Lech [i tched]. Back to Silver Mick, huh? Ugh. He was [i not] in the mood for that. Was he ever? Did it matter? It was work.
He didn't know all three of those names personally. Knew all of them by reputation, at least. They were a bunch of nasty characters. Van Heel would have a few lifetimes in jail, if he ever got his hands dirty, but he was slipperier than an eel and sly as a fox. Everyone knew he was dirty, but no one had the dirt. Dreessen was new money, not afraid to get his hands dirty. Not a big character, but the kind of name that kept coming up over and over again until he couldn't help but wonder who was paying who to keep the guy out of trouble. And Pierno... Pierno was a wraith. Not literally, not that he knew. But unfindable, untouchable, unknowable. If you had the right kind of money, she could find out anything about anyone.
None of them had the motivation to take down the hunters that he knew... but none of them particularly liked the hunters, either. [i And they could always be someone else's underling,] he thought, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Or at least on someone's payroll, if not their underling.
Silas nodded thoughtfully, as if he had the slightest idea who any of those people were. Silver Mick was definitely a werewolf, he knew that much. The rest... Kaien might as well have been speaking Greek. Hell, for all he knew, some of those names [i were] Greek.
"We have any info on [i what] they are?" Lech asked, glancing at Kaien. Last he'd heard, they were presumed human , but that was years ago. He didn't expect much, not if the hunters didn't know where they were.
Out onto the streets. At least it was late, after dark. Lech still pulled his hat lower, though not so much from the sun as to prevent anyone from seeing him. He looked like shit right now. It was bad enough Kaien saw this. Anyone else saw him like this, it'd run his reputation right through the shitter. People might start getting ideas, besides. Ideas about him getting weak. Ideas about the hunters getting weak.
[i Maybe I should've stayed home,] he thought. Too late now. He led the way toward Silver Mick's favorite bar. At least he knew what to expect. Silver Mick owed him a favor, now, too, the way he considered it. It wasn't every day the hunters gave in to some pack of wolves; it wasn't every day wolves got out from under Silver Mick's thumb and attacked the hunters. That was worth a favor for certain.
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To be honest, the uncomfortable, extended silence was a small blessing- a gift horse whose mouth Kaien was loath to look into. His head throbbed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a headache.
Adepts, as he’d come to understand, were, at their core and without all the complicated explanations and demonstrations he’d read and heard about over the years, superhuman. He couldn’t catch illnesses through regular means, and even ones he [i did] were burned out in a matter of days, same with injuries, same with any number of things that reduced the state of his body to something beneath ‘ideal’. Headaches, stomachaches, toothaches, any type of [i ache] occurring was something akin to spotting the abominable snowman getting groceries while out on a stroll through a populated city street.
Possible in theory, but, plainly put, [i exceedingly improbable.]
So, all in all, [i aches]-- pains that sprung up and lingered-- made him [i miserable.]
He glanced over at Silas with a diminutive ‘hmm?’, just about making out the last few words of his sentence. Something about a nap. Was he saying Kaien looked like he needed one? He could get on board with that. Sleeping through the healing process was his go-to method. Being conscious during it was for people who looked for a means to make themselves suffer.
Those who carried weights on their shoulders. Sentimental folk. Weepy, soppy folk, not Kaien.
He didn’t get the opportunity to ask Silas what sort of rumours [i he’d] heard about Lech since beginning his work here because in came the man, looking for all intents and purposes like an easy target. Kaien flattened his mouth into a line. Stood up. He wouldn’t comment on his fit, because he was a professional, and Lech was his partner.
He handed Lech his gun without a word, then turned to where a door should’ve been but wasn’t. Sure, he’d made Silas wait an hour, but he’d called Aries back in the meantime and received the details from him instead, so really, if you squinted your eyes and looked in the opposite direction, that was an hour they would’ve spent here, in this room, discussing their plans. Now, they could do that while they walked. “Three names,” he began, starting towards the exit. “Nazar Van Heel. El Dreessen. Dragomira Pierno. One of those three, or two, or all three are, or are connected to whoever’s behind what happened a few days ago and probably what’s been happening since the start of this case. We need to bring them in, and we need to bring them in alive so we can question them, or alternatively have our sensitives dig the information out of them. Apparently, they’re not easy to find, so…”
Oh joy of joys.
“We’re going to see Silver Mick.”
Lech breathed out, sighing. He liked to make his own decision to be late, thank you very much, not have his partner call him fifteen minutes late and force him into it. "You better have taken care of my g--" [i click.]
Another sigh. [i Fucking youth,] he thought, tipping his head back against the lip of the tub. His hands dangled off the edges, whole body the picture of laziness. Maybe he'd just stay in here all night, fuck Kaien and this Silas kid he'd never even heard of. Rot away in this bath water like he was meant to and forget about his job and everything else.
With a third sigh, he stood. Water sloshed as it dumped off his body, louder than it should be in the darkness. He stepped out of the tub and floundered in the dark until he found the light switch, then squinted at the light. Time to get himself back into shape.
Silas cocked an eyebrow at the sight of Kaien. [i Well, well, look who finally decided to show up!] He didn't bother standing. If Kaien thought it was perfectly fine to show up a whole hour late, then clearly he didn't value anything about Silas. Couldn't impress someone who didn't give a rat's ass about him.
