Chapter 26--Strange Prey--

ĎBEEP! You have reached the humble abode of Lucian and...Tashira Ambrose! At the time, we are currently unavailable, probably out on a drunken binge. Lucian! So anyway leave us your message and weíll get back to you as soon as weíre coherent. Donít say things like that! Now, we have to start over. Turn it off! Oh fu...BEEP

The answering machine went through its normal routine, voiced by both of the inhabitants of the house it sat in. A few seconds of silence followed. Then the tranquillity was interrupted by the meek tone of the caller.

"Iím sorry I keep calling, Lucian, but Iím worried. Why werenít you in class today? Tashira says that you didnít even come to school. Whatís wrong? If itís about last night, Iím really really sorry. Iíve been screaming at myself all day for what happened. I was wrong. I do need you, Lucian. And now, Angieís missing. Something happened and I think sheís run away. Please come over so we can talk. Or Iíll come over there. Just let me know. I...BEEP." The end of the message cut off the plea. Moments later, the phone rang again, rocking on its cradle for the length of four more rings before it was finally picked up by the machine once more. "I forgot to tell you something. Angie and I had a fight and she...she...I donít know what was going on. It was so insane. I hit her. I hit her, Lucian, just like I hit you. You see itís not just you. I really wasnít in the best of moods yesterday. Iím just so confused. I donít know what to do. Iím not good with any of this. All I know is that I have to protect Angie. She has to take top priority, Lucian. Sheís the one that I..."

Once more the speaker was interrupted except this time it was by the machine being knocked off the counter. A wire in the back of the phone detached from the casing as the blaring hiss coming from it stopped in an instant. Another blow from an unseen object spun the phone even further away from the counter.

"Try calling me now, Tye!" snarled Lucian, shifting his position to lay back down on the bed.

Ten calls. Tyrell had been attempting to make his phone fall off the hook through ten stupid calls. He had been calling him since early this morning. When was the boy going to realize that he was not going to answer? He didnít feel like talking to anyone and he would be damned if he talked to the boy who had turned on him last night. So Tyrell felt bad. Good for him. That didnít change the fact that he still refused to tell Lucian anything about Angelique. All of his calls had been the same moping apologies paired with the desperate plea for help in finding Angelique. Now, he needed him. It was convenient for him to help out now. Wasnít that just lovely? Too bad Lucian no longer felt like running to the aid of his young charge.

Tyrell thought that he could treat him like he did last night and then just pretend that nothing had happened the next day. The actual punch hadnít been that painful, but the words that accompanied it had. One couldnít just take back such a statement with flimsy excuses and repentant phrases. He wouldnít have been half as upset with him if it werenít for the fact that Tyrell continued to hold back his information about Angelique and the relics that she possessed. Tyrell may have felt sorry for overreacting, but he had no intentions of going back on his word. He still didnít trust him. The thought continued to burn in Lucianís mind like some treacherous poison.

School had long since been over and Tashira would probably be making her way home from her study session within the next half-hour. She was bound to scold him for ditching all his classes. He even had a huge exam in English, something to make sure that he had read Julius Caesar. Hey, there was an ironic twist. Caesar had been another dope who had been betrayed by the ones that he considered his friends. He had skimmed the play enough to know that much. Besides the death scene, the work had been a bit dull to him. The only fun part about reading it had been joking with Tashira about the possibility that Brutus and Caesar were more than just friends. He was never going to hear the end of it when she showed up.

Yet, she knew that he hadnít gone to school today. She had even knocked on his door in the morning to warn him that they had to leave soon. When he hadnít answered after about ten minutes, he had heard her leave the hall and climb down the stairs. Maybe she was allowing him to have some more time to recover from his breakdown yesterday. He wasnít too sure how much damage he had done to his computer system and the fact was that he didnít care. The very object seemed to mock him now; yielding information that couldnít help him whatsoever. Plus, it had actually felt kind of good to trash the damn thing.

He had a mind to wreak the same havoc on that notebook that had caused him so much suffering last night. Unfortunately, he could no longer bring himself to touch the hated manuscript, much less destroy it. To tell the truth, he was sick of taking out his frustration on unfeeling objects, the buzz it afforded him was short and left him feeling just as angry afterwards. He wanted to get his hands on something that could give him a real reaction. Such was his main reason for staying home that day. He knew that if he had seen either Tyrell or Angelique, he would have done something irrational.

These violent feelings stabbed at his conscience, affecting his thoughts for everything that he held dear. The worse part was knowing that the feelings were not a new phenomenon. He had experienced them ever since he was old enough to retaliate to certain actions. Young Lucian had not been a pleasant child at all. Still, he had thought that he had forced them away by now. His danger highs had usually taken care of all those thoughts of animosity. One couldnít focus on being angry when he was trying to avoid smashing into a car during a drag race on the street or while balancing on the window-ledge of some high building.

But he knew that no such thrill could rid him of this rage now. It was like a swirling mass of all of his most volatile emotions. A whirlpool of grief, fury, and despondency. He couldnít shake it no matter how hard he tried. It just kept swimming back to him, bringing him back to the two events that had plunged him into this maddening spiral. Tyrellís distrust of him and Dominicís abandonment. How could just two events manage to unravel the delicate cloak of stability that he had wrapped around himself over the last four years? He was supposed to be happy. Thatís what he had promised. Wasnít it? It wasnít supposed to be this way.

Turning so that he didnít have to see the disconnected phone, he felt something cool slide across his chest bone. The cold shivers that raced through his skin reminded him of the ring's presence. He wished he could just yank it off and put it somewhere far away from him. That would make Tashira happy. Yet, it was the one thing he had left to remember Dominic that wasnít tainted. As impersonal as the ring was, it was still a gift. Why it had been given to him didnít matter. As long as he had it, he could still continue to delude himself that it meant something. Nadia had said that the ring belonged to his natural mother. Would Dominic just leave it with him forever?

Damn, this agony was gnawing at him with such zeal. What was he supposed to do now? He couldnít see Tyrell for fear that he would hurt him, he couldnít go outside for fear that he would damage something that wasnít his, and he couldnít stay in his room much longer without sinking into depression, that was if he hadnít already reached that point. Even the teenage fascination with "cutting" failed to appeal to him. Death wasnít his game. Testing it was one thing, but where was the fun in going all the way? There wasnít much one could do when his turn was officially over. When Fate wanted him, she would stake her claim. Why give her a hand? So what other options did that leave with him with?

Well, he could always try and go find Angelique. Maybe he could make her tell him what Tyrell wouldnít. If she snapped on him this time, there would be no protective little Key to intervene on her behalf. He didnít really plan on hurting her either...much. As long as he could be sure that she couldnít pull her sly little spells on him, he would be happy to speak to her like a civilized human being. But if she got violent, well, he could play that way too. It wasnít like he found that much enjoyment in using force, but he was prepared to do what had to be done in extreme circumstances.

