The blast echoed down the hall. Not just one, but one after the other, rapidly.
“They chain-rigged the place… Fuck.” Rage said, yanking on the door handle. It slowly opened, inch by inch. The blasts got closer and closer, almost as if they were rushing to catch up to the ragged bunch of teens. Kade pushed past the rest of the group to pull at the door with Rage, wrapping his fingers around the edge, pulling.
“Alright, that should be enough. Spin, Angel, Noire, go!” Kade said at the door slid open a bit more. The girls easily squeezed through, just as a blast came close behind the group. Kade turned around. A massive storm of debris and dust was swirling like a dervish at them, burning fire mixed throughout it. Kade jerked the door open a bit more. “Rage, go!” He said, nearly shoving him through. Rage stumbled on the other side, then turned around, pulling at Kade’s hand as his friend squeezed through the door. Just as he made it through, the door slammed shut with a loud CLANG!, the force from the explosion shutting it fast. Kade lay on the ground, panting.
“Holy fuck… If I wasn’t so scared of dying right now, I’d say that was better than any extreme sport in the world…” Kade whispered. Spin helped him to his feet, waiting as he caught his breath, rubbing the stitch out of his side. “I haven’t run like that since military school…” He muttered, then looked around. “Everyone present and accounted for?” He asked, knowing the answer.
“Yes, sir…” Rage drawled, his pole-arm slung over his shoulder. Amy and Noire raised their hands like schoolgirls, and Spin just hugged him. Kade looked around, trying to get his bearing. The sun had already set, and the moon was in the sky.
“Well, we can head to Bel right now, or we can wait till morning… Me, I’m fine crashing here. I can sleep on the ground… And besides, I have no clue where we are anymore. I lost my direction the moment we saw those…” His voice died. No one said anything. “Since we found the exit.” He finished lamely. Extra tight hug from Spin. “What say?”
“I’m with Kade. I think we could use a break. No Windigo to worry about, so we can take it real easy. And even I’m lost right now. I can’t remember the last time I walked out of Nephilim… Oh, wait, I never did.”
“We could use a break too,” Amy said, “I think I need a bit to let myself catch up with everything that’s been happening.” Noire nodded, hugging her girlfriend. Kade turned his head to Spin.
“You wanna take a break, or keep moving?” He asked. She plopped onto the ground, laying out on the dirt. “I guess that answers it.” Kade said to himself. “Alright, break time. Whenever we wake up, we’ll move on. It won’t be far to Beldaris, we can probably make it by night even if we leave in the afternoon.”
The group split into it’s normal sub-groups then, Amy and Noire propped up against the wall, Kade and Spin lying on the ground. Rage, as usual, was the only one who was alone. Kade turned to Spin.
“Finally, some peace… You know, I feel sorry for Rage.”
“’Cause he’s all alone?”
“Yeah. I feel like I’m betraying him or something, you know? I don’t really hang with him that much anymore, even though I’ve known him since, well, shit, since middle school.”
“Go on, I’ll be right here. I promise I won’t get jealous unless you kiss him.” Spin said, giving Kade a peck on the cheek. He grinned back, letting the joke slide, and got up, trundling over to Rage and smacking him in the head before sitting down next to him.
“’Sup?” he asked, dropping down next to his best friend.
“Don’t hit me like that, I have a delicate head.”
“Only ‘cause it’s empty…” Kade fired back, grinning. Then his face grew serious. “Sorry about ditching you these past few days, man.”
“It’s cool, it’s cool. You and Spin, finally happened. Besides, you know how we work. Even if I don’t see you for years, makes no difference. We’re always like that.”
“True, true… So hey, man, I’ve been meaning to ask you… Since we made it out… What’s your plan? What you going to do? I mean, we can’t just hang out and play music all day… We ain’t got no family but us, so we need to find a way to survive.”
“I know, I know… I dunno, I might go find some place to work, like as an electrician or something, until I can get through college. I’ll have to go for that GED shit though, since we never finished High School. Damn Windigo.”
“Electrician? Why that?”
