Tashira was chatting on the phone, smiling like a giddy schoolgirl and speaking in a rapid manner. Her brother leaned against the counter, straining to hear the conversation. Tashira giggled and placed her hand upon his forehead, giving him a small nudge backward. Working his face into a fake pout, Lucian backed away from his twin and plopped down on the kitchen table, upsetting the load of school materials that he had been using to finish his homework. A pencil toppled from on top of his textbook and rolled along the table until it bumped into his nose.
A light twittering from his side let him know that Tashira was amused by his problems. He swiped the pencil to the far end of the table and spun around to look at her. "So is it okay with her?" he asked impatiently.
His sibling raised a finger to her lips to signal him to be quiet. She tilted her head closer to the phone and waited a few minutes, listening to the speaker on the other side. Her head nodded in response to the speakerís comments as Lucian gave her an interested look. Tashira continued to talk into the receiver for another couple of minutes. Then, he eyes sparkled with satisfaction, as she appeared to have heard what she was waiting for. Cupping her hand over the receiver, she swiveled around to Lucian.
"Kat says that there should be no problems with me spending the night. She says her parents wonít mind as long as she gets her homework done," Tashira delivered the message in an excited whisper.
"Cool! So youíll be able to spend some time with Tye and Angelique?" inquired her twin, leaping up from the chair to rush over to his sister.
Tashira lifted her hand and uttered something into the phone, then nodded back in elation. "She says to come around at six. Thatís an hour from now. And she says that Tyrell already canceled his meeting with Maren due to yesterdayís problems."
A sharp wail sounded from the phone as Tashira returned her attention to the speaker. "Uh huh. Yeah heís in the room with me. What?" Her gray eyes became agitated as she sighed and held out the phone to Lucian. "Kat says thereís something she wants to ask you."
Still disturbed about their last date, Lucian gave Tashira a hesitant glance and reached for his pencil. He scooped a piece of loose-leaf paper from the table and pretended to write on it. "Um...Iím doing my homework right now. Ask her if it can wait?"
"She says itís extremely important," mocked Tashira as she rolled her eyes. "Itís about some dance."
"Dance?" yelped Lucian, dropping the pencil on the floor as he whipped his head back toward Tashira. "Crap! Thatís right she asked me the other day if I wanted to go with her. Itís at the end of the week, I think."
"So are you going to talk to her or not?" Tashira set the phone and walked over to him to whisper something in his ear. "If you need a date, Iím always available," she teased with a wink of her feathery lashes.
"Shira! That is not cool! Do you know what would happen to me if I got caught taking my sister to a dance?" her brother cried as he jerked his head away from her.
"Oh but Luce, I would guard you with my life. I would never net anyone touch you. Anyway, I bet I would be a way better date than that Arteme girl. Sheís too clingy if you ask me."
"Quit kidding around Shira."
Tashira pushed herself from Lucian and stomped back to the phone, clenching it in her hands so tight that her nails scratched against the plastic casing. She forced the phone at Lucian and turned her head to the shut, closing her eyes in disgust. "Then fine, tell your precious Kathy that youíll be her date!"
Lucian swallowed a breath of air and took the phone from Tashiraís clutching fingers. "Howís it going, Kathy? No, I didnít forget about what we talked about. Itís just that I donít know if Iím even going to the dance. I havenít been feeling good lately....No, itís not you. Itís just.....Shira was just joking around. She likes to do that from time to time. No, I think youíre a nice girl....But Iím just not in the mood for a dance. Iíve got two tests this week. Yeah, I know the dance isnít until Friday. But Kathy...." he whined as he fought to convince Kat that he was not up to another go at their relationship just yet.
Last time had been bad enough. Heíd actually developed a minor fever from spending too much time around her. He knew it wasnít her fault that he freaked out whenever she was around, but he didnít like being out of control either. It worried him that he never really knew what he was doing whenever they were too close. Lucian had no intention of repeating that reckless kiss a while back. The next time he kissed someone, he wanted it to be because he had genuine feelings for her. That was what bothered him the most about dating Kat. There was always the feeling that his emotions werenít his own and that they werenít pure. It was as if they were forced. Kat didnít deserve that.
"Humph. If you go to the dance with her, Iíll take Tyrell," fumed Tashira as she paced around the room.
Lucian turned from the phone and regarded his sister with disbelief. "Tye will most likely go with Angelique."
"But sheís his cousin!"
"You should talk! Youíre trying to get me to go with you and weíre frigginí twins!"
Tashira swirled a strand of silver hair between her index and middle fingers as she shot him an incensed look. "I was joking, Luce. Iím just saying that Iíd rather have anyone go with you than Kat."
"Ssh! Do you want her to hear you?"
"I donít care if she hears me. Itís true Iíd rather you date anyone else. I wouldnít care who it was," asserted Tashira as she slammed her hands firmly upon her hips.
"Anyone?" drawled Lucian as an evil idea began to form inside his brain.
"Yes. Anyone. So long as itís not Kathryn Arteme," his twin repeated, giving her head a strong shake.
A shriek escaped Tashiraís lips as she leapt back in horror. She swatted Lucian angrily and drew her face close to his. "What the hell possessed you to say that?"
Lucian pretended to cringe under the blows as he held up one hand to ward off her fury. He laughed as he snatched her wrist and gave her a quick tug, causing her to trip and fall to her knees. Shaking his head at her ungraceful display, he tapped her on the head. "You said anyone."
"Thatís not even funny," Tashira growled through her teeth as she pulled free of Lucian, still on her knees. "I canít believe you would even suggest something like that. Have you lost your mind?"
"Hey, you said anyone. Besides, you were taking the risk of having Kathy hear you insulting her. Since youíre going to be spending the night, I must insist you treat her with much more respect."
Tashira scoffed and climbed to her feet. "All that matters to me is talking to Tyrell and his cousin. That was the plan. I never said that I was going to spend any time with Kat once I came over. I had intended on spending most of my time working some information out of the boy Key and Angelique. Therefore, I can say whatever I want about Kat."
"You be nice to her or we call off the plan," warned Lucian, realizing that Kat was probably still waiting for his answer on the other line.
"Your partner approves my plan. Do you honestly want to explain to him why you called it off? Heíd kick your ass and this time, I just might not be there to stop him."
"Low blow, Shira. All right, we stick with the plan. But you better quit jeopardizing your hospitality with the Artemes. Understand?"
