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by DeNine
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Young Adult · #2130319
Stella leaves home with Conner and with the other members of the gifted children.

Chapter 6

I stood in the doorway of my bedroom, staring at the walls I'd grown up in and wondering when I'd see them next. I fought back the urge to collapse into my bed and crawl under the covers, turning instead to my wardrobe. I pulled clothes from my drawers without looking at them and shoved them into a random sports bag, my mind wandering. Once the bag was stuffed full of clothes, I pulled a sheet of paper from my desk drawer and sat down.

Staring at the blank page I felt my eyes burn as I tried to think of what to write to my mother. I knew in my heart that I couldn't say goodbye to her in person, or I would never be able to leave. Minutes stretched to what seemed like hours before I decided that I couldn't make myself lie to them.

Mom, I'm so sorry.

It's not safe for me here, so Conner's taking me someplace where he can look after me. I'll come back really soon, I promise. Someday I'll explain everything to you. It's going to be okay. I love you, so much.


Silent tears rolled down my cheeks, blurring my vision as I reread my short note. I lay my head down on the desk, clutching the paper in my hands. I knew I should get up, but my limbs felt like they were full of lead. Suddenly I was so tired; I could feel everything that had happened earlier catching up with me.

I managed to lift my head when a soft knocking sounded from my door, and I saw Conner standing in my doorway, his expression painfully sympathetic. He crossed the room in a couple of steps, pulling me from my seat and onto my bed. I curled up on top of it, sighing as the mattress absorbed my weight. Conner sat at the foot of my bed, his hands rubbing anxiously up and down his thighs, like they always did when he was agitated.

"What happened today?" he asked; his voice oddly rough.

I pushed myself up so that I was sitting and turned to face him. I'd known I would have to explain to him, but I'd hoped I would have more time than this.

"You won't believe me," I murmured, thinking of Sebastian's eyes, and the way they seemed to absorb the light.

"I promise," he said, reaching to take my hand, "I'll believe everything you tell me. Just promise me the same thing."

"Of course," I replied, knowing that nothing he could possibly say would be less believable than what I was about to tell him. I pulled my legs in towards my torso, wrapping my arms around my knees. Taking a deep breath, I told him everything that had happened earlier, the words tumbling from my mouth in near incoherency. I left out the fact that I'd walked to school with Sebastian; I knew that Conner wouldn't take that well.

Conner listened in silence, his only visible reaction a slight narrowing of his eyes when I talked about Sebastian's apparent transformation. But it didn't look shocked, or even horrified, as I'd expected, but anger.

It only took me a few minutes to tell him everything. When it was over I could feel my legs quaking in my arms, and pulled them closer in to my chest. I scrutinized Conner, confused by his lack of reaction. He stared down at his hands for a long time, his eyebrows pulled together, shadowing his eyes.

"Aren't you going to say anything?" I asked finally, afraid that he must think I was crazy. He looked up at me then, his eyes surprisingly lifeless, and I chewed on the inside of my cheek, waiting.

"Stella... there's something I've never told you," he began, his gaze falling back to his clasped hands. I stayed silent, waiting for him to continue. "I'm not like you," he said, grimacing.

"What?" I asked, confused. I moved to sit next to him on the end of the bed. We sat in silence, Conner still staring down at his hands. After several minutes, he continued.

"There are different people in this world, Stella. People that have... disabilities, or... abilities.... Diseases." He said finally.

"Some like Sebastian; and others that are much, much worse." I turned my head to stare at him, unable to keep the incredulity off my face.

"Different people?" I asked, wincing as I heard the note of sarcasm in my voice. "I never said Sebastian had a disease. There's something wrong with him, sure, but, I mean, he's still normal." Conner looked up at me, his eyes suddenly hard. "No, he's not. He does have a disease and he isn't able to control himself, Stella."

"A disease? What" I asked confused.

"It's a terrible curse, your heart is unable to pump its own blood anymore and you will have to have a daily injection of blood." He scowled, his eyes narrowing as he stared into the distance.

"Conner, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"He's an animal. He stalks and he... feeds off of humans. He can't control himself, even if he refuses to, his instincts just take over."

"What, he's like, a demon?"

He didn't answer for a moment.

"No. I don't know what he is. He doesn't fit any usual profiles."

I stood up, a nervous laugh forcing its way from my throat, coming out like a bark. What he was saying was ridiculous, completely absurd. But Sebastian's teeth... an image of his face flashed through my mind again, those black eyes filling his face as they had stared into mine, and the blood on his bottom lip where his canines had sliced into it, they looked sharp as knives. I strode across the room to stare out my window, my back to Conner, trying to get rid of the image that filled my head.

With a shock I realized that it wasn't the existence of monsters that I wanted to deny, but the fact that Sebastian was one. Stronger than my want to deny that Sebastian was a monster was the knowledge in my mind that Conner would never lie to me, and I knew that what he said was the truth. I looked at the street below me, grappling with what Conner had told me. I could feel him standing behind me, waiting until I was ready. I turned back to him, and tried to keep my voice steady.

