There is nothing quite like... Who: Alex and James What: O M G family reunion time! Where: Apartment 503 When: Tuesday, August 2nd, Late afternoon Notes:Gdoc Holder nevermind!
It had been too long since Alex had slept a full night. The only time she ever seemed to get any sleep was when she went over to Adam’s or he came over to her place and they slept quite chastely next to each other. He was always the perfect gentleman, and that was for the good in Alex’s mind - it was near impossible, it felt, to make reasonable decisions on so little sleep, and making a decision about her and Adam would require all the reason she had. For now, they remained as they had been - the closest and dearest of friends, and he supported her as the nightmares continued to plague her every night - at times, now, even when she managed to get a small nap during the day.
But Adam had his own worries, work and getting enough sleep to do a job that was important and where mistakes meant life and death. Bothering him every night just so she could sleep seemed ludicrous, so she kept her issues to herself as much as she could. What to do about school was still up in the air, but if things didn’t improve soon, the decision would make itself. As it was, her greatest solace in solitude was her piano.
Every day, she played; she played long and deep, played as though her life depended on it, played until her arms just wouldn’t move anymore. And that was what she was doing now. The Allegretto from Beethoven’s 7th. She put the CD on to accompany her while she played, and somehow, some way, the haunting notes soothed her. Sometimes it was the only thing.
Alex had seemed excited when James announced that he was moving near her but what she didn’t know was that he intended on trying to move into the same apartment complex as her. He had kept his information vague over the past few weeks, telling her that he had found a place but that he would give her more details once he knew it was legit. Really, he just wanted to show up and see her face when he announced he had moved down the hall from her. Close enough to watch over his sister but far enough to have his own life.
He had moved in quietly, trying his hardest to keep his presence a secret all for this very moment. Strolling up to Alex’s door he pounded on it hard, knowing she wouldn’t be able to hear him otherwise as it was obvious she was pounding away at her piano. James noted the music, The Allegretto, and made a small smile as he followed each cord in his mind. It was just like being back home. But enough of that, he beat at the door again, hoping his sister would hear him.
The pounding at the door startled her, her fingers freezing on the keys mid-note. The CD continued to play on as she tried to catch her breath, her reverie shattered by alarm, then curiosity. Ticking off possible visitors was easy, as it was such a short list. Adam was likely at work, and would never pound that way. No one else would visit her randomly, or pound that way. In fact, the only person she’d ever known who’d knock on her door was that kind of force was still out of state, or so she thought. And so it was that she got up from the piano bench, leaving the mournful sweetness and intensity of the Allegretto following in her wake, and went to the door. Her irritation made her ignore the peephole to pull the door open, a glare already on her brow, until she saw who it was.
“Jamie?” she gasped, and for the first time in too long, she smiled - fully, brilliantly.
“Jamie!” she repeated, then literally hurled herself at her older brother. Her arms wrapped tight around his neck, she hugged him hard and tight, like a life preserver thrown to her just in the nick of time. “What are you doing here?”
She didn’t let go, but pulled back a little to continue asking him questions. “I mean, I know, you’re here, but I didn’t think you’d be here for another few weeks. How are you?” She laughed at her own babbling; she rarely talked so much. “Where are you living?”
James lifted his sister easily and squeezed her with a big hug. Lowering her to her feet he took a step back and messed with her hair, something he always had done since they were children and grinned. “I just got here a week ago, been moving my stuff in for the past two days. You know I don’t have much so it hasn’t taken up too much of my time. I live down the hall, actually. Figured I’d surprise you. Did it work? Are you surprised?”
He brushed at her hair, fixing what he had messed up and looked her over. His lips curved down slightly, the smile he had disappeared and a flash of possessive worry came over his face. “You look exhausted, have you been feeling all right? Is everything okay?” Of course his sister knew what unasked questions he had, matters of her health and if someone, anyone had been upsetting her in any way, he would want names and deal with it accordingly.
“What?” she asked, her brows rising. Before she could answer anything else, conflicting emotions bubbled inside her. On the one hand, having James here, just down the hall, would be immensely reassuring. Although Alexandria had never been fond of asking for help and didn’t generally think she needed protecting, she couldn’t deny that having Jamie around had made her feel better since they were children. However, there was also a deep sense of alarm at the idea of Jamie in danger. So many bad things had happened here. Had you asked her five minutes ago if she’d thought her dreams and her mysterious injury were somehow caused by Pax, she’d have given the only logical answer: of course not. But between the dead body she and Philip had found and now these nightmares, this place didn’t seem safe to her, even for her indestructible brother.
“I’m definitely surprised,” she said finally. “Come in.”
