A/N: Thank you all for such kind reviews! I'm really honored to be writing in such a lovely universe that the brilliant Irony'sFriend conjured up! Anyway, sorry if this chapter seems a little fast-paced! I'm trying to build up things nicely, but I'm probably failing. xD Hope y'all enjoy anyway! Once again, more of Jessie's characters were used in this chapter - thank you, Jess! I hope I do them justice!


It took an entire year for me to completely warm up to Seth. I didn't know how to be a friend, interact with a friend, and, despite what Seth had done for me, I was wary to trust. But he was very patient with me and gradually taught me what friendship was all about. I'll always appreciate him for that. Though I never really opened up to him, I'd share very minor bits and pieces from time to time, and Seth would remember everything until he put it all together and at last knew me almost as well as Grammy had.

And, I did the same with him. Thanks to the accursed insight of mine, from his body language, what he avoided in conversation, and what he preferred to talk about, I was quick to know a great deal about him without him having to share anything. Seth and I had very similar temperaments; he never opened up either, he'd just remark on something of interest or share stories. What I especially noticed right from the get-go was that he loved music. As much as I had loved my writing once upon a time. What he loved to talk about the most were his favorite songs, or the wide variety and genres of music, movie soundtracks, the most popular songs of the year, upcoming music artists... just to name a few. It didn't take me long to discover that if you wanted to know anything about music, Seth was the guy to go to. He knew everything, from commercial jingles to which songs had spiked high on the charts.

Seth's companionship increasingly made my life from tolerable to better. Kids stopped teasing me as much, teachers took me more seriously, my grades slowly picked up as I dreaded school less and less, my parents seemed prouder of me. (Mom and Dad were beyond ecstatic that I'd actually made a friend - they treated Seth like a longlost son whenever he was invited over.) I could still see people's demons, but it didn't torment me as badly so long as I had Seth beside me. It would be okay. I was okay.

Despite how things were miraculously improving, my knack for writing still had yet to return. And I still detested being called by my real name. Seth hearkened to my wishes and began to call me Nia, a nickname I'd derived from Grammy. Grammy was called Nadia, short for her real name, Nadine. In addition to the fact that I wanted to take after her and have a similar nickname, the first series of books Grammy had introduced to me and effectively expanded my world with was The Chronicles of Narnia. Nia was the perfect summarization of what all Grammy had done for me.

Seth didn't know much about that aspect. I'd mentioned offhand once that I didn't write anymore, and with how intelligent he is, I knew he probably knew it was somehow linked to my grandmother's death, but he never pried or asked about it, which I greatly appreciated. As far as first best friends go, Seth was a great one to have.

Seth was very welcoming and willing to reach out to me, so he invited me to his house often, but it was a long time before I ever accepted his offers. I was not to be trusted in social confrontations, especially those in which I'm wanting the approval of the people in question. Not to mention, I didn't want to be gawked at or pitied by more adults. Though I should be used to having strange looks sent my way, I never would be. No matter how many times it happened, I would still be stung each and every time.

Once I finally did muster up the nerve to go over to Seth's home (well, more like, Mom more or less forced me to go), I regretted not having done so sooner. As soon as I approached the door, two small blonde girls threw it open and heaved themselves at me in a hug. I was more than taken aback - kids actually unafraid of me and willing to touch me? A notion completely foreign to me.

"Hi, Seth's friend!" they chorused, beaming up at me with adorable smiles that instantly melted my heart.

A gently chiding voice filtered into our line of hearing from the doorway. "Girls, girls, let her at least walk in the door." I turned to see a homely, plain-looking woman with frizzy tight brown curls, but she had the most beautiful smile I'd ever seen. "Hi, Nia, right? I'm so happy to meet the friend Seth's been talking about!" Seth's mother's eyes were twinkling with sincere hospitality, and to my surprise, she wasn't looking at me as if I were a deranged creature. She gave me the same warm glow my grammy always had - the feeling that I could be normal. "Just call me Lacy, and that's Audrey and Lilith," she introduced, indicating to each twin with their names.

