A/N: So this chapter ended up getting spilt in two, with the other half still under way, so this Act will probably end up being 11-12 chapters. The next chapter will hopefully be done within the next week (three cheers for procrastination!).

Anyway, merry reading!

Chapter 3

Bewitched by the Hours

"So is that what you were doing all that time? Putting together a party?"

"First of all it's kind of a secret that I'm here right now," Kalan said, "So that would blow my cover. It's the equinox, and we always throw a party on the equinox. I was doing, ah, other things with my time."

By this time Mirajane knew better than to question about the 'other things'. She and Kalan were standing over the couch where he'd deposited a couple of the duffle bags he'd brought home. He opened one of them, and spilled out the contents on the coffee table; there at least a dozen of bottles of shampoo, soap and perfume. Scattered among them were some small makeup sets.

"Where did you get these?" Mirajane asked, holding up one of the shampoos. It looked fairly expensive, "All these must've cost a fortune."

"Well I'm borrowing them from a friend. The dresses, too," he said waving a hand, ignoring her skeptic look. "We've got some time before we need to get ready, so what do you want for dinner, princess?"

"What are the options?" Mirajane asked as they made their way back to the kitchen.

"I can cook anything you can dream of," Kalan responded, already strapping on an apron and laying out ingredients.

"In that case surprise me," Mirajane once again sat down at the kitchen table and watched as Kalan grinned then set to work. Before she'd even answered his question it seemed he had already had an idea of what he was going to prepare. Soon the kitchen was filled with a smell so thick and spicy Mirajane found her mouth watering. Interested in what Kalan could possibly be preparing that smelled so good, she stood and glanced over his shoulder.

He was in the middle of slicing up something that looked like fish, with a thick red slurry cooking in a large pot on the stove. Once he was done with the fish, he doused them in some spices and olive oil and tossed them onto a frying pan. Soon he was chopping up leeks and tomatoes, and grinding up some other earthy looking plants. Like everything he did, Kalan seemed completely sure of himself moving rapidly and efficiently.

"What is that?" Mirajane asked, pointing to the quickly thinning red slurry.

Kalan didn't look up from what he was doing, "Tomato sauce, lemon juice, chopped onions vinegar and water."

Now Kalan was working on a slab of beef, slicing it into thin strips and tossing them directly into the slurry. Shortly after, he dumped the fish and the various vegetables in too and put a lid on the pot. He put some shrimp on to boil, and once they were ready he tossed them in the mix as well. Wiping a bit of sweat off his brow, Kalan grinned and sat down at the table.

"It'll take a couple minutes for it to be ready," he said, and went back to putting away the remainder of the groceries. Once he was done, he went without thinking to wiping down the counter.

"You know," Mirajane said, deciding to voice something that had been one her mind for a while now, "you'd make a really good wife."

"Really?" he gave an easy laugh over his shoulder, "I've heard women are universally attracted to a man who can cook."

"I'm more jealous than attracted, really," she said. This got his attention.

"Oh, and why is that?" Kalan turned to her, leaning against the counter.

"Well I've never been good at any of that stuff," Mirajane said, not knowing why she was suddenly spilling her guts. But as she spoke she found that something about telling made her feel almost…lighter. "I mean I can mix drinks, but that's about it. Even though everyone thinks I'm all girly, I'm completely lost in the kitchen."

"I never would have guessed," he said looking surprisingly impressed. Whether he was impressed he was wrong, or impressed by her, Mirajane couldn't tell but she found that seeing look on his face made her feel proud of herself.

Mirajane challenged Kalan's grin with one of her own,"Really? Your great powers of observation couldn't tell you that?"

"They couldn't," he gave a halfhearted shrug, "I guess I thought you were all girly, too."

"Are you disappointed?" Mirajane asked, feeling her cheeks warm as soon as she said it. She had been talking off the top of her head, without thinking much and it had felt good, until that little coy phrase had slipped out.

But the stutter in her heartbeat was familiar, and she calmed herself; she used to talk to boys like this all the time.

