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First pages

Reid

The numbers matched. He’d already checked the street at least ten times before walking down it. This had to be Julie’s house. Reid took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He wasn’t ready for this, but he never would be, and he didn’t have enough time left to delay and hope his future self would follow through. His future self likely didn’t exist beyond the next few weeks. He nodded to himself, opened his eyes, and rang.

The bell echoed in Reid's ears, ringing over and over until he couldn't hear anything else. Two spots, then three, danced across his vision, trying to blind him. He cringed and forced it all back, forced himself through the haze. He needed to be present. He couldn't afford an episode now.

He missed the footsteps approaching, but suddenly the door was open, and a man now stood in front of him. Definitely not Julie. Wrong house? Wrong house. It was a sign. He wasn’t meant to find Julie. Reid opened his mouth to apologize and leave, but the man beat him to it.

“How disappointing.”

His posh English accent caught Reid off guard, starkly out of place in New England. It shook him back to reality so that he really noticed the man. Ruffled brown hair that would have covered his eyes save its defiance of gravity. Hazel eyes that captivated despite their color, vibrant and unwavering. Porcelain skin pulled over a straight nose and angular chin. A magazine model, as beautiful as he was terrifying.

“Either you’re not the pizza man or you’re exceptionally good at hiding large boxes.”

“What?”

He looked Reid up and down, eyebrow raised, judging. And maybe he had every right to. The man was well dressed, his clothing pressed and well fitted. Meanwhile, Reid had worn his favorite sweater that hung maybe too loose (as most of his clothing did, nowadays) because he needed the extra comfort for support. He’d become accustomed to his appearance over the past few months, but he couldn’t help wondering now how sick he actually looked. He might have looked like a zombie, and Reid couldn’t blame the man for being disgusted at that. Yet the man’s expression stayed neutral, revealing nothing of his thoughts for Reid’s presentation.

Reid reach up to his ear, pushing his glasses up and tugging at his hair in the same motion. Self conscious was maybe putting it too lightly.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

Reid swallowed, unable to tear his eyes away, blood rushing to his cheeks. “Um… I think I have the wrong house, actually. Sorry to bother you.”

“Now,” the man leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms, trapping Reid in his gaze, “just because you have no pizza doesn’t mean you have the wrong house. I still wish you were the pizza boy, but…”

A voice sounded from inside the house. “Oh my God, Luc, who are you harassing?”

Reid’s heart stopped as the man, Luc, looked back over his shoulder. That was her voice. Unmistakable. The sound tore at Reid’s chest, anger and sadness and excitement and anticipation mixing together. He fought the urge to vomit as the mixture squeezed his lungs and stopped any air coming in.

“Not the pizza boy,” Luc replied.

And then there she was, coming up to the door, glaring at Luc, arms crossed. Oh that look. That look Reid knew so well. It terrified him.

Then her eyes met his, and she stopped. “Oh.”

Reid couldn’t manage a smile, so he lifted a hand. “Hey.”

Her expression of shock wouldn’t drop, her lips unmoving. Luc looked between them before turning back to Reid.

“It seems you have the right house after all.” He closed his eyes and smiled. “Anything else I can do for you?”

Reid frowned, eyes locked on Julie though Luc made a strong case for looking away. He didn’t have the words to respond.

Luc took the initiative, anyway. “Wonderful. Please, come in. We shouldn’t leave a guest standing out on the porch.”

With that, Luc turned to look at Julie, who still hadn’t moved, a deer in the headlights. He nudged her and she jumped. “Oh, yeah, right.”

Luc sighed, shoulders dropping, and headed back in. “I’ll put some tea on, then.” He stopped to look at Julie, eyebrow cocked. “Something warm since you seem to be frozen.”

She shot him a glare, so he bowed out with a smile. Mission accomplished. Julie turned with a nod for Reid to come in. Good enough.

“Earl Grey, please,” Julie said as Reid stepped in and closed the door. “Lots of cream.”

Luc stopped halfway into the kitchen. “Oh? You take cream now?”

“No,” Reid said. “That’s how I take mine.”

