Cass starts slowly, sitting cross-legged and staring at Balthazar’s cards as he sorts them.
“She must have been to magic users what my grandfather was to engineers, but I’ve never…heard of anyone like that.”
He frowns. “Who was she?”
Eyes on his cards, Balthazar smiles wryly.
“Who are you?” That’s Cass’ real question, but they’ve already asked, and lied, to each other, so he has to find another way.
Then again, what Cass and the others saw today was unheard of. No one in the sky can command the elements the way Balthazar did. Not even the School of Magic can impart such power.
Maybe Cass really is just stunned, letting his awe get the better of his curiousity. Balthazar decides to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Balthazar lifts his head, meeting Cass’ tentative expression.
“‘Unless’…?” he prods, raising his eyebrows. Cass’ next question might clear up his intentions.
“Are you…” Cass asks, “…a Child of the Earth?”
Balthazar blinks, then laughs.
“Oh, no, no,” he shakes his head. “I can tell you that much. I have heartwings, don’t I?”
Cass actually looks surprised.
“Now, Cassie,” Balthazar chides him affectionately, waving a finger. “If I answer that, you know you have to do the same.”
Cass shuts his mouth abruptly and rolls his eyes, then sighs softly.
“Sorry,” he offers, “it was just so incredible, I-”
Packing away his cards, Balthazar meets his eyes sympathetically. “And…I wish I could tell you. I wish we actually knew each other. Don’t you?”
Cass glances away, eyes falling to the ground. “I might, if I didn’t like you.”
Balthazar tilts his head, taken aback.
But, then again…
“No, I understand,” he says quietly. Cass looks up at him strangely. Balthazar forces a smile, and shrugs.
“Who hides a happy story, right?”
In the silence, Balthazar holds out his hand.
“Someday,” he says. “Someday, we’ll tell each other everything. Promise?”
Cass stares at Balthazar’s hand. He can’t really know what he’s offering, can he? to say such a thing.
Or, worse, maybe he can.
“Someday…” says Cass, “we might not be friends anymore.”
Still, he takes Balthazar’s hand.