He-knows-he-knows-he-knows-why-me-why-me-why-me-why-me . . . ?
Night's thoughts were almost on the brink of panic, though he'd managed to hide it from Sunray. Today's attack had been the strangest for a long time, definitely. Preciser had actually challenged him about fighting alongside Sunray; just the thought made him furious.
But second, he'd almost lost her. That experience scared him the most. He wasn't one to get scared easily, but this fear was different. Sunray had been his partner for over three years, and he knew her well . . . except for her true identity.
Part of him wished he knew who she really was; they'd not only been best friends for years, but he'd fallen hard for her as well. The same part asked him how he could love someone he didn't even know.
But I do know her. Half of her, at least. She's my only friend.
And today, watching her stumble forward blindly to give herself up, had been more than he could bear. He knew it wasn't her fault; the arrow had done something to her he didn't understand. He felt bad about pushing her down, and hoped she knew he'd had no choice. Because if she had given her light gem to the villain and voiced her submission, she would've detransformed—losing her power forever. It wasn't that she couldn't reclaim it, but Preciser was already halfway to ultimate power. The light gem would give him an enormous piece, making him ten times stronger . . . with Night the only one to stand in his way. He couldn't do that on his own. Sunray had saved his life today. If Preciser had her light gem, her power, and used it against Night, there would be no way for him to even stand a chance.
Slowing down slightly, Night jumped off the building he was on and landed in a crouch. Before straightening, he closed his eyes and said quietly, "Sunrise." His suit vanished, and when he opened his eyes and stood, he was back in his normal clothes. Glancing around, he sighed quietly and walked down the road to his house, trying to look as casual as possible.
As he started walking up his driveway he tried to figure out what he was going to say to his parents. Well, sort-of parents; he was adopted. He didn't know what happened to his real parents; he didn't even remember his mother. He'd only been seven years old when his father, Tizian, had seemingly abandoned him at an orphanage, leaving him with the dark gem and a small sheet of paper and a confusing explanation that he couldn't remember. He recalled tearfully asking over and over why he had to go, but there had never been an answer. He'd put the gem and the paper in his pocket and had stood crying when the headmistress had opened the door to him. She'd warmly welcomed him inside, but as he'd walked in he'd looked back at the street one more time. His hopes had fallen. His father was gone.
The adults there had been kind for the mostpart, but also persistent in trying to find out where he'd come from. He never said a word about it, though, and kept the dark gem and paper in hiding. However, he hadn't much understood what the paper was explaining for a long time right up until the day he'd actually activated the magic. As a result, the first few weeks and months of being a superhero had been very confusing and stressful, but Sunray had eventually helped teach him what was going on.
He was ten when the Sameron family had adopted him. For about a year he was their only child, then a pair of twin girls were added to the family, not adopted. The older—May—didn't like him a lot when she discovered he wasn't her real brother. The younger—Anna—on the other hand, absolutely adored him. She and Sunray were his only comforts of what he'd lost. His possession of the dark gem, however, was kept secret even from them.
Now the little blonde six-year-old came tearing across the front yard and threw herself into his arms. "You're baaaaack!"
"Yep." He lowered her gently to the ground.
Anna frowned. "Alex, how come you're always so late on Mondays?"
Alex shrugged. "You know the big, ugly bad guy?"
"Well, he always seems to attack on Mondays and Fridays. So I have to go the long way home to stay safe."
"But he won't ever hurt anyone, because Night and Sunray will protect them," Anna declared.
"True." Alex took her hand and started toward the front door. "But we shouldn't take our chances."
He opened the door and let his sister in, then closed it behind him after he entered. The warmth from inside surprised him as he suddenly realized how cold it was outside. He was also taken aback at the realization that he liked the cold better.
Sometimes he thought his power was almost a part of him, after being a superhero for so long. There was no warmth in darkness. The term "dark and cold" described his powers well, though not his personality.
"Alex, where have you been?!" his mother exclaimed from the kitchen.
"Outside," he answered distractedly, and wandered to his room while Anna repeated his explanation to her.
As he entered his room, Preciser's words from earlier that day rang in his head: You can't be in the light.
He closed his door and flipped the lightswitch. "Yes, I can," he said aloud, his tone defiant. "Just not at two on Mondays and Fridays."
