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All the Worlds We've Known (And the One Where We Belong)

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You always liked the taste of blood
And I get off when I point the gun
It's so good to have someone to be so bad with
-Hit and Run, LOLO
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In one life, they played at being gods.

They were immortals with all the time in their hands. They roamed the city with matching grins and reckless words.

Salle and Neo went head to head, always against each other. The two sides of the same coin. They took and took, refusing to give, to surrender even a single inch.

Salle was a sniper. He was probably one of the best snipers in the city.

He was also fond of explosions. Fitting, Neo supposed as he awoke from the death they had just experienced. A heist gone bad. An armored truck blown sky high.

The sniper was cleaning his gun while the tv blared in the background. The news was just explaining how their heist had gone, just another awful thing to have happened in the already awful city. Neo could hear the sounds of things clattering in the kitchen. The voices of Tomas and Phil drifted from another room.

“How long was I out?” Neo asked as he sat up, gingerly cradling his still aching head.

Salle shrugged. “Long enough.” The sniper smirked at him, strands of his hair falling over his eyes. “Did you dream of me?”

Neo scoffed and glared at him. He cocked an eyebrow. “Are you serious? You killed me.”

“So did you,” Salle had gone back to his gun. Neo stared at the other's hand, fingers deft as the sniper assembled his rifle once again. “Last week.”

“Well,” Neo smirked, remembering how the other had gone to him afterwards. Salle’s eyes had been bright with anger and his jacket had still retained the holes and the flecks of blood from the hailstorm of bullets that got him. “You're not wrong.”

Salle hummed as he disassembled his rifle, placing each part carefully in its case. He shut the case and turned to the one on the sofa. “There’s some pizza in the kitchen.”

“Did you poison it?”

Salle chuckled and reached out to card his fingers through Neo’s hair. His hand was so deceptively gentle. “If I did, I wouldn't be this obvious about it.”

“I don’t think you’d be that smart about it,” Neo said and Salle looked at him with something unreadable in his eyes.

“Well, fuck you too.”

Neo remembered static, screeching tires, and gunshots. He remembered fire, fire, and fire. He remembered the heat that would swallow you whole, rip you to shreds, and turn you into nothing but ashes and dust.

The sniper blinked and the memories disappear with a cheeky grin. Salle had his rifle slung over one shoulder. Neo thought of driving around the city with his head resting on that shoulder. He thought of kisses shared during stakeouts. He thought of Salle’s laughter in his comm as they played a demented version of hide and seek with the city’s police.

Salle pressed his lips to Neo’s forehead. A kiss. A promise. A threat. Neo didn’t know anymore.

He watched the sniper move with fluid grace out of the room and up the stairs. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could still smell the familiar scent of Salle’s cologne, the metallic scent of guns, and that of fire and ashes.

A door slammed closed and Neo snapped back into attention. Tomas stood at the entrance to the kitchen, giving him a knowing smirk.

“You okay?”

“Could be better,” Neo shrugged. “Infinitely better if I didn’t keep dying of explosions.”

“He waited for you to wake up.” Their medic said as he played with the crucifix he always wore around his neck. “Just thought you should know.”

“Is Phil there?” With Tomas’ nod, Neo stood up and headed to the kitchen. Already, he was trying to forget the memory of a soft kiss on his forehead, of hands on his hips and the taste of blood in his mouth as the world turned into fire and ash.

Always fire and ash.

Tomas gave a sigh that was more dramatic than was necessary. “If the two of you would just admit it to yourselves, we’d all be having a much easier time during assignments.”

Neo shook his head. “There’s nothing to admit.”

Tomas snorted. “Sure,” he said, sarcastically. “If you say so.”

In one life, they played at being gods. They were immortals, reckless and dangerous. It was a world of fire and death and love. In this world, love can just as easily be a knife buried in someone’s chest or a gunshot by an unseen sniper to an enemy you never noticed.

The eagle and the sniper. Two of the city’s most dangerous criminals. Two of the city’s band of immortals who made the whole metropolis their playground. It seemed so easy to fall when there was nothing to lose. It was so easy to lose yourself when your blood was pumping, adrenaline and pleasure and pain a sweet concoction when your lips find each other, hands roving over skin, fingers catching on clothes and hidden weapons.

