A Myriad of Stories

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Postby ghostyghost » May 29th, 2018, 6:22:45 pm

Three things stuck out instantly as I walked into my living room: a large (and dead) lizard-thing laying haphazardly on my favorite couch, the weird, probably permanent stains coating everything, and, finally, the non-human stranger standing with an odd, sword-like weapon on top of my coffee table.

"What the hell is going on?" I whisper as I stand at the very edge of my living room. I would have screamed, but something seems to be ball up in my throat and prevents me from shouting. You know, a little something I like to call sheer fucking terror, just that normal feeling that everyone gets, right?

Oh, fuck, what's going on? A hysterical laugh bubbles in my throat, and before the strange thing can skewer me on its weird sword, I collapse to the ground in a fit of laughter that dances dangerously close to crying.

"Oh, shit! Uh, is there anything in the manual for this?" a masculine voice, high-pitched and panic-filled, comes out of the form just as I begin to calm down, and I set off in hyena-like laughter once again. After a few minutes of laughing/crying from me and paper rustling from the possibly male thing, I calm down enough to actually manage to speak.

"What the fuck is going on?" I ask; my voice starts out calm but soon turns into a loud, angry, panicked shout. The male starts back in surprise, and the thick book that he had been flipping through falls to the floor with a heavy thud. His eyes, which were shadowed and hard to see, follow me intently as I begin pacing.

"Calm down! Uh… oh, screw it!" the male sighs in frustration and rips his helmet off, minding his horns, and I'm bewildered by his relatively young appearance. That bewilderment only increases as he begins telling me, frantically, about how he had been sent on a mission, which was to eradicate the lizayns from my realm before they took over, and managed to get lost and separated from his group. Now, he's almost one hundred percent sure all of his other mission members had been killed, and the lizayns still roam around and are getting ready to attack.

"So my world, Earth, is about to be attacked by those lizard people, who would steal our males, trash our cities, and kill off our women and children, right? And your group, the Realm Defenders, was supposed to stop it, but you guys fucked up, right? So now you're our only hope, right? I'm on drugs, right? Like I just randomly dropped acid, and now I'm hallucinating. Somebody drugged me, didn't they?" I parrot Calzuren's story, and he nods frantically along until I start talking about drugs. Then his face distorts into confusion and concern as I start laughing again.

"W-well, yeah. What's your name?" Calzuren questions, obviously trying to calm me down, and I run my hands harshly through my hair. He crouches down in front of me, his lower arms quickly working to undo his weird armor while his upper ones tenderly caresses my hair. That's weird, okay, what am I supplied to do? I scrunch up against the wall and try to ignore his effort to comfort me.

"H-Heath," I mumble, suddenly feeling incredibly small and scared. Calzuren seems to get this as he backs off, and I quickly stumble to my feet. Everything crashes down around me as I stare at the dead lizard, lizayn, thing.

It's fucking real. The scream from before bursts out of my throat, and I can't fucking stop even when I'm out of breath. They're coming, I almost died, I'm going to die! My thoughts rush through my head, and, soon enough, I'm on the floor gasping for breath. Calzuren kneels beside me, and his really pretty indigo eyes are the last thing I see before I pass out.

When I come to, they're also the first thing I see. He's carefully kneeling over my limp form, peering down at me with a concerned expression, and I crack a smile up at him.

"Hey, Cal, buddy, what're you doing?" I ask in that kind of fake calm that parents use when they see their child misbehaving. Cal, as I'm going to call him, quickly clambers off of me. As I sit up, I notice that my living room is now completely clean, and a wave of guilt rushes over me. This non-human stranger, who is nice enough to clean my living and merely came to save us, probably hasn't eaten or had anything to drink in a long time… right?

With a sigh, I heave myself up off the floor and set to work on making dinner while Cal does whatever. Soon enough, though, the scent of homemade pizza draws him into the area with me, and he sits himself on a bar stool, which barely holds him, to watch me intently as I cook.

"What are you making? Can I help?" Cal questions. I blink and stare at the big battle monster in complete surprise; he likes cooking? Really? Oddly enough, the fact that he has a life beyond fighting doesn't come as much of a surprise. After all, even big, bad alien fighters are three dimensional… I guess.

"Pizza, and, uh, sure. Here, you can make your own," I scoot to the side to give him room, and the blue man doesn't hesitate to shove himself right beside me in the small space. With a delayed sense of shock, I notice that he changed into casual clothing, consisting of plain black plants and a silver tank-top, but when? Oh, whatever. I shake the question off and begin instructing him on how to make his pizza.

"This is so fun!" Cal giggles—yes he fucking giggles, oh my Lord it's adorable—as he forms the dough into a pizza like shape. Despite the fact that I don't even know what species he is or where he comes from, I find myself laughing along with him.

"So I assume you like cooking, huh? What other things do you like?" I question after we both calm down. Cal hums happily as he makes his pizza, and I find myself fascinated by the way his arms work as a team to make food quicker than I ever could.

"Really? Studying. I like my job, and I like learning how to do it better. Although… I mean, I guess I won't really have much of a chance to do that anymore if I'm stuck here," Cal admits. His shoulders slump as tears fill his eyes, and I begin freaking out. What do you do when an alien cries? Uh… hug him? Awkwardly, I weave my arms around his body and just envelop him in a hug, which he slowly reciprocates.

"I-I guess I'll help you get home, no matter what it takes. If we find the lizayns' base, we'll find your people, right? Because they'll be there fighting those nasty lizards," I hesitantly mumble against his admittedly warm chest, and I feel a few tears splash against my shoulder.

Wow. I'm hugging an alien after I just offered to help him find his home. I, Heath, the boy who literally went an entire summer without going outside his house or even talking to people, am going to go find an aggressive alien base with another alien, probably get slaughtered, and all for this weirdo I only just met and don't really know. As these thoughts swirl around my head, I begin to freak out and almost back out before I look up and see the pure joyous and grateful on his face.

"Thank you so much," Cal whispers as he, gently, squeezes me even tighter than before. Standing there, in a kitchen with this strange, four-armed, horned being, I feel more at home than I've felt with anyone of my own species.

Well, I've never been particularly fond of the human race anyways, so it's alright. With a small sigh, I squirm out of the embrace and inform Cal that we're going to start our mission tomorrow, but first comes pizza. With another adorable giggle, he sets back to making his pizza, and, for the first time in forever, I actually feel excited for tomorrow.

Saving the world, here we come.
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Running Away

Postby ghostyghost » June 1st, 2018, 9:31:10 pm

Esilleo scurries right beside me, faithful as always even when my weak body threatens to bring us both down. The man chasing us doesn't slow down at all, and finally my legs collapse.

"Can't run anymore, can you?" he growls as slows down to a stop. Panting wildly, I just try to keep myself from passing out as he flips my limp body over. Esilleo cries out in concern from the roughness of the person, and before long, we're both tied up and resting against a boulder.

"Why, Airatio? I thought we were friends," I softly question. The hybrid scoffs, his vibrantly dyed hair plastered to his forehead, and tears begin to form. Elisseo nuzzles my neck in an attempt to comfort me, which Airatio surprisingly enough allows.

"You wouldn't understand," the person I thought was my friend hisses, his stormy eyes dark from anger. I shrink against the rock in fear, but a wave of anger and frustration washes over me. I wouldn't understand? What wouldn't I understand?

"Oh, really? Are you doing this to prove yourself to them, Ai? Prove you're strong enough, you're not your parents, prove you're your own person and not your past?" I spit, all of my stress coming out in one comment. My tears force their way out, and I bite back the sobs as I stare down at the ground.

How could he do this? Why would he do this? How is Esilleo so important? The lizayn in question tries his best to comfort me, making soft noises around the muzzle and curling against me as much as possible, but they don't help. If anything, they just make it worse. He should be free right now, away from this, yet here he is, trapped, all because of me. 

"You're pathetic," Airatio voices my exact thoughts with a venomous tone. "You think you're like me? What happened to you, huh? A few people picked on you? Mommy didn't love you enough to keep you? You're a freak of nature, Elizire, and you deserve to be treated like one," Airatio mutters harshly, pacing back and forth. He doesn't seem to hear my sobs, or he just doesn't care. Esilleo, however, seems agitated, a state I've rarely seen him in, and after a few minutes of frantic struggling, he manages to free himself from the rope.

"Run!" I shout at him, but he completely ignores me and heads straight for Airatio. Before he can even get close, the hybrid mutters a few words under his breath. As my best friend falls to the ground, I cry out in worry. Is he dead?

"Relax, he's just sleeping. Why do you care about him so much anyways? He's just an overgrown lizard," Airatio snaps, and I stare at him in horror. Just an overgrown lizard? No! Esilleo is… he's my partner, my best-friend, my brother. The only person who ever really stuck by me. I open my mouth to inform my captor of this fact, but the scathing look he gives me makes me scrunch up and remain silent.

Really, Elizire? You're that pathetic, huh? You'll let one look keep you from defending Esilleo? Good job, maybe this is why everyone always told you that you'd never make it. Look at you now, captured by a person you thought you could trust. Once again, tears flood my eyes, and I'm sobbing against the rock.

"Eli–" Airatio starts, but he's cut off by my harsh scream. Shocked, he stares at me with eyes, and I pant harshly for breath. Oh, man, that feels great. If I'm going to die anyways, I may as well just get everything off of my chest, right?

"Shut up! Don't call me by my name; you don't deserve to! You made me trust you just to snatch Esilleo, the only person who ever believed in me or even stayed by my side because he likes me for me. And screw you! My mother didn't leave me; she assaulted me for years, refused to let me go to school because she knew she'd get caught, and then when I managed to actually tell somebody, she blamed me and killed herself right in front of me!" I burst out, struggling for breath after letting it all out. Airatio stares, flabbergasted, at my trembling form as I begin to gasp for breath.

Oh, that's great. I would laugh at my luck, but I'm too busy dying! Tears continue to stream my face as I shake and gasp for breath, the rope digging into my skin from the harshness of my trembles. Blood quickly rises to the surface and drips down my hands, and before I can really register the fact that this is all happening with Airatio in sight, I'm being enveloped in a warm, distinctly masculine embrace.

"Sh, Elizire, calm down. I'm here. I'm so sorry, I guess we're just both running away from our pasts, but I'm here, now. I'll let Esilleo go, I'll do whatever, just please don't cry, it hurts so much to see you cry," Airatio whispers as he rocks me side to side, soothingly petting my hair. Slowly, I calm down, and, finally, my breath begins to come easier. Airatio mumbles something inaudible, and as my eyes droop, I begin to fall asleep.

"D-don't leave me, Ai. I… I really like you," I sleepily mumble as I cuddle against his warm body. Sleep overtakes me before Airatio can answer, but that's okay. I didn't really want to hear his answer anyways. I already know what he's going to say; there's no need for him to verbally confirm it.

His lack of a presence when I wake up, warm and cozy in an inn bed, answers me well enough. Just like I thought, Airatio is running away from his problems. From me. With a sigh, I stroke Esilleo's smooth head and curl up against him in an attempt to forget about the boy trying so desperately to escape me and everyone else.

Am I any different, though? I'm running away from home as well, aren't I? Biting my lip, I carefully disentangle myself from Esilleo and sit in the window instead. It's snowing heavily outside, the white flakes falling down in a flurry that reminds me of my first home, and slow, heavy tears start dripping down my face.

"We're all just running away, aren't we?" I sigh, pressing my hand against the cold glass. Sometimes, our wild paths to anywhere but where we've been before cross in a wild blaze of emotions, and occasionally you gain a new companion to run with. More often, though, you just gain a new reason to rocket off on the same old wild path.

I'm so sick and tired of running away like a coward. Scowling, I open the window and slip out onto the snowy ground, and after I securely shut it, I slowly walk around in the silent, frozen night. As I stalk around to the front of the inn, a semi-familiar voice strikes my curiosity.

"I told you, we're not lost! Chill, Zyran, the cold just matches your personality better," Droenix, a partial friend from the Academy, shouts somewhere to the left of me. Curious, I quietly pad over to them and peer through the snow. Droenix and a small group of people are huddled only a few yards away from the inn's entrance. 

"Uh, g-guys, follow me," I stutter as I step into the middle of their camp. Some of them stare at me in surprise, but Droenix immediately stands up and follows me gratefully. The rest follow soon enough. As they check into their room, I wonder what they're all running away from.

"Thank you! Hey, Eli, do you want to join us? We could use somebody that can actually navigate in the snow," Droenix offers as they all walk to their rooms. Hesitantly, I nod. Anything to get further away, right? The hybrid smiles softly and informs me that he'll wake me up when they leave, and we all leave for our separate rooms.

After explaining everything to Esilleo, I curl up against him and try my hardest to fall asleep, the thought of Airatio still on my mind. Maybe one day he'll just be a shadow in my past, the mark of a time our paths collided, just like everyone else.

If I run away far enough, right? Right. Nodding sleepily, I doze off against Esilleo and dream of running away so far that nobody will find me and hurt me again.
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Postby ghostyghost » June 11th, 2018, 10:21:59 am

The afterlife. Most people dream of it, slave through life just for it, and yet it's their worst nightmare when they get here. I narrow my eyes and look around at all the living people walking around me, unable to see the horrors lurking just a few inches away from them, and sigh.

To be so oblivious once again… I shove my hands in my pockets and turn away from them, continuing on my original path. Most of the monsters don't both looking my way and instead search around for weaker prey, one of the only solaces of being dead for three years.

