And Boys Will Be... Obnoxious

***Please note temporary description!!***
The interior of the library has been drastically altered, and recently.
At first, all you see is sheet after sheet of some kind of black material, attached together with wires, bolts, boards, and just about anything else you could imagine finding in a workshop. The sheets rise up to a point in the middle of the room, apparently forming some kind of cone-shaped internal roof inside the library. Stretched over the sheets are a myriad of steel cables; each stems from a hole in the wall, tangles with other cables, and escapes through yet another hole. Water that leaks through the outer roof sheets down the inner into a complex gutter system, which shunts it out the cable-holes in the wall. The books -- and their shelves -- are not immediately apparent. One of the panels in the cone is hinged, and lifts easily to form a door. Peering inside, you find the books -- their shelves are arranged like the spokes of a wheel to support the massive inner roof.
Obvious exits:
Basement Main Street

Miklos pages the room: Miklos decides, randomly, that it's about 2:00 in the afternoon. That all right with everyone?

The library is filled with the fine yellow light that one only gets on a half-clouded day, dust motes dancing among the bookshelves. Miki is sitting on the librarian's desk, kicking his feet absently and looking up at Rex, his bag at his feet. Fred Lemisch is leaning on a nearly-empty library cart nearby - a battered, war-worn, gray-painted relic which looks as if it might have been passed down since before the Long Night.

Fred watches the other two nervously, his eyes tracking from one to the other. He swallows quickly and says, "W-w-well, y-yes, I'd like t-to travel fa-fa-farther for b-books. B-b-but I have to ta-take care of things here, so c-c-can't go down the T-trail." He pauses, then sighs. "M-maybe someday."

Miki looks from Rex to Fred. "Well," he says. "I will have to remember that books are appreciated here. Maybe my brother and I could bring some."

Rex rubs the back of his head. "I'm sorry I didn't know. There was that ol' house I stayed the night 'bout a month down the Trail. Had a big ol' library an' the roof was still fine."

Fred Lemisch smiles at Miki's offer. "I'd b-be glad to have anything y-you f-f-find. It doesn't ma-matter if we have it already, you know. Extras are always g-good."

Miki smiles back at Fred. "I will remember," he promises.

"G-great!" Fred checks his watch. "Oh. I should g-go check on that book I was reb-binding. The g-glue should be about dry." He nods to the pair and makes his way over to the basement stairs, then vanished into the depths.

Tucking his feet under the edge of the desk, Miki gives Rex a slightly worried look. "Did I say something wrong?"

Rex shakes his head. "Nah. He's just awful shy." Rex smiles down at Miki. "Maybe someday, I'll go back down the Trail a bit, just to hunt for books. That'd be a nice past-time. Though I'd hafta take a big cart and a horse, I guess. That's what Fred drives."

Miki nods. "That sounds... interesting. Fun. Hunting for books." He smiles up at Rex. "Like looking for treasure."

The Kin grins down at Miklos. "Treasure huntin' -- yeah! That's a great way of thinkin' of it. Thar's gold in them thar pages!" He laughs and plants himself on the desk next to Miki. "D'you stay in old houses when you travel? Doesn't it feel creepy sometimes? Almost like... like those folks never really left?" He runs a hand through his thick forelock. "But I s'pose you'd know if they hadn't left, huh?"

A shy grin appears on Miki's face as he looks up at Rex. "I could not help knowing," he says. "And that has happened, from time to time. But... I suppose one gets used to ghosts. One can get used to anything. I like old houses."

Rex shrugs slightly. "I was used to the ol' ghosts in the main Pride house. They said that old Shagmane had stuck around, and that was mostly the one we saw or heard. Y'know, doors slammin', lights flickerin', roarin' in the night, that sorta thing."

Miki's eyes get a little wider. "Roaring in the night?"

Rex nods. "Oh, yeah. He'd be all, like, 'I'm the Big Cat here, roar roar roar, get outta here, roar roar roar, you piddlin' little boys, roar.' And we'd all just get up in the night an' yell, 'Shut up, grandpa!' Mama was real annoyed when he started kickin' up a fuss. She'd threaten to make a talen of him, y'see, and he'd shut up, just like that, and we wouldn't hear from him for at least a week."

Miki's eyes get even wider. "Wow. That is... really interesting! What is a 'talon'? And how do you put a ghost in it? Is it like a ghost-bottle?"

