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The Stray   |   The Stray II Chapter One   |   Chapter Two   |   Chapter Three
Disclaimer: I own nothing all characters contained herein and in following chapters are the property of Laurell K. Hamilton. I only worship at the shrine of her genius. Any rights I am entitled to I freely give back to the copyrighted owner.

The Stray

     “Nathaniel” Father George's voice sounded as amazed at seeing me as I was at being here.

     “Hi, Father George.” I said quietly. “Can we talk? I really need to speak to you.”

     “Of course let's just go to my office.” I followed the tall spare man down the hallway to what he euphemistically called an office. It was more like an oversized closet and from the looks of the place as he ushered me through the door it was still last place that received any attention.

     “Just set those files on the floor Nathaniel and tell me what brings you back to the shelter.” Father George gave me the intense direct look filled with compassion that made even the most hardened street kid trust him. “I can tell looking at you that life has been treating you better since the last time I saw you.”

     “Father…I have a lot to tell you so many things have changed for me. You know my history the things I've done, the things I've been involved in.” I swallowed audibly my mouth as dry as dust. “I have a real job now. I'm not turning tricks anymore. I'm…uh…I've changed I am a were leopard now.” I glanced up expecting shock or dismay and was pleasantly surprised when I saw only a thoughtful look on his face.

     “Are you safe?” Asked Father George. “No one is taking advantage of you or hurting you, are they?”

     “No.” I answered feeling on the edge of tears with his acceptance of me. “In fact my Nimir-ra treats me better than I have ever been treated in my life. I would do anything for her and she expects nothing at all only that I be honest and help pull my own weight.”

     “Your Nimir-ra that would be your leader?” he asked thoughtfully. “What kind of leader is he?

     I had to smile. “Anita is a woman and she is…strong, very strong. She protects us and cares for us no matter what.”

     “Is she your lover?

     “Oh no. I wish she was but she says that would be taking advantage of me. That I am still growing up.” I replied.

     “So if you are safe and protected how can I help you today?” Father asked looking a little puzzled.

     “I don't need help. I want to help you. You helped so many and I made it off the streets and I want to help.” I blurted out

     Father George was a little startled, but I could see that an idea had already occurred to him. “Are you sure about this? I mean more than a donation or help cleaning.”

     “Yes.” I answered absolutely confidant that I could do whatever he asked.

     “As you know we can only allow kids to stay for so long and so we try to get them into the system so that they have a second chance.” He sighed looking utterly weary all at once. The lines that age and life had carved on his face deepened and he suddenly looked every bit of the 68 years that I knew he had lived. “I have another boy just like you, but even younger, he is covered in scars. He won't give his name or his age and I know that he can't be over thirteen maybe younger. He's almost run every time that a foster home or an orphanage is mentioned. I managed to get him to agree that if I found someone who was not a social worker or connected to police in anyway that he would stay with them and stay off the streets.”

     It was my turn to be stunned. “You really trust me that much Father? After knowing what I was and what I did.”

     “Yes Nathaniel, you have never lied to me, refused to answer yes, but no lies and you never harmed anyone. You were everyone's victim and mistreated horribly, but you never hurt anyone.”


     That's how I found myself on the way back to Anita's house with a scrawny, foul smelling kid with the worst mouth I ever heard. When father George had pointed him out I thought that he was what artists pictured when they painted pictures of angels. He had white blond hair, celestial blue eyes and the most innocent looking face I had ever seen. My opinion underwent a radical change as soon as he opened his mouth and a stream of profanity came out of him that would make a sailor blush. I guess I was in shock because the transfer of Brad's belongings to the car went past in a blur.

     We had traveled in silence and were half way home before he said anything. “So Father George suckered you into taking me home with you, huh?”

     “Father George didn't sucker me. I volunteered to help. He helped me and I am returning the favor.” I stated firmly.

     Brad snorted and chuckled derisively, “You sure got the shitty end of the stick then.”

     I sighed. “You might want to watch your language when we get home. I don't think my Nimir-ra will tolerate very much of it.”

