He Had It Coming (Invite Only)
Rowan was getting used to Cris's unseen presence by now. He'd been back to work for about a week, shadowed by his blended partner and Emma 'the new intern' Sullivan from Security. At first he hadn't liked it but now he wasn't so sure. There was something to be said for having Cris's undivided attention all night and all day, even if it was in a mostly professional capacity. He found himself frequently wondering how Cris could remain so vigilant, all the time, always watching. Surely a certain amount of paranoia must be required, but his partner didn't seem paranoid. Just almost feverishly determined. Rowan loved him more for it.
Cris's hand was in his pocket, the way it had been for every walk home that week. So far, their killer had been quiet but that wasn't much comfort. To Rowan it seemed like the calm before the storm. There had been a promise of further torment and Rowan hated waiting.
He squeezed Cris's hand and felt a squeeze in return. Soon, he thought, they would be home. He would like to sit his partner down and rub his shoulders for a good long time; perhaps his feet too. And they would see where that led.
As they walked along, in an area of the Strip that was currently not heavily populated, Rowan suddenly felt another weight in his pocket. Something cool and papery. Something else warm and alive.
In a split second, the peaceful walk home was shattered. Cris's hand was yanked out of Rowan's pocket, Rowan's hand still in it. He felt Cris tug hard, and realized his partner had run into something. Someone.
Rowan immediately tightened his hand on Cris's, knowing how it must look to onlookers but afraid to lose hold of his partner. He, too, became tangled in something. Something that kicked him with way too much strength to be human.
What ended up happening was that Rowan ended up in what appeared to be a one-man pileup on the sidewalk. Only, he knew better... the person they had just become entangled with could only be one person.
Rowan flailed with one hand, trying to grab any part of their attacker that he could to prevent the man from leaving. Only, he didn't know if he was about to grab Cris or worse, Gary, the other blended Security member who was escorting them.
They had fallen into this pattern quite comfortably and the walks home were almost enjoyable. It would be better if he did not have to be blended and was talking happily to Rowan about every day nonsense. Instead, most of the time he was keeping up a non-verbal conversation with Gary, Ume and the surveillance team.
Emma and her partner, who was posing as her boyfriend, were driving home and would probably reach The Towers before them. He did not want her walking to The Towers and she couldn't take the same route as Rowan anyway. They went a different direction, stopped to get Emma something to eat and then went back home. Cris didn't want her getting out of the car so occasionally they just found a Starbucks and got a couple cups of coffee before heading home. He didn't want his employee eating junk food every night of the week simply to keep up appearances. She swore there was a very healthy organic sandwich place that had a drive through and some decent choices from other places. Apparently Emma had done her research, either for this case or as a woman who did not always have time to cook a meal.
He had just been commenting to Gary about the man further up the road standing and talking on his cellphone when he felt something else warm slide into Rowan's pocket. For a brief absurd moment, Cris wondered why Gary had swapped sides and decided to get their attention like this. The truth came hard on the heels of that odd thought and he quickly clutched the new hand in a steely grip. There was a bracelet, slightly rough and something cool that caused his hand to slip along the man's wrist, he repositioned his fingers to get the jewelry out of his way, lest it cost him his hold. Then he face planted right into something he couldn't see. That was odd but at the moment he was not giving that much thought. Cris flung his other arm around the back...or the front...of whoever he had just run into. The front, he determined quickly as the unseen person tried to pull away from them.
[Gary, the killer is here. My side, slightly in front of Rowan,facing me.]
Meanwhile his partner was trying to keep a hold on him which caused a brief but odd tug of war just outside of Rowan's pocket. Then the killer realizing that two vampires tugging on his arm was more than he could reasonably handle, yanked downward. It caused Cris to lean further into the killer, smushing his face awkwardly into the man's chest, and tilt sideways but didn't quite knock him over. Hurray for being short! Rowan, however, was not being held up in part by the killer's own body, and he was taller than Cris, meaning the yank downward tilted him over further.
His partner went sprawling on the sidewalk. This might have been good for the killer except that Rowan landed on the man's feet and he had Cris behind him, now being dragged down by Rowan's grip on his hand. (He was short but not that short) Cris fell sideways, trying to keep himself stable with the other hand that was around the person's waist. That hand slid as he fell sliping down the softer fabric of a shirt and onto denim. The killer should be glad he wore decent fitting jeans because Cris would have surely yanked them down otherwise. As it was, he desperately grabbed for a new hold around one of the killer's legs. This toppled the man over...right on top of Rowan.