He sat back against the wall on his bed, listened carefully for footsteps in the hallway, then pulled out his dark gem and studied it. It didn't look too special; an ordinary mortal other than himself and Sunray's secret identity wouldn't give it a second glance, although it could've caught the attention of a geologist. It was small, maybe an inch in height, shaped like a 3D diamond, and jet black.
"Who would guess," he mumbled. "This thing turns me into a superhero." He glanced up and slipped it safely back in his pocket.
He was just in time. Anna poked her head in his room, partway so only her bright blue eyes showed. She stuck a hand in and waved. "Hi, Alex."
He smiled and gave a little wave in return. "Hey, Anna."
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Can I come in?"
At that, she skipped inside, closing the door behind her, and plopped on the bed beside him. "Are you tired?"
"A little bit."
"Did Preciser get you on the way home?"
How . . . How am I supposed to answer that? I've lied enough today! "Um . . ."
"He did?" She sat up straighter in alarm.
"He . . . um . . . sorta," Alex mumbled, trying not to show his unease.
"What does that mean?"
Alex didn't know what to say.
"Are you hurt?"
"No!" he finally burst out, nearly trembling. "Just don't tell anyone about this, okay? Please?"
She nodded slowly, then went on on a puzzled voice, "But if Preciser attacked you, how did you escape?"
He hesitated for another moment. When he finally answered, it was the truth, and he didn't feel guilty.
"Sunray saved me."
Anna sat bolt upright. "Really?!"
"Yeah . . ." Her sudden excitement made him smile.
You're right. He glanced out his window and gazed at the last rays of sun over the city buildings in the distance. They were beautiful, he thought, just like his partner. As May called for Anna somewhere in the hallway, and she left, he remembered how relaxed and happy he felt every time he saw her, on Mondays, Fridays, and any other time. It wasn't often other than the times he saw her that he felt so relaxed, since what had happened with his father so long ago had shaken him so badly that it had eventually affected his mind, to the point where his mother had taken him in several years ago to see why he didn't act normal for his age. They'd told her that he was mentally ill with major depression and anxiety, which had affected his life for the worse. The years leading up to the present had been rough, and it was only thanks to Sunray that he'd survived.
Their first meeting hadn't been smooth, either, but over time, he'd slowly opened up to her as a result of her determination to help him. Now, over three years later, she was his closest friend. It hadn't been her looks that had made him fall for her, but she was beautiful. She had light green eyes, filled with a fiery warmth most of the time. Her long, light blonde hair was almost always tied back Jasmine-style: tied in sections all the way down as a ponytail, although it was usually hidden behind her hood while they were fighting. He'd only ever seen it loose once. He especially loved it when she smiled. It brightened up everything, quite literally, and it was contagious.
Now, the rays of sun had disappeared. The sun was out of sight, but it was still light outside.
This is the only time we can really be together, Sunray. The sun's setting, but we can't see it. I wish we could've talked a little longer when we had the chance today, but I also don't want you to endanger yourself when it gets darker, so maybe how things turned was for the best. I hope Friday's cloudy. I'll see you then, can't wait.
He rested his head against the cold glass of the window, and quietly repeated his own words from the last time he'd seen her.
"See you Friday." He hesitated, then added, "Or hopefully sooner."
• • •
"Everyone up! Quickly! Earthquake!"
Startled, Alex jerked awake. It was the next morning, and his mother's terrified voice sounded down the halls. He instantly knew she was right; the walls and floor were trembling, not too violently, but growing louder and harder by the minute.
Glad he'd slept in his clothes and not his pajamas—which would've been pretty embarrassing if he'd made his next move with them on—he ran out his door, tore down the hallway, then burst out the front door and took off running down the street. He knew his neighbors well enough to know they wouldn't be up at seven, even with an earthquake starting. His sisters had rooms on the opposite side of the house. All this whirled through his mind as he ran, and he made sure he checked all the houses for watching faces before beginning his transformation rhyme:
"The sun goes down and darkness falls,
The time my power grows.
I stand in shadows of nighttime's halls,
While my contrary glows!"
While chanting he never stopped running; he had no time to waste. The earthquake was steadily increasing in power, and anyone could see now it was going to be bad. At least one building would be coming down.
Night started racing faster, defying the now-violent quaking of the ground. Suddenly hearing a burst of screams close by, accompanied by a slow crashing sound, he realized he'd been right: a building was falling. Skidding to a halt just in time to avoid a collision with his barrier, he thought, Take me to the danger, and stepped forward. The next second he was standing in a new shadow . . . which happened to belong to the falling building.