"No, believe it or not," Kalan said, his grin dropping. Mirajane was beginning to recognize these moments when Kalan was serious. Any such moment scared her, but this one was different. They had locked eyes, and Mirajane couldn't decide whether she wanted to reach out and touch him, or run somewhere so far away those pale eyes could never see her.

The moment broke to the sound of something boiling over. The pot was shaking, and Kalan rushed over to check on it, "Shit!"

He scrambled to turn off the flames and pulled off the lid, only to get a blast of steam to the face, murmuring obscenities not quite under his breath. Mirajane looked away, unable to look at him him as she tried to reorient herself.

"It looks fine," Kalan stirred it around slowly, and held some up in a spoon and let it slop back in, "It's a little thin, but the meat's done, so we're good."

Kalan pulled off his apron, and served each of them a bowlful of his mysterious gumbo. He handed her a spoon, and just sat down without touching his. Mirajane stared back at him, and he only gestured towards the bowl in front of her with a barely contained grin threading to break out. Mirajane took the hint, and dipped her spoon, making sure to get a good chunk of meat.

It was a spoonful of heaven.

It was tangy and the meet was sweet, but there was a pervading spice that added a much needed kick to the whole flavor pallet. Her face must've shown what she thought, because the grin Kalan had been holding back was nearly splitting his face in two.

"This is so good," Mirajane said, wolfing down another spoonful and then another.

"Thank you, thank you," Kalan said, standing to take a mock bow before he ate his. "It's a little to thin

Mirajane ended up getting three servings. It had been a while since she'd enjoyed a meal like that. It was such a base pleasure she felt, Mirajane began to smile, and tipped her head back and sighed. "Where did you learn to cook like that?"

Mirajane wasn't looking at him, so she didn't see his grin turn to a grimace, but she heard him hesitate just long enough to know he was lying, "Just something I picked up, I guess."

Caerleon City

(West Side)

While most gangs are born and die in Caerleon's South Side, much older and much more prestigious gangs like the Orochinai and Snake Eyes founded much of the infrastructure in this part of the city. Despite Artisan's seeming omnipotence, many of the local businesses and people remain loyal to their roots and are more than willing to become the much needed bridge between the gangs and big businesses.

"This is really a quality shop you've got here."

If there was one thing Naito Galatine appreciated it was devotion to a craft. This little shop sold everything ceramic, each with a signature touch that added a certain elegance to them. None of them were magic pieces at all, but Naito couldn't help but think they somehow were worked with some kind of sorcery. Most mages lost appreciation for the makings of those without magic, but not Naito; no, this shop was something strangely beautiful and amazing.

This was why Naito Tsukiakari deeply regretted the situation he and the shopkeeper had found themselves in.

"It would pain me to burn it down," Naito said, waving a hand and summoning a small black ember. The shopkeeper, a young man with a crooked nose, was currently being held off the ground by one of Naito's black magic seals. "It really would. All I need is for you to show me the bunker in the back."

"Burn in hell, mage," the shopkeeper spat, struggling in vain against the magic that bound him.

"Come now, that wasn't an unreasonable request was it?" Naito shrugged and strolled around the shop, picking up a little ceramic dragon that caught his attention. It was red with , "I won't even disturb anything, all I need is to see it."

"I'd rather cut off my toes," the shopkeeper said, "You mages might not know 'bout this, but there are people that I'm loyal to."

"And are you protecting them out of loyalty or fear?" Naito shot back, "If the latter, I recommend you comply; I assure you I am far more terrifying then whoever you're protecting."

The shopkeeper began to laugh at this, a little chuckle that turned into a full on fit and left him coughing and clutching his sides, "That's what you think, mage."

"Oh? Do explain."

"I ain't protecting nobody. He the one who's protecting me. See, you can go in the back there, and see what you want to see. It won't make no difference because this man, he outsmarted countless mages like you before, who thought they could just come into his city, and you know where they are now?"

The corners of Naito's mouth began to creep upwards, "Where?"

"At the bottom of the river," the shopkeeper was back to roaring in laughter. He fell down as the seals holding him in place faded. He must've thought that he'd rattled Naito, because he didn't run, and only continued to laugh.

