Chapter 8: Misery at Dusk

Mina was on her walk home from school when she first saw him, surrounded by orbs of rainbow light, juggling them looking more and more amused as he jibed the crowd into his act. He threw a backflip and the balls collided together in an explosion that turned into a flock of butterflies. The crowd burst into applause, and he bowed, his cape swishing behind him, amusement lighting his face as he finished his act, before beginning to walk around with a hat, people threw coins into the hat, talking cheerfully. Mina hesitated biting her lip, before walking forward a couple of steps, and putting a few notes into the hat, as he smiled at her.

'Sorry, I'd give you more but my parents cut my allowance,' she said awkwardly, trying to get him to talk to her.

'Well you could always give me a kiss to pay up the rest,' he offered, dark brown eyes glistening in some sort of moderately sadistic pleasure, which oddly made him that much more attractive.

Mina gaped at him, twitching slightly before he laughed at her and said, 'Don't worry about it, for a pretty girl like you, I'd do the show for free,' he said and completely blindsiding her, he planted a kiss on her hand before moving onto the rest of the crowd, although he did look back over his shoulder and wink at her when a little girl was babbling about his "magical powers."

Mina could feel the blush lighting her cheeks, so she turned and walked away, but she could have sworn she felt his eyes follow her as she left. How on Earth had she not seen this guy before? He was probably one of the most attractive guys she'd seen in a very long time, and he'd been wearing a cape and doing magic tricks, she had no idea how she was not supposed to find that attractive. Admittedly he was definitely older than her, he probably was something like late teens, early twenties, and she was only sixteen, but still, he was gorgeous.

His skin had a vague Hispanic touch to it, which really brought out his ridiculously amazing eyes, which were a bright brown, filled with a strange kind of glow that she just could not explain. His hair had been shaggy, hanging in his face, a darkish-brown, and there was a little bit of stubble on his face, only a little, not enough to look tacky but the perfect balance. He's been wearing a sleeveless shirt revealing arms that clearly showed the muscles he had, and something about his smile just could make anyone want to smile, bright and sort of lopsided but really, really cute.

'Calm down Mina, you've seen him for about twenty seconds,' she chided herself quietly as she walked down the street, before a small grin slowly formed on her face, 'But he is so cute!'

Seb was curled up on his bed, eyes closed; mind reeling as he tried desperately to make sense of what had just happened. He had flown! He'd just floated around the room! That wasn't possible, it wasn't right, it denied all the laws of physics and gravity, and yet he had spent nearly ten minutes floating up around his ceiling, freaking out because he hadn't known how to get down, and ended up just falling out of the sky, collapsing on his bed in a weird position, not moving out of it since because he hadn't wanted to start floating again.

He was probably getting close to sleeping when he heard the sound of a key in the lock and then heard the door slam. His eyes snapped open at once and he slowly sat up. His mother had been out for a little while, not that he had really noticed, and now evidently she was back, no doubt with at least one hundred or more dollars' worth of top ups for her stash.

He groaned loudly, when would this nightmare end? Resigning himself to go and see what he could do to maybe prevent her from giving herself alcohol poisoning, he dragged himself out of his room.

'Mum?' he asked cautiously when he saw her dump the bag on the kitchen counter and rummage through the collection of bottles inside, before she selected one and pulled it out, examining the clear liquid inside it with dull eyes.

His shoulders sagged as she pulled off the cap, pulled out a glass from the cupboard and went and collapsed on the couch. He knew that she had reasons, that this was her way of coping with her own emotional pain, but he still hated it, and at times, hated her for her withdrawal. But there was nothing he could do, she didn't look at him anymore, she looked straight through him, the only thing he showed emotion for was the liquid that helped her numb herself from the rest of the world.

'Mum? Please don't,' he crossed to her as she poured a glass and placed the bottle on the table.

As she drained the glass, he thought for a second about what to do. He could just disappear again and stand by as she smashed herself, like he nearly always did, or he could act. He reached out and took hold of the bottle and went to pick it up and take it away when his mother grabbed his wrist.

'Don't touch it!' she hissed, voice cracking, but he knew that she wasn't really talking to him, all she knew was something was trying to take it away from her.

'Then don't have anymore!' He snapped in reply.

His mother didn't acknowledge him; she just swiped it up off the table and went to remove the cap once more. Seb felt like screaming at her, but he just reached out and went to gently remove the bottle from her grasp, firmly keeping a lid on his emotions, he knew getting angry or upset wasn't going to get him anywhere with her.