Sunshine opens the door, letting in a wash of fresh air, and enters.
Sunshine has arrived.
Simon opens the door, letting in a wash of fresh air, and enters.
Simon has arrived.

Miki and Rex are sitting side by side on the Librarian's desk. There is an abandoned (but nearly-empty) library cart nearby.

"Oh, a talen," Rex says dismissively. "It's... well, Changers bind a spirit into it and kinda... well, y'tell the spirit what it's gotta do when its binding gets loosed, and then it does it and the spirit goes away. So, I guess it's like a spirit-bottle 'r somethin' like that, 'cause they're there until they get let go and they do their thing. I think Mama was just plannin' to leave him in it."

Sunshine steps in from the street, closely followed by Simon. The normally serene Healer seems oddly worried.

Simon, upon seeing his friends, bursts out, "Miki!" Sunshine gives him a quelling look, and he subsides.

"Oh," Miki says to Rex, then catches sight of Sunshine and her charge. He smiles at Simon, his face lighting up.

Rex looks over at the entering pair. "Oh, hey!" Then he sees Sunshine. "Um. Hi."

Simon grins at Miklos. The dark youth's worry seems to ebb at the sight of his friend, safe and sound, before him. "Hi!"

Sunshine smiles at Rex. Though her worry doesn't dissipate as readily as Simon's, she seems pleased to see the boys, as well. "I'm sorry to interrupt, boys. If you have a moment, Miklos? It need not be immediately. I have a book I would like to find..."

Miki looks from Simon to Sunshine. "I, um." He looks at Rex, then hops off the desk. "If you are looking for a book, perhaps you should ask Mr. Lemisch? He just went downstairs." He's not trying to be rude, he is simply quite honestly confused.

Sunshine smiles gently. "Excellent. When I have found the book, perhaps you will have a moment to answer some questions I have?"

Simon fidgets, edging closer to Rex and Miklos.

"It isn't any trouble, ma'am," Rex says, politely enunciating his speech in ways that he doesn't when he's just around his friends.

Miki nods at Sunshine. "Of course," he says, still sounding slightly bewildered.

Sunshine smiles, nods to Rex, and heads into the Basement.
Sunshine has left.

Miki looks hopefully at Simon. Perhaps he knows what this is all about? "Hi," he says.

Simon positions himself next to Rex. "Hi. Sorry, about Miz Sunshine. Sometimes I think she just likes being mysterious." He gives Miklos a somewhat worried once over. "You are alright, aren't you?"

"I... I'm fine," says Miki plaintively.

Rex looks back and forth between Miki and Simon.

Miki continues to look utterly bewildered. "I do not understand why you are worried," he says.

Simon explains, "Miki was at the Farm last night, and then he started talking to the air in some language I couldn't understand. And then he just 'poof!' vanished!" The boy's dark hands demonstrate the 'poof'. Simon gives Rex a look that plainly says that he doesn't expect to be believed.

A bright blush starts to make its way up Miki's throat. He covers his face with his hands. "I am sorry," he says, muffled. "That was my fault."

Rex cocks his head to the side and raises his eyebrows. "Well, there're some Mages who c'n do that." He turns his dark gaze upon Miki questioningly.

Miki says, from behind his hands, "I stayed too late. I had asked Anderja to bring me home, you see, because it takes so long to walk, and I felt him tugging, and I didn't have time to get down the ladder..." His forehead is bright red.

Simon looks miffed. Not upset, but not thrilled, either. "I didn't know he could do that. Can he listen to everything you say, or only what you say in that other language?"

Muffled by his hands, Miki replies, "He could not hear me." In a lower voice, he admits, "I was just, you know, saying bad words. Swearing."

Rex smiles at Miki and pats his shoulder. "Hey, it's all right." The Kin looks at Simon and smiles.

Simon sighs. "Oh. Well, that's good, I guess..." He doesn't switch sides, though, sticking closer to Rex than to Miklos for the moment.

Miki emerges from behind his hands. He's still rather flushed and looks more than embarrassed. "Simon, I am very sorry to have startled you like that. I should have been more careful."

Rowan, about six books underneath his arm, pushes in the main door, dealing with the cables as if it were second nature by now, and detours around the small clutch of boys, grunting a vague hello. He's clearly meaning to reshelve his books himself.

