Journey: 1st version

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Chapter 7

“Father!” Cole screamed, snapping awake and scrambled to get to his feet, ”Daddy!” He cried out, getting tangled up in his blankets and fell from the bed. He landed face first on the cold wood floor, blood spraying out from his nose. He quickly covered it with his hands, muffling another cry, this time in pain.

Ezekiel pushed open the bedroom door as Cole picked himself up, “What-” He gasped involuntarily as Cole plowed into his chest and clung to his neck, his whole body trembling in fear, “Cole?” Worry gripped at his stomach as he attempted to pull the boy from him, “Let me see, what happened?” He said trying to see the boy’s face.

Cole shook his head biting back sobs, “It’s not true!” He cried, clenching his hands in the white cloth that made up Ezekiel’s shirt, “It’s not true!”

“What’s not true?” Ezekiel hugged Cole to him, sitting down on the floor, “Cole talk to me.”

“They’re taking us away and everyone is dying!” Cole sobbed, “I’m scared,” His voice muffled in the cloth, “I saw it happen. I saw them shoot him. He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead!”

Ezekiel rubbed Cole’s back gently, “Cole,” He tried to cut in to the young boy’s ramblings, “Son, you just had a nightmare. It’s okay, it’s not real. It wasn’t real,” He held him tightly, trying to calm him, “No one’s dead. You’re safe. We’re all safe.”

Cole shook his head, “No, it was real,” He whimpered, “You were there. Ira was there. I was there.”

Frowning, Ezekiel tried to pull the boy back again, “Some nightmares only seem real, they’re not though.”

Lifting his head, Cole released his death grip on Ezekiel’s shirt, “You sure?” He whispered, wrapping his arms around himself.

Ezekiel pulled his shirt off, wiping the blood from Cole’s face, “Positive.” He gave him a small nudge. He remembered the conversation he had had with Raine earlier that night. He was sure now that his memories really had been passed on to Cole. Guilt rose up from the pit of his stomach.

“The sun is coming up.” He said quietly, noticing the light starting to peek in through the window, “Let’s have breakfast.”

Cole nodded, the nightmare still fresh in his mind, “Okay,” He sighed, pushing the dream away, “Can we spar? I want to show you something I’ve been working on!” He brightened up, flashing a fangy grin.

Amusement softened Ezekiel’s features. He had been spying on his young offspring and knew exactly what he had been working on.
He played along, “Yeah? Sounds like a plan.”

~*~

This was it, Cole grinned despite feeling bruised and tired, now was the time to unleash his surprise attack. He dodged a roundhouse kick, dropping to the desert floor and pulled his hands back towards his chest.

“Hey!” He startled, whirling around to the group of Humans approaching them.

Ezekiel immediately moved in front of Cole protectively, “Can I help you?” He asked, eyeing the three men standing defensively in the group of five. They looked rough, like they had been hanging out in the woods for a few days without access to running water. The strong scent of alcohol and body odor wafted towards him, making his nose crinkle in disgust.

“Come on, let’s go.” One of the girls whispered, pulling on the shortest man in the group’s arm.

He snorted at her, pulling his arm free, “Let go of me.” He growled, swiping at her with one hand while taking a swig from his beer bottle with the other.

“Never thought I’d see lizards 'round here.” A lanky man with long brown hair sneered at Ezekiel.

Ezekiel’s ears twitched at the word ‘lizards’, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly, “Yeah, okay,” He rested his hand on Cole’s shoulder, “We’ll leave.”

Cole looked up at him in surprise. Surely his father could take out these five idiots? Gabriel said he was a warrior, why would he run?

“Running away?” The last man smirked, his fists balling up at his sides, “Don’t you want to play?” The three men moved towards Ezekiel, spreading out to surround him and Cole.

Frowning, Ezekiel stood his ground, “Not really.” He grumbled, watching them cautiously.

One of the girls giggled, “Get 'em, Eddie.” She cheered, leaning against the other girl.

With a sigh, Ezekiel rolled his eyes, “I don’t want any trouble. We’ll leave.” He turned his side to the group moving to pick Cole up, when one of the men rushed him.

Grunting in annoyance, he blocked the man, shoving him back a few steps, “Are you playing, or was that actually supposed to intimidate me?” He raised an eyebrow, straightening himself while the man flustered in anger.

The men looked at each other, then to Ezekiel, sizing him up. Ezekiel smirked, adrenaline rushing through his body at the imminent fight. He lowered himself into his fighting stance, stretching out his hand, beckoning them.

“Bring it.”

Cole staggered back, his eyes wide with a mixture of excitement and fear as the three Humans attacked his father. He held his fists up unsteadily, watching his father knock each man down one after another. The largest of the men lunged at Ezekiel, wrapping his arms around his neck, pulling him back and opening him up to the other two men.

Cole gasped, “Father!” He shouted, watching the men punch his father in the face and stomach repeatedly, “Stop it! Stop it!” He cried out, his body suddenly feeling hot.

The men paused in their onslaught and laughed at Cole. The shortest of the three walked over to Cole shoving him to the ground before sauntering back to Ezekiel and slugging him in the stomach. Ezekiel curled in on himself, spitting out bile and saliva as he tried to catch his breath.

“It’s only a matter of time before lizard freaks like you are obsolete. No one would even notice you two missing.” Ezekiel heard one of them hiss in his ear, making the hairs on his neck stand up.

“Leave my father alone!” Cole snarled out, climbing to his feet, his hands pulling in towards his chest. Ezekiel lifted his head, watching the boy power up. Something felt familiar about the attack he was about to perform, but it definitely wasn’t what he had seen him practicing before.

It can’t be… He thought, his eyes widening.

“What’s he doing?” One of the girls wondered out loud.

