Back in 2010, I began publishing my original novel here, called "Wolf" about a man who through no fault of his own was thrown into a dark world of violence, political upheaval, danger, and dark science. Oh, did I mention werewolves? It seemed to be pretty popular here and after a long time I finish it and thought I had a publisher but that failed and the Kickstarter I started to help pay for publishing also failed. I shelved the project until this year, almost ten years later, I'm a bit older, wiser and I went back and rewrote the entire novel and I have to say, the story is much better for it and the narrative is tighter, and I decided to post it on Wattpad and of course, to bring it back home, where the whole process started, the Werewolf Cafe. I'll post it like I did back then, in episodic pieces and updates. I hope you all enjoy this and I eagerly await your feedback. Its good to be home. I did go back and remove from the forum the original novel posts. I didn't want to the two to conflcit. Don't worry; I still have the original manuscript. -- ShadowWolf.
“Change is the only constant.”
“Everybody wants to rule the world.”
- Tears for Fears.
Wade Johnson Memorial Hospital stood tall in the night, its windows glowing, the glass panes blazing as if they were the eyes of a beast to make Lovecraft himself quake. Beige concrete walls rose up more than ten floors with curving sections, giving the entire construction a very modern space age appearance. Surrounding it were several other buildings, each one mirroring the hospital which sat at the center. There was the cardiac center, the neurology office and even a psychiatrist and dedicated rehabilitation lab for physical therapy patients. Most of those offices were quiet, their occupants long gone home for the night, both patients and doctors eager to retreat to their domestic miseries, content to leave the thriving pulse of the city behind for another eight hours. The medical complex itself was well lit with OLED street lights keeping those who arrived late at night or those who were leaving their sorrows inside feeling safe as they walked to their cars. The feeling of safety was an illusion as safety always is in the world.
Surrounding the hospital were even taller towers of glass and steel, punctuated by advertising signs and company logos. Dawson City was the home of just over one million souls and the city, much like its sister in New York, never slept. Life in the city came in waves. During the day, the citizens pretended to be civilized, running errands, making deals at the stock exchange, yelling into phones, texting and driving while at home, at night, the same people were afraid of the night life that came scurrying out of the back alleys and deserted streets of the city slums. Drugs traded hands as easy as the bodies which bought favors with the sinful rich and poor alike. Sirens wailed and cars roared down the cracked and tired asphalt.
Back at the hospital emergency department however, human life, in all its diverse horror, thrived non-stop but was especially virulent at night and some would say more so than at any other time of the year than on full moon nights and tonight was such a night. The security office located on the fourth floor was no exception. Monitors lined the walls in four rows of four monitors each before a giant curving desk. On the desk sat beeping computer consoles, winking red and green status lights of each floor and a set of phones linked wirelessly through Bluetooth to the head set of one Martin Simmons. Simmons was a large man with a gut that belied his previous military service. It strained his dark black uniform somewhat and hung gently over his utility belt. While his belt did not have a gun, it did contain pepper spray, a set of electronic pass keys, disposable plastic cuff binders, a flashlight and a two way radio. Simmons had held the post of security chief for the hospital for more than fifteen years and was proud of his service. Wade Johnson Memorial was one of the few hospitals in the country that had taken the approach of the National Health System in the UK by having trained security staff on hands at all time. Simmons had personally trained more than thirty officers in non-violent submission techniques, conflict resolution, safe restraint techniques and naturally, given where the wonderful city around them, self defense that was decidedly off the record and off the books as well.
He had a hard jaw line and drilling gray eyes set into a stubbled face that hadn’t been shaven in four days. He kept his hair shaved thin, a tribute to his military service and it made it harder for violent patients to grab his hair and use it against him. The phone in front of him jangled and he hit the glowing blue button on the ear piece in his right ear.
“Security main. Simmons.” Was his curt and to the point answer. Simmons had no patience for bullshit and made the same apply to his conversational tactic. Many viewed him as a hardass but he was good at what he did.
“Roger that.” He said to the voice only he could hear as activity buzzed around him. Officers came and went through the office. Somewhere, something beeped incessantly. His hands flew across the keyboard, the screens on the computer flashed and with a smooth motion, he flipped a switch on the camera switchboard next to the computer, moving the joystick control, making the monitor on the desk switch views to the emergency room. Clicking through he found what he was searching for.
“Brian!” he barked.
Instantly, a human officer appeared by his side. The officer was young, 28 years old and was stocky. He wasn’t chunky at all but rather his lean muscle was built for strength, yet not defined. Very much an average guy who hit the gym a few days of the week as required for his job. Nothing more. Standing at six foot five, with a short trimmed beard that was thicker on his chin, Brian was one of the taller officers along with Connors, and his black uniform was just like Simmons, his belt having the same accoutrements. Some of the female nurses were always chasing him around and giving him side eyes and Brian knew it but paid it no mind. His face was calm and he was easy going, his strange amber-brown eyes and medium cut brown hair that he kept cut short but not shaven framed his features.
The keys on his belt jangled as he came trotting across the room. He had been doing reports, Simmons thought quickly. Brian was a dedicated officer, one of the few that didn’t mind paperwork and Simmons knew he could be counted on. Simmons didn’t even look at him when Brian stopped next to the desk. He knew the kid was already taking in the situation by his sudden intense gaze at the screen. On screen, a nurse was being supported and led away by two others; her arm was dark red, slashed from elbow to wrist. A shirtless man covered in street tattoos stood in the hallway, pointing and gesticulating wildly. Other nurses and doctors were trying to keep him contained but were obviously out of their depth.
“What’s the situation?” Brian asked as Simmons zoomed into Exam Room 12.
“Patient assaulted one of the nurses. Meth, they suspect. They can’t get him under control. Take Connors and head down and sort it out.” Simmons ordered bluntly, almost as he was tired. Brian knew better. Simmons had been here over a decade and had seen every depraved and crazy disgusting behavior people could get into.
Brian turned and made for the door, adjusting his blue security vest to make sure it was in place correctly. It was heavy, made with Kevlar. Reportedly, it would stop anything short of a high caliber round. Thankfully, even with the rise in mass shootings in the last year, the hospital had not been a target. Stepping into the hallway, he pulled his radio from his belt and keyed it up to channel 4.
“Connors, copy?” he said, his husky voice echoing a bit off of the white tiled floor. It gleamed and as he walked, he could see his own reflection. He side stepped a nurse with a whispered “Excuse me” before continuing towards the elevator. As he stopped before the twin doors of the elevator and hit the down button, his radio squawked back. A welcome voice was on the other end of the transmission. Warm and strong, the voice was that of Elijah Connors.
Brian stepped onto the elevator doors and the slid closed behind him, the car bouncing slightly as he moved into it. He hit the button for ground floor and with a click it flared to life as the car began to drop slowly.
“A 10-56 in the emergency room. Exam Room 12. gently caress head assaulted a nurse. They got her out and have him boxed in but not for long. He’s high on something probably. Meet me there.” He said into the radio before putting it back on his belt clip. Reaching onto his right side, he pulled his pepper spray from its holster, checked the levels and put it back. He wished the hospital would let them have tazers but the board drew a line at that and said it would preset a PR problem.
A PR problem or the difference between us and the staff being a pot full of shite and piss to the face by some hopped up drug addled loser, Brian thought darkly. A moment later, the elevator hit the bottom floor and the elevator doors open onto chaos.
Two doctors, Dr. Wilkes and Dr. King had tried to take charge of the situation. Dr. Wilkes was a tall older man with thinning gray hair and a parrot nose while Dr. King was a feisty woman in her late forties. She took no shite from anyone but even she was cowed. Both of them were trying to talk someone down who was encircled by nurses and orderlies in green and white scrubs. The nurses desk was a cacophony of noises as computers beeped and phones and pagers cried for attention. Brian quickly tried to find someone who wasn’t immediately engaged so he could get a situation report. As he looked he saw Connors come trotting up the hallway.
Connors was a sight to behold and often his mere presence was enough to stop any unruly patient from continuing to act out, though in reality he preferred to resolve conflicts without getting hands on. His nature was a poet, not a fighter, but when he needed to fight, he was certainly more than capable.
He too was six-foot five and his ears easily gave him another three to four inches. Covered in thick but short brown and black fur from the tips of his ears to his feet in his boots, Elijah Connors was a “Were”, short for “werewolf”. Even though such a name implied Universal Studios monsters, people like Connors were no such thing. At least, not quite. His head and face was every bit that of a German Shepherd: A long snout that, when he smiled or opened his mouth to any degree more than speech showed impressive and deadly looking teeth that he kept cleaned to an ivory shine. Normally his smile was warm and welcoming, despite his toothy grin, but Brian had seen it exactly the opposite at least once when a patient had gotten particularly nasty towards a staff member. Connors black nose twitched as the scent of fear and blood hit him and Brian saw him wince. His sense of smell, vision and hearing were reportedly several times that of a normal human as were his strength and speed. His tail lashed behind him, betraying his heightened tension despite his professional stillness.
Connors had large hands, human in shape but covered in the same fur though somewhat thinner with black blunted nails instead of the flat translucent pink nails of a human. His palms and undersides of his fingers had dark skin, similar to the pads of a dog. In the locker room, while changing out, Brian had noticed that his feet were also human in shape, covered in the same fur, but with the black nails and similarly padded bottoms. Brian was very relieved to see him and Connors dipped hs head in acknowledgement as he caught up to his colleague. Connors, was somewhat built better than Brian was; he was known to favor boxing in his free time.
“Glad to see to you. What’s the cluster gently caress today?” Connors asked as Brian pegged a free staffer to question quickly. “Let’s find out. Dr. Jones!” He called as the two officers made their way over to a female doctor who was standing behind the nurses desk, directing the melee as best as she could. Dr. Raven Jones was a petite woman, much younger than her station belied, only a few years older than Brian himself. She had been a medical prodigy and was one of the leading staff doctors who were on call at all times. When she had arrived, most of the seasoned staff dismissed her as a young upstart but she had quickly proven she had not only the wit but the skill to put them in their place, quickly earning their respect.
Her lab coat was stained with blood but it wasn’t hers. Connors shook his head when Brian looked from the blood to Dr. Jones and to Connors. That was a relief. It was handy having Elijah around for more than just his intimidating frame. Dr. Jones herself had medium shaded skin, not quite tanned but not pale either. It was without blemish just as her face was heart shaped and her cool violet eyes were sharp and moved quickly from both men and back to the crowd, making sure she still had a moderate amount of control.
She has Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes, Brian thought, before shaking himself mentally to get back on track. Tossing her long dark chestnut ponytail behind her, she rapidly appraised both himself and Connors.
“God, I’m glad to see both of you. Patient came in about an hour ago. He was complaining about headaches and vomiting. He was burning up but wasn’t running a fever. We suspected it was drugs when his eyes didn’t have a proper pupilary response but when Jenny tried to take his blood for testing he attacked her. He broke off a piece of the bed frame and slashed her arm with it.” Raven’s soft but confident voice belied her British heritage. She had moved to the United States a few years after she got her doctorate. “Jenny is fine. I had one two of the other nurses take her for treatment in 13 and she’s stitched up but she’s definitely put out.”
“Jesus gently caressing Christ,” Brian snarled. He hated a druggie. He looked at Connors. “Let’s get this over with before anyone else gets hurt.” Moving quickly, the two men pushed their way through the crowd of staffers and got their first look at the source of the chaos in the emergency room.
Exam Room 12 was a disaster. The cabinet doors had been yanked cleanly off their hinges and hung limply like dead animals. Their contents were strewn all over the floor. The life support monitors were shattered, spewing sparks and the bed had been shoved against a wall, a tray of tools and diagnostic gear scattered on the ground. There on the white tile, scarlet blood was drying into a sticky puddle. The gash that Jenny had sustained must have been worse than Dr. Jones let on, Brian thought as he and Connors sized up the man in the room.
He was about five foot eight, with pale skin and that tattoos that Brian had seen on the monitor were even clearer now, though he supposed they only made sense to the man himself since most of the imagery was unfamiliar. He did note that the man carried the brand of the 86ers, a notorious street gang affiliated not only with drive by shootings but also being one of the major drug dealing gangs in the city. His hair was patchy, balding in places, and had at one point been a pale blonde. Now, it just looked dead, much like the man’s face. Deep-set blood shot eyes stared out of bruised hollow sockets. His nose was dripping blood but it didn’t appear to be broken. Scarring ran from his biceps to his elbows and puckered scar tissue told the stories of bullets that hadn’t been picky. The man was pacing back and forth wildly, muttering to himself, his shirt discarded on the floor, his black jeans ripped and torn over filthy sneakers who’s laces flopped carelessly. He was shaking uncontrollably and he hadn’t seemed to notice the crowd around him, as if he had forgotten he was even on the planet to begin with.
“Jones? What’s his name?” Connors called over his shoulder as Brian moved in. The entire time, Connors never took his amber eyes off of his partner or the muttering pacing psychopath.
“Don’t know. Couldn’t get any coherent answers out of him.” Brian heard Jones call back.
“Wonderful.” Brian said under his breath as he eased closer. He felt Connors stop next to him and felt the heat the other man gave off. Weres were known to be warmer than base humans and it was a reassuring thing to feel to remind you that you weren’t alone when you were faced with a drug addled maniac.
“Smell anything on him?” Brian asked, having long ago learned to rely on Connors sense of smell. Connors had been an air port security officer a few years back and he had actually undergone drug sniffing training which amused the airport security staff to no end but he had a proven track record. The airport had quickly phased out all of their actual dogs and Connors became one of the highest paid employees before he decided enough was enough and for reason, Elijah would never speak of why.
Moving a few inches closer, Connors stuck out his neck, his black moist nose flaring as he inhaled, careful not to close his eyes, tracking the crazy man like a predator.
“He stinks. gently caress me. He’s not taken a bath in a week…gorram.” Connors huffed, clearing his lungs. “It’s not meth. It’s strong whatever it is. It’s not bath salts either. It’s some kind of stimulant and I’d lay money on that for sure. He probably doesn’t even know what he’s doing.”
“Great. Let’s try to get him out then without hurting anyone. Then the police can have him.” Brian whispered to his partner, gently coming closer as to not alarm the man who’s mind was not within ten miles of the hospital room he was in.
“Jones: Have the police meet us outside. Remind them it’s a 10-56 and to get the lead out of their asses.” Connors called back to Dr. Jones as she moved off to pick up the handset and make the call. “Sir, can you understand me?” Connors asked, holding up a placating open palm, his tail lashing behind him. He forced himself to make it stop, his heart pounding as his ears laid flat back along his skull. He felt the fur on the back of his neck raise up.
The man stopped moving and muttering to himself and look up, casting a sideways glance towards the security officers. Behind them, Dr. Jones motioned everyone to clear away. There was no need to get anyone else hurt. Now it was just Brian and Connors. The man’s eyes caught the light and twinkled with moisture.
He staggered around and stood facing the two officers and his eyes passed over Brian as if he weren’t worth looking at but when he properly saw Connors, his face changed, showing the first expression so far.
It was a dark twisted expression that warped his features as his mouth distended into a scream of panic and absolute fear. For the first time he spoke, his voice trembling and raspy like a smoker.
“No. Not you. Its all you. You did it…you gently caressing cunts did it….all of you. Why did you hurt me so bad?”
Brian and Connors looked at each other and frowned. “Brother, I don’t know what you are talking about. We didn’t do anything to you. We want to help you. Can you calm down and come with us?” Brian implored, using his calm but firm officer voice.
The man’s hands shot up to his thin whispy hair and grabbed it as he violently turned and kicked the bed hard, rattling the metal frame, sending a spider web crack into the masonry behind the wall with a loud crunch.
What the gently caress is he on? Brian wondered. His hand left hand slipped slowly down towards the pepper spray, wishing more than ever the hospital would let him carry tazers. The man turned back on them, ripping out strands of his hair, blood seeping from his scalp.
“YOU LIED TO ME! Gods and monsters….all of you…YOU WANT TO KILL ME! TAKE IT FROM ME!” he screamed, snot and blood hanging from his nose as Brian and Connors stepped into the room less than four feet from the man who was looking less and less sane by the second.
“Listen, man, you need to come with us. We can talk about what ever it is outside. Its fresh out there. We can get you dressed and head out—“ Brian said indicating the man’s discarded shirt among the glass. The officer’s boots crunched on the debris as they both carefully tried to avoid the congealing blood on the floor.
The man’s white skin gleamed with sweat, and for the first time Brian looked directly into the man’s eyes.
They were dilated so large, it was like he had no iris. His sclera was more than blood shot; a blood vessel had actually burst. The man’s blood pressure must be through the roof, Brian thought as the light from the hallway outside caught the man’s eyes and again they twinkled with a hellish sparkle. For a moment, Brian imagined he saw them flash red but then they were back to normal. Sunk deep into the hollows of his bruised purple stained emaciated eye sockets, the man’s gaze wasn’t that of a man but of a wild beast. There was no sanity left and it was in that moment that Brian knew the confrontation wasn’t going to end peacefully. They were going to end up on the floor and it was just a matter of when. He adjusted his weight and stance to better brace for a tackle or a fall, depending on which came first.
“You…” the man whimpered desperately again before his broken voice became a harsh shriek as he pinned Connors with a deadly glare. “It was …you. Like you. You gave us this. YOU AREN”T TAKING IT!”
Brian saw the man’s right hand come out of the shadows and he knew the moment had come. It passed so slowly it seemed as his muscles tensed and his heart rate shot up, his brain exploding on all cylinders. In his right hand, the man held a jagged shank of metal. It looked like a part of the bed rail. How he had torn it from its posts was a shocking mystery that was probably answered in the haze of a drug fueled rage. The tip and leading edge of it were stained red like rust but Brian knew that it was Jenny’s blood. The man’s knuckles on his improvised blade were bone white, his grip was iron and the muscle stood out in his neck and arm as he swung it at Connors face.
Time resumed its normal pace as Connors ducked the deadly blow, stepping into the swing instead of away from, tucking his large frame down and the man’s arm. With a charge forward, Connors threw himself into the man’s chest. With a thud they both slammed into the bed against the far wall, splintering the masonry, sending up a cloud of brick dust and drywall. Brian moved instantly, driving his shoulder roughly into the man’s right arm pit and shoulder joint. He heard it crack audibly with a sickening squelch but the man didn’t seem to feel a thing. Throwing all 260 pounds of his weight into the hold, Brian held the man’s arm extended while the man himself struggled violently beneath Connors, nearly bucking the bigger Were off of him.
“gently caressing hell he’s stronger than I am!” Connors growled, baring his fangs in the strain to keep the man held down in place. Brian managed to grab the man’s wrist of the hand that held the railing and pressed down hard, driving his thumb into the nerves that converged under the palm. In a normal person, that would have forced the hand to open and release but this man felt nothing and his grip remained that of a python on his improvised weapon.
“gorram I can’t get it from him!” Brian yelled as he was nearly thrown loose. Up close, the man smelt of body odor, musky sweat and gun oil. There was something else there too, a sharp chemical scent that burned Brian’s eyes. He was cold, clammy and slippery like a gently caressing fish. Brian felt Connors weight next to him struggling as the man nearly kicked them free again. With a snarl, Connors forced his temper down and arm barred the man across the chest to hold him place with the most leverage, kicking aside the man’s swinging legs, positioning himself to keep him from kicking either one of them.
“Break it if you have to! He’s going to kill us if he gets loose!” Connors roared and a second later Brian felt his partner’s body jump and he heard a sharp exhalation of surprise and pain. Risking a quick glance, Brian saw Connors tense up more than he already was and tears form in his eyes. He swallowed hard.
