We're only the Shadow of a Dream. . .
Chapter 3

James:

After almost six hours Mark had decided to take pity on them. Although Vincent and Gabriel had definitely taken the worst hits, he was still feeling sore in his abdomen. He yawned and immediately closed his mouth, biting his lip in the process. Son of a bitch, he rubbed his jaw. Yeah, he’d taken a few good hits.


Not that he could say he’d have done it any differently if given the chance. He just wished he could do more for the girl, unfortunately, it didn’t seem like she wanted his help.

James tried to catch up to her when they were finally dismissed, but she passed by him without even a passing glance and headed for the dining hall. Vince and Gabe were hanging back, catching their breath, though they did make a few lewd comments in her direction as she’d passed. He had half a mind to go break their faces in, but opted for finding the woman instead.


She was in line, her arms crossed as if intending to ward off everyone that approached her, which she very well may have been doing. After a moment’s pause he went back out and picked a small budding rose, which he tucked away into his pocket. By now, she’d gone off, so he rushed to get his food and then scanned the bustling room until he spotted her sitting alone in the back.


When she was like that, with no one around, she looked very tired and broken. With the braids in her hair she looked young. His eyes softened and he watched her pick at her food with slow, delicate movements. And then, just as Vincent and Gabriel passed by a flicker of fear crossed her eyes and her body stiffened. She glared at them when they “accidentally” bumped into her on their way to a table, but otherwise seemed indifferent.


You’re trying so hard to be strong.


James approached the table slowly, not wanting to catch her off guard. He took the rose bud out, holding it in his hand. “I bring a peace offering,” he set it on the table.


She didn’t raise her head, but he knew she’d heard him because of the sigh. “Do you not have any friends?”


James sat down, undeterred by her comment. “You really don’t like me, do you?” The smile he gave her was meant to calm her, but he saw the way she furrowed her brows and forked her scrabbled eggs with a little too much gusto. When she didn’t answer he grasped for another topic, which was hard, considering anything that came to mind involved the previous night. “You know, you’re a pretty fast runner,” he said.


She must have noticed the hesitance in his voice which made it sound almost like a question. “Bet you enjoyed watching me leave you in the dust,” she straightened and took a sip from her orange juice.


“Yeah, the view was great,” he quipped.


The woman picked up one of the pieces of egg that were on the edge of her plate and tossed it at his face. “Dork.”


Had he just seen a smile?


Soon enough they were passing jokes back and forth, and then they couldn’t stop talking. They just… clicked.


They sat there, trying to decide who had the ugliest bruise until Mark called out to them, breaking them into groups for their next training session. Sad as it was, he had to leave her and join his own group. Just as he was half-way out the door he turned back around to spy her making for the doors at the other end.

“James,” he shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth to make the sound carry. She turned, tilting her head. “My name is James.”


“Aaliyah”


He smiled.

Chapter two

Aaliyah

“It’s good to see all your happy smiling faces this early,” the Cadet Leader, Mark, marched down the row of still half-asleep trainees.
Aaliyah did her best to stand up straight despite the aching in her sides. She woke up the following morning to ghoulish blue-green bruises lining the length of her ribs. A few feet down the line Gabriel and Vincent were doing their best to keep their faces turned down, hoping to go unnoticed.


“What is this,” Mark motioned for them to step forward. “Getting into fights?” Everyone knew they were friends, so the leader determined that they hadn’t likely been fighting against each other. He scanned the faces of the crowd, then motioned someone else forward. Aaliyah craned her head to see her White Knight appear before Mark. “Anyone else?”


None of the men seemed very eager to bring Aaliyah into it, so she opted to stay quiet. For now.


“Laps, all of you, until I decide you’ve had enough. The rest of you—” he paused, watching the young blonde step forward. “Cadet Vonseeger?”


“I was a part of it too.”


The man, who she had yet to put a name to, closed his hand into a fist, but remained silent.


“I’m so glad we have honest cadets,” Mark said dismissively, “Laps. Go.”
She let Gabriel and Vincent go ahead; she wasn’t too eager to have them running behind her. Although she was fast she decided that it was best to keep a steady pace. Mark wasn’t likely to make them stop any time soon. Soon enough she sensed someone falling into step beside her.


It was Mr. Knight.


He didn’t look at her, but spoke all the same. “Why?”


“Because I was a part of the fight.”


“No, you were attacked,” his voice grew rough, though she couldn’t understand why he was upset.


Aaliyah looked at him with a frown. “Look, I don’t need you babying me. I get enough shit from everyone as it is.”


“I’m just trying to help.”


“Well stop,” she cast him a glare over her shoulder and picked up her pace, leaving him behind.

