AN: And here it finally is. THE NEW ONE. The FAQ & review replies for predator should be out within the week. I just need to get to answering all those questions. Uhm... This fic's going to be totally different in terms of genre. The romance angle will also be a lottt more prominent (yes, there will be reaallll romance rather than the twisted stuff that dominates cath&preddy). It's also a kind of experiment for me in terms of structure (you'll see what i mean as it develops) so it could either end up as a complete mess or turn out pretty good. That's what second drafts are for, right guys? The updates for at least the first six chapters will also be pretty regular as they're already written and sitting merrily on my laptop. This one's totally out of my comfort zone so please do bear with me. I don't promise to pull this off but I didn't want to write the same sort of thing again 'cause what's the point of writing if you don't experiment? I also intend to make this a lottt less confusing than usual. I think i need to let people's minds take a break, especially after the confusingness of predator. And i think that's enough rambling for now. Yup. On with the fic!

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.thieves of samurett

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.part one

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.eclipse

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.1

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.gwyntallia

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Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

(Julius Caesar) (2.1.63)

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Was this the room where they killed him?

She pressed her fingers so hard against the glass that they ached, throbbed, but she so badly wanted them to break through. Cold breath fogged the before spotless exterior and she'd sporadically slip her fingers up, scrape, and wipe. Keep it clean. She had to see inside. She had to pretend that he was still there and that she'd arrived just in time, just in time to smash it open with something, anything, and then unlock his chains – no, because there hadn't been any chains. She refused to believe that they'd put him in chains. Instead he'd merely sat there, unbound, free to move back and forth and pace and run and breathe. She pretended, no told herself, there had not been any last minutes, last hours, last seconds because she had reached him in time. She told herself she had reached him and saved him, saved everyone, and now she was in some place in the distant future looking through the wide window and into the empty cell, the cell where they'd nearly killed him. In moments he would step up behind her, put a hand on her shoulder and press his lips against her ear, hot breath, whisper:

"It's finally over, Polly."

Whisper.

She closed her eyes and at once she was through the glass, into the empty room. From a distance she could see her body on the other side, hands pressed up against glass and staring in with hollow eyes. It was an empty vessel. The shouts of guards behind her were a muffled blur, a vacant space in her mind that touched a shifting reality. The room was empty and she could see them banging against the door, furiously ramming in the key.

She closed her eyes. Open. Around her, there was glass. With trepidation she touched it once more. No fingerprints this time. The other side was faded, a wistful blur and she let out air. Exhale. The blur wavered formed, and then he was on the other side, his fingers a reflection – the half smile, the twinkling eye, exactly as she last remembered him. Behind him were fields of grass and a sun that hung incandescent overhead and sent highlights over his hair. The details did not matter. All that mattered that it was him and he was only a moment away, the stretch of a hand. Hesitantly, she smiled back and let her fingers move up, to the side, down. He followed her. She let out a laugh and he winked and he was there. He was there and that was enough.

She closed her eyes again, scrunched them up tight and concentrated; felt the air around her squeeze and touch and something slipping, slipping and she grabbed on – raucous breathings and her eyes were once again open. He cast her a quizzical glance and then she smiled, with confidence now. The glass between them began to shatter, crystal fragments that spiralled into the air in a whirlpool of white and silver. There was no longer anything between them.

In the darkness, she took his hand.

He cocked his head to the side, cast her a boyish grin, and tightened his grip.

"Let's get out of here," she told him. "Now that I've found you – let's leave, quickly, before they kill you again."

He bit his bottom lip, seemed to consider for a moment, and then opened his mouth, spoke:

"You're being naughty."

Polly screamed, tried to pull back her hand but the grip was firm. The voice was wrong, so wrong. This was not Heath's body. It was his body – the body of the boy that they'd killed. The body of the boy that she loved. Heath's raucous laughter echoed through his lips and there was something so sinister, so unnatural about the voice that pressed through. A man possessed – no, not a man at all but an apparition, a creation of her mind and the magic and his corruption, Heath's corruption.

"You know he won't come back."

Heath pulled her to him, no longer a whisper in the darkness. Now it was him, with his moon like hair and the long, delicate fingers that clawed across her auburn hair and ran down, up, down.

He was suffocating her.

"Let me go."

"Very naughty," he carried on. "He's dead, my dear, so why torment yourself?"

