Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 40

Andy's POV

The phone ringing had woken me up. I strained my ears, and then wished I hadn't.

I lean back into my bed and continue listening as the rest of the house falls apart. Luna Cardinal is the first knocked down, no doubt the weight of the world becoming too much on top of all of the loss he had suffered. Arrow goes next, and Rowan follows quickly behind.

I stay still in my bed until everyone gives into their exhaustion, and then I stay still for a little longer. Once I am sure that everyone is asleep, I push myself to stand and head towards my window. I glance out over the backyard, and strain my eyes to see the nearest patrol.

I have to wait several minutes, but eventually I find them- working in threes, they move quickly just beyond where I can comfortably see. They move on quickly, and I wait another moment to make sure they are actually gone before carefully swinging my window open. I pause to make sure the sound hasn't awoken anyone, and once I'm sure they still rest soundly I haul in a deep breath out of my window, and freeze.

There's a scent here I recognize, almost too faint for me to catch. It lingers only along the outer edge of the window and it makes my stomach turn. I press my nose closer to the ledge, trying to get closer to the scent, to prove I'm wrong, but it doesn't get any stronger and the wind starts ripping it away from me.

The sound of tires in the snow startles me. I turn my head towards the road and frown as I realize the car has turned into the driveway... a quick glance at the clock shows that my time is up, and Ryker and his father have returned. I quickly slide the window shut and throw myself back onto my bed.

Minutes pass in silence while I focus on slowing my breathing. Just as I'm getting it under control, the car pulls to a stop and a door creaks open. Footsteps crunch in the snow and then a second door is pulled open. Four heavy paws hit the snow at once and two doors are slammed.

The second the front door is opened, the paws come thudding up the stairs. The feeling of stretched rubber bands grows stronger, the distance between us slowly closing. Before he even presses on the door, I know who it is. I sit up to wait for him, but he doesn't open the door.

"Ryker?" I whisper. He whines on the other side, and I realize why he isn't coming in- he can't open the door. I slide off the bed but before I can take a single step he crashes through the door, splintering it at the handle.

I gasp as he barrels towards me, anger clear on his muzzle. He continues advancing until I'm forced to back up into the bed. My knees buckle as he continues towards me, and eventually his massive form looms over me. He presses his weight over me, and the rubber bands around us finally relax.

He connects his nose to my neck, and inhales deeply.

I wrap my arms around his neck to pull him tighter.
"Ryker?" I call out in my mind. He doesn't move, as if he hasn't heard me. I frown and call him again.
When he still doesn't answer, I let my eyes drift shut and focus on welcoming our connection deeper into myself. I focus on the heat of him, the feel of him around me, and the sparks that sizzle between us.

"Andy?" His voice echoes in my mind, and I flick my eyes open.

"Ryker." His eyes flutter shut and I recognize the warmth in my chest as his.

"Are you ok?" His concern nearly knocks me over; the sadness and anger he feels at our circumstances aching in my chest.

"I'm..." Everything I feel is overwhelming; He experiences it with me and whines as he does.

"Andy..." A tear falls from my eye. Unable to stop it I just let it run down my face. Ryker's tongue flicks out to catch it.

"It will be alright." He whispers. I can feel that he doesn't fully believe his words, but wants so badly for them to be true.

"Ryker... I don't know if I'll survive this again." He snuggles tighter to me, and it is just shy of comforting.

"We will get through this together. I promise."

Remarkably I start crying once again. My eyes feel puffy and sore, but still the tears flow. Ryker holds me beneath his massive form, and just lets me cry.
I thank him silently, and hold his neck as tightly as I can without choking. He doesn't complain; we sit in silence, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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Somehow I fall asleep again. When I awake the next time, my bed is cold. Ryker is gone again, and if it weren't for his lingering scent I would have thought it had been a dream.

But my life is more of a nightmare, and the note beside my bed reminds me of that too well.

This letter is from Ryker. His scent clings to the paper and his harsh lettering calls to me from the page. I try to reach out in my mind for him, but it seems he has severed our connection.

I sigh and pull the paper from its spot on my bedside table.

Andy,
We have gone to search for Seth. I didn't want to wake you. Stay here- you're safer if you're in the house. I will return to you. All my love, Ryker.


