Chapter 34--Altercation--

Waiting for Angelique to return from her escapades was nerve-wracking and having little Thorne chomping down on his pencils wasnít cheering Tyrell up any. He reached over and snagged another one of his mangled writing tools from the puppy and added it to the set under his notebook. Thorne whined and pawed at the edge of the leaflet, his fluffy tail wagging anxiously. The puppy prepared himself for a lunge at the notebook when suddenly his ears perked and his head spun to the side. A nervous growl left the animal as Tyrell picked him up by the ruff and walked over to his door.

The boy opened it hastily and glanced out into the hallway, hoping to see his cousin traipsing by. His wish was granted as Angelique appeared at the end of the hall, trying to unlock her door. She recently had begun to lock the room every night and Tyrell suspected that it had something to do with her being afraid that he would invade her privacy in attempts to find out more about her disappearances. Tyrell knew that the girl had good reason to worry about this. It shamed him to admit that the thought had crossed his mind several times, especially after todayís earlier fight with Angelique.

It was painful to believe that both of them trusted each other so little after how long they had known each other and how close they had always been. But he was so sure that Angelique had to be putting herself in some sort of peril by seeing this Vincient. Even if he wasnít the same man who Tavores had warned him about, it was still unsafe for Angelique to be associating with a stranger who was clearly much older than her, especially a man at that. He was willing to bend almost any moral reservation in order to insure that nothing would happen to her. Even though some part of him now felt a certain fear around the other girl, the majority of his being still saw her as the most important person in his life. He had to see her that way now. Werenít they technically a couple? Their actions seemed to fit the mold, but their emotions were quite a different matter.

While he had always felt comfortable and relaxed around Angelique before, he now found himself constantly second-guessing the older youth and scrutinizing her every word. The tenderness and affinity that they had once had was rapidly dwindling and it seemed as if Angelique didnít really care. What could her new friend possibly be offering her that was worth jeopardizing a life-long relationship? The only thing that Angelique had ever seemed to care about besides him had been her past. But what would a complete stranger know about a thing like that? Unless, Angelique was lying about Vincient being a stranger. Perhaps, the man had told her much more than she was willing to share with him. She never did like to discuss in great detail what she and the man spoke about during their meetings.

He clenched the fist that wasnít supporting Thorne. Here he went again. He was doubting Angelique again. How was he supposed to get her to open up to him again when he was already preparing to berate her? It wasnít the time for this, not if he wanted to get some information from the girl before confronting his Guardians. He had hoped that he would be able to reason with her so that when he went to speak to the older youths, he wouldnít be forced to beat around the bush. If Angelique told him the truth, then there really would be nothing to fear because the others would know that she was on his side.

Either way, he was going to have to speak with the Guardians. He just wanted the experience to be an acceptable one instead of the horrific chaos that it had been last time. Tyrell harbored no wish to spar with Lucian once more, especially with Dominic and Tashira around. Somehow, he could tell that Dominic would not take anyone else hitting Lucian very lightly. He wasnít sure why he knew this, but he just did. As for Tashira, she would undoubtedly kick his ass. The only reason she hadnít killed Dominic yet was because Lucian didnít seem to mind it when he and the other had their usual brawls. That meant that bringing Angelique along was totally out of the question since she had been the catalyst for what had happened during his last meeting with Lucian. They would just have to sort out their problems right now. That was if it was even possible to fix them.

"Angie!" he yelled after the girl as his cousin turned around to regard his summons.

She pulled the pick from the doorknob and placed it back in her pocket before leaning against the doorframe. Her lilac eyes glided over him, soft and frightened. She probably knew that he was going to ask her about her nightly visits again. Why did she seem so loathe to telling him about them? Did she truly believe that she was doing something wrong?

"Waiting for me again, Tye?" replied Angelique in an almost curt tone. "I donít need you to agonize over my absence as if you were my mother or something."

"I know," Tyrell sighed, lifting Thorne into his arms and scratching behind the puppyís ears to quiet the low growls that he kept making. "But I was only waiting for you because I wanted to show you what I picked up at Cyeís today. I thought youíd like to see."

Angeliqueís frown disappeared as she spied the creature in Tyrellís arms. Good, she wasnít anticipating a fight anymore. Tyrell held the fidgeting Thorne tightly and ambled over to the girl, adopting a tentative smile. Angelique stepped away from the door and made her way over to the other youth, clasping her hands behind her back and lowering her head to appear less frightening to the puppy. She stopped just in front of Tyrell and pointed at his possession. Thorne was growling and flattening his ears as his long legs kicked at the boyís arm in a wild attempt to get away.

"Ow! Be careful, Thorne!" yelped the boy as Thorne swiped his back paws over his stomach.

His companion grew somber and looked back at the crazed animal. "Thorne? Such a fearsome name for such a fragile creature," she stated, examining the puppy from a safe distance.

"Yeah well, I hear German Shepherds make great guard dogs when theyíre adults. Iím sure heíll grow. Wonít you, boy?"

"Then, heís perfect for you, Tye. In a way, youíre both striving to reach your true potential," asserted Angelique, lifting an uncertain gaze from Thorne. His growling was clearly disturbing her, though Tyrell couldnít determine why that was.

It made him even more eager to show her that he was still on her side. He dropped to his knees with Thorne and silently pleaded with Angelique to mimic his actions as he gave her a mournful glance. Shaking his head softly, he waited for her to kneel down and then whispered, "Heís perfect for us, Angie." Angelique blinked at him and then crawled closer so that she was leaning against his side, still keeping some space between her and Thorne.

"Weíll see, Tye."

"Here. Why donít you hold him for a second? Iíll go get some supplies so I can draw him for art class. I could use the extra credit," Tyrell suggested, nudging the puppy toward his cousin. Angelique frowned again and hugged the other youth suddenly.

"I like holding you much more," trilled the girl as the unavoidable blush colored Tyrellís cheeks.

"Please Angie, Iíd really like it if youíd hold him for me. I got him for the both of us. You always liked animals."

A heavy sigh left the older teenager and she lifted her arms from Tyrell as she peered down at the puppy. He seemed to be trying to hide under Tyrellís arm even as the excited growls continued to echo from his throat. Angelique started to reach toward Thorne and then jerked her hand away as she met the dogís unsettling eyes. "He looks unhappy. What if he tries to bite?" she pressed, looking confused and uneasy at the same time. What had she seen in Thorneís eyes just now?

Determined to prove to his cousin that his pet was just as gentle as they came, he grabbed the animal by his nape again and held him before her. "Thorne? Oh, heís just a teeny widdle fuzzball."

"With a set of cute sharp teeth," added his companion bitterly, pulling back a little more.

Tyrell scoffed at her display and tried to drop Thorne in her lap as Angelique scrambled to the side and the puppy rolled onto the ground. He glared at Tyrell and barked sharply. Then, his head whirled back to Angelique and he resumed his choleric snarls. The boy quickly dragged Thorne away from his cousin and tried to calm him down by whispering assurances in his pert ears and rubbing his surprisingly plump belly. He wished that Thorne would quit mucking this up with his antics.

Thorne hadnít seemed this afraid of other people back at Cyrusí. He had seemed happy to be held and touched by strangers. The only thing that seemed to bother him had been the fact that he wasnít able to run about whenever he was being held. Aside from that, he was a very friendly animal. So why was he acting so cold around Angelique? A familiar saying popped into the boyís head. Animals were believed to have the ability to sense when something was wrong. It was also said that they could sense evil. Well, he could never believe that Angelique was evil, but Thorne could definitely be telling him that something was different about his cousin. Worse of all, that something was probably bad.

