He stared at the door in front of him, shifting uneasily on the balls of his feet, the silence beyond the door making his stomach sink further and a cold sweat break over his brow as his fears grew exponentially. He was used to her laughter ringing through the rooms and the humming, buttery joy that rippled through the air, radiating in waves from the rooms, so the cold, bitter taste of fear and pungent defeat that encircled their apartment made his heart pinch and his stomach to roll.
This was his fault.
If he had managed to keep his temper and control the unruly powers that seared a path through his veins at the sight of her attackers, she would have never been exposed to the town and worse it seemed.
Swaying unsteadily, he slumped against the side of the building, sliding against the wood as he sank to the concrete, pulling his knees to his chest and dropped his head against them, his gut burning acidly as he fought back the tears that were prickling in the backs of his eyes and clogging his throat, threatening to fall at any moment. But he couldn’t allow it to happen because he knew she’d want him to be strong and not mourn what neither of them could control. He knew she wouldn’t blame him for this, but was cold comfort, knowing that he would never see her again because of his stupid, reckless need to prove something to himself.
When he saw the other boy going for her, intent on hurting her, and saw the bully’s fingers pinch into the delicate flesh of her arm, making her flinch imperceptibly, he had seen red, his blood boiling with rage, his innate need to protect those he loved sending him rushing heedlessly to her side, only to be shoved away. He knew that they were older, bigger and meaner than the two of them, and that it was bound to turn out badly. He should have just screamed or called out, alerting the inattentive yard duty of their little drama, but instead, he did what he always did when faced with injustice, he tried to right the wrong inflicted.
And she had paid the price. She had come to his rescue instead when she felt the current of his power building and growing out of control, the pain radiating through his body as they kicked him, making it difficult to concentrate, and he had been within moments of lashing out with that burning, red electricity that danced just beneath his skin. She had known it, sensed just how close he was to exposing himself and stepped in, taking the fall, inadvertently exposing her own gifts.
He knew it was dangerous; that something dark and menacing hovered over her family, forcing them to hide for no apparent reason, and that they were wary of the town finding out what they were; yet he could find no cause, unless it wasn’t really the town they were worried about, but that place she called the Court. He sensed her fear every time she mentioned the place, and visions of blood and pain ripped through his young, susceptible mind whenever he touched Nancy while his guard was down. Which made his stomach cramp even harder, wondering if his friend would be subjected to the same harsh treatment.
Gagging at the thought, he swallowed down the hot, acidic bile coating his throat and squeezed his eyes shut, unconsciously rocking as he tried to pull his wayward emotions in check before they tapped into the electric thrum under his skin and shattered his control once more. He still couldn’t afford to let people know that he was something other than fey, and this time, Liz wasn’t there to ground him.
Keeping his breath deep and even, his brow pinched fiercely as he recalled the different exercises Nancy had began teaching him when he felt his magic growing too large for him to contain, and set about reigning them in, startling when the creaking of the door caught his ear and Nancy’s concerned brown eyes flicked over him quietly. Looking up into that steady gaze, he saw his own heartache, fear and guilt mirrored back at him, making his stomach clench further, and yet a trickle of relief flowed through his veins knowing that he wasn’t completely alone in his feelings.
Tearing his eyes away, he cowered against the wood, his body curling into itself defensively as he wondered whether she would blame him as well for her daughter’s subsequent exposure and disappearance, just as Hank blamed and punished him for anything and everything that went wrong in his life. Peeking up hesitantly, wonder flowed through his heart as he saw her staring at him with concern, and a touch of pity, as she dropped to the ground before him, her arms coming out to wrap him into a loose embrace as she murmured quietly, “Oh Michael, come on in, honey.”