Chapter 10--Dangerous Game--

"So you decided to show after all. Iím impressed," Maren gloated as he and Tyrell stood by the side of the basketball court. Tyrell was gripping the wiring on the courtís fence with his fingers while trying to pull himself back against it. Maren had one hand against the fence and was looking Lucian over in a condescending manner. His upper body did a fair job of shielding Tyrell. The younger boy looked anxious to be there and kept looking to the side to avoid meeting Lucianís eyes.

Lucian pulled a pair of dark sunglasses from his eyes and placed them in his pocket. He glanced at Tyrell who immediately hung his head and slumped against the wire. Realizing that his action had bothered the green-eyed youth, Lucian returned his attention to Maren, red eyes glittering with anticipation. "Sorry to disappoint you, Maren, but I take all my challenges very seriously."

Maren raised his eyebrows in acknowledgment and leaned back his head, causing the three earrings on his upper ear to sparkle as they caught the rays of the rising sun. They scraped against the rusty fence as Maren brushed them to the side before the ends hooked on the open wire. He looked at Tyrell who was shirking at his side and gave him a chiding look. "Whatís the deal, Arteme? Donít you want to play on my team?"

Tyrell lifted his head and shook it slowly. "Itís not that Ren. I just donít want you to be fighting with him. Thereís enough fighting going on in my life already. Canít you just shake hands and make up?"

"And risk messing up my reputation? No way! And another thing, weíre not fighting, weíre just having a playful competition. All guys like to engage in some sort of contest from time to time," Maren explained, stretching out one arm above him, in the middle of his rationale.

"Not me," the younger boy said, clenching his fingers around the diamond patterns of the fencing.

"Thatís Ďcause youíre a wimp," Maren teased, hoping to bring out the feistier side of his best friend.

His prodding succeeded as Tyrell jerked his head toward him, emerald eyes darkening with embarrassment. "I am not a wimp! I just think itís stupid to fight for no frigginí reason!"

"Now thatís my Arteme! And I think weíre fighting for a perfectly logical reason."

"Youíre fighting over my sister. Admit it Ren, youíre jealous," the mahogany-haired youth accused, eliciting a small chuckle from Lucianís direction. "This whole thing is just to show off in front of Kat. Youíre always acting like she drives you crazy, but I bet you only mess with her because you really like her. Itís the oldest ploy in the book Ren. And for your information, no, I donít believe that such a reason is worth bickering about. Now call off this stupid game!"

"Of all the ridiculous..." his friend fumed, placing his hand on the fence so that he was leaning across the other boy. "I am not jealous of that girlie-boy. I could care less if he dated Kat. This is about my pride. To prove it, I won't even ask Kat to come."

Lucian recoiled at the slur and rushed up to Maren, seized him by his shoulders and wrenched him away from Tyrell. He slammed him against the fence and removed his hands from his shoulders as he glared at him in fury. "I am not a girlie-boy! I bet I could personally kick your ass blind-folded!"

Hating to see his friends about to tear into each other, Tyrell leapt from the fence and pulled Lucian away from Maren. He turned to the raging Lucian and held him back from Maren, who was smirking and flipping off the other boy. "Let him go, Arteme. Iím ready to handle him," the cocky teenager boasted.

"Weíll see about that!"

"Calm down, Lucian, Ren didnít mean it. Heís just hot under the collar because I mentioned him liking Kat. Ren is so reluctant to admit he likes anyone. It hurts his tough-boy image," placated Tyrell as he turned back and glared at the raven-haired youth. "Ren, quit being a jerk or I swear I wonít play tomorrow! As a matter of fact, Iím thinking of pulling out of the whole thing right now."

"Go ahead. Run and prove to me that you really are a wuss. Iíll just get Cyrus to help. At least, he knows how to be a man," snapped Maren, eager to humiliate Tyrell for having the nerve to bring Kat into this.

"Yeah right! You and I both know Cye hates basketball. He wonít play."

"Maybe not, but he wonít be all whiny about it either."

Tyrell lowered his eyes and kicked against the fence with his heel. "Come on, Ren. Donít tell me that comment about Kat bothered you this much. Besides, fighting Lucian over her is so stupid since he doesnít even know her that well."

"Could have fooled me. You should have seen the way Mr. Innocent here was acting around her in gym the other day," remarked his friend, giving Lucian a hateful glance. "She was all prancing around him and flaunting herself and he was encouraging it."

"She was flirting with me!" Lucian hissed from behind Tyrell, trying to break past him and get at Maren. "I was trying to get her to go join her group. I wasnít encouraging her. I wanted to get rid of her as soon as possible."

"So you donít like her then?"

"No. I like her. I just donít appreciate it that she insists on following me everywhere that I go. I feel so weird around her to begin with."

"That makes a hell of sense!" criticized Maren, turning his back on Lucian and staring back into the empty court. The sight reminded him of what he was there for in the first place. "So Lucian, did you manage to find another partner?"

"Yeah, I did. Dominic Solanis. Him and me are going to teach you a thing about basketball," Lucian responded with a nasty grin.

Tyrell stepped away from his friend, seeing that him and Maren werenít going to try to hurt each other for now. But as the words sunk into his head, he whirled around to Lucian and gazed at him with dubious eyes. "You convinced Dominic to help you? How in the world did you pull that off?"

"Act of god?" gibed the red-haired boy, catching a skeptical look from Tyrell. "No really, we just made a friendly little bargain that appeals to both of our natures."

"Somehow I donít like the sound of that."

