Robert Fair was already at the end of his twelve pack when he dug up the album that he kept safely tucked away for the sake of his son. His denial ran incredibly deep at the worst of times. His wife had started the album. She was a bright and bubbly journalist with wild, curly brown hair and eyes. Finian had inherited her fair alabaster skin and the beauty mark beneath his left eye, in the same spot as her own.
As he opened the album cover, the first set of photos were of his wedding. The pictures that followed featured an adorable baby Fin. By the time that he reached a picture of a three-year-old Finian giving Arleen a kiss, the tears began to pool and fall. The journalist had been involved in a car accident that not only took her life but the life of Finian’s unborn sibling. She had been four months pregnant at the time, and they didn’t even realize it.
Fin had been nine years old at the time. For the first few years of her absence, Rob tried to busy himself in any way possible. He worked double shifts and ran errands. After wearing himself down, he began to look forward to the rare weekend out with his co-workers during happy hour. Occasional weekends became consistent weekends. Then, it was Wednesdays and weekends. Robert regressed further and further. His despair led him into his addiction…and his addiction fed into his despair.
“Forgive me, Fin,” he whimpered. He loved his son dearly and was proud of him and his accomplishments. He ensured that the young man had a roof over his head and was fed properly, as he had vowed to the deceased Arleen to care for him. Drowning himself in memories and liquor was the only way he felt that he could still keep her memories alive in his mind’s eye.
Robert felt a dizziness come over him just as a familiar figure walked right through his door and into his house. He sent a bleary glare towards a set of amber eyes. How did that jerk know where he kept the spare key? Just as his vision began to fade into darkness, his final thought was that, once again, his denial ran deeply at the worst of times.
Habacuc rushed forward to carefully peel unresponsive fingers away from the album clutched in the human’s hand. The dark violet-haired Nightmare reached over to rake the sandy blonde hair back from the inebriated man’s face.
“I wanted to give you time to adjust, Sir Robert,” he softly stated as he leaned down to press a kiss to Rob’s forehead. “But, I’m afraid that we’ve run out of time.”
The Nightmare hefted the human up and then quickly turned around to loop both the man’s arms over his shoulders. He then shifted into his feral form, ensuring that the human on his back didn’t shift or slide, before enveloping them both in invisible shields and gently trotting towards the nearest dimension boundary.
“And just what is this?” Vilas questioned for the second time that day. “He hasn’t even pretended to sink his teeth into my hard labor!” He was Elder Galamin’s Chef. Though he had applied to work as a chef at Nightmare-owned restaurants, he was rejected because of his appearance. So, he had no choice but to work at the Unicorn-only establishments.
Vilas was a mixed Unicorn, but his looks passed just enough to make him appear like a full-blooded Unicorn. He had a set of golden Pietersite-hued eyes, finger-curled hunter green hair down to his chin, and a lovely pale skin tone that caused the goldenrod tribal moon crest on his forehead to stand out in contrast.
He was of average height, but he was svelte, which made him appear taller than he truly was. Vilas used that to his advantage, making himself appear more imposing to his Sous-chef and his team. He was also a Maiden, a secret that he guarded most carefully. Luckily, his scent was similar to desserts, which was easy enough to mask by constantly baking pastries, which he did.
Though the staff had heard tales of other Elders doing nefarious things to Nightmares behind closed doors, Elder Galamin didn’t seem to partake in those kinds of things. He was dry and strict, but they had never seen him smuggle any Nightmare in off the streets.
So, Vilas already found it strange when he was told to feed the ‘human in Elder Galamin’s chamber.’ Humans themselves were seen around often enough, but Elder Galamin had never bedded anyone that the staff had seen, and most certainly not openly. The human, however, kept refusing his culinary masterpieces.
It ruffled Vil’s feathers so much that he decided to make his specialty, a luxurious white cheddar macaroni and cheese with truffles. He was determined to see the human eat the bowl with his very eyes. So, when he finished setting up the tray, he had the sous-chef cover for him while he made his way down the hall to the Elder’s bedroom.
Vilas straightened his back and gave a sharp knock on the door. “Chef Vilas here with quite the treat.” he greeted. “Can I come in?”
When there was no answer, Vilas carefully opened the door and walked inside. What he saw caused his heart to clench painfully. “Galamin, what’ve you done?” he whispered to himself before crouching down next to the human seated on the floor.
The boy had managed to shred one of the thin, white bedsheets into long segments. The sides and the palms of his hands displayed angry red marks of friction. But, it was the human’s eyes that caused the most concern. They were dark and empty.