[Scratch that Gary. He's now on the ground in front of Rowan.]
He heard something squeak and a part of his mind noted that it was Sam. Suddenly a mouse became visible leaping from a point in mid air, presumably in the area of Gary's pocket, to the sidewalk a few feet ahead of them. Where it went after that he didn't know and did not have time to consider.
[Roger that] Came Gary's low but soft voice. [Moving forward now.]
He meant to simply wait for Rowan to pass, slip the poem into his pocket, and continue on his way beyond the vampire. He did just that but his hand encountered much more in Rowan's pocket than he expected, and while he was surprised, his keen senses also informed him that Rowan was not alone. It was too late though. A hand that was definitely not the doctor's clamped down on Brand's wrist.
Brand pulled his hand from Rowan's pocket while his free hand flailed a bit. He pulled away, then back, then down, trying to throw his assailants off balance. The end result was that Rowan fell over, knocking Brand's legs from beneath him as well. Brand tried to square himself up in order to pull or tug or somehow remain stable but instead he bumped up against whoever else was there and that person clamped onto his waist and slid down, grappling Brand's leg in a crushing grip.
They ended up sprawled in a pile on the street, Brand tangled up over Rowan and against whoever was grabbing his left hand and right leg. Brand's top priority at this point as to get the hell out of there. He couldn't risk being seen. To that end it was best that he simply inflict as much damage as possible. He couldn't kick, not with his right leg being grabbed, and his left wasn't much in contact with anyone. Unless... he brought his left knee forward violently and heard Rowan grunt as it connected. Then Brand realized Rowan's legs were in a much better position than Brand's, for Rowan kicked out as well and connected solidly with Brand's stomach.
Brand shoved his free hand down into his front right jeans pocket for the 7.5" Espada that was there. He pulled his right arm up as he flicked the big blade open, feeling it slice into whoever was pressed up against his thigh. That was good, but he had another goal. He quickly slashed across the area of their hands several times, trying to cut away at both people, whoever they were. Bright drops of blood appeared in the air, flung away from them, to spatter against the wall of a nearby building. Brand could smell it and he used it to heighten the beast inside should he need it.
Quickly pulling the knife away he plunged it downward several times. Whoever was hanging onto him had to let go in order for him to get away. Brand stabbed and connected, not caring if he injured himself as well. It would heal, but he had to get out of here now.
In the meantime he kicked out with his leg, as hard as he could, connecting with something somewhat soft. There was an expellation on air he felt against his own face, not very close; just enough to know the someone was there. And that it wasn't Cris, who, to his knowledge, had not eaten anything with onions in it recently. Odd thing to note in the middle of a tussle, but when the participants were mostly unseen, you took what you could get.
There was a stinging pain in his hand and he saw blood well up as the attacker obviously pulled a knife and used it to try to free himself. The blade was long and bit into Rowan's wrist as the tang of blood filled the air. Rowan involuntarily let go of the stranger's hand then, with a cry as he realized what he'd done, immediately punched toward the scent of onions, connecting with a glancing blow.
He felt short hair and grabbed, hard. There was no response from Cris so Rowan had to assume he'd grabbed the right person. As that happened, a new voice entered his head.
[Dr. Murphy, I'm at your feet. Don't kick me, please.]
How very Gary... polite even in the midst of a brawl.
[Noted,] Rowan responded. [My hand is in his hair.]
Rowan felt a new weight against his legs as Gary leaned over, groping for their attacker. There was even more thrashing as Gary presumably grabbed the man by the head or shoulders, and Rowan wished they had chosen a feather bed or a trampoline for the location of this fight. Cement sure didn't have a lot of give, and while Cris wasn't very heavy, Gary and their unknown partner weren't featherweights.
[He has a...] The man slashed again slicing at his hand. That hurt but he hung on, glad the killer hadn't severed the right muscles to keep him from grasping properly. [a knife] He finished to Rowan. His partner's hand fell away and Cris could smell Rowan's blood as well as his own, warm and familiar and on the wrong side of his lover's body. Gritting his teeth, Cris squeezed harder, hoping to seriously bruise the wrist that he clinging too. [Are you alright, Love?]
[Gary, knife. Be careful.]
