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Folklore

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“All unpacked, Danny?”

A sixteen year old boy with shoulder length black hair and pretty blue eyes, looked up at his mother as she stood in the doorway to his new bedroom.  He gave her a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, turning to look down at the box on his desk.  

“Not yet…”

“Well, dinner will be ready in an hour dear,” she said, giving him a tired smile.  Danny turned back to his desk, slowly unloading his laptop and books onto it.  Maddie Fenton frowned at the dejected sight of her youngest child and sighed, coming into the room to give him a one armed hug.  “I know you didn’t want to move, honey, but we had no choice.  Just think though, with your father’s and my new job, we managed to get such a nice house!  Your room sure is bigger than your last one, right?”

“I guess so…”

“And, you get to miss out on school for a few extra months this summer!  Isn’t that nice~?”

The boy frowned, not looking all that happy.  “Just means I have to take summer school next year though to catch up.”

“Well, maybe not!  Your father and I could always homeschool you?”

“I’d really rather not.”

The redheaded woman sighed, pulling back from Danny to put her hands on her hips.  “Danny, we’re just trying to help you.  Now I know this move wasn’t ideal but it was the best option for all of us.”

The teen couldn’t meet her eyes as he finished pulling things out of his box and folded it up, putting the cardboard on top of the pile he had made by the door.  His mother huffed, shaking her head.

“Well, your father got the modem running if you want to chat with your friends.  I’m going to go finish up dinner but I expect you to come down and set the table, alright?”

“Yes, mom.”

He watched her go before sighing, turning back to look over his new room.   It wasn’t a large room, but not too small either, with a full sized bed beneath a large window covered in a starry bedspread and a few pillows.  The walls were painted bright blue and the trim white along with the carpet.  It was open, airy…

It was indeed better than the room he had had back in Amity, but still, to move all the way to a tiny island off of Nova Scotia, Canada, for something he hadn’t even done .

Danny rubbed the back of his neck, pulling up his hair into a messy bun before going back to finish unpacking.  He just had the bookcase and then his desk to set up, really.  He glanced at the clock, noticing it was around the time he had promised to contact his girlfriend, Sam.  He winced, but sat down and turned on skype.  She would just chew his ear off if he didn’t call her.

The familiar swooping sound of the program starting up made him sigh, but he clicked on Sam’s window and typed in a hey.

Her reply came a few seconds later.   Omg you’re there?

Yeah.  Wanna call?

Totally, 1 sec brb.

Danny eased back, spacing out as he waited.  The sky outside was grey and cloudy… a dried-up garden a dull black shape through the mist.  The squeaking of terrified mice reached his ears from somewhere in the walls.  Great, now they’d have to call an exterminator…

Skype pinged.  Danny glanced back at it to see Sam’s reply.  Okay, u can call now!

Danny sighed, a small part of him not really wanting to talk right now.  He had already been talking enough with his parents and his older sister, he didn’t really need someone else trying to explain away his feelings.  Or worse, tell him how he was supposed to feel.

Well, better do it now than later.

He clicked the call button and sat back, letting the skype window take up his whole screen.  A second later and Sam answered on the other end, her face appearing on his laptop screen.  Danny had known Sam since they were kids, and it had almost felt like just a next step in their life to start dating.  His parents had expected it, his sister had, their friends had.  Whatever, it didn’t matter since he liked her, right?

Right?

“Hey, Sam.  How’s everything back in Amity?”

“Ugh, dead in the water as usual.  Not to mention the swim team is crap without you,” his girlfriend deadpanned, her voice tinny and echoing from the poor connection.  “How’s your internet down there?  Our connection is terrible!”

“No idea.  Dad just got the modem running so he could have just placed it in a bad spot in the house.  I’ll mess with it later.”

Danny paused for a moment, taking in the sight of her chin length black hair and purple eyes -- colored contacts sure worked wonders -- and her black painted lips.  He noticed she was wearing one of her nicer outfits, a purple and black checkered dress she had gotten from some special shop that catered to vegans and environmentalists and such like her.

“Hey, are you going out somewhere?  I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Oh!  Yeah, you remember that, uh, one Victorian zombie movie that came out?  Tucker and I were gonna go see it,” Sam replied, giving a sheepish shrug.  “I mean, the tickets were nonrefundable, might as well, right?”

Danny frowned.  That was a movie he had practically needed to BEG Sam to go see, and now she was going without him?  So much for ‘classical and historical inaccuracy designed to please the masses need for horror and blood’.  He sighed, shaking his head.  “No no, I get it… I mean, I wanted to see it, but you're right about the tickets.  I’ll just go see it sometime later.”

“Sorry, Danny…”

Sam blew a kiss through the screen, smiling halfheartedly.  “It won’t be any fun without you.  Tucker always hogs all the popcorn and sprinkles candy sugar all over it.  Ugh… it’s absolutely disgusting.”

Danny chuckled, smiling slightly.  “Yeah, it’s an acquired taste.”

“Danny!  Come set the table!”

The teen sighed, brushing back a lock of his hair.  “Hey, sorry, I gotta go, dinner’s ready.  Guess it will take some time getting used to the time changes, huh?”

“Yeah, sorry again.  I’ll miss you, baby!  Bye!”

Sam’s eyes flicked down to the keyboard and he heard a click.  The screen collapsed back into its bright default.

“Yeah, bye…”

“DANNY!”

The teen startled, quickly jumping up and running down the stairs towards the dining room.  His older sister Jazz stood there by the table, arms full of dishes with furrowed brows.  “What took you so long?”

“Sorry, was on skype with Sam.”

“Oh.  Well here, help me set the table.  Maybe you can call her after dinner?”

Danny shook his head, taking the plates from her.  “Can’t, she went to see a movie.  And since there’s nearly a three hour time difference, it’s just not worth the trouble…”

“Well, you should at least put forth the effort,”  she reprimanded, putting down the plates.  “You want your relationship to work, right?”

Danny frowned but didn’t respond.  He was used to his sister’s psychological babble and judgmental attitude by that point.  He didn’t think she really had a right to judge, since this move didn’t really affect HER life.  She was off to college in the fall, full ride scholarship and all.  She and his parents never failed to bring that up at least twice a day.

“You know, if you put in even half the time on your studies as you do those astrology books, you wouldn’t even have to take summer school next year!”

Danny huffed and picked up some silverware.  “Yeah.  Sure.”

 

~*~

 

Dinner was takeout from a fish restaurant in town.  It would have been good if it had been warm.

Forks clinked dully against plates, carving up filets and putting the pieces into quiet mouths.  The florescent bulb blinked above their heads, illuminating the peeling wallpaper and old hardwood floors.  The house was old.  It smelled like spiders.

“So!”

Danny held in a groan at Jazz’s ‘psychiatrist tone’ that she adopted when she felt something needed to be done in their household.  “Love the house!” she said.

The single lightbulb flickered out with an exhausted plink .

Maddie went to get some candles.  

Jazz cleared her throat, continuing despite the sudden dimness; the sun was fading behind darkening clouds, what little natural light there was quickly vanishing as thunder rumbled quietly in the distance.  “Now that we’re here, I’m sure we’re going to hit it off with the townsfolk!” she chirped.  “We just need to fix this place up, introduce ourselves, show we have nothing to hide!  We’ll all have friends in no time!”

Jack shrugged, his mouth full of cold fried fish.  Maddie came back with a pair of lit candles, set them on the table, and kissed her husband on the cheek; he perked up at that.  “I like your positive attitude, Jasmine!” she replied, settling back into hair chair.  “Tomorrow we’ll call a plumber, get these rusty pipes all fixed up!”

“And I can start investigating the mysteries of this house~!” Jack exclaimed brightly.  Maddie grinned and clapped her hands excitedly.

There was a moment of silence.

Then, Jazz squinted at her parents.  “Mysteries?” she deadpanned.  “Guys, don’t tell me--”

“Why do you think we got the house for so cheap?” her father asked merrily, stabbing up a couple more bites of fish.  

Danny raised his brows, watching his older sister groan and bury her head in her hands.  “This is what I get for having a demonologist dad and an author mom…” she muttered.  “What’s the book gonna be about this time?”

“Well~” Maddie began excitedly, leaning forward.

Danny sighed and tuned them out, fiddling with his fish while his mother and father began to weave a tale that was both different and exactly like all the others.  His parents had never really been around much of his childhood, always chasing stories of ghosts and demons around the world and leaving their kids with a babysitter.  And when the babysitter was a horror movie cliche -- chatting on the phone during the days and inviting her boyfriend over to drink beer in the evenings -- Danny had mostly been raised by his sister.  

The... incident that had made them move had been labeled a ‘family chance to bond’.   Should’ve known it was a haunted house, he thought to himself, putting his fork down.

“What about you, Danny?”

The teen looked up, raising an eyebrow at his sister.  “What about me?”

She frowned, clearly looking for more positive feedback.  “New town, new start!  You should go out and make some friends!  It’s not healthy to just lock yourself up in your room all day, Danny.”

“We just moved here.  I haven’t even had time to settle in--”

“Eighty five percent of the students who do nothing all day in the summer tend to have a harder time keeping up, or raising, their grades once school resumes,”  Jazz informed her family, talking over her brother.  “I think Danny needs to keep busy!”

“Maybe you could try swimming again!”  Jack enthused, smiling around his mouthful of fried fish.  “You love swimming, and there are plenty of beaches around here!”

“That’s right!”  Maddie agreed, smiling at her son.  “You could go out and make new friends!”

Jazz nodded.  “Yeah!  Also, I think Danny should look for a job.”

Danny looked up at her, incredulous.  “A job ?”

“It would keep him busy and active, plus it looks great on a college resume.” She glanced at Danny, raising a brow.  “You do want to buy a car one day, right?”

“She’s right, Danny,”  his mom said as she stood up, picking up their mostly empty plates.  “Maybe you could take a look around town tomorrow, scope out your new home and see what there is for you to do?”

The blue-eyed boy looked at his family like they had all grown a second head.  Were they even serious right now?  A JOB?  After they had uprooted him from his home and his life and his friends, to this small harbor town where even internet was hard to come by?  Don’t get him wrong, he loved the sudden easy access he had to the ocean, he LOVED water.  But to be pushed to so quickly accept his new life and this new town, pushed to do this and do that, go into town, get a job… god.

“I’m going to bed…”  he murmured, standing up from his chair.  He bid them all a quiet goodnight as Jazz started talking to her parents about some college program online she was doing or something.  Nothing new to him.

The water was cold as he showered, but he found himself enjoying the rush it gave him, making him feel like he was clearing his head and rinsing his body of all troubles.  He pulled on his pjs and crawled into his bed, staring at the NASA poster on his wall, and tried to sleep.

 

~*~

 

It took over an hour before he finally nodded off… only to be roughly awoken by a loud crack of thunder.

KA-BOOM!

Danny gasped, eyes flying open.  Fear suddenly swept over him when he saw an unfamiliar ceiling illuminated by false daylight…

And then darkness consumed his vision.

The boy fumbled clumsily for the light, clicking it on and sitting up in bed.  He frowned, looking around at the walls.  He thought he’d heard something…

Bump.

There.

It sounded like heavy footsteps… coming down the hall.

The boy slowly rose up from his bed, fumbling to find the flashlight always by his bed, only to curse as he realized he had yet to unpack it from the few remaining boxes.  Cautiously, he walked around his bed towards the door, approaching it as slowly and as quietly as he could.  

The steps were growing closer…

Slowly, Danny took hold of the doorknob, turned it, and opened the door.  Down the hallway, an acidic green glow radiated along the floor… and a terrible smell reached his nostrils…

Danny swallowed, turned to look…

Jack sat in the middle of the hallway in a circle of glowing measuring instruments and dials, wearing glowing green goggles and a hazmat suit.  He stirred a pot on a portable stove -- some kind of hellish concoction bubbling inside it -- spread a bit of it on the sandwich he was eating, and took a big bite.  His dad glanced at him, then did a double take and grinned with his mouth full, waving merrily at his son.  “Hey, Danny!  Come join me for a little demon hunting and some artichoke-and-bologna sandwiches?  These readings are off the charts~!” he called.

Danny grimaced in a mixture of disgust and exhaustion.  “I’ll pass.”

“Your loss~!”

“Uh huh…”

The teen sighed, turned back into his room, and slammed the door shut.

 

~*~

 

The next morning brought some blessed quiet, indicating that the rest of his family must have been away from the house.  He rose from the bed and stretched, yawning widely.  He opened his laptop to check his messages, frowning at the two missed calls from Sam.  Eh, he would call back later.

His bare feet made a dull sound against the old wooden stairs as he made his way down to the kitchen for some breakfast.  He munched away on some honey nut cheerios, when he finally noticed some notes on the refrigerator.  There was a note from his dad saying he had gone into to town to gather information and stories from the townsfolk, while another note explained that Jazz and his mom had gone to talk to the realtor about the flooding in the basement.

They had a basement?

With a frown, the teen finished up his breakfast, before looking around the house.  It didn’t take long to find the wooden door near the back of the house, leading down a single flight of stairs.  It was drafty and cold down there, smelling musty and old.  A single light flickered over head once Danny found the switch.

“Oh, gross…”  he muttered as his bare feet hit the cold, soaked through carpet.  The floor under him creaked and moaned, acting like it might give out on him at any moment.  How rotten had the wood become for it to feel that soft ?

The room was pretty sparse, only a couple of empty boxes from the move near the stairs.  But just as he was about to turn around and go back upstairs, he noticed something out of place.  There was a small wooden door in the corner of the room, farthest from the faint and flickering light, built into the very floor...

Danny hesitated for a moment, not trusting the rotten boards and smell of mildew, but it didn’t take long for curiosity to overcome that.  He took a cautious step…

Squiiiiiiiish.

The teenaged boy grimaced and quickly squished his way over to the door.  The carpet just got wetter and wetter as he got closer, and by the time he stood before the trapdoor he was downright splashing through the water, his toes completely covered with clear greenish water that swam with specks of dirt.  The floor sagged down with his weight, taking the door with it down into the dirty water.  Danny tried to balance, to keep his steps as light as possible.  It would just be his luck that the floor would cave right from under him.

Finally, he was close enough to take a look at the old, wooden door, peering at it through the greenish water.

The door seemed to once be a thing of beauty, made of black wood and carved with runes that he did not recognize from any of his history classes, with once silvery chains that crisscrossed the boards.  But now, the door was swollen and soft with water under rusted chains, dark fibers dangling free of the edges of runes and tangling in the links.  Moss -- or mold, he couldn’t tell which, either way it was furry and bluish-green -- crawled up over the iron too, covering a small lock.

Curious, Danny crouched, reaching under the water to grab the lock.  The water was shallow enough that he could hold it comfortably above the surface.  He brushed off the slimy lichen.

Underneath, etched into the black iron, was a strangely realistic rendition of a spider with its long legs wrapped around the lock.  

Danny frowned and turned it over, brushing off more mold.  There was no keyhole anywhere on it.

Curious, the boy tried to pull on the old looking lock, testing to see if it could be removed with just a bit of force.  But even though the wood was rotten and old, and the metal was rusted… it all held fast.

With a sigh, the teen dropped the lock back into the water and straightened, looking down at the door for a moment.  Maybe he could ask his mom later about it, surely the realtor mentioned it, right?  With that thought in mind he turned around and walked back up the stairs, turning the light switch off behind him.  He needed to go get a start to his day, finish unpacking and maybe call Sam back before she got mad.

He shut the basement door behind him.  The water slopped quietly against the walls, and the lock floated back to the bottom, unassuming.

 

~*~

 

After he finished his chores and called his girlfriend again, Danny pulled on his black-and-blue wetsuit, his swimming goggles, and his flip flops.  He grabbed a towel, left a note on the kitchen counter, and left the house.

The temperature crawled higher as the day went on, the air still cool and humid from the rainstorm the night before and the sun slowly burning away the morning mist.  Danny padded over the concrete path, grateful for his shoes when the cracked pavement abruptly ended, giving way to moss and gravel as he moved down towards the old abandoned docks at the base of the cliff.  

The two long piers slowly came into view as the mist retreated off the green water.  Old and dark and creaking with each roll of the ocean over the rocks, they were another reason why his parents had picked the house; so that once Jack had “exorcised” whatever “demon” lived here, they could be a pet project for him in twenty years to rebuild and keep his boat tied up at.  Once he got a boat.  And once he became handy in any sense of the word.  Until then, the piers were little more than an old, morbid decoration.

Danny carefully walked down one of the docks, stopping just at the end to toe off his flip flops and pull down his swimming goggles.  With practiced ease, he dove into the cold water with barely a splash, blinking through the murky, green waters.  It was clearer than he would have suspected, and the chill permeating his suit was brisk and refreshing.  He rose up for a gulp of air, then dove back down, swimming further out and away from the docs.

For a brief moment he could forget.  Forget about the move, about his parents, about his sister, about his girlfriend, and about the mistakes that lead him here.  He could just be himself here, think of nothing and just swim and swim…

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… what do we do, we swim.  Swim… he hummed within the peaceful confines of his own skull.

The sun beat down overhead, casting crystalline light through the cold waters.  Down below he could make out rocky reefs and coral, some mussels and clams making a home for themselves along the sea bed.  He ran across a few fish, nothing much, just minnows and a couple stingrays, even an eel that peeked out at him from its reef home.  To him, everything here was beautiful, peaceful, timeless.  The sea was ever changing and yet it never changed.  

Danny swam back up to the surface, long since losing track of time and how long he had been out in the water.  He smiled up at the sun, floating onto his back and stretching his limbs out under the warm rays, the cool water almost numbing his back.  He closed his eyes, and just drifted… the sound of the waves blending with sound of the wind, and a distant sound of voices...

Suddenly, wood knocked soundly against his head.   Crak.

There was a brief starburst of pain in his skull and then everything went black.

 

~*~

 

Danny woke up with a stunning headache, staring once again at an unfamiliar ceiling.  Unlike the one at the clifftop house, this one was new, made of gleaming amber wood, and the smell of frying fish and clinking dishes and muffled, conversational swearing meeting his senses.

The boy winced and sat up, touching his head.  A clean, damp rag fell off his forehead and into his lap; he picked it up and glanced around.  He seemed to be laying on a small cot, in a clean, well-kept broom closet of some kind, alongside crates of rubber gloves, vegetable oil, and fishing rods.

The teen slowly climbed to his feet, stumbling a bit due to his immense headache, and slowly made his way towards the sound of people.  The smell of oil didn’t sit well on his senses, making him feel like he was going to throw up.  Shit, he hoped this was just a really bad headache and not a concussion or something…

He stepped into what appeared to be a restaurant kitchen, his eyes squinting under the bright fluorescent lights.  He looked around at the few busy cooks frying fish and seafood, before stepping out into the main body of the restaurant.  It was small but clean, and it was pretty much packed with locals eating a weekend dinner of fresh fish and coleslaw.  It was weird how the scent of food was making his belly flop and grumble in hunger at the same time.

Danny debated walking out the door, but he had no idea where he was or how to get home…

“Oh, hey!  You’re awake!”

Strong brown hands grabbed his arms, turning him around slightly.  Danny blinked as he found himself looking into dark green eyes.  “W-Who’re--?” he started to ask.

“Geez, you look terrible!”

The stranger pressed a hand against his forehead.  “Well, you don’t have a fever and your pupils aren’t weird, so you should be okay,” she muttered, wiping her hands on her apron.  “You’re not gonna sue, are you?”

Danny blinked again, lashes fluttering, and frowned at the girl.  Getting a good look at her for the first time, she was a short, plump girl -- even shorter than he was -- with dark brown skin and a full head of coiled black curls, pulled back under an orange headband.  Her features were rather nice, with long lashes, soft cheeks, and plump, dark pink lips, and she was wearing jeans and a shirt labeled Grey’s Seafood.  A cartoon tuna smiled and waved at him under a name tag, labeled “Valerie.”

“Um, hi,”  he ventured, waving a little before he stopped, suddenly feeling silly.  “I’m Danny.  I just moved here two days ago, in the old house on Raven Way and 13th?”

Valerie’s plucked brows shot up.

He frowned at her, confused.  “And um… why would I sue?  How did I get here, anyway?  Last thing I remember, I was out swimming…”

“What?  Oh!  Uh, no reason!  That’s a great question, why would you sue?” she repeated, parrot-like.  “Hahahaha!  Ha.  Okay, um.”

She wiped her hands nervously on her apron and made a vague gesture towards the kitchen.  “Are you hungry?  You’ve been out for a while--”

“Oh, you’re awake!”

Danny blinked in surprise as a broad-shouldered man with a salt-and-pepper mustache, a cook’s apron, and the same shade of brown skin as Valerie appeared out of nowhere and shook his hand.  “Thank goodness you’re alright!  I’m so sorry I hit you with my boat!  I swear I didn’t see you,” the man said.  “Are you hungry?  You’ve been out for a while.  It’s on the house!  I’ll get you a plate!”

“Wait, wha--?”

The mustached cook turned away so fast that Danny barely had the time to catch his name tag, labeled “Damon Grey: Owner.”  

He blinked in surprise and looked back at Valerie.  She was rubbing her face like she was the one with a headache.  “Yeah, that was my dad.”

Valerie made a frustrated gesture at the quaint little restaurant.  “After his stockmarket shares went belly up, this was the only thing left in the family that we could use for income!” she snapped.  “Now we run this entire place on our own.”

She got in Danny’s face, poking his stomach with a sharp nail and squinting.  “So don’t sue.  I know where you live!”

Danny took a hasty step back, raising his hands in the air defenselessly.  For such a tiny girl, she was pretty scary.  “Dude, chill, I won’t sue!  It was an accident right?”

“That’s right, so don’t you even dare cause trouble!”

“I won’t, I--!”  he blinked then, looking around the restaurant.  “Wait a minute… my dad got takeout from here last night.  He really liked the place.”

He looked around, taking in the busy, yet happy atmosphere.  The place was pretty laid back, was by the water…  He actually liked seafood…

“Yeah!  Also I think Danny should look for a job.”

“A job?”

“A job…”

“What?”

Danny startled, looking back at Valerie with wide eyes.  He opened his mouth, then closed it again… Oh gosh, was he actually thinking about this?  Seriously?

But if he did this now… He could get his family off his back for awhile!

“I want a job.”

“ExCUSE me?” Valerie snapped, cocking her hip and folding her arms.

Danny clasped his hands together and all but pleaded with the girl.  “Listen, I just moved here and already my parents AND my sister are on me about making friends and getting a job.  You can give me the smallest, cheapest job ever, I don’t care!  Just please, ANYTHING to get me out of that house!”

Abruptly, the ambient din quieted.

Valerie glanced over her shoulder at the other patrons.  The ones closest to them had stopped eating, staring at Danny warily.

The brown-skinned girl groaned… then she grabbed Danny’s arm and hauled him along, speaking unusually loudly.  “There is no way you can hold us up like that!” she declared.  She slammed open the door to the kitchen.  “You don’t get to come in here and ask for a job!  I am going to kick your--!”

The door closed behind them.

Valerie immediately let go of Danny and sighed, turning to face him.  “Look, I really can’t say anything, man.  We only have, like, two employees and we’re still having trouble paying the bills.”

Danny blinked at the sudden change in attitude, totally thrown for a loop.  For a moment there, he really thought she was going to kick his ass AND kick him out of the restaurant.  “H-huh?  Look, seriously, I really don’t need the money!”  he argued, trying to keep up with the conversation.  “I can be anything, a busboy, an errand boy, even just like, a filler guy or something!  You can pay me whatever you want, I just want to tell my parents I have a job and you can vouch for me that I do.  Please?”

Valerie sucked in a breath, and slowly let it out, considering the boy with blue eyes…

 

~*~

 

“Alright!  Four dollars an hour, three days a week!  You start tomorrow~!”

Damon shook Danny’s hands and went back to frying fish.  The boy beamed, nodding, and returned to Valerie’s side, who was holding a dark gray Grey’s Seafood shirt, along with a blank name tag.  

“Write your name in permanent sharpie,” she told him, handing him the clothes and propping her hands on her hips.  “Jeans or shorts are fine, just make sure they’re in decent shape and have no holes, same for closed-toed shoes.  You get one shirt for free.  If you lose it, you pay twenty bucks for a new one and five bucks for a new name tag.  So don’t lose them.  Got it?”

“Got it!”  he beamed, practically hugging the shirt to his chest.  “Thank you so much for this, Valerie!”

He waved goodbye and headed out the door, not paying much attention to some of the locals that eyed him as he went.  People had been acting strangely since he and his family first arrived, he just assumed this place was so small, the locals weren’t used to anyone moving in.

With the flip flops he borrowed from Valerie -- under strict order to bring them back the next day -- he began the long walk back home.  It was a good thing this town was so small, he at least knew that he could take his bike to work each day.  But it looked like if he wanted to do anything even remotely interesting, he would have to hope he could borrow the car to get to the city, nearly an hour away.

Hey, at least now he had some good news to tell his parents!

He jogged up the long path all the way to the end of 13th, where the dirt mountain path Raven Way intersected with the very edge of civilization and his house stood, tall, decrepit… and looking a lot more plausible for a demon haunting, now that he was looking at it with fresh eyes.

Danny slowed a bit at the thought.

Then his gaze strayed down to the over sized white surveillance van with a satellite on top that his dad called “the Fentonmobile.”

He paused for a moment, then continued up the steps at a walk.  

Entering the house, he found the front door unlocked and walked up to his room, putting his shirt on his bed and wrestling out of his wetsuit.  He could hear his mom talking on the phone downstairs as he put on some jeans and a t-shirt.  “Yes, he’s five feet four inches, and he has black hair and blue eyes!  Please--”

Danny yawned and walked downstairs.  Maddie was fretting on her cell phone, pacing around the table.  “Keep an eye out for him?” she pleaded.  “Thank you, constable.”

