Chapter 2: Overstimulation
Cue narrator’s ramble...
Upstate New York, near the Catskill Mountains, is home to a special university. It started to flourish when those in power began donating it money, determined to understand the odd phenomenon of Guardians and Protecteds. For their attendance, G/Ps have been bribed with everything from free tuition to the promise of future success. On the outside, the university appears normal, its secrets well-hidden behind its multicultural students, vast course variety, and wide campus involvement. It’s only to those on the inside, the “Advanced” students and their specialized staff, that the house of education shows its true colors of being a training ground, a place for G/Ps to master relieving the world of paranormal maladies.
Tina, Roscoe, Monáe, and Denzel are Protecteds, humans with psychic abilities who between the ages of 16 and 18 are assigned a Guardian, a sort of animal-like bodyguard. Every Protected has a minimum of three skills, their unique gift and two abilities that directly impact their Guardian, the latter being Telepathic Communication and Command, a spoken order that a Guardian cannot fight.
Majorly Guardians look human, making them indiscernible to the layperson. In line with their surnames, as all Guardians share the name of the creature they represent, their identifiers are their animalistic traits and behaviors.
The critter a Guardian personifies represents their Protected. In simple terms, Guardians are a Protected’s spirit animal come to life, hence most pairings get along. They are two sides of the same coin, like day and night or black and white, what one lacks the other possesses, and when they come together, they become whole.
Notice the word, most.
Research has discovered five Guardian/Protected statuses. The personalized, unable to change type or partners once established connections are known as Mutual, Friendly, Lovers, Enemies, and Abuse.
In Mutual G/P pairings, participants are more or less indifferent to one another, usually working in tandem once they realize their partnership is advantageous. Denzel and Dee are in a Mutual relationship. With their union akin to being co-workers, oftentimes the pestering panda Guardian and her Protected of over five years forget how long they’ve been together.
G/Ps in the self-explanatory Friendly range look like Monáeand Hailey. This Protected and her sheep Guardian are the best of friends, their almost two-year-long partnership sturdied by their five-year-long friendship.
Lovers, the kind of relationship Roscoe and his lynx protector, Ashley, share is one in which parties complete each other and, by extension, fall in love. Lovers can be a difficult classification to shoulder due to a majority of the Guardian/Protected community believing that these Guardians’ personal biases regularly clash with their intended purpose.
Rarely are G/P duos incapable of getting along, behave like fire and ice, water and oil. However, when pairings do not mix, are not complementary, like Tina and her wolf Guardian, Brandon, labeling them is easy. Enemies. Though, the attachment style is befuddling to G/P scientists since it conflicts with what they know of the mystical matchup or G/P process.
Lastly, there is the category of Abuse. In this bond, Guardians are at the mercy of their Protecteds. It’s within the Abuse Protected’s nature to forget that Guardians are living beings, consequently, they’ll regularly and selfishly misuse them. Guardians trapped in these exploitative situations often find them lethal…
Back at Tina and Brandon’s rental home...
Tina screwed the shower knob in place, the warm stream cutting to a trickle as she stepped on the cool tile of her nippy bathroom. Her body trembled from the air conditioning Brandon refused to turn any higher than fifty degrees. He didn’t seem to care that Fall was in full swing, the autumn leaves a myriad of color and the rest of humanity breaking out their precious peacoats, shearling jackets, and the good old-fashioned leather monstrosity.
A single glance at the decorative wall’s clock confirmed what the raven-haired beauty felt, it was late, a little past 11:30 at night. As she dried herself with a fluffy towel and wrapped her sopping hair in one of her dingy t-shirts, Tina began pondering some of the day’s events. Backtracking, she experienced an uncontrollable fit of the giggles, remembering something a character from her newest anime obsession said, that is, until she recalled the scene in its entirety, recognized vague parallels between her and the character’s situations. As she harked back to the whispers her heretic of a guardian made before leaving for his nightly shower, her mind ran wild.
Now overthinking and smelling of lavender lotion, Tina focused on the sink’s aloft mirror. When her fingertips stroked the top of her nearby basket hamper instead of the soft sleep material they’d expected, she nearly chipped her teeth, chomping on her toothbrush.
