Coupling: Midvalley 'n Wolfwood (WolfxMid & MidxWolf), possibly WolfxVash
Warnings: Angst, yaoi, citrus, Lots of Offensive Things, shota, NCS in later chapters
Notes: Why? Because Hornboi has been repeatedly shafted in my fanfics, and I feel guilty. Mostly because after 'To Love a Lie' (shameless plug) I felt myself getting more and more curious about his background, his childhood, what he feels for Wolfwood...and so this will be long, I think. Depending on the mood of my muse. Also because I am a sado-masochist and enjoy tormenting myself and others with angst fics. ^-^
PS. I am a band nerd. Expect musical puns. XD!
The boy was small, unbearably so in comparison to the jostling, sweating bodies that pressed all around him until his tiny form was nearly crushed by the overwhelming weight of a mob of people. Drunken people, with dilated pupils and reddened lips, ruddy cheeks, loose pockets.
He really was a boy far too small to be pressing his way purposefully towards the bar and the curious tender behind the counter, who summed the stick-like, ragged boy with filthy, matted brown-black hair up as a beggar or maybe a pickpocket, someone to dealt with in the most succinct way possible. Saying nothing, the tall man pressed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose with liquor-scented fingers and pointedly ignored the boy who, being far too short for the stools on the other side of the counter, was climbing bodily up, grubby nails digging into the wood until his face was in view.
"Mister," he said shortly, and the bartender (whose name was Samuel) calmly set down the glass he had been swiping clean, looking at the boy down the peak of his nose. "Hey, mister."
Sam regarded the boy with faint amusement, noting the ring of melded blue-black surrounding the child's right eye, and the scuff marks on his arms which denoted recent struggles - definitely a street rat, not to be trusted. He shifted, glad that most of his customers were too drunk by this time of night to notice what sort of patronage his bar was attracting. "What can I do for you?"
"I wanna job," the boy muttered, disappearing briefly and then reappearing, standing on the seat and bracing himself against the counter. The bartender wondered just how muddy the brat's feet were (God, he hated brats), and shook his head.
"How old are you, kid?"
"Eight 'n a half," the boy told him matter-of-factly with a voice that was utterly confident and utterly serious.
"Well, kid, my name's Sam."
The boy was silent, eyes teeming with something that made the bartender a bit nervous to behold, as if the boy somehow... knew...something? He cleared his throat and slung his towel against the counter. "I run this establishment."
Clearly the child was not impressed by the calm introduction. "I know. I want a job."
"I don't hire children," Sam emphasized the 'don't' and shook his head, moving down the bar for a moment and filling up another mug. The boy hopped to a closer stool and waited, his eyes boring into the back of Sam's neck with a suspicious gaze that made the man's hair stand on end. "Especially not scruffy street brats with black eyes and uppity attitudes."
"I can do lots of things. Special things," the boy clarified in a tone that was not-quite-hopeful, staring intently at the man's expression. "I can sing."
"Kid, men come to bars to get away from family and children, not be serenaded by 'em," Sam glared for a moment over the rim of his glasses. "You're too young to be of any use to me and mine - unless you aim to drop your pants and lose more than your pride you need to wait a few years, then come back."
The boy answered in a chilling tone. "I've done that."
Sam opened his mouth and closed it again, squinting hard at the boy - he didn't fancy himself a fan of such...practices... but here was a child obviously in need of a home, and who knew, he might get along well with the girls upstairs. He might bring in some money. He might pay for himself in the end. "Stand up straight," he told the brat. "I need to see if you'll sell."
The child did, and Samuel observed what he had suspected he would see. The boy's hair was probably lighter than it looked, and the eyes that it fell over were not unappealing, slightly slanted and long-lashed. Cheekbones were good, arching with the promise of a more attractive appearance with age. Both ears were intact, as were all his fingers, and there weren't any visible scars, a plus. He wore a scraggly vest over a green shirt that was barely more than a rag, his pants were several sizes to big and tied at the waist and ankles with twine. He had no shoes.
