His uniform, black slacks and a matching, button-down shirt, was in a disarray, not buttoned to the collar like the other boys, who sat straight in their seats whereas he slouched. He was wearing heavy, dusty, raven- colored boots with thick tread - strictly out of dress code - and he had a tattoo, a black stain circling the base of his neck in a twisting, flame- licked design.

What was his name? Red?

Davi twirled her pencil between her middle and index fingers absent- mindedly as she admired her new classmate, a redheaded boy with eyes greener than the forest encasing the private academy and skin bronzed by many hours under the sun, long and lean and different in every conceivable way. He wasn't paying attention to the speaker, that much was obvious from the blank look on his sharp-featured face and the way his square jaw hung open.

Daydreaming a nightmare?

She wasn't the only one to catch the lack of interest, for the professor had noticed as well. He stopped and scowled, displeased with the teen, and promptly reminded him that he'd already been lectured on his violation of dress code that day. One minor offense, only two more to go.

No response.

Davi could see her classmates shifting anxiously in their seats, waiting for their fellow student to wake up to the strict reprimanding. The boy sure was dense, to just sit there staring into outer space when his name was clearly being repeated over and over, when the tension was so thick in the air you could taste it.

What was this guy's problem?

Besides having the color of his hair for a name.

Her friends were leaning across her desk to whisper to her, to snicker about the inattentive display before them. "What's he thinking about, Davi?" asked one.

The pale, dark-haired girl shook her head a little, but zoned in on the boy a few desks away nonetheless. "Dunno," she murmured as she poked a little at his mental shields, finding them to be considerably strong, but not unbreakable. Hurriedly, while he was still distracted by his obviously deep thoughts, she started to filter in through the shunts, slow but steady. A leach leaking into his brain.

Something frightening leapt out at her from the recesses of his mind, dark and sinister and enough to get her to instantly break the connection, pulling away completely, recoiling at his mental state. "He's such a freak," she muttered. "I can't even get in! There's something there... Maybe its his gift or something."

"RED!" The long, thin ruler carried in the hand of the oppressive teacher snapped in two brittle pieces as it came down heavily upon the edge of his desk. Everyone stiffened, fearful now, waiting for the older man to strike in other ways.

But Red continued to stare into a distant land with glazed over emerald eyes, his lips slowly parting and closing, whispering faint words that no one could pick up on.

Except Davi. That was part of her gift.

*No...no, no, no, no, not this place...where are you going? Come back, come back - I won't hurt you. Please don't leave me again... I'll be good this time.*

"What's going on, Davi?"

"He's dreaming..."

~*~*~*~*~

It was his turn to water the plants in the greenhouse, and although he would've preferred to find a servant of the house, or perhaps even Tobias to do the work, the hired help and his cousin was no where in sight. So for once, he'd have to pull his own weight with a simple chore.

He hadn't done anything vaguely resembling work since his father had died, making him the head of the house.

The sixteen year old uncoiled the long, limber garden hose and tried to tame the green serpent, struggling as it wriggled to life and water spurted from its mouth. Slowly, he walked down the rows of potted plants and flowers, taking care not to drown them although he wasn't so cautious about spilling water on the floor.

Boring work.

Dark auburn curtains shaded his jade eyes, and he pushed his bangs aside, frowning. His favorite flowers were in bloom.

Funny, he couldn't remember their name.

Had he ever known?

Whatever they were, they were blood red. His favorite color. His name.

A placid expression smoothed over his face as he let his eyes fall heavily shut, let the world melt away. He liked to be in the green house, and he often dreamed of it. When he was in bed at night, he would drift into the world he had known as a child, before everyone seemed to run away, slipping from his grasp. Must be the power he held... Yes, they were fearful of him because at such a young age he controlled the going-ons of the family.

But in the greenhouse, he was happy. No one could bother him here. His annoying cousins, both older and younger, his little brother and meddling uncles... The only family member he had even liked, an older brother, had been sent away to the Academy because he was 'gifted'. He NEVER wanted to go there, not even to visit.

