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Chapter 2

The first thing Arys noticed the next morning was the fact that he was not alone like he had been when he had fallen asleep. The body that was pressed up against his back was small and judging by the shallow breathing, he assumed the other kid must still be asleep.

‘What do I do?’ The boy asked himself as he lay there trying to keep from having a panic attack. ‘Did I really sleep heavily enough that I didn’t even notice somebody else cuddling up to me?’

Arys slipped out from beneath the blanket slowly, trying not to disturb the person lying with him. He wanted to have a chance to study the situation before he was faced with the question of how to handle the intruder into his personal space. Arys sat with his back leaned up against the wooden slats that made up the sides of the playground equipment and watched the sleeping brown-haired boy for several minutes. He appeared to be the same age as Arys, but the boy couldn’t be sure, and the mystery boy wore a tan-hoodie that rode up his back slightly revealing a tan complexion. The boy rolled onto his back and he absently reached down and scratched his stomach. Arys’ breath caught in his throat and he froze when he caught sight of the smooth stomach, light lines revealed where he was starting to tone up the muscles of his abs. The boy sighed dreamily, and Arys turned his attention back to the boy’s narrow face. His small pink lips were parted slightly as the boy exhaled each breath. His button nose would flare every now and then his eyes would roll back and forth beneath his closed eyelids as the boy dreamed in his sleep. Arys suddenly felt drawn to the boy as he continued to stare at the sleeping form. He felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach.

‘Why do I feel like this?’ Arys asked himself as he continued to stare at the beautiful boy. He froze when he glanced down and realized that he was reaching out to touch the other kid. ‘What the hell is wrong with you, Arys?’

Arys returned to his original spot against the wall of the fort and decided to wait for the boy to wake up. He didn’t know this kid and didn’t want to risk the chance of the boy attacking him or running off without giving him any answers. No, all Arys could do was wait. He tried to think back into the previous night to see if he had noticed anything but decided that he couldn’t remember anything happening. Then, Arys remembered that someone had moved him in his sleep the night before and decided that he needed to find better places to sleep if he was going to stay on the street much longer. It didn’t help that the wind that morning was colder than usual, and Arys was finding it difficult to keep from climbing back under the blankets with the mystery boy. The frigid air did little to help the boy’s bladder though, and soon, Arys was trembling as he waited for the boy to stir.

Unable to wait any longer, Arys peeked over the side of the structure and saw an outbuilding nearby that had a bathroom sign on the side of it. Arys took one last glance at the brown-haired boy stretched out in front of him before his bladder finally pushed Arys to move. As he headed towards the bathroom at a dead run, Arys couldn’t help but hope that the boy would stay asleep long enough for him to get back to their little hideaway. Arys winced slightly at the rancid odor that hit him the moment he entered the bathroom, but quickly did his business before he went back outside. Arys nearly screamed when he ran straight into the boy that was cuddled up to him.

“Sorry!” The boy called out as he slipped around Arys and into the bathroom. “I really gotta’ pee!”

Arys giggled slightly and shook his head as he continued towards the jungle-gym. He was nearly back to the playground equipment when he heard running feet coming up behind him. Arys immediately tensed up as he turned but felt relieved when he saw it was the boy.

“Hey,” the boy said and Arys found himself tongue-tied as he gazed into the icy blue eyes of the mystery boy. The boy smiled shyly and blushed before he reached up with his hand and scratched his head. “Umm, sorry about last night. It’s just, it got really cold last night, and you were in the spot that I normally sleep in, and you looked-.”

“It’s alright,” Arys said to keep the boy from babbling on.

“Sorry,” the boy’s blush deepened, dimples forming in his cheeks that made Arys’ heart race.

“It really is okay,” Arys smiled. He turned back towards the jungle-gym to hide his blush from the boy. “Especially, if I was in your spot. There wasn’t anybody there when I got there-.”

“I was running behind,” the boy cut in, explaining as he kept pace with Arys. “There was a concert being live-streamed Downtown, and I didn’t want to miss it.”

“Oh,” Arys said as if that explained everything. “So, this is your spot?” Arys motioned to the jungle-gym that was built to look like a castle.

A plastic yellow slide ran from the far side down to the ground and the tarp that acted as the equipment’s ceiling had gray and blue stripes running down it. The wood was stained a deep brown, and the entire thing only stood ten-feet tall. The boy followed Arys’ gesture and smiled as he took in the same sight as Arys did. He had a sad smile on his face as he nodded.

“It is,” he said softly before he turned his attention back to Arys and smiled softly. “It was.”

Arys looked confused for a moment before the boy continued.

“It’s a good spot,” the boy said, a blush spreading to his cheeks. “It would be a better spot if I had someone to share it with, though.”

Arys smiled.

“Really?” He asked with a grin. He couldn’t believe his luck that this other boy would be willing to share his home from the elements.

“Yeah,” the blue-eyed boy said before he held out his hand to introduce himself. “I’m Xander. Xander Croft.”

Arys hesitated for a moment before he reached out and took Xander’s hand in his own. Arys blushed as he felt the other boy’s skin against his own and a lump formed in his throat.

“I- I’m Arys Conner,” the boy from another time said shyly.

“It’s nice to meet you, Arys,” Xander assured the boy before he motioned towards the ladder. “After you, new friend.”

Arys smiled and nodded before he quickly scurried up the ladder with Xander right behind him.

Each boy took a seat on the floor and smiled shyly at each other until Arys shivered from the cold. He quickly grabbed the blankets and offered one to the other boy.

“You don’t have to share,” Xander said softly. “I’m used to being cold, Arys.”

“I want to share, Xander,” Arys replied with a shrug.

Xander blushed before he reached out and took the blanket from Arys.

“It’s soft,” Xander commented as he wrapped it around his body.

“And warm, too,” Arys added with a smile as he did the same with his blanket.

The sky rumbled overhead and Xander frowned.

“It looks like we’re better off staying here today, Arys,” Xander said sadly. “It’s going to rain.”

Arys looked around the tarp to see that the sky was filled with dark clouds and he grimaced. He hated storms.

“It won’t last forever,” Xander said when he saw the look on Arys’ face.

“It doesn’t matter,” Arys said as he turned his green eyes back to Xander. The boy tried to force himself to smile. “I just don’t like storms. I’ll get used to it, Xander. I promise I won’t freak out or anything.”

Xander smiled.

“I’m here if you need support,” Xander said shyly. “That’s what friends do.”

“Promise?” Arys asked nervously. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt like he could trust this boy that had come out of nowhere in the middle of the night. He quickly blushed and looked down towards the ground between them. “I mean-.”

“I promise,” Xander agreed before he scooted closer to where the boys’ knees were almost touching. Arys looked up at Xander and blushed. Xander nodded once and repeated himself in a firmer tone. “I promise, Arys. I’ll keep you safe during the storm.”

Arys’ grin broadened.

“So,” Xander said to break the silence that was slowly beginning to form between the two boys. “How did you wind up out here?”

“What do you mean?” Arys asked in confusion.

Xander giggled.