Dark yellow energy gathered quickly in Cole’s hands. In one quick motion, he transferred the energy to his left hand and thrust it forward, “Inferno Wave!

~*~

A bird chirped somewhere, singing sweetly to its own melody. Cole listened to the song as he regained consciousness, enjoying the soothing sound. Slowly he cracked open his eyes, trying to remember when he fell asleep, and why he was outside. He sat up, leaning forward as a wave of dizziness washed over him. As he gained his bearings, he tried wiping off the dust and mud staining his white gi.

He hadn’t planned on that attack. His heart thumped against his ribs, where had that attack come from? He looked around his eyes widening at the change in scenery. Instead of being out in the middle of the lush green forest with large pine trees stretching out to no end, he was in the middle of a cold, damp crater.

“Father?” He called out weakly, stumbling to his feet. His head swam, making his vision tilt this way and that. Alarmed, he sat back down with tears welling up in his eyes, ”Daddy!”

You’re alone. A cold, hollow voice sang in his head.

“No…” Cole sobbed, rubbing his eyes furiously, “I’m not alone, don’t say that.”

The voice chuckled, You killed him too, well done.

Cole choked back a sob, “Shut up! I did not! Don’t say that!” His voice came out in ragged breaths, “He’s still alive,” The bird stopped its song and the silence suddenly surrounding the young boy made him cry harder, “I’m supposed to be a brave fighter.” He hiccupped, wiping the tears from his eyes as he tried to get back on his feet.

Summoning up his energy, he tried to jump out of the crater. He made it half way up, before his vision swam, and he found himself tumbling back down to the bottom of the hole. Frightened, he laid still, waiting for the stars to stop flashing before his eyes. Cautiously, he stood up, looking at the wall before him. The only way up, he realized, was to climb. Careful at first, he began to climb, pulling himself up the wall.

“Come on Cole,” He hissed to himself, digging his hands into the soft earth and pulled himself up another inch, “Father might be hurt and need your help.”

The dirt crumbled under his feet making them slide. Digging his fingers into the dirt, he held on, kicking his feet into the ground underneath himself. Getting his footing he continued upwards, his fingers and hands becoming raw and bloody from the hidden rocks set just beneath the surface.

“Almost there, almost there.” He chanted under his breath. The edge just in sight, his fingers on his left hand could just about reach it. Pushing himself up a little more, he dug his fingertips into the edge. Feeling secure with his hold, he reached up with his right hand- when the ground crumbled under his left hand. He slid down a foot, and then began to fall. His fingers combed through the dirt, clawing frantically for a ledge, anything to hold onto.

“No!” He cried out. Hitting the ground the air exploded from his lungs. His mouth hung open in a silent scream, trying desperately to breathe. Air rushed into his lungs with a noisy gasp. He laid there for several minutes gasping until the tears took over again. His bloodied fingers brushed over his face in a vain attempt to stop the tears. He choked out a cry as his fingers and tears met with a wound he had not realized was there. Gently wiping his face with his arm, he looked at the blood coating it with stunned silence. Sniffling, he sat up onto his knees and looked up at the climb he had before himself. Wiping his eyes with his other arm, he forced himself to stop crying, and stood up. Pulling off the remaining pieces of his shirt, he wrapped his hands. He approached the wall, took a deep breath, and began to climb.

What felt like an eternity later, he pulled himself over the edge and flattened himself out on the ground panting. He was so thirsty and tired. His eyelids felt heavy with sweat and blood, and his right cheek burned in pain as dirt ground into the open wound.

That’s how Gabriel found him, lying on the ground on the verge of unconsciousness.

“Oh God,” He gasped, grabbing Ira’s arm before he could run over to Cole, “Ira,” His eyes flickered over to Ezekiel lying in an unconscious heap next to an unrecognizable body, “Go call Daniel.”

“Dad are they-”

“Just go!” Gabriel shouted.

Ira nodded taking off back in the direction they had come. Gabriel ran over to Ezekiel first, since he was the closest, and rolled him over onto his side. He winced finding Ezekiel’s arm severely dislocated and broken in at least two places.

“Ezekiel?” He whispered, not wanting to wake him to this pain, but also afraid he might be in worse shape than he looked, “Ezekiel, wake up.”

Ezekiel twitched, his eyes opening slowly, “Gabe-” He slammed his eyes shut in pain.

“Don’t talk. You’re going to be okay. I’m going to go check on Cole now. I’ll be back.” He gently squeezed Ezekiel’s shoulder casting a wary glance at the body, then climbed to his feet and ran over to Cole. He was surprised to find the boy conscious.
“Gabriel?” Cole squeaked, his bottom lip trembling, “My father… my father…”

“He’s okay, Cole,” Gabriel helped the boy sit up, “What happened?” He asked inspecting the cut on Cole’s face. Carefully he cupped Cole’s chin and turned his head to the side.

Cole sniffled, “They were attacking us... I didn’t mean to… to hurt him. It was all different. I don’t know how I did it.” He pulled away from Gabriel’s hand and rubbed his eyes before the tears had a chance to fall.

Gabriel stared at him in shock, “You did all this?”

“It was an accident!” Cole blurted out, tears rolling down his face, “I just wanted them to stop.” He sobbed.

Gabriel opened his mouth in surprise, “Cole, it’s-”

“Dad!” Ira called out running up to his father, “I found this,” He held out a first aid kit, “Daniel said Isabelle was in the area, he is calling her for us. She should be here shortly.” He said softly once he was by Gabriel’s side.

Cole straightened himself up a little more, “Go help my father, I’m okay.” He carefully unwrapped the dirty makeshift bandages from his hands.

“You sure?” Gabriel looked apprehensive, Cole nodded, “Okay,” He said, “Ira you stay here while I go help Ezekiel.” He opened up the first aid kit and handed him a clean roll of bandages and antiseptic, “Can you help him clean up?”

