“I am so sorry, man. Seriously. Like, I was distracted and-and I never would have done anything like that on purpose.”

“I know.”

“If it wasn’t for that stupid wannabe gringo… Seriously, Dorian, I didn’t mean to nearly blow you up, dude. It was an accident, I swear!”

“I get it, Fox,” Dorian said distantly. He barely heard him as he buzzed in his ear. He just wanted to get to the reflection room and breathe. He spent the last hour doing his best to not even think about Wylie Doe and now he needed to actually be as far away from him as possible before he did something stupid.

God, he was feeling really fucking crazy.

“Thank god for Wylie, man. I mean, fuck, he was just right there making sure no one got hurt. I don’t think I’ve known anyone to be so cool after just getting here. Yeah, he looks all punk with his clothes and crazy eyes and all, but he’s just such a big softie under it all.”

Dorian stopped short. He turned and glared at the scrawny shifter. “Did he send you over to talk to me?”

With an awkward grin, Fox raised his eyebrows. “Uh, what?”

Dorian just narrowed his eyes. “You know, to work on me. Get me to like him more.”

“Err… What? I was just apologizing, man.” Fox scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Where’s my apology, Zorro?” Vincent stepped up behind Fox. “You nearly blew me up too, you know.”

Fox snarled and whirled on him. “You’re the fucking reason I lost my focus, you damn ass! Too fucking bad if you nearly got blown up. Serves you right!”

Dorian barely heard as the two began to argue. Fucking Wylie. Seriously. He couldn’t even have a simple Body Magic class without distracting the fuck out of him. He was amazing at magic yet all he did the last hour was try to keep from sparking over the damn lunatic who had shielded him.

Fuck. Fuck, Wylie made a damn sexy shield.

Dorian scowled and went to duck around Fox and Vincent, only to have the two nearly step into him when Wylie waved to Fox from across the hall. When Fox went to talk to him, Vincent boldly followed.

Fucking Vincent. Dorian glared and held back a very nasty swear when he heard Vincent thank Wylie for shielding him from Fox’s out of control spell.

Wylie had shielded him and only him, not that damn shameless slut. Vincent just happened to be on the other side of him and protected from the blow. Fucker. The stupid, annoying fucker.

Dorian was moving before he even realized it. He stomped up to the group of them and grabbed Wylie by his magically repaired shirt. “You need a smoke.”

“I do?” Wylie blinked and stumbled forward when Dorian jerked him down the hall. A hiss escaped him right before black scales erupted over his arms. Dorian avoided them with ease.

“Yeah, you fucking do.” Dorian looked straight ahead and led the way to the nearest exit. He shot Vincent a deadly glare just in case he dared to follow.

He might not be able to have Wylie, but he sure as fuck wasn’t going to let Vincent have him.

The autumn afternoon air was still warm. Wylie carefully lifted his sunglasses and tested his light sensitive eyes while Dorian pulled him outside away from the others. Theodore’s trick worked; his eyes were no longer in night vision mode the way his dragon preferred. He glanced over at Dorian, who was quiet now they were alone. His hands trembled slightly as he pulled a cigarette from his case.

Wylie was considering giving up on smoking if only because he had no fucking access to cigarettes. He was told the patients were allowed to go out during the weekends, but since he was dealing with special restrictions from the judge, he probably wouldn’t be able to leave the Academy grounds until he saw his parole officer later next month. Dorian had the one thing he craved and it seemed too dangerous when he was trying his damnedest to stay away.

It didn’t help that Dorian kept throwing him mixed signals. After spending the week avoiding each other, he forcefully dragged Wylie out the door. And even though Dorian looked particularly distant and cool as he held a cigarette up in offering, Wylie and his dragon could read so much more going on underneath the surface.

Dorian was clear they couldn’t be anything, but it hadn’t stopped the sorcerer from wanting it. He was out there and inviting him closer. His hazel eyes were sharp and filled with something wild. It said more to Wylie than any of Dorian’s previous words of impossible.

