Invitation to The Wild | book 01 by TryingNormal | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

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TryingNormal
James Joyce

Table of Contents

Epigraph Glossary of Terms and Proper Nouns FEBRUARY - JUNE 2009

In the world of The Naturali Compendium

Visit The Naturali Compendium

Ongoing 6383 Words

FEBRUARY - JUNE 2009

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Its only hours after Leah gives birth and then dies on the operating table, that her and Mike’s child goes missing. They search for weeks; Lupus, police, everyone — but there are no leads, no witnesses, he has simply vanished. Two months after the car accident that kills her son, three weeks after her grandson goes missing and his mother dies, Carina Scott announces her decision to move. It's too painful, she tells people. To still be in the town, in the state, that tore her family apart. She has six small children to take care of and her oldest, the one who sacrificed his teenage years to help raise his siblings after his father died, is now gone. She has nothing left for her here in Melbourne, not anymore.

Sixteen-year-old Sethu Mahabir doesn't know how everything can get worse but, somehow, it does. His best friend, Matthew Connors, starts ditching class and Pack meetings after the funerals. He gets aggressive at the mere mention of Michael and Leah’s names, while alcohol becomes a constant scent on Matt’s breath even though he tries his best to hide it. Seth knows what's going on, he understands it. At least, he thinks he does. Leah had told him everything before she died: how Matt and Mike had been together since they were seven, the on-and-off relationship they had until Mike finally met Leah. At first he hadn't understood how she could be so calm with having Matt around in her and Mike’s relationship but, the more he thought about it, the more Seth came to realize just how hard it was to not love Matt. He'd do anything, give the shirt off his back and his last dollar to help someone other than himself. Matt has been a staple in his life since they were toddlers, that was why he had chosen Matt as his Beta, his second-in-command, when given the chance to start his own Pack. It was because Matt had asked him, that Seth had chosen Mike as his Gamma. He trusted his friend since Matt always seemed to see the good in everyone.

All it takes is a call from Matt’s dad in the middle of a hot and muggy night in April, to really wake Seth up to what’s been going on with his best friend.

“Hello?” he mumbles sleepily.

“Matt’s missing,” comes Hart Connor’s curt reply, and the words rock Seth’s world.

“What?” he breathes.

“I got a text. A picture of Matt in a dark alley, his face bloody. It said ‘come get me’. I need your help to find him.”

Of course.

The call ends, and he quickly rolls out of bed, his girlfriend stirring underneath the sheets. Saraline Cathers’ raven-haired head peeks out from the comforter.

“Seth?”

“Babe. I gotta go. Matt’s missing. Hart needs my help to find him.”

Her brown eyes, no longer clouded from sleepiness, widen in alarm. “Do you—”

“A tracking spell might be helpful,” he tells her as he tugs on a pair of jeans and stuffs his bare feet into sneakers. “It's hard to track in Baltimore because of all the people. Lupus senses tend to get overloaded sometimes.”

“Okay.” He kisses her forehead, taking a moment to breathe in her sweet vanilla scent. “Bring him home safe,” she whispers.

Seth creeps out of the house and races down the street to the end of the block. Hart pulls up beside him and Seth clambers inside, fumbling with his seatbelt as Hart guns the engine.

“How do you know it was Matt who sent the picture?”

“Pictures,” Hart corrects. “And it wasn't Matt.”

“But—” Hart passes over his phone and Seth is astonished to see that it's a flip phone. He didn't think anyone still used those. “I thought you got a new phone.”

That gets him a sideways glance. “That is new.”

“It's nice.” Seth clears his throat. “So you said it's not from Matt?”

“Not from Matt. From someone else. Someone who wanted me to know something happened to him.”

