[color=#2f4f4f;]For someone who had felt himself die three times, Alaric Carlisle still couldn't get used to it, and even if he lived through this he doubted he ever would.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]He felt oddly detached, standing on the balcony of his old dorm at the Institute, lazily dressed in a blazer with no shirt underneath, skinny jeans and a pair of Dark Side of the Moon EDT Chuck Taylor's; below his watchful aquamarine gaze, students and teachers alike practiced sports, lessons, played cards. There was Ashlynn and Tara, eating lunch together on the bench. There was Matt, throwing a football to Aleks; the Russian thief carved up the defense like a kid's mom helps him carve up a birthday cake into deliberately huge pieces. There was peace, for once. If this was an afterlife, it wasn't that bad; slowly, his shoulders relaxed; the tight fashion he gripped the railing with slowly settled into a light clinging of the knuckles. Then, from behind him, there was Giles' voice. The librarian sounded somehow more real than the rest of the scene before him. Sadder, more tempered and weary at the way the world worked, but still something you'd swear was being said right behind you as opposed to the Institute grounds, which Alaric viewed as though through the screen at a movie theatre.[/color]
"Mr. Carlisle,"[color=#2f4f4f;] Giles sighed sadly, [/color]"where do you think we are right now?"
[color=#2f4f4f;]And at those words, below the balcony the entire world disappeared, a long-winded black void that swallowed everything he would ever love and packed it together just outside any place where his pitiful reach would dare extend to.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]He turned to look back inside, but now the dorm was gone too and the balcony was the only thing standing between Ric and oblivion; Giles was behind him, feet teetering dangerously on the edge of the balcony. The librarian's face was sad, with a determined look clinging the lines in his barely-aging face; not for the first time Alaric wondered at how old the man truly was and whether he still had accumulated a variety of talents and powers over the years that he refused to let on. The old hat took a step forward, suspending any concerns that he may fall in the same way that the balcony was suspended above the void below. Alaric leaned back on the railing, relishing in the comfort of not having to stand at attention, and he realized that his face was a little sad, too.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"I'm not sure what to do, Giles."[/color]
"You tell me, Headmaster,"[color=#2f4f4f;] he said, with a respect that Ric felt he didn't really deserve but relished in anyway. [/color]"But I can tell just by looking at you that you don't want to die. Not yet."
[color=#2f4f4f;]"I don't mind dying. I'm just...not done yet."[/color]
"Then don't go."
[color=#2f4f4f;]"I haven't exactly taken the wrong turn at Albuquerque, Giles," he sighed through gritted teeth, oddly impatient with the teasing manner in the librarian's voice. "I'm dead."[/color]
"If you were dead, I wouldn't be here."
[color=#2f4f4f;]"Maybe you're a schizophrenic hallucination."[/color]
"If I were a schizophrenic hallucination, Ric,"[color=#2f4f4f;] Giles reported with a note of dry humor, [/color]"I still wouldn't be here."
[color=#2f4f4f;]Alaric sighed and looked down over his shoulder at the void, and then back at Giles. But now he didn't just see Giles; over the librarian's own shoulder he could see the beginning outlines of a sharp, young female face. It was slender and sharp, as heartbreakingly familiar to the young headmaster's heart as it was pretty. Giles turned to look at it too and smiled at the way the face observed Ric, tenderly, with a note of fiery passion that burned hotter than any summer sunrise that Alaric had ever been rudely awoken to.[/color]
"You're right. You're not done here yet, Ric. Now go prove it."
[color=#2f4f4f;]The face grew brighter in definition than ever before, bright enough that Alaric could see the fiery red curls of her hair and the brilliant topaz-orange color of her eyes; then it burned out like a match when you put your thumb over it, leaving the world devoid of color and meaning once again. Alaric's eyes filled with tears unbiddenly and he looked at Giles, who smiled like he imagined a father would and moved forward to clasp the hyperkinetic's shoulder. There was something about that touch - it was like the sands of time themselves had sculpted an avatar to comfort him in his final hours, and it had worked. Immediately, the dousing of cold water over his soul started undergoing the process to becoming nothing but a cruel memory of a crueller experience, and the warmth he'd seen when the face had looked at him took hold again. But the cold wasn't done gnawing on him yet.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"And what if I can't prove it, Bill?" he asked. Giles smiled at the use of his given name and took a step back, shrugging casually as though he'd been asked whether he wanted sprinkles on an ice cream.[/color]
"Then, my dear boy, it's as they say. It's your funeral."
[color=#2f4f4f;]His entire body kicked forward at once, and the balcony tipped over; Giles looked around easily, dusted his shoulders off as he stood stock still, but Alaric went tumbling forward into the unknown below, arms stretched out and face quickly turning from a mix of surprise to one of determined, wicked challenge. At a thought, his wings expanded from the slits in the back of his blazer; the two brilliant white appendages began to soar of their own accord, and with a snicker, a single dreamed up prayer for the best, Alaric Carlisle flew headfirst into the void.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]His body kicked forward again, and he sat up, gasping and clutching at his chest. The lights of Las Vegas welcomed him back with warm neon and a sudden battering of the senses; the hard concrete below him massaged his back with all the finesse of the T-1000 straightening out Ric's back with his metal fist. The hyperkinetic looked around, tousled his hair lightly, made sure that everything he touched and heard was real. He'd lived. He was alive.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]As soon as he'd registered that this wasn't heaven or heII, as soon as the first conscious thought pricked at the euphoria of his brain regaining all its senses at once, Alaric jumped up and ran towards the tug that Tara was giving his very soul. She hadn't made it far: two blocks, maybe three at most. She was easy enough to trace via the trail of telekinetic bread crumbs she'd left, and he found her crumpled up out cold in an alleyway, orange hair tossed about like a disjointed halo across her face. The hyperkinetic bent down to check her vitals, made sure she was still alive, and then lifted her up, helping carry her under his arm towards the parking garage.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"Where do you think you're going?" he replied, teeth still gritted in effort. "I just bought you a Lambo."[/color]