Coercion Part 3

WARNING! THERE ARE MANY RAVE FEELS IN HERE! Okay, maybe not as much as you'll be getting further on, but it made me smile while I was proofreading. :-) There will be action in the next part, and things will become even MORE complicated! Tune in!!

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Created by: Dannica

  1. Naomi could barely open her eyes. Both were bruised, swollen, and crusted with dry blood. Unfortunately she was still able to see. "Lauren?" Her voice came out in a cracked and raspy voice. Her throat still throbbed from the punctured vocal cord. "Lauren?" A weak groan sounded from across the room. Naomi tried to move but the shackles on her wrists and ankles began to tighten. She knew what would happen if she continued. Her and Lauren have been in the same clothing since the night of the bus crash. The women"”whom called themselves Carnation and Razor"”hadn't had the courtesy to even offer a blanket. Naomi was soiled, and sitting in her own waste. Ants crawled up and down her skin; flies buzzed around her ears. There was nothing she could do about it. "Naomi?" a soft voice whimpered. Lauren was beginning to cry again. "Why are we here?" Naomi wished she could crawl over and hug her. She wished she could call her parents, and her boyfriend. Do they think I'm dead? Lauren's sobs reverberated across the concrete room, heavy and desperate. Naomi imagined her coughing up blood. Razor had come in a few hours ago, angry for no apparent reason. She'd decided to "play" with Lauren that time. She'd smiled wickedly, her teeth gleaming. "Want to know why my name's Razor?" she had asked. Naomi had attempted to cover her eyes during the whole thing, but the shackles had just kept on suffocating her. Lauren's scream still echoed in her thoughts. "People are looking for us," Naomi murmured sluggishly, falling to the ground. "They are. I know it." Lauren's cries were stopped short. A bar of bright light entered the slits of Naomi's eyes. The sound of heels pierced her ears. Razor was back.
  2. I awoke to the rattling of luggage above. Blinking my eyes a few times I noticed how close I was to the ground. What the...? I smelled peppermint. Oh. I was laying down in Rave's lap, using his thigh as a pillow. My arm was curled around his knee, hugging it like a teddy bear, while my legs were stretched over my seat, almost touching the window. A blanket was slung over my body, bearing city names. I twisted my head slowly and looked up. Rave was asleep, his head resting upon his own shoulder. Funny thing was, I didn't remember getting into this position at all. I couldn't help but blush. Little snacks peeked out of the seat pouch in front of me; my stomach whined. I unwrapped my arm from Rave's leg and slowly propped myself back into my seat, tossing the blanket over both him and me. I reached for one of the packs of trail mix and tore it open hungrily. Mid-chew, I opened my window just slightly. Puffs of clouds stretched over red and white lights emulating from distant buildings and cars, casting a capricious tune over the whole city. I pictured myself laying on a cloud, with my chin resting in my palms, looking down and telling the highways and the towers my secrets. And my poisoned words would shower down like rain and pass through strangers that would then hold a part of me. I began to wonder what the Basin would be like. It deemed to be a safe place, yet I just couldn't put all my trust into its security. I couldn't underestimate Sebastian. But what if they didn't provide us with weapons? "We will be landing in ten minutes," the captain said, followed by a ding! from the seat belt sign. I let my shoulders sag and tried to center my thoughts to a more sanguineous place. The Basin could well provide us with more accurate knowledge on the Miscreancy. Rave hadn't known that Sebastian was the new leader until Hef said so back in the cornfield, so perhaps there was critical information that we were missing. A smile tugged at my lips. I was also going to get some training. Rave had said something about me getting tested at a laboratory, which I guessed was going to determine my other "abilities", which I was definitely thrilled about. I was not going to be useless anymore when we came to trouble; I refused to stand on the sidelines, only acting as a nurse. When I faced the Miscreancy again"”which I could only hope would be far from today"”I was going to be prepared. I was not going to be weak.
