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Claudia's Cove [userpic]
Path Into Fire, 2, Viggo/Elijah, PG13

Title: Path into Fire 2
Pairing: Elijah/Viggo
Author: Claudia
Rating: varies, this chapter PG13
Summary: In a non-descript Midwest town, Elijah works as a therapist to special needs children and lives with his roommate Viggo. After saving the life of one of his charges, he is gifted a deadly ability to see visions of chaos and death in a country that seemingly doesn’t exist on a map.
Disclaimer: I make no claims about the real life of these actors, anything in their past, their real families, or their sexual orientation. The only resemblance to them is their faces and names.

Elijah had always had vivid dreams. Mostly they were nightmares, full of grim happenings -- drownings, shootings, chases, and horrifying, bloody accidents.

But in this dream, he woke in the middle of the night in his own bed, his throat so dry that he could scarcely swallow. He wandered into the kitchen, where he found Viggo already awake, sipping coffee at the kitchen table. It was still dark outside, and the clock showed that it was just after three in the morning.

Viggo smiled at him. “Morning.”

Elijah nodded and turned away from him. He poured himself a glass of water, but before he could turn off the faucet, unyielding arms slipped around his waist and Viggo’s sharp chin pressed against his shoulder. Viggo kissed behind Elijah’s ear with tender attention, and Elijah gasped, letting the glass slip from his fingers. It shattered inside the chrome sink, sending tiny slivers of glass flying. Viggo held him tighter, and Elijah relaxed into his embrace, helpless in it and glad of it. His groin warmed and hardened, and one of Viggo’s hands slipped inside his boxers and stroked it until it was unbearably hard. Elijah panted with need, lifting his chin, allowing Viggo to lick and suck on his pale, pulsing throat.

He came with such violence that it woke him. He was under the covers in his own bed, sliding his sticky-wet hand over his now limp cock.

He squinted at his clock, which glowed 3:08.

He got out of bed and urinated. After that, he washed his hands and splashed water over his face. His groin still tingled pleasantly from the dream. He could still feel Viggo’s phantom arms around his waist. He padded into the kitchen to get a glass of water, just like in his dream. Of course there was no Viggo sitting at the kitchen table. In fact, Elijah could hear him snoring to wake the dead.

Elijah felt suddenly depressed as he set down his water glass. His dream would never happen. Viggo was as straight as it gets. And even if he by chance played for both teams, he would never risk coming on to his roommate.

Elijah watched, exhausted, as Andy darted from his bicycle to the slide to his red wagon and back to his bicycle. He stared up at the sky in manic glee, giggling and waving his hands. Today had been tough. Elijah had accomplished almost nothing with him. Andy could not focus on any one activity for longer than a few seconds and did not want to meet Elijah’s eyes or interact with him at all. Whenever Elijah tried, Andy ran away. Although the sun was bright in a perfect blue sky, a chilly breeze made Elijah glad he had worn his light jacket.

“Andy, buddy!” Elijah clapped and used his most animated voice, the only thing that seemed to work to get Andy’s attention when he was this far gone. On days like this, he had to accept that the session was a success if he could even get just one moment of eye contact. “I’m ready to play! What are you going to choose?”

Andy tried to run away again, but Elijah blocked him. Andy’s backyard was spacious and grassy, encircled by a gated metal fence. The yard was simple--no flower gardens or fancy landscaping. It was clear that Andy’s parents lived in survival mode – go to work, deal with Andy. A row of lilac bushes ran along the fence. The Milos family had only one tree on their property, a huge oak that overshadowed most of the lawn. In the summer it was awfully nice, but on a chilly day like today, when the sun at least yielded a little warmth, he wished for at least a sunny patch in the yard.

“What shall we do, Andy—the bicycle or the slide?”


Elijah sighed. Eating was Andy’s favorite avoidance technique.

“Nope, we’re not going to eat just yet,” Elijah said, ready to step away. Andy often hit him when he became frustrated, and he had quite a wallop for a five-year-old.

“Eat!” Andy screamed, stomping his foot.

Elijah ignored the coming tantrum and picked up a stuffed animal nearby. “Shall we put Bear on the bicycle?”

“No, no.”

At least they were having a conversation, and there had been some eye contact, albeit angry eye contact.

“Shall we go to the park?”

Andy’s eyes flickered with sudden eagerness, and he marched in determination toward the gate.

“Great!” Elijah said. “I’m ready to go to the park, too!”

Elijah trotted to get ahead of Andy so that he could open the gate. After they had walked through it, he latched it securely behind him. Andy was good about staying close to him when they were walking, and Elijah only took Andy’s hand when they crossed streets. Andy walked purposely just ahead of Elijah down the sidewalk. He knew the exact route to the park. He could walk there alone if it weren’t for the streets. Andy had no concept of street safety.

