Chapter 39--A Pack Divided--

"I didnít realize it was so late," remarked Tashira as she parked the car and hopped onto the driveway. Lucian dragged his book bag out from the back seat and reached for his can of soda. He swung the bag to the side, accidentally smacking Tashira on the back. His sister shot an offended look at him and walked toward the house.

Opening the door with a giggle, Tashira smirked at her brother. "Luce, you barely spent an hour studying. The rest of the time you were playing with Tyrell and Thorne. And you spent almost an hour in that silly jewelry store on the way home."

"You saw the item they had displayed in the window. I had to have it. It was a two for one deal."

"You and your charms."

"Hey, you bought that mega-expensive ring," the boy countered as Tashira held up her hand and gazed at her new jewelry.

"This piece was made for me," she cooed.

Her brother made a face and opened the door for her. "Get inside already, you crazy lark."

Trilling like a songbird, Tashira pranced into the kitchen. Lucian laughed at her while he took his school supplies out of his book bag and separated them from the plastic bag that he had gotten from the jeweler. He arranged the items upon the center table. Tashira leaned her back across the table, letting her white-silver hair blanket the wood and the items Lucian was scattering. She glanced up at her brother with a contented smile.

"Itís been such a long time since weíve last enjoyed doing things as a pair," mused the girl, gathering the jewelry bag close to her. "Things always seem to interfere."

"Things? You mean people," Lucian stated in a curt tone.

"I didnít mean that. I just wanted to say how much Iíve missed this. Tonight has been incredible."

"You didnít seem to think so when Thorne was snarling at you," reminded her twin, eyes twinkling with delight as his face scrunched in thought.

Tashira straightened and sat on the edge, kicking her heel against on of the tableís legs. "I still donít get why the puppy was so defensive around me. He calmed down after he saw that you and Tyrell liked me, but it was still odd. No animal has ever growled at me before. And he was so sweet afterwards."

"I know. Youíve never had any problems with them before. Weird," Lucian concurred, folding his arms in front of him.

Scenes from earlier that night flickered through his mind. Thorne had been happy to see him and Tyrell, until he had laid eyes on Tashira. The puppy had acted odd then. Growling, whining, trying to hide behind Tyrell. Thorne had acted just as he had when he had first met him. That bothered him. From what he had seen, Thorne only showed such a reaction when he felt that something wasnít right about a person. With Angelique, it had been Evangelís presence, and with him, it was the aura of a demon. What could Thorne sense about Tashira? Tyrell had been just as lost.

They had all forgotten about it once Thorne acclimated himself to Tashira and registered her as a friend. He had been his normal friendly self after that, licking hands and trying to con anyone he could into giving him some attention. Tashira had entertained his fancies willingly. From the moment the puppy had changed his troubled snarls into joyous yaps, Tashira had adored him. She had hogged him to herself all night long. Tyrell didnít mind. He loved making others happy.

However, Lucian had seen the subtle yearning in his eyes as the boy watched Tashira get along with his pet. It probably had to do with Angelique. Tyrell had said that Thorne had bitten her even after he had shown Thorne of her friendship with him. Watching Tashira must have made Tyrell long for Thorne to be able to trust Angelique. Both him and Lucian knew that the animal was special. If he couldnít trust the girl, it was hard for either of them to. Tyrell didnít want to admit it.

"Thereís something youíre not telling me about Thorne," Tashira broke in, insisting eyes bearing down upon her companion. "Do you know why he didnít like me at first?"

"No," her brother answered softly.

"Then why do you let it worry you so?"

"Thorneís special, Shira. Me and Tyrell think that he can sense things about people. If he finds something he doesnít like about a person, he acts differently. The more the feeling upsets him, the more violent he acts toward them."

With a blink of her silver eyes, Tashira lifted her head from the table. "So what does he sense in me?"

"I donít know."

There was a creak as Tashiraís weight left the table. She slowly walked out of the room. "Iím going to put my new jewelry away." Her voice was somber and listless. It pained Lucian to hear such fear in the tone.

Why did Thorne act that way? Tashira had nothing unusual about her, except for her power to heal wounds. But that was a good thing, wasnít it? What else could there be? What would make Thorne briefly see her as a threat?

For a moment, a crazy fear took hold of him. What if in being his sister, Tashira shared his blood? He had never thought about it before. Tashira had never experienced the sort of problems that he had being linked to Tavores. He had never had a reason to suspect that she could be part demon herself. That couldn't be. Tavores would have told him something important like that. The prince liked to pick and choose which secrets to share with him, but he would have never kept something this big about Tashira. She looked too much like Tavoresí sister. He wouldnít want to hurt her that way. The fear had to be wrong. Tashira wasnít like him. She was innocent and uncorrupted. Thorne must have just gotten some bad vibes for a moment. It was possible that it could have just been a fluke.

"OH MY GOD!!" Tashira screeched from another part of the house.

Lucian leapt from the table and hurried over to the source of the scream. He tripped over something in the middle of the floor and fell upon his chest. When he looked up, he saw a destroyed desk in front of him, surrounded by fragments of wood. The top of the desk was spotted liberally with blood. Catching his breath, he scrambled back to his knees. From that position, he could plainly see the smashed section of the wall, flanked in bloody scratch marks as pieces of plaster crumbled around the sides.

"What happened?" exclaimed his sister, moving away from the other wall she had pressed herself against.

Blood rushed in Lucianís head. Rational thought evaded him. He never even heard Tashiraís question as a rough sob tore from his throat. "Nicky!"

In a flash of gray, Tashira was at his side, pushing away the broken wood and catching his arm. She pulled him tight against her and whispered calming words into his ear. "Calm down, Luce. Iím sure Dominic is fine. Nobody knows where we live. They wouldnít have come here. Dominic is fine."

"No!" Lucian argued, yanking at the hand around him. "Somethingís wrong! Where is he? Nicky!"

"I overreacted, Luce. I shouldnít have. Iím sure that this is all a misunderstanding. Dominic must have broken this stuff himself. You know how his temper can control him at times," explained Tashira, intensifying her grip to keep her brother from moving.

"Thereís blood."

"He could have hurt himself hitting these things. You hurt yourself too the other day. Your hand."

Forcing his mind to steady itself, Lucian stared down at the hand by his knees. He had hurt it himself. Punching a mirror had been enough to draw blood. Punching a wall or a thick piece of wood would have the same affect. He was being unreasonable, not thinking things through. Where was Dominic? Why wasnít he answering him? Was he that angry?

"Nicky!"

Fingers moved soothingly through his hair. "Sssh. Calm down."

"I am calm. I just want him to answer me," Lucian said in a trembling voice. "Nicky! Let me go, Shira. I want to check upstairs."

His twin nodded and let Lucian could stand up. She touched his shoulder. "Iíll help you look."

He didnít answer her, just took her hand and dragged her up the stairs. They approached Dominicís room. The door was open and the bed unmade with Dominicís school papers spread across it and the floor, but Dominic was not there. Lucian called for him again as Tashira went to explore the other rooms, calling for Dominic using his proper name. Unsuccessful, Tashira returned to her brother. She shook her head.

"Iíll look outside," the boy told her, sprinting down the stairs.

The youth moved through the garden, hollering for his partner in a voice that sounded that it was close to breaking. Bushes moved farther down and a deep growl echoed through the garden. Wolf? He raced over to the spot. A gray mouse streaked across the yard. Lucianís heart fell. He was hearing things. Dominic wasnít out here. He didnít know where he was. Lucian was terrified. More snarls flowed around his ears and Lucian hit his temple with the heel of his hand, trying to make the imaginary sounds go away.

It was near impossible. He couldnít shake the feeling of being watched, stalked almost. His heart beat faster and every little noise made him jerk to the side. "Dominic," he tried, hoping that his friend might be more responsive to his actual name. Silence. Then, the return of those insubstantial growls. He looked over his shoulders and slowly turned around in a small circle, raising himself on his toes to see further off. The sound of something approaching made him jump back.

Tashira stared at him in wonder. "You okay?"

"Heís not out here," mumbled Lucian, fighting to get his breathing back to normal.

Eyeing him carefully, Tashira shifted her gaze to the house. "His stuff is still here so he couldnít have left."

"The Chimera...."

"Dominic is strong, Luce."

Lucian took his head into his hands and closed his eyes. "So was I."

"Youíre jumping to conclusions. Maybe he just stepped out. Tell me where you two go most often. I could take the car and drive around for a while," Tashira suggested, walking over and pulling her brotherís head upon her shoulder. "If I donít find anything, then weíll try something else."

"I want to go with you," urged Lucian, lifting his head up quickly and looking at his sibling with entreating eyes.

"You should stay unless he comes back. Youíre not thinking rationally. Itís better if you wait here."

It infuriated him to know that she was right. He was acting like a basket case right now. Going with Tashira would just make things difficult for the both of them. What Tashira said made sense. He and Dominic had been fighting most of the day so it would be reasonable to assume that Dominic had just gone somewhere to blow off some steam. Dominic was also remarkably bad at handling his anger. Him beating a wall and wrecking some furniture wasnít too far-fetched.

Maybe part of him even wanted Dominic to be in trouble. It could have been that he was just hoping for some way that he could save Dominic again and gain back his trust. The thought disgusted him. He didnít deserve to go with Tashira.

Pulling away from his sister, he told her of all the places that he visited with Dominic and a few of the places that he knew that Dominic liked to frequent on his own. She squeezed his hand in assurance and soon departed with the car. Lucian listened to the sound of the engine as he trudged back to the house. He pulled open the door as a savage howl rang through the air, not mournful like he usually heard but threatening and sinister. The youth started to turn back around and backtracked into the garden. He meticulously examined the area for a few more minutes. His actions stopped when he heard a door slam from within the house. Realizing that Tashira had already left, Lucian ran into the building.