  3. The plane began to swoop lower and lower, prompting my ears to pop. "Please prepare for landing," the merry voice of the flight attendant announced. The lights blinked on. "Weather in Chicago is seventy degrees; ground transportation service will be available at baggage claim, so please have your IDs ready!" Web let out a whoop, then raised a plastic cup filled with a golden brown liquid above his head. "Is that alcohol?" I vociferated, unable to keep it from bothering me. "Web, you shouldn't be drinking!" I imagined him rolling his eyes and imbibing the rest down his throat. "It's champagne," he said, as if it made a difference. There was a big gulp, then a refreshing ah. "Champagne is expensive." I could smell his smugness even from here. He lifted his empty cup once more, higher so that I could see. "Cheers." ~ I woke Rave once the plane came to a complete halt, bunching up the blanket in my hands. He was up and vigilant in a matter of seconds. He stood with his disheveled hair and wrinkled shirt and carried our belongings from the overhead bins, pausing only to rub at his eyes. Grabbing two bags from the floor and stuffing the blanket in one I said tentatively, "Did you sleep well?" He turned his face to the side, so I was unable to pinpoint his expression efficiently. "Better than at the motel." I reached into my front pocket and offered up the other pouch of trail mix. "I already ate mine." The light made Rave's features appear sharper: his cheekbones more defined, his cheeks more hollow, his hair darker. My fingers twitched. He took the pouch from my hand with a slight smile. "Thanks." Our group was the last on the plane. Web and Flame waited by the front, next to the flight attendant and the captain. Rave and I joined them shortly, and, after offering our thanks, exited down the ramp and into the rush of the Chicago O'hare International Airport. "Dammit, people are looking at us like we're indigent," Web scowled. I knew he was right; I could feel the adjudicating eyes on our backs as we weaved through the terminal. It seemed like I didn't need to tell Rave about the ground transportation area, because sooner or later we were huddled over a lone machine in the corner, watching Rave insert his ID"”which actually wasn't a standard one"”into the slot. The machine bleeped and requested a password. Rave hovered his fingers over the screen, giving us pointed looks. I shooed off Flame and Web. When they went to stand by a nearby pillar, Rave sent me away, too. I mocked offense as I shame-walked to the other boys. "Okay, that's fine. So much for our bond." I was greeted by Web and Flame with twinning smirks. Flame seemed more at ease with himself, so whatever Web had said to him during the flight was to all of our benefits. "That flight attendant totally wanted me," Web mused, rolling back his shoulders. "And I am so going to have some fun here. Flame can show me all the hot spots and we can go clubbing and look for girls and"”" "Sorry to burst your bubble," I said, "but this is not a vacation. We'll probably only be staying at the Basin. There would be no time to explore." He pouted. "But the Basin sounds like a nunnery." "A nunnery with weapons they could give to us," I retorted. "And who knows? There could be cute girls." Web rose his brow to that, and then turned to Flame. "What do you think, man? Hot girls that can kick our asses?" Flame nodded considerably and then winked at me. "I think we can take it."
  4. A bearded man with heavily lidded eyes pulled up to the curb in a black van bearing no logo. His clothes were ordinary enough, and his smile was friendly. I didn't know why I kept falling into these stereotypes for these secret organizations, but I'd just expected something stranger, like a wizard of some sort that could just poof us out of here. One by one we mounted into the car, me squished between Flame and Web, and Rave in the passenger seat. Incense hung in the air, sweet, spicy, and curiously mitigating. I sunk back into my seat, collecting warmth from the two either side of me. Although I've never visited Chicago before, I knew it was famous for being the Windy City, so I was proud of myself for having enough sense to buy a sweater back in Equinox. "You're back," the man said in a rumbly voice. The car reeled forward. "Rave Kingsley. Graduated just months ago." It was strange to my ears not hearing Rave's middle name strung along with the rest. It was also intriguing that this man knew who Rave even was. I didn't recall him showing his ID, and I sure as hell was certain that he wasn't that good at the Basin that the whole supernatural society in Chicago knew his name. Right? Rave laughed. "Ran into trouble early, as you can see. I was forced against my will to lug these two humans around." I pinched Web's hand to stop him from saying anything, because I was so sure he would attempt to. I wasn't as much worried about Flame. He was infatuated with the window, looking almost pained. I put my hand reassuringly on his knee. He didn't acknowledge it, but I knew he appreciated it more or less. The man nodded as if he even knew half the