BHM Xander - by Undine (~BHM, Intrigue, ~~WG)

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Undine

Jigglypuff!
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“Watch where you’re going, fatso!” a woman spit at him as she bounced off his chunky hip.

“Sorry,” he apologized, only to bang into someone else.

“Freakin’ lardass,” the guy called after him.

He apologized again as he slowly made his way through the mall. He was sincerely regretting his decision to come here today, not having realized that it was a few days before Christmas and the place would be insanely crowded with irritable shoppers.

Finally, he reached Think Big and stepped inside the quiet store gratefully. He quickly scanned the place and saw that there were only two other shoppers, both at least fifty pounds smaller than he was, looking around the store. He let out the breath he’d been holding and began to sift through the racks of clothing, trying to find his size. Most of his shirts now were three exes, and were pretty tight, so he grabbed some four exes in an assortment of colors and styles before moving onto the wall where the jeans were stacked on big shelves.

“Can I help you find anything?” a salesman interrupted him.

Xander looked at him warily. He was a bigger guy, maybe somewhere around 250-275 pounds, and just a few inches shorter than Xander. “I’m, uh, just trying to find some pants…”

“Okay. We have jeans on sale this month, buy two get one free, and ten percent off all khakis, cargos included. What size can I help you find?”

Xander’s face colored. “Um…I guess…I guess fifty-fours…

“Alright.” The man reached for one of the lower shelves and produced three pairs of jeans. “These are our slim cut, boot cut, and relaxed cut styles. Would you like to try them all?”

“Uh, no, just the relaxed ones…I think that’s what I have now.”

“Okay,” he said. “How about some cargo pants, too?”

“Yeah, sure.”

The salesman piled a few more items in Xander’s arms before leading him to the fitting rooms. “Now, if you need anything, just give a holler. My name’s Ron. I’ll be happy to get you another size or color.”

“Okay, thanks.” Xander stood in the dressing room for a few moments, feeling overwhelmed. This brought back memories of having to go clothes shopping with his mother in high school. Every time they went, he’d be a size or two bigger, and every time, she’d tell him how disappointed in him she was. He was just grateful that by the time he was too big for anything but specialty stores, he was in college and could shop for himself. He still hated the ritual of retreating to the dressing room, praying that the next size up would fit and that he wouldn’t have to go up two sizes, feeling like everyone would know if he did, though.

He unzipped his jeans, which were cutting painfully into his waist despite being not being buttoned, and slipped them off, then fought with his t-shirt to get it over his head, deliberately avoiding the mirror. He picked up a pair of jeans and stepped into them, lifting up his gut with his forearms in order to try to find the zipper and button. They zipped up a little snugly, but, no matter how hard he sucked in, they wouldn’t button. He checked the tag, but sure enough, they were fifty-fours, one size bigger than what he was currently wearing.

“Damnit,” he muttered. He slid the jeans off and tried the cargo pants, but he could barely get those over his ass. He took them off and threw them on the bench in frustration. He grabbed a shirt and slipped it on only to find that, although it was wide enough for him, it was nowhere near long enough – the bottom of his soft, thick belly roll peeked out below the hem. Almost frantic now, he pulled it off and tried on the other shirts he’d brought in with him. Thankfully, about half of them fit without showing any unwanted flesh, but that didn’t stop him from feeling like crap. “Two sizes,” he muttered disgustedly.

He put his own pitifully tight jeans and shirt back on, gathered up the offending garments, and opened the door to the fitting room. “How’d you make out?” Ron asked him from his spot by the doorway.

“Um, I need different sizes,” Xander said, his face flaming.

“Okay, what can I get for you?” he said, taking the pile of clothing from him.

“Uh, one size…up…in all these.”

Ron gave him an understanding look. “No problem, I’ll be right back.”

Xander was grateful that he was being so nice about this. That didn’t mean he should be nice to himself, however. You stupid, fat idiot, he raged silently. You’re in a five ex now. Size fifty-six pants. How could you have let this happen? He swallowed hard, trying to suppress the panic that was rising in his throat. He truly hadn’t expected to have to go up two sizes, but he knew now that he should have seen it coming.

A knock sounded on the outside of the door. Xander opened it to find Ron with an armful of clothing. “Here you go,” he said as he handed the garments over to Xander. “I hope you have better luck with these.”

“Me, too,” Xander muttered. He closed the door and slowly got undressed, staring blankly at the wall the whole time. He pulled on a pair of jeans and let out a sigh of relief as the button closed smoothly beneath his gut, leaving a bit of room to spare. He tried on the rest of the shirts and pants and found that they all fit. Though that should have served to ease his tension, it only caused the tight feeling in his chest to increase. Five ex, was all he could think. Fifty-six. They fit.

He emerged from the dressing room and trudged to the counter. “Did those work out for you?” Ron asked him.

“Um, yeah. I’ll take them all.”

“Great,” Ron said, seemingly oblivious to his despair. He scanned and folded each article of clothing and placed them into a massive paper shopping bag.

A huge bag for huge clothes, Xander thought wryly.

Ron gave him his total, and Xander swiped his card to pay. “Thanks for shopping at Think Big,” Ron told him, “we hope to see you again soon.”

“Oh, you probably will before too long,” he muttered under his breath as he walked away. Since I just keep outgrowing my clothes.

He reluctantly left the refuge of the store and stepped out into the mall. Almost immediately, someone slammed into him.

“Oh my gosh, watch where you’re going, fatty.”

Xander just swallowed hard and made his way over to the escalator, where he stood in line behind three college-age girls. The one to his left was talking animatedly to the other two, laughing and gesturing. With her blonde hair and sweet smile, she reminded him of August. He closed his eyes, replaying their kiss in his mind, trying to pretend that that was the last thing that had happened between them and that none of the other stuff had even taken place.

“Jee-zus, would you lookit that tub a’ lard there,” someone called from behind him. “What a whale!”

Xander felt his face go red as the girls in front of him turned around, craning their necks to see who was yelling, and then seeing him standing right behind him. The one who looked like August made a disgusted face at him and said, “Ew.”

“That ass needs its own zip code!” The voice was closer now, right behind him. His nostrils filled with the scent of roadkill, almost making him gag. “And holy crap, lookit that gut! I bet you can see this guy from space!” A tall, young, well-muscled guy with dark hair came into view on Xander’s right. “Headed to the food court, fat ass?” he mocked him. “Gonna go down a couple pizzas?”

Xander just stared straight ahead, trying to keep his face impassive though he was barely able to breathe through the stench and his embarrassment.

“Oh, man!” the guy laughed. “Ladies and gentlemen, he just came out of Think Big! The obesity capital of the mall! Let’s see what we got here,” he said as he swiped Xander’s bag.

“No –“ Xander yelped, “please –“

“I’ll bet you could use one of this guy’s shirts as a boat sail,” the guy said as he reached into the large paper bag. “You could probably fit four people in a pair of his pants.” By this time, other shoppers had noticed the spectacle and were slowing down or stopping completely, staring at them. Quite a few were jeering at Xander, hurling insults and fat names. Xander grabbed desperately at his bag, but the guy danced out of reach. He pulled out a pair of Xander’s new jeans.