“Please have something to eat, kid.” Vilas pleaded as he set his tray on the floor and took the bowl in his hands.
Not hungry. Finian gestured with his hands in silence.
The chef frowned. If he understood the movements correctly, the human didn’t seem to want to eat. “Just one bite,” He insisted. “That’s all I ask. This is my specialty, you know?”
Don’t fucking care. Came more hand gestures. Finian had rarely, if ever used profanity in the past. In his current state, he was well beyond politeness.
Though Vilas didn’t understand, he recognized the bitter expression on the human’s face. “Heh!” He huffed as he shifted to sit down next to him. “Anyone, and I mean anyone, would kill for a mere taste of my white cheddar mac and cheese with truffles.”
Go away! Just leave me alone. Finian gestured adamantly, motioning to Vilas and the door, his anger seeping further through.
“Want me to leave?” Vilas taunted. “It’s quite simple, really. All you have to do is take a bite. Just one bite and you won’t have to see me again for the rest of the day.”
The expression on Fin’s face morphed into one of sadness and frustration. How can such a ‘famous’ chef like you work for the likes of HIM? It’s just wrong…EVERYTHING is wrong.
“Fuck, I’m sorry…” Vilas gasped when the human began to weep. He reached out a hand to pat his shoulder, but it was roughly shoved away.
Don’t touch me! He signed, his fury rising once again.
“Alright, alright. I totally got that one, so you don’t wanna be touched.” The mixed Unicorn guessed as he placed the bowl down and lifted his hands in a surrendering motion.
A pitiable expression formed on Finian’s face once more. He wasn’t normally like this, and he knew it. But, he was still coming to terms with the horror of what he had gone through. Still, the poor chef was just an innocent bystander. With a deep breath, he reached down for the bowl and lifted it, taking a spoonful of the food under Vil’s watchful gaze.
He closed his eyes in bliss, tears falling down his cheeks. He had never tasted anything so good in his entire life. If Jack were there, he’d have surely seen him have his most disturbing ‘foodgasmic’ moment yet. But, even after he swallowed, the only sound that fell from his lips were gasping sobs. He couldn’t bring himself to moan appreciatively or break apart the different flavors on his tongue. But, he did eat every last bite, tears and all.
The mixed Unicorn’s golden eyes softened at the sight. “My mom used to say that sometimes salty tears actually add flavor to what you’re eating.” He admitted. “But, when you’re upset enough to cry, you can’t really take in the flavors all that well. What a load of bull, huh?”
Vilas held out a hand and gave Finian a smile when the human handed him the empty bowl. He set the glass of water aside for him and picked up the tray as he stood up. “I’ll be back in a few hours with something else for ya, ok?”
Jack hummed the Mission Impossible theme under his breath, pulling the black beanie lower on his head to hide his blond hair. The human hunched over, dashing for the cover of a lushly blooming bush next to the back door of the mansion. He tucked himself in the shadows, cocking his head to listen for anyone who might be out and about.
He shuffled to the side until he could reach the doorknob, turning it carefully. Not even locked. Cocky son of a bitch Elder.
The thick wooden door opened an inch, allowing Jack to peer inside. It looked like a kitchen. There were things out for cooking, but no one seemed to be around that early in the morning.
"I got up before noon for you, Finian Fair," Jack whispered. "You better be okay."
The human pulled the door open just far enough for him to slip inside. He'd taken several steps into the room when he heard light footsteps outside the door. Jack glanced at the door behind him but refused to run back out when he'd finally gotten inside.
Luckily, there was another door just a few paces away. Maybe a hall or dining room? Unfortunately, when he quickly shut the door behind him, it threw the space into inky blackness. Jack reached out blindly, trying to find a light switch. What he found instead was a pyramid of crockery.
The first pot dumped something sticky and sweet-smelling on his head. The human barely caught the crock before it smashed on the floor. Jack quickly ran his hands up the pyramid, steadying the pots. He'd gotten almost to the top when another crock tipped, dumping heavy powder all over him. He grabbed the pot before it could smash on the stone tiles.
Jack clutched the pottery to his chest as he listened to the soft footsteps in the kitchen. Whoever it was, didn't seem to be moving towards his hiding place or notice his presence. The blond heaved a sigh of relief. The puff of air disturbed the powder covering him, blowing straight up his nose.
Jack sneezed reflexively, dropping both crocks to shatter on the floor with a crash.
