Will inhaled shallowly, every breath feeling too dry as he stared down the being sitting in front of him.
"What do you mean, I'm not the first?" he rasped, the fingers still wrapped around a handle still trembling. Danny rubbed the back of his neck,, green blood (too bright, in the gloom) still sliding thick and viscous down his forearm, soaking into the dark green jacket's sleeve.
"I mean… they're hunting people." He sighed again, avoiding the younger boy's eyes. "I've heard them, and've seen the aftermath, but never… until you, I could never get the chance to interrupt until it was already too late."
Will watched the teen's slim fingers pick at the worn hem of his own jeans, tugging a thread loose from the weave and twisting it until it bunched up.
"You tried though?"
Danny nodded at the soft whispered prompt, pulling straight the thread again with a few smoothing motions.
"How do I know you're telling the truth?"
He hated how wobbly his voice was, and his heart still thudded painfully against his ribs, a blunt rhythm reminding him how mortal he was. How breakable.
"I dunno. No real way to tell, I guess. You could always stay here, and give me directions and I can try to find your gu-" "-NO!" Danny blinked at the outburst, and Will shrank back from his terrified lean, tucking his chin back into the blanket. He stared at the floor, chewing on the inside of his cheek. The last trembles were beginning to fade from his fingers, but even Danny's casual posture couldn't stop the tense nervousness from pulling his muscles into tight knots.
"I mean, what if it comes back? I just... " He stared at the carpet, shoulders straining with tension despite the warm sweatshirt half drowning him in warmth. Please don't leave me alone. "I wanna go with you."
He nodded, and heard Danny sigh.
"This isn't an adventure, you know. You'd be safer in here."
Will shook his head. The soft hoodie brushed his cheek, and Will reached up to tug the hood up over his head. His stomach rumbled, and he realized that he could just grab something to eat, if he wanted. There was no fear that he'd be denied food, or put back out in the cold. The thing-that-looked-like-a-teen had just… given him the couch and blankets, no questions asked. Had gone out of his way to collect the kind of soup he liked, and found a sweater that fit him.
Creepily inhuman or not, Danny HAD looked after him. They were weird partners in this weird world. They had to have each other's backs.
"Splitting up the party is always a bad idea." Immediately, he felt foolish, and reflexively waited for the expected 'Nerd' insult thrown his way.
Will shrank a little into his blanket.
"Like…. In D&D…."
Danny's slowly split into a wide grin
"Oh my god, you're a nerd."
Will ducked his face, looking away. He shouldn't have said anything-
"Nononono," Danny quickly corrected, waving his splayed hands. "That's totally a good thing! Makes things so much easier to explain! What edition are you on? D&D, right?"
Will watched him out of the corner of his eye. There were other editions?
"Cool, cool, What was your character?"
Will turned to face him a bit more.
Danny nodded, muttering to himself. "...probably not a bard, or wizard, I punch too much for that, maybe a cleric? Nah, too holy- Ah!" Danny patted a fist into his open palm, looking up.
"I'm basically a Druid, without the animal shapeshifting or summoning stuff. My element is primarily ice, but I've got some cool plasma stuff as well, and I can phase through stuff if I know it's coming." Will's eyes widened, mouth falling open slightly. "Questions?"
"What….But what are you? You can't be human."
Danny hesitated. Will stared at him, curious expression slowly morphing into wariness.
"Shoot, sorry, I'm used to hiding it around people. Not a great option in this place, huh? So, um- Okay." He watched the teen take a slow breath, leaning back against the floor in a casual sprawl like they hadn't just been attacked a few minutes earlier.
"People around my hometown called 'em Ghosts, but they're more like DnD Wraiths." He saw Will tense up again, and waved his hand. "Don't worry, it's not a direct comparison. They don't eat- Well, some of them do, but I don't. Hm, this isn't really helping, is it?"
The mournful question actually did more to calm the boy than anything else that had been said so far.
"So you're a Wraith?"
"Half!" Danny grinned, raising a finger. "Only half. More like...uh…." He paused, trying to think of a good way to link it back to DnD. "My parents were trying to open a portal to another plane, and I got stuck at the halfway point, and it zapped me with a bunch of energy from that plane, so now I'm sorta… infused with it. I still have my human mind, but...some extra stuff, too."
Danny watched the kid mull that over, listening to something large crunch through the leaves outside. Still on the hunt, huh?
