The Unseen Enemy

Prologue

"Wait," he said, his voice shaky. "You can't betray her like this. You know what she's capable of."

"Ah, yes." The dark man said, "But she doesn't know it. And after tonight, she never will."

"I will train her. I will teach her the ways of Hanzu. The way my brother would've wanted. And she will destroy you into pieces." His dirty blonde hair looked darker in the lighting. The other laughed.

"I am your brother."

"Not by blood" he interrupts.

"Does it matter? My dad married your mother."

"Yes," he said through clenched teeth. "And your father murdered my mother."

"You're an Argon," he laughs. "Stop talking like you're some mortal."

"Soon, I will be." His green eyes seemed to be gleaming.

"That is only if the Zova stays protected. You're an Argon now, though. So start acting like one. You pathetic piece of-"

"Hey!" It was she. She ran into towards the pavilion.

"What are you doing here? How did you know where to find me?" She rushed to him, and started her attempt to loosen the chains surrounding his broad shoulders.

"None of that matters right now. But I know where the Zova is! Toby, I found it!" She soon realized that was the wrong thing to say aloud. With the dark man standing there, planning on taking over, Toby's facial expression softened.

"Why thank you for telling me where it is!" Quickly, she realized what she had done. "Now," he continued, "Where is that Zova?"

1

It was happening again. Natalia panicked in class as she felt a pain in her right side. As she clutched her stomach, she ran out of the classroom. She found herself running into the bathroom. Peeking cautiously at her side, she saw it. Blue, cool liquid drizzling down her side. She's always had this. The doctors don't know what it is, but every month, for a day, she has a pain in her right side, and bleeds a blue almost cold liquid. She took a bandage and tightly wrapped it around her side.

"Not again," she muttered. Natalia was 16 years old. She lived in northern Illinois. It was a mysterious and small town, almost unknown. She lived with her younger sister, Katrina, and her father, named Victor.

Natalia rushed back to class like an ordinary day. 10th period was almost over, and all she was thinking about was telling her best friend, Alex, about some guy she has seen around school lately. He has the cutest eyes. He had dark brown, thin and short hair. He was in her biology class, and she sat next to him.

The bell alarmed the students that class was over, and Natalia rushed out of the class. For a brief moment, she saw someone peeking out of the ordinary. He had hair down to his ears, and it was a dirty-blond color. He was just standing there, staring at her. He couldn't be looking at me. She thought. He wouldn't. She turned in the opposite direction, and started walking towards Alex's locker. Alex was the sporty type of girl. She listened to herself all the time, and she didn't take unfair ideas from anybody. She had long blond hair, and light skin. As Natalia met up with her, Alex sensed Natalia's rush to get out of school.

"Hey Nat!" she said, overenthusiastically.

"Hey." Alex gave her a goofy look.

"What?" she smiled and Natalia nodded signaling there was nothing wrong. "Ugh!" Alex groaned. "You never ever tell me how you are feeling!"

"That's because," Natalia started, but someone else butt in.

"Yeah why is that?" it was a guy's voice, trying to impersonate the stereotypical girl.

"Jake! Hey what's up?" Jake was just another huge crush Natalia had.

"Just being bored without seeing you in chemistry. Because, ya know, we got lots of it." Natalia turned on her flirty giggle, and laughed along. Alex said she would meet her after school. "So Natalia," Jake began. He had is navy blue backpack swung over one shoulder. He had short blonde hair, and he was wearing a v-neck shirt and jeans. "I was wondering," he said, "We have known each other for a month now, and maybe would you like to go on a date on Saturday evening?" It was Tuesday, and Natalia knew she would be looking forward to this all weekend.

"Sure!" she said, realizing she sounded way to enthusiastic. "Sure." She said, once again. This time though, more nonchalantly. Jake laughed.

"I'll call you." He then walked away, and Natalia felt her stomach tie in knots.

After school, Natalia started walking home. She reached into her bag to pull out her phone, but she accidentally dropped her bag. Its contents spilled all over the pavement. She bent down to retrieve her items, when some guy walked by. He looked down at her, laughed a little, and kept walking. It was the same boy she had seen in school previously in the day. What a jerk. She thought to herself. What kind of guy would not help a girl get her items that she dropped? After collecting the rest of her objects, she went home.

"Dad! I'm home! Katrina?" Natalia dropped her keys off at the front table.

"Natalia! You just missed dad. He left. Apparently he is going over to Jim Dorth's house for the rest of the week. You're in charge of me!" Natalia sighed. It was yet another week where her dad would leave for the week and come back on Friday.

"Yay." Katrina rolled her eyes, and ran off. Natalia wasn't very pleased to see her 14 year-old sister bossing her around like she was a servant. "Drive me to Amy's house!" she would say. Well not this time. Natalia wouldn't let her little sister boss her around like a drama queen.

Before Katrina would come up to her, Natalia went into her room. It was green, her favorite color. Green bed sheets, pillows, and curtains occupied the room. She took a seat by the window, and stared out, feeling the urge to draw out the area. She wasn't much of an artist; her talent was music. Piano, more specifically. She had an electric keyboard in her room, and a bunch of shelves stocked with her songs. First she saw her lawn, then the trees. Next, she spotted the pavement. Off in the distance, she saw the same boy. He was standing there. His sweatshirt hood was up, and his hands were in the pockets. At first, Natalia thought stalker. But he seemed different. She thought she was imagining it, so she turned away absent-mindedly.

After completing homework, the time was about 6:30pm. Natalia ordered a medium pizza for her and Katrina to share. Dinner was silent, and the rest of the night was just another bore. When the time reached about 11pm, she recorded her day in her journal.

Dear Diary,

I finally have a date with Jake! I know he's just some jock. But he always makes me laugh. Why not go for a guy like him? Anyways, I spotted the same guy three times today. My observations show he is a stalker, but something about him makes me feel like he's just watching over me. Well, whatever, it's not a big deal.

With Love,

Natalia.

Natalia slowly fell asleep, caught up in a long day. She lay in her bed and rested peacefully.

2

The week has gone by so fast, Natalia thought. It was already Friday, and her date with Jake was tomorrow. The past week was the same. The mysterious boy who seemed to be following her showed up more frequently. In the hallways, on the street, he seemed so open. Like he didn't care what people thought. Natalia brushed her thick brown hair until it was straight. She headed off to school.

As she was walking, it is no surprise she sees the boy. Natalia has been dealing with this for almost a week now, and she was sick of it. If he kept it up, Natalia promised herself that she would call the cops. He is walking towards her, and as he was about to pass, she stopped him.

"Can you just stop?" Natalia wasn't quite sure as to how he would react or what would happen.

"Stop what?" As the boy spoke, a wind rose, and it lifted his dark green v-neck shirt just over the belt of his black jeans. Secured under his belt, was a gold dagger. The edge of the knife had a green substance rubbed on which made it seem to be glowing. Oh my gosh. Natalia thought to herself. I'm going to die. Not wanting to show her scared emotion, she continued with a stern voice.

"Stop following me around. You make it so obvious that you're stalking me." The boy just laughed. He took his hands out of his pockets, and scratched his chin.

"You make it so obvious that you're scared, but you don't see me rubbing it in your face." Natalia rolled her eyes.

"I spotted you're uh sword, thing. It's a perfectly good reason to be unsure." Natalia gripped her bag closer to her chest.

"Oh, you mean this?" he pulled out the dagger. It shimmered in the morning sunlight. Natalia instinctively took a step back. "You see," he started, with a devious smirk on his face. "This is called a dagger. More specific, a Sharn. These babies are custom made. You have to find a Gord who will be willing to make one for eighty topads. They don't go cheap these days."

"What are you talking about?" Natalia was convinced that the boy had gone nuts. Sharn? Gord? Topads? What on Earth was he saying?

"Listen, I have to go. But it was a real nice chat." He winked at Natalia, who wasn't impressed. "I know you're secretly begging for my name as a way to remember my charming self."

"Actually, I could care less." Natalia said, and shrugged.

"The name's Tex." He said, ignoring her. "But I'll be heading off now." Tex tucked the Sharn into his belt, and started on his way.

"Oh, you have to go? How sad. I bet you're just going off to spy on other innocent people." Natalia made a sarcastic tone, and stared after Tex.

"Ohhh." He said really slowly, still walking. His dirty blond hair blew to the side from the wind. "Burn!" Natalia once again rolled her eyes, and continued on her way.

It was a new semester in school. Natalia would always think of it as half over. She checked her schedule for her classes. They read: Havens, Natalia- Period 1: Chemistry Period 2: Biology Period 3: History Period 4… Natalia sighed. As far as she knew, she had no classes with anybody she was a friend with. As the bell rang, she headed off to first period chemistry.

At room 119, Mr. Ivory's class, Natalia had nobody to sit with. There were tables of two lined up. There were only two open seats left, but everybody in the class seemed to have their spot already picked out. Natalia awkwardly sat in one of the open seats left. She was never the one to talk to strangers. If she was in a room with no one she knew, she'd be the most antisocial one in the class.

"Okay class. Is everyone here?" Mr. Ivory didn't seem to care about the fact that everybody was still talking. Before he could continue, there was one last slam on the door. Hoping it was Alex, her best friend, she looked up. She was suddenly disappointed. It was Tex, grinning at the whole class. Of course, majority of the girls stopped and just stared at him. All of them were blushing, smiling or giggling. What did they see in him? His beautiful hair? His emerald colored eyes? His strong build? Thinking of these things in her head only made them all stick out more. Natalia forced her eyes on something else in the room.

"Sorry I'm late. I hope you don't mind." He didn't seem to have any sympathy in his voice.

"Better late than never. Take a seat next to…uh….what's your name?" He was looking over at Natalia.

"Natalia. Natalia Havens."

"Ah, yes. Take a seat next to Natalie." Natalia tried correcting the teacher but it was no use. He didn't hear her. She watched as Tex made his way over to her table.

"Hi. Did you miss me?" Tex asked. Natalia looked at him. She opened her mouth, but he cut her off. "I know, I know. You're disappointed I ran off so quickly after out dagger lesson." Natalia looked around the room to see if anyone was watching. "But don't worry. I can guarantee you that I'll be around a lot more." Natalia rolled her eyes, and glanced at his belt to see if the dagger was still there. It was, and Natalia was still shocked that he hadn't gotten any detentions or suspensions. "Look, I don't think we had a chance to fully introduce ourselves. I'm Tex. And when you told the teacher your name, I'm guessing it's what you said." Natalia looked over at him. His face was expressionless, and she didn't like that.

"Look, Tex. Whatever joke you're trying to pull isn't working out. Maybe if you acted like a gentleman, and did something besides keeping your eyes off of me, I would actually waste my breath talking to you. But I realize now that you're not worth it." Natalia was proud with her statement.

"You think I have a choice of watching you or not? Please. Let's not get ahead of ourselves." Tex held up a hand. Natalia snorted.

"Please do tell me what the reason is then." Tex went silent. He turned away. He was unable to look Natalia in the eye.

"You, you're special, Natalia." He looked up, his green eyes impaling into Natalia's.

"Look, insulting me like that is just putting yourself in a worse position than you already are." Natalia crossed her arms, and sat back in her chair.

"If only you knew." He said. Natalia was unsure if he was talking more to himself because he said it so softly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Before Tex could respond-not that he was going to- Mr. Ivory began class.

"Psst!" as soon as Natalia peered over at Tex, she knew he was trying to get her attention.

"What?" she said, in a whispering manner.

"This class is boring. Let's ditch." Mr. Ivory had left the room for a moment, leaving the students alone in the classroom to read section four in their chemistry books.

"No!" Natalia said, her voice reaching above a whisper. "I'm not ditching class the first day of the new semester. And with you? I'd rather become a monkey than go somewhere with you." Tex rolled his emerald green eyes and looked at Natalia.

"Well you're no fun." Natalia didn't care what he thought. Partly because she hated him. Also because she couldn't trust him. It seemed as if he would think just tuning up his charm a little could get a girl. Natalia wasn't one of those girls easily gotten. Even though Tex was just a little on the cute side-who was she kidding? Down-right gorgeous with his sea green eyes and his wavy hair down to his ears and a little over his face. Tex would be the last guy Natalia would even think of ending up with.

The bell rang, waking Natalia up from dozing off in class. She stood up to leave, and got out of the door before Tex had. She raced down the hallway and turned a sharp corner. This resulted in her bumping into a hard, what seemed like, a wall. It felt as if she'd smashed into a human made of glass, without the shatter. She smacked her head against this person's chin and fell backwards onto the floor. Her books slid on the slippery tile. You would've thought someone would help her right away, but instead everyone was just staring, or carrying on his or her usual day.

Her vision was blurry from the collision of her head and someone else's chin. She saw people stare, and embarrassment rushed to her cheeks. She couldn't see exactly who was staring though; faces seemed to be zipping by. She saw the person she bumped stand there awkwardly for a few moments, and then hold out a hand. It was as if he were going to help her up. She hoped it would be Jake; she hadn't seen him in a while and her date was coming up tomorrow. As soon as the pounding in her head stopped, she grabbed the hand. It was cool. Most guys' hands are sweaty and hot. This soothed her down. As soon has she touched the hand a rush of energy surged through her body. She felt completely renewed. As if the minute ago had never happened. Her vision grew clear. Tex was standing there, holding her hand. Natalia felt more color rush to her face.

"You really should watch where you are going." He had said. Natalia quickly let his hand go, feeling her normal self return. It was as if Tex were her energy source. She grabbed her bag and books off of the floor and returned to face Tex.

"You were still in the classroom a minute ago. How did you get here so fast?"

Tex looked irritated. "I think you should sit down. You see, I was out of the classroom before you were. I walked out and realized I had been going the wrong way. I turned around and started walking. Then you bumped into me. By the way, if you wanted that much attention from me, all you had to do was ask." He winked and Natalia knew something was wrong.

"No," she had said slowly. "I distinctly remember you just getting up as I walked out of the door." Natalia felt stupid. Had she imagined going out of the room before Tex? Another bell rang.

"You're welcome." Tex said, ignoring Natalia's comment. "You're apology means so much to me." Natalia let out a slow breath, and walked away. She brushed past Tex, her shoulder bumping his. It was as if she had taken a shot of double power Red Bull. She questioned herself as to why she felt like this when only Tex touched her. She thought nothing of it, and went to class.

Besides the whole incident in the morning, Natalia's day became normal again. It was close to the end of school, and she couldn't wait to see her father. She hasn't heard from or seen him since Monday. She truly did miss him. Ever since her mother died in a car accident, her father has been so different. He kept himself busy nonstop, and he spends more time at the local bar than with Natalia and Katrina. She hoped her father would snap out of this routine, but nothing different has happened yet.

The bell rang, and Natalia walked out of class. It was crowded; Friday's after school are the worst because you have to deal with everyone pushing you to get out of the school. Natalia's right shoulder was aching; it has been pushed and bumped into repeatedly and she also bashed it on the ground when she fell. She wasn't the fastest along the lines of walking. Slowly, she inched herself to her locker. Gathering her stuff slowly, she shut her locker and a figure stood right behind the door. Tex.

Natalia sighed, clearly stressed and overworked from a long day. "What?"

Tex seemed to have turned on his charm the minute Natalia started talking. "Since we've become such close friends this morning, I thought-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Friends? Close friends? When did we become friends?" Natalia started walking to the doors, Tex standing by the locker for a moment, and then catching up with her.

"Well, since I saved your life." Natalia let out a laugh. Pathetic she thought.

"First of all, you didn't save my life. There's a difference between helping someone off of the ground after you bashed them, and saving their life. Second, the only thing you "saved" was a little bit of embarrassment for me." Natalia instantly remembered crashing into Tex's rock-hard body. How she got the wind knocked out of her, and how he just stood there, like nothing even touched him.

"Well, by my personal opinion, I think we make great friends." Tex knew Natalia was annoyed. Natalia pushed open the doors, and into the early winter breeze. She zipped up her coat and walked to her silver truck.

"Look," She turned around, and stopped Tex from getting in the passenger side of the car. "I get it. You don't have any friends right now because you're too busy stalking them." Tex laughed, and Natalia got even angrier. "But just because you help me up, and we are stuck being lab partners in chemistry, does not mean we are friends. Did you forget that this whole week I've been seeing you everywhere I look?" Tex smiled, seeming to enjoy the conversation.

"Like I said," Tex said, trying to make it obvious that he has gone over the subject. "I am protecting you. The Shard you got freaked out over today? Yeah, that weapon is used to kill things that are trying to kill you. Whether you like it or not, I'm sticking around here. And I think we can at least give friendship one more shot." Natalia still didn't believe him. For him to randomly say she's in danger is just insane. Nobody has attacked her before, so why now? Natalia, filled with exhaustion, let out a deep breath, and walked to the driver's side of the car. She let Tex think what he wanted. She set her bag in the back, and her wallet in the front inside one of the cup holders. Tex took a seat on the passenger side. She started driving home. Right away, she got caught at a red light.

"Natalia Havens." Tex said. Natalia looked at him, and saw him looking in her wallet at her student ID.

"Hey!" she quickly snatched her wallet from him along with the ID. "Just because I'm giving you a ride home, doesn't mean that you can go snooping in my stuff! My car, my rules." Tex put his hands up to show he wasn't guilty. Natalia only gathered a quick glance, but what she thought she saw was the inside of Tex's arm. There was a square on his inner wrist area and it shaped a scar. It is silent for a while until Natalia passes the light. "So where do you live?" she said, flatly.

"I thought our little plan was to hang out." Tex said, annoyingly.

"You know what?" Natalia was filled with rage. She has never been so annoyed in her life. She pulled to the side of the road. She reached over Tex to open the car door, but it was locked. She attempted to press the unlock button, Tex clearly watching. Her plan was opening the door and kicking him out, but it wasn't working out so well.

"Whoa." He said, overdramatically. "I don't know about you, but shouldn't we get to know each other a little more before we start trying to hug the other?" Tex smirked, and Natalia took a deep breath.

"Why do you love getting me annoyed?" she said, giving up on her attempt to open his door. They sat there silently for a while, staring out ahead of them.

"Don't take it personally. It's what I do to everybody." Natalia laughed, clearly aware that she is out of her mind. He is just some stupid high school boy. Tex started laughing along too for a little bit.

They continued to just look out and have small side conversations such as what was Tex's last name (which he replied Colaf), and other background facts. Natalia laughed at one of his comments, and then she saw something odd. Walking down the street, were three tall men. They were wearing all a green color, which reminded Natalia of Tex's eyes. They were unusually tall; about 7 feet at the least. Their coats were blowing back as they walked toward the car. As they came close Natalia began to see their faces. They had three eyes; the two we have and one in the middle just a little bit higher. Their teeth were very crooked and they had a hood over their heads. Natalia sat up straight.

"Tex?" she said, him noticing the anxiousness in her voice. He sat up and looked at her.

"What? What's the matter?" Natalia was too scared to speak. She raised her sore arm up and pointed toward the three giant-like people. "Shit," he whispered. "You see them too?"

"Tex, what is going on? They aren't r-real are they?" Tex bit his lip, lost in thought. "Tex!" she said, a little bit louder. He slipped out a device, which looked like a phone, but smaller, and no keyboard or numbers. "What the hell is that?" she said, her voice getting shaky.

"Natalia," he said, looking at her. His green eyes reassured her a little bit. "I'm going to have a little talk with these guys. I want you to stay in the car. Do not move. Okay?" She nodded. It wasn't like she could just run them over; they seemed too powerful. They were also holding long swords with a symbol on it. Where had she seen that symbol before? It was a circle, with a bunch of other circles around it like a chain.

Looking carefully at Tex, she watched as he approached the things. The one in the middle said something, and so did Tex. The middle creature sighed, and nodded. He took out the same device that Tex had, and he seemed to be putting it on the inside of his arm by his wrist. Natalia knew that vampires and werewolves supposedly are the popular creatures of the century. But not once had she heard a story about three-eyed mutant giants.

Tex walked back to the car, and sat in the passenger seat in silence.

"Do you want to tell me what those things were? And what they were doing with that phone thing?" Natalia gripped the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles turned white.

"You seem tired. How about I drive you home?" Tex looked at her normally, as if nothing weird or even close to weird has happened.

"Tex." Natalia said through clenched teeth. Tex sighed.

"Fine. I'll tell you. Let me just drive you home, so you don't kill us both when I tell you." Natalia didn't believe this. Like she was going to let him drive her un-dented car. She wanted to know the truth though. And if she had to let him drive her home for it, then so be it.

They switched seats, and Natalia leaned forward, finding a way to comfortable massage her arm. Figuring out that she would have to wait for later, she faced Tex, who was driving. His dark blue long sleeves in his shirt were rolled up. At first she thought she saw some type of markings on his forearm, but they quickly disappeared, and she thought she imagined it.

It was still silent. Natalia decided to start demanding an explanation. "Tex, are you going to ever tell me what happened?" They just arrived at Natalia's house. Tex pulled in the driveway. He put the car in park, and turned it off. He faced her.

"Natalia, to be honest, you're not going to want to hear the truth. It's….nasty." Natalia laughed. When she thinks of nasty, she thinks of the unknown blue blood drizzling down her side. A scar is there, and it just peels open when it bleeds.

"You don't know what I go through every single day. I have a father who leaves me every single week and I have to watch my sister. He comes home drunk, puking his eyes out, expecting me to take care of him. I have a sister who treats me like a servant at the age of 14. I have an unknown…bleeding disorder...thing that-" she hoped Tex didn't pay attention to the last part. Tears ran up to her eyes. What kind of life do I have? She thought.

"Natalia, you're paranoid. Just go inside, and get some sleep. Here are your keys." With that, he took the keys out of the car and handed them to her. Natalia's face was getting hot. She was angry that Tex wasn't believing her or telling her anything.

"Asshole." Natalia said. She got out of the car and stormed into her house. She slammed the door behind her and locked it.

3

Natalia woke up Saturday morning with a slight headache. She was still angry with Tex, and she didn't remember her father ever coming home. She walked downstairs and saw Katrina on her iPhone, listening to music and texting. She looked around the house and didn't spot her father. She checked to see if maybe he was in his bed. She walked into the room and the room looked brand new. He hadn't spent much time in there since Natalia's mother died. She checked her phone to see if she has any messages. Nothing. Her dad usually calls. Natalia was angry with everyone at this point, so she started out by picking out clothes for her date with Jake tonight.

It's nearly noon when she sends Jake a message asking where he'd be taking her. A while later, he replied "Bring something casual ;)" Natalia hated how he would put smiley faces at the end of every single text he sent. Natalia tossed her phone on her bed and sighed. This was going to be a very slow day.

A couple hours later, Katrina demanded that Natalia drove her to Leah's house. Natalia threw on a white v-neck shirt and some skinny jeans. She put on her boots and threw a brown coat that matched.

After arriving at Leah's house, Natalia waited until Katrina went inside to leave. As Katrina knocked on the door, Tex walked by, in front of Natalia's car. He made it obvious that he pretended to drop something, so he bent down and picked it up. Natalia, unimpressed, looked away. Katrina went inside the house, and as soon as she did, Natalia revved up the engine. Before she had a chance to take off, Tex stopped by the driver's window. Natalia reluctantly rolled down the window.

"If you're going to say anything about yesterday, I don't want to hear it." Natalia said. She was trying to forget it. After all, she told Tex her deepest secret.

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You were right. I was totally being an ass. I don't want you to ignore me. After all, I saved your life." He winked, and Natalia still wasn't impressed. He was too full of himself. She said nothing and she drove off.

It was 6:45pm and Natalia still hadn't heard anything from her father. She wore the same thing as before for her date with Jake. After all, he did say to wear casual. She was going to be meeting up with him at a diner down the corner. She let her brown waves down from a bun and she tied some back. Finishing up everything, she noticed it was almost 7, which was when she was supposed to meet up with him. She walked down her stairs, grabbed her purse, and opened her door, twirling her keys in her hand. She was looking down, and at first she saw feet. Weird. She looked up to find Tex standing before her. He is smiling his charming smile, and looking desperate towards Natalia.

"Hello. Did you miss me? It's been so long since we've seen each other!" Natalia sighed.

"I'm leaving my house now. You have to go." Natalia tried to get passed him but he wouldn't move.

"Oh, okay! Where are we going?" Tex was the most annoying guy she'd ever met. It was already five minutes after 7. She was running late.

"Look," Natalia started, "I have a date. You're not my father, and you're not coming with."

"I'm sorry, I can't let you do that." Tex leaned against the doorway. "Something really dangerous is happening now and like I always say I'm making sure you're safe. And the only way to do that is for you to stay home."

"You're not ruining my night. I'm going out, and I don't need you're permission." Natalia attempted to push past Tex, but it was no use. He was like rock. He straightened, and stared down at her. She let out a sigh.

"Move!" She said. Tex nodded no. Natalia, without thinking, held up her fist and aimed at Tex's face. She let out a punch that smacked Tex right on the side of the mouth. Instantly, Natalia felt her hand crumble, as if she sprained it. She winced in pain and quickly forgot about it when she saw Tex didn't react.

"What the…" Suddenly, Natalia felt a pain in her right side. "Shit." She whispered. Tex looked at her strangely.

"Natalia, what's going on?" she staggered back, and fumbled around her purse for her bandage.

"This shouldn't be happening," she whispered to herself. "I don't understand. It hasn't been the month!"

"Natalia!" Tex said, a bit loud which interrupted her from her thoughts. Then he saw it. The blue liquid that drooled out of her scar showed through her shirt on her right side. This was the last thing Natalia wanted. For Tex to know what happens to her every month for a day. "You're side…it's, blue…" Acting on instinct, Natalia shut the door. Tex was too stunned to talk.

"Wow…" he let out slowly. "Her side, it's blue….didn't see that coming…" He waited nervously on the porch.

Back inside the house, Natalia found a bandage box in the upstairs bathroom. She opened it, and looked disappointed at it was empty. It was bad enough that Tex saw; now she doesn't even have a bandage. She went into the kitchen and grabbed some paper towels and pressed it to her side. She double-checked and all she had in her house were cold bandages and those don't seem to help.

Realizing Natalia had to explain things to Tex, she opened the door again, hoping he'd be gone so she wouldn't have to tell him. He was standing there still. He looked down and saw the paper towels. Before she said anything, he surprised Natalia.

"You're an argon too?" he said, still figuring out other possibilities. Natalia was so confused.

"What is an argon? Whatever that is, no. But you are one. What is an argon?" Tex froze. It was just as awkward for him as it was for her. "Maybe you should come inside." She said slowly. Tex walked in, and his face looked sweaty. He took a seat at a table.

"Do you have any water?" he asked. Tex being nervous: it was a new image to Natalia. She always thought of him so careless and free. She nodded and grabbed two waters from her refrigerator. She took a seat across from him. "So who's going to talk first?" Natalia said after Tex chugged the whole water.

"I think you should uh go first. You do seem the weirdest-no offence." Natalia took a deep breath. She started her story, telling Tex about having this since she was little. She would bleed a blue almost cold liquid out of a scar she's always had for a day. She puts warm heated bandages on it so that it will heat it up. She also told Tex how she was confused as to why it happened because she already had an occurrence the same week.

"Do you mind if I see?" Tex said, scooting his chair closer.

"Just….don't freak out okay?" Tex smiled, thinking how Natalia would respond when he tells her his story, and nodded. Slowly, Natalia removed the paper towels and lifted her shirt above her scar. Slowly, and gently, Tex moved his hands over it.

"Hold on," Tex said. He got up, and went into a bathroom. He came out about a minute later with a long bandage and a damp cold towel.

"Tex, cold doesn't work with cold. That's why I use heat."

"And that explains why this thing lasts longer than it has to." Natalia was about to question how he knew what he was talking about, but she decided to see if it worked. He sat down again, and placed the cold towel over her stomach and applied gentle pressure. It really did feel relieving, Natalia thought. She felt the pain soothe its self and then Tex removed the towel. The blue liquid was almost cleared up, and it had stopped bleeding.

"Wow." Was all Natalia could manage to say. He then took the bandage and wrapped it around firmly over her stomach to let it heal and clean it.

