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Theme Eleven: Another Freaky Friday?! Why?

"Wow, the Leader of the Ninja sure sleeps like a rock…I like the irony."

Uh…huh? Who is that? I never heard this voice before…Why is a guy in my bedroom…?

I blearily open my eyes…

Huh? What the…Sasha never said she had a brother…? More importantly…why is he in bed with me?!

Familiar storm grey eyes sparkle playfully and even more familiar cream-colored lips curve seductively in a smile…the only difference is…while this guy looked disturbingly too much like Sasha…everything about him screamed masculinity…

What… exactly…

"Hmm…mornin' there fruit tits…lean over and give yo' man a kiss…"

"AHHHH!" I scramble backwards out of bed and end up unceremoniously on the floor in a tangle of black sheets. My mind is going a mile-a-minute! That voice! My voice! I manage to detangle myself fairly quickly and rise to my feet. My…longer than usual hair is in the way, but my mind is too frazzled right now to push it back. Instead my hand goes immediately to my throat.

"What happened to me!?" I scream…in a purely girly voice. My heart is beating too fast! I feel like it's going to burst out of my chest! I clutch said chest in fear… Why does it feel so heavy…


"Calm down, honey. Don't stress yourself," Man-Sasha says to me and gets up from my bed. She—He tries to approach me with open arms, but I backpedal hastily until my back hits the wall.

She—He smiles assuredly and continues to make her—his way towards me.

"Our Gods and Goddesses have struck again, but don't worry. It was meant to happen this time because me and my sisters—heh…I mean brothers asked them to," she—he explains smoothly and stops in front of me. The voice coming from this person is deeper and she/he is taller than me, and…long loose red tresses…some of them fall over… his smooth fit shoulder…an open button-up shirt…delectable caramel skin…a hard chest with rippling muscles…those abs…and…and a vague dusky view of narrow hips disappearing into aqua-colored drawstring pants…

I'm starting to feel weird…

I quickly shake my head, my long-ass hair finally granting me proper sight. I furiously tuck it behind my ear and even more furiously level SASHA with a hard glare.

"Sasha, what the hell do you mean?! Why ask them to do this?!" I yell up at…him…urgh!

He shrugs nonchalantly. "We wanted to find out what it felt like to be dominant for a change. Nothing wrong with mixin' it up for once, right?" He winks. "And don't worry; the effects will only last for an odd number of hours. We told them we'd let them know when to change us back."

"TELL THEM TO CHANGE US BACK NOW!" I demand hotly. Forget my composure! I feel too damn weird! I want things back to normal right now!

"Oh c'mon Colette, where's your sense of adventure? We can…try a few things…" He licks his lips suggestively and my face goes instantly red with anger and mortification.

"I don't want to try anything with you while we're like this! I never looked into the mirror and wished I was a woman! And if you ever call me "Colette" again, I'll bite your head off!"

Platinum irises widen. "Ohhh, kinky! Now you're gettin' into the spirit of things!"

I ball my significantly smaller fists angrily at my…curvy sides. "SASHA!"

A charming smile. "Please, call me "Stefan"…" A poster-boy flick of the head is performed, causing the fire-locks to flutter beautifully. "…your Caribbean Cabana boy…"


"Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?" He suddenly asks and leans in close and I respond by literally plastering myself to the wall in fear. "And would you look at these massive bagongas…" his hands suddenly cup both my breasts and my mouth opens to release some sort of strangled squawkin' bird call, but this…blasphemous "man" in front of me carries on undisturbed. "Definitely an even swap, eh? A huge cock for huge jugs…"

Something inside me snaps and I lash out with an open-palmed right hand.


"Oww!" Sasha recoils back and places a hand to his cheek, giving me the evil eye. "Hey, what the hell was that for?! I never slapped you when you did that!"

"Yeah well, I never just grabbed you!" I snap back.

"Oh! So you expect for me to woo you then?! We don't have time for that!"

Having another irrevocable urge, I snap my fingers up in his face and roll my eyes. "Well you better make the time if you want this femmina to put out!" (girl) Instant realization dawns on me at what I just said and I cover my mouth in utter humiliation, my face lighting up again.

I close my eyes tight. What the hell am I saying?! And where the hell did that finger-snappin' thing come from?! Wait…I know where!

I open my eyes in a flash and point a trembling accusatory finger at the woman-gone-man person before me.

"This is…your fault! You did this and now you're going to fi—mmmppfff!" I'm soundly silenced by the firm planting of soft and achingly familiar lips on mine. "Mmmmppfff!" I grip Sasha's shoulders and try to shove him away, but suddenly… I'm gently pulled from the wall and warm fingers are pressed deeply into my scalp.


I'm still sensitive there and although the hands are larger, they're still very soothing…like Sasha's. Pleasure is gradually being replaced by anger, but I don't want to give in. I don't want to play this game!

With renewed vigor, I began to struggle in his arms in an effort to break the kiss.



A very Sasha-like maneuver is used. A velvety tongue glides over my lower lip before being entrapped between two plump curves and promptly suckled. A swarm of bliss engulfs my mind and I can't help but want to pull him closer.

That's right…it's a him, but…I'm a her…It's Sasha…my Sasha…Damn…why did she have to do this…

One of us is moaning but I can't tell who. Too discombobulated. Too beguiled. Maybe, it's both of us.

I slant my head as I usually do and a tango of tongues ensues. Yes, now I feel like I'm on a sunny beach enjoying a juicy ripe mango. This is Sasha's taste, this sinfully sweet addicting tropical fruit flavor. My arms ache to be encircled around that strong neck, but I don't give in to the submissive role and slink my arms under his and place them where they're supposed to be if I was back in my body, around her waist.

Sasha abruptly pulls back and the kiss is broken with a wet smack.

I lick my lips. Damn that was good…It would've been much better if I was in my own body though…


I crane my neck some to look up at him. His face was pulled into a hard frown, his brow creased in utter disbelief as he peers down at me.

"Huh…?" I ask, wondering why we stopped. Hell, if I was going to be stuck like this until he was satisfied then at least I could enjoy kissing for the time being to help me forget about my unfortunate circumstance.

"Regardless of being a girl…you still want to be dominating."

I mirror his frown. "What? I'm supposed to automatically submit to you just because you're a man?"

His eyes widen incredulously. "Great Leviathan! I should've brought my tape recorder for what you just said!" The sharp contours of Sasha's face darken to blatant ire and he points at himself. "I have tried to muscle in a little control over you, Cole Belmonte, but you always rebuff me!"

I take in the foreign heavy basso of my favorite red-head's voice and look him up and down. "Rebuff you? What are you talking about?"

The anger gradually recedes and sadness unfortunately takes its place. "You really don't know?" He laments quietly. "Cole, I've… Every time we've gotten physical, I find myself always or eventually under you. All I want is a little leverage and leeway with you." Stormy depths gaze sadly into my eyes. "Why can't you give me that?"

My mouth falls open. "Sasha…I… I didn't know… I never meant to smother you. Was I really being that controlling?" I ask timidly and he looks away, the melancholy still playing on his face.

Oh man… I forwardly admit to having too much fun during me and Sasha's alone time. But I always thought she enjoyed my assertiveness and initiative. And now that I actually stop to think about what she said, I have always rebuffed her when she tried to take control during one of our many affectionate activities.

A cold lump settles in my stomach and I peer regrettably up at him, his face still turned away. I reach up and smooth my palm over his cheek, gently coaxing him to look at me. "I'm sorry," I say sincerely and give him a hopeful smile. "You know I love you and the last thing I want to do is make you feel diminutive. From now on, I promise to listen more closely to you. I'll let you lead when you want to."

It's the sadness's turn to slowly recede and hope sparkles in his eyes. "Really?" He smiles and I return it.


Sasha's newly acquired handsome features brighten considerably, but I watch with slight wariness when another smirk appears. "Great! I'd like to try now!"

A barely have time to utter a "HUH?!" before I'm swept off my feet and into his arms. "Sasha!" I bellow, my scathing anger resurfacing quicker than I ever thought possible. "What the hell are you doing!? Put me down right now!"

I kick my feet for emphasis, but all I get in return is a hearty deep chuckle. "I'm glad we came to an understanding, but I don't want to turn back to normal just yet." His smirk broadens until a curve of white teeth peeks through provocatively creamy lips. "You look too damn sexy in those capris and you look about ready to bust right out of your blouse. And most of all, I kinda like man-handling you, my beautiful Colette…"

Again, before I can say anything, I'm flung back onto my bed, my long loose hair frustratingly obscuring my vision due to my consecutive bouncing. I growl irritably while casting aside the unruly black strands and snarl up at the towering red-head.

"Don't call me "Colette"!" I bark angrily. "And I never man-handled you!"

To my chagrin, Sasha simply shrugs his broad shoulders. "True," he says lightly, then hungrily meets my eyes with another damnable smirk. "But I'm not you."

My eyes widen and I open my mouth to scream, but am once again silenced by his kiss.

0_0 *Chibijago!* 0_0

"Fascinating… Incredibly fascinating…" I run my new dainty appendages over my surprising plump and soft bosoms and another tingle of pleasure surges heavenly through my system. "Hmmm…" My moan of satisfaction is twofold. "I am delighted to know that I was right. The female body is undoubtedly more beautiful than a man's."

I glance down at the blonde man whose hips I was currently straddling, his large, but still attractive sun-kissed hands covering his face. "Would you not agree, my dear?" I question pleasantly. Intrigued once more by my new more feminine voice, I say a few more sentences just to hear myself speak. "Yes, this experience is truly educational! I am most pleased!" My face softens in love for the man below me. "I must thank you again, dearest. I now feel so much closer to you. This is good for us."

"Zane…" The voice below is deep, rugged, but quivered slightly with emotion and my female body shivers with pleasure just from hearing it. "Just one thing…"

There's still that certain lightness in the masculine tone that I adore, and my coronary circuitry remembers and pulls me forward. I am getting increasingly excited and my hands itch to touch my anatomy's most sensitive areas. "Anything, my love."

With his appealing visage still covered, he chokes out his next words. "Please, stop groping yourself! I can't take it!"

I cock my head to the side, bewildered. "Why not? Are you getting aroused?"

My verbal question receives a nonverbal answer as a small tremor quakes his body.

I smile gently at the familiar bashfulness. "Here, allow me to check…" I start to scoot slightly back along my angel's narrow hips, but am abruptly halted by his hands and voice.

"No! Zane, stop it!" Ayane cries and sits up in a flash, his hands hard on my hips. I stare wide-eyed at his handsome and flushed face, his strong chest heaving from his sudden outburst. He swallows audibly and sucks in a deep breath before slowly letting it out with his next words. "Don't. Please. That's not very lady-like," he chastises in a worried whisper and lifts me from his hips.

I am currently adorned in a very large white T-shirt and matching undergarments, so it would've been rather easy for me to ascertain if he had an erection or not. But apparently that particular behavior seemed too uncouth for Ayane's standards and he looks quite upset. I did not mean for that to happen.

I make no move or sound of protest and allow him to place me on the bed. His two-toned irises of sky blue and mint green scour over my body nervously as his hands leave me. The look of vexation and bafflement appears out of place amongst his blushing cheeks and I place my hand on his shoulder in an act of comfort.

"My apologies, angel. I did not mean to upset you," I state in remorse and he shakes his head sharply.

"No, no! It's just that…uh…" A quick hand runs through his bright golden bangs and locks, and I take intuitive note that the "Female Ayane" never performed such a mannerism, but the reason for that may be because of the longer length in hair this "Male Ayane" has. How curious…

"Geez Zane, I came here because I was worried about you," he says earnestly, his face genuinely fretful. "I thought you'd be afraid or at least upset to wake up suddenly as a girl."

I nod in understanding and slide my hand down the exposed length of his sinewy arm, my feminine mind satisfied with the feel of hard muscle. "Your sentiment was correct. I was indeed surprised by the revelation of my new supple body, but intrigue won over my shock and I wanted to conduct a few simple experiments."

At my words, Ayane's face flushes with beautiful scarlet and he turns away. "Y-Yes, I noticed w-when I came in," he mutters.

I fiddle with a more silvery lock of my short hair and grace Ayane with another smile. "Ah yes, you were saying that you were against the forced alterations of our male bodies, correct?" I inquire and Ayane whips his head back around with narrowed eyes and pursed lips, his blush disappearing completely.

"Of course I voted against turning you guys into girls! But…" she deflates; anger never lasts long within Ayane. "But I was the only one against it, so I was promptly overruled and ignored by the others."

I move closer to him, feeling an irrevocable urge to snuggle in his arms and alleviate his qualms. But judging by Ayane's previous distress to my forwardness, I don't follow through with the notion and settle for placing my hand on top of his. My skin coating is just as pale and insipid as it should be and still derives an elegant contrast when placed atop the fetchingly sunbathed skin of Ayane.

"Do not fret, my dear," I say soothingly. "I am sure my brothers will see the transformations as learning experiences."

Ayane looks at me with a raised eyebrow, clearly doubtful, but doesn't say anything and I take it as my cue to continue. "Oh, and did you not also mention that the reason for this experimentation was to reverse the roles and exact dominance?"

His shoulders slouch. "Yeah…"

I can't help the airy giggle from escaping my lips at the endearing pout on my love's face and I lean in close to nuzzle the soft wild tresses of newly spun gold. "Oh my sweet, I understand your plight for you are incapable of exhibiting a dominate behavior."

Hmm…the honeysuckle…it's still here… Not much lavender though, unfortunately…

"Wait… What?"

Ayane unexpectedly leans back away from me and I frown at the absence of his silken hair against my cheek. However, I am met with a similar frown on his face.

"What do you mean by that?" He asks with a furrowed brow.

I blink in confusion at his displeasure, but answer his question regardless. "I did not mean to offend, Ayane. Although I am certain that you are aware of your own personality." I scrutinize the slow darkening of Ayane's face as it contorts into further displeasure and incredulousness, wondering why he's getting so ruffled. "I may even be so bold as to declare that it's against your very nature to enact aggression in a domineering fashion when braced with the topic of romance. Whether male or female, it is simply not in you."

I watch worriedly as his mouth opens and closes wordlessly, the display reminding me of a gasping fish on land. After a moment, he finally decides on a grimace and turns haughtily away from me, resulting in his hand slipping out from under mine.

I blink.

"I could be dominating if I wanted to be," he grumbles lowly. "I just… Well, ya'know—I just…"

"Can't?" I supply helpfully, but Ayane only stiffens and balls up his hands in his lap.

I blink again. There is really no reason for him to feel angry or ashamed of his inability to be dominating. As long as one is willing to submit, I cannot call it demeaning. Some are capable while others are not, just like some are born to lead while others are born to follow. We each have our own roles and should be proud of our own unique personalities.

I decide to tell him that. "Ayane—"

"Alphonse." I am taken aback by the hard and unyielding male voice, and eye his rugged profile carefully. "It was my father's name. And as long as I'm in this body, I would appreciate you calling me as such." His eyes are overshadowed by his strings of bangs, giving him a very forlorn appearance.

