Safety in Numbers
+Safety in Numbers
The day after Buffy’s meeting with the Master of the City was Chris’s day off from work, for which he was glad. He had too much to concentrate on to actually work.
Instead he did the laundry. Four people’s laundry from more than a week was enough to keep his hands busy for a while as his mind wandered back almost three years.
He’d come to town, alone, scared, freshly infected and with no clue of what was in store for him. And for almost twelve months, he’d struggled, not to stay on top of things, but just to not hit rock bottom. He couldn’t keep a steady job because practically every shifter in town had more power than him and they used to it bully him. To make him run their errands, to mock him, to basically do everything they pleased to him. And then Jay had come.
He pulled the towels out of the washing machine and dumped them in the dryer. The dark stuff went in the machine next.
Jay wasn’t all that powerful, but he was powerful enough to stand somewhere at the top quarter of the food chain and for some reason, he’d taken Chris under his wing. Together they’d almost managed. Or so they thought. It hadn’t been until Ajo that they really did. He’d come only weeks after Jay, all pissed off rage and a need to prove himself in the big city. He’d needed an in to the power structure of the city and Chris and Jay had provided it for him. They had been convenient allies more than friends but the arrangement had worked for everyone, especially Chris.
He separated the towels by size and started folding them neatly.
Until Ajo had stood in their usual hangout and tried to supplement their income with a bit of pool and some bets. She had looked so small, so tiny and fragile as she’d walked up to him after he’d won the last round of the night and challenged him for all his winnings.
He hadn’t known pool could be so ugly until that day. Ajo had tried to beat her with a few smooth moves of hidden shifter strength and skill. The problem? She’d matched him step for step until even the dumbest patron noticed something was off about the game.
They’d been kicked out of the bar, called freaks and dumped on the street. Without their winnings. And Ajo had, full of rage as he was, shoved the girl into the nearest alley and demanded to know what the fuck she was playing at.
She’d shown him. Chris had never seen anyone go down so fast. Before things escalated, Jay had quickly offered her a place to sleep as a peace offering. She’d turned to Ajo, who she’d been sitting on at the time, for confirmation.
After a moment of strained silence, he’d nodded.
That had been a year ago and somehow, she’d never left.
Chris knew, even if the other two men would never admit it, that they were happy to have Buffy as their alpha. They had steady jobs and no-one in their neck of the woods bothered them anymore because everyone had heard of the mysterious alpha protecting them. Life in St. Louis was easier with Buffy than it had been ever before.
Even if it had taken them almost six months to get her to tell them her real name, in a way, they were family.
And now, after things had just settled down, everything was threatening to crumble again because Buffy had to insist on going to school to ‘spend her time until she was legal doing something useful’ because ‘a high school diploma is always good’ and she just had to pick the school where the Ulfric taught. Of course the whole thing had been doomed from the start. It was a miracle it had taken as long as it did for the Master of the City to notice them.
He’d chase Buffy out of town now or he’d make her do things she didn’t want to. He might even get her killed. Everyone knew that bodies tended to pile up around Jean-Claude and his human servant. And Jay and Ajo would go down with her because they were fighters and they were loyal and Chris would be left behind again
, just like when he’d been infected, and he’d be alone and everyone would take advantage of the weak, slow, submissive fox and he’d never ever have a moment of peace again or a home or anybody who cared for him and went to the movies with him if they had money to spare or simply hugged him when he needed it and….
“You think too much.”
He almost jumped out of his skin as he heard the voice directly behind him and spun to find an amused green gaze meeting his. He breathed out harshly. Buffy was back from school.
“Don’t scare me like that, please.”
She smiled, pulling him into a one armed hug in apology, “Sorry, Chris.”
He nodded into her neck as he buried his face against her shoulder and clutched her tightly with both arms.
She didn’t ask what was wrong. She just held him. And he’d never felt safer.