Lucian left the bed and stood in front of his mirror, ignoring the tablet of writing that lay splayed out upon the carpet. He checked the bruise near his eye to see if the swelling had receded any during the night. Apparently, it had just gotten worse. It was probably going to become a shiner. Of course. Why wouldnít the mark that detailed to the world how his own charge had attacked him want to stay on his face in all its wretched glory? Even the bruises that Dominic had given him time and time again were nothing to this. He expected such brutality from the older boy. It was his nature. That was just how he reacted to things. But Tyrell was supposed to be a nice, composed youth. Slugging someone hard enough to create a lasting mark was an utter disgrace. What made the bruise even more despicable was the fact that Tyrell had chosen him to be the first person to ever receive a true dose of his anger. And he had claimed to be his friend? He felt like he had a huge blinking sign on his body that read, "Hit me." It sure seemed like he did with all the abuse he got.

The stains from his tears had faded though. That was one good thing. He couldnít have Angelique see him in a fragile state when he went to find her. She needed to see him as the strong youth that he was so that she would feel that it was wiser to answer his queries than to refuse them. In addition, Angelique seemed to be able to sense Tavores and therefore considered him just as much a threat to Tyrell as he consider her. It would be bad to have her thinking he was weak. That would put him at a disadvantage, something he could not afford at this stage.

He opened his closet and grabbed a clean shirt, tossing it over his head. It was a subtle green long-sleeved piece that had to be buttoned in the front. Tashira had bought it for him last Christmas. She had teased him about it being very expensive. Even if it wasnít as costly as his sibling had claimed, he was sure that it made him look more sophisticated then his usual clothes. He wanted his quarry to take him seriously today. A change in outfit might do the trick. Angelique seemed to prefer formal wear as opposed to casual styles.

While applying some painkiller to the bruise, he couldnít think of facing Tashira to heal it for him, he heard the door open downstairs. Not good. He had hoped he could get out of the house before his sister returned. Talking to her was not a tempting prospect right now. She would just want to know what had caused him to pitch a fit last night. Hell, who was he kidding? He hadnít simply pitched a fit. He had lost his frigginí mind. Moreover, the madness itching in his brain had not yet subsided sufficiently enough for him to talk to her in a reasonable manner about what had happened. He had to find a way of getting outside without running into her.

"Luce!" she called out, flinging her bookbag on the floor. "Luce! Iím coming up, all right?"

Damn! Damn! Damn! Today was turning out to be just as troublesome as yesterday. He looked toward his window and briefly considered taking a dive. Then he came to his senses and realized that an action like that would just result in him breaking something and being left to Tashiraís care anyway. Cursing at the unfairness that was his life, Lucian plodded out of his room and leaned against the hallway wall to wait for his twin.

Tashira saw him as she approached from the stairway, puzzled by his elegant attire. "Luce, were you planning on going somewhere?"

"Yeah, I was. So Iíll just be..." he tried, walking over to pass her and descend the staircase.

"Can we talk first?"

"No!" His answer came in an abrupt roar, startling the silver-haired girl. She moved to hamper his departure and stared at him with stern gray eyes.

"I really think we should. You were acting very peculiar last night. Do you know how much work you destroyed in a matter of moments?" Tashira questioned, placing on hand on her brotherís chest to softly push him backward.

"I told you last night, Shira, I donít want to talk. Thereís nothing wrong with me."

"I beg to differ. You practically thrashed the den."

"That crap was useless anyway. We donít need it if Tyrell wants to take care of things himself. Why should we keep it around if he doesnít need the Guardians?" Lucian growled, the words slashing through him even as they left his lips.

His sisterís mouth fell into a frown. "You know the Keys need the Guardians, Luce. Even if they donít want them. They have no choice. Itís our fate to watch over them."

"I donít see why we should be forcing them to accept us if they donít want to. If the Keys want to stand alone, we should let them."

"Thatís not how this works, Lucian. You should know that by now."

Lucian crossed his arms and turned his head with a snort. "Try telling that to Tyrell. Besides, if one of the Guardians can defy his calling, why do the rest of us still have to play this game?" he posed, not realizing what he was saying until it was too late.

"So thatís what this is really about," sighed Tashira, shaking her head in disdain. "Dominic is still watching Tyrell. Heís just not doing it with us. Now can you please stop this mutinous tirade?"

Her phrase sank into Lucianís mind, unsettling all the erratic thoughts that were already present. Before he could stop himself, his enraged words spewed from within him. "Why? Why should he get to do his job without us? The Guardians are meant to work together! Why does he think he can just toss us away? What makes him so damn special? What the hell is wrong with him? Iím here fighting to keep Tyrell from losing his free will to Angelique and heís off playing the wolf somewhere else. Heís not doing his fucking job at all! He should be here! We need him here! He could make Tyrell listen to reason. I sure as hell canít. I want him back now! Why should he get to leave us? Why should he just abandon me to this shit? Itís not fair! Damn him! Why did he have to leave? Why?"

"Lucian," gasped the girl, seeing the furor that clashed within her brotherís garnet eyes.

The redhead was shocked at what he had just said. How could he have let Tashira hear any of that? She was supposed to think that he wasnít affected by any of this. That was what he had been telling her for most of the month. She had believed it, right? The flood of emotions was too much to take. He wanted her to leave. If she said anything else, he was sure that he wouldnít be able to hold it together any longer. She was digging into something that he really wanted to elude. He didnít want to think about that right now. Finding Angelique was his current mission. Tashira was just making him feel worse. He clamped his hand down on her shoulder and started to force her out of his way.

"Move Tashira!"

She pried his hand off her and held it just below the wrist. "Thatís it! You are not leaving until you talk to me. Thatís what you need, Lucian. You just need to really talk. None of this pretending that it doesnít matter stuff. Youíre letting it eat you up. Thatís why youíre acting this way. I promise you brother, once you get this off your chest youíll feel better and you can be happy again. Just tell me. Does this also have something to do with Dominic? I know we said that we wouldnít talk about him anymore, but itís hurting you even more by just avoiding the issue. I think itís time we brought the subject up again. If you donít, youíre just going to sink deeper and deeper into this misery. Iím not going to let that boy mess you up like this. Talk to me!"

"No! I donít want to talk about him. I don't Tashira. I...canít...I just..." he resisted, horrorstruck as his voice started to sound dangerously like a sob. No! He was fine! He was! Once he got away, he could find Angelique and worry about protecting his Keys on his own grounds. That was what he needed. He just needed an escape. Then everything would be okay. It had to be. He didnít know what else to do.

