Elementalists: Nine United

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Chasing Ghosts

Chapter 6

Chasing Ghosts

Ethan’s body burned. Days passed since he was first able to injure himself and the symptoms grew furiously worse. Rashes raged across his skin, but if he scratched them his skin peeled back and made him bleed. He drifted in and out of shock as it tried to keep the host alive. His heart pounded furiously, and an ache rested in the base of his skull—it never went away. Ethan’s body jolted on the bed and sent him spiraling into the hard ground. His blood pooled around him and he pressed himself into the momentary warmth it provided. He coughed and a new spattering of red joined the rest.

A whimper escaped his lips. He slid his own hand up to cover his mouth. He didn’t know if the Council observed his pain—he didn’t want to show any weakness as death approached him at a faster pace. His body convulsed into another round of coughs. He gathered the last of his energy and placed a hand against the edge of the stone bed. Ethan pulled himself back up onto the plate and breathed laboriously from the exertion. Sicker than he felt before, he rolled to the side and puked. The mess joined his blood on the floor. The smell was rancid, but he couldn’t do anything about it.

Ethan curled into a fetal position on the stone and willed the tears to stay locked behind his eyelids. He lost hope that the Council would come back for him and tell him he wasn’t going to die. His body couldn’t keep up the fight for his life much longer.

The cell blurred and Ethan squeezed his eyes shut. The vertigo from these moments usually sent him into long periods of vomiting and he had no desire to repeat. He let his breathing slow into a steady pace; Ethan fell into the void.


July 23, 2316

Hans yanked Luana’s robes over her before they pulled into the parking garage of the Academy. She didn’t want to deal with the stuffy robes, but these were Council designated pods, and they couldn’t risk anyone discovering their true identities. He kept a steady hand on her shoulder as they walked across the short space to the Academy doors. They couldn’t run in the parking area because it would send their people into mass hysteria. The Council had to wait until they were in the less crowded corridor outside the garage.

They broke through the double doors and started their run back to Council headquarters. The bumped into the corners of walls when they took turns to sharp, but they couldn’t bother with the momentary shock of pain. Their steps whirled up and down staircases and in circle patterns around the Academy. The Council room was meant to be hard to access—they hated how far away it was.

During their harried course, they passed several of their people. The elementalists jumped out of the way and tried to hide the terrified expressions on their faces. The Council didn’t care enough to assuage their worries.

Luana slipped on the polished floor as they rounded the final corner. She tumbled into the other wall with a sharp crack. Dwayne continued running for the Council door, the rest stopped to make sure their leader was okay. She shoved them away and burst into flames when the robes tried to keep her on the ground. Hans made sure that no one would see her outside her robe before they tried to catch up to the Life elementalist. Luana left a trail of ash behind them.

With Dwayne’s head start on the room, the main door was already wide open. Series, the last through the door, made sure to shut and lock it before following the rest. Luana’s form lit the way as they continued their trek through the mess of halls to the containment cells. Each of them tore off their robes and left them in unusable shambles through the dark corridor. Hans lifted a hand and sent several pieces of rock hurting through the air to activate doors ahead of them. Eilene was the first to catch up to Dwayne and she held out the key to Ethan’s cell for him to take. He fumbled with the key as he tried to get it for when they reached the door.

“Ethan!” Scarlet called through the cells. There was no positive response from his sector. Their mouths curved into frowns as they considered the worst possibilities.

Dwayne nearly ran into the wall when he couldn’t make his legs stop his forward motion. He used his left hand to manage the key, but the muscles weren’t used to the movement since he was right-handed. The lock clicked after a successful turn and Eilene yanked the door open. The hinges screamed as they were nearly torn from the door frame.

“Ethan?” Dwayne stepped hurriedly into the room and nearly slipped on the large puddle of sick that spread itself across the floor. Scott covered his mouth and tried to choke down his own bile. Unable to hedge around the vomit, Dwayne took the most direct route and immediately put out his hand for a scan. He used two fingers to trace Ethan’s pulse through his neck. “He’s still alive, but barely.”