“You sound almost as crazy as I do, Arys,” the boy said with a sigh. “I mean, how did you wind up living on the streets?”

Arys frowned.

“I don’t think you would believe me if I told you,” the green-eyed boy said softly. “You should go first, Xander.”

“I honestly don’t know, Arys,” he replied with a shrug. “I don’t remember anything from before two years ago.”

“Nothing?” Arys asked in disbelief.

“Absolutely, nothing!”

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know,” Xander said as his mood shifted slightly, and he frowned. “It gives me a headache to even think about it, honestly.”

“Oh,” was all Arys could think of to say until Xander giggled and smiled at him. “What?”

“Do you want to see something cool?” Xander asked hopefully.

“What is it?”

“Something that I’ve never shown another living soul,” Xander replied with the tone of someone hiding a huge secret. He grinned smugly at Arys. “Do you promise not to freak out?”

“I don’t know,” Arys replied nervously. Xander’s questions were beginning to make him worry. “Is it scary?”

“Not really,” Xander replied with a shrug. “Just relax and don’t move. I promise that it’s nothing bad. We might even be able to use it.”

Arys grinned and rolled his eyes.

“Fine,” he giggled. “I promise not to freak out.”

“Good,” Xander replied, still grinning suspiciously. “I’d hate to lose you as a friend, already.”

Arys giggled again.

“It’s too late for that, Xander. You’re stuck with me, now.”

“I don’t mind,” Xander replied dreamily before he shook his head and giggled. “Okay, just watch. Remember-.”

“Don’t freak out,” Arys cut the other boy off. “I doubt that you could do anything that would ever sh-.”

Arys froze.

Xander was suddenly gone.

“What the fuck?” Arys mumbled in surprise. “That’s-. But-. How?”

Arys continued to stare at the spot in disbelief until he saw the background shift slightly.

“Holy shit, Xander,” Arys said breathlessly. “Did you camouflage yourself?”

Xander suddenly burst out giggling as he faded back into view.

“How did you figure it out?”

Arys stared in disbelief at the now visible boy. A million questions flew through his mind all at once, but he promised his new friend that he wouldn’t freak out.

“I saw the background move,” Arys replied in a trembling voice.

Xander’s brow furrowed when he heard the quiver in his new friend’s voice, and he quickly reached out and took Arys’ hands in his own. Xander rubbed the back of the boy’s hands with his thumbs as he tried to reassure the boy.

“I’m sorry, Arys,” Xander said quickly. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just feel like-.”

“You feel like you can trust me, for some reason,” Arys finished for him, their eyes locking in a moment that seemed like years to the two boys. Both boys blushed deeply before they broke their gaze.

“Exactly,” Xander said quietly. “Do you want to ask me questions?”

“Kind of,” Arys replied with a shrug. “I- I just don’t want to ask you something that upsets you.”

Xander grinned and squeezed Arys’ hands gently.

“I don’t think there is anything that you could ask me that would upset me.”

Arys blushed shyly and hesitated.

“Go ahead,” Xander urged softly. “It’s okay. I promise, Arys.”

“Okay,” Arys replied. “Does- does it hurt?”

“Nope,” Xander answered. “It does kind of tingle, though.”

“How does it work?”

“I’m not sure,” the boy said with a shrug. “I think I can bend light around my body, or something like that. It’s really weird. Sometimes, I can’t control it, and it just goes off on its own. Usually, I’m able to do it without even thinking about it, though.”

“Have you always been able to do it?”

Xander giggled making Arys blush shyly.

“As far as I can remember,” Xander said as he patted Arys’ hands to let the boy know that his questions were still okay. “All I know is that I woke up in an alley, propped up against some rusty dumpster. I’ve spent the last two years just trying to stay alive.”

“Oh,” Arys said sadly. “I’m sorry that you had to go through that, Xander.”

“I’ve managed to survive,” Xander said with a shrug. “What about you, Arys? Where did you come from?”

“Do you promise not to laugh?” Arys asked, trembling as he dreaded the story that he was about to tell.

“I swear to it, Arys,” Xander replied truthfully. “I won’t laugh at you.”

Arys hesitated before he finally nodded and told Xander his story. The storm broke and rain began falling against the canopy over their heads, making Xander lean in closer so he could hear Arys’ soft voice. The haunted look in his green eyes told Xander that everything Arys was saying was completely true. Xander felt his own hate growing as Arys started to tell him about life with the Monster and how he had run away to stay alive. Arys told Xander about how he had left Zachary behind and how the Monster had chased him down the alley, pinning him against the garage and beating him until the door broke open and Arys broke free of the man’s grasp. Then, Arys told Xander everything that had happened to him from that point on until he met Xander. Xander never once laughed at the boy, only staring at Arys in surprise until the boy finished his story with tears falling from his green eyes. Xander was surprised to find his own cheeks were wet as he wiped the back of his hand on his face when his vision blurred. Arys was trembling, fighting the urge to sob as he waited for his new friend to start laughing at him.

Arys let out a soft gasp when Xander hugged him tightly, instead.

“I believe you, Arys,” Xander reassured the boy. “I mean, how could I not? You’ve seen what I can do. Why couldn’t it be possible for you to travel through time? I bet that bastard was stumbling through that garage for hours looking for you.”

“I don’t think I did it on my own, though.” Arys said as he held on to the front of Xander’s hoodie.

“What do you mean?”

“I saw a hand push Harold’s hand away from me when I fell into the garage, Xander,” Arys said thoughtfully. “It didn’t even look real, though. There were voices the other night, too. It seemed like they were talking about me. Plus, everything strange that has been happening with my backpack.” The boy shrugged his shoulders and sighed, not wanting to move away from Xander’s embrace. “Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure it out, soon enough.”

“You won’t have to do it alone, Arys.”

“I’ll help you figure out you’re past, too, Xander.”

“Thanks, Arys,” Xander said before his stomach growled. “It’s a shame that it’s raining. I know a small little church that has the best soup.”

Arys suddenly pulled away from Xander and reached for his bag.

“Are you leaving?” Xander asked in confusion.

“No, silly,” Arys replied with a giggle. “I have my own surprise.”

Xander looked puzzled but remained silent as he watched Arys dig through the rucksack.

“What are you doing?”

“Just wait,” Arys said pleasantly. “You’ll see in a second. It’s nothing bad, I promise.”

Xander rolled his eyes as Arys used his own words against him.

“Close your eyes,” Arys ordered as he glanced back at Xander.

“Why?” Xander whined.

“Just do it, please?” Arys almost begged.

“Fine,” Xander groaned before he closed his eyes and covered his face.

Arys smiled and quickly pulled out the remaining sandwiches and the bags of cookies. He pulled out the two bottles of juice and two bottles of water along with some chips and laid everything out on the ground between the two boys. Once he was satisfied that everything was how he wanted it, Arys returned to his seat and pulled the blanket back over his shoulders.

“Okay,” Arys said finally. “You can open your eyes, Xander.”

