by Teresa Cain



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It had always been a good hunting ground for the drakthos, during these winter months. This abandoned lot with its gathering of burning barrels, with New York's forgotten huddled around the flames for their meager warmth against the season's chill. Winos, old bag ladies - runaways.

It was the runaways Mark was truly interested in. These poor little lambs who had been so sure of themselves when they stepped foot outside of their homes, but it was satisfying to see how the necessities of life chased away all morals and any personal integrity they might have had. Many of them became so starved and cold that they would leap at any chance for a bit of food and warmth in relative safety.

How did he look to them, when he appeared from the darkness with an offer of a meal and a warm place to sleep unmolested by the street's denizens? With his wings hidden by glamour, surely he must look like an angel sent from above, ready to bless their poor dampened spirits.

And then later only to see him for the demon he could be - but too late... far too late.

A smug little smile crept across his features. Humans were so damn easy at times.

He moved between the fires, hidden from mortal eyes by his glamour, taking his time to look at the faces huddled around. Most of these were winos, it seemed - there was a sad lack of youthful faces. It didn't necessarily have to be a pretty young girl - Mark would have accepted a good-looking boy as well. Sometimes they were better meals. Boys have lessons of machismo hammered into them from birth, and the despair they gave off as they abandoned their fathers' principles and let the pretty demon have his horrible, humiliating way with them was so delicious.

But unfortunately, there seemed to be a lack of both. Dammit, the shelters must be hiding all his prey tonight.

And then, like a ray of light from above, he saw her.

She stood unmoving by one of the barrels, staring into its flame with dead, unseeing eyes, surrounded by jeering predators.

"Hey baby, I can warm you up."

"Maybe you'll be warmer in my pants. 'Course, you gotta share."

"Bet your tits are like lil' rocks under that shirt."

Snort. "What tits? What are you, chick, like eight?"

"Naw, I've seen eight-year-olds with way better tits than that!"

But their taunts seemed to fall on deaf ears. She paid their inane chatter no mind at all as she gazed into the flames, and then suddenly she raised one hand -

- and drove it into the fire.

The men around her fell back with gasps and curses as she held it steady in the flames, her eyes narrowed in her pointed face. Then one by one they wandered off to other fires, muttering as they went.

"Damn psycho bitch."

"Shit, she musta run away from one of them freakshows or sumthin'."

But even with their absence, she kept her hand in the fire, staring at what should have been blackening flesh until another hand wrapped gently around her wrist, drawing it back.

"There are better ways to warm yourself," murmured a silky voice by her ear.

She turned slowly, as if the world would gladly stop in the time it took her to finally look at the figure behind her. She looked dully at the beautiful creature, with his hair like shining silk and eyes like sapphire flames in the sculpted porcelain face. And he in turn studied a face that would have well suited any pixie, surrounded by a flowing mane of red that fell past her shoulders well to her hips. She noted the lean, strong body beneath expensive, tailor-made shirt and slacks with a disinterested glance. He looked at a female body almost completely untouched by puberty, even though she had to be at least 16.

Some sort of wild blood in the girl's veins, no doubt. The female wild fae tended towards underdeveloped bodies that allowed them greater agility, and to a human descendant of their kind, it wasn't considered a kind inheritance. The girl seemed not to care one way or another. She was dressed in a faded t-shirt that was at least 3 sizes too big for her, and a pair of ragged, hole-ridden jeans that suffered the same complaint. She wore no coat, and a pair of thick-soled leather sandals on her feet: both totally inappropriate for the weather. But even in the icy wind, she made no shudder. It was as if she was beyond all feeling in that small, prepubescent body.

If anything, Mark was even more intrigued. He wondered just what action might make some sort of life flare in those dulled green orbs.

He glanced down at the hand he still held loosely in his and noted with interest that the skin wasn't even reddened. How odd. The girl looked human. She even smelled human. What was in her bloodline to give her such resistance to this element? And what force would it take to make that slight little body feel the pain he so loved to give?

