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19 June 2010 @ 06:51 pm
Aftertaste: Chapter Eleven  
Title: Aftertaste
Genre: Mystery/Detective
Characters: Zac Hanson, Taylor Hanson, OCs
Rating: R
Word Count: 2,936
Warnings: Language, violence
Summary: When a series of gruesome murders begins, everyone on campus is stunned, leaving the student body shaken and community anxious, but when those close to Zac Hanson realize he once dated all of the victims, they're left wondering about the connection and who might be next.
Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional. I do not know Hanson or any of their associates. All original characters belong to me. Do not use anything from this story without my permission.
Author's Note: This is the unedited version. Sorry about any errors, and also sorry it's taken so long to get this chapter posted. The next one should be up fairly soon. After that, I can't give any promises, but I am going to work on this story while working on my story for the boomerangbang. It just might be a bit slower going, but I think i'm about 6 chapters away from finishing, so the end isn't too far off. :)


Chapter Eleven


October 19, 2008 10:47 p.m.


Lux glanced up from the book in her hands and toward her sister’s boyfriend. Gabe was seated in the recliner adjacent to her spot the couch. His eyes were focused on the television, and she watched for a moment, wondering if the boy ever blinked. Then, as if reading her mind, his eyelids flickered for a moment. She smirked a little, amused despite her inner turmoil.


For the last couple of days instead of fretting over whether or not another girl might be killed – though it did weigh on her mind – her thoughts had been centered on the conversation she’d overheard between Taylor and Zac. She’d had two days to let the idea of Zac liking her - in a capacity that surpassed friendship – sink in, and while some of the initial shock had faded away, she was still at a loss as to what to do with this information.


She’d played back through her mind all of the interactions they’d shared in the last year, searching for some sort of hint or clue, but she’d come up empty. Zac had at first been very quiet when they met. Then gradually they’d fallen into a tentatively cordial acquaintance. Now, they hovered somewhere close to a friendship. Nowhere in there, though, had she ever had any inkling that Zac might be interested in her.


For her part, her mind had never gone that way either. She’d taken stock of his soft lips, attractive - although often rare - smile, gentle eyes and lean build early on, of course. It was hard not to recognize that Zac was a good looking guy, but she acknowledged it much in the same way she acknowledged most good looking guys – with the occasional appreciative stare.


It had never crossed her mind that Zac might have also taken stock of her looks and found her attractive. The fact that he’d often dated off and on probably also didn’t help either. Not that she thought it impossible to date one person while still being attracted to another. His recent dating history with Sophie put her off slightly, but there was a part of her mind that wasn’t altogether resistant to the idea of Zac liking her. It was kind of flattering, actually.


She’d been debating whether or not to mention what she’d overhead to Novi. She was certain her sister would have plenty to say on the matter. After all, Novi had been trying to convince her within weeks of her last relationship ending that she should jump back into the dating scene. That had been two years ago, and Novi only mentioned the topic occasionally, likely because she now found it a losing battle.


Thinking of Novi, Lux frowned and glanced at the clock above the entertainment center. Realizing the time, she wondered aloud, “I wonder why Novi hasn’t made it home yet.”


This seemed to pull Gabe out of his television induced coma. She wondered idly if this was simply his way of coping with shock. When he’d arrived at the door almost two hours ago, she’d been surprised to see him. She’d been certain Novi had told her that he had some kind of meeting he had to go to. However, when he explained about that there had been another murder, she’d been slightly relieved to learn that Novi had sent him to the apartment. As awkward as it was to hang out with her sister’s boyfriend, who she’d never really been alone with for more than half an hour at a time, it was a comfort not to be alone.


She hadn’t allowed her mind to think about the newest victim. She was certain she would know soon enough who had been murdered. Instead, she had attempted to read until her thoughts had drifted again to the Zac situation.


Now, worry seemed to be at the forefront of her mind. Gabe glanced at his watch, and his brows pulled together in frown. “I don’t know,” he murmured. “She should have been back now. Unless her and Zac stopped to eat or something.”


“She would have called,” Lux replied automatically, knowing this with absolute certainty because they had a rule about this. If one of them stopped to eat on the way home, they’d call the other to see if they wanted anything. There had been too many cranky nights early on after becoming roommates because of one or the other going out for dinner and not bringing something back for the other. That was when the rule had been instated.


Gabe reached into his pocket and produced his cell phone. He flipped it open and began to push numbers, presumably to call Novi, but the sound of the apartment telephone ringing, made him pause. “Maybe that’s her,” he shrugged, glancing at Lux.


Lux shrugged a shoulder in return, stood and crossed the room to grab the phone. Instead of Novi’s number, like she expected and half hoped, it showed up as ‘Private.’ Confused, she answered, “Hello?”


“May I please speak to Lux Hendricks?” A crisp, clear voice replied.


“Speaking,” Lux replied, half poised to hang up the phone, suspecting it was an annoying telemarketer about to try to sell her some insurance she didn’t need or want to ask her questions from a survey she wasn’t interested in.


