Notes -

A birthday present for Realmlife: Thank you for being a great friend. -x-

And a extra-double-fish-sunday with added krill and salmon flakes to Fayzalmoonbeam for the beta-reading.

Two Tone

What was that noise?

Sheila was alert in an instant, her eyes open, conditioned by years of sleeping in the wilds. The noise was quite far away, and she couldn't tell immediately what it was. Options raced through her mind. Werewolf? Orc in pain? The call of the Dark Tribe? She lay still, frozen half way through a breath in as the sound faded away.

No. No. She recognised what had made the sound now. It was a car braking hard on the road outside. Her eyes focused on the glowing red beside her. The clock showed 04.03. She didn't have to be scared. She could breathe again.

There were no more loud noises but Sheila kept her eyes open for a while longer, watching the digital numbers change. She had no idea how she managed to get any sleep at all, without the familiar sounds of the Realm to soothe her. The bed was too soft, there was the constant angry growl of cars outside the window of her house; the harsh burning glow of the street light leaked in through her curtains, no matter how she tried to block the gaps.

It was quieter now than before Sheila went to sleep, but she could still hear the TV from next door, as well as cats meowing at a back door, and then there was the occasional flash of blue and red light and the howl of a police car from downtown.

Being back home; she had never imagined it would be like this. There would be school again tomorrow. She hated school now. Boring and grey people talking about boring and grey things. Shopping. Homework. Make-up. Boys. The corner of her mouth twitched. For here it was one single boy.

The new game was the only thing that made her happy now. How long would it be until one of her so-called-friends figured out what was going on? Who would be the first to realise what had changed? She and Hank had never hidden their attraction for each other, but they were bound to slip up sooner or later. The shy, half-hidden looks and glances that they had once shared were gone, replaced by the red fire of something else entirely. They had lasted a few months so far, and the game was getting harder to maintain. That they would be found out was inevitable, although the others wouldn't say, they were too busy readjusting in their own ways.

Bobby didn't care, not now he'd found Terri.

Presto had slipped back in to his role as school nerd, no one had noticed how he'd changed either. He was getting noticed for his tricks, as now they worked without fail, every time. But his few friends weren't interested in how he'd improved overnight. He was fast on the way to fading into permanent obscurity at school, forever haunted by something he could never have.

Diana would never say a word, she couldn't see what was going on around her, she was too caught up in her training and the trials. The easy, lithe agility that she'd had before was gone, as if the Earth had different gravity or Diana had forgotten how to move. She had plummeted down the rankings, and everything else, everyone else, was forgotten in the desperate struggle to get back to where she should be, her heart fixed on the gold medals, rather than the light around her.

And Eric. Well, Eric wouldn't tell anyone, of course. And maybe the less said about that the better.

Outside there was the bark of a horn, twice in quick succession, then some muffled shouting. Sheila closed her eyes, hoping she could go back to sleep. Who would have thought she would miss sleeping outside in the cold and the dark? Why did it all have to be so different from the way it was before the ride, before the Realm?

She knew the answer: Their home was the same, and they were the ones that were different after the Realm. They had parted company with this worn-out, monotonous world so long ago, but they had been too caught up in their quest to realise what going home really meant.

Home, her real home: How could she fit back in to this awful, frightening, confusing place? Evil was no longer on horseback with one horn. It hid in the gossipy words of her 'friends', on the streets, behind the doors of classrooms and houses, in the shops and at the mall, always waiting to strike at her, now she no longer had the Cloak to keep her from unfriendly eyes.

But at least she knew now. She knew what to look for.

It would take time, Hank had told her, as they stood near the school gates one afternoon. He had flicked the hair out of her eyes, tucking it behind her ear.

Part of her longed to reveal the truth, and tell the world what they'd seen and what they'd done; to tell their story and how they had saved a whole realm from Evil. But there was another truth she knew: ; no one would believe them.

So all that was left was their new game. She would see him at school. They would play pretend again. One day they wouldn't pretend and it would all be ok, even in this world.

One day.

With that thought in mind, Sheila slowly drifted bad to sleep.

The End