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Jason Kline - Gangrel
The End is Near
“Pain and misery my only friend I raise a toast and I salute the end.”
Saliva - Holdin On
Damn it. I realized that I had forgotten a towel once again as I stepped out of the nighttime surf of the Pacific Ocean. The water was oddly colder than usual for early May in California, but that didn’t matter to me since I was naturally cold now anyhow. The elements no longer affected me. Well, except for sunlight, nothing affected me, that is.
I was the only one on the deserted beach at this time of night, which I guess was a good thing since I never wore anything during my nightly romps in the water, so I didn’t have to worry about giving anyone a show as I made my way over the cool sand. I also wasn’t worried about the authorities coming to kick me out, either, since this section of beach was owned by one of the Grel in the city who had given me permission to swim here whenever I wanted.
I liked it here on the beach. It was quiet. I didn’t have to listen to anyone’s constant badgering. How are you holding up? How long are you staying in town? When are you going to move on with your life?
Most of the questions came from Talon since he was about the only person I ever saw or spoke to. Some were from Brenda when she called from back in Salem at least once a week. Some were even from my sire, Luke, who still didn’t know that the “Powers That Be” had made me his progeny when they had altered me from my original Nosferatu state.
Regardless of the source I hated all the questions. Hated what they meant. Hated that they were proof of how fucked up my life had become. How I had lost the one thing that mattered to me the most.
That was why I came here so often. Talon thought that I spent my time riding around town, monitoring the streets for trouble. I did do that for my old friend and mentor, I just didn’t do it all the time. Most of my nights were spent here, lost in the sounds of the crashing waves and the other occasional night sounds that beckoned to me. I used the time to clear my head so I didn’t think about her, filling the hours by being in the water or sitting on the sand and concentrating on nothing. It was easier that way.
As I walked back to my Harley I shook drops of water from my arms, then ran a hand through my hair, causing it to stick up wildly. As I did so I caught a glimpse of the tattoos that now covered most of the skin of my upper body and I stopped to once again marvel at the color that now stained my skin.
The artist was good. He had at one time been a ghoul who had survived the attack on the city over a year and a half ago and but he’d been embraced into the Gangrel Clan as a reward for his loyalty to Talon. Alon Eben had opened a shop down on Sunset by the time that I’d come back to town and when I heard that he was able to tattoo us Kindred, I knew that I needed to see him.
I had felt the need to express myself in a way that didn’t require talking. I was beginning to hate talking as much as I hated listening to the questions from my friends, even thought I knew they meant well. I needed an outlet for what I was feeling. A way to scream what was going through my mind. My frustration. My anger. My hurt.
I had gone to Alon and told him what I wanted, and then spent the next few months letting him work his magic on my skin. I was still a work in progress, but he was good and I made myself tolerate the pain longer than most. The ink was special, designed for use on Kindred skin and it hurt like hell, but I took it, sometimes losing myself in the ache so I didn’t think of her anymore.
I got to the bike and saw that my cell phone message light was blinking. I had left it on the seat so that it was easy to grab and I wondered who had called. Probably Talon.
“Hey, Jason.” My old friend’s voice sounded strained. “I need to talk to you about something important. Come to the house as soon as you get this.”
He had left the message around seven, nearly eight hours ago. I sighed as I hit speed dial to call him. He was probably going to bitch me out for not getting back with him hours ago, but I had come down here right after I’d woke for the night and hadn’t been near my bike since then.
“Jason,” Luke Thomas said when he answered Talon’s private line. “Where the hell have you been? He’s been asking if you called.”
“Sorry,” I replied, my voice nearly unrecognizable since I hardly used it anymore. “I’ve been out. Didn’t hear the phone.”
“You need to come in,” Luke told me. “He needs to talk to you about something.”
I sighed, wondering what Talon wanted. He was the Prince of the city and as such he always had a ton of shit to do. Most of the time I could come and go as I pleased from his house, where I was living, without seeing him. What could be so important?