"There you go." He said. He pulled Natalia's shirt down, and moved the towel aside. He stayed close by Natalia for a while, looking into her grey eyes.

"Thank you." She said, "But now you have to tell me how the hell did you know that?" Tex sat back in his chair and laughed. It was a long story.

"Earlier, when I asked if you were an argon, it was because of this whole incident with you. I, me, I'm an argon. And well there isn't really a definition as to what that is, but the reason why I asked if you were one is because when we bleed, which is rarely and I'll get to that, we bleed a blue color. It looks just like yours. I thought you might have gotten in some fight and a little piece of a weapon was stuck in your scar and that could be the reason. But apparently you're not. Well basically argons come from a different planet. You've never heard of it because this planet is out of your galaxy. Our planet is called Zerum, and it is an unusually large planet. My whole family came from there. We divide the kids up into sections. Our parents decide our future. My mother decided to put me in the Sendiah group, which basically meant I would fight all of the gastrons. When your parents die, you can choice your own section if you want to change it. Well my mother, who decided it, died, er, was murdered, and now my stepfather thinks he can choose my future. He can't because I am sticking with being a Sendiah. Anyways, there are just different sections that the parents choose for their children.

"Gastrons are other creatures that look like humans too. They have been taking down the population one place at a time. We saw the most activity forming here, so that's why I was sent here. To kill them off. And that device thing you saw me hold before is called a Nele, which is a type of locator device. When I came to this town, I wasn't expecting to see someone like you. Right from the start I knew you were special. Natalia, whether you believe it or not, you are not a mortal. I know that is hard to believe, but trust me. I will bring you to Infitus myself and you can see for yourself. Infitus is a land that is hidden from mortals and it's where all of the argons are sent from. They train for war every day, just Sendiahs like me. That is where the head captain and his son stay. And the dagger you always see me with is a Sharn, like I told you. It kills all types of Lavings, which are, in human terms, demons, with just a few stabs in the midsection."

Natalia felt like she didn't really know what to say. She believed every word, for some reason.

"So do you have any like powers?" she asked.

"Well, if I can focus hard enough, I'm sure I can unlock your front door with my mind. Pretty strong, pretty fast. Definitely faster and stronger than humans. But we aren't too different from humans. Just that, and we cannot be harmed by people. Usually just Lavings or a flawn, which is a special dagger, used to kill our kind. But it's very rare so I wouldn't worry." After finishing answering her question, Tex seemed to be less nervous.

"And these gastrons…they are the ones after me?" Tex nodded. Natalia wasn't really sure what to say next. "Train me." She whispered. Tex had to sit forward, and her repeat what she said to hear clearly because she said it so faintly.

"What do you mean 'train' you? You're not strong enough. And a person like you is too precious to our kind. Not that I would care…"

"Tex, come on. You said it yourself. I'm not a mortal. That means that, that,"

"That what Natalia? It doesn't mean anything! So just drop it. I should've never told you in the first place." A silence leaped into the room. "I'm sorry. The most I can do for you is-"

"Bring me to Infitus. Then we can find out for sure what I am." More silence.

"I-I don't know…"

"Come on Tex! Do one nice thing in your life! For me." Tex thought for a long moment. The house made loud cracks as it settled.

"I guess it won't hurt…"

"Thank you! You can take me there! Wait, how long would it take to get there? I need someone to watch over my sister. What about my dad…"

"Hold up, hold up. First, the whole trip might take, at the most, a week, since Infitus is somewhere off of the coast of Florida…I think. And second, you need to learn the basics of how to handle a weapon. Because let's face it, you don't seem like the kind of girl that has any idea what weapons even look like. And just tell your sister to stay at a friend's house for two weeks. One week to train and the other to get to Infitus." This was all a huge rush to Natalia. First, she found out she isn't even a human. Second, she found out there are creatures called argons and gastrons and Lavings. And third, she will be going on a new adventure unlike any other.

"When do we start training?" Natalia asked, unsure how that would be turning out.

"Tomorrow. 7am. Uh, since we don't have a place, can we do your house in the backyard?" Natalia nodded.

"I think you should probably go now. It's getting late. I have to make sure Katrina is safe and everything."

"You're right," Tex said quickly, getting to his feet.

"Oh and Tex," He stopped, and looked back at her. "Sorry I punched you in the face." He laughed.

"Goodbye." Tex left, and Natalia was alone with these crazy ideas pushed into her head. So many more questions needed to be asked, but she just didn't have the time.

The door slammed shut, and Natalia forgot all about her date with Jake. Oh no she thought. He probably hates me. Natalia wished she hadn't ditched her crush, but she had no choice, right? After Tex told her about the world outside of the mortals, she didn't feel so good. Her heart pounded, and she didn't really want to be near Jake. I'll call him tomorrow she thought.

After making the call to Katrina and her friend, Natalia knew Katrina would be safe for two weeks. Natalia's shoulder felt even worse. She took a heating pad and laid it over her shoulder and almost instantly fell asleep.

4

Natalia woke up suddenly with her alarm clock blaring out. She didn't remember having to wake up early on a Sunday. She turned off her alarm and lay on her back. She relaxed for a while longer. Her shoulder was aching once again. She massaged it, and sighed in relief. She slowly opened her eyes and was interrupted from a peaceful morning to see Tex glaring down at her.

"You do know you need to know how to handle a weapon in five days, right?" Her shades were open making her squint as the winter sunlight rushed in.

"You're in my house. I thought we agreed to meet in my backyard." Tex was dressed in a sweatshirt and some pants.

"If you didn't know already, it's noon. For five hours, we could've been practicing. The earlier we can go, the better. I still have my own business to do also, you know." Natalia let out a slow breath and sat up.

"Three things to say. One: I'll meet you outside. Two: you should probably get a mirror before you come out. And three: just make sure you brush your teeth before coming out also." He winked at Natalia, which she noticed he does a lot.

After getting dressed, Natalia soon felt embarrassment sweep her up. Nobody besides her sister or father ever saw how she looked in the morning. She imagined a monster. She hoped Tex would forget it, and went out in the backyard to join Tex.

"There you are." He said. There was a table opened up, and a large bag was set on top of it. "I'm going to teach you how to use the daggers and swords. We probably won't be dealing with any type of guns." Natalia nodded, zipping up her black sweater.

First, Tex pulled out two long swords. He identified them as Naves. They are the most basic swords to start with. As she grabbed one, and Tex grabbed the other, she knew what she'd be doing.

"Whoa, whoa. No. I'm not going to fight you! I won't."

Tex sighed, clearly irritated. "You'll be fine. Besides, I'll go easy on you." Tex winked. Natalia winced as she positioned the sword with her right arm, and her shoulder ached. She decided to use her left arm for battle. Tex saw this, and at first, thought nothing of it.

After about five minutes of circling each other, Natalia found herself pinned on the ground. Tex had showed her a move, which pinned someone down if they were attempting to grab you. Natalia once again winced in pain, and this time Tex caught on.

"What's wrong?" he said, loosening his grip. He let her go, which Natalia didn't seem to notice.

"Nothing. My shoulder….You're pinning it too hard." Tex thought for a moment.

"I let go a minute a go." Natalia didn't want to be the one going to Tex with the problems. She had no choice; she knew he'd keep bugging her about it if she didn't tell him.

"On Friday, when I fell, I just hurt my right shoulder is all. There is nothing you can do about it." Tex smirked, and helped her sit up. They sat on the cool grass.

"I can fix that." He rolled up his sleeves, and Natalia saw some kind of mark on his arm. It hadn't been there before. She also saw again the square type of scar in his inner wrist.

"How?"

"Do you mind?" he said, holding his hands over Natalia's shoulders, as if asking to massage it. She nodded, and he closed his eyes. He started to go over Natalia's sore shoulder. As he touched her, she got that same feeling she did when he held her hand. Her whole body seemed to stop aching. Everything felt perfect. She felt a weird tingling inside her shoulder. She looked, and saw Tex, his eyes glowing green, and his arms were healing her shoulder. A minute later he stopped, and looked at her.

"Better?" he asked, his eye color growing normal.

"How….?"

"Don't ask. Just say the magic charming guy healed you." Tex got up, and they returned to their practicing.

After a long period of time of practicing, they went out for dinner. Natalia ordered a salad, and Tex ordered a burger with fries and a coke. As the waitress delivered their food, she winked at Tex, smiling.

"If you need anything else," she had said, "I'll be by the front counter." She smiled at him and left the coffee on the table.

"I'll keep that in mind." He said back. She gave a cold shoulder to Natalia, and walked away.

"It seems as if somebody has got caught in the spell of the 'Tex charm'." Natalia laughed, picking up her fork.

"I can't believe you finally admitted that you like me. I mean, for a minute there, I thought you might be talking about the waitress-"
"Ugh, you know who I'm talking about. Obviously the waitress! Maybe it seemed like you were so irritant to me because you are!"

"Say what you want, but I'm sure everybody in this room loves me. Including you" With that, he grinned, and quickly dove into his burger. He ate so much at a time, Natalia just watched curiously.

"Wow," she said, after a little while. "Somebody looks hungry." She laughed. Tex looked up, mid-chew, and smiled. He finished his huge bite of food before he took a sip of his coke and spoke.

"First time having human food in a long time." Natalia laughed. "I'm serious!" he said, aware that she didn't seem to believe him.

"What, do argons like, not eat or something?" Natalia asked, grabbing a bite of lettuce.

"Close. Since I'm a Sendiah, our type doesn't eat food. We don't starve without it, but we need to build muscle by working out and training, not by eating protein, like you senseless mortals." Tex took another bite.

"So basically what you mean is that you haven't had human food in-"

"In almost a decade, yes." Natalia was truly shocked. They were silent for a little while until a question popped into Natalia's mind.

"So, you're an argon…"

"I thought we went over this at your house last night…" Tex said, interrupting her.

"You didn't let me finish. If you are an argon, and there is a whole new world outside of where us humans live,"

"Yep, it's been there for centuries…"

"And this is unnatural. Like opening a door with your mind, not eating food ever,"

"Yes, yes and yes. Would you get to your point please?" Tex took another big bite of his burger. It was almost gone. Natalia decided to continue even though he was still chewing.

"Okay, I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to blurt it out" Tex wafted his hand, showing her to continue, although his mouth was full. "If all those fantasy creatures exist, does that mean that werewolves and vampires exist too?" Tex instantly almost choked over his food. His eyes started to tear from coughing and laughing at the same time. Everybody in the diner started to stare.

When Tex finally caught his breath from laughter, he looked at Natalia.

All Natalia could really manage to say was, "So, I'm guessing that's a no then…"

"No. Huge no. Wow, those stupid werewolves vs. vampire stories crack. Me. Up. Pathetic. Like seriously? A guy who turns into a wolf? His brain would crunch down to half its size and it would be totally mentally ill." Natalia looked down, embarrassed. "So we won't be needing any wooden stakes, if that is what you were thinking of asking." He chuckled. "And no wolf's bane either." Tex started laughing again.

"Okay, I get it. You don't have to be an ass about it. How would I know? There is no information about argons or gastrons so I had no idea that they even existed!" Natalia made fists on her hands on her lap. Tex was getting on her nerves, which she needed to learn how to control.

"Hey, hey. I didn't mean to get you mad. It's just so unrealistic. I'm sorry." Natalia decided to backfire at Tex, and pretended like she was starting to cry.

"It's just, you always make fun of me. Always." Natalia 'sniffled' and put her head in her hands.

"Natalia…don't cry. I'm really sorry. You just made me laugh is all. Look, I'll admit, I shouldn't have said what I did. I really am sorry. And I won't make fun of you anymore. Are you okay?" Slowly, Natalia lifted her head up, returning her eyes back to Tex. His hand was reached over to her hand, a look of guilty across his face.

Then she started cracking up. "Oh, my gosh! You totally fell for it! Ha-ha! Wow, Tex. I truly am impressed. I never knew you had a sensitive side!" Natalia clutched her stomach, laughing. Tex sat there for a bit, before he completely understood. He slowly clapped his hands.

"Nice job, Natalia. I'll admit, I did fall for that. Not bad for a newbie," he smirked and Natalia calmed down, taking a sip of her water. It was almost 7 o'clock. "I should probably get you home now." Natalia nodded, and Tex paid the bill and they left.

At Natalia's front yard, Tex walked her up to the door. She put her key in the lock, and opened the door. She faced Tex.

"Thank you." She said. He smiled and backed away. He walked away, and halfway down her sidewalk, he turned back.

"Oh, and tomorrow, you might want to make sure you get up on time. We've got to be ready by Thursday." Natalia laughed.

"Will do." She said. With that, she went inside and locked the door behind her. She felt so alone with her father and sister gone.

Eventually, she found herself falling asleep, her diary open, and pen in hand. She read what she wrote, shut it, and placed it under her pillow. It read:

Dear Diary,

Today was fun. I've learned so many things that, saying it out loud, I cannot even believe. Tex is really starting to become a different image in my mind. I will be seeing him every day, for two weeks. A journey will be coming up that I hope I'm ready for. Tex is just not your typical boy, I'll tell you that.

With Love,

Natalia

5

Natalia was suddenly jolted awake by her buzzing alarm clock. She turned it off, and rubbed her eyes. It was already Wednesday, and she'd be leaving for Infitus tomorrow. Every day has been a struggle with her training; she just learned the basics of how to use the Naves. Tex had said he would be bringing in a surprise for her to work with and it worried her. She didn't know what she was in for.

After getting ready, she, once again, met Tex outside.

She couldn't spot Tex. All she saw was one Nave on the table and a sticky note attached to it. She walked up and took the sticky note off of the blade of the sword.

"USE ME. BEHINND YOU" It had said. Natalia picked up the sword, feeling the power rush through her like adrenaline. She turned around, and saw Tex standing behind her, with his sword aimed just under her chin.

"Tex…" she said nervously.

"Fight me. This is a test. To see if you are strong enough." Without thinking, or giving Tex time to think, she used her Nave to smack Tex's away. He tried to swing again, and she blocked it, on instinct. She staggered back, but then readied herself for more. Tex repositioned his sword, twirling it in his hands a few times as he made his way over to her. He tried to grab her, hoping she'd remember the move he'd taught her.

"Twist, steal, aim, slice" he had taught her. He wrapped his arms around her, bashing her Nave to the ground. He put the sword by her throat.

"Any last words?" he said. Even though Natalia wasn't facing him, she could feel him smiling down at her. She realized in those few moments, that he had never held her the way he did right now. It felt strangely comforting; he was the only person she could talk to for miles. After a deep breath, she responded.

"Twist, steal, aim, slice!" she quickly swiped around, and she realized how close he actually was. She felt his cool breath on her neck. She quickly swiped the Nave away from Tex and aimed it up at his neck. He held his hands up.

"Any last words Tex?" He backed away, as if to prove he had given up. She let down the sword, dropping it to the ground.

"You're ready." His dirty blond hair blew to the side as the breeze hit them both.

After Natalia had proven to Tex that she was ready, he brought her to an old looking apartment building.

"What is this place?" she asked, pushing through the rusted door. Right away, the apartment smelled like cheese that's been rotting for a year. "And what is that awful smell?" She brought her hand over her mouth, disgusted.

"This," Tex started, "is our only connection to Infitus." He walked towards the old stairs and began to climb. "So be nice." He smirked. Natalia waited at the bottom while Tex had gone up the sixth step. He looked back at her. The stairs creaked after every move. "Are you coming?" he asked, securing his dagger-just in case.

"I don't know…." Natalia replied. She got a sudden chill. "Are you sure those are safe?" Tex looked down at the stairs, looked back at her and shrugged.

"Of course not. As our time progresses with each other, you will know that I am never sure. But it is either these creaky stairs, or the elevator."

"Where's the elevator?" Natalia asked. Maybe the elevator would be in better conditions than these stairs.

"Oh, there isn't one." Tex slowly started to continue going up a step. He turned back once more.

"I don't think this is the best idea. I mean, you're not sure, I'm not sure. It's just not safe. Are there any better ideas?"

"Perhaps, if you'd like, I can carry you up the stairs…." Natalia quickly joined him on the 8th step. Tex looked back at her a while before turning back to the stairs.

"What?" she said awkwardly, "I said better ideas." Tex laughed and started slowly up the step, Natalia following right behind him. "So how did you ever find this awful place?" Natalia asked.

"Ah," Tex said, spotting a broken off stair. He jumped passed it, then turned around to help Natalia over. "That one website that all of you humans love. Bing." Natalia laughed, surely not believing it.

"Bing led you to this shithole?"

"Like I said," he replied, "It's our only connection." They reached the top, and Natalia, not having the feeling to stay on the last stair, walked up beside Tex. Tex took out his dagger, the green substance that was rubbed on it lit up a path of old wooden floors covered with debris. Half of the walls were cracked, and they were stained grey.

Natalia, feeling alone without a weapon, took out a gun her father had kept for security. She found it and thought it might be helpful since she was dealing with monsters.

"What the hell?" Tex said sharply. He pushed down her gun, aiming it towards the ground. "Why did you bring a gun?" Natalia looked down at the pistol.

"It was my father's. I thought it might help." Tex, still looking strangely at her, held the dagger out in front of him.

"Well we won't be needing that. What was it ever even used for?"

"Protection, duh." Natalia looked up at Tex, the green substance washing the color out of his hair.

"You silly mortals have an alarm system and doors that lock, and you still think you need protection?" Tex laughed, clearly shocked at what he was hearing.

"Look, this town isn't the safest place. Anyways, let's just get back to our purpose here." He nodded, still smiling.

They began walking down a long hallway. The only sound was the sound of shoes patting down on the floor. Then they got on a halfway burnt rug. As soon as they stepped on it, dust lifted into the air. All the doors were locked, except for one at the end of the hallway that was already open. Tex put himself in front of Natalia, his dagger ready for use. He took a step into the room, and saw a chair facing a dusted window. Somebody was sitting there. Natalia spotted a pale hand lying on the armrest. She looked at Tex, waiting for a direction.

"Argon," the, what seemed masculine, voice spoke, "you brought a friend." Through the reflection of the dusted window in front of them, Natalia vaguely saw a face smiling at her.

"We are looking for a pathway. A map, anything to-"

"Infitus." Natalia wondered how the man knew what Tex was going to say. "I read minds, little girl." Natalia hated how people would always call her "little". She was short, but she thought she looked old enough for her age. The man stood up, and that's when Natalia saw something: a burn mark symbol that was exactly the same as the one Tex had on his arm. It rested right on the side of the man's arm. Natalia could only guess that he was an argon too.

"Are you like him?" Natalia asked. "Are you an argon?"

"Of course. I don't have mind reading powers for nothing." The pale man faced them. He was wearing a black leather jacket that ended at his waist. A dark blue shirt lay beneath it. His grey jeans matched the dusted room.

"A map, pathway anything…." Tex said, clearly bored with the conversation.

"Ah, yes." He said, pulling something out of his inside coat pocket. His blonde hair was brushed back, but was still messy. "If you want a map, you come get it." The man laughed and anger rushed to Tex's face.

"I don't want to kill you, Zane. I knew you'd do this to us. Just give me the map and nobody has to get hurt." Zane laughed, taking off his leather jacket and throwing it aside. He took out a silver dagger that had a blue gem on it. Natalia thought it was beautiful, the way the knife curved inside Zane's hand perfectly.

"I always thought you'd be the worst protector. You think she will survive the trip to Infitus? You're going to get you both killed. I'm saving you the trouble." Tex aimed his dagger forward. He looked at Natalia, signaling her to get back. He returned his eyes to Zane, only to find out he wasn't there.

Tex looked confused; he looked on the ceiling and around him, and he didn't see him.

"Tex," Natalia said, barely up a whisper. Tex spun around, only to see Zane, his arms wrapped around Natalia with the knife along her throat. Natalia had attempted the move Tex had taught her but it didn't work.

"Zane…" Tex said, nervously.

"Just forget it." He said, "She wouldn't survive anyways." Tex leaned his arm back, and chucked his dagger towards Natalia and Zane. Natalia let out a yelp as she felt a cool wind fly by her along with the dagger. Zane had just pushed her down, and himself with her, to avoid getting sliced with the dagger. Zane let out an evil laugh, returning to his feet.

"Cute," he said, smirking. "My turn." He took his dagger away from Natalia's unharmed throat, and walked toward Tex. Zane looked down on Tex. He must've been at least six and a half feet. Tex, looking up at Zane, whispered.

"Oh, shit." Tex realized just how big Zane was. Zane aimed his dagger at Tex's throat, and suddenly went into shock. As if he was being electrocuted. Tex backed up and watched as Zane fell forward, flopping onto the ground. Attached to his back was a wire that led to Natalia. She had her eyes pinched shut, and her pistol was aimed forward. Her arms were stretched forward, shaking.

"No way," Tex said, in disbelief. Natalia's father's pistol was really a tazor gun. Natalia slowly opened her eyes, staring at Zane on the ground. She took the wire out of the gun and dropped it to the ground. "Nice job." Tex said. He reached into the inside of Zane's leather jacket and retrieved a Nele. He slipped it in his coat and signaled to Natalia that it was time to leave.

6

After retrieving the Nele, Tex and Natalia stopped back at her house. He needed to get a few more things ready before they actually leave.

Natalia checked her phone, which had been charging for the week. She had 60 new messages. All of these included ones from Jake, Alex, and Katrina.

"Where r u?" the latest one from Katrina said.

"Any reason y u ditched me?" Natalia could easily guess this was from Jake.

"Earth to Natalia?" Alex had sent. She closed her phone, and walked back to the kitchen area in which Tex was studying the Nele. He looked up, and saw Natalia staring at him. She couldn't help it; his eyes were beautiful. When he focused really hard on something, his mouth twitched. His large biceps flexed as he used them for weapons, or anything involving some kind of strength. He returned his focus to the Nele, locating where exactly Infitus would be.

"You ready to go?" he said, without much sympathy or care in his voice. Natalia slowly nodded. All she needed to bring was her grey messenger bag.

"So where are we going, exactly?" Natalia asked, following Tex as he stepped outside and loaded up his dark green truck.

"That," he said, lifting two bags of weapons in the backseat, "is not necessary for you to know. You're highly….uneducated."

"Me?" Natalia asked, annoyed. "I am not the uneducated one here. You, you have the IQ of a six year old!" Tex laughed, which lacked humor. He walked up close to Natalia and looked down at her.

"Oh, really? If I have the IQ of a six year old, then how am I the one who knows where to go? Huh? How am I the one who trained you to use a weapon that was made only for an argon to use? How am I the one who knew you would burn your hand if you touched it and were just some mortal? How am I-"

"What did you just say?" Tex laughed again, irritated.

"Oh yes, I have the IQ of a six year old around here." Tex's sarcastic tone joined him once again.

"No, I know what you said. But-"

"Then why are you asking?"

"You didn't let me finish. You just said that-"

"Are you seriously going over all of what I said?"

"Would you stop interrupting me?!" A silence broke in, making Natalia feel more comfortable. "You said that the weapon you trained me with would burn my hand if I was a mortal. Why would you do that? Were you even sure that I wasn't normal in the first place?" More silence joined Tex. He backed up. He looked at the ground, watching his feet kick away dust.

"Like I said, as our time progresses with each other, you will know that I am never sure." Natalia felt rage build up inside of her.

"So you just thought "hey maybe Natalia won't burn her hand off! I'm not sure but let's do it anyways!"?" Tex took a deep breath, clearly annoyed.

"It's not a big deal-"

"Oh, it's not a big deal? You could've burned me and it's not a big deal?"

"I am sorry. We don't need this right now. Just go to sleep, and wake up on a new day. How about that?" Tex closed the backseat door of his truck and tucked his hands in his pockets. It seemed always that he had no care in the world. Natalia's face was hot. She stepped forward like she was going to say something to him, but didn't. Instead, she brought up her fist, and punched him right in his jaw. Like before, he remained still like nothing happened to him. Natalia, on the other hand, winced in pain, forgetting he wouldn't be hurt. Tex sighed.

"Let me wrap it up…." He said, referring to Natalia's injured wrist.

"I got it." She said, turning around to walk away. Since she couldn't hurt him physically, it was time to pull out the emotional insults. She turned around to face him again, who was now leaning against the car, staring after her with his arms crossed over his chest.

"You know what? All of your girlfriends kiss you with their eyes closed. Considering your face, that's the only way they could manage." Tex laughed.

"Cute." He said. Natalia turned around again, and started walking. She turned around again towards Tex, and noticed him still standing there. "Forget that. You don't have any girlfriends. And you definitely don't know how to kiss." Tex let out another pathetic laugh, and joined her walking to the house.

"I get it, I get it. You would like to test that theory." Tex peered over at her, smiling. "Unfortunately, Natalia, I'm not in the mood to kiss you. Not after how stubborn you're being now. Maybe ask tomorrow or something." She let out a slow breath and pushed Tex, causing him to go in the grass a little bit. They both laughed and returned to the house.

After a few hours, Natalia crept out of bed to get a midnight snack. She tiptoed quietly down the stairs. She hated being home alone at night. Tex had left her to go to her room and sleep. As her bare feet touched the cool wood flooring, she began her way over to the fridge. She always grabbed an apple as a midnight snack. She opened the refrigerator, becoming blind by the sudden brightness. She grabbed the reddest apple she could see, and closed the door shut. She started walking, and was suddenly stopped by a rock hard figure she bumped into. She let out a scream, dropping the apple. She reached for the lights, only to find out it was Tex standing before her.

"Tex," she said angrily. "What the hell are you doing? It's midnight!" She rubbed her forehead, and reached down to grab the now bruised apple.

"I thought I might pay you a visit…" he said, unsure of his answer. Natalia sighed.

"Well, you visited. Now go. I'll see you tomorrow or something." Tex nodded, and walked out of the door. Natalia rubbed her eyes, and returned the apple back in the fridge. She suddenly lost her appetite. She stood there for a while, and thought it was too weird for Tex to come in randomly and just saying he wanted to visit. She also knew he'd probably be standing in front of her door. She walked to the door, and unlocked it. She opened it up. Her theory was correct. Tex was standing there, but facing the street. He heard the noise of the door open, and he turned around. She leaned against the doorway, and looked up at him.

"What's going on?" she said, expecting an answer.

"My lie was that obvious?" he asked. Natalia nodded. She signaled him to come inside, the winter breeze stung against her bare legs.

Inside the house, Tex sat down, and crossed his arms. His biceps bulged through his grey v-neck shirt. His hair was slightly in his eyes, covering up the lime color.

"What's going on?" Natalia repeated. He looked at her. She looked at him.

"Natalia, I haven't been totally honest with you." He said.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Why don't you take a seat?" he pushed out a chair using the bottom of his feet. Natalia reluctantly sat in the chair. She was fighting the urge to close her eyes and fall asleep.

"The gastrons….they're coming faster than I thought. They're coming after you. They might even be here, on Earth."

"Well…what does that mean? Just bring me to Infitus tomorrow and you won't have to see me again." She sat back in her chair, and mumbled, "And I won't have to see you." Tex didn't seem to hear the last part.

"It may be too dangerous to go to Infitus. You know where it is? It's connected to a cave in Georgia. That would take us about two days to get there."

"Then so what? You have two bags of weapons. You have a car."

"Think about what people and school will be saying. It's a small town."

"Don't talk to me about what people are saying. You have no care in the world! You don't like anyone, and you don't care what people think! Why are you trying to get me not to go?" Natalia started to raise her voice. Without any silence in between, Tex spoke, just as loud.

"Because, Natalia, I care about you!" This was when the silence broke it. What was Natalia supposed to say after that? A simple, "oh, that's nice"? Tex, for the first time ever looked alive. Like he had feelings, and some care in the world. He had one. Natalia.

"I…" Natalia was going to speak, but trailed off.

"Yes, Natalia. I care about you. Why do you even have to hear it again to believe it?"

"Because, Tex. You go around acting like you've got no care in the world. You're so open. And I feel everything but safe with you." More silence.

"I saved your life. How can you not feel safe?" Natalia wasn't even sure how to answer that.