     “Your what?” he shot back.
     “My Nimir-ra, Father George must have forgotten to tell you. I am a were leopard and she is my pard leader.” I said off handedly turning to grin at his shocked expression.

     “YOU'RE A WHAT?” He shouted panic plain on his face. “Let me outta here.” He tugged frantically at the door.

     “Calm down.” I said soothingly. “Contrary to popular opinion we don't eat children for breakfast and Father George would never send you with me if he thought I would hurt you. You know that.” I could hear his heart pounding madly and his panicked breathing told me that even though he had stopped trying to get the door open he was still upset.

     “Calm down. What the fuck do I have to be calm about? I am being sent home with…with a leopard and you want me to be calm? Are you some kind of fucking nut?” he questioned staring at me eyes as round as saucers.

     “No you are being sent home with someone who was just like you a few years ago who just happens to turn into a leopard once or twice a month.” I said. “And I promise no one will eat you or even hurt you in the slightest.” I swore to him meaning ever word.

     “Uh…yeah, right. Why don't you just let me out right here? It'll be our secret you can tell Father George I ran away.” He said slyly looking at me to see how I was taking it.

     “Nope, not gonna happen.” I replied cheerfully. “I promised Father George and I keep my promises. If you don't want to be here you can tell me your last name and where you live and I'll take you home. Otherwise you are staying and don't get any bright ideas about running away. We will just bring you back.” I had to grin at the scowl on his face.

     “I ain't fucking ever going home so don't even think that, but don't count on keeping me either.” He grumped making a face and subsiding into silence once again.


     I had Brad wait in the car while I broke the news to Anita. “So let me understand this when we talked about helping people who helped you Father George came to mind and to help him you brought home a kid to live with us. Anita shook her head and looked completely stunned at the turn of events. “Have you given any thought at all that with all the people that would like to see me dead that this isn't the safest place to bring a child?” she questioned.

     “Please,” I begged in a submissive posture. “He won't be safe on the streets either. The way he looks he will probably be dead in six months or less and he has nowhere to go.”

     She sighed. I could tell she wasn't happy about it, but her tender heart wouldn't let her just throw the kid back on the streets either. She began “I suppose-“ When Zane interrupted.

     “The kid you brought with you is hot wiring your car and if you don't want to leave you might wanna get out there.” I bolted out the door followed by Anita and the rest of the pard. I jerked open the door just as he got it started and pulled him out before he could put it into gear.

     “Uh…everybody this is Brad.” I smiled sheepishly at the looks on their faces ranging from shock to amusement.

     Anita spoke first. “I can see he is going to fit in just perfect around here. She said throwing up her hands in surrender. “You can keep him, but remember we'll help, but he is your responsibility.”

     Predictably Brad didn't exactly help. “He can keep me? What the fuck do you think I am some kind of mother fucking pet?” He yelled at her retreating back.

     “Anita he didn't mean it.” I said as she stopped and walked back to us with a rather strange expression on her face. “He's only a kid.”

     She didn't say a word she just grabbed his ear and marched him to the house cussing and yelling the whole way. I followed her anxiously wondering what she was going to do. Anita dragged him down the hallway to the bathroom and shut the door.

     Cherry, Zane and I waited in the hall as indistinct thumps and yells echoed down the hall. We heard Brad yell out “Bitch, kiss my-“ was abruptly cut off and then things got quiet. The door opened and we heard her tell him to take a shower he stunk.

Anita walked out of the bathroom and out to the kitchen muttering under her breath as she poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. Catch us following and looking at her she said. “Don't worry I just washed his filthy mouth out with soap.”

We all started laughing in relief. “Did you think I'd hurt the kid?” she asked looking a little offended.

“No.” I answered, “We just wondered what on earth was going on.”

“So now you know you might want to keep an eye on him.” He's a tricky little devil.” She said almost admiringly. I was surprised to see a slight grin on her face. “He reminds me of my brother Josh.”

          The bedraggled wet kid that slunk out of the bathroom bore little resemblance to the cocky kid that tried once again to escape out the bathroom window only to find Zane waiting for him. “Where's my clothes at ya perverts.” He demanded.