*~*~*~*~*~*

"Jumpy, arenít you?"

Spooked by the sudden voice, Lucian whirled around in the middle of the hall he was standing in. Dominic was sitting awkwardly on the den couch, his legs folded in beside him and his hands dangling over the armrest like pale furless paws. Parts of his black hair were dirty and ragged. The nails on his right hand were cracked and remnants of blood rested in the skin beneath them. Most frightening, though, were his eyes. The skin around them was darker, yet had no marks of being bruised and the eyes themselves were almost hollow, the violent sinking into its darkest hue, hiding the pupil in the amethystine shade.

Yet, Lucian was too thrilled at finding his friend to let his strange appearance bother him. He breathed roughly and smacked a hand against his chest, pulling back slightly. "Holy Shit! Youíre going to kill me like that, Nicky!" the boy warned his companion, grinning at him roguishly beneath his facade of terror.

"Sorry." The word was spoken low and seemed to have some sort of hidden malice in the pronunciation.

"You wouldnít believe how happy I am to see you. I thought you were in trouble." Lucian trotted over to the couch and set his elbows upon the top, looking down at the other youth.

"Iím...fine," breathed Dominic, getting up and walking toward the center of the room.

"But the hall...and the wall...I was calling for you. Where have you been?" Lucian stammered, noting the way Dominic was clenching his fists as he stood. Odd.

"Out."

His companion frowned and pushed away from the couch. "I see youíre still angry."

"Iíve just been thinking."

"Did you cause that mess in the house?"

"I was looking for something," confessed the other boy, moving back one eye to look at Lucian as it slanted ominously.

"Inside the wall??" the redhead shouted, throwing Dominic an incensed glare that revealed his complete disbelief at the answer.

Dominicís head snapped back to him in reaction to his yelling, eyes full of rage. The look disappeared into its normal collected gaze so fast that Lucian was apt to think that he might have imagined the previous visage. Moving his eyes across the room, Dominic responded, "I lost my temper. Is that anything new?"

It was as if he didnít even realize how much he had scared everybody with his action. Either that or he didnít care. This wasnít like him. Dominic didnít like to hurt people. He had to know that his friends had been pained to think that he was in real danger.

This sudden coldness was bringing back images of Dominic when they had first met. During those initial encounters, Dominic had been completely indifferent to those around him and especially snappy towards him. He still retained some of that detachment now. Years of self-induced seclusion were hard to forget and even harder to walk away from. It would take more time. Still, Dominic had been showing a desire to improve that aspect about himself and had become a little more comfortable around his companions. Only a select few, but it was a start. Dominic was even showing signs of being emotionally responsive toward him. Well, he had been until this afternoon.

He couldnít see the reason for such a huge turn-around. Their first fight of the day had been no worse than their other verbal squabbles and their physical fracas had been cut off too quick to produce lasting damage. Also, there was the fact that Dominic had given the wall a fair thrashing. Why? He had gotten in the last word following their latest dispute. Why would he still be pissed off? Dominic had claimed to be looking for something. Maybe, he had thrown a fit when he couldnít find it. But Dominic only acted in such a juvenile fashion when he was really angry. He must have really wanted to find whatever he was searching for in order to lose it enough to break both the desk and the wall.

"Whereís your sister?" questioned the older boy, letting his eyes center on Lucian once more. Something about the way the action was carried out made Lucianís insides twist. He tried to ignore the feeling and gave his friend an amused glance. It was harder to pull off this time since he could literally feel the tension in the room. Damn, it was threatening to smother him. He couldnít let Dominic see that all this disturbed him. It would seem like he was scared of him. Such a notion risked both his pride and his friendship.

Keeping his facade in place, he replied in a bouncy tone, "Out looking for you. I told her to check our usual haunts. The park, the school, the woods, and that place we went to that one night." He couldnít help himself as he paused there and grinned enticingly at the other. "The one where we had our first...."

"So sheíll be gone for a while?" Dominic cut him off, eyebrows rising in thought.

"Most likely. I could give her a call." Lucian started to leave as Dominic walked in front of him and nudged him back by his shoulder.

"Not just yet."

"Youíre weirding me out, Nicky," complained the younger youth. "Whatís with the attitude?"

"Weíll discuss that later. Right now, I think we should have our talk."

Lucianís temper was extinguished instantly. He grew solemn, nervous about discussing the subject. "Changed your mind about that?"

"Youíre not the only one who can be fickle," Dominic remarked with a short laugh, devoid of any of the warmth that should have accompanied such a carefree sound.

Screw this adjusting moods to suit Dominicís fancy. He was seriously pissing him off, not to mention freaking him out. That laugh had been the last thing he would stand for. Dominic was going to stop this now.

"Enough with the cryptic shit!" snapped Lucian, grabbing Dominic and flinging the boy behind him. "If youíre having some sort of hissy fit, just tell me. You donít need to keep feeding me vague responses and talking in riddles. I donít like it when people try to trick me."

"Neither do I," his partner said in a hurt tone.

Moved by the change, Lucian turned back to Dominic and saw that he was staring at the floor, anger and sorrow alternating within his eyes. An apology would seem so stupid right now. Lucian didnít want to try it. He moved closer and brushed a hand down Dominicís cheek, lifting up his face. "Why are we fighting, Nicky?" he asked despairingly. "I still donít understand."

His touch received an immediate response from the other as the hand was pulled away, the fingers crushed within a harsh grip. Dominicís eyes flashed with purpose. "I was upset because I was confused," replied the older boy numbly. He dropped Lucianís hand as a serene smile formed on his face. "I guess Iím not anymore." The smile faded into an emotionless line as Dominic brought his hand behind Lucianís neck. His fingers brushed the silky hairs on the skin and he pulled Lucian closer to him, whispering, "Let me show you."

Lucian was overjoyed at this new development. He chuckled lightly as he blushed. It was usually him who started any amorous episodes. Dominic had caught him off-guard.

" Well, this is a bit...." the redhead began as the fingers started to press harder against his throat. Bewilderment passed through Lucianís eyes. The hold became painful. "What!" he choked.

A quick squeeze cut off his breath as Dominic whipped his arm backwards and threw him into the floor. Lucian lost his breath for less than a minute and then tried to get up, wondering what had come over Dominic. His delay cost him as Dominic sprang at him with a bitter loathing in his eyes. He knocked him back down and belted him across the face. The gesture shocked him, but Lucian was not one to take a fight lying down. If Dominic wanted to fight to get this resentment off his chest, then he was all too eager to play his game.

He caught Dominic by the thigh and threw him to the floor, laughing mockingly. Dominic tried to get up and grabbed at him, trying to flip him onto his back. Lucian was little irked that Dominic was still not finished even after having been taken down and he fought back with zeal. Moments later, both youths were rolling along the ground, landing punches and directing kicks. Even though Dominicís punches seemed a lot more painful than usual, he still didnít appear to be intent on really hurting him so Lucian continued to counter his blows. Dominic did seem to be harboring a lot of pent-up aggression tonight. Perhaps, it was good for him to get rid of it, even if his methods were a bit rough.

"Iím tired of this," panted the older boy suddenly as he latched a good hold on his companionís left arm and jerked it backward for all he was worth. Lucian was flung to the side as he heard a disturbing pop. White fire blazed through the joint and he tried to pull back as sobs rose inside of him.

"Ow! Nicky, let me go. You went too far," he snapped, tugging back even harder as Dominic tightened his hold and then threw him to his feet. Lucian gasped at the pain and stumbled on his legs. "Nicky, I think you really hurt something. Please let go," Lucian whimpered out of pain, though it was augmented by the misery of having his best friend treat him like this.

Dominic ignored him and dragged him into the hall as Lucian sagged in his hold and fought against the grip. The pain was causing spots to spin before his eyes and he wagered that his arm was probably partially dislocated. He struck out at the boy as hard as he could, hoping he could bully him into releasing him. His arm was hurting badly now and he felt like he was going to throw up from being jerked around like this after such pain. Dominicís only response was to slap him, smacking his head against the wall that they were passing.

Half-dazed, Lucian staggered and almost fell to the ground, forcing Dominic to have to drag him. The pain in his injured arm grew worse as his head began to throb. It no longer mattered why Dominic was acting like this. He didnít want to play along with him anymore. He just wanted to get away.

Hitting Dominicís back with enough force to briefly wind the older boy, Lucian screamed at him, "What the hell are you doing? Shit Nicky, Shira just finished healing everything! Are you trying to mess me up again?"

"Perhaps."

Gaining his second wind, Dominic whirled around and grabbed the younger boy by his neck before he could jump back. He dragged Lucian the rest of the way from the house and into the garden. Once there, he threw him against the center fountain and reached to his own throat. By now, Lucianís head was bleeding from when it had hit the wall and crashing against the fountain only produced another wound that bleed equally bad. Holding his hand against the most recent cut, Lucian gaped at Dominic as the blood ran down to his cheek. His other hand was clamped down on his shoulder and his eyes were wide like those of one who has just been stabbed.

"Have you lost your mind? What are you trying to..."

He trailed off as a flash of silver caught his eye and he realized that it was from Dominic summoning Aurora. Now, he was scared. This wasnít just any common fight. Dominic wanted to hurt him. Really bad. He still couldnít figure out why his friend was attacking him, but he had come to the conclusion that this would not be the ideal time to find out. Lucian backed against the fountain and tensed. "Youíve got to be kidding me!!"

Orange light streamed up Aurora as Dominic swept it in an arc in front of him. "Shut up!"

