II: Jeremiah Was a Bull Frog and Ricky Was a Warlock

I was never one for mornings. Never. I hate them. I hate the happy birds, I hate the happy sunshine, and most of all I hate happy morning people.

But you want to know what is worse than all three combined? Waking up to a boogeyman inches away from my face.

"Caray," I mumbled groggily, grabbing a spare pillow and covering my face so I couldn't see him staring at me. "¡Ve afuera ahorita! Get out of my room!"

I heard him going through my things and I sat up, reaching out for my glasses and shoving them on my face. "What are you doing? Get out!"

He picked up my Euro text triumphantly, flipping it open to one of the various bookmarks I'd left in it for reference. "But I have studying to do," he argued. "Gotta keep up with school nowadays. Speaking of school and studying, I would really like to treat you like my homework and slam you on the table and do you all night long."

My mouth opened and then closed again before I removed my glasses and inspected the lenses in the hope that maybe I was delusional and had just imagined seeing him and hearing that poor excuse of a pickup line. "I think I just threw up a little."

Theo cringed, snapping the book shut. "Uh. How about you're so hot you denature my enzymes?"

"That's biology. I'm a history major. You know, gonna be a museum curator someday."

"I could be your Secretary of Internal Affairs?"

I sighed in disgust before reaching down beside my bed and pulling out my bat. See, after last night, I figured I'd be better off with my bat in my room where I could easily reach it in self-defense against boogeymen.

God, I sound so psychopathic just by considering self-defense against figments of children's nightmares. After today, I'm going to have to get myself committed. I'm too schizophrenic for my own good.

"You really need to leave before I decide that your head is an oversized softball," I said, eerily calm as I pushed my covers aside and started towards the door because Cameron had a world of hurt coming to him and Theo's antics were steadily reminding me of it.

He didn't loose any time rushing beneath the bed, sliding under it as if he were sliding into third base on a steal. He was probably heading off to warn Cameron before I made it to the basement and his room.

How he traveled from one bed to the next, I had no idea. It just seemed to make sense that he could. I mean, last night I looked under my bed to see if Theo was, I don't know, just hanging out and chilling under there, but there was nothing. Not a thing down there to suggest that somebody was pretty much living there.

I added that question to my growing list for Cameron's little chat as I locked my bedroom door behind me and took the stairs to the second floor, ignoring the strange looks I was being sent by boarders who were already up and about. I'm sure I probably looked insane; I was dragging the softball bat like I was a caveman with a club and I was still in Cameron's White House boxers.

"Martine? Um…pray tell, what are you doing?"

"Oh, I just need to have a chat with Cameron," I replied to Josh, who had poked his head out his bedroom door, his face unbelievably adorable with his half-asleep-half-confused expression.

"You need a softball bat to talk with your stepbrother?"

I nodded seriously. "Of course. He's probably not going to open the door and Luc might refuse to break it down for me, so I figure I'll need some sort of leverage." Caray. I'm so intent on getting Cameron to answer my questions that I'm willing to make myself look like a total loser in front of a good looking guy.

Ricky was already up and was pushing open his bedroom door and stared openly at me for a few moments. "Marti, who are you going to go have a – a chot with? Is that the right word?"

"A chat," I corrected, not minding as he ran to keep up with my fast pace. "We're going to have a chat with Cameron." If I had a freak show living under my bed, then there was no reason why my little brother hadn't felt some other boogeyman and faeries grabbing at him. He deserved to know that what was going on.

Shit. The way things were going now, La Chupacabra was probably lurking around looking for goats to suck. I added that to the list for the chat; I so did not need to explain to Abuela that she was right and La Chupacabra had eaten Ricky.

"What did Cameron do?"

I sighed under my breath, stopping in my tracks in front of the door to the basement, bending down and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Do you remember how I told you the boogeyman doesn't exist?" When he nodded, I continued. "Well, there happens to be a perverted boogeyman under my bed and Cameron didn't think to tell me about it."

His eyebrows came together. "What does 'perverted' mean?"

"It means that he likes to pick through girls' underwear and watch them while they sleep and say inappropriate things to them."

Ricky nodded again, reaching for my hand when he started down the stairs. "I'll protect you from the boogeyman, Marti."

