Star leaned her head against the window of the airplane. Mundane travel was horribly long, but at least she blended in. Her dark hair was lank and greasy, however, her eyes dim. Star leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees, and put her head in her hands. She dragged her fingers through her hair, and tried to remember happy times.
Lavvi, who forcibly reminded her of Ellie back home, looked very different than Ellie, but had the same personality and demeanor. Always happy, with long red hair that hung into her face, silver-gray eyes that sparkled whenever she got a mischievous idea, Lavvi was short, skinny, and always perky.
Star rummaged in her bag, accidentally elbowing the young man sitting next to her. He grunted in annoyance, and Star flashed him an apologetic smile, and faltered.
The man's eyes were red, pure red. He grinned, showing short, sharp teeth. Star stiffened, and the man's face darkened. "Shadowhunter," he snarled, so low that none of the mundie passengers around them could here. "I smell you."
"Demon," whispered Star disbelievingly. "Why are you here?"
"There is a war coming," the demon growled. "A war that will tear you apart, limb from limb. A war in which I will be on the side against you. I will take joy in gutting your Shadowhunter friends, until not a single one of them lives. I will side with the faeries, the vampires, the werewolves, and the warlocks, all of whom want revenge." His eyes narrowed, and as soon as he finished his speech - he vanished.
Star blinked, rapidly, at the benign old man now sitting in place of the demon. He smiled, kindly, patting her on the arm. "You look startled, my dear. I didn't say anything, did I?" His woolly eyebrows knit together in concern.
"No, no," Star said quickly. "I just...I saw something peculiar...must have been a bird, or something..."
The old man smiled and returned to his book, humming softly.
Star reached into her bag again, and drew out a leatherbound book. She flipped it open, reading the short paragraph at the beginning, and then turning the pages, skimming the large, page-sized pictures.
The first was of her and Zaf, arm-in-arm in front of the Space Needle, laughing their heads off. It was the night of the Ironworks Ball, and the picture had been taken by Chase. Zaf was wearing leggings and a skirt, she had been unwilling even to wear the skirt. Star was wearing a long red dress, and large glasses, picked out by Chase. She hadn't been wearing contacts then.
Star's turned to the next picture, this time one of her and Chase. Chase was holding the camera out at arm's length, one arm wrapped around Star's waist, the other holding the camera. He was grinning like a madman, but Star had her hands in front of her face.
The next was Forrest and Tori, laughing, holding a tiny baby who was shaking her pudgy fists, her eyes squeezed shut. Forrest and Tori, who looked so different, and Forrest and baby Ellarie (who would grow up into a female version of Forrest).
The next few pages of pictures were ones Star had taken herself, and edited until they were perfect.
There was one of Chase, lying on his side, his eyes closed, and his features relaxed. One of his arms was hanging off his bed, and he looked easy and careless.
There was another one of Star, a head-shot, of her profile. She was staring out the window, but her face was angled so she was half-facing Chase and half facing the window. Her eyes and her mouth betrayed a mixture of emotion - tension, happiness, and sadness, all mixed into one face.
Her hands were trembling when she turned the page, and she felt her eyes brim with tears as she stared into baby Ellarie's beaming face, curly blond fringe spilling into her eyes, her mouth opened in a toothless smile. Star sniffed, dragging a hand across her face to wipe away the tears.
Star felt a hand on her wrist, but she didn't flinch, just turned to face the old man. She was conscious of her tear-streaked face, and didn't care for the sympathy in the old man's eyes.
Star hesitated before replying. "No. A friend."
Chapter One - It's Over, CasanovaEdit
"Cheap words like these will rot your teeth
With all the sicky sweet nothings
Your speech is good enough to eat
But it won't fill me up when I am lonely "
- -- Lights, It's Over, Casanova
Zaf helped Angie into her gear, and Angie snatched her stele. Though her favored weapon was a bow and arrow, she was pretty good with her swordsmanship.
Zaf (short for Zaffie, which was a condensed form of Sapphire) and Angie were both Shadowhunters, humans whose blood was infused with that of an angel's. This gave them the angel's grace and coordination, and their job in the world was to destroy demons.