Scrambling to the side, Lucian managed to avoid the bulk of the attack, but part of the burning strike did slide past his side. He cringed at the spellís touch and fought to stand up. After several aborted tries and more wild dodges from the Sun Guardianís magic, he was able to accomplish the task. For trying to hurt him, Dominic was sure doing a half-ass job at it. Aside from his first hex, the rest had been mostly sloppy. Why was he stalling? Dominic had better skill than this. Another idea struck him as he checked out his partner.

Before he could test it, he had to deal with his shoulder though. He didnít like what he had to do. Setting dislocated limbs was something he had only tried out once before and it hadnít been a pleasant experience at all. Problem was, he was going to be a sitting duck when it came to magic fighting if he couldnít hold his sword properly. Before Dominic could send another attack, Lucian clenched his teeth and groaned loudly as he set the joint back in place. Dominic had reared back his sword again but had not released its energy yet. He seemed to be watching the younger boy, disconcerted by his stricken sounds.

It confused Lucian. Why would the boy go from violently attacking him to being worried about his cries? That would prove his current assumption false. He had to be seeing this the wrong way. No, the other wasnít worried about him; he was just surprised that he had cried out without being injured by another blast. He was just imagining that the look of his face was one of concern. The one fighting him right now wouldnít have that emotion. It wasnít Dominic. This hostile figure couldnít be the Sun Guardian.

Adjusting to the increasing pain in his arm, Lucian pulled his ruby amulet from his throat and changed it into Hades. He held the sword to his side just as the other boyís face grew fierce again; sneering at the weapon in Lucianís hand. Auroraís swipe sang through the air once more. Ready for it this time, Lucian warded off the onslaught of energy with his blade. When his opponent sent another attack, it was met with the equally fearsome wrath of the Hell Guardianís power. The two magics destroyed each other and both boys stood on their opposite ends, panting and deciding upon better methods of combat.

Dropping his swordís tip down to his thigh, Lucian regarded the other youth with a devilish grin. "I see now." As the otherís face scrunched in bafflement, Lucian flicked Hades upwards and lunged at him. "How dare you possess my partner, you damn Chimera!" he raged, bringing the broad side of his blade closer to the boyís head. He didnít want to hurt Dominic too much, just enough to take the fight out of him until he could assess a way to free him from the enemyís spell.

Violet eyes that were the closest to black as he had ever seen narrowed and the older teenager flipped Aurora above him with Dominicís customary skill. It slammed into the sword of the Hell Guardian and Lucian was forced away for a second. Not letting the fact that his adversary had just used Dominicís skill against him distract him for too long, Lucian dashed forward again. He thrust with Aurora only to be again blocked and thrown back by the speed of the other. His feet stumbled as he went back this time and he had to roll away from the dark-haired youthís next lunge. Keeping his weapon aloft, Lucian found his footing again and charged. The blade of the Sun Guardian slipped under his own and caught on the edge, threatening to flip it from his hands.

Lucian tore it back hastily, allowing Hades to fly up and over his shoulder in a cylindrical patter. He hoped to use the force of the blow to disarm his opponent. But that was not to be. The one he was dueling with knew his every move. His mind screamed out to him the reasoning behind this, but he refused to listen. Yes, Dominic had been around him long enough for him to get a feel of how he reacted to certain situations, but that didnít matter. This wasnít Dominic!

Aurora crashed into Hades, stopping it as it neared their upper chest level. The blades clashed and the magic that surrounded them rose in instant retaliation. Lucian could feel the heat of the Sun Guardianís power lapping at the hand on the swordís hilt. He could see that the dark energy from his weapon also surged toward the other boy. His adversary appeared immune to the scalding sensations and tried to push against the blade upon his own. Determined not to disengage again, the Hell Guardian forced himself to stand the magicís assault and held Aurora at bay.

Magic consumed the swords, lashing toward the boysí forms and glowing before their eyes. The older one bit down with his teeth and gave his companion a menacing glare. "I...am not...a Chimera!" he hissed, shuddering as the Hell Guardianís power washed upon his arm.

"Yeah right! Why else would my partner be attacking me?" taunted Lucian, aware that he would not be able to withstand the force of this sorcery for much longer.

Hearing his words seemed to rejuvenate his opponentís spirit as he finally forced him back, streaking his sword to the tip of his shoulder. Lucian was still recovering from the shock of his latest action when the Sun Guardianís blade slashed before him, grazing the flesh starting at the tip of his collarbone and almost down to his mid-sternum. The boy screamed as a small splash of blood colored his adversaryís shirt.

"You LIED to me!" the other accused, slamming his blade into Hades even harder and pushing the weakened youth toward the ground.

Unable to see to his wound, Lucian focused on maintaining his balance as he stumbled from the last attack. "Lied to you? What are you talking about?"

His opponent struck out with his magic. Lucian dashed out of the path of the coursing spell. Stopping some good yards away from the other, he tried to catch his breath before beginning another round. The older boy had also stopped and was digging his fingers into the hilt of Aurora, tufts of messy black hair blocking his eyes. "I trusted you! I cared about you!" he wailed, jerking his weapon to his side at a slanted angle.

Unfortunately, Lucian missed the last motion. All he caught were those heartbroken words coming from the other youth. They sounded genuine. "Nicky?" The incredulous whisper sailed from his lips even as the Sun Guardianís flames sailed toward his body.

Lifting his eyes, he saw the attack and went to block it. But not soon enough. The power tore into his left arm at its junction, searing everything but the point of his elbow. To his relief, the arm was too consumed in pain for the fire to sting as much as it would have. He threw the wounded arm behind him and positioned Hades to guard against another blast. Even as he did, he felt the anguish creeping into him.

This was Dominic he was fighting. That aching in his voice couldnít have been known by anyone but him and its owner. Nobody knew that Dominic could even feel such inner torment. But then, why was Dominic doing this? He hadnít done anything to warrant such villainous treatment. It wasnít like before when he had told Dominic he had betrayed the Keys. He had understood why Dominic would have wanted to kill him given that information. Yet now, there was nothing. What had he done wrong?

"You obviously couldnít have cared about me much since youíre hurting me," Lucian yelled to Dominic, still barely able to believe that this was really happening.

"SHUT UP!" commanded Dominic, releasing more of his magic from Aurora.

Caught by surprise, Lucian attempted to sprint to the side. The energy hit him in his left leg, the pain reminding him of the recently healed break. It was too much for Lucian to take. He cried out and collapsed to the ground. Without thinking, he braced his good arm to soften his fall as Hades spun from his fingers. Clutching his leg with his left hand, he rolled onto his side and reached for his weapon. Another burst of fire from Aurora made him miss his target. He pulled back his hand and held it close to him, struggling to raise himself on one elbow. His body was shaking with pain and fear, fear that Dominic really was going to kill him.

"I-I donít understand," he moaned, trying not to see the deadened expression on Dominicís face. "What did I do? Nicky, talk to me."

"Quit calling me that! Youíre not my friend." Dominic grimaced at the fallen boy and snorted in contempt. "Youíre not even worthy of a Guardian death," he admonished, reverting Aurora back to the gem and throwing it around his neck as he stalked over to Lucian. The redhead tried vainly to move back, eyes glistening with betrayal. Dominic seized the middle of his ponytail, or the bit of it that was still held up from all the fighting, and wrenched him onto his back. "Youíre a lying little traitor." His hand moved to his back pocket and his switchblade appeared in his hand.

The sight of the blade brought back too many terrible memories. Lionelle. And the cutting. And the blood. The fear. The helplessness. Torturous pain. Lucian forgot about his desire to act as tough as Dominic. That blade was too close. It would hurt him again. Those weak cries would echo in his ears. Then, there would be that laugh. That mocking, hateful laugh. He panicked.

"Stop! No blades, Nicky. Please donít do this." Lucian fought against his friend, kicking and hitting as Dominic loomed over him. His hair was jerked back harder; keeping his head flat against the dirt as Dominic kneeled down on his legs. The brightness of the blade seemed to flicker like a candle amongst the night sky, terrifying Lucian even more. It reflected his red eyes, bringing both his real and imaginary fears to life. They widened and he attempted to throw his head to the side, shaking even worse. Sickened by his pathetic actions, Lucian shut his eyes and pushed against his partner with his waning strength. He could hear his voice cracking. "D-donít cut me. I c-canít...."

A palm flew against his cheek. Smarting pain tingled across the reddened skin as Dominic grabbed his chin roughly. "Why should I show mercy toward a creature such as you?" While Lucian was still dazed from the slap, Dominic freed his hand from his tangled hair and used it to push Lucianís back into the ground. The hand bearing the knife drew closer to the younger boyís throat.

"P-please, Nicky, t-tell me whatís...." Lucian broke off as he felt the edge of the blade stroke his neck, nearing his jugular. "Donít! Nicky! STOP!" It bit into the flesh, nicking him as a tiny drop of blood dripped into the cavern of his throat. He screamed in pure horror, straining his voice to its limit.

*~*~*~*~*~*

"Never call me that again, demon!" snarled Dominic, slugging the boy across the other check. His violet eyes were large and shook involuntarily. Lucianís scream died at the punch and Dominic felt a bit of relief. The sound of his companionís cry was threatening to drive away his purpose, just as it always did. As long as he could keep Lucian from screaming like that, he would be able to do this. He set the switchblade down and pulled back Lucianís head even farther. His mental walls rose up again to block his own shattered feelings as well as the hopeless pleas of his companion.

"Demon? Nicky, I...." the boyís voice questioned, a bit confused but also showing a definite realization as he blinked at Dominic.

