Chapter One

The first thing Gavin notices when he arrives home is that his brother's car isn't in the driveway. When he opens the door and steps inside, he sees a stark white note standing out in the darkness. It's from his father, and it's telling him that he's on a business trip and won't be back for at least a week. Gavin sighs to himself, glancing around at the ramshackle kitchen and wondering if it's even worth it to turn on the light for his brother when he returns home. He'll just be heading up to bed right away anyway, because he'll get home late from his job at the police station. He throws his keys down on the table before trudging his way up the stairs, ready to collapse immediately on his bed and knock out.

When Gavin goes into his bedroom, the last thing he expects is a soaked teenage boy floundering on his floor.

He lets out a shout and closes the door quickly, thankful that his brother and father aren't home. The boy in question raises his head at the sudden noise and takes in his surroundings curiously, before he sits on his haunches and stares up at Gavin in awe. It's as though the boy has never seen another person before, and his eyes are wide. In the back of Gavin's mind, he registers that the boy's eyes are a dark red. His hair is a fair blonde, and his skin is the palest he's ever seen. The boy is small and lithe, and he appears so fragile Gavin wants to try his best to make sure he doesn't break.

"Who the hell are you?" Gavin spats, trembling fingers reaching out to the doorknob for purchase.

The boy looks up at Gavin still, the wonder never leaving his face as he rises to his feet. He's dressed in a simple white dress shirt and denim jeans, and he isn't wearing anything on his feet. He brushes off his slender hands on his pants and brushes a hand through his mop of hair. "I'm . . . wow, are you human?"

His voice is raspy and high, like he's just now going through puberty even though he looks to be Gavin's age. Gavin stares in confusion and closes his mouth when he realizes he's opened it.

"What does that mean? Of course I'm human!"

Does this mean the boy isn't human? He looks perfectly human to Gavin, if a bit strange. He can see the outline of his slender body through his wet shirt, and nothing appears out of the ordinary, but when he speaks next, it sounds like a language he has never heard before.

His entire face lights up, and slurred, strange words spill from his pink lips. He spins around in a small circle and Gavin is left staring in confusion and shock. When the boy turns towards him once more, he looks embarrassed, and clears his throat.

"I'm sorry, I just . . . I never thought I'd see a human. And this must mean . . . wow."

"Mean what? What the hell are you talking about?!" Gavin demands and the boy jumps a little. "Who are you and how did you get in my room? And why are you wet?"

The boy shrugs nonchalantly and smiles at Gavin, his white teeth blinding. "I dunno! I must have been pulled here. You must have done a summoning ritual or something."

Gavin's face falls as he realizes what's going on. Once the shock wears off, he's able to think clearly, and he's cursing the fact that this small town knows everything about him. "This is a joke. Who put you up to this? Look, I'll drive you home; just tell me who sent you here."

The boy tilts his head in confusion. "You mean you didn't summon me? Someone else must have, then! I'm Ricca. And judging by all these shiny plaques with names on them, you must be . . . Gavin?"

Ricca appears to be entirely pleased with his revelations, and he places his hands on his hips triumphantly. Gavin stares more because that's all he can manage to do. He knows he isn't insane, he's had that checked out a million times, and his therapist said hallucinations weren't going to happen with his conditions. Ricca is certainly real, and he must be playing a prank.

"Right," Gavin starts. "Ricca. Let's get you home, okay? Do you need a towel? You can explain everything to me on the car ride over."

"The what?"

"Are you deaf? I'm driving you home. Come on, let me get you dried off."

Ricca huffs in exasperation. "I'm not a prank. I'm a Kinnari. I'm here to protect you!"

Gavin blinks.

"Someone must have summoned me," Ricca explains. "I can't just be here by myself! I came through from another dimension to protect you, and I can't leave you."

A sinking feeling settles in Gavin's stomach and he leans against the door. No one would make a prank like this. It's not making fun of him or anything, it just sounds stupidly crazy. And that's when he starts thinking about the consequences of seeing someone like Ricca. "So you aren't a prank. You're not real. They told me I wouldn't have hallucinations like this. I thought this shit was finally over. . . ."

"I'm not a-!"