“Okay.” Ira nodded, sitting down in front of Cole, who still looked rather woozy, “Are you alright?” He asked once Gabriel was gone, gently taking his hands.

Cole watched Gabriel kneel down by his father, “No.” He felt himself falling to the side as he saw his father sit up before everything went dark.

~*~

“Inferno Wave?” Gabriel’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, before drawing together in thought, “I think I heard my dad talking about that attack once… Didn’t your father perform it?” His eyes ticked over to the unconscious form of Cole, face and hands bandaged with traces of blood soaking through.

He’d never forget the look on Ezekiel’s face as his son collapsed, or the look of terror when he saw the condition Cole was in.

“Why the hell didn’t you stay with him?” Ezekiel had shouted, cradling Cole to his chest with his good arm, his ears flat against his head face red in anger.

Ezekiel nodded running a hand over his head, his eyes glued on Cole’s still face, “He couldn’t have known that attack, let alone preformed it.”

Daniel walked in the room with Isabelle trailing in behind him. The two were carrying various medical supplies, both silent and focused at their tasks at hand. Isabelle began stocking the cupboards while Daniel checked Cole’s bandages and wounds.

She looked over her shoulder to Ezekiel as she placed something on a top shelf, “How’s your arm?”

Ezekiel shrugged, “Fine.” He grunted, picking at the now dry plaster encasing his arm.

“Don’t pick at it!” She chided, making Ezekiel roll his eyes, but stop.

Daniel glanced up at Ezekiel quickly, then back to Cole. A soft white glow emitted from the palm of his hand over Cole’s hands, “I can only heal his wounds a little more, and they will still probably scar.” He said quietly, his eyes closing in concentration.

Snorting softly, his ears folding back, Ezekiel looked sharply at Daniel, “What about waking him up?”

“I...” Daniel opened his eyes, the glow fading away, “I don’t know why he’s not waking up.”

“Maybe it has to do with him knowing the Inferno Wave?” Gabriel sighed, sitting down at the small table in the corner of the room, “I mean... It’s weird, that was your father’s move. How did he know it?” He asked, watching Ezekiel pace over to the window and look out, “Zeke?”

“I told you, Gabriel,” Ezekiel said steadily, his ears lifting then lowering again. He turned his head, looking at Gabriel over his shoulder, “He’s the evil that was me.”

“What are you talking about, Ezekiel?” Daniel hissed, his ears lowering, “Cole’s not evil.”

Ezekiel turned, “I warned you this would happen,” He clenched his jaw, “It’s manifesting itself in him far quicker than I could ever imagine. If we don’t... If we don’t ki...” The words died in his throat. He breathed in deeply through his nose, trying to steady himself, “Stop him, now... He’s going to kill us all.”

Daniel and Gabriel stood protectively by Cole’s bedside, “Have you lost your mind?” Daniel growled, “Zeke, that doesn’t make any sense. He saved you. You must have hit your head harder than I thought.”

“He’s your son.” Gabriel whispered, sadness washing across his face, “I know you were afraid of this, but you can’t be serious about killing him. If he hadn’t done that attack when he did, those people could have killed you both.”

Ezekiel scowled at the two, his good hand opening and closing at his side, “I know that!” He snarled, the words feeling like fire in his mouth, his heart leaping into his throat, “You saw the damage he did!” He pointed out the window in the general direction they had been found at.

Isabelle moved between the men holding her hands up, “Whoa! Let’s talk about this!”

Ezekiel growled, ducking his head as his eyes started to water against his will, “This is all my fault.” He whispered.

Gabriel and Daniel exchanged glances.

“What do you mean?” Gabriel asked his muscles relaxing.

“If I just had more control over myself about my stupid past, I could have stopped the anxiety attack, and then I wouldn’t have had him. I wouldn’t have to worry about all of this,” He looked pointedly at Cole, then the two men staring at him, “Not only am I worried about how do I protect him from himself, but now how I can’t even protect him from a group of stupid Humans. How do I raise him so that he can live a normal life with my stupid fucking memories and all this shit happening?” His face softened, his ears lowering.

“Is that what caused your amnesia? All that mental stress…” Daniel concluded, tilting his head to look down at Cole. Ezekiel nodded numbly.

“Maybe he can fight it like you did,” Gabriel pressed, worry creasing his brow, “Maybe he can harness that power for good. He could make an amazing healer, Zeke.”

Isabelle moved closer to Ezekiel, “We don’t know if he will be evil when he gets older. Look at you, you’re not evil.”

Daniel nodded in agreement, “You are not your father, just as much as Cole is not either of you.”

Ezekiel looked between the three emotionlessly, then down at his son. His son, his flesh and blood, he couldn’t let anything hurt him.
Not even himself.

His shoulders slumped forward, “But what if...,” He shook his head, ridding himself of that question, “How can I help him?”

Isabelle sighed in relief, “We can run tests, see if this isn’t something else going on. Let’s not jump to conclusions so quickly.” She looked at Daniel who nodded in agreement,

“We’ll keep a closer watch on him.”

“More tests...” Ezekiel backed up a couple steps, “Closer watch...” His stomach was tying itself into knots. He looked at Cole one last time before turning on his heel and walking out of the room.

~*~

“Maybe I misheard him...” Raine sighed, sitting down on the steps outside Ezekiel’s house. She had been there for about a half hour, having arrived a little early just in case they wanted to get an earlier start. The house was empty, and no one was answering their phones. Not even Isabelle, who she called three times and was now beginning to worry about as well. She chewed on her bottom lip trying to decide what to do next, go to Gabriel’s or head home.

“Maybe he didn’t want me to come after all.” She scratched at the back of her neck, her stomach dropping slightly at the thought, “Might as well take off... Rather than sit here and talk to myself.” She rolled her eyes and stood up preparing to leave, when she noticed Ezekiel heading towards her. He landed heavily a few feet away and she could immediately tell he was distressed.

