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Where I Live (Part 3)
My phone rang and I practically jumped out of my skin. I glanced at the caller I.D. before putting it up to my ear. 'I think you just gave me a heart attack.'
'Dad wanted me to call you.' Kadin said, completely ignoring me. 'Where'd you go?'
'I went home. . . Tell him I found out where Ty Lan lives. . . God, Kadin, he was only a floor up from me and I didn't even know what he was. . . I'm the worst Jungle Cat there is. I didn't even see when a Hunter came for him.'
'A Hunter? You're sure?'
'What else could it be? They hid their scent on purpose.'
'Are you in his apartment?'
'Yeah, I picked the lock.'
The volume changed as he moved the phone away from his mouth. 'She's in his apartment.'
'Tell her to look for any sign of struggle.' I heard Dad in the background.
'Dad says to ''
'Yeah, I heard. . .' I almost dropped the phone and leaned limply against the bedroom door frame. 'And I just found it. . . The bed's messed up . . . the closet door is detached . . . the carpet has claw marks in it . . . so do the walls . . . there's a little bit of blood on the ground . . . and there are long, single cuts on the wall. . . I think this Hunter used a whip. He must have gotten to Ty Lan while he was taking a nap or something and when he woke up . . . they fighting started. . . God! How did I not hear this going on!?'
'Calm down, Kryn. Don't blame this on yourself. You were probably working the night it happened. Just calm down . . . Dad'll find him . . . I know he will.' His voice got quieter. 'He has to.'
'And we will. . . I'm not coming home just yet. . . I'll find his scent . . . pull a bloodhound tonight. . . I'll probably come back in the morning, maybe the afternoon. . . Tell Dad I'm gonna skip out on work so I can help.'
'What about you're ''
'I've got money saved up to pay the rent and bills for a little while. I'll be fine. Just tell Dad . . . and stay safe.'
That said, I hung up. I walked to his dresser and pulled out one of his shirts. Inhaling deeply, I memorized his scent. Then, though it was a little disturbing, I got the scent of his blood. It was stronger, overpowering even, but I would need to know it if I was going to search for him. I searched his house and found his keys. At least now I won't have to break in again.
Once I had locked his door and gone to my own apartment to put the lock pick back, I headed off down the street. I didn't have much hope of finding his scent mixed in with all the other people, but I had to try anyway. I pulled a bloodhound that night, what Cats had come to call searching for someone's scent for long distances or when the scent was old. I tried not to look suspicious as I did it and didn't return home until early in the morning.
Feeling defeated, I got on my bike and rode it the half block to the parking structure I normally kept it in. When I had parked it and was walking away, I heard an odd scraping sound from further down the dark corridor. It was shortly accompanied by a low moan and what sounded like a sob.
Curiosity got the best of me and I thought of the clich' of what curiosity did to the cat, wondering what I was getting myself into. When I found the source of the sound, my breath hitched and I held it for a few seconds. There was a Bird of Prey sprawled out in the center of the road, normally white wings covered in oil and dirt. Slowly, he tried to pick himself up. I watched silently as he tried and fell back down two times before getting up onto his knees.
When he succeeded, he slowly picked his head up and looked at me. His face was stained with the same oil as his wings and there was blood running down the left side of his face, leading up to a cut that looked like someone had slammed a bat into his head. I ruled that out as a possibility since, unlike Jungle Cats and Wolves, Birds of Prey lacked the endurance to survive a hit like that.
His eyes started falling closed and he almost fell over again, but he caught himself. And then he just kept looking at me. It caught me completely off guard when I realized that he didn't look afraid. He should have. He was injured, barely sitting upright, and there was a Jungle Cat standing in front of him. We were probably around the same age, but it was still dangerous for him.
And yet he looked completely unafraid.
I took a few steps towards him and he didn't even flinch, just looked up more so he was still looking at my face. And then, he did something that I knew no Bird of Prey would do to a Jungle Cat.