“Someone runs ahead and prepare the medical room.” Hans commanded. Scarlet did as told and took Series with her.

Dwayne tried to pick up Ethan by grabbing his arms, but the skin loosened under his grip and rivulets of blood stained his dark skin.

He swore.

The elementalist flung the arm over his shoulder instead, blood soaking into the light cotton fabric, and picked the teenager up bridal style. The Council cleared out of his way as he walked to the infirmary with their charge. Dwayne kept a steady, fast pace and tried not to jostle Ethan too much because he knew the jolts would cause more damage.

Scarlet and Series dutifully prepared the room for their emergency. When they walked into the room the bed was already prepared with clean, white sheets and the pair worked to organize a few tools onto a surgical table. Dwayne deposited Ethan’s body onto the bed and the skin that tore fresh from his limbs ruined the cloth.

“Dickens, grab that table.” Dwayne pointed to a small metal box in the corner. He walked to the far wall and opened the cupboards and drawers. From each he pulled out IV bags, IV tubes, and needles—the objects were placed in a haphazard pile on the sterile counter. He raided the fridge next and placed several bottles of medicine next to the drips.

Series rolled a silver IV tree to the counter and prepared each drip. Each one hung neatly off the many branches. She tied the needles, attached to their tubes, together with an elastic band and slung them up so that they would remain sterile. Scarlet placed table straps next to Ethan on the bed. Dwayne walked to Ethan’s side, Eilene wheeled the tray over to his side, and Series held out one of the needles on the IV tree to their doctor.

The Life elementalist made to attach a blue catheter, which would place the tubing into Ethan’s vein for a continuous IV drip, but the skin pulled away under his hand and blood pooled on the sheets. Hans quickly wheeled a trash can closer to the medical station and Dwayne deposited the skin into it.

Scott was the first one to meet him with gauze, bandages, and self-adhesive tape. He quickly wrapped the injured arm so that it would catch some of the blood. He placed Eilene in charge of stopping the flow and changing the bandaging while he worked on other aspects. Scarlet handed Dwayne a towel that he used to help him handle Ethan’s delicate condition. Once he had the IV placed in the teen’s other arm, he set up the line for multiple IV infusions so that the drugs wouldn’t tangle and diffuse each other.

He returned to the other side of the bed and used a vein in Ethan’s upper arm to collect a sample of blood. Hans took the vial from him and placed it in the Chemistry Analyzer. It beeped every few seconds to read off a new stat and filed it into the patient’s information. Dwayne pushed the straps to the end of the bed and Scarlet returned them to their home—they were unusable with Ethan’s skin.

Silverspoon’s body racked with chills and Series grabbed the shock blanket from a towel rack in the corner. She pulled it over him without disturbing his arms or any areas that Dwayne needed to access.

With the medical basics under control, Dwayne allowed himself to examine the elementalist’s condition. His hands hovered over the still body, a green light between them. The information Dwayne typed into a small computer pulled into a long string of information, which twisted like DNA, until it was sent to the glass screen by the bed. Dwayne stepped over to it and organized the information into a suitable format. Adrenaline rushed through his veins as he caught sight of a startling number in Ethan’s information.

“His temperature is too low. Dickens, grab the bottle from the fridge—the white one. We have to shock his body into elementalist territory, or we’ll lose him.”

Eilene lifted the bottle from the shelf and used a whip of water to push it directly into the doctor’s hand. He twisted off the lid and used it as a measuring cup for the drug. The medicine looked like milk, but it had the consistency of deep base paint and smelled like stale vomit. Several of the other elementalists covered their mouths to try and mask the smell, but it didn’t help. Dwayne pushed Ethan’s head back against the pillow and opened his mouth like he was about to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He dumped the contents into Silverspoon’s open maw and then slammed his jaw shut and held on tight so that his body wouldn’t eject the medication. Ethan’s body spasmed against the bed. The blanket pulled away and took his skin with it.

“Hold him down,” Dwayne ordered.

