew and he was…” “He was what?” Amara asked, a definite edge to his voice. “A stranger. It didn’t matter so much if he hated me after.” “Hated you?” Aria said, his face showing shock and outrage. “Drew would never hate you. We would never hate you. You don’t hate them, do you Drew?” “Not even the tiniest bit.” “See. Drew doesn’t hate you and we wouldn’t either. There’s nothing you could say that would make us hate you, Jay.” Jay snorted. “Right. You don’t know how wrong you are.” “Really?” Amara had gone very still and Drew thought it must be because he was in pain. His voice was tight, but Drew recognised something else apart from physical pain. “I’ve worked at the safe houses. You know I don’t like it, but I’ve still done it. I’ve talked to the kids, watched them, learned about them. I’ve read files and talked to people who know what they’re talking about. One thing that always really freaked me out was this look they had, kind of a darkness behind their eyes like even when they were smiling, part of them was screaming. One of the reasons it freaked me out so much was because I can see the same thing in you. “Do you think I don’t see those moments when the screen falls, that I don’t catch you looking like you’re about to cry, or run, or scream, or whatever? Then you chew on your lip ring, sniff and pull the mask on again. I see more than you think, and I know you’ve done things in the past that you’re not proud of. I’ve jumped to my own conclusions and I don’t think anything you tell us can be much worse. I don’t care if you were an addict, or if you lived on the streets, or sold yourself. I don’t care if you sold drugs to buy food or acted as a fucking mule. I don’t care, do you understand? I don’t care what you did or who you were because I know who you are now and I know what you do now.” By the time he’d finished speaking Amara had tears running down his face. Drew felt awkward, as if he was intruding on an intensely personal moment. Ceriann and Jeff had slipped off to the kitchen and Drew was pretty sure she’d be telling Jeff what had happened. “But it…” Jay’s breath hitched. “It would…It was worse… I did… I can’t…. It would ruin you.” “It would what? Ruin us? What the fuck does that mean? It wouldn’t ruin anything, whatever it was.” “No one would…No one would listen to your music. No one would watch…” “Shut up Jay,” Aria said, shocking everyone. “You have to stop worrying about us. If we think there’s a problem we can work it out ourselves.” Drew smiled, bursting with pride because this, more than anything else brought home to him that the twins could deal with things themselves and the last shreds of his concerns about taking advantage of the them went flying right out of the window. There was no way anyone would take advantage of these two. They were far shrewder and more astute than he had, even now, given them credit for. They were truly a force to be reckoned with in every way. He had no doubt Jay would tell them everything, or that they would deal with the situation and handle it in the right way when they did, Drew was the one who needed to stay out of the way and not mess things up. “No, you can’t. It…it’s too much. She said…” “Don’t even go there. I don’t give a shit what she said. She knows nothing about us.” “Well, she does,” Aria cut in. “I mean, to be fair she’s had Alicia telling her everything, so she does know something.” “Alicia?” Jay sniffed and frowned. Drew had almost forgotten they hadn’t been privy to the discussion. “Yeah, apparently she’s a plant.” “A spy working for Grandma.” “Really?” “Yeah, and she’s going to find out just exactly what we think about that next time we see her.” Jay gave a thin smile, then they shuddered, covered their face with their hands and blurted—“I was a whore and I killed someone.” Everyone froze and there was absolute silence, then Amara huffed. “I figured it was something like that, but I would never have guessed you killed someone. Did they deserve it?” Jay nodded. It appeared they were too stunned to speak, which didn’t surprise Drew at all because he was pretty shocked himself. “Was it someone who hurt you?” Aria asked, stroking Jay’s hair. Jay nodded again. “Then I’m glad they’re dead, because if they weren’t we’d get Drew to talk to his friends and have them assassinated.” “Hey, hang on a minute. I’m not in the mafia, you know.” “Yeah, we know.” Aria waved a hand as if technicalities didn’t matter, and Drew inwardly groaned.
