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Darkstar

by cnkguy
Darkstar

DarkstarReading Time: 57 minutes

Darkstar

One​ ​breath​ ​and​ ​then​ ​another.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​feel​ ​his​ ​heart​ ​slow​ ​within​ ​his​ ​chest,​ ​just​ ​the​ ​way​ ​it​ ​always​ ​did​ ​when that​ ​feeling​ ​drew​ ​closer.​ ​Soon​ ​that​ ​voice​ ​would​ ​enter​ ​his​ ​mind,​ ​the​ ​one​ ​that​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​haunted​ ​more​ ​than​ ​only  him.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​had​ ​to​ ​do​ ​was​ ​lay​ ​there​ ​and​ ​soon,​ ​that​ ​voice​ ​would​ ​ask​ ​him​ ​if​ ​he​ ​was​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​die.​ ​This​ ​time,​ ​he  hadn’t​ ​the​ ​strength​ ​to​ ​say​ ​anything​ ​more​ ​than​ ​yes.

*​ ​*​ ​*

“God​ ​what​ ​a​ ​mess…”​ ​His​ ​voice​ ​trailed​ ​off​ ​as​ ​he​ ​took​ ​a​ ​step​ ​back.​ ​He​ ​hadn’t​ ​even​ ​entered​ ​the house​ ​yet.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​could​ ​see​ ​was​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​across​ ​the​ ​window,​ ​produced​ ​undoubtedly​ ​from some​ ​horror​ ​that​ ​lay​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​interior​ ​of​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​woken​ ​from​ ​a​ ​sound dreamless,​ ​blessedly​ ​dreamless,​ ​sleep​ ​and​ ​now​ ​blinked​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​to​ ​be​ ​sure​ ​that​ ​this​ ​wasn’t​ ​a nightmare​ ​of​ ​his​ ​own​ ​fabrication.
“Sir?​ ​Sir,​ ​we​ ​have​ ​started​ ​to​ ​get​ ​pictures​ ​and​ ​the​ ​ambulance​ ​is​ ​on​ ​the​ ​way.”
“Ambulance?​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​you​ ​said​ ​that​ ​there​ ​was​ ​no​ ​one​ ​left​ ​alive.”​ ​A​ ​strong​ ​furrow​ ​creased​ ​a brow​ ​that​ ​had​ ​already​ ​been​ ​on​ ​its​ ​way​ ​to​ ​a​ ​scowl.
“We​ ​were​ ​wrong.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​child.”

*​ ​*​ ​*

“Elia,​ ​Elia​ ​come​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​window,​ ​baby.​ ​Come​ ​finish​ ​your​ ​lunch​ ​and​ ​we’ll​ ​go​ ​to​ ​the​ ​park​ ​after.​ ​You​ ​have  to​ ​eat​ ​if​ ​you​ ​want​ ​to​ ​grow​ ​big​ ​and​ ​strong.”    “But​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​grow​ ​up​ ​big…​ ​then​ ​it​ ​will​ ​hurt​ ​right?”​ ​He​ ​looked​ ​up​ ​at​ ​her​ ​and​ ​his​ ​big​ ​blue​ ​eyes  momentarily​ ​illuminated​ ​from​ ​within.​ ​His​ ​face​ ​was​ ​so​ ​serious​ ​that​ ​she​ ​paused​ ​and​ ​was​ ​mute,​ ​trapped​ ​in​ ​his  gaze.
Elia​ ​was​ ​her​ ​treasure.​ ​She​ ​couldn’t​ ​imagine​ ​a​ ​world​ ​without​ ​him,​ ​even​ ​as​ ​she​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​someday​ ​she​ ​would​ ​not  be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​guide​ ​his​ ​steps​ ​as​ ​he​ ​passed​ ​through​ ​the​ ​vale.​ ​Elia​ ​was​ ​fae​ ​touched,​ ​and​ ​though​ ​he​ ​was​ ​simply​ ​a​ ​child  to​ ​her,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​young​ ​wolf,​ ​he​ ​represented​ ​a​ ​legacy​ ​that​ ​many​ ​had​ ​thought​ ​dead​ ​and​ ​lost.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​most​ ​certainly  lost​ ​but​ ​because​ ​of​ ​that,​ ​it​ ​meant​ ​that​ ​the​ ​name​ ​she​ ​had​ ​chosen​ ​as​ ​his​ ​birth​ ​name,​ ​Elia​ ​Darkstar,​ ​was​ ​more  correct​ ​than​ ​she​ ​could​ ​have​ ​ever​ ​known.​ ​All​ ​that​ ​she​ ​could​ ​do​ ​was​ ​try​ ​to​ ​protect​ ​him​ ​from​ ​the​ ​world​ ​so​ ​that​ ​he  would​ ​remain​ ​innocent.​ ​Many​ ​Darkstar​ ​wolves​ ​were​ ​lost​ ​to​ ​the​ ​fae​ ​realm,​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​bridge​ ​the​ ​gap​ ​between​ ​the humanity​ ​that​ ​had​ ​entered​ ​their​ ​hearts​ ​and​ ​the​ ​fae​ ​blood​ ​that​ ​coursed​ ​through​ ​their​ ​veins.​ ​They​ ​would​ ​go insane​ ​or​ ​simply​ ​wither​ ​away​ ​as​ ​their​ ​minds​ ​became​ ​attached​ ​to​ ​a​ ​place​ ​somewhere​ ​through​ ​the​ ​vale​ ​but​ ​their bodies​ ​remained.​ ​She​ ​did​ ​not​ ​want​ ​those​ ​sad​ ​fates​ ​to​ ​be​ ​what​ ​waited​ ​for​ ​her​ ​sweet​ ​boy;​ ​the​ ​only​ ​thing​ ​that remained​ ​of​ ​her​ ​mate.​ ​She​ ​had​ ​to​ ​close​ ​her​ ​eyes​ ​to​ ​him​ ​before​ ​she​ ​could​ ​speak.​ ​She​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​never​ ​tell  her​ ​everything​ ​that​ ​he​ ​knew,​ ​but​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​already​ ​seen​ ​so​ ​many​ ​things​ ​that​ ​a​ ​child​ ​should​ ​never​ ​have​ ​to​ ​face  and​ ​remained​ ​so​ ​free​ ​and​ ​pure.​ ​How​ ​could​ ​she​ ​ever​ ​apologize​ ​to​ ​him.
“Then​ ​just​ ​strong.​ ​How​ ​does​ ​that​ ​sound​ ​since​ ​big​ ​is​ ​another​ ​evil.​ ​How​ ​did​ ​you​ ​get​ ​to​ ​be​ ​so​ ​clever?”​ ​She​ ​allowed​ ​a  smile​ ​to​ ​touch​ ​her​ ​lips​ ​even​ ​though​ ​she​ ​felt​ ​somber.
“I​ ​don’t​ ​know?”​ ​He​ ​said​ ​in​ ​a​ ​sing​ ​songy​ ​voice​ ​before​ ​he​ ​smiled​ ​a​ ​giant​ ​grin​ ​and​ ​skipped​ ​toward​ ​her​ ​across​ ​the  room,​ ​finally​ ​feeling​ ​more​ ​the​ ​age​ ​he​ ​looked.​ ​He​ ​pounced​ ​on​ ​her​ ​on​ ​the​ ​way​ ​past​ ​squeezing​ ​her​ ​in​ ​a​ ​big​ ​hug  before​ ​seating​ ​himself​ ​at​ ​the​ ​table​ ​and​ ​grabbing​ ​the​ ​other​ ​half​ ​of​ ​his​ ​sandwich.​ ​”Could​ ​we​ ​go​ ​to​ ​the​ ​woods  instead?”
“But​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​you​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​play​ ​with​ ​the​ ​other​ ​kids​ ​that​ ​you​ ​met…”
“Mmm…”​ ​the​ ​little​ ​noise​ ​had​ ​cut​ ​her​ ​off​ ​and​ ​she​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​see​ ​that​ ​Elia’s​ ​hair​ ​had​ ​slipped​ ​over​ ​one​ ​eye​ ​and​ ​he’d  frozen,​ ​staring​ ​off​ ​into​ ​space.​ ​”The​ ​woods​ ​feel​ ​more​ ​like​ ​home​ ​to​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​can​ ​hear​ ​them.”
“Elia!”​ ​It​ ​was​ ​too​ ​soon.​ ​She​ ​knew​ ​he​ ​shouldn’t​ ​be​ ​hearing​ ​them​ ​yet.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​so​ ​young.
He​ ​blinked​ ​up​ ​at​ ​her,​ ​seemingly​ ​startled​ ​by​ ​his​ ​own​ ​name.​ ​His​ ​hair​ ​still​ ​fell​ ​about​ ​his​ ​face​ ​concealingly​ ​and​ ​a gentle​ ​furrow​ ​marked​ ​his​ ​brow​ ​before​ ​his​ ​features​ ​relaxed.​ ​He​ ​cocked​ ​his​ ​head​ ​to​ ​the​ ​side​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​were  trying​ ​to​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​a​ ​faint​ ​noise​ ​before​ ​he​ ​drew​ ​a​ ​breath​ ​to​ ​speak.
“You​ ​don’t​ ​need​ ​to​ ​worry.​ ​I​ ​already​ ​know​ ​the​ ​path.​ ​It’s​ ​not​ ​like​ ​you​ ​fear.​ ​They​ ​will​ ​protect​ ​me​ ​and​ ​I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​your  Elia,​ ​even​ ​when​ ​I​ ​have​ ​walked​ ​in​ ​the​ ​other​ ​place​ ​and​ ​called​ ​my​ ​guardian.​ ​I​ ​know​ ​his​ ​voice.​ ​I​ ​just​ ​need​ ​to​ ​learn  his​ ​name.”
“Elia…”
“So​ ​what’s​ ​for​ ​dessert.​ ​I’ve​ ​finished​ ​my​ ​sandwich.”​ ​Once​ ​more​ ​he​ ​smiled​ ​like​ ​the​ ​little​ ​boy​ ​he​ ​was.​ ​She​ ​could​ ​see  his​ ​eyes​ ​sparkle,​ ​despite​ ​that​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​was​ ​in​ ​his​ ​face,​ ​even​ ​before​ ​he​ ​pushed​ ​it​ ​back​ ​only​ ​enough​ ​for​ ​her​ ​to​ ​see  both​ ​of​ ​them​ ​again.
Elia​ ​was​ ​not​ ​uncommon​ ​for​ ​what​ ​he​ ​was.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​a​ ​slim​ ​slight​ ​frame​ ​that​ ​still​ ​held​ ​the​ ​androgyny​ ​of​ ​youth.  Compared​ ​to​ ​a​ ​human​ ​he​ ​was​ ​markedly​ ​pale​ ​with​ ​soft​ ​freckles​ ​across​ ​the​ ​bridge​ ​of​ ​a​ ​nose​ ​that​ ​was​ ​almost​ ​too small​ ​for​ ​his​ ​face​ ​and​ ​definitely​ ​too​ ​small​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​his​ ​eyes.​ ​His​ ​hair​ ​was​ ​to​ ​his​ ​waist​ ​or​ ​just​ ​slightly​ ​past with​ ​a​ ​few​ ​areas​ ​that​ ​were​ ​shorter​ ​and​ ​framed​ ​his​ ​face​ ​in​ ​soft​ ​darkness.​ ​His​ ​smile​ ​came​ ​easily,​ ​unless​ ​he​ ​was lost,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​was​ ​spending​ ​more​ ​and​ ​more​ ​time​ ​lost,​ ​which​ ​frightened​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​to​ ​tears,​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​how​ ​he​ ​tried  to​ ​reassure​ ​her.​ ​His​ ​clothes,​ ​the​ ​ones​ ​that​ ​he​ ​picked​ ​for​ ​himself​ ​at​ ​least,​ ​were​ ​all​ ​in​ ​soft​ ​colors​ ​like​ ​the​ ​many layers​ ​of​ ​color​ ​one​ ​might​ ​find​ ​in​ ​a​ ​field​ ​or​ ​soft​ ​earth.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​like​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to​ ​the​ ​playground,​ ​especially​ ​not  lately.​ ​​ Everyone​ ​there​ ​thought​ ​he​ ​was​ ​a​ ​girl.​ ​Even​ ​the​ ​other​ ​kids​ ​were​ ​beyond​ ​correcting,​ ​and​ ​though​ ​he​ ​acted as​ ​though​ ​it​ ​really​ ​didn’t​ ​matter,​ ​some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him​ ​still​ ​stung.​
​He​ ​sighed.​ ​Elia​ ​knew​ ​why​ ​his​ ​mom​ ​was​ ​worried  and​ ​why​ ​she​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to​ ​the​ ​park…​ ​she​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​how​ ​lost​ ​he​ ​was​ ​at​ ​home​ ​within​ ​four​ ​walls.​ ​What​ ​if​ ​it​ ​was worse?​ ​What​ ​if​ ​his​ ​soul​ ​was​ ​called​ ​away?​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​never​ ​thought​ ​that​ ​might​ ​happen.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​what​ ​had happened​ ​to​ ​other​ ​wolves​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​like​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​his​ ​father.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​any​ ​of​ ​them​ ​at​ ​all,  only​ ​her.​ ​Perhaps​ ​that​ ​was​ ​partly​ ​to​ ​blame​ ​for​ ​his​ ​fearlessness,​ ​but​ ​what​ ​would​ ​the​ ​other​ ​wolves​ ​do​ ​with​ ​a​ ​fully  functional​ ​Darkstar?​ ​They​ ​certainly​ ​wouldn’t​ ​embrace​ ​him​ ​as​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​pack.​ ​They​ ​would​ ​look​ ​upon​ ​him with​ ​pity​ ​and​ ​fear.​ ​In​ ​europe​ ​there​ ​might​ ​be​ ​others,​ ​but​ ​she​ ​couldn’t​ ​risk​ ​the​ ​hunters.​ ​Even​ ​here,​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a  chance​ ​that​ ​the​ ​hunters​ ​could​ ​find​ ​them.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​slim,​ ​but​ ​between​ ​the​ ​potential​ ​reaction​ ​of​ ​the​ ​other​ ​wolves and​ ​the​ ​danger​ ​that​ ​could,​ ​even​ ​now,​ ​be​ ​just​ ​outside​ ​their​ ​door,​ ​Sabyn​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​her​ ​little​ ​boy​ ​safe.
“Mom?”
She​ ​hadn’t​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​she​ ​had​ ​stopped​ ​moving​ ​until​ ​he​ ​had​ ​called​ ​to​ ​her.​ ​Perhaps​ ​going​ ​out​ ​would​ ​be​ ​a​ ​good distraction.​ ​She​ ​was​ ​becoming​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​more​ ​lost​ ​too.​ ​She​ ​sighed​ ​heavily​ ​as​ ​she​ ​reached​ ​for​ ​his​ ​dish.
“Go​ ​get​ ​your​ ​shoes​ ​on.​ ​We’ll​ ​walk​ ​today.”
“OK.”​ ​He​ ​skipped​ ​off​ ​in​ ​the​ ​direction​ ​of​ ​his​ ​room.

*​ ​*​ ​*

“Sir.​ ​The​ ​coroner​ ​is​ ​here.”
He​ ​took​ ​a​ ​heavy​ ​breath​ ​through​ ​the​ ​handkerchief​ ​he​ ​clasped​ ​to​ ​his​ ​face.​ ​His​ ​stomach​ ​had always​ ​been​ ​too​ ​weak​ ​for​ ​this​ ​job​ ​but​ ​he​ ​was​ ​far​ ​too​ ​good​ ​at​ ​it​ ​to​ ​walk​ ​away.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​the​ ​lead detective​ ​on​ ​this​ ​case,​ ​though​ ​he​ ​was​ ​surprised​ ​that​ ​no​ ​one​ ​else​ ​had​ ​wanted​ ​it.​ ​Perhaps​ ​it​ ​was the​ ​hour.​ ​This​ ​one,​ ​especially​ ​now,​ ​would​ ​require​ ​extra​ ​care.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​medics​ ​bumped​ ​past him.​ ​How​ ​was​ ​this​ ​child​ ​even​ ​still​ ​alive?​ ​When​ ​he​ ​first​ ​saw​ ​the​ ​small​ ​form​ ​laid​ ​flat​ ​upon​ ​the floor​ ​he​ ​hadn’t​ ​thought​ ​that​ ​it​ ​was​ ​a​ ​real​ ​person.​ ​Great​ ​blue​ ​eyes​ ​stared​ ​at​ ​the​ ​ceiling​ ​above them,​ ​unblinking.​ ​Skin​ ​that​ ​was​ ​far​ ​too​ ​pale​ ​to​ ​be​ ​healthy​ ​was​ ​spattered​ ​in​ ​blood​ ​and​ ​gore.​ ​Dark hair​ ​spread​ ​out​ ​in​ ​a​ ​limp​ ​halo​ ​around​ ​the​ ​lifeless​ ​form.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​asked​ ​if​ ​there​ ​was​ ​any​ ​chance that​ ​she​ ​would​ ​be​ ​alright.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​sure​ ​it​ ​had​ ​been​ ​a​ ​rape​ ​case.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​sure​ ​this​ ​child​ ​must​ ​be broken,​ ​but​ ​the​ ​man​ ​who​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​him​ ​with​ ​tears​ ​in​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​shook​ ​his​ ​head​ ​and​ ​immediately he​ ​had​ ​thought​ ​the​ ​worst.​ ​The​ ​child​ ​was​ ​beyond​ ​hope.​ ​The​ ​words​ ​that​ ​left​ ​the​ ​man’s​ ​lips​ ​were not​ ​what​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​was​ ​expecting:​ ​that​ ​this​ ​was​ ​not​ ​a​ ​little​ ​girl,​ ​but​ ​a​ ​boy.​ ​Someone​ ​had mutilated​ ​this​ ​beautiful​ ​little​ ​boy.​ ​His​ ​voice​ ​had​ ​fallen​ ​to​ ​a​ ​harsh​ ​whisper​ ​when​ ​he​ ​told​ ​them​ ​to cover​ ​him​ ​up​ ​and​ ​that​ ​was​ ​what​ ​had​ ​forced​ ​him​ ​to​ ​take​ ​out​ ​his​ ​handkerchief.​ ​Who​ ​would​ ​do that​ ​to​ ​a​ ​child?​ ​What​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​monster​ ​would​ ​do​ ​that?
Now​ ​he​ ​turned​ ​away​ ​from​ ​those​ ​unblinking​ ​eyes.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​told​ ​that​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​would​ ​live.​ ​He wasn’t​ ​sure​ ​if​ ​he​ ​should​ ​be​ ​happy​ ​or​ ​weep.​ ​What​ ​would​ ​become​ ​of​ ​a​ ​child​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been mutilated​ ​like​ ​that?​ ​There​ ​wasn’t​ ​even​ ​anyone​ ​to​ ​question.​ ​There​ ​wasn’t​ ​anyone​ ​who​ ​would answer​ ​for​ ​the​ ​crimes​ ​against​ ​the​ ​small​ ​form​ ​that​ ​lay​ ​rigidly​ ​on​ ​the​ ​hard​ ​floor.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​a nameless​ ​child,​ ​lost​ ​and​ ​broken,​ ​cast​ ​aside,​ ​or​ ​perhaps​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​sought​ ​after​ ​because​ ​of some​ ​base​ ​desire​ ​in​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those​ ​who​ ​lay​ ​with​ ​him​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​those​ ​was​ ​missing​ ​half of​ ​her​ ​face,​ ​presumably​ ​from​ ​being​ ​shot​ ​by​ ​a​ ​rifle​ ​that​ ​lay​ ​across​ ​the​ ​room,​ ​while​ ​the​ ​other​ ​was so​ ​mutilated​ ​it​ ​was​ ​barely​ ​recognizable​ ​as​ ​having​ ​been​ ​human.
The​ ​more​ ​he​ ​had​ ​looked​ ​about​ ​the​ ​scene​ ​the​ ​more​ ​confused​ ​he​ ​became.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​paw prints,​ ​so​ ​many​ ​paw​ ​prints​ ​in​ ​blood​ ​smeared​ ​across​ ​the​ ​floor,​ ​the​ ​walls,​ ​the​ ​windows,​ ​any surface​ ​that​ ​paws​ ​could​ ​reach,​ ​and​ ​two​ ​sets.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​them​ ​was​ ​sizable,​ ​a​ ​big​ ​dog​ ​like​ ​a​ ​german shepherd​ ​or​ ​a​ ​malamute,​ ​perhaps​ ​a​ ​wolf​ ​if​ ​it​ ​was​ ​wild,​ ​while​ ​the​ ​other​ ​set​ ​was​ ​only​ ​around​ ​the boy’s​ ​body,​ ​smaller​ ​and​ ​softer,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​it​ ​had​ ​been​ ​a​ ​lighter,​ ​smaller​ ​animal​ ​that​ ​had​ ​made them,​ ​even​ ​though​ ​the​ ​paw​ ​print​ ​was​ ​nearly​ ​identical​ ​to​ ​the​ ​larger​ ​ones.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​too​ ​much blood​ ​in​ ​this​ ​small​ ​room,​ ​too​ ​much​ ​to​ ​have​ ​come​ ​from​ ​only​ ​the​ ​two​ ​corpses​ ​and​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​who lay​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​What​ ​had​ ​happened​ ​here?

*​ ​*​ ​*

He​ ​made​ ​sure​ ​he​ ​was​ ​out​ ​of​ ​his​ ​mother’s​ ​sight​ ​before​ ​he​ ​sat​ ​down​ ​in​ ​the​ ​grass​ ​and​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes.​ ​The  sun​ ​felt​ ​good.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​well​ ​enough​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​other​ ​kids​ ​to​ ​not​ ​be​ ​bothered​ ​unless​ ​they​ ​went​ ​to​ ​some  trouble.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​too​ ​many​ ​people​ ​here.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​listening​ ​anyway.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​them.​ ​Their  voices​ ​were​ ​soothing​ ​and​ ​quieted​ ​his​ ​mind.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​a​ ​comfort.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​barely​ ​hear​ ​their​ ​whispers  from​ ​the​ ​treeline​ ​just​ ​before​ ​he​ ​was​ ​unceremoniously​ ​hit​ ​with​ ​something,​ ​hard.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​and​ ​turned  in​ ​the​ ​direction​ ​he​ ​thought​ ​it​ ​must​ ​have​ ​come​ ​from​ ​to​ ​find​ ​a​ ​stocky​ ​ruddy​ ​cheeked​ ​child​ ​sneering​ ​back​ ​at  him.
“Throw​ ​it​ ​back,​ ​freak.”
Elia​ ​sighed​ ​heavily​ ​and​ ​looked​ ​to​ ​where​ ​the​ ​ball​ ​had​ ​rolled,​ ​just​ ​beyond​ ​him.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​what​ ​constituted​ ​for  playing​ ​with​ ​his​ ​friends,​ ​fetching​ ​a​ ​ball​ ​and​ ​throwing​ ​it​ ​back​ ​like​ ​a​ ​good​ ​little​ ​dog.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​do  this​ ​today.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​sit​ ​in​ ​the​ ​grass​ ​and​ ​be​ ​left​ ​alone.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​walk​ ​through​ ​the​ ​woods.​ ​He wanted​ ​to​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​all​ ​the​ ​whispered​ ​voices​ ​of​ ​the​ ​trees​ ​until​ ​they​ ​gave​ ​way​ ​to​ ​the​ ​voices​ ​of​ ​those​ ​who lay​ ​beyond​ ​them,​ ​until​ ​the​ ​whispers​ ​became​ ​one​ ​singular​ ​male​ ​voice​ ​that​ ​he​ ​recognized​ ​and​ ​found​ ​to​ ​be of​ ​greater​ ​comfort​ ​than​ ​even​ ​his​ ​mother’s​ ​arms.​
​His​ ​body​ ​went​ ​through​ ​the​ ​motions​ ​as​ ​his​ ​expression went​ ​blank.​ ​He​ ​grabbed​ ​the​ ​ball​ ​and​ ​gently​ ​tossed​ ​it​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​who​ ​waited​ ​with​ ​a​ ​look​ ​of  disapproval.
“Heh,​ ​not​ ​a​ ​bad​ ​toss​ ​for​ ​a​ ​girl.”​ ​The​ ​boy​ ​threw​ ​it​ ​back​ ​and​ ​was​ ​surprised​ ​when​ ​Elia​ ​caught​ ​it​ ​easily. “Come​ ​on,​ ​let’s​ ​play.”
He​ ​wandered​ ​after,​ ​knowing​ ​that​ ​this​ ​would​ ​end​ ​badly.​ ​It​ ​always​ ​did.​ ​Whether​ ​it​ ​was​ ​because​ ​he​ ​was  better​ ​than​ ​the​ ​others​ ​his​ ​age​ ​or​ ​that​ ​they​ ​discovered​ ​he​ ​was​ ​not​ ​the​ ​girl​ ​they​ ​thought​ ​he​ ​was,​ ​it​ ​always  ended​ ​up​ ​going​ ​wrong.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​understand​ ​why​ ​there​ ​always​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​different​ ​kids​ ​and​ ​none​ ​of  them​ ​remembered.​ ​It​ ​would​ ​be​ ​easier​ ​if​ ​they​ ​just​ ​left​ ​him​ ​alone.