"I donít think he likes me."

The girlís voice caused him to stop his actions with Thorne and deliberate how he could get Thorne to trust Angelique. It would have been easier if he would have at least been able to convince himself that he really trusted her. But Thorneís reaction and Angeliqueís behavior around the puppy were creating significant doubts in his mind. Angelique was changing. He couldnít deny that. If only he knew what was actually causing the shift and more importantly how he was supposed to either stall or stop the change altogether. Still, he couldnít let Angelique know how he felt. He had to try to have more faith in her. She had been his best friend for as long as he could remember. Angelique deserved more from him.

Shifting his eyes from her path of vision, he curled his fingers in Thorneís fur and looked back at her. "Why do you say that?" he questioned, feigning confusion.

"Donít you see how heís looking at me?"

Frantic, Tyrell turned the puppy in his hold so that it was facing him instead of Angelique. Thorne kept trying to turn around as he used both hands to force the animal to remain still. "Youíre seeing things. Thorne loves people," Tyrell accused in a shaky voice, trying his best to ignore the way Thorne was squirming.

"Iím not like most people," uttered Angelique in a perfectly straight tone.

"Angie, this is a dog. He could care less what anybody else thinks of you. Puppies love to be held, especially this one."

"All right, Iíll take the dog if it will make you happy. Come here, Thorne," the girl consented, leaning over and grasping the puppy underneath its forelegs. Thorne struggled as she carefully brought him back to her lap and set him down on her knees.

Eyes flashing, the puppy whined and scurried off as Angelique reached out to catch him. Instantly, Thorne jerked his head back around, snarling and snapping at her fingers. His teeth managed to cut into one of the offending digits and Angelique pulled back with a loud cry. Her scream was followed by Thorne rushing back to Tyrell and diving behind him. He poked his head out from his hiding spot and barked viciously, despite the high-pitched ring that plagued all of his yelps.

Angelique scowled at the yipping animal and wrapped her bleeding finger in her shirt. "I told you that hateful beast would bite."

Angry at the way his plan was collapsing before him, Tyrell smacked Thorne on the nose and roughly pushed him toward his room. He knew it wasnít really the puppyís fault, but he had nobody else to blame at the moment and he was feeling so awful. Thorne was ruining everything. It wasnít supposed to be like this. The puppy was supposed to have given both him and Angelique a common bond that they could share. He wasnít supposed to create even more problems for the two of them. Not only that, he was fiercely trying to convince himself that Thorne was just freaking out for no reason and that there was really nothing wrong with Angelique. Everything was fine. Why couldnít things be that simple anymore?

"Bad boy, Thorne! Shoo!" he snapped, watching the small creature hang his tail and run off, vanishing behind the front wall of his room. Seeing how he had frightened his new pet only increased his sorrow. He turned to Angelique, looking completely crushed as well, driven to the very edge of his composure. "Iím sorry. I canít understand why he did that. He seemed so nice. Maybe you just spooked him."

He failed to realize the impact of his words until he saw the twisted expression on his companionís face. "Yes, I have that affect on many things," Angelique said in a wounded timbre, quickly climbing back to her feet.

Her friend jumped up and caught her wrist. "Not again, Angie. Nobodyís afraid of you. Theyíre just curious because of the way youíve been acting lately. They just want to know whatís going on."

"Believe what you wish."

"I will!" hollered Tyrell, feeling a small wave of anger wash over him as Angelique blew off his attempt to comfort her. This was the first time she had ever treated him so churlish when he was struggling to appease her. "Youíre acting really vindictive," he added under his breath as he let her wrist fall to her waist.

Stiffening, Angelique snapped her gaze back to him. "Give me a reason not to. Your friends...."

"Wonít hurt you! Please, Angie, how many times do I have to repeat myself? They wonít touch you. I would never let them hurt you. Never!"

"You?" mocked the girl, rolling her eyes as she leaned close to Tyrell. "You? You would stand up to your great and powerful Guardians?"

Tyrell stepped back and nodded his head firmly. "Yes! Iím not afraid of them."

"Really?"

"Yes. They are my friends. Even so, you will always come first. If I ever truly believed that they were endangering you, I would force them to back off. I would make them listen to me. I would! They know I run this show. They need me! They would have to listen. If I thought for even a second that their intentions toward you were malicious, Iíd put a stop to it.

"But the facts are that they are not out to get you, Angie. They are simply wary because you are so close to me. Whatever decisions you make could directly affect Kat and me. Thatís all theyíre concerned about. Theyíre just doing their job. You canít hate them for that."

"No?"

"No. I wonít let you. They are my friends. They deserve your respect," the boy informed, realizing how angry he was becoming with his cousin.

He was sick of this rivalry between her and his protectors. They were going to be around for a long time. She would just have to get used to it. As long as they didnít try to hurt her, she shouldnít have any reason to hate them so much. Even if it were jealousy that moved her this way, she would just have to learn to deal with it. The Guardians were important. Not only that, they really did need him. He couldnít force them away. The episode with Lucian had already shown the dire results of such an action.

Yes, helping Angelique was important. Of course, it was. But as much as he didnít like to admit it, he knew he couldnít completely ignore the welfare of his other friends. It was his responsibility to help them as well. If it came down to a final choice, he would always choose Angelique. That was set in stone. But as things were, he was still hoping to find a way that he could meet the needs of both his cousin and his loyal friends. It was this fight for an equilibrium that was yanking him in so many different directions. How long was he supposed to go through this? He couldnít take it much longer.

"I deserve respect too, Tyrell! I deserve truth and loyalty and faith," snarled Angelique, sounding as though she was attempting to keep her voice from breaking. Her eyes looked so vulnerable and abandoned.

She surely thought that he was turning on her. All she wanted was him to grant her the same trust that he gave to the rest of his companions. Tyrell was well aware that he had been lying and hiding things from her for some time now. It must have been hard on her to come to terms with the notion that she was no longer worthy of his trust. Now, he was always accusing her of doing the same to him. No wonder she saw him as such a hypocrite. He felt himself grow sick at the realization and he fought to keep his voice steady as tears gathered within his eyes. It was time to tell Angelique the truth.

"I know," he moaned, slumping against a wall with a hard slam. "Thatís what I wanted to talk to you about, Angie. I want us to be close again...like before. This whole mess has been setting us against each other and forcing us apart. I hate it! And I hate being your boyfriend because it isnít real! I have always preferred the illusion to reality. But I canít do it with us. Youíre too important to me. When it comes to you, everything has to be real. It has always been that way. Except for now. Even Lucian and Kat have something more than us. I may not support their relationship, but I support the fact that it is based on mutual respect and not petty emotions of loneliness and the like. Thatís what changes physical emotions into actual love. Thatís what I want for us. We used to have those feelings. Canít we still? Canít we even try?"

Tears were already making tracks down his face, as Tyrell rubbed at them with his hands, embarrassed to be making such a scene. It was just so hard to be calm right now. Everything was going to hell and the one person who had always been there for him during such times was turning into his worst enemy. He hated feeling this animosity toward his best friend. It just cut at him like a dozen dull-edged blades, hacking away each piece of him in a slow and agonizing fashion. This method of torture was much more damaging on his psyche in that it took much longer to reach its end. By then, there would barely be anything left of him.

