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Angel Hunt and Streifen in Roleplay
+ Alternate Universe 05 +
C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 01
"Zeph!" It's from the end of a long tunnel that his name echoes, bouncing back and forth before finally overcoming the drumbeat of his heart. A skinny, dark-haired boy his own height skids into view, rounding on him immediately. "Hey! What... the hell... are you doing?!" His best friend's words are broken up by his panted breath, the sprint having taken its toll. Zeph is well aware that he should be in a similar state, but his body's having a truly difficult time doing anything at the moment, short of standing there clutching his heart as it threatens to rip free with its wild rhythm. "Hello? Zeph?" Innic waves a hand before the blonde's midnight eyes. "Are you all right?"
For a long minute no sound will make the trek out of his throat and through his mouth, gaze fastened on the glow of light from the far end of the long alley. Only he and the other Dark now stand between the brick walls, as if they've been the only ones here all along. Like that guy--Jun-- and his friend were figments of his imagination or a mirage. Only... his hand still tingles from where it had been grasped to help him stand and his body can already feel the bruise from colliding with solid muscle and bouncing off to the asphalt. He was here, it wasn't some kind of daydream even if it only lasted, like, a minute.
His silence gives Innic the time he needs to overcome the stress of the sprint, his harsh, air-starved breath gradually fading. "Did you see that guy?" Zephyr finally whispers, barely able to hear his own words over his racing heart.
The orange gaze shifts from narrowed to concerned before it, too, glances down the alley. "Yeah, there was a guy," Innic says, "two actually. What does it matter, though? It's not like we know them or anything, and if we don't get back Celefren will take it out on our hides. The bastard and his rules are stupid, but I'm not interested in having him take it out on me if we're late."
It's a valid point and while he also wishes to be able to sit or lie down for the next week, not even Celefren's fondness for the switch is enough to shift Zeph's fixated attention. "There was a guy, a teenager named Jun, and I ran into him. Like right into him, bouncing off and onto the ground, and he just smiled at me and helped me up." The sentences spill out even as the images replay in his head, each detail crisp thanks to his flawless memory. "His hands were warm and his skin was really soft, but those eyes... they were a deep pink like the early morning sky..."
"Did you hit your head, too?" Innic asks, one dark eyebrow raised in amusement. "'Cause it sounds like you hit your head."
A hard frown forms on the blonde's lips and he levels it at his best friend. "I'm being serious, Innic." With one last look at the far end of the alley, he finally manages to get his feet moving and turns back the way he'd originally come, Innic falling immediately into step. He'd much rather be going after Jun, but if they don't go back and meet up with the rest of their group, Celefren really will beat the hell out of them and he's not overly interested in giving that asshole any kind of joy. "I've just never met anyone like him." Someone who could make his heart race with just the touch of his hand and those amazing eyes...
[Fifteen years later]
The wardrobe door is open, the garments neatly hung on identical hangers within the varnished wooden cabinet a riot of color and an array of styles. There are various clothes for sports including a soccer and a basketball jersey, t-shirts and jeans, dressier clothing with oxford style shirts and ties, swim trunks and tank tops for the beach, even a tuxedo. Beneath, just as carefully arranged are boxes of shoes, everything from cleats to flip flops to sneakers to shining black patent leather. On the inside of the door is a mirror framed in silver, its surface reflecting a very serious pair of deep midnight eyes tracking one by one over each article of clothing and subsequently discarding it.
None of these are right. Some are easily discarded since it's summer in the city and they're too thick and warm for the weather. What's in here that does meet the climate standard, though... just isn't what he's looking for. This day has been such a long time coming and he wants the outfit to be perfect. Maybe the navy tee...? Or the gray one? This shouldn't be this hard and it might not even matter in the end, but it still feels important, just in case...