Of course, I also am in the weakest area where most monsters are too fat and lazy to go after anyone but the weakest and freshest, and even then they don't have much motivation. I snicker as I watch a fresh face freaking out as a curious cat, scary because of the fact that its eyes are pits of electric green fire, wraps itself around the kid's leg and paws at the strings hanging from his shorts.

"Calm down," I mutter as I carefully pick the cat up, and it purrs as I stroke its neon blue, yellow, and white fur. The kid gives me an awed look that I brush off, and I continue going on my way, cat nestled in my bag and already dozing off. It'll make a good gift to the person I'm going to see… I sigh and adjust the shoulder bag, which now digs uncomfortably into me. Damn, how much does this cat weigh?

While I'm busy adjusting my bag, the kid I "saved" comes rushing up to me. At first glance, he's a normal human, soul relatively unchanged, but I soon spot the abnormalities that are just beginning. Tiny spots of color clump around his eyes, neck, and hands, and curiosity bubbles up. I've never seen such markings in all three years of being around Soul-People, but they could fade and be replaced by an entirely different thing by the end of the week.

Nothing worth getting excited over, especially not excited enough to keep him around. I banish the thought of allowed such a fresh face to stick around me and continue walking, rainbow kid trotting beside me with that same stupid look on his face.

"W-why do you have one wing?" the kid questions. Of all the fucking questions… a laugh escapes me before I can help it, startling the poor kid, and I reach a hand back to the thing attached to my back. It flutters under my touch, and within a few seconds, a head pokes out over my shoulder curiously. The kid shrieks and stumbles back while Zeritha nuzzles my neck and disappears back into my hoodie, feathered wing tucking itself closer to my body. He stands up from his new position on the ground, and his dark brown eyes scan over my form intensely.

"You won't find what you're looking for. They're hidden," I inform the kid, referencing to my own oddities. Three years of being in this place will lead to you learning various tricks, one of which just so happens to be hiding my Soul markings. That fact seems to stun the kid, based off of his wide-as-hell eyes and gaping mouth.

"H-hidden!" he squawks. The cat sleeping in my bags starts and gives a disgruntled meow in response to the interruption, and I glare at him. If he makes me lose this cat… my hand clenches into a fist at the thought, and I walk even faster.

"Yes. Hidden. Now scram, kid, I have to be somewhere, and you're not invited," I push him out of my way harshly and prepare to flash ahead, but a hand wraps around my wrist and stops me. Growling, I yank my hand away. The kid looks up at me with somewhat hurt eyes, but I merely pull my lips back into a snarl, letting down the barrier enough to allow my teeth to length and sharpen. I growl one word: "Scram."

"M-my name isn't 'kid,' it's Rain! And no, I won't scram. I want to know just what the hell is going on, and you're my best shot," the kid starts out shaky and scared, but he finds his courage soon enough and stands tall. With a growl, I snatch his hand and turn it over. Seeing no number, I whirl the kid around and yank his shirt down. Aha. When I see the number, I burst into loud, raucous laughter. 

Two days. He's been here two days, and he's trying to force information out of me? "Look, kid," I pause to calm down and continue on with a completely serious face, "you're not going to get information for a long while, but I will tell you one thing. You're dead, and everyone's your enemy." He opens his mouth to say something, but before he can even blink, I flash off down the street. At the end of it, I turn back and give one last look at the kid slumped just where I used to stand a few seconds ago.

There's no place in the afterlife for the weak, the needy, the cocky. You need to be paranoid, strong, independent… everything Rain isn't. He's a sure target for the next Race. They like to go ahead and weed out the fresh faces, a guaranteed five or so every Race. He'll be one, I'd be willing to bet my second chance on it… damn it. I sigh, flash back, and grab his collar. He gives me a startled look and starts to say something, but I shut him up by muttering, "Don't say a word and hang on for dear life." He, oddly enough, obeys, and I flash off to the end of the street and beyond, only stopping when I'm in an almost pitch-black alleyway. 

As soon as we stop, my body trembles from the effort of transporting two people through the very thin area between the two realms of living and dead, and I fall to my knees. My hands brace against the wall as I lean over and heave, coughing and spluttering between waves of sickness. What hurls itself out of my body isn't the normal stomach contents but a murky, multicolored liquid, the base of a Soul's power and ability to manipulate the world mixed with the force keeping a Soul "alive" in this realm. 

Wow, that's something I haven't done in a while. I pant for breath, stroking Zeritha's head as she attempts to comfort me. "I'm fine, Zeritha," I reassure her as I carefully find my my feet, and Rain looks downright terrified. 

"A-are you okay? And, uh, what is Zeritha?" Rain questions. I take a few moments to collect myself; damn, I really have to be careful. I'm still not at one hundred percent from… I throw the thought away and stride towards the only door in this grungy place.

"I'm fine, Zeritha is my companion, and don't say a word unless you feel like dying a second time," I inform Rain as we walk inside the dark, intimidating store. He scrunches against my side and whimpers as light suddenly floods the room, and the monstrous owner rises from behind his mahogany desk while several Soul creatures poke their heads out from various hiding places, mainly cats of all kinds and sizes. They hiss at the newcomer attempting to fuse with me, and I wrap a protective arm around him.

"Oh, Kai, bringing me a little snack, are you?" Lucan purrs as he slinks over towards me, his furred tail waving behind him. Rain cowers further against my side, but I pick the cat in my bag up and shove it towards Lucan. His black eyes shine with happiness and adoration as he cradles the cat against his naked chest, and both cat and holder purr. 

"You said there was a way to partner with somebody, an inseparable bond that combines our souls into one, and you also said that partners can Race," I state. Lucan pauses in his adoration of the cat and turns to face me, ears twitching on the sides of his head. His slit pupil eyes narrow at me while his lips pull back into a snarl, and Rain once again whimpers as he hides behind me.

"I also told you that I never wanted you to speak of that again! I can't help you in that department, so if that's all you wanted…" Lucan trails off as he strides towards the back room. I don't answer for a few seconds, too focused on keeping my cool, and the hands currently clenching my hoodie don't help. A growl rises in my throat; the only fucking solution gone? My own lips pull into a snarl, an animalistic expression that shows its face often in Soularia (the joking, unofficial, but widespread name for the first stage of the afterlife). 

"Forget why I came," I hiss at Lucan. Rain, at my urging, flees out the door, and with one last glare aimed at the monstrous feline Keeper, I follow slowly. Rain huddles against the wall, light brown hair covering his neon green eyes. For the first time, the slightest hint of concern pulls at my insides, but I brush it off.

He's useless now. Without bothering to anything, I begin walking off. Loud footsteps behind me alert me to the incoming presence of Rain. "Hey," he yells behind me, "what's the big fucking deal? You don't get what you want, so you abandon me?" I don't stop walking and pull myself up a rickety ladder, small bits and pieces falling off as I climb. Something thuds against the back of my head, though, and I stop for a few seconds.

Breathe, Kai. Don't get too riled up now. I carefully clamber back down and slowly saunter up to the now-cowering kid. "The big deal, punk," I spit at him as I walk closer, "is that I've been here for three years without once being in a Race. They ignore me, you see? They won't give me a second chance, so I'll just have to pry it from their cold fingers." I stop in front of the kid, who shakes and seems an inch away from breaking down. Zeritha chatters in my ear and reminds me to not lose my cool, and I take a deep breath again.

"B-but what does that have to with m-me?" Rain stutters as he slowly tries to stand, but I don't let him rise to his feet. Instead, I crouch down as well to be face-to-face with him so he can clearly see the hatred and desperation burning in my eyes.

"They're going to pick you for the Race. If I bond with you at the right time, they have no choice but to let us both race, and I know I will win. But it's useless now, Lucan won't help us. You're useless now," I snarl. Emotions threaten to erupt, dangerous emotions that lead to me getting killed, and I quickly back away before Rain can see that. After a few seconds of tense silence, I climb my way back up the ladder.

There's no other option left. I sigh and push open the rotting wood that I call a door, and as I look around the bare room behind it, all that earlier frustration and anger disappears and leaves me wallowing in despair. My only chance at a second chance, at going back and making things right, is just gone?

Life may suck, but death absolutely blows. Sighing, I plop down on my makeshift bed and close my eyes. Zeritha curls up with me, and like always, she falls asleep while I just stare at the wall. Thoughts swirl around my head, plans and failures and dreams, and as I just lay there, it becomes even more obvious to me that there's no option. 

With a soft sigh, I slowly disengage myself from Zeritha and walk outside. I carefully sit down, leaning against the wall, and stare up at the stars. The exact same ones as in life. I wonder if she's looking at them too, the person I unwillingly left, and as I watch them move, I reluctantly accept the fact that I'll never see her again, see any of them again. 

Here's to an eternity of loneliness, regret, and self-loathing, right? 
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All That Matters

Postby ghostyghost » June 13th, 2018, 11:08:27 am

"Mr. Eik, can you please describe the differences between fire animation and animation magic?" my specialization teacher, Mr. Halkz, questions. With a sigh, I prattle off the correct answer, much to his surprise and pleasure, and he returns to his lecture while I continue to dutifully take down notes. 

Finally, the dragon's growl sounds and lets us out of school for the week, but I take my time putting my things in my bag as opposed to sprinting out the classroom with the rest of the mob. Once I'm sure the halls are relatively clear, I saunter out of the classroom and force myself to slowly walk back to my dorms despite my excitement to see a certain someone.

"Alexio!" my hyperactive roommate, Kal, chirps loudly as I open the door, and I hide a smile at his energy. I step inside and allow the heavy slab of wood to swing shut behind me before tossing my bag onto my bed, adding to it my robes and shirt. Kal blushes like always, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes.

"Do you have all your dirty clothes together?" I question him as I pull on a dark grey hoodie, and he hums in agreement. Yawning, I simply flop on my bed and stare up at the ceiling. Like the weirdo he is, Kal manages to squirm his way under and around me until he's almost surrounding me, his fingers gently combing through my hair. Even though I should do the laundry, I quickly find myself falling asleep in his comforting hold. 

When I wake up the next morning, the room, which is normally messy, is actually clean, the clothes are washed, and there's food on my desk, but Kal is nowhere to be seen. For some reason, that fact saddens me, and I hunch over my desk moodily while slowly eating my admittedly delicious breakfast.

I miss that big dork already. Wow, that's pathetic, Alexio. Grumbling under my breath, I push the empty plate to the side and pull out a sheet of blank paper, a pencil, and my idea book. The little bother must have already gone home for the weekend… I hate it when he does that. 

"Are you going to make a new comic?" a familiar voice questions right in my ear. I shriek and jump, almost falling out of my chair, but Kal quickly stabilizes my tiny frame. As I turn around to scold him, I quickly lose the urge as he flinches back, almost cowering before me despite being an entire foot taller.

"Come here, you weirdo," I mumble, sarcastically patting my lap. He almost immediately perks up and, delicately, drapes himself over my lap, much to my surprise. Rolling my eyes, I caress his hair and back, exactly like when petting a dog, and after a little bit, he squirms off of my lap and pulls up a chair behind me instead. Usually, the thought of somebody so large looming behind me would be unsettling, but it's Kal, the least scary person I know.

"You can be very scary," he mumbles childishly as he begins playing with my hair, probably braiding it. How could anyone be afraid of him? Once again, the juxtaposition of terrifying but adorable gives me an idea, and I begin scribbling down some character trait ideas. After a few minutes, Kal shifts even closer to me.

"What are you doing?" I tiredly ask as I feel his arms winding their way around my chest. Instead of answering, he curls his tail, made purely of bone and magic, around me, and he finishes it off by wrapping his long ass legs around my waist.

Essentially, Kal is now koala-hugging me around a chair. Holding back a smile, I continue to work on my ideas even as he nuzzles my neck affectionately. As soon as Kal notices that I'm not reacting, he begins to poke me. After some time of this, I sigh.

"Yes, Kal?" I finally give in to the incessant beast that is my roommate, who deftly swings himself around to sit directly in my lap. This quickly and easily forces all of my attention on him, and, thankfully, my desk is cleared off (for once), meaning that he has nothing to accidentally swipe off.

"I want brownies," Kal states, looking rather serious and demanding. I raise an eyebrow, and his face automagically drops into an adorable begging expression. "Please?" he adds, and I resist the urge to laugh at how cute he is despite looking like the spawn of Satan.

"Let me take a shower first. If I'm not out in half an hour, you can come get me," I inform Kal. He squeals and jumps off of me immediately, acting exactly like a child. Shaking my head, I pick out a short-sleeved hoodie and some jeans. As I'm about to exit my closet, I look down at my arm and, after a few seconds of thought, also pick out a long-sleeved shirt.

Not today. With a sigh, I toss a towel on top of the pile and leave for the showers. On my way out, I grab the key to my personal shower, not wanting to have to use the stupid communal showers. Unlocking the door, I quickly step inside my small but personal bathroom and place my clean clothes and towel on the counter.

Don't look in the mirror. I repeat that in my head as I undress with my back turned to the devil itself, and I place the dirty clothes off to the side. Taking a deep breath, I release all of my stress before turning the water on and adjusting it to the correct temperature before stepping in. 

Thankfully, the Academy's water never gets cold. Honestly, it's the only constant thing I rely on at this point, and I sigh in content as I lean against the shower wall for a few seconds, just relishing the warmth of the water, before beginning to wash up. Humming to myself, I thoroughly scrub down every part of my body and rinse off. As my fingers glide over the marks that make me stand out, my mind slowly drifts back to this past weekend home.