“Bastard got me in the balls. Break his gently caressing wrist if you can’t get him to respond to nerve pressure. We don’t have a choice!” Connors growled through gritted teeth, panting in agony.
Straining, Brian managed to get the man’s hand in a grip just below his palm and using the leverage of his own body and the thrashing of the man himself, Brian gave a single sharp twist.
The wet meaty snap of breaking bone echoed through the room and the man let out a shrill scream that was like nails on a chalkboard but his hand opened and the jagged bedrail dropped to the floor with a clang, bouncing across the tile and landing well out of reach.
“COCK SUCKERS!!!” The man snarled but the fight had gone out of him somewhat. Not by much but some. Forcing himself to stand up, Connors grabbed the man by the shirt front and with a look to Brian that communicated more than words could have, the two of them managed to haul the man up to a standing position, restraining him arms behind his back, not being particularly gentle with the man’s broken wrist.
Moving as quickly as they could, the two officers penguin walked the man forward, careful to avoid the blood on the floor. He bucked them again and Brian had had enough. Slipping a set of plastic restraints from his belt he slipped them around the man’s messy wrists and pulled them tightly closed. The man yelped in protest but Brian’s adrenaline was too high at the moment to care. The man had injured a nurse, attacked them, hurt his partner and for what? A quick high? Was it worth it? Brian didn’t give a shite at the moment. He was focused on getting his charge out to the parking lot. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw blue lights flashing and knew that help wasn’t far off.
The hospital staff and other doctors had done what they could to restore order and for the most part, they had a clear path to the front entrance. On his way out, Brian saw Dr. Jones on the phone talking to what he presumed was the police. She looked the man between them up and down and saw his wrist sticking out at an odd angle and frowned, looking to Brian for an answer. He could only look at her and shrug apologetically. It wasn’t that he didn’t care; he didn’t care for hurting others but there were times, he had learned that you had to defend yourself and others from crack pots like this. No one had forced the drugs into him. It was his choice. If a person wanted to shoot up every gently caressing day until he died, it was his own business but the moment that hobby began to hurt others was where the line was drawn.
By the time he had finished that thought, Brian noticed that he and Connors had managed to get to the front entrance of the emergency room as the glass sliding doors whooshed out, letting in a rush of hot night air. Through the outer glass walls, he saw two police cruisers swing into the parking lot, their sirens dying as they approached their blue lights staccato lightning in the warm night as they threw crazy shadows.
Stepping out into the night, the men were met by two human uniformed officers, while a third moved past them and went into the hospital to get a statement from Dr. Jones. The next hour seemed to slur in Brian’s mind. His adrenaline rush was wearing off now that they had managed to contain the psycho bastard between them and the next actions were going through the motions. Once the man was secured in a back of a squad car and hauled off into the night, the remaining cops stayed behind and took their statements. For a moment while speaking to the lead cop, Brian glanced over at Connors who had sat down on a bench, his head between his knees, his vest hanging open, panting. He knew his partner was in pain and a few moments later, he heard Elijah vomit into the bushes.
Brian cringed, sympathizing with him and a moment later the cop he was talking to brought him back to giving his statement. Everything seemed to blend together. Sound seemed distant, car horns, more sirens, the occasional shout and the hiss of the sliding doors behind them as people came and went, rubber necking at the two guards and the cops. Everyone liked to stare. Then the cop said something that snapped Brian out of his slow motion world.
“So, who broke his wrist? Was it the mutt or you?”
“I’m sorry what?” Brian asked, shaking his head to clear it, wiping sweat from his brow. The cop looked irritated and impatient. He clearly wasn’t being paid enough, Brian thought darkly. How boring for him.
“I said, which one of you broke the perps wrist? Was it you or the mutt?” the dark haired cop who’s name tag read Ronson asked again, this time with a bit more venom. It took a second for the word’s to register in Brian’s exhausted mind but when they did, they angered him.
“His name is Elijah and he’s one of the best damn officers we have here and no, he didn’t. I did. If I didn’t break it, that wanker would have gutted both us and you can stick that in the report and shove it up your bigoted ass while you’re at.” Brian snarled. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Elijah’s ears perk towards them at the sound of Brian’s raised voice. He knew his partner had heard the cop’s calloused remark. Weres were like any other non-white, non-straight, non-Christian people: many people treated them like shite, especially the ones who were stuck in their canine form. Brian didn’t exactly understand the science behind why they were but they couldn’t shift back to a human form. Most of them could but some, very few, couldn’t. That was why they were called werewolves. They were shape-shifters. Most of the right wingers in the country hated them just as much as they hated anyone else that wasn’t just like them. It annoyed Brian. Stupidity often did.
The cop frowned at him, disgust curling his lip.
“Is that all?” Brian asked eager to get the interview over with. “Sir.” He added condescendingly and pointedly.
“Get out of here. We’re done.” The cop shrugged and put his notepad in his navy uniform pocket and wandered back into the hospital, noticeably resting his hand on the butt of his gun before giving them one last disgusted glance.
Brian looked up in surprise as a motion out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and saw a WAYZ news van pulling up into the lot. He frowned. What were they doing here? Could it be because of what happened? The security staff dealt with this crap all the time, there was nothing special about tonight. Just in case it was, he quickly ducked behind the bushes and found a set on the bench beside Connors. They were hidden by the cop car and thankfully, the news crew went into the ER with their cameras blazing.
For a few moments, it was mercifully silent. Brian looked over at Elijah who still had his head between his knees, his brown and black tail hanging limply behind him. He saw that Elijah was trembling.
“Hey man, you okay?” he asked his partner, putting a hand on his shoulder. Brian could feel Elijah’s body heat radiating out through his uniform and saw the rise and fall of his chest.
Elijah nodded. “Yup. just fine. That wanker got me pretty good though; I’ll probably bruise.”
Brian cringed. “You heal fast, right?”
Elijah nodded, his ears folded flat against his head, his muzzle raising as he looked his friend in the eyes. “Yeah. But all that pain that normally comes with healing hits all at once…its not as good a gift as it sounds. Trust me. I’ll be pissing blood probably in an hour or two before things get back to normal.”
“gently caress.” Was all Brian could say.
Elijah nodded towards the news van. “Wonder why they’re here.”
Brian shrugged. “No idea.”
A few beats of silence blossomed before Brian looked at his watch. “Hey man. Its 3:30 in the morning. We’re in overtime by an hour. Let’s get showered up and get the gently caress home.”
“That’s the first good idea I’ve heard tonight.”
Last edited by ShadowWolf2010 (2018-03-03 22:23:34)
An hour and a half later, both Brian and Connors were in the security officer’s locker and shower room. Brian had showered off the grime from the fight with the druggie and for a while, he thought the smell from him would never come off. He sat on a bench between the rows of grey lockers, the gray concrete cool and smooth beneath his bare feet. In here the walls were white cinderblock and it smelled like soap; it smelled clean but not antiseptic. At the moment, there were only three other men in the locker room, all coming in to take over the early morning shifts. It was quiet, as they had heard what had happened in the emergency room. Usually, nothing was as bad as tonight had been. It was unusual and it had everyone on edge.
Wearing nothing but a white towel around his waist, Brian ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it into place. Before him, he had his gear stuffed into an open duffel bag and reaching in he grabbed his beat up iPhone, turned it on and checked for any messages. There was only one new thread. The gentle green bubble floated on the black of the locked home screen. It was from his mother. It was thirty minutes old. She was asking if he was okay. He sighed and replied yes, he was fine. Someone must have called her and told her.
It was probably Jenny. She was a friend as well, though, truth be told, Brian figured she had a thing for him but she’d never admit it. She, Connors and Brian would often go and have drinks on the weekend.
MOM: Hey, Bri, are you okay? Got a call from Jen. Told me there was an incident.
With a few taps of the screen he sent his reply.
BRIAN: Fine, mom. Just tired. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Need sleep.
As he went to put the phone back in the bag, the phone dinged. A new green bubble appeared.
MOM: Love you, baby.
He smiled in spite of himself and the growing discomfort in his legs and upper body. He had probably strained something. Tomorrow was going to be a hell of a day. His mother had a close bond with him especially after Brian’s father had died. She was also one of the coolest ladies he had ever met. She was a gamer, notorious for being a raider in World of Warcraft who kicked ass and took names later, liked a good mixed drink and was always good to come to for advice. She lived in New York and didn’t get to see her much. She truly was the best 58 year old he knew. Tapping out a final reply, he slid the phone into the bag, sighing.
BRIAN: You too.
Running a hand over his beard, Brian stretched his right arm. He snarled with the sharp pain that ran up his neck. gently caress. .
A shadow fell over him and he looked up as Connors came out of the showers and stood in front of his own locker. Elijah always looked a little different after a shower. His fur was always somewhat fluffy rather than the normal sleek well brushed look he sported most of the time. Apparently, after he showered, he had to shake him self-dry and then towel off the rest. He was moving a bit better by now but he was still stiff in his movements. He too was naked except for a white towel around his waist. Brian could see the tip of his tail peeking out from below the towel’s bottom edge.
“Feeling any better?” he asked his friend, looking up as he pulled his own civilian clothes out, setting them aside.
Something in Elijah’s voice made Brian pause. It wasn’t pain exactly but something was off. Distracted. He knew what it was immediately.
“Listen, that gently caress face pig can go to hell with that mutt bullshit. Don’t pay him any mind.” He said, standing up so he could get dressed. Elijah had opened his own locker and was pulling out his clothes and his own bag to put his uniform in. He looked at Brian and for a moment, the poet and deep thinker that was Elijah Connors was gone and in its place was a face mired by a dark storm. It was unusual and it was so out of place that it took Brian by surprise.
“I hear that kind of shite all the time, Bri. I’m used to it. It’s just…its life, man. That’s all. People aren’t going to change.”
Brian did the only thing he could in moments of an uncomfortable truth. He cracked a joke. It was a habit many thought was annoying but endearing at the same time, especially when he broke out the puns. It was his way of dealing with the hateful truths, Brian thought to himself.
“So, I’m guessing your plans for this weekend include a trip to Aurora to see Ellie? If you’re limping afterward I know it won’t be because some drugged up crazie.”
Connors cracked a smile, the first one in hours. “Heh. Not like this I’m not.”
Without preamble he dropped the white towel away and stood naked before Brian. Connors had no qualms or reservations about changing in the locker rooms. The first time it happened he shut everyone down saying that life was too short and mean to worry about tiny bullshit things like modesty. Looking down, Brian saw that Connors entire lower groin area just above his hanging penis was swollen and looked painfully tender. Even though the fur was black in his pubic region, Brian could still see a deep bruise that was already turning greenish yellow, bright enough to show up through the thick fur. It was healing fast but that explained the limp he had seen when Connors came out of the shower. All the pain of injury healing compressed into small windows of time.
“gently caress that shite, sir, right up the tail pipe with a broom. That wanker nailed you….are you sure you are okay?” he said, looking back up to Connors face.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Just going to be painful moving for a little while. By tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be back to normal.” Connors replied, pulling on his underwear, a pair of black boxer briefs. The waist band came to a stop just below his tail. “What are you plans this weekend?” he asked Brian as he pulled on his jeans and a shirt.
Brian similarly dropped his towel, his own brown pubic hair flashing briefly, before he pulled on a snug pair of white trunks. They hugged his bottom and kept everything properly in place. Quickly he pulled on the rest of his clothes, a white t-shirt and his favorite pair of worn jeans. Tightening his belt he looked back to Connors.
“Nothing really. I may see if I can get some writing done. I’ve had writer’s block for a gorram week now. Couldn’t piss out a word if I had to.” He replied realizing too late what he had said. Connors just raised an eyebrow and Brian shrugged an apology. Brian was working on a collection of state folklore in his spare time. One of his interests, much to the amusement of his co-workers, was his fascination with spooky things. Connors smiled sympathetically. “Understand that. Still jealous of how you can write prose. I suck at it.”
“And I suck at gently caressing poetry. Among other things. “ Brian shot back.
Connors face seemed to flush red but Brian couldn’t tell but he did burst out with a snort of genuinely warm laughter.
“I wouldn’t know. Get your damn shoes on and let’s get our asses outta here. By the way did you ever find out what the hell the news van was doing here? Heard a guy in the stalls talking to Jefferies but not sure if it was true.” Connors asked, shutting his locker and tying his shoes, zipping his duffel back as he stood.
“Nah. I didn’t hear anything,” Brian said, lacing his boots up and zipping his bag, shouldering it. He reached into his locker and pulled out a dark blue hoodie. “What did you hear?”
Connors shrugged as he moved to head towards the exit.
“Heard that the guy we cuffed and dragged out was a major drug dealer with the 86ers. Cops have been after him for months but he just happened to get gently caressed up and land here with us.”
“No shite?” Brian asked, turning to walk with his friend. He noticed Connors ears were perked up again and he was glad his friend was feeling better.
“Yeah man. We busted a drug dealer. Bet you don’t feel bad now about breaking that wanker’s wrist.” Connors ribbed him as they pushed open the doors and headed down hallway, taking two left turns before coming out next to the same emergency room exit they had hauled the drug dealer out of. Stepping through the sliding glass doors and out into the hot night air, Brian thought a moment and replied.
“Nah. Not one gently caressing bit.”
Overhead, clouds illuminated by the city’s glow seemed angry, swollen and dangerous. In the distance, thunder grumbled and Brian saw the flicker of lightning. The rapidly cooling breeze drafted the scent of ozone to them as the trees began to pick up.
“Looks like a storm is coming. You want a ride back to your apartment?” Connors asked, digging out his car keys.
Brian waved him off. “Nah, I don’t mind walking. Its not that far and I need to clear my head. If I start to sit down my muscles are going to get stiff from that fight. Going to be sore as hell as it is and not all of us heal so fast.”
Connors shook his head. “You sure?”
Brian insisted. “Yeah. Its only four blocks. I’ll be fine. You go home and get some rest before your balls decide to revolt.”
Still not convinced but letting it go, Connors nodded. “Alright, Spooky. I’ll see you Friday then.”
Brian waved him off playfully but thankful none the less. “You got it. You get a whole day off before coming back. Enjoy it. I’ll be here.”
With that, Connors turned and left. Brian watched to make sure he made it to his car. Always have a partner’s back. A few moments later, in the darkness, an engine roared and headlights flared. Brian saw Connors blue Mustang come to life and a few seconds later, the car backed out and pulled away into the night, its red tail lights fading into the shadows. Sighing, Brian felt the first drops of rain fall. Cursing, he threw on his hoodie and brought the hood up just in time as the skies opened. Shouldering his bag he began to jog towards home and soon, he left the hospital parking lot behind.
The rain had began to cascade in earnest by the time he had gone two blocks and by three blocks, the shining lights of the medical campus had faded away along with the well lit streets and sidewalks of the busy downtown area and now he was into the true heart of Dawson City. Like all cities, he thought as he walked, the rain pelting him, Dawson City had a skin. That skin was the façade the city’s mayor and aldermen wanted the public to see, towers of shining glass and steel, bustling with hopes, dreams and promises, an ideal place where all the deals were above board and everyone stood a chance, a welcoming warm place to call home. But under that, beneath the skin, Brian knew very well that the blood and gristle was much more rotten. Dawson City had a large population of Weres (that word always tripped him up writing it, he thought. He had to pronounce it to himself when he did: Were, like the ware in warehouse) and often times that population clashed with the strong right wing element in the city and the government of the city.
With the country in turmoil thanks to an extremely controversial presidential election and a Congress dead set it seemed upon tearing apart any progress that had been made in the last twenty-years, the issue of civil rights was rearing its ugly head again with a fury unseen since Martin Luther King Jr. had marched in Selma. Brian never thought he would live in a country that seemed to be tearing itself apart on issues to him that were a no brainer. When not working, his writing gave Brian an escape, a way to channel his frustration. Lost in thought, he jumped over a large puddle that had formed as the rain continued to pour. It was like someone upstairs had turned on a water facet and was trying to drown the city. The streets had rivers of muddy looking water cascading down them, white rapids that rushed into already over flowing gutters. As he walked, his thoughts turned to Elijah.
He had known Elijah Connors for about two years, having met him when Brian first moved to Dawson City. They were close in age and Brian had never met a Were in person before. Having gotten to know Elijah, Brian knew the man was a walking mask of contrasts. He enjoyed poetry, a good laugh, a cold beer and a solid game of hockey. Elijah was also deeply in love with his girlfriend, Ellie Mason, a shifting Were from Aurora, about thirty miles from Dawson City. She was a manager at a local restaurant there and Brian had met her once. She was stunningly beautiful, both in her human form and her canine form; her human form had warm milky skin, freckles and her red hair hung down to her ass like a wave made of living flame. In her canine form her smooth skin turned into amber fur and her hair became more vibrant and shone like the cast feathers of a phoenix. Her blue eyes had sparkled regardless of which form she was in when she laughed and she and Elijah made a great couple, and they truly seemed happy together.
Thinking about Elijah made him remember how much the turmoil surrounding whether or not Weres were entitled to the same rights as baseline humans came back and the damn cop that spouted off that slur at Elijah like it was nothing. Weres were just people, trying to live. Most of them held jobs, went to schools, supported their communities, hell, most of them didn’t want to be in the spotlight. Of course, there were criminals but that didn’t mean all Weres were responsible for the actions of a small group. If that were true, then all humans were responsible for those Nazi skinheads who had a march down on 8th Avenue last year, nearly causing a riot.
Elijah never talked much about it but Brian knew that Elijah and Ellie couldn’t get married. They had no visitation rights to each other in the hospitals. Some politicians were even calling for banning Weres from jobs like food service and medicine due to “public concern.”
Brian looked up as he passed a large plate glass window that made up the front of a brownstone building. A single wooden door with bars across it (a night time precaution) stood silent like a sentinel and the sign above the storefront, normally blazing gold was dimmed. It was a local bar called Ero’s that Brian enjoyed frequenting on his days off. Not that Brian was a drunk but he enjoyed the atmosphere which was mostly a well behaved if somewhat rowdy crowd of Weres and Were-friendly humans. It made writing easier. It was his, Elijah’s and Jenny’s favorite hangout on weekends when they had time off together. The owner, Ero’s, was a Were himself, a large hulking gray furred wolf. He had long black hair that he kept tied back in a neat pony tail and he always showed up in a black waist coat, white shirt with perfectly pressed sleeves and gold cufflinks, black dress trousers and a black apron. He personally tended the bar and saw to it that the peace was kept. He also had mesmerizing gold eyes that seemed to glimmer in the shadows. Ero’s had taken a liking to Brian after Brian had helped Eros set up a social media presence, greatly expanding the customer numbers and had him pegged so well, that Eros knew what Brian would have to drink before Brian himself ever asked.
It was when Eros opened his mouth to speak that most people were caught off guard by him. He, like Dr. Jones, was British, and his voice was rich, polished and very cultured. With how he was built most people expected a bar tender stereotype. Instead, when you talked to him, you were regaled with always entertaining stories that seemed to go back years. Exactly how many years, Eros was always coy to not answer, giving him an air of mystery. As he walked past the darkened bar, Brian smiled. At least there were some good things in this shite hole passing for a city. Moving on, a little faster now to get out of the rain, Brian tried to stick to the side of the sidewalk whose storefront’s had awnings. His upper lip curled a bit in disgust as he side stepped a puddle with a dead rat floating in it like a gruesome fishing lure. As he passed Rick’s Electronics, he glanced through the bullet proof and barred glass at the televisions inside. The owner kept them going all the time and usually there were people standing around them catching the news or sports scores they didn’t have time to catch otherwise. Tonight, he thought as a car rushed by, one of the few, its wipers going flick-flick-flick, spraying water into the air, there was no one and who else would be out on this god forsaken night. Well, morning now, Brian corrected himself. It was going on six in the morning.
