Chapter 37--Lie to Me--

Angelique was puzzled at the lack of people in the house. Kat was off somewhere, after she had been despondent all day long. Listless and determined at the same time, the girl had been trudging along the halls and rooms, muttering things to herself and pausing to go over things in her head. Angelique had suspicions that Kat was either going crazy or that she had had a really rough day.

As for the twinsí parents, they were at the business dinner, avoiding their children as always. It didnít matter that both Kat and Tyrell had insisted on being left behind since they hated formal gatherings, Angelique knew that both adults were secretly glad that they didnít have to spend time with youths that they simply couldnít understand. The whole concept of the Keys was beyond their grasp and they usually chose to ignore it and carry on as if nothing was happening rather than ask Tyrell about anything, not that Tyrell would share in the first place. Tyrell rarely shared anything with anyone, save the Guardians, anymore. He let them believe what they wanted about the Arteme/Darcel family having a perfectly ordinary life.

Tyrell, himself, was also gone, probably off to spend time with his wicked Guardians. He cared about them so damn much. She had even begun to believe that the only reason that he truly wanted to make amends with her was so that she would stop slandering the Guardians. They meant more to him than her anyway. When he had problems, they were who he ran to. It didnít matter that she was never around. If she had been available more often, she was still sure that Tyrell would have turned to his new friends. He saw them as safe. Tyrell just saw her as a danger. Wasnít that what he had said during their last conversation? She had gone through extremes not to talk to him since. Tyrell didnít even seem to care.

Perhaps, he was jealous and didnít know how to tell her so he escaped his feelings by running off with the others. Though why Tyrell would think that she was attracted to a much older man was beyond her. She didnít see Vincient because she was interested in him in that way. Theirs was a much deeper relationship. She could talk to Vincient about everything and he would listen without judging her or demanding that she take this or that action.

Vincient knew so much. About the Keys and about her power. He told her that it wasnít a bad thing at all and that it could be used to protect her dreams. With it, he had said that she could discover anything that she wanted to know. It only acted up when she felt she was being threatened deep down and didnít want to admit it. Vincient had told her that her power wasnít perverting her personality, it was merely making her see things as they truly were.

At first, Angelique had been skeptical to this reasoning. Now, looking back at all that had happened, she was willing to admit that Vincientís hypothesis made sense.

The man had also promised to help her unravel the secrets of her past. He had said that she wasnít just an average girl and that her power had to have come from some source aside from just the Amethyst. It was in her blood. Therefore, one of her parents had to have some sort of magical energy within them. Angelique knew that her mother had nothing mystical about her so she had narrowed down the source to her mysterious father. Agreeing with her assumption, Vincient had suggested that she use the information she now had to convince her mother to tell her the truth, whatever it was. Angelique had never yet run across one of Vincientís notions that had failed her, so she had concurred, saying that she would return as soon as she spoke with Ciara.

Now, it seemed that she had her ideal chance. Ciara was the only person left in the house since her mother rarely attended social gatherings. Her mother always had been nervous when around too many people. It was a trait that Angelique regretted inheriting.

Her ache to know about her past was about to be satisfied. Angelique entered her motherís room to find Ciara sitting on the bed, flipping through a fantasy novel. As much as Ciara hated anything out of the ordinary, it was unusual for her to take pleasure in reading such a piece. Hearing her daughter come in, Ciara folded the edge of the page she was on and closed the book.

"Itís nice to see you, honey. I havenít seen you much lately. Youíre always out. Itís good to see that youíre becoming more social, but you should be careful. There are dangerous people out there."

"You canít hide from the world forever, mother. Itís about time I started to experience more. I am seventeen and will be leaving you for college next year. It might be hard to shelter me then," Angelique responded, intentionally trying to sound cynical.

"I know that. Itís just that you donít know what itís like to make a mistake that you can never take back. I just want to make sure that your life is better than mine," said Ciara, hanging her head to the side.

"How can you do that when you wonít even tell me what happened to you?"

"Angelique, that is not the tone to take with me," her mother reprimanded, shaking a finger at her. "I have perfectly good reasons to keep things from you. Things which could hurt you. It is not necessary that you know everything. All that matters is that you avoid the path I chose."

Angelique glared at her and paced on the floor. "And what was that path? Thatís all I want to know. Thatís all Iíve wanted to know my entire life. Why canít you just tell me? Iím not a little girl anymore. I can handle it. Believe me, Iíve probably been handling things much worse lately."

"You are wrong. Nothing youíve dealt with can possibly compare."

"Tell me why you hate your past so much, mother. Iím sick of waiting. Iím old enough to know."

"You will never be old enough! I donít want you to be old enough! What happened then; it doesnít matter. It will never affect you. I wonít let it!" shouted Ciara, standing up from the bed and advancing on the girl. "You are my daughter, Angelique. My flesh and blood. Iíve done everything I could to make sure that you had the same chances as any other child. You have a family and you have security and you have people who love you. You donít need your past. Itís not for you. It will never be for you."

Tyrellís words quoted almost word for word. That is what her mother had just given her. Who were they to tell her whether she needed or didnít need her past? They werenít her. Neither of them knew how she felt. They couldnít understand how she had always felt lost in life; never knowing what to make of anything, always feeling detached from others.

Her cousin had been the only one that she had ever connected with. He had been different. It wasnít just his personality. It was something about him. Something familiar. She had always found it easy to latch onto him. He seemed to have an inner strength. It drew her like a moth to a flame. Tyrell had something within him that made it possible for him to recognize her longing and understand it. He meant something to her and even though she couldnít comprehend what that was, she knew she had to stay with him.

Then, he had left her to contend with his own problems. As he had gotten closer to the Guardians, the feeling that seemed to draw her to him had gradually faded. Tyrell could no longer understand her. The Guardiansí words and beliefs had clouded his mind and made him forget how to use that unique aura he had always carried.

Somehow, she could tell that most of his change had to do with the boy called Lucian. That one had something much different than the others. Something darker and sinister. Part of her continued to classify the boy as an enemy, one that she had been meant to hate since the beginning. The fact that Tyrell allied himself with a person of this nature bothered her. It was he who was destroying Tyrellís ability to see her. His presence had an odd way of diluting her cousinís special power. He was not like the other youths.

Maybe with her own power, she could challenge his influence and get Tyrell back to the way he was. But first, she had to learn more about what or who had passed the gift onto her. Ciara was wrong. She needed her past, now more than ever. The answers about her birth were the only things that could help her understand her power enough to use it properly. Ciara would not deny her again!

Sneering at her mother, Angelique reached into the side pocket of the long flimsy sweater she was wearing. The sweater was thin and reached to her knees, hiding most of the loose black slacks underneath. It shifted as she felt the tear-shaped object within the cloth pocket. Touching its surface filled her with a new sense of clarity and resolve. She would get her answers today, no matter what it took.

"Whether my past shall affect me or not should be my decision alone. It is my past and I should be allowed say in it. Tell me what it entails so that I may judge for myself what I wish to do with the information," Angelique spoke firmly, choosing not to back away from her mother despite the furious look in the womanís eyes. She jerked down her hand. "Now!"

"I donít know whatís come over you, Angelique, but you will NOT order me around. You are not too old to be disciplined!" yelled the woman, rearing back her hand to physically correct her insubordinate child.

The girl avoided the blow as she reflexively sought out the power of the Amethyst concealed in her clothing. Her eyes swam in the rich blackness and she could feel a rage flowing into her at the same time as the comforting energy. She looked straight at her mother and released the will of the Amethyst, watching as her mother sank to the ground, clutching her chest and sobbing.

"Stay away from her! You canít do that to my baby! I wonít let you turn her into some demon! Sheís not like you. She is innocent. She doesnít deserve such a fate. Sheís not your goddess!" Ciara shrieked, curling in on herself as if trying to protect something in her arms.