Cautiously, she moved towards him, taking in his appearance. His face was scraped and bruised up, his clothes torn and dirty, and his arm was in a fresh cast, “God... What happened? Are you okay?” She hesitated, suddenly feeling panicked, “Where’s Cole?”

“He’s at Daniel’s.” Ezekiel replied softly, feeling as though all his energy was steadily being drained from him. His chest was feeling tight, every breath feeling like a struggle. He had been fighting an anxiety attack ever since they arrived at Daniel’s house with Cole, “He uh... He did this...” He raised his injured arm weakly, unable to look at her.

Raine felt the hairs on her neck and arms stand up, “What do you mean... He did that? Is he okay?”

Ezekiel moved past her to the steps and sat down, cradling his head in his hand, “I don’t know. I mean... Yes, physically, but... I don’t know. We were attacked by a group of Humans, and I got too damn cocky,” He balled up his fist, “I couldn’t handle three of them, and Cole panicked... I fucked up, a lot. This is all my fault. I knew this was going to happen... I should’ve been able to stop him... Them... I don’t know.” He rambled, his leg trembling.

Raine opened and closed her mouth at a loss of words. Quickly she moved next to him and sat down, “Zeke,” She touched his shoulder, then immediately recoiled, “Sorry!” She gasped, mentally berating herself for adding to his distress.

Ezekiel shook his head, “I’m really trying to calm down,” He glanced at her sadly, “But I don’t know what I should do. He needs me and I’m at a complete loss.” He stood up, trying to stop the trembling in his leg by pacing. Raine worried her bottom lip, watching him pace quietly.

“You were attacked?” She asked nervously after a few minutes of him pacing.

Ezekiel paused, the tremor still working its way up his leg, “We were sparring. Cole wanted to show me something he had been working on...” He swallowed, sitting down on the steps next to her, “A group of five Humans came out and wanted to fight. I said we’d leave, but one rushed me and I let my ego get the better of me. They caught me off guard. I couldn’t do anything when they pushed Cole down, and then threatened to kill us both.” He paused, his hands shakily running through his hair, “Cole... I had been watching him practice when he thought I wasn’t looking. I wasn’t expecting the attack he did. It was a technique my father had created and performed during the war. It was an attack I had never told him about, let alone shown him how to perform. Hell,” He raked his fingers through his hair again, “I don’t even know how to preform it. He killed one of them and injured us both in the process of defending us from them. He’s at Daniel’s unconscious.” He looked up at her with red brimmed eyes, “I wanted to kill him... I would have if Gabe, Daniel, and Isabelle hadn’t stopped me.” He looked away ashamed, his voice lowering to almost a whisper, “I could have killed him. What kind of father does that make me? He protected us, and my first reaction was to kill him.”

Raine leaned back slightly, taking the story in, “Oh... Zeke...”

She sighed, “Isabelle and Daniel are with him?”

He nodded, “They’re doing tests.”

“Good,” Raine scooted forward, her knees barely touching his, “Zeke, whatever happened out there,” She hesitated, trying to wrap her mind around what he had told her, “Whatever Cole did, I’m glad he did it, accidental or not. He saved you both. I understand that him knowing this attack was jarring... You obviously weren’t thinking clearly,” She looked at him sympathetically, “I know Isabelle will figure out what happened and help Cole, and you,” She hesitantly reached out, resting her hand on his shoulder, “You wouldn’t have killed him even if they weren’t there.”

Ezekiel looked up at her, “I don’t know Raine,” He breathed, looking away, “I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

“I do,” She dropped her hand onto her leg, “You couldn’t hurt him even if you tried,” She tilted her head, trying to make eye contact with him, “There’s no way you would have killed him. You were talking out of fear.”

“Fear,” He frowned, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, “I guess.”

They sat there quietly for a moment, letting everything sink in. Ezekiel sat forward finally, “You didn’t ask why.” He looked at her tiredly.

“Do I need too?” Raine met his eyes, “You’re stressed, and Cole just did something you thought was impossible. You panicked.”
Ezekiel looked away, “You make it sound like it was nothing.”

“No,” Raine shook her head slowly, “But if it were anyone else, then I would have been worried.”

“Anyone else?” Ezekiel furrowed his eyebrows.

Raine shrugged, the end of her tail flexing and flicking outward, “I know you. I know you only want what’s best for him,” Ezekiel looked at her as she spoke, “You wouldn’t say something like that unless there was a huge reason.”

“No,” He bowed his head, “I wouldn’t. You’re right,” Sighing heavily, he rubbed the back of his neck, “I don’t know what to do next.”

Raine stood up, “Come on, I’ll go with you to check on him.” She reached her hand out, offering to help him up.

Ezekiel looked at her for a moment then took it.

~*~

The room was silent save for the occasional rapid fire clacking of computer keys. Isabelle groaned, slumping back into her chair. She straightened her glasses, and scratched at her scalp through the tangled mess of hair pinned up. A hot cup of coffee and a warm shower sounded fantastic at that moment. A machine beeped, interrupting that fantasy, the blood sample had finished processing. She rolled her chair over to it, pressed a button, and began looking over the papers printing out.

“Hmm,” She murmured, flipping her glasses onto the top of her head, “Well that doesn’t help.”

“What doesn’t help?” Daniel questioned, popping into the room, “Ira and Gabe just left for the night. Cole’s still out.” He moved over to her handing her a hot mug of coffee.

Isabelle gasped, “Oh! You’re a saint!” She excitedly took a quick sip of the hot liquid.

Daniel smiled taking the paper from her other hand and looked it over, “I understand half of this, but you’ll have to translate the rest.” He reread it, the corners of his mouth twitching down.

