My head was still spinning. I watched as Mother Earth raised her hands and the frozen faces of my school mates spun around me. I had looked down at the grass to stop the sense of vertigo from over taking me only to see that outside of the diamond. The grass was spinning too. Light began to coalesce at the tips of each blade of grass until it looked like a multitude of stars. The world spun faster until those lights were streaks that blurred across my vision. I had to close my eyes against the dizzying sight.
Beside me I heard Kevin groan and Jay curse. I forced my eyes open and peered around me. I was in the same field minus the light show. Mother Nature was nowhere in sight and the diamond was gone. It was still dark but the sky was a deep shade of blue, indicating the coming of the day.
We had a few hours before life started filling up the school. It was time to strategise. I thought about informing dad and Kevin from this timeline about what was going on. Surely, there were ways to avoid the Faery protections around our house from discovering I was from the future. I stopped that train of thought. Perhaps it would affect the future outcome?
Sighing in frustration I closed my eyes and scanned Kevin and Jay, removing the imbalance that their bodies were feeling. They murmured their thanks as my healing colours flowed over them. I turned towards the Tohunga Karouwa.
"Jay, what's our plan?"
"First and foremost, contact Pounamu and bring him up to date. Second, we need to ambush your doppelganger, hopefully in a place with a minimum of people seeing; the less civilians the better. Kevin, were you with James' doppelganger on the first day back at school?" Kevin nodded his head. "Good, then we can establish the route you took. That way we can find the best strategic place to set up our ambush."
"What will I be doing?" I asked
Jay turned and looked at me intently. "You will be staying out of sight. Your job will be to make sure that no civilians get into the danger zone."
I pouted. "Why did Mother Nature say that Kevin should be the one to take out my doppelganger? Why can't I participate?"
"Mother Earth is making sure that the Summer Queen's essence doesn't feed the wild magic that flows inside you."
I felt my chin jut out. "But I fought against the Winter Queen, and I was in control of my powers. Why is this any different?"
"When you fought the Winter Queen you didn't have as much wild magic flowing through you. But when the Winter Princess was living with you, your connection to wild magic grew exponentially. It's why Mother Earth had to put seals on you."
I wasn't buying it. "Okay, lets say that your right. Then why was Mother Nature so specific that I prevent the Winter Queen from stealing my nephew from the womb? Won't her powers affect the wild magic within?"
Jay shook his head, smiling condescendingly at me. "Your right, her power will affect the wild magic within, but you do realise that you will be fighting against her in a week's time. During the interim, we're supposed to be incognito. If the seals break this early in our game plan, then the Crones will know where we are."
I turned away from Jay's scrutiny and watched Kevin writing with a small pad and pen in his hand. "What you doing, Kev?"
He glanced up at me and then back down. "I'm drawing up a map. I think I know the best place to ambush your doppelganger."
"Are we on the same page now?" Jay asked me.
I looked back at him and nodded my head in apology. "I'll contact Pounamu right now."
"Okay. We're on a good start, team. Kevin, need any help?"
I tuned Jay out as I telepathically called to Pounamu. Things were getting a little too complicated for me. I should be grateful that an older and experienced person such as Jay was helping, but I was used to doing things my way. I know I was being immature but I just couldn't help myself.
We ended up near Playford Park. It was a quiet street and I had walked through this reserve as a short cut since starting high school. We were still in our disguises and even with my inner eye I couldn't see past the glamour. Redemption, and the glove it was in, were hidden behind a glamour also. To observant eyes, Kevin was empty handed. The two of them were jogging around the field. That would be their cover as to why they were there.
I took a deep breath and ran toward the opposite end of the park. I was the last resort if Jay and Kevin were unsuccessful. I sincerely doubted there would be a problem, but Jay wanted to ensure there was a back up plan. I sent out psychic tendrils over a 10 mile radius. I needed to make sure that nobody came upon us unexpectedly. I would set up empathic/telepathic warning posts around the entire park once our target was in position.
