Colonello is many things.

He is cheerful blond with blue eyes. He is a damn good sniper that has uncanny instincts. He was a natural at being a soldier that could lead and yet still follow orders, the sort of man any general would kill to have on their side in a fight. He has a major love of predatory birds of all sorts and a hatred for rats that bores on the obsessive. He is always smiling, always there to lend a hand even when you were too stubborn to admit you need help. He is an unbreakable rock you could rely on that for some insane reason had a massive crush on the demonic trainer known as Lal Mirch.

It really was true that if you assume a lie long enough, it would eventually become the truth, he would think tiredly.

Colonello was in reality nothing like the image he portrayed himself as.

He wasn't some natural soldier. He hated being caged by circumstances outside his control. Yeah, it was probably genetic that he'd fall for the one woman who wouldn't give him the time of day, especially since he was one of her students. But he didn't regret it.

He was so below her league and he damn well knew it. Unlike his father, Colonello was content to watch from afar and wish for something better, rather than piss her off and ruin his chances forever.

If and when he had the chance to spark something better, he would take it. But until then the war-torn blond trained his ass off to hell and back to be better than he was the day before.

It was so ingrained in him to be a soldier that he had no idea how to be anything else.

He allowed the Rain to fall and the clouds above to gather in large dark groups so that the sky would forever be hidden.

He never wanted to remember that part of his past.

That bright orange fire would forever stay drowned by the rain clouds, if he had anything to say about it.

Just as the scars he had acquired would never be seen under all the glamour charms he had on them.

He was Colonello, goofball Rain Latent and damn good sniper. A man who had a massive crush on his demonic trainer.

He would not be that man again. He would rather assume the pleasant lie until it became the truth first.


It was a stupid accident that never should have happened. Lal didn't see the hole and promptly twisted her ankle when she stepped in and proceeded to trip on the root right after it.

Now she fully expected to wave off her comrades and have to bind the ankle herself. It was only a mile or two away from the lake where they were setting up camp.

Except... Colonello, the idiot blond who clearly had a thing for her despite the hell she put him through in the name of training didn't go on. He pulled off his personal bag and started digging through it without any hesitation...only to pull out a very well stocked first aid kit.

Lal stared.

"What do you think you're doing, idiota? You're not a medic! I can handle this myself!"

Something in Colonello's eyes stopped her cold from hitting him.

Tired resignation and haunted eyes were not what she was used to seeing. Colonello was the sort of fool who brushed off the crappiest day with a smile and a stupid laugh, brightening the room without any problems at all. He took the hits and did so with a smile.

The Colonello she was used to did not have the haunted gaze of a war veteran who had survived hell and back, still struggling to find peace within himself.

Lal was dead silent as Colonello expertly examined her ankle before pulling out some water-proof bandages and wrapping it with a deft hand that spoke of experience...a lot of experience.

He said nothing, just wrapped up her foot to the point she could walk on it with minimal pain.

"Soak it in the lake for about thirty minutes... the bandages should be fine for that long and not chafe," he said with a tone that spoke of personal experience.

"Not going to give me anything for it?" she snarked, mostly to hide how rattled she was.

Colonello blinked.

"A sprained ankle isn't that bad. A cold soak and staying off it for a day or two and you won't even notice it unless you move too hard or too long," he commented.

Lal couldn't help but feel as though he was subtly calling her a wuss for asking for something as simple as an ibuprofen or Tylenol for the inevitable swelling. But that couldn't right.

"You're telling me that despite the crap I put you through you don't even carry something as basic as Advil or Tylenol in that medic kit you brought?" she said incredulous.

Colonello's baffled look said volumes.

"Isn't that just for headaches?" he asked very confused.

She stared at him.

"Advil and Tylenol can be used to reduce swelling, fevers and muscle pain. How do you not know that?"

Colonello rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"If it really bothers you I can carry you to the meeting spot," he offered.

Lal threw a nearby rock at him and he dodged with expert ease.

She tested her foot once she got up, and to her surprise she barely even noticed the mild swelling of the ankle. Her idiot student actually knew what he was doing when it came to basic first aid.

It was almost enough to make her forget the look in his eyes while he did it, or the way he felt...off.

Lal kept observing Colonello, who took the ribbing of the other men with practiced ease. Now that she was looking for it, she realized something she had never noticed before.

Everything about Colonello was fake. Not in a way that was obvious, but more like it was something you had to be clued into before you realized it was there.