“I could have Sara trace the number when we get back,” Seth suggests. He goes into the newest message and opens the first attached picture. His breath catches. The photo is dark but he can still make out his best friend's face, bloodied and swollen. In the next one Matt is on his back, arms up, shielding his face from the incoming blow of what Seth can guess is a very blurry foot. The third and final one is of Matt pushed up against a red brick wall. He's crying, hands up defensively, and there's a blurry motion of an arm on the left, ready to strike. “Fuck,” he gasps.

“Yeah.”

“What do you think happened?”

Hart shakes his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I don't know, Seth. I really don't know.”

Thirty minutes into their search Sara sends a couple pictures of a map, an entire street of the city circled and a closeup of street names. The crystal pointed to somewhere in this area, her text reads. I can't get any closer than that.

Seth shows the pictures to Hart and all the other man does is grunt, throwing the blue 1994 Toyota pickup into reverse and making a U-turn. It takes a minute to find it, a lot of the roads are one way and they have to reconfigure the drive but finally, they get as close as they can get without having to turn around again and Hart pulls in a spot along the empty street to park. They get out of the truck and head towards the closest building, which is a few blocks of abandoned row homes. The first is empty, which Seth expected, but the second is too damaged to walk around in so they have to skip around it. The third looks to be like several squatters are living here but no one seems to be around. The amount of unique scents in the air makes Seth’s nose wrinkle. By the fifth row home Seth’s feeling a bit dejected, especially since he hasn't gotten a whiff of his best friend's scent the entire time they've been on this block. However, when they move onto the next block, Seth is startled to find the sharp smell of copper thick in the air.

“Hart!” he calls out, and instantly they're both moving towards the source.

It's an empty boarded up warehouse, with broken windows and graffiti on the walls. His eyes quickly adjust to the darkness and the further inside he goes the stronger the scent of blood is. Seth finally finds him in what seems to be an office of sorts, dusty file cabinets and a desk untouched for years. Matt’s got his back against one of the file cabinets, an arm wrapped around his chest, head held back, his breathing shallow and ragged.

“Seth,” his best friend mumbles at the sight of him. “You came.”

“You're an idiot,” is all Seth can say, but Matt doesn't deny it, he just looks grateful to be found.

They make it back to the clinic in Melbourne in record time. 42-year-old Marie Johnson is there, the leading specialist in Naturali medical care, and she knows with one look at Matt that he's been in some serious trouble. The initial exam takes some time but it's revealed that Matt has several broken ribs, almost all the fingers on his right hand broken, a black eye, concussion, broken nose and a sprained left shoulder. He gets admitted and put under heavy sedation in order for his Naturali body to get up to speed on stitching him back together. Doc informs them that she wants to have Matt psychologically tested, because this event is just too extreme for her to ignore considering all the death Matt has seen in the past couple months. When she asks them what he's been doing neither Seth nor Hart have any idea because, honestly, Matt hasn't really spoken to them — or really anyone — since Mike died. Shame blooms in Seth’s chest, as the realization of how alone his best friend has been all these months hits him.

But the next day, to everyone's surprise, Matt breaks down in front of Seth and his father and admits everything. He's been taking part in underground fights, against humans no less, using his Lupus abilities. A guy who Matt only knows as Nick recruited him after he saw Matt get into a fight outside a bar, impressed with the fact that Matt had eventually knocked the other guy out with one punch.

“He promised money,” Matt confesses. “And I was good. Five hundred for my first fight then a thousand per fight after that.”

Hart’s face is hard, impossible to read. “What happened to the money?”

“I got stupid. Really stupid. I… I bet on myself. Slowly at first, but then I wanted to double, even triple, the money I already had.”

“How much, Matthew?”

“Thirty grand, half of what I had.” Hart runs a hand over his face and Matt quickly adds, “But I won! Almost a hundred thousand.”

“We didn't find any money on you, though,” Seth says, confused.

Matt cringes. “Nick found out. Someone told on me. They wanted the money back, but it was mine. I earned it. So I… I ran. I'd already moved the money someplace else after the fight. That's why I ended up getting beaten so badly, because they couldn't find it.”

