I'm Here For You
"You still haven't told us your story yet." Ami yawned as she placed one of her small paws atop her sister's large one. Compared to Bellatrix, everything about Ami was absolutely tiny. The little Aisha barely came to her sister's knee, whereas Bellatrix stood almost to their human, Ben's, waistline. And that was saying a lot for Ben, like Bellatrix, was quite tall and lanky. Ben himself gave a yawn from where he rested with his head leaning back, mouth slightly ajar.
"I want to know how you met Ben!"
"I think it's a little too late for that, Ami," Bellatrix replied.
Unlike Ami's appearance, which was basically a small Aisha with stubby little legs, Bellatrix barely resembled her supposed species. Bellatrix had long ears, like all Gelerts, but instead of being covered in soft fur, her ears were anything but soft with a constancy similar to that of a rat's tail. Along her back were small rounded spikes similar to a Chomby's. To anyone who was unfamiliar with her, they would be in for quite a fright, something that bothered Bellatrix every time she was forced to leave their rather isolated home in the Haunted Woods.
"It's not late at all!" Ami persisted as she tried her best to suppress another yawn, "Right, Ben?"
At his name, the boy stirred. Ben raised his eyes and blinked his eyes, a little lost at where he was. With a pale hand he pushed the long strands of hair from his eyes and stretched. "Hm? What was that?"
Ami pouted at this but calmly repeated her question. Ben's eyes went to the clock that rested above their fireplace, both hands announced it was just about near midnight. "Sorry hun, Bella's right. You should've been asleep hours ago."
"But I'm not tired."
Both Bellatrix and Ben chuckled at this and shared a knowing look. Bellatrix stood and stretched her long legs. With her nose, she gently nudged Ami to a standing position. Ami, realizing she'd lost this battle, gave a groan and then with her head down, she grumbled out of the living room and out of sight. After a moment, they heard the familiar sound of Ami's steps on the stairs. She was doing her best to stomp angrily, but given her size even the angriest stomp made little noise.
Ben pulled himself to his feet, swaying slightly and shook the drowsiness from his head. He reached down and gently ran his fingers over Bellatrix's head. She smiled as he did this, his hand was warm and comforting.
"Shall we go?" Ben asked and with a confirmation nod from her, they too set for the stairs.
It was around three in the morning when she awoke with a start. Bellatrix gasped, her heart beating heavy ion her chest. The very last remains of her dream stood vibrant in her mind's eye. Bellatrix gave a cry and tumbled from the end of Ben's bed, her usual sleeping place.
She fell to the ground with a heavy thud and whimpered, confused and frightened. This noise, loud and sudden, awoke the sleeping boy and Ben sat up instantly his head sweeping from side to side, one eye closed the other wide open.
"Who's there?" he growled. "I swear if that Ghost Lupe's back, I'm gonna..." But he didn't finish for his eyes had fallen upon the shaking form of his pet.
Bellatrix, still unfocused and unaware of where she was, was trembling as if in a below freezing temperature. Ben moved quickly. He untangled himself from his sheets and kneeled down beside his friend, once again taking her head in his hands. A small stream of tears had begun to race down both of Bellatrix's cheeks. Her tried to gain her attention, but her eyes stayed focused above Ben's head at some invisible foe.
"Hey, hush now. It's okay, I'm here," Ben cooed, his voice soft and gentle, "I'm here Bella, there's nothing to be afraid of."
Bellatrix's voice shook as she replied, "B-Ben, it h-happened again. The n—nightmare..." Ben, understanding this, pulled the creature into his arms and made soothing noises as he rubbed her back.
"I'm here, you're alright. You're going to be okay."
"It was so frightening, B-Ben, it was if it w-was happening all over again. I w-was so scared." At this, she dissolved into sobs, her shoulders shaking. "Y-you weren't there t-this time."
Ben buried his head into her furry shoulder, thinking. He didn't know how to reply. His mind was wandering back to the Woods just outside his home, his thoughts bringing him back five years ago into a cold, autumn night...
"I-It's in there!" cried a voice, his face illuminated by the light from the torch he held high above his head.
Ben, younger and very nervous, nodded in response. He was barely able to see the other figure, an older boy, despite the dim light the torch provided.
"I can't believe it ran away. It knows better," the voice continued, deep and angry.
"She was scared!" came a second voice, high and nervous. In the dim light, Ben caught sight of large fluttering wings. A creature he later recognized as a Gelert had moved towards them, "You scared her!"