In his frenzy, he pulled his hand away and sought out his item of comfort, cupping it in his hand and holding it close to his chest. His action seemed to infuriate Tashira as she shoved him away from the stairway and snatched at the object in his fist. "Stop this pointless pining, Lucian! Dominic is not coming back! Itís time you accepted it and stopped letting him bind you to him through that god-forsaken trinket. Are you his dog?"

"Get off!" yelled Lucian, fighting to keep the ring away from his sisterís grasping fingers.

"Youíre going to let him control your life and grind you away until youíre nothing?"

"Yes! Damn it! Yes! He can control me all he wants. Iíll follow him like some blindly loyal cur. All I want is for him to come back. I canít do this anymore, Shira. I canít take this feeling. Iíve never felt anything like it before. I donít know if itís love, lust, or hate. Itís all the same to me. I canít feel anything else. He killed something in me when he left. And I want it back!"

Tashira blinked in amazement as her eyes darkened at what her twin was confessing. "Are you even listening to yourself, brother? Youíve lost your mind! Give me that damn ring!"

"No!" he snarled as she tore his fingers open and grabbed the circlet inside.

"I will not let him do this to you, Lucian. He doesnít even care. You have to give him up," she groaned, tugging on the ring while her brother yanked at the other end.

"You donít know him! You never knew him! You always hated him, Tashira! You never even gave him a chance."

"Youíve spent your whole entire life trying to gain some control and I will not allow him to take it from you."

"Iíve never had control! Couldnít you tell sister? It was just an illusion. A game. I love games and this was my favorite one to play. To see how long I could keep everyone in the dark. To see how long I could continue to convince myself that I was just like everyone else. Too see how long I could keep telling myself that Iím fine. Well, it looks like the game is over," the boy related with a forced smile.

The other youthís face sank and she wrapped as much of the chain around her fingers as she could gather. "Stop saying things like that! Just stop it!" she wailed as she ripped her hand backward.

There was a faint chink as the necklace snapped and broke away from Lucianís neck, the ring flying off the chain and rolling to the floor. Lucian glared at the girl as he exhaled raggedly. Tashira was frightened by the untamed ferocity in his look and tried to back away.

"Lucian...I...."

In a swift motion, Lucian slapped her viciously, spinning her head to the side as she toppled against the wall from the pure force of the movement. She screamed more in alarm than in pain and felt her knees go weak under her. Unable to take the shock of her beloved sibling having struck her with such malice, she collapsed to the floor, turning her head to the side to avoid his eyes. A small whine left her and Lucian stumbled back.

Oh God! What had he just done? Tashira was against the wall, a bright red mark on her cheek and tears beginning to fill her beautiful eyes. He looked at his hand and noticed that it was shaking badly. How? How could he have let himself hurt her? She was the one person who had always been safe from his tantrums. They were family. Blood. All they had was each other. He had sworn to protect her since the day he learned how to say the words. She would have given her life for him and he for her. Just as Tavores and Reyna would have done for each other. The bond between the Ambrose twins was equally strong. And he had...had...No!

Falling back on his feet, he scraped the ring off the floor and fled down the stairs. He could hear Tashira struggling to climb to her feet behind him as he reached the front door. Lucian threw it open and ran. He needed to get away from here. He hardly knew what he was doing anymore. Screw finding Angelique! There had to be somewhere that he could go where he could just think. Then he remembered a place that had led to so many intangible yet wonderful moments. A place where the primal call had summoned two youths that had answered with passion. The place where this descent had begun. That was where he needed to go now. It was there that he could finally come to terms with any of this. He leapt on his bike and charged down the road, Tashiraís weak cry sounding in his ears.

"Lucian, donít! Donít run from me!"

*~*~*~*~*~*

The dead tone on the other end of the line told Tyrell that something had happened to the phone during his last call. Why wasnít Lucian answering him? He wanted to apologize. If only Lucian had come to school today, then they could have talked and sorted out last night as friends. Did Lucian even consider him his friend anymore? He had forsaken him to comfort Angelique. In his ignorance, he had just allowed Lucian to storm out on him. He had been so damn weak. Angelique was having problems and now it appeared that Lucian wasnít doing too good himself. His entire attitude during last nightís episode had been strange. Lucian never acted like that. He was so needy and angry.

Tyrell was also having serious problems comprehending why he had also reacted the way he had that night. He had told Lucian that he didnít him. That was such a pathetic lie. What could he do without his Guardians? Nothing. He had tried to fight Lionelle and ended up getting himself almost mauled while managing to hurt Dominic in the process. Then he had been so busy being impressed by his skills that he had forgotten about Lupe. If not for Erik, he would have been slaughtered.

Worst of all, Lucian had believed him when he had said that awful phrase. But as if all that wasnít enough, he had to go and punch him. Later, he had struck Angelique as well.

With her, it had been different. She had lost all semblance of the girl he cared for. He had needed her to come back to her senses. The last thing that he had counted on was her running off into the night. So all his efforts had been for naught. He had driven Lucian away to appease her and then she had disappeared on him. It had been a complete no-win situation. Now he wanted to do something about it.

His plan was to find Lucian and reason him into searching for Angelique. During their hunt, they could discuss what had occurred and Tyrell was sure that Lucian would be able to deal with the affects of the situation once they were properly presented. Though Lucian was not a big fan of logic himself, preferring to defect to spur of the moment feelings, he was willing to accept it if it applied to the circumstances. All they needed to do was talk and then everything would be okay again. Lucian would help him find Angelique and then they could all have a simple discussion like Lucian suggested. After last night, he wasnít too confident on his abilities to "handle" Angeliqueís dilemma. Maybe if just Lucian got involved and nobody else, then it would be all right to explain a few things to him. He didnít have to tell him everything, just enough to start a decent research project. Lucian had often bragged about how talented he was at researching things over the Internet. This had to be something that could be looked up. Tavores had said that the broach Angelique wore came from a book. Perhaps, there was some record of such a manuscript.

He was going through a lot to get in touch with Lucian. It had even meant skipping band practice, which Cyrus had only agreed to because he said that he was too worried about Angelique to play. Maren and Gayle had been eager to help, but what could they do? They had good intentions, but they were still just like everyone else. Angelique was unpredictable now. He needed someone who could hold his own against her if things got rough. Last nightís little games had not been fun at all. He had no wish to repeat them.

Putting the phone down, he reached for his jacket since the autumn weather had been getting a bit nippy. He had realized the futility in agonizing over his problems here. It would be best to just go see Lucian at his house and talk to him there. Even if Lucian didnít want to talk, there was a chance that Tashira would give him a nudge in the right direction. It was worth a shot anyway.

