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 Croy-li and Amaya lay parallel to each other, across her bed, tossing back and forth ideas for where their friends were and why. They had yet to come to one they could agree upon, much less one that seemed logical. The others in their team were leaving them out of whatever they were planning, which meant it could be against the Thief Lord, since they were the only ones still directly interacting with him. But that was precisely the reason they would have brought them into it.

They could have been planning against the royalty and nobility and leaving them out because they were a princelet and lady. But Amaya was a Herald first and foremost and Croy-li was part of the team more than a prince, so they couldn’t justify it, and there was no real reason for their friends to be a part of anything political. They were setting up a surprise for them. But, considering that their birthdays were months away, that possibility was just as unlikely as the others.

They couldn’t figure it out, and the longer they were in the dark, the more frustrated they became. To make matters worse, Blu had just disappeared on them. She wasn’t in any of her normal places, she wasn’t answering her DS, and as far as the others would tell them, she wasn’t in Rattigattan with them.

Croy-li turned onto his side, to look at Amaya. “They could be on a secret mission for the Thief Lord. If he told them not to tell us, they wouldn’t.”

“But why would he choose them?” Amaya countered. “He knows we’re the better duo out of the team.”

“Maybe he wanted the team and they fought to keep us out of it?” he suggested.

“Why would they do that?” Amaya retorted. “That would be keeping us in the dark. They wouldn’t do that.”

“Unless it’s against us? He might be having them do something against us.”

“He can’t do that,” she reminded him. The Thief Lord’s ability to force them to obey him went pretty far, but couldn’t break their other allegiances, and there was no allegiance stronger on Resor than the one between the seven of them.

“Okay, but what if it’s about someone close? Like they have to murder Amadhay or Khale? He might think we have allegiance and not use us. So he would have to use them.”

“But he wouldn’t. It would be the best way to test our allegiance to our families, Cole. If he wanted one of them dead, he’d use us to see if he could. And he wouldn’t keep it secret because he’d want to see if we’d fight them.”

“Unless he doesn’t want it linked to him. Or he really thought we would fight him. If he ordered you to kill Hynnkel, could you? No. If he then ordered me to, I couldn’t because I couldn’t hurt you or even Kelly or Khale. But the others don’t have any links here except us. And so they would keep quiet to keep us from being hurt or trying to stop them. Because, Hynnkel’s life on the line? Who are you going to help?”

“If it came between one of us and him? Them,” Amaya said. Croy-li thought she believed that, but he didn’t. She might stop Hynnkel from insulting him, but if he had a knife to Hynnkel’s throat because the Thief Lord told him to, he wasn’t sure what she would do.

“Okay, next idea.”

“Well, you can’t keep a secret,” she started. “And I tell you everything. So whatever it is, it’s sensitive information, right?”

“Maybe,” Croy-li agreed.

“That’s all I’ve got,” she admitted. “I’m out of ideas. You?”

“All gone,” he seconded. “And I’m hungry. Sneak to the kitchen with me?”

She nodded. “Or maybe we could even go to dinner.”

He shrugged. He didn’t want to chance a meal with all of her family. Besides Hynnkel, he didn’t particularly care for her uncle, Arne Riff, who went out of his way to be proper and in charge. Then, there was Christein, who was between Nolando and Hynnkel and incredibly crass. Amadhay was always a joy to eat with, and then there was always a chance of running into Amaya’s other aunt or distant family.

“Actually,” he started, trying to determine how best to say what he meant without angering Amaya.

“You want to avoid my family and go home?” she suggested for him.

“Not exactly,” he denied. “But I should head back. Khale was getting antsy. You could come with me?”

He knew before the words left his mouth that there was no chance. In a choice between him and Hynnkel, it was going to be Hynnkel, even if the man had been a first rate hunk of feral ass. She liked him, looked up to him, and even though he seemed to be a different person now, that wasn’t going to stop her infatuation.

“Well, I would, but maybe we should do what Bart said? Rest up, not drink that crap. ‘sides, I bet your tutors are getting all worried you’re dropping them for mine.”

Croy-li shrugged, “Fine by me. I’ll enjoy not nearly dying for a few days.”

“Woah, woah, who said anything about a few days,” Amaya whined. “I was giving you the rest of today away from me.”

Croy-li smiled at her. “Then you’re going to have to come to Kayden,” he told her, pushing himself to his feet. “Because I’m missing the beach.”