"Well…You're just…so….dangerous." Tex let out a half laugh, but stopped abruptly when he discovered Natalia was being serious.

"Dangerous, hot, bad boy. I have that effect on women." He winked.

"This is what I mean! You turn everything to a joke!"

"Well, if the world doesn't have humor, this place would be taken too seriously. I, for one, don't do serious. Well, scratch that. Only when something bad and ugly comes along."

"Oh, you mean like you?" Natalia had no choice but to smile at that. She got him good. He started to grin, catching on as well. Natalia knew completely well though, that he was not ugly. Of course, she wouldn't admit that to him.

"My point is, I don't think I'm taking you to Infitus."

"No! You're taking me to Infitus. I don't care when. Right now, tomorrow, it doesn't make a difference. But I'm going." Tex thought for a moment, gathering an idea in his head. Natalia gulped. This ought to be good.

7

"I can't believe we have to go at 2 in the morning." Natalia complained. She had gotten dressed in a pair of skinny jeans, her black boots, and a purple shirt. She grabbed a sweatshirt just in case she got cold.

"It's now or never." Tex said, grabbing the Nele he had left on the kitchen table. He guided her out of the house and towards the dark green truck. She put her grey messenger bag next to her in the front seat and took a seat. He put the Nele in a front pocket in between them and took a seat in the driver's seat. He looked at her. "Sorry," he said, "You have to be at least 15 to seat in the front." Natalia rolled her eyes.

"If we were talking about who is older and mature, I'd be the one driving."

"Please Natalia. If you were driving, it'd be like all hell broke loose." Tex smirked, backing the car out of the driveway.

"Well how old are you?" Tex laughed.

"Yeah, like I'm going to tell you." Tex drove down the road and took a sharp left. "Look, I don't do back stories." Natalia turned and faced the window. They had just passed by Alex's house. It's been a while since she's seen anybody from school. She pulled out her phone and looked at the messages again. "Earth to Natalia?" it had said. Natalia sighed. Tex observed, and looked into her eyes.

"What?" she asked. She tossed her phone back in her bag, and stared forward.

"Been a while since you've seen your friend?" He asked.

"It's been over a week. You wouldn't know how it feels. So don't tease me about it."

"I wasn't going to." There was a silence. "I know how it feels. To be away from someone for so long…." Tex's face softened. Natalia didn't see, and she started laughing.

"Please. Give me a break. You don't have any feelings." Natalia joked. She didn't hear Tex laughing along. She looked at him. She saw his expression. "Why? What happened to you?" She didn't believe he had true emotions.

"My brother and I were like best friends when we were young. We grew up together. We did everything together too. He was murdered by a gastron when he was 15." The car was silent. All you could hear was the heated air blowing out through the vents because it was chilly earlier. Tex reached into his shirt and pulled out a necklace. He pulled it off and gave it to Natalia. She took it carefully and looked at the patterns. It was a complication of different swirls. She found a latch. It was a locket. She pried it open and inside was a picture of Tex and his brother. His brother had a lighter hair color, almost golden. They had their arms around each other, smiling. She closed it and gave it back to him. He put it on as he stopped at a red light.

"Wow…." She said, trying to sound sympathetic. "I'm so sorry Tex. I didn't think-"

"That's what everyone says. When you see an argon like me, you don't think they've got anything wrong in life." The car grew silent once again. For not even a second, Natalia saw, out of the corner of her eye, a sparkle in Tex's eye. Almost as if he was starting to form a tear. But in a quick second, it was gone. "The three of us. My brother, my mother and I, we were the only ones who were really a family."

"What about your father?" Natalia asked. Tex kept his eyes on the road ahead of them.

"You should probably get to sleep. Tomorrow will be a pretty big day." Natalia nodded, knowing they were reaching a point in the conversation that Tex didn't want to go to.

When Natalia woke up, they were still driving. Tex glanced over at her as she sat up.

"Where are we?" Natalia asked, rubbing her eyes.

"Just got to Georgia two hours ago. We'll be in Atlanta in a while." Natalia pulled down the top mirror and started to clean up herself. Her hair was a mess, along with her eye makeup, which had smeared around her eyes making her look like a raccoon.

"Tex, about last night…"

"I don't want to talk about it. Just forget that happened." There was an awkward silence in the car. Natalia looked out of her window.

"So when we get there, where do we go, exactly?"

"We've got to stop at the head house. In other words, the Trackon. I'll take you there and they will decide what to do with you then." Natalia let out a small laugh, still looking out the window. Tex glanced at her.

"What?" he asked, clueless.

"You talk like I'm an item, 'decide what to do with you'. It sounds like you're shipping me around."
"That is how they talk about mortals at Infitus. Your just lucky I've been talking to you so nicely." Again, Natalia let out another laugh.

"Okay, maybe you don't talk like I'm a package waiting to be shipped, but you are anything but nice to me." Tex smirked.

"That is so not true. I saved your life."

"I still don't get that." Natalia laughed.

The rest of the ride to Atlanta took several hours before they reached the cave. It was smoky and hidden and, Natalia didn't get how Tex easily found it. Especially from the Nele, which had no screen or keys. Natalia didn't even see Tex holding it anymore. Tex pushed a stone half the size of him out of the way of the entrance and took out his dagger, which made it easier for Natalia to see. Tex stepped through the cave, Natalia following right after him. She had her bag around her shoulder, and her boots patted down loudly on the stoned ground.

"Can your shoes be any louder?" Tex asked, looking behind her for any signs of someone following.

"Sorry." Natalia whispered, trying her best to avoid stomping. As they kept walking the tunnel got darker and darker until all she could see was the dagger's green substance echoing off of the cave walls.

"Watch out," Tex said, slowing his pace. "The stones on the ground are getting sharper. I don't want to end up lying on the ground with you on top of me because you don't look where you're going." Natalia nodded, even though Tex couldn't see her reaction. "Now," Tex said making his way over the stones. "I can't quite recall which stone it is that you have to lift up. There should be a hidden latch somewhere…"

"Seriously Tex? You don't remember where you came from?"

"For your information" Tex started, "The last time I was there, my brother was alive."

"That's like, only two years or something though! You're in my grade, I'm 16 so aren't you?" Tex laughed. He swiped away some of the dirty blond hair that was in his face. "I swear, if I had a penny for how many times you laugh at something serious I say…"

"I am not 16. Okay, I didn't think I'd be talking about my back-story, but this just gets me. I haven't been 16 in almost a century."

"How long do you normally live?" Natalia asked, just catching herself before she could trip and fall over Tex.

"Ah, here it is." Tex said, avoiding her question. They had reached the end of the cave, and it was all just a dead end.

"There what is? It's a dead end! Face it, you don't know where you're going."

"Would you just shut your big mouth up and let the wise charming guy get you to the place you so desire to be?" Tex said, annoyed at Natalia's nagging and complaining.

"You seem to get everything wrong."

"Oh yeah?" Tex asked. He turned and faced Natalia, who thought he was continuing to walk. She bumped right into him, and almost fell back. He had grabbed her arm, which gave her room to catch herself. She looked away, embarrassed.

"I didn't see you stop." Tex smirked, still looking at her.

"Sure." He continued walking with a grin on his face. "I stopped a full 2 seconds which would give you time to stop yourself before falling precisely into my mid area. You're one of those crazy girls who only think about a guy's abs, aren't you?"

"Tex! That is so…so not true! I have no proof, but neither do you!"

"No comment." Tex said. Natalia always hated when Tex acted like a smartass.

"You're so annoying when you say things like that." Natalia said. She meant to say it in her head, but she felt so strongly about it that she just let the words come out.

"Annoying? Or hot?"

"Annoying!" Natalia added. Tex had ditched the conversation, and began pulling at different stones sticking up out of the ground and walls. Natalia didn't really know what to do, so she just stood there awkwardly observing Tex. He rubbed his forehead with frustration.

"Think." He whispered to himself. Natalia's legs were aching from standing over an hour. She decided to take a seat on the stone that looked the flattest. She took a seat and relief filled her body. She put her arms behind her and set them on the stone. Her left hand hit something metal and the force had pushed it down. A big rumbling sound filled the cave and ahead of them dust fell from the top.

"What did you do now?" he asked, looking at Natalia. She jumped up and watched as the dead end of the cave started to form an opening. She looked back at where she had been sitting. Sure enough, where she had rested her hand on, was the latch. A blue smoke had gathered on the far end wall. The furthest part of the stones started falling in, forming a blue and stone mixed swirl. After the rocks fell in, they dissolved into a whole new place. The noise was so loud, and she heard Tex say something but couldn't make out the words. She moved right next to him, as they both kept looking at the swirl getting larger and larger until it was the size of an exercise ball.

"What did you say?" She yelled looking at Tex. The movement of all of the stones and wind pushing in the formation all around them made Natalia's hair go crazy. One minute it was flying behind her, and the next, it was pushing into Tex's eyes, which Tex moved away gently behind her ear.

"I said," he yelled back. "That is our way to Infitus. We have to go through there."

"Are you crazy?" Natalia screamed. It seemed that even if she yelled as loud as she could, it would sound like nothing but a whisper to Tex. "It's like a black hole!"

"Trust me, Natalia." Tex looked deeply into Natalia's eyes. More of her brown hair fell into her face. That moment felt like it had lasted forever. The sound of Natalia's heartbeat flowing through her body was the only real thing she could concentrate on. Tex had told her he would go in first, and she would have to follow right away before the unknown swirl closed. He stepped forward, and Natalia stopped him.

"Be careful, Tex." She said. He rolled his eyes, which told her that this was something like the danger he dealt with every day. He stepped out forward until he was less than 2 feet away than the odd formation. He jumped up and into the swirl and passed through it like nothing. Natalia then stepped forward and took a deep breath. She clutched her bag and pinched her eyes shut. She ran forward and in the last moment jumped. She was suddenly tugged and shoved from different angles. Brightness flashed inside of her eyelids, which were still pinched shut. Then she felt normal and like she was falling on to the ground. She landed on something hard. She took a big breath and opened her eyes.

She had figured out that the stone figure she had landed on was Tex. After he arrived at, wherever they were, he also fell. The only difference was he was lying on his back and Natalia fell forward. She found her hands shaking, gripping on to the sleeves of Tex's grey v-neck shirt. She let go and looked at him. A sigh of relief crossed Natalia. She had made it, and she was alive.

"What a journey." He said. The weight of Natalia didn't seem to affect Tex whatsoever. Natalia, still feeling shaken, shivered. "You know," Tex started, with a voice Natalia didn't want to hear. "If you'd like, we can get up and look around. Then again, I haven't really slept in a while, and you look pretty comfortable. From my view, at least." Natalia quickly sat up. She soon regretted it; her head started to throb from the sudden movement. Tex began to sit up, Natalia still on his lap. She stood up and looked around. That was when she actually saw where she was. It was beautiful.

They were outside; the sun was clearly visible as it started to set into the ground below them. The sky was an aqua blue. Nothing like it had ever been where she lived. There were some rain clouds that were very dark. On the ground, was a path of faded red and grey stone squares. There were paths and it was like they were in a town. Some small shops lined up, along with houses. Natalia looked behind her and saw one very large building. It had to be at least five stories high, and the roof reminded her of a castle. She saw people walking. They were dressed with a leather-armored vest, with a sash containing daggers and other small weapons ready for use. As they walked past, they stared at Natalia and Tex, still lying on the ground. Natalia could see far away a small mini arena where few people had gathered. Some were fighting with their weapons. A lot of the people were boys, although there were also many girls too. With every three boys she saw, there were one or two girls. They were all dressed the same. Natalia looked in awe at other small things that were different. Every person had a big load of muscles.

"This," Tex started. "This is Infitus." Natalia had got off of him, still stunned with the sights around her. Tex stood up, and swiped the dust off of his pants.

"This is beautiful, Tex." He smirked, and then turned around to face the castle-like building.

"C'mon Natalia. This is where the Trackon his." She followed him, observing every little thing they passed by. "You know" Tex began. "We will be here for a while. You don't need to be that excited." Natalia guessed she looked really stupid being stunned over the path below their feet. She quickly gave herself a reality check and started walking.

It took a while before they reached the top of the steps leading to the tower. Two very tall doors, about 20 feet high, stood before them. Tex grabbed on the handle, looking at Natalia. Her face was pale, and her legs felt like they would give out beneath her at any time soon. Tex hesitated his action to open the door. He released it and walked up to her.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"I'm terrified. I don't know if I even want to find out what I am." Tex looked into her bright eyes.

"I think you better. I mean, you held me against my will to bring you here. It's the least you can do." Tex smirked. Natalia sighed.

"Tex I'm not joking around. I seriously am not feeling that good right now." Tex inched closer, Natalia getting a chill as she felt his cool breath on her neck.

"Look, I think you're just exhausted. That Portal seemed tough on you. As soon as we get inside, we'll get you some dinner and you can go to sleep. They've got to have an extra room we can use for the night."

"I'm just worried to find out what I am. What if I'm an argon? What if I'm some unknown weird thing that nobody likes?" Natalia felt her voice change as she swallowed back tears. Tex gently grabbed her face in his hands. His last fingers reached the back of her head while his thumbs rubbed away the tears that found their way through.

"You won't be anything bad. Don't worry about it. At least you'll know somebody who will still like you after everything that happens." Natalia couldn't think of anybody who would like her anymore. Her sister thinks she abandoned her, her biggest crush thinks she purposely ditched her, and her best friend in the world is mad she's not responding to anything.

"Who? Who will like me? Everybody hates me. My sister, my best friend, my date that you so rudely prevented…"

"I do, Natalia. I like you. Maybe you get me irritated sometimes. Or maybe the other way around, but I don't hate you. I got to know you a lot these many days of working together. Don't worry about it. I'll be here if you need me." Natalia felt much better. Hearing Tex saying that was big. What shocked Natalia was when he leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead. His smooth lips gently pushed on her head and he looked down at her, smiling. It felt like a butterfly sent from heaven landed on her. She was about to say something when the door opened behind them. A tall man with black hair that was starting to turn grey was standing in the doorway. He was tall, and he had on a black long coat that ended at his ankles. Under he wore blue trouser pants and a shirt.

"I thought I heard a noise!" The voice was a light, yet masculine tone. Tex quickly removed his hands away from Natalia's face. He tucked his hands in his pockets.

"We need a place to stay for the night." Tex said. Natalia wanted to thank him. She didn't feel like talking about a weird creature she was. At least, not tonight.

"We don't usually run this place like a hotel. I think you would know that." An awkward silence fell as Natalia and Tex stared up at the man. "Alright fine. I suppose I can find a room for you two. I'm Droid. The head of everything that goes on around here." Droid was mostly looking at Natalia. "You look famished. I shall get my servants to create a dinner right away." With that, he returned inside the castle. Natalia and Tex looked at each other a minute before heading inside.

The walls were a worn cream color with little small brown designs of swirls or symbols decorating every few feet. Pictures of different people (Natalia guessed they were from generations ago) were spread out along the tall walls. The walked down a long hallway with doors popping out on either side. Each with its own fancy handle. Long torch lamps and lights hung from above, and on the walls. Tables with one or two daggers were found in this hallway. They made their way to the very big dining room. It was a dark green color with marble tile. Different decorations of all sorts were hung on the walls, and sat on tables. There was one big and long glass table in the middle of the room. The chair count was 10. Although, the table was so crystal clean it looked like nobody had ever used it. At the end of the table stood a chair different from the others. It was green and black and tall. Cushions stuck out from the back and arm rests of the chair. Natalia could only guess it was for Droid, the head. Sure enough, he took a seat in the fine looking chair while Natalia took another seat beside Droid. Tex took the one across from her, looking around alarmed.

"So what can I do for you? It mustn't take over a week's time. I'm sure he knows what's going on around here." He motioned towards Tex, who didn't ever quite seem to look Droid in the eyes.

"This isn't something we should talk about at night. Natalia's tired, maybe it's best for tomorrow…." Tex said, looking at Droid, unimpressed.

"Natalia?" Droid said, glancing over at Natalia. "That is her name?" He looked truly shocked. Droid looked as though he found a crystal gem in the desert.

"Um, yeah. It's just a name…" Tex said, a little bit awkwardly. "I happen to love my name." There went his cocky attitude. Before any of them could say any more, three servants walked in carrying big trays with a silver cap over them. They put their dishes in front of Natalia, Tex, and Droid, and removed the cover.

On Natalia's plate was rigatoni pasta with delightfully red marinara sauce. A piece of fresh basil had been set on top of it as a garnish. Parmesan cheese covered the surface of the dish. The sight of the dish made Natalia's stomach growl even louder.

On the plate in front of Tex was a fresh salad. Green leaves gathered together along with chopped tomatoes, bacon bits, and croutons. An Italian dressing had been placed on the side along with a piece of golden toast cut in half.

Last but not least, on Droid's plate were five lobster legs. They hadn't got cut out of the shell yet, but the proper utensil was placed next to the dish. On the plate also contained a small cup of melted butter. Along with that were steamed potatoes and corn. Everything on his plate was steaming up, like it was fresh.

Tex looked at Natalia's dish, filled with jealousy. Natalia thanked the server, who smiled, as if so pleased or happy from this little gesture. He nodded, and walked away with the other servers. Water had been placed in glass cups sitting in front of them. Droid started digging in his food, along with Tex. Natalia picked up her fork, trying to figure out where to start. It was silent for a bit while all of them dug into their food like it was the energy they'd been needing all night.

After all of them had stuffed their faces in the meal, they sat back with their stomachs feeling full.

Tex let out a small cough, trying to catch Droid's attention. "Does Andrew still stick around here?" Tex said. The name Andrew slipped off of his tongue, but Tex didn't seem to care.

"Of course." There was a small silence. "He wouldn't insult and leave me like one of my other sons did."

"Step," Tex blurted out. "Stepson." There was a silence. Natalia didn't really know what they were talking about, or where this conversation was going. "And I'm sure," Tex added, "That he had good reason to leave."

"There is no good reason that anybody should be leaving a family."

"Maybe it wasn't the family he left." There was more of a silence until Droid finally looked at Natalia.

"Natalia, you seem very tired. Natalia, I will get you some people to take you both to your rooms." He clapped his hands making a loud sound. If Droid didn't say so, she'd be thinking he was calling his dog over to him.

After sitting silently while Droid called out, a man appeared before them. He was tall and very built, like Tex. He had a medium blond colored hair that fell just above his shoulders. He had blue eyes and a very small beard and mustache. It was barely visible, but Natalia was sure that if you touched it, it would feel rough and jagged.

"Hello, Droid." He craned his head towards Tex and Natalia.

"This," Droid started, looking over more at Natalia again, "is Ivan. He will guide you to your new rooms. He's a newer Sendiah. He came shortly after my other son left."

"It sounds like your son was-"

"Horrible. Yes. He left this family." Tex rolled his eyes, making it obvious he was annoyed.

"Stepson." Natalia gave Tex an exhausted look. As if she were trying to say what is the difference?

"Anyways, Ivan, this is Natalia, and that is Toby." Natalia didn't quite understand why Droid said that for two reasons. One, was that Tex had never introduced himself. Two, his name isn't Toby.

"Wait what?" Although Natalia clearly showed and felt exhaustion, she wanted to set this straight. She heard Tex whisper softly before she continued.

"I have the IQ of a 6 year old." He laughed silently to himself.

"You said his name was Toby. It's not. He told me his name was Tex." Droid looked at Tex, who was now lounging back in his chair with his feet on the table.

"Well, through my experiences with this child, his name has been Toby when he was younger." Natalia was angry with Tex. She wanted to slap him in the face but she knew that would do no good.

"Well, Toby, Tex, it doesn't matter. I was kind of in the middle of something, so I'll show you your rooms, and we can sleep this whole thing off." It was Ivan, speaking for the first time. His voice was a little deeper than Tex's voice. He also had an accent. Natalia wasn't positive, but it sounded like British or Australian. It was a light accent; nothing that was very noticeable or hard to understand. Everyone looked at Ivan, and nodded slowly. Droid, Natalia and Tex stood up. Droid said goodbye as Ivan started leading them up stairs made of stone. Natalia's boots made a clank sound as she passed every step.

"Natalia, you really need to get boots that are less annoying." He smirked, joking and looked at her. She crossed her arms and walked up ahead by Ivan. She was annoyed with him. She wasn't going to give Tex the satisfaction of watching her struggle to quiet down her boots. She felt him looking at her, but she didn't turn back. Her and Ivan were three stairs ahead of him.

"So Ivan, right? That's your name?"

"Yes, it is Ivan."

"Well I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Natalia. And back there, that's Tex. Or wait, Toby. I don't even know. In my head, I sometimes like to call him an asshole."

"Heard that," Tex said with a cocky attitude. "I'm not that far behind." Ivan laughed and nodded.

"Okay. Hello Natalia. That is a very beautiful name. It sounds so elegant and soft." Natalia blushed, completely admired. It was the first compliment she had received from a boy in such a while. She smiled.

"Thanks, Ivan. That's really sweet of you to say. I don't hear anything like that from Tex. Toby, wait, asshole." She joked. "He's everything but sweet. It's nice to meet someone with a different personality for a change."

"Heard that too." Tex said. They climbed the rest of the stairs and Tex joined right next to Natalia as they walked down another long hallway. "Maybe if I stand close enough, you will stop insulting me."

"I'm not insulting you," she said, her voice sounding innocent. "I'm giving information to someone else about you." Natalia peered over at Ivan, and saw him smiling, still looking straight ahead. "Just think about it like this: I'm warning him on what you're like so he'll know how to deal with someone so incredibly rude like you."

"Natalia what is your problem? What did I do that is making you like this right now? In those cheesy movies I see the guy is supposed to give a big speech to the girl and kiss her under the stars. If you'd like to feel better, I can find a moonlit area somewhere I'm sure….not that I'd like to kiss you. I hate to waste my charm."

"Tex, save it. I'm not mad. I'm just kidding around. I never get mad at anything you say." Natalia made for that to sound a little bit sarcastic, but Tex didn't notice. Ivan had stopped in front of a door. He opened it and motioned them in. He waved a good bye while Natalia was talking, so she just waved and continued walking to the door. Tex followed gathering in the sight. He shut the door, and looked at her.

"Really?" he asked, thinking for sure she would be disappointed in him.

"Of course not!" she slapped him in the face when she knew for sure the door had shut. Ivan would've been halfway down the hallway by now. The slap had made Tex's face a light pink in a very small area. She had whipped him hard.

"Okay, what was that for?"

"After all of this you don't know?" Natalia asked, feeling anger rush into her voice.

"How could I? You are so unbelievable! You're such a…..girl! You make a big deal about everything. You get mad way too easily, and every poor guy has to deal with that. I feel bad for human boys, I really do. They have to deal with girls like you!" Natalia felt her hand slap him again, harder. She didn't exactly mean to, but what Tex said was really harsh.

Tex let out a frustrated breath. "What was that for?"

"Do not tell that to a pissy girl like I'm being right now. It makes it worse!" There was a silence. It was weird, considering they had been yelling at each other for a good five minutes. They hadn't even looked around the room they were in yet. It was a shame, because the room was beautiful. It was a dark red, with chestnut brown colored rug flooring. There was one king sized bed, with the sheets tucked in ever so neatly. There was a dresser, and a sofa with a mirror next to it in the corner of the room. It had been silent a good few minutes, giving Natalia and Tex time to rethink their actions.

"I'm sorry." Tex said. "I was really harsh on you when I said that."

"Yeah, you were. Why did you lie to me? About your name?"

"Usually when you see those movies when the guy acts peculiar that the girl Google's his name up an researches. I didn't want you snooping around in my past life so I changed it to my nickname. I honestly don't get why Droid said that. He knew I liked Tex as a nickname."

"Oh, well trust me. You don't bring that much interest to me where I'd Google your life."

"Touché." Natalia walked over to the bed, feeling the sudden urge to lay down and fall asleep.

"So where did you live before you came to Earth?"

"Well, after I left Zerum, I came here along with all the other Sendiahs to train."

"Where did you live on this island area? Smaller town area, around here?"

"Yeah I lived around here." Natalia nodded. There was a small silence before Natalia decided to sit on the bed. She lifted her sore legs up and lay back. It was so relieving, the pain on her heels had gone away and she fluttered her eyes closed. Natalia pulled off her boots and set them on the floor next to her. She rubbed her feet and lay back.

"Is it comfortable?" Tex laughed, noticing her anticipation to fall asleep then and there.

"Check it out." She replied. He came around on the other side of the bed and lay next to her. Their shoulders bumped smoothly against each other as Tex settled back into the plush cushions.

"This is the best bed I've ever been on!" Tex said, smiling. She knew he probably felt relief if his body was aching. Natalia let out a small laugh. She let her head lean on Tex's broad shoulder. Without thinking much, he wrapped his arm around her, so her head would rest more comfortably. They closed their eyes, and Natalia, for the first time in a while, almost fell into a restful sleep. She heard Tex's breathing get a little slower, like he was starting to try to get some rest.

That moment was suddenly broken when a quick knock came from the door. Without any time for Natalia or Tex to get up, someone opened the door. It was Droid, standing in the doorway with Natalia's messenger bag. She had totally forgotten about it at the dinner table. He had caught the moment of Tex with his armed wrapped around Natalia, and Natalia laying her head against Tex. Natalia quickly sat up and took her head off of his chest. Tex also retreated his arm back and sat up awkwardly.

"Oh, um sorry." Droid spoke, sounding little sympathetic. "Am I interrupting something?"

"No." Natalia quickly answered. "You got my bag. Sorry, I must've left it at the dinner table." Droid looked at her, thinking he was really interrupting a nice moment. Natalia got off of the bed quickly and walked up to Droid.

"Yes. I came up to bring it to you, and I opened the door and…" he trailed off, knowing he didn't have to explain what he saw. "I am quite sorry." He quickly handed Natalia the bag, and before she could say any more, he shut the door behind him, leaving it awkward between Natalia and Tex.

8

When Natalia woke, she was lying in the huge bed. The sun had made its way through a few of the shades. She sat up, and rubbed her eyes. Last night had been very awkward. She had cuddled up with Tex, and Droid had walked in the middle of it. She imagined she only did that because she was half asleep. She wouldn't let herself be just another one of all the girls Tex fell for one day, and left the next. She also made herself believe that Tex didn't like her. She wouldn't even want to deal with his cocky attitude any time.

After getting ready in a new pair of clothes Natalia had stuffed in her bag, Natalia kept trying to push last night's awkward fest out of her head. She hoped Tex forgot it, and more importantly, Droid. She looked around the room and Tex was nowhere to be seen. She thought he had probably went downstairs and talked to Ivan or something.

Natalia grabbed a brush she had always kept in her messenger bag, and headed to the bathroom. She opened the first door only to find out it was a closet. She moved her way over to the next door. She grabbed the doorknob and twisted it. She pulled it open to a sudden steamy feeling.

Yes, she had reached the bathroom. She had also found Tex. He had just tucked the edge of a white towel in the side. He had finished taking a shower, explaining why Natalia didn't hear a noise. His stomach was still wet, and he hadn't spotted her yet. At least he's not naked Natalia thought. The towel started at his waist and ended just above his ankles. His hair had been rubbed and it was still damp and messy. He turned back around from tucking the edge of the towel in his side, and saw Natalia. She couldn't help but notice his body. It had been the first time. His abs created a 6-pack, and his arms were huge, even without the help of flexing. Tex looked at her, and his lips parted, as if he was going to say something, but nothing came out. She had spotted his marking on his bicep, and always wondered how it got there.

"I'm sorry." Natalia said quickly, meeting with his eyes finally. "I went to brush my hair, but I needed a mirror, so I went looking for a bathroom, and I swear I didn't know you were here." She was starting to think if right now was worse than last night.

Tex scratched his head. "Well," he said, placing his hands on his hips. "At least you didn't come when I came out of the shower before I got a towel…" Natalia nodded slowly.

"I'll uh, leave you till you get ready." She said, slowly backing up.

"It's okay. I'm basically done. My clothes are out there." He pointed past her into the dresser at the far corner of the wall. "Unless you want to be out there when I'm changing…" Natalia walked in the room, not laughing at his joke. She looked in the mirror, wiping off the fog that covered it. Tex scooted past her from behind, and she saw for a minute him glancing down at her. He walked out of the room, and she shut the door.