Why do people, my family specifically, have to be so… ignorant and judging? The thought makes me frown as I carefully sift my fingers through the fur at my neck. Part of me hates the soft, fluffy fur that marks me as part glitzeri (as if the antlers and skin weren't obvious enough) and certified freak, but another part of me adores how unique it is, even though it attracts other people's unwanted attention.

So perhaps the problem isn't with other people but with my indecisiveness. With a dry chuckle, I quickly turn the water off and push aside the curtain. A blast of cold air hits me, and I grab the towel from the counter before drying myself off well enough.

"Stupid thick stuff," I huff to myself as I step out of the shower. People just look at my soft fur and hair and think "oh he's so cute," but they don't know the hell I go through with this stuff, like it takes a lot of effort to dry without damaging it. Grumbling under my breath, I plug in a blow dryer, set it on low, grab a comb, and begin the process.

As I dry my hair/fur and stare into the mirror, naked, my mind drifts back to the previous weekend once again, my yearly trip back home, and my mood plummets. Sighing, I turn off the hair dryer and put all the stuff away. My hands begins to shake slightly as the thoughts continue to invade my mind despite my greatest efforts to push them out, and I try to stop the trembling by tightly clenching my hands into fists.

"Fucking freak," I hiss under my breath, parroting the words of my family, and I tighten my grip on the counter. My breath begins to become erratic as the emotions I've tried to hold back suddenly surge forward, and I can't keep them in anymore as I huddle against the wall, still naked. Tears flow, fast and furious, down my cheeks and into the almost-dry fur at my neck, and I just let them go, knowing that there's no stopping them at this point.

After a few pathetic minutes of muffled crying, Kal knocks on the door and, when I don't answer, unlocks it. As he walks in, I try to quit crying, but it doesn't work. Soon enough, he's kneeling on the floor beside me and whispering reassuring words in my ear. In a few minutes, I begin to calm down. I'm not alone, I'm not a freak, it' okay… all of Kal's words drift into my mind and drown out the other, harsher thoughts, and as I begin to think clearly, I blush, just now realizing I'm still naked.

"S-sorry, Kal," I mumble as he stands up. With a smile, Kal tells me that it's no problem and reminds me to get dressed quickly, and as he leaves, I allow myself a small smile. Nobody else but Kal matters, right? Screw my family, they don't care about me. They never have, never will, and I don't need them. 

I just need Kal; he's the only person whose thoughts really matters. Nodding to myself, I quickly (but carefully) pull on my clothes and hurry to the room I share with Kal. He's waiting by the door, and as I approach, he rushes towards me. My eyes widen as I realize exactly what he's planning; before I can run away, Kal scoops me up in his arms and rockets off to the kitchen. Laughing, I just hold on for dear life and go along with the ride.

Who cares if our appearances don't match our personalities, if we "deceive" all around us? We know the truth about each other, and at the end of the day, that's all we need: just one truth-seer.
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Dreamed a Dream so Sweet

Postby ghostyghost » June 18th, 2018, 9:09:49 am

There are a few facts of life. The sun rises every morning and sets every night, for example. What goes up will come down. Cheaters never prosper.

Of course, in this godless land of death and despair, the facts of life don't really apply. The sun rarely ever shows its face, instead hiding behind layers of dark clouds and nightmares, and things don't go up. They just fall. Finally, the only way to win is to cheat.

Then again, can you even cheat if there are no rules? Erinio smirks as he looks over his empire, a lawless land full of the sort of creatures you'd only see in nightmares, and to him, it seems like every piece of the puzzle falls directly into place. Finally he'll have the power, the respect, the adoration he deserves. 

"Do you know how long a thousand years is, my dear?" Erinio questions the air. He knows she is always listening, even when she doesn't show her face, and as he paces his office, he can feel her presence. After a few seconds, she appears, the goddess of creation, and he smiles sinisterly. 

"I've lived much longer than you, Erinio. Don't forget how long us deities exist," she purrs. He smirks as he takes a few moments to revel in the fact that here he is, Erinio, the illegitimate son casted aside despite his infinite potential, with a goddess willing to come to this unnatural place full of destruction, her opposite, just for him.

"Well, my dear, soon I will be among you, and then I will have all of eternity to discover just how long life can truly be," Erinio informs her, his voice dripping with a sweetness that contrasts his dark form. A thousand years rotting in this dark magic broth of a realm tends to warp one's physique, and Erinio certainly seems warped in an oddly (demonically) beautiful way. The darkness doesn't seem to touch his voice, though, or even his mind, which is exactly why Kismus continues to come.

She knows that Erinio is smart, incredibly smart. Smarter than most others, for sure, and that intelligence only seems to increase with time. She also knows how genuinely thirsty for power he is. Erinio will do anything to achieve his dreams with any of the pesky problems dark magic contains, such as over-aggression or guilt. Because of his drive, ruthlessness, and intelligence, Kismus continues to mingle with the mortal, stroke his ego, and maybe get him to complete a few tasks for her, such as retrieving her son before he figures out the truth.

"Speaking of your plans… the little brat ran off with my son. I would be able to track them, but they seem to be cloaked. How, may I ask, did that peasant end up with my previous son?" Kismus suddenly hisses, anger flooding through her at the thought of a mistake ruining her carefully crafted plan, and Erinio hides his look of shock and concern at the sudden eruption of emotion behind a cocky and sly smirk. One little bump won't ruin his plans, he'll get that little brat and summon the ultimate beast anyways. It'll all work out, he reassures himself.

"My sweet goddess, don't worry. Your son probably summoned Droenix himself, you know how he is. As far as not being able to track them, well, my own son is with Droenix, and he is a force that I can always feel," Erinio reassures the upset goddess and himself, and with a sigh, Kismus nods. With a smile, she disappears and leaves Erinio alone to his thoughts once again.

He doesn't really mind being alone, of course. It reminds him of when he used to dream, and despite all the other horrendous things in that time, he enjoys remembering when he dreamed a dream so sweet that the taste still lingers on his tongue. 

How do dreams taste? Why, they taste like the sweetest nectar from the rarest of flowers… Erinio allows himself a small, genuine smile as he takes a seat in his office chair. Looking out the window at his empire, he allows the memories of the dream to wash over him.

Power, he remembers. Ultimate power, the power that he knew lay beneath his surface if someone would just let it rise, dances in his mind. Adoration, the loving gazes of everyone as they realize how amazing he really is, how much better than his legitimate brother, and respect, the respect someone of his caliber deserves. He is every bit as elegant and graceful as his brother, damn it! 

As Erinio's mind travels beyond his dream and to the results of his dream, the sweet taste dissolves into revolting bitterness, and his breathing shortens as rage begins to trickle through his veins. He tries to calm himself by envisioning the twisted and bloody body of his family, broken by his hands and his hands alone. Slowly, the sea of hatred recedes back to the original shoreline, and Erinio's eyes focus on his distorted reflection in the glass. 

Pitch black hair carefully styled, not a strand out of place. Eyes pits of empty blackness. Snow white skin marred by black lines. Almost too perfect a structure, some would say. Sinfully perfect. Gone are the dorky glasses, the imperfections of mortality, the bumbling peasantry of his old self. All of it is replaced by this better self: beyond perfect, smooth, graceful, regal. 

He is a better king than his father ever was, a king so great as to be a god. Him, a god! His family, dead. His dreams, reality. 

Yes, Erinio dreams a dream so sweet, and now that it's almost reality, the sweetness threatens to overwhelm him. He will stand strong, though. What's the use of having a dream if you can't follow through, after all? 
With a confident smirk, Erinio closes his eyes and searches for Zyran's magic force. After a few minutes, he feels a faint hum in a distant realm that matches his adoptive son, and, laughing to himself, the soon-to-be god reopens his eyes.

"Found them," Erinio whispers. With a snap, he summons a small group of loyal soldiers and gives them their orders: find and retrieve Zyran, Droenix, and Terion, alive but preferably incapacitated. The rest can be killed however they prefer; he just wants those three. Only those three matter at this point, the last three pieces of the puzzle, the sweet puzzle.

Fact of life: you must be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams. Thankfully, Erinio will do anything and everything to succeed; nothing will stand in his way. He's too close, the sweet taste too tantalizing, for him to give up now, not after a thousand years of dreaming. 
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Postby ghostyghost » June 19th, 2018, 2:38:07 pm

"Today, we celebrate the works of our very own Thomas Greene! At 25 years young, he's published a six-part series that is globally successful, along with several other independent novels that are almost just as successful, and he's working on another one! Can he be stopped?" my drunken brother shouts as if celebrating a battle victory or something, and the entire room, all drunk, cheers in response.

Idiots. I sigh and look around, trying to spot an opening for me to leave through, but they all clump together in one big swaying mass, the music providing the beat for their wild flailing. Not for the first time, I wish I could just vanish on the spot, leave forever, and not have to ever come back.

"Thomas!" they roar my name in unison. I grimace at the loudness and try to work my way from the corner to my balcony, where it should be nice and quiet, but hands push me back and up onto the table that now serves as a stage of sorts. Bloodshot, expectant eyes stare at me, trying to pry the secrets of my success from my head, and I resist the urge to flinch and run away.

"I wrote," I answer their silent questions as simply as possible. Thankfully, the crowd is in such a drunken haze that they roar in agreement anyways, and, sweating nervously, I force my way through the crowd and into my room. Locking the door behind me, I collapse to the ground and try to stop the shaking that overtakes me.

Stupid Derek, throwing this stupid party! I squeeze my eyes shut and huddle against the door, and after a few minutes, I stumble to my feet and make my way across the room. Taking a few seconds to calm down, I rest by the doors of my balcony to let the shaking die down even more. 

"Times like these make me wish I drank," I mumble under my breath as I shakily stand up, more steady than before but still resembling a new-born deer. That shakiness fades as I step out onto my balcony, the one and only benefit of having a multi-storied house.

Sometimes I look down and wonder just how far it is to the ground. If I toppled over the edge, would I die? If I died, would anyone care? Or would I just become another young tragedy, a warning story of what too much success too soon will do? 

Not that anyone would listen. The only way people listen is if it's in some pop culture item, and even then, they don't absorb the information. They just move on to the next thing without even pausing to think about what they just heard, what it was trying to say! Those people act like they're so righteous, so great, so… so… so godly for listening to artists, allowing their souls to intertwine for a pure moment, but they don't know anything! They don't listen, they don't—

"Tommy? Are you okay?" a familiar voice questions. Blinking, I realize that I must have looked like I was about to jump, standing at the edge of the balcony with a white-knuckled grip on the railing and an intense gaze on the ground below. Sighing, I step back from the edge and run a hand through my already wild hair.

"Yeah, I am. Sorry if I worried you, Eliza. Go back to the party," I softly tell the female standing in the doorway to my balcony. The moon provides the only light, but I don't need light to know that she's looking at me with worry-filled brown eyes. 

Why does she have to care so much? I watch as she hesitantly walks back to the party going on downstairs without saying anything, and as my door shuts, I sigh and turn back to lean against the railing for support. Sighing, I stare up at the moon, bright and cold and distant, and wonder if that's how people see me: an emotionless wonder-boy so lost in his own creations that he's lost the ability to connect with reality. 

Or is that just how I see myself? Which version of me is the truth? Is there even a truth, or do we all live our own individual lies? Does reality exist, or is life just a collection of individual delusions? 

"You think too much, Tommy boy," a voice whispers in my ear. My muscles stiffen as everything in my body freezes. My thoughts come to a screeching halt. My breath stops in my throat. Even my heart stops beating.
That voice. That sinful voice, that treacherous, beautiful voice… the same voice that haunts me at night. A voice that isn't real. "Go away," I whisper harshly under my breath. The voice laughs, hands ghost against my sides, I can feel the warm weight of a body pressing against my back—but there's nobody there.

I know that. It can't be real because he's not real. The breath gently puffing against the back of my neck isn't real, but it feels so real. "Thomas," the voice chuckles, "if you didn't want me around, you shouldn't have created me." He finishes his sentence with a gentle kiss to the base of my neck, a fake feeling that sends shivers through my body.

Thomas, the cold and distant man more turned on by his own imagination than his girlfriend. I grip the railing even tighter and squeeze my eyes shut. It isn't real, I tell myself. It's just a creation of my overly vivid imagination. You know how to deal with this, Thomas! You've been dealing with this type of stuff since you started writing.

So why is it so different this time around?

"I need some sleep," I mumble. I'm not sure if I'm telling this to the imaginary figure standing behind me or not, but that's fine, right? I'm just tired, it'll all blow over in the morning. Nodding, I stand up straight and feel the presence behind me fade, a faint laugh echoing in my ears even after it's gone.

I'm just tired. Sighing, I walk into my room and give one last glance to the moon before I shut the balcony doors. Even though it's pitch black, I easily navigate the maze of messiness that is my room and collapse on my bed without undressing. Almost as soon as my head hits the pillow, my eyes close, and I fall into a deep sleep.

Not even the deepest sleep can save me from the nightmares, though. Bizarre creations claw their way out of my head and feast upon my festering body; they grow to monstrous sizes and move on to destroy humanity. At the same time, my lifeless body is metamorphosing into a monster, the true form lurking in the back of my mind.

People wonder where I get my creativity from. Every time I get interviewed, the first question out of their mouth always includes the subject of my creativity. I always spout some stupid answer about the tragedies of my life or something, but the true answer lays beyond the physical realm.

I get my creativity from the demons and monsters that no one else sees. I've always had nightmares, and no matter how many pills they shove down my throat, they won't stop. The only way to get any solace is to write, but is it creating?

