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Loren Hanna Craft

"I know who I am, but I would much rather know who I may be. Who I might become."

0 · 1,146 views · located in Arcana Academy, California

a character in “The Arcana Academy”, as played by confidence

Description

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Full Name: Loren Hanna Craft
Nicknames: Hanna, LC
Age: Seventeen years old
Birthdate: February 1
Home Town: South Pasadena, California, USA
Sexuality: Heterosexual

School: Arcana
Power: I can read minds, but it's much more complicated than you might think. See, thoughts aren't made up of mere words by themselves. Imagine the ocean. It's wave after wave, of multiple sensations: taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing... That's how thoughts seem to be: waves. Reading minds feels like riding wave wafter wave after wave. Another way to describe it would be like having someone show you painting after painting after painting, with no apparent transition in between. It's not unpleasant, exactly, just a little unnerving, because you become surrounded by the thoughts of another person. In the beginning, it was consuming. It was like drowning in the ocean, with no hope of ever surfacing. Eventually, I mastered it. Or I became better at it, at least. I do have a 'radius' of when I can read minds, but it changes depending on the relationship I have with someone. For example, if someone is a stranger, I can only read their minds if they are within a 5 foot radius. If it is an acquaintance, a 10 foot radius. If it is a friend, a 30 foot radius. If it is a very close friend or family, then as long as they are in the same state, I can read their minds. I don't know about lovers, I've never had one. This radius business is a little tricky, though. For example, I am not close to my family - at all. But because I've known them all my life, they count in the very highest category. I know, strange.

There are some extra benefits to reading minds. I've done it for so long, that sometimes, I can observe one person and guess at what thoughts they may have. I also get a tiny shock in my elbow when someone is thinking a thought that puts me at its focus. It feels like a small tickle. I also learned to shift through the waves without fully reading someone's mind. It's always there beneath your feet, it seems, and you can ignore it, decide not to dive in and instead pretend it isn't there. But it is there, and if you pay a little bit of attention to it, you get glimpses of each thought, of each person.

But of course, there are setbacks. I lose every physical sense when I'm actively reading someone's thoughts, and even sifting through them requires the loss of my hearing. After I'm finished with 'diving' into someone's thoughts, it takes quite a bit of time to gain them back. For eight minutes and fourteen seconds (yes, I keep time; how else am I supposed to know when I've improved?), my sight is blurry, my hearing muffled, my taste buds dull and prone to taste only one particular flavor (it changes each time), touch is harder to concentrate on, and smell absolutely disappears.

Likes: Photography | Reading | Playing the guitar | Musicals | Childhood movies |
Dislikes: Overfriendly people - as in, the people who try to push their way into your life | The color gray | The public eye | Blunt questions | Lies |
Fears: This is going to sound really hypocritical, but I'm terrified of people finding out about my own thoughts. I don't want anyone getting into my head, but that doesn't stop me from getting into other people's heads sometimes. I know how it sounds. But I can't help it. The first year of unsteady and unskilled mind reading, I found out so many things I didn't want to know. I knew who was cheating on who, I knew who hated who, who liked who, I started to know everyone better than themselves. I could figure out who was going to become a murderer, child molester, successful businessman... this little thing that people called 'intuition' made me popular. People thought I had all the gossip. Imagine their disappointment when I told them nothing. After all that information I gained in just one year, I decided no one would get in my head again, and I'm terrified of people knowing me better than I know myself. How unsteady that sounds, right?

Personality: I know how I seem to most people. Very neutral, very wise, very... boring. Safe. People think this because I am not constantly talking, and if I do talk, my voice comes out soft, airy, like a feather. I also like to stay in the background; a wallflower, kind of, I suppose. I don't like the spotlight, I've had enough of it when I was younger. Now, don't get me wrong, I can be neutral, wise, and even safe. I'm kind, with a good, pure heart that is prone to love others; how can anyone attend Arcana and not be the same? I am not a terrible person. I am actually quite nice, and easy to like. I'm silly, with a love of all things that have to do with music. I'm a good friend, loyal to the core. I'm independent, but I do like to be around others, which I'm sure most of you can relate to. I'm considered 'proper,' and the way I act and dress shows it; after living so long in my family, I can't help it. It's become as natural as breathing. I talk properly, with no contractions, no slang words. I employ quite advanced vocabulary daily, out of habit. I dress cleanly and simply, making sure the air of wealth always shows. It is clear to most that I was brought up in quite a high family. People might dislike me for this, consider me pretentious, but they know I'm not. I can get down and dirty with the best of them. I like to party, though I am conservative and refrain from drinking too much (I am one of those 'honest' drunkards; it's not a very pleasant thing to be, as I'm sure you can guess), dancing, promiscuous behavior... In fact, I'm a virgin, and I have never been kissed. Choose not to believe me, if you'd like, but I can't seem to rid myself of my father's reprimanding scolding, even now.

I have always been tempted by the forbidden, the side that has been unexplored. I guess you could say it' because I've been repressed for nearly all of my life. I am far too curious for my own good, observing everything and everyone that catches my eye. It's for this reason that my power seems to be a curse; it is a constant temptation, to get into someone's head and find out what they're thinking. I have self-control in terms of my powers, but little in anything else. I'm an explorer. I love adventure, and I love uncharted waters. I would like to experience everything the world has to offer; it all intrigues me! It's for this reason that I'm a little excited that Noctrem students are coming. After all, what is more taboo-ed than evil? I won't lie, I've dreamed a couple of times of attending Noctrem. If it weren't for Amy Roerig, I probably would have attended there instead, so that my love of mischief would be considered a valuable asset. But I'm at Arcana, so I maintain a good reputation; after all, I read minds. I need to gain the trust of others to save myself from being antagonized. It's not a hard thing for me, gaining trust. I'm not a bad person, like I said. You can trust me! It's just that... there is a little calculating, much darker side of me, too. After experiencing the thoughts of so many people around me, I can't help but absorb some of it. I have a gift of seeing everything both ways, because of my power.

I like to flirt with danger, though I flirt with little else. I dance with the devil, you could say, in a teasing manner, back and forth, push and pull, cat and mouse. I considered leaving Arcana for a short time, but I realized Arcana was the place where my brother would have wanted me to be. He would have wanted me to pursue the best, for the good of all people. So I stay. I look up to him the most, though he's not here anymore. If he would have wanted me to go to Arcana, then I'm going to Arcana. Arcana has come to suit me, though I can't help but tempt the idea of Noctrem sometimes. I just want to explore a little! Create some chaos without having to clean it up afterwards. To have no care in the world. Do as I please. Yes, I am a prankster; but it's all in good fun, right? The only people who get to see this side of me are the people who actually seek me out, talk to me. I don't like the spotlight, I really don't.

History: The Craft family was well-known in South Pasadena; home of very many wealthy socialites, it was the perfect place for my parents to settle. My father was a politician, with dreams of becoming the president one day. My mother followed him everywhere, the perfect picture of a submissive, obedient, quiet wife. I learned from her how to act around my father, and eventually, around the public. I learned exactly what people expected of me, how to give them that, how to charm others, etc. I looked up to my parents as a child, incredibly so. They were, in my eyes, the perfect people. I wanted to be just like them. We were wealthy, but with great wealth comes great responsibility, and my twin brother Adam and I learned it at the tender age of six. We maintained an amazing facade. We were intelligent, beautiful, courteous, charming, and had a little bit of sparkle that separated us from everyone else, or so people said. My mother taught us well, I suppose, and we were quite good at whatever we learned. Adam and I had many admirers, beaus, and positive relationships with others to establish the oh-so-necessary connections and good opinions required for my father's success. We were the lucky ones, I guess; many other teenagers were rejected from the high society we were constantly surrounded by. We thought nothing of it. Or at least, Adam thought nothing of it. I was always aware of the heavy risks at hand, the burdens on our shoulders, for our father's sake. Remember, I wanted to make my father the happiest man on earth, and if pretending I was someone else pleased him, then I would do it.

But Adam hated it. He wanted to live his own way. He wanted to do something reckless, and crazy, and adventurous. I wanted it too, but I wanted to make father happy. Adam disagreed; he hated Father, which at the time, I couldn't understand. It wasn't until later, when I realized he was severely beaten and abused by Father, that I began to hate Father too, but that comes later. Adam and I were best friends, and the only reason he didn't do anything wild was because of me. You see, on my fourteenth birthday, I had a huge party. One night, all of my friends and I were in the movie theater in our basement, some random horror movie that I can't recall, when I fainted. I was flooded by the waves and waves of people's thoughts, could see myself in their minds. What's wrong with her? they were all wondering. I saw myself in their heads. I could hear their screams, and it was terrible. When I awoke two minutes later, I couldn't go to school again. I stayed home as long as I could, until eventually my mother began home schooling me. I got out of that easily, too. I learned on my own, privately, late into the long hours when everyone was too asleep to be thinking much; my powers didn't extend to their dreams, you see. I told Adam everything, and he was the one who encouraged me to hone my powers. He stayed, to make sure I didn't fall apart without him.

But it wasn't enough, I suppose. When I had become much better at handling my powers, he acted out. He decided he was sick of my father's ways. You see, my father was a little forceful. A little cruel. My mother was terrified of him, I was blind to his faults, but Adam and my father always butted heads. Always fought. I guess it was only natural that he would lose it eventually. He got so mad at my father one day, that he went out and threw a party at our house, when the rest of us were at some fancy event; he had stopped going to those, by then. I was Father's only hope, and was now the favorite child. When the three of us got back, the party was already out of control. The party was brought to a frightening end, and after they were all gone, my mother ran to her room, dragging me with her, and I heard shouting. Screams of pain. Tortured screams. I realized Father was beating Adam. I began to weep, try to run and help him, but my mother slapped me and kept me in her arms, ignoring my own screams and ferocious shaking, biting, and sobbing. The next morning, Adam was dead, my father was weeping, and my mother was silent. I lost it, then. I ran out without anything in hand, and never looked back. I didn't want to hear their lies of how my twin brother had been murdered, by rage and by uncontrolled, uninhibited anger.

I decided to indulge my more curious, adventurous musings. I wandered from place to place, stayed away from foster families and the government and the police. I eventually got into the wrong crowd: prostitutes, gamblers, drunkards... I mean, I am definitely a virgin, never been kissed, but I did start to gamble - it was just so easy, after all the practice I had reading minds! I could tell what they were thinking immediately. They weren't too hard to figure out, especially since they were always drunk. A few months later, I decided to try drinking. I got terribly drunk, and spilled my whole life, including my powers, including my sorry past, to a stranger. The stranger happened to be Amalthea Desolee Roerig, who brought me to Arcana. And from there on, I've owed my life to them. I know that.

So begins...

Loren Hanna Craft's Story

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Character Portrait: Addison Lawler Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft
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    “When you are as old as we are, you get used to being this way.”

    She was tall, much taller than the little girl on the floor with adoration in her eyes and a quiet giggle on her lips. This woman, so tall, so beautiful, so graceful, looked down casually, as if the girl was not her daughter, but a toy. The girl did not notice. She widened her eyes underneath her mother’s attention and began to suck her thumb. The woman’s features sharpened harshly, so suddenly that the girl nearly burst into tears.