Still not recalling the power, Angelique viewed the scene in curiosity, wondering what else she could learn from her parentís nightmares. Ciara was bawling so hard that she could barely speak as she continued to beg an unseen person to spare her child. She twisted her neck and tightened her eyes, trying to free herself from the vision that was tormenting her.

"How could you do this to me? How could you let me believe you were a gentleman when youíre really...this...this...monster? You will never have my Angelique! I would see myself dead first. I donít care what you say she is. She is my daughter, the most perfect angel Iíve ever laid eyes on. She will not be twisted by your treachery. I will take her away from you! Far away where weíll never see you again. Angelique will be the same as everyone else. Iíll show you that she is not your Evangel. Angelique is just a normal girl. Thatís what she is and thatís what I will do everything in my power to make sure she will be. You will not destroy her life for some mystical prophecy. She will stay with me! Forever! And I will always keep her safe from YOU!"

"Who are you talking to, mother?" Angelique murmured to herself as Ciara screamed again.

"I will make sure she never even learns who you are! Never will she hear your name spoken, not even in hatred. For you no longer exist to me. You, Vincient, are nothing but a heartless monster!"

"Vincient!" exclaimed the girl, losing contact with the Amethystís essence and causing the spell to wash away from her mother. "Vincient? How do you know him?"

Ciara looked up from the ground and gawked at her daughter with terrified eyes. "Angelique? What did you do to me?"

Desperate for answers, Angelique snatched her mother off the ground by her arm and slammed her against the bed. The woman was too exhausted from her torment to resist as her daughter shoved her against the side of the mattress with a strength that Angelique wasnít even aware of. She dismissed the oddity and forced her shaking eyes to bore into Ciaraís aghast expression. Her eyes were now giving off a dark violet shade since the black had not disappeared from them completely yet and the gentle lilac was still coated in the darker hue.

"Answer me! How do you know Vincient?"

"Angelique, I canít!" Ciara refused, shutting her eyes and trembling in fear.

Possessed by an insatiable anger, Angelique pulled her back and slammed her against the surface once more, trying to keep her convulsing hands on her motherís skin. "Tell me right now!"

"Angelique..." whimpered the woman, gazing at her child as if she had become a vicious creature.

"If you donít tell me, then Iíll use the Amethyst again to get my answers!" Angelique threatened, reaching into her sweater with her other hand.

That worked. She knew that her mother could not take the nightmares again. Tears fell from Ciaraís eyes as she lowered her head and choked, "He is your...father."

"What!"

"Vincient is your father. Heís why I brought you here fifteen years ago. I wanted to protect you from him. He wanted to..."

"What did he want to do?" demanded the girl, her hands slipping away from her parent.

"Vincient was out of his mind. He believed he had magic. He kept telling me that you were the reincarnation of some ancient deity. He said that he had a way to make you become her completely. He wanted to take you away from me. So I took you away from him. Jace, Tyrellís father, had always been one of my best friends in my childhood. I ran to him and he agreed to help me. I didnít me to burden him for so long but I was so afraid that Vincient would find us. I couldnít take the chance of living on my own. We needed protection so I stayed with the Artemes. You and the twins were so close when you first met. I saw no harm in letting you grow up, believing that they were your cousins. I didnít want you to know about Vincient because I couldnít take the chance of you looking for him. I just wanted to protect you, Angelique. I love you. I just wanted to keep you with me. I never wanted that man to find you."

"Too late," her daughter mumbled, backing away from Ciara with glassy eyes.

"What?" questioned Ciara, getting up from the bed and stepping toward her child.

Angelique began to back up faster, not even paying attention to where she was going. This couldnít be true! Vincient was her friend. He wouldnít lie to her. Vincient was the only friend she had left. Ciara had to be making this up to scare her. But why would she say Vincient? Did she know about whom she had been seeing lately? How could this be?

She was the daughter of a sorcerer? She was the reincarnation of Evangel? It explained so many things but there was no way it could be true. It just couldnít! She had to get out of here. She had to find Vincient and ask him for herself. He would clear everything up and things would be just fine. Vincient would help her.

"Angelique," the older woman pleaded, seeing the fear in the youthís eyes.

"Youíre lying!" Angelique screeched and fled out of the room, listening to her motherís piteous entreaties for her to stop. She couldnít stop now. She needed Vincient. Vincient knew everything. He could tell her the truth. She didnít need any more lies. Not from her mother. Not from the Artemes. Not from Tyrell. Not from anyone. She just wanted the truth. That was the one thing that she was going to make sure that she got.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Erik watched the red-haired youth as he approached her location, carrying a Calculus book in his left arm and waving to a departing figure with his right. From the side of the locker, Erik could see that the other was a less bitter Dominic, who even went so far as to mouth something back to his partner. She didnít catch what he said but noticed Lucian roll his eyes at the remark before reaching into his pocket and slapping on a pair of tainted glasses. He turned around to continue on his path, supposedly to the dinning hall. Both Erik and her current target had the same lunch period today.

"PDA's arenít allowed in the halls. Hmph! He thinks heís such a smart-ass," Lucian laughed to himself, crossing Erikís side.

The girl slid her leg into his path without making a sound. As she had hoped, Lucian was too preoccupied with musing about Dominic to notice her action until it was too late. He tripped over the outstretched limb and sailed toward the floor. Erik shot out a hand and grabbed him by the collar of his uniform, jerking him upward and back toward her just before he hit the ground. She had to be careful not to slam him into either the wall or the lockers beside her. It wasnít guaranteed that Lucian was completely healed yet and she wasnít looking forward to any cries that might alert others.

But her hesitation proved to be detrimental as Lucian cursed at her and pushed her backward, making a rather audible slam against the lockers. She wanted to slug the boy for being so stupid. Did he want to make it look like they were having a fight? A detention was the last thing she needed now, especially if she had to spend it with him. Every second she was around him, she could feel that sickening feeling eating at her insides. She hadnít felt such a thing in a long time. The worse part was that she knew just what was causing this reaction, but she couldnít reason why it was affecting her like this. Guilt. What did she have to feel guilty about? She didnít even like Lucian.

"Are you trying to give me a heart attack? Jumping me like that?" the boy snapped at her, breathing roughly as he tried to regain his composure.

"You exaggerate everything, Ambrose," Erik replied, getting up from the locker and sidling over to the other youth. "Did you forget that I wanted to talk to you? I told your sister to tell you."

"Most people call out someoneís name or tap their shoulder. They donít pretend that theyíre some sort of assailant," ranted Lucian, obviously not planning on letting up on the subject until he got some sort of apology. He would be waiting for a while then. Erik only allowed herself to feel so much guilt at a time. Lucian had used his up for now.

She glanced at the boy wickedly and picked up the book that he had dropped during his fall. "What if I were to say that I was just keeping you on your toes?"

Lucian reached over and snatched the book away, his facial features shifting into his customary sarcastic grin. "Iíd say you were a bitch." He closed his eyes and tossed his shoulders. "But hey, thatís just a reflexive response."

"Well, you should thank me. I just pointed out that despite your previous problems with the enemy, you still havenít learned to expect that unexpected. Youíre still reckless. Youíre going to get hurt again if you donít change that attitude."

Her companionís hand shook at his side, fist clenching and unclenching in an unnerving rhythm. But instead of turning from her as she had anticipated, he glared back at her so hard that it seemed that his garnet eyes had come alive with vengeful fire, even though the glasses toned their color to brown. She felt her eyebrows rise of their own accord and took a step backward, feeling the slightest bit of fear from seeing such a vicious look in the otherís eyes. Something about the look seemed unnatural and very dangerous.

"Just tell me what this about, Erik! Or would you rather delight in having me remember being with those assholes? You seemed to blanch at it last time. Have you regained your nerve so soon?"

At his words, Erik felt her old malice returning. "I never lost it," she hissed in a seething tone.