Am I creating? Or am I merely… bringing to life the things that were always there? Is that my job, my reason for being? Do I exist to give life to others? Are authors merely the earthly mothers of otherworldly beings, or are we their slaves? 

As always, nothing answers me as I float in the infinite blackness. Vague shapes are barely perceivable as I stare upwards, floating adrift on a raft of my own imagination. As I float, my mind slowly comes about to the ungrateful people of the world too stupid to realize the beauty of creation.

They don't listen. Why won't they listen? Frustration pulses through me as I begin thinking about all the ungrateful people in this world, and a familiar wish to just leave them all behind arises.

My brother, the moocher, who always pressures me to write to keep the money flowing in. He doesn't care about me unless it endangers his well-being, but he can't take the time to absorb the meaning of my creations.
Eliza, the pryer, who can't leave me alone. She doesn't understand the importance of being alone, can't comprehend the idea that I don't want her around, that I'm not okay but that's the only way I can write.

Where would I get my creativity if I was okay? Even if nobody listens to me, the only thing I have about myself is creating. If I can't create, I am not myself. I am… I am a creator. An author. But what is an author, a creator, what is their true role?

Are my creations myself? Or am I them? Who am I? Is there even a me left, or have I been absorbed into the unknown blackness of creating? Am I real? Is anything real? Or do we all drift in unreality disguised as truth?

As I wonder, a figure appears in the black. The same figure as always. He grins at me, teeth glowing white in the darkness, and I smile back. Old friend, welcome back! Will you answer my questions? He approaches slowly, a light from behind me glinting off the claws he wields.

"Thomas," he sings, "we have to take you now." Take me? Take me where? "You're one of us." One of them? Who are they? "You belong with me." With him? Why do I belong with him? Why does the thought feel so… right? "You're too special for this world." Special? Me? What is he talking about? I glance around, trying to find who else he could be talking about, but a sudden burst pain blooms in my chest, like the petals of a flower spreading in the sunlight.

Suddenly, sunlight floods my world and showcases everything. Reality slowly settles in as I realize that I am neither creator nor slave, myself nor them, real or unreal.

I am Creation.

Just as I arrive to this conclusion, blurry shapes crowd me, each of them painted with worry, and a flood of noise assaults me.

"Thomas! Come on, get up, we have to take you to the hospital!"

Hospital? Why do I need a hospital? I'm better than I've ever been. I feel great, it feels great, I love it. I don't want it to end.

"You're bleeding!"

Bleeding? I vaguely become aware of a pain pulsing in my chest, warmth spreading steadily. It feels nice, like a blanket coming to comfort me.

"Are you okay?"

The voice sounds distant, like it's coming from the end of a long tunnel, and a female figure flashes in my mind. Okay? I'm more than okay. I'm perfect. I feel fantastic, so fantastic that I actually laugh. It's wet and gurgling, an odd but beautiful sound.


A voice pounds in my head. It drowns everything else out and sends a surge of electricity pulsing through my veins. I will create, that is my job. Creation.

"You look pale, are you sure you're okay?"

Another tunnel voice, another flash of a figure, this one male. My brother. Always the worrier when it benefits him. If I'm not okay, he loses his money. A sudden rush of anger flows through me, but it quickly fades as I remember that I'm leaving.

About time.


The same pounding voice as before. It tells me to feed, but feed on what? An image pushes its way through my mind, and I grin, warmth trickling down my face at the movement. Feed by creating, of course.

"Oh my God! Someone call 911!"

Screaming. Why scream? My vision fades to black as the warmth begins to turn cold, but I'm not worried. The truth, arms wide open, welcomes me in the blackness, teeth and claws shining a pretty white. As the lovely blackness fully encompasses me, the truth of the world pulses in my head.

One cannot truly create until one is destroyed.
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Postby ghostyghost » June 25th, 2018, 3:24:31 pm

Note: First of all, this was written in response to a prompt, not from the heart, so it should not be considered a reflection on my current state of mind (just in case anybody gets worried or something I don't know). Second of all, I just wanted to let you guys know that reviews/criticisms are welcomed! Especially on my third point of view things (which there will be more of). That's all, goodbye.

The end, an interesting concept that fascinates everyone in different ways. Some find beauty in the morbidity of such a final blackness, others flinch away and turn their back on it, but what is the end?

Death, yes, but it's more than that. It's the ceasing of something, of anything coming to a complete and total stop. It's not always permanent; sometimes a thing comes to an end only to pick right back up later on.

So many times does that happen. You cast your sins into the shadow following just behind you, only to find yourself once again falling into their thorn-covered grasp. They tear at your paper skin and wish to sink themselves into the very center of your being, and black tendrils reach deep into the colorful depths of your soul.

In that case, the end never really means the end, does it? It's a temporary end, pseudo-permanent at times, but the truth is that our sins never leave, don't come to a complete and total stop. They trail behind us like slobbering hounds, ferocious fangs bared and ready to tear into sweet flesh at the slightest hint of vulnerability.

They don't stop there, though. Sins such as those can take on several different forms, from the most feral beast to the most beautiful seductress. They typically like to appear to you when you're in your most damaged state, whispering sweet nothings in your ear as you tremble upon your bed of broken promises and damaged dreams.

Or maybe that's just me. I chuckle weakly as I sit up from my own bed, my eyes staring emptily into the blackness. The end. I sit and ponder upon the end in the void, fingertips delicately tracing the marks of my own sin with the sort of warm familiarity that a lover might hold. A shudder creeps its way up my back at the gentle brushes, at the memories of sensations slowly seep into my mind, at the feeling of thorns just barely scraping against my skin.

Should I? The thought lingers at the back of my mind, proof of the beasts that follow me always, and small twitches and tremors make their way through my body as the sinful thoughts continue to prod their way into my mind.

Just one more time. One last hurrah, a kiss goodbye before the end, right? My throat goes dry at the thought, and I vaguely realize how twisted this must be, me shaking in an odd mixture of addict-like excitement and the anxiety of one teetering between the sinful shadows and the washed out drone of normalcy whilst being completely clothed in darkness.

Do I even need to? Sins are there for a reason, are they not? They provide some sort of escape, a way to run away from the realities of your life, but what am I even running away from? My life, while dull, is competitively much better than before.

Yet the urge almost seems stronger than ever, the nights even longer, everything more grey than ever. Although perhaps grey isn't the white color. Maybe white, such a bright white that nothing else can show, and perhaps that's not a bad thing, right? I sigh and look around the blankness, cursing myself for wishing that such a lovely color could take over my life once again.

Slipping back into the thorned grasp of the past, it seems. Sighing, I rest my head in my hands and allow the tears to gather and fall. The end is near, but the end of what? What will end?

Will this brief period of sanity, happiness, normality end? Do I teeter on the edge of a black pit once again, just a few pebbles away from tumbling down forever into a black pit of sin? If so, why doesn't that panic me? Why do I feel so calm at the thought?

Why does the thought of leaving that same black pit behind make my heart thud against my chest and my breath quicken to the point of hyperventilating? What is wrong with me?

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, I slip down from my bed to the floor and kneel for a few seconds, trying to find the strength to come to a decision. There's an obvious right and wrong here, but it seems so twisted.

Are sins really sin? Once again, that same thought, one that's kept me secure in its taloned grasp for entirely too long, slinks through my mind like a graceful feline, all purrs—for now. It stalks through my thoughts, batting away any argument with ease, and as I shakily rise to my feet, it arrives at the last remaining fortress of light, a single thought upon which the entirety of my current existence stands.

I have to remain better for them.

Who? Who do I have to remain better for? Who actually cares? Faces float through my mind, each one of them scratched out, and despair grows. There has to be somebody!

If I could just remember. Swallowing a cry for help, I reach up and turn my light on, flooding the space with yellow-tinted brightness in an instant. The grip of my sins lessens in the light, their words and images not as prominent in my mind, but the question still lingers.

Why should I bother? Who would care?

Name after name, face after face, distant friend after distant friend flashes through my mind, all of them a failed attempt at finding a reason. Is there really nobody that cares? Have I pushed everyone away that much? Numbed by the realization, I take a seat on the bed and glance at the only friend that's stuck with me through it all.

Perhaps tonight won't be the end I originally imagined it would be. With a sigh, I simply run my hands through my hair and lay back in my bed, staring up at the ceiling once again. I've come full circle, just as many questions answered as ones found, and as exhaustion forces my eyes shut, I vaguely wonder if I should bother to turn the light off, but as I remember the grip the sins have in the blackness, I merely turn over and cover my face.

Maybe tonight won't even be an end at all. Maybe there won't ever be an end. Maybe I'll be forever locked in this battle of should or shouldn't, will or won't, and maybe that's just the fate of humanity, to never find closure over anything, never feel the relief of having a succinct end.

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Postby ghostyghost » July 3rd, 2018, 11:51:26 am

The first time it happened, they were both drunk, she was desperate, and he wasn't even really committed to the relationship yet, so it didn't matter—that's what she told herself, at least.

Just blame everything on the alcohol and the loneliness and commitment issues, so you can get on with your life. It became a mantra as she went on, trying to forget that it happened. Eventually, she shoved her guilt away and settled into a sort of self-peace, content with the excuses she crafted.

The second time it happened, however, she was completely sober. He wasn't, but he was sober enough to know that it was wrong, based off the whispered "I can't" moments before the actual deed. They woke up the next morning, sweaty and naked and both so guilty, and she had to comfort him as he almost broke down from his fear of losing his girlfriend.

When he went home, back into her loving embrace, she couldn't stand the feeling of loneliness, so despite the fact that it was only ten in the morning, she strode down to a bar and drowned her sorrows, went home with random guy, and enjoyed the feeling of waking up next to someone whose name she didn't know as opposed to someone whose name had long since imprinted itself in her heart.

Even now, it lays there in that special place a lover should occupy. She sighs to herself and downs another drink, waiting for the blissful mind-numbing effect of the alcohol to set in while she watches the lovely couple dance and have a good time—without her.

She hates the fact that she always falls into this accursed self-hating trap. They ask her to come out, she says no, they pull the guilt-trip card, she caves, they go off, and she's left, watching them bitterly and staying afterwards to avoid them. In her mind, she will promise to never go another stupid excursion with them again, but come next weekend, she'll be in this exact same position, nursing a drink to temporarily make the self-hate and everything else go away.

Except this time, it's different. Yelling catches her attention, and she watches the scene with a sick sense of satisfaction as the beautiful couple start fighting in the middle of the dance floor. Fighting back her smile, she glides over, just drunk enough to do what she wants without inhibition but not too drunk that she doesn't know what she's doing.

"Hey, what's going on?" she questions, the face of innocence and concern. The reality is that she is a little concerned for both of them; her best friend is crying while her secret love looks furious. Not a good picture, a rather harmful one, and a flash of panic stabs into her as she registers the fact that they might be fighting over her.

Luckily, though, it doesn't seem like that's the case as her best-friend drags her off to the car, crying and muttering incomprehensibly. Like a good friend, she coos words of reassurance and helps the crying female into the car, and when they arrive at the house the couple—if they are even still together—occupies, she listens sympathetically and pours more wine into her glass whenever it comes close to being empty.

In fact, she's such a good friend that she even tucks the passed out female into bed, her dress hung up and ready to be washed however it needs. On top of doing all that, she even goes out and buys more wine, some chocolate, and even roses! She's such a good friend!

So why does she go home to see her best friend's boyfriend on her couch? Why does she not stop him when he reaches for her? If she's such a good friend, why does she keep falling back into his grasp?

The third time, he's enraged and rough, and she realizes afterwards that this may have just been a punishment for her best friend. She cries in the shower, shedding tears for the fact that she's become her closest friend's secret punishment, and the shame lingers in her eyes for months afterwards.

Her friends begin to notice that she's acting weird. She plays it off as family trouble, which is easy considering her turbulent past with her kin and not-so-smooth present and probably just as rocky future, and everyone just gives her sympathetic smiles dripping with pity that she can't stand. Because of their smiles, she finds herself spending a lot more time alone, burying herself in work or drinks or whatever else she can do to distract herself.

For a short time, it works. The shameful sins she's committed fade into the back of her mind, and she finds that she breathe easier now. Of course, such a peace cannot last long.

The fourth time, the wedding is planned to be in a week, yet he shows up at her door, soaked from the rain and terrified at the idea of marriage. She takes him in, warms him up, tries to soothe his fears—and somehow ends up under him in the position that his fiancée should be in.

This time she confronts him. She's mad, at herself or at him or at the world she can't tell. Everyone, she guesses. She's just mad at everyone right now, and it's not fair that he keeps treating her like he's trash.

This makes him angry. He responds by insinuating that maybe she is trash and perhaps that's the reason why her parents never want her, and she gapes at him, shocked and hurt beyond belief. Tears begin their slow march down her cheeks, and all the fight drains out of her instantly.

Unlike the movies or the books, he doesn't see the devastation in her eyes and immediately take it all back—no, he looks straight at her crying form and walks out. She cries even harder on the floor, a messy pile of self-hatred and shame and guilt and feeling so dirty that she just can't stand it.

As she scrubs furiously at her skin, the heated droplets of water feeling like tiny needles on her bare body, she swears that she will never fall back into his arms, that this is the last time he will ever use her, but a part of her grins a sickening grin and whispers that sinners never stop.

Next week, at the wedding, she watches her best friend walk down the aisle looking like an angel in her white dress, and the tears threaten to break through all of her carefully crafted defenses. Thankfully, the person sitting next to her—he looks pretty cute, she vaguely notices, always on the lookout for someone to take all the painful memories away—assumes that she's crying in joy for her friend and hands her a tissue.

