Alethia N. M. Black (caretta) wrote,
Alethia N. M. Black

ORIGINAL FICTION: Stranger Enthalpy | Chapter Three

Title: Stranger Enthalpy
Author: Alethia N. M. Black
Warnings: Graphic depictions of rape, torture, student-teacher relationships, cross-generational relationships, graphic sex
Genre: Suspense, Romance, Adventure
Summary: In the future, the world still struggles with complex issues. Lillian knows just how cruel the world can be, but she is determined to make the best of life and maybe even teach her friends and family how to do the same.
Word Count: ~11,000 words
Author’s Note: So I finally decided to post a little bit of the original fiction I'm writing. This will be locked, because I don't trust anyone but you guys with this.

::: ::: :::

Stranger Enthalpy
Chapter Two

by Alethia N. M. Black

::: ::: :::

Cecil felt around for the doorknob to Room 219. Upon finding it, he turned it and opened the door to the sound of bickering. As always, he quickly picked up on the voices of Adam and Quinlan. He smiled crookedly as he entered the room. "Are you two fighting again?" he asked softly, chuckling. He knew what the answer would be, but their reactions were always priceless. Sometimes he just wished he could add facial expressions to the picture.

"Er... Of course not?" Adam answered vaguely, trying to pretend like no argument happened. Cecil's lips twitched merrily.

Quinlan said nothing. It always gave Cecil the impression that he was standing solidly, proud of his constant fighting with Adam. "If you want to pretend like I don't know anything, Adam, I'll let you keep your delusion."

Adam laughed. "I do not have delusions. I have denial."

"You can't own a river in Egypt."

"Denial isn't just--Oh, very funny, Cecil!"

Cecil grinned in the direction of his voice. "Really? I thought so."

Refusing to answer him, Adam shuffled around the room. From the sounds of his feet, Cecil guessed he went to sit next to Lillian's bed. "How's the little miss doing today?"

Adam made a displeased noise in the back of his throat. "It's been hard with her. She's not used to dealing with all of these emotions at the same time. The doctor talked to me this morning about putting her on medicine."

Grimacing, Cecil moved to the edge of the bed. "I bet she'd hate that, huh? I don't think you should do it. I mean, Lillian would never go for it if she was seeing the psychologist on her own, so why should you make her do something she didn't want to do?"

"That's what I've been thinking, but Mr. Hopeless over here thinks that medicine is the only way we're going to get her functioning again." Adam huffed disgustedly. "Medicine won't do shit for her." His tone turned accusing as he addressed Quinlan, "Have you even talked to her yet?"

He waited several minutes before responding. "... No." Quinlan scratched at his arms. Cecil shook his head; such a bad habit, and surprisingly noisy. Adam grunted. "What? I don't want to overwhelm her too soon. If I see her now, she'll just have more stress on her. I think it's best if I just wait a while."

"You've waited long enough," Cecil said indefinitely. He listened to all of them often enough that he knew the situation rather well. When Lillian talked about her life before the rape and her life after it, she talked about Quinlan all the time. She often said little things about wishing Quinlan would come visit her now that she thought she was getting better. Adam seemed to grow more and more bitter as the days grew on where Quinlan refused to talk to Lillian. "Everyone wants you to talk to her, Quinlan. You're the only one protesting at this point."

"But Lillian--"

"Lillian wants you to talk to her too," a new voice interjected from the door. From the deeper and sweeter tone, Cecil figured it was Andrew. Good old St. Andrew. He was like an angel of light, so much that he often imagined him with blond hair, blue eyes, and pale luminescent skin. But that was just Cecil's overactive imagination. There was no telling what Andrew actually looked like, because Cecil had not the eyes to tell nor the mouth willing to ask. Andrew continued, "You've heard her talk about you, Quinlan. She talks about you more often than you know too. Why do you have to refuse her the thing she wants more than anything else?"

"I know why," Adam said angrily. "He's nothing more than a coward! He can't even face a traumatized girl, because he's afraid of his own emotions!"

Quinlan growled under his breath, otherwise remaining silent for a few moments more. He often noticed him gathering his thought, making for rather large gaps between speech. "I am not a coward. I will talk to Lillian. As a matter of fact, if you insist, I will talk to her right now," he said, his speech terse and cold. When Quinlan got uncomfortable, he spoke in short sentences devoid of all contractions and unconventional patterns. Cecil shook his head. Confronting Lillian when no one was happy, it was not a good idea.

Of course, Adam agreed immediately. "Fine! That's what we'll do. She wakes up in ten minutes to take anxiety medication."

"Wait, wait! I don't think this is such a good idea," Cecil insisted quickly. "If you try to confront her when you feel upset, you'll just upset her in turn. There's no need to cause Lillian any undue anxiety just because of this rivalry between the two of you." He scratched the lobe of his ear. "Did I hear you correctly or did you just tell us Lillian was already taking anxiety medication?"

Quinlan made a shocked noise, like he had missed the implications of Adam's words due to his discomfort and nerves. "Eh?" Andrew asked from just inside the door. "Of course she's taking anxiety medication. She panicked several times when she first got here. It's standard procedure to put those with panic attacks on anxiety medication."

Turning his head to the general vicinity of Adam's whereabouts, Cecil glared sharply at the darkest point he could make out. If Adam laughed at him, he would kill him. "And did you have to approve this medication too?"

Adam shook his head rapidly. Realizing that Cecil was still blind, Andrew quickly picked up for him. "Don't do that, Adam. You should know that he's blind by now," he berated. "And no, Cecil. The ER automatically does it to prevent seizures and other things. All Adam had the time to answer was 'yes' or 'no' to if she had any allergies."

Cecil huffed. "There has to be something better that we can do for victims instead of this outdated system! Why haven't they reformed the hospital rules in over a millennium?"

"What's wrong with you today, Cecil? You seem more irritable than usual."

Cecil sighed at the innocent inquiry, determined not to let himself get riled up and snap at Adam for his question. After all, Adam took care of everyone he or his sister felt close to, and that included him now. He smiled in his direction. "I haven't had my medication this morning. The nurse is supposed to see me sometime this afternoon. After that, I'll be perfectly right."

