A/N: Very excited to be writing the official first chapter of this series! I believe Averick and I will be alternating chapters, so I'll do odd chapters, and she'll do even. While reading the one-shots are encouraged to have more background about our characters, the story is easy to follow if you haven't! As a review, Max and Cass are Averick's characters, while Nyx, Quinn, and Morgan are mine. Please check out her profile for other stories pertaining to this one, too, as well as just other awesome stories by her. As always, thank you for reading!
For a moment, he considered not breaking the red seal, as if he could ignore the letter that was settled inside the envelope. His fingertips ran over his name and address on the front, written in golden boldface font that he had to admit was impressively done. The Sage's handwriting, recognizable by any who lived within the City of the Gate. Straight lines, perfectly rounded loops, written with care. He knew the letter would be written in the same way, always hand done in the ink she used specifically for this occasion.
"You gonna open it?" Gareth asked, sitting beside him on the couch. "You already know what's in there."
"Open it for me," Nyx whispered, handing it to his older cousin. He hadn't realized his hands were shaking this whole time, afraid of what to see in the letter. Gareth was right—he did know what was in there. For several years, now, he had a creeping idea that this day would come, but having physical evidence of it made him realize how real all of this was.
Shoving a finger up under the edge of the envelope, Gareth pulled until the seal finally broke with a gentle crack, the wax having dried a while ago. He took one glance at Nyx before removing the letter from its holding, unfolding the letter and smoothing it out before reading it. "'Nyx Fletcher'", Gareth recited, Nyx's back going rigid at the sound of his name. "'It is with great honor that I bestow upon you the responsibilities of the Warrior, as told by the Prophesy of the Trifecta. As you know, this is a large responsibility, protecting the future Keeper and future Sage. There will be great challenges presented to you, ones that may bring you doubt, but I have deemed you worthy of having the heart of the Warrior, as your species tends to have. In order to begin your training process, I ask that you present yourself at my home within the next month. There, I will give you the details of the Keeper and Sage. From there, your training will commence. Signed, Morgan."
There wasn't any need for her to sign her name. She was part of the last Trifecta, the only remaining member of it, and it had been her job to seek out the new Trifecta, meant to guard the City of the Gate. Nyx could already picture the creatures that he was destined to guard against. At only five-foot-three, and barely more dangerous than a wet paper bag, he couldn't see himself wielding the Sword of the Warrior. It probably weighed more than he did.
"Well, congratulations," Gareth spoke up, slapping Nyx hard on the back, jolting the younger boy forward. "I think this calls for a celebration! You're gonna to be the next Warrior, boy!" Gareth was already proud of Nyx, trying to take on the appropriate fatherly role that was given to him, but this was the first time that Nyx didn't want the pride in him. He didn't want any of this.
"I can't do this," Nyx murmured as Gareth hopped up, the letter still in his hand.
"Sure ya can! She said she was going to train you." Gareth crossed over into the kitchen, hanging up the letter on the fridge with a magnet. "Bet you if you called the girls, you'll find out you ain't alone in this. Cheer up, Nyx. This is a happy day. It's a great day!" Sometimes Gareth's optimism could be intrusive, especially to Nyx since Gareth and Max were about the only people he could really be his quiet, somewhat negative, self around. "Come on, we'll go out and treat you to a good dinner. Maybe we'll get a cake, one with your picture on it."
Which Nyx couldn't help but snort at. "You're more excited about this than I ever will be," he murmured, smiling stiffly. As annoying as Gareth's optimism could be, it typically made Nyx feel somewhat better. Standing, he went to the front door, pulling it open to let Taurus in, the pug yapping at his feet, wanting to be picked up. "Do you really think Cass and Quinn got letters, too? What do you think I should tell Max?" He wanted to focus on the simpler questions, not ones like, why him, why the Warrior?
"I know Cass got a letter. If that girl ain't the Keeper, I don't know who would be." He was already holding Nyx's phone out to him. "And you know Max is going to be happy for you three. Why wouldn't he be? I'm thrilled to have been the father-figure of the Warrior all these years."
