Her body was heavy.
It squirmed in his hands, still changing even though she herself was unconscious. The tranquilizer would wear off soon. Soon she'd be awake and screaming.
It wouldn't be a fair fight. He could see it already in his mind's eye, fur flying, blood splattering the walls, flesh mangled. And in the morning, when the sun rose, there'd be another unsolved murder that would never be solved.
He didn't know if he was rooting for her or not. Whether he wanted her to make it, somehow, flee, put up enough of a fight for the others to run her off instead of kill her. She'd murdered, sure. Hadn't they all. Mick had dozens of worse crimes to his name. Hell, he himself had a laundry list of crimes and sins he didn't care to consider. What she'd done was horrible, but he couldn't condemn it. How could he?
If she hadn't chosen someone from Silver Mick's gang. If she hadn't come to them. If she hadn't been so obvious. If she [i was] someone, if she had influence, if she had power... but she didn't.
They were supposed to be that power, and here he was, delivering her to the wolves.
It wasn't that he cared for her. She was nothing. If it was up to him alone, he would still have put her in a cell, if not a grave. Crimes had to be punished, or ran from, and having chosen the former, she faced her punishment. He mourned this city, and the restrictions of his own lackluster power. He mourned the triumph of power over the weak. That his hand was tipped by outside forces.
The wolves were waiting for him at the back door. Lurking out of sight, but they might as well have stood before him. Their reek was clear as day.
His motions were clear. He put her down at the bottom of the steps. He could hear their laughter. It was silent, but he could hear it all the same. They were bowing their heads to power, and the wolves knew it. But the wolves were bowing their heads all the same, coming here like trained dogs for scraps rather than crashing in the front door, so he straightened up, turned his back, and walked with squared shoulders back into the building. He was not any more ashamed than they should be.
[i Weakling,] the silence whispered. [i You've fallen. You're no one.]
The door shut behind him. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed out. Damn. He hadn't smoked in years, but he could really use a cigarette.
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For a solid two minutes the call rang, the other line silent, and Kaien was beginning to think he had called too late when he finally, [i finally] heard the call go through and the familiar voice of his former best friend greet him with a terse '[i what].
"Is that how we're talking now? Your new pack give you an ego, [i rififi]?"
"Kaien!" It was still sort of incredible, hearing the notes of his voice flip so noticeably. Kaien grinned. "You changed your number, you asshole. We've been tryina reach you for a full fuckin' [i year]. No one could get in touch with you," a pause, then quieter. "Where'd you go?"
Kaien sighed. He understood Lucas' anger, the only outlet for hurt any of them have ever had, and he was glad he'd abstained from confronting him back at the bar , but this was something even Kaien, with his big fucking mouth, avoided talking about.
Still, this was Lucas, and up until a year ago, they had shared everything .
"Went off on a bender," he admitted, and Lucas' hissing inhale was near-instantaneous.
"Fuck," he said, and paused, before, "How bad?"
"Completely off the radar," he went on to explain. "Didn't let anyone know I'd left — not Aries, not the folks back at the café, and not--"
"Us," Lucas cut in, voice somber. A few beats passed. "We suspected, y'know," he added, and of course, [i of course] Kaien knew. It'd happened before. He'd done this many times before. There was shuffling on the other side, which meant Lucas was on the move. Inside? Outside? He couldn't make out any background noise. Inside, then. "We thought you mighta left a trail, so we went lookin', but there was nothin'. Did you skip town?"
"I skipped a few towns; only came back about six months ago."
"Fuck, [i six]? And you couldn't pull up [i once]?" Lucas wasn't happy.
"I had to clean up my act, get normal again," he said. "I didn't even know I'd turned twenty, Luke. I'd forgotten your [i name]. If we hadn't met today, who knows when I would've remembered? I couldn't — [i can't] let that shit keep happening, and you know we always do the stupidest shit when we're together. It's not just you. I get hit, too."
Lucas was silent for a time, and Kaien was content to let the silence sit. Eventually, however, he spoke up.
"I get it." His voice came out subdued, tight, like hands on a throat, and Kaien could tell he had more he wanted to say. "You had your own shit to take care of, I get that."
A beat passed. "So, listen,"
"Me first," Kaien interrupted. "After I'm done saying what I need to say, you can go ahead." Lucas remained silent, which Kaien took as his go-ahead.
"About what happened today..."
By the time Kaien returned, expression grim, Lech was gone.
He strode down the hallway to where Aries sat, lips pulled into a thin, straight line.
"Where's Lech?" he asked, but all Aries had to do was jut his chin in the direction of the cell, and Kaien understood. She'd been taken away. Of course. She couldn't have stayed. Not unless HQ wanted to go head to head with Mick's group — they'd agreed on as much back in the taxi.
