Life Isn't Fair...
Brown Eyed Stray
Disclaimer: It has been brought to my attention, that though I own nothing from either Anita Blake, or Buffy, I do however own some original characters.
Chapter Two: Life Isn’t Fair
The loud calls from the good looking boys spread down the street made a visible flush to cover the small boy’s pale cheeks. He ducked his head to hide the blush, and the small smile on his lips.
The sound of a hand smacking flesh could be clearly heard in the warm St. Louis night air, as well as the whine that followed.
“Owww. That hurt! What’d you do that for?”
“That was for embarrassing Xander, Eric.” Came back the unruffled reply.
“But Jerooomy, that’s not fair! Everyone else did the same thing and you’re not abusing them! So you gotta smack Ramon and Jesse too to be fair.”
The two smirking and chuckling boys immediately took a prudent step back when the threat of “divine Jeremy punishment” was brought up. Xander only quietly shook his head in mortification as he walked toward Jeremy.
“Those two were being affectionate, you were being embarrassing.”
“What?! Calling the cutie pie pretty boy IS my way of showing affection. Besides, like calling him baby or honey is any better.” Eric complained.
“Being called “pretty boy” is more embarrassing.” Jeremy said firmly. The matter settled, Jeremy turned and gave Xander a welcoming hug, carefully making sure to keep his hands away from the patched face.
“Hey little guy. What’s up, how come you came here?” inquired Jeremy, slightly worried what could bring Xander out this far at night.
The others, all joking aside, listened as well.
Xander felt warmth spreading through him as he looked at the concerned faces.
It had been two months since he had come to this strange new universe. Jeremy had brought him to his slightly rundown apartment that he could afford with a roommate named Matt. It was cheaper because it was just next to the Blood District. Which Xander found out meant it was where the vampires and vamp junkies slash followers went.
Almost all the other boys who lived in the building immediately took to the cute, quiet little boy.
Xander, worried about questions he couldn’t answer decided, in part helped by the many shocks he had received, that silence was the best solution. After a while he found that because he was the youngest living there (as far as everyone else was concerned) the other teens doted on and looked out for him. He didn’t feel the need to crack jokes or be loud to draw attention to himself.
As odd as his current circumstances were, he found that he was enjoying his second childhood.
Xander mentally shook himself out of reminiscing and looked up at the concerned faces looking down at him. “Matt was called in to go run an errand at…where ever he works.” Xander rolled his eyes at the suspicious nature of Matt’s job, getting a few chuckles.
“Then Jacob came in cut up pretty bad from some sick bast-“ a glare from Jeremy made him change mid-word “-jerk and had to be taken to the hospital.
At this point there were a couple of troubled murmurs that subsided when Xander continued to speak. “Umm, anyways. I’m not sure if anyone else was there in the apartments right now, and, well.” Xander ducked his head, equal parts embarrassed, angry, and scared. “Simon came around a couple of times to “check up” on me.”
“What!?” exclaimed Jeremy. “Did anything happen?” he asked alarmed and upset.
Simon aka “Sleazy Simon” was the disgustingly slimy man who ran their apartment building. He bullied anyone he could, and was mean and nasty to everyone. Simon had taken an unhealthy interest in harassing Xander in particular. From lewd comments, and not so accidental touches, to slapping and pinching when he found the small boy alone.
All the teens in the building could see what was happening and tried to shield the little boy as much as possible, but Sleazy Simon found opportunities to corner Xander.
Xander had faced all kinds of disgusting, and terrifying monsters in his life, but that was all when he was bigger and stronger.
There wasn’t much he could do to stop Simon. His small arms and legs were pathetically weak, and it wasn’t as if he could report the Sleaze to the authorities. That could get everyone in the apartment complex arrested and thrown to the dubious mercies of Social Services.
“Nothing really happened” Xander mumbled, humiliated at how powerless he was, “Just Simon being his creepy self.”
“Xander,” Jeremy said seriously “I’m not mad you came here. I know I told you not to because it’s not safe, but Simon, well, it would be worse to be with Simon.” There was a dark look in Jeremy’s eyes that aged him beyond his apparent age.
Xander felt a shudder of revulsion run down his back. “You don’t have to tell me that” he uttered under his breath.
He had been practicing his new ability to truly See into others when his gaze accidentally fell on Simon. The feelings and images he got from that Scumbag, made Xander pale, and rush for the nearest trashcan to throw up everything he had eaten all day.