“Fina-,” Xander started to say, but fell silent the moment he noticed the spread Arys had laid out before him. Xander looked at Arys in disbelief. “Are you sure? You don’t have to share your supplies with me, Arys.”

“It’s what friends do, Xander,” Arys said with a grin before he handed Xander one of the sandwiches.

“Thank you, Arys,” the blue-eyed boy said with a soft smile.

“Thanks for sharing your spot with me, Xander,” Arys replied with the same soft smile.

Then, the boys enjoyed their snack as the rain continued to fall from the skies above.

Arys wanted to cry as each store window he passed displayed the same date.


His hands were trembling by the time he made it to the end of the street he had been walking, and his spirits were slowly falling. The storm had passed after about an hour, giving the sun a chance to come out and warm up the cold fall air. Xander opted to run to the church so he could meet his other friend and promised to return that night after dark. Deciding that he didn’t want to be alone in the playground, Arys went for a walk. There was a slight crispness to the air that signaled the approach of winter, and the likelihood that Arys would be stuck outside during the season of snow and ice. His only hope was that it wasn’t going to be that bad of a winter.

‘Two blankets is never going to be enough,’ he thought grimly before he started to think more about Zachary and what he could do to protect the boy. ‘I could go ahead and warn CPS about Harold Stubbs. They can start keeping an eye on him, now.’

Then, the boy decided that would be a bad idea. He didn’t want to take any chances of changing the future for himself if he somehow was in the same universe. He seriously doubted that he was in the same world, though. Even Xander had agreed that it was completely weird, but Xander did confirm that Starfleet had been around his entire life.

Arys hated the idea that he could actually be experiencing this strange reality. He pondered the idea that he had made it exist, but he dismissed that notion once he decided that he didn’t have the mental ability to come up with something like he was experiencing. Then, he started to wonder if his other life was the one that was a dream. Was everything just one long nightmare that he wasn’t able to awaken from until recently?

‘Is that how it was for Xander?’ He asked himself as he thought about how the boy had woken up without any idea of where he had come from or what had happened to him. ‘Was I just the subject of some crazy experiment?’

Arys frowned and found a bench to sit on so he could think. He pulled his hood over his head and watched as different people passed by without noticing him. The boy started the first time he watched a group of different aliens walk by, but he kept himself from running away by holding onto the front of the bench. His heart was beating rapidly, but he forced himself to calm down when Arys noticed that nobody else was reacting the same way. Several humans even smiled and waved at the strange group as they passed each other. Arys shook his head in disbelief before he turned his head and saw a Vulcan with blue eyes watching him from across the street.

It only took Arys a moment to realize that it was the same man from the other day, and it took everything within his power to keep from running away and causing a scene. That would definitely draw unwanted attention to the boy. That was one of the ways Xander had survived the different gangs that had sprung up on the street. He simply waited until he could slip away without being spotted.

‘It would be easy for me, too, if I could camouflage myself!’

The boy ran through multiple possibilities of what he could do before he finally decided on trying to slip in with the next group of people that passed by. He knew it would be risky, but it was the only way for him to get away from the Vulcan. Arys grinned for a moment as he thought about how Spock on Star Trek would always raise his one eyebrow whenever he found something that intrigued him, and Arys couldn’t help but imagine the same expression on the Vulcan’s face as he planned his escape. Arys was about to join a small group of people that were approaching when he felt someone sit on the bench next to him. The boy glanced to his right long enough to see that there was nobody there. Arys narrowed his eyes until he saw the tell-tale shift in the bench that proved he wasn’t really alone.

“You’re a hard kid to track down,” Arys grinned when he heard Xander’s voice from beside him.

“That increases my survivability chances,” Arys replied smugly as he tried to keep his lips from moving too much. “Can you help me get out of here?”

“Are you being followed?” Xander asked in a worried tone.

“Yeah,” Arys replied. “The Vulcan across the street is watching me. I think he’s the guy I ran into the other day.”

“How can you tell, Arys?” Xander asked, still unable to be seen by anyone unless they looked closely like Arys had.

“How many Vulcans do you know that have blue eyes?” Arys asked pointedly as he saw the group of people getting closer. It was now or never. “Can you help me, or not?”

He heard Xander giggle before the boy replied.

“Hold out your hand, and don’t freak out,” Xander instructed. “Hurry. I don’t want pointy ears over there to see me do this.”

Arys held out his right hand.

“What are you going to do?”

“This,” Xander said before Arys felt the other boy slip his hand into his at the same moment that the group of people passed in front of them. “Don’t move until I tell you to, Arys.”

“Okay,” Arys said as he waited for the people to pass. The moment they were gone, the Vulcan’s eyebrows shot up into the air and his blue eyes went wide in surprise. The man looked both ways before he finally shook his head in disbelief and walked away, clearly trying to hide his disappointment. Arys let out a sigh of relief. “That was close. Thanks, Xander. You are really awesome!”

Arys smiled when he heard Xander’s shy giggle.

“Thanks, Arys,” the boy said softly.

Arys froze when he glanced over and realized that he could see Xander as they held hands together. His green eyes opened in disbelief as he studied the boy beside him that seemed to have tiny points of light reflecting from the surface of his skin. Arys couldn’t help but smile as he took in the sight of his new friend.

‘He’s beautiful,’ he thought before he forced himself to look away.

“Don’t let go of my hand, and come with me, Arys.”

“Okay,” Arys said as he stood when he felt Xander tug on his hand.

“Whatever you do,” Xander warned. “Don’t try to walk through anyone or anything, okay?”

“Whatever you say, Xander,” Arys replied as they headed in the opposite direction of the Vulcan. He peeked back a few times to make sure that the alien was still walking away and didn’t relax until the man was out of sight. “I thought for sure that I was going to have to run for it! You got there just in time!”

“Sorry,” Xander replied. “I was trying to get there sooner, but Davie wouldn’t tell me where you were.”

“Davie?” Arys asked as the name seemed familiar to him.

“Yeah,” Xander said. “He’s one of my best friends. He never really leaves the church, though.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think he feels safe outside of the church,” Arys’ new friend explained. “I don’t know. It’s not my story to tell.”

Arys suddenly felt better about trusting his secret with Xander, but he still couldn’t quite pinpoint where he had heard the name before. He knew it was recently, though.

“Anyways,” Xander continued. “I went to the church to see if they had any soup left, and Davie started telling me how he met this boy that thought he was from the future. He described you perfectly.”

“Oh,” Arys said as he felt a knot forming in his throat. If the boy from the church was telling people about him, Arys would never be safe. The Monster would find him and kill him. Arys stumbled slightly and his hand slipped from Xander’s. He saw the light pull away from his body before it closed in front of him, and Xander was completely hidden from his vision. Arys just froze and looked down at the sidewalk as his green eyes filled with tears.


Arys heard his friend’s voice and saw the boy’s dirty sneakers in front of him, but he couldn’t bring himself to look at Xander.

“Arys, what’s wrong?” Xander asked sadly.

“I have to go, Xander,” Arys said softly. “You won’t be safe if the Monster finds me. He’ll kill you, too.”