The silver-haired girl shrugged and suddenly tossed her arms around Lucianís neck, pulling him into a strangling embrace. "Whatever you say, Luce. As long as it makes you happy, Iíll be an absolute angel around Kat," she promised in a sickeningly sweet tone. Then she raised an eyebrow at him and motioned to the babbling noise that was flowing from within the phone. "Your girlfriend is waiting."
Lucian gave her an annoyed glance and then strained to speak to Kat despite the chokehold that his sister had him in. "I need some time to think, Kathy. I promise to call you tomorrow with my answer. If Iím going to go, I need to go buy some new clothes though....Sure, Iíll still come see your new dress....No, Iím just short of breath right now. Must be getting the hiccups or something. Iím sure Iíll be fine by later on tonight." He tried to disentangle himself from his twin, squirming within her arms. "Shira, let go. I can barely breath. Cut me a break here." Tashira gave him a sly smile and shook her head, pulling herself even closer.
"I hurt your feelings, brother, and now I want to make it all up by showing you how much I love you," cooed the female twin as she gazed at him with sincere gray eyes. "Youíre not really mad at me, are you?"
"Of course not, Shira. Now can you please let go so I can say bye to Kathy?"
He felt the arms lift from him as Tashira pulled away and moved to sit at a nearby chair. "If thatís what you want."
The red-haired boy coughed lightly and then mouthed his thanks before turning back to the phone. "So have fun with Shira, okay? Iíll see you later." He pressed the button on the top of the dial pad, shutting off the phone and placed it upon the table. He looked up at Tashira and then sighed, "You better get your stuff ready Shira. Itís going to be a long night."
Tashira bounced up from her chair and started to leave the kitchen. "No problem, Luce. Remember, this is my plan. Everything is going perfectly." She tossed him a triumphant smirk and then paused for a moment, adding an afterthought, "You know, itís a good thing Dominic didnít hear what you said earlier, heíd have slaughtered you." She turned around again and pranced out of the kitchen as she collided into something approaching from the opposite direction. Tashira fell on her butt and gave a miffed groan as she looked up at the person who had floored her. Cold violet eyes crossed her vision. "Dominic!"
"What were you saying a second ago? Itís a good thing I didnít hear what?" grumbled Dominic, looking down at the distraught girl.
"Nothing Dominic. Luce and me were just chatting idly as usual. Nothing that would concern you."
Dominic eyed her with disdain and then raised his head to acknowledge Lucian. "What were you two talking about? I heard my name and I know Iíve told you time and time again not to bring me up in your conversations. Now whatís going on?"
Lucian stared back at the dark-haired boy, who appeared both confused and aggravated. As he observed Dominic, he caught sight of Tashira silently pleading with him to avoid doing something stupid. The expression on her face was too priceless to resist. He flashed her a dark grin and turned back to Dominic with deliberate slowness.
"Want to go to the dance, Nicky?" he offered in a voice that could only be described as coy. Tashira looked as if she was about to have a cardiac arrest. But Dominic just gazed at him as a look of confusion crumpled his features.
Stifling a snicker at the hyperventilating state of his sister, Lucian slid off his chair in a bewitching display of boneless grace. He sauntered over to Dominic and ambled behind him, fixing him with a desirable gaze. "Carthalaís Homecoming Dance. Want to go with me?"
"Luce!" wailed Tashira as Dominic stepped back from the younger boy, utter bafflement shining in his amethystine eyes.
"Wha....What the hell are you talking about?" stuttered Dominic, unsure of quite how to respond to Lucianís query.
"Okay. Let me make this really easy for you to understand. Do. You. Want. To. Go. To. The. Dance. With. Me?" repeated the red-haired boy, accentuating each of the words so that Dominic would have no way of misunderstanding.
The array of faces Dominic kept changing from was almost more than Lucian as he bit his bottom lip, trying to keep a solemn visage while still appearing as seductive as possible. He had always been good at flirting so faking it was no difficult task for him. Tashira had often teased him about being a tease when he was younger. What could he say? This was fun. It took provoking Dominic to a whole new level. He was expecting the older boy to cuss him out or take yet another swipe at him but Dominic just stood there, staring hard at the other teenager as if trying to figure out what he was up to this time.
No longer backing away, Dominicís eyes flickered over his red-haired partner, seeming somewhat troubled. The troubled look was soon replaced by realization as Dominic ran a hand through his hair in a ragged motion. "So what are you saying exactly? You want me to go with you? As a date?"
This was more than Tashira could stand for; she rushed over to her brother and grabbed his shoulders, giving him a violent shake. "Lucian, be reasonable. This is Dominic youíre talking to. Heíd rather slap you than look at you."
"Ah, the voice of reason. And what a shrill and unpleasant voice it is," snapped Dominic as he tried again to make sense of what Lucian was doing. "What on earth are you implying Ambrose?"
"Heís implying nothing, Dominic. Luce has been a little out of sorts lately. I donít think he comprehends what heís talking about. Donít forget, he blacked out the other day."
Lucian saw his chance for even more mischief within Tashiraís words. He pushed her to the side and approached Dominic, flipping his ponytail over his shoulder in a long drawn-out movement. When Dominic refused to retreat any further, he walked close enough so that their faces were inches apart. "You know, Nicky, I believe Shira is the one who doesnít know what sheís talking about," he breathed as Tashira flung herself at him and tried to yank him back. Lucian allowed a purring laugh to break through his lips, the tiny puffs of air caressing Dominicís face. There was a slight change in Dominicís color as an obvious blush covered his cheeks. This only caused Lucian to chortle some more, augmenting the problem. "Apparently, Shira thinks that anyone would be a better choice than Kathy for me to date. So Iíve graciously decided to nominate you."
"But I donít dance," Dominic replied in a shaking voice, feeling a wave of heat rush down his entire body. Lucianís face fell at his words and he shoved the older boy backward with a disappointed sigh.
"God, youíre no fun at all. You take everything so seriously. Whatís the point of even messing around with you?" he groaned as he strolled back to Tashira. "Of all the things to say. ĎI donít dance,í has got to be the lamest excuse I have ever heard. Iíd like to see the girl you try that on."
"Thatís not going to ever happen," mumbled the dark-haired youth as a powerful anger rose up in him, drowning out the earlier feelings of confusion and unbearable heat.
