2 – insomnia

cws for referenced torture, questioning reality, and general unpleasantness.

playlist here 

It starts – as it always does – with screams. Not based in memory, but the fabrication doesn’t make them any less real in the moment.

Sometimes it’s the horses. This time, it’s her. The sounds of agony – of being tortured, just far enough away that there’s no way to get there in time.

If he even knew where she was-

It’s so dark, and the air feels wrong. Like his lungs aren’t meant to breathe it. Like no living thing is. But he can hear… something. Many somethings. So someone must dwell here, in this place of cavernous shadows.

At the very least, there’s whatever is doing this to her.

“You aren’t coming,” she says from somewhere that feels like behind.

He turns, but there’s nothing.

“You never come. You never even tried.” She sounds older – closer to how old she should be, unlike the screams.

He can’t answer. How could he? He can’t even breathe here, much less speak.

“Imagine how I feel,” she sneers. Like she can hear his thoughts.

I hear everything now.

And that’s directly in his head, this time. It echoes in his skull like thunder, making him want to run.

Oh, brother. I’ve found you now. You can’t run, although you should try. You might not have come for me, but I’m coming for you.

Ari wakes drenched in sweat, harsh breaths filling their lungs with the bitter scents of fear and anxiety. They don’t even have to look to know that Tate is gone. His spot is empty – damp and cooling rapidly. On their other side, Kyah rouses slightly but doesn’t wake fully; Ari turns and kisses her forehead before crawling out of bed.

He’s outside on the deck, although he’s not, as Ari expected, surrounded by a cloud of smoke.

I couldn’t-

Oh, Ari realizes, understanding catching up quickly. They can’t quite see how his hands shake in the darkness, but they can feel it. Doubly so when he reaches for them, pulling them into the lounge chair with him.

They don’t ask if he’s ok, or tell him that he will be. That it was just a dream. They do, eventually, ask if he wants to go back inside.

Tate sighs, the rise and fall of his chest heavy. “Ok.” It’s hollow. Resigned. Exhausted. “Ok, yeah, let’s go back to bed.”

– Later –



Tate,” Kyah snaps, her tone sharp not out of annoyance, but out of concern.

He blinks and looks at her. At the end of the table, Astrid sighs.

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

“Go home and get some sleep, dude,” Astrid says. “Full offense, you look like shit.”

Kyah bites her lip. She hasn’t told Astrid yet that he hasn’t been sleeping, torn on whether or not it’s her place. Torn on what capacity she’d even be saying it in; everything is so jumbled now, and not just because she hasn’t been sleeping well either. Because she’s been worried about Tate and Ari both.

It makes her glad, in a horrible sort of way, that she hasn’t let them bite her. Where would they be if all three of them were like this? Ari isn’t quite as bad as Tate, but all of their attention is going to holding Tate together, leaving her to hold everything else together.

And there’s only so much she can do, especially when Tate just apologizes and tells her not to worry and Ari smiles, their whole face tight, and says it’s just one of those things. That sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s worse.

Except it’s not. Or at least, it’s not just that; she’s known Tate for too long now to not see that, no matter how much she’s tried to ignore over the years. This is worse – way worse – and now she cares.

Astrid must notice because her attention shifts almost palpably. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a golden eyebrow arch. Like she’s waiting for Kyah to say something. Expects it.

“I’m-” he starts to protest, too slow.

“Tate Hansen, if you say you’re fine I will order you,” Astrid growls, looking back at him. “Now get out. Actually, you know what? Kyah, drive him. I don’t trust him to not hit something right now and dad and Ari won’t be back until late.”

She sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Yeah, ok. I’ll come right back.”

They have too much to do for her to not, and Astrid knows it. It’s the only reason she doesn’t argue, although Kyah can tell from her expression that she wants to.

Tate’s sigh turns into a yawn as he levers himself out of the chair, like even that’s difficult. Again, Kyah is torn. Does she help him?