  25. Nephylim

    Chapter 39

    “Have you never had counselling?” “Not since the hospital. I think maybe they mentioned it but…things happened.” “I’m sure they did, but has no one ever discussed this with you? Has no one ever explained that sex without consent is rape and that you can’t give consent when you don’t have a choice. Even if you seduced someone, even coerced them into having sex with you, if you believed you’d be hurt, or even killed, if you didn’t, there was no consent. You were a victim, Jay, don’t forget that. You were repeatedly raped and abused. It wasn’t your fault you didn’t run from that. You were a child and you had nowhere else to go.” Jay gaped at Drew, shaking their head. “I… No one…not even at the hospital. No one explained it like that.” “Then you never spoke to the right person. Promise me you will.” Jay swallowed then nodded, albeit reluctantly. “I will.” “Good. Glad that’s settled. Now, do you want to go back to the flat or stay here for a bit. You don’t have to talk about this anymore if you’re tired. You can join the twins and rest while I speak to Lady Jane.” Jay’s eyes flew wide. “No. No, I don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want you to talk to her.” “Then what do you want? Do you want to leave?” “I…I don’t know.” “If you do, you’ll be running away. I won’t stop you, but I think you should stay. You don’t need to run anymore. You’re not on your own now.” “Aren’t I?” They sounded bleak. Drew took them by the shoulders and pushed them back so he could look them in the eye. “Don’t you listen to what people say to you? You’re family, Jay. Maybe you don’t share our blood, maybe we haven’t known you for long, but you’re family. My mother has decreed it, so it is.” He smiled, but Jay didn’t echo it. “She doesn’t know.” “Do you think that would change anything? Do you think my mother is sheltered because she lives in the back end of beyond? She’s a worldly woman, and Ceriann… She’s been all over the world and seen things not even I’ve experienced. Not all of them have been good. She knows the score as much as I do. I know you can’t trust us, not yet, but I promise you, I promise no one will judge you. In fact, you might get mothered even more. I can’t speak for the twins but I’ve a strong feeling they’ll be just the same.” For a moment, Drew was afraid Jay was about to faint, but they pulled themselves together, even though tears were pouring down their face. “I…I can’t…” “I know. It’s too much to ask of you. How can you trust us when you’ve kept this so close for so long? I can speak words, make promises, but at the end of the day you’ll only know when it happens, and it will happen. Everyone will say to your face that your past doesn’t make us love you any less.” “You…love me?” “Of course, you ridiculous pixie. We all love you. You remind us all what it’s like to have a true friend, and what it’s like to be free—even if you aren’t.” Jay pondered for a moment, then nodded. “I’m not free,” they said. “Not really. Not at all.” “I know. So, tell me the rest and you’ll free a bit more. If you’re brave, I promise that by the end of the day you’ll be freer than you’ve ever been in your life.” Jay started, raw fear stealing what colour had remained in their face, but they nodded. “There’s not really that much more to tell. My master sold me to a monster. He…raped me every day and lent me out to others who…” They swallowed thickly. “Come on. Let’s sit back up on the seat, get comfortable.” “What about…” They motioned at the puddle of vomit. “I’ll clean up in a bit. You missed the carpet, so thanks for that.” “Can I help?” “Do you feel up to it?” “I think it would make me feel better. Could you make coffee?” Drew, pleased that Jay’s voice sounded stronger already, readily agreed. He located cleaning products in the sliding cupboard and brewed coffee while Jay cleaned up. When they were done, they sat, side by side, sipping their drinks while Jay pondered. “I carried on running away,” they said when their coffee was half gone. “He kept on bringing me back. He had thugs and they weren’t gentle. He threatened all the time that if I ran away again he’d kill me. I guess I was too valuable to him. And at least I got to be me, and he gave more pretty things than I’d ever had. He liked me dressing up in women’s clothes and makeup. He said he got more for me that way. They sighed, their eyes misty as they remembered. “One day, after my ass had been dragged back yet again, he looked at me and shook his head. “You’re pretty,” he said, “and you make me more than anyone else, but you’re