Comfort for Insomnia

So Liana Mir and I are doing our little ficlet prompting thing we do again.

I’m going to post a few things that spawned from there over the next few days (one a day so not to spam, even though I wrote most of them the same day.

This was out of the prompt for “Malina, insomnia.”

Comfort for Insomnia

“I’m not keeping you awake, am I?”

Malina stilled, her foot still mid-step, wincing as she did. She sighed, shaking her head as she changed direction, veering off her intended path into the kitchen for the one that took her over to where her brother was on the couch. She should have known that even if he wasn’t awake, he’d know she was up and moving the moment she got out of bed. Most of the time she tried not to move around at night, but she’d given up on sleep. Again.

“It’s not you,” she said, sitting down beside him and allowing herself to take on his ability. “Though I might need you to get through work tomorrow.”

He snorted. “You know it doesn’t work that way. You don’t retain the energy the way I do. You can’t use it to keep you awake for days—and you wouldn’t want to.”

“Then why do you do it?” She asked, leaning her head against his arm. “You need your rest, too.”

“Not in the same way. I don’t… I don’t think I’ve ever really functioned like that. I remember being unable to sleep when Enadar needed the nightlight on, and I might have been showing signs of what I am even back then.”

Malina closed her eyes, wishing there was a way to will away pain and guilt, that she could take them from him somehow. “Why are you so stubborn about seeing yourself as evil when I’m not and Enadar isn’t?”

“Why are you awake if not because of me?” Alik countered. “This is the third night in a row where you haven’t gotten any sleep.”

“I have insomnia. You know that has no rhyme or reason.”

Alik gave her a look, and Malina caved. “Fine. I… It… You know it’s been a year now, right? Or almost. I…”

“You’re afraid of reliving the crash in your nightmares again.”

She shuddered, curling herself closer to him and his safety. “Yes.”

He put his arm around her, and she started twisting the fabric of his shirt in her fingers until he caught them and made them stop. “Ice is a fragile thing. Too fragile, sometimes, for any real existence. It can be broken, it melts easily in the sun and becomes as nothing… and yet ice can be hard and stubborn and unyielding—”

“I’m a mirror, not ice.”

“I never said this story was about you.”

Like the Wind

Author’s Note: So while I did a piece for “She’s Like the Wind” for Vred and Malina, I couldn’t help thinking that I should be doing one for Enadar. I suppose it’s cheating with Felise’s ability, but it made sense, and the opening paragraph kept bugging me.

So I used these lyrics:

She’s like the wind through my tree

and probably these:

She’s out of my league
Just a fool to believe
I have anything she needs

And then let Enadar talk, and this is what came out. Oops?

Like the Wind

“I think I understand now,” Enadar said, kicking at the rocks. He put his hands in his coat pockets, shaking his head. “It’s not just that she can control wind currents. She is the wind.”

Alik lifted his head. He could hear something in his brother’s voice, something that needed to be addressed, but he did not know how to deal with it. His own mind was far from the concerns of his younger brother, and they always had been. Alik didn’t understand the way Enadar’s mind worked. It wasn’t that he didn’t know Enadar was smart and mostly logical. It was that his brother acted far more on his emotions than Alik had ever done.


Enadar gave him a dark look. “Come on. You know who I mean.”

“Felise,” Alik said, rubbing his forehead. “Enadar, I don’t—”

“You’re the storyteller. You should get symbolism.”

Alik snorted. “Not everyone puts deeper meanings in their stories. I told you the ones I did as a distraction. I didn’t have time to weave allegory into them. Symbolism wasn’t my objective.”

Enadar rolled his eyes. “Think about it, Alik. She’s the wind. She’s the thing you want most that when you think it’s within your reach… that’s when it slips through your fingers. Just a breeze in the tree. That’s all you ever have her for, that moment when the wind touches you… and then it’s gone.”

Alik shook his head. “You are overreacting.”

“Am I? The moment I think I understand her, that we’re getting along, that I think I feel… something and that there’s this infinitesimal chance that she does, too, then… Then everything shifts. Something gets said or done, and we’re as distant as two strangers again.”

Alik let out a breath. “Why do people have wind chimes?”

“Um… for the sound? The song. The one the wind plays when it passes through.”

“Does it sound the same every time you hear it?”


“Does that mean that you never hear the chimes again?”

“No.” Enadar frowned. He folded his arms over his chest, and Alik could see him thinking it through. “You’re saying that… that even when the song changes, when the wind circles back, the chimes… still have the wind when it does? That even if the song changes—what, take what you can get? Is that it?”

