Stone At Sunset
Published 11-06-04
Set in the future, in a war-ravaged land where humans live in the isolated, crumbling ruins of previous generations. Sharing existence are a few struggling species of demons, falling ill and dying in alleys and the shadows of crumbl ON HIATUS

A/N: Well, here it is. The first chappie of SAS. Title going to change soon. the first part just has to be full of bugs, so I don't mind if you wait until I edit it sometime soon and repost. I just thought it would be really mean of me to hold you in suspense any longer. Here goes!

What is beauty, indeed?
There are many human interpretations of this puzzling aspect of appearance, as well as much controversy regarding the alleged 'beauty hidden in one's soul', although, at first glance, all one can see is the outward beauty in someone. It is common opinion that the glamour of the soul may outshine the outward, physical form of the gift. Why then, is the constant plague of racism and the relentless pursuit of cosmetic beauty so important in our society? On account of skin color, the blacks, Native Americans, and Chinese were discriminated against again and again in our past, and cultural imperialism lurks beneath every agreement and action in the past.
Today, the world is blessed with even more acceptance to other cultures than last year, and last year less than the year before that. Now society as a whole says that discrimination is wrong, while individuals within are filled with their own opinions and outlooks on the different races. Ethnic violence is not so occurrent as before, and the prominent religions have reached an uneasy pact and have not tried to disturb one another, though there will always be the individuals who try to take matters into their own hands. Nonetheless, all of the different opinions, ideas, and beliefs will find a willing ear and a protector in the improving outlook of civilization as a whole.
Nonetheless, in history there are many different views, and many instances where segregation was not thought to be wrong, for frail, unsupported reasons fabricated by those who hold control with the public's discreet support. Thus the total elimination of racism, or separation by appearance, is virtually impossible. Out of two people with the exact same qualifications applying for the same job for the same salary and benefits, usually the less 'suspicious looking' of the two makes it. The recruiters are only human, after all, through no fault of theirs. Still, it was frustrating that human nature had to stoop so low. Therefore, we have to hide, like some kind of hunted beast. Although eventually understandings create friends between 'foreign' peoples, it takes a very, very long time for the tall tales to dissipate and the oppressive fear to leave. Therefore, most of us prefer living in groups, in the forests like in days of old, or in cities, where the brave- or the stupid- go to try to scratch a living for ourselves where a heavy acid rain often destroys our young crops and the old ones suffer in the harsh weather. Although we can't legally be openly discriminated against, the oppressive atmosphere makes most of us uneasy at close human contact, and many of us claim little areas in the back alleys and outskirts of the city, small towns, or forest clans. The forest clans are dying out though. The traditional lifestyle just isn't practical any more. But it would be unfair to blame them for trying to live. We're all doing it. We tolerate their stifling presence for survival's sake, although often the human presence is what kills us.
Passing by an alley on the outskirts of the New City, born from the crumbled ashes of the old one, it's not uncommon to see a poor little girl huddled against a wall, chewing on a piece of old bread- if she's lucky enough to afford even that- her damp, scarred leathery wings crumpled behind her and bleeding onto the rough brick wall she sits against. As sad a calamity as there ever was, but people become jaded to it, or just are to afraid to approach. Afraid to approach a starving, weak, beaten little child, whose parents probably died as a result of starvation or disease. In many ways it is laughable. On the seldom occasion that a human does help you, you never look up. By doing so, by giving the human a face to connect her with, the child would frighten them, and she would not have a chance of getting so much as a penny thrown her way again. Before you know it, rumors are everywhere about you, and someone comes to round you up for one of the awful little shacks they build for us, quite far from the city and with no benefits save a very leaky tin roof. Remnants from the wars, no less. Prisoner barracks. A physical embodiment of our constant alienation built of moldy, crumbling concrete and rotted planks of wood with muddy earthen floors.
My own wings are hardly anything but thin, wispy membranes now. Malnutrition and fatigue always strike there first. Then the bright sheen of good health vanishes from your hair and your eyes, your wing membranes deteriorate, and your stubby nail-like claws chip and itch, quickly followed by the other indications of starvation. Many get ill this way. Our immune systems can go from very good to worse than the humans' within days, and we are just beginning to learn to cope with their strange illnesses. The flu, chicken pox, measles... none of these were known to us before we became weakened and were exposed to them. The first few years, I don't know how we pulled through. Kids and old adults fell over in the streets, then quickly rushed off in case the unknown diseases were infectious to desperately seek help. Smallpox was the worst. At first, we did not know that it could spread through contact. Eventually we figured it out- after more than half of our entire race was annihilated.
