Gregory looked at Stephen as he pulled up to Nate's place. Stephen had been quiet the whole drive, just staring out the window. If Gregory hadn't known better, one would have thought he was sleeping. "We're here..." he spoke softly, almost like he was afraid to bother Stephen. In truth, he was worried about him, Stephen was quiet normally, but not like this. This was messed up. That bastard Alec had broken something inside Stephen and Gregory didn't know how to help fix it. He sort of hoped that Nathaniel could help. Opening the door, he watched as Stephen slowly opened his own door and got out of the car. All of Stephen's movements seemed lethargic, or almost like it hurt to even think of moving at all.
Stephen hadn't wanted to come, but Gregory refused to leave without him, so he had pretty much no choice. He didn't know why Gregory had wanted to bring him here. But he somewhat wanted to see Nathaniel himself, to see if he was okay. Alec had taken Nathaniel too, and Stephen had no idea what had happened to him. As the brothers reached the door, he looked at Gregory, eyes sad and almost empty. "I'm sorry..." he whispered. Gregory looked at him and then knocked on the door.
It had been a late night. Nathaniel's solo had been one of the last acts before the finale that night and he had not left the club until after 3. The take had been excellent: apparently all his fans had gotten the email message that Brandon was back and had shown up in force. Buzz and his crew had managed keep the fans from getting too close when he left the club, but there were still times he wished there was an employees parking lot at Guilty Pleasures, like they had at Circus of the Damned. He had only been home for about three hours; Julianna had just gotten in about an hour after him and had gone to bed to rest, since they weren't caring for Anna that night.
He had heard a car pull into the driveway, and assumed it was someone coming by. Too late for the vampires; it was already getting light outside. So, pard. Or pack. Either would be good. He got off the sofa and opened the door. "Gregory! Stephen! Hi, come on in!"
Gregory put his hand on Stephen's back, gently guiding him inside, in case he tried to run away. They stepped inside and Gregory kicked off his shoes, then pushed them against the wall. He smiled and pulled Nathaniel into a hug. "You look good. And I heard you were back at Guilty Pleasures tonight. How'd that go for you?"
Stephen watched the two of them as he slipped out of his own shoes. Nathaniel looked fine, but he wondered if everything was fine on the inside. he knew his own insides were a mess. he shook his head lightly, trying to clear his thoughts and keep them on the present.
"Yeah, just got back to work tonight. Felt really good to be back up on stage. They're missing you both there." Nathaniel hugged Gregory in return. "It's up and down, but I'm doing okay.There's plenty of food in here," Nathaniel remarked, heading toward the kitchen. "I got into a cooking frenzy and forgot that Micah, Anita and Damian were going to be out of town for while. Come help yourself to anything. Anyone want something to drink?"
In one the bedrooms, Julianna woke to the sound of unfamiliar voices in the house. Given her life over the past few centuries, it was small wonder that she was a light sleeper. She heard Nathaniel... and he did not sound alarmed at all, pleased in fact... so she relaxed and rose, getting dressed. Wearing one of the new outfits Tom had made for her; a light hankerchief skirt in a myriad of colors and a simple, long-sleeved top of cream silk; she slipped downstairs on bare feet. Shy, she lingered in the doorway, watching Nathaniel and the two men who were so similar they had to be twins.
Gregory glanced over at the doorway, sensing the new presence. He nodded at her, then looked back at Nathaniel. "I'll have a bit. Stephen?" He looked at his brother, hoping to get something more than a shoulder shrug from him. He desperately wanted Stephen to come back out of his shell and be himself again.
Stephen followed his brother's gaze to the woman in the doorway. She was familiar....Alec....the girl.....memories smashed into him like a train and he took a stumbling step backwards. She had left him with Alec....and though at the time, he had enjoyed it, now his feelings about Alec were changing and he hated it. She could have protected him....at least he thought so.
Gregory looked from Stephen to Julianna and back, wondering what was going on with them. He filled a glass with water and leaned against the counter. She had managed to get some reaction from Stephen, at least. Gregory had wondered if Stephen had any emotions left, he had seemed so empty. So whatever it was between the two of them would be good for his brother, it would bring Stephen back out.
