Bubblekins1010: There was nothing for disclaimer, or AN, so... We don't own notin'!

Chapter 2

Lloyd sat in his bed, quietly flipping pages.

It had been over two years since he'd been given his exsphere, and since then he'd discovered that it was… special. That he was special.

That little gem, mounted in the hollow below his throat, had turned him into an angel.

Being an angel had sounded all good and well at first – Lloyd had been excited when Dirk had told him about the real power of the exsphere the day he'd accidentally cut his foot chasing Noishe through the stream.

"Lloyd! What're you doin'!? Wha' happen'd!?"

Lloyd looked bewildered. "Wh-what? What'd I do?"

Dirk pointed at the pool of blood beneath Lloyd. "Yer bleedin' bad! What-"

Lloyd looked down at where Dirk was pointing and panicked. "H-huh? I- Wh-what the-!? I… I didn't even notice- What's going on? Why-why can't I feel that? Why can't I feel my foot? I-I should be cold, why am I not cold, I've been in the water all day, I should be cold!" Lloyd paused for breath, only to start hyperventilating when he tried to talk again.

"Lloyd, calm down. 'T'll all be alrigh' Lloyd. We'll get that bandaged up an' I'll explain what's happenin' to ya, alrigh'?"

After that, he'd had to be more careful, but he'd been okay for a while. He had been told in no uncertain terms that he was not to tell anyone, not even Genis or Colette, about what was happening to him, but he was still able to go to school, hang out with his friends, and just be normal. Even once he'd lost the need to eat and his sense of taste with it, he'd still been alright.

But then his hearing had sharpened. He'd been riding Noishe to school that day, and as soon as he got within a quarter of a mile of the village his head had started pounding. As he got closer the pounding intensified, and as he'd reached the gates he'd passed out entirely. Noishe had turned around and rushed him right back home, the guards at the gate shouting for the dog to come back.

That was the day Raine found out what was happening. The gate guards had run to the school and told Raine what they saw, and she had immediately told the students to study while she went to check on Lloyd.

Raine looked around. She saw no one, not even Noishe. "Lloyd? Dirk? Is anyone here?"

When there was no answer she knocked on the door. The response was a short, sharp sob from inside. Worried, she tried twisting the doorknob and was relieved when it wasn't locked. Lloyd wasn't on the ground floor, so she hurried up the stairs to where she knew her student's room was. Lloyd was curled up in a corner, his pillow clenched in fisted hands and pulled around to cover his ears.

"Lloyd? Lloyd, are you okay?" she asked anxiously.

He pulled the pillow closer, tears gathering in his eyes, and shook his head. "Too loud…" he whimpered. "It's all just too loud…"

"Lloyd, Lloyd? Where are ya?" Dirk cried, charging inside. Lloyd sobbed again, tears slipping down his cheeks.

Raine quietly hurried to the top of the stairs. "He's up here. He said something about everything being too loud, and the men at the gate said he passed out on the way to the village."

Dirk immediately quieted, then hesitated a moment, as though thinking something over. "Well, I suppos' ya'd have found out soon anyway… Raine, I think Lloyd's gonna need private lessons. He prob'ly won' be in school much for a while…"

Since then, Lloyd hadn't gone down to the village. The excuse was that he'd caught something off a monster in the forest, and had been sick since, with some disease they had no clue about. Granted, it wasn't all bad. Genis and Raine had been coming up three or four times a week to give Lloyd lessons. But by the time he'd learned to control his hearing, his sense of smell had sharpened, and he'd had to leave whenever his dad made a meal for over two weeks or end up nauseated by the scent. And even then, just when he thought he'd be able to be normal again, exactly a year after he'd equipped the crystal, he woke up to sharp pains in his back and shoulders.

He ignored it most of the day, though it wasn't easy, being the first thing he'd felt in months, but then Colette and Phaidra showed up that afternoon.

"Lloyd? Lloyd…? Oh, there you are! How are you feeling? I-I'm sorry I didn't bring you a present, but I wanted to give you a blessing, on your birthday… So that you'll feel better…" Colette said.

Lloyd jumped, water from the bucket he'd been watering the plants with splashing everywhere. "C-Colette? Phaidra? Wh-what- Augh!" Lloyd dropped to the ground, the pain he'd been feeling all day focusing, intensifying in his shoulder blades. As Colette rushed to him and knelt down beside him, he grabbed desperately for her hands, wishing for something, anything to make the pain stop. As his hands locked with hers there was a sickening tearing sound and he felt some sort of hot liquid seeping down his back and sides with every relieved breath. The pain wasn't gone, but it wasn't so unbearable anymore.

Colette gasped aloud, and Lloyd's eyes moved to her. But between him and her was a strangely translucent blue and purple curtain… He reached out in wonder, his fingers gently closing on one of the beautiful feathers. The beautiful feathers on his wings… his wingsHis wings!

