In the cool, crisp air of an autumn twilight, Lucius Hunt pulled his mustard yellow cloak closer to his frame. His destination, was the Walker home, but first he felt compelled to survey the border.

The leaves on the trees were turning color. Cool greens were starting to shift to vibrant yellows, oranges, and...he paused, squinting to examine a tree along the border. The leaves were red. Another one to be burned, he thought.

Through the years, the Elders had vigilantly destroyed all trees with red leaves, cutting them down and stripping the branches. The children, many of them too young to realize the significance and others too excited to care, danced happily around the quick, furtive bonfires that were lit and helped to toss in the leaves. Noah Percy had laughed, as always, the shrill sound heightening the tension.

Ivy had simply stood there among the children, listening to the crackle of the leaves as they burned, a sorrowful expression on her face...

Lucius quickly snapped out of his thoughts when a leaf fell on his face. He noticed the yellow paint on the trees was fading and made a mental note to ask Finton and Christop if they could help him repaint. Quickly, almost reluctantly, he glanced into the woods and did a harsh double-take when he thought he saw two dark black eyes glinting out of the already dark black forest. He relaxed, but only slightly, when he searched for them a second time and they did not appear. The constant sound of crackling noises echoing through the forest did nothing to calm his nerves.

It was dark by the time he reached the Walker home. He had promised his mother he would stay with Kitty (who he knew would simply huff and say she was far past the age for a chaperon) Ivy, Noah, and the younger children until the Elders had finished an impromptu meeting. Several children had heard strange moans resounding through the forest, and the Elders could only think that Those-We-Do-Not-Speak-Of were preparing to attack.

Lucius quietly knocked on the door, still too much on edge to create a loud noise. He could not get over the feeling of those black eyes boring into his, even if it had all been farce.

Kitty greeted him with a very strained expression on her face. "Noah has been having fits." Her voice was tight and brittle from strain. Lucius nodded and entered the Walker home, glancing over at Ivy with her fiery red hair before turning away.

"Hello, Ivy Walker", he mumbled, and he thought he could hear a muted return greeting.

He turned to examine her closely, knowing that he could do so with a reasonable amount of comfort. After all, she could not He noted that her face looked worn out, though he imagined it was more to do with Noah's fits than any particular worry.

Ivy had quieted Noah to a state where he was simply fidgeting next to her instead of racing about the house like the children. He looked on jealously as the children laughed at each other, but he continued to sit compliantly next to Ivy.

As time wore on, Lucius began to wonder if the Elder's meeting would ever end. He checked his thoughts. No, he didn't want the meeting to end. It was calm, here, if a bit stilted, with no one pressing him to talk. Ivy made the occasional comments but did not seem to expect an answer.

Lucius slowly felt his eyes grow heavy, and he grimaced, mentally shaking himself for being less than vigilant in his duty. Kitty, to his embarrassment, had caught the grimace as it passed over his face and approached him.

"Lucius Hunt, are you feeling well?" Concern was evident in her voice, yet her tone was distant.

Lucius nodded, not looking up. "I am tired, Kitty, that is all." He felt awkward being around her ever since he had denied her request for marriage. His embarrassment had only been increased when Ivy informed him that Kitty had been devastated.

Kitty nodded, though not at all convinced, and left him, shepherding the children up to bed. Suddenly he felt another presence by his side.

"Lucius Hunt." Ivy's voice was quiet but strong. "If you are not feeling well, you should not hide it. That is how Daniel Nicholson died, you know, and I would not wish you to die."

He looked up into the face of Ivy Walker and smiled slightly. "I promise you, the wish for sleep is the only thing that plagues me this night. If there was anything else, I would let you know." He wasn't sure he was telling the truth.

His answer seemed to satisfy Ivy, who went back over to Noah and, within a few minutes, had fallen asleep. Noah, by now, was fast asleep and snoring softly. Lucius, going against his usual self-inflicted standards, soon followed their example.

Several hours later, they were slowly brought to wakefulness by the gentle sound of the door opening. The meeting was over; Mr. Walker was home.