Right now, I'm shivering in the dry cold of the court room, keeping my head down and my expression carefully neutral. I make sure to keep my wings from lifting behind me, rubbing my pale arms against the freezing air- conditioned air blasting against my back, drumming uncomfortably on my thin wings and stealing away my body heat. Murmurs spread through the humming court room, as eyes gaze intently at me, like some caged animal on exhibit. Don't they know I can hear them? They claim to know everything about us after all.
I realize that someone is telling me to stand up. I stand, gripping the smooth wooden railing for support. I don't really trust my legs, cold as I am, and not in the best of health anyways. The judge enters the room and sits down, and everyone else sits. I sit too, trying not to show my current state of weakness.
Briefly, I wonder why they bother holding the hearing in the first place. I know I'll be convicted. It doesn't matter that I only chanced on the scene, and was immediately arrested on no evidence. One of the cops had hit me with his baton when I stumbled. I wasn't angry about it. They were actually quite civil. One even had the courtesy to hold the car door open for me and shut it after me.
I remember the first time I was in this position. I got an attorney for myself then. Not a good one, mind you. It was hard to find an attorney, but there are a few very cheap ones who are in it for the money. I was a fool back then, thinking that justice would be served and all that idealistic mimbo limbo. I was wiser now. Answering the questions was automatic, and I droned on like a machine, not putting any emotion or emphasis into my words. Ironically, the court had assigned me an attorney, following their code called the fifth amendment, although he most certainly wasn't enthusiastic about the case. He'd only taken a few scribbly notes when I had been required to visit him to tell him my case, not staying over ten minutes. A quick glance over the railing without moving my head confirmed my suspicions. He watched the proceedings with calm, unconcerned detachment, slouching a bit in his chair.
"Name?" Asked a woman's sharp voice suddenly. I knew they were talking to me. I didn't look up, keeping my eyes below the wooden railing before me.
"Donovan Feoras."
They moved right on. Because none of us were recorded in their files, my name did not really matter, anyhow. "Age?"
"I don't know."
"Unemployed." Did they really have to ask?
"Demon type?"
This question always annoyed me. "Drake." I said, inwardly cursing myself as a bit of my annoyance leaked through.
The woman paused then continued.
"Mother's name?" I winced a bit. They'd never asked that before.
"I am unable to recall." I said tonelessly, gloom quickly settling over me again.
"Father's name?"
"I am unable to recall." I repeated, my spirits skydiving. I could tell the woman was staring beadily at me before she voiced her next question.
"Do you swear to speak the truth and nothing but the truth?" (A/N: correct me please! I have no idea how this goes :P)
"Yes Ma'am." Not that you'd believe me.
It is quiet, and I hear her heels tapping smartly on the wooden floor as she goes to sit down. It is quiet, but the eyes are all still there. At least there are no cameras. There are never cameras at a Drake's case.
I was almost on a first name basis with the judge for this small claims court. He was not a terrible man, but he was also slightly cautious with me. One time when I was walking out of the lobby with him, I sneezed and he flinched, quickly taking a step away. When I looked up again, he blushed slightly in embarrassment and apologized, then quickly resumed walking along side me once more.
"...At three o'clock four days ago on the fifth of January the suspect was spotted near the scene of the crime shortly after it had taken place. The security cameras in the shop were all tampered with so we have no evidence except that presented by the witnesses."
"I would like to call Ms. Aideen Harrison to the stand please." A man's voice said, crisp and professional as his expensive black suit.
I heard the soft tapping of worn dress shoes as Ms. Harrison went on the stand. Despite my curiosity, I did not raise my head.
"Ms. Harrison, I understand that you were the cashier on duty at the time?"
"Yes sir." Ms. Harrison said confidently. I was surprised that her voice sounded so young.
"What were you doing at the time of the robbery?" He asked.
"I was returning to my cashier after restocking the shelves sir." She replied steadily.
"Did you see the face of the robber?"
"Kind of... he was wearing a ski mask so I could only see his eyes. He had these dull blue eyes and slightly tanned skin."
"Did he by any chance have any resemblance towards the defendant?" The attorney asked, obviously confident in himself.
Ms. Harrison was quiet for a little while, and I knew she was looking at me. I let her see the side of my face, but stared listlessly at the ground. Her response, however, quickly broke through my composure.
My eyes widened. A witness had never supported my case at all, to my memory. I suddenly realized that I had gone rigid in surprise, my wings half extended, and I quickly re-furled them tightly behind my back, willing myself back into indifference.
The attorney was also obviously put back by her testimony. "Are you sure miss? The dr- defendant has grey eyes and pale skin like you described." He said quickly. Murmurs spread through the crowd.
"It wasn't him." Ms. Harrison said stubbornly. "I am fairly confident in my memory. The man who robbed my boss's store was- much larger in build." She mumbled the last part, and I tried to ignore the comment, as well as the constant gnawing in my stomach that had escalated to a throb as it was brought to my attention again.