There was a sound of acknowledgement, which Cecil assumed came from Adam again. Quinlan usually remained quiet unless he was making a point or uncomfortable. "That's right. You take medication for some mental disorder, don't you? You get all cranky and stuff if you don't get your medication."
Cecil sighed at the reference of his bipolar disorder as 'some mental disorder,' but he knew it was just the way Adam always acted. Adam never tried to directly attack him or anyone else with bipolar disorder; it was just his way to address everything casually, especially things he did not understand. Cecil nodded. "I take medication for bipolar disorder; and yes, sometimes it is crankiness that comes if I don't take my medicine on time."

"Try not to treat such things so casually," Quinlan admonished from his corner of the room. Cecil noticed then, with amusement, that he was as far from Adam as possible. "It offends people when you react crassly about their problems."

Adam snorted. "As if you're someone who can lecture me! Look at yourself! You act like you don't give a damn about anyone's problems except your own. How are people supposed to react when you talk to them in this monotonous voice that offends the senses with its grating nature? Everyone believes you hate them!"

"Everyone?" he responded with curiosity. Cecil heard the scratching of Quinlan's arms again. "Look, Cecil... Did you believe I hated you when I first met you?" Quinlan scraped against the wall of the hospital room nervously. Though he failed at controlling his vocal inflections, he cared deeply for how he made other people feel. Cecil respected that, and he did not want to hurt his feelings -- even with the truth.

Running a hand through his hair, Cecil replied, "Hate is too strong a word for what you made me think you felt. You acted disinterested and distant from other people. Thankfully, I'm able to notice things in your voice that others aren't. After all, hearing is my primary mode of identification. I need to notice these distinctions to tell who people are." Cecil smiled at the center of the room, where Lillian slept in her bed. "I liked you, Quinlan, even though you sounded standoffish, but I did not get to speak with you until your visit at the hospital. I'm much too bashful to approach people out of my comfort level. School far surpasses that comfort level, because too many of the rich and smart kids have rejected me. I prefer working at the hospitals, where people are usually in too much agony or pain or sorrow to tell who I am."

Adam and Quinlan stood, stunned into silence by the long speech Cecil had given them. He smiled at their stupefied silences, waiting for one of them to speak.

Answering his call, Adam said simply, "Wow."

What an overflowing statement.

::: ::: :::

"Too afraid to shake your shoulders to jolt you awake, I stand here... I am branded as a coward by your brother and begin to believe it," Quinlan said as he looked down at the sleeping beauty that was Lillian. She looked like Snow White lying upon her casket, most fairest in the land, though he was sure others disagreed with him. But love blinded him, telling him to look beyond the physical as it told everyone else. "As I stand here, fearful of your reaction to my sudden appearance -- is it too sudden --, and my hands refuse to move for the frightening thought, what else am I supposed to believe if I cannot make myself wake you up?"

He caressed the soft skin of her cheek, marveling at the fur. As he moved his hand against her cheek, the fur moved with his hand, feeling like a second layer of skin. He thought it would be weird to fall in love with someone not the same species as him because of her fur, but it strangely fit for them to be together. He always thought about the moral ramifications as he watched the news detailing the findings of Cain and Deborah Miller. When Quinlan thought about it before, he knew that the mixing of Man's genes with beast's was wrong.

Quinlan failed to think so now. Lillian blessed him with her effulgent light that radiated toward him like she was the sun to his earth. He sighed, closing his eyes and tilting his head back. Could he do it? "... I'll do it," Quinlan asserted to her, opening his eyes and staring straight at her closed eyelids. He took a deep, readying breath and leaned forward, his fingers barely touching her shoulder before her eyes shot open.

He looked at her hazel eyes, shocked as they filled with some emotion between elation and panic. She looked skittish at his touch, but Lillian still held some compassion -- some love -- for him to find in her arms. Quinlan tried to smile at her. But his smile faltered at her choked sound.

Tears fell from her eyes as she tried to speak. "Why aren't you disgusted with me?" Lillian sobbed, obviously overwhelmed by his sudden appearance. Quinlan expected that she would be, but the others insisted on his visiting her. If he admitted it to himself, she looked like a disgusting mess with snot and tears blotching her skin and fur. Still Quinlan wrestled a smile onto his face, unable to tell whether it was born out of piteous sorrow for her hospitalization or adulatory happiness for her forgiveness (though she had yet to tell him out loud) and their reuniting. "Tell me!" she screamed desperately when he remained silent for those few reflective moments.

His eyes jolted to hers, startled by her sudden screaming. Quinlan brushed her hair back behind her ear, flinching back as she flinched from his touch. "It would be unfair of me to judge you for something that happened beyond your control," he said evenly, though he could feel his heart trying to beat its way out of his chest, just as a baby alligator breaks free of its shell. His heart ached with agonizing, sharp spikes of pain in his chest. Quinlan pulled his handkerchief out of his chest pocket and wiped her fluids from her face, not minding the slight disgust he felt at holding a cloth filled with someone else's nasty fluids, even if it was Lillian's. "You are just as beautiful and pure to me now," he reassured her, "as when I fought to eject you from my heart." Quinlan laid a chaste kiss on her forehead, something in him relaxing internally when she only closed her eyes this time and seemingly in comfort. "I never should have rejected you in the first place, but... I fought hard to get this job. There isn't much tolerance for men who openly wear dresses every day. I thought that... if I let you in, it would ruin my chance of keeping this job. It's my dream job." He watched her eyes fill with pain and shame again. Quinlan clenched his jaw to keep from visibly wincing at her reaction. He honestly wished she would let him finish his thoughts fully before she decided to react like she was being crushed. She jumped to too many conclusions about how he felt. "I'm willing to give it up for you. Adam taught me that you are much more valuable to me than all of the teacher's salaries the world could offer. If I have to choose between loving you and teaching children that density is equal to the mass divided by the volume, I choose you." He smiled as Lillian's mouth dropped open in amazement. She looked to be filled with a new hope, and he swore not to let her down this time. "It's almost midnight. I wonder if I should wait to tell you just to make you lose the bet."

Lillian laughed with relief, barely a huff of breath leaving her mouth. There were still tears in her eyes from the dual extremes of happy and sad emotions. "You bastard," she whispered.

Quinlan's heart filled with warmth as he saw the emotional pain easing little by little from her eyes. He glanced slyly at the clock and, with three seconds left until midnight, he told her. "I love you."