Miki scoots further back on the desk, ostensibly so he can lean back and look at Simon behind Rex, but also, coincidentally, putting Rex between him and most of the world.

Simon starts to reach behind Rex to reassure Miklos, when Rowan walks in. "Um, it's okay, Miki," he says instead. "Did you tell Rex about the... unicorn?"

Rex nods to Rowan as he comes into the library, and turns his head to Simon. "Unicorn?" He looks at Miki. "Unicorn?"

Miki shakes his head violently, his hair whapping Rex in the back. "No, Mr. Lemisch was here when we walked in--" he says in a low voice, then stops. He leans back and reluctantly looks around Rex's shoulder at Rowan. "Um. Yes."

Rowan stolidly puts books away, apparently completely ignoring the three.

"Tell me about the unicorn," Rex commands, but it's got a note of pleading in it.

"Um," says Miki unhappily. "Now?"

Simon pipes in, "Miz Sunshine'll want to hear about the unicorn, too..."

Miki scoots further back on the desk, so that he's sitting almost completely behind Rex and Simon. "Maybe we could go to the Farm and talk," he suggests desperately.

Rowan starts whistling under his breath, and gets diverted by one of the books next to one he reshelved. Soon, he's sitting on the floor, completely (and stubbornly) ignoring them, by all obvious measures totally enwrapped in the book.

Sunshine returns from the basement, a large book under one arm. "Yes, thank you, Fred," she says over her shoulder. "I certainly will." The worry that tainted her smile earlier seems to be largely eased.

Rex turns his body around to look at Miki. "Aw, c'mon, man. I can't go out to the Farm. I've gotta go make dinner for Miss Anita in about half an hour. She's feelin' poorly. Tell?"

Simon leans over the desk to look at Miklos. "Why can't you tell here? Hey, there's Miz Sunshine." He waves towards the healer before looking back at Miki.

Miki sighs. In a low voice he says, "Well. Okay. I was up on the Mountain--" The capital letter is quite clear in his voice-- "just exploring. And I saw something weird. White. So I followed it. And it turned out to be a unicorn."

Rowan is flipping pages at a reasonable rate.

Sunshine sees that the boys are discussing something, but misses Simon's wave as she heads first towards Rowan. "Rowan?"

"Neat!" Rex exclaims loudly. "What happened?"

Simon listens avidly, inadvertently leaning slightly against Rex. "Well, we know he didn't catch it..."

Rowan barks his head against the bookshelves as his name is called. "Huh? Oh, hi, ma'am. What's up?"

Sunshine winces slightly as Rowan bumps his head. "I didn't mean to startle you, Rowan. I was just wondering how you've been, and if you've seen Kelsey recently." She smiles almost apologetically, to have interrupted the young man's reading for such trivialities.

Taking a deep breath, Miklos starts to continue, then stops and *looks* at Simon. His face is still a little flushed from his previous embarrassment, so it is hard to tell if he is blushing. Then he says, still in a very low voice. "Well, it was... dancing, I guess. Picking up leaves with its horn and prancing through them and things. It made a leaf glow. I still have that one..." His voice trails off for a moment. "Anyway. I stood very still, but it saw me eventually, and it looked very surprised. And it came and sniffed at me and let me touch its muzzle."

Rex's eyes go wide and, for once, he has nothing to say.

"I'm... less confused than I might be. And as for Kels, she's around. And about, even." Rowan shrugs. "Can't really predict when and where, though."

Simon has the grace to look abashed at the look. Then eyes and mouth go wide and round. "It touched you? Keen!"

Miki says, "Well, and then it spoke to me."

Sunshine smiles gently. "That's good." She glances towards the door, then looks at the group of boys, before returning her attention to Rowan. "You see her, then? At least occasionally?"

Safi opens the door, letting in a wash of fresh air, and enters.

Rex blinks. "Spoke?" he blurts. "The unicorn... spoke?"

Rowan nods. "Yeah." Voice only slightly shadowed, he adds, "We're still, you know. /Us/."

Miklos nods solemnly. "It did, although... I am not sure if it spoke out loud. It said that it had been a long time since anyone had been able to track it." Miki looks a little proud of that. "And then it asked if I was hunting it, and I said I would not, because it could speak and because it was beautiful."

Simon looks, not unreasonably, as if several fairy tales had just come alive and started talking to him. "Wow... Yeah, you'd better not hunt it. Unicorns are good luck!"