But Ricca trails off when Gavin covers his eyes and grits his teeth, willing the apparition out of his mind. When he parts his fingers, the boy is still standing there, now with concern plastered across his porcelain face. Ricca moves forward and takes Gavin's hands from his face and places them in his own. They're warmer than Gavin would expect, especially since they are dripping with water. It doesn't even register in his mind that the boy is touching him, and so that would mean he must be real. Gavin feels tears prickle at his eyes, because the boy isn't going away. He wishes so bad that he'd go away, but he's not. He'll have to tell Alec. He'll have to say he needs help again, which only means more medication and his grades can't handle that sort of—

"Relax," Ricca whispers, and rubs his thumbs over the tops of Gavin's shaking palms, but Gavin still jumps slightly. "Let me show you, okay? I'll show you my Kinnari form and you'll believe me. I must have been switched when I came through. Trust me, it's hard for me to take in too; a few minutes ago humans were just a story to me."

Gavin helplessly shakes his head, as if trying to rid his ears of the words Ricca has spoken. Tears slip hopelessly down his cheeks and Ricca wipes them away, shushing him softly. Gavin finds it ridiculous that his hallucination is trying to comfort him, so he swats his hands away and looks up desperately into red eyes. He can't respond, and he knows it's bad for him to even acknowledge that he's here. He knows that if hallucinations ever happen, he has to ignore them. But despite whatever his insides are telling him, Ricca seems more real than anything he's come into contact with lately. The numbness that had long since settled over his body has lifted at the sight of him. Ricca pulls his bottom lip between his teeth and steps back.

"I guess you don't know what a Kinnari is," Ricca says softly. "It's just what I am! I have two forms, where I can look like you and another where I'm in my true form. I have wings, the whole outfit."

Gavin scoffs. There's no way his mind could make this up, and yet there's no way it's real.

"Just watch," Ricca says, and before he knows it, a bright light is filling the room.

And Gavin starts screaming.

The bright light stops instantly as Ricca's eyes widen in shock, because he never meant to hurt him, and Ricca is by Gavin's side, trying to hold him up. His heart is pounding as he watches Gavin hold his head and clutch handfuls of slick, black hair. Did he accidentally hurt his human? Quickly, Ricca assesses him for injuries, but doesn't find anything. All he can do is say his name and try to pull him back to reality, because he certainly isn't even showing that he sees Ricca anymore.

Gavin can't even breathe because he's dragged back into his youth, and all he hears is the splashing of water and all he sees is blinding light. He hears screaming and words he doesn't understand, and he scratches weakly at the wall in his mind to let him out of the horrific nightmare. His world is imploding and he is exploding and a white hot pain spreads throughout his head and all he can do is scream. Eventually, his room fades back into focus, and Ricca is worriedly holding his shoulders and whisper-shouting his name.

"You asshole," Gavin seethes. "What was that?! Are you real or not, because if you are, someone told you to do that! Who the hell is making you do this?"

"I-," Ricca starts and then lowers his head. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you? I didn't mean to, honest. What can I do to help?"

"I'm not hurt," Gavin mumbles and gets shakily to his feet. "You triggered me, moron. I have PTSD."

"What's that?"

"Post Traumatic—wait, why the hell am I telling you this?" Gavin shakes his head as if to rid the absurdity from his mind. He glares for a moment at Ricca, before deciding that whether or not he's real, he still needs to leave. Gavin just wants to sleep. He doesn't have time for his mental issues right now. "Get out my house! Or my head! Or wherever you are! Just leave me alone!"

Ricca looks ashamed. He's already screwed up his first relationship with a human and he doesn't even know what he's done wrong. But Gavin is moving to his bed to hang his head in his hands, and Ricca mumbles another small apology before climbing out his window. Gavin doesn't even react. Ricca's heart is heavy and numb, and he watches for a while until Gavin lies down on his side and slips into a restless sleep with his hands placed around his middle protectively. He's shocked that his human was so averse to him; he was sure that they would have a connection. The legends didn't say anything about this, anything about the humans being less than perfect. He's so confused that he decides to clear his mind and explore the new world he's been transported to. Ricca fights tears as he climbs onto the roof, making sure his light is well-hidden from Gavin, and switches form.

The deep light consumes his being, and he's filled with warmth. He feels his skin tearing familiarly as wings sprout and grow from his back, and pins and needles erupt throughout his veins as he feels feathers tear to the surface of his body. He's glowing now, and probably drawing attention to himself, so he quickly flies off to the highest perch he can find.