::: ::: ::

Life did not exist like the stories in fairy tales where true love's first kiss could cure even the strongest sleep ailment. Quinlan's confession of love could not cure all of her problems with those three seconds of pure joy that rushed through her heart. After the trauma she suffered, she needed more help than that. But they could give her solace and comfort from the harshness and cruelty of Damien's words. Instead of hearing him tell her that she was "dirty" and "sullied" now that they raped her, Lillian heard Quinlan tell her "I choose you" and "I love you." Repeatedly. Over and over again, she replayed those moments in her mind, because she figured that those words were the most romantic words she would hear from such a rational man as Quinlan. No, Quinlan's words could not cure her, but they could help her as she healed.

"Why are you always here?" her brother exclaimed as he came back into the room after his lunch break. Adam glared severely at Quinlan, looking put out by his nearly constant presence in her room for the past three days.

Lillian rolled her eyes at his antics. He always started the arguments between him and Quinlan. She was starting to think he did it for his own twisted sense of amusement. "Stop that. You know we made up, so he doesn't have to hide behind the door anymore." If she wanted to be honest with them, she could tell them their bickering provided her with a comfort of sorts, because it was familiar to her. However, she figured that might cause too much bickering, and for her own sake too. If those two thought it helped her, they would never stop fighting.

Quinlan looked bashful after her statement before he focused his attention on Adam. "I would rather be here with Lillian during her time of need," he replied.

Adam huffed, ignoring Lillian, though she knew he took note of her warning, because his voice lowered significantly. "Don't you have a class to teach or something? It is a Monday."

"I took half the day off to come visit with Lillian."

Sighing with defeat and frustration, Adam continued. "Doesn't the school get sick of all these days you keep taking off to visit her?"

Smiling playfully, Quinlan shook his head. "This is the first day I took off from school to see her. I don't think the school is made of such tyrants that they want me there on Saturdays and Sundays, so you can't count them, no matter how much you dislike me."

She barely contained her laughter when her brother responded by sticking out his tongue at Quinlan. Lillian grinned at the two of them, feeling her heart fill with fondness. "You two shouldn't fight, you know. You two are my favorite people, so you should be nice to each other for my sake."

"I told you. We're just never going to get along. I'm sorry, Lilli."

Lillian shrugged as she held out her arms, inviting both of them into a big hug. She wrapped her arms around them. "You know, I hear a lot of lovers have trouble with the in-laws." Scratching Adam behind his ears, she looked down at both of them.

Fighting to stop his purring, Adam sat up and glared at her. "You better be joking, because if you've seriously talked about getting married I'll kill him!"

"What makes you think it would be my fault if we talked about getting married?" Quinlan glared back at him. "Your sister is the love-stricken teenage girl!"

"That's exactly why you would be to blame! You should be the adult and tell her, 'Under no circumstances are we getting married until you are over twenty years old, though your reasonable older brother would much prefer thirty!'"

Quinlan grumbled under his breath. "Yes, you're being so very mature right now."

"What the hell did you say? I'll teach you a thing or two about muttering under your breath! I can cut your tongue out."

"And I can kill you with my nose. Do not tempt me."

Lillian snorted. "I got it, you guys. You are both incredibly immature adults. You can both kill and maim people in strange ways. Now please, just stop the incessant bickering before you drive someone insane!"

Adam grinned at her. "Heh, I think we already made Cecil go psycho on us one time. Maybe we should chill out."

She threw her arms into the air. "You pissed Cecil off? When exactly did I miss that one?" she asked incredulously. Cecil brightened everyone's day with his cheerfulness. If they managed to piss him off, it must have been pretty bad.

"Actually, it was Quinlan's fault, and then we started fighting on top of his cowardice," he explained. "Cecil said something about not having his medication. You were kind of asleep at the time -- really out of it from the anxiety medication they were giving you."

"It was not my fault," Quinlan protested. He looked between the two of them with a wounded look. "How could you blame that on me? You were the one who riled him up anyway! If you had kept your big mouth shut, Cecil never would have made such a big deal out of it."

Looking sharply at Quinlan, Adam tapped his toes against the floor. "And where would you be now? Would you still be hiding behind that door, afraid to talk to my sister?"

"Of course not!" he denied quickly. "I would have talked to her that weekend. It's not like Cecil was the only one who influenced me to talk to her."

"That's right! You also made Andrew get onto your case, because you were being such an unreasonable coward. God, you are way too stubborn."

Hiding her wide smile behind her bed covers, Lillian watched the two of them argue more, feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders now that she knew Quinlan felt guilty for not coming to see her and now that she knew it was guilt that kept him away. She read the shame in his very countenance, the old and the new. She poked her head back in front of the covers. "Quinlan," Lillian called to him. She smiled at him brightly when he turned to her, knowing it was her brightest since she had entered the hospital. "I forgive you."

Quinlan peered back at her critically, looking for some falseness in her gaze. He smiled after a minute of studying her features, apparently happy with what he found there. "Thank you." He came up beside her and slowly took her hand, bringing it to his mouth for a gentle kiss. "That means the world to me."

She shrugged at him, nodding her head. "Yeah, I know. That's why I said it... even if you should have known it already. You never did anything wrong except refusing to follow your heart in the first place." Lillian smiled. "And just to let you know, Adam... You never did anything wrong either."

He looked back at her in surprise, but he grinned in true Adam fashion. "How come he gets 'I forgive you' and all I get are the corrections?"

Lillian snickered at him. "Because... you need the corrections more than him."

Adam wrinkled his nose at her sarcastically. "Thank you so much for being such a nice and supportive sister. To think, I raised you out of the goodness of my own heart, and this is how you repay me!"

"I know it seems rather cruel to you, Adam. But that's the way the cookie crumbles. I like the thought of repaying you with the truth more than repaying you with shameless flattery," she quipped with a smirk.

He pouted. "I'd prefer the shameless flattery."

She grinned at him. "I know you would. That's why you get brutal honesty and instead!"

"Such a cruel little sister!"

::: ::: :::

He peeked into the room with a small grin on his face. "Guess what today is," he said merrily, practically rocking back and on the heels of his feet.

Adam narrowed his eyes at him from beside Lillian. "What's there to be excited about, you disgustingly cheery human?"

"Oh no, someone's being a grouch today!" Andrew looked at his patient. "What crawled in his stomach and died this morning?" he asked her.