"Prove it, cupcake." His eyes bored into hers once more, though they seemed to have lost a touch of the savagery that they had contained moments ago.

"Isnít that precious? Do you address Solanis with such fluffy titles?" retorted the girl.

A look of interest passed through Lucianís eyes and he smirked at her mischievously. "And why would you want to know?"

The tone announcing the start of the next class blared through the halls. Erik was glad for the distraction, as Lucian looked up, annoyed at the idea of being caught in the halls after the bell had sounded. It was kind of surprising to see this reaction from the boy. She had assumed that Lucian had no problem with breaking the rules. He should have been used to the repercussions by now. Yet, he sure seemed upset at the idea of getting in trouble.

"Damn it! Nickyís going to kill me if I have to stay after today. Heíll be pissy all afternoon," Lucian grumbled, running toward the dinning hall. Suddenly, he paused inches away from the door and rushed back to Erik. As she gawked at him in bewilderment, the boy grabbed her wrist and yanked her with him as he dashed into the cafeteria. "You still havenít answered my question, goldilocks."

Fighting back the urge to knock Lucianís head off, given their very large audience at the moment, Erik grit her teeth together and yanked her hand away from the boy with enough force to throw him to the floor. A few students laughed and others taunted the pair with their usual "Oooooh." Great! She had definitely not wanted this much attention. If she was going to lose her temper so carelessly, she might as well have just slapped the youth.

Realizing the situation, Lucian crawled to his feet and punched Erik in the shoulder almost playfully. "God Erik, you are such an ass." Erik was minutes away from responding to his blow when she caught the grim expression in Lucianís eyes. He wanted her to play along, which meant he wanted her to act like a normal male chauvinistic moron.

"Well, you were the one being a gay little prick," Erik replied in a forced tone that was meant to give her the illusion of joking. She realized a second later that she could have chosen her words a little more tactfully as Lucian bit his lip and adverted his eyes, trying his best to avoid laughing. It was clear that he was already chortling within his throat.

There were some disgruntled whines as the students turned from the pair, disappointed that their fight was just for fun. As with most teenagers their age, they wanted to see some carnage. Lucian was looking forlornly at the long line for lunch and tossed an angry look back at her. He blamed her for his troubles. Lucian had some nerve. He should have blamed himself for being so insistent on getting an answer from her. He ought to have known better than to think he could drag her around like he did with his partner. Lucian and Dominic might have enjoyed playing their abusive games with each other, but there was no way that they would try the same thing with her.

"Going to answer me now?" his voice reached her ears, causing her to glower at him.

"No."

Lucian sighed and peered at the line again. "God, Iím too hungry for this crap. Look, letís go get some snacks from over there and then we can go outside and talk." He pointed to a much smaller line that served a choice of treats from nachos to milkshakes.

She denied him a response but waited patiently as he bought a small shake. As she saw the exchange of money between him and the cashier, she motioned to him with her eyes and exited through a door on the left side of the cafeteria, stepping into the outside eating area. It was usually reserved for the warmer seasons, but the staff didnít really care if any students were crazy enough to use it during winter or fall. Rest assured, no other students would be foolhardy enough to interrupt her conversation with Lucian in that setting.

He soon caught up with her as she walked amongst the benches and barren trees. Sipping at his milkshake, he lifted his eyes to her. "Arenít you going to get anything?"

Actually, Erik felt too uncomfortable to eat, but she wasnít about to let Lucian know that. Instead, she gave him a disapproving leer and leaned against one of the benches. "You need to rethink your priorities, Ambrose."

The other gave an aggravated groan and nibbled at his straw. "Thereís another thing Iím getting sick of." He pulled the drink away and waved it in his hand, spilling a few drops of strawberry on the dry grass. "My name is Lucian. Luu-shen. Itís not that hard to pronounce. Nicky mastered it so Iím sure you should have the hang of it from now. The whole last name thing you seem to have with me and Nicky is real annoying. You never call Shira or Kathy by their last names. Though thatís probably Ďcause theyíre girls like you and you seem to have some power trip going on. So why donít you call Tye ĎArteme?í"

"You and Solanis are my rivals so last names are more fitting."

"You know, I am this close to calling you Gay-eal," warned Lucian, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

"Suure, you are. You canít even say it right," Erik mocked, chucking at the way Lucian absolutely murdered the pronunciation of her name.

"Itís not Gay-eal?"

Erik lifted her feet onto the lower part of the bench. "Try Guy-ail."

"Sounds like a southern hick trying to say gale. Guy-ail. Itís not even a normal surname," sniggered the boy.

"Is that so, Ambrose?"

Lucian moved his eyes to the side and sipped at his drink some more. "You know Iím beginning to think that you purposely chose to catch me while Nickyís in English. What? Canít you threaten me around him anymore? Or are you afraid?" The boy seemed to catch the troubled look that flashed through her chestnut eyes. Setting down his text and drink, he leaned toward her and set his arms on their side of her legs, close enough that any other person would have expected him to be trying to kiss her. A cynical laugh trickled from his mouth, the soft purr tainted with acid. "Whatcha afraid of, princess?"

She grabbed his shirt and yanked him toward her. "So confident that your idol will watch your back?" the girl challenged, growling into his face.

That taunting laugh echoed in her ears yet again. "And why shouldnít I be? Nicky can take out almost anyone. Besides, I donít need him for protection."

Drawing his legs up, he kneeled along the bench as he leaned farther over Erik, forcing her onto her back. Erik was taken by surprise at his action and couldnít manage to get her mind to function well enough for her to fling him from the bench. Lucian loomed over her with a haughty sneer. Then, he lowered his head toward her ear and whispered in a chilling voice, "I can still do a fair deal of damage by myself." Before the threat could even become coherent in the blonde's head, Lucian grabbed his possessions, leapt up from the bench and returned to standing next to it.

Unsure what to make of the youthís last actions, Erik sat back up and brushed her fingers through her hair, smoothing down the strands that had become mussed as she had laid on her back. She decided to let Lucian get away with his joke for now. Her temper had already gotten the better of her too many times today. Moreover, it was her temper that had placed her in this whole situation. Well, her temper among other things.

Turning back to the boy, she shot him a carping glance. "I wasnít referring to your skills. I was referring to your trust. You and Solanis seem...whatís that stupid words these teens use...tight. I can tell that youíre much closer than either of you are letting on."

"Then I suggest you keep that knowledge to yourself," countered Lucian.

"And I suggest that you two remember what weíre dealing with and keep in mind that any weaknesses could be utilized by the Chimera. Relationships are the classic Achillesí Heel of many a fighter."

Her words seemed to have the desired affect on the youth as he glared at her, bristling at her denouncements. "Thank you for that oh-so informative lecture, mother. But I think that I can make my own decisions. And I think you can stay the hell out of my business!" he yelled, whirling around and heading back toward the building.

"You canít leave yet! Iím not finished!"

"You are as far as Iím concerned. You yanked me over here to basically tell me not to get involved with my partner, which clearly has little to do with you or our task. I donít have to listen to this. You may be a Guardian, but youíre not the type of person that I would take advice from. Hell, I rarely take advice from my closest friends. So that tells you were you stand, Erik."

Deep down, she wanted to let him go. It would keep her from having to do what was bound to me the most humiliating thing in her life. But that nagging feeling of guilt continued to gnaw at her, replaying the same words over and over inside her head. Words that just wouldnít go away. Words that seemed like a devastating prophesy. She wished more than anything that she could have taken them back. Why had she said something like that? It was so unlike her. Yet, she had spoken them and in doing so had trapped herself in this mess.

"About your ex-partner, Solanis, I will keep an eye on him for you. He is quite careless sometimes. He needs someone to see that he stays in line."

She had not kept her word.

Closing her eyes and jerking down her head, she shouted at the boy. "You dumbass! All I wanted to do was...apologize!"

*~*~*~*~*~*

Slowly, Lucian turned around. "Huh? For what?"