*​ ​*​ ​*

The​ ​lights​ ​passed​ ​overhead​ ​in​ ​a​ ​dull​ ​rhythm​ ​just​ ​slightly​ ​off​ ​from​ ​the​ ​music​ ​that​ ​played​ ​in​ ​the car.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​have​ ​nightmares.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​by​ ​the​ ​time​ ​this​ ​was​ ​all​ ​sorted​ ​out​ ​he​ ​would spend​ ​months​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​banish​ ​the​ ​image​ ​of​ ​that​ ​boy​ ​from​ ​his​ ​mind.​ ​Even​ ​now​ ​those​ ​eyes haunted​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​child​ ​was​ ​in​ ​the​ ​ambulance​ ​before​ ​him,​ ​safely​ ​buckled​ ​into​ ​place​ ​on a​ ​stretcher.​ ​As​ ​if​ ​he​ ​would​ ​try​ ​to​ ​move.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​catatonic​ ​and​ ​even​ ​now​ ​there​ ​was​ ​no​ ​certainty he​ ​would​ ​ever​ ​come​ ​back​ ​from​ ​whatever​ ​abyss​ ​he​ ​had​ ​mentally​ ​plummeted​ ​over.​ ​The​ ​space around​ ​him​ ​had​ ​been​ ​taped,​ ​cataloged,​ ​and​ ​collected.​
​It​ ​wasn’t going to be​ ​easy.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​going​ ​to​ ​have​ ​to pour​ ​over​ ​pictures​ ​of​ ​that​ ​horror​ ​if​ ​he​ ​had​ ​any​ ​hope​ ​of​ ​muddling​ ​through.​ ​What​ ​if​ ​the​ ​child never​ ​recovered?​ ​He​ ​had​ ​so​ ​many​ ​questions.​ ​What​ ​had​ ​those​ ​great​ ​blue​ ​eyes​ ​seen?​ ​Would​ ​he even​ ​remember?​ ​What​ ​was​ ​mercy​ ​in​ ​a​ ​case​ ​like​ ​this?

*​ ​*​ ​*

Elia​ ​gingerly​ ​held​ ​his​ ​face​ ​as​ ​he​ ​walked​ ​away.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to​ ​the​ ​woods.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​be​ ​here  anymore.​ ​He​ ​pulled​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​away​ ​to​ ​reveal​ ​blood​ ​as​ ​he​ ​slunk​ ​in​ ​low​ ​beneath​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​steel​ ​plated  platforms​ ​and​ ​took​ ​a​ ​heavy​ ​breath.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​good.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​played​ ​along.​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​it​ ​always​ ​end​ ​this  way?​ ​Why​ ​couldn’t​ ​he​ ​just​ ​go​ ​to​ ​where​ ​the​ ​pack​ ​was?​ ​Surely​ ​they​ ​would​ ​be​ ​more​ ​kind.​ ​His​ ​nose​ ​ached.  They​ ​had​ ​pushed​ ​him​ ​down​ ​and​ ​pulled​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​before​ ​slamming​ ​his​ ​face​ ​into​ ​the​ ​ground​ ​hard​ ​enough​ ​to  make​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​water.​ ​Was​ ​it​ ​because​ ​he​ ​was​ ​faster​ ​than​ ​they​ ​were?​ ​Was​ ​it​ ​because​ ​he​ ​could​ ​throw​ ​a  little​ ​further?​ ​Why​ ​couldn’t​ ​he​ ​go​ ​to​ ​a​ ​place​ ​where​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be​ ​accepted​ ​for​ ​what​ ​he​ ​was?​ ​Why​ ​was  the​ ​first​ ​response​ ​always​ ​to​ ​cause​ ​harm​ ​when​ ​they​ ​did​ ​not​ ​understand​ ​why​ ​he​ ​was​ ​different?
He​ ​just​ ​had​ ​to​ ​stay​ ​out​ ​of​ ​sight​ ​long​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​heal.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​already​ ​feel​ ​his​ ​nose​ ​mending.​ ​The​ ​blood  had​ ​stopped.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​only​ ​be​ ​dirty.​ ​So​ ​long​ ​as​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​look​ ​like​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​bleeding.​ ​He​ ​wiped​ ​his  hands​ ​on​ ​the​ ​bark​ ​chips​ ​and​ ​sniffed.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​say​ ​that​ ​he​ ​fell.​ ​How​ ​could​ ​she​ ​not​ ​see​ ​that​ ​he​ ​was​ ​only  clumsy​ ​when​ ​he​ ​was​ ​at​ ​the​ ​playground​ ​with​ ​the​ ​kids​ ​that​ ​she​ ​wished​ ​were​ ​his​ ​friends?​ ​He​ ​curled​ ​up​ ​in  a​ ​little​ ​ball​ ​and​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes.​ ​He​ ​wished​ ​that​ ​the​ ​voices​ ​would​ ​come.​ ​He​ ​wished​ ​he​ ​could​ ​be​ ​out​ ​in​ ​the  sun​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​hiding​ ​beneath​ ​the​ ​steel​ ​structure​ ​of​ ​the​ ​playscape,​ ​hoping​ ​not​ ​to​ ​be​ ​found.​ ​He​ ​wished​ ​he  could​ ​change​ ​into​ ​his​ ​wolfen​ ​form​ ​and​ ​run​ ​away​ ​but​ ​he​ ​was​ ​too​ ​young.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​too​ ​young​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​the  voices​ ​but​ ​he​ ​did​ ​anyway.​ ​Both​ ​were​ ​wrong.​ ​Both​ ​were​ ​bad.​ ​Elia​ ​whimpered​ ​in​ ​the​ ​darkness.​ ​Why​ ​was  he​ ​bad​ ​even​ ​when​ ​he​ ​tried​ ​so​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​be​ ​good?

*​ ​*​ ​*

He​ ​should​ ​not​ ​be​ ​standing​ ​in​ ​this​ ​room.​ ​He​ ​should​ ​be​ ​at​ ​the​ ​station.​ ​He​ ​should​ ​be​ ​getting​ ​to​ ​the bottom​ ​of​ ​this​ ​but​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​abandon​ ​the​ ​form​ ​before​ ​him,​ ​who​ ​lay​ ​nearly​ ​lifeless,​ ​in the​ ​hospital​ ​bed.
“What​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​you?​ ​I​ ​wish​ ​you​ ​could​ ​tell​ ​me…”
There​ ​was​ ​no​ ​response​ ​from​ ​the​ ​one​ ​in​ ​the​ ​bed.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​so​ ​small,​ ​so​ ​fragile.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​had​ ​been closed,​ ​some​ ​merciful​ ​nurse​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​to​ ​that,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​didn’t​ ​matter.​ ​The​ ​man​ ​who​ ​stood​ ​in​ ​the room​ ​thinking​ ​that​ ​he​ ​should​ ​leave​ ​remembered​ ​how​ ​they​ ​looked​ ​when​ ​they​ ​were​ ​open.​ ​No one​ ​had​ ​reported​ ​a​ ​missing​ ​child.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​two​ ​days​ ​since​ ​those​ ​eyes​ ​had​ ​been​ ​closed​ ​and​ ​he had​ ​been​ ​settled​ ​into​ ​the​ ​hospital​ ​bed​ ​but​ ​no​ ​one​ ​had​ ​been​ ​missing​ ​him.​ ​The​ ​woman​ ​hadn’t had​ ​any​ ​identification​ ​on​ ​her.​ ​The​ ​information​ ​that​ ​they​ ​had​ ​found​ ​had​ ​linked​ ​her​ ​to​ ​the​ ​name of​ ​a​ ​child​ ​who​ ​had​ ​died​ ​at​ ​birth,​ ​long​ ​ago.​ ​Soon​ ​the​ ​tests​ ​would​ ​return​ ​which​ ​would​ ​prove​ ​that the​ ​detective’s​ ​worst​ ​fears​ ​were​ ​confirmed.​ ​What​ ​if​ ​that​ ​woman​ ​had​ ​been​ ​this​ ​boy’s​ ​mother? Was​ ​there​ ​really​ ​no​ ​one​ ​who​ ​could​ ​say​ ​this​ ​child’s​ ​name​ ​and​ ​call​ ​his​ ​soul​ ​home​ ​to​ ​the​ ​frail​ ​body that​ ​barely​ ​had​ ​enough​ ​substance​ ​to​ ​rumple​ ​the​ ​sheets?​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​sighed​ ​heavily​ ​as​ ​he smoothed​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​through​ ​hair​ ​that​ ​was​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​greasy​ ​from​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​a​ ​shower.​ ​He​ ​should​ ​go home​ ​and​ ​take​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those​ ​or​ ​eat,​ ​maybe​ ​sleep​ ​if​ ​he​ ​could.
How​ ​was​ ​he​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​look​ ​into​ ​those​ ​big​ ​blue​ ​eyes​ ​and​ ​say​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​found​ ​a​ ​way to​ ​offer​ ​justice​ ​for​ ​what​ ​had​ ​been​ ​done.​ ​Even​ ​when​ ​the​ ​body​ ​healed,​ ​would​ ​this​ ​one’s​ ​mind ever​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​understand​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​tried,​ ​that​ ​he​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​give​ ​closure​ ​so​ ​that​ ​this​ ​boy could​ ​smile.​ ​He​ ​almost​ ​looked​ ​peaceful,​ ​almost.​ ​If​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​older,​ ​the​ ​soft​ ​furrow​ ​of​ ​distress that​ ​marked​ ​his​ ​brow​ ​would​ ​have​ ​seemed​ ​more​ ​commonplace,​ ​but​ ​in​ ​someone​ ​so​ ​young,​ ​it made​ ​the​ ​child​ ​before​ ​him​ ​feel​ ​even​ ​more​ ​tragic.​ ​What​ ​had​ ​he​ ​been​ ​like​ ​before?​ ​Would​ ​he​ ​ever be​ ​that​ ​boy​ ​again?
The​ ​detective​ ​turned​ ​as​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​a​ ​presence​ ​behind​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​thought​ ​he​ ​saw​ ​something​ ​dark​ ​out of​ ​the​ ​corner​ ​of​ ​his​ ​eye,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​someone​ ​had​ ​just​ ​left​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​Had​ ​someone​ ​been standing​ ​behind​ ​him?​ ​He​ ​stepped​ ​to​ ​the​ ​door​ ​and​ ​slowly​ ​opened​ ​it.​ ​It​ ​hadn’t​ ​been​ ​latched.​ ​He thought​ ​he​ ​remembered​ ​pulling​ ​it​ ​so​ ​that​ ​it​ ​latched​ ​behind​ ​him​ ​when​ ​he​ ​had​ ​arrived.​ ​Though his​ ​eyes​ ​found​ ​no​ ​one​ ​in​ ​the​ ​hall,​ ​he​ ​glanced​ ​back​ ​and​ ​forth​ ​twice​ ​to​ ​be​ ​sure,​ ​before​ ​he​ ​realized he​ ​must​ ​be​ ​mistaken.​ ​Perhaps​ ​it​ ​was​ ​only​ ​his​ ​exhaustion.​ ​He​ ​should​ ​leave.
He​ ​turned​ ​one​ ​last​ ​time​ ​to​ ​look​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​form​ ​in​ ​the​ ​bed.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​widened​ ​as​ ​he​ ​found​ ​they weren’t​ ​alone.​ ​Pale​ ​fingers​ ​gently​ ​smoothed​ ​dark​ ​hair​ ​from​ ​a​ ​troubled​ ​brow.​ ​Something​ ​was wrong​ ​with​ ​the​ ​man’s​ ​eyes​ ​as​ ​they​ ​gazed​ ​down​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​in​ ​the​ ​bed.​ ​Something​ ​was​ ​wrong with​ ​the​ ​far​ ​side​ ​of​ ​his​ ​face…​ ​his​ ​clothes​ ​which​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​hang​ ​from​ ​him​ ​as​ ​though​ ​they​ ​were gently​ ​suspended​ ​in​ ​water​ ​and​ ​made​ ​of​ ​something​ ​only​ ​slightly​ ​heavier​ ​than​ ​smoke.​ ​Something was​ ​so​ ​very​ ​wrong​ ​with​ ​this​ ​person​ ​despite​ ​that​ ​he​ ​bore​ ​the​ ​same​ ​foreign​ ​beauty​ ​that​ ​the​ ​boy in​ ​the​ ​bed​ ​had.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​was​ ​gripped​ ​with​ ​the​ ​wish​ ​to​ ​run​ ​just​ ​as​ ​quickly​ ​as​ ​he​ ​was​ ​the rush​ ​to​ ​step​ ​closer,​ ​so​ ​he​ ​chose​ ​to​ ​remain​ ​stone​ ​still​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​doing​ ​either.​ ​He​ ​saw​ ​the​ ​boy take​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​breath​ ​and​ ​finally​ ​the​ ​furrow​ ​relaxed​ ​so​ ​that​ ​he​ ​was​ ​only​ ​young​ ​again.​ ​The​ ​pale hand​ ​slowly​ ​withdrew​ ​and​ ​the​ ​dark​ ​figure​ ​straightened.​ ​Eyes​ ​that​ ​glowed​ ​like​ ​arctic​ ​ice​ ​finally rose​ ​and​ ​met​ ​those​ ​of​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​who​ ​was​ ​just​ ​beginning​ ​to​ ​realize​ ​he​ ​barred​ ​the​ ​only​ ​exit. Sumptuous​ ​lips​ ​pushed​ ​together​ ​as​ ​the​ ​creature​ ​squared​ ​off,​ ​shifting​ ​the​ ​most​ ​infinitesimal amount.
“Elia…”​ ​the​ ​creature​ ​spoke​ ​in​ ​a​ ​whisper​ ​that​ ​sounded​ ​like​ ​shifting​ ​leaves​ ​on​ ​a​ ​forest​ ​floor.​ ​His lips​ ​appeared​ ​to​ ​move​ ​purposefully​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​were​ ​unused​ ​to​ ​pronouncing​ ​the​ ​word,​ ​the name.​ ​He​ ​looked​ ​to​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​in​ ​the​ ​bed​ ​and​ ​let​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​stray​ ​back​ ​toward​ ​him,​ ​indicating​ ​the child​ ​who​ ​finally​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​peacefully​ ​sleeping.
“Elia,​ ​is​ ​that​ ​his​ ​name?”​ ​Could​ ​it​ ​be​ ​true?​ ​All​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​received​ ​was​ ​a​ ​gentle​ ​nod​ ​before​ ​the figure​ ​dissolved​ ​into​ ​shadowed​ ​wisps​ ​of​ ​smoke.
“Elia.”​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​said​ ​it​ ​again​ ​as​ ​he​ ​blinked​ ​in​ ​surprise​ ​before​ ​he​ ​stepped​ ​forward,​ ​more relieved​ ​to​ ​have​ ​some​ ​clue​ ​about​ ​the​ ​child​ ​than​ ​immediately​ ​worried​ ​about​ ​what​ ​just happened.​ ​”Elia,​ ​Elia​ ​come​ ​back.​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​to​ ​you.​ ​Elia​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​fix​ ​this​ ​without​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​want​ ​you to​ ​heal.​ ​I​ ​want​ ​you​ ​to​ ​be​ ​well.​ ​Please​ ​Elia,​ ​let​ ​me​ ​make​ ​this​ ​right.”
He​ ​would​ ​be​ ​the​ ​one​ ​to​ ​say​ ​that​ ​name​ ​if​ ​no​ ​one​ ​else​ ​would.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​find​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to​ ​make​ ​this better.

*​ ​*​ ​*

“Elia?​ ​Elia!​ ​Where​ ​are​ ​you​ ​darling?​ ​It’s​ ​time​ ​to​ ​go.”​ ​Maybe​ ​he​ ​hadn’t​ ​heard​ ​her​ ​at​ ​first.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​by​ ​no  means​ ​late,​ ​but​ ​if​ ​they​ ​didn’t​ ​go​ ​now,​ ​dinner​ ​would​ ​be.​ ​Why​ ​wasn’t​ ​he​ ​responding?​ ​Had​ ​something  happened?
“Excuse​ ​me,​ ​but​ ​are​ ​you​ ​this​ ​one’s​ ​mom?”
She​ ​wheeled​ ​around​ ​to​ ​find​ ​a​ ​blonde​​ ​woman​ ​with​ ​a​ ​pleasant​ ​expression​ ​and​ ​a​ ​hand​ ​on​ ​each​ ​shoulder​ ​of  the​ ​very​ ​thing​ ​she​ ​was​ ​searching​ ​for.​ ​He​ ​wasn’t​ ​meeting​ ​her​ ​gaze.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​dirty,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been rolling​ ​on​ ​the​ ​bark​ ​and​ ​earth​ ​and​ ​she​ ​instantly​ ​scowled​ ​at​ ​the​ ​look​ ​of​ ​distress​ ​that​ ​crossed​ ​his​ ​features. Then​ ​he​ ​looked​ ​up​ ​and​ ​a​ ​smile​ ​bloomed​ ​upon​ ​his​ ​face.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​as​ ​though​ ​nothing​ ​but​ ​the​ ​dirt​ ​had  happened,​ ​even​ ​though​ ​she​ ​had​ ​been​ ​sure​ ​just​ ​moments​ ​before​ ​that​ ​something​ ​was​ ​wrong.
“Mommy!​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​time​ ​to​ ​go​ ​home?”​ ​Elia​ ​stepped​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​woman​ ​who​ ​had​ ​guided​ ​him​ ​to​ ​her​ ​and  into​ ​a​ ​hug​ ​that​ ​she​ ​returned.
“Thank​ ​you.”​ ​Sabyn​ ​offered​ ​a​ ​half​ ​smile​ ​to​ ​the​ ​woman​ ​who​ ​had​ ​returned​ ​him​ ​to​ ​her.
“It’s​ ​no​ ​trouble.​ ​My​ ​girls​ ​are​ ​pretty​ ​rough​ ​and​ ​tumble​ ​too​ ​so​ ​don’t​ ​be​ ​too​​ ​hard​ ​on​ ​her.​ ​They​ ​play​ ​hard.”
“Yes,​ ​and​ ​apparently​ ​boys​ ​worse​ ​than​ ​girls.”​ ​She​ ​chuckled​ ​softly​ ​until​ ​she​ ​felt​ ​the​ ​slight​ ​flinch​ ​from​ ​the  child​ ​in​ ​her​ ​arms​ ​and​ ​instinctively​ ​moved​ ​to​ ​smooth​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​the​ ​way​ ​she​ ​always​ ​did​ ​when​ ​she​ ​was  comforting​ ​him.​ ​”He’ll​ ​be​ ​fine​ ​after​ ​a​ ​bath​ ​and​ ​some​ ​food.”
“He…​ ​I’m​ ​so​ ​sorry.​ ​I​ ​thought…​ ​because​ ​of​ ​the​ ​long​ ​hair​ ​and…​ ​he…”​ ​The​ ​woman​ ​was​ ​nearly​ ​stuttering​ ​and  was​ ​flushed​ ​when​ ​Sabyn​ ​looked​ ​up.​ ​She​ ​swallowed​ ​hard​ ​before​ ​she​ ​continued.​ ​”He’s​ ​just​ ​such​ ​a​ ​beautiful  child.”
“It’s​ ​alright.​ ​Really.​ ​This​ ​happens​ ​all​ ​the​ ​time.”