How could he still be trying to deceive him? Didnít he realize by now that Dominic had figured out everything? He had made up his mind. The Keys would be safe from this dark creature. Forget the pain it caused him. He could handle it; he always had. Everything was working so far. He had waited until he had known Lucian was alone to confront him and then had attacked him. It probably would have been better had he just choked him during their skirmish. Lucian hadnít been putting his whole heart into that fight anyway. Still, he hadnít been able to make himself do it then. The style of fighting had just seemed too friendly, too playful. They had shared many fights like that. It was impossible to finish him like that. Besides, the fight wouldnít even have started had not Lucian tried to seduce him into forgetting everything. That had been what had made him lunge at the boy. Things just sort of proceeded from that point.

Failing at his first strategy, Dominic had tried the Guardian approach only to realize that he couldnít kill Lucian that way either. He made himself believe that it was because a traitor should not have the honor of such a noble death, fighting as one who protected the Keys. Whether that was true or not, he didnít want to think about. So he had gone for his last method, killing Lucian as if he were his prey. No fighting, no bantering, just immediate death. He had been the hunter...for those for seconds at least. But Lucianís damn screams had forced those old doubts into him. He had hesitated.

It wouldnít happen again! He was the hunter. He was the wolf and the wolf could kill without pity. It was for the sake of his and the packís survival. In this case the knife would have to serve as his fangs. Lucian would not weasel his way out of death this time.

He banged the boyís head against the ground, stunning him enough to prevent any more pleas for sanity for a short time. "Stop it!" Dominic spat the order into Lucianís face. "Stop pretending like youíre human! Youíre nothing but a monster!"

Red eyes fluttered, trying to gain some comprehension, as the boy moaned in his stupor. "You...unn...donít understand."

"Wrong! I understand perfectly. You lied to me and to the others to get close to the Keys. You want to kill them. Wonít that make your master proud?"

"No!" shrieked Lucian, coming out of his delirium. He shook his head and looked at the older boy in frantic denial. "Iíd never hurt Tye or Kathy. And I donít work for Vincient."

"Do you continue to lie to me?" the other charged as he pulled Lucianís head back hard enough for it to hurt the boy enormously. Lucian winced at the action and whimpered within his throat. "Do you still have the audacity to deny what you?"

"....No...You are right. I am a...demon," gasped the redhead without lowering his gaze.

To Dominic, the words were like reliving his horror at the discovery all over again. Lucian had kept this from him for so long. He didnít want him to know what he was. His friend was a demon, a demon that had served the enemy. Those red eyes were solid proof of it. Why had he never noticed it before? He was so blind! Now, Lucian was begging for his life. He wanted to finish his job. If he was killed, he would never be able to deliver the Keys and the Cruce to his master.

Everything that left those wicked lips was a lie. Another attempt to trap him in his spell. To lure him away from his task. He couldnít listen to the trembling in that tone or the broken look in those treacherous garnet orbs. They were all the clever tricks of a master of deception. Lucian knew how to play him. A gifted hacker, he knew which buttons to push, which passwords to use. Well, Dominic would just have to alter the programming. It was time to change his pass code.

"You pretended to be my friend. I actually cared for you and I thought...And the whole time! I should have killed you when I had the chance!!" He lost control and punched Lucian, splitting his upper lip and breaking the skin diagonal from it.

Lucian cringed again and paled at the blood in his mouth, but he kept that sorrowful expression on his face and kept his eyes locked with Dominicís. He spoke once more, having gained a new sense of stability to his tenor. "Well, you have the chance now."

"Yes, I do and I plan to make use of it," Dominic told him, picking up his switchblade from the ground.

The panic returned to Lucianís eyes. "N-nicky, I-Iím sorry."

"Do you think your pathetic lies will work on me, demon? Do you know what youíve done? I truly believed in you. I thought you were special. You were my friend, my...But I was wrong! Youíre nothing more than a manipulative creature spurned by Hell!" Dominic couldnít control this anger churning inside him, this raw roaring fury. He had tried! Tried hard. He had given up so much and for NOTHING! His reward was just an endless course of lies. Lucian had just been using him.

Egged on by the voices screeching in his pounding head, Dominic struck Lucian with the hilt of his knife, the end of the blade managing to slice him under his right eye. "I HATE YOU!!!" He went to hit him again. Just then, something stopped him.

When he looked down, he realized that Lucian had grabbed his wrist tenaciously and was pushing it away from his body. The boy was panting, shivering, and bleeding from his abuse, but it seemed that all of his senses had finally returned to him, overpowering the fear that had been enslaving his mind. He was no longer fighting like a frightened child as his weaker hand had acquired the collar of Dominicís shirt and was tugging him to the side. His eyes gleamed with a stronger sense of resolve. He raised his head, tugging against the fingers that meshed with his crimson tresses.

"Yes, I am a demon. A thing born of dark sorcery. The reincarnation of Prince Tavores Destin, immortal host to Armageddon. Yes, itís all true. This soul is tainted. But I still protect the Keys. I have to. I want to. My blood shall not interfere with that," Lucian said in a tone of absolute gravity.

Dominic could not let the boy sway him again. There would be no more of these tricks. He was stronger than Lucian; he could fight against this. Lucian was striking out with the best of his ammunition. He was bound to run out sooner or later and reveal his true nature. He would just have to wait for it. If he moved fast enough, he might even be able to finish Lucian before he sought to use his demon attributes against him.

Swallowing the cries that ached to escape from him, he fought against Lucianís push on his wrist and brought knife so that the tip was pricking the boyís lower throat. Lucian was using all his strength to keep the blade from sinking into that pulsing flesh. Dominic pushed down harder. "Donít speak to me! You call yourself my friend? Youíre not my friend. I donít even know what you are. I donít want to know. Either way, your bewitching words will no longer twist my mind."

"I didnít want to lie to you! I had to. I knew youíd...." the other youth tried to explain, ripping part of Dominicís shirt as he fought to pull him away.

"What? Kill you and prevent you from getting to the Keys? Is that what you thought because in that case, youíre right. I will."

Screaming in rage, Lucian punched him across the face as hard as he could, coating his bruised knuckles in his partnerís blood. "I knew you wouldnít listen! You never listen!" howled the boy, driving his fists against Dominicís arms, occasionally switching to fingernails to scratch at the skin like a psychotic cat. Dominic was momentarily stunned as Lucian maneuvered his legs from under his knees began kicking the older boy in the chest and stomach with enough force to almost flip him over the boyís body.

He gathered enough air to lunge forward and snag Lucianís wrist as Lucian continued to kick him, intent on throwing him off. "No!" Dominic snapped as he twisted Lucianís wrist violently to the side. A bit further and he would have broken it.

Luckily, Lucianís kicks stopped at the motion as his whole body froze in pain. He shrieked and jerked his hand back pulling Dominic on top of him. There was that wretched scream again. It wouldnít change things. Setting on hand on the boyís chest to hold himself up, Dominic backhanded the boy, alarmed when more blood spilled over Lucianís chin as his cry was cut short. It faded into a tragic whimper and soon a low groan. Dominic noticed that he didnít feel an ounce of satisfaction at the realization that Lucian was no longer screaming.

His voice shook as he corrected the mewling teenager. "No. You listen." Lucianís eyes were clouded as Dominic pressed hard against his breastbone, leaning over him, and set his switchblade at the side of Lucianís neck, preparing to slash downward, slitting the otherís throat. "Iíll teach you what happens when you toy with emotions."

Lucianís head lulled as his body convulsed slightly. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to lift his head as he coughed thickly. Tiny flecks of red danced across Dominicís torn shirt. Something in him turned. His hand shook, cutting Lucian lightly. Lucian jerked at the superficial piercing on his neck and cried out as if he had been shot. Dominic was unable to stop his hand as it choked up on the knife and flew backwards and to his side, safe from Lucianís bleeding throat. His other hand gave way from underneath him and he sank down on top of Lucianís body. He didnít try to move away from the younger boy and remained as he was, draped over the redheadís chest, horrified by his defeat.

As if sensing the blade was no longer upon him, Lucian pushed again at the motionless youth. Dominic could tell that the boy was breathing oddly, probably hyperventilating from shock. "Still...canít...do it? Can you?" wheezed Lucian. He started to cough again and his feeble hands slipped away from Dominicís chest. "Idiot."

Forced to acknowledge his inability once more, Dominic rolled off the other and glared at him miserably. Lucian was right. He couldnít kill him. As he had learned when he had tried once before, he didnít have it in him. That cold calculating mentality belonged to Wolf alone. With Lionelle, it had been an accident. He hadnít even expected to shoot him. It had been instinct. But without that instinct kicking in during this situation, he had no chance of killing the one he had once called his friend. What could he do?

Stumped, he walked away from Lucian. Lucian seemed to be having a problem at getting up. No wonder, his leg had been burned badly enough for it to be hard to rest weight on and his arms had both been through enough abuse that they wouldnít provide suitable support. He watched Lucian try again and fail, clawing at the ground and cursing under his breath. Given time, he was sure that Lucian would find a way to at least crawl back to the house to Tashiraís care. She would heal everything he had done to him.

Funny thing was that he didnít know why he even cared anymore what happened to the other boy. He was supposed to be trying to kill him. What? Had he just gone from ready to slit his throat, to mild indifference, and now to his usual concern? Damn, Lucian had really pulled a number on him. It was impossible to fight back. This demon was going to live and it was all because he was too damn attached to do something about it. He was going to allow Lucian to hurt Tyrell. What was the matter with him? He was a Guardian. Why couldnít he just do his job?

"I donít know why you have to be so damn self-righteous about this. Youíre not human either. Youíre a fucking wolf!" Lucian griped in a testy whisper as he hit the ground again. Dominic glowered at him and Lucian bit his lip and hung his head. The older boy could tell that Lucian hadnít really meant for him to hear that.