Isabelle shook her head, rolling back over to her laptop, “You don’t need to understand any of it, it’s all normal. We just need to wait for him to wake up now.” She nursed her coffee for a moment, then set it down on the desk and went back to typing on her computer.

“What are you looking for?” Daniel asked, leaning over her shoulder to read the notes she had taken.

“I was ruling out illness, and also trying to get a feel for his physiology. Drakon’s are very similar to Lycanthropes and Humans, but have a few differences here and there. I’m not quite familiar with all the ins and outs yet.”

“So...” Daniel straightened up, “What do you hope is happening, is there anything I can do to help?”

Isabelle frowned, “That this was a fluke thing. But... I doubt it. It could be anything and this is just the beginning,” She looked over at him and shrugged, “I’m not sure if there’s anything you can do to help. Are there any books of Drakon physiology I’m missing?”

“Only the ones I gave you earlier.” Daniel sighed, opening his mouth to say something else, but stopped having heard the front door open. He exchanged looks with Isabelle before walking out into the hallway, Isabelle following suit.

Ezekiel closed the door behind Raine, “How’s Cole?”

“Still unconscious,” Isabelle said softly, motioning for them to follow into the boy’s room, “I’m not sure why he hasn’t woken up yet. The only thing I can think of is mental strain. I’d like to have my father and another doctor take a look at him, maybe move him back to my place?”

Ezekiel walked over to Cole’s side, “I don’t know about moving him.”

“It might be a good idea, Zeke,” Raine stood next to him and looked Cole over worriedly, “They have more there that could help.” She stroked Cole’s hair gently, glancing over her shoulder at Isabelle who nodded.

“That’s right, but we can wait it out here for a day or two if you want.”

Ezekiel studied Raine, his face softening, “Do what’s best for him,” He leaned against the wall next to the head of the bed, “If it’s moving him, then I’ll move him.” He folded his arms across his chest.

Isabelle smiled sadly, “Okay, we’ll work something out tomorrow.” She eyed Raine while mouthing the word ‘outside’ before walking out of the room.

Raine furrowed her eyebrows, “Hey, I’ll be right back...” Ezekiel nodded in acknowledgment, his eyes falling onto Cole as Raine left the room.

The moment she walked into the hallway, Isabelle grabbed her arm and pulled her into the computer room. She closed the door behind them and leaned against it, “Okay, spill!”

“Whoa, what!?” Raine held her hands up, “Spill what?”

“Come on!” Isabelle whined.

Raine lifted an eyebrow, “Don’t you think this is a little unprofessional?”

Isabelle pouted, “Maybe,” She shook her head quickly, “Since when do you care about that? Look,” Taking a deep breath through her nose, Isabelle glanced over her shoulder then back to Raine, “When he walked out of here this afternoon Gabe and I were worried he was going to have a mental breakdown,” She paused, giving Raine a steady look, “That Ezekiel in there is not anywhere near the Ezekiel that left. What did you do?”

Raine stared at her for a moment, then sighed, “Nothing, I didn’t do anything.” She shrugged nonchalantly, walking further into the room, looking over the monitor.

“I knew it!” Isabelle hissed, grinning, “Tell me!” She moved next to her, turning the monitor off.

Raine flinched, “Tell you what!?” She raised her hands palm up in frustration, “There’s nothing going on!”

“Come on, you can’t tell me nothing’s going on. You just convinced him to have Cole moved. You know how stubborn he is.”

“You think that was because of me?” Raine dropped her hands to her sides, feeling like she was missing something big by the look on Isabelle’s face.

Isabelle turned around, going to the door and opened it, “Okay, maybe I am being silly.” She looked over her shoulder at Raine, “I thought you still liked him.”

“Are we in high school, or is this some kind of reverse psychology thing that I’m just not understanding?”

“You tell me.”

Raine blinked, “Oh,” She leaned back on her heels, “You’re mad.”

“You’ve blown me off the last couple times we had plans. Which is okay, really, I understand things come up,” Isabelle vented with a shrug, “But we used to be able to talk about everything, and suddenly you’ve locked up and won’t talk to me.”

“Oh...” Raine closed the door, pulling Isabelle away from it,

“That was a roundabout way to talk about this.”

Isabelle shrugged, “Well... I was hoping you’d just talk to me about it.”

Looking away, Raine lifted and dropped her shoulder, “Izzy, you know if I had anything to talk about I’d talk to you. I’m not locking up,” She shook her head as she spoke, looking back at her, “Sorry about the other day, I promised to watch Cole for Ezekiel.”

Isabelle scrunched up her face, “What for?”

Flushing a little, Raine half shrugged again, “He’s been seeing some girl.”

“He’s been dating!?” Isabelle’s jaw dropped, “And you didn’t think you had anything to talk about?”

Raine felt her stomach drop, “Yeah, but it’s not my business.”

Isabelle reached out touching Raine’s arm then patted it, “I’m sorry.” She said honestly, pulling Raine into a hug.

Raine sighed, “Don’t worry about it,” She pulled back, “I should go see how he’s doing though.”

Isabelle nodded, letting go of the girl, “We will talk later, right?” Raine nodded, “Good, I’m going to head home, Vince is worried he’s going to have to make his own dinner tonight.”

She rolled her eyes then smirked, “Which doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all.”

“Sounds pretty horrible actually, I’ve had that man’s cooking.” Raine made a face.

Isabelle laughed, “Oh hush, he’s improved since then!”

Raine opened the door stepping out into the hallway, “Well, have a good dinner, whatever it is,” She hesitated, “Thanks, Belle.” She smiled sadly.

“Anytime, Rainey.” Isabelle hugged her again, “I’m always here for you. Call me when you get home tonight, okay? Promise?”

“Promise,” Raine hugged her back, “Are you coming back tomorrow?”