It ends up being a tall tower, something that looks to be a faded green color, though it's hard to tell because of the night. It says "ELLIS" in large letters on the front, and Ricca wonders who that is. This world's king, perhaps? The tower has several long legs that stretch down into the ground, and he makes a note to ask Gavin what exactly the tower means. It's obviously important, because it overlooks the main road of the world. He feels a small twinge of pain in his chest when he touches down on top of the tower, and he rubs it as he takes in his surroundings.

This world is strange. The homes all look the same, and there are roads which are made of a black, smooth rock with odd metal contraptions sitting on them. Lights illuminate the road, and Ricca wonders what sort of fire doesn't flicker like the ones in these lamps. Out in the distance, all he can see is fields. Perhaps they focus on agriculture in this world, because they appear to be farmlands. It's flat for as far as he can see, which stands as an odd contrast to his own world.

He's just about to look for a body of water, something he would have had to be pulled out of judging by how soaking wet he is, when he spots a flicker of black streak across the sky. His eyes fly to the speck, and he determines by the feel of its energy that it's another Kinnari. With a surge of kinship, he smiles to himself and stands to chase after his brother. The Kinnari appears to be a darker shade than he, for it blends in carefully with its surroundings. Ricca, however, is quick on his wings and catches up quickly.

"Brother!" Ricca says enthusiastically once he catches up with the other Kinnari, and the avian turns quickly to look at him.

"Ricca," says the other Kinnari. "So glad you could make it."

Before Ricca can ask what this means, he's thrown into the ground and kicked in the stomach. Someone is holding his wings and his insides fill with a terrified adrenaline at being captive. He struggles, and instantly his instincts go from kind to vicious. His energy pushes relentlessly at his attackers, and they hold it back with minor effort. They must be far more powerful than him and he realizes this with sick clarity as he receives a few more kicks to the ribs.

"I know you're going to try and stop us," says the Kinnari. Ricca wishes he knew his name so he could chase after him once he's free. "Ricca, you've always been one to disobey the King."

Ricca's heart stops, partially because he's afraid of his past deception being widely discovered and the fact that the King has anything to do with what's happening to him. "The King? Is that why I'm here?"

"It's why we're here," says the Kinnari. "Why don't you tell us exactly how you aren't going to find the Leak?"

"What Leak?" Ricca stumbles on his words as he looks up brokenly at his brother. "I was pulled here. Someone summoned me."

At that, the other Kinnari pauses. "So it seems I didn't have to catch your attention after all? You don't even know anything about this. Fine. Don't interfere."

"There's a Leak?" Ricca asks tentatively. That's not good. That means their corrupt King is trying to gain untold power by using another dimension. "Where is it?"

The Kinnari laughs and motions with his hands towards Ricca's captors. They twist his wings just enough so that they don't break, but terror rips through his mind all the same and he clenches his eyes shut in anticipation. When he opens them, the Kinnari around him are gone, and he's left lying on the ground in the woods with a sharp pain in his chest, and he's sure it's not just from the kicks to his ribs. Being away from his human must physically harm him. He decides going to Gavin's house, at least to sit on his roof and let the pain ebb away, wouldn't disturb him too much.

He gets to his feet. He needs to tell Gavin, because he's the only person Ricca knows in this world. The exhilaration of discovering a new realm fades from his mind as he lets solitude consume him. His eyes go dark. Ricca is alone, as always.

When Gavin wakes, dawn is breaking and Ricca is looking at him, wide-eyed, from the edge of his bed.

He jumps slightly and rubs his eyes groggily, accepting the fact that Ricca probably won't go away if he just wills it. He needs to tell Alec so he can quickly get the proper medication. He just hopes they won't put him in confinement until he stops seeing Ricca, in which case, he'd probably just lie. "What are you still doing here?"

"Why is there light in the sky?" Ricca asks with a strange fear in his voice. Gavin just looks at him dumbly, so Ricca continues, "The light. It keeps coming, slowly, and it's like the night is going away."

"It's the sun, dumbass."

Ricca tilts his head and looks nervously out the window. Gavin is just stunned, and swings his legs over the bed to start getting ready for school. He hopes Ricca will at least give him peace while he concentrates on his school work. It's then he realizes how insane he's being, because Ricca isn't real, and he shakes his head again as if to rip Ricca from his mind.

The blond simply turns towards him and looks at the floor tentatively before speaking. "I'm sorry I scared you. I really didn't mean it."

"You're still scaring me," Gavin laments as he removes his bed shirt and searches for a clean one. His room isn't large, and it seems tight with two people occupying the space. He breathes a little uneasily. "You're not real."

