We're nearing the end pretty quickly ... there's going to be another chapter from Alex's perspective, maybe a few more (I have the worst ability to plan my stories) - but I DO know I'll be completely wrapping it up with a prologue from Jordan's perspective!

Btw, this chapter is pretty crap, but I just needed it for the sake of showing you lot what point of the year we're at

Disclaimer: I am not Lynette Noni

xxv. Bear

"I'm really proud of you guys," declared Alex.

Bear craned his neck to look at her, the fireflies buzzing lazily through the air above his head providing the only source of illumination. He could barely see her face, anyway, since they were both lying down in fairly uncut grass. Jordan too, who was also sprawled out under the same tree and currently holding the flask of watered-down alcohol.

"What makes you so proud of us, Alex?" Jordan called, swatting hazily at a lone mosquito.

The grass creased as Alex crossed her ankles. "Because you pair have both been through so much shit, most of that shit being the fault of me dragging you into it. But despite everything, you guys have been nothing less but amazingly supportive, caring and forgiving. Not only that, but neither of you become any less compassionate or whatever - you're still the same guys I stumbled across in the Ezera forest, except, well …"

Feeling quite touched, Bear wasn't sure whether or not to be annoyed when Jordan prompted, "Well, what?"

"What do you want me to say, Sparky?"

"Yeah, we're trying to have a moment here," Bear added.

"Well, you can definitely start with awesomer," came Jordan's voice. "But you can also keep going. Sexier, superior-er and smarter are also all preferable."

"Sparky, quit the arrogance for just one minute."

"Why don't you pair stop bickering so we can enjoy this night?" Alex reminded them. She was right; her words prompted the two boys to finally shut their mouths and lie back, enjoying the quiet of the night and the companionable warmth of each other's presence.

/

Bear was hunched over his study notes at a table in the Library when Declan appeared out of nowhere, bearing a bottle of dillyberry juice and a resigned expression that told him that his boyfriend would physically force him to take a break if it came down to it.

"You're not in Epsilon Chem for nothing," Declan said, dropping into the chair beside him and leaning over to peck him on the cheek. "So stop freaking out about it, Ronnigan."

Bear shot him a distracted glare, tapping his pen anxiously on the tabletop. "How are you so relaxed about all of this?"

"Because I'm not a damn academic like you are. According to AJ, I'm a jock -"

"Freyan terminology?"

"What else would it be?" Declan opened the bottle of dillyberry juice and held it out to him. When Bear refused to take it, too embossed in his notes, Declan sighed heavily and said, "Look, if you don't get something into you now, I am going to dump the contents of this bottle all over your notes."

Bear heaved a resigned sigh and reached for the bottle, ignoring the smug approval that entered Declan's face. "Since when have you had the time to talk to Alex, anyway? Shouldn't you be studying yourself, it being your final year and all?"

"Not unless I'm an apprentice. And that's what I actually need to focus on, considering where I want to end up in life."

Bear fidgeted with the broken seal of the bottle. He and Declan had never discussed their ambitions - but now didn't seem like a bad idea, especially if the pause from studying would keep his boyfriend happy. "What's that?"

"Combat, of course," A content warmth began to spread across Declan's face, like he was more than obliging to open up. "I've wanted to be a Sword Warden for years, but I don't want to dedicate my life to it, like the Jameses do." Bear wondered if Kaiden was going to end up like the rest of his family. It was more than likely. "Once I've got enough credits … I want to be an instructor for it. The military, martial art studios … maybe even here."

It was a fairly cool lifestyle choice, in Bear's opinion. Better than his own.

"What about you?"

Bear blinked at the direct question. Despite having long made up his mind about it, there was always an uncertainty about opening up about it. "Medical research. You know, developing medicines and all that."

Declan nodded in understanding. "I can definitely see you doing that."

"Same here. I can see you too. I mean, I can also definitely see you carrying what you want to do." Bear halted his words, internally furious with his awkward stammering.

Instead, his boyfriend chuckled. "And they say you're the charmer."

Bear shot him a disgruntled look. "Oh, leave me alone, Dec." he said, injecting a little of his gift into his words. Unfortunately, it didn't reach the other end - he was lying through his teeth. After all, Declan's sudden appearance was a welcome distraction.

Declan's grin widened. "Can't get rid of me, can you?"

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"Well, since you're clearly not the only study-stressed student around here, there's got to be a few unoccupied hallways handy …"

/

"You know what sucks?" Alex addressed him, having just entered the food court, evidently having not slept much the night before. There was dark bags rimming her eyes, and she was pouring herself an obscene amount of strong black coffee.

"Exams," Jordan said flatly from Bear's right.

"Well, apart from that," she said with an agreeing grimace.

"Okay, then, what does suck?" Bear said, not blinking an eye as Alex retrieved Niyx from the pocket of her oversized hoodie - he was beginning to suspect that the garment actually belonged to Kaiden - and placed the kitten on the table, where Jordan immediately offered him some of his bacon.

"Dating somebody who's in fifth year at Akarnae," Alex responded flatly. "I mean, both of our boyfriends are talented -"

"You can say that again," Bear said, flashing a proud grin as he bit into his breakfast bagel.

"- but that doesn't completely promise that they'll be apprentices." Alex finished. Bear saw the apprehension on her face, and immediately sought to squash her doubts.

"They'd be made to not undertake him, Alex. Either of them."

"I know, I know. It was … it was just something that crossed my mind, and I've been completely overthinking," Alex bit down on her bottom lip, then she shook her head. "You're right. I'm being an idiot."

"But I never said that." Bear laughed quietly.

"Ah, you still implied him. Now pass my damn kitten back, and tell me exactly how I'm going to ace this Chem exam."

/

/

Also I'm planning on a sister piece to this fanfic ... it'll be much MUCH shorter, just a collection of chapters based on numerous scenes from this fic from outsider characters' perspectives e.g. Kaiden, Declan, Nash, Paris, Sierra, Pipsqueak, etc.

So please leave a comment if there's anything particular you're after!