Boy, Lucian could be so stupid sometimes. Insulting the person who had just tried to kill him. It wasnít even true. Being a shape-shifter didnít make him any less human, even though he would have preferred it that way. He wanted to be the wolf completely. Things were always easier for Wolf. He could do...anything. Dominicís eyes flashed as his vision hovered over Lucian once more. Wolf could do anything. Wolf was a hunter. A killer.

He sneered at the redhead, flashing his teeth as he cupped his sun amulet under his hand. "Enough! I donít need a puny blade to take care of you." He threw the knife to the ground. Orange light rose up around him and he slanted his eyes. "I can do it myself." The change swallowed his form entirely.

Leering through the fading light, he crouched low to the ground on his more powerful limbs, letting the toned muscles go taut under his ebony coat. He lowered his ears and snarled as Lucian gaped at his current form. The boyís eyes traveled to the position of the fallen switchblade and he shook his head at Wolf, mouthing Ďno!í

Wolf lunged.

<Farewell, demon!>

*~*~*~*~*~*

Lucian saw the animal rushing toward him and desperately crawled over to the knife using his elbows and his good leg. He grasped it in his left hand and held it out in the direction that Wolf was running. Leaning against his other arm, he was able to face Wolf in a half-upright position. "Donít make me do this, Nicky. I donít want to fight you," he pleaded.

How could Dominic still want to hurt him? Hadnít he already proved to himself that he couldnít kill him? He knew that Dominic was angry with him for lying and for being a demon. Dominic thought he was helping Vincient. How could he convince him that he wasnít? More importantly, how could he stave off Wolf until he figured out a way to show him his loyalty? He didnít want to hurt Dominic much more than he had to. Knife wounds were painful. He was an expert on that subject. Lucian really didnít want to have to cut Wolf. But Wolf was a lot harder to fight than Dominic. The animal had a lot more natural weapons and his defenses were better. What was he supposed to do?

<LIAR!> Wolf bellowed inside his skull as the beast jumped toward his chest. Dropping the knife immediately, Lucian used his hand to grab the back of Wolfís throat as the force of the creatureís momentum helped him to hurl Wolf to the side. It took almost every bit of his energy and he knew for a fact that he wouldnít be able to do it again. He wheezed and coughed roughly, fighting for air as Wolf leapt to his feet and snapped his jaws. <Not going to fight, demon? I could have ripped out your throat in an instant?>

"You...didnít," hacked Lucian, regaining his tipsy position on his arm.

<A simple mistake. I can fix that,> the animal huffed and then lunged at him again.

His companion only had less than a minute to retrieve the blade as Wolfís teeth neared his neck. The boy nicked the part just above Wolfís back leg. His strike caused Wolf to miss his chance to grab his neck and instead the beast went for his left shoulder, driving his fangs in as painfully as he could. His weight made Lucianís arm buckle underneath him and he fell onto his back, Wolf crushed against his torso. Moving off his body, Wolf yanked against his shoulder, sinking his teeth further in and dragging the boy a little. Lucian gasped and a series of whimpers left him as he was unable to hold them back. He felt Wolfís lift his jaws and move his mouth higher up his shoulder. It was obvious what Wolfís plan was.

Tears stung his eyes and he gripped the switchblade tighter. Yet, he could not bring it close enough to Wolf no matter what he tried. He couldnít do this to his friend, even now. This was his fault. He had lied to him for too long. Now, Dominic was just confused. He had come to his own assumptions and had believed them whole-heartedly. His friend wasnít going to listen to him anymore. He had to be able to take his punishment until Tashira returned. Of course, he wouldnít let her hurt Dominic, but he would allow her to do enough to get him to let him go. He could last that long. Things had been much worse with the Chimera and he had toughed it out. He could do it here too.

Only, the Chimera werenít Dominic. They werenít his friend, the one he would do anything for. The one most special to him. It was hard to stay strong when he had to face that fact that his ĎNickyí was truly set on killing him and wanted to make him suffer while he did it. Even before when he had tried to kill him, Dominic had not wanted to make him suffer. Not like now. Something had snapped inside Dominic. He couldnít reach him. Dominic was blocking him out. It all made sense, but he still couldnít see why Dominic was this driven. What was it about his identity as the demon that hurt him so much that he wanted to see Lucian feel this type of pain? He was literally torturing him. Dominic knew of his fear of blades and Dominic knew that what he was now doing as Wolf was extremely painful. Why did he want to hurt him like this?

Yearning to lessen the agony, Lucian pushed at Wolfís head and tried to lift his teeth from his shoulder. Wolfís eyes looked irritated but he continued to move his teeth closer to the delicate expanse of throat. It was no longer pale like it was supposed to be but was stained various shades of red depending on how fresh the blood was in that area. Lucian poked his fingers against one of Wolfís fangs and yelped as he kept trying to dislodge him.

Wolf shifted his teeth to a new spot and then bit down hard. <Aren't you going to fight back like the bloodthirsty fiend that you are?>

The tears fell from Lucianís eyes from the brutal pain and he reached for Wolfís amulet. His bleeding fingers encircled the chain and he tugged briskly at it, hoping that the act of the chain digging into Wolfís neck would cause him to release his shoulder. He cried helplessly, ashamed at each of the tears that fell upon the ground. "I could never hurt you, Nicky."

Giving a wretched whine, Wolf tore his teeth from Lucian and backed up, shaking his head madly. He shut his eyes and growled furiously. <Stop your wicked lies! I donít want to hear it! I wonít listen to you! I canít!>

Free, Lucian grasped his mauled shoulder and crawled backward with his good arm, knife still in his grip. Wolf hadnít opened his eyes and was still shaking his head and clawing at the ground. He looked unbalanced. Sick even. Lucian tried to move further away. He wanted to get away, find safety, find Tashira, and nurse his wounds. Wolf had lost his mind. He was dangerous. Common sense would say that he had to leave him. But he couldnít.

This half-crazed creature before him was Dominic. As much as he wanted all those other things, his desire for Dominic prevailed. If he bolted, he would prove Dominicís belief that he was wicked. Dominic would think that he ran away to scheme some place else. It would solve nothing. He would still be a traitor in the otherís eyes. Even if it allowed him to live, he couldnít live with that. He had to stay. This was his only way of showing Dominic that he would stand by him as he had promised. They had to be able to ride this out together like they always did.

Slowly, he turned back to face Wolf. "They arenít lies. I mean what I say. Killing you would be like killing every part of me that matters."

Amethystine eyes snapped open. <I will kill you if you donít fight back this time.>

Lucian shook his head and set the knife down. "No. You canít. You couldnít before. You canít now. You know it," he remarked, keeping his voice as jovial as he could. He would show Wolf that he wasnít scared.

His companion paced from where he was, moving his eyes across his battered body. <I was naive then. I believed in something that wasnít real. I was stupid.> Wolf paused and Lucian saw that hint of bloodlust return to his eyes. The boy moved his hand toward the switchblade, feeling light-headed. <But Iím not anymore!>

In that moment, Wolf overtook him, seizing his throat within his jaws. Lucian could feel the sensation of the deadly fangs on his skin as he worked the knife between him and Wolf, holding it just under the gap in the creatureís neck. Wolf was too distraught and angry to even realize the danger he was in. Trapped under him, Lucian forced himself to keep the blade aimed toward its target. He couldnít believe the decision he had been given. Worse, he still didnít know which he would choose. Heartbroken tears flowed down his cheeks faster and faster. They were blinding out the vision of the animal that was also contemplating his fate.

"Donít do this, Nicky," he murmured silently as if the words were a final prayer.

Inside his head, Wolf continued to express his fury. <I know the truth. I hate you. And destroying something I hate means nothing to me. Thatís what you are. Nothing!>

There was a tiny thump as the knife hit the ground. Wolfís eyes fell to the object.

Moments later, Lucian dropped his hand to his side. His eyes were nearly vacant. The final word screamed in his mind. Nothing! Old voices laughed in his memory.

"Nobody could ever want that one. Heís nothing but trouble."

"Yeah, heís such a liar. He screams and screams and throws these massive fits. Then, all the people go to check on him and thereís nothing there. What a freak!"

"Why canít you just be good? None of the other children have even come close to being the hassle that you are. Youíre nothing like them. What are you?"

"Nothing. Nothing more than a demon," Lucian mumbled, his voice startling Wolf, who was still staring at the knife.

<More demon tricks? They wonít work. I canít let you live.>

Was that a hint of regret? No. He had lost. Dominic was never going to forgive him. He didnít mean anything to him.

"I...donít...care what you do."

<Quit lying to me!> demanded Wolf.

Lucian fisted his hands, feeling the blood building under his nails. His sobs became more violent and the tears dampened Wolfís fur. He grasped at the black strands on Wolfís shoulder. "Damn it! I thought we meant something to each other! I guess that really was all a joke, huh?"

<No more games.> The jaws tightened on Lucianís throat and the tiniest amount of blood began to trickle from under the imbedded fangs. He stopped for a minute.

"Go ahead, Nicky. If killing me means nothing to you, then go ahead," croaked Lucian, choking in the otherís hold. His eyes were glassy and refused to make contact with Wolfís.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Wolf didnít care that Lucian was no longer looking at him. He averted his eyes. There was no way he could face those despondent garnets. The blood swimming in his mouth and over his tongue was too much. It was too familiar. Flashes of the last few days swept through his mind. Most of Lucian catching him at various places in the house and coercing him into a quick kiss or a longer session, if the mood caught the younger boy. He had always tasted blood at those times. Lucian would always laugh and scold him if he bit too hard though. It had been fun. He didnít want to think of that now, when he had his friend gasping for breath within his jaws and bleeding from several wounds that he himself had inflicted. Why was he thinking of this as Wolf? Wolf didnít need such memories.