    “Look,” she continued, her voice still as calm as the sea, contradicting the glare in her irises, “you have to think. You have to predict, the reaction you will get after every word, every move, every raised eyebrow and every hidden smile. People will watch you. People will see. People never go away.” The woman knelt down until she was eye-level with the girl, and smiled. The little girl did not see the pitying gleam in her eyes, nor the subtle, sad, slow swoop of her lips; she only saw her mother, and began to giggle and coo and reach out chubby arms, which her mother grabbed in distaste, flicking it away from her.

    “Babies,” she murmured scornfully. The sadness left her frail features, disgust beginning to flood her senses. After all, the little girl wasn’t just your daughter, she was a Craft, and Craft ladies, even infants, were not so bold in their emotions. Emotions, the woman had learned earlier, was dangerous, risky, and ought to be forbidden. This baby just did not understand. “You can’t teach them a thing.”

    Little Loren Craft stared at the back of her mother as she left. Smaller and smaller she became, until, at last, the girl burst into tears. The woman did not flinch. She did not look back. The wails escalated in volume. No one noticed.





    Of all memories, she never would have given a second thought to this one. But it had appeared in her dreams, and now Loren was awake, cheeks red and eyes damp. This happened, once every month. It was often the sign of the end of her period, which was the one thing that made the dreams bearable. That, and the fact that these dreams were often memories blown out of proportion. They had a strange shiny quality to them, a quality that assured Loren of their exaggerated, hyperbolized nature. Her childhood could not have been so pathetic, of course. No mother could be so repulsed by her own baby, right? She grabbed fistfuls of blankets and pulled them over her head, grunting as she did so. She did hate waking up in the middle of the night, though. She could never go back to sleep, but at least she tried. She shut her eyes and threw an arm over her lids, blocking out the darkness and what hid in it.


    Twenty minutes later, sleep was continuing to elude her, and Loren reluctantly got out of bed. She was dressed in leggings and a bright neon yellow sports bra, and the sudden breath of cold air sent harsh goosebumps down her body. How she wanted to dive back into the warmth of her bed! But there was no point; she would be tormented by the alertness of her senses, for another few hours until classes begin. As usual, Loren didn’t know what to do, now that she was standing, accepting of the fact that she was awake as her roommate slept calmly on, and bored. She tried to do something different each time. One time, she took a walk outside, admiring the silence that fit Arcana Academy’s campus so perfectly. It had been a short walk, something that Loren could blame on the weather.

    But she certainly didn’t want to take a walk outside tonight, but a chance to really stretch her legs did sound pleasant right now. Maybe she could take a run.. but she had just decided not to go outside! Loren sighed when she realized what she would have to do: power walk through the hallway of the House. At least she would get some exercise. Stretching and yawning, Loren pulled on a white T shirt, pulled on her sneakers, and began pacing down the hallway. She could just imagine how foolish she looked right now, but she told herself she didn’t care at all. Nevertheless, she was back in her room before anyone else had woken up, jumping into the shower and getting ready to begin the day.

    It would be a long one, she knew. There had been a party the previous night, of course, who hadn’t heard about it? Loren couldn’t remember being invited or not, her memory always failed her whenever she spent the night studying. Which really was what she spent the night doing. It had been hard, but she wanted to be close to the top of her class this year, and that meant missing out on a party once in awhile. Besides, in her experience, Loren was usually one of the only sober ones, watching and trying to pretend she belonged. Because as much as she wanted to be a carefree girl who loved to party (Like the girls from Noctrem, Loren thought wistfully), she couldn’t escape the wallflower inside of her. One of these days - and the day was coming soon, hopefully - she would let loose. Dance on a table, or something. She didn’t know. But the dreaming made her smile.

    She stepped out of the shower, a towel wrapped around her slick body, clad in a purple bra and a red thong. Alright, it was a terrible color combination, and it reminded Loren of a bruise, but no one was going to see, anyway. She glanced at her roommate, realizing it was still relatively early for Addison to be awake. She had a feeling that the girl didn’t like her, though Loren felt a neutral sort of affection for the girl; the two were roommates, she had to like the girl anyway, if she wanted to live peacefully. But still. Perhaps it was her gift. I’m not going to read your mind, roomie! Loren admonished Addison mentally. Reading minds took a conscious effort, and it was almost like playing God, deciding to invade someone’s privacy and thoughts.

    But most people didn’t understand, which Loren didn’t mind. Or at least, she pretended not to. She was used to being viewed as the good girl. Her wild side, however, was beginning to stir more quickly than before, showing itself in small doses at random intervals. She knew some of the teachers had noticed, and perhaps a few of the other students. So what, if Loren was curious about Noctrem Academy and its students? Who cared? She took her time getting dressed; she had enough time to spare, why not dress nicely for once? After twenty minutes, Loren had decided on a light blue dress shirt, tucked into a pair of acid wash gray jeans, a knitted white scarf, and black ankle boots. Hey, it looked pretty nice compared to what she normally wore: a T shirt, shorts, and sneakers.

    Right after Loren had put on daisy stud earrings, Addison began to move in her bed. “Morning!” she said absentmindedly, studying her face in the reflection. She was acceptable. Presentable. Ready for a new day. It would have to do.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Corentine Storm Quellen Character Portrait: Addison Lawler Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Jaysin O. Dennis Character Portrait: Max Henderson
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Addison Lawler


"Morning!" The chirpy voice belonged to Addison's mind-reading roommate, Loren Craft.... Addison groaned out of frustration.

The glorious "model" was laying across her bed, half naked, covers tangling around her body. The clothes she wore just hours before -- for she had stumbled into the room around four am -- were slung across the back of her desk chair. Her make up from the night before was smeared, hair swirled into a beach wave from her midnight dip. A tragedy of a night well spent. She stirs from her sleep, blue eyes flickering open and Addison sits up, shaking her hair out and fixing her bra a bit, watching the mind reader put herself together.

"Morning, Love," she smiles quietly, her voice was shockingly sweet, low, sly seduction slides between the consonants, she studies Loren for a moment and smiles.

"You...Remind me of a cat I once had," Addison looked at Loren subtly picking out her expressions, and then a smile lit up on Addison's face, "I felt like sje was always there.... Her name was Mouse, she lived till she was about... a decent ten years old."

Addison paused, letting out a sigh, the smile dropping fully, "I hated that cat.. Thing was always sneaking around and lurking around me. That's creepy." She raised an eyebrow, not even expecting a response. She throws down her covers, stands up grabbing two towels and walking towards the bathroom. Addison drops the towels, and pops in the shower.

The events of the night weren't necessarily stunning, but it wasn't the least bit boring either. She was curious, however, what happened between the rest of the crazies at the party... Especially that whole Max, Jay, Cor triangle... It was bound to be insanity. She was surely going to run into Cor... However...The mind reader could be of use to her on this one actually. She smiles quietly and she finishes her shower, turning off the water, Addi begins to wring out her hair, then slip a towel around her. She walks out and back into her room.