Leading him into her apartment, which was modestly furnished but the Bosendorfer she’d been playing almost all her life. What she should tell Jamie and what she shouldn’t was unclear to her. It wasn’t as though he could do much, and there was no use in him worrying. But at the same time, pretending everything was fine felt too much like a lie of omission - one he wouldn’t believe anyway.
“There’s been... a lot going on,” she said, which didn’t quite cover it, but sounded better than explaining everything that had happened since she’d moved in here.
James placed his hands on Alex’s shoulders as he followed her into his sisters apartment. He looked it over, never having seen it before, and dropped a hand to run it over the keys of the piano. Sitting down on the piano bench he snagged Alex’s hand and pulled her to sit beside him. “What’s been going on? Come on, Alex, fess up. You look exhausted. You aren’t feeling ill or anything, right? No one is bothering you?”
He looked over his sister, she was still so small and he still felt fiercely protective of her. James suspected that he would always feel this way towards his sister but after being apart for so long, it was amusing that he could slip back into his old role so easily. “It’s really good to see you, Alex. I’ve missed you.” He reached for her and gave her another hug. The contact reminded him that he was actually there after months of planning and he felt happy with this. This move, which he had wondered at times whether or not it was worth partaking in, seemed to be a good idea.
Alexandria’s usual reserve when it came to physical contact was nearly nonexistent when it came to her family, particularly her brother. James was so unrepentantly corporeal person she’d ever known. His inherent comfort in his own body had always given her an example on which to model how to behave with her own, despite the issues she’d had with it. It was because of this that she could comfortably lean into his hug, looping her arms around him and squeezing, that sense of well-being and security he brought with him seeping into her completely.
“It’s good to see you, too, Jamie,” she told him. It had been too long since their last visit, and she was glad he was here for good. Florida didn’t suit her - it was too moist - but she’d braved it at least once a year to visit Jamie, and of course, he’d visited, too. Though they’d traveled together from time to time, they hadn’t lived in the same area code since before he started college, and having him home was an enormous relief. “I missed you too much.”
With a little inhalation of breath, she pulled back, looking down at her stocking feet. “I’m not feeling ill, exactly. And no one’s bothering me.” She smiled slightly at that, remembering how when they were children, woe betide anyone who had anything to say about Alexandria’s thin hair or constant use of hats, or even just her penchant for books and quiet. She was quiet for a few moments as she gathered her thoughts, as was her habit. Finally, she said,
“Toward the beginning of the year, they... there was a dead body by the pool out back.” She suddenly seemed fascinated by the length of her own fingers. “Actually, I found it.”
She took a breath and looked over at the couch, as though that might somehow make this less absurd.
“There’ve been things. Other things. Weird things,” she said softly. “Visions, I guess. Just... I don’t know what.”
She smiled grimly. “For a while, I thought it might be a tumor.”
Less glibly than she might have wished, she shrugged her shoulders. The motion seemed more of a way of releasing tension than expressing indifference. “Anyway, you know I was in London to do some research, and everything was fine then. I had a battery of scans and tests done, and I was all clear. But just about as soon as I came back, I had some kind of attack, and ever since...” she shook her head. “I’ve been having some pretty bad nightmares.”
She cast a glance at him and smiled sardonically. “Aren’t you glad you asked?”
James set his jaw and brushed a finger at his sister’s hair. Well, she certainly had left out a number of details in their monthly phone calls to one another. “Why was there a dead body? Heart attack after swimming or something?” His voice had changed its tone, coming out a little bit deeper and his words a little more slowly. He felt frustration bubbling inside as he realized that his little sister had been dealing with an assortment of problems, all of which he really could do nothing about, and worse, she had kept these problems from him.
He shifted on the bench and let out a loud sigh. Glancing around the apartment it appeared his sister was living comfortably enough. She had never needed much and it looked like all the essentials that were necessary to her life were there. “Alex, I wish you had told me what was going on. You know I was just wandering around. I could have come to California and moved in sooner. Especially with you thinking you had a tumor of all things. I could have been here. I don’t enjoy thinking you went through this by yourself.”
“I know,” she said, tentatively leaning her head on his shoulder. “It’s just -- I was afraid. I didn’t want to talk about it. The body -- it was the concierge here. Or former concierge, I suppose. He was murdered. It was some kind of ritualistic thing.” Her stomach suddenly roiled at the vivid memory of her visions; how clearly she’d seen the murders. It was difficult, remembering that -- the blood on her feet, the repeating images of violent death. She closed her eyes, then opened them. “It wasn’t so bad. Adam’s here, so he’s been inanely patient and good with me. Just these last two months have been...”