His legs buckled underneath him and he fell to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Tyrell leaned over on his knees as he cried against the carpet, clutching at the fibers with his fingers. He wanted to stop, but he couldnít. Saying all of that stuff just now had meant that he had finally been forced to accept what was going on. It was all too much. The crap with the Keys, Vincient, the Guardians, school, Angelique, and his damn dreams. All of them seemed to be vying for the last piece of him. He was tired of letting everyone pick him apart without any concern for his feelings. Nobody had ever asked him if he was ready for any of this and now it was all amassing for one massive strike on his sanity. He was in trouble and this time, he wasnít sure if anyone could rescue him. That was if anyone even wanted to.

Did he even want to be saved? Really, he just wanted everything to go away. If things couldnít go back to normal, then at least he would just be left alone again. He would be able to hide in his own world--a world where he wasnít part of some ancient destiny and where Angelique wasnít standing against him. A place where they could both be happy, as he had always fantasized. There would be nothing to stand between them. No dreams, no Guardians, and no bonds of fate. It would be perfect. Ultimately, that was the reason why it would never happen. Nothing in his life was perfect. No matter how everyone kept telling him otherwise, he alone knew the truth. His life would never be his own. He was owned by fate.

"Tye," murmured Angelique as she cautiously wrapped her arms around Tyrellís shoulders and lifted him back up. Tyrell slowly set a hand upon her arm and she rested her forehead on his back. "I would like to try."

"Angelique," Tyrell breathed, leaning his head back and drawing in a shuddering breath. "I miss the way things used to be."

"All things must change, Tyrell. Nobody can alter the course of fate."

"I donít care what I have to do, Iím going to find a way to prove that wrong."

"I still want to help you," assured the girl, lowering her arms so that she was hugging him across the chest. She sounded so sincere. Maybe, she was willing to open up to him this time. Tyrell felt his cloud of depression beginning to lift a little.

"Just tell me about Vincient," he entreated, keeping his head turned to the side so that Angelique wouldnít see his incriminating gaze. He still couldnít get past the fact that she had denied him so many times already.

The older youth lifted her head from his back with a groan. "Always him. God, Tye, you are jealous."

Tyrell tried to swerve his head back to meet her eyes, but he couldnít manage it from the position on his knees. "Iím not! Besides that guy has what? At least fifteen years on me, I imagine. Even if I was jealous, what good would it do?"

"Fine. So why is he so important to you?"

"I think Iíve heard of him before. I have no way of knowing if this is the same person unless you tell me about him, but the Vincient Iíve heard of is not a good man. Heís very dangerous. If your friend is the person that I think he is, heís just using you to find out more about me and the others. It would be safer if you just told me exactly what you two talk about," explained the boy, moving his hand down to Angeliqueís and squeezing firmly. "I just donít want you to get hurt."

"That is so crazy! Whoever told you that garbage?" Angelique exclaimed.

"...Lucian. Lucian told me," lied her companion, predicting what was about to come next. Angelique didnít like Lucian at all. He was the only person that he had ever seen Angelique hold an obvious grudge with. Something about the other boy got under her skin. Maybe he could see something about her that she was unwilling to see. Or maybe it was Tavores who could see the truth. Angelique sensed something threatening from one of them. He just wished there were a way for him to mend this bridge between them. If there was anything in the world that really brought him down, it was knowing that his friends were out to get each other.

"He would tell you such an extravagant lie. He would do anything to break your trust in me. That boy is such a demon."

Something inside of him jumped at hearing that word fall from Angeliqueís lips. She had said demon. Why not jerk, or nuisance, or even bastard? Why demon? Could it be that Angelique really did know what Lucian was? Was that why she wanted him to stay away from Lucian? Was that why she hated the other boy so?

His mind resisted the notion and he tore away from Angelique and spun around to stare frantically into her darkening eyes. He jabbed a finger at the girl as his shouts left him in a rush of furious denial. "No, heís not! Never say that, Angelique! Do you hear me? Never say that! You donít even know what youíre talking about."

"Are you so sure?" replied his cousin in a furtive tone. Her eyes seemed to search for the truth behind his words as they leered at him.

He was forced to lower his eyes so that she couldnít probe them any further. This was getting out of hand. They were supposed to be talking about the dangers of Vincient, not the dangers of Lucian. Lucian was his friend. Even if he wasnít one hundred percent human, he was still his friend. He knew that Lucian would never try to hurt him. But then again, he had believed the same thing about Angelique and her actions were beginning to hint otherwise. If Angelique could change so much so suddenly, couldnít Lucian as well?

The thought was disconcerting. If Lucian took up the girlís pattern of transformation, he would be a much more dangerous obstacle. For the first time, the parallels between the two started to appear to him. He suddenly understood that there was more going on here than just a personality shift. Angelique was switching between two separate personas, much like Lucian and Tavores. Perhaps, Vincient had some hand in this type of schizophrenia.

"All right, this ends right now!" he barked without looking at his friend. "I donít want to talk about Lucian or any of the others. I only want to talk about us and about Vincient. If you ever truly trusted me, Angie, youíll talk to me. Itís important!"

"Youíve let all this go to your head."

"Be reasonable, Angie!" ordered Tyrell, jerking his head back up at the girl as his eyes trembled with despair.

For a minute, Angelique appeared taken aback by his statement. Then she shoved him onto his back and leapt to her feet, visibly shaken. She shot him a sickening smile and balanced herself against the wall, her eyes filling with tears.

"Reasonable? What would you know about being reasonable? When have you ever had to be reasonable? Youíve had the perfect life, Tyrell. Youíve never had to question your past or your purpose. Youíve always known everything about yourself. So you have disturbing dreams. You have a loving family and caring friends to help you get through them. Aside from that, you only have to deal with your dreams when you sleep. As for my problems, I have to deal with them every waking moment of my life! Not knowing who I am. Not knowing about my father. Not knowing why Iím even here! If a person can give me the answers to those questions, I donít care what he is. Iím willing to take any risk."

"Even at the lives of your cousins and their friends?"

"Iím not putting anyone in danger!"

"Angie, you just donít understand," the boy argued, crawling to a stand. "This is bigger than you could ever imagine. As Iíve already explained, your connection to Kat and me makes any action of yours influential to our well being. You have to be careful who you...."

"Then, why donít you just stay away from me? That way my actions wonít be able to hurt you!" hissed Angelique through tears, hurrying over to her room and slamming the door behind her as the lock clicked into place.

Moving over to the door, Tyrell rapped against with his knuckles. The wave of misery that had begun to crest over him practically made him fall against the door with its weight. "Angie, please donít be like this," he begged, sinking to his knees as his fingers slid down the surface. "I need someone to help me now more than ever. I donít understand anything thatís going on. Iím terrified, Angie. I just want to protect you. Thatís the only reason I want you to tell me about Vincient. Please donít shut me out. I canít handle this alone. Itís too much. I donít know what to do."

"Run to your Guardians, Tyrell. Iím sure they can comfort you. You donít need me anymore. And I donít need you," Angeliqueís emotion-choked voice rang from behind the door.

"Thatís not true!"

"Stay away from me, Tye! Just stay away."

Emotionally shattered, Tyrell stayed at her door for a good part of the evening, head bowed as his tears sank into the painted wood. When she refused to respond to any more of his pleas, Tyrell came to the conclusion that Angelique not only intended to continue visiting her Vincient, but that she also planned to avoid him altogether from now on. His charge that she was placing him and his sister in danger had been too hard for her to take. He would have given anything to take back those words. They had come out much differently than he had meant them to. Instead of carefully showing Angelique how she had to be cautious with who she opened up to, he had made it sound like Angelique would have to choose between him and the person who she claimed could answer her most important questions. Angelique had chosen Vincient. To her, a few days of revelation concerning her life meant more than a life-long friendship with the person who loved her most. She was that desperate to learn the truth. There was no way she would ever come to understand why Tyrell distrusted Vincient. He would have to find another way to protect her from this Vincient. He would have to rely on the Guardians.

