“How did you kill the Ashman in the forest last year?”
“I shot him with an arrow.”
“What kind of arrow?”
“A sharp one.”
Nate rolled his eyes. “Really, dude? A sharp one?”
“I'm going to kill you." Gabriel pointed at Tristan.
"For what?" Tristan raised a brow at his twin. "It's not like I asked Scarlet to come lie on top of me. I woke up and she was just...there.”
“Is it okay if I love you?”
“Only if it is okay that I love you back.”
“Okay.” Nate took a deep breath. “Now that we’re all caught up on the new no-no’s of the house, what do you say we find a tarp and some duct tape and MacGyver ourselves a new window in the living room? Just, you know, to keep out the wind…and the leaves…and any sharp-toothed woodland creatures prone to attacking people in their sleep.”
Tristan raised a brow.
“What?” Nate shrugged. “Death by dragon? Awesome. Death by rabid forest squirrel? Not cool, man. Not cool.”
“Nate called out, “Team Meeting!” and pointed a finger in the air.
When he had everyone’s attention, Nate cleared his throat. “There are a few Team Awesome things we need to discuss.”
Tristan leaned over to Gabriel. “What’s Team Awesome?”
“It’s our team name,” Heather smiled.
“We’re not a team,” Gabriel said.
“We are a team,” Nate corrected. “We’re Team Awesome and I’m team captain.” He looked at Tristan. “You can call me Captain. Or Captain America, if you’d like. I’m even willing to settle for Captain Jack.”
Tristan crossed his arms. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
Heather’s eyes lit up. “Ooh! Can we choose code names? Can I be Catwoman?”
“We’re not choosing code names.” Gabriel looked incredibly annoyed and Tristan almost smiled.”
“No, I’m surprised he didn’t say goodbye.”
“Well, of course he didn’t say goodbye.” Heather put down her mug. “You would have convinced him to stay.”
“That’s not true.”
“Oh, please.” Heather rolled her eyes. “You would have been like Oh, Tristan, please don’t go. Stay with me so I can crush on you and giggle at everything you say.” Heather nodded. “That’s what it would have been like. In that high-pitched voice and everything.”
“You remembered,” he said quietly.
Lowering the bow, Scarlet kept her eyes on him. “I remembered.”
“I hear you’re single now.” Aaron gave a white-toothed smile and tossed his hair.
“Where did you hear that?” Scarlet cocked her head, hoping to find the leak.
He pulled his stool over and sat down. “A little bird told me.”
Why did people use that saying? Little birds didn’t talk. They chirped. And, unless Aaron spoke bird, he certainly wasn’t deciphering any bird chirpings.”
“Does this mean I get to be part of the team?” She clapped her hands again.
“Yes,” Nate said.
“No,” Gabriel said at the same time.
“Duuuude,” Nate said to Gabriel between his teeth. “I really want to talk to this Mr. Brooks guy.”
“Fine.” Gabriel sighed. “Let her help. I don’t care. But if you die,” Gabriel pointed at Heather, “or get cursed or something, that’s your fault.”
Heather nodded merrily, still clapping. “Yay, I’m part of the team.”
“We’re not a team,” Gabriel said through gritted teeth.
Heather ignored him and looked at Nate. “I think we need a team name.”
“Ooh! Good idea.” Nate pointed a finger into the air. “How about Team Awesome?”
Heather wrinkled her nose. “Too vague. Team Super Secret Fountain Seekers?”
“Too specific.” Nate shook his head. “Team Ash Guy Hunters?”
“Ashman.” Heather shook her head. “Too hard to say.”
Nate scoffed. “And ‘Super Secret Fountain Seekers’ is easy to say?”
Gabriel huffed and started walking toward the door. “You guys can stay here and pick a name and a Team Captain or whatever, but I’m going to find Mr. Brooks.” He opened the door to leave, night falling on the forest around them.
Heather said, “Mr. Brooks doesn’t open his door when it’s dark outside.” She shrugged. “So we’re going to have to wait until tomorrow after school.”
Frustrated, Gabriel closed the cabin door on the setting sun. “Tomorrow then.”
“Perfect.” Nate nodded, shifting his eyes from Scarlet, to Gabriel, and then to Heather.
A moment passed.
“I call dibs on Team Captain,” Nate said.
Gabriel rolled his eyes.”
“I couldn’t stop loving you even if I tried. And I’ve tried.” He shook his head and laughed without humor, his hands balling into fists. “God, how I’ve tried. But I am completely lost to you. I am lost and empty and broken -”
“My heart is broken too -”
“My heart is not broken, Scar. My heart is dead!”
“You are not a samurai, Nate. You’re a medically-savvy immortal with Star Wars bed sheets.”
“They needed a plan. And manpower.
They needed Tristan”
“It was like the Secret Garden.
Of dead people.”
“I love you,” he said. “I want you more than life itself. Forever.” He brushed a hand across her cheek. “And I will take care of you always.”
“The moon was full, shining enough light down for Scarlet to make out the hundreds of gravestones lined up in the wet grass and the dozens of standing tombs that rose up in various places throughout the yard.
Giant trees swayed in the winter wind, throwing shadows across the grounds and making it look like the darkness was alive.
Graveyards were much more frightening at night than they were during the day.
An owl hooted.
A wolf howled.