Later that night, she ends up thanking him in the most intimate way. It's stupid, she knows, and not something she should be doing, but the touch of somebody else just feels so good and irresistible.

Is it really so bad to want to forget? Is it such a crime to try to drown out the memories replaying over and over in her head?

Maybe the sin isn't forgetting, but what she uses to forget. She sighs at that thought and sips from her cup of coffee. Her lover for the night is passed out in her room at the moment, but she can't sleep. She hasn't really been able to sleep well for the past week, not just because of him but because of everything.

Her family, for instance. Now that she has money, they're suddenly all over her, showering her with affection before making outrageous requests. In the past week alone, she's in seven fights with three different family members, four of them with her own mother, but she can't bring herself to cut them out of her life again. Not after so long of being the black sheep of the family, the sickening disgrace that gets shoved into the back of the closet.

Her job is yet another source of stress. Not exactly her job as a job, she can handle the harsh workload and the jerk clients and all the other small things, but her coworkers… oh, they drive her insane. The herd of sheep can't (or won't) even sneeze without asking her first, questioning whether it's best to sneeze in a tissue or their elbow and wait what if there's no tissue, and it's incredibly frustrating.

Finally, on top of everything else, there's the fact that everyone has been treating her like she's made of glass. Of course, whenever she takes a moment to think about it, she recognizes that maybe they're right about taking extra care not to irritate her—but maybe that's what she needs.

Someone to blow up on.

Once upon a time, getting out the pent-up aggravation between the sheets, even if only going solo that night, would be more than enough, but now?

Now it barely even makes a dent in the landfill of emotions she is. She sighs and looks at her empty cup, tiredly relating to the inanimate object in the way those that are broken and looking for any bit of comfort in this large, lonely world do. She just feels empty and impossibly alone, just like the cup she holds in her hand. Just like the cup, she used to be so full, and then someone just drank up all of her fullness and left her empty.

God, she's so tired. She giggles, which turns into laughter, which turns into gasping on the floor for breath because she's laughing so hard and she doesn't even know why except that laughing feels good. Finally, after a few long moments of senseless laughter, she hauls herself to her feet and makes herself another cup of coffee.

By the time the sun slowly rises, she's managed to wrangle an hour long nap from the tight grasp of insomnia, which is the least amount of sleep she's gotten since her college days. Still, the lack of sleep has yet to drag her down, and she figures that going without sleep is better than whatever horrors lay in her dreams.

That morning, she watches her one-night lover drive away, him waving enthusiastically back at her, and she wonders, for the first time in a long time, when she can see him again. It's a refreshing change from the normal routine of expendable partners, people that can be replaced, or being the expendable partner, never knowing when you will be tossed aside.

But of course, things can never be that easy.

The fifth time, she's recovering from a rather dramatic end to a three month relationship, and he's dealing with a four-and-half-month pregnant wife at home. She's furious at the world—at men for being so stupid and infuriating and selfish—and just in the need of somebody to take it all out on, and he's looking for an outlet for the stress building up higher and higher and higher, something to keep it all from crashing down and suffocating him.

This time, she's too exhausted by it all to fight, and they lay, side-by-side in their sin. It's been too long since she's had a full night's sleep, her mind hazy from a lack of rest and an overload of stress, and everything just comes tumbling out of her mouth.

How much she's watched him over the years. How she liked him before her friend but he only noticed the prettier one, the more sociable one, the likeable one, but she doesn't blame him because how could she when she's her? She doesn't even know what she's saying anymore, it just comes spurting out, like—like blood.

What did she just say? She blinks up at the ceiling, wonders if she's looking at her white ceiling or if her vision has suddenly whited out, and sighs with a tired resignation as the body beside her shifts. Stands up. Walks away.

Leaves her exhausted and tottering on the brink of something bad, worse than everything she's ever experienced.

For now, though, her eyes slide shut as she crashes into a deep sleep, unable to keep running from the monsters in her head anymore. She falls into their domain, a limp feast, and as they descend upon her and feed, she can't do anything but scream and try to move.

It doesn't work. It never works. Nothing ever works! No matter what she does, she ends up in the exact same situation: alone, empty, used, ashamed. She tries her best to rise above it all, to keep a smile on her face, to just shrug it all of and continue running—but it's hard.

After all, the weight of the world is no small thing.

She awakes slowly, slips back into reality with the softness of a feather drifting to touch the ground, and as she stares up at her ceiling, she arrives just as softly to a final conclusion that had been lingering in the back of her mind for years.

Forever, perhaps. She smiles a tired smile, the sort of a smile that one gives when they know the end is near, as she slowly stands up and shuffles to the shower. The water feels more like gentle caresses than stinging needles, possibly because of the lower temperature and pressure.

Or maybe because it's the last shower she'll take. Things being the last have an odd tendency to be sweeter than ever, don't they? As if they're crying out, trying to prove that they're good enough to be done again. She sips her last cup of coffee and sits at her table for the last time and talks to everyone—for the last time. As she stands, gazing into Death's eyes, she cries for the last time.

Today is a day of lasts.
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Postby ghostyghost » July 13th, 2018, 9:39:10 am

We all make sacrifices. Sometimes it's as simple as giving part of your cookie to another person without one, but other times it's giving your life so somebody can keep theirs. Worse, though, than sacrificing your life is sacrificing your soul.

"I'm sorry to have to ask such a big thing from you, Thorn, but I'd rather this task fall to you than one of the younger kids," he informs me, his tone dry and completely unapologetic while his eyes faintly glimmer with amusement. I keep my face expressionless and simply nod. What else can I do but shoulder this burden? If not me, then someone else, someone more innocent and undeserving of such a horrendous task.

"I understand, Solar. When will the mission begin?" I ask, struggling to keep my voice steady. His eyes sweep over to me, and I drop my gaze to avoid his scrutiny. Too late, he notices the hesitancy in my eyes.

"You know, the kids chose this lifestyle. They will have to get their hands dirty at some point," he points out lightly. I take a deep breath and try to keep from exploding. My hands tremble at my sides, which draws the attention of his yellow gaze, and he smirks as he begins to smoothly stalk around the small room.

"You and I both know that this is different," I hiss lowly. A thousand other words threaten to tumble out into the open, but I simply grit my teeth against the barrage and keep silent. There's no use in speaking of those things; he won't acknowledge the truth behind them. He never does.

"Is it? And why, pray tell, would that be? Lunar is merely another target, just like all the rest, right?" Solar questions, his voice sadistic and tinged with a darkness that only made my hands tremble more. He slowly comes to a stop in front of me, his intense gaze setting my soul alight, and I resist the urge to take in a deep, shuddering breath.

"No, sir. She is a traitor; she is worse than everyone else. We must eliminate her and send a message to all the others before they begin to think of following in her footsteps," I whisper, and Solar smiles darkly. He seems more sinister than ever in the flickering light from the candles on the wall, shadows dancing across the harsh planes of his face, and for a few horrible seconds, I recognize myself in him. I recognize all of us in him, the deep, almost animalistic rage we hold at those who have wronged us and the primal, sadistic satisfaction from seeing them lay helplessly at our feet.

"Correct," Solar purrs, breaking my daze. I give a slight shake of my head and let my eyes roam the dim room to distract myself from the horrible truth. The walls of the small room are lines with shelves, which are full of mission reports, target notes, maps, and a myriad of information that relates in one way or another to the grisly work we do. My eyes settle on a previously empty space of the shelf, now packed with dozens of documents and reports.

Ones I helped to make. The shaking spreads upwards from my hands like a disease, and emotions surge over me. I bite my tongue to keep it all in and return my gaze to Solar, and he smirks maliciously. Once again, words strain to escape, but I keep them all in and instead ask, "When will I leave?" His smirks turns into a pleasant smile that hides a sinister meaning behind it.

"Now. I took the liberty of packing your bag for you, including the mission detail. Now, I want you to do everything I described, and don't be surprised if it seems to be a little messier than usual. I want everybody to know exactly who did this," Solar smoothly informs says as he passes me a small, leather bag. I swallow thickly before taking it in my hands, clutching the straps tightly, and I nod stiffly.

"I understand. My mission is to eliminate the traitor through the methods you provided to me," I grit out as I carefully slip the bag into the inner pocket of my dark grey cloak. Even though the bag weighs almost nothing, I feel it pressing heavily against my side, and I bow my head respectfully before I turn around and begin walking out.

"Thorn," Solar calls out, making me pause, and he continues, "I hope you won't disappoint me. Now that Lunar is gone, I need another second-in-command, and you are the most suitable one. If you don't follow everything in that report, you do realize what will happen, don't you?" A chill works its way down my spine as his words sink in, and I squeeze my eyes shut to keep the emotion in.

Actions speak louder than words. Taking a deep breath, I stride out of Solar's office and into the dark hallway, shadowed by heavy curtains that separate the main hall and the offices, and I pause before I step forward and gently push one of the curtains aside enough to look down at the brightly lit hall. The rest of the group mills around, and my heart sinks as I think about how this will change everything.

"I'm sorry," I whisper as my eyes linger over young faces untouched by the grimness of our job. My apprentice, Vine, sits on one of the newer couches with the other apprentices, and they seem to be discussing something serious, judging by their downcast faces. Other members simply lounge around, some eating and drinking while others just rest their eyes.

Peace, such a beautiful thing… and I'm about to shatter it. With a heart of stone, I close the curtain and turn to the bloody tapestry beside Solar's office. My eyes take a few moments to examine the details, commit it to memory once again, and nostalgia washes over me as memories flicker in the back of my mind.

How many hours have I spent as a young child, sitting before this woven art and analyzing every gory detail? A bittersweet smile pulls at my lips as I gently push it aside and slip my way into the hidden passageway out of the hideout. For some reason, as I traverse the familiar dark stone passageway, it feels like my heart is slowly turning as cold and hard as my surroundings.

Yes, we all make sacrifices, but some of them are heavier than others. Not all of them are clearly the right choice, either. Sometimes, you have to choose between two evils, the lesser of which is not obvious. As I make my way through the winding maze of tunnels, the decision weighs heavily on my heart.

If I follow my mission, Lunar dies, and I will become a heartless murderer. The others will most likely fear me forever and will never trust me again, worrying that one wrong word will condemn them to Lunar's fate, and my apprentice… how will he look at me? With fear? Disappointment? Betrayal?

Yet if I disobey Solar's orders, he will send somebody else after Lunar, then send them after me. He might even send Vine, the teen shows potential and loyalty, more so than anyone else. That would break him, I just know it. I don't want to see the hollow, dead look in his eyes as he prepares to finish his mission, and if he doesn't do it, who else? When would it stop?

Not to mention the fact that I'd lose Solar and Lunar. The only two people I grew up with. The only ones who stuck by me through it all, the ones who took me in despite being unable to even feed themselves properly. I can still remember those harsh days, made bearable simply by the fact that they were by my side.

"How can I possibly choose?" I whisper, the sound loud and grating in the almost silent underbelly of the city. Startled by the sudden noise, a few rats skitter away, and I sigh. The choice… do I choose loyalty through immorality or morality through betrayal? Do I choose to start a possibly endless cycle of bloodshed, or do I become a feared outcast in the closest thing to a family I've ever known?

In the back of my mind, I know which one I will choose, that, really, there isn't even a choice to make. Maybe there's never really a choice, maybe all our sacrifices are meaningless in the end because we just walk the path laid in front of us, maybe we're all just pawns in some cosmic game.

Still, I traverse the familiar path and wonder how many times we've played in these tunnels together. Solar and Lunar have lived here far before I joined them, before any of us joined, and now… a few tears slip down my face as the reality of the situation slowly dawns upon me.

I'm about to kill my sister. Solar's sister. His second in command, most trusted ally, the person that kissed all our wounds magically better and never hesitated to make us feel better. It all comes down to this, everything we've ever done together has resulted in this, of all things!

"I'm so sorry," I choke out, clenching my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut. As I try to shove all my emotions away, I lean against the stone wall, just before the exit into the alleyway that will lead me to Lunar. Wiping my face dry, I take out the bag and a flashlight, and as I scan over the details of the assignment, what remains of my emotions drains away.

I will complete this, no matter how difficult it will be. Nodding, I place the report back in my coat and stash the weapons in easily accessible places. Mentally preparing myself for the upcoming struggle, I slip out into the alleyway and weave my way through the dark backstreets until I arrive at the back of Lunar's new home.

She chose this. She chose this. She chose this. Keeping that thought in mind, I begin to quickly scale the building, using windows and balconies. The moon lights my path, ironically enough, and I smile dryly at the fact that even her namesake is turning against her. Before long, I'm crouched outside the doors to her balcony, and I softly knock.

"Thorn!" Lunar gasps as she opens the door. I smile warmly at her welcoming face before my eyes drift down. My eyes widen in surprise as I notice her swollen belly, and a soft gasp escapes me. She's… oh, Lunar, what have you done?

"Who?" I mumble, my eyes trained on her stomach. My gaze flicks up to her face, which looks uncomfortable but blissful, and my heart clenches. Whoever he is, she's in love, isn't she? How can I…?

No. The mission must continue. I banish the traitorous thoughts and return to Lunar.

"A noble… I met him during a mission, and, well, we just hit it off," Lunar sighs dreamily, and I nod as I step into the room. Looking around, I notice the luxurious inside of her bedroom, plush pillows and gold decor and old artifacts on onyx stands and cinnamon-scented candles delicately sitting on top of silver and gold candle holders, and a small wave of sadness and rage washes over me.