He slowed as he approached the storefront, the glowing light of the screens casting a blue aura onto the sidewalk. The sound was on but muffled through the glass although still audible and on the screen a CNN news report was flaring to life. A brown haired smartly dressed late night news anchor sat behind a glass and steel desk as a video clip popped up behind her. "....And this was the scene just an hour ago in downtown Washington, DC, as members of Lupine Freedom opened fire with assault weapons and Molotov cocktails on a early morning meeting being held at the Library of Congress by expert members of the Regulation Panel, which is currently filing a motion for the passage of the controversial Lycanthropic Registration Bill…"
The camera switched from the news anchor at her desk with the fake New York skyline backdrop, to footage that would have seemed normal if it came from a war-zone.
Brian was shocked at the sheer amount of carnage that was filmed by the cameras as the terrorists mounted the large sweeping stairs leading up to the entrance of the marble building, as flames and fireballs exploded, blackening the columns that graced the front of the Library. Screams of panic pierced the night from the footage as gunfire exploded.
The report continued as the woman, unseen, narrated the violence: "... This bill, if ratified, would mean every lycanthrope that is a shifter or a full generation would have to register with DNA sampling, with the U.S. government and be entered into a database for potential offenders, regardless of criminal history. Already the tensions are high between supporters and opponents of the bill, which some say, is tantamount to the eugenics policies of the Nazi party in World War 2 as well as an invasion of privacy. Supporters argue that lycanthropes are a clear and present danger to anyone in their vicinity, stating that those who can shape shift post security problems, while some who oppose the bill claim that there is scientific evidence that lycanthropes are human, despite their unusual biology, and thus are to be granted clear and equal protection under the law the same as their fellow man..”
The shot switched back to the news anchor, her face deadly serious and her eyes dark as she went on. “The terrorists, some of which were full generation lycanthropes, were arrested. Others were shifters and were able to get closer to the Library unnoticed until the attack was launched. There was a casualty from the Library's occupants as James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was killed by a single blow to the head by this lycanthrope, pictured here, as Mr. Billington stood definitely against the oncoming wave,” the reporter stopped talking and the report cut to video of the killer.
The killer was a dark furred lycanthrope, standing nearly seven feet high; his body was well muscled and covered in a dark blue black fur that was sleek and short, like an otters. His face was that of a wolf, wild and savage, with a long muzzle lined with razor sharp fangs. There was no nobility in his face, rather, only endless rage. One of his ears had been torn off, and blood covered the side of his head; he did not seem to notice. His eyes blazed yellow red, hot coals in the abyss that was his face.
His only clothing was a ballistics vest and a pair of tattered tactical pants. Brian noticed his thickly muscled arms could have easily snapped steel. He had been contained with a special set of binders that completely enclosed his wrists and hands, sealing his fists in steel. The lycanthrope had no way to escape, but still fought savagely against the chains that bound him to the flat bed SWAT truck that he had been detained in. His blazing yellow eyes were wild with fury and his voice rang out across the parking lot, screaming at the top of his lungs.
"SUPERORITY! WE WILL WIPE YOUR SPECIES OUT FROM THIS PLANET! YOU WILL NOT SIT SAFE IN YOUR OFFICES AND DECIDE OUR FATES! YOU ARE NOT SAFE! NONE OF YOU!"
At this, the news report switched back to the brown haired reporter who gravely continued.
“...This lycanthrope has been identified as John Carrey, fittingly known in police records under his street name of Brutus. Carrey has a long criminal history of assault and battery, theft and several murders have been laid at his feet though evidence is sparing. He is wanted in several states and it is unknown at this time whether or not the prosecutors will seek the death penalty, but if convicted of aiding in tonight's brutal attack and of the crimes of which he is accused, the law may seek the Madison Treatment for Carrey rather than the death penalty...."
Brian just shook his head. He didn’t know what else to do. The world was losing its mind. The Madison Treatment was a medical procedure developed by Madison Genetics. It was a special type of lobotomy designed for a Were’s unique self healing biology that once administered, prevented them from healing the brain tissue and thus left them in a nearly catatonic state since, at least, according to stories he had heard, killing a Were was very hard, if not impossible. As far as Brian knew, the treatment was developed and reserved for those Were’s who were as Republicans put it, a “clear and present danger to society by proving themselves such as a threat as to warrant extreme measures within the humane limits of the Constitution.”
Madison Genetics, Brian thought as he turned a corner on the final block before his apartment complex (and grateful because his hoodie was starting to soak through), had been one of the companies to help crack the chromosomal coding during the Human Genome project in 1990 before it was finally decoded it in 2003. Up until 2005, no one could seem to understand shifter biology but in 2005, Harvey Madison, owner and founder of Madison Genetics, a powerful and supremely skilled geneticist began work on the Lycanthropic Genome Project, a sister to the original Human Genome project and by 2018, they had managed to understand quite a bit. Most of it was far too complex for Brian to follow but he had a reasonable understanding of science and –
A car rushed by him at break neck speed, driving far too fast for the rain slicked streets. It threw a tidal wave of water into the air and before Brian could get clear, the water hit him like a fire hose, completely soaking him. Cursing loudly, he stuck up his middle finger and shouted at the driver fruitless as the tail lights vanished into the night.
“gently caress YOU!”
Growling to himself, he was about to turn back to his journey home when he saw something that stopped him cold in his tracks. As the glare of the car's headlights dimmed and passed away, the streets were dark again, except for the pale light cast by the dim streetlamps that barely worked. In their yellow glow, he saw that four men had assembled in the opposite ally from the street he was on. Though he could not see them clear enough to make out exact details, he could see that they were clearly not the kind of person you wanted to be around in a dark city in the rain alone. They were dressed in baggy clothes, ragged shirts and torn jackets. They stared at him, unblinkingly, and Brian got the distinct impression he was being hunted.
Like a lamb to the slaughter.
Lightning flashed brightly and he made out the tattoos on one of the bigger men’s exposed arms.
The twisting snake and pentagram of the 86ers stood out in bold black relief as did the scar that split the man’s face from above his right eye to under his left cheek bone.
Brian did not meet their gaze but rather took off at a brisk walk, leaving the electronics store behind, trying not to show his unease as the four men left the ally and fell into step behind him. Tightening his grip on his pack, Brian moved quickly, feeling the rain sting him, burying itself into his hair through his hoodie, down to his shirt, like a million wet damp cold nettles. Behind him, he heard the footsteps of the heavier brawler he had spotted with the tattoo increase with his own.
One of them called out, his voice riding the thunder, "Hey, buddy, we need to talk to you!"
This was not good.
Another car passed by him, slinging mud and dirty water into the air, the headlights blindingly bright. Brian took the opportunity to duck into an alley hopefully losing his pursuers long enough in the glare so that he could find a different way home.
He was no coward, but four against one was not exactly fair odds, especially with his muscles already tired from both the walk and the fight earlier with the druggie. The alley was littered with trash, refuse and the waste of lives day in and day out, complimented with overturned trashcans. A rotting metal rusted dumpster filled to capacity sat at one end and a fire escape crawled up the side the empty building on the right but it was too far out of reach. A rat squeaked and bolted across the asphalt, vanishing into a wall. The only streetlight in this alley was blown and it was like entering a velvet darkness that was wet with the Earth's grimy tears.
His heart sank quickly as he realized his mistake and his mistake was going to cost him dearly he understood immediately.
The ally was a dead end.
A fifteen-foot high wooden fence blockaded the far end.
Not good, Brian thought, seeing no way out of the alley. Brick walls surrounded him on either side and again he cast a longing look at the fire escape ladder. It was too high for him even if he jumped. There were no windows on the sides of the buildings facing the alleyway and all the doors bore heavy locks.
“gently caress..." he cursed, turning around to see that the four men had blocked off the entrance to the alley.
Now that they were closer, he could see them better. The shortest was a man probably in his thirties with grizzled hair and a filthy jacket with no shirt on beneath it. His eyes were dark and beady, shifty, like a rodent. The other two, with their completely shaved heads, were clearly tee-teetotalers on bar night judging from the size of their beer guts and biker's jackets. Each of them wore sharpened metal spikes on their closed fists; iron knuckles.
The last man, the man with the tattoo, was the tall one; he was probably the worst out of the four as the other three had the air of lackeys, of toadies.
This man was death itself. He had the atmosphere about him of a coiled snake, ready to strike. His eyes were a bright, clear ice blue and they possessed a horrid sick sheen to them. He was dressed as the others, in baggy clothing, with leather jackets. Nothing to restrict his movement but plenty of space to conceal many illicit sins. His boots were riding boots, and they announced his slow deliberate arrival with controlled and precise clicks as their metal sole tips clinked on the asphalt. His bald head shone in the lightning flashes, slick with rain. Even his head was covered in tattoos, Brian noted. He didn’t seem to care about the storm.
“We just wanted to talk to you." he said, his voice as oily and slick as the rest of him. Brian's skin crawled.
“I don’t carry cash and all you’re gonna get otherwise is a beat up phone and dirty clothes.” Brian snarled them, trying to keep his unease at bay. Yelling at them was stupid, he knew but this situation was not going well at all. He dropped his grip on his bag, letting it hang from his shoulders while his arms fell to his sides, loose and ready to move. They wouldn’t take him without a fight at least.
“I don’t care what you do or don’t have. I don’t want your gently caressing your gently caressing phone, pig.” He spat the last word with disgust. “You see, someone told me a few hours ago, that you work at the hospital as a security guard and that during the course of your employment, you managed to not only injure one of my best dealers but you also managed to get him arrested. Congratulations.” He stepped forward, the rain running off him in sheets as the muscles in his arms flexed. “Meet my associates. They’d like to discuss this business matter with you as well. ”
The tall man indicated the shorter man to his right who grinned dementedly, and he pointed with a sweep of his long bony fingered hands to the bulkier two men to his left, who both flexed their own fingers threateningly, their spike-knuckles glinting in the occasional lightning flash.
Thunder roared angrily.
"Pleasure. Really.” Brian said,, backing up slowly, trying to find a way out of this before he ended up on the news tomorrow himself. He wondered how the hell the 86ers had found out about the dealer. That had been only a few hours ago. The local news hadn’t ran yet. The only way it possibly could have spread to the gang this fast is if the…
White hot anger shot through him followed by a cold realization. It was the cop, the asshole who had ragged on Connors. The cop was on the payroll of the 86ers. That was the only answer. He was the one who had taken both Elijah and Brian’s information. All of it. There were rumors of police working with alt-right gangs and skinheads for drug money. There was an investigation a year ago into potential ties to the drug gangs but of course, nothing had turned up. The police protected their own.
"Oh no, the pleasure is all mine. I’d like to cut to the chase if you don’t mind. I’m a busy man. I have lots to do, so… " the tall man with the tattoo said, his voice dripping with venom, reaching into his right breast pocket of his jacket. Brian couldn't see the object clearly at first but a second later, the sound told him all he needed to know.
A gleam in the darkness, the sheen of sharpened steel and an eight inch switch blade appeared in the man’s hand. He looked at knife like a lover and then to Brian.
The man began advancing forward a few feet, switching the knife to his right hand into a reverse grip, the blade turning from a vertical shaft of death into a horizontal razor. The others with him dropped into predatory stances, blocking any chance of escape through the alleyway. If they had guns, they weren’t intending to make this fast.
Brian did the only thing he could think to do and he bolted for the fence. Perhaps if he used the dumpster as a vaulting point, he could leap over it, never mind that the fall to the other side of the fence would most likely do some serious damage, but it was a risk that he was willing to take rather than be butchered by these mugger wannabes.
“KILL HIM!" The tattooed man yelled, and like attack dogs, the other three leaped forward, moving faster than their bulk and stature would belie.
Brian reached the dumpster, placed his foot in the wide open slot where the trash truck's fork would normally slide into and boosted himself up and reached wildly for the fence top. His left hand fingers grasped the wood, feeling the wetness of the ledge, while his right hand buried itself in the slop and muck that was the garbage that lined the dumpster’s filthy rim.
For a moment, he gripped it and threw his weight into hauling himself up. He was no slouch at pull-ups.
A violent fork of lightning split the sky, throwing crazy shadows all over the alley and the thunderclap that screamed afterward vibrated Brian’s bones.
He felt the sudden harsh grip on the back of his jacket, felt the stinging stabbing of iron knuckles and a second later, he fell through space, before slamming into the ground, the wet asphalt rushing up to kiss him in the face. His pack went skittering into the dark corner of the ally. The wind was driven from him from the force of the impact and he felt warm blood cascade down his stomach and chest where his shirt had come up, the asphalt scraping his skin raw. The city always took its pound of flesh and hair.
"Hold him!" Brian heard the leader snarl.
Two stocky shorter men wasted no time in grabbing Brian by the hair of his head, gut punching him, driving the spikes home, and with a single fluid motion slung him into the front of the dumpster hard enough to shake it with a resounding thud of flesh hitting metal.
The sharp agonizing nerve burning explosion of pain in his lower back as the edge of the dumpster caught his spine made Brian double over.
Gasping for air, Brian struggled as much as he could, his upper arms held fast in the crushing grip of the two men on opposite sides of him. Brian’s feet were still free and he made liberal use of them, trying to twist up either man’s feet, but they were having none of it, easily maneuvering away from his weak attempts. The third heavier man was suddenly there, in front of Brian and solidly drove a booted foot violently into Brian's groin, instantly subduing him.
Instant nausea exploded and he desperately fought the urge to throw up as a lead weight dropped into his gut, and for a moment he saw stars, and sagged against his captors, unable to scream, unable to cry out in the sheer shocking agony of the pain he now felt in his balls and stomach. For a moment, he thought about Conners and knew that Elijah was likely getting a similar visit. It enraged him.
He let his head hang limp, matted with water and dirt was the rain continued to pour, seemingly unable to fight anymore.
The tattooed man laughed, as if he found the situation amusing. He walked slowly, like a big cat over to his prey, the blade in his right hand glinting in the thunder claps that had begun with sparks of lightning a few moments ago; the storm was intensifying rapidly. He stopped in front of Brian, and upon reaching his victim, Brian’s assailant simply stood. The tattooed man motioned for the third big man to get out of his way and keep an eye out, which the other man did wisely without a word.
The tattooed man came closer to Brian and Brian chose that moment to slam his head forward, smashing his hard skull into his attacker’s face as hard as he could. It earned him a second set of gut punches but the tattooed man went reeling back, if only for a moment. When he came back, he took a few moments to take a few deep breaths, his tattoos glistening in the night rain.
The tattooed man wiped his mouth and the back of his right hand with the knife came away bloody. He grinned alarmingly. Taking the knife to his own forearm, he slashed roughly downward drawing a vicious red line that oozed blood instantly.
“You’ll have to do better than that, pig. I like pain.” He said, his split lower lip cracking further as the flesh peeled away from the open wound on his lip like rubber glove being pulled away.
Stepping forward again, this time face to face with Brian the man grabbed the front of Brian’s short hair and slammed his head backward two times in quick succession. Brian felt pain explode in his head as his vision blurred not even hearing the echo of his skull on metal and the last of the fight was knocked out of him fairly quickly. He knew fights; he knew that fights in real life weren’t like the movies where characters danced around like martial artists on stage. In real life, fights were brutal, short and quick. The filthy street swam in his vision as the tattooed man stuck out his left hand after letting Brian’s head drop and used his index finger to lift Brian's head up, to make Brian face him. He lowered himself to face Brian, eye to eye. His cold blue orbs stared into Brian's dazed eyes. The man’s voice was like poisoned silk, low and conspiratorial, as if he was giving Brian the winning lotto numbers.
“You know, you could have made this much easier on yourself. You do not know the countless people who I have gutted for fighting back or trying to run. I would have made it easy. A blade through your ear into your brain, quick and painless. But now? I think I’m going to take my time, pig.”
Brian tried to scowl and finally, worked up the best he could do.
He spit in the man’s face.
Tattoos, as Brian came to know him in the last few minutes, did not cry out in shock, but launched a powerful sideways blow with his left hand that sent Brian's head clanging off the back of the dumpster again. Brian’s vision went crossways and threatened to go completely black. Brian tasted the wet coppery taste of blood gush in his mouth. He spat it out onto the ground, glaring at Tattoos.
"You'll pay for that one, pig" Tattoos snarled, raising his right hand with the blade in it, the gleaming steel razor edge flaring in the lighting that flashed.
As he cocked his arm for the blow that would surely decapitate Brian, lightning flashed again and Brian caught a glance at the men who were holding him, he saw their faces drain of any color, turning a sick shade of white. Tattoos noticed at the same time as Brian did. “What the hell is wrong you?" Tattoos barked at them before he saw the true fear in the eyes of his men and suddenly he realized they were looking behind him...and up...
Keeping the knife at Brian's throat, he turned and looked up, following the looks of stunned looks of terror on his men's faces.
"Jesus Christ..." Tattoos felt the words fall from his mouth as his eyes took in what he was seeing, his face going ashen and eyes dilating in shock.
There, perched upon the roof's edge of the building that made up the right wall of the alley was a figure, a two-legged figure. It was well over six feet high, powerfully muscled and covered in fur, Skinner realized.
Covered in gray otter sleek fur, fur that was soaked in rain.
Its form was human, two legs and two arms with human-like hands, five fingered with an opposable thumb, just like a humans; the feet were flat like a humans, with the toes and fingers ending in blunt black claws. It was dressed in torn jeans that ended at the knee, with rags of jean material reaching its furry ankles.
It had a long tail that was bushy. It curled like a snake, lashing in the storm. Its upper body was shirtless, and like the rest of him, was covered in dark gray fur.
... The head he saw was not human at all...but rather....
Its ears were long and pointed, ragged and its muzzle, once graceful, was long and covered in four scars, slashed down sideways, as if it had been clawed. The nose was black like a dogs and the mouth was lined with fangs that made a steak knife look tame.
The eyes were fixed on Tattoos and Tattoos felt his blood threaten to turn to slush. They were glowing with an odd light of their own, an amber yellow glow against the black empty holes that seemed to be its eye sockets. Tattoos felt his heart begin to pound in the rising panic that matched the bile rising in his throat. This was not supposed to happen. This wasn’t part of the plan.
With the next lightning flash, Brian was able to focus his eyes enough to look up and see what held his captors attention and he saw what they did, he felt a shiver run down his back.
A Full Generation Lycanthrope stood looking down upon the melee beneath him, a vengeful demon in the darkness.
Brian felt his brain disconnect as he tried to process what he was seeing.
With a roar like a lion's the lycanthrope leaped down, dropping down three stories to the pavement below, landing in a crouch. From his new position, Brian saw the yellow eyes flick up to Tattoos and then the lycanthrope spoke, his voice was raspy, dark and quiet; it had a gruff quality to it, as if from disuse, and it was deep. Not James Earl Jones deep, no, but more like Kevin Bacon.
“Don’t you have anything better to be doing tonight, like hitting up the roach motels on Fifth? Leave him alone…Now."
Last edited by ShadowWolf2010 (2018-03-03 22:36:40)
It was not a request.
Tattoos, now caught between the Lycanthrope and his own prey, made a snap decision. Whatever this creature wanted, it sure as hell wasn't going to kill him and it sure was hell wasn’t going to stop him. Or scare him.