Vilas was on his way to the kitchen when he heard the sneeze followed by the sound of ceramic breaking. After the initial cringe, the mixed Unicorn straightened himself up and took a sharp inhale of breath as he started thinking of ways to tell whoever was in the pantry that he was fired.
But, when he entered the storage room, he came across a...thief covered in flour? "If you've come to steal, the only expensive thing we have are truffles." He spoke aloud.
Vilas expected the burglar to dodge past him and run for the exit. Instead, the half-Unicorn was yanked roughly into the pantry, and the door slammed shut. A sticky hand slapped over the chef’s mouth, the overwhelming smell of molasses in the small space making his stomach churn.
"Try anything cute, and you're dead," the thief growled. "I don't want to hurt you. I just want to know where Finian Fair is. He's human, blond. Your piece of shit boss kidnapped him." The muscular arm around the cook's chest tightened. "Nod if you're going to behave."
Vilas nodded. Of course, he wanted to help the poor human! Just who did that thief think he was?
The mixed Unicorn gently, but firmly tugged the thief's hand off his mouth so he could speak. "I know where he is," He whispered. "You're lucky that no one's here yet." He then frowned. "You're not going to like what you see..."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Jack hissed, a spike of worry stabbing his heart. "Where the hell is he?"
Vilas turned around and pulled back. "Follow me." He insisted as he took hold of one of the thief's hands and led him quickly through the hallways. When he reached the door, he knocked. "It's Chef Vilas again...and someone's with me. Someone you hopefully know."
As the two of them made their way into the room, they saw Finian, fully dressed, sitting in front of a mirrored bureau. He slowly turned to look at them without saying a word.
"Fin," Jack gasped, rushing over to his friend. "Shit, are you okay? What hurts where?"
At first, Finian couldn't understand what he was seeing. Why was Jack dressed so strangely and covered in food? The chef from before, Vilas, was at the doorway looking around desperately.
"You have to hurry!" Vilas urged.
Physically I'm fine. Finian signed with his hands. Heart and mind are a little broken.Elder Galamin, he...he used me.
Jack frowned, wondering why Fin was signing with his hands instead of talking, and just how the Elder had used him.
"I'm gonna kill that asshole." Jack rumbled as he glanced at the door. "But it'll have to wait. Look, I was just supposed to be gathering info. But I'm sure as hell not leaving you here. Let's go." He tugged on his friend's arm. Fin tensed for a brief moment, but then relaxed and allowed his friend to lead the way.
The chef took note of how the human allowed the thief to touch him and felt relieved. If Finian didn’t want to leave with the thief, he’d have surely shoved him away, just as he had done before. He truly hoped that the human would move past whatever happened.
Jack gave Vilas a bright smile. "You should come with us. You don't belong working for someone like Galamin. We'll find you something better. I promise."
Vilas felt a warmth inside at the thought. It truly was the oddest thing. They were complete strangers, but the thief still wished him well. "I'm not the one that needs to escape," The chef insisted as he glanced at Finian. "Your friend's the one that really needs to get out of here. So, let's go."
The chef then led them through the same way they had entered while hugging the wall. But, when he heard voices, he motioned for them to stop. "Shit," He hissed under his breath. "We have to go another way." He explained as he led them down another hallway through a laundry area. Vilas looked on ahead while the other two crouched beside the wall of a pantry.
As soon as the last maid made her way outside to the left, he rushed them out past the lawn and into the woods.
When Vilas was about to turn back to the estate, Jack grabbed his hand. A thrilling tingle radiated from the touch. The human hardly even had to tip his head down to look into the chef's golden eyes. The green-eyed man’s heart thumped in his chest.
"Come with me," he blurted. "Let me help you. You can't want to work for that monster."
The mixed Unicorn felt his heart skip a beat. For a moment, he truly contemplated it. Elder Galamin hadn't seemed so bad for an Elder up until the moment where he saw the aftermath of what he did to Finian. The memory briefly flashed in the front of his mind…the torn strips of the sheet, some on the bed, some on the ground, one clutched in Finian’s reddened hands…
"Alright, I'll-" He began to agree, but then his sous chef called to him from across the lawn. "Go! Go quickly before they see you!" He instructed as he tugged his hand back and rushed over to meet the sous chef half way.
"Chef! The Elder's been looking for you! Said we have quite the banquet to prepare," The sous chef explained. "What were you doing way out here?"
"Just needed to clear my head for a bit," Vilas responded as he followed the other man back inside.
Jack and Finian looked on from behind a tree, both of them upset to see Vilas go.
