Ryan was awoken by several sharp pokes to his rib cage. He ignored them, realizing it was just Keyaira being fidgety. The girl was not deterred however and dug her whole fist into his stomach, making him sit up in shock.

"Cruel," he muttered in her direction, throwing her a sullen glance where she still lounged in the grass.

"You're probably late," she reminded him, picking a piece of grass out of her hair. "To meet Tabby. Or did you forget?"

"I forgot," he admitted.

"Well than go find her. I'm going to head back to the mansion. I need to clean up my room for my new roommate."

"Yeah, yeah. See ya at dinner," he said noncommittally, standing and brushing himself off. He ignored her lazy yawn and pushed aside the shrubbery that lined the main drive. He walked just to the side of the mangled concrete, internally wondering how they were supposed to fix the mess. When he reached the front of the main building, he swung his path to the left. Off to the left sat the garage and tool sheds. One of the doors was open, a tarp carefully positioned over Anastacia's newly reacquired motorcycle. Past the garage was the abandoned patio and pool and just beyond that, the woods where the students might hide themselves for studying, training, or darker forces. He walked, listening as several squirrels chattered and a hedgehog burrowed under a massive fallen tree. No, not a hedgehog. A badger. Some instinct made Ryan tighten up, his claws unsheathing from once harmless fingertips. He closed his eyes, inhaling the thick smell of rotting wood, a sharp tang to mark the position of the badger, and a light scent for the squirrels. Suddenly, a smell sweeter and thicker assaulted his sensitive nose. Some buried instinct told him the smell was of rotting flesh but his rational brain won out quickly. Coconut. He opened his eyes and saw nothing, taking several careful steps forward and turning around. Tabitha was smiling at him, her hands on her hips.

"You're only ten minutes late," she scolded, sauntering past him. Again, his instincts screamed and he sneezed violently.

"Poor kitty," she cooed playfully. "Are you allergic to me?"

"Your perfume," he said. And then sneezed again.

Tabby dropped her usual playful smile and sniffed at her wrist as Ryan sneezed yet again. "It's just coconut."

"I don't think my nose can take that," he said, tapping his nose. And then sneezing.

"I'll be sure to give it a toss when I get home then."

"At the Brotherhood house?" He asked, pausing between sneezes to stare at her.

"No way," she snapped quickly. "I have an apartment downtown."

"Oh," he said softly. There was an awkward silence, broken only by Ryan's sneezing.

"Look," she explained, her voice rather urgent. "Since the day I was born until the day I die, the only side I'm on is my own. That's the way it works best."

Ryan sniffed, wiping his nose with a sleeve. "I used to think that. It got pretty lonely."

"I like being alone," she said defensively, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Whatever," he said pointedly before sneezing rapidly twice. "Why did you want to see me?"

Tabby hugged herself unconsciously. "You just seem pretty out of place here. I was wondering why you stayed around."

Ryan thought for a second, wanting to give her a truthful answer. The pictures of his old life flashed before his eyes, memories stinging viciously. He flinched but a newer memory replaced the others. His first night at the mansion, standing in front of the other students and feeling exposed. Until Nathaniel had playfully punched him, treated him like a brother who was only momentarily lost. Mike's continual joking and Andrew's shyness, broken only by his avid news of a new invention. Keyaira laying in the grass with him and talking about jelly beans. Anastacia's helpful smile and the way she loved to play the mother. Cassidy's total loyalty and trust as only a child can give. Their respective faces flashing before his eyes, each of them smiling and laughing, not at him for the first time in his life.

"I have a family," he said softly. "For once in my life, I have people who care about me as much as their flesh and blood. I have something to stick around for. I have a side to fight on."

Tabby wasn't shocked but she nodded slowly all the same. "Well, when you feel like a change, I have a position open for you on my side," she offered, turning her back on him before he could respond.

"How do I know you won't give it away?" His voice was sincere but not biting.

Tabby jerked, cringing visibly. "You always have a space on my side. I promise." She dashed off, moving quickly through the woods and scaring off the badger.

No, I'm not dead. But I am lazy on topof being very busy. Updates of my life (not that any of you would care): no boyfriend, birthday coming closer, too many fanfics out, read several terribly brutal animes and now am more twisted than usual, no boyfriend and a debate competition coming closer.