A/N: The song for this chapter is Beauty From Pain by Superchick. As might be deduced given the ending of the previous chapter and the song I chose, you’re in for quite a ride, heh. On that note, this chapter picks up directly from the last one (remember I said they flowed together as one mega chapter), so make sure you’ve read that one before picking up on this one.
Also, I posted this chapter in two parts because it’s pretty long and because it was easier on my poor lagging WordPress to do it that way. It also gives you the option to choose to read it in parts yourself, or all in one sitting, haha. Depending on when you’re reading this though, Pt. 2 may not be up–if it isn’t at the time that you’re reading it, know that it will be posted soon 😛
Enjoy and bear with me all. I’ve been so busy! o_o;;
The lights go out all around me
I let out a scream, the syrupy sweet voice sending a sharp stab of terror racing up my spine, but it was hopelessly muffled by Brandon’s hand clamping firmly over my mouth—just like in the nightmares that ravaged me night after night.
When Melanie had said I had an important visitor I’d never imagined—couldn’t imagine—
I began to sob; short, hysterical cries that I absolutely no control over. I could feel the fanged-beasts within my mind flapping their great, black wings in victory as they dove at me with gnashing teeth and tore me to shreds. I could barely breathe.
He let go of me, turning me around and keeping me in place with his hand wrapped firmly around my wrist. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” Brandon exclaimed as I desperately tried to free myself. He grabbed my other wrist, backing me up against the wall and pinning me there so that I could no longer move.
Another sob escaped my throat. “Stop! Let go of me!” I cried. “Please!”
Brandon’s ginger eyebrows shot up, a somewhat amused smile pulling at the corners of his lips as he looked down at me. “Now, now, is that anyway to treat your boyfriend, especially when I’ve come all this way to surprise you? I don’t know, gorgeous, haven’t I had enough abuse? You’ve been avoiding me for months.”
One last candle to keep out the night
“You are not my boyfriend!” I shouted, sickened by the mere thought.
His eyebrows remained raised, but the smile that’d been there a moment before faded, his mouth pulling into a thin, grim line. “So that’s your game, is it then?” he asked in a low, unamused voice. “Fuck ‘em and dump ‘em?”
“What?!” I exclaimed in horror, renewing my efforts to free myself. “You—I—I never wanted—” I panted.
“Don’t say you didn’t want it,” Brandon interjected with a hiss, slamming the wall next to my head and tightening the grip he still had on my right wrist. His light green eyes flashed dangerously, reminding me keenly of a Venus flytrap entrapping its prey with a vicious snap. I let out a pained whimper, tears streaming freely down my face.
“You agreed,” he continued, his face so close to mine that I could feel his moist breath. “You liked it too, don’t say that you didn’t. You kissed me…you gave into me…and you enjoyed it,” he chuckled, and then leaned in to claim his catch.
And then the darkness surrounds me
I wrenched my head to the side, fresh tears spilling from my eyes when his lips met my cheek instead. He clapped his hand over my mouth again, forcing my eyes back to his. “Hey!” he barked. “I did you a favor you ungrateful bitch! You had no one and I kept you company—your only friend. You owed me and you wanted to repay me for my kindness.”
I wanted to say no, I wanted to tell him he was wrong, but his hand was pressed firmly against my mouth and the fanged-creatures were flying at me again. I shut my eyes tightly, trying to drive them and his poisonous words out of my head. He was trying to mess with me—trying to twist everything! He’d pretended he was a friend—pretended to care only to take advantage of me as soon as he could! Nothing he was saying was true. He was awful, nothing but the worst kind of awful!
Shut him out, Jo. Shut him out, shut him out!
The door abruptly flew open. I felt my heart leap with hope, but Brandon took my moment of distraction to crush his lips to mine, causing the darkness within my mind to swallow me up and my stomach to give a nauseated turn. Whoever was in the doorway froze.
The taste of bile rose in my mouth and I kicked out frantically, gaining enough space to bring my boot right into his shin. Brandon let out a curse as his weight buckled underneath him.
I know I’m alive, but I feel like I’ve died
I seized the opportunity to scramble away, shouting at him through renewed tears, “You’re wrong! You took what you wanted! I told you ‘no’!” The back of my boots bumped into the decorative fountain, halting my steps. I covered my face with trembling hands, trying to calm the hysteria that threatened to consume me.
“Oh face it, Jade,” Brandon taunted, his face twisted with pain from his aching leg, “you’re nothing but a fuckin’ wh—”
“Don’t you DARE finish that sentence you SICK son of a bitch!”
