STORY

Angel Hunt + Streifen: AU02 Pts 07 -12

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Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU

Alternate Universe 02

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

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C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 07

Sashi: The smell of the onions and cheese is delicious, the small crock heated to the perfect temperature as it sits before him. The telepath waits for Lan to take his seat before sliding his soup spoon through the layer of cheese and into the broth below. Using the edge of the spoon to part the soggy bread, he scoops up the mouthful and lifts it to his lips, nodding once again to the Bright as the flavors seep into his tastebuds. He has to admit that the soup is incredible, better even than the onion soup he’s had many times in France. In just these few items tonight and the lunch yesterday, the white-haired man has proven his mastery of cooking. He could easily fit in with the cuisine at any of the five star establishments the Dark has dined in previously.

The reasons behind Lan’s culinary abilities are all too familiar to Sashi, and he can hear the tint of sadness lingering behind the open and easy smiles. It seems as though the Bright faction can also be harsh to those who fall outside their guidelines of “normal.” For a race that contains people of every skin tone and wildly colored hair and eyes, there is still an intolerance of the few things considered unacceptable. There is only one Selestarri with white hair, the Sidereal Oracle, and the Bright all but worship her. The color is a symbol of her status and her connection with the Beyond, and also of all she gave up to become the spiritual leader of their faction. For Lan to also carry white hair must be too close to blasphemy for them and his unnatural yellow eyes only add to the reasons that likely drove the other Bright to isolate him. And the fire magic probably didn’t help, either.

So maybe Lan was right about that one thing, maybe he can understand the pain of isolation, of being confined to the fringes as everyone around you smiles and laughs and makes friends. Maybe he knows how hurtful it is to be kept apart, either by your elders or by the hatred and fear of your peers. Maybe he understands just a little bit about loneliness. It’s not enough to make them friends, that risk is still one he’s not willing to take on, but Sashi will concede that at least in part their experiences have similarity.

Continuing with the soup, the Warden finally circles back to the questions asked a few minutes before, his tone flat and emotionless. [We aren’t taught to cook, but even if we were, I don’t have the skill to learn.] A long list of burned foods and decimated kitchen implements can account for his attempts. Whatever it is one needs to combine ingredients in a way that constitutes an actual meal is something he lacks completely. No matter what he’s tried, no matter how basic, even things like toast and pasta, he simply cannot cook. [Our elders used to decide at their whim whether I was permitted near the fortress kitchens, sometimes just for the day, sometimes for a week or two. Any ideas about keeping a secret supply were beaten out of me rather quickly…] Those were lessons mercilessly learned, and he’d had to depend on whatever he could find in the wilderness that surrounds the twin fortresses when he became hungry enough. [When Zephyr figured it out he was still pretty small, but he learned to cook in order to assure that I could always eat.] He still remembers the first meal his brother had brought him, the cheese on the bread only partially melted and the section of meat almost too tough to chew. He’d still eaten it the best he could with a broken wrist and hand as Zeph beamed down at him, so proud that he’d been able to help.

As the last bit of cheese is scraped from the side of the bowl, Sashi leaves his spoon in the empty crock, his thundercloud gaze finally lifting to meet summer yellow. [Even once I had become an adult and gained the freedom to prepare my own meals, I’ve found that I have a tendency to destroy rather than create when it comes to food.] He watches as Lan finishes his own soup, and tattooed hands bring the cup of warm green tea to his lips. [So no, I don’t especially enjoy the processed food that the humans seem to love, but as I am limited to items that can be cooked in a microwave when Zeph’s too busy to make meals, I have little choice.]

The Bright rises to clear the soup dishes, scooping up the bowl of cheese as he turns and disappears once again into the kitchen. Leaning back in his chair, Sashi continues to sip from the mug, suddenly feeling a little exposed by all he’s said. Only Zeph knows much of what his childhood was like, and even then there are things he’s withheld from his brother. Still, despite his uneasiness, he feels he should compliment Lan on the mastery of his skills with the dishes they’ve just consumed. [For what little my opinion is worth, your food is delicious…]

Lan: his smile wanes just a little when the other man speaks of his youth, the similarities of their experiences touching him deeply within. He knows this is only a glimpse being given to him, just as he’s shared a glimpse of his own experiences in return, but the fact that it’s even being said to him, that he’s been trusted with this minute piece makes him happier than the other man will ever know. What also makes him happy is that despite the injustices Sashi had to endure, and whether he realizes it or not, he was lucky enough to have a brother who cared for him then as well. One who in all of his childhood innocence, attempted to cook his food when others would not. That kind of caring is something he himself didn’t have, and while the Bright would paint the other faction as the monsters of the two, they are obviously nothing of the sort. That caring Zephyr showed his brother is contrary to everything his faction is taught about the Dark, it’s contrary to everything his faction teaches its own and it’s nice to know that it happened, and that the suspicions he’s had since his accident about the opposite faction are slowly being confirmed.

[Your opinion…] Lan begins quietly, his back turned to Sashi as he sets the soup bowls down next to the empty salad plates, his movements stilling for just a second. […has more worth to me than I think you realize.] the truth in his statement halts the Dark’s own movements abruptly and his gray, storm cloud colored gaze slides over to stare at the younger man’s back. Lan simply resumes his tasks without another word said, reaching into the fridge to pull a few containers out before setting them down and turning to retrieve a seasoned cast iron skillet from the oven.

In silence Sashi watches as oil is poured into the pan, sizzling without the aid of the stove before vegetables are dropped in. With well practiced skill, the lanky Selestarri prepares the main course for them, every so often looking up from his task to flash a warm smile the telepath’s way. In short time a thick cloth is strewn on the table and the pan is set upon it before the Bright begins the arrangement of the main course. A thin savory mash is spread on the white dinner plate while Sashi looks on, followed by a helping of the vegetables, then a perfectly sautéed fillet of beautifully seasoned fish before he finally tops the food with a decorative line of a light colored lemony sauce. After he’s repeated the same arrangement on his own plate he returns the containers and the pan to the kitchen before moving back to his place, another charming smile offered as he sinks down into his chair once more.

[On the subject of food] Lan begins again, waiting as he’s done previously for the Dark to begin his meal, [I’ve quite a few recipes I’ve yet to attempt making due to a lack of neutral parties to try them…] Sashi’s fork slides into his fish and it flakes to reveal the perfectly cooked white beneath the seasoning and once he lifts it to his mouth to savor the first bite, the white haired man follows, continuing to speak as he eats. [If you happen to find yourself without a meal because your brother has been unable to prepare it at one point or another… I would be happy to test those new recipes out in exchange for an unbiased opinion of the results…] he smiles.

Sashi: He doesn’t know what to say when Lan makes the comment about his opinion and the value he believes it holds. Only Zeph and Innic have ever cared what he thought, and the words catch him off guard. Watching the Bright’s back as he moves about the kitchen, the Warden finds that he still doesn’t understand whatever game the other man is playing. The insight into his own childhood, the complimentary words, the shared meals, the pretend random run-ins, none of them add up to any kind of end result he can comprehend. He’s already stated his position on friendship despite the similarities of their experiences with their individual factions, so why does Lan continue to try?

His question goes unanswered as the main course is brought to the table and arranged on his plate, the dish just as tempting and beautiful as the others before it. He takes the first bite, savoring the flavors of fish, vegetables, and lemon sauce as Lan continues to speak. The fork slides into the fillet as the offer of future meals is made and a frown darkens Sashi’s face. Again, what’s being proposed sounds suspiciously like something friends do with one another, and he’s made himself clear. [Your food is wonderful,] the telepath says softly, [and I’m sure you’ll continue to make delicious meals like the one you’ve served tonight.] Stormcloud eyes drop to the plate as he absently flakes the fish into bite-sized portions. [But my position about friendship will not change, Lan.] He doesn’t have attachments, he can’t have them, it’s as simple as that. [We may both have been pushed away from our factions, and we may both know what it is to be alone… and lonely…] The last word is the most admission he’s ever given to the loneliness that constantly plagues him to anyone other than his brother, and the exposure it opens up causes a wall to slam down tight around the Dark. [It probably doesn’t seem like it, but… I’m trying to protect us both…]

Silence falls between the two as the rest of the main course is eaten, the Warden sinking further behind the defenses that have automatically sprung up to keep him safe. He knows Lan’s not a threat, not in a physical or magical way at least, but the thick walls he’s built around himself are to keep him emotionally safe as well, and that’s where the Bright seems to come at him so easily. The other man isn’t cruel or hurtful, he doesn’t unleash harsh words or veiled barbs, instead he’s genuine and kind, complimentary and honest, but it unnerves him all the same. That’s not how people behave in his presence, and while at times he finds Lan’s lack of nervousness around him to be refreshing, there’s also these times where it sets him on edge because he doesn’t know how to defend against someone determined to kill him with kindness.

Once the last bite is eaten, the younger Selestarri whisks the plates away once again, returning to the table with a beautiful tiramisu set on a raised cake stand. It smells of strong coffee in a way that instantly informs the Dark that he’ll enjoy it immensely, and he remains silent as dessert plates and forks appear and thick slices are cut for them both. Lan also pours the wine, the scents that arise from the glass purely derived from fruits grown on both the Eyrie and Nova. Again the other man waits for him to take the first bite before eating, and Sashi does so, enjoying the sweetness of the ladyfingers and rum in contrast to the bitterness of the coffee. It’s easily the best dessert he’s eaten in a very long time…

Lan: dessert and the wine poured are taken in the same silence that the main course had been eaten with, and all the while yellow eyes never once leave the features of the one seated across the table from where he sits. Sashi admitting to the loneliness he feels was unexpected and most likely not something the older man meant to tell him as it appears that by saying it, he’s once again shut himself behind a cold wall. Yet this time he hasn’t left as he did the day prior, instead remaining in place to continue their meal and it’s this fact that gives him a bit of hope. Despite it all, he’s again managed to take a single half step forward, even if the telepath did just take two back.

Any progress is progress, and it only strengthens his resolve a little more…

[I do understand your position Sashi, even if it doesn’t seem like it…] the Bright finally breaks the silence when the last bite of the tiramisu is taken by them both and setting his fork down, he slides a long arm forward and wraps tapered fingers around the stem of his partially filled wine glass. [Regardless of it, my position hasn’t changed either,] he smiles as he lifts the glass upwards, offering Sashi a slight salute. [As it is with my extended hand, the offer of future experimental meals will continue to stand…]

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Zephyr: The morning is still early when the Dark slips into his office, flipping on the lights and getting hit with a wave of scent from the posies still perched on his and Jun’s desk. Rain streaks the windows, a pelting autumn storm that keeps the skies gray and the few people braving the early morning huddled under umbrellas. Leaning his own blue and white striped golf umbrella beside the door, the blonde hangs his jacket on the hook above and crosses the room to his desk. Setting his bag on the padded leather desk chair, he opens it and carefully pulls out his lunch and a small, white bakery box. Depositing his lunch in the office’s small fridge, he gently pulls the flaps on the box and lifts the lid.

A small sigh of relief slips through full lips when he sees the contents have retained their perfect form despite the trip from the apartment to the office. It would be much easier to teleport back and forth if their nosy neighbors didn’t seem to keep track of their comings and goings and suddenly start to wonder how he, Sashi, and Innic were arriving and departing their apartments without being seen. Midnight eyes slide back to the two small, perfectly made breakfast crepes resting on a pink square napkin, separated from one another by a pink striped divider. The filling of each is made from the same fruit he’d put in the desserts from last night’s dinner, the same dessert his office mate had seen fit to take from the lacquered boxes he’d rejected.

Carefully closing the lid, Zeph walks the box over to Jun’s chair, setting it gently on the seat. If the Angel can’t accept his offerings directly, he’ll simply leave them anonymously. Jun may not be permitted to allow anyone to care for him, but since the Dark doesn’t take orders from the Angels, he doesn’t have to accept what they permit or don’t permit. Hell, he doesn’t even follow orders from his own elders or the combined Assembly of his entire race. If he wants to care about the white-haired man, he’ll do it whether they like it or not.

Raking white-gold bangs from his eyes, the tall Selestarri turns back to his own desk, gathering the supplies he needs for a committee meeting that begins in ten minutes. Slipping the items into his messenger bag, he retrieves his coat and umbrella, shuts off the lights, and exits the office, grinning the entire time…

Jun: the white haired man’s steps are hurried as he makes his way towards his office, a frown on his face and his early dawn hued gaze fighting to remain open. The heavy white wool coat he wears it buttoned up to his chin, the fuzzy white thick cable knitted scarf wound tightly around his neck. White leather gloved hands are stuffed deep in his pockets, the white umbrella he holds latched on an arm as it drips steadily behind him and the very edges of his suit pant cuffs dampened from the short walk he had to make from his car to the university building itself. Snowy white locks are tied up high on the back of his head, the long thick tail of his hair tangled within both coat and scarf while the very tips of bangs held back with several black clips are wet from the condensation that lingers in the cold air.

It’s cold and wet and he’s feeling rather miserable at the moment, wishing a little that he’d turned off his alarm, rolled over and gone back to bed like he wanted to instead of coming in to teach his classes. When the temperatures drop like this he has a hell of a time just functioning and it’s as if his body isn’t at all built for the cold the way everyone else’s seem to be. In the Heavens it’s never like this, it’s always warm, always sunny and the temperature is always even and while being there tends to be so much harder for him because the small freedoms he has here on Earth are completely taken away, there are times like these that he almost wishes to be back just to escape the irritations of trying to function in the cold. Stepping into the darkened office, Jun pulls his hand from his pocket just long enough to deposit his umbrella in the small fancy holder that rests near the door and without removing his overcoat, scarf or gloves he continues towards his desk without bothering to flick the switch for the overheard lights, the brightness not needed for the purpose of gathering the books and papers he’ll need for his day.

His footfalls come to halt when he reaches his desk and finds a small white pastry box sitting on the plush leather of his chair and for a few moments he simply stares at it without blinking or making even the smallest movement towards it. After a second or two he manages to drag his gaze away from it just long enough to glance back toward the open doorway, shifting over to an overcoat he knows to be Zephyr’s that hangs on its perch before moving back to it and offering it a look of guarded confusion. Slipping his other hand from his coat pocket, he leans over and lifts the box from its place before turning to set it down on his desk. Removing his gloves completely and laying them near, he lifts the flaps and then the lid to find two fruit filled crepes separated by a striped pink divider sitting on a square pink napkin that just happen to be the same color of his eyes.

While visibly his expression darkens at the gift, somewhere deep inside something lurches and for a split second, he feels as if he won’t be able to take the next breath. There’s only one person who could have left this for him and he knows he shouldn’t take it because taking it will just perpetuate the problem he’s finding himself in…

But even with the danger that will come along with accepting, and even though he knows what it could cost him to continue allowing the other man to do things such as these, much as it was the night before, an impulsiveness that he finds he can’t control takes over and instead of closing the box, the tall Angel instead sinks down into his seat, intent on taking a few secret moments to enjoy the anonymously given meal…

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Sashi: Eyes the same color as the overhead skies stare out the balcony window into the gloomy morning rain. He’s seriously tempted to call in sick today and spend the day simply lying in bed or smoking out in the rain, but while it always seems like a good idea to take a day off, he finds that when he returns he’s bombarded with questions about why he was out. Last time when he lied and said he was sick, his colleagues continuously stopped by for three days with food or tea or to “check-in” on him like he’s some kind of child. He’s not really willing to endure that for the rest of the week, which means he needs to start the walk to campus.

Slipping into a lined black trench coat, the Warden ties the belt and slides a leather messenger bag over his shoulder and across his chest. Winding a light weight blue cashmere scarf around his neck, Sashi is just about to open the door when he catches a familiar magical presence heading in his direction. A small frown shadows his mouth and for a second he’s conflicted between opening the door and simply disappearing in a teleport. His dinner with Lan had ended not long after the dessert course, nothing further said between them other than standard pleasantries and goodnights after the Bright had once again rejected his denial of friendship and of future meals and his own walls went up in defense. It hadn’t really been unpleasant aside from feeling exposed and frustrated, and the food truly was delicious, but he refuses to give the Bright even the faintest glimmer of hope that they’ll be friends because it’s not fair to the other man. The whole thing had been a fluke anyway after that gossipy economics teacher happened to wander by, but it won’t happen again.

But now Lan is approaching his apartment for whatever reason he’s concocted today and there isn’t enough time to get out through the back entrance or slip around before he can be spotted. With the frown holding steady, Sashi opens the door just as the Bright reaches it and counters the frown with a cheery smile and a warm “good morning.” He holds out one of the two umbrellas he’s holding, saying something the Warden isn’t completely listening to about how unpredictable the weather can be in the autumn and how he wanted to ensure the Dark didn’t get wet and come down with some type of human cold. With a cold stare, telepathic senses spread out for a fraction of a moment to check for anyone nearby, and finding no one, Sashi simply reaches out and grasps the sleeve of Lan’s open tan trench coat. His free hand sketches a few quick runes and the teleport takes them from the hallway of the apartment building to his office in the space of a heartbeat.

To his credit, Lan doesn’t seem fazed too much by the abrupt change in scenery, yellow eyes shifting around the dimly lit space. [I don’t walk in the rain,] Sashi says curtly, realizing in that moment that he still holds the sleeve of the Bright’s coat and quickly letting go. Stepping toward the desk, he pulls the chain on a lamp, illuminating half the small room in pale light. [I also don’t share an office…]

Lan: Without so much as an indication that he’s about to do it or a word said, the Warden’s hand slips out and grasps a hold of his trench coat sleeve and a second later, he finds himself for the first time in an office so few within the faculty have been allowed to see. Yellow eyes pull away from the Dark for just a moment to glance around his new surroundings, smiling to himself about the appropriateness of the overall décor. It’s both old and young, and rather cozy, even with the faint smell of cigarettes that’s obviously ingrained into every surface. It’s only when Sashi rips his hand abruptly from his jacket does he look back, offering a lightly amused smile for the hard frown he’s again given.

[The rain isn’t entirely unpleasant to walk in…] the tall Bright replies, a trace of amusement swimming in his tone. […depending on the company you happen to find yourself in. I would have spared you it actually… the umbrellas were really only for show.] Sashi glances up from his desk and flashes him a glare that pulls a lighthearted chuckle from his mouth. [Though it’s noted,] Lan continues, pulling summer colored eyes away to look over the office space once more. [About the sharing of office space.] He clarifies as he steps from his spot, the lanky Selestarri moving forward and following the other man towards his desk. Sliding the extra umbrella he holds down, he sets it carefully on the polished wooden surface in between a neatly stacked pile of books and some well organized papers.

[Just in case…] He smiles before he turns around and moves towards the door. [Thank you for the swift transportation,] glancing back as he twists the knob, yellow eyes once again meet thundercloud colored gray. [I’ll repay the kindness shortly…] without giving the Warden any time to protest, Lan pushes the door open and steps out, offering the one behind him a final ‘until later’ before he closes the door, the latch clicking gently into place as his quiet footfalls begin resonating throughout the near empty stretch of hall…

Sashi: The Warden stands completely still for a moment after Lan disappears through his office door, struck by the other man’s words and what they signify. That wasn’t what he intended by teleporting them both here. It was an impulse to bring the younger man along, not any kind of favor or yet another way to make the Bright indebted to him. It was a mistake, an accident. Now he’s giving Lan exactly what he wants–another excuse to see him, or make more food, or bring him coffee, or whatever it is that will be done to repay what was not kindness, but rather an un-thought through hasty decision. What’s worse, the other Selestarri is apparently very good at turning everything into a situation that requires a form of payment and the steps the Dark has taken to crush even the smallest bit of hope that could signal the possibility of friendship have been undone. He shouldn’t have bothered opening his door this morning.

[I’m not encouraging this.] Sashi sends out telepathically, his tone flat and stern. [This was not an act of friendship.] Despite the fact that Lan is far down the hall and almost out of the building, he swears he can hear the white-haired Selestarri chuckling…

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Jun: Seated at his desk with his eyes scanning the open book before him, the silence of the empty room is broken here and there by the fluid scratching of his pen as he continues to write out a reference sheet for his absent student, while outside the rain continues to bear down against the windows, heavier now than it had been when the day began. His suit jacket is hanging neatly on the back of his chair, his crisp white shirt covered instead by a thick sweater and despite it, and the heating system that functions perfectly to warm the surrounding air, he’s still a little cold, feeling as if the rain has somehow managed to get in regardless and is currently encasing him in a blanket of cold just to spite him.

Yet still, he works away without any outward indication, and when the door opens and then closes, and a familiar presence and scent steps in to greet him, he doesn’t look up as usual or offer any kind of greeting in reply. A minute goes by where he can hear the opening and closing of the small mini fridge and only when the Dark has seated himself and begun eating does he finally speak a word.

[Thank you for the breakfast…] Jun says quietly and without looking up, he reaches forward to turn the page in his book, [But I’m going to ask that you not do it again…] pink eyes pull from his papers and he glances up, meeting deep midnight blue from across the small room. [I didn’t want to waste it because you went through the effort of making it,] and dear god was it delicious, he spent so much time savoring the crepes in fact that he was almost late for his own classes. [But I can’t accept anything else. I mean it, and I really need to know that you understand.]

Zephyr: Midnight eyes hold deep pink, the lunch in the Dark’s hand forgotten for a moment as he looks into the deep pools. [I don’t understand,] he replies quietly. [I don’t understand at all.] He doesn’t know why after months of ignoring him and turning his back, Jun suddenly decided to speak with him. He doesn’t know why last night’s dessert and this morning’s breakfast were eaten, but apparently only to avoid waste. He doesn’t know why it seems so forbidden for the Angel to even acknowledge his presence most of the time. His observation skills were keen enough to see the cracks in the first place and to infer what lies beneath, so he doesn’t know why the other man continues to present the cold facade. His brother’s frigid demeanor and disaffection he understands, he knows the reasons Sashi keeps others at a distance, but Jun doesn’t seem to carry that same kind of damage, and it leaves the Dark without answers to his many, many questions.

[Yesterday you said that you can’t allow someone to care for you. That your orders don’t permit it.] Pulling his eyes away, Zeph returns to the homemade sushi and seaweed salad he holds in one hand. In fact, Jun had said he’d paid a steep price when he permitted another to care for him, and again, it leaves the blonde wondering how the Angel could be held responsible for the thoughts and feelings of another. [First, you can’t control who does or doesn’t care about you, no one can.] Actually, he amends, he can because he’s a memory telepath, but for anyone else, it’s impossible. [If someone wants to care, and is willing to take on the burden, then that choice is their own, and none of anyone else’s business, including the person they’ve chosen to care about.]

Taking one of the sushi rolls, he dips it in soy sauce and lifts it to his mouth, chewing it thoroughly before continuing. [Second,] he flashes the other man a grin, [I’m rather good at not following orders.] So good in fact that by the time he became an adult, he’d more or less been given free rein to act as he pleased, even from the Seeker’s mandates. Perhaps most especially from her mandates considering that she was finally realizing her life was in very serious danger. [So I’m going to need clarification as to why I shouldn’t care and why you’ve been given such asinine orders you seem intent on following if you want me to understand…]

Jun: For a few moments the white haired man says nothing, his early dawn hued gaze locked on the blonde despite the fact that his own is cast downward to his meal. It’s clear from his words that he’s judged Zephyr wrong again and in that moment of realization the small amount of hope he’d felt is dashed once more. It’s a game to the other man, this entire thing, isn’t it? Curiosity about him and his race and a way to learn information he probably hasn’t been able to gather on his own like he first suspected perhaps, but not a matter to be taken very seriously because it appears that he isn’t capable of taking anything seriously at all.

