8. Your muse catching mine dancing and singing badly to Christmas songs a month too early.
The youngest son of Eros had practically hit the floor in an attempt to duck out of the way when the shout of laughter echoed from the Iris Message he hadn’t noticed until that moment. It was bad enough that he was practically screaming the lyrics to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But he didn’t exactly have the singing voice of an angel.
That would explain why Alban was currently almost doubled over laughing in the Iris Message as River rose to his feet and glared at him. “Not funny, Alban!” “Oh but it was so funny, I wish I’d had a camera to record it,” he laughed. “Alban, tell your brother he’s tone deaf.” “River, Abby says you’re tone deaf.” “Wow, you can both go fuck off!” And he heard the girl in the other room on the Iris Message burst out laughing and he just waved the message away.
They’d been at the club for four hours and it had been a slow evening. Dylan had spent most of the time sitting languidly at the bar, nursing a grand total of three martinis, two piña coladas and four shots of vodka (all on the house, of course). He’d lost count of the amount of patrons he’d winked at, but he could feel the sexual tension spread out throughout the premises.
"Alban, why didn’t you tell us?" Bonnie squealed, hitting him lightly (or so she thought) on the arm.
"Because I had no idea, that’s why!"
"Ew no I don’t want to be pregnant you’re gross."
Rolling his eyes, the ginger let out a sigh and kept walking up to where his wife would soon come out, most probably with a triumphant grin on her face. Sure, he had agreed to having another kid, but she could have at least told him prior to anybody else, couldn’t she? It was a bit ridiculous of him, but he felt slightly mad that she’d let him know at the same time as everybody else. He was no peasant, he ought to have known first! I need to stop talking to Catherine, he thought at his own mention of ‘peasants’.
"Who’s going to be godparents?" Heath asked, elbowing the ginger in the ribs.
The bedroom was pitch dark when he woke up, blood beating like a jazz drum behind his temples. Behind his back was the feeling of a dream he couldn’t shake off, rubbing his painful body, shaping it up. He felt terribly raw, like every inch of his skin was itching from the inside, consumed by a fire that was nothing close to natural. He had gotten used to it over the years, for it happened at least seven days per semester. Sadly, he still hadn’t found a way to tone it down, but everybody at work had willingly validated the hypothesis that he felt very sick twice a year, which explained why he had such a strong immune system the rest of the year. Nobody ever asked for a medical statement— that came with being the boss, as he found out, and was quite useful in times like these.
The only person he had frequently seen the past four days (or was it five? He had lost count of them along with his bottle of sleeping pills) was his wife, and if he used to feel guilty and shameful years ago, it was with relief now that he heard her steps up the stairs every evening. She brought him release, so that at least he could sleep.
"Could we like, just, talk?"
The question, or rather, request, came from nowhere and quite suddenly. The redhead and his… What was he? Friend? Flirt? Well, his whatever he was, had been playing videogames for more than two hours now, and the ginger was getting a bit tired of losing at Tekken. He heard the older teen next to him put his controller down and make himself comfortable.
"Sure. What do you want to talk about?"
"I don’t know," the kid replied, poking at a hole in his jeans.
Actually, not talking at all would have been good too, except he was scared of silence. Scared of what could happen in people’s mind if he didn’t distract them with pep talk and toothy grins. Shuffling in the sofa, he almost laid down against the blonde’s legs, but knew better than allowing himself to. Sure, his condition wasn’t as dramatic as it used to be, but he knew better than to risk ruining what was supposed to be an enjoyable afternoon. Yet as usual, his little train of thoughts didn’t escape the older one, who raised a quizzical eyebrow at him.
“Abby, Abby!” the strange voice echoed from a tree branch. It was a bit scary, half-crow half-human. Half-Alban Johansen, to be more precise. The son of Eros opened his wings, flapped them once or twice just for the show, then took off to land right in front of his girlfriend’s feet. Abby raised an eyebrow and looked down at the bird that was her boyfriend. “What? What? What is it?”
“Abby, Abby look at me, look!” Turning around, he stretched his wings again, shaking his tail and started singing in his freaky distorted raven voice: “I’VE GOT FASHION IN MY FEATHERS AND I AIN’T AFRAID TO SHOW IT, SHOW IT, SHOW IT…….. I’m a crow and I know it!” He totally ignored the blonde’s facepalm as he kept on dancing, bouncing his head back and forth like a pigeon while rotating slowly. Abby nodded her head slowly and tried to keep from laughing as she watched him. “You know Al, I think the only difference between this you and human you is very small.” “Oh really?” “Yeah, bird you is just much tinier and has more luxurious feathers.” “Fuck you! My hair is luxurious!” “That’s why I said feathers.” she rolled her eyes and took a step around him. “But I’m still sexy, right!?” “I’m not going to call you sexy, Alban. You’re a bird!”
“Hey, hey Abby hey, may I land on your shoulder? Come on Abby say yes, say yyeeeeessssss oh nevermind I’ll do it anyway!” With a flap of his wings, he landed on her left shoulder, which was already tiny but looked even smaller, since a crow isn’t exactly the size of a robin.
“You’re heavy”, she commented dryly.
“It’s the weight of how awesome I am. But don’t worry, you’re awesome too.”
“You just sound like Ken, and if you keep sounding like him I will roast you like a chicken and eat you for dinner tonight.”
“You can’t eat chicken in the evening, it’s too much.”
“Shut up, you’re not the boss of me, I will eat you.”
“I love you”, he stated, picking at her cheek with his beak.
“Alban, that fucking hurts!” the daughter of Hecate yelled at him, holding a hand to her cheek. “Your beak is too huge, stop that!”
“….. Do I comment on how the word ‘beak’ could be replaced by something else right now or—”
“Don’t you fucking dare, Johansen. Now get off.”