“Holy crap!” His black eyes twinkled merrily. “His pants are a size fifty-six!”

Xander froze.

“And his shirts…holy crap, his shirts are a five ex! I didn’t even know they made clothes that big!” He removed a shirt from the bag and began waving it around like an oversized flag.

Xander’s stomach lurched dangerously as he seized his bag from the guy, who was distracted by the size of the piece of clothing he was holding. “Give it back,” he growled.

“Aww, fatty wants his five ex shirt back, does he? What’ll fatty do for it?” he called, holding the shirt over his head triumphantly. “Will he tell us how much he weighs?”

What the- Xander thought in alarm. “Just give it back. Now.”

“Aww, how cute, he’s embarrassed,” he drawled. “Why don’t we guess how much you weigh, fatty?”

“Three fifty!” someone called.

“Three thirty!”

“Three seventy-five!”

“No,” the guy said, grinning wickedly. “It’s more than that. I’ll bet it’s even more than he thinks it is.”

Xander grabbed helplessly at his shirt, but the guy was so fast he didn’t have a chance.

“What’s going on here?”

Xander turned to his left and saw a security guard approaching them, then looked back at the guy, who was still smiling evilly. He threw the shirt at Xander, and was immediately in his face.

“Three ninety-two,” he whispered. “Go check, fat boy.” He began laughing as he walked away, quickly becoming lost in the crowd.

“Well?” the security guard asked Xander, who was staring, wide-eyed, at the place where the guy had disappeared.

“Uh…n-nothing.”

“Move along, then,” the guard told him, nodding.
 

imogenbakerbell

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Oh, poor Xander :...( I want to give him a hug :blush: Thing is, are people that mean in real life? Barring the magical powers and demons this story has so far been pretty realistic, except I find the overwhelming meanness directed towards Xander hard to believe - for example, would every person he bumped into really call him out as a lardass, etc.? I don't know, maybe I'm just really naive...
 

Anjula

the bitchy one
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Oh, poor Xander :...( I want to give him a hug :blush: Thing is, are people that mean in real life? Barring the magical powers and demons this story has so far been pretty realistic, except I find the overwhelming meanness directed towards Xander hard to believe - for example, would every person he bumped into really call him out as a lardass, etc.? I don't know, maybe I'm just really naive...
I hope people are not that rude...cuz it was quite hard...

anyway great add, you're one of my favourite writers! :wubu:
 

fritzi

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:smitten: ... just discovered and read the entire story so far in the blog! So wonderful - can't wait for new chapters! ASAP please!
 

Fangs

AmateurArt
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The name calling is pretty unrealistic, but I must admit the story has me captivated.

Super powers? A real plot? A BHM protagonist?

I'll put up with the mean stuff to read this! Please write more!
 

lurksville

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Oh, poor Xander :...( I want to give him a hug :blush: Thing is, are people that mean in real life? Barring the magical powers and demons this story has so far been pretty realistic, except I find the overwhelming meanness directed towards Xander hard to believe - for example, would every person he bumped into really call him out as a lardass, etc.? I don't know, maybe I'm just really naive...
I could be wrong but I thought the name-calling meanies had something to do with the supernatural.
 

Undine

Jigglypuff!
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Sorry for the delay in posting. I'll have more up shortly!
 

Undine

Jigglypuff!
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392.

Xander just stood on the scale, immobile with shock, staring at the sliding weights that pointed out the dreaded number. “H-how…” he stuttered. Eight pounds away, he thought, eight pounds. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be there within a week or two. I have to stop this. He shook his head, bewildered and terrified by what seemed to be the inevitable. He’d just gained five pounds in a week; how could he ever hope to stop now?

He stepped off the scale, feeling his stomach rumble angrily, demanding sustenance. It had been almost seven hours since he’d eaten, and he was starving. No, he told himself. You can’t eat…you can’t.

Yes, you can, that small voice told him, and you should. You’re almost there.

“No!” he said out loud, practically crying. He moved away from the scale, shaking, his gaze flying frantically around the cluttered basement of his dorm, trying desperately to avoid looking down at himself. How had the guy at the mall known? He knew that some people were good at guessing weights, but this was ridiculous. He’d been so sure, so smug about it. And he’d been right.

Xander climbed the stairs, trying to block out the cacophony of thoughts screaming through his mind. It didn’t matter how the guy had known: it was bizarre, yes, but what mattered was that he was now only eight pounds away from four hundred, and he had to stop before he surpassed it. But I’m so hungry, he thought, listening to his stomach growl again. Maybe…if I just eat a salad…and if I only eat salads from now on…

He made up his mind. He turned away from the stairs to his floor and, huffing and puffing, exited his dorm, going back to the parking lot. He squeezed back into his car, trying to forget what a tight fit it was for him, and turned his key in the ignition.

Just then his phone rang. He looked at the caller i.d., and, with a little sigh of relief, answered.

“Hey,” he said as he turned out of the parking lot.

“Hi, big brother,” Alexis chirped. “What on earth did you do to our mother?”

“What are you talking about?”

“She’s been crying ever since she got home. And why aren’t you with them? She texted me a while ago and said that you would be coming home for Christmas after all, but then they show up without you and won’t tell me what happened.”

Xander felt his stomach churn. “They…” he paused, sighing, “they didn’t really want me to come home.”

The other end was silent for a minute before he heard his sister sigh, too. “What did they do?”

“They made an appointment for me with dad’s doctor.”

“Doctor Thrace?”

“No…Doctor Fording.”

“Those bastards,” she muttered. “What did they say?”

“They said that I had to see him, that it was for my own good…you know. They…we…we went to a restaurant, and I made the mistake of ordering actual food,” he told her, his face blushing in the darkness.

“And they freaked out?”

“Yeah.”

“They’ve been doing that with me a lot lately, too,” she said, a note of sadness in her voice.

“But you’re…you’re not even…” he sputtered.

“Oh, trust me, brother, I’m fat enough to distress them.”

“Lexi…you’re not fat.”

“Xander, I can’t even fit into sixteens anymore,” she told him, her voice wobbling slightly.

He didn’t know what that meant, but he denied it again.

“No, really. I’ve...gotten bigger…again…since you’ve been gone.”

He was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry, Lexi.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t for them. Jared doesn’t mind. Nobody else minds, except for them.”

Xander felt anger bubbling in his chest. “What the hell is wrong with them? You’re beautiful, Lexi. You’re perfect just the way you are.”

“Oh, brother. You’re so sweet. Honestly, I don’t mind it much…they just really enjoy making me feel like crap. So…mom was crying because you...?”

He swallowed hard before answering. “Yeah,” he said simply.

“A lot?”

“Yeah,” he replied, his voice cracking slightly.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. His sister knew how much his size anguished him. She’d been witness to the torment his parents put him through all these years, the same torment she was now subject to herself. “Whatever,” she said defiantly then. “Don’t listen to them. You’re fine, Xander.”