Kaien sat down beside him, like it was nothing. Silas glanced over, eyebrow still cocked. Really? No 'sorry'? Talk about brazen. [i Guess this is what being legendary buys you.]
A silence stretched. Kaien still refused to acknowledge him. Looked like it was going to be up to him to break the ice, huh?
"So... fishy business, huh?" he started. He paused, then shook his head. Couldn't let it go. He just couldn't. "Hey, next time you're gonna be an hour late, give me a heads-up. That's valuable nap-room time you wasted there, man."
"Where's Lech, anyways? Isn't it supposed to be three of us? Or did he duck ou--"
He froze, because at that moment, Lech appeared from the end of the hallway. He slouched into the office like he owned the place, hat pulled low, dark shades taking up half his face, dark suit and a long coat that didn't match the season. For a second, he thought Lech was limping, but no, it was just his swagger.
All in all, he looked like a B-list celebrity lounging out from the grips of rehab, with all the intentions of going right back to whatever vice rehab was meant to cure him of as soon as he hit the streets.
Lech stood over them, a shadow. When it became apparent he wasn't going to sit, Silas stood, awkwardly. "Where are we headed?" Lech grunted, lifting his hat to adjust unruly wet hair. Silas' eyes narrowed at that. He'd gone to all that trouble, and here it looked like Lech's hair hadn't seen a comb in weeks? Ugh.
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Water sloshed on the other side of the line, the sound of it sinking down the drain. A faucet handle being turned. More water. Was… was Lech-- was he [i bathing while talking to him]? Kaien looked at his phone screen. Stared at it.
“Kaien, come meet Cassian!” He glanced up, saw the pair looking at him, one expectantly, one reservedly. He nodded, approaching. It wasn’t weird. It didn’t [i have] to be, if he chose to ignore it. Adhere to the code of professionalism he’d made at the start of their partnership and not comment on the fact that it was, in reality, very, very weird. That was what he’d do. It was what he’d done before, and it’d worked out. It was a solid plan.
“Fifteen minutes ago,” he corrected. “I didn’t call you straight away.” He’d taken a shower. Put some clothes on. Brushed his teeth. The works. All stuff people [i could] do on the phone with someone if they so chose, because it was domestic but still absolutely professional. “Silas should be at the office.” If he hadn’t left. Would he have? Fifteen minutes wasn’t that long a time, but in Silas’ shoes, Kaien [i would] have.
He stopped in front of Sei and her new boyfriend. Her boyfriend who did keto diets, was a model and had a pair of inquisitive, wandering eyes. “I’ll meet you there, then,” he said. “I’ll bring your gun.”
He ended the call with a casual ‘see you’ and focused on the stranger in his living room, giving him a second once-over. He wasn’t bad looking, but then, his sister only ever dated up and across. Never below.
“C’mon, I’ll drop you off.” He grabbed the stolen jacket off the hanger and slipped it on. It fit snug around his shoulders, which meant it was fitted to his back, but his last jacket was… he didn’t actually know where it was, but regardless, he didn’t have it, and he’d only had the one. He had no liberties for choosiness.
Ushering the pair out, he locked up properly and started down the hall.
“So,” drew Cassian’s attention, and he inclined his head to listen. On her side, Sei tucked a smile into her chin, taking Kaien’s hand and squeezing gently. There was fairly little he wouldn’t do for her. Even this. Even this, he’d do. He smiled at Cassian, an easy smile that hitched up higher at one corner of his lips. “Sei mentioned you were a model.”
He didn’t make it to headquarters until seven pm. It was an inevitability. Sei liked to talk, enjoyed bragging about people she cared for even [i more], and with her brother and her boyfriend in her company, both of whom were strangers to each other, it was only natural that she’d spent the better part of thirty minutes listing off each of their qualities to the other.
That was always a riot.
All in all, Cassian was boring, likely not a boyfriend who’d last, but he hadn’t touched Sei even once while Kaien’d been there, so he could stay. For however long Sei deemed to keep him around, at least.
Silas, he discovered when he stepped into the office, had not left. Kaien nodded at him. Didn’t say anything, merely walked over and took a seat on the bench. Waited, curious to see what Silas’d do.
"Hmm," he muttered, easing himself into the bath. Hot water stung on his limbs, aching in the wounds and stinging where it met still raw flesh. So Kaien was still hurt, too. Humans. He was healing like a damn human.
He breathed out. Maybe this was the end of the line for him. Not eating was going to catch up with him eventually. So maybe this was it. Here it was, catching up with him.
[i Just give up,] a voice whispered. [i It's just pride. Is it worth suffering this much over?]
Not yet. He wasn't going to admit she was right. Not yet.
"Doesn't surprise me," he said. Any of it. It not being Silver Mick. Aries being mad. Silver Mick wasn't that dumb, and hell, baseline for Aries was mad. But it did smell fishy. This whole setup. Even all the way back to the girl coming in to them. He ran his hair back, slicking it with the water. A moment's pause, and he dunked his head into the water, holding the phone up out of the tub. For a second, he was weightless. All his wounds vanished.
He came back up to the soundtrack of Kaien and his girl arguing. He listened in. Siblings. Ah, siblings. So Kaien had a sister too. Sounded like they had a good relationship.
