~\30/~

~\12.12/~

"What? No! Love! Love, you can't just take a kid! That's illegal! This isn't the fifties! You can't just pick one up and go, that's not how it works!" Lilith boomed, flicking her hand so as to properly reflect his disapproval.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon. The sky was grey and the wind blew like ice. Christmas was around the corner. And school was out until January 2004. And the first thing that two of our dear heroes decided to do now that they had all the time in the world was exactly you might expect from two out of three of the most powerful force of magic in the world:

"Y'know, you become really British whenever you watch TV." Ryan remarked dryly.

Watching television.

"Hush. This is intense." Lilith retorted, never looking away from the screen. Ryan rolled his eyes; he didn't find the film that interesting, but Lilith was fully immersed in this woman's life and how she was going to get her biological son away from his adoptive mother. Surely a happy ending for them was in store, so Ryan was thinking about something else. There were19 days until the end of December and then 6 days of free January, which meant they needed to fill 25 days with enough amazing stuff that they didn't regret going back to school. They went through the same thinking process every break.

Ryan suddenly heard his phone ringing from somewhere inside the couch. He jumped up alerted; even when one expects a call, the phone always rings so unexpectedly. He felt for his phone in his grey tracksuit bottoms, but he already knew they weren't there. He picked up one of the colourfully patterned cushions and found the device there. He flipped it open and answered.

"Hello?" He asked monotonously.

"Hey. It's me." The chipper voice on the other end said.

"Right!" Why didn't he look at the Caller ID first? He checked and his eyes bulged out. "Oh! Hey Connor!"

"Hey." He returned. "So, I was wondering if you wanted to do something tomorrow?"

"Uh, sure. What do you have in mind?" Ryan asked, coming off less casual than he intended, but he was getting better at it.

"A sleepover."

"Maybe, let me ask Lil." Ryan offered, closing the phone's microphone in his hand. "Lil, sleepover at Connor's tomorrow?"

Lilith was taken out of her movie ever so slightly at Ryan's request, but at that same request she gave a weary grimace that said she really wasn't bothered about going. Ryan returned the facial gesture with a silent 'please'. A tug of war of silent arguments waged between the two of them for a short minute before Lilith relented. Ryan beamed at her, but she simply turned back and became enveloped in her film.

"We'll be there." Ryan answered. "1? Got it. See you tomorrow. Bye." And he pressed the red button with a grin bigger than his head.

The film continued onwards and entrapped Ryan's attention with a specific plot-twist; the biological mother realised that what she was doing was wrong (perhaps Lilith got through to her?) and returned the child, but the adoptive mother wasn't done there. She realised that the child would grow up and go one day, so she tried to poison her. Except, the boy visited and ate the pie she made and dropped. Was he dead? Maybe the fat man on the windows advert knew. Advert breaks: the bane of television.

With little distraction now, Lilith found herself turning to her friend with her eyebrow raised and lip touched upwards in a knowing smirk. Ryan couldn't help, but break his winning smile with a 'what?' and a defensive shrug thrown in for good measure.

"You're rather sprightly to spend the night with someone you, quote, 'don't like anymore'." Lilith denoted.

"Now who's misquoting?" Ryan retorted before acutely shrinking into himself. "I never said I didn't like him. I said I'd decided the…kiss didn't count. Didn't mean anything."

Lilith looked him over once and smiled gently. Bless him. She looked back at the TV and the film was on. The adoptive mother was threatening to go to court to stop her son from seeing his birth mother, well she said it the other way around, but it's all the same. And, like a true friend, Lilith forced Ryan to watch it with her, with equal fervour.

~\13.12/~

The doorbell rang a sophisticated, echoing charm around the expansive arena of the foyer, alerting the nearest maid of someone's presence at the door. She set down her tray of laundry on one of the oaken tables between the staircases, dusted nothing off of her black dress front and stepped over professionally to answer the door.

"Wait! Don't open it yet!" Hollered the voice of Master Connor. The beauteous blond came bolting down the corridor and thundered down the right staircase, closer to the tray she'd set down. He ran straight up to her and whispered. "It's fine. I'll answer it." He was panting between each word. "I've got someone important coming. I don't want to seem snobbish by having someone answer the door for me. In fact Anna, you, Cassidy and Joanne can take today off. Elaine's not here, I'm with friends and Jonathan has Darielle. Just don't tell my parents and you'll still get your day's pay."

