(Summary: Tiberius Munin has a normal life. He gets straight Cs, smokes a few cigarettes now and then to impress his friends, and puts up with a father who coined the phrase "oblivious." That normal life ends, however, when two "aliens" show up at his door, needing his help. He is about to find himself in a world where men can shift into wolves, people have "healing hands," and many, many people want to kill him….

Disclaimers: All of the characters, creatures, worlds and plotline belong to yours truly. If you try to steal them for your own work, I shall not be amused.

Warnings: There will be shounen ai, GRAPHIC violence, GRAPHIC talk of sex, MAJOR profanity, and DEATH. Got it, folks? My characters will use tons of profanity, succubi and incubi will seduce pretty boys and girls, people will get torn limb from limb (incidentally, that also covers the whole death thing), so be prepared.

Chapter Quotation: Friedrich Nietzsche, who lived from 1844-1900, said, "One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star."

Author's Thanks: Ouvalyrin, Trinket, xenocaster, sunshinegyspsy, and Roselle Mai for reviewing.

Author's Notes: Okay, so this chapter turned out to be more about Dýr than the actual main character. I can't help it, Dýr amuses me. I hope you all enjoy the latest installment of This Passing Strangeness!


This Passing Strangeness

By Cinaed, Born of Fire

Chapter One: Chaos In Oneself

"Aw, poor Munin." Thom Bazyli's drawl made the teen instinctively tense, and then Tiberius forced himself to relax and keep walking. If he kept walking, then he could possibly forget that Bazyli and his gang of morons were walking right behind him, ready to pounce if he gave them any excuse. "I hear you didn't get any acceptance letters from colleges. Too bad. Your mommy must be so disappointed that her baby is a failure."

Tiberius kept walking, and focused on putting one foot ahead of the other. His mother actually hadn't cared, and had instead mumbled that he could spend a year working at Blockbuster or McDonalds, earn some money so she wouldn't have to spend so much on tuition. He wasn't about to tell Bazyli that, though.

Undeterred by the other teenager's silence, Bazyli kept up his taunting. His voice grew louder, so that everyone on the block could probably hear him. "Did your daddy get upset too? His pride and joy, turning out to be nothing more than a useless punk with no future."

Tiberius knew he shouldn't give the other boy an opening or show him his weakness; he knew it and yet whirled anyways towards Bazyli at the mention of his father. His hands clenched into fists. "Don't talk about my dad, Bazyli!"

For a second, Bazyli looked almost startled, and then a slow smirk formed on his lips. "What's the matter, Munin? Touchy that you disappointed your dad? He probably didn't even notice that you weren't accepted at any colleges. After all, he doesn't know about the plumber—"

"At least my father is smart enough to stay out of jail!" Tiberius snapped, and immediately wished he'd kept his big mouth shut as the group gave a collective gasp and looked to see their leader's reaction.

Bazyli simply stared for a moment. Color leeched from his face as though the other teen had socked him in the gut. Then redness exploded in his cheeks, and his eyes hardened. "Take that back, Munin! Take that back before I kick your ass!"

He was silent as he slowly began to back away, towards his elusive home. Tiberius knew what would happen next—it happened so often, after all. Enraged by his rival's silence, Bazyli would throw a wild punch towards the other boy's nose.

Tiberius ducked and heard the bully's grunt of rage as his fist missed its target. The teenager lashed out with a fist of his own, and smiled in brief satisfaction as his blow landed and knocked the wind from Bazyli. Served the bastard right! Scrambling backwards, he watched the winded boy warily. Bazyli never ceased to surprise him with random new moves. It really was unfair that the meanest guy in school had a fourth-degree black belt and an undying hatred of him. Usually, though, Tiberius could piss the other teenager off and make him lose his concentration.

"Aw, poor Bazyli. Somebody has unresolved issues about his daddy," he taunted his rival and smirked at the enraged expression on his enemy's face. "What'd he do to wind up in jail, anyway? Oh, that's right, he—" He tripped over someone's foot, and inwardly cursed as he fell. Bazyli would be on him in seconds.