Hans and Scott grabbed his legs on instinct. Eilene and Scarlet threw themselves onto his arms and shoulder. Ethan’s back arched against the bed and he made a muffled gurgling noise as his body tried to refuse to swallow. His brown eyes shot open and stared blankly at the ceiling. For a moment his eyes flashed around the room before they closed, and his body fell heavy against the bed. Dwayne took an uneasy breath and turned back to the diagnostics screen.

“His vitals are normalizing. We should be good for now.”

Once the information was sorted, and he was certain that Ethan would be okay temporarily, he stepped over to the sink and thoroughly washed his hands. He splashed water on his face to try and clear his thoughts for the next process. Once he finished and had a towel in his hands to dry off, he turned to face the larger room. Luana stood still in the corner with eyes the size of dinner plates and a hand over her mouth. She didn’t look like she moved since they entered the room with Ethan—Dwayne couldn’t recall her helping. Her back was pressed firmly against the wall and he could see tears gathering at the corners of her eyes.

“You okay Molelo?”

Luana’s eyes shot to him before she darted from the room.

“Sorry.” He pat his face dry with the towel and ran a hand over his head. He could feel stubble.

Hans started to say something, but the words were in Russian. He paused and tried again. “She needs time to herself.”

“Alright Ladies, we’re changing clothes and dressing wounds. If you don’t want to see our friend here naked, you should leave now.” Series pretended to blanch, which brought out a smirk from the men.

“Thanks,” Eilene stretched up on her tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. He ruffled her blonde hair in response, and she glared at him because she had to fix the strands around her side part. Dwayne chose to ignore the pair of cool blue eyes that settled on him with less than desirable intentions.

The door shut behind the three women and Dwayne returned to his compatriots. His expression fell from his familiar smile into a grim expression. He reached into one of the drawers and tossed a set of medical grades, latex gloves at Hans and Scott. They caught them easily and snapped them into place.

“We’re cutting off clothes because it’ll be easier for his body in this state.”

Hans reached into a different drawer and threw two pairs of scissors to the other men. They caught them with ease, despite the unsafe practice.


Ethan drowned in a sea of black. He groaned and lifted a hand to his head. His red hair tangled as he rolled over in the darkness. It took him several moments to process that he failed to open his eyes. He forced his eyelids open. He took several deep breaths and squinted until his pupils dilated to take in the excess light. Once his eyesight returned, his other senses clicked in one at a time. He felt the grit and individual grains of sand against his hands and neck. There was a dry wind across his face and through a large set of trees far behind him. Large waves crashed against the sand and the smell of sea salt made Ethan’s stomach churn. He could feel an unnatural level of dryness in his mouth and hoped he hadn’t swallowed too much sea water. He blinked rapidly and propped himself up onto his elbows. He lifted one arm and swiped at the sand that clung to the back of his neck and hair.

He didn’t think the Council would place him here, but it didn’t feel the same as his other dreams. He remembered laying on the concrete slab—dying—he was healthy now. The beach was a dream. Except, pain from his memories in the cell was still there. He tried not to let the pain in his body show as he rolled over onto his stomach. He forced himself into a crawling position and tried to move forward a few paces. His stomach rolled and a cough turned into violent vomiting that expelled the sea water he swallowed. Once the water was evicted, he managed to push himself into a standing position. He stumbled across the beach to the line of trees.

The dark spaces between them farther in hinted that the island was deep. Ethan couldn’t be sure that it was an island. His hand hit the first jungle wood trunk and the foliage provided him momentary support. A short, child-like giggle behind him made him whirl around. Across the sand he spotted a second person on the beach with him—a girl, no more than eight-years-old. Her black hair was pulled into a high ponytail and she wore a white dress that contrasted her dark skin. Instead of hugging her frame, the dress floated around her. As she stepped across the wet sand to Ethan, she left no footprints. The wind didn’t disturb her hair as a particularly strong gust picked up. He gathered his growing strength and took several steps back across the sand toward her. His body listed as the sand tried gave away under her feet.

