This was the third time this week that the Dunn's had company. Mrs. Dunn had invited her closest circle of friends for a dinner party; Ms. Foster and Mrs. Hepburn. Once again he found himself stuck in the kitchen doing everyone's dishes. He wouldn't get to eat until after the family and guests had finished their supper. Not that it bothered him much. Danny hadn't had much of an appetite for years now. It was poor Billy he felt bad for.
A year and a half ago Billy had been adopted into the Dunn family at the age of ten. He was a fairly sickly child, pale and weak. The poor thing spent most of his time either vomiting or in bed with severe pain. Billy was so often sick that Danny barely him outside of telling him bed time stories.
Danny himself didn't feel all too well either, but it was more of a gut feeling than anything else. He often ignored it, thinking it wasn't all too important. After all, the Dunns had been good to him since adopting him three years ago. Though they ignored him most of the time he didn't go hungry or feel particularly threatened.
All his life Danny had been in the foster system. He had been in four homes, including this one. He hardly remembered his first home, who had held onto him for five years. Danny had been a newborn when they had taken him. The Miller family had been a temporary family and had given him over to the custody of another home around the age of five.
His second home held the best memories. Allison Mac Gregor, from which he had gotten his last name, had been a kind and gentle woman. She had raised him for seven years of his life. He always remembered the woman as gentle and smiling. But she had gotten sick, fatally so. She had been a mother to him and his second home was supposed to be his permanent one. After she had died Danny was left without a guardian, and had been resubmitted to the foster system.
Danny tried not to think about his third home too much. The Sinclair's had been a religious family, to the point of being extremists. When they had discovered that Danny was not entirely normal they began to beat him and call him down to the ground. The words that stung the most were the ones he thought about even to this day.
During a day out at the park another boy had picked on him, had pushed him off the top of the slide. When Danny landed it had been on his back. The way he landed had triggered a pressure point and the pain had been unbearable. He remembered the kid screaming at him, that he wasn't human, a monster. Probably because he had sprouted malformed wings dotted with patches of clumped grey feathers. Since then the whole neighbourhood called him a demon, the Sinclair's especially.
When Danny had reached the age of twelve the Sinclair's had dragged him kicking and screaming to the hospital to have the wings removed. 'For his own good'. They repeated that sentence over and over, like it would have made him feel better. But ever since he had felt empty without them, like they had taken something that was more than just limbs.
It wasn't a mystery to Danny that he wasn't human. That wasn't the problem. The problem was not knowing what he was. He had been raised by normal people, humans and he was the anomaly. He knew that the Sinclair's could have been right, that maybe he was a demon. But he tried his best to be optimistic about it. Maybe he was something harmless.
The dish towel he was using to dry a plate had caught fire and Danny flung it into the sink without a second thought. Handling these little spark had become second nature. But they were happening more often and it was beginning to get difficult to hide from the Dunns. He wished it would just stop and maybe then it'd be easier to pretend he were human.
In need of another drying towel Danny made his way toward the laundry room. On his way past the dinning room he couldn't help but notice the way Ms. Foster and Mrs. Hepburn were crowded around Billy, who looked far too ill to be sitting at the dinning room table. They talked in hushed tones to the Dunns, though Danny already knew this routine. They always talked about the same thing: How hard it must be on the Dunns to raise such a sickly child.
On his way back from the laundry room Danny couldn't help but overhear Mrs. Hepburn address Mrs. Dunn. "I hope he doesn't take the same dark turn as the first boy you adopted. Poor Charlie…"
This caught Danny's attention for one good reason. Mrs. Hepburn could never keep her mouth shut about anything, so why didn't he know that the Dunn's had a boy named Charlie before? He retreated the kitchen, but kept close the the archway.
"Oh, I don't think I could bare that!" Mrs. Dunn replied in her overly dramatic high pitched voice. It always managed to sound just a little insincere, even when talking about the most trivial things. "But I think little Billy here will be fine. The doctors are working on some experimental drugs for his unique condition." Danny didn't miss the way Billy seemed to turn away from the conversation, like he had wanted to say something but couldn't.