They stopped at the first busy street.

“Uh oh!” Elijah said. He was feeling weary enough that the over-animated voice he needed to use with Andy had begun to grate on his own nerves. “Car’s coming! Should we stop or should we go?”

“Go,” Andy said. And if Elijah’s hand hadn’t been firmly around his, he would have stepped off the curb and walked right in front of the coming car.

“Nope, we’re going to wait for the car to go by,” Elijah said. “Bye-bye, car!”

“Bye-bye, car!” Andy imitated Elijah in a bored voice. The swings were in sight, and that’s all that Andy cared about.

“Now let’s see. Are there any other cars coming?” Elijah looked both ways. “I don’t see any cars. We can go now!”

Lion Park, in contrast to the enormous Tumbleweed Park in which they had encountered the dog last week, was the size of a small city block. With virtually no trees, the one set of swings, the slide, the merry-go-round, and the concrete basketball court, the playground looked like a colorfully painted island surrounded by tall grass and weeds. Today the park was empty, which Elijah found surprising on this pleasant day.

Just an hour more and then he would drop Andy off and call it a day. Viggo had a date; he had told Elijah so that morning, and all day, a sickening jealousy had festered in his stomach. Especially after his dream.

Elijah couldn’t stand to be at home all night, waiting for Viggo to come home. And he sure didn’t want to be there when Viggo bragged about his date.

Elijah decided to stop by Wal’s World and see if Priscilla wanted to go out to eat after she got off work. He was sure she’d be up for it. Priscilla never turned down an opportunity to eat. Elijah smiled fondly. He enjoyed watching her eat. She gave always gave full attention to her food. She had told him that she would not read or watch television while eating. She chewed slowly, reveling in the taste of whatever she was eating. She could linger at a table for hours, just nibbling and talking, closing her eyes with intense pleasure when she put something in her mouth that really made her tastebuds sing and dance.

The walk to the park had invigorated Andy, and his attention was now much more focused. If Elijah gave him a choice between two activities, Andy responded right away. He even participated in a long chasing game with Elijah. When Andy finally lost interest and retreated to the shade under the slide, Elijah wiped the sweat from his brow. He had gotten quite the workout chasing Andy around.

He glanced at his watch and slapped the slide to get Andy’s attention.

“Andy, buddy, it’s time to go home now! Your mom’s waiting for you! You did great today!”

Andy crawled out from under the slide and started trotting toward home. Elijah started to follow him, but he tripped and stumbled to one knee. His damn shoelace. He bent to tie it as quickly as he could.

When he looked up, his heart stuttered and turned cold.

Andy had run far more quickly than Elijah had anticipated, and he had nearly made it to the street. A black Camero zoomed down the narrow street. Elijah jumped to his feet and ran with all his strength. A roaring filled his ears, and his legs would not move fast enough. He couldn’t call out to Andy to stop. He couldn’t waste the breath. At the curb, he lunged forward, and his fingers almost snagged Andy’s collar. He missed and stumbled to his knees in the middle of the narrow, cobblestone street as Andy trotted into the path of the car.

The driver slammed on the brakes with a horrible screeching sound. Elijah threw himself forward and shoved Andy toward the opposite side of the street, out of the path of the car. He had a quick view of the panic in the young driver’s face. The car was still sliding in his direction.

Oh, God--

He leaped on the curved hood of the car, as if he thought in a daring, foolish moment that he could actually avoid impact. The hood clipped his thigh, and everything flipped upside down. A sharp pain assailed his shoulder as the freshly mowed grass slammed into his face.

Everything became suddenly quiet and dark. Water lapping against a wall echoed around him, though he saw no water. It was cool and damp, like inside a cave. His eyes adjusted to the dark, and he saw the shadowy figure of a little boy sitting in front of him. As his vision improved, he realized that the little boy was Andy. His eye contact was intense, better than it ever had been. There was light and intelligence in those eyes.


Andy had never addressed him by name. Elijah’s throat filled with wonder. Where were they? He wondered if he had fallen asleep during one of their sessions. His head hurt.

Hey, Andy, buddy, you did a great job today.

Stop the bloodshed, Andy said. His articulate voice sounded more like that of a young adult rather than that of a five-year-old child with autism.

What? Elijah asked. His head hurt him dreadfully. What bloodshed could Andy possibly be talking about? A shiver went up his arms. Andy’s eyes glinted, but they remained fixed on Elijah. Elijah felt cold all over. He suddenly didn’t want to be in this dark, echoing room. He sensed a shadow looming behind Andy, filled with malice and dark power. Andy did not seem frightened.

Maros, Andy said. I have the power to stop it, but I’m trapped. I know about every attack, every bomb that will go off, but I can’t tell anyone. Please help me, Elijah. Please make it stop. People will die.

