"Where am I? Why've you brought me here? Where's Brady? And Chloe? If you hurt them, I swear I'll--"
"You'll what? You're really not in a position to make threats, you know."
"But you are? I didn't know they were teaching kidnapping in the 7th grade these days."
"Shut up. 8th grade. And kidnapping isn't the only thing I know. Murder comes to mind. Raping and Pillaging 101."
"Pillage my left foot. My brother is SO going to kick your ass."
"Nicholas...don't antagonize the girl."
"Why not? Kivar's host only needs to *think* we have her. That means we can do whatever we want to her actual body."
"No, you CAN'T! You smarmy little creep...!!!!"
"You don't get a vote, my dear. However, I must remind you, Nicholas, that I can't let your pre-pubescent hormones get in the way of the big picture either."
"What IS the big picture? 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'?"
"Good guess...but, no, Miss Black. I think the appropriate title would be 'Apocalypse Now.' "
"Nah...we're just focused."
Now that he knows, he stares through his hands...sees peeling skin...glowing limbs beneath the layers of a husk. He knows he's human. That all the normal organs sit inside his body...that blood runs through his veins. But there is an alien inside him nonetheless. Ready to burst through at any second.
Chloe takes the news surprisingly well. When she comes into the break room with Max, Michael, and a few of the waitresses and another guy--all apparently members of the "I Know An Alien" Club--she accepts what Isabel had to tell him with the unflappable calm that had both infuriated him and turned him on when they first met.
"So, there's an alien presence in your body?"
"Well, that's a relief."
"Since it's not *you* lusting after Princess E.T. here, you can keep your testicles."
The boys wince. The girls laugh.
And, then, things are serious once more. Belle. Somebody has Belle. Presumably, aliens that Isabel calls "Skins." And these Skins are the aliens that Kivar wants to join... to lead. Which means that Belle is the bargaining chip...the collateral...the assurance that he will let the Seekers take him over and obliterate Brady Black once and for all.
To get back his little sister, he has to lose himself.
And losing himself means losing everything. His dad. Memories of his mother. Grandpa Victor. Phillip. Shawn. The Bradys. The Hortons. Even Marlena, the stepmother from Hell. And his high school football glory. The first girl he ever kissed--Tara Simcock--when he was 13. The first time he saw Belle, wrapped in a little pink blanket, and pronounced that she was "uggy". And Chloe. He has to lose Chloe. After he just found her...his other half...his partner...his life.
"I'll do it," he says, simply, leaning against the staff lockers, banging his head on the metal as if he can drive out Kivar that way. "I'll give them what they want."
"You *can't*," Max says, instantly. He draws himself up, authoritatively--apparently he's the leader of the motley band. Or, at least, he thinks he is. "If you give Nicholas what he wants, then he wins."
"What do I care?" he shoots back, coldly, not bowing to the dark-haired boy's illusions of command. "I don't care if he blows you all to Hell or turns you into Tribbles as long as Belle is safe."
"It won't be *him* blowing us to Hell," Isabel corrects, without blinking at either of them. "It'll be *you*, Brady. Your body. Your hands. Can you accept that?"
"If Belle is out of danger? If I can get her and Chloe away from here first? *Yes.*" He glares, in turn, at the insipid waitresses...at the short, blue-eyed jock...and then at their alien friends. "I don't care what happens to any of you. You can die. Or you can try and kill me...if I'm not as big a badass as everyone seems to think, maybe you'll succeed."
Michael growls, wrapping a protective arm around the girl with blond extensions and overly glossy lips as she starts to protest 'Hey...Buddy...I don't *think* so--' "I'm not liking the attitude. I say we just waste him here before Kivar gets control and worry about Nicholas and the sister later."
Chloe steps in front of him, protectively. She wraps her fingers around his wrist and he's grateful for her support, her belief...her touch. "I'd like to see you *try*," she says, simply. "Because you'll have to kill me first. And that'll be double homicide...something even a little green man can't wriggle out of."
"Nobody's killing *anybody*," Max interrupts, sudden steel in his voice. "There has to be a way to get Brady's sister back without sacrificing anyone."