“You have to listen to the songs to hear the differences between them. You have to accept that the beauty of the song is not in holding it in one place but in appreciating it for what it is,” Alik said. He studied his brother for a moment. “Stop trying to see her on your terms. See her on her own.”

“You’re right,” Enadar told him, and Alik started to frown. “You suck at symbolism.”

Comfort over Broken Glass

Author’s Note: So my morning started out with a cupboard in our house coming off the wall and shattering all the dishes in it, some of which we’d been collecting for years.

It was not a great start to the day. I didn’t think I’d have any kind of Tuesday truffle in me, but it actually got me to write this.

Comfort over Broken Glass

“I hate being the mirror.”

“I think anyone would have guessed that,” Alik said, coming up to his sister and looking at the broken glass scattered across the floor. A mirror that large breaking should have drawn the whole house into her room, but this place was ornate enough to have sound dampening that kept the crash from alerting everyone.

“You say my ability is better than yours, than Enadar’s, but it’s not. I’m just a copy. A reflection. I’m not even—”

“Don’t say that,” he interrupted, stepping over the glass to reach her, grimacing when he heard it crack under his feet. She would not like the symbolism of that act. He put his hands on her cheeks, knowing he’d have to move them soon because he did not want to force her to mirror him for immunity to his energy. “You have never been a copy of anyone, Malina. Yes, you are a lot like Mom, but so is Enadar. You just take on more of it because you have her role and her features, but that has never meant that we saw you as just a replacement for her.”

Malina closed her eyes, trying not to let the tears out. “I find myself acting like her on purpose. We might—well, Enadar might—jokingly call you ‘Dad,’ but you don’t act like him. I act like her.”

“You act like calm,” he disagreed, and she blinked, frowning at him. He lowered his hands, not wanting to hurt her. “You say I am safety, but you have always been calm.”

She continued to frown. “I don’t understand.”

“You have always calmed the storm,” he said. He saw her confusion. He swallowed and forced himself to add, “the one in me.”

“I do?” She shook her head. “I don’t think I do. You’re always so… tense, so hard to reach.”

“With an exploitable weakness to you.”

She half-smiled, wiping away tears. “It’s not a weakness. You do know it’s not, don’t you?”

“I need you more than I like to admit.”

“And I love you,” she said, throwing herself at him and clinging to him. He shook his head—why was it she always manage to break things when she didn’t have shoes on? He lifted her up, trying to keep her from touching down on the glass again.

She lifted her head from his chest and looked down at the floor with a grimace. “I should clean that up. I didn’t even think. I was just so sick of the reflection…”

“You shouldn’t be. You’re beautiful,” he told her, and she clung tighter to him. He shifted her around to his back. “I’ll help you find a broom.”

She put her head down on his back, letting out a contented sigh. “I should be too old for this. Are you sure I’m not too heavy?”

“Wouldn’t carry you if you were.” He stopped at the door, pushing it open, and he looked up to see Vred in the hallway. The tracker took them in with a frown.

“Don’t ask,” Alik said, not wanting to explain. Then he grimaced. “We will need a broom, though.”

Devious with Sweaters

Author’s Note: So when I wrote this, I was looking for something light after a bit of darkness, and I surprised myself by writing a bit of Vred and Malina fluff. It was funny, and the first thing I thought of when I looked for today’s theme.

This was, actually, tweaked a bit by Liana Mir, as I do still make mistakes with Vred.

Devious with Sweaters


Vred glanced at the article of clothing she held out to him, taking in the color and garish decoration before he looked back up at Malina’s face. “You are still angry with me?”

She laughed, almost dropping the sweater on the floor. “No, but I don’t think we have anything else around here that would fit you. Just because I have two brothers does not mean that either of them are your size. That was Dad’s. It should fit, and before you say anything, my mother bought it for him.”

Vred took the sweater from her. He was practical enough to know that he needed to change and it would be warm and his size. He did not know that he should object to it. He started to replace his ruined garment, and she flushed red, leaving the room.

After he had changed, he turned his attention back to his phone and the many things he had to do.

It was not until Alik crossed into the room and stopped, staring at him, that Vred looked up. “Something wrong?”

“Oh, no. Simply admiring my sister’s handiwork, that’s all.”

Vred frowned.