Danny was unaware of the condition Billy had. Every time someone asked the Dunns what was wrong with him they always replied the same way: It was a very rare and unique condition, you've probably never heard of it. He always wondered if they were too busy with their social lives to ever bother remembering what was wrong with Billy. But they had to be trying to help him, considering they took him to see his specialist every week.
The conversation went on about doctors and pills, leaving the Charlie comment behind. But something about it bothered Danny, though he dare not ask about it. The last time he had talked out of line or asked an obscene question he had his wings clipped off. Danny rarely spoke out of line since.
Instead, Danny went about his business.
When Danny awoke the next morning there seemed to be a tension in the house. Upon descending downstairs he noticed that the Dunns were sitting at the table, staring at their untouched food. Billy was not with them. He was most likely still upstairs sleeping. Often times Billy would sleep well into the afternoon.
Silently Danny went about getting his breakfast, taking what was left out for him. He sat across from Mr. Dunn, a spindly thin man. He always looked like he was ready to run and sat with a hunch. The silence between the two continued and finally Danny gathered the courage to speak. After all, these two weren't the type to be silent.
"Is something wrong?" Mrs. Dunn's eyes snapped his way, pinning him to his chair.
"Of course something is wrong Daniel. We had to take Billy to the hospital last night. He's going to be there for a while."
"O-oh…" How had he slept through that? "Will he be alright?" This time it was Mr. Dunn who responded.
"Don't be so insensitive to your mother. She just said he was going to be in the hospital for a while. You shouldn't ask such foolish questions."
"O-of course." For a moment he felt like he could curl his wings around himself. It was funny, how most of the time he felt empty because he couldn't feel them, but then there were times when it felt like they were very much still there. Mr. Dunn was right however, he shouldn't have asked questions, he should trust them to take care of Billy.
He spent the rest of the afternoon on his own, avoiding his adoptive parents. Most of his time went toward sketching, one of his favourite things to do. Though he'd never show it to anyone, he was too self conscious for that.
As time went by and morning turned to afternoon and afternoon to evening, Danny became more and more uneasy. Despite spending so little time with Billy he still felt an attachment to the young boy. After all they shared the same household and Danny would even ready to him at night if Billy felt well enough. Billy particularly liked the stories about dragons and princesses, though he mostly liked the dragons.
He decided to seek out Mrs. Dunn and ask her a bit more about Billy, just little innocent things. He found her in her study, Mrs. Dunn was a journalist for a small newspaper company, staring angrily down at some papers. For a moment he debated bailing and just going back up to his room, but upon spotting Danny at her door her expression softened.
"You can come in Daniel, I don't bite." Tentatively he entered. "What do you what?"
"I was just wondering, if it's alright with you, if I could go visit Billy sometime this week." She frowned deeply at this, her eyes losing their gentleness. A deep fear entered Danny, tightening around his chest.
"Billy is in critical condition. No one is allowed to go see him." She spoke in strict sharp tones. "Don't you have homework to be doing?"
"Of course." He lied. Danny did fairly well in school, so long as he didn't talk to anyone. And he had become very good at that. "I'm sorry." Danny showed himself out in a rush, afraid she might lash out at him, though neither of the Dunns had ever put a hand on him.
Days passed in which Danny remained quiet and out of sight. Over that time he only became more anxious for Billy. Something didn't feel right. Though he never really gave into instinctual feelings, there were other things that seemed to validate his worry. The Dunns hadn't had a guest over at all since Billy's hospitalization. Which he found odd because they were always talking to people about Billy's poor condition. Now it had come to a grinding halt, they didn't even answer the phone.
One time he overheard them whispering in the basement, the door had been left open. Danny couldn't make out words, but he found it odd considering how rarely the basement was used. Most things ended up in the freezer part of the fridge, instead of the large one downstairs, since the Dunns never over shopped in groceries. For the most part the basement was a no-go-zone, it was Mrs. Dunn's chore room. She didn't like anyone else going into it.