*​ ​*​ ​*

“Sir,​ ​might​ ​I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​word​ ​with​ ​you​ ​before​ ​you​ ​go.”​ ​The​ ​doctor​ ​pushed​ ​his​ ​glasses​ ​up​ ​and​ ​cleared his​ ​throat​ ​before​ ​letting​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​rise​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​the​ ​steely​ ​gaze​ ​of​ ​the​ ​detective.
“Have​ ​you​ ​found​ ​something​ ​new?”​ ​The​ ​detective’s​ ​tone​ ​was​ ​far​ ​lighter​ ​than​ ​he​ ​meant​ ​for​ ​it​ ​to be.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​not​ ​looking​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​his​ ​return​ ​to​ ​the​ ​office.​ ​At​ ​least​ ​here​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​he​ ​was​ ​doing something​ ​useful.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​justify​ ​his​ ​time​ ​spent​ ​by​ ​telling​ ​himself​ ​it​ ​was​ ​good​ ​for​ ​the​ ​boy.​ ​No one​ ​else​ ​even​ ​called​ ​him​ ​by​ ​name.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​close​ ​to​ ​finding​ ​out​ ​once​ ​and​ ​for​ ​all​ ​what​ ​that​ ​was.
“He’s​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​moved​ ​and​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​you​ ​to​ ​be​ ​the​ ​first​ ​to​ ​know.​ ​You​ ​have​ ​seemed​ ​more invested​ ​in​ ​this​ ​case​ ​than​ ​anybody​ ​else.​ ​His​ ​care​ ​will​ ​be​ ​continued​ ​at​ ​an​ ​institution​ ​more befitting​ ​his​ ​condition.”​ ​The​ ​doctor​ ​looked​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​was​ ​momentarily​ ​struck​ ​with​ ​guilt.
“Moved​ ​but…”
“His​ ​condition​ ​is​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​repairable​ ​with​ ​physical​ ​care​ ​so​ ​he​ ​will​ ​be​ ​referred​ ​to​ ​one​ ​of​ ​our sister​ ​facilities​ ​that​ ​specialize​ ​in​ ​mental​ ​illness​ ​and​ ​disability​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​continued​ ​care​ ​until​ ​he can​ ​be​ ​sorted​ ​out.”
The​ ​detective’s​ ​brow​ ​creased​ ​sharply.​ ​”You​ ​mean​ ​he’s​ ​going​ ​to​ ​a​ ​convalescent​ ​home​ ​where​ ​he’s expected​ ​to​ ​die.​ ​What​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​the​ ​other​ ​tests​ ​you​ ​were​ ​going​ ​to​ ​run?​ ​What​ ​happened​ ​to the​ ​records​ ​you​ ​were​ ​going​ ​to​ ​find,​ ​his​ ​birth​ ​certificate,​ ​something?​ ​What​ ​about​ ​his​ ​physical injuries?​ ​He’s​ ​just​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​left​ ​to​ ​rot​ ​in​ ​some​ ​place​ ​surrounded​ ​by​ ​death​ ​and​ ​you’re​ ​okay with​ ​never​ ​knowing​ ​what​ ​happened?”​ ​
The​ ​detective​ ​had​ ​become​ ​animated.​ ​It​ ​felt​ ​like something​ ​was​ ​afoot.​ ​Wheels​ ​were​ ​turning​ ​that​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​see​ ​and​ ​he​ ​was​ ​becoming​ ​trapped in​ ​the​ ​mechanism​ ​of​ ​a​ ​machine​ ​that​ ​was​ ​too​ ​large​ ​for​ ​him​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​details​ ​of.
“It’s​ ​not​ ​a​ ​matter​ ​if​ ​that.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​a​ ​ward​ ​of​ ​the​ ​state.​ ​With​ ​no​ ​living​ ​mother​ ​or​ ​father​ ​he…”
“A​ ​ward​ ​of​ ​the​ ​state?​ ​This​ ​is​ ​bullshit!”
“This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​something​ ​that​ ​I​ ​recommended.”
“Not​ ​something​ ​you​ ​recommended​ ​but​ ​not​ ​something​ ​you’re​ ​fighting​ ​either!​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​the​ ​tests would​ ​give​ ​us​ ​some​ ​clue​ ​that​ ​he​ ​is​ ​still​ ​in​ ​there.​ ​He’s​ ​the​ ​only​ ​lead​ ​I​ ​have!”
“Keep​ ​your​ ​voice​ ​down​ ​and​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​ran​ ​the​ ​tests​ ​and​ ​that’s​ ​why​ ​he’s​ ​being​ ​moved.”
“What?”
“He’s​ ​still​ ​in​ ​there​ ​and​ ​very​ ​much​ ​alive.​ ​He’s​ ​never​ ​been​ ​on​ ​life​ ​support,​ ​not​ ​this​ ​entire​ ​time.​ ​His body​ ​rejects​ ​all​ ​pain​ ​medications,​ ​all​ ​medications​ ​of​ ​any​ ​kind​ ​within​ ​minutes,​ ​hours​ ​at​ ​best,​ ​and he’s​ ​been​ ​physically​ ​healed​ ​since​ ​the​ ​second​ ​day​ ​he​ ​was​ ​here.​ ​Something​ ​happened​ ​that​ ​night you​ ​were​ ​here​ ​so​ ​late​ ​and​ ​he’s​ ​been​ ​physically​ ​perfect​ ​since.​ ​His​ ​birth​ ​certificate​ ​does​ ​list​ ​his legal​ ​name​ ​as​ ​Elia.​ ​It’s​ ​Elia​ ​Darkstar,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​different​ ​than​ ​his​ ​mother’s​ ​name.​ ​You​ ​were​ ​right about​ ​that​ ​much​ ​which​ ​is​ ​only​ ​minimally​ ​odd​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​everything​ ​else​ ​about​ ​him.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​a hidden​ ​strand​ ​within​ ​his​ ​DNA​ ​but​ ​everything,​ ​everything​ ​I​ ​did​ ​has​ ​been​ ​taken​ ​and​ ​if​ ​anyone finds​ ​out​ ​i​ ​told​ ​you​ ​any​ ​bit​ ​of​ ​this…​ ​They​ ​can’t​ ​take​ ​him​ ​from​ ​you​ ​though.​ ​You​ ​could​ ​go​ ​public with​ ​what​ ​you​ ​already​ ​have,​ ​so​ ​you​ ​stay​ ​with​ ​him.​ ​You​ ​may​ ​be​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​who​ ​ever​ ​wants him​ ​to​ ​wake​ ​up.​ ​You​ ​may​ ​be​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​who​ ​ever​ ​finds​ ​out​ ​what​ ​he​ ​is​ ​because​ ​I​ ​certainly won’t​ ​and​ ​I​ ​think​ ​you’re​ ​the​ ​only​ ​reason​ ​he​ ​hasn’t​ ​just​ ​disappeared​ ​into​ ​the​ ​system​ ​so​ ​someone else​ ​can​ ​dismantle​ ​him​ ​before​ ​he​ ​opens​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​again.”​ ​The​ ​doctor’s​ ​voice​ ​had​ ​been​ ​nothing more​ ​than​ ​an​ ​impassioned​ ​whisper.​ ​His​ ​fists​ ​clenched​ ​as​ ​he​ ​went​ ​silent​ ​in​ ​an​ ​attempt​ ​to​ ​hide shaking​ ​hands.​
​That​ ​night…​ ​that​ ​night​ ​he​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​an​ ​apparition.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​since​ ​blamed​ ​it​ ​on exhaustion.​ ​It​ ​hadn’t​ ​happened.​ ​But​ ​the​ ​doctor​ ​said​ ​that​ ​something​ ​had​ ​happened.​ ​He​ ​had been​ ​told​ ​the​ ​boy’s​ ​name​ ​by​ ​someone​ ​who​ ​had​ ​known​ ​who​ ​Elia​ ​was.​ ​Could​ ​that​ ​person​ ​have done​ ​something​ ​to​ ​Elia,​ ​something​ ​that​ ​would​ ​explain​ ​what​ ​the​ ​doctor​ ​was​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​him?
He​ ​would​ ​follow​ ​him.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​had​ ​sworn​ ​since​ ​that​ ​first​ ​night​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be​ ​there when​ ​Elia​ ​opened​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​for​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​know​ ​what​ ​his​ ​voice​ ​sounded​ ​like and​ ​he​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​beg​ ​the​ ​boy’s​ ​forgiveness​ ​for​ ​not​ ​having​ ​found​ ​him​ ​sooner.​ ​Then​ ​the​ ​world caught​ ​up​ ​with​ ​him​ ​and​ ​he​ ​fought​ ​to​ ​find​ ​his​ ​voice.
“Is​ ​Elia​ ​even​ ​human?”​ ​Of​ ​course​ ​he​ ​was.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​to​ ​be.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​a​ ​child​ ​born​ ​to​ ​a​ ​mother,​ ​but​ ​his father…​ ​what​ ​if​ ​that​ ​apparition​ ​had​ ​been​ ​his​ ​father?
“I​ ​can’t​ ​tell​ ​you​ ​for​ ​sure.​ ​He​ ​is…​ ​more​ ​than​ ​human.​ ​Look​ ​at​ ​him.​ ​Look​ ​hard​ ​when​ ​you​ ​sit​ ​with him.​ ​Does​ ​he​ ​look​ ​like​ ​a​ ​normal​ ​human​ ​boy​ ​to​ ​you?​ ​I​ ​think…​ ​I​ ​think​ ​we​ ​stumbled​ ​on​ ​to something​ ​here,​ ​something​ ​far​ ​bigger​ ​than​ ​that​ ​serial​ ​killer.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​Elia​ ​is​ ​human,​ ​but​ ​also something​ ​else.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​I​ ​could​ ​confirm​ ​that​ ​if​ ​I​ ​had​ ​the​ ​mother’s​ ​body,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​was​ ​taken​ ​away before​ ​I​ ​could​ ​find​ ​more​ ​than​ ​that​ ​they​ ​shared​ ​the​ ​same​ ​DNA​ ​and​ ​were​ ​most​ ​definitely related, that​ ​she​ ​was​ ​his​ ​mother.”
“Why​ ​would​ ​the​ ​body​ ​be​ ​taken​ ​anywhere​ ​when​ ​I​ ​haven’t​ ​finished​ ​the​ ​case?​ ​It​ ​never​ ​should have​ ​been​ ​touched.​ ​I​ ​haven’t​ ​even​ ​scratched​ ​the​ ​surface​ ​of​ ​this.​ ​What​ ​if​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​recover​ ​the bodies​ ​of​ ​the​ ​other​ ​kids​ ​that​ ​man​ ​killed?​ ​What​ ​will​ ​I​ ​tell​ ​that​ ​boy​ ​when​ ​he​ ​wakes​ ​up​ ​and​ ​wants to​ ​know​ ​what​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​him,​ ​to​ ​his​ ​mother?”
“Nothing.​ ​You​ ​tell​ ​him​ ​nothing​ ​because​ ​he​ ​already​ ​should​ ​know​ ​that​ ​she’s​ ​dead.​ ​He​ ​saw​ ​it before​ ​you​ ​did​ ​undoubtedly.​ ​You​ ​won’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​him​ ​anything​ ​because​ ​Elia​ ​has​ ​all​ ​the answers.​ ​You​ ​just​ ​keep​ ​him​ ​in​ ​your​ ​sights.​ ​No​ ​matter​ ​what,​ ​don’t​ ​lose​ ​him​ ​if​ ​you​ ​want​ ​to​ ​know the​ ​truth.​ ​They​ ​will​ ​give​ ​him​ ​physical​ ​therapy​ ​and​ ​care​ ​for​ ​him​ ​like​ ​any​ ​other​ ​non​ ​responsive patient.​ ​So​ ​long​ ​as​ ​they​ ​believe​ ​that​ ​he​ ​still​ ​has​ ​ties​ ​to​ ​you​ ​they​ ​will​ ​keep​ ​things​ ​looking​ ​normal and​ ​try​ ​wait​ ​you​ ​out,​ ​and​ ​you,​ ​you​ ​might​ ​get​ ​some​ ​answers​ ​if​ ​you​ ​just​ ​stay​ ​with​ ​him.”
The​ ​doctor​ ​briskly​ ​walked​ ​away​ ​looking​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​more​ ​agitated​ ​than​ ​he​ ​actually​ ​was.​ ​The​ ​detective scowled​ ​after​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​it​ ​was​ ​a​ ​show.​ ​Anyone​ ​watching​ ​would​ ​believe​ ​they​ ​had​ ​argued, not​ ​exchanged​ ​information.​ ​There​ ​couldn’t​ ​be​ ​this​ ​much​ ​deception​ ​surrounding​ ​one unconscious​ ​child.​ ​There​ ​couldn’t​ ​possibly​ ​be​ ​anyone​ ​who​ ​would​ ​make​ ​Elia​ ​disappear,​ ​right?
He​ ​passed​ ​through​ ​the​ ​door​ ​and​ ​into​ ​the​ ​quiet​ ​room.​ ​There​ ​he​ ​was,​ ​as​ ​pale​ ​and​ ​frail​ ​as​ ​he​ ​had been​ ​the​ ​day​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​first​ ​laid​ ​eyes​ ​on​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​an​ ​IV​ ​going​ ​to​ ​one​ ​arm​ ​that​ ​was​ ​taped at​ ​his​ ​elbow.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​remained​ ​closed.​ ​He​ ​looked​ ​almost​ ​peaceful,​ ​almost.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​a​ ​nearly imperceptible​ ​crease​ ​that​ ​marked​ ​his​ ​features​ ​in​ ​a​ ​vague​ ​feeling​ ​of​ ​distress.​ ​The​ ​detective sighed​ ​as​ ​he​ ​sat​ ​in​ ​the​ ​chair​ ​by​ ​his​ ​bed.
“How​ ​are​ ​you​ ​today,​ ​Elia?​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​you​ ​have​ ​been​ ​well.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​had​ ​a​ ​rather​ ​uninteresting​ ​day myself,​ ​right​ ​up​ ​until​ ​I​ ​got​ ​here.​ ​You​ ​know,​ ​I​ ​heard​ ​that​ ​they​ ​are​ ​going​ ​to​ ​move​ ​you​ ​because you’re​ ​doing​ ​so​ ​well.​ ​That​ ​makes​ ​me​ ​happy;​ ​that​ ​you’re​ ​doing​ ​well,​ ​but​ ​not​ ​that​ ​you​ ​are​ ​going to​ ​be​ ​someplace​ ​else.​ ​Don’t​ ​worry​ ​though,​ ​I’ll​ ​still​ ​come​ ​visit​ ​you​ ​each​ ​and​ ​every​ ​day.​ ​I’m​ ​going to​ ​have​ ​to​ ​start​ ​bringing​ ​my​ ​case​ ​files​ ​with​ ​me.​ ​You​ ​wouldn’t​ ​mind​ ​that​ ​would​ ​you?​ ​I​ ​thought not.​ ​I​ ​really​ ​wish​ ​you’d…​ ​you’d​ ​talk​ ​to​ ​me…”​ ​The​ ​detective’s​ ​face​ ​momentarily​ ​contorted​ ​in pain.​ ​When​ ​he​ ​continued,​ ​his​ ​tone​ ​was​ ​light.​ ​He​ ​hoped​ ​that​ ​somehow,​ ​some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​this​ ​was getting​ ​through.​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​not​ ​known​ ​him​ ​before​ ​but​ ​he​ ​hoped​ ​that​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​someone saying​ ​his​ ​name​ ​in​ ​a​ ​caring​ ​way​ ​would​ ​be​ ​enough.​ ​Then​ ​it​ ​dawned​ ​on​ ​him;​ ​the​ ​words​ ​the​ ​doctor had​ ​said​ ​quietly​ ​played​ ​in​ ​his​ ​mind​ ​as​ ​he​ ​sat,​ ​talking​ ​about…​ ​anything.
Was​ ​Elia​ ​really​ ​different​ ​from​ ​any​ ​other​ ​normal​ ​boy?​ ​Sure​ ​he​ ​was​ ​delicate.​ ​Even​ ​healthy,​ ​his small​ ​long​ ​build​ ​gave​ ​him​ ​a​ ​foreign​ ​quality.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​pale,​ ​though​ ​not​ ​so​ ​much​ ​that​ ​he​ ​appeared to​ ​be​ ​ill.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​a​ ​small​ ​overbite​ ​which​ ​was​ ​accentuated​ ​by​ ​lips​ ​that​ ​looked​ ​as​ ​though​ ​they​ ​had been​ ​stained​ ​by​ ​strawberries,​ ​wine​ ​if​ ​he’d​ ​been​ ​older.​ ​Freckles​ ​covered​ ​his​ ​cheeks​ ​and​ ​the bridge​ ​of​ ​his​ ​nose.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​probably​ ​outgrow​ ​those.​ ​His​ ​dark​ ​hair​ ​framed​ ​his​ ​face​ ​in​ ​long lustrous​ ​silk​ ​that​ ​had​ ​only​ ​the​ ​slightest​ ​hint​ ​of​ ​warmth​ ​to​ ​it.​ ​All​ ​of​ ​these​ ​things​ ​were​ ​things​ ​that a​ ​normal​ ​boy​ ​could​ ​have,​ ​even​ ​the​ ​androgyny​ ​because​ ​of​ ​how​ ​slight​ ​he​ ​was,​ ​how​ ​stark​ ​the contrast​ ​between​ ​his​ ​freckles​ ​and​ ​the​ ​rose​ ​of​ ​his​ ​cheeks,​ ​and​ ​how​ ​gentle​ ​his​ ​features​ ​were, even​ ​when​ ​marked​ ​with​ ​the​ ​hint​ ​of​ ​some​ ​secret​ ​suffering.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​a​ ​normal​ ​boy!​ ​He​ ​was!​ ​There was​ ​no​ ​reason​ ​to​ ​think​ ​otherwise​ ​based​ ​on​ ​his​ ​appearance.​ ​So​ ​what​ ​was​ ​the​ ​doctor​ ​talking about?
For​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time​ ​since​ ​he​ ​had​ ​come​ ​to​ ​be​ ​in​ ​this​ ​room,​ ​shared​ ​it​ ​with​ ​him,​ ​he​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​feel that​ ​Elia​ ​was​ ​really​ ​there.​ ​If​ ​he​ ​was​ ​real​ ​he​ ​would​ ​feel​ ​it,​ ​know​ ​it​ ​in​ ​his​ ​bones.​ ​Hesitantly,​ ​he stretched​ ​his​ ​fingers​ ​towards​ ​black​ ​hair​ ​until​ ​they​ ​smoothed​ ​dark​ ​silky​ ​strands​ ​away​ ​from​ ​a young​ ​face.​ ​How​ ​could​ ​anyone​ ​have​ ​hurt​ ​this​ ​child?​ ​His​ ​stomach​ ​turned​ ​at​ ​the​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​it.​ ​He tried​ ​to​ ​be​ ​soothing,​ ​like​ ​he​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​the​ ​apparition​ ​be,​ ​and​ ​watched​ ​as​ ​Elia’s​ ​expression changed​ ​ever​ ​so​ ​slightly.​ ​If​ ​he​ ​was​ ​reacting​ ​this​ ​much,​ ​why​ ​wasn’t​ ​he​ ​opening​ ​his​ ​eyes?​ ​Why hadn’t​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​thought​ ​to​ ​do​ ​this​ ​before?​ ​Wasn’t​ ​there​ ​a​ ​nurse​ ​or​ ​something​ ​who​ ​cared that​ ​this​ ​boy​ ​was​ ​alone,​ ​like​ ​this,​ ​lost​ ​inside​ ​his​ ​own​ ​frail​ ​form?​ ​He​ ​couldn’t​ ​be​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​who touched​ ​him​ ​in​ ​a​ ​caring​ ​way.​ ​It​ ​broke​ ​his​ ​heart​ ​to​ ​think​ ​it.​ ​His​ ​hand​ ​slipped​ ​away​ ​as​ ​Elia’s​ ​lips parted​ ​and​ ​he​ ​took​ ​what​ ​may​ ​have​ ​been​ ​a​ ​contented​ ​sigh.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​just​ ​a​ ​boy,​ ​just​ ​like​ ​any other,​ ​but​ ​then​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​noticed​ ​something​ ​he​ ​hadn’t​ ​noticed​ ​before.​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​an​ ​overbite, not​ ​unusual,​ ​until​ ​you​ ​came​ ​upon​ ​canines​ ​that​ ​extended​ ​down​ ​far​ ​further​ ​than​ ​they​ ​should have.​ ​He​ ​should​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​edges​ ​of​ ​those​ ​teeth​ ​but​ ​he​ ​couldn’t.​ ​His​ ​canines​ ​were longer,​ ​like​ ​an​ ​animal’s.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​scowled​ ​and​ ​craned​ ​over.​ ​This​ ​could​ ​still​ ​be​ ​normal. There​ ​were​ ​all​ ​sorts​ ​of​ ​teeth​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world.​ ​It​ ​didn’t​ ​mean​ ​anything.​ ​Then​ ​he​ ​noticed​ ​the​ ​soft round​ ​of​ ​each​ ​ear​ ​that​ ​ended​ ​in​ ​a​ ​point​ ​at​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​tips.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​hidden​ ​by​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​but​ ​was unmistakable.​ ​The​ ​detective’s​ ​scowl​ ​deepened.​ ​​ ​What​ ​had​ ​the​ ​doctor​ ​found?

*​ ​*​ ​*

He​ ​was​ ​sitting​ ​in​ ​the​ ​chair,​ ​perfectly​ ​still,​ ​with​ ​the​ ​exception​ ​of​ ​the​ ​hand​ ​that​ ​moved​ ​across​ ​the​ ​page,​ ​a  color​ ​pencil​ ​gripped​ ​tightly​ ​within​ ​it.​ ​His​ ​hair​ ​was​ ​still​ ​wet​ ​but​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​much​ ​better.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​changed  into​ ​soft​ ​flannel​ ​the​ ​moment​ ​he​ ​stepped​ ​from​ ​his​ ​bath​ ​and​ ​had​ ​a​ ​blanket​ ​wrapped​ ​about​ ​his​ ​shoulders.  Now,​ ​he​ ​was​ ​just​ ​waiting​ ​for​ ​dinner​ ​to​ ​be​ ​ready​ ​and​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​unwind.
His​ ​eyes​ ​slipped​ ​closed​ ​as​ ​his​ ​pencil​ ​moved​ ​over​ ​the​ ​page.​ ​His​ ​expression​ ​changed​ ​to​ ​one​ ​of​ ​contentment​ ​as he​ ​called​ ​and​ ​heard​ ​the​ ​unmistakable​ ​answer,​ ​the​ ​rich​ ​whispered​ ​male​ ​voice​ ​who​ ​responded​ ​to​ ​him​ ​more than​ ​the​ ​others.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​they​ ​would​ ​be​ ​bound​ ​to​ ​each​ ​other,​ ​guardian​ ​and​ ​wolf.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to meet​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​owned​ ​the​ ​voice​ ​that​ ​whispered​ ​to​ ​his​ ​mind.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​know​ ​his​ ​name​ ​so​ ​that​ ​they could​ ​share​ ​in​ ​the​ ​joy​ ​of​ ​their​ ​bond​ ​and​ ​walk​ ​the​ ​many​ ​planes​ ​together.​ ​Elia​ ​began​ ​to​ ​gather​ ​himself within​ ​his​ ​own​ ​mind.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​had​ ​to​ ​do​ ​was​ ​ask.​ ​If​ ​he​ ​asked,​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​the​ ​voice​ ​would​ ​tell​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​would know​ ​the​ ​name​ ​he​ ​should​ ​call​ ​so​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​never​ ​be​ ​alone.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​had​ ​to​ ​do​ ​was​ ​put​ ​his​ ​intentions forward.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​be​ ​accepted​ ​so​ ​long​ ​as​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​falter.​ ​He​ ​couldn’t​ ​doubt…
The​ ​crash​ ​from​ ​beside​ ​him​ ​nearly​ ​made​ ​him​ ​jump​ ​out​ ​of​ ​his​ ​skin.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​and​ ​took​ ​a​ ​sharp​ ​breath​ ​as  his​ ​mother’s​ ​arm​ ​folded​ ​around​ ​him.​ ​What​ ​had​ ​happened?​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​found​ ​what​ ​had​ ​broken;​ ​a​ ​glass​ ​of  milk​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​smashed​ ​into​ ​a​ ​thousand​ ​pieces.
“Mom?”​ ​Elia’s​ ​eyes​ ​darted​ ​about​ ​his​ ​room,​ ​uncertain​ ​why​ ​his​ ​mom​ ​may​ ​have​ ​had​ ​such​ ​a​ ​response.​ ​He  nuzzled​ ​into​ ​her​ ​arm​ ​in​ ​an​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​comfort​ ​her.
“Where​ ​did​ ​you​ ​see​ ​that​ ​Elia?​ ​Where​ ​did​ ​you​ ​see​ ​this​ ​person?”​ ​She​ ​was​ ​crying​ ​into​ ​his​ ​hair.​ ​Elia​ ​didn’t  understand​ ​what​ ​she​ ​was​ ​talking​ ​about.​ ​Who​ ​was​ ​she​ ​talking​ ​about?​ ​Then​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​strayed​ ​down​ ​to​ ​the drawing.​ ​His​ ​fingers​ ​released​ ​the​ ​pencil​ ​and​ ​touched​ ​the​ ​features​ ​he​ ​had​ ​clearly​ ​drawn​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​page.​ ​Is that​ ​what​ ​he​ ​looked​ ​like?​ ​Had​ ​he​ ​drawn​ ​the​ ​face​ ​that​ ​matched​ ​that​ ​gentle​ ​voice​ ​that​ ​soothed​ ​the​ ​rough edges​ ​of​ ​his​ ​mind​ ​like​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​a​ ​breeze​ ​through​ ​leaves?​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​the​ ​answer​ ​and​ ​traced​ ​over​ ​his rough​ ​work​ ​another​ ​time,​ ​pursing​ ​his​ ​lips​ ​as​ ​he​ ​did​ ​so.​ ​His​ ​mom​ ​shouldn’t​ ​know​ ​who​ ​that​ ​was.​ ​It​ ​had  been​ ​his​ ​father​ ​who​ ​had​ ​the​ ​fae​ ​blood,​ ​so​ ​how​ ​did​ ​she​ ​know?