“Tell him I’ll be there in an hour,” I replied, closing the phone before Luke had a chance to respond.
I got dressed as quickly as I could, then fired up the bike and pointed it in the direction of the Hills where Talon’s house was located. I ran through the possible things he could want with me… from the obvious questions about how my patrolling was going… to the not so obvious ones like, maybe he needed me to do something for him. For some reason my thoughts went to Lena and Brenda and I hoped that things were okay with both of them. I hadn’t talked to Brenda in a few weeks, but I knew that she was in Detroit with her, so I figured my sister-in-law was too busy to call.
I hadn’t talked to Lena in an even longer time, months probably. She had come to Los Angeles to see me under the guise of business and she had somehow talked Talon into letting her stay at his house while she was in town. I remember seeing her that first time, sitting in the living room with Talon, a cold martini in her hand that she had sat on the coffee table when I walked in.
I could tell from her reaction that my appearance startled her. Had I really changed that much? Alon had started the tattoos by then, but most of them were covered by the leather jacket and black jeans that I had been wearing. To her credit, Lena had quickly hidden her shock and came over to me to hug me tightly.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she’d said, her face buried in my neck.
“You, too,” I’d answered automatically, barely putting my own arms around her. I had been feeling so removed since coming back, numb almost. Having her touch me was like being invaded somehow, regardless of the fact that she was one of my oldest and dearest friends.
A car alarm broke me out of my memories, which was a good thing because I’d almost missed my turn off. I noticed that the sky was starting to lighten in the far eastern horizon, reminding me that the sun would be up in a few hours. I had almost made it through another night without completely breaking.
The house appeared quiet when I got there. I parked in my usual spot off to the side on the big driveway and walked up the front steps. Michelle Rourke, Talon’s sheriff, met me in the foyer with a warm smile.
“Been swimming again I see,” she said, reaching out to brush sand off the leg of my jeans that had somehow managed to still cling to the denim while I’d rode home. She was the one that owned the strip of beach where I spent most of my time so she alone had any idea that I even went there.
“Yeah,” I answered noncommittally with a careless shrug. “Where’s he at?”
“In the study,” she replied. “Waiting for you.”
“Everything all right?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Just regular stuff. Shit that I need to deal with.” She reached out her hand and hit my shoulder playfully. “I gotta go. He’s anxious to talk to you.”
I shrugged and took a step further into the house as Michelle slipped out the front door. As the city’s sheriff if there was something she said she needed to deal with I didn’t want to hold her up because it was probably important. I made my way to the study instead and found Talon sitting at his desk, pouring over a map of the city.
“What’s going on?” I asked, strolling over to the desk and trying to gauge what he was looking for.
“Just another rumor of a Sabbat Pack,” Talon answered, laying the map down on the desk and leaning back in his chair. “Where’ve you been?”
“The usual,” I said, dropping down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. “What’d you want to talk to me about?”
He watched me for a moment, something that he had been doing ever since I’d come back here. It was like he was trying to read my thoughts but I knew that he couldn’t.
“I talked to Brenda tonight.”
“Oh, yeah? How’s she doin’?” I asked, throwing one foot on the chair next to me. I had to pretend that I was calm and relaxed because if Brenda had called Talon there was only one thing that this could be about and I just couldn’t think about her right now. There was still too much of the night yet to go.
“Fine, I guess.” He was still studying me closely, which caused my gut to sink to a new found low.
“What’d she want?” I asked, feeling like I needed to hurry up and get this over and done with.
Talon sighed and I knew he was trying to figure out a way to soften the blow. Hell, if he’d had most of the night to ponder it and still had nothing, I knew I didn’t want to hear it. “Look, Talon, whatever it is just say it.”
He propped his elbows on the armrests of his chair and loosely linked his fingers together before saying, “She wants a divorce, Jason.”
