Remembrance: written by Kora Knight & Raven Foxx
"Who did this to you?"
Life somewhat back on track, Jazz walks out into the alley behind the pub of his day job to get some fresh air on his break. His triplet, Jared, accompanies him. Since his return from captivity, there's been a shit ton of tension between them. They haven’t really talk-talked since Jazz has been back, and that is beyond unnatural for them. Truth be told, it’s eating Jazz alive, but he just doesn’t know how to deal with it. So much had changed in the time he’s been away—with his life and his brother’s.
Jared is clearly feeling the same way, by the way his eyes keep flicking to Jazz as the two of them meander down the alley. He stops a second later and leans against the brick building.
Jazz looks at him, then shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “You got something to say, Jare?”
Jared frowns, looking him straight in the eye. “What's happening to us?” he asks, sadness clear in his voice. “Sometimes at night, I feel something radiating from you, something dark, but it vanishes just as fast as it comes. Like you’re, I dunno, like you’re shutting me out.” He tilts his head. “What are you trying to hide from us, Jaziel? And if nothing good comes from it, then why are you even doing it?”
Jazz swallows and looks away. He doesn’t want to talk about this right now. But of course, his brother persists. “Jaziel. Tell me what’s troubling you.” His tone turns stern. “And remember... you cannot lie to me.”
Jared isn’t going to back down. Jazz can hear it in his voice, see it in his suddenly steeled disposition.
Drawing in deeply, he assumes an identical stance to his sibling, leaning with arms crossed against the opposite building. Again, he meets Jared's eyes—and again he looks away. Still, he can feel the weight of his brother’s stare.
Groaning, he rubs at the back of his neck, looking down to kick his boot against the pavement. What on earth to say… “I'm just dealing with a lot of shit right now. Things I don’t want to think about, let alone speak of.” His eyes flicks to Jared’s, holding them longingly for the briefest of moments. They used to be so close.
Jared watches him, waiting patiently for additional explanation.
Jazz exhales and looks away again. “I'm not trying to hide shit from you. Hell, you’re the one person I can talk to, but...” He tiredly scrubs his face. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I'm afraid that—” He stops to growl in frustration, then shoves his hands back into his pockets. “That not only will I be unable to ever look you in the eye again, but that you'll never be able to look at me like you used to, either. And honestly, Jare?” He peers back at his brother, his heart straining with dread. “I couldn’t bear that shit. Not from you. It'd kill me.”
He pushes off the wall and resumes walking down the way. “So I've opted to err on the side of caution and just not talk about it all.”
Jared stares at him, frown deepening. Things are so much worse than he thought. When Jazz glances back at him, he catches the despair in his brother’s eyes.
Pushing from the wall too, he eats up the distance between them, then grabs Jazz by the arm and tugs him into his arms. “You’re kidding me, right? There is nothing, Brother, absolutely nothing you could tell me that would make me look at you differently. Both of us are struggling with these human emotions. Hell, I'm not sure what’s going on half of the time.”
He pulls back to look his triplet square in the eye. “But, Jaziel, if there is something I know for sure, it’s that I can count on you and Janel. You two are the constants in my life, always will be, but it goes both ways.” He gives a little chuckle. “Well, three ways, actually.” His smile quickly fades, though. “I’m so worried about you, Jazzy. And so is Sister.”
A few passer-byers glance their way. Jared can only imagine what they’re thinking, what with two males wrapped in each other’s arms, but he doesn't care. The way Jazz is clinging to him, he’d do anything to take away his troubles.
And in truth, since they rescued him from that underlord, Jazz hasn't been the same. It makes Jared wonder—but it also enrages him. He wants a name to curse, to blame, to hate. But Jazz hasn't so much as opened his mouth. Why?
“Brother,” he begins again, needing to understand what’s happening. “Are you afraid? Did someone threaten you? ‘Cause you know you’re not alone. I won’t let anyone hurt you again.”
Jazz shakes his head against Jared's neck, his fists clenched tight at his brother's back. “No, Jare. It’s not like that.” He keeps his face pressed to his sibling’s skin, breathing in his comforting scent. “I know you've seen how my wings have changed colors,” he mutters, closing his eyes. “Janelle, too. I've seen the looks you two shoot my way when we're flying. You don’t think I notice. But I do.”
Jared tenses in his arms.
Jazz chuckles softly. “It’s okay. I don’t blame you for not knowing what to think. How to confront me about it. Obviously, I don’t know how to talk about it, either. But what every one of us does know is what their new color implies.”
He pauses, suddenly unsure of how exactly to go on.
Jared prompts him to continue with a gentle caress.
Jazz groans again. “Some really fucked up stuff happened... down there. It’s a sick and twisted place. Even reality gets distorted and… and I was there for so long and... and they.... he... I....” He grips Jared tighter. “I'm sick inside, Jared,” he breathes. “I can feel it. Tainted.... and broken.” Turmoil shakes his soul. “And I think it’s making me crazy.”