She shrugged. "I guess he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed -- or maybe he even woke up with the knob lodged in his ass."

He twisted his lips at them both, not even bothering to stick his tongue out at them, because Adam knew they could understand he wanted to and that was enough for him. He was much too easy for him to read.

Andrew sighed. "I bet I know what it is, but if he insists on being such a jerk and all... I guess I can't make it better for him!" He wrapped his arms around Adam's neck, nuzzling against his cheek. He watched his eye twitch with amusement. "I bet the poor little kitten wants to get out of the hospital, doesn't he. I can make that happen for you. All you have to do is tell me, 'I'm sorry for being such a jackass this morning, Andrew. You're the best human I've ever met.'"

"If I just punch you, will you tell us then?"

"... And here I am, trying to make you feel better!" Andrew shrugged his shoulders, calming back down to his normal state and wondering if that would make Adam happier. Of course it would, because it meant he was less happy. "I suppose you really don't want to hear what I heard in the lobby earlier then."

"Please tell us," Lillian piped up, giving her brother a critical look. He smiled at her; she knew how he felt about Adam and always tried to make her brother treat him better. "I'd really like to know, even if Adam is acting a little infantile right now." Adam bristled at the insult, looking wounded by his sister's words.

He smiled wider. "Good, because I'm sure this news will cheer him right up." Andrew winked at him. "This morning, I heard that Lillian will be released sometime this afternoon!"

"What?" Adam shouted with shock and excitement. "Are you serious?"

Andrew nodded, loving the hopeful look on his face. He wished he could act as uncharacteristically as he did when he first entered the room, but he knew that Adam would catch on even more quickly this time. Oh, but he loved pissing his kitten off! Decisions, decisions.

Lillian yipped with glee, hopping in her bed. "Oh, oh! This is great! I'll finally be free after three months in this sterile Hell!"

He smiled at her. Ever since his fascination with Adam began, Andrew thought of Lillian as his own little sister. He had no siblings of his own; he had never even known his parents; but he accepted Adam and Lillian into his heart like his own special family. Only Adam would be his wife -- he could hear his pet just screeching in outrage from the insult right now -- and not his brother. Thinking of them being brothers almost sent him into convulsions of disgust.

Adam jumped out of his chair, pumping his fist into the air. "Yes! I can finally get out of this hospital. No more white walls, no more smells of sickness and death, and -- most importantly --" he said, giving Andrew a pointed look. He looked at him innocently, pointing to himself in curiosity. "No more humans!"

"What makes you think we won't come to visit you, kitten?"

Glaring at him with one of his darkest glares, Adam pointed his finger at him. "What makes you think I'll tell you where we live?"

He tilted his head curiously, moving to stand behind Adam. "Come now, kitten. Surely you aren't that silly. You should know I have numerous resources that can tell me where you live. The Internet is swarming with information, the hospital will gladly provide me with information to check up on some of my patients, and -- most importantly -- your sister will tell me before I put myself through all of that trouble."

Hearing all of the different venues Andrew would be willing to go through just to get his address sent Adam into a funk. He slumped back, intending to land in his chair, but found him holding him up instead. Adam glared at him and pushed him out of the way. "You are an absolute bastard! I hate you more than Quinlan."

Ouch! Adam hated Quinlan a lot.

"And stop calling me 'kitten!' I am not a cat! I am listed under the Homo genus, so quit calling me a fucking cat!"

Andrew smiled at him. "Homo novitas. You are not a cat. I admit that... But I would still call you my kitten even without this, --" he pinched a bit of Adam's fur, -- "or these, --" he played with his ears, -- "or even this," he finished, grabbing the base of his tail gently. Adam's tail swished wildly in his palm, telling him that he was physically torn between being pleased and uncomfortable. "Good kitty," he whispered under his breath.

Hissing in anger, Adam whipped his tail from between his fingers. "I hate you. Don't touch me. If you touch me again, I will kill you."

He sighed in defeat. "Fine, I won't touch you anymore." Andrew wished he could have picked a more complacent kitten, but alas, he fell in love with that brat instead.

::: ::: :::

Andrew stood in front of his mirror, fidgeting nervously with his clothes. Everything looked to be in order; as they should be, because he spent more than two hours getting ready that morning. He saw Adam and Lillian sporadically over the past six months, because it seemed like everyone was getting their old lives back together. Lillian went back to school to a gaggle of nosy classmates and had to deal with having Quinlan as her teacher still; they decided (wrongly) to pretend like none of it had ever happened and to just act like they did before her rape. If he saw them more often, he would give all of them a stern talking-to. Unfortunately, the hospital increased his workload, because it kept getting busier and busier. Apparently, every news station now had a 'Chaos Report,' in which they reported all of the increased disorder in the world and universe. Just last month, there were over one hundred plane crashes. The news estimated at least fifteen deaths for each of them. Andrew shivered. He forgot all of the statistics for automobile accidents, because he honestly did not want to remember them.

He had a horrible feeling about all of it. He thought about the planets falling out of their orbits and possibly crashing into each other. He thought of Earth floating in space until it burned up in the Sun's deadly, scorching rays. Andrew shook his head. His mind wandered off its train of thought more lately. He had a lot to think about. Where was he? Oh yes, Quinlan and Lillian barely talked anymore either. He and Adam barely said two words to each other all of the six times they had seen each other over the past six months. Still, his feelings for him still felt the same as they did when he held Adam's tail in the hospital. As far as he knew, Cecil only spoke to him, and that was when he volunteered at the hospital.

So Andrew decided it was time to stage an intervention for all of them. He never intended to let his relationships with any of them fade away; whether he thought of them as a lover, a sister, a brother, or a friend, he still wanted all of them. There was a connection there; borne in a hospital, but it still bonded them together into one circle of friends and Andrew would damn himself if he ever let them let go of it. He thought all of the other felts the same way he did. He knew Quinlan and Cecil felt like that, if a bit more unsure than him. He felt pretty much Lillian's regards were guaranteed. Adam was the only one who might ruin the entire thing for them; he was stubborn, just like the person he disliked so much.

DING DONG! He immediately let go of his shirt collar at the sound of the doorbell and ran to the door. Andrew pulled the door open, looking at Quinlan and then Cecil standing right behind him. He waved them into his home. Quinlan walked in without missing a beat, and it took Andrew a moment to realize he had insulted Cecil again. He sighed. "I'm sorry about that, Cecil. Come in."

