[Cherik] The Wishing Tree

  • All the Cherik Love Around

About the universe: Basically, it’s an idea for a multi-chapter Cherik AU crossover which is unlikely to be translated into proper fanfiction since the author has neither the time nor the effort to do so. So anyone who’s interested in the idea and wants to write a fanfic based on this universe and characters, please feel free to take it. All you need to do is giving me a word and a little credit once the fic comes out. I’d appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

Full setting and character introduction: here

  • The Wishing Tree

About the story: a little story taking place in the ‘All the Cherik Love Around’ universe, it revolves around The Wishing Tree at Shaw’s Highs, which centers on the three main couples: Erik x Charles; Stelios x Leto; David 8 x David 9.

Disclaimer : Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom(s) : multiple fandoms – X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Children of the Dune (2003), 300 (2006), Prometheus (2012), Inglorious Basterds (2009), Hex etc.

Rating : K+

Pairing(s) : Cherik- Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier, Stelios x Leto Atredeis II, David 8 x David 9 (Nine). And other minor pairings

Genres : Fanfiction, slash, humor, angst (mostly teen-angst), fluff, high school

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Setting: Shaw’s Highs – a school for the privileged and not-so-privileged students from all over the globe who have successfully passed the ‘privileged’ series of exams orchestrated by the Principal himself. The series of exams change annually and nobody on Earth could have the slightest idea of what the eccentric, wicked Principal and his equally eccentric and wicked staff have up their sleeves.

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Prologue – The Wishing Tree      

They said no high school was a true high school (what qualified a ‘true high school’ anyway?) without at least a legend to call its own.

With all due respects, Shaw’s Highs had more legends than necessary to be a normal high school: from the peculiar and wicked entrance exam that changed annually to the (Lord) Principal’s legendary parsimoniousness; from David’s alien IQ to Leto’s alien tendency of getting lost; from Erik’s trouble record to Azazel’s former career or Janos’s choice of attire… the list went on.

But there was one legend that beat all others in terms of mystique: the legend of the Wishing Tree.

Again, no high school was a true high school without at least one object attached with ‘wishing’: Wishing Stairs, Wishing Rock… Almost anything students could think of (and pray to) in desperate time of competitions and exams could become a mystical object with a decent legend to suit its name.

Who could deny high school wasn’t a fertile soil to breed creative writers?

Shaw’s Highs’ Wishing Tree was a tall tree of unknown species standing proudly in the middle of the grand school yard. Its leaves were its remarkable feature: They were emerald-green in spring, turned fiery-red in summer, became sky-blue in autumn before they were dyed bone-white in winter. It was because of these unusual colors that the Wishing Tree easily intrigued many students on their first day at school, thus promoted the legend.

No one knew who had grown it or how long it had been standing on this spot; there were students and even teachers who believed the tree to be older than the Principal himself. And just for your information, Mister Shaw was ancient; he just didn’t look his age, though – vivid evidence that God was utterly unfair.

Putting aside its age, origin and species, what mattered here was the word defining it: “wishing.” This was what made this bizarre-yet-beautiful looking tree much more than ‘bark deep’: it was able to grant wishes. No, it wasn’t something straight out of a cheesy teenage fantasy slash romantic movie – such thing truly existed in this school full of abnormalities.

Rumor had it that if a student (or a teacher, security guard, janitor or even the Principal for that matter) strongly wished for something, be it Mister Shaw not being such a miser, Miss Frost not so interested in mind-fucking her students and actually helping them, or Mister Essex not being so extravagant, all they needed was stand under the canopy and voice their wish – one at a time – to the tree (or whatever creature or force lurking inside it), and maybe, just maybe their wish would come true. Almost all students – save a few who thought they were too cool for such childish stuff *cough* Erik Magnus Lehnsherr *cough* – had tried at least once. Some wishes had failed, of course, but some had come true, thus cemented the legends surrounding the tree. As for those who had failed, they only shrugged and accepted that their wishes had not been ‘strong enough’.

But, how strong was ‘strong enough’ exactly?

David & Nine

Nine believed in the legend of the Wishing Tree, perhaps more than anyone.

The first time he had seen it, he was a ten-year-old boy tagging along his mother. It was summer then, because he remembered being mesmerized by the vivid red centered at the grand school yard – like a great wildfire that burned the still landscape to life. So captivated by the tree that Nine stood under its massive canopy, completely motionless until Elizabeth came to wake him out of his trance.