Ricca sighs heavily. "I am real. And I need your help, so I was hoping maybe you could listen to me now."

Gavin turns to glare at the boy, whose eyes widen at the sudden negative attention. He looks so innocent and Gavin can only shake his head. "You can't be real. I'm just stressed out and I probably have to take more stupid medication to make you go away, and I'm probably not even supposed to be talking to you, because that just encourages it."

Before Ricca can defend himself, Gavin's brother knocks on the door and opens it without asking. Gavin jumps, and the first thought in his head is that he hopes his brother didn't hear any speaking. But his mind turns to mush as Alec directs his attention to the boy sitting on Gavin's bed.

"When did your friend get here?" Alec wonders aloud. He waves his hand to Ricca who only stares back in confusion, his eyes flitting between the elder and Gavin. "I haven't seen you before. It's good that Gavin is meeting new people. I was gonna wake you up, Gav, but I guess there's no need."

Gavin's mouth is hanging open. Alec can see Ricca, right in front of him, and Ricca realizes this about the same time. His mouth splits into a grin as he claps his hands in delight, and Alec looks strangely at him. Quickly, Gavin closes his mouth and nods at his brother, who promptly shuts the door after shooting him a wary look.

"He can see me, too!" Ricca said happily. "I'm real! Now you have proof. Can you please help me now?"

"Hold up," Gavin says, still shirtless, and he turns to face Ricca head on.

Ricca looks up at him expectantly.

"You're real."

"Yes."

"You're real."

"Yes!"

"What the hell is a . . . Kin . . . rari or whatever? And why did you show up here soaking last night? Who are you?"

Ricca's smile falls a little. "I'm a Kinnari. I'm from a different world and I got pulled through to yours somehow. I guess the way into your dimension is through a body of water or something, and I ended up here because I have to protect you. I . . . well, to be honest, I don't know much about it. Humans are just a legend where I'm from. We can be summoned to serve as guardians and servants to humans, but I've never heard it being done before for real."

"Summoned?" Gavin said slowly. "I didn't summon you, or whatever. And I promise, no one around here knows what a Kinrara is."

Ricca's eyes darken and his eyebrow rises. "Kinnari."

"Whatever."

"Well, someone must have given me to you. I don't think I can leave you. Last night when I got far away, my chest started hurting. I think we're connected."

"Do you actually know anything about this? Or are you just guessing? I mean, you have to know this is weird, right? You saying you're from another dimension, it's kind of totally crazy and you can't blame me for thinking you aren't real."

"Well, I am real," Ricca stresses. "I'm here. And I think something is going on in this world, and you're the only person I know here so I need your help."

Gavin can't help it; he lets out a short and harsh laugh before finally putting on a shirt. He tousles his hair and tugs on a pair of jeans over his boxers. "Please. I just want to graduate."

"Graduate to what?"

"School," Gavin quips. "Don't you have school where you're from?"

Ricca looks offended. "Of course. But we don't need to . . . graduate. We take classes that prepare us for whatever job the King decides we need to take."

Gavin raises an eyebrow, matching what Ricca did earlier. "Right. So, what do you need my help with? Assuming I even can. And I don't really want to."

Ricca looks away because he knows Gavin will disagree with whatever he's planning. "I saw others of my kind earlier. And they said something about a Leak between dimensions, which is decidedly not good. It means the King from my world wants to start taking over territory here. And he's not very benevolent. I need you to help me find the Leak and help me close it. I can't do it by myself." He sheepishly smiles up at Gavin before saying, "Also, you're kind of stuck with me, it seems."

"And why is that, again?" Gavin says accusingly.

"One of your guardians must have been killed," Ricca says matter-of-factly. He still seems to be treading lightly, though, a memory of the night before flashing through his mind. "And then someone must have summoned me to be your sort of replacement caretaker."

Gavin freezes, his shoulders going stiffer than stone. His hazel eyes go cold. His previously warm, brown skin seems like sandstone now, and though he appears steely Ricca knows his insides are ready to blow away in the wind. "My mother died when I was seven."

Ricca's eyes are suddenly filled with confusion, and Gavin gets the feeling that something is very off. "Seven? You look older now. I wonder what the delay was."

"I'm eighteen, as of yesterday. Maybe there was a mistake."

Ricca looks up at him through his dark eyelashes. "Or maybe someone was keeping me back."