Sure enough, the other boy's hands wrapped around his neck a split second later, choking the breath from him. Bazyli sat on Tiberius' chest, effectively pinning him as he growled, "Fuck you, Munin!" Relinquishing part of his grip on the other boy's throat, the teen raised his hand.

The last thing Tiberius saw was that fist swinging towards his face.

"That's him?" Zuriel sounded incredulous, and Dýr had to hide a smile behind his hand at the expression on his leader's face. "He's…he's…."

"Getting beaten up as we speak?" the Reliever suggested and knew that his eyes were doubtless a brilliant violet shade of amusement. "We should probably save him if he's going to be any use to us."

Grumbling to himself, the Celestial stormed forward. "All right, you kids, get lost before I call the proper authorities!"

The group stared at him, and Dýr snickered. "He means the police." Watching as the humans scattered, except for the prone one on the ground and the one whose fist had caused the boy to be unconscious, the Reliever raised an eyebrow. "That means you too, you know."

The human Tiberius Munin had called Bazyli rolled his eyes. "Screw you. If Munin wakes up, tell him I'll be waiting for that apology." He smiled, but the tiny grin didn't reach his eyes as he turned and walked away.

"Well, Munin is certainly popular," Dýr said, and pretended not to see the dark look that his leader shot towards him. "Should I take away the pain?"

"If you'd like." Raking his golden curls away from his face, Zuriel mumbled something under his breath. "We'll have to take him to his house." The Celestial was disgusted, and it showed plainly on his face. "What were Ciel and Deuel thinking?" He snorted. "Probably playing a trick on me."

Dýr said nothing, but pressed a single finger to the boy's temple. The heat began in his belly and crawled through his veins until the gift washed over the unconscious boy. Only in that single moment could Dýr see Tiberius Munin's aura, and he couldn't help but whistle softly to himself. "Probably not."

When Zuriel raised an eyebrow, the Reliever sighed and grabbed his leader's hand, pressing it to the boy's cheek. Celestials could only sense auras if they could touch a person. He was rather amused at the look of shock that contorted Zuriel's face.

"They sure as hell weren't playing a trick," Zuriel said, and a slow smile lit up his eyes.

A happy gleam in the Celestial's eyes was a rare occurrence, and Dýr couldn't keep from smiling back. "I guess what they said about him was true. We'll still have to take him to Quasim or Olathe to see what exactly his gift is, but he's strong, I'll give you that."

The blonde was pleased and didn't try to hide it even as he picked the unconscious boy up. The action was as easy as if Tiberius Munin had been a feather from one of the Celestial's wings. "Won't make up for fucking losing Toviel and Cathal, of course, but it's a damn good start. I might even start to like those bastards in the Shivu."

Dýr greatly doubted the last sentence but didn't comment. Instead, he led the way to where Tiberius Munin lived.

A man peeked through the window at them when they rang the doorbell. The Reliever only had a chance to see a flash of pale blond before the door swung open and a man frowned, an expression of concern contorting his face. "Is he all right?" The man—presumably Munin's sire—was young for a father in human years, looking to be in his mid-thirties. The freckles that peppered his cheeks didn't help him seem his age, and his sky blue eyes were darkened with anxiety as he ushered Zuriel and his burden inside without a single glance at Dýr. The man moved awkwardly on the crutches that he was hampered with, having obviously broken his leg only a couple days earlier.

"He'll be fine, sir," Zuriel assured him, and then cast a look towards the Reliever that clearly said, 'You are going to talk from now on. Remember the plan.'

"He and another kid were just arguing and got into a brief tussle," Dýr explained.

The man's expression turned rueful. "Let me guess—dyed blond hair, cat green eyes, muscular, has a big and usually foul mouth?" When Dýr nodded, the man sighed. "That'd be Bazyli. Those two have been fighting for years. Did Bo at least manage to get a few blows in this time?"

"Bo?" Dýr repeated, unable to hide his delight. Only a moment in and he already had a bit of blackmail to torment the boy with in case Munin turned out to be a jerk!

