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November 25th, 2018

Companion Piece to “Sands of Time”

Little Monks Garage, early evening

 

 

 

He’d stared at his phone for longer than he should have.  Why was this so hard?  Absent from civilization the last few days, the buzz of the moon was still on his skin.  Relatively unscathed in his new vault set-up though, that was setting up to be a novel success.  When he’d returned to his apartment, Mack still hadn’t been there, their unusual on again off again relationship satiating whatever need she had to keep her autonomy.  Of course, the fact she never really left his senses because she was all over his apartment was a hell he had now to deal with daily.  Not so much a hell, as a reality.  She was ingrained in his bones. The cat wanted her around, he wanted her around, and his demure and polite status when she was there made him wonder if it was the reason she didn’t stay permanently.  Maybe she didn’t feel he wanted her there, but when she pushed and brought out the sass he kept so tightly controlled it was very evident he wanted her company.

 

Brows furled at the permanent part. 

 

Huff was quiet, looking at his truck again in the bay.  It was something he couldn’t fix, and he was pretty competent in that area.  She was definitely the one that could.  It was time to search for a new vehicle, even with his immaculate care of the thing vehicles didn’t last forever. 

 

Phone flipped open and he dialed.

 

Voicemail.

 

[kai]Hi Mack, I’m at Monks and I could use a hand if you’re free.  I’m going to try and see what I can do, if I don’t hear from you in an hour I’m going to head home.[/kai]

 

Home.  Their home?  His home?  Crash pad?  Did she feel she needed permission to return when it was “safe”?

 

Phone clicked shut and he left his Pea Coat on the rack, pushing up the sleeves of his charcoal colored Henley and pulling his Navy beanie closer around his ears.  Hood was already up, the guys had gone home for the day and the owner was working on her own projects.  She’d given him rein a while ago because Mack was always involved.  Skin prickled again, he was too close out of a change to be around her… but… how would he learn to control it?  It definitely wasn’t by avoiding, and the mysticism surrounding his changes had to be tackled eventually.

 

But first, he needed to fix his truck.

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Mack walked to her motorcycle as she dug into her jeans for her phone.  She kept it on her at all times but made it a point to keep it on silent.  Last thing she wanted was someone here in Vanguard to get curious why her phone went off.  She hadn't gotten to many calls before but she got some now.

 

Thankfully she doubted anyone would have understood who was calling anyway.  She had Kai listed as "Pretty Boy Shrink" in her phone.  Since Vanguard did not require said psychologist and counselors be in the organization it was easy to claim it was just a new one for her.  

 

That didn't explain the small grin that twisted her lips at seeing she had a message from him though.

 

She wiped it off with a scowl for a moment.  Kai and her well...uh...hell if she knew.  They gave each other space when required and were together when they felt like it.  

 

She'd missed him while he'd been gone on his monthly hiatus to where ever he could Were-Hulk out. It gave her time to herself which was good.  Or maybe it was bad.  

 

Hell she didn't know what to make of all of this.  When he was home and she was over they meshed. Kai made food, Mack fixed things here and there like the sink when it had clogged on the poor man causing a stench that had him needing to sit on the balcony.  They watched movies and commented on old tv shows.  Sometimes Kai popped up to visit Mack if she was working on someone else's ride somewhere, she still didn't know how the hell he found her at times but figured it had to be the super nostrils.

 

They never went out.

 

Then one of them would get antsy or need space.  They never talked about how Kai sometimes got so stiff and moody that Mack would stay away or how he'd ramble sometimes in multiple languages in his sleep.  Nor did they talk about how sometimes Mack still didn't sleep well enough due to nightmares or how often she had far too much to drink which always lead to a mess around the house because she decided to take something apart or have a childish tantrum and Kai cleaned it up.

 

She supposed that made them some kind of friends with benefits?

 

Swearing mentally Mack listened to the message.  She couldn't help but roll her eyes hearing that Kai's ride was having issues again.  She'd done her best but it was still struggling from when he'd busted it up.  Parts were just hard to come by in some cases.

 

His comment about home though had her staring at her phone for a bit while she was straddled on her bike.  It bothered her a little that home was turning into Kai instead of her dreary dungeon.  People weren't permanent after all anymore than a building was.  Mack had learned that harsh lesson from the last number of years.  She wouldn't be able to take losing someone close to her again...