Jared exhales, his heart breaking at the despair in his brother's voice. Others’ pain always affects him, but his siblings’ pain completely wrecks him. He steps back and takes Jazz's face into his hands. The contrasting sadness and worry in his eyes make him look even younger than he is.
Profound protectiveness burgeons in Jared’s chest. “Who did they do to you, Brother? Who did this?” He shakes his head. “Wait. You said him.”
Jazz instantly looks away, his features flushing as if he’s… embarrassed. Jared's heart shudders at the sight. His smartass sibling doesn’t do embarrassed—or ever feels the need to keep things private. But now, just the simple act of talking is distressing him.
“It's okay, Jazz,” Jared sighs. “You don’t have to talk about it. But if you truly feel you’re sick now, then we need do something about it.” He strokes Jazz's hair and smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He’s even more worried now than he was before. Still, he tries to lighten the mood, in hopes to change the bleak expression on Jazz's face. “And listen. Don’t worry about the wings. It’s nothing a gallon of Clorox can't fix.”
Chest clenching, Jazz feigns smile.
If only Jared knew.
He’s already tried to bleach them out.
Stepping back, he scrubs his face again. “Thanks for the pass. I just can’t articulate what happened right now.” Another dark chuckle. “Hell, I don’t even understand this shit myself.”
He shoves his hands back into his pockets and glances down at his feet. “But I don’t like keeping you and Nel in the dark. If the shoe was on the other foot, I'd be buggin’ with the need to know what’s up.”
And with that, he realizes he has to level with Jared. Dragging his eyes back up to his brother's, he draws in a fortifying breath. “While I was down there, I was put through a boatload of shit. Experienced a lot of really dark crap.” His eyes flick away, but he forces them back to his sibling. “It… changed me. On the most fundamental level, Jare.” He points to his temple. “In my head...” He points to his stomach. “My physical body...” Then he taps his sternum. “But especially here. Inside my heart. My soul.”
Jared frowns, shifting uneasily at his words.
Jazz drops his hand, and this time when his eyes turn away, they stay away. “I don’t know how to get back to the way I was.” A long, tense pause. “But the fucked-up thing, Jare, is that…” He pins his triplet with an eerie stare. “I don’t even know if I want to.”
Jared blinks, utterly confused. He knew Jazz had been tortured—demons are infamous for that kind of shit—and obviously it’s messed with his head. But Jazz’s explanation has completely thrown him. What did he mean, I don't even know if I even want to?
Evidently, his wings aren't the only thing not so white anymore.
He swallows a lump of dread. “Brother. Please. We want to help you. Janelle and I. But you have to tell us what’s going on so we can figure out how.” He steps closer. “You’re not alone. Don't let what happened do this to you. Like you said, they messed with your head, but your soul, Brother.... Your soul only you can change.” Another step closer. “Please. Just… let us help you.”
Jazz frowns miserably. His body’s aching from just thinking about all this shit, the very subject making his essence miss its drug. He’s been using his angelic power all week to stave off the withdraw pangs as much as possible, but to his dismay, it’s barely helped. Hell, just yesterday, he caved and tapped his own wrist, so damn desperate for even a second-hand hit.
He winces, his throat heating, his tense skin starting to crawl. Leaning back against the building, he holds his stomach and fights not to shudder. “Fuck, Jare,” he mutters, shaking his head. “My insides are so messed up. Ever since—” He stops himself before he says Seth’s name and quickly clears his throat. “The master of that realm… He created a bond between us. He’d feed from me. And then…. he’d feed me in return. To heal my body’s injuries.” He drops his gaze. “I drank his blood.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he watches Jared stiffen. He doesn’t say a word though, so Jazz continues with another pain-laced swallow. “I've become dependent on it. Like his blood is some kind of heroin to my system.” His own words make him wince. But, God, how they must sound to his brother.
Again, Jared steps closer, but Jazz holds up his hand. “Wait. I'm not finished. Just please, hear me out, ‘cause I don’t know when I'll ever have it in me to say this again.”
A more adamant shudder tears up his frame. Instinctively, he opens his mouth to pant through the pain. “It’s important you understand the way a feeding works, so you can grasp what I say next.” He licks his lips, hungry eyes staring into space. “Exchanging blood with a vampire—which is what he ultimately is—is very... intense.” He tightens his arms around his sides. “And… intimate. For both parties. Over time, the feedings became more frequent, even though the need for physical healing no longer existed. He gave freely of himself to me. And I took what he offered just as freely.” His lifted his tortured eyes to his brother. “Do you understand what I'm saying?”
Jared stares at him for what feels like forever. Of all the scenarios that could explain why Jazz is so miserable and.... gray—nothing he’s had in his head were even close. He gets what Jazz is telling him, and on some level understands. He has experienced intense feelings too, and those emotions had felt very much like a drug. But in reality, Jazz’s situation is so much darker than mere infatuation. It hadn’t started with free will. His sibling hadn’t been given a choice.
Instead, he’d been tortured, and then forced to—
Jared squeezes his eyes shut, contemplating the blood exchange Jazz spoke of, and how he’s now suffering because of it. Whoever did this to his innocent brother is guiltier than sin. An evil monster.