I feel a twinge of hurt rupture through my mainframe and I open my mouth to reassure him, but my voice is muted when he faces me. The strength and fierceness in his eyes is nearly binding and I feel myself unable to look away.

"And while you're in that body, your name will be "Zoe", alright?"

"Um…yes, a-alright." I make an attempt to clear my throat. Why did I just stutter? Perhaps I am simply in shock of this strange—though compelling—change of demeanor?

I am brought back into focus when I feel…Alphonse take my hand in his and languidly intertwine our fingers. My gaze never wavers from his as he wordlessly persuades me to lie on my back atop of my comforter. Rapid pulses of excitement converge within my coronary circuitry in the exact same way it always has when Ayane and I were about to engage in sensuous activities, only…I am not "Zane" and this is not "Ayane". This time the roles have been reversed and I am now "Zoe" and the one above me is…

"Alphonse…" His gaze is much too intense and I am spellbound, hopelessly trapped by the stare of a wild and noble wolf. Slowly, his face inches closer and my eyes hood with desire at the coming bliss I would surely soon be engulfed in. Tantalizingly warm breath teases my lips and I lift my head in an effort to meet him the rest of the way, when suddenly he stops just centimeters close from giving me—us nirvana and I can't stretch anymore to close the distance.

He pulls back, still entrapping me in his gaze and eyes me steadily. "When I was "Ayane", I willingly submitted to you because I felt so overwhelmed and didn't even want to try to match your level of passion, but…I'm starting to see now that maybe I should have. If I had, maybe you'd respect me more."

My eyes grow wide. "What? No! Ayane, I've always respected you! You are my sun! My warmth! My everything!" I cry out desperately, but the man's expression above me doesn't change.

"You respect me as a person, but do you respect me as a lover?"

"Yes!" I reply instantly and I'm finally graced with a small loving smile.

"Then please, allow me to find my own answer…" His head lowers again and again he stops short. "But…let me know if I go too far, okay?" The soft tenor in his voice is bewitching and a content smile curves on my lips.

"As you wish," I whisper and let my eyes drift close, relishing the coming heat. "For it is time I submit to you…whether male or female…"

0_0 *Chibijago!* 0_0

"Ebony. I'm gonna say this one last time." I narrow my eyes warningly at the eerie male version of my girlfriend. "Let. Me. Go."

Cool and hooded russet garnet irises look down at me in an almost bored apathetic way. He holds me captive with effortless strength against the wall, gripping my wrists with a single hand while the other simply rests on his hip.

I grit my teeth and emit a low growl of frustration, really considering delivering a swift kick where the sun don't shine, but decide against it. Ebony's reflexes are too damn sharp and he'd most likely do something to irritate me if I tried going on the offensive again.

"Are you going to throw another temper tantrum and behave like a petulant child? Or are you go to act your age and talk to me sensibly?" He counters back in a deep smooth cadence.

I huff and blow my now limp spikes out of my eyes. "Fine. Whatever. Just let go."

My wish is granted and Ebony lets go of my wrists and steps away. Still fuming, I put even more distance between us and stalk over to my bed, glaring red-hot daggers at him all the while. I flop down on the mattress with my back to him and pull my naked legs up to my chest, not wanting him to see any part of this "new" me even though he already has. I'm stubborn like that…

I glower at my state of dress. My shorts are too small and my shirt is too tight. Or…is this one of those sports bra thingys? Feeling another bout of rage coming on, I whip my head around and stare angrily at the man behind me.

"How long do you plan on playing this game?!" I shout furiously at him, but as I suspected, he just calmly regards me. My anger never really affected Ebony when I was a guy, so why the hell would he be affected now that I'm a girl? Especially with this light girly voice…

Ebony folds his arms across his tightly muscled chest, dressed in nothing but a simple silver tank top and black sweat pants. "As I told you before your period started—"

"Damn you!"

"-for the duration of this experiment I've chosen to go by "Edward" in commemoration to the character "Edward Elric" from the anime FullMetal Alchemist," he shares idly. "And to answer your question: When I am satisfied."

"With what?!" I bellow and stand up, going to march back up to him. "This can't be just about dominance!" I peer at him closely and poke his chest. "Not with you, Ebony."

I put emphasis on his true name to let him know I don't give a frog's fat ass what he wanted to be called and stare defiantly into those rare dark gems. And after a spell, Ebony's passive expression slowly gives way to a faint smile, which I begrudgingly admit is still breathtaking to witness despite being on a more hard-edged face.

"Your obstinacy and fury seems to have doubled now that you're a female, Kai…must be the estrogen levels in your blood…" I open my mouth to protest vehemently, but stop short when he begins to laugh. My heartbeat quickens and fire scorches my cheeks. It lasted no more than a few seconds, but it had been just as captivating as Ebony's "feminine" laugh.

A profound yearning hits me like a ton of Coles as I look up at him, and a maddening urge to pull him down by the collar of his shirt and kiss him with everything I have surges powerfully through me. But thankfully, his hands on my shoulders stop me from following-through with the impulse.

"But I digress, I'm happy you know me so well," he says softly, his faint smile still in place. "I have no qualms about being submissive in a relationship, nor do I have any compunction towards your assertiveness. I am, however, curious about the world-wide conundrums caused by the "Male or Female" demographic."

"Huh? What do you mean? There are a ton of those. So in what context?" I ask, utterly bemused and Ebony's smile flees completely with the next shift of wind from beyond my opened window.

"Hn… I never wanted to turn you into a girl, Kai. That was done completely for Lord Diablos' enjoyment." My jaw drops and Ebony shakes her head in sympathy with me. "I'm sure his mirth has been satiated by now, so if you're ready I can ask him to turn you back."

My petite frame shakes with boiling rage as I ball my fists at my sides. Freakin' stupid goat-man! "I'm ready…" I say through gritted teeth and Ebony nods his consent.

I am immediately draped in darkness, Ebony's male face completely obstructed from view, and though I feel no pain I can feel the changes. My height increases, my frame broadens out, and my hair doesn't feel so limp anymore.

The darkness retreats in wisps and I'm greatly relieved to feel like myself again. I pat myself down just to be sure though as I make it a law to never trust a goat, especially a goat-man. No boobs…check… My hand travels down further and I'm happy to pat my good buddy. No flower-power…check… PHEW! I glance down, even happier to be in my p.j.'s again.

"Man that was creepy…" I breathe and glance back up to Ebony. My eyes widen. And it's about to get even creepier! "Ebony, what the hell!" I shout and gesture to my obviously still male girlfriend. "Why are you still a guy?!"

A pure white eyebrow rises. "I told you, I will stay this way until I'm satisfied."

I frown and cross my arms, standing toe-to-toe with the one before me. "And you still haven't explained what that meant," I argue pointedly and a flicker of…something briefly shadows his face before he gives a firm nod.

He gestures to my bed. "Please sit with me for a moment."

I sigh exasperatedly, but oblige. We face each other at an angle, keeping a respectable distance when Ebony decides to speak.

"As I said before, I had no desire to see you as a girl, but I had to go along with the others if I wanted to test a theory…a "true love" theory…"

Our eyes lock, but I'm still baffled to what her being a guy would prove. A mask of indifference covers his face, but that's all it is…a mask.

"Kai…I wanted to become a man because I needed to know if you truly loved me for who I am, regardless of what gender I took. I needed to know if…you and I felt the same way…"

I stare at him and gradually break our gaze so that I can let my eyes travel up and down his appearance. I scrutinize everything and log the details and subtle differences in my mind: The same exact lightly bronze skin, identical chocolate-dipped cherries, though this Ebony's are a bit sharper in shape, one in the same pure white hair. His is loose, I notice and neatly tucked behind his silver-looped pierced ears, and only a few long strands falls over his left eye. And let's not forget the unique birthmark of a crescent moon surrounded by flames emblazoned on his right shoulder.

Everything is more or less the same…but there's one big difference though…

I raise my gaze back to Ebony's and keep my face blank.

"I'm sorry Ebony, but if you were a guy…then I couldn't love you."

The mask doesn't falter, but the eyes are the windows to the soul and I see them widen an almost imperceptible fraction. I see the various emotions swarm through the stunning dark depths: disbelief, sorrow, and finally…acceptance.

He breaks his gaze from mine and licks his lips quickly, and then swallows. "I see… I understand. I guess I am most fortunate to have been born a female then," his voice is hollow and tight with repressed emotion. "Thank you for being honest with me, Kai."

It was fast, but I thought I saw the beginning of tears glisten in his eyes as he stands up. "Excuse me, but I need to be alone for a while."

He starts to move pass me, but I grab him around the waist with my arm and fling him back onto the bed, positioning myself over him.

"Kai! Wha—mmppfft!"

Without hesitation, I swoop down and claim those tempting lips with my own; finally fulfilling that maddening urge I had when I was a girl. And the taste is what I expected: divine and familiar, a strawberry oasis. I drink from him greedily.

The body is somewhat hard underneath mine, and although I miss the feel of Ebony's supple curves and soft breasts, I can hear our heartbeats synchronize with each other and beat as one. That's the most important thing.

I break the kiss unhurriedly, savoring the sweet taste and smirk wickedly down at the gasping man below me. With his mask completely shattered into tiny little pieces, Eb—Edward's cheeks are tinted scarlet as he stares up at me in awe and wonder.

"But-*gasp*-you said…"

I roll my eyes. "Ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer," I rebuke plainly then throw him a wry smirk. "C'mon, you tryin' to say you didn't see through me?! I mustered up my blankest look for you, doctor!"

He makes a face and turns his head away. "I didn't think it was a stupid question," he admits quietly and I frown.

"Listen to me close. If Chrono suddenly decided to rewind time for whatever reason and we had to go through everything again except you'd be a guy instead of girl, we still would've ended up together. I mean sure, some circumstances would've changed and been different, and no doubt our progress would've gone much slower, especially on my end. Hell, I'd probably swim back and forth through denial countless times before I'd admit I was in love with you, but eventually…" I smile down at him, "…eventually, I know I wouldn't have been able to stay away." I reach down and smooth the silken white strands between my fingers. "Because it's you… It's all you…Edward."

He continues to stare at me and I watch with a rueful smile as tears leak out of the corners of his eyes.

"Hey, what's this now? You're a man, aintcha'? Men don't cry," I tease and his eyes narrow slightly.

"Shut up," he retorts though there's no real anger in his voice. "And I remember you telling me Zane cried once."

"Hey, that was one manly tear, so that's a different case."

"What about Jay?"

"Jay's a basket case."

I smirk and am rewarded with a deep breezy rumble of a chuckle. Edward attempts to sit up and I help him by sliding away and pulling on his arms. Those same strong arms come around my body and I return his hug, my hands smoothing up and down his back. I turn my face in his hair and breathe deeply, relishing in the familiar scent of delicious coconut.

"I'm sorry I doubted you," he whispers lowly in my ear. "It's just…when the opportunity presented itself I—"

"Shhh, I know so don't worry about it," I interrupt gently. "It's dangerous to assume everything. Hearing the words brings more peace of mind then supposition."

He loosens his hold and I do the same, pulling back. Up close, I can see just how long and full his eyelashes are. He's definitely more beautiful than handsome. At least I think so.

"Thank you," he says again, though this time it's with more happiness. "But if you don't mind, I'd like to lay here with you for awhile before changing back."

I shrug. "Sure." I push him back down and clamber on top of him, grinning. "Like this?"

His response is a growl and pushing me off of him with the same ease as if I was still a girl. "Hey!"

"No you jerk. You're heavy."

I huff, indignant. "With the way you just flung me off of ya, I'd say you're full of it."

"Like that was comfortable," he scoffs.

"Oh whatever, just c'mere!" I pull Edward to my side and kiss his lips quickly which leaves him stunned and blushing.

I chuckle and look at him, cradling his body in the crux of my arm. "What?"

"N-Nothing…just… I guess I'm surprised you can kiss me so easily," he mutters and I just continue to look at him.

"Do I really need to repeat myself?"

He hides his face in my chest. "No."

We fall into a contented silence and I begin to feel my eyes droop with incoming drowsiness.

"Oh… Now there's a question…" Edward suddenly mumbles and I blink sleepily.

"What?" I ask, half-asleep already.

He shifts in my arms and I feel his lips right next to my ear. "Who would be seme and would be uke in the relationship."

I moan and wound my arms more tightly around him. "That's easy, I would of course."

He shifts again. "What do you mean you would…of course?"

I crack open an eye and blearily focus in on his now staid expression. "I know how to work the equipment…" I smirk casually. "…you don't."

He eyes me calmly before turning away on his other side, regardless of my hold on him. "Hmph…can't be too difficult…" I hear him utter and my eyes snap open, fully awake and alert.

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?!" I yell, feeling offended, but he doesn't even flinch and keeps his back to me.

"I think you know exactly what it means."

"Alright, that's it!" I grab his shoulder and turn him around to face me, my gaze hard and penetrating. "Change back, right now!"

Confusion litters his face before the dawn of understanding lights it. "Oh… I meant no offense. After all it's perfectly normal—"


0_0 *Chibijago!* 0_0

I sniffle and wipe my face with a tissue as I sit at the foot of my bed. I look down at myself once more and the waterworks start all over again. I sob miserably.

The…man beside me is silent and simply gives me comfort and support by rubbing circles on my back. Another tissue is held out to me and I take it from the…man's hand quickly.

I dab at my eyes, keeping my gaze on the navy blue carpet of my bedroom. "How could you do this to me?" I ask pitifully. "What did I do to deserve…this…?" I gesture vaguely at myself with my tissue-covered hand, "The boobies, the long-flowing wavy hair, the—the flower-power!"

I hear the…man chuckle under his breath.

"Now thanks to you, all I want to do is curl-up in front of the television with a roll of raw cookie dough and watch a marathon of My Little Pony!" I turn to look at the…man sadly through blurry eyes. "I thought you loved me!"

The raven-haired…man puts his hand on my cheek and I feel much too dejected to flinch away. "Oh baby…" he wipes at my tears with his thumb, "of course I love you."

I can see him a bit better, soft chocolate eyes and vanilla skin. He smiles gently at me. "Then why?—And don't call me "baby"!" I snap with scorn. "It's too close to "crybaby"", I sniffle and wipe my eyes again. "And I'm not one."

"Okay," he complies with a nod. His voice is too deep to be Nya's and my eyes fill with water again when I realize that it's deeper than mine when I was a man. "How about I call you…"Joy", then?"

I look at him with wide eyes. "Joy?"

"Yes," he says with smooth certainty and takes another tissue, wiping my face free of tears. "Don't you think it's a perfect fit for you?"

I blink and sniff, thinking about how un-joyful I am right now. I stare at him. "Not at this particular moment!"

I feel heat rise to my cheeks at the sudden wind chime laughter. It's so reminiscent of my princess that I can't help but be beguiled by it. I fight down my blush though and wring the tissues together in my hands. I cast my gaze to my shape-shifting girlfriend.

