Stephen had always hated hospitals: the sick smell, the disgusting off-white color, and the thought that many, many people had died within these walls. Walking along the hallway, Stephen counted off the numbers of the rooms aloud.
"324, 326, 328330." He concluded, staring into Bobby's room. He was awake, albeit barely. Bobby's eyes snapped open and drifted over to Stephen, beckoning him to come in. Tentatively, Stephen stepped in and closed the door behind him. He passed right by Bobby's bed and closed the curtains on the window. They were now completely alone. Stephen turned back to Bobby, sighed, and took a seat in the chair next to Bobby's bed.
"Jesus, man." Said Stephen, leaning forward in his chair to examine his friend.
Bobby's face was bruised and severely swollen. His eyes, now both bearing some nice shiners, darted back and forth between the TV and Stephen. Both his arms were in casts, and his torso was wonderfully adorned with bloodied bandages. Bobby, trying to be brave, gave a weak smile, revealing that several teeth were missing. A speck of blood dribbled out of his mouth and fell into the white pillow, staining it.
"So Todd Langley's back in town, huh?" Stephen asked, already knowing the answer.
"Mhm." Mumbled Bobby, clearly still in a painkiller delirium. Stephen shook his head pitifully.
"He's not going to get away with this." Stephen declared.
"Mnm." Bobby replied, to which Stephen sighed. There was a click from the doorway, but Stephen didn't bother to look up.
"What about the police report? The blood and"
"It's taken care of," answered Cooper, closing the door behind him. "I got on it. No blood. No evidence. We're clear."
"That was pretty ballsy of you to do that, man," Stephen said, looking down at Bobby, who only chuckled weakly.
"Doesn't seem he had much of a choice," added Cooper, walking to the window. He carefully pulled one curtain aside and looked out over the parking lot. "Guess you figured, die one way or another?"
"Mhm," answered Bobby. His eyes were now closed, having begun swelling since he first opened them for Stephen. He was still listening, but his eyes were just too tired.
"So what's the plan?" Stephen asked, on the edge of his seat. He began to rub Bobby's shoulder comfortingly, as if Bobby were a family member suffering the same fate.
"Todd's gotta be hurting, too." Cooper noted, closing the curtain. "You don't go up against Jack Flash and come out without some sort of injury."
"Mnm." Bobby interjected.
"Sounds like Bobby disagrees," said Stephen, looking back and forth from Bobby to Cooper.
"No way," Cooper gasped, his eyes growing wide. "No way could Todd go up against something like that and come out untouched."
"But what if he could?" questioned Stephen. "Furthermore, why'd he attack Bobby? He had no reason."
"Todd's a sociopath," Cooper grumbled, folding his arms indignantly. "He didn't need a reason. He just likes hurting people."
"But no one's even seen him in Ganton since last year," continued Stephen. "Seems kind of a coincidence that he'd show up again at a time like this."
"What, are you suggesting Todd's in on the hit?" Cooper laughed.
"I dunno," Stephen shrugged. "Maybe."
"You're being paranoid, Steve. Todd Langley's not a demon, he's just a psycho. He's a pathetic little freak who gets off on others' misery."
"Yeah," Stephen sighed, shaking his head. He looked down at Bobby, who had fallen back to sleep. He was now snoring peacefully, his swollen head rocking slowly in rhythm to his heavy breaths. Stephen could sense a sort of odd calm in the room, as though all were at peace. Bobby had survived, but why? Why had Todd Langley survived? Why had he attacked Bobby in the first place?
"C'mon," ordered Cooper, pulling Stephen to his feet. "Let's let him sleep."
"What you did isn't just damnable, it's immoral!" screeched Selina, floating after Gregg as he marched from his bedroom to the kitchen. She was still glaring at him as he sat down at the table, rubbing his eyes in frustration.
"Yes, because I cared about being moral when I sold my soul to a demon," sighed Gregg in response. She had been remanding him for his sinful deed since the previous night's walk.
"It's just completely messed up," elaborated Selina, hovering around Gregg's head. She kicked him gently in the back of the head as she drifted past. "You sold your soul to make some girl who didn't like you fall in love with you?!"
"Yes, yes I did," Gregg admitted as he opened the morning's newspaper and flipped to the arts and entertainment section. "And I have no regrets."
"No regrets at all?" Selina asked aloud. "None? Don't feel bad about essentially brainwashing some girl into loving you?"
"No, Selina. I feel no regrets." Gregg reiterated. "I had everything. Everything but her."
Selina froze. She hadn't considered Gregg's reasoning. With his parents gone, he had no one but himself. His intelligence had only fueled his innate desire for companionship, and the situation had presented itself. By no means did it justify him, but the innate loneliness he must have felt must have been overwhelming. Selina sighed and drifted into the kitchen, her eyes now glazed over with some wasted tears.
"Whatever makes you happy." She whispered back to Gregg. "What's her name?"
"Rebekkah." Came Gregg's curt response.