Smiling teasingly, Cecil came in through the door. "It's fine. You think of me as just another person and not a blind person. That's all that matters to me." He shrugged, making his way around the room by feeling the furniture. "I would rather have you forgetting to use your voice and not body language than have you take me by the hand with pity and lead me around the room."

Andrew smiled gratefully as he said, "Thank you. I hope other people learn that too. I mean, it's hard not to think of you as just another person when you get around the room so easily."

Chuckling with the irony, Cecil shook his head. "I think that will the first and last time I hear that sentence."

"I can always repeat it for you as many times as you'd like me to."

Quinlan snickered, leaning against the door as he closed it. "I like to think of irony several times a day. Would you mind repeating it to me?"

"Of course not," he answered. "I'm sure I can come up with a few more ironic statements to fuel your humor as well."

"I have no doubt!" Quinlan grinned. "You have enough humorous quips to outlast all of us."

Andrew nodded emphatically. "I should hope so! I practice all the time. What do you think the mirror's for?"

Quinlan looked at him slyly. "From what I saw in the mirror, it's for the useless preening you do every time you go out to see Adam." He arched an eyebrow at him.

"Pah! If it's for seeing Adam, that negates the use of 'useless.'"

His lips twitched. "Ah, so uselessness has a use now. See what I meant about the irony!"

Cecil chuckled from the couch, his blind eyes closed as he faced the ceiling. "I should keep the two of you around my home for entertainment. What do you say about being my fools, while I can be the blind Tiresias?"

Shaking his head, Andrew sat on the arm of his couch. "Three insanely sensible and wise people in the same house? I think not! I believe Adam and Lillian need our foolish services more than you, dear Cecil."

"Fools for the fools then, dear saint?"

Andrew inclined his head. "There is no better cure for having no common sense and wisdom than providing them with people who can give it to them!"

"Fools are often the wisest of men," Cecil muttered sagely.

Quinlan looked thoughtfully out of the window. "That's not such a bad idea."

"Which part are you talking about? We have a few ideas to choose from, dear stubborn fool," he said as he looked away from Cecil.

"Well, we mentioned that Adam and Lillian need a couple of wise people to take care of them. Why couldn't we be just the wise people to do that? I'd certainly be willing to care for them." Quinlan exchanged looks with him, almost pleading him to understand where he was coming from.

He scratched his chin bemusedly. He totally understand what Quinlan was asking of him; he even understand why he wanted to give the two kids someone. Andrew looked at Cecil, who had remained motionless on the couch, not reacting to their conversation. "I would like to do it. I love both of them. Adam... well, we all know how I feel about him. Lillian's like the sister I never had."

Cecil opened his mouth. "I might be able to move in as well. It won't be easy to look at all of the happy couples."

Andrew scoffed. "I hope that was sarcasm, because you can't call any of us very happy right now. Adam will probably treat me like the plague when we show up."

"And I only speak to Lillian as a teacher to his student now," Quinlan said from the door.

"At least the two of you have someone to like. I haven't even met someone who even mildly tempted me to like them. Then again, what do I have to be tempted with? I can't see their bodies." He sighed deeply, making Andrew wonder if he forgot to take his medicine that morning again. "I guess I'd just like to meet someone who makes me feel the way you two feel around Adam and Lillian."

He stayed silent for a few long seconds before he spoke up again. "You've been feeling like this for a long time, haven't you?" Andrew felt rather bad for not catching on to it before then. He could have seen all of the signs, because Cecil acted irritable only when he was around the "happy couples;" he sounded depressed whenever they talked about their relationships with each other; and he always had that sad body language when he sat just on the edge of everyone else, while Andrew tried to crowd Adam and Quinlan sat right next to Lillian. It was like he had been blind himself. "Damn, I'm so sorry, Cecil. I didn't... I didn't even think about how you might feel!"

"Neither did I," Quinlan said with melancholy. "I apologize. But I'm sure you'll meet someone who can make you like them. All you need is a nice voice with a good personality. Or perhaps you're not shallow enough to judge someone by their voice."

Cecil snorted. "I assure you that I am shallow enough to judge someone by their voice!" He rubbed his ear. "Have you ever heard one of those high-pitched girlish squeals that these teenagers make? Think about hearing that ten times clearer than you do right now. That's what I have to live through every single day. If I can't have someone with a nice, smooth voice that doesn't send shivers -- or at least bad shivers -- down my spine, then I guess I won't have anyone at all!"

Both of them nodded in agreement. "I can understand that," Quinlan murmured. "Those teenage girls are very annoying. Think about spending more than eight hours with them for five days out of the week. That's what I go through."

"At least Lillian doesn't sound like that, then. Can you imagine falling in love with one of those girls? I always wondered how she ended up so unlike the rest of them. She doesn't seem to have any friends her own age; no one visited her in the hospital except us," Andrew mentioned curiously.

Quinlan looked over at him quickly. "Did they never tell you? Their parents used to keep Lillian isolated from the rest of her classmates, because the humans used to mistreat Adam. When Adam turned out so bitterly turned against the humans, they decided it would be best to keep Lillian away from public eyes. It was Adam who realized that she wanted to be as close to normal as she could and allowed her into public school five years ago."

"That would explain a lot. Adam used to mutter a lot about never seeing her cry when he first stayed with her in the hospital. I thought he might go insane since he was under so much stress." Andrew's lips drew into a small smile. "He seems to have recovered since Lillian's out of danger."

Cecil cleared his throat insistently. "Actually, that's one of the things I wanted to speak to Adam and Lillian about. The hospital got rather protective of the little siblings while they stayed there. I've heard a few of the staff talking about how they've seen some suspicious men asking about Lillian and sometimes Adam too. I don't think they're the rapists though. The staff thought they were kind of dressed up to even be in the hospital."

Quinlan played with his beard as he said, "It could have something to do with that company... What was it called? I think it was the Independent Sciences Corporation. Being a teacher of Magical Science gets me targeted with them sometimes too. But they were huge opponents of the experimental research that their parents did. When the ISC found out that the experiments of the Millers had been successful, they started a huge campaign to find and kill the 'products of such a horrible union between natural science and chaotic magic.'" He leaned farther into the door. "They believed that Adam and Lillian had no rights as citizens, because they were not classified as human beings. There was a low-profile case in the Supreme High Court and a gathering of a majority of the science community that classified them as Homo novitas that gave them 'mostly human' status. The rest of the novitas celebrated their victory, but none of them are in the public eye as much as those two. After all, Adam and Lillian are the Millers' children. The rest of them are just extras that volunteered, or whose parents volunteered them, to be part of the experiment."

