nothing left, now i'm feeling numb
The past month had been one of the most blissful in recent memory. In the thirty years he'd been on this planet, perhaps even in the many years before he was here, Jack couldn't remember ever being so disgustingly happy. He'd always tried to be the carefree sort, the man that looked out for others before himself. Love was something he'd read about, something that he'd longed for even when he'd been a kid in foster care. He wanted family, people all around him who cared about him, who he could care about, too. He'd collected a lot of those people, found those from a time long ago and forged lasting bonds with them. There were a few people he knew with every fiber of his being that he'd give his life for, that would do the very same for him. Those thoughts warmed his soul, but until recently there had always been something missing.
When he'd first seen Ivy, something about her struck him. It wasn't like it had been with Kizzy or Tate or Mikey or Lalita. No, it was something different, but similar. He didn't know who she was, only... felt it. She was something, someone, but he'd be damned if he could figure it out. He'd hired her, both because she'd been so determined and because his curiosity had gotten the better of him. He was glad he'd taken the gamble because not too terribly long afterwards she'd pulled him into her arms, kissed his face, and asked to have him. He'd known even before the first time she'd kissed him that she would be the one to sink him. Kizzy, his doggedly determined best friend, still hadn't any idea he and Ivy were together and while it pained him to keep it from her, he didn't want her to sabotage this, either. Ivy was special, she wasn't just some girl that had fallen into his bed for a good time. When she spoke to him he couldn't help but admire her, how hard she worked for what she wanted, how much passion and drive he saw in her face. She was easily the most beautiful woman he'd ever met, even if she kept secrets from him. They all had secrets, didn't they? Jack was going to share his with her and soon, but how? How do you tell your girlfriend that you could walk through shadows? Manipulate the darkness around you into a physical thing? How to tell her that this life was an echo of your last, that once upon a time you'd been a walking, talking skeleton? Every time he thought of it he'd buried his face back into his pillows, knowing he'd sound like a lunatic. Those closest to him, those who knew the truth, they accepted because they were like him, they didn't have to go on faith, they knew
it was true because they, too had lived it. What if Ivy, for all that he felt for her, all her familiarity and love, what if she thought him mad and left? Could he even blame her if she did?
Jack had been sitting on his sofa, feet propped up on an antique ottoman and a book in his hands that he hadn't actually read anything of for the past twenty minutes. He'd been lost in thought, gaze unfocused as his mind wandered to his current dilemmas. His life had always been strange and now was no different. Who the hell had to make the sort of decisions he did? He closed the book, tossing it onto the table beside him as he scrubbed at his face, groaning.
He didn't have a great deal of time afterward to contemplate further. He heard feet pounding along the steps towards his apartment before she'd ever reached the door. Jack turned to look at his front door, an eyebrow cocked. Fists banged against the door and he sprung up at the sound of his name cried through the wood. He crossed the living room in two steps, flinging the door open mere seconds afterward. Ivy threw herself into his arms and it was all he could do to catch her, gathering her into his arms as he leaned out of his apartment, looking down the stairway to see if anyone was with her. "Ivy! Ivy, what's the matter?"
There was no one to be seen, but he pulled her inside anyway, kicking the door shut behind him, locking it for good measure. If there had been something chasing her, he could handle it. If someone had hurt her, he would
He'd looked away from her for only a second to lock the door, but when he'd looked down at her, her face buried in his chest, his breath caught it his throat. Red. Ivy's hair was red. He'd known the black she'd been sporting hadn't been the true color of her hair, suspected that she'd dyed it or wore a wig, but to see her vibrant red hair now was like an electric shock to his system. There were memories in his head, so many of them fighting for their position at the front of his mind. Sally. Sally
Jack shook himself, sucking in a breath as her name, the name she'd once had, repeated over and over in his head. Later. He was going to have to deal with that later. Right now he had to deal with Ivy, whatever problem she had, whatever was terrifying her so deeply, he had to make the right first. Jack wrapped his arms around her, pressing her into his body. She was soaking wet. He leaned against the door, sliding down against it so that the two of them were sitting in a heap on the floor, Ivy gathered into his lap as he held her protectively. He leaned his face against her forehead, wiping damp hair from her cheeks. "Tell me what happened. I'll take care of it. I've got you, baby."
His voice was soft as he tightened his hold on her, his legs bent at the knees, pressed close to her so that she was bound up in his arms. Whatever it was that had frightened her, whatever had brought her to him in such a state, it damn well better not let him find it.
☠ CELINE A. DELACROIX ☠