Recently, the Institute of Seattle, which was a sort of safehouse for Shadowhunters, had received a threat from a Downworlder species - faeries. The faeries had warned of a boy, created by the Herondales, who was made of gold, iron, silver, and steel, the metals that repelled each of the Downworlder species, in turn. The Downworlders, beginning with the faeries, were now thirsting for revenge against the Herondales for creating this automaton creature. Zaf had her suspicions about Chase, but Angie was positive her now-boyfriend was no demon. The rest of the Institute - namely Corin and Tori - weren't so sure.
"Okay, so this is an Oni demon. They may not be extremely fast, but they are very, very smart. They can outwit anyone, and they're sneakier than foxes," Zaf warned. "You need to be careful. Chase reported only one, but that dimwit is most likely being stupid, where there's one Oni, there's more. You might need to fight one-on-one."
Angie nodded, her red bun bobbing. "Yes, Commander."
"This is no time for jokes," Zaf said sternly. Angie rolled her eyes.
"I wasn't a mundie before. I've dealt with Oni demons, I've delt with Drevaks, and Raveners, and Raum demons. I'm not an idiot and I'm not incompetent."
"I just don't want you to get killed," Zaf said, her voice raising as she followed Angie out of the weapons room. Angie rolled her eyes for the second time, but Zaf couldn't see her. The two quickly descended the stairs.
Chase was waiting on the first floor, his stele in his hand. He was dressed in black, and his skin was glowing with Marks. He quickly applied a few to Zaf and Angie, before they slipped out, smooth and silent. Corin and Tori were already at the scene, fighting.
Angie heard the demons before she saw them. The Oni demon let out a roar, and its great green body lumbered into view. It had tree-like legs, long, and think, and what appeared to be spades for hands. Two tusks protruded from its forehead, sharp, curved horns that looked as though they were tipped in poison.
Tori and Corin, side-by-side, were darting in, out, and under the demon, slashing with their steles. There appeared to be only one, so Chase had been right. Angie plunged into the fray.
"Avriel," she whispered to her stele, and it flared with angelic power. The Oni demon bellowed, turning on Tori, and Angie jumped, avoiding its spiked tail, and plunged her stele hilt-deep into the demon's leg. It howled, about to turn, and when its attention was diverted, Tori slashed at its eyes. It was blinded in moments, torrents of sticky black blood streaming down its face.
Chase and Angie darted in together, stabbing as one, and wrenched their steles in opposite directions. A long gash opened up in the fleshy flank of the Oni demon, and it cried, a noise of pain rather than fury or anger. It vanished.
Chase high-fived Angie and Zaf, and Corin and Tori appeared out of the smoke. Both looked exhausted.
"That was quick," Chase remarked as they began the long walk home.
"Yeah," muttered Tori. Her makeup was smudged, her eyes dim. There were tears in her clothing, and her face was scratched, but she looked otherwise unharmed.
The rest were silent when they arrived at the Institute, trooping in like soldiers. Clary rushed toward them, looking worried, but Zaf waved her off with a hand.
"We're all right. The demon's dead."
When the group reached the second floor, they all went their separate ways. Tori and Corin headed for their rooms, while Zaf returned to the greenhouse. Angie made for her room, she was eager to take a hot shower, but Chase grabbed her wrist, and wheeled her around to face him.
"I want to show you something," he said quietly. "C'mon."
They ascended the next flight of stairs, and Chase pulled Angie down the hall. The door in front of which they stood was just like any other lining the hall - but as Chase twisted the handle and pushed it open, Angie felt her jaw drop.
The room was painted unlike any of the others - this one was bright, contemporary, and beautiful. The floor was dark blue-black, with a rippled effect, so that it looked like they were standing on water. The walls were golden-red, with touches of pink, painted with black silhouettes of palm trees and plants. The wall opposite the door was covered in a single pane of floor-to-ceiling glass, giving a beautiful view of the sun setting behind the trees.
Angie turned, about to comment on the beauty of the room - when Chase caught her wrists and pulled her toward him.
His gray-green eyes were bright, his lips curving into a smile. He tucked a strand of Angie's hair behind her ear, and bent his face to hers, their lips were touching. For once, Angie didn't lean away, just let Chase kiss her. He smelled peculiar, like sandalwood.