"You have like, ten minutes to pick something and be ready to go," Innic's voice cuts through his thoughts, pulling an exasperated gaze flicking back over one narrow shoulder. The other Dark straddles a chair in the room they share, his blue-black hair already done, slender legs clad in indigo washed jeans, with an open button down plaid shirt over a vintage tee and bare feet shoved in deck shoes. Sunset orange eyes are glued to a tablet, long fingers flicking across the screen every so often. "You know the odds are nowhere near being in your favor, right?"
Zephyr frowns at the time reminder, the fourth his best friend has issued in the past half hour. Twisting back to face the wardrobe, he finally reaches in and pulls out a slim black tee, his own set of dark blue jeans, and a hoodie. Pausing for a long moment, he holds the garments, as if weighing them, and then replaces the hoodie with an oversized, open weave sweater. Tugging off the clothes he currently wears and tossing them in the general direction of the bed, the new ones are slid on a minute later, perfectly sized to lay just right on his half-grown frame. Long fingers thread into shoulder-length white-gold hair, attempting to tame the thick strands with the help of the mirror. "Your negativity is not appreciated."
"Noted." The other Dark finally looks up from the tablet. "I'm just trying to be realistic, Zeph. I know how long you've been waiting to return to that city."
Pulling a tube of product from one of the wardrobe's shelves, he squeezes some free and begins working it into unruly strands of his hair. Fifteen years, that's how long he's been waiting. Fifteen years of reminiscing about that alley and the person he met there. Fifteen years reliving those short handful of minutes. Fifteen years longing to see that guy--Jun--again. Dreaming about him. Thinking about what he'd say when they were once again face to face. Hopefully he could get out more than the stunned "yeah" he'd managed to stammer. He may have just been a kid that last time, and well, okay, he still technically is young, but he's old enough to have grown his wings five years ago, which moves him up from kid to teenager in his people's eyes.
When it was announced that their group would be conducting a weekend immersion training in that city, it seemed like the stars were aligning. Finally. In the last fifteen years he's had trainings in Paris, Hong Kong, New York, Rio de Janeiro, even the Canadian countryside for gods' sake, and while they were all fine, not one of them were where he really wanted to go.
Innic has been cautioning him ever since the announcement not to get his hopes up. His best friend is just trying to protect him from the very long shot that meeting Jun again truly is and he's not stupid, he knows full well that the odds are against him. But the other Dark has been doing database checks for guys named Jun--which it turns out is kinda an issue in a city with a large Asian population--and researching maps and the areas around that alleyway, and they'd been trying to narrow down likely places they could check out on the off chance Jun will be there. He hasn't told Innic yet, but he also maybe commissioned Greshya to draw Jun from his memory. Total bonus to never forgetting even the smallest detail of events. All he had to do was replay it for her and now he has a picture he can show the locals.
"I have to at least try." Zeph says quietly, finishing his hair as Innic drops the tablet into a bag and straightens from the chair. If he didn't bother to make an attempt to find him, then he's spent fifteen years thinking about all this for nothing. Pulling his own bag from the wardrobe, he slings it across his chest and closes the wardrobe door. "You know where we're going?"
Innic nods. "As soon as we're freed from adult supervision, we can head over there..."
Three days later, a dejected Zephyr pushes open the door to the room and falls face first onto the bed. He'd been so hopeful, but... nothing. Not one sighting of Jun nor one person who recognized him from the picture. Yes, it had been fifteen years and he may have moved away or changed his appearance or whatever and yet he can't help but be bitterly disappointed. All this time thinking about him, about how he'd felt back in that alley even though he was just a kid, how Jun had made him feel..... It just fucking sucks.
With his face pressed against the quilt, he can only hear the door softly click shut and a moment later a weight settles on the edge of the mattress. Gentle fingers thread into his hair, and several minutes pass in silence, Zeph once again glad that his best friend isn't one to say I told you so. Innic had helped him as much as possible, but in the end it didn't matter. Nothing they did mattered at all.