"Nya… was I really so dominating of you?" I ask meekly with uncertainty, but the…man beside me shakes his head.

"No, not at all. You've always been attentive to my needs." He suddenly gets a Kai-like smirk on his lips. "I just wanted to see as a girl, and I must say…" His eyes scour over my body and I have an unexpected need to shy away and cover myself from such a predatory gaze. "You look amazing—very beautiful," he praises breathlessly and another blush finds its way to my cheeks.

I don't know if I should be offended or not…

I start to feel a little fearful as the bed dips a bit and he scoots closer. It must've shown on my face because Man-Nya smiles assuredly. "It's okay… You don't have to be afraid of me."

"I'm not afraid!" I refute automatically, though my heartbeat says otherwise.

"Good…" His eyes lower to my lips as he gets closer, leaning towards me. And I reflexively lean back then stand up altogether, whirling on him in an instant. My long hair whips about my face.

"So that's it!" I screech angrily. "You have this wild notion to change me into a girl and you just do it without my consent for your amusement!?"

He has the audacity to look sheepish. "You make it sound so bad…"

I gape at him incredulously. "That's because it is bad!"

He holds up his hands in mock-surrender as he gets to his feet. "Okay, listen, alright? It wasn't just for amusement. I really wanted to know what it would feel like to be a man, ya'know? If I would feel any different." He looks down at himself with a smile of approval and I look at him as well. Nice athletic build, glossy black hair cut fashionably short, and he's dressed casually for bed: matching violet p.j.'s.

"And I do, of course. But I feel more…justified in a way. Like I can assert my self-confidence without being labeled as a feminist if I was still a woman."

I still eye him warily but nod in understanding. "Okay, I guess that makes sense, but what about me? You could've gone "Man" for a moment and I wouldn't have cared. Why force a sex-change on me?"

He smirks in that Kai-like fashion again. "I thought you might appreciate being on the receiving end for a change," he explains and steps closer to me. We're actually the same height, which I guess isn't too baffling considering Nya isn't very tall to begin with and I definitely feel like I've shrunk. "And also…I think we both would've been more comfortable for when we did…this…"

I don't get a chance to say anything as he advances forward and molds his lips onto mine, his arms coming to encircle around my waist. Not knowing where to put my hands, they're squished between his chest and mine.


I don't know what to make of Man-Nya's fervent kiss only that it feels oddly more wanton and desperate than any kiss we're shared as ourselves.

My eyes snap open. Nya's become more dominate with her transformation while I have become more passive and yielding…

An assertive tongue pries my lips open and delves confidently into my mouth. No…this isn't…

I breathe roughly through my nose and plant my hands firmly on his chest. I give one almighty push and it's just enough to forcibly put distance in between our bodies and our mouths.

Man-Nya's eyes are hazy with lust and I stare at him. "Huh? Wha?"

"This is what you really want!" I accuse with trembling disbelief and his eyes hurriedly come into focus.

"Huh? What what are talking about, Joy?"

"See!? That right there! You really want me to be a woman and you really want to be a man?!"

He gives me a look like I've grown a second head. "Where'd you get that craziness from?! I think you need to calm down some."

I bare my teeth at him. "No you calm down!" My nerves are shot to hell and my element's starting to react in tandem to my jumbling emotions. Man-Nya grabs my hands just as a few jolts of lightning flint and spark, and I look on worriedly as his hands emit a deep swirling violet.

My breath is shaky as our adjoined hands lift and I stare unblinkingly into eyes of smooth milk chocolate, his gaze caring and loving. "Calm down, Jay. Calm down."

My vision blurs for the hundredth time since I woke up, and not caring anymore how unmanly it is, I let the wretched tears roll down my cheeks. Man-Nya's arms hug me around the waist a second time as I sob hopelessly into his shoulder, our elements dissipating.

"Oh Jay… I'm so sorry," he whispers guiltily. "This is all my fault. I'd never thought you'd take it this badly… I thought we'd have a little fun, that's all."

"No, no… *sigh*…" I lift my head from his shoulder and shake it in an attempt the clear the stupidity and befuddlement. I look at him, it's plain to see his remorse and sadness and I smile despite myself at his genuine care. I wipe hurriedly at my eyes, knowing that I probably look dreadful, but push on and speak honestly. "It's just… I know I'm a bit more sensitive and high strung than the other guys and… I thought maybe that you didn't see me as all that…masculine."

I can't seem to meet his eyes by the time I finish and I hear him sigh exasperatedly.

I wince. Yeah…I do sound kinda whiny…

"Well you're wrong." My eyes widen and I whip my head around in surprise. He shakes his head. "You're looking at yourself all wrong, Jay. I find it great that you're sensitive and in tune with your emotions, it makes you so easy to talk to and share my inner most feelings with. And your high-energy is infectious, just watching you gets me pumped up and excited."

I'm shocked into speechlessness as he goes on and tells me more: That how he wished Kai and the others would relax a bit more and open up, how they could learn from me. How my spontaneity coupled with my creativity elates him and keeps him on his toes.

"I wouldn't change any of that," he states with shrewd finality. "You're you, Jay. And I love you as you are." A cunning smirk touches his lips. "Why fix what isn't broken, right?"

A swallow and blush readily at his words. "You—Y-You don't have to assure me, Nya. I love you for who you are too. I think I'm just a little frazzled from being in this body," I confess shakily and wrap my arms around myself. I glance down at my exposed legs and midriff. My blue-striped shorts feel more like panties and my baby blue top barely conceals anything.

"I'm sorry," Man-Nya apologizes again, reaching out to stroke my hair and tenderly moves my bangs to the side. I muster up the brightest smile I can as he tucks them behind my ear.

He stares at me for a second and I'm somewhat alarmed to see a deep flush enter his cheeks. He retreats his hand and turns his head to cough awkwardly into it. "Wow… Damn you're pretty. It's almost unfair…"

I guess we start playing the "Blushing Game" because blood once again returns to my cheeks. After a while though, I decide to cut loose and take it as a compliment.

"T-Thanks…" I mumble quietly and timidly meet his gaze when he turns back to face me. "Do I…really look that good as a girl?"

"What, are you kidding?" He gawks at me. "Why do you think I was kissing you so passionately? I wasn't thinking I wanted you stay this way I was thinking how great it was that my boyfriend is hot as both a guy and a girl! I was ecstatic!"

My heart thunders frantically in my chest and a swarm of butterflies flutter wonderfully in my stomach. "Well you look great too—um…" I stop and think for a second. "I'm "Joy", right? So what's your guy name for this RPG?"

Man-Nya smiles with both relief and cheerfulness. "Nobou," he says evenly and I cock an eyebrow.

"Really? I was thinking "Kiku" since you look almost identical to "Japan" from Hetalia."

I'm the one who takes the initiative this time and step closer to him as he laughs merrily. He looks at me, eyes shining. "Does this mean you're ready to have some fun?" He asks, smirk already in place.

I grin and wrap my arms loosely around his neck. "What does this tell you?"

I lean eagerly in for a kiss and marvel at the sheer equivalence his lips have to Nya's. Nobou's arms find their easy way around my waist and I finally relish in our moment of love and affection, knowing that this is my "Nya" and that I am her "Jay".
Chibijago! Another Freaky Friday?! Why???

Just posting what I should've posted at the beginning, the rules of my challenge so everyone knows what I can and cannot do.

1) Nothing over T-rated

2) I can't repeat themes (Ex: Cant' do multiple weddings or pregnancy reactions and such)

3) Can't use anyone outside the Ninjago Universe

Please keep these in mind when you make your requests!

This was startling birthday request by NinjaArmageddon2021: What about a remake of Freaky Friday? Except this time, have the Ninja turn into girls and the Kunoichi turn into guys! My B-day is this weekend and I would love to read this during that time. You're my inspiration VP! Keep up the fantastic work!

Happy Birthday, my friend! Hope you and everyone else enjoyed!

All Reviews/Requests are welcome!


In case you guys were wondering about the pic? I just really like it. It portrays the close bond the Ninja have really well. Not to mention, I like Cole nuzzling his dad like that. :heart:


The Mary-Sue and Stu Demographic

Journal Entry: Fri Jan 30, 2015, 12:34 PM

I think people have really forgotten what Mary Sues and Stus are (or Gary Sues nowadays). Don't they know it has absolutely nothing to do with physical characteristics? No where in Fan-Fiction, that I have seen anyway, states that: "Depending of the core setting of your story, characters must look a certain way so that they DO NOT stand out." If there is a rule like that, please show it to me and I'll shut my trap. But the reason why I'm bringing this up is because I was just a little bored one day and was just moseying about looking at random stuff when I came across this poor author getting bashed to death by comments saying that all her characters are Mary Sues because of the way they look! 

I was literally floored by the petty ignorance within the comments, with each one getting more hurtful and distasteful as I went down the line. I went from shocked to pissed about halfway through and wanted to put those sorry suckers in their place so I went to type a comment. But as soon as I was finished with my rebuttal in the author's defense, I found out the comments had been disabled. And when I went back today to see how the author was doing, I found out that he/she had completely disappeared from DA. I know the author had probably been driven away by all the negative feedback he/she had received from their story and I can't imagine the likely frustration or melancholy they are probably going through.

So, I've decided to get this topic out in the open to not only relieve myself of my pent-up anger at people's ignorance, but also to strike out in defense to any author who may be feeling hesitant to publish their story because they're afraid of their OCs being labeled as Mary Sues or Stus solely based on their physical characteristics. So sit back and enjoy the ride because I'm about to set it off!

First off, it's been a long time since the concept of Mary-Sues and Stus been around, about 42 years in fact. So yeah, I understand that the concept may have gotten misconstrued and people started making up their own definitions of what Mary-Sues and Stus are. But for those of you who don't know where the proxy demographic came from, then let me school you for a sec.

It started back in 1973 when an author named Paula Smith released her parody called "A Trekkie's Tale" for the fandom, yep you guessed it, Star Trek. Her OC's name was "Mary Sue" and by golly was she as overpowered as all hell! She was a lieutenant in a fleet at only FIFTEEN YEARS OLD! She had incredible abilities and genius-level intelligence as she was always saving the canon characters from grave situations effortlessly. And apparently she had romantic relations with the Top Dogs of the series being: Spock, McCoy, and Kirk. I mean seriously, the canon characters shouldn't even had been there! Because not only could she do their jobs, but she could do them better. That, my friends, is what a Mary Sue truly is. An overpowered character who is poorly developed and is too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting. Did you guys hear anything about what a character looks like? No!!!

I mean, c'mon people! If that was the case, almost every single character in Anime would be labeled a Mary Sue or Stu. A few examples: D from Vampire Hunter D, Sakura Haruno from Naruto (Hell, almost every character from Naruto), Zech Merquis from Gundam Wing, Bulma Briefs from Dragonball, Kamina from Gurren Lagann. Do I really have to go on because the list is endless! But the point is, they are no where classified as Mary Sues or Stus because that's not what defines that demographic. And I know what some of you are thinking: Oh, but we're not talking about canon characters. Those can't be considered Mary Sues or Stus. Uh, yes they can, sweethearts. But do you really think when Masashi Kishimoto-sama presented his first rough draft of characters to his senpais, they were like: "Oh can't use that hair color for that girl! It has to be a normal color! Here are your choices: blonde, brunette, black, or red to a realistic orange! That's all!" Nope, ten to one they liked the new and fresh style Kishimoto-sama was going for. Who doesn't want to see characters stand-out physically in some way? In my opinion, it keeps that character fresh in your mind because they don't look like the average Joe or Jane. 

Oh, and don't act like I haven't seen some of you guys on the Ninjago fandom either, creating lists like: "Your character is a Mary Sue if she looks like this" and whatnot. And I see stuff like, you can't have purple eyes or you can't have blue hair... It's obvious you guys don't know what the hell a Mary Sue actually is. Please wake up people! If you really want to give good advice to other writers or you wish to be a good critic, know your facts. Please! Just know your facts. Stop with the belittling of other author's OCs based solely on how they look and not discussing what they are bringing to the story. Look at the character development, their flaws and strengths, can you relate to these characters emotionally. That's what you want to read, isn't it? Especially in a world as fantastical as Ninjago. Come on now! Did you guys not see the blue-haired lego women walking around last season? I say, bring on the rainbow colored hair and the fancy-colored eyes and the different hues of skin! Make them look unique enough for us to take them seriously and keep them in our heads, because that's what really counts in the end. Please look for: how that character is portrayed, how engaging the author's plot is, and how their OCs intermingle with the canon.

VelvetPersona signing off!


  • Mood: Rage
  • Listening to: Disturbed....Can you blame me...
  • Reading: Seekers: The River of Lost Bears
  • Watching: Seinfeld
  • Playing: Devil May Cry....Again, can you blame me...
  • Eating: Chicken
  • Drinking: Mountain Dew
Sasha and I stampede through the door, shaking ourselves and breathing heavily in an act of feigned desperation. Although I can't see them, I can sense that there are people here.

My eyes take care to scan the spacious room carefully as I run a deliberate hand through my hair. The place looks to be straight out of an old Western movie. The floors are wood-lined, though a rather elaborately-patterned rug lay before a stone fireplace between rustic and wicker furniture alike. Adjacent to the fireplace sits a large but dated television set. It's almost identical to the one my dad owns to be honest, if not for a few minor details. Neatly stacked magazines lay on an end table as well as a few forgotten mugs.

The rafters arced high above our heads, giving view of the second floor boardwalk. I follow the carved wooden banisters to two flights of stairs connecting and leading downward to our position. I can easily deduce that the rooms the tenants would be using are on the next level. Overall, it appears very quaint and gives off a homey vibe, but regardless of that, I keep my guard up.

"Ahhh, it feels good in here." Sasha sighs graciously and I nod in agreement. Compared to the heat and humidity outside, this place has a nice circulation of cool air going around.

Definitely feels like they have A.C., guess they are keeping up with the times in some areas…

"Hello!?" I call out, stepping forward to lean on the high counter of what has to be a type of receptionist desk. And complete with one of those old-fashioned service bells… Hmm… I cock an eyebrow at the small silver instrument, the polished shine of it tempting me to give it a ring.

"What in tarnation…?!"

Not as soon as I lift my hand, a middle-aged woman comes pattering briskly from two swinging saloon-style doors to greet us, her hands busy wiping themselves on her flower-printed apron. Her face is a bit pale with plenty of worry lines etching throughout, and there's a dull shine to her flaxen hair as it was pulled back into a messy bun.

A wary scowl mars her features, but when her eyes fall on us, surprise and disbelief is all I can see.

"Goodness… Where on Atlas' claw did you two come from?! Don't y'all know there's black showers happenin' out there?!" She questions incredulously, making her way to us while pointing in blatant warning towards the door we just came from.