 

So it stood to reason she shouldn't let Kai get to close right?

 

...except frankly that idea sucked.

 

She tabled the thought for now, as she always did when such things came up.  There was work to be done so she pulled on her helmet and was off to Monk's.

 

Mack got there in her usual record time, parking her bike in it's usual spot before she came in.

 

"Knock knock," she called out to let Kai know it was her although he probably knew long before she called out.  "What fell off this time?  Wasn't the engine was it?"

 

She patted around for her flask as she came over to take a peek.  Smoking in the garage would have been a bad idea so she thought a quick nip would be better for her.

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[kai]Please don’t be the head gaskets…[/kai]

 

The quiet comment to himself was under his breath as he checked the time.  He loved his truck, it had been bad enough when he’d wrecked half the body of his own accord in a Were tantrum.  It was painfully evident at that time there were few of the vehicles around even before the Resonance, and now even less after.  He was coming to the inevitable conclusion he may have to find a new vehicle, even if it was in immaculate shape to the eye.

 

The truck had been pushing up in engine temperature over the last several days. He’d done everything he could.  Checked the radiator, coolant, pumps, oil levels.  Then… it overheated after work and barely got him to Monk’s

 

It was not looking good.  Stepping into the break room, he pulled two beers from the small fridge.  One went on the work bench, the other was cracked and half swallowed in a matter of seconds. He wasn’t good with alcohol.  Not in the slightest.  Never had been.  Oddly enough, even as a Were he still couldn’t hold his liquor.  Sure, it burned off quicker, but the first half hour was still the same shuffle of babble.  He finished it, having found a bit more appreciation for the feel of a drunken stupor accompanied by the influence of someone else that drank like a fish. It did help, but he didn’t do it often.  Taking the other bottle, he leaned in under the hood again, hearing her bike park near the garage and trying to think up another reason it could be doing what it was doing.

 

He knew she was going to ask the usual slew of questions.  It had to be the head gaskets, which pretty much meant he was screwed.

 

"Knock knock,  What fell off this time?  Wasn't the engine was it?"

 

Sound of a familiar patting hit his ears,  and he purposefully rapped the now refreshingly sweating bottle softly against the front fender while he was still under the hood before he held it out to her.  He had come to appreciate why she drank, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t steer her to a habit a bit less caustic than her usual rot-gut.

 

[kai]Checked the oil, hoses, pumps, electrical, radiator. Been slightly overheating the last couple days.  Barely made it tonight before it started  a slow haze of smoke.[/kai]

 

Please don’t be the head gaskets.

 

Gaze lifted out of the engine, the same familiar almost “giddy” shyness when she came closer.  Pupils still held a touch of the wild, too close to the moon still. Everything seemed to react to her presence. Everything.

 

Everything.

 

Swallow was soft, taking a step back to let the master take a peek, a slow inhale trying to mix the scents of the room together instead of the Were separating every little bit of stimulation.  The alcohol was helping.  It was purposeful.  She had rubbed off a bit on him after all…

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Mack couldn't help but smile at the sight she walked into. Kai with his head under the hood, his very nice ass sticking out for appreciation, and he had a cold one held out to her. She took it with murmured thanks before taking a long pull as he told her what ground he had covered.

 

"I have heard Weres run hot but this is just ridiculous," she teased with a wink to show Kai she meant no ill will. She hadn't mastered not making prejudice comments so she'd been encouraging Kai to make some back and turn things more into a game or a joke between them instead.

 

After another pull she gave Kai a kiss on the cheek before setting the beer down and diving into the guts of the truck. "There's a number of other things it could be. Fans, thermostats, shroud...cross your fingers and hope it's not the gaskets though."

 

She scowled as she started digging, hunting for the problem amidst the chaos of the machine. One down side to machines was once they broke they had a tendency to keep having issues, and Kai had done a number on it before when he'd bashed it up in a were rage. She knew that would make him feel guilty and monstrous though so she came at the problem from another angle.

 

"You know this truck seems much for you. I mean it's gotta cost an arm and a leg to keep the tank full with gas. Ever think about investing in a cheaper ride? Could always get a Harley and maybe you'll give me a few rides instead huh?" Her head popping up as she gave a cheeky grin and a wiggled brow before pointing at tools sitting nearby. "Hand me that wrench will you?"