Now, who would argue with that?

Anna nodded at the young master and disappeared to alert the other maids. Connor watched her go eagerly before facing the door. He patted nothing off of his jeans, feeling his plaid red shirt crinkle – maybe eh should wear something different. The doorbell chimed again, signalling there was no time. So, Connor took a breath and grabbed the handle and swung the door open. He burst into a grin as he saw Ryan standing there with an unfamiliar backpack clutched in his arms against his chest. He smiled as the door was open and he smiled back. Connor thought he should probably say something, probably a greeting, but his heart was suddenly in his throat trying to do somersaults. Why now? Because Ryan was on his doorstep.

"Rey Hyan." Connor breathed, eliciting a chuckle from the noiret.

"Cey Honnor." He replied and the blonde grinned like a mad beast.

His azure eyes suddenly jumped over to Lilith. "Hey." To which she flicked her chin, as was the body language equivalent of 'sup'.

Quickly, Connor opened the door wide and urged them into the foyer with its marble floor, crystal chandelier that scattered both sunshine and moonlight from the skylight it hung suspended from. The staircases were lavished with wool carpets upon each step and banisters made from stone and shimmering gold. Ryan burst into the foyer with a look of such awe that he could be a child again, eyes wide and mouth agape. He couldn't look around at it enough; it was so beautiful, so clean and so bright that it almost made his eyes hurt. He spun around enough to make himself dizzy just trying to take it all in, whilst slipping out words like 'Wow' and 'So big'.

(Hey hey)

"Ryan, why are you so amazed?" Lilith asked, looking incredulous. "You've been here before, remember?"

Ryan spun around to face his two friends, tripping over his own feet before coming to a stop. He beamed up at them both before answering. "Yeah, but it was pitch black and I was on a mission. If you count my Premonition, I've been through to Connor's bedroom twice already." He turned back to look up through the skylight and grinned wider. "But this is the first time I've seen it in the light. It's gorgeous."

Connor smiled as he watched Ryan turn around as he travelled. Nobody had ever come into his house and been so honestly amazed by everything they saw. It was so innocent and cute that it almost made him giggle. He was like a child. Even Lilith couldn't take the mick out of that.

"LILLY!" Came a high-pitched child's roar came from one of the corridors. A bolt of blonde hair quickly came running down the hall and into Lilith's waiting arms as he chanted, "Lilly! Lilly! Lilly!" The child was clamped into Lilith's gentle iron grip and swung around playfully. The child giggled happily as he was spun around in a sudden, friendly vortex. The vortex slowed down and Jonathan found him held up to sit on Lilith's strong shoulder, both of them grinning all the way.

"Hey Jonny." Lilith sang. "I'd like you to meet someone." They turned around and walked over to Ryan, happily returning down the path he'd taken during his own gyration. "This is my Ryan. My best friend in the whole wide world."

Ryan grinned at the little boy and immediately swooped him up in his own arms and placed him on his shoulders. Jonny giggles again at his new friend and burst into giddy laughter as his new steed began to gallop around the foyer, stopping to whiney every now and then. Jonny wrapped his arms under Ryan's chin as some form of hug and brought the horse ride to an end. Big Brother Connor called Jonathan over and gently told him to play somewhere else for a bit, so the 'big kids' could do some 'big kid stuff'. Jonathan pouted and whined for a minute, but did as he was told and walked off, noticing how slow his own little legs were compared to Ryan and Lilith's.

Ryan immediately jumped over to Connor and begged to know how old the little tyke was, since he only looked about eight.

"He's not eight; he's in year eight. He's twelve." Connor announced.

"He's not!" Lilith and Ryan responded, almost violently.

Admittedly, the child was small for his age; he only ever came up to Lilith's ribcage, but surely twelve entitled someone to be taller than that. Or maybe they had always been that small and they'd all been too small to notice the difference. Regardless, the day was to be filled with hours of fun, laughter and entertainment and so the question came.

"So, what'd you wanna do?"

