Angel Hunt + Streifen: AU01 Pts 07 -12

I went a little update crazy on Angel Hunt in an attempt to get better caught up with the reposts of chapters already out, so instead of making separate posts for all these, these next few particular posts are going to be rather long since they are 5 parts of story being posted all at once. Or they might be, depending on whether or not WordPress will allow me to put that much content into a single entry. We’ll see. Either way, be prepared since this will be done for the first Alternate Universe Timeline, the second and the first two books of The Crossover Game. All of which are up in full on the site.

As a side note, just in case I think I’ll stick to linking any chapters that have spicy bits (read that as so very not safe for work) on the site and link it to here the same way I always did in LiveJournal, only because I’m not actually sure of WordPress’s censorship bits (or lack there of) and don’t want to take any chances. You’ll see a [++] marked before the actual content for NSFW. The usual disclaimers applies to it, you have to be 18 and up to read yadda yadda, I take no responsibility for any offended delicate sensibilities etc etc, especially since most of these deal with same sex relationships and the like. Read at your own discretion, basically.

Anywho so yes, on with the show.


Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU

Alternate Universe 01

Parts (01)(02)(03)(04)(05)(06)


C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 08

Jun: he flusters the moment the blonde’s hand wraps around his wrist to pull him inside of the small sweets shoppe, unable to stop the bright red flush he can feel washing beneath the surface of his skin. He tries to hide it, too embarrassed and confused as to why he’d be flustered in the first place. He knows he probably reacted that way because he’s so used to the invisible barrier that seems to surround everyone he knows, himself included. Touching is such a personal thing and not something you just do. It’s the familiarity of it that keeps everyone but the very close away because no one but the very close have the right to act so casually. The only person beyond his parents that he’s ever had a complete lack of that personal bubble with has been Taz so he’s pretty sure that’s why he felt so strange when his classmate latched onto him like he just did.

Or at least he hopes that’s the reason, because if it isn’t, then there’s something seriously wrong with him for flushing like some stupid chick just from being touched …

Pulling his hand slowly back when the other teenager realizes what he’s done and lets him go, he shakes his head just a little when Zephyr asks about the petite four. “They don’t really have this stuff in school unless you ask for it specifically…” Jun says quietly, careful not to meet midnight blue eyes as he forces himself to drop his hands to his side. “And I haven’t so…” the white haired teen’s early dawn hued gaze slide up to meet the man’s expectant own and he shrugs. “Um… I guess just give me the same.”

The man nods and starts pulling duplicates of the various pastries out, Jun finding it in him to finally look at his classmate again while hoping that as he speaks again the color has actually drained from his cheeks. “So… um… do you eat a lot of this stuff back home?” he turns his attentions back towards the man behind the counter when the tray is set up on the glass display. “cause you said you had places like this there…”

Zephyr: The Dark reaches into the pocket of his pants to pull a slim wallet free and then slides a black plastic card across the glass countertop before midnight eyes find dawn-tinged pink once more. A smile moves easily over his lips before he even has time to register that it’s happening, and really, it’s just becoming a natural thing to do when he’s with Jun, kinda the same way that he keeps looking at him. He smiles at other people all the time, so maybe it’s not so strange and he’s just more aware of when he smiles at the other teenager? Weird, but whatever. He likes smiling at Jun, even if it seems to make his friend as uncomfortable sometimes as he looked just a second ago when he was holding onto his wrist. Doing that probably broke a thousand different rules of formality, but honestly he didn’t think on it and was just being himself, so maybe it won’t be that big a deal?

The credit card is passed back to Zeph over the counter and he thanks the man in French before picking up the tray with his pastries and the two coffees on it. The blonde nods toward a table in the corner and with Jun following, he moves across the small shop and takes a seat. The white-haired teen sits across and studies his plate of sweets while the Dark places the tray at the next table over and slides one of the steaming mugs of nearly black liquid over toward Jun. Stirring in just a splash of milk from the small bottle on their table, he glances up at his classmate. “Europe has tons of places like this, especially in France. There’s always coffee because I think it’s a national law, but the pastries usually differ according to where you are. They’re good if you’re in the mood for some sugary stuff, but it’s not like I ate at places like this every day.”

Long fingers scoop up a beignet topped with green frosting and the Selestarri happily takes a bite. He seriously hasn’t had these in so long, not since his last training in Europe, which was a couple of years ago. The filling is a tart apple and Zephyr can’t help but to smile as he finishes the small pastry in another few mouthfuls. Across the table, Jun looks less sure of the plate before him, but after a moment he picks up a lemon tart. “So you’ve never been to Europe at all?” Pink eyes lift to meet midnight for a moment before the other first year shakes his head. The Dark shrugs and reaches for his coffee. “I guess I just find it strange that a lot of kids at school haven’t really traveled, you know, given how much money is floating around.” The hot liquid is only slightly less bitter with the cream mixed in, but it’s just as good as the stuff he’d had in Paris. “Hey, if you want, then maybe on some holiday break we can go over there. I mean, I know we’re just kids or whatever, so your parents will need to give the okay,” he quickly continues when an unsure look crosses Jun’s face, “but there are lots of places that we can stay and we’d be completely safe. I could take you to a ton of awesome arcades, stores, and even some clubs that let people in no matter what their age is. The music is so damn cool and you just dance all night…well, if you like dancing, I guess…”

The stream of excited words drops off and Zeph sets the coffee mug down to reach for a perfectly shaped bonbon. Jun has moved onto a mini éclair and as he takes a bite a dollop of white cream plops onto the table beside his plate. Without much thought, the Dark swipes it up with his finger and licks it off, realizing only after they drop down to the table that dawn-tinted eyes had been watching his movements and now a fresh stain of crimson is darkening pale cheeks…

Jun: the moment midnight eyes catch his he pulls them away, the feeling of embarrassment over being caught in something he hadn’t even realized he was doing almost as extreme as the weirdness he felt watching the other teen lick his own fingers to begin with. What in the hell was that all about and why did he flush in the first place? It’s like his mind blanked for no reason whatsoever and he got caught up in watching the blonde’s tongue slide out and lick at those lo- okay, he frowns and blinks in a way that he hopes will clear his head. He’s got some serious issues or something today and he really needs to find a way to just make them, whatever they are, go away.

“Um…” he starts soon after, reaching over to pull the unclaimed coffee cup closer while he searches for the last things to be said that somehow got pushed out of his mind for whatever reason. “I’ve… never danced before.” He admits as he pulls the cup up and takes a sip, too caught up in his embarrassment from the first thing to be embarrassed about that. “Unless you count the game…” which he guesses is dancing in one form or another even if it’s not the same as going to a club or free styling like he’s seen a lot of the other kids do. “Cause… I’ve never gone to a club so… I guess sometime, maybe I could try.” Setting his cup back down, he finally manages to look back over to meet Zephyr’s deep blue gaze and he shrugs. “I don’t know about the holiday thing… because… it sounds like it might be fun, but I’d have to get permission and…” getting permission to travel is hard. Especially when it’s the school board, and not a parent he’d have to get that permission from. He’s their responsibility, and they take that a little seriously because if something happens to him, they lose out on his Trust. He can’t exactly tell the other teenager that though, because it would require him to go into a touchy, painful subject he’s only been able to talk about with one other so far since it happened. How can he say to Zeph that he doesn’t have any parents to ask permission from? That he lost them and has only the school for a home now? Not only is it still hard for him to talk about in general, it’s not exactly something he’d like to dip into right now when he’s determined not to ruin this new, odd sort of fun. People don’t look at you the same once you let them in on all the family secrets and he’s really not up for messing with a new friendship he’s starting to like very much.

“Did you do that a lot?” he starts again, reaching down for another pastry set on the tray before him and pulling it up to his lips a little absently as he continues. “Dance and go to clubs I mean… when you were at your old home. Cause…” he pauses to take a bite, making a face at it he doesn’t even realize he’s making from the sheer sweetness alone before he sets it back down, the slight dusting of powdered sugar left on his lips also unnoticed as he reaches for a napkin to wipe at his hands. “…everything here is eighteen and over so I guess… that’s why I’ve just never gone…” though he knows that some of his fellow students have no issues with sneaking in to one place or another when they make it into town. He personally hasn’t even thought on trying though because if he got caught and they kicked him out, he’d have no where at all to go… he’s never thought any of what they did to be worth losing his only home.

Zephyr: The light dusting of white powder on pink lips pulls the Selestarri’s attention for a long moment, his thoughts caught up in wondering what that layer of sweetness would taste like when combined with what he’s sure is velvety softness. More than likely it would be better than any of the pastries that sit on the plate in front of him; sugary warmth that he’s never tasted before, but is thinking that maybe he’d like to try just once… Okay, what is he thinking? Midnight eyes drop away to the cup of coffee that continues to steam and he busies himself for a second with wrapping long fingers around the warm china and taking a sip. He definitely knows better than to try to touch his classmate in any way to satisfy his curiosity because Jun will probably not be down with that in the slightest. Things here aren’t like they are at home and he needs to remember not to do the things that come so naturally. Besides, why is he so interested in the first place? It’s not like he hasn’t seen something like this before, but just like when he was staring when the other first year was changing his clothes, he finds that somehow he can’t help it. He really doesn’t get why, but he needs to get control over it before Jun notices because more than likely that will create a level of discomfort that won’t easily go away. He likes this new friendship and he likes hanging out with the white-haired teen, which means not fucking it up with stupid shit.

Selecting another pastry from the plate, Zeph takes a bite before remembering that Jun had asked him a question. “Uh, yeah… we did go to the clubs a lot back home ‘cause the music and the dancing is always awesome and it was something fun to do. There’s this one I think you’d really like, with light-up floors and stuff that’s just like being inside that dancing game.” He remembers it clearly from his last immersion training, a club strictly for teenagers that was so cool and every night that they went it had been packed, the dance floor a sea of moving bodies pressed in so close that you couldn’t breathe without sharing the air with someone else. With the way that Jun moved while playing that game, all fluidity and grace, he’s got to be a natural dancer. It’s practically a crime not to get him on the dance floor. “We’ve definitely got to get you to a club, so I’ll find something cool here that’s close to the school, since like you said, the permission to travel thing could be hard.” The blonde takes another bite of flaky pastry, his voice turning just a little bitter despite the sweetness in his mouth. “The Elders always think that they know what’s best for us no matter what. They never even bother to fucking consider what we might want, even if we’re standing right there…” Seriously, he’s so over the Elders on Nova with all their rules and shit that he just doesn’t care anymore. Deep blue eyes lift to meet pink and he gives the other teen a small smile. “That’s one of the cool things about being here at school, right? We get a break from dealing with our… parents, day in and day out.” Even though it’s only been a few days, he’s beginning to see why Sashi likes this assignment so much.

A small laugh that Zeph can’t help slips from between full lips as Jun makes a face at the new pastry he’s selected and adds it to the reject pile. “Sorry, those are really sweet if you’re not used to them.” He points at the steaming mug. “The coffee mellows it out with the bitterness and they’re made to pair with one another.” Tapered fingers flip strands of white-gold from his eyes before the Dark takes the last small tart from his plate. “Next time we can have Korean bakery stuff and you can school me on them, okay?”

Jun: the white haired teenager nods slightly as he sets the last pastry he’s taken a bite of down. He doesn’t know why, but the fact that Zephyr said ‘next time’ is making him feel kind of… happy. There will be a next time, another day that they’ll hang out, a first time to go to a club like all the other normal teenagers in his school, a chance that during the holidays he might not have to spend it alone again, another day simply to be friends.

It’s such a little thing, normal for most in his school, hell for most of his other friends in general. Right? Taz does stuff like this all the time doesn’t he? Just hangs out, has fun and acts like himself. But the fact that Jun’s never felt comfortable doing the same thing with anyone else before is probably a large reason as to why the thought of it makes him happy. He feels almost comfortable around the blonde, in a way he’s only ever felt with Taz and so it’s nice to think that there will be another day, a next time that they’ll just do what they are now; hanging out and being friends.

He likes it, a lot more than he can bring himself to say…

“I think…” he says quietly as he pulls the napkin to his mouth to wipe at powder he doesn’t even realize is there. “I think that’d be…fun.”


Sashi: Thick strands of pitch-black hair screen gray eyes from the sun as he stares down at the newspaper open on the small café table he sits at. Like the other customers, mainly students from his school and the local city academies, there is a cup of coffee and a half eaten pastry on the worn wooden surface. Unlike the other patrons, the Selestarri’s attention is focused on the wide-flung net of his telepathy, listening carefully in as the other teenagers chatter excitedly to one another. This one wants a date with that boy, another is looking for a specific video game, still another wants a new skirt, many have thoughts only for hooking up, intent on taking these brief moments of freedom from the prying eyes of adults to do what they wish with whomever they wish. Perhaps in that way, the Dark muses, humans are not so different from Selestarri. In the end it always comes down to the carnal desires doesn’t it? The give and take, the sweat and pounding of heartbeats, the almost complete stillness within that’s achieved for one brief moment, that soaring weightlessness of absolute freedom…

Leaving the links in place but pulling back into himself, Sashi wraps slender, bandaged fingers around the coffee cup and pulls it to his lips. The bitter liquid is strong and unspoiled by either cream or sugar, which is just the way he likes it. Staring down at the Korean symbols on the newspaper without really seeing them, he shifts enough to temporarily ease the pain in his leg while trying to ignore the other wounds that are currently attempting to voice their complaints about being anywhere other than the softness of his bed back at the school. His classmates and teammates aren’t really helping him turn his attention in other directions either, instead plying him with question after question as to what had happened. A fall while hiking was his reply and he’s glad that his coat and other clothing cover the majority of the wounds and keep even more questions from being asked. As it was he’d only gained these few moments of peace by sending his soccer teammates off to find him a European newspaper, so now it’s just mainly the clusters of girls he needs to keep away. He’d figured that they’d all be curious, but for fuck’s sake, his patience is on serious trial. He doesn’t particularly like other people to begin with and his temper is fraying rather rapidly when mixed with the pain. Five minutes, he just needs five minutes alone…

A soft touch on his shoulder brings a hard-eyed gray glare whipping back with all intentions of telling whoever is behind him to get the fuck away. For a culture so obsessed with formality, one would think they could get a clue that he wants to be left by himself. “Look,” Sashi all but growls even as he turns, “I’ve already said it was just a hiking accide—“ The words die in his throat as storm-tinted pools meet the chocolate brown of a familiar Bright…

Lan: a smile forms on full lips as he pulls his hand away from Sashi’s shoulder and tucks it back into his pocket. “You don’t mind do you?” he asks quietly with a nod given towards the empty chair on the opposite side of the seated Dark and Sashi simply stares up at him for a few moments, seemingly caught off guard and unsure of what to do until he manages to catch himself. He blinks in an attempt to break their eye contact, a bit unsuccessful despite it before he just nods a slow okay. The tall Bright’s smile widens just a little as permission is given and he moves to seat himself down, sliding the coffee cup in his hand onto the table’s surface while the raven haired Selestarri begins fiddling absently with the papers at his front.