“Holy Goddess.”

Hart gets up so quickly that the chair he's sitting in falls with a crack on the linoleum floor. He's out the door before either boy can stop him. They don't see him for the rest of the day and it's dark outside when he finally returns, duffel bag in hand. He drops it onto Matt’s bed and it shocks Seth to see it’s full of money. How did he find it?

“You don't touch a dime,” he growls furiously. “Not a fucking dime. I decide what we do with it. Understand?”

Matt nods, stunned. “Of course.

“And you go to therapy. You take medication. Whatever Doc wants you to do, whatever I want you to do, you fucking do it. No arguments.”

Seth isn't sure what happens to the money after that, and he's not entirely sure he wants to know.

~{X}~

Neala O’Reilly hasn’t always dreaded the end of the school year, but this time it's different now that she and Zachary Rodriguez have been dating for almost a year. He and his family leave every summer for Russia, to visit his dad and older sister where they live in Moscow for work. She's learned a bit about his father over the years but not much more since they began dating. He's some kind of diplomat, an important person in Russian government, while his older sister works alongside their father as a sort of security officer. Zach’s older sister, Mira, is the definition of older, considering she was born about three hundred years before her two younger siblings. Nea couldn’t imagine having an older sibling just a little younger than her own parents.

“I wish I could join you,” she tells him.

Zach chuckles, looking slightly embarrassed. “Nah. It's super boring. Dad stills works most of the time so it's mainly just mom, Kelsie, and I traveling around. Mira joins us sometimes, too.”

“That doesn't seem like much of a family vacation. Why can’t you all just live here?” she asks with a pout. “Why do you have to go to Russia?”

“Babe, I told you, my dad is an important guy. He can't just quit his job and move to America. Besides, he wanted me and Kelsie raised here.”

“But it's so far away. Isn't your mom lonely?”

Zach tucks an orange curl behind Nea’s ear. “They've been together for ages and, every time I see them together, my parents still seem so much in love. My dad visits when he’s able to. It's really okay, Nea.”

I dunno… I'd hate having my dad so far away if he still worked in Ireland. How do you even deal with it? What about Kelsie? She's only eight, it must be hard for her too.”

“My dad has made sure he's around ever since she was born. Kelsie has her off days, but video chats and phone calls help. Dad makes sure to always make time for us if we need him. I think she’ll understand when she gets older.”

Nea contemplates that. She kind of understands Zach’s reasoning behind his dad not being around much, but it doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. She grew up with the understanding that family was the most important thing. She even remembers when he little brother, Lachlan, was born. It had happened in the middle of the night when she was a little older than four, while her dad was at work, and she remembers having to call an ambulance since her mom was in so much pain from the contractions. Kian had dropped everything when he got the call Einin was in the hospital, arriving just thirty minutes later disheveled and half dressed in a navy blue suit and pink tie, demanding to be in the room when his son is born. Her dad has had his law company for over sixty years now, working tirelessly to help international Naturali become American citizens and helping those caught up in Naturali crimes. She's even considered going to school to be a defense attorney just like him. But he always put his family first. Kian even missed a company party once, because Nea had gotten so sick with the flu.

“How come none of us have ever met him? We've been dating almost a year and even I haven't met him yet.”

The tan skin of her boyfriend's face turns a bright red and he chuckles nervously. “Well, I mean, dad’s fine an’ all with us living here in a town to co-mingle with Humans, but sometimes he can be bit… old-fashioned,” he reluctantly admits. “He comes from a time when Humans and Naturali never got along. So he sometimes still has those prejudices against Humans. I don't think he'd like it very much if I told him I was dating a human girl.”