Andy gripped Elijah’s wrist. The shadow seemed to whirl behind Andy like a tornado before it surrounded them both. A ripple coursed through Elijah’s body.

I pass it to you, Andy said.

Elijah groaned. The pain in his head was excruciating. He opened his eyes. He was lying on his back. A police officer was talking to a quivering young teenager who stood next to the black Camaro. A second police officer peered down at Elijah’s face. Elijah remembered Andy and tried to jump up. The police officer held him down by his shoulders. Elijah involuntarily cried out from the pain.

“Hold on, buddy. Don’t move. An ambulance is on the way.”

“Where’s the little boy?” Elijah asked, his eyes wide with fear.

“He’s sitting over there.”

Andy was sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk. He stared forward in a blank glaze as if he were completely unaware of the excitement around him.

“He’s autistic. He could wander off. I have to take him home.”

“Just calm down, sir. You got knocked out. The driver said you ran out in front of the car.”

Elijah glared at the teenager. “He would have run over Andy. He was going much too fast.”

“That I don’t doubt. He’s only fifteen. Doesn’t even have his license. Are you hurt anywhere other than your head?”

“I don’t think so.”

Elijah tried to move his legs and arms and felt no sharp pain. His thigh and shoulder throbbed and he imagined he’d feel it with more intensity when the shock wore off, but nothing seemed broken.

“You should really go to a hospital and get checked out.”

“No,” Elijah said. “Don’t need it. I’m fine. I need to take Andy home.”

He looked at Andy. His face was still blank. There was no sign of the manic giggling from earlier. Elijah had a puzzling recollection that he may have dreamed about him when he was unconscious, something dark and unpleasant. Shudders coursed through his body. Blood trickled from his forehead down his cheek.

The ambulance arrived. The police officer explained that Elijah didn’t want to go to the hospital, and the paramedics had him sign a statement of refusal. Elijah did, however, allow them to dress the cut on his forehead. The police officer took the fifteen-year-old by the shoulder and helped him in the back of the squad car. Elijah held Andy’s hand tightly all the way home. He didn’t trust his limbs to react if Andy bolted again. His legs felt shaky.

“Oh my God!” Andy’s mother cried when she saw Elijah’s face and torn jacket. “What happened?”

She immediately looked at Andy, and seeing that he was all right, she looked back at Elijah.

“Andy ran in the street and I had to act quickly. He scraped his hands up a little, but otherwise, he’s not hurt. I knocked my head, but,” and he grinned, “the verdict is, I’ll live.”

He didn’t want to frighten Linda with unnecessary details, like the reckless way the teenager had been driving, how he had been knocked out, how Andy had almost gone under the wheels of the car. Elijah still trembled from the shock. He just wanted to get home and take a hot shower. He didn’t even know if he was up to going out to dinner with Priscilla.

“Hey, what happened to you?” Viggo asked. He had just arrived home from work, sweaty and filthy, and of course more attractive to Elijah than ever. He hovered in the door to the bathroom, where Elijah was examining his wounds in the mirror. He had taken off his torn jacket and sweaty shirt, and Viggo could see the black bruise that covered his side and shoulder.

Elijah told him about the accident.

Viggo looked at the bruise in fascination.

“Did they arrest the little creep?”

“Yes,” Elijah said, trying not to shiver when Viggo’s fingers brushed his shoulder wound. “He nearly…I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten to Andy on time. The thought still turns me cold.”

Viggo looked disturbed and a little pale. “God, Elijah.” He shook his head. “You’re always having to do the hero thing. You’re going to get yourself killed.” And then, as if he had showed a bit too much emotion, he added, “And who’ll pay the other half of the rent then?”

Elijah looked at him in surprise. The grave expression on Viggo’s face brought a flicker of memory back to him, of Andy with his eyes fixed on him. He shivered as a dark shadow blocked his vision.

I pass it to you.

“Maybe you should go to the hospital,” Viggo said with concern. “You look pale. I’ll take you.”

Elijah was secretly delighted with Viggo’s concern, but he declined. “Naw, I’m all right. You have your date. And I’m going to have dinner with Priscilla.”

Viggo grinned. “Just make sure she doesn’t eat you for dinner.” When Elijah glared at him, he fell against the wall in mock fear. “If looks could kill! I’m just giving you shit. You know I don’t mean anything by it. She seems like a nice enough girl.”

Elijah buttoned a fresh shirt. “Despite your best efforts to be an asshole, I think you’d like her.”

Elijah parked in the spacious parking lot of Wal’s World. He winced as a bolt of pain shot through his thigh. The shock was wearing off. He could pick up some ibuprofen while he was in the store, as well as some beer for the home front.