     “In the trash where they belong.” Anita said not lifting her head from the paperwork she was studying. “Nathaniel has some clothes, clean clothes,” she emphasized. “for you. Go with him.”

     I motioned for Brad to follow me he grumbled all the way to the spare room that had been designated as his. I pointed to the clothes lying on the bed. “These should keep you until we can go shopping tomorrow for some clothes of your own.”

     He looked at me suspiciously and asked, “What do you want for them? I don't give blowjobs for anything, but cash.”

     I knew he wouldn't believe the truth. So I said. “I don't want to have to chase after you tonight so stay put. Okay?”

     Brad looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. “Yeah right.” He said, but I noticed him inching closer to the sweats and reaching out to touch the soft fabric.

     “Get dressed and come out to the kitchen. We ordered Chinese and it should be here anytime now.” I said.

     He came out to the kitchen wearing Anita's sweats and they were a bit big on him. Anita is only 5'3” and he was even smaller.

     “Grab a chair and eat.” Anita invited motioning towards the open cartons of Chinese food spread across the table.

     He sat down eyeing the four of us suspiciously. Then he proceeded to completely demolish everything he could get his hands on. Lycanthropes take a lot of feeding, but he put even Zane to shame. I don't know where he put it. We ended up just watching in amazement as he polished of the last of the fried rice and finally sat back with a sigh of contentment.

     Noticing that we were staring at him. He growled. “What's your problem?”

     “Not a thing.” Anita answered dryly. “Are you sure you got enough to eat?”

     “Yeah,” he snapped back. “if you didn't want me to eat you shoulda said something.”

     “Its been a while since I've seen my little brother and I've forgotten that teenagers can eat twice their own weight in food a day.” She smiled amused. “You're welcome to eat as much as you want. Nothing is off limits in the fridge.” She frowned. “Except my coffee. You are much too young to drink it.”

     “Fine.” He said. “I'm going to bed.” And with that he stomped off down the hall to his bedroom.

     Anita looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes. “When you decide to fall off the submissive wagon and become responsible you sure go whole hog.”

     I flushed and muttered. “This isn't quite what I was expecting either. And if I am going to keep up with him I'd better some sleep too.”

     “I've got to get to work myself.” She said checking the time on her watch. “I've got four zombie raisings tonight.” With that she swallowed the last of her coffee and disappeared out the door.

     Cherry had been quiet all night until now. “You know besides clothes, if he's been living on the street doing what he'd have to, to survive, he needs to see a doctor and get a check up. You ought to call Dr. Lillian in the morning.” She said the nurse in her coming to the fore.

     “Thanks Cherry I would never have thought of that.” Being a surrogate parent was going to be harder than I thought.


     I was waiting for him when he tried to run that night. I let him get a far as the road before I asked. “Don't you ever get tired of trying to run away?”

     “Shit.” Brad yelled jumping at least a foot in the air. “What the hell are you doing? Trying to give me a heart attack?”

     “Brad, I am a Lycanthrope. Have you ever tried to sneak around a cat? I heard you as soon as you got out of bed.” I explained patiently. “One of the advantages of being a were leopard is that my hearing, sight and sense of smell are enhanced enormously. I also heal a lot faster than normal people.”

     “Well thanks a lot for telling me.” He grouched.

     “Be honest.” I asked. “Would you have believed me?”

     He announced. “I'm goin' back to bed.” And stalked off the perfect picture of wounded dignity. I had to smile life was certainly not going to be boring.


     I rousted Brad out of bed and dragged him to the mall complaining all the way. “I don't need no more clothes.”

     “You are going to need to wash the sweats sometime and they belong to Anita and you need clothes of your own.” I stated firmly ushering him into the Gap.

     I was surprised at the clothes he chose, Levi's 501's straight leg. He made his opinion on wide legged jeans abundantly clear. “Ain't no way I am wearing those ugly fucking jeans.” Plain colored t-shirts, a Jean jacket and some sweats. He absolutely refused to even look at boxers or briefs stating succinctly. “You can buy `em, but there ain't no way in hell I'll wear them. We wandered over to the Footlocker and he picked out shoes while I bought socks. Our shopping finished we headed over to see Dr. Lillian.