She's living the life we've always dreamed about, but she turned her back on us to have it when we promised we'd make it—together. As I turn my gaze back to Lunar, her face falls at my blank expression. Taking a step forward, I reach into my cloak.

"We all make sacrifices," I drone as I pull out a knife. It gleams in the moonlight, and I flash forward before she can scream. She grabs a blade hidden in a shelf and deflects my lethal blow; we struggle for a few minutes until I embed the knife in her throat. As I pull it out, blood coats it and everything else, and I take a startled step back. Looking down at the quickly spreading crimson pool, I see my own monstrous reflection in it.

I'm sorry, Lunar, that it all came down to this, but I can't betray Solar as easily as you can. With a grim expression, I haul her limp body up and set to following his orders exactly, no longer feeling torn.

By the time I'm finished, there's blood everywhere, especially on me, and the sun sends its first rays out over the world. Glancing back one more time at the wreckage, I slip back down the building, make my way through the alleys, and vanish back into the familiar tunnels of my childhood.

The sacrifice is made. I shuffle down the halls, only now registering the pain and the wounds Lunar caused, and a harsh hiss escapes me as I stumble and scrape my burnt arm against the wall. Shaking my head, I steady myself and continue on my way through the tunnels. This time, it takes only minutes to reach the hideout, and I absentmindedly head towards Lunar's office for treatment before I remember what just happened.

Right. Filled with resignation and numbness, I head back towards Solar's office and walk in without knocking. He glances up and smirks as he notices my bloody figure, and I wordlessly hand him the token of completion: her necklace and rings. The metal is slick from dark blood and seem almost evil in the dark light. He wordlessly accepts them, the bloodied weapons, and the mission report.

"Your ceremony will occur tomorrow. Go rest up, Thorn," Solar orders. I nod and stalk out of his office, exhaustion and pain slowing my pace. A soft sigh escapes me as I slip into my room. All I want to do is sleep, but I should probably clean my wound first. With a tired groan, I light a lantern, undress, and fish out my medical supplies to clean and bandage my wounds.

These will scar. I frown at the thought of bearing physical marks of the sacrifice I made forever, but I shrug those thoughts away and quickly finish up. After all my wounds are at least somewhat cleaned and covered, I collapse on my bed and almost instantly fall asleep, my dreams plagued with visions of Lunar and everybody else I've sacrificed.

The next day, I stand at Solar's side as he prepares to introduce me as the new second-in-command. Vine glares up at me, and I have to force myself to look away from his accusatory stare, tinged with fear, before my composure breaks. Thankfully, Solar soon begins the ceremony.

"Welcome, all. I am sure you are aware of the recent betrayal our previous second committed, a betrayal that I, as leader and protector of you all, cannot forgive. Lunar ran off with a noble and threatened to reveal all of us," Solar begins. The crowd glances amongst themselves, unaware of the last fact, and my heart throbs at the pain on many of their faces.

I wonder if Lunar really threatened to do that. Maybe… maybe she just wanted to give her children a life without us. Maybe she wanted to give us the chance to get out of the life, too, but that doesn't change things. The sacrifice has been made. With a small nod, I stand silently by Thorn as he discusses the details of her betrayal and subsequent replacement. Finally, he turns towards me, his yellow eyes burning into mine.

"Do you, Thorn, promise to protect everyone in this group, no matter what the cost? Do you promise to never betray us, to always keep our existence a secret, and, finally, to never abandon us?" Solar questions. I swallow thickly, feeling the weight of everyone's gaze pressing down on me. His eyes bore into mine, a desperate look to them, and I suddenly understand everything.

"I do," I clearly state, my voice ringing through the space. Solar and I stare into each other's eyes, both feeling empty without the third person beside us, and he nods.

"Then you, Thorn, are now the official second-in-command of this group," Solar informs me and the group. A murmur went through the crowd as he places a tablet with my insignia, a circlet of vines with vicious looking thorns pointing outwards, in the empty space by his, the space where Lunar's used to be.

A sacrifice… I sigh and turn out towards the group, a gang of social misfits and outcasts that can only find refuge in a crew of murderers. We all have blood staining our hands, some more than others… mine more than all of them. Even more than Solar.

For the first time, though, they gaze at me with fear. They're afraid of me… not that I blame them, not after what I did to Lunar. With a glance to Solar, I nod at the group and step off the raised platform. They part for me to walk through, treating me as if I'll snap and kill them, too.

I had no other choice. The words try to come out, but I hold them back. Vine stands at the end of the row of people, his eyes full of the most fear. Solar steps past me and gestures for everyone to leave us alone, and as he disappears behind the curtains, I find myself alone with my apprentice.

"Forgive me, Vine. Please. If you just think about it, you'll understand," I plead. He silently stares at me, his green eyes fearful, and I wordlessly beg for him to just see things my way. After a few moments, he smiles sadly at me.

"There were more options, Thorn. You didn't have to do that, no matter what you may tell yourself," Vine softly tells me before he turns and leaves. I stand there, his poisonous gaze imprinting itself upon my soul, and even as he turns and leaves, I stay and try to possible think of any other choice. They don't come, but whether that's because there were none or because I don't want to admit to myself there was another way remains to be seen.

We all make sacrifices. Lunar sacrificed us for her new life, and I sacrificed her so that nobody else would have to lose their soul like that. When it comes down to it, killing someone you know is corrupt and killing someone you know are two very different things, and I don't want anyone else to know the difference like I do. As I make my way to Solar's office, though, I can't help but wonder if maybe there could have been a different outcome after all, an outcome where none of us have to know the difference and we all walk away happy, but I shove those thoughts away when I step into his office, not wanting Solar to notice my doubt.

"Ink will be here in a few moments," Solar informs me as I step into his office. I nod and shrug off my cloak to reveal the tattoo on my upper arm, my insignia inked on flesh. To signify my status, our tattoo artist, Ink, will be adding a sun in the middle of the circle. Then it will all be official.

"How could it all come to this?" I sigh, sinking into the chair before a grand mahogany desk. Solar sighs as well and takes a seat in the equally grand chair in front of the desk, and all the previous darkness from just a couple of days before seems to have disappeared, leaving the Solar I remember from before all of this.

"I don't know, Thorn. I don't know," he sighs, looking like the tired, scared, unsure kid I first met. Any anger I feel towards him almost instantly disappears as I see how deeply hurt he really is. Instead of saying anything, I just reach across the desk and take one of his hands in mine. We sit like that, wordlessly comforting the other, until Ink steps in, and Solar resumes his bloodthirsty, heartless leader appearance while I quickly withdraw my hand and try to look fearsome and emotionless.

"This shouldn't take too long, Thorn. Congratulations on the promotion," the wiry man says as he takes a seat beside me. I resist the urge to respond in any way and keep my eyes trained on Solar, and we all sit in an awkward silence interrupted only by the noises of Ink setting his stuff up. Finally, he has everything set to go. Solar smiles at me, a silent reassurance that everything is as it should be, while Ink begins the last step of the sacrifice: bearing the mark of it forever.

As he gives me the tattoo, I take the time to sit and think about the choices we made to end up here. I suppose it all started with our decision to become assassins in the first place, tired of being kicked around and abused in our desperate searches for money, and from there, it just built up until the only result could ever be the death of somebody.

We all make sacrifices, and sometimes our sacrifices leave a bitter taste in our mouth. Sometimes you're left feeling guilty and ashamed, wondering forever if there could have been a different outcome.

She made her choices. I made mine. She sacrificed something, so did I. In the end, life is just sacrifices and choices that might mean something but will most likely amount to nothing.

While I doubt that our choices in the last few days will amount to anything, there's a steadily growing ball of dread and unease forming in my stomach, and as I make my way to my new room, I can't help but feel like we are all going to making a lot more bloody sacrifices in the near future.
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Postby ghostyghost » July 18th, 2018, 10:33:46 am

So, first of all, there is a self-harm warning. Nothing major, but I mean… yeah. Second of all… this is a mess but that's fine. I'll probably edit this and turn into a short story to post on Wattpad, so I'm not too worried about this version. Still, I am rather proud of everything but a select few parts and the general pacing of this story, so I'll post it anyways. It's pretty lengthy, just a warning. Enjoy.

They stare when he walks down the street. Not all of them, just the ones who know his family and who he really is, but he doesn't care. Why should he? They're just other people who don't matter in his life. He stares down at his shoes, notes the ragged, torn look they have, and focuses on the beat blasting through his ears.

Should he go to school today? He ponders the question as he, keeping his gaze trained on the movement of his feet, meanders towards a destination currently undetermined. With a sigh, he remembers the fact that there's an important test in his English class and more purposefully, albeit reluctantly, heads towards school.

Really, he doesn't know why he tries at all—in anything. It all leads to same road, so what's the point? His feet turn in the wrong direction, begin wandering down towards a nice little place where he can be alone with his music and his muted thoughts. It's not until he bumps into someone and looks up that he realizes he's going the wrong way. Shaking his head, he turns around and, after casting a longing glance behind him, continues on his way to school.

As he walks through the doors, he pauses his music and slips his headphones off of his head and onto his neck; almost immediately, the sounds of the world assault his ears. He cringes a little, pulling his hood up to at least muffle it, and takes the most secluded seat in the overcrowded cafeteria as possible.

People stare at him. They whisper about the weird honors kid that somehow manages to be in the top one percent but rarely ever shows up and never actually does anything. Without his headphones, their words bleed through the fabric covering his ears, and for some reason, their words matter more to him than they should.

Maybe it's because of the fact that such lowlife scum should judge him. His eyes narrow into a glare as the scum just continue to talk, a constant wave of noise raping his ears and upsetting his stomach, and he almost starts hyperventilating as they just don't shut up!

When the bell rings, he jumps up and stalks off to his next class, pulling his hood down his face more to hide from their judging, scummy glances. He can't stand them, can't stand them, can't stand them… the same thought runs in his head over and over again, a vain attempt at relaxing himself.

He can't stand them.

They sicken him to the core, everything about them. From the way they never shut up long enough to hear others to the stupid way they carry themselves like they're the center of the universe, he hates them with a burning passion, so hot and heavy that it brings about a raging headache and makes it hard to breath.

This is why he doesn't come to school. The school knows this, they don't care; so long as his parents keep paying them, so long as he keeps up with his homework, so long as he comes in for tests, he's good.

Of course, he could be homeschooled. That would be an easy solution to his problems, but no, his parents want him to experience the normality of public school, want him to be a normal child despite the fact that he's a fucking genius and shouldn't have to mingle amongst such scum.

As he takes a seat in his first class, he glances around at the less horrendous scum loitering around, and he hates the gnawing feel of envy that grows the longer he observes them. They seem at ease as they chat fluidly amongst each other, and as he becomes more tuned-in to their actions, he notices a few lingering touches and returns his gaze to the scratched surface of his desk.

Freak is carved into the wood, along with a dozen other insults—all aimed at him. He repeats them over and over in his head, a reminder that people don't like him and he doesn't like them and thinking of things such as love is a waste of time, and he doesn't waste time.

If he doesn't waste time, then what is he doing here, washing time? He knows this already, could be learning more or mulling over the important questions of the universe, anything but sitting in this desk and fighting back the urge to vomit while a headache grows ever more painful—all without learning a thing.

For a few seconds, he tenses, about to stand up and walk out of the classroom, but the bell rings and signals that his chance is gone. He blinks, a little dazed that it's already time to start class, and takes a deep breath.

Just mingle amongst the scum a little longer, it'll be over soon. Just a little longer, he thinks to himself, his thoughts tinged with a desperation he hates. It… well, it sickens him, like a lot of things do. He swallows and closes his eyes, trying to ignore everyone else, and the class drags by.

Finally, the bell rings. He quickly makes his way to his next class, then the class after that, and on until he's back out on the streets, blasting music and drowning out everyone else. His feet lead him to a special place where he will be completely and totally alone, and as he situates himself in the little alcove, he feels the relief hit him like a train.

All of a sudden, he realizes that he's shaking and crying and breathing erratically, and he places his head between his knees, closes his eyes, and just focuses on the music bleeding into his mind. It isn't until he wakes up that he realizes he fell asleep, and with a muttered curse, he reluctantly turns off his music and begins the rather dangerous walk home. Dangerous during this time, after the sun has already set, at least.

"Look, it's the little genius freak! What's he doing out here, mingling with us idiots?" a menacing voice snarls as an ominous form steps out of the shadows. Other figures join the first, forming a menacing, shadowy ring of danger, and the quaking boy in the middle of it all frantically looks around, calculating the most possible outcome.

Death. Or, at least, extreme pain to the point where he would prefer death. Based on a look, one that brings to mind buried memories and makes his heart pound and stomach turn, in some of their eyes, he adds in the possibility of more than just a beating. Either way, the resulting equation leads to all negative outcomes, with the exception of divine intervention, a possibility he suddenly finds himself wishing for.

Funny how the idea of a god, a merciful being that can save anyone in any situation, becomes appealing the moment one finds themselves stuck in a particularly horrendous situation. He whimpers in the back of his throat as he realizes that there's no way to think himself out of this, and it seems to the terrified teenager that the group's eyes glow ominously as the slowly shift closer.

"Hey! What're you doin' here? This isn't your territory, so scram!" another growling voice grabs the attention of the group. They look over in the direction it came from, and a flickering street light reveals a thin, unthreatening male that sends the rest scattering.