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He hated this. Dammit. Hated everything he could distinguish as soon as the woman walked in. Weres weren’t mind-readers in any sense of the word… but they could pick things up very quickly. Scents on skin when the brain moved through changes.

 

He needed more beer.

 

Stat.

 

"I have heard Weres run hot but this is just ridiculous”

 

Less than a few seconds and he had another bottle in his hand from the tiny fridge, [kai]makes the beer a bit more necessary.[/kai]

 

It was actually the truth. Car problems, full moon problems… and Mack problems. Rolled into one, that was a big problem- it would be a fierce fight before the end of the night to keep it together. Not in a complete meltdown sense… but having to excuse himself from the whole situation because he could no longer function would definitely put a damper on the night.

 

Kiss was met with a blink and another quick swig. Should he….. kiss her back? Was this a thing? He was going to be drunk off his ass if this kept up... hopefully she wasn't paying attention to how many he was having. Lips pursed slightly to reciprocate on her forehead but she was already gone and under the hood.

 

Forehead? WTF… face quirked slightly, brooding at the social dumb. Fingers scratched the newly shorn hair at the back of his neck, the tactile sensation of velvet on a new cut pulling him away from his inward scolding.

 

More beer.

 

"There's a number of other things it could be. Fans, thermostats, shroud...cross your fingers and hope it's not the gaskets though."

 

Head gasketsss… he cringed slightly.

 

Forearms leaned on the high fender as he watched. She was checking everything he’d checked, made him feel a bit better, and a bit happy that she was here helping him. Proud by association. Weird. The emotion tickled at him. Fondness? It had come so naturally at the moment… the right words, expressions.. behaviors, even the right feel in his gut.

 

Fuck, it was the alcohol. Were plus alcohol equaled a real boy…. or a dangerously intoxicated Were. Lips quirked in thought, coming back to the task at hand.

 

"You know this truck seems much for you. I mean it's gotta cost an arm and a leg to keep the tank full with gas. Ever think about investing in a cheaper ride? Could always get a Harley and maybe you'll give me a few rides instead huh?"

 

The expression he gave her was like a kicked puppy. Money wasn’t an issue. Did she not like his apartment? He thought it was nice. Did she not like it?

 

A bike… the prospect brought a quick inhale, unconsciously reaching to dust the slight clip on his ear. He could ride a bike like a bat out of hell… the thought hadn’t occurred to him when he returned to New York. The rest of world didn’t have the glut of cars that this country used to. Bikes were what got him around, out of scrapes, kept him alive and moving. He could do things on a simple dirt-bike that most would die even trying. It had never occurred to him to get a street legal bike when he returned, they didn’t seem… normal for his need to fit in.

 

[kai]I can ride bikes,[/kai] he confessed quietly. Not A bike, as in plural kinds, surprised at how easily it came out and how much he didn’t notice he’d said it. It was a horrific bike accident that took the nip out of his ear. Of course that was after they shot him twice in the arm in a crowded market and he slid into a building. India. They were Russian. He had taken something of theirs. They were in worse shape than he when he was done with them.

 

"Hand me that wrench will you?"

 

He blinked a bit slowly, snatching it off the workbench, catching it with a sharp slap when it wobbled in his fingers and he handed it to her. The Were rubbed again at the back of his neck, touching the cool bottle to his cheek a moment before taking another swig and watching her. A new car didn’t seem palatable. Neither did a bike. He wanted his truck. He was comfortable with his truck. That was the problem. The thought itched at him.

 

Mack was itching at him.

 

Feline attention watched her, a small lock of hair moving on her cheek as she worked... a bell on a piece of string...

 

[kai]Thanks. For coming… I mean, it was short notice, and you didn’t have to.[/kai]

 

He knew what to say around everyone. Every single person in the world, except Mack.

 

He didn’t want to talk anyway, he wanted to…

 

KAI!!!!

 

Another quick swig, gaze switching to what her hands were doing, trying to focus intently on what she was working on… the feline pupils very wide.

 

[kai]I think I might need a new car.[/kai] he confessed finally. [kai]...I don't think you'd like my driving on a bike.[/kai]

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Mack gave a grin watching Kai bob the wrench for a minute. Once he handed it to her she was back under the hood to get things moved out of the way so she could see where the problem might be hiding. As he spoke up again, thanking her for coming in spite of short notice she couldn't help but pull her head back out and fix him with a quizzical look.

