First came the storm. Waters crashing against the city all around, rain kissing the windows before lightning burned out heaven across the sky. Sudden and unsure, the whole of Miami feared for a hurricane from nowhere. Then came the calm, the whole sky churning soft, swirling without threat or growth. Just quiet, until nightfall. Every cloud in the sky shot through by piercing bright light — every single star of heaven glowed brighter suddenly and Miami watched the nature of the sky return to something ancient and profound for the second time in three years. A beauty after all the storm; destruction, forgotten in the brisk dance of starlight up above.
Monroe Yves Starling was born in a bath tub in Silver Spring, Maryland, in the early hours of the morning (6:16 AM, to be exact). The selkie nurse that delivered him, Saffron, was a decision that Marisa and Amita made after their series of mistakes with Harlow's birth. (A doctor who fainted, a nurse who began to pray out loud and far too many people whose minds had to be swabbed clean are just some of the details of the birth of a fox demon with cosmic gifts, nine tails and two cocks.) She was quick and kind and blessed the water of the tub as Monroe's body drifted through it: "eat well, live long, stay strong." The rest came easy, for everyone, Monroe included. A stone born of his spirit, a drain of all the world-ending that was buried in his bones and two mothers who held him with nothing but love in their hearts.
With all of Monroe's glow locked away in his star gem early life was simple enough. Neither Marisa nor Amita were good at traditions, at heritage. They were self made and their family was a forced thing. But that made every page a blank one and they learned, along the way, how to make their own world within the real one. New terms for everything, made up things spoken as fact, so both Harlow and Monroe grew up without having questions that had no answers. The empty devils of the world, or the way gender doesn't particularly matter — and even about the danger of the tethered of the world. They were cultivations of power more than demons, or angels; they were fae in the way their whole flesh was magic, but stars in the sky who burned with real power where magic failed. Every truth was spilled in its own way, was given a thing to hold onto, creating a patchwork of reality that no one would ever be able to undermine.
Protectors of royal blood. Cradles of magic. Fountains of power. They were taught of their star gems, of the way they would grow into knowing and gain each tail as they needed it. The gem would give back what was already theirs — so they could prove to the world they were anything but demons. They were power to envy. They were gods where men only knew daydreams. Harlow and Monroe mostly thrived in these lessons. What children didn't want fairytales catered to them? Even the scary stories about New World were the kind of fantasies that filled fables for other children. Who needed Hansel and Gretel when Harlow and Monroe could think about ancient and scary nine tails who tried to create law and order amongst their kind? They were the children of fables and stories, of women whose glory was higher than anyone could give them credit for. That was enough, for kids.
For a while, at least.
The kids don't believe it. Of course they don't! Monroe can't do more than shift into some little kit of a fox, all red and grey and more wolf-looking than fox anyway. And he only has one tail they point out. It's the spring of 2009 and Monroe is sneaking them into his mothers' bedroom and opening her safety box to find a key to a secret compartment in a wall. Every child gasps, feeling like they're caught up in some great action film and Monroe, for the first time, feels the way it satisfies a hunger in him he never knew he had; it's what drives the idiocy when he swallows his star gem hole and lets all nine tails sprout from his body. He captures himself as the energy expands and every child is knocked back and he cowers, for a moment, in fear; but they celebrate, ask to touch and pet and play. And no one even tries to tug on his ears for the first time in a while, so he is happy, at first. He is comfortable trying to lie about it to everyone, for a short while.
It was when "Amita" got home that things went wrong, strange. Their little house had never really expected a battle of demons and gods but there it came. Monroe, age 10, lunging at Amita at the doorway and screaming about the lies, the demon, the monster. Marisa and Bardot try to stop him, Harlow frozen in worry, as Amita's facade continues the farce. It isn't until one of Monroe's fangs clip her neck that the reality is made clear: her hand shifts and Monroe's neck snaps, darkness crawling in as he hears Marisa screaming.
First came the agony. The pain of being broken open so hard, so fast, that his body was still trying to function. Except, it wasn't just that; his body lived on even as he died, heart pumping as blood stopped rushing, veins gasping for new life. He ached, from the smallest cell of his marrow to the the full canvas of his flesh. He ached and hungered and cried without any tears, without any sound; all the pain of the body plagued as a torture only in his mind. His toes tried to curl and the thought burned his joints; his hands tried to move and the memory of when they could rattled his soul. Just to try and think began to stretch his spirit out, until his body moved on its own.
No, not moved.
He began to float.
A storm brewed in the sky, thunder crashing without light. It rolled and rolled, heavens blowing in angry tantrums, and Monroe's young body levitated off the ground. Marisa, terrified of the truth of who she had married, who she had children with, as Amita fades and Monroe — Monroe's floating body swallows. It takes and steals and Abaizermit's truth manifests in glory before Monroe starts to eat at that, too. The monster shouts, screams, The One Beneath stolen into a black hole of a fox as the neighborhood is swallowed, too. Marisa tries, with her children, to get neighbors to safety but some aren't. Silver Springs loses a whole three block radius and when all is said and done, Monroe is in a hospital, gone wicked with insanity, until Marisa does what she can to put her son down for a time.