When he got closer, she turned on her heel and skipped in a zig zag pattern through the cresting waves. Ethan felt he knew the child, but no name came to the tip of his tongue. He followed her through the waves and reveled in the feeling of the sea bubbles around his ankles. They approached a dock far from where Ethan washed ashore. On the end of the pier were large carnival rides long abandoned. The paint was chipped on the carousel animals and the Ferris wheel tilted dangerously to the side where several support beams gave out. The girl turned at the start of the dock and stared into his eyes as he approached. She didn’t blink or look away.

Once they were in front of each other, Ethan tried to identify her, but nothing in his memories supplied any important information. “What’s your name?”

The girl hissed and Ethan took a single step back. “You’ve defiled your own memories and destroyed everything you’ve touched.”


She blinked for the first time and her eye color changed from brown to blue. Memories flashed in front of his eyes and he realized she was one of the many casualties from the orphanages.

“Your time is coming, Ethan Silverspoon.” Her voice changed to echo multiple boys and girls. All of them cried out his name and called for his help. Ethan stared down at her as her eyes changed colors at a rapid pace. Her skin turned splotchy as it tried to mimic the colors of those who died in Ethan’s presence. “Your death has been foreseen. We should not have died. It was YOUR FAULT.”

Her last two words continued to echo around them. Ethan tried to take several steps back from the child, but his heel caught on a loose plank of wood and he fell onto his butt. He used his hands to try and push himself farther away. The back of the child hunched as the body took on a new form. Their skin melted into a humanoid blob of black tar. The creature took another step toward Ethan and opened its mouth. Tar strung between its lips and sprayed toward him as it spoke.

“We want your blood as recompense.” It lunged for him—hands wrapped around his neck.

Ethan jolted awake to the smell of antiseptic. His mouth was held firmly shut by something heavy. He tried to lift his hands to pull at the force—memories of the tar monster still pulled at his consciousness—but others in the room held his body in place. The taste of spoiled milk rested on his tongue and tickled the back of his throat. A familiar face looked down at him, but he couldn’t place where he knew the dark skin from. He didn’t recognize the language he spoke, but he had the feeling he should. The man’s face moved away and pointed for something else. Ethan’s mind stumbled to understand what happened, but within a few moments he slipped into sleep again.

The next time he awoke, he was in a dark room laying on a stiff mattress.

Ethan blinked several times and tried to process where he was. The rush of dry air and the smell of clean, cotton sheets let him assume he was no longer in the dungeon. His body was no longer sore like it was on the beach or in the cell. His change of temporal locations made it impossible for him to make out what was real and fake. Memories of the disgusting taste in his mouth from the white room pushed him out of bed to find some water. He kicked off the heavy comforter and attempted to stand. His feet touched the cold, stone floor and he nearly jumped back into the quilts. Ethan pushed himself to stand up and walk across the room. On a wash table was an ornate basin and a silver pitched with a singular ceramic glass. He poured the water into his glass over the bowl and took a drink. The style of the room reminded him of late eighteenth century. Ethan pulled the heavy curtains back from one of the windows and used the moonlight to help him find a candle and a box of matches on the bedside table. He traipsed back across the room and lifted the candle to locate the way out.

On the far-left wall was a large double oak door. It required both of Ethan’s hands to pull open. The hall was lit with three pronged candelabras between each new doorway. A large red rug with gold filaments decorated the floor. Ethan decided to bring the small candle from his room even if he didn’t need it. He started down the hall and another heavy door squeaked as it opened. He tried to locate the direction, but the echo of the hallway prevented him.

“Who’s there?” Ethan didn’t want it to be the girl from the beach.


He knew that voice. It took him several seconds before he faced the small girl with brown hair. The thick strands were pulled up into twin ponytails which spiraled down onto her shoulder. She peeked around the corner from one of the doorways—her big baby blues stared wide eyed at him.

“Lulu,” he breathed. Ethan dropped the candle from his hand and reached out to pull her in a swift hug. She grew since he last saw her. Over the last several years he missed his pseudo little sister. In the back of his mind he registered that Lulu was dead, but he shoved the thought away.

