Storia facente parte del Leoverse.
Genere: Introspettivo, Romantico, Avventura.
Pairing: Blaine/OC(s).
Rating: NC-17.
AVVERTIMENTI: Polyamory, Slash, Het, Underage, Lemon, AU.
- Blaine gets hurt during a fight, and not even Annie's magic seems enough to save him. Adam decides to take him to a healer he heard about while in Mistral City, a mysterious kid that apparently heals wounded and sick people by sleeping with them. Despite Leo's protests and the disappointment of all his kids, once healed Blaine will decide to get involved in Cody's personal situation, something that will have consequences on everybody's lives.
Note: Io non sono mica normale. Dunque, questa storia innanzitutto nasce in quanto partecipante alla prima settimana delle mie adorate Badwrong Weeks, dedicata all'underage, allo shota, all'age difference e a tutte queste belle cose. Inizialmente, doveva fillare anche il prompt ferita, e in realtà lo filla anche, solo che al momento del postaggio mi sono dimenticata di postare in risposta al prompt, e vorrei vedere voi cancellare quattordici commenti e poi riscriverli uguali perché siete stati pirla al primo postaggio. Be', io di sicuro non sono mentalmente in grado di farlo XD
In compenso, adoro questa storia alla follia ♥ Da tempo immemore sognavo di scrivere una cosa del genere, in cui Blaine stesse sostanzialmente con tutti i suoi ragazzini contemporaneamente XD Alla fine la cosa si è rivelata ben più complessa e stratificata del previsto, e con la Tab abbiamo sviluppato tutto un headcanon enorme che comprende un passato, un presente ed un futuro per tutti i protagonisti della storia. Forse, un giorno lo metteremo anche su carta, ma nel mentre, anche come standalone, questa storia si regge, per cui enjoy XD
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Original characters and plots are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.
I'M A TREE THAT GROWS HEARTS

As fire starts to rain over their heads from the dark night sky, Leo realizes that Adam’s probably been right all along, and that attacking the castle might have not been the brightest idea, after all.

“I told you!” Adam yells, as he tries to pick Blaine up from the ground, “I told you they had defenses! But no, you had to come and wreak havoc, anyway!”

“I didn’t know for sure there would be magicians too!” Leo snorts, running by his side and grabbing Blaine from under his arm, helping Adam out, “How’s he doing?”

“He’s got his fucking stomach torn apart by an explosive bullet!” Adam answers, struggling to hold the man up at least enough to try and see if he can wake up and drag his feet on his own, “How do you think he’s doing?”

“Can you two stop fighting and start running?” Annie barks, casting one last icing spell to the top of the castle, from where the magicians keep launching fireballs against them, “God, this is just so stupid!” she gestures vaguely in mid-air, streams of magic springing from her fingers like shiny golden laces, swirling around Blaine’s body and making it almost weightless. “Is he still alive?”

“For now,” Adam nods, running faster now, “But if he dies, Leo, I swear—”

“He’s not gonna die,” Leo says categorically, leading them to the nearby woods, “Now let’s just get to our horses, and I don’t wanna hear a single word more.”

As if feeling on their skin Leo’s own rage, both Adam and Annie keep their mouths shut for the rest of the run.

*
All the events leading to the battle seem vague and distant, as if hidden in a mist. Leo knows there’s a reason why they were all there, fighting to get inside that castle. He has a knowledge of the facts – the artifact their client commissioned them to steal, the plans, the endless discussions to get everything straight before the assault – but somehow none of that makes sense now that he has his eyes locked on the impossibly still figure of Blaine lying on the ground between the bushes while Annie tries and cure him with her magic.

He wonders lazily about the money their client has promised them. Five millions in gold, he said, to be given to them the moment they came back with the medallion. He tries and mentally count five millions – they’ve never seen such an amount of money – but he doesn’t really care. It’s just a way to try and keep his brain occupied because, if he stops thinking, then he’ll notice how pale Blaine looks, how sunken his cheeks, how his chest doesn’t move with his breaths, because he’s not breathing.

Five millions, he thinks. That’s a lot of money. But it wasn’t worth this.

“Is he alright?” Adam emerges from the bushes behind him, rushing next to Blaine. He stops a couple of steps away from his body, noticing its stillness and whiteness, and steps back, horrified. “Oh God,” he says in a strangled whisper.

“Would you shut up?” Annie demands in a low, deep growl. Her eyes are focused, concentrated on the dim flashes of light emanating from her palms as she presses them against Blaine’s torn flesh.

“Fuck you, Annie!” Adam reacts instantly, frowning at her, “I’m just worried!”

“Be worried as you like, but be quiet too, or I swear I’ll have your lips sewn together,” she warns him, lifting her pale blue eyes, cold as ice, on his face.

He backs off a little, startled. “…fine,” he snorts, walking away and stopping by Leo, casting him an half-annoyed glance. “Are you hurt?”

Leo looks up at him, arching an eyebrow. “Weren’t you angry at me?”

“I still am,” Adam answers coldly, and then sighs, dropping to sit next to him, “But not enough to want you hurt,” he adds in a softer voice, casting him an indulgent look. “Tell me you’re fine, come on.”

“I am,” Leo sighs too, looking back at him and forcing a small smile on his lips, before looking back at Blaine’s apparently lifeless body, “As much as I can be.”

“He doesn’t seem to be recovering,” Adam says, his voice uncertain.

“I know that already, Adam,” Leo frowns, “You don’t need to tell me.”