'Come on mum, no more. Not tonight, you've had enough,' he said carefully, but she just looked right through him,

She didn't even seem to notice he was there, although that was normal now, she hadn't actually looked at him properly for a long time now, so caught up in her downward spiral of emotions that she had evidently all but forgotten she had a son at all. However, when he pulled the glass bottle from her hand, something in her snapped and her eyes focused on him, almost like he was a threat. With a feral snarl, she wrenched it back into her hands and, with an almost animal like instinct she lashed out with it. Seb couldn't help but cry out as it slammed against his side, shattering on impact, the wine inside splurging out and splashing across the carpet. The glass of the bottle slashed through his jumper and sliced his skin and the impact made his ribs buckle with a few dull cracks He doubled over, arms wrapped around his throbbing chest, feeling as blood oozed out from in between his fingers. His mother didn't even notice his pain, she just stared at the broken glass in her hands like it was the most important thing in the world and she had just lost every reason to live.

Seb didn't really know fully what he was doing when he sprinted from the apartment. All he knew was that he couldn't stay there, he couldn't be anywhere near her. He needed to escape from that place, he needed to get away. But he couldn't, he didn't have anyone else, there was no one else in his life that cared about him at all, it had been that way for a while and somehow, he didn't think that it was going to change.

...

'Alright kids, Family Fun Time remember, chop, chop, come on.'

Ally could hear her mother from all the way up in her attic bedroom, where she was lying on the elephant patterned bed, staring at the kid's cartoon, puppy dog and wolf posters which decorated her walls. Below her she could hear Finn barrel rolling off his bed and could just picture him worming his way across the floor, too lazy to get up. Despite being twenty three, he was almost as immature as Ally at times and he was probably her favourite brother, he probably put the least effort into annoying her as well.

The groans of despair from the children of the Shorecoat family could have been heard from several miles away, not that they weren't justified. Family Fun Time, as their Dad had so un-imaginatively called it, always ended in disaster, with their family, it was impossible for it not to. Honestly anything involving Hayden and Hunter would end in disaster, and seeing as none of the Shorecoat kids were anywhere near normal, it was bound to end up in some sort of chaotic state.

Switching off her fairy lights and the fluffy lamp Ally opened the trap-door and slid down the ladder, intent on landing neatly on the floor, but instead her hand slipped and she fell with a loud squeal, and crashed on top of Alec, nearly knocking him to the floor.

'Christ you little klutz, get off me,' he groaned as he dumped her on her feet.

'Oopsies, sorry Alec,' she giggled as he glowered at her.

Alec glared at her and stormed down the corridor to the stairs, clumping down the stairs, making the house vibrate in every slamming step. This was typical Alec. He was always grumpy, and he didn't seem to be capable of tolerating Ally's usual happiness, his main line about it was along the lines of, "Anything that can smile for more than three hours at a time and not stop for a second is inhuman, and unable to be killed." He was the second eldest, and didn't really get along with anyone in the family or anyone in general.

That was when Hayden and Hunter ran past, screaming at the top of their lungs, nearly bowling her over as they jumped off the top of the stairs to the floor below, still yelling out, 'The aliens are coming!' before Ally heard a clump which was usually associated with them having turned the couch over to hide under it.

Sera walked out of her room, still in a bright green face mask with hair curlers wrapped into her hair, in a dressing gown, clearly the alien that the twins had been shrieking about, 'Oh for god's sake, when will those two grow up?'

'I thought it was against the rules for anyone in this family to grow up?' Roy said wriggling along the ground wrapped in a sleeping bag, half way down the stairs.

'Clearly shown by the fact you're doing that and you're twenty one,' Sera laughed.

'Shut up ET, no one else seems to have a problem with it in the college dorms,' Carter said strolling out of his room wearing jeans, a t-shirt and ducky slippers, 'Heck, I've shown up to class in a bee costume and no one even blinked.'

Carter proceeded to start kicking Roy down the stairs with his slippers, before deciding it would be more fun to get a ride, and stood on top of him, and started pulling his way down the bannisters. Sera rolled her eyes at them, before she turned to Ally, examining her with a slightly critical eye. Ally just stood there, rocking back and forth on her feet, cheeks puffed out, not seeming to notice that something was different about her at all.

'Ah, Ally?' Sera asked, 'What have you done to your hair?'

'Is the fuzz acting up again? Because remember, I don't really care,' she pointed out.

'Ah... it's not... that... well yeah, of course, it's you, but... that's not what I'm talking about...' Sera said awkwardly.

'What? Do I have horns?' she asked like it was a genuine possibility, 'A tail? Wings? Aw! I want wings!'

'No Ally, that's not it... it's just that...' Sera sighed before she stepped forward and pulled a bit of Ally's hair in front of her face, 'How long has it been this colour?'

'What do you mean?' Ally asked trying to pull herself out of Sera's grip.