"No, you want to *believe* there is, Evans." It is the jock who speaks now. Angry life sparks into his eyes, his still limbs...like a switch has been flipped. "But sacrifice is the name of the game around here. As long as *you* don't lose anything, you count it a 'win'...but the rest of us are the ones who lose. I'm fucking sick of it. I'm sick of waiting for you to 'decide' what's right for everyone."
"Kyle...!" The brunette yelps, probably scandalized that someone dared question her boyfriend.
Kyle turns on his heel, silencing her with a harsh "No, Liz!" before he continues what has to be a deep-seated and long-time-coming tirade. "How many more people have to die for your secrets, Evans? Huh? How many more people have to rearrange their lives for you? Alex...me...my dad...even Tess and her baby. Is it any wonder that she never had a chance in this town? You guys all ready have Liz and Maria so trained that they can't even *think* without your approval. If Brady here wants to sacrifice himself to save his sister, then I say 'more power to him.' Bravo! Finally, someone who's willing to put his OWN life and love on the line. That's *refreshing*."
He can't help but smile despite the circumstances, feels Chloe move just two steps to the side as she mentally places Kyle the Jock in the 'okay' pile. Finally, someone in this pathetic town they can like and admire. Someone who might be of actual help. "So...we're clear, then? I meet up with the old gang and make the trade?"
"No." Isabel shakes her head, mouth drawing into a full line as she crosses over to what is becoming the 'Us' side of the room. "*We* make the trade. I'll go with you."
"No, way, Iz!"
Their gazes meet...and, for just an instant, someone slender and gray and stunning flickers behind her human mask. He recognizes the proud tilt of her head, the determined lines that run across her brow. And he understands. *Vilandra*. Vilandra has always been here simmering beneath the surface of her skin like Kivar simmers beneath the surface of his.
She arches a slender, lofty brow...every inch a princess. "It's my destiny to betray my family for Kivar, for love. And if a betrayal is what's expected, then a betrayal is what they're going to get...exactly what we're going to give them."
Liz gapes. "I don't get it."
Maria babbles. "Whoa, hold up...*what* are you talking about...?"
Michael blusters..."No, it's too dangerous!"
"I get it," Max says quietly, nodding, new respect for his sister filtering into his voice. "It's perfect. They won't be expecting it...they'll probably just take it at face value, that Kivar won Vilandra back."
Kyle, too, appears to be on the ball and with the program. "The question is...can you two songbirds make it believable? Can you two make a public scene that makes everyone think Brady has suddenly left your for his alien soulmate?"
He looks at Chloe.
She looks back at him, a grin quirking on the edge of her full lips. "You're asking us if we can fight?"
For the first time in hours, they both bust out laughing...a laughter so hysterical that they have to lean against each other for support and cling to the lockers to keep from falling.
"Yeah.." he chuckles, finally, wiping tears of mirth from his cheeks, aware that everyone is looking at them like *they* are the aliens. "Yeah, I think we can manage it."
The grim look on Max's face belies what should be hopeful words.
"Then, it looks like we have a plan."
"I can't believe you!! You lying, cheating, son-of-a-bitch! Of all the arrogant, disgusting, stunts to pull...! To drive us all the way down to this stupid town just to hook up with HER?"
"Who are you calling 'arrogant', Diva? Have you ever thought that maybe it was your attitude that made me realize someone ELSE was my soulmate? I can't *help* what I feel for her."
"Well, then I guess you won't be able to 'help' a salt shaker getting thrown at your head!" *thunk* "Or a ketchup bottle!" *crash*
"Chloe, I'm *sorry*! I really am! But Isabel and I have something that you just couldn't understand!"
"What? A mutual love for hair gel and pop music?!? Does she know you're on Viagra because of the shooting?!?"
"Who says I *need* Viagra when I'm with her?"
"Get *out*! Get out of my *face*! And take your slut with you!"
"Hey! I am not a slut!"
"Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, Brady!"
"Come on, Isabel. Let's go. Let's get out of here."
"Well, well, well...it looks as though Kivar and his ladylove are recreating history. Good. Very good. Now to get back to Nicholas and the girl before he does something stupid. We mustn't let anything stand in our way. Not with victory so close. Not when I've worked so hard."