**Warnings for mentions of death, child abuse, implications of suicide, and... I guess the panic Ed goes thorugh? You'll see.**

January 30, 2010

Edward had been quiet for almost a week. Whenever he was spoken to, it was usually just a one-to-three-word response. Sebastian had volunteered to walk Tacome home from work that Saturday, seeing as Edward was too distracted to walk without bumping into anything, and since he claimed to have a bad back, it was best not to risk anything.

Toni had been distracted as well, having received a call not long after they'd met about her sister and brother-in-law's passing. She refused to tell Tacome, but she told the boys that there was a fire that destroyed their home and begged them not to tell her. Supposedly, they had a daughter, but she was away in the Kamkhi Army, fighting a war that had been going off and on for centuries with the Kikune to the north. Toni and Tacome were both going to the service later that day. Apparently, this was Tacome's first experience with death and although she'd never personally met them, they were kind of like relatives to her and she wanted to pay respects as such.

Sebastian felt bad. Everyone in the household was grieving in one way or another, but... he wasn't. He walked down the street, his feet feeling better than ever. At worst, his knees still felt like they threatened to break backwards as he walked and every muscle from the waist down felt like he'd been working out for far too long and now they were just ready to collapse. Better than they were two weeks ago, though.

He wanted to find a way to thank Edward and Tacome for the new shoes and jacket they had gotten him for the holidays. For a guess, the shoes were a perfect fit and the jacket was probably the warmest and most comfortable he'd ever owned. Which wasn't saying much, since he could count all the coats he'd ever owned on one hand, but it meant that much more.

When he walked into Kaevie's, he greeted the hostess back, "Is Tacome off yet?" he asked.

"She's wrapping up a table now." the hostess looked him over, "Are you her boyfriend?"

Sebastian chuckled, "No, my girlfriend's in Charion." he answered. "I'm just a friend."

The hostess scoffed, "She's missing out."

He blushed, "Um... I'm just going to sit down..." he turned and sat on the bench by the door, exhaling slowly. He wondered how Cindy was doing. He left over a month and a half ago. Had to have been two months by now.

Or something, he was probably way wrong.

He was never good at keeping track of time. He wondered if she had moved on to someone else. He abandoned his old phone under the bridge he used to sleep under, so it wasn't like he could call or text her. Even though he had her father's phone number memorized, he was too petrified to call it, fairly confident in the fact that the call could be traced and he'd get arrested.

Or assassinated, that was likely too.

Another thing he was confident in was that he was going to get yelled at when she saw him again. For leaving, running away like a coward for a crime he didn't commit and was too scared to defend himself on.

Tacome approached him, "You okay?"

Sebastian looked up, "Yeah, I'm good." He stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Just zoned out."

"Toni hasn't been short, has she?"

"I mean, she is short but-" Sebastian started with a smirk.

Tacome rolled her eyes and nudged his ribs, "I mean she hasn't been snappy, right?"

"No." Sebastian's smile faded, "No, she and Ed have been pretty quiet and keeping to themselves all day." He said. "Aside from using the bathroom, Ed hasn't even left your guys' room."

Tacome nodded, "Yeah… okay."

"How are you holding up?" he asked.

She shrugged, "As well as I can be, I guess. I'm about to meet a family that I only associate myself with because of Toni who I've only ever seen Soulani cards from. Y'know, adoptive grandparents that are probably going to pinch my face."

Sebastian shrugged, "I wouldn't know." He said.

She looked at him, "Right… you… you said you've never met your grandparents, huh?"

"I don't even know if I have any."

Tacome shrugged, "I guess that's fair. Well, I did have an aunt, I guess… and an uncle that hated my dad." she said, "According to Ed."

"He's having a hell of a time trying to find your folks." Sebastian said, "He's really trying."

Tacome scoffed, "He never leaves the apartment."

Sebastian glanced down at her, "Actually, this week was the most I've seen him home. Whenever he takes you to work, he usually doesn't come back unless you're with him."