Very different from he and his sister.
He snorted, dropping his free hand in the water. Had he taken care of it. Like he was a child, checking to see if he was going to the bathroom before they went in the car for a roadtrip. He swirled his hand in the water, watching the filth swirl in the liquid. Silence filled the room. It extended, uncomfortable. [i Is there anything I can do.] They both knew the answer to that question. They both knew he'd never ask.
At last he broke the silence. "So, Headquarters? In what, fifteen, half an hour?" He tilted his head at the water, gazing at it as it spun. He could do that. Probably. Or wait, were they already supposed to be there? He took a deep breath and sighed it out. He could wait it out. Take a rest break.
Or he could go. All he was doing now was feeling sorry for himself. His wounds would heal whether he was being a miserable pile in his doorway, soaking in the bath, or actually doing something.
If he could stand.
"I... might be there." He shifted, pulled the plug with his toes, waited for it to drain, filled the tub again. This time, he actually used soap, locating the bar on instinct. His eyes wandered the room, imagination filling in all the places in the inky darkness where he'd left his gear. Most of the wounds had closed. The ones that hadn't, he could use suture kits on. There was a brace lying in the hall. He could force his ankle back into commission. He'd need more painkillers than he had to dull the pain; the one thing he never lost was the ability to process chemicals faster than usual. But he'd powered through worse. His ankle didn't hurt that bad. The rest of it wasn't so bad. He could do it.
"No, I'll be there," he decided. Might as well. Why not, right? The work would distract him from the pain.
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“What?” was his brilliant response. [i Busy]? His expression turned up in distaste, but he ignored Lech’s comment, instead choosing to focus on the shade of his voice. The easiest way, the [i tersest] way, to describe it was that Lech just didn’t sound up to it. Didn’t sound up to anything Kaien had to tell him, let alone a nice little, fun little excursion.
He’d called at a bad time, but that’d never been something he concerned himself with.
“You don’t sound fine,” he said, then realized how dramatic that sounded and pushed the slip of concern aside.
“Back,” he parroted, gaze following Sei’s easy steps through the apartment. She’d gotten up and trailed off as soon as he’d said the keyword. Boss. There was only one person who got called that. If it was about his job, she wanted nothing to do with it, but if she found out he’d gotten injured during it, he’d never hear the end of it, and she’d likely tell the folks back at the cafe that he’d never stepped foot inside a library during work hours, let alone actually held a job at one.
“Could be better,” he answered honestly. “It doesn’t hurt when I breathe anymore, so that’s an improvement. Should be gone in a day or two.” He heard shuffling around on the other side.
“Aries says the attack wasn’t Silver Mick’s call, and he wants us to find whosever it was and bring ‘em in. He sounded mad.” For good reason. That attack had taken more lives than it should’ve. The headquarters never should’ve been that low on hunters on-site. There was more to this, and it was on them to uncover the conspiracy. Agenda. Vendetta? [i Whatever it was]. It’d been planned, so it had to be [i something.]
But that brought him to his next point.
“Listen,” he started, watching his sister prepare something in the kitchen. “If you wanna sit this one out-” He got interrupted, [i again,] by a knock on the door. [i Again.] He stood, walked over to the door, unlocked it and cracked the door open without checking who it was.
A man. On the thin side. He observed Kaien, his expression open and annoying. “Cassian?” he asked, and the man nodded. Kaien closed the door in his face and turned, leaning back against it. He could do that now. Improvements all around.
“As I was saying,”
“Kaien! You didn’t just do that!”
“If you’re not feeling your best, you should say so.”
“He’s gonna think you don’t like him!” God [i forbid]! He ignored her.
“Or if you need anything, you can tell me, and-”
“You’re not even giving him a chance! He’s not like the last one! He’s completely different, and if you’d just talk to him for ten seconds, you’d see that!” Kaien pulled the phone away from his ear.
“He looks like he’d get snapped in half by a gust of wind. How’d he even get here? Did we walk? Can’t imagine he’d have walked.”
“He’s [i keto-ing]! He’s a model!”
“Keto-ing. Right. Sounds great.” He pushed off the frame, walked into the kitchen as Sei let her boyfriend into his apartment without his permission. He put the phone back to his ear.
“Sorry,” he said. “She’s my sister. She invited herself over-- keep standing, Cassian. You’re not staying long.” Back to Lech. “I’m supposed to meet Silas, but he won’t care if I’m late.” Correction. [i Kaien] didn’t care if Silas cared. “Don’t suppose you took care of that whole…” Was there a standard way of asking a vampire if they’d fed without it coming across off?
He arrived first. Silas paced around the office, adjusting his hair nervously, putting his hands into, out of, into his pockets. He'd arrived early, but by now, the time for them to meet had come and passed. Kaien was late. He licked his lips, then sighed out. Should've expected it. He was just some rookie. Of course he'd be made to wait. Not a great way to start, but, well, what could he do? He didn't even have Kaien's number. And if he emailed Aries over such a tiny problem--[i is it even a problem]--he already knew how well that'd go over.
Silas plopped down on one of the benches to wait, arms crossed in irritation. [i So this is why they say to never meet your heroes.]