*​ ​*​ ​*

His​ ​hand​ ​rested​ ​on​ ​the​ ​files​ ​in​ ​the​ ​seat​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road​ ​for​ ​about​ ​twenty minutes​ ​and​ ​had​ ​twenty​ ​more​ ​before​ ​he​ ​reached​ ​his​ ​destination.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​made​ ​this​ ​trip,​ ​as promised,​ ​every​ ​day.​ ​He​ ​actually​ ​looked​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​the​ ​quiet,​ ​the​ ​peace​ ​that​ ​came​ ​with​ ​talking to​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​who​ ​waited.​ ​Elia’s​ ​condition​ ​was​ ​unchanged.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​think​ ​they​ ​were​ ​doing anything​ ​for​ ​him.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​much​ ​as​ ​the​ ​doctor​ ​said:​ ​they​ ​were​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​wait​ ​him​ ​out,​ ​see​ ​if​ ​he would​ ​lose​ ​interest​ ​and​ ​stop​ ​making​ ​the​ ​drive.​ ​That​ ​wasn’t​ ​going​ ​to​ ​happen.​ ​He’d​ ​given​ ​his word.​ ​This​ ​boy​ ​deserved​ ​an​ ​explanation​ ​when​ ​he​ ​woke​ ​up.​ ​This​ ​boy​ ​deserved​ ​to​ ​wake​ ​up. Whomever​ ​they​ ​were,​ ​he​ ​was​ ​not​ ​going​ ​to​ ​allow​ ​them​ ​to​ ​ferret​ ​this​ ​boy​ ​away​ ​and​ ​ensure​ ​those big​ ​blue​ ​eyes​ ​would​ ​never​ ​open​ ​again.​ ​It​ ​wasn’t​ ​going​ ​to​ ​happen.
He​ ​pulled​ ​away​ ​from​ ​a​ ​light​ ​and​ ​sighed.​ ​He​ ​needed​ ​a​ ​lead.​ ​He​ ​needed​ ​more​ ​than​ ​a​ ​name​ ​and smoke.​ ​He​ ​needed​ ​something​ ​substantial​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​wrap​ ​his​ ​fingers​ ​around.​ ​The​ ​case​ ​ran through​ ​his​ ​mind​ ​over​ ​and​ ​over,​ ​like​ ​a​ ​gruesome​ ​carousel.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​even​ ​more​ ​questions​ ​now,​ ​so many​ ​more​ ​questions.
The​ ​car​ ​passed​ ​below​ ​the​ ​stone​ ​arches,​ ​through​ ​the​ ​iron​ ​gate,​ ​and​ ​pulled​ ​up​ ​to​ ​a​ ​booth​ ​and​ ​a guard​ ​that​ ​had​ ​a​ ​bar​ ​which​ ​blocked​ ​his​ ​path.​ ​He​ ​frowned​ ​as​ ​the​ ​guard​ ​asked​ ​him​ ​for identification​ ​and​ ​then​ ​again​ ​when​ ​it​ ​was​ ​checked​ ​against​ ​a​ ​list.​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​they​ ​do​ ​this​ ​every single​ ​time?​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​there​ ​every​ ​day.
His​ ​identification​ ​was​ ​returned​ ​and​ ​he​ ​slowly​ ​pulled​ ​through​ ​when​ ​the​ ​guard​ ​cleared​ ​the​ ​way. He​ ​shook​ ​his​ ​head​ ​as​ ​he​ ​collected​ ​the​ ​files​ ​from​ ​the​ ​seat​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​nearly​ ​a​ ​year and​ ​he​ ​was​ ​still​ ​being​ ​treated​ ​the​ ​same​ ​way​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​the​ ​first​ ​day​ ​he​ ​passed​ ​beneath that​ ​arch.​ ​He​ ​hadn’t​ ​expected​ ​a​ ​warm​ ​welcome​ ​but​ ​he​ ​had​ ​perhaps​ ​expected​ ​a​ ​little​ ​more​ ​than this.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​through​ ​the​ ​doors​ ​and​ ​two​ ​of​ ​the​ ​three​ ​check​ ​points​ ​without​ ​even​ ​thinking.​ ​The only​ ​good​ ​thing​ ​about​ ​this​ ​place​ ​was​ ​the​ ​view​ ​and​ ​the​ ​child​ ​that​ ​waited​ ​for​ ​him.​ ​No​ ​one​ ​could possibly​ ​heal​ ​here.
Another​ ​patient​ ​bumped​ ​into​ ​him​ ​on​ ​their​ ​way​ ​past​ ​and​ ​mumbled​ ​something​ ​unintelligible before​ ​being​ ​collected​ ​by​ ​a​ ​nurse.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​almost​ ​there.​ ​He​ ​rounded​ ​a​ ​corner​ ​and​ ​passed​ ​two closed​ ​doors​ ​before​ ​stopping​ ​in​ ​front​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​that​ ​was​ ​his​ ​destination.​ ​Maybe​ ​something would​ ​be​ ​different​ ​today.​ ​Maybe​ ​there​ ​would​ ​be​ ​some​ ​sign​ ​that​ ​this​ ​had​ ​all​ ​happened​ ​for​ ​a reason.​ ​He​ ​took​ ​a​ ​breath​ ​and​ ​turned​ ​the​ ​knob,​ ​letting​ ​himself​ ​into​ ​the​ ​room​ ​before​ ​he​ ​allowed his​ ​eyes​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​bed​ ​where​ ​Elia​ ​lay.​ ​His​ ​blood​ ​went​ ​cold​ ​in​ ​his​ ​veins.​ ​Gone!
The​ ​folders​ ​almost​ ​fell​ ​from​ ​his​ ​hands​ ​as​ ​he​ ​fled​ ​the​ ​room​ ​without​ ​even​ ​closing​ ​the​ ​door​ ​behind him.​ ​He​ ​all​ ​but​ ​flew​ ​to​ ​the​ ​nearest​ ​nurses’​ ​station.​ ​There​ ​had​ ​to​ ​be​ ​some​ ​explanation.​ ​Dread seized​ ​his​ ​heart​ ​as​ ​the​ ​woman​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​counter​ ​blinked​ ​up​ ​at​ ​him.
“Where​ ​is​ ​he?”
“Sir,​ ​you’re​ ​going​ ​to​ ​have​ ​to​ ​calm​ ​down​ ​before​ ​I​ ​can​ ​help​ ​you.”
Calm​ ​down.​ ​Calm​ ​down?​ ​Each​ ​moment​ ​that​ ​ticked​ ​by​ ​Elia​ ​could​ ​be​ ​further​ ​away,​ ​closer​ ​to​ ​being truly​ ​lost.​ ​He​ ​couldn’t​ ​become​ ​calm.​ ​“Where​ ​has​ ​Elia​ ​Darkstar​ ​been​ ​moved,​ ​please?”
That​ ​was​ ​as​ ​good​ ​as​ ​she​ ​was​ ​going​ ​to​ ​get​ ​and​ ​she​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​somehow​ ​know​ ​that.​ ​Slowly​ ​she turned​ ​to​ ​a​ ​clipboard​ ​and​ ​began​ ​to​ ​leaf​ ​through​ ​its​ ​pages.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​taking​ ​every​ ​ounce​ ​of​ ​his​ ​being to​ ​not​ ​snatch​ ​it​ ​from​ ​her​ ​and​ ​look​ ​at​ ​it​ ​himself,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​would​ ​have​ ​if​ ​he​ ​thought​ ​he​ ​could decipher​ ​what​ ​those​ ​pages​ ​told​ ​her.​ ​Her​ ​finger​ ​slid​ ​across​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​pages​ ​before​ ​she​ ​reached for​ ​a​ ​book​ ​that​ ​was​ ​beneath​ ​her​ ​counter.​ ​He​ ​took​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​breath​ ​and​ ​let​ ​it​ ​out,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​temper jangled​ ​nerves​ ​and​ ​swallow​ ​the​ ​growing​ ​constriction​ ​in​ ​his​ ​chest.
Then​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​it.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​as​ ​though​ ​a​ ​cool​ ​breeze​ ​had​ ​entered​ ​and​ ​the​ ​pressure​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room​ ​around him​ ​changed.​ ​The​ ​woman​ ​before​ ​him​ ​didn’t​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​notice,​ ​but​ ​he​ ​shivered​ ​before​ ​he​ ​turned toward​ ​the​ ​hallway​ ​he​ ​had​ ​come​ ​from.​ ​There,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​lingering​ ​shadows​ ​that​ ​the​ ​florescent​ ​lights couldn’t​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​budge,​ ​stood​ ​a​ ​figure.​ ​His​ ​breath​ ​caught​ ​in​ ​his​ ​throat​ ​as​ ​his​ ​feet​ ​turned, carrying​ ​him​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​woman​ ​and​ ​her​ ​books,​ ​the​ ​spot​ ​of​ ​brightest​ ​light​ ​that​ ​now​ ​seemed garish​ ​and​ ​painful​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​the​ ​looming​ ​dusk​ ​before​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​hear​ ​the​ ​woman​ ​who called​ ​after​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​see​ ​the​ ​doors​ ​he​ ​passed​ ​or​ ​the​ ​lights​ ​going​ ​dim,​ ​as​ ​if​ ​to accommodate​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​walked​ ​before​ ​him.​ ​How​ ​had​ ​it​ ​become​ ​so​ ​dark?​ ​It​ ​hadn’t​ ​even been​ ​overcast​ ​when​ ​he​ ​arrived.
The​ ​garments​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​before​ ​him​ ​flowed​ ​about​ ​him​ ​as​ ​he​ ​walked,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​suspended​ ​by the​ ​air​ ​and​ ​unaffected​ ​by​ ​gravity​ ​itself.​ ​His​ ​hair​ ​was​ ​red,​ ​like​ ​blood,​ ​and​ ​framed​ ​his​ ​shoulders. He​ ​had​ ​thought​ ​it​ ​had​ ​been​ ​his​ ​imagination.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​thought​ ​the​ ​pale​ ​skin​ ​and​ ​cold​ ​burning​ ​eyes had​ ​been​ ​a​ ​fabrication​ ​created​ ​by​ ​the​ ​gore​ ​and​ ​pain​ ​he​ ​witnessed​ ​and​ ​the​ ​exhaustion.​ ​He​ ​still had​ ​nightmares​ ​but​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​use​ ​those​ ​excuses​ ​to​ ​explain​ ​away​ ​the​ ​being​ ​that​ ​had​ ​appeared before​ ​him​ ​a​ ​second​ ​time.
“Elia?”​ ​His​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​a​ ​tentative​ ​whisper,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​feared​ ​breaking​ ​the​ ​silence​ ​around them.​ ​The​ ​being​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​him​ ​and​ ​fixed​ ​him​ ​with​ ​his​ ​icy​ ​eyes​ ​before​ ​he​ ​nodded​ ​and​ ​turned away​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​forward.
“Are​ ​you​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him?​ ​Are​ ​you​ ​real?”​ ​He​ ​hadn’t​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​say​ ​anything​ ​else​ ​but​ ​he​ ​had​ ​so many​ ​questions.
“I​ ​am​ ​like​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​protect​ ​him.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​from​ ​someplace​ ​else​ ​and​ ​can​ ​only​ ​come​ ​here​ ​when​ ​he​ ​calls,​ ​if he​ ​calls.”​ ​His​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​quiet,​ ​distant,​ ​and​ ​carried​ ​sadness​ ​as​ ​though​ ​they​ ​were​ ​leaves​ ​blown through​ ​a​ ​burning​ ​forest.​ ​“I​ ​am​ ​like​ ​him.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​not​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​be​ ​this​ ​but​ ​I​ ​am.​ ​I​ ​remain​ ​because he​ ​can​ ​not​ ​send​ ​me​ ​away…​ ​but​ ​I​ ​will​ ​use​ ​the​ ​time​ ​he​ ​has​ ​given​ ​me​ ​to​ ​make​ ​things​ ​right,​ ​one soul​ ​at​ ​a​ ​time.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​believe​ ​in​ ​him,​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​be​ ​with​ ​him​ ​and​ ​someday​ ​he​ ​will​ ​open​ ​his​ ​eyes. That​ ​I​ ​promise​ ​you.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​there.”
A​ ​long​ ​pale​ ​hand​ ​rose​ ​before​ ​a​ ​finger​ ​extended,​ ​pointing.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​beside​ ​a​ ​door​ ​that​ ​was framed​ ​by​ ​giant​ ​windows.​ ​He​ ​hadn’t​ ​even​ ​realized​ ​until​ ​he​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​follow​ ​where​ ​the​ ​hand​ ​was pointing.​ ​The​ ​light​ ​made​ ​him​ ​blink​ ​and​ ​obscured​ ​his​ ​view​ ​before​ ​he​ ​turned​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​figure who​ ​had​ ​directed​ ​him.​ ​Now​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​of​ ​his​ ​hair,​ ​the​ ​ice​ ​of​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​was​ ​even​ ​more​ ​pronounced and​ ​the​ ​design​ ​on​ ​the​ ​far​ ​side​ ​of​ ​his​ ​face​ ​was​ ​visible​ ​as​ ​scarring​ ​and​ ​not​ ​just​ ​decoration.​ ​Even​ ​in the​ ​light​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​glow,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​ghostly​ ​fire​ ​burned​ ​upon​ ​his​ ​face​ ​and​ ​the​ ​swirls​ ​were​ ​the paths​ ​that​ ​fire​ ​took.
“What​ ​are​ ​you?”​ ​It​ ​was​ ​another​ ​question​ ​he​ ​hadn’t​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​say​ ​but​ ​didn’t​ ​regret​ ​until​ ​the creature​ ​fixed​ ​him​ ​with​ ​a​ ​stare​ ​he​ ​hadn’t​ ​expected.
“I’m​ ​nothing.​ ​I’m​ ​what​ ​happens​ ​when​ ​a​ ​soul​ ​gets​ ​so​ ​angry​ ​it​ ​must​ ​live​ ​upon​ ​others.​ ​I’m​ ​the corruption​ ​of​ ​purity.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​a​ ​darkness​ ​that​ ​should​ ​have​ ​remained​ ​light.”​ ​Those​ ​eyes​ ​were​ ​trained upon​ ​him,​ ​unblinking​ ​as​ ​he​ ​absorbed​ ​the​ ​words​ ​that​ ​were​ ​barely​ ​a​ ​whisper.
“Is​ ​it​ ​your​ ​fault​ ​he​ ​won’t​ ​come​ ​back?​ ​Did​ ​you​ ​do​ ​this​ ​to​ ​him?”
Before​ ​he​ ​could​ ​react,​ ​long​ ​elegant​ ​fingers​ ​circled​ ​his​ ​throat,​ ​cold​ ​and​ ​dry,​ ​​ ​holding​ ​him​ ​still despite​ ​his​ ​wish​ ​to​ ​flee.​ ​Their​ ​eyes​ ​met​ ​and​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​the​ ​answer.​ ​This​ ​creature​ ​would​ ​never harm​ ​that​ ​boy.​ ​This​ ​creature,​ ​who​ ​was​ ​so​ ​close​ ​and​ ​so​ ​fearsome,​ ​with​ ​its​ ​unearthly​ ​appearance and​ ​presence​ ​that​ ​exuded​ ​harm,​ ​empathized​ ​with​ ​the​ ​child​ ​he​ ​guarded​ ​on​ ​a​ ​level​ ​no​ ​one​ ​else would​ ​ever​ ​understand.
“You​ ​should​ ​go​ ​to​ ​him.​ ​You​ ​need​ ​to​ ​protect​ ​him​ ​because,​ ​if​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​you​ ​are​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​necessary, you​ ​will​ ​be​ ​very​ ​sorry.”
With​ ​that,​ ​he​ ​was​ ​released,​ ​choking​ ​and​ ​sputtering​ ​as​ ​though​ ​his​ ​body​ ​had​ ​forgotten​ ​how​ ​to draw​ ​breath.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​watered​ ​and​ ​he​ ​braced​ ​himself​ ​against​ ​the​ ​window,​ ​steadying​ ​himself until​ ​he​ ​could​ ​straighten​ ​and​ ​turn​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​had​ ​held​ ​him.​ ​Gone.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​alone​ ​in front​ ​of​ ​the​ ​great​ ​glass​ ​doors​ ​that​ ​were​ ​surrounded​ ​by​ ​their​ ​many​ ​windows.​ ​Now​ ​he​ ​could​ ​see a​ ​wheelchair​ ​outside​ ​on​ ​the​ ​venerable​ ​stone​ ​patio,​ ​and​ ​within​ ​it,​ ​Elia.

*​ ​*​ ​*

It​ ​had​ ​almost​ ​gone​ ​back​ ​to​ ​normal,​ ​almost.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​still​ ​this​ ​pending​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​doom​ ​that​ ​loomed​ ​over  them​ ​as​ ​they​ ​ate.​ ​When​ ​they​ ​caught​ ​each​ ​other’s​ ​eye​ ​across​ ​the​ ​table,​ ​there​ ​was​ ​the​ ​customary​ ​smile  that​ ​was​ ​shared​ ​and​ ​had​ ​been​ ​since​ ​he​ ​had​ ​learned​ ​how​ ​to​ ​smile.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​the​ ​promise​ ​of​ ​things​ ​to​ ​come  that​ ​lurked​ ​and​ ​darkened​ ​their​ ​mood.​ ​Elia​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​understand​ ​why.​ ​All​ ​that​ ​she​ ​had​ ​said​ ​was​ ​that​ ​it  was​ ​time.​ ​When​ ​he​ ​had​ ​asked​ ​what​ ​she​ ​meant,​ ​she​ ​simply​ ​ruffled​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​before​ ​she​ ​smiled​ ​down​ ​at  him​ ​and​ ​whispered​ ​that​ ​it​ ​was​ ​time​ ​for​ ​him​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​about​ ​his​ ​father.
His​ ​father.
His​ ​father​ ​whom​ ​they​ ​hadn’t​ ​spoken​ ​about​ ​because​ ​the​ ​one​ ​time​ ​he​ ​had​ ​asked,​ ​when​ ​he​ ​was​ ​so​ ​young​ ​he  hadn’t​ ​learned​ ​about​ ​emotional​ ​pain,​ ​he​ ​had​ ​learned​ ​to​ ​never​ ​ask​ ​again.​ ​Something​ ​had​ ​happened.  Something​ ​bad.​ ​Something​ ​that​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​had​ ​saved​ ​him​ ​from​ ​and​ ​still​ ​protected​ ​him​ ​from.​ ​If​ ​she​ ​was  afraid​ ​then​ ​it​ ​must​ ​have​ ​meant​ ​the​ ​worst.​ ​Maybe​ ​it​ ​was​ ​the​ ​reason​ ​that​ ​she​ ​feared​ ​the​ ​other​ ​wolves.  Maybe​ ​there​ ​were​ ​no​ ​other​ ​wolves​ ​anymore​ ​and​ ​it​ ​was​ ​only​ ​the​ ​reason​ ​that​ ​she​ ​feared…
He​ ​had​ ​never​ ​seen​ ​her​ ​change.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​the​ ​color​ ​of​ ​her​ ​fur​ ​or​ ​how​ ​her​ ​eyes​ ​looked​ ​when​ ​they  filled​ ​with​ ​her​ ​spirit’s​ ​fire.​ ​He​ ​wished​ ​that​ ​he​ ​did.​ ​How​ ​could​ ​something​ ​that​ ​felt​ ​so​ ​good​ ​be​ ​frightening.  He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​run.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​the​ ​earth​ ​beneath​ ​his​ ​paws​ ​and​ ​know​ ​that​ ​he​ ​was​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​it.​ ​He  wanted​ ​to​ ​dance​ ​with​ ​the​ ​voices​ ​in​ ​the​ ​woods,​ ​feel​ ​their​ ​wild​ ​breath​ ​ruffle​ ​his​ ​fur.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​the  world​ ​as​ ​it​ ​unfurled​ ​before​ ​him,​ ​with​ ​his​ ​senses​ ​tuned.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​be​ ​free.
He​ ​blinked​ ​as​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​cleared​ ​his​ ​plate​ ​after​ ​smoothing​ ​her​ ​hand​ ​across​ ​his​ ​now​ ​dried​ ​hair.​ ​He  watched​ ​as​ ​she​ ​did​ ​the​ ​dishes​ ​and​ ​then​ ​turned,​ ​resting​ ​herself​ ​against​ ​the​ ​counter.
“Are​ ​you​ ​ready?”
He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​she​ ​hoped​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​say​ ​no.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​she​ ​was​ ​really​ ​asking​ ​if​ ​she​ ​was​ ​ready​ ​and  he​ ​was​ ​simply​ ​there​ ​to​ ​witness​ ​her​ ​dilemma.​ ​He​ ​couldn’t​ ​do​ ​what​ ​she​ ​wanted…​ ​not​ ​this​ ​time.​ ​He​ ​needed  to​ ​know.​ ​He​ ​gently​ ​nodded,​ ​watching​ ​her​ ​reaction​ ​as​ ​she​ ​pushed​ ​herself​ ​off​ ​of​ ​the​ ​counter​ ​and​ ​into​ ​the  room.
“It’ll​ ​be​ ​okay,​ ​mom.”​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​she​ ​wouldn’t​ ​believe​ ​him,​ ​but​ ​if​ ​it​ ​was​ ​her​ ​job​ ​to​ ​make​ ​him​ ​feel​ ​better  when​ ​it​ ​hurt,​ ​to​ ​give​ ​him​ ​answers​ ​and​ ​reassurances,​ ​than​ ​it​ ​was​ ​his​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​her​ ​comfort,​ ​even​ ​if​ ​she  didn’t​ ​believe​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​couldn’t​ ​help​ ​that.​ ​He​ ​couldn’t​ ​convince​ ​her​ ​that​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​when​ ​he​ ​met​ ​the  being​ ​that​ ​owned​ ​that​ ​beautiful​ ​voice,​ ​the​ ​one​ ​that​ ​made​ ​him​ ​feel​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​weren’t​ ​so​ ​small​ ​and  alone,​ ​he​ ​would​ ​join​ ​with​ ​his​ ​guardian’s​ ​spirit​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​be​ ​consumed​ ​by​ ​it.​ ​Some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him​ ​was​ ​sure  that​ ​her​ ​fears​ ​were​ ​unfounded​ ​while​ ​another​ ​trusted​ ​her​ ​judgement​ ​implicitly.
He​ ​got​ ​up​ ​and​ ​followed​ ​her​ ​into​ ​her​ ​room.​ ​She​ ​disappeared​ ​into​ ​a​ ​door​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​recall​ ​seeing​ ​opened​ ​at  any​ ​time​ ​before.​ ​The​ ​smell​ ​in​ ​there​ ​was​ ​different.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​just​ ​see​ ​the​ ​edge​ ​of​ ​colored​ ​fabric,​ ​a​ ​pale  blue,​ ​something​ ​soft.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​a​ ​color​ ​that​ ​he​ ​liked.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​have​ ​anything​ ​that​ ​was​ ​that​ ​color​ ​because  when​ ​he​ ​picked​ ​something​ ​out,​ ​his​ ​mom​ ​would​ ​smile​ ​and​ ​gently​ ​guide​ ​him​ ​to​ ​something​ ​else.​ ​Were​ ​those his​ ​father’s​ ​things?​ ​He​ ​had​ ​no​ ​point​ ​of​ ​reference.​ ​He​ ​tested​ ​the​ ​air,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​memorize​ ​the​ ​smell.​ ​It​ ​was  just​ ​slightly​ ​different​ ​than​ ​his​ ​own.​ ​Perhaps​ ​that​ ​was​ ​just​ ​age.​ ​Perhaps​ ​it​ ​was​ ​just​ ​maturity​ ​that​ ​had been​ ​tempered​ ​with​ ​hints​ ​of​ ​dried​ ​leaves​ ​and​ ​a​ ​faint​ ​lingering​ ​dark​ ​musk.
He​ ​hadn’t​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​until​ ​his​ ​mom​ ​had​ ​said​ ​his​ ​name.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​up​ ​at​ ​her​ ​and  smiled,​ ​which​ ​didn’t​ ​help​ ​the​ ​look​ ​of​ ​concern​ ​that​ ​took​ ​over​ ​the​ ​pout​ ​on​ ​her​ ​face.​ ​She​ ​held​ ​a​ ​box,​ ​an​ ​old  file​ ​box​ ​made​ ​of​ ​cardboard,​ ​that​ ​she​ ​gently​ ​pushed​ ​into​ ​his​ ​lap.
“What’s​ ​this?”​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​but​ ​asked​ ​anyway.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​this​ ​was​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​prove​ ​something​ ​but​ ​couldn’t  understand​ ​quite​ ​what​ ​that​ ​was.​ ​He​ ​watched​ ​as​ ​she​ ​pursed​ ​her​ ​lips,​ ​frozen​ ​for​ ​a​ ​moment,​ ​before​ ​she  collected​ ​herself​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​sit​ ​beside​ ​him.
“It’s​ ​your​ ​father.”