[First] Jun finally replies flatly, the grip he maintains around his pen tightening and he begins pushing down against the paper without even realizing he’s doing it in a way that brings blue eyes slowly up. [My kind… Angels, we’re held accountable for every action that we make and every action that pertains to us. Every. Action. That includes how others feel about us because it’s considered our duty and ours alone to keep it under control.] Despite the fact that his words are sharp and revert back to being a little mechanical, it’s once again as if he’s repeating something that’s been forced into him, not something he truly believes.

[Second, those ‘asinine orders’ I follow are not a choice I get to make, I told you that already. We don’t disobey our orders, we don’t break them. Your kind may be permitted to toss societal order out the window and do whatever you want without having any adverse consequences but my kind is not given the same privileges. Those who are ‘rather good at not following orders’ are not permitted to live very long] The Angelic society does not tolerate differences, they do not tolerate chaos and suffer no change to the order that’s been in place since the world began. A difference is given no chance to reform; they are dragged out, beaten, tortured and used as an example to the others of what will happen should they attempt to follow. Within the Angelic society, the order maintained is absolute and there is no leeway given to any who happen to step out of line.

Suddenly the pen Jun holds snaps under the pressure of his grip, ripping him away from his thoughts in an instant. Pink eyes tear from black speckled blue and shift to his hand, and he stares at the pen for a moment in disbelief before he simply drops the broken pieces down. As the ink begins spilling onto his paper, he pushes himself back in his chair and stands, reaching over to rip his suit jacket from the high back of his seat before storming towards the door, visibly upset for the first time in a very long while.

[It was a mistake talking to you and it’s not a mistake I’ll make again…] The Angel says flatly without looking back as he reaches the door and stepping past the threshold, he pauses, his ink stained fingers sliding up to grasp at the frame. [The only burden to bear in this is mine…] he continues softly, his pink eyes staring down at the polished wooden floor slats beneath his feet and his voice lacking the cold hardness that had been there a moment before. [I know this may be some game for you and you feel as if you can act any way you’d like in my regard, but you won’t be the one suffering the consequences of it, I will.] The torture and pain of having his mind torn apart for reform… he’s gone through it too many times and he can’t, he just can’t go through it again. […that’s what I need you to understand.]

Slipping his hand from the frame, the white haired man steps into the hall and in a few short moments, he’s gone, the Dark again left completely alone.

Zephyr: Stunned into silence, the blonde sits very still, his half-eaten lunch forgotten as Jun’s words repeat in his head. If what he’s been told is true, then once again he’s completely fucked up. Fueled by curiosity, his interest in the Angel had been harmless and even a little fun, a way to get his cold coworker to acknowledge his existence and to see if there really was anything beneath the facade. But now, from what he’s been told, his interest could be dangerous in a way he’d never anticipated. The very last thing he’d wanted when he first reached out telepathically to Jun was to hurt the other man, but it seems as though he’s done that, and unnerved him enough to snap that pen in the process…

Leaning back in the chair, the Dark is quiet for another long moment before he sets the plate of sushi on his desk, a sleek black cell phone appearing in his hand. Clicking it on, he flicks the screens to the first listing on his speed dial and waits a moment for Innic to pick up. “You up for a research project?” Zeph asks his best friend. “Get me everything there is to know about the Angels…”

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Stepping out into the wet frigid air with his umbrella held firmly in a leather covered hand, Jun’s face set in a familiar cold distance as he begins taking swift steps away from the building towards his car. He’d been careful for the second half of the day to avoid any and all contact with Zephyr after the lunch time incident, stopping at their shared office only long enough to clean the ink spill, gather his things, and to move the flowers that had been placed on his deck to the empty one that belongs to the third foreign languages teacher they have yet to hire.

He spent the entire second half of his classes working to collect himself while he taught, and has managed to get everything thing once again locked down and pushed away. Mostly. For whatever reason he’s still upset but instead of being angry for the blonde’s carefree attitude and his own lapse of judgment about it, a sadness has taken root deep beneath the layers that he isn’t quite able to shake. The conversation has only reiterated the isolation he has to endure and reminded him of how much he risked by reaching out to the Selestarri, and what he could have lost had he allowed it to continue.

These feelings are his own fault though and he knows it, he caused them by speaking in the first place, he caused them by accepting those few small gifts and he needs to get a handle on himself soon. If he doesn’t and his handler should come back now to find him in this state, he’ll be made to pay for it in a way that even the thought of causes a deep seeded dread to take hold. Though right now he feels like he deserves even that because after Haniel and every year that’s come since where he’s paid the price of his actions during it, he should know better. He really should know so much better by now.

What he should do is go home and spend the night thinking about what he’s done but the conversation has so completely unnerved him that he’s not even sure he can stand being by himself. So his plans instead are to go there just long enough to change out of his work clothing and then he’s going to find a bar or club on the outskirts of town away from prying eyes, surround himself by humans and for a single night attempt to drown his sorrows in as many bottles of drink that he can get his hands on…

space01

Lan: The hallway is as usual, dimly lit as he steps from the rain and into the main apartment building, his folding umbrella in one hand and a small paper wrapped package in the other. Despite the downpour and the fact that he carries an umbrella, there’s not a drop on him or his clothing, his entire lanky frame kept in a subtle pocket of heat that keeps him completely dry.

Tucking the umbrella under his arm, the Bright’s steps are casual as he moves through the hall, turning once he reaches a familiar junction not the way that will take him to his own apartment, but to the opposite wing that will carry him past all three Darks’ homes. In little time he reaches number 315 and his footfalls come to a halt, knowing that inside the Warden is there, just as he knows the other man can feel his presence in return. But the white haired man doesn’t reach out telepathically, nor does he attempt to knock as he suspects the older Selestarri is expecting him to do, instead he slips the small package in his hand downward and sets it carefully by Sashi’s door, smiling as he straightens before he simply turns away and begins heading back in the direction that he’d originally come …

space01

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

Sashi: Rain pours down mere inches from the opened balcony doors of the Dark’s apartment, the assault of the clouds above just as cold and steady now as it had been in the morning. Cigarette smoke swirls above the head of the blanket wrapped Warden seated just inside the doors, gray eyes fixed on the small city beyond, the metal and glass of the surrounding buildings highlighted with streaks of water tinted with smears of color. There’s something strangely beautiful about a city drenched beneath a layer of water, the way it skews the sight just a little, softening the edges of humanity’s hard steel constructions.

Pulling the smoldering stick to his lips, he takes another drag, flicking the ashes into a small, empty ceramic dish resting on the larger planter box nearest the doors. The exhaled smoke dissipates amongst the small garden arranged on the balcony, most of the plants imports from Nova. It’s a hobby he didn’t really intend, but had actually adopted when Zeph lugged over a set of potted herbs and asked to put them on Sashi’s balcony because it received more light throughout the day. He’d come to enjoy caring for the small, fragile plants, and the garden had evolved from there. Now the planters and pots hold everything from flowering bushes to miniature trees, arranged so that during the principle seasons of spring, summer, and fall, there is always a burst of color and scents that remind him of home. Strange that he misses such things when he hates Nova so much, and strange, too, that his little garden with its unique plants and smells can take just the edge off the loneliness that haunts him.

The approaching presence of the Bright pulls the telepath’s attention toward the hallway outside his apartment. With a sigh, he readies himself for a knock or a greeting, but none come, and instead Lan remains for only a moment before making his way toward the end of the building where he resides. Odd… did the other man change his mind? He hadn’t seen Lan all day, not even in the conservatory during lunch, not since the white-haired Selestarri had promised repayment for the morning’s teleport. Maybe he’d decided not to bother at the last moment, maybe he was finally beginning to understand what Sashi had been trying to say all week about the impossibility of a friendship between them. Or perhaps…

Leaving the cigarette perched on the ceramic dish, the Dark rises from his chair to cross the room, the locking wards parting with the merest flick of his wrist and the door opening on silent hinges. On the floor rests a small package, wrapped in paper somehow untouched by the deluge pouring down outside. So there had been repayment afterall, Lan simply chose not to present it in person. For the briefest of moments Sashi is torn over the other man’s choice, on one hand that’s what he wants, because they aren’t friends, so these little encounters aren’t necessary, but on the other, he finds himself a little hurt that the Bright didn’t even attempt to speak with him. It must just be the loneliness, though, trying to creep in on him, and he pushes the thoughts away as the door softly closes and he sets the package on the counter.

The aroma of coffee hits his nose as he pulls the paper open, fresh and strong and untainted by cream, sugar, or honey. Beside the take-out cup is a bowl of soup and two soft rolls, all still warmed by the faint traces of Lan’s elemental magic. Sashi stares down at the small meal for a long moment before gathering it on a tray and making his way back to his chair by the balcony. Arranging his blankets against the cold, he settles the tray in his lap and pulls the lid from the bowl of soup, the pungent smell of strong, spicy chili hitting his nose immediately. Coffee, just as he likes it and food just as spicy as he likes it. A hot meal to chase away the cold he always feels so acutely. He doesn’t know how Lan knows what his preferences are, but the younger Selestarri has hit the mark with this simple repayment.

Spreading out telepathic senses, he separates Lan’s signature from all the others in the building, crossing the span of their floor with an accuracy no other of their race can manage. His words are simple and softly given. [Thank you…]

Lan: Seated by the cold fireplace of his apartment, the lanky Bright’s head is cast downward, his yellow eyes scanning the thick textbook before him that rests on a paper strewn small coffee table that serves as his desk while a newly lit cigarette is cupped in-between his long fingers, the smell of the smoke permeating the immediate surrounding air.

He’s had just enough time to enter his home, cast his coat and shoes off and begin his studies by the time Sashi’s telepathic words reach him and the quiet thank you pulls a small smile to his lips. Slipping his summer colored gaze away from his book, he lifts his head and shifts it towards the patio doors, watching the rain beat down against the glass for a few moments in silence before he slides the smoldering stick he holds up to his mouth. If he’d been permitted, he’d have walked Sashi home and kept him dry, and he’d have offered to thoroughly warm his apartment as well, but he didn’t think he should push his presence further this soon and so he settled with leaving the Warden soup and coffee instead. It’s nice to know it was accepted, and is currently being enjoyed.

Inhaling the smoke deep into his lungs, he smiles again to himself before exhaling and even though he’s unsure that the other man will hear him in return due to his own limited telepathic range, he offers a warm and simple reply. [As always Sashi… it’s my pleasure and no thanks is necessary at all.]

space01

Jun: it’s well past time for even the stray human to be out by the time the white haired Angel pulls his car up to the complex, a small screech breaking the nighttime silence as he hits the brakes a little too hard and ends up hopping the curb. The door swings open and he somehow manages to pull his toned frame out of the vehicle, the world spinning as he straightens in a way that nearly sends him toppling right back down in his seat. Untangling himself completely he reaches back to slam the door behind him, and taking fluid yet unsteady steps forward, he begins what will prove to be a long trip towards the main door.

He smells of smoke and alcohol, but for once he doesn’t care. In fact, he snorts to himself as he reaches the wide stairwell, aside from the fact that the valet or doorman, or whoever it is that’s normally here to take his car to the apartment’s covered parking is gone, he’s actually feeling perfectly fine. He did exactly what he’d planned to do after work, he found a bar and drank, then another bar, and then another and he thinks maybe a club because there was music and he might have danced a bit, though he can’t quite remember, but he drank there too, and he drank and he continued to drink until the conversation he’d had with Zephyr stopped bothering him, and then he drank some more until he found he could care less whether or not he was found out and it was only the fact that all of the places closed on him that he stopped drinking and finally came home.

Driving was an adventure that he can no longer recall and now his biggest obstacle is clearing these ridiculous stairs so he can get into his apartment where he’s hoping he somehow had a momentary lapse of judgment while sober and decide to stock more alcohol so he can finish the night off by drinking until he passes out. And somehow he does manage to clear them, just as he manages with great difficulty to get his keys into the main door’s lock to gain entrance into the dark hallways beyond. Every step he takes as he continues towards his apartment is half stumbled, half graceful and amazingly even despite his drunken stupor, near silent as he moves down the hall…

Zephyr: Rain continues in a heavy patter across the bedroom windows, matching in rhythm to a heartbeat finally returning to something of a more normal pace. Midnight eyes closed, the taller Dark nuzzles his nose into strands of pitch black and he presses a kiss against the short strands near the base of his best friend’s neck. He always forgets just how riled up a challenging project can make Innic, although he’d had two very satisfying reminders tonight, with the bruises to prove it. The other man has already fallen asleep, his breathing even and steady, and his skin warm where it rests against the blonde’s chest. Long arms wrapped tight around Innic, Zeph pulls him in close, happy to enjoy a comfort the two of them have shared since they were small. The nights that he does spend alone, either when Innic is on Nova or they’re too busy or otherwise preoccupied, he’s always a little lonely, so with the rain falling hard outside and the late autumn chill creeping in, he’s more than happy to warm his best friend’s bed tonight.

They’d spent the evening hours discussing Zeph’s proposed research project, focusing on gathering intel that’s already been collected and planning ways to gain further information. His network of informants is vast, the result of years spent attempting to undermine the Seeker, and the webs he maintains reach from Nova to the Eyrie to Earth, some in plain sight and others so well hidden that only Innic and his brother know of their existence. The Angels haven’t been shy about making their presence known on Earth, not in overt ways of course because it would terrify the humans, but once one is aware of what to look for, it becomes much easier to spot them. So the immediate plan is to quietly squirrel away whatever facts can be gathered, and if that doesn’t give him the insight to their culture and society that he desires, there are several not as quiet ways to gain that information, too.

Several of the things Jun has said to him over the past few days have peaked his interest, enough so that when the Angel became visibly upset this afternoon, it spurred Zeph into action. If Jun really is the soft person he catches glimpses of every now and then, why does he have to hide it away? Why is he so bent on maintaining his orders and why does he repeat them like a mechanical toy when pressed? Why does he seem so scared to let anyone care for him in even the slightest ways? Hell, why does he seem so scared to even talk to him in a way that’s not strictly formal and work-related? Zeph’s own race, both the Bright and the Dark, can be harsh and cruel, they can be driven by their ideals, their history, and sometimes even their insanity in ways that can very easily manifest in violence. They are trained to fight and kill and to accept that doing so is a part of their culture. There is order and rules and traditions to be followed, but they’re allowed to be themselves, even within those restrictions. They’re encouraged to master their strengths and either downplay or compensate for their weaknesses or be manipulated and exploited by them. From what he’s seen and heard of the Angels, they’re expected to be militaristic white-clad asshole clones of one another, perfect and cold in all ways. They don’t seem to accept differences, and it makes him wonder if Jun has been on the receiving end of that displeasure given how vehemently he’s spoken about breaking orders or being permitted to have luxuries. It makes him interested, but he’ll be very careful as they conduct their research to make sure that nothing can come back on Jun and cause him any harm.

Pulling Innic just a little closer, Zeph lets his thoughts drift and sink toward sleep, ready after a long day to gain some rest before rising to begin the task of contacting those throughout his networks. He’s almost completely into the fuzzy void when his senses catch a very specific magical signature entering the building and slowly making its way to the third floor. It seems very late for Jun to be getting in, usually the other man is closed up in his apartment at a decent hour unless that other Angel happens to be around. Also, there seems to be something off about his signature, something skewed, and he’s not sure if it means the Jun is injured or sick, or what, but it’s enough to pull the blonde away from the hazy beginnings of sleep in order to check it out. He slowly and carefully eases away from Innic with a last kiss to the back of his best friend’s neck and slips from beneath the blankets, tucking them in around the other Dark’s slender frame. Locating his pants just outside the doorway to the bedroom and his tee and sweatshirt on the back of the sofa and the floor by the fireplace respectively, the tall Selestarri pads barefoot through the darkness toward the door to the hallway.

The lock eases free with barely any sound, and Zephyr pokes his head into the corridor just enough to see a back he’s rather familiar with given how many times it’s been turned on him over the last year. Jun is two doors down the hall, close to his own apartment, and it only takes a moment for him to gain the answer to his question about the other man’s condition once the smell hits him. The Angel is completely shitfaced. Cigarettes, sweat, and strong alcohol roll over the blonde in a wave just as Jun loses his swaying, but still in tact gracefulness and stumbles hard. The teleport moves the Dark from the doorway to the white-haired man’s side in a heartbeat, his arms darting out to catch instinctively just before contact with the floor is made. Pink, slightly bleary eyes meet midnight from only a few inches away, and Zeph can’t help but to softly smile. [Had a good night out, huh?]

Jun: it feels as if it’s taking forever to reach his apartment as the white haired Angel stumbles down the hall, but eventually his door comes within sight and in his determination to reach it he picks up his pace just enough to send him toppling forward before he can catch his footing. The corridor spins and he has no time to actually brace for the inevitable impact as he finds himself falling forward, his attempt to throw his arm out towards the wall to catch himself misjudged completely. But before his body can impact, he finds himself caught and it takes him a moment to realize in all the confusion that instead of the floor, the blonde is the one supporting him now.

[Iss fine-] he answers automatically only to cut his words short a second later, his voice falling to a rather loud sort of whisper. “Shi…” Jun attempts to pull away but finds that he’s secured in place by the steady hold the taller man maintains. “I’m not ‘sposed to talk to you” slipping a long finger up and pushing it against his lips, he makes a very low and quiet hushing sound before bursting out in a soft laughter that takes the blonde a little by surprise.

[I won’t tell anyones.] His expression straightens into an inebriated version of seriousness in an instant, [itd’ll it be our secrets.] Nodding more to himself than to Zephyr, he attempts to straighten out again. The moment he’s upright and tries to take a step forward however, he sways dangerously and with another smile given, the Selestarri simply reaches out to catch him before he begins walking the Angel down the last stretch of hall.

When they reach his door, he slips his hand into his pocket and after a moment, he somehow manages to work the keys free before he slides them forward and shoves them forcibly at the lock. Furrowing his brows when he misses it completely, he tries again only to fail once more and in a moment of frustration he’s about to jam them at the door another time when Zephyr instead swipes them from his fingers, slips them into the lock and finally unlatches the door.

Pushing the heavy wood barrier open, he walks them both into the darkened apartment before sliding a bare foot back to push the door closed behind them and just as he gets them a step past the threshold, Jun suddenly pushes himself away only to offer a slightly incensed ‘I can walk just fine by myself’. Stumbling towards the couch through the darkness and with the only light to guide him being the moonlight that shines in through the glass patio doors, he slips his jacket off as he goes and allows it to fall onto the floor while behind him, Zephyr follows close enough to catch him should he fall again, but far enough away not to stand too near.

“They can’t hears me when I’m in here so I can talks…” The Angel snorts and reaching the couch, he twists his body fluidly around and practically flops onto its plush surface, his long slightly tangled white locks spilling over the carved wooden back and partially around his neck and chest. Except he notes, Taz, since his handler seem to have an ability to hear him no matter how quiet he’s speaking or how many lengths in which he attempts to hide it, but at this particular moment he can’t really bring himself to care.

“Hey… you thirsty?” Jun asks as blurry pink eyes glance up, suddenly looking genuinely concerned about the Dark’s comfort and sliding an arm up he waves unsteadily towards the kitchen and the fridge. “I dunno what the hells I have in there but you can havess it if you wants… but iff you founds some alcohol, you can brings that to me please.”

Zephyr: He can’t help the smile of amusement at this completely unseen side of the Angel. Always so formal and stiff, so cold and off-putting, so efficiently poised, and now this stumbling, word slurring, blurry-eyed, alcohol drenched version is so entertaining that it’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. It’s kind of adorable, truth be told.

Scooping the discarded leather jacket from the floor, Zeph neatly drapes it across the back of the nearest chair before obligingly turning toward the kitchen. He takes moment as he goes to study the apartment, somehow completely unsurprised to find the same color scheme so prevalent in every other aspect of the other man’s life. Everything is white. Literally everything, from the furniture to the rugs, to the walls, to the stones set before the fireplace to the whitewashed wooden floors. It’s like a snowball threw up in here. Silver is the color of choice for anything metal, gleaming as if it gets polished on a daily basis. The whole place is also excessively neat. He thought Sashi was picky about tidiness, and his brother’s apartment could easily pass any white glove inspection, but in here it’s like dust doesn’t even think about encroaching. Not one iota of it, nor any crumb, stray thread, piece of hair, nothing. Even the faint lettering of the wards lining each of the walls is white, glowing just slightly when he concentrates on the magic, unreadable, but pricking his magical senses enough for him to catch it. White on white on white. This apartment might be where color comes to die.

A nearly empty refrigerator greets him as he pulls the door open, the shelves bare with the exception of a single take-out container, a bottle of some pink juice he’s guessing is grapefruit, and a glass carafe of water. Selecting the water, Zeph turns toward the cabinets opening a few to find one completely empty and another with a set of white dishware meticulously stacked before locating the glasses. Unsurprisingly, they’re crystal, causing the blonde to shake his head a little in amusement as he selects two and fills them with water. Returning the carafe to the fridge, he carries the glasses to the sofa Jun continues to be draped across and sets them on the high gloss, heavily carved coffee table.

Pink eyes reopen as the Dark seats himself in a plush chair opposite, his bare toes digging into the thick textured throw rug. “Not alcohol,” he tells the other man, gesturing toward the glasses, “but I think you’re ready for last call anyway.” From the smell, Jun was likely ready for last call hours ago. The Angel looks prepared to protest, but a sudden glimpse of a tangle in his long white hair distracts him, and he works on straightening it instead, partially freeing the snag and partially making it much worse.

Midnight eyes slide up the length of Jun’s body, taking in the tight, leather pants that leave very little to his imagination, and even if they didn’t, he can certainly get an idea of the Angel’s toned body from the cropped shirt that leaves every curve of muscle under the flawless pale skin of his midsection exposed. It’s not a bad view, and he’s not at all complaining, but Jun was definitely looking for some fun tonight going out dressed like this. “Bar or club?” Zeph asks after a moment, “Or both?”

Jun: with his hand still entangled in white locks, pink eyes slide over when Zephyr asks him of his night and with a small sigh given out of frustration, he gives up trying to work the knot free and simply sits back against his seat.

“I did all threes.” He smirks and finally pulling his fingers from his hair, he reaches back to brace himself in order to push his body up. It takes far longer than it should to actually accomplish however and seems about a hundred times more difficult than it normally is, but somehow he manages to straighten just far enough for him to curl his body over and swipe one of the glasses from the table. The sudden motion causes the liquid to splash out across the coffee table’s marbled surface but he doesn’t seem to immediately notice, instead he simply brings the water up towards his mouth. Throwing his head back, he downs the contents as if he expects it to be a drink before straightening and finding it not what he expected, he offers the glass a displeased and rather hard frown.