I must say, I love that kid. He's completely terrified of anything that pops out at him in the dark, but he's willing to protect his big sister from the freaking boogeyman? I was going to hate it when he turned thirteen and went through the teenage-angst 'I-hate-the-world-and-you-don't-understand-me' stage.

Luc was already out, sitting upside-down on a recliner chair while playing some zombie shoot-out game on the Play Station. "Heard you met Theo," he said idly as a zombie with a chainsaw came after him.

"More like I was traumatized by him," I snorted, tilting my head to watch the chainsaw zombie. "Hey, where'd that zombie get the chainsaw? All the others have pitchforks and axes."

His upper lip curled in distaste as he blew the head off the zombie. "He's a zombie!" he answered in a bark, as if that in itself answered the question.

"Whatever. You want to break Cameron's door down for me in the very likely chance that he doesn't open his door?"

"Depends. Is there going to be a fight? 'Cause if you're not going to smack him or something then there's no motivation for me." Luc had paused his game, sitting up and watching Ricky and me, eyeing my bat.

I shrugged, shifting my weight onto my right foot. "Might be. If he doesn't give me satisfactory answers to my questions, then he's probably going to end up with an elbow in his eye socket."

He smiled and nodded while I started banging on Cameron's bedroom door. We could hear someone scrambling around inside and the sound of bedsprings creaking before Cameron yelled out in a falsetto, "Uh, um. Cameron's sleeping; please leave a message after the beep. Beeeeeeep."

"If he's sleeping," Ricky queried, looking up at me innocently, "how come he's talking?"

"Because he's a fat scaredy-cat who is afraid of a girl who is a foot and seven inches shorter than he is," I replied loud enough for Cameron to hear me from in his room.

His voice came from the door, "A girl who was one of the best hitters on the high school's softball team and who can and has flipped me before!"

"Open the door, Cameron, before Luc knocks it down."

"Bullsh–"

I clamped my hands over Ricky's ears before he could even finish. "Hey! Language, please. There is a six year old in the vicinity."

Luc chortled, "Not like you haven't been teaching him stuff like that anyways. He calls his own mother a whore and you're worried about him hearing 'bullshit?'"

"Shut up, Luc," I hissed, still covering Ricky's ears. "I'm the only one who teaches him new words. And it's only one word a day; I've already filled his quota for the day with 'perverted.'"

He continued chuckling, trying to hold a hand over his mouth to keep from bursting out in laughter when Cameron's door was ripped open and we were shown a very livid Theo. "I am not perverted!"

Ricky wiggled out of my grip to hide behind my leg. "He's the perverted boogeyman?" he whispered, not realizing said boogeyman could hear him.

Theo tried to step out of the room to probably come at me for telling people he was a creeper, but he was stopped by invisible hands and he struggled for a moment before stopping and giving a groan of frustration. "I am not a pervert. Quit telling people I'm a pervert, Martine."

I put my hands on my hips, ignoring Luc's laughter. "You were going through my bras and my underwear, you were watching me while I was sleeping, and you made some really, really bad nerdy pickup lines that were really rather lewd," I deadpanned. "You're a serious creeper."

He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it with a glare and stomped back into Cameron's room, shimmying under the bed. I exchanged looks with Luc, shrugging and heaving the bat onto my shoulder and took Ricky's hand, pulling him along with me into Cameron's room.

"Howdy, Cameron," I trilled in a cheerful tone, finding him hiding in his closet, looking ridiculous all huddled up. "Nice of you to let the boogeyman answer your door." I grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and dragged him out. "Now I know you didn't forget that you have some very serious questions to answer, right, big brother?"

Cameron muttered something under his breath along the lines of, "I'm only three and a half months older than you," refusing to meet my eyes and opting to stare at his feet instead.

I declined to even retort to his failed attempt at stalling, deciding to lift the bed skirt instead and make sure Theo wasn't under there, tending to his ego. "Okay, Luc, you can go back to Resident Evil Four now," I told him, turning and smiling. "Ricky and I can handle it from here."

Luc snorted, smartly choosing not to say anything when he left, closing the door behind him. I watched Ricky crawl onto Cameron's bed, sitting cross-legged with his thumb in his mouth. Bruja detested his habit, but I let him do it all he wanted. He promised me he'd stop before he started first grade at the end of August, and if he said he would stop, then by God, that kid would stop.

