Derek’s fist hit Logan’s cheek with a loud smack, the force of the blow whipping the blond’s head to the side, his neck actually cracking slightly from the power behind the punch. Cursing vehemently, Logan grabbed his cheek, glaring at his so-called friend who’d narrowed his eyes at him in anger. Derek pulled his arm back, fully intending to hit again, but suddenly Julian was there; yelling as he grabbed Derek’s arm and pulled his friend back.
“Okay, that’s enough!” the actor hissed, glaring at his two friends, adrenaline racing through his body.
“What the fuck, Derek!” Logan spat, still clutching his cheek, green eyes actually tearing up with pain. “God damn it—that hurt!”
“Good for fucking you, Logan!” Derek yelled, his eyes glinting furiously as he yanked his arm from Julian’s grasp. “How fucking dare you shoot Julian? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I didn’t actually shoot him, okay?” Logan screamed back, his cheek bright red as he spread his arms in frustration. Julian raised his eyebrows at his outburst, stomach twisting as he finally saw a flicker of the ‘old’ Logan—the Logan in high school, who hadn’t always been so strangely composed and calculated, who’d hit back instantly when hit himself. “I couldn’t shoot him—I fuckingcouldn’t and I don’t know why and now I’m stuck with you guys and I don’t know what to do!”
Julian looked on darkly as Logan and Derek continued fighting, his arms crossed, his fingers fidgeting with some loose threads that were hanging from Logan’s too big sweater. The dark shadows under his eyes showed his exhaustion and his lips were pulled down in worry and fear—his friends didn’t make this any better.
Although… his friends?
He couldn’t really call Logan a friend anymore… could he? Not after everything that had happened… Not after the blond sniper had wanted to shoot him… It was all so complicated—when did it all get so complicated…?
Sepia eyes glanced at Logan and Julian’s heart tugged in silent hurt as Derek shoved the taller man backwards in fury at something the blond had said. Julian exhaled slowly as the last few days played through his mind for the hundredth time, still trying to comprehend what had all transpired, still trying to place it somewhere.
The day Carmen got shot, the day his whole world had been turned upside down, had only been a few days ago.
After they had changed into dry and warm clothes, the three had grabbed their bags and had gotten into Logan’s car. They’d driven for days and had only stopped when Logan had been sure they were far enough away from the danger that was surely chasing them. In the middle of the night, he’d turned the car onto a deserted road, pitch black with the lack of street lanterns, and he’d purposefully drove until they’d reached an old, abandoned farm. Julian and Derek didn’t know how Logan was familiar with this place, but they’d gladly taken their refuge in the old house that was at least warmer than outside.
Derek had insisted they tell him everything, and after a little hesitation from Julian’s side and a huge reluctance from Logan’s side, they’d told him the whole story. How someone wanted Julian dead for unknown reasons, how that someone had hired Logan to take the shot, how Logan had tried two times, but had never succeeded.
Derek had simply exploded—not even calming down when Julian had hastily explained to him that Logan had saved Julian’s life by refusing to shoot and killing one of those fake policemen.
And it was here—in this old living room of the broken house on the farm—where the infamous trio found themselves now; two of them fighting, the third looking on with a tense and aggravated expression.
“You’re such an asshole, Logan!” Derek snapped, who’d already been tremendously overwhelmed by their current situation, but who’d absolutely lost it with this new, shocking revelation. “You’ve always been! You were a tactless bastard back at Dalton, but you’ve never changed! How could you do this?”
Logan practically growled and it was only with a huge effort that he kept himself from lunging at the athlete. He opened his mouth to retaliate, but was interrupted by Julian, who’d finally had enough. The actor sighed irritably as he took one step towards his two friends.
“What?” Logan and Derek looked around at once—both their expressions deeply annoyed and absolutely livid.
Julian stopped walking and scowled, raising his hands in mock surrender. “Keep it calm, you idiots.”
Derek pressed his lips together in a tight line and he turned towards his best friend, pointing to Logan angrily. “He tried to kill you, Julian!”
“And he also saved my guts back there,” Julian snapped back, sighing and rubbing his face in exhaustion. “Listen guys—I’m dead tired, we’ve been driving around for days! And I don’t know about you, but I’m drained. So if you two could just stop your little bitch fight, that would be great. Let’s sleep now, and you can continue to kill each other later—tomorrow or something. I reallycouldn’t care less at this point. Sound like a plan?”