Lech listened to the line. A female voice shrieking. Kaien, saying something he couldn't quite make out at this distance. An accidental call. He'd been woken for a butt dial. Anger welled up in Lech's chest, an unholy rage that demanded he punish the mere human for daring to waste his time--and then quieted with his next breath. He didn't have the energy for that. Unholy rage was for younger vampires than him. Probably better-fed ones, too. He reached to turn it off before anyone started moaning.
Before his hand could finish the slow crawl there, Kaien suddenly spoke to him. "I hope I'm not... interrupting anything," he sighed. "You two... sound busy." His voice was thinner than he'd meant for it to be. Weak. He sounded weak. With a grimace, he cleared his throat. No need for that.
"Never been better." Sarcasm. He shifted again, trying to locate his will to move. Had to get up some time. Might as well be now. If he kept lying here, he might as well be a corpse.
There was no point in reporting his condition, anyways. It wasn't going to improve or get worse. The injuries would go away, certainly, but it barely mattered. He made a gesture that might have been a wave of the hand if he'd had more energy. "I'm fine. How's the back?"
He'd smelled the blood when he was a wolf, he knew where Kaien had been injured.
One foot kept slipping, refusing to take his weight. He couldn't tell if it was the linoleum, [i blasted modern flooring], or his ankle. It didn't hurt. Or rather, it didn't hurt any more than anything else did. Rather than keep trying, he decided to be lazy and scoot across the floor. The tub wasn't far. Hunting paid well, but he kept a tiny apartment. Didn't need a kitchen. Barely needed a bedroom. All he needed was an empty box, and that was what he had. The smaller it was, the easier to sun-proof, too. He'd live in a mausoleum and a coffin, except that first off, that was tacky as hell, and second off, hot baths were an amazing modern invention.
Injuries were one thing, but there was absolutely no chance he was going to be awake another second and covered in as much muck as he was.
"What's Aries want?" he asked. He was under no illusions about their partnership. Kaien wouldn't call unless they needed something from him. He didn't give a shit about Lech, or his condition, except for how it interfered with their job.
He snorted. [i My life is a pile of shit, isn't it?] The closest he was with anyone was a working relationship. He breathed out. No point regretting it. He'd made his bed. He'd lay in it.
The sound of his body dragging along the floor changed, the only hint he was in the bathroom. Lech found the tub easily. He'd lived here long enough that he knew where everything was, no need for any lights. He found the dials, twisted them. Water poured into the tub. "And who's the girl," he added flatly. Might as well tease his partner as long as he had a tiny bit of dirt on the guy.
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Someone was knocking on his door.
He checked the time, squinting at the darkened screen . Phone in hand, he approached the front entrance. It couldn’t be his landlady; he’d dissuaded her from collecting his rent just a week ago. He’d give it another two before [i she] came knocking.
Pressing up against the door, he brought his face down to the peep-hole. Another knock, this one louder.
“Kaien,” someone said, their face coming into view moments later. “Open up, will you?”
[i Sei.] He backed up from the door. “Kaien? Dad said you came by the cafe.” Her voice came closer. “You could’ve said hi. Come on, open the door.” [i What the hell was his sister doing here.]
“Are you ignoring me?” He’d given her his address for emergencies [i only]. What the hell was she thinking, coming to this neighborhood alone? He’d told her not to come out here by herself, and here she was, after sundown, knocking on his door as if she didn’t have the faintest idea of what sorts of people roamed around these parts.
“I’m not leaving until you open.”
“Kaieeen, open the dooor,”
Knock. Knock. Knock. The door handle rattled. He glanced around, eyes landing on the living room window. His place was on the third floor. He could jump it, or scale the building, or--
“[i CAN - YOU - PLEASE - OPEN - THE]--” He pulled the door open, yanked her inside by the arm and slammed the entrance closed, locking it in a three swift motions. He turned. Glared at her.
“Keep your voice down!” he said, letting her go with the intention of stepping away from her, but she caught him by the waist, bringing him into an embrace and burying her face into his chest. She squeezed.
“I missed you,” she said, words muffled by Kaien’s shirt. She leaned back the smallest amount, just enough to glance up at him. “How come you visited but didn’t say hi? You knew I’d come knocking.” Her face was so earnest, her eyes wide and bright. She was eight years his elder, but he always felt like he was the one taking care of her.
He sighed, dropped both arms across her back. “You should’ve called first.” He’d have to call Aries. Or Silas. Let him know he’d be late. Did he have his number? Probably not. They’d have to exchange--
He remembered the phone he’d haphazardly shoved into his pocket, tugged it out and looked at the screen. [i Call received. 00:08, 00:09, 00:10--]
He brought the phone up to his ear and listened, walking over to the couch and taking a seat. Sei followed, sat to his left and looked up at him, brows raised. He put his index to his lips.
“Hello?” he said.
“Kaien,” Sei whispered. “Actually, Cassian’s outside. I told him to wait, but he gets scared on his own. Do you think he could come up? You’ve met him, right?” He shook his head no. No, he hadn’t met him, and no, he couldn’t come up.
“Oh, come [i on]! It won’t be like last time! He’s a really nice guy!”
“No. Tell him to fuck off,” he whispered back. It wasn’t that Kaien didn’t trust Sei. He trusted her with his life. It was her taste in men. “Stop distracting me- are you on the line? Boss said I should get in contact with you. How’s your condition?”