"So this man who's protecting you," the dark mage began offhandedly, "What do you think would get his attention faster, nailing you to the ceiling, or hanging you from the lamppost outside?"


He didn't have the opportunity to finish his thought, because a lance of black fire had just pierced his throat. He fell back gasping, dead before he smashed into the counter behind him. Naito lowered his smoking fingertips, "The lamppost it is, then."

Caerleon City

(East Side)

Home to the Caerleon City's few mages guilds. Magic itself, while once an integral part of the city's culture has become the subject of much suspicion, spawning rumors of deathless gang lords, and hit-men that could blow apart an entire block with a snap of their fingers. As such, the guilds are of poor and quickly declining quality. The only trusted source of magical items is Artisan.

East Star was a terrible guild to be a part of.

With a name so cliché it bordered on ridiculous (there were a handful of other guilds with 'east' in their names) and positioned in the shadow of two huge Artisan offices, there was very little incentive to join the guild. There was even less incentive to actually work if you were already a member.

"Yo, Tyler, back from your job already?"

The mage in question, Tyler Jarkins was being jeered at by a couple of his fellow East Star members, among them their master, a one Jeremiah Altair who wasn't any more qualified to be the master than the other fifteen members of East Star, but got the position because the previous master had owed him one hundred and twelve dollars.

"I thought you were 'finally going to get something done', right?" Jeremiah balked, laughing so hard one of the bells on his hat came off.

"This wasn't my fault!" Tyler insisted, gesturing emphatically to the small crowd (the entire guild) that had gathered around him. "Besides, I don't see you guys doing any jobs."

The crowd went sheepish for a second, until one of the burst out, "You were taking that Artisan job right? Maybe if you'd stuck around, instead of pussying out, you could've convinced them get us out of this shitty building, huh?"

"Like I said it wasn't my fault," Tyler tried to say over the chorus of shouts, "Some mages just came by and told me that I was off the job."

Jeremiah held up a hand to silence the guild. This didn't work, and after a few seconds of screaming for them to shut up they were silent, "What do you mean by told you were off the job?"

"J-just that. Big ass islander just came and said 'your guild is off the Ghost chasing, here is compensation' and leaves me with the 50,000 jewels, and leaves." Tyler grinned and held up the hefty little sac of coin. "Crazy world, yeah?"

"50,000….jewels," Jeremiah's mouth went wide, "Tyler that's…that's enough to pay our rent for months…give that here, Tyler."

"About that," Tyler held the plump coin purse in front of Jeremiah's nose before jerking it back into his pocket, "See, I checked and the guild's official policy is that every jewel earned by members is their own, which I'll bet no one here knew because no one works so I think I'm gonna keep it. Maybe, if you hadn't teased me so much before, I might've given you some."

"Well in that case it was a bit stupid of you to come back here," Jeremiah said, exchanging glances with the rest of the guild, who quickly guessed his intentions. Slowly, they formed a semicircle around the quickly paling Tyler Jarkins, "'Cause we're just gonna take it from you, you little pie—"

"Yo, Tyler, this is where you got to!" a cheery voice rang out, and the guild doors swung open, letting in the evening sun and a stranger.

The intruder was a young man with wild dark red hair that was tied back in a ponytail, dressed clearly in mage get up: a collared brown and red cloak, and a sleek black shirt and pale trousers, and boots with twin magic circles on them. His vivid green eyes took in the situation in a blink, and he winked at Tyler.

"Come on, you can't leave me alone in this city, you know how I get lost," the stranger said, throwing an arm around Tyler's shoulder and began guiding him towards the door, "Geez, two years and you still haven't changed. Say let's go hi—"

"Excuse me," Jeremiah said, clearing his throat loudly. "I don't know who you are," the guild members moved to so round them and cut off their escape, "But you just walked into the middle of some official guild business."

"Oh, sorry, my bad really," the red haired stranger said, not looking at any of them, "Not that your's isn't, but my business is a little more important right now."

As soon as the word business left his mouth, his eyes lit up and everyone in the room could feel it just for an instant; an oppressively massive magic power that shook the very foundations of the East Star guild. Shaking with fear, the ones blocking the door scrambled out of the way.