Kat had already taken the car for one of her frequent rendezvous with some girl friends. She had started to take a lot more of these since Lucian had begun to seem less interested in taking their relationship anywhere. Although she called him at least once a week, his return messages, if any, were brief and usually refusing whatever she had offered to do with him. She still hadnít tried to go after any other guys, but it did appear that Kat was realizing that Lucian wasnít under her wiles anymore. As much as he didnít want to admit it, he felt bad for her. He didnít like seeing her with his older friend, but he didnít like seeing her so affected by his indecision either. Kat obviously had stronger feelings for Lucian that he had imagined. It hadnít been just another fling for her. But Lucian had grown bored of the courtship. Still, neither one of them was willing to admit that it was time to call it quits. It was downright nerve-racking.

Not as nerve-racking as not knowing where the one that he cared for was. Why was he taking so long? It was time to get going and find something. Whether it was Lucian or Angelique, anything would really do now. He left his house and went around the back to find his bike. But what he found was even more interesting.

"Angie!"

"Tye, I was hoping you would come out here."

He didnít want to blink for fear that this vision would disappear before his very eyes. Sitting against a tree, plucking at the petals on a yellow rose was his cousin. She looked much more composed than last night and had a genuine smile on her face. Leaning closer, he realized that both the Amethyst and the broach were missing from her neck. Had she gotten rid of them by herself? Tavores had shown an interest in acquiring the items, but if Angelique had disposed of them, it shouldnít be that much of a concern. Tyrell shook his head roughly. Forget the charms! How long had Angelique been waiting here? And where had she gone last night? How had she gotten back? Why did she seem so happy? There were just too many questions buzzing in his perplexed mind.

"Angie," he repeated, too disoriented to think of anything else.

"I wanted to talk to you Tye," Angelique responded, getting up from the ground and walking over to the boy. "About last night. I wanted to apologize for my inexcusable behavior."

"You...you d-d-donít have to do that, Angie. I know it was an...."

"Accident? I think not. You were right. It was those silly jewels that I insisted on wearing. They were corrupting my soul and making me think such ghastly things. I just couldnít get away from them."

"But you did, right?" Tyrell inquired, glancing over the girl to see if he could spot any other place where she could have hidden the relics. "Thatís why youíre okay now. You got rid of them?"

Angelique changed the flower so that she just held it in one hand and threw her arms around the other youth, rubbing her cheek against his chest. "Oh Tye. I didnít know what to do. When I ran away, I was so scared and frightened. And then he arrived and somehow he made everything better again. Heís such a wonderful man."

"What? Who are you talking about, Angie? Did you meet someone last night?" the boy pried, thrown by the unusual amount of affection that Angelique was showing. Sure, they hugged, but never like this. This was the style of embrace used by those who were dating. They couldnít date. They were cousins. Even if Tyrell felt that there might not be any real blood connections, he couldnít prove it.

Another thing that was bothering him was the way Angelique was speaking of meeting another man. She had spoken to a stranger during the night. How had he helped her? The city streets were not known for harboring the most philanthropic of individuals. Who would have offered to help a young girl suffering from a problem that she couldnít even sort out?

"Yes, I met someone. He knew everything. He told me that it was the jewels changing me. But he said it was something else as well. Then he told me how I could fight it. He said that I needed someone who truly cared about who would protect me. He said that their devotion could counteract the potency of the change."

"How did this guy know all this? Does he know the Guardians?"

"Oh no. But he knows of them. He knows all about us, Tye. He even knew why those strange people keep bothering you. Theyíre after something called the Cruce, whatever that is," the older youth answered, brushing her rose against Tyrellís hair.

Tyrell felt his breath quicken. Someone outside of the Chimera knew about the Cruce. How? Was this person on their side? "Did he tell you why they wanted it?"

The girl froze for a moment and pulled her head away, looking into his eyes as if surprised by the question. "Of course not. How would he know that?"

"He sure seems to know a lot of other things. Maybe I should go talk to him. Whatís his name?"

"Umm...I canít tell you that. He doesnít want to become too involved with the actual Keys or their Guardians. But he promises to relate his messages through me."

"I donít like the sound of that, Angie. Itís too suspicious," noted Tyrell, catching the agitated look in his cousinís eyes.

"Well, thatís too bad because heís the only one who can help us. Heís the only one who understands whatís wrong with me," she snapped, turning her eyes to the side.

"What is wrong, Angie? Iím not even sure. What did this guy tell you?"

Angelique pulled close again and rested her head upon his shoulder bone. "The jewels that I loved so much once belonged to another. She was one of the most beautiful women around, but she was a killer. Somehow when I put on the charms, part of her dormant soul became infused with mine. Thatís why I sometimes donít seem like myself. Iím truly not myself anymore."

"This woman? Was her name...Evangel?" her cousin choked out, afraid to hear her answer.

"I think so. Anyway, my new friend said that Iím not going to become her. But I will continue to display her persona whenever around the Amethyst or the pendant. He also said that there was a chance that her soul could appear in me when given a decent stimulus, such as a threat to those I care about. You."

This was bad, very very bad. So not only did Angeliqueís acquaintance know about the Cruce, he also knew about Evangel. He said that Angelique was turning into Evangel when she wore the relics. That didnít make any sense. He explicitly remembered Tavores telling him that the only way to resurrect Evangel was through the use of those four elements: the pendant (well, that one was covered), the Cruce (dang, check that one off too), one of extreme magical power (did Angelique have powers outside of the gems?), and the lover of the host. Okay, the last two were a bit tricky, but the first two were already tangible. Whoever was planning on bringing Evangel back was quickly nearing their goal. But why Angelique? What made her so special? And was her new friend really looking out for her best interests? Maybe, he was working for the Chimera or...Vincient.

"Angie, maybe we should talk to someone about this. I donít know if we should really trust this other guy just yet."

"But heís the only one who knows whatís going on," the older teenager protested, trailing her fingers through the back of Tyrellís mane. "Who else can help us?"

"M-maybe my friends can. I know Iím afraid to tell them anything, Angie, but this sounds too big for us. If weíre really dealing with a possession deal here, we need more help than just some guy you met on the street."

"Heís more than that, Tye! I knew him...I mean, I felt like I knew him. He really listened to me. He didnít try to judge me, or shelter me, or anything like everyone else has always done. He treated me like an equal. I felt this connection and it was so strong, much stronger than anything I ever felt with Kathryn, or your parents, or even you, Tye. It was amazing."