We didn't have long to wait before I saw my doppelganger come on to the field. I was hidden up in one of the trees that dotted the perimeter of the park. I watched as Kevin and Jay jogged towards the position they had planned on earlier. It would put them in the direct path of my doppelganger and the Kevin-from-the-past. Once there, they slowed and stopped to do cool down exercises.
I kept a critical eye on my glamour camouflage in case they failed; so far so good. The empathic/telepathic markers were out and I hunkered down to watch. I was confident in my abilities and knew that they would work on any passing people, including those within the houses across from the park. I had set a compulsion on people to walk past the field and pay no heed to anything going on. It had been a tricky piece of work because I had to ensure that the spell was only on the outside and not in the park. My doppelganger would sense the use of empathy/telepathy otherwise.
The two targets walked past, their backs to Jay and Kevin, when they were attacked. Jay was almost a blur; he tapped the past Kevin on the head, taking him out of the equation. The doppelganger turned and future Kevin was on him in a flash. I watched with bated breath as the doppelganger tried repelling Kevin with telekinesis. Redemption swallowed the attack and Kevin was swinging his sword towards the doppelgangers head. I felt a cold chill as Kevin made quick work of him. He wasn't even breathing heavily, nor was there any regret.
There was an unearthly scream as I watched light shoot out of the decapitated body. It circled around Jay, and then Kevin, before it stopped screaming and sank down into the soil. A rose briar appeared where the light touched the soil. I felt the world stop as Mother Earth appeared. She frowned at the plant and with a touch of her hand, the plant shivered, wilted and died. There was no blood, nothing to show that a murder had just occurred. She gave us all a look of approval before she disappeared.
Jay and Kevin congratulated each other as I floated down from the tree. Pounamu appeared and teleported the corpse somewhere where no one would find it. I closed my eyes and willed my true form back into place. When I opened my eyes, I was looking up at Kevin. He smiled, hugged me, and wished me luck. I had asked him earlier if I should tell his past self that it was the real me. He had made me promise not to even try. He told me there was a reason Mother Earth didn't want me informing anyone in the past, so it was best I leave it at that.
Pounamu reappeared and the three of them disappeared. I looked intently down into the face of Kevin's past self. There were dark rings under his eyes and I touched them gently. Gathering my healing colours, I broke the light sleeping compulsion Jay used on him. His eyes fluttered open and I was mesmerised by those green orbs.
"You okay, Kevin?"
He looked up at me and there was such hope in his face, before it darkened and he brushed my hands away. "You're not James, so don't touch me." I was taken back for a second; I almost missed what he said next. "What happened? All I remember was walking through the park with you and then...nothing."
I sighed in relief, Jay had said this would happen, but tampering with the mind was a tricky thing. I was glad I didn't have to mess with his head if it wasn't necessary. "You fainted."
He turned his head and looked at me incredulously. "I've never fainted in my life!"
I shrugged my shoulders and continued walking. "There's always a first time. Perhaps it's all the stress you've been under."
"You're lying!" he uttered indignantly.
I turned around, walking backwards to catch his expression. His mouth kept opening and shutting and a strange hissing noise kept coming out. I cocked my head to one side and opened my eyes wide. "Are you still feeling faint? I can get a handkerchief with lavender on it to calm your nerves if you want?"
His eyes narrowed as he closed his mouth and strode towards me, his long legs covering the distance. "If you tell a soul at school, I'll...I'll."
I raised my hand to stop his rant. "Spare me your bruised male pride. You may not think I'm the real James, but I still have his memories, emotions, and powers. So, as James, what makes you think I would hurt the person that means the world to me?"
I hurried on as he absorbed what I had said. My own emotions were in turmoil. Kevin had warned me that his past self wouldn't be so welcoming, but I didn't realise to what extent that would be. Rejection, especially from him, hurt regardless of the circumstances. I was used to feeling his love, but right now, all I could sense was anger, hurt and confusion.
School seemed surreal to me. I had gone to class for roll call before going off to English. Mr McDonald was already waiting for me, and I followed him to his office.
