Snap

He was so tired of running. So very tired.

It wasn’t like he’d had a choice in the matter.

(There’s always a choice.)

Neal didn’t slump against the wall, but he dearly wished he could. He only had a moment to rest before he had to start moving again.

(He just wanted to rest.)

Why should he have to run?

Why couldn’t they just understand?

(Why couldn’t he go home?)

(You can’t always go home.)

(He should have remembered that.)

Behind him, a twig snapped.

 

Trifle

You merely adopted the shadows. I was born in it, molded by it. –Bane, from The Dark Knight Rises

 

One thing that Neal could never really understand about Chaos was that it wasn’t something that you could trifle with. You couldn’t use just a little bit of it and then never touch it again.

It wasn’t like a spring of water that you could dip a cup in and taste with only little water getting your face wet.

When you dipped into the Well of Chaotic Essence for anything, it was a full-body dip rather than a bucket or a cup. There was no turning back once it had permeated your skin and it permeated very, very quickly.

But even those that did so, whether by accident, misunderstanding or even purpose, it was very different from the few that had been born in the Essence of the Well itself and climbed out of it.

Star and Comet had come from the Well of Chaos, been created there using the strongest genes that Chaos had been able to obtain at the time and then It had gone one step further.

It tapped into what little of the Galaxy Cauldron that It could through the Well and tied them to something far greater than It.

Star and Comet may shine bright, but they could only do so while surrounded by the darkness that Chaos would enfold them in. They were the only ones that could use the powers that they had been given to harm Chaos due to that tie with the Galaxy Cauldrons. As such, they were far more powerful than Neal could ever hope to be.

Maybe that was why he focused his energies on them one at a time, trying first to get them to embrace the Chaos that had created their souls.

But once again, he had forgotten that you do not Trifle with those things born from the Well of Chaos.

Feeling Empty

Have you ever sat and pondered the purpose of life?

Just…stopped.

Stopped whatever you were doing and sat down, because you needed to think, needed to decide on a direction before you did anything else, even if it was just to sway in the winds of your trials and troubles.

Because you didn’t know which direction to go anymore.

Didn’t even know if you were moving in the first place in order to stop until you’d actually sat right down and thought about it.

This was very much one of those moments for Neal.

He realized that this was likely what had happened to Star and Comet, his untouchable cousins who were more sisters to him than anything else. Unbelievably old in comparison to everyone and anyone they’d ever met and yet so full of innocence.

Somehow untouched by all that they had seen and lived through, though how you could call most of their existence actually living was a mystery to him for so many years.

There had likely been millions if not billions of times that one or the both of them had sat down and stopped to think just as he was doing now.

It didn’t help him at all.

Because he didn’t know just what two paths (or possibly more) that they were choosing between. What good could such knowledge do for Neal now anyway? It wasn’t likely that he’d choose the path that led back to his family (though they likely would never call him such again). Going that way would be far more painful in the short run (possibly even the long run if he was honest. Some things once broken can never be put back together, especially when the pieces have been ground down to dust and scattered.)

Continuing the path he’d tread for so many decades now (had it really been that long? It didn’t feel like it) seemed the far more sensible course to take. He was already familiar with this path in the first place after all, and it was an old friend (or at least, an only friend.) Could he really abandon something he’d fought so long and hard for?

(Hadn’t he already had to rip apart his own heart and purpose once? Shouldn’t that have been enough?)

(It wasn’t. He knows that, somewhere inside of what is left of the soul he traded for empty promises.)

Know Thyself

‘Til that moment I never knew myself. –Elizabeth Bennet, A&E’s version of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice

 

It was so simple; he wondered why he hadn’t realized it before.

Being Chaos-souled didn’t mean you were evil or even particularly influenced towards doing things that could be considered evil, and not just because there was no such thing in real life as ‘evil.’ He wouldn’t go so far as to say anything about there only being power, but there was a grain of truth in the fact that there was no good nor any evil in the world.