“Mom?”  he asked, startling the woman as he reached into the fridge to get a bottle of water.  “Is something wrong?”

“OH MY GOD, DANNY!”

The woman practically jumped over the table to hug her son, clasping his face between her hands and checking him over.  “Your father and I got home and you were gone!  We thought the worst!!”

Jack came tromping in, heavy with demon-hunting gear.  “Alright, Maddie, let’s hit it-- oh, Danny!”

He pulled up his goggles, smiling.  “You’re home~!”

“Yeah, I went for a swim like you guys suggested,” Danny replied, used to his parents’ antics and paranoia at this point.  “Didn’t you get my note?”

“What note?”

Danny looked around the kitchen, glancing at the counter, only to frown.  Nothing was there.  “I swear, I thought I left you guys a note… Anyway, I’m fine, and guess what?”

He smiled at them, holding up the shirt and name tag Valerie had given him.  “I got a job!”

Maddie’s face lit up.  “Oh, baby, that’s great!” she said, pinching his cheeks.  “And at Grey’s Seafood too!”

“It’s the best seafood place in town!” Jack grinned.  Then he shrugged, acknowledging otherwise.  “Well, it is the ONLY seafood place in town.”

Danny actually hadn’t noticed that, but it made sense considering how small the place was.  “Yeah, well, I met the daughter of the owner and she offered me a job.  It’s not much, but it’s a start right?”

“A job?”

Jazz came into the kitchen, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul in her hand and reading glasses that she didn’t need on her face.  “That’s awesome!  Way to take initiative, Danny!  How much do you make?  What kind of hours are you working~?  Tell me everything!”

Oh boy, Danny knew that look...

“Um, I work three days a week starting tomorrow, five hour shifts.  It uh, it was the only place hiring, apparently this town isn’t doing well economically, so they can only pay me four dollars an hour.”

He saw his sister's expression fall a bit, and was quick to try and get those smiles back.  He wanted ONE win today, just one!

“But Mr. Grey said if I work hard, he should be able to give me more hours and pay soon!” he lied.  “They plan to train me to be a waiter and help run errands... That uh, that will look good on a resume, right?”

Jazz sighed deeply and reopened her book.  “Yeah… well, just try to get those extra hours,” she advised her brother.  “And ask about them!  That shows initiative.”

She sat down at the table and resumed her reading.  “Plus, with that kind of pay you’ll want all the hours you can get.”

“Yeah, right…”  Danny sighed, giving his mom another smile, but this one was strained.  “Hey, I’m gonna go… call Sam.  I’ll talk to you guys later?”

“Of course, dear!  And congratulations, I’m sure things will start to look up soon~!”

Danny nodded, waved goodbye as they headed out to do god knows what, then headed up to his room.  He dropped the shirt on his bed and went hunting for a sharpie, taking the time to unpack his last two boxes while he was at it as well.  He wrote his name down as neat as he could on the name tag, then plopped down on his bed with a sigh.

Well, he did say he was going to call Sam.  He didn’t really want to with this headache that was still lingering from before, but he knew he still had to call her back from this morning.

He glanced at the shirt, smiling.  Hey, he even had some good news to share!  He grabbed the shirt and moved to his desk, pulling up skype as he did.  

Hey, you on?

He got up, pulling on his pjs while he waited for a reply.  He’d give it ten minutes before heading for bed.

No such luck.

When he came back, Danny spotted the three dots blinking at the bottom of Sam’s half of the skype column.  He sighed, but he sat down and forced himself to smile, trying to focus on the good news of today!  He got a job!  He’d made a friend!  Sort of?  Sam would be… excited to hear about that.  Right?  Ugh who was he kidding, she was never excited to hear about anything except the death of a major politician or CEO.

Yeah, just finished dinner.  

Huh.  Pretty short reply for a solid two minutes of typing.

Danny sighed, cracking his neck before replying.   Wanna just chat or should I call?

Eh, chat.  I kinda look like shit.

Oh good, maybe he’d get to go to bed early after all.   Cool, works for me, I’m actually heading to bed.

He waited a moment for a reply, then went ahead and just jumped into it.   So, good news!  I got a job!

Oh great, did ur sister go off again about the job apps like she did that one summer?

Yeah, sorta. He typed back, snorting.  She convinced mom it was a good idea too.  But I got lucky and met some girl whose dad runs a seafood place.  She got me a job!

Girl?  What girl?

Danny winced.  Great, this again.

I met her in town, Valerie Grey.  Like I said, her dad runs a seafood place and she was able to get me a job.  

What were u wearing?

I was out swimming, so I was wearing my wetsuit.

ARE U KIDDING?!  Of COURSE u’d geT A JOB WEARING THAT CMON DANNY!  ID GET A JOB TOO IF I COULD WEAR A BIKINI omg i can’t frickin believe u, i thought u were bigger than that!  U better not have a crush on her!

OMG SAM wth?! Danny typed out, face redding in both mortification and anger.   I was swimming I just ran into her!  She didn’t even WANT to give me a job I had to BEG!  I just wanted my parents off my back!  Come on sam you know me better than that!

Ugh fine.  I forgive u.  Just leave me alone this week, k? I’m on my frickin period.

Danny scoffed and rested his back against the chair, mouth agape in indignation at the computer screen.  

Then the three dots appeared again.

He hesitated, then rolled his eyes and took his hands off the keyboard, waiting for her to finish.  Finally, the balloon came up.

And I miss u… im sorry baby…

Great… how was he suppose to be angry at that?  She always did this, blew up at him, claimed to “forgive him” when ever he called her out on her own bullshit, and then played the effing BABY card.  Seriously, why did he put up with this?

Oh, right, because she was the only girl who would give him the time of day…

Yeah, miss you too… Call me later?

Yeah totally… sorry about being such a bitch to u…

You’re not a bitch.

Yeah I am!

Sam, you’re not.  

Thanks… I know I am but thanks for saying I’m not.  I love u. </3  Gnight.

Night, love you too.

Danny closed the laptop with a thud, stood up, plopped face first onto his bed and commenced to scream into his pillow.  The past few days had been so utterly frustrating!  Why couldn’t something NICE happen for once?!  Why couldn’t Sam be happy for him?  Why couldn’t his parents or his sister just CHILL?!

Ever since that accident in the chemistry lab, his life had been nothing but a cluster frick...

After another screaming session, Danny finally got up to put his work shirt away.  He washed his face and brushed his teeth, then crawled into bed before turning the lights out.  Tomorrow… tomorrow would be a better day.  It had to be...

 

~*~*~

 

It was a crystal clear night when the spider came for him.

The stars glittered outside his window, reflected in the ocean like two expanses of black velvet sprinkled in diamonds, so many stars that one could only see away from the light pollution of the cities.  It was eerily silent.  The only sound was the quiet sound of a gentle wind, whistling past the bricks of their broken chimney…

And suddenly, inexplicably, Danny found himself wide awake, laying in bed.  Espresso-chugging, just-took-a-cold-shower awake.

He stared up at his ceiling for a moment in confusion, trying to figure out what had woken him up.  Did he have a nightmare?  Had he heard something?

But the longer he laid there, the more he realized that he just wasn’t tired.  His mind was fully alert, his body awake and ready to go.  He turned over and glanced at his bedside clock.  Two am.  How was he awake right now?

The teen slowly sat up, frowning to himself.  Well, if he couldn’t sleep… maybe he could read something?  He reached for his light switch, planning to turn it on so he could have more light than just that of the moon spilling into his window, or that of the soft, reddish pink glow near his desk.

Wait, pink glow?

Danny turned around, blue eyes locking on something sitting on his desk beside his laptop.

The moment he laid eyes on it, the thing froze.  Danny stared, wide-eyed, at its soft pink glow, like a fairy light.  What in the world…?

Suddenly, it hopped off his desk and skittered across the floor.  The boy gasped, jumping slightly, but he barely had time to react.  It crawled up his comforter on long glowing legs, hopped onto his sleeve, and jumped onto his face, madly tapping the teenager’s nose with little feelers.  Danny yelped and fell out of bed.

Thunk.

Immediately, Danny froze, going practically cross-eyed to stare at it.  It was a spider .

But not a normal one.  This spider was strangely dense, weighing almost half a pound as it playfully tapped on his nose with its little mouth pincers, like it was kissing the tip.  Its gleaming red eyes glowed like little warm embers, its entire body glowing a friendly pinkish-scarlet, like watermelon bubblegum.  

The boy was still in fear for a long moment, those pincers so very close to his face.  What if it bit him?  What if it was poisonous?!

But the longer the spider just sat there playfully tapping his nose, the more he began to relax.  It’s pincers were soft, fuzzy, and the spider seemed to be relatively harmless.  It sure wasn’t aggressive.  It was almost… friendly.  He slowly sat up, cupping his hands in order to catch the spider as it fell off his face.  He had never seen a spider like this!   It almost reminded him of the jellyfish he saw at the aquarium once, the bioluminescent ones.  Was this spider something like that?  How come he had never heard of such a thing?

Danny giggled softly as the spider seemed to dance in the palm of his hand, trying to get his attention again.  “Where did you come from, little guy?

The big spider hopped eagerly, tapped Danny’s thumb, and jumped out of his hand, skittering to the door.  The teenage boy gasped, sitting upright…!

It wiggled underneath the door and disappeared.  

The boy jumped up, quickly opening his door to peer down the hall.  Sure enough, the little spider was bobbing at the end of the hall near the stairs, waving two of its legs in the air as if to beckon him, before hopping down the stairs and out of sight.  Danny looked back towards his room, then the room of his parents and sister.  The house was silent.   They hadn’t noticed anything going on.

A glowing spider WAS odd… maybe he should wake up his parents?

After a moment of thought, Danny quietly closed his bedroom door and went after the spider, following it down the stairs.  He didn’t have the heart to wake his folks up about this, knowing they would capture and likely experiment on the little spider.  As far as he could tell, it meant no harm!

The little creature hopped around at the bottom of the stairs for him, before skittering into the kitchen.  Danny tried to keep up, following it through the kitchen, past the dining room and into the hall, towards the back of the house.

Had the basement door been open this whole time?

Before Danny could question it, the spider disappeared inside the dark room, heading down into the old basement.  He tried to turn on the lightswitch, but it didn’t seem to work.  Luckily, the spider seemed to glow bright enough to light his way, leading him down the stairs and over the wet, soggy carpet.  Surprisingly, a lot of the water had receded, and Danny could easily make out the wooden door in the floor he had seen earlier that morning.  The spider lead him right to it, hopping around on it to get Danny’s attention, gesturing to the little handle, like it wanted the boy to open it.

The lock was in half.  And the spider engraving was missing.

Danny’s brows shot up, glancing at the big, glowing spider, but it seemed to hold no patience for the teenager’s doubts.  It hopped on his hand, bouncing on it, and jumped back off, dancing around on the door.

The boy giggled.  “Okay, okay…”

Even though he wore a smile now, Danny cautiously took hold of the door handle… and he pulled it open.  The hinges didn’t even squeak, the soggy-looking trapdoor practically gliding to one side.  

The spider let out a delighted squeak and leapt straight through it, sailing down into the darkness.  

Danny yelped in surprise and quickly looked over the edge.  All he saw was black.

He swallowed and sat back on his knees, drumming his fingers nervously against his mouth.  The glow of the spider had vanished really quickly, and if it had fallen straight down, shouldn’t he have still been able to see it?  Maybe it had jumped into a tunnel and ran ahead before he could catch its telltale glow.

With that thought in mind, he bent down and tried to feel for something.  

Nothing.  

He reached in further, then even further.  But no matter where he moved his hand, he couldn’t feel any time of floor or wall.  It was just… nothing!  “Seriously?”  he muttered to himself, trying to bend down further, peering into the black.  “Come on little guy, where did you go?”

Maybe he just wasn’t reaching far enough?  Danny turned and laid down on his belly, crawling forward to stick his head through the door.  He reached in with both arms now, trying to feel for any walls or any sort of floor.  Surely it couldn’t have been that deep?  He leaned a bit further… then wiggled and leaned even further.  

Suddenly, he felt his lower half slip on the soggy carpet, making his breath catch.  Shit, he was slipping!

He tried to lean back up, tried to use his lower body strength to pull him up so he could grab the edge of the door frame, pull himself out of the blackness.  He just managed to swing up and grab a part of the frame, just as more of his lower half slid close, his grip on the carpet gone.

The old, rotten frame crumbled under his fingers.  Wide blue eyes stared up in horror as, almost in slow motion, he lost his grip.

And fell in.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!”

His scream of terror was lost in the nothing as he fell into a blinding tailspin, falling head over heels over head over heels so many times that he lost any sense of what direction was up.  A red glint flashed past his eyes.  Then another.  Then another.  Then more.  And suddenly he was falling through a swirl of scarlet, glittering like fiery stars around him…!

Then, he fell face-first into the water.   KAFLOooooooooom…

Shimmering strawberry bubbles were all Danny could see.  He flailed, trying to get his bearings as the bubbles cleared… then finally, they did.  The teenager nearly lost his breath again, not just in the literal sense.

All around him, was an underwater field of countless gems.  Countless spiders, glowing like watermelon bubblegum, harvested rubies and spinels and rose quartz and garnets of all shapes, sizes, and colors, audibly cheeping even through the water as they moved their heavy loads up to the surface.  

Danny gazed around him in awe… then, he realized he could hear music.  A sweet, happy, lively music that made him want to dance.  He struck out for the surface and its glittering blue and violet and crimson lights, his dark hair floating in the pink, crystalline water…  Finally, he broke the surface and gasped, wiping his face clear.  He expected to feel the familiar sting of salt, but instead -- to his immense surprise -- the water tasted sweet and clean.  Danny gazed at the glimmering surface in awe… then his eye was caught by the glorious display in front of him.

A huge, pristine, white-and-gold Rococo mansion glimmered before him on a paradise island, host to a party that aimed spotlights of all the colors of the rainbow up towards a fathomless cavern ceiling.  Waterfalls flowed down the face of those cliffs, higher than the Empire State Building!  So high he couldn’t see the top!  Like a black, starless sky of its own, echoing with laughter and merrymaking and -- more subtlety, but it was there -- sighs and moans of distant lovers.  The trees bloomed with gems and cherries and pomegranate flowers.  The air smelled like fruit and vanilla and heaven.

Danny floated there for a long moment, trying to wrap his head around what he was seeing.  This huge cavern… was it all under his house ?

The boy looked up in befuddlement, trying to spot the trap door he fell through, but the cavern was too high and too dark… there was nothing there.  He frowned at that, feeling a little troubled.  How was he supposed to get back?

Just then, one of the glowing spiders broke the surface and swam past him towards the shore, followed quickly by another, then another.  A small parade of spiders, each carrying a gleaming gem, chirped merrily as they swam past him, leading the way to a pair of white marble steps that seemed to manifest up onto the shore from the crystal clear water.  He blinked, his worry fading at the sight of such wonderment once again.  He eagerly swam after the spiders, clumsily crawling up the wet, slippery steps until he was once again on his feet, following them towards the music.

The closer he came, the brighter and merrier the music began.  Danny could even forget about his soaking wet pajamas, his smile bright and happy as he bounced along, looking up at the trees that bloomed wider when he moved closer.  He laid his hand on the trunk, distracted by the sensation; like suede stretched over iron, so soft but hard…

His eyes strayed to the party below.  Disco balls and spotlights and alcohol and extremely attractive people were everywhere , wearing masks and fake teeth and wings and costumes, dancing away at a masquerade ball like there was no tomorrow.  Every single young woman was a different kind of Megan Fox, utterly gorgeous, with skin colors all across the spectrum and long, lush hair.  The young men were just the same, muscular and slender and flaunting a level of hotness only reserved for models and movie stars.  Everyone was in a suit, tux, dress, skimpy, modest, glittering like angels as they danced to the dj’s beat, with an air of contagious joy that spread to even the camera-shy Danny.  It was the senior prom every high school wished they could throw...

“Bout time you got here, man~!” chirped a familiar voice.  

Danny almost jumped when a solid brown hand smacked down on his shoulder and pulled him into a one-armed embrace.  The blue-eyed boy looked up in alarm, only for his expression to morph from confusion to utter shock at the classily-dressed boy in a three-piece suit and top hat.  Danny wheeled back, trying to get a better look at who exactly he was seeing.  It just couldn’t be…!

“Tucker?!”

Tucker -- his supposedly best friend since second grade -- grasped Danny tight into his shoulder, brandishing a gold-tipped cane towards an opening in the trees.  “C’mon, man!  We got lads and ladies to entertain~!” he said, and spun the cane in his hand.  The end became a microphone as he dragged Danny through the trees…

And right into the spotlight.  Danny winced and covered his eyes, instinctively trying to shy away from being seen by so many people in his soaking wet pajamas, but Tucker wouldn’t let him get away!  

“Lovely ladies and gorgeous gentlemen, may I have your attention please~!” Tucker announced.

“Oh my god, no, what are you doing?!”  Danny asked in mortification, his voice squeaking slightly in fear as all eyes turned to him.  He never felt so embarrassed in his life!  All these stupidly hot people--!

“Please join me in welcoming our guest of honor for this evening…”

Tucker threw his gloved hands wide.  “ Daniel Fenton!

Then, to Danny’s surprise, the entire assembly burst into applause.  Danny flushed at all the attention, ducking his head shyly and trying not to get too overwhelmed.  All these people…

The boy began to tremble a little, a mix of chill and slight panic.  He never did do too well with crowds.  He closed his eyes, trying to calm down.  It was probably just a dream.  It had to be, right?  A strange, bizarre, amazing dream…

He looked up again, giving the crowd a small, shy smile along with a little wave.  “H-Hi.”

Everyone in the party laughed good naturedly, calling out nice things, like how they were happy he was here and welcoming him to the party.  He still felt a little uneasy, and he turned to Tucker to voice this, but he stopped himself.  There was something off about all this, something about how this Tucker was dressed and how he talked and moved.  Was he taller?   He was certainly smoother than he was in real life--

Okay, dream, just remember it’s a dream, just roll with it!

“Hey um, really cool party and all but, um… I’m actually REALLY cold.  Could I maybe get a towel to dry off with or something at least?”

Tucker grinned, pointing a finger gun at him.  “I can do even better~!”

He redirected the finger gun towards the mansion.  “Head in there, first door on the left, there’s a waiting room!  Somebody’ll be there to fit you with a hella fine suit in two shakes of a lamb’s tail!”

The brown-skinned boy let go of Danny and raised his arm towards the crowd, egging them on like the real Tucker would wish he could.  “While our special guest gets his fancy on, let’s PARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!”

The crowd roared in approval.  The dreadlocked dj resumed his mixing, dropping the beat.  Everyone jumped up and down in excitement, glittering in the flashing lights.  

Meanwhile, Tucker flipped his cane around.  The microphone vanished and he turned to Danny, smirking mischievously.  “And dude, the fitting guy is haaaaaaaaawt~!”

He whacked Danny on the butt with his cane and jumped down into the party.  He was promptly carried away by the mosh pit.

Danny stared after the other boy incredulously.  Since when had Tucker gotten so smooth?  And since WHEN did he find other guys HOT?

And why the hell did he slap him on the ASS?!

These were all very good, pressing questions.  But first, warm clothes.

The boy headed up towards the manor, passing a few more partygoers as he went.  They were all really nice, acting like Danny was an old friend rather than a stranger.  It was nice, but really odd as well.  

Finally, Danny pushed through the large double doors and into a grand hallway.  His jaw nearly dropped at the sight of the huge, crystal chandelier that hung before two grand staircases.  The floor was marble and plush red carpet, and gold leaf used sparingly, but elegantly.  The party outside faded from Danny’s mind as he took in such a magnificent home, hardly able to believe that he was only in the first room.  He walked further in, walking through the doorway on the left just like Tucker had said.  

“Oh my god…”  he breathed, shaking his head at the large, lavish sitting room.  This room was nearly bigger than the entire first floor of his house!  The furniture was all plush red velvet, and the windows looking out onto the water were all ceiling high, framed by blood red curtains.  A hearth taller than he was blazed at the far end of the room.  There was gold and white marble everywhere he turned, making him almost afraid to go further in his wet, dirty state…

“Never fear~”

Danny turned at the sound of a deep, masculine voice, dark hair striking his shoulders and his blue eyes focusing on the far side of the room…

Almost in slow motion, a tall, muscular man came stepping into the waiting room, dressed in a dark suit, polished black dress shoes, and a classy tie with tiny, golden spider cufflinks that could probably feed a small family for six months.  Silver hair tumbled down incredibly broad shoulders in thick, lush waves, gleaming like the precious metal but so much softer.  Slanted cobalt eyes glinted impishly behind stylish glasses, reflecting a soft red gleam from the hearth.  Long, dark lashes.  Big, callused hands, with a diamond signet ring on the pinkie.  Flawless pale skin.  A strong jaw, accentuated even further by the man’s silver van dyke.  With a trim waist and the most powerful looking chest Danny had ever seen on anyone off the silver screen, the teenaged boy was rendered absolutely speechless.

A soft, wry mouth smirked.  “ I am here.”

The silver-haired man strode towards him, dark eyes wandering appreciatively up and down Danny’s soaking wet body.

The boy looked up and up and up , into the handsome stranger's face.  This… this HAD to be the owner of such an exquisite home, it had to be!  He was like some kind of god living under the soil of Danny’s house!

Oh, no, wait, this was a dream, right?  But how on earth had Danny been able to imagine HIM?

He opened his mouth to say something, but all that passed his lips was a squeak, causing his already blushing cheeks to flush hotter.  He tried again, head ducked in embarrassment.

“H-hello?”  Danny ventured, voice stuttering due to the chill and his shyness.  “I’m really s-sorry to just barge into your h-home like this, it’s really really nice, b-b-but I kind of had an accident and now I’m… a-all wet.  Um…”  

“That’s alright.  I don’t mind wet~”

The man knelt down before Danny, his eyes glittering up at him past his smirk.  “Spread your arms and legs.”

The boy blinked, taken aback.  “W-what?”

“I have to check your measurements, little badger.  How else am I expected to fit you?” the man purred.  His gaze flicked down to Danny’s stomach, lashes flickering as he laid a hand on the boy’s hip,  undressing the youth with his dark, devilish eyes.

Oh good god, Danny had never blushed so heavily in his life.

The boy swallowed thickly, looking away from the man as it just became too difficult to meet those dark, sinful eyes.  He silently obeyed the previous order, spreading his shivering arms and legs for the man to measure him.  People did this all the time, right?  When they went to a tailor?

He had never been to a tailor before, but he sure as hell knew that this man was not one…

“Um, I’m Danny…”  he shyly introduced himself, glancing at the man under his long lashes.  “Who… who are you?”

“Vladimir~”

Hands stroked up the inside of Danny’s legs, brushing up to the young man’s family jewels and away.  He could hardly say he had his head on straight; it felt like there were six sets of hands on him at one time.  The boy shivered involuntarily, eyes falling closed...

Suddenly, fingertips brushed against his fluttering lashes.  “Keep them closed~” Vladimir hummed, his teeth almost glowing in the firelight.  “I have something perfect for you…”

Danny did his best to contain a whimper, knowing the sound would just mortify him more if he let it escape.  Those big, warm hands pulled away from him, and for a long moment there was nothing but silence.  A soft breeze brushed past his hair, like a soft breath against his cheek…

“You may open your eyes now.”

The boy hesitated a moment, confused, but then finally opened them.  The man, Vladimir, stood just a foot away with his hands clasped behind his back, looking down at Danny with a mix of pride and… something else.  A moment passed without a word, and then the handsome man gestured to Danny's body, instructing the boy to look down on himself.  He did as told, expecting to see his soaked through pajamas.  

Instead, blue eyes widened and Danny gasped in shock as he found himself wearing the most beautiful suit he had ever seen.  Dark, royal blue trousers encased his legs, leading up to a baby blue button down with a royal blue vest over it.  

He hadn’t even noticed his clothes being changed!  They felt like the lightest, softest silk on the planet, gliding against his skin.  He reached up and touched the vest, unable to imagine the small fortune this suit alone must have cost…

“Oh my gosh…”  he breathed, timidly shaking his head.  “N-no, I couldn't possibly wear this!  It must have cost you so much, I’ll just get it ruined!”

“It’s for you,” Vladimir told him, seeming more amused than anything.  “You don’t want to insult me or your party guests by appearing in no less than the best…”

He gently took Danny’s hand, bringing it up to his lips.  “Do you...?” he whispered.

The man pressed a soft, open-mouthed kiss to the youth’s knuckles.  Danny shivered as he felt a hint of hot breath, and the lord’s tongue flicker against his skin…

The boy found himself flushing red all over again, looking up at the man in a mix of wonder and awe.  “N-no… no, of course not…”

“Then wear it.”

Vladimir did not lower Danny’s hand, smiling down at him.  “Dance, sweat, laugh in it.  Caboodle in it~” he teased in a deep, husky voice.  His long, powerful, callused fingers glided down the youth’s wrist, his index and thumb wrapping completely around his wrist.  He took one of Danny’s fingers in his mouth… hot tongue sliding delicately around the slender middle finger.

Danny gasped, sucking in a harsh breath at the feel of a long, hot tongue sliding up the pad of his finger.  He whimpered, the sound escaping him this time, as he felt his body grow warm in reaction.

Oh shit, this was not happening, think about Sam.  Think about Sam!