A bat flapped across the night sky before her, wings silhouetted by the giant moon.
Are you kidding me?
It was like the graveyard knew Scarlet had entered and wanted to make it the creepiest experience ever.”
“The park was littered with couples kissing behind trees and making out on park benches. And paper stars were everywhere; in trees, on the ground, above heads, inside mouths…
It was like Valentine’s Day.
“I’m not immortal. I’m totally killable.” She sucked in a breath as her pitch rose. “And I’m blond. Blonds always die first.”
“In essence - we're all screwed”
“Tristan pulled a dagger from his coat— because, apparently, Tristan carted bloody weapons around in his coat—”
“Okay." Nate took a deep breath. "Now that we're all caught up on the new no-no's of the house, what do you say we find a tarp and some duct tape and MacGyver ourselves a new window in the living room? Just, you know, to keep out the wind ... and the leaves ... and any sharp-toothed woodland creatures prone to attacking people in their sleep."
Tristan raised a brow.
"What?" Nate shrugged. "Death by dragon? Awesome. Death by rabid forest squirrel? Not cool, man. Not cool."
"You're immortal, Nate," Gabriel said.
"So? That doesn't mean I want rabies." Nate shook his head. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have medieval aliens to defeat.”
“For all the glamour of living forever … immortality is really just a long curse. Finite life is precious; it’s fleeting and significant. But immortality… immortality isn’t living at all. It’s a permanent existence void of meaning.”
“Uh… Scar?” Tristan tried to sound calm. “You know you still have a knife in your hand?” Scarlet looked down at the weapon. “Yes. I want to take it with me.” “Why?” Heather swallowed. “Um.” Scarlet looked confused. “I don’t know. But I know I want it with me.”
“Gabriel cocked his head to the side. “Is that what happened in her last life too? You just accidentally
touched Scarlet enough to set the lifeforce transition into motion? God! How much touching did you
Tristan narrowed his eyes. “What do you want, like a scale of one to ten?”
“He smelled like leather and water. "I think," she said quietly, now that their mouths were close to each other, "that easy and clean love is not true. It is simply convenient. Messy love, though...that is something to revel in.”
“Gabriel looked ou at the water for a moment. "Love is rare."
"Yes" Scarlet looked at the lake as well. "But always worth pursuing."
Gabriel nodded. "Always.”
“Touching you sounded less stalkerish than lying prostate on top of you.”
“there is no victory without a battle.”
“It’s peaceful, you know. Watching a fire burn.” Her eyes followed the flames. “Hypnotic, even. The way the flames wrap around what they devour until there is no more to consume. A roaring fire, destined to become quiet embers.”
“Are you stitching yourself up?” Heather’s sounded awed.
Gabriel winced. “Yep.”
“That’s scary,” Heather said. “And…kinda hot.”
“The intruder shifted his weight and pulled the knife back, aiming at Gabriel’s chest. The moonlight glinted off the sharp blade and Gabriel found himself backed up against a wall.
There was no escape. Gabriel was going to have to bear the pain of a knife through his chest. He could do it. He would wait until the knife entered his flesh and then he’d snap the Ashman’s neck in half.
Yeah. That was a good plan.
Just as the knife came toward Gabriel, the Ashman grunted and pulled back, taking a few wobbly steps before falling to the floor.
Nate stood to the side, his hands on a large sword jutting from the Ashman’s back. He yanked out the sword, leaving the stranger’s body limp.
Nate stepped toward the Ashman’s body, looking him over timidly.
Without warning, the intruder rolled over and pulled himself up off the floor. Nate jumped back, lifted the sword in defense, and made a loud noise that sounded something like, “Arrrhh!”
Still clutching the bloody knife, the Ashman looked back and forth between Nate and Gabriel. Seeing he was outnumbered, he turned and ran back through the destruction of the living room.Jumping out of the gaping hole from the missing living room window, the Ashman disappeared into the storm
A moment passed as Gabriel and Nate stared after their attacker, both of them out of breath.
Still badly bleeding, Gabriel turned to Nate and looked at the weapon he held. The sword was oversized, extra shiny and had a very ornate handle. “I don’t remember ever seeing that sword in our arsenal before.”
Hunched over and trying to catch his breath, Nate said, “That’s because it’s from my arsenal.”
“So, you just had that,” Gabriel nodded at the weapon, “laying around?”
Nate righted himself and shrugged. “I’m a Zelda fan.”
“Ah.” Gabriel nodded. “And the noise you just made?”
“That was my battle cry.”
“Really?” Gabriel winced as he took a step forward. “It sounded more like the cry of a wounded animal. A cat, maybe. Or a small monkey.”
“Shut up.” Nate looked at Gabriel’s bleeding torso. “Are you okay?”
“Just say it,” I beg. I need her to say it out loud. All I need is for her to admit she brought him here because she was hurt and scared. I need her to admit that there’s an actual heart inside her chest. And that sometimes it beats for me”
“I cannot control even the dreams that I have made.”
“With each new woman that a man is attracted to there appears to come a broadening of the outlook, or, if you like, an acquiring of new territory. A turn of the eyebrow, a tone of the voice, a queer characteristic gesture—all these things, and it is these things that cause to arise the passion of love.”
“Love requires a different kind of courage, Andromache.”
“They didn't trip and kill each other.”
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