"Thatís why we should be careful. Weíre messing with sorcery, Angie. Spells can produce that sort of effect on others. Iím just saying we should get some more help," pressed Tyrell, trying to clear his head of the apprehensive feelings that had bubbled up in it. Angelique felt like she knew this guy. Perhaps, he was part of her family that she had lost. There was so much that Ciara and his parents had held back from her. This guy could be anyone from a mere relative to her father himself. They shouldnít be taking any chances.

One of Angeliqueís arms uncurled from around his shoulders and she used the free hand to tilt his head up to hers. "Help? Like from the Guardians?" she asked; though the distaste was clear in her tone.

"They could find out more about this. Theyíre good at researching. Lucian...."

"Lucian wants to tear us apart! He doesnít understand anything! Heís too overwhelmed by his own problems. Why would you want to turn to him or any of the other Guardians? They will just interfere. They might even try to keep me away from you. The Guardians have never thought too highly of me."

"Thatís not true!" the boy argued, though his mind told him that it wasnít that far from the truth. The Guardians hadnít exactly welcomed Angelique with open arms after she had appeared and hexed Dominic while trying to rescue her cousin. Still, he was out of options. He didnít want to be responsible for allowing Angelique to become even more messed up just because he feared their reaction. This was way over his head. He would have to just confess what he knew to his Guardians and see what happened. If they turned on Angelique, then he would deal with that problem. For now, he had to try something. What he had been doing was evidently ineffective.

"You know it is. The Guardians are a very dangerous group. Their job is to eliminate any threat to you at all costs. They wouldnít understand our position at all. Once they heard that I lack the power to control my actions, they would separate us. Though that would be very hypocritical of the Hell Guardian." She added the last statement under her breath and Tyrell wasnít sure if he had heard her right so he let it slide.

"What do you want me to do, Angie? I canít do this by myself!" he moaned.

His companion moved her hand from his chin and cupped his cheek. "Yes, you can. You are strong, Tyrell. Much stronger than any of them will ever be. I can sense it in you."

"Angie?"

"I only want you to protect me. Youíre the only one who can keep me from losing my self to this Evangel. You will protect me, wonít you," she purred, soft lashes fluttering over entreating lilac eyes. Her hand tightened on the back of his neck, pushing him forward, as her lips wavered over his.

"Of course," he whispered, feeling his heartbeat increase to a speed that he didnít even know existed.

"Then I will protect you as well." Saying this, Angelique dipped her head bringing her lips to meet his in a gentle kiss. As startled as he was, Tyrell found that he could not, or was it more like would not, pull away. This was wrong. They were bound by blood. Or where they? No. What he had told Tashira so long ago had been true. He didnít really believe that they were related at all. It was just a lie to keep Angelique away from the truth about her past and her parentage. There was no familiar connection. Angelique, Kat, and him were just being tricked.

Besides, this was the one thing he had wished for so many times. He could never tell Angelique how he felt, but he knew of the longing in his soul. She was the most precious thing to him. Nothing else could be allowed to matter when it came to her. There had been others that he had felt a considerable attraction to. Some that had stirred feelings that could be dubbed lust. Yet, none of them had ever come close to the way she made him feel. And at this moment, she was truly his. She was his goddess and he was her eternal suppliant. Nobody could ever be allowed to break their bond. Nobody.

He brought his hand to her face and kissed her back, losing himself in his passion and forgetting everything that had previously been on his mind including a certain red-haired Guardian whom was having a serious nervous breakdown. All that mattered was he and Angelique. This was the way things were meant to be and this was the way that he would make sure that they stayed.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Erikís foot crushed against the brake as she swerved the car to avoid taking down an errant biker that cut across the intersection. Her wheels locked and the car gave a sickening lunge toward the left as the biker also hit the pedals and allowed the vehicle to skid past the front of the car, missing it by less than a foot. Furious, Erik swung the door open and stalked over to the biker to rant at him for being such a careless moron.

"You dumb kid! You could have gotten us both killed! What the hell did you think you were...Ambrose?" She gaped at the other youth as he pulled himself from the street, blood streaming from scraped knees. Lucian blew on his hands to ease the burning pain from scratching them against the pavement. His eyes traveled up to her face and he seemed to do a double take.

"Erik?"

"Ambrose, what were you doing?" Erik demanded, staring at the dark blemish near his eye. "I could have hit you."

"Sorry. I guess I was distracted," the boy murmured, picking his bike off the street and studying its shape to see if it was still usable.

"Iíll say. You didnít see a huge car come barreling across your path?"

"I have a lot on my mind right now! So get off my case, okay?" he snapped at her, crimson eyes flashing though they lacked their usual luster.

"Are you okay?" the blonde probed, noting the way the other youth was shaking as he tried to climb back on his bike.

Almost instantly, he whirled around and gave her the most spiteful glare that she had ever seen. "Yes, Iím fine! Why does everyone have to keep asking me that? Donít you people have your own lives to worry about? Stay out of mine!"

His companion was aghast by his violent reaction. It had just been a simple question. Obviously, Lucian wasnít as fine as he claimed to be. He looked as if he were severely distraught. His eyes appeared tired and downcast and his posture was painfully stiff. The dressy shirt that he had been wearing now had a huge tear down the middle and the edges were starting to stain with flowing blood. She repositioned her eyes to take a better look at the bruise on his face. As she did, she noticed the necklace on his throat. Where there had usually been his ruby amulet now only hung a small bejeweled ring.

"Whereís your Shard, Ambrose?"

"Arenít we just Ms. Nosy today? The chain broke so I put the ruby in my pocket until I could find another necklace for it. Iím not counting on fighting any dumb Chimera today anyway," Lucian snarled, turning away from the girl once more.

"How did you get that bruise?" Erik continued, placing her fingers on the same part of her head where Lucian had his mark.

"What is this? Twenty questions? Itís none of your damned business! And since when did you become all concerned about my well being? Arenít I too much of a hassle for you to worry about? God, you and Nicky are just the same. You should start a club devoted to the practice of being heartless hermits."

"This is certainly a different side of you, Ambrose. Whereís the boy who lives for his snappy come-backs?"

"Heís not playing at the moment. I am. Now get out of my face. I have somewhere I need to be right now," the redhead commanded, kicking at his pedals as they stuck. He forced his foot down on them hard, but they refused to budge. Livid, he smashed against them over and over again. "Damn it!"

Erik gave him a knowing look and leaned on the hood of her car. "Itís not going to work."

"No? You must be some sort of fucking psychic!"

"Need a ride somewhere?"

Lucian scrambled off the bike and hurled it the ground, kicking the fallen object as hard as he could. "Worthless piece of crap!"

"Youíre forgetting that you just slammed it into miles of pavement going at a fairly rapid speed. Youíre lucky you only damaged the pedals," the other teenager pointed out.

The boy narrowed his eyes at her and cracked his knuckles. "Do me a big favor, Erik, and shut the hell up!"