She realized that she was so out of it last night that she hadn't really remembered what happened after the whole incident with Droid. She was afraid to ask, but was very curious. She decided she should ask before they got downstairs so Droid wouldn't be reminded.

After finishing up brushing her hair, Natalia waited a good 20 minutes before exiting the bathroom. She didn't want to walk in on him with his underwear on or anything like that. Thankfully, when she got out there, he was fully dressed in a dark gray shirt and a pair of jeans. He was sitting on the bed, staring out through the open blinds on the windows. He peered over when he saw out of the corner of his eyes, Natalia's head pop out of the room. He quickly stood up and faced her.

"What happened last night? After Droid brought my bag. I don't remember… Did we…" Natalia stopped and thought if they ended up sleeping in the same bed. If Tex said yes, Natalia surely would feel awkward and embarrassed.

"No." Tex quickly said. "We didn't sleep in the same bed, nothing. I ended up taking the floor and left the bed to you."

"Okay…but you took exactly what I was thinking out of my head." Natalia found it weird that he said the same thing she was thinking. She wondered if it was simply a coincidence. Unless…

"Um," Tex didn't really speak. He lost eye contact with Natalia.

"Do you read minds? Have you been reading my mind this whole time with everything?" Tex was silent, and looked back up at her.

"Who's hungry? I smell bacon and pancakes!"

"Tex."

"Fine. I'll tell you. Yes. I can read minds. I read your mind but I try not to all the time. It makes things more interesting." He started to grin.

"So you could just see what I was thinking about you?" Natalia asked. Her face got hot. She wanted to slap him, but obviously it wouldn't do anything for anybody.

"To my defense, you cannot get mad at me for a natural born thing that I cannot take away." Tex said, innocently.

"You didn't tell me you could read my mind! Or what I thought about you, or anything like that!"

"You never asked. And besides, I'm not sure if this is because of what you are, but over time, it has been harder and harder to read your mind. Like when I first met you, I knew you thought of me as a stalker." Embarrassment swept up over Natalia. "While we were training, it took me longer to find out that you hoped I didn't remember how you looked in the morning because you think you look ugly. But now, it's like when I look at you, I don't get much." Asshole Natalia said in her head. She wanted to see if Tex heard that. "And I know what you said in your head just now is one word, but it isn't that clear to me unless I really focus." Tex waited a few minutes, looking directly into Natalia's eyes, concentrating.

"Well, I don't really know what to say. I guess I can't be that mad at you."

"Yes. Now that this conversation has officially gone nowhere let's go down and eat. Those servants yesterday gave us a hell of a good meal." Natalia nodded, grabbing her bag. She followed Tex out of the door, and joined next to him as he began down the staircase. He suddenly stopped, giving Natalia a weird look.

"What?" Natalia asked, looking back at him. She was now five steps further down than he was.

"You called me an asshole? Wow, I thought we were more than that. Especially after last night. You know, when you were all over me." Natalia opened her mouth, as if to say something, but nothing came out. Tex started smiling his evil annoying smile, and joined her again.

"I seriously want to forget that. I was half asleep."

"Keep telling yourself that, darling. You and I both know we were awake. Things just… happened." Before either of them said any more, they reached the dining area that they were in last night. Droid was sitting there, reading a book. He looked up when he heard Natalia's annoying boots pounding on the floor.

"Good morning, Natalia and Toby. Shall my servers bring you breakfast?" They both nodded. Droid clapped loudly again, and then motioned for Tex and Natalia to sit down.

Natalia peered over at Droid. "Thank you for letting us stay the night. It was a really rough day yesterday. You've been more than welcome towards us."

Droid smiled. "Of course. It's never an issue to house such a," Droid paused, trying to figure out the right word for what he was going to say. "diverse girl. You and your boyfriend over there can stay as long as you'd like."

"Oh!" Natalia jolted upright. Tex sat forward quickly as well. "He's not my boyfriend." Droid looked confused, and peered over at Tex for approval. Tex coughed, with his hand over his mouth.

"Natalia's right. She isn't my girlfriend. We aren't…" Tex clapped his hands together softly, showing Natalia and him were not whatsoever involved with each other.

"Well I just thought because of my observations…" there was a pause in Droid's voice. "I saw you, Toby, with your hands on her face like you were going to kiss her and-"

"I was comforting her." Tex said, his voice clearly showing he was irritated. "She was scared to find out what she was. It was me being a good person. I wasn't going to kiss her." Tex argued. He sat back in his chair. He failed to mention the part where he did kiss her. Although, it was on her forehead, not her mouth.

"Then what about last night, Toby? The part where you were cuddling up with her? Just admit you are boyfriend and girlfriend!"

"We were half asleep." Natalia blurted out. No matter what she said, it seemed like she didn't help the conversation.

"Keep telling yourself that, darling." Tex's eyes widened. He had told Natalia those exact words.

"Look, I didn't come here to argue about our personal differences." Natalia said. "We came here because I know I'm not human and Tex says I'm not an argon." Droid nodded, seeming to forget the conversation.

"I will send a letter to the council. They should give me information about it. You should know it would take a few days. You can stick around here, this island expanded a lot since Toby's been here. Gastrons are even trying to break in now and then, can you believe it?" Natalia slowly nodded. She wanted to know right now, but at least she had the time to wait. "Toby, have you trained her at all?" Droid looked at Tex, who was observing his nails. He looked up and nodded.

"I taught her the basics of how to use the Lavings." Droid laughed, which Tex took offensively. It showed through his expression.

"You of all should know she will die if she tries to fight with those worthless swords."

"We aren't expecting on fighting. Well she's not. She's too soft to kill something. Gastrons have gotten more clever by the century." Droid slowly nodded, and turned back to Natalia.

"We are having a party tomorrow night for my son's birthday. Perhaps you should buy a dress and stick around here. I know Toby will be around here that night." Tex clenched his fists under the table. Natalia nodded without much to say.

"I only brought a couple pairs pants and shirts. I don't really wear dresses that often…" Tex looked at the tablecloth below them.

"Well then! We have clothing stores. This island is practically like your land. Except we don't consider dresses that end hardly below your butt dresses. We consider those oversized shirts. I hope your not one of those girls…"

"No!" Natalia said quickly. She paused a minute before continuing. "I'm not that kind of girl. I don't wear those types of clothing."

"What a shame." Tex said softly. Natalia rolled her eyes, and glared at Tex. Droid coughed, temporarily irritated.

"Well then," Droid started, rising from his oversized chair. "I need to be heading off now. Lots of preparing to do. Toby will take you to the stores." Natalia rose, as well as Tex. Natalia had hoped Ivan had come along, instead of Tex. He had been untruthful about the majority of things he had told her. Natalia nodded, and in a split second, Droid had drifted away and left Natalia and Tex to lead their way out.

After leaving the castle, Tex had led Natalia far into the town. People would stare as they walked by. If they were standing in the way, they jumped out of the way like they were ordered to. Tex was strolling casually, waving at different people who passed by.

"So, where are we going exactly?" Natalia asked.

"I'm not sure." Natalia let out a frustrated sigh.

"You were right. You seriously are never sure." Natalia's voice sounded disappointed. Tex had his arms behind his back, hooking his hands with each other. He rotated his head towards different shops, trying to locate a formal attire shop.

"As I've told you." Tex said, making his cocky attitude more than obvious. They had been walking for about 20 minutes, mostly in silence.

"Hey Tex!" a female voice spoke. A girl, with pointy ears, and an extremely light golden hair walking in the opposite direction waved. Her skin was as pale as ice. Tex waved, grinning. Five other people had said the same thing, giving him a high-five, pat on the shoulder, or just a friendly wave.

"Why does everybody know you? How?" Natalia asked, turning to face Tex. He kept walking forward, looking straight.

"Well, I did use to live here, you know." Tex said, acting as if that was the needed excuse.

"Yeah, but you're….Tex. How does anybody like you? Don't they realize you're a-"

"Let's not be rude." Tex interrupted, holding up his hand. "Believe it or not, before I came to Earth, I was actually nice. I was friends with all of the townspeople."

"You? The one and only Tex, being nice? I don't believe it." Natalia laughed.

"Ha ha. Very funny." Tex grinned as a stiff wind pushed back his hair and pushed open his sweatshirt. Natalia had left her bag at home, which contained her sweatshirt. She crossed her arms, hugging herself. The wind pushed her hair, making it impossible to see. He stopped in front of a store. The title above was impossible to read. It said: Avensov Bitbue. Natalia turned and looked through the windows and spotted dresses sitting on mannequins in different styles and colors.

"What is this? A-aven. Avensa-"

"Avensov Bitbue. It is the most fashionable store for a party dress. You'll love it." Natalia followed as Tex stepped through the door, a bell chiming as they walk in. A girl with silver hair emerged in front of them. A smile was painted across her face, which never went away. She was wearing a light purple blouse, and black trouser pants.

"Hello. How may I help you lovely couple today? I hear a party will be going on tomorrow night at the Trackon. Is that the reason?" Tex nodded.

"Yes. My girlfriend and I are here to pick out the best dress." He wrapped his arm around Natalia's waist pulling her close. She tried to slide away, but he was too strong for her. Behind the front desk, a phone had started ringing.

"Okay! I will be with you in a moment. Let me just answer this call." She disappeared behind the desk, answering the phone in an unknown language. Natalia angrily looked up at him.

"What are you doing?" She whispered.

"What do you mean?" He asked, grinning down at her. She motioned to his hand wrapped around her waist. "Oh, you mean that. Well this girl is a total snob for romance, as it turns out. And, as you could imagine, I don't have as many topads as I used to, so I'm hoping she will get us a discount. She's a total pushover. So play along until we leave the store." Natalia laughed.

"Pathetic. You use charm and persuasion to get discounts. What a-"

"Well! I'm sorry I kept you lovebirds waiting! Let's head back to the petite dresses." Natalia shuttered at the word petite. She hated being referred to as small. They followed the old lady with their hands wrapped together. Natalia felt uncomfortable. She's never had a real boyfriend. If this was what it felt like-that you have to act so cheesy in love-then she didn't want a boyfriend. Reluctantly, though, she also tucked her arm around Tex.

They reached a medium sized area in the store with a bunch of beautiful dresses. Tex released Natalia as she spotted an emerald dress with diamond studs on it. She browsed through a whole rack, thinking they were all too beautiful.

"These are beautiful. Hey babe?" Natalia started, looking awkwardly at Tex. "What is the spending budget?" Tex brought his hand to his chin, thinking.

"Well, pick what you like, and I'll check the price." The woman helped Natalia grab a few dresses, and they headed to the changing rooms. Tex took a seat in a sofa chair that was behind a small platform with mirrors in all directions. The lady motioned for Natalia take one of the closest dressing rooms. Natalia shut the door behind her and started changing into the first dress. Meanwhile, the old lady walked back over to Tex, smiling. Tex watched Natalia's feet slip out of her boots and step through fabric. The bottom of the dressing stall ended just above Natalia's ankles.

"So, how long have you been together? The last time you were at Infitus, years ago, nobody was with you. I want to hear the whole story!" Tex paused for a few moments. Natalia listened carefully, sitting in the dress.

"Um, well we met about 3 years ago." The lady's smile got even bigger-if that was even possible.

"How adorable! You've been together for that long? So cute. Well, I should be expecting that. You know, argons only fall for one person in a deep love." Tex nodded, and met his eyes with the old lady. He read the nametag.

"Well, thank you, Andrea." She smiled, and walked to the door of the dressing room. She knocked a few times.

"Sweetie! Are you done yet?" Natalia opened up the door a minute after pulling up the straps of the dress. It was a cream colored dress with thin spaghetti straps. There was a belt around it, which was a darker cream. It ended just above her knees. She walked out and Andrea guided to the back-to-back mirrors. She stepped on the platform, feeling the warmth of the floor from the light it casted. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. The belt had pulled in her stomach, forming the curves she wanted. The bottom was loose, and there were different swirls made from the fabric being pulled from different sides. She turned and looked at her back, and returned normal. She glanced at Tex in the mirror, catching him staring at her reflection in the mirror.

"What do you think?" She asked. She placed her hands on her hips. She looked at Tex in the mirror, and saw he was still staring.

"Well, I believe it's whatever the boyfriend says." Andrea turned to Tex. He looked up at her.

"What?" he said, forgetting for a moment the whole act. "Right. You're totally correct. Well, I think… You look very-" Natalia noticed Tex's tone get cocky, as if he were going to insult it and say something like you look too fat. But, before he could finish his sentence, Andrea interrupted, pinching different spots in the dress, acting like she was doing some sort of fitting.

"I think she looks like an angel." Tex laughed, and noticed the two girls looking back at him, staring. He straightened his smile almost immediately.

"Sorry. I just…thought of something funny. It looks good. Next dress?" Natalia rolled her eyes, stepping off of the platform.

"Is he always like this?" Andrea whispered to Natalia before she stepped in the dressing stall.

"You don't even see the half of it. He's changed since he was here last." Even though Natalia knew she wanted to frown, Andrea kept smiling. Natalia shut the door again, stepping out of her dress. Tex crossed his arms, observing the room.

"I love what you've done with the place. It's very different. Better quality sofas." Andrea nodded. There was a small silence.

"So how did you two meet?" Andrea asked, looking so interested. Tex hesitated, and lost his focus when Natalia came out of the dressing room. He looked her up and down. She was now wearing a blue dress with ruffles along the top. It was strapless, and it puffed out a little after her waist, and ended at her knees. She pulled up the dress from the top, as it slightly and slowly slid down. She stepped on the platform and looked at herself. She wasn't impressed. The dress made her look evil, especially with her wavy hair down. She attempted to push in the part that was fluffing out but it kept returning outwards. She felt so bare. As if someone could crawl under and see right through her dress. She once again looked at Tex in the reflection, wondering about his opinion. He pulled up a forced cough, and a forced smile along with it.

"Well?" she asked, looking back at Tex and Andrea.

"Perhaps," Tex started, attempting not to laugh. "It's not your color." Natalia sighed. Although she was angry that Tex had made no compliments, she agreed with him. Nothing looked right on her.

After countless hours of trying on different dresses, they were starting to head home for the night.

"Sorry you wasted all of this time helping us for nothing." Natalia said. Some of the lights had shut off because it was closing time.

"Don't worry about it. As long as you find some dress for you. You make a very adorable couple." Natalia looked away and turned to the door.

"Sorry Tex."

"It's okay. You can try again tomorrow." Andrea let out another "aw" and Tex looked back at her awkwardly. Before they opened the door to leave, Andrea stopped him.

"Kiss her." She whispered. Natalia looked over at them, just barely hearing what she said. Tex's lips parted like he was going to say something, but nothing came out.

"She's really tired. She's not happy she didn't find the dress. It's best I leave her alone." Tex's excuse totally sounded convincing, Natalia thought. To add to it, she rolled her eyes and tried to look angry.

"Come on Tex. Looking at these dresses makes me even more mad I didn't find anything." Tex looked at her, catching on.

"See? We should leave her alone."

"You're her boyfriend. Act like one! Kiss her to make her feel better. It's so cute and romantic! Come on…" Tex sighed. He walked over to Natalia. Natalia stared up at him. Tex threw his arms around her carelessly, and whispered in her ear.

"This lady is a freak. Just ignore it." Natalia nodded, and threw her arms around him. They stood there for two seconds and Natalia let go. Tex released.

"Thank you Tex. I feel much better. Now let's go home." They turned, and they had just almost reached the door when Andrea stopped them.

"Come on. Don't act like that helped. Kiss her!" Tex rolled his eyes. He looked down at Natalia, who was staring at him. Gently and quickly, Tex kissed her forehead.

"Okay Andrea. There. Now can we leave? She is tired, as well as me."

"Don't tell me that was a real kiss. Let the romance take you. Hey Sandra, don't you think this cute couple has to kiss?" Sandra, a black haired girl with thick-rimmed glasses on nodded, and looked at them.

"Oh yes! Just kiss her already!" Tex took a deep breath.

"You know, this is embarrassing for Natalia, but she's never had a real kiss. She is so nervous about it, and she'd like to have her first kiss at marriage. I mean terrified. She is so scared, and she cries at night, and-"

"I do not!" Natalia said. There was a small silence. Tex glared at her. "Well, I mean, I don't cry all night. Just for um, a minute or two." She looked at Tex, for him to continue.

"She's uncomfortable. So, last time I checked, we aren't getting married quite yet. So, yeah." They looked at Andrea, hoping she'd stop nagging.

"Then this is the perfect time! Gosh, do you really think that I'd believe that? Tex, just kiss her already!" Tex looked at Natalia hopelessly. There was no way to get out of it. He slowly walked up to her. He tilted her head up with his first two fingers in a gentle and slow manner. He inched closer, trying to avoid the moment. Finally, their lips met. Tex closed his eyes, Natalia guessed to make it look real. Natalia did too. It was a light kiss. They barely touched. Natalia thought that moment lasted forever. She felt adrenaline bust through her like a waterfall. "Wrap your arms around her!" she heard Andrea add. Reluctantly, Tex did. Slowly, he took his two fingers away from her chin. He placed one of his hands on her upper back. The other remained a little lower. "Oh my, for heaven sakes, kiss her like you mean it." Natalia guessed Tex looked awkward which was just how Natalia felt. He slowly pulled Natalia closer. The kiss lasted longer than Natalia thought it would. But slowly and gradually, Tex made it look more meaningful. Instead of their lips barely touching, it became a full-on kiss. Natalia found her arms wrapped around him as well. Andrea should've accepted the excuse. She wondered how awkward it was for Tex. Natalia felt like she was in the most peaceful dream, with Tex's arms circling her back-no. She could not like Tex. What was she doing? What had she gotten herself into? She hated him, right?

Finally, she opened her eyes. The mixed feelings Natalia had begun to overwhelm her. Tex opened his eyes just a little bit after. They were still kissing the moment their eyes met. Natalia quickly retreated, and Tex did as well. They quickly released their arms from around each other. They stared at each other, which seemed like it lasted way longer than it did. They were so close she felt Tex's cool breath on her neck. Natalia looked at Andrea, who seemed so overly excited. She clapped her hands.

"Um," Tex said. He was looking at Andrea. He looked at the floor awkwardly, not really knowing what to say.

"See? Was that that bad?" Andrea asked. Yes, Natalia thought. "Okay, I just wanted to see if you were a true couple. Most would just break down and confess that they were never really involved. That they just did it to get a discount." Tex laughed nervously.

"Of course not. Can we leave now?" he quickly disappeared out of the door as Andrea nodded.

The sun had just set, leaving the moon out to rock the night. They were walking in awkward silence. What were they supposed to say? They were just forced to kiss. It wasn't something you could just toss in the back of your mind.

The breeze had not changed. It was still very chilly and Natalia crossed her arms as more wind piled in and tossed her hair back. She shivered, and let out a small laugh.

Tex looked at her strangely. "What?" he asked, completely clueless.

"Goosebumps." She said, pushing her arm out as more had appeared. Tex glanced over.

"Are you chilly?" he asked, carrying in common sense. Natalia shrugged.

"It's not a big deal. We'll be at the Trackon in like, 20 minutes." Tex looked at her. As they kept walking in silence, Tex started to take off his sweatshirt. He unzipped the gray zipper and pulled it over Natalia's shoulders.

"No, Tex, it's fine. Really. I-"

"Just wear it. I can stand the cold. You don't look like you can." She wanted to argue, but she had let it be. Tex was stubborn; he wouldn't let her take off the sweatshirt. She held the collar of it around her neck so it wouldn't fall off. They walked a little longer in silence.

"Thank you." She said, finally.

"It's just a sweatshirt. If that still isn't enough, I can find a way to incorporate my shirt…" Tex said jokingly.

"No, no. I already had a show this morning." Natalia joked, referring to going in the bathroom when he was in there, just in a towel. Tex laughed. "But I really mean it. Thanks." She looked at him, his dark navy blue v-neck blowing back in the wind. He looked back at her, and nodded.

"It's not a big deal."

"I meant for everything; the whole journey here. You put up with me and brought me here like I wanted. Thank you for doing that for me." Tex grinned.

"You're welcome." There was silence for a little while until Tex looked at her. "Um, I'm sorry." Natalia faced him.

"What do you mean?"

"I didn't think about the fact that Andrea would actually make me kiss you. I didn't really think it through." An awkward silence spaced out his words.

"Oh," Natalia replied softly. "It," she paused as more wind flew by them. She tried to wrap herself more in the sweatshirt. "It's not your fault. That girl, was a total-"

"Creeper. Notice how she never stopped smiling?" Natalia let out a small laugh.

"Yeah. But about the kiss, I don't want that to affect anything. It was just some act to get through a lie."

"Right. I agree. But nice acting on the excuse part. When you rolled your eyes at me." Tex grinned. Natalia wasn't sure but, it seemed like the kiss was too big to easily dismiss. She hoped Tex did dismiss it easily though, so it was only Natalia who was worried. She pushed it out of her head.

"Well, it was pretty easy." Natalia replied. "All I had to do was think about what rude or mean things you've said or done to me and let the anger flow." Tex laughed.

They walked for a couple steps more until Natalia stopped abruptly. She was looking in the window of one of the last stores that were open. She went up to the window and looked at the dress all the way to the left. It was purple, strapless, and it had a black belt around the midsection. Natalia could tell it would end a little above her knees. Beautiful small black heels were placed on the bottom of the mannequin it sat on. A beautiful diamond necklace lay on the mannequin, which matched perfectly with the outfit. Tex looked at her and joined next to her, looking at the dress.

"It's so beautiful." Natalia let out.

"And expensive." Tex joined. Natalia read the price aloud.

"750 topads? What's that?" Natalia asked.

"Let's just say in English, it means 1,500 dollars." Natalia's mouth fell open.

"Wow."

"Yeah. And that's for the dress only." Natalia backed away slowly. Tex started walking again, and Natalia took one last look at the dress. It was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. "Natalia. Come on." Natalia joined him walking again. It was difficult to see the street, except for the crystal lights that came every few feet. Natalia was now grateful she had accepted Tex's sweatshirt; it was the only thing keeping her warm. It was still warm on the inside from when Tex had it on. She peered over at him as he looked up at the huge castle building. His hands were tucked in his pockets and his hair was being pushed back.

After arriving through the door of the Trackon, Natalia looked around. She could never get bored of this room. Such a warm feeling entered her when walking around here. Ivan happened to be walking in the hallway as Tex shut the tall door behind him.

"Hello, folks!" Ivan said, very enthusiastically. Natalia waved. She still held the coat over her shirt. Tex stepped next to her and looked at Ivan.

"Dinner should be ready shortly. You can go in your room for a while until I call you down." Natalia and Tex nodded. Tex stepped in front of her, and led her up to the room.

They opened the door, and Natalia sat on the edge of the bed. She saw the screen lighting up on her phone inside her bag, and she rushed over to it. She took out her phone, and looked at the notification. MISSED CALL, it read. She viewed it. Alex had tried to call her seven times. Natalia quickly redialed the number and listened to the other line ring. The phone was pressed to her cold ear. She waited a while, before finally, she heard a voice on the other end.

"Hello?"

"Alex?" Natalia practically screamed.

"Natalia? What happened! You have a lot of explaining to do!"

"I know, I know." Natalia spoke. She felt like crying. It's been so long since she's talked to Alex. "Look, there is so much to tell! I'm OK though. I'm safe. I won't be back home until next week maybe. I'm not sure, but-" before Natalia could let out any more, the phone was quickly snatched away from her hand. She turned around and saw Tex pressing the END button.

"Hey!" Natalia said. She reached to grab the phone, but Tex quickly moved his arm away. Higher, and farther back so she was leaning on him. "I was talking to my best friend! You can't just do that!"

"Yes I can." Tex said. He switched the phone around his back to his left hand. Natalia reached behind him, not caring about the fact that she was hugging him.

"Seriously, stop!"

"No! Do you have any idea what you're doing?" Tex spoke loudly.

"Yes. Talking on the phone with my friend. Now give it back!" She tried to jump as Tex reached it above her head.

"No. You're setting up a tracking device! This island is completely invisible. A Nemf was put on it 500 million years ago. If this island is spotted, we are all dead. Do you hear me? Dead! People can easily track the call and find out where argons live. You can't make any calls, texts, or e-mails. Nothing that involves communication with other people by electronics. It's too dangerous." Natalia stopped fighting. Instead, she crossed her arms, and looked angrily up at Tex.

"Fine. You're right. You're absolutely right. Just give me the phone, and we'll pretend like this never happened." Natalia held out her hand, so Tex could pass it to her.

"Alright." Tex said. "Can I take a sip of this water first?" He motioned to the cup of water sitting on the nightstand. Natalia shrugged.

"Whatever." Natalia stood and watched. He took the cup of water. He held the phone in his hand while he took a small sip. Natalia once again raised her hand in front of Tex so he could drop the phone in there. He held the phone up, and dropped it. It wasn't on Natalia's hand, though. Tex had purposely dropped it in the cup of water. He made it look like it was going in Natalia's hand but Natalia stopped believing it when a little bit of water splashed up on her.

"There. Oh, wait. I must've mistaken the cup for your hand. Oops." Tex looked at the phone sitting in the bottom of the cup.

"Tex! What the hell!" Natalia wondered what she could do to him. She raised her hand to slap him, but that never did anything. She lowered it again. "You're such a-"

"Amazing person, I know, I know. Tell me something I don't know." He grinned, setting the cup back on the table. Natalia looked down at the drowned phone.

"I was going to say jerk." Natalia crossed her arms. She suddenly felt hot. She took off Tex's sweatshirt and threw it at up. It hit his chest, and fell into his arms.

"What a drama queen." Tex whispered. Natalia was going to comment on that but Ivan had just called them down to dinner.

After dinner, Natalia still was ignoring Tex. She had officially lost all connections to anybody. She sat on the bed and looked around the room.

"Are you seriously still ignoring me? I did it for the sake of argons. You would've made a call no matter what I said. I'm sorry I ruined your phone by dunking it in a cup of water." Natalia looked at him. She rolled her eyes. Being mad at Tex wouldn't really do anything.

"Okay. But I want you to know that I am totally not happy with the way you confiscated my phone." Tex nodded.

"Fair enough." Natalia kicked off her shoes and started to rub her feet. She lay back on the bed and tucked herself under the covers. Tex went to the dresser and opened up the drawer. She watched quietly under the covers as Tex took off his shirt and threw it to the side. His shoulder blades glided across his back as he bent down to his feet. He kicked off his shoes and put them aside. Natalia stared at his arms, without meaning to. They flexed as Tex searched a drawer for possible a shirt. Natalia didn't see that he had found a shirt and walked over to the bed. He took the pillow next to her and threw it on the floor.

"Aren't you going to put on a shirt? It'd be totally convincing if Droid walked in here again and saw that." Tex held up his shirt. Natalia looked away. "Oh," He grabbed a blanket and set it on the floor beside the bed. He pulled the shirt over his head and lay down. The blackness of the room made Natalia feel like a black hole was swallowing her up.

"You know you like it." Tex said, laying on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Natalia peered down at him.

"What?"

"When I take my shirt off." Natalia started laughing.

"Okay. Yeah, right. Don't flatter yourself." She turned on her back also. She pinched her eyes shut, full of embarrassment. It couldn't have been that obvious. She opened her eyes to the blackness of the room. A question had popped into her head that she's been wondering for a while now. "Tex?" she asked, after it was silent for a few moments.

"Yeah?" he replied.

"Why do you really hate Droid?"

"What? I don't hate him….I strongly dislike him…"

"Tex." Natalia replied, irritated.

"Alright, I hate him. Look Natalia, there are a lot of things that go around by here that you don't know. And I don't expect you to understand that. Just don't worry about other problems that go on but your own. You're better off. You would be disappointed." There was a very long silence. "Okay?" Natalia didn't respond. Tex sat up and looked over at her on the bed. She was already sound asleep. "Goodnight, Natalia." He said softly.