"R-Ray?" the shaking male questions incredulously. Perhaps this is as close to a divine intervention as he'll get… although the flickering light and the atmosphere makes Ray seem closer to a demon than an angel.

"Come on, Vincent, I'll walk you home. If you're such a genius, why are you out here at this time?" the taller males steps away from the flickering light and approaches the other, who opens his mouth to retort. After a few seconds of thinking, though, he reluctantly closes it and walks behind his savior. It's not the other boy's fault that he's so stupid, after all.

Still, that doesn't mean he can't respond at all, does it? "I may be a genius, but I'm not a god. I can't control others, read minds, or destroy all in my path," Vincent bitterly and reluctantly admits. Even as he speaks the words, a small voice in the back of his mind snickers, likening him once again to one of the many, many gods that lurk in the recesses of his knowledge.

"You're right, a god wouldn't fall asleep in a back-alley where even the police don't go!" Ray, his voice full of frustration, bursts out suddenly. He whirls around to face the smaller male, who tries his best to remain standing tall but ends up cowering despite his greatest efforts. The two stare at each for a long moment before Ray scoffs and turns back on his way.

"Well, I suppose I ought to be grateful that even someone like you was there to help me," Vincent grumbles as he follows the other male. Even if the smaller male didn't act like it, he knows that he's weak, pretty much useless when it comes to any form of physical conflicts, and it really does make him feel grateful that somebody stepped in before something bad happened.

Of course, he doesn't have to voice his feeling. No, such feelings are obvious enough, aren't they? Even an imbecile would be able to understand that anyone would feel that way, right? No words necessary. He nods to himself and slips his headphones back on, thoroughly exhausted from his small but tension-filled human interaction and desperately wishes the world could just disappear.

Unfortunately, he's not a god. The reminder leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, the taste of humanity, and he glares down at his feet, his stupid human feet. Why couldn't he… the thought trails off. How could he finish that? If he were not human, he would be a mindless beast, right? As far as his knowledge goes, there isn't anything above a human—aside from a god, that is.

The only other thing he could be is dead. Like a tsunami, the thought crashes over him and drags him into a dark depth previously unexplored, and his mind flashed back to the previous experience, to the group of scum surrounding him. Would they have killed him?

Not without brutalizing you first, he reminds himself. The thought sends a shudder crawling down his spine as he vividly recalls the look in their eyes, and he quickly distracts himself by turning his music up and letting his thoughts get overwhelmed by the harsh but beautiful instruments blasting in his ears.

Finally, they arrive before a large home, standing taller than the ones around it. Its beautiful white-stone exterior, mixed with the perfect lawn and ornate iron fence, appears to be from another world in the light of the full moon. Ray stops and gapes at the house, but Vincent slips his headphones off and tugs his starstruck companion off towards the side, a small space between the iron fence and a wooden fence.

"I don't want the guard to note our appearance in his logs. There's a blind spot back here where we can get in without documentation," Vincent explains as he confidently walks between the two fences, and Ray hesitantly follows. He doesn't like closed spaces, they make him feel trapped and powerless, but he wants Vincent's parents, two of the most powerful people in the area, to know that he brought their precious son home safe and sound.

Even if if does mean swallowing his anxiety for what seems like an endless stretch of fence. Finally, the duo arrive at the end of it all, and Ray watches Vincent stops before a section of fence that seems no different than all the others. The tall male wonders just how many times the other has used this route; based off of the ease with which he locates the easiest and most concealed spot to cross over, Vincent must do this incredibly often.

In reality, though, the small male doesn't usually bother going this way. It's too much work to avoid documentation when his parents don't really care either way, but not only does he have someone new with him, his parents have become overbearing lately, demanding that he be home at certain times and making sure he eats three healthy meals a day.

Because of their increased vigilance, he can't risk them locking him up or worse. They already have him seeing a therapist once a week, what else would they do?

He would really rather not know, so, holding back a grimace, he kicks his shoes off and leans up to place his hands on the top of the fence, between two iron spikes. With a quiet grunt of effort, he hauls himself up, worming his toes in the small spaces between decorations to keep himself there.

"Do you need help?" Ray questions, mostly teasing but also genuinely concerned. He tries to play it off as concern for the money, if he returns damaged goods the reaction probably won't be as satisfactory, but there's a small part of him that finds something intriguing about Vincent.

"No," Vincent snaps. Ray grins and shakes his head; he would have been more shocked had his offer of help been taken. Instead, he stands back and watches as the small male practically tosses himself over the top of the fence, miraculously avoiding the spires, and land harshly on the ground.

Well, that hurt. Vincent lays on the ground for a few seconds, wallowing in his pain, but he eventually pulls himself up to his feet and gestures for Ray to hand over his shoes. That task done, he guides the taller, stronger male over the fence and leads him through the immaculate yard.

"Be quiet, my parents are sleeping. You can spend the night in my other bedroom and tell my parents what happened in the morning," Vincent curtly informs Ray as he unlocks the door. They creep inside and softly shut the door behind them, and as they quietly make their way to Vincent's rooms, Ray can't help but liken this situation to the many, many times he's snuck to a fling's room.

Of course, Vincent isn't a fling. Never will be. Still, Ray finds himself scrutinizing the male from behind. The loose hoodie covers pretty much anything, but that fact only strokes Ray's curiosity. What lays beneath the hoodie? His eyes narrow in thought as they walk.

"You will stay here tonight," Vincent informs Ray, still staring at the smaller boy intensely, and they stand in an awkward silence for a few seconds before Vincent turns and strides towards the door across the hall. His hand rests on the doorknob as he pauses, unsure of what to say but feeling like something needs to be said.

In the end, he slips into his room without a word. Ray stares at the door for a second before he enters his own temporary room, and the two fall asleep, the person across the hall on their mind and invading their dreams.

If Ray were to be honest, this isn't the first time he's found his thoughts occupied by Vincent. If he were to be even more honest, his "chance" saving wasn't quite as lucky as he'd have everyone else believe; in fact, there wasn't a shred of chance in that confrontation.

As a rather feared street rat, he has connections, and it was through these connections that he learned of the planned attack on Vincent by one of the other street rats. Since then, he had trailed Vincent to keep him safe.

That had been over a month ago. Initially, his reason for doing so had been simple: money. That money would have led to a better life for his siblings, hopefully away from the horrible influences of his aunt and uncle, and everything would be alright.

Only everything's not alright. Even before he began protecting—stalking, his mind corrects—Vincent, there had been something about the small male that had caught his interest. Even now, he can't pinpoint the exact reason why Vincent interests him so much, only that it has something to do with how contradictory the male seems.

After all, such a small boy with no physical strength is single-handedly the feistiest person he's ever met. From the few times Vincent has spoken to or around him, there's one thing Ray knows for certain about him: he hates everyone. Or, at least, he believes them to be insufferably inferior to him and thus a waste of his time. Even when talking to his savior, he has to say something poisonous, hurtful.

Not that it really hurt. Ray may be full of pride and think himself as a pretty awesome person, but even he can accept that Vincent is better than most. Yes, he's a genius, that certainly does make him greater than many people, yet there's something greater within him. Something unexplainable that draws him in.

Then again, maybe there is just something a little explainable… the thought crosses Ray's sleep-drugged mind as he stares at Vincent, shifting nervously at the side of the bed. More awake, he halfway sits up to see the other male more clearly, and his eyes widen slightly as he takes in Vincent's night clothes, a loose button-up shirt and, apparently, no pants.

God help him. He sighs and opens his mouth to ask just what the hell Vincent needs when he notices the vulnerable look in the smaller male's eyes. For some reason, his younger siblings come into mind, the way they'd always look at him after a bad… oh. With a sigh, Ray shifts over to make a clear spot on the bed, and Vincent silently climbs in, hesitantly cuddling up to the taller, warmer male.

"Sweet dreams," Ray mumbles he falls back asleep, more a reflex than anything. Even if he didn't mean it, Vincent finds himself smiling slightly as he relaxes in the warm embrace of somebody… somebody that's just like all the rest, he reminds himself.

He can't let himself forget that Ray just wants to use him for his parents. If he forgets and gets too close, he'll just get broken again, and he's honestly scared of what will happen the next time he's shattered. Still, he can't deny that being so close to someone just feels nice. Using your savior to chase away nightmares doesn't mean you're getting too close, Vincent.

It's okay, right? Even though he knows there are a thousand arguments for either side, he wills his thoughts in another direction, like predicting how his parents will react the next morning or what he should begin learning about next, until he falls into a deeper, more restful sleep than he's had in a long while.

In fact, he sleeps so peacefully that he momentarily forgets what happened the night before when he wakes up. For a few seconds, he feels the warmth around him and tenses, about to scream, when he abruptly remembers that he crawled into bed with Ray after a bad dream—like a little kid, that's an important fact.

Well, there's no graceful way out of this one. Vincent carefully untangles himself from Ray and sneaks off to the bathroom in his room, and as he locks the bathroom door behind him, a rush of emotions threaten to overwhelm him. Taking deep and controlled breaths, he unbuttons his shirt and carefully folds it on the counter, followed by his boxers.

"It's fine. You didn't do anything wrong, Vince. All you did was use him like you'd use those pills, right? Just another way to fight off the nightmares, and they were really bad last night, really bad. He saved you in real life, it only made sense," Vincent mumbles to himself as he turns on the shower. The memories of the nightmares make his hands shake, and he quickly darts into his room to grab his phone and a speaker. Setting them up on his counter, he plays music and turns the volume up until it bleeds into his mind and stops his thoughts.

Really, that's all he wants, but nobody understands. That's fine, though; he doesn't need anything from them. He just needs his music and, ironically enough, his own thoughts despite all the other things his mind brings. Not all things can be accomplished with one person, but those that can't are the things he doesn't want to do anyways.

Then again… as he showers, his mind drifts off to activities that can't be accomplished with one person. His mind inevitably comes across the one question that it always arrive at. What would… what would sex feel like? He's read about it, watched countless videos (although that's not something he'd ever admit to anyone else), has even allowed himself a few fleeting thoughts of actually doing it… but it's not like he's ever actually experienced it or anything close to it.

As odd as it probably is, he's not even really sure what gender he's attracted to. Or what sexual attraction feels like. He knows that, were he to ever actually say this out loud to anyone else, most people would laugh and question how he doesn't know, but the truth is that nothing he's ever watched or read has done anything.

Is he just broken? The thought makes him laugh slightly. He knows that asexuality is a thing, so the idea of him being "broken" because of it seems odd and stupid, childish or immature even. However, despite the fact that he knows full and well that fact, he can't help but still feel broken somehow, like he's missing a part of himself that should very obviously be there.

Needless to say, it's incredibly frustrating. How could he, a genius, be stumped by his own mind? Why is it that he can solve practically any other problem but can't figure out what's missing from his life? What's so wrong with him that even he can't figure it out, and does he really have to lower himself to the point of asking others to figure it out?

"Stop thinking about it! How did… oh, whatever," Vincent grumbles as he turns off the water. His mind tends to go its own direction in the shower, no matter how loud he plays his music, but that's why he loves showers. Sure, it's also why he hates them, but even then he's learned to appreciate the rare moments of unhampered thoughts, no matter which direction they take.

Besides, his thoughts could have gone down an even worse direction. Instead of pondering his sexuality and brokenness, he could have been replaying last night in his mind and going through all the other possible situations, but he didn't. Usually, he would, so he gives himself a celebratory pat on the back as he brushes his teeth, flosses, and rinses out all the remaining nastiness with mouthwash.

Unfortunately, such small celebrations can only last so long. By the time he's pulled on a different undershirt, hoodie, and threadbare pair of jeans, his momentary high from that minuscule achievement has worn off, and as he knocks on the door to his second room, the room he used when he was younger, he finds himself dreading the upcoming confrontation.

"Who…? Oh, yeah. Hey, Vin, can I borrow some clothes?" Ray answers, his voice and appearance suggesting that he just now woke up. He looks over the small male in front him, observing the wetness of his hair, and smiles a little at the fact that, even when about to talk to his parents about the events of last night, Vincent still wears clothes that his parents probably hate.

"Yeah. There's a bathroom where you can take a shower, and I'll get some clothes for you. Sizes and preferences?" Vincent questions, a little thrown off by the "affectionate" nickname but willing to overlook it. Not because he likes being called anything other than his name, especially not by such a lowlife, but because he owes Ray something for saving him, right?

Of course, he can't deny the little flutter in his stomach when he registered what Ray had called him, but that doesn't mean he has to associate that flutter with any significant meaning or even really acknowledge it at all. Instead, he just leads Ray to a place where he can take a shower, takes down his sizes and clothing preferences, and relays the information to one of the delivery people that take care of that stuff.

Now all he has to do is check to see if his parents are awake. Usually, he wouldn't even bother. In such a large house, it's easy enough to avoid making contact with others, especially if you know their pattern, and perhaps he's been taking advantage of that since he hasn't had a conversation with his parents in… in months, maybe.

Depending on what one could call a conversation, maybe even never, but that's okay. He doesn't really need them, doesn't need anybody as a matter of fact. Still, because of the fact that he's really only talked to his parents in passing, he finds his heart beating faster and his palms sweating as he forces himself to step into the kitchen, where his parents should be eating breakfast.

"Hello. I have something to discuss today, but there is somebody we need to wait for. If you don't mind delaying your schedules a little bit to wait for him, you can stay in here, or I can send someone to retrieve you when he is ready," Vincent curtly informs his parents. The entire situation feels foreign, from the way they stare at him to the way the words feel stiff and forced. His speech is usually very fluid and smooth, one of the many things that sets him apart from his peers, but right now, it feels like plastic—fake and stiff.