Nea’s ears flush red with anger, creeping over her cheeks and highlighting the freckles that cover her face. Even though she's human and has grown up learning about Naturali history alongside Human history, the fact that there are still those who are against Humans in general (even interacting with them) makes her blood boil. She knows that Melbourne isn’t like all the other towns across the world, because this place was, and still is in some ways, an experiment to see if both could co-exist if Naturali decided to reveal themselves to the world. It's been in place since the 1960’s. She remembers learning in class that there were still some humans who didn't know how to react to learning that not all of their neighbors were human, but she knew that a lot of them have certainly come a long way and consider a great many Naturali their friend. There was hesitation, sure, but who wouldn't react strangely upon learning humans aren't the only species that populate the earth? A great many humans in their small town consider Naturali their friends, causing some even fall in love and get married. It's amazing to say the least. But the fact that the father of a boy she's known practically her entire life actually hates what she was born as is just… despicable.

“That's not fair. Humans aren't bad. Hasn't he learned that from your family living here? We’ve done so much to create a peaceful life for everyone.”

“Nea, my mom was alive during the Salem Witch Trials but only managed to escape because my parents went to Spain. One of my dad’s friends was actually in the Trials and lost family. It's hard to reconcile with a species who have done so much to hurt you and ones you care about.”

“I know that,” she huffs in frustration. “I remember reading about it. I did a project on it this year. My family are Witches, Zach.”

“But you aren’t.”

The statement hits her like a ton of bricks. He was right, technically. Her parents, her grandparents, even her little brother… all of them are Naturali except her. They don't get to escape the prejudice that's been forced upon their species for centuries, but she can because she doesn't need to hide her entire self once they step outside this town.

Zach sees her face, guilt flashing in his brown eyes. “Oh, fuck, babe, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. I—”

“No,” she interrupts. “I get it. I understand. I'm not like you, or your family, or even my own family. I won't ever really understand since I won’t live it.”

“Shortcake, it was never my intention to hurt you. You just gotta understand where my dad is coming from. It took a long time for my mom to adjust to being around humans, but she's so much better about it now. My dad has just been alive a lot longer than most Naturali we know. He's been through a lot and that kinda stuff can take its toll on you.” He cups her face in his hands and kisses her gently. “Look, I think if he met you he'd totally love you, but it'd just take some time for him to adjust to you being human.”

    ~{X}~

It's probably the Cattus inside him, but Robin’s a little on edge considering everything he's just recently gone through. Because it's not like he wanted to end up as a tutella. All he wanted was to get away from the religious Cattus community he'd grown up in so he was free to be who he was. He had expected no one to find him and that cute boy from chorus class making out in the second-floor supply closet of the empty high school. He’d gotten thrown in basically what was a religious quarantine while Ken got away easily, spouting lies that Robin had seduced him and turned him from God. Worst of all, Robin’s father was the preacher of their little Naturali town so being outed as gay hadn't gone all that well. There had been talk of a special Christian camp that might help him overcome his “affliction.” Two days into that quarantine he'd filed for a prexus with the Maiors — the leaders and government of the Naturali races. Much to his and his family’s surprise, the next morning a black SUV stood idling in the Anderson driveway, two bonorum soldiers ready to take him to some secluded meeting place.

He remembers been driven up to a run-down barn outside the community; the bonorum telling him to get out, that the Maiors would be there soon, and the barn doors are closed behind him. One moment he's alone, wondering if he's about to get murdered or if this is just some kind of trick orchestrated by his family, and then he's surrounded by them. Robin knew what they looked like, he'd seen their pictures on the website when he filed for the meeting. He had to go through Maior Dominik though because there wasn't a Cattus on the Concilium yet and being a Lupus Dominik was the one in charge of all the erant shape-shifter species.

“You called for us, my child?” Diana D'Angelo asks, watching Robin curiously. Her Faerie wings practically glow behind her, illuminating her blonde hair and pastel blue gown.

“Y-yes,” he stammers. “I wasn't expecting something so soon, though.”

“You request to be removed from your community and family, is that correct?” Dominik Hearon begins.

“More than a request,” Robin admits. “A matter of safety.”

Dominik nods. “Yes, we—I read your application. I never realized that the gay community faced such dangers.”