It seemed that his stubborn refusal to let go had an effect on their target. He stopped trying to slash at the hand grasping him and instead stabbed downward several times. The first one sliced a gash into his back and the second, now that the killer had a better idea what he was aiming for, went deep into the trapezius, connecting near his spine. A yowl was wrenched out of him before he clamped his mouth shut, hard enough to clack his teeth together and send the vibration through his skull. Grunting in pain, he gathered some purchase on the sidewalk with his feet and shoved his shoulder and upper body into the man, hoping to knock him further off balance. Of course, it was unfortunate that the guy was laying partially on top of Rowan.
[I got him!] Gary's voice sent exuberantly. [At least I think I got him...]
[You have not got me so you must have him.] Cris acknowledged that no new hands were touching him.
[I have his head and a shoulder.] Gary sent again. [I think I can stun him.]
Despite the pain he was in, Cris's heart soared at that news. This might be over tonight and no one else need die. [Do it.] He sent to Gary, hoping that this would be over soon because he wouldn't be able to hold on much longer; his arm was getting weaker by the moment. Cris loosened his hold on the man's wrist and wrapped both arms around the man's waist. He hoped that would be enough to keep him down until Gary could shock the hell out of him.
In the mean time he would at least make it difficult for the guy to run if he managed to get away. Tilting his head to the side, he reared back and then clamped his teeth down hard on the man's leg. Werewolf blood, and he was fairly certain this was a werewolf, was poison to a vampire but Cris wasn't keeping his mouth on the wound and he hoped that the denim kept most of the blood from reaching his mouth.
While he hung there waiting for Gary to zap the man or to be stabbed again, Cris cheered himself with the thought that they had him and there were three of them to one of him. There was a good chance that no more children need die and Rowan would be safe. It occurred to him then that the man must have been sticking his hand in Rowan's pocket for a reason. Now that his thoughts had gone to the purpose of the killer's presence, Cris realized he could smell smoke. [Emma, Come back to 7th street. There is fire somewhere near here. You and your partner may need to call 911. Someone will be in that fire.]
Rowan's hand yanked his hair with a tremendously strong grip, his foul-smelling blood dripping onto Brand's head. He didn't care; hair would grow back. He plunged his knife downwards again, angling it slightly, trying to inflict more damage. He could see blood on the ground beneath them, just barely. The blade bit in again and he went for another strike except suddenly something strong as iron wrapped around his neck and shoulders.
A third vampire? Brand felt panic rise as he thrashed, hard, blade and fist connecting with anything he could connect with. He could not fight off three vampires; he probably couldn't have fought off two. It was time to pull out the big guns. That opinion was further confirmed as something sharp dug into his leg. What the fuck? One of the vampires had bitten him. He flexed his muscles, trying to somehow inflict pain on the one that had bitten him. His blood flowed, and he felt it soak into his jeans, mixing with that of whoever he'd already slashed.
He abandoned the knife as a weapon, folding it closed with a swift flick and jamming it back into his jeans pocket even as he let the blood scent take him. The smell of it coursed through him, enacting his Change with a swiftness that he craved. The pain was brief but exquisite, the feel of his shift a type of euphoria that couldn't be explained, only experienced.
He grew, he swelled, he became nearly 300 pounds of pure muscle, teeth, and claws. The hands around his neck tried to get some purchase, digging into his fur. Rowan's hand continued to grip while the doctor, finally somewhat free, began to punch with his other hand. Brand took the hits on his face until he was fully shifted. Then he snapped out, catching the vampire's arm in his jaws and attempting to crush it, shaking his head violently.
Rowan pulled away though; Brand lunged forward and snapped, teeth scraping along the doctor's face as the two people behind him pulled him back hard. Brand felt Rowan wrench himself free, scrambling backward, leaving a trail of blood. Brand couldn't pay any attention to that right now; there were two more people to work his way free of.
With all of his strength Brand threw himself sideways, rolling all of his weight onto the already injured person clinging to that side of his back. His strong hind legs, meanwhile, kicked viciously out at the other person while his head twisted and turned, snapping for anything his teeth could find.
He heard Cris's cry of pain and his heart stopped entirely. [Cris, what's going on? Let him go, it's not worth it, it's not worth you.]
Panic hit him like a freight train. He couldn't lose Cris. What the hell was going on? What was happening? Adrenaline and raw strength finally freed his right hand and he fisted it, punching viciously again.