/ 1y 134d 3h 33m 46s
Lech twitched. Sound. There was sound. He felt like he hadn't moved in days. Maybe he hadn't. Sometimes he didn't. He shifted and dragged his eyes open. His apartment was pitch black, as usual. Only way to be completely comfortable. Except it wasn't. A light was blinking in the darkness. Light and sound.
Goddamn it, the phone was going off, wasn't it?
He crawled over to it and picked it up. It wasn't the one he'd brought with him, howevermany days ago it was they'd dealt with the damn wolves. He had several replacements, all hooked to the same number. It was only practical when he dropped all his gear all the time. It wasn't so common anymore as it had been once, but it still happened. Still, it hadn't for a while; which was why his phone was a flip phone, and not a smartphone.
Lech flipped the phone open and grunted. Who wanted him? What for? All he wanted to do was sleep until it all felt better. If only he could drink, he could heal it all at once, but he wasn't going to ask any stupid human if he could drink their blood. He wasn't that pitiful yet.
Silas dressed quickly, pulling on his tactical vest, his combat boots, his thigh sheath with the knife and gun holsters combined into one. He was finally getting a serious mission! Aries had finally acknowledged him! This was the first time he'd gotten an email directly from the big guy himself. Some hunters went their whole career without being acknowledged by the boss, and here he was, still wet behind the ears and getting emails from Aries! Who knew, maybe he was the next legendary hunter with the boss's ear--the next Kaien!
He paused. Was it too early to consider Kaien a legend? But the things he'd done already were pretty incredible, weren't they? Taking on the wolves all by himself, not to mention that famous investigation he'd done all but solo... if he wasn't a legend yet, he would be soon.
The final piece was a knee-length leather trenchcoat, a stylish black with a red flame design on the border. He checked himself in the mirror and grinned, slicking back his hair to draw more attention to the silver streak in his bangs. Should he put some gel in it to look more like a real hunter? He held his bangs back, let them go, held them back. Yeah, he looked more serious with it slicked back.
Okay, now he was ready to go. He checked himself over one last time and gave himself a grin in the mirror. Gorgeous. He looked exactly like he'd always thought a hunter would. Kaien would surely be impressed with him. He couldn't blow his first chance to go on mission with Kaien. With one last nod to his reflection, Silas headed out the door towards Headquarters.
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Three things happened in the next fifteen seconds:
1) the gate opened, as if on cue,
2) his partner got shot
3) the hunter’s gun turned, pointing at him
Kaien’s anger flared, irritation springing up in place of whatever that last emotion had been, and he moved out of the way even as Silas’ arm lowered, taking the gun with it.
There were about a dozen things he could’ve said, caught up in the moment as he was, but he gathered himself in a matter of moments, merely inclining his head in response.
“‘m good,” he said, glancing at the gun in Silas’ hand. “They give those out to just about anyone these days, huh?” A jab, but then, the other hunter was familiar with those.
Silas. He was a relatively new hire, but he was [i good,] and Kaien remembered everyone who did their job and made it look like they’d been born to do it. Like their way was the right way. It appealed to the pragmatist in him. Plus, he didn’t seem that turned off from Kaien, regardless of how much Kaien antagonised him.
“Silas!” Hunters, two more, ran out from inside the gate, neither of which he recognized. “Mac said-” the woman, the speaker, paused when he noticed him standing there, but resumed speaking without a notable hiccup, focused on Silas. “The reinforcements- he says they’re here, and that we should head up to the…” she kept on saying something, but Kaien tuned her out. He considered joining them, but recalled the sharp pain that’d run through him the instant Silas’ hand had come in contact with his back and thought better of it, stepping into the hunter’s field of view.
“I’m gonna head up,” he said, cutting the woman off. Whatever she had to say, it could wait. “If there’s any development, let me know.” This was his case. It’d gotten out of hand, but it was still [i his case.] He had to be the one to shut the envelope.
He didn’t wait for a response. He dialed back through the gate and started up the stairs, one step at a time. A shower, and a few hours’ worth of rest, that was what he needed.
Everything else, he figured, could wait.
He woke up to the distinct sound of his ringtone.
Cursing, he rolled off the bed, taking a seat at the edge and reaching for his phone. His back ached. His head ached. He felt hot. Sweaty. Like he’d never taken a shower in his life. He was likely running a fever due to the infection. It’d break in a couple more hours, and the infection would subside, but in the meantime? It was shit.
He slid the answer call button to the left and lifted the phone to his ear.
“We’ve got a lead,” said Aries, unprompted and to the point, just how Kaien prefered it. “The attack’s got nothing to do with Silver Mick,” he continued without pause. “It’s one of his, but it wasn’t his call. We’ve singled out three individuals who could’ve been behind this, and they need to be vetted. That’s all you.” He let a beat pause. “Where’s your partner?”
That was a good question. He’d ran, and after that, nothing.
“Dunno,” Kaien answered honestly, because hiding things from Aries [i always] proved counterproductive.
Aries put his hand over the microphone, said something to someone-- nothing Kaien could make out-- and was back on the line.
“Take Silas. Try to contact Lech, but either way, Silas’ coming up to meet you. Ask him for the details when you see him,” and with that, the line cut off, and Kaien had a to-do list.