“It's not just Naturali. It's humans as well.”

“So my research has told me. It has given the Concilium a lot to think about regarding protections for those like you.”

Robin never thought this one prexus would spearhead such a vast change in the Naturali government, but it gets even better when he's asked to work with them. Dominik gives him a cellphone with several numbers that give him access to the Concilium in ways he never thought possible for someone like him. After gathering his things from home he spends several weeks at a place he's told is the headquarters for the Concilium, which is strange because he has no memory of how he got to Switzerland. He helps Dominik with the research of drafting new legems and protections for the LGBT Naturali community and he has a say in almost everything. When they finally find a praesidio for him to stay with, however, Robin finds it hard to leave because he's never felt so needed in a place before and it hurts to suddenly give all of that up to return to a normal life. He's promised visits from Dominik and Alura Greene, the Maior of Druids, and gets on a plane back to the US.

His destination is Melbourne, Maryland — the first and only community where humans and Naturali coexist together, with no barriers. Robin’s never heard of this place until now, and he's amazed to learn that none of the Naturali hide, that everything is out in the open, and the humans even learn Naturali history in their classrooms. The police force is a mix of human and Naturali, the original human laws of the town altered to account for inter-species violence that results in an even more interesting judicial system within Melbourne’s small-town government. A man named Arthur Moreau picks him up at the airport and Robin is told that he fosters a bunch of other flehdgling Naturali that work in the art supply shop below his home, all in exchange for a safe and free place to live. After getting introduced to everyone he's led to the second to last door at the end of the hall, opening it to find nothing but a dresser, desk, and twin bed adorning the empty room. There are remnants of ripped posters on the walls, tape, and pushpin holes, even writing. He can see one written anecdote right above the window, one that practically makes his heart stop:

i will not die today

Emmaline Fortièr and Brayden Markus share (at least that's what the little sticker-covered whiteboard attached to the door says) while the others, Mimi Yukimura and Alyia Arnesen, have rooms on either end of the hall. Robin learns that he's the third boy that's passed through in the last year and a half; the others didn't last too long, far too broken than Arthur could fix — even with the help of the leading Naturali specialist in America just outside town. He wants to explore the town, to understand where exactly he will now be living in, but one of Arthur’s rules is that all recent arrivals have to stick close to the shop for the first couple days.

“It's mainly ’cause of Brayden,” Alyia whispers as they re-stock a shelf of sketchbooks. “He tried to run away the first week. Drove half the town crazy lookin’ for him about six years ago.”

Robin’s eyebrows raised. “How long have you been staying here?”

“I was six when Artie took me in. Brayden came when I was eight. Then Mimi, then Emma, and then you. If you stay, that is.”

“So you've been here pretty much your entire life, then.”

“Yeah. I don't mind it though. Arthur’s like a dad to me. It's great.” Alyia smiles, remembering something. “When I first arrived, he would freak out at every minor thing, taking extra care to make sure I didn't get sick or that my skin didn't dry out too quickly. I think he even shadowed me at school for a while.”

A bell rings as the front door opens and Alyia brushes off her hands, getting to her feet.

“Looks like I'm up. You can come help.”

Robin nods, following her to the counter because he has nothing better to do. A brown-haired boy approaches and, by giving the air a sniff, Robin can tell that this boy is a Naturali.

“Oh! Hey, Matt. How are you?” Alyia says. Robin notes the sadness in her voice, the sympathetic look in her eyes as she looks at the Lupus boy.

Matt stuffs his hands in his hoodie pocket. Avoids eye contact. “I’m good.”

“Are you—”

A kick of his foot rocks the counter, startling them both. “I told you, I'm fine. I wish people would just stop asking me that.”

Alyia’s voice is sharp. “We’re worried about you. All of us. We just want to make sure you're okay after everything that happened.”

