Dark and Stormy Night


Jack didn't realize he had his bottom lip held tightly between his teeth. He was too intently focused on getting his character to the next level. He was sitting cross-legged on the sofa, his bare feet tucked up under his legs; hunched forward as if he could will the creature on the screen to flatten its enemies and triumphantly move on to the next world. His thumbs were flicking toggles and pushing buttons with such rapidity that he almost seemed to be moving at inhuman speeds.

Almost there, he growled to himself. Almost there, almost there, almost there—


Jack bit hard on his lip, splitting the skin, just before he screamed and threw himself off the couch; rolling across the floor towards the TV and coming up in a defensive crouch, his eyes wild.

Only to find one of his Jack-bots hovering behind the spot where he'd been sitting.

Growling, his heart racing, Jack stood up and dusted off his pants. "Don't scare me like that!" he shouted.

"Sorry, Master," the robot replied in its droning voice.

"Whaddya want?" the goth genius crabbed.

"The doorbell rang, Master."

A peevish glare. "So? Answer it!"

"Already done, Master."


"This was left for you, Master." The Jack-bot lifted its left arm and produced a small box wrapped up in pretty wrapping paper and tied with a bow.

Jack eyed it warily. "Any explosives?"

"No, Master. X-Ray revealed a jumble of several pieces. Analysis indicates they are puzzle pieces."

Jack blinked. "Puzzle pieces? Someone sent me a puzzle?"

"Yes, Master."

"Any indication who it's from?"

"No, Master."

"DNA scan...?"

"Revealed nothing, Master."

"Creepy," Jack muttered, frowning. He sighed and pulled his goggles off, ran a hand through his hair to fluff it back into perfection, and then put his goggles on again. "Fine. Put it in my room. I'll deal with it later. Right now I've got a game to win."

The Jack-bot made a nervous humming noise, pointed at the screen, and then zoomed quickly away.

Jack turned to face the screen, where the words GAME OVER flashed in gigantic letters.

The angry teen began swearing up a storm as he realized he'd failed to pause the game before making his dive.

"I am so going to deconstruct you, JB-30!" Jack roared after the robot.


Much later that evening, Jack was tired enough that he decided to go to bed early for a change.

Yawning, he made his way to his bedroom suite and detoured to take a shower. After all, if he had evil acts to commit suddenly in the middle of the night, he wanted to look his evil best.

He had just rinsed all the soap from his body when the lights went out.

Whimpering, utterly terrified of being completely in the dark, Jack turned off the shower.

Instantly, he heard the roll of a loud rumble of thunder overhead, and realized that a storm had come in and knocked out the power.

Sighing with relief at realizing what had caused the power failure, he got out of the shower carefully and toweled off, knowing that the Jack-bots would turn on the emergency generator soon enough.

By the time he was barely damp and wrapped up in his robe, the lights had kicked back on and Jack managed to stop shaking wildly.

He went out into his bedroom and stood at the doors that led out onto his balcony; watching the lightning flash and the rain come down in sheets against the glass. He'd always loved storms; so powerful, so violent... so awesome. The adrenaline rush was still going, however, so he went to his closet to get into a pair of sweatpants and a grungy old black tank-top, and then came back out into the bedroom proper.

"Now what?" he grumbled to himself. "I don't want to turn on the computer and risk it getting fried... I'm bored of my projects... I've read everything three times already and played all my games." He sighed. "Maybe I should've taken Mom and Dad up on their offer to go to America with them for a couple of weeks. They've only been gone three days and I'm already bored out of my mind."

Of course, when he'd turned down the invitation from his parents, he'd expected that he'd be kept busy with fighting the monks for Wu, taunting Wuya, and trying yet again to get Chase to accept him at the evil lord's side. So far, no Wu had gone active, the witch wasn't showing her face, and Chase had literally kicked his ass off the mountain twice – an act that had hurt his pride and his emotions far more than his bruised butt.

Jack's gaze landed on the gaily wrapped box sitting innocently on the small table over by the wall near his patio doors. After a moment, he shrugged and said, "Aw, what the hell – nothing else to do and I'm not ready to sleep just yet."

He sat in a chair with his back to the doors so he wouldn't be blinded by flashes of lightning. Carefully, he unwrapped and opened the box – worried that it might be another puzzle-box of the "Warning: Do Not Let Loose Cranky Malevolent Spirit!" kind – but found that it was a plain, simple box containing actual puzzle pieces.

Dumping them out, he inspected a few pieces and discovered that there was no completed image he could use as a guideline and that the image on the pieces themselves indicated that it was a puzzle made from a photograph. Intrigued, now, he set about finding the edges and piecing them together until he had a nice, neat border.