Getting up from the floor, he trudged back to his room and called Thorne out from under his bed. Tyrell placed him on his lap and picked up the phone to make a call. He dialed the familiar number and waited through the three rings before finally receiving an answer from the other end. Wiping at his eyes with his sleeve, he greeted the other person and sniffled quietly.

"I think Iím ready to talk now. Can you pick me up?"

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

Lucian escorted the still teary-eyed youth into the family room as Tashiraís head popped out from behind the corner and asked Tyrell if he would like some strawberry cupcakes. Her brother answered for Tyrell and then motioned for his friend to take a seat on the couch. He smiled at the other boy, hoping to change the look of dejection that had taken over Tyrellís visage. When this failed to have any effect, Lucian sat down beside the younger youth and placed his hands behind his head, adopting a more casual posture.

"So what should we start with?" Lucian asked cheerfully, catching a doleful expression move across his companionís face.

"Shouldnít we wait for Dominic? He might get angry with you if heís not here," remarked the other boy.

A sneer curled Lucianís lip. "If heís not here, thatís his own problem. I told him that I was bringing you over. If he would rather spend his time somewhere else, then let him."

He saw the dumbfounded look on Tyrellís face and slumped slightly against the cushions of the couch. Okay, maybe he was more perturbed by Dominicís behavior than he was allowing himself to believe, but he had a reason to be. Following their little talk in the bathroom, Dominic had given him the cold shoulder throughout the rest of the meal. He had indeed switched seats with Erik and had stared at something to the side of the table every time Lucian had tried to say something to him. Tashira and Erik had pretended to ignore the change in mood, but Lucian could tell that they could guess that something was amiss with the two boys.

Erik had even tried to work a response from Dominic by mentioning something about how Lucian was acting as melancholy as him. Dominic had just glared at her and huffed indignantly, before turning to face the wall. He was really acting childish about this whole thing. It had just been one tiny mistake. So he had slipped up and told the others that they had kissed. He doubted that either girl had been paying enough attention to the comment to realize just what he was getting at. Of course, they could have done without Dominicís juvenile outburst, which probably only raised more questions about his statement. Well, what else should he have expected from the master of subtlety?

It was a good thing that Tyrell had given him a call just now. He had been looking for something to keep him from exploding at Dominic for his stubbornness. After all they had just been through, why did Dominic see fit to toss it all away because of one stupid mistake? He was entitled to be upset, but that didnít mean that he had the right to treat him like crap for the rest of the night. Dominic had barely even acknowledged him when he had informed him that Tyrell was coming over to talk to them about Angelique. He had just stared back at him before returning to his room. Now, he was apparently planning on making himself scarce for the time being. Lucian was too exhausted to really care. Dominic had said that he didnít want to fight anymore. He didnít really want to fight either. It was best to let things settle on their own.

"I take it you two are fighting again," Tyrell stated as he observed the flustered look in Lucianís eyes.

"Nah. Heís just throwing a fit because I said something that didnít sit right with him. Give him a day and heíll forget about it," replied the redhead, waving of the severity of Tyrellís questioning. "Besides, Iím sure you donít need to worry about our problems when you have enough of your own. What's with the tears?"

"I think Angieís in trouble," the younger boy mumbled, folding his hands under his chin and leaning his elbows on his knees.

"Ah, thatís why you got so defensive of her the other day."

"I still shouldnít have struck out at you, Lucian. I knew that you werenít yourself at the time."

"Itís over with, Tye. Why bother revisiting the past? It doesnít do any good. Letís just discuss this situation with Angelique."

"I love how you Guardians always seem to forget about me whenever youíre having your private powwows," snorted an arrogant voice as Erik entered the room, holding a glass of distilled water. She studied the pair of boys on the furniture and stalked over to the couch, glowering with each step. Suddenly, she jerked forward and slammed her hands down on Lucianís legs. "How come you arenít waiting for Solanis? Donít you boys usually handle these things together?"

The red-haired boy couldnít help but wonder why Erik even cared what he shared with Dominic. She sure seemed bitter about the fact that he was speaking to Tyrell all by himself. It was almost as though that bothered her more than the notion that the Guardians were excluding her once more. Interesting. Maybe he wasnít the only one who had taken a more serious interest in the eldest Guardian. It had seemed strange for the blond to want to come home with them after their meeting at the restaurant. She hadnít done anything but stalk around since they had returned. Why had she requested to join them at their place? Erik had seen how the group was going through a minor crisis with his and Dominicís shunning each other for the time being. Why would she put herself in the midst of their feud? Erik had always ignored such trifling matters before. Yet, she had practically insisted on accompanying them in her car this afternoon.

"Why do you care, Erik?" Tyrell questioned as Lucian pushed the blond off him.

"Yeah! What does it matter to you?" snapped the redhead, checking her eyes for any signs that could reveal her true intentions.

Erik was almost impossible to read due to the way that she carried herself. She managed to pull off Dominicís indifference flawlessly. There were rarely any slips in her facade. It was this trait that made the blond so dangerous. Nobody could ever find the method behind Erikís actions. She walked within a different world. There, she held the ultimate power over the lives of everyone. But unlike Dominic, who knew that he was only fooling himself with his brutish display, Erik honestly believed that she was capable and destined to control others. It was the one driving force in her life.

But the obscurity in her eyes made Lucian speculate that something had upset her delicate balance. She was hiding something and this time, she wasnít flaunting the fact. Erik was uneasy. He hadnít even known that Erik could feel such an emotion. She had always seemed to be able to take charge of a situation no matter what was going on. Her self-control was baffling. What could have possibly caused her to doubt herself now?

"Iím almost positive that it was Solanis who dragged your selfish ass back to your sister. I also can safely assume that it involved some risk to his personal safety. You owe him your gratitude and your very life. He does not deserve to have you taking matters into your own hands when they concern the Keys, who are just as important to him as they are to you, just because of some immature squabble. If this is the way you treat him after what heís done for you, I canít understand why Solanis would choose to waste his time worrying about a pitiful creature such as yourself," Erik ranted as her hands began to shake and she flung them behind her back. "Youíre not worth the trouble."

Despite himself, Lucian winced at the words as part of him demanded to know if Dominic felt the same way. After that feeling had quickly passed, fury overtook Lucian and he prepared to retaliate for the cruel way that the girl had insulted him. But Erik suddenly pulled back, guilt passing through her chestnut eyes. She stared down at the floor and walked backwards, falling back into a chair across from the boys. Lucian was puzzled by her behavior. Erik had never cared about hurting his feelings. So why did it seem to be getting to her now?

"That was a really bitchy thing to say," commented Tyrell, sending a heated glare toward the other youth. "If what you say is true, I'm glad Dominic helped Lucian. Lucian could have been hurt."

"He did get hurt," another voice interrupted in its cold tone. There was a tinge of regret in the words. Lucian spied the speaker coming down the intersection of the hallway, clutching a piece of notebook paper in his fingers. A set of condemning amethystine eyes sought out Lucianís and he turned his face against the couch, gripping at the top of the cushions.

"It wasnít that bad," he grit through his teeth, feeling the urge to hate Dominic for revealing such a debilitating truth to the others. They didnít need to know that he had been injured. All they needed to know was that he was fine now and had successfully escaped the Chimera. Dominic had no right to give out his personal business without his consent.

"You were hurt, Lucian? How?" whimpered the youngest boy, turning excitedly to his companion as his eyes glistened with fear and disbelief. "You didnít tell me that you were hurt."

"I didnít think it was important."

