Gavin blinked at the two girls standing in the doorway. One of them was dark, with black hair as straight as a pin, and nearly taller than he was. The other was petite and red-haired. It was the red-haired one that was familiar to him. She had a nearly maniacally determined look in her blue eyes.

"I know you," Gavin said slowly. "You're in one of my classes."

"Rhyann Nichols," the girl said. "And this is my neighbor, Arisa Ravenspirit."

Gavin nodded in acknowledgement. "Somehow I don't think you're here to borrow my French notes," he noted dryly. She shook her head. "Well, then, you might as well come in."

"We have something important to discuss," Rhyann said firmly as she stepped in.

Alex had been disregarding the entire exchange, vaguely hearing the voices, but not listening to them. When the two girls entered his and Gavin's room, he snapped back to full awareness.

He'd suddenly been assailed with the most explosive clash that he'd ever felt, more powerful than an earthquake. The power levels in the room increased exponentially.

He turned and stared at the other three occupants; Gavin and Rhyann had abruptly stopped speaking, and were staring around, as if trying to locate the source. Arisa had taken a defensive stance, expecting whatever it was to attack at any moment.

Alex smiled grimly. It wasn't going to attack, he knew, and it was no use trying to find the surge of power.

It was within them. Whatever Fate had decided for them had begun.

***

A spell is a promise. Some are simple, almost one-dimensional promises, easily made, and easily kept. Others are more complex. The more difficult, the more it saps the caster, just as the more difficult the promise, the more it saps the emotions and resolve of the one who promised.

The purer the energy used in the spell, the simpler it becomes to accomplish. By that token, an Element's Spell is the most clear and pure type. There is no energy in existence clearer or more intense.

It is also the most complex. A promise of power, coming directly from a source of power, can never really be simple.

There are conditions attached, after all.

But no one ever said those conditions had to be fulfilled. And not even a powerful Element can take away what had been freely given.

***

Gavin reflected that even fictional cliches were there for a reason. He'd always scoffed at writers who claimed that in flash of blinding light, or a roar of silent thunder, a character's life changed irrevocably. Surely, he always thought, changes came more gradually than that.

Apparently not.

He opened his gray eyes and was somehow not surprised to find himself sprawled across room floor. Rhyann was in a similar position. Arisa was crouched in a corner trying to shield herself from some invisible vision.

Alex alone seemed to be without shock, without pain. He also didn't appear to be entirely there.

Alex's face appeared to be a mask of determination and resolve, though resolve and determination against what, he didn't know. His roommate's indigo blue eyes were blank; the empty stare of someone who was seeing something beyond the vision or experience of anyone else.

He only hoped that his roommate survived whatever it was. Because, whatever forces they were fighting against would require all of their strengths.

***

Alex's first impression was of both ice and a roaring sea-storm. What breeze there was was deceptively gentle. Until it hit his bare skin like a thousand frozen pinpricks.

He had always thought water was something that moved and flowed, but everything here was stationary, not moving an inch. Purely desolate.

"The thing about water," purred a voice from behind him, "Is that it has the capacity to become whatever you wish it to be."

Alex whirled to see a figure that appeared to be carved from the ice itself. As beautiful as any crystalline figure, he seemed to be as tall as the heavens, surrounded by a wealth of silvery hair. It was his eyes, however, that caught Alex's attention and held it. They were green, a beautiful shade.

And as cold as the ocean before a storm.

"Who are you?" breathed Alex shakily. Though he thought he might already know. Whatever was before him exuded the same sort of energy as Kuuki had but not exactly the same. More.malevolent.

A smile widened the chiseled mouth. "Surely you can guess; you're supposed to be the most intelligent among the four Chosen, after all. Look around you. What could I possibly be?"

Alex narrowed dark blue eyes. "Water."

"Correct," stated his companion. "Though I generally prefer Mizu."

"Why am I here?"

"Because you will interfere. Rhyann is resisting my influence right now, but eventually she will fall in line. You're the only one of the four that would have been able to prevent that."

"What about Gavin and Arisa?" Mizu's persistent arrogance was becoming quite irritating. He certainly didn't know Rhyann; he'd not even interacted with her at all. But what he had seen had assured him that she was not someone who gave in easily in a fight.

Mizu snorted. "For all her surface stoicism, Arisa Ravenspirit is too passionate at heart to possibly be effective in fighting me. And your roommate is of the Earth; always letting soft-heartedness rule over practicality." Mizu's smile made Alex shiver. He had never seen something quite so cruelly determined in his life. "No, only the Air has the ruthlessness to fight me. So you will stay here."

"Will I?" inquired Alex coolly, lifting a hand in an unconscious gesture that gathered all of his Power in his fingertips. "And what makes you think I would be willing to allow that?"

Mizu lifted his own pale hand, and the water began to flow around them. "Why would you want to leave? Everything you ever wanted is here."

Alex frowned in confusion. Then he turned as he heard a familiar voice behind him. It was his stepfather.

"Alex! Stop thinking so hard! You need to relax some more. C'mon, your mother has made your favorite for dinner."

Alex allowed the older man to pull him towards the house. Something about the situation niggled at his mind, but he wasn't entirely sure what it was.

And he could have sworn he heard mocking laughter fading away into emptiness.

***

Fire and Water are natural opposites. Flame is naturally ambitious, Water is naturally emotional. But they do meet occasionally. When they do, what one gets is smoke.

And there is nothing smokier and more shrouded than the dream.

Mizu had forgotten that, reflected Kaji with a very slight smile. He'd forgotten that he wasn't the only one who could manipulate dreams.

Kaji could do that, too. And he was going to.

Alex Maguire's dream was boring, actually. Ordinary. The life that most people lived. A small family; a mother, a father, a younger brother, all- American, and picture perfect. They supported each other; they supported their eldest son. They were normal.