"I hate you," she was screaming again. "Let me go – I hate you! I hate you! I hate you –"

"–no," he cut her off, "you don't."

In a moment he had her whipped around and she struggled to get free, body half immobile, frozen by something beyond her control. A slip in the darkness. Slip. Slip. She could barely hold on. He had a hand over her mouth, the other tightened across both wrists like white chains made from the very metal of hell. He shoved her forward and she was stood facing another glass wall.

Then the images began to spiral.

Colours, moments, memories all shadowed and frayed like snipping threads, a blanket from her mother's basket. She watched them hang in the air and dangle and she rammed her hands over her ears, tried to block them out as each image hurtled into her, begged clarity, resonance, a place in the depths of her mind or the fingers that were touching, touching, tugging at her hair.

Around her, there was snow. Little white beads of cotton or dandelion seeds blown out by a child. She watched the child run through a meadow, try to catch the whiteness as it slipped through her fingertips and Timothy shouted out from behind.

"I thought you wanted to see him," he was saying. "You know how Heath gets – we need to go see him quick."

"I'm mad at him." Gwyntallia turned around, faced Timothy with her hands on her hips. "I'm angry and I'm going to be the one to not see him this time. Instead of seeing him, I'm going to play in the snow."

Polly was screaming, screaming to drown it out, shrieking so hard that the very air around her trembled. In her mind she pushed, grabbed, the slipping snow and let the colours change, fade, muffle, because she wouldn't, couldn't, let him see. She couldn't let him see what happened next.

She was in an empty corridor.

Polly stopped screaming and hesitated in the silence. A vermillion carpet was rolled out before her. Crystal chandeliers hung from a sky made of white-blue smoke. Candle-light sent shivers of gold trickling in diagonal lines across the ground.

"Why can't you just let this be easy?" Heath's voice echoed through the air, a disembodied voice, ever calm. "The only person you're complicating this for is yourself."

"I won't show you," she informed him, didn't move, didn't turn or look.

"We'll see about that."

"What is this?"

"You know you'll end up showing me eventually. Why don't you tell me now and we can just get this over and done with?"

"What is this?" she repeated, firmer now. "Where have you taken me?"

Heath sighed, and replied as if speaking to a difficult child: "You're surrounded by choices, Gwyntallia. It's up to you which one you take."

"Polly," she hissed. "My name is Polly."

"Who made you Polly?"

She looked to the ground, looked up and straight into the roiling smoke. "Take me back. Take me back to the cell."

There was no reply. Slowly, hesitantly, the smoke caved in, surrounded her for a split second and then she was engulfed in a thick, chalky blackness. Light ripped through. She was back in the cell.

There was a hand on her shoulder.

"Time to go." The voice was harsh, irritable. Its underlying malice caught her off guard and she let both the guards turn her around, clasp the chains over her already bruised wrists.

She looked up into their eyes, the overwhelming hatred. It made her want to speak out, tell them that they were wrong, that they didn't understand. He wasn't like them, she wanted to tell them. He was kind and caring and he wasn't like his father. He would never have been like his father. If only they'd given him a chance. She remembered her childhood. She remembered teachers and lectures and lessons about kindness and respect – respect for one's parents. She remembered her mother, the disapproving glare, her relief when they reminded her that it didn't matter, that she'd tried her best and that a parent could not be held accountable for their children's sins. A parent raised their child to the best of their ability and then set them out into the world. As for the way the child turned out, it was in no way linked to the parent. It wasn't their fault and a child must pave his own way to heaven. But then, surely, if the parent sinned, it was in no way the fault of the child? So why did they presume that he would have been like his father? Why didn't they give him a chance?

"Why did you kill him?" She was crying now. "You didn't need to kill him."

One of the guards slapped her – a harsh, cracking sound – and then she was rammed against the glass with a thud. He kept her pressed against it and the second guard swung a thick hood between calloused fingers. She kept her eyes trained on the guard before her, her jaw stinging from the slap. A trail of blood trickled down her lip. She could taste it as it mingled with saline tears.

"You're next," he informed her, then loosened his grip and let her slide down the glass. He grabbed her wrist, wrenched her up, and shoved her to the other guard. The hood was lifted over her head, pushed down so that it covered her eyes and her vision was swathed in blackness. She saw nothing, heard nothing, could barely breathe.

A hand was placed on both of her arms and she was led out the room.

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