Nyx winced whenever he called himself that. For the past eight years, Gareth had been nothing but a dad to him, not seeing his real dad—or mom, for that matter—since he was ten. "Thanks for your support," Nyx muttered, pursing his lips as he grabbed his phone from Gareth, raising his eyebrows at him, sort of as a, "wish us all luck".
"D'you get your letter?!" Quinn asked on the other line, Cass saying something excitedly in the background.
"Did he get it?" Nyx heard her shout. "Quinn, gimme!" There was some rustling, the sound of the phone being grabbed. "We're both here. Did you get yours? Dammit, I should've thought to call you! Quinn got hers and came over. You got one, right?"
"He totally got one! That's why he's calling. Have you opened it?" Quinn continued, failing at suppressing her giggles.
"If you two would let me talk," Nyx sighed, settling in his desk chair, Taurus taking his place on the bed. "Gareth had to open the letter for me. Morgan thinks I'm going to be the next Warrior."
"Duh. Cass and I have been telling you that for years," Quinn droned. "Guess who finally got her confirmation of being the Keeper?"
"I'm framing the letter," Cass cut in. "What do you think our training is going to be? All of the Trifectas have kept it secret, which totally isn't fucking nerve-racking or anything. Have you called Maxie yet?" She was about the only person Nyx wouldn't correct if he heard Max being called by that rather dreadful nickname. It wasn't much better than his own nickname, though.
Nyx shifted uncomfortably in his chair, hoping that one of them had already called the fourth best friend. Max was only the second person he could be completely honest around, Max always expecting nothing but the truth from him in turn. But telling him that his three best friends were selected as the new Trifecta was going to be tougher than he had originally anticipated. Years of his life had been dedicated to the fear of abandonment, and now he would be putting Max through it. "One of you should call him." Because he didn't think he could tell him in fear of Max thinking he was going to be left out of their group. If it meant Max would feel like that, he wouldn't take the roll of the Warrior.
There was a temporary silence on Cass' end of the line. "If you really want us to, I guess we can. I thought you'd be excited about this! You get to work along with us." And Cass did have a good point about them being friends, the ideal relationship between the Trifecta.
"We're going to be the best Trifecta in history," Quinn spoke up. "You basically already protect me and Cass, anyway. It just helps that we're already friends."
Nyx couldn't bring up the thought of having one of them being killed, the same way the last Trifecta had ended. If Cass or Quinn died, it fell upon him. Quinn was at least reasonably safe by being the Sage, just like Morgan, but if anything happened to Cass, he couldn't forgive himself. She was so wonderfully headstrong, and he wouldn't be able to handle the guilt from letting her and Quinn and Max down. While the girls thought it best that they were friends, it would have been easier if they were strangers without any emotional ties. It was the silver lining of Max not being chosen, though. If he lost Max. . .
"Nyx? You okay over there?" Cass asked, drawing Nyx back to the real world, pulling him from his own thoughts. "I was saying that I'd let you go so I can call Max. Text me later, though, because I want us to meet up and plan on when we're going to Morgan's."
"Yeah, I will. Let me know what Max says," Nyx murmured. He hated muttering—it made him sound scared when he only hated talking loudly. No need to draw attention to himself. Maybe that's why he was meant to be the Warrior. He had always been stealthy and quiet, which he blamed on his heritage, and never liked being the center of attention. Being the Warrior would be opportunistic for him, perhaps, since everything would be taken care of for him if he was part of the Trifecta. He and Gareth wouldn't have to worry about the incoming tuition bills, and maybe Nyx could finally get a car so that he didn't have to rely on Max for a ride all the time.
The knock on his door pulled him from his thoughts this time. "Nyx, you okay?" Gareth called on the other side. "Come out here when you're off the phone."
"What's up?" Nyx asked, coming to the bedroom door to open, having to look up into the grinning face of Gareth.