"How in the name of God do you know so much about this if it was supposed to be low-profile?" Andrew asked sharply, glaring at him with a mixture of shock and disgust.

"Do you remember that 'majority of the science community' I mentioned? Well, I was invited to the gathering as one of the few professors of Magical Science. I'm not quite a professor, considering I teach it at a high school, but I do have a doctorate in the subject." Quinlan proclaimed proudly, puffing his chest out with his accomplishments. He had to admit that it was quite an achievement to receive such a high degree in a hard subject like Magical Science. It seemed like Lillian was trying to follow in his footsteps as well, or perhaps it was just her drive to impress him and it was a phase she would grow out of soon.

Cecil smiled as he tugged at his cheek, trying to keep awake. "Quite an accomplishment," he complimented in good nature. "How old were you when you first received the doctorate? You don't look a day over thirty!"

"Twenty-one, if I'm not mistaken."

"And when you were invited to the gathering?"


"Dare I ask how old you are now?"

Grinning widely at the awed sound in Cecil's voice, Quinlan chuckled before replying, "I will be twenty-nine in the next month."

Doing the math quickly in his head, Andrew recited the statistics excitedly. "That means that Lillian was nine years old and Adam was fourteen years old. Who could deny citizenship rights to such adorable children? It also means that their parents died just a year after the scientists gave them that status!"

"I've always been disappointed that the ISC was never called on its involvement in their deaths. After that gathering, I became quite intrigued with the Millers and their work. I was actually close-minded about the experiments until I got to know the people behind them. Here were two young parents offering up their only children to be part of this dangerous experiment no one knew would even work." Quinlan smiled fondly at his memories. "I'm ashamed to note that both of them were the same age as me, which does mean I'm old enough to be Lillian's father. Do me a favor and don't mention that to Adam; he would never let me live it down."

He and Cecil both snickered. "So now the ISC comes after the children, because the parents are already dead and gone. That's sick!" Andrew said, his lips twisted with the sickness he felt at the thought. How could such a large corporation come after children? "Where are the morals we used to have?"

Cecil sighed sadly. "We can worry about this later. For now, we have a more immediate problem on our hands. Like, do we tell Adam or keep it to ourselves?"

"I vote keeping it to ourselves," Quinlan piped up cynically. "I think that Adam doesn't have the ability to cope with the truth right now."

"I think we should tell him, but we do it slowly and carefully. That way, he can't jump to conclusions. Anyone would have a stroke if we tried to tell him 'someone's trying to kill your sister' and then explain the situation to him. It just doesn't work like that."

Rocking back and forth on the couch, Cecil tried to decide what he should advocate. Andrew could see the wheels turning in his head. "I think... I agree with Andrew. We need to make sure his mind doesn't jump to conclusions and keep him grounded. Otherwise, we'll have a nervous breakdown on our hands. Just tell him calmly and rationally."

"And I'm outnumbered by sentimental fools," Quinlan said with a long-suffering sigh. "No surprise there."

Shaking his head fondly, Cecil pushed himself to his feet. "Get your kit ready and let's get to their house. We have several interesting conversations to have with those two."

"You keep referring to them as 'those two,'" Andrew noted with amusement. "Do you mind explaining why you do that?"

Cecil shrugged. "I don't suppose there's any reason for it. It just seems so troublesome."

"I know what you mean."

Andrew and Quinlan stood directly in front of the Miller siblings' door. They took a large breath in unison and knocked on the door together with Cecil right behind them. He held a basket of fruit, because he knew that Adam never cared much for meat and complained too much about his vegetables, while Quinlan held a basket of flowers, filled with all of Lillian's favorites, like lilies, roses, orchids, and violets. Cecil never bothered to get them anything since he was not interested in either of them romantically. He thought all four of them were fools in love, but that was just his opinion.

Cecil heard the creaking of the door as it opened. A gasp quickly followed and then an ear-piercing shriek almost sent him into a catatonic state. He wished he could have glared at the teenage girl, but he supposed he could forgive her. Just this once.

"Oh God, I'm so sorry, Cecil!" Lillian gushed hurriedly. He waved her off, unsure if he was waving in the right direction. His hearing felt kind of fuzzy from the shock his ears received. "Quinlan, these are my absolute favorites! How did you know?" She certainly sounded like an overly excited teenage female at that moment, whether she was isolated from society or not. That would explain how Cecil kept from falling prey to her charms. Now he wished he just stayed home.

"I've been your teacher for almost twelve months. If I didn't know your favorite flowers by now, what kind of teacher would I be?"

Lillian scoffed, making an almost wounded sound in the back of her throat. "Then what are Mary Smithfield's favorite flowers?"

Hesitating, Quinlan cleared his throat. "Maybe... uh... poppies?"

"Wrong. And I'm not telling you her real favorites either! I only want you to know mine." Lillian shuffled her feet against the porch. "I mean... Considering the flowers and all... We're not pretending to not like each other anymore, right? I kind of hated that plan, y'know."

"Yeah... I know. I kind of hated that plan too," Quinlan responded with a smile in his voice.

Cecil almost wished he could roll his eyes. When would they stop pouring sugar down his throat?

"Lillian!" a voice he had yet to hear for six full months came from inside. "What is taking so long? Do we have visitors or not?" Adam called, somewhat irritated. He walked up behind her, still talking. "I'm fixing dinner..." He paused, having obviously caught sight of them. And what a sight they must have made! Cecil tried his best to hide his irritation; Andrew held up his fruits basket invitingly; and Quinlan shared the burden of his flower basket with Lillian unapologetically. "What the Hell are you doing here? And why are you here?"

"Still as rude as always," Quinlan muttered under his breath.

"This is my house, you know. I have no reason to let you stay here," Adam told him threateningly with a hissing undertone.

Quinlan smirked. "Do you really want to disappoint your sister like that?" He poked him. "Come on."

Adam growled at him menacingly.

"That still doesn't have the same effect as a tiger, but you're getting there, kitten."