“There is a whole box of Dad’s clothes upstairs, and she chose the shirt he hated the most. I think Kale bought that when he was drunk. I also think you might have fit into something of mine.”

Vred looked down at his shirt. “Devious.”

“And she knows how to fool your senses. This should be interesting.”

Vred looked slightly annoyed. “They’re not foolproof. I’m not an empath.”

Alik raised his eyebrows.

Vred sighed and shoved back the computer. “A change of clothes would be nice.”

Malina walked into the kitchen, took a look at Vred and then calmly crossed over and hit Alik. He glanced at her—not the only one to do so.

“You changed him,” she hissed. “I wanted pictures.”

Wordlessly, Alik passed her the cellphone.

She wrapped her arms around him. “You are the best brother ever.”


“Sorry, Enadar, but Alik still wins that contest,” Malina said, smiling as Alik shook his head and walked away. She shrugged, grinning as she ran off with her prize.

Safety and the Walk to School

Author’s Note: So today I’m running late again, and I’m aware that I need to find a better way of finding pieces on time, but there are days when I can’t think of anything that fits the theme without needing more context than a snippet should have. I may have to reassess the themes, but for now, this Tuesday truffle is a bit of Alik being the big brother that he is and Malina being the sister and friend she is.

Pulled this from the side childhood project again. Bad me.

Safety and the Walk to School

Alik walked Malina to school every day. He was always ready before she was, bag on his back and eyes out on the road. She didn’t know what he thought would be there or even if he thought that there was something out there. She didn’t know. Alik had read lots of stories, and he knew more about the world than they did. If there was something scary out here, he would know.

She knew that she didn’t want anyone else protecting her.

Every day, she put her hand in his as she had done since before she remembered. Her mother told her stories sometimes about how she and Alik would always hold hands. If she was near him, she would reach for him. He did the same. She had known him as safety before she knew what the word meant.

She squeezed his hand, and his eyes turned toward her, shifting in the early morning light.

“Something wrong?”

“I want to walk with Lisea.”

“Not with me?”

She bit her lip. She didn’t want to let go of his hand. She was not scared, but she did not know that she could chose friend over brother. As much as she liked spending time with Lisea, as much as she had come to see her like a sister, her bond with Alik was older. Deeper. How could she turn away from that?

“Can I have both?” She saw him frown. “I still want to walk with you, but there’s no reason why we can’t walk with Lisea, too. See? She’s right there, and I think she looks a bit scared. Will you walk us both to school?”

He glanced toward Lisea, who was fidgeting, adjusting her coat and looking back at her house like she wanted someone to come out and tell her she didn’t have to go to school. “What if she does not want me there?”

“Then I will walk with you, but I think she wants us. She is just not sure how to tell us.” Malina stepped up to kiss his cheek. “I will go get her. You will wait for me?”


She grinned at him, though she had to admit that she did not feel as happy when she took her hand out of his and ran over to Lisea. “Hi.”

Lisea jumped a bit before blushing and smiling. “Hi. I didn’t see you coming.”

“That’s all right. You want to walk with us? Alik said he’d walk us both to school today.”

“Alik would… Why would Alik walk me?”

“Because you’re my friend and Alik is my brother and Alik does what I ask,” Malina said. The whole thing was simple to her, even if she’d doubted her brother’s willingness a few minutes ago. Alik did do what she asked a lot of the time. She held out a hand to her friend. “So you will come with us?”

Lisea timidly reached for her hand, taking it, and even though she still seemed a bit nervous, the other girl was a bit more relaxed, at least until they reached Alik. She seemed to shrink back behind Malina as she took her brother’s hand again.

“I’m glad we’re all walking together.”

Alik glanced toward her, and Lisea almost pulled away, but Malina drew her back close. She didn’t know what to do with this awkward silence. She wished that Alik made Lisea feel the way that he made her feel—Lisea could use that kind of safety. Not that Lisea was threatened, but she would be freer and happier if she felt safe enough to relax more.

“You had Mrs. Caldor last year, didn’t you, Alik?”

He nodded. “I thought you didn’t. You had the other one, the new one—”

“We do, but she’s leaving. Getting married in two weeks and moving to Cranton with her husband,” Malina said, not sure how her brother had missed that because he didn’t miss anything. “What is Mrs. Caldor like?”

“Old. Smells funny.”

Lisea stared at him. Malina laughed. “Quit teasing. What is she really like?”