Gareth strolled past Nyx, sitting on the bed, Taurus hopping into his lap. "Look, this is a lot for you to take in. Quinn and Cass—they're gonna handle it just fine. They've been looking forward to this forever, so don't feel bad that you don't feel the same way they do. You'll get used to all of this, though." He scratched behind Taurus' ears, the dog's leg kicking excitedly. "I'm just sorta ramblin' right now. Real proud of you, Nyx. You and the girls, and, hell, even Max for always being there for you guys."
Never one for sentimental moments, Nyx scratched behind his own pointed ear, golden eyes scanning the floor for something to say to him. "Yeah, thanks. I-I mean, you're always there for us, too." He wouldn't look Gareth in the eyes, the sappy words too much for him. "You always let us have the living room to watch sports games, which is cool."
Gareth laughed softly, then exhaled, reaching up to itch his short stubble, a sign that he had more on his mind that he wasn't telling Nyx. "So, hey. Your mom sent me another letter in the mail today, with the stuff that came with Morgan's letter. She wants to come see you before you start college, and I figured since that's only a few months away, maybe you would want to this time. I would come with you, and I'm sure Max or the girls would, too."
"No," Nyx said too quickly, hands automatically balling up into fists. He was reacting better than he had last time, at least, when he was fifteen and his mom asked to see him. It had been worse, then, with him going into full panic mode, breaking down in front of Max during their Friday movie night. "She can go fuck herself. I'm not dealing with this again." He did have to give his mom props, though, since she took the time to actually write for him. His dad never attempted to contact him, Nyx blaming him for the reason why he couldn't emotionally stick with someone very easily. His dad had never been one to show much feeling, neither to his wife nor son.
"While I would normally agree with you, I think you should give her a chance, Nyx. She's doing better now," Gareth muttered, hand no longer on Taurus, but clasped in his lap.
"The last time I saw her, she tried ripping off my ears." Subconsciously, he reached up again, feeling the pointed tips coming from the top of his head. "She'd chop my tail off, too, if she had the chance." Currently, his black tail was free from his pants where he usually had it hidden, and he grabbed it to stroke it carefully. "She's never liked any of this about me, so why would I choose to be around her?"
"Because she's still your mom." It was rare that Gareth was serious. He was only twelve years older than Nyx, still young enough to hang out with Nyx and not embarrass him. Most Friday nights, he left Max and Nyx alone for their movie night so that he could go out with his own friends. Growing up with Gareth, Nyx rarely had any rules to follow, other than attending school regularly. If Max wanted to sleep over, that was fine, as long as they both got up and went to class. "You should at least call her. She left her number in the letter."
"Great, I'll call her and tell her where she can shove her letter." Nyx crossed over to his dresser, grabbing his beanie to put it over his head, covering his ears in his usual fashion.
"Well, if you do decide to see her, you should cut your hair before you do," Gareth laughed, standing up to fix Nyx's bangs, moving them from out of his eyes, getting a scowl from Nyx. "You used to keep it short—what happened?"
"I thought it would make me look older if I grew it out. That's what Quinn told me." He had always listened to her for fashion advice. Between her dressing him and Cass choosing out his clothes, he liked to think he looked reasonably okay, despite being in black most days. "I'll cut it before starting college."
Gareth chuckled, rubbing a hand over Nyx's head before heading to the bedroom door. "If you want to invite your gang to dinner, you can."
"Oh my god, don't call them my gang," Nyx grumbled, hiding his face with his hands. "You sound like an old man when you call them that."
"Just call them, little boy. We're leaving in fifteen." Gareth stepped out of the room before Nyx could get onto him, shutting the door behind him.
Nyx moved over to the bed, taking the same seat as Gareth had, Taurus stretching across his lap to be petted. Pulling up Quinn's number, he called her, thinking Cass would still be on the phone with Max. It was two rings in before Quinn finally answered, giggling before actually saying anything. "You really like talking to us today, don't you?" she laughed, hearing talking in the background, probably Cass still on the phone with Max.