expendable. Remember that.” “I didn’t remember it. I thought it was just like all the other times and started planning the next one. Then he sent me out on a job. It seemed good at first. I was wearing my best stuff and the John was rich and clean, even charming—to begin with. He took me back to a posh penthouse and treated me really well. He wined and dined me and petted me like I was some kind of fancy dog he’d just bought from a pet shop. Some of the things he said were a bit weird, but I didn’t think anything of it—until he took me into the bedroom. There was nothing new in that, but when I was stripped, he pinned me to the bed, put his hands around my neck and told me he’d been looking forward to this day for half his life. He said I was fortunate, blessed even, and not to worry because it would be quick and he’d even make it good for me.” “What? What did he mean by that?” Drew’s blood ran cold and his body stiffened, on high alert. Suddenly, he wanted very badly to kill someone. “I was never meant to leave that room. I’d become the star in my very own stuff movie. Someone said that to me later and it’s kind of stuck in my head. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was filming the whole thing. There would have been people all over the country, maybe even the world, who’d have got off on watching me die. How fucked up is that?” Drew knew all about snuff films. He’d been forced to watch some once when undercover. He’d never recovered from the images he’d seen and the thought that Jay could have been one of them, one of the nameless children who’d given their lives needlessly and sickeningly to satisfy some twisted fantasy made him feel sick. He pulled Jay to him and held on tight. His fingers itched and he wanted nothing more than to put a bullet through the head of that monster, even though he knew it was impossible. “I thought he was going to strangle me and there would have been nothing I could do about it. I fought, but he was way too strong. I passed out thinking it was the end. But I think he miscalculated. He thought I’d be out longer than I was, because I came to with him leaning over me, a syringe in his hand. I freaked. I took him by surprise and when I twisted he lost balance and fell off the bed. I ran for it and almost made it, because he’d got tangled up when he fell. I was nearly at the front door when he came out of the bedroom, roaring like some kind of fucked up wild animal. I went through the first door I saw and tried to find a lock, but there wasn’t one. I tried to hold it closed with my body but I didn’t have a chance. When he burst through, he sent my flying across the room. I was in the kitchen. He was right behind me and there was a knife block next to my hand. I pulled out the biggest knife I could see, but before I could do anything he’d slammed into me and I thought I was going to pass out again because I was sandwiched between him and the counter top and it just knocked all the air out of me. I knew I was going to die. He wouldn’t make any more mistakes. So, I squeezed the handle of the knife and just stabbed it behind me. I didn’t care what it hit, as long as it got him away from me.” The images Jay was painting in Drew’s mind were horrific. He’d seen some bad things in his life, dammit he’d done more than one himself. He’d even killed children when he’d had to but he’d never trapped an innocent child alone in a room and murdered them in cold blood, or got any satisfaction out of any kill he’d ever made. The thought sickened him and the fact it had happened to Jay, this golden, sparkling, pixie who had more life in them than anyone Drew had ever met… He was sorry the bastard was dead because if he hadn’t been he’d have tracked him down and made him pay, inch by inch, moment by moment. For now, all he could do was be there for Jay, to listen and try so hard to make them feel safe. “He jumped back bellowing like a goddamn bull. I didn’t think, didn’t pause, didn’t…care. I stabbed him again…and again…and again.” Jay was shaking so hard their teeth chattered and they couldn’t go on, so Drew held them until it stopped. “I called the police and told them what I’d done. They came and broke the door down. I was sitting on the floor in the corner and they just grabbed me and handcuffed me. They were yelling but that was nothing new. I was used to people yelling before they did bad things to me. At least they didn’t hit me.” “I’m glad they didn’t hit you,” Drew said, his voice as cold as his heart. “If they had, I’d have found them.” Jay started and pulled back, staring at him. “You