"So, since you're just half, that's how you can do the other magic stuff?"
"Assuming you're telling the truth…" Will began, the knife gently resting across one of his knees. "And this isn't an elaborate trap to eat me or something…" Danny stuck out his tongue, a little sad that the boy didn't echo the gesture. He could see from the focused expression that the kid's mind was churning furiously, trying to make the connections and suspnd enough doubt to believe that the explaination was real.
"Assuming all that… How come you're helping me? What do you have to gain? And why are you here?"
"Dude, I'm Chaotic Good. Or Neutral good. Haven't parsed it out. Either way, I don't want to hurt people, and I definitely don't want kids getting eaten by creepy rotten monsters." He nodded his head decisively, ignoring the faint scrape of long claws scaling the side of the building, passing their floor and reaching the roof. It made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, that it was focusing so much on their location, but it couldn't really be helped at this point.
"You didn't say why you're here."
Danny blew a small raspberry at the question, laying back on the ground - trusting the wary boy wouldn't stab him while he was vulnerable.
"I didn't plan to end up trapped. This little world - it shouldn't exist. It's wrong. I stumbled across it because everyone else was avoiding the hell out of it, and once I got in, I couldn't get out. It's gross and I'm pretty sure those monsters are the reason I'm having such a hard time of things. So! I wanna blast the heck out of them, and blast a way out, and get you home, then blast this creepy trap to smithereens."
"You can do that?"
"You can blow up… a whole world?" Danny tilted his head, still looking at the ceiling.
"This isn't a whole world, you know. It's a weird pocket of rot where there shouldn't be anything. Like…something died in one of the universe's pores and we're stuck in the worst ingrown hair ever. I found it from the Ghost Zone, and from finding actual people here, it looks like it's connected to the real world as well. Er- the human world."
Will considered him, tapping the blunt side of his knife on the side of his wrist.
"...You said 'those monsters' like, plural."
Danny frowned, then nodded.
"Pretty sure there's more than one. At least."
Will shivered, glancing toward the window. The fog still snaked fluid through skeleton branches, autumn leaves laying thick across the earth. Just one of those things was terrifying to think about.
"They don't seem to coordinate at all." Danny offered, unprompted. "And they're more likely to fight than not, if they do meet. If that makes you feel any better."
"Maybe a little." Not much, though. Will couldn't stop himself from twitching at every noise from beyond the walls of this room, but… now that panic wasn't gripping his thoughts, logic said Danny… probably wasn't trying to kill him.
Danny craned his neck to examine the wound on his arm, the green glow of the fluid having slowly drained of light while they spoke. He rubbed at the mark, and most of it flaked away, leaving only a red and green jagged line, where his teeth had dug in.
Wasn't trying to kill him, Will reminded himself, shoving back the reflexive unease at knowing Danny's teeth were far sharper than a person's had any right to be. Half Wraith was still half human, right? Wraiths were… well, creepy for one thing. So that fit, at least.
But Wraiths fed on Life Force. They weakened in sunlight. They certainly didn't have Druid elemental powers, so maybe that was the human side? But how did Danny even know about D&D? It was weird in the first place having a teenager know about that enough to actually describe things at that level.
Unless he was somehow reading his mind to try to trick him?
"So, you going to stay here or not?"
Will looked up, tugging his sleeves lower to cover his knuckles.
"N-no, I want to come." Danny nodded, checking his wound one last time before climbing to his feet.
"Don't expect anything crazy from me." He warned "most of my powers are a lot weaker than I'd like." Danny frowned, still not sure why that was.
Will licked his lips, standing up and adjusting his grip on the knife, not terribly happy with how small his own hands seemed.
"So, can you, like, show me some of your magic?" He shrugged a shoulder, trying to be nonchalant.
"How about when we get back, you can make me a monster manual entry?" He tugged his green stained sleeve down, offering a little grin.
The door still loomed ominously, and Will felt tiny tremors crawling up his spine as Danny unlocked it again, the faint creak of hinges sending fear spiraling without any true effort.
The gloom outside, when compared to their messy little safe haven, seemed to make his teeth ache from the *broken, rotted* feeling that oozed from it.
He hadn't even stepped outside, but he already looked forward to getting back.
Green eyes still bobbed like twin lanterns, but the wry grin and sharp little canine felt… almost reassuring.
He might be in a world of monsters, but at least one of them was in his corner.