“She does smell funny,” Alik said, looking away. “You will tire of her choice of perfume as it is disgusting, and the way she writes on the board is—she always makes the sound that the chalk makes worse. Once a week she comes back from lunch with her breath reeking of garlic, and you do not want to sit up front because of it.”

“You don’t sit up front. They do it by the alphabet, and ‘k’ is in the middle of it and—Oh. You got in trouble, didn’t you?”

Alik nodded. “It would be better not to tell her how bad her perfume is. Do not mention the garlic unless you want to go to the principal’s.”

“Is she that terrible?”

Alik did not look over at Lisea, but he did shake his head. “She’s not horrible. My teacher this year is worse. No, Mrs. Caldor is not all bad. She… She has games to forget that she is teaching annoying things. She reads interesting stories. Sometimes she has treats. And you two will do better than I did—she likes girls, not smart-mouthed boys.”

“I like this smart-mouthed boy,” Malina told him, smiling, and Alik grinned at her. She let go of Lisea’s hand long enough to give him a hug. “Try and be good in class today.”

“No promises,” he said, kissing her forehead. “Go to class now. Don’t be late.”

She nodded, turning back to grab Lisea’s hand before walking to the door to their classroom. Alik waited for her to go inside—he always made sure she was there before turning to go to his own class. She waved at him, and he waved back before turning to leave.


Malina looked over at Lisea. “What?”

“Maybe it would be nice to have a brother.”

I have two. You can have Enadar, Malina almost told her, but she knew that was not fair. Lisea was admiring Alik, not Enadar, and Enadar was not much like their older brother. “We can share.”

“We can?”

“Why not?” Malina shrugged. “We share everything else.”

A Tense Car Ride and Story Time

Author’s Note: I am nearly too late with this, but as much as I knew that I could use it, having written it not that long ago, I did not want to. In part it is because it could be spoilery, in part because I should post from something besides this story, and in part because I’m no longer sure I like it.

Still, with this headache, I can’t think of an alternate piece for Thursday Travels. This one… wins.

A Tense Car Ride and Story Time

“This car is not big enough for all of us,” Enadar grumbled, shoving at the bags in the cargo area of their car, trying to get comfortable. The car only had seats for five, and the girls got the back seat by default when Alik took the keys and the tracker got the front, leaving Enadar with the luggage because he supposedly fit better back here. That was a lie, but the three of them probably had more room without him. He wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t have so much junk in the back.

“We could have left you behind,” Felise said, and he gave her a look as she smiled at him. He did not know why she always had to be like that, but for some reason, they weren’t good at not snapping at each other.

“We are not leaving anyone behind,” Alik said in what Enadar would have called his stop fighting or I will pull this car over voice if his brother didn’t have an ability. “Don’t start.”

“I think we could have left someone behind,” Enadar said, glancing toward the tracker using his phone in the front seat. Alik’s eyes darkened. “Or maybe we should have left some of this girly stuff so I would have somewhere to sit.”

“Yeah, because it’s not like you don’t have the biggest bag back there, since it’s full of books,” Felise said. “And my stuff is not girly.”

“Like anyone would call you a girl.”

She might have hit him, but Alik got there first—without even moving. Enadar jumped, rubbing at his sore thigh. “Hey! I am supposed to be immune to that.”

“Not if I do it the right way,” Alik said. “Behave, all of you, or I will do more than give you a little shock. You can spend the rest of this car trip—and it isn’t even that long a trip; this is unnecessary—unconscious.”

The tracker gave him a slight frown from the front seat, and Enadar thought Lisea was trying to pretend that she wasn’t here again. Felise shifted forward, frowning a little. She might not believe he meant it, but that was why he did not have a stop fighting or I will pull this car over voice. He had a stop fighting or you’ll end up unconscious voice.

“That is not necessary,” Malina said, though Enadar thought that she looked carsick, and she never got carsick. “I have a better idea.”


Felise looked at Alik. “You didn’t even hear what she was going to say.”

“Don’t have to,” he answered, speeding up to pass the small sedan in front of them. At least there wasn’t a lot of traffic today. “I’m not doing it.”

“It’s a better solution,” Malina said as the car made one of its terrible lurching noises. Felise winced. “We could all use a distraction now. Between the car and the cramped quarters and the abilities—please, Alik.”

His brother’s jaw tightened, but Enadar knew that he would give in. Everyone did to that tone of Malina’s, though it didn’t help that she looked like she might vomit all over everyone because she was too close to the tracker and couldn’t shut his ability out.

Next time, she got the cargo area.