He looked up in a brief flash of terror, realizing the sun had been rising behind the building, and its shadow was solitary.
But his terror quickly drained away. He could see what he had to do, even though there was no time and no point in shadow-transferring himself. The building was falling fast, and some people hadn't gotten out of the way yet. Before he started, however, he spotted a familiar gold-white figure racing toward the building with amazing speed.
He smiled. Sunray.
Her face was fiercely determined, her sharp green eyes fixed unwaveringly on the danger. She vanished inside, reappeared a millisecond later with an older woman, set her down, then shot out of sight again. The structure was almost flat on its side, but within half a second Sunray had saved all its inhabitants: eighty to ninety people.
Shaking himself back to the current events, Night sprinted around the area he was in, shoving people out of the path of danger as quickly as he could. By this point the huge structure was practically on top of him, but he hastily lifted his arms and used all his strength to hold up the collapsing building. The weight of it forced him onto his knees, but he managed to keep it from crushing him and the last of the scrambling people around him. Still, it didn't seem as heavy as it should've . . .
Then he twisted his head slightly and realized Sunray had dashed in and was helping him hold it up. She was peering around, apparently scanning for any people still underneath it, but the road was clear aside from them. A moment later she glanced over at Night and called, "We're good!"
He nodded once, then began forcing his way to his left, while his partner started moving to her right. Both continued to support the horizontal building until they finally made it out to the open air and dropped it fully to the ground. He leaned against it for a moment, trying to catch his breath.
Sunray came around the side, also panting, but with a gleam in her eyes. "You didn't think I was going to let you have all the fun, did ya?" she called with a smirk.
"Of course not!" he called back, smiling in the midst of the natural disaster, then straightened as cracks began to open in the ground. The people, frightened by the weakened buildings, had all come outside, and another building was falling.
Night and Sunray both darted forward, but Night had forgotten about his barrier. He ran straight into it, then rolled his eyes and shadow-transferred himself to a more convenient shadow. He quickly joined his partner, pulling back the people from the cracks as he ran.
Sunray raced inside again, once more emptying out all its terrified inhabitants in less than a second.
There was another panicking crowd standing in the path of danger. Night could see they were trying to get out of the way, but the roads around him were too crowded. Exchanging a quick glance with Sunray, Night gave a brief nod, then dashed forward, calling to everyone, "Clear out! Move back!"
Gradually, they obeyed, but not fast enough. Gritting his teeth in determination, and knowing Sunray wouldn't need orders on what the plan was, Night ran into the dark section of the building, his partner doing the same in the lit section, and lifted his arms above his head for the second time. Once again, they managed to catch the huge structure and keep it high enough for the people to scramble madly out of the way. Fear for their lives seemed to make them obey faster.
Once the road underneath was clear, Night shouted to Sunray, "This one's bigger; we've gotta drop this one, too, but don't let go until I tell you! Got it?"
"Got it!" she called back, and began to walk slowly sideways to the edge. Night did the same in the opposite direction, gritting his teeth under the weight of the heavy structure. Once he was out from under it, he made sure he thoroughly scanned the shadowed road where he'd just been standing for any people, and could see Sunray also standing out of danger before calling to her, "Now!"
Both heroes let go, and the building crashed fully to the ground at last.
Shortly afterward, the rumbling slowly began to cease. Night stepped back, breathing heavily, while Sunray came around the side of the building and began checking after the crowd. She began helping the people who had fallen to their feet, her soothing voice calming the panic. Watching her, Night couldn't help a little smile of admiration for her. One word would describe her right then: amazing.
He walked over to his partner and put his hand on the barrier, watching the golden ripples for a moment before asking softly, "You okay?"
She looked up at him and smiled. "That was a first. Do you think Preciser had anything to do with it? He might've had a 'little—' " she did air quotation marks with her fingers, "—temper tantrum once he recovered from the temporary blindness I gave him yesterday."
Night shrugged. "It would've been nice if the blindness was permanent. Then he could be stumbling around blindly, and it would be simple to defeat him, even if I didn't use darksweep."