He hates it. He hates everything about this situation, so he gives his parents a stiff nod and quickly exits. Behind him, his whisper about what he could possibly have to tell them, and the sick feeling from the day before returns. It's all too much, everything's happened so fast, and he just wants to hide in his closet again, like his younger self.

What's stopping him, really? The closet isn't really a practical place to hide, but there are other places. He could make it on his own, couldn't he? He doesn't need anybody, so he why doesn't he just leave?

Because he can't predict the entirety of the world, and that terrifies him. The thought comes with a bitter taste and makes it harder to breathe, and he frantically makes his way to his closet. It's huge, large enough to be another room, but as the lock clicks behind him, a familiar sense of peace falls over him.

In this place, he controls everything. It's a reassuring thought, that there is a place where he is a god and does have power over everything, but it's a hollow comfort because he can't spend his entire life here, where he's in control. There will always be places or situations where he is completely and totally powerless.

Like last night. Like a thousand other times before that, like every time he walks out of his house. Like all those times years ago, when he was a child. When his mother wasn't so successful and his father didn't care.

Most people look at his family now, and they see the perfect picture of what everyone wants. Wealth, a genius kid, family… everything. Nobody remembers the time before his father really accepted them, and sometimes Vincent wonders if it wasn't all in his mind after all.

If it all isn't in his mind. Sometimes he drives himself insane with the thought that maybe this isn't real, that maybe everything isn't real, that maybe his entire life is a lie, and it seems like this is going to be another one of those times.

"Damn it! I… well, there's no other option, I just have to," Vincent hisses to himself as he pushes his sleeves up. There's a part of him that screams and curses in his mind, enraged that everything has lined up the way it has, while a more rational side of him drones on about how "inevitable" everything is and how it would have happened anyways, no matter what he did differently.

He's so tired of those two sides always fighting. Even if this is a rather undesirable option, it's the only way to get them to shut up, at least when he's in a mood like this, where even music won't magically fix everything and when he has to actually be present in the world, so he nestles himself in a corner and tries not to smile as he reaches his hand under the dresser beside him.

There. His hand closes around something, one of the many things he has hidden in his closet, and as he pulls it out, he hesitates. Should he risk it? If anyone finds out… but they won't find out. Nodding, he takes a deep breath and clutches the object tightly in his hand.

It's been too long. He breathes out in relief as his mind slows and becomes one, thoughts no longer fighting about what is right and if reality is reality. As he cleans up his mess and returns the object to its hiding place, someone knocks on the closet door.

"Vin?" Ray calls, making Vincent panic a little. Why did he let himself get so out of control? This is ridiculous! Cursing under his breath, Vincent pulls his sleeve and stumbles to the door; as he opens it, Ray stares down at him with an unreadable expression.

"Let's go," Vincent mumbles as he pushes his way past the taller male, not really wanting to talk at the moment. Besides, he'll have to explain the entirety of the night before go his parents anyways, so he would really rather save his energy for that.

He's really going to need a lot of energy for that. With a sigh, he re-enters the kitchen, where his parents still sit. Forcing a smile, he directs Ray to sit in a chair and takes a seat beside him. After taking a deep breath, Vincent calmly begins explaining the events of the night before with a detached tone, the words feel just weird and plastic as before.

At the end of it all, his parents stare at him intensely. His father seems impassive, bored almost, like always, but his mother has an almost frantic expression.

"I told you to be careful! How could you be so stupid? You know the streets are dangerous at night," she scolds. Vincent chokes back all the retorts building up and simply stares down at the table, even as she continues to berate him. Finally, she stops and turns her focus on Ray, who shifts nervously in his seat.

"Uh, yeah, I'm… well, I'm glad that Vincent is safe, I'm gonna bounce now," Ray mumbles, unintentionally falling back into street-habits as he stands up. Vincent's mother shakes her head and motions for him sit back down, and, reluctantly, Ray obeys. He glances over at Vincent, still looking down at the table, and looks back at the female staring at him.

"You're going to Vincent's body guard. This is perfect! You can follow him… I'm going to go make some calls. Damien, you take over," Vincent's mother commands as she hurried out of the room, phone in hand. The father grunts and stands up, walking out of the room without a word, and the two boys are left alone.

"Are you happy?" Vincent whispers. Ray turns towards the small boy, about to answers, but the look in the other's eyes renders him speechless. His eyes, which he just now notices are a pale greenish grey, are full of resignation and defeat.

"I'm sorry, what?" Ray questions. For some reason, he feels guilty, but what did he even do? It's not like he asked to be the other's bodyguard—not that he minds—or anything, and he's just as human as Vincent.

"Are you happy? You get money, right? Sure, you have to 'guard' me, but whatever, that'll be easy; just take me home right afterwards," Vincent explains, his voice still detached and fake and emotionless. Ray opens his mouth to respond but shuts it, not really wanting to respond. If he does, what would he say? Still, something needs to be said.

"I'm sorry," he whispers hoarsely. Vincent doesn't respond, his gaze returning to the table, and silence reigns once again. Ray looks around the extravagant kitchen, all polished marble and shining steel and cold, and he wonders how it must have felt to grow up in such a cold and emotionless house.

Maybe Vincent never really had a choice to be anything else but what he became. Ray furrows his brows as he begins to think about it, wondering if he could have turned out differently. If they switched places… would they still be here?

No, Ray decides. They wouldn't be here because he wouldn't have been able to handle such a detached environment. Even after only spending a night in this foreign, cold house, he yearns for his siblings, for the bond they share and the connection they have.

"If Rhea returns, tell her that I'll be back," Vincent suddenly orders. Ray looks over at him in surprise, about to ask who Rhea is, but the smaller boy is already gone, striding almost desperately to somewhere safe. He locks himself in the first room he comes across, a small, empty room with white marble flooring and light grey walls.

He can't go through this again. He's had bodyguards before, even ones that go to school with him, and after his little tantrum, she promised he would never have another bodyguard.

She's nothing but a liar… you can't trust her, can't trust anybody… screw them all, let them all fucking burn! His breath comes in sharp bursts as images of the past and destruction flicker in his mind, and he screams. He didn't really mean to, the sound surprises him more than it surprises everyone else, but by the time people come to check on him, his face is set into a smooth, smiling expression that doesn't reflect the inner turmoil he feels.

"Sorry, I thought I saw a rat, but it was just my hair in the corner of my eye. Rhea, when is my next haircut?" Vincent questions. She smiles brightly before giving a date, all her worries assuaged by simple words and fake smiles. Ray, however, stills remains to give the other boy a skeptical look.

He doesn't matter, though, Vincent reminds himself. None of them do, really, but Rhea has the ability to make his life incredibly inconvenient. Luckily, she's easy to fool and redirect, so, with a smirk, Vincent grabs his headphones and walks to the front door. With Ray following, he makes his way to school since he no longer has the choice to not go, and he goes through the school day with the same detached smirk.

Three weeks later, he finds himself sitting in the same office, staring at the same doctor, with the same smirk on his face. Ray waits in the lobby, the ever-vigilant body guard, and Vincent momentarily entertains the idea of slipping out a window before he banishes the thought. It's been three weeks of Ray being his bodyguard, and he's gotten more accustomed to the situation. Accustomed enough to stop trying to get some freedom, at least.

"Have you self-harmed since last time?" the doctor questions. Vincent tells him that he hasn't, a lie, and the rest of the sessions goes on as per usual; the doctor asks questions that Vincent dodges or lies about, nothing gets done, he walks out just the same as ever.

Except he finds himself in an off-white bathroom, crimson dripping off of his wrists and onto the counter. He stumbles back, eyes focused on the red drops, and shakes his head. He's so tired… but he can't sleep, stay awake. Forcing his eyes open, he cleans up his mess, too concentrated on that to realize that Ray is knocking on the door.

"Vin? I'm coming in," Ray warns. He pauses for a few seconds, and when there's no answer, he cautiously enters. His eyes widen and his breath catches in his throat as he sees Vincent intensely scrubbing the counter, the same area over and over again as blood continues to drip from his wrist. He doesn't even look over until Ray touches him, big when he does, his gaze is full of terror.

"Ray! It—just—oh, please, don't tell anyone. They… they'll just lock me up again and I'll be alone and do you know what your shadow sounds like? I do, and I can't, I just can't," Vincent bursts out, his voice taking on a desperate edge that Ray has never heard from him. He feels like he should go tell someone, but at the same time, Vincent looks so scared and lost that he can't force himself to add distress the small male any more.

"I won't tell anyone. Sh, it's okay, you're okay. I'm going to clean you up now, okay?" Ray soothes as his older brother instincts kick in. He gently shuts the bathroom door behind them and gently cleans off Vincent's arms, which are covered in blood and wounds and too many scars.

As Vincent watches Ray gently wiping the blood off of his arm, half-formed thoughts float through his head. One of them being how he's just so tired. He hasn't had a solid night's sleep since Monday, and he's been going to school every day, which has drained him of almost all his energy.

Another thought is how grateful he is for Ray, even if he's the reason why he's been stuck in the house and at school. To be fair, it's not Ray's fault that Rhea is the way she is, so he doesn't really blame him. In fact, he really, really likes that Ray stays by him during the day and just makes everything more bearable, and he really likes that Ray has started to learn when he can't handle a situation and leads him away from it to keep him happy or comfortable or something.

"Thank you, Ray. I really like having you," Vincent sleepily slurs, eyes half-open. Ray looks up in surprise and opens his mouth to respond, but as the smaller male yawns and lets his eyes close fully, the body guard decides to leave the issue alone. Still, when Vincent is fully asleep, he

"Why do you have to be so confusing?" he questions the sleeping male. The only answer he receives is a soft whine from the other as he picks him up. Shaking his head, Ray carefully carries Vincent out to the car, a gift from his parents for becoming a bodyguard. Along with the car, they also have him and his siblings living in one of the guest houses behind their actual house.

Despite the fact that he lives on the same estate as Vincent, he knows nothing more about him than before. Well, now he knows something, but before that, nothing. Still, he enjoys his time with the odd genius, and he's come to recognize when the other is becoming overwhelmed.

At least, he thought he did. Apparently, he doesn't, and despite the fact that there's nothing more that he could have done, he finds himself feeling guilty. As he drives through the gates, he wonder whether Vincent will withdraw or open up. Carefully sliding the small male out of the car, Ray notices how vulnerable and cute the other looks.

"If you'd just let me in," Ray mutters to himself, carrying Vincent to his room. There's nobody there, not that anyone would care. He takes off the other's shoes and tucks him into bed, and, his job done, he turns to leave. Before he can reach the door, though, something makes him hesitate.

Should he stay? His siblings are home, waiting for him… but they have each other. Who else does Vincent have? Nobody. Glancing back at the door, Ray grabs the desk chair and places it by the bed, and as he sits, he glances over at Vincent's sleeping face.

"I'm here, Vin. At the door, waiting for you," Ray sighs as he brushes a piece of hair out of the Vincent's face. The room is silent as the Vincent continues to sleep with Ray looking over him. By the time the smaller boy starts waking up, his bodyguard is almost falling asleep himself.

"Ray? Oh, fuck, I'm so sorry," Vincent apologizes as he fully wakes up and the memories from before hit him. His pillow is wet with the tears that he shed in his sleep, tears that Ray didn't notice, and as the smaller boy begins to full-on cry, Ray begins to panic slightly. What is he supposed to do?

"Calm down, it's okay. It'll be okay," Ray whispers as he thinks back to when his younger siblings are upset. Hesitant but determined to make the other feel better, he climbs into the bed and wraps his arms around the small, shaking frame.

"No, it's not! It'll never be okay because you're going to tell and I'm going to be stuck here, and I can't be stuck here!" Vincent shouts as he almost violently pushes himself away from Ray. His body trembles as he backs across the room, a desperate look in his eyes. "A-and even if you don't, I'm still stuck. Stuck in my mind, stuck in my position, stuck in this stupid world!"

Ray stares, stunned, at the smaller boy, the one who seems to always have it so together, as he paces frantically. His fingers scratch obsessively at his arms through the cloth of his hoodie, and Ray worries that he's opened his wounds. If so, he has to calm him down quickly because reopening all those wounds —so many crossing red lines, the only cracks in an otherwise perfect mask—would not be good, to say the least.

"Hey, hey, that's not true, okay? I promise I won't tell, and I promise that I'll take you where you want to go. You're not trapped, Vincent. You're free," Ray soothe as he edges closer to the panicking boy. He hesitates before pulling the other to his chest and stroking surprisingly soft hair. Vincent begins to relax against him.

"Do you promise? And do you promise to not leave me without telling me first? I know you can't stay forever, but that doesn't mean you can just disappear," Vincent mumbles as he leans against his body guard. Ray chuckles slightly, noting that even when vulnerable and exhausted and emotionally-charged Vincent hasn't lost his personality.

"I promise," Ray whispers. The two remain like that in the middle of the room for a long while, both of them simply enjoying the feel of human contact. As much as we may try to run away from who we are, everyone is human, and humans, typically, crave physical contact, even ones that borderline on godly status.

They stare at the two of them as they walk. All of them, even the ones that don't know exactly who he is, because they're two males in a relationship, but they don't care. Nobody else but them matters, and as they walk, they smile at each other. The shorter one offers the taller one an ear bud, which is accepted gratefully, and the two continue their journey down the street with music playing in their ears, connecting their souls while drowning everyone else out.
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