“What do you mean, Arys?” Xander asked, his voice trembling. “Look at me. Tell me what’s wrong. You don’t have to go anywhere!”

Xander suddenly reached out and grabbed Arys’ hands, squeezing them gently before he pulled the boy into a hug.

“I don’t want you to go anywhere,” Xander admitted quietly.

“You won’t be safe with me, Xander,” Arys tried to explain.

“There’s nothing safe about living in the playground, Arys.”

Arys sniffled as he raised his eyes to meet Xander’s icy-blue ones. He had to force himself not to get lost in those eyes before he lost control over his emotions and ruined their budding friendship.

“Besides,” Xander continued. “We’re safer together, Arys.”

“If Davie is telling people about me-.”

“He won’t,” Xander said quickly.

“How can you be sure, though?” Arys asked pointedly. “He told you.”

“I’m his best friend,” Xander said as if that should explain everything. “We don’t keep very many secrets from each other.”

Arys looked at Xander for a moment before he finally nodded in defeat.

“Would it make you feel better if I went and asked Davie not to say anything to anybody else?” Xander asked as he reached up and rubbed his thumb across Arys’ cheek.

“Maybe,” Arys replied with a shrug. “I just-.”

“I get it,” Xander said before he suddenly leaned in and kissed Arys’ cheek. “I’ll meet you at the playground, Arys. Stay out of trouble.”

Xander faded from sight and was gone before Arys could even recover from the shock of Xander kissing his cheek.

‘He kissed me,’ Arys thought as he put his hand to his cheek and blushed. Arys couldn’t help but smile as he turned to head back towards the park. ‘Xander kissed me.’

Charles tried to focus on the paperwork in front of him, but he couldn’t take his mind from the boy and how strangely he had been acting the night before. He and Vanek had decided to find a way to help the boy, and Charles had already given all his employees the heads up to never charge the boy. Melissa had already sent the message to her bosses about the boy, and she had received a reply within the hour that she would be the agent assigned to the boy’s case. Charles couldn’t be prouder of his wife. It was Melissa’s dream to be a Case Agent for the Federation Youth Services, and she had accepted the position at once.

Charles’s wife was spending the morning going through a training course on the details about her new security levels before she would be spending the afternoon forming her plan to find the boy. The brown-haired man couldn’t help but frown when he caught sight of the boy’s dollar sitting under the edge of his computer’s keyboard. More than anything, he hoped Melissa would be able to figure out the mystery behind the little boy. Charles strummed his fingers against the desk before he finally pushed his chair back with a sigh. He knew that the kid would be safe if he could just find him again. Melissa would be able to help him get off the streets and maybe figure out what had happened to him.

‘How could he possibly be from the future?’ Charles asked himself. ‘Time Travel is only from the movies.’

“Hey, Charles?” The brown-haired man glanced up to see Trish, his first shift employee, standing at the door to his office.

“Hey, Trish,” Charles said, quickly gathering his thoughts. He hated to be distracted when he had a ton of work to do. “What’s going on?”

“Vanek is here to see you, sir,” the older woman said with a blush. It was no secret to anyone that she had an attraction towards the younger Vulcan, but it was also no secret that his affections were directed towards Charles’ brother Harold. “Would you like me to send him in?”

“Yes, of course, Trish,” Charles quickly assured the woman with a smile. “He never has to wait.”

“Yes, sir,” Trish said before she turned and left Charles alone.

It was only a moment before the Vulcan was standing in front of him. Charles could tell that something was bothering the man, but he knew better than to ask Vanek what it was. He would tell Charles when he was ready.

“Do you have news about the boy, Vanek?” Charles asked, instead. He wasn’t quite sure how to greet the Vulcan without offending him.

“I have had a rather. . .,” the Vulcan hesitated for a moment before he continued. “Intriguing experience regarding our new friend, Charles.”

“Oh?” Charles asked as he patiently waited for his friend to continue.

Vanek’s only sign of feeling troubled was the worry in his blue eyes as he sat in the seat across from Charles’ desk.

“I saw the boy just down the road from here, Charles,” Vanek explained. “He was sitting on one of the benches near the Federation building in broad daylight.”

“Okay? There’s nothing strange about that, Vanek,” Charles said with a shrug.

“I know that, Charles,” Vanek said calmly, his eyes flicking to Charles for a moment.

“Sorry,” Charles apologized, quickly. “I won’t interrupt, again.”

Vanek nodded his head once before he continued.

“It wasn’t the boy sitting on the bench that was strange, Charles,” the Vulcan said, his voice sounding distant to the man. He sighed deeply. “He vanished into thin air, Charles.”

Charles looked at the Vulcan in disbelief.

“How is that even possible, Vanek?”

“I am not sure, Charles,” Vanek said with a slight frown. “I believe somebody at Starfleet would know, but I would not be able to give you any of the details.”

“Go figure,” Charles said with a groan. “Will you at least try to keep me in the loop?”

“If I can,” Vanek told him honestly.

“That’s the best I can hope for,” Charles said with a shrug of his shoulders. “So, the boy just disappeared?”

Vanek nodded.

“That is uncanny, Vanek,” the shopkeeper said with a thoughtful frown.

“Why do you say that, Charles?”

“He’s been spotted multiple times by either of us, Vanek,” Charles explained his theory hesitantly. “Why didn’t he use his ability before? Why did he wait until, today?”

“Maybe, he has just developed an ability, Charles?” Vanek suggested.

“No,” Charles disagreed, his green eyes looked thoughtful for a moment. “That doesn’t seem right, either. Maybe-,” Charles suddenly laughed and shook his head. “Never mind, Vanek. I already sound crazy enough as it is.”

Vanek frowned at the man.

“Charles, you worry too much about what other people think about you,” Vanek said as he relaxed in his chair. “Tell me about your theory. You never know what could be possible.”

“Okay,” Charles said after a moment of hesitation. “Did the boy do anything strange before he vanished?”

“What do you mean, Charles?”

“Did he move or anything?”

Vanek looked thoughtful for a moment.

“As a matter of fact, Charles, the boy looked to his right just before he disappeared,” the Vulcan said. “Then, he raised his hand and vanished as a small group of people passed in front of the bench he was sitting on.”

“He didn’t slip into the group?”

“No,” Vanek said with a brief shake of his head. “I checked.”

“Then, he must have met someone here with an ability, Vanek,” Charles said in conclusion. “There’s no other explanation for it.”

Vanek looked thoughtful for a moment.

“You might be correct, Charles,” the Vulcan said. “It does seem logical that he would have made a friend by now.”

“I just hope that it’s not someone that’s going to get him into trouble, Vanek,” Charles said with his own thoughtful frown. “At least, we know the boy will be in good hands, now that Melissa is on the case.”

Vanek nodded in agreement.

“I need to make a few phone calls, Charles. I will be in touch with you this afternoon,” the Vulcan said as he stood from his chair.

“I’ll let you know if I see the boy, Vanek,” Charles told the Vulcan.

“Live long and prosper, Charles.”

