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[#ac204c "Romantic? Try annoying."] Callum muttered bitterly. [#ac204c "Having one's choices never matter in the long run and futilely fighting against something that is meant to be... That's depressing."] The fae stopped speaking and focused intently on the kettle, willing it to hurry up and boil already.
His left ear twitched when Etienne spoke again, indicating that he was still listening. If that wasn't enough proof, the dark, purplish blush that rose in his cheeks and the slight poof of his tail were good signs that he'd heard him. What did he even say to that? [#298d8e "...A place to stay at least."] He muttered in response. It was unlikely that the blond would be able to hear him yet. Despite the stress he was under he dropped the omnispeech and switched to just regular English. As he was having his little emotional crisis, Etienne was having one as well. Not that he could blame him. His whole world had just changed in a bad chance encounter on the way home.
While they were both silent he took out two mugs and rummaged around in his cabinet for the correct tea. Chamomile would be ideal to soothe nerves, but he couldn't stand it. Instead he chose a blend of wood betony, kava, roses, meadowsweet, ginger root, cardamon, and passionflower. It was something his uncle recommended to ease his anxiety. It wasn't a cure all, but it helped. Not as well as the catnip tea, but tonight wasn't the night for that. [#298d8e "Thank you. I... Prefer the company of plants. I think they tolerate me considering I haven't lost one yet."] As he spoke the kettle started to whistle. Ears flat he turned the stove off and started preparing the tea.
There was another howl. It was much, much louder; it had come from just outside. If he called his uncle he'd be here immediately, but then that would be another danger to Etienne. He would have to handle it himself. Nevermind that he'd never actually fought anyone or anything before. According to his uncle it'd be instinctual if it ever happened and to use his magic to get away if anything went wrong.
Hot water into the teapot. Tea tray from the cabinet. Tea leaves into the teapot as well. Let it set while he grabbed the strainer. A nice kind of ritual to distract himself. Callum set the mugs on a tray with a couple spoons and the honey jar. [#298d8e "...Ignore him. He's throwing a fit..."] he raised his voice slightly so that Etienne could hear him and walked over with the tray. After setting it on the coffee table, he sat down a space away from the man and started preparing his own cup; all the while overly conscious of how close his new neighbor was.
[#298d8e "..."] It was times like these where he wished that he could lie and tell him that everything would be okay. [#298d8e "It... Must be a lot to process."] He murmured. [#298d8e "But... At least you didn't find out organically. That... Would be bad."] Wow, very articulate. Aren't you an English major Callum? He sipped his tea and glanced over to the windows. The howling had stopped, but it sounded like the wolf was outside- frustrated at the building. They were on the fourth floor, so it would take a bit for him to figure out how to climb up. No need to worry Etienne with any unnecessary information like the fact that it could get up here if it tried.
There was also the front door of the building that it could smash in; if it could figure that out. If what Callum theorized was true, it meant that the wolf completely lost its mind when transformed; running on instinct.
[#298d8e "For what it's worth, I don't believe you'll be a senseless beast."] Callum glanced at him briefly before taking a sip of tea. Perhaps it was the stressed posture that had made him say that. The fae did pity the man. Such an unfortunate situation. [#298d8e "You can stay here for the night. I have this couch an another in the office if you like. I don't have guests aside from family so I never bothered to set up a guest bedroom."] Thin shoulders shrugged. [#298d8e "Next month you should be fine to stay on your own. Your maker is only interested in killing humans. Easy kills that don't fight back."]
“Fate? Now I believe in that. Unbelievably romantic, don’t you think? Maybe this was meant to happen to me, so I could meet you.” He sank into the couch he had been placed on, watching Callum fidget his way around the apartment and eventually settle on a tea kettle. He could tell that his host was nervous, but he wasn’t sure if it was because Etienne currently sat stunned on his couch or the fact that the howling outside was getting closer. He huffed a laugh despite the edging fear in his head, “I didn’t mean to come off so strong, with those coincidences. But it was very convienent that there was a place to stay and a cute neighbor.”
He glanced out the window, wondering what werewolves could potentially do. If this was his maker, as Callum said, coming after him…then why was he out to kill him? Why was he killing other people? And then he started thinking about what his life would be like now. How would this affect his work, his day to day life. His mom? How was he going to tell her that he was going to turn into a terrifying monster every full moon? Thinking about it made his head hurt. But asking Callum his neverending questions might only extend the length of that pain. For both of them, potentially. So instead he shook his head and lounged back, opting to examine the apartment instead. And from what he could see, it was a lot of well taken care of plants, books , he could only wonder what the bedroom looked like.
Etienne was hoping that Callum would give him some tea, because his throat was feeling particularly dry. He feared his voice would crack if he even tried talking anyways. And that howling was just getting closer. Should he be scared? Callum was tall, and looked strong, but Etienne couldn’t help but feel that they were ill equipped for the situation. He felt silver was a great medium to deal with this problem.
