Stuck In Reverse
John followed along behind his new roommate, feet feeling like lead as they headed down the hallway Dante had told them led to the living area of the compound. Passing the war room, Acheron's words from earlier drifted back to torment him.
This is a way of life... and a family.
John wasn't sure he knew what that word meant; family. He had never had one himself and figured what you didn't know you couldn't miss. At least that's what he had told himself every time the loneliness of his life had threatened to snuff him out. If he had had memories of being wanted, being loved, he wasn't sure he would have survived. What he was sure of was that joining the order had been like a second chance for him, and he had already blown it.
Standing in that graveyard alone, he had felt so confident. None of these people knew him. He was walking in with a totally clean slate. He could be anyone he wanted, just so long as he didn't let the old John get in the way. And no way, no how was that going to happen!
But sure enough, at the first creak of someones foot hitting the gazebo stairs, that familiar shiver of fear had spread its traitorous fingers through him, making his heart thunder and throat squeeze shut. Oh yeah, the old John was back in all his foot shuffling, word mumbling, eyes on the floor glory before the new one had even drawn breath.
John closed his eyes tight in frustration. He was so angry with himself! Why couldn't he just...
He had to put the breaks on fast to keep from colliding with the... well, mountain that had suddenly appeared in front of him and Quinn. The mountain was easily six feet six inches, slicked back dark brown hair left rugged, chiseled features exposed. John felt an overwhelming urge to run as he was nailed by the coldest, most menacing eyes he had ever seen.
The man was without a doubt a killer. Even standing still muscles rippled over ever inch of his body. John wouldn't be surprised if this guys eyelids had six packs.
"Um, isn't Lou Ferrigno dead?" Quinn said in a half whisper that might as well have been a scream since the guy was practically standing on their toes he was so close.
John tried to swallow the nerves that were trying to crawl up his throat. Is he nuts?! Definitely suicidal. The mountain growled. Seriously. Growled.
"Hunter." Acherons voice hung heavy with warning. "Let them by."
Hunter, as the mountain was apparently called, glared at the two of them for what felt like a lifetime before stepping to the side and stomping off down the hallway muttering something about stupid ideas. John let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding.
"Dante..." Acheron said sounding tired.
"Well, he is."
Acheron turned to him and Quinn, clearly not interested in continuing that line of conversation.
"Take a seat guys. You've, uh, met Hunter now. That only leaves our chef du jour over there. Say hi Nathaniel."
"Hi. Hope you guys like Falafel."
When John looked at Nathaniel he felt like he was enveloped by a blanket of calm and well being, the complete opposite of what he had felt from Hunter, and found himself smiling despite his nervousness at being surrounded by people he hardly knew.
You would think that when he had turned, in those first couple days when he had been alone and didn't know what was happening to him, that his sudden inability to be in direct sunlight for more than half an hour before his skin began to blister would be the most distressing change. Or being able to hear the blood flowing through peoples bodies and it making his mouth water and his body double over with hunger pangs. But no. It had been the overwhelming assault of other peoples emotions that had caused him to curl up on the floor in a corner of his apartment, unable to think or function in any way.
Having missed three days of work, something John never did, the people from Sanctuary who had been keeping tabs on him became concerned and decided to check up on him. They had found him on the floor, cold, hungry, basically a wreck, and taken him to a large estate outside of town. There they explained what was happening to him, helped him get through it. He learned to shield himself from the emotions, control which ones he let in. He learned a lot of things about who he really was. Some things he was still having problems accepting. Time, they had said. Just give it time.
John made a note to himself to hang out around Nathaniel as much as possible, hoping he would be one of the instructors.
"So, you were told earlier that your questions would be heard. Now's your chance.
"Um, well really, what I was wondering most... I mean I know the Order hunts Rogues to protect everyone, but like... how did it start and, well, what is the Order, more specifically... like..." John trailed off.
Well gee, could you have sounded any more stupid? Nope. Awesome.
"Good question. Starting at the beginning makes sense."
"In a galaxy far, far away," Gideon jumped in. Dante chuckled, Nathaniel smiled, while Acheron just rolled his eyes.
"As I was saying, it was around the beginning of 1700 BC. Our people were living in large settlements along the Hebrus river near what today is Plovdiv, Bulgaria. We had lived there peacefully, keeping mostly to ourselves for a long time. Controlling blood lust has always been a challenge for us. There have always been Rogues. But back then it was easier, because we all lived in one area, to police one another and deal with Rogues within each clan or settlement.