“Lexi…”

“No,” she said. “You’re fine just the way you are, too. They’re assholes. Screw them. Don’t listen to them.”

He was quiet.

He could hear tears in her voice as she replied. “I’m sorry, Xander. I’m so sorry for you. You don’t deserve this. You’re so much better than they let you think you are.”

“It’s my fault, Lexi. Nobody else shoves the food down my throat,” he admitted, swallowing hard.

She sighed. “So I take it you’re not coming home at all, then?”

“I…I can’t, Lexi. They'll just make me go to see Dr. Fording, and I just can't. I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s okay. I don’t want you to have to put up with that.”

“Maybe I should come home…at least then they’d lay off you for a while. I’m a much bigger target,” he told her bitterly.

“No. Stay at school, enjoy it. I’ll be fine. I at least have Jared.”

“You guys are still good?”

“Very good,” she told him, the smile back in her voice. “He’s the best. He got me a promise ring for Christmas; we went and picked it out last night.”

Xander smiled as he turned into the parking lot of the union building. “That’s great. I’m really happy for you, Lexi. He’s a good guy.”

"He is. Hey, I'd better go, mom's coming. I hope you have a good Christmas, Xander. I miss you."

"I miss you, too, Lexi. Have a good break. Maybe I'll come home for a day when they'll be out of town or something," he told her as he pulled into a parking space next to the food court entrance to the union building.

"Okay. Love you, brother."

"I love you, too, Lexi."

He hefted himself out of the car and hurried inside, where he was instantly overwhelmed by the delicious smell of temptation. No, he told himself again. Just a salad. He made his way over to the salad bar, gazing over the depressingly low-fat array.

"Now, don't tell me you gon' ignore me for all that lettuce over there, are you?"

He lifted his head and gave Sheriece a little smile and walked over to her counter. "Hey, Sheriece, how are you?"

"I'm doin' just fine, just fine," she told him. "But you don't look so good yourself, Xander. Tell Sheriece now, what's the matter?"

"Ah, it's nothing."

She gave him a look.

"I just...my parents came to see me today," he started.

Her eyes turned sad as she reached across the counter and laid a hand on his fingers. "Didn't go so well, did it, now."

"You could say that."

"Let me fix you up somethin' real good, sugar, make you feel better."

He shook his head, a lump in his throat. "Just...just salad tonight, Sheriece."

The woman gazed at him, sadness evident on her expressive face. "They don't take too kindly to you bein' a big boy now, do they?"

"You could say that," he muttered, blushing.

"You just remember, Xander, ain't nothin' wrong with you just the way you are," she told him, echoing his sister's words. "No matter what nobody says."

He gave her a tight smile. "Thanks. But it's salad for me tonight. Probably for a while."

"At least let me grill up some chicken to toss on there?" she asked. "You ain't gon' get no protein from leaves."

He conceded, and she disappeared into the back while he piled lettuce and baby spinach into the plastic salad container he'd grabbed at the end of the salad bar. He stared longingly at the cheese, croutons, and dressings as he waited for Sheriece, almost caving in and drenching his salad in all the things he really wanted. But he stopped himself, his hand slipping off the ladle of ranch dressing and falling to his side.

"No dressing, even?" she said as she emerged from the kitchen carrying a sliced, grilled chicken breast.

"I...I shouldn't," he choked out, scooping just a few pieces of chicken on top of his salad.

"Xander, you gon' drive me crazy, seein' you punish yourself this way," Sheriece burst out. She dumped the rest of the chicken into his container before he could protest. "You can't be starvin' yourself."

He hung his head, silent.

"Now, look here. It won't hurt my feelin's if you don't eat my cookin' no more. But you gon' starve on nothin' but leaves, and starvin' is only gon' make things worse on you, and that's the last thing you need. You put some hard boiled eggs on there and some croutons and just a lil' bit o' cheese, and drizzle on some oil and vinegar or some o' that low-fat dressing. You need some protein and a couple carb-o-hydrates, and there ain't no reason it shouldn't taste half decent."

He just stared at the ground, so Sheriece came out from behind the counter and grabbed his container and put the other ingredients on his salad herself.

"There," she told him, thrusting the container at him. He could see tears in her eyes. "Now you give your card here so I can swipe you out."

He obediently handed her his i.d., not saying a word.

"Xander," she pleaded, "you remember what I said, now, you hear? Ain't nothin' wrong with you just the way you are."

He didn't respond.

"Now, you eat every last bit o' that salad. Don't you dare let it go to waste. Alright?"

"Alright," he mumbled, finally breaking his silence. "Thanks, Sheriece."
 

Undine

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Two days later, he sat in his room, staring at the figures moving around on his computer screen. He was trying to play a shooter, but he kept dying; he couldn't concentrate. Sharp, insistent pains shot through his stomach, demanding that, after two days of eating two salads a day and nothing else, he give in and stuff himself to the brim with real food. "Shut up," he told himself angrily, smashing the mouse against his desk as he died again. "This is how it has to be from now on." His weight seemed to have stabilized at 393, and he wasn't going to take any chances, even though he was starving. Besides, in a fit of rage, he'd thrown away his entire stash of food that he normally kept in his room, so he didn't have anything there to eat anyway.

But he was so hungry.

A knock sounded from his dorm room door, interrupting his self pity. "What?" he bellowed.

"Xander?" a voice called uncertainly. Darshan.

He sighed as he paused his game and got up. "What?" he repeated as he opened the door.

Darshan blinked, obviously taken aback by his blunt manner. "I...I came to check on you, to see if you were alright," he said hesitantly. "We've been looking into reports of a Roene demon in this area. Are you alright, Xander? You look..." he trailed off.

"What?" he spat bitterly.

"You don't look well, Xander."

Xander took in his lean, well-muscled figure and practically snarled. Of course I don't look "well" to someone who looks like you, he thought. I'm three times your freaking size. But all he said was, "I'm fine."

"Alright," Darshan said, holding out his hands in a calming gesture. "I'd like to invite you over to the house. I thought we could get started on giving you some information."

He paused before he outright refused. "Will...will Callisto be there?"

"Not currently," Darshan told him. "She's visiting with her family today for the holiday."

"It's Christmas today...right." He sighed again, wondering if he was making a mistake getting involved in this whole mad thing. But what else was he going to do with his time, sit around and starve? "Alright, I'll come. Give me a minute."

Five minutes later he was hefting himself into Darshan's Jeep, cringing at the way the large vehicle creaked under his weight. Darshan, at least, had the decency to not look shocked at the noises his car was making at being subjected to Xander's mass. "So, how have you been?" Darshan asked politely.

"Fine."

"That's, ah, good. Your finals went well?"

"Yeah."

"Cee mentioned that your parents came to visit you; that was nice of them."

"Not really."

"You don't get on well with them?"

"No," he responded, staring out the window at the grey sky, beginning to wish that he'd stayed in his dorm.