The flowers were so beautiful, even though it was snowing outside.

Opening his eyes, he could see the scarlet petals dancing around in the air above his head, swept along by an invisible force until they lowered to circle his body in three, wide rings. Slowly, they melted, turned to liquid, and the water - the red water - spun about him in a serene, protecting whirlwind. Almost like a hug.

He smiled dreamily as he watched the phenomena - this was like his little dream world. Slowly, he reached out to touch the liquid, watched as it climbed about his arm like a playful pet.

"RED!"

He whirled on his heel, frightened by the desperate gasp of his name. The rings continued to circle him, but more frantically now, and he stared wide- eyed at his eldest cousin, twenty-seven-year-old Tobias, who stood rigidly in the doorway with a gaping mouth and horrified blue eyes. His hands had clenched at his sides, and he seemed frozen to the spot, Red's younger brother, Remy, peeking out from around him with enlarged eyes.

Red's heart clenched - why were they looking at him like he was some sort of monster? He was NOT a monster, no matter what other people said! "Stop it!" he commanded. "Stop looking at me like that!"

"You're...you're gifted," breathed Tobias, watching Red manipulate the swirling hurricane of blood-colored water as if he had expected this, yet couldn't believe it. "I didn't think it would...pass on to you!"

Remy, fourteen and not quite as fearful, swallowed rapidly, swayed a little on his feet, but managed not to run away. Like he had when this happened to his other sibling.

"Remy...?" Red had reached out to the boy, the water stretching past his arm in a curling, licking stream, beckoning him to approach. He had seen the way Tobias was staring at him - he'd never understand. But his closest blood relative, Remy...he could trust him, right?

The younger boy shook his head a little and backed away, not wanting to approach. His older brother's eyes were no longer green, but now an iridescent crimson, the same as the liquid washing over his body.

Red saw the gesture of hesitation and clenched his teeth tightly, eyes narrowing. "Don't," he seethed, and lashed out violently, a jet of water striking down the boy and sending him flying back, where he hit the wall with a sickening crack. Blood smearing across the now cracked glass of the green house, he sunk to the ground and lay in a confused heap, clutching at his head and sniffling as he attempted not to cry.

Tobias knelt down and gently touched the boy's wound, pulling away when Remy winced and cried out.

Red knew what all this meant. He was furious. In his anger, he lost control and the red water became clear once more, splashing down around him and miraculously not soaking his clothes as it flooded in a tidal wave across his feet and swept out towards the kneeling Tobias and Remy.

The storm was over.

And he didn't understand. Only one person in the whole entire family could have the gift - that was all he knew about it. So if he had now acquired it...that either meant that his elder brother had never truly had it, or...

He was dead.

~*~*~*~*~

Davi bit her bottom lip painfully, realizing there was something dark and dangerous about the boy, and if he was tempted, he could do some serious damage. 'Wake up!' She mentally projected the message, hoping it could reach him.

And just as the teacher raised his hand in anger to slap Red across his face, the teen jolted out of his trance with a sharp cry, head jerking back, eyes shutting, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Pushing a fall of long, black hair from her eyes, Davi's hazel eyes enlarged, and she joined in the collective throng of gasping/yelling boys and girls as the clear trickles of salty liquid streaming down Red's face darkened to a deep scarlet before their eyes. As his eyelashes fluttered to lift off dark-skinned cheeks and he looked groggily around the room, the tears of blood poured in silky rivers from his jade orbs.

"Excuse me," he said weakly, raising a hand in confusion, looking through all the bodies clustered around him, staring off into his own shattered dream world. "May I be excused?"

~*~*~*~*~

Red leaned over the sink in the bathroom and gripped the ceramic tight in his hands, neck bent painfully at a sharp angle, head hanging heavy as he stared down into the drain. He gagged; he sobbed; things went black.