A memory tugged at his subconscious as he stared at the man-creature, something familiar. Then the memory he was looking for flashed through Tattoo’s mind. His gang had told him stories of a lone Were that liked to fight. That he hung out in the worst parts of the city, leaving broken criminal bodies and right wing nut jobs in his wake, like some goddamned super hero. The rumor said the Were was crazy, like the harder the fight, the more he enjoyed it.
"Mind your business, fur-ball. I've heard of you on the streets, trying to save people, be some kinda hero. This has nothing to do with your flea-ridden kind. This is 86ers business but if you want in, I’ll be happy to skin you too.”
The Were simply blinked, the yellow eyes dimming momentarily as he did it, silently focusing on Tattoos. Tattoos didn’t know it but the Were had been following him for days now. The scumbag had robbed countless, left more than a few bodies in the dark alleys of the city. Oh yes. The Were was familiar with the 86ers. gently caressing drug dealing trash. The gang also had Neo-Nazi and skinhead connections.
" Apparently you guys don't speak English. I said, leave the man alone." The Were said again, rising slowly from his crouch.
Seeing that they were not going to be torn limb from limb immediately, the two men who were holding him let go of Brian and backed into positions next to the dumpster, sliding their hands into their jackets. The third man stepped up next to his leader and Brian tried to move but Tattoos stood his ground and moved the blade, nearly sending it through his throat. The steel tried to bite into Brian’s flesh.
"This one is mine," Tattoos said to his men, turning his back on the Were, forcing Brian's head up with the blade of his knife, exposing his neck.
"Kill Fido." Tattoos said dismissively.
"Kill a lousy Were? With pleasure." The thickest thug of the four snarled, apparently having grown his bravado back. He reached around to his belt and drew his own knife; The one on Brian’s left did the same and the third man pulled a small pistol from inside his jacket, sliding a round into the chamber as he racked the slide back, the ratcheting sound loud in the alleyway with all the cold heartlessness that death dealing steel seemed to possess.
The Were shifted on his ankles, his broad back muscles tensing. He knew how this was going to go down before his conscious mind made sense of it because it was already happening and he braced himself.
The gun shot was painfully loud, and even the thunder above did not swallow it entirely. The muzzle flash was like a second sun. The round slammed into the Were's right shoulder even as he tried to dodge it, throwing blood and tissue out, causing the Were to stumble backward with the inertia of the bullet; the Were made only a raspy grunt of pain. The searing hot lead cooked the meat it had buried itself in. There was no time for pain, no time to acknowledge it, only motion, action and reaction. Adrenaline surged though his body.
With an animalistic roar of his own, the stocky third man charged, bringing his blade to bear as he dove forward, seizing his chance to gut the wounded Were.
With a move so fluid it seemed impossible, the Were rolled to the right, coming up on his knees, directly in the path of the razor knife of the other knife wielder. In a split second the blade would slice into the Were's jugular and he would bleed out in the alley before he could heal up.
That split second never came.
Even as he was rolling, the Were's powerful arm and left hand shot out, fingers open; the sound of flesh striking flesh, assaulted his sensitive ears, the thick wet sound was swallowed in the lightning burst from the storm above. The Were had flat palmed the man in the solar plexus, driving him backward.
The man went back, started to fall on his ass to crash to the pavement behind him but the Were's right hand came up and caught the falling man's right flailing wrist, stopped him and simply twisted, breaking it with the sickening meaty moist sound of cracking bone into an open compound fracture, blood and bone spitting into the night in a red spray, pulling the man to back towards himself with enough force to nearly rip the gang member’s arm out of his socket.
The injured man screamed, a sharp shrill sound and the blade fell to the asphalt clattering out of sight and that was the last thing the man ever saw as the Were brought his knee up into his face, cracking his skull and snuffing out his life like a lit match in the wind, his limp body dropping like a sack of potatoes to the wet grimy ground. Glancing quickly, the Were looked for the other man with the knife and didn’t see him but he did see the glint of a gun barrel.
The gunman lined up a new shot and fired; the gun sputtered pitifully; it had water logged in the rain.
"gorram it!" he cursed, and dove down next to the dumpster to un-jam his weapon, ducking like a scared dog. The Were dropped to all fours and moved towards him his tail lashing in the rain.
Sliding in like a whip snake, the other knife wielder came out of the shadows and tried to slice the Were's Achilles tendon. The Were was too fast, jumping out of the way, bounding up into the air and backward, using his own momentum and shoving off of the alley wall to twist as he flew over the man who would have sliced into him, rolling over his attacker’s bent back. The Were’s right hand shot out, grabbing the stocky man by the back of his vest, rolling back around to the left and up to his feet, hurling the hood face first into the brick wall with an ear splitting thud, sending spider-web cracks through the brick face, shaking dust loose from the mortar.
The knife wielder sank to the ground and moved no more. The gunman still cowered next to the dumpster, too scared to make a move. The Were sniffed once. The cowering man had pissed in his pants.
With a roar of anger, Tattoos hauled Brian away from the dumpster and held him, struggling, the blade against his throat. “You want to save this meat-sack, eh, fleabag? Too bad. I always get my man.”
Before the Were could cover the distance to him, Tattoos turned Brian around to face him.
“NO!” the Were barked and dove towards Tattoos.
Tattoos drove the blade of his knife deep into Brian's abdomen, twisting it.
Brian felt a scream rip from his throat, a scream that never came and the only evidence of its existence was a shocked gasp as the knife pierced him and a terrible fire begin to spread through him, as much as the red blood that gushed from the wound, spilling onto the pavement. His whole body went rigid as Tattoos dragged the knife up through his bowels and finally, yanked the blade clear and tossed Brian away as if he were yesterday's trash.
The world tilted wildly and gravity snared Brian, dragging him crashing to the ground, next to his crumpled duffle bag. He felt the pain but his stunned brain could not process it.
Brian felt his awareness slow down as the pain overwhelmed him, his hands went to the gash in his stomach, the shirt ripped where the knife went through, blood soaking his hands, making them slippery and wet even as he tried to staunch the flow of his life force. He lay where he fell, too weak to move, trying to stay awake even as the pain and the strange heavy feeling in his eyes wanted him to go to sleep. The pain was fading and he felt tired. Too tired to want to get up. Sleep. He needed sleep.
He heard muffled scuffling and saw twisted distorted shapes as his consciousness fled his body.
Was this dying?
Yes...it must be...
The Were crossed the distance between himself and Tattoos in two seconds, two seconds too slowly, swinging a wild right hook that sent Tattoos careening into the dumpster before the man could even turn around to face him with an almighty clash. Brian didn’t see what happened next but a dark object fell to the ground next to him, shaking the ground but he could barely feel it. He forced his eyes open as his vision failed him to see the lifeless body of Tattoos had landed next to him, his neck twisted at an odd angle, with the gangsters cold eyes starting wide open into his own.
The thug with the jammed gun had done the smart thing; he had taken the opportunity to run and run he did, leaving the alleyway in sheer terror. The Were let him go.
The Were stepped over Tattoos corpse and moved over to Brian, whose form was now still on the ground, the pavement stained in blood. The Were stood over him, his muzzled canine face clouded by a storm of emotion, his own shoulder and arm bleeding. He didn’t care about the men he had just taken out but the guy laying on the ground before him bleeding out…
The Were’s own mind taunted him, a silent argument behind the glowing yellow eyes of the fur lined face that Brian couldn’t comprehend or hear.
I couldn't save him...there was no way he could get the man to an ambulance or hospital in time.....just like he had been unable to save my family that night years ago He was just as pathetic as the men who'd he'd put out of their misery tonight, the Were’s brain tormented him. Half angry, half frustrated, he growled to himself.
Turning, the Were hung his head and went to leave the alley, knowing that the police had probably already been called and he was half way over the dumpster and the fence when he saw movement.
His sharp eyes caught it and he saw the unbelievable.
The guy that the tattooed gently caress had stabbed and gutted was alive.
Dropping back to the ground, the pavement wet on his bare feet, soaking through the fur, the Were moved quickly to Brian, and knelt beside the man.
Brian looked up at the Were and for a moment, they simply locked eyes. Then Brian did something that the Were did not expect. With the last of his strength, the human raised his blood stained hand up and put it on the Were’s shoulder, his injured shoulder. The Were winced but did not protest.
"Thank you...for trying..." Brian said, his voice fading, the light going out of his eyes as his life fled his body, his hand falling lifelessly, leaving a bloody hand print streak down the Were’s chest, the thick dark grey and silver fur turning maroon with the liquid.
The Were did not respond but felt his heart begin to race. Emotions exploded within him. Was this what his life was going to be? Watching everyone he tried to help die and be ripped away from this world? Was that the curse of being what he was? To be nothing…to never get rid of the ghosts...he was no one, nothing...what could he do....he had failed again…In his mind, his mother’s screams echoed.
Then it hit him. He knew how to save the man’s life.
" No...I can't...." he said out loud, his voice barely a whisper and even as Brian's head rolled to the side, the Were made his decision. He would not lose another life. Not this time. Not tonight.
Going against every belief he had, hoping simultaneously that what he thought he knew about the consequences of his next act were true and not true at the same time, he took Brian up from the ground and bared his fangs, and drove them into Brian's left shoulder, holding them there.
For a moment, nothing happened, and the Were knew he had failed again.
Brian's eyes shot open and death retreated, his face transformed with a sharp gasp of agony into a mask of frozen shock.
Brian, now fully conscious again, his mind a whirling streak of red and black pain, felt a fire pulse through his veins, as if his very blood were boiling and he gasped in shock, his back arching like he was hit with an electric current.
As the Were held Brian in the death bite, the bloody gash on Brian's stomach seemed to close a bit, the blood flow slowing to a trickle. Finally, the gash sealed itself entirely with not even a scar to show it was there, just a nasty purplish bruise.
Finally, weak from the blood loss and pain from the newest injury, Brian passed out from shock and went limp in the Were’s grasp.
The Were immediately withdrew, and spit out the blood from his mouth, the iron copper taste flooding his senses. For a moment, the Were thought he had killed the man. He quickly wiped his mouth and checked Brian’s pulse and then realized with shock that the man not only had a pulse but that it was growing stronger.
Unsure of what this meant, especially if the stories were true, the Were did the only thing he could and took the man's ruined hoodie off, ripping what was left of Brian's shirt from his body and tied it around his abdomen, creating a tight make shift tourniquet just in case the wound reopened. Doing his best and making sure he wasn't doing any more damage, the Were lifted Brian's limp form into a fireman's carry, grabbing the man’s crumpled duffle bag while he was at it, slinging it over his own neck.
Moving quickly as he could already hear the police sirens wailing, carrying Brian’s now unconscious form he vaulted onto the dumpster and over the fence in a single fluid motion. His feet hit the ground hard and he began to run, the whispering voices deep inside, the guilt that gnawed at him every night unbearably that no healing factor could ever shut up, for once falling oddly silent, as he began praying that he’d done the right thing to whatever god that would listen to him. Behind him, floodlights and blue-red flashers light up the night, even as the Were vanished into the darkness.
In his dreams he was chased. It was darkness, a sharp wicked thing coming to cut him. If it caught him, it would kill him over and over. He would never die but he would have a thousand deaths, each one worse than before. He heard it growling, snarling, a wild beast unchained from civility, given over to primal instinct. He saw its lupine head come around a corner, jet black, featureless, except for twin gleaming yellow eyes, eyes that stared at him. It seemed to recognize him and turned the corner, revealing a massive body, all black, that was a living three-dimensional shadow. Light would never illuminate its features, no ray would ever pierce its heart as it took a step towards him, each fall of its huge feet exploding like thunder, shaking his dreamscape.
He couldn’t run, his legs weren’t obeying him; the creature closed the distance across the space and its arrival was heralded only by its hot fetid breath as suddenly it appeared at his face, nose to nose with Death itself and a sudden silence that hurt him to his bones. He wanted to scream, yell, gasp, cry, anything, any sound, the silence as he was frozen in place staring deep into its hellish eyes was unbearable. He realized then that he could hear a sound: A steady deep rhythmic thumping, heavy and strong like a cosmic drum. It was the heart of the beast and it was hungry, ready to devour, to rip and kill.
A light began to bloom on the horizon. It was brilliant gold that flared into white as a new sun exploded, throwing the creatures shadow and his into long giant thin streaks of black. Throwing up his hands, he shielded his eyes against the super nova and for a moment, the beast seemed to wither beneath the light.
There was nothing as the light winked out taking the creature with it.
He was alone.
The silence was now only pierced by the sound of his own ragged breathing. A burning pain screamed to life in his chest and stomach. Looking down he lifted his shirt and there, instead of the normal Caucasian flesh and thick coat of brown chest and belly hair, he saw a red line draw itself from his navel to his nipple on his right side. The line began to weep blood and black liquid. He felt the red line split with fire and he grabbed his stomach to keep his insides in, screaming a silent plea to wake up but there was no mercy even as the heart beat of the beast came again, this time from behind him directly in his ears.
Looking up, his hands covered in blood, his eyes filled with tears of agony, he looked directly into the face of the monster as its jaws snapped shut on his head like a steel vice.
With a jolt, Brian awoke.
The sun blinded him and he blinked owlishly to clear his vision and focus. Once he could see properly, he fully opened his eyes and confusion washed over him, tsunamis of memories flooded his brain as he tried to make sense of where he was, what time it was and what had happened. He did a trick his therapist had taught him as a teenager during his anger management classes that always seemed to center him.
In his mind, a single mantra played.
My name is Brian Duncan MacGregor. I am 28 years old. I am...I am...
Where am I?
The mantra helped calm him down and he took stock of his surroundings. The first thing he noticed was that he was in a bed. Looking down at it, Brian noticed it had black sheets, a thin white blanket and a grey comforter on the top. There were pillows with black pillowcases at the top and the head and foot board were simple dark chestnut wood. Nothing fancy. The mattress was solid however, he noted, pushing on it. It wasn’t cheap and it was thick with a pillow topper. He noticed as he looked, that the bed frame itself was made of steel and there were no slats most likely. He had seen such beds before. On either side of the headboard were twin nightstands. On the one nearest to him sat a brass lamp that looked like it was a cheapo, two empty beer bottles, a thick black wallet and a digital clock. Sighing, he looked at the clock.
Its giant red numbers told him it was 6:00 PM in the afternoon and that it was Thursday. He looked down at himself. He was in his underwear and shirtless. He looked down at his chest and belly, suddenly panicking as he flashed of that morning sunk in. He remembered his head wanting to explode as it was slammed into the dumpster, he remembered his vision had faded. He remembered the knife sliding into his warm flesh. Brian’s hands shot to his abdomen. There was nothing there but the usually carpet of brownish-black hair that covered his chest, stomach and turned into a thin trail that led to under his waistband. There was no scar, no blood. Not a single sign he had even been scratched. The area was a little tender, like a muscle that had been overworked and he was stiff but otherwise, it was if the attack had never occurred.
In fact, it was his left shoulder that was bothering him the worse. Frowning Brian flexed his left arm. The bicep curled and bunched up normally and but when he went to lift the arm above his head, a cramp shot down it and into his chest. Nope. Not going to do that for a while. What happened there? Kicking away the strange blankets, he moved to get out of the bed. He supposed he should be afraid of waking in a strange bed but whoever had taken him he taken care of him and let him have a bed so clearly whomever it was had no ill intent. Plus, they left their wallet on the night stand. For a moment, Brian was tempted to open it and go through it to find a driver’s license but something told him he would better off not prying just yet. It was definitely a man’s wallet; it was messy and fully of receipts and what looked like the normal flotsam a man’s wallet accrues over time.
He rubbed his eyes, careful not to move his shoulder the wrong way as he sat up and put his feet over the edge of the bed because that hurt like hell, and took in his surroundings, squinting in the light streaming through huge window on the other end of the room. Even though he moved gently, his shoulder still sang a fresh song of pain; he grunted with it and forced himself through it.
The first thing Brian noticed besides the window was that the room he was in was gigantic, far larger than any bedroom he had ever seen. Looking up, he saw the room had high ceilings too, and that the top of the room as was a good fifteen feet up. The walls of the room were made of solid but old red brick that had lost much of its vibrancy leaving behind a dull maroon color with faded cement between them. Ahead of him was a small kitchen with white wooden cabinets and black granite countertops. An island bar served as the counter and separation from the sleeping area. Three shabby looking bar stools sat in a rough line. Beer bottles and dishes sat on the bar. On the silver chrome stove a pot stood unloved and neglected. A metal fridge with double doors hummed reliably.
So it was a studio apartment, Brian noted, not that much different from his own. Large blinds bordered by faded brown curtains lined the two massive windows that he originally thought was just one. The blinds were down but open and the curtains haphazardly pulled to the side. A white wall and a door created a second area that probably led to a bathroom. The door was ajar and warm afternoon sunlight streamed from the crack. The apartment itself was warm, but there was an air of tension, as if the building itself was waiting to spring. Maybe it was just where he was awake and sitting on a strangers bed half naked when he should be dead but something was off. It didn’t really set off his alarm bells. He had a good nose for threats but it was just...different.
Looking down, he saw the floors were hard wood, well polished and covered in two giant blue rugs. Across from the bed by about ten feet was a living area. It was cluttered with three end tables, two of which had similar Dollar Store lamps like the one beside the bed. A banged up wooden coffee table sat in between a reasonably new metal and glass television stand and on the stand itself sat a 52 inch flat screen that was currently dark. Allowing his eyes to move, Brian backtracked towards the only area a couch could be, directly in front of the television on the opposite side of the coffee table (again covered in several beer bottles).
The sofa itself was dark blue, made of leather or imitation leather, Brian couldn’t tell. Its arms had rough edged holes in them and the stuffing poked up through them. On a recliner on the right side of the couch, a pair oil stained jeans was discarded, as well as a dark blue-black muscle shirt.
It was what lay on the couch that caused Brian, for the first time, to tense up. He figured the occupant of the apartment had been the same one to put him in the bed but he when he saw the occupant on the couch it made him start slightly.
The person on the couch was a Were. Brian stood up, wobbled on his feet and quickly gained his balance. Moving silently as he could, he looked for his clothes. He saw his jeans laying on the floor, discarded. Quickly, he bent over and grabbed him, dismayed to see the now dark rust colored stains down the right side. He knew what that stain was having seen it many times in the emergency room. Blood. His blood. Shaking his head, he slipped his legs into his pants and pulled them up hastily, grunting as his balls got caught on them. Grunting, he quickly shoved his junk into them, glad he had been left in his white trunks. Buttoning his pants, he zipped them.
Or tried to, rather.
The zipper stuck.
Sighing, he looked down and saw the teeth were caught up in a sticky reddish black blob of congealed blood. Brushing it away, he finished zipped up and quickly wiped his hands on his thigh. There was no sign of his hoodie and looking around quickly he spotted his dufflebag in front of the TV, just on the other side of the coffee table.
Cursing silently, he tip toed across the room and when was directly across from the couch he got a much better look at the werewolf on the couch and his heart jumped into his throat as violent images shot through his brain.
It was raining. It was cold, he tasted blood in his mouth. His head pounded as his vision faded in and out. He had no strength left. Bodies lay in the filthy street around him. Someone held him from behind. There was something cold and hard, sharp, pressed into his neck. There was shouting. Words that made no sense.
“...I always get my man.”
His guts split open and he felt the blade cut him.
“NO!” a second gruffer voice called as a shadow with gleaming yellow eyes charged at him even as gravity pulled him into finality.