“It’s good I chanced on you again… since I wanted to see how you were doing.” Lan starts, sitting back a little in his chair as masked brown eyes lock with gray when they rise up to greet him. “A hiking accident hm?” amusement flashes through his features as he reaches forward without ever breaking visual contact to pull the cup he’d set down away from the table in order to take a sip of the heated liquid inside. “You have to be careful of nature, it can be harsh and unforgiving.” Pulling the cup away from his lips, the Bright slides it forward onto the table again and chocolate brown eyes find storm tinted grey once more. “Perhaps when you feel up to having a go at it again, you could bring another along with you… just so you’ll have someone to catch you next time, in case you happen to fall…”

Sashi: The newspaper seems stubbornly inclined to resist the efforts the telepath makes to straighten the pages while the Bright seats himself in the empty chair across the small table. On their own accord thundercloud eyes lift to lock with chocolate and a thread of annoyance slips through his mind at the realization that he has no control over where his own gaze strays when in the company of the other teenager. It’s not an issue he’s ever encountered before from this side of things and he’s not sure that he likes it. With humans he’s the one that holds and directs their attention and with other Selestarri… usually they won’t meet his eyes at all, so it’s never really been a problem. But with Lan, he doesn’t really get just what it is that pulls him in so deep every time they meet. The lanky teen isn’t the first Bright he’s met or even the first person to have some kind of artifact with foreign magic in it, so why is he drawn in each time? Why do these little ‘chance’ encounters that they keep having bother him as little as they do? Whatever the answers are he needs to find out before they both wind up getting hurt…

Giving up on the idea of folding the paper into any kind of neatness, Sashi slides it to one side before tanned fingers slip around the ceramic mug of coffee. Bandaged fingers protest at even this slight action, the damaged skin grating against soft fabric in a ripple of pain. The Dark pushes it into the back of his head and concentrates instead on the bitterness of the liquid and the heat it brings to his chilled body as the mug is set back onto the tabletop. Under the table a pack of cigarettes appears in his empty hand and he pulls one from the box before sliding it over toward Lan. “Are you offering to be that ‘catcher’?” The question is quiet, but laced with just a hint of the same amusement that had been layered through the Bright’s tone. He’s not sure what the end of this game they’ve been playing at over the last couple of days will be, or even if there’s really a game at all. Lan always seems to be half playful and half serious and those kinds of nuances and the meaning behind them are lost on the telepath. His experience with others has been stunted into use or be used, fight or get walked upon, and within the last few years, fuck or be fucked. This casualness, this almost… flirty banter whatever that they’re doing is very hard to follow, but showing weakness isn’t really an option. And besides, it’s not… horrible to talk with the third year. Confusing at times, but not unbearable.

“It can be a… dangerous job…” A flick of a lighter turns the end of the slender stick crimson and Sashi inhales deeply before tilting his head just slightly back to send a stream of smoke into the cool autumn air. “…and not something that should be taken on lightly.” Ash falls off of the end of the cigarette as the Dark taps it against the side of the shallow metal ashtray. “Nature can be unpredictable and unmerciful… for some more than others…” Those chocolate brown eyes find his once again and as is becoming the habit, Sashi can’t pull away. “So be careful before you volunteer for such a task…”

Lan: tapered fingers pull the offered cigarette box close enough to slip one free and he slides it up to his mouth, cupping it between full lips while one hand reaches within his wool coat pocket. Pulling a small lighter out and sliding it in close, it isn’t the lighter itself that causes the flicker of flame to light the tip, despite the outward appearance. The spark happens so fast that there’s no time to catch the difference for most and he quickly deposits the lighter back into its place before inhaling and pulling the cigarette free.

He smiles at the Dark’s words as gray smoke billows out before him to flitter on the light wind, crossing a long leg over the other while leaning forward again to pull his cup in close. “I never take nature lightly.” The Bright says knowingly as he leans back against his chair with cup in hand, masked brown eyes rising to meet the storm colored gaze before him. “Especially since I understand how much of a force it can be to reckon with…” He smiles a little wider before taking a sip of the contained liquid and a moment later his cigarette is pulled to his lips so that he can take a drag as he’s leaning far enough forward to slide the container back onto the table. He has to say that he’s rather enjoying the light hearted flirtatious hints in the other teenager’s tone… it’s a playfulness that he didn’t think Sashi capable of considering what he’s been shown thus far and he likes it a lot. “I’m well aware of the …risks, involved, and am prepared for whatever they may bring.” Flicking his ash off to the side, his freed hand rises up to push at shaggy black locks that have been blown in his face as his chocolate gaze once again locks with the telepath’s grey. “Otherwise I’d never have put myself up for the task to begin with.”

Sashi: Tanned fingers bring the cigarette to full lips as the Dark deliberately stalls his response, partly due to that flash of foreign magic he just felt and partly so that he can absorb what has just been said. What’s the point of flashing that fire energy here? Is he trying to show off? Does the Bright want to be sure that it catches his attention? If so, then he’s been successful. To what end, though and why so casually? If the third year is trying to use it as a threat, why not just come out and say it? If he’s trying to protect Halacie and himself from their faction now that Zeph has arrived, why be subtle? Thundercloud eyes narrow in the slightest as smoke slips into the air and is carried away on the breeze. These questions only lead him in circles within his own thoughts and to ask them would be the shortest course of action. Something keeps the words from his lips, however, something inside that does not want to upset this delicately balanced and fragile game…

“Are you a risk-taker, Lan?” The words slide out with little effort, surprising the telepath since they have little to do with the realm his thoughts had slipped into. “Do you often leap with both feet before knowing just what a commitment may entail?” Sashi leans back a little further in his chair and wraps one long arm around his waist for warmth, his gray gaze finding brown once again. “You say that you’re prepared for whatever may come, but is there not a danger there in the possibility of being caught off guard? What then? Would you fulfill your promise to catch once you truly saw what those duties may ask from you?” The Dark’s voice drops a little, the playfulness leaving it for a second and his eyes dropping to the table between them. “The hikes I take and the… nature, I’m involved with can be difficult for others to handle…”

Ash is flicked into the metal tray with a gesture so ingrained that it’s second nature, the embers at the end of the slender stick flaring red and orange as he takes another drag. Regardless of this little ‘hike’ they’re bantering back and forth about, the Dark is well aware that it will never happen. When he’s so close like that with the magic, it’s always best to be alone since he finds no pleasure in hurting people unnecessarily. Plus, if Lan were to be injured or killed, the shitstorm that would come from the Eyrie would bring the Dark Assembly down as well and that’s a bunch of shit he’d rather not see himself dragged into.

Chocolate brown eyes catch storm-tinted gray and hold tight, pulling the telepath in deep before he can even think to find some kind of anchor. “I’ll keep your offer in mind,” the flirtatiousness creeps back into the fourth year’s tone. “Even if you do decide that the risks are too great to bother with and that taking a hike for the sole purpose of catching someone is just not worth it…”

Lan: he pulls the smoldering stick resting in-between long fingers up to his lips to inhale the smoke deep into his lungs, sliding an arm back and propping it over the back of the chair before he tilts his head up to blow the smoke out into the chilly autumn air. Without taking his arm away from the chair’s back, tapered fingers slip into shaggy locks and he pushes at the messy strands when the wind tussles them around his face again. “You know… It kind of sounds like you are used to being the only person who gets forced onto those rocky roads, Sashi.” Sliding the cigarette back up to his mouth as he pulls his hand free of brown locks, he allows his arm to sink back into its previous casual position while taking another quick drag. “And that you are also used to being the only one dealing with… nature, in all its dangerous risks.” Turning his head, he blows the smoke out while flicking the very end of the ash out into the light wind, the softest of smiles forming as brown eyes meet storm colored grey. “I find that… interesting.” And a little cute if truth must be told… innuendoes aside, he knows that Sashi’s referring to the risk of his own magic since it seems that the cause of those injuries had all been self induced. To get the kind of damage he currently has, the Bright also knows that the loss of control he’d told his brother about that morning in his own room would mean he’s a lot stronger than he’s ever let on and this word play they are both currently having a fun go at is just a sort of warning for it all. But he finds himself wondering how the Dark would react if he ever learned that the risks he speaks of go far beyond what he knows and that Sashi is probably in greater danger of being hurt by his own current state than he’d ever be by his…

“Well…” Lan starts again while making another futile and absent attempt at pushing messy locks from his masked gaze. “I already know some of the risks don’t I? It isn’t as if I’m walking onto the trail blind…” he trails and the slightest of frowns forms on his mouth, one that he quickly covers by pulling the cigarette to his lips once again. No… he wouldn’t be walking onto the trail blindfolded and unaware, but in reverse the fourth year would be since he has no knowledge of what he’s become. Though considering that with the night before aside, their chance encounters have thus far been rather casual so he supposes he hopes it will never be anything the other teenager needs to find.

Slipping the smoldering stick held by long fingers away, the playful smile instantly reforms on the Bright’s mouth as their gazes meet once again. “But even if I were… unaware, if there’s one thing you should know about me Sashi… it’s that I never do anything on frivolous whims…”

Sashi: The casual way that the Bright sits, one arm slung over the back of the chair as though they’ve known one another for years and not mere days, is slightly odd to the telepath. Usually those around him are tensed, ready for a fight or nervous, and when there is casualness it’s always forced or just a mask for something else. The humans tend to be overly formal, even those on his soccer team or in his classes, which is something he’s come to understand since his assignment to this school. So this nonchalant, almost… disarming… way that the third year regards him throws the Dark off a little. Not that any of their conversations have made sense to him at all, not the ease with which they seemed to happen or the way he feels closer to comfortable than he’s felt in years, so maybe he should expect things like this when it comes to Lan.

Ash drops down into a neat little pile on the bottom of the ashtray and Sashi leaves the smoldering stick in one of the indented niches in order to reach for his coffee cup. “So I should understand then that you’re not the impulsive type?” He asks quietly, gray eyes still matched with brown over the rim of the mug as he takes a sip of the strong liquid. Lan is still giving him that same soft yet playful smile that the Dark is beginning to become very familiar with, the one that he doesn’t necessarily know how to interpret. “I’ve heard that about where you’re from, so I guess it’s nice to know that your actions have intentions.” Whatever those might be. This is the fourth time that they’ve had one of these ‘chance’ encounters and he still has no idea why the Bright continues to seek him out. More than likely it’s not for the conversation, as entertaining as all this double meaning may be.

The cigarette is rapidly dwindling and the telepath lifts it to his mouth for a final drag, thundercloud eyes shifting to watch as the smoke filters into the air in a steady stream on the exhale. He’s taken up this habit a few years ago because he liked to watch that exact moment where the smoke dissolved into nothingness, blending into the sky as though it never existed at all. It’s a phenomenon that he’ll never experience, not within his faction and certainly not from the Bright faction should they ever discovered just how much magic he’s capable of channeling. There are days he thinks about it, though, days when the manipulative plots of the Seeker and the Assembly can be almost forgotten and the roles of prophecy and forced destiny in his life can almost be pushed aside as though they don’t matter in the slightest. Days where it seems like he truly could disappear and live a life that he wants, free of those things that have made every day so difficult. They’re the dreams of a child and he knows it, knows the cold, hard reality in which he lives and the hold it has over all that he does… Sashi’s gaze slips back to chocolate brown and he’s struck with an urge to tell it all to the third year despite how silly it would seem to randomly begin going on about something so stupid. He doubts that the other teen would take him seriously, so there’s no point in bothering with it. But the urge to share still shifts deep within and he’s never felt it before, not even with Zeph. Why now and why the Bright, though? What is it about him that makes things feel almost… comfortable?

Blinking hard, Sashi pushes the thoughts aside and focuses his attention on grinding out the end of the cigarette while trying to backtrack on the remnants of their conversation. “Your offer is kinder than I deserve, but these… hikes, can be dangerous, blindfolded or not.” The Dark’s eyes fall to the last twisting curl of smoke and his voice loses some of the playful edge. “The chance for injury isn’t limited solely to me and unlike other hikers you may know, I don’t enjoy unnecessarily hurting others, especially when I fully understand how rough the trail can be for those caught unaware. That’s why I usually choose to take those walks alone…”

Lan: The breeze in the air is crisp as it sweeps across them both and he can’t help catching the shiver it causes in the other teen when he sets his cigarette down into the tray and reaches for the coffee cup sitting just before him. Masked brown eyes fall to the small bit of exposed tanned skin peeking out from under his clothing, caught for moment just watching as the surface rises with that trace shudder that accompanies a chill even as he’s pulling the last of his own cigarette to his mouth to inhale the final bit of the heat and smoke it provides. Sliding his eyes away and allowing them to drift out into the town before them, the tall Bright smiles just a little as he’s flicking the remnants down to the pavement beneath his feet. “Even if you are used to hiking on those the paths alone…” he starts as long fingers slide up to his hair to rake shaggy strands back while the grey smoke curls up into the air. “…there’s times where I’m sure it gets lonely. I know from experience that stepping out into nature alone can be taxing and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d invited another to come along just once. Someone who will understand how dangerous it is, someone who will be there to catch you should you fall…”

Lan’s chocolate gaze glances sideways to meet storm colored grey, all movement that the Dark had even begun to make completely stilled as he meets the taller teen’s eyes. “Doesn’t it?” his smile grows just a little warmer. “Get lonely I mean…” Sashi seems unable to either answer or move, held up in the Bright’s magically masked gaze for a few moments longer until laughter from somewhere behind him pulls the third year’s attentions away. He uncrosses his legs suddenly and reaches forward to wrap tapered fingers around his coffee cup before sliding himself back in order to stand. The raven haired telepath blinks and looks up, met by another smile as the tall teen is stuffing his free hand into his pocket while moving around the small table he’d been seated at. “Don’t let them talk you into moving around too much…” he says quietly as he slides his cup up to take a final sip “even if you do plan on making it over to the festival later, I’m still going to hold you to your promise.”

And with that he turns away to move out towards the small line of shops, his cup discarded in a slotted trash can as he passes without notice given just as Sashi’s teammates are turning a corner with several papers in hand…

Sashi: Surprise catches the telepath when Lan asks him about being lonely, every thought in his head frozen into stillness just as storm cloud eyes are frozen by chocolate brown. Questions make a halfhearted attempt to form, wanting to know what was meant and how the Bright was able to know about something he keeps locked down so tight…? But nothing comes from his mouth and the fourth year remains held by the taller teenager until well after quiet words are spoken and the third year is moving away through the coffee shop’s patio and down the street in the direction of the festival.

Watching the lanky form quickly grow distant, bitter anger courses hard and sudden through the Dark and it takes a lot to keep himself seated and not to teleport after Lan. What the hell would he know about being lonely? The younger Selestarri has his girlfriend and the crowds of friends that always surround him at school and most likely that’s how it is for him at the Eyrie, too. A day has probably never gone by for the Bright where he’s not had someone to talk to, to sit beside, to share things with. Like he has a fucking clue the way loneliness can cut inside, deeper and deeper until everything you are is just shreds held together by misery. There’s no fucking way that Lan could understand how that feels, not with the way he acts at school. Forcing the kind of friendliness and warmth that he’s observed in the other teen would be too difficult when inside is slowly withering; the raven-haired telepath knows that all too well. There’s only so much that a mask can hide before it cracks, after all. Fuck the Bright for asking him about it, and fuck him for insinuating that he knows even one minute of what it feels like.

It takes a long moment for Sashi to settle himself, slowly unclenching the hands that had gripped tight enough to bruise. Blood sluggishly mars the bandages of his left hand, the scraps and cuts reopened and he slips the edge of his sleeve down to cover it as he works to calm enough to meet the eyes of his teammates when they crowd around with the papers he’d asked for. He nods and assures them that what they’ve brought is fine and that yes, he’ll attend the festival a couple of streets over near one of the shrines. Originally he wasn’t going to bother since the pain his body is constantly notifying him of does not need any further excuse, but after the little reminder that Lan had seen fit to toss in his direction he’ll go just to prove that when he promises something, he means it.

The other soccer players stay close to the fourth year when he rises from the chair, whisking away the coffee mug and plate before the Dark even remembers that they’re on the table and carrying along all the newspapers as they match their steps to his slow, limping ones. The teenagers chatter excitedly on the way along the sidewalk and Sashi nods and gives neutral replies when directly asked a question. The pain is bad, lancing through his body like razor sharp blades and tingeing his vision with black, hazy spots, but he keeps walking, gray eyes trained on the trees for any sign of the garlands and lanterns that will mark the beginning of the festival. When he finally sees them, the relief slides audibly through full lips as a sigh…


Lan: the early evening had set in hours ago, the deep shades of indigo in the distance completely lost to the lights of the city and the glowing orbs strung throughout the large festival clearing and the booths lined around its edges. Laughter fills the surrounding areas, mingling with the overwhelming murmur of words spoken from a wide variety of lips, the loud drums of music -both traditional and modern, booming throughout the bustling air. During this time, the shaggy haired teenager has managed to catch glimpses of the raven haired Dark, allowing himself to linger long enough until the crowd swallows them both up again or he’s assured Sashi is remaining relatively stationary and not being forced to shuffle around along with his own set of friends.