Monroe didn't wake for some time and when he finally did, he was locked in a psychiatric ward in the The Garden Academy. The few days after were a series of questions and tests, of prods of mind and spirit, and in the end, everything had to change in its own little way.
Monroe didn't want to move for the summer but his mother told him to think of it as a sort of summer camp: kids that were similar, working together and having fun. The hospital itself did all that it could for Monroe and the other children. Specialists and powerful watchers all day long, and each child designated a roommate to become like a new friend. Monroe's own friend was more healing than the program itself, but there was nothing wrong with that; Xavier was like another brother for Monroe from the start and the first slice of orange they shared. A dragon born boy adopted into a family who knew nothing of his heritage, Xavier's phoenix heritage had needed to be recognized and did it the only way it knew how: by driving the young boy to attempt suicide the way Monroe had. They bonded, talked about the worst of their thoughts and the coolest little things they could do now. Breathing fire that turned into wings, or Monroe being able to point out every constellation that appeared in his shadows. They were the best of friends, even with how temporary treatment would be. Therapy sessions and artistic classes, they were far from difficult but — having a buddy there along the way really did make everything easier.
Which was what made going home to news of a "separation" so difficult. It happened slowly, gradually, over the next couple of months but it was there — all the lies Marisa had to say, all the false insurance claims and bad stares. Divorce of your parents at 10 years old is difficult enough. Mourning a woman who never existed, a mother that was not real, just to keep face for humanity was worse than anything. But Monroe had Xavier to talk to from afar still and Monroe had teaching now and — Monroe had Harlow and Bardot, who were big brothers when all else failed. Always ready with a meal after school, always ready with a movie when homework was done. There was bonding there, kindness, softness that relaxed even the worst of the things Monroe knew from his gifts. It was Harlow, more than Bardot, that kept Monroe from ever jumping off a roof the way he wanted to.
But even a great brother can't fix some things. And so, Monroe fell into his studies and music. And he started to find ways to rebel, skipping class or changing his hair into wildness without even using his gifts. Purposeful little jabs. And the boy began to do things on his own; with Marisa always busy, it was easier to use his gifts without anyone noticing. So, the child harnessed his powers and moved through the night, chasing down the worst of his local thoughts and finding the man (as it was almost always an awful man) to make sure he didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes Monroe had to stop an attack, a mugging or an assault, but mostly he just walked around and tried to give out little curses and bad luck. Temporary jinx things, to offset their wicked wills, before getting back home to listen to Of Mice and Men, or Atreyu or Underoath. Anything to drown out the noise. Everything, to drown it out.
It was May 1st, 2011, when Monroe ran into his future best friend first. Running down an alleyway, he ignored the gloom of shadows overhead until after he threw the would-be assaulted through a wall and watched the woman run away to safety. The shadows moved, began to glow green, and an intimidating figure lashed out — its large staff weapon moved right past Monroe into the attacker and incapacitated him; Monroe, equal parts shocked and full of courage, grabbed the darkness of emeralds before him and vanished. In a nearby park, he stared it down, sniffing the air as his ears shifted into a fox and his hands reached out; the figure drifted, turned into a smaller mass of nothing and spoke to him so softly he had to laugh. And laugh again when it questioned why he would, delcaring its presence before smacking him with its staff. Becks, he heard, and called it that; Becks, who spoke to him and kept pace as the boy ran and leapt his way back to his Miami home.
The first few nights, she stayed in his closet, hidden even from Harlow or Bardot. Then, Monroe came home to Harlow having found her and freaked before calming down; he was putting together some notes on her when he confronted Monroe about the risks and flaws of his non-existent plan. It was them together with Begx of Mmegwara that began to make a life on Earth. Together, they made a name, made a life: a fake family, a heritage, a form. Picked together from television and magazines, Rebecca Nova Skyers began to look more like a human adolescent girl and less like the terrifying demonic shade they were beforehand. From there, the rest became history: a kitsune could alter reality enough to make any truth stick, and Bex did just that. She attended classes with Monroe, joined his school, learned to explore the whole of the world with him and made infinite plans for a future.
They were a pair together: the lead vocalist of a metalcore band and the head cheerleader hanging out and volunteering on breaks. Their graduating class together was, to say the least, a unique and singular experience for the high school, even the appearance of Bardot's little ice cream truck showing up to hand out snacks. But it created in everyone a net of self that both Monroe and Bex want to keep persuing, pushing into anyone and everyone they can.
So, New York became the focal point: a place too rich in the greed of hubris and the crime of petty. They could keep up their awkward habits, making spells and righteous ways, Bex stealing and diverting deposits from illegal offshore accounts into new ones: her own, charities, orphanages, shelters. Money where money belonged, as they tried to make right no matter what people got in their way, no matter what enemies. The next step seems just as easy, as long as they stay by one another's side — even if Bex is begging Monroe to consider real law with her so they could be the new Olivia Popes of the world.