The words and images echoed disturbingly in Brian’s memories, jumbled and chaotic as his right hand went unconsciously to his side. This was the Were that tried to stop...stop what....
The gang attack. The 86ers. The Were had killed at least three of them...Why aren’t I dead? How did he save me...I shouldn’t be here...Brian thought. Brian had an image of a roaring beast with glowing yellow eyes and flashing fangs in the lightning but now, before him, as afternoon sun streamed into the windows between the blinds with dust motes swirling in the space between them, the Were didn’t look at all threatening.
The Were was a wolf, that was much was obvious. His head and face were graced with a long noble muzzle and his ears were wide and pointed. In places, his ears were ragged, like a stray dogs. His nose was black, moist and was moving gently as he slept with deep peaceful breaths. His thick sloping neck ran to his body that was covered in gray fur, the same thick kind of fur that most Weres had. It was sleek and surprisingly clean. The Were was laying on his back, powerfully muscled forearms under his head, supporting it, like a set of pillows. His chest was wide and well defined as was his stomach. The fur that covered his chest and belly was a light gray, almost a silver. A sheet and a blanket covered him from the waist down and his tail and feet stuck out awkwardly from the bottom of the blanket.
Brian noticed a fresh wound on his right shoulder that was nearly healed but looked vicious. Something winked on the coffee table and Brian looked to find a glass ashtray. It was filled not with cigarette butts but rather the squashed metal of spent bullets. The wound suddenly made sense; he had been shot last night defending Brian and had pulled the bullets out himself to prevent his body from healing over it. Bloody bandaged and guaze sat on the coffee table colored with dark maroon stains.
Another horrible realization struck Brian in the face like a cold splash of water. The gang. Elijah!
Moving as quietly as he could, Brian fully intended to grab his bag, throw on his uniform shirt and get the hell out of the apartment. This Were had killed three people as easily as most people drove a car, almost without a thought, had been shot and pulled the bullet out by himself. The gently caress I’m staying here. I don’t even know HOW I’m here but I don’t give one flying gently caress—
As he picked up his duffle bag, the edge of it caught the side of the coffee table, jarring it loudly, setting the glass ashtray to skittering across the wooden surface, jarring the beer bottles with a quiet klink of glass on glass that was the loudest sound Brian had ever heard. Kicking himself mentally, Brian felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he felt that unmistakable icy finger go down his spine that signaled you were being watched. He felt his balls jump into his throat as a voice came from behind him. It was gruff, sleepy and grouchy.
“What the hell....keep it down for fucks sake....Jesus Christ...”
Brian whirled where he stood, his bag forgotten as he came face to face with the Were who was now very much awake, propped up on his elbow, his face sleep swollen, one eye cracked at Brian, the other squinting in the bright light, his nose twitching wildly. The fur on the top of his head was unruly, and one ear swiveled towards Brian like a radar dish.
“Um...I...yeah...what...” Brian stammered, and for some reason, all his professional training was leaving him and turned him into a bumbling mess. A very much on edge mess, unsure of what was going to happen and whether to fight or flee.
The Were sat up and waved him off. Stretching his thick powerful arms above his head, Brian heard the man’s shoulder’s pop and crunch. A look of discomfort swam across the werewolf’s muzzle before passing. There were patches of the same lighter silver-gray fur under his arms as well. Without a single look at Brian as if Brian were the most normal thing to have in one’s apartment, the Were stood up revealing his full impressive height, which had to be about six foot six, six foot seven. He was broad shouldered and his body was hard, defined and now seeing him up close, Brian understood exactly why he was able to do what he did. For a moment, the Were kept the sheet and blanket cinched around his waist and gave up, not even caring, tossing it to the floor with an irritated grunt.
He wore form fitting black Under Armor trunks that left little to the imagination (there was plenty to imagine, Brian noticed, his face flushing hot) and his bush tail hung limply, as if it had not yet awoken. Crossing over to the recliner, the Were pulled on his jeans (not the ripped ones Brian noticed from early this morning in the alley), and the shirt. Now dressed, he gathered up the blankets from the floor and carried them across to the bed, his padded bare furry feet slapping on the bare wood between the rugs. With a shrug, he tossed the bed clothes onto the bed. Still not looking at Brian again, the groggy Were stumbled into the kitchen, nearly catching his big toe on the edge of the slight riser that divided the rooms, cursing loudly.
“gorram it,” he growled. Shaking his head and scratching his stomach absent-mindedly, the man-wolf yanked the fridge door open. The cool light and mist from the inside wafted over him as he winced from the glare. He searched for a moment, found what he was looking for and turned away, shutting the fridge door roughly with his left leg, with a clink of bottles and the sound of the seal snapping shut. In his hands he held a beer bottle, a brown glass one with a label that Brian didn’t recognize. He crossed back to the living area, stepped down with heavy foot falls and came back to the couch and sat down heavily his legs spread comfortably, a small dust cloud rising up to dance with the dust motes in the air.
He looked up at Brian who was too stunned to say anything, not sure if he should fight, move or hell, he didn’t even know. He badly wanted to reach for his phone. He needed to check on Elijah.
The wolf man looked him up and down once and sighed. The sound was a tired one, and in it, Brian heard many battles fought, and something more: loss. Loss seemed to ooze off of him and he was very much a grizzled fighter, Brian thought. Last night proved that it was no act.
“Look, I’m not going to hurt you. Yes, you can go back to your life, blah blah. Yes, you’re alive and no, you aren’t dreaming or dead. So, now that that is out of the way, kindly move your ass.” The man said, his fangs flashing in the sun in a fake warm smile as he indicated he would like to turn the television on. Brian frowned, dragged his bag up and moved, coming around to the end of the sofa farthest from the grouchy werewolf. Why aren't I getting the hell out of here?, Brian thought but couldn't bring himself to flee. Something held him here and what it was, he didn't know.
“Who are you? What the hell happened last night? I need to make a call...there’s...” Brian tried to say, with all of his words coming out wrong. It wasn’t like him to behave like this. This whole situation was starting to finally sink in and he didn’t like the feeling one bit.
The man-wolf indicated the empty space next to him on the couch and the recliner. “Normally, I’d say pull up a chair, but those gorram bar stools are the most uncomfortable bastards to sit on. Your ass goes numb in less than five minutes. Seriously, chill out. Calm down and take a moment. You had a rough night.” The Were used his thumb claw to crack open the lid of the beer and took two long gulps, sighing cotentedly.
Brian decided that if he wanted, the Were could easily catch him and get rid of him like he did the 86ers in the alleyway, so running was going to do him no good. Also, Brian wanted answers. So many questions but first...
“I need to check on someone first...” he said as he took a seat in the recliner, not the sofa, keeping some distance between him and his...savior.
Waving his hands, dismissively as if he didn’t care, the Were motioned Brian to do what he needed. Frowning at the surly wolf, Brian unzipped his bag and sighed with relief as he saw his phone laying on top of his armored vest. Grabbing it, he hit the home key and saw he had about twenty percent power left but five full bars of service. Good. So wherever he was, he was still in the city. Coming to the conclusion that if the Were was going to let him make a phone call, that he wasn’t a prisoner or a captive, Brian did his best to try and calm down. Quickly Brian slid his finger across the glass screen, unlocking the device and he saw immediately something that made him get a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He had a voicemail. From four hours ago. His hands began to tremble as he saw who the number was from.
The area code was from Aurora.
It was Ellie.
Swallowing his fear down like a cold bitter poison, Brian tapped on the Phone icon and then hit the tape icon and the voicemail screen popped up with a tiny barely audible whoosh. There it was. The recording. Four minutes long from Ellie. He didn’t have Visual Voicemail so he couldn’t get a transcript but as he hit the play button and raised the phone to his ear, shaking, he knew what he was going to hear. He didn’t see the Were on the coach was looking at him carefully, pretending not to notice him but watching none the less.
In his ear, Brian heard Ellie’s voice but it wasn’t her normal bubbly perky voice. It was shaky, quiet and filled with sorrow she was doing her best to contain but half way through, her control failed.
“Hey, Bri its me...I....I don’t know how to say this....I got a call....a few hours ago. I’m sorry I just now called you but...I didn’t know what to do. Brian...Elijah...The police called me this morning and there was an accident....a break in. Bri...Elijah’s gone...He’s gone...”
It was at this point in the recording that her calm but breathy facade broke entirely into painful sobs. Her next words stabbed him in his soul, splintering him inside with icy hot claws that shredded his heart and shrieked mournfully in his mind. He felt his hands shaking.
“Bri they broke in and killed him. The police said he was branded....they think it was the 86ers. I don’t know why...he was never involved with those people...please let me know you are okay....call me please...when you get this...I need to talk to you....I...just call me when you get this....”
Shaking, Brian brought the phone down and watched the play symbol on the voicemail turn to a stop symbol and the phone went silent. He sat there, staring at the screen until it went dark. For a time, he was alone, not in a stranger’s apartment. He was somewhere worse, a dark room that as full of nothing but ghosts. A voice broke him out of his cell.
It was the Were. His voice was gruff but it had lost some of its edge and Brian thought he could almost hear something more under it. Concern. Looking up, Brian saw the Were have moved closer to the recliner but hadn’t left the couch. He was looking at Brian, his head slightly cocked, his ears swung forward. Brain met the Were’s eyes and for the first time, Brian noticed that his eyes weren’t yellow or amber but a gentle soft blue. For a split moment, there was no trace of the cold blooded killer Brian saw in the alleyway.
“You okay? You look like you are about to pass out.” he asked Brian.
Brian didn’t know how to answer. He opened his mouth to reply but the words got stuck somewhere inside him and refused to budge. Finally he managed to spit something out and he hoped it made sense. Whether or not it did, he didn’t know. He found that once he started, he couldn’t stop. As he spoke, his voice trembled, it was laced anger and sorrow and a terrible rage that he tried to contain.
“Those guys...the 86ers...Last night...I’m a security guard at the hospital. Last night there was a druggie in the emergency room that attacked a nurse. My co-worker and I managed to get him outside...I broke his wrist after he slashed a nurse and turned to cut us...Cops came. Took him. We didn’t know he was an 86er drug dealer. An important one. There was a cop there...he took our statements...our information. I was almost home when they jumped me. They knew what had happened...the only way they could...gorram cop bastard wanker must be on the take....he fed em our information....they tried to kill me...you stopped them....but they went after my friend too....broke into his house a few hours ago...while I was out...they killed him. Branded him.”
The Were’s ears flattened against his skull as he sat back. For a second, Brian thought he saw regret and anger flash together as mixed as two emotions can be on his face but it was gone quickly.
“gently caress. I’m sorry....I didn’t think you were going to make it yourself. I tried to get to you before...” he explained, looking at Brian, his face stoney but his eyes oddly pleading, almost asking for something. For what? Forgiveness?
“Why did you do that? How am I even alive? I shouldn’t be here...” Brian sighed, falling back into the recliner, exhausted suddenly in a way he wasn’t before. His mind was awash in thoughts. He needed to call work and let them know where he was. His shift started in a few hours. He needed to call Ellie and be there for her. He needed to call his mother and let her know. Did the hospital know? Was it on the news? His questions to the wolf were his only way of expressing the maelstrom of emotions fighting in his brain and stabbing his heart.
The Were sat back, the TV forgotten, his attitude changed. It was darker now, not cold but focused and his blue eyes fell from Brian as he turned away from him, looking down between his knees at something only he could see. Maybe he thought there was something, an absolution in the bottom of that beer bottle?
“Every night I go out. I get into fights. Get beat up. Do some beating up. Long story. I don’t like gangs. I don’t like drug pushers and hustlers. The cops don’t ever patrol that area. That whole part of town has been let go. No one cares anymore. It helps me think.”
Taking a swallow from his bottle, he carried on.
“I was about to call it a night when I found you and that bunch. I just did what anyone with a decent gently caressing bone in their body should have done.”
“You killed them.” Brian interjected, not yelling just an observation. Something about it seemed to hit a nerve with the Were.
“So? They would have killed you and me. They don’t care. They’re parasites. Feeding off people, draining them dry, hurting them, just like—“
The wolf went silent, sighing angrily. He downed his remaining beer in a single long drink, slamming the bottle down on the table.
“Doesn’t matter. You’re alive. gently caress them.” He finished as if that ended the discussion and so it did. Brian refused to stop.
Brian shook his head. “No...I remember the big one...with the tattoos...he cut me. Bad. I work at a hospital. I’m not stupid. I shouldn’t be here. No emergency room could have saved me so how am I here and without a scratch?”
At this question, the Were stiffened and looked sheepish before putting on his angry grouchy mask again.
“Well, you know what happens to people who get bit by shifters, right?”
Yes. He knew very well what happened to normal humans who got bit by shifters. Shifters and full generations alike possessed an enzyme in their saliva that was harmless unless introduced directly into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the heart distributed it quickly and the enzyme unzipped proteins, split base pairs and essentially destroyed the DNA of the victim. The person died in agony as their body literally shut down and came apart. That was now thought to be the explanation for the Old World myths about werewolves biting people is that during fights with prejudiced and scared humans, shifters defended themselves the only way they knew how: by biting and the stories had been passed down until Madison Genetics discovered the truth behind it.
“But I’m not dead. My DNA should be in strands right now,” Brian said, thoroughly confused on top of everything else.
“How much do you know about shifter genetics?” the man-wolf asked him.
Brian shrugged. “Some. What I heard on the news. Not much. Why?”
Blowing his breath out through his mouth, the werewolf was obviously about to tell him something that Brian didn’t want to hear.
“As you know probably know from Madison Genetics and their wonderful educational videos that they shove down our throats on the news, shifters can change back and forth between a human and a canine form, usually show traits of a human-dog or human-wolf hybrid. They look like me. Covered in fur, tail, muzzle, fangs, ears, you get the drill. Sometimes, the genes that control the ability to shift get broken in two ways.”
“One way,” he continued, “is if the base pair is mutated. That results in what you know as a full generation werewolf, a werewolf who was born in his or her wolf state and will never be able to shift out of it, and therefore can never take on his or her human form. That would be my situation.” The Were indicated himself with disdain.
Brian followed him so far and it caught him by surprise that the werewolf before him with his appearance of a ragged gristly mean fighter would be well versed in the sciences, at least on this subject. “What’s the second way?”
“The second way a shifter gene can be broken is by being turned off. This is a human would have been a shifter, except for some God knows what going on in the womb, but regardless, the gene is turned off. It’s there, dormant, asleep, never to wake up, never to be used. Studies have shown that less than 10 percent of the population on the planet has that mutation. The rest of them are your average John Does and Janes. Normal humans, no shifter genes at all. To have the shifter gene in any form, means a person had to have a shifter in his family somewhere. It’s a dominant trait.”
Brian shook his head, letting his phone drop in frustration into his bag. “What does all this have to do with me?”
The Were growled at him and he instantly shut up.
"I heard stories, rumors, that said that if a person carried the dormant shifter gene and the enzyme that shifters produce in their saliva was introduced to the dormant DNA directly into the blood stream that instead of breaking it down, it would--"
Brian cut him off sharply. His voice was louder than he intended, as he fully understood what was being said.
“No!” Brian stood up and looked the Were dead on in the face, all fear suddenly gone, replaced by shock and anger and surprise and even a little doubt.
"The stories say that the enzyme wakes up the dormant genes and activates them, which is most likely why you are alive and walking and talking to me instead of bleeding out on the street. Remember last year with those stupid kids who wanted to be like the movies? Got themselves gently caressed up. One of em died. They called it the Were Bite Challenge?" The Were finished and sat back on the couch, his hands resting on his thighs.
Brian did remember it and thought the kids were stupid, just like the ones who were out there trying to swallow dry cinnamon or eating goddamned Tide pods. There poor Were kid who was involved was arrested but not found guilty of any malicious intent and was released, though he ended up committing suicide a few months later.
“How did...you...you bit me, didn’t you? You gently caressing bit me. That’s why my shoulder is so sore. I could have died. Jesus Christ...did you know? I mean, did you know what would happen?”
The Were shook his head negatively as his brows met, turning his face into an angry glare, resentful. "Look, I didn't know what else to do. You were bleeding out for gently caress's sake. I wanted--"
"Wanted to what?" Brian snapped.
The Were stood up and crossed over to Brian. He was a few inches taller than Brian and Brian almost had to look up at him. Outside, car horns blared and the sun was beginning to set. The look on his face was not a pleasant one. His body gave off a radiant heat and the fur on the back of his neck was standing up ever so slightly. Brian thought he saw a flicker of yellow in his blue eyes. Brian stood up and met him face to face, his own temper rising unusually quickly.
"I saved your life. I could have left you to die. I don't wan't to be a hero, I just did what I thought a normal decent person would do: help somebody. You could show some gorram graitude. No, I didn't know it would work, I was desperate and it did work. You're here aren't you?" the Were, said, his teeth clenched as he tried to maintain his own temper.
The next six silent seconds felt like an eternity before the tension finally broke apart and melted, just like a snow cone in the sun of a hot summer's day.
Powerless to change the situation, Brian rubbed his brow and sat heavily back in the recliner. His friend was dead. One of his only friends in this gently caressing city. He had gang members out looking for him and he doubted the group that came after him would be the last, especially since three of them never came back. He had a gorram target on his back now. gently caressing bastard cop. Now there was this on top of all that other shite. What did it mean? As far as he knew, he had no shifters in his family. Granted he didn’t know much about his dad’s side, but that was because his dad had died when he 15. The only relatives Brian knew of on his dad’s side were human and there sure as hell weren’t any shifters on his mom’s side.
What did that mean? Wake up dormant DNA?
Brian's brain screamed at him that he didn't like what it implied. Images of full moons and bad movies shot through his mind. What's going to happen to me?
But you are alive and that means something, his mind told him. Sort out the rest as it comes.
The Were frowned at him, looking down at him like an angry parent.
“What?” Apparently he could pick up expressions too.
"I can't leave tonight. If I go, I've got a target on my back a mile wide. I can't call the cops because I can't trust them anymore." Brian said, a frustrated sigh escaping him, his right falling away from his chin, losing the thoughtful repose it had somehow found on its own. His voice was a bastardized mix of irritation and dejection.
The next few moments seemed to stretch into infinity. Finally the tension broke as the Were sighed in defeat and uncrossed his burly arms, letting them fall to his side after he gave the universal gesture for giving up.
"Look," he said, his voice some what softer. "You've had a shitty morning. You've got a lot going on. I get what that's like more than you know. Why don't you crash here...at least for a day or two. I have a friend who's more knowledgeable about this DNA stuff than me and she could come by and run some tests or something...figure out if everything's okay. At least then you get peace of mind and you don't get shot. I'm going to go and get her later."
“Friend?” Brian asked.
“She’s a doctor. A geneticist.” The man-wolf replied. “ How do you think I know all this crap? We don’t come with instruction manuals just because we’re different.”
For a moment, he looked distant, but came back around, rubbing the back of his head with a hand absently, the sound of his fur rustling as he did so was surprisingly loud to Brian's ears. Dismissing it as a headache from stress, Brian tried to pay attention.
“Look, you can have the couch for a few days so we can sort this all out. Just don’t through my shite. If its early, try to shut up and keep quiet. I sleep late on Friday mornings. Saturday and Sunday, I’m down in the garage. Its downstairs. I’m a mechanic. I own the place. No ones going to bother you.” The Were said and crossed the room to the bed area. He scooped up a spare pillow from the bed and the same bed clothes he had been sleeping under on the couch before. Coming back to the couch, he tossed them down on the sofa and motioned to the white door across the way.