Ben was familiar with this pet for she'd once belonged to him. Her name was Aria and looked much different than she'd been when he'd owned her. Her species for one, had been completely different and for another she'd never been Fairy under his care. She seemed to still be getting used to the wings he supposed, watching as she narrowly missed the torch's flame with an edge of her wing. Aria was what was called a 'laboratory pet,' meaning that those (unlike himself) who has the ability to use the secret laboratory were able to put their pet's under this strange laser and chance the ability once a day to change their pet. It could be a different species or color, or even gender. Supposedly though, the pets did not enjoy this treatment one bit, though that didn't seem to bother the other boy very much.
"Aria," he said aloud, surprised to see her, "You look different."
As if finally noticing him, Aria turned, her expression cold and stern. She nodded but said nothing more to him. Ben supposed he shouldn't have expected much different. He's turned Aria over to the Pound a month before seeing no use for her.
He knew that was a mistake he would never make again.
"Lucas," she said to the other boy, snapping Ben form his thoughts, "You frightened her! Leave her be, I'll bring her home in the morning!"
"No way!" replied Lucas, his expression dark, "She knows better than to run away from her master like this. "
"She's never been to the laboratory before. She didn't know it would change her so much," continued Aria. "I-It was all my fault, I didn't mean to scream... I-I'd just never seen a mutant before."
"Not many have," Ben found himself saying. "They're pretty rare."
"And hideous," Lucas grunted with a snort. "She shouldn't have worried, though; she's going right back tomorrow. Of course with my luck she'll probably turn into a Blumaroo or something..."
Then, distracted by this possible outcome, Luke's attention flew from Aria to Ben, "Hey, Ben, how much do Mutant Gelerts go for these days anyway?"
"Depends on the trader," Ben replied, wincing at the look Aria shot them at his words. He felt guilt rise in his chest for the look was something of both hurt and disgust.
"Anyway," he replied, desperate to change the topic. "Look, it's late and all; why don't you just send Aria in? You can come stay at my place for the night, have some borovan."
For a moment, Lucas entertained the idea. Overhead, thunder rumbled, warning of rain. "You know what," he said after a moment. "You're right. Forget it, it knows where its food comes from. It'll come home eventually."
He turned on his heel. "Come on, Aria." With one last look at Ben, Aria nodded.
"Thanks for your help, Ben. Sorry for dragging you out of bed," Lucas called over his shoulder as they departed. "I know the Haunted Woods aren't really your thing..."
"Not a problem," Ben replied with a stiff smile as he watched the two retreat. He waited until they were out of sight and out of hearing range before beginning to follow them. He'd only made it a few steps when the rain began. His own torch was out within a moment. He doubted Lucas would care for he had Aria to guide him, but Ben was all alone in the unfamiliarity of the Woods.
He'd only gone another couple of steps when the sound of twigs cracking beneath heavy feet reached him. He turned quickly but there was little reason to. It'd grown so dark he could barely see the hand in front of his face. He shrugged and took another couple of steps before the sound came again.
"This isn't funny!" he called, his voice echoing in the still night air, "You can't scare me."
How untrue these words were. Ben shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and bit his lips. The footfalls behind him came again almost instantly as he began walking again. Accompanying them was now a long, hoarse growl that sounded very close.
"Leave me alone!" Ben cried, his speed picking up until he began to run. He could see so little that every so often he was stopped by a heavy collision with a tree. Still, he shook his head clearing his thoughts and continued on, screaming.
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" he cried once more. He had to be close to the exit. He felt as though he'd been running for hours, but still there was nothing but darkness before him. Ben turned slightly to look behind him, for the growling had stopped but the footfalls were still there, but it was then that his foot caught an upturned root and he fell.
Pain seared in his ankle with every small movement. The footsteps were slower now, but even closer.
"SOMEONE!" he called, his heart beating fast and his voice growing shriller, "PLEASE, SOMEONE HELP ME! "
The twigs were still snapping before him. He still could see nothing. Ben's voice had run hoarse and it'd become almost too painful to speak.
He felt something brush his arm for a moment and he stiffened ended a scream.
This is it, he thought, tears racing, This is the end.
But it wasn't the end. In fact, it was quite far from that. It was a beginning.
Back in the present, Bellatrix's sobs were finally subsiding. She hiccupped with every shaky breath, but she seemed to be calming down which, in turn, calmed Ben down.
"Ben," she croaked, her voice hoarse from crying so hard and so much, "Ben..."
"I'm here," he repeated, biting his lip to keep from dissolving into sobs himself, "Nothing's going to hurt you. I'm here. I'll always be here... oh, Bella, please don't cry..."
But she was crying once again, her large paws wrapped around his shoulders.
"T-Thank you, Ben."