*​ ​*​ ​*

He​ ​woke​ ​with​ ​a​ ​start.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​dozed​ ​off​ ​and​ ​slumped​ ​across​ ​his​ ​papers​ ​again.​ ​The​ ​file​ ​he​ ​had been​ ​looking​ ​in​ ​actively,​ ​dripped​ ​into​ ​his​ ​lap​ ​and​ ​then​ ​made​ ​its​ ​way​ ​to​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​in​ ​bits​ ​and pieces.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​still​ ​snowing​ ​outside.​ ​The​ ​only​ ​sound​ ​was​ ​the​ ​hush​ ​of​ ​winter​ ​punctuated​ ​by​ ​the pops​ ​and​ ​gurgles​ ​of​ ​the​ ​water​ ​in​ ​the​ ​pipes​ ​that​ ​heated​ ​the​ ​building.​ ​He’d​ ​been​ ​here​ ​more​ ​than he’d​ ​been​ ​in​ ​his​ ​own​ ​apartment.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​something​ ​different​ ​about​ ​this​ ​place.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​still horrible,​ ​but​ ​some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​it​ ​had​ ​become​ ​a​ ​comfort.
He​ ​was​ ​in​ ​the​ ​home​ ​stretch.​ ​They​ ​had​ ​thrown​ ​a​ ​rather​ ​uncomfortable​ ​retirement​ ​party​ ​for​ ​him at​ ​the​ ​office.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​felt​ ​so​ ​tense​ ​he​ ​could​ ​have​ ​cut​ ​the​ ​air​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room​ ​with​ ​the​ ​cake​ ​knife.​ ​It​ ​had been​ ​a​ ​long​ ​time​ ​since​ ​anyone​ ​had​ ​expressed​ ​any​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​empathy,​ ​friendship,​ ​with​ ​him​ ​in​ ​that room.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​all​ ​relieved​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be​ ​gone​ ​though​ ​they​ ​knew,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​private​ ​detective, they​ ​would​ ​still​ ​occasionally​ ​have​ ​to​ ​deal​ ​with​ ​his​ ​relentlessness.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​received​ ​criticism​ ​for his​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​let​ ​go​ ​of​ ​the​ ​cases​ ​that​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​solve,​ ​and​ ​then​ ​smug​ ​dismay​ ​when​ ​he​ ​did eventually​ ​solve​ ​them.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​found​ ​the​ ​other​ ​children​ ​who​ ​had​ ​been​ ​murdered​ ​before​ ​Elia had​ ​been​ ​taken.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​found​ ​them​ ​with​ ​instinct​ ​and​ ​luck,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​had​ ​brought​ ​their​ ​families closure.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​kept​ ​his​ ​word​ ​with​ ​not​ ​only​ ​this​ ​case,​ ​but​ ​others.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​looked​ ​for​ ​the​ ​answers while​ ​he​ ​sat​ ​in​ ​this​ ​very​ ​chair,​ ​in​ ​this​ ​very​ ​room,​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​in​ ​the​ ​office​ ​with​ ​his​ ​big​ ​empty​ ​desk that​ ​he​ ​was​ ​leaving​ ​within​ ​the​ ​week,​ ​or​ ​in​ ​the​ ​comfort​ ​of​ ​his​ ​own​ ​cozy​ ​apartment​ ​that​ ​was​ ​only good​ ​for​ ​collecting​ ​dust.
His​ ​gaze​ ​strayed​ ​to​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​who​ ​breathed​ ​quietly​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​were​ ​open​ ​again.​ ​They were​ ​the​ ​same​ ​as​ ​they​ ​had​ ​been​ ​the​ ​first​ ​day​ ​he​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​him​ ​lying​ ​so​ ​flat​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​cold​ ​hard floor,​ ​so​ ​blue​ ​and​ ​big​ ​that​ ​it​ ​felt​ ​as​ ​though​ ​you​ ​were​ ​falling​ ​to​ ​look​ ​into​ ​them.​ ​Eyes​ ​like​ ​that never​ ​belonged​ ​to​ ​men.​ ​Eyes​ ​like​ ​that​ ​were​ ​those​ ​of​ ​a​ ​child,​ ​haunted​ ​by​ ​a​ ​pain​ ​they​ ​should never​ ​have​ ​known.​ ​He​ ​wondered​ ​briefly​ ​if​ ​their​ ​color​ ​would​ ​change​ ​when​ ​Elia​ ​woke,​ ​if​ ​Elia woke.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​sighed.​ ​Gently​ ​he​ ​reached​ ​forward​ ​and​ ​closed​ ​them,​ ​spilling​ ​the​ ​remaining contents​ ​of​ ​his​ ​file​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​so​ ​long​ ​and​ ​there​ ​was​ ​no​ ​change.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​a young​ ​man​ ​when​ ​he​ ​had​ ​walked​ ​into​ ​that​ ​place,​ ​filled​ ​with​ ​the​ ​smell​ ​of​ ​blood,​ ​cloaked​ ​in​ ​fear and​ ​pain,​ ​and​ ​found​ ​Elia.​ ​Each​ ​day​ ​since​ ​he​ ​had​ ​kept​ ​his​ ​word​ ​and​ ​returned​ ​to​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​who​ ​still slept​ ​before​ ​him.​ ​Each​ ​day​ ​he​ ​asked​ ​if​ ​Elia​ ​would​ ​come​ ​back,​ ​come​ ​home​ ​to​ ​his​ ​little​ ​self.​ ​He wondered​ ​why​ ​there​ ​was​ ​not​ ​a​ ​man​ ​in​ ​the​ ​bed​ ​before​ ​him,​ ​but​ ​still​ ​a​ ​child.​ ​After​ ​all​ ​this​ ​time, how​ ​had​ ​he​ ​remained​ ​so​ ​young?
He​ ​busied​ ​himself​ ​re-collecting​ ​the​ ​many​ ​papers​ ​that​ ​had​ ​scattered​ ​about​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​before​ ​he sat​ ​back​ ​in​ ​the​ ​chair​ ​to​ ​organize​ ​them.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​so​ ​much​ ​hurt​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world…​ ​so​ ​much​ ​pain.​ ​He didn’t​ ​understand​ ​why​ ​there​ ​were​ ​some​ ​that​ ​could​ ​only​ ​thrive​ ​on​ ​harm.​ ​What​ ​would​ ​their victims​ ​have​ ​been​ ​if​ ​they​ ​had​ ​never​ ​been​ ​victims.​ ​His​ ​fingers​ ​sifted​ ​through​ ​the​ ​papers,​ ​placing them​ ​in​ ​order,​ ​reattaching​ ​fallen​ ​photos​ ​into​ ​their​ ​clips​ ​and​ ​checking​ ​the​ ​little​ ​numbers​ ​at​ ​the bottoms​ ​of​ ​each​ ​carefully​ ​printed​ ​page.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​old​ ​fashioned.​ ​The​ ​laptop​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​provided with​ ​lay​ ​sleeping​ ​within​ ​the​ ​bag​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​​ ​He​ ​still​ ​printed​ ​everything​ ​out,​ ​just​ ​the​ ​way​ ​that​ ​he had​ ​when​ ​he​ ​had​ ​taken​ ​on​ ​his​ ​first​ ​case.​ ​Back​ ​then,​ ​there​ ​had​ ​been​ ​no​ ​alternative.​ ​Now​ ​it​ ​was only​ ​he​ ​that​ ​scribbled​ ​notes​ ​onto​ ​the​ ​printed​ ​pages​ ​and​ ​scribbled​ ​more​ ​before​ ​he​ ​even​ ​thought to​ ​transfer​ ​anything​ ​into​ ​the​ ​sleeping​ ​bit​ ​of​ ​tech​ ​that​ ​only​ ​hurt​ ​his​ ​eyes.
He​ ​gently​ ​closed​ ​the​ ​file​ ​and​ ​smoothed​ ​it​ ​with​ ​his​ ​fingers.​ ​It​ ​would​ ​be​ ​good​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​his​ ​services to​ ​the​ ​public.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​actually​ ​help​ ​people​ ​find​ ​things​ ​that​ ​they​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​find,​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​only deliver​ ​bad​ ​news.​ ​The​ ​change​ ​of​ ​pace​ ​would​ ​give​ ​him​ ​some​ ​happy​ ​stories​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​the​ ​one​ ​in​ ​the bed​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​allowed​ ​one​ ​of​ ​his​ ​lips​ ​to​ ​quirk​ ​up.​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​been​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​who​ ​had listened,​ ​who​ ​had​ ​let​ ​him​ ​talk​ ​through​ ​his​ ​thoughts​ ​on​ ​cases.​ ​He​ ​felt​ ​they​ ​had​ ​solved​ ​most​ ​of them​ ​together.​ ​He​ ​wished​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​say​ ​thank​ ​you​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​just​ ​stand​ ​watch.​ ​Elia​ ​had been​ ​his​ ​sounding​ ​board,​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​how​ ​crazy​ ​the​ ​idea,​ ​and​ ​never​ ​offered​ ​negativity,​ ​which​ ​is why​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​able​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​every​ ​outcome​ ​and​ ​find​ ​the​ ​best​ ​way​ ​to​ ​uncover​ ​every​ ​piece of​ ​whatever​ ​case​ ​he​ ​was​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​solve.​ ​His​ ​career​ ​had​ ​been​ ​made​ ​in​ ​the​ ​many​ ​moments​ ​they had​ ​shared.
“Elia,​ ​I​ ​wish​ ​you​ ​knew​ ​how​ ​glad​ ​I​ ​am​ ​that​ ​you​ ​are​ ​here.​ ​I​ ​wish​ ​that​ ​you​ ​could​ ​talk​ ​to​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​wish that​ ​you​ ​would​ ​come​ ​back.​ ​Elia,​ ​you​ ​will​ ​come​ ​back,​ ​right?​ ​I​ ​have​ ​so​ ​much​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​you…”
He​ ​scrubbed​ ​his​ ​face​ ​with​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​before​ ​letting​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​stray​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​winter​ ​scene outside.​ ​The​ ​wind​ ​gusted​ ​which​ ​made​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​shiver,​ ​even​ ​though​ ​it​ ​did​ ​not​ ​touch​ ​him. The​ ​walk​ ​to​ ​his​ ​car​ ​was​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​painful,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​drive​ ​even​ ​worse.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​worth​ ​it.​ ​For​ ​this peace​ ​and​ ​quite,​ ​worth​ ​it.​ ​Slowly​ ​he​ ​turned​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​one​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​Once​ ​more…​ ​his​ ​eyes were​ ​open.

*​ ​*​ ​*

His​ ​heart​ ​was​ ​pounding.​ ​He​ ​wouldn’t​ ​believe​ ​it,​ ​couldn’t.​ ​His​ ​feet​ ​wouldn’t​ ​carry​ ​him​ ​fast​ ​enough.​ ​The  wind​ ​bit​ ​his​ ​face​ ​and​ ​made​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​water.​ ​It​ ​wasn’t​ ​true.​ ​It​ ​couldn’t​ ​be​ ​true.
He​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​the​ ​woods.​ ​There​ ​he​ ​would​ ​find​ ​answers.​ ​If​ ​only​ ​he​ ​could​ ​change,​ ​then​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be  able​ ​to​ ​run​ ​faster.​ ​His​ ​vision​ ​blurred​ ​as​ ​he​ ​ducked​ ​behind​ ​a​ ​bush,​ ​hoping​ ​to​ ​avoid​ ​the​ ​headlights​ ​of​ ​a​ ​car  that​ ​had​ ​just​ ​turned​ ​down​ ​the​ ​street.​ ​He​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​know​ ​for​ ​sure.​ ​He​ ​needed​ ​answers​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​just  couldn’t​ ​give​ ​him.
The​ ​box​ ​had​ ​been​ ​placed​ ​in​ ​his​ ​lap​ ​and​ ​he​ ​had​ ​looked​ ​at​ ​her​ ​with​ ​no​ ​small​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​confusion.​ ​When  she​ ​told​ ​him​ ​to​ ​open​ ​it,​ ​his​ ​fingers​ ​had​ ​gently​ ​trailed​ ​across​ ​the​ ​cardboard​ ​before​ ​removing​ ​the​ ​lid.​ ​It​ ​felt  fragile,​ ​like​ ​it​ ​was​ ​made​ ​of​ ​pressed​ ​onion​ ​skin​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​tree​ ​pulp.​ ​It​ ​didn’t​ ​smell​ ​musty​ ​or​ ​like​ ​it​ ​was  dusty​ ​or​ ​wet,​ ​it​ ​just​ ​felt​ ​as​ ​though​ ​the​ ​contents​ ​had​ ​aged​ ​the​ ​thing​ ​well​ ​beyond​ ​its​ ​years.
With​ ​the​ ​lid​ ​removed,​ ​Elia​ ​found​ ​papers.​ ​Once​ ​more​ ​he​ ​gave​ ​his​ ​mom​ ​a​ ​sidelong​ ​glance.​ ​She​ ​nodded​ ​for him​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​even​ ​as​ ​tears​ ​filled​ ​her​ ​eyes.​ ​Elia​ ​picked​ ​the​ ​first​ ​piece​ ​up​ ​and​ ​opened​ ​it.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​a​ ​letter,  a​ ​letter​ ​in​ ​writing​ ​that​ ​was​ ​similar​ ​to​ ​his​ ​own,​ ​perhaps​ ​more​ ​refined​ ​but​ ​similar.​ ​How​ ​could​ ​he​ ​have known​ ​that​ ​he​ ​wrote​ ​the​ ​way​ ​his​ ​father​ ​had.​ ​His​ ​fingers​ ​traced​ ​the​ ​faded​ ​ink​ ​impressions​ ​on​ ​the​ ​page in​ ​wonder,​ ​before​ ​he​ ​even​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​read​ ​them.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​a​ ​letter…​ ​to​ ​his​ ​mom.​ ​It​ ​made​ ​him  smile.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​a​ ​love​ ​letter​ ​and​ ​more​ ​than​ ​half​ ​of​ ​it​ ​was​ ​written​ ​in​ ​verse.​ Never​ forget​ ,​ ​Elia​ ​read​ ​more  than​ ​a​ ​few​ ​times​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​passages.​ ​He​ ​spoke​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​he​ ​would​ ​not​ ​survive.​ ​​ Never  forget​ ​ how​ ​ much ​ ​I​ ​ love​ ​ you. ​ ​ Never​ ​ forget​ ​ that ​ ​I​ ​ will​ ​ be​ ​ waiting. ​ ​​ Elia​ ​heard​ ​his​ ​mom’s​ ​breath​ ​hitch.  What​ ​had​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​him?​ ​Why​ ​wasn’t​ ​he​ ​here​ ​any​ ​longer?
There​ ​were​ ​more.​ ​So​ ​many​ ​letters.​ ​If​ ​they​ ​had​ ​been​ ​together,​ ​why​ ​had​ ​he​ ​written​ ​so​ ​much?​ ​He​ ​was  afraid​ ​to​ ​ask.​ ​They​ ​had​ ​been​ ​together​ ​for​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​time​ ​or​ ​he​ ​wouldn’t​ ​exist.​ ​Then​ ​he’d​ ​blurted​ ​it​ ​out  and​ ​regretted​ ​it​ ​the​ ​instant​ ​that​ ​he​ ​did.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​know​ ​but​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​cause​ ​her​ ​any​ ​more  pain​ ​than​ ​he​ ​already​ ​had.
They​ ​had​ ​been​ ​chased.​ ​His​ ​mother​ ​had​ ​told​ ​him​ ​they​ ​were​ ​hiding​ ​because​ ​of​ ​the​ ​wolves.​ ​Now​ ​she  explained​ ​that​ ​it​ ​was​ ​because​ ​of​ ​four​ ​wolves​ ​that​ ​were​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​wolfen,​ ​but​ ​had​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​demons because​ ​of​ ​tainted​ ​blood​ ​they​ ​had​ ​consumed.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​them​ ​was​ ​to​ ​blame​ ​for​ ​the​ ​curse​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Darkstar  family​ ​line,​ ​and​ ​one​ ​of​ ​them​ ​had​ ​been​ ​responsible​ ​for​ ​their​ ​separation.​ ​Elia’s​ ​father​ ​had​ ​gone​ ​to​ ​draw them​ ​away​ ​and​ ​been​ ​cornered.​ ​He​ ​escaped,​ ​narrowly,​ ​but​ ​was​ ​never​ ​the​ ​same​ ​again.​ ​His​ ​mind​ ​was different.​ ​She​ ​couldn’t​ ​reach​ ​him​ ​anymore.​ ​She​ ​couldn’t​ ​feel​ ​him​ ​through​ ​their​ ​bond​ ​anymore.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​as  though​ ​something​ ​had​ ​stolen​ ​his​ ​soul​ ​from​ ​him​ ​and​ ​left​ ​only​ ​the​ ​shell​ ​behind.​ ​Then​ ​he​ ​began​ ​to​ ​wither  until​ ​there​ ​was​ ​nothing​ ​left​ ​at​ ​all.
She​ ​reached​ ​into​ ​the​ ​box​ ​and​ ​found​ ​a​ ​sketchbook​ ​that​ ​had​ ​pages​ ​which​ ​had​ ​been​ ​worn​ ​soft​ ​at​ ​the​ ​edges. When​ ​she​ ​opened​ ​it,​ ​Elia’s​ ​eyes​ ​went​ ​wide.​ ​All​ ​the​ ​pages​ ​held​ ​one​ ​thing,​ ​a​ ​face,​ ​beautiful​ ​and  frightening​ ​and​ ​so​ ​very​ ​familiar.​ ​When​ ​his​ ​mom​ ​had​ ​turned​ ​away​ ​and​ ​covered​ ​her​ ​face​ ​with​ ​her​ ​hands,  his​ ​fingers​ ​strayed​ ​to​ ​the​ ​worn​ ​paper​ ​and​ ​ran​ ​across​ ​its​ ​surface,​ ​tracing​ ​lines​ ​he​ ​had​ ​drawn​ ​himself.​ ​It  was​ ​unmistakably​ ​the​ ​same.​ ​Then​ ​she​ ​turned​ ​back​ ​and​ ​stole​ ​it​ ​from​ ​his​ ​fingers.
That​ ​was​ ​the​ ​reason​ ​his​ ​father​ ​had​ ​wasted​ ​away.​ ​That​ ​thing​ ​had​ ​stolen​ ​his​ ​soul.​ ​That​ ​thing​ ​was​ ​a​ ​curse  on​ ​his​ ​family​ ​line​ ​and​ ​one​ ​day​ ​would​ ​come​ ​to​ ​him,​ ​would​ ​come​ ​to​ ​do​ ​the​ ​same.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​no​ ​guardians  any​ ​longer,​ ​only​ ​nightmares​ ​that​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​the​ ​forest​ ​and​ ​called​ ​with​ ​honeyed​ ​tongues.​ ​Why?​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​it  feel​ ​so​ ​different​ ​if​ ​that​ ​was​ ​how​ ​it​ ​was?​ ​It​ ​felt​ ​more​ ​right​ ​than​ ​his​ ​own​ ​skin,​ ​as​ ​natural​ ​as​ ​it​ ​would feel​ ​to​ ​embrace​ ​the​ ​change.​ ​Why​ ​was​ ​it​ ​a​ ​curse​ ​if​ ​it​ ​felt​ ​so​ ​right?
He​ ​was​ ​up​ ​and​ ​running​ ​scrambling​ ​for​ ​the​ ​treeline​ ​before​ ​the​ ​car​ ​had​ ​completely​ ​passed.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​just​ ​at  the​ ​far​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​park.​ ​He​ ​just​ ​had​ ​to​ ​make​ ​it​ ​past.​ ​How​ ​ironic​ ​was​ ​it​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​to​ ​go​ ​through​ ​there,  a​ ​place​ ​that​ ​was​ ​joyless​ ​to​ ​him,​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​where​ ​he​ ​most​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​be.​ ​He​ ​wiped​ ​at​ ​a​ ​tickle​ ​upon​ ​his​ ​cheek  as​ ​the​ ​drawn​ ​image​ ​once​ ​more​ ​flashed​ ​into​ ​his​ ​mind.​ ​He​ ​looked​ ​down​ ​to​ ​see​ ​a​ ​tear,​ ​wet​ ​upon​ ​his​ ​fingers.  He​ ​slowed.​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​it​ ​hurt​ ​so​ ​much?​ ​If​ ​there​ ​was​ ​no​ ​way​ ​that​ ​it​ ​could​ ​be​ ​true,​ ​why​ ​did​ ​he​ ​feel  betrayed?​ ​He​ ​had​ ​to​ ​know.
He​ ​was​ ​right​ ​at​ ​the​ ​edge​ ​of​ ​the​ ​treeline.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​feel​ ​the​ ​temperature​ ​change​ ​in​ ​the​ ​ground​ ​beneath​ ​his  feet.​ ​A​ ​few​ ​more​ ​steps​ ​and​ ​he​ ​would​ ​know.​ ​His​ ​breaths​ ​came​ ​in​ ​sharp​ ​gasps.​ ​He​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​as​ ​he  began​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​the​ ​whispers​ ​that​ ​emerged​ ​from​ ​the​ ​forest.​ ​The​ ​wind​ ​sang​ ​a​ ​lullaby​ ​as​ ​the​ ​trees​ ​welcomed  him,​ ​the​ ​breeze​ ​sighing​ ​and​ ​turning​ ​to​ ​soft​ ​words,​ ​then​ ​to​ ​his​ ​name.​ ​The​ ​forest​ ​would​ ​always​ ​know​ ​him. He​ ​tuned,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​understand​ ​what​ ​they​ ​said.​ ​A​ ​warning.​ ​All​ ​at​ ​once​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​snapped​ ​open.​ ​They​ ​told him​ ​to​ ​run.​ ​Over​ ​and​ ​over,​ ​​ Elia​ ​ run​ .
A​ ​strong​ ​arm​ ​clamped​ ​across​ ​his​ ​chest​ ​before​ ​his​ ​feet​ ​could​ ​move​ ​and​ ​something​ ​soft​ ​was​ ​held​ ​over​ ​his  mouth​ ​and​ ​nose​ ​as​ ​he​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​wriggle​ ​free.​ ​It​ ​smelled​ ​sweet​ ​and​ ​acrid,​ ​unnatural.​ ​His​ ​body​ ​was​ ​failing,  his​ ​eyes​ ​staring​ ​into​ ​the​ ​woods​ ​as​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​resist​ ​the​ ​strength​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​held​ ​him.​ ​There​ ​before  him,​ ​like​ ​a​ ​ghost​ ​among​ ​the​ ​trees​ ​was​ ​the​ ​face​ ​he​ ​had​ ​drawn,​ ​his​ ​father​ ​had​ ​drawn,​ ​the​ ​eyes,​ ​and​ ​then  the​ ​name​ ​as​ ​the​ ​darkness​ ​overtook​ ​him.

*​ ​*​ ​*

He​ ​had​ ​felt​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​silly​ ​when​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​out.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​made​ ​him​ ​late,​ ​but​ ​now​ ​it​ ​was​ ​worth​ ​it. Elia​ ​needed​ ​clothes.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​known​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​for​ ​longer​ ​than​ ​any​ ​other​ ​person​ ​alive.​ ​This​ ​person who​ ​was​ ​trapped​ ​as​ ​a​ ​child​ ​at​ ​least​ ​deserved​ ​the​ ​dignity​ ​of​ ​dressing​ ​in​ ​something​ ​more​ ​than​ ​a hospital​ ​gown​ ​for​ ​his​ ​entire​ ​life.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​nearly​ ​thirty​ ​years​ ​since​ ​that​ ​dark​ ​and​ ​horrible night,​ ​almost​ ​long​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​forget,​ ​and​ ​all​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​remember​ ​seeing​ ​clothe​ ​this​ ​small person,​ ​whom​ ​he​ ​cared​ ​for​ ​very​ ​deeply,​ ​was​ ​a​ ​hospital​ ​gown…​ ​unacceptable.​ ​It​ ​went​ ​round and​ ​round​ ​in​ ​his​ ​mind​ ​as​ ​he​ ​set​ ​the​ ​small​ ​things​ ​out​ ​on​ ​display​ ​for​ ​the​ ​nurse,​ ​who​ ​had accompanied​ ​him,​ ​to​ ​see.
“I​ ​had​ ​no​ ​idea​ ​what​ ​he​ ​might​ ​like,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​got​ ​him​ ​a​ ​bunch​ ​of​ ​things.​ ​Now​ ​you​ ​can​ ​just​ ​pick​ ​through. I​ ​hope​ ​he​ ​likes​ ​it…​ ​any​ ​of​ ​it.​ ​I’ve​ ​never​ ​seen​ ​him​ ​dressed​ ​in​ ​real​ ​clothes​ ​before.”​ ​He​ ​was​ ​second guessing​ ​himself​ ​before​ ​he​ ​even​ ​got​ ​a​ ​start​ ​picking​ ​an​ ​outfit.​ ​“Do​ ​you​ ​think​ ​you​ ​could​ ​get​ ​him dressed​ ​before​ ​I​ ​take​ ​him​ ​out​ ​for​ ​our​ ​walk​ ​while​ ​I​ ​get​ ​the​ ​wheelchair?”
He​ ​didn’t​ ​really​ ​give​ ​the​ ​girl​ ​a​ ​chance​ ​to​ ​argue​ ​before​ ​he​ ​left​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​Elia​ ​would​ ​be​ ​dressed when​ ​he​ ​returned…​ ​or​ ​not.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​jump​ ​that​ ​hurdle​ ​when​ ​he​ ​came​ ​to​ ​it.​ ​His​ ​shoes​ ​tapped on​ ​the​ ​linoleum​ ​and​ ​only​ ​quieted​ ​when​ ​he​ ​paused​ ​before​ ​what​ ​appeared​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​closet.​ ​He hoped​ ​the​ ​door​ ​was​ ​unlocked​ ​and​ ​tested​ ​the​ ​knob​ ​before​ ​letting​ ​himself​ ​into​ ​the​ ​darkened portal.
Green,​ ​where​ ​was​ ​it?​ ​There​ ​was​ ​one​ ​that​ ​was​ ​smaller​ ​than​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​and​ ​had​ ​a​ ​green​ ​seat​ ​and rest.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​crocheted​ ​pads​ ​on​ ​the​ ​foot​ ​rests​ ​that​ ​matched​ ​the​ ​blanket​ ​that​ ​was​ ​at​ ​the​ ​foot​ ​of Elia’s​ ​bed.​ ​He​ ​scanned​ ​the​ ​row​ ​of​ ​folded​ ​wheelchairs​ ​twice​ ​before​ ​he​ ​spotted​ ​it​ ​on​ ​the​ ​far​ ​side of​ ​the​ ​dimmed​ ​room.​ ​He​ ​tested​ ​the​ ​knob​ ​before​ ​he​ ​went​ ​for​ ​it,​ ​afraid​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be​ ​locked​ ​inside and​ ​forgotten​ ​if​ ​he​ ​didn’t,​ ​before​ ​he​ ​was​ ​plunged​ ​into​ ​complete​ ​darkness.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​as​ ​the soft​ ​greys​ ​came​ ​into​ ​focus​ ​first,​ ​then​ ​the​ ​shadows​ ​of​ ​the​ ​place​ ​stood​ ​back​ ​from​ ​those​ ​in​ ​slightly darker​ ​contrast.​ ​The​ ​only​ ​light​ ​source​ ​was​ ​the​ ​small​ ​window​ ​on​ ​the​ ​door.​ ​He​ ​reached​ ​and​ ​gently pulled​ ​the​ ​wheelchair​ ​out​ ​from​ ​the​ ​others.​ ​Someday,​ ​hopefully​ ​someday​ ​soon,​ ​Elia​ ​would​ ​walk beside​ ​him​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​requiring​ ​this​ ​thing.​ ​For​ ​now…​ ​It​ ​worked.​ ​They​ ​would​ ​go​ ​for​ ​a​ ​walk together​ ​and​ ​he​ ​wouldn’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​worry​ ​about​ ​Elia​ ​getting​ ​cold.
A​ ​shadow​ ​obscured​ ​the​ ​light​ ​as​ ​he​ ​turned​ ​and​ ​he​ ​froze​ ​as​ ​he​ ​found​ ​his​ ​exit​ ​blocked.​ ​Eyes​ ​of​ ​icy fire​ ​watched​ ​as​ ​he​ ​slowly​ ​straightened​ ​and​ ​swallowed​ ​hard.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​darkness​ ​like​ ​this,​ ​the​ ​scars on​ ​his​ ​face​ ​and​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​illuminated​ ​the​ ​gentle​ ​curves​ ​of​ ​his​ ​face.​ ​Something​ ​so​ ​beautiful​ ​should not​ ​cause​ ​such​ ​repulsion.​ ​This​ ​creature​ ​had​ ​said​ ​it​ ​was​ ​an​ ​angry​ ​soul,​ ​but​ ​for​ ​once,​ ​the​ ​detective wondered​ ​why just​ ​as​ ​he​ ​wondered​ ​what​ ​had​ ​happened​ ​in​ ​that​ ​room​ ​full​ ​of​ ​blood.​ ​Now​ ​he tried​ ​to​ ​fit​ ​the​ ​pieces​ ​that​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​together​ ​and​ ​he​ ​still​ ​didn’t​ ​have​ ​enough.
“You​ ​have​ ​done​ ​well.​ ​Soon​ ​things​ ​will​ ​change.”​ ​His​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​soft,​ ​only​ ​a​ ​whisper​ ​in​ ​the darkness.
“Change?​ ​You​ ​mean,​ ​he’s​ ​going​ ​to​ ​wake​ ​up?”
The​ ​creature​ ​before​ ​him​ ​nodded​ ​then​ ​took​ ​a​ ​step​ ​towards​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​became​ ​immediately​ ​aware of​ ​how​ ​small​ ​the​ ​room​ ​was.​ ​His​ ​breath​ ​froze​ ​in​ ​his​ ​lungs​ ​as​ ​delicate​ ​fingers​ ​smoothed​ ​along​ ​his throat.
“Bring​ ​him​ ​back​ ​to​ ​where​ ​it​ ​all​ ​began.​ ​Bring​ ​him​ ​back.”
The​ ​detective’s​ ​brows​ ​shot​ ​up​ ​as​ ​a​ ​horrified​ ​expression​ ​gripped​ ​his​ ​features.​ ​He​ ​never​ ​wanted to​ ​see​ ​that​ ​place​ ​again.​ ​He​ ​still​ ​had​ ​nightmares.​ ​Twisted​ ​bodies​ ​with​ ​outstretched​ ​hands, reaching​ ​as​ ​though​ ​they​ ​waited​ ​to​ ​be​ ​saved​ ​and​ ​died,​ ​frozen​ ​in​ ​a​ ​state​ ​of​ ​false​ ​hope.​ ​The shattered​ ​body​ ​of​ ​a​ ​woman​ ​who​ ​was​ ​missing​ ​half​ ​her​ ​face.​ ​Parts​ ​of​ ​a​ ​man​ ​that​ ​were​ ​spread​ ​as though​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​ripped​ ​apart​ ​from​ ​the​ ​inside​ ​out,​ ​and​ ​Elia​ ​at​ ​the​ ​center,​ ​made​ ​androgynous by​ ​his​ ​captor,​ ​staring,​ ​empty,​ ​his​ ​body​ ​just​ ​as​ ​used​ ​and​ ​broken​ ​as​ ​all​ ​the​ ​rest,​ ​but​ ​he​ ​had remained​ ​alive.
“I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​go​ ​back​ ​there.​ ​Don’t​ ​make​ ​me​ ​bring​ ​him.​ ​I​ ​want​ ​him​ ​to​ ​be​ ​happy,​ ​not​ ​like​ ​them, not​ ​like​ ​that.​ ​He’s…​ ​he’s​ ​my​ ​only​ ​friend.​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​him​ ​to​ ​hurt​ ​anymore.”
The​ ​detective​ ​had​ ​begun​ ​to​ ​shake​ ​as​ ​the​ ​creature​ ​smoothed​ ​tears​ ​away​ ​from​ ​his​ ​cheeks.​ ​Now hands​ ​that​ ​surely​ ​must​ ​have​ ​caused​ ​so​ ​much​ ​pain​ ​to​ ​others,​ ​collected​ ​him​ ​gently​ ​and​ ​he​ ​found himself​ ​held.​ ​It​ ​shouldn’t​ ​have​ ​been​ ​comfortable​ ​but​ ​it​ ​was​ ​a​ ​comfort.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​like​ ​being​ ​gripped by​ ​a​ ​nightmare​ ​that​ ​was​ ​so​ ​familiar,​ ​that​ ​its​ ​terror​ ​brought​ ​peace.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​smell​ ​blood​ ​on​ ​the clothes​ ​he​ ​was​ ​held​ ​against,​ ​and​ ​oak​ ​leaves,​ ​long​ ​dried​ ​and​ ​withered.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​not​ ​the​ ​way​ ​of things.​ ​Something​ ​had​ ​changed.​ ​Some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​his​ ​plea​ ​had​ ​meant​ ​something,​ ​his​ ​fear.​ ​He​ ​took​ ​a breath​ ​and​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​as​ ​deadly​ ​fingers​ ​combed​ ​through​ ​his​ ​hair.
“You​ ​dear​ ​old​ ​man.​ ​I​ ​meant​ ​the​ ​woods.”