He reached out to me.
He held his hand out in front of him, palm down, like he was trying to reach me, wanted me to come closer. Thinking he had to be delirious from a concussion and blood loss and that I was probably loosing my mind for doing it, I kneeled down. I wasn't in reach of him, but I got down on one knee and slipped my hat off, then tilted my head down so he could see my ears better, but I could still see his face.
His eyes widened a little and then he got a curious expression on his face. He still wasn't afraid. He reached out again, his hand going up to the top of my head, but I swatted it away with a little growl. He still wasn't afraid, but his eyes got a sad look to them and he pulled his hand back in.
He acts like a four-year-old. I thought quietly to myself. Here's an idea . . . let's ask him a question. 'You know what I am, don't you?'
He gave me a questioning look and glanced back up at my ears, but said nothing.
'I could easily have killed you by now.'
That made him look a little afraid, but it was more like nervousness. Still, he said nothing.
'Why aren't you afraid? Are you just too confident?'
He gave me another curious look and then looked to the side. As if he'd just realized he had wings, he fell backwards in surprise. It looked involuntary, but both wings shot forward, almost squashing me and making a wind that blew my hair around. He spun completely around and I jumped backwards to avoid getting hit as his wings followed him.
I was going against my better judgment, but I tried to approach him again. He was still freaking out a little so when I got close enough that I was standing directly behind him, I grabbed both of his wings near the base and forced him to stop flailing around. He cried out in pain and leaned back so I wasn't pulling at the joints. I could have sworn I'd heard him sob.
'Stop flapping around!' I snapped. 'What's your problem, never seen your own wings before?'
He sobbed again and shook his head, trying to reach back and move my hands away.
'Stop fighting or I tear your feathers out.'
His hands shot back down into his lap. He tilted his head all the way back so he could look at me and I almost stopped breathing it shocked me so bad.
He was crying.
Sixteen . . . a Bird of Prey . . . already taken a beating . . . all I did was pull on his wings . . . and he's crying . . . full on, tears streaming, crying. I let go of his wings and kneeled behind him just to make sure he couldn't attack in case this was some elaborate scheme.
'Are you hurt?' I asked quietly.
He turned his head as much as he could but gave up after a few seconds when he couldn't see me. He nodded slowly but said nothing.
'Why don't you talk?'
He stayed silent.
All right, think head injuries. 'Do you . . . remember how?'
He stayed silent again, his head hanging down more.
'Do you remember anything?'
He shook his head slowly, and buried his face in his hands.
'Great . . . the one in a hundred chance that someone gets amnesia from a head injury and I happen to find the one. . . And to make things worse . . . the amnesiac is a Bird of Prey.'
I had never really understood why the clans fought just because we were different. And this Bird didn't remember any malice he might have had towards us . . . so I decided to take a chance. A chance that could have some major penalties if my parents or other Jungle Cats ever found out.
'Can you pull your wings in?' I asked, alert for other people. 'It's dangerous to go out in public with them showing.'
For a few seconds, he moved his wings around, but he couldn't remember how to do it and his head slumped forward in defeat.
'I'm gonna hit right here,' I put a finger against a special point on his spine, 'It'll make you pull them in. It might hurt a little.'
He nodded and I felt him tense.
'No, no, you need to relax. If you don't relax it'll hurt.'
He nodded again and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
As he was reaching the point where he couldn't blow out anymore, I pulled my hand back and slammed two fingers into the point on his spine. I jumped back as his back arched and, almost instantly, his wings pulled in, folding against his spine. When they had folded all the way in, he started to collapse backwards. I came forward again and put a hand at the back of his neck, pushing him back up.
Once I had fixed his shirt well enough that it covered his wings, I gave him my jacket to wear, thinking it was a good thing I liked to wear my jackets baggy or it wouldn't have fit him. Pulling up the hood to hide the blood, I got him up on his feet and started walking him out of the complex. He was wobbly and it seemed like he couldn't remember how to use his legs right. I was sure that to the people we passed he looked drunk.