Fuck. I’d expected it to be bad, but this? I felt like someone had just taken a knife and ripped open all my insides. There was a constriction in my chest that got tighter with each passing second and I was pretty sure that if I needed to breathe I wouldn’t have been able to.
“Too bad. She’s not getting out of it that easy,” I growled, feeling my blood start to boil as I dropped my foot back to the ground that had been so lazily propped up on the chair just minutes before.
“Jason,” he said levelly, dropping his hands and leaning forward in his chair. “Be reasonable.”
“Reasonable?” I fumed, jumping to my feet and staring down at him in shock. Could he really think this was the answer? A good idea? How could he? He was supposed to be my friend, not hers. “I’m supposed to be reasonable because my wife wants me out of the fucking picture so she’s free to be with that mangy piece of shit in Detroit? Is that what I’m supposed to do? Is that what you want me to do?”
“Jason, come on,” Talon pressed, standing himself and coming around the desk to face me. “When was the last time you talked to her? Saw her? What did you think was going to happen?”
What did I think was going to happen? I had made it a fucking point not to think about her or us in the seven months since I’d seen her last. I couldn’t think about her and stay sane, that was all I knew. I loved her with all my heart and now I could feel everything I had been trying to suppress boiling to the surface.
“Jason,” I barely heard Talon say as he reached out to put his hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t touch me,” I ground out, twisting my body away from him and stalking away from his desk. My fingers flexed restlessly in and out of fists and I was barely aware of the fact that claws had extended from the ends of them as red hot fury continued to grow inside me.
How could she do this to me? I think a part of me had hoped that she would remember again. Remember me. Remember us. Remember everything we had gone through that brought us to where we were before that son of a bitch, Malcolm, came into our lives again. That bastard. I wish that I could get my hands on him. Then he would pay for all the pain and suffering he’d brought to both of us.
“Allowing yourself to frenzy isn’t going to make this situation go away,” Talon said behind me. His voice was calm as he tried to bring me back from the edge. “You can’t hide from this anymore. It’s time to realize the facts of the situation and move on with your life.”
“And how the fuck am I supposed to do that?” I railed, spinning to face him. He had followed me and I saw that he was standing right behind me. “I don’t have a life without her.”
I knew that I sounded pathetic, but what I’d said was the truth. Without her what did I have? I would be back to square one. Alone. Sure I had my friends. Talon. Lena. Brenda. But what difference would it make to them if I met final death tonight? Sure they’d all mourn me for a few weeks. Shed some tears, but would their lives be forever altered if I weren’t around? No. Not like hers would have been before she forgot me. How could Talon expect me to give her up? She was just as much a part of my life as God had been before my fall from grace. Regretting now, even more so.
“You can build a new life,” Talon was telling me. “Here. I’ll help you. So will Brenda. And Le-”
“I don’t need your fucking pity,” I yelled, my fists balling in fury at my sides.
He moved so fast that I really didn’t register the fist that came barreling toward me, but I felt its impact in my jaw and I fell back with a force that I never remember feeling before. I was knocked off my feet, pushed backward and onto my ass in a matter of seconds and the anger that I felt doubled, maybe even tripled, and when I looked up at my old friend it was through slit eyes that only wanted revenge.
I scrambled quickly to my feet and kept low as I flung myself at him, waiting until I was close enough to Talon before I swung my right hand in a sweeping motion, connecting with the hard flesh of his thigh and ripping it open in a wide slash.
Talon hissed as I ripped open his leg and I had to catch myself on my hands and knees from the momentum I had created in my attack. He hit me square between the shoulder blades with what felt like both of his fists and I dropped the rest of the way down to the floor with a grunt.
He had completely knocked the breath out of me so to speak. Talon and I may have practice fought before, but this was different. Neither of us was holding back. I wondered if there really could be a victor as I struggled to pull myself off the floor.
“I am still your Prince,” Talon roared as I felt his steel-toed boot connect with the ribs on my left side and stars exploded behind my eyes. “You will watch your tongue when speaking to me because friend or not, I will rip it out the next time.”