*​ ​*​ ​*

His​ ​head​ ​swam​ ​as​ ​he​ ​fought​ ​against​ ​the​ ​darkness.​ ​Slowly,​ ​so​ ​slowly​ ​he​ ​became​ ​aware​ ​of​ ​little​ ​things.​ ​His  body​ ​lay​ ​on​ ​something​ ​hard,​ ​a​ ​table,​ ​perhaps​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​The​ ​air​ ​was​ ​chilled.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​a​ ​ringing​ ​in​ ​his  ears…​ ​wait,​ ​that​ ​was​ ​wrong.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​screaming.
His​ ​mouth​ ​was​ ​dry​ ​and​ ​he​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​lick​ ​his​ ​lips.​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​he​ ​feel​ ​so​ ​sluggish?​ ​How​ ​had​ ​he​ ​come​ ​to​ ​be  laying​ ​against​ ​the​ ​hardness​ ​that​ ​was​ ​beneath​ ​him.​ ​It​ ​sounded​ ​like​ ​there​ ​were​ ​so​ ​many​ ​people​ ​in​ ​the  room.​ ​Was​ ​he​ ​laying​ ​in​ ​the​ ​road?​ ​Had​ ​he​ ​been​ ​at​ ​the​ ​park​ ​again?​ ​This​ ​was​ ​worse​ ​than​ ​the​ ​last​ ​time.  Usually​ ​they​ ​only​ ​hit​ ​him.​ ​It​ ​wasn’t​ ​like​ ​this​ ​where​ ​they​ ​knocked​ ​him​ ​unconscious.​ ​Something​ ​was  wrong.​ ​Why​ ​couldn’t​ ​he​ ​make​ ​his​ ​limbs​ ​work.​ ​His​ ​mom​ ​would​ ​be​ ​worried.​ ​Usually​ ​she​ ​would​ ​call​ ​for him.​ ​Maybe​ ​she​ ​was​ ​and​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​hear​ ​it​ ​over​ ​the​ ​screaming.​ ​What​ ​were​ ​they​ ​saying.​ ​He​ ​recalled​ ​the last​ ​thing​ ​he​ ​had​ ​heard.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​at​ ​the​ ​treeline​ ​and​ ​it​ ​was​ ​night​ ​time.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​heard​ ​them,​ ​the voices​ ​as​ ​soft​ ​as​ ​the​ ​wind,​ ​soothing,​ ​calming.​ ​Run!​ ​Now​ ​they​ ​were​ ​screaming,​ ​muffled,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​the  were​ ​restrained​ ​by​ ​a​ ​force,​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​break​ ​through.
“You​ ​are​ ​so​ ​beautiful,​ ​little​ ​one.​ ​Can​ ​you​ ​open​ ​your​ ​eyes?​ ​I​ ​know​ ​you​ ​can​ ​hear​ ​me.”
Elia’s​ ​brow​ ​furrowed.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​that​ ​voice.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​quiet​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​the​ ​screaming​ ​but​ ​he​ ​had  heard​ ​it​ ​anyway.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​be​ ​with​ ​this​ ​person.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​who​ ​they​ ​were.​ ​Why​ ​was​ ​it​ ​so  quiet​ ​and​ ​so​ ​loud​ ​all​ ​at​ ​once?​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​run​ ​but​ ​his​ ​legs​ ​wouldn’t​ ​move.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​sit​ ​up,​ ​to  crawl​ ​away​ ​but​ ​his​ ​body​ ​had​ ​betrayed​ ​him​ ​and​ ​lay​ ​still​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​hardness​ ​beneath​ ​him.​ ​​ ​He​ ​took​ ​a  shuddering​ ​breath,​ ​the​ ​only​ ​thing​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​do.​ ​Breathe.​ ​He​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​one​ ​voice​ ​in​ ​the​ ​screaming.  He​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​anything​ ​of​ ​what​ ​they​ ​said.​ ​​
Bad​ ​ place! ​ ​ Bad ​ ​ place!​ ​ Pain!​ ​ Hurts! ​ ​ Get​ ​ up!​ ​ Get​ ​ up​ ​ Elia!
It​ ​came​ ​clear​ ​just​ ​before​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​hands​ ​upon​ ​him​ ​and​ ​the​ ​screaming​ ​became​ ​a​ ​ringing​​​ ​in​ ​his​ ​ears.​ ​All  that​ ​they​ ​did​ ​was​ ​brush​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​from​ ​his​ ​face.​ ​He​ ​felt​ ​eyes​ ​upon​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​but​ ​could​ ​only  manage​ ​a​ ​small​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​distress.​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​he​ ​feel​ ​like​ ​this?​ ​Why​ ​couldn’t​ ​he​ ​move?​ ​His​ ​heart​ ​began​ ​to  race​ ​as​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​the​ ​hands​ ​shift.
“How​ ​old​ ​are​ ​you,​ ​my​ ​sweet?​ ​You​ ​can’t​ ​be​ ​more​ ​than​ ​twelve.​ ​You’re​ ​perfect.​ ​Will​ ​you​ ​open​ ​your​ ​eyes like​ ​a​ ​good​ ​girl?​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​color.​ ​It’s​ ​okay,​ ​honey.​ ​You​ ​won’t​ ​feel​ ​a​ ​thing​ ​and​ ​it​ ​will​ ​all​ ​be​ ​over soon.”
He​ ​couldn’t​ ​help​ ​himself.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​not​ ​a​ ​girl!​ ​He​ ​was​ ​nearly​ ​fourteen!​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​move!​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to  run​ ​to​ ​where​ ​the​ ​voices​ ​were.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​say​ ​the​ ​name​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​would​ ​make​ ​this​ ​all​ ​go​ ​away,  but​ ​his​ ​mouth​ ​refused​ ​to​ ​do​ ​anything​ ​so​ ​all​ ​he​ ​could​ ​do​ ​was​ ​whimper.​ ​The​ ​man​ ​before​ ​him​ ​was​ ​pale,​ ​too  pale,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​curtain​ ​of​ ​hair​ ​that​ ​fell​ ​like​ ​cobwebs,​ ​a​ ​mix​ ​of​ ​blond​ ​and​ ​white,​ ​into​ ​his​ ​eyes.​ ​His​ ​shirt​ ​was  untucked,​ ​unbuttoned,​ ​his​ ​pants​ ​were​ ​open,​ ​and​ ​in​ ​that​ ​instant​ ​Elia​ ​wished​ ​he’d​ ​never​ ​opened​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​at all.​ ​Why​ ​would​ ​someone​ ​like​ ​that​ ​expose​ ​himself​ ​to​ ​a​ ​child…​ ​unless…
“There’s​ ​my​ ​good​ ​girl.​ ​You​ ​really​ ​are​ ​the​ ​most​ ​beautiful​ ​one​ ​that​ ​I​ ​have​ ​found​ ​yet.​ ​Don’t​ ​worry.​ ​I​ ​told you​ ​it​ ​won’t​ ​hurt​ ​and​ ​I​ ​meant​ ​it.​ ​None​ ​of​ ​the​ ​others​ ​ever​ ​complained,​ ​but​ ​then​ ​again,​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​really  sure​ ​how​ ​this​ ​stuff​ ​all​ ​works​ ​so​ ​maybe​ ​you​​​ will​ ​ ​feel​ ​it​ ​and​ ​just​ ​won’t​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​do​ ​anything​ ​about​ ​it.​ ​I’ll  be​ ​the​ ​last​ ​thing​ ​you​ ​feel.​ ​Won’t​ ​that​ ​be​ ​nice?”
Elia​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​shake​ ​his​ ​head​ ​no.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​could​ ​do​ ​was​ ​breath​ ​as​ ​a​ ​growing​ ​constriction​ ​gripped​ ​his​ ​chest  and​ ​his​ ​breaths​ ​became​ ​ragged.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​change.​ ​If​ ​he​ ​was​ ​a​ ​wolf​ ​he​ ​could​ ​run,​ ​run​ ​far​ ​away​ ​from  everything.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​run​ ​until​ ​there​ ​was​ ​nothing​ ​left​ ​of​ ​him​ ​and​ ​he​ ​could​ ​be​ ​free.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​hear​ ​his  pulse​ ​drumming​ ​in​ ​his​ ​ears.​ ​He​ ​desperately​ ​searched​ ​the​ ​room​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​anything​ ​that​ ​could​ ​help​ ​him,  anyone.​ ​Branches​ ​scraped​ ​across​ ​the​ ​window.​ ​Branches​ ​that​ ​turned​ ​into​ ​screams​ ​as​ ​gruff​ ​hands​ ​began​ ​to fumble​ ​with​ ​his​ ​clothes.

*​ ​*​ ​*

He​ ​had​ ​to​ ​school​ ​his​ ​expression​ ​as​ ​he​ ​walked​ ​back​ ​into​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​The​ ​wheelchair​ ​caught​ ​the attention​ ​of​ ​the​ ​nurse​ ​as​ ​one​ ​of​ ​its​ ​wheels​ ​hit​ ​the​ ​door frame​ ​when​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​hastily entered.​ ​She​ ​had​ ​just​ ​finished​ ​pulling​ ​his​ ​pants​ ​on​ ​and​ ​startled,​ ​dropping​ ​the​ ​shirt​ ​she’d​ ​picked on​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​handing​ ​it​ ​to​ ​her​ ​just​ ​as​ ​she​ ​fumbled​ ​to​ ​balance​ ​Elia​ ​so​ ​that​ ​she​ ​could reach​ ​it.​ ​His​ ​slight​ ​body​ ​nearly​ ​slipped​ ​from​ ​her​ ​grip​ ​and​ ​she​ ​let​ ​out​ ​a​ ​little​ ​eep​ ​as​ ​she​ ​steadied him.​ ​Gently​ ​the​ ​detective​ ​helped,​ ​pulling​ ​long​ ​dark​ ​hair​ ​out​ ​from​ ​the​ ​collar​ ​and​ ​settling​ ​it​ ​about Elia’s​ ​shoulders.​ ​Once​ ​he​ ​was​ ​sure​ ​that​ ​the​ ​shirt​ ​was​ ​pulled​ ​down​ ​around​ ​the​ ​body​ ​that​ ​was warm,​ ​but​ ​nearly​ ​lifeless,​ ​he​ ​cradled​ ​him​ ​with​ ​one​ ​arm​ ​while​ ​wrapping​ ​the​ ​blanket​ ​about​ ​him before​ ​lifting​ ​him​ ​into​ ​the​ ​wheelchair.​ ​Without​ ​a​ ​second​ ​thought​ ​he​ ​had​ ​grabbed​ ​the​ ​socks​ ​that had​ ​been​ ​beside​ ​where​ ​Elia​ ​sat,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​shoes​ ​so​ ​he​ ​could​ ​finish​ ​dressing​ ​him.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​the​ ​first time​ ​he​ ​would​ ​see​ ​him​ ​in​ ​actual​ ​clothes.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​always​ ​been​ ​too​ ​thin​ ​hospital​ ​gowns…​ ​or​ ​his own​ ​blood.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​took​ ​a​ ​shaking​ ​breath.
“Do​ ​you​ ​have​ ​any​ ​kids,​ ​sir?”​ ​The​ ​woman’s​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​soft​ ​but​ ​he​ ​still​ ​spooked.​ ​He​ ​hadn’t​ ​even realised​ ​that​ ​she​ ​was​ ​still​ ​there.
“No.​ ​None​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​of.”
“I​ ​thought,​ ​when​ ​I​ ​first​ ​started,​ ​that​ ​he​ ​was​ ​your​ ​son.​ ​You​ ​treat​ ​him​ ​the​ ​way​ ​that​ ​a​ ​parent would​ ​treat​ ​one​ ​of​ ​their​ ​kids.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​other​ ​nurses​ ​told​ ​me​ ​the​ ​story​ ​of​ ​how​ ​he​ ​came​ ​to​ ​be here​ ​and​ ​how​ ​old​ ​he​ ​is.​ ​I​ ​still​ ​can’t​ ​believe​ ​it.​ ​Now​ ​it​ ​looks​ ​like​ ​you​ ​could​ ​be​ ​his​ ​grandfather​ ​and he’s​ ​still,​ ​just​ ​the​ ​same​ ​as​ ​he​ ​was.​ ​Has​ ​it​ ​really​ ​been​ ​fifty​ ​years?”
The​ ​detective​ ​looked​ ​up​ ​with​ ​such​ ​a​ ​tortured​ ​expression​ ​that​ ​she​ ​visibly​ ​bit​ ​her​ ​tongue​ ​and gasped.
“I’m​ ​sorry,​ ​sir.​ ​I​ ​shouldn’t​ ​have​ ​said​ ​anything.​ ​You’re​ ​just,​ ​very​ ​good​ ​with​ ​him.​ ​You​ ​are​ ​the​ ​most caring​ ​person​ ​that​ ​comes​ ​here.”​ ​She​ ​offered​ ​him​ ​a​ ​smile​ ​and​ ​turned,​ ​leaving​ ​them​ ​alone.
Had​ ​it​ ​really​ ​been​ ​that​ ​long?​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​it​ ​had​ ​even​ ​as​ ​some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​believe. He​ ​sighed​ ​as​ ​he​ ​carefully​ ​checked​ ​how​ ​Elia​ ​was​ ​in​ ​the​ ​chair.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​were​ ​open.​ ​He​ ​looked​ ​so sad.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​stretched​ ​and​ ​smoothed​ ​his​ ​thumb​ ​around​ ​Elia’s​ ​face,​ ​wishing​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​him comfort.
“It’s​ ​okay,​ ​Elia.​ ​We’re​ ​going​ ​to​ ​the​ ​woods​ ​today.​ ​You​ ​will​ ​feel​ ​better,​ ​I​ ​just​ ​know​ ​it.​ ​Maybe soon…​ ​soon​ ​you​ ​will​ ​talk​ ​with​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​just​ ​want​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​you​ ​that​ ​nothing​ ​can​ ​hurt​ ​you​ ​now.​ ​I​ ​fixed everything.​ ​There’s​ ​no​ ​more​ ​pain.​ ​I​ ​found​ ​them,​ ​I​ ​found​ ​all​ ​the​ ​other​ ​children​ ​and​ ​now​ ​they have​ ​peace.​ ​I​ ​just…​ ​I​ ​wish​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​you​ ​could​ ​hear​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​tried​ ​Elia,​ ​I​ ​​ ​tried.”
His​ ​hands​ ​wrapped​ ​around​ ​the​ ​handles​ ​of​ ​the​ ​wheelchair​ ​and​ ​he​ ​careful​ ​maneuvered​ ​them through​ ​the​ ​door​ ​and​ ​into​ ​the​ ​hallway.​ ​Before​ ​going​ ​any​ ​further,​ ​he​ ​grabbed​ ​another​ ​blanket which​ ​he​ ​settled​ ​about​ ​Elia’s​ ​shoulders​ ​and​ ​then​ ​across​ ​his​ ​lap.​ ​He​ ​almost​ ​looked​ ​like​ ​a​ ​normal little​ ​boy,​ ​not​ ​one​ ​who​ ​had​ ​been​ ​through​ ​what​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​through,​ ​not​ ​one​ ​who​ ​should​ ​have grown​ ​into​ ​a​ ​man​ ​and​ ​known​ ​life​ ​and​ ​love,​ ​not​ ​pain.​ ​The​ ​detective​ ​took​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​breath​ ​before he​ ​began​ ​to​ ​walk​ ​them​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​door,​ ​to​ ​the​ ​yard,​ ​and​ ​further​ ​to​ ​the​ ​trees​ ​that​ ​grew beyond.