She shook her head, straightening up. “I’ve definitely had better days.” Bowing her head, she looked at her hands. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m thinking about taking some time off from school, but I don’t know yet.” Her hands folded into fists. “I’m not sure what else to do, to be honest with you. I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d worry, maybe come back, and... I honestly don’t know if there’s anything anyone can do.”
Bringing his arm around, he rested it on Alex’s shoulder, rubbing his hand up and down her arm as he pulled her close. He let out a sigh, trying to figure out exactly how he felt about all of this. A ritualistic thing? Really? Where the hell had he moved into? And better yet, why was Alex there. But something else she said caused him to stiffen slightly. Adam. That weird boy from their high school. The one with the odd clothing that played his music too loud and had absolutely no interest in track and worse, no interest in James.
Well. It had been over ten years since he had seen Adam last and that flame had long since been put out. At least James hoped as much. Licking his lips he chose to ignore the comment about Adam and move along with the conversation. “Well, Alex, if you feel you need the time off then take it. You are quite possibly the smartest kid in our family but I don’t want you to overdo it. If you feel you need a break then take that break. I don’t want you to end up in a hospital because of fatigue... or worse. We both know that you’ll be able to go back to school. Take a semester off. And now I’m here, so if you ever need anything you know where I’ll be.”
He shifted his shoulder, brushing his hand on the top of her head and making her look up at him. “Of course I’ll worry and come back. It shouldn’t be a worry of yours about what I do for you. It’s never been an issue for me. You come first, okay?”
Alexandria shook her head. In her opinion, her family tended to overestimate her intelligence because of the ways it manifested. She’d always been bookish; it was hard to say if she’d have turned out the same way if she hadn’t been so ill as a child. Jamie and her sisters hadn’t had her same limitations, so they’d been able to branch out more. The fact remained that she appreciated Jamie’s support. It was problematic, though, the way he and their parents always seemed to be willing to put her before their own concerns. Logically, she understood it was leftover from when she was small and frail and unable to do for herself the things they so readily volunteered to do. But as she’d gotten older and healthier, she saw it as unfair to them and unnecessary.
She butted her head lightly against his shoulder. “I don’t, though. Or I shouldn’t. You have your own life to worry about, and I’m OK. It sounds worse than it is.” She took a soft breath.
“I’ll see how I feel. There’s time left.” She wished there were some resolution. She was becoming more and more convinced that her dreams were somehow tied to the island, and something sinister possibly related to the building. Part of her wanted very much to leave again, but another part -- a part that seemed to grow stronger each day -- insisted that she must stay. When combined with her natural, insatiable curiosity, it seemed more and more important that she find out what was out there. The only question was how?
“But... I think... I think there’s something wrong happening here, Jamie,” she whispered.
James surpressed any comments that could allude to how he completely disagreed with his sister. His own life to live was being lived, no problem about that, but part of his life was taking care of his siblings. He didn’t see it as a burden, he never had, and he expected to share her burdens. He wanted to; it was how it always was. But her final comment caught his attention and he gave her arm a gentle squeeze.
“What do you mean?” he asked calmly, his voice soothing and welcoming to anything that she was about to tell him. “I can understand with the... murder... you would get that assumption. I mean, is this place really safe, Alex? Did I make a big mistake in moving in here?” He silently added on that he wondered if he had made a big mistake in letter her move in there. The comment was kept to himself, not wanting to get too over protective and make her clam up.
“I don’t know,” she said. Her hands clenching into fists then, her fingernails cutting crescents into her palms. “I’m worried, to be honest. Weird things keep happening, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just to me.” She shook her head and settled in closer to him. “I don’t know if it’s safe. I mean, a murder doesn’t inspire my strongest feelings of confidence. I hear the police haven’t found anything. It’s been very low profile.” She pursed her lips.
“It’s good that you’re here,” she said, turning to him with a slight smile. “I’m sure things’ll get better, you know? It makes me feel better just to know that you’re close. I know it’ll make Mom feel better.” She grinned wider at that. The Nashes loved all their children, but they’d always encouraged James in his self-appointed role of protector, particularly of Alex. Even though she hadn’t shared her experiences with either of their parents, their mother always seemed to know when something was wrong, and had been calling more frequently. “How did you get her not to tell me that you were coming? You know she’s horrible at keeping secrets.”
Then she laughed, a new thought having struck. “Did you even tell her?”
Jason smirked, trying to ease the tension a little by focusing on his great trick. “I told her that I had a couple of job offers out here and I didn’t want to get into specifics because I didn’t want to jinx my chances. Said that we couldn’t talk about it any more, not to anyone, because these jobs were serious deals. When she asked if I had a place set up to live, I told her that it wouldn’t be a problem. But I finally told her where I was moving to about, ah, the morning that I moved in here. She was thrilled, by the way. Expect a phone call from her soon. I told her to wait til the end of the week to call you about my move.” He grinned at his sister and rubbed her shoulder. But his joking manner changed, he couldn’t let go of the murder Alex spoke of.