In her atypical absentmindedness, Tina hadn’t realized that her bra lay forgotten in her room. “Stupid Brandon. Stupid modesty,” she muttered as her inner monologue took on her father’s voice, preached words of propriety.
Resigned to reach for the cheap, ugly robe her mother had insisted on buying, Tina paused when she noticed it was no longer behind the door.
Damn it, mom, she thought, recollecting the woman putting it in the wash. Stupid germophobia!
Releasing an irked huff, the teen pulled on her favorite-because-they’re-comfy black panties and wiggled into her skintight leggings. She slipped on a pair of socks from her collection that bordered hoarding and shimmied into a flimsy nightshirt, the thing so oversized that the beauty mark adorning her right collarbone could be seen.
Once dressed, Tina began straining her ears. She searched for footsteps, tried to pinpoint Brandon’s location, but gave up when she heard nothing but the full blast of a television, the sound of her erratic mother on the phone, and something slamming.
“Screw it.” Reaching for the door’s lock, Tina was momentarily stunned by something out the corner of her eye.
Damn. She saw her reflection on the left wall. Air conditioners suck.
Annoyed, the woman did up the bottom two buttons of her nightshirt. With haste, she pushed on the door’s handle and launched her arms across her chest, the final action a futile attempt to cover her protruding ladybits.
This is why the stupid robe stays behind the stupid door, Tina inwardly murmured before she registered an ache in her side and her face nearing the floor. As she stumbled, her arms shot out, and the t-shirt atop her head fell with a wet splat.
What the hell?
Throwing her head back, Tina’s lengthened curls moved from her sight, and she took in Brandon, clad in a plain t-shirt and plaid pajama pants. Looking at him, the girl realized that he was cradling her head with his hand, cushioning it from the hardwood floor.
After all, Brandon wouldn’t have any fun if Tina went unconscious.
As the man hovered above his target, she shook away her confusion. Focusing her vision and moving to support herself on her elbows, Tina shot the looming guy a furious glance. In return, Brandon acted swiftly, placing his hands and knees on either side of Tina’s shoulders and legs, effectively trapping her. Brandon grinned triumphantly, and Tina’s breath hitched at the alien of something other than a contemptuous smirk disguising cruel intentions on his face.
Realizing she forgot to breathe for a moment, Tina pulled herself out of her head. She cleared her throat. “What the hell, you actual creeper?! Why were you hiding?” When she got no reply, Tina tried another tactic. “Alright, you got me. We’re even now.” She bent at the waist and tried pushing on one of her Guardian’s solid forearms. It didn’t budge. As Brandon’s fierce grin grew, the woman allowed annoyance to creep into her voice, waver it slightly. “This isn’t funny. Get off. Now.” When Brandon still refused to move, Tina played her trump card, her drying throat turning the words into a near whisper, “Hurry up. I don’t want my parents coming out their room and getting the wrong idea. You know my dad’ll kick your ass if he sees this.”
Brandon’s oddly sultry shushing washed the teen in prompt truth.
She was alone.
Her face fell, Tina taking in that the slam of a door she’d thought she’d heard earlier must’ve been just that, her philanthropic parents peacing out on her. She’d forgotten that they’d told her and Ashley they’d be leaving earlier than expected due to a surprise of last-minute gala invitations.
With a look of disbelief and her jaw nearly unhinged, Tina came to terms that she was stuck in her current predicament, immediate rescue no longer an option.
“I heard your people leave from the basement, you know, that place where you hid all my stuff,” Brandon said in his unique, Brandon-toned annoyance. “Bringing those boxes up was a damn pain.”
Tina inhaled, relieved, and slightly calmed that her parents didn’t see Brandon, a guy they thought was a friend she had made on one of her university’s forums, strolling about the home like he legitimately lived there.
Then, remembering her current circumstance, Tina flushed, dissatisfaction coursing through her veins. Anger spread from the apples of her chubby cheeks down to what was visible of her chest and caused the veins at the side of her skull to pulse wildly. The scenario of her being alone with a less than pleased Brandon wasn’t something the woman thought she’d have to endure so soon. She especially never would’ve guessed that he’d trap her with no way out.