“Well, you ought to hear me!” Adam insists, turning to look at him, eyes filled with rage, “Because it’s your fault! I told you it’d be dangerous!”

“Like everything we do, Adam!”

“More so!” Adam yells, pointing a finger towards Blaine, “I told you there would be magicians, that we were too few, that night wasn’t enough to cover us up! But you had to have it your way, as usual! And he was by your side, as usual! And now he’s dead!” he says, his voice breaking a little on the last word, his eyes growing wide as he realizes the meaning of it.

Leo looks back at him with cold, hard eyes, unwillingly filling with tears. “Are you done?” he asks with a shaky voice.

Adam looks down, ashamed at himself. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.

“Fuck you, Adam,” Leo stands up, his whole body trembling with rage as he turns around, meaning to leave.

He only stops because of Annie’s voice. “Guys!” she calls out, “He’s awake!”

Leo quickly turns around, running towards Blaine and kneeling by his side. Adam gets there only a second too late and loses the spot, deciding to just stand there. For a moment, this reminds Leo of when they were children, at the village, and they used to have races all the time to see who would be the first to get to training, or who would run faster, to catch Blaine’s attention. They basically never stopped.

“Blaine?” he asks softly, leaning over him and stroking his hair, damp with sweat and blood, “Hey. You with us?” he tries a smile when he sees Blaine’s dark eyes struggling to focus on him.

“Is…” Blaine says, his voice faint, almost barely audible.

“What?” Leo leans closer, offering his hear, “Don’t force yourself, you don’t have to talk if—”

“Is it gonna leave a scar?”

Leo pulls away, blinking a couple of times before frowning madly. “You idiot!” he yells, hitting him on his shoulder, “You’re so stupid, I have no idea how you survived your own stupidity up to now!”

“Ouch,” Blaine whines faintly, his lips twisting in a painful grimace.

“Leo, stop it,” Annie says, her smile showing how relieved she is, “You’re hurting him.”

“He deserves it!” Leo insists, and then his voice softens, as his hand falls in a tender caress over Blaine’s bare chest, “You scared the shit out of me, asshole.”

“I’m fine,” Blaine says, but he’s breathing heavily, and when he turns his head and coughs, he spits blood. “I guess.”

“You’re not fine,” Annie says, retrieving her bag and fetching some bandages, that she carefully starts to wrap around him, “I wasn’t able to mend your wound. It’s deeper than I thought. I barely managed to catch you before you slipped away,” she adds with a sad smile, her blue eyes a little teary, “But we need to get you to a city, and to a real medic.”

“Oh, please,” Blaine gestures vaguely in mid-air, snorting, “Now that I’m alive, it’ll heal by itself.”

“If I hear just another word from you,” Adam finally says, his voice unreadable, as his eyes, “I swear I’m gonna finish the job and cut you in half. Now we’re gonna get you back on the horse – you’re riding with me.”

“He can ride with me,” Leo tries, looking up and frowning at Adam.

Adam glares at him. “He’s riding with me,” he says, and it’s final. “We’re gonna get you to Mistral city, it’s the nearest. I know a guy, I’ve heard about him last time we were there. He’s gonna take care of you.”

“Adam,” Blaine whines, trying to move and failing, “I don’t wanna see any creepy lizard-skinned or cat-eyed warlock.”

“You’re gonna do exactly as I tell you!” Adam states, pointing the finger at him and waving it under his nose, “And that’s final,” he adds with a snort. “Besides, he’s not a warlock.”

Annie blinks a couple of times, looking up at him in surprise. “And what is he?”

Adam sighs, looking away and shrugging. “Judging by what people say,” he answers nonchalantly, “Apparently, a whore.”

*
The room is dark and smells of sex and incense. Leo makes a face the moment he steps into it, and turns to look at Adam with a disappointed face. “Really, Adam? Really? This place’s filthy.”

“It’s our best chance,” Adam answers coldly, looking around the shadowy, bare room. There’s only a couple of old wooden chairs lined up against the scraped, dirty gray wall. Barely enough to lie Blaine down, but it’ll have to do, he decides, as he drags Blaine’s body there and puts him down.

Leo rushes by his side, helping Blaine to put up his legs as Annie finally releases the magic control over the man’s limp body, now that she doesn’t have to keep him from falling at every step of the way anymore. She leans against the wall, breathing heavily. She’s pale and her forehead’s covered with perspiration.

“You know very well our best chance is a medic,” Leo protests, but Adam’s not even listening to him anymore. He straightens up and walks towards Annie, passing a hand through her fiery red locks and then down along her neck, massaging it affectionately.

“You should rest,” he tells her.

Annie looks up at him, forcing a small smile on her peachy lips. “Not until he’s alright.”

“Is anybody even listening to me?” Leo whines, still kneeling beside Blaine’s body.

Blaine lifts a hand, stroking Leo’s cheek with his thumb. “I am,” he says, his voice faint like a distant echo.

“Don’t talk,” Leo instantly tells him, pressing both his hands against his mouth with his usual lack of grace, “Don’t strain yourself out. Somebody’s gonna take care of you soon, I promise,” he tries and smile reassuringly, before he stands up and glares at Adam, “If anybody actually shows up, of course.”

“I’m here,” says a voice from behind him, and Leo turns around to see a kid around his age, dressed with a white satin tunic that barely covers his chest, made by two layers of fabric that crosses right over his belly, leaving it uncovered, and then slide down his thighs in a short skirt that leaves the most of his legs exposed. There’s a trace of a week-old bruise on his left cheek and one of his arms is covered in bandages, and if it was any other time, or Blaine was in any less danger, Leo would ask about it, but not now.