The stranger gave them all an apologetic smile, "Sorry I have to borrow him like this, really I am."

Tyler's mouth was hanging open, shocked by the turn of events. The stranger smiled at him, and his grip tightened painfully on Tyler's shoulders and he hissed under his breath, "Walk, if you want to live."

This snapped the young mage into movement, and soon the two were back out on the streets. Once the guild was out of sight, the stranger let go of Tyler, who was still dumbfounded by how he'd gotten here. The stranger made to leave, but Tyler Jarkins continued walking by his side.

"You're one hell of a mage," Tyler said, unable to come up with anything better to say. The sun was setting, and the red tones that glanced off the buildings blended with the stranger, making him seem ethereal, as though he was a part of the sunset itself.

"I think you mean 'thank you'," he responded curtly.

"Oh yeah, thank you," Tyler had to increase his pace to keep up with his savior, "Don't know what I would've done without you there."

"Probably've been beaten half to death, and robbed."

"Yeah right? Thought those guys were my friends."

The stranger paused. His eyes looked ahead into the sunset as he answered, "If they turn their backs on you, they aren't your friends."

"Oh you're smart one too, huh?" Tyler stopped too, only a second away from running headlong into a fruit cart. He dodged it with an ease that suggested this wasn't the first time such a thing had happened, "Say what's your name buddy?"

"It's not important, buddy," the stranger said, shaking his head and continuing on his way. Tyler still followed him.

"So why did you save me?" Tyler asked, ignoring the stranger's growing scowl and frustration.

"Because I was in a position to do so," he said simply.

"Oh so you're one of those saint type dudes, yeah? How come you're in Caerleon, missionary work?"

"I'm here because a little birdie told me that something big's about to happen here," the stranger said. They had reached a bus stop at the corner of the street. "Speaking of, I really must be going."

Tyler opened his mouth, but the stranger held up a finger.

"Just one last thing, Tyler," he said, walking out into the middle of the street, "Don't spend all those jewels in one place."

And then a bus roared by, and the red haired stranger was gone.

Caerleon City

(South Side)

Spectre was once the reigning force of Caerleon City's south side. They were famed for their connections, and it was a common held belief that all business at some level were a part of Spectre. No one seemed able to stop them until Artisan financed a massive corruption purge that all but killed off Spectre. No one was sure as to the reason for Artisan's sudden motivation, but rumor has it that it had something to do with the company's Research and Development department.

It was hard to think about anything when you had to go to the bathroom.

Kalan was currently taking a shower in preparation for the party, and while she should have been thinking of how ridiculously long it was taking him, or how similarly ridiculous it was that he was singing in the shower, but the only thing she could think was that the last time she'd peed was before she'd gotten on the train to Caerleon City.

And now the only bathroom in the apartment was in use.

Mirajane should've expected it, honestly; ever since last night, so many complications had been thrown her way she'd lost track of them. But unlike the monstrous problems before, this one had a pretty simple solution; she just needed to find another bathroom.

But to do that she'd have to leave Kalan's apartment.

Mirajane wasn't even sure why she was ambivalent; Kalan hadn't explicitly banned her from leaving, and she had a good reason to leave. But she all the same couldn't help but think Kalan wouldn't want her to do so. With all the strange circumstances surrounding him, whatever he was planning seemed so convoluted it could come apart if the slightest of threads was pulled.

But if she didn't go soon, she'd wet Kalan's couch, which she was sure he wouldn't want.

So Mirajane closed the door softly behind her, and set off into the mysterious building where Kalan lived. Since Kalan's apartment was the only one on the floor, she crept down the stairs like she had when she'd first come here. The first door she tried was locked. So was the second.

"What am I even going to say if I see someone?" Mirajane murmured to herself, as she checked the final door on the second floor. It too was locked.

Maybe she'd just tell them she recently moved in. That sounded plausible at least.

Mirajane was now running from door to door, jiggling the handles frantically. She was considering summoning some magic to break into one of these damned apartments when the door she was about to try swung open, and the owner of the apartment walked out in a t-shirt and boxers.