I fold the letter and place it back in it's spot on the table. I stand up and strain my ears to listen to the rest of the house. Sitting at the top of the stairs someone is snoring- clearly in a deep slumber.

My heart hurts, knowing what I am about to do.

With everyone gone, searching for my monsters, no one is here to stop me this time. My brother is missing, and I have questions for him.

I grab a fresh shirt and a pair of sweatpants from my dresser and swap them out as quickly as possible. I listen again once I'm done, but nothing has changed- there is still only the snoring guard posted just outside my door.

I tie my hair back and reach for my window. I watch for the patrols but no one is near, so I tug my window open as quietly as possible.

I haul in a deep breath, but the scent I had caught earlier is long gone. Beyond the window, I try to search for wolves with all of my senses.

The wind is still, quiet. The scents that linger are hours old- possibly the same wolves I had watched pass before Ryker's return.

I haul in another deep breath before pulling myself up the wall so I am crouching on the window sill. I have to hunch over so that I can fit within the window. I lean over and glance down the building. The fall isn't that far, but I am concerned to be leaving the building; Ryker had asked me to stay.

"We must go..." my wolf whispers to me, "we must search and find the truth."

Mind settled, I drop from the window. It is all too easy to place my feet beneath me as the ground rushes towards me.

I land with a quiet crunch in the snow. I pause to listen, to ensure I have not awoken my guard, but he doesn't stir. I strip as quickly as possible and shift to my other form. I carefully grab the clothing I'd dropped between my teeth and then I take off running.

I weave carefully between the trees, hurtling towards my destination. My senses are on high alert the entire time, straining for any sign of my mate, my friends, my brother, or my doom. But no one comes- I run undisturbed.

My paws thump quietly through the snow, and the sound is almost soothing. By the time I reach the house, my heart has slowed to steady.

I walk carefully out of the forest and head towards the back door. I haul in a deep breath and strain my ears, but no matter how hard I listen no one is in the house.

I shift quickly and don my clothes. The door handle is locked, but one quick hard yank with all of my strength has it snapping.

The door opens without a sound, and another deep breath confirms what I already knew- no one is here.

I walk in silently, and tug the back door shut behind me. I head straight for the stairs, determined to start searching for answers.

Bleach clings to the air, almost masking the other scents that linger. I brush past it and start climbing the stairs, careful not to touch anything but the floor.
The white door that sits just beyond the stairs is like any other. It has four indented panels and a shiny silver handle. There's a small gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. In every way, it is completely mundane. Except for one- the scent that wafts out through the gap is too close to the one I caught on my window.

It's harder than I expect to reach up and twist the handle. A large part of me wants to turn away, to not ask these questions that seem crazy and wrong. But the other part of me.... It gnaws at me. It is pushing me past my comfort level and past the impossible, and that is the part that finally reaches up for the handle.

The door opens to a bedroom. There's a double bed positioned beneath the window, and a dark wooden nightstand positioned beside it. There's a matching dresser on the opposite wall and a laptop is resting on the corner.

The room smells like coffee, and rushing water, and something almost sweet. But underneath the pleasantness that I have always focused on, there is something... else that I cannot name. I close my eyes and focus on that other piece to try to fit it into the person I can see sitting on this bed, existing in this space.

It's not sweet, or tangy. It's not clean or fresh. It's almost like rotten fruit, but so slightly there that I cannot say for sure. There's other layers to it too, so many that every time I think I have a hold on it it changes.

I flick my eyes open when my hands come in contact with the wall. I glance around and realize that as I've been sniffing, I've been moving about the room. I inhale again and realize it's stronger here than anywhere else in the room.

I frown and run my hands along the wall. It's smooth and even, but something is telling me to keep pressing.

I trace my hands along the wall until I reach the edge of the dresser. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. I trace my hands back the other way until I reach the closet.

I drop my hands with a sigh and reach for the handle. The door swings open to reveal hangers laden with clothes; I almost shut the door again when I catch the scent.

It's the same scent I've been chasing, with the complicated layers. I sniff deeper and press into the closet.

The scent clings to the left side of the closet more than the right- down the same wall I had just been running my hands along.

I run my right hand as high up the wall as I can, and then press as hard as I can as I bring my hand back down. The plaster cracks beneath my fingers, and the scent intensifies. I press on.