"Why not? Are you still angry with me because of the other day? Did you think that I wouldnít care?" Tyrell continued to demand answers, horrified at the thought that Lucian had deceived him. "Iím your friend too. How could you not tell me?"

"We all lie to each other," responded Lucian, knowing how insensitive it had to have sounded to Tyrell.

"So this is pay-back? I wouldnít tell you the whole truth about me and Angelique so you decide to hide the fact that you were hurt to get back at me?"

"No! Itís not like that. I just..." The older youth broke off from his sentence and shot a livid glance toward Dominic as he waited in the wing, still doing his best to avoid him. "Damn you, Nicky! You knew that I really didnít want to discuss this. Why did you bring it up? How would you like it if I were to mention a subject that was uncomfortable with you? I can think of the perfect example."

Dominic cut him off. "You shut your mouth! My problems and yours are totally different. Mine concern no one. But your injuries concern those who care about you. Why should you lie to them about your health? Maybe, it isnít essential for Erik to know, but I believe that Tyrell should know whether or not one of his Guardians is capable of performing in top notch condition."

"I thought you werenít talking to me," mocked Lucian, aggravated by the incontestable logic in Dominicís explanation. So Tyrell deserved to know what had happened to him. Okay. It didnít mean that the subject had to be brought up so bluntly. It still seemed like Dominic was just doing this to get back at him for his comment at the restaurant.

Erik leaned forward on the chair and regarded Lucian with clouded eyes. "How were you hurt, Ambrose?"

"I donít think I feel like answering that," declared the boy as he felt a rough tap on his shoulder. He turned to find himself staring into a pair of resolute gray-green eyes.

"I would also like to know the answer to that query," Tyrell pressed, staring down the older boy. Lucian bit his lip and scowled at Dominic. This was all his fault.

"All right, you all donít have to gang up on me. Iíll tell you. That asshole Lionelle beat the shit out of me and cut me up pretty bad. I have lash marks all over my body and countless bruises. Shiraís been working on the wounds, but since they are quite numerous, she canít fix them all immediately. So as of now, Iím probably suffering from a fractured leg and whatever injuries were caused by Lionelleís whip. Is that enough information for you, Tye? How about you, Erik? Are you two happy now? Iím sure you are, Nick," Lucian spat, gazing at each of the youths in turn, but saving an especially enraged look for his partner. "There, you got me back for today. Can we stop ignoring each other now and act our age?"

His partner averted his eyes and settled into an awkward lean on the wall. It was likely that the dark-haired boy planned to remain in that spot for the rest of the conversation. He was not satisfied yet. God, Dominic took everything too seriously. Why couldnít he just let it go already? He was being such a jerk. The title that Lucian had given him during their fight so long ago still rang true. Dominic was the Worldís Biggest Jerk and for now, there was nothing Lucian could do about it. His friend wouldnít forgive him until he was good and ready. If he tried to push him further, Dominic would just get violent or withdraw completely. It was a no win situation. With Dominic, it was always a no win situation. There could only be stalemates and compromises. Well, they were currently at their usual stalemate. A compromise had to show up sooner or later.

"You should have told me you were hurt. I wouldn't have given you so much trouble earlier today," Tyrell murmured, looking away from Lucian as well.

"I don't want to be pitied or given special treatment, Tye. I am a big boy. I can stand on my own two feet. I've had enough of being coddled for now."

"So you didn't tell me because you were afraid that I would act different around you?" asked the younger boy, hoping that there was another reason for Lucian's dishonesty.

Lucian sunk farther into the couch and hung his head slightly. "I didn't really want to talk about it anymore. I just wanted to forget about it. I knew if I told you, not only would you worry more than you need to but you'd also want me to talk about it more. I didn't want that."

"I'm sorry, Lucian. I just thought that friends should share things with each other."

"Friends should also know when to drop a subject that clearly pains the other to discuss," Lucian groused, causing Tyrell to turn around once more in response to the bitterness in his voice.

"Yes, they should," commented Dominic from his corner, giving a Tyrell a warning look. Lucian was relieved to see his partner taking his side for the first time since their fight.

Tyrell caught the intent behind the glance and swallowed deeply. "Well, I guess if Lucian doesn't want to talk about it...."

"I don't," Lucian clarified in a sour tone.

"Okay."

"It won't matter much longer anyway. Shira should have everything healed by the end of the week. Then, this will all just be a distant memory," added the redhead, trying to fall back into his usual laid-back dipostion.

"Such injuries. I didnít realize that they would do that," whispered Erik, regaining Lucianís attention with her convoluted words.

"Why wouldnít they torture me as viciously as the could? Weíre enemies. Weíre on opposite sides of this fight," he pointed out, lifting his an eyebrow at Erikís shifty manner. "The Chimera want to kill us. They damn near killed me."

The blond rubbed her hands together in a neurotic motion and lowered her eyes. "Yes, they want to kill you. Youíre the...enemy. Of course. Thatís the way they see it. Itís as simple as that. Youíre working against them and they need to stop you." She paused. "Overall, itís fairly impersonal."

"Believe me, Erik, it was very personal."

"And whatís with all this Ďyouí crap? The word is Ďus,í Erik. Donít forget you want us to consider you a Guardian as well. The Chimera also stand against you," added Dominic, inspecting the girl with obvious distrust. Dominic was also disturbed by the way Erik was acting, just like his partner. Both boys could tell that Erik was struggling to keep something from them. Something bad.

"Right, us. I wasnít paying attention to what I was saying. I did mean us," Erik rambled, immediately closing her mouth upon realizing how insincere she sounded to the others. "Youíre right, Solanis. The Chimera stand against me as well."

Lucian regarded her for a moment before shifting his gaze toward Dominic. "Speaking of us, where the hell have you been, Nicky? I told you that we were going to have a major talk with Tye. Why didnít you come down?"

"Not that itís any of your business, but I was arranging my readmission into Carthala with one of the administrators. Thereís a bunch of stuff I have to do before theyíll put me on the student registry again. Thatís what this is for," grumbled Dominic, flashing the piece of paper before the group and then crumpling it up so that he could shove it into his pocket. "If Iím going to stay with your family again, I might as well make productive use of my time. Iíve never had a serious problem with school and I wouldnít mind getting back into the high school mindset."

"Itís good that you can find something to enjoy," Tyrell murmured in a rankled undertone. "We wouldnít want you to be miserable all the time."

Before anyone could react to his slander, Tashira pranced into the room with a large bowl of misshapen cupcakes. She grinned at Tyrell and then selected the spot near his end of the couch as her sitting place. Tossing a dessert to her brother, she offered one to the younger boy, and then began to make short work of her own cupcake. Not surprisingly, she never asked either Dominic or Erik whether they wanted a cupcake. Lucian didnít really think that either youth cared enough to be resentful.

Tashira began to munch on another confection as she hung her head at the way that Tyrell was gaping at his treat. The top of the cupcake was collapsing down the side and the bottom was far too short to support the dessert. That was probably the reason that Tashira had to bring them in a bowl. Lucian tried not to notice the imperfections and finish his own pastry, but he was just too agitated to enjoy his meal. Having both Dominic and Erikís eyes watching him at the same time was eerie.

"Sorry the cakes look kind of weird. Itís very hard to concentrate with the four of you screaming at each other," Tashira moped, shooting an accusatory glance toward her usual scapegoats.

"Itís okay, Tashira. They still taste fine," comforted Tyrell as he took hearty bites of the fluffy cake.