"And why is that?" snorted Lucian, frustrated that his game had ended so badly for the moment. Dominic had shown a much cooler reaction than he ever would have imagined. He had been waiting for him to go completely bonkers. Most people in his situation would have. Well, most guys anyway. Most girls would probably have fainted. But not Dominic. He didnít seem to care one bit. What a spoilsport? Oh well, there was plenty of more time to test his new secret weapon against Dominic later. Maybe it would yield more amusing results next time.
"Because Iím going to kill you!" hissed Dominic interrupted his pondering as he lunged at the younger youth. Tashira squealed and caught Dominic by the arm, keeping him a steady distance from her brother. Lucian perked up a bit at this more customary reaction, but for the most part seemed as disgruntled as before.
"Down wolf-boy!" he taunted as Dominic flipped him off.
Tashira groaned as she fought to keep Dominic from reaching her instigating sibling. "Will you shut up Lucian? For once, I have to agree with Dominic. You deserve to get knocked senseless for what you just pulled. Thankfully, my family ties are stronger than my thirst for vengeance so Iím doing my best to hold him off. But if you keep it up, I might just look the other way."
"Man, canít you two take a joke? Well, I expected Nicky to be a little inexperienced with the concept of mirth, but you Shira? For shame."
"That was not a joke, Luce! To think you would even pretend to like someone like this heartless jerk who continually tries to hurt you."
At the phrase, Dominic stopped his attempts to attack Lucian and whirled on Tashira. Glaring at her with dispassionate eyes, he ripped his arm out of her grasp. "I donít try Tashira. I succeed," he stated in a menacing tone as he started to walk away from the pair.
"And I must say you do it with flying colors. Tell me, Dominic Solanis, just how many bruises have you given my brother recently? Three? Four? Shall I try higher?"
Dominic paused in his departure, placing one hand against the side of the wall. He turned around to say something but no words came out. A dismal look fell over his face as he looked back at Lucian, perhaps trying to figure out himself how many times he had struck the red-haired youth. The forlorn state of his eyes seemed to strike a nerve in Lucian. Forgotten was his urge to win his game. All that mattered to him now was erasing that dreadful look from Dominicís face. It did not suit him. Dominic was not supposed to be affected like this by simple words. Dominic was supposed to be untouchable, at least that was how he had presented himself to the outside world. Something about seeing the tiny weakness is Dominicís psyche upset the younger boy. He felt he should do something.
"God! You donít even know, do you? You canít even recall, itís happened so many times. I donít know why he even insists on keeping you around. Itís obvious that you hate him," continued Tashira, still yearning to make Dominic suffer for his callous comment.
"Stop it Shira!" ordered Lucian, virulence choking his voice, as he glared at his twin. "Thatís enough. Leave him alone."
Tashira gaped at him, dumbfounded by his demands. "How can you say that when stand there, sporting yet more of his handiwork on your neck? What did he try to do? Strangle you?"
"Leave it be, Shira."
"Why do you even bother to defend him? You torment him more than anyone. Just moments ago, you were gladly twisting around his emotions, thatís assuming that he even has them. How is it that you can pull such manipulative and nasty tricks such as that and yet you denounce me for simply pointing out the truth?"
Lucian was at a loss for words as he raised his eyes to focus on Tashira, only to be met with the expectant expression of his partnerís face. It was clear that Dominic wanted to know the answer to this as well. The red-haired boy didnít know how to react. He was trapped and there was no way he could swindle his way out of this one. Tashira knew why he bothered Dominic. Though she hated his danger addiction, she, for the most part, understood it. What she wanted to know was why he always felt the need to take up Dominicís case whenever anyone else threatened him. It was a bit hypocritical; he had to give her that. The thing was that the question was startling to concern him as well. Why did he stick up for Dominic whenever somebody other than himself was opposing him? He never seemed to mind how Dominic felt when it was him doing the teasing or reprimanding. So why did he take it upon himself to defend Dominic in all other situations? To tell the truth, he was not sure of the answer himself.
"I guess...." he began as a harsh rapping sound echoed from outside the front door. "Iíll get it!" he volunteered, more than happy to get away from that tense position. He bounded over to the door and threw it open to reveal Erik standing on the steps, looking beyond furious. "Erik? What are you doing here?"
"More importantly, how did she find out where we were?" Dominic called from the other end of the room. He quickened his pace to reach the front door, Tashira racing at his heels. As he approached the front door, Erik jostled her way inside.
"Wonít you come in?" muttered Tashira, showing her displeasure with the blond girlís atrocious manners.
Erik stepped beside Lucian and shoved him into Dominic with all her might, knocking both boys onto the ground. Inches from their fallen bodies, she tapped her foot roughly against the linoleum floor. Dominic growled and lifted Lucian from his chest, setting a pair of livid violet eyes on the younger girl. Erik ignored his maddened state and glared down at the pair, slamming her foot down with a booming thud. "I ought to kick you right where you are now!" she gritted through her teeth.
"Whatís your problem?" snarled the dark-haired boy, trying to return to his feet.
"You think you can hold a little Guardian and Key meeting, minus a Guardian?" snapped Erik.
Lucian rubbed his sore side, which had become alive with new pain from crashing it against Dominicís ribs. "Kathy wasnít there either Erik. Itís not like we were excluding you on purpose. But itís not like we had your phone number or knew some way to contact you."
"Bullshit! I could care less if one of those clueless Keys was missing. But I know the only reason why you didnít find me was because you donít want me in your little group."
"And why ever would you think that?" bit Tashira as she leaned over to help Lucian up, being careful not to further injure his side. "Oh, it must be because you realize that youíre a vicious son of a bitch."
"That would be bitch," corrected Lucian, giving Erik a vindictive smile. He usually never acted this way toward girls. But that fall had really hurt him and he was prepared to make an exception. "After all, our good friend Erik is a chick, Shira."
Tashira blinked in shock, recoiling from the blond. "Heís a she? Well, I did think Rose was an unusual code name for a guy."
"Forget about all that crap! What I want to know is how she found out that we lived here?" interrupted Dominic, advancing on the blond youth. "And why in hell, she attacked us like that?"
Erik sneered at Dominic, leaning against the doorjamb. "Right to the point, as usual Solanis. Thatís the only thing I like about you. You never beat around the bush. As for how I found you, youíd be astonished how easy it is to access school records, especially if all the information on them is mostly fake anyway. Though I have to admit, I wasnít planning on encountering you here as well Solanis. I had been under the impression your relationship with Ambrose was purely platonic."