The door banged open, and the two sprang apart. Angie put a hand to her mouth, embarrassed, but Chase looked cool and collected as he turned to the girl standing in the doorframe. He paled.
Chapter Two - Wide AwakeEdit
You made it so sweet
'Til I woke up on
On the concrete"
- -- Katy Perry, Wide Awake
"What the hell, Chase?"
The girl in the doorway had short dark hair that went to her shoulders, and large blue eyes. She was wearing a red tank top and black jeans, as well as an indignant expression.
Chase stepped away from Angie, his eyes wide. "I didn't--I thought you were coming back tomorrow, so I--"
"Thought you could start kissing other girls in my absence?" the girl interrupted. Chase held up his hands.
"Save it," snapped Star. "I don't want your...your slobbering sympathies or regrets."
Chase sank into a chair, his head in his hands, his expression dumbfounded. Angie lingered awkwardly by the corner of the room, shufling her feet and staring at her hands. Though her hair obscured her face and her expression, it didn't make her invisible, and Star stalked over to her.
"What about you?" she snarled, grabbing Angie's shoulder. Wide-eyed, Angie looked up into Star's face.
This was Zaf's sister, and yet...they didn't look so much alike. There were subtle differences, their skintones, the shape of their eyes, their face shapes...
Angie was breathing fast and quick, Star's grip on her upper arm tightened. "I--I didn't know that you and Chase were--"
"Liar," Star said, but she pushed Angie away. "What kind of a boyfriend are you? What kind of a boy goes running off with a girl two years younger than him while his current girlfriend is on vacation? What kind of an a--"
Star broke off, turning, and nearly toppled over. Ellarie had rushed in, throwing her arms around Star's legs. Her blond braids swung about her head, and she grinned, her eyes bright and her smile wide. Star couldn't help but grin, but as she picked Ellarie up and turned back to Chase, her joy evaporated.
"You - I'll deal with you later," she growled, and tightened her hold on Ellie, before turning and moving out of the room, carrying her anger with her.
The door swung shut, and Angie turned to Chase. Her face was livid, though pale, her nostrils flaring. "What in the world were you thinking?" she hissed. "You never told me--by the Angel, what were you..." She let out a scream of frustration, ending in, "What is your problem?"
Chase expected her to storm out of the room, but she held her ground, feet planted a shoulder's with apart, hands curling into fists. "Well?"
Chase knew he had no choice but to answer. He fumbled with the frayed edge of the chair, for once, at lost of what to say. He stood up at last, his hand remaining on the arm of the patchy chair behind him, as though it was a support he needed to face Angie. Chase took a deep breath.
"My problem is that I love you, Angie, and...I want you."
Angie inhaled slowly, evidently surprised. She regained her brusque manner in a moment, however, for she replied, "I love you too, but if you notice, I didn't start dating you until I realized that my old boyfriend was actually dead."
She hurried away.
"Angie...Angie, what's wrong?" Angie poked at her breakfast. Though no one could see her face but Zaf and Chase, sitting on either side of her, she bent her head, letting her hair fall in front of her face, shielding her emotions.
"Nothing," mumbled Angie, though anyone who cared to take a glance at her could see clearly through the lie. Her eyes were red and puffy, her hair losing its curl, and her skin red and blotchy. Her hands were curled tightly around her knife and fork, and beneath the table, her toes curled inside her shoes, tensing and untensing. She stiffened and relaxed the muscles in her legs, trying to keep herself from crying. Her eyes, however, brimmed with tears, and she stood up abruptly, pushed her chair back, and darted from the table.
Zaf shared a puzzled glance with the rest of the table, then stood up and hurried after her, calling out, "Angie! Angie, wait!"
Star looked pointedly at her plate.
Angie could hear Zaf calling her name, but she kept walking, dragging a hand across her face to wipe away the tears that threatened to fall. She quickened her pace, uneager to meet Zaf and her confrontation.
Zaf's hand wrapped around Angie's lower arm, and wheeled her around. Zaf looked upset, but when she spoke, her voice was soft.
"Angie, I don't know what happened last night. But if Chase hurt you--if he even touched you, you can tell me about it. I'll always be there for you," Zaf said quietly, her eyes searching Angie's.
