Genia, Tara, and Isaac were silently sitting in Tara's kitchen. Isaac was alternately moving between the window and the phone, Genia was staring silently at a cup of something that Tara had handed her, and Tara was busy trying to think of what to make for dinner. It was the only way for her to keep her mind off the fact that there hadn't been any word of Lisa since the warehouse had collapsed.
"We don't know for sure that she was there," Genia murmured after a moment. "She might've gotten out."
"She brought it down," Tara said. "I felt it. She brought the warehouse down."
Genia looked at Tara. "How long have you known?"
"About Lisa, or about myself?"
Tara sighed and leaned against the counter. "I've known about myself since I was a child. My sister, Lisa's mother, used to try to train me, but I never had as much power as she did. And I knew about Lisa since I discovered where she was. It was Lisa's power that convinced me to take her in. None of our other relatives were equipped to deal with it." Tara bit her lip and fought back tears. "Why is this happening? What could those people want with…"
Isaac's shouted cry caused Genia to react instantly, cutting off Tara. Tara, sensing Genia's urgency, followed into the living just in time to see the door fly open on its own (Isaac, of course). Genia and Tara raced to the door, and saw Lisa stumbling up the driveway. She was covered with building dust, and she definitely looked like she wanted a shower. She grinned, laughed, and said something to Isaac that neither of them could pick up. Genia and Tara rushed forward and embraced the younger girl.
"Aunt Tara, you're okay!" Lisa said happily, throwing her arms around her aunt. "Thanks, Genia."
Genia shrugged modestly. "Anytime."
Something dinged inside the house, and Tara bolted for the door. "The pizza!"
"Dinner," Isaac explained. "Hey, you saw me coming! Can you see me now?"
"Almost completely," replied Lisa. "You're a little fuzzy around the edges, though. Am I glad to see the two of you! Nobody followed you?"
"We made sure of it," replied Genia. "We were on extra-high alert for awhile, because we didn't have any protection. Can you put up a barrier?"
"Sure." Lisa closed her eyes and concentrated, and a minute later opened them again. "Done. No one loyal to the Project can enter the house."
"Speaking of Project loyalty," Isaac said, suddenly serious, "where's Ayuru?"
Genia glanced at him sharply, then looked at Lisa. "Lisa?"
The younger girl just looked at her blankly. "He left," Lisa said. "That's all. He only promised to help get Aunt Tara away from Earhart – he's dead, by the way. Neither he nor William escaped the collapse of the warehouse. Ayuru stayed with me until he was certain there were no agents from the LP following, and then left."
"And you're okay with that?" Isaac asked gently.
Lisa pushed past them and headed towards the house. "Why wouldn't I be?" she asked over her shoulder. "It's not like I wanted him to stay or anything."
Genia and Isaac looked at each other. "Well," Genia said, "so much for your theory of this being an authentic bonding." She tossed her hair over her shoulder and followed Lisa into the house.
Isaac stared after the girls, puzzled. I was so certain, he thought. Lisa's keeping something.
Upstairs in her room, Lisa closed her door and made sure to lock her windows. She may have put that shield up, but she didn't know how long it would hold. Even with Ayuru's added power inside of her, she wasn't certain of her ability. And losing control had shaken her up pretty badly. If Ayuru hadn't been there to help her, she probably would've ended up killing herself.
She reached into her pocket and removed a small, diamond stud.
One hour earlier…
Lisa winced as Ayuru applied pressure to the cut on her leg. "You're lucky this is all you got," he said. He tore off another inch from the leg of his pants, and wrapped it around the cut. "Good, looks like the bleeding stopped. Any more cloth and I'd be wearing shorts."
"Thanks," Lisa said, smiling weakly at him. "I can't believe I brought the entire warehouse down."
"It was pretty amazing," he said, nodding. He reached up and caught her chin in his hand, and forced her to look at him. "But Lisa, you were out of control. You need to learn to control your abilities better, especially with the added power from myself. Our connection made me feel you lose control. Lisa, you have no idea how afraid I was when that happened."
She touched his shoulder. "It's all right, Ayuru. I know that I have a lot to learn. But you'll help me, right?"
He looked away from her, and gazed stonily at the ground.
"You will help me…won't you?" Lisa asked, her voice trembling.
"Lisa, the Project may have given up on you for the time being, but I'm still on their list," Ayuru said. "If I stay near you, I'll end up leading them straight to you."
She snatched her hand away from him. "You're leaving?" she whispered incredulously. "But…Ayuru…"
"Listen to me carefully, Lisa," Ayuru said. "Genia and Isaac probably don't want you to know, but you have a right. When I came after you that first time, I had every intention of forcing you to bond with me. I never had a chance to complete it…I hadn't realized I had even done it. But the bonding process did begin – it's why you and I have felt such a connection to each other, through our power. There's no way to erase a bond once it's been consummated."
She paled. "C-consummated? But that means…"
"We're not," Ayuru said quickly. "I'm much too old for you, for starters. You're fourteen. I'm twenty-five. That's an eleven year difference, and I'm ashamed that this had to happen. With luck, the bond with fade over time, so long as it remains unconsummated. Until then, I absolutely have the stay away from you, Project or not."
"How will we know once it's worn off?" Lisa asked. "How will I know if you're not around?"
He reached up and removed something from his ear. "Take this," he said, handing it to her. "It belonged to my mother. I have another one. So long as we each have once, we'll be connected. And when you're able to hold that earring and not feel my power, you'll know that the bond has faded."
She looked at the diamond stud in her palm. "Will you come back, then?"
"Maybe," Ayuru replied. "Although I regret forcing this bond onto you, I don't regret meeting you. You've shown me that there are others things out there aside from the Project – that Outcasts can live normally." He stood from his kneeling position and straightened his vest. "It's safe to return to your house now."
She stood as well, wincing only slightly from the cut on her leg. "When will you leave?"
He looked at her. "Now."
She bit her lip, and nodded. "Okay," she whispered, clenching her fist around the earring. "Good luck."
Ayuru turned to go, then paused. He glanced back at Lisa, who was looking down at the ground dismally. The bond may have been an accident, but it's still there, he thought.
He turned back to her and kissed her softly. "Stay safe," he whispered before turning around again and heading down the street. He didn't look back.
If he had, he knew that he wouldn't be able to walk away again.
Lisa turned towards her mirror and slipped the earring into the hole in her left ear. She didn't mind that she only had one – it was enough. And if anybody asked why she only wore one earring, she'd just say she couldn't find the other one. Or she wouldn't say anything at all. It really wasn't anybody else's business.
The earring connected her to Ayuru Yashimoto, and that was all that mattered.
Lisa sighed and sat down on the edge of her bed. No matter where you go, she thought silently, I'll always be there. I'll be right behind you, every step of the way. Until you come back to me.
From downstairs, Tara's voice wafted up. "Pizza's ready! Better come down before it gets cold, Lisa!"
"In a minute!" Lisa shouted. She reached for her journal and flipped open to a new page. A new, clean page.
Yesterday was the first day at my new school. I met a couple of people, Christie and Erek. They pretty neat, and normal.
Today was the first day of my strange, new life. I met a new group of friends. There's Genia, the Seer. Isaac, the Spirit. I just found out that my Aunt Tara is a Minor Psychic (must run in the family). And there's Ayuru, the Manipulator. A lot of people call us Outcasts, and even we do, but I don't really think we are. An Outcast is someone who doesn't fit in…but we do fit. With each other. And I think that's all we need.