“Live long and prosper, Vanek,” Charles replied before the Vulcan left him alone in his office.

Charles frowned before he returned to his growing mound of paperwork.

Arys Conner walked slowly along the sidewalks as he found his way back to the park, keeping his hood pulled over his head to keep from being spotted by the Vulcan with blue eyes.

‘It’s like I’m destined to meet him,’ Arys thought grimly. ‘I wonder what Xander is going to say about it?’

Arys couldn’t help but smile as he thought about his new friend. It had barely been a day, and already Arys considered Xander to be one of his best friends. He also couldn’t describe the feeling that he got in the pit of his stomach whenever he thought about Xander kissing his cheek.

‘What are you doing, Arys?’ The boy asked himself. ‘You barely know him.’

Arys decided to learn as much about Xander as he could before pursuing a relationship with the brown-haired boy. Arys sighed wearily. He was tired. Emotionally, as well as physically. The past forty-eight hours had been full of nothing but one surprise after another, and Arys just wanted to rest. He wandered around the city until something told him to stop and look up. When Arys did, he noticed that he was in the same spot where he had first appeared in this crazy universe. There was a pile of boxes knocked on their sides, but there wasn’t a door like Arys had opened when he was running for his life. It was just a narrow alleyway between two brick buildings with trash strewn about the ground. For anybody else, the alley was just a way to get to the other side of the buildings. For Arys, it was the alley that had saved his life. He still had no idea how he had managed to go from being in the alley that ran behind the Stubbs’ house to being in the alley in front of him, but he was thankful to be alive.

Arys took one last look down the mystical alley before he finally headed in what the boy hoped was the direction of the park. His thoughts were distracted with the different ideas he had been having on how he could have possibly wound up in the same universe as his favorite television show, that he didn’t even notice that he had someone walking directly beside him. The same person that he had been trying to avoid for two days.

“May I have a word with you, child?” Arys stumbled at the sound of the rich-baritone voice coming from beside him and glanced up to see the Vulcan looking down at him, his blue eyes were filled with concern. The man didn’t give Arys a chance to respond before he continued. “I promise that I am not going to cause any harm to come to you, child, and I will not alert the authorities as to the whereabouts of your current location.”

Arys looked at the man in disbelief for a moment before the green-skinned man did something that wasn’t very Vulcan. The alien smiled at the boy as he slowed his pace to match Arys’.

“Would you be willing to at least speak to me, child?” The man asked. Arys frowned before he finally nodded. The Vulcan looked thoughtful for a moment before he turned his attention back to the boy. “As long as I do not believe that you are in any kind of danger, our conversation will stay between the two of us. I only want to know because I fear for your safety, and I want to help you, child.”

“You don’t even know me, though,” Arys blurted out before he started to walk on in frustration.

“I feel connected to you, child,” the Vulcan called out after the boy, making Arys stop in his tracks. “Do you feel it, as well?”

Arys turned around slowly as thunder began to rumble in the skies above for the second time that day.

“Yes,” Arys said in quiet disbelief. “Is that why you’ve been following me?”

“I have not been following you, intentionally, child,” the Vulcan explained thoughtfully. “I believe that we have been running into each other.”

Arys nodded thoughtfully as he considered what the man had been saying.

“Would you be willing to at least tell me your name?”

“Arys,” the boy replied softly. “I’m Arys Conner.”

“How old are you, Arys Conner?”

“I’m ten,” Arys said before he frowned. “Don’t ask who my parents are because I don’t know. I’ve never known who they were.”

“I am sorry that you had to grow up like that, Arys,” the Vulcan said. “No child should have to grow up without loving parents.”

Arys sniffled slightly as the familiar lump formed in his throat and his stomach turned in knots.

“You can’t miss what you’ve never had,” Arys said, trying to sound brave as he turned away from the strange man with blue eyes. The boy quickly wiped the sleeves of the hoodie across his face before he turned back to face the alien with an almost defiant look in his green eyes, as if he was daring the Vulcan to tell him that he had been crying. “What’s your name? It’s only fair.”

The Vulcan smiled and nodded.

“You are correct, it would be unfair to withhold my name,” the man replied. “I am Vanek, son of Vilnar, son of Salik, of the Family Vilnar, of the House of Surak.”

Arys’ eyes bugged out for a moment.

“Do you have something, umm, shorter that I can call you?” The boy asked quietly.

Vanek chuckled lightly and patted the boy’s shoulder.

“You may call me Vanek,” the Vulcan told the boy. “May I ask you a question, Arys?”

“I guess,” Arys replied with a shrug.

“How long have you been living on the streets?”

Arys frowned before he answered Vanek’s question.

“Two days,” he said sadly. “I ran into you right when I got here.”

Vanek nodded without questioning Arys’ statement, much to the boy’s surprise.

“You really do believe me, don’t you?” Arys asked suspiciously.

“I do,” Vanek replied.

“Can I ask why?”

Vanek smiled.

“A friend of mine owns a store near here, Arys,” Vanek explained. “He called me the other day and told me about how a small boy had come into his store with a currency that was no longer in use. What bothered him the most, was the fact that the currency in question had dates that did not even exist, yet. Do you know what the current date is, Arys?”

“It’s ‘2004’, sir,” Arys replied nervously.

“It is, Arys,” Vanek confirmed before he smiled at Arys. “You do not need to call me sir, either, child. My name will suffice.”

“You know the man from the store?” Arys asked quietly.

“I do.”

“I made him mad,” Arys admitted sadly. “He threatened to call ‘Youth Services’ on me.”

“He told me, Arys,” Vanek confirmed for the child. “He also told me how much he regrets what he said to you, and he wants to make it up to you.”

“He does?” Arys asked doubtfully.

“He does,” the Vulcan replied with a nod.


Vanek smiled and pulled a small white card out of his pocket and presented it to the small child.

“What’s this?” Arys asked as he glanced at the small plastic card.

“It is a credit card, Arys,” Xander told the boy warmly. “It has enough money on it to keep Charles from questioning your purchases.”

“Oh,” Arys said absently. The shiny plastic card had a series of numbers across the front of it, as well as a small picture of Vanek in the top right corner. He looked up at the man in disbelief after he read the Vulcan’s name off the card. “This is yours, though. They’ll accuse me of stealing it if I try to use it.”

“Charles is already expecting you to use it, Arys,” Vanek reassured the boy. “There will be no questions asked if you use this card at ‘Conner’s Shop’.”

Arys smiled slightly before he tried to give the card back to the man.

“I can’t take your money, Vanek,” the boy tried to say, but Vanek simply turned around and started walking off in the opposite direction.

“Charles is expecting you, Arys,” Vanek said with a slight grin as he caught the dumbfounded look on the boy’s face. “He gets off from work in a few hours.”

Arys watched the man walk away before he glanced down at the card in his hand, again.

‘Why is he being so nice to me?’ Arys thought before he glanced up in time to see the Vulcan turn the corner. ‘Do I really deserve this?’

Arys frowned before he finally decided to just go for it and go find the store that he had already visited twice, now.

