Angel Hunt + Streifen: AU02 Pt04


Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU

Alternate Universe 02



C H A P T E R  O N E : P A R T 04


Zephyr: “So you were right about the favorite color?” Innic hands his best friend a beer before leaning down to shift one of the many stacks of thick, leather-bound books currently occupying his coffee table. “And he even went so far as to take a flower with him when he left for the day?”

The blonde nods, leaning back on the leather-upholstered couch to place his feet on the newly cleared table space. “He was casual about it in the morning, and said nothing at lunch, but I caught him in the act as I was heading back into the building to get some paperwork. Pink is definitely his color.”

Settling at the opposite end of the couch, the shorter Selestarri takes a sip of his own beer. “So he didn’t storm out like he did yesterday, and you’ve at least got him saying things to you that aren’t strictly work-related.” Zephyr nods again. “What’s your endgame here? If you want to sleep with him, that’s understandable because he’s hot.” Innic shrugs and grins at the other Dark. “I’d want to sleep with him, too, but I think we’d both want the same position in the bed and neither of us would end up satisfied.” Laughter spills into the air between them before the dark-haired man continues. “Is it just curiosity over those cracks you’re so sure you’re seeing in him?”

The blonde considers for a long moment, working through half the beer before he responds. “It’s more than just curiosity. I just need to see what’s beneath that cold front, to know for sure if there’s more to him than military posture, hyper tidiness, and one word answers.” If it were something as simple as just wanting to sleep with the Angel, he would have moved on long ago to less frigid pastures. Other than knowing that he needs to prove whether he’s right about those little moments he catches when Jun thinks no one else is looking, he can’t really articulate the why behind any of it.

Orange eyes meet midnight and Innic smiles at his best friend. “And if there is?”

“Then I want to get to know him and understand why he puts up the walls. Why he’s here with that other Angel, and… I don’t know, just more about him besides his favorite color.” Zephyr shrugs and drinks the last of the beer before rising fluidly from the couch and making his way toward the kitchen.

“You do understand,” Innic’s voice floats behind him as the taller Dark leaves his empty bottle on the countertop and snags two fresh beers from the fridge. “That Jun seems to be very much like Sashi, at least on the outside. Are you trying to fix him like you tried to fix your brother for all those years when we were younger?”

Slipping the church key beneath the cap of each bottle he pries them free and tosses them in the garbage, a frown slipping over his mouth. He knows what Innic’s getting at, but it’s not the same. At least, it doesn’t feel the same. His desires to help his brother, to make him more “normal” when they were kids was misguided, and he understands that now. It wasn’t until he let go of his determination to fix Sashi and accepted him for who he is that the telepath let him in. The older Selestarri isn’t the same as Jun, though, not in the way that Innic is hinting at. It might be if he didn’t keep catching those glimpses of a completely different person behind the Angel’s facade.

He holds out one of the beers as he returns to the couch and the shorter Selestarri reaches out, foregoing the bottle to wrap his hand around Zeph’s and squeeze gently. “I’m not trying to be contrary,” his voice is soft and serious, “I just remember all those feelings of shame and failure you felt for so long with Sashi, and I want to make sure it’s not happening again.”

The blonde smiles at his best friend and shakes his head. “I learned a lot of things with Sashi and I won’t repeat my mistakes.” He knows better now than to push too hard and to try and make anyone into something they’re not. Zeph’s voice softens with genuine affection for the other Dark. “Thanks for looking out for me, though…”

space01The hour is past nine when the tall Selestarri steps from his best friend’s apartment and out into the dimly lit hall. Normally he’d simply teleport, but sometimes it’s good for the neighbors to see them coming and going since there are human teachers and staff that live in the building too, and are nosy enough to keep track of everyone’s movements. Raking blonde hair from his eyes, Zeph turns the corner of the corridor, considering whether or not to drop by and check on his brother, when he realizes he’s not the only one in the hallway.

Dressed in white and with a plastic bag of take-out containers in one hand, the Angel stands before the door of his apartment. Pink eyes lift to meet midnight as the Dark casually continues his approach. He’s never seen Jun bring in groceries or seen anyone deliver them, and it appears as if the other man either eats at restaurants in the city or does what he’s doing now–brings food in. Even his lunches are packaged affairs from nearby cafes. [Do you always eat out?]