 

"What are friends for? I mean...we are friends right? At the least anyways?" she asked suddenly nervous. Was she reading everything wrong? Maybe she had damaged things more than she thought trying to keep him safe.

 

Her panic at herself was derailed when Kai mentioned that she wouldn't like him on a bike. She gave a biting kind of chuckle and shook her head at him. "You have seen how I handle my own here have you not? Can't imagine it's much worse. Maybe more stunts but that's what protective gear is for," she commented. It was why no one would ever find Mack without a helmet or any of the rest of her riding gear. Besides it being useful against things like teeth as zombies didn't have the fangs to rip through it all without some work.

 

She tried to focus on the truck but now she was distracted, wondering about her and Kai again like she had been for awhile now. She didn't like not knowing where things were and the general plan. If it was just a mutual kind of sexual needs addressing or maybe something more, she didn't care but she wanted a clear picture. At least she tried to tell herself she wouldn't care about that. When one had death around the corner all the time a bit of wild monkey (or kitty she supposed) sex was not exactly strange to need.

 

Right?

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That look.  His probably mirrored the quizzical expression she was giving him.  Was he not supposed to say that?  She didn’t want to be thanked?  Bottle went up slowly to his lips to take another long drink as she spoke.

 

"What are friends for? I mean...we are friends right? At the least anyways?"

 

She was nervous, he could smell it tickling the top of his palate.  Why was she nervous?  C’mon psychiatrist….  why was she nervous?

 

[kai]Yes?[/kai]  voice was a quiet question.  [kai]I just…[/kai]  bottled fingers came up to rubbed his forehead slightly, fingertips cool from the bottle.  [kai]I just didn’t want to assume you would or could come to my rescue with this old truck.  Cause.. .  you don’t have to.  But, I like it when you do.[/kai]

 

Good god.

 

He finished the rest of the bottle out of necessity.  Two down.  Two beers.  He had to be careful.  Several shots of whiskey had him on his ass.  If he kept sucking down beers to find more liquid courage he’d be sitting in the corner singing about “Merlin the Happy Pig”.  That’s why he liked coffee… coffee didn’t make him want to make up songs about goblins.

 

Ears perked again at her laugh.  Apparently bikes were good to talk about.

 

"You have seen how I handle my own here have you not? Can't imagine it's much worse. Maybe more stunts but that's what protective gear is for,"

 

He’d stepped slightly closer, watching what she was doing.  Brain clicked.  Did she not want to be friends with benefits?  More even?  How would he figure that out.  He could ask her.  On like, a date?  Did she do dates?  If she did dates, did she want to keep doing them?

 

[kai]I didn’t have time to do that,[/kai]  he confessed before he could stop himself.  [kai]Got in the way of aiming, couldn’t pull things I needed to out of a flak jacket... when I had time to even put that on.  They’re easy to ditch and disappear when hostiles are on your ass....  Cars are generally a North American and European thing.  Most of the world I saw gets, or got around on bikes.[/kai]

 

It was the first trickle of anything he'd ever divulged to anyone, other than the front he put out to the rest of the world.  He cleared his throat quietly.

 

[kai]Did… did you want to go out some time? I mean, I know the obvious… issue.  But.[/kai]

 

Fingers scratched the back of his neck.

 

[kai]Sorry… I’m not really any good at this. No, I am… obviously because we… and that's fucking amazing...  unless... I'm not.. but I hope you'd tell me if...[/kai]  cheeks were turning red as he tangled on his choice of words, rubbing the back of his neck.  He never swore.  [kai] I mean the dating thing.  I’ve never dated.  I was always on assignment.[/kai]

 

The Were was clearly out of sorts, tips of his ears burning hot from the freely flowing rush of alcohol in his blood, and the obvious questionable path.  It was clear he wanted to move forward, not knowing exactly how to make that happen.  Hands slid into his pockets and he took a step back from the grill.