The rest of my trial went by in a daze. Ms. Harrison was sent back to her seat, where I was sure she was given a wide berth by those who had to sit with her. The remaining witnesses had only seen the robber fleeing the scene from a distance, one of them, obviously inspired by Ms. Harrison's earlier performance, kept a neutral tone, obviously not trying to sound incriminating. The last one had no qualms about noting the similarities between the robber and I.
There was a great deal of tension in the court room when the short break for judge and jury speculation ended, and I also noticed that there seemed to be more people in the present. There was a constant murmur of curiosity and disapproval from the audience, silencing as the judge entered with the verdict.
I quickly tuned this out as well, although a dancing bit of hope held in my mind. If I was let off, then I wouldn't have to add another sum to my growing debt...
"...The defendant has been determined not guilty. This court is adjourned." The judge said. I looked slowly up as he paused in getting up, and managed a thin, taut smile of appreciation as he left the stand.
Loud, excited muttering immediately broke out. I knew I was getting dirty looks from a lot of the people who hurriedly left the room. My attorney came and lightly placed a hand on my shoulder before casually leaving. I waited until everyone was gone before getting up and following them, inwardly thanking every fate for the miracle. As I left the building, a loud, familiar voice caught my attention, and I looked over to see a woman talking on her cell phone.
"...Don't you 'oh Aideen' me honey." She said dangerously, seeming to grow in stature. "You said you'd pick me up at 2:00!" She nervously kicked her slightly worn leather boots on the ground, her black business pants and white button up blouse giving her a professional but conservative look. "Oh, fine. But if I get mugged on the way there it is so your fault. Yeah. Bye." She swiftly snapped it shut and stomped her foot angrily on the dirty, darkened pavement.
I started walking away. However before I got far, guilt struck. I should say thank you, since she'd really saved me. I hesitated, unconsciously fidgeting, shifting my wings behind my back, causing a slight rubbing sound. I noticed people giving me awkward looks, and stopped.
It took me a full fifteen seconds to sum up the courage to go back there and say thanks. I'm not completely antisocial, but speaking to humans was a disconcerting prospect to any of us. It had always worked better for all of us to only speak when spoken to.
She looked up as I approached, and I quickly avoided eye contact, stopping a few feet away and staring at the ground behind and to the left of her. A brief glimpse of her face conveyed her slight surprise, but surprisingly, she didn't try to avoid me, standing there like she was waiting for me to speak.
Just great. "Ms. Harrison was it?" I asked quietly, using my 'court voice'.
"That's me." She said calmly. The only indication that she may be nervous were her hands clasped tightly in front of her.
"I would like to sincerely offer my thanks for your unexpected assistance." I said. I made a light bow.
"Ah, there's no need to thank me. Accusing a passerby on empty evidence is just foul." She said with a hint of anger, waving her hands a bit in front of her in a dismissive gesture. She was certainly full of surprises. "Mr... um, Feoras?"
"I am known as Donovan, you may call me that Ms. Harrison." I said, daring to look at her face again. There was no end to my surprise, though, as she smiled, her short-cropped honey brown hair swinging lightly as she shook her head.
"All right, Donovan, then I'm going to have to ask you to call me Aideen. 'Ms. Harrison' doesn't sit well with me."
"I can't do that." I said, hoping I hadn't offended her.
"And why not?" She asked, placing one hand on her hip, her brown eyes narrowing.
"I do not mean to offend you." I said quickly, "I cannot be on familiar terms with you Ms. Harrison. It is better if you do not associate yourself with a Drake."
"Why so?" She asked challengingly.
I was immediately uneasy at her question. "You should be heading home soon Ms. Harrison." I said, turning my eyes to the stony grey sky. The sky was always overcast in the city, and in the summer you would be lucky to see a patch of blue sky in the distance. Still, the occasional sunlight filtering through the clouds in the warmer months provided a beautiful view, especially from the air. Today however, an ever present chilly wind blew with the imminent threat of rain. "It will rain within an hour."
"How can you tell?" She asked, squinting up into the sky.
"When all of us have lived so long we learn to be able to tell." I replied. "I should go back. If you are ever in need, find a Drake with a ring-shaped brand on their hands and remember the name Donovan. Good bye." I gave her a chance to reply, pausing as I turned around.
"All right, thanks, and good bye Donovan." She said. Her shoes clicked on the sidewalk as she walked to the corner of the block and waited at the crosswalk.
I walked quickly through the city, reviewing my options as I went. The rain would come soon, icy cold and dirty from its fall through the filthy atmosphere. Staying in it would surely be bad for our health. We could go to the prisoner barracks, but that would hardly be any better. Another option was the numerous run-down shelters scattered near the edge of the city, but those would undoubtedly be crowded and stifling, a combination that didn't sit well with us. I couldn't think of any places where we could stay dry, as the rain would likely last through the quickly arriving night.