Perhaps we had stayed in the same place for too long, boredom being a familiar enemy of our kind, because the people of our largest settlement of almost four hundred had become restless. When the leaders of that settlements clans came and told us they were leaving and moving south, it was a shock. Our people had never been separated, always staying within a couple hours travel of one another. The arguments were fierce, but quickly it became clear their minds were made up and they would not be swayed."
"I went to their settlement after word came that they had indeed left. Standing in the middle of what had been a busy market the last time I had been there only four months earlier... alone. Even their Blood Families had gone with them. The silence was... devastating. It felt like a betrayal of everything we had worked to build together; a safe home, now broken.
Acheron paused, his eyes distant as if he were remembering a painful moment.
It was almost a year later when Pia and Themik, two of those who had left, staggered through our gates and collapsed, exhausted and starved. It took days for the women to recover enough to make sense and tell us what had happened."
"When the settlement left they had followed the Hebrus river down to the sea port of Enus where they procured ships to sail them south to Tyre, in the area of todays Beirut, where they then planned to travel inland to the legendary city of Damascus. The plan had been to settle somewhere near the city that was known for its trade and beauty. But when they disembarked at Tyre they were in for a shock. None of us had ever travelled that far south before. None of us had ever seen a desert before. The vast openness of it, the only trees huddled toward the ground as if being beaten by the sun. The sun, our biggest enemy.
They were only half a day into their first time in the tents they had brought to shelter from the sun during the day when it began to sink in what a big mistake they had made. But it was too late to go back, the ships were gone. The heavy canvas tents that up north were plenty of protection from the sun when placed under the sheltering trees of a forest, were barely adequate. It was as if the sunlight were fingers reaching in under the edges, stretching to get at them. Everyone had to huddle in the center together, which made the already unbearable heat even worse. The plan of living in the tents until they had built their new settlement wasn't going to work. They needed to find proper shelter as soon as possible. So they sent some of the Blood Families ahead to Damascus to procure adequate lodgings."
"Living in the middle of a human city was not something any of us would ever choose to do back then. Because we had always kept to ourselves, only interacting with small groups of humans like the Blood Families, we had not learned to deal with their overwhelming emotions. And to make matters worse the building of the new settlement was not going well. The ground was almost solid rock and even with their superior strength it was taking much longer to break ground and start building. Much, much longer. Everyone was on edge, tempers short. Fights broke out, something unheard of for us."
Acheron paused in his story, looking at John with a raised eyebrow.
"Do you have a question?"
"Um, yeah. You keep mentioning... Blood Families?"
"Ah, yes. Back then that is what we called human families who lived among us. In exchange for providing us with nourishment, we provided them with safety and a place of honor within our community. Nowadays, because there are more individuals than full families, they are called Providers. Okay?"
"Now where was I... ah. Before the first building had been erected, the first of them went Rogue. When the first two bodies were found, only a small rippling of concern had gone through the human population. Murder was not uncommon. When five more were found over the next two days, each one becoming more and more mutilated, fear and panic washed through the city. Building of the new settlement came to a stop because the emotions of the humans became too much for most of them to bear. Then two more of them went Rogue. After that they began to fall like dominos. To make matters worse, the city was so big and unfamiliar those who could still function had a hard time finding the Rogues and killing them. It wasn't long at all before some clans saw it was a loosing battle, packed up and left.
Pia and Themik's clan stayed. The two women watched as one by one their parents, brothers and sisters turned Rogue. By the time they made a run for it over a hundred humans had been killed while only a couple dozen of the now fifty some Rogues had been taken out. They left with nothing but a small tent and a few supplies, and started walking north. And that's what they had done for eight months.
We were saddened by the news and shocked it had all gone so badly. Those of us who had stayed had done so out of concern for the safety of our families. This... this spread cold fear through us all. What if the humans put two and two together, realizing the killings started shortly after a large group of strangers from the north had moved to the city? What if they captured members of the Blood Families and tortured them, forcing them to reveal what we were? Even worse, where we were? But even more terrifying, what if the humans weren't able to kill the rest of the Rogues? When they ran out of food, they would spread to other towns, other cities. Humans weren't stupid, they would figure out they were dealing with something unnatural to them. All of us were in danger.