would? For me?” “Let me tell you something about me. When I give myself to someone—a lover, a friend, anyone—I give it all; the good and the bad. I will do everything I can to keep the bad away from the twins, but I won’t hide it. I’m a hard man and I’ve done hard things, things I’m not proud of. What I am proud of and what I will never regret, is that I take care of my own. You should know that if the man who did this to you was still alive, I’d find him, anywhere in the world. I’d find him and end him, and before he took his last breath, he’d be begging for it.” Jay shuddered, a deep shiver that rocked their body. “Does that make you frightened of me, or disgusted or horrified? That I would torture someone to death for harming you?” Dumbly, Jay shook their head, their eyes wide and lips gaping. “Then what the hell makes you think I’d be disgusted or horrified about what you did. You fought for your life. Anyone would have done the same thing in your place.” Jay shook their head, a twisted smile sharpening their expression. “Apparently they wouldn’t. The judge said it was “a sustained and animalistic attack, far beyond what might be considered reasonable in the circumstances”. That was when my lawyer tried to argue it was self-defence.” “Of course it was self-defence. What the hell did they think it was. The monster was about to kill you.” Jay nodded. “They found the syringe and analysed what was in it. It would have killed me a hundred times over. If I hadn’t woken up when I did… They explained in court what it would have done to me, and it would have been entertaining to watch, I guess, but like you said, I’d have been begging for the end—which I guess is what they want.” “And they still said it wasn’t self-defence?” Jay nodded again. “They dropped the murder charge and told me that if I agreed to give evidence against the people who took me, they’d drop manslaughter to aggravated assault and I’d walk free. By then I’d already been in prison for about eight months because they considered me a flight risk. They were probably right.” “So, is that what you did?” Jay shook their head. “If I’d done that, they would have killed me. The police had no chance of catching them all and I’d seen what happened to people who crossed them. They never understood, Drew, those people are everywhere. They’re evil monsters. It would have been nothing to them to snuff out another inconvenience. I was told as much in prison.” “Did they tell you that? That you’d be killed if you said anything?” Jay snorted. “What do you think? Of course they did. I was lucky to survive as it was. I was a fifteen-year-old, gender fluid whore in an adult prison—yeah they sent me there because I was being “unreasonable” about taking a plea and testifying. That wasn’t what they said, of course, but we all knew it was punishment and an attempt to get me to cave.” “Jesus, Jay, what happened?” “I got lucky.” They chuckled mirthlessly and pushed away so they were sitting up, with their back against the wall. “In the beginning, I was charged with murder. They put me in solitary confinement in the medical wing because I was still in shock, and they thought I was a suicide risk. Then, when I kept refusing to testify, they sent me out into the lion’s den. I don’t know what they thought was going to happen. I figured I’d be torn to pieces in the first few days. But… There were people in there who were either part of the gang or paid off by them, because I was told that as long as I behaved and didn’t talk I’d be looked after, and I was. To be honest, the time I spent in prison was so much better than it had been before I wouldn’t have cared if I’d stayed there forever. That changed, of course. No one wants to be prisoner forever, do they?” “No.” Drew couldn’t help but stare at Jay. They seemed so fragile, so young and vulnerable, and they were. God knows they were, but… They’d survived. They’d come through and built a new life for themselves. They were here, standing on their own two feet, living the best life they could, better than most. Pride blossomed in his chest and he longed to hug Jay, to tell them how he felt, but he couldn’t, because that was not what Jay needed right then. “In the end, they gave up, especially because of all the media attention. People were asking questions and suddenly I was an embarrassment they just wanted to go away. My family back here in the UK had seen the reports and recognized me. They petitioned the government to bring me home. I was finally sent back to the UK and had to go through the whole thing again—without the pressure to give