“Maybee boths,” the Angel continues and reaching over again he practically tosses the crystal down, paying it no mind whatsoever as it falls sideways with a small cling that resonates out upon impact as he slumps back against the plush cushions behind. Miraculously, the glass doesn’t shatter or even crack, instead the crystal simply rolling until it’s stopped by the Dark’s glass that rests nearby. “I can’t remembered it actually.” Jun shrugs and lifting a long leg up, he sets his boot against the table’s edge in a way that causes the crystal to vibrate before reaching out to begin pulling each buckle from its casing. “I juss dranks and danced and let some humans get closed enough to touches me…” Jun’s expression darkens and managing to work one boot free, he tosses it downward, allowing it to fall onto the plush throw rug below before he begins unfastening the other. “He tolds me not to, but fuck ‘im, they didn’st actually touches me okay, I wuss really careful. I juss let them get in close to me thass all.” Slipping his other foot free he drops the second boot down before throwing himself back once more, a shaking hand rising unsteadily upwards to rake through tangled white bangs.

“Sometimes I juss like the way they smells, ans I juss get so sssicks of my own kinds ans I wanna be arounds different ssentts, you know?” He admits as bleary pink eyes meet black flecked midnight through snowy strands. Slipping his fingers from his hair, he once again pushes his toned frame upward and curling over until his elbows come in contact with leather covered knees, he glances to each side before he begins talking again, this time his voice is kept very low.

“You wanna knows some secrets?” Jun’s expression is suddenly very serious in a way that’s almost comical and it’s clear he thinks he’s about to tell the Dark the biggest secret of them all. “I likes the way you smellses too, but don’t tells you okay? Don’t tells them anybody ‘causes I’m not ‘sposed to cares. I’m ‘sposed to thinks everyones ssents is stinks… but I dons’t. I dons’t thinks it at all.” Shaking his head, the white haired Angel is about to sit back again when he suddenly seems to realize his glass has tipped and that there’s water splashed on his table, causing his early dawn hued gaze to go wide.

“Oh fuckss me! I gotta cleans it” he bursts out, taking the taller man by surprise and with a swift, slightly awkward yet graceful movement, he rises up to his feet and begins stumbling towards the kitchen, intent on finding a cloth to wipe the mess he’s made up and speaking as he goes. “I like it dancing…” he practically shouts back as he reaches the kitchen and begins ripping one random drawer open after another. “Do you danced with them humans evers? Do you likes it?”

Zephyr: There are not enough words for how comical and entertaining this entire situation is. In any of the language he knows, there simply aren’t enough words. If he’d had any idea that Jun was this much fun when drunk, he would have found a way to get him shitfaced a long time ago. Leaning back in his overstuffed chair, the Dark watches the chaos in the kitchen unfold as the Angel tears through drawers and cabinets–most of them completely empty–before finding what he seeks. With a cry of success, Jun holds the towel up like a prize before rushing back to the coffee table. Skidding down to the rug on his leather-clad knees, he oh so carefully begins to clean up the spill. In his drunken state, however, what is “careful” really means swishing the cloth back and forth and scattering the water even further across the table’s marble surface.

Biting back a laugh, but unable to contain the smile at how ridiculously funny this all is, Zeph merely watches from his chair. “Do I like dancing?” The blonde repeats the earlier question, and Jun pauses momentarily in his clean up to nod vigorously. “I like it very much. There’s something… kind of instinctual about it, no matter what race you are, you can just sink into the rhythm and let the music take over.” In terms of relaxation and overall therapy, dancing is the only thing left to him now that he can no longer fly. It’s all he has when he needs to clear his head, and he’s visited practically all of this small city’s offerings in the company of Innic, his brother, both of them, or alone. With the skies lost to him, dancing is the last refuge remaining, and he finds it interesting that Jun seems to enjoy it so much as well.

Sweeping the towel one last time across the tabletop, the Angel finds his work satisfactory, discarding the cloth to the floor and reaching for the remaining glass as he shifts rather gracefully back to the couch. Alcohol-smeared pink eyes look at him rather expectedly, as if waiting, and it takes the Dark a moment to realize he only answered half the questions asked of him. “So I like dancing, but do I like dancing with humans?” Zeph nods, white-gold hair shifting over his shoulders. “They’re acceptable dance partners, when that’s what I’m in the mood for.” He grins rather wickedly at the other man. “They’re good for other things, too, from time to time, if you’re so inclined.” Well, when they’re drunk enough or high enough not to notice the glowing golden eyes and when they’re not too breakable. As much as he could give a shit about humans in general, he has felt badly the few times he’s accidentally hurt one while in their bed. He’d also stopped messing around with them when they’re sober because rewriting their memories to forget that he’s not human has produced several horrible results. Too much messing in a human’s mind isn’t good for their overall wellbeing, or so he’s found.

The grin remains as he watches Jun drink half the glass of water in one go, genuinely enjoying this much looser, more carefree version of the Angel. This assignment would be much more fun if all their interactions were like this. But while he’s aware it’s not permanent, the tall Selestarri can’t help but to mess with Jun just a little. “You like dancing with the humans and you like their scents, right?” Pink eyes slip back to midnight and the other man nods. “You said you like my scent, so would you like dancing with me?”

Jun: with a shrug given the white haired Angel sets the glass in his hand down, missing the table completely when he lets go and not at all caring when it falls downward and hits the plush rug below. Pushing himself away from the couch as the contents empty over the plush fibers, he nearly topples backwards the moment he makes it to his feet. Despite the hard sway he makes when he straightens however, his arms are thrown out to steady himself and he manages to move forward soon after. Stepping around the coffee table, Jun moves towards the empty space near the patio doors where the moonlight shines brightly in to highlight every curve of muscle on his lean frame and turning around, he gestures for the other man to join him.

“If you cans do its, you shows me and then I’ll tells you if I’m gonna likes dancing with you.” He slurs and the smile of amusement on Zephyr’s lips widens a little before he pushes himself up and joins the white haired Angel as asked.

Bleary pink eyes lock with midnight as he steps in close and for a few moments, both figures remain still, one simply waiting while the other continues to sway unsteadily before him. “Iss okays to touches me ‘cause your nots humans…” Jun says quietly when he realizes Zephyr hasn’t started dancing and it only takes him a moment to come to a conclusion as to the reasons why. Staring up into midnight he takes a single wobbly half step forward before reaching out to grasp onto the blonde’s wrist and tugging his arm away from his side, he guides his hand onto his hips. Once he’s made sure both hands are secured around his body, he slides his own arms upwards and then sets long fingers against the tall Selstarri’s chest. “He canst ever making me hurts you ‘cause he ssaid only them humans canst touches me…okay?” The Angel grins and without waiting another second and despite the fact that there’s no music he begins moving, his entire ethereal frame rocking gracefully in tune to a silent beat…

Zephyr: He just can’t help himself when the invitation is made, following the Angel around the furniture to the empty space just before the doors to the balcony. Honestly he didn’t think this would be the response to his teasing words, but then again, this isn’t the Jun he’d become familiar with since arriving at this assignment. The man standing in front of him could be a different person entirely. He’d been kidding about the dancing, but that seems to have been lost on the Angel completely, and it’s only when Jun narrows the space between them and pulls the blonde’s hands to his leather-clad hips that the Dark realizes that the shorter man is serious.

The fingers that touch his chest are warm, even through the t-shirt and sweatshirt he wears, equally as warm as the slim hips beneath his hands. For some reason he’s a little surprised, he’d always imagined that Jun would be as cold to the touch as his frozen facade, but there’s absolutely nothing frigid under his palms at the moment. Instead he feels energy, kinetic energy that’s buzzing to be freed as the Angel sways gracefully back and forth. For a moment, Zeph’s not sure what to make of this entire situation, and especially not of whatever it is that the other man had been slurring about touching and not touching and hurting people or the “he” that Jun has referred to several times since they walked in the door. Whatever it all is, it seems to lead to his coworker giving himself permission to be this close to him, so he doesn’t interrupt and instead watches as the Angel moves to a beat only he seems able to hear.

Letting the shorter man go on for long minute, figuring Jun will quit and laugh it off and move onto the next thing his brain thinks on like most drunken people do, the Dark continues to stand still, but when it becomes apparent that the shorter man really wants to dance and doesn’t seem ready to quit any time soon, Zephyr changes his mind. Why the hell not? It’s not like there’s a high probability of this ever happening again, so he might as well just enjoy himself. “Dancing works a lot better,” he quietly breaks the silence, “when both people can hear the music, right?” Freeing one hand from Jun’s hip, his sleek white cell appears and the blonde clicks through the screens to find a dance playlist, turning up the volume as loudly as possible. The sound quality is shit, but they can both hear it, and the Angel slips easily into the rhythm as if this song and the one that had been playing in his head are one and the same.

A quick spell sends the phone floating just above their heads and fuzzy pink eyes catch black streaked midnight as Zeph returns his hand to its place on the other man’s hip. “That’s much better.” A wicked smile spreads across the tall Selestarri’s mouth, and without warning he snaps Jun’s hips in tight against his own, dawn tinted eyes widening just slightly before the Angel is grinning, too. The beat of the song drives them both into a hard, grinding rhythm, faces close and gazes locked. The fingers resting on the Dark’s chest slide slowly downward as the song begins to spin into the next track, the touch leaving a hot path in its wake that’s quickly interrupted when Zeph pulls his hand from Jun’s waist and wraps it around one of the Angel’s arms. Easily spinning the shorter man around, he pulls him in close again, back and chest colliding and their frames locked together when he slips his arm around the narrow waist in an almost possessive way.

Tilting his head so that his lips nearly touch Jun’s ear, the Selestarri pitches his words playfully, “so is my dancing as good as my scent?”

Jun: At this very moment he feels free, the beat ever encompassing despite the poor sound quality as it resonates throughout the otherwise still air and the touch of another that isn’t tainted by loathing or pain something he finds he’s sorely needed. It’s been so long since he’s been this close to someone of his choosing and he’s thoroughly enjoying every moment of it. It’s been so long since another has had their arm wrapped around him in a way that isn’t malicious and right now he never wants it to end. It doesn’t matter to him in the slightest that it’s the blonde he’s dancing with, that the taller man is someone he’d sworn only hours prior to never speak to again and it doesn’t even register that he may actually come to regret his actions when the alcohol has worn off and he finds himself able to think properly again.

For now he’ll keep on dancing, just as he’ll keep relishing the fire Zephyr’s touch causes as it spirals lazily along his spine. He wants to melt against into the taller man, he wants to stay like this forever and for now, that’s exactly what he plans to do. The spell however is interrupted when playful words are spoken into his ear, the feel of the blonde’s lips brushing his skin and that wash of his breath causing each tangled strand of snow to stand up at the back of his neck. It takes him a few moments to gather himself to answer and when he does, he arches his lean frame back while slipping a hand upward to thread his fingers into white blonde hair in order to hold the other man steady. Stretching his neck back, he tilts his head just far enough to allow full lips to come in contact with Zephyr’s structured jaw and shifting ever so slightly, he presses his nose just beneath. The touch instantly stills the taller man’s movements and stills his very breath, and lingering for only a moment, pink eyes slip half lidded before he takes a deep breath in.

The scent that hits his senses is tainted however and when the distinguishing signatures register, it pulls a hard frown to his lips. Reopening his eyes, Jun slides his head just far enough back to find midnight, his slurred tone unhappy and his voice kept a little low. “You smells differencetss…” Suddenly his swaying stops and slipping his fingers from the blonde’s hair, he lets his companion go. Reaching down, Jun grasps onto the arm that holds him before tugging it free and taking a step forward, he pushes away from the one behind with a slight shake of his head. ”Your dancings iss fine, but your sensstss issnots thems same” It’s clear from his tone that the revelation has upset him and with his brows now furrowed, he stumbles around the taller figure towards the back of his apartment where the bedroom lies.

“I donst care if you’re having sexses with thatss other guys, I’m not ‘sposed to care.” Jun mumbles as he goes, his words kept quiet as if he’s now talking to himself but due to his inebriated state, his tone is pitched loud enough for Zephyr to hear. “You stinks of different senssts, I stinks of humansses smokes and beerss, sso why sshould I ccare about any ofs its…” Reaching his room, long fingers slide up to push the door open and behind him while the music continues to play and the cell phone remains floating in the air near the patio doors, the Dark simply follows his steps in. He makes it past the threshold just as Jun disappears around the corner, and as he comes to a halt, the light flicks on in the bathroom, followed by the sound of running water from a shower that’s obviously been turned on.

Black flecked midnight eyes slip from the partially cracked doorway to glance around his newest surroundings, tracing over every detail of the perfectly made king sized bed and plush bedding, to the outwardly bare night stands, the dresser, wardrobe and then the walls. There he finds that lining every space from top to bottom and extending from the ceiling down to encompass even the flooring, a faint imprint of a ward is written and while the foreign scrolled lettering is similar to the wards on the rest of the apartment, the signature itself is no where near the same. The Dark spends a long moment studying it until he realizes that all movement has stopped in the other room save the sound of the water itself and slipping his eyes away from the faint magic, he moves to the bathroom before reaching out to push the door the rest of the way in. At the far end of the room he finds Jun curled over inside of the shower, the glass doors left open and his body only partially in -his toned frame slumped down against the pristine tile walls. The Angel’s early dawn hued gaze is only half closed as the water rains down from the wide showerhead above, the warm liquid plastering tangled strands to his face, neck and back, the belts and the collar he’d worn already discarded on a white plush rug but his cropped shirt and tight leather pants despite being unbuttoned still remain on…

Zephyr: As he stands and watches Jun’s unmoving form in the bottom of the shower, pink eyes completely closed and remain that way, a sure sign that the Angel has completely passed out. Shaking his head, the Dark crosses the tiled floor and reaches in to shut off the stream of water. He easily lifts the shorter, drenched man and carries him from the bathroom to the large bed in the adjoining room. Gently setting Jun on top of the thick, rich white comforter, he eases him from the cropped shirt with a skill that speaks of many previous nights of helping those too drunk to help themselves.

Slipping the water soaked white top away, midnight eyes can’t help but to travel over the slender frame revealed beneath, tracing along each muscle, line, and curve beneath pale skin. On Jun’s chest over his heart is a strange marking, a circle ringed with more of the same script he sees in the wards on the walls. Pale lines snake away from the mark, as if whatever had made it leaked into the Angel’s veins. It’s interesting, and it leaves him wondering if it’s something all Angels carry. His gaze continues downward at a slow pace, memorizing each bit of Jun’s torso and the ridge of slim hips exposed by the low rise leather pants. As if in response to his attention to his colleague’s body, the spot on his jaw where full lips had touched grows warm and a light heat streaks through Zeph’s body. He’d always thought Jun was beautiful, it would be impossible not to, even with his frigid demeanor, but tonight is the first time he’d actually felt any kind of physical interest for the other man. Maybe it was the dancing or maybe it’s seeing the Angel partially undressed, but whichever it is, he can’t deny that he likes it all very much.

Turning back toward the bath, the Dark collects the belts and collar from the floor and neatly arranges them on the white marble counter, taking a moment to smooth white gold hair where Jun’s fingers had left it in disarray. It’s somewhat amusing that the white-haired man had been unhappy about his scent being mixed with Innic. He’d known that Angels have very strong senses of smell, it had been in their briefs, but the fact that they can smell when one person’s scent is commingled with another’s in the way Jun had is very interesting. His coworker had not seemed to like that at all, and had almost sounded a little jealous when he said he’s not supposed to care, and while it’s not that he gets a say in who Zeph brings to his bed, it is kind of adorable all the same.

Making his way to the kitchen, the tall Selestarri finds a fresh glass and fills it with water, leaving it on the counter as he collects the other two from the rug between the couch and the coffee table. Washing each one out, he sets them upside down to dry on a dishcloth he finds in an opened cabinet and then takes a moment to set the kitchen back to rights after Jun’s whirlwind attack. Sliding the drawers closed, Zeph pauses when he finds one that isn’t empty, midnight eyes staring down for a long moment at the contents: two food dividers, one pink, the other striped, and a dried pink peony. A smile shifts across full lips as he slowly closes the drawer, unsure if they were kept because he was the one who had given them to the other man or if Jun is just so attracted to all things pink that he must squirrel them away.

Taking the full glass as he leaves the kitchen, Zephyr returns to the bedroom, setting the crystal on the nightstand where Jun will easily be able to find it when he wakes. Without much thought lent, he reaches out to gently push wet strands of white from the Angel’s face, carefully freeing the black clips that hold long bangs away from closed pink eyes and setting them beside the glass. Moving around the bed, he grasps one side of the thick duvet and pulls it up and over until it covers Jun, making sure that he’s got enough room should he decide to shift positions while he sleeps.

With everything in order, the blonde glances one last time at his sleeping coworker before leaving the bedroom and padding on silent bare feet to the door and then out into the hallway. With the latch clicking into place behind him, Zeph turns back toward Innic’s apartment, and the warm bed that awaits him …

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

 

Jun: It’s early in the morning when an unrelenting light pulls him to the surface in the most unforgiving of ways. Pink eyes crack open only to immediately slam shut, his ears suddenly ringing and the pain in his pretty much everything absolute. With a groan, the white haired man rolls to his side and with painfully slow movements he somehow manages to pull the covers up over his head, curling his lean frame into a ball before passing out once again.

space01

Tapered fingers slide out to shut the stream of water off, and leaning forward, he sets his temple against the heated wet tile while letting out a slow and long sigh. Early dawn hued eyes remain closed as the water drips from his body in rivulets and the pressure of the shower wall against his head does little to ease the throbbing ache he feels all over that he’s pretty sure is pounding in tune to the beat of his heart in order to spite him. It was late afternoon before he managed to pull himself out of his bed and he’s spent the time since attempting with every painstakingly slow movement to undo the tornado he’d apparently brought back with him from those bars and the havoc it caused to his apartment.

Luckily he didn’t have to do much as it appears someone else already straightened after him, but what he did have to do was painful nonetheless. He deserves the hangover though because what he did was incredibly stupid. If it had been his handler who had returned and found him as drunk as he’d been instead of the blonde…

With another sigh given, Jun slowly opens his eyes before straightening about half-way, every movement nursed as he slides his fingers up and gingerly runs them through long hair to shake off the excess water. Stepping from the wide stall past the steam drenched glass doors, he moves into his room, reaching out as he passes to tug a plush towel from the rack before wrapping it around his trim waist. As he steps up to his wardrobe and pulls it open to reveal an array of uniformly hung clothing inside, his fingers move to his chest and absently he begins tracing the outlines of the script burned deep beneath his skin, his face set in pain tinged concentration.

His belts and collar were lined neatly on the sink counter, and his shirt was draped over the back of the footboard of his bed when he’d woken but for the life of him he can’t remember if he’d been the one to put them there or not. He remembers the boots which he’d found by the couch when he’d finally ventured out into the apartment, but the others…he keeps drawing a blank. Clenching his teeth in a way he immediately regrets, he slips his fingers from the imprinted seal over his heart and reaches into the wardrobe to pull a pair of pants and a simple oversized sweater free. He should be able to remember it but he can’t and all he can do is hope now that he was the one who took his shirt off and that he wasn’t aided by the blonde. No one except those who placed it and Taz has seen the seal and he wants to keep it that way. It’s a sore enough subject as is and he really doesn’t enjoy the idea of having given more of himself away to another than he already has.

Careful to close the wardrobe behind him, it takes a whole lot longer for Jun to dress than normal but once he does, he finishes by wrapping himself carefully in a heavy wool coat before winding a thick scarf around his neck. Stopping long enough to haphazardly push some clips into wet bangs in order to keep them from being entirely unruly as he heads to his door, he also slips a pair of dark tinted silver sunglasses over his slightly bloodshot eyes.

Even the dim light of the hallway feels as if it’s out to get him once he steps into the corridor and it only gets worse when the front door to the building is opened for him by the doorman and the bright afternoon sun bears completely down. He doesn’t answer when the man wishes him a good day, his pink gaze shifting instead behind the glasses to find his car still in its place across the street, complete with the front end perched sloppily up on the curb.

He needs coffee, black and thick and since he has practically nothing in his apartment beyond water and some juice –neither of which is going to help him, and as much as he’d have rather remained in bed to sleep the rest of the day away, going to the nearest bistro is about the only way he’s going to attain what he currently needs. But he decides immediately that he’d not going to be able to stand even the quiet hum of his car’s well tuned engine, so turning fluidly towards the main stretch of road, he makes the decision to walk there instead. His footfalls pause momentarily when he finds Zephyr on the empty sidewalk before him carrying a few filled bags in hand, resuming immediately as if he hadn’t halted in the first place and despite being given a cheery smile and a good afternoon, he quickly returns with a flat cold, obviously unhappy frown.

“Whatever you saw me do last night…you didn’t” Jun states quietly as the other man draws close enough to hear him, only speaking vocally because there’s too much pain in his head for him to manage a telepathic send. “And whatever you heard me say, forget…” He knows exactly what he did and he knows exactly what he said, unfortunately, because he’s incapable of forgetting anything no matter how inebriated or altered he manages to get. He wishes he could because he’d certainly have done it this time but memory has been his issue from the start, so much so that his memories have stayed intact no matter how many times the entire High Council has attempted to wipe them from his mind. He remembers what he told the Selestarri about his like of humans and their scents, he remembers the dancing and he remembers the feelings he had during it all. He wishes he didn’t, honestly, but he does and all he can do now is hope that the other man will just agree to somehow forget it all like he’s planning on pretending he’s done himself…

Zephyr: With shopping bags in hand and slung over his shoulder, the Dark is returning from a grocery run at the store a few blocks away, another errand checked off his list. Despite his late night, he’s already been out for a morning run and cooked a large brunch for Innic before the other Dark returned to Nova to continue with their little research project. His plan for the rest of the day includes making dinner for his brother and checking in with his various networks and informants.

But first these groceries need to make it to his kitchen, so he moves quickly up the sidewalk, nodding to those he passes. As the apartment building comes into sight, he catches a flash of white up ahead and a smile shifts easily to his lips as he catches sight of Jun, eyes hidden behind reflective silver sunglasses and despite the other man’s effort to hide it, a slow walk that’s obviously impeded by what must be a killer headache. He greets the Angel as the distance between them narrows, and is unsurprised by the lack of reply. The commands he’s dictated when they draw close are also unsurprising, and given that he’s never been one to follow orders no matter who gives them, he decides to ignore the words for the time being. Instead he stops and turns toward the other man, flashing him a warm smile. “I’m guessing you’re going for coffee, right?” He’s certainly had enough hangovers to know what’s needed for relief. “Why don’t you let me make you a whole pot to take back to your apartment,” at the glare he can feel directed at him from behind reflective lenses, Zeph amends, “alone. It will save you the misery of walking four blocks there and back…”

Jun: the shorter man stands in place for a few moments without answering, contemplating despite himself on taking the Dark up on his offer. He knows what he should do, he should turn away from Zephyr without so much as another word given to him and continue the way he was going in the first place, suffer through the four blocks to the bistro, get his coffee and suffer through the four blocks it’ll take to come back.

But the thought of the actual journey is what’s killing him because he’s already having issues staying upright while the surrounding mid-afternoon noises resonate mercilessly through a head that’s currently pounding, and the light that seems determined to drill through his very skin despite his attempts to block it adequately. Then even if he does make it there, he’ll have to step into what will be a crowded shop full of people who won’t care to keep their voices down for him, actually find a way to speak loud enough to make his order all the while being bombarded by scents that even now threaten to cast him downward, sobbing into a tightly curled ball. And while he knows full well he’s deserving of it all, the thought of actually doing it is completely daunting and the offer to be saved from at least that much of the pain is quickly proving to be far too tempting for him to reject.