9

Natalia woke up once again by the sun peaking through the shades. She sat up, and peered over on the floor where Tex had been sleeping. He was still there, asleep. She got up quietly, and brought some clothes and took a shower.

After she finished taking a shower, which had felt amazing, she changed into her clothes and started wiping her hair dry. She tried to find a hair dryer somewhere, but she failed to spot one. As she was brushing her hair, she heard a soft knock on the door. She grabbed the metal handle and opened the door.

"Good morning." He said. Tex was standing in the doorway. His hair was tossed around, and his eyes were still lazy from just waking up.

"Morning." Natalia said. He scooted behind her and turned the bath handle. Warm water started pouring out, and Tex placed his head under the water. He washed his face and hair off and shut the water flow. He stood for a while, hunched over the bath, letting the water drip off his head into the tub.

"Can you hand me that towel?" he pointed to a handle on the rack above the toilet. Natalia handed to him, and he wiped his hair and face off. It was still awkward a little from last night.

"I don't really know if I should be going to this party tonight." Natalia said. Tex propped up and started wiping his hair dry in the mirror. He looked at her reflection.

"Why? Don't make me go to this horrible party alone. It's the least you can do. After all I've done." Tex reached his arm above his head, Natalia noticing another symbol on his tricep.

"Well, I have nothing to wear. I can just sit in the room all night. All I wanted was to find out what I am." There was a silence.

"We'll see." Natalia was about to question his comment, but Tex had left the room. He went to change.

After they had finished getting ready, Tex went downstairs. Natalia followed, and they ran into Ivan on the way there. Ivan was wearing a dark green shirt with black jeans.

"Hello Natalia and Toby." Ivan waved. Natalia found it odd that he always showed a positive mood.

"Hi Ivan!" Natalia said. Tex turned to Natalia.

"There is something I've got to take care of. It would take most of the day, so Ivan,"-he turned to look at Ivan-"I'm expecting you to keep her busy. Just until a little before the party starts." Ivan nodded, and Tex started down the stairs. Before he could really start, Natalia grabbed his arm, stopping him.

"What are you doing?" Tex looked back at her, without much of an expression.

"Dangerous, hot and bad boy things." He winked. "Just kidding. I am taking care of some business. Don't worry, I know you want to stick to me everywhere I go, but Ivan will take great care of you." Natalia sighed, and released Tex. She didn't have a good feeling about this. She turned back to Ivan and forced a smile.

"How would you like to see the gardens?" Ivan asked. He started to lead Natalia towards a door. Reluctantly, she followed.

Still following Ivan, he led her to a gray stoned path. It was beautiful; there was a square arch in a special area with benches and vines crawled up on the top and the sides. Pink roses stuck out on bushes against the side path. The stone path leaded to the side at this special area. Ivan took a seat on the bench.

"This is so beautiful." Natalia let out.

"I found this area the first week of arriving here. Ever since, I've come here every day. I know everything there is to know about here." Natalia nodded.

"Who set this up? Was it Droid?" Natalia asked. She took a seat next to Ivan and faced him.

"It was actually your friend back there. Toby? Or Tex or something." Natalia's mouth fell open. She let out a small laugh that ended short.

"No. There must be a mistake. Tex isn't like that! Are you serious?"

"Of course. He made the arch out of wood he found in that far forest over there. He wanted one part of the Trackon to have true emotions within." Natalia gazed at the forest Ivan had been pointing to.

"I didn't know Tex was that kind of person. Er, argon." Ivan grinned and looked around.

"Yes, well that's him. He made this arch out of scraps in the woods, planted these flowers around here that started off as seeds. He even added the stones to make this area. It was once just grass like over there." Natalia looked into the plain grassy area Ivan was pointing to.

"Tex doesn't usually come off as a person with this type of personality." Natalia said. She looked around the whole area. Not only were there pink roses, there were also purple lilacs at the bottom.

"I'm sure he'd think to bring a girl to this place. It explains why the roses are here, and those lilacs." Ivan said.

"But, it just doesn't add up. Tex isn't romantic. He isn't nice. He doesn't seem like the guy who would bring a girl here and kiss her. Making it romantic seems like the opposite of what he'd do." Natalia was suddenly reminded of the kiss from yesterday. How his arms slipped around her back, pulling her closer. How he stopped barely touching her, and actually kissed her. No Natalia thought. Tex doesn't like me. I don't like him. He is a jerk. That kiss was only to get through a lie. Natalia had to repeat the last thought over and over about a thousand times before feeling convinced enough to look back at Ivan. Then Ivan looked stunned. He looked at Natalia strangely.

"Oh my," Ivan said. Natalia didn't think he was looking at her. Maybe he was distracted with something else. She peered behind her back, and saw nothing. She faced him again.

"What?"

"You kissed Tex?" Silence set in. The wind pushed back Natalia's hair. She had remembered to wear her sweatshirt today. Natalia spent a good five minutes thinking of what to say before she opened her mouth.

"Oh, right. I forgot you could read my mind." There was a longer silence. "It wasn't real or anything. The kiss, I mean." Ivan looked confused.

"How is kissing somebody not real? I think Droid was right. You're a couple and you can't admit it to yourselves."

"No!" Natalia quickly responded. "It was all a lie. He brought me to a store to get a dress for the party tonight, and the clerk girl, Andrea I think, was a real pushover for romance. So Tex started to act, without my permission, that I was his girlfriend just so he could get a discount. And when we tried to leave, Andrea made us kiss. She wasn't going to let us leave. But Ivan, you can't tell anybody this. Not even Tex. Please, please don't say anything." Natalia took a deep breath, hoping Ivan would be understanding about it.

"Alright. I believe you, and I won't tell anybody. Your secret is safe with me."

"Thank you so much, Ivan." Natalia said.

"But how can you act like normal the next day? According to your thoughts, his arms were wrapped around you. He went from barely touching lips to a real kiss. How is this so easily dismissed?" Natalia hesitated at the question.

"Well, Andrea told him to move his arms. It was just an act. You have to make a kiss look real."

"Yeah, but-"

"Honestly, I kind of feel uneasy talking about it out loud. Can we switch subjects?" Natalia asked.

"Um, sure." Natalia listened as Ivan told more of the different things he'd learned from Droid and how he came to be.

After spending almost the whole day just basically touring the place, It was close to dinnertime. The sun had started to set, and Ivan was starting to walk Natalia back up to the room. Before they reached the stairs in Natalia's favorite room, there was a slam on the door. They looked back and saw Tex. Tex spotted them as he reached the stairs.

"Hey guys." Tex said. Ivan waved, while Natalia stared, unimpressed. Ivan turned to Natalia.

"Well, I should probably see if Droid needs any help with anything. Natalia, it was a great day showing you around." Natalia nodded, and Ivan disappeared into a long hall.

"How was your day with Ivan? I'm sure you would've had much more fun with me." Tex grinned, and started up the stairs.

"It was fine. He showed me a lot of interesting areas." Tex nodded, not catching on to anything.

"So have you thought about going to the party?" Natalia nodded no.

"I don't think I'm going. I don't have a dress! It'd be really embarrassing." Tex nodded slowly, reaching the room. He stepped inside, on the other side of the bed and turned to face her.

"But what if you did?" Natalia gave him a goofy look. He turned around, and grabbed something from under the bed. He placed it on the clean bed and scooted it towards Natalia. It was a box. Natalia looked up at him for a minute.

"Go ahead. Open it." Gently, Natalia opened the box.

There it was. The purple dress with the black belt on the waist area she had been looking at. Her mouth fell open in astonishment.

"Tex, I…" She picked up the dress, looking at its beautiful colors and designs. She looked at him with a huge smile on her face.

"Keep looking." She got confused, and returned her sight to the box. Underneath it were the small black heals she had seen. And underneath that, was the beautiful gleaming diamond necklace. She placed the shoes aside and grabbed the necklace.

"Tex…"

"I know, I know. I'm an amazing person. Well, you couldn't find any dresses you liked, and I felt bad. So even though it was tough, I bought the dress you wanted. The way you looked at it last night was more than enough to show how much you wanted it." She couldn't believe what she was looking at.

"Thank you so much, Tex. That was really nice of you."

"Will you at least consider going to the party now?" Tex smirked. Natalia smiled and grabbed the dress to get changed in the bathroom.

When she slid into the dress, it fit perfectly. It wasn't falling down because of it being strapless, and it was firm on her figure. She took a look in the mirror and looked at herself. The black belt tugged in her stomach, creating the figure she saw in the store from the cream dress. The purple dress ended above her knees by a few inches, which seemed perfect. She opened the door and stepped out.

Tex had changed into a suit. He had on black pants, with a light blue shirt. The sleeves had been tucked correctly, but he was still trying to figure out the tie. His shirt was tucked in, and the black coat was placed aside on the bed. He heard the door open, and turned to her. His mouth dropped a little. It looked like he was going to say something, but nothing came out.

"You look..."

"Look, I know you are going to say fat or weird or awkward, but for just this one night, can you not?" Natalia asked. Tex looked at her.

"I was going to say beautiful."

"Oh…" Natalia replied. "Well, thanks." He nodded. He fiddled with his tie for a moment longer until he took it off angrily. Natalia walked over to him and picked up the tie. He looked down at her as she placed it around his neck. She tied it with almost no effort.

"How did you do that?" he asked, as she repositioned it to make it straight.

"After my mother died, I was the one to fix up my father's tie for his suit." She took out the collar of the blue shirt over the darker blue tie.

"Oh, well thank you." Natalia nodded. She stepped into the short-heeled shoes that were so beautiful. Tex pulled over his black coat and fixed the collar. He spotted the diamond necklace that Natalia had forgotten. She saw it, and smiled.

"That's so pretty. Tex, I couldn't thank you enough for all of this."

"It's not a big deal. May I?" he asked, motioning to the necklace to put on Natalia. She nodded, and turned around. Tex gently pushed her hair over her shoulder so it was out of the way. He reached over her head and put the diamond necklace over her neck. He hooked the latches together. Natalia felt the light brush of his fingertips against her neck and shivered. She turned to face him.

"Thank you Tex." Natalia said, yet again.

"Will you stop? I'm sure you've said that about twenty times." He laughed. His dirty blond hair was brushed down. It ended just at his ears. Natalia pulled some of her hair in a black small clip. A few short waves fell in her face. She found some lipstick and put some on. Dark gray eye shadow covered her eyes, with mascara decorating and extending her eyelashes. She stepped out of the bathroom once more after applying makeup. Ivan had come in, and was talking with Tex. They both looked at Natalia, stunned.

"Wow." Ivan said. Natalia smiled, feeling admired. Tex stood up from sitting on the sofa chair, and walked next to Natalia on their way out. Ivan had disappeared out the door, and Tex held out his elbow for Natalia to take. She did, and they began walking down the hallway and down the stairs. He kept glancing at her, she noticed.

"So, what's with the huge emphasis of the entrance?" Tex grinned, swiping some hair out of his eyes.

"This huge party is all about the way you walk in. It's the start of a crazy night to come." Tex replied. They passed Natalia's favorite hallway room and walked down another long room with some chairs and tables and a couple bookshelves. Tex stopped shortly behind Ivan who arrived at two tall doors with curved handles. A man in a black suit stood before them, wearing a masquerade mask. He was about to pull open the door for them when Ivan stopped him. He turned to Natalia and Tex.

"Did you get masks? I told you this party was going to be different than the rest. More grand, and brilliant." Ivan had slipped on a black mask covering his eyes and his cheeks.

"No. You didn't mention anything." Tex replied, his voice growing irritated. "I bought her the dress, the shoes, the necklace and I forget a, a, a mask?" He looked angrily at Ivan.

Ivan sighed. "Well, the only extra masks I know of are a bit different than these masks we're supposed to wear." Ivan spoke quietly. He dug around in his coat pocket and brought out two masks. One was a shiny black that covered the half of a nose and the sides of the face. He gave it to Tex. It had strips of designs on the bottom, like a fiery fade out.

"Ah, yes. This is so dramatically different than your mask." Tex's sarcastic tone showed up. Ivan ignored it and turned to Natalia. He pulled out a dark gray sparkled mask that covered her eyes but had a curved design on the sides. Natalia slipped it on and adjusted it. Tex looked at her, slightly stunned. It thinly went over her nose.

"How come she gets the sparkled one?" Tex looked back at Ivan.

"Are we good now?" Natalia asked. She ignored Tex's comment.

"Yes." Ivan replied. "Hopefully not too many people notice. Yours are special. They weren't supposed to be shiny or anything, but they had to have the symbol on it. Yours doesn't, and hopefully it doesn't matter." Ivan had his blond hair brushed back, and it ended on the back of his neck.

"Thanks Ivan. But what symbol?" Ivan had quickly ditched the conversation, thinking it was over. Tex leaned into her ear which startled her, as his minted breath whispered.

"The symbol isn't really discussed. If you don't have it, you're not an argon. Hopefully not many people care." Natalia looked straight ahead and nodded.

Ivan waited as the doorman pulled open the latch. Instantly loud music fluttered into Natalia's ears. It was a mix of dance music and rock. They were on a taller area, and stairs led down to the real party. The music had a sudden change to slower as a green spotlight lit up the staircase. It followed Ivan down as he adjusted his coat. When he reached the bottom, the spotlight crawled up the stairs once more. Ivan turned to look up the stairs as Tex and Natalia made their way down.

Still arm and arm, Tex was smiling, liking the view of the party. Bowls of glowing blue liquid splashed around from the impact of the stereo music. The cool mask felt refreshing from the humidity from the many people. Natalia wasn't even sure if you'd call them people. Some had spiked up teeth, while others had pointed ears. Long hair hat moved like water paraded around a tall pale girl.

"This is the big entrance. So try not to trip on your way down. You will be such an utter embarrassment to me." Natalia threw up a smile as they started down the stairs. She saw people crane their heads, staring at them as they made their way down the carpeted staircase.

"What a gentleman." Natalia started, sarcastically. "A man tells a girl not to trip to save his own reputation." They were still stepping down as more heads began to turn. Some girls' mouths dropped in astonishment.

"Well, a reputation is all a man has."

"Fake." Natalia said, glancing at him. "Fake reputation, in your case. There's something behind all of this fake stuff you try to pull off. Something nobody else seems to notice. Except for me. You're different." There was silence between them as the music grew louder and louder as they became closer to the ground.

"I don't know what you're implying, but-"

"I saw your garden. Well, I mean it looks like a garden. With the pink roses, and purple lilacs. And the beautiful wooden square arch with vines crawling up it." Tex glanced at her nervously.

"That….that isn't mine… I mean that wasn't mine. I didn't-"

"Stop lying. Ivan told me everything there is to know about that place. How you built it, the reason…" Tex cursed under his breath.

"Norva Inyu, Eván." He whispered. Natalia didn't have time to question his unknown language, because they had reached the floor and joined with Ivan once again.

"Welcome to the party guys. Drinks are on the house. You can request a song from DJ Candace over there." Ivan's giant arm gestured towards a DJ set where a girl with pink and blue hair with headphones on was bobbing her head to the beat of the music. "In about ten minutes we're going to be doing the SET." With no more to say, Ivan walked off and started talking to a pointy-eared boy with a green boring mask on. Tex looked at Natalia, who was gazing up at the blue sphere with multiple crystal-spiked triangles around the edges. She looked at Tex.

"What?" she asked. Tex nodded no.

"Nothing." They stood there without much to say, glancing around the room. The music was suddenly interrupted from the DJ.

"Alright immortals. Because this party is hosted by the wonderful creatures Argons, on their behalf, all of them shall step forward and participate in the SET. Boys, grab your girl and move to the center of the room." Ivan came over and motioned for Tex to bring Natalia up.

"No." Tex simply replied. "I'm not going to. I refuse." With a strong push, Ivan pushed Tex and Natalia up to the exact middle of the dance floor. Tex looked at Natalia, irritated.

"What is SET?" Natalia asked.

"Sendiah Ethnic Tradition." Tex replied.

"Wait, I don't know what this is. I can't dance-"

"Oh, but you will. Just do as I say." Tex lined up with the other men in their suits. Natalia stood next to a girl with pearl white hair. Perhaps she was the one who spotted Tex when they were out shopping?

A song started. It was almost a grooved up tango type. In a sudden movement, all of the men joined a position with the girl. Tex occupied his right hand on Natalia's waist. He pulled her close and grabbed her hand with his other open hand. Natalia gazed at the girls and saw they had their hands on the boy's shoulder, so Natalia followed. She followed the footwork, staring at Tex's feet stomping around.

"Look me in the eye." Tex said. "Move with me, not after me. Follow every move as I do, and just keep eye contact." Natalia looked up. Her head tilted a little higher than normal because of Tex's height. This reassured her. She tried figuring out which way he was going to move. "Dip." She heard him quickly whisper. He raised his hand up to her back, and dipped her down. She followed the other girls and continued. Tex's arms were firm yet gentle. She tried not to pay any attention to the uncomfortable mask stuck to her face, and tried to concentrate on Tex's face. His angular jaw, his straight face. His shimmering sapphire eyes. "Here comes the big ending." Tex said.

"What big ending?" Tex spun Natalia around, the music getting faster. The other girls acted as if it were natural. In an instant, Tex stopped, catching her before she could slip. He held her close, while the creatures applauded. Natalia felt Tex's cool mint breath on her neck. Chills were sent down her spine. She couldn't quite see Tex clearly; spinning in circles always made her sick. She waited for her vision to fall back to normal again, spotting the people start dancing around the place where the argons gathered for the SET. After peering around, she looked up at Tex, who was still holding her close. He was looking down at her. She let go, and he did so a little bit after.

"Well that was fun." Tex said finally, without any emotion. "You did pretty good. Although I must say, your spinning was a little off from the other girls." Natalia smirked, and joined Tex as he started walking towards the table with beverages.

"Try wearing heels and spinning in a flashing room. It's not that easy." Natalia looked at him, as he looked carefully at the choices of drinks.

"Yeah, I know that. But even I could do better."

"You couldn't last a second." Natalia said. Tex picked up a cup and poured in a big amount of a shimmering blue liquid. He took a huge gulp and looked midway through another sip at Natalia. He lowered the cup, eyeing her carefully. He held out the cup, offering a sip.

"Want some?" Natalia nodded no.

"I have no idea what that is."

"Apple juice. Now try it." He placed the cup in Natalia's hands. She looked down at the liquid, watching it splash around. She glanced up at him and saw him motion towards the cup as if to say what are you waiting for? Reluctantly, Natalia raised the cup to her lips. She took a sip and a burst of flavor ran down her throat. It was so strong it burned, the herb flavor making her choke. She handed the cup back to Tex mid-cough.

"Oh my gosh." Natalia sputtered. "Are you trying to poison me?" She looked at him as he chugged some more down.

"This? Aw, c'mon. This is the good stuff! Well, for argons it is. Boyle. So sweet and sour at the same time."

"That is not sweet. It's like, salty. It's very gross. How would you think anybody would like that?" Tex brought the cup down and was about to speak when Natalia saw feminine hands cover his eyes from behind him. The nails were painted black and blue scrappy gloved were thrown over the palm of the hands but ended at the knuckles.

"Guess who?" a sweet but dark voice spoke.

"No way," Tex said, removing the hands and facing the girl. "Tory! What are you doing here?" She had on a navy blue dress with thin spaghetti straps. She wore dark blue eye shadow and black eyeliner. She wore bunches of bracelets on one hand, and on the other was one single black spiked one. The dress ended above her knees like Natalia's, and her hair was down except for her front bangs. It was wavy and black. She wrapped her arms around Tex and hugged him as he did the same.

"I was all the way in-"

"Jamaica, you told me. How did you get here?" They looked at each other, so amazed and astonished.

"Well, I got a Proal, and it was just the invite to the party! Your friend Ivan must've known who your friends are."

"That scrub, I must thank him! It's been, like over-"

"Over 20 years." Tory finished.

"Wow." Tex said. "So long since I've seen you. You look about the same. Still got that badass in you mixed with beauty." Tory laughed.

"Oh, Tex. You were always so sweet." He grinned. Tory switched her glance to Natalia, and stared past Tex. "Oh," Tory said, forgetting the fact that Natalia was there. "Who are you?"

"Oh!" Tex said quickly. He backed up so Tory was on his right facing Natalia, who was on his left. "Where are my manners?"

"In the 1900's." Natalia joked. Tory grinned, showing her white and straight teeth.

"I can tell me and her are going to get along just fine." She smiled, and winked. Natalia wasn't too impressed by Tory. She seemed so…clingy. She felt annoyed but hid it deep down so nobody would read her thoughts.

"Anyways, Tory, this is Natalia. Natalia this is Tory."

"Hi." Natalia managed. Tory nodded as if she was too cool to say hello. She turned to Tex.

"How long have you been together? Since I left? Give me the info!" She smiled and looked at the both of them.

"No!" Tex and Natalia said at the same time. They looked at each other before continuing.

"We aren't together." Tex said. Tory didn't look convinced.

"I'm not so convinced." She looked over at Natalia who nodded along.

"He's right. I would never date or go out with Tex. I'm not sure if he acted this way when you were around, but he's a total jerk."

"Jerk?" Tory asked, confused. "Tex, what have these centuries done to you?" she laughed and Tex smiled. Apparently they ditched the dating topic.

"I'm just helping her out with finding out who she really is. Senseless mortal has no idea." Tory fixed the blue mask that matched along with her dress.

"She's not one of us. Why did you bring her here?"

"She wouldn't stop bugging me when I let it slip about us. Droid has sent a letter to the council. After that I will return her home." He glanced at Natalia who just nodded along.

"Nice."

"It's funny," Natalia started. "Tex never mentioned anything about a long distance relationship." Tory laughed, dropping her arm around Tex.

"No, no. We're just really close friends. Like a brother and sister type of thing." Tex nodded. Off of the corner of his eye, he spotted a special light go around the dance floor and up to the stage.

"Oh." Natalia said. Tory looked down and spotted Natalia's necklace.

"How on Zerum did you get that?" Tory asked. Natalia looked down at the necklace, and peered over at Tex.

"Oh, um, right. Well Tex bought it for me. The whole outfit, actually." Tory tilted her chin up, looking at Tex. Natalia spotted small complicated symbols start at her neck and crawl down under the dress at the side.

"Wow Tex. I didn't know you had that in you. That was 750 topads, correct? I saw it on my way to the Trackon. She must be pretty special to you." She glanced at them both as it grew silent.

"Yeah, well she didn't have a dress. I thought I'd make it up to her from the other night when I…" Tex drifted off, not wanting to talk about the kiss. Natalia tried pushing the memory out of her head, but it stuck. "Yeah." The light had crawled up along the stage and shined on a man standing up in front of the DJ set.

"Okay ladies and gentlemen. Grab your partner and dance to the slow music as the clock strikes 12. Get that special someone and embrace the lovely moment." Slowly, a girl with gold hair was pulled out on the dance floor from a boy with black eyes. They pulled each other close, dancing with the slow rhythm of the song as more people joined. Tory glanced at Tex and saw him peering at Natalia, but not making any moves.

"Hey Ivan," Tory asked. She patted Ivan's shoulder and he looked at her. "Let's dance. You seem really nice." Tory pulled Ivan to the dance floor, but stopped as she was going to pass Tex. "Now's the time. Make your move, big boy." She whispered to him. Tex looked after her as she started dancing with Ivan. He turned back to Natalia. Natalia held up a hand.

"Look, you don't have to dance with me. I mean there must be some single people around here…" she looked around and saw everyone on the large dance floor. "Or, maybe not." Tex grinned. Finally, he held out his hand. He glanced down at it, and looked at her.

"I don't want to be one of the last people sitting down. Just makes me look like a loner." He winked and Natalia crossed her arms. "Or…" Tex started, moving closer. "Maybe I'd just like to have a nice dance with you." Natalia tried to look astonished. She waved her hand to herself.

"Me?" she looked around, acting like maybe Tex was saying this to someone else.

"Yeah, now dance with me." He waited for her to grab his hand.

"I don't know. I don't usually dance with guys who are really demanding like that." Tex let out a small laugh. He got so close Natalia felt like she had to look up one hundred feet.

"Will you, Natalia Havens, join me, Tex Colaf, in a nice dance on the dance floor?" Natalia smiled.

"Hmm." She said, thinking. "I think you could do better." She smirked, for the first time with him and saw him laugh. She took his hand and he guided her to the center of the dance floor. The lights around them were pink and red, making Natalia's hair look two shades darker. He wrapped his arms around her waist. Natalia placed hers around his neck and they swayed slowly. They swayed and spun slowly as Tex faced Tory's direction. She had her arms wrapped around Ivan, who seemed to be enjoying it. She winked and smiled at Tex. Tex looked down at Natalia, who finally brought her eyes up to his.

"Natalia, you look beautiful tonight." Natalia smiled, clearly not expecting another compliment.

"Thank you." She felt Tex move closer to her. Their foreheads met, and they looked into each other's eyes. Tex brought his hands to her face and wrapped them around her head. His thumbs gently brushed down her lips, making them slightly curl down. Natalia felt the sudden urge to kiss him, but ignored it and kept staring at him. For a second, he looked like he was about to, but the song was interrupted, and he backed up. He returned his hands to her hips and she looked away for a minute, embarrassed.

"Well, folks, now that you've shared that special dance, we are going to introduce the birthday man. Welcome Andrew everyone!" Natalia and Tex spent a minute longer in the embrace before finally letting go. Tex looked away, irritated. Another man stepped up on the stage. He had dark short hair, and his face was angular like Tex's. When people stopped applauding, Andrew spoke. He seemed just as muscular as Tex, maybe a little less.

"Hello everyone. Well, I'd just like to say thanks for coming. Especially my stepbrother, Toby! Toby, thanks for making it man, it's been awhile." He paused and got a bottle of a liquid and started to open it. The spotlight was shone on Tex. Natalia backed away from him, and looked at him disgusted. Her turned to her, his face soft.

"Natalia, I know what you're thinking. But don't get mad." She nodded no, stepping back more.

"You can't just lie to me like I'm a piece of trash. I have feelings too." He walked up close to her, with the spotlight still on him. He ignored it. Tory walked up to them.

"Hey, is everything okay over here?" He held out a hand for Tory to wait.

"Victoria. So nice that you were able to join this party." Natalia looked past Tex. Droid was standing before them, in his usual dark colors.

"Oh, hello Mr. Colaf. I found a way to make it to your wonderful party. It's great!" Natalia looked at Tory.

"Colaf? As in Tex Colaf?" Natalia's face got hot.

"Natalia…"

"Yes. Did Toby not tell you I'm his father? Andrew is his brother? That he is the son of the head council of Sendiahs? Tsk tsk, Toby." He glared at Droid.

"Woah, seems as if there is some drama going over there. Attention to the toast please." The spotlight seemed to get brighter in Natalia's eyes. Andrew spoke clear and loud, and she wanted out.

"Don't talk to me again, Tex."

"Natalia, come on…" He tried to come closer, but Natalia slapped him. He looked down, ashamed. Everyone let out a couple gasps, but she didn't care. He stared at her with sorrow. She pushed through the people and out of the party doors. Ivan looked at Tex long and hard before following out after Natalia.

"She deserves to know the truth Toby. You cannot expect to build a relationship out of lies."

"I'm not lying!" Tex said loudly. He started rushing to the doors after Natalia, but Tory stopped him.

"Tex, let her be. She doesn't feel like talking to you right now. It's best you stay away till this whole thing cools down." Tex looked at her, and sighed. She was right. Tory was a girl; she understood how Natalia felt.

Natalia busted through the doors, feeling the sudden cold from the winter air. She kept walking; not knowing where exactly, but knowing she wanted be far away from Tex. She stepped through the path and down a long area of plain lanterns. She stopped when she reached the wooden arch area. She stepped under the arch, and took a seat at the bench. She dug her head in her hands, and let the tears fall.

She was suddenly interrupted when she felt four arms surround her. Tory and Ivan had made their way over to her. Ivan had removed his coat and put it over Natalia's bare shoulders. Tory had gotten a small coat over her arms that she had brought earlier. She wrapped her arms around Ivan, as he took a seat next to him.