"Well, Solanis said that you would be trouble, but I had no clue that you would be a downright nutcase."

"I said shut up!" Lucian paused, angry red eyes softening just a touch, as he gazed back at the blond. "You talked to Nicky? What did he say?"

"Itís not important. Say, what did you mean like you didnít plan on fighting today. We always have to be ready to fight since we never know when the Chimera are going to show up. Least you other Guardians donít. I have a general idea from time to time. Maybe if you stop treating me like trash, Iíll let you in on my intuition," she replied, hoping to get back in Lucianís graces with the promise of information. The male Guardians generally liked to be bargained with. It made them feel less humble about receiving her help.

But Lucian didnít look like he cared the slightest about any information she might have. He charged over to her and banged his hand against the hood of the car, inches away from her body. "Who says itís not important? I want to know what you talked about!"

Boy, if this was the way Lucian usually acted around the subject of his old partner, Dominic must have been really oblivious to miss the signs that the younger boy cared for him. Well, she was not a matchmaker; she was simply a Guardian. Dominic and Lucianís issues were really none of her business. If Dominic wanted the redhead to know what they had talked about, then he would have to tell him. She was not about to play messenger-boy for a pair of warped teenagers. They would have to sort out their problems on their own time.

"Not about you so why bother asking," she lied, watching Lucian jerk his head away from her. Was he always this moody? She hadnít hung around Lucian by himself long enough to know his usual nuances yet. Still, something told her that there was something off about the redhead today. He was clearly distracted. "So whatís with the no fight statement?"

Her companion sighed and pushed himself away from the car. "Tye and me are on the separate sides of the fence as of late. I donít think that I chose to play guard dog today. I want to think some things over first. Maybe then we can reconcile."

"Are you saying that youíre taking a day off?"

"I guess you could put it that way."

She sneered and tossed her head in a contemptuous fashion. "Thatís the most foolish thing Iíve heard in some time. The Guardians canít call in sick. What sort of Guardian are you?"

"I must be a pretty lousy one since my own charge wonít even be honest with me," complained Lucian, staring at the ground.

Erik had heard those words before. Dominic had uttered them after Tyrell had explained his preference of Wolf over the boy. Tyrell must have enjoyed keeping secrets from his friends. Though Dominic had only seemed distressed by the realization. Lucian, on the other hand, seemed forlorn and dejected. Why did these boys let things get to them like this? Didnít they understand that they were better than the Keys? They had more power than most men could dream of. It was almost pathetic to grovel under some weak-willed pacifist when they could stand against anything. The Guardians werenít meant to be dogs. They were meant to be gods.

"You shouldnít let it bother you so much. Tyrell is just a feeble child."

"Tyrell is my friend! Friends should trust each other!"

What a pathetic sap this Lucian was. He wanted the Key to be his friend. Even Dominic was not that idealistic. He understood that his relationship with the Keys should only be based on logical purposes. The Guardians showed up only when the Keys needed them, but otherwise stayed out of their lives. That was the best way to handle things. There was no need to get all cluttered up in things such as friendship. How could Dominic associate with such a person? He wasnít like them at all. Lucian was no Guardian.

The blonde smirked and rubbed her amulet with a smug expression on her face. "The Guardians do not need friends. We have these. We have power. Thatís all that matters."

Lucian peered at her with puzzled eyes and then backed away. "What do you know? Youíve probably never even had a friend in your life, bitch!"

Chestnut eyes danced with the flames of fury. How dare he say that to her? He didnít know anything about her, the arrogant jerk. She had a good mind to take advantage of his unstable state and beat the crap out of him. But he was a Guardian and such things were not protocol. She was at a stalemate. Or so it seemed.

"Where are you going, Ambrose?" Erik inquired calmly. She had to give herself credit for the fact that she was still managing to talk to the boy as if she wasnít thinking about rendering him unconscious right now.

"Somewhere I can be alone from all of this. Somewhere I can think," he grumbled, grabbing the bike again and walking it by the side of the road.

"Are you going to walk?"

"Itís only about an hour or two away from here. I could use the exercise."

"Sure I canít give you a lift?" she offered once more, heading back to the front seat of her vehicle.

"Iíd rather not. I think Iíve had about as much of your cheery personality as I can take for one day. Until another day, Erik," Lucian taunted as he increased his pace and dragged his bike even farther down the street.

"An hour or two away, huh?" the girl repeated, drumming her fingers against the wheel. Where would Lucian be off to? He was moping about both his Key and his loss of Dominic.

Suddenly she remembered where she had run into Dominic and forced him into coming with her to rescue Tyrell a month ago. Something about his manner had seemed to indicate that something had been bothering him at the time. That must have been why Dominic had seemed so morose when she discovered him. It had struck her as a bit odd that Dominic would hold back on attacking her when she had been obviously threatening his life with her gun.

There was good reason to believe that it had been his old partner whom was occupying his thoughts. The fact that the violet-eyed boy had flipped out at her later for bring up Lucian's name seemed to support this theory as well. Had Dominic been with the younger boy before finding her? If that was the case, perhaps Lucian was heading for some place close to where she had come across Dominic. That area was about two hours away. It could be the same place. Still, it did seem odd for such a disconsolate boy to be heading there...all by himself.

Erik reached over the seat and unlocked the glove compartment, causing a small black cell phone to spill out upon her seat. She flipped open the dialing pad and hit one of the buttons that she had set on automatic dial. It rang for less than a minute before someone picked up on the other end. The blond leaned back on her seat and adjusted the phone for her ear.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Exhausted from hauling his bicycle all the way to the field Dominic had shown him that night, Lucian let it fall to the grass and lay on his back to contemplate that chaos that was rapidly consuming his entire life. Dominic didnít trust him. Scratch that. Dominic hated him. Tyrell didnít trust him and had chosen to stand with Angelique. Tashira probably didnít trust him now, for good reason. Even Erik had criticized him for threatening to take a sabbatical from the task of being a Guardian. All around things were looking gloomy.

Now, Angelique was missing and he couldnít even go and find her since he was too engrossed in berating himself over the screwiness of his existence. This whole situation made him angry enough to want to do something drastic. Be it scream, cry, or hit something, he didnít care. What had happened to the perfect world that he had established? Lucian Ambrose wasnít supposed to act like this anymore. He wasnít supposed to let anyone take him down from the glorious high that he had discovered so long ago.

Yet, the truth was plain to see. He had not only fallen from his loft; he had plunged down like a wounded bird of prey when shot by an arrow. The whole time it plummeted toward the ground, it knew it was doomed yet it continued to flap its ruined wings, some blind drive forcing it to make one last grasp at survival. That only made the pain so much worse when its feeble wings finally gave way and it crashed onto the hard ground with a dull thump and remained still. Just a huddled clump of stained feathers and shattered bone. A noble creature resorted to a nameless casualty of the wild.