“Noooo I love youuuu!” the human-bird attempted to sob, which resulted in a horrible sound. Trying to hug his girlfriend as best he could, he wrapped his wings around her face, headbutting her happily. “See, I looove youuuu!”
“I can’t actually fucking see, Alban, you’ve got your wings on my eyes.”
“But I’m hugging you! Isn’t that nice?”
“No, it’s not. It’s annoying.”
The formerly ginger huffed as best he could, flapped his wings and took off to leave Abby’s shoulder. “Hasta la vista, hate— AH! AH ABBY, AH! I’M CAUGHT IN YOUR HAIR, MY LEGS ARE CAUGHT IN YOUR HAIR, MAYDAY MAYDAY HOUSTON WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM GET ME OUT OF HERE!!”
Abby rolled her eyes as Alban took off from her shoulder and let out a loud yell as her hair got caught. “YOU ARE SUCH A FUCKING IDIOT, JOHANSEN.” she screamed as she tried to reach his feet as he kept flapping his wings. “STOP FUCKING FLYING! I’M STUCK ON YOUR LEGS, ASSHOLE AND YOU’RE GOING TO RIP OUT MY HAIR!”
“TECHNICALLY, MY LEGS ARE CAUGHT IN YOUR HAIR!”
“YOU’RE A HORRIBLE FUCKING VAMPIRE. WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST BE A BAT?”
“I AM OFFENDED.”
“We wouldn’t have this problem if you were a wolf.” she mumbled.
“YOU HEARD ME. NOW SHUT UP AND LAND AGAIN OR SOMETHING.”
“I’d probably eat you.” he screeched as he flapped his wings again.
Abby rolled her eyes as she started to untangle his legs from her hair.
“I’m not little red riding hood.” she smirked.
“I could still e-“
“Okay! All done.” Abby rolled her eyes.
Alban flapped his wings happily and flew in front of her. “Thanks, Abs! You’re still mean, though.”
“Oh, well fuck you, raven.”
“You can’t fuck a raven, Abby.”
“Will you get out of my face?”
He flapped his wings once again and was off. As Abby turned and looked at him flying away, she mumbled to herself. “I’m going to kick someone’s ass. Who the fuck turns a bitch into a vampire?”
“Who’s idea was this?”
“Mine” Abby shrugged.
“Why did you even…”
“Because you look like Banshee from X-Men.” Nathan smirked.
“It’s true, you do.” Abby nodded.
“So, what? You’re gonna push me out a fucking window?!” Alban looked at the two of them as they stood in front of the window.
“Basically. I hope you can fly!” Abby grinned.
“Are you actually doing this?” Amber called up to them.
Nathan sighed and shoved Alban and out the window he went.
“You actually did it!?!” Abby stared at him.
“Did we just kill him?” Sophia mumbled from next to where the ginger had landed.
“That…looked like it hurt.” Amber choked back a laugh.
Abby cackled as she apparated down next to them with Nathan taking his time to walk back down to his friends. “If we killed him, you all are helping me hide the body.” Abby laughed as she knelt down next to the seemingly unconscious red head. “Helloooo. Wake up, Alban.”
“I think he’s dead.”
“Guys, he’s not dead.” Abby rolled her eyes at her two friends as Nathan came walking toward them.
“CPR.” a voice said.
“See! Told you it lives.”
“I’m not giving him CPR.” Sophia backed up.
“Nope.” Amber shook her head.
“Looks like you’re shit out of luck, ginger.”
Looking at each other, smiling to each other, talking about things nobody else could get so they wouldn’t feel tempted to join in the conversation. When their eyes would meet, sparks flew and you could tell they didn’t even need physical contact. If anything, they avoided it. What they felt was too physical already, like a rope was tying them to each other and they couldn’t get rid of it if they tried. They never did, though, and they never would. Love was fleeting, guts were never wrong.
There was this very fine line between dreaming and hallucinating, that could easily get blurred as soon as dreams became nightmares. Have you ever gotten that feeling, upon waking up, that your fears were real? That the huge spider in your bed was still crawling under your knees? That your nails were still bleeding from scraping at your own tomb? Have you ever woken up screaming, tears rolling furiously down your face as you felt less than a child, nothing more than a wounded animal, blood trailing in a red flash, showing the way to your enemies? A prey.
When Alban woke up that night, he could still feel them. The hands. All over his body, tearing at his clothes and skin, wearing down the muscles as he was trying to escape them by all means. They wouldn’t let go though, and his breath was caught in his throat, so much that he couldn’t scream. He was trying, oh so hard, but he could produce no sound at all….
Or so he thought, until he woke up for good, a sharp cry tearing the heavy fabric of the night. He was sweating and panting, his body cold yet burning up with fear. They still hadn’t budged, the hands: crawling, touching, stroking, so he started rubbing, scratching, biting the flesh in hopes the feeling would fade away. “Leave me alone, stop touching me, STOP TOUCHING ME!” he kept yelling, still too unconscious to understand he had nothing to yell at. “GO AWAY, I DON’T WANT YOU, I NEVER WANTED YOU, STOP TOUCHING ME, LEAVE ME ALONE!” His voice broke at that point, and as he held himself tightly, so to prevent any other imaginary pair of hands to reach him, he could only whisper over and over again; “please, please stop doing that to me, please. I’m just fourteen, stop that. I’m only fourteen…”
Margaret Terrence Atwood was a good journalist as far as getting information was concerned, but her boss kept telling her: “Mary, if you keep judging everything like you do, one day you’ll have a surprise, and it won’t be a good one.” She was, in fact, rather pleased with the first surprise she encountered after her twelve-years long career: when you expect some sick brownish green, isn’t getting bright orange way better?