"Ah, that's too bad. Well, have you had any other encounters?"

"Encounters?"

"Yes, with any demons...anything strange?"

"Oh. No, nothing strange. I haven't really been out much."

"Ah, well, that's good. This Roene demon was causing quite a ruckus, apparently."

"What's a Roene demon?" Xander asked, curious now, as they turned onto the same street the house was on.

"It's a middle-class demon...one of the stronger ones...one that we don't normally see very often; they're quite rare. Their natural form is similar to that of the Fuom: dark and somewhat blurry, except they're larger and thinner. But they're shapeshifters. They need but a speck of hair or skin or a nail clipping, even just a bit of fuzz from a well-worn sweater, and they can take on the appearance of that human."

"How do you know it's a demon and not just a person?" Xander asked as they pulled into the driveway.

"Well, there are a few ways. The first and most obvious is that they're terrified of water; won't go near the stuff."

"Water?"

"Yes, it burns them like fire. Even the scent of it begins to incinerate their nasal passages. You'll never find a Roene out in weather like this," Darshan gestured out the window as he put the Jeep in park. "Secondly, they can only hold their shape for about four hours before needing another piece of the person they're impersonating. Thirdly, their eyes will always be black, no matter what color the original person's are."

They exited the Jeep and made their way up onto the porch of the house as Darshan spoke. Xander's attention drifted to the last time he'd been here, and his empty stomach clenched. They all had to know what a huge, pathetic oaf he was after his breakdown from the Fuom's venom. How would they react to him now, even bigger than he was the last time?

But they didn't seem to react at all. Ling opened the door at their approach and smiled at them. "Welcome back, Xander," she said to him in her soft, bell-like voice. "It's so good to have you. Would you like some tea? No fennel, I remember."

He felt his cheeks flush. "Um, yes, tea would be nice, thank you." She remembered that, he thought worriedly.

She smiled at him again and pushed her long, silken hair over her shoulder as they entered, Xander nearly having to duck under the doorframe. He stood awkwardly in the foyer as Darshan hung his coat and Ling glided away to make his tea, peering around at the dark, opulent decor. He wondered how a couple of college-age kids were able to afford this place.

"Come, sit," Darshan beckoned from a doorway to his left. He led him into the same dimly lit sitting room they'd occupied the last time he'd been there. "Sit wherever you'd like," he told him, gesturing to the delicate-looking Victorian furniture and then heading for the kitchen.

Xander swallowed hard as he surveyed the seating, trying to remember which couch he'd been on when they'd dragged him in, figuring that that would be the one most likely to handle his weight. He chose a large, dark green velvet one, praying as he lowered his mass that he was right. Thankfully, the joints remained silent as he sat, even though he took up more than half of the thing. He inhaled amber and sandalwood, the soothing scents calming his nerves.

Just then, Kenryk entered the room. "Hey," he said, nodding at Xander as he flopped sideways into an armchair. "What's up?"

"Uh, not much."

The thin guy nodded again and yawned. He pulled an iPad out of nowhere and began furiously tapping away at it. Darshan and Ling returned from the kitchen and, after Ling handed Xander a steaming mug of peppermint lavender tea, took places on a couch across from Xander, so that the four of them were sitting in a rough semicircle.

"Should we wait for Cee?" Ken asked, not looking up from his iPad.

"I thought..." Xander trailed off.

"Ah, no, Ken, she won't be back until late. I thought it best that we do this without her, at least for now," Darshan said.

"Why?"

Xander shifted his bulk uncomfortably.

"You know she doesn't have the best attention span," Ling replied, giving Ken a look.

"So?" he stated, finally looking up from his device. Seeing Ling's and Darshan's faces, he just said, "oh," and went back to tapping away.

Xander felt his face flame, knowing that they were all tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. Literally, the elephant, he thought.

But Darshan began to speak. "Well, Xander, thank you for coming. We've been talking about adding to our little group for a long time, and we're very glad to have you. As you know, we hunt demons, and each of us has a particular talent that aids us in our task. I am what you might call a seer - I can see into the other realms, and sometimes experience visions of possible futures. Ling is a healer and energy worker, and Kenryk is a knower, for lack of a better term. He absorbs and stores information in astonishing ways. And Callisto can hear thoughts, as you've already experienced," he said sheepishly. "We have all learned to work with energy as Ling naturally does in order to have a weapon against these demons that we pursue. We fight these denizens of the Dark Realm because, to put it simply, they want our souls - especially ours; individuals with odd talents."

"And you have these talents, too," Ling said, seemingly reading Xander's thoughts. "You can smell energies, and, to a certain extent, see in the way that Darshan sees. That is why you saw the demon that attacked you. If you hadn't been able to see, you just would have felt a sharp pain in your ankle, and felt the effects of the venom afterwards with no incident to connect it to."

"Ling is quite right," Darshan said. "We've never come across an individual before who was capable of smelling energy. Your talent is quite rare, and very useful. You see, some demons are able to cloak themselves from my
sight, to put blinders on me, you might say. Your nose would help us tremendously in locating them."

"So...all these things that I smell...it's energy? You don't have incense burning right now, that's just the energy in this house?"

"No, no incense. What does it smell like?" Ling asked, her head tilted to one side in curiosity.

"Sandalwood...and amber," he replied. "It smells really good."

She smiled with satisfaction. "Does each person have their own scent?"

"Yeah," he said. "It can change, though, with a person's mood...like, get stronger or fainter, or change altogether."

"Fascinating," she murmured.

"Quite," Darshan agreed. "What did the Fuom smell like?"

"Like rotten eggs; sulfur. It was pretty gross."

"Hm." Darshan tapped his fingers together thoughtfully. "We'll have to figure out some exercises to further explore the limits of your talent, Xander, before we take you out into the field. And, of course, you'll have to learn some energy work."

"Energy work?" he said doubtfully. "What exactly do you mean by 'energy work?'"

"Yes," Darshan said. "It's not difficult, for someone with our abilities. And with your having the sight as well as your sensitive nose, I'd say you should pick it up quite fast. It's a way of manipulating life force to do your will. The scientific name would be telekinesis, moving things with one's mind, but it's more complex than that: you can do more than just move objects."

"And you think that I can learn this?" Xander was highly skeptical.

"If Cee could learn, so can you," Ken piped up. "She's all over the place. And now she's probably the best at it, other than Ling."

"It's true," Ling admitted. "It was difficult for her to learn to focus, but once she did, she really excelled."

Xander's stomach decided then that it would be a good time to let out a vicious, earsplitting growl. He felt his face begin to burn with shame.

"Oh, goodness, I'm sorry, Xander, would you care for something to eat?" Ling asked, concerned.

"No thanks," he muttered, catching Ken raising his eyebrows in disbelief.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." He sipped his tea to distract himself from the looks on their faces.

"Alright..." she responded, looking doubtful.

"Anyway," Darshan continued, "once you learn to work with energy, you, too, will be able to fight these demons."

