Once he had packed away his gambling tools and the money he'd won, a man walked up to him, asking for something. The boy had sneered at the man and stood up to walk away, but he'd grabbed him by the front of his shirt and kept him there. When I heard the boy tell him no again in a louder voice, I couldn't sit back and watch anymore. I hadn't realized it then, but I didn't want anyone putting their hands on that beautiful boy. I knew from watching his aura though, that people had put their hands on him before, and left painful reminders on him.
Once I stepped in the man eventually backed off, but the boy was another story. He didn't seem to be afraid of me at all, even after I had frightened his attacker into leaving. I was a little annoyed to find out that the boy did indeed sell his small body for money and I think he realized that I was bothered by that. He spoke to me as if he could read my thoughts, knowing that I wasn't happy about his decisions. I was shocked by that long enough to let my guard down and my true mark for the night had managed to sneak in behind me. I stood dumbfounded as the boy shot passed me, running headlong towards a man with a gun.
My heart stopped in my chest when I heard the first two shots go off before the boy reached him, but I swear I saw his aura change momentarily and his body shimmer before the sound of the slugs clinking on the concrete floor reached my ears. And the boy launched himself into the man, my mark, and the both toppled over the edge of the platform onto the rails. When the sound of the first subway train of the morning reached my ears, I feared the boy wouldn't have time to get back up to safety. I gasped when he reappeared, as if the entire thing had merely given him a launching pad for handspring, his feet landing on the thin concrete against the far wall, before he pressed himself flush against it.
I knew then that the boy wasn't normal. No mere human could pull off feats like that. I decided I would find out just what the boy was and leaned over, picking up the bag he had dropped when he'd most likely saved my life. Once the train passed, he climbed back up on the platform as any normal person would have, but I wanted answers and I wanted him. I kept his bag out of reach of his short stature until he finally gave in and removed the leather cuff on his left wrist. His true form stole my breath away even more than when he appeared to be human. I had no idea what I was doing after that, as my brain quit on me and allowed my emotions to run my mouth.
Surprisingly he complied with everything, coming with me to my bike, coming back to my apartment even after I'd given him his bag back. I had known that he hated his life, the dark blue sadness of his aura having given me enough of a hint, but I never guessed he would so willingly go with a stranger. I knew then I had to get him off the streets, before something bad happened to him and such beauty was wasted even more. I had hoped that he would just accept my kindness, but he was stubborn and untrusting. I wanted to keep him with me, but I didn't think that he'd go for the whole 'I fell in love with you the moment I saw you' thing, so I offered him a job as my partner. To my relief, after a little bit of flattery and bull shit, he accepted my offer.
I listened to him shower for ages, trying to figure out how to best approach the subject of a relationship with him, but even after the hour it took him to completely clean himself, I was still at a loss. The sight of him squeaky clean and drowning in some old clothes of mine didn't help my thought processes at all. But I was happy to see the small yellow line begin to pervade the dark blue of his aura, it meant that the things I was doing was making him happier. It wasn't until I told him to never sell his body again, did I really notice how long those yellow lines got. What threw me off, were the little pink swirls I would see every now and again, especially when he blushed.
After making us some breakfast and cleansing the burn marks on his back, it was definitely time to get some sleep. Well, at least let him get some sleep. I often suffered insomnia and today was just another one of those days for me. I guess it didn't help that I had no idea how to put into words that I liked the little half demon. I watched as his cream coloured hair finally poked out from under the dark maroon blanket I had given him, his body twisting on the couch for a more comfortable position.
I moved silently across the room as I noticed the blanket beginning to shift off of his small body, starting to pool on the wood floor. I gently pulled it back up, tucking it carefully around his shoulders, noting just how little meat was on his frame as I did. As I started to turn away, I noticed that his arm was hanging down, the intricately embroidered leather cuff still fastened around his wrist. It bothered me that he had to hide what he really was, since most cat demons were not known for violence unless provoked. But then again, if he had been wandering around as a half demon, he most likely would have ended up in one of the slave trader caravans, since cat demons were highly profitable merchandise for them.