     As we waited in an examining room for the doctor he argued, of course, trying to get out of it. “I don't need a doctor I am just fine. I feel great and I don't need no stinking doctor to tell me that.”

     “It doesn't matter you will see the doctor and that's final.” I stated firmly. I'd never met anyone who could argue more than Brad. I decided to try a little bribery. “If you cooperate and don't give Dr. Lillian a hard time we'll go out for lunch anywhere you want.” I offered.

     “Anywhere?” he questioned.

     “Anywhere.” I confirmed.

     “Fine then.” And with that he sat back and proceeded to wait with what passed for patience for him.

     I have to give him credit he did cooperate even when Dr. Lillian gave him a full physical and drew half a dozen tubes of blood. She pronounced him in fairly good health and recommended some vitamin supplements and a well balanced diet.

     I was surprised at his choice of restaurants. I had expected McDonald's or Burger King something like that, but he unerringly directed me to a small Thai restaurant stating that they had the best dumpster food he'd ever eaten and he'd always wanted to try it warm.

     I was a little sickened remembering my own time on the streets. Being hungry all the time and digging through the trash for something to eat. He was right though their food was utterly fantastic. I had never eaten Thai food before, but I knew that this wouldn't be the last time.

     On the way back home he asked me hesitantly. “Why are you treating me so good?”

     I thought for a moment how to phrase it. “I was on the street myself turning tricks to live. Not knowing where my next meal was coming from I was a junkie. I guess that I just feel that I was lucky enough to make it out alive and this is going to sound stupid, but I feel like I owe somebody else a hand up.” I finished not knowing what else to say.

     “So I am just a charity case then?” he questioned.

     “Not really I took you because I owed Father George, but I kind of like having you around.” I had to smile. “You make life interesting.”

     “So you wanna do me then.” He stated with contempt.

     I sighed knowing he wouldn't believe me. “No, I don't want to 'do you' I just think you are an interesting individual.

     His response was typically him. “Riiight.” With that he turned on the radio and sat back in his seat to ignore me.

     Anita was up when we got home sitting at the table drinking coffee. She was dressed for work, but had her jacket off and her gun was very visible. Brad came to a dead halt in the kitchen door way and stared at the shoulder holster containing her Browning.

     She looked up and noticed the expression on his face and asked. “Is there a problem?”

     “Um…uh…why are you carrying a gun?” he blurted out looking more unnerved than I had ever seen him. “Are you a cop or something?”

     Anita smiled at him showing the charm she so rarely let's anyone see. “No I am the legal vampire executioner for the tri-state area.”

     “I know you.” He shouted practically jumping up and down in excitement. “You're the Executioner. That is so cool. I live with the baddest chick in town.”

     The smile on her face turned into a broad grin. “That's what they call me.” I think that this is the first time I have ever seen her enjoy any of the names the papers had given her.

     “I bet all the vampires are scared shitless of you.” Brad crowed. “I bet they piss their pants when they see you comin'.”

     Anita frowned at him and said. “First of all remember what I said about the mouth. Second vampires don't piss their pants. They can be very dangerous, more so when they are frightened. Don't ever mess with one and knowing me could put you in danger.”

     Shifting her attention from Brad to me she asked. “Don't you have to work tonight?”

     I looked at the time and yelped. “I'm late.” Then I ran to get my things together. I came back to the kitchen and Anita had left I hadn't seen Zane or Cherry so I guess I would have to take Brad with me.


     I rushed into Guilty pleasures towing Brad behind me. Unfortunately Jean-Claude was there and noticed me.

     “Nathaniel you are late is there a particular reason for it or did you just decide to start work at a later time? His accent became more pronounced when he was angry and I could feel what little self-confidence I had seeping away.

     “Nnno…I lost track of time and I'm really very sorry.” I said in a rush starting to tremble.

     Brad chose that moment to speak up. “Who the fuck is he? Why is he acting life such an asshole?” I felt my heart drop to the floor.