I jumped in fright upon hearing the livid shout, taking my hands away from my face and then gasping at the sight before me.
Gabriel had Brandon pinned against the wall with his forearm pressed hard against his throat, his other hand clenched tightly in a fist. Brandon let out a strangled gasp, clearly struggling to breathe.
For a moment I simply stared, completely in shock. The shout hadn’t even sounded like Gabriel, nor, I realized with a start, did he even look like himself; his russet eyes had darkened into deepest shades of taupe and a furious look was etched upon his normally calm face. Brandon, meanwhile, was beginning to turn an unsettling shade of purple.
“Gabriel….” I said weakly. He gave me the briefest of glances before gritting his teeth and loosening his hold. Brandon took in a huge breath of air, coughing and backing away.
“What the fuck, man?!” he choked out, rubbing his throat.
“I should be saying the same thing to you,” Gabriel shot back darkly, his hands balled into fists by his sides.
Brandon looked from him, to me, and then let out a short bark of laughter. “Oh, I see,” he said in sudden realization. “Pop princess Jade is dating her sound guy. God, that’s funny. That’s really fucking funny.” He let out another quick laugh, shaking his head and glancing at Gabriel. “Yeah well, you have fun with my sloppy seconds there, man, like I tried to say earlier, she’s a fuckin’ wh—”
WHAM! Gabriel’s fist collided with the side of Brandon’s face so fast that if I’d blinked, I’d have missed it. I let out a startled scream, watching as Brandon fell to the ground from the sheer force of the punch.
“I told you,” Gabriel began with a growl before descending upon Brandon again, “NOT to finish that fucking sentence!” he shouted and then punched him again.
“Get OFF me you—”
“I BET THAT’S WHAT JOANNE SAID BEFORE YOU FUCKING FORCED YOURSELF ON HER ISN’T IT!? ISN’T IT!?”
And all that’s left is to accept that it’s over
The door flew open again, only this time it was Melanie, a blonde security guard and, to my surprise, Ryan, who took one look at Gabriel, cursed, and ran over to him.
“What the hell’s going on here?!” Melanie shrieked, but no one seemed to pay her any mind because they were too distracted by the two men grappling on the floor.
“Stop, Gabriel!” Ryan exclaimed.
Gabriel didn’t seem to have noticed that anyone else had entered the room though, instead shouting, “I swear if you ever even think about going near Joanne again I’ll break more than your nose you sick fuck!”
“Come on,” Ryan urged again, yanking his friend back now. I half-expected Gabriel to hit him, so furious he seemed in that moment, but instead he backed off, breathing heavily as he allowed himself to be led away. Brandon rolled onto his side, groaning and holding his nose, which was bleeding heavily.
“Back off,” Ryan snapped at the security guard who immediately came up to them. “It’s the one on the ground you want.”
“I beg to differ!” Melanie cut in shrilly, pointing at Gabriel with a shaking hand. “That man attacked Mr. Hart!”
“Didn’t you hear the shouting?!” Ryan bit back incredulously. “Brenda attacked Joanne first—Gabriel reacted, now back off,” he added firmly. The security guard had been inching toward them again.
Melanie made spluttering noises while the blonde man frowned, seeming confused as to who was telling the truth, but when he caught my brief nod of confirmation he hurried over to Brandon, who was trying to scramble to his feet and make a break for it.
It was difficult to pay attention to the chase though because I kept glancing over at Gabriel, who now looked positively sick to his stomach. Ryan said something to him and he responded in a low hiss, which seemed to launch a hushed argument between them. I couldn’t make out a word they were saying because Brandon was shouting nonsense about “false accusations” and “abuse” while Melanie was calling him an “idiot” who had “done everything wrong.” I might have paid their conversation more attention at that point, but Gabriel suddenly lost his temper again, kicking the armchair next to him and inadvertently distracting everyone.
“It’s just like last time!” he shouted.
“No, it’s not! Look!” Ryan replied loudly, gesturing over at me. “She’s okay! Joanne is okay. Do you see that? It’s not like last time! You prevented it! You helped her!”
Gabriel ran his hands roughly through his chestnut hair, seeming not to have heard his friend. “It’s like I’m fuckin’ cursed or something!”
“You don’t believe in curses,” Ryan hastened to remind him.
“Well I don’t know now!” he yelled in response, looking as frustrated as ever. Ryan said something else to him that I couldn’t quite make out and Gabriel shook his head, looking as if he was breaking apart. My heart gave a painful lurch and I moved to go to him, but Ryan caught my eye and gave his head an almost imperceptible shake. I halted mid-step, watching as he led Gabriel out of the room, voices hushed so that once again I could not make out the words.