“Use this,” she said, reaching into her blouse and pulling up the necklace. Enadar tried not to wince. He knew she started wearing it after their mother died, but he didn’t like being reminded of it any more than Alik did.

Alik let out a breath. “Sometimes, Malina—”

“I know,” she said, covering the polished stone with her hand. “You still love me, though, so go ahead and tell it.”

Alik grunted. He kept his eyes focused on the road in front of him, not glancing even close to the tracker. Must be embarrassing, that side of him when everything else he did was so tough and prickly just like the jerk in the passenger seat, but that made Alik the better person.

“There was a kingdom surrounded by a shining blue sea, straight and smooth almost like polished stone,” Alik began, and Enadar sat back, amazed by the victory that Malina had managed. Alik had sworn off that story long before Mom died. “It was isolated from the rest of the world, set apart by that sea. The rulers of the kingdom were fair and kind, and the citizens of it had known peace all their lives. They did not think there could ever be a threat to their existence. No one was curious about what was beyond the sea—no one besides the crown prince—”

“Was his name Enadar?” Felise asked. “Is this one of his bedtimes stories?”

“No. It isn’t.” Enadar glared at her. “Don’t you dare ruin this, Freckles. Alik hasn’t told this story since before Mom died, and this one is Malina’s favorite and one of his best.”

“The lonely prince,” Malina whispered, twisting the chain the stone was on around in her hand. She closed her eyes with a smile that had the tracker frowning at her.

Alik glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “He was not lonely.”

“He was stuck fighting a war without anyone’s help, without anyone even acknowledging what he was doing for them. It seems like a lonely life to me,” she said. “Go on, please. Tell us the rest of it.”

Alik shook his head. “I think this is not as good an idea as you thought it was.”

“I’d like to hear the end,” Lisea said, and Enadar knew that sealed it. No way Alik could manage to ignore the princess and Malina.

“The prince was aware of the limits of the sea, and he felt a growing threat outside of their borders, but he could not convince anyone else that it existed,” Alik went on, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. He forced himself to stop. “One day, he went across the sea, chasing after the threat, foolishly believing that he could protect his land from anything that was coming…”

The Right Dress

Author’s Note: So once again, I am pulling from the childhood side project. This scene seemed fitting to use for Wednesday Wardrobe, since it has them trying on dresses. It later lead to a whole series of scenes about a school dance, but I am only posting this one today.

The Right Dress

Alik glanced at the two bags sitting on the table, stopping to rub his neck. He was going to have to talk to the foreman about his schedule. The idea of him having a couple hours after school for homework had been nice in theory, but in practice, it did not work. He kept falling asleep the moment he sat down, and that wasn’t helping much.

He checked the clock, missing his ability to wear a watch without destroying it. He only had a few minutes before he needed to go.

He shook his head, walking away from the kitchen. With their father working in other cities and their mother gone most days, the house was a disaster. Enadar ignored it, always in his books, and it wasn’t fair to make Malina do it all, but she was the only one who seemed willing to do it, who was home to do it.

He would have to do something about that, too. If he figured out his schedule, he should be able to make time to do more here, too.

He stopped outside the door to Malina’s room, hearing voices inside—were those two actually arguing? Since when did Lisea argue?

“Malina?” He knocked on the door. It opened, and he found himself staring at his sister, trying to decide if he’d woken up or not. “What are you wearing?”

She laughed, pulling the door open wider, letting him in. “I knew it. I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen. Can you believe that this is what they expect Lisea to wear to the party her family is having next week? This is terrible. The color is bad, the fabric is itchy, and the design… I told her it was hideous, but she wouldn’t believe me. So I put it on, and she’s still trying to tell me she should wear it. There’s duty, and there’s insanity, and that is insanity.”

He didn’t know or want to know anything about fashion, but he agreed with his sister. He didn’t think he’d seen an uglier dress, and people had tried to give her some terrible ones in the past.

She took hold of his arm. “Tell her that one is a much better fit—in color and style and everything else. That looks good. That is what she should wear. I don’t care if her grandmother got her this one. This is wrong. That is right. Tell her.”

Alik did look, and as his eyes took in the line of the dress that Malina had chosen for her friend, the way it fit and molded her, emphasizing where it should and concealing where there might have been flaws, unpleasantly aware that both of them were becoming women—a fact he did not want to know about his sister—he understood the purpose of the dress the others had chosen for Lisea.