Instantly, I could tell them apart. My perception allowed me to notice that Audrey was the more happy-go-lucky one of the two, whereas Lilith was the more serious sort.

"Mommy, Nia's so pretty!" Audrey was gazing up at me with dancing blue eyes. "You look like a snow queen! And your eyes are my favorite color! Piiiink!" she added in a sing-song voice.

Lilith nodded her agreement. "You look like a fairy," she stated as if it were fact rather than opinion.

I gazed down at them in shock, then lifted my eyes to gauge Lacy's reaction, to see if, for a split second, amusement or appall would flit across her features. But her genuine smile never dimmed in the slightest. "Yes, you're right, girls. Nia's beautiful," Lacy commented, meeting my eyes with a note of seriousness as the words were spoken. Instantly, tears pooled in my eyes.

"Grammy, people stare at me."

"That's because you're so beautiful."

Beautiful... I hadn't been called beautiful since Grammy was alive.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized how much I'd missed the words.


Just like I had my good days (which were more frequent ever since Seth had entered the picture), I also had my bad days. There were days when my insight was unbearable, where I desperately wanted nothing more than to actually get to know someone without already knowing exactly what kind of person they were and which battles they struggled with, where I just wanted to shut the world out and be alone at home in bed. Seth could usually tell when I was having one of those days. It became a ritual. Whenever we met at the bus stop in the mornings, if Seth had an inkling that something was off about me, he would look at me seriously and ask, "Good morning?" instead of his usual greeting of "Good morning!" I'd never told Seth anything about my perceptive eyesight, because I didn't want to completely scare him off, but I knew he sensed that there was something serious I was hiding. True to his nature, though, he never asked about it.

As the next year drew on, his "Good morning?"s became more and more frequent. Even though life was considerably better with Seth around, my perception availed little other than to sink me right back into despair. I was so sick of being alone, feeling like I was the only one to ever struggle with the sight, why had I been born with it, why had I been born at all? I couldn't stand it anymore! I didn't want to see anything I couldn't help with, much less if it had to do with people I didn't even know! I was tired of noticing the bruises, the flinches, the scared eyes, the scars, the broken hearts, the demons hovering over their shoulders staring at me, stop staring at me! I don't want to see anymore! I never wanted this! I don't want to see!

Finally the morning came where Seth arrived at the bus stop and I wasn't waiting for him. He was a senior, ready to graduate, and I was three years behind him. What would I do without him beside me at school anymore? How was I going to cope in a sea of mindless, shallow, stereotypical adolescents without Seth's refreshing, wise intelligence assuring me that I wouldn't get lost in the crowd?

And when that happened, Seth went looking for me. I was hiding in bed back at home, and before I knew it, Seth was pulling the blankets back.

"I'm not going," I informed him sharply before he could say a word, snatching the blankets back.

Seth's hazel eyes surveyed me behind wide-rimmed glasses. "Then I'm not, either," he decided.

My jaw dropped. I knew it was crucial that Seth attend his elective classes. Some seniors were taking it easy their last year of school, but not Seth. Never Seth. He was always enrolled in the AP classes, always working hard in school, always had nothing short of A+s. "Why?"

"Because I'm taking you somewhere."

"No." The last thing I wanted was to go out in public, where I'd see all of it again. "I'm staying right here." Before the words had even left my mouth, some clothes met my face, and the force they were thrown with sent me falling back onto my pillow. "H..hey!"

"I'm going to go brew some tea." Seth laid down the law calmly and matter-of-factly. "I'll make it just the way you like it. By the time I come back in with our hot teas, you better be ready to leave." Without waiting for any protests or objections from me, Seth had left and closed the door behind him.