Please, let me one day be a student of this school, he made a wish.

Five years later, Nine was a freshman at Shaw’s Highs while all of his friends had tried and failed.

And then, he met David, also under this Wishing Tree.

At first, he was led to believe that David was making a wish to the tree, judging by his stiff posture and his serious (to the point of emotionless) expression. It was only later, much later that he came to a (shocking) realization that what had been running in David’s mind back then were his various mischief and pranks.

Despite his sophisticated look, David was really a child at heart, a very naughty one, Nine had to add.

Outside classroom, often he would disappear without a trace – as if David was always playing a giant game of hide-and-seek with the whole world, and rather enjoyed it. It had taken Nine a long time (with a big chunk of luck) to figure out where David went to: the abandoned laboratory in the basement of the complex behind the main buildings. Though completely rundown and serving no purpose other than sprouting urban legends, most of which involved a disfigured man with knives for fingers, a hockey-masked man butchering people with a huge knife, or a madman who was keen on playing his victims with several odd devices, the complex had mysteriously survived the fate of being demolished throughout the years. Somehow David had found the lab beneath the complex and  given it a total makeover – how he had done it totally baffled Nine. He called it his ‘lair’ (David’s word) and despite it sounded and looked too much super-villainy for his taste, the place had had Nine greatly amazed the first time he’d stepped down the rusty shaking stairs to its bottom.

And Nine, unfortunately, had also discovered the function of David’s lair besides being his hideout – this was where David had conducted all sorts of mischief and pranks on his one and only victim: his foster sister Meredith, which none other than Nine knew the truth (mainly because David had allowed him). Though he wasn’t approved of David’s doings, Nine had never sought to expose David’s secrets, not when David trusted him enough to share them with him.

That made them partners in crimes, right?

Normally Nine had no trouble finding David since the boy had limited places to go – class, where they both studied, Miss Frost’s office (since David was her ‘favorite client’ – her words) or his self-made lab. Although Nine could only grasp about half of whatever David was doing, he was content just staying there, working on his homework while having idle chats with the latter, who did most of the listening actually.

But today was strange. The first thing Nine had done upon entering the school property was dashing into the laboratory, half expecting to see David there, munching on his breakfast while working on some experience – he had enthusiastically told Nine about some project but as always, Nine only had the vaguest idea of what it was. David was having plenty of time lately, having done two courses ahead of everyone else in their class and while he could have an early holiday, the boy saw it as an invaluable chance to focus on his ‘project’.

And that was why Nine was flabbergasted to see an empty lab, David nowhere in sight.

The truth was, Nine had no idea where David could go. Not minding that he would have missed his first and probably second class (which he had), Nine had searched all the possibilities: the grand cafeteria, the lesser cafeteria (Mister Essex’s idea, don’t ask!), the front yard, the backyard, Miss Frost’s office (and earned a meaningful smile from the school counselor). He had even gone so far as to approach Meredith – a big chunk of courage, no doubt – and received nothing from her other than an icy, scornful glare that ambiguously implied she very much wanted to rip him apart for mentioning her foster brother in front of her face.

Nine was in a bit of despair when he stood under the Wishing Tree, hoping its magical powers would help him find David.

Please, give me a clue to where David is.

A leaf departed from its branch to land on top of his mop of chocolate hair. When Nine took the leaf in his hand, he was mildly fascinated by its color – sky blue – the first one of this year.

“Autumn has arrived early, hasn’t she?”

Nine recognized the familiar voice; it was Mister Frank, his enigmatic music teacher who always wore a large papier-mâché head that concealed his face. Frank was standing in the hallway just opposite from the tree, waving his hand and tilting his big head to Nine’s direction.

“Oh hello Mister Frank,” Nine greeted, beaming at the teacher. In spite of whatever distasteful rumors shrouding Frank, he was still Nine’s most favorite teacher in the entire teaching staff. Frank was eccentric, sure, but his eccentricity was warm-hearted and pleasant, entirely different from other teachers, Mister Essex, for example.

“On your way to the class, sir?” he asked.

“No, I don’t have any class today,” replied Frank, who ‘smiled’ back, or at least his mask expression seemed to speak. “Not having class today, huhm?”