Blue eyes fluttered shut as Danny tried to calm, gasping in a small amount of relief when his hand was released.  He pulled it back, clutching it to his chest as he tried to control his sudden rapid, shallow breathing.  Sweating in suit?  Check…

“So um, about that p-party,”  he hastily said, trying to change the subject, to get the man’s intense focus off of himself for even just a moment or he might combust!  “Is it… really for me?”

Vladimir chuckled.

He took hold of Danny’s waist and turned him.  With a wave of his hand, the curtains pulled as wide as they can go, and when he snapped his fingers, a message in red shone in glowing gems on the dance floor far below.  As Danny watched, a single spider hurriedly stacked one last jewel onto the L and scurried away.

WELCOME HOME, DANIEL.

“It’s really for you~” Vladimir hummed, gazing down on the young man’s awestruck face, illuminated in pink.  His hand slowly strayed down Danny’s waist, fingers brushing lower…

Danny hardly noticed, the boy too lost in the sight of such a large, amazing display.  He took a step out of Vladimir’s hold, pressing a hand against the window as he looked down at the message and the happy partiers.

“It’s… it’s beautiful…”  he breathed, looking past the party and out towards the glittering waters and the glowing cavern, taking in the sight of the waterfalls and the gardens and the bioluminescent fish he could see glowing from here.  Sure, the party was nice and all, but Danny had never been a big partier.  It likely had to do with the fact he had hardly ever BEEN to any parties before.  All he really wanted to do was look around this paradise and sway to the music…

“How did you know my name?”  he finally asked, tone more awed the accusing.  He had long since convinced himself this all had to be a dream, and even if it wasn’t… well, it had sure been a long time since he had felt this appreciated or wanted!

“Your family said it aloud,” Vladimir said, stepping forward.

Danny glanced at the man as he made a small gesture upward.  “Above,” the older man murmured.  “I have a connection.  Everything said within my range of influence, I hear.  I know.  So I hear, and I know, you…”

Those dark eyes turned on him again, roving up and down Danny’s form as he advanced on the youth.  “Why do you think you’re here~?” Vladimir purred, fingers gently squeezing at Danny’s hip…

The boy’s eyes widened, looking up at the man in a mix of apprehension and confusion.  All the touching and space invading was sending all kinds of new and confusing signals through Danny’s brain.  “I… I’m not really s-sure?  I mean, I f-followed one of the spiders and… fell...”

“One of my spiders.  You fell into my domain~”

The back of Danny’s knees hit a couch.  He sat down hard, eyes wide as Vladimir sat down next to him, throwing an arm over his shoulders and crossing one leg over the other.  Those dark, intense eyes were fixed on his round, confused blue ones.  “Do you think this is a dream~?” Vladimir asked, smiling playfully as he placed a hand on Danny’s knee, stroking the navy blue material with his thumb.

Big blue eyes blinked up at Vladimir, trailed down to that large hand, then snapped back up to his face.  Soft round cheeks were flushed pink and the boy was trembling just slightly.  “W-well, I did…” he admitted softly, voice trembling.  “But I’m starting to b-believe that my imagination just…. Isn’t this t-talented.”

He frowned, cocking his head a little in thought.  “That, or I really DID get a concussion when that boat hit me this morning…”

Danny looked around the large manor, taking in every sight and sound around him.  He tried to ignore that large hand on his knee for now, telling himself that the man was just tactile, that surely he didn’t mean that much by it… he couldn’t possibly, not a man like him and just a boy like Danny…

Think of Sam, think of Sam…

“How can a place like this be anything else but a dream…?”

“A better question is…”

Vladimir’s hand slid up to Danny’s thigh.  “How can I persuade you it isn’t?” he cooed, nuzzling against the boy’s throat.

“D-doing a g-g-good job of that a-as is...  Ah!”  

Danny meeped, scuttling away from those big, tempting hands.  He stood up from the couch, face flaming red.  “I’m sorry, b-but, dream or not, I still have a girlfriend!”

Vladimir watched him, brows raised, but he didn’t get up.  The man just leaned back, recrossing his legs.

Meanwhile, Danny frowned, looking down at the floor as he remembered his last conversation with Sam.  “Even if it’s not going well right now… or even if it hasn’t been going well for awhile now… She doesn’t deserve that.  And I… I…”

He flushed, looking away from the sinfully handsome man.  “I’m sorry, you brought me down here to such a wonderful place, I don’t want to seem ungrateful I just… I…”

“It’s alright.”

The boy looked up, eyes wide and uncertain.

Vladimir smiled, still wicked, but this time reassuring.  He stood in a single fluid motion, once again towering head and shoulders over the teenager, and tucked his hand in his pockets, smirking wryly.  “I’ll just have to give you a trinket before the end of the night,” he murmured.

With that, he reached out with his other hand and pulled a small golden medallion out from behind Danny’s ear.  The boy startled, blinking up at the glittering gold object in the man’s hand, before glancing up at the man himself.

Danny couldn’t help the wonder and awe Vladimir invoked in him, drawing him in much like a moth to a flame.  Even if this was a dream, he was finding it harder and harder to even think about waking up…

Almost as if he could hear Danny’s thoughts, the silver-haired man smiled wider.  He uncurled his fingers from around the amulet, allowing a glittering gold chain to drop down, and he stepped behind Danny.  “You have such lovely hair,” Vladimir murmured, his voice warm.  “Will you pull it to one side for me~?”

“O-oh, yeah, of course, um…”  Danny quickly pulled his still slightly damp hair to one side, brushing his fingers through it in a nervous gesture.  “What are you…?”

He gasped as that golden amulet was draped over his head, Vladimir taking his time in latching it.  “Oh gosh, wait, no, you already gave me the suit--!”

“Nonsense.  Whenever I have a guest, it’s tradition to give them a few baubles~” the man told him.  “Plus, this one you will be able to take with you…”

Danny exhaled in awe, fingers moving up to reverently touch the round golden amulet.  It was the same shape as the lock over the trapdoor, in the basement, but the engraved spider had ten legs.  It was shiny and new and inlaid with large, untreated chunks of ruby and rose quartz, glowing with its own warm light.  The second the golden chain touched his skin, all the dampness from the lake evaporated and his sinuses cleared.  He was completely dry.

“Now,” Vladimir purred, offering his hand.  “Shall we go say hello to your guests~?”

A moment of silence passed as Danny stared down at the amulet in the palm of his hand, brain slowly rebooting as the boy realized that, yes, this world really was magic.  This MAN was magic…

Finally, he looked up at Vladimir with shy smile, letting go of the amulet so he could take the man's hand.

“Yeah…”  he breathed, a new light in his eyes as he was lead out of the manor and towards the loud, lively party.  “Let’s go say hello…”

 

~*~

 

The whole night through, Danny was shown a world of awe and delight, with treats and sweet foods and beautiful things around every corner, a warm paradise in shades of red.  Girls and boys alike flirted outrageously with him, only to be politely excused -- or rather, rescued -- by the tall, regal gentleman named Vladimir; he never touched Danny inappropriately again either, although the entire time he could feel those wicked cobalt eyes burning holes in his new suit all through the night.

And while he was offered many drinks, he declined them all.  Danny still wasn’t convinced this wasn’t a dream, but if it wasn’t, he couldn’t afford to lose his inhibitions or wake up hungover.  Tucker, or Tuck as he seemed to want to be called, found that oddly amusing.  Danny wasn't sure why, but he did.  He was careful with any food he ate, even with the water Tuck finally got for him after refusing the fifth or so drink.  He didn’t want to ruin the lovely suit Vladimir gave him, so he was always cautious.  

The boy really did enjoy himself, nearly dancing all night with a group of strange but happy people.  He still felt awkward and uncomfortable if they got too close or too friendly, but Tuck was always there to pull him towards a new group.  Sometimes, even Vladimir would swoop in, pulling him into a dizzying dance before disappearing again.  Big, powerful hands, one on his hip and one in his own… by the time he disappeared, Danny felt like those fingerprints were burned into his skin...

But the night could not last forever and soon Danny was exhausted, half asleep on his feet, and those same hands gently picked him up, like he weighed little more than a doll.  The young man murmured sleepily into a strong chest, fingers twining in lush silver hair…

Then, he was inside, being laid down in a bed softer than any he’d ever felt…

And the last thing he saw was a wry, smirking mouth.  “ Sleep, Daniel …” a sinful voice purred.  “ For tomorrow is another day …”

 

~*~*~

 

BEEP BEEP BEEP BE-- SMACK!

Danny groaned, slapping away his screaming alarm clock blindly as he sat up in his bed.  He looked around the room, almost expecting to see magnificent white marble and red velvet.

“What a dream…”  he murmured, stretching with a groan before standing up.  

He could almost still taste the sweet foods of that other world on his lips, hear the loud music… feel Vladimir’s heat…

He shook his head roughly, cheeks blushing pink.  “I really need to talk to Sam…”  he muttered, his dreams bringing back his own questioning sexuality that he had been soundly ignoring for over a year.  He brushed his hair back from his eyes and left his room, walking into the bathroom to freshen up.  He splashed some water on his face, then reached for the towel… and froze.

There, glinting back at him through the mirror from around his neck, was the golden amulet.

Danny fumbled at his neck.  His fingers closed around the chain first, then fell down to the amulet and squeezed around the smooth, golden spider insignia, gripping it so hard the raw chunks of red and pink gem pushed dents into the boy’s skin.  How was this possible?!  It… It wasn’t a dream?!

The boy pushed away from the mirror, sprinting down to the kitchen and throwing open the basement door.

Maddie straightened, eyes widened in surprise.  “Danny?” she called.

He didn’t answer.  He took the steps two at a time, jumped to the floor, and promptly landed in a puddle of soaking wet carpet.  He squished quickly over to the trapdoor, the floor bending under him just as it did the first time.

Danny bent down, amulet swinging, and grabbed the lock.

It was whole again, the spider engraving neatly back in place.  Like it had never left.

The boy swallowed, grasping Vladimir’s amulet, trying to convince himself that it was actually real.  This was crazy!  Was this house actually something special?  Was the lore real?  What lore was there?  What… crazy... Canadian… pagan god had he met last night?!

“Honey?”

Danny glanced around, eyes wide.  

Maddie was standing on the last step, looking at him in concern.  “Are you okay, baby boy…?” she asked warily.  “What’s wrong?”

Her eyes settled on the amulet, lips pulling down into a curious frown.

The teenager blinked, mouth opening and closing like a surprised fish, his mind racing a mile a minute.  He couldn’t safely tell his parents the truth, not the way they were.  The second option that came to him was to tell them he’d found it while swimming, but that would make it sound like an artifact, and that was just as big of a red flag.  So, he settled on a third excuse.

“I, uh… bought it!” Danny told his mother.  “In a gift shop.  Yesterday in town.  It’s, uh, fake.  Like five bucks, totally cheap… just thought it looked cool?”

Maddie frowned, her brows furrowed suspiciously.  “Then, why did you come down to this door in such a tearing hurry?”

“I thought I heard something,”  he lied quickly, stepping back over to his mom and the stairs.  “You know, like mice or a possum. I just wanted to see if I could catch it.  Hey, uh…”

He glanced around at the once again flooded room, trying not to stare too long at the door in the floor.  “What did the realtor say about this room?  You know, about all the flooding and stuff?”

Maddie still looked concerned, but she sighed, shrugging helplessly.  “Well, the woman seemed a bit wary of us.  However, as soon as your father mentioned he was a demonologist, the woman clammed up!  She refused to discuss anything but the damages!” she admitted.  “Which, yes, is promising for the mythos of this house being true, but it makes it difficult to try and pin down the monster’s lair.”

Her eyes zeroed in on the underwater door by Danny’s feet.  “Say… did the gift shop that sold you that have some kind of information card?  I mean, the insignia here has to mean something.”

“Oh, uh… not really?”  he said quickly, heading up the stairs.  “I don’t even really know where I got it, it was like, this little shop by the harbor?  Anyway, I really should eat something and get ready, first day of work and all!”

“Oh, yes of course!”  Maddie enthused, smiling as she came up the stairs.  “You don’t want to be late!”

She watched him go, then turned back to the basement.  Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, before she sighed and shook it off.  Maybe she would have Jack set up some surveillance down there later this week.  Best to make sure, after all…

 

~*~

 

Danny made it to the restaurant five minutes early, and Valerie wasted no time in giving him a rough training session as both a waiter and a bus boy.

“You bring the dishes here, wash them here, and dry them there.  You need to put them all away back HERE, so they can be used again for the next patrons.  Don’t let the dishes pile up.”

The boy nodded as he followed her around like he had been for the last hour.  She lead him out into the restaurant, the late afternoon crowd nothing but two tables, one that of an old couple, and the other a small group of teenagers.  The old couple he had already helped serve, noticing how closed off and quiet they were around him.  The teenagers still needed to be waited on, and they seemed like a louder bunch.

“Hey, Nathan,”  Valerie called, nudging Danny to pull out his notepad.  “We got a new trainee today, what do you and your friends want to drink?”

Nathan -- a mid-sized, slightly flabby boy around eighteen, with a full head of frizzy carrot-colored hair and a bad case of acne -- sniffed, wiping his nose on a napkin.  “Uh, do you have that strawberry lemonade from yesterday?” he asked.  

“We’re out of the strawberry, but I can get you the lemonade.”

“Uh, okay, we’ll have four lemonades.”

Valerie nudged Danny again.  He wrote it down.  “And what’ll you guys have to eat?  I’d recommend the cod.  It’s fresh.”

“Anything you recommend is great, Valerie~” Nathan said, smiling crookedly.  He tried to lean suavely on the table, but just ended up accidentally leaning too far and nearly hit his head on the table.  Val snorted.

Danny blinked between the two of them, smiling softly as he caught on to the fact that Nathan must like Valerie.   Good luck dude, he thought to himself.

Danny wrote down four orders of cod, before glancing up and noticing that under his open flannel shirt, Nathan was wearing a vintage X-Files t-shirt, the one with the UFO and the quote “I want to believe.”  He smiled wider, gesturing to the shirt.

“Nice shirt man, I like the X-Files too.”

Nathan blinked at him dumbly.  “What’s the X-Files?”

“The shirt you’re… never mind,” the blue-eyed boy replied, giving the group of teenagers a strained smile.  “Do you guys want anything else?”

“Nah, I think we’re good,” Nathan said, not actually asking anybody.  “But hey!  Uh, this is such a frickin’ small town and I haven’t seen you around before!  When did you move in, anyway?”

“Oh, about three days ago?”  Danny answered, tucking the notepad away.  “We really haven’t been here too long.”

Nathan practically shot out of his seat.  “OH MY GOD, YOU MOVED INTO THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF?!”

Danny reeled back, looking at Nathan with wide eyes.  “Um, y-yes?”

The redhead stood up, grabbing onto the dark-haired boy’s arms.  “Dude, you have to get out of that house RIGHT THE EFF NOW!  The Jorōgumo lives under there, man!!  He eats guys like you--!!”

Valerie came between them, prying the older boy’s hands off Danny.  “Whoah whoah whoah, okay.  Nate, shut up,” she told him, speaking a little too quickly.  “Nobody wants to hear your hipster internet stories, okay?”

“But, Valerie--”

“I won’t have you harassing people, Nate,” Valerie informed him, her eyes growing cold.  “Come in here talking shit again and I will throw you out myself.”

Nathan opened his mouth, staring at Danny like he was going to bite him… then hung his head and sat down.  “I want a different server,” he muttered.

“If that’s what you frickin’ want.”

Valerie snapped her fingers at another server.  The girl came over, smiling, distracting the boys while the owner’s daughter dragged Danny out the back door.

“Okay, forget serving for today,” she told him, pulling off both their aprons and tossing them into a pile of laundry.  “We’ll just go out on the boat.  Catch some more fish.  You can fish, right?”

“Might need a refresher, but I remember being pretty okay at it,”  Danny admitted, following her outside towards the boat tied up at the dock.  He kept quiet for a long while, still a bit shaken up by what happened inside.  He helped Valerie untie the boat, then drive it out into the harbor.  He couldn’t help but smile at the sight of the clear, cool water…

“So um… what did that guy mean?”

“Huh?”

“Nathan,”  Danny clarified, trying to get Val’s attention.  “He said there was something living under my house. That it was going to EAT me?”

“Just--!”

Valerie huffed and took out the oars.  “Don’t listen to Nathan.  He’s a hipster wannabe obsessed with the occult.”

She went silent, driving the little motor boat out further into the misty bay.  As the white haze obscured civilization, Danny could see more wholly the silhouette of the shore, and the cliff that his house overlooked.  He stared up at that house for a long moment, his mind drifting back once more to the amazing world he had seen just last night…

“But there is a story, isn’t there?”  he ventured to ask, looking thoughtful.  “I mean, no one just jumps to such conclusions unless SOMETHING happened, right?”

Valerie was silent for a long moment, just frowning at him.  

Finally, she sighed and picked up a fishing line, putting a bit of chum onto the hook.  “You really want to know?  It’s kind of a grody story.”

“All the stories my folks write are grody,”  Danny retaliated, turning to give her a smile.  “If there is a story about the house I’m living in, I’d like to know.”

The green-eyed girl shrugged.  “Fine.  You asked.”

She cast her line, with a loud whizz of line unfurling.  It struck the water far out, so far out Danny could barely see it through the mist.   Plip.

“It happens about once every ten years,” Valerie began.

She slowly reeled her line in, trailing the lure through the dark waters, tempting the fish up from the murky depths.  “Nobody really knows when it started.  It’s just been happening as long as anyone can remember,” she told Danny.  “It’s an unsaid rule not to talk about it, but everyone knows.”

Valerie glanced up at the dark-haired boy.  “The people who move into the house on Raven Way are sacrifices to the Jorōgumo.”

“What’s a Japanese spider demon doing in Canada ?”  Danny asked, tossing out his own fishing line.  His didn’t go out as smoothly as Valerie’s did, but it still went pretty far considering how rusty he was at fishing.  

He slowly pulled in the lure, trying to remember what he knew from those rare times fishing in the summer with his dad when he was a kid.  “And why in a house?  I thought they drowned their victims.  I mean, I don’t know much, but considering what my folks do for a living, I at least know the basics I guess…”

Valerie snorted.  “Well, everyone has their personal theory,” she replied.  “Mine?  You know how a cat is called a gato in Spanish, but it’s still a cat, no matter where you go?”

“Yeah?”  Danny asked with a smile, catching on to her thought pretty quickly.  “A spider demon is a spider demon, no matter what you call it, huh?”

“Yeah…”

He chuckled, pulling in his line further.  “Makes sense.  Mom and dad have a theory in one of their stories that demons just picked and chose where they made their hunting grounds.  The Jorōgumo became popular in Japan, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t living anywhere else.”

The boy looked over at her, eyebrow raised.  “But why do the townsfolk think a Jorōgumo of all things lives in the house?”

“Not in the house.”

Valerie pulled in her lure and cast it out again.  “Under it.”

Plip.

Danny watched as the girl began to slowly reel it in.  “There’s a massive air pocket, under the cliff,” she continued.  “It’s actually not that hard to swim to, it’s just insanely dark.  When I was six, a couple frat boys in the city came out here once, made it their ‘initiation’ to swim up into the pocket and stay there for an entire night.  My dad says no one actually knew about it, until the police came by a few weeks later…”

Danny frowned.  “Well, sounds to me like a couple drunk kids tried to do something insanely dangerous.  Anyone that unskilled in underwater spelunking could get hurt or drown.”

The boy was quiet though as he looked back over at the cliff.  A massive air pocket, a large cavern inside the cliff… That wasn’t too different from his own dream, was it…?

“Well… yeah.”

Valerie shrugged aimlessly.  “They didn’t find the bodies until about a year later,” she admitted.  “They had suffocated… but not because they drowned.  Their insides had been completely scrambled and sucked out through their pores.  They were… husks.  Dried out husks… I still remember it… they… they looked like Halloween decorations.  Kinda rubbery.  It was really weird, felt kinda unreal.  Still does, like it’s never really quite hit me that those things were once people...”

She bit her lip, frowning down at the water.  “When I was thirteen, I reached my rebel phase, and I wanted to learn more, no matter what the adults said.

“I looked up old newspapers, looked through online archives through dial-up, obituaries over eighty years old.  Up until 1820, every ten or fifteen years, somebody’s official cause of death was the same thing.  Withered, sucked dry.  For a hundred years, the Jorōgumo was almost… kinda polite.  He left his sacrifices’ bodies on the beach, where somebody could easily find them and give them a proper burial--”

“Wait, he ?”

Danny turned to look at Val, giving her a slight apologetic look for interrupting her, before he carried on.  “Jorōgumo are usually classified as women.  Why would you think it’s male?”

“Uh…”

Valerie grimaced.  “I’m… pretty sure female spider demons don’t… y’know.  Do the thing.  In butts.”

Blue eyes went wide.  “W-wait, the victims were raped ?!”

“From what I’ve read, which again are things I’m not supposed to know, the, uh, do-the-do bit seemed consensual.  It’s the whole… you know, dried-to-a-husk bit that’s off.”

Danny frowned, cheeks still a bit red from Valerie’s earlier description.  “Well… yeah, okay, spider demons are known to seduce their prey, before drowning and or eating them… I guess that would apply to a male one as well and uh… well, I guess seduction can lead to a lot of things…”

He glanced at her, eyes still wide.  “And ALL the bodies were like that?”

“Other than three or four women in the earliest days, it’s all young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty.  Nice looking ones, too, as far as the pictures showed.”

Valerie slipped her fishing rod into a holder on the side of the boat and leaned back, gazing out onto the water.  “Then, in 1820, a rich family came into town.  They were fishing merchants, wanting to set up shop, and the locals warned them not to, but they built their house on top of the Jorōgumo’s lair.  It had the greatest view, after all.”

She glanced at Danny.  “Needless to say, their son went missing.  The locals searched the shore for him… but they never found a body.  Nowadays, the old folks say the Jorōgumo was offended by the construction of a human dwelling.  There are actually a couple people that think destroying it might appease the spider demon, make it start leaving the sacrifices on the beaches again, so families can bury them… but either way, ever since the house on Raven Way was built, there’s always been a son.  And the family moves away not too long after they arrive, one member short.”

A long moment of silence passed.  Danny turned to stare up at the house he could just make out through the mist, sitting still and alone on the top of that large cliff.  This sounded an awful lot like one of his parents’ stories, and the idea of it all began to unnerve him.  Creatures like the Jorōgumo were supposed to be powerful, manipulative beings, who was to say they weren’t real?

Oh god, what if it WAS real?  What if Vladimir was a Jorōgumo??  What if that amazing world he had seen last night was his dwelling, beneath the cliffs and the waves?!  Oh god, what if he was being hunted--!

Before any more thoughts on the matter could spring up, a sudden calmness washed over his mind.  The panic began to fade, and Danny relaxed.  There was no need to be afraid, right?  Vladimir had been wonderful to him, kind.  Surely the stories were wrong, even if Vladimir was some kind of creature, he meant Danny no ill will… right?

The boy nodded to himself, almost in a daze as he reeled more of his line back towards the boat.  Neither him nor Valerie noticed the strange, soft pink glow from under his shirt, the amulet warm against his chest.

“Well, that all sounds like some of the stories my folks are into,” Danny said casually, shrugging.  “I guess I’ll keep you posted if I see anything weird, okay~?”

“Yeah yeah, just don’t go looking for trouble kid,”  she snorted, then hopping up from her seat in the bout when Danny’s line tugged sharply.  “Reel it in, reel it in!”

“I’m trying, it’s really big!”

Val laughed as she stood behind Danny to help him pull on the pole, both gasping in delight when they pulled in a big, atlantic salmon.

“DAMN kid, that’s a good catch!”  she cried, slapping him on the back.  “I should bring you fishing more often, you’re good luck~!”

Danny flushed at the compliment, helping her pull the fish aboard before casting out again.  From the corner of his eye, he thought he saw the shadow of something big move under the boat, but when he didn’t see it again, he assumed it was a trick of the light.  They stayed out there for a few more hours, talking about anything and everything not related to Danny’s cliffside home.  Danny managed to catch enough big fish to earn himself a decent tip before finally heading back.

Today had been a good day!  He couldn't’ wait to tell Vladimir about it~!

It was a shame the boy never noticed how misplaced such a thought was…

 

~*~

 

At six o’clock, Danny said goodbye to Valerie and her dad, clocked out, and hopped on his bike to cycle up to Raven Way.  He ate dinner -- takeout again, this time from the chinese place -- went upstairs, and opened up his laptop so that Skype could pull up while he changed out of his fishy-smelling work uniform.

He was halfway through disentangling himself from his shirt when the digital, booping chime of a Skype ringtone sounded from his computer.

He quickly tossed his work clothes in the dirty bin and sat down at his desk.  He pulled on a temporary shirt until he could go take a shower, then answered the skype call.

He sort of wished he hadn’t when he saw who it was from, just before a grinning, dark skinned boy filled his screen.  

“Heyyyyyy, mah boy!!”

“Heeeey, Tucker...” Danny murmured, forcing a smile for his friend.

The grainy image of the scrawny, bespectacled high school boy onscreen didn’t hold a candle to the party man Danny had witnessed last night.  That Tucker had been smooth, suave, a natural leader, good with crowds and with both genders.  Unfortunately, the real Tucker was not as enjoyable a person, Danny could admit.  Breaking things off with a guy you had known since second grade was never an easy thing to do, though.  He had developed the patience of a saint dealing with his best friend’s ignorant and piggish attitude…

As well as his unwillingness to accept any consequences for his actions and stupid, harmful pranks...

“Sorry I haven’t contacted you till now, man, school’s been nuts!” Tucker exclaimed.  “But dude, if one good thing could’ve come outta this whole mess, it would’ve been cancelling chemistry till the lab gets fixed up again.  But nooooo, they gotta just rearrange the whole schedule!  Give us mountains of homework to make up for the classes we missed!”

