Only purity can’t be seen.

Ezra looked at the water and frowned slightly. It seemed to flow, clear and bright, from the rocks. However, he knew that sometimes water might look perfectly fine and safe, while making you terribly ill. That was true of many things, but it was especially true of water.

He looked over at Devin and frowned. “Is it safe, do you think?” he asked.

Devin stooped beside the stream and lifted a bit of the water in the palm of his hand. He smelled it and then flicked the water away. Shaking his head, he straightened. “Salty,” he said. “We’ll try looking further inland.

As he turned and walked along the bank in an upstream direction, Ezra sighed. He looked out at the sea. They were just a kilometer from the beach. Hopefully, the water would be fresh closer to its source. He spun away and hurried after Devin. He didn’t want to be alone, as well as lost.

Think how many paths circles cross.

“How are we going to find it?” Devin asked, looking at Ezra.

Ezra frowned and looked around. “Well,” he said, “I’m no expert in orienteering, but… if we spiral outward from here, won’t we eventually cross the path we’re looking for?”

Devin stared at him for a moment and then nodded. “Makes sense,” he said. They began walking. They knew the trail was there, somewhere. Ezra’s plant seemed about as good as anything he might come up with.

Sometimes More Is Not the Answer

Ezra scowled at the plants on his desk. He watered his plants faithfully – once a week. He’d nearly killed his jade plant because he’d been forgetting to water it. Over the last several months, though, it had started to come back.

His brows furrowed as he looked at it now. That rebound had stopped three weeks ago. Since that time, the jade plant had begun losing leaves. They would yellow and fall off. When he noticed that, he frowned and touched the soil. It was damp. He hadn’t watered it.

In fact, he hadn’t added water to the jade plant since that day. Today, the stem of the hapless jade plant was black. The very top of the plant still looked healthy. His brows furrowed and he touched the soil. As he’d feared, it was damp. He wasn’t watering it, but someone was.

“Sometimes,” he murmured, “the answer is not to add more of something.” He broke off the healthy looking parts of the plant and set them aside. Then, he lifted the pot off his desk. The plant flopped over in the pot and he sighed.

He carried the pot out to the trash can in the corridor. He dumped the pot and sighed. The soil at the bottom was wet – not merely damp, but actually wet. He shook his head. “When you add water and the plant looks worse, it’s time to check and see if, maybe, it might not need anymore water.”

“Jade plant died?” Devin said, scowling.

Ezra nodded. “I actually didn’t kill it, this time,” he said. He was notorious for killing plants. “Someone decided to be helpful.” If he ever found out who had watered his jade plant for him, he’d tell them they owed him a new one. Until then, he’d have to see if he could salvage the pieces he still had.

the whole war

Keenan was looking intently at Ezra, his brows furrowed. He shook his head and leaned over to Chris. “Who’s is his father, d’you know?”

“Allen… Pemberton,” Chris said, blinking. He looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded. “Yeah, I think that was his name. Why?”

A soft chuckle escaped Keenan’s lips and he nodded. “I thought so,” he said. He pointed over at Ezra, who was regarding Devin with a sidelong glance somewhere between an indulgent smirk and a scowl of disdain. “His father used to throw that same look at people. It’s a rather singular expression.”

Chris blinked and looked at Keenan. “You knew his father?” he said, his voice faint.

Keenan nodded. “He was the one who got me started in the Agency,” he said, his voice soft. “It was partly on account of Allen Pemberton that I freed my village from the Berklian forces.”

For a moment, Chris just stared at Keenan in shock. That single event had set off a chain reaction that spurred the rest of the nation to action. If not for that event – if not for Allen Pemberton – they might never have won free of the occupying forces. He looked back over at Ezra and said, “I wonder if he knows.”

A Dark and Dozy Day

Connor hated days like this. He sighed and stared out the window at the gray clouds that hung over the city. Shaking his head, he looked away from the window. Devin yawned deeply and he nodded. “Me too,” he said.

“Hmm?” Devin rubbed his eyes and then relaxed in his chair, kicking his feet up onto the desktop. “You too what?”

“I’m tired,” Connor said, smiling faintly.

Chris leaned against the doorjamb of his office and said, “It’s the sort of day for a nap – dark and gloomy. I’m always more tired when it’s cloudy.”

I want to become someone that beautiful and strong

Ezra had to admit, if only to himself, that he admired Devin greatly. At first, he’d thought that admiration had been something different. However, it hadn’t taken him long to realize that was he felt was… a sort of awe.

Devin was, or seemed to be, everything Ezra was not and tried so hard to be. He was brave and strong. He didn’t back down when faced with adversity. In fact, the harder things were, the harder he strove.

He moved with a grace that Ezra had always tried to emulate. He was self-assured and bold. Everyone liked him and he always seemed to know just what to say. Ezra sighed softly and shook his head. “How does he do it?” he mused.

