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Of Two Minds

I try to breathe calmly while I wait, feeling kind of stupid as I lay in my bed and stare at the dark ceiling. In the silence of my racing mind, I can reflect on everything, whereas most of the time life is coming at me too fast to even comprehend how it’s making me feel.

How strange, a life-altering experience such as the death of an aunt, and discovering you’re a superweapon, can lead to a first-time friendship. Before all this, I’d never had a friend.

The connection I feel with Ember is one I never thought I’d be lucky enough to experience, and her compassion towards me is astounding, to say the least.

Her brother, his cool eyes that made me afraid when I first saw them, now almost feel like a comfort. I’ve come to need his level-headedness when I feel impulsive. His behavior, which at first irked me and sent me into my first fit of anger, I understand now.

Alatar, a warlock, who graciously took us in as I train for a war I must win. His healing nature and collected thought process are necessary. I need them.

It’s strange to care so deeply for strangers, I guess they aren’t strangers anymore. I think of Beckett teaching me to throw knives, his warm hands guiding my arm. His eyes looking at me tauntingly over a titanium shield, his mischievous grin when he pushes my buttons like no other.

My cheeks grow hot, and my palms start to sweat. Is this what I heard the other girls at school whispering about? A crush? Do the others feel the electricity that I feel when he’s near?

He makes me think irrationally, makes me tongue-tied, makes me feel warm. I don’t know how to yet distinguish the difference between finding him good-looking and having feelings for him. Not that now is the time to ponder such ideas, when there is quite literally a war at our door.

But still, laying here, I can’t help but picture how it would feel to have him here; the electricity shocking me to my core.

A knock startled me from my thoughts, I feel flustered as I scramble to my feet, like I’d been caught red-handed.

“You awake?” At a whisper his voice is husky, it makes my tongue feel heavy.

“You told me to be,” I whisper back, as he creeps into my room and switches on the bedside table lamp. His arms are full of various jars of oils and herbs, as well as a rolled-up piece of parchment that looks much older than mine.

In the low light, his hair casts a dark shadow on his face, but his eyes as always pierce through everything and hold me attentive.

“So you can listen to direction,” his sarcastic tone reminds me of what kept me from realizing his looks prior; he’s kind of an ass.

“So what’s the plan?” I question, ignoring the sting I feel from the comment. He’s hot and cold. When he’s hot he’s, well, hot. And when he’s cold, he just seems like the most self-entitled person around. You never know which version of Beckett you will get.

I like the fun version of him, the one that jokes after being knocked unconscious, and the kind that pulls me out of a depressive episode. Not serious Beckett, ‘I had no childhood and I hate everyone for that’, Beckett.

“We’re gonna find the hallway in your dreams.” Oh yes, obviously. He kneels on my bedroom floor and starts making a circle of salt, pouring oils and herbs into the parchment that he rolled out in the center of the circle.

“And how do we plan on doing that?” I ask, risking sounding stupid in front of him.

Beckett looks up at me, lighting and the candlestick and holding it out to me, his eyes are soft and my breath hitches.

“Easy, with magick.” I kneel before him, taking the candle and holding it tightly, trying to not drop it as the electricity makes my nerves shake.

“So what do I do?” He answers by taking my hand in his and using his forefingers to lightly close my eyes with the other hand.

“Just breathe, Astra. And don’t let go, I’ve got you.” I ignore how his promise makes my heart palpitate, and focus on slowly breathing.

“Before you is a map of all three Realms. I’m going to use a spell to locate the hallway you’ve been seeing, using your DreamWalking skills. When you feel ready, you’ll know when, drop the candle and let it catch the parchment on fire.” I don’t have time to react, or even worry about how dropping fire is dangerous, because he anoints my forehead with a liquid and my body feels a rush as though I’m falling.

I fall and fall until I hit the ground hard. Slowly I open my eyes, I am there. The hallway.