“Hello, I’m calling from the Stillwater Medical Center about Novia Hendricks. She has you listed as her emergency contact,” the woman said.


It took a moment for these words to sink in, but when they did, Lux felt like the air had been knocked from her lungs. “Hospital?” she repeated mostly to herself, but she knew Gabe had heard her because he was immediately at her side, hovering as if trying to hear the words spoken through the phone and also with his hands extended as if prepared to catch Lux when she toppled over. Somehow, she managed to keep upright despite the way her legs had began to liquefy. “What happened? Is she okay?”


“There was an accident,” the woman said. She went on to explain where Lux needed to go in the hospital to find Novi. She had to force herself to pay attention because her brain was busy flipping through every scenario possible that might have resulted in Novi landing herself in the hospital.


When the woman on the phone was finished, though she gave nothing away, Lux hung up the phone. “What’s going on?” Gabe asked.


“Novi’s in the hospital,” she answered. Her voice sounded strange even to herself. There was a hollowness mixed with confusion. Her mind searched, trying to come up with a rational explanation, but she had so little to go on.


“What happened? Is it bad? Is she going to be okay?” Gabe rattled off, but Lux could only shake her head. He stared at her, as if his gaze could actually force an explanation from her.


“I don’t know,” she replied. “They said something about a car accident, but they didn’t give any details.”


Gabe’s frown seemed to deepen, transforming his young face into a mask of worry. “We better go,” he said, nodding his head toward the door.


Dumbly, Lux slid her socked feet into a pair of tennis shoes. She grabbed the hoodie she wore earlier and located her purse, and in less than a minute, she and Gabe were seated in Lux’s car. Gabe had tried to convince her that he should drive, but she’d refused. Being behind the wheel with something to focus on helped to clear her muddled mind.


October 19, 2008 9:46 p.m.


Novi sighed heavily and shifted her heavy bag up on her shoulder. If she weren’t so concerned about Zac’s earlier behavior, she would have been completely pissed. Shortly after he fled from the library, someone had come over the intercom saying that the library would be closing half an hour early. They didn’t give a reason, but then everyone knew why.


She shuddered as the cool wind whipped around her. She’d stopped by the café to see if maybe Sophie was working in hopes of getting a ride home with her. She’d considered calling Gabe or Lux, but she didn’t want to be a bother. Lux was probably studying –unless she was worrying over this newest murder – and Gabe was probably immersed in television. He was such a TV junkie. She smiled slightly to herself, thinking TV Addicts Anonymous might be a good idea for her boyfriend, if such a thing existed.


As it turned out, Sophie wasn’t at work. Novi knew it was a long shot anyway. Sophie generally worked the morning or afternoon shifts. Instead of finding a ride home, she bought a cup of hot cocoa and started walking. 


It was odd walking alone at night. It never fazed her during the day, but nighttime was so different. This week itself was an entirely different story. She listened as she walked, wondering if she could hear the sirens from here, but the only noises her ears picked up were the sounds of people in the distance and cars on nearby streets.


Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder at the otherwise empty street. She chastised herself for a moment, wondering why she hadn’t just headed straight for home when everyone else left the library. There had been a decent sized crowd, and even if she weren’t walking with them, she would have at least had some company. Now, alone, the night seemed ominous and was only made moreso by the most recent murder.


Again her mind drifted through faces of friends and acquaintances, trying to connect each of them with their place of residence. So far she’d escaped actually knowing any of the murder victims personally. Katya Stana had been in her class, but it wasn’t a name that stood out to her. Seeing her face on the television screen had brought some recognition. Novi thought they’d shared an English class their first semester, and somehow being unsure only made her feel worse.


As her feet moved steadily across the pavement her mind wondered back to the paper she’d been working on before the news had hit. She wondered how she was ever supposed to finish now. Her brain seemed scrambled. All her thoughts and ideas were gone, and so was a half an hour at the library she could have used for research. There was no resentment, though. It wasn’t as though she had any right to be bothered by someone’s death cutting into her research time. She wasn’t that selfish. She only wished that the professors were more compassionate about the state of mind around campus.


As she turned the corner onto the next street, a pair of headlights slid across her face, startling her from her thoughts. She blinked against the blinding light, and it took her a moment to actually locate the car. She recognized that it was parked across the street and sighed in relief. At least she wasn’t totally alone on the street now.


Her thoughts moved back to Zac again. She ran back through the conversation with Brooke, and while the things she’d heard were quite disturbing, she didn’t understand Zac’s odd and abrupt departure. He was typically so calm and cool that it was a bit unsettling to see him so unraveled.


She thought about sending him a text before she left the library, but her motivations were somewhat selfish, hoping that maybe he was still on campus and would give her a ride home. Instead of bothering him, she decided to give him the space to sort out whatever was going on with him and hadn’t sent the text in the end.


Leaves crunched beneath her feet, breaking the cool silence. The car with the bright headlights passed her going in the opposite direction, and again she was left alone. She hummed absently, not a real tune but something to fill the disconcerting stillness.