Since nobody had an answer, they simply did everything they could think of and made it into something they could laugh about. They went to one of the dining rooms, which had a fifteen-foot high ceiling and Ryan pondered aloud 'Who could get to the top faster, Connor or Lilith?' Levitation vs. Raw Strength. The first match was too close for a fair judge to discern from down below, as was the second. For the third round, Ryan employed his own powers to see who was winning and the winner was Lilith, by a fraction. If nothing else, it was because Connor needed that half a second to build up the same speed, but a win's a win. The next contest took place in the kitchen when Lilith, per her rummaging through Connor's cupboards, discovered a big packet of white and pink marshmallows. Who could fit the most marshmallows in their mouth at once? With her fierce appetite, Lilith felt assured she would win with no contest, but choked on number nine. Connor gave up after seven because he was laughing too much. But Ryan, the skinny, little beast who once forgot to eat for a day and a half, managed to fit fourteen into his face. His efforts, valiant as they were, made Lilith laugh and Connor blush after a thought snuck up on him. And, as is the custom of this generation, a good couple of hours was spent wasting away in front of Connor's TV with Lilith caught up in another film. Of course, it's easier to become entranced by television when someone describes the screen as 'bigger than the McDonald's franchise'. No prizes for who said that. And it was somewhere between this and all the other silly activities they did to make themselves giggle that Time turned his steady hands across his face and one o'clock came to be.

"Whoa, when did night happen?" Connor wondered as he caught a glimpse of the darkness outside of his bedroom window, casting silver light upon his balcony that lay on the other side of the glass doors.

"Sometime after the sun went down, I imagine." Lilith answered. She smiled at his rolling eyes, almost impressed by his casual indifference.

"Should we go to bed?" Ryan suggested.

"Or should we just dress like we might go to bed at some point?" Lilith countered.

So, after a rota of people going into Connor's bathroom to change, all were attired appropriately for the beds and sleeping bags they would not be sleeping in. Ryan was wrapped in a blanket and resting against the foot of Connor's bed in his grey pyjama bottoms and a black T-shirt. Lilith was by Connor's personal flat screen in red short-shorts and a black vest trying to make a shortlist of films to watch. And Connor's waist was hidden under his duvet as he sat cross-legged in a white vest.

"Well, we have a rom-com or a horror. Who wants what?" Lilith announced, but she could practically hear Connor's rising heartbeat before she'd turned around. "All right, blondie. You've got something to say, so spit it out."

Connor looked up in surprise to find his name suddenly mentioned, but now Lilith and Ryan were both watching him expectantly, one with earnest concern in their eyes and the other with boredom. There was a dent in his lip where he'd bitten down too hard. He straightened up again and looked between his two friends. Well, if there was a time to tell them…

"Ok. I've been thinking about something and I feel like I can only tell you two." Connor begun, fingers tightly intertwined and took a deep breath. He wanted to say it, but he wanted to not say it. He knew it had to be in one big go or not at all, but it was a big go to give. He had to, but he didn't want to. Then, like a breath he had been holding in his throat for far too long, he blurted out slower than he thought he would. "I think I'm bi."

The air was still for less than a second, but it felt like they were gearing up to charge him with such harsh judgements. His rational abandoned him for fear that this would backfire on him. He waited for them to speak. Lilith started.

"Shocking." She said sarcastically.

"Unforeseen." Ryan added.

"Did not see that coming."

"Blown away over here!"

"Like, seriously, like brand new information!"

All the while, Connor simply sat there shocked at how casually they were taking this. He wasn't sure whether to be glad or insulted. This was kind of a big deal for him. But he was glad that it didn't go badly…

"Wait, how did you guys know?" He asked, still shocked at their reaction.

The two looked at each other and smiled slyly, enjoying their tiny torture. They quickly turned back to the blond bisexual to give him their answer. Upon discovering this 'secret' they two had decided it would be Ryan who explained how they knew, as they had an idea that they might be asked.

Ryan smiled at Connor again as he explained. "It was in the Book." Connor's face dropped at the news. The Book of Shadows had a lot of information on a vast amount of things: Demons, Faeries, Witches etc. But what did that have to do with him and his personal life? "It was under the entry on Cupids. "All Cupids are born bisexual. Natural preferences exist, but 95% identify as Bisexual or Demisexual. It is a simple matter of their biology."

Connor looked down at his cover, seemingly unsure of something. Was it really that simple? Something like this being predetermined…was that how it all worked? He hadn't struggled with this as much as some others seemed to famously, but still. He felt his mattress shift under a new weight and his head perked up to see Ryan crawl over to his side and lie down next to him. He smiled kindly.