“Actually,” Nine said, voice close to a murmur as he fidgeted with the leave in his palm, “I missed class.”

“Why?”

“I’m looking for David. I can’t find him anywhere this morning, even Miss Frost’s office. Did you, by any chance, spot him?”

“Oh, David’s been with me,” said Frank, his ‘face’ appearing to sport a big, bright smile.

“Really?” A wave of relief washed away the heavy knots in Nine’s stomach and his usual cheerfulness was back in his tone. But then, as though he remembered something, he winced slightly before asking, “…did he cause any trouble?”

“No, he didn’t.” Frank waved one hand in emphasis and pointed to the instrument in the other. “We’re practicing a new song. Care to join us?”

“I’d love to.”

And Nine followed Frank to his office at the end of the hallway, where he found a beaming David toying with the various musical instruments in the room.

It seemed his second personality was surfacing, Nine thought with an inward sigh.

“Hey David. So you’re here. Been desperately trying to find you.”

“Oops, sorry,” David apologized, his head hung a little lower.

“It’s OK. Playing truant once or twice can be fun. Mister Frank said you guys were practicing a new song?”

“I met Mister Frank early this morning and we’ve been discussing about… the most likable song ever!”

“The most likable song ever?” Nine echoed, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Positive,” Frank chimed in while skillfully maneuvering his way through a mess of musical instruments and music sheets on the floor. His office wasn’t small to be fair, second only to Miss Frost and Mister Essex’s offices and obviously much larger than Mister Shaw’s, but however much space was still unable to keep up with the expansion of the artistic soul.

“I’ve been stuck with this song and when I ran into David the day before, the inspiration suddenly overflowed. I thought it would be only fair to share it with him and fortunately, he is also interested in music.”

Was he? Nine arched an eyebrow in disbelief. He didn’t know that.

“Wanna hear it?” David looked at Nine and beamed, his eyes too bright and hopeful for Nine to dare utter a refusal. He still hadn’t fully recovered from the single time he’d experienced David’s singing; however, despite his reason and instinct both screaming “no”, his head nodded on its own account.

This was enough a cue for Frank and David to start. Here it began, Nine’s fifteen minutes of blissful submergence in ‘the most likable song ever.’

And that wasn’t the worst part because a few days later, when Nine came to David’s lair as usual, he was greeted by the sight of a large papier-mâché head disturbingly similar to Frank’s, the only difference being the hair platinum blond instead of dark.

“So… this is your… project?”

“Yup!” answered David in a gleeful tone – second personality still on surface – before he put the head on. “How’s that?”

“… Great…” Nine replied, not trying to hide his wince. He wondered if the Wishing Tree could extend its powers to weaken David’s odd fascination with the head until it faded.

… or strengthen his tolerance of it.

Erik & Charles

That scholarship, unwanted by any students in Shaw’s Highs, was desperately yearned for by Charles.

Really, who would want to acquire a scholarship that granted them the full use of the dorm and its facilities during the long holiday season? Most would want to go home and spend time with their family or travel or both; a year spent in the school’s absurdities frantically screamed for a break. Nevertheless, most weren’t Charles Xavier; most didn’t have a drunken mother, an abusive stepfather and a violent stepbrother; one was enough to make a person want to run away from home, let alone a horrible combination of three. Charles much preferred the maze of cream-colored walls littered with bizarre artworks (Mister Essex’s collection – Mister Shaw’s dismay) than the bleached-white columns and high windows confining a rigid, stagnant air of the Xavier mansion.

Getting a scholar nobody wanted shouldn’t be challenging, yet Mister Shaw and his evil staff just had to make it difficult, making it desirable. Despite all of its ridiculous criteria, so far Charles had managed to meet all requirements. All he needed was another ‘social contribution credit’ and the scholarship was his to take.

“So, I need to help Erik Lehnsherr improve his scores?”

“That’s right, sugar,” Miss Frost replied, shifting her posture so that it looked like she was serious, which she was not – there was absolutely nothing in this world, the Apocalypse included, that could get Emma Frost to at least try to be serious, her students (or ‘clients’ as she insisted) reached a general conclusion.

“You have the highest scores in your class and he had the lowest so it’s naturally our school’s tradition that the better students should provide aid to the difficult students. We’re counting on you to help dear Erik advance in his academic pursuit. Then the dorm and its facilities are yours to use.”