"Watch it!" the oldest youth threatened, cracking his knuckles as he spoke.
"Me thinks the gentlemen doth protest too much. But never mind that for now. My reason for being here is because I wish to know what you, Ambrose, this girl, and Tyrell discussed without me. Do you have some plan for dealing with the Amethyst?"
Lucian nodded eagerly and plopped one arm down on Tashiraís shoulder. "Sure do. Shiraís oh so smart. She can think of a solution for everything," praised the red-haired boy as he squeezed Tashira against him.
"So Iím guessing she got the brains of the family," jeered Erik, giving Lucian a haughty look-over, "Would you be so kind as to tell me what her plan was?"
"I donít know. You are being really mean to us and you sneaked up on us without our permission just to bash us. What do you think, Nicky?" Lucian posed the question to Dominic as the older youth looked as if he was giving the matter some deep thought.
"What about a trade? You give me some information and Iíll provide you with a heads-up of what Iím working on," suggest the blond, receiving several intrigued glances.
Dominic snorted at her proposal, placing one hand on his hip as he set the other against one side of the door, almost looming over the brown-eyed girl. Erik seemed unnerved by his proximity but kept a defiant face as she stared back at him, waiting for his answer. Dominic leaned down close to her, strands of black hair threatening to obscure his eyes due to his slanted posture. "What information could you possess that we are not aware of?"
Erik lifted a hand to Dominicís chest and dug her nails into the shirt covering it, managing to snare a handful of fabric. She pulled back on his shirt, forcing him closer to her, as her chestnut eyes brightened in anticipation. "Try me, Solanis."
"Ladies first," the older youth replied in a dry tone.
The blond shot him a spiteful glare and growled within her throat. "I have reason to believe that the Chimera is going to try something after the Homecoming Dance this Friday," she consented.
"Puh-leaze. The Chimera may be dumb, but theyíre not completely foreign to strategy. There is no way theyíre going to come after Tye with a crowd of some two hundred students watching. Your information is worthless," piped Lucian from his place with Tashira.
"The Keys will be too busy enjoying themselves to stay on guard. They will be sitting ducks for the Chimera. Tyrell will be paying more attention to Angelique than anything going on around him. And from what Iíve seen of her, Kat will probably be too preoccupied with some unfortunate boy to pay heed to anything else. And letís not forget, the Chimera have new methods of fighting now. You saw that shield the one called Fang produced. It not only blocked you out Ambrose, but it hid any sign of the fighting from the outside world. Whose to say the Chimera wonít employ that technique again?"
Dominic sighed in defeat and shook his head. "Sheís got a point, Ambrose."
The red-haired boy placed his forehead on his palm with an exhausted groan. "Can at least one of you stop calling me Ambrose? This is giving me a serious headache!"
"Stop whining and pay attention to the situation at hand!" commanded Dominic, tossing his partner a disapproving glance. "We do not have time for your games, Ambrose."
"Whatever. So what do you propose we do Nicky?"
"Be on the look-out at the dance," responded Dominic as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.
Lucian lifted his head and gawked at the oldest youth. "You say that as if thatís an easy thing."
Erik shifted her position on the door and dropped her eyes to Lucian. "And why wouldnít it be?"
"Hello? Do you have any idea how beyond tacky it is to show up at a formal dance without a date? Especially guys that look like Nicky."
"Whatís that supposed to mean?" challenged his partner, ready to take another swipe at him if Lucian insulted him again.
Snickering at his uppity tone, Lucian leaned back his head and tried to think of the best way he could explain the matter to Dominic. How were you supposed to tell another guy that he was too attractive for his own good? Dominic would never let him hear the end of it, provided that he didnít kill him immediately after hearing the words. Tashira gave him no help as he glanced back at her. Of course, admitting that Dominic was hot looking would be compromising her pride. His sister was not about to put herself in that situation without a pretty good reason. After a few moments of intense deliberating, he decided that honest was the best policy. He would just have to be real careful in how he delivered his sentiments to the dangerous youth.
"Well, it means....and donít take this too personally, Nicky....It means that you are, you know, really handsome and enticing....in a girlís eyes. To see such a hot guy at a dance by himself is kind of suspicious. Youíre going to need a date if you want to pull this off," he finished, content that he had expressed what he wanted without offending the older youth.
Dominic let Lucianís words sink in and came to the realization that his partner was right. It would be far too suspicious to show up at such an involved social affair without another person. The problem was that Dominic had never been too good at asking people out. Most girls just bored him out of his mind. Of course, the last time he had even considered dating was when he had been fourteen so he was probably out of practice with the whole matter as well. As things stood now, he was not looking forward to having to deal with this troublesome task.
But as he ran through his possible options in his mind, he came across something that helped to allay his anxieties. He now had the perfect chance to get back at Lucian for his earlier jest. The way Lucian had continued to lead him into believing that he actually wanted to take him out had infuriated him. How dare the boy be allowed to get away with that without so much as a warning? Lucian had made him feel utterly helpless. He had been able to say a single thing in response to the other youthís feigned advances. Worst of all had been that strange heat that had kept racing up and down his form, causing him to go red all over his cheeks as well as the majority of his face. He had never felt like that in his life, even around Aiden. It drove him wild to know that he didnít understand it. It was this feeling of frustration that led him to take it out on the now unprepared Lucian.
"But Ambrose, I already have a date. Remember, you said you wanted to go with me," he replied in a sarcastic voice.
Lucian gulped as he felt a blush tainting his own cheeks. He glared at Dominic, whispering angrily, "That was just a joke! You canít say that in front of other people!"
"Why not? You seemed pretty set on convincing me to go with you at the time," continued Dominic, satisfied with the look of pure embarrassment crossing the other youthís face.
"Shut up! I said it was a joke!"
"Kind of mean for a joke."
"Okay, I admit it. It wasnít fair of me. Now, can you please let it go?" begged Lucian, looking toward his sister for help once more. But Tashira shook her head, agreeing with Dominicís need to punish Lucian for his malicious behavior.
"Iíll go with you," Erik spoke up, putting a stop to Dominicís fun. "I am also going to need a date if Iím going to watch after Tyrell this Friday. It would make sense for us to go together."
"No offense, Erik. But you really look like a guy. If you went to the dance with Nicky, dressed like that, it would be a bit awkward for the both of you," Lucian pointed out as Dominic blinked at him.
"I donít see why," Dominic commented as Lucian stared at him in amazement, his mouth hanging open like a gasping fish.