Dorian wanted him, crazy hissing dragon and all.

Wylie carefully plucked the cigarette from his grasp and let Dorian light it. He no longer worried about being burned when the sorcerer’s finger lit up in a flame. “Sorry about earlier. Didn’t mean to make you start sparking.” He watched Dorian carefully and caught the slightest of tics in his jaw.

“It happens. Forget about it.” Dorian jumped up to sit on the thin banister that overlooked a row of shrubs. His shoes locked in the metal rails to keep him from falling.

“Pretty sure you’re upset.” Wylie stepped away to lean on the side of the building.

Dorian glared at him and looked away after a moment. Smoke streamed from his nose. “Just drop it. I’m handling it. At least Master Howld was there with a collar if I lost it. But I didn’t because I’m fucking handling it.”

Dorian’s foot kept tapping on the rail. Wylie swore he could taste his agitation. “Did I do something to piss you off? Well… besides my dragon overreacting and playing hero.” At Dorian’s glare, Wylie felt he guessed the issue.

“I didn’t need your help. I can take care of myself just fine.”

Wylie nodded and took a slow hit of his cigarette. He tried to find a way to show he didn’t think Dorian was some fragile, weak princess. He didn’t. The shielding was instinctual. He hadn’t even known what he was doing when he threw himself across the room. At the strange shift of magic in the air, his dragon had reared up and then moments later he was basically wrapped around Dorian with his back shredded from the force of the magical blast.

“I get that you’re powerful, Dorian. I just can’t get the dragon to listen all the time. He’s got his own ideas on how he wants to be around you.” Wylie’s smile was bitter. “He knows you’re powerful. He just wants to protect you so you’ll never have to worry about anything bad happening.”

It was apparently the wrong thing to say. Wylie sighed when Dorian jumped off the railing to scowl at him. “Stop it. Don’t fucking talk to me like that,” Dorian demanded in exasperation. “I was clear; there’s no fucking winning me. I can’t be with anyone so just… Fuck, I have a lifetime of loneliness ahead of me. There’s nothing I can give you, so stop making me, well, feel!”

With a growl, Dorian tore his cigarette case from his back pocket. He pulled another one free just to suck it down in seconds once lit. Wylie watched him silently while he picked through his words. The damn dragon wanted to grab him and hold him until he settled. Dorian would probably only get more upset along with sliced up from his scales.

Wylie almost kept his mouth shut. He was wary of what kind of reaction he was going to get from the twitchy sorcerer. At least Dorian wasn’t sparking, about to burst into flames or whatnot. “What about the null-collar? If you want to be with someone, why not just wear the collar?”

Dorian glanced his way. With a shrug, he lit another cigarette. “I have issues with the collar. It’s a crutch. I have to spend the rest of my life with this fucked-up disorder and…” He raised his shoulder. With a frustrated sigh, he turned to Wylie with arms held wide. “I have to give up on the shit I want. I have to. It’s just irresponsible to put others at risk over something so selfish.”

Wylie tried to hold his tongue. It was no good, and he pushed from the wall and debated if he should just leave. Dorian was pacing and looked about to break something. Damn.

“Since when?” Wylie found himself speaking. He knew he was about to make a total ass of himself.

“What?” Dorian whirled on his heel to glare at him.

“Since when is personal happiness selfish? What, you’re just supposed to wait around for someone to allow you to be happy? Do you seriously think anyone else is crying over total strangers every time they want to get laid?”

Dorian pursed his lips and didn’t answer. He began to pace again, his head ducked as he stared at his shoes. “You wouldn’t understand, would you? You’re just dealing with… what, exactly? A hissing disorder?”

Wylie narrowed his eyes at the cutting tone, but refrained from snapping back. Dorian wouldn’t be impressed with his close call with Daiker, and there was no way he’d willingly implicate himself in Collin McPherson’s shooting.