It was nothing, Neo told himself. Just a way to release tension. Just another way to feel the thrill they couldn’t with death.

In this dark world, they are liars. The language of love was hate. It was so much easier to say, ‘I would kill you, I would kill for you. I would burn the city down, conquer it, until I could place the crown atop your head and the city would be ours.’

 

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We were the Kings and Queens of promise
We were the victims of ourselves
Maybe the children of a lesser God
Between Heaven and Hell
-Kings and Queens, Thirty Seconds to Mars

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In another world, they were kings.

They were kings fighting a war that has been going on far longer than they have been alive. They played their games of war. They played their games of love.

“Well?”

Salle flinched at the sound of his rival’s voice. Neo all but smirked at him from his throne. An eagle alighted on his rival’s shoulder and Salle would swear he could feel it sizing him up from its perch. Its own master looked down at him, suit impeccable as always, his gaze sharp and demanding.

Salle bared his fangs at the other king and savored the way the other man’s brows drew together in irritation. Neo and Salle were two of the four kings that ruled all vampires. Neo was known as the king of spades while Salle was king of clubs, and the two factions have been known to war against each other.

And Salle had just lost their most recent battle. He would never admit it to the other king but it left a bitter taste in his mouth knowing that his ladies had lost to Neo’s.

“We have an arrangement,” Neo said as he arched his brow. “Are you going back on your word?”

Salle rolled the silver piercing in his mouth, imagining the taste of another king’s blood in his mouth. Oh, how sweet it was going to be. How decadent. He was going to win next time. He was going to—

“Salle!” Neo barked and Salle noted that he used no title. Salle swallowed as he stepped forward. One. Two. Three. He knelt once he reached the dais where the King of Spades sat on his gilded throne. The eagle screeched, its wings fluttering wildly before it settled down once again.

“Well?” Salle echoed his counterpart’s earlier statement. He bared his throat, fangs still showing in a half-snarl. “What are you waiting for?”

The other’s smile was indulgent and condescending. Salle watched Neo lick his lips and reach it out, carding his fingers through the slicked back hair of the kneeling king. “I was just enjoying the sight.” Neo murmured as he leaned down, hands deceptively gentle on Salle’s hair, on his neck, as Salle feels the first brush of fangs on his neck.

He held his breath and gripped at a neatly pressed suit as the other’s hand rested on his hips. The two of them balanced each other in a way that should not have happened. Or perhaps, quite the opposite. Perhaps, it was always meant to be no matter how fucking dramatic or cliche it sounds.

Salle knew, of course he did, that in their next battle everything would fair game again. His hands twitched, aching for a bow to hold.

Neo pressed his lips over where he bit him and stepped back. But, Salle was already standing, pulling him close by his wrist. They crashed their lips together, biting and clawing at each other’s clothes.

“You just never want to lose, don’t you?”

In this world, they would end up in each other’s arms just as much as they would end up on the opposite sides of a battlefield.

“He’s here,” Cess said as she watched the sky. A giant eagle flew over the field, the wreckage and ruin that used to be a city, and the twins both knew who she was referring to.

Salle grinned, sharp teeth flashing in the light of electric lamps and car lights. “Good,” he said, gripping the bow in his hand tighter.

Cess looked at him and smirked. “Remember to win this time.”

Salle cocked his head, listening to the distant sound of an eagle’s cry. “Oh, I fully intend to.”

 

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Come with me
Into the trees
We'll lay on the grass
And let the hours pass
-Stripped, Shiny Toy Guns-

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Don held the belief that Salle did not belong. The other was too free-spirited to be stuck somewhere for too long.

Don watched him when they ran through the forest, racing beneath interlocked branches and over worn, trodden paths. When Salle pulled his bow taut, Don saw the grace hidden beneath the archer’s skin.

The forest was a place of magic. Deckard had always warned them against it, told them not to go too deep, not to get lost.

There were things that lived in the forest. Creatures. Engkanto. Diwata. Don was sure there were many names for them.