She smiles at Loren, slipping a thong on and a bra, "Just give me a minute, I'm coming with you to breakfast...." Addison's eyes veered towards the clock and she grunts, "At...Seven... Ten in the morning..." A disgruntled sound escapes the shape shifter's lips and she runs a hand through her hair. Squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans and throwing a light weight purple sweater over it, Addison places her earrings in and slips her shoes on; fixing the make up from the night before and grabbed her purse, staring up at Loren with a smirk.

~~~~Mickey is coming soon.. [[I also need to make that other male character!!]]~~~~

[[FINALS are over *fuck..i never actually learned {this} shit*]]

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Addison Lawler Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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    A beautiful - albeit messily made, at the moment - girl groaning to a cheerful greeting was, in Loren Craft's professional opinion, not what she had been hoping for in a roommate. Being a morning bird herself, she had crossed her fingers when she had heard of the arrangement, praying for someone who didn't mind getting up as early as she did. As naive as it sounded, the girlish fantasy of a roommate and a best friend in one still haunted her at the age of seventeen. Needless to say, Addison Lawler wasn't exactly the girl who would have fit Loren's picture of such a character, but no one could pin down the hopes of a Craft after they set their hearts on something. Ah, perhaps all will go well. Perhaps this Addison would surprise her; and this, of course, required Loren to be at her most likable stage, before she could even hope to venture off into deeper territories, to dive into what lay beyond the surface. So, she laughed quietly. She turned and sat on the edge of her own bed, respectfully turning her gaze towards Addison's feet as the model got up, scantily clad.

    "Must have been some party," Loren lightly joked, as Addison began to chatter about her old cat. She could hardly see what a cat had anything to do with anything at all, but she listened politely, nodding her head and even adding a believable, "Awww," at the mention of its name: Mouse. What an adorable, and a little ironic, name for a cat. Aren't cats supposed to eat mice...? Like Tom and Jerry...?

    "I hated that cat.. Thing was always sneaking around and lurking around me. That's creepy," Addison said, perfectly interrupting her thoughts. Oh, now she understood. Loren successfully kept the astonishment from her face as she nodded and grunted sympathetically, deciding to ignore the implication. She had no plans of invading the girl's mind. Maybe if she got Loren annoyed enough to do it for the sake of bothering Addison... or if there was something Loren was particularly curious about... But for the most part, there seemed to be very little to Addison Lawler. It was a terrible thought, to find someone lacking in anything that made a person interesting and worthy of friendship, but it was true, and Loren did not make it a habit of entertaining falsehoods. If she was going to really think this way of her, with little reason to even ponder such a preposterous idea, then she wasn't sure how things would work out. She hated being accused of being a sneak because of her power, and Loren quickly decided to watch out for Addison. She would have to remain on her toes around the girl. She just couldn't find herself liking her.

    Loren raised her eyebrows a little resentfully at Addison as she left to take a shower. It would be poor form to leave now, but no one would blame her for ditching the girl. Ah, but it was their first day as roommates... It just wouldn't do. She waited patiently, her eyes wandering about the room she now shared with Addison the New Terror. Observing her room, however, became boring fairly quickly. She pulled out her phone and began typing out a text to her beloved friend, Zac Barnes.

      To: Zac Barnes <3
      want a partner in smashing those drums, buddy? my roommate thinks I"m a stalker cat

    When Addison came out, Loren made sure she barely reacted, nodding coolly and once again diverting her gaze from Addison's body. As she did so, she wondered just what had happened at the party last night. Arcana Academy had had its own fair share of parties, but Noctrem was undoubtedly the uncontested victor in the party category. The students were bound to create more drama, throw more temper tantrums... get things going, making things happen. It was a trait Loren couldn't help but envy. Her life was, at the moment, a little bland. Not that she minded... well, she did mind, actually. A lot. But in time, Loren decided, it would spice up a little bit.

    "Are you done already?" Loren remarked, feigning admiration for how quickly Addison had gotten put together. In reality, she hadn't noticed a bit, but in the world she had been brought up in, the key to life was flattery and deference. People liked to be looked up to, after all; blowing up someone's ego could do wonders for your own social life, Loren had learned. She got up and grabbed her own backpack, plain but sufficient, and began to walk towards the door. At the last minute, she opened it for the girl, smiling graciously as she motioned for Addison to walk by first.

    "I don't know about you, but I'm famished," she declared. One last chance for a friendly conversation, and that would be it.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lulu Allen Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Morgan Janssen Character Portrait: Zac Barnes Character Portrait: Jessica Coleman Character Portrait: Alli Jackson
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"Just your average morning at Noctrem. I slept with a man I have barely spoken to, woke up with him pissed at me and then to top it all of, had a run with a basically naked Drake Quellen; isn't life just fabulous?" Jess spoke with an edge to her voice that Mo vaguely recognized as sarcasm. Before Mo had decided on a smart retort, Jess was speaking again. "Mo, what happened to you last night?" Mo shrugged. "I vaguely remember orange juice. And... Oh shit. Vodka. Not a-freaking-gain." She groaned, doing a face plant into her pillow. "I never drink, so I get drunk easily. And I can never remember what I do. Shit, I could have done anything. Well, at least I woke up alone, fully dressed in my own bed." She looked helplessly at her roommate. "Were you with... Who were you with again? Were you in their room all night or can you help with my predicament?"

Just then, the full realization of what Jess had said kicked in. "Wait. You argued with Drake- naked?" She had a hard time not laughing as she got the mental image. "His roommate is Jackson, ri- Oh. That's who you were with, isn't it?" Morgan sat back, thinking it all through. She liked Jess, she genuinely did, but Jackson was like the big brother she'd never had. She knew last night had probably been nothing more than an alcohol induced fling. She knew that there was probably nothing to it, but she worried that there was something more and that Jackson would be left broken-hearted. Morgan didn't want to see that happen, and she couldn't help but think, "I'm not going to let it."

"So, anyway... What was your argument with Drake about?"" Morgan asked to fill the silence. Her natural curiosity emerged. Drake was forever flirting with Morgan, as he did with every female entered the room, but she couldn't help but like him. "And who did he bring back last night?" She pondered out loud. The gossip took her mind off of her hangover. Her stomach felt like it had been through five rounds with two champion boxers, both of which had a personal vengeance against it, and her head had begun to swim once again. She grabbed a bottle of water from her bedside table and took sips from it, trying to ease her headache. The paracetamol hadn't had much of an effect, it appeared. She rooted in her drawer for the packet she always kept there, just in case. She took another, swallowing it with her water. The water was a little stale, but it was better than nothing. Food probably would have helped, but her stomach twisted at the mere thought of food. She wanted nothing more than to just sleep away her hangover, but she also wanted to find out exactly what the hell had happened- both to herself and everyone else.

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Alli heard a beep behind her and swiveled to face her laptop. It had unfrozen and was back to it's regular working pace. "Huh. That's... Lucky." She grinned at her roommate. "Thanks." Her roommate sat back and began to explain her power.

"I can manipulate probability, make things more or less likely. My parents loved it when I made them a million dollars in one weekend rigging games within the casino. But I prefer to help people, beat the odds, avoid the bullies. It comes down to understanding chance, and when and where it applies. By the way, do you know where there are couches here at Arcana? I’m trying to figure out where I was last night and I was brought somewhere…with couches?" Alli frowned and thought. "Well, there are the house common rooms, the game room and then just the general common rooms upstairs. I don't think there's anywhere else. Any of them could be likely, if I'm honest. They'd all be empty when there's a party. And your power seems... interesting, to say the least. The most impressive thing I can do with mine is this." She removed her shoes and stepped into the middle of the floor. Performing a perfect handstand, she used her feet to pick up a ball from the foot of her bed and balanced it on her feet. "Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, but they reward it at the Olympics. My parents have been trying to persuade me to go for them since I was six, for essentially anything involving aim or balance. It doesn't help that I've got a gymnast's stature. Essentially, I'm short." As she spoke, she lowered the ball back to the floor and got to her feet.

She shoved her feet back into her boots and laced them up again. "Anyway, enough about me and my big dreams. What do you do in your spare time? Besides irritate Quellen, that is," She spoke with a teasing glint in her eye. Anyone else would have thought through their words a little more carefully, but Alli was as blunt as a bag of wet mice. She saw no point in being fancy with her words, and if she wanted to wind someone up, she wasn't going to try and hide it.

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Zac put down his guitar as his phone vibrated beside his bed. He leaned over to pick it up, and a small smile crossed his lips as he saw who it was from.

want a partner in smashing those drums, buddy? my roommate thinks I'm a stalker cat
-Loren


He chuckled a little to himself as his fingers flew over the keyboard in reply.

Come on over, kitty. Meow. =^.^=
-Zac


Loren had been his friend for as long as he could remember. They had been friendly as children, but then Zac's own family drama had kicked off and they had grown apart. Finding her again at Arcana had just been... amazing. Their friendship had grown to new heights, and just over two years ago, Zac had realized that he... He was falling in love with her. And once he had realized that, he fell all the faster and all the harder. He adored all of her adorable little ways. If it was anyone else, he would hate them for being able to read his mind, but with Loren, it was just another thing to love. She was yet another person he couldn't burden with his past, but she knew something had happened to him. She knew more than a lot of people, mainly because she could get inside his head, and sometimes she read what he was thinking without him meaning to let her.

He looked around his room. It was relatively tidy, so he left it. His roommate didn't appear to be that untidy, which was a good thing. Not that Loren, or anyone else, for that matter, would care. He briefly checked his email on his phone. He then went onto YouTube and loaded Chris Kamrada's cover of "Kids" by Sleigh Bells. It was such an awesome video, and always got him in the mood for a decent drumming session. He cracked his knuckles and winced a little, shaking his hands. He then waited for Loren to arrive, tapping out a pattern on his knees.

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Character Portrait: Lulu Allen Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes Character Portrait: Alli Jackson
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Zac was flicking through his iPod, looking for a song to play along to, when his vision suddenly went black. He stiffened and was considering attacking when Loren's voice reached his ears. "Boo!" He laughed with relief and pulled her hands from over his eyes. He enjoyed the brief moment of holding her hand, but he didn't make the moment awkward by holding onto it for too long. He dropped it and grinned, sliding out from his seat. "Let's get straight to the point. Why does your roommate think you're a stalker cat?" He asked, crossing the room to his closet. He opened it and pulled out his electric guitar and amp. "I wasn't sure if my roommate would approve," He explained, setting up. He checked his guitar was in tune and switched on the amp.

"So, what do you think of Dearly Departed by Young Guns? It's got a good drum beat and guitar rhythms. Which would you like to take?" He held out both the neck of the electric guitar and drumsticks. "Actually, I'll put it on, you can see which you prefer. He dropped the guitar and sticks onto the bed, sitting his iPod onto the small dock he had brought from home. He turned it on and the song started playing.

He turned and grinned at Loren. "Come on, then!" He started doing air guitar in time to the song, grinning the whole time. He looked up at her. "Come on, don't make me look like a fool!" He laughed, starting his headbanging again.

Loren was someone he could really be a fool with. Ashy was great fun, but she wasn't the type to join him in air guitar. He loved her to bits, but he sometimes felt like he couldn't fully let loose with her. Loren, however, was a completely different matter. He sometimes had trouble being serious when he was with her. Her presence was intoxicating, like alcohol or other drugs, and he sometimes worried that his love meant he was making a fool of himself.

The song finished and he flopped onto the bed, laughing to himself. "Head rush!" He said, grinning broadly. Suddenly Puppy Love by This Wild Love started playing. Zac couldn't help but think how appropriate it was for Loren and him. Especially the line, I'm a fuck up, but you swear I'm enough. He grinned at her for a moment, before picking up the drumsticks. "I'll take the drums. You can handle my electric guitar, right?" He teased, sliding back into his seat at the drum kit. He twirled his sticks and readied himself, flicking back to Dearly Departed. He raised an eyebrow, his eyes sparkling. "You ready?"