I hastily lower my hand. "Uh… Yes, Ma'am," I reply earnestly, taking a dip into my acting skills. I throw her a sheepish grin and make a grab for Sasha's hand. "Sorry to intrude upon you like this. We came from the town of Vash, hoping to get to Foxworth City. We hadn't planned on stopping here at Monsoon, but when we saw the blackening of the skies…"I let the notion hang and shrug helplessly for good measure.

The lady nods grimly and stations herself behind the tall counter. "Find shelter as quickly as possible, huh? Right on ya. But y'all must've left Vash pretty darn early to be here now." She jerks her head over to an antique-looking grandfather clock standing in the corner. "Barely pass nine."

"Yes, Ma'am," Sasha continues on politely. "We left Vash a little past five this morning so that we could use as much daylight as we could since we were traveling on foot and all. We had just reached the outskirts of Monsoon when we saw the ink start to gather. We couldn't beat the downpour, but luckily we found your abode before the rain got too hot." Her eyes become downcast in guilt before flickering back up to the one across from us, a very convincing expression of sorrow masking her face thoroughly. "Again, we are so sorry for barging in like we did. We know you probably weren't expecting anybody, but this cabin was the closest too us."

The woman's hand flies in front of her face in a bothersome way as if she was swatting away an annoying fly. "Oh humbug," she says dismissively. "No need to go apologizin' for wantin' to live to see another day…unlike that husband of mine…" she grumbles, snorting derisively and rolling her eyes at her partner's presumed absurdness. I want to try subtly pressing her for more details, but she sobers up too quickly and gives us a pointed look. "I'm just glad y'all didn't go a knockin' on one of them home cabins. They don't open their doors for nothin' or nobody during black showers, bad luck and all that."

That little bit of news isn't all that surprising considering the abundance of folklores and superstitions surrounding the infamous black storms, so I think nothing of it. Sasha and I both simply nod vigorously in agreement with the woman and the worry lines on her face smooth out some as she lets a smile slowly stretch on her thin lips. Gentility replaces the circumspection in her eyes as she gestures to us with a wave of her arm.

"Well y'all were sorry 'bout manners and all, so ain't it polite to introduce yourselves to folks when meeting 'em for the first time?"

"Oh! Right you are, Ma'am." I glance over at Sasha with a smile and she plays the blushing bride role superbly by sending me a secret grin in return and leaning in close in order to nuzzle my shoulder affectionately. My heart thumps readily in fondness, not only for her fortuitous actions but for her in general. "My name is Cole Belmonte and this is my wife, Sasha."

The slight smile gives way to a full-blown beam. "Ah-ha! I knew you two were together! And what a lovely couple y'all make! The name's Rosemary McGunther and welcome to McGunther's Bed and Breakfast! The finest B&B you'll find on this side of the bayou!" Rosemary exclaims enthusiastically and extends a hand.

After pleasantries are exchanged, Rosemary gives us an informative run-down of the place like a proper hostess. Apparently, it's been in her family for four generations and was now run by her and her husband, Montgomery. And interestingly enough, it appears Mr. McGunther has another responsibility. As it turns out, he's also in charge of organizing and leading the caravan.

"Well I sure hope he's not planning to go out today," Sasha remarks worriedly and Rosemary rolls her honey-brown eyes for a second time.

"I told him not to!" she admonishes exasperatedly. "But that hubby of mine can be as stubborn as a water buck! He says he'll wait it out 'til the appropriate time to see if the showers let-up, but regardless if they is or ain't, he plans on callin' up the boys!"

I open my mouth to respond, but just as I do, the door to the right and behind Rosemary suddenly swings open, revealing an older man.

"Don't be spouting our business to strangers, Rose," the gruff-looking man growls with narrowed blue eyes in our direction. "They're just boarders, ain't they? So stop flappin' yo gums and just help them get settled."

Rosemary lifts her nose and plants her hands firmly on her narrow hips. "Oh please! Women have been doin' this for centuries so don't go tryin' to stop it now!" She snaps back then cuts her eyes angrily at the newcomer. "I just don't want you out there sacrificin' our boys, Monty!"

I eye him warily. So that's Montgomery…

Montgomery's upper lip twitches into a sort of snarl. "Ain't nobody sacrificin' nothin', woman! I said I'd wait, didn't I?!"

"Yeah, and you gone be waitin' 'til the showers completely pass over us!" Rosemary counters fiercely.

"Ain't nothin' but a little hot water!" Montgomery rebuttals, his steely gaze now fixed firmly on his wife. "All we gotta do is cover up good!"

I frown at his reasoning and speak up before Rosemary can fire back a retort. "But Sir, surely you know the black showers are transitional? While boiling temps may be the most common that can change in the blink-of-an-eye. It's not worth the risk. Think of the lives of your men. And yours for that matter."

Montgomery sucks his teeth and glowers at me from his peripheral. "Ain't yo business, Boy," he sneers and I can see the threatening glint in his eye. "You a guest here, so act like it." His attention refocuses on Rosemary. "I'll be in the back. Bring me my coffee when it's ready." And with that, he turns on his heel and stalks the short distance back to where he came from, the door closing behind him with a loud click.

Rosemary huffs indignantly, blowing her stringy bangs from her forehead. She juts a thumb at the closed door and eyes us. "See? Water buck. And not just any water buck, an old water buck," she quips with a smirk and Sasha giggles softly.

Rosemary's merriment fades and she graces me with an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, Cole. I sure hope Monty didn't offend you."

I shake my head for reassurance, but unfortunately I can't get my frown to drop. "I'm fine, don't worry about it. It'll take a lot more than that to ruffle my feathers." Not that I enjoyed being called "Boy" when I'm clearly not. Hadn't been a "Boy" in years.

I'm a grown-ass man, damnit! Sasha touches my arm and I glance down at her gentle smiling face. She can see right through me.

My frown loosens. "I'm okay, Hun," I say softly and she dips her head empathetically before turning it upward and taking a few sniffs.

"Mmmm…something smells good," she breathes with approval and gazes at Rosemary with an almost childlike eagerness. "What is that?"

Rosemary claps her hands happily and wags her finger. "Oh I see yo wife has a nose for fine cookin', Cole!" She boasts with obvious pride. I take a few sniffs myself, but I can't say the smell is good per se, though it's not bad either, just…different. "What you are smellin', Dearie is a Monsoon specialty. My very own, one of a kind Swamp Snake Stew! Guaranteed to put a smile on your face and hair on your chest!" She laughs out loud and Sasha laughs with her while my stomach just turns in revulsion.

Swamp Snake Stew?! Wouldn't that be the same as eating the Serpentine?! Urgh! Gross! I hate snakes in every shape or form!

"Should be just about done simmerin' actually," Rosemary carries on with sparkling eyes while opening a large book and grabbing a pen. "Want me to bring y'all a bowl when it's done?"

My stomach clenches painfully. Eww! Hell no! "Uh, no thanks," I decline quickly and muscle a pacifying smile on my face. "It hasn't been that long since we ate breakfast so—"

"Actually, I am kinda hungry, Cole," Sasha interrupts and I turn wide eyes to her. She taps her chin thoughtfully, seeming to ignore my incredulous stare and grins over at Rosemary. "I wouldn't mind trying some, it smells deliciously spicy."

"That's because it is!" Rosemary bursts as if Sasha made some million-dollar observation. "My word you have got a good nose!" She stops her jubilatory candor and gives my partner a sly sidelong look. "You wouldn't be pregnant now, wouldja? You are practically glowing!"

My heart stutters at the teasing notion. What had been lingering at the back of my mind now resolutely thrusts its way to the front. However, Sasha is none the wiser and just laughs joyously. "No, not yet, but some day hopefully. I can just identify culinary talent is all."

"Oh then well! Why don't we mosey on over to the kitchen so you can taste the culinary talent of Monsoon, shall we?" Rosemary sings confidently and slaps a key down on the desk right in front of me.

I blink at the coppery gold piece in bewilderment for a second then glance up just as Rosemary winks at me. "Upstairs. Third door on the right, Stallion. No charge."

My mind had completely veered off track, still caught on the possibility of Sasha being pregnant. I know Rosemary said something, but unfortunately I didn't catch it. I can only stare at her wordlessly.

"No charge? Mrs. McGunther, are you sure? What about your husband? Wouldn't he be upset if we stayed without paying?" Sasha asks, coming to my rescue.

"Well of course I am! Do y'all really think I'd be heartless enough to charge people who just want shelter from those mean ol' black showers?" She flips a page and scribbles something down in her book, her eyes focused on her task. "And don't worry about my hubby, he don't actually run anything here. His main responsibility is that caravan. Oh, and no more of that "Mrs. McGunther" hogwash, okay? Just Rose or Rosemary will do."

She closes her book with an almighty sigh and puts down her pen. "Takes care of that. Now come along Sasha and follow me into the kitchen and Cole, you head on up to y'all's room to get settled. Those bags and case look mighty heavy."

I mentally shake myself out of my stupor and express my thanks. "We really appreciate your hospitality, Rosemary. Uhh…" I raise a hand to scratch at my head. "What room did you say again?" I ask, feeling my cheeks warm shamefully.

Rosemary chuckles. "Upstairs, third room on the right." She keeps her voice light and warm. "Make yourself at home and call me for anything."

Sasha's lips graze my cheek. "If you're not hungry, I'll bring you something nice and cold to drink, okay?"

I smile. "That'll be perfect, thanks, Hun."

She steps around me and joins with Rosemary. "Oh, I reckon I have a fresh pitcher of peach tea in the fridge. It's my own special blend 'cuz I sweeten it with gooseberries instead of sugar."

"Wow really? Have you ever tried boysenberry extract? You'd be surprised at its potency."

"Why no I haven't! I'd have to remember to try it next time! I can't wait 'til you try my stew, it's not for everybody, I admit, but I have a good feelin' you'll like it…"

The two women saunter their way to the double saloon doors which I guess leads to the kitchen, talking and laughing amicably amongst themselves as if they'd known each other for years despite their age difference. My eyes follow Sasha's every move, the pep of her steps, the radiance of her smile… She doesn't appear too tired anymore.

Could she really be pregnant…? Surely she would've told me if something was wrong by now… Unless…she doesn't know…

Once I'm alone, I grab the key from the counter and begin my trek towards the stairs to make for the second floor. I can still hear the black showers rage from outside, reminding me of my true purpose for being here to begin with. By sheer force of will, I refocus on my objective and start piecing together the information I learned from Rosemary as I climb the slightly creaky steps.

Okay so, Rosemary's husband, Montgomery, is in charge of the caravan and he might or might not wait out the black showers. I take a glimpse at my watch. Still got about an hour and a half left before the "appropriate time", so we'll keep watch and see what happens. Hmm, and he could be the same "Montgomery" Jay and the others ran into the other day although, he wasn't chewing anything… Anyway, what gets me though is how against Rosemary was to Montgomery trying to leave during the storm. If she's hypnotized, wouldn't she be agreeing with him? Or maybe she is and that was just an elaborate ruse down there she played to throw us off… Damnit! If only we knew more about Hypnobrai power! If only we had something to look for to give us a sign of hypnotism besides physical aggression!

A frustrated frown twists my lips as I stop at the top of the stairs. My mind is a little too pessimistic right now to appreciate the retro décor, but I do take notice that the place doesn't have a lot of rooms. I only count eight doors in the hallway, all of them numbered accordingly: five on the right and three more on the opposite side passed the banister's opening overlooking the entrance. I finger the key in my hand and head for me and Sasha's borrowed room.

But if knowing that Rosemary's behavior might be a ruse…is it really wise for me to leave Sasha down there with her? No, what am I talking about? Even if Rosemary were to suddenly attack her, Sasha is more than strong enough to overpower her... But…she was pretty lax down there… What if she let her guard down too much and Rosemary got the drop on her? What if she got hurt? What if her…and the baby got hurt…?

The black case I'm holding slips from my grasp and lands on the floor with a thunderous bang. My heart almost stops beating as cold fear grips me at an alarming rate. I try to swallow several times to regain moisture in my mouth and when I finally do, I impulsively whirl around and open it.


Don't you dare! A voice growls deeply in my head, the stern vehemence of it stopping me from crying out Sasha's name. What on Leviathan's scales are you doing?! Pick up that case and get inside that room. NOW!

My mind is a convoluted mess, but I know Lord Atlas when I hear him. "B-B-But, Sasha…"

Be silent! It is not sociably acceptable to stand alone and talk to oneself, is it?! Now move it! You have no definitive proof that your mate is with young! So behaving like an emotional imbecile is unnecessary! Giving into any type of fear during a mission can lead to fatal consequences! This logic has been inscribed onto your very bones, Cole!

With each word Lord Atlas roared, I found more of my resolve. I quickly pick the weapons' case back up and with a shaky hand, insert the key in the door to our room. Unlocking it, I shuffle into the darkness and close the door, taking several deep breaths.

That's it, Young Titan…one breath at a time. Keep your wits about you though, you are on foreign territory. Keep those keen senses sharp and go about checking these quarters like any competent shinobi would.

Letting my lord's rumbling alto soothe my nerves, I listen to his coaching and fumble along the nearest wall for a light switch. My hand lands on a small protrusion and I flick it up. Bright light instantly floods the room and I start forward with steady and cautious steps, keeping my senses alert for any hidden dangers. I place the weapons' case on the round wooden table near the front and set me and Sasha's duffel bags on the floor at the foot of a plaid-covered bed. Like the rest of the establishment, the room is charming, homey, and purely done with the Old West in mind.

"Damn, this place will light up like a roman candle if it ever caught fire with all the wicker furniture around," I observe warily, eyeing the rocking chair near the window and the fancy armoire.

Another old-fashioned television set sits in the corner of the room though it's not nearly as big as the one in the reception area. I try turning it on, but am only greeted with blaring static no matter what channel I pick. "Can't say I'm surprised…" I mumble just as a crack of lightning rips in my ear.

After checking every nook and cranny of the room, I check the two doors next: one leading to a small closet with…wicker hangers and the other leading to a nice clean bathroom complete with a two-in-one shower and tub combo. My eyes search for any possible traps or unnecessary obstructions in both spaces and after finding none, I walk back over to the window (moving aside the rocking chair) and push back the plaid curtains.

"Perfect…" Well the scenery is just as dark and dreary as ever except for the peppering of gold from the lanterns strewn about the town. And thanks to them, I'm able to discern the imposingly sturdy silhouette of a storehouse on the opposite side of the General Store. From Hayate's surveillance feed, that's where the caravan is located, and when it's ready, those barn doors will open and set out en route for the forest located in southeast.

I check my watch again. We still have to wait well over an hour before seeing who or what will break first, Montgomery McGunther or the black showers.

With any luck, this will be an uneventful stake-out. However, if the showers recede before or even after the designated time, you'll have to make communications with the ones you assigned to watch the caravan and make sure they are in position. And if that human proves mentally deranged and charges out during the storm, call for a convergence immediately.

Yeah, I know… I tell the God of Earth. I've calmed down considerably since my little "freak-out" in the hallway and I think it's about time I express my gratitude to the armored grizzly. Thanks, Lord Atlas. I…I don't know what came over me back there.