She remembered. Of course she did. She always complained about how much cream Reid put in as she dumped a mountain and a half of sugar in hers.

Luc smiled. “Alright, then. Why don’t you two take a seat in the living room while I get that ready?”

Julie nodded, the deer in the headlights gone, replaced by worry and… fear? Reid couldn’t tell.

“Yeah,” she said. “Sure. This way.”

She turned on her heels and sped off out of the mud room, Reid barely keeping pace.

“Right in here, pick anywhere you’d like.”

They stepped into a cozy yet worn living room, the walls not up to date with the modern leather furniture. Peeling wallpaper, yellowing with age, or simply not present, revealing dark, chipping wood underneath. It was at once charming and unsettling.

Julie took a seat in the recliner, so Reid went for the couch next to it, close enough without being overbearing. At least, that’s what he was going for, more for himself than for her. He had to keep reminding himself he wasn’t here to attack or accuse.

He couldn’t let silence fall, or he’d never get her to talk again. But she wasn’t ready for the conversation he wanted to have, and hell knew Reid wasn’t ready, himself. He was still taking her in, absorbing the fact that she existed, that all those years with her hadn’t been imagined. All those dates, all those late nights, all those intimate moments with no one else around, now felt like scenes from a movie he hadn’t seen in a long time. Funny how memories started to feel fake like that, after a while.

“So…” He tried to sit comfortably, but nothing was comfortable. He shifted until he realized how dumb he looked and stopped himself. “He seems nice.”

Julie pulled her feet up onto the recliner and wrapped her arms around her knees. She rolled her eyes and looked to the floor. “Yeah.”

“Are you two…”

“No. No, Luc’s just…” She sunk into the seat as her words became air.

“A friend?” He didn’t mean to be forward, but she wasn’t offering anything else.

She snorted and almost laughed. “Friend’s a nice word for it.”

“Partner?”

Her eyes flashed to him, deep caramel that used to be so full of life. Reid couldn’t help but stare back. “Reid, why are you here?”

“I wanted to see you.”

“Why?”

He tried to hold back the angry sigh that sprung from his lungs. It slipped out, anyway. “Why wouldn’t I? You’re the one who disappeared.”

He stopped himself saying anything else as the anger egged him on. No need for that. Exploding now would only make it worse. If Julie noticed, she didn’t react.

“But why now?”

“Why n… really? I spent a good portion of the past five years trying not to die. Hunting you down was not really top priority.”

Her eyes fell, body sinking into the recliner again. Reid tried to let the guilt override his anger, if even just to turn his filter back on.

“Right. I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re alright.”

He almost said it. He almost said “no thanks to you,” but he managed to bite it back and swallow it down. Not what he came here for. “Yeah, me too.”

Julie sighed and turned to look at her toes, angling her head slightly more towards Reid. “So, you’re here, you saw me, what else did you want?”

“I just want to know why.”

She shook her head. “Oh, Reid…”

Reid grit his teeth, trying to find something less aggressive to say than the thousand retorts that came to mind. He’d promised himself he wouldn’t tell her it had come back. He wasn’t supposed to be here to make her pity him. He missed her. So much, he’d missed her since she ghosted him all those years ago. But he knew he hadn’t actually come to ask why she’d left. What good would that information do? As much as he kept denying it to himself, sitting in front of her now, his intentions were so obvious it hurt. He’d come to bitch her out. To make her love him again. To make her beg for forgiveness. No doubt she knew this, too. His hands shook, and he wasn’t sure if it was the illness or the nerves getting the better of him. Likely both. Clinking porcelain broke the silence.

“Here we are, then,” Luc said, English voice carrying through the space and smashing the silence. “Tea from the earl. One with a mountain of sugar, the other a mountain of cream.”

Luc appeared next to Reid and handed him the light brown liquid in a cup and saucer. He handed Julie hers before sitting down with his own. How he’d managed to balance three saucers was beyond Reid, so he just took a drink and accepted it.

“Well, since no one else is talking…” Luc watched Julie until she looked up. “Am I going to get an introduction?”