Sunshine smiles gently, reaching one hand to touch Rowan's shoulder. "I am glad to hear that, Rowan." She glances towards the boys. "I think I may just have missed part of a conversation I should not have missed..."

"That's soooo coool!" Rex crows, hopping up and spinning around. "I *knew* this place was awesome! I *knew* my sister was right! Great Destinies Are Us!" He ends up facing Miki, leaning on his hands on the edge of the desk.

Looking a little overwhelmed, Miki nods. "And then it said something about whether anyone was hunting me. I said I didn't understand and it turned into a man." The utter bewilderment of that experience reflects on Miki's face.

Rex's eyes bug.

Sunshine's eyebrows rise at Rex's cavorting. "Not that I'm disputing the majesty of this area, but... What turned into a man, Miklos?"

Simon blinks. Lots. Other than that, he sits perfectly still.

Miki doesn't look happy at the idea of raising his voice, but he answers politely enough. "The unicorn I met on the mountain, Ms. Sunshine."

Sunshine looks speculatively down at Rowan. "I have never heard of a unicorn shifter," she says quietly.

Rowan tells Sunshine, "G'head," and then, determinedly, goes back to his book. Though he adds, "That happened to Kelsey," over his shoulder, before ignoring the boys completely again.

Simon wrinkles his nose and stares into space for a moment. "I've never heard a story about unicorns turning into people..."

Sunshine's eyebrows rise further. She touches Rowan's shoulder again. "What happened to Kelsey? Seeing a unicorn?"

"Yes, well..." Miki runs a hand unhappily through his hair. "Then he stole my hair ribbon and put it in his hair and turned back into a unicorn and ran away," he concludes in a rush, apparently addressing the desk.

Rowan looks back up from his book. "Yeah. Which turned into a man and kissed her. It was..." He searches for words. "Kind of freaky."

Rex straightens up and strokes his chin thoughtfully. "That's... weird. So now there's a unicorn... kissed Kelsey?" He turns and looks to Rowan. "Is *that* what she was singin' about all those times?"

"Were you there?" Sunshine asks Rowan quietly. "Where did this happen?"

Rowan shakes his head. "I wasn't there." Abandoning the book (and his attendant efforts to be all but invisible), he adds, "It was up on the Mountain. Few months back, almost a year. She was all guilty about it, but..." He trails off, and shrugs.

Simon touches Miki's hair for an instant, then looks at Rowan and Sunshine. "I wonder if I could find it if I went to the mountain?" He keeps his voice down, hoping Sunshine won't hear.

Safi slips into the library, pausing a moment to look wide-eyed at all the people. She takes an inadvertent step back, staring.

Miklos continues to stare thoughtfully at the desk he's sitting on. "I, um, do not know," he answers Simon. "He said that he would see me again," he adds, in a low voice meant only for the boys leaning on the desk.

Sunshine does not hear Simon's question, concentrating on Rowan. "I see... Do you believe it was a unicorn, Rowan?" Safi's entrance distracts her for a moment, along with something else. She looks briefly over her shoulder.

Simon shivers slightly, although from the glint in his eyes, it's probably not fear. "Are you going to go looking for him? Can I come with you when you do?" He keeps his voice pitched low, for Rex and Miki's ears only.

Rowan shrugs. Voice and shoulders slightly tenser, he asks, "Does it matter?"

That gets Miki to look up, with the familiar half-smile and the glint of mischief in his eye. "If you do not mind being kissed," he murmurs, looking from Simon to Rex, a thread of laughter in his voice. "You have been warned."

Sunshine glances at the boys by the desk. Though she can't hear exactly what they're saying, she has some good guesses. "It may," she answers Rowan quietly.

Simon grins at Miklos, and Rex. "I've never minded it so far," he puts in.

Rex raises his eyebrows. "Kissed?" he says in a vaguely disbelieving tone.

Safi watches them all, a bit overwhelmed, apparently.

Was Miki blushing before? Well, it was nothing compared to the Red Armies of Embarrassment currently storming his face now. He manages to keep his voice level and low, however. "How do you think he got my hair ribbon?" he asks.

Rowan says, voice low, though not from any desire to mask what he's saying, "As far as I know, he was a unicorn. Now, mind you, he kissed my... my... whatever she is... so I'm kind of /biased/ about it, and not real /rational/ about it, either."

Safi looks around quickly, and then her gaze settles on Miklos, doubtfully.