He played the friendly idiot, yet he kept everyone at arm's distance in a subtle way. He laughed, but it was completely hollow. It was just genuine enough to avoid being noticed as fake, but if you were actually paying attention you could tell there was something...off about the sound.

How did that old saying go?

Assume the lie long enough and one day it would become the truth?

She couldn't really remember, but looking at Colonello sure as hell brought it to mind. She just couldn't prove it.

Her ears perked up when she heard her name, so she discreetly listened in. Odds were one of the idiots had noticed her, but Colonello hadn't.

"You mean to tell me you played doctor with the woman you've been crushing on for ages and didn't try to make a move? Are you gay or something?!" said Jake, incredulous.

Colonello blinked.

"Why would I want to make a move on her when I was bandaging her foot?" he asked slowly, as if talking to an idiot.

"Come on! It was the perfect opening!" said Jake.

"You actually think that would have worked? I seriously doubt she would have been impressed with something as easy as wrapping a twisted ankle so she could properly walk on it long enough to get to the camp site," said Colonello.

Lal almost snorted, because he was entirely right in that she wouldn't have been that impressed with it. If anything she would have hit him if he tried to woo her while wrapping her ankle.

Jake groaned in mock disgust.

"God, you're so unbelievably dense! It's so obvious you like her yet you've never even made a single move on her!"

Colonello let out an almost hollow laugh at that. It was clear that the others knew something was wrong with it, but couldn't put their finger on what.

"Did it ever occur to you that I'm not stupid enough to waste my time trying to woo a woman who's likely seen it all before and wasn't impressed by it? I'm so below her league it's not even funny, and it's obvious she wouldn't date a student," said Colonello flatly. There was a well hidden hint of bitterness as he said that, which had Lal frowning openly.

"Did she say something to you?" asked Jake with open concern.

He wasn't the only one frowning.

"She didn't need to. She's been a trainer for what, five, six years now? She's one of the rare females on the base and she's constantly around more impressive guys than me. Anything I could do to impress has likely already been done by someone else and the fact she's still single says she's more interested in her career than dating. I'm not going to waste my time I could spend training to be a better soldier trying to impress someone who isn't ready for it," said Colonello flatly. "If I wanted to actually try to court her, I'd have a better shot at doing it when I've gone up a few ranks enough that we could stand as equals, rather than as her student."

Lal had to admit he was right. She wouldn't look at a student like that, not in a hundred years. If he were a bit closer to her in rank, then he'd have a shot, but right now?

She wouldn't give him the time of day.

"...Talk about cynical," said Jake. "Just hearing that shit makes me depressed."

"Why not go out and sow your oats with someone else then?" asked Gregorio. Everyone called him Greg though.

"Because I've been burned by a bad relationship before and I'd rather be in it for the long haul than risk some cheap fling that will only bite me in the ass later," Colonello shot back.

"Oh-ho, and now we hit the root of the matter! So your ex dumped you or something?"

"More like I was feeling claustrophobic in a very toxic relationship I was pressured into by everyone and their grandmother and left without saying goodbye. I'm just lucky her brothers actually liked me enough to consider me family long before that, otherwise I'd really be in for it," commented Colonello.

"Brothers as in plural?" said Jake.

"Six of them, though one of them died and another was put into a coma. She was the youngest and only girl too...and they are all red-heads with damn good aim."

Seeing the collective wince, Colonello snickered.

"Six older brothers and you were insane enough to date their youngest sister? Their poor mother."

"You kidding? Her twin brothers offered me a place to hide when I pissed her off, rather than give me the standard 'hurt our sister and you're a dead man' speech. She was a real spit fire," said Colonello grinning.

"So why'd you break it off?"

"To sum up a very boring story, I took a long look at my life and realized I was stuck in a rut dating a girl who could have passed for a very terrifying copy of my mother, according to the few pictures I have of her and multiple sources all stating the same thing. I ditched home and signed up for the military the next week. Odds are she'll try to shoot me for leaving like I did, but there was no way I was going to get talked into staying in that relationship," said Colonello with a shudder. "Took me way too long to realize I saw her more as a little sister than as girlfriend material."

"That is disturbing on way too many levels," said Jake with a shudder.

"Yeah, tell me about it. I was best friends with her youngest older brother for so long that by the time we were old enough to do anything the only feelings I had for her were familial, rather than romantic. I doubt she'd take it well that I mostly used her as a shield against my fans without realizing it."

She might have been sympathetic if he had done it on purpose, but he had done it without realizing for three long years.