The bear growls a chuckle. I do, he huffs. Fear-driven instinct took over and all you could think about was protecting your mate and the offspring within her…which you don't even know if she has.

I swallow down my anxiety, my heartbeat already pounding in my ears. What about you, my lord? Isn't there a way for you to tell?

Hmph! Afraid not. Not even Levi knows. Hehehe,it is rather amusing though to witness the mighty dragon squirming from not knowing. Although, I'd be lying if I were to say I didn't feel tremors of anticipation coursing through my pelt. The possibility of more advocates is very appealing to us… But no. All we are able to discern is that your Elemental Tethering with her is strong, which in itself is a good sign.

My brow furrows in thought. There've been other signs too… I remove my gloves and stick them in my coat pocket. I glance at my left hand. One of the most recent is being this ring. She made it clear that there was no real sentiment behind it and was to only be used to make our guises as husband and wife more authentic. She got so furious at me for saying I liked it, which I admit was sort of a lie. I mean gold jewelry does look kinda gaudy on me after all. But those mood swings… And then the whole deal with the snake soup…urgh… And there have been signs at home too, and I'm not the only one who has seen them. Almost everybody on the Bounty thinks something's wrong with Sasha, especially Ayane. She's actually the one who confirmed my suspicions.

Ah yes, the human born with the spirit of a wolf, Amaterasu's daughter. Yes, I can definitely see her "sniffing" that out first. Another gruff growl of a chuckle. But seriously, communication between mates is very important… Talk to her.

I sigh heavily. Yeah, I can't wait any longer. If Sasha won't say anything then I will. I have to know.

It's been eating you up inside, hasn't it?

Now more than ever. It's like a carnivorous bacteria's been unleashed.

Hehehehehe… Oh, and I will divulge something I've learned from Levi which he learned from Waves about the Kunoichi of Water.

I listen intently. Despite the contraception medication your mate is taking…she is still quite fertile. And with you being so young and robust…the same goes for you.

I release the breath I had unconsciously held. So there is a good chance Sasha could be pregnant. I could be a father soon, and Sasha a mother. We could have our very own little family…soon. An impetuous smile curves excitedly on my lips. "If it's true…then they'll be a lot to plan."

"Hey Cole, can you open the door please? My hands are full!"

Sasha's voice carries through the barrier of the door and I rush to open it for her. I open the wooden access to see her grinning broadly with a copper tray in hand, a steaming bowl and two mugs resting on top. She utters a quick "Thanks." as I step aside and let her pass.

"Whoa, didn't expect to see an alligator skull over the bed," she muses while sitting the tray down on the table beside the weapons' case. "Or is that a crocodile's? I can never tell the difference. Ayane probably could." She dips her finger into the murky reddish-brown broth of her stew and sucks on it. "So how's it look in here?" She asks, glancing about.

"Well…" I check the hallway once then close the door before facing her again. "As long as someone doesn't throw a Molotov cocktail through the window, I think we're good."

She approaches me with a mug, a light chortle playing from her pretty full lips. "Yeah, they must really love their wicker," she remarks, handing me the cup. I frown apprehensively down at the floating ice cubes. I can't tell what the liquid sloshing around is. The interior is much too dark.

"Don't worry, it really is peach tea and it's very good. Go ahead." She turns around as I lift the mug to take a tentative sip. As soon the first sweet drops hit my tongue, I'm overcome with thirst and greedily down more of the refreshingly cool beverage. Soon, my upper lip hits nothing but ice as the last streams of tea careens heavenly down my gullet. I lower my mug and wipe my mouth with the back of my sleeve.

Yeah, that really hit the spot… I look up to find Sasha standing by the window where I was previously and I make my way over to her.

"Is that it?" She asks, pointing vaguely to the darkened barn and I nod at her dank rainy reflection.

"Yeah, the caravan's in there. Hasn't been any movement, or people scurrying towards or away from it yet," I reply, casting my critical gaze along the mudded streets below.

"And hopefully it stays that way for the time being," she mutters, then exhales roughly through her nose and moves haughtily away from the window towards the table where she left the tray. "God, I just hate the Serpentine," she spats, grabbing her bowl. Her spoon stirs around viciously enough that I can hear the *clink clink* of silver against glass.

I walk towards her cautiously as she gathers a smoky spoonful and shoves it into her mouth. A disgusted grimace crosses my face when she slurps up what had to be the end of a tail. She chews ferociously on her mouthful, scowling all the while, and points her spoon at me.

"I understand Lloyd, ya know?" She says over a mouthful of snake and whatever else is in the soup. She swallows and licks her lips. "I'll never commit genocide or anything, mind you. I just can understand the need to kill 'em all off. They're just too damn vindictive!"

I can only stare at her as she gulps down another savage spoonful. But then, her face softens and she moans in satisfied appreciation. "Mmmm…. Man, Rosemary really put her foot in this. You really are missin' out here, Cole…" She reaches down to retrieve her mug and takes a hearty swig. "Oh but don't worry, she was kind enough to give me the recipe, so I can make it for dinner one night for everybody."

Oh God…

Her face brightens even more. "Mm! I almost forgot to tell you, Rose is making ambrosias later! Doesn't that sound delicious?! You know she uses Clementine oranges as well as peaches? Leviathan, I hope we're here long enough for that—"

"Sasha!" I cut in quickly before she can continue her burbling. Does she really not realize how rapid her mood swings are? She just passed through five different emotions all within a span of two minutes!

She looks at me expectantly, eyebrows lifted. I remain cautious as I come within reach of her, like how one would approach a wild animal. I put my mug on the table behind her and place a hand on the small of her back.

"I'd like to talk to you about something," I say quietly and gently guide her to the bed. I take a glimpse at the window, glad that I can still see the barn and sit down in front of her when she lowers herself. Platinum irises gleam brilliantly in intensity as she watches me with curiosity.

She holds her bowl comfortably in her lap. "What is it, Cole? Is something wrong? Did you find out something?" She asks and I peer deeply into the eyes that I have come to love, trust, and admire.

Okay, use careful deliberation here, Cole. Say the right words, no foul ups.

"Yes Sasha, I think I might have…and it's about you." Her brow crinkles and I take inaudible breath. "I've noticed some things about you recently and…"

"Oh really?" The "look" settles in on her face. "And what, pray tell, did you "notice" about me?"

*clink clink clink clink clink clink clink*

I look down at her lap and see that the fingers of her left hand are moving. I realize then, the bottom of her engagement ring must be tapping the bowl repeatedly to make the restless sounds. I raise my gaze back up to her face and swallow. She's already getting defensive, and that seemingly passive expression on her face is a definite "red flag" for me to tread softly.

I keep calm and push forward. "Alright, but before I do, is there anything that you want to tell me? Do you notice anything…different about yourself?"

Her eyes thin and her lips form a silent question. Then, realizations dawns, and the rapid "clinking" of her bowl stops. She seems to deflate with relief and I frown when she releases an airy chuckle.

"Oh Cole…" She smirks and eyes me with clear amusement. "I'm not pregnant, okay?"

She lifts her spoon to her mouth; it filled to the brim with a mound of saucy chunks. "Are you sure?" I blurt out and the spoon stops its ascent. "Can you really look me in the eye and tell me with one hundred percent certainty that you aren't pregnant?" The hand holding the spoon trembles and thick broth collects and drips from the bottom and into the bowl.

She looks at me, the passiveness having fled from her face to be readily replaced by uncertainty and doubt. "I started noticing some…irregularities in your behavior a few weeks ago," I begin with confidence. It's time for me to tell her everything. "You remember that time you and I went to the grocery store in Nellyville? You wanted to get the ingredients to make a bunch of sweet potato pies to donate to the bake sale Ebony informed us about for Starlight."

Her eyes narrow and she lowers her spoon to her bowl. "Yeah, I remember. So?" She asks defiantly.

I cock a deliberate eyebrow. "So you don't think you were unnecessarily rude to the girl who was bagging our food?"

Sasha sucks her teeth. "Cole, everybody knows when you have either heavy or a lot of canned goods you're supposed to double bag them. It's not my fault she didn't have any common sense."

"True, but that was no reason to make her cry."

"She shouldn't have rolled her eyes at me then," she counters back with a sneer of contempt. "I'm Sasha Graciano, damnit! I don't play that crap! And did you see the way she was dressed?! And at a workplace! Hmph! I bet her bed was as easy to get into as a community college."

I bite the inside of my cheek to keep a grin from spreading, knowing I have to stay serious and firm. Composing myself, I barrel forth. "But that's just it, Sasha. I know you don't take any smack, but you've never added maliciousness to your sassiness. And it's not just in public where I've seen you lash out. It's at home too. Remember when you threatened to kick Mydnyte through an electric fan?"

"She scratched-up my favorite pillow!" She defends furiously, nearly rising from the bed. "And she knows she's not supposed to be in me and Ayane's room to begin with! She knows Howard and Lilia are nesting in there! Those eggs are going to be hatching any day now!"

I know I don't need to remind Sasha that Mydnyte's just a cat, so I only look pointedly at her. Her chest heaves and she puts a stressed hand on her flushed face. "Okay, maybe I have been a little hormonal, but that doesn't mean I'm pregnant."

I shake my head in agreement with her. "No, it doesn't. Not alone anyway. But when coupled with your new eating habits, I'd say it's a sign."

She levels me with a withering glare. "Now what are you talking about?"

"Well…" I take a moment to glance at the window. A flash of thunder illuminates the outside for a few seconds allowing me to view the barn clearly. Still nothing. However, the showers seem to be weakening if only slightly, the rain not falling nearly as hard as it was before.

I turn back to Sasha and have to ward off a physical flinch; her eyes are raging like a hurricane! Rarely am I on the receiving end of such an intimidating look and from it, I can guess that my head is just above water. I've boasted before about having no fears, but the wrath of women is a new type of terror that I'm not very immune to.

Especially the wrath of a woman as strong as Sasha…

Willing my stomach not to freeze up, I soldier on. "It's just that…you've been eating more than your fair share as of late and…frequently. Take last night for instance; you ate two burritos, a plate of enchiladas and tamales, a quesadilla and some rice, and three tacos. Tell me that's not more than your usual intake?"

I'm encouraged when her gaze wavers and she averts her eyes to her lap. "That's… I'm just… I love Mexican food…" she mumbles weakly and I place a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her.

"Yes, I know you do, Hun," I say soothingly. "And that's why I got really worried when you developed an aversion to avocados." Even at the name, her face wrinkles in distaste, but there's also a hint of nervousness too. "You used to love avocados, Sasha. Boasting about how they were so much better than apples, trying to see if you could hit someone on the back of the head with the giant seed."

She grins a little at that, but doesn't comment. "And last night, when I saw you didn't put a drop of guacamole on any of your food, only scrunched up your face and asked for salsa instead…?" I shake my head with a shrug. "What was I supposed to think?" I remove my hand and gesture to her half-filled bowl. "And now you're having these weird cravings and…eating Swamp Snake Soup. Sasha, all of these things are early signs of pregnancy."


I blink. "Huh?" Her head hangs low, but I see her shoulders seize and her body begin to shake. "It's stew *sniff* not soup," she gasps and wipes at her face. My heart clenches painfully at seeing her distress. "I-It smelled good and—and…I was hungry and…"

Her words turn to tears and I instinctively reach for her. "Hun…" I gently take the bowl of stew from her limp hands and put it on the nightstand beside her. I then bring her to me. "C'mere, amore. You know I didn't mean to make you cry, right?"

Her head bobs against my shoulder as her body convulses into heart-wrenching sobs. Our position is a bit awkward, but I hug her as best I can and kiss the tightly braided red tresses.

"Va tutto bene, amore. Tutto sta andando bene. Prometto." (It's okay, Love. Everything's going to be fine. I promise.) Though she's not fluent, I have been teaching Sasha Italian as she was teaching me Portuguese. She once told me that my voice changes pitch when I speak my native tongue and that she loves the soothing vibe it emits. So I hope my merited words reach her in earnest.

Her sniffles had quieted and her breathing wasn't as ragged anymore. "Meglio?" (Better?) I ask and loosen my hold somewhat as she pulls back. Her eyes are red-rimmed from crying, but she's still so beautiful.

"How do you know? The symptoms, I mean?" She asks and I wipe a stray tear away from her cheek with my thumb.

"Well frankly, I had my suspicions that something was off with you, and everybody back home came to me asking if I knew what was wrong with you because they noticed things too. But it was Ayane who flat-out asked me if you were pregnant. And after my initial dumbstruck, we decided to catalogue all of your symptoms and go online to check. There were a number of possibilities, of course, but pregnancy was the only one that lined up all your new behavior patterns."

"But Cole," Her grip on my shoulders tightens and I can see more fear creep onto her face. "I don't have morning sickness and-," Her lips purse angrily and the beginning of another storm brews in her rainy depths, "-my God, I haven't had my period in seven years! I'm on birth control! I don't ovulate regularly! How is it possible?!"

My hands move to frame her face. Her emotions are running rampant again. "I know, Sasha. You told me in Temblor. But birth control isn't infallible, its sole purpose is to regulate your uh…" I falter and fumble with my next words, "y-your uh…"Womanly Days"… and reduce your chances of becoming pregnant. It doesn't eliminate the chance."

She stares at me for a long while, her eyes wide and disbelieving. Then suddenly a dark scowl shadows her face and she jerks herself away from me and rises from the bed. I sit motionless as she gestures wildly at me.

"So that's it! You and the others notice that I've become a little moody and greedy and chalk it off as pregnancy!? Well let me tell you somethin', Adonis!" Her finger pokes my chest hard. "I'm not on just an 'ol birth control! It's top-of-the-line, you hear me?! I was twelve years old when I went to that gynecologist with my momma and even though I was young, my understandin' was pretty damn good! He said as long as I was on this pill, it would be very difficult for me to have children, but when I decided to get off it, it would take my ovaries six months to a year to start producing eggs regularly! Now are you tryin' to say that that man lied to me and my momma!? Or is it because of your giant cock and rock-hard sperm that this is happening?!"

Her breathing is sporadic, causing her ample breasts to rise and fall rapidly. Her voice had grown hoarse from yelling and fresh tears streamed in rivulets down her flushed face. She shakes her head once and takes a few steps back away from me.

She then covers her face with her hands…and weeps.

Sasha has never cried so much and my heart instinctively went out to her. But…her words had caused a throbbing ache within me. I stand up slowly and approach her quivering form.

My hand lifts, but it feels heavy. Too heavy to put on her delicate shoulder, I let it drop. My voice comes, solemn and quiet. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that…I'm putting you through all this and…" I nearly choke on my next words. "…I'm sorry that…" I swallow thickly, "…that…you regret…giving yourself to me…"

Despair and self-loathing was settling in like a dark cloud, but my anguish is overruled by surprise when Sasha abruptly hurls herself into my arms and we're sent stumbling and falling back onto the bed. We bounce from the sheer momentum and I'm left feeling slightly winded.