As he expected, Amaya smiled goofily. “You’re right. We should go to Kayden, spend some time swimming. Then we’ll figure out what the others are doing. Plan?”

“Plan,” Croy-li agreed, checking his pockets to make sure he had everything. “See you tomorrow, Aimy,” he called, leaving her rooms.

In doing so, he nearly ran right into Barthew Base, who was once again trying to reach something in his bag. The boy nearly toppled over after smacking into the solid man, only catching himself when his flailing hand caught the wall.

Distractedly, Base smiled at him. “I was just looking for you,” he said, making Croy-li sputter.

Me?” he asked in surprise.

Base nodded, pulling a hunk of metal out of his bag. Croy-li studied it for a few clicks when the man held it out to him. It wasn’t just a hunk of metal. It was some kind of conductor, for what, he wasn’t sure. It was dull and bent in a few places that didn’t look purposeful.

“Can you fix that?” Base asked, staring at Croy-li in a way that made the boy uncomfortable.

“Maybe,” he hedged out, turning the thing in his hands. “What is it?” he asked.

Base raised an eyebrow. “You tell me.”

Oh, Croy-li realized. This is a test. Nodding to himself, he turned the object a few more times before pulling a small strip of testing metal from his pocket. Both of the metals sparked on impact. “It’s some sort of conductor,” Croy-li muttered, walking as he thought. He turned it again and was certain that he had it right side up that time. He blew lightly on it and a small spark of electricity flew up, making him smile.

He pulled his handheld multitool from his pocket and poked and prodded at the conductor for a few clicks before it sparked again. “Thought so,” he muttered. “What did that mean phantom do to you, baby?” he muttered, stroking the metal gently. Through his gloves, he couldn’t feel the response from the miniscule computer deep inside of the hunk of metal. “Just tearing you out of your home,” he soothed.

He turned around, heading back for the medical wing. “Don’t worry, I’ll put you back,” he muttered, only stopping when a hand landed on his shoulder.

“Where are you going?” Base asked him.

Croy-li blinked a few times, staring up at the man, having forgotten he was being tested. “Um. This is the pneumatic cylinder for the engine of the hydraulic chamber in the tank. The, uh,” he gestured to the outside of the device. “This is the conductor to allow for the electrical currents to work the cylinder inside. Underneath the cylinder is the data and compression chip. If I don’t put this back soon, won’t it stop working?”

Base smiled slightly. “It’s an old part,” he answered. “Did you speak to it?” he asked. Croy-li shook his head. “Then how did you know it was part of the hydraulic chamber?”

Croy-li fingered the metal for a moment. “Amaya used to be stuck in a tank a lot,” he answered softly. “Only hydraulic chambers require the piston to be that shape. And there’s a certain type of rust that comes from a leaking one. That’s why you took this out, right? Because it was leaking.”

Base stared at him critically for a few clicks, making Croy-li shift uncomfortably. “Yes,” he agreed. “Are you going to Kay Castle?” he asked.

Croy-li nodded, but didn’t ask why. He didn’t have to.

“Good, I’d like to speak with you brother about you.”

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Christein dropped Amadhay on her couch, flopping down to sit beside her before she could try to clamber onto his back again. She giggled, glad to have her old relationship with him back. All it had taken was a heart-to-heart about their illnesses and six successful missions with no sign of the Wonder Girls and Co. In the four days since their talk, she found she couldn’t stop thinking about how she had almost blurted out her secret to Christein.

She curled up at his side, ignoring his sigh because he was petting her hair.

“You never did finish your sentence,” he told her, making her look up at him questioningly.

“Which one?” she quipped. “You interrupt me a lot.”

He poked her in the side and she got off of him so they could look each other in the face while talking. He had a cut on his lip and she wondered how long it would take for it to heal. It had already stopped swelling and bleeding, so she would wager it would completely disappear within a few more clacks.

“You know, when we were talking about…being sick. You were listing reasons you didn’t want me to die and just kind of let it go.”

She flushed and looked away from him. He couldn’t possibly be going there. She swallowed, getting up and going to the kitchen. “I’m not sure I remember what you’re talking about,” she tried, pulling a bottle of water from her fridge.

When she closed it, Christein was behind her, having followed behind her. “Alright,” Christein said. For a moment she thought he was going to let it go. “You started with ‘Maybe because I,’ and didn’t finish. What were you going to say?”

She tapped her foot nervously. “Um. I guess I just…lost my train of thought?” she suggested.