story. "To have a Seventh Sighter as a Purpose is hard work." How did he know I was a Seventh Sighter? Was it my scent? Rave sighed heavily. "It's the Miscreancy." All the light humor from before wilted. "You seek refuge?" The man asked grimly, with a shake of his head. "Not refuge," Rave corrected. "Weapons. I know it runs in with the oath but the Brotherhood must reconsider. It's not just my Purpose, but all the Seventh Sighters. Sebastian is after something huge. They can't possibly overlook that." "Of course they can't. And it has already been brought to attention. Sebastian and the rest of the Miscreancy's first public attack was in Seattle. Killed hundreds. Burned acres. We believe he was searching for Haste's brother." Rave feigned surprise. "A brother?" This even snapped Flame's attention back. Him and Web mirrored my confusion. Why was he pretending he didn't know? The bearded man nodded once. "Human named Hef. Works as a manager for many famous bands. Says he's rich." I fought to keep my mouth shut. If Rave wanted it to be kept a secret that we've actually not only associated with Hef but also slept in his luxurious mansion, there had to be a good reason. "However," the man continued, "as to why Sebastian was and is searching for Hef is unknown to me." Rave looked lost in his own mind. Whether it was to enhance his performance or he was actually thinking about something significant, I had no idea. We drove on for fifteen minutes in silence. I didn't really care for viewing the city at night, so I kept my eyes trained on my clenched hands, bundled up in my lap. Flame had resumed to staring at the window while Web tapped his fingers on his armrest to an imaginary beat. We were long away from any of the famous buildings and the famous pier; the car was running on a two-lane highway, flanked by big hills. It wasn't that late at night, but we were alone. Thinking about it now, I was actually very beatific about going to the Basin, because it basically served the majority of Rave's adolescent years. He found himself there. It was a part of him. And he was right. The Brotherhood, or whatever he called them, couldn't not help us. They had to know about the Prophecy. If they didn't then how much did they even know about Seventh Sighters? How much did Hef? How did he get the Prophecy in the first place? It was clear that Sebastian was chasing Hef because of Haste's power, but then again, why did Haste give up his power before Sebastian tried to kill him? A part of my head started to throb. All these questions were swimming around, and we haven't answered even one of them. The car took a sharp left onto a gravel trail. I looked up and through the windshield saw that we were surrounded by vegetation. I scolded myself for not paying more attention to how we got here. "Did they know about the Haze?" the bearded man asked. "I told them," Rave said. "Have they changed procedure? Or is it still the same?" "The same. But it shouldn't matter if they're with you. I'm sure the Brotherhood will welcome you back with open arms." Rave snorted. "Yeah, to strangle me with." The car parked in the middle of a clearing, where giant oak trees loomed and enclosed us. I inhaled deeply once I stepped onto the soft soil. The air smelled fresh and newborn, crisp and clean. I couldn't make out anything inside the woods but darkness, but if I listened closely I could make out faint howling. We followed the bearded man to a lone tree stump, where he knelt to his knees and began chipping away with a pocketknife. His broad, lumberjack shoulders blocked whatever he was doing, but I think that's what he wanted anyways. After a minute or so, he stood up with a grunt. Rave held out his hand, over the tree stump. I knew what was about to happen but still gasped when the blade actually cut open Rave's palm. The man seemed to have found my burst of shock amusing, because just then he let out a deep chortle. Rave allowed exactly five drops of blood to drop onto the tree stump before pulling his hand back, smothering it with the inside of his shirt. Immediately I noticed the shift in atmosphere. My skin became coated in goosebumps and a damp moisture; a small breeze ruffled the end of my ponytail. "Remember what I said," Rave reminded us all, turning away from the tree stump. "The guards will know." I reflected Rave to try and see what he was looking at. It was hard to see in the dark at first, but then everything came into focus. A barrier of a dense and heavy fog was building itself in front of us, gray, mystical, and even harder to look into than the woods. The thick mist rose beyond the trees, slow and unnerving, like a snake gliding through grass, looking for prey. The Haze. "I'm taking the car in," the bearded man said. "So I'll bring your bags." Rave acknowledged this with a nod, and then inspected our faces with his eyes. "Just go straight," he said. "Walk at ease. If for some reason you get pulled aside, just let it happen." Well, that's lovely. We stood shoulder to shoulder, our chests heaving up and down, shaking away the nerves. We passed glances, then, as a group, stepped into the Haze.