When I reach the bottom of the wall the left side of the closet buckles. Behind it, there is a collection of things.

I blow the plaster dust away from the hole I've made and then reach in. My fingers close around a stack of papers.

They fall from my grip as soon as I register what they are. Anger, hurt, betrayal.... I cannot find the right word to place to my emotions.

Pictures- all of me- litter the floor. The stack I'd grabbed has at least fifty different shots, and while several landed upside down I know they match the rest. There's so many shots from so many different angles, and in every one my eyes have been gouged out.

I swallow past the lump in my throat and tear more of the plaster from the wall out of my way.

Through the dust I can see more pictures, and the cameras that took them. There's notebooks too, and when I pull one out it's Seth's writing that I recognize.

The first book is a detailed rundown of my day when we were performing Swan Lake. Every detail of my life is written down, from the time I woke up to every bathroom break I took. I can only make it through three pages before the words start to blur.

I slam it shut and toss the book over my shoulder, aiming for the bed. It lands with a quiet thwack. I bury my head back in the secret closet.

More pictures and notebooks emerge from the hole, along with clothing I've misplaced. Different pieces are missing parts of the fabric, and some are whole but have crusty stains that reek of Seth. I throw them into the growing pile without letting myself dwell on that.

My next trip back into the closet is more fruitful.

This time my hands wrap around a thick black book, leather bound and almost as big as my torso. It's heavier than I expect, and it takes more effort than I expect to remove it from the wall.

Once it's out, I sink to my knees to be able to examine it.

The cover is a soft black leather, well worn. There is no title or author's name, just the solid black binding. The scent I've been chasing is rolling off of it- it's strong enough to realize that the word I've been searching for is Death. The book smells like death and rotting flesh. It also smells just like the man that had hovered over my bed.

The first page is in a language I do not speak. The lettering is fancy, curling and looping across the page with a grace that reminds me of music. Without thinking, I trace the shape of the words.

Pain lances up my arm as I do, and when I tip my hand from the page blood stains the letters. As the blood soaks into the page, the letters rearrange until I recognize them.

The words shimmer. "Magic" I breathe.

I reach forward and carefully flip to the next page. Spell after spell is laid out before me; everything from fire starters to vanishing spells.

I continue flipping until I've reached the last page.

It's blank, except for a single word at the top.

"Sacrifice"

"So what did you give up?" I call out. A dark chuckle rolls in through the open door.

"You haven't figured it out yet?"

"Give me a minute and I'm sure I will." He laughs again and this time I can hear the step he takes. My stomach rolls and my wolf growls, despair turning to anger.

"How'd you know I was here?" I sniff the air. The scent of decaying flesh and death is stronger now, now that I know to look for it. The subtle shift in the air as he appeared as if from nowhere.

"The same way you got here, I presume. Magic." He laughs again and steps into the room.

He's wearing a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans. His arms are bare for the first time I can remember- and from the black gunk that leaks from cuts in his arms I can tell why he's always covered them before.

His face looks the same as always. Short brown hair, sparkling green eyes, hard jaw that's just covered with a thin layer of hair. It's the same face I've seen every day since I was rescued. The face of my brother.

All the worry I'd felt for him slaps me in the face. He had never been in danger- he was the one we needed to run from.

My heart aches with the knowledge that he's been behind this; the evidence is stretched out before me.
His face splits in a grin and he leans more fully against the door jam. He folds his arms across his chest. The inky blackness moves with him, twisting and almost dripping from his veins.

"How'd you figure it out?" I haul in a deep breath and notice that the scent of death is growing, like he's releasing it now that I know. My nostrils flare and his easy smile drops. He shifts so he is further back, as if he's trying to hide in the shadows once again.

"You don't smell like you anymore." It slips out without my permission, and I instantly regret it from the anger that cracks across his face.

"Yeah," he spits, "I've been told."

"Why?" I whisper. He scoffs and glances down to his feet for the briefest second.

"It's part of the price." I nod and close the book. It's not the question I was asking, but it sparks the conversation.

"Why?" I whisper again. His eyes swirl black for a second, but it isn't the same as before... I tilt my head and his eyes shift again, a depthless black where there used to be more...