Brandon enjoyed his games too much, enjoyed the chase too much to leave his prey with no route of escape. With this, Tina knew that there must be something she wasn’t seeing. She had to think fast.
Noticing his brightening Protected, the man took a large hand and guided her back into a lying position. Tina recognized Brandon’s noiseless command for what it was. She put up zero fight, needing all of her mental faculties to come up with a safe and speedy solution to her situation.
As soon as the teenager below him stilled, the Guardian returned to his caging position.
With Brandon towering over her, Tina craned her neck to see from her new angle. She easily saw the man’s sculpted torso, his deep breaths making it prominent, and forcing her to focus on steadying her breathing. As her eyes traveled up, Tina saw how Brandon’s explored her, read both her facial expressions and overall body language.
For half a second, startled browns strolled over addled citrine, and Tina quickly turned her head, evading the tempting gaze.
As time ticked on, stretched into minutes that felt more like hours, the Protected’s anger slowly transformed into self-consciousness. Her mind immediately recognized the need for distraction, gifting Tina the ease of something tedious. Suddenly, her focus was on the dust trapped between the always freezing floorboards.
Ugh, that’s disgusting! I wonder how...
As the woman below him busied herself with thoughts on how to eliminate even the teeniest of dust bunnies, Brandon’s devilish nature took over. His golden spheres twinkled with an idea that his gut told him would further ruffle the smaller girl’s figurative feathers.
Hunching himself to reach her ear, Brandon asked in a low and rough voice, “What’s this? You giving up that easy? Where’d all your fight go?”
Hands that had been nervously fiddling with the hem of her nightshirt slowly began to ball into frustrated fists, but still, Tina held fast. Instead of playing into her Guardian’s hands, she bit her tongue, focused on if a toothbrush or knife would work best between the floor’s planks. As she explored the intricacies of each choice, Tina found her thoughts interrupted by an unknown yet delicious scent.
What was that? She was pulled from the moment by a bitter sound, the annoying click of a tongue hitting teeth.
Upset that his goading didn’t produce the desired response, Brandon’s brows furrowed. “You’re really not gonna speak?” he asked, uncharacteristically unaware that he’d let his bewilderment seep into his voice.
Tina collected herself. “I want out.” Hearing herself, she made a mental note to down a glass of water and some cold medicine for her dry throat. She watched as the male above her backed away a bit. With a touch more room, she returned to pushing on the same forearm from earlier, Brandon’s discontentment with the action evident by his low growl.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. That won’t do,” a condescending tone reached feminine ears.
Fuck, not good, an abruptly languid Tina thought while catching another whiff of the unusual scent.
With some force her arms were jerked above her head, Brandon pinning her wrists to the planked floor with a single hand while he used his other to balance himself.
Another waft of the appealing smell.
Out of the blue, Tina put two and two together, reasoning that the pleasant odor had to be the reason she’d started feeling lightheaded and loopy. Yes, that had to be it, the reason she was losing it, and a tiny pool of liquid had formed between her thighs.
No, no, no, her inner thoughts rambled as she squirmed, and the man over her wriggled his nose, took in her peculiar perfume.
Having never smelled this specific aroma escape his idiot woman before, Brandon couldn’t place it. With a tilted head and quizzical eyes, he looked at Tina, noticed how she bit her bottom lip in an almost unconscious way. Another glance at how her body reacted to him and a lightbulb flickered on. The fragrance seemed painfully obvious once he’d pinpointed it, arousal.
The contrived situation the entrapped Tina had found herself in made her a puddle. However, abruptly bringing her back to reality was the well-built man above her, making his next statement not with his mouth but with his mind. “I can smell you. I smell your pheromones. Now, tell me. Why are you giving off pheromones?”
As Brandon brought his face closer to his counterpart’s, her heart skipped a beat, her pores opened to his minty breath. She couldn’t help but feel unnerved at their distance, couldn’t help but make out the pointed, white smile that constantly teases her, the sharp eyes that often look at her with condemnation, and the cruel voice that mocks her regularly.
“I... I don’t know why you think you smell pheromones. Your nose must be broken. Now get off. I’m not... I’m not... I won’t ask again,” Tina’s voice betrayed her best efforts at sounding strong. She only received a snicker in return.