Matt scoffs but, before she can say anything else, Arthur’s voice chimes in from the back, asking Alyia for help with some boxes. At that, the boy turns on his heel to head down an aisle. The Meran shrugs her shoulders, mouthing “sorry” before heading off. Curious, Robin slowly makes his way into the aisle opposite Matt, timing it so that when the Lupus turns the corner they bump right into each other just like he expected. What he hadn't seen coming, however, was Matt knocking over a stand of drawing pencils, the wooden sticks hitting the tiled floor with a clatter.

“Shit,” Matt mutters under his breath. “Sorry.” He drops to his knees and immediately starts picking things up.

Robin kneels beside him and ends up studying his face. The Lupus is handsome; he has to give him that. Reddish-brown hair sticking out from under a backward-facing baseball cap. His hands haven't moved to help, and he only just realizes when his arm gets nudged and Matt speaks up.

“Hey, are you just going to sit there or—” But he stops. His mouth drops open slightly, staring at Robin with suddenly bright eyes. “Who—” he begins.

Robin extends a hand. “Robin Anderson.”

The pencils clatter from Matt’s hand as he surges forward to shake the other boy’s hand. “Matt,” he replies, cheeks flushing pink.

“I know.” Eyebrows raise. “Alyia told me.”

“O-oh. Umm…” Matt’s tongue trips over his words.

“So, you — erm, moved, I mean — upstairs?”

He makes a motion towards the ceiling above and Robin laughs. “Yes. I just moved in. What about you?” Robin drops his gaze from Matt’s burning face and picks up the pencils again, placing them back into the plastic container that previously held them. “Have you lived here long yourself?”

“Uh, my entire life. What about you?” Matt cringes. “Oh wait, I didn't mean — you don't have to tell me about it. That was rude. I'm sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Robin assures him. “My family wasn't very supportive of my sexuality and what I wanted to do with my life. I've worked hard to get where I am. I'm happy to be here.”

“You're—” Matt licks his lips nervously and Robin knows what's coming.

“I’m gay,” he replies proudly. “And I want to become a doctor, treating other Naturali kids like myself. I want them to know that someone is looking out for them. Especially in an LGBT sense. I’m even taking college classes when I start my senior year in August, and I have an internship with Doctor Johnson too. I'm grateful.”

“Wow,” Matt murmurs, eyes wide. “That’s… that's amazing.”

Robin smiles. “Thank you.” They both get to their feet and he takes a chance. “Are you seeing anyone right now?” Matt goes rigid. Pain flashed across his face, and Robin instantly knows he's said something wrong. “I’m—”

He's interrupted by Alyia’s voice, footsteps coming toward them. “Robin, hey, Artie and I need your help with—”

The Lupus bolts, the shop door clanging shut behind him, and it leaves Robin bewildered, head spinning at the interaction.

“Why did Matt just run out of here like that?”

“I…” The Cattus shakes his head. “I don't know.”

Alyia pats him on the shoulder. “The only thing I can tell you is that he's had a hard couple of months. So don’t take what he does or says personally. Okay?”

It takes several days before Matt finally stops by the shop again. He’s tentative at first, nervous about how he acted that first day they met, but slowly warms up to Robin being around. When at the shop he follows the Cattus around like the Lupus he is, listening to the other boy talk about, well, anything. With each passing day, Robin’s feelings for the shy boy grow and grow because the more he learns about Matt, the harder it is to not like everything about him.

They even end up going to lunch one day. It frustrates Arthur that Matt keeps loitering and not buying anything, so he finally tells Robin to get Matt out of the shop by treating him to food at the diner up the street. They end up talking for hours, causing Robin to miss his entire shift. Matt walks him home and Robin has almost gathered up the courage he needs to kiss the Lupus when Arthur barges out of the shop. He scolds Robin, but the boy doesn't care either way; he's just angry Arthur ruined the perfect moment he and Matt had going. He fumes about it until the next morning, but everything fades away when he opens his door to find Matt standing there, winded and panting. Robin doesn't have time to think as Matt suddenly pushes him backward, locking the door behind them before grabbing Robin’s face in his hands and kissing him like he's never been kissed before. The spark between them is blinding, and neither boy regrets anything that happens behind that closed door. It's that day that Robin finally learns of Matt’s past and he vows to protect the boy he’s come to love at any cost.