I found Ghera curled up in a little fort of boxes, looking drowsy. Her eyes jerked open and her ears pricked as I approached, then a thin smile spread over her features as she lifted her head and lifted her head to see me. "Welcome back Donovan." She said, stretching and yawning.
"You've been busy I see." I said, looking around at the scattered cans and assorted trash around her, many dented or punctured in ways that couldn't be coincidence.
"Definitely." She replied, beaming. She pulled out a worn, black haired doll, smudged with dirt and stained all over, so that the off-white cloth appeared to almost be dark brown. Its button eyes were scratched, and thread hung out loosely in places. "Look, I found my right where I left her."
"That's fortunate." I replied, slight guilt creeping over me. She'd dropped the little cloth doll one time when we had had to hightail it away from a crime scene or get blamed for it. I hadn't known she'd dropped it until later, and she'd pined for it for a full day. It was fortunate that she'd gotten it back relatively unharmed. "Did anything happen while I was away?"
"No, I was very bored." Ghera replied, sitting comfortably on the ground and toying with the little doll's hair. "What happened where you went?"
"Not much." I replied nonchalantly. I hadn't told Ghera I'd had a court case before. It was better for one so young not to have those kinds of worries. She probably knew anyways.
"Will we have to miss lunch tomorrow?" Ghera asked worriedly. I frowned, saddened by her question.
"It's okay, you can have lunch." I said soothingly. "And the day after that we can eat together."
"It's okay." She said, smiling and shaking her head. "If you do not eat then I won't either. It would not be fair."
"You're a growing girl. If you want to grow big you have to feed yourself." I insisted.
She carefully started tying the threads together where a rip had opened in her pants knees. "Where are we going to get out of the rain?" She asked.
"I'm not sure." I replied.
She busily worked at the threads, not looking up. She was a quick worker; already half of the rip was already roughly tied together. Dirt would still get in when she played around in the empty lot behind an apartment in the city, but at least the rip wouldn't get wider. "We won't have to go to the shelters will we?"
"We might." I replied. "I'm looking for all the other options, though. Okay?"
"All right." She mumbled, subdued. She stood up, leaving part of the rip untied, and looked mournfully up at me. "Where should we look first?"
"There's always that big awning that goes into the alley around the baker's shop." I said.
"But last time the baker was not happy that we stayed there." She kicked her feet on the ground.
I gave her hand an encouraging squeeze as I took it and started walking. "Last time it was a saturday. Today's monday. There might be a chance for us that there will be a different baker there. Want to go try?"
"Okay." She lightly scooped up the doll and held up one of the cans for me to see. "Hey Donovan? Can I take this with me?"
"Sure." I replied. "What were you making?"
She skipped a little as she walked, and I released her hand so she could dance a few steps ahead, doll in one hand, can in the other. "It was gonna be part of a snowman." She said, "But I couldn't get the cans to stay together. So I just put holes and dents in it and I'm trying to make it into a bird."
"Be careful, you could cut yourself." I said as she slowed and tore at the tin with her strong nails.
"My skin got tougher this year. It doesn't cut me unless it's really sharp." She said with pride.
"Still, you don't want to get an infection." I warned.
"O-kaaay," She groaned, then ignored me, bouncing over onto the sidewalk where it started near the city. Used to the decrepit, seedy streets, she continued on without regard to the occasional scrutiny of the unsavory types in the city. For Ghera, being a young demoness was more protective than suspicious. When we entered the main part of the city, surrounded city-folk rushing around trying to beat the rain, she slowed her pace and stood close by, keeping her eyes averted like I'd taught her.
I got a lot more strange looks with Ghera there, because young demons usually stay on the outskirts within tight-knit 'families' for protection. Also, Ghera was different from a lot of us, in the fact that she had a tail. A long, dark brown, furred tail, curled at the end like an opossum's but much more elegant and about half her height. She had to keep it close in the city, and I was actually impressed by her control over it and her wings, both of which may involuntarily move (as mine had, annoyingly, demonstrated during the trial) if she did not keep close tabs on them.
When we reached the bakery the sidewalks were much more empty than usual, although not uncrowded at all. It had just begun to rain, and I grabbed Ghera's hand and quickly jogged the rest of the way, through the alley and under the large awning that went part of the way around the side of the bakery. The window above us was open, warm steam wafting out. Ghera jumped excitedly up and down and I obligingly rescued a bunch of wood crates from the rain and stacked them so that she could enjoy the heat.