When I finally managed to get him back to my apartment, he was nearly passed out. I could barely unlock and open the door since he was leaning all of his weight on me. Once I got him inside, I just let him fall onto the couch. He probably would have fallen to sleep right then, but apparently it was uncomfortable to lie down on folded wings because he sat back up again.
I got the jacket off of him and tossed it on the floor. 'You need to get cleaned up.' I put a hand on his forehead, moving his short hair back to expose the cut and he just watched me silently, unresisting. 'That cut could get infected but you heal fast so you shouldn't worry much.' I walked away and got the first aid kit and a wet washcloth, then came back. 'I'm gonna put this on it.' I held up the disinfectant as I sat next to him on my knees. 'It's gonna sting.'
He nodded and closed his eyes in anticipation of the pain. Feeling a little bad that I was about to hurt him, I cleaned away the oil, dirt and blood from the left side of his face. Once I'd done that, noting silently that he still had his eyes closed, I wet a cloth with disinfectant and scrubbed lightly at the wound. He gave a slight gasp and his hands clenched into fists in his lap. I tried not to hurt him too much and shocked myself when I realized that I was acting pretty motherly towards a guy the same age as me, a Bird of Prey at that.
When I had cleaned off his cut, I pulled him gently to his feet. 'You need to get cleaned up. . . I'll turn on the water and get you a towel but the rest you can do on your own.' I made a mental disgusted face.
He let me lead him to the bathroom, still looking slightly confused but trusting. When I pushed him into the bathroom, turned the water on, got the temperature right and set a towel on the sink counter, he just stood there.
'Well?' I said a little impatiently.
He tilted his head to the side like he didn't know what I wanted him to do.
A thought struck me. 'Oh no . . . I can't do this for you.'
He looked at the shower, then back at me. He really had no clue what I wanted him to do.
I walked forward and wiped some oil off his face with one finger, showing it to him. 'You have to wash this off. . . Just . . . take off the clothes so they don't get wet and stand under the water. Then, when you're wet,' I grabbed one of the shampoo bottles, 'Use this to get clean.'
He took the bottle from me slowly and stared at it.
'You're gonna make me do it, aren't you?'
He looked at me again, still silent.
Sighing, I stepped forward and held the bottom hem of his shirt. 'Put your arms up.' When he did so, I pulled the shirt up and over his head. It was a little hard since he was a few inches taller than me and his wings got in the way, but I managed. Feeling extremely awkward and a little . . . wrong . . . I unbuttoned and unzipped his pants a quickly as possible, then stepped back. 'You can take those off yourself, just leave the boxers on.'
He did so, not looking like he cared that I was there at all, then stood there, waiting.
Feeling my cheeks start to heat, I pushed him towards the tub, making sure he didn't slip and fall as he got in, and put him underneath the water flow. He looked up at the shower head, then back down, rubbing his eyes since it had rained down right into them.
I sighed again and waited as the water started wash away most of the dirt. I opened and put soap on a new loofah, then handed it to him, instructing him to scrub off the dirt himself because I certainly wasn't going to do it. To my surprise, he did so pretty thoroughly by himself.
I pushed his shoulders down a little when he was done. 'Kneel down, you're too tall for me.'
He got down on his knees and I put shampoo on my hands. Then, feeling completely ridiculous, I scrubbed his hair for him. Once the oil, dirt and a little blood were gone, I found that his hair was light blonde. When I turned off the water and pulled him out of the tub, his knees gave out and he fell against me. I barely caught him and then lowered him down onto his knees. Putting my hand on his forehead, I kept his eye open and tilted his head back. I wasn't a doctor, but I had treated and received a lot of injuries. It didn't look like he had a concussion.
'Do me a favor,' I said, moving my hand away and holding up a finger. 'Follow my finger without moving your head.'