She doesn’t even know where to begin, and before she can come to any sort of decision he’s up and it’s too late. So she stands, organizing the files in front of her before she picks up her bag and follows him out.

It’s almost like he’s being puppeted as he follows her to her car, his movements all slightly wrong. He’s too quiet on the short ride home, too. Doesn’t try to take over the music or complain about her turn signal usage. He just… stares out the window, but it doesn’t seem like he’s even doing that.

“Hey,” she says softly, when they’re parked in the driveway and he still hasn’t reacted.

His eyes close and he takes a breath before looking at her. “Kyah, I can’t-”

“I’m not saying you have to sleep. I don’t even really have a way to make you. But when’s the last time you ate something? Or drank something other than coffee?”

Another slow blink. “I don’t know. Yesterday?”

“Ok. Do that, please?”

He nods.

“And call me if you need me to come back? I’ll try to get everything wrapped up quickly.”

Tate nods again, but there’s a lack of… commitment to it and it stings a little. She knows she’s not Ari. Not what either of them need sometimes, no matter how much they try to reassure her. And while she believes them most of the time, things like this have her feeling like she’s right back where they all started while the two of them have made progress.

“Ok,” she whispers. “You um. Have your keys?”

He pulls them out of his pocket and dangles them. It probably isn’t meant to be pointed, but it feels that way. Like he knows, Tate sighs tiredly and reaches over to thread their fingers together.

“I’m sorry,” he says for what feels like the thousandth time this week, just as quietly.

“I don’t know how to help you if you won’t let me.”

Tate sighs, again, and brings her knuckles to his lips. Kisses them. “I don’t think you could even if you wanted to.”

When she gets home, the only room she doesn’t check – the only one whose door is shut – is his. She makes tea and returns to stand outside it, deliberating knocking for so long that she loses track before she eventually gives up and sinks to the floor, back against the opposite wall. She’s still there when Ari arrives, well after dark, and when she wakes up in their bed, she’s alone again.


When Cole wakes up from another rather vibrant nightmare, it’s not a surprise. Not anymore.

He assumes they’re Bast’s, since they’re largely populated by demons and assorted beasts of the outer realms, although that isn’t exactly comforting either. But he doesn’t care. After all, they’re just dreams.

Just. He wishes if he still had to be involved with Bast’s dreams that they’d at least be the fun kind.


He’s not particularly sure about that either, truth be told. The nightmares are uncomfortable, but the other sort might honestly be worse.

Dreams of weird, fucked up… torture? Demonic entertainment? That he can handle. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen and experienced before.

The other kind would be actual torture, after-

Cole swallows and rolls out of bed. The sun is barely fully in the sky yet, no more than an hour or two since he’d gone to bed. Means it’s one more day of shit sleep. He doesn’t technically require it, but he gets pissy if he goes without it for too long. Gets all cagey and restless, since he can’t really do much during the day.

He should get a new phone, but that requires things like leaving his apartment. Talking to humans. Not commiting murder on camera in broad daylight.

He just hasn’t felt like it, and this isn’t exactly making him feel charitable. It’s… dangerous, really, him feeling like this. Like when he was first turned, and everything felt too much.

Scowling, Cole grabs a book at random from a partially-unpacked box and flops back onto the bed. Eventually, he dozes off again.


Astrid nods as she passes, and Ari tries not to eavesdrop.

“Ari! Are you coming or not?”

Well, ok. Apparently it doesn’t matter this time. They pick up their laptop and notebook and walk into Reuben’s office, plopping down into the seat that has become theirs.

He nods and Astrid shuts the door, then takes the other chair.

“So… what’s up?”

“We were hoping you could tell us,” Astrid says.

“Uhh, everything’s fine with the distribution center in Wisconsin, the new rental properties should be ready soon, not much notable in terms of hunter activity-“

“What about Illinois?” Reuben interrupts.

“What… about Illinois?”

“Three demon crossings in the last week in the southern part of the state, and rumors of another near Lansing.”