     Brad came out from behind me where he had been inadvertently hidden from Jean-Claude's sight. The look on Jean-Claude's face would have been comical if I hadn't been worried what he might do to the kid. To my utter shock he took one look threw back his head and laughed. “Mon dieu, this boy is brave he reminds me of ma petite.”

     I relaxed a bit. “Jean-Claude this is Brad he is staying with us and I forgot to make arrangements for him. I hope you don't mind if he stays in the dressing room while I work. He won't be a problem.” I promised.

     “Non, that won't do. This boy has trouble written all over him. I will personally make sure that he behaves Nathaniel you need to get to work.” He looked up and saw me hesitating and barked out. “Go.” I went I didn't have a lot of choice and I really couldn't see him harming a child, but I didn't think that Anita would approve of him as a baby sitter.

     I found myself very anxious about Brad being closeted with the master of the city. The night seemed to just drag on and on. I finished my last set and barely took the time to stuff my tips in my bag before I ran to the office to get him.

     Not being a fool I knocked on the door and Jean-Claude bid me enter. “I'm here to take Brad home. I hope he wasn't a bothe…” My words came to a crashing halt as I took in the sight of the normally impeccable Jean-Claude his shirt was half untucked and his hair was standing up all over the place. “What happened?” I questioned fearfully looking around and not seeing Brad I began to panic.

     Just then he popped up from behind the desk and said. “Hey Nathaniel why didn't you tell me vampires was this much fun?” With that he fired the pillow in his hand at Jean-Claude who caught it before it hit him in the back of the head.

     Jean-Claude laughed and for the first time I heard genuine amusement and it still caused shivers to run down my spine. “Knock it off man. I told you before that's creepy.” Brad scowled at him. He continued to smile wide enough to flash his fangs.

     “Mon petite ami does not approve of my laughter. He is even more like your Nimir-ra than I first thought.” He informed me. This much good mood from him was enough to make my hair stand on end it just wasn't natural.

     “I gotta get him home he's a kid and needs his sleep. I said for a lack of anything better to say. Gesturing towards the door I asked Brad if he was ready to go.

     “You are welcome to bring him back at any time.” Jean-Claude stated. “In fact I hope that you do.”

     I nodded nervously and backed out the door. I wanted out of there. I practically dragged Brad out to the car. He finally dug in his heels half way across the parking and refused to go another step. He yanked himself out of my grasp and asked me. “What's the matter with you? Why are you in such a hurry?”

     I said. “Keep walking and I will explain. I headed to the car with him following. “You have been playing with the most dangerous vampire in St. Louis. Jean-Claude is the master of the city and he never acts like that. I wanted to get out of there before he changed his mind and did whatever.” I finished hurriedly as I pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.

     “I know that.” Brad said impatiently. “Jean-Claude told me all about it. He's got the major hots for Anita and he said he would never damage one of hers and that I was one of hers.”

     I felt a little of my fear subside at his words. “He's still very dangerous and you should be careful not to antagonize him.”

     Brad snorted. “He likes me, besides he said he would teach me how to use a sword. I don't think he'd do that if he was gonna off me.”

     I sighed knowing I would never convince him now that he had made up his mind. The one thing about Brad that I was absolutely positive of was that he was every bit as stubborn as Anita.

     I gave up trying to convince Brad that Jean-Claude was dangerous and started asking about what they had been doing. I couldn't believe his answer. Basically, they had had a long play session and had dueled using broomsticks as swords. It had progressed to Brad trying to hit Jean-Claude with pillows while he tried to avoid them.

     We got home and I got Brad to go to bed and me to mine. I knew that my life would change bringing the kid home with me. What I didn't expect was that Brad would also change everybody else's lives as well. I fell asleep wondering what new changes would happen in the days to come.


      Anita had a surprise for the both of us when we got up. She had contacted Richard and he was waiting for us.

     “Anita has told me a lot about you, Brad. I understand that it has probably been a while since you have attended school. So I am here to do a few tests and set up some lesson plans for you.” He stated, looking Brad in the eye.