"Where do they come from?"

"Well, they come from Hell. But Hell is not under the ground, as most of us have been taught our whole lives. No, Hell is another reality. There are an infinite number of realities out there, each with its own rules. Some are as far-fetched as Hell, with demons and fire and whatnot, while others are no different from ours save the fact that the sky may be red, or some other small detail. There are an infinite number of possibilities out there, therefore there is a reality in which each possibility is real."

"So you're talking quantum mechanics, here." He shifted uncomfortably as his stomach groaned again.

"Precisely," Darshan said, looking awkwardly away from him. "Unfortunately, it is also possible to travel between these realities, which the demons have figured out how to do. In some of their worlds, their supply of sustenance - soul energy - is scarce, so they've come to our reality looking for it."

"And they found the mother lode," Ken interjected, still tapping away at his iPad.

"Yes. There are several different types of demon that we've identified, and each has its own method for feeding on a soul. The Fuom, for example, is a lesser demon, meaning that it only has the capacity to consume a partial amount of an average person's soul energy. You know how this works now - they harvest your energy using the power of fear. Most of the demons we've identified use fear as a tactic for harvesting soul energy, but some use arrogance, or despair, or shame. These are all things that we as humans experience naturally, therefore the demons are attracted to those who are experiencing these emotions. They use their abilities to enhance these emotions in order to feed on the resulting energy. That is why it is very important for us to learn to control our emotions and not descend into the darker sorts."

So does that mean that they're more attracted to me since I'm such a miserable s.o.b.? Xander wondered.

"We think," Ling said delicately, answering his thoughts, "that the Fuom was attracted to you since you're not in a very good place right now, Xander. Cee told us about your situation..."

"My situation?"

"With your roommate and his girlfriend screwing all the time, and you having a gigantic crush on her," Ken said absently, as if it should have been obvious. "And, y'know, your weight."

Xander felt his face turn hot.

"Ken!" Ling said sharply.

"What?"

"Please, Xander, forgive Ken's, ah, bluntness. We simply know that you haven't had a very easy past few months, and this probably resulted in the Fuom's interest in you. We want you to know that you are always welcome here, to stay as long as you need. We will also do our best to teach you how to deal with your emotions and fight the demons. You are a part of our group now."

"Um, thanks," he mumbled. "But I should probably be going."

"Oh, um, alright. Before you go, let me teach you the technique for awakening your energy; you can practice for a few days and then we'll see how you're progressing."

But the whole time Darshan was speaking, Xander's stomach was making hideously demanding noises so loud he could barely concentrate. He was so ashamed that by the time Darshan was finished, he practically ran out the door, refusing his offer of a ride back to his dorm.

"But you don't even have a coat!" he called after him.

"I'm fine," he replied, then said to himself, "I'm pretty well-insulated already."

"I'll be in touch!"
 

Undine

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Xander sighed as he shoved his hands deep in his pockets and started walking through the parking lot of the grocery store a few hours later. His stomach let out another nasty growl, and he gritted his teeth. "I should be running," he mumbled, "not that it would do any good. I'd have to run for a year to lose any of this."

His thoughts descended into despair as he entered the store, remembering back to his first visits here at the beginning of college, when he was 120 pounds lighter. He'd thought he was huge then, with his round belly and chunky ass. Now look at me, he thought. I can't even go for an hour without my stomach freaking out because it hasn't been fed. He was still mortified from the way his insides had been protesting their emptiness in the presence of Darshan, Ling, and Ken. At least Callisto wasn't there, he reminded himself as he pulled a cart out of the long row lined up inside the sliding doors. The beautiful girl unnerved him in a way that no one else ever had, and, apart from her obvious blunt comments and seeming non-understanding of the basics of human emotion, he couldn't figure out why.

Just forget about her and try to get out of here without buying the whole damn store, he told himself. Since it was Christmas, the food court was closed, and he hadn't eaten all day. So he'd finally broken down around dinner time and had driven himself to the 24-hour grocery store for some food. He was hoping to try to only get healthy stuff, like apples and frozen low-fat dinners, but he felt his resolve crumbling as he saw the display of Christmas cookies and cakes. The incredible smell - cinnamon and sugar and chocolate and peanuts and everything else - assaulted his senses from every angle. He stood there for a few moments, just staring at all the delicious treats, trying to talk himself out of buying one of everything. But a moment later he made his way over to the display and started piling packages into his cart. He did a circuit of the empty store and within twenty minutes had a full cart, his well-thought-out protests not even registering anymore.

"Having a holiday party?" the elderly cashier asked him conversationally as he scanned a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Xander's face colored. "Uh, yeah."

"That's nice," she told him, smiling sweetly. "Lucky for you we're open today. I don't mind working; Hanukkah is already over."

He just nodded mutely as she continued to scan and bag all the junk he was buying. Cookies, ice cream, chips, frozen pizzas and the like piled back up in his cart. She gave him his total and he swiped his bank card to pay.

"Have a lovely holiday!" she called after him as he wheeled his cart out of the store.

"You, too," he responded distractedly.

Fifteen minutes later, he was back in his room, a frozen pizza turning around and around in the microwave as he annihilated a bag of chips. The crunchy, salty morsels dissolved in his mouth at an incredible rate, and, before he knew it, he was crumbling up the empty bag and tossing it in the garbage. The timer on his pizza dinged, and he grabbed it out of the microwave and shoved it in his mouth, moaning as the melted cheese exploded on his taste buds. But that was gone too soon, so he popped another pizza in the microwave and ripped open a box of soft, heavily iced Christmas cookies and began to inhale them.

"Mmm," he groaned, licking the icing from his lips.

But then they, too, were gone. At least his pizza was ready. He sat down heavily in his desk chair to check his e-mail as he chewed.

"Junk, junk, junk," he said from around mouthfuls, deleting spam from his college about the holiday choral concert and snow removal procedures. He popped the last bit of his pizza into his mouth and got up to rummage around in his bags for something else to munch on.

"Ooh," he said, pulling out a frozen container of spinach artichoke cheese dip. He slid it into the microwave and opened another bag of chips to eat while he waited for it to heat up, and started up his game again. He paused it a few minutes later when the microwave timer was up, and began dipping the few remaining chips into the creamy mixture and shoveling it into his mouth. He ended up having to open his last bag of chips to finish off the tray of dip, which had been far too small. He should have bought a few more of those.

Next it was a box of gummy fruit snacks, which he ate by ripping open each package and dumping them into his mouth all at once, to chew them up in a ball of sugary goo. He'd bought a few boxes of those, so when he was finished with his first he decided to have another before moving on to the little prepackaged chocolate peanut butter cakes he loved so much.

Two rich, decadent boxes later, he sat back in his chair and belched, rubbing his protruding gut with one hand as the other ran through his hair. God, he felt good - warm and full and...fat.