The tall Bright’s smile is warm, his own laughter carrying on the winds as various members from his class stand around him and socialize until that feeling of being watched pricks at the back of his neck and he has just enough time to turn his chocolate colored gaze towards the source before a vehicle pulls up along the outer edges of the street to catch his attention and pull it away. He stiffens only slightly as he watches the driver get out and hold the door open for a person he’s come to dread, the white hair and equally matched eyes of the tall figure something he knows only he or his kind will be able to see. From across the busy festival the two stare at one another, something un-noticed by all, the slight smile on the Angel’s mouth matched by the Bright’s light frown. Suddenly one of his friends breaks the spell and he blinks, pulling his masked gaze away from white and turning the attention down to the classmates that surround him. The smile he’d lost returns long enough for him to make a few quick excuses and a minute later her slides easily away from the crowd in order to go where he knows he’s expected to go. Each step he takes closer towards the car is slowed purposefully; as if pacing himself might actually stop the inevitable. It doesn’t though and sooner than he’d like he’s standing in front of the car and the expectant Angel, the conversation between himself and the Higher very brief and a few quick words said before the white haired figure steps to the side to allow him into the town car. Lan doesn’t move immediately, simply staring at the door and doing what he can to delay having to get inside because the dread that’d begun to fill him is growing so rapidly that it’s taking a lot for him not to simply turn around and bolt. From somewhere behind him that feeling of being watched prickles at the back of his neck and even though he’d like to allow himself a single glance back towards the source -just one final look at what he’s sure will be a newly familiar face so he has something to carry him through what he’s about to be subjected to, with his current company, he doesn’t dare. So instead the tall Bright’s chocolate colored eyes rise to meet expectant white and he clenches his teeth just a little before stepping forward to slide himself into the waiting car.

With graceful ease, he slips his lithe frame to the very far end of the opposite window as the Higher follows him behind, no further words shared between them as the car’s driver shuts the door in order to take his own place behind the wheel. It’s not long after that the sleek black vehicle is restarted and Lan keeps his illusioned gaze out towards the passing lights of the festival while they flicker in tinted windows as he’s driven slowly away.

Sashi: In the soft glow of the lanterns overhead and the bustle of people around him, he’s still aware of the chocolate brown eyes that turn in his direction every so often. He’s not sure whether to be angry at the attention that wasn’t asked for or to find it nice that the Bright seems to care for whatever reason. It isn’t like he sought out this concern that’s being given or did anything to warrant it and it leaves him thrown off a bit and unsure how to respond. Other Selestarri have never been kind to him unless they’ve wanted something and even though Lan claims to want nothing in return for the care given last night, the Dark is still cautious. In his experience, people only do things when they’re going to get something in return. So if the things that Lan has said are true, and honestly he finds that impossible, then he doesn’t know what to do…

The telepath’s thoughts are interrupted by the offer of a hot drink that one of his fellow soccer players holds out. Long fingers wrap around the cup, the heat seeping immediately into his palm even as a shiver shakes through his body. The cold season is coming and he’s not looking forward to it at all. A frown shifts over his mouth and Sashi pulls the lit cigarette in his other hand up to his lips to pull the smoke deep into his lungs. Without much thought storm-tinted eyes scan the crowd, spotting the tall third year easily and then following as Lan makes his way through the people lining the street. Foreign magic flares hard, almost pushing Sashi back a step with the strength of it. What the fuck? He’s sensed the same type of magic in that second year, Taz or whomever, but this is much stronger.

The Bright stops beside a sleek town car and the raven-haired fourth year watches as the other teenager speaks with a white-haired man. Even from the distance where the Dark stands he can sense that this is the person who’s the source of the magic and it makes him both uneasy and curious. He fits the description of the Angels that they’ve been given in the briefings, but why is Lan speaking with him? And now why is he getting into the car? Questions string one after another through his head, but all remain unanswered as the vehicle pulls away from the curb …


C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 09


Still wrapped in his coat and thick scarf, Sashi makes his way down the hall toward the second year classrooms, weaving through the crowds of students without much thought lent to it. Other kids greet him and wish him a good morning, but he simply nods and continues onward. He’s only over here for one reason and the whole thing is probably stupid anyway. It’s not like it’s really any of his business to begin with, aside from the connection with his assignment and while he doesn’t truly give a shit about that beyond the reports he makes to the Assembly, he still needs to tie up all the loose ends. Which is what he keeps telling himself to justify the casual stop at an empty dorm room yesterday and the path down a corridor that is in the opposite direction from his classes—it’s just fitting together some of the pieces for his bullshit report and nothing else.

Lan didn’t return to the school after the festival. He went off with that Angel and hasn’t been seen since. There was no sign of him at breakfast yesterday morning and when he didn’t show at the evening meal, Sashi had stopped by with the intentions of returning the medical items that had been leant to him. When his knock went unanswered, a quick teleport into his room revealed that the bed was not slept in. It’s not like he’s worried or whatever because there’s no reason to be concerned for a person who he barely knows and has only really talked with a few times. Yeah, Lan was kind to him, but that doesn’t make them instant best friends or anything. He’d probably gone back to the Eyrie for some reason and these thoughts that have been gnawing at him since yesterday morning will prove to be foolish. It’s really just another lesson in why he doesn’t let anyone close to him even in small ways. Even if that person had cared for him unasked and unrewarded. Even if that person sought him out for reasons that didn’t have anything to do with assignments or their factions or for anything other than to simply talk. Even if that person had, in a roundabout way, promised to be there for him should he get hurt again, which is more than anyone has ever done for him…

But he keeps coming back to the fact that Lan left with that Angel and given all that he’s read on the files in Nova, that is most likely not a good thing. Since he can’t seem to get his thoughts away from that last moment when the Bright slipped into the car and his efforts to contact Lan had not worked out, he has to resort to this. The pain of the wounds that remain from letting out his magic only serve to make him grumpier this morning and this whole little task is quickly becoming annoying, even if it will answer his questions as to the other Selestarri’s whereabouts.

It’s easy to find the one that he seeks amongst the first and second year students who crowd the hall, not only her magic standing out like a beacon, but her height as well. She turns before he gets within twenty feet, a shadow of fear and unease moving through illusion-screened chocolate eyes before being quickly replaced with anger. Ringlets shift around her shoulders as Halacie steps away from her friends and walks down the corridor and around the corner into a narrow side hall. It takes only a few moments to follow her path and he finds the Bright with her arms crossed over her chest, the frown on her lips mirrored by the one on the Dark’s. Gray eyes narrow behind black-framed glasses when they finally stand close enough to speak quietly and the gaze Sashi levels at the girl is cold enough to burn. “I have something that belongs to your boyfriend and I wish to return it.” The slide into telepathic speech is easy, the link between them formed before she can mount any flimsy attempt to keep him out. [So where is he?]

Halacie: Masked brown eyes are stuck for a moment after the Dark before her has forced his way into her head before she’s able to pull her gaze away, the scowl on her features only shadowing further and her curt words soon given back. [Whatever you have of Key’s, you can give to me…] she’s finding herself annoyed that despite the faint amount of fear she still feels simply standing in Sashi’s presence again, she wants to know what he took of Key’s and why. Because seriously, why would the raven haired Selestarri have anything of Key’s at all? It’s not like her fellow Bright would give him something willingly so knowing the way he seems to work, he’s probably just using this as some excuse to either continue showing off all that power he has or he’s just using it to get to Key for whatever twisted reasons he has. She’s a little torn between wanting to know and not at the moment, just as she’s torn between asking him what got said between the two of them over the weekend while she was gone and telling him to fuck the hell off.

[As for where Key is…] she starts up again a moment later, her voice falling a little lower as she allows her illusioned eyes to slide back over to meet Sashi’s gaze […it’s really none of your business. If he wanted you to know, he’d have told you now wouldn’t he have? So-] she uncrosses her arms and holds her hand out with a smirk she can’t help. [-Why don’t you just give me whatever it is you have so I can go back to pretending you don’t exist.]

Sashi: Yeah, now he recalls why he dislikes this chick so much and it took all of three seconds. She’s definitely not his choice of people to talk with and if she wasn’t Lan’s girlfriend and probably the one person who knows where he is, then he wouldn’t bother with her at all. In fact, he probably shouldn’t be messing with this whole thing at all, but between the care that was given to him on Friday night and the fact that there was an Angel involved, he’s finding that as much a he tries to put it out of his head, it all just keeps creeping back to irritate him. The Dark ignores Halacie’s smirk and outstretched hand and continues to hold her illusioned gaze with his own. [What I have for Lan is between us and maybe if you were important enough he’d have told you he was lending things to the ‘enemy’ faction in the first place, right?] He really shouldn’t waste his time with this, but he can’t help but indulge in this little game that she’s starting. If she wants to fling shit, she’ll quickly find that he doesn’t back down.

The raven-haired Selestarri shifts his stance just slightly, amused when the Bright tenses a little before dropping her hand. [Anyway,] Sashi continues, his tone turning dismissive. [Since I don’t exist, then I guess what I know about whom he left the festival with doesn’t matter to you.] The telepath shrugs lightly, but continues to hold her with a chilly stare. [Maybe I was wrong in thinking you’d care that he hasn’t been back at school all weekend…?] Okay, so he’s definitely pushing at her there since it’s completely obvious that she probably cares a little too much, but just like their previous encounter a couple days ago in that classroom, the fourth year is finding it hard to resist baiting the slender Bright. If Lan is just at the Eyrie or whatever, then she can end this whole thing and they don’t have to speak again. Shit, she just annoys him and the hostile, condescending attitude isn’t helping matters. Again, he shouldn’t care beyond the whole Angel thing since that’s his assignment or whatever, but he still feels like there’s a debt he owes for the way that Lan took care of him on Friday night, even if the Bright claimed there was not.

Halacie says nothing and for a moment and the two Selestarri continue to glare at one another as the main hall behind them bustles with activity. [Look,] Sashi’s voice is frosted with ice and storm cloud eyes match the tone. As entertaining as messing with her can be, he doesn’t really have time or energy to keep this up. [You can either tell me where he is or I can rip it out of your head forcefully and you can spend the rest of your days as a pretty, vacant little doll. Your choice.]

Halacie: illusioned eyes widen just a little at the threat and for a moment she doesn’t know what to do. He can’t really be serious about what he’s just said… can he? But then, as she instinctively takes a half step back that doesn’t go un-noticed by the Dark, she can’t help but recall their first ‘confrontation’ and the fact that he’d easily shattered her own illusion spells. She’d never felt that kind of natural magic from any one of their kind, his faction or her own, before that day and it’d scared her enough to send her running back home all weekend just so she could have some time to collect herself in the aftermath.

She’d come back only to find they’d called for Key again, and she was angry at herself for leaving him alone before it… only now she’s finding that he might not have been exactly alone, that this Dark she’s loathing more and more with every new encounter used her absence as an excuse to get himself in again close, even after her first warning to keep his annoying presence away. God, she suddenly finds her emotions conflicted between the fear she feels and her annoyance for him zeroing in on her boyfriend after how many years of them all understanding that it’s better they all stayed away from one another. [You wouldn’t dare] she scoffs. [and even if you did, it wouldn’t do you any good because Key never tells me where it is they take him] she continues with a frown before she’s fully comprehended that the words have even left her and that apparently, her fear won out. [He always comes back in a few days-] even though normally, they usually bring him back before school starts up again so the fact that they haven’t yet is worrying her more than she’ll ever tell this stupid Dark. [-so why don’t you take that up with him when it happens.] Halacie stops and her frown deeps as she quickly changes her mind. [Actually, don’t. He doesn’t need someone like you bothering him, especially now, so again, just give me whatever it is you’ve taken from him and leave my Key the hell alone.]

Sashi: The telepath is torn between being entertained by Halacie’s obvious fear and hating that look he sees in her eyes. She may not understand exactly what he is, but she knows enough. He shouldn’t have bothered with her in the first place, should have just walked away when she tried to give her lecture about her boyfriend a couple of days back, but he’d been stupid and now there’s one more to add to the list of people who fear and despise him. The length of that list is something he doesn’t like to think about, but after all these years it shouldn’t matter anymore to him, right? It’s not like if he starts caring that people will suddenly stop being afraid, so there’s no real point at all. However, the Bright has given him all the information he needs for the moment. [If they’ll bring him back, then I can wait.] He’s assuming that the ‘They’ she referenced are those same Angels as the one he saw with Lan in town. Apparently this isn’t the first time it’s happened, either, which Sashi finds… unsettling. Their assignment is probably similar to his in the ‘find out about these people and what they’re doing at the school’ directive, but to be taken away by them to some place for several days seems dangerous. It just doesn’t sit well with the Dark, which he neither understands or can stop, and is frustrating on both accounts.

With a last sweep of the Bright by storm-colored eyes, Sashi turns around as the bell rings to signal the start of the day. [Lan may not need ‘someone like me’ bothering him, but if that’s what he wants, he can tell me himself.] The telepath’s voice is quiet as long legs take him to the end of the side corridor. [As much as I’m sure you’d like to, you don’t get to speak for him… at least not to me…]


The cover of the thick textbook drops closed and the Dark pushes it away from the center of his desk before scribbling a few lines on the notebook that lies beside it and rising to his feet. It’s past midnight and he’s been studying long enough for his body to begin complaining about sitting in that wooden chair for so many hours. Without soccer practice, the afternoon and evening had been one long opportunity for him to wonder about Lan’s disappearance and it was only after the annoyance of having it creep into his thoughts every other minute or so that he decided to bury himself in studying. He doesn’t like that he keeps thinking about it because really it has nothing to do with him and there’s no need to be involved at all. He’d fulfilled whatever debt may have been lasting from the other night by inquiring with Halacie on her boyfriend’s whereabouts. She doesn’t really seem concerned that he’s gone with a race they don’t know much about, and he gets the impression that not she’s one to let up on things if she feels threatened. Besides, on the day of the festival Lan didn’t seem to be forced into the car, so he must have wanted to go with the Angels for whatever reason.

Sashi crosses the cold hardwood floor of his bedroom suite and flips on the light to the bathroom. A moment later the shower streams water in the tiled stall and the Dark leans against the sink as he waits for it to heat up. It’s just not sitting well that she said they take the third year away and then bring him back. Take him where and why? From all the files he’d read about the Angels he doesn’t think that they’re into being all open and sharing about themselves and their motivations, so it seems unlikely that they’ve taken Lan somewhere for tea and crumpets or to give him a tour of their home. Something is just… wrong, and he doesn’t know what. Hell, he doesn’t even understand why he apparently cares so much.

With a sigh, the telepath rakes pitch-black hair from his eyes and then carefully begins to unwind the bandages that wrap over torn hands. The medical kit that had been lent to him has soothed the worst of the scrapes and bruises that he’d taken from falling into that chasm and it probably won’t be too many more days that he’ll have to take so much care with the bandaging and dressing of the more minor wounds. The edge of the Dark’s magic awareness flickers, but he ignores it and continues to unwind the gauze, working his way over the wooden splints that cradle his sprained wrist and dropping the used wrappings to the floor. The steam from the water is beginning to cloud the mirror and fill the small room with the promise of possibly being warm for a minute or two, which will be nice change since he’s always so damn cold. Another tug at his awareness is brushed aside and the Selestarri pulls off both the long-sleeve tee and the one underneath to gain access to the bandages on his chest. These wounds aren’t too bad, all things considered, and he studies them carefully for signs of infection before moving on. At the third twinge of magic, Sashi finally pries his attention away from the wrappings. Okay, what the fuck? What keeps yanking at him and being so damn annoying?