Jack, being a genius, had always been very good at putting puzzles together. In a little under five minutes, he had almost half of it filled in. He was frowning down at the incomplete image. So far as he could tell, it was a human figure in modern day men's clothing of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, but the size and shape of the man didn't fit anyone he knew. The surroundings in the puzzle seemed to be somewhat familiar, but he couldn't quite place them.

More minutes passed, more of the puzzle was filled in. By now, Jack was getting a definite bad feeling in his gut. The man in the image was barricaded behind glass doors with moonlight shining down on him and something he was holding in his right hand. The lower edge of his jaw was completed; enough to show his mouth, which seemed to be stretched in some sort of grimace.

Breathing hard, breathing fast, Jack swiftly filled in the rest of the puzzle.

He sat rigid in his chair, his heart hammering so hard he thought it was going to burst out of his chest. His arms were bumpy and rippled with goosechills and he was vaguely aware he was making a keening noise in his throat.

The image was complete.

The man was grinning manically through the glass doors – a camera in his left hand to take the photograph and a sharp, gleaming butcher's knife in his right hand.

He was grinning manically through the glass doors of Jack's bedroom.




Shaking wildly, Jack didn't turn around. His brain had already put together the final pieces of the puzzle – as to how the man had been able to photograph himself.

Jack looked up into the mirror on the other side of the room.


He screamed at the sight of the man standing at the doors behind him, soaking wet from the rain, tapping on the glass with the blade of the big knife.

Even as he screamed, Jack was lunging up; shoving the table out of the way and stumbling past it to run for the door of his bedroom. He heard glass shatter behind him and he ran – ran – ran.


He didn't know how, but he was outside, and sliding across the slippery wet grass. Rainwater was pouring in his open mouth as he screamed for his mother, for his father, for the monks, for anyone, for Chase – for Chase! – to help him, help him, help, help, please, someone, help!


Pain between his shoulder-blades and Jack stumbled to his knees on the ground. He turned, expecting to find the Scary Knife Man – entirely shocked that he could still move. He looked up and there was the Scary Knife Man, leering down at him, holding the butcher knife aloft.


Pain, in his face, but the knife hadn't moved – there was no blood—


More pain, in his face, and Jack was confused now and he reared back—

And opened his eyes just as Chase's palm cracked across his face again.

He shrieked in pain and fear. Outrage had him yelling while he slurred around his bruised cheek, "Wha' th' hell'd j'oo do that for?!"

And that's when he realized he wasn't on the grass outside his home, in the rain, in the dark.

He was lying on Chase's bed, where he'd gone to sleep after having hot, wild sex with the dragon-lord.

And his face hurt because Chase had, apparently, been trying to wake him up, if the frazzled look of frustration mingled with a hint of concern was any indication.

"What is wrong with you, Spicer?" Young demanded. "You started mumbling in your sleep, and then you were screaming and thrashing around, and then you tried to run while still in the bed!"

Jack slowly sat up and winced as he felt a sting from his back. Tentatively, he reached back and felt the ragged pieces of torn flesh.

Chase sighed and reached out to pull Jack to him, helping the albino youth get settled in the bed again. "I accidentally scratched you when I tried to get you to calm down, Jack. You'll be fine."

Jack nodded, shivering as reality settled firmly in his mind. He nodded and curled up against Chase, letting the evil lord tuck the blankets in around them again.

"What night terror frightened you so badly?" Chase asked, beginning to stroke Jack's hair as he urged the teen to rest his head on the man's muscled chest.

Still shivering, Jack recited the events he'd been dreaming of. When he was finished, he grinned and nuzzled his face against Chase's chest and said, "Man... I have never been glad to have you hit me – until now!"

Chase snorted. "Don't expect me to apologize for it."

"I never do."

The older man sighed and wrapped his left arm firmly around the albino youth's shoulders. "Go to sleep, Jack. I won't let the boogeyman get you."

Jack laughed and nuzzled again. "Too late – you're already holding onto me."

"Brat," Chase muttered with reluctant affection.

Jack hummed and closed his eyes, lulled back to sleep by Chase's warmth and closeness.

Chase waited until his young lover was asleep, and then reached over to his nightstand. A wave of his hand had the wick of the oil lamp on the small table burning brightly, providing gentle illumination.

Then, he picked up the copy of the evening newspaper and stared hard at the image on the front page.

Of a man with a maniacal grin, captured on video footage as he peered through the window of an affluent home while holding a knife in one hand and a camera in the other.

Chase felt his own skin chill and tossed the paper aside – the paper that he knew for a fact Jack had not had a chance to look at that evening.

Tightening his grip on his lover, Chase closed his eyes and tried to sleep.



~~~~~~~~ Back to Xiaolin Showdown ~~~~~~~~



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