“Finally,” he says sharply, looking at the kid with no mercy, “He could be dead by now.”

The kid turns to Blaine, studying him carefully as the man lifts a hand and waves at him, putting up a smirk that looks more like a painful grimace. “He’s alive,” he says.

Leo growls, annoyed. “Gods— Are you dense? Are you retarded or something?”

“Leo,” Adam calls out, placing a hand on his shoulder and pulling him away, “Let go,” he turns to the kid and looks at him, studying him shamelessly. “I expected something different. Anyway, if you’re Cody, you’re the one we’ve been searching for. They say you can cure mortal wounds, that you have a way with it. We can pay, you’ve gotta cure him.”

Cody looks again at the man, and then back at Adam. “And you are…?” he asks.

“His boyfriends,” Adam and Leo answer together.

“And girlfriend,” Annie adds with a weary smile.

Cody looks at them all, his eyes suddenly growing wide with surprise. “Oh,” he stammers, “Oh, I— I see. I mean, that’s pretty unusual, isn’t it?”

“Do we have to talk about it now, while he bleeds to death?!” Leo yells, unnerved.

Cody backs away, startled by his voice. “I’m— I’m sorry,” he shakes his head and moves out of the way, “Please, take him and follow me,” he says, leading them behind a curtain and into a smaller but also cleaner room, with a bed and a small desk in a corner. “Lay him down on the bed,” he nods, gesturing towards it. “I suppose you’re familiar with my methods?”

Leo makes a face, looking away. “Adam told us all about them.”

“We heard about you last time we were here in the city,” Adam explains with a sigh, “They say there’s some ritual you do, some gods you invoke. Through sex.”

“Please,” Blaine says wearily, his voice now nothing but a wheeze, “The offer is tempting, but I doubt I can be up for the task, if you know what I mean,” he jokes with an uncertain, broken laughter.

“Blaine, please, do shut up,” Annie sighs, lightly hitting him on his forehead.

“You won’t have to force yourself,” Cody smiles embarrassedly, “The ritual will take care of everything.”

“See?” Blaine snorts, trying to get up and failing, “It’s damn magic.”

“It’s not magic,” Cody shakes his head and gets closer to him, pressing a hand over his shoulder to make him lie down again, “It’s a prayer. I don’t deal with magic, it’s unholy.”

“Excuse me?” Annie instantly frowns, “For your information, magic’s what got him here still alive despite a damn hole in his stomach to begin with! Show some respect.”

“I’m sorry!” Cody instantly backs away again, blushing furiously in shame, “I didn’t know—”

“You shouldn’t have said it anyway, whether a magician was actually here or not!” Annie insists, and then bends over Blaine, putting a hand on his shoulder, “Come on, let’s get you out of here and to a medic.”

“Let him go!” Adam says, his voice a threatening growl as he grabs Annie by her wrist and pushes her away from Blaine. “God, you two are such idiots!” he goes on, glaring at both Annie and Leo, “Why do you give such importance to such bullshit? Who cares what he is or how he does it? Who cares what he thinks about magic or that he uses sex to heal people? Blaine’s dying!”

An heavy silence falls over the room after his words. Leo and Annie both look away, ashamed at themselves, while Blaine closes his eyes, trying to breath in and out slowly. Each and every breath he draws sounds painful, shaky and faint as if every one of them could be the last.

Leo’s the first to look up. “I’m sorry,” he says. His eyes show he means it.

“Me too,” Annie nods, her eyes still locked to the ground, but filling with heavy, tired tears.

Adam sighs, relieved, turning around to face Cody. “He’s all yours,” he says, “Cure him.”

That’s the last Cody hears, before watching him walk away, quickly followed by the other two.

*
“Well, aren’t you a pretty one,” Blaine jokes, looking at Cody as the kid moves swiftly all around him, placing burning incense and weird wood and metal talismans carved with symbols he’s never seen before, “Walking around in that skirt. How do you manage to walk safely back home every time you go out?” he asks, as he playfully lifts a trembling hand up, stroking Cody’s thigh with his rough palm.

“Don’t do that,” Cody withdraws, hitting his hand lightly as he finishes preparing the room for the ritual.

“Why be so shy? You’re gonna shag me anyway, so,” Blaine laughs, and his laugh turns into an hard, heavy coughing, and he tilts his hand to the right to spit some blood on the floor. Then he closes his eyes and tries to breathe regularly again, but apparently his lungs refuse to be of any help. He breathes in and out slowly, too slowly for what he’d like, and when he places a hand on his stomach he can’t help but feel grossed out and quite scared by the amount of blood he’s losing. “That is if you manage to be done with your last minute decorations before my entrails leak on the floor.”

“Please, don’t joke about this,” Cody casts him a patient but clearly upset look, his pretty lips curling into a childish pout, “I’m not going to shag you, that’s a vulgar term that doesn’t describe at all what I do in here.”

“You fuck people for their own good and you make a living out of it,” Blaine laughs again, and a painful moan escapes his lips as the amount of blood dripping out of his wound doubles. “Was that descriptive enough?”

Cody doesn’t answer for quite some time, getting closer to him and examining his wound with attentive eyes. “Do you always joke like this?” he asks then, removing the sloppy bandage wrapped around his stomach, “You could be dying this very moment.”

“But I won’t,” Blaine smiles, closing his eyes and relaxing under Cody’s soothing, cool fingertips against his burning skin, “I’ve got you to do your pretty magic and take care of me.”