Except for the fact that he didn’t have any. “You have a nice place, I love your plants,” he finally managed to get out.
'Your ears are very soft, by the way.' Callum could feel his cheeks heating in a blush. What did he even say to that? Thanks I grew them myself? No. The best move was to ignore it. Keep his distance and ignore the comment. His ears swiveled back nervously again. Just focus on the topic at hand: his neighbor being a werewolf. It was a little too late to back out of this conversation now and he'd decided to take it upon himself to check on him. He was going to have to live with the consequences of his actions.
Callum frowned as he listened to him talk, mind racing as he started piecing things together. [#ac204c "...They appeared to you as human first..?"] That wasn't something that usually happened. Hell, from what he understood, most werewolf infections were usually accidental. If what Etienne was saying was correct, this had been purposeful. Factor in the rogue werewolf... [#ac204c "You're lucky to be alive."] All of the victims in the maulings had died- until Etienne. Callum doubted that the monster was capable of planning in its current state, but if it tracked Etienne back here it might try to finish the job. The transformation likely stalled it long enough for him to get away. Now he wasn't a psychopath nor did he hunt, but losing one's prey had to be frustrating.
[#ac204c "Hurt?"] Callum tilted his head, confused for a moment. [#ac204c "Oh, I have no personal experience with that. I would assume so."] The fae frowned and watched him. It looked like he was going through shock. Not surprising. If they were at his apartment he'd offer him some tea- or maybe something stronger. He did have some whiskey left. Given how anxious he was himself maybe he should invite him back to chat. Besides that it meant that Etienne would be in a safer place to wait out the rest of the night. The thought of letting the stranger into his apartment was terrifying, but... He couldn't just let him stay here alone in an empty apartment with a homicidal werewolf literally out for his blood. What would his mother say?
[#ac204c "You should-"] He stopped and stared at him blankly as he processed the man's next words. [#ac204c "Oh uh... Some things I suppose? Not important at this moment."] His ears twitched and he glanced at the window behind the man. The moonlight was bright and streamed in through the blinds. For a second he could have sworn he saw a shadow. His heart started racing and mismatched eyes dilated in fear. This far up there shouldn't be any shadows. Maybe he was imagining it, but it was time to get the show on the road.
It was difficult to find an opportunity to talk. Normally he'd be grateful that the blond was carrying the conversation, but given the situation and how paranoid he was right now it was frustrating. [#ac204c "Don't thank me yet. The night isn't over."] In the brief moment of silence Callum finally moved. He stepped closer to Etienne, hesitated, then took the man by the wrist. [#ac204c "If your maker is who I think it is, you're not safe yet. Follow me."]
Not that he had much of a choice. Given that he'd only just been infected, he didn't have the strength to break the fae's grip. Callum half led, half dragged Etienne out of the empty apartment, down the hall, and finally into his own apartment. After leading him to the couch and releasing him, he hurried back to the door and closed it; locking it with shaking hands. When they'd been in the hall a loud, long howl had sounded. It was close. Far too close. He pressed his palm against the door and muttered under his breath. Something to reinforce the door just in case.
[#ac204c "...Sorry... Sorry.. I..."] He finally turned to look at Etienne. [#ac204c "I swear I wouldn't do something like this unless there was a need. I-"] He swallowed hard and struggled to find the words. Maybe tea would help. [#ac204c "To answer your earlier question, yes I enjoyed your gifts. Thank you."] He moved to the kitchen as he spoke and prepared the kettle. [#ac204c "I admit that I wasn't expecting to see you again."] It was nervous, idle chatter to avoid silence. [#ac204c "And now this- A long string of coincidences. If I were one to believe in it, I'd call it fate."] He set the kettle to boil and leaned against the counter to watch it.
Another howl, closer.
[#ac204c "...Etienne right..?"] Callum asked. [#ac204c "If you have questions now is the time to ask. I can take the time to answer now that we're in a secure location. If you wish I can tell you what I know- or rather can infer- about your... Wolfie situation."]
“I’m sorry, I’m just really struggling to process all of this right now. Your ears are really soft, by the way. You said a werewolf?” He tried to wrap his head around the fact that it was his first day in America and he’d been cursed with…this. He’d met a cute stranger, gotten a job, and then had been bitten by a werewolf. “I thought it was just a crazy person, I thought I was getting mugged. I guess getting mugged might have been better than something I can’t even understand.” He couldn’t even sit down for this news, what with the lack of furniture. So all he could do was power through it.
Could he even tell his mother about this?
He guessed he should be educated about this, and figure out the rest later. Stay in the moment, don’t worry about the future. “Is it going to hurt? You said transform? In a month? Will that hurt?” He ran a hand over his scar. It didn’t hurt anymore, and while he didn’t believe in the supernatural, he couldn’t deny that what just happened was supernatural. He could chalk up this mysterious magical stranger being able to speak flawless French as someone who was biligual. Or, someone who was just dedicated to the language. And the ears and tail, he could explain that as something completely different from being a fae. Birth defect, maybe.