It was odd for it to be so quiet on a Sunday night, but then again this week wasn’t a normal one. Parties would not be going full speed. People had papers to write and exams to study for, but, furthermore, there was a killer on the loose. By now, Novi was sure most everyone had heard. 


Word of mouth was the quickest was to spread news around here. Novi knew this because she was usually right there, hoping to get the next big scoop. Her parents had once commented that she should consider a career in journalism. She supposed that was their kind way of recognizing her gossiping ways. Lux usually frowned upon it, but these days it seemed to pique her interest more than it had in the past.


She thought back over Lux’s quiet prompting about what happened between Zac and Sophie right outside their door. She smiled slightly to herself, wondering when exactly her sister and her best friend would recognize the attraction between them.


Novi had been able to tell Zac was interested the first time he met her older sister. He’d watched her with his eyes and smiled whenever she spoke to him. Novi had only been mildly jealous that Zac found Lux more appealing than Novi herself, but she couldn’t truly blame him. They’d tried going out on a date, but it was not meant to be. Besides, as soon as she met Gabe, she knew he was the one.


For Lux’s part, it was harder to tell how she felt – not just about Zac, but most guys in general. Her last relationship had ended so badly. There were still times when Novi felt like calling up Eric and giving him a piece of her mind for the way he hurt her sister. She’d refrained, though, knowing that if Lux ever found out, she’d only be more upset.


She hadn’t been sure how Lux felt about Zac for the longest time. She also wasn’t stupid enough to ask. Instead, she’d observed. Lux would claim this was impossible, but Novi liked to think she could be subtle and patient when she put her mind to it. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago when Zac and Sophie started dating that Novi had been fairly certain that Lux was interested in Zac at least on some subconscious level.


The whole Sophie and Zac relationship was somewhat unexpected, but Novi couldn’t fault Sophie for finding Zac attractive. Even if there was no spark between Zac and Novi herself, she wasn’t blind. He was gorgeous and only made moreso by the fact that he was completely oblivious to this fact.


She’d told Sophie to go for it with Zac, half expecting him to finally cop to his feelings for Lux, but he hadn’t. Even though it was a slight let down that Zac refused to admit to his feelings for her sister, Lux had finally began to show her hand. If it were anyone else, they probably wouldn’t have been able to tell, but Novi knew her sister. The way she watched Zac and Sophie together and occasionally commented on the odd pairing had been her biggest clues, but the thing that tipped the scale was her desire to know about the conversation between Zac and Sophie and how relieved she seemed that despite clearing the air, they’d decided that friendship was as far as their relationship was meant to go.


Novi smiled slightly to herself, as her mind ran through various ways she might push the reluctant couple in the right direction. Talking sense into them was pointless, of course, as they could both be pretty boneheaded when they put their minds to it, but there had to be some way.


Immersed in her thoughts as she walked, she didn’t even notice the headlights coming up the street until they were almost upon her. She glanced over her shoulder, expecting the vehicle to pass, but her eyes furrowed slightly as the car slowed to stop in the middle of the road a few yards behind her. Because of the light, it was next to impossible to make out the make and model of the car.


She squinted, wondering if it was someone she knew, and called out, “Hello?”


There was no answer and she turned completely around to face the vehicle. She glanced around briefly, nervously, hoping there might be someone else around, and called out again. “Hello? Do you need some help?”


Again, she was met with silence and a shiver ran up her spine. She swallowed and began to turn back around to go on her way.


She chastised herself as she turned, berating herself for not wanting to bug her boyfriend or sister for a ride. Now, it just seemed silly not to call. They wouldn’t have minded – especially considering the recent events around campus. Instinctively, she shoved her hand into her pocket, wrapping it around her phone.


As soon as the car is gone, I’ll call home, she told herself, but before she could even make it a whole step, the sound of squealing tires broke the solitude of the night. Novi’s thoughts fractured in a million directions as her heart jumped, hammering full speed. She glanced, frightened, back over her shoulder, wondering just what the hell was going on here, but the only thing her mind could register in that glance was that the car was no longer immobile but was instead coming straight at her.


A scream burst through her lips, but the shrieking rubber overpowered the sound. Despite the terror seizing her limbs, she forced her feet to move.




Aftertaste Master Post
 
 
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(Anonymous) on June 21st, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
Oh my god! Can't wait to see what's gonna happen! Hopefully Novi will be fine. This is really interesting... is the killer and the driver who hit her the same person?...
Good job!
Nath
Brittney: kristen bell » mouthfakearomance on July 21st, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the comment. I'm going to treat that question as a rhetorical one because, as I'm sure you know, only time will tell. :)
(Anonymous) on June 28th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Love this story!!!!

I love the shift from the typical romance fan-fic, for once I truly have no idea how the fic will end :)

I'm excited to see how it turns out!
Brittney: hanson » zac » hellogoodbyefakearomance on July 21st, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
Yay! That makes me really happy to hear. It's been fun writing something that doesn't revolve around a love story. And I'm thrilled you have no idea how the fic will end. It's a bit hectic (but fun) trying to move the story along without revealing too much at once. Thanks again for the comment. :)