Logan snorted and turned around to look at Derek, raising his eyebrows defiantly. Derek was not amused and he narrowed his eyes at Julian.
“Are you freaking serious, Julian?”
“Listen, Derek! It happened, okay? I don’t want to talk about it anymore—I don’t want to think about it anymore! I just—” Even though he tried his hardest to uphold the pretence that everything was going to be alright—it was still obvious that he was starting to break down, and Derek’s gaze softened when he noticed it.
“Someone—” the actor’s voice almost cracked and he closed his eyes as he tried again. “Someone tried to kill me, someone wants me dead! And I don’t know why or how, but—but I know that I’m tired of all of this, and if I don’t get any sleep real soon, I’m going to maim something, okay?” Julian’s usual haughty composure was showing breaches and he knew this very well, utterlyhated it—but right now, he just wanted to close his eyes and escape all this madness. Even if it only was for the night. Even if it only was for a short moment.
There was a long moment of loaded silence, filled with tension and hate and an unbridled fear for the future.
Logan was the first to break the quiet, and he ignored Derek’s furious stare as he patted the gun on his hip and walked toward the largest window in the dusty living room. “I’ll keep the first watch, you guys sleep.”
The moon was gone for the night and while Logan sat by one of the windows, he looked out over a deserted road and the few, ancient buildings that were still standing on the farm. The feeling of desolation constricted his heart, pressing tightly upon his chest, accompanied by utter loneliness and the conviction of being a complete failure.
If he’d just finished his job, if he’d just… pulled that damn trigger a week ago… he would’ve been free by now. He would’ve collected his money and be free.
Logan raked his hands through his hair, his bright eyes fluttering close for a few seconds as he tried to analyze his feelings.
His heart stuttered for the longest moment and when it finally recovered, its beats were painfully quick, hitting his ribcage in rapid succession. Logan’s eyes flew open and he cursed as he dragged his hands over his face.
—in his pocket… still in his wet jeans that he’d stripped out of on that rainy day when they’d had to run and be quick and hasty… disregarded in a corner of his house.
No, no, no, no—!
He groaned, doubling over and pressing the palms of his hands against his forehead.
He’d always been a better sniper when he was on the damned medication—more focused, more concentrated, cold-blooded, not distracted by emotions…
Although he utterly, thoroughly hated to take the meds; the fact that he would not have his pills during this chaos was only making things more complicated—and he didn’t need things to be more complicated than they already were…
He kept silent for a long time, trying to digest this sudden, unwanted information and convincing himself that he didn’t need the pills to make him a good sniper. That he was already good enough, that he’d taken out that Lillian-girl without them, that he’d taken out lots of people without them—
—and he tried to ignore the fact that none of those people had been like Clavell, none of those people had been as experienced, trained, murderous and focused as Clavell…
Lost as he was in his thoughts—Logan jumped up when he heard a stifled moan and he whirled around, his gun ready in his hand as he spied into the darkness of the room. The only thing that moved though was one of the two shadows curled up on the floor.
Derek was still snoring lightly as Julian sat up—and even in the darkness, Logan could see his wide, scared eyes blinking up at him. They stared at each other for a while, before the blond sighed and half-grudgingly patted the space next to him.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Logan whispered as Julian kneeled silently besides him.
The actor snorted, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he stared out of the window. He shot Logan a scathing look.
“It’s sort of difficult to sleep when you know that there’s some psycho out there that wants to kill you and the only person awake in this house is the man who had his gun aimed at you not too long ago.”
One of Logan’s mouth corners twitched up, but he stayed silent, not about to argue that logic.
“Are you okay, though?”
Julian raised his eyebrows, throwing him an incredulous look. “Are you asking about my wellbeing, Your Majesty? I am so honored that you care.”
“I have a gun in my hand, Princess,” Logan sneered with only a small spark of humor, “don’t tempt me.”
Making a face, Julian shook his head. “That’s just rude.”
“You were planning on killing me barely a week ago—I’d say it’s too soon, yeah.”