"Really?"

"Yeah, half the time he says he's making a call, other times he's out meeting with someone. He only ever sticks around when you're home." He glanced down to the ground, "Ooh, bobby pin." He picked up the tiny hair accessory and clipped it to his jeans pocket.

Tacome chuckled, "A bobby pin? What do you need a bobby pin for?" she asked.

He shrugged, "Well, come to think of it, I probably don't." he said. "I'm usually pretty good with picking locks, so… I used to keep one on me all the time. Usually stole them from my girlfriend and my ex. You have no idea how often these things get thrown away."

Tacome shrugged, "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, I guess."

Sebastian paused, "Hey, that's a good one. Where'd you hear that one?" he asked.

Tacome shrugged, "I dunno. It… sounds like I may have gotten it from somewhere, but I can't remember." She answered, "It just sounded good in my head."

Sebastian opened the front door for Tacome, letting her inside. She glanced over, "Hey, Ed…"

Edward grunted in response, "Was work okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, it was kinda slow, but it was good." She offered a warm smile. When she saw he didn't react, she sank, "Um… I'm gonna go get ready to go with Toni…" she said and left for her room.

The plan was for Tacome and Toni to leave for Thymmetri after Tacome returned from work. Toni was nowhere in sight. Sebastian could only assume she was either in her bedroom or in the kitchen.

"Sebastian…?"

Sebastian looked at Edward, "What's up?"

"Mind coming with me?" he asked, "I don't think I should be alone." Edward avoided eye contact.

"Um… sure. Where?" Sebastian nodded, adding enthusiasm to his voice in hopes to support Edward in any way he could.

"To see my mom."

Enthusiasm, hope, and cheeriness vanished. "Uh- yeah. Of course." He said sympathetically. "Um… she's here in Avoncor, right?"

Edward nodded silently. "Let's go…" he walked out the door.

"Okay, give me just a second." Sebastian hopped to Tacome's room, "Hey, I'm going out with Ed." He knocked twice on the door.

"Be safe, you two!"

Sebastian trotted back out the door and locked up behind him. Edward was already halfway down the stairs. Sebastian considered hopping over the railing and landing at the bottom, but considering he felt like one wrong move would break his legs, he sighed and took the boring route down right behind Edward. "I miss parkour…" he sighed, hoping to get some sort of response from his gloomy company, but unsurprisingly, Edward said nothing in response. The walk was excruciatingly quiet. Sebastian wanted to say something to break the tension, but he wasn't sure what would've broken it.

When they entered the cemetery, Sebastian followed Edward to a small shrine where multiple names were marked, most of them sharing his last name. "What was her name?" Sebastian asked.

"Rachael."

Sebastian took a moment to look amongst the Phara family for anyone named Rachael, finally finding the plaque toward the bottom.

Edward sat down.

A long moment of silence followed. Sebastian spent that time trying to imagine what kind of person Rachael was, the type of mother she must've been to have raised Edward to be the way he was. Then it occurred to Sebastian: aside from three or four things, he knew next to nothing about the kid sitting next to him. All he knew was that he was related to Tacome, he loved pizza and had a preference to Dice's specifically, he had weird connections to people who would provide him information, and that neither of his parents were in the picture.

"You know, she didn't want to be buried here."

Sebastian looked down at Edward.

"She wanted her ashes spread near Manichtn." He said, "The Submerged City?"

"I've heard of it."