~{X}~

“The school is seriously considering suspending you!”

Alec Giordano scoffs, rolling his eyes. Does his grandfather really think they can expel him? All of them have been going to the International School of Rome since they were three years old. His father helped build the damn school and Gregori Bicchieri continued to fund it even after his daughter- and son-in-law’s deaths.

“They won’t.”

“Apparently you've skipped multiple times since the start of the term—”

“It's boring.”

“—you don't follow the dress code—”

“Why would I want to look the same as the rest of those people?”

“—and arrived hungover to class!”

“They can't prove that. Besides,” Alec adds. “The only reason they are talking about in-school suspension instead of expulsion is because of my grades. I get the top marks out of anyone else in my class. If Eli wasn't a year ahead of me, then he'd be the top student.”

“Why are you even doing these things? You're better than this, I know that. Your mother—”

“My mother is dead,” Alec replies sharply. “And my father never cared for me.” He grabs his coat and heads for the door. “I'm going out. Don't wait up.”

The Giordano name means nothing when Alec slips into the darkened places of the Naturali world. This magically deceptive alley in Italy houses everything from mixed bars to a black market to even a couple sex dungeons. He discovered this place by accident, literally stumbling into something that was only whispered about but never seen because of its powerful wards to block police and bonorum from entering — or really anyone perceived to harm here. He'd found this club over a year and a half ago, and it had surprised him when he hadn't immediately gotten thrown out because of his age. He had been newly fourteen (the legal drinking age in Italy) and been having a terrible couple of months since the anniversary of his parents' deaths. Alec had gone out in search of something new, frustrated with himself and his family, angry once again with his dead father. He needed something to placate his anger, so he entered the bar with his head held high, the bouncer giving him a slight nod as he walked inside. The shock of it all gave him the sudden burst of confidence he needed that he went up to the bar and order a drink. Problem was, he didn't know what more he could do — should do — that he just hung around, watching, waiting for... something, anything really.

Eventually he met someone, a human girl who couldn't keep her hands off him. (Funnily enough it was also the night he finally came to terms with being bisexual, that liking both girls and boys was something he didn't have to hide.) Alec had gotten his first taste of human blood that night and he hadn't regretted it since. Every time he went inside the bar they treated him like a regular person and soon it felt like he finally belonged somewhere.

The bouncer gives him a nod as he struts through the door tonight and Alec makes a beeline for the bar. He orders a beer then lets his eyes wander the room for someone that might pique his interest.

There. Corner booth, pale skin, red hair.

Alec’s heart rate spikes. Beer in hand, he pushes away from the bar and heads for the back, deftly sliding into the booth next to the redhead. The boy looks startled at his presence. He’s young, Alec notices, maybe his age, and most definitely human.

“What brings you here?” Alec asks softly.

The boy’s eyes dart towards Alec’s mouth but quickly look away. He swallows hard. “C-came with friends,” he stammers. The boy can't look at him and it makes Alec chuckle.

“You know what it is we do here, right?”

Piercing blue eyes find his. “I do.”

“Then you know what I want.”

He swallows, lips trembling, and his eyes dart towards Alec’s mouth once more. The Lamia obliges, parting his lips to reveal the fangs hidden behind. The boy’s breath hitches. Alec drains the last of his beer and wraps his arms around the boy’s waist, pulling him close, mouth on neck. The boy gasps, body quivering as Alec gently brushes his fangs across his date’s neck. Before the boy can say another word Alec sinks his teeth into the redhead’s neck. The boy sucks in a breath, fingers curling into the back of Alec’s leather jacket.

“Oh God,” he moans.