Ari swallows.

“Care to tell me where you’re getting your information? Or why you’ve been looking into this for so long without telling me?”

“I can’t do that, sir,” Ari whispers.

“Ari please, we just want to help. Did he-“

Before she can finish, Ari is shaking their head. “No. This isn’t his fault. He didn’t do anything. Especially not- I started looking on my own. And I don’t know how or why he’s-” they cut themself off, taking a breath.

“The nightmares again? About what happened?”

After a second, they nod. “But not like before. These are… worse. I don’t know what to do,” they admit quietly.

“I’m surprised you’ve done as much as you have, honestly.”

“I’m better at running on no sleep than he is,” Ari replies, meeting Reuben’s gaze.

“Give us whatever rundown you can,” Astrid says, sounding almost as tired as Ari feels. She pulls her hair into a ponytail, then shifts to sit sideways so she’s facing them.

“Ok, um-” Ari runs them through the high level overview, although they’re unsure how much of it is redundant. Of how much Reuben knows. They probably should’ve known better than to keep everything stored on a computer so tied into Reuben’s business, but it seemed… safe. And maybe it still was.

They just can’t quite be sure of anything anymore, if feels like.

When they’re done, Astrid’s first question is, “Does Kyah know?”

“I- no. Tate doesn’t want her to worry more than she already does, and…” they sigh, not quite sure what to say here.

“And you’re both torn on it because you’re mated and she’s still being a pain in the ass.”

That forces a laugh out of Ari and a groan from Reuben.

“Is there any update on that?” Reuben asks, sounding extremely exhausted by even having to ask the question.

“No sir,” Ari replies, sighing. “It’s fine, really. I mean we both- it’s ok. But she’s made it pretty clear that she doesn’t want that level of involvement, so it’s… complicated, y’know? And honestly right now it’s a little hard to blame her. If it wouldn’t seem like she was admitting defeat, I think she’d probably be staying with her parents right now, which-“

Astrid and Reuben both grimace, looking for all the world like twins separated by thirty years.

“You realize, of course, that some of this will have to become a broader pack matter?” Reuben asks.

“Yes sir.”

“What he’s asking is if you want your name kept out of it,” Astrid says gently.

“I know. But it- no, it’s fine. He can’t challenge it as much if it comes from me. He knows I’m right, at least. You know he’s gonna-” they stop again, aware that they’re now on dangerous grounds. Annoying or no, Isaiah is still Reuben’s second.

“He can try,” Astrid says, turning to look at her father.

“You two forget this man is sixty years old and has a doctorate. He’s not stupid enough to come after someone who may as well be my son in public.”

“No, but you know him better than that, dad. He’ll either say something in private or worse, say something to Kyah.”

Reuben sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. “There’s not much I can do about that. How are things otherwise? Other than Kyah being… extraordinarily like her parents and the nightmares? And you three still-“

Ari’s face heats, knowing immediately what he’s asking. “Um we’re. Fine.”

Looking to his computer, Reuben clicks a few times before returning his attention to Ari. “Do you anticipate any issues to arise from this cyclically?”


“Uh. No. Sir.”

He nods. “Take the rest of the day. Try to get some sleep. Pick Tate up on your way, and maybe take his keys. If he’s half as bad as he looks, he shouldn’t be driving. I’d try to make him step away from his work for a bit, especially since you seem to be doing more of it than him at the moment, but that would only make it worse.”

Ari stands at the dismissal, closing their computer.

“And Ari?”


“These are the kinds of things we need to know about. I can understand your reticence to trust others to handle things appropriately or effectively, but I’d hope by now we have some degree of understanding.”

Ari sighs, the guilt setting in on top of the bone-deep weariness that they haven’t been able to shake.

“He’s my family too. As are you. This concerns us all. We can talk more about it later.”

They nod and slip out of the office, closing the door behind them.

