So this fell out of my head.
Because when do I ever leave my favorite characters without at least some pain.
Not saying that one character is a fav. He's an ass. But the rest of them. Implied ones. Also I'm rambling. Enjoy.
Walter sat in the farthest, darkest corner he could find, still pretending to nurse his first beer and looking like he was reading his book, radiating a general air of 'do not disturb me'. But, alas, there was no reading in this noise. He'd read the same paragraph five times now and he still didn't know what the book was about, while his beer had gone warm and stale hours ago.
He rarely visited these places. While dark and perfect for unobtrusive observation, they were too loud, the patrons always got too rowdy and the music was absolutely horrible. Not to mention the blasted big-screen at the other end showing another football match. Ugh, why did it have to be a sports bar. Only business could bring him into pubs like these and he avoided even that with a passion, but tonight he had no choice.
He hoped his target wouldn't get too inebriated again or there wouldn't be any point in talking to him tonight either. He might have to switch tactic… What's the point of intimidation if the victim is too blind drunk to remember the next day? And it was Important that his message was remembered and acted upon.
Glancing at his watch he noted it was almost one in the morning. Great, he would be a wreck at work tomorrow. This was his fifth night out stalking, but the bastard had so far never been alone for Walter to have a private conversation with him.
Please let it pan out tonight, I need more than three hours of sleep...
At last, after another hour, just past two in the morning, it looked like the group was breaking up and getting ready to leave. The subject of Walter's intense interest, a tall, rather slim man just short of six feet, jeans, dark shirt and a worn, brown leather jacket, looked like- oh thank Gunmar, it appeared he was bidding farewell to his comrades.
Walter casually got up, left the book where he'd found it on a shelf above his corner, a generous tip on his table, and made his way to the exit. If this worked out, the man would walk home like before, but this time alone. All alone. Vulnerable and easy prey. A shot of anticipation when down his back making him shiver. It had been so long since he'd acted the predator he'd forgotten the rush.
As Walter passed him he got a better look at his state; somewhat drunk but barely noticeable. Good, that meant he'd remember Walter's message nice and clear tomorrow, and the rest of his life if he had any hint of a brain. Then again if he had a brain he wouldn't have needed the message at all...
Walter stepped out into the cooling night. Even the light drizzle making the street and buildings hazy couldn't dampen his mood, even without an umbrella and bound to get drenched. Instead he found it perfect, the weather was cooperating!
He hurried down the street, two blocks down from the pub, before stepping into the alley he'd singled out, and waited.
Time passed slowly and Walter wondered if he'd missed his chance yet again. His prey could have changed his mind, taken another route, gotten a ri- single footsteps of a lone person was approaching. A quick peek made sure it was the right one.
Over the centuries of his life Walter had only used his troll form a handful of times while interacting with humans. They were after all not supposed to know about the world he came from, but sometimes there just wasn't any other way to get a point across, and it was effective. Besides, even if they started talking about trolls hiding in alleys rather than under bridges, who would believe them? The risk was low when it was calculated and perfectly acceptable.
Behind the container, the green light of his perfectly timed transformation was just enough to stop the human. The streets were deserted but you never knew who might be looking out a window at just the wrong moment and and a little bait was better than- ah, yes, his target got curious and stepped into the alley.
"Hello? Anyone there?"
Nobody saw the man getting pulled further into the alley or heard his primal scream of terror as he saw the shadow of what suddenly had a grip on him.
The scream was piercing to Stricklander's sensitive ears, but the sound of terror was like music.
With his strength as a troll he dragged the human all the way to the end of the dark blind alley with ease. When he reached the back wall, his own glowing eyes were the only source of light apart from the faint reflections of the street lamps out by the road and the low clouds glowing with the city's lights. The drizzle hazed out details and the mouth of the alley was now hidden in the gloom, leaving them in their own little world. For the human; a world of terror.
But, the screaming and whimpering was getting annoying. The man still hanging from his jacket in Stricklander's steel grip was kicking and begging and wailing, but the changeling wasn't done yet. He hadn't even started. He threw the man into a corner strewn with garbage and advanced.
"No! Please! Don't hurt me I didn't do anything I swear! PLEASE!" he begged.
Stricklander didn't say a word, just looked at the human with a wide grin and sharp teeth and hate. Begging wouldn't help now. How many times wouldn't- no. Focus on the task at hand.
The man huddled as far into the corner as he could, curling into a ball as Stricklander approached. He tilted his head forward, just enough so that faint light reflected off his horns, giving the human a good look, and stared at him with glowing eyes from under lowered eyebrows. Humans had always found his eyes disconcerting. Frightening. He exploited that now and threw in a low growl just for the heck of it.
"Please! I didn't do anything wrong, please! Please don't-"
"Shut up" Stricklander rumbled with a sneer, deep and threatening. He slowly reached down and grabbed the jacket again, tightening the collar around the man's throat before lifting straight up, scraping the human up along the wall and slamming him into the brick, leaving the man hanging a head above Stricklander's own and three feet off the ground. Soft, human hands scratched at his arms but did nothing against his stony skin. "I know exactly what you did, don't even think about lying to me."
"Wh- what are you talking- please! Pleasepleaseplease I never-" he choked out in a trembling voice. Fear was thick in the air now but Stricklander promised himself he'd not stop until he ran the risk of drowning in it.
Stricklander grabbed greasy hair and yanked his head forward, ignoring the futile attempts the man made at kicking his way out of the troll's iron grip.