“You’d never get me to move with that kind of order. There’s no power behind it,” Brandon commented on her failed command. “You’re too weak, have to concentrate to get your power to work.” With a sneer, the 20-year-old continued, “Now, answer the question. Why are you exuding pheromones? It’s a simple enough question that even you’d know the answer, so tell me.”
Tina’s heart pounded to the point that she thought she’d have a heart attack. She shut her eyes tight, turned away from her persecutor. “Yo-yo-you can’t order me around.”
She was breaking.
“Ha! First blushing and now stuttering. I’m learning more about you in these few minutes than I have in the last two weeks.” Brandon noted Tina’s tightly clenched her fists, how her decently long, perfectly manicured nails bit into her skin, leaving angry crescent-shaped marks in their wake. “C’mon, it’s so obvious that you know,” he snapped, deciding to apply more pressure as he grew bored with his Protected refusing to give in.
If Tina would simply answer him then he’d let her go. For her to admit something so embarrassing to a man she’s repeatedly stated to loathe, well that would be enough torment to sate said man.
Feeling like she was burning from the inside out, Tina had a desire to tear her clothes off. She needed to cool down but knew her wish wouldn’t come true anytime soon because that meant having to surrender to Brandon. She was too stubborn to submit, supply him with the information he sought. She wasn’t going down without a fight.
Looking back to the shadow above her, Tina acknowledged that she’d been zoned out, hadn’t registered anything he’d said. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she confessed that she was sending herself into a panic. She struggled to take deep breaths, all of them remaining shallow. All of a sudden, her lungs felt a few sizes too small.
Everything is alright.
Tina’s captor immediately knew something was wrong when her hairline broke out in a sweat.
Everything is wrong.
“Hey. Hey, Idiot Woman.” Brandon moved himself to sit up, his hips positioned above Tina’s knees and his hands on her boiling cheeks.
I’m okay... I’m not okay!
After receiving no response, hearing Tina’s breath quicken, and her heart liken the drumline section of a marching band, the Guardian began to worry. When Tina’s eyes fluttered in both rapid succession and slow-motion, Brandon mumbled, “Shit, I’m dead!”
Tina went limp, unconscious. Her fingernails were no longer biting into her palms, her body no longer wiggled for freedom, and her soul’s windows rolled to the back of her head before her lids closed for good...
“...wo-m-!” Tina registered being yelled in the recesses of her mind. The word sounded gurgled, sounded like it was being spoken underwater.
“Idiot!” the same voice shouted a bit clearer this time.
Tina rubbed her eyes, tried to shake the fog in which she felt trapped. Her body seemed stable, but even so, she experienced the strange sensation of being moved about.
“Idiot Woman!” the now familiar voice Tina couldn’t quite place resounded.
Opening her mouth to speak, the brunette hurriedly realized that her vocal cords wouldn’t yield. Taking note, yet mulishly refusing to freak out, she looked around her blackened void, her thoughts trailing off.
Where am I? It’s so dark... I don’t want to be here... I can’t see...
And then, as if Tina had somehow willed it a cherry wood door magically appeared before her. Seeing no other way to get from where she found herself, she walked through it, ending up in an abyss-like hallway in which a pinprick of light sat at the end. As Tina moved, she felt a cautionary tingle trample her spine. She halted. A crippling but natural feeling toying with her, the desire for self-preservation.
Nope, nope, nope, nope. My black ass has seen too many horror movies for this bullshit.
Turning back, the teen saw that the red door had disappeared. Now she was freaking out. Her heart rate hit overdrive as her breathing turned frantic, and her vision blurred. As her body threatened to crash, Tina threw her head back dramatically. She wouldn’t allow her pooling tears to fall. As she waited for her sobs to lessen, she wrapped her arms around herself in comfort.
As her muted cries stalled, Tina swore that she heard someone say, come back.
“Come back.” Tina felt cross her telepathic link.
Without thinking she responded in a daze, hiccupping between her tears, “Huh? Bran-Brand-Brandon?”
“Fuck, that worked?! Get your ass back here,” Brandon said with urgency, refusing to get his ass handed to him by a G/P higher-up.