He looked down at himself, panic coursing through his veins. What had he just done? He sighed, grabbing a handful of his belly and shaking it. I'm screwed, aren't I? he thought, resigned. There was no denying that he felt better than he had in days, even though he had just eaten enough food for at least five people. He cradled his massive belly in his hands, softly squeezing and pulling the blubber. It felt amazing.

A strange mixture of emotions rushed through him as he continued to jiggle his fat. On one hand, he was ashamed of himself for stuffing his face like that, and for loving the feelings that were coursing through his body at his hands' acknowledgement of his fatness. On the other, he longed to feel what it would be like to eat more, to stuff himself even more fully, and to feel what constant stuffing would do to his already enormous body.

How can I hate this so much but love it at the same time? he asked himself, in a daze as he stared at the ripples coursing through his belly. How can I want to be this fat...and even fatter?

His phone rang, jolting him out of his reverie. He blushed, embarrassed even though no one was there to see him shaking his gut. He reddened even further as he saw who was calling him.

"Hello."

"Merry Christmas, darling!" his mother's voice rang in his ear.

"Merry Christmas, mom."

"How are you doing?"

"Um, I'm fine...how are you?" he asked as he tore open a package of cookies.

"I'm not so good, sweetie," she admitted, and he could hear the tears in her voice. "I miss you so much."

He chewed silently, waiting for her to continue.

"I'm so sorry for the way things went the other day," she said. "And I want to let you know that we love you no matter what, Xander. We really want you to come home."

"Did you cancel my appointment with Dr. Fording?"

"What? Oh! Um, well..."

"You didn't."

"Well, honey, it's very difficult to get in to see him, you know..."

"Mom, I'm not going."

He heard her sigh. "Xander..."

"Mom."

"Talk to your father, okay? Here he is."

After some shuffling, his father's voice boomed from the speaker. "Merry Christmas, son!"

"Merry Christmas, dad."

His father launched right into it. "Now, Xander, we're willing to come up there again and get you tomorrow. We miss you and we want you to come home."

"No, you don't," Xander said, suddenly belligerent. "You just want me to go to the doctor and get my stomach sewn shut."

"Xander..."

"No, dad. I'm not doing it, alright? You're just going to have to deal with having a son who's as big as a house because I'm not doing it. So goodbye." He pressed the "call end" button with a sticky finger and threw his phone across the room and onto his bed.

It immediately rang again, so he hefted himself out of his desk chair and grunted as he leaned over to pick it up, trying to hitch his stuffed belly out of the way and failing, and turned the power off. He took a bite of cookie and flopped down on his bed, cringing when the whole thing shuddered and groaned. He was afraid that soon he'd have to ask his RA for a new bed.

He lounged on his bed, absentmindedly rubbing his overfed gut with one hand while he shoveled cookies into his mouth with the other. He knew that there was no good reason for him to still be eating, but the delicious flavors as well as the steady chewing and swallowing calmed him. Calmed him so much in fact, that his eyelids began to droop. Sighing, he heaved himself off the bed and changed into his skintight pajamas, regretting the fact that he hadn't picked up some more shorts while he was at Think Big the other day. As he was changing, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and, with an embarrassed little smile, gave his gigantic belly a bit of a shake and watched as it jiggled. He shook his head and climbed into bed, wondering as he fell asleep how the sight of his enormous, fat body could inspire such warm, tingly feelings somewhere deep inside him.
 

Undine

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He awoke the next day to a stomach growling with hunger, as he usually did. But today, he decided, he was going to feed it. Gone from his mind were any hopes of dieting down to a reasonable weight or even depriving himself enough to keep his weight steady. His little binge the day before had shown him that, unfortunately, the only way he would be able to keep his sanity was to keep eating. So he pulled on some of his new, roomier clothes and made his way to the food court.

Luckily, Sheriece was working the early shift that day. "Hey, there, sugar, how you doin'?" she asked him sweetly as he walked up to her counter.

"I'm doing okay, Sheriece, how about you? How was your Christmas?"

"It was jus' lovely, dear, and how was yours?"

"Ah, nothing special. I just went grocery shopping."

"Grocery shoppin'? I hope you got more than that rabbit food you been eatin'," she gently chided him.

"Don't worry, I gave up on the rabbit food," he told her sheepishly.

"Good boy!" she exclaimed, patting him on the arm. "You need some real food to keep you strong an' happy. Now what can I get for you, sugar?"

He told her he wanted a double order of chocolate chip pancakes, six scrambled eggs with cheese, three orders of bacon, one order of sausage, and two orders of home fries.

"I'll have it right up, darlin'."

He looked around the food court as Sheriece busied herself at the grill. There were only two other people in the room, and both were helping themselves to cereal from the plastic containers stored at the island in the center of the food court, and neither of them - a guy and a girl - seemed to have noticed that he was there, ordering his usual truckload of food. He wondered if he should have ordered so much, but he quashed those feelings as the scrumptious smells started to reach his nostrils. Who was he kidding? He'd eat it all, and then some.

A few minutes later, his order was up. "Here you go, Xander," Sheriece said as she piled the last of his containers in a brown paper sack. "And here - I brought you some o' my famous Snickerdoodles, just like I promised," she told him, pushing a large Christmas tin across the counter to him.

"Aww, thanks, Sheriece, you didn't have to do that."

"Oh, I know, but you know you're my favorite customer, and I knew you wasn't goin' home, so I couldn't let you have a Christmas with no cookies," she told him matter-of-factly.

He blushed a bit, and thanked her again, then made his way over to the seating area with his food. He normally wouldn't have dared eat in the food court, after several encounters with classmates had shown him that he could only hope to be humiliated by doing so, but it was Christmas break and there was hardly anyone here. He only saw one other person sitting over in the far right corner, engrossed in a text book as he slowly ate some cereal. So he made his way over to a booth, since he didn't think the standalone chairs would hold him, and, after some adjusting of the - thankfully - moveable table, sat himself down and began to unpack his breakfast.

He started with the eggs. Sheriece must have given him about ten, and he happily wolfed them down, stopping only for an occasional bite of sausage, bacon, or home fries, or a sip of his orange juice. When those were all gone, he opened up the container of pancakes and smothered them in butter. He almost orgasmed as he took his first rich, creamy, chocolatey bite. His hand slipped under the table and began to rub small, soothing circles into the side of his belly as he ate, stopping only to pick up his orange juice and put it to his mouth. But they were gone all too soon, and he decided to dig into the cookies.

He was so engrossed in popping cookie after cookie into his maw that he didn't notice the girl staring at him from a few tables away. He only became aware of her when she got up and sauntered over to him, stopping a few feet from his booth.

"So," she said, her hands on her hips, "this is how Xander diets?"

He dropped the cookie he was holding and blushed. She was tall, about 5'9", and pretty with a short brown bob and dark, black eyes. "What?"

"This is how the piggy diets? By stuffing his obese face with rich foods that are only going to make him blow up even more?" she sneered at him.

Suddenly the stench of rotten meat filled the air, making Xander gag.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," she clicked, shaking her head as she leaned down closer to him. "At this rate, you'll be 400 by this afternoon, you know that?"