 

[kai]So… how does one get you on the back of a bike for a non-work or car repair related ride?[/kai]  fractured green looked up at her through furled brows. He was trying, really really hard to figure out what to say.  Throat cleared quietly.  [kai]Unless you don’t want to, because… I don’t want to pressure you.  But, I'd really like it if you wanted to.[/kai]

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Mack couldn't help but give a reassuring smile when Kai voiced how he had not wanted to assume on her.  It was sweet and a good thing that he realized she might have had her own plans and such.  At least she thought that was a good thing.  She could have gobbled him up right there because he was so cute and adorable.  It was hard to remember he was a were when he was like this...which was pretty much anytime she convinced him to lower guards and relax a bit.

 

Since he seemed so nervous and edgy she opted to switch the topic to motorcycles.  Kai's comment on safety gear reminded her of his former profession which did not bother her.  Soldiers were soldiers to Mack's mind, be they black ops or just the average grunt.

 

"That would put a damper on things.  Then again I only got my bike and gear from the fun of getting out of Chicago.  I'm sure you've noticed the teeth marks on the helmet there.  Gear helps when zombies are trying to sink teeth into you.  Go figure but they don't gain fangs," she commented not thinking about it.  She didn't talk much about what she did in the past, the memory was usually enough to have her shuddering.  Even now her skin wanted to crawl and she could feel her body try to jump into fight or flight but she ignored it and took another pull of her beer.

 

[kai]Did… did you want to go out some time? I mean, I know the obvious… issue.  But.[/kai]

 

One hip cocked to rest against the truck as Mack played with the half full bottle in her hands.  "Issue...good way to put it," she said with a lopsided grin and frustration in her eye.  

 

[kai]Sorry… I’m not really any good at this. No, I am… obviously because we… and that's fucking amazing...  unless... I'm not.. but I hope you'd tell me if...I mean the dating thing.  I’ve never dated.  I was always on assignment.[/kai]

 

Mack had to take some pity on the man.  She reached up to touch his cheek in a gesture of affection but had to stop and scowl at her greasy fingers.  He might not have minded but Mack was well aware of how very...well clean Kai was.  It made her wonder not for the first time how they worked when she was a grease monkey.

 

[kai]So… how does one get you on the back of a bike for a non-work or car repair related ride? Unless you don’t want to, because… I don’t want to pressure you.  But, I'd really like it if you wanted to.[/kai]

 

"Oh I definitely want to," Mack admitted.  She wasn't about to lie and claim otherwise.  She never would have managed it.  "It's that...issue that keeps cropping up and kinda makes me hit the brakes."

 

Frustration had her abandoning the truck for now and pacing, beer in one hand and the other reaching up to run through her hair for a second before she stopped herself.  Grease in the hair was always a bad thing.

 

"I know you keep saying you can handle things but I'd be lying if I claimed I believed that.  I mean, yeah you were black ops but most of the Vanguard is ex-military and they're practically an army.  One of the reasons I'm so comfy with them I guess," she stated with a frown before looking to Kai with genuine concern.  "Can you understand that?  I've already lost a lot of people, I don't think I can take losing another person I care about."

 

And that was the crux of the problem.  Mack was not an idiot, she knew her troubles.  There were many days it felt like she was hanging onto sanity and life by the strength of willpower alone but that hold was fragile at best.  She knew she wouldn't survive if she lost that.

 

 

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She was amused. It always seemed to be that way when he was trying to well… be normal. Around her everything got so screwed up. Around others, it was generally a façade, with her… he couldn’t hide behind the patient/doctor line in the sand, because well… um.

 

He was pretty sure the tips of his ears had turned bright red, thankful when she changed the subject.

 

"That would put a damper on things. Then again I only got my bike and gear from the fun of getting out of Chicago. I'm sure you've noticed the teeth marks on the helmet there. Gear helps when zombies are trying to sink teeth into you. Go figure but they don't gain fangs,"

 

[kai]Yah, I don’t have to worry about zombie…[/kai]

 

He stopped himself from even finishing the last consonant, a flush from her making him take a step back and lean his lower back on the workbench to let her work. No, to put some distance between them. He wasn’t all knowing, his “condition” did give him dominion of being able to detect mood changes, among other interesting things. It did not however, give him the ability to decide if it was from him or something she’d said herself. He couldn’t tell by the odd itch in his nostrils if she was bothered from his unfinished sentence, or from her own. Empty bottle was set on the top of the bench, arms crossing, ankles crossing, thumbs tapping on his biceps as he found something incredibly interesting on the floor just in front of him as he stumbled over his words. A bug.