“I understand, Miss Frost. I’ll do my best to help Erik.”

When Charles left Miss Frost’s office, he was entirely confident that he could help Erik get better in his study. He had done a great deal of tutoring before, both fellow graders and juniors and sometimes even seniors; he didn’t see how it should be difficult with Erik. Although Charles had never really talked to Erik – nerds and delinquents (Charles’s classmates’ words, not his) just couldn’t mix – the German student didn’t appear dull to him, quite the opposite if he were to trust his own judgment; all the boy needed was a little aid and his talents would soar.

By the end of his first tutoring session, Charles’s confidence was entirely, utterly shattered. His judgment was right – Erik had no problems in studying whatsoever; he was smart and he could easily top his classmates if he wanted to. That was where the grievous issue lied: Erik absolutely didn’t want to study at all!

Now, it was Charles who had to depend on Erik if he really wanted to get the scholarship. And so far, Erik had been uncooperative at best.

If only Erik would do his homework though, thought Charles with a lengthy sigh as he was standing under the Wishing Tree. Charles didn’t believe in the legends at all, being both atheistic and rational, but then despair (in Charles’s case, the long holiday season drawing nearer) could do funny things to a person’s mind. Before his stressed out mind could come up with a sound solution, one based on reasons and logics and didn’t involve a wishing tree or anything of this sort, Charles Xavier found himself unwillingly making a wish under the canopy of the tree.

The foliage rustled and a leave landed perfectly on Charles’s open palm. Fascinated by the color – sky-blue to signal the coming of autumn – he pressed it in his notebook and headed to find Erik.

The lawn was where he found Erik, stretching his long, graceful limbs on his usual spot, eyes half-closed like a dozing cat. Skipping class as usual, Charles thought with an inward sigh as he approached him.

“Morning,” Charles greeted and Erik cracked open one eye, steel-blue and too bright for someone just waking up. “Charles,” Erik addressed him by his name – his habitual greeting whenever he saw Charles.

Charles allowed himself a tiny happiness every time Erik greeted him in that manner – at least he noticed Charles, acknowledged his presence while he just promptly ignored most other students and even teachers (Mister Essex and Miss Frost didn’t take it very nicely). “A little early for a nap, isn’t it?” he asked and sat down on the lawn beside Erik.

“Been late last night,” Erik grunted a reply and fumbled in his jeans pocket for a cigarette packet and a zippo. The smoke caused Charles to frown in disapproval, which Erik conveniently ignored.

Theoretically speaking, Shaw’s Highs had a strict regulation against smoking on campus, but so far, the principal was the only one adhered to it (out of concern for money rather than health). Considering Mister Essex’s beloved silver case of cigarette he was rarely seen without or Mister’s Howlett habit of lecturing while holding a Cuban cigar between his lips, it was both hypocritical and useless to forbid the consumption of nicotine among students.

“Morning ritual,” Charles told him as he settled his satchel on the grass. Erik’s respond was a light jerk of his head to his duffle bag, which Charles opened and searched for his notebook, despite knowing the result beforehand.

Erik’s eyes shot open when he was about to drift off, at the sound of Charles’s cry.

“Jesus, Erik, you’ve done your homework today!” Charles exclaimed. “It must be a miracle.”

“What?” was the only word reeling in Erik’s confused mind. He was certain as hell he hadn’t even touched the notebook, how the heck had he done it? He didn’t even know what it was about!

“Oh My God! You’ve done it all wrong, even the simplest, most basic exercise,” Charles cried.

Erik had to be some kind of a saint if he didn’t react now, and he wasn’t. He sat right up, his back straighter than a pole, his eyes keen and concealing rage as he grabbed the notebook from Charles.

The hell?

Erik felt a strong urge to facepalm himself. It was exactly like Charles said; every exercise was horrendously wrong, down to the simplest, easiest one. To add salt to the gaping wound of his pride and IQ, Charles was looking at him with his big, baby blue eyes full of sympathy and probably a little pity.

“It’s OK, Erik,” he said, putting his hand on Erik’s shoulder for consolation. “I’m sure if we try enough, you won’t have to repeat a year.”

Repeat a year? His mother wouldn’t like it… Wait a minute!

Was this some sort of not-so-funny prank? Erik was damn sure this homework (and every homework preceding it) was beneath his ability; he could do it half-asleep!