A sudden curiosity overcame him a week after Billy had been hospitalized. He rarely ever gave into his curiosity, it had a habit of getting him into trouble, but the urge to go into the basement felt like a small thread had wrapped around his chest, pulling him toward the basement.
Danny figured that the Dunns would be rather busy this afternoon, he had overheard them talking about going to the hospital earlier and they'd have no reason to go into the basement. So he made the venture down the stairs as stealthily as possible, flicking on a light switch as he went.
It was a dingy looking basement, that was for sure. To his right was Mr. Dunn's tool racks and such. He rarely ever used them though. In fact most of them were covered in dust. In front of him was a couple of old boxes labeled 'dishes' and 'records'. He scooted around them toward the west side of the basement, toward the freezer. There were a few drawers nearby and simply looking at them made him feel ill for some reason.
Once again curiosity won out and Danny approached the drawers. Small containers, white and unmarked were nestled inside the top drawer. In the other drawers he found small tools and small jugs with semi-clear liquids in them. Cleaning products he assumed as they were unmarked as well. He went back to the top drawer and opened one of the containers. Inside was a soft grey pellets with a metallic sheen. Lead he presumed.
Feeling a little too uneasy about his discovery Danny closed the drawers and backed up to the freezer. He had never seen the Dunns comes downstairs with any food, so why keep the freezer plugged in? His nerves only seemed to worsen as he placed his hands on the freezer lids.
Part of him wanted desperately to open it, for what real reason he was unsure. The other part told him to leave and not look back, that whatever he was about to would only end up making him worse off than he already was. Regardless his arms moved without his consent and he flipped the lid up.
A screamed ripped through his throat, silenced only by the sudden urge to vomit. Desperately he back peddled toward the door only to run blindly into the clutter of boxes. Slowly he slid to the floor, his heart racing and limbs shaking.
Poor Billy, he didn't deserve that. The image of the boy stuffed into the freezer was persistent in his mind even though the body was well out of sight. There was little to no brown hair left on little Billy's head, his skin a deathly pale blotched with discoloured patches from freezer burn.
Danny bounded to his feet, adrenaline now coursing through his veins. They hadn't taken Billy to the hospital at all. Swiftly Danny ran up the stairs, not caring how much noise he made. He couldn't be here, he should notify the police. He rounded the kitchen corner only to come face to face with Mrs. Dunn.
She stared down at him, angered. "What were you doing in my chore room?" She must have noticed the fear in his face. Her voice dropped to a dangerous tone as she stalked toward the young teen. "Were you snooping around down there? What did you see?"
He was unable to form words as his fear turned into full blown terror. He tried to circle around her, treating her like some sort wild animal. His back brushed by the counter as he moved. Mrs. Dunn stepped in his way, blocking his escape route as she reached for his arm.
"Daniel, come here. Let me explain."
"Don't touch me!" As her fingertips brushed his sweater he panicked, reaching behind him for anything. He gripped something ceramic and lunged for her. Shards of glass and cookies were sent flying as he broke the jar over her head. Mrs. Dunn went down without much more of a fight, falling unconscious on the floor.
Danny turned to run but was pushed back against the counter. It hadn't been enough to wind him, but it had surely startled him. Mr. Dunn stood armed with a kitchen knife. He looked calmly at Danny, towering over him with malicious intent.
"That was very unwise of you. Now, be smart and come here. I won't hurt you."
He didn't trust him at all. When Danny refused to move Mr. Dunn made to attack. A pressure that had been building up in Danny's chest seemed to hit a wall. A full blown panic made its way to the surface and with a scream Danny was engulfed in flames. Mr. Dunn flinched away, shrieking in pain as the flames brushed his arms. Flames flicked out, latching onto anything as Danny's screams turned to resounding sobs.
The fire spread fast, catching the kitchen curtains and slithering along the floor. Soon all Danny could see were the flames.
Danny awoke to the sound of sirens and the sound of movement. It was dark but cozy. For a moment he forgot what had transpired. There was just him and the dark. A chunk of wood was removed from above him and the light it revealed temporarily blinded him. There was shouting. Something about a live one.