Danny couldn’t even fake a sympathetic expression, not that Tucker would have even noticed.  “Sounds rough, dude.”

“Yeah, man!  You’re so lucky to get out till the fall!”  the other boy whined.  Danny didn’t even bother to tell him, again, that that just meant he had summer school next year.  “How are the beaches there, man?  How are the BABES~?”

“Cold, and I’ve only been here three days, man, I haven’t really met anyone,”  he replied with a huff, leaning back in his desk chair.  “I mean, I think I might have made friends with my new boss's daughter, but that doesn’t really count.”

“Oh yeeaaaah, Sam told me you got a job by showing off your nice bod!  No homo.  The girl hot~?”

“Tucker, I have a girlfriend.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t admire the ladies, man!”

Danny sighed.  “Yeah, whatever.  Anything new going on down there?”

“Oh dude, the cheer tryouts were yesterday!”  Tucker crowed, slapping his hands together like it was the best news in the world.  “The girls were SMOKING hot!  Paulina is fine as always but Star will forever be my favorite fantasy~”  

“She turned you down like, five times Tucker,”  Danny deadpanned.  “Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”

“Plenty of fish in the sea, dude, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cling to the hope that one day she will see this chocolate stud muffin for who he is~!”

Danny snorted, taking in his gangly, awkward friend.  “Right, right…”

“But seriously, dude, how’s the ass on the boss daughter?  Gimme a scale from one to ten.”

“Tucker!”

“Whaaaaat, come on man, don’t leave me hanging!”

He blue-eyed boy rolled his eyes and shook his head, choosing to completely ignore that question.  “So, anything else new happening in Amity?”

“Ummmm… not really, no?  Not much has changed since you left.  Everyone’s just keepin on, y’know?”

“Yeah…”  Danny murmured.  He was tempted to ask more about the chemistry classroom, but decided he would rather not hash through that a second time.  “Hey, listen, it was great talking to ya but I just got back from work, so I need to shower and call Sam before calling it a night, you know?”

“Oh!  Uh, ya might not wanna chat with Sam for a few more days, man.”

Tucker grimaced, nodding at his friend implicatively.  “Still sitting in the Nile River in the biblical sense, if ya know what I mean.”

Danny cringed at the crude term, but nodded in acceptance.  “Fine, yeah, I’ll just wait for her to call me then… But still, I should go, time change and all that.  Talk to you later?”

“Dude, it’s like a two hours time difference--”

“Bye, Tucker!”

Danny forced another smile and hung up, sighing as he shut down skype.  If he didn’t, Tucker would spam him with calls until he felt bad enough to pick up.  God… he always forgot how difficult it was to talk to his so-called friends…

It seemed distance really did either make the heart grow fonder… or force one to recognize their heart wasn’t fond at all.

 

~*~

 

Smoke billowed out through shattered windows.  The sounds of sirens and screaming filled the air.  He could hear someone crying.  There was so much noise.

“Come on, Sam, it was just a prank!”

“Just a prank?!  Tucker, you blew up the chemistry classroom!  You’re gonna get EXPELLED!”

The was so much smoke, so much damage... Everything in the room looked black and burned.  Some people got hurt, of course they did...

“W-well, as far as the teacher is concerned, I didn’t exactly do it…”

“What do you mean you -- Danny, you didn’t?!  TUCKER!!”

 

~*~

 

He shook his head free of heavy thoughts, refusing to dwell on the past now.  It was pointless, done, and now he had moved across the country because of it.  Danny stood up and went to take a shower, washing away the sweat and fish smell of the day.  He put on some soft cotton pajamas, and crawled into bed, eyes drooping with sudden exhaustion.  He had never felt so tired…

Just before he drifted off to sleep, wrapped up safe and sound in his bed sheets, his hand drifted up to take hold of the golden amulet.  It was warm in his palm, and he almost wondered if it was glowing, or if that was just the moonlight spilling in from the window.  He smiled softly, running his thumb over the spider insignia… and promptly fell fast asleep.

Four hours later, just when the digital numbers on his clock changed to display two am, his eyes popped open, and he was wide awake.

The spider was sitting at the foot of his bed.

It chirped excitedly and bounced onto his legs, crawling up onto his face.  Its little pincers pattered against Danny’s nose.  The boy giggled, swatting at it gently.  “Hey, stop that~!”

The spider hopped back onto the bed, then skittered to the floor, racing to his bedroom door.  Danny quickly followed, a smile wide on his face as excitement filled him.  He was going back!

But just as he started to open his door, he froze.  Candle light glowed from downstairs, and he could just make out the sound of his parents talking.  Shit, were they doing a seance tonight?  More research for their book?

“There’s no way I can get down there without them seeing me…”  he murmured, biting his lip in frustration.

The spider hopped on his foot, tapping madly on his toes.  Danny glanced down at it, brows raised curiously.  “What?  What is it?”

The glowing little thing jumped off, skittered over to a corner, and tapped at a small sliver of darkness in the wall.  It looked like little more than a crack in the paint.  Curious, Danny quietly closed his bedroom door and walked over to see what the spider was trying to show him.

He leaned down and brushed his fingers over the cracked paint, blinking in surprise when he found that it was more like peeling wallpaper.  He peeled the paper back, until a good chunk of it came free from the wall.  And there, sitting innocently between his wardrobe drawers and small closet, was a tiny door.  It was painted white, just like all the trimming in his room, and the little handle was old, with the same spider insignia as his amulet.

He reached down and tried the handle.

The spider beside him jumped in excitement as the knob turned.  Danny slowly opened the door and peered down a long, glowing corridor, glinting like a blue-violet rainbow behind crushed velvet.  At the far end, he saw another tiny door open all by itself.

This… was beyond odd.  Where in the world could this door have come from?  Was it like the door in the basement?

The spider gave him no time to think on it, and quickly scurried inside.  

“Ah, wait for me!”  Danny called, kneeling down and crawling inside after the glowing creature.  The ground beneath his hands felt soft, like plush velvet and fine silk, as he crawled closer and closer to the other open door.  The spider waited for him there, hopping around madly.

He didn't notice the other door click shut and lock behind him.  He just kept crawling…

Then, he was through, on his hands and knees on soggy carpet.  The door slammed behind him.  He was in the basement!

Danny stood up, brushing off his knees and looking around as his eyes adjusted.  The mildew and old carpet smell was evidence enough, but soon, he saw dark, spindly machines that he recognized as his parents equipment.  For a moment he shrunk in on himself, but then he saw that the lights weren’t on.  The machines were… waterlogged.  No cameras were recording.  And the trapdoor was thrown completely open this time.  

The little glowing spider scurried forward and jumped into the hole with a happy squeak.  Danny’s face lit up, amulet glowing on his chest, and he followed.

There was no hesitancy this time, no fear.  He just lept forward and jumped right into the hole after the happy spider, drawing his knees to his chest like he was performing a canon ball and whooped loudly in exhilaration.  Cool breezes flew past his face, chilling his skin and whipping his hair all around.  This time, he could actually see the massive cavern as it opened up before him, the large manor glowing like something out of a fairy tale.  He looked around with a wide grin, taking in the glowing crystals and the massive manor and the larger gardens, seeing sights he had not the night before.

“WOO HOOO~!!”  he cried as the water finally came up to meet him, his splashdown gentler than before.  He rose to the surface, laughing happily as he swam around a little bit, enjoying himself in the cool, crystal clear waters.

A squeak to his left alerted him of his spider friend, and soon he was swimming after the glowing creature towards the warm, welcoming manor.  Danny laughed and struck out for the shore.

The mansion was just as magnificent as he remembered.  The boy was still in awe, not realizing that he was already completely dry, amulet glowing its telltale pink as he padded up on shore, wandering along a path he had not yet taken.  Ivory and abalone statues shimmered in multi-color, with obsidian bases and golden lettering, all carved in the visage of gorgeous, nude young men.  The statues lined the whole walk, all the way around a curved, abstract fountain and up to the big, golden doors.  

The boy approached the doors, finding a long velvet rope hanging hanging down just above his shoulder.  Looking up, he found it connected to a series of golden bells, an old fashioned form of door bell.  He reached for it, then paused.

Once again he was in his pjs.

He flushed pink, looking down at his baby blue and starry patterned attire, then sighed.  “Well, at least I’m not wet this time…”

He reached up and pulled the rope.

A chorus of bells announced his arrival, the sound echoing throughout the grand cavern.  Danny shrunk in on himself slightly as the music grew grander and louder… then, finally, the sound died away.

The door opened quietly.

A pretty young woman with short black hair poked her head out.  She wore a maid’s outfit with a name tag.  “Emma,” it said.  Danny smiled shyly up at her, giving a tiny wave.

“Um, hi.  I’m Danny and uh… I guess I’m here to see Vladimir?  Or Tuck?  Or um… whoever is here?”

Emma the maid’s face brightened.  She nodded eagerly and opened up the door, showing him in to the same grand foyer Danny had seen before.  Danny eagerly went inside, looking around with an awed expression.  Even though he had been there before, it still took his breath away.

“This place is so amazing,”  he said softly, his bare toes wiggling in the soft carpet as he wandered further in.  “It must have taken ages to build it all!”

The clicking of the doors shutting behind him startled him, causing him to turn around to blink at the maid.  He glanced down at her name tag again, then smiled up at her, wanting to be polite to the quiet maid.

“Emma… you have a really pretty name!” he said conversationally, smiling.  “It must be really nice working here, it’s so beautiful!”

Emma nodded happily, signing quickly with her hands.  Danny blinked, wide blue eyes trying to follow her every movement.  “Oh… oh, are you mute?”

The girl nodded, seemingly unbothered by the question.  The boy still couldn’t help but feel bad for not noticing.  She started signing again, making him feel even more guilty for not understanding her.  “Oh gosh, um, could you slow down?  I really don’t know what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t mind learning, you know?  Oh, wait!  I do know this!”

Danny fumbled a bit, but finally managed to remember his very limited ASL knowledge from a few classes he took as a kid at the library.  It had been Jazz’s idea at the time, but it was one of the few pet projects of hers he didn’t mind in retrospect.

He used his right hand to salute her, then brushed his hands together before pointing with both hands together, then pointed at her with a shy smile.   Hello, nice to meet you.

Emma looked absolutely delighted, beaming at Danny with her lips pressed soundly together.  She took his hands and pulled him along down the hallway.  Danny gasped in surprise, nearly tripping over himself to keep up with her.  

“W-wait, hold on!  Where are we going?”

The tall maid smiled slyly at him.  She stopped the boy in front of a pair of double doors, threw them open…

Inside, warm firelight greeted Danny’s senses.

The young man swallowed, remembering the last time he had been entranced by firelight, and walked inside, the warm glow of his pendant reassuring him.  Emma glanced at her master’s silhouette, narrowing her dark eyes, and closed the doors behind him.

Danny wandered deeper into the grand bedroom, his feet almost seeming to move on their own.  The walls were draped with warm tapestries.  Hickory logs snapped in the hearth, casting flickering shadows and tall, hot flames behind the cool silhouette of the master of the household.

For a long moment, Danny was entranced by the utter splendor and wealth in this single bedroom, three times bigger than his own.  But it wasn’t long till the realization of whose bedroom this might be, and why on earth he might be there of all places, caught up with him.

He swallowed, turning pink as his eyes finally landed on that towering silhouette.

Then, Vladimir turned, that smoldering cobalt gaze finally landing hungrily on Danny.  “Hello, little badger~”

Danny took one look at the older man, his unbuttoned shirt, his glasses discarded onto the nightstand, and the glass of red wine in his hand…

Even someone as romantically dense as Danny could put two and two together.

“Nope,”  he sputtered, face bright red and his eyes impossibly wide, his whole body growing warm in both want and utter mortification OF that want.  “NOPE.”

The boy turned tail and fled, throwing open the bedroom doors and running from the room.  He didn’t really have a destination in mind, and he had no idea where he was even going, he just knew that he needed to get out of there, right the eff now.

Vladimir blinked.  “...Oh muffin tops…” he muttered, putting the wine down on the nightstand and hurriedly buttoning up his shirt.  “Emma, will you go tell Beatrice to make her special pie?”

He pulled on his jacket, straightened it with a jerk, and followed his young guest.  “Daniel!”

 

~*~

 

Danny didn’t stop running until he came bumbling through a pair of french doors, and out into a lush, magnificent garden.  The rich smell of soil and exotic flora and fauna calmed his racing heart a bit, distracting him from what had happened just moments ago.  He slowly entered the garden, bare feet walking along smooth cobblestones, as he ventured deeper and deeper.  There were so many plants here, some he had only seen in books or on TV, and even more that he had never even imagined existing.  It was like stepping into another world!

He stopped, panting softly… then glanced up at a soft, prettily shaped flower that was nestled in a bed of blood-purple roses…

It looked like a human face…

Suddenly, glowing green eyes opened, star-shaped pupils zeroing in on him.  

“AH!”

The boy recoiled, yelping in surprise.  He stumbled backwards and landed solidly on his butt on the cobblestones, blinking at those glowing green eyes in shock and awe.  Long lashes fluttered, as if just waking up.  Then, they fell to half-mast, glancing down at Danny with little interest; even so, the roses receded, leaving behind a familiar figure, who was both the same and not at all.  

Danny’s jaw dropped as the girl, or whom he supposed was a girl, stepped out from the flowers and walked towards him.  Fuller hips then he was used to swayed as she walked, and the dark hair was cut in a different fashion around her pale throat.  Vines and leaves twined about her body, covering what was important, but not leaving much to the imagination but for the long vines and red-violet roses that seemed to sprout directly from her hips and drag behind her, like a train.  This time he knew it really couldn’t be her, but the likeness was so uncanny…

Sam …?”

Her unnaturally long lashes lowered disdainfully at him.  From this close, Danny could see that there were tendrils of greenery -- no thicker than a human hair -- that intertwined and twisted through them.  The vines bloomed in tiny roses at their ends, the buds even smaller than the nail on his pinky.

She shook her head.  “Nnnnno,” she deadpanned.

“Yeah…”  he breathed, slowly standing up.  “I uh… kinda gathered as much.”

He looked around the immense garden, trying to grasp at something to say, but he was still left with confusion.  He turned back to her, watching as she moved to tend to a nearby flower bed filled with poppies.  “You look like her,” he said, not accusing, just lost.  “But you’re not Sam.  And that Tucker from last night wasn’t Tucker.  I know you’re not them, but…”

Danny fumbled, trying to reason in his own mind why these amazing beings looked like two people who were once very close to him.  Perhaps he would have been able to think of a logical reason, if the warm and heavy amulet around his neck wasn’t clouding his thoughts.

“Why?”  he finally asked, trying to seek some kind of answer.

“The faces of your loved ones are the faces you trust,” the rose-trailing woman informed him.  She said it like she was quoting someone as she uprooted a single, pure-white poppy, its roots growing without water or sunlight all around and over her fingertips.  Caressing her.

She glanced at Danny again, her green eyes flicking down to his bare feet.  “You may call me Samantha.”

“It suits you…”  he murmured respectfully, something about this Sam just demanding his attention and respect.  Not in a romantic or sexual way just… almost in a natural sense.  She was calm, at peace with herself and didn’t seek approval from anyone.  Tuck was the same, everything the real Tucker could only hope to be.  And he had been far more attentive to Danny’s mood at the party last night as well…

He had just met these people, and he was already comparing them to his friends.  The thought made him feel a little guilty.

“Your garden is beautiful,”  he said, knowing instinctively that this was her garden.  To think otherwise felt… wrong.  “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

Samantha glanced around, brows elegantly raised.  “What do you see?” she asked.

Danny looked past her at the garden, taking in the towering trees and the flora that climbed and crawled all over.  Some blooms were even bigger than his head, and he knew that many plant types couldn’t coexist together.  Yet everything here thrived in harmony with one another, growing and becoming something that couldn’t survive up in his reality.  Up above, they would not have had the room or the care they do here.  Even without sun, this garden was a true Eden…

“Life…”  he finally answered, smiling softly as he approached a large sunflower.  He was careful not to touch, just simply wished to admire.  “I see life.”

Samantha paused, looking the little human up and down.  Her pupils softened and dissolved, shimmering -- mirror-like -- in a green, eerie light that Danny did not perceive.

“Beauty and life aren’t always the same.  Keep that in mind, little one, when your world is razed.”

Danny suddenly gasped as she laid her little white poppy onto his shoulder.  Its delicate roots wrapped around his arm, then interlaced, entwining around his throat and coiling into his hair…

Then, Vladimir appeared out of nowhere, grabbing the roots and ripping the flower away from the boy’s throat.  Danny stumbled back from the man that suddenly towered over him, face going pale in fear before turning red at the memory of what had been happening the last time he was around him.

He meeped, unconsciously taking a step back towards Samantha, but he was too busy looking down at his feet to see the glare that passed between the two.  The stare lasted for just a moment, till the girl inclined her head in some form of submission, even though they both knew it was far from it.

“I shall go make some tea,”  she murmured softly, trailing a finger through the boy’s hair as she passed him, while sending Vladimir a look that spoke volumes.

Then they were alone...

Vladimir grit his teeth, the muscles in his neck twitching with restraint, but finally, he huffed and relaxed, giving Danny a strained smile.  “Hello.  Little badger, hello,” he murmured.

“... Hi.”

Danny fidgeted, unable to meet Vladimir’s eyes.  His face was pink and he felt absolutely mortified.  “L-listen, I’m really sorry I just… ran, it’s just…”

He sighed, running a hand through his hair.  “You’re really handsome and all, and I’m really flattered you… you know.  But you were moving really fast and caught me off guard… and I have a girlfriend, so… um…”

He shook his head, frustrated that he was having such a hard time with his words.  “Yeah, just… sorry…”

Vladimir inhaled, held his breath for a moment, and exhaled.  “Right…”

He let his left hand trail off of Danny, but he kept his right loosely clasped -- possessively -- around the young man’s shoulder.  The boy stared up at him with wide blue eyes, noticing that as he turned, there were eye motifs etched in silver on the temples of his glasses… and the ten-legged spider symbol on his cuff links…

Something niggled at the back of his mind, a stray thought to the conversation he had had with Valerie earlier that day…

“Are you a Jorōgumo…?”  Danny asked softly, the words escaping him almost unbidden.

Vladimir stiffened.  More veins than should be visible on a human being stood out from his throat and temples, pulsing blue.

His slanted eyes flicked warily to Danny’s face.  The boy pulled back slightly in surprise, but the amulet suddenly grew warm around his neck… and he remained unafraid.  His limbs remained loose and his mind was clear, no worries, only curiosity.

And he seemed to fail to remember the full story Valerie had told him…

“You are, aren’t you?”  he asked in wonder, his fear gone and easily replaced by his genuine shock and awe.

For a split second, Vladimir’s eyes flicked down to the amulet.

Then, the veins receded.  The man relaxed in body, his eyes still wary.  “Yes,” he murmured, slowly turning his body towards Danny.  “I never lied to you, badger.”

Danny’s brows furrowed, a part of him wanting to correct Vladimir on that statement, but the more he thought about it, the more he knew that was true.  He had just met the man, or rather creature -- demon? -- just yesterday.

“No… I suppose you didn’t…”

More question rose up in his mind, but he briefly noticed that it felt like he was lacking information he should have.  All he could garner was that a Jorōgumo was a spider demon, nothing else came to mind.  He frowned, trying to get his thoughts together, before his attention was once again taken by the regal man.

“You don’t look Japanese,”  he tried to joke, feeling uncomfortable with the lingering tension.

Vladimir chuckled.  “That’s because I am not Japanese.”

His confidence regained, the demon gently stroked Danny’s shoulder, fingers trailing off the boy’s pajama sleeve.  “What do you say to getting into something a bit more suited for a formal discussion, and I will tell you everything you need to know?” he murmured, his voice dark and alluring to human ears.

Just as before, the boy was easily distracted by that alluring voice, making his face flush and his shoulders hunch shyly.  “O-oh… sure?”

Before the boy had time to think, Vladimir was smiling down at him as he came closer, far too close!  Danny gasped as his hand was taken, and then he was being spun, almost like he was dancing with the man once again like they did the night before.  When he was let go, stumbling a bit on his feet, he looked down at himself to find that his pjs had once again been magically transformed.

Now he was dressed in a sinfully soft blue shirt, the sleeves so long they fell over his fingers with little holes for his thumbs.  The pants were just as soft, something similar to yoga pants that, unknowingly to him, hugged his ass like a second skin.

Before he could question Vladimir on the clothes and how he had been able to do that, his hand was taken once again and he was being led through the wildflowers.  The garden was massive, and Danny had no idea where the man was leading him, but soon enough they broke into a clearing at the edge of the garden.  It was a private place near the waterfalls, surrounded by roses of all shapes and colors.  A small table with two chairs sat in the center, a pot of hot tea, two china cups, and two plates -- each with a slice of cooling blackberry and elderflower pie -- waiting for them.

Vladimir pulled out a chair for Danny, bowing him into it.  The boy blinked in surprise, but he accepted it.

“My kind prefer misty places, with equal amounts of fish and people.”

The master of the house slipped into his own chair, laying a crisp white napkin on his lap.  “Most of them manifest in Japan, therefore more are born there, and the humans discover them more often.  Therefore, the name of the Jorōgumo is the most commonly used.”

Danny nodded, following along as best he could while he watched Vladimir pour them both a cup of spicy smelling red tea.  “Do you um… prefer to be called something else?”

“I came over on the ships of the Vikings and settled here a very long time ago,” the demon replied.  “I am slavic.  More specifically, I was spawned in Russia a little less than a thousand years ago, I am led to believe.  Nonetheless, if we are true to my ‘heritage…’”

Vladimir smiled wryly at the youth.  “My favorite translation is the desat’ nohy .”

Desat’ nohy…” Danny repeated softly, the words forming almost sweetly on his lips.  He smiled, liking how it sounded.  “Wow…  What does that mean?”

“Ten legs~”

Danny giggled, taking his tea cup as Vladimir handed it to him.  “Very fitting~!”

The demon chuckled, his chest puffing out and his silver hair rippling out a bit longer with pride.  He raked his fingers through the long locks, moving them back behind his broad shoulders.  “Yes, isn’t it~?  And it certainly rolls off the tongue so much sweeter than that clumsy Japanese term~”

“It sounds nicer too,”  Danny admitted, taking a small sip of his tea.  He hummed softly at the taste, a burst of something like cinnamon and clove dancing over his tongue.  “I mean, the word for your kind in the Japanese language always had such a bad rep… I mean, ‘whore spider’?  Who wants to be called something like that?  It’s very judgemental…”

He smiled into his tea before setting it down, humming to himself.  “This is really good~”

“I will be sure to pass on your compliments to my chef~”

Vladimir interlaced his fingers, his movements smooth and entrancing as unbroken glass as he braced his elbows on the arms of his chair.  “Are you curious about anything else~?” he purred.

“Well…”  Danny paused, sinking his fork into the gooey, flaky piece of pie on his plate.  “I guess… why me?  Why bring me down here?”

He glanced up at Vladimir with wide, curious eyes.  “Why hold a party for me?  Why have those beings look like… like my friends?  Why are you being so… so nice to me?”

“Because you deserve it~” the spider demon crooned.

He took a bite of pie, eyes lidded and passionate as he gazed at Danny.  “You’re in a new place.  Your so-called friend, and your so-called girlfriend -- whom you speak with through that strange metal book of yours -- are terrible to you.  Your sister spends more time investing in her ‘adult credibility’ and her know-it-all attitude than she actually spends listening to your problems in life.  Your parents are never there for you, and they never will be.  I thought you deserved better, little badger.”

Vladimir took a small sip of tea.  “And while I try to do a humanitarian service for the poor mistreated young men within my halo of influence, the local citizens spread terrible rumors about my eating habits.  I live mostly on fish.   That is the real truth~”

Danny opened his mouth to ask Vladimir what rumors he was talking about, but something in the back of his mind told him it wasn’t important.  He looked down at his plate, picking at his pie as he was lost in thought for a moment.  The way Vladimir talked about his friends and family… he really wanted to deny that any of that was true.

But it was too spot on for even Danny to deny.  Had he really been so blind to how bad things were, that an actual demon had to point it out?

He took a small bite of his pie, unsure of what to say...

“Ah, Emma!”

Danny blinked and sat up straight, glancing around as the mute maid came stepping delicately through the bushes.  Vladimir smiled and beckoned her forward.  “Are you finished with your pie?” he asked Danny.  “Still working on it?”

“Oh, oh no, sorry, I’m still working on it!”

He gave Emma a smile and a small wave.  He wished he could remember more from those ASL classes… maybe he could google something later.  Danny glanced back at Vladimir, curious.

“I um… I guess if you're a spider demon, does that mean everyone is something too?  Tuck, Samantha?  Even Emma?”

Emma blinked, slightly startled by the boy’s question.  

Vladimir smirked and waved her down, reassuring her.  “Very intuitive, little badger~” the spider demon replied.  He interlaced his fingers and crossed his legs, smiling amusedly.  “Do you have any guesses?”

Danny cocked his head to the side in thought.  “I have no idea what Tuck is… Samantha seems to be really in tune with plant life so, maybe a dryad?  Or fairy?  But um…”

He turned to look up at Emma, the girl smiling at him happily past her sealed tight lips.  “I don’t… really know.  You’re very pretty though, are you a siren?”

Emma beamed and pressed her hands to her cheeks, fluttering her fingers in dismissal of his comment.  She looked like a girl that had just been complimented far beyond her stature.  Meanwhile, Vladimir chuckled.  “Oh, she is lovely,” he agreed.  “And I like your adventurous guessing!”