Gavin purses his lips and distinctly chooses not to reply to that. He quickly grabs his bag and opens the door before starting down the steps, knowing that Ricca will follow him like a lost puppy. Once he gets to his car, he sees Ricca approach the automobile tentatively. His skin seems to glow in the sunlight, and it takes the boy a few moments to register that it's even bright outside. He raises an arm to shield his eyes.

"Why is it so bright? Where's that light coming from?"

Gavin scoffs. "Do you really not know what a sun is? It's just daytime. It happens when there's no nighttime. Pretty simple."

Ricca looks confused, but he doesn't get the chance to speak. Gavin is opening the door to his car and laughs at the look on Ricca's face. "Are you gonna get in?"

"You can get in it?"

Gavin throws his head back on the headrest. "It's a car. We're gonna use it to drive to my school, because I obviously can't get rid of you or you get hurt. Now, get in."

Ricca walks around to the other side of the car; after all, the concept isn't too hard to grasp. He slips into the seat, marveling at the layout of the dashboard before him, and spares a glance at Gavin, who moves over him to buckle him in. Ricca raises his hands up to let Gavin strap him into the odd contraption, and Gavin laughs to himself slightly as he turns on the machine.

Ricca jumps, and Gavin can't help but crack up. The boy scowls at him for laughing, and folds his arm indignantly. "What's so funny?! I've never seen one of these before, I didn't know it did that!"

"Don't be shocked when it moves," Gavin jokes as he pulls out of the driveway, and he notices how the Kinnari is blatantly trying to hide the fear in his features. "Don't you use stuff to get around?"

"My world is small," Ricca says slowly and watches the buildings pass by. "Though, this is smaller. I've heard legends where the human dimension is filled with a million people, and oceans as far as anyone can see. This just looks . . . flat. And empty. And there can't be more than a thousand beings here."

Gavin shrugs. "This isn't the whole world, it's just Ellis, Kansas. And we have, like, two thousand people. We're landlocked. The ocean is about twenty hours' drive from here."

"Ellis," Ricca says. "It says that on the big tower overlooking the town."

"The water tower?" and when Ricca looks confused, he explains, "It holds water and pressurizes it so we can use it for showers and fire hoses and stuff. Did you go there last night?"

Ricca still looks uncomfortable with the term 'last night', as though night should never end. "Yes, I think so. I thought it was important. Like, religiously."

"Nah. You're looking for the church, back behind us," he says as they turn onto Monroe Street. "This is a pretty small town and a lot of people are religious, but not everyone is like that. And not everyone thinks the same thing."

"You keep telling me how big this place is, but I don't see it," Ricca dismisses. "Not until I see it for myself."

Gavin smirks. "Try seven billion people. It's big, I promise. I'll show you pictures when we get back to my house later."

Ricca's eyes go wide at that, and briefly Gavin wonders what the people at school are going to say about his deep red irises. "Billion? How is that even possible?! You're not crawling all over each other?"

"Jeeze, the world's a big place," Gavin defends. They pull into the school parking lot and find a space easily, and Gavin realizes they woke up early and he drove without even thinking twice about it. "We're in the middle of nowhere, comparatively. If I had the money I'd take you to see a big city, or an ocean. Sorry you had to cross dimensions somewhere so shitty."

Ricca laughs, and Gavin feels triumphant for reaching his sense of humor. "It isn't your fault. I bet my world would look childish compared to this one. We have a few hundred thousand Kinnari, at most. It seems so small now."

Gavin stops the car and steps out, figuring they can use the extra time to come up with something about Ricca being an exchange student. "Don't. I'm sure you guys have way cooler stuff. You said you could, what, change form?"

Gavin tosses Ricca a pair of sandals he has stashed away in his backseat, and Ricca looks at them carefully before putting them on, noticing Gavin's footwear and decides that's normal in this world

Ricca looks pleased with himself and follows Gavin up to the building. "Yes. I can switch to my Kinnari form, and I have wings when I do. It's not really all that special or anything."

"So, I guess it makes sense you don't know what cars are," Gavin mumbles. "You have no need for them."

Gavin pushes open the door to the school and Ricca walks inside, looking curiously at his newly found companion. He motions for the Kinnari to follow him into the office, where a stout woman sits. Her hair is a light grey and she has square spectacles sitting daintily on her nose. When she hears the door open, she perks up and smiles at the both of them.