"No...no, he didn't hurt me. He...he kissed me."
Zaf let go of Angie, and seemed to stagger back. Her eyes were wide. "He...but Star came home last night...oh, by the Angel, she saw you two, didn't she?"
Angie couldn't speak, her eyes were brimming with tears, she began to shake, but she nodded, slowly.
Zaf's voice hardened. "Well that changes things."
And she walked away, leaving Angie shaking, silent tears pouring down her face, alone.
Chapter Three - 21 GunsEdit
"Do you know what's worth fighting for?
When it's not worth dying for?
Does it take your breath away and you feel yourself suffocating?
Does the pain weigh out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside, you're in ruins"
- -- Green Day, 21 Guns
Angie ran her hand over the smooth wood beneath her, picking at the rough, splintering spots with bloodied fingernails. Her hands were red, her fingernails roughly cut and bloody. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot, and she slouched. Her hair was lank and straight around her face, and combined with the rest of her, she looked thoroughly depressed.
The Shadowhunter's feet dangled into the open space beneath her. Angie was seated on one of the rafter beams in the arched ceiling of the training room, lacking a harness and a rope. A slight movement could cause her to fall and seriously injure herself, but she didn't care.
Angie stood up, still perfectly balanced. She pivoted, quick and agile, so that she was facing the training mats. She didn't think, didn't bother waiting, she just jumped.
Tucking her chin to her chest, she curled into a ball and felt herself roll into one, two, three somersaults. A few feet from the ground, she extended herself, landing in a crouch on both feet, arms out. She was not injured in the slightest.
And so, over and over again, Angie climbed back up to the beam and practiced her flips, doing somersaults in mid air, twists, and turns, always landing on her feet, arms out, never hurting herself. She gradually regained her composure and her confidence, and was soon running from one end of the beam to the center on a slight angle, so that she leaped when she wasn't quite at the center, twisting into a complex series of somersaults and flips. Her feet slammed onto the ground, the shock traveling up to her shoulders, and then she straightened, taking a deep breath. She skittered to the ladder again, and climbed up.
Angie padded to the center of the beam, her feet silent on the wood. For the first time in a series of jumps, she took a deep breath, steadying herself, and imagined herself flying through the air, twisting, curling, jumping and grabbing onto the bar again, with her arms extended.
She jumped, just as the door below her opened. Angie seemed to freeze in midair, she jerked, throwing off her balance, and suddenly, she was in free-fall. She struggled to curl into a ball to deflect the injuries she could suffer falling.
The impact of her body hitting the floor was jarring. The ground felt as though it was surging up too quickly, and had then swallowed Angie whole. Through the mat, she felt her head connect with the hard wooden floor, the crack of her neck as it hit the mat, the pain shooting through her elbows as they collided with the floor. Her whole body felt as though it were on fire, as though lava were coursing through her veins instead of blood.
Immediately, a figure was bending over her. It was Chase, slipping his hand behind her head. His mouth formed words, but she couldn't understand, she tried to raise her hand to reassure him, but it wouldn't move. Her vision blurred, but she felt herself being raised into the air, one of Chase's arms under her knees, the other behind her neck.
"I'm taking you to the infirmary," he said, his voice barely a murmur in Angie's numb brain.
Vertigo washed over Angie, she felt herself sway, as though she would tumble out of Chase's arms, hit the floor again, and...
"Shh..." Chase's voice soothed, his eyes searching hers. "You're going to be all right. Don't worry, Angie, you're going to be all right..."
Angie was set on a soft bed, a pillow cushioning her aching head. Her hand slipped into Chase's, until he was holding hers with both her own, his head bowed. She couldn't see his eyes, she couldn't hear his tears hitting the tile, she could only see the tangle of brown-black that was his hair, the pale pink-tan that was his skin.
It could have been seconds, minutes, hours later, when Angie opened her eyes. She couldn't hear, she could hardly see, but she could discern Chase sitting next to her, now in a plastic chair, same as the one she had sat in when he lie in a bed, indisposed, like this. His hands still covered her own, his eyes tender as he bent over her. "I love you," he whispered.