“I told you, it’s not magic,” Cody points out, annoyed at Blaine’s stubbornness, “It’s a sacred ritual. I invoke the Triple Goddess and ask her to cure you, and save you.”

“And why would she?” Blaine asks, his grin twisted with pain, “I’m not exactly a fan.”

“Then you’re lucky she listens to me,” Cody finishes, his voice suddenly stern, final.

Blaine decides not to speak again as he watches Cody lift up his already short skirt, showing himself naked underneath, and climb onto him, sitting on his lap. He lets out a desperate cry as he feels the light and yet apparently unbearable weight of the kid pressing against his wounded stomach, but Cody presses one of his hands on the cut and there’s that soothing coolness again, working like a charm on his feverish, quaking body.

“Ssh,” Cody whispers, leaning in on him and speaking against his lips, “Everything will be alright,” he says with a soft smile, just before kissing him.

An unexpected wave of weakness washes over Blaine’s body, leaving him tired and limp on the bed. That’s it, he thinks, That’s me, dying, but in a few seconds Cody’s lips move apart from his and the kid starts chanting something in a language he doesn’t understand, and suddenly there’s fire burning inside of Blaine’s body, not the fire that’s consuming him from his wound, but a different, healing one. He feels himself filled to the brim with strength, his heartbeat growing faster as if his heart was racing for its life, pumping new, hot blood through his veins to show the world it can still do it, it’s still strong enough to survive this.

Blaine opens his eyes wide, trying to focus on Cody, but the kid’s changed into something else. There’s a dim white glow emanating from his skin, a light that makes him look paler than the moon, and Blaine instinctively thinks that must be magic, but then there’s a voice inside of him, a female voice, speaking slowly, softly, that tells him it isn’t. There’s no magic that powerful, no magic that overwhelming, no magic that divine.

It’s something different, something holy, and right now, Cody’s not a whore, he’s a goddess.

Blaine lifts his hands, closing them strongly around Cody’s hips as the kid lifts himself up from his lap, uncovering the bulge in Blaine’s crotch. “Unbelievable,” Blaine whispers, looking at himself. The wound’s healing, but it’s not only that. There’s a new kind of power running through his veins, filling his body with strength, with light. His skin starts to glow too, golden like the sun, a perfect match for Cody’s, and when he looks up at him he notices that his eyes are the bluest he’s ever seen, actually too blue to be natural.

He feels his body changing, and it makes him tingle all over. Cody lets out a needy whimper and Blaine sees his bloody hands run to the belt keeping his pants closed. His wound is still open, but he couldn’t care less, right now. When Cody manages to get him out of his pants, he instantly pushes him down on himself, his erection almost naturally finding its way inside Cody’s body, that welcomes it eagerly, hungrily, as the kid arches his back, his body shaking with pleasure, his head thrown back, exposing his neck.

Blaine sits up, the cut on his stomach burning like hell, blood squirting out of his wound, staining Cody’s white tunic, and digs his teeth into Cody’s white skin, scratching it, drawing blood out of it too. It tastes heavenly, he tastes heavenly, and Blaine tasted magic, in his life, he tasted it on Annie’s fingertips, in her mouth and between her thighs, and it tasted nothing like this.

There’s something more. Something valuable. And despite having been on the threshold between life and death up to a moment ago, his mind’s already spinning at max speed, now, screaming we need the kid, the kid must come with us.

He comes with a deep, low growl, all the strength that filled him up until now leaking out of him with his orgasm. Suddenly, all his limbs feel heavy, and he’s not strong enough to keep himself up straight anymore. He falls back on the mattress, breathing heavily, eyes quickly losing focus of what surrounds him. He manages to look down at himself, though, and notices his wound’s completely disappeared, leaving no trace, not even a scar.

“Who the hell are you?” he whispers breathlessly as he watches Cody climb down of his body and stand up right next to him, come dripping down his thigh and onto the floor.

The kid smiles, placing a hand on his forehead. “Rest, now,” he says softly.

Blaine’s asleep before he can even notice it.

*
He wakes up hours later, though he couldn’t tell how many, not even if he wanted to. The first thing he hears is screaming, and suddenly all his kids are onto him, hugging him and tugging at his torn apart shirt, covering his face in kisses. “Now, now,” he laughs, amused, as he tries to kiss back every hungry mouth searching for his, and pat every small troubled head that tries and slip underneath his hand like a little kitten’s, “If you pull at me that way, my stitches will come off,” he jokes.

“There are no stitches, you idiot,” Leo scolds him, slapping him on his stomach to prove his point.

“It’s a miracle,” Adam nods knowingly, proud to have been the one to suggest the clearly only solution they had. Annie doesn’t answer to that – she doesn’t believe in any God, just in the strength of her own magic, that she believes it’s drawn by the world’s energy and certainly not bestowed upon her by some godly creature living in spirit form in the sky – but she’s too happy to see Blaine alive and well to waste time talking about miracles and whatnot.

“You… certainly are a colorful, funny lot,” Cody chuckles from the chair he’s been sitting in as he waited for Blaine to wake up together with the other kids. He changed his clothes, he’s now wearing another tunic, white and revealing as the one he wore as he laid with Blaine, but tighter around his chest and waist and looser around his hips, the soft silky fabric sliding down his thighs like water, showing off his curves.

“You haven’t seen the half of it,” Leo smirks, turning to look at him and eyeing his clothes. “Do you always dress like that?”