"We're happy you told us. We're glad you were able to tell us." He said, looking deep into Connor's eyes. Connor's smile burst open, like a blooming flower and his whole body relaxed in Ryan's presence.

"All right, ladies. Enough useless trivia." Lilith hollered from the TV set. "I'm putting on the horror so grab something you love and don't let go." She suggested grabbing her left boob. Ryan laughed at her before settling in on the bed. Connor was surprised at first, but it was no problem; the bed was big enough for four people easily, but he didn't expect everything to be so comfortable. He was equally surprised when Lilith joined them and relaxed into her own spot. Wow. So, Friendship was actually like this? He smiled at his new discovery.

Sometime during the horror, sleep descended over the trio, all lined next to each other. Had a filthy mind come in at that moment, they might get the wrong impression of the relationships here. Fortunately or unfortunately, the presence that slipped under veil of darkness had been watching them. He knew they were all asleep and, as his body suddenly faded into the room, he knew the time to enact his plan was now. He removed his satin sack from his belt and opened it. The Power of Three would stop the Seven from carrying out their plans and thus ruin his, so this Warlock would deal with them himself. A dust, fine and dark blue, was procured from his sack and brought to his lips. He blew the dust across the Witch and saw his eyes roll under his eyelids. He did the same to the Cupid. But the Slayer was too far on the other side. He moved across the room and pursed his lips to blow the dust out. Suddenly a hand crushed his wrist in her palm. He looked down to see burning eyes and new the next question before she'd even spoke.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Her other hand came up in a fist and the Warlock saw black until sunrise.

~\*/~

"Connor."

Who was that? Were they calling his name? Sounds familiar…

"Connor."

They were saying his name, weren't they? His name… Wonder why…

"Connor!"

"Ryan!" Connor leapt out of his slumber feeling cramped and uncomfortably far forward. He pushed his hunched-over back into the mantle, but felt it solid against him. Odd, why couldn't he straighten his neck? He pushed up. Nope, definitely couldn't straight is neck. He looked in front of him. His legs were entangled with Ryan's, limbs lapping over each other rather disturbingly, as if Ryan was falling out of his lap. But Ryan seemed doomed to the same fate as him; hunched over, uncomfortable and confused. His eyes shot open.

"Wha-what's happening? Where are we?" Connor panicked, trying to push one way and the other, but going nowhere. The walls were black enough to look like nothing, as if they were trapped in a tiny space inside of the Void. He wanted to move, to spread his legs, to get out. He tried to shuffle more, but just breathing seemed to take up all the wiggle room he had. He kept looking around until he felt a touch to his knee. He looked down and saw Ryan's pale hand trying to calm him down. He followed the moonlight-white arm up to Ryan's face, concerned as always. Ryan reminded Connor to keep calm and that panicking would do nothing to help the situation. He made Connor take a deep breath and relax his shoulder muscles. He watched as Ryan calmly tried to assess this lack of a situation and wondered aloud.

"How can you be so calm right now?" Connor asked absentmindedly.

Ryan just smiled and said. "I've been in tighter spots than this." Connor couldn't help but ask when. "When Tristan had me locked in that cage? With those barbwire things? I'll never forget that. I don't think I'll ever suffer a pain worse than that." Connor nodded. He remembered that day well. He could only watch helplessly as Ryan suffered through having those ghastly wire stab into him and poison him with every twitch. It was brutal simply to watch. To have gone through that… "So, what about you?" Connor looked him in the eye again, unsure of the question. "What's the hardest thing you've ever had to do? We don't know that much about each other. I think that should change."

Connor had to think for a moment. What was the hardest thing he ever had to do? Well, watch Ryan suffer through the torment of that barbwire. No, he had to pick something else. "When I first had to tell my little brother that our parents wouldn't put him to be anymore, I would."

"Connor…" Ryan said, placing his hand back on Connor's knee, rubbing gently. "I'm so sorry. Were you young?"

Connor watched the sympathy in Ryan's face, it looked like far more than he deserved. So what his parents weren't there? It's not as if- "Oh. No! They're not dead!" He watched relief wash over Ryan's face and his hand float over to his chest to guide his breathing back to normal. Poor choice of words, Connor. "No. They're both just constantly on business. In the office or away on business trips for weeks at a time." Connor explained properly. "I know it's nothing compared to what you went through, but-"

"No." Ryan said immediately. "Don't say that. It was painful for you. You deserve my sympathy if nothing else. Pain does not have a universal measure. What makes me cry might make you sting and vice versa."