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“Now. I know this sounds stupid and I know we just met. But I can’t remember much about last night, like I said before. But I may have…involuntarily left clothing somewhere. And I’m not so sure where these lounges are…feel like helping me out? If you don't want to, I totally get it. I don't even know when my first class is." Alli grinned and clambered to her feet. "Sure, I'd love to help. And you're..." Alli thought back to the previous day's assembly. "Causton, right?" She checked the sheet that had all of the timetables on. "You've got English first thing, according to this. We'd better get looking. If you did leave any clothing there, you'd probably want to retrieve it before anyone sees it. Might raise a few eyebrows."

Alli opened the door and gestured for Lulu to go first. Her boots lent her a little height, but she was still a little shorter than the other girl. "I think the game room's nearest here. We'll try there first, then check the four common rooms." She did like helping other people. It was one of the qualities that made her a typical Arcana student. Although Alli always got the impression that, except for the fact that she irritated the hell out of most Noctrem students, she would have fitted right in at the other school. She always had that little burning desire for power. She wanted to be the best at everything she done, and while she wasn't necessarily bad, she would be willing to stop at nothing to gain that power.

(Sorry, Alli's post is a little short, but I done my best with what I had to work with. :3)

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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    The sound of his laughter was familiar and calming... as was expected for a friendship that had lasted as long as theirs. Loren smiled and joined in her own melodic chimes to his, her fingers brightening, sparks flying; every time she was around him, the air became charged with freedom. She didn't care about anything but the two of them and their friendship, whenever Zac was around. When he was around, everything clicked into place... the way friendship was meant to be. Sometimes, you meet friends, close friends, even best friends... but rarely do you meet a soulmate. Someone who brought the world into line again, and things like hunger didn't matter, because hope was real, and you found it in someone else's smile. It was so simple. And that was why Loren often avoided the question of "What if that's not the whole story?", because if she had to be honest, she would have to admit the truth: that this 'friendship' with Zac was threatening to take a very bold turn, for both of them. As cliche as it was, a friendship like theirs couldn't be sacrificed. If she could settle for teasing and the pretense of mere friendship, then Loren figured Zac could, too.

    Soulmate, or no soulmate, he was talking to her, and Loren shoved the quick analysis of the flying elation that occurred whenever Zac was around, redirecting her focus to him. "Let's get straight to the point. Why does your roommate think you're a stalker cat?" he teased as he began to walk towards the other end of the room, most likely to his closet, for whatever reason. For a second, Loren's heartbeat raced ahead of her mind. Is he going to change or something? Oh my God, is he going to take his shirt off? Can I turn around? Would that be weird? But of course, he wasn't; he opened the closet to reveal his electric guitar and its amp. In her quick and thick relief, Loren forgot to listen to his explanation, but it didn't matter. It was something about his roommate; perhaps he was having as much weirdness with him as she was having with Addison.

    Loren shrugged her shoulders and daintily fell into the seat Zac had been sitting on. She yawned and began to stretch, even letting a quick "Meow," come from her lips to mock the whole cat situation even further. "I don't know," she answered as Zac began to set his electric guitar up, "It may be my mind reading. She made a rather uncalled for comment about how I reminded her of her cat... and how she hated the thing for always snooping on her." She snorted and continued, while ignoring her embarrassment at snorting unintentionally in front of Zac, "You know I try to refrain from reading people's minds; I'm not that sort of girl. Besides," she shuddered shortly, "people think scary thoughts. I'd rather not get dive into that willingly."

    During her mild rant, Zac had been setting up efficiently, as he was used to doing. At the very end of her little speech, he turned on the amp and said, "So, what do you think of Dearly Departed by Young Guns? It's got a good drum beat and guitar rhythms. Which would you like to take?"

    "Young Guns? Is that a song your parents would want you listening to, because it sounds awfully-"

    "Actually," he continued, "I'll put it on, you can see which you prefer."

    She was about to open her mouth and continue with a lecture of her own, when he looked at her over his shoulder and gave her the grin that always left her silent. He had a knack for giving her that beaming smile when she was about to scold him; he must know how it affected her. Otherwise, he would never do it at such convenient times so consistently. But then again, Zac had a boyish, lucky charm about him that ended up doing things that got him exactly what he wanted... without even knowing it. She shook her head at him and pursed her lips in mock disapproval and he began playing his air guitar with such sudden childish abandon, Loren burst out in laughter. "Come on, then!" he beckoned, becoming more and more dramatic and intense with his air guitar as the seconds passed, the song blaring from his iPod dock, "Come on, don't make me look like a fool!"

    His laugh and enthusiasm and that terrible headbanging of his was infectious. With a little squeal of her own, Loren got to her feet beside him and grabbed the closest item, which happened to be a drumstick. She began lip-syncing into it, mouthing the words as accurately as she could. When she figured out the chorus, she burst into actual song, tilting her head back and belting out without giving a single thought to how her voice actually sounded. "I wanna be the last thing that you see," she sang to Zac, swaying her hips and turning to him, beckoning for him to come over with her hand, "Be my dearly departed." The two were making an absolute fool of themselves, but at the moment, Loren didn't really care. She never did, when Zac was around. With him, it was always about the fun. It was always about being happy. It was always about the two of them, being happy together.

    He flopped onto the bed once the song ended, laughing. Loren joined him on the bed and in laughter, the last burst coming out in a contented sigh. "Head rush!" he exclaimed as the next song began playing. Now this song was familiar. Her brother Adam had played this a couple of times before, in another life from long ago. She hummed along and watched Zac pick up the drumsticks, one of them still warm from her own sweaty palm gripping onto it. Oops, Loren thought, a little embarrassed at how tired she was after their little concert. She always had too much fun around him; her forehead was already slightly damp from her jumping and dancing, and she had just showered. But it was worth it, to see him smile and allow her to play his electric guitar. She worshiped the thing. She wanted to name it, actually, but had never asked Zac specifically. It was his, after all.

    She nodded gravely and took the electric guitar and began fumbling around with the chords until she found the right ones. "I'm readier than you are," she teased, exaggerating as she tossed her hair over her shoulder.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Christopher Russell Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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Zac raised an eyebrow at Loren's reply, still grinning. "Oh yeah? We'll see how long that lasts," He replied, twirling his drumstick in one hand as he pressed play with the other. The drums broke in straight away, and so did he. He couldn't help but start singing along, projecting his voice over his drumming. We watched Loren play along, her fingers sliding up and down the frets as easily as his own.

Drumming came to him so easily now, he didn't have to think about it anymore. He just lost himself in the music for those few minutes. He didn't care what anyone thought of him. He didn't think about what had happened to him, or what would happen to him. He simply focused on the music playing and the drum patterns he created. It was his one escape, his greatest passion. Guitar was the only thing that came close, and even that didn't offer the escapism that drumming did. It was the one time that he could forget the dark shadows that whispered in the back of his mind. It was worth the pain that sometimes came when he overdone it. It was worth his parents' reminders that he could very well screw up his back. Hell, the school had a healer. She could surely fix him up if anything went wrong.

He fueled all of his energy into the drumming, not being afraid to overdo it. As the music finished, he added one final improvised drum pattern, before throwing his hands, still gripping the drumsticks, into the air in triumph. He burst into laughter for no particular reason. Drumming just gave him an endorphin rush like no other. Chocolate, sugar, exhaustion, laughter- nothing could compare. He glanced up at Loren and the laughter just got worse.

The uncontrollable laughter reminded him of the time the doctor had prescribed him sleeping pills a few weeks after arriving at his current foster home. The nightmares had been strong, often happening several times a night. As a result, he had been left exhausted during the day. The doctor thought that sleeping pills and anti-depression medication would help. Neither had worked. When he took the sleeping pill at night, he had found himself trapped in the realm of nightmares, unable to escape them. The anti-depression meds hadn't exactly worked either. He had suffered exhaustion and paranoia, exactly as he had before taking them. However, a few hours later, he had suffered an endorphin rush and had been laughing without stop for fifteen minutes, before being hyperactive for hours after. The doctor had suggested keeping up the course of meds, hoping that the effect would start to kick in when his body was used to the drugs. The sleeping pills continued to lock him in the nightmaares, and while the laughing fit had been a once off, the hyperactivity had continued until the doctor had taken him off of the drugs. He still had a container of sleeping pills in his bedside locker for extreme insomnia.

Once he had recovered, he grinned at Loren. "Readier than me, eh? Not possible when it comes to drumming." He winked at her, still grinning, a little out of breath. "I don't need drugs or alcohol. Give me two drumsticks and I'm happy," He remarked, tapping out a few patterns on the drum set in front of him.

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Chris glared at his alarm clock. His hand reached out to slap it a few times. He still wasn't a morning person. His hand fished around on his bedside table, looking for a timetable. He eventually found it and held it over his face, seeing when his classes were. He only had one class today, and that wasn't until 12:15. Chris scanned his timetable, delighted to find that he had no classes on Friday.

He climbed out of bed, crossing the room to his bathroom. He showered, before heading back to his wardrobe. He stared at it for a moment or two, before deciding on an outfit. He wanted to get outside, and check out the sports facilities, see if they had improved or changed anything since his time, even if it was only five years ago. As he was lacing up his Converse, he stared at his hands. They bore no trace of the cuts from the day before, even though there should have been scarring. He needed to talk to Amy, badly. He needed to thank her. He needed to find out what was wrong with her.

He shook off the dark thoughts beginning to impose on his good mood and headed downstairs. He was hungry, and stopped briefly in the canteen to grab something to eat. There was a blonde head on the table a little distance away, but Chris decided not to interfere. While he ate, he observed the students- but carefully. He thought he would look a fool if he had his sunglasses on inside, but he was still careful not to be recognized. That would make things awkward. Once he was finished, he dropped the bowl back up to the servers and headed outside.

It was still early, but boy, it got bright quickly. Chris pulled on his aviators as he passed the pool, not wanting to be blinded by the reflection of the sun on the water. There wasn't many people outside at this time. Despite his reluctance to get up, Chris liked being outside early. The air was still clean and pure, not yet tainted by cigarette smoke. In Cali, it got bright early, without getting too hot. It was the perfect time just for a walk. Chris grinned as he strolled, enjoying himself.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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    A long time ago, Loren had played the harp. Her mother had insisted on her being an expert at something, and thought being a skilled musician was ladylike, admirable, and proper. She had asked to learn the guitar; instead, she got a harp teacher, piano lessons, and a vocal teacher. It had been miserable. Though the instruments were beautiful and her voice became trained and superb, she found no freedom in it. She began to associate pianos, harps, and even singing as performances, because of the many times her mother asked her to play when and only when guests were over. "Loren, darling," she'd say during a party, "please, do sit and play piano for us." Or, "Loren, Mrs. Cove said she'd love to hear your singing voice." The harp was brought out on the most special occasions, to show off the Craft daughter's incredible skill at an instrument not only difficult, but also rarely played. She associated the instruments with a stiff formality that she had grown up with, and had grown to hate.

    But the electric guitar... now there was an instrument. Guitar solos and amazing sound, no one watching for a mistake, no one watching for the tiniest slip up to judge her family by. Loren could let herself go with the instrument she had wanted to play from the very beginning. She began to hum as she experimented, playing with new rhythms. She knew Zac didn't care; he let her be her own person, let her explore the boundaries and decide on what she wanted herself. It was one of the reasons she considered him her very best friend. She glanced at Zac, found him watching her, and smiled at him impishly. She found him most attractive when he was drumming, which wasn't surprising; who didn't love a man when he is most passionate? But Zac looked like a different person when he had two sticks in his hand. She could physically see him loosening up, and the two were so close that she could sense when he was about to improvise, when he was about to experiment, when he was about to calm down or play with the dynamics. She had learned his patterns, and wondered if he knew her own.