Jun: the hallway is dark and empty as the Angel moves on near silent steps through the wide corridor, a bag of take out food in hand and his stomach nearly rumbling in anticipation for the oncoming meal. He’d spent a little longer in the city than he meant to as he’d decided to take a walk in the park and ended up climbing a rather large tree before getting caught up in watching the sun set from its top branches. It’s rare he takes the time to do such things, usually he isn’t allowed because of the presence of his handler and he doesn’t normally risk it just in case other eyes may be around somewhere near watching. But he couldn’t help himself today, and while it was peaceful and enjoyable, because of it, he’s gotten to his dinner a little later than normal and his stomach is on the verge of protesting it in very loud ways.

Slipping long fingers into his pocket just as he reaches his doorway, his movements pause momentarily as the distant click of another door and a familiar scent reaches his nose. Early dawn hued eyes narrow and he lifts them away from the frame at his front to meet midnight and for the space of a few seconds, he contemplates not answering the other man and outwardly ignoring him the way he has every other day that’s passed.

[I’m… not given much of a choice,] Jun finally returns quietly, deciding to answer after all as he slips the key from his pocket and into the lock before him, twisting it to unlatch the door.

Though spoken again on impulse, he isn’t able to find any harm in his vocalizing the words. It isn’t meant to be inviting and the statement itself holds nothing but a simple truth. In the Heavens his food was always prepared for him, always available when he needed it with little to no effort upon his part in order to acquire the nutrition he needs. Everyone has their place there, and his was as a soldier not as a preparer so it’s a skill he’s neither been programmed for nor one he’s ever been given a chance to develop.

It isn’t to say he hasn’t tried because he has, the very first time he was assigned to Earth and given his own home without the amenities he’s lived his entire life with in the Heavens, curiosity got the better of him and he attempted to utilize the human appliances there. To his shame he found out that something humans seem to have so little trouble with for him had resulted in one failed attempt after another, and even when he decided to move onto lesser items such as coffee, toast or even what should have been the easy task of simply boiling water, every try resulted in fires or charred utensils and food. He’s since given up, reconciling himself to the fact that while he may excel in weaponry, fighting and magic, the mundane will most likely always remain out of his reach.

[I was created to kill…] he adds, his tone flat and lacking any enthusiasm for the meaning behind his words [Domestics weren’t something I was taught so I either order out, or I don’t eat…] Pulling his early dawn hued gaze away from the blonde’s, he pushes his door open and steps into the dark apartment that lies beyond, turning around to close his door just as Zephyr begins passing him by…

Zephyr: Slipping his hand into the pockets of his pants, the Dark flashes one last smile at Jun as he passes the quickly closing door of the other man’s apartment. [I see…] Continuing into the semi-darkness of the hallway, the gears are already turning in the blonde’s head, although he makes no further comment. What he’s learned with just those few words the Angel has given is more than he’s been able to get out of him for months, and while he’d love to have some elaboration on what he’s heard, instead he’ll back off in the hopes that more will follow if he doesn’t push. It worked with Sashi, so maybe it will work with Jun, too.

[Enjoy your dinner,] Zeph tosses back as his footsteps carry him down the hall, [and goodnight, Jun…]

space03Sashi: Stepping off the cracked sidewalk of the city block and into a side alley, the Dark passes by the modest wooden gate with its handpainted sign with the ease of familiarity, his eyes barely tracing over the Korean symbols that spell out the restaurant’s name. The place is tiny and a bit shabby, but the food is authentic and he likes that during those times when he wishes to dine away from his apartment, he can feel comfortable here.

Dropping the snubbed out end of his cigarette into the wastebasket by the door, a small bell chimes as he pulls open the door and steps across the threshold. The tiny hostess appears around the corner of a bamboo screen less than a heartbeat later, a smile lighting her face when she sees that it’s him. “The usual? Go or stay?”

“Go,” Sashi replies and with a nod she bustles off toward the kitchen. There’s nowhere to sit in the tiny entranceway and so the Warden simply leans against the wall, staring over the heads of the restaurant’s few diners at the back wall. A moment later the door chimes behind him and a familiar magical signature registers, the Dark turning partially around to find Lan standing very close in the small space between himself and the door. A warm smile is directed at him immediately, and Sashi frowns in reply.