But somehow he felt he wasn’t being lied to.
A part of him was screaming that his entire life had just been turned around and there was nothing he could do to stop it. “I…I can accept this but, pardon, I didn’t believe in the supernatural for one minute of my life. So…does the internet have it right? The urban myths, les légendes? What else is real?”
Could he go on living a normal life with this knowledge now? He’d be looking over his shoulder every second of the day. Was that person a creature? Did they intend harm? Callum was here to help him though, he’d offered. “I should thank you, and apologize. I appreciate you coming to check on me. This must take a big chunk out of your day. You probably weren’t expecting to have to take care of this, and its late on top of that.” He turned his head, looking out of his window. Maybe changing the subject would ease the tension in his body.
“Your book, and your snack, that I left. Did you get to enjoy them?”
It looked like Etienne didn't believe him. That was to be expected. The man seemed very confused about Callum's very appearance. He supposed that he could just let him experience the transformation on his own, but again, he wasn't going to do that. With a sigh he seemed to fold even more into himself and peeked at him with hesitant eyes. What was the man thinking? At that moment he wished that he knew. The man was staring at him intensely and it was beginning to freak him out. Was there something on his face? Was... Was he going to start commenting on his cat-like features..?
He froze. [#298d8e "...!!!!"] Etienne was touching him. Being touched. His entire body seized up as his brain tried to process this development and the color drained from his face. Thankfully the man realized that he'd touched him and moved away from him. His breath, which had caught in his throat, suddenly released and he took a shaky step back as well.
[#298d8e "M...Me?"] Callum stared blankly at the blond for a good couple of minutes as he tried to calm down enough to process what he had just been asked. Then, suddenly, he chuckled. He turned his face away and covered his mouth with his hand as he started to laugh softly. [#298d8e "...No."] He pulled his hand away and shook his head, long bangs swaying with the motion. [#298d8e "...My ears and tail are mementos from my father. He was... Is-"] He corrected himself and fidgeted nervously. [#298d8e "Actually a cat person. My... He's my mother, but... That's... It's... Complicated.... I..."] He straightened up a bit and looked at Etienne. [#298d8e "I take after him. I'm a..."] Callum hesitated and nipped at his lower lip nervously. This was information that he had never shared with a stranger and since he couldn't lie, it was either the whole truth or only partial. Seeing as Etienne would soon be able to discern scents like a bloodhound he didn't see the point in hiding anything.
With a sigh he finally said it. [#298d8e "I'm a fae. Faerie, fairy- the good people or the fair folk. My element is water, so... I can heal. It's... It's also how I knew what you are now. The scent is very faint, but... Unless you have a dog."] He grimaced. [#298d8e "Sorry... I'm... Not good with people."]
He would be lying if he said he didn't feel light-headed from hearing all this information being poured at him completely in fluent French. Moon children? What kind of game was this? No, this was no game. Etienne would have to accept it but right now he was just confused. Etienne ran his free hand through his hair and forced a smile across his face. It was shaky at first but he found his composure with a deep sigh. Etienne knew he had someone here to help him, and that was enough to keep him together. He was glad that he knew now. Actually, he probably just was in shock, nobody would keep their calm over something like this.
He was impressed by the healing, even if he hadn't believed it would have still been a cool party trick to try in front of friends. Did Callum even have friends? He might not have, now that he really thought about it. No, definitely not. Despite all the stuttering, the fidgeting, Callum had managed to heal Etienne's arm with little to no strain or difficulty from what he could see. With such precision, he could see the quality of the water and how smoothly it wrapped around him. It was cold, and then warm, very comfortable from what he recognized. Perhaps that was a placebo effect, where he knew it was supposed to feel good, so he made it feel good.
And then there was the matter of Callum. [i 'Oh mon Dieu,'] he thought to himself. He knew that Callum was nervous, but these ticks of his would be the end of Etienne before any change could get him first. First, the ears, [i 'Mon Dieu, the ears.'] They were flat against the head, as though the other was intimidated. Was Etienne intimidating, or was he just nervous? Probably both. And they looked so soft, sort of like in the cartoons when someone blow-dried a wet cat and they poofed out ridiculously as though all that fur was there in the first place. Or maybe like a really old dog's ears, how they got so soft as they grew older. Either way, Etienne was battling not touching them. He scanned Callum's body carefully - slowly - inquisitive about his eyes, his nose, his mouth, shaped just right if he wanted to kiss the other or perfectly if he wanted to paint, or sculpt. The eyes, oh he could draw them over and over again in his head, if only he could write or draw or paint them the way they made him feel.
And, as was inevitable, Etienne's hand had come up to touch Callum's face. He realized it only after he had begun feeling, and pulled away and backed up a couple of steps. He had lost his cool, there, he understood, and profusely tried to apologize before changing the subject back to what was appropriate. "Are...ahem," he cleared his throat, embarrased that he had done that, "Are you also a werewolf? I didn't know they could heal like that, but you have...the ears and tail?"