He foregone any additional questions, instead taking a seat by Aries on the bench opposite the cell. He'd always thought these things oddly menacing, a true tell to Aries' sadism.
"Lucas is with Silver Mick now," he said as way of introduction.
"The he-wolf? Perpetually stuck to the other one. Pipsqueak."
"Yeah, him," he said, holding back a grin. Serious-time now. "Says Silver Mick's pissed and planning some sorta raid on this place come nightfall, as soon as he rounds his boys up. There's apparently a lot happening over there." He frowned, instead, reminded of the she-wolf no longer in the cell at their front. "Does she have to..."
"He's taking her away; out of Mick's territory," Aries cut him off, stare pointed ahead. Kaien knew that look, even from the side. Aries was the better merc out of the two, but Kaien had always been the better liar.
"Right." There was nothing more to talk about, then. He stood. "I'm going back downstairs. You gonna call Mick? Try to smooth things out?" Aries waved him off without an answer, and Kaien nodded, beginning to retrace his path back to the staircase. He didn't need to be told twice. Now, all that was left was to wait. If wolves tore into the building somewhere down the line, Kaien was pretty sure he'd notice.
He glanced at the kid, then shrugged. He was still fresh, and he'd been through some shit today. It was expected that he'd need his time to process it all. "Be quick," Lech warned him. "And vigilant." Mick could show up at any moment. If they were caught unawares, it could very well be the end of them.
Down at the end of the hallway, Aries had his head bent thoughtfully. He glanced up as Lech approached and gave the other man a nod. "You still look like shit," he greeted him.
Lech rolled his eyes. "What did you learn?" he asked. Had the she-wolf had any information, in the end?
Aries glanced into the room. Lech followed his gaze. The woman was half-conscious, her body barely recognizable, bones twisted, flesh malformed in the worst possible way. She was rolling slowly on the floor, writing silently in pain, eyes rolled back. "Not much we didn't already know," he said, voice a little gruffer than usual. "I promised her tranquilizers in return for whatever she knew. She confessed to the crimes, like you said. A few differences, but..." he waved his hand. "What I got out of her was that someone recommended her to come here, to us. Who, she couldn't remember, no matter how long I let her writhe. Probably nothing. Just a friend."
"But it could be something," Lech said. Someone could've pointed her here in particular, knowing that Mick hated Aries. That he'd been assigned to the situation was just a cherry on top.
Aries shook his head. "You and your paranoia. We're the biggest damn merc group in the city. Everyone gets referred to us."
Lech shrugged. "It's served me well before."
"You and your damn sister." Aries narrowed his eyes. "She's not in town?"
A strange, bitter expression passed over Lech's face, as though he'd heard a joke in the middle of sucking a lemon. He gestured at himself. "I'm alive, no?"
"Arguably." Aries shook his head. "If she's not in town, then I wouldn't consider that a lead. This... it's all just a big, stupid, poorly-thought out coincidence."
"So what are we going to do about it?" Lech asked.
There was a pause. Aries stared at the floor with a glum expression. "We can't afford to fight Mick. This is a wolf dispute. It has nothing to do with us."
"Our PR will take a hit," Lech warned him. They'd get a reputation as contract-breakers, regardless of how convoluted this stupid damned situation was.
"It's that, or we have a full-out war with Mick's gang." In the distance, a wolf howled, and Aries and Lech shared a look. They both knew they couldn't afford that. The city couldn't afford that.
Lech sighed. "I'll take her out back," he said quietly. "Kaius doesn't need to know. Tell him I'm taking her out of Mick's territory."
Aries nodded. "I'll get you your... [i bonus] early," he offered.
"Right. Thanks," Lech said, begrudgingly. He settled down to watch the window, waiting for the tranquilizer to take full effect. He didn't like this. It felt like Mick winning, but there was no other option. Not this time.
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“You go,” he said, pulling his collar back to halfway up his neck. He slipped his gloves back on, tugging at the leather loosely to adjust them into a second skin. “I’ll catch up — I wanna see if I can reach Lucas on his old number before nightfall, check things on his side, see if he’s got any information on his boss’ plans he might wanna share.” In reality, he just didn’t want to go back there, and if he’d known, in the [i first place], that she would’ve looked so much like [i that]...
“If there’s any development, I’ll let you know.” Curt. Professional. He was the [i poster boy] for professionalism, clearly — he’d decided as much just this morning in the warehouse after Lech’s memorable admonishment — and with it came the cool air of indifference he efficiently embraced to promptly walk [i right] the fuck out of that room before Lech could get a word in edgewise.