Julie sighed and glared at her tea. “Luc, Reid. Reid, Luc. Satisfied?”

Luc remained unfazed by her brashness. “And how do you two know each other?”

Julie’s jaw locked as she took a deep breath. She let the air out slow before responding. “Reid is an old friend of mine.”

Reid snorted. Luc’s eyes darted to him an instant before falling back on Julie. “Just old friends?”

Reid refused to say it. He wanted Julie to do it.

Her shoulders dropped. “We dated for a while.”

Reid couldn’t help it this time, his anger and hurt getting the better of him. “A while?”

Luc continued, unfazed. “Why did you break up, if I may ask?”

Julie’s gaze darted to Luc, dark under the shadow of her brow. “Shut. Up.”

Her voice was dark, almost a hiss. It had been five years since Reid saw Julie, and even he knew that tone. A warning. If Luc knew Julie at all, he’d shut up. But Luc only raised his eyebrows and blinked, unperturbed. “Forgive me if I touched on a sensitive topic.”

“What are you even doing here?” Julie snapped, every word bitten off with venom. “Do you have any reason to be here right now?”

Luc didn’t flinch. “Where I’m from, we call it good hospitality. You should try it sometime.”

With that, he lifted his tea toward her in a toast and took a sip. Julie just glared. Luc sighed as he pulled the tea from his lips, eyes drifting towards the front door. “To be frank, of course, I’m mostly just concerned about our pizza not yet being here.”

“You would be.”

Julie pulled her tea to her lips, grabbing the mug so tight her hands turned white. Reid watched the mug return to the saucer, trying to find something to say. The bandage on her palm as she came away from the mug looked like a fair talking point. But Julie tucked it away before he could even open his mouth. When he turned back to her face, she was staring at him.

“I’m sorry,” she said, muscles relaxing, face dropping from tense to a sort of exhausted sad. “It is nice to see you again. I just wish the timing had been better.”

“Be honest,” Reid said. “Did you ever intend to come see me again? How did you even know if I was alive?”

Her eyes turned to the floor again. Like the floor made better conversation than Reid. “I knew you would make it. And I thought about coming back. Many times. It just… wasn’t the right time.” She looked back to Reid and tried a smile. It sort of worked. “Try me again in a year and maybe I’ll be ready.”

Now Reid turned to his toes, fingers wrapping tight around the mug, the heat not as painful as the conversation, trying not to let it rattle against the saucer. “That’s the problem, I guess. I may not have a year.”

Julie’s teacup clattered onto the saucer. Reid flinched. “What do you mean?”

He bit his tongue and admonished himself. He wasn’t supposed to bring this up. He was supposed to be trying to be a decent human being. “You know what I mean.” He waved a shaking hand through the air to disperse the tension. “You never know how much time you have.”

Julie’s eyes stayed glued to him and her body sunk just a little farther into the recliner. “Oh.”

“Are you quite sure that’s what you meant?” Luc asked.

Reid turned to him, the man’s unwavering eyes shrinking Reid to two inches tall. A shadow crossed Luc’s face as he examined Reid, waiting for an answer.

Reid stuttered to find a response. “Uh… yes?”

Luc kept scanning him, so Reid turned away, blood rushing his cheeks, making him sweat. This was a bad idea. He should have just stayed home. How to gracefully bow out was the only question he had left.

“So, what have you been doing?” Julie asked, shocking Reid out of his nervous sweat. “Did you go to school or…?”

Reid nodded, keeping his eyes on her as Luc’s bore into the back of his head. He didn’t like Luc, he decided. “Yeah, finished my nursing degree last spring. Took a little longer to complete what with the whole Court's disease.”

She frowned and turned away. “Right, yeah.”

Reid swallowed and admonished himself again. Not what he came here for. “Probably never would have tried the field though, if I hadn’t spent so much time in a hospital.” He tried a laugh, and Julie tried a smile. It was too painful to watch. “But, I mean, I love it. Anyway, how about you? What have you been up to?”

She shrugged and looked to her fingers, drumming against her mug. “Got an English degree a few years ago. Mostly just been freelance writing since then.”