Then there were arms dragging him up and out of the surrounding wreckage. As he was moved about his sight began to clear. There were firetrucks, police cars and an ambulance surrounding the area. Two firemen were still putting out a corner of the wreckage. The whole house had been been burned to the ground, and he had been in the middle of it. Yet he felt perfectly fine. That was until the events of what had happened returned to him.
Danny began to flail in the fireman's arms, but to little avail. The man was trying to calm him down but very little of what he said made it through to Danny. He had burned down the house with little to no effort. Maybe he really was a demon.
The fireman passed him of to a paramedic who did a quick look over. She was gentle at least and so Danny managed to calm himself down a little. As she finished up her inspection of him she seemed astounded. He was unwounded, not even a minor burn or damage from smoke inhalation.
They let Danny sit in the ambulance for a while as they cleared up the wreckage and calmed down the neighbourhood. It was then that he was approached by a man in a black suit. He seemed rather friendly, but something about his blue eyes seemed unnatural.
"Daniel Mac Gregor?" Danny nodded, unsure what else to do. He knew he'd be questioned by the police and all else that would follow, but he felt drained and scared. But running wasn't an option. "My name is Harry Spencer. I'm a police officer from Glasgow. Would you mind coming with me, I have a lot of questions for you."
Again Danny nodded. He stood to follow the man. He walked at a slow pace letting Danny be as slow as he wanted to be.
"Are you aware that you aren't human? I've been looking through your files since the fire and I noticed all your foster homes were human." Danny nodded. "…Are you alright? We're going to swing by the station to take your statement. Are you going to be able to that?" Another nod. "You're gonna be alright. No one thinks it was you. You're not to blame." Harry's voice seemed sincere, but Danny couldn't bring himself to believe him. He had initiated that fire. Mrs. and Mr. Dunn had yet to be found. Just when he thought he might be able to trust another family everything he had known was flipped on it's head. Danny remained silent.
Danny sat in the back of the patrol car, his suitcase in the seat beside him. After a week of questioning and evidence gathering Danny was finally being moved into a new home. Mr. Spencer had taken charge of his placement, a town called Minerva where he'd be safe. He was being placed in the care of a man named Solomon Mac Callion.
During his brief stay with Mr. Spencer he had done his best to fill him in on the part of the world that wasn't human, reassuring him that he wasn't alone out there. In fact, most of Minerva consisted of non-humans, a safe haven where they wouldn't be discovered. It actually sounded nice. Though no one Mr. Spencer knew could identify what Danny actually was.
They were only moments away now and soon he'd be at his fifth foster home, which was also a part of the witness protection plan. He was reassured that Solomon was the kindest sort and not to panic, but he didn't really have the capacity for that. After all that had happened he felt empty.
The car came to a rolling stop outside of a large modern home. A tall man stood outside with snow-white hair, awaiting his arrival. Danny exited alongside Mr. Spencer, leaving his suitcase for now. Solomon offered his hand to which Danny shook it. Mr. Spencer greeted him casually.
"Danny, this is Solomon. He runs the university here in town, a very respected man. He'll take good care of you. I have to run somethings by him, would you like to wait in the car?" Solomon placed a hand on Mr. Spencer's shoulder, stopping him before Danny could respond. He looked down at Danny a long while before speaking.
"Don't treat him like a child, he's been through too much for you to patronize him. Let him come."
"But I don't think-" Danny stepped forward, wanting to come. It's not like he didn't know what it was about, it was clearly about him and he rather now what's being said about him. Solomon's first words to him had already earned him a decent amount of respect. "…If you think it's alright Solomon."
The three proceeded inside the house. For it's impressive size it was incredibly plainly decorated. Danny was surprised by the lack of photos on the walls or anything ornate. It was humble. They settled in the kitchen and Mr. Spencer laid down a large file on the table before sliding it over to Solomon.
"I'm sorry I couldn't brief you earlier on this. We've both been pretty busy. I'm surprised you accepted adopting the kid with such little knowledge. I know you owe me but-"
"Consider it the other way around now." Danny internally flinched. He had been adopted on a favour. "Besides, there aren't many here that are willing to adopt. Well then Harry, start filling me in."