"I have a message for you. A little advice I suggest you follow, if you want to keep breathing. Let me suggest you take it to heart and never! Forget it." he whispered in the man's ear, then clicked his sharp fangs, relishing the flinch he got.
"Wh-at?" the man gasped, going still when the mention of staying alive registered, eyes wide as saucers.
"You should start behaving like a normal, decent human being."
"Wh- That's i-okay! Okay okay I will I promise!"
"You've promised that before. Yet still you are more of a monster than I am."
Cold hands tightened the leather jacked even more around human flesh.
"NO!" he screamed as realization crossed his eyes, kicking and clawing to no avail. "I promise! I'll change, I have changed please just let me go please-"
"You know what will happen if you don't. I will be back, and I will not be as polite as tonight. There will be... much more screaming..." He tapped a clawed finger at the man's sternum. Hard. Making him twitch. Oh, Stricklander wanted to do so much more to this piece of filth, but he had to be careful. He couldn't leave any unexplainable marks. Like strange claw-marks or a ripped-out throat with unknown animal origin. "And bleeding. Lots of that. Maybe I'll have a snack. I really like toasted fingerbones" he grinned, showing off both claws and teeth. "It's been a long time since I tasted human..." he whispered, trying to eye the human with hunger.
It had been ages. Centuries. He didn't like it, too gamey and only for survival, but the threat still worked wonders when he needed it. And judging by the eyes of his prey the man got it lound and clear.
"N-noO PLEASE!, I won't- I'll leave! I'LL LEAVE I PROMISE, I'll move! I'll- I'll go to... New York! Or- anywhere, just please!" he begged, squirming between the claws at his collar and the wet brick wall at his back.
Stricklander made a show of contemplating it. The bastard leaving would actually be perfect. He'd thought of just killing the man if he discovered so much as a hint of continued transgressions, he would have just made it look like the human left. He already had the plan ready. Another death on his conscience was nothing in the greater picture. It's not like he hadn't done it before, not like he'd probably have to do it again, but the bastard actually doing it, it would solve many problems and save Stricklander a lot of paperwork.
"If I let you leave. If I let you live. You will never set foot in Arcadia again. You will stay away from them and you will never ever attempt to make contact again."
"I swear I swear I promise, just please, please let me live!" he choked through the tight collar, nodding vigorously, pure fear pouring off of him.
"Oh, I will. For now. Just one more thing" he smiled. Then, turning around with the human still in his hand, dragging him across the asphalt, he took a new grab at the collar and lifted him right up off the ground and into his face. The headlights of the car Stricklander had heard approaching flashed through the alley and illuminated the troll perfectly for the human to see. Fangs ready to tear flesh in a wicked grin, long horns to pierce, glowing eyes that glared into the very soul with so much hate...
"What... what are you?" he whimpered.
Letting out a low-pitched, primal growl through grinning fangs, Stricklander slammed the man into the ground, leaned in and hovered over the panicking jackass, a knee on his chest and a foot on a wrist. No more than an inch separated him from the trembling mess of a human in front of him, luminescent eyes reflected in the pale blue ones of his shivering victim.
"Me? I'm the monster under your bed. The unexplained sounds in your house that go bump in the night. The strange shadows just at the edge of your sight that makes you wonder if someone is there. And those raccoons in you loft and your basement?" He leaned in, a tusk almost brushing the human's cheek. "they're not always raccoons..." he finally whispered, getting another whimper from his prey. Really, pathetic.
Stricklander paused to let it dawn on the man just what kind of monster he was in the clutches of. When realization struck, Stricklander's tone turned into a deadly serious heartfelt promise and he wrapped a strong hand around the human's throat, claws drawing tiny drops of blood the neck and leaned into his hand, almost blocking all the air for the pathetic excuse of a man below him. "I'm the thing that will gut you and string you up in my cave by your own, bloody entrails, alive mind you, and wear your skin as a fucking hat if you ever lay a finger on that boy again."
The man was crying now and- oh some humans were truly disgusting, the smell coming from the man now was absolutely nauseating. All Stricklander could feel for the pathetic human was disgust. He'd need a boiling hot shower when he was done here.
"But I never touch-GCK!"
There was a sharp crunching sound followed by a scream when Stricklander put almost all his weight on that one heel.
Just to make his point clear.
"Lie to me again, and I will not wait for you to make a mistake, I'll gut you right here" he snarled, "I've been watching you. I know what you've done, James Lake Senior, and I will not let it happen again."
Two months after his little... encounter, in the alley, Walter finally started seeing a change in Jim. He seemed happier, more relaxed with his, admittedly limited, group of friends, even with Domzalski. He was actually present in class! Not just physically there, he actually paid attention, something the teacher in the changeling always appreciated.
Jim started asking questions, even challenging Walter's personal theories a couple of times! He'd taken to wearing short sleeves, Walter never saw the edge of a bruise anymore, other than what boys got from-well, being boys. He didn't flinch as bad if someone bumped him by accident and he actually acted like a kid his age should. Closer anyway, and Walter was sure the rest would work itself out with time.
It wasn't even a year later, when Jim came by his office looking rather... frazzled? Could kids look frazzled? Talking about strange chess trainers showing up at his door.
Just to be clear!
Barbara has no idea of anything going on! Jim hides it 'cause he thinks she has enough to worry about. Poor kid, too good for his own good!