"Do you want to explain? Or do I have to beat it out of you?" I interrogated Cameron, taking a seat in the swivel chair by his desk after a moment of silence.

He looked like he almost wanted to tell me to piss off, but sighed, sitting against the wall and covering his eyes with his hands. "Before I even start, you need to understand a few things: we never intended for any of you to uh – meet Theo, nothing in this house will ever intentionally hurt you, and you can't say anything about this to anyone you wouldn't trust your life with."

Neither Ricky nor I said a word, just nodded and I motioned for him to continue.

And when he did continue, all he said was, "What would you say if I told you I was a warlock?"

My eyebrow went up. "I'd ask you if you were finally giving in to your hippie ways and what in the world Sunshine had convinced you to smoke."

Cameron sent me an incredulous look. "I don't even want to know," he mumbled, shaking his head. "Okay. How about if I told you that my father was operating a boarding house for the preternatural and that all the boarders here excepting you, Bruja, Ricky, and Erin are vampires, werewolves, warlocks, witches, et cetera?"

I blinked once, twice, removing my glasses for a second time this morning and checking to see that I wasn't completely delusional. "I'd say you couldn't possibly be serious. That everyone in this building is some type of crazy and that my particular brand is schizophrenia. If I had to guess, your insanity is probably from some whacked up drug that some hippie girl got you to take."

"How do you explain a boogeyman coming and going from room to room in the house by going under beds?"

I stood up, running a frustrated hand through my hair. "I told you," I reiterated, "I'm schizophrenic, just like Abuela. I don't need an explanation. I'm certifiably insane, as are you, apparently."

Ricky chose that moment to interject, "What does 'excetra,' 'schezophronia,' and 'certifiably' mean?"

I put two fingers to my temple. "One word a day, Ricky. We'll do those over the next few days," I said, doing an excellent job of staying calm while speaking to him, if I do say so myself.

"Martine," Cameron muttered, sounding exasperated, "you're not schizophrenic, okay? We've already established that boogeymen exist, as proven by Theo living under your bed."

"There's a boogeyman under the bed at Abuela's," Ricky added. "And faeries in the closet. They pulled my hair. Abuela said they wanted to kill me."

Cameron sent me a glance that said what he wouldn't ask aloud. What the hell was my grandmother doing, telling a six year old that the supernatural was out to kill him? But instead of making any comment about it, he just shook his head. "See? Ricky believes all this, and he's not insane. Plus, he doesn't lie."

"I can't lie," Ricky agreed earnestly, nodding his head repeatedly. "Marti says that it's not in my genetic makeup."

"How does he even know what genetic makeup is?"

I shrugged, staring at the ceiling. "I've been teaching him a word a day since he was four. I can't possibly remember everything I've taught him."

"Ricky," Cameron started after a little bit, "has Martine taught you what 'hypocrite' means yet?"

Ricky nodded again. "Saying one thing but doing another? Is that what Marti is? 'Cause she said that there was a boogeyman under her bed and now she's saying he's not real again?"

"That's exactly what Martine is. She has become a hypocrite because she doesn't want to believe the stories Abuela tells. She doesn't want to believe it because she thinks they're all symptoms of mental diseases."

"They are signs of mental diseases!" I near screeched. "Caray. Audible hallucinations with at least one voice running commentary on the schizo's actions or thoughts are characteristics of schizophrenia!"

Without warning, Cameron grinned. "Okay, so if we're all schizophrenic, then why are we all seeing the same 'audible hallucination?' And you can't be schizophrenic because you don't demonstrate any social cognition impairments or the duration needed to diagnose it. Ricky can't be schizophrenic because the chances of him having that particular mental disease at such a young age are extremely rare. Same goes for Abuela but only because she's in her old age."

When I didn't reply, he continued, "Are you done trying to convince yourself that none of this is real?"

I just nodded, teeth clenched together and tightlipped. How could I even respond? He had completely shut down my only other explanation for anything that was happening in this house.

"Good. Now that we have it established that the preternatural is real and that you are currently surrounded by it, let's get down to the chat you wanted."

"So…you said you were a warlock. Must be difficult to find hippie witches named Sunshine."

