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   Chapter 2 Kidnapped, Arrested—Same Difference

Stolen Souls (boy x boy) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 15368

Updated: 2018-01-21 23:24


I'm not high, I tell myself when I wake up, I'm not high and this is not a delusion. Everything I remember from the school, whether it be the bear traps or the fanged guy, they were all real.

I rock myself, knees cupped to chest, face shoved in knees. I'm not high. I'm not high. The words form a rhythm between my ears. First murder attempts, now kidnappings. People just won't let a guy be.

My elbow is bandaged, my face bloodied. I'm lying on a clean white bed, my head propped up against a pillow, my wrists bound together in front of me. Which is dumb. You don't cuff someone from the front, everyone knows that. I scheme up a few cool escape plans with intricate distractions and exploding cans of butter soup, but then I remember my useless leg.

I groan and flop back on the pillows.

The room my captors/saviors left me in is yellow. Walls coated in thick, butter-yellow paint that smell eerily of wilted flowers. A tall black grandfather clock stares back at me, face cracked and hands bent at odd angles. Tick tock. The sheets are white beneath me, crisp and firm. Sounds float from the bathroom.

"Freaking... vampires..." Garbling. Running water. "Screw them. Screw them and their guns."

I sit up and scan the room. There's a matching desk and chair set covered in intricate carvings so ornate I take a few seconds to make out what they're of: roses. Petals and thorns, woven around the legs and back of the pieces in elegant nests. I feel a light punch in my chest. The rest of the room, besides the clock and bed and a few paintings, is empty.

This is an odd place to keep a prisoner. I lean over, stretching my arms as far as they can go. I kick a little with my good leg to give some resistance. Will Kite and Roslyn be looking for me? They have a lot to think about. It might take a few more hours, maybe even a day or two for them to get worried.

Not that they should be. I may be struggling to maintain a B in AP Art History, but getting out of life-threatening situations? That's an A++ course in my book.

"Dude, " I call over my shoulder, "what am I doing here?" I reach out my trembling fingers and snag the back of the chair. From there, I sling my body across the bed, over the edge. The chair tips. I flip and hit the floor. Throbbing pain sizzles under my skin from so many places it's undiscernable. I lie there for a second, assessing damage, red bleeding through the tan gauze of my bandages.

So this whole escape thing might be harder than I thought. I take a deep breath and blow out of my nose.

A door creaks. I lift myself up just enough to see the approaching set of polished black boots slip out from the bathroom. Raise my gaze over the guy's body. Something flutters up in my chest.

"Jeez, Shiro, " Jules says through a full mouth, his cheeks puffed out and his fingers curled around a red toothbrush. "You really can't just sit there and look pretty, can you?"

I shoot him a painful smile. "Not my specialty. I'm better at lying on the floor in a puddle of blood, it seems. Speaking of which, fanged guy—"

Jules garbles, white foam spilling down his chin. Shrugs. "I don't have the clearance to say anything."

I feel a coldness creep through my muscles, binding to my bones. I try to keep up the smile, sitting up completely now, my head pounding like someone's taking a sledgehammer to it from the inside. "I think that's unfair, Jules. Also, you know, these." I hold up my bound wrists. The cuffs gleam, a sharp glint in the gold glow of a low-hanging fixture. "Why these?"

He shrugs again and wipes his mouth with sleeve. "Procedure." There's still a little spittle on his chin, but he eyes me up and down with a professional smile to match mine. I'll admit, Jules is a good-looking guy. His black hair falls to the nape of his neck and his equally black are impossible to read. Olive skin, broad shoulders, tall frame, he's the type of guy you either want to be or want to date. Secretly, I've always wanted a little of both.

"Sorry, Shiro. You're just going to have to deal." He kneels to my eye-level. "Need a little help?"

"I need to know why I'm here." The muscle under my jaw twitches. A kid with fangs attacked me. Jules and two other people knocked me out and brought me here. I'm grateful they saved me, I really am, but waking up in handcuffs puts a damper on the whole 'grateful' mood.

They're keeping me here as a prisoner. They aren't police. Jules is, like, fifteen. Tops. Maybe fourteen if it's true he skipped a grade. He has no right to hold me here, though I don't want to b pushy about it since the saving me part was pretty neat of him and his crew.