“I didn’t do it, Charles,” Erik deadpanned.

“Then who else?” Charles asked, turning the pages so Erik could have a look. “Your handwriting, right? Don’t be embarrassed for being a good student once in a while. Though I really hope you keep this attitude.”

While Charles was getting his hope for the scholarship up, Erik was sinking into deep frustration. No matter how much he wanted to deny it wasn’t, it was, indeed, his own hand writing, the stupid answers being another matter.

A thought flashed him. Had he been sleep-walking last night? Sleep-walking wasn’t something new to him – he had been told – but this time, instead of the usual sleep-walking, he had been sleep-doing his homework? Well, that explained his hand writing and the answers being retarded. It had to.

“Now, Erik, let’s work on fixing those answers. Mister Essex’s joy of you actually doing his homework wouldn’t last long once he saw what you did.”

Having no way to rebuke, Erik, for once, listened to Charles.

To his dismay, Erik’s horrible sleep-homework-doing continued. Now it wasn’t just math homework but other subjects as well: his essay on Shakespeare’s Macbeth was like a review of Scary Movie (and not a particularly good one); he (no, his sleep-homework-doing self!) had mistaken Canada for Australia and his report on World War II sounded very similar to Mel Brooks’ Springtime for Hitler (Charles had pointed out; Erik didn’t even watch that movie!). Until one day, Erik finally decided that he would take no more insults to his IQ and make sure he finished his homework, every single subject, before going to bed.

By the end of the term, Erik had made an incredible leap, from the bottom of his class straight to the top, making both his teachers and classmates drop their jaws in awe. As a reward for his outstanding effort, Charles earned his scholarship, which he shared with, unsurprisingly, none other than Erik.

Well, who said nerds and delinquents didn’t mix?

Anyone can guess who Mister Howlett is?

Stelios & Leto

Leto wasn’t particularly happy today.

Well, to be fair, every other day he wasn’t particularly happy either. Nor was he sad, stressed or angry; the Crown Prince of Arrakis had learned from a young age to always keep a mild attitude toward everything – to keep his head cool and his mind clear for any matters that may arise, his father had told him.

Everything changed once he’d entered Shaw’s High and befriended Stelios. From the moment the older boy had grabbed his hand and toured him around the campus, his cheekiness had bypassed Leto’s many barriers and found a way into his heart, and the young prince had started to think perhaps he could allow himself to keep a less mild attitude toward everything around him,… toward Stelios.

… especially Stelios.

That was the reason for Leto’s unhappy state today. Stelios had been skipping class for the last two days, which was certainly odd since he was always so eager to study – a stark contrast to the lazy football player stereotype. Moreover, he had been skipping practice for two days; considering his great love for football, it must have been a real torture for him.

It was, indeed, a torture: Stelios Atromitos, who claimed to be a descendant of the formidable Spartan warriors, who had gone through last year’s H5N1 outbreak unscathed, had been afflicted by the common cold. ‘Satan’s cold’ he’d labeled it, for it had been keeping him glued to his bed for four days (weekend included). And things were getting dreadful for him as the National High School League was only a day away and his condition so far had shown no sight of improvement.

Leto was truly worried. It took him some time to realize the tight feeling in his chest – unfamiliar, alien – was his worry that Stelios wouldn’t recover in time for the crucial game, that he would lose his life-time chance to get an entrance ticket to his intended university. Leto had never had worry for anyone before; when he did, it hit him hard enough to spring him into immediate action. He dashed to his flat and made his first willing phone call to his royal butler back in Arrakis, who had the only phone in the entire kingdom. He gave what was his first princely order, that the royal butler would send him the Sreen herb, the holy antidote to the common cold, as soon as possible, and by any means possible.

The package arrived in his flat exactly three and a half hours later.

Sreen was extra-rare this time of the year and the old butler, probably too touched by the young prince’s order, had packed the whole kingdom’s supply (which was only about a small bowlful by the way) and had it sent to Leto. Now if anyone in Arrakis were to catch a cold, well, they just had to endure until it was gone. Though Leto did feel a tiny bit of guilt for taking the kingdom’s supply, he didn’t hesitate to put all the Sreen herb he got into one steaming bowl of chicken soup ready to be delivered to Stelios’s dorm room. (Don’t underestimate Leto; our prince was actually a super-terrific cook, according to Stelios and the Sparta team.)