“Oh? What kind of writing?”

She shrugged. “Journalism.”

Reid dared a glance over his shoulder, not quite catching Luc’s eye. “So, do you two work together?”

Julie bit her lip, but never got a chance to answer. The ringing started again, louder and louder until it deafened Reid. Spots danced in front of him, white beams as bright at the sun, hot and blinding. He closed his eyes against them, trying to act normal. Trying to act like this wasn’t happening. A vice gripped behind his ears and clenched, tighter and tighter, and Reid fought to keep control, to keep himself together. Deep breathing, calming thoughts. Deep breathing, calming thoughts. The calming thoughts never worked. It always turned into a messed up nursery rhyme he couldn’t remember the words to. Lately, London Bridge was his brain’s choice to bastardize.

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down…

“Reid?” Julie said. “Reid are you okay?”

The fact that he could hear Julie comforted him, and the muscles in his neck relaxed enough to ease up on the throbbing already present.

He took another deep breath and tried a nod. “Yeah, fine.”

“You’re not fine.”

He grunted, jaw clenching as her worry sent waves of tension up his spine.

In the Thames you’ll surely drown, surely drown, surely drown…

“Migraine,” he said. “It’ll pass.”

Grab her head and hold her down. Drown the lady…

He tried opening his eyes and a swarm of spots assaulted his vision. He blinked through them, their insistence turning his stomach.

“Do you need anything?” Julie asked. “Water? Ice?”

“Pizza?”

Reid could almost hear Julie roll her eyes at Luc.

Right on cue, the doorbell sounded, triggering the ringing in his ears. Not as deafening this time, but disorienting nonetheless. He winced against it, forcing his brain through the fog and back to reality. He broke free just in time to hear Luc’s comment from the front step.

“Well, this isn’t good.”

Julie grunted. “What now?”

“You should come see this.”

“Is it urgent?”

“Depends on how you look at it.”

Julie sighed and grabbed Reid’s arm. He tried to open his eyes again, catching a glimpse of her before the light became too much.

“Are you alright?”

Reid nodded.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, go.”

“I’ll be right back, I swear.”

Reid sighed. He wasn’t sure if he should believe her, considering what happened five years ago. Maybe he’d find himself in an abandoned house in a few minutes. The thought alone gave him the energy to stand up. Julie’s profanity shouted from the front door gave Reid the extra boost to reach his destination.

London bridge is burning down, burning down, burning down…

“I don’t understand,” Julie said, guiding the still foggy-eyed Reid to the door with her voice. “What’s it mean?”

“I’d be willing to venture a guess.”

Reid found Luc’s back before the two noticed he was there. Luc heard him first, and turned to make room, watching Reid stumble forward. Julie jumped and moved to turn Reid away, but he’d already spotted the pizza box in Luc’s hands, empty save a sheet of paper. Reid shouldered Julie off and leaned in to see what the note said.

And his stomach dropped.

“Special delivery: Recurrence!”

Julie

Julie grabbed Reid’s elbow and guided him back into the living room. His gasps for air turned her stomach as she set him on the couch. His eyes were wide and glazed.

“Did you notice anyone following you?”

Reid blinked though his eyes still appeared glazed over. “Huh?”

She tugged his hands, as if this would get his attention. “When you came here. Did you feel like you were being followed?”

But she could tell her words didn’t register. He just blinked, panic etching across his face. “Julie, what does that mean?”

There was no good way to explain it. “Reid, I need you to focus for a second.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“I don’t know! Reid, did anyone follow you here?”

“Who the hell delivers your pizza? Why are they delivering recurrence?”

The word stung, worse from Reid’s lips than from the note in the pizza box. Recurrence. Her shoulders dropped as guilt gripped her stomach. She’d known. Of course she’d known. Why the hell else would Reid have sought her out?

“It’s come back, hasn’t it.”

Reid swallowed hard but didn’t answer.

“Has it come back, Reid?”

Reid nodded. Julie tightened her grip and brought Reid’s hands to her forehead. “Goddamnit.”