Sunshine smiles gently at Rowan. "I understand. Still, you have no reason to think he might have been something else? A Mage, a trickster?" The way she says 'Mage', she might as well have said 'demon'.

Rowan shifts, where he's sitting. "I have no reason to believe he /wasn't just a freaky unicorn. But-- it makes my life easier if he /was/. So I may well be ignoring evidence."

Simon's grin looks ready to split his face. "That good, huh?" He's obviously teasing Miklos.

"He kissed you too??" Rex exclaims loudly. "Geeeez." He rubs the back of his neck. "So, like, when he became human, was he, you know, wearing clothes?"

Sunshine nods slowly, then glances at the boys and sighs. "Do me a favor?" she asks Rowan pleadingly.

"Rex!!!" exclaims Miki, in voice far too loud for any library. It is more than clear that if he had any control whatsoever over the ability to Be Elsewhere, he would be exercising it at this very moment.

Rowan, for the first time, glances at the boys, as well. "...Maybe?"

Sunshine crouches down closer to Rowan's level. Her voice is only audible to the young Garou.

Rowan's face clears. "Oh, sure. No problem. In a way, that's kinda part of my job anyways."

Rex hooks his thumbs in his belt and looks aside, giving the boys a nice view of his profile and the vast tumbling mane of black hair. "Well... sorry," he says, not really apologetically. "But was he?"

Simon, standing next to Rex, doesn't look at the taller boy's admittedly attractive profile. He just watches Miklos. "Yeah, was he?"

Sunshine smiles, straightening again. "Thank you, Rowan," she says, some measure of relief showing in her voice. Then she frowns, looking briefly at something behind Safi.

Miki looks down at his hands on the desk and deliberately shakes his hair forward to hide his still-bright-red face. "No, if you must know," he says defiantly and a little too loudly.

Rowan nods at Sunshine, and then shoots a half smile at Safi. And then, he goes back to reading.

Safi turns around swiftly, and then looks back to Sunshine; her expression betrays apprehension, and the startling-green eyes remain wary.

Simon's eyes dance. "And?" He prods Miklos verbally.

Sunshine's smile shows a hint of strain or worry as she nods to Safi. "I am never going to get used to these watchers," she mutters under her breath as she heads towards the boys.

"Yeah. And?" Rex leans forward with interest.

Safi swallows, and nods unconscious agreement.

Miki looks up at Simon and Rex with a wide-eyed, almost disbelieving, expression. "And nothing!" he says finally, sliding to the opposite side of the desk and gaining his feet in one fluid motion. "Nothing!" His voice is not teasing in the least. And with that, he makes for the door, almost running.

You step out of the library and into the street, leaving damp footprints for a yard or so.
Main Street(#61RJ)
This brick-paved, north-south street is in significantly better repair than the roads leading into town. It's nearly impossible to tell what color the original bricks were, or in what pattern they were laid, but someone has made sure that no hole gaped too large without being plugged with something. The roadbed is a patchwork of multicolored bricks, chunks of cinderblock, and large, flat stones. The mere thought of riding a vehicle over the resulting uneven swells is almost physically painful.
Most of the buildings along the street have not fared even this well. In fact, it is clear that much of the brick in the road was scavenged from the more ramshackle structures. Yet there are signs of life: a cafe with a newly painted sign, a clean welcome mat on the library's decrepit porch, a windowbox full of vivid flowers clinging to a crumbling windowsill. The brick-paved road extends less than a quarter mile before disappearing again into grass and chunks of decaying asphalt.
Obvious exits:
Ursa Diner Dock Farm Road Library Post Office Katahdin Road Edge
of Town

Rex bounds out the door and pauses, looking around for Miki.

Simon pelts out of the library, intent on following the other two boys.

Simon manages not to bump into Rex when the taller youth stops to look around.

Miki is a distant figure, pelting towards the Katahdin Road.

Rex catches sight of the flying white hair and immediately breaks into a run.

You follow one of many faint paths off the road, down to the lakeside.
It is only a few paces from the edge of the wilderness to the lake; trees crowd close to the water in every direction. The water at your feet is pristine, shining blue. Gentle ripples ruffle the glossy surface of the water and whisper at the shore. The hump of Katahdin Peak, blue-grey with distance, looms over the trees as they ring the lake. The air smells clean, rich with pine and fish. In the distance you can make out a dock, and other signs of human habitation; but here, only the calls of birds, frogs, and insects disturb the peaceful quiet.