"You poor thing," he murmured sympathetically, rubbing his thumb over her wrist. Even through the leather gloves he wore in concession to the frigid weather, he could feel the pulse of the blood in her veins. "You look so hungry and cold. Wouldn't you like to get a hot meal into you?"

She kept staring at him.

Not one to give up, he took an experimental step backwards, keeping a hold on her wrist. She followed the step. He took another, and another, and she followed them all. He tucked her small hand into the crook of his elbow and began to lead her away from the fires, and she followed him quite docile into the shadows.

*** *** ***

He thought it might take some doing getting the girl to eat, but she sat at the table tucking away every bite that was laid before her. It was amazing. She was eating enough for three pregnant ogresses. If the food was put before her, she ate it. It was almost turning into a game to see which would happen first: either she would fill up...or she would explode.

But after about five six helpings of the meal set before her, she laid down her fork and sighed, then curled up into the chair and laid her head on her drawn up knees. She didn't look sleepy exactly... just tired to the death.

e finally rose up from the chair beside her, where he had sat and watched her eat with some amusement and awe, and gently helped her up.

"Perhaps you'd feel better after a hot bath?" he asked, the very soul of courtesy.

She gave a little shrug of her thin shoulders, her eyes wandering off.

Oookay, he thought to himself. Well, that's the closest thing to a reaction I've gotten all night. That meal just perked her right up, now didn't it?

"Come along," he half sang, leading her towards the dining room door. "I'll draw you a nice bath. You'll feel much better after that."

*** *** ***

And here I thought I was through bathing other people when Davy got old enough to take his own damn baths, Mark grumbled to himself silently. He'd gotten the girl into the bathroom, where she had just stood there, staring through the huge tiled bath and the gently steaming water. So Mark had moved to start undressing her, thinking perhaps losing the shield of clothing that humans held so dear might wake her up from whatever nightmare held her captive behind those eyes.

But she had stood there as passively as a doll; letting him move whatever appendage was needed to get the T-shirt and jeans stripped. And then she had just stood there naked and quiet until Mark finally picked her up and sat her down in the water.

Which led her to simply sit there naked and quiet.

Sighing, Mark knelt by the tub and picked up a washcloth and a bar of expensive imported soap (as in across two worlds, from Faerie Herself) and slowly worked up a lather into the pricey cotton cloth. Then he picked up one of the girl's arms from the water and began to wash her.

The girl wasn't that dirty. Perhaps she hadn't been on the streets that long. Or perhaps she had already fallen into the role of whore as so many young girls did, and managed to grab a shower in whatever dingy motel room her benefactor would spring for. Yet... the girl didn't have a used look about her - simply dead.

What an odd child. Mark was intrigued.

She stayed silent and impassive beneath his washing, even when the washcloth slid between her legs. She stayed completely limp in the water, not even a twitching thigh muscle to show she was unnerved by his slow movements against her.

Intrigued, yes. But also getting a touch angry.

He washed her clean, including that shining mass of fiery hair, then pulled her from the tub and dried her while the water drained. He did so slowly, taking in the sight of her as the towel soaked away the droplets clinging to her pale skin.

Definitely some Wild blood in her. Her chest was completely flat, like that of a child's, the nipples small and pink and perked from the towel's friction. Her waist did dip a little, but she was already such a slender thing it was hard to tell. Arms and legs were long and lithe, with a toned look to them that spoke of some acrobatics or other nimble skill. Her hair fell over her like a cloak, the wet strands clinging to her skin.

An idea blazed in Mark's mind as he searched for a hairdryer.

"Such a little doll," he murmured, combing out the long locks. "Don't worry, lovely. We'll soon have you all sweet and pretty. You'll like that, won't you?"

Silence. Not even a flicker of response from her eyes.

Frowning, Mark flipped on the dryer and began the arduous task of getting the thick mane dry.


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Despair ©2002 by Teresa Cain

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