It was actually only after about five minutes that Casey saw Thane pull up in his Range Rover. Harry got out of the passenger seat carrying a bundle wrapped in a car blanket.
“Casey,” Harry called, seeing him, “Quickly, he passed out before we got him in the car and he hasn’t woken up at all on the drive here.”
“Come in and put him on the couch,” Casey said moving out the way. Harry laid his bundle down, then he stepped back to allow Casey nearer.
Casey slowly moved the blanket back and let out a gasp at what he saw.
The figure on the couch was a young boy. The first thing he noticed was the thin face framed by long, black matted hair. He had delicate features making him almost look elflike. At that moment he was covered in dirt, but Casey thought that when he was cleaned up he would be even more beautiful than he looked now. Looking at the rest of the boy, Casey saw he was dressed in rags. The sweat pants he wore looked like they were more holes than fabric and he didn’t have anything else on, no top, no shoes, nothing.
Casey held his hands out over him and started muttering a spell to diagnose exactly how hurt the boy was.
When the spell returned its report Casey turned his furious gaze on Thane and Harry, “What the hell happened to this boy? He has broken bones that have only recently healed, he has whip lashes only partially healed – which means they must have been deep to have not healed yet seeing as he is at least part vampire and maybe more – he is malnourished and he has something wrong with his mind but the spell can’t tell me what. That’s just the surface report, I can feel more but I don’t want to push too hard.”
Thane and Harry were moving backwards warily as Casey advanced angrily on them, “Hey we had nothing to do with hurting him,” Thane said. “The short story is he’s a hybrid like me, but he is half vampire and half shifter. Someone from his community contacted the High Council with reports of abuse. Harry was sent in undercover and he found out about the boy. The boy was kept locked up in a basement and had been there since not long after he was born. Harry got himself recruited as a guard and managed to get the boy out in the open and we made a run for it. The boy struggled a bit but then came along with us, he passed out halfway to the car at the edge of his community. He was chained arm and leg, those I got off by using a spell to pick the lock but the collar is magically sealed to him and I don’t have the ability to get it off him.”
Casey took a deep breath and looked back at the small figure on the couch, the boy couldn’t be more than five feet tall and was skinny as a rake.
“What’s his name?” Casey asked, as he tried to decide the best course of action.
“We don’t know, the only thing I ever heard him called was the freak.” Harry stated with disgust evident in his voice.
Casey growled and reached out to brush the boy’s face, he snatched his hand back when he started to stir.
As soon as Casey moved his hand away, the boy stilled again, so Casey moved back and watched as the boy’s head seemed to try and follow his movement, although he stayed asleep.
Moving back to the couch Casey was taking another look at the boy when a new voice gave him a start.
“Hello. Where is everyone?” Craig’s voice echoed from the front door.
“In the main room,” Casey called back.
“How’s the patient?” Came Adam’s voice as footsteps echoed in the hallway and the big vampire appeared in the doorway with Craig.
Casey spun round, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here as an Elder. The Council are the ones that sent Harry into the shifter camp and then sent Thane in to extract him and the hybrid. Besides you left me a standing invitation into the house remember?”
Adam moved closer and Casey heard him pull in a sharp breath when he saw the figure lying on the blanket.
“Well, since you’re here help me get him untangled from the blanket and more comfortable.”
Adam lifted the light body while Casey removed the dirty blanket and then when Adam set him down again Casey tucked some warm clean covers around him.
Casey turned to see Craig staring down at the unconscious figure. “I didn’t want to heal anything until you looked at him because to be honest I think the pain is keeping him unconscious at the moment and I didn’t want him to wake up and panic. Will you be able to use your abilities to calm his mind and at least encourage him to stay still without us having to restrain him?” Craig nodded and Casey continued, “Good, looking at his wrists and ankles he has had enough of restraints to last him a lifetime.”
Casey finished tucking in the blankets and then turned back to Adam, “Now can you please tell me what’s going on?”
Adam looked at him and seemed to be assessing him before answering, “Well, it came to Jackson’s, and therefore the High Council’s, attention recently that there are a lot more hybrids around than was originally thought. Of course the registration laws were abolished years ago when it was proved hybrids weren’t dangerous and that making them register was cruel and made them more segregated than they already were. Unfortunately it also meant we had no way of ensuring they were being treated properly because we didn’t know where they were. It seems some communities still do not accept hybrids, they either cast them out, which as you know is against the law for any minor child, or they treat them as slaves.