There was simply Chaos and Order, nothing more and nothing less.

You could be more inclined to Order, but everyone had Chaos in them even if it wasn’t what gave them life in the same way as it gave life to the Chaos-souled. You could never be only one versus the other; there would always be a mix.

So why should they be trying to destroy Chaos? Why should they not be welcoming Her to join them just as they welcomed Order into their lives?

It was madness to try and destroy one of the stabilizing influences in the universe and yet that was what the Guardians and the Queens and the Galactic Alliance was trying to do.

He knew then what he had to do.

He had to find Her.

Not There

When you look for where I am, I won’t be there. –King Julian, Madagascar 3

 

The halls were not silent; they could never be when you were in a palace. There were always people around, even during a war. Men and women bustling about their business and the business of the crown, trying to do what they could for the war effort or for their own lives and ambitions. Even in the dead of the night the palace wasn’t quiet as the night shift for both guard and the servants or dignitaries that were working late or through the night on this or that project.

But still there was someone missing.

People had fallen during the war, both out on the battlefront and at home from the attacks that had slipped through and reached the home planets. The loss of people to death or to the Chaos-souled (which was an arguably worse fate, depending on who you asked) did not diminish the sound. In fact, the destruction that had been left in the wake of those who had been lost to the Chaos-souled was still being repaired as well which was only adding to the noise all over the city as well as within the palace halls.

There were many people missing, but there was someone in particular that was missing right now.

Neal.

Neal was missing.

And they had no idea where he had gone.

The war had been in full swing, or as full swing as any war could be said to be in, when they had noticed that Neal had gone missing. (Technically they were still at war with the Chaos-souled, but there was a very tense armistice in effect at the moment.) His rooms were orderly, or about as orderly as he ever kept them (which wasn’t much) and there was no note, no sign of a struggle or anything to indicate that he hadn’t left of his own free will.

But there was no indication that he hadn’t been blackmailed (though they’d thought that he would have come to them if he was having any kind of problems like that. He’d never seemed to have any kind of problem with others no matter what his past had been.) And so, they worried.

Because no sign of a struggle was not a sign that he had left without some kind of outside force.

It Starts Slowly – Snippet

“Hold onto me!”

“I’m doing the best I can!”

“Well, it’s not good enough!”

He leaned back against the canyon wall as the pair of rock climbers continued to argue above him. Neither was in any kind of danger nor were they particularly upset with one another. They just seemed to enjoy arguing about every little thing.

It irritated him.

These people just going about wherever they wanted to go without any care or regard for the natural order of things.

It wasn’t natural for people to be hanging off the side of a canyon, being held up by a collection of ropes and hooks. They certainly shouldn’t have time or energy to bicker back and forth at each so often, as if this was nothing more than a game to them.

(He doesn’t realize that his hand is slowly glowing with an absence of light with every negative thought or complain he has about the people above him.)

Not Quite One-on-One Spar

Neal grinned and laughed out loud when his charge swung at him. He ducked, well away from the violent attack that the teen had let loose.

“You’re going to have to try a lot harder than that to get me!” he called as he charged an attack of his own and sent it at her legs. She jumped out of the way just in time, though the hems of her pants were smoking slightly from where the cold fire had caught the edges.

He doesn’t even blink when she retaliates, but is surprised when another attack manages to knock into him after he’s just dodged the arrow from the now grinning teenager.

“You should expect others to back me up when I’m fighting, Neal!” she crows as one of her friends, who he hadn’t even noticed sneak up behind him, takes him out.

“This was supposed to be a one-on-one spar to improve your skills!” he complains.

“Aren’t you always telling me I need to use whatever or whoever is available in a fight?”

“This wasn’t one of our skirmishes!”

“You didn’t say I couldn’t have help, you just told your sisters not to help me out. Justine isn’t one of your sisters.”

Neal huffs in mock irritation.


This is just a little snippet from waaaay long ago for the Former Guardian ‘verse,  back before Neal went off the deep end or Solaris was even out of her teens.