Nathaniel hadn't seen the werewolf since before their torture by Alec, hadn't had a chance to really discuss anything that had happened to them. Nathaniel knew that both the brothers had been through hell before--so had he, for that matter--but this trauma had been the most recent, and Gregory hadn't been a direct part of that, fortunately. He wondered if Stephen was feeling similar to him, and if he had anyone professional to talk to like he had. "Stephen?" Nathaniel said, alarmed. He saw Julianna in the doorway, felt more than saw Stephen's reaction to her. He put down the glass he had gotten from the cabinet and went over to his side.
Stephen looked at her again, scared, wondering why she'd left him, wondering why she couldn't have taken him with her wherever she'd gone to. He wanted to hide behind Gregory, but looking at his brother he realized that Gregory wasn't going to let him run from this.
Nathaniel reached out to Stephen, trying to pull him into his embrace. He looked toward Julianna with a sudden concern, wanting to reach out to her, too. What had happened? What had Alec done to Stephen, to Julianna, that was causing the werewolf to panic at the sight of her? "Stephen, talk to me!" Nathaniel called, turning his gaze back to his fellow were.
Julianna swallowed, drawing a little closer, one hand out. "It's all right, Stephen. I won't hurt you. I never did before... I was there, but I didn't hurt you..." It was true... she'd never laid a finger on him. Though if Alec had commanded her to... then her story would be much different.
Gregory bit his lip, but stayed where he was. Stephen on the other hand, allowed Nathaniel to touch him and hide himself against the wereleopard, hoping that somehow it would help, knowing it wouldn't. Stephen knew inside that he needed to face all his fear, face all the bad shit that had happened, and move past it all....he just didn't know how he could do that and survive.
Nathaniel wrapped his arms around Stephen, holding him for a moment wordlessly. He rocked him gently. Although he didn't know the details, he was fairly certain of what some of Alec's torture of the werewolf had been--what he had forgotten was that Julianna might have been involved. He felt a sudden sadness well over him. When he had been rescued, he had been told that Stephen was alive, but no-one had told him in what condition. He felt suddenly very little, not up to the challenge of living without Anita and Micah there. "Stephen, I'm sorry, I didn't know...Nobody told me..." he stammered. He drew a deep breath. "It's okay, you're safe here. You're safe."
Julianna had slowly drawn closer, close enough to touch the werewolf. She was a greenwitch after all; her main purpose was the nurture and heal... and it seemed this young werewolf needed a fair dose. "Calm..." she said softly, gently pressing her fingertips to his temples, trying to sort out his pain and set it aside so he could breathe without panicking. There was more than just what Alec had done to him, that much she was sure of. But not being a psychic in that way, she couldn't tell exactly what. Whatever it was, she bundled it up with the fear and pain from Alec, like a bunch of weeds, and set it aside in his mind. She could not rid him of it permanently, she could not cure this... only soothe it. But perhaps it was enough for now.
Stephen's anxious breathing bothered Gregory and he stepped away from the counter, toward them. But he watched Julianna and waited. Stephen slowly calmed down and looked at her as she did whatever she was doing with him. It felt helpful...he didn't feel as scared. He wondered if it would last, he hoped so. He missed having a semi-normal life.
Nathaniel had moved aside to let Julianna next to Stephen, still keeping one arm around him. He knew Julianna had mystic powers that he hardly understood. She seemed to draw things to her like a magnet, as if just being near her was a cure for all that felt wrong inside. Nathaniel had assumed that was part of her being Asher's human servant, that she had gained some of his ability to fascinate those around her, but he understood now it was more than that. It was part of her own essence, like the warmth of the sun coaxing a seed to grow.
It seemed to be working. Stephen's breathing slowed, the panicked look in his eyes retreated. Nathaniel let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "You okay now?" he asked quietly.
He led everyone to the breakfast nook. Wordlessly he took out the mugs from the cabinet and turned on the coffee machine, filling it with the pre-ground stuff he used when they needed coffee, fast. He added a platter of the cookies and quick breads he had made to the mugs on the tray and brought it over to the table. He wasn't quite sure what to say, but the sudden quiet in the room was deafening.