“You know me, wires are almost as good as sex. I don’t think I’d mind being an electrician, it’s like working my way through college doing something I enjoy. What about you?”
“I’m going to go into computers… Maybe open up my own gaming zone. But to start with, I think I’ll hang with you. GED and college. I need to get a degree. I’m pretty sure we can get some benefits, being Nephilim refugees. And I’m probably going to have to go to church soon. I’ll be dragging you with me.”
“You serious, man? You never were one for getting hitched… You going to marry Spin?”
“Yeah. Will you be my best man?”
“I’d trash the wedding if I wasn’t. But you sure about it?”
“No way in hell. But it feels like the right thing to do. I mean, I said ‘soon’, but that will probably be a few good years. You know, I want to make sure I’ve got a grasp on life before I drag someone else into mine.”
“Well, all the best, man. I’m pretty sure you can make it work.”
“I hope so… She’s the world to me.”
“I can tell. When you stop hanging out with me for a girl, I know it’s big.”
“When’s the last time that happened? No, wait, I remember.”
“I said I remember, fool!”
“Pardon me, Mr. T.”
“Only after you.”
Kade grinned. This was the banter he missed. He rubbed his neck. “So what about you? Gonna find yourself a girl?”
“Maybe… Actually, I’m pretty interested in researching this Universe-Negaverse thing.”
“I thought you just said you wanted to go to college for electrical engineering.”
“Well yeah, but this is going to be a hobby. Five’ll get you ten that Noire’s going to go with Angel when she finds her way back. I want to see if it’s possible to create a connection, rather than just hope for one.”
“Why’s that? Plan to open a tourist spot or something?”
“No, you ijit. But it would be nice to know that Angel and Noire are only a few minutes away. I’m going to miss them. And I know you will to.”
“Yeah, I will… I sure will…” Kade’s voice faded as he slowly sunk his head down. Rage said nothing, just waited.
“Yeah, we need to make sure we stay in contact with them, somehow.” Kade turned around, waving to Spin. She got up off the ground and came to sit with the two boys, leaning on Kade’s shoulder. “What’s up?”
“Nothing, just thought I’d hang with my two favorite people at once. Something wrong with that?” Kade asked.
“Nope, not at all.”
Kade dug his hand into his pocket, groping around for a moment, then sighed to himself happily. He leaned towards Rage. “Do me a favor,” he whispered so Spin couldn’t hear him, “Go get Angel and Noire for me, will ya?”
Rage eyed him warily. “You gonna do it now?”
“Yeah, while I still have the balls.”
Rage patted his shoulder as he got up, then tripped his way over two the other two girls, squatting in front of them.
“What did you say to him?” Spin asked.
“Told him to get lost so I can make passionate love to you.”
“Out here in the open?”
“Yup, the way nature meant it to be.”
“You’re going to be sorely disappointed.” Spin said, nodding to show that Amy and Noire were approaching them with Rage in tow.
“Oh well, then I guess I’ll have to settle for second best.” Kade sighed.
“And what’s that?” Spin asked, apprehensive but intrigued.
“You know I love you, right?” Kade asked, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Yeah…” Spin answered slowly.
“And you know I want to be with you forever, right?” Kade asked again.
“Uh-huh…” Spin nodded.
“Well, I don’t have anything dramatic to say, or any speech ready. I just decided this a few minutes ago, and I want to do it before I find a reason to chicken out…” Kade shifted, pulling his hand out of his pocket and moving so that he was on his right knee. Spin gasped as he took her hand and slid a ring on it. The ring was simple, not even an engagement ring but more like a punk ring, pure titanium with a design of thorny vines going around it. “Spin, I love you and I want you in my life, now and forever. I can’t go on without you. Will you marry me?”
Spin was deathly still. She didn’t move, she didn’t even breathe. She just sat there, her hand outstretched, the ring resting on her finger. She pulled her hand back, her other hand twisting the ring on her finger round and round. Kade could feel sweat dripping down his brow. This wasn’t how he figured she would react.
“Kade, I don’t know…” She started, but he cut her off.