"Sit down, James," he said with a sigh while he took a seat behind his desk and folded his hands in front of him.
"Have I done something wrong?"
"Its okay, James. I'm just concerned about Sam Molluso. I know that you've been...busy for the last few days. But, he's still not his normal self. I was hoping you might be able to do something?"
I sat back in my chair. So many things had happened, I forgot about Sam. I had the strangest urge to giggle, and stifled it as I contemplated what to do. I pinched the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes. I had a week, so perhaps this was the time to see if I could straighten things out. Besides, I thought about my new friends and a longing to see them tugged at me.
Although I was on a mission, maybe Mother Nature knew that I needed some form of normalcy because deep down, I think I was ready to break. Taking a deep breath in, I opened my eyes and nodded. "I'll talk to Sam at lunch time."
Mr McDonald stared at me. "You're an amazing and special young man, James. I hope you know that."
I plastered a smile on my face and walked towards the door. "Thank you, sir."
I saw my friends at our old meeting spot at lunch. My heart lifted and I rushed over to them. I gave Justine a hug and turned and lifted Christine off her feet, swirling her around. The girls laughed, giving me quizzical looks. The boys looked at me puzzled with my enthusiastic greeting as I hugged them too.
"What's gotten into you?" Christine asked.
"I'm just happy to see you guys, that's all." I replied.
"Oh yeah, there's something you got to know, but I'll let William tell you. He's the one that was there."
"Okay?" I said, slightly puzzled.
I turned and gave Steven a huge smile and hug.
"You've only been away for three days, it's not like you were away for two weeks or something." Steven joked, before he turned serious. "Leon and Kevin said you were sick, you okay?"
I nodded my head. "Yeah, bad case of the flu is all."
I stared at all my friends, I needed to memorise their faces. They would be part of my anchors to help me through the shit I was going through. William smiled at me and I returned the smile. As our unofficial leader, he was the person I admired most in our group. I thought he was a good looking guy with chestnut hair and sparkling blue eyes, but he considered himself as an average bloke. It made him more endearing. I had one girl in mind for him, but I knew he would never approach her himself. When it came to girls, he wasn't the confident leader we were used to seeing.
Ever since he told me he was living with his gay uncle, we had a stronger rapport. I'm not sure if any others in the group knew, but I wasn't going to break his confidence. It warmed my heart knowing that I was fortunate to have family and friends that accepted me for who I am.
I turned my attention to Steven. He was the guy who first introduced me to this little group I now considered an extended part of my family. He was blond and blue eyed and he was our thinker; the type of guy that over analysed every little thing. At times it could be annoying, but then I understood that because, in some ways he, Kevin, and myself had that trait in common. Right now he was cuddling into Justine.
She was our cheerleader. I chuckled watching them as a random thought from the T.V series `Heroes' entered my mind. `Save the cheerleader; save the world.' Since Leila was heavily pregnant, Justine had taken over the roll as head cheerleader. Her blond bangs were now streaked with honey, giving her a beach babe look. She and Steven looked like the perfect blond, blue-eyed couple. I used to tease them about it, saying Hitler would have found them to be the ideal examples for his campaign of the perfect race. They had given me filthy looks and a lot of flack for that.
I stared at Christine next. She was our super gorgeous runway model. I don't know how many times we tried convincing her to go on that show `Australia's next top model.' She refused, stating that she was not going to be stereotyped as an air headed, bitchy bimbo. With stunning jade green eyes, perfect caramel skin and shiny golden hair, she stood out among us. I admired her for her confidence and grace. She knew she was attractive, but she never flaunted it. Since joining the group, she and I had become best friends. She would ring me, or vice versa, after school. Sometimes I would visit her or she would come visit me. I smiled, thinking about the last visit. Leon was still panting after her, and Leila stayed as far from her as possible. When I came out about being gay, I did a dummy run with her before I spoke to the entire group. She was my confidante, to a certain degree. I mean, I hadn't told her about my powers, yet.