“Well,” Cody blushes, looking down at himself and closing his legs tightly, suddenly painfully self-aware of his own nakedness underneath a dress that does nothing to cover him, “I find it more practical, considering what I do.”

“More practical?” Annie looks at him too, amused by his femininity but somehow also feeling threatened by it enough not to hold back any snarky remark, “I bet you’ve got all eyes and hands on you when you walk out. Even crossing the street must be an hard task, with all those little skirts flying up with the faintest gust of wind.”

Cody looks away again, scratching his flushed cheek. “I wouldn’t know,” he admits, “I don’t go out often.”

“You don’t need to go out often to be stripped off by the wind, if you’re always wearing clothes like these,” Annie chuckles, “Just once will suffice.”

Cody’s smile gets more uneasy, as he tries to make himself even smaller on the chair by crouching his shoulders. “I suppose…” he says, vaguely.

Blaine frowns lightly, throwing his legs of the bed even though he decides to stay sit for a while, not sure he’d be able to stand straight just yet. “You do come out of this hole every now and then, don’t you?” he asks, his voice darker.

Cody smiles apologetically at him, shaking his little black haired head. “Not really, sir, no,” he says, and then blushes even more when he feels his guests’ eyes shockingly fixed on him for several seconds after his revelation. “But I don’t mind!” he hastens to say, shaking his head and waving his arms in front of himself as to blow away everybody’s concerns. “Tell me about you, instead,” he tries, hoping that a change in subject will take their thoughts away from him, “It’s so uncommon to see a man like you traveling with so many kids, unless they’re his children.”

“Well, I guess, in a way, you could say they are,” Blaine answers with a small chuckle, “Aren’t you, my dear little ones?”

“Stop calling us that,” Leo protests with a pout, “You know we don’t like it,” he turns to Cody, facing him with pride, “We’re his partners.”

“Oh,” Cody blushes, looking at him and then turning back at Blaine, “Are they?”

“I let them believe so,” Blaine answers in a small chuckle, as Adam’s hand lands on his nape with a soft slapping noise, “We’re all from a small village north of the Great Lake,” he says then, his smile softening at the memory, “Adelar, you may have heard of it.”

“Oh,” Cody’s hand runs to his mouth, covering it, “Wasn’t it one of those villages that got destroyed during the Plunderers’ Descent?”

“Exactly,” Blaine nods, “They attacked the village and set it on fire, stealing everything and everyone they could put their hands on. I managed to save these three,” he says, looking fondly at the kids, “And we’ve been traveling together ever since.”

“So you take care of them,” Cody smiles sweetly, moved by the loving way Blaine speaks about his companions.

“And we take care of him,” Leo clarifies, pouting again, “We work for him.”

“Well, we had to make a living, somehow,” Blaine explains with a short laughter, “At first they were all very small, so they depended on me for everything, and that was fine by me, but as they grew older they decided they wanted to help out, and I didn’t see why they couldn’t,” he says, shrugging casually. “We’re relic hunters, even though we only work for commission. That’s how I got hurt, we were trying to get something, but clearly it went all wrong. Even though, maybe we just didn’t have the proper equipment,” he suggests, his eyes studying Cody’s figure with interest.

“Yeah, and whose fault was that?” Adam asks mockingly, turning to look at Leo, but in doing so he manages to intercept Blaine’s gaze, and his eyes grow wide, “Oh, no. No way!”

“But why not?” Blaine asks, as Annie and Leo turn to look at him too, puzzled by what’s happening. Those two often don’t realize instantly what’s on Blaine’s mind, contrary to Adam, with whom Blaine shares the same practical way of thinking, “He’d be useful.”

“I don’t care,” Adam insists, shaking his head, “We can’t have another mouth to feed. And then look at him, he’s all pale and small, and look what he walks around in, we’d have to protect him all the time.”

“But we don’t have a healer,” Blaine points out, smiling calmly, as if already knowing he’ll win the fight in the end.

“Hey!” Annie protests, frowning, “I can heal people.”

“I know you can, princess,” Blaine turns to her and kisses her on her forehead, “But some wounds are deeper than others, and some things you can’t cure. He can, though.”

“Wait… Wait a moment,” Leo says, finally catching up, “You wanna take him with us?” he asks, turning to look at Cody, horrified, and then looking back at Blaine, “No! We don’t know him! We can’t trust him!”

“Well, he saved me, didn’t he?”

“He fucked you!” Leo points out, frowning, “That’s why you want him around.”

“Ah, baby boy,” Blaine laughs, genuinely amused, “Don’t I have enough of it from the whole of you pestering me all day? I’m merely saying we could use one like him during our missions, that’d make things easier for all of us. For you to plan our actions and for us to do as you say without fearing we’ll end up slaughtered by the end of the day,” he explains with another chuckle.

“Are you saying my plans are shit?” Leo asks in a low growl.

“E-Excuse me,” Cody’s soft voice reaches them from the other side of the room, “May I ask what you’re talking about?”

Blaine smiles charmingly, gently freeing himself from his kids’ embrace and standing up, his hands on his hips, his chin up, an amused yet intrigued light shining in his eyes. “We’re talking about asking you to come with us, pet,” he says, “If you’re interested.”

Cody instantly stands up, fear rushing to his eyes, filling them to the brim. “No!” he says hastily, and then he clears his throat, looking away, “I mean, thank you for your kindness, but I’m not allowed to leave.”

“Yeah, that much I already got all on my own, see how smart I am?” Blaine smiles, walking closer and putting two fingers under Cody’s chin, pushing it up so to meet his eyes again, “Come on, don’t tell me you never wondered about the world outside,” he goes on, smiling invitingly, “I wouldn’t believe it.”