Charles nearly knocked over the new display he was working on when the boy with brown hair and green eyes stepped into his shop. The boy appeared to be trembling as he approached the store owner, and Charles quickly smiled warmly so the boy wouldn’t be afraid.

“Hello, there,” Charles greeted the nervous-looking boy. “How may I help you?”

“A man-,” Arys frowned as he contemplated the idea of just giving up when his stomach growled obnoxiously. He fumbled in his pocket and held the card out for Charles to look at. “A man gave me this.”

Charles’ eyebrows went up in surprise when he saw Vanek’s name on the card before he quickly schooled his expression and smiled at the boy.

“Vanek is a good friend of mine,” Charles reassured the boy as he returned the card to the boy. “Any friend of Vanek’s is a friend of mine.” Charles motioned to the different shelves. “Get whatever you need, kid. Your money isn’t any good here.”

“Why, though?” Arys asked.

Charles smiled at the child’s question.

“Because, it’s the right thing to do,” Charles replied honestly. “I’m Charles Conner,” he added as he held his hand out towards the boy. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Arys Conner,” the green-eyed boy replied nervously before he finally shook the man’s hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Arys,” Charles told the boy.

“You, too, sir.”

“Now,” Charles said as he continued with a grin. “I’m fairly sure that I heard your stomach growl earlier. My wife just so happened to give me three sandwiches today, instead of the normal one. How would you like to share my lunch with me, Arys?”

Arys frowned hesitantly before his stomach growled again.

“Well,” Charles said with a laugh. “We know how your stomach feels about the situation, at least.”

Arys blushed as he giggled.

“Stay right here, and I’ll grab you a chair from the backroom, Arys,” Charles said before he stepped into the back.

Arys considered leaving, and never returning to the store, but something seemed to be holding him there. The brown-haired man returned a moment later with a chair for Arys to sit in. Then, Charles grabbed his stool from behind the cash register and pulled it around so he could enjoy his own lunch. Charles handed Arys one of the sandwiches out of his lunchbox before he grabbed one for himself.

“Enjoy, Arys,” Charles said as he handed the boy one of the foil-wrapped sandwiches. “My Melissa makes an excellent chicken sandwich.”

Arys smiled.

“Thank you, Charles,” Arys said as he unwrapped the food and bit into it hungrily. “This is better than the ones in the bag.”

“I’ll make sure Melissa knows that you liked it, Arys,” the man said with a grin. “She’ll be happy knowing that I remembered to share.”

“You told her about me?”

Charles could hear the sound of worry in the boy’s voice, so he did what he could to dispel the child’s anxiousness.

“She wouldn’t have given me extra sandwiches if I didn’t, Arys,” Charles said with a chuckle as he patted his stomach. “Having you around is going to be a huge benefit for me! Melissa won’t even question it when I ask her for extra lunch, every day.”

Arys smiled as he visibly relaxed, and Charles fought the urge to feel relieved. Together, the man and boy finished Charles’s lunch before Arys finally thanked the store owner and left for the day.

“Where are you going, buddy?” Charles asked the boy as he headed towards the door.

“I was going to go back to the play-,” Arys froze for a moment before he deftly switched what he was going to say. “The place I’ve been staying so I could make sure nobody took my bag.”

Charles nodded in understanding before he motioned towards the shelves.

“Don’t forget to stock up for the night, Arys,” he told the boy. “Take whatever you need, and I’ll try to sweet talk my wife into giving us little extra tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Charles,” the boy said shyly before he started walking around the different shelves.

“You’re welcome, Arys,” Charles told the boy with a smile. “Holler for me when you’re ready, and I’ll bag everything up for you.”

Charles watched the boy for several moments before he stepped into his office and called Vanek.

“Greetings, Charles,” Vanek said when he picked up the call.

“He’s here, Vanek!” Charles blurted out, excitedly. “Arys! The boy! He’s here. I was able to convince him to eat lunch with me, and he’s getting himself a few supplies, right now.”

“Good,” Vanek said calmly. “Have you heard from Melissa, yet?”

“No,” Charles said with a slight frown. “I haven’t. I’ll call her once Arys leaves and let her know what I found out.”

“What did you find out, Charles?” Vanek asked.

“I know where the boy is sleeping, Vanek,” Charles said smugly.

Charles relayed as much information as he could to his Vulcan brother-in-law before he heard Arys call out his name from the front of the store. They ended the call quickly before Charles went out to help Arys get his stuff into a bag.

“This isn’t nearly enough for a growing boy like you,” Charles said with a chuckle before he escorted the boy around the store and began adding more snacks and candy to his bag. “There you go,” Charles said once he was satisfied that the boy would be taken care of for the night. “That should keep you a day or two in case something keeps you away tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Charles,” Arys said with a slight blush as he pulled out the Vulcan’s card to give to Charles. “I really appreciate the help, sir.”

“Come back whenever you need anything, Arys,” Charles reassured the boy. “Go ahead and keep ahold of Vanek’s card, for now. I’m sure that he’s already had an addendum put on it so you can use it.”

Arys glanced at the card for a moment before he stuffed it back into his pocket.

“I’ll try to come back here tomorrow, Mr. Conner,” the boy said before he walked out of the door with a bright smile on his face.

Arys couldn’t help but smile as he walked back towards the park with the plastic bag of groceries in his hand. He had been afraid of the two men, at first, only to have them turn out to be willing to help him. He wasn’t completely sure of their intentions, but he hoped that they were going to be true to their word. The last thing he needed was to be set up and wind up back in foster care.

‘Will anybody ever genuinely care about me?’ Arys asked himself as he turned down a side street, losing himself in his thoughts. ‘Should I even trust these guys?’

The boy walked slowly as he tried to gather his thoughts. Arys had no idea why he felt so drawn to Vanek and Charles, he only knew that he needed to figure it out before he fell into some sort of trap.

‘Keep your head together, Arys,’ he told himself. ‘You don’t need to get yourself into trouble.’

He continued to wander down the city sidewalk, enjoying the solitude he had with his thoughts. He didn’t need to worry about the Vulcan any longer. The alien had introduced himself to Arys, and the boy found that the man wasn’t as scary as he had first seemed to be. Charles had turned out to be a nice man, as well, and Arys couldn’t wait until he got to go back to the store the next morning. He wanted to spend time with the brown-haired man, again.

‘Don’t trust them just because they fed you, Arys,’ the boy told himself thoughtfully. ‘That’s not a very smart move. You need to think like a survivor.’

Arys frowned.

It’s going to be a long time before I’m able to trust anyone, again,’ the boy thought miserably.

Thunder echoed through the sky above, making Arys glance up to see that the sky was once again filled with gray rain clouds.

‘I hate the rain,’ Arys told himself as he pulled his hood over his head.

The boy picked up his pace as he tried to find his way back to the park before the rain set in. More thunder rumbled overhead, making Arys walk all the faster. He hoped Xander would be waiting for him like he said he would do.

“I haven’t told anybody else, Xander,” Davie reassured his friend with a brief smile. “Stop worrying about it. We’re the only two people that know about him.”