     I had never seen Richard acting like a teacher and it was a lot different than the way he usually acted around Anita. I could tell by his scent that he wasn't real comfortable. I decided that I had better stay out of the firing line. I knew that nothing would make him let on that he was a Werewolf with Brad around, but he wasn't real happy that Anita let me sleep with her and that I helped to feed her ardeur although he had been the one to break it off.

     Brad surprised me; I expected him to argue and complain. Instead he sat down and dived into the tests that Richard had brought with him. I could smell the surprise that Richard was experiencing when he began to grade the tests. He reached into the briefcase that he had brought with him and withdrew a few more tests for Brad to take.

     I hated to interrupt it was just not something that you do with an Alpha especially the leader of a pard or a pack. “Um…Richard” I interrupted hesitantly. “Brad hasn't eaten yet and I'm sure he's hungry. Do…do you think that we…I could get him something?”

     He looked up at me in surprise and seemed to be astonished that I had interrupted. As what I had said sunk in he replied. “Of course, I should have thought of it myself. I have to say though that I am extremely pleased by the results of Brad's tests. I expected that he would need a lot of remedial attention, but he seems to be an extraordinarily bright young man.”

     “What do you mean by that?” Brad piped up looking at him challengingly.

     “What I mean is that I believe that you are possibly one of the most intelligent and talented students that has ever been my privilege to have as a pupil.” Richard spoke, looking at Brad very seriously.”
     Brad's response to this was typical. “Right. You're trying to tell me I'm some kinda genius? Are you crazy?

     I could tell Richard was a little irritated by his response. “I don't lie. I have been a teacher for five years and I have never seen scores like these. You shouldn't even have been able to answer half the questions on the last couple of tests. Those tests are from courses I am taking to get my master's degree.

     "No shit,” Brad exclaimed. “That is so cool.”

     Richard continued. “Unfortunately, it doesn't do you a bit of good if we don't know who you are so we can get you into an accelerated classroom.”

     At this Brad's face turned a sickly gray color and the scent of fear just rolled off of him. “Forget it. I ain't tellin' nobody who I am or where I am from they will just make me go back. I will die before I ever go back.” Brad shouted shoving his chair back from the table and running to his bedroom and slamming the door.


     It took me two hours after Richard had left to calm Brad down. I don't know what had happened to him, but judging by the scars he carried and his insistence on secrecy, it had to be bad. Real bad.

     Anita showed up a short time later after I had finally convinced him to eat something and had sworn that nobody would ever force him to go home. She came in on the tail end of our discussion.

     “Brad I can tell that you are scared of wherever it is that you came from. I am going to promise you that you will not have to be scared here. I know that Jean-Claude is going to teach you to fence. I am going to take it a step further. From now on you will be going with me when I go to the dojo. I will also be taking you to the shooting range and will make sure that you can protect yourself.” She took his hands and with the fierce look that she got when somebody threatened one of her people she stated emphatically. “That will only be a very last resort. Anybody trying to hurt you will have to go through me and my friends and believe me I have some of the meanest, nastiest people who owe me and would come if I call.”

     I could see the tension seem to disappear from Brad's thin shoulders. With all that I could offer him and promise he hadn't relaxed until he heard it from Anita. She is good that way. She has a way of making people feel safe and protected. I should know.

     The next two weeks seemed to pass in a blur. Brad was by no means perfect, but he really was a bright spot in all of our lives. I laughed and shouted more than I ever had. I discovered a streak of practical joking in him a mile wide. He really was a joy to have around even when he was driving everybody out of their minds.

     Zane had changed his hair again to a white blond color and the little twerp added blue food coloring to his shampoo. I am pretty sure the striping was an accident but everyplace the soap had run down his body had left blue stripes. Cherry and I had to play keep away with Brad until laughing hysterically Zane finally gave up chasing him.

     Even Anita was a victim of his sense of humor. She had fallen asleep on the couch and he had filled her hand with whipped cream (because there wasn't any shave cream) and had tickled her face with a feather. She threatened to give him to Jean-Claude as a midnight snack, but she was smiling as she said it.

     It was really heartbreaking when Dr. Lillian called and gave us the news.

     Brad's lab results were in. He's HIV positive. How the hell am I going to tell him?