"Well, thatís too bad. Because thereís no way Iím going to explain that to you. Youíll have to figure it out for yourself. Letís just say that itís not advised in a school environment."
Tashira smacked Lucian on the arm and then walked up to Erik with a soft smile. "Donít worry, Iíve got a few simple dresses Erik. Theyíre not too frilly or anything like that and Iím sure they would fit you.. You wouldnít have to wear one for very long. Just long enough to find out if the Chimera are going to jump the Keys. It shouldnít take more than three hours or so," she offered as Erik gave her a pained glance.
"I suppose. We donít want to attract any more attention. I guess I could stop by here around fourish on Friday and try on some different things before we go," the blond agreed looking toward Dominic. "Now that that has been decided. How about you guys tell me what your plan for the Amethyst is?"
"Fair enough. The plan is we get Shira to spend the night with Tyrell and his clan. While, sheís there, she supposed to find out as much about Angelique and her relationship with Tyrell as possible. Maybe sheíll even find out some new information regarding the Amethyst. Oh, I forget to add that Tyrell believes the Amethyst has healing powers as well as the ability to make people see things. So while Shiraís playing secret agent girl, Nicky and me are going to see what we can look up on the computer about the Darcels. Believe me, you can find almost anything on the net if you know where to look," Lucian explained, recovering from his shock at hearing the nonchalant in which Dominic spoke of attended the dance with a girl whom nobody would recognize as female.
"Course Luce will be doing most of the net-surfing. Dominic will just stick to documenting the stuff. Heís not as talented with computers," mentioned Tashira, receiving an icy glare from the older boy.
"I wasnít raised to be a hacker!" the dark-haired youth spat at her as Lucian patted him on the back.
"Itís okay, buddy. I need someone to write down stuff for me anyway. At least this way, we wonít be wasting any time," Lucian told his partner in a consoling manner as Dominic shrugged away from his intrusive touch. He was not about to have Lucian patronizing him again. He already was angry enough at the thought of being forced to take Erik to the dance. If not for the knowledge that he had to protect his charge at all costs, he would have just blown the whole thing off.
The red-haired boy whimpered at the older boyís disregard for his attempt to comfort him. Then, his mood suddenly improved as though some exciting new thought had popped into his head. Dominic cringed at the idea of anything exciting Lucian. His younger partner did have a very different notion of what qualified as exciting. He just hoped it wasnít anything as suicidal as Lucian usually went for.
"What is it now?" he asked, knowing that he was going to regret it in about two seconds.
Lucian rubbed his hands together and presented him with a grin of pure elation. "I just realized that neither you or I have the proper attire for such a prestigious occasion as a high school Homecoming."
Eyeing him cautiously, Dominic intensified his method of questioning. "And why would that make you so happy?"
"Because it means we get to go shopping!"
Tashira let out a happy yell as she spun around on her heels. "Oh shopping! I wish I could go. But no, I have to spend the night with Kat. Say brother, why are you so happy about shopping? Unless itís jewelry, you never cared much for it."
Lucian nodded his head and then raised his eyes to catch hers with a diabolical gaze. "Yeah. But all those times, I never had the chance to shop with Nicky. I think this is going to be fun!" Tashira giggled at her brotherís antics and then decided it was getting late and she had better get going. She disappeared from the group into the upstairs quarters. Erik took the moment to leave as well, dashing off without a word.
Dominic stood below, trying to judge the nature of Lucianís delight. He didnít like the tone of Lucianís voice one bit. He seemed far too eager for one meager trip to a clothing store to pick up a dress suit or the like. Obviously, he had some more exotic fashions in mind. Dominic had managed to get an occasional look of Lucianís more feral attire every once in a while. Lucian had yet to wear any of his unusual sets around him, but he had seen what lay to the side of his closet. If that was the same type of clothing that Lucian had in mind for him, it would be a good idea to get out of the mess early on.
"Wait a minute," he said, hushing both twins from their exuberant caterwauling. "Let me get this straight. You want me to go shopping? With you?"
"Yeah! Whatís wrong with that? You could use some new clothes. How much longer did you think that two school uniforms and one flimsy black shirt were going to last?" answered his partner as he cocked his head to the side.
"I never had to worry about all this nonsense when I was Wolf," Dominic griped.
"Welcome to our world, Nicky. Now whatís your problem with me helping you pick out some things?"
"Ambrose, I have seen your style of clothing."
"Hey, I think itís cool-looking," defended Lucian as he stared down at his crimson crushed velvet shirt and his tight black leather jeans.
"Oh it sure is. If you want to look like a male hooker."
Lucian balked at the slur and his garnet eyes burned savagely. He slapped Dominic on his bad shoulder and pressed up against him, for the most part, Ďgetting all upí in the older boyís face. "They do NOT make me look like a male hooker! Now you either take that back or Iím going to kick your ass!"
Dominic paid little attention to Lucianís nasty words as he sighed and looked the other way. "I very much doubt that thatís going to happen. And as for your clothes, maybe the ones youíre wearing now arenít too bad, but I sure canít say the same about the ones in your closet."
"The ones in my closet are clubbing clothes. And what the hell are you doing wandering though my personal stuff in the first place?"
"I was looking for a clean shirt to give Tashira for when you were unconscious. If the damn things werenít in plain view, I never would have seen them. If you donít want people to look at them, then you should hide them better," noted Dominic in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Well, I donít see a need to hide my clubbing attire since Shira is usually the only one who sees it. Well, I guess the people at the clubs also see it, but I never pay them too much attention," Lucian replied, seeming to calm down at Dominicís explanation.
Something about the whole clubbing situation was pestering Dominic. "How do you get into clubs when youíre only seventeen?" he inquired as Lucian showed him a playful smirk.
"Maybe if youíre a good boy, Iíll show you sometime," he chucked roguishly.
Before Dominic could respond, Tashira rushed down the stairs, lugging an overnight bag. She waved to the group and headed for the door. Then she turned back to Lucian with a worried expression etched across her face. She trotted back to him and wrapped her arms around his back, lying her head on his shoulder. Dominic stared at the affectionate display in bewilderment. Why did Tashira look so upset at the idea of leaving her brother? Did she truly distrust him that much? What did she think Dominic could possibly do within one night? It wasnít as if the older youth would just finish off his partner in the middle of the night. The nervous gleam in her sharp gray eyes threw him as he watched Lucian nuzzle her neck and murmur soothing words.