<Why are you doing this? Couldnít you have found someone else to deceive? I canít take this! I canít!> he wailed, appalled to realize that he had allowed Lucian access to the latest phrases in his thoughts. <Why?> Wolf whimpered again, shutting his eyes.

"I...canít...hurt...you, Nick-y."

<But I can hurt you!>

The second he said it, he knew it was a lie. There was no point in this charade anymore. He was simply too weak to do this. Even as Wolf, Dominicís feelings prevailed. He had lost his immunity. Lucian had beaten him. He could never force himself to believe that Lucian meant nothing to him. He had been in this thrall too long. It was as Lucian had said in his heart-rending lies.

"Killing you would be like killing every part of me that matters."

He couldnít do it.

<Why?> he repeated, releasing Lucianís neck and watching the boy renew his sobs as he rolled to his side and curled toward himself. He tried to hide his eyes with his hand as his back trembled with each despairing cry.

Crushed by both Lucianís display and his own frailty, Wolf pulled backward and reversed his transformation allowing his human form to return. Why bother with Wolf now when his mentality refused to take control around Lucian? He remained on his knees as he buried his face in his hands. "Even now I canít do it. What have you done to me?"

"AH!" Lucian suddenly shrieked as he flung back his head and clutched at it with shaky fingers. Dominic moved his hands down from his face in curiosity.

Lucianís hands fell from his hair and he swept it away from his face as if its presence revolted him. His lip curled into a snarl as he saw Dominic looking at him and he shot him a rancorous glare. "What have I done to you? Hah! Nothing you didnít deserve."

"Huh?"

"I knew you were trouble since the first time I laid eyes on you. When you were beating me in the middle of the night," said the younger boy, rubbing his neck as he rolled to his knees and climbed to his feet, paling as the motion caused the blood to rush to his head. It must have hurt badly. Dominic was amazed that he had even been able to get up in his condition, let alone so quickly.

"Middle of the night?" he posed, waiting for clarification.

"Perhaps, I should illustrate my point." Lucian sauntered over to him with a regal grace, securing the ruby amulet along his way, and leaned over his kneeling body. Dominic was able to get a good look at his eyes as the boy smiled at him wickedly. Brown highlights surged amongst the red. The vision was quickly taken away as his head snapped to the side, pain blossoming along his entire cheekbone. "Ring a bell?" mocked the other, bringing his hand back to him.

Dominic shook his head to clear his sight. "Those eyes...." A punch prevented him from finishing his sentence as the uppercut knocked him on his back.

His companion grinned at his downed form and kicked him sharply in the side and then kicked him to the left of his stomach when Dominic tried to get back up. The sudden attack floored Dominic and he gasped as he fought to avoid any further kicks or blows. A hand sank itself into his shaggy hair and grabbed near the roots of the strands. Dominic hissed as the boy jerked him back and whirled him to the side before throwing him against the ground. He felt Lucianís weight pin his legs to the dirt as his hair was captured again and his head wrenched back exactly the same as he had done to Lucian.

The redheadís face hovered close to his ear as he whispered coldly, using Lucianís silky sexy tone. "How does it feel when itís you on the other end, Dominic? Do you like being treated like a dog?" He struck Dominic again, nearly dazing the other.

Since when was Lucian this strong? He was also confused as to why he was manhandling him this way. Lucian wasnít big on vengeance when it came to him. He surely had never acted this sadistic.

Groaning like a wounded animal, Dominic attempted to lean his head back as he rolled his eyes toward the other. "How...."

Without warning, his face was slammed into the ground again as Lucian laughed and jumped away from him. He landed on his feet, tottering just a little as he crossed his arms over his chest. "You wanted a demon? Well, you got one. Youíve already revealed your true form, Dominic Solanis. I think itís only fair that I return the favor."

Instantly, agony was etched across the boyís face as he doubled over, crying out softly. Dominic managed to regain his stance as he saw something large and black expand from his companionís back. The ebony wings revealed themselves in an instant spray of flesh and blood. Dominic could only watch agape as the transformation ensued. Lucianís hair band snapped as the satiny strands coursed down to his waist, gathering move wave as they lengthened. Claws sprang from the youthís fingers and an old scar cut its way across his right eye.

ĎNo,í mouthed Dominic, lost for any other words.

"Surprised?" the demon purred, leering at him with his cool brown eyes.

"You...you are a demon."

A chilling laugh left the creature and he snarled at the other like a deranged beast, giving Dominic a long look at his pearly fangs. "What? Donít tell me you were going to kill me without being sure."

"I thought...Demons are supposed to be evil. But you...." Dominicís words froze in his throat as he gazed upon the gorgeous figure. The jet-black wings were lofted and spread out partially, showing the youthís annoyance. He wanted to touch one of the downy forms. Each feather was outlined in a thin sheen of the deepest red at the top. The color make the black glow as if florescent. His hatred of the monster was pushed to the back of his mind as a consuming awe took its place. "Such beautiful wings."

"Flattery wonít work with me, my dear Dominic. I could care less about your opinion."

Clarity returned to Dominicís mind. Those eyes and that embittered tone. It was the same one who had confronted him in Lucianís room months ago. He raised his eyes and growled in a thick voice, "Youíre not Lucian."

"Give the boy a prize!" the winged-figure sang out.

"If youíre not...The demon! Tavores!"

"I prefer Prince Tavores, Sun Guardian," chided Tavores, shaking his clawed finger. "Reyna and I will always be royalty, even in death. Lowly mortals such as yourself will give us our proper respect."

Reyna? That had been the name that Lucian had roared in his sleep. Her name had led to those piteous tears and those desolate mewls. Lucian had seemed so scared, shaking and screaming out in vain, trapped within those nightmares. And this asshole knew all about it? Dominic had a good idea why.

"You! Youíre the one who causes Lucianís nightmares. Arenít you?" Dominic yelled, clenching his fists and storming over to the demon.

Tavores peered at him in disdain. "Why would you care?"

"Bastard!" cursed the older boy, socking Tavores hard enough that blood dripped from his nose.

"Ow!" Gawking at the one who had the audacity to hit him yet again, Tavores cruelly brushed his hand across his face, smearing the blood. "Hey, you hit me, you hurt your friend or should I say...boyfriend." Dominic stared at the red on his fist as Tavores grabbed a mound of his shirt and yanked the boy into him. Chocolate eyes darkened. "Oh, I forgot. You do that anyway." He slashed Dominic across the face, leaving shallow furrows from the side of his nose to the end of his jaw.

"Shut up!"

"No, I donít think I will. You need to know what a total asshole you are. I told Lucian not to trust you. I told him he would just get hurt. I saw the type of person you were. Wild and heartless. I told him! But he wouldnít listen. Heís such a hopeless dreamer. He couldnít see you for the murderous beast that you are. He thought you would be his friend. Hah! Why would a soulless wolf want anything to do with a demon?"

The dark-haired boy tore at the claws on his clothes. He didnít want to listen to this. It wasnít true. Tavores and Lucian were the same. The same! But beyond the burning rage in Tavoresí eyes, he could see the broken depression. Tavores was shattered. He had lost something too valuable. Lucian might have donned that look a few times, but it did not surround him like a dark aura as it did on this figure. Tavores wasnít Lucian. Lucian still had his demon blood, but he was not the one who served Vincient. It was the entity before him. He had been wrong.

A strangled cry ripped its way from him and he jerked his head to the side. "Oh god, Lucian! I...."

Clawed fingers curled around his throat, breaking the skin everywhere they touched. Tavores tightened his hold, hindering Dominicís breath. He leaned down on his nose and breathed soothingly on his face. Dominic could feel anger and fear dueling for dominance inside him. Tavores chuckled in his refined fashion. "Aww, you donít have to beat yourself up for this, Nick-y." He clamped down on the skin and raised Dominic into the air, flapping his wings to gain more height. "Iíd love to do it for you!"

Dominic yelled as Tavores launched him yards away. He crashed into the ground and rolled to the side, feeling the blood rushing through his hair and down the side of his face. The impact knocked the air from his chest and he choked in between dry coughs. He tried to get up, but it felt like his whole body was numbed. Fighting off faint, he fumbled for the amulet on his neck.

There was a gust of air from Tavoresí wings as the creature landed beside him on all fours. Two triangular marks had appeared above and beneath his scarred eye. His wings were also changing, feathers falling away as the bottom layer hardened and brightened to a sleek crimson. He looked more malevolent than ever, especially with the way he refused to walk and approached Dominic in a fluid crawl, an animal stalking its prey.

His voice became a mixture of the rich human purr and the bass bestial snarl. "I hate being beaten, Dominic. Iíve been beaten for so long. He loved to hurt me. I find it utterly disgusting that you think that I would ever wish to reunite with him! He made me feel like a helpless child, nothing more than his toy. I hate feeling that way. Worse yet, I couldnít fight back." Tavoresí frigid eyes were watery and he looked away. Dominic used the chance to snatch his amulet. Piercing claws sank into his hand before he could transform the relic and Tavores held his chin so that he could see his fanatical visage. "But I can fight you and I promise you, I will!"

"Ah...ah...ah..." Dominic whimpered, pulling on his hand.

Beside him, Tavores continued. "If Lucian wonít bother to protect us from you, I guess Iíll just have to take on the job. I wonít ever let you hurt us again!" He whipped his hand away from Dominicís jaw and backhanded him sharply. When Dominic opened his eyes again, he saw Tavoresí spread claws before him. Tavores pulled them back to strike. "Never again!"