He was slowly realizing that the two of them would be at their mercy, lost as they were.

“Admit it,” he said, grabbing the archer by the elbow. “You lost the path.”

Salle had his jaw clenched. “Maybe.”

Don sighed. “Salle,” he said. “Are you serious?”

“We’ll find it.” Salle grinned and hoisted himself on a low hanging branch. It was a habit that seemed to be so ingrained in him. Always seek high ground. High ground meant a better aim.

Don was sure neither of them expected the squawk and for Salle to fall from the tree in a mess of leaves and twigs.

He was not alone though. There was another boy there, scowling at both of them with twigs and feathers in his hair.

“The fuck?!” Salle was gaping at the stranger. “What the hell were you doing up in the tree?”

The other boy arched one brow. “Excuse me? I should be the one asking that. What are you doing disturbing my tree?”

“Your tree!?”

“Yes, mine,” the stranger said as he crossed his arms, eyes flicking from Salle to Don. “You don't belong here.”

Don raised his arms in surrender, trying to diffuse the growing tension before it escalated to anything worse. They didn't need to get into any fights while they were lost.

“We’re from nearby,” Don explained. “But, we got lost. Salle and I are just trying to go back.”

Salle rested his hand on the trunk as he brushed dirt from his clothes. “Still don't get it. How can it be your tree?”

The stranger fixed Salle with an icy stare. “You still don't realize how deep you've gone into the forest, have you?”

“Youre one of them,” said Don with a frown.

The stranger gave them both a small smile. “I’ll lead you out.”

As he turned, the boy seemed to disappear in the light of the sun until there was an eagle resting on the lowest branch of the tree. Salle was staring with something close to awe and the kind of curiosity that got them lost in the first place.

The eagle brought them out of the forest and all the way back to the village, Don cannot deny the fact that Salle has been enamored, caught up in the enchantment of the boy who soared through the skies.

They kept returning to the forest. Every single day, the boy would meet them at the edge of their well worn path. He introduced himself as Neo and that was really all they knew of him.

Neo brought them to a lake with the water glistening in the morning sun and blooms dotting the ground all around it. The eagle boy threw a stone letting it skip over the glittering water. “Beautiful,” Salle said with a smile.

“The forest is really beautiful like this.” Neo answered looking at them both and the sun cast a strange glow from behind him.

Don didn’t tell the strange boy that Salle had been staring at him and not the beauty around them.

The three of them grew closer over time. It almost felt like the boy--who was not really a boy but something else, something foreign, something different, something not even human--has always been there. Sometimes, Neo would just join them while they’re resting by some spring, always with the offer of sweet berries and stories of a world so different from theirs.

Don could tell that Salle was fascinated. He was as well, of course, for how can you not be when Neo talked of soaring through the skies, or of trees that held silver leaves and golden fruits, or when he mentioned revels and war games. He made it seem so wonderful and whenever Neo would leave them, flying ahead, wings outstretched and so, so beautiful that you’d need to catch your breath, the two friends would be reminded that he was something unreachable, something unknown.

Salle, it seemed, took it like a challenge. Don wasn’t sure when the casual glances and conversations turned into heated looks and flirting. He wasn’t sure when the three of them became comfortable enough to take liberties--Salle’s hand on Neo’s thigh, Neo resting his head on Don’s shoulder, Don catching himself holding onto Salle’s for far too long--but it did happen.

When Neo came to them with the kind of desperation and frantic passion of a man who was dying, Don felt his heart stutter in his chest. The fear that the dream-like thing they’ve had in their time together was ending was like ice in his veins.

It had him pulling the other boy in a tight embrace as Salle hovered unsure, brushing comforting circles at the base of Neo’s spine where his wings would have ended.

“What happened?” Salle asked.

“Nothing.” Neo shook his head.

Don gave him a look of disbelief. Salle wrapped an arm around Neo’s waist, hugging him from behind. The archer rested his head on the other boy’s shoulder.

“Even Mappy knows you’re lying.” Salle drawled.

Neo was still silent.

“Neo?”