“Ethan, you set the rug on fire,” Lulu whispered.

He turned in surprise and grabbed at the small candle cradle. He set it away from the fire and used another section of the rug to smother the small flame. The rug crinkled and once the flames were out, he returned to his reunion—except Lulu was gone.

Ethan called out to her, but he received no response. Fifty feet away was a grand staircase. He attempted to not trip over the waves in the carpet as he approached the stairs. At the top of the stairs, he spotted Lulu at the bottom. Ethan took a hold of the wood railing and made to chase after her. Halfway down the stairs his foot caught in the boot cut of his jeans and he lost his balance. Ethan hit the stairs hard and rolled painfully down the steps. He failed to protect his head with each roll and when he hit the corner of the railing at the bottom of the staircase, everything went black.

July 28, 2316

Farae Forest, City of Yahav

Luana moved swiftly through the thick vegetation of the Farae Forest in the northcentral sector of Yahav. The trek to the city, since she chose to walk the entire way, took five days. As far as she was aware, none of the Council chose to follow her—none of them knew where she went. She wasn’t supposed to leave the Academy without the Council robe as some of her friends before she joined the Council might recognize her, but for once in her life she wanted to break the rules. She’d known the rules since she was eight years old and her cream cloak looked amazing on her versus the red. Luana’s eyes followed every mossy tree and every wild mushroom that lined the sides of the trail. Visiting on a sunny day made her uneasy—Farae Forest was known for its beautiful hiking trails and stunning gazebo over a vista.

She broke out from the thick jungle to see the clearing and cliff’s edge. Luana took a deep breath and a calm feeling settled over her. Gooseflesh rose on her skin for a single moment. The gazebo was made of fine ivory and the top was covered in a mossy bonnet. The pillars were carved to look like Doric columns from Ancient Greece. There were two sets of stairs that led up to the raised platform, each one led to a trail. The spaces between the six pillars were filled with small railings and a single loveseat bench that overlooked the cliff.

Luana slipped between the vines climbing the columns at the entry point and ran a hand over the railing. She clutched the coat around her tighter and took in the smell of dirt and greenery—a faint hint of sunlight bled into the scent. She slid her hand up the middle column facing the cliff and hesitated when her finger found the button. After a moment, Luana pressed it and a lucid LED screen pushed out of the column in front of her. The keyboard was small, and she entered the password quickly. A door opened near her feet and as she made the first step into it, the crack of vegetation startled her.

The visitor was dangerously close to a Council guarded secret and Luana would be in trouble if they found her there. She darted down the short staircase to the other LED screen and she closed the doorway before the person stepped out of the trees. Using the security camera screen installed in the system, she analyzed the visitor. The person was a young hiker with brown hair in a ponytail. She couldn’t be older than fifteen. Luana left the screen to shuffle down the winding passageways into the Cliffside.

She passed several large empty spaces with half-circles as the open doorway. She pulled her cream cloak free of her body and dropped it onto the steps that led to the fifth floor. Her footsteps left behind echoes in the empty halls, but for a moment it felt like eyes followed her. Luana shuddered and gathered a ball of fire in her palms as a warning to the ghosts wandering the halls. Farther into the hidden building the doorways were sealed with golden marble and names were carved into the smooth stone surface. She didn’t stop to look at any of them, there was only one person she wanted to visit.

At the end of one of the longer corridors, she stopped her progress and stared at the catacomb. Luana reached out a hand and let her fingers trail the engraving. The door glittered gold in proximity with her flames and she put them out. Alexander Bryan Wolf.

Luana fell to her knees in front of the second grave for the ex-Council member and pressed her forehead against the marble. For a moment she wanted to cut through the mortar to lay her hands on the person inside—if they were still alive. She raised herself up and pressed her lips against the name for only a moment.

“I need your help, Alex. I must know what you’d do in my situation. I can’t lead the Council like this with my mind torn between two options.” Luana took a shaky breath. “Give me your wisdom. Everything is getting worse and I don’t know what is right anymore. Please, please send someone to help me.”