But Alex's family had not been like that. It was time to remind the boy of that. Before he forgot it entirely.

Kaji reached into the recesses of Alex's memories and pulled one free.

"Alexander!"

Alex's head snapped up from where he had been staring blankly at his physics homework. He hated physics. It wasn't that it didn't make any sense to him, it was that he found it deadly boring.

His stepson's interest in the class wasn't what concerned Michael Riley, however. He was more concerned with the marketability of his education.

And if Alex didn't appreciate his concern, well then, he'd make sure that he learned to.

Brown, thought Alex as he stared into his stepfather's dark eyes, he'd always thought brown was such a warm color.

Michael's eyes were as cold as frozen pebbles.

Distantly, he heard his mother cry out thinly as fists came down on his face.

"Remember something?" asked a warm dark voice to his right. Alex turned his head swiftly to that side, and was immediately confronted with eyes the color of burning gold coins. Ash-dark hair tangled about a darkly tanned face.

"Fire." Kaji smiled. "You're right; I am Fire."

"Then why are you helping me? I'm not yours. Isn't Arisa Ravenspirit yours?"

"No," stated Kaji, "you aren't. But neither is Arisa. As long as you can think, you belong only to yourself."

Alex furrowed chocolate brows. Dimly he was aware of his dream world burning away around him. "But."

"Don't presume to know everything about a battle that's just begun," advised Kaji. "Even We don't know everything," he murmured cryptically as he too burned away into nothing.

And Alex stood alone in the fire.

***

The other three were crowded around Alex. Rhyann looked fit to kill, but it was nothing compared to Gavin's anger when Alex had first fallen under.

The ground had shaken briefly. And earthquakes were not incredibly common in Maryland.

Alex had been away from himself for over eight hours.

Gavin had been enraged with whatever had locked his roommate away at first, but very quickly, when it appeared that Alex wasn't simply going to be able to pull himself away from his invisible prison, Gavin had become pensive.

He sat at the end of the bed and stared at his roommate's still quiet face. He hadn't moved for several hours. Alex wasn't showing any signs of coming out anytime soon. It was as if there was some happiness, something reality lacked for the slight teenager.

If that was the case, thought Gavin grimly, Alex might never even want to escape.

If that was the case, there might be no reason to hope at all.

"Nothing's working," complained Rhyann bitterly. She moved her hand from where the fingertips had been resting, on Alex's pale forehead. "Something's blocking me."

Most likely Alex himself, added the girl depressively to herself. From what she had been able to discern from the sleeping boy's aura, he hadn't had a picture-perfect life by any means.

If given the opportunity to escape that existence, Alex might well decide to seize it.

Not for the first time, Rhyann felt her sectionmate's dark and steady stare on both her and Alex.

"Arisa?"

Arisa flicked her eyes towards the clear and worried gaze of the girl who had, hours before forcibly dragged her in to this disaster. She smiled slightly, reassuringly.

"He'll be coming out soon, I think. Someone is going to show him the truth." Her brows furrowed in confusion. Yes, someone was going to help Alex Maguire reconnect with reality, but why? Why was Kaji protecting someone with the power to stop his battle?

Her thoughts were interrupted by another voice. "You can see him? Then why aren't you helping him yourself?" Gavin's eyes had turned so dark a grey that they were nearly black, and his voice was rough with suppressed frustration and anger. "Why are you just watching?"

Arisa drew her breath in sharply at Gavin's verbal attack. "I can't do anything; I can only watch! Do you think I wouldn't try to do something if I could?"

"Well," returned Gavin, "I don't know, now do I?"

Whatever response Arisa may have made was forestalled by a new sound in the room.

Alex was stirring. All of their eyes immediately turned to him.
***

When Alex's eyes fluttered open, the first thing he saw was Rhyann's crystal clear blue gaze. She was concerned.

Surprising, he thought. She didn't even know him.

"Can I sit up?" he croaked. "I feel like I've been lying down forever."

"Of course you can," interjected Gavin. "But I don't think you should do much else."

Alex raised his eyebrows. "Gavin," he began, "I've been locked in a dream, not the trunk of a very small car."

A snort came from the other side of the room. Alex lifted his gaze to meet Arisa's dark brown one. "Did you send him to help me?" he asked abruptly.

Arisa tilted her head to one side. "I highly doubt my ability to command an Element, Maguire. In any case, breaking into your dream was entirely Kaji's idea. And it confused me utterly."

"Hmm." That destroyed that remote possibility, Alex thought. Not that he'd considered it all that likely, but Arisa sending her Element to pull him out would have made everything much more straightforward.

Life was rarely straightforward.

He returned his gaze to Rhyann, who was staring right back at him.

"Mizu is dangerous, isn't he?" he asked the red-haired girl.

She nodded. "He wants to prove his brother wrong more than he wants anything else. That makes him very dangerous. And he deals in emotions. That can make him even more lethal."

Emotions, Rhyann knew, could be even more dangerous than conventional weapons. Emotions cut deep, they could scar a soul for eternity.

Conventional weapons just killed.

But, she acknowledged silently to himself, scarred souls already. It might prove to be their protection.

And the source of their determination, as well.

***

A pentagram is a five-pointed star. Each of the points represents a different Element. Fire, Water, Air, Earth.

And Spirit.

This is something known by the spiritual everywhere.

What isn't so widely known is where, exactly, the Spirit comes from. Each religion interprets it's source differently; for many, it /is/ the source.

This is not the actual truth.

In fact, Spirit does not create the four Elements. The Elements instead create the Spirit. When they oppose each other, the Spirit is weakened.

But when they join together, the Spirit is at it's strongest. It is nearly indestructible.

The four Elements have joined.

Will it be enough?