He walked through the automatic doors and was amazed that they had turned the air conditioning on. It was by no stretch of the imagination warm enough outside to justify air conditioning. Priscilla had been complaining for days that she was working in the arctic, and now Elijah could see that she wasn’t exaggerating. He shivered. He picked up the ibuprofen and a six-pack and stood patiently in line at Priscilla’s register. She hadn’t noticed him yet. He watched with a smile as she bantered with the customers in front of him. Even at the end of her shift, she looked energetic and happy, as if these customers were her first and only of the day.

She met Elijah’s eyes, and her face lit up.

“Hi, sweetie!”

She noticed the bandage on his face and gasped. Her hand flew to her mouth. “What happened to you?”

“Oh, I’ll tell you about it later. Are you up for dinner?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?” Priscilla laughed. “Absolutely. I’m off in fifteen minutes. Can you wait?”

“Not a problem.”

She smiled slyly as she rang up the beer. “I’m going to need to see some I.D., young man.”

“Very cute,” Elijah said.

After Priscilla punched out, they drove to a small diner. They settled into the booth and ordered dinner.

“So are you going to tell me what happened to you?”

Elijah took a shuddering breath and began to tell her about the accident in a halting voice. He felt so safe in the cozy diner with Priscilla that he was almost reluctant to relive the accident again. Although it had happened on a sunny beautiful day, whenever he thought about it, he pictured darkness and chilling dampness. He set his hands on the table, trying to prevent them from trembling. He could still feel the black Camero striking his thigh as he tried to jump out of its way. There had been the awful certainty that he was going to be badly hurt, possibly even killed.

He barely noticed when their burgers and fries arrived.

“Wow, I’m so glad you’re all right!” Priscilla said. Elijah’s stomach rolled. He suddenly wasn’t sure that he still wanted to be out, even with Priscilla. He wanted to curl up in bed with his eyes shut. Priscilla was beginning to look at him in strange pity. “I mean, first you save my cat by climbing up on the balcony and then this – you must have a death wish.”

Elijah swallowed and changed the subject. “So, what does your sister do? I haven’t really had a chance to chat with her. The one time I met her she was rushing out the door.”

Priscilla started at the abrupt change of subject, but then she smiled fondly. “Clarissa’s always rushing, always go-go-go. I’m the irresponsible one.”

“You’re not irresponsible.”

Priscilla shook her head ruefully. She flagged down the waitress who was hurrying by.

“Excuse me, could I have a slice of your cherry pie, please? Want any dessert, Elijah?”

Elijah had popped some ibuprofen in the car, but his shoulder had flared up with a new vengeance. His appetite was gone. Again, he had the uneasy feeling that he shouldn’t be out—that he should be at home in quiet contemplation. His heart felt weighed down, though he didn’t feel depressed or upset—just shaken. Shivers ran up and down his arms. He stared down at his hands as if he were looking at a ghost of himself.

“No thanks.”

After the waitress left, Priscilla turned her attention back to the conversation.

“Anyway,” she said. “Clarissa’s the one who got straight A’s in high school. She would have been valedictorian, except that she chose to take an advanced calculus class her senior year that kicked her ass. She was pissed, I can tell you that.”

“I bet,” Elijah said. He strained to focus on the conversation. An annoying buzzing filled his ears. Maybe he should have allowed Viggo to take him to the hospital. He found himself wondering if he was enjoying his date right now.

“Are you going to finish those?” Priscilla asked, eyeing the fries that Elijah had left on his plate. Elijah shook his head, and Priscilla picked one fry and nibbled on the end, clearly reveling in the salty flavor. Elijah laughed at her enjoyment, and it upped his mood a little. The buzzing in his ears faded a bit.

“I didn’t make good grades. Not that I was a slouch. I’m just not that smart.”

“Stop with that!” Elijah said, pulling his plate toward him. “Or I won’t give you any more fries.”

Priscilla blushed. She looked down at her hands.

“You know what I mean. Book smart. I tried, but I just don’t do that good in math and learning about literature and all.”

Elijah pushed the plate back toward her.

“All right. But you’re way smarter than you’re giving yourself credit for. You’re really smart about people—I know that for sure. It takes a lot to be able to be nice to so many people working your job.”

Priscilla gave him a big smile that lit up her entire face. “You’re really sweet, you know that? Have you had a lot of girlfriends?”

Elijah’s heart skipped. He felt his face grow stiff. He had felt so relaxed around her since she mentioned her lack of interest in him, so much so that he had almost forgotten that she didn’t know about him. Nobody did.

“I’ve had one or two,” he murmured.

“One or two, huh?” Priscilla said with a smile.

“I had a serious girlfriend all through high school,” he said. That was true. “But we broke up when I went away to college. I had a few short-lived relationships in college. I haven’t had a real relationship in three years. What about you?”

