Eyes of the soul

Author notes: The beginning of this was co-written by LadyOfFate from . I have adapted this slightly to make more sense; the end is entirely my own. The initial parts from Crystal's point of view are LadyOFFate's, Jaguar is mine.

Jaguar walked slowly through the forest, feet strangely soundless on the leaf-littered floor. Though dawn was only beginning to occur, she had been here for hours, as she often was at this time. She seldom slept; all the thoughts and emotions of others were too hard to block out when they all came at once, the voices of people around the world crying, praying, yelling…when still, it was harder for her to relax, to rest her mind and concentrate enough to drive them out. It was only when she was moving that it was easy.

In the solitude of the woods, she had even more success in blocking out voices and feelings. No one was near, and it was easier to avoid them. As she walked, her mind clear of all voices but her own, she was still not content, for her own was troubling enough. She was replaying what Luke had said to her yesterday, what he had demanded of her…what she did not have to give.

Suddenly she tensed,alert. Her eyes scanned the dim forest…she had felt the presence of another. She had so effectively blocked others she had not noticed at first…she had been careless. Now, someone else was here…perhaps watching.

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Crystal walked along the edge of the woods slowly, blinking the sleep from her eyes. She was a night person, but being a runaway, or rather, a walkaway, as she considered herself, it was safer to be up and moving earlier rather than later; sleeping all day could be dangerous. Kicking at the ground, she looked over to the woods; for some reason, it felt to her as though someone were nearby.

Shrugging this off, she took a piece of previously stolen almond pocky from her pocket and took a bite, still walking along unhurriedly, thinking of her mother with little feeling. Before she had simply left their shared apartment one morning, her mother had made little effort to make sure Crystal went to school and did her homework; she had hardly seemed to care whether she stayed or left, and so Crystal had chosen to leave. Now, she did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted….yet still, she couldn't seem to feel happy.

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Jaguar tensed as she waited, her body still as she tried to figure out who the person could be. Cautiously she opened her mind, feeling for their personality, thoughts, intentions, first placing up shields in her mind to partly block her ability, protecting her from exposing her power to any who might be as strong as she and use it to her disadvantage. Sensing that it was a girl, a young girl walking nearby, she could not read her thoughts, and this panicked her.

Why could she not read this girl's thoughts? What made her different from everyone else? The only thing that made this happen was if the person willfully blocked her advances- or if the protective walls inside her mind were so strong Jaguar could not penetrate them. Either way, the girl must be as strong as Jaguar in her abilities, if not stronger.

Jaguar could feel her coming closer and remained where she was, heart pounding. If only she knew the girl's will…

And then there she was, a teenage girl, standing before her.

"Who are you?" Jaguar asked flatly, eyes fixed on the girl's, nearly unblinking. "What is it that you want?"

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Crystal stared, eyebrows raising. She had entered the forest idly, almost without thinking, and nearly immediately come face to face with this woman who appeared more than a little paranoid, perhaps even insane.

"What are you talking about? I don't' want anything…I'm walking in the woods, same as you."

She paused, then offered her a piece of her pocky almost as an afterthought. It couldn't hurt, she figured, to get the woman on her good side. "Want some? It's pocky…Japanese candy."

Jaguar did not take her eyes off the girl, keeping her shields up in her mind in case she tried to invade them. She didn't' seem threatening…but appearances were often deceiving.

It still astonished her that she could not read the girl's mind. How could this be…Jaguar, one of the most powerful empaths known, surpassing even her teach and occasional lover, Luke, who had trained her and others like her for over fifteen years…unable to read a seemingly very ordinary girl? A teenager, at that?

She stared suspiciously at the candy the girl held out to her- she couldn't read the girl's name from within the recesses of her mind, and the candy could be anything. Poison, a gift sent from Amos, some chemical that would permanently destroy the functioning of her mind…

"You tell me you're here for no reason, and you're being near me is coincidence?" she asked with continued suspicion. "Shouldn't a child your age be in school? You are trying to tell me that you're not following me…that you have no idea of who I am?"

Crystal raised an eyebrow. "Dude, you're seriously high strung. I'm not following you, I didn't even know you were here. I'm NOT a child, by the way, I'm 16. As for school, I don't go. There's no point, I know what I need to already….and by the way," she added with something of a smirk, nodding towards her, "you're very transparent. For an empath, that is. You shouldn't be so jumpy or give away what you are. As for me…I could care less."

And with that said, Crystal began to walk away.

Jaguar could hardly believe the nerve of the teenager, the child who took offense at being called one. She was gifted, that was obvious…how she had managed not only to block Jaguar's advances, but also penetrate her shields without her even knowing, was something Jaguar struggled to believe….but she was very careless and nonchalant about her ability, seemingly unaware of the dangers.

