One or both of them fall asleep.

Laurent  drew his arms around Left’s chest. “Not if we stay here much longer. It must be gone midnight. It’ll only get colder.”

Left’s head shook slightly. “I’m not going back.”

“Pride isn’t worth death, Left.”

“I can always get another body,” Left said sleepily, wrapping his slight fingers around Laurent’s arms.

Laurent nudged him, looking slightly annoyed now. “Don’t lie to me, Left. You don’t have the energy for another transferral yet. You need to take more care of yourself. I could hardly even make out your aura when I came out here.”

Concern resounded in his voice, but Left took little notice. “I’m still not going back in there.” He turned away and looked up at the dark and distant stars. “He hates me.”

“Only because he doesn’t understand.”

“And that’s an excuse?” Left’s voice was barely more than a whisper.

He felt Laurent tense. “I’m not excusing anything that he’s done. I just think that you’re both misunderstanding each other.”

Left whipped around, face contorted in anger. “So now I’m to blame?”

“Shh.” Laurent pulled Left’s head into him with a gentle tug of his hand. “I said you both misunderstood. I’m not blaming anybody.” He gave Left a few moments to calm himself before speaking again. “I’m not forgiving what he tried to do to you. But you have to remember that he’s one of the Guild. He was brought up to hate us.”

“Us? You’re more human than you are pixie. And I don’t see him taking a dagger to Nathian.” His voice was as bitter as the air around them.

Laurent smiled at Left, the corners of his mouth falling slightly into a grimace. “That depends on how you look at it. And as for Morgan…Pixies didn’t steal his best friend from him.”

Left’s expression softened. “That boy has an angel in him? How?”

“I don’t know, but there were definitely two auras there, clear as the light of day.” He looked at his friend. “Why, does that make you think twice about how Morgan feels?”

“No,” Left replied, the prideful tone finally returning to his voice. “Only more curious about his friend.”  Laurent couldn’t help but smile at that.

A comfortable silence hung in the air for many moments afterward, broken by the sudden snap of a twig. “Laurent, are you out here?” The young man’s voice rang through the air as he made his way through the trees.

The newcomer found them before Laurent had a chance to reply. “Oh, there you are. Hullo, Left.” He grinned at the younger boy. Left did not return his smile. “Eresten’s worried about both of you. You should come back inside.”

“Tell her to stop fretting so much, Ranth,” Laurent replied. “She listens to you.”

Ranth placed a hand on his hip. “Evidently she doesn’t, or I wouldn’t be out here in the middle of the night searching for you two.” He frowned. “Aren’t you cold? It’s freezing out here. Laurent, you aren’t even wearing your jacket! You need more than one layer in this cold, y’know.” He sighed and shook his head as if in resignation.

Left idly fingered the garment that had been wrapped around his neck. So that was what it was.

“You aren’t my mother,” Laurent pointed out, though he smiled nonetheless. Ranth rolled his eyes. “We’ll be inside in a bit. It’s peaceful out here.”

“Yeah. But it’s too cold for me.” Ranth rubbed his hands against his arms. “And I don’t really want to risk going back without you guys. I think Eresten might just have my head for it.”

Seeing him shiver, Laurent took hold of Ranth’s wrist and pulled him down to join them. “That’s why we’re huddled together.”

“Huh.” Ranth shuffled along and laid his head against Laurent’s arm. “It is kinda warm down here,” he conceded. “But we can’t stay out here all night, ‘kay?”

Laurent murmured something noncommittally, leaning back against a tree. He wasn’t able to support the weight of the others all by himself, instead choosing to sandwich himself between them and the tree trunk. It didn’t look particularly comfortable, but he didn’t seem to mind.

The air trapped between them kept them warm long after they had stopped talking, long after they had fallen asleep resting against each other. It was an equally long time after dawn had broken that the first of them woke with a jolt.

The End

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