evidence. I spent four months on remand in a young offender’s institution, where I got beaten up worse than I had in with the rapists and murderers in America, then suddenly I was free. Apparently, the CPS felt it wasn’t in the public’s interests to punish me any further, because one day, two strangers turned up, put me in a car and took me home.” “Strangers?” “They were my parents. It wasn’t that I didn’t recognize them—well I didn’t at first but it didn’t take long—it was that I’d changed so much I wasn’t looking through the same eyes, and neither were they. Don’t get me wrong, they tried. They really did, but they’re older and fancy, with the whole “what would the neighbours think” thing going on. I couldn’t be the son they wanted. I couldn’t be anything but me and that didn’t fit in with their comfortable, upper class lives. “I kind of had a breakdown and ended up in hospital. I met some cool people and they lit the flames so to speak. When I came out, my parents didn’t really want me back home. I was almost seventeen decided I could live quite well by myself—which turned out to be very much true. My parents couldn’t wait to get me out the door. They set me up with a flat and the equipment I needed to start up, and then they backed off. I think they forgot they ever had me. They certainly never reached out, never contacted me, never answered my messages, were never in when I called around. In the end I stopped. I got the message loud and clear.” “I’m sorry.” “Nothing to be sorry for. It’s their decision, their loss.” Jay attempted to grin. They couldn’t quite pull it off but Drew was proud at the attempt. “While I was in the hospital I reinvented myself, and I literally came out a different person. Jayson Stephens died in there and I never thought I’d see him again—until I met her.” “Lady Jane?” Jay nodded. “She hated me from the start. Thought I wasn’t good enough. When she found out who I really am she told me I had to tell the twins and then keep the hell away from them because she didn’t want my past to catch up and pull them down. It all sounded so reasonable when she said it. I could see the truth in every word. The thing is…I couldn’t do it. I love them, and all our friends. I’ve spent so many hours fighting with myself. Should I tell them? Should I tell everyone? I’ve decided to do it over and over and over. It’s not fair of me not to because one day, whether it’s Lady Jane or someone else, it’s going to come out. When that happens, we’ll all go down. Oh God, Drew, I’ve been so selfish.” Jay started to sob again, rocking, their head in their hands. “I’ve been so selfish, but I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. I’d never had friends. I’ve never had anyone, not like them and it’s got nothing to do with the money, I swear.” “Jesus, Jay, do you really think I’d believe for one second it’s about money? As far as I can see, apart from Alice, you’re the only true friend the twins, have, that they’ve ever had.” Jay moaned, a long, drawn out wail of pure agony, startling Drew. “What?” he asked. “What did I say?” “Alice knows. If it all comes out she’ll… Oh God it’s such a mess.” “Alice knows?” “She’s a fucking princess, Drew, of course she knows. Her security know everything about everyone.” “And she’s okay with it?” “Okay? Of course she’s not okay, but she’s the best friend anyone in the world could ever have. Even better than the twins.” Jay paused. “Okay, no, not better than the twins, but as good as. She looks after people. She looked after me, but she had to fight for it. They didn’t want to let her have anything to do with me and she has to have extra security when I’m around. She has press agents watching me, watching everything. But she wouldn’t let go.” “Of course not. Why would anyone let you go? You’re an amazing person, Jay. I don’t know anything about Jayson, but I do know you and I’m amazed by you.” Jay sniffed and looked up, even with their eyes puffy and makeup smeared all over their face, they were a true, natural beauty. Not like the twins, nothing like the twins—they were simply breath-taking—but strangely pure even after everything they’d been through. He was a lily next to their roses—a rainbow lily of course, with a touch of sparkle. “You’re amazed by me?” “I am. More now than ever. How the hell have you lived with all this? Alone?” “Alone’s all I know how to be. I’m the only one I know I can rely on.” “Not anymore.” Drew opened his arms and Jay jumped into them, hugging him with a strength that belied their small frame.
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