“I mean, it doesn’t have to be tomorrow… We can take our time, wait till we get settled… I know you want to have your own career, and I want to get my life in order, but maybe, when all that’s done… I know I can’t live without you.” Kade pleaded. Spin started to sob. Kade hung his head. Fuck, he thought to himself, this isn’t going the way I planned it at all!!
“Kade… I don’t-“ She started again.
“If you’re not sure, you can wait on it for a bit… I mean, I can totally wait till you sort yourself out...” Kade said, his eyes growing wet. Spin’s hand shot out, grabbing Kade’s ponytail and pulling it to shut him up.
“Shut up for a minute, will ya?” She asked, sobbing.
“Erk! Yes, ma’am!” Kade said, rubbing his head. Spin let go of his hair and sat for a moment, then opened her mouth.
“I don’t… I don’t think there’s anything I can say other then ‘Yes’…” She said, then threw herself at Kade. They both fell over, Spin’s arms wrapping around her boyfriend’s – no, now fiancée’s – her fiancée’s body, hugging him close to her as she whispered “Yes, yes, yes!” in his ear. Moments later, Noire and Amy descended on the happy couple, all tears and hugs and “Ohmigod!”, while Rage just looked on.
“And he actually did it… Damn.” Rage thought to himself. Ever since he had met Kade, he had to listen to how “I’ll never get married” Kade had been. And now this. Well, Rage thought to himself, I guess even people like him can change. Good. He shrugged and sat down, letting the emotional moment wrap around him. Noire and Amy had stolen Spin away for girl talk, and Kade dropped down next to Rage on the ground.
“Holy shit… I can’t believe I did that.” Kade muttered.
“Neither can I.”
“I mean, I always said I’d never get married…”
“Yet here you are, engaged, and of your own free will, at that.”
“What’s the world coming to?”
“Bunch of savages in this town.”
Kade just stared at Rage like he was an idiot, then smacked him in the back of the head. “What the hell?!?”
“Your tsukkomi is useless against me. Besides, we sounded just like Dante and Randal, and it needed to be said.”
“True. But man… My heart’s still pounding. I can’t believe I actually tied myself to a person for the rest of my life.”
“You sound like you’re already married.”
“Well, I will be, and to be honest, I’m as good as married when it comes to Spin, there’s no one else I want to be with… You’re the best man at my wedding, by the way.”
“No need to ask.”
“I’m not asking, I’m telling you.”
“So what do you think?”
“I think it’s your life and business.”
“Fuck you. Come on, what do you think?”
“I think… I think it’s a good thing. You two are really good together, and although you always said you’d never get married… For you to change that much to keep her with you, well, hell, I don’t think there’s anyone else that can do that.”
“Not unless it’s you, bro.”
“I don’t swing that way.”
“And neither do I. But you know that’s how it is.”
Kade laid himself on the ground, his hands behind his head. “So, I’m engaged, we’re out of Nephilim, and tomorrow, we’ll be in Beldaris, starting a new life… Never thought it would happen.”
“Really? You never really thought we’d get out?” Rage asked him, leaning back on his hands.
“Well, I mean, once we started moving, I knew we had to get out. But before that, when it was just us jamming in the garage, I never guessed that we’d move… I guess, with Angel’s arrival, everything changed… I just have one regret…”
“I miss my drumset.” Rage leaned over and smacked Kade in the stomach. Kade laughed. “But really, we’re out… I think I have yet to get my head around that fact.”
“Well, how about you get some sleep first? I’m bushed, and I want a nap.”
“Right-O, sir, I could use a good one myself.” Kade stood up and dusted his pants off, and then smiled fondly at the sight of Spin recounting her version of his proposal. “Wasn’t even a proper ring,” Kade muttered to himself as he trudged over to the girls.
“Alright, alright, public announcement. It’s officially sleepy time, or at least, it is for me. Just letting you know.” Amy grinned at him.
“And I assume you want Spin here?”
“Hell no. I’d never get any sleep.” Kade grinned at Spin to let her know he was kidding. “But it’s open invitation for her. We’re going to be heading into Beldaris tomorrow, so I figured we have a chance to really relax right now, and I’m going to go sleep like there’s no tomorrow. Personally, I’d suggest you do the same. We’re all pretty tired.”