"Gareth wanted me to invite you three to dinner. Think you can have Cass let Max know?" He hated how afraid he was to talk to Max right now. It wasn't like he didn't know about Nyx being the Warrior by now, thanks to the girls calling him, but facing him would be a different story. Dinner was probably going to be awkward. He was already debating on whether or not to sit next to Max or just sit in between the girls.
"Yeah, no problem. Give me one second." She didn't care to cover up the mouthpiece to talk to Cass, both of them talking in the background, cackling a few times at something the other said. "Max wanted to know why you couldn't talk to him yourself," Quinn said, getting back onto the phone.
"Stop being such a wimp!" Nyx heard Cass shout in the background, followed by an apology to Max for yelling in his ear.
"Just…please," Nyx whispered to Quinn, the pleading obvious in his voice. He hated that it came to this, begging Quinn to do his job.
"Fine. You owe me, though." Once more, she talked to Cass in the background, a loud groan coming from the other girl, followed by another apology to Max. "Max said he'll be ready. He thinks you're acting weird, too. Cass told him you're being a dweeb."
"You two are so sweet when you're together." Her equally sarcastic laughter made him smile. "I'll see you in about forty-five minutes, then. Tell Cass that she's the dweeb." They hung up after their final goodbyes, and Nyx stood, Taurus hopping to the ground to follow him to the door. Letting the pug out, Nyx sighed, digging through his dresser to find looser pants to try to fit his tail into. He shouldn't have been embarrassed this far into life with his features. There were others in the City of the Gate who looked like him, but he had gotten so used to hiding everything over the years. There wasn't any point this far along to start showing everyone. Max and Gareth knew—that was enough.
Automatically, his ears flattened against his head when he buttoned up the new pair of jeans, tail running along his right leg in the most comfortable way he could get it to. He hated this, but it was better than the alternative. Double checking that he looked normal, he nodded once for reassurance, then headed downstairs to meet with Gareth, sporting a different shirt. "They ready?" he asked Nyx, walking into the kitchen to grab Morgan's letter from the fridge.
"They are. What are you doing with that?" Nyx's golden eyes followed the way Gareth folded the letter up into something more compact, putting it in his wallet.
"Taking it to show them at dinner. I'm sure they'll want to read it. This is a big day for you, little man." Of all the nicknames Nyx hated the most, it was that one, Gareth's way of picking on him about their decent height difference. While Nyx wasn't getting any taller, Gareth stood at about six feet tall. When Nyx was younger, Gareth would just pick him up under the arms whenever Nyx was throwing a hissy fit. Sometimes, he would still do it, only to piss Nyx off even more. "My cousin, the Warrior. I just hate that I'm more excited over this than you are."
"Oh, definitely," Nyx whispered, not wanting Gareth to hear him. "We ready?"
They piled into Gareth's black Nissan, Nyx taking front seat, odd for him since he was usually in the backseat when they picked up Max. Not tonight, though. They traveled down the familiar bumpy path, pitch black if not for the headlights. Gareth had been wanting to install some lampposts along the way since Nyx was younger, but always forgot to. Now that Nyx was older, there was no point since Max usually picked him up.
Nyx hadn't realized his hands were sweating until they pulled into the driveway that led to Max's house. It seemed emptier now, like it had been for the past two years since Daniel had died. There was just something off about the old house, despite Max's attempts to try to make it look better. Gareth and Nyx had even spent the day planting flowers and bushes around the perimeter of the house to make it look nicer, but those had eventually died. Maybe Nyx would come out here and redo the garden for Max one day. It sounded better than being the Warrior.
"Wanna be a wuss or do you wanna go get him?" Gareth asked, the car still running, headlights pointed at Max's front door.
"Gee, your confidence in me is simply overwhelming." Taking in a deep breath, Nyx opened up the door, closing it and heading up the walkway to Max's door, knocking lightly on it, some of him hoping Max would change his mind about going out to dinner. He never should have felt like this. Max was the closest person to him, not that he would ever tell him because, shit, that was embarrassing. But for so long, Nyx had looked up to Max as his own personal hero, always so smart and able to overcome things. With Nyx being the Warrior, with all of Max's closest friends being part of the Trifecta, it would change. Nyx never did well with change.