Callum's pupils dilated when he was shown the wound. Oh no. [#298d8e "...Too dark to see the attacker... But... Did they... Growl at all?"] He asked softly. If this wound was what he thought it was, simply healing it wasn't going to do much. Hell, it would start healing on its own soon enough. The wound wasn't fresh, so preventative measures wouldn't have an effect. The best he could do was patch him up and try to explain what was going to happen- which meant more talking. Great.
[#298d8e "...Yes, they're real... But that isn't important right now."] His tail swished nervously when the other reached out to touch him only to sigh to himself in relief when the blond decided against it. Completely ignoring the compliment he turned and walked into the kitchen. Hesitantly he gestured Etienne over to the kitchen sink and opened the tap once they were both standing at it. [#298d8e "...I... Want you to keep an open mind."] He told him softly. [#298d8e "You're... Goin' to have to."] Callum exhaled nervously and coaxed the water up to engulf Etienne's arm. [#298d8e "Things... Aren't always as they appear."] The water began to pulse with a soft light as he began to heal the other.
Normally it was a slow process, but at the light probe of his magic the flesh eagerly obeyed and knit together once again. Callum released the magic and the flow of water returned to normal. After closing the tap he examined the former wound quietly. When he healed regular wounds, they healed without a scar. According to his uncle, supernatural wounds were different and could only be influenced to heal faster not perfectly. Mismatched eyes were troubled as he took in the fresh, raised scar that marred the man's otherwise flawless skin. The pattern wasn't human. Far too many predatory teeth and the jaw was shaped differently. [#298d8e "...If I had seen to it sooner... I might have been able to do something."] He stepped back from the other and looked at him with pity.
Etienne was going to transform next month. Never again would he live the peaceful life of a human. His life was going to be at the mercy of the moon. It could be worse, he supposed, he could have been bitten by a vampire and enthralled. Callum fidgeted as he tried to figure out what to say to the man. Perhaps it would go over easier in his own language. [#ac204c "Etienne... I wish that I did not have to say this, but... You are now a member of the moon children. You are a werewolf. You... Won't transform fully until next month, but... I'm so sorry. I wish I could have stopped this from happening. You're part of our community now... If you doubt me... Ask yourself... How is this Scottish cat man speaking flawless, unaccented French?"]
Callum. What a nice name. It rolled off the mind, off the tongue. He repeated it over and over in his head, lest he forget. Etienne had never met anyone from Scotland, so this already was a nice experience. He listened for more and more words, as forced out as they were. So while he listened, he examined. Once again his eyes were drawn to the hair. So beautiful and long. It was well maintained, he noticed. What he also noticed were the ears. Callum had gestured to them. Were those actual cat ears? Or maybe they were a prop. Etienne couldn't tell, but they looked so soft that he was tempted to touch them.
His smile faded when his arm was mentioned. Of course it was still bleeding, he had really only gone to rinse it of any infection. Etienne pulled it from behind his back and looked at it. With a sigh, he smiled up at his guest, "I really don't even know what happened, it was so dark." He stood up and showed Callum his arm, already obscured by the blood again. "I thought I was getting mugged at first, and tried to run, and then whoever - whatever - took quite the bite out of me. I left all my stuff there, I figured since I got free the second time I wouldn't 'push my luck' as Americans say." He was glad that he had someone there to help him since he had nothing in the way of towels or bandages, much less disinfectant. All he had was scalding hot water to hopefully burn the infection away.
"Ah...thank you though, for offering to help," he said, trailing off his words as he glanced once again at his ha- was that a tail or...or was that hair? No, his apartment was fully lit, he couldn't blame this one on the dark. That was definitely a tail. He couldn't help but be curious as he reached out his non-bloody arm to feel at them.
Then he realized how entirely rude that would be and pulled away. [i 'Control yourself, Etienne, you just barely met him. Asking will do,'] he thought to himself. Yes, asking would do. "Are those real?" he asked, gesturing to the ears and the tail, "They are exquisite. I say the same for your hair, as well. Beautiful and smooth. What I wouldn't give to be able to go back to that quality."
Etienne didn't believe in the supernatural, much less mystical things such as people having tails and cat ears, yet it was right in front of him. He would be the first to admit he was wrong about such things, and he'd have to apologize to his coworker for ever doubting her knowledge on the subject.
The instant that the door opened Callum felt like booking it the other way. Oh fuck. This was the beautiful stranger. What were the odds? He attempted to speak and found that words were failing him. For the moment he allowed the man to usher him inside and chatter at him. The scent of blood was strong about the other. He'd been hurt..? Hm... Mismatched eyes took in the man- Etienne- with guarded eyes. Perhaps he'd simply been mugged? Hopefully- not that he would wish that on anyone. His gaze lingered on the arm that the other had hid at first. If he'd been mugged... Why hide it?