This is the third time the Bright has appeared by “coincidence” and he thought he’d been clear enough the first two times. He doesn’t have friends, nor does he wish to have them. He doesn’t even have acquaintances. He’s always been alone and he’s resigned himself to the fact that he’ll likely stay that way. Attachments are something he doesn’t wish to form, not when they can hurt so much. “Does this also just happen to be your favorite Korean restaurant?” the Warden asks quietly, a hint of sarcasm in his usually flat tone.

Before Lan can reply the hostess reappears. “Oh, you two know each other? Table instead of go?”

Lan: he’s about to counter the Dark’s sarcasm when the petite hostess rounds the corner and offers a table to them both. With a smile, he accepts it and as she plucks a single menu from her small cashier station and moves into the half empty restaurant beyond, Lan turns back to find a rather dark and reserved expression painting the other man’s face.

“Not as friends…” He smiles warmly, his voice gentle yet slightly hopeful as he steps to the side to allow the telepath through first. “But as two people who have shared an eating space before and happen to be in the same place to share it again?”

Sashi stands in place for a good long moment, looking very much as if he’s three seconds from turning around and walking out the door while all the while the taller Selestarri simply smiles his warm and usual, patient smile. Gray eyes shift from the hostess to Lan and then back again, and with what appears to be a split second decision, he steps forward and walks past the white haired man. Lowering his arm, Lan follows and soon after they reach the small two person seating dingy table set near the curtain hung doorway of the bustling kitchen. Thanking the woman as Sashi seats himself, he follows suit before taking the liberty of ordering tea and water for them both. Yellow eyes watch her slip away before the Bright leans back in his chair, reaching forward to lift his menu to scan the contents within.

“It was impulse.” The younger Selestarri suddenly chimes as he pulls his summer yellow gaze upwards to find gray and receiving a furrowed brow of question in return, he further explains. “Coming in here, complete impulse. I happened to be passing by when I saw you walk in and followed. I was on my way to the store to buy dinner supplies actually but decided to come in instead… As much as I enjoy cooking, every once in a while I’ll admit that I find it enjoyable to have another prepare a meal for me as it’s a luxury I haven’t been able to indulge in too many times in my life,” he chuckles softly before sliding his gaze back down to the menu in hand.

A couple of minutes pass between them in silence before the waitress returns with their drinks and closing his menu, Lan thanks her, ordering whatever it is that Sashi’s ordered already. Sliding the worn book upwards he hands it over and when she reaches out to take it, her fingers come a little too close in contact with his own. Much in the way he did with the telepath the night of the opening ceremonies, the Bright suddenly jerks his hand back, apologizing immediately when she’s slightly taken aback and offering the explanation of a slipped grip for the abrupt movement. Obviously pacified with the reason, the smile returns to her lips and she thanks them in broken English before running off to put his order in. As if it didn’t happen, Lan wraps his hands around his tea cup and pulls it closer, the burning hot temperatures of the ceramics not seeming to bother him as he lifts it upwards to his lips.

“So what exactly did I order?” he asks as he takes a short sip and lowering his cup back down, he levels another warm smile at the other man.

Sashi: Despite the fact that he has accurate recall of walking across the restaurant and seating himself at this table without the threat of death or dismemberment, he has exactly no idea how he’s ended up eating dinner with Lan. It’s true that they have shared a meal before, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is suspiciously very much the kind of thing that friends do, and he’s told the other man several times that they won’t be friends. He’s not trying to be cruel, and he supposes anyone else would be flattered to have that fine lunch the Bright brought him yesterday or the coffee from this morning. But he’s not everyone else and there are reasons he remains alone. Good reasons learned by hard lessons he doesn’t care to repeat.

Yet here they are, and Sashi has no idea what made his feet move in this direction and not out the door like his mind told them to do. With the frown remaining sketched over his mouth, the Warden reaches for the ashtray nestled between the napkin dispenser and a plastic bottle of chili paste. With his shadowed peripheral vision, tattooed fingers fall short of the plastic dish, but the correction is smoothly made and he pulls the ashtray to the center of the table. “Mandu and whichever kimchi creations Su Min’s dad made today.” The pack of cigarettes appear instantly in his hand and he slides one free before setting it on the table. “Also jjambong and buldak with rice cake.” A lighter follows after the cigarettes, sparking the tip of the slim stick a moment later and then left on the table as well.