He couldnít understand why Erik had said that just now. When did Erik ever apologize? For that matter, what had she done to him that warranted an apology? Well, she had treated him rudely all period, but she hadnít seemed to notice it then. Was she having a change of heart?

"For not being there," Erik responded in a quiet tone.

Lucian gave her an incredulous look. "Youíve lost me, sweetheart."

Erik sprang from the bench and stalked over to the boy. She stared at him for a moment, the fury glowing inside her eyes. Then, she cracked the back of her hand against his cheek. Lucian flinched at the pain and stumbled a little on his feet. He didnít bother to touch his cheek. By now, he was tired of feeling hot flesh or throbbing bruises. It didnít matter. Everything would eventually heal in time. Being amazed by the pain wasnít going to help it heal any faster.

Still, he did want to hit Erik back. Had she been of his gender, he probably would have. But he knew that no matter how she chose to act and present herself, Erik was a girl. Nice guys didnít hit girls. Though he had done some crummy things in his life, he did have his standards.

"Boy, do you have mood swings. Been taking lessons from Nicky?" he asked, moving away from the girl and trying to finish his shake to calm his nerves.

The other youth failed to react to his instigation and stared back at him. "That was for calling me sweetheart. Youíre lucky I let you get away with the other stuff so far, pretty boy."

"A simple Ďdonít call me thatí would have worked."

"But not as quickly," remarked the girl, sounding somewhat amused. "And it certainly got your attention." She lifted the rose amulet on her neck and allowed her eyes to close part way. "Ambrose, what Iím trying to say is that I regret not being there with you when you were hurt. I was the last person to see you. I was close enough. I should have fought with you."

Her words stupefied the boy. She really was sorry about this. It kind of made him feel bad for being such an ass to her earlier, especially when he had trapped her on the bench. That had been a pretty nasty thing to do. He knew that it had just been out of spite. Hearing her mock his faith in Dominic and imply that he wasnít strong enough on his own had caused him to lose his head for a moment. All he had really wanted to do was to show her that he could be just as intimidating as the other could if he wanted to. Anyway, he shouldnít have done that. He knew how it felt to be completely helpless and did not wish it on anyone.

His companion deserved an apology, but he knew that she would never accept it. If she hadnít demanded it of him yet, then she probably just didnít want to acknowledge that he had gotten the better of her. Erik was like that at times. Nonetheless, she had just told him that she felt bad about what had happened to him. It wasnít her place to blame herself. He could at least tell her that much.

Tossing his empty shake into one of the outside disposals, Lucian shook his head, pretending to be even more baffled by Erikís statement then he already was. "First, Iíd like to say that the notion of you apologizing has just fried my brain. Second, you have no reason to blame yourself for my misfortune."

"I knew you were in no condition for traveling alone and I still let you," argued Erik in a calm timbre.

"Just what I need. Another Nicky. I must have something about me that makes EVERYONE feel guilty when it comes to my problems," Lucian complained, placing his fingers against his temple.

"You might say that."

Lucian walked back over to her and cautiously rested his hand on her shoulder. "Be that as it may, you could not have known what would happen and we did have a nasty fight beforehand so your actions were completely normal given the circumstances. Once I was gone, I was beyond your reach. Guardians canít sense each otherís troubles. We only connect with the Keys. Even if you were close, you had no way of knowing what was going on."

A faraway look came over the girlís face as she murmured, "...no way of knowing..."

"Erik?" he questioned, shaking her softly.

Startled by the movement, Erik knocked his hand from her shoulder, her eyes swimming with emotions he couldnít understand. She turned from him, tapping her fingers upon her arm. "I still shouldnít have let it happen. I told Solanis I would look out for you while he was gone."

"He asked you to?" inquired the boy, not able to keep the joy out of his voice at hearing that Dominic had cared about him even back then.

"No. That would have risked sacrificing too much pride on his part. But I knew that he would want to know that you were safe."

"How do you know?"

Erik gave a little laugh at his question. Somehow, all of her laughs seemed so deceitful and bitter. It was as if she had been let in on some secret joke that nobody else could see or understand. That had always creeped him out about her.

Clearing her throat, Erik adjusted her head so that she was only looking at him with one brown eye. Yet even on its own, the orb could still seem ominous. "Iím not blind like the others, Ambrose. I see everything. And I do have a gift that allows me to make sense of what I see."

"You can see...me?"

His question was spoken with slight dread. What did Erik mean by saying that she could see everything? Did she know about Tavores? It wasnít possible. If she had, he was sure that she would have tried to kill him by now or she would have informed the others. Erik seemed to do things in a more perfunctory way than even Dominic.

"Depends on what you mean by that," Erik replied with a slight smile.

"How much can you see?"

"I donít like reading people in front of them. It deprives them of the chance to learn who they are for themselves."

"I know who I am," stated the boy, though he could feel his conviction wavering inside him.

Turning all the way around, Erik returned to him and touched his injured cheek, holding part of his chin in her palm. She smiled again and slanted her eyes like a cat when itís about to pounce on a mouse. "You say that, yet part of you is still unsure."

"Thereís no way a person can understand everything about himself."

She tipped back his head with her hand. "That is true, but you seem to be in constant conflict with yourself."

Tired of letting her toy with him, Lucian pulled his head out of her reach and looked back at her with demanding eyes. "So does your sight provide you with an explanation?"

"No. I can only read emotions and fears. In that sense, my gift is incredibly limited," she answered with a sigh.

The redhead tried his best to sort out what Erik was saying but came up with nothing. He didnít like the way she was speaking to him so cryptically. It made him doubt the sincerity of her previous apology. Perhaps, there was some other motive behind it. With any luck, that motive could give him a clue to discovering the mystery behind the blond. Something had affected her about his injuries and he didnít believe that it really had anything to do with him.

"Tell me, Erik, why are you apologizing? Really?"

"I told you earlier. I never realized the Chimera would hurt you so much. I couldnít help but feel...guilty."

"Enough with the bullshit! Why would you care? You know how you leap at the idea of me being stripped of my pride," hissed Lucian, striking at the air before him.

"I wonít lie. I do enjoy seeing you get your ass kicked. But torture is something else entirely. I thought that they would just kill you. But this way, others are affected," Erik explained, dropping her eyes from view.

"You mean Nicky, donít you?"

Without answering his query, Erik swept her hand across his chest, barely pressing down on the few injuries that still remained. "I mean...this...should never happen to anyone."

Pain flared within the tender wounds and Lucian cried out. "Ah! Donít do that!"

"Still hurts, doesnít it?"

"I mean it! Donít touch me, Erik!" snarled Lucian, slapping at her hand hard enough to make a sound. He didnít need her to remind him of how much his injuries hurt.

Ever since the other night, Dominic had been working with him to help him keep his mind of them. He had been doing a fair job. It was easy to ignore old pains when one was caught up in the ecstasy of passion. Starved kisses and velvety caresses were proving to be quite the cure for his vivid recollection, even if they were all initiated by him. He didnít need Erik to wreck everything that Dominic had helped him build up.

"You said it wasnít that bad," the girl reminded him, moving behind him and trailing a finger down his back.

Shivering, Lucian spun around and grabbed Erik by her wrist, clenching it tightly in his hand. "Get off!"

"Would you believe that seeing you in such anguish actually hurts me? I donít want to hurt you. The thing is I donít know why," mused the other as she stared up at him, not trying to break free.

"Youíre worried about Nicky and you know that my pain has an adverse affect on him," Lucian noted, allowing his grip to slacken when he saw the confused look in Erikís eyes. She really didnít understand why hurting him upset her. He guessed that Erik had made herself believe that she cared nothing for the other Guardians. It was disturbing her to realize that she had been wrong. It was probably angering her as well.

"But why should I care about Solanisí mental torment? It has no impact on my life."