Then, as if yanked by some invisible leash, Tavoresí body jerked backwards. He clenched his eyes as he grasped at a clump of blood red hair. "Ah! Are you out of your mind? Youíre going to allow him to get away with hurting us like that? He almost killed you! He had no reason! He just wanted to hurt you! Heís just like the rest! Heís no better than any of the others who made us suffer." The demon shook his head angrily, tearing at the hair wrapped around his claws. "No! I donít care if he thinks you lied to him! He lied to us! He broke his word. He promised not to hurt you and look what happened. He needs to pay!"

His head snapped back and he roared, pulling his lips back from his fangs. "I am NOT letting Armageddon control me! I know what Iím doing. I want to make him suffer. Me! This has nothing to do with the demonís bloodlust." Tavores touched his eye hesitantly and then jerked it away as if burned. "Thereís no insignia. How would you know if there was? Since when do you know what Iím doing?" He grabbed at one wing, fingers rubbing across the thin leather that was now there. An anguished gasp filled the air and he tore at the wing with his claws. "Armageddon is not in control. I defeated him!"

Finally, he collapsed into a ball, wrapping his wings around his body and shivering. "It's not true!"

To say that watching the scene unfolding baffled Dominic would have been the biggest understatement in the world. He was completely lost. His confusion only grew as Tavores screamed again, the wings around him melting into nothing as his hair shriveled back to his shoulder blades. Lowering his fingers from his skull, the younger boy whined faintly. He lifted his head and Dominic could spy the tears in his eyes, now free of any scars or dark markings.

"Lucian?" inquired Dominic as the boy hugged his arms and turned away.

"He wonít hurt you anymore, Nicky. I wonít let him."

"Why?"

"That wasnít really Tavores. That was the demon that our blood comes from. Armageddon. Heís still inside Tavores and becomes stronger whenever Tavores lets his anger rule him just like you and Wolf. I donít believe Tavores really wanted to kill you. It was Armageddonís influence on him at the time. Tavores was scared. Heís scared of being hurt. You just reminded him of all that. Iím sorry he attacked you."

Dominic gazed at the boy in quandary. "You shouldnít be. I hurt you."

"I think you can still get up, right?" Lucian questioned in a dull tone.

"I donít understand."

*~*~*~*~*~*

"No, you wouldnít. You canít analyze this. Itís far beyond rational thought," sighed the other youth.

He was tired. All of Dominicís abuse on top of warring with Tavores was taking its strain on him. He was just glad that he had taken Tavores out of control before he became even more absorbed by Armageddon. The true demon craved blood and carnage and Tavores was just about angry enough to let him have his way. They would have killed Dominic. His partner was remarkably strong and a trained fighter, but he couldnít hope to stand up against a pureblooded demon with the desire to kill.

Now, that he had saved Dominic from his alter ego, Lucian felt the gloom that had fallen upon him after hearing Dominic denounce his worth flow back into his mind. Dominic wouldnít allow himself to be his friend anymore. He was turned away by the thing inside of him just as everyone else had always been in his childhood. They didnít want to trust a demon. Who could blame them? He was unstable. Killing was in his blood. His damn tainted blood.

Barely paying attention to what he was doing, he held his amulet in his fingers. With a quick tug, he pulled it free, calling back Hades. Dominic backed up a few paces, probably afraid that he was going to attack him again. Some mess they were in now. They were both terrified of each other. Though, Dominic had nothing to fear. He wasnít planning on hurting him.

Running his fingernails down the edge of the blade, he spoke to the boy, his head lowered. "Maybe you could tell me something, Nicky." The next thing he knew he had brought his arm down on the sparkling edge and was moving his lower arm slowly across, tearing the skin every so slightly. Red drizzled over the blade and he heard Dominic made a protesting sound. He ignored him and looked down at the cut.

"I am bleeding, arenít I? I mean, this is the color of human blood. I always thought it was. Iíve never been wrong. I obviously wasnít wrong about you. I knew you would see me as a monster! You were supposed to understand! Out of everybody, in the back of my mind, I always thought that you would! I trusted you! But now I see that I was right to follow my instincts. You could never see me as anything else but a demon." The words rushed from him without stopping, leaving him shaking in fury and hiding his face under his loose hair when he finished.

"Lucian!"

"Why call me that? Iím just a demon, right?" sobbed Lucian as the noise faded into a crackling laugh.

Dominic shot his hand forward to grab at the sword. "Youíve lost your mind! Are you trying to kill yourself?"

"But I thought that this was what you wanted, Nicky. You couldnít do it so Iím giving you a hand as always. Itís a partnerís job to aid his companion in any possible way. Does this make it easier for you?" the boy responded as he moved to a lower part of his arm and repeated the sliding procedure, slicing again.

"Why?" begged Dominic, gripping Hadesí hilt and wrenching it back.

Lucian knocked him away. "Does it matter? It shouldnít. After all, like you said, Iím a monster." He positioned his arm again, savoring the terrified look he was given. Good, Dominic was scared. It was about time he knew how he felt.

"Lucian stop!"

There was another swipe and more blood ran down Lucianís bruised skin. He knew what he was doing now. These cuts werenít deep enough to kill, but they were deep enough to cause Dominic some heavy trauma without even touching the boy. He knew it was as selfish as one could get, but he needed Dominic to know how it felt. All that faith he had put in him. That damn pedestal he had placed him on. His god. Yeah, and his god treated him just as the others had. He knew he was going to. The whole time, he knew it. He just didnít want to believe it and as long as he never tested that faith, he didnít have to deal with the disappointment.

"What do you know? It is blood. Human blood no less. But how can that be? Demons donít bleed human blood," he mused, flourishing his arm before Dominic.

"Donít hurt yourself anymore. Please change back the sword," said the older boy, futilely trying to reason with him. He reached again for the weapon.

"What now? Are you pissed because Iím taking away your privilege of killing me? How selfish?"

"I donít know what to think. I donít know what to do. Youíre right, I donít understand. I donít understand anything. I just want you to stop cutting."

His voice sounded desperate, but Lucian wasnít satisfied yet. He held the bloodstained blade in front of Dominicís face, tracing the tracks of crimson with his eyes. "But Nicky, donít you know? Demons canít bleed to death. We can only be killed by magic."

The blade was pushed to the side as Dominic clutched his slick wrist. "But youíre part human."

"Yes! I am PART human. This blood is just as red as yours. Iím not just some creature! I have a soul too! I may not be like everyone else, but Iím damn close!"

"What do you want from me?" moaned Dominic, bowing his head.

"Whatís wrong? Are we turning soft? Youíre so fickle, Nicky. One minute youíre trying to kill me and the next youíre all with the hysterics. Pick one!" Lucian snapped, surprised at the cynicism in his timbre. He knew he was prolonging this more than he needed to, but he couldnít stop.

"I donít...I donít know what to do! Tell me!" the other screamed, clearly falling into panic.

Hearing that pleading scream, Lucian wanted to feel sorry for him. He wanted to quit this farce and tell Dominic that he hadnít meant to frighten him. But he could still sense the resentment effusing from Dominic, behind that mask of concern. He still saw him as the demon. Dominic didnít know what to make of that, but part of him was still appalled. That enraged Lucian even further.

"You canít just snap on me and then change back and expect me to deal. Iím sick of dealing! Weíre not doing this anymore! You tried to kill me and I want to make damn sure you understand the consequences of your actions." He set the blade to cut again.

"Donít!"

"What do you care? Arenít I endangering the Keys with my very presence? I am a demon, right?"

*~*~*~*~*~*

By now, Dominic was willing to say anything to make Lucian stop. He couldnít watch Lucian do the same thing to himself as he had done so long ago. Truth no longer mattered. The main thing was getting Lucian to regain his senses. He screamed out what he knew Lucian wanted to hear.

"No! No, youíre not."

Sadly, his plan seemed to fail as Lucian glared darkly at him. He could tell he was just saying it and that it meant nothing to him. Lucian knew that he didnít really believe it.

"Wrong! I am a demon. I admit it. But thatís not all I am. I knew you wouldnít understand." The boyís voice fell to a whisper, plagued with frequent tremors. "Thatís why I couldnít tell you! I wanted to! God, how I wanted to! But I knew you would pull this shit! So I lied. And you know what? Iím glad I lied. If I had told you, then I never would have gotten the chance to know you because I would have hated you for the rest of my life." His tone rose again to a venomous hiss. "Youíre just like all the rest!"

"Maybe. Maybe I am. Maybe Iím worse than they were. I donít know. I donít know what you are, Lucian. But it doesnít matter. I canít kill you and I canít watch you kill yourself," explained the other boy, hoping that honesty would somehow have a better affect on Lucian.

"Why?"

He didnít know how to answer that so he just met his eyes with Lucianís as he freed Hades from the boyís fingers. "I just...canít."

"I suppose in your warped logic, thatís supposed to make it all better?" spat Lucian, slumping his shoulders and making no attempt to take back his sword.

Using the blade, Dominic sheared off the bottom portion of his shirt. He snatched Lucianís bleeding arm and tied the cloth around the wounds, lowering his eyes to the ground. "I donít know how to fix this. I donít know how to take back what I said. I donít even know if I can." Dominic checked the bandaging and moved away, placing Hades on the ground. "The bleeding should stop soon. Youíll be okay."

"Iíll never be okay!" Lucian hugged one leg and rested his face against it. "Iíll never be like everyone else. No matter what I say, Iíll never be like them."

Dominic wanted to hold the boy and tell him he was sorry. But the truth was that he wasnít entirely sure if he was sorry. Lucian had been lying to him this whole time. He couldnít blame him for it since he had obviously reacted as Lucian had feared, but he couldnít support that choice either. Lucian had promised him no more secrets. He had lied. There was a wall there now. Something he would have to find another way of getting around. More importantly, there was still the matter of Tavores. Even if Lucian was not controlled by him, the demon still posed a danger.