*​ ​*​ ​*

Elia​ ​blinked​ ​tears​ ​from​ ​his​ ​eyes.​ ​The​ ​man​ ​was​ ​across​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​Pain​ ​enfolded​ ​him,​ ​so​ ​much​ ​pain​ ​from​ ​between his​ ​legs​ ​and​ ​within​ ​his​ ​pelvis​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​do​ ​nothing​ ​more​ ​than​ ​lay​ ​there.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​dropped​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor from​ ​the​ ​table.​ ​The​ ​man​ ​had​ ​said​ ​he’d​ ​ruined​ ​everything.​ ​He’d​ ​ruined​ ​everything​ ​because​ ​he’d​ ​been​ ​a​ ​boy​ ​instead of​ ​a​ ​girl.​ ​Then​ ​the​ ​man​ ​had​ ​found​ ​a​ ​knife​ ​and​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​make​ ​him​ ​a​ ​girl.​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​never​ ​known​ ​that​ ​there​ ​could be​ ​so​ ​much​ ​pain​ ​that​ ​it​ ​could​ ​make​ ​you​ ​numb.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​could​ ​hear​ ​was​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​pumping​ ​in​ ​his​ ​ears​ ​and screaming,​ ​screaming​ ​that​ ​was​ ​muffled​ ​as​ ​though​ ​it​ ​was​ ​still​ ​through​ ​glass​ ​through​ ​the​ ​walls,​ ​screaming​ ​from the​ ​trees​ ​that​ ​normally​ ​whispered​ ​softly​ ​to​ ​him,​ ​that​ ​now​ ​reacted​ ​to​ ​his​ ​pain​ ​and​ ​horror.​ ​No​ ​one​ ​would​ ​save him.​ ​He’d​ ​run​ ​from​ ​the​ ​one​ ​person​ ​who​ ​always​ ​had,​ ​and​ ​had​ ​yet​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​would​ ​protect​ ​him,​ ​be​ ​by  his​ ​side,​ ​when​ ​he​ ​grew​ ​to​ ​be​ ​alone.
Slowly​ ​he​ ​tried​ ​again.​ ​He​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​move.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​away​ ​tears​ ​as​ ​the​ ​pain​ ​intensified​ ​and​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​fresh​ ​blood well​ ​from​ ​between​ ​his​ ​legs.​ ​His​ ​fingers​ ​twitched​ ​and​ ​his​ ​arm​ ​sluggishly​ ​obeyed.​ ​He​ ​bashed​ ​himself​ ​in​ ​the​ ​face  with​ ​his​ ​wrist​ ​and​ ​fought​ ​not​ ​to​ ​whimper.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​what​ ​would​ ​happen​ ​if​ ​he​ ​drew​ ​attention​ ​to​ ​himself.  He​ ​turned​ ​his​ ​head​ ​and​ ​saw​ ​a​ ​bloodied​ ​bit​ ​of​ ​flesh,​ ​not​ ​far​ ​from​ ​where​ ​he​ ​lay,​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​discarded​ ​like​ ​it was​ ​garbage.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​narrowed,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​place​ ​what​ ​it​ ​was.​ ​It​ ​looked​ ​foreign,​ ​alien​ ​to​ ​him,​ ​but​ ​then​ ​he realized.​ ​That…​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​sobbed​ ​and​ ​reached​ ​for​ ​the​ ​piece​ ​that​ ​was​ ​missing.​ ​He​ ​wanted to​ ​feel​ ​whole​ ​again.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​go​ ​home.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​be​ ​in​ ​the​ ​woods​ ​so​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​the​ ​music that​ ​the​ ​the​ ​whispered​ ​voices​ ​made​ ​as​ ​the​ ​wind​ ​blew​ ​through​ ​the​ ​trees.​ ​He​ ​heard​ ​the​ ​one​ ​he​ ​shared​ ​a​ ​room​ ​with shift,​ ​his​ ​attention​ ​drawn​ ​by​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​him​ ​crying.
“You​ ​want​ ​it​ ​back,​ ​you​ ​worthless​ ​little​ ​brat,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​have​ ​it.​ ​It’s​ ​all​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​over​ ​soon​ ​anyway.​ ​You​ ​ruined  everything!”
Elia​ ​flinched​ ​when​ ​worn​ ​boots​ ​came​ ​into​ ​his​ ​field​ ​of​ ​vision.​ ​He​ ​waited​ ​to​ ​be​ ​kicked,​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​and​ ​braced for​ ​it,​ ​but​ ​instead​ ​felt​ ​something​ ​cold​ ​hit​ ​his​ ​leg.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​been​ ​kicked​ ​but​ ​that​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him​ ​wasn’t​ ​attached  anymore​ ​so​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​feel​ ​the​ ​pain.​ ​He​ ​swallowed​ ​hard,​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​opening​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​stood​ ​over​ ​him.  What​ ​was​ ​he​ ​waiting​ ​for?​ ​Elia​ ​could​ ​tell​ ​that​ ​he​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​hurt​ ​him.​ ​The​ ​man​ ​who​ ​stood​ ​over​ ​him​ ​bled​ ​with​ ​a maliciousness​ ​that​ ​stained​ ​the​ ​room​ ​more​ ​than​ ​the​ ​steady​ ​stream​ ​of​ ​blood​ ​that​ ​dripped​ ​from​ ​those​ ​mutilated  places​ ​between​ ​Elia’s​ ​legs.​ ​He​ ​stood​ ​there,​ ​quietly​ ​regarding​ ​him​ ​before​ ​rubbing​ ​the​ ​crotch​ ​of​ ​his​ ​pants​ ​with​ ​a hand,​ ​smearing​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​from​ ​it​ ​on​ ​the​ ​fabric​ ​carelessly.
“You​ ​felt​ ​good​ ​anyway,​ ​didn’t​ ​you​ ​beautiful?​ ​I​ ​barely​ ​knew​ ​the​ ​difference​ ​once​ ​I​ ​was​ ​inside​ ​you.”​ ​The​ ​man’s  voice​ ​was​ ​a​ ​soft​ ​croon.
All​ ​Elia​ ​could​ ​do​ ​was​ ​fight​ ​to​ ​stay​ ​still​ ​as​ ​everything​ ​in​ ​him​ ​suddenly​ ​began​ ​to​ ​burn.​ ​He​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​and​ ​only heard​ ​the​ ​man​ ​leave,​ ​his​ ​footsteps​ ​on​ ​the​ ​rough​ ​wooden​ ​floor​ ​and​ ​then​ ​the​ ​door​ ​before​ ​his​ ​footsteps​ ​were muffled​ ​by​ ​soil.​ ​It​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​an​ ​eternity​ ​that​ ​he​ ​lay​ ​there.​ ​His​ ​hands​ ​began​ ​to​ ​ache,​ ​his​ ​mouth,​ ​his​ ​very​ ​bones protesting​ ​against​ ​the​ ​confines​ ​of​ ​his​ ​flesh​ ​as​ ​he​ ​took​ ​panting​ ​breaths,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​remain​ ​calm.​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to run.​ ​HE​ ​WANTED​ ​TO​ ​RUN!
The​ ​door​ ​creaked​ ​open​ ​and​ ​Elia​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​tight,​ ​curling​ ​his​ ​hands​ ​into​ ​fists,​ ​digging​ ​claws​ ​into​ ​the​ ​flesh​ ​of his​ ​palms​ ​as​ ​he​ ​waited​ ​for​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​boots​ ​on​ ​the​ ​wood​ ​of​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​Instead​ ​it​ ​was​ ​paws,​ ​the​ ​soft​ ​sound​ ​of  leathery​ ​paw​ ​pads​ ​surrounded​ ​in​ ​fur​ ​and​ ​the​ ​distinguishable​ ​click​ ​of​ ​claws.
Elia​ ​turned​ ​his​ ​head​ ​and​ ​opened​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​just​ ​as​ ​she​ ​changed.​ ​Now,​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​the​ ​wolf​ ​who​ ​had​ ​let​ ​herself​ ​into  the​ ​room,​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​knelt​ ​beside​ ​him​ ​and​ ​smoothed​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​from​ ​his​ ​face​ ​in​ ​a​ ​touch​ ​that​ ​was​ ​so​ ​gentle.​ ​No!  No!​ ​How​ ​had​ ​she​ ​found​ ​him​ ​when​ ​he​ ​had​ ​run​ ​from​ ​her?​ ​What​ ​did​ ​it​ ​mean​ ​that​ ​she​ ​had​ ​been​ ​a​ ​wolf?​ ​She​ ​never changed!​ ​She​ ​said​ ​that​ ​they​ ​should​ ​never​ ​change​ ​because​ ​bad​ ​things​ ​happened​ ​when​ ​wolves​ ​changed.​ ​Her​ ​hands  ghosted​ ​touch​ ​over​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​him,​ ​her​ ​eyes​ ​wide.
“Elia,​ ​Elia​ ​I’m​ ​sorry.​ ​I’m​ ​so​ ​sorry.​ ​I…”​ ​She​ ​looked​ ​back​ ​up​ ​to​ ​his​ ​face​ ​and​ ​smoothed​ ​a​ ​tear​ ​from​ ​his​ ​cheek.
“Mom,​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​you​ ​to​ ​see​ ​me​ ​like​ ​this.​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​you​ ​to​ ​worry.”​ ​He​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​move​ ​his​ ​hands​ ​to​ ​cover​ ​the  damage​ ​that​ ​she’d​ ​already​ ​seen​ ​and​ ​drew​ ​his​ ​legs​ ​together.​ ​She​ ​blinked​ ​at​ ​him,​ ​a​ ​furrow​ ​growing​ ​upon​ ​her​ ​brow.
“Baby,​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​it.​ ​You​ ​have​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​it​ ​right​ ​now​ ​because​ ​if​ ​you​ ​change,​ ​you​ ​might​ ​die.”​ ​Her​ ​voice​ ​was  quiet​ ​as​ ​a​ ​whisper​ ​and​ ​shook.​ ​She’d​ ​already​ ​seen​ ​too​ ​much.​ ​“You​ ​have​ ​to​ ​heal.​ ​I​ ​know​ ​it​ ​hurts​ ​but​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to…”
She​ ​stopped​ ​in​ ​the​ ​middle​ ​of​ ​her​ ​sentence,​ ​or​ ​maybe​ ​that​ ​was​ ​all​ ​she​ ​had​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​say.​ ​She​ ​cocked​ ​her​ ​head​ ​and,  in​ ​the​ ​blink​ ​of​ ​an​ ​eye,​ ​she​ ​was​ ​a​ ​wolf​ ​again.​ ​She​ ​gently​ ​stepped​ ​over​ ​him​ ​and​ ​under​ ​the​ ​table,​ ​only​ ​leaving​ ​a couple​ ​paw​ ​prints​ ​made​ ​of​ ​Elia’s​ ​blood​ ​as​ ​evidence​ ​that​ ​she​ ​existed​ ​at​ ​all.​ ​He​ ​heard​ ​boots​ ​outside​ ​before​ ​the​ ​door opened​ ​and​ ​they​​ ​could​ ​echo​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​he​ ​shared​ ​with​ ​them.​ ​Elia​ ​didn’t​ ​look​ ​at​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​fighting​ ​for​ ​even breaths,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​force​ ​a​ ​calm​ ​that​ ​seemed​ ​so​ ​distant​ ​in​ ​this​ ​world​ ​of​ ​pain,​ ​losing​ ​to​ ​a​ ​body​ ​that​ ​only​ ​wanted​ ​to run.​ ​Everything​ ​hurt​ ​so​ ​much.​ ​He​ ​wasn’t​ ​aware​ ​of​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​a​ ​rifle​ ​being​ ​loaded​ ​and​ ​cocked,​ ​wasn’t​ ​aware​ ​of  anything​ ​until​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​growl​ ​began​ ​to​ ​rumble​ ​from​ ​the​ ​spot​ ​where​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​was​ ​crouched.​ ​He​ ​looked  to​ ​find​ ​what​ ​she​ ​was​ ​growling​ ​at​ ​only​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​the​ ​muzzle​ ​of​ ​the​ ​rifle​ ​as​ ​it​ ​became​ ​level​ ​with​ ​the​ ​line​ ​of​ ​his​ ​eyes.
“I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​the​ ​last​ ​one​ ​to​ ​know​ ​your​ ​beauty.”
He​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​get​ ​to​ ​blink​ ​before​ ​she​ ​erupted,​ ​jumping​ ​for​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​aimed​ ​for​ ​her​ ​only​ ​son​ ​like​ ​he​ ​meant​ ​to put​ ​an​ ​animal​ ​out​ ​of​ ​its​ ​misery.​ ​Elia​ ​blinked​ ​again​ ​as​ ​the​ ​rifle​ ​went​ ​off,​ ​the​ ​shot​ ​missing​ ​him​ ​and​ ​finding​ ​one of​ ​the​ ​table​ ​legs​ ​before​ ​it​ ​embedded​ ​in​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​The​ ​sound​ ​startled​ ​him,​ ​the​ ​smell,​ ​then​ ​the​ ​smell​ ​of​ ​blood.​ ​He  blinked​ ​and​ ​cried​ ​out.​ ​His​ ​body​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​fire​ ​as​ ​his​ ​senses​ ​tuned​ ​and​ ​he​ ​rolled​ ​to​ ​his​ ​feet.​ ​The​ ​door​ ​was​ ​closed.  He​ ​couldn’t​ ​run​ ​so​ ​he​ ​paced​ ​through​ ​his​ ​own​ ​blood,​ ​still​ ​fighting​ ​for​ ​control,​ ​his​ ​paws​ ​skittering​ ​on​ ​the​ ​wood​ ​as  the​ ​man​ ​and​ ​the​ ​larger​ ​wolf​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​crashed​ ​about​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​The​ ​smell​ ​of​ ​blood​ ​was​ ​making  him​ ​dizzy,​ ​the​ ​pain​ ​overloading​ ​him​ ​as​ ​he​ ​fought​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​his​ ​feet​ ​under​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​scrambled​ ​out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​way​ ​as  they​ ​fell​ ​towards​ ​him​ ​and​ ​whimpered​ ​when​ ​his​ ​hind​ ​legs​ ​began​ ​to​ ​give​ ​out.
He​ ​stood,​ ​stone​ ​still​, so​ ​afraid​ ​that​ ​if​ ​he​ ​moved,​ ​he​ ​would​ ​fall,​ ​shaking​ ​with​ ​his​ ​need​ ​to​ ​collapse.​ ​Soon,​ ​he​ ​could run​ ​soon,​ ​even​ ​as​ ​some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​never​ ​know​ ​what​ ​it​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​to​ ​run,​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​the​ ​breeze​ ​in his​ ​fur​ ​and​ ​the​ ​soil​ ​between​ ​his​ ​toes,​ ​the​ ​forest​ ​around​ ​him​ ​and​ ​its​ ​song​ ​embracing​ ​him​ ​in​ ​warmth​ ​and​ ​calm,  making​ ​him​ ​feel​ ​whole.
Gentle​ ​hands​ ​smoothed​ ​through​ ​his​ ​fur​ ​and​ ​he​ ​whined.​ ​He​ ​leaned​ ​into​ ​the​ ​touch,​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​do​ ​anything​ ​more.  He​ ​could​ ​hear​ ​a​ ​dripping,​ ​hear​ ​a​ ​dripping​ ​from​ ​somewhere,​ ​maybe​ ​it​ ​was​ ​from​ ​him.​ ​Then​ ​the​ ​voice​ ​registered.​ ​It  was​ ​his​ ​mother’s​ ​voice.​ ​His​ ​mother​ ​was​ ​asking​ ​him​ ​for​ ​something.​ ​She​ ​sounded​ ​so​ ​sad.​ ​Why​ ​was​ ​she​ ​sad?​ ​She  was​ ​asking​ ​him​ ​to​ ​change.​ ​He​ ​looked​ ​down​ ​to​ ​where​ ​hands​ ​should​ ​be​ ​and​ ​found​ ​paws.​ ​He’d​ ​changed!​ ​Some​ ​part of​ ​him​ ​hadn’t​ ​realized​ ​and​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​went​ ​wide,​ ​gleaming​ ​like​ ​the​ ​sun​ ​on​ ​snow​ ​during​ ​the​ ​coldest​ ​day​ ​of​ ​winter.  She​ ​had​ ​told​ ​him​ ​not​ ​to​ ​change​ ​and​ ​he​ ​had​ ​done​ ​it​ ​anyway.​ ​Now​ ​she​ ​seemed​ ​like​ ​she​ ​was​ ​afraid. Her​ ​hands​ ​were​ ​such​ ​a​ ​comfort​ ​that​ ​he​ ​involuntarily​ ​sat.​ ​Just​ ​as​ ​quickly​ ​as​ ​he​ ​had​ ​become​ ​a​ ​wolf,​ ​he  transitioned​ ​back​ ​and​ ​collapsed​ ​into​ ​her.
“Elia,​ ​my​ ​strong​ ​Elia.​ ​It’s​ ​okay,​ ​somehow​ ​it​ ​will​ ​be​ ​okay.​ ​I’ll​ ​make​ ​sure.​ ​Please​ ​just…”    Something​ ​happened.​ ​Her​ ​words​ ​stopped​ ​just​ ​as​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​loud​ ​noise.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​still​ ​having​ ​problems  understanding​ ​everything​ ​that​ ​was​ ​happening​ ​around​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​still​ ​wasn’t​ ​only​ ​human.​ ​Her​ ​hands​ ​had​ ​gone  limp​ ​and​ ​he​ ​had​ ​to​ ​brace​ ​himself​ ​so​ ​that​ ​he​ ​wouldn’t​ ​fall.​ ​She​ ​slowly​ ​move​ ​away​ ​from​ ​him,​ ​her​ ​hands​ ​slipping  from​ ​their​ ​embrace​ ​until​ ​he​ ​saw​ ​that​ ​she​ ​was​ ​falling​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​floor.​ ​Something​ ​was​ ​wrong.​ ​Her​ ​face.​ ​She  only​ ​had​ ​half​ ​a​ ​face.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​as​ ​her​​ ​head​ ​hit​ ​the​ ​floor,​ ​the​ ​remaining​ ​contents​ ​spilling​ ​from​ ​it​ ​as​ ​it​ ​made​ ​a hollow​ ​sound.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​rose​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​man​ ​braced​ ​against​ ​the​ ​wall,​ ​reloading​ ​his​ ​rifle.​ ​He​ ​had…​ ​he​ ​had…
Rage,​ ​like​ ​nothing​ ​Elia​ ​had​ ​ever​ ​felt,​ ​gripped​ ​him.​ ​The​ ​window​ ​smashed​ ​as​ ​the​ ​branch​ ​struck​ ​it,​ ​driven​ ​by​ ​the  screams​ ​of​ ​the​ ​wind​ ​outside,​ ​the​ ​door​ ​cracked​ ​open.​ ​Elia​ ​sobbed​ ​once,​ ​took​ ​a​ ​great​ ​breath,​ ​and​ ​screamed.
“CISCO!”
He​ ​was​ ​at​ ​once​ ​enveloped​ ​in​ ​a​ ​darkness​ ​that​ ​was​ ​so​ ​comfortable​ ​and​ ​familiar​ ​he​ ​could,​ ​at​ ​last,​ ​take​ ​a​ ​gentle  breath.​ ​He​ ​closed​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​and​ ​relaxed.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​this​ ​for​ ​so​ ​long.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​the​ ​place​ ​he​ ​had​ ​almost come​ ​so​ ​many​ ​times.
“Cisco…”​ ​he​ ​repeated​ ​the​ ​name,​ ​meaning​ ​only​ ​to​ ​hold​ ​it​ ​within​ ​his​ ​mouth​ ​one​ ​more​ ​time.
“I’m​ ​here,​ ​Elia.​ ​You​ ​are​ ​not​ ​alone.”​ ​Cool​ ​hands​ ​found​ ​him​ ​and​ ​moved​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​him​ ​comfort,​ ​just​ ​as​ ​his​ ​mother’s  had.
“Why​ ​did​ ​this​ ​happen?​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​understand.​ ​Wasn’t​ ​I​ ​good​ ​enough?​ ​Why…​ ​why​ ​is​ ​there​ ​so​ ​much​ ​pain?”​ ​Elia  opened​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​just​ ​as​ ​he​ ​was​ ​drawn​ ​into​ ​an​ ​embrace​ ​that​ ​felt​ ​as​ ​though​ ​it​ ​were​ ​made​ ​of​ ​spider​ ​silk​ ​and  shadows.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​feel​ ​uneven​ ​breaths​ ​against​ ​his​ ​hair.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​a​ ​growing​ ​within​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​could​ ​sense​ ​the presence​ ​of​ ​another,​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​held​ ​him.​ ​This​ ​one​ ​who​ ​smelled​ ​of​ ​blood​ ​and​ ​leaves,​ ​who​ ​held​ ​him​ ​so​ ​close,​ ​this person​ ​wasn’t​ ​really​ ​a​ ​person​ ​at​ ​all.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​a​ ​Fae.
“I​ ​don’t​ ​know​ ​child.​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​know.”
“Why​ ​is​ ​everyone​ ​afraid​ ​of​ ​you?​ ​Why​ ​wasn’t​ ​I​ ​allowed​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​to​ ​you​ ​before?”​ ​Elia​ ​felt​ ​so​ ​tired.​ ​He​ ​just​ ​wanted  to​ ​give​ ​himself​ ​to​ ​the​ ​darkness​ ​so​ ​the​ ​pain​ ​would​ ​stop.
“Aren’t​ ​you​ ​afraid?”​ ​There​ ​was​ ​hesitation​ ​and​ ​Elia​ ​could​ ​feel​ ​a​ ​wave​ ​of​ ​doubt​ ​from​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​held​ ​him.    “No.​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​afraid.​ ​I​ ​know​ ​what​ ​you​ ​are​ ​and​ ​I​ ​could​ ​never​ ​be​ ​afraid​ ​of​ ​you.”​ ​He​ ​fought​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​open  and​ ​he​ ​nuzzled​ ​against​ ​a​ ​strong​ ​chest.
“What?”​ ​Surprise​ ​colored​ ​the​ ​voice​ ​that​ ​reverberated​ ​beneath​ ​his​ ​ear.
“You​ ​are​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​me​ ​and​ ​I​ ​am​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​want…​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​know​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​with​ ​you​ ​and​ ​find  out​ ​what​ ​you​ ​are​ ​like.​ ​I’ve​ ​dreamt​ ​about​ ​that​ ​for​ ​so​ ​long.​ ​You​ ​could​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​about​ ​my​ ​father,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​could​ ​tell  you​ ​about​ ​the​ ​sunshine.​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​afraid.​ ​You​ ​are​ ​my​ ​only​ ​friend.”​ ​He​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​bring​ ​his​ ​arms​ ​up​ ​but​ ​his​ ​body protested.​ ​“I’m​ ​happy​ ​you​ ​are​ ​here.”
The​ ​one​ ​who​ ​held​ ​him​ ​shivered​ ​before​ ​responding.​ ​“Dear​ ​sweet​ ​child,​ ​though​ ​I​ ​belong​ ​to​ ​you,​ ​you​ ​should​ ​be  afraid.”
Elia​ ​used​ ​the​ ​remainder​ ​of​ ​his​ ​strength​ ​to​ ​pull​ ​away​ ​so​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​see​ ​the​ ​face​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​had​ ​come​ ​to  him.​ ​Hair​ ​the​ ​color​ ​of​ ​darkest​ ​garnet​ ​framed​ ​a​ ​face​ ​that​ ​held​ ​swirled​ ​ghost​ ​fire​ ​markings,​ ​almost​ ​as​ ​though​ ​the scars​ ​that​ ​made​ ​them​ ​still​ ​burned.​ ​Eyes​ ​that​ ​were​ ​just​ ​as​ ​cold​ ​gazed​ ​at​ ​him.​ ​This​ ​Fae​ ​did​ ​not​ ​look​ ​like​ ​it​ ​was  alive,​ ​but​ ​a​ ​shadow​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​born​ ​from​ ​death.​ ​Elia​ ​would​ ​have​ ​to​ ​ask​ ​him​ ​why​ ​when​ ​this​ ​was​ ​all​ ​over.​ ​He knew​ ​that​ ​face.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​it​ ​a​ ​hundred​ ​times.
“You​ ​don’t​ ​belong​ ​to​ ​me​ ​or​ ​to​ ​anyone​ ​else.​ ​You​ ​are​ ​free.”​ ​​ ​his​ ​breaths​ ​came​ ​in​ ​shallow.​ ​“I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​die.​ ​It’s  not​ ​fair.”
“I​ ​won’t​ ​let​ ​you​ ​die.​ ​You​ ​said​ ​you​ ​would​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​about​ ​the​ ​sunshine​ ​and​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​about​ ​it​ ​very​ ​much.​
I want​ ​to​ ​know​ ​it​ ​through​ ​your​ ​eyes.​ ​You​ ​rest.​ ​You​ ​rest​ ​and​ ​I’ll​ ​take​ ​care​ ​of​ ​everything.​ ​When​ ​you​ ​wake​ ​up,​ ​I’ll  be​ ​there.​ ​I​ ​promise.”
Elia​ ​nodded​ ​even​ ​as​ ​he​ ​felt​ ​himself​ ​lowered.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​carefully​ ​laid​ ​out​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​floor,​ ​but​ ​somehow​ ​it​ ​wasn’t​ ​as hard​ ​as​ ​it​ ​was​ ​before.​ ​The​ ​pain​ ​slowly​ ​faded​ ​from​ ​his​ ​perception,​ ​the​ ​fear,​ ​and​ ​all​ ​that​ ​was​ ​left​ ​was​ ​the  darkness​ ​that​ ​surrounded​ ​him,​ ​even​ ​with​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​wide​ ​open. He​ ​didn’t​ ​hear​ ​what​ ​happened,​ ​the​ ​screaming​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​him,​ ​the​ ​slow​ ​torture​ ​that​ ​happened​ ​as​ ​a  form​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​human​ ​was​ ​twisted​ ​beyond​ ​recognition​ ​as​ ​his​ ​soul​ ​was​ ​consumed​ ​while​ ​he​ ​still​ ​lived.​ ​Elia  didn’t​ ​hear​ ​the​ ​sirens,​ ​the​ ​foot​ ​falls​ ​of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​responders,​ ​or​ ​the​ ​words​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​would​ ​someday​ ​consider  him​ ​to​ ​be​ ​his​ ​only​ ​friend.