Concentrating, the Dark quickly locates his brother’s magical signature on the other end of the dorm, as well as the one of that second year Angel, both of which have been steady in the background of his awareness all night. What’s new and has been poking at him is the third signature, weak but familiar. Caramel-tinted hands cease the unwinding of the bandages for a moment and Sashi frowns at the relief that washes through him. Lan is apparently returned from where ever he’d been taken. Well fine, at least he’s back and that means that the telepath can put his mind on other things. Loose black pants slide down toned legs, extra care taken with the stitched wound on his upper thigh. He’s still limping pretty bad and even with the meds from the Eyrie, it’ll take a while to heal. Gray eyes slide to the opened tin beside the sink and before he even realizes what’s happening, he’s reached out to check on the Bright. Still faint and much weaker than Lan’s signature should be. Had he dumped all his magic for some reason or… had those Angels hurt him…? It’s not his business, let Halacie deal with it in the morning if there’s anything to deal with in the first place. She’s all about being in her boyfriend’s business, so she’d probably be all about taking care of him. Which is the way it should be, right?

The Dark’s gaze shifts back to his leg and then to the battered tin before he sighs. Morning is a long way from now… He shouldn’t care, he really fucking shouldn’t. The loose pants are raised and retied just below slim hips and a second later the pair of shirts slip over his head. He doesn’t owe the Bright anything at all. It’s better to leave things as they are, better to let their ‘chance’ encounters end with the festival. Everything will go back to what it should be. Long fingers twist the knob to cut off the stream of water. This is all foolish and he’s only going to get hurt… Thundercloud eyes stare at his reflection in the foggy mirror for the briefest of moments and then the void surges up, the bathroom disappearing in a swirl of black…

Lan: Yellow eyes crack open, proving almost immediately to be a pointless venture as the tall Bright’s vision is obscured and fuzzy. Long scarred fingers twitch in the slightest at coldness beneath the tips and he spends a few minutes moving in and out of hazy consciousness simply trying to remember where he is, or anything much at all for that matter. The last thing he can recall is being in town at the festival… wasn’t he talking to Sashi at some point? He can’t remember and right now it’s a little hard to focus when all he can feel is the pain that wracks him. He hurts. A lot and as the seconds tick by he’s starting to notice just how warm he is as well… too warm in fact -on the inside instead of the out. It’s fire, he feels like he’s on fire. Lan groans, finally managing to get his eyes to focus a little only to find his blankets beneath him, his body hanging oddly over the side of his own bed while his hand trails the drafty wooden floor below.

He remembers now. The car, the Higher, another one of their labs. They kept him longer this time and the tests had been brutal. After these last few years, his body has started fighting the genetics they’ve been trying to get inside of him and in the attempts to fuse them better, they took more risks. They hurt him, more than they normally do and he can still feel that hurt deep inside. It’s twisting in the pit of his stomach and reaching out like the tendrils of vines, he can feel it pushing against his barriers and he needs to get it under control or something will burn.

The white haired teenager attempts to push himself up, an action that takes him a few minutes longer than it ever should and by the time his bare feet hit the floor, the wood is already scorching in tiny black lines. With gritted teeth he pushes away from the bed and stumbles forward, every step he takes wobbly and unsure. Halfway to his goal the fire inside of him shifts so suddenly that it takes his breath away and he doubles over with a partially muffled cry, losing his balance rather quickly in the movement. Before he knows it he’s falling forward, a long scarred arm reaching out for the nearest surface he can find in order to keep himself from crashing. Tapered fingers grasp desperately on the frame of the bathroom doorway, shaggy snow colored locks shifting down over summer colored vision now blurred to the point of tears. The wood frame begins to singe beneath his hand and even though he tries to rein it back in like normal, Lan finds that it’s simply not listening to his internal commands. He feels hot, overheated and feverish… to the point of burning. What were they thinking this time? They should never have brought him back so soon, they should have known better. Gods… He needs the meds, he needs them now or he’ll completely lose control. Why didn’t they give him any before the tossed him so carelessly into his room? Why did they bring him back at all?

Quickly pushing away from frame and leaving a large, crackling handprint behind, he stumbles further into the bathroom towards the medicine cabinet within. Every step he takes, every breath, every moment he’s mobile he’s using energy that he doesn’t even have and it begins to overtake him, the exhaustion more than he’s able to bear. He can’t pass out though despite the fact that his body is trying because if he does before he’s taken those pills; he knows the fire inside of him will get out.

Lan reaches blindly out for the medicine cabinet door and as he fumbles to get the thing open he continues to sink down further. It seems to take an eternity before he manages to get it open and another eternity to successfully grab a hold of the dark unmarked bottle just inside. His hand drops with the weight and he practically slams the medicine against the white, pristine marble in a slump he can’t control. The Bright stands on shaking legs just breathing in his attempts to calm the fire now lurching inside of him and he’s panting by the time he’s able to lift his hands high enough to try and work the top off. A moment after the lid goes clinking into the sink his legs decide to fail completely and multicolored pills go flying as he crashes down towards the floor, scarred fingers only barely grasping the edge of the sink to break his fall as the bottle skids across towards the tub before the tall third year falls to his side, yellow eyes filmed in misty white rolling as the tile beneath his body begins to burn…


C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 10


Sashi: The foreign magic is so thick in the air that it’s almost choking, flooding the Dark’s nose and throat even as the teleport dissipates. This is the same magic he’d caught so briefly over the last few days, but is now multiplied a thousand fold. What’s generating it and why it’s suddenly been unleashed is still a mystery, but he knows that it’s linked to the Bright in some way. As his senses spread out, the telepath can sense Lan, but his signature is weak. Only a magic dump or heavy battle can wipe a presence out so much and he can’t help but wonder just what the third year was doing with the Angels.

Still, he shouldn’t be here. Standing in the empty hallway, gray eyes stare at the varnished wooden panel. This door and everything on the other side will only lead to hurt and pain. Hasn’t he had enough of that already to last a lifetime? He can make the excuses—Lan is of a different faction, there’s been almost a comfortable feel to his presence, the Bright helped him when he was in trouble—but it won’t change anything in the end, right? He doesn’t have friends, he never has, so what’s the point of trying anymore when he knows exactly what will happen and exactly what path it will all follow? A quiet sigh slips free of the telepath and he pushes unruly strands of black from his line of sight. He can walk away right now and there won’t be any pain. It’s the smartest path, the one that he learned through hard childhood years, the one imprinted with blood and tears… So why does he toss all those lessons, all that hurt, aside when he feels the foreign magic surge hard? Why does he teleport beyond the door when the energy is hauled back with a desperation that he can so clearly sense? A desperation that clings on the thinnest thread…

Heat rolls over Sashi like a wave as soon as the void falls away, pressing down like a heavy weight that threatens to drag him to the floor. The air is thick and coats his lungs, like he’s breathing in lead and laced through it is the distinct smell of something burning. Thundercloud eyes survey the room quickly, but the main area is just as he saw it the other day, looking untouched with the exception of the slightly askew quilt on the bed. Following a line of darkened spots on the hardwood floor leads the limping Dark toward the bathroom and the object of his search. Fingertips trace over the handprint on the frame, the varnish bubbled and distorted before gray eyes pass beyond and into the bath. Crumpled on the floor amidst a scattering of multicolored pills, the lanky frame looks almost broken, eyes barely open and breath coming in shallow pants. For a moment everything seems to grind into slow motion as he stares down at someone he doesn’t know. The telepath blinks. Wait… that’s not exactly right… This person wears Lan’s face, but his hair is as white as the snow and his skin… to say that the pale skin is damaged is a vast understatement. Every inch that he can see from the doorway is marred, some marks fresh and bright red while others are faded, telling the story of a long struggle. The Bright has been hiding much more than his Selestarri heritage behind those illusion spells.

A thousand thoughts surge through the Dark’s head all at once, some accompanied by emotion that he doesn’t have time to name before movement from the other student quickly focuses his attention. Still standing in the doorway, storm-tinted eyes sweep down the scarred, slender frame, catching on the rapidly blackening tile beneath and finally moving forward enough to slowly kneel at Lan’s side. There’s no recognition in the milky white eyes that stare fixedly at nothing, not even when Sashi quietly calls the other Selestarri’s name. Tanned fingers hesitantly stretch out to touch at the Bright’s shoulder only to recoil at the heat that lashes out at already damaged hands. This isn’t like any fever he’s ever encountered, not with the foreign magic so strong and it takes only another slight tensing of the one before him to set well-ingrained medical combat skills into action. Pain flares as he pushes back onto his heels, the wound on his leg complaining as stitches drag at tender skin only to be compounded when the Dark wraps his hands beneath narrow shoulders, the blistering of his palms and the smell of burning flesh largely ignored as he pulls Lan across the bathroom floor.

Gently propping the Bright against one wall of the shower stall, he reaches up to switch on the knob, the cold water instantly streaming from the high shower head. Steam billows out as it interacts with the heat that emanates from the other Selestarri, slamming into Sashi like a solid wall and setting him back onto his heels. The slimmest thread holds Lan to a semblance of consciousness and even under the cold spray he continues to softly pant, the effort of holding on seeming to take almost everything out of him. The desperate battle to hold on, even when it feels like too much, like it will destroy everything you are, is something that the Dark can understand. Lan is battling the strength of the foreign magic, just as he’s done himself over the years more times than he can count…

Under the cascade of water white and black hair alike is plastered down and clothing is soaked through. [Hey,] Sashi whispers, half in an attempt to pull Lan out of his mostly unconscious state and half to fill up a quiet that’s beginning to concern him a bit. Scorched fingers quickly draw out runes and patterns on the water slicked tile, setting up barriers that will hopefully stop any further damage to the room. [You need to listen, okay? I know that I’m probably not the person you want here with you right now, but I’m all there is, so you’ve got to just… hang on. Whatever happened, whatever you’re fighting, just hang on…] Out of the corner of his eye, he catches sight of one of the scattered pills and reaches back to take it from the floor. Whatever these things are, it seems like Lan was trying to take them…

Lan: inside he’s burning. Every corner, every crack, every single pore is on fire. It’s raging beneath his skin and it takes every last bit of will he has to keep it contained. Every breath is energy he needs and for every second that ticks by, he’s growing weaker while it responds by pushing harder in retaliation. It’s practically screaming inside of his head, yelling to be let free so it can consume; hungry and greedy in its overwhelming commands. The last time it got out of control he was holed up in a lab, he was contained and the only thing it was able to hurt was himself. It wants compensation for that, he can feel it, it wants freedom to take what it’s continuously denied and he can’t let it because he’s not in a lab right now, he’s in the school and there are others, so many others that would be hurt or killed if he loses what little control that he’s managed to maintain.

Not only that, he swears there’s also someone near… he can smell them, barely through the thick fog of smoke clogging his senses but he can and he’s aware. At first he thinks it might be Halacie and he wants to cry out and tell her to run, to get away before she’s hurt but he can’t because he’s starting to slip under and nothing he tries to say will surface. But as the minutes continue, it’s a different scent that filters in and he’s coming to understand that there’s somebody else who isn’t her close by. He knows this scent… just like he knows the voice he can hear far off in the distance attached to it –the same voice trying to call his name. He tries to reply, tries to acknowledge the other’s presence but he can’t, can’t pull himself up from the heavy blanket of fire beginning to consume. Before he knows it though there’s an odd feeling of movement, as if the world has suddenly spun out of control for the space of a few moments before it rights itself again and then somewhere far away he swears he can hear the distant call of rain.

He tries to lift his head and it’s only then that he can feel the surrounding wet. He idly wonders how and when he’d gotten outside while it soaks him, and he’s thankful for it despite the fact that the water is doing nothing to quell his body or bring relief to the heat currently raging deep inside. Soon his head falls back, his burning skin grasped and neck cradled before an object is slipped into his mouth. Then there’s warmth, slick warmth that tastes sweet in a way he wishes he could prolong before liquid is sliding down his throat, the object swallowed along with it. For many tense moments he can only sit there panting heavily, fighting the inferno spiraling around at his core. And then, like the blossoming of a flower in the pit of his stomach, the coldness takes hold and it’s only then he realizes he must have somehow managed to take one of those pills after all.

He waits, hanging on by a thread as the fire fights it, kicking and screaming at being so close to getting what it wanted, screaming inside of his head and cursing him for what he’s obviously done. In one last desperate ditch to gain freedom it clamps down hard, clenching so tightly inside of him that he arches back and cries out for the pain that the internal battle causes. Then just like that, the fire is quelled and his body falls slack as the world finally begins to come back into view. The sounds of the running shower gain clarity, the heat of another still cradling him in arms he vaguely recognizes to sooth away the near loss of control.

It’s then that he recalls the scent and yellow eyes snap open, shifting to the side to find oddly concerned grey staring down. [I’m… I’m sorry…] he starts even as his summer colored gaze is starting to roll back while a long scarred arm is rising up and heavily marked fingers are attempting to touch at perfectly tanned skin [If I… hurt yo-] before he can complete the action, even before his last word can be said he loses the battle he’d been fighting and he slips completely under, his arm soon falling limp onto wet tile.


Sashi: Gentle hands tuck the last blanket around the unconscious third year, careful not to disturb any of the injuries that mar the slender frame. With a quiet sigh, the Dark turns away from the bed and limps toward the brightly lit bathroom, stopping just before the threshold to stare down at the mess within. Puddles of water litter the tile along with towels and discarded clothing and on the edge of the sink a small box filled with gauze and cloth bandages rests precariously. Storm-tinted eyes fall to one of the multicolored pills still scattered over the floor. He has no idea what they are, but once he got one down the Bright’s throat, the foreign magic had died out in less than a minute. Heat blistered fingers touch absently at full lips as he steps into the small space and begins to sketch a long string of runes into the air.

He hadn’t really even thought when he’d seen Lan lying on the floor, just switched right into the medical training he’d learned on Nova. There was just action and reaction, doing what he could to help stop something he doesn’t really understand and then wondering if it would be enough. Before he’d completely realized what he was doing, the shower was on and the Bright was cradled in his arms, the heat tearing at his skin, but there wasn’t a thought spared for his own injuries. Even getting the pill swallowed was automatic, although the softness of the lips that touched his is something that he remembers very clearly… Probably too clearly.

Frowning at a rune drawn so poorly that it’s barely recognizable, Sashi quickly corrects it and then moves on to draw the next layer. This is the kind of distracted he’s been ever since Lan had talked to him during lunch last week. Thoughts are half acted upon, sentences half spoken, class work half completed… his thoughts seem to continuously circle back to the Bright and these ‘chance’ encounters they have no matter how hard he attempts to maintain focus. There’s no rationalization or justification that explains it, no excuses, and certainly no common sense because if he could find that, then he wouldn’t be standing where he is right now. Instead he’s making it all the more complicated, the kind of complication that will lead him to a hurt he knows all too well. There are reasons why he doesn’t have any real friends and he’d stopped trying a long time ago, so why now, standing in this damaged, waterlogged bathroom with pain lancing through his scorched hands and injured leg and every alarm going off in his head, does he know that there’s nowhere else he wants to be right now? Tying off the weave of patterns, the telepath sets it to drying out the floor and turns his attention to his injuries. The battered medical tin appears on the edge of the sink, the contents still wet from treating the Bright. Damaged fingers select a nearly empty container and pull the lid free before smearing the thick poultice on skin that’s raw and scorched. Well practiced skill has both hands bandaged in less than a few minutes and Sashi eases out of loose pants to get a look at his leg. The stitches have torn, which means they’ll need to be replaced if he’s ever going to get this thing healed without resorting to a return to Nova. Bloodstained wrappings disappear and he reaches again for the tin to find the jar containing the poultice he’d been using to help speed the healing, gritting his teeth while patting the thick concoction of herbs and ointments over the wound. Fuck… he might be past any chance of avoiding the floating island at this point…

Clean bandages stretch over toned muscle as the Dark secures the end of the wrap and steps back into his pants. The box on top of the sink returns to the cabinet beneath, but Sashi hesitates for a moment when his hand closes on the battered medical tin, fingers tracing around the edge. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, Lan had given this to him, a small action for the Bright, but it’s a level of kindness that the telepath has very rarely received… Shaking his head just slightly, he places it in on the shelf in the cabinet and switches off the lights. Pulling the door as closed as the heat-warped frame will allow, he leaves the spells he cast to clean up the water and the discarded towels and clothing. Once they finish the only thing remaining of the entire incident would be the pills and the blackened tiles, both of which would have to be enough because at the moment he’s not able to do much more. Friday night’s dumping of magic is still wiping him out and even this slight effort has made him extremely tired.