Ironically enough, that incident went a long way to helping him to control his gift. If getting control meant he never again had to gaze upon the depths of depravity Simon held within his being, it was something he definitely wanted to perfect.
A car pulled up along the curb and the boys spread out as business picked back up.
Xander felt a little sick as he watched these nice teens, his friends, sell themselves to these people for money, and made doubly sure that his talent was locked up. There was no way he wanted to See any of these “customers.”
He was horror-struck when a man pulled up to where he and Jeremy were situated and offered money for him! He was confused as why the man would want to, not knowing how he appeared with his apparent youth, pale delicate face, and single brown eye showing between long brown silky bangs.
He felt the blood drain from his face from the feelings he was getting from the man, and pressed close to Jeremy desperately trying to lock his gift up tighter.
“Sorry, he isn’t working.” Jeremy quickly replied to the man’s request, smoothly shifting Xander behind him. Before the black haired boy could offer himself a brash voice descended upon them.
“What’s this, are you finally pimping out the kid out? ‘Bout time.” Slash was another prostitute that lived in their building, but he, unlike the other boys, disliked Xander. The spiky haired boy had earned his name, and was generally unpleasant. He wasn’t pretty, but was good looking in a sharp, edgy kind of way.
He turned toward the car and sent a smoldering look to the man. “Come on, you can’t get what you want from these tame pretty boys.”
“Get in.” the man said nodding at Slash. However he was still eying Xander with a disturbingly hungry look in his eyes.
While Slash turned to smirk maliciously at the two boys, Xander lost his grip on his Sight and he could see a shadowy wolf-like image around the man.
This wasn’t the first time he had seen this with a shifter. In fact, with the smallest use of his gift he could see the forms of any shifter easily. What was so disturbing with this man was the almost primal aura surrounding him.
Blood, meat, pain, and death drifted around the normal, nice looking male. It was so strong that Xander felt like he could smell it in the air. It froze him with fear. This was no mainstreaming werewolf; this was some kind of rouge, most likely a killer.
As Slash turned to get in the man’s car, Xander’s small hand darted out and grabbed the edge of the other boy’s shirt. “Don’t go with him.” Xander whispered when Slash turned back in annoyance. “If you do, you’ll die.”
Xander didn’t particularly like Slash, but that didn’t mean he wanted him killed. And Xander knew that if the edgy teen got in that car, he would never be seen again. Not alive and recognizable.
“What is it Xander?” Jeremy asked putting a hand on his shoulder, by now trusting completely in Xander’s “intuition.”
“Back off brat.” Slash growled, and purposefully brought his other hand quickly toward Xander’s face, knowing exactly what he was doing.
Xander immediately released the bigger boy and jerked himself backward with a yelp. Slash laughed cruelly and got in the car with the killer werewolf.
The pale and shaking boy felt even more shaken when he saw the man look with interest at him. He realized that the man’s werewolf hearing had overheard his warning to Slash. The small boy scrambled backward into the shadows, unable to escape the man’s intent eyes.
After a final thoughtful look the man drove off, and by reflex Xander memorized the license plate and car. As the effects from the multiple scares began to wear off his whole body felt tired.
“Xander, what was that all about?” Jeremy demanded, seeing how truly frightened Xander was. The small boy was a good judge of character, and his reaction did not bode well for Slash.
“That man is going to kill Slash,” Xander said tiredly. “and he probably wants to kill me now too ‘cause he suspects that I know something, which I do.”
Jeremy opened his mouth, but Xander continued talking in a numb tone. “Slash’ll probably be in the papers soon. This isn’t the first time this guy’s done this, and he’s starting to get more cocky, wild, and hungry.”
Jeremy stared at the petite boy staring listlessly at the ground at his side. Jeremy slowly knelt in front of the bowed head. “Xander, how do you know all that?” he carefully asked.
Too tired to lie, Xander looked up into Jeremy’s eyes.
The older boy felt his heart clench at the look in Xander’s eye. The one visible brown eye had such an old look of weariness and defeat that was simply wrong on a child.
“I can look into the heart of people as they truly are.” Xander whispered tiredly. Jeremy’s eyes widened as Xander went on. “Thoughts, images, impressions, and feelings of all kinds of people are what I see all the time if I don’t shield myself. But it’s so hard to be on guard all the time” the wan boy said despairingly. “I often end up seeing things I wish I hadn’t. Some things are small and petty, and sometimes what I see seem to stain me with its vile poison.”
Jeremy couldn’t believe what this little boy was telling him. He shivered. He knew the kind of people that surrounded him, and he didn’t want, under any circumstance, to see into their souls. This slight child intimately saw the all depravity that filled his world.