This was why he liked him. His first instincts were absolutely correct. He had to meet this amazing boy. The relief that washed over his face when he learnt his parents weren't dead. How he looked so serious when Connor tried to degrade his own pain. Such sympathy was rare and seeing it in someone else was heart-warming. Where did this boy come from?

"So," Ryan began again "tell me about your siblings."

"Well, it's me, my little brother and our older sister, Elaine. Jonathan is 12 and Elaine is 18." Connor answer systematically. "What about you? Any siblings?"

Ryan shook his head. "Nope. Just me. But I was never really gonna have siblings." Connor immediately asked why. "Well, I was adopted. My mother couldn't and my father only wanted one son, so it was never really going to happen."

Connor immediately felt pressured to change the subject. Who knew how to talk about adoption? He wracked his brain for a new subject to talk about. "So!" He burst out, not quite ready. "What did you think of me before you met me?"

Ryan smiled. "Adoption isn't a difficult subject, you know." He assured. "But, when I first saw you I thought you were unbelievably fit, which now has an explanation, but I thought you'd be someone I'd get along with if ever met. But you came to school in Year 7 and you were immediately too popular for me, so I never got the chance. Until very recently."

Now, it's not everyday you get to hear something like that. Connor felt both touched and saddened. He'd never noticed the segregation between the people at school until he'd started hanging out with Ryan and Lilith. The way Duncan reacted seemed so melodramatic and now Ryan seemed to be seeing the same thing from the other side. Had Connor really been this oblivious for so long?

"Come on then." Ryan said, sounding awfully British for an instant. "Your turn. Same question."

"Well, I never actually saw you until this year. I guess, we were never in the same place at the same time?" Ryan refrained from pointing out that they'd been in the same Physics, Chemistry and Biology set since last year. "All I'd really heard were rumours about you. About you being…y'know."

"Not really. The rumour about me being gay, which is true, being adopted, which is true, or being a self-harming emo, which is not true and massively insulting to people who do suffer from self-harm?"

"I don't really want to repeat them." Connor said. Ryan accepted that with a sullen look. "But! When I saw you for myself, I saw you across the room in Chemistry and…" Connor blushed at what he was about to say, which only made Ryan more curious. "I knew I had to meet you. I didn't know why, but I knew I did."

They smiled at each other, but lacked the third member to tell recognise the spark in both of their eyes. They held each other's gaze for what could've been ages, but lasted only seconds before Ryan blinked. He shifted slightly in position and then returned his gaze to Connor, who returned with a perplexed expression. When asked, Connor seemed to have made a discovery about their confinement.

"It's bigger." He said stretching his arm out to the wall. When once he could barely move his arm enough to turn his palm, he could now stretch his arm out and almost click his joint. Ryan certainly agreed, but how had it been done? "What we said." Connor deduced. "When we talk about ourselves, reveal more about ourselves, the box gets bigger."

And so they began delving into their own lives and spilling out facts and comparisons between each other and they discovered a surprising amount. Connor played the piano and the guitar and Ryan listened to music featuring those instruments. Ryan watched TV shows about Witches and Vampire Slayers long before he had any inkling of their powers, which was he was so happy about it. It seemed to give him a sense of fate to realise that some of the things he'd seen in those shows actually applied to him now. Connor's expertise with a bow and arrow was also no coincidence; every summer since he was 7 until he was 14, he'd been sent to a summer camp and archery had been his penchant the whole way through. There were trophies somewhere in the house, which Ryan was adamant he would see after they escaped the box. With every nugget of information dug up, the box inched outwards giving space to those who desperately needed it. Connor managed to stop craning his neck, but Ryan, being shorter, didn't seem to appreciate it as much. They stretched out their arms, but the box was still too small to stretch out their legs. However they did managed to move enough that they could cross their legs, as opposed to the entanglement of limbs they'd awoken to. It was at this point that they suddenly didn't have anything else to reveal. The two were sat close together, knees touching and bodies subconsciously leaning into each other.

"There must be something else to say for us to get out." Ryan wondered aloud. And, as things playing on your mind do, Connor was suddenly reminded of something he wasn't too excited to bring up. He didn't know if Ryan would want to relive that night. His heart raced at the thought and his mind was a mess of 'do it' and 'do not'.