"Yes, it is."
And with that, Selina gave a heavy sigh and disappeared into the hallway, leaving Gregg to stew in his own misery.
"Alex!" yelled Clarissa, charging through a mob of students. Five feet ahead of her, Alex was charging away to his next class, flowing with the tide of people on their own merry ways. Clarissa had some trouble, but finally managed to shove enough people aside in order to reach Alex.
"What?" Alex growled, sounding quite annoyed at Clarissa's sudden presence.
"I heard about Bobby. Is he alright?" asked Clarissa with innocent eyes. Alex scoffed, pulled her to the side of the hallway, and replied in a hoarse whisper.
"No, of course he's not alright. He got jumped. Ganked. F*cked up."
"I'm sorry, I just" Clarissa began to say, but was quickly interrupted by Alex's snarling.
"You're what? You're sorry? That all?" Alex's eyes began to grow large, and a fury the likes of which Clarissa had not often seen emerged from Alex's tiny frame. "He's an open target in that hospital. If one of your little buddies figures out he's there, he's as good as dead. You can't really defend yourself when you're unconscious in bed, can ya?"
"Listen," Clarissa replied, her own brow furrowing, "I had nothing to do with what happened. I like you, Alex. I don't want to hurt you or your friends."
"So what's that make you?" Alex snickered cruelly, "a traitor, or something?"
"If someone finds out I'm helping youyes." Clarissa admitted, shrugging. "Yes, I would be. And that means I'd be just as wanted as you are."
"So why even help us?" Alex wondered.
"I was supposed to come here to keep an eye on you at first," Clarissa explained, whispering to ensure a passing group of girls wouldn't hear their conversation. "Like a spy, basically. Take human form, watch your every move, report back. But I got too close, I guess."
"What do you mean?" asked Alex, watching over Clarissa's shoulder as the group of girls passed by.
"I got too close to you, idiot. I don't want you to die." Clarissa sighed, looking away. "You're a good person, you know?"
"Since when did demons care about good people?"
"I don't know!" Clarissa exclaimed. "Maybe I'm just different."
"Maybe you were meant for something better," Alex assured her as he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. She sighed deeply and pushed his hand away.
"You should uh, get to class." Said Clarissa, moving away from him. "Don't want to be late."
Alex watched as she walked away, her yellow sundress flapping gently with her stride. She was a creature of beauty, but the thought remained in Alex's head that she was designed that way: perfect. She was meant to be a seductive figure, but what if she defied her purpose? What would that make her?
Sighing, Alex continued on his way, oblivious to his surroundings. He was too caught up in the moment even to notice the pale blonde girl watching him from the girl's bathroom doorway as he departed.
Cooper paced along the edges of the room as Loveless underwent their weekly meeting. With Bobby in the hospital, everything was awry. Nothing in regards to music could really be done without him. He was, after all, the rhythm of the band.
"So what's the plan?" Sam asked from the corner of the garage, his gray eyes bouncing from person to person.
"Wish I knew," came Cooper's reply. He seemed so anxious that he didn't even bother to look up. He continued pacing, dancing back and forth from wall to wall. From the couch, Gregg sighed.
"Well, we can't play any shows, then." Gregg muttered.
"That's hardly our worst concern right now," Alex added, leaning against the doorframe leading into the house itself. "I'm just a BIT more worried about the unholy things that are slowly creeping our way."
"But what about Todd?" Stephen asked, strumming a few chords on his Takamine acoustic. "Shouldn't we do something about him? Can't we call the cops or something?"
"No evidence of anything going on," replied Cooper drolly. "I made sure of it."
"How?" Selina wondered aloud, floating around the perimeter of the ceiling.
"I'll explain later," Cooper assured her. "But for now, I think our focus should be on protection and prevention."
"Salt," stated Alex rather simply. "I bought five bags of rock salt. Lines in front of our doors and windows will stop anything from getting inside our houses."
"What if we're attacked outside of home?" Stephen asked, looking from Alex to Cooper.
"Carry crosses or rosaries," said Selina from above, looking down on Stephen with disdain. "They work much better on infernals than nightwalkers."
"Listen, I said I was sorry," Stephen fumbled over his words, trying to reason with her. But it seemed she wasn't listening, as she hovered over to the couch and took a seat on the opposite end of Gregg.
"Okay." Cooper sighed, running a hand over his smooth head. "So how long do you think we can keep this up?"
"Long enough," Sam snickered from the corner.
"I figure if this Buddy creature can find a loophole, so can you." Selina noted, looking rather proud of herself as she propped her head up with her hand. The room went silent as Loveless attempted to make sense of Selina's proposition. For a moment, no one moved. It was as if the whole world had stopped turning in that instant, caught in a moment of realization.
"What do you mean?" asked Alex, though he already knew the answer. He, and quite possibly the rest of the room, just wanted the satisfaction of hearing it said aloud. Selina gave a fanged smile, rose about a foot into the air, and said it.
"What if you can break the contract?"