Julianna sat silently, feeling very tired all of a sudden. She'd only slept a few hours thus far and she desperately wanted to get out into the backyard to soak up some of the sunlight. She could probably fall asleep out there with no problems. But she didn't want to be rude or frighten Stephen again.
Nathaniel slid into the seat next to Julianna. For a long moment he traced a finger over the pattern on the tabletop. "Want to talk about it?" he asked softly, looking up at Stephen.
Stephen shook his head slightly. He wasn't sure he COULD talk about it yet. but he felt comfortable here...He sat down. Gregory got him a glass of water and sat next to him and Nathaniel.
Nathaniel had spent the better part of a week trying to undo the hurt and harm Alec had inflicted, to cope with all that he had done and had been done to him. Bringing it back up would not be easy, but maybe it was time to confront some things that he had been avoiding. Gregory had provided the opening he needed. He thought with a moment's regret about his successful night on stage not hours before, wishing he had had more of a chance to just enjoy it. He looked back down at his hands, fingers splayed on the table, before looking back up at the others around him. "Do you want me to talk about...what happened with Alec, Stephen? Would it help?"
Green eyes tired, but alert, Julianna looked from Nathaniel to Stephen sympathetically. She'd had centuries to accept what Alec had done to her and only a week to recuperate, so her empathy was well-founded. She knew all too well how Alec could cause pain and then make the pain seem like pleasure... only to withdraw entirely so that you actually *wanted* the pain. She'd ridden that emotional roller coaster for so long that she had actually forgotten what it was like to not fear the touch of another.
Gregory kept his eyes on Stephen, not concerned about the other two. He worried about his brother lately...more than was probably healthy. He sipped his water and remained silent. This time was for Stephen. Hopefully it would help.
Stephen bit his lip. Yes, he wanted to talk about it, but he wasn't sure he could. He looked at Nathaniel and hoped that somehow he could find the right words to say. "I...he promised....so much....." It seemed too much for words.
Julianna nodded knowingly. "Alec was excellent at promising anything you wanted... he was not so good at delivering. Then he would make you feel guilty for expecting him to live up to his promises after he'd already 'given you so much'." she said, mimicking Alec's wounded tone accurately.
"The only thing he was good at delivering was torture," Nathaniel said. "Alec wasn't anything I wanted. I've been through a lot of pain, Stephen. Everyone knows what I'm in to, but Alec wasn't anything like that. I've been close to dying more times than I like to remember, okay, but what he did to me, made me do..." He shook his head, not looking at Julianna, not looking at anything but the table. "He polluted me. He took things he had no right to take. Stephen, I know what he promised. I know the lies. I've even heard them from other people. But that's all they were: lies. And that sick lying bastard was burned right out of his undead existence." He glanced at Julianna. "And I'm glad of it."
Stephen knew Nathaniel was right. It was what Tristan had said too. Why had he believed so much when the others didn't? He knew the answer deep inside. He knew that he thought he had found someone who could make him feel special. He thought that he had found someone that could make him happy. He didn't want to give up thinking that......even now that Alec was gone. He sighed, leaning his elbows on the table and his head in his hands.
Julianna blushed a little at Nathaniel's comment, as she had been the one mainly responsible for said burning. "He's gone, Stephen. But you are still here. And, ideally, he should no longer have any hold over you, over any of us. But he does, I know he does... it will take time." she offered, sliding one hand across the table towards him.
"For a long time, Stephen, I thought that if people wanted to fuck me, then they loved me. That I was only as good as I could fuck," Nathaniel went on softly. "I was on the streets before I was ten. Ten years old, Stephen. You know exactly what I mean." He didn't need to bring up the twins' father and what he had done to them. "It took me a long time to learn otherwise. I had a lot of help to get there." He paused, thinking of how long it took, how much had changed in such a short time. "You have Gregory. You have the pack and the pard and Anita and Julianna, all of us. We can get you help if you want it...Dr. Lillian has been really helpful. What I'm saying is, I understand, and you don't have to go through this alone."
Stephen looked at his brother, managed a slight smile, then looked at Nathaniel and nodded. "I'd like that...I think." He wanted to be more normal again, maybe go back to work, find something else to make him happy. Now he knew he could do it, with help.