     Anita came rushing home from work quickly followed by Jean-Claude and Richard. I had called her in tears after receiving Dr. Lillian's call. She had contacted the other two.

     I had my face buried in her neck clutching her like there was no tomorrow. “What are we going to do?” my voice muffled. “How can we tell him that he is going to die?” I sobbed. I felt like screaming.

     Richard spoke from behind me. “He doesn't have to die.”

     I pulled away from Anita and turned to face him. “What do you mean he doesn't have to die?” I questioned. “There's no cure. AIDS is always fatal in the end.”

     “Not for Lycanthropes it isn't.” he stated flatly.

     “Richard you are the last person I would have expected to suggest that we infect Brad with lycanthropy.” Anita came up behind me and placed her hand comfortingly on my shoulder as she spoke.

     “I may hate my beast and everything that goes with it, but I would never suggest that death is a better choice.” He paused. “Especially with a boy as promising and as intelligent as Brad.'

     Jean-Claude entered the discussion for the first time addressing Richard. “The boy has gotten to you as well, Mon ami.” I saw an expression of sadness pass over Jean-Claude's usually expressionless face. “I have not felt so alive in centuries as I do in his company. It would truly be a tragedy for such as he to die so young.”

     I could feel hope start to blossom in my chest. We could save him. Before I got too carried away with this Anita spoke again. “It would have to be his choice.”

     “I agree.” Said Richard. “He must be given the chance to decide for himself.”

     “I would offer to bring him over as a vampire, but he is too young.” Jean-Claude added. “He deserves to grow up and become a man and as a vampire that would never happen. He would always carry the appearance of a child and I would not have that for him.”

     It was decided that when Brad got back from shopping with Zane and Cherry that we would break the news to him. I was not looking forward to it


     They tumbled in through the front door laughing and scattering packages everywhere. Zane and Cherry came to a halt picking up on the tension in the room and at the sight of Anita, Richard and Jean-Claude waiting. Seeing the members of the triumvirate together was unusual enough these days, but with the high levels of anxiety it was almost scary and I didn't blame them a bit for being wary.

     “Brad we need to speak to you.” Said Anita calmly.

     “What's up?” he replied. “Has my teacher been telling on me again.” He joked the smile slowly fading from his face as he took in the serious expression on our faces. “Is something wrong?”

     I walked over to Brad placing my arm around his shoulder and gently guiding him to the couch to sit. I sat besides him and took his hand in mine. Brad and I had developed our relationship to that of brothers rather than a parental one. I had asked for permission to be the one to break the news. Nobody had objected, after all who wants to be the bearer of bad new?

     I turned his face to mine and said. “Dr. Lillian called today the results of your tests are back. The results aren't good.” That had to be the understatement of the year. I took a deep breath and gave him the news. “She ran the test twice to make sure Brad. I am so sorry to have to tell you that you are HIV positive.”

     Brad just looked at me as if he didn't comprehend what I said. I watched as the realization hit him and the horror of the situation sank in. “NO!” he screamed jumping to his feet. I quickly wrapped my arms around him as he screamed and cried.

     “Brad listen to me there maybe a way out of this.” I said shaking him gently to get his attention.

     “Don't lie to me, Nathaniel.” He sobbed. “I'm not stupid.

     “We know you aren't stupid, Brad.” Said Anita coming closer to rest her hand on his head. “You know I wouldn't lie to you. Lycanthropes don't die from viruses. She stated.

     “W…What?” brad questioned wiping his tears on his sleeve as he turned to face her.

     “I am sure Cherry has told you how she grew a new leg after she became a Were leopard.” She said looking into Brad's red and swollen eyes.

     “Y...yes, she d…did.” He stuttered still breathing hard from the emotional storm that had erupted earlier. “What's that got to do with me?”

     Richard stepped forward. “If you become a lycanthrope, and it has to be your choice, you would not die from any disease.”

     “So if I was a Werewolf I wouldn't have AIDS anymore? He questioned and I could feel the hope suddenly vibrating through his body.