Jules shrugs, spins on his heel, and heads back to the bathroom. "Dunno, " he calls. A pause. I wait and I hear him spit. "I'm supposed to guard you and make sure you don't escape, but I honestly care more about my dental hygiene than you at this point." I glance around. Paintings line the walls, all generic in the way your eyes sort of learn how to skim over. Sailboats. Eagles. The stuff you find in office halls. "Don't be offended by that by the way, I'm just saying you seem pretty low maintenance is all." Gold drapes hang behind the bed's headboard. A window. "Shiro?" A chance at escape. I crawl, two hands, one knee, my heart lodged up in my throat. Kite invited me to a party tomorrow. I won't miss it. My knapsack is gone, but I think it's time I stopped worrying about that, though the thought of leaving my drawing tablet is as painful as leaving a child. "Shiro?"

The squishy carpet muffles Jules' footsteps, but I still hear them, as soft as they are. The curtains are stiff. I reach out and brush them aside. The moon is high in the sky, spilling white light down on my crumbling city. The mountains block out everything past our twisted water towers and apartment buildings, but I can imagine a glittering city lying outside it. A city with superheroes and expensive colleges. A city with lots of people. Different people. All mingling, mixing up their ideas, learning from each other.

And my mind drifts, if only for a second. When I turn eighteen, I'll leave this withering city and enroll in Starlight University, Starlight City's university for the best and brightest. I'll find a way. I'll work hard. I'll force myself in, write and draw and solve so much they can't ignore me.

"Star!" Jules shouts. I wince. See, that's my name. Dad wanted to name me 'Milton' and Mom wanted to name me 'Grayson, ' so they played rock-paper-scissors over it.

In the operating room.

During labor.

And they both lost.

Which is supposedly impossible, not only the playing during labor but also tying in rock-paper-scissors, but my parents play with black holes and big rips and freeze deaths, so that isn't uncommon for them.

And then I was born, presumably kicking and screaming for them to pick already, dammit, and there was the five-point star for a birthmark on the side of my neck. So, my parents were like, 'yeah, Star, sounds like a normal name that won't get our son bullied for life.' Thus, the train-wreck 'Star Grayson Milton Shirozaki' became a thing. But call me Shiro, if you're so kind.

I slide the window up, fragile wire mesh brushing my fingers. I'm at a sprawling height, floors and floors of complex plunging into darkness below. If you stare hard enough, you can make out waves of the river's glistening black waters, smooth like glass. It's a long drop, but that's okay. I'm not afraid to take a fall.

I'm afraid of never leaving the ground.

Jules appears at my side, silent as a shadow minus the squishy footsteps. He's just that type, the type who will

never bring attention to himself if he can help it, even if he is one of the more popular kids. He slaps his hand on the mesh. "Dude, don't jump. That's going to hurt."

I shrug. "I'll throw myself out the window if you don't tell my why I'm here."

He slams down the glass pane on my fingers. I hold my breath and try not to shout, another pain on top of all the others. "Jules?" My voice cracks as I shove the window back up, yanking my cuffs. In the glass, his face is red, but the evidence of a smirk is still there. I wince and grind my teeth down, willing the throbbing to stop. "That kind of hurt."

"Oh." He pats me on the head. I've been attacked, kidnapped, and now Jules Cervantes is patting me on the head. I bite the inside of my lip and say, very slowly, in the type of voice that drips, "I don't like being patted." He pauses, sighs, and resigns to running his hand down my shoulder. I shiver. "I don't like being petted either."

"Jeez, you're sure being snarky today."

I glare at him. I'd say he would be too if he had been kidnapped by lunatics, but I guess that would be being snarky. So I lean back, fumbling to cross my arms with the cuffs on. My fingers are still red and raging.

He yawns. "You're under arrest."

"You aren't the police."

"So?" He plays with his sleeve. Won't even look at me.

My voice is strained. "You can't arrest me if you're not the police."

Jules smirks. "We have more jurisdiction than the police."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Bull-spittle." I turn and gnaw my pounding fingertips, easing the pain with another layer of pain. "I'm going home. Thank you for saving my life, but it's late and I'll see you Monday."

He straightens up, shoulders rolled back, and he smiles, all cute and coy. Leans so close he looms. But he can't intimidate me. After being bitten by a dude with fangs, Jules Cervantes is a puppy. "You can't walk, Shiro." His voice is a smooth, low purr.

"And?" My leg is limp and as useful to walk on as a flipper, but I can deal with that. My hands reach out, groping for the chair. I catch the seat, push it back upright, and lean my weight against it. Jules watches wide-eyed as I stretch my arms in front of me and hobble toward the door. I think I might e a little green. I haven't eaten in hours. I don't even know how long I've been asleep, probably an hour or two, and I don't know where I am, except probably in a high-rise. Jules races after me and snatches my elbow with a jerk of his shoulder.

"I'm not supposed to let you go." I take another hop. For a second, I don't even process what he said. And when I do, I snort.