I was still close enough to my days as a human that I coughed in an effort to ‘catch my breath’ after the impact. Fuck, even a simple kick from the man was knocking me on my ass. I was waiting for another blow and when nothing came I opened my eyes, expecting to see Talon’s feet in front of me and was surprised when they weren’t there.
“Get up,” he said, his voice some feet away as I blinked to get my vision back into focus. “You’re being fucking pathetic and you know it.”
His words stung because they reflected many of the thoughts I’d been having the last few weeks. I felt the anger draining from me because I knew Talon was right and because I knew that I wasn’t really mad at him to begin with. It was the situation that was too much for me to figure out. That was what I’d been avoiding since that night back in October in Detroit when I’d seen her last.
But Talon knew me. I understood that. He knew me better than most anyone else and I knew that he would never give me advice that would steer me wrong. I had avoided really talking to him because I was afraid of the advice that he would give. Afraid that I wouldn’t like it. It looked like I couldn’t avoid it any longer.
My ribs still hurt like a bitch, which caused me to get to my feet slowly as I searched the room for Talon. He had retreated to the other side of the room and was looking out the large picture window that overlooked the back of the property.
Just then the door to the room flew open and Luke was there, gun pulled as his gaze swept the room quickly. “Talon?” he asked, taking in the way I was holding my ribs and the blood that was running out the side of my mouth. “Is everything alright in here?”
“It’s fine,” Talon answered in a clipped voice as he turned from the window and glanced at me for the first time since I’d stood. “We were having a discussion, that’s all.” He then took a few limping steps toward the chair behind his desk and continued, “I would appreciate it, though, if you would bring in some bandages and warm water.”
I looked toward Luke in time to see his gaze take in Talon’s appearance and when he saw the rips and blood on his Prince’s leg he automatically brought his gun toward me as his features registered surprise. “Talon, what happened in here? Do I need to call Michelle to come back in?” It was clear that he was torn between his new friendship with me and his loyalty to Talon but I knew which way he would have to go to survive and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be with me.
“Just get the goddamn bandages,” Talon barked, finally reaching the chair and dropping down into it heavily. “I said it was fine and it is. Put that fucking gun away before you do something stupid.”
Luke hesitated a moment, still looking between Talon and I. Eventually he holstered the gun again and stood up straight as he shook his head. “Fine. Since you seem to have everything under control I’ll be happy to play nursemaid and clean up the mess from whatever the fuck you boys have been up to,” he replied dryly, then turned and walked out before Talon could say anything more.
“Jackass,” Talon muttered under his breath as he tried to make himself more comfortable in the chair. “Why the hell did I ever let him come back?”
“Because you know he belongs here,” I answered automatically as I came around the desk to get a better look at the leg that I had ripped open in the heat of my own stupidity. It was ugly. There were four fairly deep lacerations that were about five inches long each. “Damn, Talon. I’m really sorry,” I told him, dropping to the floor in front of him. The bleeding had stopped, but since I had created the cuts with my claws, there was no way that he could heal automatically like he normally would. These wounds would take weeks to heal.
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied gruffly, then his gaze met mine and I saw how much he meant what he said next. “I understand what this divorce means to you, Jason, but don’t ever forget that I’m not your enemy. I am still Prince of this city and as such I only want what’s best for the Kindred who live here.”
I got what he was implying. Because of his position and the fact that he wasn’t big on showing how he felt, Talon couldn’t come right out and say that I was part of his inner circle and as such he would do whatever he could for me. The reminder struck a deep cord and if it were possible, I was even more ashamed of what I had done to him.
“I understand,” I told him, my eyes dropping back down to his leg and I pulled out my knife so that I could carefully cut away the remaining denim to clean the wounds. “I’m not sure about this,” I went on. “I don’t think a divorce is what I want.”
“Jason,” Talon said softly, causing me to look up at him. “It may not be what you want, but I really think it’s what you need right now.”