Xander glanced at his green-eyed friend with a shy smile as they stood on the sidewalk outside of the church.

“Thanks, Davie,” Xander said. “I appreciate your help. I’m sure Arys will feel better about it, too.”

“Glad I could help,” Davie quipped with a giggle before he changed the subject. “I have to go away tomorrow, Xander, so you probably won’t see me around here for a few days.”

“Why?” Xander asked with a frown. “Where are you going?”

“There’s something that I have to take care of,” Davie said with a grin before his green eyes went distant for a moment.

“What’s wrong, Davie?” Xander asked in concern as he saw Davie frown. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Davie said as he shook his head and forced himself to smile. “I’m fine.”

Xander scowled when he heard the edge in Davie’s voice, but he decided to let it go for the time being. Davie could keep his secrets.

“If you say so,” Xander sounded unsure as he studied the strawberry-blonde standing across from him. Davie looked like something was bothering him and Xander just couldn’t let it go. “Listen, you’ve always been there for me, Davie. I don’t know how, or why, but if you need anything-.”

“It’ll be okay, Xander,” Davie quickly reassured his friend. He still appeared to be agitated over something. “I’ll get in touch with you when I get back, okay?”

“Oh, okay,” Xander said sadly before he turned to leave.

“Hey!” Davie said as he quickly reached out and grabbed Xander’s hand to stop the boy from leaving. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I should be getting back to the park,” Xander tried to say, but he was cut off as Davie pulled him into a tight hug. Xander’s blue eyes opened wide in surprise as a soft chorus started to sing in the back of his mind. “Oh!”

“Relax, Xander,” Davie instructed his friend softly. “Now, I need you to do me a favor while I’m gone.”

“What is it?” Xander asked hesitantly, afraid that he might interrupt the voices that seemed to be singing to him. Something about the chorus seemed familiar to the boy, but Xander couldn’t figure out where he had heard it before.

“Keep an eye on Arys for me, Xander,” Davie said quietly. “He’s more important than you could ever imagine.”

“Really?” Xander asked as he pulled away from the hug, regretting the choice instantly as the chorus faded away, leaving Xander feeling empty and alone. “Arys? I mean, I know there’s something different about him, but he’s just a kid. How could he be important?”

Davie smiled patiently.

“Trust me, please?”

Xander frowned before he finally nodded.

“Good,” Davie said before his expression turned serious. “Now, I have one more thing to tell you, Xander. There’s a catch, though.”

“What do you mean, Davie?” Xander asked in confusion before he narrowed his eyes at the boy. “You’re more than what you appear to be, aren’t you?”

Davie giggled in amusement.

“If you only knew, Xander,” the green-eyed boy said smugly.

Xander rolled his eyes in annoyance.

“Will you ever tell me?”

“Maybe,” Davie said with a shrug. “I’m not exactly certain what the future has in store for any of us.”

“Fine,” Xander said with a disapproving grunt. He glared angrily at Davie. “I thought I could trust you, Davie. You were my best friend!”

Xander turned and stormed off before Davie had a chance to say anything else. The eleven-year-old was fuming as he marched back towards the park.

“Xander, wait!”

He heard Davie’s voice coming from behind him, but Xander refused to slow down.

‘I’ll never trust him, again!’

“Please, Xander!” Davie practically begged. “I promise that I will tell you everything when I get back! I swear to it!”

Xander finally stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and waited for Davie to catch up to him.

“You’re right, Xander,” Davie admitted as he finally joined the brown-haired boy. “I am more than I appear to be, and I wish that I could tell you everything! I really do. I never meant to hurt you, Xander.”

Xander frowned.

“Do you promise?”

“I promise, Xander,” Davie said with a sniffle.

Xander looked over at the light-haired boy and blushed shyly.

“Sorry, Davie,” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean to lose my temper.”

“You had every reason to, Xander.”

Davie pulled Xander into another brief hug, and Xander felt a moment of peace as the song filled his mind until Davie pulled away.

“Now, can I tell you what is so important about the instructions I have for you?” Davie asked with a giggle. Xander grinned as he shrugged his shoulders.

“I guess.”

“Good,” Davie said with a smile. “Now, you’re not going to remember anything that I tell you until you need to remember it, Xander. Okay?”


Davie groaned.

“Of course, you would be the one to ask a million questions,” The strawberry-blonde muttered as he shook his head. “You sound just like my little brother,” he sighed as he gathered his thoughts. “I’m going to tell your subconscious a secret, Xander. I can’t tell you, because then the secret would be known before it was time, and that could have some major repercussions. It would be like I was manipulating the future.”

Xander looked thoughtful for a moment before he said anything else.

“Why me?”

“You’re the one it affects the most,” Davie told him bluntly. “All I can tell you is that it is good news.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Davie grinned.

“Okay,” Xander finally agreed. “Do it.”

Davie nodded and pulled Xander into another hug. This time, the chorus of voices was merely a whisper as Xander felt Davie’s breath against his ear, but he wasn’t hearing anything of what Davie was saying. Davie hugged him tightly again before he finally released Xander with a nod.

“There,” Davie said, seemingly proud of himself. “All set.”

“What did you do?” Xander asked.

“I told you a secret that will keep you from doing something,” Davie told him.

“Is that all you can say?”

“Unfortunately,” the blond-haired person said with a frown. Davie frowned as he reached out and took Xander’s hand in his own. “I’ll come find you in a few days, Xander. I promise.”

Xander nodded as he fought the urge to cry. He hated it when his friend had to leave and would spend the time checking the church daily until his friend returned.

“I hate it, too, Xander,” Davie said softly.

Xander looked at his friend in surprise and Davie rolled his eyes.

“I’m allowed to have friends, too, Xander!” The blonde-haired boy said with a grin. “See you soon, bud.”

Davie turned and walked away, leaving Xander staring after him in disbelief.

‘Does he really consider me to be his friend?’ Xander asked himself nervously. ‘Why would he want to be friends with someone that can’t remember their own life?’

Then, Xander thought about Arys for a moment. He thought about how he had felt the knot in the pit of his stomach, and how warm Arys’ cheek and felt beneath his lips. He considered the idea of kissing Arys again but decided that he didn’t want to drag Arys through the mess that was Xander’s so-called life.

‘I’ll tell him that we’re better off just being friends when I get back to the park,’ Xander decided before he finally started walking back towards the park.

Harold Conner relaxed back on his cot as he waited for his T’hy’la to pick up his cell phone. Harold glanced at the digital clock that was mounted on the wall beside his door. The man was on the verge of hanging up and trying again later when Vanek’s voice finally came through the receiver.

“Hello, T’hy’la,” Vanek said as he answered the call.

“Hello, T’hy’la,” Harold replied as a grin spread across his face. “I can’t wait to see you, tomorrow.”

“You would have little choice in the matter and need to wait. I also look forward to reuniting.” Vanek responded in kind. “We will need to make time for us to spend together upon your return.”

“If you’re asking me out on a date, Vanek,” Harold teased the Vulcan. “Then, I accept. It had better be someplace nice, too.”