Squatting down, he places his hand on Jazz’s knee. “I understand what you’re saying, and you don't have to be ashamed. None of this is your fault. You don't have to carry the burden alone.” He lifts Jazz’s chin up and looks him in the eye. “We will get through this together, Jaziel. Like we have so many times before. In every kind of battle we have ever faced.”
Jazz shakes his head and starts to protest, but Jared stops him before he can speak. “No. Do not be ashamed for what has happened, or the way you feel.” To make his point, he pinched Jazz’s arm. “See? That's skin and bone. Utter carnality. Meaning we feel now. And this is still new to us, being stationed in this human plane for so long. So don't be embarrassed. Besides, our specialty—your specialty—is demons, not vampires. You need help on this one, Brother. Let us help you.”
It’s harder than fuck to do, but Jazz forces himself to hold his brother's stare, listening to him speak his piece. And it totally moves him. Jared's unwavering, unconditional acceptance, his love and understanding, humbles Jazz to his core. He isn’t surprised, though. Jared has always been the poster angel for ‘do not judge, lest you be judged.’
With a nod, Jazz sighs, fighting back another pained wince, and clasps his brother’s palm. Both stand in perfect unison.
Jazz forces a smile. “Thanks, Jare, but your support is all I'll need. The rest is shit I'm gonna have to fix myself. I’ve got a lot in my head I gotta get straight.”
Before Jared can respond, Jazz snaps his weakening arms back around him—as tight and as hard as he can fasten them. Burying his face against Jared's neck, he groans anew. “Thank you,” he murmurs, “for being the most amazing, incredible brother in the whole freaking world.”
When Jared squeezes him tight, Jazz chuckles—until a fresh wave of blood need hits. His teeth clench up hard.
He pants but tries to keep things light. “Guess that also makes me the luckiest brother in the whole freakin world.”
They hold each other in silence for another long moment, before finally breaking apart and heading back inside. It’s time to finish the remainder of their shift.
* * *
Standing at his high-rise penthouse’s bedroom window overlooking the bustling city below, Seth’s mind is on anything but the view. Instead, it is ironically on the angel he is to no longer see. It’s been a week now since Jazz ripped out his heart...
He’d truly had a heart?
He scowls bitterly.
Honestly. When had that happened?
With a shake of his head, he fishes Jazz’s parting gift from his pocket and studies it once more. Masculine, white-gold wings connected to a ruby rather than a body, that beckoned to wrap around his middle finger. It’s nice—he’d give credit where it is due—but to have received it in the manner which he had? It’d been no token of devotion, despite what the angel said. Seth’s lip curls. It’d felt more like a few bucks thrown to a whore before kicking her out, like a slap in the face.
Glowering, he balls his fist around the ring till it cuts his flesh, aching to throw it as far as he possibly can. But he can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he returns it back to his pocket, sighing as he recollects his angel's perfect face, the bittersweet taste of his lips. Never again will he taste them, feel them, relish in their softness.
After a full week of being alone again, the city begs him to conquer it, but he just has no desire to do so.
He turns and walks to the portal forming behind him. Entering it, he’s swiftly transported back to his kingdom. He can't be anywhere near his angel, not tonight. Three strides out the other side of the supernatural gateway and he is dropping down and sprawling out on his throne.
“Jazz,” Seth sighs.
He closes his eyes, only then allowing his mind to drift to a happier time—when his angel was beneath him, panting Seth’s name in earnest. His body tightens. His spirit quickens.
Angrily, his black gaze snaps back open, looking out over his minions of darkness. He’s lost the only true light in his world, the single thing that can bring him any form of heaven. No matter what he does now, there’ll be no reprieve for his soul.
His mind drifts again. In the short time Jazz had been in his life, he had known paradise. The angel had understood and accepted him. If only Jazz had fought harder for them. They could’ve had something real for themselves, could’ve known real peace. Hell, the angel had made him smile, not to mention laugh, for the first time in years.
The only other who’d ever done that was his mother.
His brow furrows darkly. Is his memory of her correct? Had she been funny… and kind? And why is he picturing such now, for the very first time? Her touch slides from the corners of his subconscious to comfort is soul, while the rest of the world around him seeks to betray him.
Scowling, he shakes the feeling away. It is nothing more than a construed, false memory. He knows damn well the woman hadn’t cared about him, remembering how the mere sight of him had always brought tears to her eyes.
It doesn’t matter even if she had cared. There is no saving those born to darkness, just like there is never any love lost—or for—his kind.
“Master,” a deep voice rumbles from the shadows.
Seth turns and eyes the snake-like creature with a look of boredom.
“How shall we please you tonight, Master?” The demon has obviously sensed his brooding mood.
“Die,” Seth whispers.
Sweeping his hand out, he curls it into a fist, then gives the thing a short, curt, violent twist. The reptilian male’s neck snaps, his body falling limp to the floor. A cruel smirk forms on Seth’s lips as the others lingering in the shadows flee, leaving him yet again in cold, silent solitude.
*Guest writer for Jared: Olga G.
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