Maybe it was the exhaustion, or maybe it was the fear that held both of their hearts in its iron grasp, or maybe it was just out of seeking and granting forgiveness—but Logan casually wrapped an arm around Julian’s shoulders and the actor leaned into his touch almost gratefully, resting his head on the blond’s shoulder and relaxing in the one-armed embrace.
It was almost like old times.
“It’s all so messed up,” Julian whispered suddenly, arrogance gone for the moment and vulnerable for once. “It’s like I’m living in a constant nightmare.”
“Yeah… I know that feeling,” Logan muttered, eyes still examining the darkness outside, alert for every movement and shadow.
“I mean… Carmen… Carmen is dead,” Julian choked with a deep frown. “Why? Why would they shoot her…? She’s never done anything wrong…”
Logan shrugged listlessly. “It’s not a matter of doing something wrong. I guess she got in the way. Wrong time, wrong place, and all that,” he answered quietly, not realizing how cold his own voice sounded and not seeing the horrified look Julian threw his way.
Julian pressed his lips together, shaking his head. “She was—she was like a mother to me, you know? She was… just always there. And now… she’s not. And I—I don’t… I don’t know how to deal with this.”
Logan stayed silent, but Julian had expected this; the blond sniper wasn’t really the person that could give someone advice on feelings.
The actor sighed and he shifted a bit so he could look up at Logan. “Are you ever going to tell us what happened to you?”
Logan frowned, but did not turn to look at the actor. “What do you mean?”
“Logan, last time I saw you, you were no sniper. When in the world did you turn into an assassin?” Julian lifted his head from Logan’s shoulder to stare at him with curious, sepia eyes. “What happened?”
“Well, the meds—”
“Except for the stupid meds. What else happened?”
Logan opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to find the right words and failing miserably. He exhaled a trembling sigh and shook his head. “I can’t… I can’t tell you.”
Julian frowned, letting his head fall back on Logan’s shoulder. He’d been dreaming about this for so many years—touching Logan, being comfortable with Logan, hugged by Logan… but now, once they’d finally reached that point… he barely felt any butterflies and he didn’t feel any different except for maybe a bit calmer. It felt… surreal. Like it was all a dream and once the sun would rise, the two of them would break apart and the moment would be all forgotten.
“Why can’t you tell me?” Julian murmured, feeling tired, but not wanting to break this magical spell he found himself in.
Julian snorted. “Such a valid reason, Majesty. Really, such flawless argumentation.”
“Shut up,” Logan snarled, stiffening as he narrowed his eyes in irritation. Next to him, Julian held perfectly still, fearing the blond might withdraw his arm and push him away if he moved wrong. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
There was a tiny trace of vulnerability in Logan’s voice and Julian’s expression softened considerably. “Why don’t you want to talk about it?”
Logan scoffed, staring out of the window with eyes that didn’t see the present but were lingering on the past. He didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes and Julian accepted the silence easily, relaxing against the blond’s side, his eyelids drooping a little as he felt sleep set in.
His voice was almost a whisper, a ghosting breath in the night, and Julian first thought that he’d dreamed it—but then Logan exhaled a shaky breath, and the actor knew he’d heard it right.
Logan shifted a bit and he blinked, focusing back on the world outside of the window, remembering he was supposed to stand on watch.
“I can’t—I can’t remember all of it,” he muttered, and Julian was almost surprised that he was actually answering truthfully. But then he remembered Dalton, and how Logan had always been so blunt in his honesty—tactless, mostly, but always honest.
Logan continued with a soft voice. “And I hate that. I hate that I can’t remember. Despite what other people seem to think—I don’t like to try remembering and find out that there are gaping holes in my memory. Maybe I used to have good friends, maybe I used to be happy and all that—but I don’t remember and I will never remember. So what’s the point of thinking about it? What’s the point of talking about it? I live in the present. Not in the past.”
His tone was biting and it was obvious he was hurting over everything he’d lost—even though he didn’t remember what it was that he’d lost. People, memories, relationships… all gone, destroyed by the medication he’d taken for years.
“Why do you take your meds now?” Julian asked suddenly, either not aware of the withering glare Logan bestowed upon him or not really caring. “I mean, when you lost so much due to the last meds—why in the world would you take these?”
Logan’s voice was ice and ice cold, the edges as sharp as razors and as burning as hellfire when he answered.
“Because I have nothing left to lose.”