'You're going blonde,' Sera said in some sort of weird state of shock.

'But... no! I'm not blonde, I'm a crunchy, I'm not blonde and no one can make me be, and that's that!' she said stubbornly crossing her arms and puffing out her cheeks again.

'Ah, I don't really think it's a choice Ally, I mean really... your hair is a pretty spectacular bright blonde,' Sera said still not sure how to break it to her sister.

Ally blinked at her a few times, her green eyes reflecting confusion, before it suddenly seemed to dawn on her, 'Ooh, right, it's blonde...Wait? It's blonde?! Nooo! Does this mean I'm going to turn stupid? Oh, right...heh heh, I'm already stupid, my bad. But why is it blonde? I don't want to be blonde!'

'Come on, let's take you to look in a mirror, I mean it's not that bad-'

'I don't want to be blonde!' Ally was wailing loudly.

Sera calmly grabbed her little sister by her wrist and started pulling her back down the corridor into her boy band plastered room before placing her in front of the mirror on the vanity and saying, 'Now, deal with it.'

'Why am I blonde!?' Ally shrieked, screaming loudly, clutching at her hair.

'It was probably Hayden and Hunter's idea of a joke,' Sera sighed, 'I mean; no one else would do this-'

'HAYDEN! HUNTER! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!?' Ally screamed loud enough to be heard three streets over.

Hayden and Hunter appeared around the door, not even seeming to notice the blonde change before both saying perfectly in sync, 'We haven't even done anything yet.'

Sera looked at them with suspicious eyes, 'Yet?'

'You might not want to go into your wardrobe for the next couple of days Sera, you never know what you might find,' Hunter said innocently as he walked back down stairs.

'Or who,' Hayden pointed out as he closed the door and skipping off, the twins laughter being able to be heard through the walls.

...

'Alright, bye dad,' Toby sighed as he closed the chat window.

Toby sat back against the computer chair, breathing heavily, massaging his temples, it had not been a good day. Not that he could ever tell his parents about that, for three very clear reasons, they wouldn't be able to do anything, they didn't care and they'd rather send him to a shrink then talk to him their selves.

'Master Toby? Do you want something to eat?'

He looked up vaguely from his desk, eyes fixing on the elderly butler, Manuel, whom his parents had hired to take care of the house and him while they were overseas. Along with a cook, a maid and a driver, Manuel was the closest thing to a parent system Toby had. He definitely regarded him as family, but he knew it wasn't the same, he just knew.

'Yeah, sure,' he sighed barely looking up.

'How are your parents?' he asked.

'Mph,' Toby shrugged, 'Same as usual, landing business deals and making more and more money than anyone else actually needs.'

'Is there something wrong Master Toby?'

'Not really, I'm just not even sure what the point in them calling anymore is,' he sighed.

'What do you mean-?' Manuel began but Toby frustratedly cut him off.

'I mean, they haven't been in the country for two and a half years, if they actually cared they wouldn't have let that happen,' he hissed, everything spilling out before he could help it, 'And seeing as that has happened, I don't know why they even bother calling, heck it isn't even them. It's just Dad, Mum will just make a monthly appearance, probably because they're trying to make me not realise that their relationship fell apart before I was even freakin' born.'

'Master Toby…' Manuel began.

'Ah, sorry Manuel, I uh… I'm not hungry tonight, tell Cook he can go home, I'm just going to go bed early tonight,' he said quietly.

'Are you sure you're alright?' Manuel asked gently.

'I'm fine,' he said flatly, 'I just need to sleep.'

Manuel nodded respectfully and closed the door, switching the light off as he went, leaving Toby sitting in the dark, staring at the computer screen, biting his lip slightly as he pushed the chair along the ground and pretty much barrel rolled onto his bed, flopping back on the bed, pulling his jacket off and throwing it forcefully against the wall. He stared at his ceiling, forcing his mind off his parents, and onto what would undoubtedly happen tomorrow. He'd seen what he'd seen, whether it made sense or not, and the more and more he thought about it, the harder and harder it got to deny it. And that meant only one thing, and it was probably going to get him killed;

He was going to have to go talk to Lyra.

...

The loud thudding on the steps and the crash of the door slamming open, followed by a very loud shout of, 'DAD!' was what announced Scarlett's arrival.

Her bright, green eyes glinting in rage she stormed into the kitchen as Dr Champion sighed and threw his pen down onto what looked like a pile of university papers.

'Yes, oh dearest daughter of mine,' he sighed deeply.

'What the hell were you doing at my school?!' Scarlett half shrieked.

'Why are you so wound up?' he asked boredly.