Do it.

Do not.

Do it.

If you do it-

Do it.

Don't!

"Ryan."

Ryan looked up at Connor and smiled expectantly, obviously he assumed that Connor had some new fact that might help their cause. "About…when I kissed you."

"You really don't have to." Ryan said, shaking his head. "I understand. It was a mistake."

"No!" Connor argued immediately. "It absolutely was not a mistake! At least, it wasn't for me. And you deserve to know." Connor looked Ryan dead in the eyes and convinced himself that he had to do this. "I really wanted to kiss you. Even before then, before that day, I wanted to kiss you. But once I did…I didn't know what I was doing. It was something so entirely new that I wasn't sure what I was meant to do next." He watched Ryan's eyes, hoping that they'd reveal something. He continued. "My body and my brain just panicked because I didn't know what I was doing and the only thing I could think to do was fly away."

Through his entire speech, Ryan simply nodded his head. He was listening, but he didn't know how to react and he couldn't just sit still whilst Connor poured his heart out. So, he nodded. Connor realised where this speech was going. Now or never.

"I kissed you because I really like you." His heart stopped. "And I still really, really like you, Ryan."

There was only one response to give to that.

"I really like you too." Ryan returned.

Suddenly, and nobody will ever know who started first, they were both leaning in to each other. Their lips pursed and nervous, guessing when it would be best to close their eyes and praying they wouldn't somehow miss. Suddenly, the top of the box blew off, revealing navy sky. They stopped and looked up, but before they could think of what to do the floor kicked up as if they were on hydraulics and shot them both out of the top of the box, only to land on soft, grey earth.

Ryan groaned at the new wave of pain vibrating through his back. "Best kiss ever." He remarked sarcastically.

The two begrudgingly stood up, checking the other was all right before surveying the area. It appeared that they were surrounded by the sky, made of midnight blue silk and studded with silver arrowheads that mimicked the stars. They were stood upon a greyish-brown rock, hovering in the sky like an anti-cloud. The platform had been spun into a short pathway that connected the platform to a plateau made of the same material, but larger and much wider. At the far side of the plateau was a pair of wooden gates, similar to the medieval archetype. Everything else lead to a drop further than the eye could see. Ryan had attempted to prove that wrong by activating his Eyes, but they didn't work here for some reason. It seemed the only option was to go for the gate.

The two travelled up to the plateau without any trouble. They walked single file with Connor in front, whilst Ryan tried to conjure any magic and failed. Wherever they were, they weren't going to be able to magically teleport out. It had to be the door. But with no dangers insight and nothing on the plateau that anybody could hide behind, it seemed the box was the only real challenge they had to get through.

They were shortly upon the plateau and they walked across it without much concern for any attackers. Connor walked into the very centre of the plateau and his presence must've done something. Four shadows were summoned down in a square around them, effectively boxing them in. Ryan and Connor kept close to each other and waited for the cloaked figures to make a move. Only they didn't. They did not stir. They simply stood there. But Connor felt something different. His Empathy was under siege by the four pillars of anger, spite and vengeance. All of these emotions and their workers were swarming around him, trying to get inside his head. Connor had to force himself to shut off his Empathy entirely to stop from going insane. He turned, trying to warn Ryan, but suddenly felt a weight pining him to the ground. He was on the floor before he could look up and saw Ryan baring his teeth down at him with burning anger in his eyes.

"How could you‽" Ryan screamed downwards. "You left me! When I needed you to stay, you left me!"

Was he talking about their first kiss again? It seemed strange to bring them up now, but Ryan was so angry that Connor found himself apologising again. Apologising for leaving him when he needed him. That seemed like an extreme way of putting it and nothing like what he'd felt when Connor had brought the subject up before. When he first mentioned it, Ryan's heart skipped and it seemed like he'd tried to forget the whole thing, even tinges of regret came to Connor's Empathy. This was rage. Rage that was deeply embedded in Ryan's heart. Rage that Connor had never seen before. He remembered Ryan back in the box, so docile and sweet. Ryan telling him to calm down when he was in a state is what Connor remembered. Connor suddenly gripped Ryan by his wrists and looked him in the eyes.