Tate is already outside when they pull into a space in front of the other office, his expression equal parts exhausted and strained. It isn’t going to be a fight, because they don’t, really. Kyah does enough of that for all of them. But he’s upset. Upset and tired and sad, on a level Ari hasn’t seen before.

He gets into the car before they can get out, silent and tense.

It isn’t just because of the meeting, though. No, there’s something-

It’s happening when I’m awake now.

Oh. Fuck.


Tater Tot

He blinks awake and sighs. Of all the times he’d thought he might fucking lose it, at 30 and in a stable relationship wasn’t anywhere on the list. Not that he’d expected that to turn out like this either, but he’s gotten used to being wrong.

Still, he thought there was some sort of statute of limitations on sibling death-related trauma. It hasn’t been this bad in years, until recently.

Ari thinks it’s something to do with all of the demons coming through. Stirring up shit. Doesn’t explain why it’s him it’s affecting like this and not Ari or any of the other countless people who’ve dealt with worse and far more recently.

It’s not a competition, a voice that sounds like Ari but only is in memory echoes in his head.

Tate doesn’t know what to think. Doesn’t even know if he still can, he’s so fucking tired.

He’s not sure how he’d get through this at all on his own, truth be told. Especially without Ari, though. God, and Ari hasn’t been sleeping either. Has been trying so fucking hard to hold it together for both of them. He hadn’t thought it was possible to love a person more, but the past-

The past what, Tater? Can’t take a few days of this? Imagine what it was like for me, after.

“Shut up,” he mumbles to himself, glad – not for the first time – that his office has a door.

Although the other uses of said door were much better.

Oh no. You don’t get to tell me to shut up to think about fucking your little boyfriend.

“Shut. The fuck. Up.” He won’t say her name because it’s not her and that’s too much, even for him.

Fine, clearly this isn’t working. No matter. We’ll talk soon enough.

He swallows. That’s what worries him. He doesn’t know how much longer he can-

His pocket vibrates.

Ari > meet me outside I’ll be there soon

-ɹ ǝ ʇ ɐ l-

“Ari, please-“

Ari sighs, tired on so many levels.

He rolls over and buries his face in Ari’s hip, trapped somewhere between asleep and awake. It’s where he seems to live, now.

“Shit, did I wake him up?” Kyah asks, quieter this time.

Ari sighs again, reaching down to scratch his back lightly. “No. Sort of. It’s not your fault, Ky.”

“Does he even sleep at all anymore?”

He feels Ari swallow.

I don’t think she’s happier not knowing anymore.

Tate wraps his arm tighter around Ari’s thigh. It’s not what he wants, but he’s not nearly functional enough to do anything else. Fortunately, Ari knows and shifts just a little bit closer.

Do what you think is best. He trusts whatever Ari comes up with. Trusts Ari way more than he trusts himself.

“No,” Ari says softly. “Not really.”

“Why won’t anyone tell me what’s going on?” Kyah asks, barely more than a breath. Tate only knows what she says because Ari can read her lips, even in the dark.

Ari’s eyes close, fighting sleep, the jumble of both of their thoughts, the conflicting mess of feelings. “Because knowing doesn’t make it make any more sense.”

She sighs and the bed shifts like she’s going to get up.


Kyah stills.

“C’mere. Please?”

Another sigh. God, when did this become their life?

Ari’s fingers move to his hair, tugging slightly in what Tate knows to be an admonishment before carding through it, nails light on his scalp.

The sound of lips on skin makes them both relax; it’s a little thing, but it’s something.

“You remember that wizard Cole was hunting? The weird hybrid?”

“Yeah,” Kyah replies, confused.

“Well I thought. I dunno. At the time it seemed like his obsession was something personal, but now I’m not so sure. I think-“


Ari exhales, not quite a yawn. “I don’t know. He got all weird, and so we jokingly sent him a breakup playlist fucking around, but I’m kinda worried something happened? Like what if this dude was connected to whatever’s going on now? And something happened to Cole? And he was our only connection to this wizard, and definitely the only person I know who might’ve been able to make sense of this, and now he’s gone.”

