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Finding Strength

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“W-Why did I-let you t-talk me i-into th-this ag-gain?” Nik demands of his sister, shivering beside her.

“Because I have to have someone with me for this,” Emely said simply, meditating under the freezing waterfall. “Pop Pop’s already done this once, Miss Fey and Aunt Pearl had some other things to do, and Daddy and Papa are both overseas dealing with some legal problems in Khura’in. Also because you promised me that you would.”

Ah, yes, he had. He’d promised to be her backup person if her usual partners for this weren’t able to attend, and what kind of future gentleman would he be if he broke a promise to anyone , let alone his own sister?

Once they’ve finished their meditation for the day, Emely joins up with Sister Iris and Sister Bikini while Nik goes to their room. He quickly changes into his warm, dry winter clothes and snuggles up under some blankets as the video call comes in from his parents.

“You both suck,” He tells them upon answering. ”Emely may not realize it, but I know you two were just avoiding the cold; Khura’in hasn’t had legal problems since a little before Papa adopted me!”

The pair smile sheepishly at him. “Sorry, Hündchen… but you’re only half right. Khura’in is holding a legal summit, which is why we’re here. However, it’s optional, so you’re right; we only went to avoid the cold.”

“And because your Uncle Nahyuta is nervous, being the first King of Khura’in with no queen at his side,” Apollo adds in.

“Wait, Uncle Newt still hasn’t asked Miss Skye out on a date?” Nik asks incredulously, his anger at being a popsicle forgotten.

“Oh, they’re dating; he’s just trying to keep it on the down-low so that they can date without being pressured into marriage by basically the entire country,” Klavier explains, shrugging slightly. “He is, however, planning a proposal. His plans seem rather odd, but I believe he’s doing something that Fraulein Skye will enjoy.”

“What’s he doing for the proposal?”

“A scientific scavenger hunt that’ll require her to use various forensic skills. Each part has a word of ‘will you marry me’ in it. The first part, ‘will’ is a sort of luminol test. He’s using blood from a donor that he’ll clean up once it’s set long enough. ‘You’ is going to be fingerprint powder, though I have no idea how he’ll pull that off. ‘Marry’ is going to be done using plaster, and once she’s got all the letters done, he’ll stand behind them,” Apollo elaborates.

“Huh… that’s really well-thought out; I think she’ll enjoy it,” Nik grins.

“Yeah, here’s hoping; Yuty really loves her,” Apollo smiles. “How’s Emely’s spiritual training going? I assume she made you go to the waterfall with her again?”

“Why else do you think I’ve turned myself into an Eskimo?” Nik teases with a smile. “Yeah, Em’s finishing up her last meditation round, and then we’re heading back home. Hopefully, I don’t catch a cold this time; I’ve got tests to study for when we get home.”

“Niks, come on, you’ll be fine,” Emely jumped in, teasingly tousling her brother’s hair. “You’ve never gotten anything below a B+.”

“Which comes from hard work and lots of studying. You talk to Dad and Papa; I’m going to pack our things so that we can head home,” Nik says simply. “I might not have a boyfriend to go home to, but home has something that the mountains don’t.”

“And that would be?”

“Heated housing.”

~*~

When the middle schoolers arrive at home, they’re greeted with a pair of happy little animals. It makes sense, to Nikolas at least. These spiritual training trips are the most he’s ever apart from his cat, and the same goes for Emely and Vongole.

Nik tosses his bags to the side of his bed and then lifts his cat into his arms, taking her upstairs to play his new game with him; the latest addition to the Final Fantasy franchise, the ever-popular Final Fantasy XV. He's about halfway through the story mode but is nowhere near completion yet. He's honestly using video games as a coping mechanism to help him work out his frustrations, but it also gives him some time to cuddle with his cat. Plus, Emely would sometimes join him to help with whatever sections he was struggling with.

However, this time, Emely simply grabs the controller from his hands and pauses it before giving him a concerned look. “Nikolas Palamedes Justice, you need to stop this. I know why you’re playing through the game on hard mode instead of easy, and you need to stop. It sucks, I get it, but you need to move on. You said you wanted to figure out who you are again, and you can’t do that if you hole yourself up in your room playing video games when you aren’t doing homework. It’s not healthy, bro.”

“Everyone gets over things in their own way Em,” Nik says simply, trying to get the controller back from her and failing. “I’m not shutting myself out; I just… I need time. Tommy meant a lot to me; so to find out the kind of person he really was… It was painful. I need some time.”