Pulling the smoke in deep, the Dark releases it slowly, easing back in his chair. “There’s not much to this restaurant, but the food is authentic.” Flicking the ashes into the tray, Sashi wraps his hand around the cup of tea set on his half of the table, careful not to make the same mistake he made with the ashtray. “That is, if you choose to return at a time you aren’t following me…”

Lan: He offers an amused smile in return for Sashi’s jab as he slides his tea cup down to set it on the worn table surface before him, reaching into his front breast pocket right after to pull his own pack of cigarettes free. Slipping one from the box, he slides it upwards and cups it in-between full lips before reaching out to scoop up the lighter in order to light the very tip. Setting both the lighter and pack down next to the other, he inhales the smoke deeply, tilting his head upwards in order to allow the gray stream out.

“I enjoy simplicity and it’s very near to the apartment complex” the Bright returns quietly, no hint of sarcasm lacing his soft tone. “So it’s foreseeable. Dingy or not,” he pulls yellow eyes from storm cloud colored gray and gives the restaurant a quick glance over. “It’s honest and straightforward. Two things I find rather endearing in any venue, so I’m sure I’ll return… I find myself drawn to those sorts of things in truth.” There’s almost a hint of a double meaning in the white haired man’s words and Sashi quirks his eyebrow as if he’s not quite able to discern whether or not what he’s caught is in fact as the underlying meaning suggests but all he gets is an innocent smile in return.

Nothing further is said however and a comfortable silence soon falls between them until the taller Selestarri’s cigarette is almost halfway burnt through. Slipping the smoldering stick up to his mouth to take another drag, he’s pulling it away and reaching over to tap the ash into the plastic tray when the waitress arrives with a tray full of varied types of kimchee. Setting the cigarette to rest without bothering to fully snuff it out as she sets the small individual dishes out across the table, he thanks her and once the Warden nods his own approval, he watches as she scampers away again before turning his summer yellow gaze down to scan the dishes and the contents within.

“There’s certainly a fair amount of beauty to the chaos…” Lan smiles, glancing upwards. “I can see why you enjoy coming in…”

Sashi: Gray eyes catch summer yellow for a moment and then drop back to the food spread in small dishes across the table. Although not arranged in overly artful ways, each preparation of kimchee is colorful and the smell is certainly enticing. Is it chaotic or beautiful? He’s not particularly inclined to think so, but then again, he’s somewhat sure that’s not what Lan is speaking of, so it doesn’t really matter. The Bright seems to enjoy using double entendre, but whether he truly means the words he’s implying in a circular way or whether he’s enjoying playing around with him is not clear. The telepath prefers to be direct, most likely a result of having little to say to anyone else and a general dislike for long conversations. He’s definitely not as blunt as Innic with his words, but Lan’s form of doublespeak puts him a little on edge.

Generally he likes to know where he stands with people, because he’ll either have to fight them or deal with some form of their bullshit and when things are straightforward, he can better assess which it will be. These circular meanings paired with all the “coincidental” meetings he’s recently had with the white-haired Selestarri don’t allow for a clear picture. Lan was direct in his intentions for this sudden interest he’s taken in Sashi, an interest he himself has been equally direct about denying, but understanding the desire doesn’t fill in all the gaps as to why the Bright continues this game he seems so intent on or what the meanings behind his words are supposed to convey. Mostly he’s confused, and that’s not something he cares for at all.

Tattooed fingers unfold the top flap of the napkin on his right to reveal the chopsticks nestled within and he slides them free before placing the paper across his lap. Without looking up, he takes a small portion from several dishes, placing them on one of the empty round plates the waitress had left. Across the table, an identical pair of chopsticks follow suit, both men selecting various samplings and adding them to their plates before settling in to eat. Several minutes pass in silence, each Selestarri lost in the spicy offerings combining radishes, cabbage, scallions, and cucumbers in numerous ways, some hot enough to burn the tongue and others much more sour.