“Their parents are supposed to be responsible for them till they reached their majority, unless they hand them over to the High Council for re-homing. Well, Chapmistres’ just became a re-homing community. Actually it is only one of two so far. All other communities have refused to take any in. Most say they will look after any hybrids born in their community but they will not take on any outsiders. The others that refused and said they didn’t want any of those, and I quote, ‘freaks’ in their community, were told to hand over any hybrids they already had.” Thane let out a growl from his place by the door. Adam shot him a look before continuing.
“The shifter community this boy lived in said they didn’t have any hybrids, but then we got a tip. After some digging, Harry was sent in to find a way to get the person out. We don’t know anything about him. The tip only said there was a young hybrid being kept in the alpha’s house and that we needed to get him out quickly. Morgana cast a spell on Harry so the shifters would think he was one of them and so would trust him. It still took him a month to gain the alpha’s trust and then a few more weeks to get the position in the guards.
“By the way, the other community that agreed to re-homing hybrids is Witchconspy, I think Cade had most to do with that. He and Louis are making a good life for themselves there. Cade has made a good Council Elder since Thomas retired last month, and he’s working every day to ensure the community is, not only looked after, but offers help as and when it can to any outsiders.”
Adam looked down at the boy again, “I pulled the community records of births and deaths, but without knowing his name or age I don’t know who to look for. We will have to wait for him to wake up and tell us about himself.”
Casey shook his head, “If he has been mistreated, which he obviously has, his mind will be messed up just like Daniel and Ricky’s were. Craig has made excellent progress with them but it took time and it will for this little one too.”
While they had been talking Craig had been examining the unconscious patient. He spun on Adam, “I hope you’re going to deal with the fuckers who have hurt him!”
Adam held his hands up in a gesture of surrender, “It wasn’t me so calm down. It will be investigated and yes, if we can prove who it was, we will deal with it. Now can you please tell us what’s wrong with him so Casey can start the healing? I’m sure none of us want him in pain for any longer than is necessary.”
Craig turned to frown at Casey, “Why didn’t you just use magic to dull the pain and put him in a deeper sleep?”
“I told you, I don’t know if he has a brain injury, only you can deal with the unconscious mind and therefore the brain. Magic just told me he had been banged on the head recently but not how hard or exactly when. There’s no physical damage to his brain but you’re the psychic, so…”
Craig nodded as he reached for the boy again and laid a hand on his head.
Everyone watched as Craig concentrated, a pin could have been heard dropping in the silence as no one dared to even breathe too loud and break Craig’s concentration.
Vash was floating in his happy space, there was no pain here and he wanted to stay. He knew he had been put in a car of some sort because he had felt the movement but it had seemed to come from a long way away. The car stopped and he was moved again. He was put on something soft that molded to his shape as he lay. A scent filled the air, it spoke of comfort and safety, but how could that be? He was not safe and he never would be. His bed was usually hard and he was always cold. Here he was warm.
The scent moved away and he tried to move his head to follow it but couldn’t so he went back to his happy space.
Then there was another presence in his space, it didn’t feel bad but he wanted to be alone. He was safe as long as he was alone. The presence didn’t seem to want anything other than to look around so Vash just ignored it and after a while it went away and he was alone and safe again.
Craig pulled away with a small gasp and Casey rushed to help him into a chair.
Craig rubbed his hands over his face before taking a deep breath in and letting it out slowly, “Right,” he said looking up at the faces of the men now surrounding him. “His mind is vaguely aware of what’s happening but he doesn’t want to wake up because he thinks he is safer staying asleep. The only thing that seemed to be occupying him was thoughts of a scent he smelled when he was put on the couch — not that he realizes where he is of course, just that he’s somewhere warm and comfortable. Who was here in this room when he first arrived?”
Casey held up a hand, “I was and so was Thane and Harry. Harry put him on the couch and I examined him. You know when you and Adam arrived, that Adam then lifted him while I covered him with clean covers.”
Craig looked at Casey then pointed to the boy, “Go check on him and see what happens.”
Casey looked at Craig then at the couch in apprehension, he approached the way someone would if they were walking into a lion’s den.
As he got to the prone figure he reached to brush the hair away from the boy’s face again and as he did the boy started to stir just as he had before. He went to move his hand but Craig’s voice stopped him, “No keep going. He needs to wake up and he seems to respond to you. I heard from Adam that he’s part shifter and that means he learns some things through scent. It seems he likes your scent and is willing to wake up for you.”
Casey looked at Craig but didn’t stop brushing at the hair beneath his fingers, Craig joined him and Casey could see he was concentrating on the boy again.
“He’s almost awake but you may want to give him some pain relief before he wakes any further or he is going to hurt badly. It won’t affect his mind so don’t worry about that.”
Casey nodded and laid his hand on the side of the beautiful face in front of him, he started muttering a simple pain relief spell that would only deaden the pain but not send him back to sleep.