I sulked on my bed and mulled over it all a bit before finally getting up to compliantly do his bidding. If Seth was ditching school when it was so important for him to be there at this time, the least I could do was humor him. My movements were unintentionally sluggish, and when I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, my reflection startled me. My demeanor was nothing short of depressed - not like a moody, upset depressed, an unnerving borderline depressed - and there were shadows under my eyes. I chuckled to myself bitterly as I slathered toothpaste onto my toothbrush. All the years of taking on people's burdens were finally taking their toll.

When I emerged, Seth was waiting for me, extending my favorite mug towards me. I could smell Earl Gray, and I gratefully accepted it, glad Mom and Dad were off at work. They would kill me if they found out I'd dragged Seth down with me in my leave of absence.

When I glanced up from my steaming tea, I discovered Seth to be worriedly evaluating me. I wanted to say something, but no words would come. What could I say?

Fortunately, Seth took on that duty and spoke first. "..I'm sorry I've sat back for so long and watched it get this bad."

I shook my head vehemently. "You've been busy-" I started, but he cut me off, angrily.

"I'm tired of using that excuse! I should never be too busy to help a friend." Seth looked positively chagrined.

I instantly felt horrible. Seeing the turmoil of those around me was nothing compared to causing a loved one anguish.


The place Seth took me to instantly took up residence as my safe haven.

On the outside, it was hardly noticed among the brighter, flashier buildings. A small neon sign was above the jingling doorway, and it reminded me of myself. A tiny flickering light lost among the bigger, gaudier sights.

Seth opened the door for me, and I was greeted with a wave of delicious aroma, and calming music drifted to my ears. It's a silly thing to say, but the atmosphere instantly soothed my soul.

"This is Caffeine Kingdom," Seth relayed to me, leading me to the counter. I glanced around, taking in the quaint coffeeshop. Something about it made me feel at home. Way more than I did even at my own house.

I glanced at the glass case beside the counter that contained an array of pastries and desserts, then toward the chalkboard that had the coffee menu written in lovely medieval handwriting. As comfortable as this place felt, the food and beverages looked equally delicious. It was perfect. For the first time in years, specifically since I'd been to Grammy's, I felt at ease.

Seth ordered an iced coffee for me and a cappucino for him, and got us some pastries. I offered to help pay, but he wouldn't have any of it. Anew I was amazed at just how well Seth knew me. To be fair, if you spent two years with a person and didn't know much about them, you'd have to be trying really hard not to, but it was nice that Seth would put in the effort to get to know me. I liked hot tea or hot coffee in the mornings, iced coffees or iced teas during the afternoon, and hot chocolate in the evenings.

We sat down in comfy beanbags, and Seth nommed at a cake pop as he passed me my lemon scone. We sipped and chewed in companionable silence for a bit before Seth spoke up. "Things wouldn't be so hard on you if you got back into writing, you know."

I nearly choked on my last bite of scone, washing it down with a cold gulp of coffee before swiveling my gaze to him, narrowing my eyes. He was treading dangerous ground.

Seth met my gaze unyieldingly. "Had to be said," he said after sipping at his coffee. "You know I'm right. Writing was your only escape, wasn't it? I think.. it'd help you a lot if you started again."

In a matter of seconds, what serenity I'd been able to collect fled from me, replaced with a fiery rage bubbling up in my soul. I couldn't write without Grammy. I couldn't. "I wouldn't expect you to understand," I hissed. "It's easier said than done. Don't you think that if I could write again, I would have by now? I don't choose to feel this way, Seth!" Seth's brow furrowed as I abruptly stood up, slamming down my cup. "Thanks for the trip. I'm going back home."

I was seeing red. I couldn't even hear what Seth said in response as I stormed out of the tranquil place, leaving behind my half-finished iced coffee.

I always finish my coffee.

As soon as I stepped outside the door of Caffeine Kingdom, the peril around me hit me again, twice as hard. I didn't belong here. I didn't belong anywhere.

I'd tried to convince myself otherwise when Seth had become my friend, but I had to face facts. I was alone. Always had been and always would be.