"You won't find what you're looking for." I frown and his eyes twirl back to the green I remember. "What do you mean?" He laughs, but it isn't joyful. It's harsh and angry, cold and cruel.

"The wolf. It isn't there." My brows furrow. "What do you mean?" "I was born... weak. The wolf wasn't strong enough" He spits out. "I traded it a long time ago to make room for something... more powerful."

"But... I've seen you change."

He smiles. "Have you?" I frown and think back.
I search my memories, but no matter how hard I try I cannot remember a time that I've actually seen Blake in his wolf form. He's always talked about shifting, talked about running and the change... but I've never seen his wolf.

"But your eyes... the wolf was there." I whisper. The book burns in my hands and his face falls again.

"It was a trick." I whisper again. His smile is back now, cruel once again.

"Well what can I say.... I had an agenda." My breath leaves me in a harsh gust, his casual manner hurting me deeper than I had expected.

"I don't... I don't understand." I shake my head. He steps towards me and I automatically take a step back. Hurt rushes through me as I remember how worried I'd been only hours ago when I found out about his disappearance and now... Everything he did plays back in my mind.

"Why are you doing this?" I spit. His tongue flicks up along the top row of his teeth on the right side. He raises his right eyebrow and takes another step towards me. My back hits the wall.

"First you take my parents. Then you take my soul mate. Then finally you're gone but oh wait- he goes with you. Over and over and over again everyone picks you. Everyone always picked you. Even my second chance mate."

"What are you talking about?" He leans down and the smell of him is overwhelming. I feel the urge to gag but push it down as he rests his arms on either side of my head.

"You have everyone fooled- you had mom and dad fooled for your entire life, charmed them so much they forgot about me. You bewitched Steven the second you were born, sucked him away from me so quickly he didn't even blink. And then you took him away completely, moved him hours away so I couldn't even WATCH his life anymore. Do you have any idea how that felt?"

"What are you talking about?" He snarls and smacks the wall. The sludge from his arms falls and lands on my arm. It burns like acid.

"You took everything from me. Without even trying. And you didn't even want him! God that is just" he inhales through his teeth, shaking his head. "That is just the worst fucking part. He fell in love with you so completely he couldn't even see me.... couldn't understand that I was the one that was made for him."

"Steven?" I question. He snarls and hits the wall again.

"You don't even understand when I'm spelling it out for you! You are so fucking stupid!" My breathing catches as it clicks- he's talking about Seth.

"Seth?" I whisper. He shivers and pure rage flits over his face. He moves so quickly I'm not prepared for it and before I can take another breath his hand is wrapped around my throat.

"You don't get to say his name." I gasp for air, scrambling for purchase on his arm to throw him off of me.

He relaxes his grip briefly, letting the smallest amount of air into my lungs.

"He wants me to take you to him. Wants me to bring you back to your little love shack where he can woe you one last time... And I will." He shakes his head again, a frustrated smile stretched across his lips. "I will give him whatever he wants, so he can finally see...." his eyes are distant, obviously lost in memories of Seth. I'm battling to keep my own locked away.

His fist closes again, cutting my air off once again.
He raises me off the ground and my feet dangle below me. My mind is screaming for oxygen.

My wolf surges forward, taking control of our shared body. Blake's grip on me drops as she throws us into her form.He is thrown away from me, and the scent of death mingles with fresh blood- Blake's blood.
He stands with a snarl, and I see that he has four large gouges across his stomach. We snarl as he mutters nonsense words, but then his wounds start knitting up. As they do, more goo drops from a new wound on his arm.

Fire launches from his hands the second he's done healing, and I have to leap to get out of the way. Sitting in the back seat of my mind, I watch as we weave around the various bursts of flame.

The room is quickly set ablaze. Blake either doesn't notice or doesn't care, he just keeps throwing heat at me.

I trip on the book. The momentary distraction is my undoing- heat latches onto my front paw and pain laces its way around me. I rip away from it, but using the limb is impossible. I'm slower now, easier to hit.
He gets three more blasts in quickly. The pain starts fogging my mind, darkness trying to push its way in.

I swipe out at my brother, desperate to stay out of his reach but instead of coming into contact with his torso I barely strike his thigh.

His hands close around my neck, and more heat is blasted where his fingers rest.

The pain is excruciating.

His cruel smile is the last thing I see.
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