    The song ended as quickly as it began. Or at least, that was how Loren felt. She always felt that way after playing, always wanted more time with the music. This jam session with Zac was one of her most treasured times; they bonded the most here, connected in a way that most people wouldn't understand. They could enter heaven with a single note, and the two of them had a deep understanding of each other in this area. Zac began to laugh wildly, his sounds of mirth increasing in volume when the two made eye contact. Loren shook her head at him, grinning in spite of herself. He was so crazy, especially after he got to bash on his drums. It was almost childlike, and it made her feel a little motherly towards him. Seeing him so carefree made her want to protect him and keep him that way.

    But the thing was, he didn't let her in. It upset her sometimes, thinking about the things she didn't know completely about him. She knew him well enough to know that there was something murky in his past, but he had never brought it up, and she cared about him too much to ask. Why didn't he let her in? But these thoughts would only bring her down, and when she was with Zac, she didn't want to be down. He would find out immediately, pester her until she told him why, and that would bring on a spew of problems... especially since it was him that was making her upset. So she started laughing too, setting aside the contemplation for a later time, when she was alone. His drumming at the end had been impressive, and it was enough to make her swell in pride. Her best friend was talented, a genius; how could she not be happy?

    "Readier than me, eh?" Zac said. She loved it when he was like this, all teasing and playful. It made her feel comfortable.

    "Of course," Loren replied, mocking arrogance and flipping her hair back.

    "Not possible when it comes to drumming." He winked then, and Loren giggled. It had always amused her, how winking came so naturally to him. She had grown up in a strict household, and hardly anyone she knew ever winked. Adam had tried, once, but told her that it felt weird and foreign. They were grown up prim and proper, always restricted and refined. So winking was too casual, too silly, too normal for the Craft family and the society they were deeply embedded in. Every time she saw someone wink, she felt a little weird and awkward. It had taken a few years before she got used to winking, recognized that it was only her upbringing that made it seem strange, that it was normal and fun and playful. But it didn't change anything about the way it made her feel.

    "Well, in drumming, yes," Loren admitted, her body beginning to move with the beat he began to play, "but in everything else?" She leveled her gaze, raising an eyebrow at him while smiling fondly at him. He was right; he was always happiest with his two drumsticks. She wondered just how social he would be if it was possible to drum every second of the day. In the beginning of their friendship, when she first realized just how passionate he was about drumming, Loren had thought it cute. Imagine the girl he would love with a depth that surpassed his love of drumming; it was adorable to think about. Sometimes, she looked at Zac and saw a whole love story played out with a sweet girl, cute and simple and adorable, charming enough to draw him away from drums for a whole week and win his heart over.

    She never wanted to see him give up drumming, but sometimes, when she watched him acting like this, Loren thought of how lucky the person who could keep him away from the kit was. It would be the easiest way to see how much Zac cared for you, if you could keep Zac away from the drums. But she supposed anyone who loved Zac just as deeply wouldn't dare stop his drumming. The rhythm was a part of Zac, and it couldn't be changed. Ever.

    "Well then, we're going to have to ditch the next party and camp out in here, drumming away!" Loren announced, beginning to play a little tune with the electric guitar to match Zac's beat. She was content right here, playing an instrument, a few feet away from Zac but still in the same room with him, connecting in a way that touch couldn't dream to supply. That was the beauty of music: bonding.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Christopher Russell Character Portrait: Morgan Janssen Character Portrait: Zac Barnes Character Portrait: Alli Jackson
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Morgan shoved her phone into her pocket, smiling a little. She had just made it out of the forest when the earth began to shake, knocking her feet from underneath her. She was a New Yorker, born and raised, and it took her a moment to place that it was an earthquake. Panic moved her feet, not sense. She desperately tried to remember the various earthquake drills Arcana had run. She remembered something about getting to an open space; and so she ran, heading for the front lawn. She kept glancing at the sky, making sure she wasn't running under power lines. She stopped, glancing around her, when she reached the front lawn. She took a breather, her eyes unable to leave the school.

The building was old, and she wasn't altogether sure of how stable it was. Her worst fears were confirmed as she saw parts of it start to collapse. Her common sense was the only thing that stopped her from running into the building to help people. She knew it would be foolish- if she wanted to help, it made more sense to do so out here, where she wasn't endangering herself.

She remembered that as being one of the first pieces of advice her father had given her before coming to Arcana. They had flown from New York to San Francisco together, him having some business in the city.

They had been watching the safety demonstration. Her father had said, "You know why they tell you to put on your own mask before helping others?" She had just looked at him. "'Cause if you didn't, you'd pass out in around thirty seconds. That's always something to remember, Mo. As selfish as it may seem, never endanger yourself to help others."

She found her feet planted in the ground, unable to move. She searched the faces anxiously, hoping to see the familiar faces of her friends. She found herself holding her breath as time passed, and made herself remember to keep breathing.

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Zac grinned at Loren as she began to pick out rhythms to his idle drumming. Her rhythm matched his perfectly. However, it couldn't last forever. The earth began to shake, knocking him from his stool. Zac had lived in San Francisco in his entire life. He knew exactly what it was. He looked up at Loren, fear in his eyes. "GET DOWN!" He yelled. Before he knew what he was doing, he had grabbed his acoustic and thrown himself across the room, tackling Loren and wrapping his arms around her, trying to keep her safe. His breath left his lungs in a rush as he hit the ground. He glanced around the room. Everything began to topple from the shelves.

So much was happening, Zac couldn't pinpoint just one event. He just held Loren and his guitars close and waited it out. He cried out as a sickening pain exploded in his left leg. Shortly after that, the shaking appeared to stop. He pushed himself up and gasped as a fresh wave of pain ran through his leg. There was no way in hell he could get himself out. His legs were pinned under what looked like his collapsed desk and while there was only minor pain in one, the other was excruciating to move. He shook Loren gently, hoping she was conscious. "Loren." He tried to shift himself slightly. "Loren." The pain was bringing tears to his eyes. Thankfully, she seemed to be conscious. "Loren, my legs are trapped." He told her, keeping his voice steady and calm. He was freaking out inside, but he had to keep calm. He had to keep calm for her. He looked her in the eyes. "You've got to pull me out."

"I think my leg is broken. You've got to promise me that no matter what, you're going to get me free. If I cry out, hell, if I scream, you keep pulling. Then I'm gonna get us out, I promise." He wrapped his hands around hers and stared her straight in the eyes. There was so much he wanted to tell her, but he couldn't find the words. At night, they came so easily, flowing onto the paper. Before his roommate had arrived, he would often stay awake at night, writing songs. Not all about Loren... but there were a few sheets of paper tucked into the drawer in his desk with her name written at the top. He had left them there, just in case anything happened to him. Nothing he could say right now could sum it up. There was silence for a few seconds, then he dropped her hands. He lifted himself up, gasping, and freed his guitar from underneath him. He slid it towards her. "I'm not going to be able to carry that out."

Zac was almost amused by the fact that his acoustic guitar had emerged without even a broken string, while his legs were pinned and one was probably broken. He couldn't see his electric, but he was willing to bet it had emerged unscathed as well. There was something almost ironic about the situation.

He pulled himself out as far as he could. It was a painful procedure, punctuated by gasps of pain. His hips were free, but something below his thighs was caught and unwilling to release him. He reached out and took Loren's hands. "Remember, keep pulling." He said, looking straight into her eyes. "On three. One, two...

Three."


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Chris almost fell into the swimming pool when the first tremor rolled through the ground. He had lived in San Francisco long enough to recognize an earthquake. He stared at the school in horror. He started to run, his body instinctively imitating the form of an Olympic sprinter. He pulled off his sunglasses as he ran, shoving them into his pocket. His lengthened pace meant he got to the school quicker. A few students appeared to be already gathered outside, but he ignored them, flying up the steps like his life depended on it. Which was ironic, in a way.

He stopped as he entered the lobby, taking the opportunity to catch his breath. Students were staring to filter out. Chris could sense the panic. He glanced up the stairs. Four years at Arcana, five at Stanford, and there had only ever been minor earthquakes. This was a big one. He remembered the nights following the earthquake drills, when he and Amy had joked about being the only survivors-

Amy. Chris bolted up the stairs like a sprinter from the starting blocks, taking them three at a time. He swung towards the teacher's wing, sprinting for Amy's room. He hadn't a clue in hell where it was, but he was going to find it.

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Alli dried her hands on a towel and turned around to face the mirror. She picked up her eyeliner and leaned in towards the mirror. As she lifted the kohl pencil to her eye, the earth began to quake violently. She clutched the counter, remembering every single earthquake drill she'd ever had. She knew she should try and get to her desk, but she wasn't moving while the tremors continued. Things began to crash to the floor around her. It took all of her self-restraint not to duck to the ground and cover her head. She had experienced smaller quakes in her time, having lived in San Francisco all her life. But this... This was worse than anything she had ever felt. Even she was in danger of losing her balance. Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the counter. She glanced around the bathroom. The mirror didn't look too stable. Nothing seemed to be entirely safe. Dread filled the pit of her stomach as she remembered that she had locked the door. If anything happened, she was trapped. Suddenly, there was a crash and the sound of shattering glass. Alli barely had time to register that the mirror had shattered before shards of glass flew towards her. Pain exploded in her stomach. She stared in horror at the long, jagged shards of glass protruding from her stomach. The quaking stopped. Alli pried her fingers from the counter- and crashed to the ground.

She had never felt so much pain. And blood... There was so much blood. It looked like the shards of glass had moved when she hit the ground, worsening the injury. She glanced up at the door. She stretched out and pulled herself towards it, crying out in pain. She reached for the key, desperately trying to twist it. As she reached, she started to remember little things. Remember and regret. She could see the application form for the Olympic trials. She saw the face of the guy who had genuinely liked her and who had asked her out- and she had turned him down because she thought he had been taking the piss.

She looked at her stomach. The blood pool was growing at an alarming rate. She could feel her consciousness slipping. She reached a little more for the key, silently cursing her short arms. She could feel herself fading fast. As she stretched, more pleasant memories came to mind. She remembered the pride on the faces of her parents when she won her first national medal. The look of amazement on the faces of the six and seven year old kids when she had done a demonstration at her local grade school. The memory of her first kiss...

The starry sky above their heads. The warmth of his jacket around her shoulders. Eyes that were the colour of clouds before a storm. Long, dark, eyelashes. The smell of his aftershave. The faint taste of salted popcorn on his lips. The way it felt...

Her fingers gripped the key. She twisted it. But she knew inside that she was gone beyond help. The blood pool was too big. She closed her eyes.

As she faded, she could taste salted popcorn.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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    They say that a shattering earthquake smashes its fist into California every ten years. Well, at least, her PE teacher in eighth grade had told her that. Since then, Loren had kept a mental note of every year, counting down to the tenth year, counting how many years the earthquake was overdue. She had never been particularly afraid of the earthquake, merely curious as to whether the theory was, in fact, true. If it was, then it meant the earthquake that would finally happen would be completely overwhelming. A disaster. Terrifying, unexpected, and a force to be reckoned with.

    So when the earthquake first began, Loren knew exactly what it was. She had been almost waiting for it, in a twisted sense that made her sick to her stomach. What if her counting the years had brought the earthquake, beckoned it to come closer and faster? It was irrational and crazy, but she had been so curious, and now... now it was here. She should have been the first person to go through the earthquake drills she had by now memorized from public school - get under a desk, grab its leg, and cover your head. She had never really believed it would help, but it was what she had done in elementary school. But she was frozen solid, staring helplessly with wide, aghast eyes at the ground. This couldn't be happening. No. What about her parents? God, what about Adam? What if he was still alive? She hadn't tried hard enough to find him! And her parents! She had never apologized, never even thought to, but now she just wanted to die with amends peacefully made, reconciled perfectly and happily.

    At the most critical moment, she had failed.