Isabelle glanced down the hallway at Cole’s room and sighed, “Yeah, if there’s no improvement overnight, I’ll be here first thing in the morning. Daniel’s on watch tonight.”

Raine nodded, “Okay. I think I’ll call off work tomorrow and come back too.”

Smiling sadly, Isabelle nudged Raine’s arm, “You’re a good friend.”

“Hah.” Raine laughed wryly, watching Isabelle leave before walking down to Cole’s room. She gently pushed open the door and peeked inside. Ezekiel had moved a chair to Cole’s bedside, but was standing beside it holding his cellphone to his ear. After a couple seconds he lowered it and sent a text.

Raine stepped into the room, “How’s he doing?”

Ezekiel shrugged looking up at her, “Breathing.”

“Are you hungry?”

“No.” He looked down at Cole, then his phone and sighed opening up a text and reading it.

Raine frowned slightly, “I’m going to go get something for dinner-”

“I’ll come with you,” Ezekiel interrupted, walking over to her while shoving his phone in his pocket, “Let’s go.”

Raine blinked in surprise, “Alright... There’s a place not too far from here. We can grab something and come back?” She looked over her shoulder at him as they walked towards the front door.

Ezekiel nodded, stepping around her to open the front door and held it open for her. She walked out and waited for him at the bottom of the steps. Together they walked down the sidewalk in silence. Raine bit the inside of her lip as Ezekiel pulled out his cellphone and checked it again. He shook his head putting it back.

“Waiting for a call?” Raine asked, her shoes suddenly becoming the most interesting thing she had seen all day.

Ezekiel shook his head, “No, not really.” He looked at her sideways, “What do you think about Skyler?”

Raine startled, here head jerking up to look at him, her tail puffing out, “Skyler?” She paused mid step grabbing her tail and slowly continued to walk, “Why are you asking me?” Her eyebrows furrowed as she gently smoothed the fur out on her tail.

Too consumed in his own thoughts to notice Raine’s reaction, Ezekiel lifted a shoulder, “Because we’re friends?” He felt himself get warm with embarrassment and lowered his shoulder slowly.

Raine smiled openly, “Oh yeah, I guess we are.” He nudged her playfully making her eyes widen in surprise, “Whoa, okay there,” She blushed laughing softly, “I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Hm?” Ezekiel tilted his head, “Expecting what?”

“This,” She touched his arm gently, looking up at him when he didn’t recoil, “I noticed you’ve been okay with me touching you back at your place.” She said softly.

Ezekiel laughed under his breath, “How about that?” He whispered, enjoying how happy the simple contact was making her. She pulled away and he felt his heart drop at the sudden loss of contact.

“I don’t freak you out anymore,” She smirked, making the corner of his mouth turn up in amusement as well, “Anyway... As for Skyler,” She looked away, her voice lowering, “I don’t know what I think about her. I think she needs to spend more time with Cole...” Her tail swayed slowly from side to side as she spoke, “I think she should be here for you two.”

Ezekiel looked off into the distance, his face sober, “Yeah, you’re right.”

“Zeke,” She trailed off biting her lip then sighed, “Do what feels right for you and Cole. We all want to see you guys happy.”

“Do what’s right,” Ezekiel repeated, glancing at Raine, “I keep messing that up lately, I think.”

“What do you mean?”

He scratched his arm, “This is my fault-”

“No,” Raine stopped him, making him look at her, “It’s not, Zeke. Shit happens.”

“Shit happens?” He repeated, raising an eyebrow.

Raine nodded, “Really. Blaming yourself over things you can’t control isn’t helping. Take credit for the things that are your fault. Worry about what you can actually change, and then change them. But things like this whole freak accident, and Cole being in a coma, you can’t blame yourself,” She stepped forward, “Cole needs you to be here for him.”

Ezekiel nodded, “I know,” He sighed, lowering his eyes to the ground, “I know. This is just...” He lowered his ears and looked at her sadly at a loss for words. He wasn’t just talking about Cole, but didn’t know how to tell her that. His mouth couldn’t seem to be able to find the words.

“It’s overwhelming.” Raine frowned, gently touching his arm, then turned and started walking again.

Ezekiel followed along beside her, “Yeah, it is. Cole is my world... And I’m freaking out. I’ve never felt like this before.”

“Me too... I adore that kid... As long as you want me here, I’ll stay.”

Ezekiel brushed his hand against Raine’s, “Thanks, Raine.”
She smiled at him and nudged him gently with her shoulder,

“Anytime, Zeke. I mean it.”

He smiled back, then sighed as his phone buzzed with a new text, “Do you mind if my friend meets us at the restaurant?” He asked, glancing at his phone.

Raine raised an eyebrow, “Sure?” She shoved her hands into her pockets, looking up the road distractedly.

Leaning against her slightly, Ezekiel smirked, “You might recognize her,” He watched as curiosity lit up Raine’s face, “She’s the waitress who spilled food on me that one time. On our date. Her name’s Xadel.”

“Oh!” Raine looked up at him, then quickly away, trying to process which to be surprised over first. The fact that he became friends with the waitress, or that he said they had been on a date. She laughed nervously, “Really?” She looked up at him as their shoulders bumped again.

Ezekiel chuckled, “Yeah, I think you’ll like her.” He held open the restaurant door for her, amused by the conflicting emotions running across her face as she walked passed. He followed her in to a table by the front window, “She’s Skyler’s best friend.”

Raine picked up the cardboard menu, “Oh… Introducing me to your girlfriend’s friend, but not your girlfriend?” She looked over the menu at him, “I mean, aside from that first 5 minute out the door introduction.”

“Heh,” Ezekiel picked up another menu glancing it over, “Not sure you’ll meet Skyler.” He mumbled under his breath.

Raine leaned closer, her eyes wide, “What? Why?”