“One or two,” Priscilla said with a teasing smile.

After they had been at the restaurant for four hours, Elijah’s head throbbed so badly that he had to call it a night.

Priscilla looked sympathetic. “You poor thing! Take some extra ibuprofen. Take four or five and get some sleep. I still can’t believe you jumped in front of that car.”

Elijah dropped her off in the parking lot of Wal’s World. He waited until she was in her car and had it started. She honked and waved as she drove past him.

Elijah slammed the racquet into the ball and hopped to the back of the racquetball court. He still moved quickly, despite his sore shoulder and thigh. It had been a week since the accident. Racquetball was the one sport in which he excelled, and he almost always beat Viggo soundly. Being small and nimble had its advantages. He had already won one game and was about to win the second.

“Come on!” Viggo cried in irritation. He whacked the ball, which whirled into the wall and back toward Elijah. Elijah deftly sprang back and hit it. Viggo missed.

“Fuck!” He threw his racquet on the ground after he lost the game.

“Come on, Viggo! You said you practiced!” Elijah’s cheeks were flushed. His bright blue eyes contrasted with the beige and gray of the racquetball court. He wiped away the sweat that ran into his eyes. Viggo wrapped his arm around Elijah’s neck and squeezed, forcing Elijah to his knees.

“Then let me challenge you to a game of basketball, runt! We’ll see who’d win.”

“Hey,” Elijah gasped, struggling against his grip and at the same time liking it. “I might still win.”

Viggo released Elijah and tried to look dignified as he wiped his face with his towel. He glanced toward the long row of treadmills that faced the racquetball courts. A slender woman with the long blond braid smiled at him.

Viggo nudged Elijah. “I’m going to get her number.”

“Good luck!” Elijah said, his heart sinking just a little. He managed a good sport smile as he put his racquet away. He had no doubt Viggo would be successful. He always was. Not only was he good looking, but his face was earnest, reflecting the nearly ten years of hard work he had put in the Logen Plastic Factory. But when he smiled, he looked ten years younger. Years ago, during a party at the apartment, Viggo’s girlfriend at the time had confided to Elijah in a moment of drunken candor that when Viggo smiled at her like that, all she wanted to do was get naked and eat him up. Elijah had secretly agreed.

Elijah lay in bed that night trying desperately to sleep. The physical activity from that afternoon’s racquetball game surely meant that he would finally have a full night of sleep. Ever since the accident, he had suffered from terrible insomnia. While he had always dreamed, he had never had an actual problem sleeping before. No matter what worries plagued him, he had always been able to close his eyes and immediately drop into sleep.

Now he closed his eyes, but he felt like he had just drunk ten cups of strong coffee. He fidgeted and rolled over. His shoulder throbbed, aggravated by the game that afternoon. But that wasn’t what prevented him from sleeping. A buzzing surged through his limbs, as if something wanted him to stay alert. The last time he remembering glancing at the clock in frustration, it said 2:35 am.

In the dream, Elijah sat in an unfamiliar bar with Viggo. The décor was old and dusty, as if the proprietor had neither the energy nor the inclination to care that much about appearance. Viggo had gone up to the bar to order another round of beers. An ominous feeling filled Elijah’s heart. The bar was teeming with dangerous mirth. People laughed, but their grins looked more like grimaces. It made Elijah think of people laughing and screaming on a roller coaster that was about to crash.

A masked man burst in the door. He cocked an automatic rifle in the air.

Firth liestto denya! he yelled. Though the words were foreign, Elijah knew their meaning: Firth freedom forever.

Everyone in the bar turned in horror.

The bartender yelled in a foreign language. His voice was high and terrified.

The gun slipped down, but instead of the masked man dropping it, he started to fire around the room. Elijah’s ears filled with the unbearably loud popping as one by one, people in front of him fell, sliding in their own blood across the blue-tiled floor before crumpling on a heap. Elijah could no longer see Viggo. The masked man pointed his gun right at Elijah. Elijah could see his cold dark eyes as he started to fire.

Elijah woke, shaking. He sat up in bed. He could still see and hear everything in the dream with such perfect clarity--the rattle of the gunfire, the blood splattering the floor, the trapped, horrified expressions in the patrons’ eyes, the deadly cold in the gunman’s emotionless face. It had been the most terrifying nightmare he had ever had.

Elijah shuffled into the kitchen. His hand shook as he lit the gas stove and put the kettle on. Herbal tea would soothe him. He hoped the kettle wouldn’t wake Viggo. He didn’t want to talk about the dream to anyone. It was too horrifying, too real.

When the kettle started to screech, Elijah lunged for it, breaking off the sound just after it started.