"....you say you can sing?"
Sam turned, sighed, and waved to a girl across the way, who was settled comfortably in the lap of a bearded fellow at the other end of the room, near the stage that was currently unoccupied. "Carina! Carina, unwrap yourself and get over here."
The girl clad in faintly shimmering blue fabric nodded and loitered a few more moments before tapping her friend on the nose and lithely winding hey way over to the bar, looking faintly annoyed. "What, Sam? I almost had him, and you-"
"This boy wants a job," Sam told her, and Carina's lavender eyes widened. "He wants me to hire him up."
"This little thing?" The woman asked, blonde curls falling around her face as she glanced from the child to Sam with surprise in her eyes. "He can't be more than - "
"Eight," the bartender cleared his throat. "I've been meaning to start...widening our selection. He says he can sing, and his isn't ugly. Will you give him a look-over and check with Sylvia? Make sure he's not sickly," Sam favored the boy with an expression that promised injury if such a sickness was found.
"Yeah, sure. Sam, you're really gonna hire this little thing?"
"I'm eight, not little," the boy told them, both stared, then returned to ignoring him.
"I mean, once you start with kids it's tough to get away from them," the woman continued, looking down almost nervously at the boy. "He might not sell... and people are a lot more... careful about the kids."
"That's why you need to talk to Sylvia, Carina," Sam told her firmly, sliding away to serve another customer. He returned moments later and picked up the conversation with practiced ease. "Go on, take him upstairs. And be a bit subtle about it, would you?"
Carina nodded and took the boy by the hand.
They moved together through the crowd, Carina's manicured palm warm and soft as it curled around the boy's grubby nails - they wound easily to the back of the room, Carina blowing the occasional kiss as they reached the stairs.
"What's your name, boy?" The woman asked as she pushed a curtain away, revealing a sharply climbing set of stairs. The boy noticed as her voice took on the softer edge that automatically accompanied conversation with children, and he frowned faintly.
"Don't have one," he told her.
"Everyone has a name," Carina told him as they paused at the top of the stairs. The boy looked around without surprise at the dark, dimly lit corridor, perfect (he knew) for hiding the faces of the girls' customers - the place smelled heavily of smoky incense, spilled liquor and sex. "So what's yours?"
"I'm getting a new one," he added, gripping her hand a bit tighter despite himself, and Carina responded with a small smile.
"That's a good idea," she told him, "most everyone here found themselves a new name. It's... like a right of passage, I suppose," they moved down the hallway and she turned to the left, picking a room and rapping twice on the door. "Sylvia?"
"Mmm, is that you, Carina?"
"Yeah. I got someone here that Sam wants you to see."
"Ah, bring her in."
"Him?" The unnaturally blonde woman beside the boy patted him with detachment on the head, smiling again. "Well, have him come on in."
"She'll be good to you, don't worry, okay? I have a date to keep," she winked, and left him alone with the door.
The boy stood for a long moment, gazing at the tarnished knob before him, at his own sketchy reflection in the deeply grooved brass. He knew with all the simple comprehension of a small child, that he was not in a good place - a place his father would have hated and his mother would have felt quite at him in. He had never really been in a good place, not since he could remember, and so moving from thievery to another less desirable occupation didn't bother him much. However, he had a feeling that once he passed through the door before him, something inside of him would change, and he would never be able to back.
There was a sneaky suspicion in the back of his mind that entering the room before him would involve growing up. Not crying when your father hit you, when you were robbed, mugged, raped - he would learn to fire a gun. Be brave, that's what growing up was about. Being brave, learning to give people what they wanted....
He took a step back just as the door swung open to reveal a heavy set woman with an uncanny expression of knowledge on her face, whose blue eyes harbored no surprise at the boy's size nor gender. "Ah. You're who I'm seeing?"
Mutely the child nodded, and she stepped aside, waiting. "Do come in."