So I stepped up, said we needed to send warriors south to clean up the mess our brethren had created. I got no argument. A week later myself and thirty three other warriors left with two of the Blood Families for Damascus. Thanks to the information Pia and Themik had given us we were able to prepare ourselves for being around large groups of humans, practicing to block their emotions out as we traveled. When we landed in Tyre... it was utter chaos. People had fled Damascus, desperate to get away. But the killings had followed them there. Reports said they had started up the coast in Sayda as well. A small group of us headed up there while the rest of us cleaned up Tyre, dispatching three Rogues, then started working our way to Damascus.
Killing people you have known for hundreds of years, even knowing that person isn't really in the body anymore and that they would thank you for it, doesn't make it any easier when your looking at them face to face and plunging a dagger into their heart."
Acheron paused again. It was clear the telling of this story hadn't gotten easier for him over time.
"It took over two years to hunt down all the Rogues. By the end we had traveled as far south as Sheva, north to Al Ladhiqiyah and across to the island nation of Cypress. Thousands of humans had died. Yeah, in case you were wondering where the Vampire mythology was really born, that would be it. Human looking monsters with fangs who only come out at night and feed on the blood of their victims. It... sigh.
By the time we got back home, we didn't have one. Fearing the worst had happened and we had been killed, all but one of the settlements had packed up and moved. In many cases clans had broken off to strike out on their own. All of them had gone north, east or west. Once again... our lives were changed forever. Heartsick, myself and fifteen of the the remaining twenty-one warriors who had survived to return chose to take it upon ourselves to protect the human world from the Rogues. Never would we allow another Damascus to happen. That was our vow. For thousands of years we wandered Europe, tracking down stories of blood hungry killers. As we came across others of our kind, some would join us. Eventually we had enough warriors that we were able to break into smaller groups and assign areas to each. As time passed this happened again and again until groups could be assigned to a specific city. And... that's about it. That's how the Order came to be. Questions?"
Quinn's hand shot up into the air like he was in school or something.
"1700 BC?! Thanks like... whoa man! How old are..."
Anything else Quinn may have said was drowned out by Gideon and Dante's laughter.
"Save your breath kid. Acheron's true age is one of the closest guarded secrets in the history of... well history. Of course, the fact that no one else is old enough to know how old he is helps. All he has to do is keep his mouth shut."
"Which, believe me, the man knows how to keep a secret when he wants too. I tried to get it out of him for years before I got smart and realized it was futile. You'd have better luck getting a nun to give you a blow job," Dante smirked.
"Okay guys, enough. That's just... ew," Acheron said, taking it all good naturedly.
"Yeah well, anyways. Today you can find a compound of the Order in every major city around the world. But this one here is the headquarters for all of them. Although we do protect this city, it was chosen because the clan here is small, thus the Rogue problems small as well. That leaves us the time we need to help the Order members around the world and take reports from them all to see if any increases in activity in different locations can be connected, a sure sign that the Rogues are getting organized. That is this compounds number one priority: to stomp out issues before they become issues."
"Nicely put Dante," Acheron said as he got up from the table.
"Speaking of reports, there's a stack of them waiting for my attention. John, Quinn, I'll meet you two in the workout room at 5pm tomorrow. Sleep well."
Everyone said sleep wells as their leader strode from the room.
"Well, I'm in the mood for some classic Bill Murray. Anyone else up for Caddy Shack?" Dante said as he got up and did the goofy gofer dance from the movie.
"Hell yeah, count me in!" Quinn jumped up and made a bee line for the lounge area after Dante and Gideon, the three of them breaking out into a chorus of "I'm allllright! Don't nobody worry 'bout me!".
"I think I'm going to turn in. It's been a long night."
"Okay John," Dante said over his shoulder. "Get some rest, tomorrow is going to be a busy day."
John turned and walked down to hall to the elevator. Alone. Of course.
And this is where I start isolating myself from everyone so that later I can moan to myself when people stop bothering to ask me to do stuff because I always say no. Agh!
His walk turned into a stomp as he clenched his hands in frustration with himself, but still didn't turn and go back to join the others.
"Damn it, come on John," he chided himself when he got to his room. "Don't be stupid."
You can't live your life afraid of everyone, of what they might think of you, of what they might do...
No. He wasn't going to think about that. This was his chance to change everything. These men, warriors, would train him and make him strong. He would be a warrior one day. And then he would never be weak or helpless again.
Quinn found himself watching the warriors more than the film. There was an easy camaraderie between the two them that made it obvious they had been friends for a very long time. Where Gideon would leave off on a line in the film Dante would pick it up without missing a beat.
It made Quinn hopeful, something he hadn't felt... hadn't allowed himself to feel, in a very long time. Family Acheron had said. The word had always meant something very different to him than what they had here.