"Iíll be okay, Shira. I can handle everything on my own. You donít have to worry about tonight," Lucian whispered to her, seeming as if he was trying more to convince himself than his twin sister.
"Are you sure, Luce? Itís been such a long time since weíve been apart. Remember what happened last time we were separated?" Tashira pressed, burying her head into her brotherís shoulder.
"Itís going to happen with or without you, Shira. I was younger then and didnít know how to deal with it. Things have changed. Iím not afraid anymore. So take my word for it. Everything will be fine tonight. You just go and enact your brilliant plan and Nicky and I will take care of the rest."
Lucian lifted her head from his shoulder with a cupped hand and then gently pushed her away. "Youíre wasting time, Shira. You better go now." This time, Tashira nodded, though her eyes were shimmering with unshed tears. She backed away from Lucian and then ran out the door, hopping on her bike to head for Tyrellís house.
As Dominicís eyes left her and returned to Lucian, he noticed something strange about his partner. Lucian looked unsure and even a bit frightened. Not knowing that Dominic was observing, the red-haired youth curled one arm around his stomach and lowered his eyes to the floor. Surprised by the solemn action of the younger boy, Dominic accidentally let a word slip from his mouth.
Instantly, Lucianís head shot up and he jerked his arm away from his body as if ashamed by the moment of vulnerability. Dominic grimaced at the forced change and tried to say something to the morose teenager. But Lucian cut him off by grabbing his arm and hauling him outside. He was chattering aimlessly, most likely trying to get Dominicís mind of the state he had seen him in.
"I know just the place to find some killer clothes," he promised Dominic as he pushed the dark-haired boy into the car and revved up the engine.
But even his normal cheer couldnít clear the image of him looking so lost a few moments ago from Dominicís memory. It stayed with him all throughout the trip and continued to cause him grief as the arrived back at the Ambrose household. What could make Lucian so afraid? He had heard the other boy mention something about how whatever it was had happened all the time. It was inevitable. But what could it be?
Tashira popped another kernel of caramel corn into her mouth and chewed it slowly. She turned her head from the movie she had been watching to see how Tyrell and Angelique had been faring. Tyrell kept picking up kernels and dropping them back in the bowl in an absent-minded fashion. Perhaps something was badgering the green-eyed boy. Angelique had fallen asleep, her head leaning on the side of his leg as her silky dark-silver hair cascaded over the edge of the couch. Amid the din of the film, Tashira could just make out the girlís relaxed snores. Tashira used her feet to spin herself around so that she was facing Tyrell.
She was glad that Kat had taken her leave, complaining about the simple stupidity of the movie. It was some psychological thriller where the object was to guess the murderer before the main character did. Lucian had always been better at this stuff than Tashira. He just seemed to have a knack for spotting shady individuals. It was kind of ironic, being that her brother was not always on the side of good himself. His danger streak often led him to act a bit more malevolent than he usually was. Such a fact was brutally clear when it came to how he acted around Dominic. Tashira was sure that Dominic contemplated his demise daily.
The girl gave a powerful shake of her head, restoring her mind to the current situation. So far, she had been unable to acquire any useful information from either Tyrell or his older cousin. Both youths had been very evasive about the subject of Angeliqueís past and how she had come to discover the Amethyst. All Tashira had been able to pick up was that it had something to do with a secret box of the girlís mother. That was hardly enough information to work with. She would need to find something better if she wanted to prove herself to the Guardian boys on her return.
"Say Tyrell, how long have you known Angelique?" she probed as Tyrell discontinued his process of raising and dropping the popcorn to acknowledge the person who was talking to him.
"Huh? Oh Iíve known her ever since I can remember. She is my cousin," he replied in an almost doubtful tone.
Tashira sensed the uncertainty in his voice, realizing that she was on the verge of uncovering something that could be useful. "Who told you that she was your cousin?"
Tyrell shifted his position of the couch and sucked in a breath of stagnant air. "Aunt Ciara told me and so did my parents. They told me when we first met."
"And your relatives have been living with your ever since? Donít you find that odd? Aunts donít usually live in the same house of their brothers."
"Aunt Ciara is a little weird. She believes that someone is always out to get her. Thatís why she wonít take Angie away from here. She needs the familyís protection," the boy explained, though he sounded as though he wasnít fully satisfied with the answer himself.
"Who does she think is after her?" asked Tashira, striving to get as much out of the younger youth as she possibly could.
Tyrell lowered his eyes at the query and looked down at the sleeping form curled upon the couch. He smoothed Angeliqueís hair from her eyes and ran his fingers down her cheek. "I think itís her father. Angie has never seen her father and everybody refuses to talk about him. I used to think that it was just because he jilted Aunt Ciara or something. But after a while, I realized that something like that wouldnít cause a person to become so terrified whenever the subject of Angieís father was brought up. I think my aunt is afraid that he will find her if sheís out on her own. He must have done something dreadful to scare her so much."
The other girl thought about the answer for a little while before opening her mouth once more. "So the family has offered to protect the Darcels?"
Confident that she had Tyrell where she wanted him, Tashira motioned her head to the way he was stroking Angeliqueís skin in a loving manner. She raised her eyes so that they met with the cloudy emerald ones of her companion. "Do you really think that she is your cousin?"
The mahogany-haired youth stiffened at the insinuation, jerking his hand from his slumbering cousin. "What? What are on earth are you asking me that for? Of course, sheís my cousin," he protested weakly. Tashira could see that he was struggling within himself as he turned his head from her, refusing to meet her eyes any more.
"Well, thatís what youíve been told. But do you believe it? You seem to hold some deep feelings for the girl. Such strong and, perhaps, romantic feelings are not normal between family members."
"I know," Tyrell hissed under his breath, dropping his head down upon the couchís armrest. Even through the venom in his voice, Tashira could almost feel his distress. A small tremor ran down his shoulders as he raised one hand to gnarl his unruly hair within his fingers. "I know itís not right. But I canít do anything about it. I canít change the way I feel for her."
Tashira had not been expecting this raw honesty from the younger boy and the hopeless look in his eyes caused a swell of pity to wash over her. Tyrell knew what was going on. He wasnít trying to hide it. Though he did seem alarmed at his feelings for Angelique, he did not seem ashamed. There had to be another reason for his undaunted love for the older girl. Tyrell did not seem like the sort of person who would break moral code for some petty purpose.