Not knowing what the man who she newly remembered to be her Guardian meant by his words, but knowing that wherever she was frightened her, Tina followed his familiar voice, no longer worried about walking toward the light. Somehow, she knew that the path before her had turned safe. She left her dark cocoon of memories behind.
When she regained consciousness, Tina’s pulse immediately returned to skyrocketing, seeing how she was sat tenderly in a concerned-looking Brandon’s lap. She was shocked, her brain taking instant inventory, ensuring that everything was as it remembered. Her clothes were the way she had left them, her body remained with the same soreness at one side from being plowed into, and... oh yeah, that, that annoying, damp pool between her legs had begun to dry up.
A small blessing, Tina inwardly groaned before glowering in her cross-legged Guardian’s direction. She swore she saw something unreadable in his expression as his blank mask returned.
The two stared at one another for a moment, Tina unsure of what had happened. Surprising the teen, when she moved to stand, was Brandon drawing her back to his lap, his tight hold of her upper arms possessive. She shot him a cutting look.
With his emotionless guise, Brandon wondered, “How you feeling?” He put a calloused hand to Tina’s forehead, assessed her body temperature, and let the limb slide down her neck and skim her upper chest once satisfied. Tina flinched, her honest, yelping reaction earning her a famous, toothy smirk.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she managed with a clearer head.
“Don’t you shush me. I asked, what do you think you’re doing?” She swatted the male’s hand away, her calm demeanor quickly cracking.
With a disgruntled sigh, Brandon said, “Well nothing now.”
The woman squinted with death in her eyes.
“I was trying to check your temperature and heart rate. Both those and your breathing went up before you passed out. I refuse to lose my head because you can’t deal with life,” Brandon growled. “Trust me, I hate this just as much as you do, but unfortunately it doesn’t matter how we feel about each other. As your Guardian, if something happens to you then that’s it for me,” the male continued before finishing, “But if you can fight me then you’re obviously fine.” He gave Tina a rough nudge from his lap.
The girl planted her hands on the ground, caught her body before it could be pushed completely.
Of course, she thought to herself, remembering her bond with Brandon and its many intricacies. Her cheeks pinked slightly, the knowledge that Brandon put aside their differences to help her, no matter his reasons, made him admirable...
“Thank... Thank you, Brandon.” Tina floundered her appreciation before she was caught off guard by the room turning topsy-turvy. She touched her throbbing forehead, a film over her vision.
“You are feeling better, right?” Brandon noticed how his Protected’s heart had yet to normalize. It still flitted about her chest like a wild bird trapped in a too-small cage.
Tina conceded to her pain, knowing that the smartest thing to do in her current situation would be to remain still. She did her best to relax, allow her spinning head to settle. She leaned back into her Guardian, somehow managing deep breaths this time around. Then, as she began regaining her wits, the ever-vigilant woman noticed something odd. In but a microcosm of a second, she realized that the attractive smell from earlier had dissipated.
Forgetting her dizziness for a moment, the teenager turned to Brandon at a speed she’d quickly regret. “Hey. Ouch. Fuck.” She held her pulsing head and took some more deep breaths. “Did you smell anything... out of the ordinary earlier?”
“Besides your arousal, you mean?” Brandon responded with pure confusion.
Instantly aggravated and recognizing her question as out of left field Tina sighed, “Nevermind.”
Brandon turned away, something else catching his attention.
I must be tired and losing it. Tina continued to rub her forehead. She leaned forward, the desire to plop face down on her bed almost overwhelming.
The movement in his lap forced Brandon back to the present. He grabbed the previously panicked girl’s tiny wrist as her dizziness and glazed over vision cleared. He pulled her back to him and secretly measured her pulse. “You’d tell me if something was up, right?”
It took Tina a moment to nod. “Yeah.”
“Yeah, of course,” she forced a minuscule smile, hoping that it was convincing.
Brandon opened his mouth to speak, but at the last moment decided not to. He noticed that Tina didn’t realize her body and thoughts weren’t in sync, how every time she said yes, her head shook no. “Woman, just-”
“I need to go to bed, so do you. We have class in the morning.” Whatever her Guardian was about to say, Tina didn’t want to know. She tore her wrist from Brandon’s grasp and stood, eyeing her room at the corridor’s end. Brandon watched as the woman paused in reaching for her doorknob. With her back still facing him, she whispered solemnly, “Thanks again. Goodnight.”