“I can’t shift fully and my arms are deadly whenever they’re like this.” Wylie moved closer. Dorian sidestepped him and kept walking. “Still, I’m going to do everything I can to not hurt anyone and learn how to control my shifting better. My claws can slice through metal with ease but I’ve never hurt anyone I didn’t mean to. I’m not going to stop living my life just because I have fucked-up demon arms.”

Dorian huffed in exasperation and shook his head. “It’s easy for you to say. You really can’t understand. Maybe if you were one of the crazy shifters who can’t control his beast, but you’re not.” He stopped in front of Wylie and looked up into his pale eyes. “My magic is like another entity inside of me. It’s nearly alive and impossible to communicate with. The thing is, it doesn’t want to stay inside, it wants out. Out of me.” Dorian looked so desperate, his golden-green eyes wide as he tried to get Wylie to understand. “When it gets out, it kills. That’s all it does. I spend every day trying to keep my magic from killing people.”

“Dorian…” Wylie sighed. He ducked closer and breathed his scent in. His dragon could taste Dorian’s distress and all Wylie wanted to do was hold him, kiss him, take his pain away. Instead, he could only stand there, inches away, and wish for so many things he couldn’t have.

He bumped the bridge of his nose against Dorian’s jaw and said softly, “That just makes it more important to find ways to have fun. Enjoy life.”

Dorian shook his head but didn’t pull away. His hands hovered inches from Wylie’s chest. “I can’t.” He carefully wrapped fingers into Wylie’s shirt and tugged. “I just can’t.”

“You can. You’ve been given a crappy deal in life. It doesn’t mean you have to fucking accept it. Take everything good you can get.” Wylie forced Dorian to meet his gaze. “Who cares if it’s selfish? That’s just a word people say to make you feel bad about wanting things they’re too afraid to go after. Be selfish. Be selfish with me.”

Sparks shot up over Dorian’s skin. His eyes closed as he released a small groan. “Damn it.” He took a step back and spelled away smoke from his shirt with a wave. He bit his lip and edged further from Wylie, his eyes averted. “Yeah, well, like I said, it’s really easy for you to say. You don’t have to worry about killing people if you lose control.”

Wylie did worry about killing people but not from a lack of control. “Have you tried? Have you honestly tried to see if you can win against your magic?”

“Of course,” Dorian grunted. He turned away completely. “I meditate every—”

“That’s alone,” Wylie interrupted. “You do it all alone with no one you’re sparking over. That can’t be the same as trying to control it while being touched. If you don’t really try, then how do you know?”

Dorian growled under his breath and turned back. Defiance was tight in his stance as he tilted his chin up. “What the fuck do you know? Really? You just fucking got here and you think you know how shit works? You don’t know fuck, especially about me, so just shut it.”

Wylie bared his fangs and kept himself still as Dorian flashed gorgeous angry eyes at him. He was crossing the line, he knew it, but he didn’t fucking care. He was head over heels for this damn frustrating guy and Dorian wasn’t even going to attempt to figure out a way to be with him. And it wasn’t like he didn’t want him. If there was one thing Wylie determined, it was that the sorcerer was as messed up over him as he was for Dorian.

“Let me know when you’re done copping out,” Wylie said coldly. He stood taller.

“Fucking—” Dorian snarled. He turned away angrily only to spin back with two fingers raised. Wylie watched impassively. He wasn’t surprised when his knees went weak. His body crumpled down abruptly when the spell hit him.

His fingers twitched in agitation as he fought back sparks. Dorian glared down at Wylie and reached for another cigarette. He lit it silently, took a drag and exhaled with a sigh.

“You were saying?” Dorian lips were twisted in a smug smirk but his eyes were hard with anger. “You don’t know shit and you should watch your mouth.”