“You mean you are. We’ve still got plenty of energy.” Spin teased, but she got up to give Kade a hug and a kiss. “Sweet dreams, love.”
“Nothing but.” Kade said, turning around and finding himself as comfortable a spot as he could, and soon enough fell asleep.
* * *
It was barely light when Kade woke up. Dawn was just peeking over the horizon. Damn, he thought to himself, I really did pass out. He looked over the small area they had settled into. Amy and Noire were in each other’s arms, sleeping peacefully. Spin had her hand pressed to his chest, her head buried against his neck. Rage was sitting on the ground, awake but relaxed. Kade shifted slightly, trying not to wake Spin. She moaned softly and called out to him in her sleep. Kade grinned and kissed her softly, then scooted away and went to sit next to Rage.
“’Sup?” Rage asked him as Kade took his seat.
“Not much, man. Just woke up… Is it really dawn already?”
“Yeah… The Powerpuff Girls didn’t get to bed for a while. Seems you made Spin’s day with that little stunt.”
“That little stunt was the most pivotal moment in my life to date, you ijit.” Kade muttered, but grinned. “I’ll be heading to the Police Station in Bel today.”
“What? Why so?”
“Might as well. At least I’ll know that, if by night I have nothing, I can at least crash in an empty cell. Besides, we can report ourselves as survivors of Nephilim. Otherwise, we’d have to deal with the evacuees. And I don’t want to do that. And it’s possible that we’ll even get a lead on a place to live… I don’t know, it seems like the right thing to do.”
“Alright… And with the money Nine gave us, plus our status as Nephilim survivors, we might even be able to pay a few month’s rent for a place.”
“Ne? Sounds like a good idea?”
“I’ll tag along.”
“Alright, let’s wait for them to get up. No rush now. Now excuse me, but I do not want to leave my fiancée all alone when she wakes up.”
“You’re such a sap.”
“You watch Clannad as many times as I have and you’ll wind up the same way I am.”
“All the more reason to not do that.” Kade punched his friend’s shoulder and went over, sitting down in front of Spin, then shifting and half laying down, watching her sleep. The gentle rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, the way her eyes flickered underneath the lids, showing that she was dreaming. The occasional small sound she made while she slept… All of it had Kade enraptured. It wasn’t until he was admiring how deep her eyes were that he realized that she was awake. He leaned in and kissed her lips softly.
“You have no idea how wonderful that sounds.”
“Admit it, I swept you off your feet again.”
“Then I shall try harder.”
“You do that, I’m going to wake up those two lover girls and get us on our way.”
“Good idea. The sooner we get to Bel, the sooner we can get a real bed.”
“And just what are you implying?”
“Other than the fact that I’m desperate to show you how good I am in one? Not much.”
“You don’t need to show me. I trust you.” Kade blushed. “Actually,” he started, “I may not be-“ Spin silenced him with a finger on his lips.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll make things work.” She then got up and stretched, and went off to wake up Amy and Noire. Kade grinned and rolled onto his back, staring up at the sky. He almost dozed off until he heard someone call him.
“Kade!” Rage waved his hand in the air. “Time to get moving!” Kade rocked himself to his feet, and trudged over, grabbing his bag and his sword. “Alright,” he said, “Off to Bel!”
The little group walked on. It wasn’t far, only a few miles. After around two hours, the passed the city limits and started coming across the first actual humans they had seen in a while. Everyone just stared at the group who walked through the streets, carrying medieval weapons, dressed in dirty clothes and not exactly smelling the best. Kade grinned at Rage. “Is it just me, or is everyone staring at us?”
“Oh, they are.”
“Wait, something’s missing…” Kade muttered, then he felt a familiar sensation settle between his shoulders. “Ah, there we go.”
“What was that about?” Spin asked.
“They’re staring at us even after we pass. I missed that feeling. Getting stared at just doesn’t feel the same until they start staring from behind me.”
They walked on. Eventually, they came across a traffic cop, who looked torn between running from them and arresting them. Kade walked straight up to the cop, hands visible and empty.