Seeing Xander sway on his feet, Jeremy gently picked him up and rested him on his hip.
Xander jerked, and feebly protested that he would stay out of the way so that Jeremy could work.
Jeremy just turned and started home, still carrying Xander, slowly rubbing his back.
“Shhh. It’s okay. I’ve still got plenty of money stashed from that statue you gave me.” Jeremy quietly reassured him.
On the way home Xander gave in and fell asleep on Jeremy’s shoulder, musing on all the things that had happened.
‘This day sucks’ was his last sleepy thought.
“This day sucks.” Anita grumbled to herself as she opened her front door.
She had been called in early by RPIT to consult about yet another mutilated body. The way it had been savaged, and partially consumed, pointed toward a lycanthrope. Which was completely not good.
“What’s wrong Anita?” came a pleasant voice from the kitchen. Wearing a cute little apron she had gotten him, Nathaniel was making breakfast for the horde of people that lived in and hung around at her house.
As usual, anticipating her needs, the were leopard paused his cooking efforts to hand her a cup of coffee exactly the way she liked it.
“Nathaniel, you are wonderful.” she said sincerely. She leaned up a little to give him a tender kiss on the cheek.
Nathaniel’s violet eyes lit up with happiness. To be appreciated and have casual, sincere gestures of affection given to him like that was something he treasured. It made him feel needed, safe.
With a small smile on his face, he went back to mixing and flipping the various things on the stove. “So, what got you out of bed so early?” Nathaniel inquired.
Anita let out a tired sigh. “There was another body found today. From what we can tell from what’s left it was a boy, teenager, and” she hesitated a moment “it looks like it was done by a lycanthrope."
Tensing as he was putting platters of food on the table Nathaniel turned worried eyes toward Anita. “That’s not good.” he said quietly.
She let out another tired sigh and tugged a hand through curly hair. “No it isn’t. Lycanthropes get enough bad press without the killings of young boys in the paper.”
“What’s this about killings?” Micah asked as he entered the kitchen dressed in an emerald green button up and gray slacks. He gave Anita a gentle kiss on the lips and a small tug on Nathaniel’s braid before grabbing a plate.
“There’s been a series of teenage boy’s found dead, mutilated, and partially eaten.” Anita reiterated wearily. Her stomach gave a small growl, and she also got a plate and began to put food on it.
While learning to control the Ardeur she had gotten better at taking care of her needs. She had been able to make a deal with the Ardeur so that it only occurred once a month, which her friends jokingly referred to as her other “time of the month.”
“The frustrating thing is that there have been no new reports of missing boys.” Anita sighed.
“Maybe they were prostitutes.” Nathaniel said softly. “People either wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t care to report them missing." His eyes were dark with remembered pain.
Anita got up and wrapped her arms around the auburn haired were leopard. “It’s okay, there are people who'd look for and kill to find you if you went missing.”
“Hey, group hug!” Zane yelled upon entering with the rest of the pard, wrapping his arms around Anita and Nathaniel. It slightly spoiled the moment, but it did spur on a spontaneous group hug. Laughing, the crowd of lycanthropes broke up, and started grabbing things to eat.
Nathaniel still had echoes of remembered pain and loneliness in his eyes that faded as he watched his new family eat the food he had prepared. He felt happy as they joked, and talked about random subjects much lighter than the topic before. The auburn haired man had people to care about him now, but those boys being killed probably didn’t. A thought was growing in his mind, and he firmed his resolve.
Once breakfast was finished he pulled Anita aside. “I can take you to some spots to see if we can get some information about whether or not prostitutes have gone missing.” Nathaniel said resolutely.
“You don’t think the police are doing the same thing?” Anita protested.
“Even if they’ve come to the same conclusion, most of the boys on the street would vanish if they saw the cops coming. I can take you there, and help you find things out the police can’t. These boys don’t have anyone that cares if there’s something preying on them.” Unspoken was the fact that Nathaniel used to be the one that had no one looking out for him.
Her eyes softening Anita put her hand on his arm. “Thank you Nathaniel. Okay, we’ll go asking around tonight.” She gave him a small hug and left to go to her other job.
Nathaniel wasn’t sure how to feel. He felt glad he was in a position to help, but he wasn’t delusional enough to think that visiting places where he once did the same things those teens on the street did wouldn’t be painful. Yet tonight that’s where he’d be going.
***Author’s Note: Next chapter, Anita and Nathaniel meet Xander!