  5. I was immediately consumed, and actually surprised by how airy it felt. Like a fog before it rained. Yet my companions were gone from my side. I couldn't see through the thickness; it was like being trapped by great slabs of concrete walls. I didn't know what lay ahead of me; all I knew was that I did not want to get snatched up. Just go straight, I reminded myself, exhaling deeply. I heard my steps on the uneven ground, getting more solid as I progressed. I wanted to call out, to make sure everybody was near, but for some reason I felt too precarious over it, like if I spoke a single syllable I'd be disrupting something serene and fragile. So I trudged on, only keeping focus on my line of sight. I hoped the bearded man waited before he drove the van in. I really wasn't in the mood to get ran over tonight. Eventually, the mist began to clear, and I could make out patrol towers lined up against a bronze gate, acting as another barrier. The ground beneath my feet had turned to concrete, so I was no longer stumbling when I came out. The light, airy feeling was gone almost instantly, leaving me with a high sensation. Rave and Flame were already there, being patted down by guards in blue at a patrol tower. I'd expected there to be at least a small army of guards swarmed around the area, ready to fire with some weapon, but the only guards visible were the ones with Flame and Rave. The only guards visible. All the guards were inside the Haze. Duh. I walked over as confidently as I could towards the patrol tower, just as one guard released Rave by the gate. The man grabbed my arm with such force I almost gasped out loud. "Is this yours?" he asked gruffly to Rave, while the other guard"”the one that looked nicer, must I say"”let go of Flame. "She's not an item," Rave said austerely, "and I do not own her. She is my Purpose, so be gentle." The man loosened his grip, and then stopped touching me altogether. He ordered me to empty out of my pockets, and to remove any jewelry I had on me. In the middle of the man examining my already dead cell phone, Web came to join the little gathering, with obvious discomfort about somebody searching him. I pocketed my cell phone as I got shoved aside with the others, watching with amusement as Web got patted down. "It's not like it's your first time," Flame commented. "By a police officer, I mean." Web sneered as a reply. "Why are the other stations empty?" I asked to no one in particular. "What if a stranger or an enemy came through?" The two guards looked at each other and began laughing, their surly manner evanescing away. Rave looked uncomfortable. "In order to summon the Haze you'd need one of the Jury or the Brotherhood to carve their identification, as well as the blood of that whom wishes to enter," he explained. "There is a spell, or a charm, infused within it, made by the creators of the Haze themselves, which were a group of three: a Seventh Sighter, Sixth Sentiment, and a mortem saltator. When one enters the Haze and their intentions are good, they find their way out. But if the Haze thinks otherwise, it becomes a maze. Only those that are true can find the exit." "The Haze is its own life form," the man that'd searched me said. "It is one organism. And it has not failed us since."
  6. We were let through the gates just as the truck got spit out. I watched as the bearded man took the trash bags from his trunk and handed them over to the guards before I let myself become aware of where we were going. It seemed to me that we were out in the woods again, following a dirt trail bordered with luscious and verdant trees, soaring high above our heads like the buildings in downtown. My boots were coated in filth and dry mud from past experiences, so I didn't mind having to dig it in real good into the dirt for a proper grip as the trail's incline increased. I really wished I'd had the mind to get sneakers, though. "Where is this place? Russia?" Rave cast a droll flash at Web. "We can't be going to Russia, the trail is heading north. But it's just for extra precaution." He turned around and continued leading the way. I could tell he was nervous by the way the constant clenching and i clenching of his fists. Perhaps he was jittery because he wasn't planning on coming back? Or maybe it was because he was? I scratched at my jeans. Was Rave somewhat ashamed that he had to return to ask for help? Was he embarrassed about his petty entourage? His pathetic excuse for a Seventh Sighter and the two humans that he indeed was forced to lug along? I shook my head at the ground. Rave wouldn't think that of us. At least, that's what I wanted to believe. We trekked on for about ten more minutes, with nothing to view but the scenery, which, although gorgeous, was also becoming a humdrum of monotony. The night was freezing and goosebumps freckled my arms, but perturbingly my head was far from the thoughts of hypothermia. So many things zoomed through my mind, I was actually starting to get dizzy. How long will we be gone? How long until I can see my parents again? Oh my God, I'll be in so much trouble. But hey, at least I can say I took part in defeating a psycho maniac that wants to eliminate my kind. I just hoped that news of our disappearances didn't reach here, to Chicago, in such short time. Now that we'd dispensed of the stolen car, I hoped it would confuse any police looking for us. Because we'd left the car in front of the airport, they're going to assume we've gone"”but don't know where. And because we used that secret terminal, and also used cash to pay for Flame and Web, we'd basically be untraceable. I sighed under my breath, my feet starting to hurt from my boots. How long was this trail? The Basin couldn't afford a shuttle? Just as I thought that, Rave came to a stop at the edge of a bluff, right where the trail ended. His shoulders slumped as he stood there, frozen, looking just as choked up as Flame did. Chicago totally sucked for them. I, being the one that fell behind, plodded up the arduous track to see what the fuss was about. I almost gasped. Below the bluff, in the middle of a massive glade, stood a thick black building that resembled a gigantic oval-shaped doughnut, except that the hole in the middle was coated with glass. There was no light save for a single dot of white against the glossy sable. "Is anybody there?" I asked, my voice sounding weird against the stillness of the forest. Rave nodded once. "Light doesn't appear from the outside. Keeps it more concealed." His voice was distant, like a singing spirit sauntering through a graveyard, brushing its lips against your ears, branding the words of the song into your brain. "How are we going to get down?" Web asked. Rave rose a brow, and then grabbed hold of my hand. "We Shimmer." Web rolled his eyes. "Oh, now we Shimmer." Flame took hold of my other hand, and I watched with amusement as Web's expression fell. "So I get the short end of the stick? No soft girl hand for me?" He stood beside Rave and looped his arm through his. "I'd rather not risk touching Flame. Who knows what the kid has touched."