He strode down the hallway, bypassing the elevator and going straight for the stairs. He was beginning to feel restless, demeanor still on the fritz from his mini crisis back in front of the she-wolf’s cell. Being stuck in an elevator for several minutes [i alone] with [i no distractions] was definitely not on Kaien’s itinerary. Stairs were good. Cardio. They’d get his heart rate up, and all the other good stuff he didn’t care about as much in this moment in time.
Three floors down and he was pausing to pull his phone out, body leaning back against the railing, his back to the death drop of what he would [i always] swear was ‘a hundred fucking floors’. If Kaien was urged to name two things that were common knowledge around HQ, they’d be the surprisingly good instant espressos in the second floor vending machine, and Aries’ surprising taste for the [i ridiculously extravagant]. It would’ve been hard for their organization to remain unnoticed after Aries had taken the liberty to purchase one of the three skyscrapers in the city and slap the organization’s name straight across its front, effectively shutting down [i any] other freelance mercenary organization in a hundred mile radius.
He scrolled through his contacts, counting off names he would have to remind himself to reach out to until he reached his intended, thumb hovering idly over the name.
He pressed call.
/ love interim posts ! lmaoooo
"Yeah. Thanks," he said, rolling his eyes at Kaien's comment. It looked like shit, huh? Like he couldn't tell.
How was he supposed to do it without making a mess of it? He was about to bark back when Kaien suddenly moved closer. Lech looked away, holding his breath. Shit. Not what he needed.
Bite down? Argh. The kid needed to be more self aware! He didn't want to be told to bite down right now. Lech ripped the bandage out of the boy's hand and bit into it, hard, trying to distract himself more from Kaien's closeness rather than the pain.
And then the boy poured alcohol over his open wounds.
He'd been asking for it, but damn was he not prepared. Lech's whole body tensed, tendons standing out in his neck, the vein on his forehead throbbing. Shit, shit, shit shit! It felt like it was burning right through his leg, like the flesh was going to peel right off the bone. His hands curled around the edge of the bed. The mattress creaked, bending under his grip as it tightened. He managed not to scream, but only just barely.
The pain was more than enough to keep himself from attacking Kaien and the life thrumming under the boy's skin. Every time the boy ripped out another piece of fabric, he had to bite back another scream. The bandages felt like they were getting torn to shreds as he continued to bite down, every muscle tight and harshly defined under his skin.
He laid back on the bed as Kaien wrapped it, exhausted. "Shit," he muttered as the last knot was tied, spitting out the bandages. Healing was not pleasant. If only he could... fucking... no. Argh. So damn frustrating.
At least it was over. He sat up and rubbed his face. Kaien left to go clean his wounds, for which Lech was grateful. Take that damn delicious stench out of his face. And he still had a whole night of fighting ahead of him. He glanced down at his foot. At least the kid had bandaged it up pretty good.
"Thanks," he said reluctantly, short and quick. He stood. It hurt, still, hurt like shit, but at least he could kind of walk on it now. Lech glanced over at the kid. Didn't look like his wounds were too bad. Good. Took his kind forever to heal.
"Should we go check in with Aires?" he suggested. It sounded like the girl had quieted down some, so either she'd passed out from the pain, or she'd given Aires everything she was going to.
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Oh [i wow.] That…
“Looks like shit,” he said, turning back to continue rummaging through the cabinet in search of supplies. He found the dressings easily enough; patches, gauze, wrap bandages, and a bottle of 99% alcohol, all within arm’s reach, muttering a thank you to the absent medical staff for always [i always] keeping the med-bay stocked.
By the time he stood back up again, supplies in hand, Lech was apparently well on his way to making himself pass out. Kaien grimaced at the sight, eyes drifting from Lech’s ankle, to the bloodied scraps of fabric, then back to the ankle and [i was that bone]?
“You’re making a mess of it,” he said, made his way over and took a seat on the staff-intended chair so that his hands, when raised, stood level with Lech’s ankle, giving him easy access to the brunt of the wound. He handed Lech a rolled up wad of wrap bandage, instructing him with a curt ‘bite down’ and reached for the alcohol, beginning to uncap it. “Don’t kick me in the head.” He poured the liquid over one gloved hand, wiggling his fingers to smear it entirely down to the knuckle area. He considered giving Lech a countdown, a good-humored ‘three, two, one’ but thought better of it, instead proceeding to dump the alcohol generously over the entire surface of the mangled skin, sucking in a breath at the burning stench of blood mixed with distilled liquor.
Damn, that had to hurt.
He set the near-empty bottle on the nearest flat surface, torso curling in to examine the effects of the liquid. It’d cleared out a lot of the blood and hopefully softened the cloth enough to be picked out without much hassle. “I’m gonna take your leg in my hand, try to pull out some of this shit… try not to move too much.” He did just that; took Lech’s leg by the calf and tugged it off the bed and into a more manageable position, commencing the deadening process of cleaning out the wound, scrap by scrap.