He leaned down to his sister’s ear. “I think the whole point of that dress you’ve taken on is that she’s not supposed to be flattered in it. It’s meant to make her seem more shapeless, less attractive, less noticeable… more dowdy.”

“What?” Malina demanded, shaking her head at him. “Why would anyone do that? That’s not right. Are they trying to humiliate her?”

“Malina,” Lisea said, sounding rather humiliated at that moment. “Please help me get this thing off. I will wear the other one. I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

“This is the dress that would be embarrassing. This one’s meant to make you look—I can’t even say like an old woman because it’s not. It’s worse than that.” Malina crossed over and took her friend’s hands. “I can’t understand why they’d ask you to go looking less than your best, to make you feel so… Why would they make you do that? It would only hurt you, and that is not what I want.”

“I think I’d be more comfortable in it.”

“I am not giving you this hideous thing back. Your grandmother can be as mad at me as she wants. I’m burning it.” Malina looked back at him. “Alik, I know you’re hopeless at this, but help me convince her. That dress is one she looks good in. Pretty. You’d dance with her at the party, wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t dance.”

Malina sighed. “If you did?”

He must be late for work by now. “Yes. If I were the sort that went to parties and if I were the sort that danced, then I would. I have to—”

“Would I get a dance, too?”

He let out a breath. Sometimes he wanted to hate his sister. He stepped forward, giving Malina a kiss on the forehead. “Yes, sister, you would. Now I have to go to work. Will you take care of the kitchen?”

She winced. “Yes, but you owe me a dance.”

“Robots don’t dance.”

A Bad Case of the Flu

Author’s Note: So I am lying down because I feel rather awful myself at the moment. I had already been thinking of using these scenes for Tuesday truffles, but they seem even more fitting now.

A Bad Case of the Flu

“Don’t move.”

Vred shook his head, trying to push his way up despite the nausea that would keep him where he was. He had too much to do to allow this illness to stop him. Three hundred eighty-eight. No, more, he corrected himself, since he had somehow acquired three more when he joined up with the Kallas family.

“I have to.”

“No,” Malina said, forcing him back when his coughing disabled him. “You are sick, and you are staying where you are. You know that you need rest, too.”


She laughed, humming to herself as she drew up the blanket over him, tucking him in, something no one had ever done to him before, not even his mother. She had been about making him strong, and strength did not come from lying in bed. “Yes, you can. In fact, what you can’t do is use your ability. Not when you’re sick.”

He did not want to think about that. He could not afford sickness. He was not going to stay in bed. “I have work. I can work without my ability—”

“No, you—”

“I can.”

“You can,” she conceded. “Yet you do not have to. Even though you’re sick, I can use your ability. I am a mirror, remember? I don’t take on the physical when I borrow anyone. I can use you just fine.”

He frowned, not liking her terminology. “You are not—”

“I look, I assess, and if there is anything, Alik handles it. You’re fine. They’re safe. Now get some rest,” Malina insisted, adjusting his blanket again. She hesitated and then leaned down to kiss his forehead.

Vred stared at her, noting the slight flush before she shut off the lamp beside the bed.

“Goodnight, Vred.”

“It’s not nighttime.”

“It is for you. Get some rest.”

“I have something for you, Freckles.”

Felise groaned, trying to pull the covers over her head. She did not know what had cursed her with Enadar Kallas as her primary caregiver while the flu swept through them—and she didn’t know what it was that made Revente genes that much weaker to this particular strain, but while the Kallases seemed almost immune to this flu, she knew that she and her cousins had gone down hard with the full thing—fever, aches, chills, nausea—and she could not get herself out of bed.

“Mom swore by this, and Malina assured me that this is her recipe. Not everything works the way it did when she was alive, though. Something always seems to be missing, and Malina says it is Mom’s special touch—but Malina should have that, so I don’t know why it doesn’t work.”

Felise looked over at him. “Stop talking. You are more annoying than usual when I’m sick.”

He smiled at her. “Normally, I’d take that as an advantage to exploit, but I told you—truce until you’re better.”

“Who are you, and what did you do with Enadar?”

He laughed, sitting down beside her and holding out a mug. “The patented Kallas Kure for all things flu and cold. And Alik overloading himself.”

She studied the cup suspiciously. “What’s in it?”

“Honey, lemon, cinnamon, clove,” Enadar continued to rattle off ingredients enough to make her think he’d made more than half of them up when he started talking. “And, of course, love.”


