Iris Long exhaled slowly, reveling in the cool, crisp autumn air. It was hard for her to think that she had officially been a Camp Heath soldier for 10 years now. It seemed like only yesterday she was just a bumbling apprentice with a dream... But just look at her now! 10 years later and she was a mighty soldier, acclaimed hero, wise counselor to her leader/wife of five years (already?!) and mentor to her third apprentice! He was a tiny little fellow named Princeton Cross and he, like her, was one of the Gifted of Denbar, one of the human-Bellifer alien hybrids. In fact, as incredible as the odds were, they even both had the same eye color: purple. Princeton's were a bit paler than Iris', but they were still very purple.

What differed between them in regard to their status as Gifted, then, was the actual Gift itself. Human-alien hybrids such as them weren't just blessed with the physiology of both human and Bellifer, each Gifted also had a special power as personal and unique to them as their eye color. Iris' power was the ability to decay things at will. Quite literally, if she so chose, she could destroy everything that she touched. As gloomy as such a power sounded, however, Iris took a lot of pride in her ability and saw nothing wrong with what she was capable of.

Princeton, however, could not say the same. Unlike Iris, and most of the other Gifted across Denbar, he had no clue what his Gift was. Even though he had been training long and hard under Iris for about three months now, he still didn't have the slightest inkling of what his Gift was supposed to be, and neither did anyone else who tried to see if they could figure it out for themselves.

"Are you sure I'm Gifted?!" Princeton complained as he failed yet another one of Iris' theoretical tests about how to find his Gift.

"Just calm down, Princeton," Iris responded, brought back to the present by his irritated sigh. "Have patience."

"But it's been two months, going on three!" he cried in frustration. "The only reason I even came out here at all was because I'm supposed to find my Gift, so what gives?!" he demanded, though of course, he knew that Iris didn't know either. He just couldn't help but vent a little. It was kind of demeaning to know that he was supposed to be a member of some special race with powers beyond that of a normal human, but be unable to unlock those special powers. Wasn't that the whole point of him being Gifted? To be a non-normal human? So why wasn't anything popping up?

"Nobody knows, Princeton," Iris replied calmly. "But all of us are here to help you as best we can. Maybe we haven't gotten far yet, but nobody is going to give up on you, ok?" she continued to soothe her apprentice, unbothered by his anger because she knew he didn't really mean it.

Hearing the compassion in Iris' voice relaxed Princeton at once. Although he still couldn't deny how annoying and embarrassing it was for him to not have the slightest clue about his Gift, Iris' kindness and understanding and reassuring reminded him that lashing out at her would do no one any good. He immediately felt ashamed. Iris was just so sweet and gentle that she was probably the last person who deserved to be yelled at.

"I'm sorry," he said sincerely, even hanging his head a little. "I guess I was just hoping we would've made at least a little progress. I mean, we've tried pretty much every test and technique you know!"

"But that's not many," Iris reminded him. "You have to remember that, all in all, the Gifted are still a pretty new phenomenon for Denbar. There isn't really much study out there about people like us."

And she was right. Even though Denbar had known about the existence of the Gifted for about six years now, the amount of research done on them was still relatively low. And this was not for a lack of trying, but rather, because science could be incredibly slow at times. Additionally, since the Gifted were so unlike anything else that Denbar had ever seen before, it was almost like starting up an entire new branch of science from scratch. That was bound to take time.

"Do you think they could just try and run a DNA scan on me, or something, to see what's wrong?" Princeton asked, only half serious.

"Hmmm, I don't know," Iris replied thoughtfully. "I mean, it is entirely possible to do a full DNA scan, but that still might not necessarily show us how to fix your problem. Sure, it could show us what's wrong or missing, but that doesn't tell us how to remedy it," she said.

"And that would leave us back at square one, wouldn't it?" Princeton sighed and Iris nodded sadly. "I'm just trying so hard!" he murmured.

"I know," Iris promised. "We all are. You, me, and everyone else, but sometimes, that's all we really can do, even if it doesn't seem fair or effective," she reminded him and Princeton wilted again, but he couldn't deny that Iris was right...

Hours later, Iris called an end to Princeton's training session and he was released for the evening. They still hadn't made any progress on his Gift, but since there was nothing either of them could do about it, they were both forced to take it all in stride. A couple hours after that, it was time for bed. Iris was looking forward to a good night's rest. All of this training and wondering was really exhausting, physically and mentally.

"Looks like you had fun today," a familiar voice called out to Iris as she entered the tiny wood cabin on the very edge of Camp Heath.

"Very funny, Storm," Iris replied to the voice. It was her leader, wife and co-owner of this cabin.

"I take it that Princeton hasn't found his Gift yet, then?" Storm asked next as Iris collapsed onto their bed.

"Storm, I told you I'd tell you as soon as either of us found out!" Iris replied again as she sighed and stretched.

"I know," Storm promised. "But I'm getting impatient, can't you make him go any faster?" she complained mockingly.

"Storm!" Iris repeated, but she was laughing now. "The whole camp is on pins and needles, but it's only making the poor boy even more unhappy."

"Good. Maybe it'll encourage him to move it along," Storm replied, but even through the dim light of the moon, Iris could see that trademark smirk written upon Storm's face. It was the most endearing and annoying thing Iris had ever seen.

"You know that Gifts can't be forced!" the purple-eyed soldier cried. "I swear, you're incorrigible!"

"Well at least one of us is trying to be the tough one!" Storm replied playfully, joining the tiny brunette on their bed.

"Oh, whatever, it's just good to see you again," Iris hummed as she curled up beside Storm, instantly soothed by her presence.

"Likewise," Storm told the smaller, younger woman, kissing her head. "Especially since I was stuck doing paperwork!" she added dramatically.

"Oh, grow up!" Iris teased, laughing. But she understood. Nobody liked paperwork, especially not somebody as physical as Storm, but it just had to be done! She was the camp leader after all, and even Gale, her loyal deputy and oldest friend, could only do so much. And the paperwork today was perhaps some of the most important of all: it was all the files regarding the newest recruits of Camp Heath. Storm had spent the entire day reading through recruit files and matching them up with mentors and then making sure everything else was in line. It was long and boring work, but vital.

But the longer and longer Storm thought about that awful paperwork, the more and more irritated she became. Iris could feel the discontent radiating off her body, but then she got an idea. She sat up again and grinned almost wickedly.

"I know you feel bad because you missed such a lovely day over paperwork, but I think I can still make this night a bit of fun," she said.

"Oh? How so?" Storm asked, discontent turning into interest at once.

"Well, since you can't seem to figure it out from what I've said, allow me to show you," Iris teased back and Storm only grinned as Iris took a position on top of her.

AN: So here we are. Exactly one year later and I'm starting to post my sequel story. I'll also be editing my original one, just because. Let's see how this goes! (I'm nervous and excited because this was definitely the trickiest story for me to write. Anyway, I hope anyone who reads this likes it!)