An airship bobs over the lake at the end of long, fine tethers that are fastened here and there around the eastern portion of the lakeshore. An array of ropes and winches dangles from amidships, ending at a small, floating platform with couple of small, neat dinghies moored to it. Occasional sounds emit from the airship: spinning propellers, jets of steam, and voices.
Obvious exits:
Treehouse Katahdin Road

Rex pushes through the woods on a faint animal trail, coming from the direction of the road.

Simon pushes through the woods on a faint animal trail, coming from the direction of the road.

Rowan pushes through the woods on a faint animal trail, coming from the direction of the road.

Miki is standing by the lake, bent over and with his hands on his knees, obviously panting from sprinting all the way up here.

Rex arrives at the Lake in somewhat better condition, since he's been running on this road every morning for the last year or so, but his bare torso is still sheened with sweat, his hair is windblown, and he's still breathing hard. He hesitates at the edge of the clearing, and then trots slowly across it toward the lake. "Miki. Man, I'm sorry." He does, in fact, sound contrite this time.

Simon falls noticeably behind Rex on the run from Town, partly because he's just not in shape for sprinting this distance and partly because he's on unfamiliar ground. When he reaches the other two boys, he's panting from the run. He simply nods his agreement with Rex's apology, or what he heard of it.

Rowan, several minutes later, emerges from the Diner, falls into lupus, and, Blurred and scentless, trails after them. He seems to be expending most of his energy on paying attention to Simon; he skulks in the woods, trying rather firmly not to be seen.

Miklos looks up as Rex approaches, his face taking on that peculiarly blank expression which you are both familiar with. "It is all right. It was... foolish of me to be upset."

Simon seems mildly distressed, not only by being out of breath, but by Miki's blank look. "I'm awful sorry, Miki..."

Hands on hips, the Kin stretches his shoulders back and takes slow, deep breaths for a moment. Then he says, "Naw, Miki, I was bein' an asshole. I'm sorry."

Miki looks down at his feet. "It was not important. And you were just teasing."

Simon manages to get his breath back, though less gracefully than Rex does. "Yeah," he echoes the Kin. "I didn't mean to make you upset, Miki."

"I know," says Miki, very softly, apparently to his boots. Then he looks up at his friends. "I am very sorry, too. I should not have made a scene. Now I am even more embarrassed." His voice and stance are easier, though, much less constrained than they had been in the Library.

"Teasin' or not, it really upset you," Rex says. "What was wrong, man? You were awful high-strung in there. Was it too many people or somethin'?"

Simon positions himself next to Rex, unconsciously giving Miklos a little extra space. He lets Rex do the talking for the moment, looking around at the Lake, instead.

Miki shakes his head. "No. No. I was just... embarrassed, I guess." He presses the back of one hand against his cheek, as if to check whether the blush is still there. (It is, although it's fading now.)

"I'm sorry," Simon reiterates softly. He hesitates, but then can't resist asking, "But... why?"

Shaking his head again, Miki says, "I just. Did not want to talk about it, you know? In front of... them."

Simon blinks in confusion. "Them? You mean Miz Sunshine and, um, Rowan, I think his name is?"

Miki shrugs an enigmatic and possibly infuriating shrug.

Rex exhales loudly -- it may be a laugh. "Grownups," he says.

"We are not children, Rex," says Miki in a low, intense voice.

Rex pulls a wry face. "Most of 'em think we are."

The aforementioned Rowan has managed to lie down without appreciable sound, and is, truth to tell, trying not to listen. Protect, yes. Spy, no.

Simon makes a face, but shrugs. "I'm sort of a grownup," he claims. "Still, if we're not children, why didn't you want the older folks to hear?"

"There are reasons," says Miki tightly. He turns to look at the lake.

Simon scowls, crossing his arms over his chest. It's nowhere near as impressive a chest as Rex's, and Simon succeeds mostly in looking childish. "Which you're not going to tell me, because you think I'm a child? Or because I'm not as... as magical as you and Rex?"

"I do *not* think you are a child!" Miki says, the words tumbling out of him. "And it has *nothing* to do with magic!" He rakes his hair back with one hand in a quick, angry gesture.