"Burnhouse Black?" The other Selestarri finally breaks the quiet. "I can call in some favors and get us a bottle." Without any hesitation Zephyr nods. The potent liquor is just what he needs tonight, and if Innic can get them a bottle then hell yes he wants it. "Give me ten minutes and we'll get you trashed enough to wipe away the entire weekend..."
[Ten years later]
Early dawn hued eyes skim through the classifieds, the white haired teenager absently tapping full lips with the end of his retracted pen as he searches for nothing in particular. The sun shines in from the near floor to ceiling windows just to his left, a sort of light aura illuminating his lean frame and accentuating the paleness of what flawless skin shows. Dressed in deep pink baggy wide legged pants that are tied low on trim hips and a black shirt so loose it hangs from a toned shoulder, Jun's attentions are both fixed and not fixed on a task he doesn't realize he's been at for hours.
One prospect found, he twists the pen in his hand around deftly and clicks the end, the ink tip slipping out from its sheath long enough for him to circle a possibility before he clicks the pen again, returning to his absent minding searching with barely a thought lent.
"What are you doing?" a familiar voice interrupts his thoughts, and he doesn't even bother to look up as his friend draws nearer, simply offering the other teen a slight shrug.
"I dunno..." Jun tosses out even as Taz flops down on the couch besides him, and in the corner of his vision, he can see the other teenager's light silver eyes carefully studying him in a way he's learned to ignore, "Looking for a job I guess"
"A job?" Taz scoffs and reaching out, he simply plucks the newspaper from his friend's hand to have a look at it himself, "Jun, you've never worked a day in your life because you come from money, your damn trust fund is paying your rent and you like, get cash wired to your card every week. Why in the hell do you think you need to work on top of it, that family not giving you enough?"
With a frown, the shorter of the pair leans slightly over to snatch the paper from his friend's hands, sitting back with a huff, "It's not about the money, god, and I'm just thinking maybe I'll pick up something part time"
"...Why-?" Taz asks, quirking a brow.
"I don't know" Jun shrugs again, "I just... I guess I'm getting kind of stir crazy, you know? Might be fun"
"It's called work for a reason Jun" his white haired roommate snorts, "It's not fun. If you want fun, petition your family rep to let you go on a holiday or a trip or something. That would be fun. I mean, when was the last time we just took off and went somewhere anyway?"
A thoughtful look crosses Jun's features and the other teen makes notice of the fact that it takes him a few minutes longer to think of something than it should. "...Um... not since Japan? I think?" though truthfully he doesn't remember. Like a lot of things these days, what he's done and not done has become a little fuzzy inside of his head.
"Yeah, and it was mostly business and it sucked." Taz quips with a shake of his head that send tied back razor straight hair shifting, "My idea of fun isn't sitting in front of those two listening to them berate you for not living up to some impossible standards they have."
"No one asked you to go Taz..." Jun retorts and finally pulling his eyes from his paper, he folds it and leans forward just far enough to toss it at the glass topped coffee table to their fronts. "I told you that trip wasn't for fun," sitting back against the cushions, he sighs while drawing long fingers up to his hair to rake side swept bangs away from his line of vision, "I told you they weren't going to let me just waltz off for sightseeing or some bull." Being there wasn't his idea of fun either and it was especially embarrassing to have to sit there with his friend while they went on about how much they expect of him and how little faith they have in him living up to it all. Ever since his adoption, his "parents" have ridden his ass about every little thing and quite honestly, the fact that he's starting to have issues recollecting things here or there has become a bit of a relief... at least where his adoptive family is concerned. He really doesn't get why they thought bringing a Korean kid into their mix was a good idea anyway or why they went out of their way to make him a part of their family, especially when they seem to hate everything about his heritage so much and have little to no issue about telling him so at every given opportunity they get.
"Yeah well, what would you have done if I hadn't gone?" Taz grins in his teasing way, "I mean, I've been mixed up in your family bullshit since school and I feel like I'm their kid too sometimes you know-" Jun gives him a look that tells him he's seconds from protesting and he slides a finger up to keep him quiet, continuing on without interruption, "-besides, you're too nice about it all. Without me there, they'd probably rope you into some ridiculous arranged marriage or something and then poof, there goes all your freedoms here and every one of your weekends..."