God, he’s going to regret this, he just knows it…

“This won’t change what I’ve said.” Jun finally answers flatly and turning away from the taller man, he begins moving again without waiting for the Selestarri to join him. “A pot of coffee and then we won’t be speaking again.”

Behind him and despite the Angel’s statement of finality, his coworker smiles and a second later, he resumes his steps as well, each figure moving in silence back towards the apartment building’s main door…

Zephyr: The ascent to the third floor is made in silence, the Angel taking the lead despite his slow, slightly unsteady steps. He passes the door to the blonde’s apartment, and it’s only when the Dark clears his throat that Jun stops and glances back over his shoulder. “I agreed to make you coffee, not be your butler.” He pitches his voice low, not only to keep neighborly ears from hearing, but to spare Jun’s head as well. “Nothing in my apartment bites, so you can wait until it’s ready.” That earns him a red hot glare clearly visible behind the silver sunglasses, but the other man grudgingly turns around.

Multiple layers of wards light up as Zeph touches the door, sliding his fingers across the rune to free the locking mechanism and is rewarded with a soft click. He can see Jun’s attention to the security wards, but only smiles and steps inside, gesturing for the Angel to follow. Placing the cloth shopping bags on the granite countertop, the Dark turns toward the sleek black coffee maker as Jun comes to a stop just beside the sofa and the door softly closes behind. “The wards on my apartment are set by Sashi, so they’re unbreakable. Fire, smoke, water, a few different security ones, and of course, soundproofing.” He flashes a grin over his shoulder as he sets the pot beneath the faucet and flicks the water on. “Nothing spoken in here goes beyond these walls.”

The Angel seems unimpressed, his gaze shifting from the Scandinavian style couches, tables, and dining set to the rich, solid wood cabinets and granite countertops in the kitchen. He looks as though the effort to stand is becoming an issue, and Zeph gestures toward the bar stools lining the side of the counter facing the living area as he shuts off the faucet and pours the water into the back of the coffeemaker. “You can sit if you’d like, the coffee will take a few moments.” Pulling a container of expensive coffee from the pantry, he scoops out enough to make a strong pot and slips the filter into the machine before turning it on.

Jun still hasn’t moved toward the barstools, but the Dark lets him be and begins unpacking his groceries. “It seems you had an exciting night last night. Do you go out often?”

Jun: he doesn’t move once he steps into the other man’s apartment, too focused in on every red flag that’s currently going off in his aching head. He can only hope that nobody saw him follow Zephyr in here because if it spreads around the faculty that he’s being social in any way with anyone and Taz hears about out, beyond the repercussions he’s already suffering from his hangover, his life is guaranteed to get a hundred times harder than it already is. He’s also a little skeptical that the other man’s warding is as effective as he claims, the magic is foreign and encoded in an entirely different manner than Angelic wards so he’s unsure if he can actually trust it enough to speak without being heard.

It would be so much easier if he could stand telepathy right now in truth, but the thought of it alone causes him far too much pain and so he’s left with only two choices – be silent or trust the unknown Selestarri magic and talk out loud. Choosing the first, he simply stands in place a while longer, early dawn hued eyes behind dark reflective shades examining his coworker’s living space despite pretending he isn’t while each moment he has to remain upright growing harder by the second. It’s only when Zephyr speaks again does he finally admit an internal defeat and take a careful step forward, reaching out to tug the closest barstool away from the counter before sitting his lean frame down.

“Last night was a mistake…” the white haired Angel frowns as tapered fingers slip slowly up to pull the sunglasses from his face, setting them down on the counter. Without realizing he’s doing it, he draws his hand back up as his elbow comes in contact with the granite and he pushes his fingers against his aching eyes with a sigh, “I haven’t been out in a long time…” he almost whispers, “and I won’t be going out again.” It was a risky thing to do and the only reason he did it was because he’d been upset enough after what he found to be another wrong judgment when it came to the blonde to throw caution to the wind. He pushed his luck though by doing it and he’s not going to push it a second time, not at least until he’s given a different handler, one who won’t care enough to bother with his every action and then punish him for them in the way this one has done.

“Look…” Jun starts again as he slowly reopens his eyes, staring up at the other man through his fingers despite the fact that his back is turned while he continues to put his groceries away, his cold flat tone warming just a little. “I meant it when I told you to forget everything that happened last night… But thank you…for helping me out.” His quiet words still the blonde’s movements and he glances back though strands of black streaked white blonde to find that the shorter man’s expression has softened. “My behavior was unacceptable and I’m sorry for it…” the truth is he actually enjoyed it, even though he can’t admit it out loud. He liked dancing with the Dark and he liked being touched by him and despite being drunk off his ass, there was something about being held against the taller man that felt almost… right.

Which is entirely the problem right there. It shouldn’t have felt right and it doesn’t matter how much he liked it, it was as much of a mistake as getting drunk was in the first place. “What I did… isn’t something that will happen again…”

Zephyr: And there it is–exactly what he’d been seeing in between the cracks of Jun’s cold demeanor all these months. The frigidness, the distance, the arrogance, it was exactly the facade he’d thought it to be, and it’s all he can do to keep from breaking out into a smile. Managing to restrain himself given the very serious words the Angel is currently speaking, Zeph finishes with the last of his groceries and folds the cloth bags neatly before storing them in the pantry. Taking a small carton from the fridge, he sets it on the counter before turning to find a creamer with a snug lid and bringing it over as well.

“I think that would be a shame,” he says quietly, midnight eyes remaining fixed on the task of filling the small ceramic container. “You seemed to be enjoying yourself, which is something I’ve never seen before.” Closing the carton, he returns it to the fridge before turning to the pantry to locate the sugar and the small sugar bowl that matches the creamer. “I know I was enjoying myself as well.” Zeph purposely keeps his tone just on the edge between light and serious, trying hard to have an open conversation with Jun instead of sending the other man right back behind his cold front as he’d managed to do twice earlier in the week.

The coffee is dripping steadily when he finishes spooning sugar into the bowl, and he takes the sugar back to the pantry only to return with a small basket with a handle. “There was nothing that happened last night that you need to apologize for as far as I’m concerned.” Setting a cloth napkin in the bottom of the basket, he gently places the creamer and sugar bowl inside as well. “Unfortunately your request that I forget will have to be denied due to impossibility.” A small frown creeps over the Angel’s mouth, but the Dark pretends not to notice as he shifts to the other side of the kitchen, opening a drawer to pull out another cloth napkin and unfolding it on the counter.

“I’m a memory telepath.” Selecting four of the biscuits he’d made for the morning’s breakfast from a covered bowl beside the stove, he sets them in the center of the napkin and gathers the cloth around, looping the corners into a loose knot. “Which means,” Zeph turns back to Jun and sets the wrapped biscuits beside the basket, “that I can’t forget anything, even if I wish.” It’s equal parts blessing and curse, as he’s come to discover. While he always retains the happy moments and the fine nuances around them, so too does he remember the horrible ones in vivid detail, his own memories and those he’s collected from others. Sometimes the memories come unbidden in nightmares to haunt his sleep with blood and sorrow, but after the assassination attempt they’ve come while he’s awake as well.

Turning away to pull a small jar of homemade jam from a cabinet, the blonde nestles it down into the basket beside the cream and sugar before placing the biscuits on top. “So I can promise you that we won’t speak of it again, but I can’t promise to forget any of it.” Easing the wicker container onto the raised countertop beside the Angel, Zeph leans against the lower cabinets on his side of the island as the coffee continues to drip behind him. “It was fun though, Jun, even if you think it was a mistake. If you like going out, why should you stop doing it?”

Jun: At first the other man’s refusal to forget the previous night’s exchanges pulls a hard frown to his lips and he’s a couple of seconds from pushing himself away from the counter and storming from the apartment, never to look back, as he knows he should. But it’s the explanation behind it that stops him, and dropping his early dawn hued gaze downward, instead of leaving, he spends a little while longer contemplating the meaning behind the blonde’s words.

In a way they are similar in that regard and he doesn’t exactly know what to make of it. He’s been so alone within his race when it’s come to how his mind has been wired, and it’s that difference that’s always singled him out. He’s often hated that he is the way that he is, hated the way he can’t help but think, hated they way he sees everyone around him, hated the compassion he feels for others he’s supposed to treat with disdain, and most of all he’s hated the memories he can’t let go of even when they’ve been ripped forcibly from his head. How many times has he longed to forget what he is, or wished he was like every other member of his race? How many times has he cursed his own existence, completely at a loss for how to become the cold unfeeling soldier he’s expected to be? If he could do that then there’d be nothing to set him apart from the others, if he was like them, maybe Haniel wouldn’t have chosen him in the first place and then he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in now. He’s longed for it on more occasions than he can count, longed to be just like everyone else and not the cosmic joke his Maker saw fit to make him.

Yet here before him is someone who claims he also can’t forget, someone who knows on some level what it’s like and while Zephyr isn’t the same race as him and being a memory telepath is completely different from whatever it is he is, here before him is actually another who can understand him a little. So did he misjudge his original misjudgment of the taller man? At this point in time, he honestly can’t tell but it’s the small speck of common ground he and his coworker seem to share that allows him to relax just a little and again he finds himself taking a chance by answering back.

“I don’t go out, because I’m not allowed to…” Jun sighs softly, slipping his hand carefully away from his face and setting it down on the counter before lifting his pink gaze right back up. “As fun as it is, it’s not worth the repercussions that’ll happen if I get caught.” If he’s seen acting as much of a fool as he did last night, he’ll be found out in an instant and while Taz will only use it as another tool to control him, he won’t be so lucky if another of his kind happens to find him instead. He’s here for one purpose and one alone and so long as he continues to play his part in it, he’ll be allowed to remain on Earth with what few freedoms he’s been granted, but that could change in an instant if a report gets back to the council that his newest conditioning hasn’t remained intact and they’ll have no qualms whatsoever about dragging him back home for yet another game of ‘hack his mind apart’ again.

“No amount of fun is worth getting caught and what happened last night was a serious lapse in my judgment that won’t happen again… a fluke, like my damn eyes…” not entirely realizing he’s made the last statement, Jun falls silent, his half lidded pain tinged gaze remaining on the blonde’s features for a few moments longer as the coffee maker continues to drip behind him until something he said prompts him to speak once again. “So, that’s your idea of having fun then?” he half wonders, half smirks -immediately regretting it as a throbbing ache spikes hard in response. Pulling his hand away from the counter, he slides his fingers up to his temples once more before letting out another quiet sigh. “What was it that did it for you, my clumsy awkward dancing or my inability to manage this regions’ common speech?”

Zephyr: An easy grin spreads across the Dark’s lips at Jun’s question. “Oh it was definitely your clumsy, awkward dancing,” he teases lightly. Which hadn’t really been all that clumsy or awkward at all despite how drunk the Angel was at the time. Jun was still surprisingly graceful, and the fluidity in which he’d matched his movements so perfectly with his own was impressive. It’s kindled a desire to dance with him again without the interference of chemicals in order to see what the white-haired man can really do on a dancefloor. “Although your speech imperfections were amusing as well.”

Jun sighs again, the heels of both hands pressing against his forehead in an effort to quell what must be a raging headache, and Zeph can’t help but to feel for him. It’s always a good time until the hangover strikes and then the regret comes surging in. Turning away from the Angel, he opens one of the lower cabinet drawers to pull out a black and silver thermal carafe, carefully unscrewing the top before setting it beside the rapidly filling coffee pot. “Truthfully though, my idea of having fun is dancing.” With flying no longer an option, it’s one of the few things he still has when he needs to relax. “I like the clubs with their thumping sound systems and flashing lights. I like the floors so packed that you can’t move without brushing up against someone else. I like the heat and the sweat, the pounding rhythm that overtakes you and unlocks the barriers we normally set on ourselves.” He flashes Jun a smile. “The dancefloor is freeing, you know? A place to forget for a while.”

Pulling the full pot of dark, steaming liquid free of the coffeemaker, he pours it into the carafe, filling it to the brim before replacing the pot and screwing the lid on tight. He wants to ask Jun about the repercussions he’d mentioned, and why he’s not permitted to go out. Is he really that afraid of being caught? By whom? The only other Angel he’s seen around frequently enough to recognize is that Taz guy, but he seems to disappear from campus for long stretches of time and when he is here, it’s never longer than a week. How would they even know if Jun went out? Unfortunately he doesn’t understand enough about Angelic society to answer any of those questions, so instead he carries the full carafe to the opposite side of the kitchen and slides it next to the basket beside Jun.

“A life without fun, even if it leads to getting caught, is a little meaningless, isn’t it?” Leaning his tall frame against the counter, the smile he gives to the Angel is warm and gentle. “So perhaps you should permit yourself a lapse in judgment from time to time, even if it is a fluke.” And if those pink eyes that slide up to meet midnight are a fluke, too, then they’re a very beautiful one…

Jun: Early dawn tinted eyes slide up to meet midnight and for a long moment he says nothing, the two simply staring at one another as the other man’s words resonate throughout his aching head.

“A life without fun, even if it leads to getting caught, is a little meaningless, isn’t it?”

He wishes he could see it this way, he really does. But having been given the choice of it in the past, he found in a moment of desperation that it’s better to have some life than not to have one at all. While that choice has afforded him a life that isn’t ideal and he’s spent more time since pretending to be something he’s expected to be instead of living as what he really is, at least he’s still here; which is more than he can say for any other of his kind who has broken a law in some way.

And he is alive. He is in fact one of the only of his society who has gone through a trial and been allowed to see another day and no matter how difficult things become, he fully intends to keep it that way.

“It isn’t likely.” Jun replies and pulling his hands from his forehead, he reaches forward to wrap his fingers around the granite counter in order to steady himself enough to rise up. “There isn’t a single ward that I know of that can hide my presence or block my scent well enough to ensure I’d be safe through any more ‘flukes.’” Reaching gingerly forward once straightened, he gathers the basket the Selestarri has prepared for him closer before reaching for the carafe as well. “So it’s easier for me just to not have them, trust me.” Sighing again, the white haired Angel turns away and strides towards the door. With basket and coffee balanced perfectly in one arm, he reaches for the knob but instead of turning it and exiting, he remains still.

“Thank you…” Jun says quietly to the one behind him, his pain tinged gaze remaining focused in at his front. “For all this… and for agreeing not to speak of last night again. I know everything I’ve done recently has been a little contradictory, but as it is with everything else, I don’t really have much of a choice… Like I said earlier, I am sorry for it, and I can promise that I won’t let it happen again.” And with that statement, he twists the knob and steps into the hall, his movements guarded and careful even as the door clicks shut behind him before he begins making his slow way down the hall.

space01

 

Lan: the bright sun shines down on his lanky frame, deceiving about its warmth as it highlights white shaggy hair in a way that’s almost as blinding as the overhead light. The Bright is dressed in a light loose shirt and pair of loose pants resting low on his hips despite the surrounding cold, a simple thin black leather belt holding the baggy garment in place and his hands latched casually in his pockets. Stepping from the main path, he makes his way to a specific apartment and glancing upwards to the enclosed patio, yellow eyes settle on what can be seen of a dark, well wrapped figure as he tends to the small garden he knows to be there.

Sashi’s movements stop after a moment and storm cloud colored eyes shift downward, the younger Selestarri offering up a warm and inviting smile. [I just happened to be passing by,] Lan begins, [and I thought perhaps you might like to join me for a stroll… as coworkers of course. I find long strolls to be rather calming and I thought that you might as well.] He grins then adds, [I promise I’ll keep you warm in exchange for the company…]

Sashi: Bundled in a woolen coat with a deep hood and a scarf wrapped around his neck, the Warden snaps the pruners in one gloved hand closed before pulling away the unneeded sprig of plant and stopping to consider his next cut. He’d been out here in the cold for the last hour, working to tidy his small garden before transferring the more delicate annuals inside and winterizing the rest of the space. While he’d rather be inside in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot tea, he’d been putting this chore off for the last three weekends and he’s running out of time as the days grow shorter and colder. If he waits too long and there’s an early frost the more fragile plants won’t survive the transfer inside, and he’ll lose them completely.

Snipping another bit from the small flowering bush and tossing the clipped bit into the growing pile at his feet, Sashi shifts to the next plant, carefully considering which parts need pruning when a familiar magical signature crosses his senses. Being sensitive to magic involves being able to screen it out and ignore it the majority of the time, which is the Dark’s common practice when it comes to the building’s other non-human residents. So it’s only when Lan’s signature stops in place and lingers does he begin to pay attention. The Bright is below him, on the street level, waiting, he would guess, for acknowledgment. With a sigh, the telepath shifts to look over the balcony rail and is met immediately by a warm smile and a cheerful invitation.

Once again, Lan is offering up an activity that sounds suspiciously like something friends do with one another, despite his disclaimer about taking the walk strictly as coworkers. It seems like no matter what he says or does, the Bright is intent on seeking him out. He’s given explanations, walked out of conversations, and at times been rude, and yet the white-haired man continues to appear with one excuse or another, and he just doesn’t know what to make of it. Only his brother has ever been this exhausting in his stubbornness.

Friends don’t exist in his world, they can’t in part because of who he is and in part because he simply doesn’t have what it takes to be a friend to anyone. He’s known this for a long time, and after his adolescence he’d stopped even trying. It’s not like the other Dark wanted to truly be his friend anyway, and when they approached him it was easy enough to sort through their lies once he learned what to look for. As much as he’d hardened himself against it all, those attempts still hurt and their scars still cause him pain, especially when paired with the loneliness that has plagued him all these years. It’s so foolish to dislike people as much as he does and yet feel the need to be around them so strongly that at times it physically hurts. This separation from Nova has made it worse, jagged edges that tear at him constantly and he knows the incoming winter will only sharpen the need.

Storm-tinted eyes stare down at the lanky figure below, the refusal he’s about to give momentarily stilled. If they were strictly colleagues, as has been suggested, if friendship wasn’t a part of it at all… could he do it? There would be no need for any connections, no expectation of the things he can’t give, no real attachment at all. If he’s not attached, then the risk and possibility of pain are minimal, and maybe just the presence of the Bright will be enough to take the edge off the loneliness, even if only a little.

[As colleagues only,] he says quietly before stepping away from the rail. Storing the pruners in the tool bench beside the French doors, Sashi steps inside, shedding the woolen coat and scarf and swapping them out for a coat without a hood. Winding the scarf once again around his neck, he exits his apartment and moves down the hall to the stairwell, teleporting from the third to the first floor and stepping into the lobby where the doorman greets him a fraction of a second before summer yellow eyes and a warm smile meet thundercloud gray from the sidewalk…

Lan: moving down the steps, it takes little time for the older man to join him and without even a thought lent to it, the surrounding cold is immediately shut out the instant he draws near, gray eyes shifting briefly upward to meet his yellow as he’s enveloped in what can only be described as a bubble of soothing warmth. Without a word spoken to one another, the two Selestarri step out onto the main sidewalk, the Bright soon leading his companion back the way he’d originally come. The cold wind blows all around the two, rustling trees and shaking mixed colored leaves free while tugging at errant strands of white and black hair but as it washes over the pair it’s warm and comfortable, lacking the actual bite that should be there.

Unlatching his fingers, Lan reaches into the pocket of his baggy pants and pulls a small box free, and without so much as a pause to his casual steps he flips it open, twisting his lanky frame slightly sideways to offer Sashi his pick of the cigarettes that lay within. [The leaves from the trees in the park are in a state of color change that I thought you might enjoy…] he smiles as tattooed fingers slide over after a moment and slip a single stick free, [I find the science of it fascinating and every once in a while it’s nice to view, even when one has to brave the weather in order to see it,] pulling out one for himself, he slides the stick up to his lips as he closes the box and slips it back into his pocket. Sashi is about to sketch the rune needed to light his cigarette when the tip flares bright, and offering a small nod of acknowledgment, his own is quick to follow.

[It looks as if it’ll be a cold winter…] the Bright continues as he inhales deeply and holding the smoke deep in his lungs for a few moments, he slowly blows it out as he flashes another cheery grin to the one at his side. [Not that I’d actually know what that feels like…] he sighs softly as his summer yellow eyes return to his front and despite his casual tone, his smile dims just a little. [One drawback to the fire is that it doesn’t allow me to feel anything but its warmth and because of it, I haven’t felt what it is to be cold in a very… very long time.] He hasn’t felt the cold since the accident in fact, in any shape or form, in any way. Sometimes he misses it because its touch made him feel a normality he no longer feels, but mostly he can no longer remember it and that fact saddens him more than he’d care to admit on any given day…

Sashi: He remains quiet as they walk, surprised by the layers of warmth that Lan seems able to keep around them at all times. Perhaps that’s why the Bright is dressed for far warmer weather than that of late autumn. They pass several people on the sidewalk on the way to the park, and the Warden ignores any of the strange looks they get as a matter of course. When one has been on the receiving end of such things their entire lives, tuning them out becomes reflexive. Many of those they pass nod to Lan, and somehow he’s not surprised that the other Selestarri is well known in the area. Like Zeph, the white-haired Bright seems to have that kind of personality that instantly makes others like and remember them. Somehow in their family genetics, Sashi received absolutely none of those abilities when it comes to dealing with others.

The cigarette is gladly taken when offered, the smoke pulled deep inside and held for a long moment before he exhales. He’s quietly pleased to go and see the seasonal color changes in the trees as it’s one of the few things about this time of year that he enjoys. The science part of it that Lan confesses to find so interesting is something he could care less about, but the view of the reds, golds, and oranges are beautiful enough to merit the walk even if they don’t hold the same reasons for wishing to view the trees.

[I don’t enjoy the cold,] Sashi says quietly when Lan trails off, ash flicking from the end of his cigarette as they pass beneath a canopy of colored branches that arc high off the sidewalk. [It never seems to leave me, despite my efforts, so you aren’t missing much.] Lately he’s become convinced that something deep inside at his core is frozen solid, a hollow cold that no spell or layers of clothing or heating devices can ease.

From the buildings to their left a large dog suddenly appears, a woman chasing uselessly after it as it barrels straight toward the pair of Selestarri. Sashi stops in his tracks, gray eyes on the incoming animal, waiting for it to draw close before he holds out one hand, palm outward and gives a clear, commanding “sit.” The dog halts immediately and obeys the command, wiggling with clear impatience until the telepath closes the distance between them and runs his free hand along the thick fur of the dog’s shoulder. It leans in closer, tail wagging all over the place as the woman finally catches up and apologizes. The Dark shakes his head as he continues to pet the large animal. “It happens more often than you think. Dogs have always liked me.” Dogs, wolves, the hounds on Nova, all of them had always seemed drawn to him for reasons he can’t explain, but has cherished. Hated by his faction, they are the only creatures who don’t see him as a monster, and instead have gifted him with the displays of affection they show to any of their pack. With them he is always accepted, and so he’s happy to return their affection whenever he’s able.

Slipping his gaze back to Lan, he finds the Bright standing just behind with a wide smile on his face. [What?]

space01

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

 

Lan: he can’t help the warmth of the smile that spans his lips as he watches the Dark interact with the stranger’s dog, finding the sight so endearing that it takes quite a lot for him to remain in place instead of stepping forward to join them like he wants.