Edward nodded, "You have no idea the fight I got into with my grandparents because they blatantly ignored her wishes. She had it written in a will and everything." He wiped his eye, "She had also written that I go to her parents… not my dad's." he took a deep breath, "But I went to my dad's anyway." He swallowed, "Because 'the Phara family knows best' and decided that the family of aniscelest hunters should be the ones in custody of an aniscelest orphaned teenager who already hated life." His breathing became shaky, "My mom would've raised hell." He wiped his eyes again, "I had to fight the hospital…" he wiped his eyes again, burying his face in his sleeves. "Because hospitals in High Towers won't let aniscelests in… whether they're visiting or a patient. If you got stabbed and needed a hospital you were shit out of luck as long as you wore one of these fucking collars…" he took another deep breath and looked back up, his eyes watering and turning red, "I was only allowed in because she begged them to let me see her. And they almost denied her request because 'she's delusional from the blood loss and couldn't possibly want that demon near her'. They only let me in because they wanted her to shut up." He chuckled coldly, "Can you believe that?"

Sebastian sat in silence.

"They wanted the dying woman to shut up so they begrudgingly let me in. And as soon as she flatlined, they threw me out." He shook his head. "And not to mention I had to fight my own family so I could come to her funeral, because they had a strict 'no aniscelest' policy…" he bit his lower lip, "It would've been easier if my dad didn't fuck off like the coward he was." He shook his head, "Fucking kikan."

Sebastian flinched at the slur Edward had dropped in reference to his own father. It had to have been bad for him to earn to title. "Your… mom was a good woman?" Sebastian asked.

A weak smile came across Edward's face, "One of the greatest. She was like Tacome with a lot more fight in her. She used to pull me out of school so we'd go to a concert or get lunch. Dad hated it and it always sparked arguments between them, but that never stopped her. I hated that stupid private school anyway… My mom was the only person that never called me a demon. She even researched it, aniscelest aren't even demons." He said, "We're not. We're only affected by irouzu because we're classified as 'undead'. Which… I guess people can call that demonic, but we were made by a goddess, not the Judge…" he took a deep breath, "My mom taught me to be proud of being an aniscelest. It was my kind that brought end to the tyrant that killed the God of Fire. Created by a goddess… Imagine being called a demon your whole life and finally being told you're actually a holy being."

"Aniscelests killed King Iszoh?" Sebastian asked. "And they were made by one of the goddesses?"

"Yeah, it's why we were made." He said, "That's not something to be ashamed of. My dad taught me that it was my whole life and even told me that we were all just- better off dead…" he sank. "And… at one point I agreed with him… and…"

Sebastian froze, "Wait- you…"

Edward nodded, "I don't want Tacome to know. Please don't tell her."

Sebastian nodded, "O-okay…" he looked down.

"Um… my mom and I had plans to leave High Towers and go to Manichtn." He said, "Once she built up enough money to divorce my dad and to move. She wanted to start a tomato garden. We were almost there…" he said, "She left the money she was saving up with her parents and even picked out a little rinky-dink apartment we were gonna start in. Then dad nearly had me killed, we had to stay at gramma and grampa Alice and Roshi's, she went back to collect our important stuff and… because I didn't want her there alone for too long, I went after her. And I'm glad I did… but I was too late…" he said, "The guy that's responsible for my aniscelestialism in the first place had gotten to her, looking for my dad. She had nothing to do with his grudge against him. If he had gone after me, I'd get that. But mom never did anything wrong..." he sighed, "She was gone by the end of the night."

Sebastian was silent for a moment, "I'm sorry..."

"And what I wouldn't do to make that son of a bitch pay." he growled. "I've got my best people looking for him right now... Nothing..."

Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows, "Is that why you're almost never home?" he paused, "By the gods- you're out for revenge…" he gasped.

"Shh!" Edward hissed, "That's another thing Tacome and Toni can't know about." He pointed at him, "I don't want to get lectured by Toni and I don't want Tacome to freak out. As far as she's concerned, I'm just looking for her family. I mean- I am, but I can multitask." he said.

"Okay, but now I'm more terrified for your safety than I was before. Dude, revenge never ends well, you ever heard of the concept to dig two graves if you act on revenge? You know who that second grave is for?"

"I know." Edward crossed his arms again. "I'm… prepared for it."

"So you know this is a suicide mission?"