“I do believe that McDonald’s is within my budget at the moment,” Vanek said with a hint of humor in his voice, only displaying a small range of emotions around those people he loved or cared for. Vanek had saved Harold from hurting himself when the fleet officer’s wife died in a house fire that took the life of their one-year-old son, as well. Harold had grown close to Vanek during the emotional period in his life, and now, he couldn’t imagine his life without the Vulcan that he loved so dearly.

“How did you know that McDonald’s was really my favorite place to go?” Harold asked with a slight laugh before his tone changed. “Honestly, I don’t care what we do, Vanek, as long as I get to spend time with you.”

“Then, you should enjoy the surprise that I have been planning for you, T’hy’la.”

“You’ve been planning a surprise for me?” Harold asked nervously. The last time Vanek had planned a surprisefor him, Harold had wound up spending two weeks in the hospital with food poisoning.

“It is not my galaxy renowned cooking, Harold,” Vanek said in amusement. “I would not make you suffer like that, again. Everybody already knows that you are the one who does all of the cooking in our household.”

Harold relaxed slightly.

“Good,” the man said with a chuckle. “I don’t think I could go through that again.”

“This surprise does not involve food, T’hy’la,” Vanek reassured him.

The couple continued to speak for several more minutes before Vanek’s call ended without warning, and Harold was left looking at a “Call Lost” message on his terminal display. The officer frowned as he tried connecting with Vanek again, only to have the line remain unanswered. Harold frowned for a moment before he finally decided to return to his stateroom. Vanek would let him know what happened.

Arys walked down the sidewalk, the plastic grocery bag swinging from his tentative grip as he studied the people around him. His thoughts were focused on the strange morning he had been having, and he couldn’t help but smile as he thought about Xander and the two men that had helped him. One was an alien, a man that Arys only knew of existing in a television show. The other was a store owner that Arys had thought to be an ass at first, only to be corrected the next day when Charles Conner gave the boy part of his lunch and invited him back again before handing him a bag of groceries.

Arys continued to smile as he strolled down the sidewalk at an easy pace, not worrying about how fast he made it back to the park. He knew Xander would be waiting for him at the jungle-gym, and Arys couldn’t help but feel the knots in his stomach as he thought of the boy kissing his cheek. Arys wasn’t completely sure how he felt about Xander, but he did know that he enjoyed spending time with the other boy.

The thunder continued to boom in the skies above and rattle the windows of the buildings around Arys as he tried to remember how to get to the park. He had barely managed to find his way to the park the night before after darkness had fallen, and Arys didn’t think he could remember the way. He knew there was a hospital near the park, but he had yet to find a sign leading him in the right direction. He considered stopping someone to ask for directions until he remembered the bruise on his cheek and decided that would only give people more reason to watch him.

‘You have to be careful, Arys,’ the boy told himself. ‘Not everybody is your friend.’

Arys groaned when he noticed several raindrops hitting the sidewalk in front of him. He had hoped he would be able to find shelter before the rain began, but Arys was quickly realizing that wasn’t going to happen.

‘I don’t want to be cold, tonight,’ he thought miserably as the rain started to come down heavier.

Arys kept his head down to keep the rain from hitting his face, only taking quick glances to see where he was going. It was on one of those quick peeks that Arys saw something that was going to change his life forever. He saw the back of a man with pointy ears, and the man had a cell phone up to his cheek as he walked in front of Arys.

‘He looks like Vanek,’ Arys thought with a grin.

The Vulcan was only thirty feet in front of the boy, and Arys was about to call out to the man to thank him for helping him when something held his tongue at the last moment. Arys kept the same distance from the man, hoping to make sure the man wouldn’t accuse the child of following him. All Arys wanted was to find somewhere dry so he could wait out the storm that was falling around him. He could already feel the cold of the rain seeping through the material of his clothes, and he knew it wouldn’t be much longer before he would be shivering. A car drove past, hitting one of the growing puddles with its tires and sending a wave of water to wash over Arys.

“What the fuck?!” Arys exclaimed angrily as he froze in the middle of the sidewalk, his clothing soaked completely through to the boy’s pale skin beneath. Arys fought the urge to cry as he used his free hand to wipe drips of dirty water from his face, muttering obscenities the entire time that were directed towards the driver of the vehicle. “Piece of shit!”

The boy finally managed to get his emotions under control long enough to keep moving forward. He saw that Vanek was even further ahead of him, making Arys frown as he started walking faster. Arys had nearly caught up to Vanek when the Vulcan stepped off the curb in front of Arys as he started to cross the street. Arys saw the approaching car before anybody else and started to act without hesitation. He ran forward as fast as he could, his heart beating rapidly in his chest. Arys knew what was coming. The Vulcan that had helped him was going to be struck by the approaching car if Arys didn’t do something.

The car kept getting closer. Arys ran faster. He didn’t even bother to look at the car as he gathered as much of his strength as he could to push the man out of the way of the oncoming vehicle. Arys pushed off from the curb with his foot and practically threw himself into the back of the unsuspecting Vulcan.

The next thing Arys knew, the entire left side of his body was filled with burning pain as the front of the car hit him. The boy’s cry was cut off as he rolled onto the hood and slammed into the windshield of the car. He felt the glass crumple beneath his body before Arys felt himself continue to roll over the top of the car. Arys was sent into the air for a moment, his eyes wide in fear as the world spun around him. One second, he was looking at the cloud-covered sky, and the next he was facing the asphalt-covered road. Arys heard dull cracking noises from his lower body as he finally hit the asphalt with a sickening thump sound. His momentum made him roll a few times before he finally came to rest, laying on his back and staring up at the cloud-filled sky.

A single tear escaped from the corner of his eye and rolled down his cheek as the clouds broke open and a golden beam of light blinded his vision. Arys blinked a few times and swore that he saw the blonde-haired boy from the church standing over him with a distraught look on his face. Arys tried to smile at the boy, but his strength was waning quickly. Arys wasn’t certain how much time he had left as the darkness started to encroach on the edges of his awareness, filling the boy with dread over what was coming for him. The boy didn’t want to die, not by any means. His only goal was to keep somebody else from being hurt or killed.

Arys stared up at the sky as the darkness continued to close in around the edges of his vision. He contemplated the fact that he wasn’t in any type of pain besides a dull throbbing in the back of his head. In fact, the boy couldn’t feel anything below his chest. A gentle smile spread across Arys’ face as he thought about his final act. A small boy, only ten years of age, was able to somehow push a fully grown-adult Vulcan out of the way of a speeding car, only to be hit by the car himself. Would he do it again?

‘Without hesitation,’ Arys thought proudly. ‘I would make the same choice every time. Vanek deserves to live more than I do.’

He was finding it more difficult to breathe with every passing moment, and only hoped that his death would come fast. His final thought as the darkness took him under was directed towards those that he had considered to be his friends throughout his considerably short life.

‘Goodbye, Xander.’

‘Goodbye, Zachary,’ he thought grimly. ‘I’m sorry that I was never able to save you.’

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