“I trust your decision to have stayed at this place even after the murder. However, I’m not going to allow you to stay here if it gets worse. I’m sorry, Alex, I know you’re an adult but I’m not going to let you live in danger. I’m completely serious.” And when he looked at her his face conveyed just how serious he was. His stormy clouds were darker and there wasn’t a hint of a smile or laughter to be seen. “In the meantime, I’m going to get a second key made for my apartment and give it to you. If you ever need anything you come straight to me, okay? If you want to hide out there you can do that as well. All right?” He raised his eyebrows and waited patiently for her reply. He was sure she would accept the offer, not so sure that she would ever set it into action, but still the offer was there.
Despite the grin that had formed as they talked about their mother, when Jamie said he wasn’t going to allow her to stay if things got worse, she pulled back and arched her brow. When they were younger, woe betide anyone who teased or bothered Alexandria. At the time, she’d felt a strange mix of gratitude and unease about it; on one hand, it felt good to be somewhat insulated from the torment of the kids who taunted her. Jamie scared the hell out of those kids, especially after what he did to the kid who snatched her wig off her head that one time. But on the other hand, she’d have felt better just melting into the shadows, being invisible -- and being James Nash’s little sister didn’t leave much room for invisibility. She’d worked with it, though, and when Jamie went off to college, she’d had to navigate the rest of high school on her own. It’d been weird, because a lot of the upperclassmen had still been nice to her, but she’d remained shy and uncomfortable socially, declining most invitations, preferring to spend her time with Adam, her books, or her piano. It had nurtured her sense of independence, and that had flourished when she’d moved cross-country for school.
“Let’s not start off on the wrong foot, Jamie. I’m not here because you or anybody else is ‘letting me’ be here. I’m here because I want to be.” She took a breath and looked around her simple apartment, which was the first place she’d lived that was exactly as she wanted it to be, down to having Adam and now her brother as neighbors. “It... it feels right here, though. Like... I don’t know. As bad as the things that have happened have been, it still feels like... like I belong.” She turned to him. “Do you know what I mean?”
James didn’t smile or buckle down under his sisters hopeful gaze. He was serious in not wanting her to be in harms way and he would carry her out of the apartment complex if he needed to. But despite his uncertainty he couldn’t help but agree with his sister. He had only been at Pax for a few days unpacking and yet it felt like home. Typically when moving into a place he found himself more stressed or simply exhausted from the move. Instead he felt alive, energetic, and just as Alex said, that he belonged there.
Giving a shake of his head and setting his jaw he continued but with a voice that wasn’t quite as determined as before. “I still mean what I said.” But it seemed how serious he was of his opinion to drag Alex out of the apartment complex was already wavering. “And I am making you a spare key. You can pop in when you please. I’ll just lock the deadbolt when I have someone over so you can’t walk in on anything.” He smiled, not having skipped a beat or pausing at all in his sentence. He had managed to put on the front of being straight for thirty years, he could still pull it off, even around Alex who quite possibly knew him the best out of his entire family.
Alex gave him a rare, winsome smile at his offer, nodding. “I’ll take your key. Thank you.” It was unlikely she’d use it at random; Alex was too polite for that. She’d probably text first, or at least knock, but it would be nice to know he was there, and that she’d have pretty liberal access to him. It was more than worth it, in her mind, to have to deal with a little overprotectiveness just to have him around. Impulsively, she squeezed his arm and pressed her cheek to his shoulder.
“I’m glad you’re here,” she told him, utterly unsuspecting of the secret he hid, just happy to have him close again.
James easily wrapped his arms around his sister and grabbed her tight, dragging her closer on the bench and giving her a bear hug that he used to torment her with when they were children. “I’m glad I’m here too, little one.” He gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head. “Better to keep an eye out on any guy who dares to check out my sister, huh?”
A quiet laugh escaped her and she shook her head, hugging him back. Alex’s line of suitors was short indeed, and she didn’t need protecting from him. “C’mon,” she told him, nudging at him. “Let’s go get some In N’ Out. I bet you haven’t had any in a while, and I could go for a burger.”
James grinned and let go of his sister. “Sounds like a plan, you paying?”
With a laugh, she gave his chest a thwack. “Sure. But if you go past two burgers, fries, and a shake, you’re on your own. I bet you still eat like a horse.”
“I do and it’s a deal. Let’s go halfling.” He got to his feet and pulled Alex with him, happy to have his sister by his side and the promise of free food.