*​ ​*​ ​*

Elia​ ​blinked.​ ​The​ ​world​ ​felt​ ​so​ ​out​ ​of​ ​focus.​ ​It​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​he’d​ ​just​ ​been​ ​moving,​ ​but​ ​he​ ​was​ ​clearly sitting​ ​in​ ​a​ ​chair.​ ​He​ ​blinked​ ​again​ ​and​ ​swallowed.​ ​He​ ​was…​ ​he​ ​was​ ​in​ ​the​ ​forest.​ ​The​ ​trees grew​ ​up​ ​from​ ​the​ ​rich​ ​dark​ ​earth​ ​and​ ​he​ ​could​ ​hear​ ​the​ ​various​ ​worms​ ​and​ ​insects​ ​that​ ​nestled amidst​ ​the​ ​detritus​ ​on​ ​the​ ​forest​ ​floor.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​crisp,​ ​but​ ​warm,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​could​ ​smell​ ​the​ ​ferns​ ​that had​ ​just​ ​raised​ ​their​ ​fists​ ​against​ ​the​ ​cold,​ ​angry​ ​to​ ​have​ ​been​ ​made​ ​to​ ​wait​ ​as​ ​frost​ ​and​ ​snow ruled​ ​the​ ​land​ ​during​ ​the​ ​winter.
His​ ​head​ ​rose​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​path​ ​before​ ​him.​ ​His​ ​gaze​ ​fell​ ​to​ ​one​ ​of​ ​his​ ​hands​ ​before​ ​rising​ ​as​ ​well. He​ ​felt​ ​bigger​ ​than​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been.​ ​He​ ​felt​ ​different.​ ​He​ ​remembered​ ​hearing​ ​a​ ​voice​ ​that sometimes​ ​he​ ​had​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​say​ ​something​ ​back​ ​to.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​the​ ​name​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who spoke​ ​to​ ​him​ ​but​ ​he​ ​found​ ​that​ ​voice​ ​to​ ​be​ ​such​ ​a​ ​comfort.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​ask​ ​his​ ​name.​ ​He had​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​him​ ​that​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​listening.
His​ ​eyes​ ​found​ ​a​ ​darkness​ ​before​ ​them.​ ​It​ ​wasn’t​ ​a​ ​shadow,​ ​though​ ​it​ ​was​ ​made​ ​from​ ​them.​ ​He knew​ ​that​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​shadow.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​the​ ​comfort​ ​of​ ​its​ ​embrace.
“Cisco…”​ ​just​ ​a​ ​whisper​ ​from​ ​his​ ​lips.​ ​That​ ​one​ ​had​ ​been​ ​promised​ ​and​ ​made​ ​promises.​ ​That one​ ​was​ ​free,​ ​but​ ​still​ ​held​ ​him​ ​as​ ​though​ ​some​ ​part​ ​of​ ​him​ ​belonged.
“I’ve​ ​brought​ ​him.​ ​He’s​ ​here.​ ​Please,​ ​please​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​he​ ​will​ ​wake.​ ​Please!”
Elia​ ​flinched.​ ​He​ ​hadn’t​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​there​ ​was​ ​someone​ ​else​ ​so​ ​near.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​voice.​ ​It was​ ​him,​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​always​ ​spoke​ ​to​ ​him.​ ​The​ ​one​ ​who​ ​he​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​say​ ​something​ ​to.
“I-I’m​ ​awake.”​ ​He​ ​took​ ​even​ ​breaths​ ​and​ ​smoothed​ ​his​ ​hair​ ​from​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​with​ ​one​ ​of​ ​his​ ​hands. “I’m​ ​awake…”
A​ ​warm​ ​hand​ ​gripped​ ​his​ ​shoulder.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​this​ ​touch.​ ​This​ ​touch​ ​was​ ​caring,​ ​loving,​ ​and always​ ​warm​ ​and​ ​gentle.​ ​His​ ​fingers​ ​covered​ ​that​ ​hand​ ​before​ ​he​ ​turned​ ​his​ ​head​ ​toward​ ​it. This​ ​belonged​ ​to​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​had​ ​cared​ ​for​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​knew​ ​this​ ​touch​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​he​ ​knew​ ​the voice.
“So​ ​you​ ​are…​ ​Elia,​ ​I​ ​have​ ​waited​ ​for​ ​so​ ​long​ ​just​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​your​ ​voice.”​ ​Those​ ​words​ ​were​ ​just​ ​a low​ ​murmur,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​made​ ​them​ ​was​ ​afraid​ ​that​ ​some​ ​spell​ ​would​ ​be​ ​broken​ ​if he​ ​uttered​ ​much​ ​more​ ​than​ ​that.​ ​Elia​ ​felt​ ​the​ ​hand​ ​that​ ​gripped​ ​him​ ​shift​ ​until​ ​the​ ​man​ ​who had​ ​been​ ​behind​ ​him​ ​rounded​ ​his​ ​seat​ ​and​ ​knelt​ ​before​ ​him,​ ​carefully​ ​keeping​ ​hold​ ​of​ ​his fingers.​ ​“I​ ​tried​ ​Elia,​ ​I​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​make​ ​things​ ​right.​ ​I​ ​found…​ ​I​ ​found​ ​all​ ​of​ ​the​ ​others​ ​and​ ​brought them​ ​back​ ​to​ ​their​ ​families.​ ​You​ ​were​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​I​ ​could​ ​never​ ​find​ ​anything​ ​out​ ​about.”
“That’s​ ​right.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​others.​ ​That​ ​person…​ ​I​ ​never​ ​knew​ ​him.”​ ​Elia​ ​got​ ​a​ ​shiver​ ​and​ ​another warm​ ​hand​ ​rose​ ​to​ ​steady​ ​him.​ ​“I​ ​only​ ​knew​ ​my​ ​mom.”
“Your​ ​mom,​ ​she…​ ​she’s…”
“She’s​ ​dead.​ ​I​ ​remember.​ ​She​ ​came​ ​to​ ​find​ ​me,​ ​somehow​ ​she​ ​found​ ​me​ ​and​ ​then…”​ ​his​ ​voice trailed​ ​off.​ ​Elia​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​this​ ​person​ ​knew​ ​the​ ​rest.​ ​The​ ​infinite​ ​regret​ ​within​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​said more​ ​than​ ​his​ ​words​ ​ever​ ​could.​ ​“I​ ​had​ ​run​ ​away,​ ​but​ ​she​ ​came​ ​to​ ​find​ ​me​ ​anyway.​ ​I​ ​see​ ​now… it​ ​was​ ​stupid.​ ​She​ ​was​ ​only​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​protect​ ​me​ ​because​ ​she​ ​didn’t​ ​understand,​ ​the​ ​darkness​ ​is not​ ​the​ ​danger​ ​and​ ​the​ ​one​ ​within​ ​it​ ​is​ ​not​ ​to​ ​be​ ​feared,​ ​but​ ​free.​ ​We​ ​both​ ​belong​ ​to​ ​each​ ​other and​ ​are​ ​ourselves,​ ​Fae​ ​and​ ​Wolf.”
“Fae…”​ ​his​ ​fingers​ ​tightened​ ​the​ ​smallest​ ​amount​ ​as​ ​his​ ​words​ ​shook.​ ​“…and​ ​Wolf.​ ​The​ ​one who​ ​came​ ​to​ ​you,​ ​was​ ​with​ ​you…​ ​he​ ​is​ ​the​ ​wolf?”
Their​ ​eyes​ ​met​ ​and​ ​Elia’s​ ​momentarily​ ​lit​ ​with​ ​ghost​ ​fire.​ ​“No.​ ​I’m​ ​the​ ​wolf.​ ​My​ ​guardian​ ​is​ ​the Fae,​ ​though​ ​he​ ​is​ ​more​ ​than​ ​that​ ​as​ ​well.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​a​ ​wolf​ ​long​ ​ago,​ ​but​ ​something​ ​happened​ ​so he​ ​is​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​what​ ​he​ ​was.​ ​I​ ​know​ ​that​ ​now.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​learned​ ​so​ ​many​ ​things​ ​while​ ​I​ ​was​ ​in​ ​the darkness,​ ​and​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​heard​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​you​ ​that​ ​I​ ​was​ ​listening.”
Elia​ ​watched​ ​the​ ​man​ ​before​ ​him​ ​take​ ​a​ ​shaky​ ​breath.​ ​He​ ​studied​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​wore​ ​a​ ​long​ ​coat​ ​that swept​ ​away​ ​from​ ​him​ ​and​ ​lay​ ​on​ ​the​ ​ground.​ ​It​ ​looked​ ​a​ ​little​ ​big​ ​on​ ​him,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​it​ ​had​ ​been picked​ ​when​ ​the​ ​person​ ​who​ ​bought​ ​it​ ​had​ ​been​ ​larger,​ ​where​ ​this​ ​person​ ​was​ ​almost uncomfortably​ ​thin.​ ​His​ ​hands​ ​were​ ​warm​ ​and​ ​gentle,​ ​but​ ​weathered​ ​by​ ​time​ ​and​ ​his​ ​wrists disappeared​ ​into​ ​the​ ​sleeves​ ​of​ ​his​ ​shirt​ ​and​ ​then​ ​coat,​ ​once​ ​more,​ ​much​ ​the​ ​way​ ​that someone’s​ ​might​ ​if​ ​they​ ​had​ ​lost​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​weight​ ​and​ ​forgotten​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​new​ ​clothes​ ​that​ ​fit.​ ​Hair that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​red​ ​but​ ​now​ ​faded​ ​to​ ​blonde​​ ​and​ ​grey​ ​shifted​ ​in​ ​the​ ​light​ ​breeze.​ ​His​ ​face​ ​was kind,​ ​honest,​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​warm​ ​but​ ​held​ ​a​ ​sadness.​ ​Those​ ​eyes​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​so​ ​many​ ​things,​ ​so​ ​many horrible​ ​things,​ ​it​ ​was​ ​as​ ​though​ ​those​ ​visions​ ​had​ ​stolen​ ​his​ ​life​ ​away,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​knelt here​ ​was​ ​a​ ​shadow​ ​of​ ​what​ ​he​ ​had​ ​been.​ ​It​ ​hurt​ ​to​ ​see​ ​such​ ​a​ ​good​ ​proud​ ​man​ ​devastated​ ​by the​ ​course​ ​of​ ​his​ ​life​ ​and​ ​Elia​ ​couldn’t​ ​help​ ​but​ ​reach​ ​and​ ​place​ ​his​ ​other​ ​hand​ ​upon​ ​a​ ​cheek that​ ​he​ ​was​ ​sure,​ ​should​ ​have​ ​been​ ​more​ ​rounded.​ ​Those​ ​brown​ ​eyes​ ​came​ ​back​ ​to​ ​find​ ​him, and​ ​a​ ​smile​ ​crossed​ ​the​ ​lips​ ​who​ ​had​ ​said​ ​his​ ​name​ ​so​ ​many​ ​times.
“You​ ​are​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​needs​ ​comforted,​ ​Elia.​ ​I’m​ ​fine.”
“That’s​ ​not​ ​true.”
Neither​ ​of​ ​them​ ​moved​ ​as​ ​wisps​ ​of​ ​shadow​ ​slowly​ ​settled​ ​around​ ​them.
“It’s​ ​time​ ​to​ ​go,​ ​Elia.​ ​They​ ​will​ ​notice​ ​that​ ​you​ ​are​ ​missing​ ​soon.”​ ​A​ ​cool​ ​hand​ ​settled​ ​onto​ ​the detective’s​ ​shoulder.
“Go​ ​but…​ ​you’ve​ ​only​ ​just​ ​woken.​ ​I​ ​got​ ​some​ ​things​ ​for​ ​you​ ​that​ ​are​ ​back…​ ​back​ ​at​ ​the hospital.​ ​I​ ​had​ ​wanted…​ ​I​ ​have​ ​shared​ ​a​ ​lifetime​ ​with​ ​you​ ​and​ ​haven’t​ ​known​ ​you​ ​at​ ​all.​ ​You were​ ​the​ ​one​ ​mystery​ ​I​ ​could​ ​never​ ​solve​ ​and…​ ​my​ ​friend.”​ ​He​ ​choked​ ​on​ ​tears,​ ​closing​ ​his eyes.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​cause​ ​Elia​ ​any​ ​more​ ​pain,​ ​but​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​help​ ​the​ ​sting​ ​of​ ​knowing​ ​that he​ ​had​ ​to​ ​leave.​ ​Just​ ​as​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​admit​ ​it,​ ​if​ ​Elia​ ​returned​ ​alive​ ​and​ ​awake,​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be taken​ ​instantly​ ​by​ ​those​ ​who​ ​had​ ​been​ ​waiting.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​already​ ​been​ ​through​ ​so​ ​much.​ ​A​ ​pain grew​ ​in​ ​his​ ​chest​ ​and​ ​spread​ ​down​ ​one​ ​arm,​ ​an​ ​ache​ ​laced​ ​with​ ​fire.​ ​He​ ​gasped​ ​and​ ​clutched​ ​his chest.
“Cisco…​ ​what​ ​is​ ​happening​ ​to​ ​him.”
The​ ​detective​ ​could​ ​feel​ ​soft​ ​fingers​ ​upon​ ​his​ ​face​ ​wiping​ ​away​ ​the​ ​tears​ ​as​ ​Elia​ ​shifted​ ​forward, closer.
“He’s​ ​dying.​ ​He​ ​has​ ​waited​ ​for​ ​you​ ​since​ ​he​ ​was​ ​young​ ​and​ ​now…​ ​this​ ​must​ ​feel​ ​like​ ​you​ ​are rejecting​ ​him.​ ​Human​ ​hearts​ ​are​ ​fragile​ ​things​ ​even​ ​if​ ​wolfen​ ​hearts​ ​can​ ​be​ ​shattered​ ​more completely.”
“Reject…​ ​no.​ ​I’m​ ​not.​ ​Cisco​ ​save​ ​him.”​ ​Elia’s​ ​voice​ ​sounded​ ​desperate.​ ​Why​ ​did​ ​he​ ​sound​ ​like that?
“I​ ​wish​ ​that​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​how.​ ​I​ ​only​ ​know​ ​how​ ​to​ ​consume.”​ ​The​ ​cold​ ​grasp​ ​squeezed​ ​his​ ​shoulder​ ​in an​ ​attempt​ ​at​ ​comfort,​ ​even​ ​as​ ​the​ ​words​ ​sounded​ ​as​ ​though​ ​they​ ​were​ ​filled​ ​with​ ​regret.
Dying.​ ​That​ ​was​ ​unexpected.​ ​At​ ​least​ ​he​ ​wouldn’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​figure​ ​out​ ​how​ ​to​ ​explain​ ​what happened​ ​to​ ​Elia.​ ​He​ ​just​ ​wished​ ​he​ ​had​ ​more​ ​time.​ ​All​ ​he​ ​wanted​ ​was​ ​more​ ​time​ ​and​ ​he​ ​didn’t know​ ​why​ ​it​ ​was​ ​so​ ​important.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​all​ ​happening​ ​so​ ​fast.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​having​ ​trouble​ ​breathing​ ​as his​ ​body​ ​spasmed.
“Look​ ​at​ ​me.​ ​Please​ ​look​ ​at​ ​me.​ ​Tell​ ​me​ ​your​ ​name.​ ​You​ ​never,​ ​ever,​ ​told​ ​me​ ​your​ ​name​ ​in​ ​all that​ ​time.​ ​You​ ​only​ ​called​ ​mine.​ ​Names​ ​are​ ​important​ ​if​ ​you​ ​are​ ​going​ ​to​ ​find​ ​your​ ​way​ ​back. You​ ​may​ ​not​ ​understand​ ​but​ ​I​ ​need​ ​you​ ​to​ ​stay​ ​with​ ​me​ ​for​ ​one​ ​moment​ ​longer​ ​before​ ​you​ ​can be​ ​free.​ ​Will​ ​you​ ​do​ ​that?”
The​ ​detective​ ​nodded​ ​even​ ​as​ ​he​ ​could​ ​feel​ ​a​ ​numbness​ ​settling​ ​over​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​would​ ​try.​ ​Slowly he​ ​forced​ ​his​ ​eyes​ ​open​ ​and​ ​brought​ ​dark​ ​hair​ ​and​ ​pale​ ​skin​ ​into​ ​focus.​ ​Elia’s​ ​eyes​ ​were​ ​burning, illuminated​ ​from​ ​within​ ​and​ ​a​ ​warmth​ ​bloomed​ ​from​ ​that​ ​light.​ ​He​ ​sighed​ ​and​ ​settled​ ​back​ ​into arms​ ​that​ ​steadied​ ​him​ ​from​ ​behind.
“Gabriel…”​ ​he​ ​whispered.​ ​“My​ ​name​ ​is​ ​Gabriel.”
He​ ​wasn’t​ ​sure​ ​if​ ​the​ ​darkness​ ​about​ ​the​ ​edges​ ​of​ ​his​ ​vision​ ​were​ ​from​ ​the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​held​ ​him​ ​or the​ ​one​ ​who​ ​slowly​ ​rose​ ​from​ ​the​ ​wheelchair​ ​with​ ​a​ ​look​ ​upon​ ​his​ ​face​ ​that​ ​said​ ​so​ ​many things.​ ​So​ ​young,​ ​Elia​ ​was​ ​still​ ​so​ ​young​ ​and​ ​had​ ​the​ ​same​ ​quality​ ​that​ ​an​ ​early​ ​spring​ ​flower would,​ ​delicate​ ​but​ ​somehow​ ​so​ ​strong.​ ​He’d​ ​missed​ ​it​ ​before​ ​but…​ ​now​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​see​ ​the child​ ​that​ ​had​ ​been​ ​so​ ​still​ ​in​ ​that​ ​bed,​ ​the​ ​boy​ ​who​ ​would​ ​never​ ​grow​ ​up,​ ​had​ ​done​ ​just​ ​that. Elia​ ​took​ ​his​ ​face​ ​in​ ​his​ ​hands,​ ​so​ ​warm,​ ​and​ ​smoothed​ ​years​ ​of​ ​pain​ ​from​ ​weathered​ ​cheeks and​ ​fixed​ ​him​ ​with​ ​a​ ​look​ ​that​ ​only​ ​made​ ​Gabriel​ ​wish​ ​he​ ​had​ ​more​ ​time.
“Gabriel,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​find​ ​you​ ​again​ ​and​ ​we​ ​will​ ​be​ ​one.​ ​Our​ ​souls​ ​will​ ​run​ ​together​ ​and​ ​I​ ​will​ ​know​ ​you in​ ​this​ ​life​ ​and​ ​the​ ​next.”​ ​Elia’s​ ​eyes​ ​became​ ​even​ ​brighter​ ​as​ ​he​ ​leaned​ ​in​ ​so​ ​close.​ ​“Come​ ​back to​ ​me.​ ​Come​ ​back​ ​to​ ​me,​ ​Gabriel.​ ​I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​waiting.”
He​ ​took​ ​a​ ​shuddering​ ​breath,​ ​then​ ​another,​ ​trapped​ ​between​ ​those​ ​hands​ ​and​ ​those​ ​eyes.​ ​The darkness​ ​threatened​ ​to​ ​close​ ​in​ ​around​ ​him​ ​but​ ​he​ ​just​ ​needed​ ​one​ ​more​ ​moment,​ ​just​ ​one​ ​last look,​ ​to​ ​say​ ​that​ ​name​ ​one​ ​last​ ​time.
“I​ ​will​ ​find​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​will​ ​return​ ​so​ ​that​ ​we​ ​can​ ​run​ ​together​ ​and​ ​become​ ​one.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​next​ ​life,​ ​my heart​ ​will​ ​belong​ ​only​ ​to​ ​you…​ ​Elia.”​ ​His​ ​hands​ ​rose​ ​and​ ​found​ ​strands​ ​of​ ​ebony​ ​dark​ ​hair.​ ​He couldn’t​ ​look​ ​away​ ​as​ ​tears​ ​touched​ ​flushed​ ​freckled​ ​cheeks​ ​and​ ​fell​ ​like​ ​glittering​ ​jewels​ ​to​ ​the ground.
“You​ ​will​ ​be​ ​free.​ ​We​ ​will​ ​walk​ ​side​ ​but​ ​you​ ​will​ ​always​ ​be​ ​free.”
Elia​ ​bent​ ​down​ ​and​ ​sealed​ ​his​ ​lips​ ​in​ ​a​ ​kiss.​ ​Gabriel’s​ ​eyes​ ​momentarily​ ​went​ ​wide,​ ​then softened,​ ​then​ ​the​ ​light​ ​slowly​ ​faded​ ​from​ ​them​ ​and​ ​they​ ​were​ ​only​ ​brown,​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​warm. His​ ​body​ ​was​ ​gathered​ ​carefully​ ​and​ ​carried​ ​brought​ ​by​ ​Faery​ ​arms​ ​to​ ​a​ ​place​ ​in​ ​the​ ​dark​ ​where he​ ​could​ ​rest,​ ​slumber​ ​eternally​ ​undisturbed.
The​ ​next​ ​day​ ​the​ ​wheelchair​ ​was​ ​found​ ​in​ ​the​ ​woods,​ ​abandoned.​ ​The​ ​clothes​ ​the​ ​detective had​ ​bought​ ​were​ ​missing.​ ​All​ ​that​ ​was​ ​left​ ​was​ ​a​ ​shadow.​ ​The​ ​room​ ​was​ ​sealed​ ​off,​ ​the​ ​nurses and​ ​orderlies​ ​afraid​ ​of​ ​the​ ​eyes​ ​that​ ​watched​ ​from​ ​dark​ ​places.​ ​So​ ​only​ ​animals​ ​came​ ​to​ ​visit those​ ​places​ ​until​ ​it​ ​was​ ​taken​ ​over,​ ​returned​ ​from​ ​its​ ​moldering​ ​state​ ​to​ ​be​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​and​ ​made to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​place​ ​of​ ​love.​ ​Still​ ​only​ ​animals​ ​lived​ ​there,​ ​only​ ​wolves​ ​and​ ​their​ ​humans​ ​graced​ ​those walls​ ​and​ ​were​ ​accepted​ ​among​ ​the​ ​many​ ​ghosts.

*​ ​*​ ​*

Elia​ ​blinked.​ ​He’d​ ​been​ ​thinking​ ​about​ ​him​ ​again.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​happened​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​lately.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​as​ ​though there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​familiar​ ​pull,​ ​though​ ​this​ ​was​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time​ ​he​ ​had​ ​felt​ ​that​ ​pull​ ​lead​ ​him​ ​to​ ​another person….​ ​but​ ​that​ ​was​ ​impossible.​ ​Someday​ ​maybe…​ ​maybe…​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​even​ ​remember how​ ​long​ ​it​ ​had​ ​been.
He​ ​glanced​ ​at​ ​the​ ​one​ ​beside​ ​him.​ ​Red​ ​hair​ ​framed​ ​a​ ​young​ ​freckled​ ​face​ ​on​ ​a​ ​lean​ ​frame​ ​that looked​ ​like​ ​it​ ​could​ ​use​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit​ ​more​ ​weight.​ ​He​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​what​ ​to​ ​say.​ ​Should​ ​he​ ​say​ ​thank you?​ ​Then​ ​he​ ​cocked​ ​his​ ​head​ ​ever​ ​so​ ​slightly.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​something​ ​about​ ​him.​ ​He​ ​felt​ ​so familiar.​ ​Even​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​his​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​familiar,​ ​a​ ​comfort.
“What’s​ ​your​ ​name?”​ ​He​ ​asked​ ​so​ ​tentatively,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​the​ ​answer​ ​would​ ​crush​ ​him​ ​if​ ​he​ ​was wrong​ ​even​ ​though​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​have​ ​known​ ​ ​what​ ​it​ ​would​ ​be.
“Ginger…”​ ​The​ ​one​ ​who​ ​spoke​ ​turned​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​him.​ ​His​ ​eyes​ ​were​ ​like​ ​the​ ​Caribbean Sea,​ ​almost​ ​too​ ​green​ ​to​ ​be​ ​called​ ​blue.​ ​Elia​ ​leaned​ ​in​ ​a​ ​little​ ​closer.​ ​He’d​ ​missed​ ​it​ ​before. Within​ ​the​ ​blue​ ​was​ ​a​ ​ring​ ​of​ ​soft​ ​brown,​ ​warm​ ​and​ ​rich.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​the​ ​same​ ​color.​ ​That​ ​color​ ​was like​ ​the​ ​one​ ​he’d​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​know.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​a​ ​momentary​ ​flash​ ​of​ ​light​ ​that​ ​illuminated​ ​that ring​ ​of​ ​color.​ ​Elia​ ​was​ ​sure,​ ​somehow​ ​it​ ​was​ ​him.​ ​Somehow​ ​this​ ​person​ ​was​ ​the​ ​person​ ​who​ ​was free​ ​even​ ​though​ ​they​ ​would​ ​say​ ​their​ ​heart​ ​belonged​ ​to​ ​him.​ ​It​ ​had​ ​been​ ​that​ ​heart​ ​that​ ​had stopped.​ ​Elia​ ​squinted,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​place​ ​his​ ​memory​ ​of​ ​the​ ​one​ ​he’d​ ​spoken​ ​to​ ​once,​ ​onto​ ​the​ ​one before​ ​him​ ​and​ ​he​ ​only​ ​became​ ​more​ ​sure.​ ​“What’s​ ​your​ ​name,​ ​hmmm?”
“Elia.”​ ​Elia​ ​blinked​ ​as​ ​Ginger​ ​turned​ ​away.​ ​Maybe…​ ​maybe​ ​he​ ​was​ ​wrong.​ ​Then​ ​he​ ​watched​ ​as Ginger’s​ ​fingers​ ​rose​ ​and​ ​covered​ ​his​ ​lips,​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​were​ ​remembering​ ​something​ ​that there​ ​was​ ​no​ ​way​ ​he​ ​could​ ​know.
“Elia…​ ​Elia…”​ ​Ginger’s​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​soft,​ ​lost,​ ​and​ ​trembled​ ​ever​ ​so​ ​slightly.​ ​“Elia,​ ​I’m​ ​glad​ ​that​ ​I found​ ​you.”

 

CREDIT : Shawnti Therrien

 

The post Darkstar appeared first on Creepypasta.

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Creepy Pasta


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No Teeth | Dream Meanings Podcast

by cnkguy
No Teeth | Dream Meanings Podcast

When teeth fall out… What does it mean about our words?

Floods, Alligators and Naked People… Oh My!

Falling through space and time… What does it mean about our surroundings?

To share your dream and possibly have it discussed on a future episode visit http://www.dreamingradio.com or call 1-800-606-7193.

We all have dreams, but what exactly do they mean? While no one knows the exact answer to this question, we can sure try! On Dream Meanings, we take your calls and read your letters about your dreams and give you our opinion and dream interpretation. From nightmares to funny dreams to what feels like visits from loved ones. We talk about it all on Dream Meanings.

This program is NOT medical, psychological or psychiatric advice and is for entertainment purposes only. For professional medical advice of any kind, please contact your doctor.

#dreams #dreammeanings #dreaminterpretation #nightmares #vividdreaming #luciddreams #vididdream #sleepparalysis

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HAUNTED PLACES

, Real Ghost Stories


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No Teeth | Dream Meanings Podcast

by cnkguy
No Teeth | Dream Meanings Podcast

When teeth fall out… What does it mean about our words?

Floods, Alligators and Naked People… Oh My!

Falling through space and time… What does it mean about our surroundings?

To share your dream and possibly have it discussed on a future episode visit http://www.dreamingradio.com or call 1-800-606-7193.

We all have dreams, but what exactly do they mean? While no one knows the exact answer to this question, we can sure try! On Dream Meanings, we take your calls and read your letters about your dreams and give you our opinion and dream interpretation. From nightmares to funny dreams to what feels like visits from loved ones. We talk about it all on Dream Meanings.

This program is NOT medical, psychological or psychiatric advice and is for entertainment purposes only. For professional medical advice of any kind, please contact your doctor.

#dreams #dreammeanings #dreaminterpretation #nightmares #vividdreaming #luciddreams #vididdream #sleepparalysis

Source:

HAUNTED PLACES

, Real Ghost Stories


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