“Being an empath is a big help,” Morgan said, smiling wanly.

The very definition of cute

Devin tried not to run. As it was, he was moving briskly and probably much faster than would have been polite at such a function. He spotted Ezra and slipped through the crowd towards the southerner. “Ya gotta help me,” he breathed.

Ezra blinked. “And why is that?” he asked, his voice soft. He took a sip of his drink – which was probably bourbon, knowing him – and then his eyes widened.

“Devin!” a high voice called from behind him. “Why do you keep hiding on me, honey?”

Devin looked up at Ezra with pleading eyes. “Save me,” he hissed. The woman was driving him insane. More than that, she was not his type at all. Then, there were her looks.

“She’s kind of cute,” Ezra said. When Devin gave him a strange look, he smiled. “You know, the way those troll dolls are cute? She’s cute in that way.”

“You got a strange definition of cute, Ezra,” Devin breathed.

That’s embarrassing

Chris peered into Ezra’s workshop and frowned. “You can’t wear that to the meeting, Ezra,” he said. “You’ve got… what is that? It’s all over your clothes.”

“Plaster,” Ezra said. He shrugged and then loosened the buttons of his top. He headed out, moving towards his apartment. “I have clothes laid out on my bed. I was just waiting for you to come and pick me up.”

Devin said, “That makes sense.” He paused as they entered the apartment. “There’s some on your trousers too. How do you get so messy?”

“I enjoy my work,” Ezra said, grinning. As he started to unbutton his trousers, Chris squawked and covered his eyes. “Is there a problem?”

“You can’t undress in front of people, Ezra,” Chris said, his voice high and strained. He shot a glare at Devin. “Doesn’t it bother you, when he does that?”

“He’s done it before,” Devin said, shrugging.

“What?” Chris said, his cheeks darkening. For a moment, he stared at Devin, who smiled and shrugged. Then, he looked at Ezra. “You changed in front of him?”

Ezra smiled. “Why, Master Chris,” he said, his tone light and teasing, “I do believe you’re blushing.” The comment earned him a low growl, at which he chuckled. “When Master Devin made it clear he had no intention of leaving me alone, what choice did I have? I couldn’t go out in public in paint splattered clothing, could I?”

“I guess not,” Chris said. His cheeks had just returned to their normal shade when Devin spoke up. His comment had both Chris and Ezra flushing with embarrassment.

“Besides,” he said, “he knew I’d already seen him naked loads of times.” He smiled at Chris. “You said to keep an eye on him.”

“I didn’t think you’d be voyeuristic about it!”

A Friend in Need

Ezra moved around to one side of the statue and then the other. His brows furrowed. His lips pursed. He stepped forward to place his hands against it. Then, he tried to push it towards the door.

Tried was the operative word. It didn’t budge. He squeezed his eyes closed and tried again. Still, it wouldn’t budge even an inch. He stepped back then, to stare at it in frustration.

Chris and Devin were in the other room. If he called them, they’d help him. He was certain of it. However, he hated imposing on his friends. He’d made the sculpture and it was his responsibility. He sighed and leaned on it again.

This time, it slid. It moved just enough to make an aweful scraping sound on the floor. Ezra bit his lip and continued pushing.

“Need help?” Chris said, from the doorway.

Ezra opened his eyes to see Chris staring at him, tilting his head to one side. He had a curious expression on his face. “No,” Ezra grated. “I’ve… got it.”

Chuckling, Chris said, “You’re going to hurt yourself, Ezra. Let us help you get that out here.” He peered out of the room and said, “Devin, come here and help Ezra get this sculpture out into the gallery.”

Devin smiled at Ezra. “You know where you want it, right?” he said, arching an eyebrow.

Ezra sighed and sat on the floor. “Yes,” he said, nodding.

Forgiveness

“Keller’s… dead?” Ezra said. His brows furrowed. He was at a loss as to how to react. Part of him was relieved, but another part grieved for the man who’d taken him off the streets. “How’d it happen?” he asked.

“Word has it that his cousin gave the order,” Devin said. He shrugged. Rolling his eyes, he added, “No proof, of course. There never is, but, that’s the word on the street.”

“Good riddance,” Chris said, setting a drink down in front of Ezra. He caught Ezra’s eye and shook his head. “Don’t give me that disapproving frown, Ezra. The man made your life hell. He’s had you dodging shadows for nearly five years now. You’re well rid of him.”

“I… forgave him a long time ago, Chris,” Ezra said, shaking his head. Both agents looked shocked. Ezra shrugged. “What good does it do me, holding on to that anger? He never cared what I felt. All it would have done was eat away at me and steal any chance I had to enjoy my life.”

“He wanted you dead, Ezra,” Chris said, his voice soft. “That’s not something most people could forgive.”

“I’m not most people, Master Starbright,” Ezra said, giving him a faint smile.

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