Taking a break, Sashi reaches for his tea, pulling the ceramic cup to his lips for a sip to calm his palette. Summer yellow eyes shift to meet his, an immediate smile forming on the other man’s mouth like he simply can’t help himself. He’d be inclined to say that it’s because Lan’s enjoying the food so much, but that same smile seems to appear every time the Bright looks at him, so he honestly can’t say which it is. Instead the Dark sets his cup down and leans back in his chair, shifting part of his gaze toward the small windows on the far side of the room and keeping the other on the one seated across as Lan returns to the kimchee. The more he and the Bright have these special meetings of “coincidence” the more he finds he has next to no idea who the other man is in the slightest. Not that he’s interested in things like Lan’s favorite color or preferred type of shoes, more along the lines of how he managed to land this assignment out of all the others on the Eyrie. If it were like his fellow Dark on Nova, who were happy to give Innic the watcher position indefinitely, he’d understand. But the Bright have always followed the accord to the letter, including switching out the watchers every three or so months on a regular basis. Lan is the exception, his tenure here stretching well beyond the time the others have moved on. He, Zeph, and Innic have all speculated on the reasons, but none of them have drawn a valid conclusion. The other faction has always been separate from them, dealt with only when reports called for it or the situation was unavoidable. So why have the Bright allowed it, and why has the white-haired man seemed content to remain when all the others were practically running back to their beloved Eyrie?

Pulling his entire attention back to the table, Sashi picks up his chopsticks once again, but he doesn’t reach for any of the dishes. [Why are you still here?] The words are quiet and direct, pulling his dinner companion’s eyes up to meet stormy gray. [As a watcher?] He clarifies when given a slightly questioning look. [None of the others have stayed so long, yet you remain past the usual tenure…]

Lan: he’s only taken aback by Sashi’s question for a moment, finding himself just a little surprised he hasn’t been asked it sooner. Out of every watcher assigned to the brothers, he’s the only one that’s stayed beyond his allotted three months and considering how rigid his faction normally is when it comes to their requirements of following the rules strictly, he understands why his prolonged presence would eventually become a matter of curiosity for the other side.

It isn’t normal, at least for the Bright, but then again, he isn’t normal himself so what applies for the others has never really applied to him. Not at least, from the time he was small and he unwittingly changed both himself and his placement amongst his own people.

[I’m still here because I choose to be.] The tall Bright replies rather bluntly, setting his chopsticks down and leaning back in his chair, the warm smile still gracing his full lips. Reaching over, he lifts the softly smoldering cigarette from the plastic ashtray where he’d left it and sliding it upwards to his mouth, the tip flares brightly as he takes a good, long drag. [Unusual, I know, considering the way my side of our race works…] Pulling the stick away, he tilts his head away from the food in order to allow the smoke out. [But the simple truth, none the less.] Because of what he is, what he’s become, he’s allowed certain privileges the rest of his faction isn’t, including coming or going from the Eyrie whenever he chooses.

Or rather, he amends, he takes those privileges whether he’s given permission or not and due to his… unusual circumstances, none of them, Council or Assembly included have ever felt too inclined to actually deny him.

[You aren’t the only one to be rejected by your faction…] Lan sighs and taking one more long drag, he reaches over to finally snuff the nearly spent cigarette out before picking his chopsticks up once again. While his words are soft and quiet, and despite the fact that the smile continues to grace his lips, the very hints of sadness creep in while he speaks to lace his otherwise even tone. [It’s easier in some ways I suppose… to go where you wish on your own accord as opposed to admitting you simply aren’t wanted…] Or feared, which in of itself is harder to come to terms with that a rejection could ever be. He’d recently told the Warden that he knows the other man is accustomed to being feared, but what he didn’t say is that he understands it perfectly himself. He understands what it’s like to be feared by those who are supposed to love and protect you and he understands the horrifying consequences of having their fear projected back. [So I remain here, because I enjoy it and because I also enjoy the company I find myself in… even if often one sided…] He grins.

Sashi: The Dark sits quietly after Lan’s words have trailed, no outward expression on his face at all, one hand still holding his chopsticks, but remaining completely still, his storm shadowed eyes fixed on the man across the small table. The answer given was not one he had expected, nor was it at all close to any he, Innic, or Zeph had speculated. The Bright is here because he’s been rejected by his faction. The words contradict all he knows about the other half of his race, but they are not a lie, or at the most, Lan believes them. The Warden’s telepathy is too strong for anyone to simply lie to him, unless the other person wholeheartedly believes what they are saying. So what the other man has said is not a lie, and the sadness he heard is not faked, and so his question has been answered, but in doing so, more queries have been raised.

