When Ryan was a toddler, his mother plead for his life. The basis of her argument was a catch in the requirements, established in the threads of eternity, for exchange magic. He wasn't whole, had never been whole, would never be the counterweight for the wretchedness of the island.

She had used all she had; resources, energy, time, to ensure his safety. She was, they claimed, an obstruction of the greater good of the island.

Ryan, dark haired and dark eyed and impossibly tiny, is safe, but now she lives in a ten by ten cell.


His father explained to him, once, when he was eight, when he found the records in the public library. When he put together his birthday and the fact that there was a second listed - that the first was unacceptable, and he had felt like he couldn't breath.

He had told him about Addison Tate and how his mother had worked relentlessly from the day he was born to fix things, how she had been consumed with it.

Then he took him to the temple to visit the second, the sacrifice that had taken his place.

He'll always remember that first day, he was half hiding behind his father, tall and taciturn, and half behind the enormous statue of the Great Mother, and little Addison, hair almost as big as she was, tumbling down her back, with a crooked squarish smile.

He remembers the look in her eyes, and how she beckoned her over, and for at least five minutes after they had been introduced he hadn't looked her in the eyes because he was afraid that she could read his mind and know that he was the reason she wouldn't live to see seventeen.

When his father announced that is was time to go, though, her face fell and asked him if he would be back, even as she began to retreat into the statue of the Great Mother which was apparently a very small room, so apparently she hadn't heard his thoughts.

He promised.


He follows through, many, many times. And once, he brings his best friend Curly, who is obnoxious and loud and gets them thrown out of the temple.

They let him back in on the condition that he acts his age (which is ten) and not his height. (which is four and a half feet.)

Until she is of age to attend Artesian Cliff, she is only to leave the temple a few hours a day, so he spends a lot of time there.

Occasionally, an angular, pale, almost washed out, older boy comes and gives Ryan a funny look (almost a sneer, but less rude, down his narrow nose.) and Ryan takes his clue to leave.

He has a sneaking suspicion.


"Do you like it?" She's sophisticated, and fifteen. Of course he does.

"… What is it?" The closest he can figure is a cactus, until it unfurls and he recognizes it as a hedgehog. "Woah!" It takes him by surprise. "That's… awesome! Thank you!!"

She beams at him. Her name is Sade, and even at fifteen, she has enormous overflow-out-of-her-shirt boobs.

How they met is a story both funny, and excruciatingly embarrassing, so he doesn't tell it.

Either way, he and Sade are bonded, even though she is three years older than he is, and neither Connor or Aiden bother him anymore.

"I'm glad you like her." She says, and her catches her side in a funny half hug, even though she's several inches taller than he is. He's clumsy, but she smiles again. "We're going to play a game of Kiesh this weekend; Tally and Sunny, Nathan, Brendan and I. Do you want to come?"

It doesn't interest him, but he agrees. He'd like to meet her friends.


When he starts school at the cliff, along with Addison, because she's a day younger than him, and Curly, and most of the other thirteen year olds on the tiny island.

Which means, of course, that he gets to see her all the time, which is certainly a novelty.

Being pushed from a situation where she had visiting hours and curfews to living with people five days a week seemed to freak her out; she'd known only a handful of people, even less, school aged, and she sought out his company frequently.

She still, on the weekends, lives in the temple, and he still comes to see her. She shows him, with a sudden hand motion against her marble skirt, that the statue in the first room, the huge one of the Great Mother, that she is the hollow casing of a staircase, and leads down to a small bedroom.

She also explains the rules. What she has to be to keep herself an appropriate sacrifice.

The same year, his father dies. He feels, for most of the school year, like he is walking around with liquid panic and powdered desperation sloshing around in his chest.


His second year at the cliff, when he was fourteen, and Sade, olive skinned and sleek, is almost seventeen, after a summer at his gran's house, was the year of his first kiss.

It was awkward, at least on his end; she let her hand rest casually on his collarbone her breasts were pressed against his chest, and he feels suffocated, but not in the good way, and afterwards, although she didn't taste bad, he supposed, he feels compelled to brush his teeth.

Later, he writes another one of those letters that he's not sure make it to a mother that he doesn't remember. They all basically say the same thing. Thank you. I'm sorry. I love you. I'm sorry.

Then he goes to seek out Addison, because he wants to ask her about something, because he's positive that she'd know… be able to tell him, explain to him… but when he finds her, she is sitting, incredibly close, but not touching, Tally, and he leaves without a word.

The Dangle boy always make him feel awkward.


He explains to her, as they sit below the statue that has hidden them, blasphemers that they are, on so many occasions, how a loophole saved his life, and offers her a choice.

He knows he can save her, he just knows it.

She lays out the facts with painful clarity, and a detached voice that makes his throat hurt.

Breaking the rules will not save her life. It will, though, buy her three hundred and sixty-four silent, starving days, and a painful death to purify her.

So, they'll have to do much more than break the rules, he understands, in the corner of his brain that isn't focusing on absolutely keeping his hands off of her. They must, he realizes, get so far away that the rules have no affect on their daily lives.

He doesn't know exactly how to do that, but he has a feeling that a certain Templeton Dangle does.

So. Yeah. I wasn't sure if this would be any good. I'm not particularly pleased, but these weren't supposed to be artistic stand alones, just fleshing out. Just for me. Anyways, please tell me if you like them, if you think they're crap--whatever. It'd just be nice to have some feedback. And I try to review back. Common courtesy and all.

Basically, Cast, it anyone is interested: (and some of the names aren't cemented… because I'm absolutely terrible at them)

x Templeton "Tally" Mathew Dangle 3
x Ryan Nolen Sheen
-Nathanial Theodore Curl
-Susan "Sunny" Gina Glossel
-Addison Riley Tate 3