     “Yes, but you wouldn't have to be a Werewolf. You could be a Were rat, a Were leopard, a Were tiger or even a Were hyena, although I wouldn't recommend it.” He said trying to give all the options. “You wouldn't like their Oba, he's a little odd.”

     Brad was silent, you could almost see the wheels turning as he thought about it. “Would it hurt?” he asked.

     “Not in your case.” Anita spoke. “We talked to Dr. Lillian and she said that if you decide to become a lycanthrope she could use a simple injection to infect you. That way there would be no doubt and no pain.”

     He laughed a little bitterly. “There really isn't much choice.”

     I said. “You could choose to wait awhile and see if they come up with a cure.”

     “A cure?' he said sarcastically. “What a joke. Don't you realize that no one, not ever has cured a virus. They have found vaccines, but no cures never.”

     I stared helplessly at him unable to give him any comfort. “Maybe you should sleep on it. You have time to think about it and make your decision.”

     “I have made my decision.' He said. “The only question left is what will I choose to become.” With that he stalked off to his bedroom and slammed the door.


     I spent the next few hours pacing the living room until Anita chased me outside. So I continued my pacing outside as the night passed ever so slowly. Close to dawn I heard Brad window open and he slipped out.

     “I've watched you pacing all night.” He said coming to stand next to me. “Why are you so worried?”

     I sat down on the dew-drenched grass and tried to explain. “You have become the little brother I always wanted, but never had. I am afraid you will be stubborn and I will have to watch you die. I am afraid that you will become a lycanthrope and hate me. Either way I would lose you and that's the last thing I would ever want to happen.”

     Brad sat next to me silent for some time. “You don't have to worry that I will hate you, Nathaniel. You are the first person to treat me as if I mattered for a very long time.” He paused as if he'd said too much then he continued. “I want you to know that. That's why I've made my decision to become a Were leopard like you. I don't want to be separated from you.”
     I couldn't help myself. I wrapped my arms around him and proceeded to cry all over him. “Hey man take it easy you'll get me wet.” He said with a pale ghost of his usual face splitting grin as he returned my embrace.

     We walked to the deck only to find the others who had waited throughout the night with us. We were enfolded in a group hug that held all the warmth and affection that you could want. There was no need to tell them of his decision they had heard it themselves.

     “I can't say that I am not sorry to hear that you won't be a Werewolf.” Richard said with a watery smile. “I can understand your reasons though.”

     Everyone chuckled at that and as if it was a signal our night long watch finally broke up. With Jean-Claude and Richard heading to their respective homes. The rest of us went to bed to catch a few hours of well-deserved rest.     

     Dr. Lillian had infected Brad with Lycanthropy using a serum made from my blood. He grinned when she gave him the shot asking if this made us blood brothers. All we had left to do was wait for the full moon.

     Brad started to have increased hearing and sense of smell within twenty-four hours and we knew that the serum had been successful even though it took two weeks for the virus to show up in his blood work and confirm it.

     Everyone who had met Brad wanted to be there for him during his first change so we decided to have it take place at the luapanar.

     I held Brad's hands as the moon rose and he began to feel it effects. I held onto my own humanity long enough to watch as he changed into a half grown leopard form. If a half grown leopard even got to be the size of a large dog. I quickly followed and we spent the night hunting together.


     I was waiting when Brad woke from his first night as a leopard. I watched as the realization that it had been successful. He jumped to his feet totally oblivious to the fact that he was stark naked and started jumping around like mad whooping and hollering. “It worked. Yes. Yes Yes.” He ran over to were I was standing and leapt into my arms and finally realized his state of undress. “Hey man where's my clothes.” He said backing up.

     I handed him the blanket I had waiting and said. “That's a problem sometimes. Its usually better to take your clothes off before you change. They don't survive the change.” I informed him grinning a little at his embarrassment.

     He had wrapped the blanket hastily around his body. He was trying to scowl, but his ebullience at making the change and removing the death sentence hanging over his head just wouldn't let him. “That was so cool Nathaniel. I don't remember a lot, but I remember running like the wind. It felt great.”

     I said. Let's get to the car and get you some clothes and we'll all go home and celebrate.” I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and guided him toward home.

The End

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The Stray II Chapter One