The fourth year slowly limps through the darkened bedroom to stand at the side of the bed. Thundercloud eyes are instantly drawn to the spill of white hair, the tangled, half-damp strands stark against the dark linens. There’s only one person in their entire race with hair this color and even then it’s not natural, but rather a result of a unique ability. Sashi doubts that Lan is connected in that way to the Sidereal Oracle because there’s no way in hell that the Bright would allow him out of their sight for a minute, let alone give him an assignment. So how did this happen… and is it connected to his eyes…? The defense mechanism of Lan’s faction, the temporary increase of magic to combat a greater power, causes a Bright’s eyes to glow with golden light, but his eyes were milky, almost filmed-over completely in white. Beneath the deep pools were yellow, another unnatural color for their race and another source of questions. But while all that is odd and unusual, the third year’s eyes and hair are minor when compared to the damage his body has suffered. The scars and burns are innumerable and stretch from Lan’s neck to his toes. Some are ragged and uneven, but others are precise and clean, like the work of a surgeon, long, straight incisions and circular puncture marks. Never has the Dark seen so many injuries, old and new, on someone still living and even when he was bandaging and dressing the fresh wounds and his mind was on auto, the sheer amount of hurt that would have to have been endured was numbing to think about. Was it all the work of the foreign magic? It’s obvious to Sashi now that the magic he’d sensed on and off during his brief encounters with Lan was not from an artifact as he’d originally thought, but from within the Bright’s body. How that’s even possible, he has no idea, but being so close while it was active had clearly pointed it out. The other teen’s faction won’t even allow blood magic, so it’s a pretty good bet that they aren’t messing around with something like that…

Short steps lead the telepath to the pair of armchairs beside the window and as he slowly settles into the nearest, he can’t help the odd feeling of juxtaposition. On Friday his position and Lan’s had been reversed in all ways and the irony isn’t lost on the Dark. That debt, even without a specifically named price, has been paid now… Gray eyes slip closed when his head sinks into the cushion behind it, the drain on his magic weighing him down like lead. He’s done everything that he can here and it’s time to go back to his own room. In the morning he’ll get Zeph to tell Halacie that her boyfriend needs her and that will be it… Right…? First he needs five minutes to rest his leg and scrape up the magic to teleport. Darkness is closing in fast and that lead covering the rest of his body has spread to his eyes, the lids impossible to lift. The pain in his legs and hands has been reduced to a subdued stinging and it’s good not to move them, good to keep still… Just five… minutes…

Lan: It’s terror that grips him, ripping him from the deep abyss he’d been floating in for however long he had. Yellow eyes snap open and he jolts up in his bed, clawing at the hands, the scalpels and the hurt he’d been at the mercy of just a moment before. His breathing is heavy and he practically has to grit his teeth to stifle the scream that had tried to travel with him into consciousness. Scarred fingers slide up into tangled strands of shaggy white hair and the Bright frowns, slumping forward while he waits for the dreams to fade away and his body to calm. It used to be like this every day in the beginning. The stifled cries of pain, the nightmares, the smells of bleach and chemicals that never quite wants to go away. And the fire… hungry, raging, and constantly threatening to consume him from the inside. For months they had him locked up behind magic barriers and sealed off rooms after it had started to happen -after the tests and whatever they’d done had twisted him inside, mutated his magic and changed him to what he is now. It took so long for him to get used to it and now, a nightmare is rare but when they do happen, each one seems stronger than the last.

With a sigh, he lowers his hand and reaches out to slip the blankets away from his body in order to twist himself off to the side. He’s thirsty and he needs water, the lingering dreams always seeming to leave him just a little too dry. The moment Lan’s feet hit the floor, his movements come to an abrupt halt when his warm summer gaze settles on the sleeping Dark at the other end of the room. He blinks in a brief moment of stunned silence, trying and failing to recall why the fourth year is in his room. He’d been brought back too early, dumped in his room like a ragdoll before he’d started to lose control… but what, when and how did Sashi end up here as well?

He glances down at his hands and frowns, and without even a thought lent to his actions he sketches the runes needed to mask in midair. A second later his paled marred skin is replaced with perfect lightly tanned flesh, his white shaggy hair deepening to black and yellow eyes darkened to brown. The tall Bright stands, wincing in the slightest for injuries he’d somehow obtained while moving forward, bare feet padding across cold wood until he’s stopped just to the sleeping Dark’s front. Leaning in, shaggy strands shift forward as tapered fingers touch softly at the ravel haired telepath’s shoulder and just as he contacts, gray eyes slide open and widen at how close their faces now are. A moment later he’s sitting abruptly up only to rip small sounds from them both when he practically knocks into the taller teen.

Dual sets of hands are moving to bumped foreheads, both Selestarri reeling from the impact as one crouches over in the armchair while the other is straightening just above. It hits Lan then just how comical it all seems and soon soft laughter is spilling out as the fire, the reasons for Sashi’s presence and the fact that he hadn’t been masked melt away with the amusement, soft words spoken immediately after into the quiet room. “Not… exactly the wakeup I had been meaning…” The lanky Bright chuckles until he notices that the hand set against the Dark’s forehead is wrapped in light gauze. The laughter dies immediately, his smile replaced by a frown and he leans in again to take the other teenager by surprise as he carefully slips the hand into his own. “Did I do this?” he asks in a whisper, kneeling down soon after before turning tanned fingers up to peel back some gauze in order to inspect singed skin. “I’m sorry…” he says quietly while Sashi seems able to do little more than look on and a moment later his movements stop, Lan glancing up through thick strands of disheveled illusionary black hair. “I’m… not sure exactly how much you saw… but I’m sorry.” He smiles the smallest of apologetic smiles. “That you had to see any of it at all.”

Sashi: The pain that lingers from the bump of their foreheads slips away when the Bright drops to his knees. The third year takes his hand so quickly that he barely has time to flinch at the touch, his body tightening automatically at the close contact. There’s a very long moment that the telepath is frozen, unable to do anything but watch and listen as the burns are studied and apologies issued. Why is Lan apologizing? It’s not like the other Selestarri made him come in here and help—that’s a choice he’s all too aware of having made for himself. Honestly he shouldn’t even be in here right now because he was supposed to go back to his own room and leave the rest of this clean-up to Halacie. Instead it’s five minutes in an armchair and suddenly he’s waking up to apologies and awkwardness. Good fucking job, there.

Slowly Sashi pulls his hand away from the Bright’s, the bandages sliding from view beneath the long sleeve of his sweater. “It’s not your fault,” he says quietly. “I knew what would happen when I touched you.” There had been so much heat streaming off the other teen, but he hadn’t really thought twice about getting close, just more of that same auto-pilot he’d gone into. “My magic is still drained from the other night, so I had to pull you into the shower…you were burning up and… I didn’t know what else to do…” The explanation sounds so pathetic, even to his own ears and even though it’s the truth. It’s not like the shower worked at all until he’d gotten that pill down the Bright’s throat… A soft frown slips across the Dark’s mouth and he manages to catch his hand before it can move to his lips and touch at that lingering feeling that has suddenly crept up, that softness that keeps coming back.

Gray eyes shift back to the chocolate brown that he now knows masks yellow beneath. The illusion spell that’s not just to hide Lan’s Selestarri heritage at the school, but to hide all the time. He knows what it is to hide, to keep parts of yourself so secret that some days you’re almost able to convince yourself as well. Sashi can understand what that feels like and both how much it can hurt to keep those masks in place and how much it can hurt to try and live without them. Both options lead to the misery that cuts so deep within and never seems to dull. Both options make life hell and at least in his case, have lead to a loneliness that hurts just as much. Lan seems to have stepped away from that, though, with his girlfriend and the kids he’s always hanging around with. For reasons he can’t even begin to name or explain, the Dark is happy that the other student has escaped it and can maybe be kind of normal. Not everyone should have to know what true loneliness feels like and everything he’s learned about the tall Selestarri since their first conversation last week has lead him to think that Lan would be undeserving of such a harsh lesson.

The slight shifting of the other teenager’s lanky frame snaps Sashi’s attention back, thundercloud eyes finding their counterparts almost involuntarily. “If… you’re concerned about what I saw, it wasn’t much, just the heat and the tiles in the bathroom… mostly…” A slim pack of cigarettes appears in the Dark’s hand and he pulls one free before holding the box out to Lan. “I just happened to be nearby when you… got back, and so I tried to help.” The thin stick is slid up to full lips when the offering is accepted. “Look,” the telepath says softly as flame sparks the tip and a moment later a hastily and almost absently scrawled pattern pushes one of the nearby windows open. “You said the other day that we all have secrets, so I’m not going to insist on knowing yours…”

Lan: the tall Bright sits back onto the hardwood floor with the offered cigarette in hand, long legs crossing at his front and tapered fingers slipping up to push illusioned strands of shaggy black hair away. He smiles only slightly when Sashi’s words end just as the magic he’s scrolled has slid the closest window open and grey smoke is being carried towards it. That the other teenager isn’t going to push him for answers to events he’s learning he saw much of is both appreciated and admirable. There’s only so much he’ll be able to say and even though it’s not a proper explanation, he’s hoping that for now it will be enough. He’s also finding that he hopes at some point, he’ll be able to entrust the other teen with more…

The slender slick it slid up to his lips, a small spark of fire lighting it soon after and he takes a moment to inhale deeply before pulling it away, deep brown eyes falling to his hand as it’s lowered towards his knee. “I used to look like this…” he starts quietly, the softest of bitter smirks forming as grey tendrils are streaming away from full lips “Before I came here, this-“ he motions to himself briefly as his gaze rises up to meet gray. “Was me.” Taking another drag, he lowers his hand and a moment later he’s leaning casually forward to drape long arms across his legs. “I suppose beyond the obvious reasons of fitting in here, I still cover because I haven’t really gotten used to the difference…” there are other reasons as well. The extent of the damage showing on his body in one thing, not many people –himself included at times, can handle seeing what now shows. The color of his hair is another… back home it isn’t natural and within their society, only one other has it. He’s not in any way shape or form connected to the Oracle, and the Assembly made it pretty clear he wasn’t allowed to show any indication that he could be, even indirectly. He was told he had to continue on in this assignment years ago, do what was needed to get the information they are seeking in any way that was necessary yet any time that he goes back home, he’s also been told he has to keep himself completely hidden. It was something, just like the assignment itself, he’s never been given a choice in. So he does. He wears a constant mask, one he rarely allows himself to pull away and very few others see him in any other way…

Flicking the cigarette, the ash that falls from the end disappears before it ever touches the floor and he sighs, turning his eyes towards the open window as a distant sort of look forms within. “I’ve been this way for two years now and I still haven’t gotten very used to it…” the lanky teen’s voice drops a little. “I’m not sure if I ever will truthfully… so it’s easier just to keep it hidden, that way even I don’t have to see…” He trails momentarily before shaking his head and turning his attentions back to the telepath before him. Pulling his arms away from his legs, he straightens while reaching up to push shaggy strands from his line of vision in order to take another drag of the smoldering stick in his hand.

“Things… happened and it messed with my magic a little.” Little being an understatement, the tests and experiments those Angels do on him changed his physiology completely. He’s not even sure the fire inside of him is magic anymore because it acts more like a sentient being completely separate from himself at times. The magic he uses is a part of him, something he draws on and comes from inside. The fire is more like an element that he pulls from not only his core, but from the very Earth itself. “I used to lose control a lot, but I learned to master it a bit. Sometimes… it still slips away from me and when it does, I have to take special medication…” Come to think of it, he doesn’t remember taking the medication this time when he was losing control. He remembers trying to take it but he almost passed out before he could and then suddenly, the world had started to burn… he must have though, because when the fire starts to slip away from him like that, he either takes those pills or everything around him goes up in flames.

The tall Bright’s masked eyes follow Sashi’s movements as he’s bringing his own cigarette to his lips and while he does so, a distant sort of memory tries to creep back in. Something seems… almost familiar, like a dream he’s had with the other teenager that he can’t quite remember. “But.” He continues, shaking his head a little to clear his thoughts before allowing his gaze to rise back up and meet storm cloud colored grey that seem just as riveted to him as he was in return moments ago. “It doesn’t happen that much anymore. You just… caught me at a bad time and I’m sorry for that. Though, I’m very thankful for the help, regardless. I never would have come back in that condition if I could have helped it and without you; things could have been a whole lot worse …”


C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 11


Sashi: The cigarette slowly dwindles as he listens to Lan, bandaged fingers lifting every once and a while to push aside thick, unruly black bangs. Every so often a breeze blows in from the open window to upset the slight haze that’s forming over their heads and ruffling the heavy curtains, the patches of moonlight that filter through the paned glass flickering in and out of shadow. Thundercloud eyes remain steadily on the other teenager, unable to shift away even if he made the attempt. As much as he doesn’t want to admit to himself, he was worried for the Bright while he was gone and it only got worse with the abrupt return. He doesn’t understand why, not when they’d only begun speaking last week and even then have only shared brief conversations. In the past, Zephyr is the only other person he’d even had a shred of concern for and that includes himself. To feel it for someone besides his brother is unsettling and sets off those warning bells in his head. To worry is to care and caring is the path to hurt, he understands that all too well.

However, Sashi can’t help but to draw the similarities between the things that Lan reveals and his own experiences. The masks to hide away true selves—from others as well as themselves—to keep unwanted realities from sight, he understands that quite well. Lan keeps it all in place to divert the stares and looks of pity… disgust… disbelief, closing it away just as he does. Like the other teenager, he doesn’t always like what he sees beneath the mask either. It’s getting harder to recall a time when he wasn’t buried beneath the defenses, when keeping them in place wasn’t automatic. Sometimes he’s afraid that there isn’t anything left under there anymore and the masks are the only thing he has left… Then there’s the magic, a force that the Bright fights for control over just as he does. If unleashed destruction will follow so it’s necessary to keep it locked down, reined in, restricted behind barriers even while it fights and even when the cost to one’s self is high. He may not carry the visible scars from the battles that Lan does, but they’re inside, etched just a little deeper with each loss of control.

So the third year knows what it’s all like, he understands the constant battles waged each day, but does it matter? The telepath has never met anyone else who could understand, but Lan’s experiences, what difference do they make? They won’t change anything or magically make all the hurt, old and new, go away, so there’s no point in hoping that it will. Hope is something he gave up on a long time ago anyway…

Chocolate brown eyes calmly hold gray and it takes some effort for Sashi to pull his gaze down to the last bit of cigarette smoldering between his fingers. He doesn’t want an apology; he doesn’t want a thank you, he just wants… The slender stick lifts to full lips and he pulls the smoke deep inside, holding it for a long moment. He wants Lan to be all right. The fact strikes hard as true, resonating so loudly that for the space of a heartbeat it becomes difficult to make any other clear thoughts. Smoke clouds the air as he frees it and a soft frown settles over tanned features. This whole thing is some of the stupidest shit he’s ever done. He knows better, knows much fucking better than to allow himself the same kind of luxuries that others take for granted. When the Bright goes back to ignoring him, to keeping the distance that they’ve maintained for two years, he’ll be the one who gets hurt. Another mark atop all the others, another sharp wire to bind him even tighter…

The slight shift of the one seated at his feet redirects Sashi’s attention, the look he’s being given expectant yet patient in the lapse of conversation. “I just happened to be nearby,” the Dark says again, his voice so quiet that even in the stillness of the room it’s difficult to hear. “I didn’t do anything special; I just gave you the medication that was on the floor.” The cigarette disappears before burning out and he crosses his arm around his waist, absently hugging himself a little tighter. Questions slip through his mind, things he should be asking to further his assignment and round out the reports, but he’d promised a respect for secrets and he means to honor it. Lan may not consider his word to be of value given his faction, but the telepath has no intention on invading the other student’s privacy. Sashi watches for a moment as tendrils of smoke rise from the end of the remaining cigarette, the path toward the Bright’s mouth highlighted in glowing red, trailing afterimages in the darkened room. “I know what it is to fight the magic… to wake up in the morning and wonder if this is the day you’ll lose control and destroy everything.” The words are sliding out before he fully grasps it, tumbling out and avoiding all attempts at being silenced. “Friday night… I lost the fight…” His storm-tinted gaze lifts to meet illusionary brown, held by a force he still can’t comprehend. “So I understand… and you don’t need to apologize…”

Lan: he nods only a little as he pulls the last of his cigarette to his mouth, inhaling the final remnants of what he holds deep into his lungs. He… had thought as much after Sashi had basically collapsed in his arms on Friday, that something big had happened to the other teenager. Their conversation before the festival at that small café in town only cemented his suspicions that whatever had hurt Sashi had been something to do with his own body and had been something he’d lost control of.