The maid blushed at both their compliments and covered her face.

Vladimir laughed and looked at Danny.  “She is a banshee,” he told the young man.  “Her voice is a harbinger of death, literal or otherwise~”

“Oh?  OH!”

Danny looked up at Emma, the amulet still diluting his fear so all that remained was curiosity.  If Vladimir had paid closer attention however, he would have noticed that there wasn’t that much fear to overcome to begin with.

“Is that why you don’t speak?  That’s really cool, Emma~!”

The maid blushed even hotter, smiling bashfully and signing almost shyly at Danny.  Vladimir smirked.  “She says she works out.”

Danny giggled, catching on to the joke.  “Well, I wouldn’t doubt that!  Oh, um…”

The boy bit his lip, thinking really hard on what little he could remember.  He turned to Emma, then pointed at his own chest, brushed his fingers together, and then pointed at the girl.  He smiled, interlocking his pointer fingers, then turned his hands over and did it again.

I like you.  Friends?

She happily signed back at him.   Friends!!

Danny smiled back, the older girl’s happiness infectious.  Something niggled at the back of his mind, that he wasn’t being cautious enough around these creatures, but he couldn’t find it within himself to care.  He had made a friend!

He turned back around and quickly finished up the rest of his pie, handing his plate to Emma as she watched him expectantly.  “Thank you Emma, it was really good!”

She took his plate and curtseyed at him.  Danny smiled back at her, doing a little bow in return.  

Behind him, Vladimir raised an eyebrow at his maid, but didn’t comment.

When Danny turned his back, Emma straightened up, smiling fondly at the boy… then, she blinked, eyes flickering to a solid marble black.  She stared at her master with dead, warning eyes… and moved away, her feet not touching the ground.

Vladimir scowled.  

He cleared his throat and went back to his own pie.  “Your ‘Tucker’ is a sphynx who likes to party.  ‘Samantha’ is a dark fairy.  She has more or less claimed the grounds as her own.  She’s an uppity little thing…”

Danny smiled at the description.  “I liked her!  She was really blunt.”

He frowned a little then, looking slightly troubled.  “I liked both of them actually…  More so than my--”

The boy cut himself off at that, taking a sip of his tea as he tried to change the subject, the words tumbling out of him like a waterfall.  “So how long have you all been down here?  How did you come to be here in the first place?  Is it made with your magic or has it always been there?  Can I come back again?”

Vladimir smiled peacefully, put at ease that his prey would still be his.  Still, even deep on the instinctual level, none of his previous victims had known he was demon before.  It was oddly… satisfying….

“Yes.”

Cobalt eyes gleamed with a hungry, curious light.  “In fact, I insist that you do~” Vladimir crooned.  “Every time you feel like you need a place to belong, you can come here.”

Danny smiled back, cheeks pink in happiness.  Something deep inside him warmed up at the way Vladimir looked at him and talked to him, and while it was a new, almost overwhelming feeling… it was also addictive.

Was this… was this what it felt like to be wanted?

“Then I will!”  he said confidently, smiling at the demon from over his cup of tea.  “I’ll come back every night!”

 

~*~*~

 

And so he did, for two whole weeks Danny came back every night to Vladimir’s world.  It didn’t take long for the boy to become addicted to the strange, magical realm the spider demon called his home.  Every night he would wait impatiently for dinner to end, then rush up to take his shower before going to bed.  It was becoming harder and harder to fall asleep and wait for the spider to come get him, leading him back down every night to the basement door.

He called the spider Garnet.

At first he tried to be more stealthy about his trips, not wanting his dad’s devices to pick up on his presence.  But every night, the equipment would be ruined and water logged.  Danny stopped questioning it.

After three weeks, he told his parents he had gotten extra hours at his job, working five days a week now.  Valerie covered for him, his excuse being that he had needed to fake having more hours or they would make him get a second job, which just wasn’t an option.  His family hardly saw him, and his friends hardly got a few words out of him every other day.  

While Danny was finding more and more joy down in that world, with Vladimir and Tuck and Samantha… his sister had seen his strange behavior as something else.  Something more serious.

“Hey mom?” Jazz asked as she came into the kitchen.  It was Monday, and Danny was waiting tables at the restaurant, nowhere around to hear their conversation.  “Can I talk to you?”

Maddie glanced up from an unfinished chapter of her book.  “Yes?”

She went back to typing as her daughter sat down beside her.  “What is it, Jazz?”

“Have you noticed that Danny has been acting strangely lately?”  she asked, pulling out one of her many notebooks.  “He’s been sleeping more, eating less, and he’s constantly working or out of the house.  That doesn’t send any warning bells to you?  Doesn’t seem out of place?”

Maddie glanced up at her daughter, looking slightly confused.  “I thought that was the point of him getting a job,” she said.  Nonetheless, she closed her laptop and took off her reading glasses, brows furrowed.

“Well, yes,”  Jazz said quickly, defending her original intentions.  “Getting a job is always a good idea, but I don’t think Danny is responding to the move in a healthy way.  He hasn’t talked about Sam or his friends in weeks, and I don’t think he has made any friends since we moved here.”

She made a brief note in her book, frowning.  “Not to mention how much he’s sleeping!  He hardly eats dinner before he’s saying goodnight, and he never wants to go into town or do anything other than work and sleep.”

Maddie frowned.  “Well, what are you suggesting?  That he’s demon-possessed?”

She blinked.  “Wait…”

“NO, mom!!  He’s not demon-possessed!” Jazz yelled.  “I’m saying he has to be suffering from depression!”

The redhead held up one of her psychological parent guides that she had been carrying on her, opening it up to a heavily bookmarked and highlighted chapter.  “Danny is showing all the classic cases for depression.  He’s unhappy!  If this keeps up, he might do something drastic he could regret or maybe even put himself at risk!  He’s already hardly eating and he is shutting himself away from us!”

She handed the book to her mother, pointing some of the things she had highlighted.  “Depression can be common in children and teens that are uprooted from their lives, so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but we need to try to help him, monitor him!  We need to be prepared to intervene if he doesn’t improve!”

“What in the world do you mean, Jazz?  Danny’s not going to hurt himself…”

Maddie pressed a hand against her heart, eyes wide at the thought of losing her baby boy.  “He can’t…”

“Of course not, mom, we don’t want that!  I’m pretty sure Danny wouldn’t want that either, but right now he’s not in a good place.”

Jazz stood up and handed her mom the book, leaving it with her.  “Read through that okay?  You’ll want to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression.  We need to keep an eye on Danny so that we can make sure he starts getting better.  From what I’ve researched, he should start improving on his own in a couple of weeks if this is just because of the move.  But if two months go by and he isn’t getting any better… well, we just need to be prepared for that!”

Jazz turned around and left the kitchen, heading back to her room while writing furiously in her notebook.  

Maddie glanced at the book, her blood still cold from the thought of losing her child…

Then, she got up, rushing into her office.  She pulled open a drawer and took out a book on the symptoms of demon possession, leaving her daughter’s tome untouched on the kitchen table.  

Meanwhile, Jazz paused beside Danny’s open bedroom door, taking a peek inside.  She didn’t dare break his privacy by walking inside, his symptoms weren’t that bad yet.  She noticed some interesting looking crystals and shells on his desk, assuming they must have been things he had collected on the beach.  She sighed and walked away, closing her bedroom door behind her.

If she had looked inside his desk drawer, she would have found far more than just crystals and shells.  And expensive looking jewelry would have been a lot harder to explain away as well…

Unbeknownst to his mortal family, Danny was spending more and more time with Vladimir.  The spider demon doted upon him, giving him gold and jewels and once a sapphire -- a rare blue gem, in his world -- the size of his fist.  The sphynx and dark fairy watched from afar, quietly making bets with the banshee maid and the rest of the invisible house staff on subjects kept secret even from their master.  Whether Vladimir realized it or just refused to acknowledge it, he had actually come to enjoy the nighttime, when the glamors would take over his kingdom and his little human prey would fall down into the lake.  Danny wasn’t like any young man he had ever preyed upon before.  He was strangely sweet, innocent as a boy his age could possibly be.  Vladimir dismissed it as the involuntary attraction to virgin blood most demons had…

Until one night, Danny arrived a little earlier than usual, padding up onto the island and smiling brightly, as he always did.

However, the glamors were fading.  

Vladimir watched the boy cautiously from a window, self-conscious of the darkness that was bleeding through his magical veil.  The spells weren’t designed to last a whole month!  There was no way he couldn’t see the silvery spiderwebs, extending down from the rock ceiling high above.  Gems were caught in them, stuffed into fish skulls and glowing a soft, eerie red…  but Danny’s smile didn’t fade as he wandered over to Samantha’s garden.

Vladimir huffed, frustrated, and closed the curtains.

From the gardens, Danny could be seen weaving in and out, exploring as he always did.  Samantha had invited him to come early that night, to see her garden and to have some tea with her.  She had said she wanted to show him something.

Danny could see the changes around him, but he had honestly begun to notice them sooner than the others thought he did.  The spiders were numerous, and growing bigger, trailing behind him like puppies.  The webs were everywhere, but to him they looked like beautiful silvery curtains.  The world was becoming darker, the only light the glowing gems and crystals all around them.  And while others would have found the change troubling, and Danny did feel the cooling air and a thrill of unnatural aura chilling his blood, he found it more… right.   The world was still special, still beautiful, still frightening, but it was becoming more and more fitting for a demon of Vladimir’s standing.

The gardens towered over head, the plants looking bigger and the flowers looking more and more exotic and… meaner?  Oh, carnivorous!  Wow…

Danny followed his trusty friend Garnet down a path and into a clearing with a small pond by the side of the manor, surrounded by amazing flowers and fruits that he knew had to be magical.  There were other spiders with him of course, the little friends he had made whenever he was left alone.  The largest was the size of great dane puppy, glowing a bright purple.  He named it Amethyst.  Garnet had grown bigger too, likely no longer afraid to show Danny its true size, and the smallest of the spiders shimmered a pale pink that was almost white.  He named that one Pearl.

Pearl skittered over his shoulder and into his hair, making him smile as Amethyst circled around his feet.  Samantha appeared than, giving him one of her rare smiles as she handed him a cup of honeyed green tea.  “Right on time.”

“I didn’t want to keep you waiting,”  Danny replied with a smile, taking a sip of his tea.  Samantha was taller today, her skin lacking all pigmentation and her eyes seemed to glow like jade.  More of her attire was made of flowers and thorns, and Danny knew that he was seeing more and more of her in her truer form with each passing day.  “What did you want to show me?”

“Just the garden,” she replied, gliding across the grass.  A large bloom sprouted up, forming a living chair for her to sit in.  “I thought you might like to see it in all its glory.  Plus, the spiders wanted to play with you before their master took up your time.”

Danny beamed, smiling down at the bouncing, eager spiders.  “I would love to play with them!  What do you guys want to play today?”

The spiders seemed to look at each other a moment, before they all turned on Danny and chased the laughing boy towards the water, splashing him and jumping on him and chasing him all over.  His laughter was bright and joyous, filling the garden with the beautiful sound.  Samantha closed her eyes, basking in the sound of joy…

Who knew such a boy would bring light down here again…

Green eyes flashed to the large window, meeting glowing gold.  She smirked and nodded, waving a hand to make sure none of her plants were blocking the window.  From inside, Tuck grinned widely, his sharp smile taking up most of his face as he turned to Vladimir.  The demon was busy soundly ignoring the fact that Danny had not yet come to the house.  Oh, the man was trying to seem aloof, but anyone could tell he was pouting.

Perfect.

“He’s a cutie, isn’t he~?” Tuck purred, cozying up to Vladimir.

The spider demon bared his fangs and slapped him away.  The sphynx cackled.  He jumped onto the couch, sitting down and crossing his legs.  “I’ll take that as a yes~”

“I never asked for your opinions on my prey, cat,” Vladimir snapped, folding his arms over his chest.  Blue veins rippled in his throat and temples, eyes flashing warningly, like round spheres of ruby.  “‘Samantha’ is doing a good enough job pretending like he’s a permanent addition to our sphere...”

He scowled out at the pretty, blue-eyed boy jumping around in the water.  “It’s like everyone’s forgotten that I’m planning to eat him...”

“I think YOU’VE forgotten you’re planning to eat him~”  Tuck shot back, sharp teeth gleaming in the light from the fireplace.  “The longest you’ve ever dragged out this game of yours has been a week, tops.  But this has been going on for just over a MONTH now.  The magic is slipping, this world is welcoming him in with open arms like it never has any other.  I mean, come on, have you SEEN how your spiders treat him?”

He gestured outside to where Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl had all tackled the boy, giving him affectionate nuzzles and kisses like only large spiders could.  “That’s not normal, even YOU know that.”

“They’re spiders,” Vladimir murmured.

He watched his servants -- pieces of his own soul, gifted with separate consciences and their own will to exist -- nuzzle and hold Danny like he was something rare and precious.  “They’ll do what they will…”

The spider demon rested his hip against the sill, never taking his eyes off of the boy.  “Demons don’t love, sphynx, we covet and we possess.  You know that.”

Tuck grinned.  “I never said ‘love’ was a player in this~!”

“Will you--?!  GET OUT!”

The sphynx cackled and sprung from the room obediently to trade gold pieces with the other inhabitants.  Vladimir snarled, eyes glowing…

Then, he sighed and turned his head, continuing to watch Danny play.  One of the bigger spiders brought him a small ruby to throw; the young man laughed, picked it up, and threw it out into the lake.  Instantaneously he found himself buried ankle-deep in tiny gems, spiders tapping playfully on his toes and wiggling excitedly.

“Okay okay, one at a time!”  Danny laughed, picking up the gemstones and tossing them out into the lake.  Some he tried to use as skipping stones, others he tried to see how far he could throw them.  Some, he even used to play fetch with the bigger spiders, laughing happily as they tumbled after each stone he threw.  

Suddenly, there was a stir among the spiders, and they all went still, crowding around Danny as they stared out over the large, glittering lake.  The boy frowned, turning to see what it was they saw out there in the dark.  

From deep beneath the water… something very big stirred.

Vladimir cursed, eyes widening as he realized what was happening.  This could ruin everything!  The boy might not be afraid now, but after this he would surely turn tail and run, never to return!

The demon hastily left the study, hightailing it out of the manor and towards the gardens.  As always Samantha’s plants hindered him a bit, but soon enough he had reached the clearing.  Samantha stood at the edge as well, looking down at the enclosed beach area where Danny and all the spiders stood, her expression blank, but her body tense.  Vladimir turned to call out to Danny, to bring him away from the water.

But it was too late.

The boy stared up with wide eyes at the large spider that had come up out of the water before him, the size of an elephant, if not bigger.  It was dark in color, glowing a deep greenish blue.  One of Vladimir’s oldest spiders, among the first pieces of his soul he had torn from himself to make a sentinel, a lookout, a guardian.  The large spider was nearly as old as he was, and very rarely moved from its place guarding his waters.  For it to come up here now, of all times…!

“Wow…”

Samantha sucked in a breath, eyes widening just a touch as she and Vladimir watched Danny step closer .  The boy laid a gentle hand on the large spider’s head, right between its many eyes.  He smiled as it nuzzled into his hand, a deep, soft sound leaving the creature.  From its massive pincers fell a large stone, a deep water gemstone almost the size of Danny’s head.  It pushed it forward, making a quizzical sound.  The boy smiled wider.

“Oh, look at that!  Thank you~!”

He petted the spider, a look of awe and wonder on his face.  “I think I’ll call you... Malachite…”

He bent down and picked up the stone, grunting at the weight.  He glanced up at the big spider, gesturing to the lake.  “Wanna see how far I can throw it~?”

The spider wiggled and nodded, acting more like an overgrown puppy then the monstrous sentinel it was.  Danny laughed and nodded, taking a step back before he start spinning, throwing the gem out as far as he could.  The spiders squeaked and hopped around in approval as it touched down with a big splash, a pretty good distance out.  The boy whooped, giving the big spider a hug.

Vladimir watched on in shock.  How… how was this possible?  The amulet didn’t have that kind of power over him.  In fact, most of its power was long gone, and yet Danny had not been afraid.  Instead, he had just made friends with one of the oldest spiders in Vladimir’s domain.

This… this was very much unexpected.

Sam glanced at her master, analyzing his blank expression.

Then, Vladimir stepped down onto the beach.

Danny leaned down to play with the little spiders, only for them to peep and scatter when a shadow fell over the boy.  He looked up, more surprised than scared…

To see Vladimir looming above him, wearing a quizzical look on his face.  Danny smiled at the sight of him, straightening up and moving to approach him.  “Hey!”

He flushed a little in embarrassment, rubbing a hand at the back of his neck and shuffling his bare feet against the wet, soft sand.  “Sorry I didn’t come up sooner, I guess I got a little distracted…”

“No… it’s…”

Vladimir glanced at his sentinel.  The huge spider brought its huge uncut gem back to Danny; the spider demon took it from the monster’s pincers, holding it like it weighed little more than paper mache.  

“Fine…” he murmured, gazing down at his own warped reflection.

“Oh, you went back out to get it for me!  Thank you, Malachite~!”

Danny reached up to pet the big spider, giggling as the large pincers gently nuzzled his face, giving him spider kisses.  The other spiders came back again, small ones scurrying up Danny’s legs and hopping onto his shoulders or getting tangled in his hair.  

He pet Malachite one last time before turning back to Vladimir.  “So, what are we doing today?”

The spider demon was silent for a long moment…

Then, he handed the gem back to Danny.  The boy frowned, but took the gem from him.  He seemed puzzled by Vladimir’s silence, but the spiders quickly got his attention again.  He laughed, turning back towards the water.

“Okay okay, one more throw~!”

A big hand grabbed his wrist, stopping him.  Danny paused, looking up at Vladimir with big blue eyes.

The demon met his eyes with a dark, keen stare.

Wordlessly, Vladimir stepped into the water.  His grip grew gentle, fingers brushing down his arm until he took Danny’s hand, leading him slowly out into the bay.

Spellbound, the boy followed him, his wide eyes never once leaving the demon’s.  The gem fell at the shore, but the spiders didn’t mind.  Malachite picked up the gem, watching its master with an old, knowing gaze.

Danny gasped as the chilly water soaked through his clothes.  He clung to Vladimir as he was pulled further and further out…

“You do swim.”

It was half of a question coming from Vladimir’s lips.  Danny was more distracted with the way the spider demon seemed to glide effortlessly through the water, without so much as moving a single limb.

“Y-yeah… I uh, I love to swim, actually...”  he replied softly, feeling a little lost.  He trusted Vladimir though, even if a part of him felt it was dangerous to do so, he just couldn’t help himself.  He allowed the spider demon to pull him further and further away from shore, from land, from relative safety...

Then, as they approached the darkness, Vladimir took hold of the amulet around Danny’s throat.

And slowly drew it off.

Some might compare what happened next to that of rose glasses being removed for the first time, but that was too extreme a comparison.  There was no curtain, no glasses, no real lies.  There couldn’t be, not with Vladimir’s world revealing itself to Danny slowly over time.  It was more like a very sheer piece of silk had been lifted from over his head, like a veil.  He already knew what was there, but before it had been a little fuzzy, soft.  

Now, he could see with full clarity.

Danny swallowed thickly, eyes wide as he stared at the spider demon, then his eyes flicked to the man’s hand to watch as he dropped the amulet in the water, letting it sink.  Blue eyes looked over the world around him, like he was taking it in after being away for a long time.  This time, there was fear there.

But far less than Vladimir imagined there would be.

“You…”  Danny paused, swallowed, then turned back to meet those dark cobalt eyes.  He realized now that those very eyes had been haunting his dreams, even his waking moments…

“Why haven’t you eaten me…?”  he asked softly, wishing to understand.  The frail web of lies had crumbled, and Danny no longer had any doubts as to why he had originally been called down here.  But even he knew that something was up, that these beings shouldn’t have been so nice to him, shouldn't have made him so happy .

Vladimir was silent, eyes lowered to the youth’s mouth.

For the first time, a second pair of eyes opened on his temples -- red and solid as rubies -- and his first pair shone with their true light.  Scarlet, hungry.  Demonic.  Lost…

“I don’t know…” he murmured.

Danny felt himself tremble at the sight of that demonic power and hunger.  But it wasn’t in fear, rather something else he was too afraid to think further about right now.  He knew better, he did!  He was with Sam!

He just… he just didn’t want to BE with Sam anymore…

Vladimir placed a hand over Danny’s mouth and nose.  The boy squeaked in surprise, squeezing his fistfuls of the demon’s suit, but it didn’t feel like he meant any harm.

Wide blue eyes looked up into the older creature’s face.  Vladimir’s expression was soft.  

“Don’t look at me,” the demon told him quietly.

And slowly pulled him underwater.  

The boy gasped, tugging at Vladimir as he was pulled deeper and deeper under the chilly water.  He kept his eyes squeezed shut, just as the demon had demanded, but he also tried to hold his breath.  But the longer they were under, the harder it was getting to keep his lungs from screaming.  He whimpered, slapping at Vladimir’s chest.  Then, before he could stop himself, he gasped…!

He was breathing… how…?

His rigid body went lax, realizing that the demon was somehow making it possible for him to breath.  He wanted to voice his thanks, questions of how and why whirling through his mind.  But even though he could breath, that didn’t mean he could talk.  So he kept his eyes shut, and waited…

Once Danny had gone still, the dark, massive monster -- that had such a gentle hold of the little human -- swam down into the depths, churning the water with clawed hands bigger than a fully grown man.  

The boy remained motionless, eyes closed as he felt the water rush past him.  Vladimir’s stroke was too fast, too consistent to be human, he could tell.  And the sonar-like clicking, an unnatural sound that murmured in his bones, vibrating in his very core as they moved through the darkness…

Then, through his eyelids, Danny sensed a soft blue light.  There was a feather-light stroke just over his eyes.

And so he opened them.

Just inches from his nose, the surface of the bay moved in tranquil ripples, a beautiful, otherworldly barrier between him and a night sky crunchy with stars.  His dark hair drifted in the currents, his vision unmarred by the impurities in the water, and any chill he might have felt was repelled by a kernel of warmth that burned softly in his chest, as if by magic.  A quiet rumble of displaced water met his eardrums every few seconds, from all around him; he was being held in place, by something too large, something he refused to think about or else he would be too tempted to turn, and look upon the demon.  Even so, the thrill and the fear took a backseat in his mind, consumed by the beauty of the stars and the water.

Vladimir… Vladimir had remembered

Many weeks ago, when the demon had simply let Danny talk on and on about his life and his troubles and his dreams, the boy had briefly mentioned his love for space and the stars.  He talked about how he loved to read and study astrology and astronomy, both the study of space and the lore of it.  His family didn’t encourage the hobby too much, Jazz having easily convinced his parents that it wouldn’t lead to a fruitful job.

Danny had just wanted to call them hypocrites, seeing as they were demonologists of all things…

The boy slowly raised a hand up towards the surface, moving his fingers like he could curl them and grasp a handful of stars.  It was so beautiful, like nothing he had ever seen before.  And Vladimir as sharing this wonderful sight, with him .

Danny may not have been so blinded now, might have easily been able to see that there had been a subtle game being played, of hunter and prey.  But things were different now.  Things were not the same.  There was a level of care there, of understanding, of something the demon couldn’t fake.

For the first time in a little over a month… Danny didn’t want to return home…

Are you ready to go, little one…?

The voice of the demon was nearly indescribable, nestled in the confines of his brain, hot as fire, deep and dark and fathomless as the ocean below.  Yet it was tender when it spoke to him.  So tender… and the way it held him, like glass, like gold, like something immensely precious…

Danny slowly shook his head, blue eyes not once living that beautiful night sky.  He reached back blindly, laying his small hand over some part of Vladimir he couldn’t see, stroking the skin there in the best way he could hope to express his thanks.

Not yet , he thought, hoping Vladimir could hear him.   Not just yet...

The massive thing that held him did not move, motionless except for the great, clawed limbs -- residing in shadow -- that stirred the water around them.  For a few minutes, the demon was silent, as was Danny, just gazing up at the stars.

Then, that supernatural voice broke the silence once more.   Have you enjoyed our time together, little badger?

Danny frowned slightly, thinking on the question.  Some part of him did feel cheated, that for a small amount of time Vladimir and the others had not been truthful to him.  But over the last few weeks, things really hadn’t been much of a lie anymore.  Samantha and Tuck had never lied to him, had slowly been revealing their true selves to him along with the work around him.  Things had slowly been changing, and if Danny were being honest…

Yes , he answered softly, I… I really have…

Then stay with me…

Softer than a hummingbird’s wing, Danny felt a clawed finger -- larger than his whole arm -- gently stroke one of his cheeks.

I will love you… I will covet you… murmured the demon.  I will give you everything that this world would not.  Stay here, stay with me… continue to bring that wonderful anticipation for the dawn, the anticipation, that I haven’t felt in centuries…

Danny startled, nearly turning around to look at Vladimir before he stopped himself.   Stay?

The boy’s voice wavered even in his own mind, a little uncertain and afraid.  There was a longing there too, a want… but it just wasn’t strong enough yet to overcome those human doubts.

Hahaha…

A warm chuckle reverberated throughout his being.  Danny shivered, sighing at the feeling of the demon so close to his soul that they could communicate without words… without lips…

Pincers danced softly in his hair.   You don’t have to answer now, little badger.  Do not worry…

Danny was slowly pulled away from the surface, back down into darkness.