"Especially with the type of aniscelest this asshole is." Edward huffed, "Neurotoxic aniscelests are not easy to fight. Even if you're a fire type…"

"Are you a fire type?"

"I am and it's the only chance I have. I just- I need this last bit of catharsis… And I'll finally be at peace."

Sebastian watched him with a new kind of shock, "Just- try not to get yourself killed, okay?"

"I can't make any promises…" Edward mumbled.

Sebastian rolled his eyes, "For Tacome's sake?"

Edward sat in silence for a while. He finally sighed, "Okay."

"She worries about you. A lot. You'd think she was a mom worrying about her kid with the way she worries about you. When you got all depressed out of nowhere the other day, she thought she did something wrong."

"She didn't do anything wrong." He said.

"I know. But you totally shut down. Toni had to remind us what was wrong and to give you space." He watched Edward for a while, "I'm sorry." Sebastian exhaled, "It's rough…" he brushed his hair back. "I understand that it still hurts… Back in the boys' home I was usually yelled at for crying in the middle of the night because I missed my folks…" he said, "That was until I was seven. Two years… Then I realized that no one was gonna come and try and make me feel better, so I ran away. I hopped a ten-foot fence and stole food for the next eight and a half years." He shrugged.

"May I ask what happened?"

"They were assassinated… pissed off the wrong people in Live Village, so a couple of uniformed men armed to the teeth knocked me out and killed them after I was unconscious…" he explained, "Woke up at the boys' home."

"Geez- wait, you said you were seven-" Edward counted on his fingers, "You were five when this happened?"

"Yep."

Edward took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Damn…" he paused, "So- wait, were you born in Live? Or did you move to Live from somewhere else before going to Charion?"

"Born in Live." He said, "My dad's from one of the fire villages. I think he's from Gyjinn or something…"

"That makes sense. And your mom?"

"No clue. I honestly barely remember the Gyjinn part. How could you tell anyway?" Sebastian gave him a look.

"People as dark as you don't just come from Live Village." Edward stated. He looked back to the shrine, "You just looked like someone with a Fire Kingdom background." He said, "Mom and I used to visit Firon City all the time. Would've moved there if mom didn't hate the heat so much."

Sebastian chuckled.

"You would love Firon City. It's got your kind of energy." He said, "Soon as I learn how to drive, I'll take us there sometime." He suggested.

"That sounds good."

They shared another moment of silence before Edward stood up and stretched. "We should get going. Hungry?"

"Dice's?" Sebastian rose an eyebrow.

"Hey, if you don't want pizza, just let me know. I can think of a couple dozen other places we can go to. Just- besides Kaevie's."

"I like Kaevie's." Sebastian stood up and dusted himself off.

"Too much salt."

"And pizza isn't too much salt?"

"Pizza isn't overkilled with salt like Kaevie's food is." Edward argued. "Whatever, where should we go?"

"I guess that's fair." Sebastian hummed, "Let's see… before the accident, Tacome took me to this barbeque place with bottomless fries or something." He said. "Uh… I think it was Gordon's Grill?"

Edward's eyes lit up, "Oh, she picked the right place. I think there's just that one in Charion, though…" he hummed. "Petey's isn't bad though."

"Whatever. You know I'm broke." Sebastian shrugged. "I wanna try and find a job at some point so I can help out a little better."

Edward blew a raspberry and waved his hand, dismissing the comment, "No worries." He said, "You're surprising us enough by keeping the apartment clean."

"I had to do something."

"No, I get it. I wanted to help, too."

"Yeah, and you're doing that by paying half of the rent for Toni."

Edward shrugged.

Sebastian watched him for a moment, "You're feeling better, right?"

"What?"

"After this visit? That… talk? Confession, whatever you wanted to call that?"

Edward took a deep breath, "Yeah… I am… I internalize a lot of shit, so it feels good to just- vent… You swear you're not going to tell Tacome or Toni any of this?"

Sebastian shrugged, "As long as you don't get yourself killed. Plus, I've done some stuff that I'm not proud of either."