Emely sighs, slowly giving the controller back to him. “Okay, fine… but promise me that when Daddy and Papa get home, you’ll start seeing a therapist. If not for yourself, then for the rest of us. We’re worried about you.”

“... If you tell either of them I cursed, I’ll totally back out, but… Goddammit, I can’t say no that face of yours! You had to have asked Aunt Trucy for pouting lessons!” Nik says firmly.

Emely simply smiles at her brother. “I did indeed. I promise to only use it when one of you boys is making a complete idiot of yourselves. And yes, that includes Daddy and Papa.”

Nik sighs a little. “Good. Now, can we talk about something less depressing? LIke… the school talent show! Are you going to try out?”

“Well, I was actually hoping I could convince you to do a sibling act with me,” she admits, plopping down next to him as Vongole comes in and sits between them. Over the years, Vongole has gotten over the natural cat vs dog mentality and has instead become rather accustomed to Gizmo’s presence. The pair often shares a water bowl, and Gizmo isn’t afraid to snuggle up with her closest animal friend. “I really want to sing, but you know I have horrible stage fright, so here’s my thinking. We perform a number together; do a sibling song. You play guitar, and we both sing. What do you think?”

“I think it’s a horrible idea and that we’ll run the risk of being told we’re just like Dad, simply because we’re singing and playing guitar.”

“And?”

“... It’s not like we don’t get enough of it at school, so let’s do it anyways.”

~*~

“You find your sheet music?” Emely questions as she finishes setting up the recording device. In order to practice for the talent show, they’ve decided to record themselves so that they can know what to improve on.

“Yeah, I’m a hundred percent ready,” Nik smiles in response. He checks the sheet music and then tunes his guitar accordingly, carefully placing the capo in the right place. “Okay, I’ll start playing.”

“Great. Remember, you start us on vocals too,” she reminds him.

He simply nods, strumming at the guitar in accordance with what’s on his sheets. When he comes to a point where he sees lyrics on the sheets, he begins singing.

~*~

I see your true colors,

Shining through (True colors),

And that’s why I love you,

 

So don’t be afraid,

To let them show,

Your true colors,

True colors are beautiful!

 

Like a rainbow,

Oh-oh-oh-Oooh, like a rainbow,

 

Can’t remember when,

I last saw you laughing,

Emely ends the recording and smiles happily. “Not sure about you, but I think we sounded awesome!”

“Remember what Papa says? There’s always room to improve,” Nikolas points out, but he knows that his sister will only request a rehearsal every other day. After all, she’s still got spirit training nearly every day with the Fey Family, wanting to be a great spirit medium like her biological mother was.

He checks his watch and notes the time before quickly polishing his guitar and heading to start on dinner. They’re both pretty tired and not in the mood to be up long enough for an overly complicated meal, so Nik decides on a tried and true classic; instant noodles. He heats the water and then fills the cups to the line before setting them aside to set, making an extra since he knows one of his friends will likely show up just in time for dinner, like usual after he’s been gone long enough.

True to his character, there’s a simple, yet polite knock at the door, right as Nik goes to get chopsticks out to eat their noodles with. He smiles and sets the food on the table before going to the door to greet Cecil, who’s standing at the door with a homemade cake in hand.

“Right on time, Ce,” Nik teases, but he lets his childhood friend inside. “Your folks also in the Kingdom of Khura’in for this big summit thing, or am I the only one who got left behind because his sister likes meditating under icy waterfalls?”

“Just you, I’m afraid,” Cecil shrugs, setting the cake on the kitchen counter while Nik politely takes his coat to the closet so it can dry. “How was the trip?”

“It was alright,” Nik shrugs, stretching a bit before sitting at the table to eat. “Would’ve been better if somebody didn’t force me to meditate under an icy waterfall with her! I swear, it’s a miracle that I’m still in one piece after everything my sister has put me through. At least your sister is sane .”

Cecil chuckles a bit at that. “I hardly think you should be saying such things. Sometimes I think that Isolde has a Spider-Sense for knowing when her idol is being insulted.”

Isolde is Cecil’s younger, adopted sister, who is only a year younger than Nikolas and Emely themselves. Her parents had both been put in prison for the abuse, negligence and mental torment of her, and since Sebastian knew what that was like, he’d immediately insisted on bringing the girl home. It only took one speech about Isolde being a female version of himself for the man to get Simon to agree to it.