"Okay, what is it with you and hippies?" he asked in confusion. "And who the hell is Sunshine? You know what? Don't answer that. But, yes, I'm a warlock. So are Luc and Man-Whore and several other boarders here."

"That's nice and all, but you can tell me more about what the hell is living here at another time," I said testily. "First and foremost: why is there a creeper under my bed?"

Cameron sighed, "Theo isn't a creeper. He is, in actuality, a warlock who was sentenced to be a boogeyman back in the twenties. He's been a part of what is now your room for eighty-five years, which explains why he's so loathe to transferring down to Luc's room now. Although, you being there certainly isn't helping."

My jaw dropped and I contemplated beating his skull in with my bat. "Don't you dare blame me for the fact that there's a dude living under my bed. It is not my fault," I stopped, mid-sentence as what he had said had really started to sink in, "wait. Eighty-five years? Great. He's one of those creepy old guys who stalk girls."

"Does he look a hundred years old?" he shot back, starting to sound more and more angry and exasperated. "He's been stuck at twenty-three for over three quarters of a century."

I snorted, "No wonder he had nerdy pickup lines. So sad. Such a good looking guy being such a creeper. So he was 'sentenced' to be a boogeyman. What crime did he commit? Bootlegger? Mafia? In fact, just explain this entire 'sentencing' thing at that."

He sighed again, closing his eyes. "Every group has a form of punishment, right? Like, normal humans – being you guys – have jail and police. The characters in Harry Potter have Azkaban and the Dementors and the Aurors," he explained, talking with his hands. "But in real life, warlocks and witches have only one punishment, that being the boogeyman. There aren't too many laws set up for us, but they're way important. You screw up, you're sentenced by the Council to an eternity of being confined to one building. A boogeyman who has come out from under a bed, like Theo did earlier to warn me about you two, can't leave the room unless he goes the way he came in."

"What did perverted boogeyman do?" Ricky asked quietly, removing his thumb from his mouth long enough to voice his question before replacing it and sucking on it contentedly.

"Theo has never given me any of the specifics since we moved here nine years ago, but we found out enough. See, the Council, when they do a sentencing, they take away everything that witch or warlock had or might have in the future. They're condemned to one house and never to age for pretty much forever. Anyone they knew and loved'll die."

I started to ask a question but Cameron cut me off, "Not that the boogeyman would ever know. The Council erases the memories of all those sentenced, minus what ever they did that got them sentenced in the first place. It's an eternity of torture for these past witches and warlocks who can't remember a thing about themselves, but they remember what they did wrong, and it's hell."

"So they let these criminals live under the beds of people?" I murmured in a question. "What if they hurt more people? I mean, caray, the boogeyman back at Abuela's was a violent kind of guy if he was grabbing at Ricky."

Cameron cringed. "Boogeymen get a three strike kind of deal. They screw up three times, they're out. A Council member is dispatched to the location and the boogeyman is – uh…eliminated by some horribly painful death."

"Then what the hell do they get when they're on good behavior? A nice happy death instead of an eternity of amnesia?"

"Well," he drew out, using the half-second to think, "if some benevolent witch or warlock comes along and sees that the boogeyman in question has been good for a steady amount of time, then they can offer a sort of Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card with a catch. My sperm donor, for instance, gave Theo one when we moved here."

"And this Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card has what kind of catch?"

He started to look at bit nervous by this point and squirmed in his seat on the floor uneasily. "Uh. Well. The benevolent witch or warlock writes up a spell that works like a contract. When the good boogeyman signs it and makes all the requirements on the contract, he or she is sent free. But they're still all amnesiac. That part of the sentencing is irreversible."

Ricky had crawled off the bed and had migrated to my lap without me noticing it until he opened his mouth. "What's perverted boogeyman's contract say?"

Again, Cameron started looking around, jittery and nervous. "I – I really shouldn't say. I mean, it's his and the sperm donor's thing, and so, I really shouldn't tell you," he stuttered.

He must have seen me reach down and pick up my forgotten bat, because he started squealing like a girl. "Okay, okay! Just don't hurt me. The contracts always have some type of similarity to the crime. Say you killed a guy or something; your contract could be to save a different guy from dying." He hesitated, probably contemplating the pros and cons of telling me what Theo had to do to stop being the boogeyman. "Theo…he, uh. He got into a fight with this normal guy who kept hitting on his girl. And, well, the other guy pulled a knife. I won't go into all the details, but the guy wasn't alive very long after that. Only then did Theo find out that his girl was two-timing him and then the Council showed up and sentenced him for killing someone with magic, even if it was in self-defense."