I moved it slowly back and forth and his grey eyes followed every move. He didn't move his head. That was a good sign. Then, he reached out and grabbed my hand with one of his own, giving me a smile like he was saying, 'Look, I caught it.'
Smiling a little, I grabbed the towel off the counter and held it out to him. He took it and I walked out of the room. The only things I had for him was a pair of baggy pants and a big shirt I had gotten from my Dad that I wore at night sometimes. I hoped they would fit or at least be good enough until I could get him some new clothes or wash his own.
Apparently, he figured out by himself what I wanted him to do with the towel since, by the time I had found the clothes and gotten back to the bathroom, all but his hair and underwear were dry. That was another problem. He needed new ones. Suddenly, I remembered the weight in my pocket and got an idea. It was kind of wrong to just take someone else's underwear, but I still had Ty Lan's key and he wasn't here so . . .
I fell slowly to my knees, the thought of Ty Lan making me feel depressed again. It caught me off guard when the Bird crawled in front of me and picked my chin up. He looked at me with sad eyes and I pulled away, wiping at my eyes as I stood.
'Stay here for a couple minutes, all right?' I said, 'I'll be right back.'
I didn't stay to see if he nodded and locked the door on my way out, hoping he wouldn't know how to work the lock. I went up to Ty Lan's apartment and reached into his dresser. When I had a pair of boxers, I folded them up and hid them in my pocket, then hurried back home. When I got there, the Bird was still sitting on the bathroom floor waiting.
I tossed the clothes in to him. 'Get dressed.'
I closed the door and walked away. About five minutes later, I got up and knocked on the bathroom door.
'Are you dressed y '?' Wait. I thought. He doesn't talk.
Slowly, I opened the door. Thankfully, he was almost completely dressed. I just had to pull his shirt down when it got caught on his wings. I pulled him out into the living room and bandaged his head, then started drying his hair.
'I can't believe I actually did this.' I muttered quietly. 'This is so wrong. . . If you remembered anything, you would know how to do that on your own. And I hope you're a fast learner, 'cause I'm not doing that again. Ever.'
He made a noise.
I stopped rubbing at his hair. 'Did you . . . Did you just chirp?'
He did it again, for longer this time, the pitch going up and down.
I moved the towel so I could see his face. 'You just chirped at me.'
He nodded once, looking like I should know it was normal.
'Okay . . . that's a new one by me. . .' I pushed his head down a little and started drying again. 'That's actually kinda cool.'
He did it again and this time it sounded kind of like a laugh.
'Listen very closely. . . Don't ever do that in public.'
He picked his head up and gave me a questioning look.
I tried not to look him in the eye. 'It's a scary thought but . . . there are a lot of people out there who would want to hurt you because of these.' I pointed over his shoulder. 'I should have been one of them but . . . I don't know . . . you looked so helpless. . . Curse my maternal instincts.' I sat down next to him with a heavy sigh. 'Because of those wings, you've been put into a group called the Birds of Prey and because of these,' I slipped my hat off, 'I'm in a group called the Jungle Cats. There's another group called the Wolves . . . and all of these groups fight with each other for a reason I've never understood.'
He chirruped softly and I looked over to see that his head kept dropping down and jerking back. He was falling asleep sitting up.
Sighing again with a little smile, I pushed him down onto the couch. 'Lay on your stomach or your side so you don't hurt yourself. . . And if you open your wings and rip that shirt I'll kick your butt.'
He nodded sleepily as his eyes closed. He was asleep within seconds and as soon as he was, I collapsed into a chair. 'A sixteen-year-old guy and I'm taking care of him like a toddler. . . If Dad ever finds out about this I'm dead.'
Before my mind could drift back to Ty Lan, I got up and grabbed some clothes. Making sure to lock the door, I rinsed out the oil and dirt from the tub and then took a shower. When I was dried and dressed in a baggy shirt and shorts that had a hole in the back so my tail could stick out, I collapsed into the chair again. Not long after that, I fell asleep.