"Ah, to have the Warrior himself standing on my doorstep. To what do I owe the honor?" Max hailed once he answered the door, bowing at the waist dramatically. Beside him, the loyal Aries barked excitedly at Nyx's arrival, as if even she knew of his new title. The Lab-mix was about the only large dog that Nyx could handle, only because she had been around for so many years.
"You can do me the honor of not reminding me," Nyx stated, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, none of that doom and gloom stuff tonight. It's yours and Cass' and Quinn's celebrations." He reached out to rub the top of Nyx's head, grinning now. "Cass said you were acting like a dweeb. What's that about? Aren't you excited?"
"I can think of more exciting things." No, he really shouldn't have been like this. Anyone else would have been thrilled to have been given this honor, so why couldn't he just conjure up enough happiness to express it? At least to act like he gave a damn. "Aries taken care of?"
He recognized too easily that questioning look from Max, the slightly narrowed cerulean eyes, the partly opened lips, wanting to pose the question Nyx dreaded. "What are you keeping from me, Fletcher?"
"We'll talk about it later, Rhodes," Nyx countered, turning on his heel to head back to the car. "I promise we'll talk later. I'm still trying to catch up with everything that's happened in like the past two hours." Which was partly true. Between finding out he was the Warrior and hearing that his mom wanted to contact him again, it was a lot for him to soak in. He was already looking forward to bed that night to sleep it all away. Sleeping was the best way to ignore something, he always thought.
Despite Nyx taking the front seat, Max didn't say anything, only talked animatedly about his day at work with Keith, the other owner. For the first time since getting Morgan's letter, Nyx's mind was actually calm, enjoying the way Max and Gareth carried on a conversation about what to do with Taurus' begging. "I think Aries found herself a boyfriend, too. He's a Great Dane named Fox, and she always gets so excited when his owners bring him in."
"I still think she and Taurus would have made some cute puppies if they weren't fixed," Gareth laughed, Nyx unable to hold back the laughter from the imagery of the puppies.
"They'd look like little mutants," Nyx beamed. "Aries is too pretty to have ugly babies."
"I dunno, have you ever seen a hairless Chihuahua? You don't know ugly 'til you've seen one of those," Max stated, trying to pull a picture up on his phone. "Like an overgrown naked mole rat."
Admittedly, Nyx couldn't figure out why he was freaking out about Max's reaction to him being the Warrior. He knew Max better than that. They wanted nothing but the best for each other. At least for now he was calm, but he knew when they actually sat down to talk, it wasn't going to be that easy for Nyx.
When they pulled into Cass' driveway, Max had Nyx's door opened before Nyx could even try to make up an excuse to avoid being alone with Max, even for a moment. "Talk," Max demanded when the car door was closed.
"Right now?" Nyx asked him, both of them walking up the pathway, out of sight of Gareth, which made Nyx off-put.
"If you're going to act like this throughout dinner, then yes. You've known for years that you would probably be the next Warrior, so why are you panicking about it?" Max was blocking the door from Nyx to make sure he didn't try to ring the doorbell.
Instead of laughing in the car, Nyx should have been preparing what he was going to say. Talking to Max shouldn't have been this hard. "It's really stupid, though."
"Doubt it. Talk." He even squared his shoulders to make himself seem bigger, not helping that he was only a few inches taller than Nyx.
"I-I'm worried that with me and the girls being part of the Trifecta, I dunno, you'd feel left out or whatever." Again, he was mumbling. Right now wasn't the time for him to mumble everything, but he couldn't stop himself. "It's really stupid, I know, but I don't. . .I don't want our friendship to be all fucked up because of this." While he didn't mind honesty with Max, he hated sentimentality. It wasn't his strong suit, and even though they had been best friends for years, it had taken Nyx a while to admit out in the open that they were.
Blinking slowly, Max shook his head before pushing his hair back from his face. "Nyxie, I'm ashamed that you would think that of me." He ignored the scowl on Nyx's face from the nickname. "You and I have been friends for almost ten years. I've known Cass since elementary school, and Quinn since middle school. If you three being the Trifecta is what fucks up our friendship, we have bigger issues to worry about. Man, come on. You know that."