"It's okay." He whispered. "Natalia, you are so strong. You've dealt with a lot and I think that this is hard for you because you really like him. I get it."

"No." Natalia said. She backed away and looked at Ivan. "I am not into him. He lied about almost everything he's ever told me about. He lied about his family, his name, everything." Ivan gently wiped away her tears.

"He wasn't lying about his family." Tory said finally. "He did have a mom, and a real brother too. They both died, which is why Droid is the head and Andrew, his son are taking the place of the Council. Much has changed about Tex. He lost the only family he ever had. He never wanted to deal with Droid or Andrew after that. 'Says Droid murdered his mother. He is really the only live one in the head council." Natalia looked at Tory. She spoke quietly.

"But he just never told me."

"It wasn't the type of thing he brought on people. Especially the ones he really cares about. He thinks that to save the relationship, he keeps things private." Natalia sat up, and rubbed her eyes.

"I'm such a fool." She said. "Look at me. Crying over a guy who I don't even like. Or who doesn't like me."

"I see the way he looks at you." Tory said.

"Plus," Ivan added. "What we discussed earlier. About the k-"

"I got it." Natalia stopped him short.

"K what? What was he going to say?" Tory looked at Ivan, who glanced at Natalia for approval.

"Tex kissed Natalia. She says it was an act but I personally doubt it. It was to get out of some lie." Tory's mouth parted. She was about to speak when she heard footsteps behind them.

"Natalia? Are you over there?" Tex was looking for her. She stood up and took off Ivan's coat and handed it to him.

"I'm done talking to you. I'm going to spend the rest of this night with these guys. Don't talk to me Tex I don't want to look at you."

"But-" Tex looked as Natalia passed him with Ivan. Tory stopped in front of Tex.

"She'll forget this by tomorrow. She doesn't understand. I'll get her some drinks to make her easily let it drop." Tex slowly nodded, and Tory disappeared behind him.

Back at the party, dance music was blaring into Natalia's ears. She barely heard herself think. Tory yelled in her ear and held out a drink.

"Want some?" she asked. Natalia nodded no.

"I don't drink."

"It'll help you feel better…" Tory dangled the cup in front of Natalia, who watched it like someone getting hypnotized. What's the worse that can happen? She thought to herself. She grabbed the cup and started taking big gulps. She hoped she'd feel better. "Easy there, Tiger." Tory said, taking away the cup that was now 1/3 full. Natalia's head spun, and she felt dizzy.

"Where is more of that?" Natalia asked, thinking, the more, the merrier.

"Ha ha," Tory laughed. "It's at the table over there. The shining orange juice." Natalia nodded and stood up quickly. Her head started throbbing, and she almost fell from her heels at her way over to the table. She took a cup and started filling it. Her vision started to look purple and the sound of the music seemed to amp up.

"What are you doing?" she heard a voice. She turned around with the drink in her hand.

"Having a fun night with my new friend Tory. How about you?" Tex looked down at the floor. Natalia started to chug the liquid as it flowed down her throat.

"Take it easy." Tex said, pulling the drink down. "Humans drinking that will get them a very bad feeling of nausea." Natalia looked at him.

"Well Tex," she started with a cocky attitude that Tex always spoke with. "I'm not a human now, am I?" She started to gulp more down as she walked away. Tex stared after her strangely as she bumped into someone in front of her.

When she reached Tory again, she had already finished the cup. Tory seemed just as ditsy as Natalia.

"Let's dance!" Natalia yelled. Tory and Natalia stumbled to the dance floor and started to dance. Tex gazed after them and sighed. Natalia backed up into a person and apologized. He looked at her angrily until Tex stepped in front of him.

"Sorry about them two. They're both drunk and don't know what they're doing." The guy just looked at Tex, and slowly turned away. This was going to be a long night.

10

When the party was over, Tory said her goodbyes, and started out of the door. She had told Natalia she was staying with a relative living somewhere around there. Tex was guiding Natalia to the room and stopped at the staircase. Natalia had already drunk five servings of the orange liquid, and she could hardly walk. She didn't feel angry or mad or sad, she gained light and happy feelings. She was holding a cup and looked at Tex.

"Why'd you stop?" Her vice slurred. She started walking, but tripped on her knee on the second stair. She laughed and turned to Tex, seeing that he flinched towards her, reaching his hands out. "Ow!" she joked. She didn't know what she was doing; she had no care in the world at the moment. Tex rubbed his forehead and looked at her. He held out a hand to help her up. Instead, she placed the half-full cup in his hand. She started to take off the heels that had been making her feet ache. She twirled them in her hand and stared up at Tex, still sitting on the stairs. She started to feel lazy and tired. Her eyes started peeling closed, but she opened them up again. Tex walked over to a nearby garbage can and disposed the cup. He walked back over to Natalia. "Hey," she started with a slur and slowly. "I… I was going to drink that." Her eyes fell closed again but she opened them with a mighty force. Tex bent down and picked up Natalia. He scooped her up like a baby. His left hand hugged her legs by the knees, and his other hugged her bare back. She rested her head on his shoulder and closed his eyes. He started up the stairs, carrying her with almost no effort. She felt small in his arms; he was taller than her and completely filled with muscle. She dozed off and fell asleep from the steady movement of Tex's pace walking to the room.

Natalia lazily woke up by a funny feeling around her head. She opened her eyes and saw the mask disappearing from her face. There was a strap wrapped around the back of her head that was holding it there. She saw fingers curled around the edges. Through a blurred vision, she saw Tex trying to take off the mask.

"I got it." She said irritated. She began to sit up, but Tex stopped her, pressing his hand gently to her shoulder.

"You're drunk. You don't know what you're doing. Let me take this off for you." She looked through him with her foggy vision. The world seemed to be spinning around from her.

"Tex, I'm not-"

"You are and don't deny it. It'll take you three times longer to take this off than me. I think I know the basics of how to take a mask off of someone's face." Reluctantly, she lay back as Tex removed the sparkling mask. He set it on the end table beside the bed. He leaned on the bed with his left hand at the edge. "Goodnight." He was about to back away, but Natalia took his hand. She turned it so his palm was facing her. She observed it and curled her fingers between his.

"Your hands are really warm." She whispered softly. She let go of his hand. He caressed her cheek. She fluttered her eyes closed from the softness of his touch. But then, Natalia could've sworn she felt a gentle butterfly land on her forehead. She pushed the crazy idea out of her head and thought about the possibilities it could really be. She realized it was the same feeling she had when they were standing outside of the Trackon and Tex kissed her forehead. She didn't have to open her eyes to make sure; she knew she would always remember the feeling of his soft lips brushing against her forehead. She acted like she had really fallen asleep until she heard footsteps as Tex moved to another side of the room to change. She fell asleep that night thinking of how she'd react to Tex tomorrow morning. He was gentle with her like she was a delicate flower. But on the other hand, he had lied to her about being born to the highest position in Infitus. He lied about Droid, like they never even knew each other.

When Natalia woke up, her head was throbbing. She was tossed on her side, and the bathroom door had a light at the bottom where she assumed Tex was. She sat up and realized she was still in the dress from last night. The last thing she remembered was walking back to the party after she found out the truth about Tex. She sat up and realized she was too afraid to look at her reflection in the mirror. She got up and started to gather an extra pair of clothes to change into.

She had gotten a brush and her clothes ready by the time Tex came out of the bathroom. She walked in as he left in silence. The room had a steamy humid feeling; the kind of feeling you get if someone just showered. She got dressed and began to fix up her hair.

By the time she got out, Tex was standing there, staring at her. She lost eye contact and stuffed her brush in her bag again. He didn't say anything, but she knew he thought she was angry with him. She looked at him and crossed her arms.

"Droid should've probably gathered the information on what you are by now. We can go check." Natalia didn't say anything. She nodded.

"You mean your father?" He let out a frustrated breath. It was quiet and awkward.

"Stepfather." Tex corrected. Natalia rolled her eyes and started to head out of the door. "Where are you going?" he asked, following her out the door. She stopped and turned to him.

"All I ever came here for was to find out what I really am. I'm not human, not argon, so I must be something. I'm going to find that out today. Then you can return me home and forget that I ever existed. We'd both be better off." Natalia took a deep breath.

"I just don't want to leave things like this. I mean you being angry with me. I mean it's not like you ever asked. It's not the type of things I tell people out of the ordinary." He looked at her.

"I guess you're right. Just don't lie to me again." Tex nodded. "So, I'd like to hear your story on your garden thing outside…" Tex grew silent.

"The truth?" Natalia slowly nodded. "It's just my style. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I… I am attracted to men." Natalia's mouth dropped. Her eyebrows jumped as high as the Sears Tower. Tex suddenly burst out laughing, clutching his stomach. "I'm sorry," he sputtered. "I just couldn't say that with a straight face."

"Tex!" Natalia laughed. She hit him on his arm. "When will the lying stop?"

"Right after this: I'm very interested in the physical appearance of flowers, therefore-"

"Tex!" He stopped and grinned. She eventually stopped laughing and looked up at him.

"So are we okay now?" he asked. Natalia slowly nodded.

"I think so." Natalia said. He smiled.

They made their way down the dining room, hoping to catch Droid. They were unlucky in their search, and Tex guided her to a different room.

"This used to be my father's office. But as you can imagine, when my family died, Droid took over." Natalia nodded, following behind Tex through a mahogany wooden arch connecting the two rooms together. She peered over and saw Droid sitting behind a desk that looked way too big for him. "Knock, knock." Tex said. Droid looked up from writing something on a piece of paper.

"Well, good morning! Did you enjoy the party last night?" It fell silent. Natalia didn't remember what happened. She walked back to the party, Tory gave her a drink and then… and then… that was just it. Natalia's mind went blank from there. "I swear," Droid started, "there hasn't been one time where I've seen one of you without the other." Tex crossed his arms, clearly already irritated.

"Natalia wants to find out what she is." Tex said. She couldn't help but notice the sharpness in his tone. Natalia nodded. It was silent for a little while.

"Please." Natalia heard herself add in quickly. Droid looked up, tapping his fingers on the oak desk.

"Very well. I got a letter from the council late last night."

"And?" Natalia asked.

"It seems that you are no human. No mortal can possess the qualities and powers that you have."

"Powers? Qualities? I'm just like a normal person. I can't read minds or say abra-cadabra to make a bunny appear in a hat!" Natalia grew frustrated. She sucked in a breath and relaxed. "What am I?" she said calmly.

"You are a Floranth. Not a Floranth, I should say. The Floranth." Natalia's mind went completely blank.

"Seriously?" Tex said, astonished. He looked down at her with amazement. "A Floranth? You're sure…?"

"This is according to the council above the Trackon. The head of Zerum. I'm positive they know one when they've seen one. It has been two centuries…"

"I don't know what that means." Natalia said, looking at the both of them. "What does that mean for me?"

"You are a mut." Tex said. The corner of his mouth quirked up into a smirk.

"Excuse me?" Natalia demanded, glaring at him.

"He means hybrid." Droid butt in.

"Hybrid…when I hear hybrid I think of a new type of car, like the Prius." Natalia said, and crossed her arms. She remembered before her mother died that her mother, sister and she would always watch the Vampire Diaries every Thursday night when it aired. She was reminded of the different characters that had also been referred to as hybrids.

"It means that you are a mix. You're both argon and gastron. And what's making you act like you're really a human is probably some mortal in you. Therefore, you're a hybrid. But nobody uses that these days." Natalia took a seat in one of the sofa chairs and rubbed her temples. The word hybrid bounced around in her head.

"Did you notice any weird markings on your mother? Any marks like the ones you've stared at on me before?" Tex asked.

"Woa, I don't stare at your markings." It felt weird saying that aloud. Tex dropped his neck back.

"Of course you do. You think I don't pay attention to these things, but little do you know…" Tex observed the room.

"Well, they're strange! It's just weird for a teen to have tattoos at this age." Tex started laughing.

"I'm not a teen. We slowly age. Slowly as in, we could live for about ten centuries." Tex looked down at her.

"Wow! You can live for 1,000 years?" Natalia exclaimed. Droid stood up.

"Shall we get back to our point?" Droid interrupted.

"Yes." Natalia said quietly.

"The gastrons want you dead. They will stop at nothing. Not all of them are hard to kill. There are different classes. Class A, B, C, and the hardest, D. You'd want to stay away from D's and C's." Tex looked at her grimly.

"See, Natalia? Maybe you should take some notes. It could really help you progress in school." Natalia stared at him with a straight face. He wasn't getting a laugh out of her. She returned her gaze to Droid, letting him continue.

"The ones that have been invading recently are class B's. They aren't too difficult. Every now and then you may spot a class A." Natalia nodded, letting it all sink in.

"Why do they want to kill me? Are they jealous? Or-" Natalia paused, and glanced at Tex, who was laughing hysterically. She turned to Droid and continued. "Or is there some power they gain?"

"Well mostly they kill for revenge on us. But since you are legendary, and unique-half argon and half gastron-they see it as a threat to themselves. If you die by a gastron, they are granted the powers within the Zova. However, argons try to forbid this because the Zova is all Zerum matter. The Zova is a special tablet that contains the power of every single immortal. If Natalia dies, the Zova goes to the gastrons, giving them the major ability to take over Earth and human life as we know it." It grew silent for a while, Tex lost in thought, Droid glancing nervously out of the windows, and Natalia trying to calm herself down. She was a Floranth. If she died by the hand of a gastron, human life would crumble away. Billions of questions were running through her mind, making such a noise that Natalia wanted to scream.

"What happens if I get killed by the hand or weapon of an argon?" Natalia asked softly.

"Well…" She could tell Droid was going to go off in another long story behind argons, gastrons, and lavings. Before any of that, though, what looked like a maid ran through the arch, filled with panic.

"Sir," She said, panting.

"What has happened Mona?" The scrawny girl looked weak, as if her body were too big for her. Like wearing oversized armor. She pushed her sloppy brown bangs out of her face and Natalia noticed her eyes were filled with terror.

"The border… more gastrons…about twenty of them!" Tex stood up almost immediately from the seat he had taken by the archway leading into the room. Natalia rose, not entirely sure what her actions should be.

"I'll take care of this. How many, twenty?" Tex reached for his dagger, the green substance glowing profusely.

"Let me come with." Natalia demanded. She looked at Tex whose expression was blank.

"No. Of course not. Earthlings like you have no idea what they'd be doing and you'd be dead." Tex gripped his dagger in a manner that seemed like he hadn't been taught how to use one in a while.

"You taught me how to use the Naves. That's good enough."

"She's right." Droid said darkly. "It has only been class A's and B's lately. She can handle that with a Nave." Tex gave a dirty look at Droid, and sighed.

"Fine." Tex said irritated.

"Here's a Nave. I'd always kept one here just in case." He took out a sword that was almost the same as the one Natalia had practiced with. Except this Nave looked a little more worn. She followed Tex out the arch and had to almost jog to keep up with his fast pace.

"What's your rush?" Natalia said. She felt the sudden gust of cool air smack her face everywhere when they stepped outside. Tex was making his way fast through the town. They were passing buildings leaving a small smoke of dirt on the ground where Natalia had been dragging her feet.

"The thrill of getting these one-eyed mutant giant son of a-"

"Alright." Natalia said. "I get it. You're a bloodthirsty Sendiah. Makes sense." She heard a noise coming from Tex who was several feet away from her. He tilted his head as he looked both ways before crossing an intersection area. He was laughing; Natalia wasn't sure if it was at her or not. But there was no time to question. A few of the people who had weapons handy were out there fighting them. Them, as in the one-eyed, sharp tooth, mutant giants with long swords. They were throwing people around like hay. The people thrown around seemed weaker. Natalia hoped it was easier than it looked. She peered at them nervously.

"You okay?" Tex asked, alarmed. He had slowed down, letting Natalia catch up with him.

"I'm fine." Natalia sputtered. As much as she wanted it to be true, she wasn't fine. She didn't know how to go home, and she found out that life on Earth would only exist if she died without gastrons helping.

"You look pale. Go back. Try to find Ivan. I'll be back shortly." He raised his dagger.

"I'm not leaving. I know what I'm doing." Natalia started walking, feeling smaller as she made her way up to the gastrons. Smaller ones appeared from behind, coming out of the same type of portal Natalia and Tex used to get here. The smaller ones were class A's, Natalia guessed. They were her size, and carrying small weapons. They seemed like miniature mutant giants, which were the ones in front of them.

Tex started to run over to the biggest one there, and slashed his dagger in its knee, ducking around as it tried to swipe him away. It groaned in agony as Tex pulled out the dagger. A yellow liquid found its way through the skin, and dripped down on the pavement. More Sendiahs arrived, throwing spears and any other kind of weapon you could imagine. Natalia ran up to the smallest gastron who was a little shorter than her. She smacked the Nave down, but it blocked. The boy smiled, showing spiked white teeth. She smacked again, harder. The boy staggered back but regained his posture. He swung at Natalia's feet, and Natalia jumped over the blade. She pushed him down, and he fell on his back. She looked at it, as he curled in terror. She raised the Nave above her head, about to stab him. He looked hopeless, making Natalia feel horrible. She realized the guilt that would build on her. She lowered the sword and held out a hand to help him up. He smiled and grabbed her hand firmly. He used his other arm to support him as he got up to his knees. She began to let go, but his hand tightened around her fingers. She felt her blood circulation getting cut off, sending a tingling sensation throughout her hand. He leaned over her hand and bit her. It was in the same place that she would see vampires bite someone on the hand. She screamed out, trying to pull away. The boy's sharp teeth had protruded through her skin, and had made it feel like poison was being let into her body. She felt a sudden relief; the hand let go and his head craned up at her, his bottom lip filled with her blood. She looked down and saw a blade sticking out of his heart. It was pulled back through his body and the boy fell to the ground. Tex stood before her, his Sharn filled with a gooey yellow substance.

"Were you seriously helping the gastron up?" Tex asked. Her vision began to blur, and the world began to tilt around her. "Woah," Tex said grabbing her before she fell to the ground. "Are you okay? I still have more to fight off, go to the doctor."

"I'm fine." Natalia said. She raised the Nave after covering up the bite mark the boy had left where blood was slipping out. She figured Tex didn't need to know how weak she was. "How many more are there?" He looked around, and counted.

"About six or seven." His voice echoed like he was speaking from the pit of a cave. They readied themselves and started walking towards another gastron.

Natalia made her way up to one that was taller than her. This one was a girl, with spiked black and purple hair. She hissed and spun out two swords. Natalia pulled up her Nave, just barely blocking a shot from the girl.

"Kill her, Jessie!" A man gastron yelled. The girl nodded. Jessie smacked down Natalia's Nave. There was that small silence between them. Her cartilage on her ear was pierced, along with her nose, eyebrow and lip.

"Any last words?" Jessie said, in a, what seemed Russian, accent.

"Um…" Natalia said, trying to stall. "Yeah." She eyed her surroundings and met her eyes with Jessie, whose dagger was now aimed at Natalia's throat. "Bye!" Natalia turned and began to run.

She heard Jessie yell from behind her. "Hey! Get back here!" She kept running, even as the ground tilted over and over. She eventually turned back, and couldn't find Jessie anymore. She turned her gaze in front of her just a little too late to avoid running into a gastron that was fighting with someone. She felt as if she'd ran into a steel wall, and she fell on her back, her vision getting worse. The gastron turned around and faced Natalia. She sat up and looked on the ground. A few feet away she saw a Nave. If maybe she could just…

SLASH! Natalia felt her skin tear as a sword slit through her leg. She failed at the attempt to grab the Nave. She had scratches on her face, arms, and mostly her legs. Her cheeks were filled with dirt, and her aching hands. The giant gastron grabbed her arm, making another jolt of pain run down to her fingers. She slipped out of the sweatshirt, which was what the gastron ended up with. She took a look at how bad her legs and arms were. Swords and scratches from falling filed up and down her arms. The bite from the boy had gotten swollen and her pants were ripped towards the bottom. She was limping wherever she walked, trying to get away from the gastrons. She had lost Tex-her only source of help-when they got outside. She couldn't find him anywhere.

She finally spotted his dirty blond shaggy hair. He spotted her, and his face was filled with astonishment. He dropped his sword and sprinted towards her. He placed his hands on her shoulders. Natalia knew he meant to steady her, but he was putting weight on Natalia's aching body that she couldn't handle.

"What happened?" his face was full of concern. Natalia tried walking, but fell. Tex caught her, lifting her back up again. "Can you walk?" She felt like she was going to faint. She held up her hand to dismiss it, and tried walking like everything was normal.

"I…ouch, I am okay." She couldn't see Tex clearly. His face looked like a blur. He caught his attention to her wrist.

"How did you get that? What happened?" he was demanding. Natalia felt like collapsing.

"The boy…he bit me."

"How…?" Before Natalia did any more, she crumbled again. Tex caught her. This time, though, he didn't let her go. "You need to go to the hospital." Tex tucked some of her hair behind her ear.

"I…" She closed her eyes, feeling nothing other than the multiple shocks of pain coming from every part of her body. She felt Tex pick her up. He hugged his hand around her legs, and supported her back with his other hand. She felt so small in his arms. She made an effort to wrap her arms around his neck to make sure she didn't fall. She rested her head down, wincing at every fast movement from Tex. She heard him mutter things under his breath. She heard partial sentences, except for one.

"This is all my fault." He repeated this over and over. Eventually, Natalia fainted from the feeling of her vision blurred, and the blood loss. The last thing she heard was Tex whispering. "I'm so sorry Natalia."

Everything started turning into a blur. She heard Tex scream out as she heard a sick slashing sound. Almost like fabric ripping. But he kept running. Whatever it was, he kept running and didn't stop.

11

Tex woke up with a throbbing pain in his head and back. As he had been carrying Natalia far away from the gastrons to the infirmary, a couple gastrons had followed, slapping at him. He had one big bandage on his side from the gastron who had gotten to his side and stabbed him. Deep scratches filled his back and the sides of his arms. He woke up to a humid room, lying on his back. The florescent lights shone very bright, making Tex squint.

"Hey," He heard a voice speak quietly. A hand rested on his arm. It was Tory's. He tried to sit up quickly, but Tory stopped him. Her black hair was pulled in a high ponytail, revealing her face. "You need to rest. Those gastrons really got you."

"I…" Tex looked around and realized something. He was in the infirmary room. He was lying in a bed. But where was Natalia? "Where is she?" Tex demanded, quickly forgetting about his tremendous cuts.

"She's in another room of the infirmary. Don't worry. She'll be fine. Ivan just left from coming to visit." Tex stood up, pushing Tory's hands away. "Tex you need to rest!" He grabbed his clothes to change quickly out of the hospital robe.

He busted out of the room, speed walking to the front desk. Tory followed quickly behind trying to seat him and make him return to the room.

"Where is Natalia Havens?" he demanded at the front desk. A girl looked up out of her red glasses.

"Sorry, family only." she said. Tex thought silently.

"She's my cousin." He blurted out.

"Very well. Room 19. That's straight down that hall and then turn a left. Last door." Just a second before she finished, Tex was already darting down the hallway. He paid no attention to the multiple wounds on his stomach and back and arms. He reached the door that said ROOM 19. He pulled open the door and softly paced towards the hospital bed.

Natalia was lying there, looking as delicate as a flower, with her eyes closed. Her head was tilted on the side a little bit, and her arms rested against her side. Tex's attention caught on to her wrist. It was swollen and red, and a light bandage was wrapped around it. He slowly took a seat in the chair beside the bed, wincing as his back rubbed against the chair. It was silent. The most you could hear was the sound of the machine attached to Natalia keeping her heartbeat measured. She had cuts on her arms like Tex did, except they were deeper and bigger. They gleamed from the reflection of the lights because of the clear ointment dabbed on.

Tex looked at her; she was so small. So weak. Why had he let her fight? He knew better. He should've been with her from the start. Should have at least helped her fend off any gastron that intended on harming her. All of the blame went straight to him.

"I'm going to go home." Tory let out slowly. She yawned and started putting on her coat. "I'll see you soon." Tex nodded and leaned forward in the chair. He had his elbows on his knees with his arms crossed over each other, almost in a hug to himself. He dropped his head down, letting his hair fall in his face.

"Natalia," he whispered. "I know you're resting, but I want to apologize. This is all my fault. I never should have-" The door clicked open and Tex stood up quickly, suddenly regretting that from his aching wounds. The doctor had a clipboard and had entered the room.

"Hello." He said. "Is she your…sister?"

"Cousin." He replied.

"Well, it turns out Natalia will be fine. You are very lucky."

"What happened, exactly?" Tex questioned.

"Shouldn't you know? You brought her here." The doctor set down the clipboard.

"What did she do to herself?" Tex asked.

"Well, she has many cuts from the daggers of gastrons. Deep, and almost everywhere. Also, one of them seemed to have bitten her. The poison got pretty deep but we were able to catch it before it could get life threatening." Tex nodded slowly. The doctor nodded and left the room. Tex took his seat again slowly.

"I'm so sorry." He said. He sat in silence for a while. He wouldn't leave until she had woken.

In Natalia's dream she was floating. It was as if she was sitting in the air. It had been two days. Two full days passed since she made any signs of movement. She attempted to open her eyes but they felt like they weighed a ton.

"Tex is still here?" she heard a voice whisper. An echo effect bounced all over.

"Wow." Another whispered back. After regaining energy and the strength to move, Natalia slowly opened her eyes. Tory and Ivan stood before her at the edge of the bed. They quickly walked around and looked at Natalia.

"Natalia?" Tory said quietly.

"Where am I?" Natalia said. She looked around the room. The room was lit only by a lamp in the far corner of the room. There were a couple of chairs on the far edge of the wall and next to the bed. Tex was sitting in the one closest to her. He had the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head and he was leaned back. His eyes were closed and his hands rested in his pockets.

"You're in the infirmary. Do you remember anything?" Natalia observed herself. She looked at her wrist, suddenly remembering the events she wished she could forget.

"They cut me. A little boy, about 9 years old, he…" Natalia trailed off.

"It's okay." Ivan said. He caught Natalia's gaze towards Tex. "He's been here the whole time. He should've been in the room down the hall but he refused." Natalia looked at Ivan again, his image getting clearer.

"Oh god… how bad did he get hurt?" Natalia asked softly. This is all my fault Natalia thought. How did I ever think I could fight off that many gastrons?

"Honestly…he got hurt pretty bad. Not as tremendous as you." Tory said. "He has deep cuts on his back and arms from when he was carrying you away. A class C gastron got on his side and stabbed him. After all of that pain, he still refuses to leave the room." Natalia gulped. He had saved her life. How could she ever thank him?

"Don't worry though, he's sleeping. He stayed up for almost two days straight. But he finally lost the battle to stay awake." Ivan said, looking at Tex. He looked so peaceful.

"You need some rest, Natalia. We will leave you alone. You're free to leave tomorrow at around noon, according to the doctor." Natalia nodded and watched them exit the door. The door clicked shut and it was silent. She turned to Tex. He was still asleep. Natalia rested her head on her side, letting her aching body relax.

She heard shuffling around the room. It had been nearly twenty minutes of Natalia thinking. She couldn't fall asleep. She heard a chair scoot and she heard a voice. It was quiet, and calming.

"I know you're sleeping, Natalia, but I can't handle this. You're here because of me. I'd hate me if I were you." He paused, and Natalia felt her left arm being held. In the time it took to figure out it was Tex speaking, she also realized he was holding her hand. She tried to open her eyes, but yet again they felt like they weighed a ton. "I am so sorry." Tex took a deep breath. "I should be the one in pain, not you. I am in pain, but it's more of an emotional pain. And I-" Tex stopped himself, realizing how lame he sounded. "I don't know what to say other than I hope you will be better soon." He went quiet. He rested his head down on the bed. It was on the edge, close to Natalia. "This is all my fault." She heard Tex repeat over and over.

As much as Natalia's whole body ached, she started to move. Tex quickly raised his head, and looked at her hand in his. Natalia's fingers started to curl, and Natalia slowly opened her eyes to the dim room. She looked at Tex who was staring at her. His eyes had circles under them.