At the moment she was laughing at something Paul was talking about. He was our muscle boy. He used to be a skinny kid and was bullied because of it. That had been his stimulus to change his appearance and, once a growth spurt hit, by god, did he do that. He was just shy of 6 feet and, like Steven he was blond, except he had more brown through his blonde, with pale blue eyes, and a defined body to match. He was also the ladies' man in the group. I know that he had been trying to hook up with Christine to no avail.
But, because of my powers, I knew she had eyes for someone else. I had been a little too preoccupied about Faery and getting Sam back to try and meddle. So far, nothing had progressed with her secret crush. I shook my head. For a beautiful girl I was surprised at how skittish she was about going for what she wanted. It made me wonder if she had ever actually gone out on a date.
Timmy came over and smiled up at me, his brown eyes glowing. A large gust of wind swirled around us and I chuckled as I watched his heavily fortified spiky hair defy the wind's attempts to mess with it. He was the baby of the group. After his bullying during last term, he was the one over whom I felt the most protective. I wrapped one arm around his shoulder and hugged him again. I looked around hoping to see Sam, and frowned. "Hey, where's Sam?"
Everybody stopped talking and looked at me before they turned their heads away. William spoke up in the awkward silence. "He's uh, he sits behind the gym."
"Okay guys, what's going on?"
William looked around at everybody, before gently guiding me away from the group to talk in private. "Sam's been talking about you. Saying that you're not human and that you and he had sex together...When we laughed, he went psycho. Then he started saying scary things, weird things, like you were killing people and that you had died and stuff. We brushed it off. Now, he doesn't talk to us, and hangs out by himself behind the gym. If I didn't know Sam, I would swear that he was on drugs." I watched the doubt surface on William's face. "You don't think it's drugs do you?"
I shook my head, no. "Poor Sam," I said; "Let me go talk to him. See if he will open up."
William gave me a wry smile. "You have a knack for making people spill their guts, so do your thing, James."
I felt a chill of premonition slide down my spine. Such truer words had not been spoken.
I found Sam hunched over with his back against the wall. The sun shone on his head, but I saw him trembling. I sat down beside him. I pushed empathic warning signs so we would not be disturbed, and waited for him to notice me. His head jerked up and I stared into eyes that were dark rimmed and bloodshot. He looked at me as if he weren't seeing me, and then I felt his hand grip my arm tightly. He crawled around to face me.
"You're real? I dreamed of you. I saw you die. I saw you die."
I opened my arms and held him, comforting him. I was scared for him. The thought of how he was able to see what had happened in Faery, scared me.
Brushing aside my fears for the moment, I soothed his emotions and eased his mind with my power. Stroking his face and rocking him with gentle words. His body relaxed and he sprawled half over my lap, his head curled into the crook of my arm.
The last time I had tried healing my power couldn't get a grip on what was ailing him. But, now that I had wild magic flowing through me, perhaps I could use that power to my advantage? Those Crones owed me that much.
I closed my eyes and pulled power from the roots of my tree. I felt that familiar surge of fire and ice and pushed it into my healing talent. I heard Sam gasp and I opened my eyes to see my hands glowing. That was different. I closed my eyes, feeling the power of Faery riding me. It was intoxicating and I knew I had to control it. With a firm grip with my mind, I placed restraints against it, trying to make the power build. I felt it bucking against me like a wild filly, but my stubborn will held.
The power receded like the retreating tide, but then I felt it. Fire and Ice lashed at me, striking with vicious intent. I felt like a rock against crashing waves with the sensation of a rumbling volcano beneath my feet. I gritted my teeth to concentrate harder, trying to hold onto that power before I unleashed it. Again it crashed against me and I gasped with each successive attack. Its strength was doubling, almost as if it was feeding off my stubborn will. A part of me rejoiced at this inner struggle, delighting in the friction. I shook myself like a dog, feeling the pervasive influence of Faery magic like a trickle into a bottomless stretch of ocean.
"What are you going to do?" Sam asked tremulously.