For a girl her age to have such ability with so little effort…if she was really such a natural talent, it would be more than necessary to recruit her to their side, a weapon against Amos and his team…if she could be taught discipline and respect, that was. Jaguar could just see Luke's face if he heard her speak like that to him.

Jaguar followed the girl abruptly, then stepped in front of her, stopping her in her path.

"You have no idea what I have seen to be so high strung," she informed her, hands on her hips. "I highly doubt you, at your age, have had teams sent to kill you. I doubt you have killed any yourself. Regardless of what you say, or what you can do, you are a child who has much growing up to do."

Seeing that the girl was not pleased with her words, Jaguar took a breath, trying to change her tone.

"A girl with your ability could be much more…you could be used for something great, perhaps even change the world."

Crystal exhaled, rolling her eyes; even before she spoke Jaguar could see her dismissing her.

"Yeah, yeah, I have dealt with people trying to kill me before, okay? My own DAD being one of them. I am NOT great, I won't change the world, I know that much. I was born and that's it. I will disappear one day into the depressed little life people have made for me, and nothing will change that. Now if you don't mind, I have walking around to get to, since I don't have anywhere to go or anything to do, since I no longer have a home. Bye," she said, turning to leave again.

Jaguar sucked in her breath, watching with mixed feelings of anger, relief, disappointment as she watched the girl go. She was infuriating….it was obvious she had no idea what her powers could bring her in the way of trouble if she didn't protect herself. Nor did she seem to realize what help her powers could be…how they could free her from her aimless life to one of purpose. And of course, she didn't care either.

Jaguar knew she should be glad to see the girl leave. ..but at the same time, something in her chest tugged uncomfortably, and she didn't want to let the girl go. She knew Luke would be horrified to know she had met a girl with such power and let her walk away.

Well screw Luke, she thought irritably. He doesn't know everything, he doesn't control me…I'm not 16 anymore, he seems to have forgotten that lately.

Suddenly her mind sensed another presence in the forest, one besides that of the retreating girl. Jaguar's skin prickled, and she cast out her mind, trying to determine its source. She sensed the darkness of the presence and realized it was one of the people Amos had sent out…one with telekinetic power, as well as a slight degree of empathic ability. She would have to protect herself from physical as well as mental attack.

As she prepared herself to strike first, she realized that he was not after her…no, it was the girl he was after…whose name, Jaguar realized, as she read it within his thoughts, was Crystal.

She saw his shadowy shape, following after Crystal…obviously she had not sensed him, for she continued to walk, unconcerned.

CRYSTAL! Jaguar screamed out in her mind, LOOK OUT!

Crystal heard and turned, but it was at this moment that he chose to strike- the man was upon her, striking out simultaneously with his mind and his telekinesis so Crystal's body shook with the force of it. Jaguar could see her struggling to get hold of herself, her power to fight back, the surprise assault had caught her off guard, and she would probably not be able to do so before it did too much damage.

Jaguar ran over, no longer concerned with exposing herself as she stood near, feet apart, hands on her temples as she opened her mind, brutally searching the stranger's for weakness of attack, for a place to strike. Sensing her invasion, he struck back with a rough assault that Jaguar quickly blocked. Some of his attention was diverted off Crystal then, which gave her an opportunity to use to her advantage. She sent a punch into his mind that sent him reeling backward, and once more Jaguar was in awe of how strong mentally this girl was.

Then both struck him together, forceful and intense. He tried to use his telekinesis, but this left him open to psychic attack, and he soon grabbed his head in pain. Jaguar mental twisted the vulnerable recesses of his mind, sending him stumbling back in agony. When he disappeared, perhaps to regenerate, Jaguar turned, panting slightly, seeing that the stricken girl's hair was in her face.

"Are you okay?" she asked. Not waiting for a reply, she launched into a frustrated lecture, still keyed up. "Do you see what I'm talking about? It's not just some magic trick to be an empath! You have to always be watching, always ready, protecting yourself if you still want to be free! You have to learn to be ready!"

Crystal sighed, sliding her back against the nearest tree as she took in a slow breath, shaking her head. "Man…that was…shocking," she muttered, before shaking her hair back from her face and looking up. "Why did I get attacked?"

"WHY? Weren't you listening before – I told you, it's dangerous for people like us!" Jaguar cried, throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. "You ALWAYS have to be ready for attack, there is no other option if you want to live! You think I'm paranoid to have been suspicious about you- do you see why? That's what happens if you let down your guard. It's been like this for me always. There is a whole group of people specifically trained to capture or kill people like us. I've hidden from them, fought them, my entire life. They've tried to take me, to control me…and they almost succeeded. They have with others. With my-" Jaguar stopped, unable to continue.

She would not go into this now. Choking back a lump in her throat at the memory of her father, she glared at Crystal to distract herself. "You have to be alert!"

Straightening, Crystal brushed her hair out of her face again, smirking back at her. "Yeah, well at least I can block them. Just have to be more aware of my surroundings, I guess. Besides, it isn't like they know what I can do…they most likely think I'm only as strong as YOU. Which is weird because the shadow dork went after me instead of you," she commented, shrugging.