It’s as if Sashi doesn’t realize what’s happening to him while he’s with the animal, how his hardened expression relaxes and how innocent his face has become. There’s no walls between himself and the dog, no barriers, nothing to separate them from one another in the way he separates himself from everyone else. There’s such a raw beauty to the other man at this moment and it tugs at his heart deeply, a gift bestowed upon him that he doubts the telepath even knows he’s given.

[Oh, I’m actually a little surprised to be honest…] the tall Bright replies as he draws his cigarette back up to his mouth, taking another long drag. […that you don’t own one down here yourself,] he clarifies when the dark haired figure flashes him a guarded look and cupping the smoldering stick in between full lips after he blows the smoke out, he takes a step forward, his illusion masked fingers held out for the dog to smell. [Considering the unconditional love they give so freely…] the dog takes only a moment to sniff him before pushing its muzzle against his hand and smiling he gladly obliges, petting the animal back. [That kind of love is rare, but when it is given…] offering the dog a final scratch on his head, he pulls away and straightens, slipping the cigarette once again from his mouth. […I feel it shouldn’t be overlooked, don’t you agree?]

Sashi: Giving the dog one last good rub of its ears, the Dark nods to the owner and turns away, continuing down the sidewalk in the direction of the park. Lan falls in next to him, but no words are exchanged for several long minutes, smoke trailing after the two men in hazy curls. He doesn’t have a reply to the Bright’s question because he doesn’t really understand anything about love. Everything in his world has been hate from the time he was small, and the only thing he really knows about love is that it’s not for him in the same way that friendships and relationships aren’t for him. Zephyr is perhaps the only exception to that rule, he does love his brother, but that’s different and it’s not the kind of love to which he thinks Lan is referring. [Perhaps,] Sashi finally says, giving nothing else in response to a question he can’t truly answer.

The sidewalk curves along the wide, tree lined street, and they make their way past the final row of small businesses and restaurants before the grounds of the park open up before them. Passing the entrance sign, Lan chooses one of the winding, paved trails that will give them not only a view of the fall foliage, but of the various creeks and ponds within the park as well. Cigarettes burn out and another round is lit as the walk commences, the sunlight slanting through the trees overhead lighting the changing leaves like fire, a beautiful show of crimson, gold, and orange.

[I can’t own a dog…] The Warden finally breaks what had been a rather comfortable silence between them. [If I did and something happened… If someone mistreated or hurt something that I loved to get at me…] He wouldn’t be able to forgive himself, not when he understands the danger perfectly well. Gray eyes remain firmly fixed on the path ahead as the words slowly spill out. [Where I come from, such things are common, so it’s better that I don’t even present the opportunity.] Maybe someday when everything with the Seeker is over, if he lives, and once he’s exiled himself from the rest of his race, he can find a place and lock it down, safe from those who would seek to harm him and then he can have a pack of his own. There’s no better way he can think of to return the affection of the animals who accepted him when no one else would. [It’s better if I remain alone…]

Lan: With the other man’s statement, much of Sashi’s actions and the attempts to push him away suddenly make perfect sense. He’d already suspected that to be one of the reasons that drove him, but this just confirms it in his head. He understands it, more than he thinks the Dark realizes. He understands the fear of harm being brought to those you allow yourself to care for and how much easier it is to simply isolate yourself and save not only them the pain, but yourself as well.

He understands it perfectly.

[I don’t think…] the Bright begins quietly, his summer yellow gaze slipping away from the surrounding foliage and over to find storm cloud colored gray at his side, [that you are as alone as you think yourself to be.] the older Selestarri does have a few who care for him… his brother for one, who is protective enough to seek him out and establish an understanding in Sashi’s regard in a way he’s pretty sure no other Dark has done with a Bright. Then there is himself, who plans to keep his offer of friendship available despite the multiple rejections he’s received and the multitude he’s sure to receive in the future.

[But I do understand your reasons…] the white haired man continues as his half burnt cigarette is returned to his lips and his gaze slides back to the fiery colors of the leaves gracing the trees they pass beneath. [Where I come from, it doesn’t exactly work the same so I’ve never had to worry about another harming those around me in that manner… but I’ve certainly excelled in it all on my own…] Lan’s voice drops a little and despite the smile he readily gives, his gaze becomes momentarily haunted. [Even if they hadn’t kept me separate from the others, I would have done it myself… especially after-] an old memory suddenly to floods back at the mention and for a split second, a face he hasn’t seen for a very long time flashes through his mind’s eye –a blackened burning creature twisted and screaming in pain, unrecognizable in every way to all except himself. Yellow eyes snap shut in an attempt to keep it from fully surfacing, his words cut off in an instant while rising deep within him, the fire attempts to surge at his core. It takes the lanky Selestarri a second or two to calm his body and push the memory back down, and by the time he manages it and reopens his eyes, he finds that he’s stopped moving, the Warden halted only a few paces ahead of him as he stares back with an expression he can’t quite discern.

In his fingers, the cigarette has burned completely away and beneath his feet, the paved pathway has singed black and the realization of it brings his gaze downward and a trace of regret to spring up in his tone. [Forgive me…] he whispers and as if it hadn’t happened, he reaches back into his pocket and pulls the near empty box of cigarettes out to free another, his steps resumed shortly. […it isn’t always easy to keep under complete control and occasionally…] he trails as he slides the stick to his mouth, lighting the very tip. He offers another to the one before him as he draws near, and both Selestarri resume the earlier pace that had been momentarily disrupted. Despite the warmth that remains readily available to envelope the Warden however, the Bright has added a subtle but noticeable distance between them and it’s almost as if he’s worried about standing too close. [As I said… I understand it. But it isn’t always better, for some of us anyway, to remain alone…] for himself and for obvious reasons, he should remain alone for the rest of his days, but Sashi… Sashi whose face lights up and who becomes as bright as the sun when he’s with something he cares about, being alone isn’t something he feels the other man should stay.

Sashi: The flare of foreign fire magic hits his senses even before the Bright comes to an abrupt halt and yellow eyes snap shut. The telepathic words are snapped off mid-sentence, bringing his storm-tinted gaze up and his own defenses clicking into place with an ease obtained from long years of constant wariness around others. The burst swells for just a moment, the ground beneath Lan’s feet blackening rapidly and the air shifting from warm and pleasant to hot, and the Warden prepares a psionic strike as a precaution should the other Selestarri’s internal battle be lost. It proves unnecessary as the other man regains control, the fire slowly receding, and the entire flare-up lasting only a handful of heartbeats. It takes another few breaths until Lan has calmed himself, and by the time summer-gilded eyes reopen, the Dark has dropped his defenses once again.

The Bright gives his apology and they continue the walk, although Lan now walks on his left where he can’t clearly see him. The difficulty controlling the magic inside is something he understands all too well, the constant struggle of locking down a power that never rests and always wishes freedom from the barriers imposed upon it. He’s lost that struggle many times himself, especially when he was younger, and people have died when it overwhelmed him and lashed out. Over the years he’s grown strong enough to keep it under wraps and to understand when it needs to be let free in order to prevent an overload. It’s not foolproof, though, and there are still times where he finds himself in the same position the other man was just currently in, fighting a force that wants nothing more than to slip the restraints and destroy everything it possibly can.

With that understanding, he says nothing in response to the apology and continues to walk in silence for a while, the path leading them deeper into the forest. Crossing a footbridge, they pause to look out over the wide creek that runs beneath, its levels swelled from yesterday’s rain. Smoke clouds about their heads before thinning away to nothing, the last of the cigarettes smoked and disposed of as they remain still. The silence between them is easy, each of them content to watch the movement of the water and the occasional swooping fight of small birds from tree to tree.

The scenery is just as beautiful as he’d been promised, and staring out at it, Lan’s earlier words return to him. [You meant Zephyr,] Sashi says quietly, [the one who makes me not as alone as I may believe?] A slow sadness spreads within, tinged with the pain of guilt, and he lets it go, knowing he deserves every second of it. [What my brother has suffered because he chose to associate with me, because he wouldn’t back down when the others threatened him, has been extreme.] Broken and shattered bones, lacerations, bruises, hard words, taunts, punishments from the elders, bullying from their peers, and every other form of abuse has been thrown at the younger Dark, but none of it could budge Zeph from his side. Not even his own efforts to push the blonde away had been successful. [Unlike the rest of our kind, both Zeph and I take our shared blood seriously, and that’s why he’s always stayed with me. I know what sacrifices he’s made, how much he’s bled or been hurt because of me, don’t think for a minute that I don’t recognize it.] The Warden’s tone has turned cool and his storm-shrouded eyes remain on the scenery spread before them. Everything his brother has endured for his sake is carried just the same as his own scars, they cut just as deep and bleed just as much. Things had been better for the blonde once he’d grown old enough to back his protection of the telepath up both physically and magically, but Zeph has still suffered because of him, and it leaves a stain of guilt on Sashi’s heart. [He is the exception to my stance on attachments. The only exception…]

Lan: [I did not mean to imply that you were unaware of your brother’s love…] Lan offers gently, his hands slipping back to his latch casually onto his pockets [For that, I am sorry.] he supposes he can understand why Sashi would mistake his observation for blindness, and because of it, his flat retort to it is completely understandable as well, and something he quite possibly deserves to have received. He knows full well that the two siblings love one another and that each, not just the blonde are protective, but his reference was not exactly one made about Zephyr alone, despite it obviously having gone completely over the shorter man’s head.

[What I say isn’t to be taken very seriously anyway,] Lan smiles a lighthearted smile before he turns away from the pond and continues on. [I’ve spent so many years with only myself as a conservationist and when one has only themselves to speak to, they can forget the simple social graces that would normally keep their tongues in line from time to time.] He chuckles and when Sashi moves up behind him, he pauses just long enough to allow the Warden to fall back into their easy, comfortable stride. [I will be more careful with my words from now on…]

For the remainder of their walk, the two men say nothing else to one another, the comfort of silence shifting easily back in. But the entire way, Lan himself finds himself locked into his thoughts, finding himself a little saddened by what he had said and how it was interpreted. The mistake of his words has reminded him that he’s probably spoken far more freely with the Dark than he should again. And while it isn’t that he hasn’t spoken to Sashi before, in fact he’s spent since the first day he took the assignment speaking to him, it’s just that these last couple of weeks have been the first time the older Selestarri has spoken to him back and with that small, unintentional scolding, he’s been reminded that there are eggshells in which he should still walk. They are not friends, as Sashi often reminds him, and as such, he has no right to offer insight that was not asked for, even if it wasn’t meant as such. He doesn’t enjoy the thought of having caused the Warden harm, even in this small, innocent form and when he says he will be careful from now on, he means it in every possible way…

space01

Zephyr: Black flecked midnight eyes scan the small dial of the meat thermometer, waiting for the final reading before sliding the glass pan containing a seasoned roast lined with potatoes and carrots back into the oven. Another ten minutes should finish the meat perfectly, right on schedule. The blonde reaches out to set the timer before turning to the sink to wipe the thermometer and set it on a cloth beside the stove. Scanning the counter, he mentally ticks off the other courses of the meal and each of their components. With everything in line, his gaze turns toward the table, and ensuring that all is in its place for dinner with his brother, the tall Selestarri makes his way towards the apartment door.

He pauses a moment as he passes the silver sunglasses still sitting on the island counter, debating whether or not to extend the dinner invitation to their owner. All through the late afternoon he’d been so happy to finally see the real person hiding beneath the cold facade the Angel keeps around him at all times, but the more he thought on it and replayed their conversation in his head, the more he’d heard the notes of sadness and resignation in the other man that he hadn’t noticed when they’d been speaking. There’s also something Jun fears, something that keeps him hidden away and keeps him from being anything except the fake person he displays on the outside. He’s not sure what it is that frightens his colleague so much, but hopefully the research that Innic’s collecting this weekend will fill in some of the gaps. In the meantime he’ll leave off of Jun for the night, let him recover from what the Angel had called “a lapse in judgment,” and return the sunglasses tomorrow.

Without bothering to put on shoes, the Dark opens the door to the hallway and steps out in his socks, so wrapped up in his thoughts about Jun and dinner that he nearly collides with Lan. He’d sensed the Bright’s return along with his brother’s just a few minutes ago, and indeed, the other man is moving from the direction of Sashi’s apartment. Hands latched casually in the front pockets of his pants, Lan flashes Zephyr a warm smile that’s immediately returned, but there’s something off, something almost… sad, in yellow eyes when they meet midnight blue. Without knowing the white-haired man well enough he can’t pinpoint what that sadness might be, but considering that the older Selestarri has just spent time with the Warden, he can hazard a guess that it has something to do with his brother. “Is he giving you a hard time?” Zeph asks quietly, speaking aloud to keep the telepath from overhearing their conversation. “I know he can be difficult…”

Lan: The tall Bright’s footfalls slow as the blonde steps out into the hall, noticing the other man to be distracted enough not to realize he’s immediately there and having it confirmed when the pair nearly collide despite his efforts to avoid it. He offers the Dark a warm smile and a nod and is readily given one in return, but when Zephyr inquires about Sashi, the smile fades just a little.

“No…” Lan replies quietly, “the difficulty in this has been entirely my own doing.” Sashi is being who he has been from the start. He’s pushing him away as he has from the beginning and doing nothing that he hasn’t already done before. He’s had the coldness directed at him since the assignment began and the walls have always been in place to block him out, yet despite it all he’s still felt comfort in being near the other man and that hasn’t changed no matter what was done, that is until their latest walk.

His words being taken wrong have unnerved him a little because the thought that he might have harmed the Warden by what he said is upsetting. How is he to keep himself from doing it again now, how is he to stop himself from accidentally hurting the older Selestarri another time by conversations that for him are meant as completely innocent and not to be harmful in any way?

“I think perhaps, that I have come to a small impasse as far as our conversations are concerned,” he admits with a small sigh, slipping a hand from his pocket and up to brush shaggy strands away from his eyes. “And quite honestly, I am unsure of how to rectify it…” If everything he now says has to be watched and guarded for fear of accidentally hurting Sashi again, how will he be able to speak to him at all?

Zephyr: The blonde’s heart begins to sink with each of Lan’s words, an empty hollow of disappointment filling up when the Bright confesses his problem with Sashi. Maybe he’d been wrong to go to the older Selestarri and involve him in problems that weren’t his to begin with. Maybe he leapt too fast at Lan’s kindness and tolerance for his brother and overestimated what the other man could handle. Maybe he’d just been too excited to find someone who shared even a fraction of the isolation Sashi has endured that he’d forgotten to take the Bright’s feelings into consideration.

It’s just… he can see how lonely his brother is and how much he needs someone even if the older Dark won’t admit it. All these years of watching him and Innic together, but having no friend of his own has wounded Sashi, not by anything he or his best friend has done, but because his brother has always believed he could never have such a person in his life. He’s always been told he has to be alone and with the rest of their faction enforcing those words at every step, Sashi has taken it to heart. Add to that a string of other Dark who would make overtures toward his brother, promising to be his friend and even going through the motions until their ulterior purposes were revealed, leaving Sashi feeling rejected and hurt. Enough of that kind of pain would lead anyone to raise their defenses and keep others as far away as possible. The Warden accepts him because they’re brothers, but that’s a very different thing than friendship, at least to Sashi.

So when Lan appeared and didn’t instantly recoil from the older Dark and instead has tried to spend time with him and offered the friendship that Zeph knows Sashi wishes for so desperately, he’d jumped on the chance. It doesn’t matter that they come from different factions, it doesn’t matter that technically, the Bright is here to report on them to his Assembly, it only matters that after all this time a possibility had presented itself. However, it seems like it might be too much for Lan after all…

Stepping back to his door, Zeph swings it open and gestures for the other Selestarri to enter, the colored wards locking into place as they cross the threshold and the door is closed behind them. “Soundproofing,” the blonde waves vaguely at the walls and ceiling with a sigh. “Look, I know Sashi can be trying, believe me, I know. He’s not great with conversations, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, especially if they involve talking at all about his feelings.” Any talk of that kind can shut the Warden down in about ten seconds flat. Sashi is sensitive, but he’s spent so many years holding everything in that he has no idea how to let any of it out. Instead he goes on the defensive and the walls come down, which he imagines can be a little unsettling for anyone not used to dealing with the telepath on a regular basis. “I’m sorry if he was hurtful and upset you.” Combing his fingers through his bangs, Zeph sighs again. “What did he say?”

Lan: The lanky Bright remains still in his place just past the threshold with his hands still latched casually into his pockets, his yellow gaze locked with midnight as the other man speaks. Zephyr’s concern for him is a little surprising but it along with his protectiveness of his brother warms his heart in every single way and even though the concern is currently a little misguided, it is appreciated more than he thinks the young Dark will ever know.

“I think perhaps that you misunderstand…” the Bright responds, offering the other man a warm and gentle smile. “It is not anything he has said to me, nor is it anything he’s done. Sashi is who he is. I expect nothing less from him and I definitely don’t expect anything more. His words to me are no different than they have been since the beginning… and just because he and I have been conversing a little more as of late, I do not expect those words to turn kind. I don’t expect him to accept the friendship I have offered, I don’t even expect him to offer me a smile.” He chuckles, “I expect him to be nothing other than who he presents himself to be if it’s what he so wishes and I would not presume him to change simply because of me.” He can hope for it, and he does, just as he can hope that at some point his friendship will be returned, but he will not expect it because he doesn’t believe he has a right to impose that expectation on someone who did not ask for it to begin with. “As I have told your brother, as I mentioned during our talk, my position in this will not change.” No matter what is said or done by Sashi, he will continue to stay where he is.

“My impasse…” Lan continues, the warmth of the smile on his lips fading a little. “Is that I fear I might have caused him harm without meaning to and I do not wish to do it again… I have spent a long time alone, Zephyr,” he admits sadly, “and I think that it has afforded me a rather loose tongue. My words… are normally chosen carefully, but when I am with him, there is a comfort to his presence that I cannot fully explain. Because of that comfort, I had momentarily forgotten that I cannot speak as freely as I would with one whom I call a friend and who sees me as one in return.” He sighs, slipping his hand away from his pocket and sliding them up to push through his hair “I’m afraid that I spoke too freely and said something that was taken not as it should have been. My words… were harmful when they were not meant to be… and it is this that I am unsure of how to fix.” Causing Sashi harm on any level is what’s upset him, because he truly didn’t mean it and now he again harbors doubt that he will be unable to stop himself from doing it again. If even his most innocent of words are taken incorrectly, he worries he will no longer be able to speak to the other man at all…

Zephyr: The sadness and disappointment that had seized his heart just a few minutes ago begin to drain away as Lan explains what sounds to him like a misunderstanding on both the Bright and his brother’s part. It doesn’t surprise him that the white-haired Selestarri could misinterpret Sashi’s reaction to something given that the older Dark is often cold and dismissive, just as it doesn’t surprise him that Sashi would take something said to him the wrong way. “I doubt there’s anything you would intentionally say that could truly hurt my brother,” the blonde assures the other man, sinking down onto one of the bar stools. “He’s had every hurtful word thrown at him at one time or another, and while there are still a few that upset him, I know you wouldn’t say such things to him.”

Lan is too kind to be out rightly rude or cruel, and it sounds from what he’s said that even the thought of saying something that could bother Sashi is upsetting to him. It warms his heart to know that someone like the Bright cares for his brother in the ways that Lan does. The other man doesn’t have any false expectations for the Warden, and instead it seems like he’s willing to let Sashi be himself, which is something so few have ever understood, let alone allowed.

“What you probably saw in his reaction was defensiveness,” Zeph explains with a warm smile. “Sashi can be unkind when those defenses go up, especially if whatever was said has to do with any of the very few things he cares about.” The older Dark will allow a lot of things to roll off his back, but there are a couple of things that will set him off, and when those topics come up, his brother has been known to get prickly first and then think on what was actually said second. The defensiveness is long ingrained and the blonde knows that it always hurts Sashi when he’s thought on things later and realized he’d misunderstood. He won’t always admit to it, but it hurts him all the same. “Please don’t take it personally, Lan. I know you weren’t really trying to cause him pain, and Sashi will figure that out, too.”

The Bright doesn’t look too reassured by the words, but hopefully he’ll come to realize that they’re true. “I’m sorry,” Zeph says quietly, slightly changing the subject, “that you’ve spent so much time alone.” He has some vague ideas as to why the rest of the other man’s faction may have held him apart, but he won’t press for any specifics. “I’ve seen firsthand how hard that can be on a person, so I’m happy that you’ve found someone to be comfortable with, someone you want to spend time around and speak freely with. It’s my hope that he understands your sincerity someday and lets you in.” Honestly, he wishes for it with all his heart because he knows the loneliness is slowly destroying Sashi, and there’s been nothing he can do but stand aside and watch while his heart breaks for his brother. “In the meantime, you have my thanks, and if you wish it, you can stay for dinner, too. I’ve made plenty of food…”

Lan: He does appreciate the Dark’s attempts to reassure him, and even though he can’t help but feel as if he’s overstepped a boundary and by doing so, has hurt Sashi in some regard, he supposes he should put trust in someone who knows the Warden better than any other, just as trust has been put in him. He must trust that Sashi will come to understand that he meant no harm by his observations, and hope that he will eventually come to understand what it is exactly he had said.

“Thank you for the invitation…” the Bright smiles, “I think… that it’s something I might enjoy very much…” he’s not accustomed to being offered company by any of their kind and within the space of a month, he’s found himself spending more time with the opposite faction than he ever has of his own. It’s almost ironic in a way and it only confirms how misguided he’s felt his own faction has been when it comes to their views about the Dark as a whole and for a single second, he can’t help but entertain the idea that he might very well have been born into the wrong side…

space01

 

Slipper covered feet stride casually down the dimly lit stretch of hallway away from his own apartment and towards the blonde’s with a long slim package in hand, the clothing he’d worn earlier changed to a simple pair of light cargo style pants and a long sleeved oversized tee –more appropriate attire he feels for a casual dinner than the clothing he’d worn for a walk. It takes little time for him to arrive at Zephyr’s residence and before he can make even the motion to knock, the door opens, yellow eyes meeting midnight and a warm smile readily given as he lifts the wrapped bottle in his hand up.

[I felt it only fair to provide some refreshments in exchange for your generosity…] he indicates to the covered bottle in his hand before sliding it out for the other man to take.

Zephyr: Happily accepting the wine, he glances down to find that the bottle is a top of the line, very exclusive brand of an excellent vintage, and this particular blend will pair perfectly with the roast. [Thank you,] the blonde smiles at Lan and sets the gift on the counter. [Everything will be ready in just a few minutes. Well it will be if this one can get off his ass and pour this amazing wine you’ve brought.] Midnight eyes shift to Sashi, the older Dark perched on the far barstool, a curl of smoke lifting from the cigarette in his hand. The tall Selestarri laughs at the glare given to him, knowing there’s no real heat behind it, and he turns back to the stove to fuss with the gravy as his brother sets the smoldering stick in the ashtray. Sliding the open pack of cigarettes across the counter toward the Bright, he slips from the stool and moves toward the cabinet containing the wine glasses.