Maren cleared his throat and snatched Tyrell by the back of his collar, pulling him to the side. "Chill Arteme. The guy says he has a partner. I donít care if he gets Satan himself on his team as long as we can play. Now letís just leave it at that." Tyrell slouched and walked away from Maren, returning to lean against the fence. Shaking his head at his friendís attitude, the older boy straightened his back and started to walk over to the main building of Carthala, giving Lucian a parting scowl. "I hope youíre ready to lose, Lucian."

Tyrell gave him a dirty look. "Ren! Stop that!"

"Just some friendly advice. Now I have a class to get to. If Iím late again, the teacher will slap me with two more detentions. Canít let that happen, seeing that we have a gig this weekend. See you both later," he called out, enjoying the searing glance he got from the red-haired teenager.

"Letís just hope your skills can cover your boasts," shouted Lucian as he watched Maren disappear around the corner of Carthala.

Tyrell lifted his head to the side, still curling his fingers around the wiring of the fence. He really hated the fact that his friends insisted on being rivals with each other. As if he didnít have enough problems, now he had to contend with a jealous slacker and an inciting jokester. The whole thing just made him sick. Maren had no right to get him involved in this. Facing off against Lucian and Dominic was the last thing on his mind. Never mind, the notion of the two even working together was as alien as Kat and Angelique agreeing on a fashion style.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he sighed, hanging his head so that strands of his rich mahogany hair swept across his eyes. "I can still tell Ren I refuse to play."

Lucian jogged over to his side and ruffled his hair playfully. He rested his back against the hard fencing as he felt the edge of his hair-band nipping into his neck. Pulling it off, he allowed his crimson hair to cascade over his shoulders and whip against the wiring. He fiddled with the loose hair-band between his fingers and looked at Tyrell with consoling eyes. "Donít do that. Iím looking forward to seeing if our practice sessions have been paying off," the older boy comforted in a cheerful voice.

"But Renís really good. You havenít seen him play before Lucian. Heís been playing for years," Tyrell persisted, pushing back his hair with white trembling fingers.

Lucian laughed at the nervous boy and patted him on the back. "What? Are you afraid Iím going to lose?"

"I...I just donít know. I donít like the idea of competing against you."

"You never know, it might be fun."

Tyrell sighed and moved further down the fence. "You always say that Lucian. Life is an eternal game to you. Can you even fathom the notion of something being difficult for someone else?"

"Of course I can. Iíve had my share of trouble Tye. I thought you figured that out during our first meeting. I just like to see the bright side of things since it makes everything much easier. You canít always look at things in a pessimistic view. If you do that, youíll be like Nicky."

"Speaking of Dominic, what did you bargain with to get him to come tomorrow?" the younger teenager asked, not sure if he really wanted the answer.

Lucian shifted his eyes and rubbed at his neck, nervously. "Moving along. How has Angelique been faring?" he gabbed, obviously trying to elude the question about his arrangement with Dominic. He wasnít blind to Tyrellís opinion of him and Dominic. The boy had made it quite clear that he didnít approve of their partnership in the least. Being that as it was, Lucian was not enthusiastic about giving Tyrell any information that could make him more averse around Dominic than he already was.

"Iíve managed to convince her that the whole thing was just a weird dream, but sheís been acting strange lately. She wonít talk to anyone and keeps insisting to speak to Aunt Ciara, her mother. I think she suspects something," replied Tyrell in a casual voice seeming to be diverted from his previous subject. The younger boy looked at the ground as he spoke and plucked the wires behind him. He hated revealing to Lucian that Angelique was suffering because of his failure to protect her. He had been so concerned with fighting off Kathryn that day that he had completely forgotten about Angelique. To tell the truth, he had been ignoring her a lot lately. Maybe she just felt left out. Perhaps, a nice introduction between her and his new friends would help.

"Thatís not good," commented Lucian, glad that he had managed to switch topics with so much ease. Yet, he did feel bad knowing that Tyrell probably blamed himself for Angeliqueís problems. "Maybe you should try telling her a little bit of the truth," he suggested as Tyrell shook his head fiercely.

"No way! That will just freak her out even more." Then, he looked up at the older youth, frustration and fear in his gentle gray-green eyes. "But what if the Chimera try to go after her again to get to me? How am I supposed to protect her all the time?"

"Thatís what us Guardians are here for. Itís our job to make sure you and yours are safe. Well, actually just you and Kat, but Iím willing to made some adjustments to the rules."

"I suppose." Tyrell raised his head and looked at Lucian sternly as if just realizing that he was being lead off track on purpose. "Hey, stop dodging my question and tell me what you said to Dominic to convince him to help you."

"Well, I um...." stuttered Lucian, tapping his fingers against the fence as he struggled to think of a plausible answer.

"AMBROSE!" The yell shook both youths as it resounded through the area. Tyrell grimaced at the sound as Lucian rolled his eyes in annoyance. He pulled away from the fence and shot a livid glare across the field to the owner of the voice who was standing against the side of the main building. Dominic had a book bag in his hand and was tapping his foot against the ground impatiently. He noticed that Lucian had responded as he saw a flash of the otherís dark red eyes. "Ambrose!"

"What?" growled Lucian, highly displeased that Dominic had showed up in this most awkward situation. If Tyrell was looking for another reason to resent his companionship with Dominic, he was about to get it. "Smooth move Nicky," he thought to himself, rolling his eyes at the otherís stupidity.

But Dominic didnít seem to care for the caustic tone in Lucianís reply; he just dropped his book bag beside him and called out to him once more. "Get up here! I need to talk to you right now!" His voice did seem a bit on the urgent side, but Lucian was not in the mood to come running at his command. He had had enough of being treated like crap from Maren and he did not wish to receive the same thing from Dominic at the moment.

He planted his feet firmly on the ground and stared back at his guest, "Can this wait? Iím kind of talking to Tye right now."