I never got a chance to thank him for the food, or to even tell him how good it was. Fin signed.
"We'll be back for him," Jack whispered, carefully leading Fin toward the farm. "Galamin is going down. He'll pay for what he's done, and he'll never hurt anyone again." He let out a relieved breath as they crossed onto farmland. He grinned at his friend. "I know some people who are dying to see you."
Finian continued to follow his best friend. Who? He asked, but then stopped in his tracks. Jack...thank you for coming for me. He signed, unable to figure out the words with which to truly express his gratitude. After all, it went beyond Jack’s actions, it was how much the brunette cared for him as a best friend, as a brother. How did you know that it was Elder Galamin?
Jack wondered why Fin was using sign language instead of his voice but knew there wasn't time to talk about it. He was glad for all the friends they'd made when they were in school that had gone to the academy for the deaf in the next town over. Knowing ASL had come in handy more times than Jack could count. It definitely beat passing notes in class.
"You remember Sy?" Jack asked. "He saw you get nabbed. He was about to have a job interview with Raj. He told Raj what had happened, but Sy didn't recognize you with your natural hair color."
Jack saw the house ahead and let out a little relieved sigh. They were going to make it!
"Anyway, Sy told Raj, then Al found out," Jack explained as they continued to rush through the farm. "Unicorns and Nightmares couldn't get in because the grounds are apparently warded with an alarm." Jack couldn't help his grin. "I talked them into letting me sneak in. I never hoped I'd be able to get you out on my first try. That chef guy really saved the damn day."
Finian tensed at the mere mention of Alistair, his heart immediately dropping down to his stomach. But, he pushed on and tried to concentrate on the rest of what Jack said. Yes, Chef Vilas was very kind. I don't like that we had to leave him.
"We've got a healer right inside, come on," Jack said anxiously pushing open the door to the farmhouse. "Did that bastard hurt your throat or something? I totally call dibs on punching that piece of shit Galamin first."
"Fin!" Lee'en gasped as he rushed right over, nearly tackling the human to the ground as he held him tightly. "Are you ok? What did they do to you?"
Finian took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The warmth of the Unicorn seemed to seep into his core. A part of him didn’t want to let go of such comfort.
Raj, who had been carefully wiping off Jack's face with a wet towel, peered over at the other two. "If he's hurt, don't you think it would be best for the healer to see him, my peony?"
Lee'en let out a loud gasp as he pulled away, taking hold of both of the human's hands. "Right! I'm so sorry, Fin!"
Finian shook his head. It's alright. He signed.
"He said, it's alright, baby. Where's the healer?" Jack asked as he looked up from where Raj was washing his face like he was a sloppy toddler. "Something's wrong with his throat. And we need to contact Al right away."
“I’ll contact him in just a moment.” Raj replied. “First, it would be best to see to any injuries Finian might have.”
The Healer was a Unicorn that worked for the Montcroix. They had brought him along to the farm house just in case anything happened to Jack. The man had pale blue hair down to his shoulders and Peridot green eyes. He slowly approached Finian and Lee'en until he was a few feet away. He then gave a slight bow.
"Young master, I am Healer Nigel," He held his hands in front of him in invitation. "Might I assess your health? The only contact I need is your hands in mine."
Finian looked from Lee to the healer to Jack and back. He had been able to touch and accept the touch of his best friends. But, he still felt a fear grip him at the thought of touching or being touched by anyone else. His hands shook as he slowly forced himself to place them on top of Nigel's palms.
A green glow formed on Nigel's forehead leaf crest while another crest on his forearm, surely from a mate, glowed brown. "His hands had some abrasions, and there was minor rectal damage. His vocal cords were a little swollen, but he should be able to speak just fine." He explained.
Jack's lips tightened into a harsh line. As soon as the healer was through, he pulled his friend into his arms, holding him tightly.
"It's going to be okay," Jack whispered. "You're safe. We're gonna get through this. You know I'm always here for you, right?"
Finian nodded, clinging tightly to his best friend. The healer might have healed his body, but his emotions were still quite the mess. He thought he had been all out of tears before, and yet they began to fall and fall. Heart-wrenching sobs shook his entire frame.
"Fin..." Lee'en wrapped his arms around them both, prompting Raj to do the same on the other side until all four of them were huddled together.
The warmth from all three of them was soothing, it made Fin feel safe and loved. His body finally stopped shaking, though the tears continued to roll down his face.
Jack rested his forehead against Fin's. "We've got you."