[Why?] The single word brings a slightly questioning look to Lan’s face, and so Sashi clarifies. [Why would they reject you?] He thinks he already knows the answer in part, but he wants to hear the Bright’s explanation. For that faction to simply push aside one of their own is very unusual. From what he understands, they most often simply sweep problems under the rug and pretend nothing is amiss. His faction, on the other hand, generally kills anyone they find troublesome, unless they are useful. He’s not sure which is worse, but he knows he’d much rather be ignored and unwanted than to feel the hatred and scorn his faction has handed out since he was small.

[Is it your looks?] The telepath continues when Lan doesn’t reply. The white hair is very unusual, previously known only to the one holding the post of the Sidereal Oracle, and he’s quite sure that’s not the case with the other man. The yellow eyes are also odd, but he’s always chalked both up to some strange twist in Lan’s genetics, some fuck-up during his creation and the blending of power. It happens from time to time, more often with the Dark considering how much more magic they carry than the Bright, but it’s not unheard of, so it has always seemed the most logical explanation.

[Or that foreign magic inside you?] He can sense it a mile away, fire pure in its elemental state and very old, trapped somehow in the Bright’s body. The taller Selestarri has been hiding it away, letting it slip only a few times, but the Dark’s magical sensitivities are much too keen, especially when the magic laces another’s very blood. Besides, hiding is something he knows very well as he’s careful to keep the full strength of his own magic locked down at all times. There’s no way to keep others who can sense it from knowing he’s strong, but the looks he gets when he doesn’t mask it, the looks that so plainly call him a monster, are unnerving and painful. He wonders for a moment if that’s how Lan has felt as well. If so, then the Bright is the first he’s ever met that can even remotely understand what it’s like, and how it can destroy you inside…

Lan: the white haired Bright is taken completely aback, his movements stilling as yellow eyes remain locked for very long moments with storm cloud colored gray. To his credit however, there’s little visible change and even inwardly, he manages to keep his emotions locked down and in a complete state of calm.

He’s been careful, so very careful to keep the fire repressed, to keep it hidden. So careful in fact that it tires him because it fights him at every turn –it fights and fights, and continues to fight him every second of every minute of every hour of every day. It cries even now to be freed, to be let out but always he denies it, always he keeps it suppressed beneath the surface, keeps it locked away so it won’t claim any others the way it claimed her all those years ago. By doing so, he’s fancied himself its master, he’s fancied that he is after all this time in complete and total control. He shouldn’t be surprised however that Sashi has sensed it lurking considering his personal strengths and what he knows of him magically, he really shouldn’t… Yet he is just a little because in his foolishness he forgot that he doesn’t actually control the fire and he’ll never truly be its master, with the Dark’s mention of his sensing of it he’s once again been taught a hard lesson that it will always and has always in some way managed to control him.

[It’s both.] Lan answers matter-of-factly, the smile fading from his lips and his summer yellow gaze dropping down to the arranged dishes below. [You know as well as I that our kind doesn’t tolerate differences… that’s no less true for the Bright than it is for the Dark.] Not only do they not tolerate them, they persecute, hunt and destroy what they view as different without mercy and little thought. From the time of the accident, he’s been isolated and abused in one form or another, and the only thing that’s kept his faction from outright disposing of him has been their own self imposed higher ground morals and their inability to properly handle their fear.

[When one is perceived as different,] he continues as he lifts his eyes once more. [One’s path becomes singular if not cut short and having to walk that singularity can occasionally become a difficult thing to face… day after day… after day.] Both he and Sashi come from cultures that pride themselves in companionship and to be rejected by them, then denied it simply because of a difference that cannot be helped is more devastating than one can possibly relay. [Perhaps you understand that… better than most,] Lan smiles sadly, […and perhaps in knowing it, you can also understand why, that when one finally finds another who has suffered similarly, he’d occasionally seek that person out… whether it be for single sided conversations, or simply to stand somewhere near…]

Sashi: Dropping his eyes from the Bright and the sad smile directed at him from across the table, he returns to his meal, picking at what’s left of the kimchee on his plate. He says nothing except to thank Su Min when she brings out the jjambong and then later the buldak and rice cakes, so distracted that he eats almost mechanically.