Your answer will come in time…

 

Chapter Text

The rest of the second month passed in a blur to Danny.  He continued to go to the other world, Vladimir’s “sphere,” as he learned it was called, but knew nothing was hidden from him now, not from the spider demon nor from the other beings.  It was unnerving how much he had come to love that world… and how much that demon was haunting his every thought.  Danny tried to distract himself, with work and reading and even with Sam.  But half the time he tried to call her she wouldn’t answer, and the other half she had to leave suddenly.  Weirdly enough, it seemed she and Tucker were hanging out more while Danny was absent.  It was suspicious, but Danny had other things to worry about at the time, like the fact that he had a spider demon ACTIVELY trying to seduce him.  Oh, he should not have been as flattered and smitten as he was.  He shouldn’t be falling for this ancient creature!  But he was!

His inner turmoil was easily seen by his family, little to his awareness.  His family was starting to fade from his mind in the wake of the demon’s sphere as well.  Jazz suspected he had hit his low, and was expecting him to start rising back up again; if things got any worse, she would suggest to her parents that they take Danny to see a psychiatrist.  Meanwhile, Maddie had similar fears to her daughter regarding Danny’s behavior, but she suspected something far more sinister was going on.  She put wards around the house and sprinkled every doorway with holy water, hanging holly in every corner.  None of this did anything to an old being such as Vladimir.  She wasn’t aware of that.  Jack’s equipment continued to get damaged or go nuts, often times when Danny was in the same room, but then again, the equipment had been going haywire ever since they came to the house.  It wasn’t much to go on.  

Meanwhile, Valerie’s concerns -- as well as those of the rest of the little fishing town -- balanced on the edge of a knife, waiting for the boy to disappear, for the demon to claim his victim for the decade.  Each day that Danny returned to work, the tension wound tighter, like a steel coil ready to spring.  Nathan, the cult-obsessed hipster boy, stopped coming to Grey’s Seafood, along with his friends; Danny was quietly relieved, although he felt a little guilty for losing Valerie and her father their business.  Nathan made him nervous.  There was something very off about him.

More of Danny’s days and nights passed, and while he was happy in Vladimir’s world, the only place he ever found peace was when he was swimming.  He just wished he had someone to talk to.  All he could really tell Valerie -- his sole friend in this town or on the mortal plane, he was starting to worry -- was that he was having relationship trouble and problems sleeping.  It wasn’t a lie.  She gave great advice, listened to him talk and told him how hot tea and warm bubble baths always helped her.  She was a balm to his fraying soul.

But then she recommended talking to his girlfriend about it.  That hadn’t gone so well…

 

~*~

 

“Hey, Sam.  Sorry I hadn’t called much this week, work and all.”

The girl on the other side of the computer screen shrugged, seeming distracted.  “It’s alright, been kinda busy here too.  Finals and all.”

Danny frowned.  Finals shouldn’t be for another month.  “Yeah, right… Listen, Sam, can we talk about something?  It’s something that’s been bothering me lately…”

A flicker of panic crossed those fake purple eyes Danny once thought he loved, before the girl relaxed.  “Yeah, sure, whats up?”

“Well… I’ve been thinking a lot lately and, this is something I’ve been dealing with for a year now I think,”  Danny began, trying to find the right words.  He decided being blunt was his best option.  “I’m sorta attracted to men… I think…”

A pause.

“What, so you’re gay?”

“No I don’t think so--”

“Look, Danny, if you’re gay, that’s great!  Be loud and proud!  But don’t you dare think about dumping me if this is some kind of experiment.  It’s not like you have had any experience or anything.”

Danny frowned, ignoring the part about breaking up with her.  “That’s not what I’m talking about, Sam.  I’m attracted to guys and girls.  I think I’m bi, maybe even pansexual.  I’ve been doing some reading and--”

Sam snorted, rolling her eyes.  “There isn’t such a thing Danny.  You’re either gay or you’re straight, you can’t just have it all cause you want to.  Look, it sounds to me like you're just going through some experimental shit.”

“Sam, I’m not--”

“Why don’t you call me back when you get your head out of your pants, okay?  I’ll talk to you later.”

“Sam--!”

 

~*~*~*~

 

Danny hadn’t called her back, and that was four days ago now.  The boy was furious that she thought so lowly of his opinions, of his thoughts.  This was HIS life they were talking about, not HERS!

Maybe it was time to really consider cutting all ties with Amity once and for all…

“Badger~”

Danny meeped and straightened up, glancing around.  Vladimir had come up behind him, wrapping his arms around the young man and nuzzling into his throat.  It was surprisingly dark in the cavern tonight, the only light coming from the bioluminescent plants in the dark fairy garden, and the gem-stuffed fish skulls, glowing and entangled in curtains of sheer silver webbing.  “You smell angry tonight~” the spider demon murmured.

Long fingers combed through his hair.  “I like it~”

Danny flushed, shrugging.  “Just um… just some human stuff, I guess…”

The boy sighed, unconsciously leaning back into Vladimir’s larger body.  In all honesty, he never really found much peace here either.  Sure, he loved this world and all its oddities, and he knew he was fond of Vladimir, more than he should be really.  But the spider demon put just as much pressure and strain on his mind as everyone else did, just for a different reason.

It scared Danny a little bit, just how much Vladimir’s aggressive flirting and affection he had come to like, love even.  It was getting harder and harder to not to stay, to just tell the demon yes.

Maybe one day he would… but he still had things above and in his own head and heart he needed to take care of first…

“Maybe I can help you forget?” Vladimir murmured, gently holding his little human.  He pressed a soft kiss into Danny’s hair.  Ghostly, invisible pincers tousled the boy’s hair.  A soft gasp left plump pink lips…

Yup, he was definitely pansexual…

“M-maybe…”  he stuttered, unwilling to pull out of Vladimir’s hold.  The demon got bolder and bolder every day, even though they had yet to share a kiss.  More often than not, Danny forgot why he shouldn’t kiss the man…

He cleared his throat and finally pulled away, turning in Vladimir’s arms to give him a smile.  “Come on, you promised me you would go swimming with me today~!”

“I do love swimming with you~” the desat’ nohy cooed, playing with the young man’s slender digits.  Those delicate bones seemed to fascinate him, Danny had noticed.  “You do so well for what few limbs you have.  But I have a new idea for tonight~”

Danny blinked, cocking his head to the side like a curious pup.  “Oh?  Like what?”

Vladimir grinned.

He kissed Danny’s fingertips and led him away.  “Follow me~”

The young man was confused, but he obeyed, following the spider demon across their small paradise island to a grove of trees he had yet to explore.  Vladimir pushed aside the large boulder that sat in the middle, practically beaming as he revealed a dark, rocky tunnel hidden beneath it.  He took Danny’s hands again and led him down, down, down…

For a long time, Danny couldn’t so much as see his hand in front of his face, but the floor was smooth and he didn’t stumble.  In the back of his head, his own brain reminded him that this was a demon he was following into the black… How much did he trust him?

With his own life, Danny knew… and a feeling of real fear suddenly washed over him at the thought.  Did he really trust Vladimir that much?  Did he trust anyone else that much?  Oh no…

Suddenly, a distant, blue-green glow reached his swollen pupils.  

The boy tried to push away such thoughts for later, when he was home in his own bed, safe and sound and away from anyone else as he worked through his thoughts.  He focused instead on the sight before him, trying to squint his eyes so he he could make out what they were approaching.  He could just make out the roar of waterfalls...

But finally, they exited the tunnel and stepped into a large, open cavern, about a fourth the size of Vladimir’s home, but just as tall.  The glowing crystals and bioluminescent plants lit the cavern up with an unearthly glow.  His breath caught in his throat.

”Wow…”

Vladimir laid a gentle hand against a tall stalagmite, the stone glimmering like jade under his fingers.  “This place has been untouched for many years…” the demon murmured, his voice melancholy and nostalgic.  “Centuries have passed since I last laid eyes on it, yet it has not changed at all…”

Those four inhuman eyes -- two blue, two scarlet -- slid to Danny’s face, unblinking.  “Do you know what this place is, little badger?”

The boy took in the sight of those large, many waterfalls and the glowing pools of water.  It was like something he might have seen in a fantasy movie or video game, and it was almost impossible to imagine this was real, made by the hand of Mother Nature…

“No…”  he breathed, taking an unnoticed step closer.

“Perhaps that’s good…”

Big hands gently took his slender ones again.  Danny turned, eyes fixed on the demon’s face in awe and confusion.

“Would you like to swim in the pool with me?” Vladimir asked, smiling softly.

The teen nodded eagerly, baby blue eyes seeming to glow along with all the beautiful pools of water behind him.  “We can swim here?  Really?”

The desat’ nohy nodded.  “Mm hm~”

He guided Danny towards the pool.  Then, at the very edge, he let go, his smile regaining more than a touch of its wickedness.  “There’s a rule, though.”

“Hmm?  What’s that?”  Danny asked distractedly, looking down into the cool, clear waters.

“No inorganic material.”

The boy glanced back at him, puzzled…

Vladimir had already shed his jacket and neatly folded it.  He placed it on the ground, unbuckling his belt with the other as he gave Danny a little smirk.  “Not even in glamor~” he murmured softly.

The boy flushed bright red, eyes wide in something other than wonder now.  “W-wait, you mean…?”

A single nod was all he got, making the boy meep and hastily turn around.  Oh gosh, skinny dipping?  Really ?  A big part of Danny knew that this was just another one of Vladimir’s more aggressive seductions, but at the same time… this place was also something special he had wanted to share with the boy.

He bit his lips, uncertain… than gave in to his inner desires.  This once, just this once, he would let go and enjoy this.  Tomorrow he would seriously think about Vladimir’s offer and what he would need to do to accept it.

But for now, he just turned his mind off, and removed his shirt…

As Danny undressed, he heard Vladimir’s belt rattle as it was laid on the ground.  The quiet shift of fabric followed… and then a vibrating click of ghostly pincers.  The young man felt eyes on him… many eyes.  He shivered, but tried not to think about it, silently refusing to turn around…

Then, the spider demon’s aura ebbed into something softer, admiring.  He felt the eyes turn away from him.

A soft splash met his ears.  Vladimir slid into the glowing pool, completely submerging himself and moving through the water.  In the bright light, even human eyes could detect a glimmering silhouette around him; the slightest glimpse of the true form the demon kept hidden from Danny with his glamors; whatever magic was in it, the pool brought out the true nature of whomever bathed in its waters, hiding nothing.  

Danny turned and watched the man swim silently, taking in the rare times he saw that large, ancient form.  He knew, to some level, that Vladimir was more than he seemed, that he was larger, powerful, dangerous.  But there was still beauty there.  The face he showed Danny was still his own, it was just smaller, without so many eyes and so many teeth…

With a soft sigh, Danny finally let his boxers fall, kicking them away to the small pile he had made of his clothes.  He kept his eyes down, shy, as he approached the crystal pool of water and slid in with a near silent splash.  He hissed at the cold, shivering slightly before quickly adjusting.  He submerged himself, eyes closed, before resurfacing, brushing back his long, wet locks.  He had been letting his hair grow out over the past couple months, the demon’s admiration good motivation to not get it cut.

He blinked his pretty blue eyes opened and turned in a slow circle, taking in the beauty of the waterfall and the glowing crystals.  It was almost magical…

A gentle hand covered his mouth and nose.  Danny startled, turning to see Vladimir floating just behind him…

Then, he slowly relaxed as the man pulled him under.  In the embrace of the desat’ nohy , the water felt like warm silk against his skin.  The pressure on his lungs eased, and he could breathe again, just like that night under the stars.

He watched the bubbles drift upwards from his charmed mouth and nose, slipping between Vladimir’s big fingers.  Crystals glowed all around them, lighting the underwater world up in eerie lights of blues and greens and pinks…  It was like nothing he had ever seen before.

He smiled against Vladimir’s hand, almost nuzzling the man as he relaxed further, enjoying the warmth that seeped from the demon behind him.

The spider demon nuzzled against the back of his neck, affectionately kissing and nibbling the soft skin there.  Danny startled, whimpering softly at the attention.  He squirmed a little, but not much, not enough to try and get away, he was just so unused to physical affection like this.  A loving nibble at the base of his ear made him mewl, and Vladimir chuckle; as he did, Danny saw the plants -- their glow -- pulse along with his laughter.

Would you like to know what this place is…? Vladimir asked, quietly from the depths of his mind.

With his cheeks bright pink, almost to the point of glowing all on their own, Danny hesitantly nodded.   Y-yeah, I would…

My kind are born in the water, mate in the water, and die in the water…

The desat’ nohy with silver hair held his human close, their naked skin touching flush all the way along Danny’s spine, his legs, and between.   This is mine.  My most sacred place, he murmured.   This is my nest, the place I made from instinct when I first arrived here, over nine hundred years ago.  It is where my kind conceive children, give birth, and where I will eventually come to die…

Danny shivered, panting slightly as he felt all that hot, hard flesh press against his own.  He bit his lip, trying to calm down, trying to focus on the sentimental value of this place over when his mind wanted to focus on.  Like the concept of mating and children…

He swallowed thickly,  lashes lowering over flushed cheeks.   So this place is… connected to you, special…  You… you didn’t have to share something like this with me, but I… I really appreciate it…

I wanted to share it with you… because I want your eyes to be the only others that see it.

Vladimir turned the young man around, placing a hand at the back of his neck, looking deep into his eyes.   I am not human.  I never will be.  I cannot offer you old age, or mortality, or a soul to keep for your own.  I cannot walk among men like you can.  I will turn you into something you would not recognize… I will give you power… and the closest thing to love of which I am capable.

Slowly, the demon drew his hand away, and Danny felt something weighing on his throat.  Surprised, he looked down.

A new necklace rested on his collarbones, large, delicate, and ornate, with celtic knots twined with silver wire and glowing hair, a single white fang resting on his chest.  Vladimir’s aura rolled off of it in streams, laden with his essence and with ancient magic.  As he looked at it, Danny felt like he had been presented with the most intimate, personal wedding ring there ever was.

I want you to be my mate… Vladimir whispered in the stunned boy’s mind.  I want you to be mine and no one else’s…

He cupped Danny’s cheeks.  I want you to stay with me forever…

Pale lips pressed softly against soft pink ones, sealing their airways, their lungs, their life, all together in the magical confines of the pool.  All around them, the plants began to glow brighter… and brighter…

Danny gasped, his entire body growing warm and trembling in Vladimir’s hold.  His eyes shut and he all but melted in the creature’s arms, the kiss taking his breath away and erasing all thought.  This was like nothing he had felt before!  He hadn’t known a kiss could be so sweet yet so devastating, taking his air and his mind and his will, reducing him to nothing but raw nerve.  He had never felt like this before, not even with Sam--!

Sam…

W-wait, Vladimir wait…!  Danny whined, inner voice soft and hesitant as he pulled away from the kiss.  He didn’t notice how the plants and crystals lost some of their glow, or how the demon’s expression suddenly went blank.

The boy pulled away from the creature, floating back a bit and rising to the surface, the spell breaking.  He sighed, running a hand through his dark hair.  “I’m sorry, I can’t...  This is moving too fast for me.  I… I have responsibilities above, and I’m still in a relationship with someone else...”  

He closed his eyes, gripping the edge of the pool to calm his still racing heart.  “I just… I just need time to think about this…”

In Danny’s mind, he needed to think about Vladimir’s offer, needed time to figure out what he wanted and how to go about leaving his world behind.  He needed to say goodbye to his family somehow, break all ties with Sam and Tucker… there was so much to be done, but he thought asking for time and for patience was reasonable.

And normally it would have been… except Vladimir had hardly heard anything the boy had said, other than “I can’t” ...

“You can’t?”

Danny glanced around, startled by the pain and anger in the demon’s voice.  Vladimir had surfaced.  Both red and scarlet eyes narrowed, hurt.  “Or you won’t?” he snapped.  “Or you never WILL?!

Every single light in the cavern went out.  Danny gasped, fumbling in the dark as something huge and chittering swelled in size behind him.

“I-I never said that!”  Danny cried, fear rising inside him.  He knew what Vladimir was, had a healthy sense of respect for the creature, but to have him suddenly so angry, those red eyes focused on him like that…

Danny had never been so afraid of the demon, until now.

“I still h-have a life a-a-above, I just n-need time to--!”

“TIME?!”

The water turned freezing cold around Danny’s legs.  The boy stumbled back, tumbling out of the pool, nude and vulnerable.  He hugged his arms around his shivering body, looking up at the large creature he knew was there, was staring down on him from the dark.

“V-Vladimir, please--!”

“PLEASE, PLEASE, THAT’S ALL YOU SAY!   WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME THAT I HAVE NOT ALREADY GIVEN?!  I HAVE GIVEN YOU ALL THAT I HAVE!!  Get out…”

Something deep in Danny froze, going painfully cold.  “V-Vladimir…?”

“GET OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUT!!”

Everything that once glowed peacefully erupted into flame, illuminating in hellish light Vladimir’s true form.  An unhinged jaw screamed at the ceiling, countless fangs distended like a hagfish and pincers unfolded from the jaws of a man, a man with far too many muscles and the bluish skin of a drowned corpse stretched all over his body.  Its legs were disjointed, its ears pointed and ribbed and webbed, eight arms the length of school buses with claws that could rend steel like rice paper, and its hair was dark.  Long.  Lusterless.  Bloody tears coursed down its hollow cheeks… and it screamed , slamming its fists against the wall of his sacred place.  Boulders shook loose from the ceiling.  They rained down in an avalanche of rock.

Danny abandoned his clothes.  He just ran .

Forgetting the silvery necklace around his throat, with its demon fang bouncing lightly against his collarbones.

There was no leaving Vladimir’s realm without aid, so Danny fled to the one safe haven he could think of within this world.  Samantha’s garden.

Unlike the plants and flora of that cavern, these massive and deadly plants curled around the boy as he ran into the heart of them, shielding him from Vladimir’s senses as the demon continued to scream and rage in his cavern.  Everything was dark now, a hazy glow of red covering everything and shadows stretching far longer than was natural.  It was different and frightening, and Danny wished with all his heart that he was in Vladimir’s arms, that this had never happened.

He fell to his knees in the deep, enclosed clearing, uncaring as Samantha and Tuck emerged from the shadows, watching him with glowing, knowing eyes.  He crumpled before them, nude and sobbing his heart out.  They towered over him in their true forms, but they didn’t give off an air of anger or hunger, just simple understanding… and pity.

Tuck sighed, kneeling down and laying a gentle hand on Danny’s shoulder.  “Sorry, little guy…” he muttered.  “I guess it was too soon after all for you.  This has gotta suck…”

“I can’t believe he actually showed him the sacred cavern…” Samantha breathed.  For once, an expression of true sorrow, mixed with the strangest envy, decorated her pale, thorny features.  “I didn’t think… oh no…”

She spotted the glitter of Danny’s necklace and made a pained noise.  “Oh god… he gave it to you…”

“YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!”

Tuck and Samantha reeled back as Danny cradled the necklace almost fiercely to his chest, glaring up at them defensively before his expression crumbled again.  A sob was wrenched from his chest, tears streaking down his face as his body trembled in fear and pain.

“I didn’t tell him no…”  he whimpered, voice soft and distant.  “I didn’t… I didn’t tell him no … I just… I j-just needed time, I… I couldn’t just… I-I…!”

“Oh damn his eyes…”

Samantha sighed and stood back up, her plants shifting with unease.  “‘Tuck,’ can you explain it to him?  You understand humans better than I do.”

The sphynx raised an eyebrow up at the dark fairy.  “There’s really no human equivalent for politely refusing the birthright of a desat’ nohy , Sammy.”

“See?  You’re already doing so well.”

Danny wiped at his eyes, still sobbing a little even as he tried to calm down.  “J-just… just tell me what to do, p-please…!  I can’t bear him to be th-this… this angry with me!”

Tuck’s mouth tightened into a grim line.  “I’m really afraid that there’s not much you can do…” he murmured, gently squeezing Danny’s shoulder.  “You really effed Vladimir up, man, but it’s not your fault.  You didn’t know.  The good news is if he’s this angry and he let you go, he loves you.  A lot.”

The boy sniffled, looking up at Tuck for reassurance.  The sphinx's skin was nearly pitch black with scarred hieroglyphics etched into his skin.  He was tall and wiry, with a wide grin that was now set into a rare, thoughtful frown.  His eyes glowed like small suns…

“I would have said yes…”  he said softly, looking down at his hands.  “If I had just a week, or just a couple of days… just to prepare I… I would have said yes…”

“Would you really have, though?” Tuck asked, wincing slightly in sympathy.  “If he had done this three days from now, a week from now… You’re indecisive, kid.  He was convinced your feelings for him would overwhelm what you feel for your human life, which -- let’s be honest -- isn’t all that hot.  You have to realize how he feels.  Vladimir’s hurt, Danny.  He’s hurt and he’s angry and he thinks he’ll never truly have you.  Picture being denied water, Danny.  Or food.  Demons live off meat, riches, emotions, and slaking their lust.  Real emotions?  Heartbreak?  Heartbreak can literally kill a demon.  It’s why it’s so hard for them to fall in love.  He literally placed his life in your hands, and you dropped it like a hot brick and said ‘I might pick that back up, but I gotta think about it for a few days.’  He’s got a mixed bag of feelings towards you right now, I’d say...”

Danny’s eyes widened in horror.  “No… no no no, I NEVER--!  I never meant to hurt him!  Not like that!!”

His eyes narrowed, hurt and angry as he rounded on the two other beings.  “Why didn’t either of you SAY something!!  You KNEW!!  You knew what he wanted from me!  Why didn’t you prepare me BEFORE, I--!”

He stopped, words dying on his tongue as he paled.  “I would have ran…”  he breathed, understanding hitting him.  “If you had warned me, not three weeks or so ago… I might have ran…”

He crumpled again, face twisting as another sob burst from his chest.  He bent forward, burying his face between his knees as he started to hyperventilate.  Vladimir might DIE because of him!  Because he couldn’t just let go…!

“O-oh god…!”

“Shhh shhh…” Tuck shushed him, hugging him and rubbing his back.  Samantha stared at them both.  “It’s okay, man… Vladimir won’t die from this.  Even if you decide against being with him, he might be weak for a century or two.  But I seriously doubt he’ll die.”

“MORE IMPORTANTLY,” Samantha interrupted, before Danny’s sobs could get worse.

She reached out a little awkwardly, like reassuring touch was a learned behavior on her part, and patted his hair, gently stroking the dark, damp locks.  “The best thing to do right now, is to write him a message.  Tell him how you really feel, even if that IS saying you don’t think you can be with him.  I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to choose a side,” she told him.  “Then, I think the sphinx and I have enough power to send you home.”

Danny nodded, sniffling.  He opened his mouth to ask for paper and a pen, when suddenly the plant life stirred.  He froze, turning towards the sound with wide, frightened eyes, only to relax when his little spider friends came forward.  Garnet, Pearl, Amethyst, and even Malachite were there, hovering at the edge of the clearing like they were too afraid to approach.  Danny whimpered, then opened his arms to them, allowing the spiders to rush forwards and crawl all over him, uncaring that he was nude and vulnerable.  

He hugged Garnet close most of all, his first friend.  “I need you to pass a message on for me to Vladimir, okay?”  he whispered, nuzzling the spider.  “Only when he’s ready to listen though, you’ll know when, won’t you?”

Garnet’s body bobbed, like it was nodding.  Danny smiled, then held her close to his face, whispering softly to the spider.  He spoke for a long moment, his words soft and hushed as he passed on his emotions to the spider.  His love, his longing, his fears… his true, raw emotion that might have been too much to share with another human, but with a demon… he knew Vladimir would understand.

Or he hoped so at least.

Finally, he set it down, patting the spider gently before looking up at Samantha and Tuck.  “Alright, I’m ready.  When will I be able to return?”

“OH NO!”

“GOD, NO!”

Danny jumped at their shouts.  “W-what?  But…!”

“If you come into a demon sphere without the master’s willful permission and you ain’t a damn demon?  The water will kill you, ” Tuck informed him explicitly, making a pointed gesture and locking eyes with the boy to be sure he understood.  He pointed at the churning black water.  “That lake will adopt the consistency of wet cement and it will drag you down and it will fill your lungs and you will be dead .”

The spiders all chittered in agreement, making worried sounds as they brushed against Danny’s chilled skin.  The pale boy looked out at the black lake, now devoid of all the light and welcome it had held since he first arrived.  He gripped the necklace tighter.

“Then… what do I do?”

“Wait.”

Both males looked at Samantha.  The dark fairy held a small spider lily in her hands, carefully extracting it from the ground as she spoke.  “You will wait,” the woman told Danny.  “You wait days, weeks, months, perhaps even years.  You will wait until you’re sure he’s forgotten you.  You will remain in the house on Raven Way until you are old and grey, if that is what it takes, and you love Vladimir with all your soul.  He will call for you , when he is ready.”

She gently placed the spider lily into Danny’s hands, folding his fingers around the roots with her own.  Her green eyes locked with his blue ones.  “Be careful with his name, for he can hear you better than you can hear yourself,” she murmured.  “Your words are powerful in his sphere now.  If you say his name, say it like a prayer.  Because he will hear it.”

The boy nodded somberly, shoulders slumped in dejection.  He would wait, no matter how long it took, just like Samantha said.  But what if Vladimir never came for him?  What if he moved on, rejected the human he claimed to love?  What if he left him to die, old and alone?

Perhaps it would be what he deserved…

He squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself not to cry again.  He would leave here with what pride he had left, and he would wait.

“Okay…”  he whispered, cupping the flower gently as he stood on shaking legs.  “Send me h--”

His breath caught, tears gathering on his lashes as the word ‘home’ actually hurt to say.  The above wasn’t really his home anymore, was it?