“Real winner you chose there,” Brandon said with a sneer, his arm wrenched behind his back by the massive security guard, who looked none too pleased with his prisoner’s escape attempt.
“Shut UP!” I shouted, and then kicked him in the side.
“Hey!” Melanie interjected as Brandon let out a cry of pain. “Don’t—”
“Don’t you fucking tell me what to do!” I cut her off with a shriek, rounding on her. “Don’t you EVER again tell me what to fucking do!”
Melanie gaped like a particularly stupid tuna as she tried to think of a response, but I didn’t even give her the chance to speak before I raced out the door in search of Gabriel.
Neither he, nor Ryan, however, were anywhere in sight.
* * * *
My dreams ran like sand through the fists that I made
“I need to talk to you.”
It was late when I received the text from Gabriel, the sun having long disappeared beyond the horizon. I walked along the snow-coated sand, my heart beating hard in my throat as I trekked down the slope to the shoreline, where we’d agreed to meet up. The text was innocent enough on its own, and I was glad that I’d finally heard from him, but it filled me with a sense of foreboding that I could not shake off no matter how hard I tried to reassure myself that everything was fine.
“Shit!” I hissed as I nearly slipped, wind-milling my arms to catch my balance. My heart raced now, adrenaline coursing through my veins. I took in a steadying breath, slowing down my pace. The weather had warmed a little today, causing the previously hard snow to soften and making travel that much more dangerous. My sense of foreboding grew greater still.
When I first made it to the bottom of the hill I didn’t see Gabriel at all, but as I scanned the shoreline I found him silhouetted by the water, staring out to sea. I stuck my hands into my pockets, trying to keep them from trembling as I made my way over to him. As I neared, I realized that he could probably hear me approaching, but he kept his gaze fixed upon the water, languidly smoking a cigarette.
I blinked, unable to decide what about the scene was the most unsettling. I’d never seen him smoke before….
Letting out a breath, I came to stand beside him, but still he said nothing. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, my palms beginning to sweat. I wiped them on the insides of my gloves, trying to think of something to say. The only statements that came to mind though were ones regarding the health risks of smoking and I had the distinct feeling that was the last thing that Gabriel wanted to hear right now.
Still, I had to say something, so finally I settled on: “I didn’t know you smoked.”
Gabriel’s jaw clenched, his first acknowledgement at all that I was present. “I don’t—typically,” he answered quietly. He brought the cigarette to his lips again. His right hand looked like it was hurting him. I looked away, my gaze now on the ocean. Tiny, frothing waves were creeping their way up the coast before being pulled back out again by the relentless, gravitational tug of the moon. Words eluded me once again.
“I apologize for my behavior earlier,” he added after a time, sounding much too formal.
“Don’t be,” I said quickly. “Your friend was right—you saved me. You got him away from me.”
“You seemed to be doing okay,” he remarked, his voice sounding for a moment like himself.
I smiled a little at the memory of bruising Brandon’s shin. Apparently I’d kicked him so hard that I’d even broken the skin. “I kicked him again, you know, after you left,” I said triumphantly.
Gabriel smiled faintly, but it soon disappeared, a deep sullenness returning to his features. “He hurt you before,” he tried to ask, but the words came out as a statement. I nodded regardless, absently kicking at some snow.
“Your nightmares?” he guessed; this time asking as he glanced over at me for the first time.
I try to keep warm, but I just grow colder
I nodded again, my eyes burning. “That night,” I told him in a hushed voice. “The night you found me…when you called my dad.” I hugged myself, feeling cold. Although it had warmed up a little, an icy mist still hung in the air, chilling me thoroughly.
He winced, looking back out to sea. His hands seemed to be shaking now. “God,” he whispered.
I glanced up at him, my palms growing sweaty again despite the temperature. “You…knew someone?” I started haltingly, remembering his words to Ryan earlier. “Someone who…who’d been….” I trailed off as Gabriel tensed up beside me, glancing at him anxiously.
He took a pull from his cigarette and then breathed out slowly, gray tendrils of smoke escaping his mouth and floating upward in the night. If he’d looked pained before, the look on his face now could only have been described as ‘tortured’. My stomach gave an uneasy twist as a feeling of regret washed over me. I shouldn’t have asked.
“Yes,” he answered stiffly. “My wife….” He cleared his throat and then corrected, “My late wife.”