  7. We landed right in front of the light. I glanced at the bluff we were just standing on, which was actually higher than it seemed. I could hear the strong rush of water from somewhere, like a hidden waterfall or rapid river. The doughnut"”I mean, the Basin"”was stories higher than me. If I looked closely I could identify square patches of tinted black glass, scattered around the building, squinting in the night. Rave held up a tight fist, the one with his ring on it, and hovered it in front of the beaming lantern, floating in midair. The building immediately reacted. There was a low rumble, and suddenly the ground disappeared. Screams flooded my ears as the darkness swallowed us up. My stomach was doing somersaults; my throat began closing up. A giant square of the sky gazed down at me, getting smaller and smaller as a low brightness burst from my beneath. I twisted my body so that I was falling face-down, and saw a net waiting below to catch our fall. Relief struck me like a lightning bolt just as I hit the net with an oomph. I bounced around, trying to get myself to sitting position, while my companions landed beside me. "You could have told us about that!" I snapped. "Sorry," Rave replied. "I forgot about this part." I rolled off of the net with a grunt. We were in a limestone cave. Torches illuminated every corner and crevice, while tiny jagged mountains of rock jutted out in random clusters. An eerie blue glow gleamed from a hidden section far in a nook, reflecting off of the stalactite ceiling. My guess was that it was a creek, or a small pool. There was another trail awaiting, leading into a place with a lurid green radiance. "They've renovated," Rave muttered, taking the lead and walking towards the trail. "A lot." Web chuckled. "No s**t. It's like we're in ghetto Wonderland." We followed Rave into the green light. A bridge made up of wooden planks and rope spanned at least thirty feet across. Below the bridge I could hear running water. "I have to Shimmer us," Rave said, keeping his gaze straight. "There's magic in the bridge"”another security thing. If you cross it then the Brotherhood knows that you don't belong." Flame, Web, and I automatically grabbed hold of each other, and sooner or later we were on the other side. I couldn't help but notice that Flame and Web weren't feeling at least some dizziness or nausea right now, considering that it was only their second time Shimmering. Did they even get a minor headache the first time? Because I knew I did. We continued our path through a tunnel, lined and embedded with crystals so colorful they looked fake, glittering under the green light. We walked for at least eight minutes until"”alas! We came upon a door. Rave took out his ID. "Any last-minute questions?" he asked before sticking his card into the slot. Flame rose his hand. "Will there be any more sudden drops? If so, are there cameras that take your picture on the way down? Because I'd like to buy a copy or two." I laughed. There's the Flame I'm used to. Rave rolled his eyes and then entered his ID. There was a soft click, and the door opened. We found ourselves in a steel weapon room. Guns, axes, and all things lethal were strapped and hung on the halls, sharp and menacing. There were enough weapons to supply an army. The doors of an elevator were seen in a corner of the room, and just then it opened. Out came a dapper-looking man. He looked maybe in his seventies, with a hollowed face and morose eyes. A spectral smile was spread across his face. Rave tensed as he slowly walked over to our group. A small badge above his left suit pocket winked in the dim lighting. It was of a silver cross. "Rave Isaac Kingsley," the man said in a low and uninviting voice. "I heard you've returned." His amber eyes crossed all of our faces. His lip twitched when he passed Flame and Web. "And brought extra guests, I see." Rave took a step towards him, offering up his hand. "Brother Jerimiah. It's nice to see you again." The man put his palm in Rave's just for a moment, before putting it back down at his sides. "Perhaps the oath wasn't very specific? The Book of Tranquil states that once you swear in as a Savior"”" "You may receive no assistance unless given willingly," Rave filled in, a slightly annoyed tinge in his voice. "I am aware of that, Brother Jerimiah, but please, let me speak with you in private." Rave gestured to Flame, Web, and me. "This is my Purpose and her companions, who saved our lives. I will explain tonight, if you wish. Just please let us stay." Brother Jerimiah stood perfectly still, openly scowling. "I give you two nights. Then your stay is over." He kept his eyes trained on Rave. "Bring your guests and your Purpose to the guest quarters. Ask one of the guards for the keys. I will speak with you tomorrow morning. Now go." Rave sighed out relief. "Thank you, Brother." The man remained rooted in his place as Rave touched the small of my back and guided me towards the elevator. Piling in, I watched Brother Jerimiah, just standing there, not even turning around to watch us go. The doors closed without a sound. There were no labels or buttons inside the elevator; We began ascending upwards. "Was that your instructor?" Flame asked, leaning against the railing. Rave sighed. "Yes, that was. He'll warm up eventually." "I doubt it," Web snorted. "It looked like he we going to grab a sword and slice up our internal organs." "How long did it take for him to warm up to you?" I inquired, tapping my fingers on my hips. Rave looked down at his feet. "Around five years." I smiled. ""˜Eventually' is the biggest understatement of the year."