The blood had stopped.

Slowly, he turned to the mirror and wiped the remains of the sticky, red fluid from his now pale cheeks. He always lost a shade of color after such a dream, but to go off like that in class...? The boy in the looking glass blinked back at him with clouded jade eyes, with lips trembling as he heaved heavy breathes.

"This is...terrible."

~*~*~*~*~

I was born to die - no one ever even asked me what I thought about it.

I know, I know. Shh...it's ok. Don't get hysterical.

I'm not. I'm NOT! Why don't you listen to me? All these things...all these things! You knew they would happen, but you didn't tell me! Oh, crap...all this blood. What am I going to do about all this blood?!

Here. Wash it off you. It'll be ok.

It's not going to be ok! I'm seventeen and I'm dying for no other reason except I was born for it! How does that translate as 'ok' to you?!

Red, you need sleep.

~*~*~*~*~

Red left the bathroom, letting the door slam carelessly behind him. He walked back to the dorm he shared with Thomas, and, finding his roommate not there, collapsed back against the corner wall to fall into a deep sleep.

~*~*~*~*~

Did you SEE that new guy? He was crying tears of blood! Is that freaky or what?!

I thought I was going to pass out... What kind of gift is that?

Davi, you're lab partners with him, aren't you?

Yeah. Unfortunately.

Too bad he's so messed up. He looked promising too. Pretty cute. Do you think he's got some kind of disease that is contagious?

Hey, there's Thomas! He's his friend! Didn't he know him from before or something? Let's go ask him about what happened.

~*~*~*~*~

A tall, blonde boy fumbled with the key to his room, clumsily trying to unlock the door and failing several times before he heard a faint click and tumblers falling out of place. With a pale hand, he twisted the knob, pushed his way in, and peered cautiously into the dark with a pair of most brilliant lavender eyes. Unusual and vivid.

Dark shadows on the bed. A school uniform carelessly stripped from a body and tossed to lay where it might fall. Purple orbs left the discarded clothes and strayed through the dark room, past the moonlit window and to the simple cot straight ahead.

"Red...wake up."

Amethyst eyes regarded the boy dozing in the corner of the room, long legs stretched before him, arms curled around one another, grasping at the elbows. Lazily, his head tilted to the side, slim, bronzed neck stretched tautly, shoulders slumped in the deep sleep that had held him captive for the past hour, dead to the calls of the world. The black tattoo around his neck, a wring of thorns that created a permanent necklace, joined with the shadows to slice the head from the shoulders.

"You cannot sleep forever..."

He didn't stir, and if anything, the teen seemed to be sucked further into his dark realm of unconsciousness. His dark auburn hair, shaggy and thick and short, fell across his closed eyes and hid them from sight, and his rumpled clothing, a pair of gray work fatigues and a worn black jacket, were old and torn.

"Come on, Red. This won't be tolerated for too long."

A flat sigh. The purple orbs flashed in a snippet of irritation, and then, clearing like the cloudless sky after a storm, shone with pity. Red had begun to move a little, to shift his position and open his mouth in silent groans. The air in front of him shimmered, seeming to tremble with the anticipation of his awakening, but the show of power soon dissipated as he gained more control over himself.

"Dreaming, were you? Back to reality now."

And Red did return, to the voice, to the world, and to the harsh life that was slowly but surely becoming his. His eyelids flew up, dark lashes lifting off tan cheeks to reveal widened, jade eyes, terrified and glinting with madness. His scream pierced the air, shattered the silence of the dark room, and as he lurched forward, blood began a massive, steady flow from his throat, hot and heavy with a metallic tang on his tongue.

The amethyst-eyed observer knelt at his side calmly, touched his back, and listened to the sobs from his younger companion. Scarlet liquid splashed the floor before him, and long-fingered hands strained over the floor in the midst of it, staining the palms and wrists.

"Red...what's wrong with you...?"

"I'm...I'm dying..."

~*~*~*~*~

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