The place they stepped into was dark, the only noise that of crickets and the only light coming from the moon. She shivered at the cool breeze that blew through the trees and Soter put her down long enough to pull his sweater off and hand it to her. “Here.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Yes I do, I don’t want you uncomfortable.”
She felt her cheeks heat up as she pulled his sweater on, his smell enveloping her. She loved his smell. “Thank you.”
He rubbed his hands up and down her arms, trying to further warm her. “You never have to thank me, you need to be healthy when you see your parents.”
“Where are we anyway?”
“I can’t tell in the dark.” Rain said as he looked around, listening. “I mean we’re definitely in the woods, I just don’t know how far in.”
“Maybe we should wait until morning.” Fallon said. “I know you want to get home Lucy, but we have no idea where we are.”
“It’s okay, I understand.” She sat down next to the tree they had come out by and Soter started picking up wood for a fire while Rain and Fallon walked a little ways to see if they could discern their location.
“I hope we’re in your world.” Soter said. “I really hate seeing you sad.”
“If we aren’t I’ll be okay. I still have you three. I hope you know that I have loved this time with you. I miss my parents but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an amazing adventure.”
“we know” Soter said as he draped his arm around her. A flashlight suddenly shone in Fallons face and in the next moment Rains. “who goes there!” Ross yelled, his voice somehow afraid and demanding at the same time. “we’re just trying to figure out where we are. I’m so sorry sir. We’re helping someone and while she rests we were simply trying to have a look around at whats beyond the wood. Apparently we weren’t as far in as we thought”
“Yes, it’s a long story but she’s trying to find her parents. Is there a Lucy Breeding missing from this world?” Ross’s heart nearly stopped “yes, yes! She’s my daughter” Fallon knew better than to simply trust a strangers. He could be crazy or violent in some way “what does she look like then, if you know her”
“She’s blonde and has green eyes and is an incredibly sweet girl….she..she she’;s a little chubby and the most beautiful girl around..and” Fallon could tell he was fighting tears “we believe you sir, that was enough. Hurry with us, she can’t wait to see you”
“Hey Soter, where do you plan on going once I’m home?” Lucy asked as they sat side by side in front of the fire he had started.
“Well, I don’t really have anywhere to go. I was hoping to stay close to you.”
He smiled at her as he reached up and gently stroked her cheek. “Well yeah, how could I just up and leave. I want…” The sound of hurried footsteps caught their attention and they both stood, Soter positioning himself in front of her.
Lucy was shocked when she saw her father and was instantly around the fire and in his arms. “Oh my god, Lucy.” He said, hugging her tightly as he cried. Neither one of them were able to hold themselves up and wound up sitting on the ground, clinging to each other.
“Daddy, I missed…missed you.”
“Oh Lucy, I can’t believe I found you” they were both lost to sobs for a time. When they could stand Ross inquired “so I have you three to thank?” Lucy answered “Yes, Soter especially, he helped me get away from the entity that kidnapped me?”
“It’s a lot to explain. Let me tell you all about it when mom can listen too” He nodded and they all walked back to Lucy’s home. Rain and Fallon felt relief. They would have been heartbroken if they didn’t find her home. It had taken them much longer than they wanted but about the length of time they expected. There were countless worlds of all kinds, if you didn’t know how to return to yours then luck was on your side if you ever got back.
Lucy’s mother was so shocked that she nearly passed out and if her father hadn’t been as fast as he was, she would have fallen and hit her head on the coffee table. “Kelly, Kelly I found her, it’s really Lucy.” He said and her eyes filled with tears as she broke free and embraced Lucy. Ross’s arms wrapped tightly around both of them and he held them as they cried. Soter just stood there and smiled, so happy to have found her home and her family, happy to know they hadn’t given up hope.
“Where did you go?” Kelly finally asked as she pulled back to look at Lucy.
Lucy wiped her face. “It’s a really weird story, I don’t even know if you’ll believe me, but…”
“They have antlers.” Kelly said finally noticing Rain and Fallon. “They…what?”
“It’s okay mom, let me explain, maybe you should both take a seat.”
They did and Lucy, with the help of Soter explained about the monster who took her and everything that followed. Soters help with explaining told Lucy a lot more of what he had gone through, both before and after she got there. She thought to herself again what a blessing it had been he was there. She wouldn’t have wished it to happen to him but he was her savior none the less. Lucy’s parents overflowed with gratitude “we need to do something for you all, please, what can we do to thank you for helping our daughter?”