He was a young man, no older than herself, with neat brown hair and plain brown eyes. He had a dopey expression on his face, as though he'd just woken up, even though it was almost eight o'clock at night. His eyes widened as he set his eyes on her, a blush quickly blooming on his cheeks.


"Sorry, I really need to use your bathroom," Mirajane bowled over whatever he was about to say, not really caring if she sounded rude.

The man pointed back into the apartment, "In the back on the left."

Mirajane returned after a minute of sweet relief. Her host was waiting for her, too, now with pants on. The apartment they were in was much smaller than Kalan's but was strangely more cozy, with an entirely different, more personal feel to it. Pictures hung around the walls.

Right above a mock fireplace there was a picture that made Mirajane go pale.

The first thing she noted was that Kalan was in it, his shirt draped over his head, fixing the camera with his signature, shit eating grin. There was her host, his arm thrown around Kalan's shoulders. That Tamara girl was there too, her mouth wide, probably having been caught in the middle of saying something. They all looked about fourteen or fifteen. Then, there was a slightly older girl, probably seventeen or eighteen with long blonde hair that fell to the small of her back. She was standing in the back, reaching forward to pull Kalan's cheek. Standing next to her and looking exasperated was a twenty year old man with short, spiky black hair, and a scruffy goatee.

But all those details were lost to her except one; this man knew Kalan.

"I guess you really needed to use the bathroom, huh?" the brown haired man said, giving her a wide smile. It was nothing like Kalan's grin, which meant that he was enjoying himself. It was more for her sake than his, and Mirajane found that oddly refreshing, "I'm Rudy Vill, by the way. You're…new here, I guess?"

This Rudy guy reminded her of burnt brown sugar. He seemed sweet, if a little clueless.

It's kind of a secret that I'm here right now…

So it made Mirajane's stomach sink when she had to lie to him, "Well yeah, I just moved in here, and my bathroom still needs some work."

"So that's why you came up here," Rudy Vill chuckled. Mirajane noted he has an accent similar to Kalan and Hilda, "Talk about clutch. What would you've done If I wasn't here?"

"Broken in," Mirajane said honestly, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head.

He laughed, "I guess you didn't get in here for nothing…"

Mirajane paused. What did that mean, 'get in here'…

"…so have you earned your stripes yet?"

"My stripes?" Mirajane knew where this was going, and her stomach was falling even further. She had just walked from one problem into a much bigger one.

"Yup, stripes," he said, and rolled back his sleeve, revealing the Spectre's signature three black stripes tattooed onto his shoulder. "Oh wait, you haven't had your trial yet have you? No you couldn't have, 'cause all of us aren't here yet. Actually, you might be waiting for a while…"

"Why won't I be able to have my trial?" Mirajane asked. Here was a golden opportunity to get some information on Spectre, even though it was a low move to take advantage of Rudy.

"Well, um," Rudy finally seemed to realize that he was saying too much, "there are a bunch of us who need to be there for it, and there's this guy and he's gone away, so we can't do it. He comes up with the trials now anyway, so we couldn't even if we wanted to…"

"Why did he go away," Mirajane asked before she could help herself, then mentally smacked herself. There were probably hundreds of more helpful questions she could've asked.

"He went away to…" Rudy looked away, his eyes straying to the photograph, "…he went away because he was tired, I guess. Of how things work here. I don't really know much, even though he was my best friend. Crazy, right? I don't even know if he's coming back…"

Mirajane nodded, digesting the revelation. For a second, it seemed Rudy had forgotten about her. His eyes were lost in the moment that picture had captured. Best friends with Kalan? Mirajane found it hard to believe, mostly because the two seemed to be complete opposites.

"But enough of that depressing talk," Rudy said suddenly, "Do you want something to drink? I've got tea, beer, and more beer. Oh shit, I haven't asked your name yet, have I?"

"Um, tea please," Mirajane said, "And you can call me Mirajane."

"Mirajane, huh? That's a nice name. Kinda gentle, you know?" Rudy said pouring her some tea, while he opened himself a beer. Maybe he and Kalan had something in common after all. "You know that guy we were talking about? I think he'd like you."