When he finally found his voice he shook his head. [#298d8e "I... Just heard someone rushing in the halls... Everyone... In this building at least... Knows not to go out after dark, especially not on nights like tonight..."] He told him softly. [#298d8e "Besides... How could I not... Hear..?"] He fidgeted uncomfortably and shakily gestured to his ears with a nervous chuckle. Now that he was actually thinking about what he was saying, he wasn't speaking in French. His natural Scottish accent was free to shine and confuse the man as to why it hadn't accented his French.
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and bit his lip. [#298d8e "....Callum. From Scotland..."] He replied. [#298d8e "I.... Figured... This place has been empty for.... A long time."] He shrugged, not bothering to name a length of time. Not like he could remember anyway. He never bothered to know anything about his neighbors. As long as they were quiet and didn't bother him, he was fine. [#298d8e "I did. I didn't... I didn't think I would see you again... To thank you..."] Callum cleared his throat and looked down at the other. [#298d8e "So.... S-so I'm g... G-going to heh.... Help you wuh... With your arm."] His courage only went so far. Mentioning something that the other was clearly trying to hide. [#298d8e "...You're bleeding..."]
He thanked the landlord on a single breath that the water in the apartment was already turned on. He took to rinsing his arm under the hot water, rubbing the blood away with his free hand. He was murmuring to himself about how this could have even happened when all of a sudden he heard a knock at his door. Perhaps it was the landlord? He dried off his hand and arm with his shirt and made his way out of the kitchen. Turning on lights, Etienne traveled through the small apartment and looked out the spyhole. What a surprise to see his shy neighbor standing outside! He hid his arm that had been bit behind his back before sighing. Perhaps it was best that he didn't make the other worry.
Etienne swung open the door after unlocking it with swift fingers and put a smile on his face. "Mon ami, what can I do for you?" he asked happily, honestly wondering as to why the other was there. "Was I being too loud?" Concerned that it may have been the case, Etienne quickly took to apologizing. He had yet to report his missing luggage, and probably should call his mother to let her know that he had been attacked, but with company so close to him, he had priorities. It was only respectful of him to pay attention to who was in front of him. Speaking of who was in front of him, Etienne couldn't help but be impressed at how long his hair was. What he wouldn't give to braid it, or to even dance with this man just to see how it flowed.
"Please come in," he insisited, "Standing out in the hallway is no way to talk." He very gently ushered his neighbor inside before looking out in the hallway - just in case - and closed the door behind them. "Introductions are in order," he said. There was no furniture in the apartment yet, so he sat on the floor with his legs crossed. "Sorry for the...lack of furniture. I just moved in earlier today. I hope you liked your gifts I left you." Etienne knew that his accent was thick, and cleared his throat. "My name is Etienne, I'm from France, if my accent didn't give it away."
Safe again. Thankfully the stranger hadn't approached him. Once the door closed he shifted the items in his arms and locked his door once again. Now... What had he given him? The box smelled sweet and was very obviously from sort of bakery. He'd investigate that later. At that moment he was more interested in the book. Callum straightened up and walked over to the kitchen to set the box on the counter before heading over to the living area to sit on the couch. The note that had been left was in pretty, flowing handwriting. It was an apology. This had never happened before. Normally when something like that happened, he was the one to blame . The fact that the stranger even bothered to apologize made his face burn.
Wait! How did he know where to find him? Had the man followed him here? Why? Callum reread the note and tried to find any clues, but found none. This all couldn't be because the man had wanted to apologize, had it? How strange. He set the note aside and turned his focus to the book. It... It was the one his favorite author had just released. Dark brows knit together in confusion. How did he know? Was it because he had been walking towards the bookstore? In any case, this stranger was, well, strange.
Callum opened the front cover and was surprised yet again. A dark blush rose in his cheeks. The beautiful stranger had given him a signed copy. [#298d8e '...Don't look into this. He was French. It could just be the way he is.'] He told himself. There was no use in crushing on this man. All of this was just part of an apology. There was no way that the man would ever like someone like him. Besides, humans had such short lives and it wasn't like he was going to see him again. The gift had been a fluke. A fluke that he should be enjoying instead of overthinking. He sighed softly to himself and turned to the first page.
It was night by the time he had finished the book. He set the book down on his coffee table and stretched out. That had been the perfect ending to his day. Things had gone south early on and he'd almost had a complete melt down, but the stranger's kindness had turned things around- as had reading a good book. If he ever saw that man again he was going to have to thank him. Somehow. It was very unlikely, but Callum wasn't the ungrateful sort. For now he was going to enjoy the feeling of the stranger's kindness and eat some cake.
Even if he wasn't terrified of going outside, there was no way he was going outside tonight. It was the full moon and there was a crazed wolf out there. The wolf had only come here a year ago, but had quickly made a name for himself in the community. Humans went missing and were presumed dead. Even though Callum could more than handle himself when it came to things, he preferred to stay out of the way of a psychopath. He was self-conscious enough about his looks, he didn't need a chunk or two taken out of him to make matters worse. Which reminded him. Before returning to the kitchen to eat cake he walked to the all of the windows in the apartment and checked that the spells were still in place and then to his door to ensure the same thing. They still appeared to be normal, but he had worked spells into them when he heard about the werewolf to ensure that they couldn't be broken down by the raging beast. They would break eventually, but at least he'd have time to prepare something should anything happen. With his security in place he was ready to try the confection that the man had given him.