"Tex…" was all Natalia could manage to say. Her voice was soft and light. Tex's expression suddenly turned to relief.

"Natalia….I'm so sorry this happened." Natalia nodded no while she tried to find her voice. "Yes, it's my fault. I should've never let you fight." Natalia kept shaking her head.

"I was stupid." She let out. Tex looked down. She waited for her vision to clear more. "You saved my life." She whispered softly.

"I would do anything to save you." He replied. She looked into his sapphire eyes. Tex winced, and Natalia guessed it was because of his injuries. He had a scratch on his cheek, a little under his left eye.

"You need to be checked out." Natalia said. She gestured towards his cut and he raised his fingers along it. She sat up slowly. Tex let out a small laugh. Through this whole time, Natalia noticed her hand still locked together with his.

"You need to worry about yourself more." He grinned.

"So do you." She replied. Tex released her hand, and sat back in the chair. Natalia brought her wrist up to her face and examined the swollen red cut. She let out a small laugh. Tex looked at her strangely. She rose up her wrist towards him. "I was such an idiot." She brought her wrist down feeling shots of pain run down to the tips of her fingers.

"You have a heart. Even if it is for mutated mean, nasty, grouchy, ugly-"

"I get it." She smiled. Tex grinned at her.

"Well I'm happy you're up." Natalia nodded. He scooted his chair close to the bed and took her hand gently. He observed the mark and Natalia started to pull away, embarrassed. He looked into her eyes, giving her a look that signified everything would be okay. He looked as if he were going to kiss her, and Natalia believed he would, but he awkwardly backed up and took a deep breath. "You should get some rest." Natalia quickly nodded, looking away as her face grew hot.

"Um, yeah." Natalia said awkwardly. She tucked herself down deep into the thin covers on the bed, still feeling a chill from the window that produced a heavy draft. She slipped her eyes close, but felt Tex staring at her.

12

Natalia had made it to the tall steps of the Trackon before looking up at its magnificent structure. The curved edges of the roof looked so familiar. Where had she seen that before?

"Are you okay?" Tex asked, snapping Natalia out of her lost thought.

"Of course." She still felt dizzy from the wound on her wrist. "I had one question." Tex turned to her.

"And what's that?" A stiff wind piled in, making Natalia pause and wait for it to pass over.

"How long have we been here?" Natalia asked. The question was sort of random, but she had to get home soon and act like everything was normal all over again. Like she had never met Tory or Ivan….or Tex.

"I'd say about a good five minutes." He said. He was referring to how long they had been standing in the cold out of the Trackon.

"I mean how long have we been at Infitus? How many days? I…. I have to be home." Tex's expression softened.

"I ….I don't know. A week maybe."

"Already?" Natalia asked. "It went by so fast. I remember the night we got here like it was yesterday. And shopping for dresses at the store with that freak clerk-" Natalia stopped abruptly. With that freak clerk who made us kiss she caught herself saying in her mind.

"I know," Tex said, in realization. "What a crazy experience." Natalia's blurry vision got the control over her and she stumbled forward, Tex quickly grasping her arm to steady her. "Did they give you anything to make you feel better?" Natalia shook her head. "They should've. You can hardly walk." He didn't quite let go of his grip on Natalia.

"I wonder how amusing this will be to you watching me trip up these stairs." She said gazing at the long, tall staircase ahead of them. In a single motion he picked up Natalia off of her feet. The same way he had when he carried her away to the hospital. He hugged under her knees and supported her back. "Tex, it's fine. Don't worry. I can handle it. I was just kidding."

Tex did nothing but laugh as he made his way up the stairs effortlessly. "Do you honestly think I believe that bullshit?"

"What do you-"

"You know what I mean." By this time Natalia had her arms around his neck to help support herself. "The 'Oh don't worry Tex. I can walk up these stairs.' You know you can't." Natalia went silent for a little bit. "That's what I thought. From now on, if you try to argue with what I'm doing, I'll make sure I do something extra to you to annoy you so you'll stop with these lame excuses."

They made their way up the rest of the stairs without much to say. When they reached the top, Ivan was standing by the door to greet them. Tex let her down slowly and Natalia regained her stance and turned to Ivan.

"Natalia. How are you feeling?" Ivan said, moving a little closer.

"Oh, uh better. Thanks." Natalia responded. She wasn't one for attention. To her disappointment, she was a Floranth, the most special creature that came only once every two centuries.

"Good. Come, let's go inside." Tex followed behind Natalia, who followed Ivan. They were led to the dining table where Droid sat. He had an evil grin and a devious look on his face. Ivan motioned for Tex and Natalia to take a seat.

"Hello Natalia. How are you feeling, my darling?" Droid asked. He picked up a glass of wine sitting on the table and took a sip.

"Fine, thanks." Natalia responded politely. "I have to be going to my home in Illinois." Droid tried to make his expression look soft and sad but Natalia still saw a demon in his face.

"Oh no. Not tonight, I hope. How about tomorrow night? Good? Okay sounds good." Natalia wasn't given a chance to actually answer.

"Uh, sure." Natalia mumbled.

"Excellent!" Droid clapped his hands loudly. "Well," he started again, rising out of his chair. "The sun is disappearing, it seems, and I have to talk to my Night Friends." Vampire was the first word that popped in her head. She knew right away it couldn't be because Tex had informed her that there are no such things.

"The Banthers and I have a meeting. We've got to fix these borders that are so easily destroyed." With that, Droid left soundlessly out of the room.

"That was fast." Tex let out, with a disappointed attitude.

"I wonder how Katrina is." Natalia said, ignoring Tex. Ivan rested a warm hand on her shoulder, startling her.

"I'm sure she's okay." Ivan's voice was soft, pleasant.

"I would've been able to tell if Tex hadn't drowned my phone. Oh, and my father…" She rolled her eyes at Tex.

"Why try to call some other man when you can talk to me?" Tex said, his voice filled with innocence.

"Because it's my father. Not some other boy I'm seeing which, you should apologize for."

"Oh…. And why exactly should I be apologizing?" Tex asked. He crossed his arms.

"My date. You ruined my date. I had a date and when I started to leave, you were there, blocking the way, and that's when my scar got weird and all of that."

"If I apologize, it is as if you were mad at me for this whole journey. Have you forgotten that that one night changed everything? You found out you're not a human, I had a new responsibility, all of this was negative? Do you wish this never happened?" It grew silent. Natalia hesitated. Tex stepped close to her, feeling his cool breath against her skin. "Do you wish you never met me?" The words stung out in the air, burning into Natalia's ears. It was a painful, and partially annoying journey but had she wished it never happened?

"I… Of course not." Natalia sputtered.

"You don't sound so positive." Tex said. He backed up and started to turn away.

"Well how about you?" Natalia demanded loudly, sounding more harsh than intended. "Do you wish this never happened? Do you wish you never met me? Because you sure act like it." He paused, turned around to face her, and started walking up to her again.

"I would never wish away that day. I would never wish away any of these days together, no matter how outrageous they may have been." Natalia's heart stopped-and the reason was unknown to her.

"This is getting really out of hand." Said Ivan, looking at them both. "It's getting kind of late. I'll be heading off now." Ivan finished awkwardly. Tex nodded and watched him go.

"Tex, when you-"

"I don't want to hear it." Tex held up a hand, interrupting her.

"Just let me talk. Give me two minutes." He looked at her and crossed his arms.

"One minute and fifty-nine seconds." Tex said.

"Why were you turning this on me? You ruined my date." Tex let down his crossed arms.

"You're saying you'd rather be out with some nerd rather than me?" Tex looked appalled.

"No!"

"No?" His expression turned into a smirk.

"Look, that's not the point!" Natalia let out. She took a deep breath, filled with frustration. "My point is-"

"What!" Tex said, clearly irritated. "Ugh, I'm sorry. This is going nowhere. Just forget I said anything."

"I take back what I said." Natalia said softly, after a long silence.

"What do you mean? You've been saying a lot in these few moments." Natalia looked back up at him. She noticed how close he was. They were less than an arm's length away just staring at each other.

"I didn't mean that I wish I never came here, or found out what I am, or-"

"Meet me? Do you still wish you never met me?"

"I don't wish I never met you. I couldn't." He smiled down at her.

"Come, follow me. There's something I want to show you." He took her hand and guided her through different parts of the Trackon in which she's never been to.

Upon reaching a set of double doors, he grabbed the handle and pulled it open. She walked through, feeling a breeze push through. She was outside.

They were on a balcony, flowers on the edges of the ledge and beautiful lit lanterns. There was a view of almost all of Infitus, different houses lit at nighttime. She looked around, astonished. Natalia saw in the corner of the balcony a small cheap stereo with an iPod shuffle atop.

"I think it's only fair I make up a dance to you. After all, the one at the party was ruined." Tex said. Tex reached out a hand. Natalia took his hand, admiring the sight. Tex guided her to the moonlit balcony. Before they danced, he clicked on the iPod music. The Unchained Melody started playing as Tex joined Natalia. She was smiling up at him.

"Tex, this is too sweet. This is so beautiful. You didn't have to."

"Of course I did." he caressed her cheek as the song played through a stiff breeze. He wrapped his arms around her waist and she put hers on his neck. They swayed from side to side and Tex spun her around. He dipped her and she let out a laugh. He brought her close where they were almost touching foreheads. "All I think about is you." she looked into his eyes and he brought his face closer.

They danced for a long while, mostly in silence. He was smiling down at her. His breath was a mint flavor, which she loved. The red roses all around them seemed to make the moment even better. Tex brought his hand up and caressed her cheek once more. He brought his mouth closer until they were almost touching.

"Wait, Tex I can't..." he slowly backed away confused. He looked down at her.

"What's wrong? I...I thought you wanted me to..." Tex looked at her as she nervously looked away.

"This is all too much. Whenever something good happens always something bad follows. I don't want to make this mistake. It can wreck our relationship." Tex slowly nodded.

"And where is that exactly? Where do we stand?" He searched her face. It was silent for a little bit. Natalia wasn't sure.

"We…. we should probably get back." Natalia backed away and turned around to the door to the room. She started walking but only took one step before Tex grabbed her arm. He spun her in and pulled her close. He pressed his lips into Natalia's. He wrapped his arms around her and felt her do the same. The wind picked up giving Natalia the chills. But it didn't matter. Nothing felt like it did when Tex was holding her. He brought his hands up to her face and gently held her chin up by his. She ran her fingers through his shaggy hair. It slipped through her fingers, just like she'd ever imagine. He picked her up while kissing her and spun her once, slowly. He set her down. They released and looked at each other. The music was just about ready to end. Nothing was said. They looked into each other's eyes as if this moment was supposed to have happened a while before. By the time Tex broke off the eye contact, the music had ended, switching to a rock song. Tex turned it off quickly, looking embarrassed.

"I didn't know you listen to KISS." Natalia grinned, starting to break away the uneven silence.

"Yeah, well I used to listen to it while working out. It pumped me up." He opened the door and let her in first. They walked down the hallway in silence. They reached the door to the bedroom. It was late but Natalia couldn't find any form of exhaustion to sleep off. Not after what just happened with Tex.

"Ivan told me yesterday there was an extra room I could take for the night. It really hurts being on the ground in there." he gestured towards the door behind Natalia. She nodded slowly.

"I'm sure I'd be fine spending a night alone in a bedroom without you being on the floor next to the bed." he grinned.

"Well...goodnight..." Tex slowly let out. The night ended short. Tex had a look in his face that showed he knew more than he was letting on.

"Goodnight." Natalia wasn't sure why they acted so casual after their first kiss-real kiss. But little did Natalia know, he came closer. She was looking at the floor and returned her eyes up to his and saw how close he was. He brought the tips of his fingers up and outlined the edge of her lips. He smelled deeply of grass and earth. She tilted her head up towards his, moving a little closer herself. He brought his face closer, little by little until their lips finally met for the second time. He wrapped his arms around her, letting them slide down her spine. It stopped being a light kiss and became fierce. She brought her hands around him, her eyes already closed.

With a gentle force, he stepped even closer to Natalia, who leaned back against the wall. She ran her hands through his hair as it slid between her fingers. Tex had his hands on the sides of her face, and he let them trace down her shoulders and back again. She was against the wood paneling, Tex in front of her. His hands brushed her cheeks gently.

Several moments passed until Natalia heard the clicking of a door, as if someone had opened it. Her eyes shot open, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw black hair. Tory. She had emerged from the bedroom and spotted Natalia and Tex on her way out. On instinct, Natalia quickly pushed Tex away, feeling hot color run to her cheeks. Tex looked at Natalia, worried that maybe he made her uncomfortable. He followed Natalia's gaze over to Tory and he turned pale.

"Oh my gosh," Tory said. "I'm uh, very sorry. I went looking for Natalia-thought you might be in the room- I came out expecting the empty hallway..." there was an edge on her voice. Natalia and Tex didn't really speak.

"I..." Natalia trailed off. What was she supposed to say? She looked at Tex, who was flushed and he wasn't making eye contact with neither Natalia nor Tory.

"Let's sleep the night off." Tex said finally. "There's an extra room that I'll take tonight... goodnight." They both nodded and watched him slowly back up and turn around. Tex gave Natalia a look she couldn't quite process the meaning to.

Tex disappeared behind a turn in the hallway, leaving Natalia and Tory staring around awkwardly.

"I didn't stop you guys, did I?" she said, awkwardly, finally making eye contact with Natalia.

"No." Natalia said quickly.

"Are you sure? He left pretty quickly." Natalia didn't respond right away. Her face was red, full of embarrassment.

"No he just uh, he went to sleep. He showed me a room and that was all." Tory let out a laugh, and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"And that was all? You looked in a room, he walked you back, and that was all?" Natalia slowly nodded, trying not to think of how awkward it was. "I think you're leaving out a few parts." Tory backed up slowly.

"I'm really tired." Natalia said. She didn't even believe it herself; she sounded so unconvincing.

"Uh-huh. Goodnight." Tory said, starting to walk away. Natalia grabbed the handle of the bedroom door thinking to herself how on earth she ended up kissing Tex. "Wait," Tory said quickly. "I never got a chance to tell you the reason why I've been searching for you." Natalia still had her hand on the door.

"You can tell me tomorrow." Natalia said.

"You wouldn't want to wait."

"Alright, what is it?" Natalia asked, facing Tory.

"Your father is here-looking for you." Natalia felt the sudden jolt of adrenaline bust through her like a rapid river.

13

Tory led Natalia through complicated rooms and hallways. Tory stopped abruptly in front of a door.

"Is my father in here?" Natalia asked, as Tory knocked rapidly on the door.

"No." She said simply.

"What? Where is he? Where are we? Why did we-" Natalia broke off, watching as the door slid open. Tex stood in the doorway, with his jeans still on, but no shirt. They ended just by his stomach, showing the natural indentation areas around his hips. He looked pale from the moment ago, his hair still unnaturally messy where Natalia ran her hands through it.

"Hi." Tex said. "May I help you?" he didn't look at Natalia.

"We wanted to grab you." Tory said. Natalia made a cough towards Tory, in a way for Tory to correct herself. "I wanted to grab you." Tex nodded slowly.

"Well, what do you want? I was kind of in the middle of changing into my pajamas." Natalia looked at his bare stomach, golden and filled with an underneath layer of pure muscle.

"Natalia's father is here."

"And so is my stepbrother, but we don't need to waltz in during the night to tell each other." Tex leaned against the doorway, off to the side.

"Do you know who her father is?" Tory said, making a small gesture to Natalia.

"Don't tell me, it takes all of the fun out of guessing." Tex said, trying to act like he cared. "I know it." Tex said in a matter-of-fact tone. "It's Bruce Willis. Am I right?"

"This is no time for joking, Tex!" Natalia finally said, angrily. Tex looked down at her as if he'd hadn't noticed she was there the whole time.

"Her father is Victor." Tex's expression changed rapidly from calm and suave, to frantic.

"Victor? You're sure?" Tex said. He disappeared in the room, leaving the door wide open. He dug through a drawer and pulled out a green shirt. He looked at it with a soft expression before sliding it on. He joined them at the door.

"Yes, I'm sure. It makes sense. Natalia Havens. Victor Havens. It's all the same." Tory said. Tex stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him. They started walking down the hall rapidly.

"Wait, you guys know my father?" Natalia said, trying to keep up with them.

"Oh yes." Tex said. "Him and I have a long history." Natalia took a moment to peer over at him. He was staring ahead, expressionless.

"What type of history?"

"Let's just say he doesn't like me." Tex said, attempting to dismiss the conversation.

"….why?"

"He's jealous of me. An argon my age works hard to keep good looks. Many who care about their appearances do. And let's just say your 'padre' wasn't one of them."

"Tex." Natalia gritted.

"My favorite word." Tex mused.

They reached a new dining room area that Natalia had never been to before. Many different treats were propped on the table including doughnuts, cake, cupcakes, fruit, cream puffs, and cookies. Many chairs surrounded the table, and two of them had been occupied. Droid, and another man. Natalia's father.

Droid rose as soon as he saw Natalia, Tex and Tory stride into the room. "Hello friends." He nodded towards Tory. "You can leave now." Tory had the face that looked like she wanted to argue, but she slowly nodded and exited the door. "As for you," he said to Natalia and Tex. "Take a seat. Have a treat." Tex took a seat and Natalia sat next to him, across from her father.

"Hello, dear." He said to her.

"What's going on?" Natalia demanded. "You left us that whole week. I never received one call from you."

"I left you? I never called you? Why, don't you think your sister is feeling like this with you?"

"That's not my fault." Natalia argued, glancing at Tex.

"Stop the chit-chat." Droid demanded. He took a seat. "Let's all have a little reunion."

"Toby," Victor called. He had dark brown hair that was beginning to turn gray at the edges. He wore dark clothes that looked much like something Droid would be seen wearing.

"Dick," Tex called, wiping the frosting off of a pastry and licking his finger clean. "Oh, I'm sorry. Vick." He corrected himself. He lounged back in the chair, resting his feet on the table.

"You were always one for humor." Victor said, not smiling. Natalia stared at him in disbelief.

"Father, you know him?" Natalia asked, leaning forward in the chair.

"Ah, yes." Victor switched his glance to Tex. "We have quite a full history." Droid entered the room again, from being in the hallway with Tory, demanding something. Natalia couldn't make out what they were saying, but Tory looked guilty after.

"Your daughter is very special." Droid said, sitting down in the chair again. He looked at Natalia and Tex. "Someone else seems to think so as well." He switched his gaze only to Tex, who stiffened.

"Well, she is a Floranth, and Floranth's are very rare so anybody would be stupid not to think a Floranth is special." Phew Natalia said in her head. For a moment, Natalia thought of the possibility that Droid could be talking about something different that happened earlier. Tex popped a cherry that had been resting on top of a sundae in his mouth, and pulled out the stem.

It was going uphill from there until Droid spoke again. "I think you know what I'm talking about." Droid turned to Victor. "You wouldn't be happy seeing your daughter fall in love with some nasty, lying and rude man, would you?" Droid said. Oh no Natalia thought in her head. Droid had a devious smile on his face, looking down at Victor.

"My daughter would not fall in love with anyone from this area. And nobody would fall for her. She is too good for any argon here." Droid smirked.

"It seems Toby doesn't agree." All eyes went to Tex, lounging back in the chair. You could tell he tried to look calm, but Natalia knew him well enough to see the anxiousness in his face.

"What, you mean me?" Tex sat forward, putting down his feet.

"I don't see another Toby here." Victor gave a nasty look to Tex. Droid stood up.

"No." Victor said. "Natalia wouldn't like someone in that way to anyone here." He looked at Natalia. "She's too smart for that."

"Is she? I have got word that someone saw them-"

"This is absurd!" Tex yelled. He stood up. "What does this have to do with anything? What are you trying to prove?" Tex's face was red, full of anger.

"When the ritual comes, we want no one suffering about a death. And we don't want someone slowing the process." Droid said. Death? Ritual? There was something everyone was hiding from her.

"You're not doing this. I will make sure of it. It will be a long time before something happens like this." Tex said. His voice calmed.

"Really? How long?" Droid said.

"How about two centuries?" Tex said. Droid let out a chuckle.

"You are too much into the wrong girl." Droid said.

"I'm not-"

"Yes, you are." Victor interrupted. Tex glared at him.

"But luckily my girl knows better than to fall for someone like you." Tex glanced at Natalia.

"I don't care about anyone." Tex said simply.

"Prove it." Victor said.

"And how would I do that?" Tex asked.

"Read her mind." Droid said.

"How does that prove anything?" Tex said. He rubbed his forehead.

"When argons fall in love, it's not like the humans. We fall for only one person, ever. We will never let them go. Once you've found that person, nothing seems to matter except for them. When us argons fall in love, we lose the power to read their mind. So if you say you're not in love, then read her mind." The room fell silent.

"Why do you even care?" Tex demanded.

"I said I don't want anything slowing down the ritual." Droid responded. "Now go, read her mind." Tex looked at Natalia. He stared into her silver eyes, as she looked up into his. She saw no hope through his.

When Natalia looked through his eyes, it reminded her of the first time she ever saw him. He was annoying, and rude, and different than how he was now. She remembered seeing him in the hallways at her school, dismissing it easily and carrying on to her usual day. She felt Droid's eyes on her, but she kept her focus on Tex.

"She's thinking about…." Tex started. They looked at Tex, waiting for him to answer. He stood there for a while, the whole time his eyes were locked with Natalia's. Droid walked around the room and stared down at Tex.

"What is she thinking about?"

"She's thinking about when we first met. How, looking into her-" Tex caught himself. "My eyes, that's what it reminds her of. Each day, throughout our little adventure how rude and obnoxious I am."

"Impossible…." Victor said. He chuckled. "Well, I guess we were wrong, Droid." Natalia's heart fell. But why? Why did it matter? This was how it was supposed to be. Had Natalia really been secretly wishing Tex couldn't read her mind?

"Destroy this pathetic trash so he won't slow us down." Tex was still lost in thought, staring at his hands, blinking slowly. Droid stood up and walked over to Tex. Tex stood up and stared up at him.

"With pleasure." Droid said grimly. Natalia stood up, watching in astonishment. Droid picked up Tex by the neck, and Tex started gasping for air, clutching Droid's wrist. Droid pulled out a hidden sword from the inside of his coat pocket. He raised it, and with a full motion, swung it down.

Natalia had made the biggest gasp noise ever. She realized how loud she had screamed. "NO!" She had yelled out. Droid was now looking at her, with the sword merely touching Tex. It occurred to her that this was all a test. Natalia failed.

She was standing, with her hands in fists at her sides. Droid dropped Tex, who coughed, gasping for breath. He clutched his throat where there were now red choke marks.

"It seems the girl has feelings for him." Droid said, returning to his seat. Tex stared at Natalia, mostly in shock. "I should've been expecting that." Droid said.

"How so?" Victor asked, refusing to look at Natalia.

"Someone under my power was sent to watch over Natalia." Droid started.

"You demanded someone to stalk me?" Natalia asked, growing angry. Droid shrugged.

"She is under my power. My point is, she told me everything that happened today. She told me about Toby carrying you up the stairs because you were still ill. She told me everything that was said when Toby showed you that nice balcony. She told me that ended up with you kissing." Natalia turned pale. "Anyways, I thought it was something stupid, silly. I didn't assume you both had something for each other. Until a few moments ago. She told me about Toby walking you down back to your bedroom. He said he'd be taking an extra room that was open. She also saw you both making out. Now, this was when I figured it out."

"We weren't making out." Natalia said defensively. She crossed her arms over her stomach, feeling dizzy.

"You were. A kiss does not take several minutes." Natalia wasn't sure what she should be feeling. But what she did know was that she felt embarrassed and angry.

"Enough." It was Victor. "I asked you to bring them down here, and not for them to confess their love for one another." Victor looked at Natalia. "You are a disgrace to our family." He said. "How dare you fall in love with this creature?" Victor gestured a hand towards Tex. Natalia sat back quietly in her chair.

"Father, I'm not-"

"Don't speak a word, child. We are going home, back to Illinois. Tomorrow morning." Victor rose from the chair. Droid looked at him. Natalia noticed Droid had large circles under his eyes.

"Victor, what about the-"

"I will have my men call you. It will be arranged." Tex stood up, looking flushed. He wiped off some of the dirt that caught on to his pants from the ground. "As for Toby," Victor said. "Chain him to the bed post of the last room. Just so he doesn't get any ideas of following Natalia." Tex stared at him.

"This is my home." Tex said through clenched teeth. Droid clapped his hands twice, calling two guards into the room. One of them tried to grab his arm, but he elbowed him away. The guard staggered back, temporarily stunned. The other had time to pull out a dagger with a crystal tip and pushed it right into Tex's stomach, on the right side. Natalia stood up immediately, her face burning up. She started to run over to Tex, but Droid caught her arm.

"What do you think you're doing?" He asked. He looked like a demon.

"Tex!" She screamed. She looked up at Droid and glared at him. "You murderer!" She ripped her arm away, and ran over to Tex, who was now lying down in agony.

"He's not dead." Droid said calmly. "That is a special dagger that makes him extremely weak and unable to move." Droid had caught up behind Natalia, and pulled her up on her feet. Tex's eyes slowly closed. His green shirt was stained a darker color around where the dagger was sticking out of his stomach. The guard who had been elbowed regained his posture and with the other one, grabbed each one of Tex's hands. They dragged him out of the room.

"Tex!" Natalia yelled out again. "Let me go!" She screamed at Droid. Another guard walked into the room besides Droid.

"Lock her up in a bedroom." The guard had his head down. It was when he grabbed hold of Natalia's arms did she realize who it was.

"Ivan?" she said. "You're with him?" Ivan was gripping Natalia's arms around her back, pushing her forward in front of him. Natalia felt hot tears burn up around her eyes as they exited the room.

"He's my master. I work for him."

"Did you see what he did to Tex?" Natalia yelled out.

"Hush your voice." He said.

"You're on the wrong team! You traitor!"

Ivan led Natalia through a maze of hallways and through a bunch of rooms. He stopped at a door, and switched his grip to holding Natalia on one hand.

"I can't believe you did this to us." Ivan got out a key and stuck it in the door, looking both ways to make sure no one was around.

"Shh. I just said what I did because Droid was around. He thinks I work for him. Since I've gotten to know you, I changed my side. He doesn't know it, though. And that's why I brought you here." He pushed open the door.

They stood in the doorway of a dirty bedroom. The floor was dusted, and the only light was coming from a window. The moon was bright enough to light up through the window and cast a pale color towards the ground. Cuffs were tightened around the post of a corner of a scrawny stiff bed. Chains traced down to the floor and Tex's pale hands were cuffed together. He was lying against the stone wall, with the dagger still in his stomach.

"Tex!" Natalia let out, with such a relief in her voice.

"Be quiet." Ivan whispered. He shut the door behind them after they walked into the room. Natalia ran across the room to Tex.

"Pull…." He sputtered softly. "It out..." She quickly looked down at the dagger.

"I can't…" Natalia said. Blood and gore was never her thing. She would faint if she had to pull out a knife. "Ivan," she called out.

"What?" he whispered, joining her by Tex. He kneeled on the floor.

"Take out the dagger. I can't do it…" Natalia whispered. Ivan gripped the dagger, and pulled it out slowly. The moon glinted off of the blade, showing the blue blood that trickled down the knife. Ivan set it aside as Tex began to cough, gasping.

"There." Ivan said. He was hunched over, clutching his side. Natalia held out her hands and gently lifted up Tex's face so it was facing hers. He was damp with sweat.

"Look into my eyes." Natalia said softly. "You're going to be okay." He didn't lose eye contact with her. She dropped her hands and started to remove the scarf she was wearing.

"What…what are you doing?" Tex asked. Natalia held out the scarf, about to wrap it around his stomach.

"Take off your shirt." Natalia said. Tex got the green shirt over his head but since his hands were chained, he couldn't get it all the way off. Natalia wrapped the scarf around his stomach, and tightened it. Tex winced in pain. "Sorry," she said quickly.