"Well Danny here has been in four foster homes, one of which was going to be permanent but after the death of Allison Mac Gregor there was no one to take care of him. The one after that lasted two years. The Sinclairs were extremely religious and when they discovered Danny wasn't normal they became highly abusive. They had him taken into the hospital to remove his wings." Solomon frowned at this but remained silent. "After that he ended up with the Dunn family.
"They were poisoning the boys for years. We suspected them to have something to do with their first adopted boy, Charlie, when he died of preventable symptoms, but there wasn't enough attempted to poison Danny as well, but he has an immunity to lead it seems, as there were large amounts in his system but no symptoms. The other boy, Billy, wasn't so fortunate…" Mr. Spencer glanced at Danny, unsure if he should continue. Solomon glanced his way as well. Yes, the conversation made him feel sick, but these weren't things he didn't know. Danny had been a crucial part in the investigation.
"You can leave if you want, explore the house." Solomon offered in a gentle voice. Danny shook his head and Mr. Spencer continued.
"For the year and a half that they had Billy they had been poisoning him with lead. Munchausen by proxy syndrome. They were using Billy's caused illness to get attention from their neighbours and friends. We assume both of them suffer from it. When Billy died they hid the body in the freezer. Danny discovered it and tried to flee. He knocked out Mrs. Dunn and when Mr. Dunn tried to attack him he lashed out sparking the fire.
"The body of neither Mr. or Mrs. Dunn have been found. We are currently trying to find them and close the investigation. Hence why Danny is in the witness protection program and why I chose you as the best candidate." There was a silence between the two adults, an understanding that Danny was lost too. Mr. Spencer continued.
"Danny is very brave with how forthcoming he's been, but he still has a lot to go through. I know you're capable of handling him. Not that he's violent or anything. Just very silent. Very polite."
"Thank you for your time Harry." Solomon stood and Mr. Spencer followed his lead and shook his hand. "Could you go get Danny's things?" Mr. Spender agreed and left the two alone.
"It seems you've been through a lot. I could tell from your eyes." Solomon sat back down. In a way Danny could understand what he meant. Just looking at Solomon he could tell he himself had been through much. "You're welcome to anything in the house. Feel free to ask any questions. Let me show you to your room."
As it turned out Solomon was very kind, much kinder than his cold appearance. He never pried or forced him to do anything, which he was grateful for. Solomon spent most of his time working in his study or out at the university. Though he'd often go out of his way to get him things, like when he discovered Danny really enjoyed animated movies he had bought him ten. Or the fact that he wanted to learn how to cook (he had developed a fear of other people's cooking) Solomon had bought him fresh ingredients and cookbooks.
He had been enrolled in the local high school, to which he was about two weeks late to beginning, but they were very accepting of him all the same. Though the teachers got a little exasperated when he refused to talk.
Like most days after school Danny found himself alone in the house. Solomon was off doing work. Except this time he was put on alert when he heard the front door open only minutes after he arrived home. Solomon never came home early. Ever. Fear crept up on him as he slowly stalked toward the kitchen, following the sound of the footsteps that had entered unannounced.
Before he reached his destination he could hear the sound of a can being opened, the cluttering in the cupboards then finally the scrapping of a chair moving across the hardwood floor. When Danny peered around the corner he spotted a young woman at the table. There was a can of soda on the table. Her long black hair was pinned back and her feminine features were twisted in concentration as she searched through a first aid kit. What really caught his attention was her bright pink eyes, she couldn't be human.
"You can stop skulking around. Aha!" She had found what she wanted, a sewing needle and thread. Slowly Danny approached. There was something about her, something non-threatening. That didn't mean he wasn't cautious. "You must be Danny. I'm Kirei." She looked up at him only to receive a blank stare. "…He didn't tell you about me, did he?… Of course not. That jerk." She began threading the needle. Danny began to wonder what she was doing before he noticed her bloodied left arm.