“Send me back…”

Garnet pattered its little spider legs on Danny’s leg, pleadingly.  The boy looked down at the spider, trying to smile past his tears.  “Hey little guy, what’s wrong?”

It skittered against the young man’s foot, bouncing, trying to climb him.  Danny cooed, bending down to pick the little spider up.  He nuzzled it, smiling sadly.  “I wish I could take you with me, but I think that will just make Vladimir even more angry… Besides, I need you to give him my message, remember?”

He kissed the spider on top of its little head, a stray tear rolling down his cheek.  “You’re my only hope…”

Garnet patted his nose sadly, kissing the tip with its tiny pincers.  Danny giggled softly, hiccuping again on a soft sob.  “I hope I see you again…”

He gently placed Garnet back on the ground, taking a moment to pat and kiss the other spiders that were there to wish him goodbye.  He sighed, then turned back to the other two beings.  “I think you better send me back now, before they try to smuggle me away somewhere, hehe…”

Even though he tried to smile, the words fell flat.

Tuck gave him a sympathetic smile.  “Don’t worry, man… It won’t be that long.”

Samantha took his arm gently, guiding him towards the mansion.  In the distance, Vladimir’s screams of fury had dissolved into sobbing.  The red light was growing darker.  Soon, it would be fully black in the massive cavern.  “Quickly, let’s get you a bed while he’s still out…” she murmured.  “It’s easier to transport humans when they’re asleep…”

Even though Danny wanted to comment that he doubted he could so easily fall asleep now, he obeyed.  He passed Emma on the way in, taking a moment to hug her and sign to her that he would be alright, and that he hoped to see her soon.  He asked her to give his love to Beatrice, Vladimir’s cook, and then finally resumed following the others after giving her a kiss on the cheek.  Emma held her cheek, looking after him worriedly.

They lead him upstairs and into a spare room, nothing like the massive room and bed he was used to falling asleep on at the end of his days here below.  But this was all they had to work with now.

Danny climbed into the bed, clutching the necklace and the spider lily close to his heart.

“Try and relax,” Samantha told him quietly, stroking his hair.  “And Daniel, can you do me a favor?”

Sad blue eyes met hers.  “Of course...”

“Never believe that Vladimir has forgotten you.”

The boy smiled somberly, throat raw from his sobs.  “Even when I’m old and grey and ugly?  I doubt he would want me then…”

“He won’t wait that long, little one.  Vladimir is an impatient demon…”

She gently laid a hand over his eyes, and slowly, her voice began to echo and fade as his vision went to black.  “ If you love Vladimir, you will see us again ,” she murmured.

“Don’t lose faith …”

 

~*~*~

 

And Danny didn’t.  For a full week he stayed devout, waiting for Vladimir’s call.  Many nights he went to sleep crying over the creature, whispering his name like it was the last thing he had of the demon.  He wore the necklace every moment of every day, and he kept the lily by his bedside in the nicest glass he could find.  He worked, he ate, and he slept, his words few and far between, his silence deafening.  

On the second week, he was angry.  He had run what had happened through his mind so many times and while a part of him wished the demon had just listened, he didn’t blame him for over reacting.  No, he first blamed himself for how things went wrong.

Then, he blamed Sam.

Oh, oh he KNEW the girl wasn’t being faithful, that she wasn’t committed to the relationship like he had once been, like he had tried to be.  She ignored him, scorned him, treated him like a stupid boy.

He should have done this weeks ago.

“You’re WHAT ?!”

Danny felt some sick sense of satisfaction as he watched Sam’s face turn red and twisted with humiliation and rage.  “I’m breaking up with you.”

The girl sputtered in fury.  “It, you--!  WHY?!” she demanded, the camera shaking with the volume of her voice.  “It’s that seafood bitch, isn’t it?!  I knew you were boning her!!  I just KNEW it!!”

“I’m not the one who cheated, Sam.”

Danny met her eyes with his own cold ones.  “You hardly ever answered my calls, cut our talks short, always going out or watching movies .  You’re either using Tucker as a cover or worse.  Don’t think I’m STUPID, Sam.”

He grit his teeth, anger rising.  “ I was the one that tried to make this work, I was the one that remained faithful.  And you know what Sam?  You want to know why I brought up my sexuality all that time ago?  I had a hot older man hitting on me.  He treated me like an effing PRINCE and I STILL was faithful, to YOU.”

“Well then you should have bent over and spread your ass earlier!!” Sam yelled, her face ugly with rage.  “We’re DONE!”

She slammed her laptop shut.  The call ended.

“Maybe I should have…”  Danny said softly to the air, staring at the blinking blue icon on his screen.  “I would be far happier than I am now…  You were nothing compared to him…”

He deleted both Sam and Tucker from his contacts, closed the laptop, and buried his head in his hands, crying once more.  “I’m so sorry, Vladimir…”

The third week was worse than the first, and his parents took notice.  He was always sad or angry, hardly ate or talked.  He went out every day, claiming to be working when he in fact had actually gone to Valerie and quit his job.  He begged her not to tell his parents, and she agreed, though she watched him with worried eyes.

She would find him at the beach nearly all hours of the day, dressed in his wetsuit and floating out in the bay, just before the towering cliffs of Raven’s Way.  He would just… float there, watching…

They didn’t really talk anymore, but she noticed how his shoulders relaxed when she would sit beside him on the docs, or join him in the water.  He may not have wished to talk, but her quiet, calm company was appreciated.  She just wished she could do more...

It was by the end of the third week that Jazz felt like something needed to be done.  She felt like her little brother was sick, needed to see a doctor.  She assumed he was working that day, as he always was, when she tagged along with her parents on a trip into town over an hour away.  She hoped to talk her mom into meeting a local psychiatrist she had been talking to in a forum.  She just wanted to help Danny...

However, her brother was staying home, laying in his bed and dozing sadly, doing his best to remember how Vladimir’s hands had felt on his body.  He felt oddly… free…

Now, he could devote his heart fully to the creature.  Somewhere deep inside, he knew he could wait.  

“I will never forget you, Vladimir…” Danny whispered, like a prayer to the air.  

 

~*~

 

“Never…”

Light had not shone in the sphere of the desat’ nohy for many, many days.  Within his sacred cavern, it was no different.  Vladimir floated there in the pool, too tired and too sorrowful to change from his true form.  For the first few days, he had been sure he would die.  Now, with the small thread of light and hope that his lover’s distant voice gave him, the spider demon knew he would live.

That did not mean he was happy about it.  He almost felt robbed…

Vladimir sighed wearily and sunk beneath the surface, closing his eyes.

He didn’t know how much time had passed… but when he opened them again, a small, pink spider sentinel was floating before him.  The bigger demon frowned -- more puzzled than displeased -- at his little creation.

Garnet, as it had been named by Danny, chittered at the big demon softly.  It sounded worried, almost scolding as it looked him over.  After a pause, it sent a weak, telepathic link to Vladimir.

Message.  Message from Queen.

Queen…

Vladimir’s face grew wistful, even despite himself.  He nodded slowly, with a halfhearted smile, curling his legs in towards his belly.  I will listen…

The spider bobbed, pleased.  The glow around its body grew brighter, fluctuating a bit, before a voice Vladimir had not heard in weeks filled his ears.

I’m so sorry…

He could hear the raw emotion in that young voice, hear it break with tears.  Garnet’s glow flashed with Danny’s voice, acting as a sort of speaker.  I wish I had said yes, I wish I had given you everything you ever asked of me from the start.  But I’m human, and I’m afraid.

Vladimir blinked, the word tugging at a heart he did not have.   Little badger...

I’m afraid of starting new, Danny’s voice continued.   Of leaving behind the home and the people that I have known all my life.  And now, I hate myself for that fear.  They never loved me as you did.  They never wanted me as you did.  I was afraid of you and what you meant to me, and now I have made the worst… the w-worst…

The boy was crying again, softly, like he was trying so hard to stop.   I have m-made a terrible mistake… I should have said y-yes.  I w-want to say yes now, but I d-don’t… I don’t think you’ll have me n-now…

But I’ll w-wait.  I’ll wait until my bones are b-brittle and my back is crooked.  Till my hair turns grey and falls from my h-h-head and the beauty you once p-praised me for is long gone… If you decide to… to leave me to d-die… than s-s-so be it… I d-deserve it…

The words turned hushed, a sob escaping a raw, abused throat.   I love you, Vladimir…

The spider fell silent.

Vladimir stared at creature for a long time…

Then, he hummed happily.  His huge body perked up, his claws unsheathing, sharp and alive.  He petted the little spider’s head and surged towards the surface of his sacred pool, the plants regaining their color and pulsing with light.  “My little love~” he murmured.  “My delicious little badger, I forgive you…”

The spider demon stepped out of his pool, huge, clawed hands thumping against the rock.  Little Garnet scurried after him.  “I must prepare.  I must prepare for his return~” Vladimir hummed.

The little spider hopped around, watching its master eagerly as he stood tall and proud, a smile on his face that had not been seen in weeks.  Perhaps their queen would return to them sooner than they thought!

 

~*~

 

Danny sighed and turned over in his bed.

The sky was pale and cloudy outside, but the air was dry.  Thunder rumbled far out at sea.  The storm would remain out in the Atlantic, far off the coast.

Under the cover of the black pines, a figure in a black hoodie hurried up to the edge of the house.  It ducked behind the cliffside wall, bespectacled eyes double-checking to see that the Fentonmobile was indeed gone.  

Then, the hooded figure reached in its pocket, pulled out two small bottles of alcohol, and took aim at the side of the house.

Danny almost rocketed up out of bed when he heard the sound of glass shattering somewhere nearby.  He blinked, confused.

“Vladimir?”  he hopefully asked the empty house.

 

~*~

 

Vladimir straightened up, frowning and cocking his head as he listened.  Why was his badger calling for him?

 

~*~

 

Danny turned, trying to figure out where the sound had come from.  Another shattering sound hit his ears, just under his window.  He frowned, turning to look outside.

He peeked around, then looked down.

The figure in the hoodie was trying to light a match, fingers trembling as he muttered to himself.  Danny frowned.  Was he trying to smoke?  Who was that?  He didn’t see a cigarette…

Finally, the person managed to strike the match to flame.

He tossed it at the house just as Danny called out.

“Oh my god -- HEY!! Get away from there!!”

The figure startled beneath the open window, looking up with wide eyes as Danny leaned out, glaring down at him.  His eyebrows rose in surprise.  “ NATHAN ?? What the hell are you DOING ?!”

Nathan sputtered, gaping like a fish at the sight of the boy.  “Y-You?!  You’re not supposed to be alive anymore!!  How are you still alive, you live here!!

Suddenly, there was a crackle and a roar of flame.

Both boys looked down in horror at the same time, at the orange flames burning up the side of the house.  Danny recoiled, coughing as the old wooden house went up in flame like dry kindling.  Shit, it was burning fast!

He pulled away from the window and ran for his bedroom door, racing down the stairs only to freeze.  The fire was already creeping into the bottom part of the house!  He gasped, slowly inching back up the stairs before running back for his room.  The second story wasn’t so high up, maybe he could jump!  He raced back into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.  He gasped, heart beating a mile a minute--!

“I-I’m sorry…!”

Danny looked out the window, wide-eyed, to see Nathan backing away from the house.  The redhead looked like he was about to be sick.  “I’m sorry, Danny!” he yelled.

“You damn well SHOULD be you ASS!!”  Danny cried, trying to raise his window up higher.  Shit, it would only go so far…!

Fear coursed through Danny then, as he realized he was running out of options.  The fire was climbing up the stairs!  The smoke was already beginning to spill into his room!  

Fretfully, Danny turned to look at the small, innocent looking white door near his wardrobe.  Maybe… maybe he could use it to get out…?  It was magic, right?  Wouldn’t that protect him?

His fingers curled tight around his necklace, unsure of what to do.  Tuck and Samantha had told him to wait, to not enter Vladimir’s domain without permission.  But this was an emergency!  Oh god, what should he do…?

 

~*~

 

Vladimir felt Danny’s panic like it was his own.  The spider demon burst from his cavern, glowing crystals scattering.  Tuck and Samantha -- already disoriented enough by the sudden brightness -- cried out in surprise as their master stampeded past them, shifting into humanoid form as he went.  Little Garnet scurried along behind him, peeping in a panic.

The demon dove into his lake, swimming deep down into the darkness.

Garnet splish-splashed ungracefully after him, legs fluttering in the water.

 

~*~

 

Danny went back to the window, trying once more to try and get it higher.  The fire was almost to his door, he was running out of time!  He might be able to just squeeze through!

“A-ah, oh god, don’t do that!”  Nathan cried, panic over taking him.  “You’ll break your neck!”

“Better than being BURNED ALIVE!!”  Danny snapped back, anger overriding his fear at the moment.  “Oh my god, Nathan, go get help!”

“B-but…”  

The older teen hesitated, too afraid to move.  He knew if he got help he would get in so much trouble, maybe even arrested!

“I-I’m sorry, I can’t!!”

Nathan turned and ran.

“NATHAN, GET BACK HERE!!” Danny yelled, terror and fury overcoming him.  Smoke seeped into his bedroom.  “NATHAN!!”

 

~*~

 

The desat’ nohy with silver hair and raging ruby eyes surged to the top of the water, and -- in broad daylight -- pulled the entire bay up the side of the cliff.  From Danny’s tiny window, it was like seeing the very earth rebel against nature, as the wave the size of a tsunami climbed up the cliff to tower over his house.  He gasped, stepping back just a bit in fear, uncertain of what was happening.

Nathan was frozen as well, but from his spot on the ground he saw what Danny didn’t.  Wrathful, fiery red eyes…

The tsunami crashed across the cliff.

Water blasted the dry grass into brown muck, surging ten feet high as it moved towards the house.  Danny gasped and moved away from the window--!

The bay water struck him like an icy slap, stealing the breath from his lungs and hurling him to the back wall.  He smacked against the plaster, submerged in the cold wave, and gasped instinctively -- only to realize after a handful of seconds that…

He could breathe…

Hope, brighter than the flames that had tried to consume his house, surged to life within him, nearly taking his breath away once more.   Vladimir~!

The water soon receded, the fire doused and the house black and wet.  He wiped the seawater from his eyes as he stumbled forward, catching himself at the window as he tried to see the demon, tried to see the creature he had all but given his heart to.  

The waves were still high as they slowly peeled back from the cliff, almost like it was in slow motion, eerie and unnatural.

As they went… they left a corpse behind.  

Nathan was laid neatly on the grass, as if placed there on purpose by the cold, punishing waters.  His skin looked discolored, blackened from afar, with only bits and pieces of his eyes and tongue still remaining.  Blood -- diluted by the water -- ran pinkish into the mud.

Vladimir… the demon had come up to protect him.  He was even showing off his kill to Danny, demonstrating that the threat was gone, was dead by his own hands!

The boy knew that on some level he really shouldn’t be flattered by this.  He should be freaking out, scared or disgusted.  He was none of these things.

He was smitten.

“Oh, Vladimir…” he breathed, cheeks pinking up as the waves came up once more to take away the body.  The demon cared, the demon had not forgotten him!  He would come for him again!

An excited chitter sounded from beside his foot.  The boy glanced down, then gasped in delight.

“Garnet~!”

Danny scooped the spider up, the creature nearly twice the size of a tarantula, and yet he treated it like it was a kitten.  He nuzzled it, smiling brightly.  “Did he get my message?  Is he going to come back for me?!”

The spider clicked its pincers excitedly and tapped at Danny’s nose, giving him happy kisses.  He laughed, taking that as a good sign.  “Oh thank goodness…!”

He held Garnet close as he looked out at the now peaceful bay, the only signs that anything was amiss was the burned and soggy parts of the house.  He smiled, looking more alive than he had in days.

“I’ll wait for you, Vladimir…”  he breathed, knowing the demon could hear him.  “I’ll be waiting for you… Thank you!”

 

~*~

 

Far below, the desat’ nohy smiled, his fangs bared and sharp.  A soul in his belly, a bride to snatch…

Tonight would be a good night.

 

~*~*~

 

Jazz bounced her feet anxiously in the back seat of the Fentonmobile.  Her parents were tight-lipped for once, their minds wrapped up with thoughts of their son; Jazz had managed to get them to meet with the psychologist.  What the woman had told them when they shared Danny’s symptoms was not happy.  According to her, Jazz’s worst fears were confirmed.

Her brother was suffering from depression.  If something wasn’t done soon, Danny would be in danger!  They had to… to do something!  Brainstorming with her parents was worthless, too.  All they wanted to do was talk about how mental depression was a precursor to demon possession…

“How you guys doing up there?” Jazz asked.  She knew better than to leave her insane parents alone with those kinds of thoughts.

Maddie smiled distractedly at her daughter as they turned onto Raven Way, starting up the cliff towards the house.  “Fine, Jazz.  Just--”

Suddenly, Jack grabbed at the dash, eyes wide.  “Holy--!”

“What?!  What?” Maddie demanded, looking ahead.  Her pupils contracted.  “Oh my--”

Jazz rolled down the window, staring as their van pulled into the driveway.  The old structure smoldered black on the porch, burn marks extending up the side of it like a scar on the old wood.  The yard was barely more than a quagmire of mud, and people from town were clustered about, muttering to each other quietly as they looked at the damage.  The tension was so high one could almost reach out and pluck it like a harp string.  

And Danny was nowhere to be seen.

“Danny?!”

Jazz opened the van door before it stopped moving, stumbling into the house.  Water and fire damage was rampant in the living room, less in the kitchen.

Maddie and Jack tumbled in after her, soggy boards bending under their weight.  

“What happened here…?” her mother whispered, venturing warily up the stairs.  “Danny?!”

Jazz followed close behind.  “DANNY!”

Maddie threw open her son’s bedroom door, the wood heavily damaged by fire and smoke on the outside.  Inside, they found Danny’s room looking like it had suffered from a catastrophic flood, everything soaked and ruined.  From over her mother's shoulder, Jazz could see his laptop on the floor, sparking and obviously unrepairable, along with many of his things.

But most unnerving of all, was her brother himself.

“Hmm hmmm hmm~”  a happy, breathless tune spilled form Danny’s lips and hit their ears, sounding almost eerie and childlike.  He sat in the middle of his soaked bed, his own body still dripping with what smelled like sea water.  In his hands was a pretty spider lily, his fingers gently brushing over the petals as he hummed.  He looked oblivious, love sick even…

“D-Danny…?”  Jazz asked cautiously, following her parents into the room.  The boy looked up, startled by their sudden appearance.  Then he beamed at them, smiling brighter than they had ever seen.  

“Oh, hey there, I didn’t hear you come in~”

Maddie stared at her son warily, staying near the doorway.  Jazz grimaced at the soaking bed, but she knelt on it, looking at him in concern.  “A-Are you okay?” she asked quietly.

She looked around.  “What happened while we were gone?  Is that charring on the walls outside…?”

“Hmm?  Oh yeah, I forgot about that…”

Danny shrugged, seeming unperturbed by all the damage and wreckage around him.  “Nathan tried to burn the house down.  But it’s okay now, the waters of the bay saved me and the house.  He won’t bother us again~”

“I’m sorry, WHAT?” Jazz asked, brows shooting up.  “Who’s Nathan?”

Maddie took a step closer, eyes narrowed.  “ The waters of the bay saved you?  What does that mean?”

Danny turned his serene smile to Jazz, completely ignoring his mother's question.  “Nathan was some guy that used to hang out around the seafood place.  He didn’t like me much.”

“Young man, listen to me!”

The boy looked up at his mother, still smiling and humming to himself softly.  “Yes?”

Maddie stepped away from her son, gripping her husband’s arm.  Jack stared at Danny in disbelief.  

“Jasmine Fenton, get away from him.”

Jazz looked up at her mother like she had grown a second head.  “Wh-what?  What are you two on about?!  Can’t you see that Danny is in shock?!  He needs medical attention!”

Danny laughed at that, his attention back on the lily in his hand.  “I’m just fine, I don’t need to see a doctor, silly~”

“Yes you do, Danny!  Your lungs might be damaged from the smoke and you are clearly not mentally sound right now!  You need to go to a hospital!”

The boy slowly looked up at her, his smile finally fading to a near blank expression.  “I’m not leaving this house.”

“Danny--!

“I’m not leaving THIS HOUSE!!”

“THAT’S FINE!” Maddie yelled.

Jazz stared at her mother, eyes wide.  “Mom, are you kidding?!  He’s gotta--!”

Jack darted forward, grabbing her arm and dragging her off the bed.  “Hey!” she yelped, pulling at his hand.  “Let go of me!!”

“That’s fine…” Maddie continued, her voice deep and soothing, as if she was speaking to an upset animal and not her son.  “You don’t have to leave the house, okay?  Just relax…”

Danny narrowed his eyes at her, sensing something was amiss.  He might have been distracted with thoughts of Vladimir, the demon’s magic already beginning a slow change to his mindset, but he knew his mother.

And she was not as cunning as her son.

“I am relaxed,”  he said calmly, staring her straight in the eye.

Jazz stopped struggling, looking in a panic up at her parents.  Jack’s face was stony, distancing himself from the situation.  Maddie’s face, however, was determined, entirely present in the moment.

“Good,” the woman murmured.  

Her husband moved out of the room, pulling a stunned Jazz with him.  Maddie moved after him, taking gentle hold of the bedroom door as she lingered in the doorway.  “We’re going to go call someone about the damages and see if the insurance can’t cover it,” she told him quietly.  “We might go stay at a hotel tonight.  If you really want to stay, I’ll call you when we’re all packed up, so you can say goodbye.  Okay?”

Danny watched her every move, smelling the lie as if it were a physical thing in the air.  “Yeah, okay…”

The door shut with a soft click.  There was some movement outside the door, along with a soft thump.  He stood up from the bed, Garnet chittering in his ear from its hiding spot on the back of his shoulder, clinging to his wet t-shirt.

He leaned against the door, trying to listen.  

 

~*~

 

“Mom, what if he’s telling the truth?!  Just LISTEN!!”

Jack swept everything off the table.  Maddie handed him some charcoal, gathering salt and a few vials of holy water while he scratched a circle of runes onto the wood.  “Jazzy-pants, you know if he was telling the truth, he wouldn’t be acting like that!” she told her daughter.

She went to get her exorcism kit.

 

~*~

 

All he heard was a faint murmuring and Jazz’s raised voice.  They must have moved to the kitchen.  Danny tried the doorknob, thinking he could sneak down and find out what his mother had planned.

But the door wouldn’t budge.  They had jammed a piece of heavy furniture against the other side, trapping him in.  Anger quickly filled him and he started banging on the door.  “Hey!  HEY!  OPEN THE DOOR!!”

No response.

 

~*~

 

“You CAN’T do this to Danny, he’s your SON!!  MOM!!” Jazz yelled, following Maddie into her office.

The woman checked that her silver nails, hammer, and small bible were in place, then closed the kit and took it with her back to the kitchen.  “It’s because he’s my son that we have to do this,” she deadpanned.  Jack didn’t respond, continuing with his task.

“Mom!  Dad!  Y-You… you CAN’T!” Jazz begged, grabbing onto her dad’s arm.  “You think I don’t understand what an exorcism entails but even if that person IS possessed it’s gonna HURT HIM and-- OW!  DAD!!  DADDY, NO!!”

Jack had grabbed her arm, pulling her across the floor, pushing her into the office, and barricading the door.

“DAD!!  DAD!!”

Jazz slammed her fists against the door, screaming in panic.  “HE’S NOT POSSESSED!!   HE’S NOT POSSESSED!!

 

~*~

 

Danny pulled back, snarling softly in anger and not a small amount of fear.  His mother had caught on to something, and his parents may have been oddballs, but they were honestly very skilled when it came to demon lore and tactics against them.  It wasn’t safe to wait in here.

“Hey, does that door still lead to the basement?”  he quietly asked Garnet, pointing to the tiny little door by his wardrobe.  “It might be safer to wait down there for Vladimir.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to stick around here…”

Garnet bobbed in agreement, making positive cheeping sounds.  The spider jumped off his shoulder and scurried to the door, tapping on it with a front leg.  He smiled, bending down and opening the door, sighing in relief to find it unlocked.  The two quickly moved through the tunnel, now constructed of soft, silky spider web rather than the illusion of velvet he had been presented with the first time.  The door shut behind them, and soon they were standing up in the dark basement.

He smiled, turning to sit on the soft, flooded floor near the trap door.  Garnet scurried up his arm and back onto his shoulder, chittering in his ear excitedly.

“Soon…”  he breathed, smiling softly.  “He’ll come for me soon…”

Neither the spider nor the boy noticed when one lone camera, freshly installed near the basement door, clicked on…

 

~*~

 

“Are you done?” Maddie murmured, her face pale and drawn at the prospect of the task to come.

“Almost…” Jack replied.

Suddenly, a small red button light blinked on his waist.  Both the Fentons stared at it for a long second, then raced to the computer; he rattled the keys, but the device sparked, unresponsive.  “That was a proximity alarm for the basement,” Maddie hissed, opening up the main body of the computer.  “We have to see what’s down there!”

“There’s a reason it decided to show its face now,” Jack muttered.

“It?  What?”

“The desat’ nohy .  It’s Slavic, means ‘ten legs.’”

The demonologist hurried back to the table, unrolling his wife’s exorcism kit.  “You know the ten-legged spider motif on the lock downstairs?  And on the ‘souvenir’ amulet Danny got on the third night we spent in this house?  I thought it was just lore, but no one would talk about it, not even to brag about a so-called local legend.  After a bit of research, I found out what we’re dealing with.”

“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?!” Maddie demanded, abandoning the computer.

“A desat’ nohy can only die one of three ways.  Starvation, heartbreak...”