"I said get up here! This is important and I donít have time for your worthless banter."

The word Ďimportantí seemed to stand out in Lucianís mind and he decided that he had better wrap up his conversation and see what the problem was. There was a possibility it had to deal with the Chimera otherwise Dominic wouldnít have come to find him. Dominic did so loathe spending time with him and tried to avoid him whenever given the opportunity. Not that he could blame the older boy; after all, he did try to jerk his chain on a daily basis. After a moment of thinking, Lucian sighed and nodded his head in reluctant obedience. "Alright. Give me a sec, okay?"

"Now!" the dark-haired youth demanded, stomping his foot on the cement walkway.

His action piqued the already irritated Lucian who yelled back, "Shove it!"

Tyrell looked at the angry boy and spoke in a harsh voice that sounded as if he was trying to keep from yelling in anger. "You donít have to jump at his voice Lucian. Youíre not his lapdog," he pointed out, not able to hide the fact that he was disturbed by Dominicís control over the younger boy. He did not like the idea that Dominic was keen on forcing Lucian to bend to his will. "Just because heís older than you doesnít mean you have to listen."

"Whoís listening?" disputed Lucian, offended at Tyrellís insinuation; "He can wait."

"AMBROSE!" Dominic hollered again, furious that the other boy wasnít taking him seriously. It was as if he didnít even care that he had said that this was an important matter. He would rather prattle with their young charge. Lucian was being plain unreasonable and Dominic had a feeling he was doing it just to spite him. "Ambrose, if you donít get up here right now, you can forget about our agreement tomorrow."

"Breathe Nicky. Breathe," taunted the red-haired boy, turning from Dominic to face Tyrell. "Maybe we should postpone this talk. Donít want Nicky to explode on us, do we?"

"I donít know. It might be an improvement," suggested Tyrell, crossing one foot in front of him in an indifferent gesture.

Lucian laughed loudly and shook his shoulder. "Well done Tye, I knew you had some punk in you." Suddenly, his voice turned somber as he pulled the other boy closer and whispered into his ear. "You should be careful for a while though. I think the Chimera have been planning something."

"I think we taught them a lesson last time. They havenít bothered us since."

"Thatís not entirely true. One did jump Nicky a few days ago. This one was most likely a girl who could change into a wolf. I canít be too sure though since I didnít see her human form, only the wolf one," Lucian informed him as Tyrellís eyes widened in surprise.

"Really?"

"Yep, so keep on you toes, Ďkay?"

"Okay, but like you said thatís what I have you guys for, right?" Tyrell replied in a low voice, giving Lucian a sly wink.

"Yeah!"

Dominic had started to approach the path to the court, warning the younger boy, "Donít make me come down there!"

Lucian sighed and lifted his head from Tyrell, glancing back at Dominic with tired garnet eyes. "Have you ever heard of the word Ďplease?í"

The green-eyed boy beside him turned him around with his hand. "Are you so sure about Dominic staying with you? Heís not too friendly and he has a real problem with personal space," he cautioned, reluctant about letting his friend return to Dominic.

"But Tye, thatís what makes it fun."

This response startled Tyrell and he turned his head, not wanting Lucian to see the disgust in his eyes. "I guess. But is it really fair to Dominic? I mean, if it is just a game to you? Maybe itís not right for you to force him to act all social when he clearly prefers to be alone," the boy added in an abstruse tone, receiving a chagrined look from the older youth. Lucian was not pleased that Tyrell was on the verge of discovering his little secret.

"Tye, Iím surprised at you. I never said this was a game. I just want to bring the Guardians closer together so weíre not always fighting amongst one another. Itíll make it easier to protect you if we work together. Plus, we wonít have any more petty squabbles in the middle of battle. I mean, you do hate needless fighting, right?" he forced the lie through his teeth, convincing himself that it was at least a half-truth and that made it less sinful to tell to Tyrell.

Tyrell was at an impasse. He hated admitting that Lucianís explanation made some sense, but he didnít want to say he condoned pointless fighting either. He tried to present his rebuttal in the subtlest way. "Yes, but...."

"Then donít worry," Lucian interrupted, nudging him in the side, "Everything is going to be fiii...Ouch!" A crushing grip on his upper arm made Lucian whimper in pain as Dominic yanked him away from Tyrell. He looked up at the older boy and bore into him with his intoxicating eyes. "What did you do that for?"

"Iím not waiting any longer. You can have this private conversation later. We have more pressing matters to discuss. And donít give me that look! If you would have just come when I asked the first five times, I wouldnít have to do this," Dominic growled as Lucian stopped struggling. "You just have to make everything difficult."

"What can I say? Itís a talent."

Tyrell walked over to the pair and averted his eyes so he didnít have to see Lucian fighting with the older boy. "What important matters do you have to discuss with him, Dominic? Iím a Key, shouldnít I get to hear this?" he questioned Dominic, eyeing him with distrust.

"You just keep an eye on your own affairs Tyrell," the dark-haired youth warned him, seeming to sense that Tyrell was acting unusually cold to him. "By the way, I would be more careful with who you drag into this mess. Thereís something odd about that silver-haired cousin of yours, Angelique," he advised the younger boy.

"What about her?"

"I donít know, but you should be more cautious with what you say or how you act around her for the time being. At least until we know more about the situation."

Lucian did not like the sound of this at all. He knew how Tyrell felt about Angelique and was sure that Tyrell would not take kindly to Dominic implying that she may not be on their side. Desperate for a way to avoid a heated battle between the two, Lucian moaned and rubbed at his arm. "Ow! I think you broke my arm!" he complained, hoping to suspend the direction in which this conversation was headed.