… and that was the only explanation to his horrible mood at the moment. “Damn cat!” thought the young prince – his very first touch of vulgar words. Some stray black cat had miraculously broken into his kitchen, breaking his elaborate security system (the Crown Prince’s place, what do you expect?) to commit the most atrocious act possible: it had caused Leto’s painstakingly prepared soup to spill all over the counter. Besides having to clean up the mess, all his effort was washed down the sink (quite literally).

Now he was here, under the Wishing Tree, doing the most unbelievable thing he’d thought he would ever do (apart from cooking healing broth for a certain someone): he was making a wish that Stelios’s ailment would go away before tomorrow so that he would be able to participate in the game.

Charles and Nine had told him if a leaf landed on his open palm then his wish would likely be granted. Thus Leto opened his palm and waited while thinking his wish. He half expected nothing would fall, still being rather skeptical about the whole wishing-tree-thing. What he didn’t expect was a bunch of leaves falling over his head, causing the prince to look quite ridiculous provided that someone passed by and witnessed. Leto was definitely NOT amused!

Stelios’s room was dim, with little street light passing through the worn blinds. His lanky roommate wasn’t in, likely to be studying (and sleeping) in the library for all Leto knew. As he entered, Leto tried to quiet his footsteps as best as he could so that he wouldn’t disturb his best friend’s rest. Stelios opened his eyes when Leto’s presence drew near him nonetheless.

“Leto…” he greeted, voice too hoarse and thick to be audible. He reached out for the bed lamp, switching it on.

Leto was quick to push him down the bed when he attempted to sit up.

“Don’t! Just rest, Ste, sorry I disturbed you.”

“Not really…” Stelios replied and cleared his throat. Surprisingly, his voice was much clearer when he continued, “I was about to get up anyway.”

“How are you feeling? Any fever? Chill?”

Leto pressed his palm against Stelios’s forehead; he was half-surprised, half-blessed to feel a normal temperature on his skin.

Stelios obviously enjoyed this gesture of Leto as he grinned cheekily and held his friend’s wrist. “I’m feeling good… refreshed, maybe even a little energetic. I went to sleep feeling like I had been on fire but now I feel really healthy. Like someone had taken the cold while I was sleeping.”

Leto was beaming at him. “That’s terrific news, Ste. Meaning you can play in the game tomorrow.”

“That I can, absolutely… unless the cold returns and catches me in my sleep.”

“Don’t jinx us by saying that!” Leto chided him, not harshly.

“Then please stay and keep it from catching me, Your Highness!” Stelios plead, pressing Leto’s hand to his cheek.

Stelios had been teasing him since he learned of Leto’s royal status. Well, if he wanted to play…

“Touching a royal member is a serious crime in Arrakis,” Leto warned him, trying to sound serious. “You could lose a hand for that.”

“Then I desperately need to find a way to lessen my punishment. Let’s say, pleasing the prince…”

His voice trailed off and he leaned in for a kiss (that may or may not lead to… other things). Leto ducked him.

“Now that’s a harsh punishment!” Stelios groaned.

Leto smiled, quite content with himself, and unwrapped the lunch box he had with him. “That can wait until you truly recover,” he said.

Soon as he opened the box, a warm, sweet aroma filled the tiny space between them. “You’re just afraid you’ll catch the cold right?” Stelios pouted, but his eyes instantly lit up at the sight of food. Extremely good food. Prepared by the prince’s own hand. He had already forgotten his mild frustration for not getting his kiss after days when he had a spoonful of Leto’s soup.

“I intended to cook you a cold-warding broth with the special herb from my kingdom,” Leto said, watching with delight as his friend digesting the soup with eagerness; appetite was a good sign of recovery. “A bloody black cat invaded the kitchen and ruined it all. Talk about bad luck.”

“How could it break into your flat?” Stelios asked, stupefied. Even a ninja couldn’t pass all the tiny hidden traps Leto had set.

“Heaven knows,” Leto scoffed, “if I ever see it again I’ll catch it and…”

“And?” Stelios echoed. He was intrigued by how Leto would treat his invader – Leto, the prince who had never spoken loudly, let alone gotten angry.

“… and give it to Ghanima.”

“… OK… that’s cruel. Totally cruel.”

It sure was.

“Anyway, you’ll come and watch right?”