Lucian had not yet lost the strength to "fly" yet, but it was quickly waning from his battered soul. He knew it was only a matter of time before he too crashed into the abyss. Then his frail illusion of control would be completely eradicated; dreams splintered on the dust just fragile bone. There had to be a way to stop the descent. But whom could he turn to? He had successfully alienated himself from anyone who could have lent a hand in reprieve. Even his precious sister would turn from him now. Of course, he no longer deserved her love. He didnít deserve Tyrellís trust. Did he deserve anything at all anymore?

He didnít even deserve Dominicís friendship. Recalling the other youth for what must have been the umpteenth time; he lowered his eyes to the jewel on his chain. He had to be crazy for exchanging the usual resting place for his amulet with a pointless trinket. Then again if he really thought about it, the two gems were the same. They both brought back memories that tore him into shreds. The memory of his fight with Tyrell still clung to the ruby, the symbol of his fate to be a Guardian. Unlike the red globule, the ring actually made him feel better in its own warped way. It had been Dominicís way of saying goodbye.

Nonetheless, the ruby was safe in his pocket. If he really needed to use its power, he could reach it easily enough. At the moment, he wanted to focus more of his attention on the ring. It had belonged to Dominicís mother. Such a thing seemed a rather valuable article to give away as a consolation gift. Maybe there was more to it. Lucian shook his head to erase the false hopes that tried to sneak their way back into his thoughts. No, the ring was just a parting gift nothing more. Dominic had to do everything in the right and proper fashion. Logic and order were his domains. He had no time for any abstract aspects of life.

<Get over it!> a bitter voice groused from inside his mind. Tavores! Why did he seem to want to want to show more interest in his reincarnationís lifestyle now? Did he just like to see another person as crestfallen as himself? Knowing Tavores, the answer was probably yes.

<Leave me alone, Tavores. Iím not in the mood to argue about my personal business with you,> Lucian warned though his thoughts.

<Youíre getting this upset over a boy? What about Kathy? She still loves you. Go back to her.>

<You are a real ass you know that? Itís wrong to take advantage of someone to make yourself feel better. If I went to Kathy just for the purpose of crawling out of my slump, it would be insulting her, making her think that I had feelings that just arenít there?>

<Why not? Sheís pretty. Isnít she?> urged Tavores, sounding a bit too persuasive for Lucian.

<Yeah. But Iím not entirely shallow, Taves! I donít just date people because theyíre attractive. I look for some other qualities,> his reincarnation retorted, feeling a bit slighted by the previous assumption.

<Sure. Like you didnít go out with most of your fancies just because they looked hot.>

<Fine, Iíll admit it! It did have a significant say in the relationship. But those were just for fun. This is...different.>

<Damn straight itís different! Youíre swooning over a guy!> the voice in his conscience roared so loud that it started to give him a minor migraine.

Lucian held his head and closed his eyes as he tried to block out the sound of Tavoresí complaints. Why did Tavores care so much whether or not he dated Kat? It wasnít him spending time with her. Jeez, the way he talked one would think that it was him who was kissing...

His head jerked up and he ripped his palm away from his bangs. Of all the manipulative bastards! <You! All this time! It was you! Tavores, I ought to...>

A footfall behind him ended his rant as he sensed someone approaching. He could feel the ruby react and reached into his pocket to retrieve it in case he was in for some uninvited guests. The spray of flame that caused him to leap to his feet told him that he definitely was. Ugh. He wasnít up to sparring with the Chimera, especially on his own. But why would they be here? Tyrell wasnít anywhere around or he would have seen him by now. What were they up to?

"Where are you comrades?" gloated an unmistakably vicious voice as Lucianís eyes soon came in contact with those of Lionelle as he slapped his whip against the ground, slicing through the rustling grass.

"What do you want? Arenít you after the Keys?" the red-haired youth hissed, calling his sword into play. He noticed that his tone seemed a lot more uninterested than he had intended it to be. Somehow he had imagined it coming out as more of a threat, but it had just seemed tired.

"Of course. But I think we should try a new tactic."

"Itís about time. Do tell me. What is your oh-so-brilliant plan?"

Lionelle lashed out his whip as the Hell Guardian countered with a blow from his blade. "Take out the Guardians. You get to be the first," the man praised, grinning at the boy who forced away his weapon and rolled his eyes.

"What an honor," bit Lucian, bringing back Hades to summon its power. As he did, he felt another burst of fire racing toward him and spun around to ward it with his weapon. Fang swore from his part of the field and drew his sword. Flames engulfed Lucianís blade and he whispered his invocation. Before he could finish, a piece of braided leather laced around his left ankle and flipped him onto his back.

The redhead winced and tried to turn over on his side to regain his footing. His back was one throbbing center of pain and he could hear the harsh panting that had replaced his normal breath. Dizzy, he was able to make out Lionelle laughing in satisfaction. He had forgotten the other Chimera when Fang had distracted him. But he understood now. This was a team effort. They were working together to catch him off guard. Well, it wouldnít happen again.

He groped for his sword as Lionelle suddenly yanked the whip forward. Deciding that Hades would have to wait, Lucian kicked against the coil on his leg and half-staggered to his feet. Fang had started to approach from the other end, making him even more anxious to get away. He had trapped himself. Damn it! He could seriously have used the other Guardians right then. Couldnít even Erik sense this?

Smirking, Lionelle waited for the Guardian to gain some semblance of a stand and then jerked his weapon to the side. The maneuver swept Lucian off his feet and sent him hurtling to the ground, his leg underneath him. He heard the light crack, as his lower leg became alive with red-hot spikes of agony. A sharp scream tore from his throat.

Landing near his weapon, he latched his fingers around the hilt and used it to cut himself free of the whip. But the damage had been done. He attempted to crawl back up only to discover that the weight on his injured leg was too much for it to handle. Hissing at the immense pain, he tried again only to receive the same result. He could feel the blood draining from his face as the shock of the injury set his mind into a violent swirl. Something was definitely broken. Wincing, he raised himself into a half-lying position with his arm parallel to his side to support him as he lifted his sword.

"Aw, the arrogant boy canít get up?" gibed Lionelle recalling his shortened weapon and motioning to his brother.

Lucian took a huge gulp of air and tried to push back the aching in his limb so that he could focus on attacking with his magic. He launched a gust at the oldest Chimera who avoided it with relative ease, being that it was desperate and poorly aimed. Snarling at his miss, the boy steadied himself to try again as a cold blade grazed against his neck. His eyes turned to see Fang bracing his sword inside the hollow of his throat.