Enadar grimaced. “Well, that was Mom’s special ingredient. Or so she used to say. It’s not as effective if it’s not made with love and given with love and…”


“And a kiss after every sip,” he said, turning bright red. “Not that I’d do that to you. I wouldn’t. It’s—I—I’m going to leave now.”

He shoved the cup at her, and Felise looked down at it with a slight smile. Made with love, huh? It could be worth trying.

“You look exhausted.”

“I thought I would say that to you,” Alik said, giving the princess a look out of the corner of his eye. She was on the mend, finally, which would be a relief. He had almost been willing to believe that this flu was some kind of side project of Harking’s or the Watch, taking down people with abilities—well, Reventes, mostly—the way it had. “Though you are improving.”

“You’re not.”

“Vred has a thankless job,” Alik said, unable to summon a smile. He did not think that anyone realized how badly overworked the tracker was or how much could have fallen apart the moment he went down with that flu.

“Which you took up for him?”

“You could say that keeping his people protected suits my interest as it protects mine as well,” Alik answered, rubbing his neck. He closed his eyes, telling himself he was not coming down with the flu. If he did, the floodwaters would break loose, and everything they’d done so far would be undone.

“That’s not why you did it, though.”

“You’re still sick,” he said, aware that she would not have been that bold if she was able to think clearly. He almost liked it. “And no, it’s not, but if anyone asks, it is. You should be resting.”

“So should you.” She flushed. “I just… This is the first time I’ve felt able to be out of bed in days, and I don’t want to go back there. Malina’s exhausting herself taking care of all of us, and I don’t want to be a burden.”

That was so typical of the princess. “She knows you’d do the same for her. Go to sleep. Malina will take her own rest when she can.”

“And you?”

He had been running on pure energy for half a week, and it wouldn’t last, but the crises were abated for the moment, and he would crawl into his own bed for a bit until Malina woke him with something else to handle. “I guess it’s bedtime for both of us, princess.”

“I thought you weren’t going to call me that anymore.”

He smiled, pushing her toward her room. “Tonight it fits. Your turn to go play the role of Sleeping Beauty.”

Ability Out of Control

Author’s Note: So today I decided (almost at the last minute) to use something from my side project for the collaboration, a story detailing Alik’s childhood. This unauthorized side project came out of my obsession with Alik, and it is almost a novel in of itself. I do not know if much of it will surface in the finished version of our collaboration, but this fits mayhem, and it is Monday today, so here goes.

Ability Out of Control

He’d just set the whole place on fire.

Alik looked at his hands. With the storm passed, he’d done his best to practice getting rid of the energy, and he’d thought he’d started to understand—if he took energy in, he could purge it back out, sending it through his lamp or something else electronic, shifting it down the wire, getting rid of it. That discovery had helped.

He could manage his pain, manage the aches, as long as he was able to touch the electronics and rid himself of the energy he seemed to hold onto, and that was a relief. He was starting to understand what he was and how to use it.

At least, that had been what he thought he was doing until a few minutes ago. He had purged the energy before, several times, enough to make him think that he would not have trouble with it, ever, but what he had not thought of was that he’d done it in a rather controlled setting, only a bit at a time, and he hadn’t factored in his emotions, either. This might have been nothing more than the simple flickering of lights he got when he touched his lamp.

Except that was touching his lamp and sending the energy through the power line.

This time, he’d just touched the outer wall of the store, hadn’t directed anything with the energy, hadn’t even thought that he needed to, and the energy had flowed out without him intending it to, arcing across the building with a sudden ferociousness that had left Alik with nothing to do but stare as the building was consumed in flames.

He knew it could be worse—they’d finished the going out of business sale the day before yesterday and the remainder of the store’s stock that hadn’t sold was loaded on a truck yesterday, so that wasn’t an issue. They wouldn’t have to pay for what hadn’t sold.

He would have to check the papers to see if they still had insurance on the building. This could actually help them—they’d been told that the structure wasn’t one that people would want to buy, not as it was—no one had been interested in the month it was on the market, but now, perhaps, they might be. The insurance might even pay out, giving them something to start over with, something that could help cover their bills until they were able to sell the house. He knew they had to move, had to reduce their expenses.

He needed a job of his own, too.

He’d have to spend the rest of his life trying to atone for this mistake. He hadn’t thought he was capable of this kind of destruction, but he was. He had a feeling he could do a lot worse if he was doing it on purpose. He had not meant to do this, but that did not mean that he had not done it. He had.