Carefully, I began to unlatch the cuff, thinking that if he was here then there was little reason for him to hide his true appearance. Before I could remove the piece of leather however, he jerked his arm away from me, tucking it under his blanket. I sighed slightly, letting the matter drop for now and deciding that I would simply give him the option whenever he woke up. Leaving the now restless sleeper, I made my way to the kitchen to begin brewing myself some coffee. I couldn't shake the annoyance that he had lived the way he had for god knows how long.
I sat at the counter, reading the paper as I sipped my coffee, anything to distract myself from watching the boy sleep. A rustle and mewing sound however, broke my concentration on the printed words and I looked up to see the boy stretching, much like a cat when it first wakes up. I couldn't stop the lustful thoughts that crossed my mind as the shirt rode up, revealing the mostly smooth pale skin as his hips rose higher into the air. I did, however, dismiss those thoughts quickly as his dark green eyes opened to meet mine, momentary confusion glistening in their depths.
"It's still early," I said as I watched him sit back on his heels. "You can sleep some more if you're still tired." He shook his head, starting to run his thin, bony fingers through his disheveled hair, before he noticed the loose latches on his wrist cuff.
"Did you try to take it off?" he asked, his fingers running over the half-undone buckles. I nodded a little, offering an apologetic smile.
"I thought it might bother you, sleeping with it on, but you pulled your arm back before I could take it off," I said, watching him closely. In truth, I was waiting for him to snap at me for touching something I knew was precious to him, but a simple smile slipped across his lips instead.
"You mean, it's okay that I'm a half demon?" he asked, his hand now frozen, poised over the buckles. I nodded, returning his smile and watched as he slipped the band free from his arm, his form shimmering until he was once again in his natural appearance. I took pleasure in watching his tail sway slowly back and forth, a sign of being comfortable even as the yellow lines in his aura grew brighter.
"In the apartment or at the office, I don't believe you'll need to wear it much," I said as he slowly stood up from the couch, reaching high over his head in yet another stretch. "Are you sure you don't want more sleep?" I asked, watching as he made his way over to the coffee pot.
"I don't sleep for long periods, four hours is pretty much my max," he said, eyeing the cabinets as he tried to decide which one the cups were in. "My mother said it drove her crazy when I was a baby, since I'd never sleep through the night unless I was sick. It's actually rather helpful though, when you're a street urchin. It's not safe to sleep anywhere for a long period of time nor is it good to not be rested enough to be alert to danger." Finally, he turned those now pale green cat eyes to me and I pointed out the cabinet he was looking for. "What about you? Shouldn't you still be sleeping?"
"I'm not much of a sleeper," I replied as he brought the pot over to refill my cup after filling his. "I get an hour or so, here and there, and it keeps me going." His eyes lingered on my face for a minute, before he sipped the black coffee, his nose crinkling slightly at the bitterness. I chuckled softly. "There's sugar in the dish behind the coffee maker and creamer in the fridge." He nodded, quickly going to the fridge for the dairy creamer, ignoring the sugar bowl.
"So, Malek, how old are you, if I may ask?" he asked as he took the seat at the bar across from me.
"Twenty-five." His eyebrows rose slightly and his ears twitched and I could tell he was trying to decide if I was lying to him or not.
"How long have you been a bounty hunter?" His next question was soft and it suddenly dawned on me that he could probably smell the blood of both people and demons I had killed over the years. That would explain why he had seemed both relunctant and compliant when he came back with me last night. He thought I was just taking him someone secluded to kill him.
"Seven years, ever since I decided to go against my father," I replied. His eyebrows rose higher now, his eyes a little wider as they peered at me over the rim of him cup. "I was born into a family of demon hunters, taught how to use a variety of weapons at an early age to both kill and capture them. It really didn't take long before I began to hate my family, hate what they did. So when I turned eighteen, I left home and picked up the only job I knew I could do, but at least when hunting bounties, I can pick and choose who to actually persue." He nodded a little, his ears falling flat against his head and his previously swishing tail disappeared from view.
"Well, I guess at least my instincts weren't wrong, just the reality didn't quite fit the situation," he said softly after a long moment of awkward silence. Now it was my turn to raise an eyebrow at his odd statement and he gave me a crooked smile. "You mentioned that I didn't fear you last night, and at first I didn't. Not until you realized I wasn't human. I could smell the scent of demon blood on you, you can't ever get rid of it."