Answers had been asked for, and they’ve been given. It’s as simple as that and yet not, because those answers weren’t at all what he was expecting. If he’s to believe what Lan has said–and he catches no hints of falseness in any of the words–then the other Selestarri has also been singled out by his faction and scorned. Perhaps not in the violent ways that Sashi has suffered, but isolated just the same. The Bright knows the emptiness of exclusion, and the hollowness that forms deep inside to be outcast when everyone around you travels in their groups and cliques and partnerships. He may even understand the loneliness of it all and the cruel marks it leaves while inside everything is screaming out for someone to fill the void, even for a day, an hour, a minute, to get even a look, a glance, some kind of recognition that isn’t filled with hate, disgust, or fear…

Lan may understand those things, he may have suffered in similar ways that Sashi has experienced, and while it explains why the Bright continues to create these “coincidental” meetings between them, it doesn’t mean that they are alike. The taller Selestarri may be the first he’s met who can commiserate on the experience of isolationism, but it doesn’t really change anything, does it? He understands why the other man may think it does, and while it makes them two people with similar pasts, it doesn’t make them friends. What Lan is seeking is something Sashi simply can’t give.

Leaving half the buldak on the plate, the Warden reaches back to pull his wallet from the pocket of his coat, dropping several bills on the table before rising to his feet. “I’m glad you enjoyed the restaurant,” he says quietly, more for the benefit of the surrounding humans than for the Bright. [I understand what you’re saying… about the difficulties… but as I told you before, you’ll have better luck with the bistro girl…] Turning, Sashi walks through the restaurant and out the door into the cool night without another word…

space02[Don’t tell me there’s nothing wrong with you like I’m some kind of stranger, Sash,] the blonde says from his place on the opposite side of the small couch in his brother’s apartment. He’d not waited too long after his hallway encounter with Jun before the older Dark had returned, dropping his coat into a puddle on the floor and stalking about with more defenses raised than Zeph has seen in a long time. It took fifteen minutes to get the Warden seated, lured to the couch with a bottle of whiskey and the pouring of a liberal glass. [You’ve smoked three cigarettes in five minutes and that’s a pretty clear indication that something is going on.]

Gray eyes glare at him as the dark-haired telepath takes another drag, holding the smoke again for a long time before setting it free. The words spill out slowly, his meetings with Lan, the Bright’s reasons for remaining as a Watcher, the foreign magic, the isolation, the desire for friendship, and with each one, Zeph gains an understanding into his brother’s current defensive state. What most people would view as easy, everyday things are not the same with Sashi because they’ve never been permitted to be that way, instead twisted into lies, manipulation, and quite often, either physical or emotional violence. Every alarm must be going off in his brother’s head, and with each passing minute the defensive walls close tighter and tighter around the other man. When Sashi is unsettled he doesn’t lash out, instead he pulls inward, closing himself up, and it worries Zeph because he knows how long it will take for his brother to emerge. Never very sociable or outgoing in the first place, there’s still a vast difference between a shutdown Sashi and normal Sashi. For the millionth time the younger Dark grits his teeth against the anger that rises at what his people have done to ruin someone as sensitive as his brother. In time, those responsible will pay, he’ll make sure of it.

Very slowly, the blonde reaches out and slides his arm around the shorter Dark’s shoulders, gently squeezing. Sashi’s initial resistance holds for only a moment before allowing Zeph to give the only comfort he’ll accept. [I’ll put an end to it if you want,] the taller Selestarri’s tone is deadly serious, midnight eyes locking with gray as his brother crushes the end of the lit cigarette against the bottom of the ashtray. He actually likes the easy nature of the Bright, but if he’s upsetting Sashi, then there’s nothing Zephyr won’t do to protect his brother.

Surprisingly, Sashi shakes his head, and even more surprisingly, the blonde finds that he’s relieved. [He’ll get the idea eventually.] The Warden turns his head to stare out the doors leading to his balcony. [He thinks we’re the same, but we’re not.] Behind him Zeph frowns, catching a slight bit of sadness in the words that he doesn’t think his brother is aware of …


…to continue.



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