As it was he was almost certain to be hexed to hell and back if and when he returned.

Which was why he was going to train his ass off so he could avoid most of it, hopefully long enough to reach a safe bolt hole which had a convenient place to explain why he left. Or until she calmed down.

Colonello winced at the idea.

Yeah, he was far safer getting his ass handed to him in training rather than face the irate witch he left behind, never mind her able and willing cohorts that would almost certainly have words for him that would leave him a cringing mess.

"Why do you even like her anyway?" asked Greg.

Colonello's grin swiftly changed from tired and worn to sappy.

"What's not to like about her? She's a strong, confident woman who takes no shit from anyone and isn't the sort to be impressed by something as stupid as a bloodline, money or fame."

"Dude, you have to have better standards. She barely has any tits to speak of and her ass is flat as a board!" said Jake.

Lal privately marked Jake for an extra hellish training session for that. He had it coming.

"Who cares about that? The more 'attractive' a girl is, the higher the chance she's a total bitch or has way too high standards. I'd rather have a challenge I know will be worth it in the end, if only because the odds of her being tempted by some pretty face are next to nill. Give me loyalty over looks or money any day," said Colonello dismissively. "At least with the captain I know she has an actual personality, even if she is prickly as hell when she's embarrassed."

Lal didn't realize she was blushing at that. The worst part was that she knew in her heart he was being entirely honest. He really could care less about things most men found important.


Later that night

Lal was going to soak her foot in the lake again. Her ankle hadn't swollen too much thanks to the prompt and surprisingly competent treatment (she was going to slate Colonello for medic training... she suspected he was far more skilled at battle field first aid than he had let on previously), but it still throbbed enough to be very annoying. So much so that she couldn't fall into a proper sleep at the moment.

Outside of those on night watch, she was the only one up. Or so she thought.

Hearing sounds of splashing that came from someone in the lake, she investigated.

And found Colonello taking what could only be a cold bath with no issue at all.

She would openly admit that her student was a major looker. It made his crush on her more than slightly baffling, since he could easily get any girl he wanted. And yet he chose her instead. A woman who wouldn't even consider him a potential lover any time soon.

There was something odd about his eyes and it wasn't the look in them. He felt far more...open...than she could recall. He was relatively alone and no one was likely to stumble across him anytime soon.

Then it hit her when he briefly looked to the shore.

She was used to his eyes being a vibrant shade she could only compare to the gemstone lapis lazuli, or perhaps an attractive shade of sapphire.

But his eyes right now were a vibrant emerald green that reminded her of a cat, or perhaps a predatory bird.

Did Colonello wear contacts? Why? His eyes were quite beautiful and it was increasingly difficult for her to turn her own away. There was something deep and haunting about them, like he could peer into your very soul and strip away the barriers you had around yourself, even those you didn't know where there.

He saw you, not the mask you put around yourself and it was very unnerving when he did it.

Lal almost shivered when those green eyes passed over where she was hiding. Almost like he could sense she was there, but couldn't really see where she was.

She had the feeling she would see more if he didn't. And she was right.

Colonello dismissed the presence, before turning his back to her and going for a bit of a swim.

Lal frowned when under the moonlight she caught sight of several old scars. Some of which were very odd, like the circular ones that went down his back in a curved line to just above one of his kidneys. Like he had gotten clipped by something. There was also a bit of a sunken in spot on his right arm, as if someone had sank a circular object into it and taken a chunk...it was very old though, so he had to have been a kid when he got it.

Without the headband, she could clearly see a faded scar on his forehead in a very peculiar shape. It almost looked like a bolt of lightning of all things, but she could just barely make it out so she couldn't be sure.

Colonello was toned, but still managed to maintain a runner's build. What little mass he had was almost pure muscle, and Lal had to squirm as she cast her eyes down the rest of him.

It looked like he had every reason to be confident in himself, with something like that. He'd make any woman he dated very happy, she could tell. Besides, she knew personally how much stamina he had...Colonello was always the last to run out of energy when she put the trainees through the hellish obstacle courses, even if he never finished first.

She always made him do extra runs if he pissed her off.

She would be the first to admit she would be hard pressed to do better. Colonello was realistic about his chances with her and wasn't wasting his time on foolish attempts to court her while he was in training. He had patience to wait, to find out what would work and then would likely exploit it.

But there was still something holding her back. That haunted look in his eyes bothered the hell out of her and she wouldn't let it go until she figured out what caused it.