"Lucian, I...."

"Just go away, Nicky."

"Are you sure you can walk? I could...." the older boy started, holding a hand toward Lucian.

Hadesí point soon dangled before his chest. "No! Donít touch me! I donít...I donít want to see you right now! I-I need to think. I want to be alone. Go away."

Did he mean it? Did he want him to really leave this time? He had never thought that Lucian would actually demand that he leave. Lucian always threw such horrid fits whenever he tried. He knew now he couldnít take back what he had done. There would be no forgiveness this time. They had hurt each other too much. For the first time, he didnít want to leave. He wanted to talk to Lucian. The boy had to know why he had acted the way he had. He had to know that something in his mind had snapped. The realization hit Dominic hard. He didnít want to lose Lucian, even if he wasnít completely human.

"Lucian," he tried beseechingly.

"Go."

"Youíre not listening!"

Lucian drove his swordís hilt against his bruised chest. "I said GO! Leave me alone!"

So Lucian meant it. This was what he wanted. He didnít have the right to fight with him anymore.

Gritting his teeth, he got up. "Fine," he replied gruffly, limping away from the boy.

His companion brought his other leg to the first one, trying not to cry. "I thought you were different...I..." His voice broke as the sobs overtook him. Dominic bowed his head down to his chest and walked away as quickly as he could, ignoring the otherís pitiful moans.

The older boyís actions were halted as his ears picked up the sound of someone entering the garden. Tashira! If she saw them here right now, there would be hell to pay. Tashira often acted a bit differently wherever things concerned her brother. She would kill him. It was logical to run. Too bad, logic had long since left him. He chanced a quick look at Lucian and saw that he was too lost in his agony to have noticed Tashiraís return or Dominicís pause. Heaving a hopeless sigh, Dominic crossed his arms over his chest and waited for what was sure to be his murder.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Unable to get a response from her brother when she had reentered the house, Tashira had begun to make a few random guesses as to where Lucian could have relocated. Surely, he wouldnít have left the house since he had told her that he would stay and keep an eye out for Dominic. As luck would have it, she had been granted with a sudden clue. Trembling shouts and loud sobs were coming from the outside. Recognizing them took less than a second. The echo of her twinís cries forced everything else out of her mind. Tashira didnít even bother to listen to the heated conversation as she sped into the garden, fingers wavering over her opal amulet.

There in the center of the immense garden was Lucian, crying and clutching his sword in his hand. Not that far away from him stood Dominic, waiting passively and watching her with unmoving eyes. He jerked his head toward Lucian and quickly turned back as Tashira let out a horrified wail.

"Lucian!"

Her twin jerked up from crying and his eyes flew toward her. Most of the color drained from his face as the eyes froze in place, drowning in more shock than she had ever seen. Lucian threw Hades away from him and frantically tore himself from her vision.

Tashira ran to her brother, who was now struggling to get up. The side of his knee looked badly burned and he could barely manage a stagger before he fell on his palms. She gaped at the wash of red that covered the right one completely. The arm itself seemed unsteady, trembling as Lucian balanced part of his weight on the limb. That could have been due to the strange reddish coloring of his wrist. Across his face were numerous bruises and cuts, marks of slaps, punches, and scratches. A split lip shook as he tried to maintain his balance. Tears caked his cheeks, the left one pale blue and swollen badly amongst the splash of blood that covered the flesh. There was a thin scar under his right eye that still bled ever so often. Obvious teeth marks could be viewed in various places on his neck, the blood drying by the tiny wounds. A deeper nick just outside his jugular accompanied these. Lucianís left side also looked like it had been singed, burning away the cloth around the skin. The same marking appeared on the joint midsection of his arm, almost reaching to the tip of the elbow. His shoulder was bleeding so much that she couldnít make out what had caused the injury. Even his upper chest had a shallow slice by his breastbone.

Dominic didnít look much better. His torn shirt revealed bruised ribs and patches of discolored skin. From the distance, she could see his arms were pocked in scratches and ugly bruises. He too had various contusions on his face and the side of his head appeared to have a large bleeding wound. Finger marks and thin scratches adorned his throat as a superficial wound decorated his hip, the blood from it streaking down his pant leg. Like his partner, he had his share of burn marks.

The wounds and tears alone told Tashira that there was no reason to search for a Chimera. Her boys had been fighting. They had been fighting each other.

She wove one arm around Lucianís chest, ignoring his muffled protests and then curled another around his throat dragging him toward her. Her eyes flashed to the still Dominic. He was watching, for once accomplishing his goal of hiding all emotion. She hugged Lucian tighter, meaning to shield him with her body. Lucian had given up struggling. As she suspected, part of him did want comfort and the refuge of one who cared about him. She allowed her eyes to leave Dominic for just a moment so she could examine Lucianís line of vision. He was staring at the blood on his arm, breathing softly.

When she turned back to Dominic, he had started to leave again. Great rage filled her. He had done this! They had been worried about him and he had just wanted to hurt Lucian. That monster! That monster had hurt her brother. Why? What had possessed Dominic to attack Lucian in blind rage? She had seen them fight so many times and Dominic had never done this much damage. It looked like he had really wanted Lucian to suffer.

He had to pay!

She released Lucian and summoned her sword, pointing it at Dominic as the anger made her blood sear her veins. Dominic cast a furtive glance her way. Seeing this as a final insult, Tashira whispered the first word that would allow her to call her Elyssiaís power. Lucian caught her action and grabbed under her arms, pulling her down with him. She fought, not understanding why her brother still chose to defend such an evil creature. But Lucian refused to let her go, shaking his head and holding back his tears. When she managed to get free and whip her sword back, Lucianís bitter roar tore through her skull.

"If you touch him, Iíll never forgive you!"

Disgraced, she dropped the sword to the ground as it turned back into her opal. Gathering it, she returned to her brotherís side. She pushed back some of his hair and glared at Dominic. "Get out of here."

Dominic did not need another telling. Just before he left their sight, he looked back. Lucian turned away.

This time, Tashira hugged him by the front, coaxing him into a gentle embrace. Lucian allowed it and leaned his head against her, shutting his eyes. She knew why. He didnít want to see his partner leave, for he opened them again just after the boy had made his way from the garden. Tashira wasnít sure how long Dominic was supposed to stay away. She was fairly surprised that he had followed her order. For now, she would have time to heal and question Lucian without his presence. The one thing she was sure of was that if he came back anytime soon, she wouldnít be able to restrain herself, even with Lucianís warning. Dominic had hurt Lucian too much to just be scolded.

She was about to lift Lucian to his feet when she saw him pinch his eyes shut again and grip at her shirt. He was shaking again and his knuckles were almost white. Furthermore, he seemed to be mumbling something under his breath.

"I hate you. This is all your fault! You wonít be content until you destroy my entire life. I canít have anything I want. You see to that. Are you happy now? I know youíve always hated Nicky? Well, he wonít be around for a while. That should satisfy you. And Iím miserable too. Ooh, two strikes for the price of one. Must be your lucky day, huh bastard?"

"Luce? Luce, who are you talking to?" the girl asked, pulling his fingers from her blouse.

Lucian looked up, startled. "I-IÖI don't know."

Frowning, Tashira tried another question. "Why did Dominic attack you?"

"He needs a reason?"

"Iíve never seen him hurt you before without some sort of cause."

The boy looked ill. "He had...some cause."

"What? I thought he was your best friend?" persisted Tashira as Lucian pushed against her.

"I donít want to talk. I just want to think. Thatís what I told Nicky to make him leave. I wasnít lying," Lucian told her.

Tashira removed her arm. "I want to help you," she begged, blinking her eyes at him.

"You canít. Just go inside. Iíll go back in a few minutes."

"Luce, why are you doing this? Itís like youíre lying to me."

He crawled away from her, sobs tightening his throat. "Iím so sick of hearing those damned words. Do you have any idea how much they hurt right now?"

"No. Tell me, Luce," offered the other, dismayed at how much she was troubling her twin.

"If you really want to help, youíll go inside," Lucian stated slowly.

"But your injuries. Let me heal them and then Iíll...."

"No! I donít want them healed!"

"What?"

"I said I donít want to heal them. Donít bring them up again."

"Thatís insane!" squawked Tashira, reaching toward him.

Her brother drew back and glowered at her. "Leave me alone, Shira! I donít want anyoneís help. I need to handle this on my own. Now go back in the house!"

Such bitter words cut her. Lucian wasnít acting right about any of this. He had actually forced Dominic away, which was something she thought she would never see him do, and he refused to let her fix any of his wounds. They had to be hurting him. He couldnít climb to his feet yet. Now, this desire for solitude. Why?

Yet, she had always let him call the shots. Now was no exception. Feeling her heart grow heavy, she rose and returned to the house as he had told her, leaving him with his thoughts.

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Comments: Ah, it is difficult this time. There are certain things about this chapter that I love such as the initial brawl between Dominic and Luce, the magic fight, various sections of the knife fight, and the stuff with Tavores. As for the rest, it's not that I hate it. It's just that I hope that I have explained enough of the boys' mentalities for it to make sense. Nicky is supposed to be dealing with some type of temporary insanity. If it didn't come across that way, please feel free to offer suggestions on what I should fix. And I didn't want it to be just an angst fix. Nicky would obviously not react to this situation in a normal fashion, given his nature. This is somewhat of closure for this topic.

Also, keep in mind the things mentioned before the fighting, during Tashira and Luce's conversation. Tavores' problems are also worth noting.

Next chapter: Angelique's secret becomes known, Nicky receives his penance in a very startling way, Erik has her say, Kat plays her part, and Tyrell takes his place as leading man.

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