Julian scowled, but he didn’t respond and he didn’t press for more information. Deep in thought, he unconsciously snuggled closer to Logan, stifling a yawn as he shifted to get more comfortable. “Thanks, Lo.”
Logan raised his eyebrows at the nickname, but he didn’t protest. “For what?”
“For telling me,” Julian whispered sleepily.
“Why would you thank me for that?” Logan asked with a dark laugh.
But Julian didn’t answer and when Logan looked around, he saw that the actor’s eyes were gently closed and that his lips were parted in relaxation, his soft breaths brushing over Logan’s neck.
The sniper snorted derisively, but he didn’t move as he adverted his eyes back to outside, his arm still securely around the exhausted brunet, having no intention of letting go.
Derek awoke with a groan and he rolled over, trying to ignore the strain on his muscles from lying on the floor the entire night. Sunlight poured in from the one open window, poking him in the eyes, and he scrunched them shut for a moment. Sitting up, he carefully blinked as he let his eyes adjust to the morning sun. His heart jumped when he saw his two friends by the window and he frowned, the fight with Logan yesterday still fresh on his mind. He noticed the way they sat—Logan supporting Julian as the actor leaned against his side, sleeping peacefully for the first time indays—and realized Julian had obviously forgiven Logan.
He got up, silently making his way toward Logan, dropping down beside the blond.
“You didn’t wake me up last night, Lo. Did you get any sleep?” Derek asked.
Logan shook his head, eyes bright as ever as he stared outside. “Nah. I figured you guys needed the rest more than I did.”
Surprised, Derek raised an eyebrow. “That is… uncharacteristically nice of you…”
Logan scoffed, tearing his stare away from the farm and looking at the athlete coldly. “Thanks so much, Derek.”
Derek narrowed his eyes, his gaze shifting away from Logan as he cleared his throat awkwardly. “Look, Logan, about yesterday—”
Logan held one hand up, silencing Derek quickly. “No. No way. I’m not going to do the whole touchy-feeling talk with you, okay? Last night was bad enough with Julian. Let’s just forget about it.Please.”
Derek snickered, taking Logan’s outstretched hand and shaking it roughly. “But just so you know—ever pull such a trick again and you’re dead.”
Green eyes stared at him skeptically and Logan shrugged carelessly. He knew who’d win in a fight. “Duly noted,” he replied sarcastically.
The athlete leaned back on his hands, glancing at Julian, who was still fast asleep on Logan’s shoulder. “So… what did happen last night?”
Logan shrugged again, careful to not wake the actor up. “Nothing happened. We just talked about the mess we’re in now. He had trouble sleeping.”
Derek raised his eyebrows and smirked as he stared at the brunet. “Hm. I see you solved that problem well…”
“Shut up, Derek,” Logan snapped and he withdrew his arm, effectively waking Julian, who collapsed onto the floor without the support.
“Hm—what?” Julian startled awake and he yawned widely as he stretched out like a cat. He sat up, looking at his two friends in slight confusion. “What’s going on—?”
Derek grinned at him and his voice was saccharine sweet as he asked, “Good morning to you, too, sunshine. And Jules—how’d you sleep last night? With Logan and all that?”
That statement woke him up more than anything else could and Julian gave his best friend a warning glare behind Logan’s back, making a slashing movement over his throat as Derek continued to stare innocently at him.
“Didn’t you two have something to kill each other over?” the actor snapped irritably, just as his phone buzzed loudly. He retrieved it from his pocket, glancing at the ID and sighing as he recognized it. He stood up, gesturing to his phone. “One minute, I have to take this. It’s Clark.”
As he walked away, he whacked Derek’s head hard just for good measure, warning Derek with a dark glare not to blab about anything. “I will call every ex and girlfriend you have going around if you talk, Siegerson,” he hissed sharply.
“What was that about?” Logan asked, half-amused as he watched Derek rub the back of his head.
“Nothing,” Derek muttered, raising his voice as he added, “just Julian being his prissy diva-self again.” Julian glared over his shoulder and poked out his tongue, before he walked out of the room and closed the door behind him with a loud slam.
Standing in the old hallway, Julian pressed the button and brought the phone to his ear.