"Really, you think so?" Mirajane said, trying to keep her voice even and the frank disbelief out.

"Yeah, before he left, he was always talking about how we needed more gentle people around here." Rudy drained his can in a few gulps, and crushed it with ease. In a well practiced motion, he tossed it over his shoulder into the waste basket. "I think he'd be glad that you joined up. He might even take it easy on your trial."

"So, Rudy, about these trials," she glanced at him from over her cup of tea, "How do they work?"

"Well I'm not really supposed to tell you this but, they exist to test your…how do you say, inner self? Or resolve, I guess it could be." Rudy scowled as he seemed to remember. "Then some of us judge whether or not you passed."

"And you're part of the people that judge?" Mirajane said pointedly, not intending to give Rudy a way to worm out of the hole he'd dug himself into.

"Uh, yeah I am," Rudy said, "You're a persistent one, huh?"

"I guess I am," Mirajane said shortly, glancing at the clock. It had been an hour since Kalan had gone into the shower. He would have to be done soon, and Mirajane didn't want to get caught having left. She needed to leave soon.

"So Mirajane, whose clothes are you borrowing? Your boyfriend's?"

"What?" Mirajane said, looking down at herself and remembering that she was still wearing Kalan's baggy shorts and tank top. Her cheeks began to warm and she shook her head, "No, he's certainly not my boyfriend."

"Oh that's a relief," Rudy said, giving her another of his big smiles. She supposed he was charming in his own way, though in a far different way than Kalan, "So I don't know if you knew this, but there's a party tonight here celebrating the equinox. I was about to go round up a date before you barged in, but I'll forgive you if you be my date. Good deal, huh?"

"I'm flattered Rudy, but," Mirajane paused to come up with an excuse, but she realized she'd deceived this man too much. She decided on the truth, "I'm already going with someone. If you'd asked me earlier, I definitely would've said yes. But speaking of, I should probably be getting ready."

"I guess there's nothing to do then," he said, not put down in the slightest, "Should've figured a pretty girl like you would already have a date. Guess I'll see you there, Mirajane."

"Bye Rudy," Mirajane smiled at him over her shoulder as she left, "Thanks for the bathroom, and the tea!"

She shut the door carefully, then began sprinting up the stairs, already grimacing at the thought of explaining herself to Kalan. Even if he was still in the shower, somehow he would know she'd done something.

She was at the peeling red door. Mirajane took a deep breath, and opened it.

"Welcome back, princess."

Of course.

Kalan sat on the couch, wearing a just towel, still wet from the shower. He cocked his head, "Have a nice trip?"

"I did actually, thanks for asking," Mirajane pouted, "And I only left because you were in the bathroom, and I needed to go."

"I didn't ask," Kalan said, running a hand through his wet hair, "I'd only ask if I was mad at you."

"So you're not mad at me?" Mirajane asked hopefully, almost letting lose the breath she'd been holding.

"Of course not, I didn't explicitly say that you couldn't leave," there was something just beneath the surface of his words. He'd said he wasn't mad, but there was no mistaking that glint in his eyes. "But I thought you wouldn't do something so stupid."

"Stupid?" Mirajane said, her blood beginning to pound, "What did you want me to do?"

"Talk to me!" Kalan almost shouted, drawing up to his full height like a snake uncoiling. He surged towards Mirajane, and was in her face in a second. His hand smacked into the door beside her head, shaking the wood. "If I went out of my way save your damn fucking life did you honestly think I wouldn't have let you use the bathroom?"

Up close Mirajane could smell the soap he'd used; she could feel the heat from the shower, and see the beads of moisture that ran along his arm. She could see the thick, glossy flesh of his scar, and the precision of the stripe tattoos on his neck. She could see a single strand of his hair clinging to his cheek, and the bottom of his damned pale eyes. She could feel his anger almost coming through his skin.

He was just as fearsome as he had been before, but now Mirajane felt it too; that little bit of white hot anger that began coursing through her, stirring her to madness, traveling up her throat and forcing the words out, "Bite me."

Kalan blinked. "What?"