“You don’t have to thank us.” Rain said.
“We brought her back because it was the right thing to do.” Fallon added.
They looked at Soter. “The only thing I want is to stay near Lucy, if that’s okay with you two. Not here in your house, I mean, that would be inappropriate, but just around.”
“Do you have a home?” Ross asked.
“No sir, not anymore.”
Ross looked at Kelly for a moment and she nodded. “We have a guest room.”
“I couldn’t stay here, that would be weird for you right?”
“Please, it looks like Lucy trusts you and we can’t just put you on the street.” Kelly replied.
“Okay, I’d really like to stay then” Rain and Fallon left the following night, not wanting to leave in daytime hours where they would have to deal with someone seeing them and their antlers. “It was a pleasure knowing you two. Take care of yourselves and if you should ever find yourself in more trouble I hope you end up coming to us again for help” Fallon said and Soter replied “I’ll be here to keep an eye on her now. I won’t let anything happen to her or myself ever again.” Once they were gone Lucy turned into Soter who held her while she cried softly. She knew she’d probably never see them again and it was an emotional moment.
“I’m going to go ahead and turn in for the night, okay?”
“Let me show you your room then.”
Lucy wiped at her face and took his hand, causing him to glance at her parents. He hoped they knew he was going to be good while he was here, especially since she was still underage in this world. His new room was really nice and incredibly warm and he flopped down on the bed and laid back with a happy sigh. “This is amazing.”
“Yeah, especially compared to where I’ve been.” He sat back up and took her hands. “Thank you so much.”
“Being in your life, for accepting me, for not leaving me behind.”
“You’re the reason I escaped, how could I leave you behind?” He just smiled up at her a few moments before saying well thank you regardless. I can’t wait for the tour of your world”
“I certainly have a lot to show you” Lucy was blushing again and not sure why. He stirred her up so easily but she didn’t really mind. The following days family was coming from near and far to see Lucy and express how happy they were she was back and in the weeks after that it was mostly about Lucy catching up in school. Her mother wound up just homeschooling her because it was easier now that she was so far behind the other students. Plus her mother had everything planned out to get her graduated early despite being behind. The best thing about homeschool is not having to go at the pace of the slowest kid in the room. If Lucy worked hard she could fly through the lessons and just be done with it.
“That looks complicated.” Soter said as he sat a cup of hot cocoa in front of her. He took the chair next to hers and let his eyes scan over the myriad of math equations.
“You’ve never been to school?”
He shook his head. “Demons tend to have a different upbringing.”
“Depending on the world and family, males often spend time developing their gifts and being turned into literal monsters while females are made docile.”
“What about you?”
“My parents didn’t love each other, I mean maybe a little, but not enough. The separated when I was young and I stayed with my father. He died when I was taken and I have no idea where my mother is. I was lucky, I could have been born into abuse.”
“I can teach you this stuff if you want Soter”
“No, you get your degree first and then maybe after that you can teach me. To be honest I want you done with all this work so we can just hangout” HIs smile grew wider as she blushed again. He had meant every word and loved she reacted to it. Soter decided to get up and fold some laundry so she could concentrate more. He wanted to earn his keep there so he helped with chores where he could.
“You know, we can never thank you enough for everything you’ve done.” Kelly said as she stopped to help him.
“Come on, you still don’t have to thank me.”
“But we do, you have no idea what it was like. Ross can go to work without worrying and Lucy seems so happy.”
“She’s really something isn’t she?”
Kelly glanced at him. “You really like her don’t you?”
Soter’s heart nearly stopped. He hadn’t meant to be so obvious about his feelings, but it was hard not to be when he just thought of Lucy. “The truth is yes I do, I mean I really, really do. She was the first person to talk to me, to even let me close to her. She didn’t tell me to go away and she trusted me even when she was scared. Then spending all that time just getting here, protecting her, keeping her smiling, I fell in love with her.” He sighed. “I know you might be thinking wow what a creep, but I don’t want to lie to you after you’ve allowed me to stay here.”
Kelly gave a little laugh. “I don’t think you’re a creep and honestly, I noticed beforehand, but you’re good to her, you’re patient and loving and you’re not even dating.”
“Even if she tells me no once she’s eighteen, I’ll still love her, I’ll still want to see her smile.”