Wylie could already feel the spell abate. The weakness left his limbs almost as quickly as it hit. He kept himself still and knelt on the ground. He didn’t want to upset him any further. The way Fox talked, Dorian didn’t get angry ever. Right now he looked like he was ready to go up in flames and take the Academy with him.

“You know, it’s really easy for you to talk,” Dorian muttered angrily. “You didn’t fuck up so bad that someone died. I can tell. I’ve seen killer shifters go through here. You’re not one of them. It’s not so easy to tell with sorcerers.” Dorian shook his head agitatedly. With a growl he scuffed the ground with his shoe. “Some sorcerers kill and you should be careful. You should definitely watch your ass with that sociopath, Vincent.”

“So you killed someone.”

Dorian blinked in surprise. His shock was replaced with a scowl when he met his gaze. “Right, the dragon shields magic. What are you, fucking pitying me right now by pretending my spell works?”

Yeah, he was pissed about everything. “I wasn’t pretending. It worked enough to knock me down. It just doesn’t last very long.” He gauged Dorian’s expression carefully before he added, “I didn’t want to upset you anymore and, well, I want to be able to be around you as long as I can.”

“Fuck, just stop.” Dorian threw his arms up in exasperation. “Stop being so fucking perfect. Get angry. Hate me. I’m treating you like shit and I need you to hate me and leave already.”

Wylie was pretty sure Dorian was the one who dragged him out so they could be alone. Both times, actually.

“Why? You can just make me, right?” Wylie shifted back until he was sitting on the ground. “If you really want me to go, you can just magic me.”

Dorian groaned. He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair, and pulled at his locks in frustration. “I can’t. I keep trying but I can’t fucking stop myself.” He crouched down in front of Wylie, his eyes alight with anger and something unreadable.

“Listen to me, Doe. Before this fucked-up illness, if some strange shifter came up to me, knocked into me the way you did—yeah, by accident—and then hissed like that, I would have hexed the fuck out of him. I was an absolute asshole. I thought I was better than every other person on the damn planet because I could do just about anything I could imagine with my power. I didn’t even have to try. It was all so fucking easy for me.”

Dorian tilted his head towards the Academy with a frown. “I had friends back then, people just like me. We all thought we were better than everyone else. We spent our weekends going out and fucking up people’s cars, bursting pipes in public places. It was a game to change the clothes on strangers as they walked by and see if they noticed. Sometimes just strip them entirely if we were feeling mean enough. I didn’t give a fuck about anyone or anything.”

Wylie wasn’t sure what Dorian wanted from him. He looked desperate for him to understand. “Dorian…”

“No, listen.” He held his hand up. “One day I was fooling around with one of my friends—an arrogant, beautiful, fun as fuck guy I couldn’t stop thinking about. I was feeling beyond hot. I never felt that hot for anyone. The first spark, it was funny.” Dorian’s glare was molten, his tone bitter and savage.

“I sparked whenever he fucking touched me, and wasn’t it just a goddamn joke? We were laughing about it the entire day until we finally got some time alone. Then he pushed me up against a wall, shoved his hand down my pants and my magic incinerated him and half his fucking house in an instant. Do you fucking get it now, Wylie? I’m not worth chasing. I’m not worth looking for some kind of solution around this shit. I’m a fucking monster and you shouldn’t want a goddamn thing to do with me.”

Dorian’s emotions had grown too great and he growled as sparks rushed over his skin. Refusing to meet Wylie’s eye, he sprawled back on the ground and tried to get his breathing under control.

Dorian was fucked-up but it was over shit that wasn’t even his fault. He acted like being alone now was some sort of punishment for being a shitty teenager. Wylie had yet to meet a teenager who wasn’t totally selfish and full of mistakes.

There was a strange numbness forming in the pit of Wylie’s chest. He wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, but he needed to fix Dorian and there was only one way to do it.

“I tried to kill someone,” Wylie said, his expression completely blank.