The boy seemed to lean into Casey’s hand so he started to stroke the thin cheek with his thumb. Slowly eyelids fluttered then opened and Casey was caught in the most brilliant amber eyes he had ever seen.
The young boy flitted his gaze around the room as much as he could without moving his head. He must have seen Thane or Harry because suddenly he tensed and his eyes filled with panic.
“Shhh, little one it’s okay,” Casey soothed as best he could, “no one’s going to hurt you here. You’re safe.”
The gaze flitted back to Casey’s face and the boy tried to lift his hand to touch Casey but winced in pain when he did, obviously the spell hadn’t been as strong as Casey had thought.
Casey moved the hand back gently, “Don’t move I haven’t healed you yet and your joints are still not fully healed from your previous ordeals. Can you tell us your name?”
The boy looked at Casey and after licking his lips he whispered, “Vash.”
“Well Vash, I’m Casey, this is Craig, that’s Adam and the men who brought you here are Thane and Harry.” Casey indicated each man in turn with his free hand and Vash’s gaze followed his gestures.
Vash licked his lips again, “Do you want some water?” Casey asked.
Casey smiled as Vash nodded hesitantly and Adam handed him a glass of water, with a straw in it, from a jug on the sideboard. “Here, just sip,” Casey said, as he held the straw to Vash’s lips for him to drink.
Vash sipped the water, all the while staring at Casey. When he’d finished Casey handed the glass back to Adam before turning back to Vash.
“I’m going to heal you so you’re not in any pain and you’ll be able to move. But you will need complete bed rest for at least twenty four hours, even with my healing. Do you understand?”
Vash nodded slightly. Casey looked at Craig for permission to go ahead and after the man nodded he held his hands out over Vash and started to mutter the relevant spells. Because of Vash’s shifter and vampire DNA only a little magic was required to push the healing along but even with that he was unable to completely heal all the wounds. Vash would need energy in the form of proper food and to shift for that, but he needed to rest first.
When Casey had finished he looked down at Vash and was shocked to see tears in the boy’s eyes, “Did I hurt you little one?” Casey asked, placing a hand back on Vash’s face.
Vash shook his head, Casey stroked Vash’s face as he spoke, “Can you move better now?”
Vash nodded and raised a hand to hover over Casey’s cheek. Casey moved so the hand made contact with his cheek and mirrored where his hand was on Vash. Vash was staring at him in shock and with a little fear but didn’t move his hand.
Casey continued to stoke Vash’s cheek till the fear receded a little, when he brushed the collar he frowned, “I want to remove this but I need to know what it’s for first. Do you know?”
Vash’s nodded, “It stops me from shifting.” His voice was rough and very quiet as though he was not used to speaking. “My alpha brought a witch to my room and he put it on me when I was nine. You probably know shifters first shift at ten so I’ve never shifted. I feel my animal within me, I just can’t connect with him. My alpha said I’m not entitled to shift. I’m just a freak of nature and I’m only alive because he was showing me mercy.”
Casey clenched his teeth hard, as Thane let out a low growl from his place by the door, but that was quickly cut off. He took a calming breath, someone would pay for this, Casey silently vowed. “Your alpha was wrong, Vash.” As Casey spoke Vash’s gaze rose to meet his again but darted away from the anger he saw in Casey’s eyes. “Look at me.” Vash obeyed instantly at the commanding tone of Casey’s voice, “No one deserves to be treated how you’ve been treated. Your alpha wasn’t showing you mercy, if I had to guess I would say he was just trying to make himself feel important by having you locked away to do with as he pleased. If you don’t want that collar on I will remove it. But,” he added quickly before the boy could answer, “not right now. Since when it is removed you will most likely shift immediately, we need to make sure you are in much better shape than you are now. You need food and rest. We’ll also have to make sure we’re somewhere with lots of space so you can’t hurt yourself.”
When Casey stopped talking, Vash nodded his head slowly, “I would like to meet my animal someday. Please Sir.”
Casey jolted slightly at the tittle Vash had used, and then he realized that was probably what he had been forced to call his old alpha. “Not Sir, just Casey.” He stroked Vash’s cheek again to reassure him.
“I’m tired,” Vash mumbled, giving a long yawn.
“Go to sleep, little one, you’re safe here now,” Casey reassured, as he felt Vash losing the battle to stay awake.
Suddenly Vash forced his eyes open again, “Will you be here when I wake up, Sir?” he asked.
“Yes, I’ll be here,” Casey promised, ignoring the title for now and letting a bit of magic trickle into Vash to relax the boy back to sleep. He then added a bit more magic to ensure he stayed asleep and wouldn’t wake up alone.