Unable to resist, Lucian grinned at her in delight and laughed, "ĎCause you got the hots for him."

"Ambrose!" Her hand was torn out of his so fast that it almost flung him forward.

"All right! Try this then. Because you have a soul."

"Is that a fact?"

Lucian appeared perplexed by the phrase. He rubbed at his head. "Uh...I mean, all things have a soul...of some kind."

"Itís supposed to be that way, but not always."

"What are you talking about, Erik?"

"Nothing."

Her voice was obviously melancholic about something. It didnít make any sense. Erik had never acted like this before. It was a repeat of what had happened the other day after she had learned about his injuries. She had lost a piece of that crucial control that she had always clung to. What was her upsetting her so much about this whole thing? Dominic couldnít have had this much of an affect on her. There was something else.

"You shouldnít hide things from me. Iím a master of the art and I can spot trickery within seconds," advised Lucian, letting his searching eyes wander over Erik.

Erik remained indifferent to his words and simply set her own prying eyes upon him. "Such words might imply that you yourself are also hiding something important."

"The world revolves on secrets and lies," the other mumbled, looking for a way out of this discussion.

"Then, you understand my position."

He withdrew from his investigation. "For now. But that doesnít mean that Iíve given you free rein just yet."

A sly nod served as his response as Erik took up his old path and made her way back toward the cafeteria entrance. "One more thing, Ambrose. Solanis wonít always be there. You should keep that in mind. What are you planning to do the next time your foolishness gets you into trouble?"

"I prefer to take life one day at a time. I deal with things when and if they come up," informed Lucian, setting his hands behind his head.

"Forever a child," Erik sighed.

"Better a child than an old nag!"

The girl ignored him as they both re-entered the dinning hall. Right on schedule, the bell sounded again, announcing the switch in classes. Students around them chattered mindlessly as they pushed away from their tables and collected their belongings, waving goodbye to their friends or secretly kissing their boyfriends as they hurried toward the doors. The scene made Lucian recall what Dominic had said in the hall about public displays of affection and he snickered beside Erik. She gave him a disgusted glance and forced some students out of her way as she stepped into the hall.

"Try to be more careful, Ambrose. Solanis would be most distraught if we were to lose you again."

"Iíll keep that in mind. Ciao, Gaeal!" he yelled back, waving a few fingers at her turned back.

*~*~*~*~*~*

"You want to practice right now?" groaned Maren, his finger on the tip of a canister as he finished his mural of a rearing cobra. He stood back and inspected his work, taking time to note how well the snake curved around the side of the old bookstore. "Hmm, still needs something."

"Donít all cobras have that weird symbol on their backs?" Tyrell suggested, examining Marenís graffiti as if it were a work of professional art.

"Hell, Iíve never seen a real cobra. You show me what the symbol looks like," the older boy grouched, shoving the spray can at Tyrell.

His friend pulled back and shook his head, pushing the can away. "Iím not into this sort of stuff, Ren."

"Look Arteme, we all know that youíre an artist in hiding. Thatís why you always pay so much attention to my stuff. Iím sure you can draw one simple symbol. Otherwise, how are people going to know itís a cobra?"

"Why should they spend that much time staring at a dirty wall anyway?"

"Well, youíre a regular ball of sunshine today, arenít you, Arteme? What are you pissed about now? Are those other boys treating you like crap? Want me to kick their asses for you? Youíd probably have to hold down Dominic though. You never know what heís going to do," jested Maren, shaking Tyrellís shoulder playfully.

"Yes, Dominic is...unpredictable," Tyrell sighed, wiping a hand through his mahogany hair.

Maren was right about Dominic being part of his concern today. He still wasnít sure what to make of what he had seen in the park the other day. Lucian had never seemed that close with Kat. He sure trusted Dominic a lot. Odd, considering how Dominic treated him most of the time. Then again, Dominic did treat everyone like that. It wasnít like he was being particularly mean to Lucian. He was just treating him with the same brutality that he showed everyone else. Unfortunately, he would be up against that attitude soon enough since he still had to find a way to discuss changing Dominicís plan with the eldest boy. It was early afternoon now. Maybe, once he cooled his nerves by spending some time with his more normal (if one could consider Maren normal) friends, then he could drop by the Ambroses and speak with Dominic later.

He really needed some time to himself at the moment. Angelique was also on his mind. Apparently, she had been unable to visit with Vincient two nights ago and was terribly upset about it the rest of the evening. Of course, she hadnít actually told him that. Tyrell had managed to gather bits and pieces from her anguished sobs while she wept in her room. He had wanted to comfort her then, but knew that Angelique would never accept his condolences in her state.

It still bothered him as to why Angelique wanted to see Vincient so badly that night. There had been other nights where she had gone without talking to the older man. Though she did visit him quite often, she didnít go every single day. There had to be something different about that night. Angelique wanted to see Vincient for a specific reason. Too bad, he had been unable to learn about that reason even after an hour of listening to her cries.

Then, there was the fact that Ciara was missing. His aunt never went out without one of his parents. Yet, his father had told him that Ciara had left Tuesday night, saying that there was an old friend that she had to talk to. She had refused to let either of them go with her and had been gone since then. He would have been even worthier if he had not known that she had called his father this morning and explained that she was still busy with her companion. Since when did his aunt have anyone from the past that she wished to talk to?

"Yo Arteme, donít zone out on me now!"

Tyrell felt Marenís hand sweep repeatedly by his face, coming dangerously close to striking him. He blinked and stared back at his friend. "Iím not zoning! I was just...trying to think of what the symbol on the cobraís back looks like," he lied as Maren laughed at him.

"Yeah right!"

"I was!"

"All right then, Arteme, draw the symbol. As soon as thatís done, weíll go call Cyrus about practicing today," replied Maren, slapping the can into Tyrellís hand once more.

"If I have to," Tyrell pouted, shaking the can quickly and aiming it at the expanse of the imaginary creatureís back.

He wasnít afraid of getting caught messing up the wall. Maren did this sort of thing all the time. He said it was a great way for him to practice his technique since he didnít have to deal with the constraints of paper. From following his older friend down here so many times, Tyrell had long decided that nobody cared about the buildings in this section of town and that they probably thought that it was the work of some punk gang anyway. Tyrell laughed as he thought about a grungy gang member taking the careful time that Maren always took to produce abstract masterpieces.

As he pressed the tip of the canister, releasing the spray along the wall, he began to realize just why he felt so awkward about adding to Marenís work. He worked the paint in subtle curves and jagged lines, taking the artwork all the way down to the end of the cobraís hooded back. The pattern just seemed to pop into his head as he let himself get completely absorbed in the art.

Ever since he had started his dream sketches, art always had a way of reaching deep into his mind and bringing his unconscious thoughts into the foreground. He wasnít like most artists, in that he didnít draw what he felt or what he saw on the surface; he merely drew what he could touch within his mind. Whether it be his dreams or his fears, it didnít matter. He had almost no control over his hand once he gave it over to the thrall.

At the moment, the pull of his subconscious was causing him to complete the symbol he was making without even taking a single look at his work during the process. Finished, he stepped back with Maren to critique what he had done. Maren was looking awestruck and bewildered at the same time as his mouth fell open and he stepped up to the wall. He slowly swept his fingers just above the wet paint, following the odd shape of the symbol. Then, he turned to Tyrell with his steel gray eyes shining in amazement.

"Wow...What is it? This is definitely not the mark of a cobra. This is something else."

Smiling at having won the approval of a fellow artist, Tyrell looked at his drawing again. It had a slanted S-shaped curve that merged into a long oval that was tapered off into points at both ends. The bottom of the strange oval connected to another line similar to the one at the top. In the center of the oval was a dark diamond that had been inscribed over a cross, only the cross had been drawn in a much lighter brush of paint than the diamond in its center. All in all, it resembled one of those ancient pictorials of an Isis eye, except for the sketches inside it. It also reminded him of a tilted version of Katís Dragoneye necklace, though the relic also lacked the diamond and cross stamped into its middle.