"You're not supposed to let me go. I don't like being kidnapped, okay? You aren't the police and I don't know who your 'we' is, I was attacked by a guy with fangs and I'd like to take some time to process that. At home. With Starbucks—"

"Aha!" He yanks me back, kicks out the chair, and shoves me in it. I land hard on my butt, the cushion too thin to keep a jolt from rippling up my spine. I wince. "You drink coffee!"

I feel myself blush. "That's illegal in Spiral City. I don't—"

"You do. You're a coffee drinker. And a minor. You're a criminal and you're under arrest."

I roll my eyes. "I have a feeling you just made that excuse up." He shrugs and pats me again on the head. I hiss. This kid knows how to drive a guy bonkers. "But I think this is a little more illegal than coffee-drinking, the kidnapping, I mean.

"Sirius, Kath!" Jules calls over his shoulder. "The prisoner woke up, and he's being rowdy."

I scowl. "Rowdy?"

Jules grins. He has dimples, light ones that deepen when he smiles. I shift, a growing clenching sensation around my heart. Prisoner. "Rowdy in a very Shiro-y way, anyway."

This all feels like a prank. Jules Cervantes is holding me hostage. The quiet kid. The cute one. My shoulders hunch, hunger pains washing through my stomach. "You can't even get an 'A' on a test without cheating off me."

"Huh?"

"Some thanks. Kidnapping me like this—"

"I'm not—"

"Don't think I haven't seen you looking over my shoulder. I never said anything because I get it, Biology is tough. If you needed the help, then that was fine. Grades are—"

"Shiro, shut up! Grades aren't what you should be thinking about right now, and-and why do you care so much about them, anyway?" Jules' arms flail up and he nearly backhands me out of the chair, face flaming. I stiffen.

"'Cause I'm just nerdy like that." Because I'm trapped. Because I want to get out of here. Because I'll never escape this city, the gangs, my parents'disappointment in their frail, sickly son. But you wouldn't understand that. "And shouldn't you be interrogating me or something?"

Jules runs his hands through his shiny black hair, chewing his lip. I hate to be one of those 'stormy-eyed' people, but Jules' is kind of a 'stormy-eyed' guy at the moment. They've gone all cloudy and dim. I lean forward, resting my wrists on my knees. Footsteps sound out by the door but I don't think I care about those anymore.

"Shiro, " Jules starts, swinging onto the desk and kicking out his legs like a child. He's dressed all in black, a vision of teenage angst. "We aren't kidnapping you. It's not like that."

"Really?" I plop my chin in my hands. "Then what is it like, then?"

The door whips open. I don't look up. Just stare intently into Jules' eyes like I'm looking into the fabric of his soul so he squirms while I wait for his reply. Like a bug under a microscope. Like me.

He flicks his eyes away, legs kicking. "We're here for the protection of Spiral City. We're going to make you take some tests."

My fingers clench into fists. "What if I don't want to?" I should cooperate, nod, say "sure, as long as you don't bite a chunk out of my arm, " but I can't bring myself to do it, not until I understand why they locked me up in here.

He tugs my ear. Jerkwad. I'm wondering why I ever liked this guy in the first place. "Just play along, huh?" I yank my head away and toward the shadowy people draped in the doorway. They wear black boots though they're inside, black trenches though it's warm, and black sunglasses though the moon is high in the sky.

"No." My voice shakes. A creeping edge of panic rises in me with a flutter in my stomach and a heart pounding so hard I think my ribs will cage. I rise on one leg and bat Jules away, cuffs jangling. "I don't have to play along. I have my rights."

"No, you don't, " Jules says. He grabs my arm. I glare at him, stand my ground. My breathing comes in shallow gasps, heat creeping up my neck and flushing my cheeks. They have the wrong guy, whoever they think I am. I drink a little coffee, and that's quasi-illegal for minors in Spiral City, but all-nighters don't run on willpower alone and I'm not a bad guy. I like cats and have a stuffed rabbit I keep in my room. I draw. Most of my time is spent on homework or tutoring my friends. Whoever Jules and his buddies are looking for must be dangerous, and I'm not dangerous.

"What?" I ask blankly.

"Shiro, you don't have any rights."

I hold up my hands. My pitch rises so high my throat goes raw. "What? No. Yes. Yes, I do." I jerk my hands toward the window and nearly split my wrists on the cuffs. "For what it's worth, rights apply to every living person in the world." The people in the doorway whisper, but they give us space. Jules leans forward and taps my sleeve in what I think is an attempt at comfort, but I can't tell; he still won't look me in the face. His eyes are trained on the carpet, his foot tapping out a nervous, quiet rhythm.

"You don't have rights because you're not alive."

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