She giggled, which made everything seem fifty times better. "Nah, this one was probably natural." Briefly she glanced over at the sun, not squinting at its blinding brightness, then back at Night as he stepped backward; the sun was rising fast, and his barrier was moving towards him.
He couldn't help feeling a little disappointed when she went on, "Okay, the crowds are calm, and I'm pretty sure the cops over there have everything else under control." She pointed across the street. "Plus, the shadows and light will be moving all over the place at this time of day, so . . . I've gotta go."
There was a momentary silence. She reached out and placed her hand on the barrier against his on the other side, the ripples from the soft impact black instead of gold. She drew in breath and opened her mouth as if to continue, but bit back whatever she was going to say, dropping her gaze to the ground. Instead, she looked up at Night again, and his heart began to ache as he recognized the familiar sadness and pain in her eyes, shared in his own.
At last she broke the silence by saying in almost a strained voice, "It was . . . nice to see you sooner than we expected." Hesitating, she finished with a little smile, "See you Friday, Night. Or hopefully sooner."
Shortly after she left, Night shadow-transferred himself back to his room, grabbed his backpack, then vanished again before his adopted parents could see him. Reappearing behind his highschool, he muttered, "Sunrise," and detransformed.
He swung his pack over his shoulder and quickly made his way down the windowless side, trying to figure out an explanation to his teacher, Ms. Elena, why he was late. Then again, she probably wouldn't ask; he was almost always late.
Speed-walking down the whitewashed halls, he finally arrived at his first class and entered. His classmates all turned around as he did, and as he walked to his seat he realized he was the last to arrive.
There were four rows of four desks, and his seat was the front left, which he wasn't exactly content with. He would've preferred a desk in the back row. Jakira Lumière and Grace Robin were the only other introverted students in the class.
Flashing an uneasy glance at Alex, Ms. Elena began talking. "For our next history project, which you will not be allowed to research for with the Internet, you'll be working in pairs." As the students began to murmur excitedly, she finished, "Which I've already chosen."
The class groaned.
"Grace and Michael," she announced. As the two got up and met, the teacher continued, "Shawn and James."
She'd gone through nearly the entire class by the time Alex heard his name. He sat up straighter as she called, "Alex and Jakira."
He blinked, then twisted around to look at his new project partner. She shrugged and waved, smiling a little. He waved back, then picked up his books, stood up, and walked over to her. "Uh, hi."
"Hi," she answered quietly. For a moment there was an awkward silence between them, until she finally broke it by continuing shyly, "Do you . . . um, happen to know much on this? I'm not what you'd call a historian."
"I'm not an expert, either," he admitted. "But I did do a project similar to this once. I can't remember when, but hopefully I can remember how my group figured it out last time."
"At least one of us does," she responded with a quick smile. As the other students paired up and left, she added, "Do you wanna go to the courtyard or the lockers?"
"The courtyard," he said instantly. "It's quieter. But first the library, to see if they have up-to-date encyclopedias that might help."
She nodded. "Good idea."
A few minutes later they arrived there, quietly slipping through the tall shelves searching for the encyclopedias. After a brief search, Jakira spotted them.
They both grabbed a certain letter and slid down beside the tall bookshelf, quietly flipping through the pages looking for an intended subject. Alex couldn't believe what he was seeing. "When were these things written—Noah's time?!" he asked incredulously.
Jakira laughed and swatted his arm playfully. "Encyclopedias didn't exist then, silly!"
He smiled. "Yeah, I know. I was joking."
They both remained silent for a little while after that. Something about the quick exchange they'd just had kept nagging at Alex. But he didn't really know why, and was too intent on looking through the books to think closely about it.
Suddenly finding what he'd been looking for, he looked up in excitement at his partner and exclaimed, "I've got it!" just as she said the exact same thing at the exact same time.
They both blinked, then lowered their eyes in embarrassment. "Sorry," Jakira mumbled. "You go."
Alex held up his hands. "No, no, no, no, no," he insisted. "Ladies first."
She looked up at him sharply, her bright green eyes widening for a moment in surprise. Alex blinked, wondering if he'd said something weird without realizing it.
But as quickly as she'd gotten it, her shock faded away. Avoiding his curious eyes, she said quietly, "Thanks," and explained what she'd found.
Inwardly he calmed down and in turn told her his own information, but the strange feeling picking at him grew, and an unexpected question repeatedly rang in his mind the rest of the day.
Why do I feel like I've known her before?