“That’s— That’s not the point, sir,” Cody struggles to look down again, moving away from him and turning his back at them all. He doesn’t notice, but he moves his hand to his wounded arm covered in bandages, and strokes it slowly. He doesn’t notice, but Blaine does, even though he says nothing about it. “I’m fine here,” Cody goes on, repeating words like he learned them by heart and forgot he doesn’t even believe in them, “I may be curious of the world, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it. I’m just fine like this, doing my job, with the Goddess comforting me, so please, don’t worry about my well-being. I’m taken care of.”

“Yeah,” Blaine answers, frowning lightly, “I can see that.”

When the door opens, the squeaking sound it produces cuts the thick silence in half, and everybody lifts their eyes on a tall man with dark blonde hair and clear blue eyes who enters the room without knocking. “Cody—” he says, and stops abruptly when he realizes the kid isn’t alone, “What’s with all the people?”

“William!” Cody runs towards him, pressing both his hands against his chest as if to preemptively keep him from advancing any further, “They’re— He’s the man I cured this morning,” he explains with an uncertain smile, “He’s alright, now, so his companions came to pick him up. They were just leaving.”

“You wasted precious hours keeping him here after you healed him?” William asks, looking down at him with stern, cold eyes. Blaine can almost see the frightened shiver that runs down Cody’s spine as he withdraws.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “He fell asleep, I didn’t know how to move him.”

William keeps looking at him with hard harshness for a couple of seconds, and then asks, “Did they pay?”

“Yes,” Cody nods quickly, hoping that this will keep him from getting any angrier, “Yes, they already did.”

“Then go,” William says, looking up at Blaine. Their eyes meet in a deafening silence, and Blaine’s hands clutch in fists down his sides.

“Who’s he?” he ask, nodding towards William.

A spark of pure rage ignites into Williams eyes, and the man moves a step towards Blaine. “How dare you—”

“William, please,” Cody puts a hand on his forearm, trying to hold him back without him noticing, and then turns to Blaine, and smiles faintly. “He’s the one taking care of me,” he answers, “Please, go.”

Blaine keeps looking straight at William, showing no intention to move a single step until it’s Leo pressing a hand on the small of his back, pushing him towards the door. “Let’s go,” he says softly, leading him away.

They leave the building in but a few seconds, but even when they’re finally out, and the sun is warm and shining above them, and a gentle, cooling breeze ruffles their hair as they walk down the street, looking out for a place to stay for tonight, Blaine’s expression doesn’t soften. His eyes are dark and unclear, and his lips are petrified in a stern, disappointed line.

“Blaine,” Adam says, walking by his side but not looking at him, “Let it go. You can’t save him. You cannot be everybody’s hero, and besides, he doesn’t even want to be saved.”

Blaine doesn’t answer immediately, but when he does his voice is low, deep and angry. “That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have tried anyway.”

*
He wakes up earlier than anybody else. He went to sleep unwillingly, he wasn’t even tired, traces of the supernatural forces Cody had pushed inside him still in rushing through his veins together with blood, and he only desisted from staying up anyway because all the kids kept insisting and insisting until it wasn’t reasonably possible for him to explain one more time why he wasn’t sleepy at all.

They couldn’t understand it, he knows that. They have had a bad, tiring day, all they looked out for was to cuddle up with him in the bed and never wake up until it was the morning after. He, though, as much as he could like to cuddle up with them, didn’t want any of that. Strength was keeping him up, awake and aware. He could still feel its taste on his tongue. Cody’s.

He sits up on the bed, gently freeing himself from Annie’s arm over his chest, and then stands up, looking at the three kids peacefully asleep on the bed. The moment he’s out of the picture, they all get closer to one another, entangling arms and legs and hair, hugging each other exactly like they used to do when they were little and he wrapped them all in the same blanket beside the fire, as he stood awake to watch over them.

He sighs, moving to the window and resting his forearms on the windowsill, looking outside, right at the dawning sun.

He dreamt of the fire again. There was fire everywhere, and people screaming, and children wailing. The Plunderers’ black horses were running from one side of the village to the other, and everywhere there was nothing but destruction. He was trying to get out of there, but first, he was thinking, the children. He had to get the children. They were somewhere under the burning, wrecking houses, and he had to rescue them.

In the dream, he kept searching for them until he heard a muffled cry coming from under a pile of burning logs. He run there, lifted them with his bare hands – fire scraping his fingertips, burning his skin – but there weren’t Leo, Adam and Annie underneath it. It were Cody’s blue eyes, filled with tears, looking up at him and screaming “help me”.

He closes his eyes, covering his face with both his hands and exhaling slowly.

“You’re still thinking about him,” Leo says from behind him, and Blaine instantly turns around, startled by his voice.

“I thought you were sleeping,” he says with a soft smile, changing the subject.

“I was,” Leo says, “Until you got up. I searched for you, and you weren’t there, and you know you never can do that.”

“I’m sorry,” Blaine smiles again, opening his arms and waiting for Leo to come rest his head against his chest with a soft sigh, “You should go back to sleep, though. You’ve got at least another couple of hours, before we have to go.”

“Why don’t you come too?” Leo asks, tugging at the waistband of his pants, “You must be tired.”

“I’m not, kid,” Blaine smiles patiently, “I told you, that ritual put something inside me. It was more than just healing. It gave me strength, something I’ve never felt before.”

Leo looks down, sighing sadly. “That’s why you can’t stop thinking about him, isn’t it?”