"Who's this young man, Mr. Gadhavi?" she says sweetly. Ricca smiles shyly and steps up to the counter and looks expectantly at Gavin.

"Uh, this is Ricca. He's visiting from . . . New York. I was wondering if he could just stick around with me today, because he's going to move here next week and I want him to get accumulated with the town."

To his surprise, the receptionist nods and gives him a visitor's pass sticker to give to Ricca. "Have him write his name on there, sweetie, and just makes sure he follows you."

Ricca looks at Gavin with pleasant surprise on his face, and takes the sticker without hesitation to write his name on it with a pen from the desk. For a terrifying moment, he thinks Ricca will write in some odd language, like the same one he babbled off the night before, but he writes his name in neat, English letters. Gavin seriously wonders how the hell he even knows English. Ricca proudly places the sticker over his heart—he guesses they have the same anatomy?—and motions for Gavin to lead the way.

He takes a deep breath and leads them both to Gavin's first class, which is American History. In a school this small and this isolated, the class is almost unbearable, because the opinions of everyone around him are usually racist and terrible. As an Indian American living in Kansas, he's always had trouble fitting in, and he doesn't really have any friends. Part of him, though a little confused at his situation, is glad Ricca seems to like him so much.

They have a few minutes before the class starts, and Ricca seems to be adamantly ignoring the whispers directed towards him as he looks at Gavin and asks, "So, you're gonna help me, right?"

Gavin blinks. "Uh, I don't even know what you want my help with, really. You said there was a Leak between dimensions? How can I help with that?"

Ricca shrugs and he knows that can't be a good sign. "I just know I can't do it alone. And besides, it's already pretty weird that I got summoned to you and you don't know who did it, right?"

"How do you know it wasn't a mistake?"

The Kinnari rubs his chest absently. "I can feel it. I wouldn't be in pain when I'm away from you if I wasn't supposed to protect you."

"It sounds like an electrical dog collar," Gavin says blandly, and he opens his history notes to prepare for class. "I don't understand why I can't just . . . wish you free. Like in Aladdin."

"I'm going to assume that's a cultural reference I'm not supposed to get."

"The point is, I don't even think you know what's going on. How am I going to help?"

"I'm thinking we could track down other Kinnari. I saw some last night and I didn't recognize them, and they mentioned something about the King, which is crazy, and-"

Gavin holds up a hand as a gesture of silence. "You are going to go through all of this and explain your whole world to me if I'm going to understand this. Got it?"

Ricca nods. "Sure. Later, though. Not where other people can hear, because everyone here already thinks that you're not entirely in the right mind."

Gavin freezes. "Can you hear other people's thoughts?"

"No? I can just tell by the way they keep snickering at you."

They both turn their attention to a group of kids in front of the class, and when Ricca sees the way they point at Gavin, he waves and smiles. Instantly, they turn and shut up, looking embarrassed. The corners of Gavin's mouth pull upward at the idea of having someone there to defend him.

"I could get used to having you around," he jokes, meeting Ricca's eyes, and the Kinnari beams.

The bell rings shrilly and Ricca starts, to Gavin's amusement, while the teacher stands and scans quickly to take attendance. She's wearing a green pencil skirt with a gossamer yellow blouse, and her mousy brown hair is pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head. Her hazel eyes fall on Ricca, and she smiles.

"I see we have a new student," she says amiably. "Would you like to introduce yourself?"

"His name is Ricca," Gavin says before he can respond, because he doesn't want Ricca saying something he doesn't mean to. "He's from New York. He's just following me around this week to survey the school because he's moving here next week."

"Thank you, Mr. Gadhavi, but I wasn't speaking to you," she says sternly and a familiar feeling of embarrassment fills his stomach.

"There's not much to tell," Ricca says to the teacher. "Don't mind me."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ricca. I'm Ms. Taggart."

As she turns away, Ricca looks sympathetically at him. Gavin just shrugs.

The class passes without anything really interesting happening, and the day continues this way until they go to Gavin's locker to switch out his books for the second half of his schedule. Ricca ends up staring in awe as Gavin opens the lock, which isn't the odd part, because he's been stupidly staring at simple things for hours now. He was fascinated by a mechanical pencil in math class. Gavin thinks it's cute before he catches himself using the word cute to describe Ricca, and kicks himself, because the last thing he needs is another reason for his fellow Kansans to rag on him.