“Bathroom is in there. Shower too. Towels are in the closet as you go in on the left. Help yourself. If you got extra clothes in that bag of yours, feel free to wash them. Washer and Dryer are down the hall through that door,” he told Brian, pointing just beyond the kitchen.
“If you don’t have anything, I can lend some of my crap. Its old but it might fit you decently. Be just a big bigger but who gives a gently caress. No one’s going to see you anyway. Word of caution: I have a habit of walking around naked after a shower in the mornings. If that bothers you, deal with it. I’ll try to restrain myself. Any questions?”
Brian snorted. Wonderful. “No...no. Just...thanks, I guess, for saving me and letting me stay here for a bit. I need to call work. I’ve got some vacation time and sick leave I can use to cover me. I don’t feel like its the best idea for me to head out now and give those assholes an easy target anyway. I need to call Ellie, too...she’s alone and needs....something. I don’t know what to say....gently caress what a day.”
“Now you’re thinking. And I agree with you on that. gently caress this shite.” The Were said, not pushing the matter on who Ellie was respecting Brian’s privacy and for a brief second a sardonic smile tried to tug at the corners of his mouth but he squashed it. Brian reached for his phone while the Were turned to go through the door at the end of the kitchen. Brian supposed it led to the downstairs area too. Before the Were could open the door and vanish from sight, Brian stopped him with a final question.
“Hey, man. I never got your name. Mine’s Brian. Brian MacGregor.”
The Were paused, his furry hand on the door knob. He looked back over his left shoulder just the slightest and his voice almost had normalcy back to it instead of that constant gruff and grouchy vibe. When the Were answered, it was quiet, as if the idea of his own identity was foreign to him or a concept he didn’t deal with often anymore, a memory or product of days that were long lost to him.
“My names Max. Max Mullen. If you need anything, I’ll be downstairs. I’ve got some shite to do.”
With that, Max turned and was through the door as it closed behind him with a soft click.
Alone, Brian picked up his phone once again, his mind whirling but now, for some reason, a bit less afraid. Unlocking the screen, he quickly dialed the first set of numbers that popped in his head: A call to human resources about that time off and he wondered what story he was going to come up with to get access to his huge amount of vacation time let alone how much he should actually use.
After that he would call Ellie and check on her, let her know he was okay. It was best not to think about Elijah just yet; best to stave off the bleeding on that wound for a few moments more but for now, he thought as he hit the green connect button to send his call to HR, best deal with one thing at a time.
One thing at a time was all he could deal with right now.
Just one thing.
Two hours later, Brian sat in the recliner still. He had managed to call the hospital and explain to them that his mother had taken ill in New York and that he needed a few days to tend to her affairs and help her through a nasty bout of what the doctors were calling influenza, which struck the doctors, as well as Brian that it happened to occur in the middle of summer.
The lie, even as he told it to Becky Carmichael, who was responsible for attendance, made him feel sick to his stomach, more than he already was. Yes, it was paid leave and yes, if he was being honest, he had more than earned the time off. He had not taken a vacation day in more than a year. Yes, it was at least a week, with the option for more under FMLA, but it felt wrong. He felt guilty just thinking about it. Becky of course, was understanding, given that the entire security staff she said was reeling from the surprise news that one of their own was found dead in his house this afternoon. Brian pretended to be shocked when Becky told him. It caused a surge of anger to roil up and that sickening guilt in his stomach churned into a frothing rage that he tried to keep contained.
After getting off of the phone with HR, Brian had tried to call Ellie and check on her but her phone kept going to voicemail. He had tried at least six times and each time there was no answer. He thought about calling her the restaurant where she worked but decided against it. She had enough on her plate without him poking around at her job. She needed time alone, he reminded himself, fighting the dangerous urge to given into the depressing voice in the back of his head that tried to flood him with worry and more fear. Instead, after getting off the phone, he had turned it off and let the silent handset rest on his thigh before tossing it into his open duffle bag next to him. It landed with a soft thunk against the bulk of his work vest, sliding off into the shadows of the bag. Watching it, Brian felt like the phone; sliding irrevocably towards darkness.
Yesterday, everything was normal.
Now Everything was upside down. Nothing was normal. The night was rising in the shadow of the day gone grey. He had felt settled, sure of himself.
What was there to be sure about? His friend was dead. His life was at risk. He couldn’t bear to call his mother and sooner or later he would have to face her and tell her everything that had happened. Max hadn’t returned once to the apartment after leaving it two hours ago, leaving Brian utterly alone. The Were had indicated to Brian to make himself at home but Brian couldn’t bring his legs to move. Max didn’t seem like the type to let anything phase him; Brian wondered darkly if the man felt anything at all. His anger towards the man who had saved his life was irrational and it was only there because of...
His shoulder twanged, reminding him why he was angry.
Brian thought to himself, his inner thoughts a fighting for supremacy in the apartment’s lonely tranquility, with only the occasional rush of water through pipes, the cycling of the central air and the hum of the refrigerator. To survive a bite from a shifter, any shifter, full generation or not, was not something he ever heard of. Every case he heard of resulted in the death of the person, the human, being bitten. Usually, it happened with teenagers and younger inexperienced children getting into fights. It always made the news; it seemed far more common than it probably was, given the media’s love of a controversy.
But you aren’t human anymore, his mind poked at him with a new white shot of fear and uncertainty.
That thought was deeply unnerving and Brian swallowed once, his amber eyes lifting up for the first time since he had fallen into his solitary reflection. Other than a headache, he felt relatively physically normal, hell, even better than normal he thought. Given the fact that he should have a severe concussion, lacerations and bruises all over his body yet had none, he didn’t feel reassured that everything was okay. He wasn’t prejudice but the idea of losing his humanity was on a primal level, disturbing in ways he could not articulate.
Move, he ordered his brain and body.
Brain stood up from the chair and standing straight up, he felt his muscles try to cramp fiercely in the back of his legs and ass. He had been sitting for longer than he thought. He stretched them out with a frown, moving his back. He felt his spine crack and instant relief from the stiffness that had set in. Still shirtless and dressed only in his jeans and shoes, he crossed over to the windows and looked out onto the city.
The sun was rapidly setting and the lights, the billions of artificial stars that made up every window and room in the tall steel and glass spires of Dawson City had begun to glow. The buildings around this area of town seemed to be run down, smaller, more compact. The brownstone and brick were faded with age. Give the relation of the skyline, and its orientation on the horizon, Brian realized he probably wasn’t far from his own apartment, maybe a mile or two. He looked for his building but gave up, realizing with the fading light that it was fruitless. Below, he saw the smaller city streets were much darker than the ones near the hospital. Street lights were broken, trash littered the alleyways and people, (shady people, his security guard senses kicking in) lurked in the shadows. This neighborhood being called ghetto would be a gross over estimate of its makeup.
In the distance, the storm that had ravaged the city last night lingered, its fat dark thunder filled clouds daring anyone to ask it to move along and Brian had to distinct feeling it would be raining again before the nights out. It would be a hot thunderstorm this time, and the air would be muggy, damp with humidity.
Absently, his right hand had begun to move over his right thigh. He was unaware of the motion until the sensation of the rough jeans fabric finally registered through his stress addled brain. It was more than rough, it was sharp, dry, caked. Looking down, he saw the dark maroon stains on them and closed his eyes, his brain offering up images of blades and meat, flashing cold steel and hot blood.
His voice was small, quiet and went unanswered. Brian knew he needed to calm down before he gave himself a coronary and standing around looking out a window while his mind went down darker mental streets and was peeking into even scarier mental rooms was not helping. He could not help Ellie; he couldn’t help Elijah. Calling his mom was out of the question for now. He was at least for time being not a target so the only thing was left was to take care of himself. At least, he thought, maybe a hot shower to wash off the grime from last night and get some fresh clothes on would be beneficial.
Moving back across the living room to the recliner, he bent over, lifting his duffle bag up to the chair, setting it down harder than he needed to. Digging around in it, he hoped he would find his gym clothes under his work uniform. For the first time all day, he felt some relief seep into his body as he found them. They were nothing but an older purple Adidas shirt, a pair of loose but comfortable athletic pants that he favored and a single pair of blue trunks, just like the white pair he had on now. He kept the clothes usually in the bag, cleaned and ready to change into in case the urge to work out hit him after work and he was grateful that last night he had put them in there, despite never giving them a second thought after the chaos yesterday had brought. He wouldn’t need to borrow clothes from Max and a part of him was grateful for that.
Jerking his bag up and throwing it over his shoulder, he made towards where Max had indicated the bathroom was. Stepping through the white door, he saw to his surprise, the bathroom was surprisingly compact and at the same time, extremely messy. The lights were already on, casting the room in a warm yellow glow. Well, not messy, he thought, taking a look around again just cluttered. His was little better at home; it was a guy thing, he thought dismissively. The room itself was painted in teal with white tile on the floors and lower half of the walls. A sink and counter lined one wall with a wide mirror taking up the wall behind the sink. The sink itself was covered in body washes, shampoos, combs, brushes and an electric clipper set. A tooth brush sat up on a shelf above the sink, next to deodorant. Curious, Brian sat down his bag and picked up the bottle of body wash. How did a fur covered person wash? His curiosity got the better of him and even as he picked it up, it surprised him.
The bottle was marketed by Old Spice and was part of their Wild Collection but it was specially formulated for lycanthropes with fur. It was in fact, a type of shampoo and body wash in one, loaded with conditioners as to not break down the fur’s natural essential oils and coatings. Brian noted the label did read safe for human use. Reading the name of the scent, he felt a smirk cross his face, an ironic one.
Setting the bottle down, Brian noticed the deodorant on the shelf belonged to the same collection, specially made for lycanthropes. He had no idea there was an entire market for shifters and people like Max; he had never given it a thought but now confronted with it, it made sense. People like Max especially would need special products and considerations. The rest of the counter top was taken up by various spray bottles of Axe and blue mouth wash.
Moving to close the door, Brian shut it with a quiet click, wondering if he should turn the lock or not. He considered that this wasn’t his home and it would be rude. More not wanting to piss off the Were downstairs who could be more than intimidating, he decided to not lock the door. There, behind the door was a tiny towel closet. Opening the slatted door, Brian saw the towels and washcloths next to a large blow dryer. The towels weren’t really folded and put away neatly but were rather haphazardly placed. Max didn’t seem to put emphasis on order really anywhere that Brian had seen so far. It would have irked mom, Brian thought and for half a second, a small smile tried to be born on his face but his mind killed it brutally. Grabbing a thick brown towel and cloth, Brian closed the closet and set them on the closed toilet seat lid. The bathroom did have a small window above the toilet, nearly the ceiling. It slid open with a latch and Brian noticed it was already open. He left it as it was the sounds of passing cars and the thrum of the city bleeding into the small room with the occasional soft warm pre-storm breeze.
Letting his back fall onto the ground, he looked into the mirror and looked at himself properly for the first time in over a day.
His face was tired looking, framed in his medium dark brown hair. His hair, his mom loved to say, would burn like fire on the tips when the sun passed through it just the right way. His broad nose sat squarely in the middle of his face and his eyes looked back at him, seeking anything that was different about himself. He looked from his shoulders down to his waist. The same square shoulders, except now one was marred by what looked like a withered scar lined by a semicircle of puckered puncture wounds that had filled in. He thought he was imagining things but the savage bite mark that Max had inflicted on him already looked smaller. Was it healing so fast like the knife wound. That implied darker things than Brian wanted to think about.
His chest and stomach were powerful but more stocky, not as defined as Max’s but were still noticeable. His biceps were decently sized, nothing huge but nothing tiny either. His chest and belly hair was somewhat lighter in color than the hair on his head, almost auburn but still very much brown. Sighing, he unbuttoned his jeans and let them and his trunks both drop to the floor, kicking off his shoes as well. Continuing his visual once over, Brian found nothing out of the ordinary that he could identify. His thighs and calves were dusted in the same auburn hair as his torso and were the only part of him that had true definition. He enjoyed kick boxing and it was one of the work outs he favored the most. The women at the hospital thought he had a nice ass but to Brian, it was just an ass. He never noticed.
Moving further down, he looked at his penis. It wasn’t small but it was also not gigantic. He prided himself on it however and when it stood up in his spare time, since he didn’t have much of a love life outside of his own right hand, it stood at a healthy seven inches or so. He was proud of its girth and unlike many men, he was fully intact. His mother did not believe in circumcision, feeling it was an unnecessary medical practice designed to funnel money to cosmetics companies. It hung now, heavy and flaccid, looking somewhat forlorn in its auburn bush. Below that bush, his balls hung, heavy and were always as he remembered. His right testicle hung a bit higher than his left, but that was all. Nothing changed there.
His feet were the same. Still the same well trimmed nails. He grimaced at the size of his feet. He had always felt his feet were too big and finding shoes to fit him was a challenge. He preferred boots for their ankle support. Size 15’s were as hard to find as they were expensive he mused.
Looking back up to the mirror, he looked deep into his own eyes and sighed heavily.
So much has happened so fast. What do I do now?
Something was different.
Leaning forward, he thought it as a trick of the light as he studied his own irises more closely. His mouth dropped open in shock as he moved into the sharp light of the over –mirror lamps. His reflection did not lie and he knew immediately he was not hallucinating.
His irises, once a warm golden amber hue, had changed color.
They were now a vibrant bottle green with flecks and streaks of honey gold. His scleras were still clean and white and his pupils were the same jet black holes they had always been but his irises...
The damn things had changed color.
He felt his heart drop into his stomach and the sick feeling came back as his shoulder took that moment to send a jolt of pain up into his chest. He blinked several times, trying to make sure he was seeing what he thought he was. There was no mistaking it.
He now had greenish gold eyes.
What the hell does this mean...he groaned mentally.
You know what it means, buddy boy, his mind snapped back cruelly.
Groaning in frustration, Brian simply turned away from the mirror. He couldn’t deal with any more shite at the moment and he would have to deal with this new development later. Why didn’t Max say anything to him? He wondered.
Because you numb-nut gently caress, Brian snapped at himself in his head, answering his own question. Max doesn’t know you from Adam and he wouldn’t have known to say anything so stop whining.
Throwing the plastic shower curtain aside, Brian exposed the inner shower and saw that it was clean, with white well scrubbed white ceramic tile walls. The rings that suspended the curtain jangled as it came to rest. The tub itself was a modern high strength white polymer composite and a single clean white rubber shower mat sat snug on the bottom. A hair catcher was fitted into the drain and was surprisingly clean with barely any detritus in it. The shower head itself was thankfully relatively high up. As a taller person, Brian found that more often than not, most shower heads tended to point at his chest as opposed to his head. Max may have installed this one himself, he thought to himself.
A metal shower caddy was securely fastened to the wall. The same types of shower gels and shampoos sat fat on its shelves with red and blue bottles. A red and black spherical shower loofah dangled from its cotton string. Grabbing his cloth, Brian stepped inside the shower and drew the curtain closed, the rings jangling again, the light from the room dimming as it filtered through the white plastic. He turned the water handles, using his bare hand to feel the temperature and judge it carefully as it came rushing out of the bath faucet. Settling on a warmer than usual temperature than he normally used, Brian pulled up the switch knob, and the water vanished from the faucet. A moment later there was a noise in the pipes as the water gushed out of the shower head in a powerful surge, settling into a rain of warm clean water that hit his bare skin like the blessing of the sun itself.
Cascading off of his chest and face, the water rained down in a monsoon of heat. Soon the air itself was heavy with the moisture. Ducking his head forward, Brian let the water soak into his hair and in moments, he was thoroughly soaked, his hair hanging in his eyes and face, beads of moisture hanging from his beard like diamond fruits. The hair on his chest and stomach was soon matted down like an otter’s fur and for the next five minutes he just let the water pound his flesh, drowning him as he finally let his mind and emotions free.
The face of his friend flashed before him behind his closed eyes and he felt his heart break. Not willing to hold it back anymore, he let the pain wash over him and the anger came as well. Bracing himself against the wall of the shower he leaned forward and let them come, too tired to fight and too wounded to care. There would be no more late weekend nights laughing around a beer with Elijah and Ellie. No more gym work outs with Elijah as his spotter. There would be no one there to hold the bar. No one would be there now. Only the cold embrace and comfort of death was there and it beckoned to him to remind him of its finality. Elijah had meant more to Brian that Brian had ever told Elijah.
Here, alone in the shower he could be alone with the truth and his thoughts. Elijah had been more than a friend, Brian knew.
Elijah had been so much more but he had never known.
He could have never known. It was unspoken but here in the silent memories.
Brian had in fact, fallen for Elijah Connors not long after they met but once he had found out that Elijah had a girlfriend, he had made a promise to himself to never say a word. He cared for Ellie deeply and she was a wonderful light. He could have never hurt her but he could not change his feelings either, only bury them and deal with them alone. It was good enough that Elijah was there, always there, a friend true as anyone could ever ask for. Last summer, Elijah and Brian had gone camping for a weekend. Elijah fancied himself something of a master angler, despite rarely catching anything. For him, Brian remembered, it was the thrill of the chase, the hunt. The biggest thing that either of them had caught that weekend had been a trout, barely a foot long.
That camping trip had come at a perfect junction in Brian’s life, when he had felt the most disconnected he had ever been, with his own demons battling with new realizations about himself. He had been dealing with his feelings for Elijah all year and it had sent him into a tail spin. Brian never considered himself as gay man. He wasn’t like the stereotypes seen on television and movies with flailing wrists and lilting voices. He didn’t fit in there. There had been enough bullshit going on that year with the entire argument over gay rights and Brain just wanted to avoid it. That weekend with Elijah, with just the two of them, allowed him to obtain a peace of mind he had never thought possible.
It was that final Sunday, before they came back, that they both had lain outside, under the stars, in their sleeping bags, next to a roaring crackling fire, deep in the woods, away from any people or responsibilities. Brian had looked at Elijah, remembering getting lost in his amber eyes and the way his fur moved in the night breeze. At that point, Elijah and Ellie had been dating on and off for almost that entire year. They had their arguments but had worked things out well especially the last few weeks.
Elijah had laid his head propped up on his hands. Brian had lain on his back, eyes up at the stars lost in thought.
Elijah’s baritone had cut into the night, whispered words rustling like the trees. Brian had been pulled out of his thoughts and looked over at his friend.
Elijah had looked lost in thought and he turned his head to look at Brian, his amber eyes catching the firelight, glowing warmly. His eyeshine was golden.
“Do you believe in love? I mean, really believe in it?”
The question had caught Brian off guard. He had never been one to think about it but it was more the subject matter that caught him off guard especially given his own thoughts at the moment. He looked over at his friend and frowned as he answered, as honestly as he could.
“Yeah. I believe in it.”
Elijah rose up on his elbows.
“But do you believe you can love someone so much it hurts? Is that crazy?” he asked, shifting around in his sleeping back, the fire crackling, bathing them both in the warmth.
Brian paused. For a moment, he looked Elijah straight in the eyes, and for that moment, it felt like an eternity passed as emotions and thoughts and words he knew he should never say to his friend threatened to spill out. In that split second, Brian had wanted to tell him everything. He felt his mouth open and form words and he replied to Elijah, lowering his eyes as he said the next words.
“No, it’s not crazy.”
Elijah seemed satisfied with the answer and laid back properly, getting comfortable and ready to fall asleep.
“Good. Ellie and me have really worked things out lately and I think I truly love her, man. She’s...she’s awesome.”
Brian had felt something hurt but he smiled anyway, putting on his mask.
“Yeah man, she’s pretty awesome. We’d better get some shut eye before the sun comes up. It’s a long ass drive back to the city.” He replied, turning over, putting his back to Elijah. Elijah nodded and laughed to himself.