What bothered Tyrell the most about his creation was that he couldnít remember ever encountering something like it in any of his dreams. But after gazing at it for several minutes, he couldnít shake the menacing aura that seemed to seep into his crafted line-work. Whatever this symbol was or meant, it couldnít be a good thing. Tyrell wanted to know why it had suddenly entered his mind when he had taken the spray paint from Maren. What was it relating to? Angelique?

"Whereíd you come up with that, Arteme?" Maren inquired, tapping his friend on the shoulder.

"I donít know. I donít even know what it means," stammered Tyrell, backing away from the cobra created by both his and Marenís efforts.

"Youíre telling me you just created that out of nothing?" the older boy posed, gawking at Tyrell and letting his eyes travel back to the cobra. "Thatís pretty impressive right there. Even I couldnít create something like that out of my own imagination."

"I donít think itís my imagination. I saw it. I saw it inside my thoughts."

"Key stuff again?"

"Iím not sure. It could be. But it could also be something else."

"Like what?" pressed Maren, tossing the empty can into a nearby Dumpster.

The noise startled Tyrell and he jumped a little even as he felt Marenís hand on his shoulder. "Nothing."

"Must be Key stuff. Otherwise you wouldnít pull the mysterious act. Going to talk with the Guardians at least?"

"I donít always have to talk to them," the younger youth snapped, pulling away from Maren. "There are some things I can handle by myself. Iím not helpless."

"I know youíre not, Arteme," his friend stated as he walked up to the other and smirked before punching him in the shoulder. "If you were, I wouldnít give you the time of day. Wimps are boring." Chuckling, he put his hands in his front pockets, disregarding the haze of paint that was spread across the palms and now upon the sides of his jeans. His expression became more serious and he attained complete eye contact with the other boy. "You are not a wimp, Tyrell. No matter what the others tell you. The Guardians may just treat with you like youíre helpless because they get off on the power trip. Dominic and Lucian do get a kick out of being in charge. Theyíre both control freaks, so itís to be expected. But theyíre no better then you are. If you really wanted to, Iím sure you could be just as strong as either of them. Hell, I know you could. Iíve seen your real strength. I saw it when you were fighting to save Kat from that one freak. And I can still tell that strength is there whenever Iím around you.

"So you donít like to fight. Most donít. Those who do just do so because itís their way. It doesnít have to be yours. You donít have to like fighting. But if you can stand firm when forced to fight, then you have true strength. That is what you do, Arteme. You avoid fighting at all costs of course. Youíre a pacifist like that. A bit girlie but overall a nice guy. But when you want something, you go after it with a passion. You donít give up until you have achieved your goal and you are willing to put everything on the line for it. Thatís how you play. Thatís how you sing. And....thatís how you fight. Such a person could never be helpless and could never be classified as a wimp. Of course, you donít have to take my word for it, Iím just a aimless juvenile delinquent who just wants to drag another down with him."

Maren tossed Tyrell a glance from over his shoulder and started to walk away. Tyrell considered his friend's words as he watched him leave. Who was Maren to give advice? The boy looked deranged with his red spiked hair, multiple piercings including those adorning both his ears, his eyebrow and just recently his tongue, half-polished fingernails, and that ridiculous clothing. Maren was wearing one of his favorite pieces, consisting of a set of real black leather pants and an almost see-through black mesh shirt covered by a heavy red vinyl coat that reached to his mid-thigh. He didnít look like someone who could be very insightful and he didnít always set the best examples with his actions. His words should have just rolled right over him.

But they didnít. Tyrell wanted to believe what his friend had said. Even if Maren wasnít exactly the best person he could talk to about this, he could tell that he had meant what he said. Maren saw him as strong. Dominic had called him that too...once. The eldest boy had never brought it up again. Probably, unwilling to admit that he had said it. It was nice to hear it though. After all, he considered himself a wuss. It felt comforting to think that they were a few others who didnít see him this way, even if they were all just a bunch of messed-up youths.

"You shouldnít say that," he called out to the vanishing boy.

His companion stopped and laughed, flashing the ring embedded in his tongue. "Say what? That youíre not a wimpy nobody? Sorry Arteme, I donít lie...at least not often and never about anything important. Well, I wouldnít lie to you anyway. Buddies donít lie to each other."

"No, I meant you shouldnít say that youíre just an aimless delinquent. Youíre not just a statistic, Ren. Youíre an individual and if doing what you do makes you happy, you shouldnít care what others say."

"I see youíve grown back some of that useful backbone. Put it to good use and tell your other pals off next time they walk on eggshells with you. ĎCause if you donít, Iíll have to and a fight like that could take a while. Iíd miss a gig," noted Maren, waving off Tyrellís comment.

"Ren, you are just too much," the other told him with a slight snicker.

"I have to be if I always want to be over the top. So are you going to get up here or not? We still have a practice to arrange."

"Right."

Tyrell took one last look at the symbol he had inscribed on the painted snake. He could reproduce the symbol later and ponder its mysteries then. Besides, the reason he had come out here was to spend some time as a regular teenager again. Causing mayhem with Maren and practicing for STRYFE was just what he needed to be able to tackle the situation with Angelique once more. After some relaxation, he would be calmer and ready to start a new plan, either by himself or with the aid of his Guardians.

*~*~*~*~*~*

"Canít you do that any faster?" Lucian whined at Dominic as the older boy ran his fingers against the keyboard attached to the laptop. The redhead paced behind the computer chair, flipping through the schoolbook in his hand. "Man, why does this thing have to have so many frigginí chapters? How do they expect me to memorize all this stuff by tomorrow?"

"You should have studied last night."

"I thought you had fun. You sure left a fair-sized mark on my neck."

Dominic lowered his head and watched his fingers clack against the keys. "You said nobody could see that."

"They canít. Thatís why having lapels on a uniform comes in handy," replied the other with complete sincerity.

He looked back at the computer, flashing its signal to warn that the user was entering a restricted area. Dominic was too busy typing as fast as he could to notice that his partner was analyzing his actions. The beeping sounds emitting from the machine were making him nervous and he fought to keep his fingers from slipping upon the wrong keys. What was that password that Lucian had told him to use? He couldnít think. Why couldnít the computer just stop that infernal screaming? He couldnít understand how Lucian could manage to hack into systems like this on a daily basis.

Suddenly, the screen went black and Lucian broke into a fit of laughter behind him, pointing at the screen and hiding his face behind his book. Confused, Dominic tried to get the computer to respond, pressing random keys and staring at the screen in frustration. It refused to submit to his will and remained frozen. He tried to block Lucianís guffaws from his ears as he slammed his hands down the keyboard and smacked the side of the machine.

"Not going to work," Lucian told him through his ribbing laughter.

"Shut up!" shouted the other youth, addressing both his friend and the stubborn equipment. "I donít get it! What did I do wrong?" He tapped at the escape key and was rewarded with a low beep. Touching any of the other keys only earned him the same response. "Stupid machine!"

His friend choked back some more laughter and stretched behind the laptop, yanking the plug from the wall socket. He waited a second and then replaced the cord. Lucian shut his eyes and shook his head at Dominic, making a "tsk tsk" sound with his teeth. "You really are hopeless, Nicky. I think computers hate you more than Shira."

Snapping his head to the side, Dominic leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms. "You want to do this?"

"Believe me, I would love to. It would save me the hassle of having to watch you screw up so many times. Unfortunately, typing sort of hurts right now."

"It wouldnít if you would just let Tashira heal your hand instead of worrying about the other stuff, which is almost cleared up by now," Dominic said, rebooting the system.

Stepping back, Lucian ran his hands through the boyís hair with a casual sweep of his hand. "Oh, but then I wouldnít get to tutor you in the fine art of hacking."