Callum usually wasn't one for sweets, but this was amazing. The decadent treat was light and airy and practically bathed in cream. He began to wonder if the cafe delivered when he heard something out in the hall akin to panic. Normally he ignored the noises out in the hall. Since his hearing was so acute he heard many things that he would rather not, but this... It sounded like something bad had happened to this person. Callum set his plate down and crept towards his door to peek out the peep hole. Whoever it was had just finished passing his door and all he could catch a glimpse of was a flash of their heels as they rushed past.
Against his better judgment he decided to open the door and see if he could offer any assistance. It definitely wasn't the wolf and it seemed like they were genuinely in trouble. At the very least he could offer to call the cops for them. That was the neighborly thing to do, right? Callum's ears flattened back against his skull as he stepped out into the hall just as the last door down closed suddenly. Hm? Hadn't that place been empty for a while? He hadn't heard any movers, but... Perhaps they had been by while he was out. New neighbor he supposed. That made checking on them just a little more important. They had been out at night with the savage wolf prowling about.
Callum walked slowly down the hall and soon found himself in front of the last door. A shaky hand raised to knock as his heart pounded wildly in his chest. Okay. He could do this. The tall man bit back his anxiety and knocked. What was the worst that could happen?
Etienne could see the other grabbing the gift he had left and slowly sinking back into the dark apartment. Could he see...ears? Was...was that a tail? No, it must be the darkness of the apartment playing tricks on his eyes. Though, that was kind of funny that this man's hair was shaped in the way cat ears would be. He understood now, though, that his floor-mate was, in the lightest terms possible, shy. He could handle that, easily. But for now, he would continue walking, and act like he hadn't just seen the other back into the apartment as though the plague had knocked on his door.
He traveled back to the elevator and made his way down, waving to the attendant before taking a bus back to the block he had been at, even though it took an hour or so due to horrific traffic, he'd probably have gone faster by doing a light jog, honestly. Etienne gave a sigh of relief as he ran up to the café and it was still open. By that time, another person was working, but the manager was still there and graciously gave him his things. "Merci, monsieur," he thanked profusely.
[b "Sir,"] the manager approached him and sat down, [b "I couldn't help but notice that you might be new to town,"] he said pointing to the bags next to Etienne. He nodded in response, turning his gaze from the window to the man in front of him. [b "I was wondering if you might be looking for a job in town, at all?"]
"Ouais, I came here hoping to apply for a dance position somewhere, but until then I do need a job," he confirmed to the manager. "I wouldn't mind applying here, if you're hiring. I'm good at cooking.
[b "I'll return shortly with an application,"] the manager said, and he got up to leave. Etienne was sure he already had the job, considering the manager approached him himself, but he'd still go through the process of applying just because he knew that was how America did things.
It wasn't until hours later that he finally left the café. He had gotten the job, and learned how to use the machines. Surprisingly, there was almost a different machine for each drink on the menu. At least they took their allergy policy seriously, he supposed. He had taken up to getting to know his coworker that he would be working with, a woman way too into the superstitions of everywhere. She gave him her number so that he would know what was going on with both the café and the town all the time. It wasn't long after he left that she texted him.
[i DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE'S A LEGEND THAT EVERY NIGHT GHOST WOLVES WANDER THE STREETS?]
[i Pure superstition] he replied to her, quickly, sending an emoji of a ghost. [I don't believe in the supernatural.]
[i HOW CAN YOU NOT, THERE'S SO MUCH PROOF!]
Etienne smiled at the enthusiasm. [i Alright, tell me what this legend is.]
[i SO USUALLY PEOPLE DON'T WANDER AROUND AT NIGHT BECAUSE THEY THINK WOLVES WANDER THE STREETS IN SEARCH OF FOOD. THEY SAY THAT IF ONE OF THESE WOLVES CATCH YOU, YOU DIE.]
[i Of course you'd die, a wolf would have ripped you to shreds. Are there even wolves in Florida?]
[i YES. HOLD ON, I'LL SEND YOU A WIKI PAGE. GET HOME SAFE.]
Wiki? Well, Etienne would wait for it. He put his phone away and dragged his bags back to the apartment building he had recently paid for. He had cancelled his reservations at the hotel. Now it was dark, and he was walking alone, and he'd be lying if he said he wasn't scared to be walking alone in the dark after being told wolves just wander around. It wasn't long before he was looking around to see if there was anything out of place.