I let out a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding, but I didn’t even have time to process this information because Gabriel was speaking again, his voice as subdued as ever, gaze transfixed on the horizon.
“We were married straight out of high school, you know, but it only lasted two years before she left to go home one night and found her way interrupted by a sick group of bastards who raped her, slit her throat, and left her half-naked in the back alley of a decrepit Thai restaurant. It was over five years ago, but it still feels like it was yesterday.” He threw his cigarette into the snow, stamping it out with the toe of his shoe.
“Her name was Daisy,” he said then, anguish marking his every feature, “and I can’t let it go. I can’t let her go.”
I feel like I’m slipping away
My heart seemed to have detached, sinking low in my chest and occasionally giving out a dull pulse. Everything made so much more sense now, but the truth of it all was so disquieting that I almost found myself wishing I hadn’t learned it. I struggled to find the right words to say—‘I’m sorry’ felt so pathetic. I could not even begin to fathom his pain.
“God, this really isn’t fair to you, is it?” he whispered brokenly.
I froze, eyes locked on the small, helpless waves attempting to inch back up the shore. I did not know what to make of this ominous pronouncement. “What are you saying?” I asked in a hushed voice.
“I’m saying that…that I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” Gabriel clarified in a strangled voice, running a hand roughly through his hair. “And it—it has nothing to do with anything that happened today or before. I’ve been thinking this. I—” He glanced over at me, looking more anxious than I’d ever seen him. “Christ….Joanne, whenever I’m with you I feel…happy, but I also feel so goddamned guilty and that’s so fucked up—so unfair to you. So…wrong.”
It was as if a black hole had suddenly opened up inside me, hastily crushing every fiber of my being. I was all too familiar with this destructive train of thought. I turned toward him, hot tears already blurring my vision.
“Don’t,” I whispered through the lump in my throat. “It’s not. It’s…it’s understandable, Gabriel. Don’t give up on this. Please don’t. I—I told you, I can go slowly. I can give you space, I can—”
“Joanne,” Gabriel interrupted sadly, looking at me with a dismayed expression on his face. “Do you even hear yourself? It’s all so unreasonable.”
“No it isn’t!” I blurted out, stepping forward and grabbing onto his arm. “It isn’t unreasonable at all because—because I love you, Gabriel!” I admitted with a sob. “I love you so much!”
The look that he gave me following my confession was so tragic that I felt everything in me shatter to pieces, making it that much easier for the black hole to devour me.
“Jo….” he whispered.
“You don’t have to say it back,” I hastened to inform him, my hands gripping his arm more firmly than ever. “I understand completely—I swear it, I do! I love you. I love you more than anything and I’ll—I’ll give you anything you need, I’ll—”
“Please stop,” he interrupted, the look on his face more pained than ever. He gently took my hands off of his arm. They hung limply at my sides as I stared at him, despairing. “Jo, I hate seeing you beg like this. It’s so fucking messed up—it really is. So please just…respect my wishes.”
The black hole had completed its destructive purpose. Numbness replaced every sensation in my body, leaving me feeling interminably empty. From somewhere far along the beach, I could hear children laughing, parents telling them to come back because it was getting too late. The whooshing sound of the ever creeping and ever rescinding waves hissed in my ears.
After all this has passed, I still will remain
I looked up at Gabriel again—looked up at this man who I loved beyond what words could accurately describe. He was my comfort. He was my happiness. He was my best friend and he meant everything in the world to me. I could feel my heart beating ever so sluggishly. Oh god….
“Would that make you happy?” I asked in a voice quite unlike my own. “That is, if I let you go? Because that is the only way I’ll do this, Gabriel. If my letting you go truly makes you happy…then I’ll do it.”
Gabriel let out a sharp breath of air, briefly struggling before he shakily answered, “I don’t—I don’t know….I—Joanne….” His voice trailed off, the look on his face pleading.
After I’ve cried my last, there’ll be beauty from pain
I shook my head unhurriedly; stood calmly and waited. “You have to say it. I have to hear that it will make you happier. That’s all I want for you.”
Gabriel shut his eyes tightly and reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. He was silent for a long, agonizing moment, and then he said, quietly, “I’ll be happier if you let me go.”
I stared incredulously, breaths coming out shallowly. A gust of wind picked up my hair—tugged at my coat. It was so cold.
I cleared my throat, suppressing the urge to scream. “Okay,” I told him faintly, and then made my way back up the slope, blue boots slipping in the frost-covered sand.
* * * *