He frowned at her and she could tell that he was almost to believing her, but the hurt in his expression made her think that maybe that wouldn’t be the best thing. “Liar,” he accused scowling.

She shrugged gracefully, turning her head from him. “I just couldn’t think of another reason,” she claimed.

The hurt that flickered across his face told her that she had said the worst thing possible. What was worse was that she had known that she was saying the wrong thing even as the words left her lips. She knew how sensitive Christein was to being wanted and needed, how much it bothered him that most of their family wouldn’t mind too much if he were just to die or disappear without a trace. She wasn’t one of them, but she had certainly just pretended to be.

That was never okay.

He stepped back from her and shook his head before turning to leave. “I’ve got things to do. See you later.”

She watched his back as he retreated. Biting her lip to keep herself from saying anything, she followed after him until he made it to the door. It was either let it lie or tell the secret and the secret was bigger than letting him have slightly hurt feelings for the few clacks it would take him to recognize that she was lying. Or at least, that’s what she thought, until she saw that he was actually leaving. He truly thought that she didn’t care about him enough to think up more than three paltry reasons she would care if he died.

“Maybe because I love you!” she shouted as his hand touched the doorknob. He froze.

His head tilted to the side and he looked back at her, but only slightly, turning the right side of his face to her so that his hair was obscuring her vision of his expression. “I’m…sorry. What did you say?” he asked with a chuckle, as if he had heard her wrong.

She bit her lip and didn’t speak until he fully turned and looked at her. His face was contorted in confusion, as if he honestly couldn’t believe what she had said. She took a deep breath to steady herself. She had said it. The words were out. It was no longer a secret. It couldn’t hurt to say it again. Her eyes flickered down and then back up to his face.

“I said…that…I love you. I would care if you died because I love you. Am in love with you. It’s not me loving my cousin. It’s me loving you,” she told him in a much softer tone this time. She gave him a small, hopeful smile. She didn’t know what she expected because she knew a return exclamation of love was hardly the response her cousin was likely to give her. Still, she didn’t expect the one she got.

He swallowed hard, shaking his head. “You’re sick, Amadhay, you need help.”

Her breath caught in her chest as he turned from her and this time he did leave. She didn’t move, didn’t try to stop him. She simply closed her eyes, trying not to break down.

The door slammed shut between them.

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas slips up



Amadhay flounced into the interrogation room. “I brought him,” she told Atlas in a singsong voice, seating herself on the table.

She gave a quick glance to a pitiful looking Mayday and disappeared, reappearing a few clicks later in a kneel with two bowls to set under the table. She set a bowl of minced fish and a bowl of water down before hopping up and dropping in an undignified heap on the table, bouncing on her bottom in impatience.

She smiled flirtatiously at Atlas before huffing when he gave her a blank look. She noted that he gave no reaction to her unmasked face, which confirmed that he’d already known who she was. She decided to think about that later.

In the meantime, waiting for Darach and Benjy to catch up with her was boring her. “I have pretty short legs, I know. So you’d think that it would be easier for them to keep up,” she complained to Atlas, who was beginning to watch her with curiosity.

“So, will you answer more questions now or do you have a plan brewing in your mind?” she asked, hoping to take advantage of his slight change of attitude, “I bet you have a plan brewing. I mean you must. I can’t imagine that you want to sit here for much longer,” she bounced her knees on the table, now forcing herself into a cross-legged sitting position.

“I doubt the dead one cares how short your legs are,” Atlas spoke with a distracted air as he glanced to the door, not even looking at her until she stopped moving, staring at him.

Atlas looked back and he and Amadhay stared at each other just as Darach entered the room. “Armerose,” he said, shaking his head, “It figures your curse would bring you here.” He stole Atlas’ attention, moving into the room and choosing to stand before Atlas rather than sit in the unused chair.

I doubt the dead one cares about how short your legs are. Benjy entered the room, shutting the door without touching it.

“Barqael,” Atlas stated coldly, standing just as semi-corporeal Benjy walked through Darach before becoming fully tangible to sit next to Amadhay.

“How did y—” Amadhay started to question Atlas on knowing that Benjy was with her, but Benjy interrupted her.

“You know your cousin, Hynnkel?” Benjy asked Amadhay. She tried to concentrate on the looks Atlas and Darach were giving each other, as if they were speaking without words. “The spicket one? I saw him the other day. He was with your sister and that cute catgirl.”