  8. The elevator came to a silent stop, and the doors slid open. Out of my own selfish curiosity, I stepped out first. A warm glow brightened up the room; I heard voices and the scuffs of shoes on the grand floor. I could see up through the different stories of the building; people loomed over the balcony, watching and chattering with their friends. Teenagers. Just like in the terminal. I felt a hand grab at my elbow. "Just keep walking," Rave said, close to my ear. "Ignore the stares." People are staring? Naturally, Rave led our group over to the center of the luxurious lobby-like room. Literally everything inhabiting the place was lavish, sumptuous, and pristine, as if there were royals living here. I made out the curved walls, and the tinted yet transparent ceiling. This was the building we were looking at on the bluff. Rave kept his head down as we weaved our way through the throngs of people. I felt the stares now, and could hear the hushed voices. But this time it wasn't about me. It was about him. Was it that big of a deal for Rave to come back? We passed several grown men, dressed as sprucely as Brother Jerimiah. I figured that they were apart of the Brotherhood cult thats been mentioned before. The men all stared, with no flicker of emotion crossing their face whatsoever. In a matter of moments we were descending down a flight of glass stairs, where a lone guard stood at the end, stationed between a wall of keys and a pair of red leather doors. Once we approached the man, he eyed us warily. "Rave Kingsley?" "Jesus Christ," I heard Web mutter behind me, "what is he here, the Messiah?" Rave must have heard that, because it looked like he was trying to bite down a smirk. "Yes, I'm back," he said to the guard. "And I have companions, so I'm going to need..." He turned to Flame and Web. "Would you like separate rooms?" The two boys looked at each other with faux disgust. "Of course," Flame answered. He jabbed a finger at Web. "He has weird night rituals. Always lip-syncs to Beyoncé before he sleeps." I giggled when Web grumbled, "It was one time. I drank too much whiskey." Rave rest his hand on my shoulder. "What about you? Would you rather have a separate room?" No. I shrugged, perhaps too nonchalantly. "Your choice." I had to keep my promise to myself. I could not let my feelings for Rave be a diversion from the big picture. I saw something flash in eyes. Hesitation? "Four rooms," he told the guard. He slid his hand down from my shoulder to take the keys, then distributed then among the four of us. Well dammit, why didn't he want to sleep with me? I peered down at mine, and noticed a number, my room number, I guessed, engraved on the head. The guard then walked over to the doors and pushed it open, revealing a long hallway. "Services close early today," the guard said. "I'm aware," Rave groused. "But thank you." We stepped into the hallway and soon the doors were closed once more. We walked down the hall, careful not to cause much noise, particularly because of the hour. Lining the hall walls were paintings of old men, with shiny gold plaques underneath, inscribed with some fancy cursive writing that I passed by too quickly to read. "Former members of the Brotherhood," Rave explained, even though nobody asked. We passed a painting with a face that looked weirdly familiar. I stopped and stared at it. Why the hell did it"” I covered my mouth with my hands and glanced at Rave. "That's the guy that drove us here!" He didn't have a beard in the picture, but his intriguing eyelids just gave it away. "So that's what happens once you're out of the Brotherhood?" Web asked with a snort. "You become a taxi driver?" Rave began walking again, so we hurried to catch up. "Alum Sansa actually chose to become the Basin's Retriever," he said over his shoulder. "And he very much enjoys it." He came to an abrupt stop and looked down at his key. "These are our rooms. I expect our bags will be here shortly. Do you guys want to go to a late dinner?" Flame found his room and stuck his key into the hole. "I'll finish the leftovers. I'm pretty tired." "Me too," Web said, and then yawned as some sort of confirmation. "You two can go ahead. If the bags come we'll sort them out and put your stuff in front of your rooms." Rave glanced at me. "Dinner for two then?" Well, crap. Ignoring feelings is hard. But I didn't want him to eat alone"”especially with the stares he was getting. I smiled. "Okay."