Surprisingly, Sashi hadn’t said much at all when Zeph had finally made it to his apartment and shared the news about Lan joining them for dinner. When asked if he was all right with it, a small shrug was the only reply, and while that might not mean anything with most people, with the Warden it says a lot. If his brother had really been against the idea, he’d have said so, but in this case his silence is a good thing. It’s still so early yet to know if things will work out between Sashi and Lan, but after two conversations with the white-haired Selestarri, he’s feeling hopeful. More than anything he wants to the see the telepath happy, he wants him to experience the things denied him all his life like friendships, relationships, a home where he can feel safe, acceptance… He’s well aware that the damage his brother carries is extensive and that Sashi will likely never laugh or smile or show any outward emotion like most people, but he truly believes that there will come a time when the darkness inside will lift for the Warden and the icy walls will recede, at least a little. If a friendship with Lan will start that process then he’ll back it completely, play the intermediary when necessary, and give both of them his full support.

Glancing over his shoulder, the blonde catches a glimpse of Lan watching Sashi as his brother’s back is turned to open the wine, and a smile breaks out over full lips. He genuinely likes the Bright, something he never thought he’d say about a member of a faction that keeps a stick up their ass at all times. The white-haired man is kind and patient, relaxed and easy-going and generally just calming to be around. Why the other Bright chose to isolate him–due to the fire magic, he’s assuming–is something he doesn’t understand at all, but the sadness from it has wounded Lan, and that’s quite plain once you’ve spoken with him enough. Everyone carries their own sorrow and their own sadness, but the overwhelming amounts that the other two men in this room carry is heartbreaking.

A pop signifies that Sashi’s opened the bottle and soon enough the older Dark is handing a glass to Lan and setting one on the counter before taking his own and returning to his cigarette. Zeph gives the gravy one last stir before pouring it into a small boat dish and turns to carve the meat. [So Lan,] he begins, [we know you can’t give away too many secrets of the Eyrie, but at least tell us this: do you draw straws to see who gets the shortest and has to come down here with us? We’ve often wondered how you all get assigned to a detail we doubt most of you want…]

Lan: the white haired man nods when the Dark hands him a glass of wine, accepting it graciously before taking a seat at the island counter and his eyes remaining for a moment longer on the Warden before he returns his attentions to Zephyr and answers.

[If you want to know about the Assembly’s methods when it comes to this particular assignment, you might be asking the wrong person. That information isn’t exactly something that’s shared, when it comes to myself anyway…] the lanky Bright chuckles, lifting the wine glass up to his lips and taking a small, yet savored sip. It isn’t to say that he couldn’t have found out if he’d wanted to, even secluded he has his own network and knows how to gather the information that isn’t readily made available to him. But he’s never cared for the politics of his people, and refuses to be burdened more than he has to with it even to this day.

[I can tell you that I was assigned here because I asked to be…] setting his glass down, he reaches forward and slips a cigarette from the box the Warden has left open for him before sliding it up to his mouth and the tip flairs bright a moment later before he inhales the smoke in, his summer yellow gaze finding black flecked midnight as he tilts his head just far enough back to blow the smoke out. [I had suspected the previous reports to be rather embellished by what I saw to be an obviously predisposed prejudice and thought that perhaps I might find the truth for myself…] Slipping the smoldering stick forward to tap the ash into the tray and fully aware gray eyes are on him, he smiles. He knew from the start that his suspicions about it had been right and even though he’s quite sure they don’t enjoy receiving his more open minded and neutral view of these two, and most likely toss his reports to the wind with the reasoning of him being just as much of an unstable element as Sashi and Zephyr themselves, he’ll continue to send every new report in with just as much honesty as he has from day one.

[They didn’t argue my application by the way. Most likely they were happy to have me fill in the current position as your ‘watcher’ in order to save other ‘less deserving of the burden’ from the trouble.] He’s also sure they approved his bid for it to be rid of him for a little while and to be perfectly honest, he was just as happy to leave for a little while himself. Pulling his gaze from Zephyr’s he glances sideways and finally meets Sashi’s eyes with his own, offering the older Selestarri a light and amused smile. [Trouble however, has been the last thing this assignment has been…] Despite the recent hiccups between himself and the telepath, it’s been anything but in fact and it’s for that reason that he’s stayed, even after the Assembly has attempted to recall him from time to time.

Zephyr: Slicing the last of the roasted beef, the blonde begins dishing out portions of a leek and turnip soup into three waiting bowls. [So, you volunteered to come down here and spend time with the two of us, who have been labeled frequently as ‘unstable,’ ‘dangerous,’ ‘unreasonable,’ and my personal favorite, ‘potentially damaging to the whole of Selestarri society.’] As if killing the Seeker would have unseated their very way of life. Assassination is the common way for new Seekers to rise to power, so it’s not as if they’d done something that’s completely unheard of. The issue is that they failed, and while that would have earned them a quick execution under normal circumstances, the sticking points are the serious amount of power the two of them pack and the fact that there are several sections of their faction that still support their cause. It’s caused a rift within the Dark, and that rift has ground everything to a halt while the Assembly attempts to figure out its next step, which could take years. That’s fine as far as he’s concerned because it gives him and Innic time to work out a new strategy that will ensure that bitch’s death.

Zeph flashes a smile in Lan’s direction as he moves onto the roasted vegetables, scooping them neatly onto three plates. [You’re either crazy, then, or you were ready for a vacation from the Eyrie.] From what the Bright had said, it seems like maybe a little of the last bit and a little of the Eyrie’s own desire to put Lan somewhere else for a while. He hasn’t pressed the older man for details on why his faction is so set on keeping him separate, but he’d researched Lan enough to have a few very solid ideas. [Your predecessors couldn’t wait to be relieved from their duties, practically running out of here when their designated time expired.] He laughs and the white-haired man chuckles as well, only Sashi remaining silent. [Oh, especially that one early on, Tavrick, he was visibly terrified of us. Our report meetings were hysterical, at least from our perspective.] Midnight eyes flick to the Warden as the blonde begins setting generous slices of the beef onto each plate. [You remember him, right? He couldn’t get his voice above a whisper, his hands would shake so badly that nothing he wrote was legible and that one time you stood up to leave the meeting early he very nearly soiled himself.] The younger Dark laughs again and shakes his head. [We’ve certainly had some fun with the other Bright before you came. You’ll have to forgive us.]

Spooning gravy over the meat, Zeph adds a touch of salt and pepper while taking a sidelong glance at his brother. Sashi is sitting quietly as usual, smoking and taking occasional sips from his glass. He looks relaxed, which is what he was hoping for when he invited Lan for dinner. Maybe if Sashi can get to know a little bit about the Bright in a setting like this, he’ll be more likely to find the time he spends with Lan alone more comfortable. It may help to soften those defenses just a little, and help the white-haired man with his attempts at befriending the older Dark. Or at least he can hope, and it doesn’t hurt to try given that he enjoys talking with Lan anyway.

Collecting the bowls of soup, Zeph whisks them over to the table, setting them on the waiting charger plates and gesturing for the other two Selestarri to take their places. The plates go into the oven to keep warm until they finish the soup, and by the time he’s collected his own glass of wine and the bottle, Lan and Sashi have snuffed out their cigarettes and taken their seats. Sinking into the dining chair, the younger Dark takes a moment to refill his brother and the Bright’s glasses, and raises his for a toast. Glancing at Lan, he gives the other man a warm smile. [As our guest, would you do the honors?]

space01

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

 

Lan: There’s an odd sense of camaraderie he feels being around the two brothers that he’s not sure he’s felt with any other in a very long time, not since in fact, he was very small. He’s still an outsider to the both of them and he knows it, a veritable stranger from the opposite faction and neither a friend or even barely an acquaintance. Yet one of them at least has accepted him and while the other remains guarded and hasn’t allowed him in, he’s felt more comfort in both their presences than he ever has when it’s come to any of his own kind.

It means a lot to him, to be given these moments, and they’re something he’ll treasure until the end of his days.

[Well…my skills for toasting may be a little amateur, but I will do my best…] he returns the blonde’s smile readily and lifting his filled glass upward, he waits a moment for Sashi to follow before he begins speaking again. [To those we’ve loved and those we’ve lost. To new friendships as well as old. May the bonds that are already in place strengthen with the years and may the new bonds we form become just as strong…] the lanky Bright’s summer yellow gaze slips away from midnight for just a moment, flashing the Warden a sideways glance and a smile that warms the blonde’s own immensely. [And finally, may our cigarette boxes never be empty, and the bottles of wine we gather become plentiful from here on out.]

Zephyr offers a ‘here here’ even though Sashi only nods and all three glasses are clinked right after before being half emptied and set back down. Without much else said, the Selestarri –both Dark and their Bright guest begin their waiting meal…

Sashi: A brisk autumn wind brushes through strands of black and white alike as the pair of Selestarri share the balcony, the crispness melted away by the soft bubble of heat emanating from the Bright. Smoke swirls from the end of lit cigarettes to commingle above their heads before thinning into nothing, and at each man’s side is a glass containing liquor from Zeph’s private stash, brought down from Nova for occasions such as this. The younger Dark had banished the two of them after they’d both attempted to help him clean the kitchen after dinner, and even now the faint noises of clinking dishes and running water slip through from the apartment behind. The only consolation they’d had was Zeph’s promise to join them afterwards for a cigarette and drink of his own.

The silence between himself and Lan has continued, not uncomfortably, as they stand in the exact places they’d occupied after the school meet and greet a few weeks ago. He was a little surprised when his brother told him the Bright would join them for dinner, not realizing that the blonde and Lan were social, but he didn’t have any reason to protest, so he didn’t. Their walk in the park had not perhaps ended in the best of ways when he’d snapped at the other man and the Bright stopped speaking altogether. Sashi’s well aware that he was being defensive over what had been said about him not recognizing that he’s not alone. It’s a reflex whenever anyone makes a comment, directly or not, about himself and Zeph after years spent defending their choice to be true brothers in a race that doesn’t generally recognize such bonds. He can’t help but be protective of it and that’s what had caused him to lash out. Lan doesn’t seem upset about it now and their dinner had been peaceful, so perhaps the white-haired Selestarri is fine.

But what the Warden has found the most interesting about the whole night is the easy back and forth chatting and smiling between his brother and Lan, the two of them acting as if they’ve been friends for years. Zephyr is very good at being sociable and charming when he needs to, Sashi has seen him get people to do things he’d never thought possible, but he’s also known the younger Dark long enough to tell when his brother is laying on the bullshit and when he’s being real. Tonight has been all real with no trace of an act, and that’s something the blonde saves only for the people he truly likes and cares about. The more the telepath thinks on the night, combined with what he knows about Zeph and how his brother interacts with people he likes, the more interesting it all becomes.

Taking a long drag of his cigarette, Sashi holds the smoke in deep before exhaling a thick cloud into the night sky. Turning his gaze toward Lan, warm summer yellow eyes meet cool gray, and he asks the question on his mind outright, with no sugarcoating. [Are you sleeping with my brother?]

Lan: the younger Selestarri blinks, stunned for a moment by the other man’s question and more than a little caught off guard. Of all the things that Sashi might say to him, this was something he never expected and for a few seconds, he has entirely no idea of how to respond to it. Despite his earlier upset over the possibility that he might have harmed the Warden unintentionally with his words, he took Zephyr’s encouragement to heart and simply allowed the night to be. And it had been going nicely as far as he was concerned -Sashi himself remained ever silent through most of it true, but he felt it was no different than it has been previously and shortly into the night the comfort that had lapsed during their walk had once again returned.

Or so he thought.

Apparently it wasn’t exactly what he’d assumed it to be because the Warden seems to have suspected something entirely different by his having been here, and that suspicion and what it represents quite honestly has left him feeling as if he’s been jabbed a bit in the heart…

[Am I… sleeping with your brother?] He repeats in a tone that’s both unintentionally incredulous and partially an amused laugh, but to his credit, the result of being blindsided is outwardly gone in a second and his smile slides flawlessly from slight shock to a familiar easy warmth. [I am not,] the taller man answers simply and slipping the cigarette resting in-between long fingers up to his lips, he takes a long drag in. [It isn’t in fact, a pastime that has ever crossed my mind…] Friendship yes, and it would seem as if the younger of the two brothers has granted it considering the common ground they apparently share, but beyond it his thoughts at least as far as Zephyr is concerned, have involved nothing more.

[I am curious…] Lan continues as he slides the smoldering stick back down, his summer yellow gaze still locked with cool gray and his head tilted back in the slightest as he blows the smoke out. [Have I somehow given you the impression that I am sharing his bed… or has he given one that he’s sharing mine?] The idea of it is so foreign and so completely left field to him that he honestly wishes to know how Sashi has gotten it into his head. He and Zephyr have spoken in earnest only on a few occasions previously, and each conversation they’ve had has been about the man that stands before him now. While it’s true that the repertoire between them has been easy and friendly, it goes no further than that and so he’s having a difficult time comprehending as to how the older Selestarri could have come to suspect something of the nature at all…

Sashi: Ash flicks out over the rail of the balcony and the Dark frowns. It had added up in his head after watching the pair of them that they might be sharing a bed, but with Lan’s denial and the question he poses, it would seem that he’s misread the situation. That’s not uncommon given that he always has difficulty understanding things when it comes to others unless he’s in their head. It’s just not a skill he’s ever acquired and he doubts he ever will. All that aside, he doesn’t really care one way or another whether Zeph and the Bright are sleeping together, he was just curious. For some reason, though, he feels a little relieved, although he has no idea why.

[Not directly, no,] Sashi finally replies, pulling smoke deep into his lungs and then releasing it into the night air. [All the laughing, the smiling, the joking, just how easy you two seem to be together, you coming to dinner tonight,] he shrugs, lifting one hand to push black bangs from his face, [it all indicates that the two of you are friends.] He knows he didn’t read that part incorrectly, he may be horrible when it comes to people, but he’s not that bad. [Zeph is really good with people. He’s outgoing and friendly and can talk with anyone like he’s known them forever. He’s talked his way into things and out of things with a skill that borders on magical. He knows what to say and how to say it in order to get people to do whatever he wants or needs at the time, and he can do it without any telepathic interference.] The blonde can be the complete opposite as well, when the charm doesn’t get him what he needs, and the menacing, cold iciness he can pull out rivals his own on any occasion.

Another drag of the cigarette pulls the smoke in deep and then out again, the gray swirls tugged quickly away by the wind. [My brother does it with everybody, but once you’ve known him long enough, you can tell when he means what he’s saying and when it’s just bullshit.] Sashi glances back into the apartment to catch sight of the blonde loading the dishwasher. [Tonight it’s been all real, which means Zeph considers you a friend.] It’s not anything he’s ever really given any thought to when it comes to the Bright faction, not that he cares how his brother chooses his friends. Of course all they’ve heard on Nova is how prissy and uptight the other half of their race is and how they’re all caught up in honor and ethics and all that shit. He hasn’t had much interaction with any of them before the watchers, and several of them have exemplified those qualities while others, like Lan, have been different. That’s probably how it works in reverse as well, as the white-haired Selestarri had explained at dinner how he’d taken this assignment in part to see if all the terrible things he’d heard about the Dark faction were true.

[Anyway,] the Warden reaches for his glass, careful to shift his gaze enough to fully see it through the shadows of his left eye before making contact. Lifting it to his lips, he takes a sip of the light, fruit-laced liquor and turns his gaze to Lan. [I know that sometimes Zeph and his friends enjoy the physical part of their friendships, so I just assumed…] Sashi shrugs again. It’s common between friends in his race to fool around and sleep together without being in a romantic relationship, and although he’s never had a friend of his own, he understands that much. Hell, Zeph and Innic have been warming one another’s beds since their wings grew in. [It seems I was wrong, though, in my assumption, so I apologize…]

Lan: he smiles as the Warden explains his reasoning behind the question asked, in part because it seems to have been an innocent assumption the other man had concluded due to his brother’s track record when it comes to his friends apparently, and in part due to finding that he is at least to one of them, actually considered a friend.

Though hearing Sashi say it feels a little bittersweet, and while he is happy to know that Zephyr might consider him good enough to be a friend not to just one of them, but to both, the fact that the telepath has managed to notice a relationship between them yet has somehow failed again to see the one he’s attempted to build with him to begin with, stings just a little somewhere deep inside.

[Ah, I see…] the white haired Bright replies as he slides the last of his cigarette up to his mouth and inhaling for a final time, the filter turns to ash and is carried away by the wind even before he’s fully blown the smoke out. [No need to apologize… I suppose for our kind, it would be logical for friends to share one another’s bed and so an easy assumption to make…] Their people on a whole don’t view sex as most humans seem to and for the most part, approach it casually in a way many humans seem incapable of. For a lot of humans, intimate relationships involve deeper emotional attachments than are in place for the majority of the Selestarri, whether Bright or Dark and when one of them shares a bed with another, one is usually held in a higher regard than that of their other friends. For their people however, this is rarely true and while attachments obviously form on all levels -ranging from the most casual to the deepest of loves, they are not usually burdened regardless of the depth by the idea of exclusiveness in any form.

There are exceptions to the rule on both sides of course and every once in a while one will come along who views it closer to how the humans do, despite the stigma that view carries within their societies. Sashi wouldn’t know because he barely knows him personally, but he just happens to be of that kind…

[I feel the need to clarify, in some way at the very least…] Lan continues as he reaches out and wrapping tapered fingers around the stem of his glass, he pulls it to his lips and takes a small sip. [I’ve extended my hand to you both, and while I’m happy to hear your brother has accepted and I am considered a friend, I feel there is a line between friendships and sharing something more…] regardless of how most of their kind feels when it comes to casual intimacies, he has never been one to conform and his views about it will most likely never change. [I don’t take either side very lightly and I have not as of yet, overstepped the initial line.] He hasn’t because he can’t, considering what lies beneath the masks in which he hides. What he hides is not meant to be seen and so in turn, his isolation has always been and will probably always continue to be, sadly absolute.

Sashi: Pitch black hair shifts as he nods in acknowledgement to Lan’s statement, but no other response is forthcoming. The last of the cigarette is smoked and snuffed in an ashtray, storm-tinted eyes shifting out to stare at the city that unfolds beyond the balcony’s rail. He gets the gist of what the Bright is saying, even without laying the words out exactly. He’s met a few others of the same mindset, those who view relationships as the humans do, where friendship and sexual relationships do not overlap. Such relationships must be difficult for them, or at least he supposes, given that the majority of their kind have no such boundaries in place. Unless their partner has the same views, they would need to be flexible enough to understand that the one they’ve chosen may go out and find others on the side. He wonders how many of them are able to do that. Likely none of his faction, given their penchant for jealousy and possessiveness, and that’s under normal, multi-partner relationships.

Not that he’ll ever really need to worry about it. Friendships are closed to him, and that ban expands to include romantic relationships as well. Casual sex is easy and doesn’t require attachments, just fucking, bandaging up the damage, and then leaving. No messy feelings, no new inner scars to carry home, and no possessiveness. Anything more is not an option, even if he knew where to start or how to conduct such a relationship. First, someone would need to be willing to be with him in that capacity, and he’s well aware that that person doesn’t exist. Not within the Dark, certainly not within the Bright, and he would never allow it with any of the fragile humans. No one wants to say they love a monster, and he can’t really blame them. For him it will always be this loneliness and the quick fixes he uses to take the worst of the pain away for a while. If the magic he carries doesn’t do it first, he’s somewhat aware that the loneliness will eventually kill him, slowly digging further and further into his core until the hollow becomes so wide he simply falls in, always wanting that elusive thing he can’t have.

But there are some he can at least wish it for, those deserving of whatever kind of relationship they choose–Zeph and Innic, whether separate or together, and Lan as well. He’s spent enough time with the other man to see that his heart is good, and if he really has suffered from isolation as he’s stated, then maybe someday he’ll find someone to fill the emptiness inside.

Lifting his glass to his lips, Sashi brings his gaze back to the taller Selestarri at his side. [Do you plan to… overstep the line with my brother?] The remnants of the liquor wash the tobacco from his mouth, leaving instead the taste of fruit. Storm-shadowed eyes fall away to the street below. [For the sake of your heart I would caution against it.] He may be nothing more than Lan’s colleague, but he would rather not see the other man get hurt. [Zeph is kind and giving to those he cares about, but as I’ve stated and as you can likely tell without my interference, he doesn’t share your views…]

Lan: the tall Bright can’t help the quiet sigh that escapes his lips. While Sashi’s show of what can almost be described as concern for the well being of his heart is rather sweet, even he dare say, also a little heartwarming, they are almost as misguided as Zephyr’s earlier apologies on his brother’s behalf.

There is a saying the humans have, something along the lines of ‘there is none so blind as he who will not see’ and sadly, as far as the Warden is concerned, the truth of that statement is doubly so.

[Thank you…] Lan replies as he tips the last of the wine in his glass to his lips and downs it. [The precautionary is appreciated, but not necessary] Slipping the glass downward, he sets it on the ledge before leaning casually back against the balcony railing, his hands returning to the pockets of his loose pants as his elbows are set against the scrolled metal for support. Storm cloud colored eyes remain on the city line for a few moments longer before slowly pulling away and glancing sideways, he finds summer warmed yellow staring down along with the gentle smile that awaits him.

[I do not plan on overstepping that line with your brother, even if it were to be offered…] Unlike the rest of the Bright, the thought of being intimate with the opposite faction doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t care about the divides that are supposed to be in place to separate them and he holds none of the prejudices that his side is prone to when it comes to the Dark. But despite this being true, he still wouldn’t accept an invitation to the blonde’s bed if it to be given because his interests… they lay elsewhere.

[He isn’t exactly my type.] Lan’s smiles again, this time a little sadly as he knows full well that as it has been along with everything else he’s said and done, the true meaning of his words will go completely over the older man’s head. [So friends without benefits, as I think they say, is what we will continue to be…]

Sashi: There’s a tinting of sadness to the white-haired Selestarri’s words and his normally warm smile, a sadness he doesn’t understand. Lan said he wasn’t interested in Zeph, and it didn’t sound like his warning had been any great surprise to the Bright, so why is he upset? This is usually why he avoids situations like this, because he completely lacks the ability to read and understand other people. Despite being a part of this conversation for the last five minutes, he has exactly no idea what he’s said that’s affected Lan so much that his normal cheer and smile have faded.

[I guess,] the Dark replies after a moment, [that it’s good your tastes lie elsewhere.] Why the other man isn’t interested in his brother he doesn’t quite understand. Despite the fact that they’re related, he thinks the younger Selestarri attractive, plus he’s outgoing and good to those he cares about, and from all accounts he’s heard, Zeph is great in bed. It really makes him kind of everybody’s type, except, apparently, Lan’s.

A soft frown slips over Sashi’s expression, and he reaches once again for the pack of cigarettes to pull a fresh stick free. He doesn’t even really know what his own type is. Not that he doesn’t have standards, because he certainly does, but honestly he’s never given it much thought because one night stands don’t require thought. He simply finds someone that’s interested and is willing to play rough and that’s about it. Hair color or eye color or whether they have a nice ass or whether they’re nice aren’t things that cross his mind when he’s looking to hook up. They’re not really important when the act lasts a relatively short amount of time and his only real goal is to take the edge off the loneliness for a while. It’s not as though he’ll ever have a relationship like most people, so what does it matter?