He sat at the kitchen table, holding his cup. His hands shook, and hot liquid spilled onto them.

“Ow, fuck!” he hissed. He wiped his hands with a towel. He closed his eyes, and the nightmare came back to him in vivid color. His hands shook so hard he had to put the cup down again. Why had he dreamed about violence in some foreign country?

He must have seen something on the news that had nested in his unconscious.

“What’s up?”

Viggo’s voice startled him.

“Sorry I woke you,” Elijah said, but now that Viggo was there, he was glad. The night seemed less dark.

“I wasn’t sleeping very well,” Viggo said. “Nightmare?”

Elijah felt too weak to deny it. He nodded.

“What about?”

“A gunman in some foreign country was shooting up a bar. We were there.”

“It probably means you need to get laid.”

Elijah gave him only a shadow of a smile. He was not in the mood for Viggo’s teasing. Viggo immediately sensed that, and his smile faded.

“Sorry, man. It’s just a dream.”

“Of course,” Elijah said, sipping more tea. “What time is it, anyway?”


“Great.” Elijah held his head in his hands. “I have an early day tomorrow. I have to get Nerissa at seven and work with her at school—and she’s no joy to work with when I’m tired.”

After a grueling day of three autistic children, two Downs Syndrome children, and a little boy with cerebral palsy, Elijah was exhausted. He just wanted to lie on the couch and sleep. He wished he could sleep. Outside the apartment, he fumbled with his keys, dropping them several times before managing to get the door open.

When he stepped into the apartment, Viggo was watching the news with interest. That was unusual. Elijah was lucky if he could get Viggo to watch any part of the news outside of the sports report.

“What’s up?” Elijah asked. “What’s going on?”

Viggo didn’t take his eyes from the television.

“Hey, it’s like your dream.”

“What?” Elijah felt cold.

“A gunman shot up a bar in some foreign country…Maros? Wherever the fuck that is…my geography sucks.”

Maros. God, that sounded familiar.

Elijah’s throat dried as he collapsed next to Viggo on the couch, staring at the live coverage. The inside of the tavern was exactly as he had dreamed it. The wood paneled walls, the old, dusty decor, blood spattered on the blue-tiled floor. His heart sped and slowed in irregular patterns. He had dreamed it, and then it had happened. Exactly.

“It’s just a coincidence, man,” Viggo said, more it seemed to convince himself than Elijah. “Don’t worry. Just a coincidence.”

Elijah sank on the couch and covered his face. The same bar. Viggo could say it was coincidence, but Elijah knew differently. He had seen it all in vivid color before it had happened. He had felt what the patrons had felt right before it happened.

He had never believed in or taken psychic abilities seriously. That was not to say that he didn’t believe in intuition. Intuition was a powerful monitor of the world, and he had learned to listen to his gut in many situations. In his job he used intuition frequently. He had to be in tune with each child’s mood and how it could be used to advantage.

But he had never had an overt psychic experience.

“It’s all right, man,” Viggo said. “It’s just a coincidence.”

“I know,” Elijah said faintly. It would be useless to explain. Only he would ever know how exactly the bar in his dream matched the real bar in Maros. Elijah wanted to call Priscilla and tell her about it, but she was working the night shift.

“Hey, man, want to go out and get a few beers?” Viggo asked. “What do you say?”

“Sure,” Elijah said dully, still staring at the images on the television. Any other day, he’s jump at the chance of going out with Viggo, having him all to himself. Now he was too shaken to appreciate it. But if he stayed at home, he would go crazy. He wanted to be out among people. Maybe that would clear his mind.

Sipty’s was crowded. A group of men who played on a company softball team had already gotten quite rowdy. They slapped each other on the backs and laughed raucously. Loud rock music blared from the speakers. A thick cloud of smoke filled the room.

There were no booths available, so Viggo and Elijah sat on tall stools around a little table in the center of the floor. Elijah bought the first round of beers. He felt a little better. The dream didn’t mean anything. Elijah’s brain had simply regurgitated things he saw all the time on the news.

And it did feel good be out. He vowed to forget about the dream and focus on the moment. He was out with Viggo. He likely didn’t have to worry about a gunman crashing into the bar and shooting everyone up. He had good friends, a good job, a place to live, enough to eat.

Elijah swallowed. He might as well get this one over with. “So, are you going to go out with Sarah?”

Sarah was the woman with the long blond braid that Viggo had met at the gym and from whom he had of course received a phone number.

“I haven’t called her yet,” Viggo said with a charming smile. “I have to let the standard three days pass.”

“Aren’t you worried that someone else will get to her?”

“Have you no faith? What about you and Priscilla?”

In the past weeks, Elijah and Priscilla had gone out to eat, gone to a few movies, and gone for walks in Tumbleweed Park. He loved being around her. He loved the sound of her voice, her vivid green eyes, and her sense of humor. But he was still no more attracted to her physically than he had been the first day.