It took about fifteen minutes to remove everything, and by the time Kaien was finished dumping the last of the pieces of fabric into the little metal container, Lech’s ankle was looking a lot less like a war zone. It still looked like shit, yeah, but, well… small victories, or something like that. It definitely looked like an ankle now.
After that, dressing it was a cinch, and he made quick work of wrapping the joint, tightening the bandages enough to hopefully hold Lech out until the shit-storm had passed and he could afford to have it professionally checked out.
He slid off the seat, plucked the bottle off the table and moved to the opposite corner of the room where he began the tedious act of cleaning out his own wounds, starting with the delicate skin on his neck. Aries, to no one’s surprise , had never learned the meaning of holding back.
He only noticed that the kid had gone stiff when he was suddenly moving again, crying out, at that. The woman had entranced him. The--the damned [i life] in her, and if he only just... slipped inside, no one would mind if she dropped dead...
Deep breath. Deep breath. He pressed his hair back, ruffling it to distract himself. He could do this. It was his first real test. If he couldn't do this, then everything else had been for nothing. "What're we paying them for, if they aren't mopping the floors," he quipped, but his heart wasn't in it.
Slowly, he limped after Kaien and sank down on the bed, taking a break. He didn't notice the pain until it wasn't there anymore, the dull drone that his foot had become suddenly not wearing on his every waking moment. A sigh escaped his lips, and he leaned back against his hands. This was shit. Literal shit.
"Come here, I'll..." his voice trailed off. Yeah, probably shouldn't offer to deal with the kid's wound right now, shallow as it was. "Never mind. Grab me some of those wrap bandages and some batting, and I'll stuff this thing up good."
With some effort, he drew his foot up to the bed. The shoe was history, but the sock was still there, mangled, part of it dug into the wound. Grimacing, he started to pick at it, biting his lip as he yanked the fabric out of the deep places in the half-formed scab. It felt like he was pulling it out of his bone in some of the deeper puncture wounds, his whole leg aching with every little pull and yank. His breathing turned short, little huffs in between long spaces of held breath. Just... a little more. A little more, and--he pulled the scrap of fabric out of the wound and breathed out, relieved. Okay. That was the first one. Which left, what, twenty more? Argh. Why did he have to get bit?
Would he even heal? Was there a purpose to bandaging it, aside from to hold it together and keep him from bleeding all over the damn building? He made a sour face. He didn't know. Never done this shit before.
"We have any alcohol?" he asked, glancing at the kid. The kid was using it for his little teeny surface wounds, wasn't he? "Pass it over." He could use that to dissolve the blood soaked into the sock and maybe be able to pull the sock off a little easier. It was a far cry, but it was a chance.
His eyes zoned in on the kid's wounds instinctively. The scent. The scent was enough to die for. Lech curled his fingernails into his palm, forcing it back. No, no, no. The pain. Focus on his foot. Focus on his foot, and it'd all be... he wouldn't. All this time wasn't for nothing. He was stronger than this, and she was wrong. He could do it. He [i could.] Absolutely. Shit. He could at least play it cool in front of the kid. At least for that long. "Never mind," he grit out again. He'd just. Do this. Right. He scrunched his face up tight and started peeling the sock out of his foot again, eyes narrowed to slits against the pain.
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Kaien had only ever seen a wolf shift once, years back, and he retrieved the images as easily as the morning right after, memory spilling back out at the sight of the she-wolf’s makeshift cell; the sight of her knuckles, bloodied and torn, beating at the door again, and again, and again and again and [i again], never tiring, desperate, [i despairing,] voice torn under the weight of her loaded screams, her pain, given tangible shape, reaching out through the bars to rake at his skin, the familiar dull [i click click click click] of bone like a timer counting down, and [i please honey, listen to me, okay? your father’s fine, i’m fine, but you need to turn around, and you need to leave. turn around, and don’t think about looking back, okay? we’ll meet up with you later, so please]–––
A hand landed heavily on his shoulder, fingers digging into the tensed muscle.
His reaction was near-instantaneous: gloved hand reaching up to coil around the other’s wrist, tugging closer, a practiced motion disrupted only by the sensation of fingers piercing skin, blunt nails pressing against the soft tissue until he heard the distinct sound of [i tearing,] and ow ow ow [i ow owowowowow–]––
“Fucking [i ow]!” he slapped boss’ hand away, palm clamping over the smarting wound and turned, brows hiked up in question. “Don’t fucking do that! Christ, boss!” however [i controlled] his voice came out in the face of that fucking [i banshee] behind the bars, his tone bit accusingly, temper flaring.