The blonde flushed for a moment. Each freckle stood out like speckles of mud on that pale face. "Ah, family nickname. Don't tell him I called him that in front of you two, please. He'd kill me." The man extended a hand towards Dýr. "I'm Joshah Munin by the way. Thank you for taking the time to bring him home."

The Reliever accepted the hand and shook it firmly, surprised at the subtle strength he found in the man's grip. "I'm Dýr, and this is my boss, Mr. Zuriel," he said even as Zuriel settled the unconscious boy on the nearby couch. "We had actually been coming here to meet your son." Dýr grinned brightly, the picture of a hyperactive seventeen-year-old. "Small world!" His powers stirred, for there was an ache in the man's broken leg, and the Reliever automatically eased the pain. With the boy's aura, he was unsurprised that there was a slight glow around Joshah Munin as well, although the man's aura wasn't as brilliant as the Reliever would have thought.

The blonde looked surprised for a moment. "Were you? Why did you want to meet him?" He cast a curious glance at his unconscious son, but Tiberius wouldn't be giving up any answers anytime soon and so he returned his gaze to Dýr.

"Mr. Zuriel is the admissions counselor at a very elite college. It's called Shivu Academy of the Arts, and—" Dýr was startled to see Joshah shake his head and grin in disbelief.

"Shivu Academy of the Arts? I know my son is a good boy who hasn't quite found his niche yet, but I know his niche isn't anything artistic. He inherited my tone-deafness, he couldn't act to save his life, and his art teacher in eighth grade begged him not to continue the course in high school. He's talented somehow, but definitely not in the arts." Joshah paused. "Or in English, really. He can't spell any word with more than two syllables. And he's not too great at math…." He trailed off and smiled sheepishly. "I'm sure he's good at something."

Dýr just stared for a moment. So Tiberius Munin was a failure. Lovely. He scrambled for something to say, but before he could speak Joshah's face lit up suddenly.

"Wait, I know!" The blonde grinned. "He's a great goalie. If his grades hadn't been so low, he would have been the star on the high school soccer team. Unfortunately the rule is that you have to have a certain GPA to be allowed on a school team and well, Bo didn't have that…." He shrugged. "I tried telling the school grades aren't everything, but like they'd listen to me."

"Shivu Academy of the Arts also believes that grades aren't everything," Dýr cut in smoothly and offered Joshah a bright smile. "We understand that some people just don't do well with tests and other standardized teaching methods. Many people only do well in real-life situations. If you'd like to look at our brochures or our website, you'll see how Shivu will help your son adjust to the life outside this town." And to a life where there were aliens in outer space, but Dýr knew not to mention that last bit aloud, as much as it would have amused him to see the expression on Joshah Munin's face.

At that cue, Zuriel offered up several glossy brochures—all fake, of course, created by the government to fool the families of prospective Hunters. It was how Zuriel had first drawn Dýr into the organization. "Shivu is a basically an internship that lasts for four years, a vocational school of sorts. The first year will be a training period, and then the next three years will be a paid internship at whatever job he's…found his niche in," the Celestial explained, and gestured for Dýr to answer any questions that the man might have.

Joshah accepted the brochures and poured over them for a moment, seeming to forget that he had an audience. At last, he looked up. His gaze focused on Dýr, and the Reliever suddenly had to fight back a shiver at the intensity of those blue eyes. "Do you really think this will get Bo out of this town and to a better life? My wife—she said he should just get a job at McDonalds, but I want better for him." His voice lowered and he suddenly seemed to cave in on himself, weary beyond belief. "I don't want him trapped here like I was."

Then Tiberius groaned softly from the couch, and the fatigue vanished from Joshah's face. He immediately bounded—well, as much as a man on crutches could—to where his son was slowly sitting up and cradling his head in his hands.

"What 'it me?" came the muffled words of the teenager, and Dýr wanted to smirk a little.

"Who, is the better question," Joshah said and grinned at his miserable son. "I have to admit, Bazyli knocked you a good one this time." He pressed a gentle hand to Tiberius' cheek where a bruise had already begun to form. "You'll want to put some ice on that."