Rex crouches down at the water's edge and dabbles his fingers in the mud. "Then what?" he asks quietly. "Was it one of the people in there?" He looks up at Miki. "Did someone say something to you about the unicorn? Or something else?"

Simon hesitates, then joins Rex and Miklos at the water's edge. He keeps his arms folded though. "Yeah, Mik... Why're you so... skittish?"

Miki sighs and crouches on his heels at the shore. He stares out over the water. "Rowan," he says, his voice quite flat. "I should not be in the same room with him, you know?"

Simon drops his arms, crouching down to poke at the mud. "Why?" He sounds genuinely puzzled, but much less defensive.

Rex's eyes slew around to Miki. "Why?" He frowns, and one hand aimlessly slides over his own shoulder to make sure the sword is still on his back.

Looking down at the reeds and mud at his feet, as if they are likely to provide him with stunning insights, Miki sighs. "Because, well. This sounds foolish, and boasting, but I am not. He wants me. But he does not trust me, or even *like* me, you see, and... that means that he will hate me, eventually. I have been hated before," he adds, looking up over the lake. "I do not like it much. One can live with it. But it would be bad, here, you know. Because..." He looks over at the peak of Katahdin, then down at his hands. His face has taken on that curiously still expression again, the edges standing out like something carved.

Simon ohs, looking not much enlightened. He follows Miki's gaze towards the mountain, then settles for watching the pale boy watch the peak. "Because?" He doesn't ask how anyone could possibly hate the impossibly beautiful young man.

"Because I do not think the mountain is going to let us go," says Miklos, his voice pitched to the lake, like an offering.

Rex's hand slips away from his sword and back to the water, where his fingers locate a small, smooth stone and pry it loose from the muck. He looks out over the water. "One of the fosters at the Pride," he says, apparently apropos of nothing, "was the son of the alpha of a different Pride. He didn't like me, 'cause he thought I should've been fostered out, bein' the son of the alpha. And, well, he wanted me. We had a really awful fight finally; he jumped me and... tried stuff." He runs his dry hand through his hair, and lingers on a spot at the back of his skull. "It was pretty ugly. And neither of us could leave. Yeah," he concludes. "Yeah, that could be bad."

Simon looks from one boy to the other, obviously out of his league. Sometimes there are disadvantages to an idyllic childhood. "Why, why wouldn't Katahdin let you leave?" he asks Miklos quietly. Unconsciously, or perhaps by Farm custom, he speaks the mountain's name as if it were a living entity.

Miki gives a dry, short, laugh. "I do not think it will be like that," he says. "But it will not be good. In other ways." He turns to look at Simon. "I do not know. I only know that the calling *grows* if you try to ignore it."

Simon pokes at the mud. Unlike Rex, he comes up with a snail shell. He rinses it carefully, and then simply holds it in the palm of his hand. "Calling?" He sounds genuinely puzzled.

Rex shakes his head. "Naw, it wouldn't be like that. Rowan's too..." The Kin grasps at words, finally settles on, "fundamentally decent. He gets flamingly pissed at the drop of a hat, but I don't think he'd turn into a backstabbing spineweasel just 'cause he can't cope with having the hots for you." He smiles fondly, if a little sadly, at Miki. "I mean, *I* don't know how anyone could resist having the hots for you. But I'm sure some people are weird that way."

Simon grins sidelong at Rex. "You're just saying that because Miki's really gorgeous, awfully cute, and sweet as spring sunshine." Deep, philosophical questions can always wait for a moment while he flirts.

Miki smiles up at Rex; a slightly sad smile, but a smile, which then gets turned on Simon. "As you honor me, please do not go telling people that he... you know. I do not think it would make him happy. Or me." His eyes are still sad.

Simon nods absently, looking back at the mountain. "Of course not, Miki..."

"Aw, hell no," the Kin says. "That's between you two, y'know? But all bets're off if he says anything to me about you. He'd probably take my ass to pieces, but I bet I could get one good shot in." Rex stands and whips his stone out onto the water, where it skips one-two-three times before diving under the surface. "Not that that's likely or anything. Not really. I like Rowan. I do. I guess I'm just surprised, y'know? He seems so straight. And," he adds with a rueful laugh, "a little hurt. Pride-wise, y'know? I mean, I'm no slouch in the looks department, but ain't no one around here that wanted my ass until the two of you came along." He shrugs. "But you're different, Miki. And sexy. So."