And an image of Star flashed through Angie's mind, Star, clad in Shadowhunter gear with her stele out, her lips set in a determined line and her eyes steely with anger and determination. Star whipped her stele forward, and Angie felt pain lace through her brain as though the stele had physically hurt her. She heard a scream penetrate her ear drums, and realized it had come from her own gaping mouth.
Chase was gone in a flash, Angie tried to call after him, but her mouth wouldn't function, and he didn't return. The bed in which she lay felt as though it were rocking, lulling her to sleep, mimicking the motion of a boat on the sea. She closed her eyes.
Pain suddenly screamed through her head, accompanied by a voice as rough as sandpaper, making Angie yell, to lash out, feeling her foot connect with something soft, she flailed with her arms and heard a panicked shout, "What are you doing?" No one replied, but the voice in her mind continued to probe, and she continued, her voice a long, drawn-out caterwaul. Fingers groped along her wrist, and Angie flung out with her arms. Stronger hands pushed her arms down by the wrists, she struggled, but to no avail. More hands clamped down on her ankles, until she was completely restrained. She screamed, louder, until her voice was a high-pitched screech of pain and fear.
Pounding footsteps, more figures lurching into the room, mouths open, their faces just blurs to Angie. She couldn't see, she couldn't hear, through the pain that this creature - a parchment-robed thing - was inflicting.
"Get the hell away from her!" yelled a voice, a voice Angie could distinguish. She forced her eyes open, and saw Chase, his mouth agape, forming curses among a torrent of other things, and though his eyes evaded hers, she broke free of the hands restraining her and grabbed onto Chase's sleeve.
He turned, saw her face, and was closer to her side in a moment, his face nearest to hers, his hand closing around hers. "I'm here," Chase murmured, "I'm here, Angie."
"Don't leave me," Angie tried to say, but it came out a meaningless slur.
"Just sleep," Chase suggested softly. "Close your eyes..."
And he began to sing, a soft lullaby at first, his voice rising with the pitch and tempo of the song. Angie felt her eyes droop closed...and she fell asleep to the sound of Chase's voice in her ear.
Chapter Four - Brighter Than the SunEdit
"Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart
It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun
Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky
Shining how we want, brighter than the sun"
- -- Colby Caillat, Brighter Than the Sun
Angie opened her eyes.
She was lying in the infirmary, she noticed, though she had no recollection of how she had gotten there. A white plastic chair was placed next to her bed, and in it, Chase was slumped, his head in his hands. His elbows rested on his knees, and his fingers were knotted in his hair. The moon's light cast a long shadow behind Chase, and made his hair shimmer.
"Chase?" Angie asked quietly. Chase jerked, looking up, his eyes worried. At a closer examination, Angie noticed he looked drawn, exhausted, and horribly sad. His eyes were red-rimmed and dull, his hair mussed up. He looked as though he hadn't slept in days - his shirt was ruffled, and the jacket hanging on the back of his chair was wrinkled. He straightened his clothes as he noticed Angie staring, and blinked to rid the sleep from his eyes.
"Angie?" He scooted the chair closer to the bed with a harsh grating noise that made Angie cringe, and brought a headache back in full force. Feeling light-headed all of a sudden, Angie sank back into the bed. "What's wrong? Do you need anything? Water? Food? I can go to the kit--"
"What happened?" Angie interrupted, forcing her head to stop spinning. She pushed herself up. Chase put a hand on hers.
Chase took a deep breath. "I...how much do you remember?"
Angie racked her brain. "I remember practicing my flips, and being really upset. I remembered Star...and...everything before that." Chase nodded.
"You had just jumped when I came in, and I think the door opening startled you. You lost your balance in the middle of the air, and you weren't able to curl into a ball to deflect the injuries that would come from hitting the floor, and you landed on your back. We think...we think you injured your brain."
"That's cliché," Angie said.
"Yeah," Chase replied, sounding a lot more like his old self. "You're supposed to take it easy for the next few days...no training or anything. No jumping off rafters, that's for sure."
"Now go to sleep," Chase said sternly, though his eyes were smiling. "We can't have you permanently messing up your brain."
Angie closed her eyes obediently, with Chase's hand still closed around her own.
Star slammed the door to her bedroom shut. The sound made the door frame and the walls quiver, but Star didn't care.