She pressed a hand to her cheek and swiped at the tear. Luana allowed her body to fall against the sealed door of the catacomb. She cried until she fell asleep in the stale air.

Hans waited on the north side of the gazebo for the unknown brunette to leave on the south hiking trail. He knew from the beginning that Luana went to the catacombs after she left the hospital room. Luana needed space after the shocking events and as she hadn’t used the Council credit card to travel to Yahav, he had to wait an extended time before he went after her. Hans draped her Council cloak over his arm alongside his so that they would be official when they left the forest. The teen finally turned back to the southern trail and Hans slid out of his hiding place behind the trees.

It took several minutes for him to walk through the catacomb space to Luana’s location. He collected her cream cloak from the steps on the way down. He found her asleep in front of Alex’s second grave. Hans set the red robes to the side so he could wrap the cream cloak around Luana’s small frame. He helped her stand up in a half-asleep state and dressed her in the Council outfit. Hans dressed himself in his own robe and lifted Luana into his arms. He wrapped her legs around his waist to make it easier to carry her. Before he opened the hatch, Hans checked the security cameras to make sure there were no more hikers. He started the hike out of the forest and was surprised to find that Luana remained asleep even after he tripped over a tree root.

On the platform to catch the Bullet train, elementalists shuffled out of their way. The people were curiously confused, but none of them had the right to ask for an explanation. Hans ignored his people and chose one of the unoccupied seats of four in the back of a train car. The train stopped on a dime during its pass through Vasha and Luana stirred. She groaned when the train picked up again. She pushed away from her companion and looked up into his hood. A momentary content noise slipped past her lips, but neither of them mentioned it.

“Where are we?”

“On the Bullet,” he whispered.

Luana examined the train car before she moved herself softly from his lap and settled into the seat next to him.

“Thank you for coming and getting me.” She burrowed into her cloak to try and reclaim the warmth Hans’ body provided.

“I would never leave you alone.” He hoped she didn’t understand the true meaning behind his words. They spent the rest of their return home in companionable silence.

December 16, 2310

The Academy

Scott walked through the hallway of the Academy on his way to another class. He signed up to continue his education because he wasn’t interested in finding a job and living on his own. He was only sixteen years old and the option didn’t appeal to him the way it did to most others his age. Seven years passed since Scott was removed from his family in North Carolina and brought to Elementōrum Patriam. He wasn’t allowed to hear what happened with his human family members following the separation. As they neared Christmas, nine more days, he wondered if the Academy might allow him to send a holiday card since he was considered an adult following his base education.

“There you are Scott.” The director over the Air element stood behind him. She adjusted her glasses which highlighted her long nose. Her gray hair was pulled into a tight bun on top of her head. She wore a pinstriped suit that was several sizes too large to hide her overweight frame.

He flicked his head to throw the black strands of hair out of his eyes. He turned his icy-blue eyes onto her and waited for her to state her purpose with him. Scott nodded for her to continue. Anya knew better than to expect a verbal response from the teenager.

“As you know, many elementalists at the Academy come from human families. While we limit communication, we strive to keep an eye on what is going on in each elementalists’ family so that children can be kept at ease. We would like to apologize formally for being unable to bring this news to you sooner.”

Scott clenched his jaw. He didn’t want bad news—especially this close to a cheerful holiday.

“We’re sorry to say that your little sister, Melissa, passed away from pneumonia. It took her over quite quickly and she didn’t get appropriate care in time. Your father’s whereabouts are currently unknown.” Anya watched him carefully with dark eyes, but Scott no longer paid attention to her words.

Distress overtook his lanky frame. He failed repeatedly to treat his sister better when he was at home. After his promise to find her, he was reduced to no contact by archaic laws. He wasn’t sure what went on with his father following his attempted attack on Scott—he suspected acute mental breakdown. My sister though. My little sister. Melissa.

“Thanks,” he pushed out through his loss of air. Scott made to walk away from the Director, but his ringing phone stopped him. When he pulled the glass piece from his pocket it was a dark crimson red. Anya choked behind him. He didn’t move.