Jun says nothing in response, offering his friend a small snort and a shake of his head as he turns his pink gaze towards the windows to stare out into the city skyline -knowing full well that his friend is probably right. As much as he hates to admit that. For whatever reason, they actually listen to the other teenager and treat him with a respect they don't when it comes to himself and without Taz tagging along whenever he gets called back for one family business thing or another, things would probably be a hundred times worse if he weren't there keeping them kind of subdued while they are spouting off about whatever thing.
"Anyway," Taz pipes up again, noting the dark look that has formed on his friend's face, and with a sigh, he pushes his lithe frame upwards away from the couch, "Come on, you aren't the only one getting stir crazy, but a job isn't going to fix the problem. Bar hopping and getting totally shit faced before hitting up every club we can find to dance the night away is what'll do it" Early dawn hued eyes slip from the windows and turn up to find a look of pure mischief practically lighting up the other teen's features as he holds his hand out for his roommate to take, "And once we're drunk enough, and if you still feel all stifled, we'll go crash in on your rep and get him to let you take off for a while too."
"Yeah, and if I hadn't been there, who knows where you would have ended up." Innic's teasing tone is pitched over the sound of the dueling pianos and the singing crowd that spills out of the opened walls of the bar and onto the patio. The place is packed, inside and out, the humid, salty summer air putting everyone in a festive mood, not just here, but in all the restaurants and bars up and down this part of downtown.
A waitress clad in short shorts and a Hawaiian shirt knotted at midriff stops by to see if they need more drinks. Her ebony hair is piled high on top of her head, bringing her almost to the same height as Zeph and Innic, and the smile she flashes them is sweet, but almost entirely fake. Par for the course in a job like this where she has to deal with drunk people all the time. They each agree to another drink and she moves to the next group of patrons standing along the rail of the patio. "You were my knight in shining armor that night." Zeph resumes their conversation as the people near the pianos begin to belt out "Blister in the Sun," complete with hand clapping or foot stomping for those holding their drinks. "That will be the last time I try an experimental party drug. Only well-tested drugs for me from now on."
Innic laughs, wickedness glinting in his orange eyes. "I wouldn't say the night was a total wash. We had quite a bit of fun together."
A bachelorette party at one of the tables further down the patio begins screeching, waving some kind of printed sashes over their heads as one of them drags the bride up to dance on the table. Midnight eyes pull away from the table and back to his best friend. "You say that like we don't have quite a bit of fun together all that often."
"Yes, well, our appetites are fairly voracious." More shrieks from the bachelorette party as a group of drunk frat guys has turned up to buy them all a round of drinks in exchange for more table dancing.
Zeph rolls his eyes at the humans before shrugging. "What do you want? We're young and we're Dark, we couldn't stop ourselves if we tried."
Innic smirks before downing the last of his beer. "Good thing we don't try." And they really don't, even if they did mutually decide a couple years back that being committed to one another romantically was too much of a risk to their friendship. Romantic relationships generally make everything toxic when they sour, and neither of them wanted to not be able to stomach the other if things went bad. Especially once they swore the oaths of partnership, which are unbreakable . There are just too many potential landmines, so they opted to remain best friends. Well, best friends with extensive benefits.
The waitress turns up with their fresh beers, shaking her head at the craziness happening further down the patio before turning and walking in the opposite direction. Most likely she doesn't get paid enough, even on a busy night like this, to deal with that kind of shit. Were Zeph in her shoes, he'd likely think the same way. However, this is all much too entertaining to him to just walk away. Now that he and Innic are in their forties, they have a lot more freedom in their immersion trainings, meaning they pick where they go and how to mix it up with the locals. They have several different places in mind, but first on the list was this city, one that hasn’t been far from his thoughts for the past twenty-five years.