“Julian!” Clark exclaimed, and he didn’t take long to flood the stunned actor with a waterfall of words. “What the hell happened? Your name is all over the freaking tabloids! They’re talking about you being on the run, you being dead, you being a freaking criminal. Here, wait, I have today’s newspaper: ‘Julian Larson, celebrated movie star, has been seen on the run from the police today. He’s been seen shooting at them, actually hurt—”
“Oh my god, Clark—you actually believe that?” Julian interrupted him angrily, his free hand trailing over the battered walls as he wandered further in the dark house.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore, J! Carmen is dead—did you know that? They found her on the stairs at your apartment, where, by the way, a lot of blood was found too—care to explain that one? And you are gone, Julian. Where the hell are you? What happened?”
“I’ve tried to call you at least ten times, Cam tried to call you— but you never answered and we’re worried out of our minds, and fuck, we just lost Marcia—we can’t lose you too! Where are you?What the hell is happening? Why is Carmen dead? Why was there a crime scene at your place? Why are you gone? Where the fuck are you—?”
Julian stopped walking, leaning against an old, tattered wall as he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in growing aggravation. He let Clark rage until he was out of breath and when there was nothing left to hear but the popstar’s heavy panting, Julian exhaled sharply.
“Where are you, Julian? The tabloids are already discussing your fucking death! Have you any idea how freaked out I was when I read about you being dead?”
“Yes, yes, I know—”
“No, you don’t! Tell me where you are!”
“If you’d just let me talk for one moment!” Julian spat out, annoyed and frustrated because he knew he couldn’t tell Clark everything. “I’m with Derek and Logan, and I’m fine. I’m very much alive and I intent to stay that way. I’m not hurt, I’m just somewhere with my friends.”
“But what are you doing? Carmen is d—”
“I know Carmen is dead!” Julian yelled, tears pricking behind his eyes as he rested his head against the wall. “I know that, Clark—” he took a deep breath, trying to control those raging emotions inside. “Everything’s going to be alright, okay? Just don’t believe the freaking tabloids and, please, don’t call me again, okay? I just… need some space.”
“Clark—for once in your life—please trust me on this one, okay?” Julian had walked to a window and as he was staring outside, he thought he saw a cloud of dust on the road. Narrowing his eyes, he tried to see better, but it was too far away to get a clear view.
Unaware of Julian’s current occupation, Clark continued his plea. “Come back, Julian.”
“Why are you so concerned anyway, St. Clark?” Julian asked, pretending to be amused even though his heart started racing watching the cloud of dust. It seemed to move closer…
“Because you’re an idiot who can’t take care of himself.”
Julian scoffed, ripping the old dusty curtain from the rails and throwing it on the ground, wiping the window as clean as he could with his sleeve. He pressed his face against the dirty glass, wondering… The cloud of dust was definitely moving closer. “I can take care of myself perfectly, thank you very much.”
“Yeah, you just don’t. I haven’t forgotten about that time years ago, with the cigarettes and the extreme weight-loss,” Clark stated dryly. “Come home, Julian. We’ll take care of whatever it is.”
Julian’s eyes widened as the sun fell exactly right, its beams shimmering off shining metal, and he could see the sharp outline of cars through the dust. He could barely hide his panic as he clenched the phone tighter. “Listen, Clark—I have to go—”
“Clark, I really have to go,” Julian choked and he was already running back to Derek and Logan. “I’ll see you later, okay? Bye!” And before Clark could say anything else, Julian had ended the call and he was rushing back to Logan and Derek.
Derek and Logan were in a deep, serious conversation—both looking concentrated and focused as Logan’s brows crossed at something Derek confided him… but their last sentences got brutally cut off when Julian burst in—the ancient door falling off its hinges and crashing to the floor—the actor panting as he stopped in front of his two best friends.
The two startled and looked up at once, Derek staring at Julian in complete surprise and shock, Logan’s expression more composed as if he’d expected this to happen. The blond’s hand went immediately to his gun and his sharp gaze was calculated as he took in the distressed brunet.
Julian’s eyes were wide with fear, his breath trembling as he tried to remain composure, but he pointed to where he came from with a shaking finger, his words cutting through the thick silence that had fallen between the trio.
Derek’s expression turned into one of utter horror, but Logan was already moving; leaping up and flying to his bag—and time seemed to slow down as Julian let out a shaky breath.
“They’ve found us.”