32. A Dark Lightling

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   The doors to the room burst open and Zero stumbles in, grey eyes narrowed and wide, searching.

His eyes land on me and I smile, standing up.

His whole face lights up in relief, and he sprints forward while I prepare myself to be crushed in his arms like he has done many, many times before. Even though his hugs send me halfway to death, I secretly love them.

I close my eyes, bracing for the impact......but it doesn't come.

Instead I feel a rush of air as Zero runs right past me and to the base of the three steps, where he appears to be hugging my twin, almost purring as he rubs his head against her as she wraps her arms around him. I stare at him a few moments longer in shock, before it finally clicks.

I glare up at Lager, who's watching Zero with nothing but amusement in his eyes. I also notice how his foot is moving ever so slightly, tapping against the ground.

"Quit it already." I snap at him, and his eyes flick to mine, seeming to plead with me, before he finally sighs.

"Fine." And he waves his hand through the air.

Zero immediately tenses, looking down at his still now truly empty arms, before a growl rips through him. He faces Lager, livid with anger as he makes a move onto the first step.

"Where is she?! Tell me NOW!" He says in a voice promising death.

I give a short whistle and he whirls around as I rock back on my heels, giving  a short wave.

"Hello. In case you haven't noticed I've been here the entire time."

He holds my eyes for a few seconds, contemplating if I'm the real thing or not, before the bone-crushing grip I was so worried about is finally on me and I wheeze out a laugh as I'm nearly swallowed whole by his body.

"Told you we would be late!" I hear a familiar voice snap, and I manage to crane my head up over Zero's shoulder to see Becky walking through the two doors, led by her own escort who she was yelling at. The escort, who was a Darkling solider, held the same blank look on his face, not giving any reaction to Becky's jibes.

I smile at her, before groaning as Zero's arms constrict around me further. I shut my eyes tight, feeling his arms wrap around my whole torso, but something feels off.

"Zero......you can stop now." I manage to gasp out.

That's not me, Zero says inside my head, and I fling my eyes open and look down to see a blue snake wrapped around my body, squeezing.

My first instinct is too scream, but I take a few deep, calming breaths before speaking.

"Max if you don't get off me and change back right now, I'm going to let Zero and Becky pummel you." I try to growl but it comes out more like a choke.

Becky perks up when hearing that and walks closer while Max slithers down me and onto the ground, making me shiver in disgust.

Suddenly, Becky's eyes go wide as she looks at Max who's starting to shift. "No! Don't-" She starts, but Max is already shifting.

"Cover your eyes!" Becky says, lunging at me and I look in confusion at Max, wondering why I would need to cover them. There's a bright blue light, before Becky slams into me, her hands pressing against my eyes and keeping them shut.

"Hey!" I say, struggling to pull her hands off. "What are you doing?"

"Don't look at him." She warns, as I tug her hands forcefully off and stare down at her, her own eyes squeezed shut. Curiosity though, is a weak spot for me, and before I even know what I'm doing I'm glancing at Max.

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