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A tear is only water
A sigh is only air
Whenever you feel haunted
The truth lies out there
~Sleepwalker's Dream; Delain

"Life is good, huh, bro?"

Bones Justice couldn't disagree. It'd been less than a month since his team won the cup, but the changes to their lives had been instantaneous. The past few weeks had been a whirlwind of interviews, endorsements and other money-making deals, and while Bones didn't participate in this sort of thing as much as his teammates did, he was letting them enjoy everything to the fullest. They deserved it.

And he, for the most part, was simply relieved the unsolved mystery that had haunted him for the last ten years of his life was finally over. A new chapter of his life had just begun, and not just because of the championship. He hadn't told anyone, not even his best friend, that he was now in a relationship. And he didn't intend to, at least not yet. It was still too new, too unknown to him. He wanted to get a better handle on his own feelings, on where this choice was taking him.

For a long time before her admission, Bones began to suspect Sherry's true feelings for him, but he had chosen not to say anything, and not just because he wasn't sure he could return those feelings. Up till now, he knew he would have been too distracted by everything else in his life--keeping his team alive and on top, not to mention his search for his father--to be able to attempt this, but all that was over now, and Prigg, miserably bent out of shape over the loss, hadn't been seen or heard from in weeks. Which meant they could all breathe a little easier...for now.

As for his best friend...Razor looked like he was in a particularly good mood tonight as they walked the short distance from the parking garage to the apartment they now shared. Renting the apartment had been Razor's first post-championship splurge and he all but begged him to be his 'roomie', and Bones, amused by his childish enthusiasm, hadn't been able to say no.

"Hey, did you hear?" Razor asked as he pulled out his shiny new key to the front door. "Darkstar just signed a movie deal. Now, if you ask me, his face is more appropriate for radio, but…"

Bones smiled patiently. "I heard."

Razor was practically bouncing with excitement as he headed inside and flicked on the living room light, so Bones knew Darkstar's latest career move wasn't the main thing on the young lizoid's mind. Knowing he'd spit it out eventually, he waited while Razor kicked off his sneakers and dropped back onto the couch.

"And guess who signed on for the soundtrack," he went on, his grin both excited and sly.

"I give up," said Bones, though he suddenly had a sinking feeling he knew where this was going.

Razor continued to grin at him as he kicked his feet up onto the coffee table and draped his arms across the back of the couch. He looked so excited, Bones practically expected him to start squealing like a cheerleader.

"Derikka, bro! The hottie in the flesh herself! Do you think she'll be at the premiere? Maybe she needs a date..."

"The movie hasn't even started filming yet," Bones reminded him, "so the premiere is, what, a year or more away?"

His bubble now popped, Razor deflated considerably. "Bones," he sighed, before grabbing the nearest cushion and hurling it at him. "You're such a buzzkill!"

"Just because she's famous doesn't mean she'll automatically go out with you," Bones pointed out after he dodged the projectile.

"It doesn't mean she won't," Razor countered.

Huffing, he got up and breezed into the kitchen, where he began noisily digging in the fridge. As a non-eater, the kitchen was far from Bones' domain, so he went into the nearby rec room instead. It had everything: a massive TV and stereo, classic arcade games, a pool table and matching poker table. Razor came in a minute later and flopped into one of the lounge chairs, flipping on the stereo as he sipped a drink. A brand of music Bones had not been previously familiar with or interested in filled the room; that of a female pop star.

Razor fell in and out of love in less than an instant, and his current infatuation/obsession started almost immediately after their big win. The entire team had gone onto a late night talk show, then departed en masse for more celebrating, without staying to watch the last musical act. When he tuned in to watch their interview later, Razor's tongue had literally tied itself in a knot when he first beheld what he'd just narrowly missed meeting in person: a leggy, sprightly wisp of a girl, who danced and bounded across the stage in a glistening spandex top and a mini skirt. Razor had been kicking himself over the lost opportunity ever since, and now spent most of his time saturating his life with anything and everything 'Derikka'.