"Then why did you follow me?" I asked, watching as his tail flicked nervously behind him now.
"Well... it's kind of complicated," he shrugged, keeping his eyes turned down at his mug. "Part of me wanted to trust you, even though you'd been silently critisizing everything about me up to that point. But my instincts were screaming at me to run away, the smell of blood on you and the fact that you now knew I was a demon telling me you were going to kill me." He trailed off, his ears lowering a bit as his voice filled with a bit of guilt. I couldn't really blame him for fearing me, I had been cold and I did smell of demon blood to him.
"So then why didn't you run?" I asked again, my voice softer in understanding.
"Well, I was tired... I was honestly tired of living the life I was and tired of constantly moving around to avoid my paternal grandfather. I figured if you were going to kill me, you may be doing me a favour," he replied, still keeping his eyes from looking at me.
"So, I should be on the lookout for an old full blooded cat demon?" I asked, keeping my tone light. I had hoped that it would lighten up his mood a little, but he simply shrugged, his expression darkening somewhat as did his aura.
"I've maybe another month before he catches up to me again, and when he does, I've got to be gone," he said and I cringed. I didn't want him to go. I didn't care what his reasons were. I just knew that if he left here, he would end up going back to his normal way of surviving and that thought alone apalled me.
"Don't run," I said suddenly, my hand reaching across the bar top and grabbing his. He stiffened for a moment, his eyes going wide. "What I mean is, you don't need to run from him anymore. You don't need to go back to your previous life. You can stay here with me and if he shows up, we'll deal with him then." His aura lit up with dozens of pink swirls and the faintest of blushes dusted over his whiskers.
"I don't suppose someone like you would be scared of a demon," he murmured, pulling his hand back just as I began to feel it start to sweat. I smiled, content that for now, he would stay.
"Of course not," I said. "I may not be a demon hunter, but I'd surely sully my family name if I feared them. He rolled his eyes slightly, his tail going back to its gentle, content swaying.
"Hrm, so working with a half demon won't sully your name?" he asked, his tone slightly mocking in it's sarcastic tone. I chuckled slightly and a bemused smirk crossed his lips.
"Ah, some things are worth sullying the family name for," I replied, making a failing attempt at flirting with the boy. "Anyhow, since we're both up, how about we get whatever you've got thrown in the wash so you have something to wear that actually fits you?" He laughed softly and nodded, slipping from the stool to retrieve his bag.
"I don't have much," he muttered as he followed me to the laundry closet where I'd already tossed his clothes he took off yesterday into the washer, waiting for a full load. I watched as he pulled out a couple of t-shirts and another pair of jeans, tossing them into the washer. I raised an eyebrow when I didn't notice any underclothes being thrown in.
"You always run around commando?" I asked and his face quickly turned a bright red.
"Not that it's the most comfortable thing, but with the way I made money, I lost most boxers or underwear whenever I did have them because of an overzealous guy," he murmured, his head bowed and his tail wrapping around his thigh. I sighed, realizing that it wasn't really something he cared to talk about and gently rubbed his head behind one of his ears. He looked up at my gesture, his eyes showing slight confusion. I just gave him a soft smile and turned away to throw some detergent into the wash before starting it.
"Cricket, you wouldn't happen to know what size you wear off hand, would you?" I asked, heading back out into the kitchen and listening to the sound of random object rattle around in his bag now that there weren't any clothes in it.
"I do, but why?" he asked, his expression still confused and his tone showing he was nervous.
"I'll give Constance a call and have her pick something up for you to wear on her way into the office," I said.
"You don't need to do that for me!" he exclaimed, once again embarrassed. I turned back to face him, dropping my hand on top of his head between his ears.
"I don't need to, but I want to," I said softly. iI'd do anything for you,/i I wanted to add, but kept it to myself. I decided that I was going to take my time, build up his trust in me first before confessing to him that I'd loved him from the moment I saw him. He sighed and relunctantly gave in to my whim. I quickly pulled out my phone, calling up my secretary before he had a chance to change his mind.
I had every intention of keeping him by my side and spoil him as it was obvious he had never been before. Besides, I figured I hadn't been all that wrong when I said he could watch my back for me. I just hoped that I wouldn't put his life in any more danger than he apparently already lived in.