All the blood drained from his face. How did she... His thoughts immediately flashed back to the guy at the mall. Did they know each other? Had he sent her to make fun of him, too?

"Leave me alone," he mumbled, looking down at his cookies.

She laughed. "What, so you can gobble down more? So you can pack yourself full of junk that's only going to make you fatter? So you can pretend that eating 'til you burst is the only way you'll 'stay sane?'" she asked in a mocking tone.

Suddenly Sheriece was there. "Can I help you?" she asked testily.

The girl turned to the woman and actually hissed at her. Sheriece's eyes widened as the girl dashed back over to the table that she'd been sitting at, gathered up her things, and left the food court in a rush. Both Sheriece and Xander stared after her.

"What on earth was that about now?" she asked him a moment later.

"I...I don't know," Xander stuttered, feeling the blood creep back into his cheeks.

"Was she givin' you a hard time?"

"I...uh...a little...but it's no big deal..."

"Oh, honey," she said, moving to sit down across from him. She stopped when she saw that he had the table pushed over all the way into the other seats so there was no room for her. He felt himself blush madly as she looked down and realized just how big he was.

"It's okay, Sheriece. Your cookies are delicious, by the way," he said, trying to distract her.

"Aww, thank you, darlin'. I'm glad you're enjoyin' them. Now I'd better get back to my grill. You come back and visit me for dinner, you hear? I'm workin' til six."

"Okay, Sheriece, I will." He watched her head back over to her counter as his brain went wild. How had that girl known, just like the guy at the mall? How had she found him? Or maybe they weren't connected? And what was with that hiss?

His phone rang, a call from an unknown number. But somehow he knew who it would be.

"Hey, Pudge!" a familiar voice said gleefully.

"Um, hi, Callisto..." he trailed off.

"Whatcha up to?"

"N-nothing."

"Breakfast? Ooh, sounds good, I'll be right there." She hung up.

He stared at the phone in his hand, swallowing hard. He quickly hefted himself up and threw away the remnants of his breakfast so she wouldn't see just how much he'd eaten.

"I hope you weren't throwing any food away there, Pudge," she said from behind him as he sat back down. "You shouldn't waste."

He jumped a little, causing the booth to squeak in protest. "Geez," he muttered, "where did you come from?"

"Oh, I was outside. Hmm, looks like there's no room for me to sit," she commented, flipping her flame-colored hair over her shoulder and eyeing his seating arrangements. "Oh, well. It's really pretty on campus today, so I thought I'd come find you and we could take a walk together. What do you say?"

"You're not going to leave me alone, are you?"

She just grinned and grabbed his hand.
 

fritzi

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Does this mean we get to find out how the story continues very soon?? :wubu:

Pleeease - the suspense is killing me!
 

agouderia

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:blush: I was naughty .... I was too impatient, couldn't wait, so I went and read the new chapters in your blog!!!

You're doing an exzellent job balancing fantasy and reality - and I particularly like how you use the level of the subconscious as the playground for the fantasy characters.

Now I'm being greedy - so even more please, the sooner the better!
 

Anjula

the bitchy one
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:blush: I was naughty .... I was too impatient, couldn't wait, so I went and read the new chapters in your blog!!!

You're doing an exzellent job balancing fantasy and reality - and I particularly like how you use the level of the subconscious as the playground for the fantasy characters.

Now I'm being greedy - so even more please, the sooner the better!
^^ IVE DONE THIS AS WELL! ]: >
 

Undine

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"So have you tried the exercise yet?" she asked him as they walked out of the food court.

"Exercise?" he asked, blushing.

"Not that kind of exercise, silly. The exercise to awaken your energy."

"Oh," he said, "no..."

"Then that's what we're going to do today," she told him happily. "We'll walk back to your dorm and go up to your room and I'll help you with it. It's easier the first time when you have someone there who knows what she's doing."

"But...my car is here," he said dumbly.

"You can walk back for it later. Oh, wait, that's uphill? Wouldn't want you getting all out of breath. Never mind, you can drive us. Unlock it, would you?" she asked as she skipped over to his silver sedan and waited impatiently by the passenger door.

Xander swallowed hard, tightly clutching his tin of Sheriece's Christmas cookies to his belly and wondering how he could get out of this.

"I'm not going to bite, Pudge, geez."

He sighed and pressed the button on his remote to unlock the car doors, and Cee hopped into his car. He followed more sedately, sucking in his belly as he ducked in so that it wouldn't smush into the steering wheel like it usually did. He wasn't sure why, but he kept it sucked in as he buckled his seatbelt and started the engine.

"Stop doing that," she scolded him.

"What?"

"Sucking in." She gazed out the window at the sun shining onto the icy trees as she said it.

Xander felt his face burn with embarrassment, and continued to hold his stomach in anyway as he drove away from the food court.

"So how've you been, Xander? Anything interesting going on?"

"Um, not really..."

"Your parents still bugging you about going to that doctor? I checked him out, you know. He's very good at what he does."

"So you think I should do it?" Xander spat bitterly.

"That's not what I meant," she said, looking at him. "He's very good at convincing people to let him cut them up."

"Uh...oh."

"So it's probably best that you stay away from him, if you don't want to lose that belly of yours. Which you should really stop sucking in; you're uncomfortable."

He felt his stomach lurch with humiliation. He gripped the steering wheel tight and said, "Could you stay out of my head?"

She laughed. "I don't have to read your mind to tell that you're uncomfortable, silly. It's pretty obvious. Besides, you looked a lot bigger when you were sitting in the food court, and I don't think you could have possibly lost thirty pounds between there and here."

Mortified, he slowly let his stomach expand to its full size.

"There, isn't that better?"

He pulled into a parking space in his dorm's lot and exited his car, followed closely by Callisto. He looked forlornly up the hill at his dorm, not looking forward to the effort of climbing the hill and the steps to reach his room.

"Come on, Pudge, let's kick that hill's ass!"

Much less with her there.

Five minutes later, he stood in front of his door, panting and sweating. Callisto patted him on the back enthusiastically. "See, you made it!"

"Yeah," he muttered through clenched teeth as he fitted his key into the lock and opened the door. He instantly regretted it. His room was strewn with the remains of last night's shopping trip and binge, with empty and full packages of food covering every available surface. He turned to look at her and caught a strange expression on her face. She looked almost...excited? But it was gone so fast that he was sure he'd imagined it. Besides, if she was excited at all, it was probably just excitement at the possibility of more ammunition with which to make fun of him.

"A little short on storage space, I see," she said as she stepped inside and picked up an empty bag of chips off his dresser.

"Um, yeah," he mumbled, wishing desperately that he would have cleaned up before he'd gone out this morning. He swiped the bag out of her hand and stuffed it into the garbage can, hoping that she wasn't reading his mind right now.

"Your room is bigger than I thought it was," she said conversationally, plopping down on his bed and looking around. He grabbed his pajamas off the bed and shoved them in a drawer, praying that she hadn't seen the size tags.