Danny spun around. Fear began to creep over him. Who was this woman and why was she here? "Yeah, that's probably for the best." He hadn't noticed it before but she spoke with a slight accent, Japanese if he was right. "Anyway, since Solomon didn't tell you I will. I'm his girlfriend." She said the last bit a little more gently but hissed soon afterward. "Sorry this has to be the first time we meet, but well, things didn't go so well at work. I wasn't supposed to be home for another week. Maybe he planned to say something about me before then, hm? Ssst, dammit that stings."
Danny questioned her line of work silently. What could she be doing to get a gash deep enough for stitches. "Shouldn't you go to the hospital?" He asked quietly. He quickly flinched afterward. He shouldn't be so brazen.
"Ah, probably. But I'm a pretty good healer. Perks of being a Shaman." He had been told about those, human beings with the power to heal others and destroy Supernals. He believed they belonged to the divine species line. They were often feared by Supernals. A hundred questions came to mind but he wanted to remain silent. Solomon often encourage him to ask questions though, and if she's as close to Solomon as she says she is she probably wouldn't mind.
"Er, well you see I'm a hunter." Danny's stomach dropped as he spun to look at her. He had been warned thoroughly about hunters by Mr. Spencer. They hunted Supernals for bounties and often didn't care they were innocent or not. They were cold hearted killers and were the reason for safe havens. What if she was here to kill him? "Ah! Don't look at me like that! I get that look all the time you know. But I'm very thorough with my investigations I swear, otherwise Solomon would have had me imprisoned the day we met. I make sure that the ones I hunt are in the wrong and aren't irredeemable. I got this cut while in a vampire coven that preyed on the elderly in an old folks home, to answer your question."
Danny shifted uncomfortably, unsure of what to do. Should he trust her or anything she said? She must have sensed his unease. "Ah, wait! Solomon told me to pick this up my way back to give to you, said it was a gift. Maybe it'll help you trust me a bit, hm?" Kirei reached into her nearby bag and produced a wrapped box and handed it to him. "Go on, open it."
Danny slowly did as instructed, but upon recognizing the cover beneath the paper he tore through the wrapping paper. It was his sketchbook, it had survived the fire. "…How?"
"Solomon got a call from Harry. It had been held as evidence but, well Henry owed me a favour so Solomon sent me to get it for you." Danny glanced down at her. She had finished her sewing job and was in the process of bandaging it now. There's no way a random woman would know about this, so she had to know Solomon pretty well. He figured it was probably safe to trust her, partially at least.
"Hey, I'm starving. Do you wanna go out? My treat?" Kirei got up and began to fidget through a box on top of the fridge before producing a car key. She seemed very much at ease, both in the home and with dealing with her injury. "Mines almost out of gas, we can take Solomon's. You know what," She turned to smile at him, a large genuine smile "we'll go pick him up. Give him a surprise. And force him to tell me why he didn't mention me to you. Honestly, I live here. C'mon."
At a lost of what do Danny obediently followed her. He quickly learned she wasn't the most leisurely driver, though he didn't feel particularly unsafe in the car. He always kind of hated the blandness of the architecture in Minerva, it wasn't built to be pretty. But the wide streets seemed to be prefect for speeding. Maybe he was just be very used to seeing the grandness of Glasgow.
When they arrived at the university Kirei nearly dragged Danny to Solomon's office and all but kicked the door down. He didn't seem at all startled by the entrance and continued to calmly work behind his desk, his cyan eyes focused on his paper work. That is until he noticed who it was.
"Kirei." He practically stood at attention.
"Hey. You know, I almost gave this poor kid a heart attack. You're the one who told me he was easily frightened. Did telling him other people lived at the house just escape your mind?"
Solomon went unfazed by her statements. His attention was elsewhere. "What happened to your arm?"
"You're deflecting." Her words were flat and unamused. Solomon frowned at her accusation.
"I was working on it." He looked between the two. "Did you come here just to yell at me?"
"No. We're going out for supper. And I just decided you're paying." Solomon opened his mouth then closed it, choosing to remain silent. The whole moment was almost comedic, but after all the excitement Danny felt tired. But he had to admit, he was sure he wouldn't mind it so much here.