“Leo…” Blaine smiles sweetly, cupping the kid’s face into his hands and making him look up, “Don’t be jealous. I promise it’s not that,” he says, leaning in to kiss him lightly on his lips, “It’s just that he gave me something, and I left him there, with that man.”

“We’re not sure he was hurting him,” Leo points out, pouting.

Blaine smiles again. “You’ve seen them,” he says, “He was frightened by him. His arm was wounded, there was a bruise on his face. He told us he never goes out of there. How much more do you need?”

Leo sighs, resting his forehead against Blaine’s naked shoulder. “So it’s like Adam said,” he whines, “You wanna be everybody’s hero,” he looks up at him, holding back the tears, “Aren’t we enough?”

“Oh, you’re more than enough, child,” he says, leaning in to kiss him again, deeper this time, ending the argument. You’re more than enough, he thinks, as he feels the crackling fire against his skin again, But if I could save just one more child, just one…

*
They’re all out on the streets a few hours later. “Alright,” Adam says, clapping his hands after he secured his sword to his hip, “Let’s put all this behind us and go back to the damn castle, this time possibly with a less stupid plan to go by.”

“My plan wasn’t the problem,” Leo snorts, looking angrily at him, “It was your blatant incompetence that got in the way.”

“How is my incompetence the reason why Blaine got hurt, considering he was protecting you?” Adam retorts, glaring at him.

“Well, maybe he was protecting me because you were doing nothing!” Leo points out, “Fifteen minutes battling with house gnomes, Adam, really?”

“They were more than twenty, for fuck’s sake!”

“At least I was trying to do something useful!”

“What, climbing a wall bare-handed under the crossfire?”

“My God, aren’t you two annoying,” Annie sighs, rolling her eyes and then slipping her arm under Blaine’s, clinging to it. “Hey, why are you so quiet?” she smiles up at him.

Blaine smiles back, lifting a hand to ruffle her red hair. “It’s nothing, princess,” he answers, “I was just thinking.”

“About the boy, am I right?” Annie’s smile falters a bit, but the grip around Blaine’s arm just tightens. “You really must have the hugest crush on him.”

“Oh, dear,” Blaine laughs, shaking his head, “Why are you all so convinced I like him that way?”

“I don’t know,” Annie shrugs, “You did have sex with him, after all.”

“He was healing me,” Blaine answers, “Saving me. I just think he’s got a valuable power, and that it’s unfair to leave him there, with that man, locked up in a dirty room fucking wounded pricks and sick old men when he could come with us, see the world, be of help. Be free.”

“You asked him,” Annie reminds him, looking up at him, “He said he didn’t want to come.”

“He was scared, princess,” Blaine tells her with a patient smile lingering on his lips, “Ask any scared child if they want to be rescued, they’ll always answer they’re fine just like that.”

“Yes, but he isn’t a child, Blaine,” she answers back, looking almost sharply at him, “We’re not helpless children anymore, and he’s our age.”

Blaine looks away, that smile still on his lips. “I know, princess,” he says, sighing softly.

Annie sighs too, looking away. “You’re not gonna get over it, are you?” she asks in a whisper, “It’s always gonne be like that. We’re always gonna be children to you, despite the things we do together, despite how much we’ve grown. And every time you’ll meet someone who’s helpless and in need, you’re always gonna take it like this. On your shoulders. Like everything else.”

Blaine lifts a hand, covering Annie’s shaking one with it, and squeezes her pale pink fingers affectionately. “I’m sorry,” he says, and his voice sounds like he is, but his heart’s racing in the other direction.

“Don’t be,” Annie says with a sigh, shaking her head, “It’s who you are, after all,” she adds with a little smile, “It’s why we love you.”

*
They pass by the house Cody lives and works in on their way out of the village. Blaine stops in front of the door and instantly Leo’s by his side, grabbing him by his elbow, urging him to move. “Come on,” he says, “We can be halfway there by noon if we leave now.”

“Yes,” Blaine says, his eyes fixed on the building, “Yes, I’m only going to stop for a minute. Say thanks and bye, see if everything’s alright,” he adds, freeing himself of Leo’s hold and walking into the place.

Leo watches him go with no looking back and sighs deeply, biting at his bottom lip.

“Come on,” Adam says, patting his shoulder and then pushing him towards the building too, “Let’s go after him, see he doesn’t put himself into any unnecessary danger.”

Leo looks down and nods, but his eyes are dark. “I don’t see why he has to do this,” he says, disheartened.

“It’s in his nature,” Adam shrugs.

“It’s what brought him to save us in first place,” Annie says, walking next to them.

So we should be grateful, Leo thinks. But he doesn’t say it out loud, because he just feels jealous.

Inside, the room is dark and stinks just like they remember it from yesterday. Only the curtain separates them from the other room, and Blaine quickly sets it aside, walking in. He stops right there, though, on the doorstep, his eyes growing wide as they fall on Cody’s small frame all curled up in a corner of the bed, his face a mask of bruises and curdled blood, his body covered in scratches, the bandage around his arm undid, showing a nasty, still unhealed cut down his forearm.

“Oh, Goddess,” he whimpers, bringing his arms around his chest and then over his face, sheltering himself, “You shouldn’t have come back.”

“What is it?” Leo asks, lifting himself on his tiptoes to look past Blaine’s shoulders. His jaw drops the moment he sees Cody, and in his eyes there’s the same horror that dawns into Adam’s and Annie’s when they, too, get to see the condition Cody lies in. “My God, what happened to you?”