    "GET DOWN!" Zac screamed at her, right when she realized she had to do something. Surprise unto surprise, Loren froze once more, unable to comprehend what was going on. The chaos of it. The sheer suddenness of it. Destruction always caught you off guard, didn't it? Disaster struck when you thought you were happy, without mercy and without feeling. Completely heartless, and completely breathtaking in the worst way. It tightened her muscles. But Zac, darling Zac at least he was with her that made things better, tackled her and brought her down with him. His arms were around her. This was nice. If things had been different, it would have been nice. She tried to make herself smaller, shrink into his arms, leaning into him, curling up beside him and holding on tightly. I'm not going to let go I'm not going to let go I'm not going to let go, she repeated, her own private mantra. If only the moment would pause for the rest of her life, or what little was left of it.

    The moment, however, didn't freeze, interrupted by a cry that broke Loren's heart, moved her heart out of its shocked state. Zac was hurt. Oh God, Zac was hurt. Loren stared at him fiercely, his pain acting as the ice that brought her out of numb slumber. "Zac, be okay," she said fiercely, intensely, begging with her eyes and commanding with her voice. "Be completely okay. Be perfectly fine. And do not leave me, ever," she continued, refusing to let her voice crack. She would be the strong one, right now. Zac was hurt, and she wasn't, because he had his arms around her; she was always safe with him. And what had it brought him?

    The guilt made her want to weep. She began to tremble, but it wasn't time to be embarrassed, to feel ashamed of her weaknesses; it was a time to make sure Zac okay. The shaking ceased almost as abruptly as it had started - or at least, that was how it seemed. Loren tried to hold onto Zac before he tried to get up, the foolish male creature, but he persisted anyway. Goddammit, didn't he understand he was injured? What was it about men and their stupid pride? What if it got worse? What if he fell? Why couldn't he just let her get up and examine him first, make sure he was okay, gently touch him all over and whisper comforts in his ear, softly coo and reassure him of all that is good in the world? She just wanted to be the one to give him something, too. It was always him making her feel safe, always him tackling her and using his own body to keep her safe, always him having to sacrifice something for her.

    It was her turn to repay him.

    She didn't stop the tears that welled to her eyes when he gasped. It hurt, to see the ones you cared about hurt. It hurt to be afraid. It hurt to not know. Loren got up quickly and knelt down beside him, staring in horror. He was trapped. His desk was on top of him, and he was stuck. Oh dear fucking Lord how the hell did this happen? "Loren," he said, calling her out of her panic. Even now, his voice had the ability to calm the raging sea that was her mind, her feelings. "Loren," he repeated. The flames cooled, lowered, bringing clarity back to her thoughts and in her expression. Her facial expression gentled, and she brought out her hand to put a palm to his forehead, as if Zac was sick.

    She didn't dare say a word. She didn't want any of this to be real, and speaking would break the dreamlike quality on this entire nightmare.

    "Loren, my legs are trapped," Zac said calmly. How the hell could he be fucking calm when he had just fucking admitted that he was fucking trapped?! She was ready to yell at him, but he was hurt, and he was hurt because of her, and she wouldn't do anything to upset him, ever. Especially not now. He met her eyes and she looked down immediately, unable to handle the emotion she saw.

    "You've got to pull me out."

    Loren raised her head sharply, her jaw falling open, her eyebrows catapulting high above her forehead. "Me?!" she said, despite her resolve to remain silent. "Zac, what if I... what if I hurt you more?" she continued, her voice beginning to crack. "This is all my fault, this is all my fucking fault..." she was rambling now, her words falling out like stones from a harlot's mouth, the whore who had gotten stoned for all of her sins. They were spilling, no thought whatsoever, as she spoke, spoke, spoke.

    "I think my leg is broken," Zac continued. Always the strong one. She hated that; if he showed any panic as well, it would make her feel so much better. Now, she just felt crazy, insecure, like she was overreacting to a perfectly normal situation. But it wasn't normal, it was insane, and it wasn't real. She shook her head, but he didn't seem to care. "You've got to promise me that no matter what, you're going to get me free. If I cry out, hell, if I scream, you keep pulling. Then I'm gonna get us out, I promise." Loren said nothing, still stubbornly resisting, but he took his hands and locked eye contact. She tried to hold onto her resolve, but it was fading, dissolving into the warmth she found in Zac's eyes.

    God, she never could say no to him.

    He broke the long moment by pulling out the guitar, sliding it towards her. "I'm not going to be able to carry that out," he said.

    "Why the hell are you thinking about your fucking guitar right now?!" Loren screamed, suddenly losing her cool. "You're fucking trapped and I'm fucking okay and I... I..." She swallowed hard, forcing the tears stinging behind her eyes to retreat. She took a deep breath and spoke softly. "I'm going to pull you out."

    She held on tightly to his hands, staring down at them, avoiding his eyes. She didn't want to see his pain. She wanted to kiss his fingers, his hands, all over, the callouses from making the most beautiful music she had ever heard. If he actually made it out alive, she would tell him everything. She would kiss his hands, if he wanted. She just didn't want to lose him.

    "Remember, keep pulling." Remember? How could she forget? This was her responsibility, her burden to maneuver, her cross to carry. This was all of her fault, and what if Zac lost his legs? She wouldn't leave him alone for a second, then. She would stay at his side every fucking second. She wouldn't forget this, wouldn't forget this debt.

    "On three. One..." One time, she had looked at Zac while he was half asleep, and thought, I should tell him. And she almost had; she'd opened her mouth to say something, when he started talking for her, about something completely random and unimportant. Loren had taken it as a sign... but perhaps that had been her fault, too. Maybe it was a test, to see how much she cared. To see if she was brave enough. But she'd neglected the moment, let the opportunity slide by, and now they were here, trapped - Zac by the desk, Loren by the future. She didn't want to imagine the future from now on. Their friendship would be changed forever; how could she let go of this instant? The fact that it was all her fault, putting Zac in this situation by freezing up? She was an idiot.

    "Two..." For a long time, she'd relied on Zac to help her forget about her family. His sense of humor, his larger than life personality, everything about him was so different than what she had grown up with. No more rules, no more structure, just the freedom of music, and the freedom of friendship. No more perfect little Loren Craft, the Craft daughter, the beauty who would certainly go places, maybe even become a princess. But nobody had understood that she didn't want to be a princess; she wanted to feel like she wasn't missing out on some secret everyone else knew, like she understood the punch line of a joke that the rest of the world was laughing at. It was her running away, again. But no more. She was going to go through with this. She hadn't promised Zac with her words, but she had promised him in every other way that she would take care of him. Even if he might end up getting more injured in the process.

    "Three."

    There was only one thing left to do: pull.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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On second thoughts, perhaps persuading Loren to pull him out hadn't been such a good idea. Zac was all too aware that if an aftershock ripped through the room, she was in a pretty vulnerable position. It would be all too easy for her to lose her balance and hit her head. And an aftershock would demolish the room, burying them both.

And ignoring all that, the pain was immense. It paralyzed his lower leg and arced up along his thigh. His foot was caught on something, and there wasn't enough room for him to jerk it free himself. He had never felt anything like the pain he was feeling now. It was like being beaten up, but all the pain being concentrated into his left calf.

Something under the pile of rubble that had once been his desk moved slightly and his body surged forward. There was one blissful moment when he thought he was free- until something jerked his painful foot back and he involuntarily cried out. As he cried out, a complete and immense fear overtook him.

He was going to lose her. Something was going to happen, and he was going to be left alone in the hell that was his own mind. The words were on his lips. Go, Loren. Run, get out of here. I'll be fine. He was about to say them, but something moved once again against his leg, jerking the broken bone and causing him to cry out once again.

But if he told her to run, if he died, he'd die all alone. Was his desire to die with her near a selfish one? Was it wrong of him to want to die with her hand in his, able to see her face? Was it because he didn't want to watch her die or force her to watch him die? Was his fear even one of dying? Or was it one of being forgotten, of fading away until he was nothing but dust?

A surge ran through him, one that was like a brief rush of adrenaline. And at that moment, his foot came free and Loren dragged him out from underneath the rubble with one brief surge of pain. For a moment, he just lay on the ground, shaking and gasping for breath. He hadn't realized he had been struggling to breathe until he was free. But now, every breath was sweet. He had survived. And no matter what shit life intended to throw at him, he was going to make it through it.

He managed to pull himself into a sitting position with minimal moving of his leg. His foot was turned at a slight angle and his calf was swollen. He had broken at least one bone in his calf, if not both. But he was alive. Loren was alive. He was as lucky as hell.

He looked up at Loren, a relieved smile on his face. "It's okay. We can make it out. We will make it out." He said, still breathing a little hard. "Just help me stand. We're going to get out. And bring my freaking guitars."

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Character Portrait: Kitty Lee Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes Character Portrait: Chase Westley Character Portrait: Eric Lee
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    Cafeteria food never failed to please Eric; though many students complain about school lunches, he's always found some strange likability in them. Hey, it was food, and no meal had ever disgusted Eric as of yet. He ate his breakfast peacefully, not being one to talk during mealtime. Some people found his lack of conversation awkward, and attempted to chatter to fill up the silence, but they usually gave up quickly, preferring the silence to his small noises and nods and shrugs. Perhaps he was socially awkward, but Eric didn't like small talk. He didn't like to waste his words, and when he had food in front of him, why would he waste a second not eating?

    His mother thought it was strange, though, but Eric was a super genius; he couldn't be normal, anyways; he might as well take it to the next level by being himself, completely different from anyone else. He ate silently and serenely, appreciating the attractiveness of Kitty a few times through short glances. Perhaps it was because he grew up in an Asian family, but he always did have a thing of Asian girls. Their hair was unbelievably soft, their skin tinted with gold, and they reminded him of his loving mother. Yes, Eric was a momma's boy, and he wasn't ashamed of it in the least. He smiled at her a few times when she caught him in his appraisal of her, showing no embarrassment; was there a crime in checking a girl out? Especially when she was gorgeous, with a lot of strength to boot. She was, at the very least, intriguing.

    He was caught up in these thoughts when the table started shaking. His meal began to fall over itself in the chaos, and it took only a few moments to understand what was happening. Goddammit, I wasn't even done eating, Eric thought fleetingly, before glancing around to see everyone else's reactions. Some of them didn't seem to understand what was going on, others shocked, others panicking. Eric watched them all stoically for a few moments, refusing to avert his eyes even when a boy was crushed and immediately killed. He winced slightly, but he wouldn't let his attention waver. Because he knew what was supposed to happen during an earthquake, he knew what would happen, and from the looks of it, no one was going to take charge. So he would.

    Eric turned to Kitty and put a hand on her shoulder, and began speaking quickly, rushing to get the words out of his mouth. "Get under a table. Not this one, go to another one." He glanced up at the fan above them and nodded at the table a few feet away. "Hurry up, go." He pushed her gently towards that direction and began to climb up to the top of the table, deciding to take the risk. Someone needed to act fast, and the earthquake was only getting worse, and worse, and worse. When he was standing at the top of the table, he could see how every eye was on him. For a moment, he felt sick to his stomach. What the hell was about to happen? How the hell could this happen?

    "Everyone! Listen up." Like they weren't already. Idiot, you just wasteda few precious seconds, Eric scolded himself as he continued. "Get under your table, now. Hold onto something study, preferably the leg of the table, and cover your head. Make sure no parts of your body are sticking out. If you're under a large object," everyone's eyes went to the now-deceased boy, still crushed by the lamp, "then you better move to another table." The crowd was still, for the most part, though a few bodies began to scramble, heeding his orders. Eric sighed in frustration and cupped his hands over his mouth. "I said-"

    He didn't get to finish his words. Because at that moment, the fan toppled on top of him, and he was down. He didn't even get to see if everyone was moving yet, or how Kitty had reacted, or... or anything. Eric merely closed his eyes and ignored the crushing pain, welcoming the dark that encompassed him.






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    To Loren's credit, she really tried to ignore Zac's painful outbursts, she really did. But each time he made so much as a whimper, she could feel the tension in her arms relax as she hesitated with each pull. I'm sorry, she would silently apologize to Zac before beginning again, with more strength than before, trying desperately to get him out before he could cry out again. But she kept on failing, because he kept on yelping. She wanted to yell at him to stop, he was distracting her, but she couldn't do that, could she? If everything was normal, then she would have; she would have scolded him and teased him about their predicament, admonishing him for acting like a baby. But it was her fault, and her debt to him was deep.