She heard the young boy force back a sob as he continued to express his misery. "What does it matter if I think sheís my cousin? It doesnít change anything. She is what she is."
The silver-haired girl on the ground rose to her feet and strolled over to where he was lying upon the couch, trying his best to hold back his surging emotions. She grasped his chin in a tender but firm grip and lifted his head up. Tyrell immediately shifted his eyes from her, but not before she could see the hints of tears building up within them. "Iím not so sure about that, Tyrell," Tashira soothed with a compassionate smile. "I think you should trust your instincts about her. I doubt you would be attracted to her if you truly believed she was related to you by blood. Even though I love my brother, I would never consider it to be a romantic yearning. Iím sure you would feel the same if you believed Angelique was your actual cousin."
"Why do you say that?" Tyrell responded, a touch of optimism ringing in his voice, as he began to move his eyes over to the older youth.
"You are special, Tyrell Arteme. Youíre not like other people. Being a telepath, you may be able to see things that others donít and you may also sense things that are impossible for others to detect. I know this because Luce shares your talent. It can be a mighty advantage at times. If you feel strongly about something, it may not be as wrong as you think. Now tell me if you really think that Angelique is related to you?"
Tyrell slowly shook his head. "No," he answered, his eyes finally managing to meet with Tashiraís. "No, I donít think that Angie is my cousin. I know sheís not. Iíve always known. Something about her. About her mysterious past. About how she came to live with us. About how she makes me feel. I have never believed that we are truly related by blood. I was just afraid to tell anybody for fear that they wouldnít understand."
"That Angie is different from all of us. Angie has something inside her. A sort of power. I sensed it when she was healing me. Itís not just the Amethyst. Itís her as well. Iím not sure she even knows about it. But I know that thereís more to her than just her introvert personality."
"What do you mean?" pressed Tashira, set on pursuing this development to its end.
"Iím not sure I want to know. Thatís why I donít want her to fight. I know itís selfish, but I donít want her to find out who she really is. Iím afraid that the answer may not be what we expected. I canít take that chance. Sheís my best friend and I care about her more than anything else in the world," Tyrell confessed as he slipped his leg out from under Angeliqueís head, succeeding in freeing himself without waking her. He got up from the couch and yawned. "Iím feeling kind of tired right now. So you can finish the movie by yourself. Just make sure to turn it off when itís over, Tashira."
Tashira waved her understanding and hopped up on the armrest, dangling her slender legs over the side as she balanced her head against the upper part of the furniture. The boy yawned again and then trudged up the stairs. As he left, Tashira could barely contain her delectation. Lucian would be so proud of her, seeing that she had managed to manipulate so much information from Tyrell. Even Dominic would have to congratulate her for this. A job well done. Now all they had to do was determine who Angeliqueís father was and what made the girl so special. Of course, that wouldnít be easy but she was sure the other Guardians would be up to the challenge.
"Oh Luce, you have a genius for a sister," she giggled to herself, fluffing her hair with a flourish. "What ever would you do without me?"
Angelique stirred on the couch, causing the ecstatic girl to quickly shut her mouth. The sleeping youthís movements caused a tiny edge of folded yellow paper to peek from the side pocket of her pants. Curious, Tashira reached for the paper. Angelique murmured in her sleep as the other girl jerked her hand back for fear of waking the snoozing teenager. She cursed inside her head. Lucian had always been more gifted at pilfering than her. For some reason, she always froze up whenever she was just about to snatch her prize.
Well, that wasnít going to happen tonight. She had promised her companions that she would retrieve as much information as possible and she did not want to break that promise. Taking a deep breath, she tried again, moving her arm in a sluggish pattern. Then she pinched the top edge with her fingernails and oh so carefully removed it from Angeliqueís possession. Not wanting to test her luck, she pocketed the paper and grabbed the remote from the floor, shutting of the television. Then she crept away from the couch and scurried up the stairs, eager to see what she had obtained.
Upon reaching the spare room that Kat had previously pointed out for her, she bounced upon the bed and kicked off her shoes. Then she ripped the paper from out of her pocket and set about unfolding it, taking care not to tear any piece. As she spread the paper out on the bed, her eyes widened at what she had found. Tashira leaned forward to get a better view, a curtain of silver tresses falling over her eyes.
Before her eyes was the picture of a beautiful women drawn in light charcoal. Her hair billowed outward, sweeping against the feathery structure of her exotic wings. A sparkling cross stood out against the pale skin of her chest, which was only clad in a skimpy dress that barely reached to her ankles. Also dangling beside the cross was a pendant shaped like an angel wing. Though it was small, each piece of the trinket was intricately designed. In her hand, the ravishing lady wielded a magnificent sword, raised it above her head as if she was about to strike a fatal blow to anyone in her way. At the bottom of the picture, someone had written a simple word in light blue ink. Evangel.
"Angelique, did you draw this?" Tashira whispered as she noted how the angel in the picture resembled the girl sleeping downstairs a great deal. She decided to consult the others about this tomorrow. In the meantime, she wanted to see what else this picture could provide her with.
Pleased with her success, she flipped the drawing over to reveal another winged figure, except this one definitely looked familiar. It looked just like her twin minus the long hair. Across his right eye was a thin jagged slash that peeked out from beneath his wispy bangs. She could see the long eyeteeth that were set in the upper and lower jaw as well as the black claws around the hilt of his sword. But aside from his build and stance, the figure in the sketch had quite a few other differences. What struck her most was the beaten look in his eyes. He looked as if he had fought so hard for something only to have it stolen away at the last moment.
It was this look that distinguished the young man from her brother. No matter how bad things had gotten for the twins when they were growing up, Lucian had never admitted defeat. It was like a sin to him and he would rather die before giving in to any adversities. This broken veil over the winged boyís eyes was foreign to Lucian. After all, it was his thirst for life that had kept her going during some of their more trying moments in life. She almost hated to relate her playful sibling to the creature in the drawing. Yet, they still did look so much alike. It was frightening. This would be another good thing to bring up when she discussed her findings with the boys later on.
"Youíre mine forever, boy. Youíve sold your soul and now itís time to make up your end of the bargain."
"You tricked me! You never said you would do THIS to me!"
"Your futile tears will not move me, my dear Tavores. Now accept what you have become and your suffering will end."
"I wonít accept it! I will never accept it! Iíll die first!"
"Do you think it will be so easy to kill yourself? Why would I risk losing my precious angel of death?"