"So, um," he said, standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, "what do I have to do again?"

"First of all," she said, "you have to relax. Come on and sit down." She patted the little space on the bed next to her.

"Um, you're going to...have to...move...over..." he trailed off.

"Oh, sorry, Pudge." She stood up and gestured for him to sit on the bed. "I guess I forgot that you need a little more room."

He gritted his teeth, but sat.

"Now, close your eyes."

He complied.

"Relax. I want you to imagine a silver mist swirling up from the floor and around your feet. As it touches your feet, I want you to release all the tension you hold there. The silver mist absorbs it and dissipates it. Once all the stress is gone, the mist moves up around your calves, releasing all pressure and stress there. Feel your muscles relaxing." She continued to slowly guide the mist up around his body, and, to his surprise, he actually did start to relax. He could actually smell the mist: it smelled like a warm spring rain. By the time she reached the top of his head, he felt cool and clean, his lungs and thoughts clear.

"Now," she said quietly, "I want you to feel the energy around you. It might feel like a slight warmth or coolness in the air, or maybe like a faint buzzing all around you. Take a few moments to become aware of it."

Gradually, he could feel his sense of smell strengthen. Callisto's fiery scent intensified, and he could smell the remnants of Adrian's musky one as clearly as if his roommate were in the room. He smelled Sheriece's scent, like fresh bread, mingling with the cinnamon and sugar of the cookies she'd given him, and the faint traces of both August's strawberry-sunlight scent and, faintly, his parents' nutmeg and asphalt ones. Rhys' papery smell was there, too. And underneath it all, he smelled the clean, clear air scent of pure energy, which felt almost thick and suddenly sent a strange buzzing through him. He imagined that if he reached out in front of him, he could grab a handful of it.

"Reach out your dominant hand," she told him, "and call the energy into your palm to collect there in a ball."

He put out his right hand, palm up, and concentrated on the thick feeling of the clear air energy. The air thickened above his hand until it felt as if he were actually holding something. In a flash a feeling of silliness came over him. What the hell was he doing? He opened his eyes and saw a tiny sphere of white light floating above his hand.

"Wha..." he trailed off as it slowly disappeared.

"Aww, Pudge, what happened? You totally had it!"

"I...that was real?"

"Yes, of course it was real," Cee said, exasperated. "You were doing it! Why'd you stop?"

"I...I felt stupid," he admitted.

"Ugh!" she sighed, flopping down on the bed next to him. "You're going to have to get over that, y'know."

He shifted his mass uncomfortably at her closeness.

"You're going to have to get over that, too."

"What?"

She rolled her eyes at him. "Freaking out every time I'm close to you. Now, come on, let's try it again."
 

Undine

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They worked on the exercise until Xander could summon the white ball of light at will. "So what do I do with it?" he finally asked, tossing it from one hand to another. He could feel the weight of it in his palm, along with a faint buzzing feeling.

"Pretty much anything you want," she replied, twirling her own ball of light upon her finger. "You imagine what you want it to do, and stay focused on it as you throw it. Say I want to blow a hole in that wall over there -"

"Please don't do that."

"No, I won't," she reassured him. "But just say that I did. Here, how about I demonstrate with that half-empty bag of chips?"

"Um...how about the one over there that's already empty?"

She rolled her eyes. "Alright, fine, I won't destroy your precious chips."

Xander blushed.

"Anyway, I would just picture it puncturing a hole right through the bag, and know that it's going to do that, and then throw it." She tossed her ball of light at the bag, and, with a sizzle, it passed right through the bag, leaving a gaping hole in the material, and disappeared.

"Wow," Xander said, "I thought it would have hurt the dresser or something, too."

"The key is focus," Cee told him. "You have to keep your intentions clear. If you don't, it'll just keep blazing through whatever is behind it, on and on until the energy runs out. Now, of course, it takes a lot more energy to do that to demons than it does to do it to a bag of chips. You really have to dig deep, and you have to keep your cool. You'll only get one or two good shots like that during a fight."

"So what do you do if you miss, or if it doesn't work?"

"Well, we try to wear them down with regular weapons first."

"Like...?"

"Like swords and arrows and bullets and stuff."

He stared at her, nonchalantly leaning against the wall. "You're not serious. I have to learn how to wield a sword?"

She grinned at him. "That would be pretty -" She cut herself off, biting her lip. "It would be helpful."

He rubbed his hand over his eyes. "This just keeps getting better and better," he said wryly.

"I have faith in you, Pudge," she told him.

"You've got to be kidding. I can barely walk from here to the door without knocking something over, and you expect me to take up fencing?"

"Not fencing," she said, her face serious. "Those swords will break right off in a demon's chest."

"Okay, whatever. You think I can actually do that?"

"You didn't think you could do that, did you?" she said, pointing at the ball of energy that was still floating above his outstretched palm.

"Yeah, well, that didn't require any...physical activity," he retorted bitterly, squeezing the energy in his hand. It felt strangely squishy when he did that, almost like one of those stress balls filled with sand.

"I think you'll surprise yourself, Pudge. You may not be the quickest fighter, but I'll bet you're damn strong and can take a lot of damage. You can be our tank."

He snorted at her usage of the gaming term. "Right."

"Seriously, Pudge, you can do this. Whether you know it or not, you were born for this."

He gave her a look. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? I don't think many demon fighters were born with this kind of physique," he said cynically.

She looked him over, her eyes lingering just a bit too long at his midsection, causing him to squirm uncomfortably. "You're special, Pudge. We've been looking for you for a long time. And so have they."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he repeated.

"As far as we know, you're the first person to be able to smell them. They can cloak themselves from sight, and even from Ken's knowing. But your nose? They have no defense for that. It was foretold -"

"Wait, wait, wait. 'Foretold?'" he scoffed. "Now you're going to tell me that there's some kind of prophecy?"

"Well..."

"You are. Geez."

"I'm not going to tell you. I'll let Ling explain it; she's the expert."

"Geez," he repeated, shaking his head. He mentally ran over all the weird stuff that had happened to him these past few weeks, from the Fuom appearing in his room to the guy at the mall guessing his weight to being told he was a psychic bloodhound and everything else. His life was going to hell.

"Hey," Callisto interrupted his thoughts, "what was that?"

"What was what?"

"That...what happened at the mall?"

"Oh, uh, nothing," he sputtered. Of course, trying to put it out of his mind only caused an instant replay of the scenario, the black-eyed guy's leering face causing him to shiver.

But he could tell from her face that she had seen the whole thing as he'd thought about it. "And the food court this morning?"

The same thing happened.

She cursed loudly. "Come on, we have to go to the house and tell the others."

"What? Why? I'd really prefer if nobody else knew about all that," he pleaded with her, his face flaming.

"Oh, Xander, it's almost cute how naive you are."

"What are you talking about?"

"Those weren't people giving you a hard time. The Roene demon has been following you."
 

Xyantha

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I am always a sucker for a god fantasy novel, and you balance the realism so well!! I cant wait for more
 
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