Edward rose an eyebrow. He stood on Sebastian's left side and watched him, barely catching a glimpse of a faint scar, "Anything to do with that scar on the side of your neck?"

Sebastian's hand flew up and covered it, a look of panic taking over, "Uh- I was getting mugged…" he said, "The guy didn't believe that I didn't have anything until I emptied my pockets."

Seeing Sebastian's initial reaction, he eyed him suspiciously. "He didn't see your dad's knife?" he decided to humor him.

"I left it at my spot under the bridge." He said, "The one time I forget something and I'm only partially glad that I did."

"Could've died…" Edward looked both ways of the road before stepping off the curb at the crosswalk.

"I know." Sebastian let his hand drop back down, "Trust me, I just about pissed myself and cried…"

"I don't blame-" he heard an engine approach quickly. He grabbed Sebastian's shoulders and vanished the both of them into smoke and transported them to the other side of the road before the large truck could hit them. Edward heard a faint click in the collar as he moved.

Sebastian stared at the ground wide-eyed as he got up on his hands and knees, his stomach twisted to the point to where he could feel its contents trying to rise up into his throat. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath, "Thanks…" he gasped, "Are you ok-" he turned around to look at Edward, who was now struggling and trying to wrench the collar off. The red gem in the middle of the front of the collar glowing brightly, "Oh, that's…" his blood ran cold, eyes widening, "Oh- that's activated!" Sebastian hopped forward, "Uh- what do you want me to do?"

Edward shook his head, wincing painfully and opening his mouth, trying to take in air. He pointed to the back of the collar before trying to pull at it again.

Sebastian moved to the back of the collar and found he keyhole. "Locked… okay…" he gasped and took the bobby pin he'd picked up before out of his pocket, fumbling with it for a moment before bending it open and starting to pick at the lock. With a high-pitched beep, the collar popped off and fell to the ground in front of them, allowing Edward to gasp and start panting, holding himself up with shaking arms.

"Are you okay?" Sebastian asked, still holding the bobby pin.

Edward held up a finger, coughing and trying to refocus his vision. "I'm good now…" he swallowed hard, "Thanks…" he exhaled. "You usually keep lockpicking tools on you?" he rasped.

"Um, just bobby pins. I found this one earlier and told Tacome that I probably didn't need it."

Edward shakily stood up, grabbing the collar, "Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it." He massaged his neck with his free hand.

"That's what Tacome said." Sebastian bent the pin back into shape and tucked it back into his pocket.

"Her dad and my mom used to say that all the time. It's a saying from Grampa Roshi." He said, glaring at the collar.

Sebastian watched him, "So… those collars… they activate when an aniscelest uses their powers?"

"Meant for aniscelests, but any wearer." Edward gripped it tightly. "I grew up wearing these stupid things. They're not supposed to lock up like that." He started walking, stumbling a little. He shoved the collar into his hoodie pocket.

"Like what?" Sebastian caught his arm.

"They're supposed to let go when we stop using our powers. I only used mine to get across the street, but the collar locked." He said. "That was… uh… that was a malfunction." He closed his eyes and gripped Sebastian's arm, taking in deep breaths.

Sebastian nodded.

"Thank you again."

"Of course, dude- I wasn't going to leave you like that." He said.

"Mind if we just… went home?" Edward said, "I'll… Just order delivery."

"Yeah. I'm okay with that…" Sebastian nodded, staying on high-alert until they got home.

**I've had this episode on hold for a while. I've had something come up that took a lot of my attention, then I had a new passion project (This one is the OG though) but I'm hopping back to this one since it won't be as time-consuming as the other would be (Funnel's Rage, it's gonna be a comic, but I have Chapter 1 up right now on here). Anyway, I want to space out episodes where characters are introduced and break it up with stuff going on with the already-present characters and what better way than to do that with a little insight on the ever-mysterious Edward Phara. Hope y'all enjoyed, stay awesome, folks!**