As the lock to Tina’s room clicked in place, Brandon scraped his almost nonexistent fingernails against the floor, a desperate attempt to regain control. He lifted his hand when he felt a splinter embed itself in his skin.
Scanning his new wound and then looking at its cause, the Guardian thought aloud, “Dust bunnies... That’s nasty. I wonder how you’d get them from between the boards...” As he worked the splinter out with his sharp teeth, the man reached in his pocket. Pulling up his cellphone’s camera and flipping it to front-view, he grumbled.
He knew it.
Tina’s room - 03:00 A.M.
Ugh, I can’t sleep, Tina thought. She’d been tossing and turning ever since her body hit her mattress.
“...This is bullshit,” she muttered, finally swinging her legs off the bed. She took a second to stare at the robe now hung on her bedroom door. It mocked her until she snatched it off the hook with a sigh. She opened her door and peeked down the hall.
No answer? Tina thought after a gentle knock to her Guardian’s room.
Another knock, a bit louder this time.
Maybe he’s asleep.
Accepting defeat, the girl dragged herself back to bed.
If I’m not getting sleep, neither are you. She sent Roscoe a flurry of texts she was more than sure he’d kill her for in the morning.
Brandon’s room - 03:05 A.M.
“Damn it!” Brandon’s frustrated shout was muffled by one of the many pillows he kept on his bed.
He’d ignored the earlier knocks at his door in favor of jerking himself off, the same fruitless activity he’d been engaged in for the past three hours. His irides had remained red ever since Tina left him for the sleep that he knew eluded her.
Masturbation, the easiest thing the man could do to revert, was refusing to get him off. By this point, he was dangerously close to starting a fire with the amount of friction he was using.
This is fucked, he thought, finally releasing his abused member.
Brandon had been taken aback by his partial transformation when it happened. He, like all Guardians, knew his triggers, so he couldn’t pinpoint what had prompted his change. He hadn’t gotten angry, scared, or horny, so what the hell?
TheThe man was determined, refused to sleep until his eyes reverted. He looked to the clock on his bedside table, next to his cellphone’s charging station.
It’s late, he thought and growled as he put aside his pride.
Texting his trusty “Plan B”, Brandon was reminded that beggars can’t be choosers. Scrolling through his contacts, he found who he wanted. “You better be up, I swear.”
The man took a quick snapshot of his eyes, deciding it’d be better to show than tell.
Brandon: dont get the wrong idea but remember that offer u made me? i wanna take u up on it. now.
The man almost snickered, the instant typing icon on his screen funny before it disappeared, and he hadn’t received anything. He frowned, yawning sleepily when the bubble reappeared.
Vendor: *Yawn* Ur lucky I’m a night owl. Do I want 2 touch the reason with a 10 ft. pole?
This time Brandon let his snicker loose. He knew the woman on the other end was asking for the reason for his eye change.
As he glanced at his special contact’s name, one he thought was pretty creative, he thanked his past self. After all, she had been like a vendor, giving him all the reasons that he should take her up on her “services” over others. As naturally convincing as she was, he was surprised she didn’t go to business or law school.
Brandon’s phone dinged a second time, the classic sign he was taking too long to write back.
Vendor: Do I look like a booty call 2 u?
Brandon: was casual sex not the agreement?
Vendor: Shut up.
Brandon rolled on his side, let out a sexually frustrated groan as he returned his phone to its charging station and got ready for another round of jerking himself off with the hope of orgasm. Then, another ding.
Vendor: Since I’m already out I guess I’ll swing by. Pick u up in 15. Text u when I’m outside. U totes owe me dinner and a movie 4 this.
Before Brandon could respond, another message followed its predecessor.
Vendor: U best be as good as last time. U were a beast ;).
Brandon took a moment to gather his thoughts. He couldn’t help but think of the questions he’d face in the morning if Tina saw his unfinished transformation. He hoped his connect could help him, prayed that everything would work out.
“As much as one-day shipping cost, those contacts better be made from fucking diamonds.” Brandon reviewed his order.