“Beckett?” I call out, no answer. The whispers startup but I ignore them adamantly, and will my hand to let go. ‘Let go’, I tell myself.

“Let go,” I hear Beckett whisper in my ear, and I feel the candle leave my hand. The moment I feel it leave I can feel my body being pulled back, and I open my eyes to Beckett’s smiling face.

“Good job,” he tells me. I must look shocked because he laughs, another shocking thing. “I know, I know. A compliment from me? Mark it on the calendar guys, Beck said something kind.” I laugh with him, enjoying the way it feels.

“Oh, the parchment!” I exclaim, finally noticing that it was burnt up, except for a small fragment.

“Yup, it all burnt except for this small section, the place where the hallway is located. We’re gonna go there and free those souls.” It’s in the Shadow Realm, I notice and my blood runs cold. I’m still not sure how ready I am to be there.

“But…Alatar said it could be a trap?” I curse how my voice trembles, showing my fear. He shrugs nonchalantly.

“And if it is? We will kill Parallax and move on with our lives.” Oh yeah, just like that?

“I don’t know, maybe we should get someone to come with us...or wait until morning-”. His eyes are sad as he grabs my shoulders and stares at me intently.

“If this isn’t a trap, Astra, your aunt is suffering. And there’s a chance that maybe, just maybe, my mom is trapped too. I can’t live another moment knowing this, we need to go now.” His tone reads like something I have yet to hear from him, desperation. It makes my chest hurt, the sadness in his tone. If his mom is truly trapped, like my aunt and uncle, we need to save them.

I nod, and he helps me to my feet. “Did you bring some weapons?” If we are blindly going into a trap, I’d prefer some form of defense.

He cocks an eyebrow at me strangely, “um, you’re a superweapon?” I blush, right. It’s still taking some getting used to I guess.

“But, I still don’t know how to use them all that well-”, my palms start to sweat as I remember knocking him unconscious.

“Yes, you do be confident. You’re capable, Astra.” He doesn’t say my name much, I like the way it sounds coming from him. “Plus, if things get dodgy, I won’t let anything happen to you. Promise.” I try not to look too deeply into his words, he’s just saying that because I have to save mankind and all that. Right? My brain wanders.

“Because of your assignment, right? Protect the weapon?” I can’t help but sound sad, as the realization that he will protect me because he has to dawns on me and makes the most sense. He steps close to me, looking down at me with his face beautifully confused. This close I find it hard to breathe, our chests almost touching.

Beckett smells like incense and clean laundry, my cheeks burn as the shocks course through my nerves.

“Is it so hard to believe,” he whispers to me, looking down at me with a gaze I don’t quite understand, “that maybe I’ve just grown fond of you?” My heart jumps to my throat, pounding there, making me unable to speak. So I say nothing, as he lightly reaches up and tucks some hair gently behind my ear.

“Suppose so,” I finally whisper back; my throat feeling tight. Okay, this version of Beckett I like.

“Let’s get heading.” He breaks apart, the electricity subsides if only slightly, and he starts making a portal from the parchment. My heart still flutters, I have to wonder how red my cheeks are. Hopefully not an embarrassing amount.

The silvery mist forms at our feet and he looks back. I try to muster up the courage to feel confident in what we will be doing.

I try to tell myself, I survived my first encounter there, I know how to use my powers now, and I know Beckett will not let me be harmed.

“You ready to save all those people?” He asks, extending a hand. I take it, he interlocks his fingers with mine in a way that feels almost casual. As if we’ve done this before as if we aren’t about to possibly walk into a trap as if we aren’t at the brink of war.

I look at him and for a moment all I can see is him, not what lays ahead of us. So strange, to find comfort in someone who makes you feel so many emotions at once.

“Or we could be walking into a trap,” I remind him, smiling nervously. He squeezes my fingers, as though to comfort me. Beckett, comforting me...the thought feels foreign. I don’t hate it.

“Either way,” he whispers, before pulling us both into the portal.

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