"So what does this have to do with his contract? What does he have to do? Save some other girl's affair from an epic fail?"

"I really, really don't want to talk about this anymore, Martine."

It was my turn to sigh as I set Ricky on the ground and stood, bat in hand. "Tell me why there is a boogeyman in my room, or I swear I'll go tell the egg donor there is a dude living under my bed and that your sperm donor is running a boarding house for a plethora of stereotypically dangerous creatures," I threatened, shoving down feelings of remorse at making such a statement to not only one of my best friends, but my brother, too.

"He has to get a girl to fall in love with him," Cameron answered quietly so that Ricky couldn't hear him, staring at his hands in his lap. "He has to get a normal human girl to fall in love with him and sleep with him. He has to trust that she won't leave him or have an affair with some other guy because he can't leave the house and she can; everyday he'd have to force himself to trust that while she's gone, she won't be screwing out the brains of someone else. When he does that, he's a free man."

I took a step back, eyes wide and bat slipping from my fingers and falling to the floor with a dull thump. Suddenly, a lot of what had happened last night and this morning made more sense. He needed to fall in love and have sex with a girl; what better girl than the one who just moved into the room he'd been occupying for eighty-five years?

Cameron was still talking, but it was like I was listening to a fuzzy echo of everything. "I didn't want you to stay in that room. I told Man-Whore that it'd bring a lot of trouble. That you'd get hurt or Theo would. But he found out that Ricky was terrified by the stories your Abuela told all the time and decided he'd rather have Erin and Ricky on the second floor where they were closer to most of the other warlocks, in case something bad happened…Martine? Martine, say something."

Swallowing, I took another step back, the back of my knees hitting the bed. "What can I say? How do you respond to something like that? 'Oh, yeah, the boogeyman? He wants you to fall in love with him so you guys can canoodle and he can go free.'" I looked at him, still in shock. "What do you want me to say, Cameron?"

He started to stand, looking like he was going to come over and, I don't know, comfort me or something, but Ricky got to him first. "How come there's music coming from you and Marti, Cameron?"

Anything Cameron was going to say probably left his thoughts and my self-pitying was wiped away. "What are you talking about?" I finally sputtered. "Ricky, there's no music." Now I was slightly scared. Ricky doesn't lie. He can't. Oh God, caray, maybe Cameron was wrong and he really was schizophrenic.

"Yes there is!" he insisted. "You sound like Julieta Venegas. That one Alguien song. And he sounds like the Christmas song that isn't a Christmas song!"

"Joy to the World?" Cameron supplied, his voice cracking even though it hadn't cracked once since the tenth grade. "The one with Jeremiah the bull frog?" When Ricky nodded, he swore colorfully under his breath. And when I say colorfully, even I sat there speechless with his choice of words. "So not good. Not good, not good, not good."

I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hands. "What's going on?" I asked, utterly confused.

"Well. Uh. The magic in the blood of witches and warlocks sings. Usually only family members and significant others can hear the magic. What Ricky is hearing is magic."

I opened my mouth and closed it again, repeating the process at least twice. "He's not a warlock," when I got my speech back, I stated the obvious. "And, last time I checked, I don't do magic. Neither does Ricky."

"Yours is probably latent," Cameron mumbled, pointing at me with one hand and running the other, shaking and all, through his hair. "So much so that maybe with practice, you'd be able to hear magic, but no more. You're classifiably normal by Council standards. Same with Erin if what I'm thinking proves true." He turned to look at Ricky, but stopped halfway, flinching. "But Ricky…if he's hearing it at such a young age, then he's probably got some very active magic going on."

Ricky didn't seem to mind this in the least. "What do I sound like, Cameron?" he queried, bouncing up and down excitedly. "What do I sound like? What do I sound like?"

"Er. You sort of sound like I Just Can't Wait to Be King from the Lion King," Cameron replied uneasily after a moment. "It'll change as you get older. When did you start hearing magic?"