Despite remembering perfectly well how awful, and painful, and tragic the burning of their village was, since then none of them has ever felt any real pain. Blaine has sheltered them like a big oak down whose branches they could swing with no fear of falling down and bruise themselves. They’ve been protected, they’ve been secure. It had never occurred to them, before, that somebody could be provided for by someone else who also caused them harm. In their simple mind, that the same man who feeds and provides a roof over Cody’s head could also be the one who hits him and then leaves him alone, bleeding on his bed, sounds just as sick as pillagers ravaging a village filled with innocent people.

Cody brings his knees to his chest, groaning in pain and involuntarily showing the huge purple bruise that covers his side, just over his ribs, and that’s enough to make something switch into the kids. Leo pushes Blaine into the room and out of the way, “Let me pass!” he yells, as he runs towards the bed, kneeling on it and looking at Cody from every angle, “What the hell happened to you?”

“Was it that man?” Adam asks, briskly grabbing Cody’s arms by his wrists and pulling them away from his face, “Is he still around? Why didn’t you do your thing and cured yourself, you silly? You’re all black and blue.”

“I…” Cody starts, looking at them with huge, scared eyes, “I can’t do the ritual to myself, it’s—”

“Useless, that’s what it is,” Annie snorts, moving Leo aside to kneel next to Cody, “Let me take care of it. Magic might be unholy, as you called it, but at least it’s effective.”

No one seems to care about Blaine anymore, and he’s left a few steps away from the door, looking at his kids taking care of another kid. Saving him, somehow, like he saved them ten years ago. The vague knowledge of the fact that they’re able to stand on their own feet now only briefly crosses his mind. Sometimes he just thinks he needs to know he still has to take care of them more than they need to be taken care of at all.

“What the hell’s happening here?” somebody says, entering the room a few moments after. Blaine turns to look at him and instantly recognizes him as the man they saw yesterday, William.

Blaine only needs to see the way Cody curls against the wall, almost clawing at it in a desperate attempt to even climb it if it helps him get as far away as possible, shaking, wailing, terrified, to decide what to do.

He turns around, and reaches out for William. His hand closes tightly around his neck, and despite the fact that, slim as he is, he certainly isn’t fragile nor skinny, his bones feels thin like sticks under his fingertips.

“What—” William tries, but Blaine’s fingers tighten their grip around his throat and cut his breath, as he gets easily lifted up in the air, his legs kicking aimlessly and his hands desperately hitting Blaine’s as he tries to make him let go of him.

“Blaine!” Leo calls out, but he shuts up instantly when he sees Blaine’s skin glowing golden.

“What the hell…?” Adam says, astonished, and when Cody jumps up from the bed, standing still in front of it with his arms rigid and his fists clutched down his sides, he asks “You know what it is?”

“He knows,” Blaine answers. His eyes are red as fire, now, and the glow emanating from his skin is warm as sunlight, “It’s the power you gave me, pet. I’m using it to pay you back.”

“Wait—” the kid says in a strangled whisper, eyes filled with that bottomless fear, so typical of children, the one that would make you adore the hand that hits you just because you know nothing else, just because you fear that, once it’s gone, there’s going to be nothing else for you.

But Blaine doesn’t wait. His fingers close violently around William’s neck, snapping it with an ugly cracking sound. William falls to the ground, gargling blood for a couple of seconds, his whole body convulsing restlessly until it moves no more. His open eyes are left to stare into the void, and Cody stares into them, and he feels faint, and he drops to his knees and screams, so hard and for so long that, when he’s done, the other kids’ ears are ringing.

He stays crouched on the dirty floor, his hands closed in fists, his small shoulders shaking with sobs. Blaine walks to him, but he doesn’t kneel beside him, he doesn’t even touch him.

“You’re on your own, now,” he says, the glowing light of his skin slowly fading away, “I’m gonna ask you one last time, so make it the correct answer. Do you want to come with us?”

Cody looks up at him, breathing heavily. There’s a lost expression on his face, but there are no tears in his eyes.

*
Cody’s shoulders are already red and showing freckles, and they’ve only been on the road an hour. “We’re gonna have to find him something else to wear,” Annie muses, looking at him, “I don’t think we have something that fits him, right now. I think he’s got a thinner waistline than I have, I’m kinda jealous.”

“He’ll thicken up,” Blaine smiles fondly as he takes off his shirt and wraps it around Cody’s shoulders. It’s so big on him that it almost looks like a cloak. “How does the world look, pet?” he asks curiously.

Cody smiles excitedly, casting eager, hungry looks all around himself, to the road, the mountains on the horizon, the quiet river alive with fishes and a thousand other water animals they’re following. “Different than the last time I saw it,” he answers with a small chuckle.

“When was it?” Leo asks in a bored, forced voice, looking away. He’s trying very, very hard not to show any interest, but Blaine knows better.

“Um, when William bought me, I guess,” Cody answers with a small, embarrassed smile, “Ten years ago, more or less.”

“That’s a lot of time,” Adam comments, casting him a suspicious look, “So you were free, before?”

“I suppose,” Cody nods, “But I didn’t see much of the world back then either. I lived in a convent.”

“What?” Leo snorts, looking at him in shock, “What kind of nuns sell a child to a man like that?!”

“Um,” Cody, mutters, blushing and looking down, “I suppose… not very pleasant ones,” he says.

Blaine squeezes his shoulder, laughing out loud in amusement.

The road goes on in a straight line for miles in front of them. It’s surprisingly reassuring.
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