"Aww, Tyrell, youíre such a sweetheart," the silver-haired girl cooed, pulling the boy into a friendly hug. "Iím so sorry that we have to force you to share your concerns about Angelique with us, but we must be careful. You and Kat are very important to us. We have to make sure that we know of anything that could be endangering you. And Angelique just seems to be very strange to us. Maybe you could tell us why."

"O-okay," stuttered the boy in her embrace. He cleared his throat and proceeded to detail the whole tale of Angelique, Evangel, and Vincient.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Tyrellís story left many questions in Dominicís mind as he listened to the boy share his long kept secrets with the rest of the Guardians. He had heard this Vincient being mentioned before. Fang had alluded to him during their fight and he recalled running into the name during his perusing of Aidenís letter so long ago. Aiden had never said much about the man, only that he was a dangerous adversary and sought to find the Cruce. What Tyrell seemed to be expressing was leaning toward the possibility that this Vincient was either insanely powerful already or that he wasnít entirely human. But if this sorcerer was so strong, why hadnít he shown himself before now and why was he wasting his time with Angelique when he could be seeking out such much better game?

Another thing that heightened his feeling of distress was the involuntary way Lucian would drop his eyes whenever Vincientís name was mentioned. He knew something about this man. This belief was supported by Lucianís unusual silence during the majority of the conversation. He rarely interrupted Tyrell and when he spoke, it was in a short and choppy fashion as if he was trying to get his point across as quickly as he could so that he could return to his quiet listening.

Even Erik and Tashira held back on questioning the boy during his narrative. They were so amazed at the things Tyrell was telling them. These dreams about Evangel and the way they always seemed to reflect Angelique in some way sent his synapses into overdrive. He wanted to solve this enigma right away before its effects could come into fruition. Angeliqueís power was strong enough as it was. It would not do to have a potentially deadly entity tapping into that magic and possibly using it against the Keys.

There was only one thing that Tyrell failed to bring up during the course of the meeting. The Cruce. Either that bit of information had slipped the boyís mind or he simply didnít want to share it with the others. As far as Dominic knew, he was the only person with whom Tyrell had divulged the truth about his cross. He couldnít criticize the boy for being wary about the knowledge of the item; it was a delicate subject. Tyrell was right to limit the Cruceís identity to only those he placed total trust in. The boy had not spent enough time around Erik and was not certain of her absolute loyalty. His choice to hide the whereabouts of the Cruce from her was a sign that Tyrell was finally starting to take his precautions to heart. That was a pleasant change of pace.

As for Lucian, it was pretty much a given that Tyrell had told him. Tyrell had shown his faith in Lucian many times. Although Lucian had complained about Tyrell keeping things from him back at Loreleiís, Dominic guessed that the complaint was probably relating to Tyrellís desire to keep Angeliqueís issues a secret. He did not think that Tyrell would share the true form of the Cruce with him and not impart this same information to one of his best friends. This assumption could be tested later. For now, he could allow himself to believe that Lucian and he were on the same level when it came to the Cruce and the Alistars. Now, whether the redhead had let his sibling in on the secret was yet to be determined.

"You should find out more about this Vincient character," he spoke sternly, gaining the eye of every figure in the room.

They must have thought that he planned on just listening idly the whole time. Why ever would he do that? He was just as capable of formulating strategies as Tashira when he put his mind to it. It was just that the other Guardians seemed to feel that he was more useful applying his mind to fighting techniques. Personally, he thought that it was just an excuse for Tashira to consider herself having more power than she actually did. It was an ego trip for the girl.

Lucian had to allow it because he was too impetuous to ever take time out to plan things. He would rather handle things his way. The quick and direct way. The stupid way. Thankfully, the more sensible side of Lucian encouraged him to let Tashira design a viable strategy before he took matters into his own hands.

"How do you suggest he go about with that plan, Nicky?" It was spoken by the subject of his meditation, who was rubbing the back of his neck in strokes that seemed strong enough to peel off the skin. Why was Lucian so uncomfortable with this subject?

The boy by Lucian's side nodded his head and pushed back mahogany hair with both hands. He was probably stressed out of his mind. "Angie wonít talk to me and I canít follow her because I lack the stealth for it."

"I suppose one of us could pull a little detective work," the redhead suggested, seeming more than a little antsy about the idea.

"No, Angie is very perceptive. She would know if someone was following her."

"Some-one, yes. But maybe not some-thing," mused Dominic, moving from the wall and entering the center of the group.

Lucian turned to him with wavering eyes. "Iím not sure thatís a good idea. The wolf may be stealthy and powerful, but itís not invincible. You could be up against a really wicked guy, Nicky. What if something went wrong?"

"I will just see to it that that doesnít happen," the older youth said in an adamant tone.

"Sometimes stuff just happens, Nicky. We canít always predict or prevent it. Youíd be taking a serious risk with this."

"I donít need you to tell me how to do my job, Lucian. Iím aware of the risk. But I also know that this would be the quickest and most efficient way to learn if Angeliqueís new confidant is really this Vincient. Thatís more important than any misgivings I may have about using the wolf to trail Angelique."

His friend rose from the furniture and stepped in front of him. "I still donít think itís right. Besides, Iím not sure Tyrell should even agree to having one of us spy on Angelique. Their relationship is strained enough as it is, this could damage it even more."

"Since when is that our top priority? The Keysí safety comes first. You know that. Stop attacking me with your moralistic ideals," growled Dominic, shoving Lucian out of his way and then cringing when the other boy held his chest.

He hadnít struck him that hard. The impact must have landed on one of his injuries. He would have to remind himself to be more careful around the younger teenager. Lucian was still healing from his torture. Their daily rows would have to be toned down for a while.

Ignoring the fact that Tashira was lunging toward him, Dominic grasped the wrist on Lucianís side and pulled him back, side-stepping the girlís violent slap. He set Lucian back down on the couch as carefully as he could, while still applying extreme force to keep his partner in line. Lucian cursed at him and tugged his wrist away as Dominic leaned over him, pinning him to the cushions by his shoulders. Dominic felt Tashiraís hands curl around the back of his shirt.

"Dominic! Get away from him!"

"Back off," he warned, not bothering to look back as he continued to maintain eye contact with the red-haired boy. "I wonít touch him again." Dominic paused and waited for Lucian to do his part.

"Heís fine, Shira. Go back to the other side," snarled Lucian, also keeping a fiery glare on the other's eyes.

Tashira grunted and released Dominic, pushing him slightly as she went back to her side of the couch. Once he felt her hands leave his shirt, Dominic removed his palms from Lucianís shoulders and looked back at Tyrell. "Do you see a problem with my suggestion?"

Tyrell was still frowning at the way he had treated Lucian as he gave a heavy sigh. "No. If you can protect Angie, I will support any method you use. As long as sheís not hurt, itís good enough for me. You know what youíre doing, Dominic. It would be stupid to argue with you. I wish that you wouldnít be so willing to risk your life, but if you feel that it is the only way, then you wonít find any resistance from me. I just want to help Angie."

"There, he grants me permission. What do you say to that?" Dominic asked in a snide huff, directing his question to Lucian.

"Itís a stupid plan," denounced the redhead, tossing his head to the side.

"Got a better one?"

"Ambrose is making sense for once, Solanis. This plan of yours isnít foolproof. It could be dangerous," Erik chimed in, tapping a nail against one of the arms of the chair.