‘Try to contact Lech,’ was easier said than done. The only means of contact Kaien had in regards to Lech was a phone number, but that wasn’t accounting for the fact that he’d likely dropped his phone somewhere when he’d shifted. He dialed the number anyway. If nothing else, he could at least pick his phone up, give it to him when he saw him next.
Unless he was dead.
Kaien didn’t think he was, but what did he know at this point? Some [i ‘vampire’] Lech was.
There were a lot of noises coming from the boy's mouth. He stared, panting heavily. If he really focused, he could probably make them out, but he was so tired it just didn't seem worth it. Wolves could understand body language clearly enough, and he was getting the message loud and clear: go. He huffed. A moment. A moment to rest.
A new scent wafted in, gunsmoke and testosterone and a sharp smell that meant no good. He lifted his head towards it, then hefted himself to a stand. Had to get out of here. It'd be bad if the other hunters got here. Kaien was right. It was time to go.
The grate on the staircase rattled open. Lech startled and ran--closer than he'd thought! Were they suppressing their scent? [i Of course they are,] he thought angrily at himself, the part that was still intelligent enough to think. The rest of him was fleeing with all its might.
Gunfire blasted into the narrow space, loud enough to hurt his ears. A bullet dug into his haunches. He let out a yelp and sped faster, vanishing around the corner. Had to run, had to run!
"Shit!" Silas snapped, aiming after the wolf as it ran. He'd landed one bullet, but the rest had missed. Motion caught his eye, and he snapped around, gun-first, but it was another hunter. He was bloodied, but looked to be in remarkably good health for taking down most of the wolves on his own. "Oi, Kaien, you alright?"
He ran out to the door to check the hallway, but the wolf had gone. There'd be plenty where it came from in no time, the way wolves worked.
Back into the staircase. He sighed out and looked Kaien over. He looked [i rough.] Was that his blood soaked into the top of his jeans? "Sorry it took so long," he said. "I was up in the nap rooms on the top floor. There's reinforcements on the way, should be pulling up any minute now."
He pushed back the silver streak in his hair and shook his head. "You should head up to the med bay, I've got it down here for now. You bore the worst of it, right? And alone. That's some legendary shit, man." Silas patted Kaien on the back and pushed him towards the stairs.
Lech limped through the streets. [i Ah, damn. It hurts, it hurts.] Every step was a pain. It felt obnoxious just to move. Maybe he should just slide down and take a nap in this alley.
[i And never wake up again.] He huffed out. This city was dangerous at the best of times, and he had enough enemies. They'd come running if they heard he was injured. A little further, and he'd be at his apartment. He'd be safe there.
The door was locked. Lech gave it a deep, tired stare. With considerable effort, he forced himself back into human form. Hands clumsy with the memory of being paws slid off the doorknob once, twice, but on the third try, he managed to slide the key in. He fell inside and kicked the door shut. Fuck this. He felt gross and sticky with fur and sweat and blood and dog spit, but he couldn't find the effort to do anything about it. He'd just sleep right here.
//ooc: feel free to timeskip wherever you want, or we can discuss it in chat!
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Three left. He directed his focus at the one, shoulders tense, legs prepared to dive to the side if need be. Lech was keeping the other two busy.
“We can talk about this,” he said, moving but not backing up, not showing an ounce of submission. He stepped to the side, gun at the ready. “Who put you up to this? Was it Mick? Was it someone else?” The wolf didn’t answer. Not that he’d expected it to. He was talking to talk. It’s what he did to keep himself on track. “I can tell you guys aren’t big on words, but it was never gonna work out. The hunters’ guild’s too big, and it pays its dues.”
That seemed to stir something within the wolf because it leaped at Kaien with a sharp, guttural growl, but he’d been expecting that. He bounded to the side, narrowly avoiding the wall and pushing past it with a shoulder check, both hands occupied with holding the gun.
The wolf landed, slipped, scrambled to regain its balance. These tiles were made for boots- for combat footwear, hard and durable material, not paws. Kaien raised his arms, took aim. He fired, and in close-combat quarters, bullets were hard to avoid, no matter how agile one was. It hit one of its hind legs and the wolf whimpered even as it righted itself, but Kaien had already stepped forward and wound his leg back. He had good legs. Strong legs. Legs built for kicking.
The toe of his boot landed, a perfect bullseye directly to the temple, the wolf’s head snapping back like a ricochet. It fell with the kick, but Kaien wasn’t about to give it an opportunity to recover. He approached, his fingers on the trigger, and took the shot.
Kaien released a slow breath and turned back to the fight just in time to meet eyes with a second wolf, and his widened, because [i shit, shit, he wouldn’t have time, it was going to reach him before he could ready a shot and--] he raised his hands, ready to catch the wolf in a faux-embrace and snuff it out when Lech caught it by its haunches, yanking it back with his teeth and finishing it off with a seasoned sort of efficiency you could only achieve after you’d done the same exact thing again, and again, and a hundred times over.
He went to speak, then nearly dropped his gun as Lech hopped up and latched onto his shoulders, presumably checking him for injuries. Up-close and personal like that, he could see just how injured Lech was. Substantially more than Kaien, at least. He’d done the same thing the previous time, too. They’d gone up against the same enemy three times now, and all three times Lech’d managed to wound himself more than the last. There was [i definitely] something there. He was sure of it.