He snapped his gaze to Andrew, the stupid playful bastard. Adam wished he could rip his eyes out throw his sockets, throw them to the ground, and stomp on them until he felt suitably revenged. "I still hate you, Andrew."

"I know you do, kitten. You don't know how much it pains to hear it. So... I brought a peace offering in hopes of changing your mind!" Andrew displayed his fruits proudly. He arranged them in an aesthetic display of everything from apples to the zucchinis that he remembered were Adam's favorites.

Fighting to keep his mouth from watering at the succulent display of fruits, Adam glared down at the top of Lillian's head. He licked his lips. "I reject it. I'll not be taking anything from anyone like you, human." He turned on his heels and walked back into the door, slamming it behind him. Lillian jumped forward in surprise.

"Ah... I'm sorry about that, you guys. He's been kind of stressed out with stuff. He keeps hearing these strange rumors going around about someone called the ESC or something."

Andrew glanced over at Quinlan, who looked back at him. His lips twisted with grimness. If Adam kept up such violent behavior, he would crack. He would crack very soon. "Actually, besides our personal business, we also had to talk about something like that. Do you mind letting us in?"

Lillian smiled up at them. "Of course not! You're welcome in whenever you want, as far as I'm concerned anyway. Come on in," she said as she reopened the door her brother had just slammed and let the three in.

"Thank you," Andrew said politely as he took in their house. From the outside, it looked small and quaint, like a regular home. However, from the inside, it looked more cramped and tiny than much else. He cringed at their living conditions, promising he would get them out of it. Needless to say, Quinlan was thinking along the same lines.

"What do you want to talk to my brother about?" Lillian asked curiously, leading them into the living room that sat adjacent to the kitchen.

Quinlan smiled at her before he watched her brother cook in the kitchens. "We had a few scenarios to discuss with him and we also wanted to talk to him about the ISC situation. We want to protect both of you. That's our top priority."

"Is the ISC thing dangerous? He doesn't tell me anything!"

Andrew's lips twitched. "He wants to protect you too. He thinks that, by not telling you these things, he's protecting you from feeling scared."

Lillian snorted derisively. "Lot of good," she said shortly, "that could do for him!"

Shrugging nonchalantly, Quinlan took neither side in that argument. "It's normal for people to behave irrationally when they love someone. Adam believes that wholeheartedly. He would have no qualms being wrong about protecting her if he thought he did the right thing."

"Yeah, that sounds like Adam." She sighed, resting her head against the back of the couch. "Eh... Do you think he takes on too much of the worry around here? Or is it just me?"

"It's not just you," Andrew assured with an anxious look in his eyes. He kept on watching the young adult in the kitchen, who seemed oblivious to their conversation about him despite being less than ten feet away from them. "I just wish there was something more that I -- that we -- could do to reach him better than we have."

Fanning her face against the heat of the summer, Lillian huffed weakly with her laughter. "I'm his sister. I've been trying to worm my way into his heart these five years or so. He still doesn't talk to me like he ought to. I doubt there's anything anyone could do."

Andrew pursed his lips thinly with determination. "I'm going to think of something I can do, because there's no way I'll let him take on everything by himself. He deserves something better than that and, by God, I'm going to give it to him!"

"He's going to flip when he finds out you want to be the provider in it. He already has this housewife complex of his because of his cooking and all that."

Shaking his head, Andrew watched Adam make all manner of hand gestures as he burned himself. He stuck his finger into his mouth, sucking on the burn wound. He smirked wryly. "So he knows he can't turn into a girl any more than he already is."

"Not until you fu--" Quinlan slapped his hand over her mouth quickly, giving her a stern look. She flinched slightly, but never reacted badly beyond that. Lillian rolled her eyes; then she pried his fingers off of her face. "Yes, father dear, I'll watch my language from now on."

"Good girl," he replied simply, not rising to the bait, which pissed her off infinitely more than any of his sarcastic comments could.

Lillian sighed. "There are some days when I can't decide whether to hate you or to love you."

"You could always try both," Cecil spoke up from his corner. Andrew's heart ached with the need to find him somebody of his own to love. "Jane Austen wrote that the strongest loves are those who claim to hate each other every day."

"That seems rather funny, doesn't it? Perhaps it's just me..." he stated, glancing at each of them expectantly.

Quinlan grinned at Lillian. "I hate you, darling."

"I abhor you, dear," she answered with a contented sigh, wearing her own grin.

"Silly love birds," he muttered under his breath.

Cecil snickered. "Now you know how I feel, don't you? I don't understand how other people fall in love, practically or romantically. Neither seem too logical. It's just too emotionally investing for me."

Andrew inclined his head in wonder. "It's funny. I would expect more of this talk from Quinlan than you. You're just so happy most of the time."

"I guess most of my thoughts are wired in logic, and those thoughts that aren't revolve around personal values instead. Quinlan's feelings surround relationships, not core values. How else do you think he gave up his moralistic bias so readily when he formed an opinion of the people behind the wrongdoing? He sacrificed his values in order to better his relationship, which is the main difference between us."

He blinked deliberately at him several times. "Wow... You really are logical. I've never heard someone speak so deeply about someone not their self before."

"Neither have I," Quinlan said, discomfort in his tone. "I have never been analyzed quite so thoroughly before."

"Oh! Do me next," Lillian urged from beside him. She bounced excitedly. "I want you to analyze how I think!"

"I don't think you do at all," he grumbled, releasing a heavy breath full of his suffering. After a moment of stalling for someone to stick up for him, Cecil nodded his acquiescence to her request. "I promise I will analyze you... eventually. For now, let's just stick to the subject at hand."

"Well, that will have to wait. Our subject doesn't appear to be at hand for the moment. He's too busy playing the housewife."

Adam's gruff voice interrupted them from the kitchen. "If you don't stop calling me a housewife, Andrew, I will feel quite justified in killing you. In fact, I will feel so justified in killing you that I won't even plead insanity to get out of the charges of first degree murder."

"Uh..." Andrew grinned sheepishly up at him. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you I never meant a word of it."

"No. No, I wouldn't," Adam affirmed.

"That's what I thought," he said.

"Now... Would one of you like to inform me what you are still doing here when I distinctly remember giving you all the impression I wanted you gone?"

Lillian snorted. "Impression? I think you just about tattooed it on their foreheads."