“Of course,” Leto answered, “I even got the permission from Mister Shaw. To cheer the team, he said.”

A mischievous grin crept its way to Stelios’s lips.

“But don’t expect me to hold a pompom and sing!”

Having finished his soup in minutes, Stelios carefully wrapped the lunch box as it had been before bursting into laughter. The thought had not occurred to him, not until Leto said it out loud. He was grinning just because he knew it would unsettle Leto. On the other hand, Leto would look very fine dancing and cheering, with or without a pompom.

“That’s a true pity… for our team.”

He sighed and licked his lips, bringing his face closer to Leto’s. “But one good-luck kiss is not asking too much, right?”

And Leto, being a hidden tease Stelios had just noticed, put a hand on his lips and whispered, “Save it for the victory.”

Stelios grunted – no real heat – and dragged Leto down to lie next to him on his bed. The prince easily obliged, nestling his head in the juncture between Stelios’s neck and shoulder. From this close distance, he could peek into Stelios’s pajama; the taut muscle of his chest colored up his cheeks, which Leto would be grateful that the faint light wasn’t able to reveal.

“Please ward the cold off should it return, my prince.” Stelios managed to steal a quick peck on his cheek before switching the bed lamp off.

“… or receive it for you,” Leto quipped.

“… or that. Either is fine.” Stelios replied, his smugness palpable despite the darkness that blanketed the room.

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing else. Totally innocent, promise, on the honor of the Atromitos.”

Leto’s soft laughter echoed between them.

They managed to stay true to Stelios’s promise, despite a few accidental gropes during the night. Other than those, things remained innocent enough.

As it turned out the next day, Leto’s good-luck kiss did much wonder as the Wishing Tree.

Epilogue

Azazeal

Sitting up from his high branch, Azazeal stretched his long limbs and started his day with a yawn. It was still a little early in the morning and the weather was so nice that he hoped he could have a lazy day, just dozing off on his favorite spot on the tree. His existence in this world was nothing more than a persistent specter – nothing to do, no purpose to live – he could have all the time in this world to spend dozing on the branch until Apocalypse if he wanted. But then, he was in Shaw’s Highs and in Shaw’s Highs, there was no such thing as a lazy day.

“Oh,” Azazeal arched a fine eyebrow and looked down from his spot. Wasn’t that the boy from…? Pardon his Dory’s brain for not being able to remember the boy’s class. At least he could put a name to him. What was it again? Nine, right! Azazeal had a soft spot for honest, hard-working, good-mannered boys, especially those who shared his star-crossed lover’s face.

“Looking for David huh?” Azazeal murmured to himself as he extended his mind like a humongous cobweb covering the whole school. Various thoughts swam in and he winced, putting more concentration on shutting them down so that he could seek for David’s. It took him some time (which was only three or four seconds at most) before he could touch David’s mind, buzzing with excitement as he was in a vigorous discussion with Frank, something about ‘the most likable song ever’. He focused his energy and sent a mental note to Frank, who answered with a pleasant tone. Excellent, he thought, no need to go the long way to form an idea and have it planted on David’s mind.

A blue leaf left the branch and landed on top of Nine’s head. “Granted,” Azazeal whispered and was ready to doze off.

He could count on Frank – he always did – since the day his wandering mind caught an unexpected reply from Frank. For some reason beyond his comprehension, Frank could see him, could communicate with him, verbally and mentally, though the enigmatic musician preferred the latter.

That someone could hear him, knew of him was a silent wish he only dared to recite in dream, if he could truly dream at all. He would have thanked His Father, provided that He cared to listen to his forsaken son.

Azazeal heard the second wish minutes after Nine had left with Frank; it was Charles’s this time. His curiosity was instantly piqued. Charles was a child of science and logical thinking; the Wishing Tree or anything of this sort was far left out from his perimeter. Azazeal could almost imagine his reaction if someone told Charles there was an Alterum sitting on the branch directly above him. He still loved the boy though. His lover used to have the same light in his bright blue eyes as Charles did – the delightful thirst for learning when Azazeal shared a bit of Heavenly knowledge with him as they were planting the tree – Azazeal’s shelter in Shaw’s Highs a millennia later.

Erik again, Azazeal’s surprise was short-lived. If there was a person who could make Charles stand under the Wishing Tree, he was sure it could only be the German boy. Unfortunately, Erik seemed to copy Azazeal’s stubbornness down to the core, and had it magnified by a dozen.