Sasha's guilt-stricken face is above me, her legs on either side of me, straddling my hips… We've been in this position many times before. She sniffs and cups my cheek, her touch is warm and I can feel the metallic coldness of her ring.

"Oh Cole… No, you're wrong and I'm sorry I made you think that I regretted our lovemaking. Because I don't, not at all. I gave myself to you because I love you, and I'll continue giving myself to you for the rest of my life and then some. I'm just…" Her eyes close and her frame shakes violently. "I'm just so scared," she confesses and opens her eyes to look despondently into mine. "I don't know if I'm ready for this yet."

The painful throb in my chest instantly dissipates and happy relief floods my body gratefully. She really scared me for a second there. Even though we've only made love a couple of times, words can't describe how much I relished in each moment. It's like I developed eidetic memory just for the times Sasha and I engaged in intercourse, and more often than not, I sometimes find myself escaping to those precious memories. They were more than just physical acts of pleasure; they symbolized the mutuality of our love for each other. And if she really had regretted our time together, I know I would've been left completely devastated and heartbroken.

Smiling, I carefully sit up and lean back on my elbows. "I'm really glad you feel that way, Sasha. And remember, this is all just speculation here. We won't know for sure if you're pregnant until you've…ya'know, tested."

She nods silently and wipes her face again. She looks so drained and weary… I sit up straighter and wound my arms around her body. I rest my brow against hers and hold her gaze. "Hey, I'll tell ya something else I noticed…" My smile widens. "Your maternal instincts are really kicking in. I've seen the way you handle Dominique. I'd say you'd rival even the great Ayane."

"Oh please…" she chuckles, her stormy depths glittering with gratitude. "If anyone's ready to be a mother, it's her and…Dominique's not a baby. She's just small and delicate. Who wouldn't want to protect her?"

"Maybe," I whisper, my hands smoothing over the soft fabric of her coat. "But I'm just saying that you have it in you. You'd be a wonderful mother, Sasha."

Her caramel cheeks lift a bit. "Maybe," she repeats me. "But what about you, Cole? Aren't you scared too?"

I reply without hesitation. "No, I'm not. Sasha, we both want kids and if they come sooner than expected then that's fine. It won't hinder me from supporting and taking care of you. As convenient as it would be if everything was planned out in advance, life doesn't work that way. But I know some things will happen for sure, without a doubt." My gaze hardens in resolution. "You are going to be my wife and you are the only woman I'll allow to be the mother of my children."

"Cole…" She stares at me dumbstruck, her eyes filling with more tears. But before they get a chance to fall, I press my lips gently against hers, effectively sealing my promise and dedication.

Her lips are salty from her previous cry, but are still so intoxicatingly moist and soft. I try to keep the kiss innocent, though it becomes increasingly difficult when she presses more firmly against me. Yet, to my surprise and albeit chagrin, she pulls back. My discontent is short-lived, however, when I see a lovely smile to match her blushing cheeks.

"You sound like you really want this…" she whispers breathlessly, but a flicker of worry touches her face, "…but, what if I'm not? How would you feel?"

I frown in quick thought. "I'd be lying if I said, I wouldn't be disappointed. Contrary to what Jay says, I'm not made of stone." I smile fondly at her quiet giggle. "But since I'm confident it will happen in the future, I'll simply hang on to that and move on."

She lowers her head and turns away. "You're so strong…" she mumbles. I'm not sure if I was meant to hear that or not, but before I could question her words, she swivels her head upright and faces me. "Nya has a few home pregnancy tests stashed away for emergencies. So when we get back, I'll…I'll use one."

My heart flutters in anticipation. "Okay," I exhale with obvious delight and she smiles somewhat shyly in return. My eyes widen, though, as I get a sudden epiphany. "Or, there is a general store right across the street. I could go and get one for you now?"

She shakes her head. "No, I think we've already proven to be too negligent in our duties for one day, don't you?"

My brow knits in confusion at her culpable expression. "Cole…the mission?"

Oh, shit! I hurriedly bring my arm back and glance down at my watch. 11:17. Thirteen minutes until the daily departure of the caravan. I turn back towards the window. The outside world is brightening with grey, dispelling the black and welcoming the rays of sunlight. I can now see the barn in greater detail…and the clutter of people in front of it. Montgomery must be out there. They're getting ready.

A small moan from Sasha has me turning back to her, her face contorted into a pained grimace.

"Sasha?" She places a hand on her head.

"I'm really sorry, Cole, but I've got to lie down. My head is pounding…must be from all the crying… I'm sorry."

"No, no don't worry about it. Here…" I reposition myself so that I can help make her more comfortable as she stretches out on the bed, her head nestles snuggly on the pillows. "Relax and rest up. We're not going anywhere right now."

She sends me a small tired smile and closes her eyes, though her brow is still puckered in discomfort. I place a chaste kiss to her cheek and roll off the bed and onto my feet, moving to stand at the foot. I make quick work of unzipping her high-heeled boots and sliding them off, at the same time, keeping an eye on the growing activity outside.

Once I set the boots on the ground, I amble to the window. I easily pick out Montgomery, his gruff appearance and gestures seeming out of place amongst the more pleasant mannerisms of the other men.

"Grumpy old terd…" I fork out my PMS from my coat pocket, ready to text Zane, when I see that I already have one from him. I read the message carefully.

(Jay and Nya finished the amplifier and gave it to me for installation at 9:17 A.M. As a safety measure, Jay came up with the notion to install the same hardware and acoustic of the sacred flute melody to the Bounty's computer system just in case your order of convergence was given. He and Nya had begun executing this plan right before Ayane and I left at 9:33 A.M. As it stands, we are now in position in the southeastern forest awaiting the approach of the caravan.)

I look at the time the message was sent…over an hour ago, at 10:17. I sigh shamefully and finally text my reply to him.

(Understood, and remind me to praise Jay for his wit later. Sorry for the late reply, I got very distracted with something important. Anyway, the caravan is getting ready to pull-out now and as you know, the black showers have ended. Keep your guard up though and keep communications open.)

I scan my message once before hitting the "send" button and tuck my phone back into my pocket. I take one last glimpse at the scurrying men outside the window then make my way back towards the bed. I'm relieved to see Sasha is wearing a more serene expression and I settle down noiselessly on the other side of her.

I take her hand in mine and watch her sleeping form, once again losing myself and letting the prospect of her possible condition become the forefront of my mentality.

I squeeze her hand tenderly. "First and foremost, you'll have me, Sasha. But you know what they say: "It takes a village to raise a child." And I'm sure everybody at home would be more than happy to be our little village."

I know it's improbable for us all to stay together forever. Sooner or later, we'll all have to strike out on our own and live our own lives with our chosen partners. But until that time comes, I will cherish the fact that my Ninja brothers and Kunoichi sisters are here with us and that for now and hopefully forever, we will be not only a respectable clan, but most importantly, a close-knit family.
Power of Aura Chapter 13
Again, sorry about the lame editing. I'll try to fix it as soon as I can. Thank you all very much for reading! :)
Savage drops of rainwater pelt the windshield of the Tread Assault mercilessly and rumbles of disgruntlement drift over us like a looming threat. The twin golden stare of the Tread Assault's headlights provide a lighted path as we traverse the dark muddy road towards Monsoon. But even with the effect of the wipers trying to clear our view of the landscape, the straggly silhouettes of the distant wood cabins look hardly inviting amongst the encroaching darkness.

Sigh…black showers… The last thing we need right now…

Being a Poseidonian, I've always loved the water, rainstorms especially. But there was something about black showers that always seemed to…unnerve me. Granted, I've only experienced one firsthand back when I was a kid and Momma was pregnant with Sophia. I remember being baffled but also elated that Daddy was still home instead of out fishing that day and wanted to play with him. I was going to approach him, but as soon as I caught a glimpse out the window and saw what I thought were normal dark clouds forming in the sky, I promptly forgot my previous notion and rushed to the front door excitedly. I had barely gotten the call over my shoulder that I was going to go play in the rain when Daddy suddenly barred my path.

Never had I seen my father stare down at me with such severity and I had immediately withered and cowered at his fierce admonishing look. But the words he spoke next shook me even more than his penetrating gaze.

"Sasha, listen to me very carefully okay? When the sky turns black during the morning hours like this, it isn't a good thing. It's not Lord Leviathan gettin' ready to bless us with his waters, for which the sky turns grey not black. This is the work of the Kraken, our lord's eternal nemesis. They have been battling since the beginning of time, one never soundly defeating the other. And on occasion, sometimes the Kraken outwits our lord and releases his ink into our skies in crude retaliation. And the black showers that follow are never good, Sasha, no matter what anyone else tells you. Don't ever let the Kraken's black water touch you. Stay within the protection of shelter and calmly wait and pray for Lord Leviathan to push back the Kraken's influence."

I knew Daddy had only meant to warn me in good faith to be careful, but from then on I'd looked at darkening skies cautiously. Would Lord Leviathan puff sanctifying grey clouds from his nostrils? Or would the Kraken stretch a wicked tentacle through the sky and release his blasphemous ink?

Thankfully Lord Leviathan wins most of his battles with his maleficent archenemy, but other times like today… No, we'll get through this. The fingers of dread no longer poked at my spine. I now have the power to protect myself and others from the Kraken's venomous spray. But…only when I'm in their vicinity…

A cold tendril of anxiety slowly snakes around my heart. How will Zane and Ayane endure traveling through the black showers? If they're exposed—

"Sasha, text Zane and Ayane and tell them to take the northwestern mountain path located east of the Bounty's starboard bowel and from there, to travel through the copses of verdant trees. Following the trail of trees should lead them directly to their destination despite being somewhat of a detour. I'm sure one of them would've found the path by themselves, but…just in case."

I stare at Cole for a moment with a mixture of shock and awe, his eyes narrowed and fixated on the road ahead. Yes, the path he spoke of formed a cavernous underpass and would provide adequate cover for when Zane and Ayane used their transports to get down the cliff. And then that path would segued into a wide expanse of thick forestry, the large canopies of the verdant trees providing added cover all the way to the intercepting point.

Regardless of that expression being displayed too much as of late, I smile at his thin-lipped frown. Cole… Always thinking two steps ahead for the safety and wellbeing of the clan. He, of course, has been a leader for far longer than I have and so I've always taken my cues and learning curves from him. He never chastised or tried to dissuade me from thinking out loud, or from augmenting my sisters as I saw fit. He'd just advise me to "think carefully and quickly" for any and all situations.

However, unlike me, Cole hadn't been chosen to be the leader of his Ninja brothers. It just sort of happened, if I were to use his words. Sensei Wu had noticed Cole's natural leadership qualities and had let the transition occur willingly, and the others gradually followed suit. Cole never commandeered the position for himself, nor did he flaunt his sovereignty over his brothers. His orders would sound more like requests from a friend, not a commanding officer. It was his caring behavior that formulated and strengthened the bond of the brotherhood and makes them such a formidable force. He got to know his brothers and identified their individual strengths and weaknesses, and from his keen observations, he's been able to utilize them to their maximum capacity.

I keep my small smile intact as I relay the message to Zane and Ayane. We are equals, but I still have much to learn in regards to leadership.

The air is cool and comfortable inside the Tread Assault and I relax fully against my beau's hard body, knowing well enough that we don't have much farther to go until we reach Monsoon. And to prove case and point, I can discern through the muck and gloom, the dappled golden specks of light scattered amid the blackened silhouettes.

I close my eyes with an imperceptible sigh, feeling calm, ready, and confident that today's mission will be a success.

"Are you tired?" Cole asks quietly. I wasn't expecting him to say anything, really, with him being so focused and all, but I'm not going to shrug off his concern. I'm still not used to staying up all night, mission or not. And I have been feeling a little tired lately.

"A little," I admit, opening my eyes. "But I'm ready, so don't worry."

My head is resting on his shoulder, giving me a clear view of his strong sinewy neck and the glimmering amorilla necklace I gave him for his birthday. I ignore the hammering of the rain upon glass and instead concentrate on the slightly accelerated thump of Cole's heartbeat. I watch with lulled interest as his Adam's apple bobs when he swallows.

"Obviously can't leave the Tread Assault exposed, might need my scythe… Get ready, I'm about to dispel it. You got our story down?"

I lift my head and nod once, gathering my power within. "Yeah," I turn away from the fast approaching dreary marsh town and grace his profile with a brazen smile, "but it's not much of a story, is it?"

He chuckles, the frown melting away. He eyes me with confidence of his own. "Heh, yeah. Kind of a flimsy false pretense, huh? We're not married yet, but we're playing the happy newlywed couple."

Despite the threat of the black showers, and despite the danger of the mission and the probability of walking into a village hypnotized entirely by the Serpentine, I feel giddy. This covert reconnaissance might actually be fun. I let a playful smirk flit about my lips. "Promise me though that you'll try to restrain those newlywed urges and cuddly-wuddly impulses, okay? Mr. Graciano?"

Cole's emerald-jade eyes widen a fraction and his face goes slack-jawed, but he recovers quickly and grins, his eyes glinting roguishly. "Right back at ya! And don't think for a second that I'll be taking your name, amore. You'll be taking mine and you'll love it, just like you love everything else I give you."

My heart flutters as warmth floods my cheeks at his sly and resolute words. The more articulate Cole gets, the more difficult it becomes for me to counteract in my usual manner. His words didn't use to encumber me so easily and we could go back and forth for minutes to hours at a time. Now, however, he knows me inside out. I have bared my body and soul to him, and with my exposure, he's been able to one-up me more times than I care to admit. Funny, I find it both infuriating and heartwarming.

"L-Let's just do this!" I stutter, my face a complete flush. His cunning eyes roam over my expression quickly before he becomes somber.

Unexpectedly gentle, he whispers, "Hold on tight."

For a split second, I'm blinded by gold and the cool interior of the Tread Assault disappears as we're launched into darkness by the momentum of its dispel. Not sparing a moment more, I push my power outward just as suffocating humidity engulfs us without respite.

"Haaaahhh!" Although it isn't perfect, a dome of aqua surrounds Cole and me just as we touch ground with a loud splash. The black rain that falls is at a boiling point. That much is apparent as I can do nothing to stop the Kraken's wretched hot breath from seeping into our protective bubble. Damnable heat! However, Lord Leviathan's cold tears drip on our heads from the dome's crest, blessing us with a cooling effect and I send a small prayer in thanks to my lord before turning to look up at Cole's heavily shadowed face.

His hair has been slightly dampened by the overhead leak though he doesn't complain only nods his gratitude. I can somewhat see the straps of our overnight bags on his left shoulder and clutched in his right hand is a long case which undoubtedly housed our weapons. His other hand grips mine firmly.