He understands that all too well… losing control.

He never had the problem before he was given this assignment as previously, every day of his life had been pretty much the same. His magic had always been a co-existing part of him, nothing he had to think much on or assert himself over as it simply existed along with him. Then he came to this school, talked to the right people and found himself cast into a whole new world where he became the subject of experiments his own Assembly told him he simply had to accept. He walked away from those experiments changed, mutated, with a foreign force twisting what he’d always taken for granted and suddenly at a loss on how to keep it under any form of control. For the first time in his life, his magic and that of the kind forced on him controlled him instead of the other way around. For the first time in his life, he had no say in what his magic wanted to do, as if it had a mind of its own and that mind cared little for what he wished. Slipping the smoldering stick away and blowing the smoke out, he flicks the butt off to the side. No thought is lent to it as it turns to ash and none is given as that ash flickers into nothing just as it would hit to hardwood floor. Turning masked eyes up to meet thundercloud grey, Lan offers the telepath the smallest of reassuring smiles. “My offer… it still stands.” The lightest tinting of confusion shifts through tanned features and soon the tall Bright is rising up onto his feet, wincing just a little when the movements cause various injuries to spike beneath the surface of covered skin. “Since we both seem to have… issues, with control, I understand what it’s like to feel alone while that loss happens. But… you don’t have to be alone, Sashi… not anymore.” he explains as he reaches up to push at strands of shaggy black before he holds that same hand out for Sashi to take, the warmth in his features shining clear even in the darkness of the surrounding room. “The offer to accompany you during your ‘hikes’ to ensure you have someone there to catch you should you fall… it still stands. I’m little consolation I know but… trust me when I say that it’s easier to face these things with others who understand than it is to constantly stand on your own…”

Sashi: Gray eyes hold fast to the hand that’s stretched out for him to take, the words of the lanky third year sinking in simultaneously with the knowledge of what the offer before him really is. The illusion spell is visual only and just like that first day that their fingers accidentally brushed while exchanging the cigarette, he’ll be able to feel every scar, every imperfection that mars the Bright’s hand. He’d seen the damage up close earlier, but this is different. Lan is awake and freely offering for him to touch, to expose that piece of himself hidden behind the masks from others, something that was shared without choice before, but is now outstretched, waiting. Tied with the promises of company and understanding, like a very pretty gift, held out for him to take… But… there are reasons that he can’t have these things like other people, reasons that have been carved into him with words and weapons and blood for as long as he can remember. Reasons that deep inside, he knows are all too true. ‘Stained’, ‘dirty’, ‘monster’—these things keep him at a distance, pulled away to protect others as well as himself. The elders have been saying it for years, the whole faction has been saying it for years, and they’ve all made sure that the picture is very clear regarding their opinion of him. Lan doesn’t understand, he can’t possibly know what he’s truly offering and what it really entails. When the Bright’s control fails he has that medication and his girlfriend and his other friends to fall back on, whether they understand what’s happening or not. For Sashi there’s only his own strength and when it fails and the control is lost, there is no one to rely on and in the end, people are hurt. There can’t be any help because he doesn’t deserve help, not when it’s always his fault for losing it in the first place.

[I… can’t…]

The nearly inaudible words are out even as the Dark pries himself from the chair, thundercloud eyes riveted to the floor. He needs to go back to his room, the place he should have been all night, where he should have returned after assuring the other Selestarri was all right. He doesn’t belong here, being thanked and apologized to, treated with kindness that’s given without clear understanding. If he goes back, he’ll be alone again and that’s how it’s supposed to be, how everyone has always told him it should be. There’s a coldness clamping down on his stomach, the familiarity of the distance he keeps between himself and others working to set into place even as the panic that’s lodged in his chest, the need to get out, to return to his room is screaming so loud and driving him forward.

There isn’t enough magic left to teleport and so battered legs pull Sashi up off the cushions only to fail at the first step, pain flaring hard through torn muscle and wrenching a small gasp from between full lips. The floor is rising up fast when long arms encircle his chest, pulling him in tight even as he stumbles. For a moment his entire weight is held by the Bright, his gaze finally lifting to meet illusionary brown, now so close. Confusion and fear reflect in chocolate depths, confirming everything that he’s always known to be true, that this is what he does to people, whether he’s trying to or not. With the barest shake of his head, the telepath jerks away. [Don’t… You can’t understand…] Each sentence he starts trails away before he can finish, lost in the battle between the panic and the distance that’s currently waging inside. […I’ll hurt you,] the raven-haired Dark finally gets out almost desperately before limping heavily toward the door. The pain streaking up from his leg dangerously turns his stomach, threatening to dump the contents even as he works to clear the locks, shaking fingers sliding the last latch free before twisting the knob.

Lan: the tall Bright can do nothing more than watch the other teen struggle his way out of his door, standing in silence while masked brown eyes stay riveted on Sashi’s limping form. He wants to help, the sight of the Dark’s trembling fingers, the way the slightest tinting of desperation had laced his words sticks with him even after his doorway is empty and the fourth year is gone.

But his feet are glued to the spot, his mind too focused in on the feelings of being almost shoved away and the hand he’d offered rejected… ignored. He’s been trying, hasn’t he? For the past week, something has been compelling him to speak with one of his race, an opposite side of his faction that he’d spent two years ignoring the same way he’d been ignored in return. He doesn’t know why… but something about the way Sashi looked at him that day caused him to break a silent truce and step over lines. Since then much has happened and every new thing that arises, only seems to pull him in closer. Perhaps it was a kindred spirit type deal, finding someone who just might understand what it feels like to be so locked up within yourself that you are completely alone even when standing in a room full of others. Every new talk and ‘chance’ encounter with the other Selestarri only seemed to confirm that fact and for the first time in a while, Lan had found himself intrigued.

But this was only his thoughts it seems and he’s pushed himself onto someone who doesn’t want him there. There will be no friendship and judging from the look in those gray tinted eyes, no more talks or encounters like before. Things… will most likely go back to what they had been before he’d asked for a cigarette that one school day.

It’s an unsettling thought, one that strikes him a little deeply. Almost as deeply as being pushed away.

Slowly, the Bright forces himself to move, taking soft steps through the darkness of his room and towards the door still opened before him. It takes a lot for the third year not to rush out after the Dark, and instead he compromises by waiting to close it completely in order to listen to the shuffling footfalls out in the hall. He waits until Sashi’s completely gone, waits until a door in the distance opens and closes to signal that he’s back in his own room, waits a few minutes longer before he finally slides his own shut as well.

Turning back to his empty room, the illusion spell flitters away as he leans back against his door while white shaggy strands shift down to cover summer colored eyes finding himself worn and upset for reasons he can’t really comprehend…


Zephyr: Students crowd the halls after the final bells of the day and the air rings with the sound of chatter and laughing. Between the doorways of two first-year classrooms, the tall Selestarri leans against the wall, a sleek black cell phone pressed against his ear. Long fingers rake through blonde bangs and he sighs audibly. “Right, just do what I asked, okay? It’s not rocket science…” He smiles at a group of kids who walk past and wave even though he’s not exactly sure what any of their names are. “Look, I’m sure that you have enough, you know, pull, with at least one of the record keepers to get them… It’s just a formality for me since my paperwork didn’t include one…” Midnight eyes roll toward the ceiling and the Dark frowns. “Thanks, I’m pretty well versed in what I can do with my abilities without you explaining it all out for me. Like I said, it’s a formality…” The frown deepens and Zeph drops his head back against the wall, somehow managing to stifle the groan of frustration that threatens to slip through full lips. “No, why would I not…? I already said that you can pick your reward at the next holiday that I’m home for…” God, why can’t she just shut up? “No, I need two, I’ll text you the info for the second one and you can use whatever’s on file for mine… Yeah, in Korean, aren’t you listening?”

After a moment, the Selestarri slides the phone closed, a wide smile slipping over his mouth as midnight eyes idly shift through the crowd. He’s fulfilled half of the promise that he made to Jun at the festival, the fake IDs a necessity to get into any club worth getting into. The next holiday on Nova should be interesting since he’s known the other Dark long enough to understand that she always cashes in on favors owed to her. She messes around with the record keepers, though, and that’s the only way to get really decent forged cards from Nova, so even though it means he’ll most likely be spending several nights with her once he gets back, it’ll be worth it. The phone is dropped into a pocket of his messenger bag without a second thought and his tall, narrow frame settles back into the casual lean it had adopted earlier. He’d already gotten a few tips on the good clubs in town, so now it’s a matter of figuring out which one is best for his friend’s first time out and then getting the details in line. Hopefully those IDs wouldn’t take forever to arrive, and honestly he doesn’t really need his since telepathy could easily manipulate the bouncer’s thoughts, but it might be kinda confusing to explain to Jun why his ID says he’s fourteen and isn’t fake. Someone in record keeping could have made it all a hell of a lot easier by just issuing him several identification cards instead of just the one he got. In the end it’s easier to deal with the hassle of getting another one from Nova, even if the methods require owing favors at a later date.

Zeph’s gaze catches the telltale flash of white that he didn’t even really notice he’d been looking for and he watches for a moment while Jun stands with Taz and some of their friends. The other kids all laugh and joke with one another, but his classmate is silent, looking as though he’s only standing there because he doesn’t really know where else to be. Pink eyes suddenly leave their place on the floor to meet midnight from down the hall and the Dark smiles before giving him a little wave. He’s given a slight nod in response before Jun drops his eyes again and even from this distance, Zeph can swear that he can see just the barest flush of red on pale cheeks. The grin on the blonde’s face widens and he pushes from the wall to join the stream of kids heading away from the classrooms, falling almost immediately into a conversation with a group of second years to catch up on the latest gossip…

Jun: Pink colored eyes fall back to their place on the floor a second after he’d somehow managed to meet midnight from across the crowded hall only a moment ago, shifting his head forward a little in an unconscious attempt to cover an odd sort of flush that he can feel washing beneath the surface of his skin. His frown deepens as he stands there amongst his classmates and best friend, wondering what the hell has gotten into him as far as the blonde is concerned. It’s been like this since the festival, a weird sort of almost… happy feeling every time he thinks about his new friend. He can’t figure it out really because the only other person he’s felt this kind of happy about has been Taz. There’s a million reasons he’s touched on- the fact that Zephyr is so open and easy going, the fact that he’s foreign and so all the normal protocols seem to be sort of gone, the fact that he said he actually wants to get to know him, the list goes on and on. But it’s still a little confusing and he doesn’t know why he’s started reacting… weird any time there happens to be a glance thrown his way. He’s a friend, a guy friend and they hung out once just a day ago so it’s not like he has any reason to feel almost embarrassed whenever their eyes meet.

A hard slap on Jun’s back pulls him from his thoughts and he looks up to find silver eyes on him and a single white brow quirked in expectation.

“Yes?” Taz asks and he realizes that he has no idea what the hell had even been asked because he hadn’t been listening at all.

“Um…” he starts, looking around quickly in an attempt to read something, anything on the other student’s faces and only finding a sea of silence while they wait for an answer he’s obviously supposed to give. “I… guess?”

“Then it’s a date.” The white haired Angel grins and a moment later the entire group bursts out in excited banter that Jun feels completely lost for. “See I knew you had it in you. I’ll talk to Ae-Cha and get back to you on a time.”

The snowy haired teen blinks and he starts to protest whatever it is he just agreed to, but before he gets too far his best friend is being snatched up by the arm and one of their classmates is dragging him off into the moving crowd. Jun stands there for only a moment while Taz yells out that he’ll meet him up later and after a few attempts to move after him that fail with the heavy flow of students, he simply gives up and turns to weave his way towards the nearest exit he can find.


Zephyr: The dining hall is more than half empty by the time the blonde Selestarri makes it down from the dorms. A nap after class was definitely more important than making it to dinner at a decent time and besides he had a few other things to follow up on for his first report. Midnight eyes scan the tables automatically and he waves to a couple groups of kids before a flash of white catches his attention. Jun is seated in the far corner of the room, his gaze completely directed at his plate as a pair of classmates chatter away. He’s begun to notice that he’s never really seen the other first year look comfortable while standing around with groups of kids, which he supposes is part of the shyness. During the small amount of time that they’ve hung out while the Dark wasn’t stomping all over the rules of formality, Jun had seemed okay. Still shy and easily embarrassed and all, but that was mostly Zeph’s fault anyway. Aside from himself, it was only with that Angel, Taz, that his friend looked a little less guarded…

Sneakered feet are carrying the tall teenager toward the far table before he even fully realizes it, his telepathy reaching out to nudge the two guys away from Jun’s company just as he slides into the seat across from the silent, white-haired student. Pink eyes don’t lift from the plate on the tabletop at the Dark’s sudden appearance or even as the blonde hands the paper with his dinner request on it to the server. Jun is totally in a world of his own, absorbed by his thoughts and definitely not paying any attention to the dining room. Slowly the Selestarri tilts his head and then body to the side, leaning lower and lower until he finally catches pink with midnight and grins at his friend. “So,” Zephyr teases, straightening up even as scarlet spreads over pale cheeks. “Congratulations are in order, I hear?” Jun blinks and the Dark laughs softly at the mixture of confusion, discomfort, and slight terror on his face, all of which add up to make him look really cute. “The news is pretty much everywhere, but Ae-Cha is definitely one of the cutest girls, so that’s good, right?” Apparently not, because the white-haired teenager still looks really uneasy. He’d heard about it right before walking out of the school that afternoon and the girls are practically bursting with the need to tell everyone they can get near. For whatever reason the news didn’t thrill him, although he’s not sure why the other student going on a date would bother him in the slightest. Hell, he should probably get on that himself to keep his cover all normal and while it’s not an issue with faking interest in one of these humans, there hasn’t really been anyone he’s talked to yet that he wants to go through all the motions and effort with. Jun’s the only one he’s met that he likes hanging around, but it’s kinda obvious with today’s date arrangement that his friend’s interests lie with the girls… Still everyone was so surprised since people have practically been claiming their undying love for the first year student, but he’d turned everyone down until today.

A plate of salad arrives and is set on the tabletop in front Zeph, chopsticks sliding between long fingers in silence. Jun manages a small sip from a cup, the action looking quite wooden and forced, his eyes never moving to meet midnight. Either he’s crazy nervous about this whole thing or something is really wrong. “Seriously, are you all right?” The Dark asks as he lifts a piece of lettuce free from the dish. “I mean, you said you’d go on the date with her, didn’t you?”

Jun: he has no idea how he managed to get himself into this entire mess. Why… why did he say ‘I guess’? And what in the hell is the matter with Taz? He knew he wasn’t listening, he had to because he knows everything about him and he took total advantage of that by roping him into something his best friend knows full well he’d never agree to. God… what is he going to do? There’s no way to get out of it without feelings getting hurt and despite the fact that he wants to blame Taz for this, he really can’t since he should have been paying attention to begin with. This will teach him to float off in his own idiotic little world when he’s standing around with school friends. This should teach him to stand around with them to begin with. God.