Luc snorted, and she spun to face him, anger ripping through her chest m. He had no right to be indifferent, but his eyes remained flat, uninterested, uncaring.

Rage snapped the words from her lips. “What happened?”

He blinked. “It appears something happened to our pizza boy.”

“Who delivered it?”

Luc glanced at Reid before responding. “Not the pizza boy.”

Julie grunted and turned away, taking the hint but unwilling to act on it yet, mostly out of spite. “You’re useless.”

“Apparently.”

Reid swallowed hard, drawing Julie’s attention back to him. “Julie, what’s going on?”

Julie bit her cheek, anger making thoughts impossible to gather. Luc knew something he couldn't say in front of Reid. She didn't want to leave him, but she had to know. “I’ll explain later. I need to… are you alright, for a minute?”

Reid frowned. “Um…”

Julie stood up and rushed toward Luc. “I’ll be right back, I swear.”

With that, she grabbed Luc’s elbow and dragged him to the front door. She listened to make sure Reid wasn’t following before letting Luc go.

“Who delivered it?” she asked in a low rush of air, trying to keep her rage from amplifying her voice.

“I very much doubt it was the actual pizza boy.”

Julie hissed through her teeth, shushing Luc. “Then who was it?”

“I’ll have to confirm,” Luc replied, voice still barely a whisper. “But I’d say it was a patient.”

Blood drained from Julie’s face in a rush that left her cold. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been that. “Oh fuck. What do we do?”

Luc offered an indifferent shrug. “We could find out what happened to our pizza.”

Blood rushed back to her cheeks in a hot rage. Her fists clenched hard at her sides, trembling as she fought to keep her voice under control. “Shut up, I’m being serious.”

“So am I.”

Julie let out an exasperated grunt before marching away, making it to the end of the table before turning around. Thoughts didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense. “They know about Reid.”

“I think they’ve always known about Reid.”

“Goddamnit, why did he have to come find me now?”

Luc raised an eyebrow and glanced toward the living room. “I think that much is obvious.”

Julie sent him a snarl. “You’re not being helpful.”

“My apologies, did you want me to be?”

Julie’s jaw clenched tight, but she resisted taking the bait. She grabbed the chair next to her and leaned against it, her other hand grabbing her forehead. "They’re going to do something to him. Above and beyond what they’ve already done,” she added before Luc could. “But they’re using him, now. Using him to get at us.”

“Us?”

Julie shot him a glare. “If this affects me, it affects you. Yes, us. Goddamnit. We can’t let him go now.”

Luc let out a slow sigh, like this didn’t matter to him at all, but Julie was forcing him to participate. “Well, we shouldn’t stay here. They obviously know where we live, and judging by our absent pizza and delivery boy, they aren’t sitting idly back anymore.”

Julie cursed. “We need to get out of here. What do we do about Reid?”

“We could kidnap him.”

Julie’s brow dropped flat. “That’s a terrible idea.”

Luc let himself fall into the wall, leaning there. “It’s safer than letting him go.”

Julie groaned and turned toward the living room. “We’re just going to have to make it up as we go along.”

Luc sighed and followed her back to Reid.

Reid sat still on the couch, eyes glazed over as he stared at the floor. When Julie stepped toward him, his head shot up, eyes fighting to regain focus. Guilt gripped her stomach as she fought for words.

“I’m sorry, you just hit me at a really bad time. And you need to get home and rest. Can I call you a cab? I’d drive you but I don’t have—”

“Julie,” Reid said, cutting through her ramble with a sharpness in his voice, even as it shook. “Stop. What’s going on?”

“I… just have some things I need to deal with. I’ll find you later, I promise.”

“That’s bullshit,” Reid said, maybe to both statements. “Why are you so worried? What’s going on?”

His hand shook as it balled into a fist on his lap. He was scared, she realized. Admittedly, so was she. This message wasn’t meant for Reid. It was about Reid, sure, but it was meant for her. To let her know they knew how to hurt her. Guilt balled in her throat as she fought for enough air to speak.

“You don’t want to get involved. It’s just… not safe.”