Simon admires Rex's ass as it passes his eye level. The snail on his hand pokes its head out, waggling its eyestalks and slowly beginning the trek towards his arm. "Definitely," Simon says. It's not entirely clear *what's* definite, though.

Miki looks up at Rex, surprise showing in his posture as well as his face. "I would be... surprised if there was no one who wanted you but us, Rex," he says. "These things are complicated." He looks back at the lake. "Too complicated," he adds, darkly.

Simon rather obviously doesn't see anything complicated about it. He doesn't say anything aloud, though. Instead, he looks from Rex to Miki to the mountain, and back.

Rex steps around to Miki's other side and crouches down next to him, laying an arm across his shoulders. "Yeah, they sure as hell are. And, well, if they wanted me, they sure can't figure out how to communicate it. Or maybe they were just too busy thinkin', 'That Rex, he's just a kid. Can't go tumblin' that.'" He growls a little at the end, then sighs.

Miki laughs and leans his head on Rex for a moment, rubbing his head against the Kin's shoulder in an oddly catlike gesture. Then he sighs and pushes himself to his feet. "We should go back to town," he says reluctantly, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. "Before Sunshine comes looking for you, Simon." He offers a hand to Simon, smiling apologetically down at him.

Simon takes the offered hand, dark hand against pale. He makes a face. "Yeah, probably."

Simon glances again at the mountain.

Rex also rises. "Yeah, an' Miss Anita's waitin' on dinner." His face clears a bit. "Oh, hey, I'll make some of Mama's curry soon. I'll make sure to take some to the Diner, Miki, so you can look for it. And I'll try to bring a pot out to the Farm, too."

Miki follows Simon's glance. "Katahdin does not tell its secrets," he says, softly. "Not to me, anyway."

Simon grins at Miklos. "Maybe we can go ask it up close sometime."

Miki smiles back. "We should try it."

Simon keeps hold of Miki's hand as the boys troop back towards town.

Meanwhile, just after the boys ran out of the Library...

Safi watches with veiled eyes, shrinking back slightly against one of the shelves. Her brow furrows deeply, her expression dark and perhaps accusing.

Sunshine just watches the general exodus, bemusement overlying annoyance and the everpresent background strain.

Safi bites her lower lip. The people have left, at least... but the one who remains is full of tension. Nervousness shows in her movements, marring the girl's animal grace as she goes to a shelf to find a book. A large, thin book, a reading primer of some kind.

Sunshine carries a book, as well, though hers is a rather much thicker volume. She nods faintly to the wild girl. She doesn't say anything, simply joining the tail end of the exodus.

You step out of the library and into the street, leaving damp footprints for a yard or so.

Main Street
This brick-paved, north-south street is in significantly better repair than the roads leading into town. It's nearly impossible to tell what color the original bricks were, or in what pattern they were laid, but someone has made sure that no hole gaped too large without being plugged with something. The roadbed is a patchwork of multicolored bricks, chunks of cinderblock, and large, flat stones. The mere thought of riding a vehicle over the resulting uneven swells is almost physically painful.
Most of the buildings along the street have not fared even this well. In fact, it is clear that much of the brick in the road was scavenged from the more ramshackle structures. Yet there are signs of life: a cafe with a newly painted sign, a clean welcome mat on the library's decrepit porch, a windowbox full of vivid flowers clinging to a crumbling windowsill. The brick-paved road extends less than a quarter mile before disappearing again into grass and chunks of decaying asphalt.

Safi exits the library, accompanied by its rich, musty smell.

A little while later, Safi comes out of the library, looking about cautiously.

Sunshine is standing at the crossroads, looking around. She seems to be trying to decide which way the boys went, but she's regularly distracted by invisible somethings.

Safi approaches carefully, and when she speaks there is a certain uncertainty in her voice. "You are... not well?"

Sunshine suppresses a startle in a way that looks practiced. "I'm fine, Safi," she says with a faint echo of her usual warm smile.

Safi nods carefully, and then makes her way northward--toward Katahdin and the trees.

Sunshine watches Safi for a moment. Her eyes flicker away, towards the trees, then back at the Library. Very deliberately, she closes her eyes, standing quietly in the middle of the road for a long moment.

Safi moves north on Katahdin Road, leaving the center of town.

When Sunshine opens her eyes, some of the strain in her eyes has eased. She looks towards the road north, but heads instead back towards the Farm.