"Quit your whining!" Dominic snarled at his companion before turning back to Tyrell. "You better run off Tyrell or youíll be late for class."

But Tyrell wasnít quick about leaving. "What about you and Lucian?" he asked, determined to stick around until he was sure that Dominic wasnít going to cause any trouble.

"Weíll be fine on our own. Right, Ambrose?" the eldest boy replied, posing his question to the whimpering boy in his grip.

"Iíll be fine when you get the hell off my arm!" Lucian snapped, still not happy that Dominic had decided to be so violent with him. He was not in the mood to play right now and the heavy pressure on his skin wasnít helping any. He lifted his eyes to Tyrell and nodded his head reassuringly. "Iím sure Iíll be fine Tye. Nicky just wants to discuss something important, which it had better be for hauling me around like this!"

"Keep in mind what I said Tyrell," added Dominic as Tyrell began to plod back toward the school. Tyrell did not want to receive another detention and Lucian had promised him that he could handle the situation. If he stuck around, it might just make his friend angry.

"See you at the game!" the red-haired boy yelled to him as he left. Seeing that Tyrell was on his way, Lucian rolled his eyes back at Dominic and motioned toward his captured limb. "Are you going to let me go now?"

"Depends. Are you planning on listening to me now?"

Lucian nodded his head as he saw Tyrell faintly waving his farewell at him. "Bye...Lucian," the youngest boy said in a subdued voice as he ran off to catch his first class.

The red-haired boy redirected his attention to Dominic and gave him a hard look. "So Nicky, whatís so important that it couldnít wait?"

*~*~*~*~*~*

Dominic dragged the other youth to the side of the court and then released his arm, allowing Lucian to walk over to a nearby tree and stroke its bark, idly. His purpose in the action was to show Dominic that he was willing to listen, but not about to make any big effort to respond. He was still bitter about the way the older boy had treated him in front of Tyrell. Not only was Dominic not playing fair, but also Tyrellís statement had really irked him. How dare that guy accuse him of acting like Dominicís lapdog? It wasnít like he was faithfully loping along at his side every waking moment. Not that Dominic would let him lope in the first place.

He scratched at the tree with his nails and spoke to the boy behind him. "Well, what did you want to talk to me about? And this better be good Nicky, because after what you just pulled, Iím not in the mood to be jerked around."

"I donít care if youíre pissed off or not. This is far more important," Dominic admonished him; not really caring that Lucian refused to make eye contact. A distant look appeared in his eyes as he pinched his fingers over the ball-chain that ran around his neck connecting to the sun amulet. He twisted the chain back and forth, not sure how he should present his new dilemma to Lucian, who understood nothing about him. But he couldnít worry about this now, this was a matter for the Guardians, and as much as he hated to admit it, Lucian was a Guardian as well. He could no longer handle the Chimera on his own; his last battle with Lupe had shown him that much. He would now need to rely on some form of outside assistance. Too bad his only choices lay on one fiercely protective girl or her idiotic brother.

"I have been thinking...about that girl, Erik," he began as Lucian lifted his head and turned to him.

"You mean the cross-dresser? The one who was taking a few shots at us the other day when I crashed your duel? Why has she been on your mind?" Then a playful glint fell across Lucianís eyes as he broke into a wide grin. "Oh I get it. You like her. You want to find her so you two can..."

"Shut your mouth!" bellowed Dominic, trying his best to prevent himself from lashing out at the younger boy as he had done yesterday. "This is serious!"

"Oh is it? I didnít know you two were that close yet," jeered Lucian, anxious to make Dominic pay for mocking him in front of Tyrell.

"I said shut up! Now are you going to listen or I am going to have to make you listen?" threatened Dominic, his eyes burning with contained rage. "I want to talk to you about the possibility of Erik being associated with the Chimera. She was always following Tyrell around and seemed quick to challenge me. That behavior is a bit unusual for a young girl."

Seeing that Dominic was determined to discuss this in a solemn manner, Lucian dropped his jesting persona and regarded the older boy with solemn interest. "Maybe she just doesnít like you. Or perhaps, she just likes to fight, kind of like us. You canít automatically assume sheís on the wrong side just because she holds a grudge against you."

"Forget how she treated me! Why was she always stalking Tyrell? It seemed that whenever I was there, so was she. She has something to do with all of this, you can be sure of that much."

"She could be another Guardian. Neither Shira nor me know how many there are. Heck, we just now discovered that we werenít the only ones. There could also be other Keys for all we know. All I know is that Iím supposed to watch after Tyrell and his sister."

"While weíre on the topic, why exactly are you guarding the Keys?" Dominic asked, finding himself curious as to whether the other boyís reasons mirrored his own.

Lucian seemed hesitant to answer him and glanced at the side for a moment. "I made a promise to someone," he responded aloofly.

"Who?"

"I already told you, Nicky, you get no new information from me until you give a little back," Lucian reminded him. "Iím not the only one with a mysterious past. You want to know more? Then, first you tell me why youíre a Guardian."

"I too made a promise to someone," Dominic conceded with a soft drop of his voice. As Dominic spoke, he ran his fingers down the length of his chain, pressing hard enough against the minuscule silver orbs that an imprint of their spherical shape was left on the flesh of his fingertips.

This sudden change in attitude was strange to Lucian. It was as if Dominic were recalling something painful from his memories. Even his voice sounded melancholy and rueful, a trait that Lucian wasnít even aware that the older boy could possess. Clearly, there was more to Dominic than met the eye. He would have to look more into this in the future.

"Never mind," the red-haired youth said as he offered the other a discreet smile. "We can talk about it later. For now, weíll just say that we both were told to come here and leave it at that."