Isolde idolizes Emely for some reason. Nobody has been able to figure out why, but for some reason, Isolde absolutely adores her brother’s best friend’s sister and is always copying her mannerisms, and taking her side on everything.

“So, are the two of you home alone?” Cecil questions, sitting at the table. Emely has long since forgone manners and begun eating her noodles eagerly. After the ‘Great Attorney Killing Food’ mystery, Emely had caused shortly before Klavier and Apollo’s engagement, the girl had been banned from the stove, so any kind of food, she took as a blessing.

“Yeah, Dad and Papa are overseas still, but they should be home in time for Christmas,” Nik says with a small smile.

He sincerely hopes they will be. He’s been working on a brand new song for them for weeks now with Jove and Thalassa’s help, and he’s eager to debut it for them on Christmas.

“That’s good,” Cecil smiles. “Oh, did I tell you that I finally managed to get a copy of the original Final Fantasy VII that you asked me to look out for?”

“Mein Gott, are you serious?” Nik asks incredulously around a mouthful of noodles. “H-How much was it? I can pay you back; I know that any copy of VII people find is super expensive.”

“No, don’t worry about it. Call it a late friend-a-versary gift, since I was out of town with Sebastian at the time,” Cecil insists, shrugging a little. “Besides, you got me hooked on the series, so it’s kinda like a shared thing.”

“Well… fine, but our trip to PAX East is on me; deal?” Nik says simply.

Cecil nods. “Very well.”

Cecil spends a fair part of the evening with his friend, the two taking turns playing the recently acquired copy of Final Fantasy VII. However, ‘taking turns’ means Cecil taking the controller and playing whenever Nik decided to rage-quit, which happens at almost every boss that wasn’t the tutorial boss.

Finally, as it gets later, Emely invites in Sebastian, who’s come here to pick up his son and take him home.

Cecil mock-salutes as Nik saves the game and turns it off. The pair shares a brief and awkward hug before Cecil heads home with Sebastian. The moment the Debeste-Blackquills are out of the house, Emely gives her brother a devilish grin. “Nikky and Cecil sittin’ in a tree,” she teases.

“Kann es! Er mag mich wahrscheinlich nicht einmal so! Mach einfach die Hölle-”

“Nik?”

“Ja?”

“English. You and Daddy might be fluent in German, but I’m not.”

“S-Sorry, it’s just… Em, I’m not ready ,” Nik says in a mildly panicked tone.

“For what?” Emely questions gently. “You like him; you have for years now, and I’m like, 95% sure that he likes you back, so what’s the problem here?”

“Do you not remember my last relationship? Do you not remember Tommy Hollis? Because I do , Emely! I remember staying the night with friends and being terrified he’d dump me over it! I remember stealing your cover-up to fix a black-eye every other week, and being miserable, yet him manipulating me into staying! But most of all, I remember Cecil and Lucky nearly getting assault charges when I finally broke it off, and Tommy disobeyed the restraining order!” Nik announces. “Do you really think after all of that, I’m just going to move on? No. I’m going to wait until either high school or college to have another relationship; I’m going to wait until I’m older and a lot less stupid!”

Nik frowns, just now noticing the other two people that had entered the house and freezing a bit at their dumbstruck faces.

“N-Nikky-” Apollo tries, but Nik simply darts up the stairs to his room, not wanting to talk anymore on the subject.

“Emely, head for bed, alright Schatz?” Klavier says softly.

Emely just nods at her father, slipping into more comfortable clothes before going to bed.

Meanwhile, Apollo and Klavier clean up the dinner mess, throwing out old noodle containers and washing the dishes that they’d left before going to Khura’in.

Eventually, as they’re onto the last pot and forks, Apollo asks, “Do you think Nik’s going to be okay? I mean, I’ve never seen him yell at anyone before now, let alone Emely of all people.”

“Just give him time, Liebling. Sometimes, things must, unfortunately, get worse before they get better,” Klavier reassures, finishing the drying.

Apollo slowly nods, taking off his vest, button down, and tie before settling onto the couch with just his undershirt and slacks on. “I just wish I could help. This is the first time that he’s been miserable where a hug and some music didn’t help him,” the brunette says honestly.

“I know Schatzi, but all we can really do for him is be there for support when we’re needed,” The blonde points out, playing with Apollo’s hair.

Apollo knows he’s right, know it in the pit of his stomach, but there’s another reason Nik’s problems bother him.

This is the first time that Nik has shut him out.