Angus wasn’t new to death. Oh no, he saw his fair share of it. That was part of being an orphan, he supposed. Death was always just around the corner, ready to remind him how it completely ruined his life.
He was four when his parents were killed. He still didn’t really know how they died. It was one case he preferred to leave unsolved. All he knew was that something bad happened, and they had burned. That was all he needed to know. Life after was hard. He was handed to his aunts and uncles, passed between them like something unwanted. Angus supposed that’s exactly what he was. Eventually, his ancient grandpa, or a man who claimed to be his grandpa, volunteered to adopt him. Angus had strong suspicions that there was no real relation between them.
It didn’t take him long to figure out that he was right. The man was nameless, a detective of sorts who only responded to Sir. He rarely spoke to Angus, only doing so when he needed something. As soon as Angus stepped foot into the expansive mansion the man called home, he was set to work.
Papers upon papers were set out in front of him, all with unfamiliar names and terrible deeds scrawled across them. The man ordered him to read through every one and tell what he made of them. At first, he refused. He was only a child, and the papers described horrible murders and crimes he didn’t even know existed until that very moment. He didn’t want to look closer at the horrible things.
But the first sharp slap across his cheek made him change his mind. He quickly got to work and made a reminder to himself to never argue with the man again.
He was seven when his only friend died. She belonged to the man, a sweet Russel Terrier named Rose. She took a liking to Angus as soon as he met her. She kept him company as he went over Sir’s cases, lounging beside him and letting him run his small fingers through her soft fur.
She always curled up at his side when he cried at night, sobbing into his pillow over the pain of recent bruises and the unfairness of life. She would stick her wet nose against his equally wet cheek and whine softly. He always gave into her and would pull her into a hug. When he finally cried himself out, she would gently lick away any remaining tears.
He never slept alone when she was around.
When he found her, cold and lifeless in her pen, he almost lost it. She was his only source of happiness, his only warmth in this cold place and now she was gone.
Sir smacked him upside the head before he could let his emotions out. Sir never was big on the emotional things. He believed tears were for the weak and said only the strong were allowed in his home.
Angus was put in charge of burying the dead dog. He took his time with the task. She had been a good dog and deserved a peaceful resting place. He found the perfect one on the top of a hill, shaded by a tree and overlooking the fields and meadows she loved to run through.
Every chance he got, Angus would wander to the top of that hill and would sit by her grave. He brought flowers sometimes, or maybe a leftover bone from the kitchen. But usually, he would just sit with her and pretend that his only friend was still alive.
Angus was ten when death caught up to him once again.
Over the years, Sir grew tired of Angus just looking through case files and reporting his findings from there. So, he sent the boy out to investigate the cases in person. It turned out, despite his age, Angus was incredibly good at fieldwork. Every case he took, he solved, and he became well-known, both for his age and his skills.
Every now and then, people would attempt to hire him. He was always excited about these cases. However, Sir never let him actually take one. He always found some other case that he forced upon Angus. The Rockport Limited was exactly one of those cases.
He honestly wanted to be anywhere but on that train. He had a suspicion of who the criminal was. It was a pretty simple case, really. What really interested him were the three strange men who also claimed to be after the outlaw. Except that they were the worst detectives, and had the worst accents, Angus ever saw. It was almost like they kept forgetting what they were there for.
It also wasn’t hard to figure out they were hiding something when they eventually parted ways. A part of Angus wanted to follow the men and figure out what was up, but another part, the stronger more fearful part, knew that doing so would probably get him beat to death. Losing Sir’s silverware was already going to earn him a beating. The man had given it to him only because he couldn’t board the train without some form of cargo without looking suspicious. He had strict instructions to bring it back, and all he had to show for it was a single fork.
But when he reached the dreaded mansion, he received some morbidly wonderful news. The old man finally kicked the bucket. He died in his sleep, his heart giving out. Parts of Angus felt bad for his joy at the man’s death, but really, the world was better off without him in it.
Angus was twelve when he met Death again. For reals this time.
Kravitz definitely was not what Angus expected Death to be. He was nice, for one, and extraordinarily handsome. He was also the biggest dork Angus ever met. Seriously, his jokes were awful.
There was an odd charm to the man that kept Angus from avoiding him. He was just so pleasant to be around. There was definitely no surprise Taako liked him so much.
Despite this, and the fact that Angus was basically Taako’s son at this point, it threw him completely for a loop when Kravitz requested to spend some time with Angus alone. Before then, one of them had always made sure to keep Taako around, just in case things got too awkward. They would always fall back on the elf to pick up the mood and carry it through the night.
Angus wouldn’t lie and say he wasn’t nervous to spend a whole day alone with Death, even if he was basically his stepdad. He was still Death and Angus had nothing but bad experiences with that.
To his surprise, Kravitz seemed to understand perfectly. He sat down with Angus on a park bench after buying them a few scoops of ice cream, and he just talked. He explained everything he could about his job, about reaping souls. He told Angus why it had to be done. Of course, Angus already knew this. He understood that sometimes people died. That was how the world worked.
So, when Kravitz finished explaining, Angus sat and thought. Eventually, he asked the questions that had been burning at him since he was six years old and completely alone in a stranger’s house. Why had this much death happened in his life? Why was death more common for some and so rare for others? What cursed him with a life that reeked of death and almost nothing else?
Kravitz didn’t seem to know how to answer. He sat and ate his ice cream quietly for a few minutes. Angus had slowly grown more hopeless with every passing minute. If even Death couldn’t answer his questions then was he really cursed?
Then Kravitz spoke and Angus listened.
Kravitz explained the rules of death, the laws set down by the Raven Queen. Life was not fair, it never had been, and it never would be. It took, but it rarely gave. Death worked similarly to life. Only it was more severe. Death took everything a person had to offer and it never gave anything back. It left a hole in the world where everything that person had to offer should have been. Usually, life would fill it, but sometimes, there was just nothing to fill that hole with. So, life left it alone until eventually, something came along it could use as filler.
It wasn’t uncommon for these unfillable holes to get bigger and bigger until they seemed ready to swallow everything around them. Death followed death, after all. Something always came along, though. It sometimes just took a little while.
After that day with Kravitz, Angus started to wonder when the holes Death left him would be filled. He began to look into his current life, searching for anything that might do the trick. He realized, suddenly, what it was life was giving him. He sat at the kitchen table at Taako and Kravitz’ house and smiled as they moved around the kitchen together, cooking a dinner for three.
Death took his family away, but life was giving him a new one.