Something was wrong though; the person they were holding onto was shifting, changing... his shape was wrong now. He was more dense, heavier. Rowan grunted as yet more weight came down on his body. He was going to be a rainbow of fruit flavors in a few hours, but he didn't care. Cris was hurt. He punched again and missed, for the face was no longer that of a human but a wolf. A set of jaws closed around Rowan's wrist and squeezed hard, teeth digging in. Rowan pulled away, feeling skin tear and blood flow freely. Then the weight on top of him shifted. He knew what was coming and he yanked himself backward, but was unable to avoid being bitten. He felt those teeth on the left side of his face, then felt another shift in weight. There was an opening... yes! He scrambled back, freeing himself from the tangle.
Once he'd done that, though, he had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do. He rolled upward, coming to a crouch, hands thrust out in front of him, wishing he hadn't let go. He could have regrown a limb; now he couldn't help Cris.
"Cris... Cris, what the hell is going on?" He said, frantic with worry. "Where are you? Jesus, I can't find you. Where are you?"
There was another cry of pain, this one Gary's. It came from in front of him and slightly to his right. Rowan lunged froward, but encountered nothing except cement.
He wasn't sure he'd ever felt so helpless. He couldn't see his Clanmates, he couldn't help his partner and Cris needed him. They couldn't become visible; it would give this wolf too big an advantage. He understood that. There was nothing he could use as a weapon without potentially injuring Cris or Gary.
And worse, he could now distinctly smell the acrid scent of fire nearby. Close. Rowan blinked rapidly, trying to find some way to help, but he couldn't find anything useful.
The man beneath him started moving and contorting in odd ways. After a moment he understood what was going on; he was clinging to a werewolf during the change. Not one of his more healthy ideas.
Just a little longer; that was all it would take.
[It is okay, Rowan.] His partner told him to let go of their target and he stubbornly shook his head just slightly even though Rowan couldn't see it. [No, he won't kill another person if we stop him now.]
Thanks to the invisibility of the mass he was grappling he could see Rowan punching the "airâ€ repeatedly. It made him smile to see Rowan fight just as fiercely as any member of his team. He was not exactly sure what part his companion was hitting but he hoped it was somewhere painful.
It soon became obvious where Rowan had been punching as something unseen snatched Rowan's wrist and began to bite down. His partner pulled his arm away, tearing flesh as he went. Cris tried his hardest to yank on the wolf he was holding, using all of the strength he had left and whatever leverage he could manage in his current position. In the tug of war with the wolf, his arms slipped on the clothes that no longer fit. He hastily shoved at them with one hand to clear a space for a new hand hold. Adjusting his grip, Cris found himself with his bloody cheek leaned against the werewolf's back and his arms wrapped just below the disturbingly massive chest.
The werewolf rolled over onto his back, pinning Cris beneath him. He groaned in pain, unable to do much more as all the wind had been knocked out of him. Somewhere above him he could hear Rowan frantically calling his name. His own thoughts were fairly uncharitable as he was wondering what was taking Gary so long with that tazer. [Just a minute more, Love.] His vision was going an alarming shade of red on the outer edges and Cris realized that last stab might have gone through something useful, maybe not vital on a vampire, but definitely useful. He noted absently that he was probably leaving a large red stain on the sidewalk.
He felt the wolf kick out at something and could feel the shock of connection vibrate up through the killer's hind legs. Must have been Gary.
[Did you lose your hold?] He asked his team mate, hoping the answer was no. [Still got the blighter but he kicked me hard, almost knocked me off. Almost had a connection before but he went for the doctor...] Cris would have nodded his understanding if he could but he was currently in no state to do that. [Easier to tell him from you now though, isn't it?] So it was, nice of Gary to point out the bright side of things.
[Hurry please, can't hold him much longer.]
[On it, Boss.] He could only assume Gary was struggling to hold onto the more business end of the werewolf. Perhaps he should be glad he was only being crushed by the damn thing.
And then he wasn't. The creature rolled to the side, struggling to come up onto his feet with two vampires still clinging to him. Cris created hardly any obstacle at all to that goal. He weighed little and was barely conscious. Somewhere close by he could hear the crackle and pop of the tazer and thought that at least it would finally be over. Then he heard nothing else.
Oh, hell. Gary thought as he realized what he had done. The werewolf had rolled and twisted just as he struck. Instead of meeting fur with the tazer, he connected with a slender wool covered shoulder. Cris became instantly visible and fell to the ground, writhing and twitching on the sidewalk.