Whether that was her real name or not Bones didn't know or care, but according to the poster that graced the nearby wall, some clever mind at her record company thought it would be a good idea to spell her name 'derikkA'. Beneath the lopsided title was a norm who couldn't look smaller or more fragile if she tried. No doubt to compensate, she was always photographed in spiked heels and short skirts, which made her slender, shapely legs look longer than they were. On the poster she was dressed in a pale pink mini dress with matching heels, and her waist-length black hair was billowing behind her as she tilted her head back to give the camera a coy smile with her full, pouty lips, her vibrant green eyes slanted.

Bones couldn't deny that she was attractive, but...

"She's kind of a child, isn't she?"

Razor gave him a look like he'd grown a second head. "Are you kidding? She's our age, bro. All woman."

"So? She still looks like a child."

Her figure, though slender, was womanly enough, but her face struck him as looking like someone younger than a person in her early twenties. She had a youthful, not quite grown up air about her that no doubt appealed to her young fan base, which was, to the best of his knowledge, mostly comprised of pre-teens. Which made his best friend's interest feel even weirder, but Razor was apparently the sort of guy who forgot girls had faces.

At least her music wasn't completely intolerable. It was perky and upbeat, especially for his tastes, but the lyrics were thoughtful and dealt with issues beyond first dates and prom nights...though he was pretty sure those were mentioned, too. But her voice had a mature, robust sound to it, and he imagined if it was put among more banging drum solos and screeching guitar riffs, it might be something he'd listen to himself. But in its thoroughly bubble gum pop setting, he was getting kind of tired of it.

"I'm going to go play my drums," Bones announced, though he was pretty sure Razor wasn't listening to him.

It was tempting to tell him to get a new hobby, but this too would fall on deaf ears, so he held his tongue--metaphorically speaking, of course. It was also tempting to mention, casually, that he finally had his first real girlfriend. Spoken during one of the rare times where Razor didn't have one...he knew the reaction would be huge. It would make Razor forget about baby-faced pop stars for a couple of minutes, at least.

But the reaction wouldn't be confined to Razor. Once word got out, both Bones and Sherry would be bombarded with prying questions, Sherry in particular. Bones wasn't ready to deal with that, and he didn't want to subject Sherry to the sudden swoop of celebrity gossip columnists hounding her for details, so he held his tongue about that, too.

And speaking of Sherry...he had plans with her in the morning, so after a wall-rattling session with his drums, he headed to bed. As a skeletoid, he didn't get to eat, and he didn't feel life the same way mutants with skin did, so sleep had become one of the simple pleasures he enjoyed the most. Sometimes, though, it got a little weird. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle of a dream about his childhood, about playing carefree games with his friends, and think he could still feel shadowy hints of things on the skin that wasn't there anymore, like the warmth of the sun.

But that night he didn't have any dreams he could remember, and in the morning he rose in good spirits. In his room down the hall, Razor was snoring hard enough to rattle the light fixtures, so Bones dressed and left quietly.

Dates with Sherry weren't full-blown dates, at least not in the traditional sense. They didn't head to popular restaurants or explore museums or something, since they were avoiding places where someone was likely to spot them and figure out they were together. For now they were content to travel to private, secluded areas, where they would simply enjoy being together. Most of the time they talked quietly, about themselves, their lives, what they expected and hoped for in the future. It wasn't easy for him to open up so much, and it was proving to be a slow process, but Sherry, knowing better than anyone what he had been through, was infinitely patient with him.

It made him wonder that morning, as they walked through the wooded area they often went to together, where love actually came from. He didn't have a heart any more than he had any other internal organ, but sometimes, like when she took his hand with a soft smile and waited as he struggled to find the right words, he definitely felt something inside him, something warm and comforting. It wasn't something he'd felt before, but he still wasn't sure if what he felt for her was love.

But Sherry, whose years in journalism had given her a keen, perceptive eye, seemed to already know this, and looked content to wait until he knew for sure either way. If she was willing to take that chance on him, he knew he owed it to her to find out, no matter how awkward the journey turned out to be.

Sometimes, it was easier to talk about other people.

"Razor's driving me nuts," he announced abruptly, as they strolled down an overgrown path together.

Sherry let out a laugh. "Of course he is," she said, in her soft accent. "He's your best friend. And you live together, so that door probably swings both ways."

Bones hadn't considered that. He couldn't imagine what he might be doing that would rankle Razor's nerves, but it was something worth investigating--so he could keep doing it. Three weeks of non-stop pop music deserved a little payback.