“I can’t wait to see her when we get back. I’ve missed her. I’m taking her out for dinner tomorrow after we get back. Gonna take her to that one spot she loves so much. I’ve got it all planned out. G’nite man.”
Back in the present, Brain felt new moisture on his cheeks and it ran down his jaw bone, mixing with the shower water in his beard as the hot steam filled the shower. He knew what they were and let them come. In his mind, one of the song’s he used to listen to at home came softly into his thought stream and it lodged there, just as it often did when he listened to it alone in his apartment as he wrote. It was their song, his and Elijah's, though his friend had never known it.
I feel you
In every vein
In every beating of my heart
Each breath I take
I feel you
It captured how he felt perfectly and hearing it now echoing in his mind made the tears come harder and he didn’t care. For the next ten minutes, he vented, letting the pent up pain come to a head, the anger taking a back seat and being filed away for later. When it was finally done, he was emotionally spent, unable to feel much of anything but the tears did stop. Slowly, he felt himself squeeze a few cold drops of the shower gel onto the soaked cloth. The powerful masculine scent opened his nostrils and he went to work scrubbing every inch of himself. He scrubbed until he was raw, as though he would wash away everything that had came out and while it didn’t, he did feel more himself by second round of washing and hair scrubbing. Rinsing off for the last time, he shut the water off and withdrew the curtain, grabbing his towel. Careful to dry off in the tub, not wanting to get water on the tile floor and come crashing down to bust his ass, he toweled off and was dry by the time he stepped out of the tub.
He draped the damp towel over the shower curtain rod to let it air dry and looked into the mirror again, seeing his red eyes and clean face. His skin felt raw but clean. He smelled strongly of Old Spice Wolfthorn. Spotting a comb, he quickly put his hair in place, not really putting much effort into it but just enough to be presentable. He similarly brushed his beard out, making sure it was even. He debated for a moment about using Max’s deodorant but quickly decided he didn’t care about being a good guest beyond what he had already done and that mentally he was out of fucks to give.
He lathered it under each arm and pulled on his gym clothes. Tying the string so that his pants would fall off, he adjusted himself before pulling his shirt on. It, like the pants, was old and loose, very comfortable and its fabric was clean, smelling strongly of Gain. Pulling out his clean pair of gym socks, Brain put them on, followed by his shoes and shoved his dirty jeans and clothes into his duffle bag. Zipping it, he took a glance around the bathroom to ensure everything was as he had put it. Deciding it was he left the bathroom, shutting the light off behind him. Crossing back to the recliner, he tossed his bag behind it and stood there, now cleaned and feeling a new sensation he recognized immediately.
Brian felt alone, crushingly so, more than anything he had felt before. He also felt the simmering anger beneath the sorrow and not wanting to give into it, Brian made towards the kitchen doorway. Stepping up onto the upper level, he moved across the short hall way and opened the door, the knob cool beneath his hands. Closing it behind him, Brian stepped into a hallway.
The hallway itself was plain with hanging ceiling lamps and three large windows, similar to the ones in the main apartment. The walls here were unadorned red brick and mortar, the flooring was gray poured cement and there were no decorations here. Another shorter hallway led off to his left and through it, Brian saw a tiny laundry room with just enough room for a washer, dryer and a small counter on which currently sat a clothes hamper and messy unfolded shirts and pants. A pair of black Under Armor trunks and socks lay discarded on the floor along with other dirty clothes.
Moving forward, Brian made his way down the hall and came to a stair well. Taking it, he followed the stairs down two flights and came to another door, this one much more solid, made of heavy steel. The lock on it was thick and looked expensive and strong as hell. A push bar lay across the middle of the door instead of a handle. Not knowing really what to expect, he pushed on the bar. The door’s latch unlocked and with a heavy thunk, the door swung open, its hydraulics hissing as it did.
Before Brian laid the garage that Max had told him about; it was a decent sized work area, with room for at least three cars. It was constructed not of red brick but rather of thick grey cinderblocks with a grease spotted cement floor. Three under car work pits were in each area, however, only two of them were functional. The third was sealed off. Brian noticed, only one work area was empty, the one in the center. He guessed that’s where customers would park their cars.
The work bay on the far left had a black 2008 Ford F-150 with a gleaming silver grille parked in its space with its hood open, its engine exposed. A beer bottle sat balanced on its fender. White towels draped the metal to prevent damage or grease from smearing the paint.
To the far right, in the work bay with the sealed under car work space, Max it seemed had instead converted it into something of a personal gym. A beat up but solid weight bench took up most of the space. Barbells and weights of varying sizes were stacked in piles. A dusty and well worn punching bag hung from a steel brace and harness set into the gray cinder block of the wall. Dingy florescent lights lit the work out space and there on the wall in front of the punching bag was something taped to a wall.
Max didn’t seem to be anywhere in sight and curiosity overcame his common sense as Brian made his way over to the work out area, crossing over the cement plain that was the empty work bay, stepping over red steel tool boxes and car parts as he did. Soft music played on a hidden radio but Brian couldn’t identify the song or station. It sounded like rock and roll. The lights for some reason bothered Brian’s eyes as he crossed into the right work bay.
It took him a moment to figure out why.
The flicker was very noticeable. He wondered why Max wouldn’t just change the bulbs as it was plenty noticeable enough to give Brian a headache, worse than the one that had been persistently with him since he woke up. Trying to ignore it, Brian focused on the wall in front of the punching bag. Closer now, he saw it for what it was.
A single worn and faded photograph.
It was a Polaroid. I’ve not seen those in ages, Brian thought to himself as he got closer and finally was right in front of it, seeing it clearly.
The picture was well worn and the edges actually were darkened, Brian noticed, like they had been burned. The photo had been taped repeatedly with Scotch tape. It had been duct taped to the wall and it obviously meant something to someone and Brian wondered if that person was Max. Looking from the punching bag to the photo, he realized that it was clearly set up to be seen from the work out position as one would use the bag.
Frowning, his face filled with a curiosity he could not explain, he reached up a hand, extending an index finger, tracing the outside edges of the photo.
There were people in the photo; there was human woman in it with flowing dark hair that had been blowing in her face. She had warm milky skin and a rounded cheerful face. She was dressed in a thick parka with the hood down, the heavy winter gloves hanging off of her neck on their cord, her bare wrist coming just into frame as she snapped the picture. Her other arm was wrapped around a child, maybe twelve years old, a child who was very obviously not human. Brian’s eyes widened as he recognized the same gray fur, the wide pointed eyes, the same noble muzzle, albeit somewhat shorter. The same cool blue eyes. Only these eyes were happy, full of life and energy.
It was Max.
Behind the two of them, an adult lycanthrope stood, and like his son, he was covered in smooth gray fur. Unlike his son, he had soft amber eyes, gentle and kind. He wore square glasses with black frames. His fur around his chin and sideburns was a darker color, almost black and it formed a beard. The Were’s hair was short and messy, blown by the wind, and it too was a shade or so darker than his fur. Max’s tail was visible in the shot, obviously wagging, betraying his excitement.
That meant that the woman was Max’s mother and looking closer, Brian saw that she shared her son’s blue eyes that might as well have been oceans. The moment, captured on a sunny winter day was a snap shot of happiness, something that seemed lacking in Max’s apartment and his garage. This one single photograph was the only bright spot, indeed, now that Brian thought about it, the only true decoration in the entire apartment and garage combined.
A clanging of metal on metal brought him away from the picture. He turned to see that he was not as alone as he thought as Max wheeled himself out from under the truck. Quickly, Brian moved away from the picture and crossed back into the center area, trying to look as though he had been there the entire time. Max was shirtless and covered with black greasy streaks across this chest. His hands were similarly coated in grim. In his right hand he held a socket wrench and clenched between his teeth was a small pen light.
Noticing Brian, he sat the wrench down and grabbed a grease rag that had been laying on the cement, wiped off his hands and got to his feet, pulling the pen light out of his mouth, turning it off and tossing it onto a work bench. Brian watched it sail through the air and land among the discarded tools and oil filters. Odd, he thought to himself. As the pen had moved through the air, Brian had been able to see it move, as though it were in slow motion, was able to track its every bounce and was able to see exactly where it landed. The stress was having an effect he didn’t like, he decided.
Max moved over to a sink on the wall, turned the water on and squeezed out two shots of orange pumice soap into his furry palms. He washed his hands quickly, getting rid of the grease and oil. As he wiped his hands on a clean cloth, he spoke.
“So you decided to shower up. I smell my shower gel.”
Brian suddenly felt sheepish. “Yeah. I called my work. Let them know I’d be gone a few days.”
Max turned to face him, finishing drying his hands. “What about your friend? Get a hold of her?”
Shaking his head and moving over closer, but stopping next to the truck, not coming too close to the sink area, Brian replied.
“No. Just went to voicemail. I left her a message.”
Max merely grunted and went back to his truck. Sticking his head into the engine bay, his ears perking as Brian talked to him, he went about making sure everything was in order. The silence was unbearable so Brian broke it.
“So the people in the picture...who are they?”
Brian noticed Max stiffen and saw his ears pin back against his head, his tail going still as well. A moment later, he resumed checking his engine.
“I don’t want to talk about it. They’re nobody.”
Satisfied, Max reached moved the protective cloths and beer bottle away, put down the hood support rod and reached up to shut it.
“That kid in the picture looks like you. Is that your family?” Brian pressed.
Max let the hood slam down.
“I said I don’t want to talk about it.”
Brian shook his head. “Look, man, if we’re going to be stuck here for a few days together, especially with whatever the hell is happening, I’m just thinking we should try to get to know each other a bit.”
Max moved past him and walked over to a tool bench. Searching around for a moment, he came back, a set of car keys dangling in his right hand. Stepping over to the driver’s side of the truck, Max opened the door with a soft slick of the latch and jumped into the leather interior. His ears were still pinned back, Brian noticed. Without sparing Brian even a glance, Max started the truck.
The engine roar to life, settled instantly into a calm purr and ran smoothly for about a minute before Max cut the power to it. He seemed satisfied with his work, shutting the driver’s door behind him, pocketing the keys as he stepped past Brian.
“Look, I don’t mind helping you and I know you’ve been through a lot of shite. I won’t pretend to understand fully what’s happening to you or why beyond the fact that it’s my damn fault but you’re alive. That’s what counts. It doesn’t mean we have to be buddies. I don’t do the friends thing.” Max told him gruffyly without stopping moving towards the door that led to the apartment. As he reached for it, the anger that simmered inside Brian peeked its head out. He was trying to deal with the situation as best as he could, make the best of this strange new hell he found himself in and before he could even think about what he said next the words were out of his mouth.
“You know man, you’re probably right. We don’t have to know each other. I’m just some sap you decided to step in for, bite and turn into God knows what and then give the gently caressing cold shoulder to. Thanks for that, by the way. “
The fur on the back of Max’s thick neck bristled visibly as he turned on Brian and pointed a finger squarely in his face.
“Don’t even try that with me. I saved your life, you don’t owe me anything and I sure as gently caress don’t owe you a goddamned thing. I don’t have to open every gently caressing closet and pull out the skeletons for you like some freak show. And furthermore,” he said, stepping forward, his finger with its blunt claw inches away from Brian’s nose as they stood eye to eye, both men bristling for a fight that came out of nowhere but neither seemed to care.
“If you have something to say about people like me, say it. It’s not like we’ve not heard them every gently caressing day of our gently caressing lives. I’d be happy to show you the door right now, so either decide whether you want to man up a bit and stop being an asshole or hit the bricks. Makes no difference to me. One thing I can promise you is that there are far worse things than gang members out there. You’re welcome to take your chances if you feel so inclined.”
Brian felt his blood pressure rise and something deeper inside of him stirred, something new, and something primal. It rushed through his head and it felt good to give into its savagery for a moment. He felt his teeth grind.
“I’m not gently caressing prejudiced for gently caress’s sake. You can shove that idea right up your ass—“ he snapped.
Max threw his hands up, his ears positively pinned to his skull at this point, his tail lashing angrily. “Then what is your problem? You’ve been back and forth since you woke up. Jesus Chris—“
“I’ve got a lot of shite going on in case you haven’t noticed—“ Brian snarled back.
Max stopped him, a look of realization coming over his face as he silenced Brian with that look.
“What?” Brian asked, incredulously.
“I know what your problem is.” Max said, his voice dangerously serious and quiet now, as he stepped away from Brian and moving back towards the apartment stair well door. “I know exactly what your gently caressing problem is.”
Not knowing why he did it but unable to help himself, Brian clenched his fists, the muscles in his arms bunching. He forced his arms to stay at his side but it took a titanic effort.
Max yanked open the door and pinned Brian with a glare that could have melted ice, his blue eyes gaining a deadly yellow sheen.
“You’re afraid.” He said as he turned away, leaving Brian in stunned silence as the words stung him and sunk in deeply. Not having anything more to say, unable to say anything as the cold blunt truth hit him in the face, Brian watched Max stop and turn away from the apartment stair door. Instead, he crossed back over to the truck and jumped into the driver’s seat. Before he slammed the door and turned the engine over, Max’s words carried over to Brian.
“Stay or go. It’s your choice. I won’t hold your hand. The doctor I told you about is coming by after her shift tonight. Be here or not, it’s your call.”
With a roar the truck’s motor came to life and the headlights flared. The garage door slid up a second later and without so much as another word, Max floored the engine, the truck bouncing onto the road and out into the night traffic as the city carried on, leaving Brian alone once again as the garage door slowly closed down and locked with a click.
With a groan of agitation, Brian balled up his fists and hit the air impotently, grumbling as he turned and yanked open the door to the apartment level.
The door swung so hard on its hydraulics that it slammed into the brick wall, sending up a poof of brick dust and with a crunch, sent spider webs cascading from the door handle’s impact point. Not noticing, Brian stormed up the stairs, his anger irrationally strong, coiling inside him like a poisonous snake ready, no, needing to lash out at anything or something but all he was left with once again was the silence that surrounded with all the effectiveness of a wet blanket in a snow storm.
He had never felt so conflicted in his life. It seemed pointless to go over it all again in his mind. The only thing he couldn’t, nor wanted to think of, was what might be happening inside of him right now. It kept tugging at the back of his mind, insistent, nagging, needling him with white hot bursts of fear and anxiety. Was he really going to stay here and let some strange doctor come and poke and prod him? Could he risk leaving now? He thought that for a moment he might and that yes, he should leave. gently caress this mess and gently caress Max Mullen and his gently caressing issues.
Saving my life didn’t entitle anyone to flip the gently caress out and assume shite about me, Brian thought, Elijah’s face flashing into his mind and the way that entitle gently caressing redneck cop made that snarky remark. Emerging back into the apartment itself, walking through the kitchen, he glanced sideways at it.
It wasn’t filthy but it was chaotic: dishes in the sink from at least one night’s dinner. Maybe two. Beer bottles and more ashtrays full of expended bullets. Frowning at the mess, not caring how similar he was himself at times, Brian arrived back into the living room, the afternoon sun now long gone as the city went from glowing to shining in its nocturnal luminance. Through the glass, the buildings sparkled like space diamonds and cars honked loudly. Making his way back over to his duffle bag, he yanked the zipper down hard.
It stuck half way down, lodging firmly in place, defying his mood with its metal toothed obstinacy.
He yanked it again. It held solid, refusing to budge, daring him to try again with its golden mouth, its tongue held firmly between his fingers.
“Oh for fucks sake, come on!”
Brian yanked it again and this time, he yanked it harder. Much harder.
With the tortured sound of splitting fabric and torn metal, the zipper, track and zipper head itself tore away from the bag, splitting it open the bag like a potato chip bag, the force so great its sent the bag’s contents flying. Clothes dumped onto the floor, his vest and uniform, his phone with skittering across the floor with a worrying clacking sound.
“gorram IT!” Brian snarled, actually expressing his anger for the first time, and then he stopped, seeing the damage he had done unwittingly. The sight of the mutilated bag brought him up cold. It had fallen to the floor in the process, and it laid there, wide open, strands of fabric dangling like so much shredded flesh from some poor pitiful animal. His clothes, his phone all of it, like his life, was upside down and in chaos.
The zipper. The metal itself was torn. Like tissue paper.
Frowning and those cold needles of fear begining to spike up through his stoamch again, he quickly ran back down to the garage, walking fast, opened the door to the garage and looked behind it to the brick wall. He had heard the door hit on his way up the stairs but was so lost in his own emotions that he had paid it no mind. Now, seeing it, he felt his heart climb a bit higher into his throat. The tough grey cinder block wall wasn’t just cracked.
It was punched all the way through; the black gaping crater the rough size and shape of the door handle stared at him accusingly as he gingerly ran a finger along the rough shattered edges, looking from the hole to it the solid steel door handle which, to his chagrin, he noted, was badly dented.
Looking down, Brian looked at his hands.
They looked like normal human hands. The same ones he had always had. Hell even the cut from the sink repair he had done at his apartment since the scum filth land lord wouldn’t do it was still there—
He looked again. It should have been there, a long red streak from his first knuckle on his right hand to just above the thumb. His hand had slipped on the pliers and the thin edge of the bolt he was turning scraped him properly.
The cut, in all its healing over scabbed glory, was gone. It looked like it had never been there, not even a ghost of its former self.
First the gashing stab wound was gone.
Then his eyes changed color.
Now he was breaking things and not even realizing it.
All the anger and grief in him for the time being took a very solid back seat and buckled down, put in its place by the very real and very terrifying realization that he was not going to be able to ignore what was happening to him and he needed answers. He could grieve later; he could rage later, he could live later but right now, he needed to calm the hell down, even if that meant putting up with Max and his bullshit, or any other bullshit. Until I figure out what the hell is going on, life is going on hold for a bit, Brian thought and silently, he backed away from the crater in the wall and slowly and methodically headed back up stairs to the apartment where he picked up the mess he had made by destroying his bag with the forced calm and objectiveness as a surgeon working on a cardiac patient.
Kicking it into a corner, his phone tossed into the sagging bag forgotten, he came back the couch and sat down, taking a few deep breaths, forcing himself to relax using the techniques that Simmons had trained him in. Focus. Relaxation. Logic. Those are the keys to not getting yourself or anyone else killed. Simmons words barked through Brian’s brain in the same drill sergeant like tone Simmons took during their sparring sessions at the gym. Unaware of how long he had been sitting there, Brian heard a sound that he recognized: The crunching squeak of the garage door opening, the roar of an engine and the silence as it was turned off. The click of the garage door shutting and the THUNK of the truck door being closed.
Had I been able to hear those sounds before from this far away? I don’t know this damn headache is hard to think through, he thought. The traffic outside sounded louder than it did before, like someone had slowly increased the volume. He felt his stomach swirl again as he heard the door to the apartment access stairwell open and heard Max’s walk come up them and into the hallway.
There was someone with him, Brian noted, hearing a second set of footsteps; these were lighter, softer.
A moment later, the kitchen door’s knob turned and Max came into view as the door swung gently open and Brian saw a look on his face that was the bastard child of frustration and resignation. Max’s sharp blue eyes picked out Brian on the couch and he glared at Brian.
“Broke my door handle.” He commented simply, his gruff voice sharp in the silence.
Brian could say nothing in return. He felt like the words were stuck in his throat. Yes, he had broken it.