Reid’s eyes grew even wider. “Are you in danger?” He paused a moment, face paling. “Am I?”

She wanted to lie, but the ball in her throat only grew. She shut her eyes and tried to swallow it down. But her hesitation only gave Luc a chance to fill in the silence.

“Quite likely, yes,” he said.

Julie opened her eyes and spun on Luc, shaking as rage and fear mixed in her chest in a roaring flame. He would do this, just to piss her off. Just because he knew she wouldn’t do anything in front of Reid. Luc didn’t even turn to her, eyes flat, disinterested, and fixed on Reid.

Reid’s voice almost squeaked as it came out. “Julie?”

Julie stared Luc down another moment before taking a deep breath and facing Reid. “You’ll be fine if you don’t get involved, okay? Please, let me get you a ride home.”

He shook his head, but it was halfhearted, eyes still wide and fixed on her. “Why aren’t you safe?”

Oh, how she wanted to tell him. Wanted to explain everything to him. Explain why she left him before. Explain why he was in danger, now. But if his Court's had come back, he had bigger things he was already stressing about. There was no point bringing him into this, save easing her own guilty conscious. So instead of answering, she ignored the question entirely.

“Are you still living with your Aunt? That’s a bit of a hike. I can come with you if you want, make sure you’re okay…”

Reid frowned. “Are you safe here?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But I just… I have some things I need to deal with. You need to focus on getting better.”

“Do you need a place to stay?”

She knew where this was going. Guilt gripped her again, but she’d kill herself later if she refused and something happened to Reid. Something she could have prevented, had she been there. “There are hotels nearby.”

“You guys can stay with me for a bit,” he said. “If you want.”

And the way he said it, she wondered if he wasn’t trying to hold her hostage until he got some answers from her. She couldn’t blame him. “Are you sure?”

He nodded and tried to stand up. She resisted the urge to rush to his side to support him as he wobbled. But he found his footing and straightened up, reaching into his pocket. “I have some extra bus tokens. It’s cheaper than a cab.”

More guilt, but there was nothing she could do about it. His kindness was wholly undeserved. “Thanks, Reid.”

Reid

They made it to the bus stop only a minute before the bus arrived, which was helpful in that they didn’t have to make any awkward small talk as they waited. But once on the bus, the three of them sitting across the back seats, there was no avoiding it. Reid refused to be the one to break the silence. He’d done enough today, already, and the remnants of his earlier attack lingered still. He rested his head against the window and tried not to pass out.

Julie gave in after five minutes. “So, when did it come back?”

Reid cringed and kept his head against the window. “Five months ago. It wasn’t bad up until last month.”

“What did the doctors say?”

“They don’t even know how I survived it the first time around. How the hell are they going to know what’s happening now?”

“No medical advancements?”

Reid sighed and shut his eyes a little tighter. “There haven’t been enough cases until recently to find any patterns. They’re just kind of… giving me shit. Hoping something sticks. I mean, add to that the list of new symptoms, they’re just putting bandaids on what they can.”

“New symptoms? Like what?”

Reid paused a moment, trying to think what he’d had the first time and what everyone seemed to have, now. “Sore joints, numbness, fainting. The doctors don’t seem to think so, but I firmly believe sleepwalking is an underreported symptom of Court's.”

Julie cocked an eyebrow with a small smirk. “Sleepwalking?”

Reid tried to smile, but his head hurt too much. “Hey, I never sleepwalked before this came back. I’m not convinced the two aren’t linked.”

Julie chuckled but a chill ran down Reid’s spine, returning the tension, forcing his eyes open, alert and aware. He turned, past Julie, to see Luc watching him eyes narrowed, head otherwise turned towards the front of the bus. Reid swallowed and shrunk back. Julie didn’t notice.

“Maybe they’ll find something soon.”

Reid snorted and turned away, stomach turning at the thought that soon wouldn’t be soon enough. “Yeah, maybe.”

They got off at the bus terminal and waited for the next 5 bus without much conversation. Despite the overabundance of bus routes in Suffolk, only the 5 came by Reid’s place. He was sure they could get close and transfer on one of the other busses that stopped, but he didn’t have the energy to try to decipher the maps.