He had destroyed the store.

The store that had stood for generations in that same location, the one that had been founded generations ago by the first Kallases in Holteshire, the one that had been passed down with pride from father to son until his grandfather had abandoned his family. The store that was his father’s greatest love, what he’d devoted his life to, the same store that he had poured everything into—that was now burning to the ground.


He blinked, turning to look over at the person who’d called his name. Had he been seen doing that? He should have run, now that he thought about it. He should have left. They’d accuse him of setting this fire—and he had—but he didn’t want to go to jail for it. It was an accident.

Something worse than jail would await him, though.

He’d seen it. He knew exactly what would happen to him if he admitted that he’d caused this fire. He could see the tree, could feel the rope around his neck even though that part was not of his memories, only his imagination.

He’d get lynched.

He had said that he would fight back, that he’d kill them before they could kill him. He looked at the fire. Yes, he probably could do it, but he didn’t know how he’d done that. If he tried again, he didn’t know that he’d be able to do it.

“I thought your father was selling the store.”

Alik nodded. That was what was supposed to happen. They were going to sell the building and the lot. They didn’t have any choice. They had no way of starting a new business there. “He was. He is. He was. I don’t—This shouldn’t have happened.”

“I think you’re going to need to come with me.”

He looked at the sheriff. He couldn’t object—if he did, all he would do was incriminate himself, and if he did that, he would meet a tree and a rope and a fate he’d sworn wouldn’t be his. He could hear his sister in his head, telling him how much they needed him, and he couldn’t let himself get lynched.

“Come on, kid,” the sheriff said, pulling him away. “Are you trying to get yourself burned up? I know your family isn’t thrilled about losing the store, but don’t go getting yourself caught in that thing. You couldn’t save the store if you tried.”

Alik blinked. Had the sheriff actually assumed that he was there to put the fire out? He hadn’t assumed that Alik set it? Why not? Why wouldn’t he think that Alik had done this?


“I’m afraid I’m going to keep you in my office for a while, Alik. I don’t know how long it will take them to prove that this wasn’t arson, but I hope they can, or you are going to be in a lot of trouble.”

Robots United

Author’s Note: Today I pulled out a scene I think most would consider pure ridiculous. My decision to give Alik a cat was a bit silly in the first place, I admit, but then I wrote this, making it… worse, I suppose.

I am not that good a person, I guess. This came from a weird personal conversation I had, which I should not admit to having, but I am that kind of crazy.

Robots United

Alik stopped in the doorway, frowning when he heard the half-squeak. “What are you doing?”

“Playing with the cat,” Enadar told him, looking up at his brother with a grin. Alik gave him a look in return. He’d known the cat was involved because of the noise she’d made, but what he did not know was what the youngest member of their family was doing to her.

“I don’t think she wants to play.”

“You do not have the ability to speak cat. You also can’t tell me you know what she’s thinking.”

“Yes, I can,” Alik said, tired of having similar discussions with his brother. He had ever since Robot had decided she was Alik’s cat and not a family one. She tolerated Malina, but she hadn’t been willing to be close to either of their parents and as for Enadar… Sometimes he was too much of a child still, at least in Robot’s opinion. “You can hear it in her voice and see it in her eyes.”

Enadar lifted Robot up and studied her. “You can decipher her eyes. That’s it. That’s your secret method of communicating robot-to-robot. The laser eyes.”

Alik shook his head. “Give me the cat.”

“Just because she likes you best doesn’t mean I have to give her up the moment you walk into the room. I wasn’t hurting her. We were playing.”

“Playing what, exactly?”

“Did you know she’s ticklish? Right about where you are, too. Must be a robot thing.”

“Cats aren’t ticklish.” Alik took the cat from his brother’s hands, swatting them away when Enadar tried to recover the cat. “Don’t. I’ll overload you if you try and take her back.”

“You’re no fun.”

Robot jumped up onto Alik’s shoulder and bumped her head against his. He reached up to pet her, and she started purring.

“Really, she should fall off of you when she does that,” Enadar grumbled. He was correct. Even though Robot hadn’t grown much past the size of a kitten, Alik’s shoulder wasn’t a good place for her to perch, but she seemed to like it there—it was where she always put herself if Alik was standing. He could hold her in his lap if he was sitting or let her sit on his chest if he was lying down, but she only wanted the shoulder if he was up and moving. “It’s not fair she likes you best.”

Alik smiled. “I don’t tickle her.”