AN: Wow! Once again, thanks a million to all of you who reviewed. I wish I had time to respond to each of you individually, but it's been crazy busy. Just know that I appreciate each and every one of you, and I'm really happy you're enjoying these fics so far. I hope you'll all enjoy this one!

Candles

"Well. This is awkward."

"You think?" Sydney responded to Adrian dryly, her dark gaze watching the table adjacent to theirs, as was Eddie's, though his expression was more pained.

Micah seemed oblivious to the three sets of eyes on him, though Jill seemed all too uncomfortably aware of her chaperones. She hadn't seemed very eager to accept his invitation to a casual dinner- Sydney was no expert on dating, but even she wasn't dumb enough to think a restaurant with candlelit tables and linen napkins was a casual just friends type of place. Whether her reluctance was because of the recent tragedy involving Lee or something else entirely, Jill being Jill was too nice to turn him down, though she'd warned him her 'siblings' wouldn't let her go un-chaperoned, though by now Micah was well aware of how closely the older three siblings watched out for their little sister.

So here they were: Jill and Micah at one table, and Adrian, Sydney, and Eddie at the other. Though by the way his body was angled toward Jill, Eddie might as well have been sitting over right in between the couple since he hadn't taken his eyes off them the entire night. Adrian had done his whole protective big brother routine, but it was clear Eddie was beginning to regret his claims that it was better for Jill to be with Micah.

While it was excruciatingly painful to watch, it was also incredibly boring, and even though she liked to think she possessed a much longer attention span than Adrian, Sydney was quickly becoming impatient for the dinner to end. "I'm not sure who's having a harder time with this- them, or us," she murmured in undertone lifted a hand to run it through her hair, remembering just in time that she had pinned it back, letting it drop back to the table with a sigh.

"I think him," Adrian answered in undertone, nodding toward Eddie who seemed ignorant of their conversation. "Though I'm not far behind. This is boring." He leaned back in his seat, green gaze shifted from Jill to her, and he gave her a slight smile. "You do clean up good though, Sage."

She hoped the restaurant's dim lighting would hide the heat she could feel rising in her cheeks; it was true she usually made an effort to dress well, but she'd taken special care tonight once she had learned what type of place Micah was planning. A restaurant like this required something formal, even more so than her usual attire, a delicate buttery yellow dress, conservative yet elegant, paired with a pair of simple heels. She hadn't expected anyone to notice or appreciate, and though she wouldn't admit it, it was a nice change to have someone notice and vocalize their approval. It was especially nice when that someone was incredibly beautiful themselves- evil creature of the night or not.

Somehow she managed to keep her voice normal as responded, "You're not too bad yourself." An understatement; he was a work of art as usual in his deep burgundy silk shirt and black dress pants, not that she would ever admit that to him and further boost his over inflated ego.

He grinned at her slightly, obviously amused. "Not too bad, eh? Not the most eloquent description, but don't worry I won't hold it against you. It's not easy to think of a description when dazzled by perfection."

Sydney didn't bother to hide rolling her eyes, shaking her head though a small smile twitched her lips. It had once annoyed her, but his flippant remarks and snark were growing on her. Her smile dimmed a little as she found herself staring again at Eddie who was still gazing at Jill with single-minded focus. It wasn't right; he might be willing to sacrifice his own happiness, but it wasn't right that Jill shouldn't know, she should have the right to decide if she wanted to be with him. She had the right to make the same decision he was.

As if catching her thoughts, Adrian shook his head slightly, his voice low as he leaned forward across the table. "Let it be, Sage."

"Let what be?" She turned to glance at him, irritated at being interrupted from her musings but froze at the intensity of his bright emerald gaze, highlighted by the flickering light from the candles on their table.

"I know how you are- you like to fix things. You keep things neat and orderly, you always think you can do something to make a situation better." Adrian paused, giving her time to let that sink in before continuing. "It's not a bad thing; I actually think it's quite admirable, but this isn't something you can fix."

Her brow furrowed, and she was unable to keep from protesting though she matched his volume to avoid drawing Eddie's attention. "I can't sit here and watch him wallow in misery," she objected. "It's not fair." He stared at her for a long moment, his expression almost pitying, old pain and bitterness tingeing his voice when he responded. "Unfortunately, love isn't necessarily fair."

She flinched as if he had slapped her, remembering too late the phantom of Rose still hovering over him even now. She might not be physically present, but she was still affecting him, still tearing him apart even now. It was a harsh truth; she had no idea what kind of sacrifices that love could bring about. In that respect, Sydney knew she was incredibly naïve.

"Sorry," she murmured, looking away uncomfortably. "I didn't mean-"

"I know," he cut her off, an edge to his voice the only hint of the lingering grief that her words had triggered. "Not your fault, Sage. You. . . you're so pure. Love is straightforward and simple for you; you don't really understand how complicated or tragic it can be." He gave her a rueful grin. "Frankly, I hope you never do."

Frowning, she shook her head slightly, not sure whether to be hurt or offended. "What do you mean by that?"

"Hell, Sydney, isn't it obvious?" he retorted, exasperated.

Her dark eyes flashed with annoyance, ignoring the odd thrill she got out of hearing her first name on his lips. "Here we go again with the same old tired excuse- Sydney Sage, the untouchable pure soul who can't possibly understand what it's like to suffer at all."

Adrian returned her glare, exhaling in frustration. "That's not what I meant, and you know it. I know you know what suffering and pain is- I don't know what you've gone through in your life Sage, and I'm not going to make you tell me unless you want to. All I meant was that I don't want to see you end up heartbroken – no one deserves that." His exasperated expression had faded, gaze still intent and direct though. "Especially you."

"Oh." Again with the strange heady feeling, the fluttering in her stomach, her eyes flicking away from his to the candle, watching a bead of wax slide down slowly as she fought to remember how they'd gotten on this subject to begin with. "I still don't think all this is ok. I don't watching this without being able to do anything."

"Then don't," he suggested. "Watch something else. Feel free to watch me – I've been told it's a good view."

"Adrian!"

He blinked at her innocently in the flickering light, a mischievous glint in his eye. "What?"

"You know what," she responded, bordering on the edge of annoyance and amusement though she refused to be derailed. "You can't honestly tell me you don't want to do something to fix this."

"Doesn't work that way. If it's meant to be, then no amount of meddling or interference will do anything to help speed it up or hinder it."

Sydney felt her eyebrows shoot up. "You're not telling me that you believe in fate, are you?"

"After everything that's happened, with meeting Lissa, meeting Rose, I'd be a real idiot not to," he said simply. "Give it a rest; I'm sure things will work out eventually." She sighed, and he looked at her, amused. "What, don't believe in fate, Sage?"

"I believe in making things happen," she answered without hesitation. "I don't believe in waiting around for fate to happen."

"Huh. Interesting." He didn't sound terribly surprised by her declaration, but she was beginning to realize it was hard to tell sometimes what emotions really went on behind those green eyes. "Well. Who knows, maybe you're right. Maybe I'm the one whose crazy – hell, it's not like we don't know I'm going that way eventually." He fingered his empty wine glass, looking longingly at the bottle a waiter carried by but made no move to get his glass filled.

"But you still think we need to stay out of it." It wasn't a question, she knew he hadn't changed his opinion.

"Yeah, I do. I can barely manage my own life, no way in a million years am I going to try to take charge of theirs."

Sydney smiled a little. "I don't know. You've come a long way."

"Only with your expert help, my dear Alchemist. Whatever would I do without you to kick my ass into gear?"

"Crash and burn?" she offered.

"Probably," he agreed seriously.