It should have been perfect...
To say his family was rich would be like saying Michelangelo did an OK job on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They weren't rich, they were LOADED. And you would think that having no money worries would make for a happy family. So not the case. They probably would have been, if Quinn hadn't been born. Ah yes, the never ending quest for perfection that obsessed their people. His parents had held it in their hands for a short time; business success, a stunning home, personal beauty and a beautiful first born son. They had been the envy of all. Then Quinn had been born with two differently colored eyes, and it all began to unravel.
It was the rumors that kick started it all. No one in either of his parents families had ever had green eyes. So where had his come from? The gossip flew at lightning speed. Doesn't that business associate from France who sometimes stays with them have green eyes? What about that towel boy at the spa Lyani is always ogling, he has green eyes! It didn't take long before everything about the family had been scrutinized and picked at. Epherus spends so much time away for work its no wonder Lyani wandered. Not that its any excuse. To have so obviously cheated on your mate is sickening!
Nothing his mother had said in her own defense slowed the gossipers in the least. In fact they took her protests to be just a little too desperate. Eventually she stopped trying and turned to drink. Quinn couldn't remember a time his mother hadn't had a glass in her hand. He also couldn't remember her ever smile at him. Hell, most of the time when he came into a room she got up and left. He had lived his entire life in the same house as the woman and he hardly knew her.
His father had indeed been MIA most his life. Being the CEO of a global corporation, he had spent more time on jets and in board rooms than his own home. And when he was home he seemed to be stuck in angry mode the whole time.
In fact the only time Quinn remembered ever seeing his father smile was when he was with Kayla. Somehow his sister was able to melt that ice box his father called a heart.
As a kid, he knew he was an outsider in his own family, but didn't understand why.
Why should the color of his eyes, something he had no control of, be so bad? Why was he being punished for something he would gladly change if he could?
For a short time when they were little Jaden had played with him, oblivious to their parents hatred because they tried to hide it from their other two children. But once he started school Jaden had changed. The other kids had bullied him because of Quinn, where the first to tell him what a freak his brother was. Wanting to fit in and get the bullies off his back, Jaden had turned on Quinn, pushed him away. Defeated, Quinn had stopped trying to please everyone and withdrew into himself.
Elementary school was hell. Other kids lunches ended up dumped on him in one way or another on a regular basis. His pants were pulled down from behind, glue mysteriously ended up in his hair, he would find his gym shorts in the boys urinal. Oh yeah. Tormenting Quinn was the name of the game and all his classmates wanted in on the action. Thinking back on it all now, Quinn didn't know how he survived it all. It would have been so easy to give up.
Quinn was pulled from his thoughts as the sofa shifted under the weight of someone sitting down next to him. Looking up...
...he found himself staring into the face of the most stunning man he had ever met. Nathaniel. The first thing Quinn had noticed when he walked into the dining room and had seen the beautiful warrior was the way he moved. It was like music, graceful and smooth. Next, the eyes. They were an unusual shade of lilac flecked with silver. His skin looked like flawless cream with a hint of rose and his lips... just the thought of sucking and nibbling on that lower lip was making him hard. Something he definitely didn't want anyone to notice as he casually rearranged his his arms over his lap.
As much as the abuse he had taken as a kid had beaten him down then, as he got older the fear and shame turned to anger and a strength he never knew possible. Perhaps not the best combination for a rebellious teen out to make his family pay every day for the pain they caused him.
When he first learned about the whole hush hush bi-sexual over two hundred thing, he thought it was hilarious. Once he knew about it after overhearing some kids at school, it became so obvious. His mothers small group of female friends who played Gin every Monday afternoon and how his perfection obsessed mother would return home with her hair slightly messed and her clothes wrinkled. He had never been able to picture his mother sitting at a table sipping iced tea and playing cards. And that green eyed business associate from France, who's guest room Quinn had seen his father walk out of with a rare smile on his face a couple times. If only the gossips knew it was his father having the affair with him and not his mother.
Once he knew what to look for he soon realized they were all having affairs; straight, gay, bi, threesomes, foursomes, orgies. But God forbid anyone ever talk about it! The picture of perfection was husband, wife, son and daughter. In polite conversation gay or bisexual relationships were frowned upon and not encouraged. In other words, if you went public you were ostracized from the community as Quinn had been, shut out and humiliated.
Quinn found it all pathetic and didn't give it much thought, filing it away as just more stupidity on every ones part. At least not until he met a human boy named Hayden who was clearly interested in being more than just friends with him. For Quinn, to go out on a date with the openly gay teen had just been another way to stick it to his family and all the haters.