"Let's go." And with that, we set off at a light trot and cover the remaining distance to the dimly lit town and take additional shelter under an overhanging eave. The black showers continue undeterred, battering the earth and creating static wails of grief as we walk along the creaky wooden planks of the building. Through multiple silent blinks of blinding white, I make out the bedraggled swamp town in all its miserable glory. Dandelion patches coupled with long swaying cattail stalks and reeds are strewn about, but the flowers' once sturdy stems now hung in depressed defeat from the black showers torment, their yellowed and naked heads bowing in submission as well. The earthen streets are loose and wet, caking and spreading muddy puddles where I'm sure used to be fresh dry tracks of some kind. There looks to be about two to three lanterns stationed to either a post or a rafter beam of each building, though their sickly sallow glow does nothing to make the village appear more welcoming only exemplify that there is a populace.

But regardless of the light, in the wake of a black shower, any town, city, or village will look haunting and desolate.

Cole and I stop under a particular lantern and I spot a few moths fluttering around the light source anxiously. Seems we aren't the only ones to brave the black showers today…

"Man… I'm really glad you're here with me. Regardless of how resilient my body is, I don't think I could handle being in the thick of this mess."

Cole's voice rings clear despite the violence of the scorching black rain and I tear my eyes away from the flying insects to find him glancing down at me with a soft smile curving on his lips, gratitude clearly written on his face. The sallow light from above tries to damper his appearance, but soundly fails and gives his olive complexion an attractive glowing contrast instead. And the never-ending droplets from my bubble have sodden his hair so much that his bangs have gone limp and obscured his left eye.

I return his grin and reach up to delicately push aside his wet hair. "Thanks. I'm just glad this technique works as well as it does. Plus, it doesn't take a lot outta me… But the black showers…" I can't help but let loose a sigh of distain. "I understand their convenience for this mission, but they are also an inconvenience too."

"Yeah," Cole breathes distractedly, his gaze strafing away from mine to survey the surrounding area. "We gotta stay positive though. The pros outweigh the cons here." He readjusts the straps on his shoulder before taking my hand in his again. His face hardens. "C'mon, we gotta find that B&B. According to the map we configured from Hayate's surveillance, it should be somewhere near the General Store."

I nod and we set off again, keeping under each building's eaves as we travel through the town drenched in black rain. Brighter lights were starting to drift from high and low windows of the cabins we encountered, signaling that the people were still trying to go about their day despite the black showers' ominous presence. Cole leads me back out onto the street, rightfully choosing to stay in the obscurity of darkness as much as we can as more cabins light up like holy beacons against the Kraken's vile ink.

These chalets must be residential… I thought keeping pace with Cole. I can easily imagine families and the like taking comfort in each others' company and lifting one another's' spirits in brace of this troubled time. Maybe even some believed in and prayed to Lord Leviathan here. I can't deny that it's a comforting thought.

However, a more dark and sinister thought surfaces. What if the people here are no more than human husks? What if they are mere marionettes on strings, made to act charades and invoke subterfuge all by the will of the abominable Hypnobrai? My stomach clenches painfully in anxiety and my eyes instinctively dart to and from each of the towering weathered cabins we pass.

My mood shifts with accordance to my trepidation and soon wariness sets in, my earlier playfulness completely gone. I purse my lips together tightly and inwardly berate myself for my prior foolishness. This was no time to be frivolous and carefree?! I should be vigilant and serious like I usually am during a mission! What is wrong with me?! Why do I feel so emotionally unbalanced so often!?

I give a small gasp of surprise when Cole suddenly stops in front of me and I quickly reach out to grasp his shoulder to keep from plowing into him, Jay's sardonic warning playing in my mind. Don't run into Cole, it hurts!

I release a subtle sigh of relief and come around to stand beside him, his finger pointing to one of the single-story cabins nearby.

"There! That's the General Store!" He shouts excitedly, but then his finger lowers in almost a hesitant way. "But…" He trails off sounding baffled, and after peering at the store carefully…I can see why.

Sure enough, the lantern hanging from the store's rafters illuminated the green-painted lettering on the display window, proving that the establishment is, in fact, a general store, but…

"It's…open…?" I whisper suspiciously. Bright white light floods from the store's window and within we can see the many tall wooden shelves lined with a variety of goods and products. Even from our angled view, everything shows as clear as day, as well as the "OPEN" sign hanging on the door.

Well, everything…except people. Not to say there aren't people in there.

"Cole?" My hand still grips his shoulder and I give it a light squeeze. I look up at his frowning face. "What do you think? Should we investigate?"

He doesn't answer me right away and I can understand his hesitation. While it may be worth checking out, it may also prove to be a complete waste of time. First and foremost, there's no way to physically identify a hypnotized person, and how are we supposed to determine what is or what's not "strange behavior" if we don't know the person? We'd have no choice but to provoke them into attacking us to find out for sure. Secondly, there are a few good reasons why they would be open. Maybe it was out of the kindness of their hearts? For the convenience of the citizenry if someone needed supplies or food to outlast the storm for however long it lasted? Or maybe the employees were advised to sit tight themselves instead of risking their lives to go home? Maybe they don't know the severity of the storm?

Too many different possibilities with an even wider range of variables. And if Cole were to call a convergence without concrete proof of the village's enslavement, then not only would we look bad for disrupting their lives and accusing them, but more importantly, we'd be putting more stress on the populace which they obviously don't need right now.

I shake my head. The cons outweigh the pros this time.

And it looks like Cole has come to the same conclusion. "No." He says at last. "The caravan is our best bet, let's stick to the plan." He tugs on my hand and nods forward. "Let's go."

Thankfully, the B&B is just around the corner, McGunther's Bed & Breakfast, to be exact. While we couldn't have been out here for more than fifteen minutes or so, I'd still be more comfortable with a roof over my head, powers or not.

Gods and Goddesses be praised!

We clamper up onto the boardwalk under the eave, and purposefully stand away from the lit windows and out of view of any passerby.

"Okay, they should have plenty of room. So if they refuse us, they damn sure better have a good reason."

I worry my bottom lip at this. This will also be a test then. Though I keep my thoughts to myself, there is a chance they may refuse us and it may have absolutely nothing to do with them being hypnotized. Racism still lingers over our world like a ghostly fog, as does many other human injustices. In a perfect world, all of these cruelties would be abolished, but unfortunately our realm is flawed and we humans are fickle.

Sadness and anger well up inside me and I can feel the prick of tears sting the corners of my eyes as past grievances play in my mind. I blink rapidly to stay them and just in time too, as Cole turns back to me.

"You ready, Sasha? As soon as I open the door, release your power…" He suddenly lifts his head to the crest, a thoughtful grin on his face. He then closes his eyes and his countenance relaxes even further, peace and tranquility in the form of water rolling off him in contented streams. "Though…I have to say I'm gonna miss this. Who would've thought that water constantly dripping on your head would be not only comfortable but…satisfying too."

I sniff inconspicuously and beam up at him. "Really?" I am more than used to this feeling of cool rivulets running and dripping down my face, but to hear Cole say he was pleased by the comfort Lord Leviathan's tears brought is a real delight, especially since he's more or less pretty indifferent about rain.

"Yeah…" he sighs blissfully then slowly returns his gaze to mine. His brow puckers and a familiar frown appears, though this one is more speculative. "It's as if…you're all around me, comforting me and relaxing me all the time. The water is cool, but also warm…like…one of your massages…" He rubs the back of his neck and gives a half-hearted shrug. "Ah…I don't know what I'm saying. Bottom line is that it feels good…really good."

I nod mutely in understanding, warmth feeling my heart and soul. He had trouble finding the right words to express his thoughts this time, but no matter. I understand perfectly. I don't ever expect him to be as eloquent as Zane, or as passionate as Kai, or as attentive as Jay.

He's the perfect dosage of everything I want and need. I feel like the love I have for him grows deeper and deeper each day and sometimes the love I feel can be overwhelming. But in spite of that, I wouldn't want it any other way.

He smiles softly and turns for the door, but I quickly stop him. "Cole, wait…" His eyebrows lift expectedly as he refocuses on me and I dig into my coat pocket to retrieve a simple gold band. I lift the hand that had been leading me all this time and slide his black glove off. I keep my eyes on the strong appendage as I slip the ring onto his left ring finger.

"Whoa… Sasha…"

"It's not for keeps, it's just temporary," I explain passively, however, my heart had been pounding in my ears since I first retrieved the ring from my pocket and unfortunately, still is. "We don't know how perceptive these people are going to be so better safe than sorry, right?"

"Uh… Yeah, but…"

I can feel his eyes burning holes through my forehead. He really wants me to meet his gaze, but I stubbornly refuse. I know this is no time to be idle, but I take the time anyway to inspect his hand thoroughly. Or to be more precise, the finger of which the ring encircled. I frown disagreeably; the gold band doesn't suit him at all, even though it fits okay.

Zane and Kai look good in gold… While Cole and Jay look good in silver or platinum shades…

When Cole first told me of the mission and the part we would play, my mind instantly drifted to the gold band and its usage in our little charade. I received the ring as a commemorative gift from an acquaintance back in my Marty Oppenheimer days. In truth, he was Jazz's first boyfriend (since I meet her anyway) and he was studying gemology in hopes of being a professional jeweler and goldsmith. I can't remember his name worth crap, but after he presented Jazz with a stunning promise ring he had crafted, he simply flicked me the gold band and winked at me saying, "Give it to your beau, see if he'll wear it."

I was happy he even thought of me, and maybe I should've given it to Peter when I was with him. Leviathan knows it probably would've suited him rather than Cole. My frown deepens. Cole is going to be my husband. He needs a ring that says his name and shows that his wife not only cares deeply for him, but also proves her complete devotion to him.

"I'll get you a better one," I declare determinedly. "One that you will be proud to wear and know how much I truly care for you."

"No seriously, Sasha, it's fine. I like it—"

I snap my head up furiously and glare at him. "Don't patronize me! It's not fine and you don't like it!" My chest heaves with my outburst and Cole looks completely taken aback, his eyes wide in alarm as he stares at me.

I didn't mean to snap and shout at him, I just want him to understand how I feel. I felt really jealous of Nya and that she could afford to give Jay such a beautiful ring. And it's not just beautiful either, it suits him, perfectly and anyone could tell that she put a lot of thought and love into her choice. And Jay… Heh, not a day goes by that he doesn't try to show off the blue diamond ring, almost always reaching for things with his left hand despite everyone knowing he's right-handed. The guy can really be insufferable at times.

It may be somewhat materialistic, but I want Cole to feel the same amount of pride Jay has for his ring. Hell, I want it to rival Jay's.

I don't have a lot of money, but surely I can get him something more worthwhile… Yeah, I have time.

I soften my gaze and my shoulders sag as the tension leaves my body. "I'm sorry, Cole. I just…" Another bout of tears threatens to fall and I take a deep shaky breath in an attempt to stifle my overflowing emotions and steady my heart. "Let me do this for you, okay?" I try to smile at him assuredly, but I'm not sure how good it is as he doesn't smile back. He just looks at me, his eyes slightly narrowed as he peers into mine. His gaze is searching, like he's trying to uncover some hidden secret within me, but I have no idea what.

"Okay…" he says slowly, his face still taut and stonewalled. It makes me wonder what exactly he's agreeing to, maybe something else besides the ring? I nod regardless though, and slip his glove back on.

"I'm ready. Let's get our game-faces on."

"…Okay…" he says again, his voice barely above a whisper. There's also something in his eyes I can't quite place, but before I get a chance to try, he turns away, taking my hand and grasping the door handle tight.

The moment he bursts through, I release my power.
Power of Aura Chapter 12
I have to edit this later since I get get StashWriter to work *sigh* Anyway, I'll update the second half/next chapter soon. I hope everyone can read this okay. If not, please FFN
Theme Ten: Kai's Number One Fan

"It's getting harder and harder to find you all. You do know that don'tcha?" The Mailman said exasperatedly while tapping his fist against his lower back in an attempt to alleviate a nagging ache.

All five Ninja were gathered on the Bounty's deck going through some morning aesthetics before training when they saw the Mailman peddling hurriedly to catch up them on his flying bicycle. He now stood before them clearly winded and irritable with five letters in his hand, each of them a different color.

The Ninja didn't try to explain their nomadic habits, only waited patiently with grins in place for the Mailman to compose himself.

Sniffing indignantly, the Mailman adjusted his glasses and stroked his gray beard shrewdly. "Now let's see here… Zane from Ayane," he began, handing a glossy golden envelope over to Ninjago's one and only nindroid. The ice ninja took it gratefully with a soft smile, and noticed that it had been sealed with a white wolf head emblem.

"Jay from Nya…" Jay eagerly plucked the royal violet envelope from the Mailman's hand, his eyes gleaming as he peered at the deep blue eagle head emblem.

"Cole from Sasha…" The Leader of the Ninja stepped forward and removed the sea-shaded envelope from the Mailman's hand with careful consideration. He smiled earnestly at the black dragon head emblem.

"Lloyd from Dominique…" Lloyd frowned and stretched out a trembling hand to retrieve the envelope imbued with the relaxing color of a spring sunset. A scarlet blush instantly filled his cheeks as soon as he touched the edges of the slim sachet, and he stared with wonder and hope at the emerald green phoenix emblem.

Kai blinked at his clansmen as they held their special letters from their loved ones. He turned to the Mailman with a frown. "Where's mine—"

"And Kai gets another fan letter," The Mailman finished promptly, nearly blinding the red ninja as he thrust the ordinary white envelope in his face. Kai snatched it belligerently, if only to remove the obstruction from his view.

"Wait. Are you sure that's it?" He beseeched the aged courier desperately. "I mean, this is the first time the Kunoichi have contacted us since they left for their mission. I'm expecting something from Ebony, Ebony Garmadon."

The Mailman cocked a bored eyebrow at Kai, as nonchalant as ever. "I know the name, son," he deadpanned. "I've delivered letters to you from her before, remember? She just doesn't have one for you this time."

Kai shook his head in disbelief and followed after the Mailman as the latter approached his parked bike.

"Can you at least check that basket-thing on your back again? Just to be sure?"

The Mailman swung a leg over his transport with a fatigued sigh. "I don't need to check this basket-thing on my back again," he retorted indifferently then gave Kai a stern look. "I've been doing this before you could walk. I know my mail like the back of my hand which means… I don't. Make. Mistakes."

Kai glared heatedly into the older man's pious eyes. He was just about to say something snide when Cole spoke up from behind him.

"I wouldn't say that. Remember? You would've left the monastery without giving me my box with Rocky's food in it if I hadn't asked you to look again."

The Mailman's dark brown eyes widened to the size of his spectacles as he gaped over Kai's shoulder at the black ninja, clearly remembering his near blunder. He sobered up with a grumble and rolled his eyes at Kai's smirk before swinging his heavy straw basket to the ground. He dismounted and peaked inside his expansive carrier, shuffling both letters and packages around while mumbling to himself. After several moments of fruitless searching, he straightened up, his back popping loud enough for everyone to hear.

He lifted his straw hat from his head and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. "Sorry, son. Nothing from your woman. Maybe next time, huh?"