She hummed happily, resuming the repairing of her worn blue jeans as the rain poured down around us, warm and safe. Several passers-by opted for the shelter of the awning as they tried to hail a cab, shooting us nervous, furtive glances until they hitched a ride. Oblivious, Ghera didn't even look up as they came and went, as I carefully glanced at each one, tying a few loose strings together in Ghera's doll for her. The tantalizing smell of fresh bread drifted through the window, and I had to fight to ignore the hungry gnawing in my stomach. After a while, probably suffering the same predicament, Ghera came down and stacked the crates in a line, then stretched out on them and tried to sleep. I gave her the doll and sat against the wall, keeping watch. After a while my eyelids began to droop and I fell into a light slumber. **
In my dream, it was still raining and I at first had to check to make sure I wasn't awake. I was in the same alleyway, with boxes lined up next to me and rain dripping down from the awning and soaking the ground I sat on, wetting my clothes and making them stick uncomfortably as they soaked up the moisture. I got up, then froze, listening. There was no sound except the falling rain. No occasional murmur of voices coming from inside the bakery, no pattering of feet as city folk tried to run against the rain, and no hum of traffic or beeping of horns. I looked to the side and started. Ghera wasn't even there. I forced myself to calm down and walked out onto the street, confident that nothing would really harm me in my dream. The rain soaked through my clothes, and the cold felt real enough. But I'd had enough experience with cold to fuel my subconscious with the feeling, although I hoped that when I woke I'd be warmer.
I walked through the quiet city, disconcerted by the lack of life here. The trees were still there, but the rustling of their leaves was muted by the rain, and the branches didn't move to indicate any birds or squirrels hiding up above. Finally I spotted something. It was a lone, black cat, just standing there in the rain, it's haunting, luminous eyes piercing through the gloom, staring at me. Feeling that this may be the purpose of my dream, I hurried forward, walking faster towards it. The cat didn't move. However, when I got within four yards, it swiftly turned and trotted into an alley, tail held high.
I lengthened my strides, pursuing the cat around the corner and through the alley. I kicked a can into a wall in my haste, causing a loud clanging. As I rushed forwards, I became aware that the rain, although still coming down in torrents, wasn't making noise anymore, and the only sound came from the thudding of my feet and the splashing of the puddles as I ran. Finally we reached the edge of the city, and my adversary leapt nimbly off of a ledge, disappearing below. I rushed forwards, then almost fell in my state of surprise as I slid to a stop right near the edge of the precipice. The crumbling steps leading out of the inner city had been replaced by a sheer cliff with odd cave-like holes in it, and everything beyond was covered in snow, assaulted by a fierce blizzard. I looked for the cat and noticed it standing next to a figure wearing a red scarf which obscured most of their features and covered their hair near the bottom of the cliff. On a sudden and ridiculous impulse, I jumped off the edge, spreading my tattered wings against the gales that threatened to dash me against the tall concrete wall. **
When I woke, it had stopped raining. The sun was coming out overhead, and I was vaguely aware of Ghera talking with someone. Recognizing the voice as human, I snapped awake.
Ghera was sitting on the crates, hugging her knees tightly with the doll clasped loosely in her right hand. Her eyes were focused on the wall to the left of the human man's head, as he busily wiped his hands on a white apron and chatted gaily with her, not seeming to mind or notice at all that Ghera only nodded mutely or replied in a soft, submissive voice to his loud banter.
I slowly shifted in my spot, standing and stretching my sore joints. Ghera moved her eyes to me and quietly greeted me good morning. The human, around middle age and of a very-ahem-full build, also looked over and stepped closer, extending a hand to me. He looked nervous, but his resolve was firm so I Masked my surprise and took it, first wiping my hand on my grimy shirt. He beamed and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small bun. "Can I interest you sir?" He asked.
I raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I don't have any money, but thank you." I said.
"Oh, no no, these are some extra buns we just baked to test the batch, and as I was opening shop this morning I saw you guys out here from the window when I opened it so I brought them out. The young lady already devoured two, a very fast eater if I may say so!" He said, in good humor.
I shrugged, still avoiding eye contact, and accepted the bun. It was still warm, a luxury in foods that we did not often enjoy. I cast a glance at Ghera, who, despite her mask, practically glowed with contentment. "The buns are very good." She said softly. "The sir is very kind as well."
"Thank you for the food." I said. "We greatly appreciate it." Off to the side, Ghera nodded in agreement.
"You flatter me. I'm just doing my duty as a good Christian." He said, waving his hands in front of him. "Well, I'd better be going. You two take care, may God bless you."
I found his comment odd given the context of his blessing, but didn't comment. Let him believe that his God had blessings left to spare the demons; it would make no difference, and his intentions were admirable. We vaguely nodded in his direction and he jogged back into the bakery, holding his tall chef's hat as he ran through the rain to the safety of the indoors.
