Chapter 1 : One
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You do not want an ability like a Deal-Maker, not really. Stories are made from us, stories about demons of hell on Earth. Wish for a miracle, summon us at the crossroads, and we'll hear you, we'll come. We do not take your soul, not really. We can take anything we want, particularly something of value; it depends on the deal we make. But the thing that created the stories?
We love years, your years. Give us ten, that's ten of your years gone. Give us your soul, your life force, you're dead. We can take it all together, we can take it gradually, we can wait for as long as we want before we collect what you've given to us.
Why? Because it goes to us, keeps us young. Deal-Makers are so rare because we're about as immortal as you can get without turning into a vampire or creating a Horcrux. One Deal-Maker can live for centuries, it all depends on the number of years you collect.
But that won't be me, not for some time yet. Being a teenager for more than I have to sounds like torture; I'm happy to almost be out of this age group. Maybe when I'm close to thirty...
For now, I take material things; money, jewelry, and I love antiques. It helps me to keep a low profile, keep my identity a secret. It's imperative that the secret is kept. The world is nosy enough as it is. People would notice if I took anything bigger or if I stopped aging.
My gift allows me to travel; I'm not exactly sure how it works, but it was a bitch to explain back when people cared that I was disappearing sometimes. Now they just tell themselves that I'm around somewhere, that I'll come when I'm ready. All I know is that I hear someone wish for me or summon me and I end up there.
A few minutes ago, I was in my room, about to get undressed for bed, now I'm outside, the Autumn wind biting my skin, freezing me faster than I can cast a warming charm. Now it's no use. I know where I am, it's easy to figure out thanks to the landmarks - it's not often I get to stay in London when I'm called.
I find my caller; she's young, maybe a little older than I am, and deathly pale. I close my eyes and listen, her panicked thoughts screaming inside my head; she's sick, dying. She doesn't know I'm real, she's just wishing. I'm her last hope, her only chance to live.
Now, what kind of a person would I be if I didn't grant her wish? Because that's all I am; a person, a human being who was born special, given a rare and valuable gift that can both give and take life, help and hinder the world around me. I'm a Reaper's worst nightmare - a long and complicated story.
My decision to help her is a simple one; I know that I will. I'll listen to what she has to say before I decide what I want in return. I wonder briefly if she'll believe me before I realize that it doesn't matter; I already know the answer. She won't at first, she will think that it's some sort of a joke and try to walk away, but all I have to to is tell her what she wants and then tell her what I can do. She won't be able to resist, not when I'm all she has.
Deal-Makers are the rarest in the world, the special ones with no real name. The brilliant ones. The deadly ones.
And I'm the only one this world has.
I step out of the shadows.
It takes her a moment to acknowledge me, thinking I'm just a stranger walking past until she realizes that I'm looking right at her, that I'm waiting for her to speak. Her blond hair is cut short, as frail and lifeless as she is; she pushes a strand back and crosses her arms over her chest tightly.
"Can I help you?"
"No, but I can help you," I answer softly, an almost seductive whisper that I've managed to perfect over the years; whether they believe me from the beginning or not, it always entraps them, has them listening to me. It's how I've managed to keep my identity a secret; no one runs, no one talks of the mad man wanting to make deals.
"You've got the wrong person," she mutters, backing away slowly.
"But you wished for me. You wished for a miracle, for someone to make you better, so here I am," I explain, circling her, my hand on my heart. "You want to live, to grow up; I can give that to you. For a price."
She shakes her head, almost adamant that I'm lying, but I can see the flicker of doubt in her eyes, as well as the hope of being saved. "No, you can't. But say that you could; how would you help me?"
I end up behind her; she turns her head, but doesn't move. She shivers when I place my lips near her ear an my breath hits her cold, sensitive skin.
"Tell me what you want and tell me what you're willing to give me in return," I whisper.
"I don't have anything to give," she sighs, feeling hopeless despite the fact that she still considers this a hypothetical situation.
"What would you be willing to give?"
I can't help it; I have to roll my eyes. Everyone says that at first, but once I start naming things I could take, it's so easy to find their limit. They have to be very desperate to fully commit to the promise of anything.
It's dangerous, it's more than a little mean, but it's too fun a game to pass up; I push her boundaries, wondering where her limit is. I start off small - the usual want for money and jewelry - then lead to bigger things, some elaborate, some ludicrous. Then I go to the most coveted for someone like me, beside years.
Her eyes widen, she's as surprised over the offer as I suspected she'd be. Deal-Makers only ask for a child when they've been around for a long time and either want an heir or are lonely. I am neither ready for a child nor lonely. But I want to know what she'll say. This is the line, the one people rarely cross. I'm ready for her to say -
Not that. My own surprise almost makes her laugh.
"I will give you anything, I want to live."
"Fine," I smirk. "I make you well and you allow me to take your firstborn son?"
She nodded, holding out her hand. I bat it away; every Deal-Maker can come up with their own way of sealing the deals that they make, but I prefer the old fashioned way. I have my hand in her hair and her lips against mine before she can protest. She gasps, but not because of what we're doing physically; the magic used to create our deal, to bind us together until it's paid, pulses through her body. Even as we kiss, I can feel her body strengthen, her hair feels thick and soft around my fingers.
As soon as the feeling stops, I pull back and let her go. She has her hands over her entire body, checking that she's healthy. She looks up shocked. "Who are you?"
"You can call me... Matthew," I smile, the false name works for me. "I'll see you soon, Alice."
Just like that, I'm back in my room.
It's not hard to keep check of her; the magic that binds us together allows me to see her in my mind. It's not visions, mostly feelings. Sometimes I'm able to dream about her. I can always find her.
I watch her grow as I do; her new love of life gives her a more adventurous streak, but she's still cautious enough to keep herself safe. And she finds a man who she can have that sort of a life with.
She finds out that she is pregnant two years after our deal, then again almost three years after that; both are happy, healthy baby girls. She marries her man a few months after their first daughter and she forgets all about me until six years after our deal, when she finds out that she is pregnant with a baby boy.
The magic is old, powerful, and though I am now no longer a teenager, with a partner and a son of my own, I can't help but uphold my end of the deal. My partner nows the full story, what I intend to do, but Alice does not. Yet.
She cannot break our deal, neither of us can.
I watch her panic, hiding in her bedroom while her husband and daughters are out, and pace the room for any way to get out of her deal. She's a mother now; she knows what it's like to have a child and she cannot give her baby up now.
The note finally comes, my note for her. Her hands shaking, she opens it, dropping it quickly.
I'll see you soon, Alice.
I'll make sure of that.
A/N: New short story for the Fairytale challenge. My Fairytale: Rumpelstiltskin, a man who makes a deal with a girl to take her firstborn son and she has to find out his name to break it. Like Alice, you won't know "Matthew" until she does... of she does. ;)
I'm not sure how long it'll be, but it'll only be a few chapters. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think. :)