"You said you weren't like me," I began, searching for the right words. He nodded sadly, and I thought he must know what I was going to say next.

"Does that mean..." my voice cracked and I took a deep breath, forcing the words out, "are you like him?" Shock flickered across his face, quickly to be replaced by rage. I knew that this wasn't what he'd been expecting.

"No," he spat, his voice shaking. "I am nothing like him. I am not a monster." He took a step towards me, reaching for my hand, and without meaning to I flinched back, away from him. Instantly I wished I could take it back, as pain replaced all the rage in his expression, his face falling.

He dropped the hand that had been reaching towards mine, and I stepped forward, trying desperately to think of something to say to make it better. I reached my hands up, placing my palms on his chest, but his entire body was rigid.

"I'm sorry," I murmured. "That was unforgivable."

His shoulders slumped, and he wrapped his arms around me. "I would never, ever hurt you," he whispered, his breath warm against my ear.

"I know," I replied truthfully. I rested my head on his chest and listened to his steady heartbeat, trying to reconcile my image of Sebastian with that of the bloodthirsty monsters I'd seen in so many cheesy blockbuster horror movies, but I couldn't wrap my mind around it. More than that, I tried not to think of what Conner had meant when he'd said that he wasn't like me, afraid of what he might tell me. I sighed, pulling myself out of his arms and moving back to sit on my bed.

"Go on, then," I murmured, staring up at Conner, still standing by the window. He sighed, looking past me, his eyes distant.

"I don't know where to start," he said, running his hands through his hair. "I didn't think I'd ever have to tell you this."

"You can tell me anything," I murmured, hoping desperately that it was the truth. Conner took a deep breath, steadying himself.

"I am part of a group of specially gifted children. We call our group Naphilim" He paused, as if expecting me to say something.

"Group?" I asked, trying to keep my expression blank.

Conner closed his eyes, a pained expression crossing his face, and continued.

"It's a group vowing to use our superior strength and gifts of the mind and the body to protect the people in our land from the lesser known evils of this world. Because, as well as Angels walking the earth, there were also Demons. For years, my people have protected the people here from the scum that hides in the shadows, lying in wait.

"Stella," he sighed, pausing for a long moment.

He stared down at me, his eyes suddenly fearful. "So now you know," he murmured. "And I can only begin to imagine what you must think of me."

I tried to keep the shock off my face, absorbing what he'd said. I moved from the bed to stand in front of him, taking his hands in mine. "You're still Conner," I said, forcing my mouth into a smile.

He looked down at me, his eyes sad. "You're afraid of me." It was a statement, not a question.

I looked down, away from him, unable to meet his gaze. I wanted nothing more than to lie to him, to tell him that I could never be afraid of him, no matter what he told me about himself, but I couldn't make myself do it. I couldn't help but think of Sebastian and wonder if Conner could be hiding another darker side of himself. I shuddered, pushing away an image of Conner with pitch black eyes and elongated teeth from my head. Whatever he was, it couldn't be that.

Conner pulled his hands from my grasp, stepping backwards to look at me. "It's okay," he said, his voice heavy. "I understand completely if you don't want to be around me anymore," his voice cracked, but he continued, the words tumbling from his lips. "But you need to get away from here, far away. This place isn't safe for anyone, especially you, and even if you don't want to be anywhere near me," he paused, his voice dropping to a whisper. "I'll always be close to you, protecting you from monsters like Sebastian."

"What?" I choked, stumbling forward, closing the gap between us. "I will always want you near me."

Relief broke out across his face, but it was coupled with confusion. "But you're scared of me," he said, his eyes searching mine. "You're so scared..." he broke off, his voice troubled. "Stella, I told you that some of the people in the group were, gifted" he said carefully, and I felt the blood drain from my face. I was sure I couldn't handle any more incredible revelations from him today.

"Don't," I whispered, fighting the sudden horror that gripped my chest, biting down on the inside of my cheek. I barely noticed the metallic tang of blood in my mouth. "Not today."

He sighed, his expression softening. "Of course," he replied. "Another time."

Chapter 7

When I'd packed everything I could carry, I made the long walk down the hallway towards my front door, dragging my feet the whole way. Conner followed close behind me as he had all morning, probably to make sure I didn't curl up into a ball on the carpet where I stood. I'd tried to tell him that it wasn't necessary, and even though he'd insisted that he believed me, he continued to ignore my protests and follow me around the house as if I hadn't said anything at all.

Conner had insisted we leave as quickly as possible, and I was far from arguing with him. When I'd started packing things, I'd wanted to drag out my time at home for as long as possible, stalling for as much time as I could manage. It hadn't taken me long to realize that each extra second I spent contemplating leaving made my heart ache more and more painfully, and then I'd begun packing in earnest.

Even though I was only packing a couple of bags, Conner said I wouldn't have room for more than that. It seemed to take hours as I tried to sort through my things and choose those most vital. Conner insisted that I only needed a few changes of clothes, but when I pressed him about how long we'd be away for, he reluctantly admitted that it could be weeks.