"Iím sick of your lies! I will never be your damn demon! I can finish this myself!"
A glint of steel accompanied the voices in the darkness as the figures that were arguing began to appear is a rush of light. The older one, a dark-haired man, smirked as the younger one, a boy with blood red hair and soft brown eyes, flashed a silver line across his exposed throat. Blood bubbled up from the mortal wound as the boy crumpled to his knees, a satisfied smile on his lips. The smile soon vanished as the hideous slice in his throat began to heal, the skin melding itself together. The blood still covered the front of the boyís tattered shirt and some had sprayed against the wall. But the wound itself was slowly disappearing from view.
"No....it canít be," stammered the desperate boy as his voice became less strained due to the healing action of his neck. He allowed the metal to clatter to the floor. A silver sword lie at his feet, the edge smeared with his viscous blood. "NO!" he howled as he threw himself to the ground, flailing at the hard surface with his hands, listening to the fragile bones crack under the abuse. Within minutes, the spots that he had been hitting were splattered with crimson splotches. Pain shot through the boyís hands as he continued to slam them against the ground, wailing in defeat.
The man beside him leered at him and grinned in wicked satisfaction. "You see Tavores, you cannot die. Iíve have seen to that. No matter how many times you spill your own blood. The wounds will always heal," he gloated as the boy glanced at his throbbing hands, noting how the shattered bones were mending themselves within his skin.
He shrieked and lunged at the older man, clawing at his shirt in frenzy. "What have you done to me, Vincient?"
"Not just you. But your fair Reyna as well," laughed the man as Tavoresí eyes filled with horror.
"No, not her..." he whimpered, collapsing against his enemy in exhaustion. Enraged tears formed in his eyes as he tore at the manís chest over and over again. Ragged sobs broke free from him as he felt the warm blood rush over his fingers, coating them with the dirty lifeís essence of the man who claimed his soul. "You lied to me! You never said you were going to do this. Youíve made me a monster! Reyna wonít even stay with me anymore. Sheís run away and she swears sheíll kill me."
Vincient stroked the tears winding down his face as he ran his hand through the short unkempt mane of his servant. Tavores tried to pull away from the hateful touch but Vincient grabbed his chin and forced him to face him. The boy consented, too weak to resist any longer. His tearing hands slid away from the man, hanging limply at his sides. Vincient chuckled and wrapped a possessive arm around his newest prize, pushing the boy closer to him.
"I wonít let her kill you, sweet Tavores. I will protect you from her for all eternity. For you are my most perfect creation."
"I wonít kill for you," swore Tavores, weakly trying to push himself back from the smiling man. "Iíll never be your Armageddon."
His captor shook his head and gazed at him with hungry sapphire eyes. "Iím afraid you have no choice, boy. Armageddon is already gaining power over your body. Soon my beautiful demon will have full possession and youíll be no more. Unlike you, your alternate form has no problems with shedding a little blood for his savior. You should be more grateful to me. After all, I saved your life."
"Youíve damned me forever!"
"You asked for it. You said you wanted me to spare you and your sisterís meaningless lives. I granted that request for a price."
Tavores glared at him in pure contempt. "Iíll fight Armageddon. Your demon will never get my body. Iíll never let that monstrosity take any more lives."
Vincient blinked at his comment and trickled more of the boyís crimson hair through his fingers. Suddenly, he clamped down on the frazzled strands and jerked the boyís head backward with enough force to snap it his neck. Tavores roared in pain as the man stared into his glassy eyes. "Youíre not strong enough to fight my Armageddon for much longer, Tavores. Soon you will be mine." The boy moaned lowly and tried to raise his head but Vincientís savage grip held him back. Seeing his prize in pain, Vincient reached out and caressed his enflamed cheek, feeling the boy shudder in revulsion. "Itís a pity. As much as I adore Armageddon, I have to say that you are more enthralling than heíll ever be. Wonít you consider working with us? I can promise you your existence if you agree."
"Donít touch me," snarled Tavores, struggling to speak as his head was bent at an excruciating angle.
The man hissed and threw the hurting boy to the floor, hearing his back crack against the unyielding surface. Tavores winced and rolled upon his side, curling his legs up to his stomach. His fingers scraped at the floor as a spasm of pain traveled down his back. "Stubborn brat! Go ahead and fight. In the end, it will mean nothing. I will still be the victor," Vincient mocked him as Tavores squeezed his eyes shut so that he didnít have to see the smug look on the manís face.
He could hear the departing footsteps of the cruel creature as a voice cackled from within his mind.
<Heís right. I will win your body. And then nobody, not even your beloved sister, will be safe. Give up Tavores. You can never beat us.>
"No!" the boy wailed as black angel wings burst from his skin. He clutched at his skull in agony while the wings began to shift shape, becoming more leathery and solid like those of a bat. The soft downing of ebony feathers started to decay from the hollow bones as a thick vermilion hide replaced them.
"Leave me alone!" he panted as his nails formed into killer claws, which rent the floor in powerful swipes. He tried to climb to his feet despite the intense pain lancing through his flesh. As he did, he saw waves of dark red silk pitch over his shoulders, splaying out upon the stained ground. "Stop it, Armageddon! Stop!"
<I thought you said you were strong enough to fight me. I guess you were wrong.> The sinister voice purred inside his head.
Tavores grasped at the sword lying inches from him, feeling pointy fangs taking the place of his dull teeth. He made one sloppy grab for the weapon as a mind-numbing ache filled his mind, causing him to fall back on his side. For a few moments, the boy remained motionless; the only sign of his living was the steady beating of his heart that echoed through the empty room. Then he lifted himself to his feet in a smooth motion, allowing his long hair to brush against his waist. He did a quick examination of his form before walking to a mirror in the center of the room.
"You see, Tavores, I am the stronger conscience," the boy announced in a depraved laugh as he slashed his claws against the reflective pool of glass. "You will never be able to escape me. It doesnít matter what you do."
Dominic jerked up from his writing as an anguished scream tore through the house. He leapt from the bed as he realized that he recognized the voice. It was Lucian.
Comments: The long chapters may become the norm here. Anyway, I have to admit that Luce was being a real jerk through most of this one. Kind of makes you feel sorry for Nicky, huh? Nah, not really. So what's the deal with Lucian screaming like a banshee? Wait and see. Warning: Cuteness approaching. Yes, I can write it from time to time. As long as it's filled with a few moments of wonderful angst. ^_^