"Ryan. Calm down. Panic won't do anything." Connor said. He spoke each word strongly and without the eye contact wavering. The sound of a beating drum sounded in Connor's ears. It was quiet and it sounded like each beat was being muffled by the silence around them, but he heard it. It struck in time with each beat of his heart. He watched Ryan. The beating of the drum might be reaching him; his eyes lost their mania and the urge to kill seemed to fade from his body entirely until he was almost limp, still holding himself over Connor. He looked dazed now.

"What happened?" Ryan asked, allowing Connor to sit up bring Ryan into a kneeling position. All at once, Ryan seemed to blink and wake up. He looked over at Connor and apologised incessantly. He quickly brushed it off as nothing, reminding him that there were more pressing matters at hand. Ryan shot up to his feet and watched two of the four still figures. He looked like he'd worked something out. "Connor, you know I'm not an angry person." Connor agreed. "There are only two people in the world I've every felt those emotions for. They were amplified, but those were the emotions I've never know what to do with." He stepped towards the figures and looked at them where their eyes would be under the darkness of their cloaks. "Those people are my parents."

The veils dropped at the word and revealed two people: a man and a woman. The woman had long, flowing brown locks and eyes of a clean river. The man had short, black hair and eyes that were nearly as dark as night, much like Ryan's. Ryan's features were much like the man's, but he had the woman's cheeks. His mother and father looked towards him and Ryan looked up at them.

Amelia Blue† and Calumn Reeves†.

"They left me. They abandoned me and nobody will tell me why." Ryan said. "Supposedly they're both dead, but I've already met this man, so clearly that's not true. I will never know what life would be like if I was with the people who brought me into this world. And I will always hate you for that." Connor wanted to step forward, but it didn't feel like it was his place. Especially when Ryan smiled up at them. "But, I'm still lucky. You gave me to good people. I made good friends and I'm not ashamed of any part of me. So maybe I should thank you. I won't. But maybe I should."

Without a second more, the figures turn to dust. The collapsed from where they stood and scattered to the floor in pieces of rubble and dashed hope. The dusts did not scatter to the wind, they simply faded from sight and Ryan turned away from them as they did. He returned to Connor's side and smiled with tears in his eyes. Connor asked if he was OK. Ryan smiled brighter.

"Embracing the emotions isn't easy." Ryan admitted. "But it takes something bad out of you to be this honest."

Connor knew what Ryan was asking him to do. He was asking him to lower his defence and see who and what he wasn't dealing with. He didn't want to. It was a lot easier to keep things under the rug where he'd swept them. But they both knew it was the only way to open the gates and escape this nightmare. He looked up at Ryan, silently pleading for there to be another way. Ryan saw him, so he took a hold of his hands, held them tight and promised him that this was what needed to be done. Connor took a breath and walked over to the other two figures. His Empathy was still cut off and he didn't want t release it, but Ryan was behind him, so he had to. He allowed the tiniest gap and felt all that negativity creep back in.

The floodgates burst open. Connor was overrun with a sudden crash of emotions that he'd been suppressing for God knows how long. The anger, the betrayal, the longing, all of it felt perfectly familiar inside of him, but he had no idea what to do with it. It twisted his stomach and jerked his heart against his will. Everything felt uncomfortable, stuffy and overworked and he wanted it to stop. What was this? He forced himself to look at the figures and he saw right through the darkness.

"My parents." He said. The cloaks dropped and there they were, stood as still as frozen stones. His mother had her sliced into a bob, simple enough to be easy and stylish enough to look attractive to prospective clients. She was pretty, but undeniably cold. She would've been an excellent ice sculpture, but she hardly seemed motherly. His father looked tough and strict, with a set jaw and wrinkles in almost straight lines. His hair remained in a ring around his head, but the top was bald. A classy look for a man in his business. There was no time for a stylish haircut, he had more pressing matters and clients don't look for an attractive man to handle their business. Both were dressed in dark suits and neither looked particularly pleased with anything. All the while, Connor was desperately trying to taper his wrath. "They work long hours." He tried to shrug it off as if it was nothing. But the way the stared coldly down at him, as if expecting better from their own judgement got to him more than her normally would've let it. "As if they don't want to come home and see their kids. We're taken care of, that's not an issue anymore. But the stereotypical 'rich parents' have their kids raised and sue them to show off or bide time. We're not even that. Elaine practically raised me. I raise Jonny. I don't even know Elaine did it." He stopped turning back to Ryan, who was surely watching him get more and more into it. It wasn't fun, but it was healthy. "You left us. You abandoned us in a mansion with nothing, but expensive, empty walls and each other. I don't know why you bother coming back. The only thing you ever say to me is 'Make sure you focus on your studies'. That is the motto of what I have to call 'our relationship'. I don't know where you are right now. I don't know what you're doing and vice versa. You control my life without either of us seeing each other." Tears welled in his eyes. He could see that these statues didn't care for what he was saying. They didn't want to see his tears and they didn't want to hear his words. They had better things to do. "You left us alone, but you won't leave us alone!"