'Because I want to know why you were at my school and you didn't tell me!' Scarlett's voice rose again, and this time Dr Champion held up his hands in mock surrender.

'Okay, okay, look, I was there for two reasons: one, I wanted to get a closer look at my test subjects and two, I couldn't really say no to an old friend of mine.'

'How do you even know Dr Meev?' Scarlett seemed to forget how mad she was at her dad and her voice took on a note of curiosity, lowering back down to a normal level.

'Sweetheart, every doctor knows each other. Believe it or not, we are quite social creatures,' Dr Champion said patiently as he picked up his pen again and went back to marking.

Scarlett just raised one perfect eyebrow, 'You came to my school to a do a presentation on some sciency gibberish, simply so you could see your test subjects? You couldn't have at least given me, I don't know, ten minutes warning!? You are so embarrassing!'

'Why? So you could have changed out of that highly inappropriate outfit?' Dr Champion asked, not looking up, 'And besides, I don't see how I was embarrassing you. I didn't look at you until you started yelling at me.'

He didn't even look up, remaining completely calm as his daughter screamed at him. Absent mindedly putting a B+ on someone's paper. This however only made Scarlett even angrier with his continued ignoring of her anger.

'Dad!' Scarlett yelled and he looked up, seeming somewhat impatient.

'Well, Scarlett, it's the truth. Don't think I haven't seen the contents of your wardrobe young lady and what you wear to school! You'll have to start thinking a bit more about how much skin you show because if you're not careful I'm going to start confiscating things.'

'Dad!' Scarlett groaned.

'Just be wary of that. Now, there was also something else I wanted to talk to you about.'

'What now?' Scarlett sat down huffily, crossing her arms.

'Dr Meev was telling me about how disruptive the class is. And I couldn't help but notice the implication of the two chairs up the back. I hope it doesn't mean that you've been ignoring the entire lesson by spending it with the jocks far closer than you should be,' Dr Champion looked at his daughter severely.

'Of course not Dad,' Scarlett said, sounding very, very sincere, which made him raise his eye brows, 'I'm serious dad. I don't do anything disruptive.'

'Are you telling me the truth?'

'Dad, do I look like someone who would lie?' Scarlett said flatly.

Dr Champion just rubbed his temples, looking away again, 'How many times have you told me that you're going over to Kali's place and then I find out that you've been out with a member of the football team?'

'Let me rephrase that. Dad, do I look like someone who would lie to you about school?'

All she got in response was a deep sigh.

'Okay, fine. I trust you. And one more thing before you disappear off to your room.'

'What?' Now Scarlett was sounding very impatient.

'Dr Meev said that he set homework, I fully expect that you'll be doing it.'

'Dad, I always do my homework,' Scarlett said with a "duh" expression set clearly on her face.

'Correction. You always say that you have no homework.'

'Because I don't,' she said shrugging it off like it was no big deal.

'Well, you have it tonight. So please go and do it,' Dr Champion smiled at his daughter who just glared at him, before getting to her feet and grabbing her bag off the floor.

'Whatever,' she snapped.

'Ah, ah, ah. Phone,' Dr Champion held out his hand.

Scarlett let out an exaggerated groan, stormed over to him and forced the phone into his hand, with a withering glare. Before turning and starting storming back up the stairs, but she'd only gotten half way up when there was another call from her father.

'Oh and just a warning, Net-Nanny is running at the moment, so no Facebook, because I will know,' He pointed at the computer on the desk, 'and I also expect you to show me when you finish.'

'Why are you being so strict?!' Scarlett demanded whipping around furiously, 'Seriously, is this any way to treat the daughter who got you six test subjects at once, which you could easily monitor? And I volunteered to help you! You're supposed to be being nice to me!'

'I am being nice to you. I'm looking out for you so you get the most out of your education,' Dr Champion smiled slightly.

'You are so annoying!' Scarlett yelled and stormed up the stairs.

'Please be careful of the door, I only got the hinges replaced a few days ago!' Dr Champion called after her.

'I hate you Dad!' she screeched furiously a loud bang ricocheting through the house.

'I love you too sweetheart.'


Hey all;

Zero Hour is really starting to heat up, and we're raring to go further, and get the next chapters up as often as possible. And to our two amazing reviewers, you've got our thanks for reviewing to our stories.

SagittarianArcher; we would to, we'd love to fly around like that.

GreenBamboo; Hey there, long time no see, we can understand your point but we feel that in the end this version is going to end up better; we were taking it to slow, but don't worry, we're doing our best to bring out the characters as well, we hope you can come to love this version as well.

So to all our wonderful readers, and wonderful reviewers, please drop us a line and let us know what you think of Zero Hour, any feedback is welcome no matter what you think.

~Selina