    He cried out once more, and it completely infuriated Loren. Why did he have to go and ruin everything? Nothing was the same anymore. He didn't have to save her, she would have knocked out of her shock in time. It was all his fault, that their friendship was all weird. With the same sudden intensity of her anger, Loren pulled abruptly, and she was pulling him across the floor. She let go of his arms once he was a safe distance away from the desk she now detested. Thank God he was safe. She took deep breaths to steady herself as Zac did the same. These past few minutes had been so crucial, so terrifying... so real. It was startling, how much closer she felt to him now. She collected herself quickly, from pure practice of gathering her wits after a catastrophe, and sat beside Zac, exhausted by the mental, emotional, and physical trauma she had just experienced.

    Instinctively, Loren laid a hand on Zac's when he was sitting upright, albeit at an awkward angle. She winced involuntarily when she noticed the angle of his calf, completely disturbing and wrong and unnatural. Afraid of hurting him, she withdrew her hand and ran it through her hair. The moment was a little awkward, now that they were both alive, now that she could confront the future of feeling like she owed Zac something forever, even her life. Now, she really couldn't say no to him. It had been the same way before, but it had been out of her own affection for him. Now? It would be guilt. Guilt and guilt throughout. She avoided Zac's gaze; he would read her emotions in her eyes and ignore the real issue at hand, focus on her instead.

    She could hear his smile when he spoke. "It's okay. We can make it out. We will make it out."

    "Yeah, we did. And we will." Loren nodded. She could hear the relief in her own voice, and it was only then that she realized she was grateful. She was elated to be alive, albeit a little conflicted. She had forgotten the miracle of her life, and even if Zac had helped her make it out, in the end, it had been her. Her and her own strength, to stay calm and get Zac out from under that damned desk. She had saved his life, as he had saved hers. So, in the end...

    ]"Now we're even," she said, grinning wickedly at Zac. She would always feel a little guilty, thankful, indebted to Zac... and maybe later, she would forget this little revelation and start feeling obligated towards Zac. But right now, she was comforted by this sense of normalcy that had returned to their friendship. She took his hand and squeezed it shortly before letting it slip from her grasp. Before he could reply to her statement, she straightened her posture and stood up, looking down at her best friend. She felt rejuvenated, ready to take on any challenge that came her way. "What next, captain?"

    "Just help me stand. We're going to get out. And bring my freaking guitars."

    "Will do, captain." She practically danced across the room, strangely elated even in the disaster of the shattering earthquake, and gathered some of the items she knew he would need most: his instruments. She grabbed a few, laid them beside Zac, and with her now-free hands, reached out to Zac. If they could get through that desk fiasco, then they could do anything.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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Zac grinned as Loren deposited a few guitars beside him. She knew him all too well- two electric, both with built in amps and headphone sockets, two acoustics and the bass he was trying to teach himself to play. He slung the straps across his body in such a way that they were supported, but wouldn't be in his way. He took Loren's hands without hesitation, using his surroundings to pull himself to his feet- or rather, foot.

If he put as much as the heel of his damaged foot on the ground, pain shot up his leg. His knee instinctively bent, keeping the foot from touching the ground. He was glad of Loren's hands, steadying him and helping him remain upright. "Houston, we may have a slight problem," He remarked quietly. Tentatively, he touched his foot back to the ground. Pain arced up his calf and didn't ease as he left it there. He dropped Loren's hands and tried to take a step. The pain on touching his foot to the ground, it appeared, was only a warning of what was yet to come. As he attempted to take a step, the pain of putting his weight on the broken bone almost knocked the leg from underneath him. He lurched forward, grabbing Loren to steady himself.

He gritted his teeth and tried again. He was prepared for the pain, but almost lost his balance and stumbled into a pile of rubble. It appeared his bed was underneath it, as he was able to steady himself. He swung the sturdier of his acoustics from his back and tried again, leaning on the neck of the guitar when his balance failed. It wasn't ideal. If he leaned too heavily on the neck of his guitar, it could break and leave him on the ground and a guitar short. In this unsteady manner, he crossed back over to Loren. "Let's go."

He was trying to hold up for her. They had to be strong for each other. If Loren showed any sign of pain, that would distract Zac and he would be willing to put himself in danger to help her. He knew that she would probably do the same for him, and he wasn't going to let that happen. While he knew he couldn't entirely mask the pain, if he carried on, it might just be enough to keep her going.

He noticed something silver on the ground and picked it up. His iPod. It had a crack on the top right corner, but it wasn't even on the screen. His headphones were still attached. The screen was still working. He shoved it into his pocket, avoiding Loren's eyes.

Why? He felt guilty. The photo on his lock screen was one he had taken when they had been messing around. Zac was wearing eyeliner, holding his bass. He had made some joke about him being like Pete Wentz, and they had decided to complete the comparison with eyeliner. Guilt suddenly plagued him for putting her in this situation. She had done so much for him, listened when he had needed to talk, made him laugh when he had felt down, and now she was stuck with him. He couldn't freaking walk by himself. How was he supposed to repay her like this?

His face fell, as all in one second all of the pain from the rest of his body, not just his leg, assaulted him. Nothing as severe, but it was enough. "Loren... I'm sorry. Go, don't let me keep you back. If anything happens, you have to make it out. You have to promise me. I'm not going to let you let me hold you back. Go." He leaned against the wall, shock beginning to set in. He looked up at her. "Go!" A strange ferocity appeared in his voice, verging on anger. He didn't know why, but he had to get through this himself.

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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    Loren's grip tightened each time she could feel his strength threatening to collapse; she could do that much for him. Silently, she resolved to stay, and be the strength he couldn't use right now. Because as foolish as a man's pride could sometimes be, she knew that right now, Zac Barnes wasn't strong. He couldn't be. As strong as his will is, he was too damaged and too physically hurt to be completely fine. She didn't say a word as he struggled to get up, even biting her tongue when he murmured beneath his breath. She didn't even gasp when he surprised her by lurching forward and grabbing her. She would remain steady and stoic for him, silent and reliable as a rock. She gripped his arms each time he tried again, refusing to make this moment even harder for him. Only once did she cry out, and that was involuntary, a mere sound that automatically left her throat. She swallowed and, with a quivering hand, matted down his hair affectionately before he tried once more again, this time succeeding, even if his success was a little shaky. "Let's go," he said. Loren nodded, and began taking a small step forward.

    "I'm ready," she said softly, firmly. Her head hurt and her entire body ached, but she could do this for her best friend.

    He bent down and picked up an iPod, his, and shoved it into his pocket. Loren tried to give him his privacy by looking away as he did so, though she couldn't stop herself from silently condemning him for caring more about a stupid device when their lives were on the line. Stupid, stupid boys. But then again, music was his life, and she could understand that... But not now, dammit! She just wanted to get out, and have this all over with. She would sacrifice all of her rebellious and restless tendencies if it meant being alive, with Zac Barnes right beside her. She gritted her teeth and glanced at him. He was avoiding her eyes, and his face was crestfallen...

    Loren's frustration fell away, and she began to speak gently. "Zac, we should..."

    "Loren," Zac interrupted her, "I'm sorry. Go."

    "What?" Loren said, mouth agape as he continued with his crazy talk.

    "If anything happens, you have to amke it out. You have to promise me. I'm not going to let you let me hold you back."

    He was insistent, but when wasn't he insistent? Loren rolled her eyes and tightened her grip on him. "No!" she hissed, "I am not being held back, I am being held up." Because it was true. How many times had Zac helped her keep her calm in a situation as crazy as this one? She needed him as much as he needed her. The pig couldn't see that, he could only see his guilt and his shame, glorifying it and romanticizing it and trying to become altruistic and selfless because of one silly earthquake. Or a not-so-silly earthquake, Loren told herself, glancing at his injured leg.

    "Go!" he said fiercely. Somehow, in the midst of Loren's inner ranting, he had leaned against the wall and met her gaze. She knew he wanted to be alone. She knew he was thinking of her first. She knew he was asking her to do this for him. But she wouldn't, because she was as crazy as he was.

    "You can't get rid of me," Loren said lightly, shrugging her shoulders and holding her hand out. "You save my life... I save yours!" she said brightly, trying to smile in the middle of these strange and tragic circumstances. "Now, please, Zac, stop being stubborn and don't waste time; you know I can be just as bullheaded as you can be. So let's just go, okay?"

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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She was being as stubborn as ever. Most of what she said passed over Zac's head. He felt cold, and was rubbing his arms in a desperate hope to keep warm. His skin was clammy, and his breathing had involuntarily sped up until he was taking in fast, shallow breaths. The dust in the air was making it difficult. His heart was pounding in his ears, and he wasn't sure how long he could last..

"...let's just go, okay?" He suddenly heard her say. He wanted to fight, wanted her to go, but he just felt like he didn't have the strength. She held out her hand and he grasped it, desperate for a lifeline. Leaning on the guitar heavily, he opened the door and took his first few steps.

Each step made him feel worse. He knew he could easily worsen the fracture, but help was too far away. He could be crushed before anyone arrived or noticed he was missing. He was struggling to concentrate, and the dust in the air was causing him to cough. It wasn't helping his breathing, and he was already on the verge of hyperventilation. All he was really aware of was the pain in his leg and Loren's hand in his. He didn't know who was leading who- but before they reached the end of the hallway, Zac was pretty sure that she was tugging his hand.

The first time he stopped was at the top of the stairs. He could barely walk on a flat surface, let alone stairs. He was vaguely aware of Loren coaxing him to walk, to keep going. He didn't know where he found the strength, but he kept going, despite the immense pain he was in.

The second time was at the foot of the stairs. He thought he felt his hand slip from hers. At this point he couldn't feel much more than pain. He was barely conscious and felt like he was coughing a lung up. He was cold... so cold...

But she kept leading him, kept pulling his hand, and got him outside.

He collapsed on his good side on the lawn, his back arching as he coughed, trying to clear his lungs. He couldn't see the chaos around him. He could see everything, but wasn't taking anything in. "Loren... Loren, I'm cold..."

He didn't want anything more other than to sleep and feel her arm around his shoulders. He just wanted to forget the pain and chaos and wake up. This reality was worse than any nightmare. He was in so much pain, and everyone he loved was in pain or in danger too. Everyone except Loren...

She was the only person who was safe... Or even remotely safe. He couldn't be sure. Nothing made much sense to him.

"I love you, Loren."

What was he saying? He was still choking on dust in his lungs, hardly able to think, and in immense pain. Why was he telling her he loved her now?

"More than a friend."

There was only one explanation for his sudden declaration, one even he was only realizing now. He had almost lost her. The thought of losing her without telling her the truth was too much, too sickening. It was worse than the nausea in his stomach. It was worse than the coughing. It was even worse than the crushing pain in his leg.

He shoved the guitars and bass from his back, clearing the last of the contaminants from his lungs.

"And I'm still so cold..."

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Character Portrait: Loren Hanna Craft Character Portrait: Zac Barnes
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    She was aware of just how dramatic they were being. But it was a dramatic situation, and Loren was determined to get out of there, with as few words as possible. She stared at Zac until he grabbed her hand and, with a small smile at his surrender, began walking. Ha! she thought smugly, I finally got you to do something I wanted you to do. She pulled him through, stumbling a few times because she was frantically looking from the ground to Zac, from Zac to the ground. Part of her wanted to leave the guitar behind... part of her was afraid of what Zac would do to her if she let that happen. So she murmured and coaxed his way through the stairs, through turns in the building, ignoring the dangerous coughs of his and pretending he wasn't shivering and showing terrifying signs of someone too sick to do anything but lie down.

    "Come on," she said, more to herself than to Zac, "come on, we have to get out, everyone's probably outside already..."