Leaning back against the rail, Zephyr reaches for the pack of cigarettes he'd left there earlier, pulling one free and sparking the tip with a lighter. In the background, the pianos shift to "I Will Survive" as one of the frat guys tries to convince a drunk wedding party member to do a body shot. Out of sheer amusement, the blonde slides into the frat guy's mind long enough to nudge his body shot interest from the girl to one of his friends. Humans are so vastly entertaining.
"Are you making trouble?" Innic takes the cigarette from his fingers, orange eyes watching the events play out as he pulls the slender stick to his mouth and pulls the smoke in deep.
The tall Dark laughs and twists partially around to retrieve his beer from the railing. "Me? I would never--" White hair flashes on the very edge of his peripheral vision, interrupting his words and snapping his head around to the source-two guys walking down the street, both clad in tight club wear. There's only a moment for their presence to register before the general flow of traffic on the street cuts them off from view, but it's long enough for Zeph to abandon his beer, sneakered feet finding the cross beam of the railing and easily vaulting over and onto the sidewalk.
Innic's voice rapidly fades behind him as he sprints, heart pumping with excitement, weaving through other pedestrians. Holy shit! He'd looked when they first arrived--of course he looked because he still hopes, even after all these years--but their efforts to locate Jun hadn't turned up anything at all. Even before they'd arrived, armed with a better search through public records using Innic's backdoor hacking skills, it was a hell of a longshot. They even tried looking for his friend, the guy Jun called Taz . But that surely had to be a nickname, and even if it was a real name, they didn't find it with the search engines, either. They did actually see Jun in the background of a pic on some social media influencer's post. Or at least, a guy that looked like him. Same pink and white hair, same build, but he was too far in the background for a better look, even with several different attempts to enhance the image. Also, his partner had pointed out, and Zeph had to grudgingly accept, the guy in the photo looked too young to be Jun. He had first met him twenty-five years before, and no human ages that well.
But now, against all the odds, this might be him. Desperate as he is to reach the pair, teleporting is out of the question with this many people around, but adrenaline adds a boost to his legs as he twists around people on the sidewalk, skidding around the corner into--ironically, a long, narrow alley. Only, the pair he expected to find is instead two dark-haired girls who are so drunk they can barely walk, clinging to one another in their sky high sandals and giggling loudly. This seemed like the obvious path to take, but maybe they went into one of the other bars or took some side route he didn't see. "Fuck!" The Dark swears, slamming one foot into a nearby trash can, sending it flying and eliciting a chorus of fresh giggles from the girls.
In a repeat of twenty-five years ago, Innic runs in a minute later, sunset orange eyes lighting on the girls before he shakes his head. "I'm guessing those two were not the reason you took off, just like I'm guessing if you had caught up to Jun that poor trash can would be much less abused." With no reaction to his attempt at amusement, the dark-haired Selestarri changes track. "If that was him then he's close by, so let's retrace your path and see if we can spot him again..."
[Nine years later/present day]
The teleport pulls the raven-haired Selestarri to the small courtyard of the bungalow high above one of the twin bungalows on Nova. A fierce wind tugs at his clothing as rain splatters on the stone beneath his feet, the sound fading as he opens the door and slips inside the small home. Fingers pushing damp, heavy bangs from orange eyes, he steps around the screen that separates the entry from the rest of the large room, navigating the scattered boxes half packed with various possessions.
Zephyr stands on the far side of the bungalow, so focused on a small stack of boxes in a corner that he doesn't turn even when Innic steps up to his side. Shoulders slumped and head down, pain all but radiates from the blonde like the dull, slow ache of a wound that will not heal. He hides it well most of the time, presenting the confident, strong person everyone is used to seeing, but eventually it creeps up, usually in small ways, like this pile of boxes.
"I can't go through them," his partner whispers after a few minutes, hurt lacing every syllable.