Noishe and Dirk returned from their trip to town shortly after, and Dirk quickly took Phaidra aside and explained as he cut Lloyd's jacket and shirt away from the new wings when Lloyd couldn't figure out how to put them away on his own. Some bandages and Lloyd was feeling good, minus the loss of his favorite comfy shirt and jacket. Dirk promised to get him some shirts without backs for the time being for his birthday.

But Lloyd thought being able to let Colette in on his secret was the best birthday present of all.

From that day on Phaidra had brought Colette to visit at least once every couple of weeks. Raine tried to coordinate with them, to bring Genis up on the same day, and they would frequently spend all Undineday playing together. Lloyd, in his enthusiasm, quickly taught himself how to fly, though not terribly well. He figured he would have more time to practice in a few years, when he went with Colette on the Journey of Regeneration.

Phaidra had already talked it over with Dirk. She felt that Lloyd being raised in Iselia must be some sort of divine sign from Cruxis, a sign of their approval, and that he was to act as Colette's protector and guide. To that end, she had brought him copies of some of the holy texts from the temple and, with Colette's help, had taught him the Angelic Language.

He began reading much more after that, as, halfway through the lessons, he found himself literally unable to sleep.

"Argh, why can't I just fall asleep?" Lloyd grumbled, tossing and turning. He was stuck sleeping on his stomach and sides because of his wings, and that had been uncomfortable for a while, but he'd eventually gotten used to it. But now… He'd been up for well over a full day, almost two, and just wanted some rest. His mind was exhausted from the last two days, what with Raine coming up to give him school lessons, then Phaidra the next day with lessons in Angelic. All he wanted to do was sleep but sleep just wouldn't come.

Finally, he gave up and walked across the room to the bookshelf. Maybe he'd be able to relax and fall asleep if he read for a while - it had always made him sleepy.

Six hours later, just around dawn, he finally gave up. It seemed he'd lost the need, or even ability, to sleep. On the other hand, he'd discovered that he had several adventure and mythology books on his bookshelf he hadn't known about. Reading about the Four Seraphim was one of his favorite subjects.

And then had come what was probably the second-worst part of the transformation. He'd lost the ability to speak for… well, he didn't know how long. His throat had been sore all day, and he'd been out playing with Colette and Genis – they were trying to catch some fish for dinner, but seeing as they only had one fishing pole, they were attempting to catch them barehanded.

"Hey, I got one!" Colette shouted elatedly. Then she frowned. "Aww, but he's so cute, I don't want to kill him…" she said. The fish apparently agreed wholeheartedly, since he squirmed and wriggled and finally jumped from her grasp, landed on Lloyd's face as he tried to grab it, and splashed into the water.

Lloyd spluttered. "Hey! Come back here-" he cut off abruptly as the pain in his throat intensified and then vanished. He blinked, surprised, and coughed a few times. 'Ow, that hurt…'

"What, Lloyd?" Genis asked.

'My throat, it-' he stopped suddenly. He was speaking… but then why couldn't he hear himself?

"Lloyd? Are you okay?"

Lloyd gestured frantically at his throat, trying to speak. 'I can't talk anymore!'

"Lloyd? Uhm… There's no sound coming out of your mouth."

Lloyd numbly walked over to the river bank and sat down, hard.

Even that hadn't been the worst of it, though. No… the reason he didn't know how long he was without his voice was because, just a short few weeks after losing it, he'd gone through the most terrifying part of the transformation yet. He'd been locked inside his own exsphere for two months.

Lloyd had no idea what had happened. One moment he'd been having a lesson with Raine and Genis, the next… nothing. Nothing but white. There was nothing there. He couldn't hear, he couldn't speak, he couldn't draw out his wings or even hardly think. He just floated there, surrounded by white and nothing and wondered, in the brief moments he could think, if he would ever get out of there. Then, sometime later, he had no idea how long as there was no way to tell time in the white void, he became aware of a red tint creeping in. After the red had colored the void, he sometimes saw bits and pieces and flashes of the real world. Colette sitting by him – his bedside, perhaps? – Genis talking to him, Raine bringing a vase of flowers. Worst was his dad, there nearly every time, always worried. And every time he tried to say something, to reassure them, but he couldn't do anything but stare and wish and pray.

Finally, finally, the day came that he was allowed control of his own body again, that he fought free of the void. However, his greatest fear was no longer tomatoes, like his friends teased him. No… His greatest fear was that he would someday wind up in that void again.

Rini Tsukino: Well, while Bubblekins pretends she's dying at the end of Lloyd's swords, I'd like to formally note that it was almost one in the morning and she gave me sugar when I wrote the last few sections. So, not entirely my fault.

Bubblekins1010: Raine brought me back to life and Kratos healed me! YAY! They won't be tortured (Anymore) Mentally, or physically, for the next two or three thousand words! (At least not by me! ^.^)

Rini Tsukino (Continued after interruption): Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and as a note I'll be doing the majority of the even numbered chapters, so there will probably be a distinct style change between chapters.