"I wouldnít suggest trying that again, Guardian," the younger man cautioned, seeming pleased with himself for showing his skill in front of his brother.

"Some bad Chimera, Fang. You couldnít have done nothing without your big brotherís help. Face it. Without him, youíre worthless," Lucian told the orange-haired Chimera with a dry laugh. He knew he was provoking him, but he didnít care. Fang was a loose canon. Maybe if he got him angry enough, he could distract him and manage to get out of this mess with just a busted leg. Just because Lucian was down didnít necessarily mean that he was out of ideas.

"Shut up!" raged Fang, inching the blade further into his flesh.

"Fang, calm yourself!" Lionelle reprimanded his sibling as he rushed over and placed a hand on the younger Chimeraís shoulder. "Our orders were not to kill the Guardian."

Somehow the way he said that didnít sit too well with Lucian. His hand tightened around his weapon and he contemplated stabbing it into Fangís leg, seeing as he couldnít reach anything vital at the moment. As he lifted Hades, Lionelle spied his action and guessed his intent. He stepped on Lucianís hand, eliciting a muffled shriek from the boy. Bending down he worked to free the sword from the Guardianís fingers, digging into his palm with his claws. The blood coursing over his skin made Lucianís grip slippery and he couldnít get a decent hold on the hilt.

"What? Afraid Iíd still take you boys down even without being able to stand? I never knew the Chimera were such chickens," the redhead snickered, hoping to get Lionelleís attention away from the sword. Fang answered for his brother, slapping Lucian across the face. At the same time, Lionelle wrenched Hades from Lucian as it returned to the globule in his hand. With a disgusted look, the Chimera threw the amulet far behind him, blood still running over the slick sides.

"I donít think youíll be needing that," he informed, turning back to Lucian with a sickening smile.

"Youíre right. I donít need it. As soon as I get up, Iím going to kick your ass with or without the amulet!" threatened Lucian while he ran his eyes down the sword holding him at bay. There had to be a way to get around this. Think Lucian! Think! Strategy had never been one of his strong points. Thatís what Tashira was around for. For a while, he had even had Dominic to handle such elements of battle. Argh! Why was he still thinking of him at a time like this? He had to find some practical way of resisting the Chimera. There was no time to moon about his erstwhile partner.

"But youíre not going to get up, Hell Guardian. Not for a long while," Lionelle whispered as he leaned closer to Lucian and grabbed his throat from under Fangís sword. "Are you?"

Lucian could hear his heart thudding against his chest as he realized that Lionelleís hold on his neck was way too tight. He choked against his hand, glaring at him and attempting to struggle even though he knew fully well how meaningless it was. There was no way to fight back. He couldnít climb to his feet and he had lost his weapon. That meant he was disgustingly helpless. The dizziness that had been bothering his head became worse as he registered the fact that Lionelle wasnít trying to kill him, he was trying to choke him to unconsciousness. This wasnít just an ordinary fight. It was a planned capture. He was enraged at how unprepared he had been for this. How could he have guessed that the Chimera would come after him instead of Tyrell?

The boy could tell he was slipping as it began to get harder to keep his eyes open. He knew none of the other Guardians were coming. They were only attuned to responding to distress from the Keys. That was what the amulets were used for. Unfortunately, they didnít send the same signal whenever the Guardians were in trouble. In addition, all of his fellow comrades were too far away to sense the Chimera. Why would they come anyway? He had done a fair job of isolating himself from all his companions. None of them seemed to sympathize with him anymore. He was on his own.

Well, maybe not. He did have one card up his sleeve that the other Guardians lacked.

<Tavores! Tavores! Do something!> he called for his other self, begging him to retake control. Tavores had once been immortal and powerful. He might be able to produce the strength that Lucian could no longer gather. Lucian knew that he would have to consent because he was part of this body as well. Tavores would not like to be taken into the custody of their enemy either. He was also a trained fighter. Perhaps, Tavores could employ some methods that he could not think of.

His other persona appeared to respond to the plea, giving him the nagging pain that usually accompanied their switch of conscience. But Tavores was having some trouble asserting his control over the unstable state of both Lucianís mind and body. He couldnít take over.

Unwilling to just give in, Lucian continued to gasp for air while trying to separate himself from his conscience. It wasnít working. He was too exhausted. Agonized by his hopeless state, he kicked at the Chimera with his good leg and fumbled with bloody fingers at the hand around his neck. His fingers slid ineffectually over the skin. Lionelle laughed again at his weak efforts as Fang removed his sword from his neck, seeing the eyelids of the Guardian falling over faded garnet irises.

"Whereís your bravado now, Guardian? Did you think you could embarrass me in front of my entire group and get away with it? You may have saved the Key then, but youíre going to pay for it. Nobody threatens my life! Least of all, some haughty brat," the golden-haired Chimera boasted as he slammed Lucianís head against the dirt.

This last jolt was too much for Lucianís weary mind to take. The last thing that ran through his thoughts was the bewilderment at Lionelleís accusations. He had never threatened him outright and he was sure that he had never done it in front of the entire Chimera. What was Lionelle talking about? Boy, it was becoming impossible to form coherent questions in his mind. Everything kept spinning like a maniacal kaleidoscope. What was he trying to figure out again? Something about what Lionelle had said. Who was he talking...

The final thought vanished as he saw the darkness close in upon him.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Elsewhere his name was uttered simultaneously from two different pairs of lips. One was currently nursing a swollen cheek, while the other was drowning in a loving embrace. Both youths had felt the same inward throe as they clutched their chests and froze in unease.

"Lucian!"

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

 

Comments: Seriously, I didn't want to end it here. But any other scene would take at least 5 more pages. And sadly enough, the ending works with the main meat of the chapter. But hey, I took pity on my readers so this has been posted with Chp.27. As for actual comments, I noticed Lucian bitches a whole lot in the beginning of this chapter. Also note: Luce is depressed, not suicidal. In the start of the chapter, he even tells us why he's not suicidal. I guess that explanation makes sense to him (and me). Is he in for trouble? In a word, yes. I'm so dang mean to my characters. If I don't have Nicky to beat up, I go for someone else. ;) Okay seriously, this situation is essential for two reasons. But I'm not telling you yet. You're all just going to have to figure it out on your lonesome. What fun would it be if I told you everything?

Other notes: Tye forgetting about Luce? UmmÖhe is a guy. Even Tye can get lost in his hormones and Tye really really likes Angie.

What's up with Erik? Ssh. It's a secret.

Next chapter: The Guardians gals get a little playtime. Nicky decides to make his grand comeback. Angie has ISSUES (as always). And uhÖother stuffÖyeah, that sounds good.

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