Jaguar disliked this girl very strongly by this point…how could she be so assured, after she had been completely caught off guard by a vicious attack where she would have been captured or wounded, had Jaguar not saved her ass?

Well Jaguar knew one thing- empath or not, powerful or not, regardless of what Luke would say, she wasn't wasting any time on this girl. She wasn't going to hang around and save her again either. Let her save her own self next time if she knew so much.

"Is that so? Well why is it if you're so great at blocking he had you on your back and I had to save you? And why is he unaware of me and going straight for you? Maybe because you aren't as good at blocking as you think? Could that be it, that maybe people are after you because you're not as strong as you think? If you think you know so much, then you obviously don't need me, go back to being a bum on the streets, I'm sure if they don't kill you, drugs or pimps will within a few years," she hissed, losing her temper completely.

This girl made her feel like Luke did…and once she realized that, it only enraged her further. Turning to walk away, her shields were only half up in defense of herself.

Crystal watched her, her lips thinning, before she lifted her chin, yelling back at her. "Stay safe, lady!"

As she almost ran out of the forest, in the opposite direction of Jaguar, she told herself that she didn't care…she didn't need or want anything from this woman. Who wanted to be with someone that uptight?

She would be okay…that guy, it was a one time thing. She'd be okay.

Still, when Crystal dug into the front pocket of her backpack nearly an hour later, she was shocked to discover a sealed envelope that someone had obviously slipped inside. As she opened it, fingers trembling slightly, she noticed it was typed on very official looking stationary, complete with a seal reading The Eyes of Man.

"Dear Crystal,

We have noticed your advanced abilities at such a young age. We are inviting you to join us. We will protect, feed, and teach you. If you are interested, come to the town square at midnight.

The Eyes of Man."

Crystal stared at this, her mind racing with rapid thought…for all she knew, this could be an invitation to murder or a prostitution ring, but then, she was never one to turn down a mystery…and part of her, however small, hoped that it was from Jaguar.

At midnight she was exactly as the letter had requested, and she paced silently, waiting.

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Jaguar was still fuming as she approached her room in The Eyes of Man. That girl, Crystal, had really made her see red…she couldn't stop herself from picturing her smug teenage face, smirking at her, deliberately antagonizing her. She was so distracted it didn't register to her that the door was open until she had already stepped inside and caught sight of Luke, leaning casually against her wall.

Instantly her blood boiled. She was still upset with him over what he had said earlier, not to mention Crystal, and now he had the nerve to come over when she wasn't even home and just wait for her. He raised an eyebrow at her, not needing to read her thoughts to know she was angry.

"What are you doing here?" she snapped, and he smirked, enjoying her reaction.

"Well, if you'll remember, I do have the password, Jaguar. You gave it to me right around the first time you told me you loved me. Not so very long ago, if I recall correctly."

"First off, I thought it, I didn't say it," she corrected. "Second, is there any reason to be here rather than to piss me off?"

"Believe it or not, my every waking thought does not revolve around how to displease you," Luke drawled. "It's about The Eyes of Man."

The Eyes of man was the name of the training program and academy for newly discovered empaths. Jaguar crossed her arms over her chest, frowning at him skeptically.

"What is it?"

"Well, we're trying to recruit a new student. She is very young but has tremendous talent. She could be a great help to us. I have been observing her for some time, and she could be an asset, with training."

"And this involves breaking into my room, how?"

Serious now, Luke fixed an intense look on Jaguar, immediately arousing her suspicion.

"What do you want me to do, Luke?"

"I want you to meet her in the town square at midnight, to talk to her about it all, try to convince her to join us. She's more likely to listen to a woman closer to her age than to me."

"Oh, really? And what makes you think that I'll do it?" she sneered, crossing her arms.

"Because I know you, Jaguar," Luke said simply, looking her in the eye.

She squirmed, averting her gaze, knowing it was true.

"Who is she?" she changed the subject.

"Crystal…no last name yet, but she's sixteen and a force to be reckoned with."

Jaguar's mouth dropped open at that, and she stared, horrified.

"No! You have to be kidding me. Not her, ANYONE but that little know it all!" she exploded.

Surprised, Luke raised an eyebrow. "You know her?"

"We've met," Jaguar said shortly, and Luke smiled, ignoring her tone.

"Well good then, you should have no problem convincing her."

"Convincing her…Luke, no. You don't understand…I want nothing to do with this girl, and she would completely fail this program," Jaguar protested.

But at midnight, she found herself heading to the town square, shivering in the night air, and cursing Luke for somehow roping her into this. She had hoped the girl simply wouldn't come, letting her off the hook…but When she arrived, there Crystal was, smirking and calling out to her.

"Hey lady…what are you here for? Come to recruit?"