Nyx almost nodded before it occurred to him that maybe, just this once, Max opted to lie to him to protect his feelings. "You promise this is okay?"
"Dude, my best friends are the Trifecta. How could I be mad at that? Take joy in others' accomplishments." He shrugged once, turning towards the door, getting ready to ring the doorbell. "It just means that whenever the city hosts the annual Dinner of the Honored, I'll get to sit at the main table with you. Maybe a place in the history books, too. That wouldn't be so bad."
Chuckling, Nyx nodded, reaching out to ring the bell before Max could. "I promise there'll have a whole chapter dedicated to you."
"Mom, we're gone! Text you when we're heading home," Cass shouted, letting Quinn out before herself. "God, Mom hasn't quit crying since we got the letter. She pulled out the baby pictures, too, talking about how I've grown up or some shit like that. Then when Quinn showed up, it just got worse."
"Then she and my mom cried on the phone together," Quinn continued, adjusting her purse over her shoulder. "Please tell me we're going somewhere good. I'm starving. Oh, before I forget, my mom is treating us to dinner on Thursday, and Cass' mom mentioned dinner sometime, too."
"By the time we see Morgan, we're going to be so unfit for her training." Cass jokingly rubbed her stomach, getting a horrified look from Quinn and a snort from Max.
"Telling you, if you went vegetarian, you wouldn't have to worry about that," Nyx chimed in, expecting the boisterous laugh from Cass.
"Fuck, Nyxie's got jokes! The reason you're so short is because you tried that back in freshman year. Thanks, but no thanks," Cass teased, towering over Nyx, and even over Max. "Gareth better prepared to treat me to steak. Rare and juicy, like it could walk itself off the plate."
"With garlic mashed potatoes," Quinn added, groaning at the end. "Okay, we need to go or else I'm going to start eating my chapstick. Nyx, make sure you get some good pictures of us tonight, too. It's our first meal as the Trifecta." Always acting like the mother hen of their little group of friends, as proud of them as any mom would be. After having learned about Max's past with the loss of his own mom and Nyx's odd absence of a mom, she took it upon herself to act like their guardian.
"First meal of many more!" Max stated, leading the four of them back to Gareth's car. "I bet when Morgan makes the official announcement after your training, you're going to be eating for free for a while. It's how everyone apparently treated the last Trifecta. I'm going to be coming to your houses for dinner if it does happen." Which wouldn't have been much of a change for Nyx since he was used to having Max over for dinner on a usual occurrence, at least once a week.
Quinn put her hand on Max's shoulder, grinning at him. "Your house is going to be the safe house for when we need to escape it all, just so you're aware." She climbed into the backseat after Cass, Max sitting directly behind Nyx, calming him even more.
"I'll make sure it's always Trifecta ready." Not that any of them doubted him doing it. He always tried accommodating them the best he could, sometimes even going out of his way to do it, like when Quinn needed a babysitter for her younger sister or when Nyx needed a copy of Max's history notes from when he took the class Nyx was in. Quinn at least only asked to borrow him when it involved shopping, something Cass had gotten him used to. "Which reminds me, Nyx, we'll do movie night at my place next Friday since we had it at yours the last three times."
He said it so normally that Nyx forgot for a moment that he was part of the Trifecta. All of his worrying was for naught, the results ending up much better than he could have guessed. Max was right, once again, in his wonderfully honest way. Their group was going to be fine, as always, despite the new job and despite his mom trying to come back into his life. He had almost forgotten about the letter from his mom, so focused on everything else. He figured now wasn't the time to bring it up to Max, though. Friday would be better when they could talk about it with just the two of them.
Not like it really mattered since Max was right about their friendships. There would be plenty of time to sort out all of the bumps and the kinks. Right now, Nyx was just happy that he could finally relax and breathe, slowly accepting that he would be part of the Trifecta, alongside his friends.