I took a deep shuddering breath. "Help you." With those words, my hands touched the sides of his face. We both gasped as I unleashed that raging storm. It lanced through his body. Something inside him sensed me and lashed back. I jerked, but pushed forward. That strange force hissed and slithered like a viper. It attacked once more and I shoved more power against it. It twisted and flopped as I bore down. Before I could destroy it completely, I sensed two more vipers attacking in opposite directions. This had to be a Faery bind, and these creatures were the guardians. Someone had bound Sam, sucking on his life essence a bit at a time. I felt my anger fuel the wild magic and I snarled. I called upon my telekinetic knives and swirled them around the funnel of power I was channelling. The vipers hissed as they crashed into my unrelenting knives. They dispersed and I followed their magical trail back to the source.
In my mind's eye, I saw a silver cord attached to Sam's soul. His soul lay huddled and translucent. With each pump of Sam's heart, more of his essence was being siphoned. I threw my daggers at the cord, slashing it in one decisive move. There was a distant scream and I felt grim satisfaction. Whoever was on the end of that cord would get a whiplash of power. I was tempted to go after it; to track down the perpetrator, but I had already pushed Mother Earth's restraints a little too far today.
I shoved the wild magic back down into my depths. It tried bucking and digging its heels in, but my mind was stronger. Reluctantly it went, and it struggled every inch of the way. I gasped with relief as it left my root system.
Now that the bind was gone, I knew I would be able to heal him. I called on my empathic and telepathic power and felt it meld into my healing. I lay him flat on the grass. The smell of rot and corpses assaulted my nose before my healing Molotov flowed over Sam's body. I saw the seven healing colours encompass Sam and heard him sigh with pleasure. I sank into the healing, forgetting everything but what needed work. Eventually, the colours faded and I inhaled the smell of green grass and pine.
I opened my eyes and looked into Sam's clear ones. He hugged me and cried. I knew it was therapeutic and I rocked him gently. When his tears finally died down, I looked at my watch. We had been sitting here for nearly three hours. The end of school bell would ring any minute now.
Sam broke the silence by snorting. "God, the shit I said to the guys..."
"Its okay, William told me. They think you're on drugs."
"I think I would prefer that to the reality of what happened."
"Sam, how have your parents been?"
He sat up and leaned against the side of the gym. "Worried. They thought I was on drugs or in some kind of trouble too. They banned me from the Internet and put locks on my windows. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic."
"I know this is going to be hard, but maybe we should let everybody believe that you went through a bad spell and now you're trying to pull yourself out."
He began chuckling and then let out a full belly laugh. "Bad spell? Ha, ha, ha. How very apt, bad spell." He wiped his eyes and I felt his stare bore into me. "Why don't you just...magic all of this from my memory? I know you can do it."
The bell rang and I stared at Sam. "I can't tamper with your mind too much. Everything you have gone through is too deeply embedded in your psyche."
He gave a sharp bark of laughter. "So I have to let people believe that I had a bad case of drugs and then I'll have everyone looking down on me condescendingly. Why the fuck should I do any of this? I have the truth on my side."
"You know as well as I do that no one will believe you."
His face twisted with rage as he stared at me. "Fuck you. This is all your fault. You got me into this mess. You can find a way to get me out of it."
He had hit a sore spot. In a way, he was right. It was all because of me that he was in this predicament. I lowered my head. "I don't have that kind of power to stop all of this."
I could feel his eyes on me and raised my head. He had a crafty look on his face and I narrowed my eyes in suspicion. "Perhaps you can let that alter-ego...what did Pounamu call him? Oh yeah, the warrior, out and let me fuck him. Give me an incentive to stick to that drug story."
My eyes hardened as I gritted my teeth. To believe that Sam could sink this low was a big blow to how I saw him. "Because you're my friend, I'll give you the courtesy of pretending I didn't hear what you just said."
He thrust his chin out and glared at me. "Why can't I have a happy ending? Why can't I have somebody that will smile at me the way I see you smile at Kevin? After everything I've gone through, I need somebody on my side, just for me."