The odd part comes when Gavin's locker is slammed shut by a body flying into it.

Ricca yelps and grabs Gavin's shirt to yank him back behind him, and Gavin rolls his eyes before getting a better look at what's happening. It's Tylar Sowards, whom Gavin is fairly unfamiliar with besides his name, and he's being socked in the face by a muscular black girl holding him in place with her unoccupied fist. It takes two teachers to pull her off, and when Gavin sees her face, he identifies her to Ricca.

"That's Hunter," he says to the Kinnari, who nods. "She's usually pretty quiet. I wonder what he said to piss her off."

"You call me that again and I'll rip your head off," she seethes at Tylar. "I'll tear your vocal chords out and make sure you never speak again!"

Tylar wipes blood from his nose and sneers at her. "Go home to Africa, Okar."

He pronounces the name wrong to top off the insult. Gavin knows what that feels like and he suddenly loses all sympathy for Tylar, passively hoping the blood drips down and stains his obviously expensive shirt.

Hunter's eyes blaze. Her flat-ironed hair is usually pretty well kept, but now it flies around her face and makes her appear wild. The teachers grab her arm roughly and lead the both of them to the principal's office. When Gavin turns to look at Ricca, the Kinnari appears stressed.

"Why did he call her that name? Okar?"

Gavin sighs and slings his bag over his shoulder before tapping Ricca's arm in a gesture to follow him to the next class. "Okar is her last name. He called her something else, something more insulting before he got slammed into the locker like an idiot."

Ricca bites his lip. "What did he mean by 'go home'?"

"I don't think I have enough time to explain racial segregation to you," Gavin says with a sigh. "Basically, the color of her skin makes her a target for jerks to pick on. Humans do that sometimes."

Ricca shakes his head solemnly and they sit down behind desks in the English classroom. "We have things like that, I think. I used to get picked on for having red eyes."

"Seriously? I thought they were cool."

Ricca smiles sheepishly, and is that a blush?, and he says, "I think your skin is a nice color."

Gavin looks away and bites his cheek to keep back his smile. "Thanks, Ricca."

The second half of the day passes as uneventfully as the first. One they're back in Gavin's car and driving back home, Gavin brings up their plans for that night.

"So, we're going hunting," Gavin says with a huff. "And we need to do it at night?"

"We have perpetual night," Ricca explains, and suddenly it clicks into place why he was so confused by the sun. "I heard rumors of the King taking away the light, but I was never sure if they were true, because it's always been night ever since I can remember."

"Yeah, your king seems like an ass," Gavin decrees. "Perpetual night, wants to rule multiple dimensions; I don't see why he's the King because if it were here we would have kicked him off the throne."

"I was trying."

"What?" Gavin says incredulously, because he can't even imagine Ricca doing anything even close to rebellious. The Kinnari always seems so innocent and naïve and the idea of him overthrowing royalty seems insane.

"I was trying to overthrow him before I came to you. I was supposed to be in his army and I while I was there I was gathering people to get him off the throne. But then I came to you."

Gavin bites his lip. "Does that mean without me none of this would be happening?"

Ricca laughs a little, an airy sort of thing, and looks out the window at the passing scenery when they turn onto Gavin's street. "No, I wouldn't have been able to rise up for a while, and I think this has been going on for some time now. There were three Kinnari last night, and that means they've come through with ease. More are on the way, I know it. We just have to find them and get them to tell us where the entrance is."

With a tight sigh, Gavin pulls into his driveway, and when he turns the car off, he just sits there, staring at his hands. Ricca looks over at him in confusion, expecting him to lead the way into his home.

"This is so weird," Gavin says quietly. "Dimensions and stuff. You seem to be taking so well to it, and I'm barely adjusting."

Ricca scratches the back of his head as if he's embarrassed. "Well, I at least sort of knew you existed. I think you're taking it pretty well, personally."

"Right," Gavin says as he uses his foot to help prop open his car door and he points at Ricca with his right hand. "You're going to explain everything to me. Let's go."

They trudge up the stairs to Gavin's room, and he's reminded of a vision of the previous night, when he first saw Ricca sprawled out on his floor. The memory seems ages ago, because of course he's still perplexed by the events that have transpired but he's not nearly as unfamiliar with Ricca. Now, they appear to be old friends. He's not quite sure why they had connected so quickly, but Gavin is glad they have, because it makes this whole ordeal a lot easier.