A long pause, mahogany eyes regarding the portal with all the suspicion of a beaten puppy before the boy elected to enter, passing the long skirts with faintly more than a rustle of cloth whispering in his ear. No fanfare, he didn't feel any different - and yet something was.
He gulped and rubbed one eye, wincing visibly as his fingers brushed bruised skin. "Well, child, what is your name? I'm Sylvia Blackwater." Sylvia was large (not fat, but tall and wide of berth) and wore quite a heavy layer of make-up over her face, her hair was waxen and curly and barely moved when she walked. Long, layered skirts of something several sizes too large for her adorned her body, while her two front teeth were flashy gold, more expensive than anything the boy, who seemed swallowed up by the room surrounding him, had ever seen before.
He told her as she patted the couch, and small arms and legs folded themselves there, leaning against a knitted pillow with a large, moth-eaten whole edging one corner. "I don't want that name anymore. I'm s'posed to get a new one."
"A new name? Well, maybe we should check up on you first, and you can think about it," Sylvia smiled faintly and reached for a piece of paper. "Would you like a drink, boy?"
"Fine, fine. Wait right there," the woman told him and left in a swirl of aprons, leaving the lonely child curled on the couch.
The moment she was out of sight, however, an inquisitive figure began stalking around the berth of the room, hands and eyes roving for anything to tell him of his surroundings. The couch was along one wall, worn and in places showing traces of the stuffing within, across from that a small television with a broken antennae. A table was next to the door, bearing an antique lamp and a thick tome, over a slightly frilly tablecloth. There weren't many excesses - it was the room of a poor woman, though a poor woman who had known so little for so long such a place had been built into a castle, seeped with a sense of personality. The boy immediately found it comforting.
The walls had photographs, as well as a painting of some strange four-legged animal the boy had never seen before running through a field painted a strange sort of green. Over the couch was a needlepoint of blocky lettering. He read the familiar words and felt longing stir in his breast like a soft wind. "'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me...?'"
"You can read then, boy?"
"Yes. They said that to us at mum's funeral," he told her, nervousness showing through for the first time. "They said that God has her now."
The woman tilted her head and set the clattering tray in her arms down on the table. The boy took one more look at the framed picture and then fell upon the cookies and juice. "Do you believe in God?" Sylvia asked, settling into the couch and cupping her chin in one hand.
"I've never seen him," the boy stated softly, shrugging his shoulders before returning to the meal before him. "So I guess not. He's never done anything for me."
"I do. I believe in God," she smiled. "Quite the paradox, don't you think?"
Sylvia smoothed down her apron. "Paradox. It's... never mind," she seemed to recall she was speaking to a child with a start. "I need to you tell me about yourself, okay? We have to know all about you before Sam decides whether or not to hire you up."
"Yeah," the boy mumbled, wiping the back of his sleeve across his mouth.
"How old are you?"
"You're a boy?"
"You want a new name...
Sylvia let her pen pause, looking into the child's eyes with genuine concern. "Do you know what you're applying to do, kid?"
"Yes..." He trailed off, and she waited for an elaboration. "Some men like little boys. And women, too. They always paid mum before..." he looked back up at the needlepoint and seemed to take strength from the words there. "And Jay let his friends-"
"Ah. He let his friends...?"
"...play with me..." the boy said uncertainly, "like grown-ups play, when they had lots to drink. And I didn't mind so much, and I thought maybe I could be like Mum and - " Sylvia felt a flash of comprehension, and nodded understandingly. "And earn money," he faltered.
"I see. You know that it's illegal, and if you're caught, you could be hurt?"
"The police chief met mum once," the boy told her. "And she was arrested later but he let her go. She told me that she could get away with anything. So it can't be that bad."
"What can you do?"
"Read. Write, sing, math. I know my times tables," he added, unsure of whether or not that was a good thing. "Mostly sing though. I like music."
"Very good. I want you to go into that room there, shower, but don't get dressed again."