"And what, blackmailing me justifies your ends?"
He had the decency to look guilty. He stood up and paced. "I'm sorry. I'm just so mad. I feel as if nobody understands me anymore. They haven't been through the things I have, so they look at me as if I'm loosing it. With you, you've seen the things I've seen. But, you have Kevin. I, I have no one."
I watched him pace. "Sam, I can't help you with your love life. The warrior is a part of my psychic arsenal. He is not an actual person. But I will be here for you when you need me...as a friend." He sighed in annoyance, keeping his back to me. "I'm sorry that this happened to you, but I've done everything I can to make amends. You think your life is ruined? I've done things that nobody should ever have to do." I stood up and placed my hand on his shoulder. "I am trying my best here, Sam."
"Is that supposed to make what I am feeling any easier?"
"No, but some things can not be changed. You just have to move on from here."
I felt the tension in his shoulders and squeezed gently. For a moment I thought he was going to pull away. Instead, I felt the muscles under my hands relax. "I know I'm acting like a real prick at the moment," he stated. I moved up closer and hugged him one armed. "I'm sorry, James. So many things have happened that I don't know who I am any more."
I laughed thinking about all the things that had shaped me so far. I leaned my head against his shoulder. "I can relate."
I felt his eyes upon me, "You know I will always care about you right?"
I closed my eyes feeling weary, "Sam, please..."
"No, let me finish. What I mean is that I know your secret. And I know you have Kevin, but if you ever need a friend, who will listen and understand, don't be afraid to call. Okay?"
I looked up into his sincere eyes and smiled. "Thank you, Sam." There was one more thing that was on the tip of my tongue, but I held it back. It wouldn't be fair to him. As I felt his hand squeezing, that thought came back again. If things had been different, I think Sam and I would have been a couple. But it's funny how fate can lead you down an unexpected path.
The sun was setting by the time I finally made it home. I had contacted Pounamu to see how Kevin and Jay were doing. The two were busy with sparring practise, so I left them to it. Kevin from the past was sitting outside on the front steps. He had the palms of his hands over his eyes, with his elbows resting on his knees. I felt a pang and sat down beside him. My hand automatically reached out to soothe him only to have him jolt and move away.
"I want to know in detail how James died," Kevin demanded.
Call me a soft touch or a sucker, but I couldn't stand to see him like this. I reached my hand out and touched his gently. It was easier to transfer my thoughts through the touch of skin. "I have the feeling he is still alive."
I saw him ready to open his mouth and I placed my fingers on his lips and warned him not to. He looked at me questioningly, but was more eager to get answers first. I watched him scrunch his eyes tight as he mentally thought back his response. I smiled at how cute he looked doing it. "Are you sure and why not tell the rest of the family?"
I felt guilty about what I was going to do next, but for the sake of our mission I think it was imperative that I kept my identity a secret. Even to dear Kevin. "I'm not a hundred percent certain, I'm just going on a gut feeling. And I didn't want to get the rest of the family's hopes up. Can we leave it between us for now, until I can get solid proof?"
He nodded his head and, for the first time, I saw his old smile peeking at me. My heart felt much lighter for telling him this much at least. He stared at me suddenly and for a nervous second I thought he realised it truly was me. But then his shoulders lowered and he stared morosely at the ground. He cleared his throat and glanced towards the road. "When you first came back, to me, I knew you weren't James. You had his family fooled because they wanted desperately to believe, but I could sense something missing in you. Now, the longer I'm around you, the more you appear to feel like him." He peered at me once more. I turned my face away from his scrutiny.
I jumped with surprise when I felt his warm hand on my shoulder. "Why the cloak and daggers by speaking mind to mind?"
I inwardly cursed at how damned observant Kevin could be. I told him a partial truth. "Our wards have magical ties to the Faery realm; I'm a little hesitant to talk about things while in the house." I was grateful he didn't pursue it further as he nodded his head in understanding. His hand remained on my shoulder and I wasn't sure if he realised it or not, but I wasn't going anywhere until he did.