And Ae-Cha… he barely knows the girl, he thinks he’s maybe said a whole of two words to her during the entire school year and both of those words were initiated by her. What was Taz thinking setting him up with her? It’s not even like he can call it off because it would cause problems but then going through with the date is going to cause problems anyway since he knows he’ll probably end up hurting the chick’s feelings just by being himself. He doesn’t know what she expects from this but whatever it is… he’s certain he’ll end up disappointing.

Seriously, it’s days like this that he wants nothing more than to be able to crawl into a hole and just never come out again.

The weekend had gone so good too. He’d made a new friend, ditched that stupid party, snuck out and came back without any issues and now… the white haired teenager sighs, so focused in on his thoughts that he doesn’t even notice when the two boys who had been yapping at him have gotten up to leave any more than he notices the blonde sitting down a moment later across the way, now he’s in so much trouble and he doesn’t know what to do.

White gold hair and deep blue eyes slowly fall into view and it’s then that the first year realizes Zephyr is there. He flusters immediately, embarrassed for being so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn’t even seen him there. Jun nods so slightly that it can’t even really be considered a nod as pink eyes fall back down to his plate and a moment later he lifts a single chopstick up without even a thought given to it and begins poking at the untouched food set before him. “Kind of… I guess.” He mutters his response in such a way that it causes Zephyr’s movements to stop, the look he’s being given that of reserved curiosity.

He supposes he did agree, even if he didn’t know at the time that he was agreeing to it and so what can he say beyond ‘yes’ to the other first year? Setting the chopstick down, tapered fingers slide out to push the plate to the side and a moment later he’s setting his elbows against the polished wood while a soft almost exacerbated sound is leaving his lips, tangling those same fingers in snowy strands of feather soft hair. “I wasn’t listening.” He admits quietly as he drops his head just a little more. “Taz set me up and I wasn’t paying attention and I said I’d go on a date with a girl I’ve never even really talked to. I’ve got nothing against her, she’s cute and all, but seriously… I don’t get why everyone is so obsessed with going out with me, I really don’t. I’m a total freak of nature and there’s nothing interesting about me. I’ve got nothing to talk about and there’s nothing I want to say but they all just keep coming at me like I’m something special when I’m not.” And now he’s rambling because he’s freaking out about this entire thing just a little. The last thing he should be doing right now is spilling his guts to Zephyr about it, but now that he’s started, he really can’t find it in him to stop. He’s never been able to talk to anyone besides Taz, really talk and right now he needs to be able to talk something bad. “I really don’t know what to do, I can’t back out because you just… don’t do that but, god… okay… so…” his tone grows so quiet that it might as well be a whisper and even in the near empty dining hall, the tall Selestarri has to strain just to hear, “I’ve never… gone on a date before…with anyone. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do. What if she wants to hold hands or kiss or something-?” he glances up through strands of white, the panic in his gaze rather clear. “Zephyr, I can’t do that with someone I’m not interested in, I just can’t.”

Zephyr: Midnight eyes blink in surprise at the rush of words from his classmate, unsure for a second what to say when they come to an abrupt stop. This had definitely not been part of his debriefing back on Nova. Nowhere in the description of his assignment had it said anything about helping out friends when they’re having a crisis that causes a meltdown. And this is definitely appearing to be a meltdown. Jun looks so panicked and if they were anywhere but in a school that thrives on formality, he’d be doing what he does back home: hugging his friend and holding him close to reassure him. That doesn’t fly here, though, and he’s about a thousand percent sure that if he were to try it, there’d be some epic level freaking out. Probably best to avoid that, but still he wants to help because the fear he sees in the other teen’s eyes is kinda heartbreaking and it’s not a look that he’s finding he likes seeing there at all.

The Dark sets the piece of lettuce back into the salad bowl and rests the chopsticks against the edge. “Okay… so first, you’re not a freak of nature.” Jun looks like he’s going to argue, but Zeph shakes his head. “Yeah, you’re different and that’s a pain in the ass here, but out in the rest of the world you’d fit right in. Trust me when I say that outside of this place, different is actually a good thing that people work really hard to achieve.” He flashes what he hopes is a reassuring smile before continuing. The more time he spends with his classmate, the more he’s come to realize just how uncomfortable Jun is with his looks. He understands that a lot of that is probably due to the culture, but to him it just makes the other first year all that much more interesting, so maybe he can hope that what he said will sink in a little… “I know that I haven’t been here long, but I think everyone likes to talk with you because you’re cute and you’re never rude or nasty. They know that you won’t turn around and backstab them or spread a bunch of rumors. It’s easy to be drawn to that when the social piranha pack is so vicious, you know? It doesn’t really matter to them that you don’t have much to say.” Deep blue eyes meet pink through long strands of white hair and hold the other teen’s gaze for a brief moment before Jun returns to looking at the table. “That does make you special, Jun, even if you don’t think so.”

Long fingers wrap around the cup of tea that the server must had dropped off while he wasn’t paying attention. The Selestarri takes a long drink while carefully picking out his next words. “So for the date thing…” he sets the cup back on the table, fingertips absently tracing over the delicate pattern. “I mean, you have two options, right? First you can back out and not do it. It’s gonna look bad and feelings are gonna get hurt, but you can still change your mind. But I’m thinking it’ll just cause more of a fuss then there’s already been, you know?” If it wasn’t over the whole school already he’d just erase the chick’s memory of ever liking Jun and that would ease the panic he sees on his friend’s face and get him out of the date, but having to erase everyone in the entire school’s memory is a bit too much. “The second option is to just do it and get it over with. I don’t think it’s the end of the world, having to go somewhere with her once, right? You’re not chained to her for life or anything…”

Okay, he’s not really sure that he’s helping, because Jun still looks pretty freaked… The server comes by and takes the cold food in front of the other first year, but the blonde shakes his head when his plate of salad is reached for, the chopsticks sliding back in between his fingers. The Selestarri’s telepathy nudges the annoying distraction back toward the kitchen, midnight eyes returning to his friend before Zeph continues. “So the kissing and holding hands and stuff,” the pink gaze immediately switches back to the tabletop and either the lighting in this dining room is off or the white-haired first year has turned an even paler shade of white. “I mean, I just think that she’ll be nervous like you are and won’t even really be on about that.” Jun looks as though his fears have been eased about zero percent by his advice, which means he’s probably really fucking this up. He’s never had to deal with anything like this before because his race is so different when it comes to the physical stuff. Holding hands and small kisses are things that start as children when they’re huddled together in the cold of the fortresses. You just grow up used to that closeness and it’s actually kind of expected when you get older. Strangely, though, he finds Jun’s wish not to do anything like that with someone he’s not interested in really sweet. It means that that person would have to be special enough to the other teenager to be gifted with even small things. He’s a bit curious to know what being that kind of special to someone else would feel like… So, when looking at it like that, maybe it would be difficult to just throw a huge turn on everything you’re used to and be all physical, especially in this culture where it seems like touching anyone else even in the most platonic way is strictly forbidden. He’s starting to wonder how they even reproduce…

Chewing thoughtfully on a piece of lettuce, Zephyr lets his gaze refocus on his friend and a smile slowly slips across his mouth as an idea begins to form. “Hey, if you decide to go through with it, would it help if I picked one of her friends so we could double? Maybe there wouldn’t be so much pressure or weirdness if other people were around, you know? Make the best of a bad situation …?”


C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 12

Jun: Pink eyes stare up a little blankly at the high ceiling above, the white haired teenager’s arms crossed behind his head and his thoughts continuously streaming over everything that had been said earlier in the dining hall. He… can’t believe he agreed to double date with Zephyr, he really can’t. What the hell was he thinking? Jun furrows his brows, actually, what the hell has he been thinking since the entire day began? First he gets himself roped into some date with a girl he barely knows by his best friend that he’s now seriously rethinking even having and then he goes and freaks out on Zephyr before somehow ending up in a double date deal when he didn’t even want to go on a single date to begin with. So not only is he probably going to make a total fool of himself in front of some girl, now his newest friend gets to be a witness to it as well. It’s like he hasn’t embarrassed himself enough in the last few days to last a lifetime already or something…God.

Then, aside from the entire date issue, there’s the matter of what Zephyr had said… that stuff about him being interesting, special and cu- the thoughts are stopped abruptly before they can complete themselves and a light flush he doesn’t even realize is there flares beneath the surface of his skin. He’s sure he heard that all wrong, he was kind of trying to ignore it anyway but do people really think he’s… that? Seriously? Does Zephyr? Because… that would be just… With a sigh, Jun shakes his head to clear his thoughts while pulling his arms out from underneath himself. Whatever ‘it’ would be he needs to stop thinking on it. Everyone’s always coming at him for one reason or another and he’s always chalked the reasons up to being because he’s Taz’s friend and no matter what Zephyr says, he still has no doubt that his ‘specialness’ ends with that, so yeah, he knows he had to have heard that entire thing all wrong. It’s not like he wasn’t sort of all over anyway with his stupid little freak out he was having.

Sitting up, he hunches over while long fingers thread into snow colored strands. He‘s got other things to think about anyway, mainly being the date, or what’s now – a double date. He can’t go through with it, he just can’t. He’s got to find a way out; maybe talk to Taz and have Taz talk to Ae-Cha about canceling… a small exacerbated sound leaves him at the thought. No, he can’t do that because it would be rude and cause a lot of drama. Like Zephyr said, it’ll cause more problems trying to cancel and will be better if he just goes through with it all. Slipping his fingers free of his hair as a frown forms again on his features, he turns to push himself off of his bed. Bare feet hit cold wood and he flinches just a little before moving towards his wardrobe. Within moments he’s reached in and pulled a sweater free, turning away even as he’s slipping the over sized garment over his head to cover the light t-shirt draping his slender frame.

He needs to go talk to the blonde, at least… find out what you’re supposed to do on a date to begin with or… something. But just as his hand touches the brass knob, the white haired teenager stops and curls his fingers back. Okay… so doing that has got to be the worst idea he could have thought up. Ever. It’s bad enough he’s got no idea what he’s going to be expected to do, but to announce it to someone he’s really only recently met seems like it’d just make things a million times worse.

With a sigh, Jun reaches for the knob once more and twists it to pry his door open. A few bits of folded paper flitter to the ground that he completely ignores as he steps into the empty hall, hands shifting into the pockets of loose pants as Jun pads his way to the center stairwell with the intent of heading back to the dining hall below. He’ll just go and try to get some food instead before curfew since he never did eat during dinner …


Zephyr: Chill, late autumn wind rips across the grounds of the school, scattering leaves and slamming into anyone caught in the open spaces between the buildings. White-gold hair blows across midnight eyes as the Dark pulls the scarf wrapped around his neck just a little tighter, the long sleeve t-shirt he wears doing nothing against the wind. His iPod blasts techno as he quickly walks, the boys’ dorm just up ahead, and the smile on his lips remains in spite of the cold. He’d been in the library, not to read or study, but to talk to the other kids since Rec is closed tonight. It had been as easy as he’d expected to secure his end of the deal for the double date with Jun and Ae-Cha. Eun-Mi is talkative and he’d picked her for that reason, hoping that she’d help relieve his classmate from feeling like he had to say much of anything at all during the date. She’s pretty enough, too, which helps since he’ll be spending an evening with her, so she might as well be nice to look at. Now he just needs to ask Jun where he wants to go or do, although he doubts that the white-haired teen will care much and will just want to get this all over with as quickly as possible. In fact, the Dark was pretty surprised that he’d agreed to the double date in the first place, even though it was the only way that Zeph could see to help him out of a bad situation.

Sitting at that table in the dining room with Jun so upset and nothing he was saying making any kind of reassurance had been hard. He’s not really sure why since they’ve only been hanging out for a few days and not a lifetime or anything, but he really likes him and likes talking and hanging out with him. It’s just one of those things where you meet someone and it just gels or something and doesn’t matter if you’ve known them forever or for a day. Now that there’s this whole date thing giving Jun a hard time, he’ll step up and try to help. The tall Selestarri has always been protective of his friends and it seems like that will be the case with his first real human friend as well. He may not be able to comfort the other first year the way he would his friends on Nova, but he’d do whatever else he could to ease things as much as possible. If that means going out with some chick whose name he’d only learned an hour and a half ago, then he has no issue doing so.

The path leads to a door in the side of the dorm building and Zeph pulls open the heavy panel as a gust of wind rushes past. Stepping inside, he rakes long fingers through blonde hair and continues onward, heading for the stairwell that will take him to the second floor. Engrossed in the song that streams through blue metallic headphones, the Dark doesn’t pay much mind as his magic sense flares up not four steps in and instead it’s the flash of white that catches his attention. A deep frown slides onto his lips when midnight eyes settle on the figure leaning so casually against the archway that leads to the main area. Great, this asshole… Taz is standing with a couple of other guys that he recognizes as second years, laughing at some joke or another without much notice paid to the Selestarri’s approach. What had Jun said earlier, that Song had set him up? This same shit who had claimed just a few nights ago to be the first year’s best friend?

Anger, much colder than the night he’d just stepped out of blossoms to life deep inside the slender Dark, seeping quickly through him in a chill wave. Sneaker-clad feet are leading him directly toward the Angel before he even quite realizes it, midnight eyes narrowed and the frown remaining on pale features. The iPod falls silent as he draws close, Taz’s silver gaze finally sliding in his direction. “What the fuck is your problem?” Zeph demands, not bothering to make any attempt at masking the ice that sheaths each quiet word. “You know how he feels about all this stuff, you fucking know, and you set him up.” He’s well within the second year’s personal space and from the corner of his eye he catches the other students uneasily shifting off to the side. Magic, thick and heavy, is sliding through the barriers that normally contain it, saturating the air and adding fuel to the anger that is only barely held in restraint. “Was it just some kind of joke to you?” Their heights even, he glares directly at Song, the distance between them almost nonexistent. “Do you care about him at all or are you just fucking around to get a laugh?”

Taz: He stands in silence for a moment after the Selestarri’s words have been practically spit out before the most incredulous of smirks forms on his face. Without even answering, he turns towards the two students he’d been chatting with and waves them off, the relief in their features clear as they quickly take the opening and skitter away. Turning back once he and Zephyr are left alone, the white haired Angel’s expression shifts instantly cold. “First, I’d appreciate it if you backed the hell out of my personal space.” he starts, his tone even and kept very low despite the fact that Zephyr refuses to move and the air surrounding them only seems to grow thicker. “Second, who the hell do you think you are? I’m going to remind you, again, that you have no idea what’s going on here with me or with Jun so you need to get the hell off your high and mighty horse, stop acting like you know him well enough to talk to me like this and cut the ‘swoop in and defend him like you’re his personal savior’ bullshit you’re playing.”

The tall Angel’s hands move to his pockets, the shift causing the other teen to tense in the slightest and he only smirks at the response while he hooks his fingers casually into his pants. “What’s in it for you? Why do you even care?” he continues and despite his casual demeanor, he’s anything but. He’s seen how much this kid has been hanging around his best friend, all the whispers on the grapevine of their excursion and how the blonde’s attentions seemed focused too much. It’s been pissing him off in truth, and he’s been working his own ways to try and distance Jun from him without any cover being broken. This date was one of those ways and he’ll be damned if he lets this asshole mess up his plans. “You think after a week or whatever of knowing him that you have any idea who he is or what’s going on? You think that after a week of being in this school you have a right to get in-between our friendship? Jun’s my friend, he’s been my friend for far longer than you’ve even been alive so I’ll say it again, mind your own god damned business or I will make sure yo-“ Taz stops abruptly as a familiar scent hits his nose and a second later he turns his attentions up towards the stairwell only to be met with a set of confused pink eyes.