Dropping his face into his palm, Quinlan shook his head. "Thank you for thinking of such an appropriate hyperbole."

"How do you know such a literary element when you're a science major?"

He gave Adam a blank look. "I had to take other courses in high school and college. I was a pretty well rounded student."

Adam rolled his eyes at the implication of his obliviousness. He knew very well what the others thought of him now. “Lilli, please let me kick them out?” he pleaded, pouting at her with his brown eyes big and round.

Shivering at the shimmer in Adam's eyes, Andrew looked toward Quinlan. If he looked into those eyes for long, he knew he would end up making a decision: jump the boy or leave quickly. Since he neither wanted to leave or scare him off, Andrew decided to look away. Quinlan smirked knowingly at him. He shrugged in response. As if he wouldn't react in the same manner.

Thankfully, Lillian's resolve hardened at the manipulative tactic. “No. I want to spend an afternoon with my friends. My brother can just go sulk in his room if he refuses to be friendly.” She stared directly in his eyes, her chin jutting out stubbornly.

He actually winced at the implication that he had been disowned from their friends. Did these humans mean that much to him? He tolerated Quinlan for his sister; though he had to admit that he found their banter entertaining and somewhat meaningful. He liked Cecil; he was one of the most genuinely likable humans he had ever met—even his sporadic crankiness and depression made him interesting. Adam despised Andrew; he hated the way he called him “kitten” in that low, teasing voice of his; he hated the way he thought of him as his pet housewife and wanted to provide and care for him; he hated the way he grabbed his tail and made him feel things he never felt before; he hated the way he knew he hated meat, disliked many vegetables, and brought him a basket full of fruits because of it; but most of all, he hated that he could make him feel that warm feeling in his heart that he only felt towards his parents and Lillian.

Adam pursed his lips together. So maybe he never hated Andrew; or he did, but it was in such a different way than he hated those bastards who raped his sister. He hated him, but he liked him at the same time. Ah, what a mess he made of things! He cared for the damned humans after all. He slumped down on the couch beside Andrew and murmured just loud enough so all of them could hear him, “I'm sorry. I'd be very glad if we could all be friends.”

Watching the reactions of his companions, Adam found himself amused at how shocked all of their gazes were. His sister seemed less so, but all the same looked amazed that he caved in so quickly. He gave her a small smile. Andrew looked like the cat who caught the canary. He glared at his leering suitor; that scenario was entirely backwards. He was the cat, damn it! Quinlan looked as though he were adding something like maturity points to his character. Adam glared at him too—the uptight, proper sonofabitch. Cecil stared ahead, fiddling with his ears. He smiled at him too, just like he had his sister.

Andrew recovered first, realizing what he had said.. “Just friends, huh?” he mumbled. Adam imagined that, if he had been a real cat, his ears would have drooped miserably. He paused, thinking about his answer, and shrugged in response.

“... Maybe.”

He regretted his decision to be nice when Andrew's arm slung around his waist and pulled him closer. Andrew leaned in close, smirking slightly. “Cool.”

He obviously mistook that as a yes. Adam sighed, blushing as he received a chaste kiss to his lips. With anger, he insisted. He did not blush from one kiss from someone he didn't even like.

“If you're all done flirting, we came here to discuss some important business in addition to resolving our friendship issues.” Cecil bit his lip as soon as he finished speaking; the words sounded harsh to his own ears. Could any of them blame him for being bitter and jealous over his own loneliness while trying to remain happy for each of them as his friends? He thought not. However, he only saw shadows of what their reactions were—little movements in the dark, none of them remotely significant enough for him to gauge their emotions. He cast meaningful nods toward Quinlan and Andrew before he continued to their next train of conversation. “Adam.” He saw his shadow straighten up and shrink from the corner of his eyes; he was already fearful. “I need you to listen carefully to me. Do not jump to conclusions with only half the facts to go on. Do you understand?”

Adam made a strangled sound in his throat; his shadow nodded tensely. He could make out so many of his reactions; it was one of his good days.

“Relax. If you're tense right now, you might induce panic by the end of this... proposition.” He waited a brief moment for Adam to relax. “The hospital told Andrew and I this afternoon that there have been strange men wandering their halls asking about you and Lillian. We do not,” he said in response to Adam's bristling, “believe that these are the rapists. The hospital describes them as well-dressed—like corporate suits or something.”

“The ISC...” Adam guessed, sounding so sad that Cecil wanted to hug him despite his bad mood. “Asking about me and Lillian,” he said, his tone becoming sharp.

Quinlan spoke up quietly. “There's a good chance that the ISC could hack into hospital records and find out where the two of you live right now.”

“We think it would be a good idea if you came to live with me,” Andrew stated.

“We never agreed on who. I think it should be me. My house is large enough for us three and more.”

“So all of us could move in together?” Lillian asked excitedly, bouncing on her heels. Cecil stared at her shadow in bemusement and shock. He never offered to leave his home.

Andrew voiced his opinion more readily. “I never said I wanted to leave my home.”

“Wouldn't living with us be home?” She clearly meant Adam. He almosted snorted out loud. “Home is where the heart is. All of our hearts are connected now. Friends, lovers, brothers, sisters—all connected as one. Why shouldn't we live together?”

“I dislike the idea of living with two pairs of lovers,” Cecil answered, ignoring the squawking protests from Adam.

Quinlan picked up on the idea easily—more easily than Cecil thought he would. He supposed it was for Lillian's sake. “You can live on the other side of the house. No need to be bothered with the rest of us for a night or so, unless you wanted to. Most of us work or go to school during the daytime. At most, Adam will pester you endlessly while the rest of us are away. And you can leave the house at any time you choose.”

Still shaking his head, Andrew spoke up again. “I just bought my house free and clear with money that I have been saving up for years. What am I going to do with it now?”

“Sell it. Get your money back. As a matter of fact, I'm willing to buy it off your hands and entail it back to you should anything unfortunate happen to me being friends with them. My estate is large enough to help you out.” Cecil heard the smirk in his voice from across the room. He had an answer for all of their concerns.

Adam, uncharacteristically docile throughout the whole conversation, nodded his head. “Yeah. All right.”

Lillian giggled softly. “Does this mean we're living together now, Quinlan?”

“Hell no!”

There was the old Adam.
Tags: original fiction, stranger enthalpy
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