“Come with me?” Neo blurted out. He looked at both of them still with that same desperation but it was now with the determination of someone who’s figured out something. “Come with me and we can leave this place. Leave it all behind us.” He looked to Salle. “You said you wanted to...didn’t you?”

“Why?” Salle asked.

“What do you mean why!?” It was strange, Don thought, to see Neo lose his usually calm facade for this emotional wreck.

Don sighed and muttered a curse. “Salle’s an idiot.” He shook his head. “What he means to say is... what brought this on?”

“My kind are not very,” Neo cocked his head, thinking of a word, “accepting of humans. We tend to stay away and when we don’t--I just don’t want to think of what they’d do when they find out.”

Don sighed when he caught the large grin on Salle’s face. He shook his head at the other and Neo turned around to see what it was about. He glared at the archer. “Take this seriously,” Neo told him.

“Sorry,” Salle said but the smile didn’t drop. “I just didn’t know you cared.”

“Are the two of you coming or not?”

And Salle? Salle laughed once again, uncaring and so sure of himself. Don could see the mix of irritation and fondness on Neo’s face.

It is Don who finally answered for the two of them, Don who sees Salle’s laughter as the facade for an uncertainty that they have never once considered.

“Give us time?”

Neo nodded and they pull themselves towards each other. Their movements that day swing between quick desperation and a slow desire to remember each and everything about each other.

In this world, the three of them are lucky enough to cross each other’s paths, to have enough time to fall in love and be happy. But, they are unlucky enough that they don't quite end up together.

Salle was restless, a child of wind and grace, and persistence. Don watched as he slowly lost himself to the magic and allure of the eagle and the forest.

The invitation was for the two of them but it is Salle who finally pulled himself together to leave. It is Salle who leaves the village they grew up in to strike a path of his own making with nothing but his bow and arrows and a fierce tenacity that leaves nothing and everything to chance.

Don did not know if the two ended up together. He himself had found his own way, moved on from their time in the forest. He liked to think that the two found each other. He liked to think that they found a way to keep each other.

Sometimes, on nights where the sky is covered in the gray of a raging storm, Don liked to sit with his head laid on the shoulder of his own beloved and he watched the lightning that reminded him of a boy who turned into an eagle with a burst of light, and he listened to the roaring thunder that was a little too similar to the roaring laughter of an archer as he chased his eagle.

It is the story Don told to anyone who asked him about their village’s beautiful forest of mystery. The story of an eagle and an archer.

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I know that you're spent, just let me sing you to sleep.
It's your finger and how I'm wrapped around it.
It's your grace and how it keeps me grounded.
I know that you're weak, just let me sing you to sleep.
-Lullaby, Spill Canvas-

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Neo never put much stock in the idea of soulmates. It seemed like everyone put too much importance on the idea.

It wasn’t that he was against having a soulmate. He was not. He’d be happy if it happened. It just wouldn’t be that big of a deal, at least that was what he told everyone. Still, maybe a part of him did hope it was as great as people made it out to be. The world could use a little more happiness.

He stuck his earphones in and started listening in to his favorite radio station. “Hey guys, this is Salle and today someone asked me about soulmates so we’re going to be playing some love songs. Hope you like them. If not, well, that sucks. You can send in your requests online or call or the text our number. I hope to hear from you tonight.”

Well, that was just his luck. Neo sighed. Oh well, it was his favorite station anyway. Might as well continue listening while he answered his homework.

It took awhile for him to understand what all the fuss was about.

He was meeting up with Mia in a cafe. “Where’s you other half?” Neo asked.

Mia shrugged. “He’s coming here later. He said he was gonna bring some friends.”

As if on cue, the door opened and Phil came in dragging some people in after them. Phil kissed Mia on the cheek before gesturing at the others behind him. “Well, meet everyone.”

“Hey,” someone said as they came up to Neo, extending his hand to him. “Nice to meet you, what’s your name?”

“Shouldn’t you say your name first?” Neo asked even as he shook the guy’s hand. The moment they touched, he felt a sting on his arm and they both cried out. Neo pulled his sleeves back revealing a scrawled out name on his arm. Salle, it said.

The stranger, no, not quite a stranger, grinned at him. “Guess you know my name now,” he said. “We’re gonna have to get to know each other more, huh?”