Once he'd revealed that, my packing slowed down again and became more careful as I packed my favorite books from my room, as well as my only stuffed animal, a little white wolf called Tobey, who I'd had for as long as I could remember. For years when I was little I'd slept with him in my bed because my mother told me that he was a warrior wolf who would protect me from all the scary night time monsters I'd imagined as a child. I hadn't slept with him for years, but when I found him lying at the bottom of my wardrobe. I realized that I when I went to bed that night I was certain to be visited by monsters as I slept, and surely a stuffed animal wouldn't hurt.

By the time I was finally sure I'd packed all the necessities, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I glanced at the clock in the hallway on my way out the door for the final time, and was startled to see that it was almost two o'clock, five hours since I'd left the house that morning.

I was shocked at how much time had passed, and realized that I must have spent longer huddled up on the sidewalk than I'd realized. My head swam momentarily as I remembered what I'd spent all day trying to forget, and Sebastian's coal black eyes flashed into my mind. I swayed slightly and had to reach for the doorway to steady myself.

Conner was by my side in an instant, his hand under my elbow, always ready to catch me if I fell. "Stella?"

"I'm fine," I mumbled, regaining my balance. "It's all just..." I searched for the right words, but couldn't find them.

"I know," he said, sighing. I could see that he was worrying about what he'd told me earlier, but I'd been trying not to think about that almost as much as I'd been trying not to think about Sebastian.

After all my rushing to get packed, I was suddenly reluctant to leave with Conner. Some small portion of my mind was still holding onto the possibility that this was all some elaborate joke, but whenever I dared to hope that, the image of Sebastian's face flashed across my vision and I knew that it wasn't.

I pulled my elbow from Conner's grip, trying to escape his suddenly overwhelming concern.

"I think I just need a bite to eat," I said, turning back into the house.

"There's food in the car." he said impatiently, glancing at the clock as I had a just a few moments before.

I nodded resignedly, trying to keep the pout off my face. I followed him obediently as he led me back outside and winced as I heard him lock the door behind us.

"Conner," I began, suddenly desperate not to take another step away from my home.

"It's the only way I can keep you safe," he said, answering the question I'd been about to ask. "This isn't up for debate, Stella. I'm taking you away from this town whether you want me to or not."

My heart sank at the finality in his voice, and the walls I'd managed to keep my sorrow behind until then threatened to crumble. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak without bursting into tears, and stumbled across my front lawn without looking back. Conner passed me, carrying my bags to an old black Ford that was parked across the street, throwing my things into its bed before climbing into the backseat.

I stared at the unfamiliar vehicle for a moment before I recognized the driver as the boy who had been with Conner when he'd found me earlier. I'd forgotten entirely about the two strangers until now, and I paused before opening the door, looking to Conner for any further explanation. He just nodded absently, his attention on the street outside. I hesitantly opened the door, sliding onto the backseat next to Conner. The driver turned in his seat to smile warmly at me, his messy blonde hair and blue eyes making him look like he'd be well suited to a swimwear catalogue.

"William," he said, reaching his arm around his seat towards mine.

"Stella," I replied, returning his smile tentatively and quickly shaking his hand.

I turned to look at the girl in the passenger seat; a lean blonde with high cheekbones and furious cold blue eyes. Her upper lip curled back as she stared at me, her expression full of unvoiced malice. I recoiled unintentionally, pushing myself backwards into the seat.

"That's Olivia," William said, rolling his eyes. "You'll have to forgive her for her rudeness. Usually she can at least manage civility." He shot what looked like a warning glance at the woman, but she ignored him and continued to stare furiously at me. I just shook my head wordlessly at him, stunned by the unprovoked venom in this woman's glare. I wondered what I could have done to incite such hate in someone I had never met before.

"Olivia," Conner barked from beside me, his voice angry.

Olivia turned her stare to him, the fury in her expression softening noticeably. She rolled her eyes at him and turned around in her seat to face forwards, and only when I felt my muscles relax did I realize how tense they had been.

"Ignore her," Conner said, making no effort to keep his voice down.

Olivia laughed from where she sat, but there was no humor in the noise.

We sat in uncomfortable silence for several minutes, and I wondered why we weren't going anywhere. William kept looking back towards Conner, as if waiting for something.

"Are you sure about this, Conner?" he finally asked, glancing apologetically in my direction. I chewed the inside of my cheek and leant my head against the window, staring out into the street.

"Yes." Conner's tone made it obvious that the subject wasn't open for discussion, and William finally started the car's engine.

I was still staring out the window when I heard the familiar hum of my mother's car pulling into the end of the street, and I gaped in horror at her outline through the windscreen, returned home early from work. I heard Conner curse beside me before urging William to hurry.

I watched my mother's car pull into our driveway, and fought desperately to hold the cracked walls in place that were all that kept me from breaking down completely in front of these two strangers. I felt Conner's hand slip into mine as we drove away and bit back tears as I watched my house disappear from sight as we sped around a corner.

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