Max moved into the kitchen properly and stood behind the island, tossing his truck keys onto the countertop. They clattered loudly, jangling as they bounced a bit, coming to rest beside one of the ubiquitous ashtrays. He had pulled on a white tank top from somewhere, and he still wore his same work jeans with the grease stains. He had also managed to find a pair of work boots. Presumably, they were in the truck, Brian thought absently. Brian felt his face flush hot as Max’s eyes moved around the room, obviously making sure Brian didn’t touch anything and making no moves to hide it as they settled on Brian’s ripped apart bag.
“Wasn’t the only thing I see,” Max said, moving into the living room, and plopped himself down into the recliner, adjusting himself as he did so, tugging the waistband of his jeans afterward. His tail obediently sat still, though its tip, hanging near his booted ankle twitched.
The new figure had walked into the kitchen and shut the door behind her.
“I went and picked up the doctor I told you about. Glad I did while I still have a place and a shop to come back to.” Max snorted. Jerking his head towards the kitchen at the same time as the new person walked into the full light of the living room, Brian felt his eyes go wide.
The woman herself was a shifter or a full generation. At this point, Brian wasn’t sure if shifters preferred their wolf forms to their human forms or if full generation shifters that couldn’t turn were more common than Max told him. She was resplendent, just over five foot ten, with her small pointed ears topping her head much like some Japanese kitsune spirit. Her fur was arctic white, so white it nearly glimmered in the lights from the lamps in the living room. She was dressed in a red shirt with khaki colored long sleeved over shirt over it, unbuttoned and loose. Her pants were dark navy jeans on top of dark blue sneakers. Over her right shoulder, she carried a large canvas messenger bag that looked like it held a computer and a few other items causing it to bulge unusually. Her straight chestnut hair hung behind her out of her face in a ponytail.
Brian was most drawn to her eyes.
Her translucent violet colored eyes that turned the lamp light into supernovas.
She has Liz Taylor’s eyes....he thought a split second before he realized whom he was looking at.
“Doctor Raven Jones, geneticist...” Max said flatly, not yet seeing the look of surprise on Brian’s face.
Shock and surprise equally crossed the female shifter’s face as she stood stock still, her eyes wide and her mouth slack jawed.
“Oh my God...its you....” she said breathlessly, her soft British accent lacing her hushed tone of astonishment.
Max frowned. Looking quickly from her to Brian, he looked back at Dr. Jones.
“You two know each other?” he asked, confused.
“Yes, we do. But,” she said, coming forward to stand on the other side of the coffee table, a mere three feet from a very caught off guard Brian. “He might recognize me better the way he knows me best.”
Without another word and without moving or making any motion at all, Dr. Jones’ body seemed to ripple slightly. A gentle wave rode from the tips of her ears to the tips of her fingers. There was no screaming, no horrendous body horror as her form seemed to simply phase smoothly, transitioning in a matter of seconds. Her face shrunk, her tail receded, and her fur seemed to go back inside itself, sinking into her smooth creamy skin until it vanished.
A moment later, there stood a very human looking Dr. Raven Jones, a face Brian had seem and worked with over two years and...
He had no idea. She had never said a word.
“I can’t believe it’s you,” she said as a tiny grin perked up the side of her mouth on her heart shaped face. “Of course it would be you. Who else would it be?”
Last edited by ShadowWolf2010 (2018-03-03 23:11:14)
“Of all the people, I would have never honestly expected you.” Dr. Jones said as she moved around the coffee table, gracefully managing to set her messenger bag and herself down on the opposite end of the couch from Brian who felt like these last two nights kept getting stranger and stranger. Max said nothing as Brian didn’t know what to even begin to say. Jones took the decision out of his hands. At work, Brian remembered her for being the take charge type and here it was no different. She was full of the same energy she brought to the hospital and perhaps even more so now.
She looked up at Max.
“You’re the one who bit him?”
Max had a sheepish look slink across his face before like all emotion he kicked it away. “Yeah.”
The look on Raven’s face changed immediately, from shock to a scowl.
“Are you insane?”
Max’s ears pricked up. “Excuse me?” was his quiet and instantly on edge reply. Good God, the man has no in-between; he’s either trying to act like he doesn’t care or he’s instantly on edge and ready to fight. What the hell is his issue? Brian thought to himself seeing Max’s face darken as his dark eyebrows knitted together.
Jones didn’t even have to respond to his surprised and guilty outburst.
Max kept going, the fur on the back of his neck standing up slightly.
“What the hell was I supposed to do? He wasn’t going to survive. I didn’t know what else to try for fucks sake. I gambled!”
“With his life!” Jones shot back. “When you told me that you had picked up someone who was bit by a shifter and wasn’t dead, I didn’t know what to think. You never told me it was one of my employees and that it was you who bit him!”
Snarling, Max help up his hands, palms open, his teeth glinted in the light.
“I didn’t know who he was! Jesus Christ, Raven.”
“You could have told me it was you who bit him!” she snapped back.
“And that makes a difference how? No one’s ever survived a bite that we know of. All I knew was that there were stories about people who did, people who healed. I did what I thought I had to do to save his life!” Mullen growled, getting up out of his chair and gruffly moving into the kitchen. He yanked open the fridge, the cold light spilling all over his body as he snatched a cold beer bottle out of the fridge.
Raven scowled harder. “Would you stop that? You can’t get drunk off that and you know it. Sit down and talk to me. You always do this.”
Brian looked for an opportunity to interject that he was in fact, still here and didn’t appreciate being spoken about in the third person but the look on both of his new companions face’s shut him down.
Snarling a curse, Max threw the bottle into the trash hard enough to shatter it. He stormed back across the room and landed like a tornado back in his chair, his arms falling heavily between his thighs as he sat forward.
“Quite.” Jones retorted.
“Now then,” she said, sighing. “Sorry about that.” She apologized, looking back at Brian sincerely. “I’m afraid I don’t know you as well as I would like and I’m sorry you’re in this mess. We all thought you were heading to go check on your mom for a few days.”
Brian found his voice again as concern lined his face, the corner of his mouth picking up as he spoke. “You aren’t going to tell anyone are you? I can’t handle much more shite right now.”
Jones shook her head, her chestnut hair falling over her shoulder.
“No. I’m not. I’ll help you as best as I know how; I can’t tell you how rare what’s happened here is. There isn’t a medical case on record so anything we come up with together here will be tenuous at best. You understand that?” she said, turning fully to face Brian, her hands in her lap as she deliberately went out of her way to avoid looking at Max who had gotten up again and was making for the kitchen door. Before anyone could stop him he was gone.
Watching him go, Brian felt his curiosity and admittedly his irritation with his savior spike to unbearable levels.
“Just what the hell is his story anyway?” he asked, looking to Jones for illumination. She lost her professional scowl for a moment, and in that moment, her eyes softened and her expression melted like winter snow in the summer sun. She was suddenly distant, her gaze a million miles away. When she replied, her voice was quiet. Brian could sense her mind whirling at a million miles an hour.
“Max...Max has had a hard time in life. He’s got a lot of damage and he deals with it the best way he can which is not at all, if I’m to be blunt. He goes out every night and gets himself beaten to a bloody pulp. I’ve treated his more serious injuries but he won’t stop. Says he has to do it because no one else will but I know that’s not true.”
“Then what’s the truth?” Brian asked.
“The truth is that he is punishing himself for something he can never hope to forgive himself for. “ Sighing, she turned her attention to Brian again, fully this time.
“Now then, I’d like to ask you some questions and give you a quick look over. I brought some equipment to do some quick tests but it will take a little while for the results to come through. You aren’t going anywhere, right?”
Shaking his head, Brian replied. “Nope. On top of all this, I’ve got a gang out to kill me thanks to a shitty cop who’s on the take with the 86ers.”
Realization shot across her violet eyes. “You mean that drug addled lunatic in the emergency room was one of them?”
“Yeah. Turns out he was one of their biggest dealers. Big cash cow. The cop that took mine and Elijah’s information sold us out to them not long after they left.” Brian said, a stabbing reminder of his dead friend blasting through his mind like a locamotive.
“Elijah....you mean Mr. Connors, the guard who was with you last night ....Oh dear. I’m sorry. Were you close? We heard about him earlier today.” She said, her tone shifting instantly into genuine sympathy. She was always good with her patients and her bona fide heart was one reason why.
Were we close? Brian thought, and it took him a moment to answer and when he did, he wasn’t sure if he didn’t show more than he intended as his eyes tried to sting again. He quickly scratched his inner eye next to his nose, pretending his nose was irritated.
“We were good friends.” He said taking a deep breath. “So, what do we do? Where do we start, doc?” he asked, eager to think about anything else. Jones, sensing his unease perhaps, shuffled as she picked up her messenger back and began opening it. She looked at the coffee table and its collection of bottles, scowling at the ashtray full of bloody bullets especially hard. Setting her bag aside for a moment, she cleared off the table as much as she could, shoving the detritus of Max’s life aside. Satisfied she had enough room, she went back to her bag, pulled out a black laptop computer, opened its shell and powered it on. A few seconds later, a bright blue log-on screen glowed brilliantly. Next to that, she sat up a series of blood collection vials, a marker and a set of IV tubes and sterile needles. She finished by setting up a special piece of equipment that hooked into the USB port on the laptop that looked like it was meant to hold a liquid. Brian noticed the label on it read Madison Genetics Labs. Snapping on a pair of white sterile gloves, she took a breath and sat up straight, looking Brian in the eye.
“First rule, call me Raven. I hear enough of Doctor Jones at work. Secondly, tell me what happened, from start to finish. What led up to Max biting you and what happened after?”
Closing his eyes and breathing deeply, Brian focused his memory, the images clashing terribly and in a few moments, he had told her the short and bloody narrative. She listened attentively, but sharply. He could tell she was noting everything mentally.
“So the wound...would you mind if I saw the site?” she asked.
Shrugging, Brian pulled his shirt up as he leaned back a bit to give her some room. He pointed with right hand while his left held his shirt up.
“Right there, from my belly button up to my kidneys. It actually went up to my chest I think; I can’t remember too much from last night.” He said, tracing his finger up his abdomen.
Raven leaned in, her eyes focused intently, following where he had indicated with her own gloved hands. As her fingers moved through the hair on his stomach and chest it tickled and he jumped.
“Sorry.” She said and went back to her work.
“Its okay.” He said and a moment later she sat back, a confused frown on her face.
“There’s not a single external sign that you were even cut. I felt some residual scar tissue under your skin as I moved but even that seems to be fading; how’s your head? You said you got hit pretty hard there.” She asked.
Brian lowered his shirt.
“Got a headache. Its been getting worse the last few hours. Nothing there anymore either.” He shrugged. She nodded. “With head injuries like that, I would have expected you to have bruising, edema maybe even...” she tailed off. “That is very unusual, even...even for someone like myself and Mr. Mullen. Wounds heal fast but not that fast.”
“One thing that I noticed are my eyes.” He said, adjusting his shirt tail.
“What about them?” she asked as she looked over her instruments on the table, moving to the keyboard on the computer, her fingers moving fast. The screen shifted to a program Brian didn’t recognize but it too had a header on it labeled with Madison Genetics. Some type of analytical program, he thought.
“Well, I used to have brownish eyes, a sort of amber color. My mom always said it was unusual. Earlier, I was in the shower and I noticed that they had changed color. Now, instead of amber, they’re both bright green.”
“Really?” Raven said, intrigued as she swung back to him. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a pen light. Flicking it on, she scooted closer to him and moved it into each of his eyes. The light was blinding at so close a range and the headache that thudded in his temples spiked again. He groaned a bit but muffled it and tried to sit still and not blink.
Raven’s eyes widened at what she saw. He was right; whatever color his eyes once were, they were both a stunning shade of green, like old fashioned green glass bottles with sun light shining through them. His sclera were normal, and so were was his pupils until she moved the light a certain way. A flash of green gold with a hint of red flashed in his pupils as the light struck them.
She moved closer and the shadow of her body blocked the light from lamps, throwing his face into darkness. A split second later, she carefully swallowed a small gasp of shock.
His irises flared to life in that brief moment, not just being a bright green but for that fraction of a moment when they were in shadow, they actually glowed a bright neon green.
Brian shook his head, grimacing. She pulled back immediately. She noticed he was rubbing his closed eyes and when he opened them again, he blinked owlishly before settling slowly back down to normal. She noticed his eyes were no longer glowing.
“What happened?” she asked, not saying anything about the glow she had witnessed, not yet. She needed more evidence.
“When you were up close like that and it got darker something about my vision was...off. I don’t know how else to explain. Colors were funky looking.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Just made me dizzy. I’m fine now.”
Nodding, she picked up the rubber band tourniquet and the needles and IV equipment.
“I’m going to need a few blood samples if that’s okay. Do you have any shifters in your family?” She asked him gently looking at him for permission.
“Not that I know of; I’m not a fan of needles but what the hell. What’s it for?” he asked extending his left arm. She took his arm in her lap gently and looked carefully, searching for the perfect vein. Running her fingers along his skin lightly, she expertly found the branching veins in the crook of his elbow. Moving quickly, she tied the tourniquet tightly.
“Make a tight fist for me and move your arm a bit.” She instructed while she opened the needles. Brian did as he was told, bunching his fist tightly, turning his knuckles white. The muscles in his forearm flexed visibly and his bicep swelled as he moved his arm up and down a few times. Setting it back down, he offered it for sacrifice.
“Right then. Small stick.” Raven said and moved in. Before he knew it, the sharp edge of the hypodermic butterfly needle had slid into his skin, gliding effortlessly between the layers of his skin, the surgical steel biting so easily it barely felt the smallest of pricks.
Watching her work, Brian felt a bit of the tension that had been his constant companion in his inner universe ease a bit. Quickly, she moved a collection tube up and slid it into place with a click. He watched a short spurt of his own dark red blood filled the clear canister. She filled two more tubes and then removed the tourniquet. Placing a sterile gauze over the insertion sight she withdrew the needles and a moment later she didn’t both to put a bandage on it and Brian saw why.
Where normally the site would have bled for a bit, there was no indication she had ever had a needle in his flesh at all; it had already healed. Looking up at her, Brian swallowed back his questions knowing they were both learning as they went. She flipped up the safety cover on the needle and shoved the sharps into an empty beer bottle. She labeled the vials and from one of them, with a new needle, she drew out a small sample of his blood. Taking the syringe over to the USB dongle with the strange white strip, she carefully pushed out a few drops of his blood onto it. A red light lit up and the hard drive whirred as she tapped a few keys.
Realizing the computer was analyzing his sample like a diabetic checked their blood sugar, Brian sat back and Raven went about picking up her tools and securing them back into her bag along with the vials. While they waited on the computer to test the sample she explained to him.
“ Last year, Madison Genetics released a new test protocol and testing dongle for nurses and doctors to use to test children for the prescience of shifter genetics, specifically the proteins lycanoxytein and oranozine. Both are unique to shifters, full generation or not and its presence in the blood can confirm whether or not a person is in possession of a shifter gene and whether or not it’s active. If a normal person had either in his system, they’d die within 24 hours. For full generations like Max, its present but the levels are skewed, meaning the gene is broken. That’s why Max can’t assume a human form. My gene is active and working which is why I can shift back and forth.”
“How long will it take to run?” Brian asked, suddenly and unusually feeling that tension again. His headache had gotten worse and now his joints were beginning to ache. He rubbed his arms unconsciously. He felt like he should say something to Raven but the computer screen held his attention.
On, the progress bar moved closer and closer to 100% completion.
He watched it tick down and with every tick, he felt the ache in his joints get worse.
He felt his heart leap like a fish out of water as the screen flashed and the computer made a sharp electronic beeping noise. Using her finger on the track pad, Raven clicked through the screens and a new page come up. Covered in numbers, charts and there, in the middle, was a single large line graph, showing the make up the chemistry active in his blood.
The lines, with their cold heartless green spikes seemed to taunt him.
“What does it say?” he asked, afraid that he already knew the answer.
For a moment, Raven didn’t say a word but sat wordlessly studying the screen, double checking the results, making sure she wasn’t misreading them.
At last she sat back, her face showing her astonishment as she turned and looked at Brian, deadly seriousness lining her beautiful features.
“Mr. MacGregor,” she started and then stopped herself. “Brian. Are you sure you have no shifters in your family? None at all?”
“No. There aren’t any.”
“Somehow, and I don’t know how, and I don’t know how else to tell you this, Brian, but you have the levels in your blood of a shifter showing that you are carrying an active gene.”
Swallowing hard, Brian felt his skin flush with that cold fear that had been with him all day. He had thought it was gone but this time it was back and it wasn’t going anywhere. His stomach threatened to betray him and he found that his jaw didn’t want to move when he went to speak.
Forcing him to get the words out, they came out as a whisper.
“What does that mean?”
Raven closed the computer and sat back with him in silent shock as she looked him dead in the eyes and didn’t lie or pad anything to make it easier for him.
“Honestly, I don’t know. The levels in your blood are astronomically high. Usually we see those levels in teenagers who are about to undergo their first change. It usually hits during early to mid puberty with shifters. If what I suspect is happening is happening,” she said equally quiet, “then the same will be happening to you. I don’t know when. But it will. It’s only a matter of time. With everything I’ve seen so far, your eyes, the headaches, the rapid healing, it will probably be sooner than later. There’s nothing anyone can do. I’m sorry.”
She might as well have given him a death diagnoses and in way, he supposed darkly, she had. He wasn’t dying; only his humanity. It was being taken from him. He was helpless to stop it. The one thing he hated more than anything else in the world was feeling helpless. It was one reason why he couldn’t stand to watch news much anymore. It was what landed him in anger management as a teenager after his dad had died.
“Will it hurt?” he asked disconnectedly, staring into the space of the apartment, his eyes wandering over to the large windows. Outside, the night was in full swing, the sky jet black, and the stars were not visible from the light pollution from thousands of light-bulbs and street lamps. A car horn blew somewhere and someone shouted at someone. There, hanging high in the darkness, refusing to give away its spot in the night’s stage hung the moon, swollen and full, her baleful silver light raining down, the dark craters on her surface feeling like eyes watching him.
“I don’t know....It doesn’t hurt people like me.” Raven answered, her somber tone cutting him more than the truth did. She reached out a hand and laid it on his shoulder.
“You don’t have to go through this alone. It’s not just me; Max is here too, even if he is being a pain in the ass. One thing he won’t do is abandon you. It’s not in his nature. There are others who help people like us. They can—“ she started but Brian shut her voice out. He stood up suddenly, unable to stand the aching that had spread to his legs and knees. Everything that he thought was stable again was collapsing rapidly. He felt the control he imagined he had regained after the shower slipping away faster than he could grasp.
“I need to go. I need to walk. I need something. I can’t sit here.” Brian said and he moved off towards the kitchen door. He heard Raven stand up behind him and felt her try to catch up to him but his pace was too strong, his legs too long.
“Brain wait. Please! Stay here. We can---“
The closing of the kitchen door cut her off as it clicked closed. His feet moved automatically as he practically jumped the stairs, slamming open the garage door and stepping into the work place. He need motion, action, blood flowing. If he could get that, he would feel better, could get some perspective. He couldn’t just sit here and wait. The gangs were forgotten as he reached the door that led outside, out of the garage.
“Hey! Where are you going?”
Max’s gruff voice came out of shadows behind him and Brian saw him stand up as he passed, the taller shifter’s ears perking forward, his tail lashing.
“gently caress you.” Brian snarled, his voice harsher than he had ever experienced, turning into almost a growl as he finally let his contempt for Max’s behavior off its leash. He saw Max’s eyes gleam yellow in the shadows of the work space and didn’t care.
Shoving the door open roughly, Brian stepped out into the night and with a slam of the door was gone.