Dominic instantly snapped back into his authoritarian mode and jerked his hand away from the necklace. "Well, now that thatís been dealt with, about Erik. What should we do? I havenít seen her since the fight, but I just know that sheís still around, waiting for the apt time to make her appearance. She seems like the type who desires a dramatic entrance."

"I say we lay low for a while until we have a better understanding of this whole thing. In the meantime, we should ask Shira for advice. Sheís the one whose all excited about gathering the other Guardians, if they even exist. Iím sure she would be able to suggest something. After all, Shira is our little duoís strategist. Iím just the computer specialist."

"Well, thanks for that lovely insight into your humdrum lives," grumbled Dominic, becoming annoyed by the fact that his companion was rambling on again.

"Hey! What should we make you? You have no concept of strategy; I figured that out from your ill-conceived attack on the she-wolf. And we both know that you and computers just donít mix. What else is there?" Lucian pondered, tilting his head to the side and tapping his finger against his lower chin.

"It was not ill-conceived! That bitch jumped me out of nowhere. I wasnít even planning on attacking her!"

"So you didnít even know that she was a Chimera? Not too swift Nicky."

"Go to hell!"

"Such language and in front of a school no less," scoffed the younger boy, shaking his head as a trickling laughter rolled from his throat. "Anyway about your talent, I guess you can be the combat specialist. After watching you fight with Erik, I presume that you would have some skill at that."

"What is this? A reconnaissance mission? Grow up, Ambrose. Weíre not playing out some little command and conquer scenario here. Try to show a little more maturity toward our position," scolded the dark-haired youth as he waved his hand at Lucian in a dismissive gesture.

Lucian was about to retaliate when a loud screech blasted through the air. The red-haired boyís fell into a pout as he hung his head. "Late again. Wonderful. This makes it the third time. Detention for sure."

Dominic gave him an apathetic look and then turned to retrieve his book bag from the side of the building. "You never know, Ambrose, maybe you can tell them you were late for an important reason this time." He walked away from the other boy and lifted his belongings from the cement, then briskly marched into the building.

"Yeah. Iím sure my teacher is going to buy, ĎBut I was busy debating with a hard-headed jerk over whether or not to track a suspicious girl since we have to protect this boy for reasons that are too bizarre to comprehend.í as a legitimate excuse," whimpered Lucian, staring back at the retreating youth with a look of despair.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Once again, Dominic was in refusal to speak to Lucian. He blamed Lucian for the whole detention business and had confined himself to the dark recesses of his room for the remainder of the afternoon. Tashira had yelled at both of them for holding her up after school since Lucian owned their only car. She had moped that the delay had caused her to miss her favorite fashion design class. Of course, she had placed the sole blame for the incident on Dominic, though she did give Lucian an equal scolding for allowing himself to be fooled into staying too long. She still hadnít quite forgiven Dominic for striking her twin brother the other day either and kept a careful vigil over him whenever he was around Lucian.

"Try anything and youíll seriously regret it," Tashira had warned Dominic after he had hollered at Lucian for making them get a detention. Ever since then, Dominic had locked himself inside the spare room and Lucian had retreated to the solace of his computer. The whole chaos of the situation caused the notion of mentioning Dominicís fear of Erik to Tashira to slip from Lucianís mind. He just wanted to sit at the computer and wander around cyberspace for a while. At least there, nobody would condemn him for something that was beyond his control.

As he sat categorizing the latest hacker claims to fame, the phone rang from the kitchen. Moments later, he heard Tashira pick it up from its cradle on the well and ask for the speakerís name and purpose of calling. Lucian finished his email to one of his fellow net buddies and ran a virus scan over a file that someone has uploading for him. It was supposed to include recent supernatural sightings around the city, including one recent complaint about a strange black wolf that had been wandering around as of late. Oddly, enough the message had stated that there hadnít been any more sightings of the creature since the latter half of the week. Intrigued, Lucian studied the description that the writer of the message had provided within their report. ĎPassionless violet eyes, fur as black as the twilight night itself, gleaming white fangs.í Sure enough, this was the exact same animal that he had encountered when he had first presented himself to the Chimera. The same beast who had claimed that the protection of Tyrell was his duty alone. These words did have a familiar ring to him.

"Luce, Tye wants to talk to you," Tashira shouted from the other room as she put her palm over the speaker. "Something about Kat or Kathryn or whatever."

Kathy. Lucian felt his heart make an involuntary jump at the name and he got up from the computer and ambled into the kitchen. Tashira handed him the phone with a cautious glance and then went back to working on the math homework that she had strewn across the kitchen table. Her brother held the phone up to his ear and gave her a clueless shrug. "Hey Tye, whatís this about Kathy?" he spoke into the phone as his sibling rose a silver eyebrow at his voice.

"Lucian, Iím sorry about interrupting you right now but Kat has been bugging me to call you for two hours. She wonít leave me alone and I havenít been able to get any private time to talk to Angie. I finally convinced her to go get us some movies to watch tonight, but she still made me promise to call you before she got back," Tyrellís agitated voice came through the other end of the speaker.

"Itís no problem. I was just messing around on the computer anyway. Iím a bad student and usually donít start my school assignments until it gets dark. So what did Kathy want you to tell me?"

"She says sheís got some tickets to a theater tomorrow afternoon. Of course, she wants you to go with her. Sheís going to make it out to be a date."

"What movie?" Lucian chirped, elated at the idea of getting invited to a movie. The fact that it was Kat inviting him completely slipped his mind.

There was silence on the other end of the phone as Lucian heard Tyrell shifting through some papers beside him. "What? Uh, I donít know. Probably some lame romance. She likes those things. You really want to go with her Lucian?"

"Why not?"

