Chapter Two Morning had come damn too early for him. He swats the area down, searching for the blanket he knew had slipped off sometime during the night. All his hand encounters, though, is cool stainless steel and hard plastic. He curses to himself, still not bothering to open his eyes. It was too early to wake up. His girlfriend could get up early and pseudo-function, but couldn’t even begin to pretend like that. Rowen Hashiba stirs, wondering muzzily why he ached something fierce. He opens his dark blue eyes to the unfocussed image of his father’s laboratory. He blinks his eyes again and rubs the gummy feeling from them, and realizes he’s not going to be able to pull it without glasses today. He’d fallen asleep in the chair next to the huge telescope, right where he could look through it without craning his neck. Price of straining my eyes all night, Rowen thinks, scratching his head. He needed a shower something fierce, and some breakfast. He hops out of the chair, grabbing his coat, and wanders out of the lab. He knew there was a small cafeteria somewhere around the university grounds. He sorts through the deep pockets until he finally locates the hard case that houses his glasses. He unfolds the thin, ultralight, wire frame glasses and slips them on. The world immediatly jumps into focus. The optomitrists had assured him that he was growing out of his nearsightedness and astigmatism. Probably would have twenty-twenty or a near appoximation by the time he was eighteen. Rowen wanders into the University Centre and down the steps to the cafeteria in the lowest level. The smells of cooking do little to wake him up further. He grabs a tray and puts together a large breakfast. The clerk dosne’t even bother with conversation. She know’s Dr.Hashiba’s son is next to worthless in the morning. Rowen finds a chair in a corner and eats his breakfast in a half comatose state. He honestly just wanted to go back to bed and forget the world existed, but he had to catch the bus back to Toyama in an couple hours. Once he was home, then he could think about going to sleep until he was damn ready to get up. Thunder and lightning crash, and heavy rain and hail pound and rattle Cye Mouri’s bedroom window. The smells of his mother’s baking waft up the stairs and through his open bedroom door. He always used to come here for vacation. That was so long ago; his father was still alive and had gotten a temporary job back in England. His aunt had fixed a room for him when he visited, and kept a lot of things to do when the weather was terrible. Like today... He had originally planned on taking Rahne Sanada for a tour of the area, and then east to Grand Rapids to visit her friends. The storm had effectively canceled that idea and had only intensified as night fell. He’s stretched out on his bed playing Sorry with Rahne. He presses his stockinged feet against the wall and scoots back a little to give his friend some more room: Rahne was laying on her stomach on the remaining three or so feet of the bed, with most of her legs hanging off. "Sorry," Rahne says as she bumps Cye’s piece out of the way. "Whatever." Cye gives up and sits cross-legged. He draws another card, and sighs. "That’s three and another five that is..." "Totally bored." Cye looks up in mild surprise and then chuckles dryly. "Wanna quit?" Rahne puts her head down, then looks back up. "Then what’d we do?" Cye shrugs and yawns. He quickly makes a sweeping down motion against his temple with his little finger. "You ‘don’t understand’ what?" Cye blushes; realizing that he goofed yet again and made the wrong sign, thinking it was "I don’t know." Rahne starts laughing and falls off the bed, landing painfully on the never-ending piles of board games. "Are we that bored, Rahney?" Cye chuckles, helping her to her feet. "Good thing you have a leotard on under that thing." Rahne looks down brushes a wrinkle from her short, wrap-around, silk skirt a little self-consciously. His aunt had gotten it for her, and she was being polite and wearing it; even though she didn’t normally do skirts. She sighs and gives up on the garment. "Does Kento make nightly kitchen raids?" She mutters, shoving the games over near the wall. "Meaning: Yes." Cye looks out the window contemptuously and zips up his gray, hooded sweatshirt to cut the chill that’s seeping through the window. "God, won’t this ever end?" Rahne shrugs, and places her hands flat on the ground while her knees are straight. "I need to do something physical; I’m going nuts. Sight me," she murmurs as she kicks her legs up into a hand stand. Cye guides her legs up as she finishes the movement. Then steps back so she can do a round-off back down. "I still say you’re ‘absolutely adorable’," Cye teases as Rahne smoothes the skirt back down over her leotard. "Oh shush, English Brat." Rahne grumbles, snapping the red beads of her hair-elastic, putting it back on to tame her hair. "Please don’t remind me that I’m a living Barbie-doll to her." Cye takes off the sweatshirt so it won’t get in the way and kicks his feet a little to loosen up. He wouldn’t mention what happened to her to Kento; she had been pretty humiliated even without anyone’s help. "Could you sight me now?" Cye asks. He stretches his arms and body upward until he feels his back muscles sting from the stretch, then he leans backwards into a back bend. He feels Rahne’s hand on his lower back, guiding him. He reaches back until his hands are on the floor. Then he kicks his legs over his head and over his center of gravity. Then he simply sinks down and into a roll. He comes out of it into a sitting position. He tugs on his blue, tie-dyed T-shirt to straighten it. "Thanks." Rahne wanders aimlessly over to his shelves of knickknacks and plays with his dolphin kinetic sculpture. Suddenly she laughs and pulls a Super-Nintendo cartridge he’d hidden behind a book and a couple of his old swimming trophies out. "Cye? I know you like fish, but don’tcha think The Little Mermaid is a little much?" "You found it," Cye mutters distastefully as he gets up to take it from her. "It’s one of the Christmas gifts from hell. Y’know how that is." Rahne nods in understanding. She wanders over to the window and looks out to watch the lightning play across the clouds. "Why don’t you join the guy’s team? You’re as good as I am." Rahne asks, looking back at him, brushing some of her ever-wild bangs from her face. "What, gymnastics?" Cye shrugs, "Just doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun. It’s just