The bread was very good, and I savored its warmth. Eating it warmed me up some, and both our spirits were lifted by the small blessing. The rain continued to pour down, but seemed to have abated a little and people were now braving the streets, armed with umbrellas and ponchos. We pressed against the bakery wall as a worn garbage truck squeezed by, and Ghera wrinkled her nose, her tail almost completely curling up as she sneezed in annoyance at the fowl stench. More accustomed to it, I waited for the truck to pass then breathed out of my nose, dispelling most of the bad smell. I looked on in concern as she sneezed again, rubbing her hands together against the cold. It wasn't ordinary for us to be so sensitive to the lack of heat; however vulnerability to coldness or excessive heat was another drawback to our lifestyle.
"Do you feel all right?" I asked, placing a hand to her head. She sneezed again and tried to flinch away but I held her firm. I frowned. "You have a slight fever."
"I'm fine." She insisted, worming out of my grasp.
"No, you could get really sick. I'm taking you to the doctor." I said, remembering the last time she was 'fine'. Ghera's immune system was still young, so she was even more at risk.
"I'll be okay Donovan, don't be such a worry-wart." She said, sitting stubbornly on the wooden crates. "I don't want to see the doctor."
"The doctor will be able to tell us what you should do to get rid of your cold." I reasoned, trying to get her to budge.
"Going out in the rain wouldn't be what the doctor would tell us." She replied haughtily, easily shooting me down from her seat.
"You win. But we're going as soon as the rain stops all right?"
"No." She said, staring me right in the eye as we argued.
"Ghera, we can't afford to have you get sick like last time." I pleaded.
"I don't want to go to the doctor. If we go then you won't have lunch today and tomorrow like it always happens." She said, turning her nose up and refusing to look at me.
"Now's not the time Ghera." I said softly, understanding her argument. "I'd be happier if we found out what's wrong with you than if I get lunch. I can live with a few lunch-less days and we'll have dinner together today and tomorrow okay?"
I could tell that Ghera still wanted to argue the point, but she knew I wouldn't give in. "Fine." She said, immediately pulling her knees to her chest and dejectedly toying with the rip in her pants again, strengthening her previous repairs. I knew she was unhappy, but the matter was for her own good. I sighed and stared at people going by. A woman towing a young boy ducked under the awning, and she pulled out a cloth, wiping his young, freckled face. The boy shook his brown head of hair, spraying little droplets of water over her, and she broke into laughter, scolding him between breaths. The boy grinned and nodded but didn't look apologetic at all. Their cheerful banter lightened my heart, and I almost forgot to avert my eyes as the woman cast a glance in my direction. Luckily, she did not catch my stare. Nervously putting her eyes back on the young boy, she fondly patted out a thin blue poncho she retrieved from her bag and carefully draped it over the boy's shoulders as he squirmed, insisting that he did not mind the rain. When she was only halfway finished, he managed to escape and skipped in our direction, laughing as he splashed in puddles. The woman, brushing her slightly grey chestnut colored hair behind her ear from where it had fallen in wisps from her bun, fussed and strode after him, careful to avoid his splashes and scolding him as he continued to caper about in the alley. I felt a sense of warm relief from his carefree attitude and didn't move from my spot, almost afraid that they would go and leave me with my thoughts again.
Behind me, Ghera started coughing. Broken out of my reverie, I quickly turned and got into a crouch as she choked behind her hand, her eyes shut and her face twisted into a wince of pain. I frowned. She seemed to be coughing from the chest, and her wince proved it. I quickly put a hand to her head, surprised to find that she was sweating a little. I drew my palm back in alarm, staring into her tired, swollen eyes. "Ghera, you're burning up!" I said worriedly, forgetting the two humans staring at us in the alley.
"I'm okay." She said stubbornly, blinking rapidly. I angrily brought her hand up to her forehead, forcing her to take her own temperature.
"Feel that and then tell me you're okay." I said, my anxiety taking hold. I was a little annoyed with her for not telling me that she felt bad, but I was even more angry with myself for not taking charge and getting her to a doctor.
"It's just a little cold. I'll be fine." She said, quickly suppressing another bout of coughing.
"The little cold will go away faster if we go to the doctor now." I argued. "Come on, I refuse to just let you keep getting sicker. The rain's almost over, so let's go now."
"All right." She said, defeated. She stood and swayed a little, her tail flicking confusedly behind her, before getting her bearings and quietly starting towards the street, keeping under the awning. I was glad that she was coming quietly; she must have known that I wasn't in the mood to argue. As we passed, the woman timidly shrank back a little, tightly clasping the boy's shoulders and holding him close. I offered her a curt nod to which she replied with a nod of her own, her lips firmly set in a severe, frightened line. I sighed to myself and continued, hurrying a little as Ghera started coughing again to lead her on by the elbow.