Overhearing that a bunch of kids from school were going to the movies that night, Quinn had taken Hayden there, making sure they all saw him drape his arm over his dates shoulders. He could barely keep a straight face as he watched their shocked expressions out of the corner of his eye. He could just imagine the sniveling little rats scurrying back home and OMG you won't believe what Quinn has done now! But after the movie Quinn began to feel bad about using Hayden like that, so he put the payback on hold and gave his date all his attention as they grabbed a quick snack and then slowly walked back to Quinns house through the park.
By the time they were standing at his front door Quinn was truly ashamed of using Hayden the way he had. He really liked the guy. But just as he was about to do the right thing by simply telling Hayden he had had a good time and then walking away, he saw his dad looking furiously through the window at them. And just like that payback was off the shelf and back in action.
As he had expected, Hayden made his move, stepping in closer, his fingers gently brushing the back of Quinns before twining them together. What he hadn't expected was his own reaction. As the other boys lips brushed gently over his a tremor of excitement had shot through his body. Where he had thought he'd just make it a good show for his father, Quinn felt his lips parting at the first flick of Haydens tongue, opening wide to stroke his tongue over the other boys. It was confusion and excitement all rolled into one. He had made out with girls before and knew he liked it. But he couldn't deny... he liked this too!
Walking through the front door, his fathers tirade about Quinn being an embarrassment to the family had been as expected. But the joy he usually felt over provoking his father fury wasn't there. He was too busy thinking about Haydens kiss. Not thinking clearly he had smiled at his father and said At least I didn't have to wait two hundred years to know I like boys.
He may have done a lot of yelling over the years, but his father had never hit him before. Quinn knew he had found his fathers line... and crossed it.
Quinn glanced at Nathaniel. Just sitting here he felt heat burning him from the inside out. He would give anything to have that velvety auburn hair tangled in his fingers, that lean hard body shivering underneath him, on top of him, his moans of ecstasy in his ears. But, even if the man was interested, it would be stupid for Quinn to get involved with one of the warriors. They lived under the same roof, worked together. If things went badly, Quinn was the newcomer here and it would he his ass out on the street.
Don't be stupid. You have a chance at maybe something great here. Besides, a guy this gorgeous, not likely he's single. Yeah, don't even go there.
Quinn looked over as he heard someone walk past the lounge. It was the scary dude from earlier.
Hunter. Yeah, I bet he is. I sure as fuck wouldn't want that guy after me!
Dante was looking at the guy with a weird expression Quinn couldn't quite figure out. Earlier he hadn't held back on letting it be know he didn't like the guy.
"I'm going to bed." Dante suddenly announced even though the movie had been his idea and was only half way through. Rising to his feet he glared in Hunters general direction then strode off without another word.
"Whats the deal with those two? Why the drama?"
"No one knows and neither of them is talking. Whatever it is happened before they joined the Order. Kyrian, a warrior who was around back then, told me they both came this way. There have been a million theories over the years, from Hunter killing Dantes family to Dante sleeping with Hunters wife. My personal favorite is that as toddlers Hunter stabbed Dantes favorite doll," Gid chuckled, looking like he really hoped that was it. "Whatever it was, the sight of each other obviously reminds them of it. Your still young, so the implications of having a perfect memory of everything single thing that has ever happened in your life won't have sunk in yet."
"Isn't that one of the perks though?" Quinn couldn't think of anything wrong with it.
"Oh sure, in many ways it is. But when I say perfect, I mean perfect. When your remembering something it isn't just an image in your head. All the emotions you were feeling in that moment come flooding back too. The happiness and joy, and the pain and sorrow. Hunter and Dante clearly remind each other of something really bad. It may not even be something they did to one another, but that they experienced together. But the pain is there, real to this day every time they look at each other."
"Geez," Quinn had never thought of the memory thing that way. Gideon was right though. When he had thought about his father hitting him earlier, he had felt the sting of it on his face, the shock, the humiliation. Still... "Well... why don't you guys send one of them to a different compound, a different city then?"
"That would be the logical thing, wouldn't it? But sometimes Acherons decisions... sometimes its not always clear, the why behind his decisions? But, he's da boss man and, as warped as some of it seems at the time, he's always right in the end. Always. It's kinda creepy actually." Gideon chuckled.
Awesome. I've landed in drama central. I wonder if Dr. Phil makes house calls?