“Hey, Ezekiel!” Xadel walked in, making Raine’s head jerk up in surprise. She shot Ezekiel a look before he stood up to greet Xadel.

“Xadel.” Ezekiel nodded to her, stepping back to the other chair so she could sit.

“Dude!” Xadel’s ears lowered, “What the hell happened to you?” She looked him over, her eyebrows creasing in worry, “You did not leave the theater like that yesterday.”

Ezekiel frowned slightly, “Long story.” He gestured towards Raine, “This is my friend, Raine.” He tilted his head towards her as he sat down.

Xadel smiled at Raine, “Hey! Nice to meet you. Oh, yeah, and sorry about back at the restaurant.” She flushed, rubbing her arms nervously.

Raine shrugged, “That was forever ago, no worries.” She smiled, putting the menu down, “I’m thinking pineapple pizza, what do you guys think?”

Sitting down, Xadel looked over the menu, “I’ve never had it before,” She pressed her lips together and raised an eyebrow, “But I’ll try it, if that’s what you want to get.”

Ezekiel lifted a shoulder, “I haven’t either.”

“You’ve never had it before?” Raine looked between the two in surprise, “Aw, you guys.” She whined slightly, then laughed,

“Well I don’t want to be eating a whole pizza if you two don’t like it.”

“I’ll just pick it off if I don’t like it.” Xadel laughed.

Raine looked at her curiously, “You sure?” She smiled at both Xadel’s and Ezekiel’s nod, “Okay, I’ll go order then.” She stood up and went to the counter.

Xadel looked over at Ezekiel, “Ya know Skyler won’t be happy if she finds out you’ve been hanging out with another girl.” She said lowly, ducking her head nervously.

Ezekiel looked up to Raine ordering the pizza at the counter, glancing over her shoulder at him with a smile before turning back to the cashier, “I haven’t heard from her since the other night. I’ve tried calling and texting her.”

“Yeah, you texted me that,” Xadel sighed in annoyance, “I don’t know what’s wrong with that girl,” She leaned back in her chair, making the front legs lift off the floor, “So what happened? And where’s your son?” She rocked forward, setting the legs back down as Raine walked back and sat with them.

“It’ll be a couple minutes,” Raine shifted uneasily, “He gave me a little attitude.” She frowned slightly, keeping her eye on the man putting their pizza together in the back.

Ezekiel frowned, “What kind of attitude?”

“Questioned why I was sitting with Drakons,” Raine sunk down in her chair slightly, “Not sure what that had to do with making my pizza.”

Straightening up, Xadel glared at the man standing with his back to them, “Maybe we shouldn’t eat here then?” She growled, narrowing her eyes.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Ezekiel leaned against the palm of his good hand, “We can see everything he does back there.”

Xadel hummed, “Yeah... So, are you gonna answer me?” She raised an eyebrow, her ears twitching, “What’s going on?”

Raine tore her eyes off the chef, quickly glancing at Ezekiel then back to the man putting their pizza in the oven.

Leaning back in his chair, Ezekiel folded his arms uncomfortably, “There was an accident, Cole and I were injured... Cole’s unconscious and we’re not sure why he’s not waking up.” He said softly looking out the window.

“I’m sorry, Zeke,” Xadel frowned, “Skyler should be here for you.” She looked to Raine, who looked back at her uncomfortably for a moment, “But I’m glad you have someone here for you,” She flashed Raine a sad smile, “Want me to try calling Skyler for you?” She looked back to Ezekiel, pulling her phone out from her pocket.

Shaking his head, Ezekiel turned back towards the table, “Nah. She must be busy.”

“Bullshit,” Xadel hissed, typing out a text, then stopped herself and pressed ‘call’, “I’ll see what’s up.”

Standing up, Raine shot Ezekiel an uneasy look, “I’m gonna... Go... Wait for the pizza.” She motioned to the counter, lowering her head slightly as Xadel started talking on the phone. Ezekiel watched her walk to the counter, his head suddenly feeling foggy.

“Hey, you busy?” Xadel said startlingly calm into the phone, “Oh... No, it’s nothing,” Her eyebrows furrowed, “Who’s that?” She turned away from Ezekiel, her face reddening, “Seriously?” Her ears lowered and she stood up, walking out of the shop.

Ezekiel exchanged confused looks with Raine.

“What happened?” Raine asked, leaning to the side, trying to get a better view of Xadel talking on the phone outside. She could see the girl pacing back and forth, stop and yell something, then begin pacing again.

Ezekiel stood up, “She called Skyler.” He rubbed the back of his neck, moving over to the counter next to Raine.

Raine winced, “Oh boy,” She pressed her lips together, “Doesn’t look like it’s a very good conversation.” Xadel pulled the phone from her ear, looking at it angrily before shoving it into her pocket. Raine and Ezekiel looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Quickly they split apart, Raine turning back towards the counter, and Ezekiel going back to his seat as Xadel walked back in.

“You know what?” She growled, flopping down in the seat next to Ezekiel, pressing her hands onto the table, “I’m sorry, Zeke, I don’t know why Skyler is like this to guys,” She frowned, her ears pinning back, “She’s getting your texts, but is hanging out with friends and said she’ll call you later.”

Ezekiel snorted, “She’s ignoring me then.” He rolled his eyes.

Resting her chin on the palm of her hand, Xadel watched Raine accept their pizza and grab a few napkins, “I’m not sure why I’m even friends with her,” She grumbled, “Maybe we can talk later?”

“Everything okay?” Raine asked cautiously, setting their pizza down on the table and sliding into the chair in front of Xadel.

Xadel glanced at Ezekiel, then back to Raine, “Yeah... No,” She sighed, “I don’t know.”

“You can tell me in front of Raine,” Ezekiel noticed surprise wash across Raine’s face before quickly shifting to neutral,

“Skyler is out with another guy, right?” He felt more curious than upset when Xadel slowly nodded yes, and Raine bristled up in anger.

