Approaching the cafeteria at mid-morning is always a toss up. Some days, the majority of people have already cleared out. Other days, it’s like a zoo. Unfortunately for me, today happens to be a zoo day. I stand outside the archway, wondering if it’s worth the headache, surrounded by so many voices; so many thoughts. I can feel it starting already.
A lone figure makes his way through the maze of tables, graceful despite his size. Dark hair hangs in a braid halfway down his back, dark green t-shirt barely able to contain the sculpted body beneath. His thick brows press together creating deep lines on his forehead. It’s only when I see his eyes; if wisdom was a colour that’s the colour it would be. He was there when Kaitlyn returned.
“You seem lost,” I muse, catching him off guard as he steps into the hallway.
The man pauses, halfway turned away. He lifts his gaze to see me, apparently for the first time. His lips crack into a smile, probably out of habit. “Hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
I return with a curt smile. “Most people don’t,” he frowns, confused. “You arrived yesterday, am I right?”
He blinks, and nods. “Yes, I did,” his eyes narrow. “You came in, with the Headmistress, right?”
I’m surprised he recognized me. We weren’t even introduced. “Yes. My name is Selene. I’m a… friend of Kaitlyns,” I say, though it feels strange to admit. “I understand you were responsible for keeping our mutual friend safe in the wild west of America,” I try to restrain my mocking tone, but I don’t think it works.
He snickers. “I did what I could. Really, I wasn’t much help. If it wasn’t for that one, I’m not sure what would’ve happened,” he points his thumb over his shoulder. My eyes zero in on Kaitlyn and subsequently, Andrei, seated at a small table by the window. The conversation is tense.
“Yes,” I hum bitterly. “Where would we be without him?” Not that he believes his relevance. Insecurity will be the downfall of us all.
“Sorry, I’m Nakotah, but please, call me Nik,” he holds out a hand, a casual gesture.
I reluctantly shake his hand. “I’m glad to have another Guardian on board. I suppose we aren’t as rare as they believed.”
“Another?” his eyebrows shoot up. “Incredible. What’s your element?”
This stuns him. I can almost see the wheels turning behind those eyes. “Spirit, huh? Wow.”
“Would you like me to show you around?” I offer, gesturing to the hall. “I’ve spent enough time wandering these halls, I think I know where to find anything.”
His broad jaw spreads with a modest, uneven grin. “I would be honored, if you don’t mind.”
The castle is a massive place. I start at the top and work my way down, pointing out anything of interest on the way. In the dorms, he takes time to choose a room. Not surprising, he takes a room in the hall with the rest of us. It’s becoming quite crowded now. The one he chooses is across the hall from my own, and one to the right. Andrei’s room sits just three doors further down on the left.
On the next floor are several of the Elemental halls, glorified classrooms really. Nik stops at each of the animated doors, studying their images as they move. I’m intrigued by his curiosity, the way not even the smallest detail escapes his gaze. Few people possess such observational skills, magic or not.
“Hello friends!” a bellowing voice fills the hall. Cliff comes bounding across the marble from a door ahead. “What brings you to the Halls?” he approaches with arms wide open.
I step back, leaving Nik in his path. “Simply exploring the Guild with our newest member.”
“A new friend! Well, welcome!” Cliff throws his arms around Nik. “It is good to have so many new members at this time! I have never seen so many talented mages gathered in such a long time.”
Wait… I look closer as they stand in an odd embrace. No, my eyes aren’t fooling me.
“Wow,” I breathe. “I never thought someone would be taller than Viking here. Congratulations,” Nik looks down at me with an innocently curious expression.
Cliff hums. “Maybe our ancestors grew up on good soil. That’s what makes us so mighty. Have you been shown the training rooms yet?”
“Not yet,” Nik answers pleasantly. I groan inwardly. “I’m sure Selene was saving the best for last, right?” Nik winks at me.
“Absolutely,” I reply sarcastically.
“Well, I am a Guild tour expert. Let me join you!” Cliff booms. “We can finish off in the training rooms, and have a good spar!”
Nik grins. “You’re on.”
I hesitate as the pair begin to wander further down the hallway. “Why do I feel like this is going to end unpleasantly for me?”
I’ve spent far too much time in these white padded rooms. Am I just in an insane asylum, and this is all in my head? It kinda feels like that sometimes. If it weren’t for the bruises, I might start to believe that. The food is definitely better here.
The Viking and the Native stand at odds and I lean against the wall, safely behind the weapon racks. Cliff gave Nik the honor of choosing their weapons for the match, as he is the newbie. To his surprise, Nik chose no weapons at all but rather unarmed combat. Cliff flexes his hands, a little uncomfortable with the idea. I find it mildly amusing.
As far as size is concerned, the pair are pretty evenly matched. Cliff is a broad mountain of a man, while Nik is slightly more limber. When Cliff’s fist connects with Nik’s palm, the boy doesn’t flinch. His feet remain rooted to the spot he chose, fingers closing around it. The muscles of his arm ripple and then he trusts Cliff’s attack back at him, forcing the mountain to stumble back.
“You are strong! This is good,” Cliff grins as he lunges forward.