"I said bite me," Mirajane snarled, practically an inch away from his face. She jabbed a finger into his chest, "You can say all that now, but how the hell was I supposed to know?"

Kalan didn't say anything. If Mirajane wasn't on such an emotional high she would've stopped to savor the look on his face. For the first time since she'd met him, Kalan Baade was shocked, and at a complete loss for words. And then he was laughing, clutching his sides as he fell back onto the sofa and leaving Mirajane standing there confused.

He stood, wiping the tears from his eyes, and made for his room.

"Better get ready, princess," he grinned over his shoulder, "We need to leave in an hour."

Bi-polar, Mirajane thought, Kalan Baade was most certainly bi-polar.

Mirajane sighed as her heart slowed. She could still feel that pounding in her ears, and her finger tingled where she'd jabbed Kalan. She didn't know where she'd summoned that burst of courage from. She never got angry like that anymore, but there was something cathartic about it. The whole ordeal left her feeling rather cleansed.

Mirajane pulled the blue dress from the from where she'd left it, and absentmindedly plucked up some soaps, and a shampoo, along with one of the make-up kits. She drifted over to the bathroom, starting the shower and climbing in before the water was even hot. The cold gave her goosebumps, but as the shower warmed, she felt the tension in her skin ease, until she sighed again, this time in bliss.

It was a moment of relief, the only one she could see happening in the near future. Whatever Kalan was planning, whatever he had gone away for, all of these mysteries that surrounded him were coming to a head.


The sun had just dipped below the horizon. The heat was already waning, and the moon drifted up through the stars and cold. The south side truly became a different beast at night; the jagged edges of half-finished buildings, the murky light of the street lamps both mixed to make a the south side into the terrifying nest of killers that it was. His silver eyes could pick them out from the growing crowds, like sharks in schools of fishes.

The rain last night had tuned the air humid, and the night was thick. Sitting on this building top, he could see the entirety of the south side sprawling before him. It was strangely nostalgic, the crescent moon, the small smattering of stars. His shirt was untucked now, with more than half the buttons undone, his jacket draped lazily about his shoulders. He took a deep breath, inhaling all the darkness before him.

"What is it, Jane?" Naito said, as a wind blew through smelling like the river and her perfume.

"Beau and Katrina are back," she said after a pause. Naito didn't look back, but he could feel her standing just behind him. "It should not have taken them this long to complete their task."

The dark mage only sighed, and reached his hand out to cup the crescent moon, "It's a beautiful night, Jane, did you notice?"

He could feel her scowl, "I think he's up to something."

"Beau is constantly up to something."

"And you aren't worried?"

"Jane," Naito said, "nothing worries me. Beau wouldn't do anything against my wishes if he didn't have a reason."

"But what if his reason isn't good enough?"

"Good enough? For you, or for me?" Naito breathed out, closing his eyes. He felt Jane draw back from him.

"All I mean is that Beau doesn't always see things your way."

"Of course he doesn't," she was hesitating now, but Naito could tell she still had more to say, "He would be most boring if he did. Besides, it won't matter on this mission."

"What's so special about this mission?" there it was, the real reason she'd come up here, "Why are did we go out of our way to come here?"

"Can't you feel it, Jane?"

She came and sat down next to him, her long legs hanging off the side of the abandoned building. Her dark hair was caught in the wind, and Naito couldn't see her expression. "Feel what?"

Naito grinned. How could he explain this feeling to her: the grainy, smog filled air on his skin, the raw smell of wet stone, the black of Caerleon's night, or whisper of excitement in his heart? How could he tell her about the presence that shone through to him like a brilliant star in the murky sea of this gods forsaken city? How could he explain the quiver that it set in his very bones?

"I can feel him out there," Naito said, standing, balancing on the edge of the building on his toes, "The Ghost. Someone who will finally challenge me."

Mirajane finished applying her little makeup, and twirled in front of the mirror. The silky blue dress Kalan had gotten her hugged her in just the right way, though it was a little to risqué for her tastes; it left her back, shoulders and a dipping amount of cleavage exposed. The dress parted down the side, letting almost her entire right leg free. She had drawn her hair into a low ponytail and she grinned at herself.