    Finally, the two were out. Loren sat down on the ground and pulled her knees up, cradling her head in between her legs as she caught her breath. She wasn't as injured as the others, save for the bruises all over her body, but the stress had gnawed at her insides and her brain and everything else she had with a vengeance, and she was suddenly exhausted. She took deep breaths, as loudly as she could, reminding herself that somehow she had gotten out alive. With Zac. She had brought Zac out, even when things had seemed impossible. Oh, God, that was so badass.

    With that revelation in mind, Loren raised her head and smiled brightly at Zac - but her face fell when she realized he was collapsed, coughing like he was dying, and clearly in pain. Uh oh. She rushed to his side and awkwardly patted his shoulder, trying to be comforting while giving him his space; after all, the two had just survived a colossal earthquake together, and somehow, after all of that, all Loren wanted was to be alone for awhile. Sure, it had been nice helping Zac - but she wanted to reflect on it by herself.

    But Zac needs you, she told herself, hating that she was being so selfish in Zac's time of need. "Zac?" she whispered, looking around, hoping someone would see them and come over. But then he spoke, and she quickly changed her mind about wanting someone to interrupt this moment.

    "I love you, Loren."

    Her eyes widened and she nearly slapped him for saying something so crazy in these circumstances. "What?" she said in shock. No no no, don't turn this into a movie, she silently begged her best friend, because usually this is the part where the main character dies.

    "More than a friend."

    Loren stared down at him, too surprised to answer. So here was the answer to all of her questions. Here was the point where they couldn't turn back. They couldn't pretend any longer; they would have to face their emotions now. She had wanted this earlier today, but... well, this wasn't how she had wanted her day to go. The dynamics of their friendship had changed twice in a row, with no chance to absorb the changes in between. Now they had to face the guilt, and the implications of a romantic relationship. Now she had to confess, too.

    "Save your energy and your words for later," Loren said comfortingly, deciding to talk about it with him later, when they weren't outside with the other Arcana students, in the aftermath of a tremendous earthquake. When they were alone. He might not even remember this moment, Loren realized. And she would be okay with that. She wasn't sure if she wanted to face her emotions so quickly. Right now, she just wanted to hide.

    He shoved the guitar and bass away from him, bringing shame to Loren's cheeks for not doing it earlier. "And I'm still so cold," he moaned.

    "Stop complaining, you little brat," Loren said halfheartedly as she propped him up and held him against her, trying to warm him with her own body heat. It wasn't so much of a hug as it was suffocation, really, but it would do. She rubbed his bare arms, putting his hands on the back of her neck, where it was warmest due to the covering of her hair. She looked around desperately, but Zac's body was blocking the entirety of her view.

    "Hello? Anyone, can anyone help?" she cried out.

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He felt her pull him into her. Almost involuntarily, he leaned his head onto her shoulder as she pulled his hands around her neck, desperately trying to keeping him warm. He knew her plea for help would go unanswered. Everyone else had too much on their minds. They didn't need to worry about him.

It felt nice being so close to her. Even if it was only because they had both nearly been killed in an earthquake and he was in shock, as well as having a broken leg. And yet all he could worry about was the fact she hadn't said it back.

If she didn't love him back... If she felt guilty... He would make her forget. Make her forget he had ever said it. It would hurt him to know, but she wouldn't have to know about his broken heart. He was good at hiding secrets. He had been doing it most of his life.

He didn't want to admit it, even to himself, but he was fighting to remain conscious. The pain of the break combined with the shock meant his mind was clouded and sharp at the same time. He was clinging to remain awake.

"Loren... Don't let me sleep. Just... don't let me sleep."

Sleep just seemed so appealing. But it was all wrong. She was supposed to be in his arms, not him in hers. He wasn't even properly in her arms. She was just supporting him, sharing her body heat so he didn't get cold. And he wanted to know where she was. Call it a paranoia after the events of the past few hours, but he needed to know where she was and to know she was safe. He didn't want to wake up without her in a strange hospital. He wanted to know she was still there for him, to make him smile when he needed it most.

"I want to tell you a story... But you can't let me sleep."

If it meant keeping her with him, he would tell her everything. If it meant hanging on that little longer, he would spill his guts.

"I know you've always wondered why I am the way I am.

My mom left us when I was four. My dad lost his job. His only option was to become a drug courier.

I first saw him dealing when I was ten. He told me exactly what he was doing.

Everything just got worse from there.

I was kidnapped when I was thirteen..."


He thought it would make him feel a little better, getting it off his chest. But as he spoke, he suddenly realized he was burdening her with it too. He hesitated for a moment, feeling his head swim.

"...I was beaten up more times than I care to think to get my dad to give the goods. I saw my dad shot when I was fourteen."

He trailed off there. What more was there to say? He had just poured his soul out before her. And now she had that on her shoulders too.

"No, I'm sorry. You don't need to worry about me. I'll make you forget..."

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    He was going to make it; he had to. Loren tried to rub every inch of Zac's bare skin, desperately trying to battle the goosebumps with her body temperature and friction. This couldn't be good, his body had to react and fight the shock. She didn't want to let him go, this bundle of freedom that kept her sane and helped her forget her wanderlust. After years of being chained down by her parents, constricted by conservative unspoken rules of high society, Loren had only wanted to feel completely unbound; she wanted to fly and leave rules behind completely. And Zac helped her feel a little more free when she was with him. She wanted to be here with him until he was 100% okay.

    "Zac, just hold on, okay? Someone's coming, someone will," she murmured in his ear. She continued to search the lawn desperately, crying out occasionally for a staff member to come and help. But they were so busy with the others. She heard whispers of more injured students, even some dead. She held back a whimper and hoped Zac was too hurt to hear any of it. His broken leg was already overwhelming him physically, and she feared that knowing some of his friends were dead would make him even worse. She stroked his hair down, murmuring comforts in his ear to distract him from the conversation going on and hopefully the pain and the cold while keeping an eye out.

    "Loren... don't let me sleep," Zac said, his voice weak. She shushed him and promised, though she was a little distracted - as much as she wanted to stay with Eric at this time, the situation was beginning to scare her. She liked having fun and laughing with her best friend, and she had harbored feelings for him for awhile, but now that things had suddenly become incredibly intense and serious... it was scaring her. She was young; she didn't want to be caught up in a tragedy, and she wasn't sure if she was willing to give up the independence she had just so recently found for a boy, even if he was her best friend, even if she had liked him for a long time.

    "I'll keep you awake," she repeated.

    "I want to tell you a story..." and from there, he told her his story.

    She thought she had it bad.

    Fourteen years old, without a father. That was the age she had discovered her powers, the day she began hiding from everyone for fear of invading their privacy. He had been kidnapped by then. He had lost the only parent he had. Loren shifted so that she was embracing him. She said nothing, only attempted to convey her feelings through physical intimacy. He hesitated then, and finally spoke: "I'm sorry. You don't need to worry about me, I'll make you forget..."

    Loren flinched. She had always wanted to know more about him, get past the mystery... and he had told her, and she had been so grateful, and he was regretting it. Was that how he really felt? She tried to fight the urge to pull back, but she ended up loosening her grip on him and losing the strength in her muscles, her shoulders dropping an inch in disappointment. So he was only shocked, in some sort of hysteria, saying things he didn't mean... including the three words that could have changed everything. She felt a pang in her stomach at that thought. Even though she had been thinking moments earlier how she was afraid of taking the next step, the silent rejection stung.

    But even if she was disappointed and hurt, she was still his friend.

    "No, we're best friends, Zac; I want to worry about you. I... I really care about you. You can tell me anything, you know that," she insisted.

    Afraid that he still didn't trust her, she began to grab at empty space, trying to find the right words to convince him that she cared, she didn't want to forget, he could trust her, he didn't have to regret telling her anything... "My dad killed my twin brother," she confessed quietly. "My dad killed my twin brother so I ran away from home, and I used my powers to get money because I was a coward and had no talents besides knowing how to be a high society trophy. And they never came looking for me."

    She squeezed him, returning her hug to its former strength and sentiment. "You and I, we both don't have a father."

    "Do you trust me now that I've told you everything, Zac? You don't have to regret telling me anything, I promise you can tell me anything," she begged, her voice cracking.

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There was a strange tone to her words, like she was hurt at his offer to make her forget everything.

As she spoke, something in the back of his mind realised that she thought he was disillusioned and delusional from the pain. She didn't think he meant his words. But why would she care? Was she afraid of hurting his feelings?

"Loren, look at me."
He pulled away from her and stared her straight in the face. What he had to say was more important than keeping warm.
"I trust you."

He took her hands and found himself staring into her eyes. He had to tell her. It would make it so much more difficult if he had to make her forget, but he couldn't rest until she knew.

"I'm not delusional. I love you. I'm telling you because I'm afraid of losing you. There are days when the only reason I get out of bed is so you don't worry. There are days when you're the only reason I smile. There are days when sometimes I can't even pick up a guitar- but I pick it up so I can see you smile and hear you sing."

He still felt cold. His mental function was improving, but he remembered reading that people in shock often varied from frenzied to lethargic and barely conscious. But he had to keep talking. He was gone too far to stop now.

"Losing you would be like losing half of me. I know I'd get over you eventually but... I'm not going to lie and say that I would never love another woman. But there would never be another Loren Craft. Not for me."

"If I lost you without you ever knowing who I am or how I feel, I don't know how I would handle it. I don't know if I could."

"I offered to make you forget because I don't want to see you upset. I don't want you to worry about me. I want you to smile, not that worried expression. If you... If you don't feel the same way, just tell me. I can make you forget, erase the feeling of guilt."

"Yes, I know you'll never love me back, but I can handle that."

"I couldn't handle losing you, Loren. Not without telling you. Even if you couldn't remember. Because that way, if anything happened to either of us, I would know. I hate not knowing, Loren. But if you don't feel the same way, just tell me. Because this is one time when my power is of some use. I can erase any memories that cause you guilt. Because I love you too much to let you live with that, with you thinking that you broke my heart."


This time, he pulled her close, enveloping her in his arms, holding the warmth of her body close. He felt the nausea wash over him again, coupled with exhaustion. But he couldn't sleep. He wouldn't. Not until he knew. Not until he had either made her forget altogether or until he knew.

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    More than anything, Loren was conflicted. Part of her urged her to take the offer, to forget that this had happened, to continue living life simply, to take the opportunity for what it was and let this hell of an experience fade into nothing. But it would be unfair, for him and for her, no matter how easy it was. She took a deep breath and brushed the hair out of her eyes, at a loss for words. Holding onto Zac tightly, she continued breathing in deeply, stalling for time to gather her thoughts and find the words. He had always been good with words. She, on the other hand, had always struggled with saying the right thing. She couldn't spin an elaborate confession as he had just done; she could barely consider telling him simply that she felt the same way, too. They had been best friends for... forever.

    Everything was going to change. And change could be scary. Extraordinarily so.

    "Zac," she tried, her voice cracking, dry and unused to speech after such a long period of listening. She cleared her throat and pulled away from the hug, meeting his eyes firmly. Despite her steady gaze, her entire body showed an anxiety that didn't match her expression; her hands twitched and fidgeted, her foot tapped restlessly against the grass, her throat was going dry, and her insides were rioting against itself. But she had to try to tell him the truth, even if it didn't sound quite as... amazing as his had.

    "I love you too," she said quietly. Her fingers still fidgeted, her feet still tapped, her throat still dried, and her insides still rioted, anxious for his response, magnified by a sudden fear of what would come next, now that the truth was out. Nothing would be the same again. Part of her was excited to see how it would evolve; others, not. He had been heartfelt and expressive and incredibly poignant; she was still unsure of the depth of her feelings. She cared for him, she knew. She wanted to be with him all the time, she knew. She wanted to kiss him, she knew. But her eyes had often strayed, she had disappointed Zac before, and at times, she became so frustrated with him she considered him a child. But then he did something like this, and she couldn't stay mad at him. The emotional control he had over her was astounding.

    Loren cleared her throat and said it again, louder this time, attempting to cement it not only into his mind but also hers. "I love you." Then she smiled at him and wove her fingers between his. "Now go to sleep."