Here and Now

Summary: HF1. It's New Year's Eve. Cass watches his family.

Warning: Second version. This time indefinitely less angsty, more fluffy and as pointless as always.

Set: Story-unrelated, future-fic

Diclaimer: I'll say it once. I don't own Night School.

It's New Year's Eve.

Night falls softly onto the big house. It's cold outside, freezing cold actually. Breath stands in frozen little puffs of air in front of the faces of the few people who dare to be outside at this time of the day. Or night, rather, because it is almost midnight.

Almost New Year.

It hasn't been snowing since the great storm before Christmas forced them to stay at home and wait for the weather to get better in order to continue their routine patrols. But it still is cold, even colder than before. The moon is almost full and hangs from the dark blue sky, a golden shape in the midst of a few white clouds. The dark sky is beautiful, indefinitely deep and captivating. White clouds of steam rise towards it from the chimneys of the houses along the street. The sight is familiar and yet alien and he thinks if he watches the sky too long he'll fall into it, lose himself in the velvety darkness that surrounds them entirely. He directs his gaze towards the earth again.

Leaning against the little wall that separates their house from the street, Cassidy watches his family, his hands buried in his pockets.

"You should have seen her!" Jay shouts across the street from where he is carefully placing four glass bottles next to each other on the wet, cold pavement. His twin brother is near, of course, silently handing him the rockets they want to launch. To his right, Ten snickers loudly, arranging several glasses on a tablet. She had wanted champagne, real one, but Cass had vetoed the decision. Alcohol wasn't as intoxicating for the quickly-regenerating metabolism of Hunters as it was for humans, but he knew better than to risk anything that would place them in the Council's spotlights once again. They had to be careful, especially since what had happened last year, and he was the one who constantly reminded his Clave to keep their heads down. The fact that they were Daemon's students didn't really come to their aid. Most Council Elders distrusted them. But they were used to that kind of treatment by now.

Nadia is running a perimeter check and will be back soon. Cass can feel her approaching the street entrance. Marina is sitting on the low wall, her legs swinging back and forth in a rhythm only she can hear.

Rese – of course, Rese is the main subject of their teasing – snorts angrily as she comes into earshot and puts the lighter and the candle she has brought from the kitchen down more forcefully than necessary.

"Can't you, for once, shut up?"

Now, even Terrance smirks.

"I wish I could have seen that."

"It was hilarious," Jaq replies, his face entirely serious. Merely the fact that Cass knows him enables him to see the huge grin hidden underneath his frown.

"The next time you try to catch a vampire on a frozen boardwalk, let us know, Rese. We'll bring a camera."

Rese is blushing crimson, fury and embarrassment coloring her cheeks.

"I slipped and fell! What's so unusual about it?"

"Maybe the fact that Hunters don't slip?" Ten suggests. "Maybe that you had been going on about how you wouldn't slip if the street turned into ice at once and then did exactly that?"

"Maybe, maybe," Jay echoes. "Maybe you're just angry because we watched the great Teresa slip and fall like a clumsy little vampire hatchling? Maybe she would like some band-aid?"

Actually, it's not funny. Rese did slip and fall and she hurt herself pretty bad in the process. Cass knows because he is able to see the tiny change in her walk, the way she limps on her right leg almost unnoticeably. But she never will let him check on her. Probably she has twisted her ankle, it has already happened before. But she doesn't say anything, so he can't say anything, either.

"Shut up, idiot! I'd like to see you…"

Filtering the noise out of his mind, Cass smiles. Rese stomps over to sit next to Marina, who takes her hand as if she still was a ten-year-old child. But Rese doesn't seem to mind. She pulls down her jacket arm so their hands are kept warm. Nadia materializes from the shadows and comes to sit on Mar's other side. The seer tells her something and they smile and Rese replies something and Mar laughs and Nadia shakes her head. Ten has finished pouring the drinks and now is arranging the other rockets and fireworks into two piles. Then, she grabs the candle and lighter Rese has brought outside and walks over to where Cass is standing to place the candle in the little snow-house they have built in the afternoon. The soft light illuminates her features which are bright with anticipation. Ten, of course, loves the noise and the colors of fireworks. Terrance, Jay and Jaq, in the meantime, are discussing something he cannot hear from his position. Jay says something and starts gesticulating wildly. Terrance nods once and Jaq shrugs. Cass checks his watch and, from the corners of his eyes, sees Ten do the same. It's ten to twelve. Mar is pointing towards the sky and Rese follows her gaze, smiling softly. She only ever smiles like this when Mar is there. Cass feels warmth boiling up inside of him: This is his family, his Clave. His best friends and his fighting partners. They have been together since Teacher has taken them in and he cannot imagine a world without them. They belong together because they complement each other perfectly:

They have Ten's fire, Nadia's watchfulness and Terrance's steadfastness. They have Jaq's calmness and Jay's humor and Mar's kindness. And they have Rese's impatience and his patience. They fit together into one single, imperfect unit – because nothing ever is as perfect as it could be. And it shouldn't be, because perfection is what his Hunter ancestors developed and what brought forth their downfall and the new Hunter's Society in which they now live. His Clave is the only thing that counts and he would go to the end of the world if it was necessary in order to protect-

His thoughts are interrupted as a dark figure appears at the end of the road and starts approaching them. Immediately, all their attention is focused on him. Ten greets him first:

"Teacher! You're back!"

Daemon frowns his trademark frown and looks down the road on which they have placed their rockets, their tray, a bottle, their softly-glowing snow-light, candles and other things. Around them, the street is slowly filling up with people, old and young, small and tall, women and men and children. Mar giggles as she watches three kids chase each other around a few parked cars.

"It's almost time," Teacher says and they all check their watches automatically. One minute. Mar jumps down from the wall and brings Rese and Nadia with her and Terrance, Jaq and Jay join them. Cass pulls his hands from his pockets and walks over. They all assemble in front of the little entrance in the stone wall. Hidden from the peoples' eyes by a few bushes, they stand in the semi-light that is a gift of their Hunters' eyes. Mar extends her other hand and takes Nadia's, Ten takes Nadia's other one, Jay and Jaq and Terrance fall into the little circle they have created. Cass throws a look at Daemon, who lifts his brows and nods a "Go ahead" and he steps into the circle, taking Rese's and Terrance's hands. Rese's hand is warm and small compared to his and he feels the electric current run through him, like every time he touches her. Her smile, suddenly, has become blinding as she looks at him and the others and then closes her eyes. They follow her example.

A year ends.

Another one begins.

The first seconds of a year, an old Hunter Tale says, are the seconds in which the borders between dreams and reality become fleeting. In those few seconds realms merge for fleeting moments, veils are lifted, windows opened. Worlds touch and separate again.

The first seconds of the year, they spend in silence.

Suddenly, the noises of the people along the street disappear and the sound of the wind in the tree-tops grows louder and more musical. Laughter echoes through the night. A church-bell rings, silently, steadily. Far away. Maybe in this realm, maybe in another. None of them breathes but everyone hears each other's heart-beat. Behind them, Teacher is standing, a silent and reassuring anchor, a barrier between them and the world.

And, here and now, as the New Year begins, they make a wish.

Cassidy's one is simple. He wants to spend his life with them: With Jay, Jaq, Terrance, Nadia, Ten and Marina. And Rese. Of course, with Rese. The warmth from her hand creeps up his arm, into his body. Into his heart. Long before the others are ready, his eyes are open again. And when Rese opens hers, she finds his gaze fixed on her without blinking. When she blushes furiously and tries to free her hand from his grasp, he smiles and lets go. Ten, Jay, Terrance and Mar run towards the rockets, Nadia and Terrance follow slowly. Teacher already has lit the fuse of the first four rockets. A wheezing noise and a flash of light and they take off, catapulted towards the sky. In the midst of the colorful flames, they explode in showers of red, green, blue and yellow stars and sparks and Mar's and Ten's cheers mingle with the joyful shouts of the neighbor's children. Cass follows Rese as she walks towards their family and pretends not to notice her hand sneaking into his pocket. Again, she blushes at the intensity of his emotions but this time, she doesn't pull away.

A new year, the Tale says, isn't necessarily a new beginning.

It's a continuation of their Here and Now.

A/N Happy New Year. May 2011 be full of joy and happiness for you!