“I know and that’s part of why we have no fears with you staying under our roof with our daughter.” When Lucy was done with her work for the day she decided today she would teach Soter how to roller skate. She had always loved it and she knew he enjoyed experiencing new things in this world. Her father dropped them off and told them just to call when they wanted to come home. Soter was just as excited as she knew he’d be and she couldn’t stop smiling at him.
“So I wear Blades but most say it’s easier to learn on regular skates if you’d rather learn with those”
“I’ll wear blades too. I don’t mind falling a few times.”
Lucy winced every time he fell, but the goofy, boyish grin he gave her made it all worth it. He was truly enjoying himself and never once lost his temper or complained. It made her understand even more the pain he had been put through. Nothing compared to it it seemed. She felt a bit of sadness creep into her heart and he scooped her up, making her let out a little yelp and cling to him. “Don’t worry, I have it now beautiful.” He said with a big smile.
Soter blushed. “Sorry, but it’s true.”
“Thank you.” She replied nervously.
“why did your mood change Lucy?”
“Sometimes I can’t help but think about all the pain you went through. You took those falls like they were nothing because you’ve dealt with far worse pain than falling on the hard rink floor”
“I don’t want you to worry about that Lucy. I’m free now and ending up there, I was there to help you and I can actually say I’m glad. Having you in my life means that much to me” Lucy wanted to kiss him in that moment but she didn’t have the confidence so she just clung to him a little bit tighter. She didn’t ask to be put down so he held her for the rest of their time there. They called her father and he came back, picked them up and took them out for ice cream since he was craving it.
When they finally made their way home, Ross asked Soter if they could take a quick walk. Lucy looked at them nervously and Soter wondered if he had done something wrong. Ross was an incredibly patient and kind man and it took a lot to make him angry. “Is everything alright sir?” Soter asked once they were outside and heading down the block.
“Please call me Ross, I know I’m Lucy’s father, but it’s a little strange since you’re living with us and not a suspect.”
“Sorry, did something happen?”
“Not really, I just needed to ask you something and I don’t want you to worry, I’m not upset.”
“Do you love my daughter?”
Soter actually laughed. “Sorry, your wife, I mean Kelly had this talk with me.” He cleared his throat. “Yes, I do, I really do.”
“I thought so. Why haven’t you told her?”
“Because she’s underage and because I don’t want to feel like I’m betraying your trust. Just being near her makes me happy.”
Ross slapped his back. “I think you should tell her. Life’s too short to leave things unsaid. I learned that after she disappeared. I didn’t feel like I’d told her enough how loved she was, how proud I was, so I’m giving you my permission to tell her under the condition that you wait for her birthday to start dating.”
“Thank you, after her school work tomorrow I’ll tell her how I feel”
“alright, you don’t have too much longer to wait, just about five more months”
“I’ve been counting the days sir, I mean Ross” They walked around the neighborhood a little while then returned home to enjoy dinner. The next day, when Lucy was done with her school work, Lucy’s parents dropped them off Frankies Fun Park and gave Lucy money for their day. He let her just have fun for awhile then took her outside to sit down in quiet “what’s up?”
“I’m just going to come straight out with it Lucy. I love you, so incredibly much. I fell hard and fast for you and I can’t wait for you to be eighteen so it will be okay for us to be together. Your parents both gave me their blessing yesterday. We just have to wait a few more months”
“I wouldn’t make that up. You’re amazing Lucy. I love everything about you”
“I…I love you too.”
She blushed. “Yeah, who wouldn’t you…you’re so sweet and you always find ways to make me happy. Plus you saved me and brought me home, even though you didn’t know a thing about me, you went out of your way to keep your promise.”
“I wouldn’t call it out of my way, I wanted to do it. After spending so much time with you I’ve found such happiness, I feel so complete. I never thought I would have any of that, I thought I’d be a slave until I was killed, but you’ve given me life and I don’t even know how to repay you.”
Lucy felt herself tearing up and Soter hugged her. “Sorry, it’s just the way you say things, it’s like you were ready to give up.”
“If not for you I would have so please don’t cry, I’m so happy I don’t know what to do with myself half the time.”
Lucy finished school two months later and when she finally turned eighteen her first birthday present from Soter was a kiss. She stayed hot the whole day from it and her parents found it hilarious which only made it worse. Sorer, Lucy and her family were living in their absolute bliss, a bliss that might not exist for them if Lucy hadn’t decided to trust Soter and together, escape from that horrible demon.
~ The End