That was all he had to say to get her full attention. Christein, too, kept mentioning the cute catgirl. “And these two Palnoki members. I just remembered that ‘cause of Atlas. One of the members was one of his two Second-In-Commands. I don’t like the other one. He’s a creep.” Benjy sounded bored, but she knew just how much he recognized she was interested in what he had just said. Hynnkel with Palnokians? High-ranking Palnokians? What is he planning?

“You,” Atlas said abruptly, turning from Darach to Benjy.

Benjy grinned suddenly, straightening up to look at Atlas as if everything was going according to some plan Amadhay didn’t know about. “Yes?”

“Go get those two Palnoki members.”

Atlas giving orders bothered Amadhay, and she knew it was more than the situation where they should have been in charge, asking questions and getting answers, not the other way around, with them doing whatever he wanted. Something strange was going on and she was having a hard time determining what it was.

“You know, we’re not here so much to bring you people as we are to demand answers to Lord Phoeganis’ questions.” Her fingers began drumming on the table, a sure sign of her pent up energy battling with her irritation. “So how about you answer one itty bitty question? Then we’ll get to those people for you. Mkay? Mkay.”

“No,” Benjy said to both Amadhay and Atlas. His expression had changed from cocky to a stubborn one that Amadhay knew too well. “I answer to Lord Phoeganis, not Lord Palnoki.”

“Amadhay Hakinato,” Darach said coldly. Amadhay felt a chill go up her spine at his use of her family name. Very few people knew it and even fewer used it, considering it carried so much power that she, herself, didn’t. “Go find Tenshu Tanhakinshu and Mitchell Hunnigan. Atlas will not answer your questions, but I’m sure they will. Take a woman named Scarlet Johannes as well, but be careful not to underestimate any of them. That’s an order.”

“Thought he didn’t know you,” Benjy muttered under his breath, glancing at Amadhay from the corner of his eye.

“Obviously he doesn’t,” Amadhay snapped, anger coursing through her. She hopped off of the table, her heels snapping loudly against the floor as she moved to stand face to chest with Darach, but her fury made her seem inches taller.

“Look. You may be in charge with your information gatherers, but I am not one of them. I do not answer to you.” She clenched her fists and glared just past him at the wall. “I answer only to Punishment, and only him when I want to. So if you want to rephrase that as a request, then maybe I will consider it. But until then, I suggest you hold your tongue unless you want me to cut it out.”

She used her pent up energy to switch into her Gift, moving from almost in his face, back to the table. She was now holding Mayday, petting the kitten furiously to keep herself from doing something she was sure she would regret if for no other reason than because Arne Riff and Alphonse would make sure she did. She was envisioning ripping Darach’s tongue out of his mouth while Benjy stared at her in surprise when Atlas turned to her. He placed a hand on either side of her, with one hand on her knee and the other behind her, his arm just touching her back.

“Amadhay, go get them for me then. You don’t have to obey any orders, but to keep both you and Lord Phoeganis happy, I need them.” Something about that didn’t sound right, didn’t make sense to her. “I promise I’ll give you something in return. I swear,” he whispered urgently in her ear. Her eyes flickered over to Benjy, who seemed to object to the lack of personal space between her and Atlas, which she found interesting. More so, she questioned that she didn’t object to the lack of space between them.

 “Take the ghost with you if you agree. Scarlet’s not easy, or normal. I think Cyborg versus Phantom would be fair enough, if you can handle a vampire and a human-ish boy.”

When Mayday scratched Amadhay to get to Atlas, she let him go and Atlas moved back from the girl, stroking the kitten with a small smile. Amadhay studied his face for a few moments, severely bothered by something, but not knowing what. It was only because she was so close that she could hear what Atlas was muttering to the kitten. “I’m fine. Only Darach can hurt me. The others might not be so lucky, but they’ll find a way.”

She liked a challenge. “C’mon Benjy,” she said, nodding at Atlas, who moved out of her way so she could slide off of the table. She glanced at Darach, who was once again studying her with an intensity she didn’t like at all. “Let’s go get some Palnoki.”

Benjy got to his feet just as she did. Once they were at the door, Atlas called out to her again. “Make sure your friend keeps away from Tenshu,” Atlas told her pointedly.

“Why?” she asked, stopping in the doorway. She looked at Atlas, but it was Benjy who answered her question.

“He’s a necromancer,” he said darkly.

Her eyes widened slightly as she realized the implications. Phantoms and necromancers were in no way well matched. “Got it,” she said, more to Atlas than Benjy. “Let’s get going,” she told Benjy, leaving the room with him following close behind her.

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