not something I want the pressure of competition on." "Okay. I was just curious anyway." They fall into a comfortable silence. Cye flops down on his bed and dozes for a few minutes. "We could put our armors on and go to the beach." Cye opens his eyes and shakes his head, knowing that they were soon going to be bored enough that they’d regress to acting like eleven-year-olds. "And what do you propose we do there?" It’s Rahne’s turn to shrug. "I dunno. Justa thought." Cye gets up, having decided to try a joke in sign language. Rahne had lost most of her hearing as a small child, due to some illness. She remembered sound, but couldn’t hear anything but the loudest sounds now. The memory helped her control her voice and interpret what others were saying by reading their lips. However, it had taken years to relearn how to speak. She still attended the Speech and Hearing Clinic for some of her classes. He and Kento had taught her how to better control her voice, but it had taken so much work and trust... Ryo knew sign language really well, and Rowen could make himself understood. Kento knew enough basics to converse with her, but he usually didn’t bother with using them. Sage and him were still learning, though. He begins to make the gestures that he hopes will convey the joke. Rahne watches him and raises one black eyebrow. She squeezes her eyes shut and starts laughing uproariously. "DID I DO IT RIGHT!?" Cye shouts, feeling delirious that he actually got it right this time. Rahne shakes her head furiously and wipes tears from her eyes. She grabs his collar and whispers what he said into his ear. It makes absolutely no sense to him. He shrugs. "Don’t tell me you didn’t learn anything hanging around Kento!" Cye thinks for a moment and shrugs again. "C’mon! It’s as bad as English humor gets! Or locker room for that matter." He thinks for a while, his thoughts suddenly turning decidedly ribald. "Oh God!" Cye groans, his neck and face feeling warm, and he starts laughing embarrassedly. "Stick to saying it out loud. It’s safer!" Rahne laughs from her seat on the window sill. It takes them a few minutes to calm down. Cye leans against the wall next to the window, feeling bored once again. So he grabs Rahne’s long black ponytail and starts playing with it. He shakes it and swings it back like a miniature jump-rope. He twirls it around in the air vertically. "Cye, knock it off!" Rahne yelps as Cye tickles her in the face with the ends. "Cye, what are you doing to her?" His Mom calls up the stairs. "Nothing!" Cye calls innocently, tugging on the long train of hair. He splits it into two long sections and shakes it as if they were they were a horse’s reins. Then at a curious urge, he plays with the hair elastic. He twists it one time too many and the elastic snaps, the hard plastic balls striking the back of her head painfully. "That’s IT!" Rahne snarls, lunging for his electric razor. " sorry!" Rahne plugs it in and advances on Cye maliciously with the wickedly humming device. "When I’m done, Kento’ll call you cue-ball!" "Um, Rahney, tell me you’re not that bored?!" Cye pleads, eyeing the razor aimed at his head. Rahne smiles, an absolutely mischievous twinkle in her bright blue eyes. "I’m not. This’s revenge!" "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!" Cye screams, tearing out of the room at lightspeed. He hears his suitcase open. Then Rahne giggles with delight. Oh, God! She found the cordless! Rahne charges down the hall after him, now wielding his brand new rechargeable electric razor he brought with him from Mia’s. When they reach the family room, Rahne throws on the brakes and stares out the large picture window. Cye takes the opportunity to sneak up behind her and get the razor away from her. "What’s with all the lightning at the end of the pier?" she asks, resting her palms against the glass. Cye runs back to his room and tosses the razor in his underwear drawer in his dresser. When he gets back she’s still staring out the window. "Cye, something’s not right here..." Rahne says, her voice reverting to it’s original too soft. Cye walks up behind her and puts his hands on her shoulders, feeling her jump slightly. She feels so tense, and she’s trembling. Cye’s light blue forehead kanji glows slightly as he tries to feel what she feels. Her own violet one glimmers faintly in response. He should be able to feel exactly what she does since her kanji of hope was almost identical to his kanji of trust. There’s all sorts of lightning striking at the end of the break wall out there. Cye almost doesn’t believe what he sees: a pool of calm in the center of all the lightning strikes. His own heart beats a little faster as he feels the first tingles of his armor’s danger warning. "Aunt Vivian, Mom, get away from the window!!" Cye yells, beginning to pull Rahne away. "We’ve got a squall line coming in!!" He hears his aunt and mom moving deeper into the house, Cye glances back to see what’s happening... "DOWN!" the two teens scream at once. Cye and Rahne hit the deck as the glass erupts inward toward them. There’s a brief flash of white and the roar of an close explosion. Cye jerks his legs in so they’re tight to his body, keeping them away from Rahne’s energy shield. Rahne sits up, her thin hands held out in front of her. Cye sits up behind her and braces her back with his arms, keeping her upright. Rahne screams something unintelligible. Cye can hear another sound, like bombs going off in a series; and feel the icy wind roaring fiercely past the shield. Rahne strains to keep the shield erect against the incredible force. Finally it’s over. Rahne slumps against Cye in exhaustion, weak from fighting the winds with her shield of cold. Cye throws her arm over his shoulders and half drags her down the stairs. His mom and aunt lead them to the car and they huddle inside to get away from the lightning. "Is everyone all right?" His mom asks, shaking in her seat. "Yeah, Mom. She’s just scared, that’s all," Cye says, rubbing Rahne’s hands to help return circulation to them. Mia had warned Rahne that her core body temperature abruptly dropped several degrees as a side effect of using the shield without the armor. Rahne draws her legs up onto the seat and snuggles against Cye for warmth. After a while, Cye’s Mom and Aunt get out to speak with a police officer. Rahne looks up at Cye and whispers, "That wasn’t just a storm, was it?" "I don’t think so..." Cye whispers back, watching the rain splatter and run down the window. End Chapter Two