  9. He took my hand and led me through the lobby-like room again. There were less people this time, but the curious gapes and gossiping voices still lingered about. I was led through a grand gold archway, into a dark imitation of a strip mall. A fake yet realistic sky hovered above our heads, dotted with artificial stars and puffs of painted clouds. It reminded me of Las Vegas, when I went with my parents. My mind flashed back to when we entered the Venetian, and Mom got totally freaked out and ecstatic just by the beautiful decor. We had then eaten críªpes, and afterwards went on this beautiful boat ride through the hotel. "Are you okay?" I snapped out of it, remembering where I was. "Huh?" Rave had stopped us in the middle of the cobblestone path, and was searching my face with both hands on either of my shoulders. "You looked uncomfortable," he said slowly. "And was frowning very deeply." "Oh," I said back, clearly dazed. "Nothing. I was just reminded of something about my parents, that's all. I'm fine." He looked me over again, as if making sure, and then continued on walking. Tall lampposts were positioned almost every ten feet, where long strings of fairy lights hung from one post to the next. Iron benches were scattered through the sidewalks, some occupied and some empty. There were many coffee shops, music stores, and restaurants, yet little stores dedicated to clothing. I've only seen two so far, and one was solely focused just on apparel for combat and training. I asked about this to Rave, and he said that those that leave for the Basin are supposed to bring all belongings, including clothes, and that when you first get here you're expected to already have a wardrobe. "However, they do have some good clothing stores, you just have to look for it. All my clothes stopped fitting me when I reached age fourteen, so I got to go shopping a lot," he added, leading me to take a left. "But the food here is incredible." I smiled; I would never get tired of listening to him talk about his past. "So where are you taking me then?" He grinned. "It was my favorite place to eat at here. It has this English pub theme, and serves English cuisine. After training I would always come down here with a friend or whomever and watch normal sports on the flat screen and have normal conversations and not have to worry about the Basin expectations. It was one of my favorite places here." He was grinning the whole time, and I've never heard his voice so animated before; he was like a child talking about his first time at Disneyland. It made me warm, thinking that he was taking me to a place that was so dear to him. Of course, it was probably most likely for himself than for me to eat at that particular place because he missed it, but still, I was grateful that I got to witness him in such bliss. "What are your other favorite places around here?" I asked, genuinely intrigued. If anything, I wanted to fuel him up"”to help him let go of all the tenseness thats been building up inside of him the past few days. "I have so many!" he beamed. "The gardens, the astronomy tower, the waterfall, the training ground, the mirror room... Maybe I could show them to you tomorrow." He was actually grinning, and looked happy. The Basin meant much more to him than I thought. "Of course," I said, with a smile of my own. "I'd love to see them." He squeezed my hand and I squeezed back. We were okay.
  10. The food was hazardously scrumptious. I literally was about to start licking the residue of bread pudding off of my plate. The restaurant Rave had brought me to was called the Old Shackles, and, unsurprisingly, he was well known there by the staff. They'd treated us with complementary drinks, and because Rave technically was an alumni guest, the food was free as well. We sat in a comfy leather booth near the back corner of the pub, and a waiter, whose name was Scott, had taken our orders and placed down our drinks. I'd gotten a small martini while Rave had three shots of tequila. I'd smirked at him and said, "You drink?" He'd downed a shot like a pro and said with an almost seductive voice, "I'm a Savior not a saint." Thus began our wondrous night. Rave had walked me through the entire menu, claiming that he has tried literally everything, and recommended the best meals for a first-timer such as myself. In the end I'd decided to get a tradition roast beef and Yorkshire pudding meal, while Rave chose this thing called bangers and mash, which apparently was just an elaborate way of saying sausages and mashed potatoes. Rave had told me that the Yorkshire pudding wasn't even really a pudding but more like a type of bread, which I'd guessed I was supposed to dip someplace. Either way, our dishes had looked sexy. I'd wanted to strut down the Milan runway holding it in my hands. And God, it was so good. Rave and I had ended up sharing our meals, because we couldn't resist not having a bite of the other's. I'd never wished to not be an American just as I did right then, even though we were in the middle of Chicago. If food was like that in Britain, then I've been missing out. Rave called Scott over with a gigantic grin on his face to give him his tip. Scott was a tall and broad guy, no older than me, with bulging muscles and a baby face. He was fairly new to the Basin, so he wasn't as familiar with Rave as everybody else, making our checkout much faster.