"But speaking of Darkstar," Sherry began, and Bones couldn't help chuckling at the abrupt change of subject, "the studio he signed with is having a cast party tomorrow night. You want to come?"

She didn't outright say that she was going and she wanted him to go with her, but as she snaked her arm around his and smiled at him, she didn't really need to. Bones felt his own smile fade. "You mean, together?"

"I'm pretty sure the implication was there. I'm not looking forward to the fallout once we go public, but we can't avoid being seen together forever. And most of the time you can string the media along for a month or two while all the gossip rags argue about whether two people are actually dating or not before you finally have to admit it. I figure since everyone else will be there, it isn't likely everyone will automatically assume we're suddenly a couple."

She had a point. They'd gone a little overboard lately, going as far as avoiding being in the same room together when cameras were rolling, even when his teammates were around. At a big party like this, they were pretty safe unless they stayed glued at the hip all night.

After thinking for a minute, he asked, "This isn't black tie, is it?"

Not that he minded dressing up, since stiff fabrics didn't bother him, but his female fan base got even more riled than usual when they saw him in a suit.

"These kind of events are a toss-up, since most actors are pretty eccentric. Some will dress to the nines, others might show up in jeans and t-shirts. So just wear whatever you're comfortable with."

Even so, Razor was probably going to go overboard since he was going to meet at least one beautiful actress before the night was over. He might even rent a tux just for the occasion.

Sherry suddenly rested her head on his arm with a contented sigh, and thoughts of Razor and parties rapidly faded from Bones' mind. After thinking about it for a minute, he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. He wasn't sure just where his choices were going to lead him, but he was more than willing to move forward and find out. His heart, or whatever it was inside him that flowed with feeling, was more open than it had ever been. And facing the future was a welcome thought because he knew he wouldn't be facing it alone.

"A cast party?" Razor repeated. "And you're going? Doesn't sound like your thing, bro."

"I'm not going for me," Bones told him, "I'm going for Darkstar."

"Yeah, I know," Razor quickly added, knowing where this was headed. "Just because it's the off-season doesn't mean we're not still a team, and we should be there for each other. Doesn't mean I have to be interested."

Bones arched a hairless brow. "You mean you're not? A lot of celebrities will be there, you know, including Luna Maxwell."

Razor let himself grin. "I was kidding, Bones. I'll come, if only for the free food."

Truth be told, he was secretly hoping Derikka would show up, even though it was highly unlikely since singing the movie's theme song wasn't the same as being part of the cast. He was curious why they had hired a pop singer to do the theme for a gory, R-rated action flick, though. Maybe she was branching out into a more mature, rock-based vein of music? It was a big departure from her usual style either way and he was curious what kind of song it would end up being.

Razor decided not to mention this to Bones, since he was pretty sure his best friend was more than a little sick of listening to him babble about a girl he'd never even met. He had high hopes for when he finally did, though he wasn’t really sure why. It was just a feeling--a strong one.

He decided not to mention this either since, as was often the case when he had his heart set on a lovely lady, Bones had few words to say about it. Although his silent facial expressions often said plenty all on their own, and he, having known Bones since childhood, could read his subtle-yet-pointed looks better than anyone.

"Tomorrow night, you said?" Razor commented as he went to flip through his collection of Derikka CDs. "Can't wait."

"Just a moment ago you weren't interested," said Bones, with the usual dryness he used when he was simply making an observation. If he had grown suspicious about his true motives, his tone would have borne a hint of amusement. Either that or annoyance, which was more likely than not right now. Bones had been annoyed with him a lot since they became roommates. Razor couldn't blame him; Bones had never been a fan of pop music. To be honest he wasn't either, but something about Derikka's voice allowed him to overlook the relentlessly upbeat perkiness.

"I told you, I was kidding," Razor reminded him wearily. "I can already tell, it's going to be a killer night."

As he spoke, the breezy sound of Derikka's title track from her third album, Instinct, filled the room. And Bones, as he often did when Razor started playing his new favorite artist, wordlessly went to his room and started wailing on his drums. Razor eventually gave up trying to listen over the intense pounding and went out to cruise in his new car instead.