"Huh?" Tiberius looked bewildered and touched the bruise, poking it in a way that would have meant a scream had Dýr not taken the pain away. His expression of confusion was so comical that the Reliever ducked his head to hide a grin, and noticed Zuriel doing the same.

"Don't touch it!" Joshah lightly slapped his son's hand away from the discoloration; the gesture earned a sullen look from the youth "You've got a huge bruise on your face. Go into the kitchen and get a bag of ice to press against it and then come back to talk to Mr. Zuriel and Dýr with me."

"Who are—" The teenager paused as his gaze fell upon the Celestial and the Reliever. His sullen expression shifted to one of feigned politeness, and he said, "Nice to meet you two," with just enough forced emotion behind the words to let them both know that he wanted them out of the house as soon as possible.

"Nice to meet you, Tiberius!" Dýr said and grinned cheekily at the annoyed boy. He was going to be so much fun to torment.

Tiberius wanted to smack that stupid grin off the other boy's face. He instinctively didn't like him—after all, what sort of idiot would bleach their hair until it was actually white? And those eyes, colored a brilliant violet, couldn't be real. Yes, this guy was definitely a wannabe of something.

Instead of saying that, Tiberius forced another smile on his face and slowly dragged himself to his feet. "I'll go get that ice pack. If you'll excuse me for a moment…." Damn, he wished his father hadn't instilled so much pathetic politeness into him. He hated having manners. People always looked at you funny when you tried to shake their hand after being introduced.

He trudged into the kitchen, a bit baffled by the fact that there was apparently an enormous bruise on his face that he couldn't feel. Tiberius touched his cheek gingerly but again there was no pain. Maybe his father was overreacting. In any case, he got together a sandwich bag and a couple pieces of ice and pressed the combination to one side of his face. He could feel the cold—it burrowed into his jawbone and down his face. Surprisingly, this didn't hurt either. Maybe Bazyli had finally given him brain damage. That thought didn't frighten him as it should have….

He returned to the living room to find the white-haired boy and his father engrossed in a conversation about the benefits and detriments of experimenting with meditation.

Tiberius sighed. Trust his father to end up in random discussions that would lead them down a road to nowhere. He threw himself down on the couch and then glanced at the man who was only listening to the conversation. Well, his father had called one Mister, so he supposed this man was Mr. Zuriel and the blonde was Dýr. That was such a stupid name. Who wanted a name that sounded like Dire?

The teenager studied Mr. Zuriel. He too had purple eyes, only these seemed a pale lavender that was almost grayish—far more believable than this Dýr boy's eyes. The man looked around thirty or so, with curly gold hair and near-golden flesh. He had a lean, willowy frame and Tiberius rather suspected that if Mr. Zuriel stood and walked around the room, he would be as graceful as a cat.

Zuriel caught his eye and frowned, though the frown didn't seem directed at him. "I came here to talk to you and Dýr here gets into stupid discussion about meditation," he said, seeming a bit annoyed at his companion's distractibility.

The teen found himself relating to the man. "I know. My dad can never keep a conversation on the right track," he said to the blonde. "Even if we're talking about something normal, like buying a new fridge, he'll get distracted and start talking about these geese he saw flying over the highway when he was coming home from the mall…."

Zuriel seemed so sympathetic that the boy suspected that Dýr had done that sort of thing to him before. "Does he really? I take it that you're not like that?"

Tiberius shook his head. "Naw, I got my mom's one-track mind. If something interests me, I'll focus on it, but if it bores me there's nothing you can do that will get me to learn it or remember it. That's why I did so shitty in school. Everything the teachers told us seemed pointless."

"What do you think is interesting?" the man asked. "The reason I'm here is that I work for Shivu Academy, and we work to train you and get you an internship in a career that interests you."

He stared at Zuriel. "Seriously?" The teenager was immediately suspicious. This so sounded like a scam. After all, anything that was too good to be true always was. "So if I wanted to be an astronaut…."