"That could have gone better.â€ He muttered softly and put the tazer away.
Stepping back toward a doorway, he became visible and then rushed over to his boss. It was not the best way to emerge from a blend but he hoped that people will just assume he had stepped out of the building. Besides, they were more likely to remember Dr. Murphy rolling on the ground struggling with nothing, blood coming from nowhere and a body simply appearing right out in the middle of the sidewalk. There seemed to be very few, if any witnesses left. Most took off when the good doctor appeared to be having some sort of fit. Good Samaritans, all of them.
[We might need a cleaning crew down here on 7th. Don't know if there was anyone around to see but the scene was definitely well out of 'normal'.] He told the group in the van. They needed to get the evidence off the street and potentially deal with any witnesses. He could do one but not the other.
"Can you help me get him up, Doctor?â€ Gary turned to Rowan. "I need you to take him home. Will you do that please, Sir?â€ He looked down at his unconscious superior and frowned, wishing he could go straight home with them. And tell him. I'm sorry.â€
Gary gathered up the shreds of clothing that the werewolf left on the street and then stepped back into the shadows and blended once more. There had to be some kind of can, bucket or other waterproof container around here that he could use to quickly wash away most of the blood. He would see to that first and then go home. The Chief would want that taken care of.
From Rowan's words Brand understood that Christian was one of the invisible assailants. If he'd been human he would have smiled; at least if the fire hadn't gone as planned he'd still put the fear of losing his beloved partner into his intended victim. It wasn't how he'd planned this out but it would have to do.
Brand suddenly found himself free. Free of clinging vampires, free to take off on his own. He didn't waste a second. Brand knew when he was outnumbered and in this, he most certainly was. He wasn't finished though. The hunter inside demanded he see this game to its end. He would have to move quickly, and this would not be the perfect ending he had imagined but it was going to happen. And if he had any say in it both Rowan Murphy and Christian Bern would go down in flames.
He was already planning, even as his claws dug into the gravel to carry him quickly away from the scene of the fight.
((ooc: Brand out))
[Just see that you aren't that 'again,'] he responded in all seriousness. [I will not lose you.]
He tried to hide his alarm as a spreading pool of dark, liquid red began to appear on the sidewalk. Rowan had no idea what was going on, but he did hear Cris make a sound that had him lunging forward, heedless of teeth or claws. Shortly after that Cris told him something about a minute more but Rowan was already advancing again.
He groped and found something furry. It ripped away from him and he fell forward. There was a strange sound, like the charge of an electric current, and suddenly Cris became visible, convulsing on the ground in front of Rowan and slightly to his left. Rowan grunted in horror as he saw his partner there, covered in blood. The right side of his cheek was bleeding profusely from a gash that had split it open. The blood that was spreading all over the street was clearly coming from Cris's back or side.
Rowan threw himself over Cris in case their invisible killer had it in mind to attack him while he was down. He slid his hand beneath Cris's head, for as his partner writhed insensibly on the ground he was doing himself more damage. Gary appeared from the sidelines and Rowan glanced up at him sharply. The doctor took charge, in spite of his trying to convince himself that he knew nothing about security and should stay out of their business.
Cris was his business.
"You think?" he asked, sharper than intended, when Gary suggested Rowan get Cris back to the Towers. He stripped his coat off and Cris's as well. He wadded Cris's ruined suit jacket up and pressed it up against his side and back. Then he lifted Cris and gently laid him upon his own coat. He wrapped his partner in it and pulled the hood up. Then as carefully as possible he gathered his partner's lean frame to his chest and rose.
He turned to see Gary looking somewhat stricken and bruised himself. The man's leg was bleeding where he too had been injured and Rowan immediately felt bad for being so short toward someone who had just risked his life to save his own. He reached out, holding Cris easily in one arm, and rested his hand gently on Gary's shoulder.
"It's not your fault," he said. "Cris will be fine. Do what you need to do and get back to the Towers so I can have a look at you. That's an indirect order. Please have someone from the van escort us back. I don't know if he'll try to finish the job. And tell... I don't know. Alfarinn. That we're coming."
There was an apology in his eyes, for his earlier brusque words, but there was a hardness there too. If the killer was dumb enough to show up again Rowan would murder him. He held Cris close and took off at a dead run, heedless of his own wounds or the fact that he was moving far faster than he should. They weren't terribly far from the Towers but every second wasted was another heart's pump of blood that Cris desperately needed.
((ooc: All out))