Soon, Leisure Day arrived in Sunset Valley. Lane volunteered to stay at home with James, and the rest of the family set off to enjoy the festival. Faye was excited to play outside, especially the water games, but Crystal was unimpressed.
Faye: "It's so nice out, and I get to wear my new swimsuit, and there'll be water balloon fights and face painting and more!"
Crystal: "It's so HOT. And crowded. I want to go home."
Lane had to bring James along with him, of course, since he didn't have the pocket money to hire a babysitter. He didn't particularly want to bring James inside with him, as there was no telling what he might find inside the house, so he decided to just leave his brother outside. James could entertain himself, and with most of the town at the festival there wouldn't be anybody around to hurt him. Besides, if Lane stood at that window right there, he could even keep an eye on him.
Lane: "Alright, I have to go inside, but you need to stay right here, James. Alright?"
James: "Lah? Loo!"
Lane couldn't help but smile at the baby talk. That was one thing little kids had going for them, they were absolutely adorable.
Lane: "I brought you my old teddy bear so you can play with it. His name's Wolfie, alright? Just stay in the shade here and play with Wolfie."
James: "Ee! Ee!"
Lane delivered the teddy into his little brother's waiting arms, smiling as the toddler cuddled the stuffed werewolf just as Lane had when he was that age. Then, before his courage could fade, he turned and walked to the front door.
Stray Cat: ::Hey, tiny human thing, does that other human know a werewolf lives here? He must be crazy, going in there! You've got to do that talking thing you humans do, and stop him, before it's too late!::
James: "Woo ee! Ee! Gah boo!"
The cat wandered off, as the little human was clearly too unintelligent to heed his warning, even though he stared at the thing and thought it as hard as he could.
Lane's knock on the front door was answered promptly by VJ himself, wearing the same suit and hat that he had worn on that night in the graveyard, with the addition of sunglasses. Smart, wearing shades to cover up the tell-tale eye glow, but Lane questioned the color of them.
VJ: "Lane Woods. I was expecting you."
Lane: "How does everybody know who I am?"
VJ: "I've known you you were since you were born. That fool Koffi isn't the only one who's been keeping an eye on you. I can say, though, I hardly expected to see you today."
Lane: "Why's that?"
VJ: "Visiting a werewolf on the full moon? Risky. Too risky, some might say."
Lane: "It's still morning, I'm hardly at any risk until the sun goes down. It was the only day I knew you'd be home."
VJ nodded, apparently satisfied with that answer, and motioned Lane inside.
Lane: "I saw you at the graveyard, on the last full moon, and -"
VJ cut Lane's explanation off, his tone dry.
VJ: "I know you saw me, boy. I'm not deaf, blind, nor anosmic."
Lane: "Er, anosmic?"
VJ: "Smell. I can smell you."
Lane: "Oh, right."
VJ: "So I ask you again, and this time tell me something I don't already know. Why are you here?"
Lane took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts before he explained.
Lane: "I want to become a werewolf, and I think you can help me."
Lane noticed the werewolf's head tilt away, the twitch at the corner of his mouth. Lane had misspoken.
Lane: "No, not think, I know you can help me. It's just a matter of whether you will or not."
VJ smiled then, an arrogant, wolfish smile.
VJ: "I almost threw you out right then, but that was wise. Maybe I will help you. But why would you want to suffer the curse of the lycans? Most endeavor to avoid it, or cure themselves of it. You would take it into yourself, willingly?"
VJ's tone turned sharp as the brief smile left his lips, his full attention on Lane, who realized that what he said next would make the difference between him getting help and walking out of here with a big handful of nothing.
VJ: "Blessings and curses are two sides of the same coin. I hear your reasons, and I know you believe them. But you're not thinking this through. How will your family react? Your friends? Your lover?"
Lane frowned, shaking his head.
Lane: "My family will deal with it, and my friends aren't actually my friends if they don't support me."
VJ: "And Christopher's boy? What was his name, something about a key?"
Lane had just about had it with VJ's attitude of smug superiority. What did he know about Lane's relationships?