The bus depot wasn’t more than a fifteen minute ride from Reid’s place, an apartment in a duplex. Reid hesitated to show them which place was his, second guessing his invitation to crash at his place. But this was Julie. Besides, they wouldn’t be able to stay long, anyway.

“I’ve a new roommate moving in,” Reid said, unlocking the front door. “Sometime next week.”

Julie nodded. “We can find a new place by then.”

Reid just nodded and showed them inside.

“Not much to it. There’s a bathroom right here and one at the top of the stairs. Kitchen’s through the living room. I only have the one couch to offer. I’d make the bed for you, but I don’t feel right giving someone else’s bed away.”

Julie nodded, stepping out of her shoes and glancing around. There really wasn’t much to look at. The entryway had an old bench for sitting on, at present covered in sweaters and a coat. A painting he’d found at the hospital fundraiser hung just above this, along with hooks where the sweaters and coat should have been.

He showed them into the living room, where there was nothing but a couch, a recliner, and a tv, aside from the side table and tv stand. He’d had a lamp when he first moved in. Not that he knew where he’d packed it.

“Hey.” Julie stepped up next to him, sliding her hand into his and squeezing only a moment before pulling away. Reid turned to her hand, confused a moment, eyes settling on the bandage wrapped around her palm, then turned back up. Julie tried a smile. “Thanks for doing this.”

Reid just nodded, still shocked by the touch. “Yeah, no worries.”

Luc stepped up next to them, and Julie cast him a glare. “I’ll take the couch tonight. You can sleep on the floor, if you like.”

Luc nodded, eyes scanning the room. “As you wish.”

Julie grunted and marched forward before gesturing back to Reid with her bandaged hand. “Come on, give me a tour. I have a bit of catching up to do and you need to tell me everything.”

Reid sighed and followed her. Not that she would tell him anything in return.

 

“So, any idea why someone’s sending you notes about my Court's?”

Julie sighed and brought the mug of tea Reid had made to her lips. The kitchen table was the only place Reid felt comfortable hosting. His couch was old and falling apart, the entire living room in need of a paint job, and the tv wasn’t hooked up to cable. At least in the kitchen, there were four chairs and a decent table to sit around, as well as a few more pieces of art he’d found at junk sales. If nothing else, conversation starters.

“I really shouldn’t drag you into this, Reid.”

“So you do know.”

She wrinkled her nose. “I have my suspicions.”

“What did you say your job was? A journalist?”

Julie chuckled. “Freelancer. I’m between jobs at the moment. This is… not work related.”

“Did you piss off a mob boss or something during one of your stories?”

Another chuckle. She looked down into her tea — a mountain of sugar, just as she used to take it — and smiled. “I just said this isn’t work related.”

“Everything’s work related to a journalist.”

She turned up to Reid, still smiling, though it wavered. “Fair enough. It’s my own personal project I’ve been working on since senior year in college. But seriously, I really don’t want to get you involved.”

Reid sighed and turned down to his own tea. “It’d be nice to know if some mob boss might come after me, now, for harboring fugitives.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Alex Fox lives with their partner and two cats in southern Maine. After moving from Prince Edward Island, to Nova Scotia, to Ontario, to Michigan, to Maine, they are not sure they’re ready to settle down just yet, and intend to travel until the bank account is empty. They enjoy reading, daydreaming about getting a dog, and playing classic video games because... nostalgia.

Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
The entire writer community on Twitter. They keep me going with their positive energy and constant support for each other. I’d be a mess without them.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I’ve always loved the fantastic, the supernatural, the magical. The idea that it’s real is simultaneously exciting and terrifying, and I love trying to capture that along side the mundane in my stories.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I’m increasingly convinced if I don’t write, I’ll die. I’m not ready for that.

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Fantasy
Hostile Takeover
Meet Death’s emissary on Earth.
Mage: The Guardian's Oath
In the harvest month, Clara was born. Again.
The Wrylin
Magic is in the eye of the withholder.