Innic sets his hand on the other Dark's shoulder. "You're not ready," the words are blunt, but his tone is gentle. "It's only been eight months, Zeph. That's barely any time at all to deal with something like this." Long fingers thread into shoulder-length white-gold strands, careful not to dislodge the pins holding thick bangs back from his partner's face. He wishes Zeph hadn't tried to do this alone. The pain is still too fresh for him to tackle them at all, let alone by himself. "These boxes aren't going anywhere. We can decide what to do with them when we're here for a holiday or any time you want to come up here. Today doesn't have to be the day."
"I know. I just..." the words trail, and for a moment it seems like no more will follow, but Zeph manages to find the rest. "I just thought I could go through his things and decide what to keep and what to let go of." A long, shaky sigh slips from the blonde. "I've been standing here for almost an hour, but I just can't start."
Dropping his hand down to slip around his best friend's, Innic gently turns him away from the boxes and leads him toward the leather couch set before the fireplace. "A sure sign that it's not time yet. Sit and we'll go through the checklist again, okay?"
Zeph settles without protest, knees drawn up to his chest, the crackling fire lighting him with flickering shades of orange and red. Distraction is the only thing Innic can think of at the moment, hoping that changing the focus to what's about to happen in the next few days will help. Sad that someone as gifted in tactics as he is has only this one to rely on as he has for eight months. Grief is difficult, though, and Zephyr will have to work through it at his own pace and in his own way. He's known the blonde for almost their entire fifty-one years of life, yet there's no protocol for either best friends or partners that says anything about how to help someone through a loss. Mostly he just lets him talk or not when he wants to or he provides what solace he can simply by being here. But sometimes distraction is best and since they have a fairly major life event happening in just a few days, he'll take advantage of it to guide Zeph toward something happier.
"You're heading down to the house tomorrow with plans to meet the housekeeper and gardener as soon as possible. You'll also handle any finishing touches with the contractor and do whatever else is needed to get the house settled." Zephyr nods, some small signs of life beginning to return to his midnight eyes. His partner had enjoyed the process of selecting and renovating their beach house, which at first Innic had assumed was just the excitement of finally leaving Nova now that they're adults. While that was all true, it turned out the other Selestarri actually enjoyed things like choosing flooring and deciding what color to paint the walls of the large, five bedroom house. It's been entertaining at times to see him wrestle over things like the protracted decision between pure white walls and eggshell walls, both of which looked exactly the same to Innic. Choosing knobs and pulls for the kitchen had been a process all on its own, as had tile for all the bathroom floors. "I'll wrap things up here and then in two weeks I'll join you with the rest of this stuff and with our charge in tow. Sounds about right?"
Blonde hair shifts around his shoulders as Zeph nods. "Four months in the making and it's finally happening."
Laughter escapes the dark-haired man and he drops down on the couch next to his best friend. "Four months? Try thirty-four years. You just can't seem to quit that city... or the person you once met there."
"Yeah, I know, but you didn't have to agree to live there." A small smile flickers over Zephyr's lips. "So, thanks for following my crazy idea."
Innic waves dismissively. "It doesn't matter to me where we live. I can teleport to any of the major world libraries whenever I want, so the beach or the mountains, the country or the city, it doesn't make a difference."
"Still, thanks." Silence falls for a few minutes, the only sounds the crackle of the fire and the drumming of rain against the windows. "I still hope I'll see Jun sometime," Zeph says, sliding down and unfolding his tall frame so his head rests in Innic's lap. "Not that I expect him to remember me or anything since it's been thirty-four years since we last met, and he likely doesn't recall every kid that's ever plowed into him in an alley, but I'd just like to see him, maybe have coffee or whatever."
Smiling down at his partner, Innic is pleased to see all the pain has drained from midnight eyes. He's well aware that it still lurks at the other man's core, but for now the distraction has worked. "It might happen. The city isn't the size of New York or Paris and you have all the time you want now. The odds still aren't good, but it's possible you'll find him again..."