[i ‘We’re in the medical ward,’] Aries said matter-of-factly, hand gesturing at their surroundings. [i ‘Go into one of the empty rooms,’] he began, and Kaien could already tell he was using his ‘let me spell it out for you’ voice, sigh trapped below the averted crisis. [i ‘Go into the cabinets – they’re unlocked – and get some antiseptic. And you,’] he turned to Lech, glancing briefly at the state of his mangled foot. [i ‘You go with him. Clean that up. You’re trailing blood across the entire ward, and we don’t pay the cleaners to mop floors. Go. I’ll handle the she-wolf.’] He’d played this game plenty of times, that was true.
Kaien, following his tried-and-true method of ‘never talk back to the boss ever’ turned, walking back to and inside the first available room he spotted, feet carrying him straight to the cabinet. He paused, looking back to address Lech. “You should sit somewhere. I’ll get some bandages.”
The kid seemed lost in thought the whole slow, bloody trek to Aries' office, for which Lech was grateful. He was not in the mood to chat, his foot screaming in pain like Mick was still gnawing on it, hunger rattling around in his gut. [i It's like I got bit straight back to the bad old days,] he thought to himself, and smirked, but it wasn't funny. Not really. He did not need to be in shit condition with Mick on a mad tear against HQ and [i maybe] some kind of plot against HQ going on in the background. Not today. Not ever, really.
He wiped his face down with the back of his head. Today had gone straight to shit.
Giving Aires the report felt normal; the only normal thing about today. The man was sitting behind his desk when they walked in, clicking through something on his computer, but he stopped and gave them his undivided attention as they approached. He raised an eyebrow at the sight of Lech's foot, but didn't say a thing. He gave the rundown; the body, the girl, getting led to the bar, the wolves, the roof--leaving out the part where he'd almost gone after his newest 'partner'--and finished with his deductions, leaving off right as they got here. He didn't mention his suspicion that this might be some conspiracy against HQ. It'd only make him sound nuts, and besides, Aries was smart enough to figure out the possibility himself.
"...we've got to do something. She can't stay here," Lech finished.
Aires turned to Kaien, and Lech faded back, watching the two of then speak without really taking any of it in. Just two of them. All alone. No one would ever know. The she-wolf. If she got loose, and HQ went to hell anyways, what would two more bodies be in the rubble? Kaien stood and went to stand beside Aires. His whole body tensed subtly. [i Now.] One lunge was all it would take. One--
"Lech," Aires said sternly. Lech jolted. Shit. He'd almost--he wiped his face down again and took a deep breath. It'd been so long since he'd been this injured. He'd forgotten what it was like. And this time, he was so empty. There was nothing. No reserves left. Nothing he could fall back on.
This was the worst.
"We're heading to the she-wolf's room," Aires continued.
"Right," Lech said, nodding. It'd distract him, at least, if nothing else. Keep his mind... off of things.
Aires led the way through the building. Lech followed along behind the other two, still lagging for his bum foot. They took the elevator up into the medical ward. The first couple of beds looked normal, white sheets, beeping machines next to human, or mostly human, patients. Then came the private rooms. The first stood empty, but the door that hung open was two inches thick and made of cold iron. The next was a wooden door firmly shut with a line of salt just outside of it; the patient inside was lying quietly in the air about a foot above a neatly-made bed, black hair streaming upwards past her head. The next door was open, but the room occupied, a young boy lying in the bed who was absolutely normal aside from the UV light aimed at the greenery growing atop his head.
Someone was screaming from the room at the very end. At the sight of the three of them, they slammed on the door, a huge, metal thing inlaid with silver at strategic places, hard enough to rattle it in its frame. It took a moment to recognize the petite, composed woman as the madwoman who stared back at them through the door's narrow window. Her hair was a mess, stringy and matted, her eyes were bloodshot, and her hands--her hands were bloodied and twice as large as he remembered them being when they'd been folded so neatly in her lap, the first time she'd visited. The shifting had begun.
He cast Aires a glance. It didn't look like they were going to get much out of her. Still worth a try, he supposed.
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Did Lech think he was being slick, ignoring Kaien’s most [i pressing] question? The one question he’d asked not one, not two, but three times? He pressed his lips together, nodding sharply and following behind. It shouldn’t have mattered. It [i didn’t]; they were only working together for this one case, on Aries’ direct orders, and Kaien wasn’t green enough to expect outside of following the boss’ orders and saying their curt goodbyes once that was over and done with. It was why [i he’d] agreed to the job, ultimately. There was money in any job, but few came delivered straight from Aries’ hand.