"You donít know what itís like going to movieís with my sister. Iíve seen her around Ren. Sheís just going to try to snuggle up and sweet-talk you through the whole thing. I doubt youíll even get to enjoy the program."

"So, Iím guessing you donít want me to go with Kathy?" the older boy replied, sensing the virulence in Tyrellís voice.

"I didnít say that. If you want to go with her, thatís fine. Iím just saying that youíve seen how forceful she is and after you kissing her and all, she might get the wrong idea," Tyrell stammered from the other line.

"Well, I did kiss her without her permission and I am her temporary boyfriend. I guess I owe her a date or two. Who knows, maybe sheíll ease off a bit when she realizes that she doesnít have to coax me into going out with her." Lucian heard Tashira cough from her seat at the table as she lowered her eyes. Lucian gave her a reprimanding glare and she held up her textbook to block her face.

"If thatís what you want Lucian. Just remember, if that kiss was just spur of the moment, you donít have to get involved with her. Sheíll understand. And if she doesnít, Iíll make her."

"Calm down Tye. Letís Iíve decided to take this on a day by day basis. In the meantime, donít badger Kathy too much for hogging my attention. Thatís just her way. Sheís going through a lot too, you know. You forget, she is also a Key like you," Lucian told the other boy in a reassuring tone.

"I know. Iíll try to remember that next time I want to throttle her," Tyrell joked, laughing gently through the speaker.

"So talk to you tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah. Good luck at the game Lucian. Oh and donít let Dominic get to you. I think heís just hiding something about himself that makes him have to act like an ass all the time."

"Could be. Well, keep alert. Ciao," Lucian finished his farewell and placed the phone back on the hook.

"Sure likes to heckle you, doesnít he?" a mocking voice echoed from outside the kitchen as both Tashira and Lucian turned to see Dominic standing in the hall, bracing himself against the entrance.

"Nick, we didnít hear you coming." Lucian left the phone and strolled over to the dark-haired youth.

Tashira flipped through her book and lifted her head to set her soft gray eyes on the older boy. "And for your information, Tyrell didnít call for his own sake. He called to tell Luce that Kat wished to invite him out tomorrow," she corrected Dominic sharply.

Dominic turned to Lucian, his notebook clasped in his right hand and held behind his back. "Not your girlfriend, huh?"

"I can choose to change my mind if I wish. Anyway, dates are good for relieving stress," Lucian said firmly, placing a hand on his hip and leaning in toward the other boy. Dominic murmured something under his breath and rolled his eyes. Feeling a blush rush to his face, Lucian shot him a wounded look. "Yeah, as if youíve never had a girlfriend."

"I havenít."

"Quit lying," snapped the red-haired boy as he eyed him suspiciously. Then his attention shifted to focusing on the notebook resting in Dominicís fingers, tantalizingly close to his reach. "Well, I bet I can find out the truth in your little diary here," he chuckled, snatching the item from Dominicís grasp and skirting off to the side.

"You damned brat! Give that back!" roared the older boy as he whirled around and charged the other boy, ignoring the shouts of protest that were coming from Tashira.

"Gotta catch me first," Lucian taunted as he waved the notebook before Dominic and then dashed off again.

"Iíll kick your ass!" swore Dominic as he raced after him.

"Dominic! Donít you dare!" Tashira leapt to her feet as the two ran through the room.

Lucian stuck out his tongue at Dominic in a pitifully demeaning gesture and flew out the door, Dominic right behind him. He hurried down the stairs and grabbed his bike from the side of the house. He mounted the item that consisted of a black base dappled with silver streaks. Adjacent to his bicycle rested another one of the same metal but decorated in hot pink with purple handlebars. Unsure, of where to go from here, Lucian kicked against the petals and steered the back toward the empty street, glancing behind him to see how close Dominic was. Dominic reached the end of the stairs, panting, as he watched the other boy riding his bike down the street.

"Get back here you son of a bitch!" he snarled as Tashira yanked him back.

"Donít you talk to him like that!" she hissed in his face as his eyes flashed with dangerous outrage.

"Come and get me, Nicky! Youíve got another bike there," snickered Lucian as Dominicís eyes traveled to the pink object leaning against the side of the house.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Dominic swore to himself. Lucian was out of his mind if he honestly believed that he was about to hitch a ride on that feminine bicycle. Then, his mind went back to the thought of the younger boy reading what he had written inside the notebook. It was his outlet. All of his anger and sorrow poured forth from every page of the little item. What the notebook contained was far too personal to be shared with a juvenile wretch who was just trying to set him off. He was damned if he was going to let Lucian get a chance to read it. Sissy bike or not, he aimed to follow him.

Snarling, the dark-haired boy shoved Tashira out of his way and raced over to the bike. Before Tashira could even fathom what he was doing, he leapt on the seat and drove the bicycle into the part of the street where Lucian had headed down. Tashira shrieked in dismay and scrambled after him, her heels clicking against the hazardous edge of the steps.

"Dominic Solanis, you get back here with my bike!" she screamed, realizing that she was unable to catch up to either youth. "If you even try to touch him, I swear Iíll kill you!"

The older boy was immune to her cries as he forced the bike after Lucian, putting all his strength into the speed of the cycle. A surprised expression crossed Lucianís face from farther up, letting Dominic know that Lucian hadnít really figured on Dominic using Tashiraís bike. Apparently, disinclined to get caught, Lucian changed his course and steered the bicycle down the path leading straight into the highway.

"Are you crazy?" he shouted as he adjusted his bike to take the same direction. "Youíre going to get yourself killed!"