An idea flashed. It was worth a try, he thought.

He pinched a leaf from the tree and aimed it at Charles’s open palm.

As Charles left, happier than when he’d come, a notebook materialized in Azazeal’s hand.

Apparently, arithmetic was the hardest kind of spell he had ever come across.

Ghanima

“Hey, kitty, kitty!”

After making sure she was alone, Ghanima looked up the Wishing Tree and began calling.

“Hey, kitty, kitty!” she repeated, adding more boldness to her volume.

“Very funny, princess,” a hoarse voice answered Ghanima, from the foliage above her.

Her gaze found a figure clad in black lying, no, draping his long limbs on the branch in a rather undignified manner. Judging by his position, it seemed as if a gust of wind could have swept him off the tree.

A look of concern crossed Ghanima’s pretty face as she studied his countenance. “What’s wrong, Az? You look like dead.”

“Half-dead…” he corrected her. “… I was…”

A sudden outburst of sneezing assaulted him and Ghanima witnessed, half-amused, half-terrified, Azazeal’s series of sneezes cause a flurry of leaves to fall down, together with the Alterum himself.

“Oh dear, are you alright Az?”

She hurried to his side and helped him up with ease; Azazeal, despite his look, was as light as a baby. “Any bones broken?”

“I have no corporeal body, Ghanima,” he reminded her, voice hoarse yet warm. It was wrong to say he wasn’t touched by her concern.

Ghanima was another reason he wanted to express his gratefulness to His Father. Although she occasionally acted princess-ly and colored his days at Shaw’s Highs with so many interesting shades, not to mention her accent always made his name, shortened by her choice, sound a lot like ‘ass’, she was his closest friend.

“Yet this no-corporeal-body person is suffering a frenzy of sneezes,” she said, a touch of sarcasm to hide her relief.

Transferentem.”

“What does it mean?”

“Transferring,” he explained. “I’m having it in place of another person.”

“Let me guess, Stelios, right?” Ghanima smiled, tugging a wavy lock behind her ear. “He’d been bed-ridden for days and suddenly he was all good again. Like someone’d taken away his cold.”

“Leto told you everything right?”

“Yup, we’re close like that.” Playing idly with the end of her hair, she continued, “He also told me a mysterious black cat had broken into his kitchen and ruined his painstakingly prepared remedy soup.”

“It smelled and tasted like poison,” Azazeal scoffed, “the worst kind. If Stelios had eaten it, he would have been hospitalized.”

“You know nothing, Az.” Ghanima clucked her tongue and shook her head ruefully. “Sreen’s supposed to taste like that – bitter swirls the cold away. Works everytime. It’s sort of an elixir in Arrakis.”

Azazeal blinked at her with his red-rimmed, bleary eyes, the corner of his mouth twitching. He said, after a while, “I guess that was all the elixir you and Leto have?”

“Unfortunately yes. Sreen isn’t in season this time of the year.”

“Guess I have to grit my teeth through it then,” Azazeal said with weak laughter. “Lucifer’s cold…”

He was halted abruptly by another heavy fit of sneezing, which caused leaves to fall on them like rain.

…well, on Ghanima actually. Being without corporeal body had its advantage.

“Oh dear.” Ghanima winced as she tried to untangle the leaves from her hair. Her eyes caught sight of an open notebook discarded on the small heap of leaves.

“I still can make you chicken soup though, if you can eat,” she said, looking at the words on the open paper, “… what were you doing with World War II?”

“Transferring,” he replied curtly.

Adolf Hitler was a paper hanger, no one more obscurer,” Ghanima grabbed the notebook and began reading aloud. “He got a phone call from the Reichstag which told him he was Fuhrer...”  Her elegant eyebrow knitted as she continued, “Germany was blue… What was this Az? Sounds a lot like Mel Brooks’ Springtime for Hitler. Great movie by the way. Just not something I expect to find on – what – a history report?! You sure you don’t need help with this?”

“About the movie, I agree. About the report… it’s transferring… it isn’t supposed to be historically correct…” he replied before being reduced to a quivering mess of sneezes.

Patting his back in comfort, Ghanima let the matter about World War II and Hitler being a paper hanger slip. As the state he was in now, Ghanima wasn’t surprised about how little sense he made.

End

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