And there was a man coming straight at him. Had he been there before? Etienne changed his path just slightly to walk around the man but was grabbed and slammed against a store wall. Was he really about to get mugged? Etienne's mind was swimming with questions, but he didn't think to try to answer them until he was punching the man in the face and running. He was grabbed again, but instead of a hand on his arm, it was teeth. And it had broken skin. Etienne looked at the crazed eyes of his assailant and brought a swift kick to their face, sprinting away from his things and around several corners. "Quel putain, quel putain?" he kept saying back to himself over and over until an hour later he reached the apartment building. He was breathing heavily as he made his way to the fifth floor, "Je ne peux pas croire que cela m'est arrivé, où est-ce que cette nuit tombe mal," and into his apartment. He locked the door behind him quickly.
Well, there went his things.
Callum was usually very fast when he was running, much like a startled cat. In this case, however, he was struggling to keep himself together. The only thought on his mind was /escape/. He had to flee that attractive man and that awkward situation. In the heat of the moment he hadn't realized that he'd started speaking French to the man. Perhaps he hadn't noticed? Callum had been rather difficult to understand when he had managed to get the words out. In any case it was very unlikely that he was going to see that man ever again.
On his way back to his apartment building he bumped into a couple other people, which didn't help anything, and he'd only barely managed to wheeze out an apology. The panic was growing even stronger. Going outside today had been a mistake.
With his building drawing nearer he picked up his pace and stumbled through the door and hurried to the stairs. Callum couldn't explain it, but it felt like he was being chased. That might just be his imagination or the personification of his anxiety, but it spurred him on all the way up to the fifth floor. He rummaged for his keys desperately as he approached his apartment and unlocked it with shaky, unsteady hands. Almost... There! He opened the door, hurried inside, and closed and locked it. With a relieved sigh he sighed and slumped against the door in relief. Safe at last. Mismatched eyes closed as he attempted to calm his racing heart. There was nothing to worry about now. He was safe inside his apartment and he would never see that man again.
Callum slowly slid down to sit against the door. Mission failed, but he had tried. That's all that mattered. At least he could tell his "mother" that he'd managed to make it more than a foot outside his building. Yeah... He'd like to hear that. The dark haired male sighed and rubbed his forehead. He should call him. After a moment he forced himself to stand up and slipped his hood down as he rifled through his pocket for his phone aaand nearly jumped out of his skin when there was a knock at the door. His tail poofed out and swiped out from its hiding place. What? Who could that be? His tail swished and ears flattened anxiously as he slowly turned around to peer into the peephole to see if he could see anyone. [#298d8e "...Huh..?"] Callum frowned in confusion and debated on whether he should open the door or not.
Curiosity finally won out and he unlocked the door so that he could open it a crack, keeping the chain on just in case. At the moment he couldn't see anyone. [#298d8e "..."] And then his gaze drifted downwards. [#298d8e "What is..."] He closed the door and removed the chain before opening the door again wider. On the floor just in front of his door sat what appeared to be a bakery box and a book with a note sitting on top. His ears perked up with interest as he reached out to examine the unexpected gift. Who could have possibly left this?
The thought made him pause and look around again. In hindsight he should have just grabbed the gifts and closed the door again. The color drained from his face. It was the man! Callum swallowed hard and continued to stare at him awkwardly. It should be criminal to be that attractive. He shook himself from his stupor and blushed when the man looked at him and picked up the things that had been left on his doorstep. When he straightened up a thought hit him. This man was the only one around, so was he the one that left these things? The panic started to rise again at that thought. It would be so easy to go back inside and pretend that he hadn't seen him, but this man had seen him. [#298d8e "...W-why...?"] He asked hoarsely. [#298d8e "I... I'm sorry."] With each word his voice grew softer and he backed up into his apartment.
The other he had bumped into seemed okay, until he didn't. "Monsieur, are you...?" he began to ask but the other began running off. He felt bad, but what could he do? A gift was his usual answer but he had no idea where the other lived. Etienne was not one to be deterred however, and left his bags within the café. "I'll be back in about an hour," he promised, ordering a small cake and leaving the shop quickly. He also waited quietly as he bought a couple of books from the stand and got them signed. He would send one to his mother as soon as he got the chance. He then went as far as he could see the mysterious escapee going, and then began asking around.
"Excuse me, madamoiselle," he called out to a woman, walking to her calmly. "I'm looking for a man, looking a bit slouched and wearing a hoodie, have you seen him?"
"Well, I see plenty of people who wear hoodies, it is winter after all."
"But in this area I have seen none, ma'am please, surely you've seen him?" Etienne begged. "I simply want to make sure he was alright, he left in a rush looking a bit sick."
He could see the woman mulling it over in her head for a while, and could practically hear the inconvenience in her voice when she next spoke, "Alright alright, he went that way," she said, pointing behind her. "I don't know why you're looking for someone like that, but I guess that's what weirdos will do nowadays," she scoffed. Etienne thought it was unbelievably rude for her to judge so quickly. "You on the other hand, sir, are quite beautiful. You must come from a rich family to look that nice," she backtracked when the look on his face startled her.