"And youíre doing such a marvelous job right now," grumbled the older boy as he made a shoddy attempt to fix the ruffled strands.

The computer connected to the Internet once more and Dominic accessed the site he had been using earlier. He tried to work around the firewall faster and with less mistakes, but he found it almost impossible to do anything right with Lucian looming over him. Dominic hated embarrassing himself in front of the other, especially since it had the tendency to send his temper into overdrive. He needed to be just as good at or better at everything that Lucian did. It was selfish and petty, but he couldnít remove himself from of this mentality he had developed over the years. Being the best ensured his strength and he needed that to know that he was still in control. As long as he was in control of the situation, he could allow himself to lay down his defenses a bit.

Despite his best efforts to stay on task, the same warning message appeared across the screen and the hideous beeping began anew. As he frantically tried to find the right keys to shut down the barricade, he felt Lucian lean against him and reach an arm over his shoulder, his left hand falling upon the keyboard.

"How about a hands on lesson then? Iíll take the alphabetical keys and you cover the numbers," Lucian spoke in a tone that was mixed with laughter and authority.

Nodding, Dominic moved his hands over to the number pad at the right of the keyboard, entering the code that Lucian had taught him as he watched Lucianís fingers fly over his half of the board, picking up on Dominicís stops and adding in his keys when necessary. Lucian managed to enter in his passwords, while keeping an eye on Dominicís mistakes and quickly correcting them by imputing the proper numbers, clicking at the keys just above those of the letters. The warning box vanished and was replaced by one asking for security information. Dominic was about to re-enter the code when Lucian pushed away his hand and tapped against a different group of keys. Seconds later, the screen cleared and revealed a lengthy list of files listed under the email addresses of several museum sites. Dominic guessed that they came from people who had tried to send various bits of information to the museums in hopes that they could get some credit for the discovery.

"Finally. Iíve been working on that one for weeks. Someone in an IRC mentioned something to me about running across a really freaky message while perusing some files. Heís a real nut and always going on about Area 51 and the like. But heís good with archaeological information and I imagine that thatís what we should be focusing one since this Evangel is supposed to have existed centuries back. According to him, this stuff does talk about some sort of cross that caused some controversy a while ago," explained the boy at his side.

Dominicís eyes met his as Lucian clicked on one of the middle folders. "So you do know about the Cruce?"

"Um...yeah, Tye told me," Lucian replied faintly, focusing more on his work than the youth speaking to him.

"I should have guessed as much. That boy doesnít know when to keep his mouth shut."

Catching the slur, Lucian jerked up from the computer and looked at him with an insulted expression. "Why canít Tyrell tell me what he can tell you? Weíre both Guardians, remember. Donít tell me you still donít trust me. Why the hell did you share your life story with me if you donít?"

His hurt shout told the other youth that he had chafed him with his words. Dominic had forgotten that criticizing Tyrell for his trust would involve implying that Lucian was unworthy of the knowledge. He hadnít meant to sound so scornful. Yet, it had been nice to think that Tyrell had only shared his secret with him alone. He didnít really want that illusion to fade.

"I was just saying that Tyrell shouldnít hand out such crucial information so readily. It would have been better if he had just told all the Guardians at the same time, instead of letting us believe that the others were in the dark," he answered, hoping to cover up his mistake.

"All right, Iíll let you off for that one, but I really donít want to keep second-guessing your trust in me. I want to know for sure. Tell me now, do you really trust me?" urged his friend, gazing at him with unsteady eyes.

"Why shouldnít I? Youíve told me everything about yourself and weíre not keeping any secrets from each other anymore, right?"

Lucian swallowed in his throat and tried to smile. "Of course not."

"Then, I trust you completely, Lucian," Dominic replied; though he found himself puzzled by the slowness of Lucianís response.

He shook it off as Lucian just being nervous about getting his answer. Lucian did get jumpy whenever he questioned him about their relationship. He was probably just scared of getting rejected. The other boy really did want to be special to him. He couldnít condemn him for that.

Knowing that he had to get his mind back on task, he focused on the file that Lucian had opened and read the words upon the page.

ĎAs of yet, none have been able to translate this scroll since its contents are thought to be millennia old. Most have always been intrigued by the large crucifix inked into the paper so that it can only be seen by looking through the words. This cross is unusual due to its tri-points at the tip of each branch and the four spikes that form a star-like shape around its center. From the presence and influence of this holy symbol, most researchers assume that the writings of the scroll pertain to some religious aspect. Unfortunately, the lack of funding and the waning interests of the discoverers have forced the investigation of this find onto the back burner.í

The boy looked down at the link provided at the end of the foreword. He motioned for Lucian to click it and opened up another window. Throughout the page were various symbols and pieces of manuscript that were like nothing he had ever seen before. The words had apparently been reproduced on a blank document so that they could be read without having to work around the cross. As he viewed them some more, Dominic came to the conclusion that this writing couldnít have simply been placed onto some word processor; it would have had to been created in some drawing program and then pasted onto the document.

Hoping that Lucian might have some insight on the situation due to his knowledge of computers, he turned to speak to the youth. He stopped as he saw the vacant look in Lucianís eyes, which almost appeared to have developed a soft brown color. The brown shade bothered him. He had seen it before. Only once, but it had been enough to make him never want to see it again. That had been the way Lucianís eyes had looked when they had experienced their first really dangerous fight right after he had discovered the truth about Lucianís sleeping habits.

That night, Lucian had acted like an extremely different person. His voice had sounded more threatening and his eyes had lost the excitement that always sparkled within them. He had also seemed to have forgotten all his skill for fighting and had attacked only with his instincts. Dominic had almost forgotten about the incident since then. Lucian had never shown that side of his personality again. He had accepted the change as some horrible side effect to Lucianís nightmares. When Lucian had turned on him, he had simply been trapped within his dreams. He hadnít known what he was doing.

So why was Lucian taking up that appearance now when he was wide-awake? He didnít like it all and he could feel a sickening feeling wash over him even as he tried to disregard the sensation. His violet eyes revealed his anxiety as they softened.

Tentatively, he touched Lucianís arm, feeling the slender welts along the skin, a reminder of their latest kiss. He still had been unable to pull off any expression of passion without some sort of violence. It was good that Lucian no longer minded, but it upset him to know that he was causing some pain to his companion. Thankfully, he had more important things to think about right now.

"Lucian?" he whispered. Lucian continued to run his eyes across the screen as if he couldnít hear him. Troubled, he tried again. "Lucian, are you okay?"

Instead of shaking out of his daze, Lucian leaned closer to the screen and began to speak in a detached tone.

"ĎI fear that we have made a ghastly mistake by letting this servant return to the mortals. Her power is too great and should she ever be turned against us, it would mean great suffering for everyone. Such a creature should never have created, let alone released into the mortal realm. The combination of angel and demon blood that flows through her was meant to be forever harnessed by our brethren. How can we let a monster who turned upon her masters roam free?

"Evangel has only ever known of one world. Ours. She was created as a killer and that is how she has lived. Letting her live with her mortal scum shall spell doom for us all. Yes, we have decided to reclaim her spirit through one of her descendants if the child possesses enough magical influence as well as the items that Evangel requires to fulfill her duties: the Cruce and our pendant. But what if another were to gather these things and steal Evangelís power?

"The fail-safe designed to prevent this, dealing with the lifeblood of the one who loves her descendant more than anything else, is not enough. A mortal can be killed easily enough and we may not be able to reach our prized assassin before she can declare her allegiance to another. If that happens, our power over her shall be shattered. And the one who controls Evangelís power shall....í What? It just ends there! Damn!"

Lucian struck the table, causing the top of the laptop to close over the keyboard.

Dominic didnít have the chance to be surprised by the boyís sudden strength, but was too busy pondering something even more alarming. He stood up from his chair and grabbed Lucianís arm, forcing himself to keep the hold from crushing the bone. His nerves had gone haywire after hearing the other. This wasnít possible!