Elijah chose his words carefully. “I want to like her in that way.”

“But you don’t,” Viggo said wryly. “We can’t help who think of as hot.”

“That’s for damn sure,” Elijah said, and he felt a black mood press over him.

“You just shut up, Darla!”

Elijah and Viggo turned uneasily in the direction of the shout. A few tables over, a burly man with an unkempt beard had gripped his wife or girlfriend by the wrist. The woman was thin, with feathered blond hair. Tears had gathered in her eyes.

“Oh, nice,” Viggo said, tensing.

“We’re staying as long as I want to stay!” the burly man continued in a loud voice. “You got that, you pathetic bitch?”

He turned and caught Elijah’s stare. Elijah quickly looked away.

“He saw me look,” Elijah whispered, shielding his face with his hand. “Oh, Jesus…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Viggo said, clenching his jaw. And Elijah found himself wondering with more than a little excitement whether if the burly guy took a swing at him, if Viggo would defend him.

But the situation calmed down, and Darla and her man had a seat again, and the other patrons in the bar went back to whatever they were doing. But Elijah couldn’t stop thinking about poor Darla and the kind of life she had, living with someone who treated her like dirt. It made him think of his father and his mousy, frightened mother.

Viggo looked up at one of the many televisions that decorated the bar. He did not seem concerned with the ugly scene that was developing between Darla and her asshole of a partner. “I wonder how there can be so many sports channels on right now and not one of them is showing anything other than golf. I’ve got to take a piss.”

Elijah laughed at Viggo’s crudity as Viggo got up and pushed through the crowd. Elijah looked back at one of the televisions, where indeed a golf game was going on. He was not sure a more boring sport existed. At least he couldn’t hear the monotonous announcer.

A heavy hand fell on Elijah’s shoulder. “Hey!”

Elijah whipped his head around, and the burly man with the beard grabbed his shirt. “I saw you looking at my woman!”

“What are you talking about?” Elijah’s heart sped. The consecutive nights of little sleep and the horrific nightmare from the previous night had left his nerves shot.

“Don’t try to play it off, you little shit. You think she’s cute? You want to fuck her?” The man shoved Elijah’s sore shoulder.

Elijah had heard his abusive tone when he had shouted at the poor woman. Elijah’s chest burned. It was not enough that this man was picking a fight with him. He was probably going to take Darla home and beat her up as well. Elijah glanced at Darla, who only wrung her hands, as if she were used to this kind of thing. Her eyes, heavy with mascara, brimmed with tears.

Elijah jumped to his feet and faced the man.

“What’s wrong with you?” he shouted. The sight was nearly comical. Elijah’s head only came up to the burly man’s shoulders.

“Keith!” Darla wailed. Elijah noticed with no surprise a glaring yellow bruise on her cheek. And this made his chest burn with fury.

Keith shoved Elijah. He had hit Elijah’s injured shoulder, and that, combined with the fact that he outweighed Elijah by at least seventy pounds, sent Elijah crashing to the ground. The bar quieted. His father had knocked him down once. He hadn’t meant to. He had not realized the force behind his shove. Elijah couldn’t even remember what he had done to make his father lash out in violence. He only remembered the shameful moments just afterward, when he had curled on the floor holding back his tears.

This time he felt nothing but dry-mouthed rage. He leaped back to his feet with nothing in his mind but the desire to hurt this thug. He slammed his hands into Keith’s chest, knocking him against the nearest table. The couple occupying the table yelled and recoiled as their plate filled with greasy fries toppled to the floor and smashed to pieces. The man barely saved his beer from spilling over.

“Take it outside!” he yelled, wiping the spilled beer from his hand.

“Keith,” Darla whimpered, wringing a napkin in her hands. “You can’t afford to get in another fight.”

Keith grabbed Elijah’s arm and shoved him toward the door. Elijah had no plan of attack for when he was face to face with Keith in the parking lot. He hadn’t thought. He had just acted. But he could not back down at this point.

Elijah met Viggo’s eyes. He had just come out of the bathroom. He mouthed, “Oh, shit!” as Elijah was shoved out the door and into the parking lot. Other patrons followed them, eager to witness the brawl.

“Hey!” Viggo shouted, running after them. “Hey! What’s going on?”

Keith ignored him and shoved Elijah again. This time Elijah tensed and leaned his weight forward enough so that he wasn’t knocked off balance. “Okay, you little fucker! Let’s see what you have. Hope you got insurance, ‘cause you’re going to need it, runt!”

Viggo stepped between them and shoved his hand into Keith’s chest and Keith staggered backward. “What’s your problem? Leave him alone.”