Jun stands bare footed, his hands stuffed deep in his pockets while he stares down at the scene with a reserved look painting his pale features. He has no clue what the hell is going on, but whatever it is -the tension between his friends is so thick it’d be easy to cut it with a butter knife. Whatever he just walked in on isn’t good and he suddenly finds himself upset for a reason he can’t even begin to understand.

“Um…” he starts quietly, his early dawned hued gaze shifting between the two teens as a frown begins to darken his face. “S-sorry. I didn’t mean to… whatever’s going… sorry.” Every word comes more flustered than the last and soon Jun turns abruptly away to escape them both because he can’t seem to stop the sinking feeling he’d gotten just by staring down. As he moves quickly back around the corner to disappear again down the hall, a quiet curse word slips from Taz’s mouth and before Zephyr has much time to react, the Angel is in motion with the intent to bound up the stairs after him.

Zephyr: Attention shifts from the Angel standing directly in front of him to the stairwell where confused pink eyes stare down at the scene below. Each flustered word combined with the frown on pale features strikes at the blonde, keeping him stifled and his feet secured in place even after his friend has turned away and the Angel is following in his wake. There’s a moment of absolute, unnatural stillness as the Selestarri stands in the empty room, shrouded by magic and sheathed in a depth of anger cold enough to freeze on contact. The midnight gaze narrows for a fraction of a second and the wall beside him groans as cracks shoot up its length and across the high ceiling when the energy surges out of the Dark in a barely contained wave. Plaster falls in a silent rain, its presence unnoticed as his eyes remain trained in the direction his classmate had disappeared.

Fuck fuck motherfucking fuck. He had certainly not wanted Jun to be witness to his little conversation with Taz. The other teenager has enough to occupy his thoughts without his friends mixing it up in the main entrance of their dorm. He should have reined his temper in on even the off chance that it would get back to Jun, but he just couldn’t help himself when he saw the Angel. He takes it very personally when his friends are messed with and it doesn’t matter if he’s known them for days or a lifetime, the need to protect is just as strong. How can that asshole stand here and say that the first year is his friend after he’s treated him like shit, or worse, like some amusement he’s getting his kicks from by setting Jun up on a date that’s freaking him the hell out? Where was Song during the meltdown at the dinner table? Where was he to see the fear and outright panic in those pink eyes? To hear the pleading for answers about what to do and how to act? Where the fuck was Taz if Jun is his friend and no one else’s?

It takes a lot of effort for Zeph to turn his feet in the direction opposite of his classmate’s, the anger inside wanting nothing more than to go and finish what he’d started on the person who deserves to have his ass kicked. Jun’s presence is the only thing keeping him from that because it’s likely about the last thing the other first year needs at the moment. The shadow cast across pale features is darkened by the frown on full lips as the Dark heads for a secondary staircase, the damage to the wall and ceiling left behind him without a second thought…


“Jun!” Taz calls out just as he’s reaching to top of the stairs and rounding the corner just in time to see a streak of white flicker around the next. The tall Angel frowns, his steps hurried into a light jog as he works to catch up with the other teen.

Of all the times his friend decides to come down so close to curfew, he just had to choose that time didn’t he? He’s not even sure how much Jun saw or heard, but judging from the look on his face and the way he’s streamlining back towards his room, he’s going to take that it was enough. He supposes it could have been worse, Jun could have come down a second later just when his fist was planted in that stupid Selestarri’s face and then he’d have to explain why he’d beat the crap out of his new ‘friend’… but still, Jun has enough to deal with and he really doesn’t like the fact that he’s just added to it.

He has to fix this somehow, he can deal with that asshole blonde later. Despite the fact that the shorter teen’s got a jump on him, it really takes Taz no time to catch up. Jun makes it through his door a half second before the Angel does and before he’s even had time to reach back and close it behind, a firm hand is wrapping around his wrist to stop him. The white haired teen stops, pink eyes trained ahead and refusing to look back while he’s unable to stop the flustered look that crosses his features.

“Let go” he says quietly, still refusing to look back.

“Not until you talk to me.”

Jun’s head drops. He has no idea why he’s so upset. He doesn’t even know what’s going on but… walking in to whatever was happening between his best friend and his newest one, seeing the both of them looking so… angry at one another, upset him like nothing else has in so long.

“Look,” Taz starts again when Jun doesn’t speak. “He told me you were having issues with the date and if it’s really upsetting you this much, I can call it off for you. I just thought it might… you know, do you some good after what’s happened.”

At his friend’s words, guilt spikes him pretty hard. So that was it? Whatever was going on between them was because of him. No wonder… he did freak out on Zephyr and because of it, seemed to have upset him enough to cause some confrontation. He doesn’t blame Zephyr for that, he was making a huge deal out of it. So he’s responsible for whatever was said and now there’s some wedge between them that’s there because of him.

He’s so stupid. He should have kept his mouth shut because if they can’t get along, it’ll all be his fault.

The white haired teenager simply shakes his head a little and shrugs. “It’s not… upsetting me that much.” He lies. “It’s just… I dunno, I kinda freaked out a little because I’ve never… been on one of these things before. So sorry… for you… you know, being a pain… about … everything.”

Taz blinks as Jun’s words become more fractured and broken, his tone growing quieter with everything said. He’s known the other teen for far too long and it takes little time to recognize what’s going on in his head. He may not have seen or heard anything that happened between himself and Zephyr, but Jun’s already starting to blame himself for whatever it is. It was obvious from the Selestarri’s words that Jun had talked to him and even though Taz knows it’s just Jun being Jun, that blonde asshole’s not going to get the white haired teenager’s idiosyncrasies at all and seemed to have taken his words more seriously than he ever should. Now because neither of them could keep their shit together, Jun’s beating himself up.

Just great. The next time he can get that Selestarri by himself for sure, he’s going to kick his ass for this alone.

With a soft sigh, the tall Angel finally let’s Jun’s wrist go and even as the first year is sliding his hand around to his front his own fingers are slipping into layered strands of snow. “You…” he starts with the slightest traces of a smirk before he’s reaching back to shut Jun’s door behind them. “…are such a girl.”



Zephyr: Shadows flicker in the dormitory hallway, the cloudy night outside letting little of the silver moon and starlight through the overhead sky lights. The thickness of the shadows make it almost impossible to see the tall, lithe teenager standing before one of the closed doors until he moves, one knee sock clad leg lifting to idly rub the side of his foot against his calf. It’s chilly in the hall, calling for more warmth than the oversized, long sleeved shirt and boxers that he wears can really supply, but he barely notices. Fingers push through damp strands of white-gold before arms cross loosely around his waist and he stares blankly at the varnished door before him. A good five minutes has passed as he’s stood here debating whether to knock or to just wait and apologize to his friend in the morning. Shit had not gone down in a way that he could have foreseen earlier in the evening and he’d tried to wait it out and tried to sleep, but it’s all still bothering him now, hours later.

He’d been defending a friend against the jerk who knowingly set him up in a bad situation and he’d had all intentions on showing that asshole exactly where he could shove it, which is something he’d do for anyone that he considers a friend. It’s his habit not to let those that he cares about get messed with like that and when he’d seen Taz standing there the actions had been practically instinctual, but… he hadn’t counted on Jun showing up out of nowhere and being witness to it all. There had been something very close to hurt in those pink eyes once the confusion had cleared and it’s left Zeph with a bad taste in his mouth. Whether Jun knows it or not, he’d been protecting him, even though he understands exactly what the scene must have looked like to the other first year. He’s only known the white-haired teenager for a couple of days, but that’s long enough to have seen how sensitive he is to things, so walking in on the person he calls his best friend about to mix it up with the new kid was definitely not good.

That had been a few hours ago, before curfew, but the Dark still can’t get it out of his head. He shouldn’t have lost his damn temper and he really needs to remember that this isn’t Nova, that fights don’t happen here every day and that it’s not the norm for guards to be up and on the defense at all times. This shit is a big deal to the humans, not something that’s barely paid attention to and pretty much immediately written off like it is with his faction. A direct confrontation was definitely not a good idea and if hadn’t been so pissed off, he would have realized that there are other ways to teach that Angel a lesson. The blonde sighs and slender fingers lift to brush at the errant stands that block his vision once again. Now he’s fucked things up with Jun and wants to make them right—if the other first year will talk to him or even open the door considering how late it is… Midnight eyes shift to study the notes wedged into the doorframe for a moment before dropping down to those littered on the floor. Somehow the news of the date had only increased the amount of ‘fan mail’ his classmate gets each evening, although he sort of doubts that Jun will notice. Even with all the upset and flustering that had gone on at dinner, Zeph had found his friend to be really cute and he can see why the other students show him so much attention. The knock on the door is soft and completed before he truly realizes what he’s done and the stretch between the time that the Selestarri lowers his hand and the turn of the knob is an eternity. He’s just about to pull the magic to teleport and give up on his apology until morning when the smallest of space appears between the frame and the door and pink eyes meet deep blue. “Hey,” Zephyr says softly after a moment has passed, “I know it’s late and you’re probably sleeping and don’t really want to talk to me, but… I just wanted to say that I’m sorry…”

Jun: the white haired teenager blinks at the apology offered, confused in his mild sleepiness as to why Zephyr would be saying he’s sorry. “I… wasn’t really sleeping…” he says quietly before taking a step back and opening the door to let the blonde in. It’s true there, he wasn’t sleeping… or he should say, he hadn’t been sleeping too well.

Taz had left a bit before curfew had happened, after he’d explained it all to be just a misunderstanding that the pink eyed first year still feels really responsible for. His freak out caused some drama between his best friend and his newest one so if anyone should be apologizing, it would be him; which is something he intends to do. He’d been up thinking about it… thinking about risking curfew to go knock on the taller teenager’s door, but… Zephyr just beat him to it.

“Um…” Jun starts again right after he’s closed the door behind the blonde, turning to meet midnight blue eyes through the darkness of his room. “You don’t have to apologize cause… whatever happened between you and Taz is… kinda my fault.” Not even really ‘kinda’ as far as he’s concerned, but pretty much entirely his fault. Tapered fingers slide up towards the back of his head, threading into messy strands of white and scratching idly in a way he doesn’t even realize he’s doing as his early dawn hued gaze falls towards the floor. “I know I all but freaked out on you about this date thing during dinner and I can kinda see how bad that’d look for Taz. He said you guys just had a misunderstanding and that it’s no big deal, but… I’m sorry anyway.” With a sigh, the first year pulls his hand free of his hair and allows his arm to drop so he can latch his fingers around his free wrist. “I’d been thinking about it a lot… I was kinda thinking on going and apologizing, but you know… curfew.”

Zephyr: Um, okay… isn’t he the one who’s supposed to be apologizing? He’s the one who picked a fight with Jun’s best friend, and while it’s not like he regrets that so much, he regrets the fact that the other first year walked right in on it. If their roles had been reversed, he’s pretty sure that he’d be angry at his friends for fighting, not apologetic like this and it kind of throws the Dark off a bit. “Yeah, curfew… I don’t really pay too much attention to stuff like that.” The blonde leans against the closed door of the closet, midnight eyes catching pink for a second before the other teenager looks away. “But it’s not your fault, you know, if I misunderstood. I mean, I’m still the one who got angry and wanted to start something, right?” Why does he get the feeling that Jun is trying to take the blame here and why does that not sit well at all?

Tapered fingers slip into strands of white gold and flip long bangs from Zeph’s face with a motion so ingrained that it requires almost no actual thought. “I’m always protective of my friends, especially when I think that something has been done to them intentionally. I just… kinda lose my temper really quick.” He’s been that way for as long as he remembers and at home the other kids had learned that he’d come after them for messing with anyone he cared about. Well… anyone but Sashi. The person he cares for the most and wants to protect is the one he can’t seem to and he knows that in this way, he’s failed his brother… He can sense Jun’s gaze on him and it pulls the Dark’s attention, an easy smile moving to his lips even though pink eyes are now locked too strongly on the floorboards to see it. “My friends mean a lot to me, you know?” There’s a seriousness to his tone that he can’t quite pull out, even when he’s trying hard to make the other teenager feel better and be reassuring. Friends mean more to him than they probably do to humans, since Selestarri don’t have families to be close with. “I don’t like to see them hurt. I probably should have mentioned that or something and we could have avoided this mess, huh?”

A quiet bout of laughter slips from between full lips before the blonde straightens up and takes a step toward the door. Midnight catches dawn-tinged pink as he shifts and the smile moves right back to Zeph’s lips. “I don’t wanna keep you up since we have class in a few hours, but seriously, I’m sorry about all this mess and if it upset you. I promise that I’ll rein in my temper from now on.” Well, at least he’ll rein it in if he’s somewhere that it can be viewed by those he’d rather not bear witness. That look of hurt he’d seen in Jun’s eyes earlier is not something he likes and he’d kinda like to avoid seeing it again. “So even though I’m short-fused and protective and probably a pain in the ass, are we still friends?”



The door shuts softly behind the Dark, the chill of the hallway wrapping over him just as quickly as the thick shadows. Sock-clad feet make no noise as he moves down the corridor, one hand reaching for the brass knob of his door before Zeph pulls it back. He’s tired of sleeping alone and really just wants to be curled up around someone else right now, feeling their warmth, letting the comfort seep deep inside and returning it in kind. That lingering feeling of having hurt someone he considers a friend doesn’t seem to want to ease up, even after apologizing and it’s kinda made worse by the fact that he knows Jun blames himself. It’s all just really making him not want to be by himself for the few remaining hours of the night.

The blonde blinks out of sight between one heartbeat and the next, reappearing further down the hall and moving in short hops from one shadow to another. Sashi is used to having his bed to himself, but he’s going to have to deal tonight since there aren’t any other options he can use at the moment without some memory erasing involved.

Leaving the first year rooms behind, he quickly passes the second years’ as well and is into the more unfamiliar hallways of the third year students when an ethereal blue glow catches his attention just behind. Standing in a patch of silver moonlight is a large dog, its tail slowly swinging back and forth as faintly shining eyes stare up at the Dark. Zeph recognizes it as the messenger dog his brother always summons when sending a note and in less than a minute has opened a small wound on the heel of his hand and is holding it out for the ghostly creature to smell. A folded note drops to the floor a moment later, the dog vanishing even as it hits the ground. Midnight eyes scan the hastily scrawled symbols and a frown slips over pale features.




Sashi: A warm wind gusts across the balcony, tugging disheveled stands of black into gray eyes that are fixed blankly on the muted landscape hundreds of feet below. Blood trickles from various shallow cuts and scratches, running down over reddened skin that will later fade to deep purple bruises, but the telepath scarcely pays attention. A sense of hollowness has gripped him tight, familiar and calming, reminding him of who he is and what he deserves. Two days on Nova has driven the lessons in hard, reinforcing what he should have remembered on that first day that Lan had approached him. There are reasons why he’s alone, why the rest of his faction fears and hates him, and why no one is allowed in too close. In the end, a friendship with the Bright would only have hurt the other teen, so it was best to walk away.

At least, he thinks it was… maybe…

Far beneath the numb hollowness, if he tries hard enough to feel it, there are still the traces of shock and confusion, fear and disbelief that had washed over him while sitting in Lan’s room, looking at his outstretched hand. So many things promised with the gesture and in the quiet words that had been spoken, but he has no wish to drag the Bright into issues that can’t possibly be prepared for or expected, just as he has no wish to see the tall Selestarri suffer any pain because of him. There’s been little kindness in his life, but Lan had given it to him without question and at least for a while, had looked at him without fear. That alone is a gift that Sashi will hold onto, even if he’s not worthy of it and even if it wasn’t given with intention and understanding. Once the Bright had known the truth, there’s no doubt in the telepath’s mind that he would have run anyway, shared experiences or not, so in the end he’s saving them both from hurt.

His name is called from somewhere behind, dragging the Dark’s attentions back to the one waiting impatiently for him to pay the remainder of his debt. Thundercloud eyes slip closed for a moment, the sigh that escapes bruised lips instantly pulled away by the wind before he turns and walks on his newly healed leg into the darkened room…


…to continue.



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