Ricca sits on his bed as if nothing comes more naturally to him. His ruby eyes take in their surroundings like they did before, filled with wonder, and his eyes linger a little longer over the pictures of his family hanging over the head of his bed pinned to little corkboards. The corners of his mouth twitch. "Who's that standing next to Alec?"

Gavin kicks off his shoes and squints to see what he's looking at. And then his insides twist uncomfortably. "That's my dad."

"Where is he?"

"He's out on a business trip," Gavin says slowly. "He does that a lot. You can't see his face very well in that picture."

"That's why I asked. Is he a good father to you?"

Gavin pulls his lip in between his teeth and tugs up his desk chair to sit in front of Ricca. "Yeah, I mean, he provides for us. All three of us have jobs, except mine is the only part time one. We're trying to be able to move somewhere else, but it's hard because Alec's job at the station is such a huge staple in our income."

"What's it like to have a family?"

The Kinnari seems genuinely interested in this. His head is tilted to the side a little and his eyes are trained on Gavin's. "I think maybe you need to explain your culture to me so when you say stuff like that I know where you're coming from."

"Well, to start," Ricca begins and runs a hand through his fair hair. "We don't have kinships. Not the way you do, anyway. We call everyone 'brother' and 'sister' but it's mostly a courtesy. My parents aren't around anymore and I haven't seen them, not once, in my entire life."

Gavin's eyes widen. "I'm sorry."

"You don't need to apologize. I don't really think about it much, to be honest. When I was born, the King named me and gave me a purpose in life, and that was to be a soldier in his army. We have schools, and I've attended military classes, but nothing more. And humans are sort of a rumor, I guess. We only talk about you like a background topic, kind of like a story but there was always a part of me that just assumed you existed. I knew about us being summoned to this dimension, because I had heard of it being done, I had just never seen it."

"Meanwhile, I knew nothing about you," Gavin says. "So, do you know how we're going to find the others? Or should we just dive right in without a plan?"

Ricca looks at his hands. "We wait until darkness falls because that's when they'll feel most comfortable to leave wherever their hiding. This place is small, so we can either fly or use your car. I'm sure if we travel for a reasonable length of time I'll be able to at least feel their energy."

Gavin nods like this is a common topic for him to discus. "Fine by me. I hope they're friendly."

As it turns out, they end up waiting until about nine to move out of the house. Ricca is particularly interested by video games, and he doesn't do anything but watch Gavin play for a few hours. He asks very specific questions about how it works, and Gavin can only shrug and rant about electricity when he does so. Ricca thinks it's very odd that he can use something and not know entirely how it works, but he's still fascinated by it. Nearly everything fascinates Ricca, Gavin amends in his thoughts, but he would probably be the same way if he were to go to Ricca's dimension. They're discussing the various uses of electricity when they're driving and in the middle of a conversation about cell phones, Ricca stops mid-sentence.

"There," he says suddenly, pointing to the trees just behind the tennis courts of the school. "I saw something."

They park and get out of the car, and Ricca assures Gavin they're safe. Ricca, however, is taking incredibly tentative steps for someone who is convinced they'll be unharmed by the end of the confrontation. Just as they reach the darkest part before the trees, a kind of energy blows Gavin back into the chain link fence lining the tennis courts, and he lets out a cry.

"You brought a human," says a voice from the darkness. "How disgusting."

"Gavin?!" Ricca shouts in his raspy voice which is now laced with frantic concern. "Are you okay?"

He asks because he's not taking his eyes off the darkness, and though Gavin can't move because of whatever energy is pinning him, he manages a strangled "Yeah, I'm fine" before proceeding to freak out about his seemingly magical bindings. He can't move, and the feeling of entrapment gets his adrenaline going. His heart is pounding in his chest.

"Close your eyes," Ricca warns dangerously. There's a hint of a growl in his voice. "Close your eyes right now, I'm going to change form."

Gavin obeys, just before he hears a cackling laughter from the voice in the darkness.

The world outside of his eyelids explodes in white.


lots of info for you to take in!

this is a new thing i'm working on mostly just for the sake of my own enjoyment. most of the questions you have will be answered, but if you spot something off i would much appreciate it if you would alert me about it!

kinnari are a real thing, or at least, a real legend, and they come out of some parts of asia. they're considered to be either half human half horse, or half human half bird, and let's be real, the ladder is far more sexy :l

there will be eventual m/m sexual stuff so that's why it's rated M c;