"No," Zuriel said, and chuckled. "I meant reasonable internships. Like managing a bookstore or video game store or even help a man as he starts his own business and watch as he succeeds or fails. Those types of internships."

Tiberius was still doubtful. He'd never heard of Shivu before, after all, and he rather thought he'd have heard of such an unusual college before now. "How much does it cost?"

"Nothing. You'll spend a year in training and then earn a three-year paid internship anywhere you'd like. The only benefit to the school would be that you donate some money once you've become rich and successful." Zuriel seemed to be joking at the last part, but his eyes were strangely serious as he gazed at Tiberius. "You can research us on the internet, ask your guidance counselors at school if you'd like, even call someone in the government. You'll find that we're a highly respected school, even though some people find our methods…odd."

Something was still amiss here, but Tiberius couldn't figure out what. He would definitely have to do some research since he could see they'd already suckered his father, but there something about Zuriel's intensity that gave him the creeps. The teen cleared his throat. "So, um, what's the training like?"

Hell. That was the automatic answer that tried to spring to Zuriel's lips but he fought the temptation and said simply, "It's intensive hands-on training with professionals in the area of your choice, trying to see where your vocational talents are." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card that the Shivu had designed for him. Each word was a struggle not to throw in a profanity as he offered the card to the boy. He was almost giddy at the memory of the aura that had radiated from Tiberius Munin. Zuriel couldn't wait to find out what talent the human had. "Here's my card with my phone number on it. I'm the admissions counselor so basically if I like you, you're in."

Tiberius accepted the card and the Celestial saw him wrinkle his nose before he ducked his head, pale blond strands falling in front of his face to shield his expression as he read the card. After a pause, he glanced up, and those blue-green eyes pierced Zuriel to the core. "A vocational school, eh? I've heard of them. Why don't you just call yourselves Shivu Vocational College? It sounds a lot less snobby than Shivu Academy of Arts."

"Our founder wanted to sound prestigious." Actually, the fake school had been Olathe's idea and she had insisted on making the place sound as stuffy as possible just to make each newcomer miserable before he or she joined the Hunters. "What sorts of things interest you?" Zuriel had asked that before but the teen had dodged the question.

Tiberius shrugged. "I dunno. Normal stuff, like video games, soccer, certain TV shows…. Nothing that has to do with school though." He flashed a rueful grin that lit up his face and made him seem a lot like his father. "School and me don't mix."

"School and I," corrected Zuriel, which only earned him Tiberius rolling his eyes. "Wasn't there anything in school that interested you, even for a moment?" Certain interests would help Zuriel figure out what Tiberius' true gift was, and he waited anxiously for the boy's response.

"Uh…." Tiberius turned his gaze heavenward and squinted for a moment, as though ransacking his brain. "Gym, when I got to be goalie…. Philosophy when we talked about that crazy guy—Nietzsche, I think his name was. Man was a he nut! Thought religion was 'opium for the masses' and that sort of thing. He was really cool."

Well…that hadn't worked out as well as Zuriel had hoped. He resisted the urge to sigh and glanced over at Dýr just in time to see the Reliever throw back his head and chortle at something that Joshah Munin had said. Damn it, Dýr's short attention-span was really annoying at times! The Celestial rose to his feet.

"Are you leaving already?"

"We have another prospective student in the area," said Zuriel—a total lie, of course, but it might keep Tiberius on his toes. "We need to go speak to him while you think about the college and decide if you think Shivu is right for you." He gestured sharply to Dýr, who looked disappointed but made his excuses to Tiberius' father.

"We'll contact you," Joshah Munin said earnestly, which made Tiberius roll his eyes and resume the sullen façade of a normal teenager who wasn't interested in anything useful in life.

But Tiberius was interested in Shivu—even if Zuriel suspected he was only because the human was convinced that the academy was a fake. Good for him, since such a place had never existed on any of the worlds. Still, that disbelief would keep him interested until he came to find out what Shivu was all about—

—and then Tiberius Munin would find himself a member of the Hunters, whether he wanted to or not.

(To be continued….)