They lock arms, palms locked together. Cliff tries to push Nik back, while Nik resists. Cliff twists to his left, using his bulk in an attempt to throw off Nik’s balance. Nik responds in kind, flowing with the momentum until the pair lay on the ground, a tangled mess of limbs. I cover my eyes, as they begin to roll around on the floor. They grunt and groan and I can’t help myself. It looks so ridiculous, and sounds like something totally different. My cheeks flush with that train of thought.
“Are you laughing?” Cliff asks, pulling himself from the heap on the floor.
I look up, a deer in headlights, hand over my mouth, lips pressed firmly together. “Mmm-mm,” I shake my head.
“I have not heard you laugh before, it is… a nice sound,” he grins. Nik sits up, deep brown eyes intrigued as they study me.
I focus on the wall, far away from the pair who seem to have forgotten what they were doing. “Apologies, I didn’t mean to interrupt your romp,” I cough, trying to disguise my giggles.
“Would you like to join us?” Cliff suggests. “Hand to hand is a good practice too.”
I can’t catch the laugh as it escapes. “Oh my, um,” I clear my throat, wiping my face with my hands, hoping to regain my composure as my mind is filled with so many inappropriate thoughts. “Absolutely not. Nope. I’ll stay right here. You two go on.”
Nik raises an eyebrow, his mouth twists at the corner and his eyes narrow. “Are you sure?” he asks, with a teasing tone. I glare at him, though I’m sure my face is quite red.
“It could be good practice for your other skills too,” Cliff suggests innocently.
“Other skills?” I blink, mind wandering again. I’m not sure what to say, my mouth hanging open, trying to form words. I know he doesn’t intend it that way. He probably has no idea what he’s saying.
“We’ll go easy on you,” Nik winks.
If I wasn’t red before, I am now. “You cut that out,” I hiss, like a schoolteacher. “I should… go somewhere else… Right now…” I mutter, pushing away from the wall.
Cliff looks to Nik, unsure. “If you’d rather, we can practice other things, more to your liking.”
I brace myself with one hand on the wall, the other pinching the bridge of my nose as I take in a ragged breath. Why does everything he says have to sound so wrong? Nik snickers, leaning back on one hand. Come on, Selene, get your mind out of the gutter. You are far too old for this.
“I need to go,” I state firmly. “Have fun, boys,” I add as I hurry to the door, and into the hallway. The air is cool and refreshing. I think I’ll go back to my room. Maybe take a cold shower.
I start to walk away from the room when a figure appears, walking next to me. I glance up and grit my teeth.
“Don’t,” I growl. “Not a word.”
Markus smiles, looking at the floor. He chuckles knowingly, before he fades away.
I step out of my shower, a thick mist of steam hangs in the air. It really didn’t help clear my mind. I wrap a towel around my body, and rub my hair with another as I step into the cool air of my bedroom. I pull out a pair of black silk short shorts and a matching camisole top. I continue trying to dry my hair as much as possible before I climb into bed when I hear a knock at the door. I freeze and wait. After a moment, it comes again.
“Just a moment!” I call, as I throw the towel over a chair. I grab my brush and hurriedly tame the tangle of blonde. I dash into the bathroom to get my robe and slip it on as I head for the door. I unlock it and hug the robe tightly closed. Hand on the door handle, I wonder at that moment, who might be on the other side at this hour.
I pull the door open before I really have a chance to focus enough to sense who’s there. I feel a little like a fish out of water until I recognize the figure that stands before me. Maybe I shouldn’t have answered so quickly. I stare up at him, my mind blank for the first time in a long time.
“Good evening,” Nik stands in the deserted hall, hands in his pockets. “Are you busy?”
I raise an eyebrow, glancing down at myself. “No…”
He smiles, reaching one hand up to scratch his head. “I just wanted to see if you’re okay. You left kinda suddenly earlier.”
I shift uncomfortably, holding the door ready to shut. “I’m fine. Sorry if I worried you. I’m not sure what came over me.”
His eyes wander for a split second, and an uneven sly smirk grows on his face. “It’s hard to resist sometimes, when someone is oblivious to the innuendos they make.”
My cheeks flush with heat. “I don’t know what you mean. It’s late, we should rest. There is much to be done,” I slowly start to close the door.
He doesn’t flinch. “It’s especially hard to resist, when you’re looking at someone so unbelievably gorgeous.”
I freeze, stunned. “Y-you’re quite bold, aren’t you?” I clear my throat, avoiding his intense gaze. “I don’t think it would be wise.”
Nik hums thoughtfully. “Perhaps I was mistaken. I got the impression you felt this connection as well.”
“That’s not what I said,” I insist. It’s a knee-jerk response, and I quickly backpedal. “However-”
My argument is cut short by the feel of his lips. Emotions I thought I’d lost surge to the surface. Oh, what the hell. We may very well die in the coming weeks. Why shouldn’t I indulge?
I reach up, grabbing a handful of his collar and walking backward, leading him into my room. I peek an eye open and wave my hand. The door swings shut, and the lock turns. I smirk. These powers are more useful than I had imagined.
His hands, large and firm, find my waist. The robe falls open and I let it slip off. Nik breaks away, his eyes trace over my sleepwear and he snickers. He reaches down, tracing my collarbone ever so gently. I relish the feel of it.
“Undress,” I command as I walk slowly backwards into the bedroom.
He raises an eyebrow, and his eyes sparkle. “And you thought I was bold?”
I roll my eyes. “Do it before I change my mind.”
He grins. “Yes Ma’am.”
By Krystyna Yates