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Arrogant boy, love yourself so no one has to
They are better off without you
Arrogant boy cause a scene like you're supposed to
They'll fall asleep without you
You're lucky if your memory remains
-Therapy, All Time Low-

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In one world, magic was the domain of dancers. They listened to what some referred to as the music of the world, inherent in everything that exists and their actions, their dance, allowed them to control these forces, these music that laid the groundwork for the world’s symphony.

Neo ran the brush through Mia’s hair before starting on the braid she wanted.

“I’m just saying, you know,” Phil said as he stretched his leg above his head. “The exchange students can’t be that bad.”

Mia hummed as she tied her slippers on. “Have you met them?”

“Of course not,” Phil said as he brought his foot back to the ground. He held on to the bar on his right. “Should still be fine though. We’re all masters of the art. Shouldn’t be that hard to get along.”

“We’ll see,” Mia conceded with a smile. She cocked her head and Neo sighed. “What do you think, Neo?”

“You’ll ruin what I’m doing,” Neo said, giving her a pointed look. Mia rolled her eyes and made a small movement with her hand, circling her wrist and bringing her fingers closed in a fist. Her hair tied itself in a braid before curling into a bun, a net pulling itself tight over it.

“There,” Mia said as she stood up from the floor. “Now, answer the question. What do you think of the exchange that’s happening?”

Neo shrugged and started pulling his own slippers on his feet. “They use a different style. Might not be as easy as Phil thinks to work with them.”

Mia and Phil looked at each other before they both laughed.

“What?” Neo asked as he straightened on his seat.

“It’s not about working with them,” Mia explained. “More like, hanging out and being friends.”

“We’ve yet to meet them,” Neo said.

“Nevermind,” Mia said, shaking her head. She stepped onto the hardwood floors of their studio with small measured steps. “Dance with me?”

The exchange students arrived on a friday.

The exchange students seemed really flashy and full of unbridled energy.

Already, Neo saw two of them with dyed blond hair, having some kind of duel the moment they arrived. Neo paused for a moment, his head tilted curiously, just long enough to see another boy emerge from the bus.

The boy had too long hair slicked back from his face and was wearing a plain black shirt with a white jacket tied around his waist. The boy looked up and their eyes met for a second. The boy raised a hand in greeting and Neo frowned at the gesture.

For a moment, he had to wonder if it was really him who was being greeted. With a sigh, Neo decided to leave before he drew any of the others’ attention. He would have to meet them all anyway. Sooner or later.

Maybe later would be better.

And later? Later would find the two as partners in a dance, hands on shoulders and clasped together, dancing in circles and weaving their magic, blue and green and all so beautiful. Later, they would find themselves clashing just as much as they sync with their movements. But, that was for later. For now, Neo left to tell Mia and Phil that the exchange students have arrived.

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Once upon a time
This place was beautiful and mine
But now it's just a bottom line
There's no yellow bricks and happily ever after we lived
The End
-No Place Like Home, Marianas Trench-
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In their world, the one they’ve always known, they were just students. At least, that’s what they told themselves.

Salle yawned and rested his head on Neo’s shoulder. “Great game,” he murmured. “We’ll win next time.”

“I feel like we’ve gone over this before,” Neo said with a laugh. He sipped from a cup of coffee they got.

“We always do anyway,” Salle said. “Cessie’s getting tired of me complaining.”

“You shouldn’t bother your sister so much.”

Salle grew serious once again. “She was crying the other day, you know,” he said. “She said another one of her favorite students graduated. She feels sad about them not returning.”

“Happens all the time,” Neo whispered, feeling the sudden seriousness around them. “Will you sleep over tonight?”

Salle nodded already reaching for his phone on the dash. “I should probably tell my sister. Have to leave early tomorrow though. Dance practice.”

“Don’t worry,” Neo said, smiling at the other as he started up the car. “I’ll wake you up.”

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I'm pretty sure that this isn't how our story ends
So hold me tight
Hold me tight
Hold me tight, or don't
-Hold Me Tight or Don’t, Fall Out Boy-
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