He thought for a few seconds, and I thought I could literally see the cogs spinning around in his head. "When perverted boogeyman tried to get out of your room. He was scary. I thought he was gonna come after Marti."

I felt like pulling my hair out of my head. The kid had been hearing music coming from absolutely nowhere and he waits over half an hour to make mention of it? Caray. "And you didn't say this earlier because –?" I turned on Cameron. "And how long have you been hearing our music-magic-thing?

"I forgot," was Ricky's simple answer.

Cameron on the other hand, started turning very red. "Um. When Bruja and Man-Whore got married. 'Cause then we were family. We never acted on the fact that you guys had magic because…well. We figured it was latent. Magic in your family has been latent for centuries."

"Excuse me?"

"Martine, I don't have the amount of time to explain everything about the supernatural. That's pretty much my entire lifetime's worth of knowledge."

"Does it look like I particularly care about that right now? What do you mean magic in my family?"

He began pacing, back and forth, back and forth. "Centuries ago, there were a lot of warlocking families. But some of them just naturally lost the magic. You know…Darwinism and loss of genes over generations. The Rivera bloodline was one of the first. Granted, we were on the lookout for possible reappearances when you told us about your abuela's stories; we figured your particular branch of the family had magic. Just really, really latent magic that could never be used."

I pointed to my younger brother who looked like he was trying to do a spell or something. "And you're telling me that Ricky – Ricardo Oliver Rivera the fourth, six year old boy – is a warlock? And that Erin, my abuela, and I have latent magic that will never be useful for anything more than hearing music-magic-things? Okay, seriously. Where is Ashton Kutcher?" I stood and took a peek under the desk and in the closet. "Ashton should be popping out anytime now and start yelling that we've been punk'd and there'll be the cameras and everything." I opened the bedroom door. "Luc, is Ashton Kutcher out there?"

Cameron yanked me back in the room, slamming the door behind me just as Luc was starting to ask why I was looking for Ashton Kutcher. "Yes, Martine," he told me seriously, bending down so that he could actually look me in the eye, "that is exactly what I'm telling you. That and a boogeyman is going to try and make you fall in love and have sex with him, but that's not exactly the point anymore." He pointed at Ricky, who was now making the swivel chair move without touching it. "Ricardo Oliver Rivera the fourth, six year old warlock in training, now is."

"Okay. One last question then. Is La Chupacabra really here?" I asked hesitantly. "Because I really don't want to have to explain to Abuela that I let my little brother get sucked on like he was a goat or something."

Cameron put his palm to his forehead, cursing the fact that Theo had even opened the bedroom door earlier. Oh well. Not my problem.

Okay, so maybe it was sort of my problem because he was trying to get into my pants and was using nerdy pickup lines to do it, but I had more self-restraint than to just jump into bed with a good looking guy who technically lived in my room. Besides, he was old. Technically old enough to be my great-grandfather. And there was a normal – although, nothing much in this goddamn house was turning out to be very normal – boy with very blonde hair and very green eyes and very lovely muscles who was my age and lived on the floor below me.

Thinking about Josh would keep any unwanted thoughts about Theo away. Hopefully.


A/N: second chapter up plus editing in chapter one. Again, I don't personally think hippies are all druggies and I understand I am making light of a serious mental disease. Schizophrenia is seriously no joke; I spent an hour reading about it. Not a fun disease. Uh...I don't own anything you recognize from the outside world, such as the music and the Lion King and Harry Potter. That one happens to belong to J.K. Rowling. And the enzyme pickup line is sited to Kevin. In case he gets mad at me for using it.

Spanish translations:
-caray: oh jeez/crap/shit/God
-
¡Ve afuera ahorita!: Go away now!
-bruja: witch

-Juneaux: no, Theo wasn't under the bed. He probably went to hide with Luc or something. I'm not sure...I'm still figuring out what he does when he isn't under someone's bed or annoying them. Thanks for the review xD
-SilverWine: oh jeez...sorry if I unintentionally insulted you with that. My stepdad's Mexican and he didn't voice any concerns over it when he read through part of it, and a friend of mine who is half Cuban read it and didn't say anything about it. I went back and changed it, though; thanks for the heads up on that one. Gracias xD
-PaintSunshine: Aw, thank you xD Your review made me happy.

-extrapolating ideas