It was several moments before Scott pressed the electronic seal and watched the letter unfold. He used his thumb to scroll across the text and nodded. He didn’t turn back to Anya as he changed his walk through the hallway. He had to accept what the Council chose for him—no matter what it was.

August 3, 2316

The Academy

Eilene let out a loud and low growl as she threw herself onto the large u-shaped couch of the reading room. Scott lounged in one of the large two seaters, cloth upholstery, against one of the walls. He held a book in his hands, the cover had a blonde woman dressed in a pink prom dress cradled by a man dressed in black on the front. He glanced to look at the blonde and blue haired twenty-four-year-old. He clicked his tongue and put his attention back on the book. Eilene propped herself up so she could spy over the back of the couch on him. She took in the title of the book, “Nevermore”, and it sounded intriguing. Edgar Allan Poe was one of the few classics authors she enjoyed, but right now she wanted Scott to pay attention to her.

“How frustrated have you been in your life?” She asked. Her grey eyes penetrated Scott where he laid. He groaned internally and closed his book. Scott glared at her through his thick eyelashes. Eilene returned his scowl. “Right, you don’t talk.”

“I talk when I find it absolutely necessary. People read books for a reason.” He lifted the novel.

Eilene grinned. “Now that I have your attention and know that you’ll speak to me—what would you do if you liked someone, someone you consider to be a good friend? I don’t mean the kind of liking in which you consider them a nice person either. Why I’m even asking you this is beyond me—but if you want to be with another person, it’s important. Yet, they’re your friend, a close friend, and you have a relationship which is already important to you—so even considering pushing for more is scary. What would you do?”

She was out of breath by the time she finished, and Scott wished she would’ve stopped after the first question. He gave her a long look. She could tell he was annoyed with her, but the reaction wasn’t enough to send either of them running from the room. Eilene knew he wanted to read quietly, but she highly valued his opinion for multiple reasons. One of them was that his element was naturally stronger than hers. On the other hand, she couldn’t read Scott’s emotions and behind her rushed question, she wanted to get to know him better. She was determined to break through his pre-determined distance with those around him.

Scott thought about what she asked. He considered the option several times himself, but his relationship with the other Council members was set at a strict distance. He wanted to protect himself and them. He felt inadequate for the position on more than one occasion—particularly when he found himself in a place where morals and logical decisions didn’t cross into the same space. Ever. He realized the truth about his feelings the previous year. He often watched the blonde woman and tried to make sure that she was protected and cared for. Dwayne completed his job—his close friendship with her allowed him to do more at a close range. Scott focused on the outer parts of her life that he could affect without her noticing. He envied Dwayne because they talked with the most ease among all the Council members. He was the wall that Eilene needed to stay on her feet. Scott hated that he came to rely on Dwayne himself to cheer her up when her moods swung into a sad mode.

His pent-up frustrated feelings over the last year yielded no results. He knew he didn’t feel the same about Luana, Series, or Scarlet. He enjoyed conversations with Series because she was quiet and enjoyed frequent naps. Scott and Scarlet were opposites. Luana was the Council leader. Anyone that approached her was mildly insane. For a while, the relationship he had with Eilene puzzled him, but then he knew. Eilene came to him to ask for advice and despite his own romantic, and sexual, feelings for the woman, he needed to give her a proper answer and once again sacrifice his own happiness for her.

Once he sorted through his thoughts, he realized Eilene looked on the verge of leaving. Scott cleared his throat to catch her attention. Their eyes met and they spent a moment staring at each other.

“Tell them,” Scott managed to choke out past the blockage in his throat.

“What?” Eilene was surprised. He didn’t say anything—he knew she heard what he said. “And if I’m rejected?”

“It’s better to know than cling to false hope.” He cracked his book open at the spine once more. He spoke all the words on his mind. He clenched his teeth together. Eilene stood. There were quiet footsteps and he glanced up to find her in front of him. His Adam’s apple bobbed as she leaned into him.

“Thank you, Scott.” Eilene pressed a quick kiss to his exposed cheek and left the room in a lonely silence.

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