"He's here," Paranormal announced, prompting the adolescent's bewilderment. Startled from slumber, he appeared to transmorph into a creature larger than his true self: bony fingers becoming clawlike, opaque hues narrowing into scrutinizing slits. Uh, who was here? Suspicion flared alongside a bone-deep sense of apprehension, and against his pride, he found himself cowering, slender shoulders flinching back in alignment with the tinted window panel. He saw no threat, yet he anticipated it. Expectation of punishment was wound into the tapestry of his existance, it seemed.

Before he could open his mouth to protest, the car door on the side opposite to his own was wrenched open to admit an unfamiliar pair of heavily tattooed arms. They reached for him and he released his breath [the breath he'd been holding] on the jagged slivers of a shriek [scream; screech], bringing boot-clad feet up to combat any intrusive advances that might or might not be made towards his person. The manuever was agonizing, requiring a one eighty degree turnabout. The complication of the handcuffs refused to be forgotten, bloodied wrists rendered helpless in their steel grasp. It was a miracle that he didn't snap them, his poor weary forelimbs, what with the outrageous angle at which he'd oriented himself, his emaciated frame forced to inhabit the awfully cramped space between the ceiling and the floor; leaning heavily against the car door and the shoulder of the driver's seat, the tough leatherskin soles of his boots only partially braced.

The tattooed arms of course brought the rest of their person along with them, a man who gave Stygian the immediate impression of a struggling anorexic, almost as scrawny as he was himself. Except this guy worked it. Like I shit you not, he was gorgeous .. at least from what the saprophyte could see of him. Platinum hair cascaded in rippling waves across his tattooed shoulders and arms, adorned with colorful splashes and the occasional dreadlock riddled with beads, ultimately comprising what the gureihaund decided was a generally underwhelming appearance when coupled with the translucent alabaster [pallor] of his skin. The guy was an effing albino ghost, white as a sheet ––

And Stygian would've snarled as much, too, except the albino guy turned to look at him then. One look at his face and the adolescent knew what had happened to the last person who'd dared insult him aloud. Not the sudden or even violent death you'd expect – no, this guy wasn't a believer in mercy.

The last shithead punk who called me an albino? Yeah, I made him watch as I ate him alive. He lasted four days. I didn't even get full.

Again he reached for me, close enough that I could smell him; he smelled like whiskey and cigarettes, evening rain and dew-kissed blossoms. Eff, he smelled like the timberland, woodsy and familiar, and suddenly I couldn't stand it, I hated him about as much as I wanted to wrap my arms around him and beg him to .. to ..

To what, Sasha? My inner voice was a self-deprecating sneer; I stomped on those trivial, irrational desires and instead nursed the hate, because I needed the it. It kept me strong.

Inch by inch his hand drew closer, and I held myself motionless, ready to snap should the need arise. But the man only reached over my head and broke the handcuffs neatly in half at the chain. He looked past me, nodding to someone – or something? – on the other side of the window.

Suspicion rose within me on a turqoise swell – who was he talking to? – but before I could open my mouth to say anything, the car door behind me was swinging open wide and strong hands were enveloping my shoulders, twisting me around and administering an unnecessarily rough shove to the small of my back, so that I fell gracelessly forwards outta the car.

Concrete rushed up to meet me at an alarming rate and I didn't even have the time to flail like any normal teen with the appropriate sense of self-preservation would have; [the] oxygen was knocked brutally from my lungs upon impact, pain exploding like fireworks along my lower mandible as the curb connected with my face. I gasped for breath, winded, and for one awful moment, my vision swam with heinous stars.

I don't know how long I just laid there, contemplating the pain and stars like they were some unfathomable anomaly. At the time it felt like hours but in retrospect it probably wasn't even two whole minutes, because the agony was still fresh when Paranormal crouched down beside me, appearing genuinely concerned past the stars. Dazed as I was, I didn't have the strength to complain. Hell, I think that even then I liked the idea being fussed over; I might or might not have leaned into his touch as he pulled me into a sitting position, his fingers probing gently along my jawline.

"Can you move it?" he asked. The softness of his voice sent shivers down my spine. Gingerly I flexed my mouth open and shut, rotating the lower section of my jaw with care, and after a moment of careful deliberation I decided the initial agony had firmly subsided into naught more than a subtle ache of discomfort. I was okay.


The close proximity of the weredaemon registered then, manifesting as a tendril of heat that snaked its way down across my body, curling around my upper thigh to close warm fingers on what had previously lain dormant and passive between the vee of my legs. Maybe it was the adrenaline or the fact that I was suddenly desperate to be treated like an equal again, craving the tenderness that Paranormal had once displayed so casually towards me – and on a regular basis, too. Once he'd made me feel precious, like I was worth something, and oh, hell, how I longed to feel that again, that sensation of worth, the knowledge that hey, it didn't matter what happened, things were gonna be okay because this guy loved me. Because he said so, and even if things didn't turn out okay, I would turn out okay simply because he loved me.

In that moment, my steely veneer of indifference cracked audibly. I broke in twain and clung helplessly to Paranormal, fingers curling on the muscular curves of his shoulders, trying to bend him against me, trying to convince him to hold me the way I wanted to be held. I felt such desperation that I would've begged him for it, for that feeling [that] only he made me feel, and he must've somehow sensed it, because his body gave against mine. I marveled at how great it felt, the way his strong, wiry frame aligned with the contours of my own scrawny figurine, the lending of strength that came with the embrace – it felt like coming home.

It felt like coming home, yeah .. so why did I suddenly want to cry?

Every trace of arousal was gone, replaced with a hollow feeling of abandonment and disbelief. How could he be so cruel? Did he not know how he made me feel, how much he meant to me? The wounds he'd healed from previous hurts had only just begun to heal, courtesy of the seemingly endless kindness and generosity he'd displayed towards me – where had it all gone, that kindness and generosity? Dammit, why had he stopped loving me?

What did I do wrong? What's wrong with me? I wanted to cry out from the unexpected intensity of the despair, but for the fear of being answered I did not. There was no answer; I was just wrong. Everything about me, the little building blocks that made up who I was were wrong.

I was a mistake, and Paranormal had found out. He knew about my brokenness – and now he no longer wanted me. Of course.

"You're okay, you're okay. Ssshhh," the weredaemon whispered. He kept saying this, that I was okay, over and over, his lips pressed warmly to my temple as he held me, rocking me back and forth as around us, the world continued its workings. More locally, Levi slammed the car doors shut save for one, and came around to where Paranormal and I sat in a heap on the curb.

No, I thought. No, I was not okay.

And I was beginning to seriously doubt [that] I ever would be.