Jack raised a slim, deadly silver nail -- as long as his forearm -- from the kit.  “Or silver through its host,” he murmured.  He grabbed a hammer and went for the basement.  “Let’s go.  Bring the book.”

“But what about the circle?!  JACK!  THAT’S DANNY!”

A feverish light burned in Jack’s eyes.  “Not anymore…”

 

~*~

 

Danny stared intently down at the trap door, knowing as soon as night fell his love would come back for him.  His fingers constantly played with the fang necklace resting against his collar bones, and he spoke or hummed to Garnet in low tones.  He heard commotion upstairs, followed by Jazz screaming and yelling, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care.  

Vladimir was coming for him…

Garnet chittered in his ear, making him smile.  “I know, I’m excited too~”

He looked down at the spider on his shoulder, looking almost nervous.  “Did he think of me often?  Did he understand my message?”

The spider squeaked, the words not quite understandable, but Danny was able to interpret most of the tones.  “He was sick?  Oh… oh, I never meant to upset him so much!  But he’s better now right?  He understands?”

The way Garnet hopped around made him giggle.  He leaned back against the cold, basement wall, sighing in contentment.  “We’ll be home soon, Garnet… you’ll see.”

He closed his eyes a moment, thinking maybe he had a chance to rest, when he heard the sound of a lock rattling and turning.  He turned to the trap door in excitement, only to frown as it stayed motionless.  It only took a moment for him to realise it was the basement door he was hearing.  Fear spiked through him, making him scuttle back into the shadows.  “Shit, they found us!  Hide, Garnet!”

The spider refused to leave, instead hiding under Danny’s hair behind his shoulder as Jack and Maddie finally threw the door open and descended the stairs.

“Danny!”

His mother was faster, hurrying down the stairs and rushing towards him.  She stopped a few feet away from him, her eyes suddenly bright and scared.  “Danny, baby boy, please tell us a good humanly possible explanation on how you got down here…!”

Danny opened his mouth, confused, then suddenly he spotted the long silver nail in his father’s hand.

His throat closed up in terror.  He looked up into Jack’s eyes.

They were stone cold, intent on his face.

“I’m not possessed!”  he said quickly, standing up and backing away from his father.  He knew what the tools in his hand meant, he knew what they thought.  “I’m fine, I’m still me!”

He turned and pointed to the far wall where a small white door sat innocently in the shadows.  “I came in from there, it leads up to my room.  I… I’ve been using it almost every day.  Look, I’m not possessed-- !”

He turned to his mother, hoping to get her support… but her eyes were no longer focused on his face.

They were focused on his necklace.

Maddie swallowed, her fingers shaking…

She sobbed quietly and turned away, covering her eyes as her husband passed her, moving straight for their child.  She couldn’t watch this…!

“M-mom?  Mom, where are you going?!”

Danny’s eyes flickered fearfully to Jack as the big man approached, the long nail held tight in his fist.  “Dad, stop!  I’m not possessed!  I’M NOT!  DAD, STOP!!”

The boy cried out in terror as he was backed into a corner, nowhere to run.  His father had always been a big, strong man, and while that had made him feel safe as a child, it now made him scared for his life.  They were really going to do this, they were really going to go through with this, thinking he wasn’t himself any more!

People who are truly possessed might have a likelihood of surviving an exorcism, but they might be traumatised, maybe even crippled or paralyzed for life.  But Danny, who wasn’t possessed at all?  This could actually KILL him!

“Dad, p-please!!  Please STOP!!”

They weren’t listening to him.  A big hand gripped his wrist when he tried to run, pinning him against the wall.  Garnet managed to hop away in the scuffle, unseen as it went for the trap door, tapping at it desperately.  The boy cried out as the nail was raised.

VLADIMIIIIIR!!

 

~*~

 

Down below, in the dark and beautiful manor, Vladimir’s servants were hastily cleaning and primping everything in sight, preparing for the arrival of the demon’s chosen queen.  Emma couldn’t stop smiling, darting around this way and that way as she dusted and cleaned, making sure everything was spic and span!

She giggled as she passed her master, the man strutting around the place like a peacock and ordering everyone about.  He himself had taken charge of the master bedroom~

Emma sighed silently at the romance of it all, picking up an exquisite, antique vase in order to clean it.

In the next second, the vase fell from her hands and shattered all over the floor, as her head tilted back, eyes marble black, and mouth peeled open and unhinged.  And -- instinctively --she SCREAMED .

Heads turned.  Bloods of all colors went cold.

Vladimir stiffened, pupils contracting.  His awareness of his bride -- faded in the anticipation of his honeymoon -- blazed back to the front of his consciousness.

 

~*~

 

The boy managed to pull free from Jack’s grip, trying to run towards the trap door, only to be tripped.  He fell to the moldy ground, breath leaving his lungs at the impact and too stunned to stop his father from rolling him on his back and pinning him down.  Danny sobbed in terror, struggling harder.

“STOP IT!! GET AWAY FROM ME, STOP!!  VLADIMIR!  VLADIMIIIR!!”

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Both Maddie and Jack were hurled to the ground as a demonic screech ripped through the air.  Danny was the only one unaffected as the trapdoor burst open, and water began to rise, reaching the ceiling in an instant.  The lights popped.  Darkness overcame all their senses.

The young man fumbled blindly in the water…

Then, a huge, warm hand wrapped completely around his waist.  Four blood red eyes flicked open, the muffled rumble of the desat’ nohy filling the underwater basement.

Vladimir …  Danny called like a prayer, reaching out for the demon as tears spilled from his eyes and into the water.  He was safe, his love was here, nothing could happen to him now!

Those huge, clawed hands pulled him gently through the dark, cool water.  He felt an enormous, inhuman mouth -- framed by pincers, a long, hot tongue slipping along his lips -- as he was kissed.  The boy sighed, allowing the last of his air to escape as Vladimir pulled him down… down… down…

A soft, red-purple glow illuminated his closed lids.  Danny opened them to find himself beneath the surface of Vladimir’s sacred pool.

His clothes tore away at the slightest pull of the demon’s claws.  Eight long, terrible, powerful arms were fully visible now, sprouting from Vladimir’s broad back, but other than that, his lover had transformed into the image of a strong older man once again.  Vladimir crooned -- cupping Danny’s naked hips with his big, callused hands -- and kissed him deeply, his own clothes melting away into nothing under the sacred water.  

Danny moaned softly as the demon’s ivory skin pressed fast against his nude body.  Warm and hard and soft and terrible and irresistible all at the same time.

Vladimir …  he called out again, eyes half lidded and dark with desire.  He reached out for the demon, fingers tangling in long silver hair as those many, big hands stroked and petted his supple skin.  He gasped, a shiver of arousal running up his spine when one hand cupped his ass, kneading the soft flesh.

Danny met Vladimir’s eyes, plump lips parted in need.   Kiss me… please…!

You are mine now…

Vladimir stroked his fingers up the young man’s side, his mouth lingering just inches from Danny’s.   You will stay this time… and be mine…

Yes… Danny swore, a desperate whine escaping his throat and drifting to the surface in a stream of bubbles.   I'm yours...   I swear I'm yours, forever…

The demon’s pincers slid out, shuddering in pleasure.   Forever…

Vladimir closed the distance between them, kissing Danny softly.  Bubbles erupted from their point of contact -- muffling the moan that the young man couldn’t help but release as he wrapped his arms and legs around the spider demon, clinging to him like he would never let go.  The light in the sacred pool pulsed with Vladimir’s heartbeat, and Danny felt his world shrink down to the places where their skin touched.  His pupils swelled, his breath coming faster, his body reacting…

The clawed hand of the demon pressed against his lower back, sending a hot, aching pulse through it.  Danny cried out, bubbles erupting towards the surface as he felt his little, puckered hole heat up, and loosen.

Another pulse of dark magic rippled through his body.  Blood surged southward.  The tug in his lower belly intensified.  His flesh cried out in lust for more .

Small hands clawed at Vladimir as the boy went rabid with lust.  Pornagraphic cries and moans filtered through their bond as Danny felt his body react in ways he had never felt before.  His asshole felt like it wasn’t even his own anymore, stretched loose and swollen, practically mouthing at the water around him.

His young cock was hard and bobbing in the water, red in arousal and so hot and hard that the boy thought it would never go down.  It hurt so much!  He just didn’t know what to do with himself other than spread his legs wider and beg!

P-please, please!  he cried, kiss red lips parting on a whine, sending more bubbles to the surface.  He felt his insides grow warm, melting and opening up in a way that Danny had only heard about in porn or in the erotic fiction he used to sneak from Jazz’s room.  It was unreal, it was sexual desire at its most fantastical, most amazing, most mind blowing!  But it wasn’t enough.

He needed more…!

V-Vladimir… Vladimir, p-please…!

Little love… Vladimir hummed.

The spider demon smoothed his hands down Danny’s stomach, his hips, his thighs, purring with satisfaction at the sensation of smooth, living flesh beneath his claws.  He nipped at the boy’s throat; a large, ridged cock unsheathed underneath him, curving upward and prodding at the soft ass spreading under his magic.

Anyone else would be turned off, or even afraid of the massive, strange looking penis that was eagerly trying to enter their body.  But Danny just whined like the wanton thing he was -- or what Vladimir’s magic was turning him into -- and spread his legs wider.  The cock slid into him, its blunt head pushing the rings of muscle open, its burning tip buried deep and snug inside him…

A-A-AAaaahhHH~!!

A rush of bubbles floated up the surface as Danny cried out, head thrown back and mouth open wide.  The beast’s cock was so big, stretching him wider and filling him deeper than any human man could even hope to accomplish.  Rows of armored ridges and dull spines rubbed along his soft inner walls, making him squeal and cling to the demon all the tighter.

V-Vladimir~!!

Huge, clawed hands wrapped around his thighs, opening them as far as they could safely go, as Vladimir began to thrust.  The plants pulsed crimson, falling from their celestial blue.  Danny’s cries were muted by the water, but the heat that consumed his body was all too real.  He gasped and moaned.  They were silence to his own ears, and music to Vladimir’s.  The demon gripped Danny tight and rolled his hips eagerly into that tight, suckling little hole.

The boy felt like he was losing his mind, heat and lust and inhuman pleasure consuming his every thought.  Just when he thought it couldn’t get any more intense, Vladimir spread his legs at a new angle, and thrust in with a knowing gleam in his eyes and smirk on his lips.

That long, textured cock suddenly slid right against his prostate, rubbing against it with every thrust into his hot, limp body.  Another scream escaped him, eyes impossibly wide in the glowing, sacred waters.

V-VLADIMIR!!  O-oh, oh g-god!!  Ah ah ah AAH~!!

The water was heating up.  Burning.  All-consuming.  In the best of the best of ways…

Suddenly, the hands moved him around, turning Danny so that he was belly-down.  Vladimir purred and wrapped his arms around the boy’s waist, sheathing fully inside his ass and drumming his cock into Danny.  

It was like being held against a hard surface with all those hands holding Danny still.  The only motion his body made was the jerk of his own head as he cried out, and the rippling jiggle of his own ass.  His mind was filled with images of doing this on a massive bed, or a soft nest made of spider’s silk, high up above the cavern waters.  More images showed them on the beaches, in the gardens, and in even more creative or public places.

Spider demons were very sexual creatures, and Vladimir was making it very clear that now that he had a mate, he would be using Danny anywhere, and in anyway that he wanted.  

The boy was more than happy to submit to a lifetime of sex and pleasure and love…

A-Ah… AH!  AH!  AH~!

 

~*~*~*~

 

- TWENTY YEARS LATER -

 

The grey waters slopped outside the broken-down pier, unchanged in the decades since the house on Raven Way had been torn down; condemned for its cracked foundation and water damage.  The concrete path down to the water was cracked and overgrown with grass, vines, flowers.  Where the house once stood, a colony of black spiders had moved in, spinning their webs into a forest of silk between the young pines.  In the old Grey’s Seafood shack, Valerie Grey took orders, while her white-haired father coated fish filets in flour and put them in the fryer with arthritic hands.  No one spoke of the monster that was their neighbor.  In twenty years, not much had changed.

However, there only differences were in the sacrifices to the Jorōgumo.  They were left on the beach to be found and buried.

They were only consumed, not touched.  And there were twice as many of them.

Jack and Madeline Fenton were arrested for the accusation of murdering their own son, Jazz even testifying after hearing her baby brother scream from the basement.  She was so sure they had somehow dumped his body out into the water, washing him away never to be found again.

The townspeople knew better, especially when Jack and Maddie carried on about a monster, a demon, dragging their son to hell…

Val could only hope that poor boy finally found peace, and that his death was swift.

It was late in the evening when her boat finally came back to the harbor.  She had gotten a good haul that day, and now she stood on the coast under that massive cliff, watching the sunset.

“Hello, Valerie.”

“I told you, Robby, no free fish.  Get your own,” Valerie muttered.

She turned around… and froze.

Daniel Fenton stood before her, ankle deep in the bay water and wearing a calm, content smile on his lips.  He looked just as he did nearly twenty years ago, except he looked a little paler, maybe a little more filled out, plumper?  There was almost a glow to him, like the happiness she could see in his smile was actually spilling out from his own skin like a small flame.  And his eyes…

Had they always been that blue…?

He stepped out of the water, his feet bare, yet his hair and clothes looked dry.  The clothes he wore were loose, looking almost like some kind of silk and foreign made.  His hair was longer, his smile was brighter, his posture relaxed.

He looked good for a dead boy.

“Danny…?”

Valerie’s blood ran cold in her veins.  She closed her net.  “Danny FENTON?  Y-You… you’re…”

“A Jorōgumo, yes.  Or a desat’ nohy, as my dear mate likes to call us.”

Danny giggled, the sound beautiful and haunting all at once, his teeth too white and too pointed.  “But honestly, I’m American, so I just call myself a spider demon~”

Valerie swallowed, wondering if backing away was even worth the effort.  “Okay… I believe you…”

The boy smiled despite her obvious fear.  “Don’t worry Val, I’m not here to hurt you.  Or even scare you, not at all.  I’m just here to thank you.”

“Thank me?”

“You were one of my only true friends back then, you know?” he said, voice wistful.  “I told you things I never told even my own family.  Not my parents, not my sister… You were actually there for me more than you might realise.  I wanted to thank you, and to let you know that that boy you knew so long ago, is still alive, and he is very happy~”

He turned, looking out over the waters with a soft, fond look.  “I’ve made my lover swear to me that you and your family, all of your future generations, would never come to harm.  You have nothing to fear from us.  It’s very possible we will be moving soon too, someplace more private, bigger… less people knowing about us…”

His small hand laid over his lower belly.  “We have the future to think about, of course~”

Valerie blinked, startled by this ghost of the past coming to reassure her… but after a moment, she just sighed, looking out onto the horizon with him.  “Future, huh…” she murmured.  “We’ve been stuck out here for twenty years, barely scraping by with our shop.  Unless you have a diamond the size of my head, my future doesn’t really need to be thought about--”

Suddenly, something huge and sparkling caught her eye.  Valerie frowned, then yelped in terror, her heart jumping in her chest.

Vladimir stood beside Danny, a huge jewel in one hand and his other around his bride.  In the blazing fire of the sunset, the crimson light in those eyes was inescapable.

“Take it~” Danny hummed, nuzzling close.  “We have more riches than we know how to deal with~”

Valerie stared down at the precious stone, then back up at Vladimir, the fabled Jorōgumo.

“I’m not going to get cursed or nothin’, takin’ his treasure.  Am I?”

“He knows better than to get me that upset, and I would be very upset if he cursed you~”  Danny chuckled, sighing happily in the large man’s arms.  “Besides, he has you to thank for me finally having that talk with Sam that led me into his arms~!”

He looked up at Vladimir, smiling in an almost lovesick fashion as he nuzzled under his strong jaw.  “He takes such good care of me.  I’m happier than I have ever been, and now I want to give you some of that happiness in return.”

He looked back at Val, beaming.  “Take it, get you and your family off this island, go see the world, start a family.  But make sure you and your loved ones never return to this island.”

Danny’s eyes began to glow, an unearthly blue that made her think of hellfire.  “Vladimir and I may be leaving for a few years, but we will return.  Maybe not for ten, twenty, or even a hundred years, but we will return.  This is our home, our grounds.”

Valerie swallowed and nodded.  She cautiously glanced up at Vladimir… and extended her hands.  The creature placed it into her palms, making sure none of her skin touched his, and then wrapped his arms fully around Danny.  “Come now, love…” he purred.

He placed a soft kiss on his bride’s throat.  “It’s time~”

“Hehe, of course~!”

Danny turned back to Valerie, smiling at her brightly.  “For what it’s worth, I think I will always consider you to be a dear friend, and I truly hope for your happiness.  Maybe we will meet again~!”

He gave her a small bow, before snuggling back into his lover's arms.  “Goodbye, Valerie~”

“...Goodbye…”

They stepped into the water… and then they were gone, leaving the woman alone with a diamond and her fishing boat.

 

~*~*~

 

“Mmmm…”

Danny hummed, sighing in the anticipation of ecstasy as Vlad kissed him.  The water carried them up to their house, laden with silver silk and glittering rubies and dark, dark marble.  Carnivorous plants twined about the rocks, their roots sinking into the black water, their colorful, glowing blossoms radiating in the dimness.  Any human would have seen very little.  But to monstrous eyes, it was bright as day.

Inside their manor, it was darker.  Lit by a single candle in every room, the flickering flames illuminating the spider demons as the bigger one bore down on the other.  Danny’s back hit the plush covers of their bed; he cooed and turned over, getting on his belly.

“Someone is eager~”  he purred to his mate, his silken garments dissolving off his body like water.  His pale skin glowed against their blood red sheets, blue eyes bright with love and lust as he gazed back at his mate over his shoulder in a coy, almost demure fashion.  He spread his legs, pressing his belly and chest the bed.  He arched his back just a touch, raising that round, plush ass up towards Vladimir.

“Mmm… I’ve missed you~”

“Hungry thing,”  the elder demon cooed, eyes roving over that soft skin.  “I was just inside you this morning~”

“Oooh, but that was so long ago~!”  Danny protested, slowly shaking his ass.  Another set of arms unfolded from his body, clinging to the sheets as he put himself on display, licking his lips.  He was still young for a demon, with only one extra set of arms so far.  He was technically just of age.

Which meant as of the next moon cycle, the 20 year anniversary of their mating, he would be ripe.

“Pleeeeaaase…”  he whined, soft lips parting to reveal kitten fangs that could easily grow long and sharp.  “I need you~!”

Vladimir cooed and stroked his many fingers down his mate’s skin with the fluid ease of practice, spreading Danny’s cheeks.  His warm, pink hole winked at him, the addicting smell of his sex rolling through the room.

The elder demon stroked up his ridged cock, pushing his fingers into Danny teasingly.  The younger semon whined, arching to pressed his ass back against those long digits.

“Mooooore!”  he whined, eyes glowing with want.  More and more of his own natural pheromones seeped from his skin, soaking the room with the scent of his sex and arousal.  “Give me mooooore~!”

“It’s been twenty years… yet you’re still so impatient~”

Vladimir placed a soft, open-mouthed kiss on the young demon’s shoulder blade.  “It’s a virtue, you know~” he hummed.

Danny laughed, teeth glittering.  “Ooohh, I think you effed all my virtues out of me years and years ago~”

“You still had the decency to plead for the girl’s descendants… and to warn her.”

The big demon’s hands stroked back up Danny’s torso, warm and sure of himself.  Anticipating the pleasure to come, the slender desat’ nohy raised all of his limbs, eager to bare his skin.  Panting hotly, the boy squirmed as Vladimir played with his nipples, pinching and stroking.  “You still have a little bit of human in you…” the demon whispered in his ear, but he sounded far from displeased.  “Something that we will never be able to EFF out of you--”

The blunt, swollen tip of Vladimir’s cock pushed into Danny, spreading that hot, aching flesh wide around his girth.  The smaller demon whined, long and guttural.

“Oh~!!  Oh Vladimir, ahhnnn~!!”

He could only lay there and keen as his lover oh so slowly sunk his massive cock inside of him, ridges and soft spines catching on sweet spots he had not had as a human.  The pleasure made him melt, made him cry out in abandon for more and more…!

“Y-you’ll just have t-to… t-try h-h-harder--OOHH~!!”  Danny gasped, four hands gripping the sheets as Vladimir’s pelvis met his round ass.  “Harder and h-harder and… and oh o-ohhh, ahhnn~!  V-Vladimir~!!”

“I don’t want to…” the desat’ nohy whispered coyly.

His teeth sunk into Danny’s shoulder, sucking hard and drawing a stream of ink-black blood into his mouth.  It felt like he had taken a mouthful of pop rocks.  “Mmmmm…” he murmured.

He swallowed and slathered his long, long tongue over the wound; it closed up as he mounted the young man, pinning him between the bed and his cock.  “Your humanity was an obstacle before… but now~?” Vladimir hummed.  “What small, wet, crimson, happy scraps of it are left, they bring me joy …  Reminds me of the conquest I embarked on, twenty years ago...”

Danny whined, his wet insides clenching around that big fat cock as it began to thrust deep inside him.  “Y-you just like th-that after twenty years you c-can still make me b-b-blush sometimes--AHNN~!!”

A sharp thrust had him throwing his head back, solid blue eyes lidded with lust.  “O-oh, oh ooooh…!”

“To think, I just need to stick my tongue up your ass to make you squeal and blush like a schoolgirl~”  Vladimir purred, chuckling.  

The younger demon whined, squirming.  “T-tease!!”

Vladimir grinned, grabbed onto Danny’s wrists, and held him down.

“Mmm… OH!  AH!  AAAHNNN~!!”

The small desat’ nohy ’s cries came louder, and louder, euphoria rippling through from his alpha’s body to his own, his warm ass squeezing down on that punishing girth as Vladimir rolled his hips, fast and hard.  The slap of flesh on flesh was constant and loud.  The plush skin of his cheeks was smacked to a bright crimson, rippling upward with the force of his thrusts.  His soaking insides clenched and unclenched, suckling at that thick, incredible cock… then, Vladimir was moving faster.  Pressure built in the pit of his stomach, writhing and frothing like water against a dam.  “Ahh-- AH!  V-Vlad--!  AHNNN~!”

“Mine…” Vladimir whispered, his voice breathless and erratic as his orgasm approached.  “My beautiful little spider--!”

“V-V-VLADIMIIIIIR~!!”

Danny howled as he came, the sound duel toned and echoing as his thick, milky seed stained the bed below him.  He made a mess of his front, but he hardly cared.  His eyes were still lidded and drunk with lust and pleasure as he slumped to his front, body soft and malleable for Vladimir to continue to eff.  A bright, marble blue eye rolled up towards the towering demon, plump lips parting on a pleasurable purr.

“Yours…”  he cooed, body rocking with every thrust like a doll, insides wet and hot as he clenched and milked at his mate’s large shaft.  “All yours… forever and ever…”

Danny grinned, knowing what really got his mate all hot and bothered, knowing just what to say and how to act.  His long, dark lashes lowered demurely and he mewled, spreading his legs wider.  

You won …”  he purred, cheeks pink with affection and pleasure.  “You won me, fair and square.  I am your prize , yours to own and to ravish and to love, for all eternity~”

Vladimir grabbed him up, his eight hands wrapping around him in a cocoon of flesh, bouncing him hurriedly up and down.  Danny hummed and purred, stroking his mate’s face… then that fat cock struck a sensitive spot; his head snapped back, eyes wide and mouth open and gasping.  His mate panted, pulling and pushing and bouncing and relishing in the smell of sex and the sound of his lover…!

Finally, he yanked Danny down -- forcing his ass flush with his cock -- and let out a shuddering growl.  The young desat’ nohy gasped again, lashes fluttering as warm, thick semen filled him up.

He mewled, body shuddering as he slowly came down from his own internal orgasm.  He cupped his belly with two hands, stroking over the distended flesh filled with his lover.  His other two hands moved to stroke Vladimir’s face, his lips seeking those panting ones.

Fangs clacked against each other a moment, before soft lips moved in for a slow, sweet kiss, filled with tongue and heat…

“I love you…”  Danny whispered, voice soft and sincere.  “I will never leave you.  With you am I wanted.  With you I am cherished.  With you, I have a future, a future of forever, whole and happy…  I am yours…”

“And I am yours, little love…” Vladimir panted.  “Now…”

Wicked crimson glinted in his eyes, fangs bared in a predatory grin.  “Let’s break in that pretty behind for our 20th moon cycle~” he purred.  He grabbed Danny and rolled them over -- laughing -- off the bed and onto the floor.

 

~*~*~

 

In the years to come, that sleepy town on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia would slowly become barren.  With the shutdown of Grey’s Seafood, one by one, families left for more populated areas.  Less dangerous areas.  A hundred years after the disappearance of Daniel Fenton, the tales of Canadian spider demons were little more than that -- a fairy tale -- and if anyone had moved in, they might have believed it.  The spider silks had vanished.  The trees overgrew the ancient foundation of a house built on Raven Way in 1830.  The water rose.  Truth became legend, and legend became myth…

Then, one day, in that same sleepy, abandoned town, a small family drove in with an eye for real estate.  They cleared the trees at the top of the hill, and built a house.  Nearly six months passed without incident, and new people -- oblivious people -- tore down the old houses and built new piers.  They made signs, and called the place simply “Fenton,” in honor of the lost boy who died on the land over a hundred years ago.  Children splashed in the water as adults watched, managing their new, sleek technology.

Unseen to the people of Fenton, a single black spider emerged from the water, and spun a silver web.

The true rulers of the island had returned.

 

THE END~?