Soon we were walking, through a light, but cold, drizzle, to the doctor's office located right near the middle of town. The man was a prestigious doctor, known, for good or for evil, to treat demon patients for the same price as his human clientele. A price which many of us could not afford none-the-less. Despite this, there were times when we protected him, since he was a blessing to our kind that was uncommon in those times, and some humans who had grudges or withheld prejudice against demons, were angered against his ways. I myself had inadvertently followed him home one day, although nothing had happened, just to make sure he wasn't hassled. He was one of the tiny kindnesses that we clung to and that we found ourselves relying heavily upon whenever one of us fell ill.
As I walked in, I noticed a demon woman, looking very uncomfortable, sitting across the room from a line of waiting humans with her eyes on the ground. Ghera and I checked in to the receptionist and took our seats near the woman's. Ghera coughed softly and I just sat uncomfortably, wondering whether I should make conversation. I kept my eyes on the ground at my feet, but noticed the woman glance up at us when we took our seats. After a long moment she spoke.
"You're the one who got off." She said, raising her eyes to look at me directly.
"Yes." I said, pointedly putting my hand on my lap where she could see the fire-brand shaped like a ring seared into my skin there.
She smiled, her green-yellow eyes glittering. She pushed her short dark blond hair back with one hand, exposing her own brand. I relaxed a little. "So do you have any wise words to share?" She said, putting her hands back into her lap.
"Not really." I replied, shaking my head grimly. "I was exceptionally lucky. The firsthand witness actually testified in my favor."
The woman made a little noise of surprise. "Interesting. Did you have a chance to speak to her after the trial?"
"As a matter of fact, I did." I said, making a quick search in her eyes for anything reminiscent to hostility. You could never be too careful around these parts. "My name is Donovan, what is yours?"
She laughed lightly. "Of course. Rather rude of me. I am called Lorelei. You may have heard of me, I have a trial in a few days, the one following yours."
"Good luck." I said, "What are they charging you with?"
"Shoplifting." She sighed, looking broodingly at her hands. "Ridiculous, of course. I happened to be leaving a store after I bought some food and the alarms went off as I was leaving. I stopped walking, letting them check my bags, but another man who was also leaving kept going, and they didn't stop him."
"If they checked your bags how can they hold a trial?" I asked, not seeing the connection.
"As if they needed a reason." She said with the bitterness that all of us felt from time to time. "Well, a passer-by made up some cock-and-bull story about seeing me pass a bag to someone walking by and now they won't leave me alone about my 'partner in crime'. This debt's going to come down hard."
"I'm sorry." I said, not knowing what else to say.
I felt a tugging on my sleeve and turned to Ghera, who was staring mournfully up at me with a pained expression on her pale face. "Donovan, I need to go to the bathroom." She said, sounding sick.
"Of course you can go. Do you want me to come with you?" I asked.
She nodded. "I'm not sure where it is." She said softly.
"All right." With a courteous nod towards Lorelei I left with Ghera, and stood outside the door until I heard a flush. Ghera came back out and we walked back to the waiting room, finding that most of the humans before us had been called in and Lorelei was sitting next to a woman holding a baby and talking to a man, probably her husband, in a hushed, worried voice as she patted its back. We sat back down on Lorelei's other side.
"I feel sorry for the human woman." Lorelei said in a hushed voice with a small smile. "That poor baby has such a huge fever I can feel it from here."
"That's so unfortunate for someone so young." I said, frowning.
"Yes." The yellow-eyed demon agreed.
After a moment, I quickly glanced over her form, noticing the two stubby horns poking up from her matted hair and the lack of wings. There were also odd rune-like patterns around her ears that could be mistaken as stray locks of hair if not for her light hair color. "So, what kind of demon are you if I may ask?" I said, seeking conversation.
"Masked." She replied with a smile, exposing sharp fangs.
"I'm surprised." I replied. "I had thought that there weren't any of you left in this city."
"There really aren't that many." She said. "You probably know what happened when that one fool accidentally bit a human who was trying to mug him. Quick as a flash, mass extermination. I don't know why I'm still alive, actually. Somehow five of us kept ourselves hidden until the hunt died down." A bell rang and the receptionist called in another two humans. "I'm next." Lorelei said airily.
"Why are you here?" I said curiously.
"Poisoning." She replied, lifting her sleeve. Her arm was covered in a bandage, but I could see the angry red welts underneath and the center seemed to have a little blood soaking through. "One of the demon traps from seven years ago when they were trying to eliminate all the Masked demons. Been leaching at my food money ever since. It's supposed to wear off within ten years, so I have three more to wait at least. You know how they like to always give us the good estimations to keep everyone quiet."
"That's highly unfortunate." I said sympathetically.
One of the two humans came back out, looking grim and holding a prescription in one hand. Lorelei eyed him out of the corner of her eye as he left. "On the bright side, the attic we've been hiding in hasn't been found out yet and the building's occupants are none the wiser. If you swear not to tell a soul I'll allow for you to drop by. The little one doesn't seem to go well with rain."
