Chapter 1:


Scraped Souls

“Not so tight, kid. You hurt my joints when you pull my jacket like that.” “…Sorry…Mr…” The boy said softly. His grip let up, but he didn’t stop bunching James’s trench coat in his hands. ‘Good lord!’ the old man thought, lighting up a cigarette. ‘So clingy! You’re only a few years away from adulthood, boy!’

The two stood on a train platform waiting for James’s two coworkers. Katsuki and Tatsumi were late. How typical. They had gotten through the appointments to set up a doctor’s examination and meet with government officials to get the boy identifying documents, and now they were stuck waiting for those two doorknobs to show up? Ugh…

“It’s fine. I know you probably don’t like crowded places, but we just need to wait a bit longer, okay? Two of my friends are going to meet us here and then we’re going to take the train home to Tokyo.” “Home?” “My apt-no, our apartment. You’ll like it. It’s in the middle of the city and at night, you can see all the buildings lit up and sparkling like a thousand stars.” “Lights?” “Yep! And, let’s see…there’s a big park next door with a light-up fountain! Katsuki and Tatsumi work with me and they are our neighbors. We run a detective agency on the bottom floor of the building and there are apartments on the upper floor. Everyone from my agency lives there. It’s just a bunch of guys, you’ll fit right in!” The boy looked up at him with interest. “Other people? Detectives…what do you detect?” James couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “We don’t detect things like a metal detector. We solve crimes and mysteries. Things that the police can’t or won’t solve or that aren’t technically crimes that they can intervene in. That’s how we met. I was helping the NPIF take down the scientists that were hurting you and the other kids because I could get more information and go places that the police couldn’t.” “Oh.” “But normally it’s not that big. We handle things like missing people, claims of the supernatural, suspected cheating and stealing…that sort of stuff. I just used to work for the NPIF years ago, so they rope me into their national investigations if they need help because they trust me. Or want to make my life hell. Whichever.”

“….?” The boy fidgeted and looked at the floor. “You have something you wanna say, kid? Spit it out.” “I…” “Boooooosssssss!!!!” James yelped and jumped, nearly tripping over the boy. “Katsuki! You don’t need to scream so loud in public, you idiot!” “You’re the one that’s yelling nooooooooooow?!”

“You two clowns shut it and act like adults!” James snapped, catching Tatsumi with Katsuki in a headlock a few feet away.

“Uh…sorry?” Katsuki offered pathetically. James sighed. The two twins were as lively and loud as ever. When they acted like this, they came off as a pair of bratty highschoolers, not the 19 year-old university students that they really were. “Katsuki is the one with the golden-orange hair and Tatsumi is the one with the silver hair and glasses.” He whispered to the boy. Aside from their hair colors and Tastsumi’s glasses, the two young men looked like mirror images of each other. They both had long hair kept in a pony-tail and icy blue eyes and were very petite and graceful, even when throwing blows in the course of their work. They kept the old man on his toes, for sure.

He approached the twins. “Okay, you weirdos. This is…Boy. Boy, this is Katsuki and Tatsumi, my employees. Don’t look at me like that.” He glared at the two men, who were staring at him in sideways confusion. “He hasn’t picked a name yet and I’m not going to slap a name on him that he doesn’t want.” The boy hesitantly peaked out from under James’s elbow. “H-h-hi.” He said shyly. “Awww…you’re cute!” Katsuki giggled, crouching down in front of the boy. “I know you’ve been through a lot, but you don’t need to fear the boss, okay? Mr. Kibane can be kind of rude and pushy, but he’s really nice! He’ll take good care of you and would fight to the death to protect you. And all the other guys at the office will love you! We’ll take good care of you and make sure that you are happy and have lots of fun!” “Brother, I worry what your definition of ‘fun’ is.” Tatsumi sighed. He cracked a smile and patted the boy on the head. “But my idiot brother is right. We’re all excited to have you. We won’t push you to like us, but we want to get to know you and all the other guys at the office can’t wait to meet you.” The boy shrunk back in nervousness but smiled for the first time since he was found, surprising James.

‘These people…they seem kind. They…treat me like I’m a normal person, not a machine or a thing. But…will they still think that once they find out about all the weird things I can do. The people who created me were evil, so I’m evil…right? But for now…’ He looked up at the man who now his father, then over at the twins. ‘I don’t this is so bad.’

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“Eeeehhhhyyyyyaaaaayyyy!” Katsuki did a long stumble across the hallway until he managed to catch his shoulder against the doorframe. “Hey! Be careful! You could’ve dropped the kid!” Tatsumi scolded. “Sorry, big brother!” “Shhh, both of you.” James said, fumbling with his keys. “This is the first time the poor kid has slept without having nightmares.” “Sorry, boss. I’ll try to be more careful.” Katsuki adjusted the boy, who was blissfully asleep on his back. “I must admit, though. I’m impressed. You sure won the boy over quickly.” James commented smiled, looking at the boy’s head resting on his shoulder.

“It’s strange. I thought I’d be too loud for him but…I guess he feels safe enough with me? I like kids, so I’m happy that he accepts me.” They had accidently got off at the wrong stop and then were unable to get a taxi and had to walk the rest of the way home. The boy got tired because his body wasn’t used to walking so much after decades locked up in a lab. Tatsumi had offered him a piggyback ride, but he had been insistent on Katsuki carrying him and promptly feel asleep.

“Why don’t we let him sleep until we have dinner ready?” Tatsumi suggested. “That was what I was thinking.” James said, holding the door open. “Though I think you two got a bit too extravagant with the dinner planning. Steak? Seriously?” “Well, we are going to school, but it’s not like we are desperate for money since it’s just the two of us.” Tatsumi shrugged. “You’ve done so much for us, so we wanted to do something nice for you and your son.”

James switched on the lights. “My son, huh…It’s weird to think about, but I am a father now, aren’t I? Even if it’s just a legal relationship and he’s never comfortable enough to call me his dad…I don’t dislike the idea.” He turned on the light in the boy’s room. “It looks a bit bare.”

It was cozy, with a plush bed and chair and several stuffed animals, but the walls, shelves, and closet were empty except for some basic clothes and hygiene items. It was the best choice, as the boy should be able to do whatever he wanted with it because it was his space, but it was still sad, in a way. Though to a child who had never had anything to call his own, it would probably look like a palace.

Katsuki gently set the boy down on the bed and pulled a blanket over him. “I think you’ll be a great father, not matter what the kid feels. He has a lot of trauma that he might never overcome, but I know you’ll take care of him. You’ve been the closest thing to a father that we’ve had, too.” James cleared his throat awkwardly.

Tatsumi popped his head into the room from the kitchen. “Hey, it’s true! Besides, everyone is the office is behind you and will do whatever you need to help raise the kid. Hey, Katsuki, stop slacking! Come here and help me!” “Coming!”

James sighed. Whatever happened going forward, he would do his best to face it head-on. He didn’t know what raising a child would look like, much less raising one who was genetically enhanced and had a lot off trauma in his past. But he would do his best. He gently brushed the boy’s hair out of his eyes. No matter what…it wasn’t about him anymore. It was about helping this kid who needed him.

James slowly backed out of the room and turned off the lights. 

Taylor Victoria

Scraped Souls