Dorian looked up at him in confusion and just raised his eyebrow. “What?”

“When I was eight. I tried to kill a man,” Wylie explained emotionlessly. “I nearly did kill him. He was hurting my little sister and I was so scared, so angry, my dragon woke up for the first time just so we could kill that horrible man.”

Wylie’s jaw clenched at his next words. His chest and throat were too tight as he looked away. “I remember it. It never fades like my other memories. I bit his face with my fangs and tore the flesh from his cheek and ear. I sliced his throat with my claws when he wouldn’t stop screaming. My sister was crying. She was scared of me. She was more afraid of me than of the man, and she kept crying for me to stop.”

He needed him to understand. Wylie turned his gaze back to find Dorian staring at him. “I didn’t stop. I didn’t want to. I wanted to kill that man. I didn’t stop until I tore his dick off so he could never hurt my sister that way again. And I would have killed him if she hadn’t begged me to stop because I didn’t want to see her cry anymore. Still, even now, I dream about finding him, killing him.”

Wylie unclenched his fists. He forced his hands down flat on the ground. His long black talons were sharp and twitched to cause violence.

Dorian didn’t say anything for a long moment. “Why are you telling me this? You know it’s not the same. What you did—”

“It’s not the same,” Wylie agreed solemnly. Dorian fell silent from his glare. “You had an accident, Dorian. A really fucked-up, terrible accident that resulted in a person dying. Parents lost a son and a house in one go. But you learned. You’re not an asshole any more. I can tell. The other guys only have nice things to say about you, and shifters don’t bullshit about people.”

Wylie snarled and added harshly, “What I did was on purpose. And yeah, it might have been vengeful, righteous—whatever. But the feelings that fill me up aren’t. They’re horrible, hateful, murderous thoughts and emotions. I have to live with them because I invited them into my life. You’re fine, Dorian, and you don’t need to keep punishing yourself for not knowing your magic was too strong. How the fuck were you supposed to know? You’re the only one with that problem here.”

Wylie pushed himself up and stared at the top of Dorian’s bowed head. His hair was a perfect mess. “I’ll try harder to control the dragon so he won’t bother you. I won’t bother you. You deserve so much, Dorian. You deserve someone who can make you happy.” He shook his head and stepped backward. “The dragon doesn’t get that, but I do.”

He turned and headed for the door to keep from seeing the disgust he knew would be in Dorian’s eyes. His scales tucked in as he left.

“What happened to your sister?” Dorian called.

Wylie stopped short. “Don’t know. The Andersons gave me up right after. I scared them. What I did to that man scared them so much, I wasn’t worth loving.”

Wylie glared straight ahead as he wrenched the door open. He slammed it shut behind him and disappeared into the Academy.

Dorian continued to sit. He leaned back and stared up at the clear blue sky as he tried to make sense of everything.

Fucked. He was so fucked.

There was no other way around it. Fucking Wylie Doe and his goddamn wild eyes and crazy arms and damn sweet, protective nature. How the fuck was he going to get out of this now?

He was falling. The stupid ass tried to tell him probably the darkest fucking thing in his life he could think of, and it just made him want Wylie more.

Fuck… Fuck.

He couldn’t even feel fucking sorry for himself anymore!

Dorian snorted to himself. He let his eyes close as a soothing breeze flowed by. He sighed heavily up at the sky,

Shit, what a total pain in the ass. Some freak raped the kid’s little sister and Wylie’s adoptive parents didn’t thank him for protecting the girl. No, they went and threw a little boy away because they didn’t know how to take care of a miniature shifter. Eight. Fucking eight years old.

How the fuck did you get over that? Save a life and get punished for it.

Fuck, compared to people like that, he felt like a fucking decent human being. If someone touched his sister, he’d kill him, and his parents would help.

Fucking Wylie Doe. The kid fucked him up. Not even there a full two weeks and Wylie had completely fucked him up. What an asshole.

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