The figures moved. They rolled their eyes and fell to the same dust as Ryan's. They shattered and turned to a powder thin and thick enough to fall into the greyish-brown earth and disappear. Connor wanted to say more, but he suddenly felt arms wrap around his waist. He looked over and saw Ryan's face buried in the crook of his neck, whispering that it would be OK. Telling him that he was brave and he should be proud. Connor didn't believe him. He really wanted to, but…

The sound of doors unlocking could be heard. They both looked up and saw the wooden gates crack open before plundering wide open and bursting through with sunlight. Both boys were surprised they weren't blinded, but what else could you expect from a dream? So, they simply took each other by the hand and walked back into reality.

~\*/~

Connor awoke with a jolt, suddenly finding himself sat up in his own bed and breathing like a madman after a run. He snapped his head at the sudden touch on his shoulder only to see Ryan trying to comfort him and make him calmer. For the first second he was confused, but he quickly remembered that they'd all fallen asleep in his bed watching a film. He watched Ryan for a minute before leaping into a hug, wrapping his arms around his skinny frame and waiting for the shock to pass. Ryan simply sat there and rubbed Connor's back, whispering 'shush' in his ear like a child who couldn't calm down. His eyes were dry, but Ryan could tell Connor felt like crying, he felt like giving up and not waking up from that dream. It had drained him more than either of them had realised and now the drain was hitting them. Connor was hit harder than Ryan, but neither was happy about it. It took a long moment, but Connor managed to collect himself enough to pull away and smile. Ryan returned the favour and whispered in his ear that it would OK as he brushed away a stray strand of gold from his face.

"Yo."

Both boys turned to see Lilith, still dressed in her red and black, with a man tied up and sat down on the floor. His features seemed twisted and snarling even when he was emotionless. His ears were pointy, but not elf-pointy. His hair came up in patches and his eyes were a misty yellow, like he had jaundice.

"A Warlock." Ryan announced. Lilith asked how he knew, but Ryan just did.

As they were talking, the Warlock began fading from the room, slipping away from their grip. Lilith noticed it out of the corner of her eye however and delivered a swift kick to the head that brought him back. She turned back to the boys in bed.

"Who wants to vanquish him?" She offered.

Ryan looked over at Connor who simply shrugged in response. His arrows didn't seem to kill much. Ryan turned back to her. "He's all yours Lil."

Lilith flicked her chin in response and did what she did best. She grabbed the Warlock's head and jerked it to one side until a loud, unmistakable crack resounded throughout the room. Before anyone could question whether it worked or not, the door jumped open and all eyes were on the new intruder.

"Connor?" A sleepy, child's voice called out into the darkness. Jonny walked in, rubbing his tired eyes as he did so, wearing his superhero pyjamas. "What's going on? Why's it so noisy in here?"

Connor was immediately out of bed and rushed over to Jonny, whispering to him that it was nothing. But Jonny was more stubborn than that; he said he wouldn't leave until he was told what was happening that had woken him up.

Thankfully, Lilith stepped up to the plate. "We were telling Scary Stories." She said. She bent down, as if the height was what would convince him. "And I was telling my Scary Story and it scared Ryan and Connor so much that Connor yelled out and woke you up. I'm sorry."

Jonny promised it was OK before swiftly being taken back to bed by big brother. As Connor did that, Lilith sauntered back over to the bed and sat next to Ryan. She flashed a devilish smirk and he immediately became suspicious.

"What?" He asked.

"Nothing." She said. "Just that, I was awake the whole time you two were asleep and I noticed that you two were holding hands in your sleep. And you were gripping on like it was for dear life."

Ryan smiled up at her. "Well, I'll just have to tell you in the morning." And swiftly turned over and ignored her pleas for details.