A physical examination followed the few questions, and the boy was asked to do everything from showing his teeth (two missing, molars not yet in) to removing his clothing from a tiny body, Sylvia's eyes searching for scars and signs of sickness on the child. He was not a virgin. There were a few marks, mainly bruises that would be gone in a few days, a jagged, circular cut mark that could only be the work of a jagged, broken bottle against the right side of his stomach, skinned knees, and (naturally) well-defined ribs. The child was thin and wiry, but seemed healthy, and was built light and seemed prone to overwhelming slightness of figure. "Boy, may I cut your hair?"
A mute nod. Sylvia fetched a pair of scissors and a comb and went to work on the mass of wet tangles, the boy shivering and naked with a blanket around his neck as the metallic click-click of the scissors rang in the silent room. The woman didn't cut it short, but cropped in from his shoulders up to his ears and parted it nicely. When it was clean the boy's hair was a deep brown, and when wet it was almost black - she tucked the last few locks behind his ears and went to her closet. Finding a pair of shorts too small for her yet long enough on the child to be pants, she let him pull them on and wrap a belt twice around his waist.
"Midvalley," he said after she finished and was sweeping the hair off the hardwood floor and he was once again clinging to a cup of juice.
"Midvalley. Like the poem." He shifted. "On your wall?"
"Oh," Sylvia looked up at the psalm above the couch and then down at the boy with black eyes and the bottle-sized scar, looking surprised. "Mid...valley?"
"I want that name. Midvalley. In the valley. Of the shadow of death."
"That's not really a name, dear, that's..."
"If I call myself that, it's my name, right?" The logic was inarguable.
"It's a good name," said Sylvia, softly, curling her own waxy blonde locks behind her ears. "'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...' A funny name for a prostitute, but a good name none the less. Midvalley, you seem to be healthy enough. Sam hires out girls - and you - to men and women who want a night with them. They charge forty double-dollars a night and Sam gets a cut of ten double dollars, while feeding and sheltering them. Clothes are yours to obtain," she told him with a faint smile. "If Sam hires you up, I'll take you out to get some tomorrow He won't take responsibility if you get caught by the cops for stealing, or loitering, or drunkenness - not his problem."
"Are you hired out?"
"Me? Ah, only if I'm desperate, and they're desperate," the woman laughed, a sound not so musical as motherly - Midvalley smiled slightly, unsure if he understood the joke. "I used to be quite popular, before age hit me."
It was in that manner that three nights later, Midvalley, age eight, was being led up the stairs by a young man with a scruffy, stubble-like beard and thick hands, a man who kept touching his hips and his shoulders gratefully. He had sang on the stage with one of the other girls and had several men reaching out to tough him - this burly fellow had actually hit another patron and then hauled Midvalley away, as quickly as he could. The boy cast a glance over his shoulder as the musty bar beneath disappeared behind silk curtains, nervous again as he pointed to the room he had been assigned. The man leered at him and then they were alone.
Sylvia had told him to simply do as he was told. Carina said that no matter how strange the requests, he had to oblige, and if he did well they would leave more money. Sam told him that if he botched his first job he would be fired on the spot.
Heavy, thick fingers pulled up his shirt with brutal detachment, making the boy - Midvalley - squeak in surprise. When the man next to him chuckled the boy blinked through wide eyes and allowed himself to be kissed thoroughly, the power in the man behind the touch so great that the boy felt his body would rip open at the touch, and he was suddenly very afraid. He told the man that after a moment of deliberation, and the be-stubbled cheek brushed against his neck with eery precision. "Don't be scared. I won't hurt you. Just make noise for me, okay, boy?"
He nodded, the beard scratching across his face and tickling softly. The man smelled like beer.
It did hurt. And he did make noise. But afterwards, as Midvalley worked his painfully tight pants over his aching hips and examined the finger marks across his torso, he found a wad of money on the dresser.
It was fifty double dollars, forty plus a tip of ten. It was more money than he had ever had in his entire life.