"I've never seen this blade before." Tex said. "Weakening daggers never existed when I was here." Ivan had somehow gotten the chains disconnected from the bed, leaving the cuffs secure around Tex's wrists. Natalia took Tex's shirt and handed it back to him. He reached over his head, wincing as he slid it on.

"I thought argons don't get hurt easily." Natalia said. Tex sat up straight against the wall.

"Me too." Tex said. Ivan, who was looking out of the open window, joined them once again.

"Since you left Tex, we upgraded all of our weapons. They have a bigger effect, especially if stabbed in your stomach, like you were." They nodded. Natalia stared out of the window again, when she felt someone take her hand. She looked at it and saw Tex locking it with his.

"I'm sorry. This shouldn't have happened." Natalia looked at him softly.

"It's not your fault. I just… I can't believe my father knew about this whole world and didn't tell me." She looked down at the floor. "Now he hates me."

"Hey, hey…" Tex said softly. He brought his hand up to her cheek. "He doesn't hate you. He hates me." Natalia brought her hand over his. Out of the corner of her eye, Natalia spotted Ivan observing them. Natalia awkwardly backed away, removing Tex's hand from her face. "Droid sad he had someone watching over you, Natalia. Someone who's been telling him everything. They saw us when we were…together earlier tonight." Natalia's mind flashed back to the balcony. Nobody had been there-but then again, it was outside where someone else could have easily seen them. Natalia played afterward in her head; Tex walked her to the room, and they made out, but then Tory spotted them. Tory.

"Well, when you both were making out-"

"We weren't," Natalia started, defensively. "Making out."

"You admit it to yourself, but you fail to admit it to others. Forgetting I can read your thoughts?" Natalia broke her eye contact with him. It was silent for a while before Ivan continued. "My point is, did anything happen during that time?" Ivan asked.

"Tory," Tex croaked. "Tory walked out of the bedroom while we were in the hallway. We were by the door…" Tex looked hurt.

"Did she see you?" Ivan asked. Natalia and Tex shot each other a look. "Where were you? Across from the door? Next to it?" It was silent for a little, Tex and Natalia looking around nervously. "Look, if you guys ever want to solve anything, you have to just let me know. I already know you've kissed-more than once actually. Just tell me so we can solve this!" Tex took a deep breath, and looked up at Ivan.

"I honestly don't get what these little questions are doing. Yes, she saw us. She was the only one who did! I mean it doesn't make sense that she's the one who's been watching me though." Natalia said.

"And how is that?" Ivan asked.

"Well when she came out of the door, she's the one who told me that my father was here." Natalia said. That was a good reason, wasn't it?

"That doesn't mean she's not up to something. She probably knew you'd be there. She knew you'd come back. Don't you see? Tory set this up." Natalia looked at Tex. He had been awfully silent. Tex looked filled with sorrow, and Natalia understood why. He'd been lifelong-friends with Tory and now he's finding out what she really is.

"As much as I hate to believe it," Tex started. "I think Ivan is right. She came out, and when she apologized, it sounded fake. I would know. It looked staged but I was too embarrassed to pay attention." They went quiet for a little while.

"So what do we do now?" Natalia started to rise, and she wiped off the dirt on her pants.

"We wait for tomorrow and you go home." Ivan said. Tex stood up, wincing. They started walking to the door.

"But what about you guys?" Natalia asked. Ivan was going to open the door, but he stopped.

"It's not safe here. Droid is dangerous, and Tory-"

"And my father." Natalia interrupted Tex. Ivan and Tex stopped talking.

"Natalia, I'm going to take you to the room. Tex, you should stay here. They think you're weakened."

Tex gave Ivan a funny look. "Do you seriously think I'm going to stay here all night? Not after what those assholes did to me." He grabbed his side, and started slowly walking to the door. Ivan and Natalia stared at him. "What?" Tex said. "I can handle myself."

"Tex…" Natalia started. He held up a hand.

"It's best you try not to help me." He said. "You should've never come here to help me in the first place." Tex said angrily. "I know how to handle myself."

"I know you're upset about Tory, but-" Natalia was interrupted before she could finish.

"I'm not. We were never really that close, anyways." Tex said. He sounded the smallest bit confusing.

"I know she was the closest person next to family. And-"

"Damn it Natalia it's not that!" Tex yelled. She was facing him with her back to the wall. He had his left hand next to her, and his right hand pounded into the wall on the other side of her. "It's you! Don't you see that?" Natalia gulped.

"What do you mean?" Natalia sputtered.

"You're not good for me. You make me lose myself." He backed up, and turned away. He spun around and walked close to her again. "Whenever I'm by you, I feel different. I'm losing myself when I'm around you. I'm not thinking about the waitress in the diner from the other night, or who I'm going to start a fight with at a diner. My mind seems to focus on one thing." He didn't have to say what that one thing was.

"Maybe it's not your true self you're losing." Natalia said softly. "Maybe it's your true self that you're finding."

"I don't know what to do." He whispered. "I just…." He looked away from her. "Just forget I said anything." She walked up closer. Her hands reached up to his cheeks, turning his face towards her. He took her hands off of his face. "Go. The both of you."

"Tex…"

"I said go!" Natalia backed away slowly.

"Come on Natalia, let's go." Ivan said, holding out a hand. Natalia joined Ivan by the door. She looked back at Tex, who was staring at the ground.

"I know you, Tex. And I know you will find yourself. When I'm gone, just know that." She paused. "It was nice meeting you. But now you must forget me. It's the only way either of us should live." Tex kept his eyes on the floor. Natalia walked out of the room with Ivan, the door slamming shut behind them.

14

Natalia woke up in the same bedroom she had been in ever since she got to Infitus. She changed into her clothes quickly, already starting to feel frantic from the night before.

Natalia threw her bag around her arm and whipped the door open. Victor was standing there, waiting for her.

"Natalia," Victor cooed. Natalia's face was blank. She had nothing to say to him.

"What?"

"We are leaving now. Come," He started walking down the hallway. Natalia's mind flashed to last night when she saved Tex. She followed silently behind. Tex had never yelled at her like he did last night. It felt as if he was blaming her for his feelings he had developed. Natalia pushed his image out of her mind and followed her father down the steps.

"Where's Ivan?" Natalia asked.

"He's by the door." Victor said flatly.

"Where is Tex-Toby? Where is Toby?" Natalia forgot that Victor had never heard of Tex as a nickname.

"Who cares? That child is a disgrace. I'm appalled you have feelings towards him." He said.

"I don't." Natalia said. "Not anymore." She mumbled under her breath.

"He's got no family. Droid acts like no father towards him. Those type of creatures are messed up. Their brains don't work properly when they don't have discipline." Natalia stopped.

"This is about discipline now?" Natalia demanded.

"Children-especially teens-need discipline and care from parents so they grow up and learn lessons their parents teach them." They walked down another hallway.

"Where was my discipline after Mom died?" Natalia demanded. Victor stopped. He flinched a little at the words. He continued walking, not saying anything.

"Hello," Droid said, rising from a chair that sat in the corner of the room. "Natalia, it's such a shame you cannot stay longer. Really, it is." Droid had no expression. Natalia nodded slowly.

"Goodbye Natalia." Someone said, behind her. She didn't have to turn to look. She could recognize Ivan's light British accent anywhere. She turned around and walked up to him.

"Bye, Ivan." Ivan wrapped his arms around her and hugged her. She hadn't expected it, but she hugged him back. She needed a hug right now, and this was perfect. He let go.

"By the way," he said, talking openly to Droid and Natalia. "We found out who it was you sent to follow Natalia." Droid flinched. "I got her locked up. You made Tory a traitor to Natalia, why?" Droid threw up a smile, and looked at Ivan.

"Where is she?" Droid asked.

"Locked up, where she should be."

Droid nodded. "And Toby, where is he?" Natalia's head jolted up. She looked up at Ivan.

"In the room you demanded him to be chained in from last night, sir." Ivan's voice cracked. Natalia sighed. She thought that maybe, just maybe, Tex would come and take her away from this living hell. All she wanted was to find out what she was, and she did, with a cost. She had experienced fights with creatures, and even worse, she had experienced love. All of that had been shattered.

They said their goodbyes and left to go back home to the mysterious small town in Illinois.

It turned out Droid had got hold of a jet to fly them from Infitus back to their home. After arriving, Victor left to pick up Katrina, and by then it was all too late for Natalia to keep her eyes open for any longer. She flopped on the bed on her back and stared up at the ceiling. She remembered opening her eyes one morning to the look of Tex's irritated voice looking down at her. She quickly turned, not wanting to think about him. She closed her eyes, and curled into a ball. When she was in her darkest mood, her mother would always bring her hot chocolate and tell her everything would be okay. She wished her mother were here with her. She fell asleep that night thinking about her mother.

Natalia woke up the next morning and got ready for school. It was Monday, and she had to return to school and act like she went on a trip to England. She dragged herself downstairs, and headed out of the door without seeing Victor or Katrina.

At school, in the hallways she felt as if everybody were watching her. Many people had come up asking where she was, and it wasn't even lunch yet.

"Natalia?" She heard someone call out in the hallway. She turned around. Alex.

"Hi." Natalia said. She waved her hand and turned around again, starting to walk to her class.

"Wait up!" Alex yelled from behind her. Alex caught up to her and stopped Natalia. "What's with you?"

I can't stop thinking of him Natalia cried in her head. "Nothing. Why would something be wrong?"

"You seem depressed." Something by Alex's waist started to glow, but Alex pulled her shirt down, and it disappeared. Of course she'd think she saw something. Tex's Sharn always remained secure in his belt, glowing that beautiful sea green.

"I'm fine. I have to go." Alex nodded, and Natalia walked away.

The rest of school had gone like this. Natalia gathered up all of her things from her locker and closed it shut. For a quick moment, she expected to see Tex standing there, smirking at her, about to say something with a cocky attitude. Natalia's eyes burned from holding tears back the whole day. She started walking and that was when Alex came up to her.

"Hey Nat! We're going to hang out at your house today, okay?" Natalia nodded.

"Sure." No Natalia thought. It's not okay. They walked out of school and drove back to Natalia's house.

The day went by like a month. Natalia and Alex were quiet a lot. Every now and then Alex would boast about being at the gym and how she had an adorable instructor. It was nearly dinnertime when Natalia noticed Alex's look beginning to turn dark.

"Do you have any water?" Alex asked, quickly standing up.

"Uh, yeah. You should know where it is." Natalia said. She was working on her geometry homework and didn't notice Alex glaring at her.

"Just because Tex 'broke your heart' it doesn't mean you should be acting like a downer to everybody!" Alex yelled. Natalia's hand froze before she could start writing the answer down to the problem.

"How…how do you know his name?" Natalia stood up, and looked at Alex. That's when Natalia noticed it. Alex was now holding a gold dagger above her head. Her eyes were black, the iris and the white around her eyes.

"Where is it?" She said. Alex's voice was no longer a high-pitched girl's tone. It was dark and reminded Natalia of a demon. "Where is the Zova?"

"I don't know what it is!" Natalia yelled back. "I don't have it!"

"Give back what you stole, Floranth!" Alex started running towards Natalia, screaming in a language unfamiliar to Natalia. Natalia reached behind herself and grabbed the geometry book and held it out as the dagger stabbed through it. Alex tried pulling it out but it was stuck. Natalia through the book, causing Alex to lose her grip of the handle. The book and dagger flew across the room. Alex tackled Natalia, screaming at her. Alex lay on top of her, trying to throw punches at Natalia's face. Natalia struggled, but finally kicked her leg up so high that it hit the back of Alex's head. Alex fell off of Natalia, and Natalia ran to take the dagger out of the book. She ripped it out, and when she turned around, Alex was back up and running with after her, holding up another dagger like a weapon. Natalia stood up, and swung across by Alex's head. Alex ducked, and smacked the dagger out of her hand. Alex grabbed Natalia from behind before Natalia could retrieve the dagger from the ground. Another dagger curved around her neck, and the very tip of it dug into her skin, making blood drip down her neck.

"Alex, don't do this." Natalia pleaded. All she heard was Alex hissing. Then, the image of Tex popped into her head. Tex had taught her how to get out of someone grabbing her. She focused. Now was the time for Tex's skills to really come in use. Twist steal aim slice. Twist steal aim slice. Natalia kept thinking in her head. In an instant motion, Natalia spun around, looking at Alex. Her teeth had turned to spiked pointy teeth. This made Alex lose focus, and Natalia grabbed the dagger out of Alex's hands. She aimed it at Alex's throat. Twist, steal, aim and…

Alex kicked Natalia in the stomach, pushing her to the ground on her back. The dagger fell from Natalia's hand as she winced from the impact. Alex grabbed the dagger and stepped closer.

"You will go to hell for what you did." Alex said. She raised the dagger and started swinging down when something stopped her. Coming out of her midsection, a green tip of another dagger went through her. A glowing green tip. Tex's Sharn. Alex's body turned to what looked like crystal, and exploded into an orange liquid. Natalia rolled to the side to avoid being stabbed by the dagger Alex was holding that was plummeting toward her. Natalia sat up, feeling sick and dizzy. Tex was standing there, looking at her.

"Tex?" Natalia let out. She was happy to see him, but angry that he had screamed to her. "Why are you here?" Tex was wearing a gray sweatshirt over a navy blue v-neck shirt. He grabbed the two daggers Alex had after tucking his Sharn away. He unzipped his sweatshirt, which revealed a Velcro vest. He tucked the two daggers in the empty slots.

"Nice to see you too." He said. There went his cocky attitude again.

"I could've saved myself." Natalia said.

"Really? Because if you didn't move, she would've killed you in a millisecond." Tex helped her up.

"Why are you even here?" Natalia asked, irritated. She shouldn't be happy to see him, but she was overjoyed. Tex moved the hair away from her neck, checking out where Alex had slightly cut her neck.

"How bad did she get you?" His cool hands felt soothing against the cut. She winced as his fingers passed over the deepest part. "Sorry," Tex said quickly. "We need to go back to Infitus. Now."

"What happened to you? The last time you talked to me, you were screaming in my face, telling me to leave." Tex looked away.

"There's no time to explain," Tex said. "All I can tell you is that on the way, we better start working on a kick-ass apology to Tory." With that, Tex grabbed Natalia's arm, and pulled her towards the door.

Within twenty minutes, they reached the school. The sun was starting to set, making it more difficult to see minute by minute.

"Why are we here?" Natalia asked. Tex stepped out of the car, avoiding her question. She had to jog to keep up with him.

They reached the back of the school. And that was when she spotted the Portal casted on the wall. The wall looked normal up until the point where it starts seeping in to what looks like a maelstrom.

"I'll go in first, and you follow." Tex said. Natalia nodded. Tex jumped through it, quickly disappearing through the wall. Natalia jumped in after, squeezing her eyes shut.

When she landed, she didn't have to open her eyes to know she had landed on top of Tex. She peeled her eyes open, and she was face to face with him. It was the same place that they had fallen when they first arrived. But something seemed different. Natalia thought maybe it was because Tex's hands caught her waist when she fell, and they were staring at each other. Natalia stood up, having to wait for a brief moment while Tex awkwardly took his hands off of her waist. He stood up, wiping the dust off of his jeans. Natalia looked up at the Trackon, gathering up its full sight again. It was the prettiest building she'd ever came across.

Tex grabbed her hand once again, pulling her towards the building. "Come on," he said.

"You know Tex, I am very capable of walking." Natalia said angrily. Tex stopped and turned towards her. He dropped her hand.

"What's your problem Havens?" Tex asked.

"Havens? What, you call me by my last name now?" Natalia's face got hot. "Have we really not seen each other for that long for you to call me by my last name?" Tex backed up. He turned away from her, and Natalia saw a glimpse of his pale face.

"Now is not the time-"

"You know damn well this is the time!" Natalia yelled. It was silent. "Do you even get what you have done?" Natalia said.

"I care aboutyou Natalia." Tex said. "Do you even get that? Don't you see that all of this is completely killing me?" Natalia dropped her eyes by the ground. He lifted her chin up with his two fingers. "I know you are angry with me for letting you leave how you did. And I regret yelling at you. I just thought… I just thought it was best for the both of us."

"I can't live like this. I can't live regularly anymore. I'm not sure why. I feel something. Something I can't explain. Its for you, but I can't process its meaning." Natalia said softly. Tex caressed her chin. He was going to kiss Natalia, and Natalia knew it. Tex had started moving his head, slowly. Natalia closed her eyes, but they quickly reopened when she heard a door open.

"Natalia?" it was Ivan. Tex backed up, removing his hands from Natalia's face.

"Ivan!" Natalia said. She hugged Ivan, who was smiling at her.

"Why are you here? Is Victor with you? Did he say anything about a ritual?" Ivan asked. He released Natalia and looked down at her. Tex joined the both of them.

"Tory wasn't the one who was betraying us." Tex said. "It was Alex, one of Natalia's friends on Earth."

"She-she tried to kill me." Natalia said. She faced Tex. "She just…she turned into one of them."

"Campon." Ivan said. "That's what she was. She was a gastron in disguise." Ivan told them.

"We need to save Tory. Now." Tex said. They ran to the doors of the Trackon and disappeared inside.

The room was filled with complete darkness except for the sunlight streaming in through the only window across from her. She was sitting in a stone chair, with her hands cuffed tightly on the armrests. The manacles around her wrists were rubbed with larkspur liquid, which felt like acid against her wrists. The manacles were skin tight, making blood trickle down her hands. Manacles wrapped her ankles tightly, also chained tightly to the legs of the stone chair. Larkspur liquid rubbed against her ankles too, making blood trickle down to her shoes. Her neck ached, and her black hair was damp with sweat and blood. A door cracked open, with shining light that made Tory squint. She leaned her head back and soon regretted it; a chain with small spikes protruded through her neck, not deep enough to kill her.

"Tory, Tory, Tory." A deep voice called. The sound bounced off of the walls. The sound of his voice sent chills throughout Tory's body, making her shiver. Dried up tears made Tory's face feel sticky.

"Why am I here?" Tory cried out. "What have I done to deserve this?" she felt more tears build up around her face.

She heard a laugh echoing all around her. A blade glittered in the sunlight. A seraph blade, unfamiliar to Tory. The edge pointed at her as she froze in fear. A face appeared in front of her.

"Droid," she whispered, full of terror.

Ivan finally stopped running when he came across a door. It looked like any other ordinary door. He grabbed the doorknob and pushed it open. The back of the door smacked against a wall. They walked in, quickly staring at the chair. Disappointment showed through each one of the teens' faces. The room was completely empty. Natalia and Tex looked more confused, than sad. As for Ivan, he looked horrified and angry.

"I don't get it." Ivan whispered. "I kept her in here. She was locked in here!" Ivan picked up the chair and threw it against the wall. It broke into pieces as the wood splattered all around the room.

"Ivan-"

"She should be here!" Ivan yelled. Natalia thought that he must've had some big feelings towards her to get this angry.

"I know where she may be at!" Tex said. He had been thinking long and hard before he spoke. "The punishment room. Droid must've brought her there. He knew we'd come back looking for her." Tex said. He walked back to the doorway, and Ivan slowly followed.

"You're right." Natalia said. "Let's go." She quickly muttered. She was anxious to save Tory. They all were.

"Wait," Tex said. He pressed the handle of a dagger he took from Alex into her hand. The other was handed to Ivan. "You'll need it." He said. He was mostly looking at Natalia.

They ran down the hallway, and Natalia stuck close behind as Ivan and Tex lead the way. They came across another door, and by that time, Natalia was panting. The handle was metal and the door was thick stone. Ivan grasped the knob, gripping so hard his knuckles were white. He quickly let go, his hand filled with blisters and rashes.

"Damn it!" Ivan screeched. He held onto his injured hand with the other clasped around his wrist. "Mother lord! Inyu casa!" He yelled out. Natalia watched in confusion as Ivan's hand slowly became normal again. The blisters disappeared and the red rash was almost gone. Natalia looked puzzled.

"How did you just…?" Natalia said. She looked at Tex and Ivan.

"Larkspur. It is extremely poisonous. It's like acid. It eats through our skin." Tex said.

"Well, since I'm special maybe it won't hurt me." Natalia said. She reached for the door but Tex grabbed her wrist, making her wince.

"Are you always this stupid or are you just making a special effort today?" Tex said. Natalia pulled her wrist away.

"Well, I just thought-"

"Let's go guys. The both of you. We've got more things to worry about." Tex nodded. Natalia felt the urge to open the door. Before she could decide to make any moves, Tex had grabbed the bottom of his shirt and used it to cover his hands. He grabbed the doorknob, and the shirt revealed his stomach under. Natalia could've sworn she saw a marking-a special marking- unknown to her more than the others. She slowly reached her hand out to touch it, too fascinated to think before she acted. Fortunately, Tex pulled open the door and let his shirt down, waking Natalia up from her train of thought. She quickly retreated her hands, with color rushing up to her cheeks. It seemed as if no one had noticed, so Natalia walked into the room, half-expecting to see it empty like the other, but boy, was she wrong.

There was only one window in the room, and a chair sitting in the middle. In the chair was Tory. She had a scratched up dirty face, and her hair was back in a messy ponytail. She had a special chain around her neck with needles poking out into her skin. Her hands were chained tightly around the arms with the chair. Blue blood trickled down her hands. Her ankles had been tied the same way. The worst sight was by her stomach. A shiny seraph blade stuck in her left side, with blue blood trickling out from around it. Her head was tilted to the side, as if that was the most comfortable position to sit in. Her eyes peeled open when she saw them come in. She smiled with delight, rattling her hands, attempting to get free.

"Tory!" Ivan practically screamed. The three of them ran up to her. "Oh my god. What has he done to you?" He caressed her cheek and began to cut off the neck chain. She had a visible layer of blood underneath. Tears streamed down her face. She winced as Ivan pulled away the neck chain and threw it to the ground. Natalia bent down on one side of Tory, while Tex bent down on the other. She reached for the chain surrounding her wrists, but stopped short. It seemed to be steaming, she felt as if she heard a sizzling. She looked up at Tory in confusion.

"My hands….they-they're rubbed with liquid Larkspur." She sputtered. The three of them peered down at her hands and ankles. "Why…why is this happening to me?" she cried. Tex dug in his belt and pulled out his Sharn. He aimed the green tip at the manacles around Tory's wrists. He traced a pattern leaving a green glow on the manacles before they broke open. Tory and Ivan looked puzzled.

"Tex… Your Sharn…?" Ivan said, puzzled

"Yes, I know. I'm a genius." Tex smiled, still keeping focus on the Sharn to Tory's other hand. "I told Natalia this when we first met." He smirked, remembering. "I got a Gord to make this weapon." Ivan's mouth dropped.

"A…a Gord?" Ivan said. "I can't believe it. I didn't think you, of all, would be able to afford one with the way Gords price their items." Tex almost looked as if he were flattered.

"All of you underestimate me." Tex said, moving the Sharn and tracing out the same patterns on Tory's ankles. "I will say it gets quite annoying after a while." He smirked again, dropping the Sharn after tracing Tory's last manacle. The first thing Tory did was pull out the seraph blade sticking out of her side. She screamed out in agony before dropping it to the ground. She stood up, and Ivan, Natalia, and Tex rose too. As soon as she got to her feet, she crumbled forward, her bloodstained ankles giving out from under her. Ivan caught her, and, without thinking, he lifted her up and held her like Tex had held Natalia. Tex and Natalia looked at him in astonishment.

"What?" Ivan demanded, defensively. Tex shook his head. "Let's go."

"Where to exactly, Sherlock?" Tex demanded. Tory's head rested on Ivan's shoulder.

"I don't know, the hospital maybe?" Ivan said fiercely. "I mean we do have an extremely injured girl."

"Alright, alright, fighting does no good, guys." Natalia said before Tex could open his mouth.

"What do you think we should do?" Tex said, turning to her.

"Bring Tory to the hospital. I mean, that is why we came here, right?" Natalia said. They made their way out of the room and Tex looked at her uneasily.

"Not exactly…" Natalia slapped his arm.

"You never tell the truth!" Natalia yelled. She took a deep breath, and continued. "Why else did you bring me here?" She demanded.

"Victor isn't a good person. He is using you Natalia. He's working with Droid to kill you!" Tex said.

Natalia shook her head. "My father, he wouldn't do that. He loves me-"

"You think he would hesitate to kill you? You're wrong on that. You don't see how valuable you are." Tex started walking towards the door, everybody else following him.

After Ivan told Tex and Natalia he was going to bring Tory to the infirmary, Tex guided Natalia through the Trackon. Tex was planning on killing Droid, tonight.

"Where are we going?" Natalia said, trying her best to keep up with Tex.

"To the forest. I'm just trying to find my way out of this building." Tex said. They came into an empty hallway, and big glass doors were spotted at the end. It led to a patio with grey stone out in the back.

They busted through the doors, and Tex stopped her.

"What? Why did you stop?" Natalia said, panting a little.

"Take this." Tex replied. He pulled out the gold dagger Alex was using to try to kill her. Great. "If I'm unable to protect you, you're going to have to try to protect yourself." Natalia swallowed hard and nodded. The week of training was going to be put to use and that was all she could rely on.

15

The forest was dense. Many trees were piled next to each other, letting only a few strands of the setting sun through. As Natalia and Tex made their way quietly through the trees, voices were echoing off the wood.

"So it's set." Victor's voice was audible behind a unnaturally large tree stump in which Natalia and Tex were ducking behind. "All you need is the girl?"

"My friend," called Droid's voice. "I can assure you, you will not be disappointed."

"I trust you." Victor said.

"So where is the girl?" Droid said.

"I left her at home." Victor said back simply.

It was clear from the rage in Droid's voice that he was angry. "Why? She needs to be here for me to kill her, you know." Natalia sucked in a breath. Kill her. Weren't argons supposed to help protect a Floranth?

Natalia gave Tex an uneasy look.

"I know. I will bring her here tonight. She'll do anything, I'm sure, if your step-boy is involved." Victor cooed. His voice became distant, as if he were walking away. Natalia made fists at her sides.

"Toby? Why, yes. We can kill him too, right?" A father, murdering his own son? Even if it is a stepson? "He always gets in the way."

Side comments were said through Victor and Droid. Eventually, Victor left, and Droid said he was going to stay back to arrange things more.

"You know," Droid's voice came awfully close. "You can come out now. This is usually the time when you come out slicing me saying you never wish your mother met me." This made sense only to go to Tex, so he stood up. He took out his dagger after giving a look to Natalia telling her to stay there.

Tex spat on the ground. "I'm here to end this." He said, his voice firm. "I've already let it come too far."

"Unfortunately, you're too late. All I need is the girl, and this will all be over." Droid said. "You know, it's a shame actually." Droid said. "She was so nice. Polite, even. Too bad she won't be alive for much longer." Natalia heard a rage of scream. She could only imagine it was Tex's. She peered away from the stump to see what was going on.

Tex had tackled Droid and was on top of him holding the dagger to his throat. Droid was struggling, but threw on an amused expression. He pulled out a long sword and hit Tex's head with it on the side. Tex released and rolled over on his back, dazed. Droid walked over to him and put the end of the sword to Tex's throat.

"I'll tell her you said hello." Droid said. He brought the blade up, but before he could do any more, Natalia jumped on his back. She grabbed at his throat, hoping to choke him and make him drop the sword. He dropped the sword, and was reaching over his head for Natalia. He was choking and struggling, and he finally got hold of Natalia's hair. He whipped her away, sending shocks of pain through her as she hit a boulder. He started walking toward her but stopped abruptly. He made a choking noise, and Natalia stared up at him, dazed as he started choking up blood. He dropped his sword and fell forward. Tex held the bloody Sharn in his hand, taking deep breaths as if he couldn't believe what he did himself. Tex dropped to his knees, and spun Droid on his back.

"You only think this is over." He said between breaths.

"It is." Tex said through clenched teeth. Droid let out a long laugh.

"I am not unprepared." Was all he said before Natalia saw the bits of life drain from Droid.

Natalia stared for a moment at the body. "Is he dead?" Natalia whispered softly, unable to sit up right away. Tex dropped the dagger and walked over to her, examining her wounds.

"Everything's going to be alright." Was all he replied.