"Aw, learn to live a little Nicky," Lucian yelled back, pumping the petals down the runway that merged into the busy freeway. Laughing in excitement, he swerved through the cars and trucks, receiving a plethora of angry curses and violent honks. Dominicís sense of logic urged him against chasing after the boy but his stubborn pride refused to heed the voice of reason. He mimicked Lucianís pattern and wove in and out of the way of the moving vehicles, bowing his head so that he didnít have to see the horrified expression on the driversí faces.

Several cars sped dangerously close to both the bicycles, forcing Dominic and Lucian to devote all their energy into keeping just a hairbreadth from getting hit. Lucian was loving this adventure as he continued to chortle with amusement, which was made even more delightful by the stunned face of his companion as he watched Lucian laugh at their impending doom. Dominic had heard of flirting with danger, but this was taking the idea too far. This wasnít flirting. This was damn near embracing it. The fact that it was the energetic Lucian who was dragging him into this peril was ludicrous. Lucian was reckless, but he hadnít counted on him being insane. At this rate, Tyrell wouldnít have the chance to finish him off with his hideous luck; Lucian would gladly do it for him.

Thick acrid smoke ensuing from the zooming transports filled the air and threatened to choke both boys as they fought to stay alert. The wind slapped against their faces and each passing car brought another gust that rocked their bikes along the road. Tires screamed with protest as they were forced to race along the unaccommodating road, which was lined in shredded tire liner, trash, and broken chunks of glass. The strain on his legs and back was really getting to Dominic as he tried to maneuver his bike into cutting off the rambunctious Lucian.

Someone inside a vehicle leaned out the window and yelled something out to him that caused Dominic to turn a bright vermilion. Hunching further down against the handlebars, he shifted his eyes and muttered, "Yes, I know itís pink." There were a few moments of silence followed by a harsh laughter. Dominicís eyes widened in incensed fury as he jerked back to the person in the car. "NO! Itís NOT mine!"

"Having fun Nicky?" Lucian sang out in a sarcastic tone as he dodged another oncoming vehicle that was trying to switch lanes. "Bet you regret that smart-assed remark now."

"Ambrose, when I catch you Iím going to beat the shit out of you!" panted Dominic as he wrenched the bicycle away from the other car.

"Well, then Iíll just have to make sure you donít catch me," responded the younger boy as he changed course and began to lead the bicycle off the highway. He turned it from the main road and took off down a private road, waiting for Dominic to follow.

"Weíll see about that," the older boy spat as he took the road opposite Lucian, cutting in between a pair of cars that were trying to cross the intersection. Ignoring the enraged curses from the drivers, Dominic steered his back off the highway and down a rocky path to the left.

Lucian turned around only to find that Dominic had completely vanished from his view. Baffled, he continued down the stretch at a staggered pace, turning around every few seconds to see if he could find any sign that Dominic was around him. Too concerned with watching behind him, Lucian failed to notice when a bright object suddenly tore across the road at break-neck speed. It leapt out right in front of the other boyís bike, landing directly before him. Dominic sat astride the bike, leaning over its handlebars and glowering at the oncoming boy, who was approaching him at an accelerated velocity. His eyes failed to show any concern at all toward the fact that the other boyís bike was about to plow into his own transport. Knowing that a collision could prove disastrous, Lucian had only a split second to react.

"Shit!"

The red-haired youth smashed his heels down on the bikeís pedals as hard as he could, forcing the bike to swerve violently to the right. The motion threw the bike off its center and it crashed to the ground, hurling its rider unto the unyielding surface underneath it. His head swam as Lucian tried to prop himself up on his elbows. He lurched upward and roughly shoved at the bike with all his strength. To his surprise, the fallen object was easily lifted off his side and then straightened so that it once again was balanced on its wheels. Through the metal frame of the body, Lucian could see Dominic grasping the handlebars and leaning on the seat once he had returned the bicycle to its upright position. He was glaring at the red-haired youth superciliously as he reached out with one hand and yanked his notebook from out of the other boyís pocket, where it had been dangling.

"What the hell is wrong with you!" hissed Lucian, no longer caring about the notebook, as he used the bike to climb back to his feet. He slammed against the frame with his hands and looked up at Dominic with a pair of livid garnet eyes. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"

Immediately, Dominic bristled at his words and stared at him hard, an incredulous expression evident on his face. "You should talk? Riding a bike in the center of traffic like some crack fiend? And you have the gall to accuse me of harboring a death wish!"

"I wasnít diving my bike in front of the cars! Itís not like I wanted a collision!" spat the younger boy, turning his head to examine an aching that had appeared in his shoulder. There was already a small scrape oozing blood through tiny tears in the skin. "Damn it!" he groaned as he rubbed at the sore spot.

"If you werenít trying to kill yourself, then what the hell were you doing?"

"Having some fun," Lucian replied nonchalantly, glancing at the rest of his body to see what other injuries he had acquired from the fall.

"Yeah, some fun," Dominic flouted as he pointed at the torn jeans on the lower part of his companionís right leg. Lucianís eyes widened at the site of the tattered cloth and he hiked up the jeans to reveal a growing bluish-black bruise just below his knee. He groaned in aggravation and then began to wipe the dirt away from the wound. Dominic turned his head to the side and added darkly, "Only a lunatic would consider almost breaking their leg fun."

Lucian looked up from his ministrations and set the other boy with a frigid glance. "Well, I wasnít planning on some ass deliberately riding in front of me just to make me crash, now was I?"

"Oh real mature, arenít we Ambrose? You act like a reckless fool and then blame someone else when you get hurt."

"Only because itís your damn fault! God, all I wanted to do was get you to loosen up a bit."

"Well, maybe next time, youíll find someone else to drag along on your crazy escapades. And I know youíre lying about why you dragged me out here anyway. You just wanted to get me back for bad-mouthing you and Kathryn," spat the older boy as he placed his notebook in his back pocket.