“Do you...” he began to ask as Lech moved away, but hesitated. Again, what use was it? Could Lech respond? Probably not. If he’d had the ability to speak and just [i hadn’t] up until now, that’d made this entire thing just.. weird. “You should rest,” he said instead, deliberating on whether to approach Lech or not. “You’re more injured than I am, and we’ve got reinforcements coming. They’re probably already picking off the stragglers.” He didn’t move to check if that was true, keeping his arms crossed ‘round his chest.
“I dunno how many people know about,” he waved his hand at Lech’s general area, “this, but if it’s some sorta secret, you should go. This staircase’s the second place the other guys’ll be checking, right after the main ones. If you’re what you say you are,” that being a vampire, “Then you’re-”
He paused. One beat. Two.
“Can you even understand me? Bark once for yes. Or just go. Either works.”
/ 1y 135d 2h 6m 21s
Lech smelled him coming back. He perked his ears and lifted his head hopefully. Help was on the way. One of the wolves looked like it was about to try something, so he bared his teeth and growled at it. No chance. Not ever.
The gate rumbled open. Metal clicked and groaned, slid shut again. He didn't need to turn to know it was Kaien. There were words. Nothing he could make out. It didn't matter. The wolves were crawling closer, baring their own teeth back. Kaien had upset the delicate, momentary balance. Things were different with a human within reaching distance.
Gunshots exploded in his ears again. Lech growled and leaped forward, meeting the other wolves mid-leap. He managed to tangle two of them up in his leap, but the third got past. [i Hang in there, kid,] a small part of him thought.
One of the wolves scampered backwards, startled. The other rounded on Lech. It bit him on the haunches. He wiggled forward, twisting out. In a moment, he spun and leaped on the other wolf, wrestling it to the ground. He pinned it and bit its neck. The wolf turned its stomach towards him and whimpered. Submission? He hesitated. If it was submitting, then it would become part of his pack.
[i No, idiot! Bite it!]
The thought came too late. Under him, the wolf flipped over and bucked, kicking him away. Lech snarled. Stupid! How could he be so stupid! He lunged after it. Too late. It had regrouped with the other wolf he'd smacked down. Unspoken communication passed between them, and they split. One rounded to the left of him, the other to the right. As one, they lunged at him. Lech spun and caught the one to his left. A mouthful of fur. Useless.
The one to his right found his foreleg and bit down, hard. Anger surged through him. How dare they? How could he be so weak? He bit at the wolf as hard as he could, found its neck. Flesh tore apart in his teeth, the feeling satisfying as it was familiar. He shook his head gleefully. All his enemies would die! Nothing could hurt him!
The boy. He spun. Had to protect the boy. The wolf who'd circled to his left was running at the boy. He'd wasted his time in relishing his small victory! Lech raced after it and leapt at its haunches. Teeth found flesh. The wolf yelped as he brought it down. He followed it to the ground, biting, tearing. White flashed as it whipped around to face him, half-rolling to reach his neck. Fangs snapped at his neck, but he yanked his head back in time. It only caught fur. Lech pinned it down with his paws. It squirmed, biting at anything it could reach. Useless. He looked down on it from on high, then darted in for the kill. Under his paws, the wolf stopped struggling.
Lech turned to the boy. He approached him at a run, then sniffed him all over. Blood. Muffled, now. Any new injuries? He jumped up and hooked his paws over Kaien's shoulders to sniff closer. Was everything alright? There were still more wolves. Wolves who hadn't found them yet. They'd be here any moment now. He sagged back down, pushing off Kaien to limp a little ways away and sit. Lech was panting, tongue hanging out of his mouth, his flanks heaving. A moment. He needed a moment to rest, and then he could keep fighting.
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“She’s going to die,” the man told him, torso hunched over the receptionist’s prone form.
“She can’t die,” said Kaien, stepping closer, arms crossed. “She doesn’t have to. You can fix this.” He towered over the man, but the stare he received was unimpressed. His assistant was less confident, sparing glances at them from a few feet away. That’d pass, though. If she kept working here, she’d learn to be unimpressed by him, too.
“We don’t have the numbers,” the doctor insisted, straightening and turning away from the bed. “She’s not a life we can afford to save. Our healers are focusing on--” he paused, catching Kaien’s figure on the other end of the room, already halfway out the door, way past listening.
[i Useless.] He started down the hall, passing by injured parties, hunters and civilians alike. Their numbers had been hit, the doctor was right. He could see that. He clicked his tongue. What a waste of fucking time. He was injured, and for what? For that doctor to tell him [i that]? [i She’s going to die,] as clean-cut as a weather report.
What a load of shit.
He caught sight of the woman who’d given him her lighter, clutching at her arm with a serious stink-face on. The other two he recognized, but nothing significant came to mind. There were dozens of injured, but not a single hunter in fighting condition. He was going back down there alone-- best come to peace with that.
A jacket, black, leather, [i sturdy], sat over the backrest of a chair and he swiped it, tore the shredded one off his back with some effort and tugged the new one on, zipping it up and tossing the torn on across the nearest surface. The leather one left his neck bare, but he pushed that particular thought back, working on figuring out at least some [i semblance] of a plan as he passed the numerous security checks.