It didn’t matter, not in the long run, and still Kaien found himself hung up on the recollection of what’d happened up on that roof, how [i trapped] he’d suddenly felt, how abruptly Lech’s entire visage had shifted into something Kaien couldn’t put a pin on, how intense it’d all felt despite it having lasted several seconds at [i most] –––
[i ‘Brat,’] snapped him back to attention and he blinked, looking ahead and into the eyes of the big boss himself, Aries’ expression growing more displeased by the second. [i ‘You there? Confirm.’] Confirm [i what...] Kaien glanced at Lech, decided the other’d probably be little help, and turned back to the boss with what could [i definitely] pass for a demeanor on high alert, all in the span of half a second. “Where’s the she-wolf?” the most classic method of diversion – straight up evasion. Kaien was fucking brilliant at it. Technique? Seamless. “Everything Lech said checks out,” whatever that’d been, “so next up’s making sure Mick doesn’t barge in here and see we’re harbouring the chick who killed one of his boys.”
[i ‘We established that,’] Aries said with a long-suffering sigh, well-used to Kaien’s attention span, or rather the distinct lack of the consistency of it. It was one of his main flaws: he really just… rarely, if ever, paid attention to things that couldn’t hold his interest; didn’t care to. [i ‘We’re considering tranquing her, but we’d still have to toss her in solitary for at least a couple hours.’] They couldn’t let a wolf-shifter loose, least of all a greenhorn. It’d be a bloodbath, doped up or not. [i ‘Handing her off to Mick’s an option, but one HQ wants to avoid going with, considering...’] This, Kaien was familiar with: Aries’ relationship with Mick was strained [i at best,] and going off of what Lech’d mentioned about [i their] less-than-amicable entanglement, interacting with Mick was likely at the very bottom on the proverbial list.
Aries stood, and Kaien followed, mostly out of habit, rounding the table to stand at the man’s side. [i ‘Let’s see if we can pull something outta the woman while she’s delirious.’]
Lech shook his head at the kid's rambling. He didn't know either. The questions were rolling through his head almost as fast as they were rolling out of the boy's mouth, but it kept coming back to two things. One, she was stupid, and thought HQ could protect her from Mick. She was smart enough to know he'd be after her for the murder, so why not plan out something for her safety? She wasn't wrong, wasn't right, but hell, who else even stood a chance? If [i he] was getting chased by Mick, and a tiny petite girl, where would he go [i other] than HQ? Maybe she didn't know wolves wouldn't leave their territory. Maybe she was worried they might send a killer after her who wasn't a wolf. He didn't know. Perps were stupid, sometimes.
The other option, the one he couldn't get out of his mind, was that somehow, she'd been led to HQ. Someone had found her and guided her here to deliberately... do what? Harm HQ? Kill Mick? Create a power vacuum? There were so many answers he didn't know which one to pick. Who to start suspecting. Plenty of people hated HQ. Plenty of people hated Mick . Plenty of people would benefit from Mick being gone. It was impossible to guess who would've sent her here... if it was even true. Maybe she'd just thought HQ was her best chance of safety. He didn't know. He didn't know anything.
The kid appeared at his shoulder. Lech made a face and looked away, biting his lip. Damn, it was tempting. But he was right here in front of HQ. He had to hold on.
He let out a mirthless laugh, short, almost barking. Needed to heal, huh? Needed to heal. There was one thing that would bind him up real quick, but he couldn't have it. That was the gotcha. The catch-22.
A window shattered. A gunshot rang out. Lech glanced up. That had come from HQ, hadn't it? Kaien's phone rang seconds later, confirming it. She was going nuts. "Should be able to tranq her until she fully turns," he said, shaking his head. It was hard to focus through the pain, now that he was standing again. Harder, for all of this being so damned hard to grasp. "Or maybe not. The first time can be..." Gory. Insane. Wolf-shifting was never something beautiful, but the first time was always particularly awful. He remembered watching Mick's, and the way he'd screamed. It hadn't been something he'd ever wanted to see again.
"Aires. Shit. Yeah. Let's get up to his office, now," he said, limping towards the door. "He needs to know." A trail of dark blood was left behind, a new footprint dripped on the pavement every time he lifted his foot. He made a face at the sight. He'd grab some bandages, tie it up real tight, and it'd be good as new. Not really. But there wasn't much else he could do. Damn, it'd be excruciating, wouldn't it? Just awful. But at least he'd be able to fight on it.
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[i Oh,] Kaien thought, eyes widening at Lech’s reflection in the taxi window.