"How can you read this?" the older boy roared at Lucian. "The introduction says that the language must have existed thousands of years ago. Not even the discoverers can decipher it. But you...you read it so clearly just now as if youíve worked with this language all your life. How is that possible? Why can you understand this, Lucian? WHY?"

Lucian winced in his grip and blinked as if coming out of a trance. He looked down at the hand clamped around his arm and tried to tug it away from Dominic, dropping his book on the floor. The other boy refused to release him so quickly and clenched down on the skin, making Lucian whimper at the pressure. Dominic glared at him and dragged him closer as Lucian lost his footing and fell onto his knees, his arm held above him.

Red eyes looked up at Dominic in astonishment. "Hey! Whatís the matter with you?"

"Quit joking around!" commanded Dominic, hauling Lucian to his feet. "I want to know how you can understand these writings when nobody else can."

"Writings?" Lucian asked, squinting his eyes at the other.

"Yes! The ones on the screen. The ones weíve been looking at for the past ten minutes. Donít even try to pretend that you donít remember!"

"I read them?"

"Youíre not funny, Lucian," growled the dark-haired youth.

Pulling at Dominicís hand, Lucian managed to detach the pinching fingers. He backed up quickly, hints of fear in his visage. "Iím not trying...I mean, I canít remember. Ow. My head hurts." Lucian turned his head and pressed a palm against it, shutting his eyes in what Dominic took to be feigned pain.

His friend refused to be fooled by his act. He started to approach him again as Lucian moved backward until his back connected with the edge of the wall. Lucian gave another whimper and rested his head against the wall, keeping his eyes closed as his hand still sat upon his forehead. Dominic braced himself against the wall with one hand, leaning over Lucian.

"Itís going to hurt even worse in about two seconds!" he threatened the whining youth.

Moaning even louder, Lucian shoved Dominic from the wall and staggered into the other room. "I need to lie down."

"Youíre not going anywhere!" snapped Dominic as he grasped at Lucianís shoulder.

"Hands off, Nicky!"

The redhead snatched his wrist and hurled him against the ground. He stood over him, panting, and pulled his hand away from his forehead. His skin appeared flushed and overheated. "You canít order me around! You donít control me. You control only what I let you control. Donít you ever forget that!"

Dominic made no attempt to get back to his feet as he stared back at the other with angry eyes. "What are you keeping from me? I thought we trusted each other now. Thatís what you want, isnít it? No secrets? No lies? Thatís what friendship is about. Thatís what a relationship is about."

Appearing contrite about what he had done, Lucian leaned down to him and helped him back up. "Iím not hiding anything. I swear. Iíd never lie to you, Nicky," he promised in a trembling voice. Dominic looked at him, a grave frown forming over his lips.

He wanted to believe him. More than anything, he wanted to believe that Lucian was speaking the truth to him. But he could see the doubt in his eyes, the fear and the hiding. Lucian was lying to him. He didnít know what he was lying to him about, but he knew that Lucian was keeping something from him. Why? He had told Lucian everything about him and Lucian had said that he had done the same. They were supposed to be friends now. Hell, they were even messing around with the notion of being boyfriends. Why would Lucian lie to him? What could be so horrible that he wouldnít tell him and that he would put everything they had on the line just to keep from being discovered?

Emotions rose in Dominic, filling him with the urge to hit something. He wanted to tear into Lucian. To force him to reveal his secret. To rip that accursed lie from his throat. He wanted to show him how much his deceit was agonizing him. More than anything, he wanted to hear Lucian tell him the truth, even if he had to beat it out of him.

Horrified by the thoughts streaming through his conscience, Dominic pushed the boy away and stalked toward the center of the room. He had to get away from Lucian before he snapped. As angry as he was, he knew that he would regret hurting his friend. He had promised Lucian that he would never hurt him again. So far, he had already had some minor slip-ups, but they could be apologized for and then forgotten. But if he were to engage in a total fight with the younger youth, that would not be so easy to let go. It would mean breaking his word.

Lowering his eyes, he noticed his watch and remembered the other thing that he had to do today. The supervisors at Carthala had requested a conference with him to discuss the final steps to his readmission. They had planned on that morning and the rest of the week as a sort of probation for him to see if he could get back on track soon enough. It wouldnít have been that hard to get back into most public schools, but since Carthala was a private institution, the rules were much stricter. They wanted to make absolutely sure that he wouldnít drop out again during the semester. As such, they had made it explicitly clear that he attend the meeting to inform them on his current progress with make-up work and other scholastic activities.

This was the perfect excuse he needed to exit this situation before it went downhill. Yet, he still yearned for his answers. Perhaps, he could use the time at Carthala to abate his temper and clear his head. Then, he could return to Lucian in a much more civil state of mind and continue this discussion. It would save him and Lucian a lot of stress as well as anguish.

Leaving the room, he walked into the kitchen and grabbed a set of keys from the counter. He could see Lucian stumbling up the stairs, glancing back at him after every step. Crossing into the threshold of the kitchen, he waited for Lucian to turn to him again and then yelled up to him, "I have a meeting at school in ten minutes. Iím taking the car. This is not finished! Weíll talk when I get back. So stay put!"

Lucian clutched at the banister with trembling fingers as he paused on the step. "I might have to go see Tye about something. He...."

"You will stay in this house!"

"You canít make me!" hissed the younger boy, digging his nails into the railing.

"I swear to God, Lucian, if you go anywhere, Iíll...."

"Youíll what? Hit me? Nothing threatening about that."

Storming over to the stairs, Dominic shot a withering look at the youth and fisted his hands at his sides. "If I return and youíre not here, Iíll leave you and Tashira and Iíll NEVER speak to you again!"

Shock fell upon Lucian and his eyes widened as he gazed down at Dominic, speechless.

The silence was enough for Dominic. He turned from his friend. "I see we have an understanding then. I should be back in an hour or two."

*~*~*~*~*~*

As Lucian watched him go, he felt his knees weaken and he leaned against the railing for support. The door in the kitchen opened and closed. Lucian hung his head in despair.

"Tavores, what have you done now?"

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Comments: Yeesh, this chapter was chock full of the tension. Perhaps, it's the one that stole all the tension from Chp. 34. ^^ But I digress, Angelique's stuff will be brought up again in Chp. 39 since Chp.38 is obviously going to focus on the Guardian boys and their problem with the trust issue. Yes, that means Tavores vs. Dominic Round 2! Oh and that Erik and Luce scene took forever to write, though I don't know why. Those two should definitely not be left alone with each other ever again. Tye's scene will also be getting more explanation soon enough. Bringing back Maren was fun. I love crazy JDs. As for Luce/Dominic, I hope nobody's expecting a warm apology session. So as for those who wonder how Tavores shall affect the relationship, you'll get your answer soonÖyou just may not like it.

Next chapter: Dominic makes a very unsettling discovery followed by MAJOR ANGST. Fortunately, this will be the last big fight between the Guardian boys for a long time.

Oooh Extra Fun: Image Songs

Individual Characters

Tyrell: "In the End" by Linkin Park
Dominic: "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls
Lucian: "Bent" by Matchbox 20
Erik: "Possession" by Sarah McLachlan (you may have to think a little to understand why this one is for her)
Angelique: "Here with Me" by Dido
Kat: "Wherever Whenever" by Shakira
Tashira: "Donít Speak" by No Doubt
Tavores: "Breakdown" by Tantric
Maren: "Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World
Nadia: "Foolish Games" by Jewel

Couples

Tyrell/Angelique: "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling
Lucian/Dominic: "Space Between" by Dave Matthewís Band (My newest fave song and the lyrics just scream these two!)

General Themes

Part 1: "Get it Faster" by Jimmy Eat World
Part 2: "One Step Closer" by Linkin Park (Don't ask me why. -_-)
Random BGM: "Sadame" from X tv

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