Kai's smirk fell away at the news and he watched hopelessly as the Mailman climbed back onto his bike and began pedaling. He soon became aloft and the others waved their farewells to the quickly disappearing form of the old courier's back.

The other Ninja crowded around their solemn brother and patted his shoulder consolingly.

"Don't worry, Kai. Maybe Eb didn't finish hers in time or something. You know how she likes to write," Jay speculated supportively.

"Yeah, wasn't her last letter to you like four pages long?" Cole supplied.

Zane squeezed his opposite's shoulder. "All of Ebony's actions have reason and thought behind them, Brother. Exhibit patience. She'll send you her love soon enough."

Kai nodded absently at all his brothers' words of comfort, but there was one voice missing…

Cole, Zane, and Jay turned their heads expectantly towards the Green Ninja, who was more or less still staring astounded at Dominique's letter in his hand.

Jay cleared his throat loudly, causing the blond to glance up with a start. Rich wine eyes blinked owlishly at the three waiting Ninja. "Uhh… I agree?"

Simultaneous huffs of exasperation sounded from the three elders as they watched Lloyd shrug with a guilty face. Jay shook his head and turned back to Kai. "Anyway, you know it's gonna come. So just chillax and read your fan mail. That always inflates your head," he quipped, hoping to get a rise out of the fire ninja, but Kai just nodded again. "Yeah, thanks guys."

The three frowned at their brother's despondent mood, though chose not to offer anymore words and turned away with a final reassuring pat to his shoulders. Lloyd was already striding hurriedly to the door of the interior.

"Wait Lloyd," Zane called out with an outstretched hand. "Do you need help deciphering Dominique's Braille again?"

Lloyd froze and ever so slowly swiveled his head to look at the tall white ninja over his shoulder. He eyed Zane's innocent grin with trepidation, remembering all too well what happened last time when the other sat with him to decode one of Dominique's letters. Lloyd had experienced absolute mortification as Zane read each word out loud when his nimble fingers traced the small orderly bumps. But what made it so humiliating was that he would add his own little commentary at the end of each sentence as if he was trying to decipher some type of grand meaning to Dominique's words and speculate them to Lloyd:

"Hmm… She speaks so fondly of you, Lloyd. However, I am perplexed as to why she would use the word "endure" here. Does she wish to "endure" her emotions towards you? Or perhaps she wishes to "endure" the consequences her emotions bring…? My…what a fascinating letter Dominique has written. I am most intrigued, aren't you? Now, let us continue…"

After that, Lloyd swore never again and worked tirelessly to learn how to read and write Braille on his own. "No thanks, Zane," he replied with a forced smile. "I got it."

However, the nindroid took no offense and dipped his head affirmatively. "As you wish. I only ask that you let me know if you have any difficulty." He smiled serenely. "I would be more that pleased to assist you."

"Yeah, I promise," Lloyd said and all but sprinted inside to safety.

Cole cocked a thick black eyebrow at the now closed door Lloyd retreated behind, and then shrugged. "Well, I think we can procrastinate a bit since Lloyd ran out of here as if his ass was on fire. We'll pick up training in an hour fellas," he said and began leisurely following the Green Ninja's path, Jay and Zane behind him.

Jay suddenly stopped and glanced at Kai when he noticed the red ninja hadn't moved. "Kai? You comin'?" He asked, but Kai shook his head. "Nah, I'm gonna stay out here."

"Oh… Okay." Jay's attentive sapphires followed his best friend's form as the latter went to sit down on the deck, his back resting against the mast. He didn't like seeing any of his brothers miserable truthfully, but it really tugged at his heartstrings to bear witness to Kai's melancholy, especially since he was closest to him. He sighed in forlorn acquiescence and followed Cole and Zane inside, leaving Kai to his solitude.

Kai sat for several moments just eyeing the plain white envelope in his hand, before finally breaking the seal and removing the two neatly folded papers from within. He then started to read the neat cursive writing quietly to himself.

Dear Kai,

I know you probably get plenty of these types of letters, but I hope this one stands out to you the most. I have been covertly observing you for quite some time I admit and wish to share with you my findings. Truth is, I wish to alleviate the pressures of my heart about you through terms on paper, since I know for certain that I will never have the courage to voice my feelings to you in person. There is much for me to say, so please bear with me.

Kai blinked at the eloquently written words, realizing this was unlike any fan mail he'd ever received before. The part about the person secretly watching him was definitely suspicious, but he only felt impressed that the person had enough skill to keep him within their sights whenever he was in public. He didn't get his hopes up though, as he expected this fan whoever he or she might be was just going to gush about how cool or great he was. Shrugging nonchalantly, he continued to read.

It is a wonder you've survived so long with how recklessly impetuous you are. My heart had always thumped in fear and anger when you barreled forth headlong into danger without a second thought to your safety. Do you not realize how precious life is? You do, don't you? Maybe it was none of my business to try to understand the way the mind works for such an instinctual being, but no matter how much I wanted to not think about you, I almost always did. And from further observation, I learned that that imbecilic carelessness was really the essence of raw bravery. It wasn't that you didn't care about life; you simply wanted to put your life on the line for others. I can empathize with your reasoning, but you still frighten me. And I think you'll always make me fear for you.

Kai's heart was beating soundly in his chest. This person had been close enough to witness him in combat? And what's more, the person's words about him were true. Even Sensei Wu had told Kai how infuriating he could be and to exercise more caution, but Kai's body would react first before his mind had time to produce a coherent thought in the face of danger. The overwhelming instincts to protect, defend, and eliminate the threats to his friends and innocent people flowed heavily in his veins. He could almost say that it was unstoppable. This person had an eye to look underneath the underneath and worried immensely for his safety and wellbeing. Kai swallowed thickly and read on.

As your element ordained, you have brought heat and fire to my life. Unbeknownst to me, I have become very conscious of you and it goes far beyond merely sensing your presence, Kai. It is like my soul reaches out to you, as if it's willingly searching for you. I find that I want you close to me, close enough to burn. No, please disregard that previous statement. That was a bit too much, I was digressing. I wasn't always like this, so open with my emotions. You are so stubborn, always pushing forward when you have a particular goal in mind. However, I am relieved at your obstinacy as well as appreciative. When the spirits of your clan members are falling, you are the first to shout words of encouragement. You are integral to the hierarchy of your clan because you bring the strength of passion. I really admire that trait about you, Kai. You are truly a fearsome and powerful man to have changed my outlook on life.

Kai closed his eyes and smiled at the carefully worded praise within the letter. Happiness washed over him like a tide. But more than that, as he had continued to read, the identity of his fan had become blatantly clear to him, and he could easily hear a melodious sultry voice whisper these very words in his ear.


So she had written to him after all. But Kai wondered why she would employ such subterfuge. Was she really that embarrassed to say these things to him personally? Kai's heart calmed and his spirit soared. He decided he would have a nice long talk with her about the contents of this letter when she returned. He opened his eyes and fervently referred to the next page, but to his chagrin, the following parchment was completely devoid of words and had only a single silver handprint on it. Kai starred quizzically for a moment at the odd way Ebony would end her letter and placed the page down on the deck. His first instinct was to place his hand on top to mirror hers so that's what he did.

And just as abruptly, both pages of Ebony's letter erupted into black flames.

"What the hell…?" Kai watched the pieces of paper wither into fine ash then swirl purposefully together. The small mound of powder gradually gave shape to form that of a bird's and when the edge of the beak granulated into a sharp point, the bird shook itself. The ash instantly fell away to reveal lustrous black feathers and the avian opened its dangerous bill to release a sound Kai was quite familiar with.

"A raven…"

An animal known to be a keeper of secrets, the animal Kai had associated Ebony with long ago, was staring at him with knowing silver eyes. The raven cawed at him once more before shifting on its talons to show its back. Kai smirked devilishly at what he saw.

Strapped to the raven's back was a beautiful silver envelope sealed carefully with the emblem of a blood red stallion's head. Kai understood Ebony's intent. "Haha…and I thought Ayane was shy…" The Kunoichi of Darkness had intentionally wanted Kai to read the letter, but also wanted it to be destroyed. Torn between the two, she opted to send it disguised as regular fan mail to throw him off. However, she most likely guessed that he would figure out it was her who wrote it, and due to embarrassment, she couldn't properly end the letter so chose to simply replace it in hopes of eliminating her bout of unexplained weakness. Ebony couldn't express her feelings through her standard letters so she tried a different approach…but unfortunately backed out at the last minute. The whole act was inexplicably adorable.

Kai tenderly removed the envelope from the raven's back strap, his smirk still intact and the bird hopped onto his arm when he offered it. The raven cocked its head, staring intently into Kai's sharp golden-amber eyes with an air of patience.

"Hurry up and get back here. I'll save what I really want to say for then. You just be ready for it."

The raven held his gaze for a moment more before spreading its wings and kicking off Kai's arm into the heavens. It fluttered low then quickly gained altitude and before long, it was only a tiny dark speck against the clear blue sky.

Kai smiled down at the warm silver envelope in his hands. Having fans was nice, he'd admit that in a second, but he knew who his number one fan would always be. And that thought made his life all the more sweeter.
Chibijago! Kai's Number One Fan

This was just a little diddy I coughed up to help me get my creative juices flowing again. And it helped, I do feel better.

Hope you enjoyed!

Reviews/Requests are welcome!


The Mary-Sue and Stu Demographic

Journal Entry: Fri Jan 30, 2015, 12:34 PM

I think people have really forgotten what Mary Sues and Stus are (or Gary Sues nowadays). Don't they know it has absolutely nothing to do with physical characteristics? No where in Fan-Fiction, that I have seen anyway, states that: "Depending of the core setting of your story, characters must look a certain way so that they DO NOT stand out." If there is a rule like that, please show it to me and I'll shut my trap. But the reason why I'm bringing this up is because I was just a little bored one day and was just moseying about looking at random stuff when I came across this poor author getting bashed to death by comments saying that all her characters are Mary Sues because of the way they look! 

I was literally floored by the petty ignorance within the comments, with each one getting more hurtful and distasteful as I went down the line. I went from shocked to pissed about halfway through and wanted to put those sorry suckers in their place so I went to type a comment. But as soon as I was finished with my rebuttal in the author's defense, I found out the comments had been disabled. And when I went back today to see how the author was doing, I found out that he/she had completely disappeared from DA. I know the author had probably been driven away by all the negative feedback he/she had received from their story and I can't imagine the likely frustration or melancholy they are probably going through.

So, I've decided to get this topic out in the open to not only relieve myself of my pent-up anger at people's ignorance, but also to strike out in defense to any author who may be feeling hesitant to publish their story because they're afraid of their OCs being labeled as Mary Sues or Stus solely based on their physical characteristics. So sit back and enjoy the ride because I'm about to set it off!

First off, it's been a long time since the concept of Mary-Sues and Stus been around, about 42 years in fact. So yeah, I understand that the concept may have gotten misconstrued and people started making up their own definitions of what Mary-Sues and Stus are. But for those of you who don't know where the proxy demographic came from, then let me school you for a sec.

It started back in 1973 when an author named Paula Smith released her parody called "A Trekkie's Tale" for the fandom, yep you guessed it, Star Trek. Her OC's name was "Mary Sue" and by golly was she as overpowered as all hell! She was a lieutenant in a fleet at only FIFTEEN YEARS OLD! She had incredible abilities and genius-level intelligence as she was always saving the canon characters from grave situations effortlessly. And apparently she had romantic relations with the Top Dogs of the series being: Spock, McCoy, and Kirk. I mean seriously, the canon characters shouldn't even had been there! Because not only could she do their jobs, but she could do them better. That, my friends, is what a Mary Sue truly is. An overpowered character who is poorly developed and is too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting. Did you guys hear anything about what a character looks like? No!!!

I mean, c'mon people! If that was the case, almost every single character in Anime would be labeled a Mary Sue or Stu. A few examples: D from Vampire Hunter D, Sakura Haruno from Naruto (Hell, almost every character from Naruto), Zech Merquis from Gundam Wing, Bulma Briefs from Dragonball, Kamina from Gurren Lagann. Do I really have to go on because the list is endless! But the point is, they are no where classified as Mary Sues or Stus because that's not what defines that demographic. And I know what some of you are thinking: Oh, but we're not talking about canon characters. Those can't be considered Mary Sues or Stus. Uh, yes they can, sweethearts. But do you really think when Masashi Kishimoto-sama presented his first rough draft of characters to his senpais, they were like: "Oh can't use that hair color for that girl! It has to be a normal color! Here are your choices: blonde, brunette, black, or red to a realistic orange! That's all!" Nope, ten to one they liked the new and fresh style Kishimoto-sama was going for. Who doesn't want to see characters stand-out physically in some way? In my opinion, it keeps that character fresh in your mind because they don't look like the average Joe or Jane. 

Oh, and don't act like I haven't seen some of you guys on the Ninjago fandom either, creating lists like: "Your character is a Mary Sue if she looks like this" and whatnot. And I see stuff like, you can't have purple eyes or you can't have blue hair... It's obvious you guys don't know what the hell a Mary Sue actually is. Please wake up people! If you really want to give good advice to other writers or you wish to be a good critic, know your facts. Please! Just know your facts. Stop with the belittling of other author's OCs based solely on how they look and not discussing what they are bringing to the story. Look at the character development, their flaws and strengths, can you relate to these characters emotionally. That's what you want to read, isn't it? Especially in a world as fantastical as Ninjago. Come on now! Did you guys not see the blue-haired lego women walking around last season? I say, bring on the rainbow colored hair and the fancy-colored eyes and the different hues of skin! Make them look unique enough for us to take them seriously and keep them in our heads, because that's what really counts in the end. Please look for: how that character is portrayed, how engaging the author's plot is, and how their OCs intermingle with the canon.

VelvetPersona signing off!


  • Mood: Rage
  • Listening to: Disturbed....Can you blame me...
  • Reading: Seekers: The River of Lost Bears
  • Watching: Seinfeld
  • Playing: Devil May Cry....Again, can you blame me...
  • Eating: Chicken
  • Drinking: Mountain Dew


VelvetPersona's Profile Picture
United States
Greetings and salutations everyone!!
I'm no artist when it comes to drawing, but I love art in general and all it entails. A friend of mine from suggested I come here and post some of my stories about Ninjago, so that's what I'm going to do!!
I think I'll remain anonymous about the details of myself, but that may change in time.
Pleased to meet you everyone!! :D

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Mayspring5 Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014
I tagged you!!!!!!!
redwallfvs Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2014  Student General Artist
snakesskin Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oi, sondreia dear, send me your email~
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014
lol, here ya go!
snakesskin Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist See if that works :3
Pokeninjagirl Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday!  :cake:
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014
Thanks! :)
Pokeninjagirl Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
NP!  ^^ How are you doing so far? 
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
I'm doing well. Had a great day with my bf and I'm fully recovered from my accident and surgery. Life is great! How are you?
(1 Reply)
LidyGarmadon Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Student Writer
Happy birthday! :D
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