It made sense, he realized, straightening in his seat. It [i all] made sense now, down to the very last detail, even the tiny, seemingly inconsequential things he hadn’t given a second thought. The warehouse, the state of it, the [i permeating] smell of wet dog tracing the air, the wolves’ confusion, the almost [i comedic] lack of concrete evidence leading them in circles, the woman’s approach, Mick’s anger, that [i bite–––]
“It’ll be a massacre,” he murmured. And that was only scraping the surface of oh shits. “But what was the point of waiting? If she was aiming for innocence, why come to us? She didn’t have to wait. She should’ve just gotten the hell out, enlisted our help through a second source, assured her safety first, handled everything else after the fact. Did she panic?” The taxi pulled up to HQ and Kaien slipped out, beginning a brisk walk towards the entrance, his partner’s state momentarily forgotten. “[i No…] she killed her boyfriend, tossed his body in the ventilation shaft, called us up… her acting’s too good… it’s too methodic. She went through all that to secure her own head, but then knowingly walked into HQ, jeopardizing herself when she didn’t have to.” Something didn’t add up. There was something they were missing. Something. [i Something.]
His teeth worried his bottom lip, ideas falling in and out of his frontal. “The bite. Did she know about it? No… Lech’s story makes sense. She wouldn’t have come to us if she’d known. Why did she come in person? Wolves don’t leave their territory. She could’ve just left the country – the city, even. She could’ve gotten away, bite or no bite. What’s missing...?”
He paused, turned, noting Lech’s position a dozen or so steps back.
Right. His foot.
“Lech,” he began, retracing his steps until he was back by his partner’s side, brows drawn. “You need to get that fixed up. If things go to shit, HQ needs you in fighting condition.” He was one of their best, his status as ‘lone wolf’ notwithstanding. “Back there, on the rooftop.” He hadn’t forgotten about the question Lech’d elected to ignore, and if there was one thing Kaien was known for – aside from his resourcefulness in getting himself out of a shit situation, because he was, first and foremost, a self-serving shit – it was his ability to keep track of things, and then consequently, never let things go.
He regarded Lech, his stare unyielding.
“What’re you supposed to be?” He was [i absolutely] doing this here and now. “Will standard healing even work? Mick knows who we – [i you] – are. He’ll know to come to HQ, and he won’t just come after you. There’s still… [i something,] but what you said stands. If we put Mick out of commission, that’ll mean even [i more] shit-stirring down the line, which’ll mean less jobs we’ll get hired for since we’re technically the ones who stirred the pot in the [i first place], which’ll mean I might not make rent, and there’s only so many times you can appeal to a middle-aged woman before you start wondering if you’re putting her marriage at risk, and I––”
There was a crash, the sound of breaking glass, a gunshot, and then apparent silence. Kaien blinked.
“So, what I was saying – ” His phone buzzed, indicating a text. He pulled it out, scanned his screen, then tucked the phone back into his pocket. “She went at the guards, and they’ve got no way of taking her down without [i putting] her down.” He didn’t actually know all that much about werewolves, least of all the shifting process. “Aries wants to know what we found out.”
//ooc: don't worry! I'm pretty chill about godmodding, as long as it's necessary! :)
Lech tensed at being carried in such a humiliating fashion, but didn't say anything. That silence was shared as they crawled slowly back down the building, giving him all the time in the world to try his hardest--and fail--to not think about his ankle and how bad it hurt, and how unbelievably [i hungry] he was. Instead, he ran the details of the case over again in his head, running them through one after another. The girl, the dead wolf, the bite... and if he was right, the full moon. Everything was falling onto place. But then... why would she come to them? If his hypothesis was right... then why enlist their help?
He looked at the kid, then snorted. "[i We're] in less danger, given that Mick isn't trying to gnaw our asses off anymore. It's everyone else who's the problem." He shook his head, then pushed his hair back slowly, composing his thoughts. "So our lovely client got bit, and next thing we know, a wolf is dead. But the thing is... If her boyfriend died in that building, like she claimed he did, why didn't we find his body? And instead, we found the scent of a wolf, a wolf Mick says is dead--and I'm inclined to believe him." He looked Kaien in the eyes. "So... Her boyfriend is the wolf."
It made everything fall into place, one after another. With just that assumption, the whole case suddenly have more sense. "Here's what I'm thinking. She was in love with this boy, this wolf. Remember? They knew his name at the bar--he was one of them. He offers to turn her--they're in love, blah blah blah--she agrees, but then gets cold feet. Wants out of it, doesn't want to be a wolf. But she's already been bit. And there's only one way to reverse the curse." Lech sat back, giving Kaien a superior stare. "You kill the wolf who bit you."
"So," he continued, tilting his head, "she kills her boyfriend. Dumps his body down the ventilation shaft. Realizes she's in too deep, clumsily tries to pin it on us--which only worked because Mick hates me--and is probably about to vanish, as soon as she hears of our grisly demise at Mick's hands. But there's a problem. She killed the wrong wolf."