Lane: "Leave Locke out of this! I haven't figured out what I'll tell him yet, but I will. I think he'd stand by me. Look, either you're going to help me or you're not, and if not just tell me now so I can stop wasting valuable time that I could be spending on research!"
VJ: "Calm yourself. I never said that I wouldn't help you, especially since you can't succeed without my help. I just wanted to ensure that you had considered everything. I assume you've been searching for the alchemical solution?"
Lane: "Ah, yes. I've found several references to it, but the formula itself-"
VJ cut him off again. That habit of his was starting to get very irritating.
VJ: "It won't work."
Lane: "And why not?"
VJ: "The formula as presented by Clarke is incomplete. It will produce, at best, only the semblance of lycanthropy. You would find it to be a half-existence, frustrating and irreversible."
Lane: "So what you're saying is, I've been wasting my time?"
VJ: "No. Stop putting words into my mouth, I'm getting tired of it. Just listen. The curse of lycanthropy is traditionally transmitted through the bite of a werewolf, transformed into his natural form. The transmission requires a part of a werewolf to enter the body of one who is receiving the curse, or else it will be...incomplete. Do you understand?"
Lane: "I do. That's what's missing from the formula, then. Will you give me what I need to do it properly?"
Lane: "What sort of price?"
VJ: "One equivalent in value to that which you require from me. You have one minute to consider, then answer me: yes, or no."Lane fell silent, considering the offer. Clearly VJ wasn't going to tell him what he wanted from Lane, so how could he judge if it was worth it or not? Lane didn't think he would ask for something that was impossible to give, though, as that wouldn't be of any benefit. If it was wealth the werewolf was after, and he'd come collecting one day, Lane didn't care; he would give it all to him, for the chance to run as a wolf under the full moon.
VJ nodded, his expression unreadable, then reached up and plucked a single hair from his head, offering it to Lane.
VJ: "Keep it safe, you won't get another. Grind it together with the wolfsbane, and the potion will work. Now, wait here."
He walked off, leaving Lane holding the hair in his clenched fist, his mind reeling. He had what he needed, now. It was just a matter of finding the formula, which had been confirmed as existing. It was possible, and he could do it! A smile slowly working its way onto his face, he coiled the hair around his index finger and slipped it into his pocket for safekeeping. He turned and took a few steps towards the counter to steady himself, but then his smile faded as he looked out the window.
Lane: "What are you doing? Get away from my brother!"
VJ: "You aren't very good at following instructions, are you? I just hope you pay better attention with your alchemy."
Lane answered that with an angry glare, bending down to grab his brother with one arm while he held the toy under the other.
VJ: "Very well, don't talk to me. I'm done with you, anyway. Best of luck."
Lane backed away, shaking his head, then turned and jogged for the street corner, where he could hail a taxi. Why had he ever left James alone at that creep's house? Suddenly, his bargain didn't seem like such a good idea after all.
James didn't appear to have been harmed by his experience, but Lane just hoped the kid would keep his mouth shut about it, and not go tattling to his parents. The last thing he needed was them cracking down on his research when he was so close. A name had been mentioned - Clarke, likely Sigmund Clarke, a name which Lane remembered from a book. He just had to find it again.
Soon after Leisure Day, Faye had her badging ceremony in scouts. She had her sash framed and hung it on the wall of the bedroom she shared with Crystal, proud of her accomplishment. She made sure, of course, to hang it slightly to the right of the hamper, in case Crystal decided to accidentally-on-purpose knock it inside.
One weekend, Greg came home from work with a shiny new pair of shades and a new spring in his step. He'd finally gotten the promotion to be a Celebrity Psychic!
~ * ~
Long update(18 pictures!), lots of things happened! Please don't try to apply logic to the teddy bear coming out of nowhere. Both Lane and James had it stuffed down their pants, in hammerspace, and I refuse to hear otherwise. NOT A PLOT HOLE!
Poor James, Lane really isn't being a very responsible big brother right now. I must say, though, Lane is adorable when he's upset. That face! It's not a pose, I paused the conversation to capture that expression.
I have way too much fun writing VJ, even though it's hard to take him seriously when he's wearing those stupid pink shades. I hope this isn't the last time he shows up in the story.