Chapter 1

Aaliyah:

Boots crunched on leaves behind her, the shadows of the familiar men stretching out towards her. One of them, Vincent, had his lips twisted into a devious smile. She felt like a lamb cornered by wolves as Vincent and Gabriel moved closer.


“Hey, Aaliyah,” Vince sang.


“Leave me alone. I’m not in the mood for your crap,” she tried to push past him, but, of course, he was a brick wall. She felt his hand grip her shoulder to hold her back.


He made a tsk sound with his tongue, shaking his head like a parent scolding a child. “Now, now—is that any way to say hello?”


Her eyes darted to a few cadets that were on their way to the barracks. Would they help? She pleaded with her eyes, but the words refused to leave her lips; pride clung to her like a fine perfume. It was dark out, much too late for many cadets liking considering the training they had planned for tomorrow. It was likely that those were the last people she’d see out tonight, and when the door to the barracks shut behind them she felt the panic rise in her chest.


Aaliyah shoved at his chest—which really did nothing—and then moved away from him, her hands balled into fists. “I don’t want to fight you, but I will.”


This time Gabriel was the one to respond with sharp laughter and a flip of his hair. “You don’t want to? Oh, isn’t that sweet.” He reached out to brush his knuckles against her cheek. “We all do things we don’t want to sometimes…”


For a moment she remained frozen in place. Then she let her hand come down heavily across his face. “Don’t touch me!”


And just like that they sprang into life. Vincent was on her, grabbing her arms before she could get a single punch in. That was when she started kicking and was about to start the screaming when a hand was slapped over her mouth. “I will kill you,” she yelled, though it came out sounding like muffled grunts.


“C’mon, let’s get her into the shack,” she heard Vince say.
The shack being that—for lack of a better word—building that had been used to store broken 3D maneuvering gear on its way out. If they managed to get her in there it was just far enough away that no one would hear her no matter how loud she shouted.


Knowing that she doubled her efforts, but she wasn’t strong enough to break free. The worst she could do was scratch at Vincent’s arms and throw her foot back blindly in the hopes that she’d hit something. She continued her efforts, but she could feel the tears breaking free now at the thought that soon enough they would have what they wanted.


What had she done to them?


What had she ever done to them?


“Hey,” someone shouted. The figure was blurred by her tears, and she started to lose her footing as she desperately tried to pull away.

Was it another one of them?


Suddenly her arms were free, but just as fast as she was let go Gabriel caught her with an arm around her waist, and the other covering her mouth. “This doesn’t concern you.”


Vincent smiled so sweetly at her that she practically gagged. “We’re just having fun. You can even have a turn when we’re—” Her eyes widened to see the boy tumbling to the ground. There had been no warning before the punch was thrown, and everything happened so fast that she hesitated before throwing her elbow back hard into Gabriel’s side.


He cursed and loosened his grip just enough for her to slip away from him. She started running, vaguely aware of the sounds of the fight a few feet away. Gabriel managed to catch her arm. She didn’t think, just threw a punch at his nose. Much to her satisfaction, she heard a crack just before the blood let loose. His eyes on fire, he tossed her to the ground and in the next moment she felt a sharp pain in her side. Then again, and again. Aaliyah curled up, doing her best to protect herself from the merciless kicks at her side and head.


It stopped suddenly, and she opened her eyes to see a man with all the fury of an avenging angel give Gabriel a punch that knocked him out instantly. He left Gabriel’s body fall to the ground with a thud. She could see his chest rise and fall very quickly. His hands were covered in blood, his lip split in the middle, but when he turned to her the fury left his eyes to soften into something she couldn’t understand.


“Are you okay?” He stretched his hand out to her, waiting.


After the shock flowed out of her she sat up, taking his hand only after she realized how much everything hurt. “I’m fine.” A silence stretched out between them, thicker than a titan’s flesh. She realized she was still holding onto his hand, and pulled her hand back to her side. “Thanks…” she tucked a few strands of her hair behind her ear.


“You sure? Maybe we should get you looked at,” he pressed. “If we tell someone about this I’m sure those two will be—”


“No,” she answered much too quickly. “Look, I know you mean well and all, but … I don’t want them to hate me any more than they do.” She wrapped her arms around herself, unsure of what to do with her hands. “Anyways, I should get some sleep. You should do the same.”


She was gone the next moment, not even giving him the time to protest.
The man sighed, rolling his sore shoulder on his way to the barracks.

Goodnight and Not Goodbye

Description:

Aaliyah, a violinist leaves her comfortable life in the walls of Sina to become a cadet with hopes of earning her sister’s forgiveness. She finds the training grounds harsh and unforgiving, but admist all the strife she finds one cadet, James, who will guide her through it all. She finds comfort in her friend, and gains new found strength, but will she be strong enough to fight her feelings?

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