Etienne couldn't help but shake his head at her, "Thank you mademoiselle, but I really must be going," he said, skirting around her and running off. He could probably find the other before they made it back to their house at the speed he was going, though it was an average walking speed, he supposed with his long legs he was making distance. And finally, he could see someone with a hoodie. He didn't know if it was the same person he bumped into and possibly caused to have a panic attack, but it was a start. Well, now that he looked ahead at the other, they looked anxious to continue escaping. Etienne followed for as long as he could before coming upon the apartment building that his mysterious muse stumbled into.
He weighed his options, but in the end decided to go inside and ask about vacancies. He was questioned harshly, "Why would you want to live here, its not a very nice place and the people here are weird," the lady insisted, but Etienne wasn't having it.
"Madame, you can't judge based on appearances. Besides, I will be living here for a while and have nowhere to stay other than a hotel. An apartment would be cheaper."
"This is far from any shops of any sort..."
"There's always a bus, or...[i Uber?]"
"Its five hundred up front, there's a room on the fifth floor at the end of the hallway," she finally said after what felt like several moments of silence. She grabbed the key to the apartment, a spare, and handed it to Etienne. He still had questions.
"A man just came through, wearing a hoodie. Do you perhaps know which apartment he lives in? And maybe a piece of scrap paper I could write on?"
Etienne traveled upstairs by the elevator, since it was quicker, as he wrote on the note [i I'm so sorry about knocking into you earlier, it was truly an accident. Here, I have a gift with my condolences. I pray you feel better, with all respect, Etienne.]
He left the cake in front of the door as well as one of the books he had purchased and gotten signed earlier. When he felt anxious, reading always made him feel better. Perhaps he could go back later and get another copy for himself, as well as shop around for more books. That would be ideal. He nodded to himself, proud, before making his way to his room which, coincidence would have it, was on the same floor.
Wait, he had forgotten his bags.
He could do this. It wouldn't be for long after all. Callum stood in front of his door, psyching himself up to actually venture outside. One hand rested on the doorknob which shook with nerves. It had been nearly a month since he had left his apartment. Last month had been his "mother's" birthday and he had wanted to celebrate it with him. The reason that he was stepping outside now was entirely different. There wasn't going to be any family that was happy to see him. No, there were only going to be strangers.
His favorite author was holding a book signing at a local bookshop. After much internal debate Callum had decided to go out to see them. There wasn't any chance that he would get up the courage to actually talk to them, but at the very least he could catch a glimpse of them. After weeks of planning it was finally the day. He pulled his hair back into a low pony tail and wore one of his larger hoodies with the hood that he knew concealed his ears the best. Hiding his tail was easily taken care of as well as it was a simple matter of curling it about his stomach and making sure that it was well hidden by his hoodie. He might catch some stares for his attire being 'too warm' but fortunately it was winter right now. If it were summer he would attract many stares and whispers and that was something that he couldn't handle. It was bad enough that he was having trouble even opening the door.
Callum closed his mismatched eyes and let out a nervous breath. Okay, one, two- When he hit the count of three mentally he opened the door and stepped outside quickly. Before he could change his mind he closed the door and locked it with shaking hands. There wasn't much time before his neighbors opened their door to peek out and get a glimpse at the fabled recluse. Callum jammed his keys into his pocket and hurried away from his door and towards the stairs. While taking the elevator would be faster, he didn't want to chance being trapped in a closed space with a total stranger. Hardly anyone took the stairs since it was so much easier to take the elevator. There was, however, another reason why he refused to take the elevator. It was made of iron and steel. Being what he was that was less than desirable. Even though the stairs were slowly falling apart and one or two were actually missing, it was his preferred path.
Once he'd finally gotten to the ground floor, he peeked out to see if anyone was in the lobby, and then scurried on out the door. Being outside set a heavy weight in his chest. [#298d8e 'I can do this. I can do this.'] He reminded himself. It wasn't as if he had never been outside before and besides, this was going to be a short trip.
Finding his way to the bookshop was easy. He had memorized the directions previously and it wasn't as if it was particularly difficult to find and he had set out early just in case... Even earlier than usual so he could also avoid using the public transit. The less time he spent trapped in metal contraptions with strangers the better. Eventually he found himself on the home stretch and he perked up a little. Finally! He'd almost done it! He was-
Stumbling. Someone had bumped into him and it was enough to have Callum stumble a couple of steps. Oh god. He felt his face burn with embarrassment. This is what he got for being cocky. Immediately he checked his hood and ensured that it was in place. With that little assurance he was free to deal with the stranger. His entire body was tense as he turned to look at the man that spoke with a very French accent. [#298d8e "...!"] His blush darkened. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. He couldn't talk to him. This man was too attractive. [#ac204c "N... N.."] Callum struggled to get the words out. [#ac204c "D... D-don't... I'm... Fine."] He finally told him. Now to get away. He had to get away. The panic was starting to set in. His pupils were dilated and his breathing was starting to pick up. Not now. Callum couldn't handle having an attack right now. [#ac204c "I... H... Go..."] He whispered and then turned to flee.
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