“How can you know what I need when I don’t?” I couldn’t help but ask him.
Talon reached out and I felt his hand on my shoulder when Luke came back in with the warm water and bandages. No one said anything else as he deposited the supplies on the desk and I removed my leather jacket in preparation for fixing my mess.
“Anyone mind telling me what the hell happened here?” Luke asked as he watched me carefully start to cut away Talon’s slashed jeans with my knife. I waited to see how the Prince would reply.
“Small difference of opinion,” was all that Talon would say about it. “Any word from Michelle yet?”
Luke shook his head. “Nothing yet. She hasn’t even been gone an hour. We might not hear from her tonight.”
I had cleared away the denim and was now cleaning out the wounds with the washcloth that was in the bowl of warm water.
“Let me know if you hear anything,” Talon told him and I looked up just in time to catch the pointed look he was giving Luke.
For his part, the other man looked from Talon to me slowly, then asked, “You guys sure you’re okay?”
Talon nodded. “Yeah. We need to finish our discussion.”
My sire ran his hand through his hair slowly; clearly leaving was something he really didn’t want to do. Finally he turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
“So what are you going to do about Christina?” Talon asked as I finished cleaning the wound and started dressing it. I had cut away the rest of the pant leg so was able to wrap the bandages around his thigh without hindrance.
I didn’t answer him right away. I was concentrating on putting the bandage on perfectly, giving myself a moment to think.
I exhaled loudly as I finally looked up at him. “I honestly don’t know,” I told him, sitting back on my heels. I knew that I was once again sounding pathetic, but I guess that was what I was. I had obviously failed my wife in the worst way so I guess I didn’t deserve her. Maybe it was better to just cut all ties and start over. I’d done it before. I could do it again.
“Look, I know that this is the last thing that you want, but hear me out,” Talon said. “We don’t know what the future holds for Christina. I’m hoping that she’ll eventually get her memories back because that would make everything right in the over all scheme of things. The way I see it, if you do this now for her… give her the divorce… maybe later she’ll see it as your way of allowing her to choose what will make her happy.”
I thought about the validity of what he was saying. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have little to no experience with understanding how the female mind works. She was the only woman I’d ever been with and as far as I was concerned, she was the only one I ever would.
“I don’t know, Talon,” I confessed, getting to my feet and walking around to the front of the desk as I thought. “It seems like a lot to gamble on.”
“The gambling is over, Jason,” my old friend said as gently as he could. “You’ve already lost her. Now is the time to think toward what will happen, five, maybe ten moves from now.”
He was talking about playing chess again and that caused me to smile. Very few people knew that the big, bad Talon Graves had a secret passion for the game. That was because chess and being a Gangrel didn’t fit into most people’s mold so he kept the secret under tight wraps. He and I used to play it all the time when I was younger and he came to the monastery to visit.
Then I started to think about the possibility of a divorce in terms of chess moves and I could see where Talon made sense. If I gave her this now, maybe she would see it as me giving her the space she wanted, what she claimed she needed. Maybe there would be a chance for us in the future.
Besides, wasn’t Brenda spending the next six months with her in Detroit? From what I understood from my limited conversations with my sister-in-law, my wife’s contact with… that other guy would be limited while she spent time with the Tremere, relearning some of what she had forgotten. Maybe if she was away from him long enough she could start to remember me and what our life had been like together.
I looked over at Talon one last time, pushing my hand roughly through my hair, and told him, “Fine. I’ll do it. Get the papers and tell me where to sign.”
Talon nodded silently, and then he leaned forward in his chair and said, “I’ll make the call and take care of everything. Is there anything specific you want?”
“All I want is the other Colt 1911,” I replied. “She shouldn’t have a need for it and I’d like the pair.”
“I’ll make it happen.”
Maybe by the time the divorce would be final she’d change her mind.
For questions regarding Jason Kline, please contact the webmistress.
Note: Some fiction contains explicit content and is not meant for children under the age of seventeen.
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