He nodded over his shoulder at where they'd last seen Mick. "Wolves are heirarchial creatures. A newbie like her beau would never be allowed to turn someone. Someone higher up actually bit her. Which means she's not cured, and she's about to turn. That'd be bad enough, but the staff can deal with that. The problem is Mick. He's out for blood. Right now, he's blaming the wolf's death on me, but what if he suddenly senses a new wolf of his bloodline turning for the first time? He'll be curious. Go scent her out. He'll go back to that building, the one where she killed her boyfriend and dumped the body, and he'll put two and two together. And to him, it'll look like HQ is sheltering someone who killed one of his boys." Lech sighed and shook his head. "If he had a grain of common sense in his head, he'd figure it out--you know, that Aries would never allow that kind of shit, that we've probably got no idea--but it's a full moon. Mick and common sense never got along, but on a full moon?" He scoffed. Oil and water, right there.
"Worst case? Mick launches a full on assault on headquarters." Lech looked Kaien in the eyes, wondering if the boy understood the full implications. The attack would be bad enough, but if HQ was forced to make a stand against--and weaken--one of the biggest players in the city, it'd create a power vacuum. Worst of the worst case, it'd launch an all-out war between the factions.
The taxi pulled up to HQ, and Lech climbed arduously out, ankle and shoulder both panging every time he moved. "So let's get that like bitch the hell out of dodge before everything goes to shit," he groused, limping towards the building.
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He frowned. “It’s not a neck phobia-- and it’s not a ‘phobia’ at all.” This wasn’t going anywhere. He sucked in a breath, disconnected himself, and nodded. The job came first.
“So, how do you want this done? Piggyback? Bride-esque? I make my way down and you jump into my arms from the top, like in one of those ‘princess in a tower’ fairytales? Promise I won’t let you drop.” He mimicked Lech’s grin - all teeth, no mirth - stepping forward into his space. He bent at the knees, arms outstretching, head inclining in expectation. “It’s gonna be bride-esque,” he clarified. “Hope you don’t mind.”
Lech locked in his grip and making his way down the side of the building, Kaien thought. He thought about the mission, about the ‘crime scene’, about the evidence , about the woman and her festering, budding bite mark, and about Lech’s sudden urgency, trying and respectively [i failing] to reach a similar breakthrough. Was it the bite? Was it something else? Something more he wasn’t catching on to? She was lying, that much she herself had made obvious, but…
Brows joining into a focused furrow, he pressed his lips together - the questions could come later.
The alley, when his feet planted safely on the pavement, was empty , and Kaien let out a breath, shoulders relaxing. “I think I need a massage… you know a good masseuse? One that won’t cost a kidney donation?” He lowered Lech to his feet , stepping out into the street to flag down a taxi , and soon enough they were sitting at opposite sides of the vehicle in a silence that Kaien only [i somewhat] hesitated in breaking.
He turned, gray eyes prompting.
“So… you planning on telling me what happened back there? Or if you’re feeling secretive… what’s [i about] to happen? Is she in [i more] trouble than she was thirty minutes ago? Are [i we]?”
/ i struggled with this for sixteen years im sorry it's so in the air i didn't want to carry / gm too much sgdjsgjf
He caught a flash of neck, which didn't exactly help the situation--though at this point, he had everything under control that all he did was salivate a little. The kid took forever to get to his point; Lech felt as though he were more under threat of falling asleep than attacking by the time the kid was done. "Huh, so you got bit, and now you've got a neck phobia? Happens to the best of us," he said, rubbing his eyes. Damn, kid could not summarize! "Nah, I get it, kid. I got a few of those myself, tell the truth." Phobias, not neck wounds, though over the span of his tumultuous-at-best relationship with Mick, he'd accumulated a few of those, too.
Wasn't the point, though. The point was that he was stuck on a stupid roof with a stupid kid, and he was starving, and his ankle was still a little ball of burning pain, and if they didn't get back to HQ before the moon rose, everyone--them included--was going to be in a world of trouble.
He could think of one easy solution, but he suspected the kid's phobia would mean an automatic no. And that was even--well, he wanted to be good. If possible. Not go for the easy out. Though right now... no. Okay. They'd figure this out.
The kid's offer made him physically wince. Get carried by the kid? He'd rather die. He'd never live that down if anyone, [i anyone], saw him. "I'll--give me your shoulder," he said, gesturing the kid over. He'd make this work. Maybe. The building was sealed off, though. They'd have to...climb back down. "Shit," he muttered to himself. That wasn't going to happen, with his ankle a bloody mess. Not unless...
"Alright, fuck this. Kid, carry me. We'll catch a taxi at the bottom." They couldn't afford to take it slow. Not right now. "We've got no time to waste. Promise I won't bite." He flashed the kid a winning smile with very human teeth and reached out, gesturing for him to move closer. He was safe now. Safe enough. They just had to get the hell out of here and back to HQ, ASAP.
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