What was going on? Now, Erik was opposing his methods? This plan seemed less foolhardy than her usual style. It was very hypocritical of her to protest his scheme when hers were just like it. Since when did Erik care about risks and moral dilemmas? He didnít see what was so horrible about his strategy to begin with. All it consisted of was him waiting for Angelique to go visit her friend one night and then following her as Wolf. While he was checking out the location of her new friend, he could learn just what the two talked about and then spread the information to Tyrell. They would know if Angelique was in fact associating with Vincient and could then act on that knowledge. So there was a tiny chance that he could get caught and have to deal with the possibility of a sorcerer's wrath. It wasnít like he wasnít used to fighting. Why did everyone hate his idea so much?

"Nobody asked for your opinion," he snapped at Erik as the blonde's eyes flashed with even rage.

"And since when are you the leader of this operation, Solanis? Youíve been running around on your own for the last month. When Ambrose decided to play a little disappearing act on us, it was Tashira and I who had to manage things. The way I see it, Tashira is in charge. Isnít it she who concocts all of your schemes?" the blonde reminded him, smirking at the way Tashiraís mouth fell open at the sight of Erik speaking in her favor.

"Stop it," Tyrellís brusque voice echoed through the room. All eyes turned to him and he got up from his seat. "I think Dominicís plan will work. None of you have pitched anything better yet. Unless you have something else to suggest, I think you should let Dominic do what he wants." He walked up to the eldest youth and fixed a pleading look on his face. "I know you donít like me, Dominic. Sometimes I donít think I like you very much either. But I also know that you will always do your best to help me. I told you before that I considered you my first Guardian. I still do. I believe that you will help me win Angelique back. You have my blessing to do as you will. All I ask in return is that you be careful."

Dominic stared at his charge in shock. Tyrell was actually siding with him! He was siding with him instead of Lucian. Everything Lucian had said about this having the chance of further ravaging his relationship with Angelique had been true. Tyrell had to know that. Yet, he still chose to go with his plan. The boy must have had a lot of faith in him, much more than he had given him credit for. He believed he could protect his cousin. Dominic swore to himself that he would do everything in his power to live up to Tyrellís expectations. He would give him a reason to trust in him.

"I will," he promised softly, patting Tyrell on the shoulder, and then began to leave the group.

The younger boy gave him a hopeful smile and raised his eyes to Lucian. "I should be getting back now. Thereís still class tomorrow."

Lucian pushed himself to his feet, watching Dominic through the corner of his eye as he joined Tyrell. "Iíll give you a ride. Just give me a sec. I need to say something to Nicky before we go," he remarked, sending Tyrell toward the door with a gesture of his hand. As the boy trotted off, Lucian caught up to Dominic and held him back with one hand. "Why are you doing this?" whimpered the redhead.

"What am I doing wrong now?"

"This isnít safe."

"Then I should think that you should have no problem with it. If itís not safe, it must be dangerous. Your kind of fun, right?" sneered Dominic, lifting Lucianís hand from his chest.

He was still unready to forgive him for the dumb way he had acted in front of the others earlier that day. The younger boy had flirted shamelessly throughout the beginning of the meal and then had topped off his unrefined display with that degrading comment. What had happened had not been a joke. Lucian had no right to take the situation so lightly. Didnít he understand how hard it had been for him to forget about his curse long enough to kiss him? Even if he had downplayed the significance of the action and passed it of as a prank, he couldn't stand the idea that Lucian would go so far as to mock it. He had been trying to make Lucian feel better! Didn't Lucian get it? Was this all just a joke to the other boy? Did he take delight in manipulating his emotions and twisting them so out of proportion that he no longer knew how to react?

Something inside Dominic warned him that he should have been prepared for this. He knew what type of person Lucian was. Lucian lived in a world of his own design, one where all human emotion was just a thrilling game to him. Danger was his favorite type of game, but he also sampled in the art of romance and trickery. None of these meant anything real to Lucian. They were just for fun. Things he could use to kill his time so that he didnít have to focus on the less happy aspects of his life. It was all one giant distraction. An illusion which Lucian had no desire to leave. It wasnít all Lucianís fault that he saw the world this way. It was just the way he was.

But part of Dominic rebelled against that truth and it was this rebellion that had caused him to take Lucianís jokes so harshly. Despite everything they had been through, it always seemed that he was nothing more than just a means of entertainment whenever the other boy pulled these stunts with him. He didn't want to think that Lucian saw him as such.

At the same time, Dominic was terrified that it was more than just a game to Lucian. Perhaps, the younger youthís jesting manner toward their relationship was merely for his benefit. To pretend that it wasnít serious so that Dominic wouldnít be scared. Either way, it was these conflicting views that had left Dominic so devastated at the restaurant. He didnít know which was the truth and that lack of control both infuriated and frightened him.

"Right. My kind of fun," his friend whispered, shutting his eyes and hanging his head. "Mine. Not yours."

His words struck the wrong cord with Dominic. The dark-haired boy threw his hand away from him, forcing back the other youth. "Oh, so now you think that I canít handle this because itís your kick?"

Steadying himself against the wall, Lucian shot him a wild, desperate look. "No! Itís just that this is way more dangerous than you think. I know what Iím talking about, Nicky. I canít explain why, but I know this is real ugly stuff. I donít want to see you get hurt."

"I can take care of myself, Lucian. I donít need you to mother me," Dominic told the other in a callous snarl. He didnít have time to play with Lucian. It was like a game, with each player switching from side to side, going from playful teasing to heartfelt sincerity in a matter of seconds. Once Lucian finally settled on an emotion, then he might be ready to consider reasoning with this matter in a more civilized fashion.

As things were, he just wanted to leave the boy as soon as possible. He watched the frustration sizzle within Lucianís garnet eyes as he added; "I told you that I didnít want to speak with you for the rest of the night. I was kind enough to waver that rule long enough to discuss this problem with Tyrell. But now my generosity has waned and I want to reinstate my previous command. Donít talk to me anymore. I have a lot to do before tomorrow."

Giving him an incensed glare, Lucian lifted his head and jerked away from the wall. "Tye, weíre going NOW!" He brushed past the older boy, pushing him into the wall with all his might. "I donít care what you do! If you want to be pigheaded and get yourself killed, be my guest! Why should it matter to you how others feel?" the redhead shouted as he took Tyrell by the arm and dragged him out the door.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Upon reaching Tyrellís house, Lucian had decided that when he returned home, he was going to try to reason with Dominic again. He hadnít liked their parting words and didnít want to end the night on such a wicked note. It had been a long time since he had had Dominic home with him again. He didnít want to screw up everything within a day. His pride demurred the decision to prostrate himself before the older boy, but he was through with listening to it for now. It was his pride that had landed him in this stupid situation in the first place. He had been too proud to persist in his pacification of Dominic after their fight and now Dominic was angrier with him than ever.

"Lucian, do you want to see Thorne before you go back?" Tyrell asked as he climbed out of the front seat.

"Thorne?" repeated Lucian with a perplexed cock of his head.

"Yeah, heís my new pet. Heís this really adorable German Shepherd pup. And heís all white. Itís so cool."

"Another dog? Donít tell Nicky. He has a bit of a possessive streak in him. He might have to fight him for you," the older boy laughed, exiting the black vehicle and locking the door with the key.

"Yeah. Iíve thought about that too," admitted the other as he chuckled at the idea.

Tyrell led Lucian up to his room and opened the door. The second the door was ajar, Thorne rushed the boys and began to jump against Tyrell, barking energetically. When the puppyís eyes fell on Lucian, he dropped to his feet for a minute and then pulled back his ears as he studied the red-haired youth. Muffled growls escaped his mouth, but none of them carried any sign of great fear or ferocity. He inched forward and sniffed Lucianís ankle while the boy crouched upon the floor. Thorneís brown eyes lit with excitement and he looked up into Lucianís dark red eyes. The puppy hung his tail between his legs and glanced at Tyrell for help.