“Pardon me, officer. Could you tell us where the nearest police station is? We’re survivors of Nephilim.” The cops eyebrows shot up as he heard what Kade said, and he pointed down the street. “4th and Jackson. Go down that way for three blocks, then turn right onto Jackson. You can’t miss it.” Kade nodded his head, then gave a small bow. “Thank you very much, sir.”
He walked back to the group and relayed to police officer’s directions. They started down the street. As they were passing down between two skyscrapers, Amy looked down one of the alleys and stopped dead.
“Angel, what’s the hold up?” Noire asked, then looked where Angel was looking and gasped. The others quickly joined them.
“Holy shit… is that?” Kade asked, staring at the swirling white light. It looked like the top of a tornado, or what he thought the top of one would look like. White light turning and twisting, swirling around one central point.
“Looks like a Vortex…” Rage whispered. Amy looked at Rage, then Kade, Spin, and Noire. Then at the portal. “Angel,” Kade said, “You don’t know where that’s going, or even if it goes anywhere…”
“I have to try… I love you guys, but… Home is always home, right?” Amy started, not sure how to tell her new friends that she was leaving, probably forever.
“Girl, we’re not going to force you to stay. We love you too, and we want you to stay, but… Well, like you said, home is home. If you’re going, then we won’t stop you… So, you going?” Rage asked.
“Yeah, I am… It may take me home, it may go somewhere else, it may kill me… But I’d rather know than go on wishing.” Kade pushed past Rage to wrap his arms around Amy, sniffing.
“Take care of yourself, you hear? And if… And if you get the chance, let us know what happened, alright? We’re always here, if you come back and need a place to be.” Amy sobbed and nodded, hugging Kade back. Kade let her go, moving aside and wrapping his arms around Noire as Spin hugged Amy.
“And you… You take good care of her, alright?”
“Huh?” Noire asked, confused.
“What, you didn’t think we’d make you stay either, did you? I’m pretty sure you want to go with her…” Kade said, letting go of Noire. Noire blushed and nodded. “I’m sorry Kade, Spin, Rage… I know we’ve been together for so long, but…”
“Shut up, woman!” Kade said softly. “If you’re going, then we won’t stop you… We’ll miss you, but we won’t make you choose, us or her. Just take care of each other, alright?”
“With my life.” Noire said, hugging Kade one last time. Kade moved back, letting all the goodbyes get out of the way, sitting down on his heels against a wall. Soon enough, farewells had been said. Noire gripped Amy’s hand in hers and looked at the three again. “Thank you, everyone… I hope we see each other again.”
“So do I,” Said Rage, “We all do. Now go, we don’t know how long that thing will stay open…”
Without another word, the two girls walked towards the swirling vortex. Just before they walked in, they turned around, waving goodbye. Kade waved, tears streaming down his cheeks. Spin was next to him, barely any better, almost waving in the wrong direction. Even Rage’s cheeks were wet as he waved. Then, the two walked into the vortex, and disappeared. Kade dropped his head and didn’t say anything. Spin’s arms were around him, his own pulling her against him as they comforted each other.
“Two more gone… At least we know they’ll be safe…” Kade whispered, then stood up, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. Rage and Spin did they same, drying their eyes and stopping their sobs.
“You think they’ll really be safe?” Spin asked. Kade just nodded. “Of course. They’ve got each other.” He shook his head and hitched his bag up onto his shoulders again.
“Alright, people, off to the station… Time to start our new lives.”
And with that, the three who were left turned and left the alley.
FINAL NOTES: This took a while to post, even though I'd already finished writing it almost a year ago... Thanks go to you guys, the readers, past, present and future. I'm glad you took the time to look over this humble offering of mine. Be it one thousand, one hundred, or just one person.
And, saving the best for last, I would like to thank:
Angel, Noire, Rage, Kade, Spin, Nyne, Kannabis, Priest, Chaos, Dragoon and Sage. Whether the part you played was big or small, you have taken me on an amazing, fucking incredible, and awesome adventure, and let me share it with anyone who wishes to hear. It was, is and always will be an honor. Thank you, all.