But for pretty much everyone else, he can see why it does and why they’d want specific criteria in someone they’ll be investing in not just physically, but emotionally as well. [I’ve never given much thought to types,] Sashi says softly, lighting the end of the cigarette with a quick rune. Reaching for the bottle of liquor, he pours them each a fresh glass and then sets it on the small patio table. Easing into one of the rockers just behind the balcony rail, storm-shrouded eyes meet summer yellow. If Zeph’s not Lan’s type, then he wonders what is, more from curiosity on a subject he’s never given much consideration than anything else, and the question is out before he can reel it in. [What is your type?]

Lan: the other man’s curiosity is a little heartwarming if he’s to be truthful, considering that it’s a subject he’s already claimed to think little about. It may be innocent curiosity and he understands it means absolutely nothing to the Warden beyond that, but the fact that he’s even curious enough about him to ask in the first place means, as far as he’s concerned, that they are beginning to move forward again in some way. Any steps they take forward in this friendship that Sashi claims not to exist are good steps in his eyes.

[Well,] Lan begins and reaching over, he wraps tapered fingers around the stem of his wine glass and slips it from the balcony ledge before leaning casually back against the railing once more. [I suppose my type is the dark and mysterious kind and while not necessarily a requirement, I’ve found myself gravitating to the older, more matured person as of late… those who are quiet, and perhaps even a little broody…] the Bright smiles, lifting his glass to his lips to take a new sip. He supposes he should say that in this case, his type is very quiet, extremely brooding, and has a serious case of cluelessness. [The surface aesthetic means little to me in truth, I am far more interested in what lies beneath and I tend to be drawn to those whom I feel comfortable around even when nothing is being said or done at all.] Lowering his glass back down, the younger Selestarri offers his older counterpart an amused yet knowing smile.

A very serious case.

[If you were to have a type, if you were to take a guess,] he begins again as he reaches over to set his wine flute back onto the ledge while his yellow eyes never once leave Sashi’s gray despite the cloud of smoke that’s rising up to momentarily separate them. [What do you think it would be?]

Sashi: The inquiry leaves him with nothing to say for a moment, because there has never before been a reason for him to ever think on what type of person he’d be attracted to. It doesn’t matter now and it will never matter in the future. He’s not meant for any kind of relationships and even if he was, he very much doubts he’d have actual choices on who would be willing to get seriously involved with a person written off by his faction as an unstable monster. Likely he’d have to settle on whoever would be willing to take him on in return. Reflecting on what kind of person would put himself in that position doesn’t leave him with a positive feeling.

But he had put Lan to the question and the Bright had gamely answered, so he supposes he should at least try, despite having no idea where to begin. It’s difficult to think about the characteristics he may like in another when he dislikes people in general. It doesn’t leave a lot to work with. Lifting the cigarette to his lips, Sashi pulls the smoke in deep and shifts his gaze away from the summer yellow across the balcony. [Male…] he begins somewhat slowly, [because I generally don’t care all that much for women.] They don’t interest him physically at all, and he can’t handle the intense, often insane emotion that goes along with them. There have been females allied in their efforts to overthrow the Seeker that he respects, but that’s about the only capacity in which he wants to deal with them. [Honest…] because he’s had enough lying and manipulation to last a thousand lifetimes. The smoke is released to cloud the air, drifting momentarily between the two Selestarri before the wind thins the white haze out completely. The rocking chair creaks softly as the Warden leans back, his thoughts working quickly to construct the type of person he would wish to spend time with. [Loyal, not in the physical sense, because I don’t care who they sleep with on the side, but loyal in the ways that really matter, so I know they’ll stand with me no matter what.] He’s only ever met one person who understands and holds loyalty in high regard in the way that he does, and that’s Zeph. Maybe it’s their shared genetics, but the younger Dark understands the true meaning of the word and the promises and expectations that come with it. Within his faction, loyalty is all but unheard of, and from what he’s seen of the Bright, who preach the term as part of their ethics, their sense of loyalty comes with conditional terms.

Pulling his gaze back to the tall Bright, he finds Lan watching him with calm summer eyes, intently listening to each word he says, and so he continues. [He would have to be good enough in bed to keep up with me, as I’ve heard I’m a lot to handle.] It’s something he’s been told several times, given his rough preferences and the presence his magic carries, and it’s almost a sure thing that at least half the people who agree to sleep with him are curious if the rumors are true. [He would have to be accepting… because of who I am…] Sashi’s voice drops a little on the last part, knowing full well that while this would be a very important quality in a person he would be with, he would never find someone willing to overlook the stigma he carries.

[It doesn’t matter, though, what I like,] the older Selestarri concludes, flicking ash to the paver stones on the floor of the balcony, [because I’ll never have that kind of relationship. No attachments…] Wind-tossed raven-dark hair shifts over his shoulders as Sashi shakes his head, a frown shadowing his face. [All I’m meant for are one night stands, and who cares what those people are like?]

Lan: the irony of this conversation isn’t at all escaping him and he finds that he has to amend his earlier conclusions of the other man’s cluelessness because he’s pretty sure now that Sashi might be almost, if not completely blind.

It doesn’t surprise him that the older Selestarri cannot see what stands before him however, just as it won’t surprise him if he’s incapable of seeing it even in the future. He’s beginning to accept the possibility of it in the same way he’s accepted the Dark for who he is, even if the finality of it does sadden him in every possible way.

[Well…] the Bright begins, his summer yellow gaze still locked with thunder cloud colored gray, [Personally I believe that even if you think yourself only meant for that kind of relationship, who you choose for those brief rendezvous should matter to you on some level. Simply because you choose not to know your bed partners for longer than a night, makes you no less worthy on a whole of finding happiness in the encounters beyond the physical than those who choose to know theirs for longer…] It’s clear that the telepath dismisses his own feelings to an extent, even when it comes to who he beds. He knows that Sashi has a low opinion of himself in many ways and most likely might feel as if he’s unworthy of choosing one closest to his actual ‘type’ when it comes down to it, associating somehow that preferences to a happiness he apparently feels he doesn’t deserve. He understands the reasons behind it, considering what he knows of his upbringing and the general disdain in which their entire race has always treated him with, but he hopes to eventually show Sashi that what he’s always been told about himself and what he personally sees him to be are two very different things.

[I suppose though,] Lan sighs while flashing the Warden a gentle smile. Pushing himself away from the railing, he reaches over to slip his near empty glass from the ledge before straightening once again, [That my opinion of this matters little when it comes down to it. I am after all only your Bright watcher and my feelings on the subject hold no more weight here than they do at home.] Chuckling mostly at himself, the taller man lifts his glass in a lighthearted salute before sliding it to his lips to take a long sip.

Sashi/Zephyr: The quiet laughter of the Bright and the backhanded manner of his words doesn’t reach the older Selestarri at all. Inside is a hollow sadness that digs at his chest and a sudden sense of profound unfairness that he hasn’t felt in a long time. He didn’t ask to be the person he is. He didn’t ask to be part of a prophecy or to carry all this magic or to be the toy to a woman hellbent on making her insane desires a reality. He didn’t ask to be hated, to be ridiculed and scorned, to be told over and over that he’s a monster. He didn’t ask for the blood, the violence, or the repeatedly broken bones. He didn’t ask for all the lies, the attempts at manipulation, the games, or the empty promises. He didn’t ask for the pain, or the hurt, or the wounds that lace his heart with their razor sharp edges. He didn’t ask to get locked out of the things that others do with ease like friendships and relationships and love. It’s not fair, not at all, and there’s no way out. His whole life will be bitterness and loneliness and separation…

The hopelessness of it all expands the hollowness sharply, and storm-tinted eyes close against it for a brief moment. When they reopen it’s to concerned summer yellow and Sashi lightly shakes his head. [It’s not your opinion that doesn’t matter, Lan,] he says quietly, unable to keep the shading of sadness from the words. [It’s…] The Warden sighs and pulls his gaze away. [It’s that when it comes to me nothing that normal people have is possible, and that’s what makes it not matter what my type is or who I bed or how I feel about any of it…] The last of the cigarette combusts with a small fire rune and the Dark rises from the rocking chair just as Zephyr slides into the seat next to him and sets a fresh bottle of liquor on the small table.

“Everything was great, Zeph,” tattooed fingers ruffle strands of white-gold in an old familiar gesture of affection as Sashi makes his way towards the doors. “Thank you.” Before either of the two remaining men on the balcony can say anything, the older Dark disappears.

Midnight eyes shift toward Lan, finding for the first time, a lack of the habitual smile on the Bright’s face. That’s not very encouraging when he was hoping that banishing the two older men out here would give them a chance to relax after a filling meal. The blonde Selestarri sighs and pours himself a glass of liquor before leaning back in the rocker. “He’s not upset,” Zeph responds to the unasked question. “That look in his eyes, that was sadness.” He takes a long drink from the glass, tasting the fruit-laced alcohol, but not really enjoying it. “Was it another difficult conversation?”

Lan: Warm summer tinged eyes remain locked on the patio doors for long after Sashi’s left, the unsettled feeling he’s been left with pooling uncomfortably somewhere in his heart. It’s only after the blonde has seated himself and inquired of their conversation does Lan pull himself away from his thoughts, his gaze slipping from the empty doorway and over to meet the younger Dark’s own.

“Difficult… isn’t exactly how I would classify it…” He answers softly, a gentle smile returning to his lips. Casual is in fact, is what he could almost call it, even if the entire conversation had been filled with one irony after another on a whole. He hadn’t expected Sashi to ask him the things that he did, nor did he expect the other man to care enough for his emotional well being to hand out a little, well intentioned advice and he definitely didn’t expect him to take anything he said on the matter to heart enough to have it upset him.

With a sigh, illusion screened fingers slip up into strands of shaggy hair and as he pushes his lean frame from the scrollwork railing, he rakes long bangs away from his eyes. With glass in hand, the tall Bright joins Zephyr on the chair opposite of the small table and leaning forward, his elbows coming to rest casually on his knees.

“He asked… if you and I were sleeping together.” Lan smiles. “Curiosity I suppose,” he shrugs lightly, “but I assured him we are not.” Summer yellow eyes slip away from the younger man’s blue and shift out beyond the railing to settle on the city lights that are sprinkled across the distant horizon, while absently he begins gently swirling what’s left of the wine in his glass. “Your brother’s view of himself… is very distorted.” Sashi appears to have developed the distortion due to a lifetime of abuse and neglect… and now he sees himself to be the monster the others have claimed him to be. The words and name calling that both factions have dealt him has obviously taken hold of his heart and warped a reflection that is anything but. It pains him that it’s happened to one he feels to be so undeserving, and he is ashamed at this moment to be a member of the faction that’s contributed to an injustice that has caused so much damage to someone who unlike himself, deserved a decent chance at a normal life. It shames him to know that Sashi’s been robbed of it and that he might never allow himself to experience it now even if it were offered to him at this very moment.

“I must admit,” the white haired man continues and pulling yellow eyes from the scenery, he shifts them sideways to find black flecked midnight through errant strands of snow. “I find myself a little baffled as to how someone who had the foresight to offer the kindness of advice in matters of the heart can be so purposefully blind when it comes to his own…” Sashi is far beyond the throws of a simple blindness, he has tipped himself head first into a vortex of cluelessness that he isn’t sure of how to encroach…

Zephyr: The blonde takes a sip of his drink before reaching for the opened pack of cigarettes on the table. This conversation Sashi and Lan had sounds as if it went beyond mere pleasantries, which is good if his brother felt comfortable enough to hand out advice as the Bright has said. On the other hand, he now knows why the Warden looked sad and why he left so quickly. Talking of such things is hard for the other Dark and reminds him of his status among their people and of how much he’s been forcibly separated.

Slipping the unlit cigarette to his mouth, Zeph leans back, the rocker creaking as he shifts his weight to push it gently back and forth. A fire rune sparks the tip of the slender stick and he pulls in the smoke and the taste with ease before letting it free. “I think,” the younger Selestarri begins quietly, “my brother has had to become blind to his own heart because of the pain he’s suffered. The wounds there are deep, and there’s only so much that someone as sensitive as Sashi can endure, you know?” Ash flicks to the ground and he takes another drag. “By ignoring it and setting up walls and barricades, he’s protecting himself from further hurt. It’s a defense mechanism, just like any of the others.”

Lan nods in agreement, taking another sip of his own drink, summer tinted eyes meeting midnight over the rim of the glass when the Dark slides his gaze sideways. “You’re right that Sashi’s view of himself is distorted, and that’s because my people have forced it on him. They’ve ingrained within him, physically, mentally, emotionally, that he is not normal and therefore he’s not capable and not permitted things that normal people have, including any kind of relationship, friends or otherwise.” He’s tried to convince the telepath otherwise, told him again and again that they’re all wrong, but none of his words ever seemed to stick. That’s his own personal shame and guilt to carry, his own failure in spite of all efforts made. “That’s all Sashi’s heard for sixty-four years, marked on him with words and blood and pain.” A sigh slips from between full lips and Zeph rakes long fingers through strands of white-gold. “The only relationship they couldn’t destroy for him was the one between us, our relationship as brothers. They tried, but we were always stronger.” He also suspects that the Seeker gave up on the idea since she needed them as brothers to fulfill her twisted prophecy. Sometimes he wonders if she regrets that decision, especially after the attempt to kill her.

“Sashi locks away his own heart and its desires and places himself outside the idea of friendships and relationships, but he can still see the hearts of others. I don’t think he always understands what he sees, given his lack of experience, but if he gave you some kind of advice concerning it, then I think that’s a good sign.” Zeph smiles at the other man before pulling the cigarette to his lips once again, smoke streaming out as he releases it into the night air. “If Sashi didn’t give a shit about you, then he wouldn’t have said anything. So, a small step, maybe?”

Lan: “It is just that,” the tall Bright agrees and pushing himself upward, he sits back in his chair. Sliding his wine glass down to rest on the small table, he reaches over and takes a cigarette from the open box as well, the tip lighting the instant the filter is cupped in his mouth. Inhaling deeply, Lan holds the smoke inside for a few silent moments before blowing it slowly out. “Though however small it may be,” he continues as his summer yellow gaze again locks with Zephyr’s, the spiraling stream of gray carried away from his lips by the lazy evening wind. “I’m happy for it just the same …”

space01

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

 

Jun: white brows furrow as a distant sound pulls him from what had been a rather peaceful, and thankfully for a change, dream free sleep. For a few long moments the Angel refuses to answer its call, his eyes closed and his toned frame wrapped tightly in the cocoon of thick, warm blankets that surround him. But all too quickly the sound becomes rather persistent, a steady pounding knock that he isn’t able to ignore for very long. Finally conceding, he opens his eyes and pushes his blankets downward, staring a little irritated up at the shadowed white ceiling that rests up above.

With a sigh, Jun pushes himself sluggishly upwards and reaching over to grab a chunk of the bedding he throws off his comforter before swinging his body sideways. Bare feet hit the decorative rug beneath his bed and he straightens before shuffling gracefully towards his bedroom door, swiping a sleeveless white tee that had been slung neatly across his footboard as he passes.

As he steps out into the living room, he pulls the garment over his head and by the time another knock resonates, the fabric is settling, leaving a small slip of skin visible between the hem of his shirt and the loose drawstring pants that are draped low on his well structured hips. He pay the state of his clothing no more mind as he comes to a halt before his front door, too irritated at being woken up so early on a day off to bother with it or the slightly tussled state of his lower back length pure white hair. Reaching out, he unlocks his deadbolt before tugging the heavy door open with full intentions of telling whoever happens to be on the other side to go the hell away.

Who he finds however is Zephyr and for a moment he simply stares at the taller man without a word said in greeting, caught a bit off guard by his unexpected presence to form any real thought in his mind. In one hand the blonde holds his missing sunglasses, while in the other he holds a small wrapped package and it’s only when he begins speaking does he manage to collect himself enough to react. Snapping to attention in an instant the Angel reaches suddenly out and wraps long fingers around Zephyr’s shirt before yanking him inside. Taken by surprise, the Dark stumbles a few paces forward in an attempt to catch his footing while behind him, the white haired man darts his head out of the doorway and takes a deep breath in. Eyes the color of the early morning dawn scan the immediate hall for a moment and catching no sight or scent of another he slides fluidly back, practically slamming the door closed. Leaning his head forward, he momentarily closes his eyes and whispering some words in lilting Angelic, the scripts of the ward that protects his apartment flares brightly, illuminated for just a moment before dying back down.

“Sorry about that” Jun mutters as he lifts his forehead away from the door before turning around, “But you shouldn’t have come to my door. If one of them saw you here and spreads it around the school… ” He’ll be screwed, especially if it gets back to his handler in any way. He’s already risked that by going into the other man’s apartment yesterday and by being drunk the night before, but those were one time deals that won’t happen ever again. He can explain them away if he has to but he won’t be able to explain anything more. “You didn’t have to bring them in person,” Jun nods towards the sunglasses held still in Zephyr’s hand, “So why are you here?”

Zephyr: The glow of magic illuminates midnight eyes as the script he’d noticed on his last visit flares brightly, the curling, twisting symbols rather beautiful. The flash lasts only a moment, likely some kind of warding spell based on what Jun had told him while drunk. He’s assuming it’s the one the Angel had mentioned about soundproofing, or as it had been charmingly phrased “they can’t hears me when I’m in here so I can talks…”

Charming is not, however, the word he’d use at the moment to describe the man who walks towards him. Inconvenienced, would be a good word, given the fresh out of bed tangle of hair and the wearing of the other night’s shirt, still reeking of alcohol and sweat even from five feet away. Displeased would be another based on tone of voice, deep frown, and glaring pink eyes. A far cry from the drunk he’d carried to bed and the hungover version that had sat in his apartment yesterday. What a difference a day can make, apparently.

But, Jun did apologize, which is something new and a small step in the direction he prefers, even if the words that follow are as curt and cold as usual. “My flawless memory recalls that you promised we’d never speak again,” Zeph answers with a smile, “however as I’ve been kind enough to return your belongings and bring you breakfast and we just happen to find ourselves in a soundproofed apartment, lets say we drop all the usual farces, okay? You and I both know you aren’t the cold, unfeeling asshole you present to the rest of the world, but it’s not my intention to inform anyone of that fact if you’ll explain to me what the hell you’re so afraid of.” A flash of surprise crosses dawn-tinted eyes and is quickly locked down as the frown still shadowing Jun’s full lips etches itself just a little deeper. “All the little checks you make, as if someone’s watching you or you have a paranoia problem? I’ve noticed. The comments about being seen, about not allowing anyone to care for you, about not talking outside of work-related matters, about some he that’s told you what to do and what not to do? Yeah, I’ve noticed them, too.”

Stepping over to the counter, he gently sets down the sunglasses and the carefully wrapped package containing a homemade breakfast before turning back to the Angel. “Can we just talk for once?”

Jun: The expression on his face begins to darken with every new word the other man says. He doesn’t like this, he doesn’t like it at all and it’s starting to set off every alarm in his head. Aside from the breakfast being given this is almost exactly how it all went down when his handler first arrived. He’s been successful in fooling both the High Council and every one of the handlers who had come before Taz, but for some reason the Higher had found him out within seconds and it’s been costing him dearly since. It’s been a nightmare that he’s beginning to feel as if he’s in danger of repeating and he doesn’t know how to back every up and get the distance back between himself and the blonde that had been there in the first place. What exactly does he have to gain in this anyway? He isn’t an Angel and it isn’t as if he has a connection to his people so there’s no one he could run and tell should they talk, or at least… that’s what he has to hope because it’s starting to look as if he has little other choice.

“Okay, fine…” Jun lets out a small, defeated sigh and slipping his hand up to his face, he rakes long fingers through messy bangs to push them back away from his eyes. “If you want to talk, then we will, but I need you to understand that I’m putting my damn life on the line by doing it so it’s only going to happen this once and then not again… got it?” slipping his hand from his hair, he pauses for a moment before making a strange face and pulling his eyes away from midnight he tilts his head downward and sniffs slightly in. “Oh damn…” he mumbles and shaking his head in the slightest, he pulls away from the door to head towards his room. “You woke me up and I just grabbed whatever was closest…sorry” His quiet words are apologetic despite the flatness of his tone and behind him, the Dark pulls away from the counter and begins following slowly behind.

Stepping inside the room, Jun moves straight to his wardrobe, sliding the tee up over his head as he passes to toss it onto the bed. Zephyr moves in to find his back turned as he pulls the white washed doors open, reaching in to tug a clean garment free. “I’m cautious because I have to be…” Jun says quietly without looking back as he slides the loose shirt up over his head. “It isn’t paranoia… I am being watched, I’m always being watched.” The Council has eyes everywhere and while they may not be on him twenty-four hours a day, the danger of having them happening by simply to check in is still very real. He has to be careful about it, because one crack in his demeanor, one slip of protocol publicly can easily earn him a ticket back home and another torture session for reform.

Allowing the fabric to settle over his hips, the white haired man turns back around and just as his pink gaze is locks again with midnight, he’s in motion again, this time to his bed to gather the dirty shirt he’d just discarded before moving past. “Getting caught not being what I’m supposed to be…that’s what I’m ‘afraid’ of” He continues as he moves out into the hall, heading towards the kitchen with the garment still in hand. “I guess it’s only a matter of time though… I’m not very good at keeping the bullshit up for long, obviously” he frowns as he reaches the pantry and opening the doors, he discards his shirt into the trash before stepping back out. Turning around, the Angel leans back against the counter and folds his arms casually beneath his chest, his early dawn hued gaze rising to greet black flecked midnight as the blonde follows him in. “So what exactly are you so keen about knowing even after I’ve told you multiple times that I’m not allowed to keep any real company or talk?”

Zephyr: Standing in the shadows near the doorway of Jun’s room, midnight eyes can’t help but to slide appreciatively over the exposed curve of defined muscle beneath pale skin as the Angel changes his shirt. It’s good to know that the backside of the other man’s chest is just as nice as the front side he’d admired a couple nights ago. In truth, there isn’t much physically that he doesn’t like about his colleague.

Following the white-haired man back into the main section of apartment, Zeph listens to Jun’s ongoing words as he walks, finally coming to a stop when the Angel stops and leans back against the counter. The pink eyes that meet midnight are clearly unhappy about this entire conversation and it’s clear that Jun would rather be anywhere but here doing anything but this. Knowing that, however, doesn’t change the Dark’s interest in hearing this whole thing out, if for no other reason than to satiate the curiosity he’s had about the other man since he’d arrived at this assignment.

Letting all that he’s been told settle in for a moment, the tall Selestarri slowly sinks down onto the arm of the sofa, his gaze never leaving the Angel’s. “First, you are actually very good at keeping “the bullshit” up, it’s just that my skill at observation happens to be very good as well.” On Nova, one learns to observe and observe well or wind up manipulated or dead. “You presented very few cracks in the cold asshole front and at first I only caught them here and there. If I didn’t have a perfect memory and the ability to replay things over and over through my telepathic abilities, you might have continued the front for a very long time.” Long enough that he probably would have given up, truthfully, because it’s not like he doesn’t have other distractions to keep his attention if his hunches about Jun didn’t immediately lead anywhere.