Lech was untrustworthy-- he’d decided as much on his way up. This wasn’t a situation he was familiar with-- wasn’t a scenario he had experience with. He’d dealt with aggravated wolves, he’d dealt with attacking wolves, injured and cowering wolves, but in all those instances, the wolves had been the enemy. Lech was his partner. His back ached, and he focused on the pain, attuned to it. Lucas was one of his best friends, and still, Kaien had never once trusted him in his metamorphosed form. This was no different. He would have Lech’s back, because that’s what partners did, but he wouldn’t rely on Lech to have his.
He took the stairs three at a time and reached the bottom in record time, singling Lech out first. There, just outside the gate, staring down several wolves who observed him in turn. He pulled Lech’s gun out, checked the number of bullets in the clip. The med-ward didn’t keep spare bullets for several very sensible reasons, but none of those reasons served as much of a comfort as Kaien approached the gate, gun in hand.
He gripped the slide, pulled it back and released.
It was bad. Lech looked to be in [i substantially] worse shape than before, and that put them [i both] at risk. Kaien considered his options, then tugged his other glove off and threw it aside. If it came down to it, then-- he’d try his damnest to hold out. Their own reinforcements were coming. The alarm had signaled an attack on headquarters, which meant every hunter of theirs would’ve been notified and on the way.
He slid past the gate and it shut and locked instantaneously. The opposing side roused, a low growl reverberating through the silence. It was a standoff. First one to attack had the advantage.
“On three,” he said, voice subdued, then whipped his hand up and shot-- a direct hit that sent one of the wolves sprawling. An instant death. He didn’t favour guns, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a good shot. There used to be a time-- a time when he prefered the distance, from allies and enemies alike-- when a gun was the only thing he used. The four remaining wolves charged, enraged, but seeing as Kaien didn’t [i want] to die, he’d already readied the second shot, and before the four got within attacking range, they were down to three.
Any minute now, he thought as he pulled out the spare clip. Any minute now, and their reinforcements would be here.
/ 1y 141d 23h 23m 46s
Kaien was still alive. He had scratches down his back, and the scent of his blood was thick in the air, but he was alive. It was even more intoxicating when Lech was a wolf. The whole world was red, but a warm, welcoming red. It wanted him, that scent. Longed for him as much as he longed for it. He followed Kaien closely, nose lifted towards the boy's back, a hopeful expression on his canine face. It was very nice when he turned away. All the scent was pointed in his direction. His tongue flicked out.
[i No no no no--] he halted dead, tongue half out, a little pink half-moon sticking out of his muzzle. Kaien vanished with the woman. The grate slammed shut behind him.
The scent didn't fade immediately, but without Kaien there, it was watered down by the stench of other wolves. Irritated, Lech paced, rubbing his shoulders on the staircase. His scent. Or Kaien's. No one else's.
The wolves were coming back. He could smell them. Hear the clatter of their claws, the whisper of paws. Lech stopped in his rubbing and turned to face the door. He laid down, waiting, tail curled around his legs.
They grew closer. Heads down, hackles raised. They growled in rounds, one taking it up when the other cut off. Lech rose slowly, deliberately to his feet. He growled back, hackles raised as well, head high. The other wolves circled, searching for a way past. One darted in. Lech whirled and snapped. The wolf retreated, but another darted in from the opposite side. He pounced on it. Teeth snapped. Fur flew. The world was a mess of fur and claws, teeth and blood. Adrenaline burned in his veins, almost as hot as the bites on his neck and back. He couldn't afford this. Couldn't afford this much damage.
A mighty kick, and he was free. Lech backed up. He was panting. Blood dripped from his mouth--not his blood. Not given willingly. He let it drip.
The wolf he'd been fighting retreated, cowed, but there were five others to take its place. More. It was harder to count as a wolf. The little part of his brain that was still Lech struggled for control, trying to count, but the wolf part couldn't be bothered. He bared his teeth and growled. His whole body was puffed with fur, hackles high as he could raise them.
The wolf who'd tried to sneak to his left jumped on him.Pain, sharp and brutal, sent him staggering. He whirled and bit. Teeth dug into fur, tore open flesh. The second he turned his head, another wolf went for his throat. He growled. Lech whipped around and snapped at the wolf. His forepaws clawed at the wolf's head. A claw snagged an eye.
Another wolf jumped on his back. He staggered under the weight of the blow. His bad ankle screamed out as it faltered. Haunches hit cold ground.
Sensing weakness, the wolves swarmed. Lech struggled to stand. His leg wouldn't work. It felt sick. Weak. It wouldn't obey his orders. Trying to save himself, he rolled over to toss the wolves off him. They let go, but immediately went for his stomach. Sharp teeth found the soft bits on his body. Panic shivered down his spine. He yelped and squirmed, biting anything he could reach, clawing madly. There were too many. He couldn't hold them all off.
One got past him, ran for the door. [i No!] Lech wiggled free. He fought past them and lunged for the one who'd gotten free. It was at the gate, clawing madly. Metal curled back. The wolf snapped at it, yanking at the edges.
Lech's jaws closed around the back of the wolf's neck. He snapped his body and yanked the wolf away from the door. As hard as he could, he shook his head. Bone snapped in his jaws. With a pitiful mewl, the wolf went limp. Back to the door, he threw the wolf at the other wolves. [i No one] was getting past. No one!
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