She looked stunning, and she knew it.

Unable to find any blue heels, Kalan had found her some black strapped pumps, quieting her doubts with a simple 'it'll work out princess'. So she strapped them up, and did one final inspection in the mirror before she left the bathroom.

Kalan was waiting for her lounging on the sofa. He stood when he saw her, not wasting a second before grinning, "Who would've thought you could clean up so well?"

Mirajane should've said the same to him. He was wearing dark blue suit, with a black shirt and shoes, his tie a shade of blue that matched Mirajane's dress. He'd used some sort of gel to keep his sandy blonde hair out of his face; it only made his scar seem that much bigger, as now Mirajane could see its thin end just an inch before his hairline.

"I didn't know we were going to match," Mirajane said, a hand on her hip.

"We're not matching yet," he said, and jogged into his room, and snatched something. When he returned he was holding a thin silver necklace, with a small teardrop shaped sapphire dangling from its end. He stepped towards her, until he was much too close to her. He unclasped the necklace, and fastened it around her neck, his fingertips cold against her skin.

He stepped back and looked her up and down, his eyes finally settling on her bangs which were, per usual, held up by a little hair tie. She felt his demeanor change. "What is this?"

Mirajane glanced up."My hair."

"I mean this part in the front."

"My bangs."

"Why are they up like that?"

"Because that's how I like them."

"It looks silly."

"That's too bad. I'm not changing it. That is what you were going to ask, right?"

"I'm not asking," he responded, and made to snatch the hair tie. Mirajane, having seen the move coming, slapped his hand away. There was a moment of silence between them, in which Kalan's eyes widened, then narrowed with a predatory gleam and he began to close the distance between them. "Wrong move, princess."

Mirajane ran. She dodged around Kalan, and vaulted over the couch, thankful for the ease of movement this dress allowed. Kalan followed close behind, the couch acting as a barrier between them now. "You're being unreasonable."

"You're being a selfish prick!" Mirajane exclaimed, pointing accusingly at Kalan.

He laughed lowly, "I was going to give up on this, but looks like I can't now after that little comment."

Kalan feinted left, then ran right, trying to circle around her, but Mirajane circled around, keeping the length of the sofa between them. Then in a flurry of movement, he was running over the couch, and Mirajane barely escaped into the, shielding herself with the kitchen table. Kalan began to prowl around, but Mirajane moved in the opposite direction, both of them now circling the table.

"All I'm asking is that you take off that ridiculous hair tie," Kalan said, but it was clear to Mirajane he didn't want to reason with her, "Which you may want to consider for your sake because it makes your forehead look huge."

"Then we can really match," Mirajane shot back, "'cause then both of us will have fat heads."

"Funny." Kalan suddenly changed directions before Mirajane could react, and caught her by the wrist, and instantly Mirajane was pinned to the refrigerator. She squirmed against his grip, but he held her fast. With one hand he slowly reached up and plucked her precious hair-tie off and her bangs fell into her eyes.

"You're a jerk," Mirajane pouted, trying to snatch it back. She was surprised however when his hand didn't move. Unconsciously, she reached up to brush her hair out of her eyes, only to find Kalan staring at her, shock painted on his face. "What?"

For a second, he didn't respond. And then she could've sworn she saw his cheeks turn pink as he turned away, dropping the hair tie in her hand. "You win. Just wear the stupid hair tie, for fuck's sake." Without turning around, he began to head for the door. "And we're late now, so let's go."

Mirajane, looked at the tiny piece of plastic in wonder before for a long second, before Kalan snapped at her again that it was time for them to leave. She quickly tied her bangs back up, and went to join him at the door. When she reached him he was all grins again, but for a second she saw; he glared down at the hair tie like he was waiting for it to burst into flames.

Mirajane looked up at her bangs proudly, not for a second doubting what they were; finally, her first victory against Kalan Baade.

A/N: Couldn't help the sweet little ending, I honestly couldn't. If you liked, drop a review, if you didn't drop me one anyway telling me what didn't work for you. Until next time, SA.