“Seriously!?” Raine growled, biting the inside of her lip to keep from saying anything else.

Xadel bristled up with her, “Yeah, I’m not very happy about it either, Ezekiel is-” She turned to him, “You are too good for her. I mean,” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath trying to calm herself, “Look, I’m sorry,” She said gently, “I don’t want to tell you what you should do, but I’ve known her for a long time and I know she’s not changing anytime soon. I can’t get through to her, and with everything going on with you and your son,” She frowned, “I’m sorry...”

Ezekiel looked between the two girls, Raine silently fuming and Xadel looking away in embarrassment for having been the messenger of bad news.

Shaking his head, Ezekiel laughed dryly, “It’s fine.” He grabbed a slice of pizza and took a bite, “I’m not concerned with her.”

“Are you okay?” Raine asked softly, picking at a slice of pizza closest to her.

“Mhm,” Ezekiel swallowed, “I have a lot more to worry about than some girl.” He took another bite of pizza.

Xadel picked up a piece, “I’m sorry about Cole, is there anything I can do?” She asked, waiting for him to respond before taking a bite.

Shrugging then shaking his head, Ezekiel dropped his crust onto the tray, “Thanks. I don’t think so...” He looked at Raine, then the pizza, “I need to get back to Cole soon, though.” He took another slice, and began munching on it.

“If you need anything, let me know,” Xadel looked pointedly at Raine, “You too.”

Raine smiled, “Thanks,” She said softly, then stood up, “I’m going to get a box for this, then we can head back.”

Xadel leaned back in her chair, sighed, and stood up, “I need to head home. Thanks for dinner. Please keep me updated on Cole, okay?”

Ezekiel nodded, “Yeah, I will. Thanks, Xadel.” She smiled at him and waved goodbye to Raine as she walked out the door.

Raine walked back over with the box, “She seemed nice.” She said boxing up the left overs of their pizza.

“Yeah... I wonder if Cole’s awake yet. Did Daniel or Isabelle text you or call?” He asked, suddenly feeling anxious.

“My phone’s been quiet.” Raine frowned, wiping her hands off on her pants, “Belle would call me immediately if there were any changes.”

Ezekiel stood up, taking their garbage to the trash can, “I know,” He groaned, rubbing the back of his neck, “I thought he would have woken up by now.” He followed Raine out of the restaurant, his hands starting to shake.

“Hey,” Raine stopped him, “You’ve had a lot thrown at you in the last few hours, are you okay?”

“I just feel like I’m in a haze,” Ezekiel ran his good hand through his hair, “Like I’m dreaming and can’t wake up.” He folded his arms awkwardly across his chest and started walking again, “And honestly,” Running a hand through his hair, he glanced at Raine nervously, “I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a drink yet.”

Raine followed along next to him quietly for a few moments, “Did you have a problem with alcohol before?”

“Yeah,” Ezekiel breathed in deeply through his nose, “But it’s been awhile… I hit bottom pretty hard… But now I have Cole, and… I can’t do that to him…” He trailed off, the corner of his mouth twitching down.

“Oh,” Raine internalized what he had said, “You’re doing pretty well considering… I mean, it is a lot to process... Everything with Cole, and then,” She hesitated, watching him carefully, “You know... Skyler...” She felt her heart speed up in anger and bit the inside of her lip.

“Skyler,” Ezekiel said sadly, “Yeah, I don’t know what to think about that.” He let his shoulders slump forward slightly, “She was acting weird the other day too. I don’t think I’m cut out for dating.”

Raine felt her stomach drop, “No?”

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Ezekiel mumbled, “I think I was just trying to prove to Gabriel that I’m okay.”

“Gabriel?”

“Yeah, he worries a lot about me,” He glanced at Raine suddenly realizing he had confided quite a bit to her in the last few minutes, “I think I just wanted to prove to him that I’m okay. I don’t need him to keep tabs on me.” He licked his lips avoiding Raine’s curious gaze, “I really need to just focus on Cole and getting him better now.”

“Cole comes first,” Raine agreed, “There’s nothing wrong with focusing just on him.”

Ezekiel sighed, “Thanks, Raine.” His shoulders relaxed, almost like a weight had been lifted off of them with Raine’s approval.
She nodded, gently bumping him with her elbow, smiling at him reassuringly. He nudged her back gently, his head spinning with questions about what was happening. On one hand he was happy to have Raine with him, on the other he was worried about what was going on with Cole. There was no middle ground and he felt exhausted. They walked the rest of the way to Daniel’s in comfortable silence, both lost in their own thoughts.

The house had a dim glow to it as they entered, only a few lights on here and there to help guide them through. Cole’s room was dark except for a nightlight in the corner and the moon shining through the window.

“No change?” Ezekiel questioned quietly as Daniel approached them.

Daniel leaned against his oak staff, “No,” He frowned at the distress washing over Ezekiel’s face, “I’m sorry...” Ezekiel waved him off, pulling over a chair and slumped heavily into it by Cole’s bedside. Daniel gave Raine a worried look before leaving the room, retreating into his own room and shutting the door.

“Zeke?” Raine quietly moved over to his side, setting the pizza down on the nightstand nearby, “Do you want me to stay?” She folded her arms in front of herself uneasily.

Rubbing his eyes, Ezekiel shook his head, “No.” He said, his voice heavy.

Raine rocked back slightly, watching Cole silently for a moment, “Call me if you need anything,” She whispered, “Even if it’s just to talk or vent.”

Ezekiel nodded, his eyes glued to Cole, “Thanks.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow.” She hesitantly touched his shoulder gently.

The room suddenly felt silent and still. Ezekiel looked over his shoulder finding her gone.

Suddenly the heaviness returned.

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