"No I didnít! And as for your first comment, maybe I will find someone else!" Lucian snapped, jerking his head back down and pretending to be fully involved in cleaning his leg. "Or maybe next time, I wonít stop when a certain idiot jumps in front of me."

Dominic ignored the last comment and glanced at the younger boy, rolling his eyes indifferently. He placed more of his weight on the bicycle and let out a loud exaggerated sigh. "Oh well, since youíre already hurt, I guess Iíll have to hold off on kicking your ass for now," he muttered sarcastically, catching Lucianís repulsed reaction.

"Oh youíre too kind," the other boy growled with as much animosity as he could manage.

"Oh and by the way, Iím taking this bike." Dominic swung his leg over the frame and started to push off. "After all, the pink one suits you much better. Matches your pretty boy looks."

"Speak for yourself!" retorted Lucian, before he had time to consider his words. The thrown look on Dominicís face made him regret those words.

"What?"

"Forget it. Just go ahead and take it. Iím walking home anyway," Lucian said testily, walking over to Tashiraís bike, which was leaning against a tree. "Itís not like I can ride anything with my leg like this." He pulled the bicycle upright and began drag it to the edge of the street. Dominic had stopped pedaling and seemed to be watching him as if confused. Lucian noticed the older boyís halt and jerked his head toward him, shouting, "What are you waiting for?! I thought you were leaving!" The older boy refused to respond and continued to glance back at the nasty bruise on the other youthís leg. It stood out clearly as he limped along the side of the bike.

Dominic clenched his fingers on the handlebars as he continued to stare at the discolored limb. He had overreacted again and the evidence of his deed was plain to see. The sight repulsed him as he realized that it was his own doing that had caused it. As usual, he was letting his anger get the best of him, despite everything he had learned about preventing this from happening. It was as if he had no control over his temper whenever he was around Lucian. The boy just seemed to bring out the worse in him.

"This is all his fault!" the dark-haired boy thought as he again ran his eyes over the blossoming bruise for what seemed like the umpteenth time. But even as he worked to convince himself that he was not in the wrong, part of him seemed to believe otherwise. In either case, amends had to be made, some way or other.

He lowered his eyes for a moment, then dismounted the bike and stood at its side, apparently waiting for Lucian to catch up. Lucian stared at him in bewilderment for a second, before shrugging his shoulders and pushing the bike forward until it was just behind the older boyís.

Dominic whipped his head back to the front and began to pull the bicycle down the street. His younger companion copied the action and trailed behind him by a few yards. Seeing that the older Guardian was once again silent for the moment, Lucian took this moment to get in his final word. "So, I guess now you feel all bad about being a jerk," he reprimanded with a touch of mirth in his tone. Dominic didnít react at all and merely continued walking down the edge of the highway, increasing his pace just a bit. Lucian, finding this obvious guilt-trip terribly amusing, chuckled under his breath until the older boy raised his head slightly, still not turning.

"Shut up Ambrose."

*~*~*~*~*~*

Tashira looked up from her writing when she heard the door swing open and someone trudge into the hallway. She rushed over to find her twin limping on his right leg, an ugly bruise darkening over the front of the lower part. Lucian nudged her aside and then made his way for the bathroom, ignoring the horrified look on his sisterís face.

"My god Luce! What happened?" she yelped, racing after him and snatching at the handle on bathroom door.

Lucian pulled it away from her and softly closed the door, venom dripping from his words as he replied, "Tell Nicky heís an ass who needs to get a life." Before Tashira could ask anything else, Dominic walked into the room and started for the stairs. Tashira flung herself away from the door and threw herself in front of the older boy, effectively blocking his ascent.

"What did you do to my brother, you bastard!"

Dominic regarded her with a cool expression and then began to try to move her out of his way. "Nothing. The ditz fell off his bike."

"Which Iím sure you had nothing to do with?"

"For the most part."

"Why you...!" Tashira threatened, moments aware from beating Dominic to a bloody pulp. Her brotherís voice echoed from inside the room, sounding both calm and frustrated at the same time.

"Heís right Shira. I fell off my bike. Now leave him alone!"

Tashira fell silent as Dominicís eyes traveled to the bathroom door. Why was Lucian defending him yet again after what had just happened? Was this really all a game to the other boy? Or maybe he just didnít want to share his exploit with Tashira? The thoughts surged inside Dominicís head as he struggled to come up with a rational reason for Lucianís bizarre behavior. Unfortunately, nothing came to mind as he knew nothing about Lucian that would lead him to believe that the younger boy was suffering from some sort of psychosis. Perhaps, Lucian was leading a double life around his sibling.

The Lucian that he had seen today had not seemed stable in the least, darting in front of cars and riding dangerously close to the crushing wheels. He had seemed as if he had been under some twisted spell that caused him to crave peril, possibly even self-destruction. Even the fact that he was moments away from being struck from any given angle didnít faze him in the least. This Lucian differed greatly from the jovial youth that he had seen around Tyrell and Tashira. It struck Dominic as being something similar to having a split personality.

Such an idea did hold a certain amount of danger as that a person in this situation may not be entirely aware of what he or she was doing all the time. This posed as a significant threat to his protection of the Keys. Despite the fact that he was a Guardian as well, Lucianís loyalty was being put in jeopardy due to these attributes. This being the case, Dominic was determined to learn more about the mysterious youth before he thought about trusting him amongst his charges.

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Comments: Whoa! All this took up much more space than I had anticipated. Iíll just have to save the bball game and the fight for the next chapter. Maybe later, Iíll just combine this chapter with chp. 9. But Tye is a bit of the jealous type, ne?

 

 

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