"She was sick before the rain, I guess the cold just made it worse." I said, patting Ghera on the head. She grumbled a bit in her throat and slouched in her seat. Lorelei laughed.
"All right, if it starts raining again you can join us in the top of the cathedral in the middle of town. You don't have to fly up; there's a stairway in the back if you walk past the choir benches and continue past their quarters. At the top the stairwell just ends, and you have to jump to get to the ledge above that, which is an emergency entrance to the loft of sorts, although nobody has any reason to come up there. It's kind of warm, and it keeps out the rain. As long as you don't draw attention and remain more or less out of sight you won't be bothered coming in."
"You have my thanks." I said gratefully. "We stayed out under a baker's awning last night. I hope you don't mind if I hold you to your offer the next time it rains."
"Not a problem." She said, waving me off. "We can only survive by sticking together, right?"
The receptionist turned from her typing and rung the bell. "Lorelei Masked." She called, checking her name off as Lorelei got up and going back to her typing.
"It was nice meeting you Drake Donovan." Lorelei said, with a slight bow. I inclined by head back.
"Likewise." She started walking off. "Oh, Lorelei?" I called. She stopped and turned. "If you ever meet a human named Aideen Harrison I would give you all my thanks if you helped her."
"Sure thing Donovan." Lorelei said, waving casually behind her as she disappeared down the hall.
"Donovan." Ghera said quietly, tugging on his sleeve again. "When will it be our turn?"
"It's our turn after three more people. Are you okay?" I checked her temperature again. Her forehead hadn't cooled any, but at least it wasn't any warmer.
"I'm fine Donovan." Ghera said, rolling her eyes. "Gosh, stop worrying."
"Not until I've found out what's wrong with you."
"Listen to you. A broken record." She said, obviously annoyed. "Leave me alone Donovan. The doctor will laugh at you for being such a mother hen."
"It makes me feel better." I said. Shoot, there was a growing throbbing in the back of my throat.
"Are you okay?" Ghera asked. "You seem pale."
"I'm fine." I lied. Now that I wasn't distracted by her own illness, I could feel the beginnings of my own making my throat scratchy and my temperature rise.
"Donovan, Drake?" The receptionist called, then scratched off my name as I stood and picked up Ghera's head. The girl seemed almost relieved, and, suddenly bursting with energy, jumped up and skipped lightly over to the doctor, who moved aside and gestured for her to sit on the examination seat. The man didn't bother taking her pulse or shining light in her eyes since there was no medical file to place her data into and skipped right to the chase.
"Mr. Feoras?" He asked politely, his tone fairly casual as he glanced up at me. I quickly averted my gaze.
"That is my name." I said just as politely.
"All right then, what do you think is wrong with-" He squinted at the sheet as if the receptionist had sloppy handwriting. "-Ghera?"
"She's sick, and I was wondering what I could do to aid her healing and keep her from getting even more sick." I replied evenly.
The doctor nodded and took her temperature, checked for rashes, and asked her questions about her coughing and whether she itched in places or had trouble sleeping. When he was done he finally turned back to me and addressed both of us with his final verdict, removing his gloves. "She'll be fine with good food and some rest." He said reassuringly, "She seems to be a resilient child. She shouldn't strain herself and as long as she's somewhat warm and dry the cold shouldn't worsen- I estimate that in about three days it will reach its climax, and after that she's home free. I can recommend medicine to ease the strain on her lungs from coughing if it becomes painful for her to breathe, but otherwise I know that Drakes are fairly good at recovering from mild pneumonia. If any noticeable quirks in her condition occur, contact me immediately. Otherwise, do you have any questions?"
"She's not a Drake." I said, uneasy at the idea of Ghera having pneumonia, even if it was only a minor case. "Is it possible that if she is another kind of demon or a mix, pneumonia would be much more dangerous for her?"
The doctor looked at Ghera for a while, making her squirm, before speaking. "There's always that chance." He said, "But she should be fine. She seems to be a mix, which is good, because mixes usually pick up the better traits of the demon types their sires were of. Again, if anything drastic happens make sure you come right away. I'll tell Martha to let you in if there's an emergency."
Ghera, sensing that the examination had ended, hopped off the chair and I lead her out, thanking the doctor on our way out.

A/N: I have more, but from here on it switches to a normal POV (I find writing in first person annoying and only made an exception here :P) but I haven't gotten very far. This is unedited, so it will definitely see reposting soon. I actually have a plot in mind for this one, and I actually like it! (ooh aaah) Don't forget to review! Tell me what you think! Ciao! I suck at last names and I hate Aideen's! If you have suggestions please tell me! Review! (please)