“Viggo, let me handle this,” Elijah said, but his heart was glad. Viggo had indeed stepped up and was willing to get his ass beat to defend him.

Keith had considered Elijah an easy target. He was about to be proven wrong. Elijah knew that in reality, he had no chance of winning in a fight against this man, but if he read the situation right, Keith was a bully who liked easy targets and if he stood up to him long enough, perhaps he’d just slink away. Of course, he wasn’t quite sure what exactly he expected Keith to learn from this experience, but he knew that he had already taken Keith by surprise just by not backing down.

Viggo glanced from Keith’s broad shoulders to Elijah’s slender form. “Uh-uh, not going to let you do something that stupid, my friend.”

Elijah did not take his eyes from Keith.
“I can handle this. He’s too drunk to do much of anything.”

Viggo stepped back, only reluctantly respecting Elijah’s request. Elijah loved him more than ever then.

Keith’s face transformed into a sneer.

“What are you guys--fags?”

Elijah’s heart flopped, but a fighting light ignited in Viggo’s eyes. Elijah had seen him get like this before. For Viggo, physical altercations were not new, and only luck had kept him out of jail—and the hospital. Keith was somewhat taller and broader in the shoulders than Viggo, but Viggo was younger, in better shape, and had not had nearly as much to drink as Keith.

“If we were fags,” Elijah said, stepping forward to make sure Viggo was aware that he still did not need him to jump in. “Would I have been looking at your girlfriend?”

“You both think you can take me?” Keith taunted. His teeth were yellow and crooked. He staggered. “No problem. I’ll kick both of your asses!”

Viggo looked arrogantly at his two fists before stepping right in Keith’s face. He had been willing to let Elijah attempt to handle the situation, but Keith had just brought Viggo into it.

Keith swayed on his feet again. Darla marched up to him and pulled at his arm.

“Come on, baby, let’s just go home! Forget it.”

“Darla, shut the fuck up.”

And Keith shoved her with brutal force. Elijah saw the desperate, caged expression in Darla’s eyes as she fell on the asphalt on her backside.

Elijah threw himself at Keith, punching into his side with rapid agile punches. Keith had not expected such a vehement attack from the much smaller man, and he was knocked off balance. As he fell, he wrapped a strong arm around Elijah’s neck and dragged him to the ground with him. He punched Elijah in the stomach twice before Viggo’s heavy shoe slammed into Keith’s arm, forcing him to roll over and grip his arm in severe pain for several seconds. Then he jumped up, shoving Viggo into a truck. Viggo hit his head hard on the side mirror, and he staggered to his knees. Elijah was on his hands and knees, trying to get breath back into his lungs.

“Keith!” Darla screamed.

Blood trickled down Viggo’s cheek from a cut just above his ear. A new rage enveloped Elijah.

He wrapped his arms around Keith’s knees, slamming him to the ground.

“No!” Darla yelled. “Don’t you hurt him!”

Distant sirens sounded. Of course. The bar’s owner no doubt would have called the police.

Keith seemed more concerned about the cops than he did about Elijah’s attack on him. He woke out of his drunken haze enough to shove Elijah on his back. He staggered to his feet and yanked Darla by the arm.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here before the cops get here.”

“I’m not going home with you,” Darla said tearfully but with little conviction. “I’ll get a ride home from Butch.”

“You’re coming home with me. Now get your ass in the truck!” He turned to Elijah. “And if I ever see either one of you fuckers again, I’ll finish the job!”

Elijah helped Viggo to his feet. He still seemed dazed as he held the cut on his head.

“Let me drive,” Elijah said. “You need stitches.”

Viggo nodded, fumbling in his pocket. He tossed the keys to Elijah. They jumped in the car, and Elijah spun out of the parking lot just as the cops pulled in.

“Are you all right?” Viggo asked Elijah.

Elijah smiled. He loved Viggo so much right now. “I’m fine.”

Viggo leaned against the passenger window, groaning pitifully.

Lately Elijah felt he was overreacting to conflict; it seemed that wherever he went he was feeling this need to squelch injustice he saw. As if he—insignificant Elijah—could really have an effect on it. Thugs who beat their wives and girlfriends would always exist. Bigots who fired people for their size or color of their skin would always exist. People who let their dogs loose to scare children would always exist. And he Elijah was not meant to save the world. His hands shook as he held the wheel.

“Jesus, Viggo,” he suddenly said. “What if he’d had a gun in his car?”

Viggo stared at him as if he had told him he was from another planet.

But Elijah pictured the gunman in his dream with the cold dark eyes. He had shot up a bar full of people doing nothing more than what he and Viggo were doing before the fight—chatting and enjoying a night out. Elijah felt he had just witnessed how quickly a pleasant evening could deteriorate into senseless violence.

Go on to next part