"I think the pup senses something off about me," noted Lucian, intensifying his gaze on the animal. "Strange, Wolf never seemed to pick up anything different."

"You think he can sense the demo...Sorry. I meant do you think he can sense Tavores?"

"Itís okay, Tye. Tavores is a demon. Figuratively and literally," the other boy replied, remembering how heartless Tavores had been back with Lionelle. He hadnít even cared that he was hurt.

Tavores had been more concerned with forcing his aching body to save them. The prince had made him so angry with his frigid behavior. Tavores cared nothing for his feelings if they didn't affect him. Since Tavores couldn't feel the pain on the same level that he could, his suffering meant nothing to the prince. All that mattered to Tavores was staying alive so he could experience his second chance. Whatever pain he had to force Lucian through to meet his goal was acceptable. He was such a selfish person, even after death.

Still, Tyrellís slip-up did bother him a little. He hated having to think of that part of him. Listening to Tavores' rants was bad enough, but the realization that he was forever linked to this spiteful entity was an undeserved punishment. The fact that Tavores' presence brought along with it the presence of a demon just made everything ten times worse. That side of his soul had always disgusted him. It was so much easier to pretend that it didnít even exist. Then he could be human like everyone else.

But how was one supposed to pretend with an animal? Thorne could evidently sense that he was not like Tyrell. He could sense the demon inside of him. Oddly enough, Thorne didnít seem afraid or anything; he just looked confused. Though the puppy could tell that Lucian was different, maybe he could also see that he was not a threat. He just needed some assurance.

"Show him that Iím your friend, Tye. That might calm him down."

"Good idea," agreed Tyrell, tossing an arm over Lucianís shoulder and inclining his head against him. "See Thorne. Lucian is our buddy. He wants to be your friend. Come over here and let him pet you."

The uncertain look vanished from Thorneís eyes and he crawled over to the pair, wagging his tail like a furry banner. He scooted over to Lucian and hopped onto his legs, sniffing at his shirt and pawing at the cloth. Lucian lowered his hand to caress his fur and Thorneís tongue flickered across his fingers, making the redhead snigger at the sensation. Thorne appeared to be at ease with him now that Tyrell had registered him as a friend.

Wouldnít it be nice if such a technique would work with the rest of the world? It would sure solve a lot of problems, such as the effort of constantly having to hide his eyes and eternally lying to everyone he knew about himself. He never took joy in keeping the others in the dark and he especially detested it when he had to do it with Dominic. The one person that he desperately wanted to accept his affliction and he just couldn't risk telling him.

"Wow! He sure took to you quick. Even my word didnít convince him to trust Angelique. He even bit her," the younger boy quipped, astonished at the way Thorne was familiarizing himself with Lucian.

Lucian thought about his statement as he rubbed the puppyís side. "Hmmm. I think youíve got yourself a really special animal, Tye. He can pick up on things that others canít. Not even Wolf has ever suspected me of not being pure human. This puppy was meant for you. It must be another one of fateís creepy quirks. I think that Thorne was supposed to warn you that Angelique might not be all human herself. Perhaps, she really is related to this Evangel."

"Do you think sheís like you? A reincarnation?"

"Maybe. She could also be half-and-half. Nobody knows who her father is and youíve said your aunt wonít speak about it. Sounds ultra suspicious to me."

"Evangel wasnít a demon, Lucian. She was a familiar of the deities. Kind of like an archangel, I guess."

"Hey, now youíre being picky," whined Lucian. He became silent as the conversation brought back an earlier thought. "Tye, do you really think that Angelique knows Vincient?"

"I donít know for sure. But thatís what my instincts keep telling me," Tyrell explained, taking Thorne from Lucian and stroking his fur in attempts to chase away his stress.

"You shouldnít have given Nicky your consent," contested the older boy, shaking his head at Tyrell. "He could really get hurt. If this is actually Vincient that Angeliqueís been hanging around with, itís not safe for Nicky to check on it all by himself."

"Donít you have faith in him, Lucian?"

"Of course, I have faith in him! But this isnít about faith; itís about common sense. Nicky should not be allowed to go up against Vincient. He doesnít even understand who he really is."

"Heíll be okay. Iím sure of it. Dominic is really smart and heís pretty strong. Plus, heís my best chance to rescue Angelique from herself."

"Why not send me?" Lucian demanded, staring hard at the boy next to him.

Tyrell averted his eyes and hugged Thorne close to him. "Youíre hurt," he whispered in an angry tone. "And Dominic has Wolf. Itís easier for him to track a person without being noticed. He tracked me for some time before I realized that he was around."

"It doesnít matter. Nicky has no idea what heís up against. You and me do. Tavores has told us. We understand what Vincient is capable of. Nicky doesnít have this knowledge. Heís practically rushing in blindly. Itís not fair to let him do this."

"I need to help Angelique," Tyrell persisted, squeezing Thorne so tight that the puppy let out a tiny yelp and bit his arm. "Dominic can help us."

"I know, Tye. I know you want to help Angelique. So do I. But I canít condone letting Nicky place himself in danger that he isnít completely aware of. Not even for Angelique," countered the other, grasping at his hair and taking rushed breaths.

He felt so lost. Why didnít Tyrell understand him? Dominic was setting himself up for a critical fall. He couldnít let Dominic get hurt by Vincient. Vincient had ruined Tavoresí life. The other boy had shown him this so many times through his dreams. He had seen just how evil Vincient could be. If Dominic were caught, it would be very bad.

"But Lucian...." the younger boy began as he gave Lucian a questioning glance.

"No! Youíre not listening. You canít let him spy on Angelique. Not if it could involve Vincient. I-I donít know what Iíd do if something happened to Nicky."

"Lucian, I donít...I donít understand," stuttered Tyrell, blinking at Lucianís reaction.

Lucian tore his hand out of his mane and staggered to his feet, assaulted by the flood of emotions crashing down on him. Fear, concern, and rage continued to absorb his thoughts, leaving him with nothing but a feeling of repulsive dread. Dominic had saved his life. He had dragged him out of the black hole that had become his soul following the older boyís departure. He had called him special. People had called him many things throughout the years, but only Aiden and his protégé had ever called him special. There was no way he could let Dominic face off with Vincient without even knowing what he was doing. He had to go back home. Dominic had to be reasoned with at all costs. Even if it meant breaching Dominicís rules of contact and dealing with the consequences, he had to make sure Dominic knew how immensely dangerous his plan was.

"Forget about it. Iíll make him see things my way," Lucian said hurriedly as he jumped up and sped out the door. "Take care of that dog. He could come in handy soon."

*~*~*~*~*~*

The youth sprinted toward the entrance, leaving a very befuddled boy in his wake--a boy who was struggling with many new questions about his pet and about his friend. Curiosity demanded that he learn more about both, particular the answer as to why Lucian was so passionate about Dominicís safety. What was going on between the two boys anyway?

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Comments: NO SLASH? Sorry, it had to be delayed until next chapter. Most of it is already finished though and it should be done soon. In the meantime, this is what we call a connector chapter. It serves as the thing that will link the next two elements introduced in the story. At first, it was just going to be a small piece and then I realized that it had to be expanded to show everything I wanted to. If anyone is confused, the key points of this chapter are Angie and Tyeís fight, Erikís secretive behavior and guilt, the Tye/Nicky interaction, Nickyís real reason for being angry with Luce, Thorneís gift, and finally the controversy over Nickyís plan to follow Angie. This is also a lead-in for the slashy elements that shall be the focus of the next chapter.

Next chapter: everything that I said would happen in this chapter

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