“Ok, hang on- what is going on? You still haven’t told me.”

“Well I mean you know about the weird demon crossings?”


“They were in the emails.”

Kyah huffs. “Yeah I haven’t really been reading those in much detail, truth be told. I’ve kind of had a lot on my mind.”

“Well fuck. Ok so there’ve been more demon crossings in the last month alone than there were in like. I dunno, years?”

“And this relates to us how? Is he- tell me he didn’t-“

“No! God, why is that everyone’s first question?” Ari practically shouts.

Tate grumbles, pressing his face more firmly against Ari’s hip like that’ll undo it.

“Who’s everyone?”


“Ari? Who else knows?”

“Kyah, just let me explain. Please,” Ari says, voice ragged. Exhausted.

He hates it. And it’s his fault.

“You have sixty seconds.”

Ari takes a breath and says, “Fine,” then launches into a rapid fire explanation of… everything.

“Wait,” Kyah says, well over a minute later, “You don’t think-“

Something shifts between them. Like Tate’s glancing off a part of Ari’s thoughts. Like he’s being kept out of something, and this time he’s pretty sure it’s not a good surprise like a house.

“It’s not going to make you feel better either,” Ari says, attention turned to him.

The strange barrier drops, and it feels like he’s been pushed into the lake in winter.

“I talked to Max, and he said…” Ari sighs. “I’m sorry. I don’t like keeping things from either one of you, but I didn’t want to say anything if I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not, but it’s getting harder and harder-“

“No,” Tate whispers. He pushes up onto his elbow and forces his eyes open, taking in their silhouettes. That’s almost worse. Too much like the strange shadows that haunt his waking mind as much as his dreams now.

“Ari, what are you even saying?”

“Max says they didn’t always- sometimes they kept wolves alive. Especially if they were young enough or old enough or whatever and easier to keep contained. To do all sorts of weird fucked up shit to them- trying to find ways to get rid of werewolves entirely. Y’know. Eugenics shit. I asked him if there were any hunters who would be willing to go so far as to contract a demon to get rid of us.”

“And he said…”

“Maybe,” Tate says, before Ari can force the word out. “He said maybe.”


The first thing Cole thinks, before he’s even fully woken up, is that he’s been stabbed. Harpooned, more accurately.

The dream – the nightmare – is fading quickly. Just remnants of a strange voice, the language one he knows but doesn’t understand. Not that dream logic cares, especially when filtered through someone who does understand it.

The strange part is the timing. It’s midday, and the nightmares have grown more infrequent.

But things happen. The pain, psychosomatic though it may be, is more concerning than the nightmare. And even then, it’s not his problem. If someone went off and stabbed the great and powerful hybrid, more power to them.

Cole flips his pillow over and fluffs it into a better shape.

He’s not sure how long he’s been asleep when he hears the buzz of wings. His mind dismisses them at first. Another dream.

But then there’s a touch on his shoulder. His real shoulder, in the real world.

Cole moves quickly, snatching at the space where something should be. The flit of wings is just slightly faster, though.

“Look, I’m just as unhappy about being here as you are, but trust me you’d rather I find you than someone else. Consider it um. An apology or whatever. A thank you. For helping me in the first place.”

He recognizes the voice, and that settles his nerves more than it should. The tooth fairy is standing in his window, clearly ready to slip back out the second it seems necessary.

“The fuck are you doing here?”

“Whoever finds you gets a free request. Anything they want. ‘N you know as well as I do that there’s plenty out there who’d jump on that, no matter their feelings for you. I don’t know what you did, and I don’t want it to be my business. But I owe you my wings as much as him, so do what you will with that knowledge.” The tooth fairy takes another step toward the open window, clearly about to step through the gap.

“What, when you say ‘him-“

“The wizard, of course. Wants you brought to him immediately.”

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