One of his hands finds the front of Alec’s jeans, squeezing ever so gently that it causes the Lamia to curl his fingers into the boy’s hair and turn his neck, allowing Alec a smoother bite. A thought pushes its way into Alec’s head, the other boy's voice practically in his ears, and he finds that he agrees with it.

This is like heaven.

 

“Psst! Eli!”

Eliot Giordano is awakened by the sound of someone calling his name. He blinks, rubbing his brown eyes, and smoothly slides out from his girlfriend Olivia’s embrace. Through the window he sees his twin brother, one blue eye and one brown shining back at him.

“Alec?” he murmurs.

“Eli! Come on, let me in.”

With a sigh, he lifts the window for his brother to crawl into, but the entrance doesn't go smoothly. Alec’s hand or foot or whatever slips and he tumbles in and onto the floor with a loud crash.

From their bed Olivia jerks awake with a soft snort, staring at the twins with sleepy grey eyes.

“Alec? Wha—?”

“Shh!” Alec hisses. “I don't want Grandfather to know that—”

“Alec!” Gregori’s voice thunders from the hallway.

“Shit,” the boy mutters.

The door bursts open and Gregori rushes in, furious with fangs bared. His blue eyes glow with rage. The twin’s little sister, nine-year-old Adeline, stands at the edge of the doorway looking terrified, her own blue eyes wide. Alec averts his eyes so he doesn't have to look at her legs.

“Where in the hell have you been? It's three in the morning!”

Alec scratches his head, looking confused. “It is?”

“Where have you been?” Gregori growls in Italian.

“I told you,” Alec says lightly. “I went out. And I specifically remember telling you to not wait up for me.”

“You're almost fifteen years old, Alec! You aren't an adult yet — neither in Naturali legem nor human law. You cannot do this.”

Alec shrugs, his brother’s mouth dropping open at such nonchalance. “But I did it anyway so…”

“Sit your ass down,” Gregori mutters with a sigh, running a hand through his salt and pepper hair. The boy sits on the edge of Eli and Olivia’s bed, swaying a little as he does so. This catches Gregori off guard. He narrows his eyes at his grandson. “Have you been drinking?”

“Duh.”

Gregori steps closer. He takes the boy’s chin in his hand and looks at his eyes. He takes a minute but then he sees it, the dilation of the pupils, the slight glow in those different-colored eyes.

“You're drunk on human blood.”

“What!” Olivia gasps.

“What the hell, Alec?” Eli snaps. “How did you even—”

Alec pushes his grandfather’s hand away. “I know a place,” he remarks angrily. “So what?”

“So what?” Gregori says in disbelief. “If they had caught you on the way home, you'd be dead. The Concilium would have been called and they would kill you, Alec. You know that. Drinking human blood is illegal, it is against the Naturali’s legem.”

“Yeah, well, what does it matter? It's not like I'm doing anything special with my life right now.”

“How can you say that?” Olivia breathes. “Alec, you can’t be serious. You have so much waiting. I've seen it. You know my premonitions—”

“They aren't always the best, Olivia. You saw our parents die. That's it.”

“And I saw you live.”

“Yeah, and—”

“With your coeunt.”

Alec whips around. “You what?” he says.

“I haven't told you yet,” she admits, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “But a couple days ago… I saw you with someone. A girl. Beautiful. You looked so happy. The both of you.”

“That means nothing,” he spits angrily.

“It—”

“All right.” Gregori holds up a hand and the Lamia falls silent. “Enough. I've had enough. Alec, next week you start rehab.”

His grandson’s mouth drops open. “You can't be—”

“Oh, believe me, I'm serious. You will go next week. Every day after school. And I'll be monitoring everywhere you go from now on. You don't go anywhere I say you can't go. Understood?”

“Grandfather, you—”

“Understood?”

Alec drops his head. “Yes, sir.”

“Now get to bed. All of you. We have an early morning ahead of us.”

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