“However, it sounds like this is a story I need to hear from beginning in order to understand a few things.” Long fingers rake black-streaked white gold bangs from his eyes out of ingrained habit. “Why are you so special that your own kind is spying on you? Why have you been assigned to this school?” The blonde smirks, “unless you are also attempting to assassinate the leaders of your people and have been temporarily exiled while a bunch of idiots fuck around with political bullshit as well.” Jun doesn’t seem the assassin type, so he’s pretty sure there are other reasons behind his placement here. “Also,” Zeph points at the package just behind the Angel on the counter. “Eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”

Jun: There’s a part of him that’s almost a little happy to hear that he hadn’t been slipping after all and that had it not been for the other man’s apparent abilities with memory, he would have been able to keep up the farce for much longer. It means that perhaps he won’t be so easily found out and he might still be able to keep himself from earning another trip home, which is something, considering what will happen once he gets there, that relieves him in every sort of way.

Pink eyes pull away from the taller man and slide back to the counter to rest on the package that lies there. “Ah right…” Uncrossing his arms, he pushes his lithe frame up and turns to undo the wrappings, revealing a lacquered container similar to those he’d been offered that day in the park. Lifting the lid he finds a variety of wonderful smelling foods -a small breakfast sandwich with a thick slice of grilled ham smothered in cheese and topped with a perfectly cooked egg. The sandwich is wrapped partially in a pale pink parchment and at its side are a couple slices of bacon, a sausage link and a pink striped cup filled with a variety of fresh cut fruit, all seated upon a matching striped cloth.

For a second he just stares down at it, a little amazed by both the presentation and how delicious it smells. “Wow…okay that’s kind of… wow” he says quietly and despite being unable to see the other man’s expression because his back is turned, his reaction earns him both a pleased and a slightly amused smile. His stomach clenches rather tight, as if his body has only just now realized that he’s hungry and it pushes him into action immediately. Pulling his attentions away from the food and reaching upward, he slips the nearest cupboard open to reveal a few fine china plates. The Angel pulls them down and turns around to set them on the center island, reaching over for a nearby drawer. “I’ll eat it…” he glances upward as he slips a knife and then some silverware free, setting them on the counter besides the plates before turning to retrieve the lacquer box. “But you’re going to share.” Setting the box down, he slips his hands up to the partially tangled mess of his hair and taking a moment, he deftly gathers his locks together before spinning them around to knot them at the back of his head.

“I’m not special…” Jun begins again without looking up as he begins splitting the meal in two, starting with the single sausage link. “As far as my people go, I’m pretty average actually” well, average enough on the outside that is. He may look almost like every other of his kind, same hair and at one point in his life, the same colored eyes, the same build, the same color wings, the same magic, the list could go on, but what’s on the inside is completely different and that’s where his problem has always been. “I guess I’m a little short,” he snorts a bit as he sets each half of the sausage on the two plates before moving on to divide up the bacon. “But other than that, there isn’t anything different about me really…” which is why he’s never understood why Haniel chose him in the first place or what it was about him that set him apart from the others at the time.

Setting the fork down, he carefully removes the pink parchment from the sandwich, his early dawn hued gaze glancing up to meet midnight once more. “The reason they’re so focused in on me is because a long time ago, I did something I wasn’t supposed to… and then got caught” Which was entirely Haniel’s doing and something he’s still a little bitter about to this day. She grew bored and in her boredom, began doing things around the others, calling attention to them in a way that once she left, ended up biting him harshly in the ass.

Setting the parchment down on the counter and dropping his gaze as well, as he begins cutting the sandwich in half while his voice drops a little low. “I told you already that my kind is very rigid when it comes to following the rules… if you don’t follow your orders or you break a law, you don’t get to live very long.” Trials, torture, humiliation… those who break laws are allowed to live long enough to endure them and then to set an example to the others before given, often times, a rather merciless death. It’s always been this way within the Angelic Society, it’s how the Council maintains order and the only time enough rose up in an attempt to liberate them by declaring war –it failed. No one has ever tried since.

“I broke a law” Jun says flatly as he divides up the fruit, his movements slowing just a little and his jaw clenching in the slightest. “And because of some special circumstances surrounding me at the time, I was given a choice that most of my kind never gets -live or die. I chose live.” Shrugging, he sets a clean fork on one of the plates before sliding it closer to the blonde, looking back up. “Living came with a price though, and that’s why I’m here…” turning away from Zephyr, he moves over to the fridge and tugging it open, he reaches in. “Where ever they decide they need me, that’s where I’m sent.” Or rather, where ever they think Haniel’s been sighted or suspect her to turn up, they put him there as bait.

“I don’t question it because questioning would give me away so I just go and this time, here is where I ended up.” He sighs as he closes the refrigerator door, the carafe Zephyr had given him the day before held in his hand. “Coffee?” he gestures to it before moving back to the counter to set it down, retrieving a couple of fancy mugs as well. “I still haven’t figured out how to work these damn appliances without starting a fire so sorry that it’s cold. Unless you want water I’ve really got nothing else.” Pushing a cup towards the Selestarri, he leans forward to rest his elbows against the counter while lifting his fork up, his loose shirt dipping downward to reveal his collarbone and expose the upper part of his chest while his tied locks slide over his shoulder. “’Political bullshit’ is one way to put it I guess…” Jun smirks before quirking an eyebrow as he skewers his half of the sausage. “So assassination and exile huh? Is that why you’re here?”

Zephyr: Rising to his feet, the Dark moves soundlessly against the whitewashed hardwood floor to stand beside Jun as he portions out the food, listening carefully as the Angel’s explanations unfold. He’s guessing that whatever he’d done to earn his punishment must have something to do with what the other man had told him a few days back about allowing someone to care for him. Angelic society is not okay with that, apparently, which fits with the highly militaristic qualities he’s read in the early reports Innic had sent back this morning. The Angels like order and they like rules and it would seem they’re quite harsh when it comes to seeing them followed. It makes sense that anything not strictly conforming would come under scrutiny and this Jun he’s standing with now, the one he believes to be the real Jun, definitely breaks those rigid expectations. Understanding even this small bit about their culture begins to slip pieces into place for the blonde including why his colleague was so reluctant to speak with him and why he always acts like he’s paranoid, as well as a few of the things he’d rambled off while drunk.

Midnight eyes can’t help but to notice the skin exposed by the looseness of Jun’s shirt, but he slips them away to meet the smirk flashed in his direction and return one of his own. Picking up the fork left for him, he neatly spears it through two pieces of fruit. “So you may not be special, as you’ve said,” although he’s not too sure he believes the Angel about that. He got a choice when he broke the law when everyone else is executed? Even with the alleged special circumstances, he’s not fooled. Also, those pink eyes? Those are not the standard issue silver or white the other Angels have. “But Sashi and I are.” Closing his mouth over the fork, he slips the fruit free, chewing before continuing. “Before we were born, the bitch who is the current spiritual leader of our faction spoke a prophecy about two brothers who would unite our race and fulfill an even older prophecy.” He waves the fork a bit dismissively before selecting two more pieces of fruit. “She speaks bullshit all the time, it’s part of her abilities, but this particular prophecy also happens to line up with her personal agenda, and so she was determined to make it happen.”

So determined that it didn’t matter what she had to do to see it fulfilled. For someone who already has little grasp on decency and morals to begin with, there was very little she wouldn’t do. Including using Sevyrikk, who was never completely stable, to force their creations, and then when her manipulations during their early childhoods didn’t work out the way she liked, she attempted to effectively brainwash him using their father and slowly destroy Sashi piece by piece. “She pushed us to do what she wanted,” Zeph continues, “we said no. She pushed us again.” Because the Seeker doesn’t understand the word “no” when it comes to her directives, and it makes her angry. Violently. But they’d already had enough by then, more than enough and he and Sashi knew the only way it would ever stop is if she were dead. Slightly cold midnight eyes meet dawn-tinted pink, the tone of the Dark’s voice gone slightly flat. “So we tried to kill her.”

The memories of that day make a stab at rushing back, stinking of blood and sweat and a hatred so deep it immediately fills the blonde with a bone chilling cold. The scenes of explosive magic, of fighting, of dying, some his own and many belonging to others, shift through his mind, pressing for release all at once and it takes Zeph a moment to pull them back, to recognize that those scenes are memories, not the present, and to remember where he’s currently standing. Dropping a gaze gone slightly fuzzy at the edges, the tall Selestarri focuses in on his fork and lifts the fruit to his mouth, taking another moment to eat it before continuing. “She got lucky during the fighting and she lived.” Lucky that Sevyrikk was so in love with her that he would run his sword through his own son. Lucky that his response was to shatter his father’s mind, and therefore give her enough time to pull the gun and empty the clip into his neck and shoulder. Lucky that Sashi had been disabled by a spell meant to kill an entire unit, and it prevented him from killing Ecanus, who was then able to get her to safety and save her life. The bitch had been damn lucky that day.

“We lost and essentially our faction panicked and the Bright completely freaked out, mostly about Sashi, and the response was to call a full Assembly.” The first since the Valcarean Wars, several thousand years past. Sitting in a room full of people who despise one another and trying to get them to make decisions was hilarious in spite of their failure. The arbitrators had tried to bring order, but it was like herding feral cats. “All our people gathered, but politics being what they are, no one could make an actual decision, so we more or less gave them the idea to send us here, which they believe is a temporary exile while they get their shit together.” Zeph shrugs and watches as Jun eats a strip of bacon. “In truth it’s just a layover while we decide how to finish what she started.” Not so much an assassination failed as an assassination postponed.

Setting his fork on the white marble countertop, the Dark lifts his half of the sandwich from the plate, flashing the Angel his most charming grin. “So yes, I’m an assassin and, at least as far as most my people think, temporarily exiled from Nova.” Making a sweeping gesture with his free hand, Zeph gives Jun the floor. “Your turn again. Who’s the “he” you mentioned when you were drunk? The one who said you couldn’t let the humans touch you?”

Jun: Pink eyes pull away from black flecked midnight as Zephyr is speaking, traveling from his features to the flashes of scarring he can see peeking out from his clothing at his neck. For a moment he finds himself a little curious, wondering if what the blonde has said he’s done is the reason for the wounds or if it’s due to something else. He finds that he wants to ask him about it, to get to know more of the one who stands before him now, he finds that he isn’t surprised either to learn that he’s an assassin, because despite the friendliness and smiles and his outwardly outgoing personality he can see something else in there, something colder swimming beneath the surface somewhere. He and Zephyr aren’t much different in that regard he supposes… everyone, including them, has blood staining their hands in some way.

It’s all very interesting regardless but his curiosity is dangerous and it’s that danger that keeps him from asking more. They are talking because he said they would, but after this he can’t allow anything between them to progress further –for the other man’s sake mostly, but also for his own.

“My handler…” Jun frowns as he pulls his fork away from his lips and begins sifting absently through the pieces of cut fruit as distaste flashes across his features. He knows he was drunk the other night and wasn’t entirely in control of his senses but he really should have kept his mouth shut about some of his restrictions because just thinking about it puts a bad taste in his mouth. “Taz, the other of my kind… you’ve seen him around, his cover is counselor at the school” he sighs and pushing the food around on his plate, his grip around his fork tightens. “I’m given handlers every so often… usually low ranking Highers like him get assigned to me just to make sure I stay in line.” Which is only a half truth really. They aren’t so much as assigned to him to make sure he stays in line as they are there to make sure his re-writes have remained intact.

Jun sets his fork down and slides his plates to the side, early dawn hued eyes rising back up to find midnight as he crosses his hands to his front. “The ones I’ve had in the past never cared much about me personally, they’d drop in every so often, make sure I’m who I’m supposed to be and then go back home. This one though… Taz, he’s different.” From the first day he was assigned and the first talk they had, he learned that the other Angel had found him out and he’s proceeded to use it against him ever since. “About the touching thing… one thing you have to understand is that my people don’t have a very high opinion of humans,” they don’t have a high opinion of anyone actually who isn’t another Angel and even then one’s status is questionable depending on the rank they hold.

“I don’t mind them honestly, I haven’t been able to look at them the way everyone else does. I don’t think they’re filth and I can’t see them as dirty or lowly. They’re just… what they are.” Shrugging, the white haired man untangles his fingers long enough to reach up and push long bangs away from his face. “It’s just that I think they’re so innocent and they live such short lives so I kind of feel like they should be protected because of how fragile they are on a whole instead of looked at with disdain. I’ve never really understood the hate-“ he’s never really understood the hate his people hold for everything and everyone in truth, “-but it’s there and Taz, he’s no different when it comes to his views about them. It’s why what you said about them that first day we started talking rubbed me the wrong way,” Jun smirks and slipping his fingers from his bangs, he taps at what’s exposed of his chest. “Hit a little too close to home” Hearing Zephyr call them ‘human cattle’ that day had upset him, in the same way it upset him when the other Angel had called them ‘filth’ during the school’s opening ceremonies.

“Anyway, he knows I like them and because he’s an asshole, he recently forbade me from letting any of them touch me…” Since Taz became his handler he learned very quickly that the Higher is a manipulative jerk who knows how to strike where it’ll hurt the most, and unfortunately he takes the opportunity to do it to him every chance he gets. “He said if I did let it happen and he catches it, I’ll be the one to dish out whatever punishment he sees fit to give.” And he did mean it, knowing full well that if it came down to a choice between being dragged back home and following orders, however damaging, he’d most likely choose the latter. Which is something he’s more ashamed of than he’d care to admit. “He may not think much about them, but I don’t like killing innocents…” Jun frowns and dropping his gaze again, his fingers clench together as his voice falls a little low. “I’ve done enough of that in my life already and I don’t want to be forced to do more…” He’s been into battle too many times, killed too many whom he felt didn’t deserve to die simply because he was following orders, he doesn’t really want to have his hand forced into hurting some unwitting humans now just because of some carelessness on his part.

“I know I said it already, but I am sorry about that by the way.” The taller man flashes him a questioning look and smiling, the Angel untangles his fingers and straightens his toned frame out. Pushing snowy locks back over his shoulder before reaching for the carafe, he pours himself a cup of the cold liquid then leaning back against the counter; he slides the cup to his lips. “What I did the other night… the dancing. I guess I need to explain that it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to get close to anyone like that-” In a way that hasn’t involved restraint cuffs, a bit of torture and a whole lot of pain, “-and even when I was at those bars and that club I kept my distance from everyone for obvious reasons. By the time you found me, my judgment was a bit clouded so I kind of took advantage of you being there.” Sighing, he takes a sip of the muggy black liquid, furrowing his brows at it for a moment before pulling the cup from his mouth. Leaning fluidly sideways, he sets it down on the counter at his back while glancing up through messy white strands. “Honestly I just wanted to touch someone for a change and I guess I reasoned that because you aren’t human it was alright for me to do. I know you said you had fun, but my intentions weren’t exactly innocent and I overstepped a big line” A line he hates to admit that he enjoyed stepping over even now. Despite himself and despite knowing better, every time he thinks back on how it felt to be pressed up against the blonde and have the other man’s arm around him, a small streak of fire travels down his spine.

“However drunk I was though, I shouldn’t have done it…” Leaning back a little more, he slides his elbows up to the counter to support himself before crossing his legs casually at his front, glancing sideways again. “Especially since I know you have other things going on.” He could smell that other Selestarri’s scent on the blonde that night, he remembers it quite vividly in fact and it still even while sober, finds it just as unsettling as he’d found it at the time. Zephyr is obviously in a relationship with that dark haired friend of his and no matter how inebriated or impaired he’d been, he had no right to encroach on it at all.

Zephyr: He listens quietly as Jun speaks about his handler, the humans, and the limitations set on his interactions with them. He’s seen Taz around from time to time, but had never given him much regard and it doesn’t surprise him to learn that he’s a complete asshole. He sounds controlling and manipulative and he knows that type extremely well, and it doesn’t sit with him that Jun is being subjected to such treatment just because he doesn’t share the forced belief the rest of his race has about humans.

As for his own misstep when it comes to the humans, he was speaking his thoughts about them, and for that he doesn’t apologize because he’s entitled to his own beliefs. The humans are like mindless cattle, destroying the Earth and harming the environment and other inhabitants of the land and water without any care at all. They are aware of what they are doing and yet they still continue. Their entire existence is what caused the rift in the Selestarri originally–a disagreement over whether the humans should be eliminated for so wantonly destroying everything they touch or whether they should be protected as inhabitants of the Earth and gently guided in directions less destructive. It’s not hard to figure out which faction holds which opinion.

That’s not to say there aren’t some humans worth the carbon that composes them, he’s met a few here and there, so he can see why Jun may like them when compared to his own race. Out of respect he’ll keep his opinions on the humans to himself from now on. He can also understand why the Angel would have difficulty hurting them if he sees them as innocents and despite the blood on his own hands, he can agree that there is no enjoyment in killing those who don’t deserve it. Some of his fellow Dark take pleasure in such things, those who murder without thought and torture for the thrill and power that causing pain gives them, but he’s never been one of them.

A warm smile lights Zephyr’s face when the Angel expresses his concern for overstepping lines because it’s really kind of cute. Finishing the last of his half of the sandwich, he shakes his head. “You have nothing to apologize for when it comes to the other night. I really did enjoy our dancing, brief as it was.” In fact, he’d be very willing to do it again anytime Jun wants to hold a private dance party. “Since I lost the skies, dancing is one of the few ways I have left to relax,” the blonde’s smile fades a little. Sometimes snowboarding or running through the mountains helps as well, although he doubts any of it will ever truly replace the freedom of flying.

Wiping his hands on the napkin beside his plate, the tall Dark leans back against the counter, black-streaked midnight eyes meeting pink. “As for Innic and me and what you smelled that night, let me explain something about the Selestarri.” He’s never had to explain this to anyone else, and it should be interesting given how much Jun claimed not to like their combined scents. “We have lax views when it comes to the boundaries between friendships and relationships. They tend to be very overlapping, which doesn’t mean that we don’t have serious, intense, loving relationships with one another, it just means that we don’t have problems having sex with our friends and leaving it at friendship.” The human term of friends with benefits, is quite accurate when it comes to most Selestarri friendships. “Innic and I fall into that category. He’s my best friend and has been since we were small. We mess around when the mood strikes us, but we’re not romantically involved.” His smile warms back up when given to the other man. “So you didn’t infringe on anything because there’s nothing to infringe on…”

Jun: He nods slowly as he listens to the taller man’s explanation as far as his relationship –or rather, non relationship with that other Dark goes, finding his feelings about it mixed in a way he can’t exactly explain. On one hand, he’s kind of relieved to hear it… mainly, he tells himself, because it means he didn’t step over a line and intrude where he wasn’t wanted during a drunken, but rather selfish moment. But on the other, knowing that the blonde seems to take even close intimate relationships just as lightly as he seems to take everything else beyond an apparent assassination attempt still bothers him even if he isn’t exactly sure of the reasons as to why.

In the end it’s really none of his business though, it isn’t as if how the Selestarri feels about those he beds will affect him now or in the future so there’s no reason it should matter to him at all.

“That’s good, I guess.” Jun finally answers and catching himself, he quickly adds, “That I didn’t infringe I mean… not about the bit that you two aren’t romantically involved-” Cutting his words off, he makes a face -as if he’s just realized exactly what it is that he’s said and how it might sound. The reaction warms the Dark’s smile in a way that causes a sudden rush of warmth to streak through his lean frame and pulling his eyes free of midnight; he shifts his gaze across the living room to the set of French patio doors and begins steering the subject onward rather quickly.

“Things are really different for us aren’t they?” the white haired Angel begins again, careful to keep his early dawn hued eyes at his front, “In my society all everyone has is issues with intimacy and relationships… We’re expected to be these perfect clone soldiers who are above feeling because feeling anything except hatred apparently is considered lowly and base.” He snorts and pulling his eyes from the glass doors, he shifts them downward to stare at his bare feet, “Along with everything else it’s bullshit though, we’re really no better in that regard than the Demons we kill and the humans we all call ‘filth’.” Instead of being honest about how they feel however, his people attempt to hide it all behind closed doors, claiming to be above it and so scared to admit they aren’t that any show to the contrary is enforced in permanent life ending ways.

“As a rule, we’re not allowed to form friendships, or relationships, or do anything that contradicts the image of the flawless soldiers we’re supposed to be.” Or at least contradict it in the open he should say. He knows as well as any other Angel that things often happen in secret, even on the highest level despite the claim to contrary there, and so long as it’s kept from public eye and they can all pretend it isn’t in fact happening, for the most part they’re all left alone. It’s when emotion is shown to any other that it becomes a problem and that problem is what usually costs the ones who slip their lives. “It’s all pretty ridiculous, but it’s the way it’s always been…” And unfortunately, because not enough of them think it should be differently, it’s probably how it will always continue to be.

Jun falls silent for a few moments as he continues to stare down at his feet, only partially aware while he gets momentarily lost in his thoughts that the blonde is studying him carefully. It’s only when something Zephyr had said drifts through his mind that he pulls his attentions back and slipping his pink gaze from the floor, he slides it sideways to find midnight through long strands of partially messy white. “You said the skies have been lost to you… what did you mean by that?”

Zephyr: Amusement spreads across the blonde’s features when Jun stumbles over his words after the explanation of his relationship with Innic. Between this and his worry about overstepping lines, the Angel is getting cuter by the moment. He doesn’t press the matter, though, and allows the subject to be changed when the other man sets his gaze firmly on the doors leading to the empty balcony.

Continuing to lean against the counter, Zeph listens in silence as Jun gives his views on the behaviors of his society, gaining a better insight than any intelligence report is likely to give. There’s almost a hint of sadness when he speaks about the ban on forming any kind of personal relationship, as if he’s known exactly how difficult the idea really is. Living beings aren’t meant to be alone. They have emotion and drives, both sexual and purely platonic, that push them to seek out company in one form or another. To ban such things all together seems completely asinine and unnecessary. If the Angels truly wish for soldiers, wouldn’t they encourage their people to form bonds in order to fight harder? Battle emotion is a very strong thing, so overpowering that it can easily overwhelm the coldest of opponents. When one has no connection to the person beside them and they get cut down, what drives them to keep fighting? When there’s no connection, there’s no feeling of protection over one’s allies, and that instinctiveness has turned the tide of many battles. Selestarri historians have made voluminous books on the subjects and while he’s no scholar on battle tactics and strategies, Innic is the best his race has had in a thousand years.

The tall Selestarri watches the Angel as Jun seemingly takes an in-depth study of his own feet, midnight eyes passing along the lines and curves of his slender frame. It seems such a waste that the other man lives in a society where he has to hide who he truly is, because the Jun he’s seeing now, the real Jun, is someone he thinks he could like very easily. It’s not fair that he has to put up that cold, arrogant front just to please a bunch of other people putting up the same fronts all while pretending that they’re emotionless assholes.

He’s about to say as much when the Angel changes the conversation again, shifting back to something the Dark had mentioned a few minutes prior. Zeph’s smile falters a little, unable to retain its warmth, and a hint of sadness creeps into the tone of his voice. “I mean I’ve lost them.” The space across his shoulders blades where the ward sealing his wings away lies hidden begins to itch in the slightest, but he ignores it. “During the fighting, half of my right wing was shorn off.” The pain of it stalks his nightmares more often than he’d like, just as agonizing as the dreams where he’s soaring carefree through the skies. “I’m permanently grounded …”

space01

…to continue.

 

 

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