  11. Once we left, the smell of the luscious food of the restaurant exited my nostrils, making me crave for more already. I was clutching Rave's arm, feeding off of his happiness. "The boys missed out tonight, huh?" I said with a laugh. "They're probably fast asleep by now." I noticed that the all the shops were beginning to close, and the lights were beginning to dim, meaning the strip mall was about ready to close for the night. "I'm glad they didn't come," Rave said. "I don't know how much more I can take." "Hey," I replied, "you'll warm up to them eventually. And it wont take five years." He laughed, and I wanted to kiss him. We were out of the golden gates by now, and making our way back to the guest quarters, when a short and perky blonde girl walked up to us and flung herself at Rave, causing me to lose my grip. "Rave!" she squealed, wrapping her legs around his waist. He held her close so that she wouldn't fall. Or, that's what I wanted to think. "Eliza?" he said, setting her down, a smile tugging at his lips. Crap, they know each other. And she's pretty. "Wow. Hi, how have you been?" "Fantastic!" she exclaimed, bouncing in her boots and pigtails. "Because I heard that you were back!" Oh, give me a break. "How are you doing? Why are you back? Did you lose your Purpose?" I cleared my throat. Her eyes didn't dart away from him. I waved a hand in front of her line of sight and cleared my throat even louder. "Hello, yes, I'm his Purpose." She widened her eyes at me and then started to shake my hand vigorously. "Wow! You're a Seventh Sighter? Incredible! I'm getting my Purpose after I graduate. Rave and I were friends before. Did you guys just come back from Old Shackles?" She giggled and put her attention back to him. "Remember when we went there for your birthday and Travis made the trifle explode?" She latched onto his hands; I was afraid her pink fingernails would permanently embed themselves into his skin. "Oh, I've missed you so much! Why don't we go to the barracks so you can say hi to everybody else?" She started dragging him away, but his feet refused. "I actually have to get to bed," he said, shooting me an apology glance. "I'm going to have a meeting with Brother Jerimiah tomorrow morning and I really should get some rest." Eliza pouted, dropping her hands back to her sides. "Well, okay. But tomorrow night we're having a welcome back party! After training, in the woods, got it?" Rave smiled. "Whatever you say." Eliza clapped her hands and then kissed Rave on the cheek, way longer than a friendly kiss should be. Her lips curled up into a smirk as she pulled back, leaving traces of her pink lipstick on his cheek. I tried not to vomit. "See you tomorrow." Rave waved, watching as she strutted away. "Bye, Eliza," he muttered, almost dreamily. I can't believe I was feeling jealous. So what if Rave liked Eliza? Wouldn't it be better? I mean, they're both Saviors; they're practically from the same world. And obviously they've been to Old Shackles loads of times. Rave frowned as we started walking back to the glass staircase. "You don't like her." I shook my head immediately; I didn't want to bring his mood down. "No, she's great. Very bubbly." I forced a smile. Rave didn't appear to buy it, but went along anyways. "She's very kind. We were sparring partners when I was still doing lessons." Dammit. I forgot that she could kick my ass. We were strolling down the hall now, passing the picture of the man that drove us here, Alum Sansa. "Yeah," I said, "she looked very happy to see you. You guys must have been close." I could see the lifeless lumps of trash bags outside our rooms already, meaning that Flame and Web had already eaten. Rave took out his room key and shrugged. "She was dropped here when she was twelve and I was thirteen. We've known each other a while." I took hold of my trash bag and stuck my key into the keyhole, smiling. "That's great, Rave. I'm glad to see you truly comfortable for once." His brow furrowed for a moment, and then his expression softened. "Thanks. Um, will you be okay alone?" A little flutter passed through me. "Uh, yeah, I think." Rave offered a small smile. "Okay. Have a goodnight." I twisted the key, and the door opened. I grinned tiredly. "Goodnight." I went inside and shut the door, tossing the trash bag to the side. I didn't bother turning on the light to survey the room. Fatigue crashed over me as soon as I took a step, like a tsunami. I bent over to hurriedly search for my toothbrush and pajamas, and then careless threw them onto the bed. I was in the process of removing my shirt when there was a knock on the door. Sighing, I put my shirt back on and hastily threw it open. I blinked a couple times. "Rave? What are you"”" He hugged me before I could finish my question"”a massive bear hug, his arms strongly wrapped around my back, his chin resting on my shoulder. I didn't know what to say so I just hugged him back around the waist. Rave kissed the side of my head. "Goodnight." And he was gone.

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