 

"Issue...good way to put it,"

 

That didn’t help. He had an irresistible urge to squash the bug. It was annoying him. Eyes flicked up to catch the sideways grin, at least she was finding humor in it. Neck tensed as she reached up to touch his cheek. It wasn’t from the grease on her fingertips, feeling better when she stopped and scowled at her fingers. She knew they were dirty, not because he’d effectively pretty much flinched. He moved ahead with asking her out anyway. Every inch of him wanted her to say yes.

 

"Oh I definitely want to,"

 

There was a but coming, and he knew exactly what it was about.

 

"It's that...issue that keeps cropping up and kinda makes me hit the brakes."

 

He didn’t like it when she paced. It was always because of him. Eyes were on the bug again, watching it as it disappeared down the floor drain. The issue. Fractured green moved back to her.

 

"I know you keep saying you can handle things but I'd be lying if I claimed I believed that. I mean, yeah you were black ops but most of the Vanguard is ex-military and they're practically an army. One of the reasons I'm so comfy with them I guess,"

 

So what was it exactly? Was it was because he was a Were, was it because…

 

"Can you understand that? I've already lost a lot of people, I don't think I can take losing another person I care about."

 

She was afraid of losing him. She was afraid of losing him? It wasn’t just about “getting caught”, which he was sure was a constant concern too…but losing him. Brow flickered a moment at her, he probably looked like he was angry with her- deep in thoughts so heavy he didn’t think he could ever explain it to her. Had he ever done anything to convince her that he was capable of taking care of himself as he claimed? Anything other than being a complete suit that stuttered when she batted her eyelashes at him and only seemed to growl under the sheets when the lights were out? She was afraid. Ball it up, analyze it, look at it from any way his brain could possibly pick it apart and that’s what it came to. She thought he was going to get himself offed. He owed her truth. Whether or not it would make it any better, he had no idea.

 

[kai]You’re not going to lose me.[/kai]

 

It was matter of fact, the deadpan tone of his voice one she’d never heard. He was a lot of things, a Were trying to play a human… a broken human trying to play it cool; scrubbing his apartment, towels perfectly placed, pants impeccably creased. At that moment everything was shaken off and thrown in the trash. It was a risk, a terrible risk- she’d come to know and perhaps even love him as the loveable and quirky doc… He definitely was, but he was also the hot blooded Were and broken man before the world went to hell. When everything tangled together, he fell somewhere in the middle to a place nobody ever saw- not even Mack. Everyone had a face they put on to the rest of the world. Everyone. His, was perhaps darker than most. A long sigh felt the weight settle off his shoulders, neck stretched right, then left.

 

Again, it was a risk.

 

Apprehension stripped away and it was odd at how strongly he felt even though he’d never considered himself to be empathetic about anything. He didn’t want to scare her. It was now, or never at all. He had to be straight, and let her decide. Fingers reached to rub at the eyes that were a bit on the bleary side, burning off rather quickly. Alcohol threw him for a loop at first, but he had to continue drinking to remain that way. Were metabolism took over.

 

[kai]You’re not going to lose me.[/kai]

 

He said it one more time. Sigh was again tight, thumbs tapping at his biceps. The bug was back, pupils dilating slightly.

 

[kai]I wasn’t black ops, that’s just the easiest explanation because people understand generally what it means. I wasn’t practically an army. I was an army. I killed a lot of people. Sometimes it was one, sometimes it was whole teams. I could get in anywhere, get close to anyone. Point is, that was before the Nevus. We don't lose that. It stays a part of us, with everything on top of it.[/kai]

 

Neck twitched as he said it. It was a terrible memory. Haunted his nightmares. He let go of his arms and grabbed some of those giant blue “paper towels” every shop had on the wall. Hands stopped her pacing, wiping her hands.

 

[kai]I was on assignment in Ethiopia when the Reso hit. I wasn’t infected. I was turned. If there was ever a wrong place at the wrong time, I was in it. I’ve seen the inside of the thing, changed me would be an understatement. I didn’t choose this, I know nobody chooses this… I wanted you to know that. I’m not going to let you be apprehensive because… because you think I’m this mild mannered psychiatrist that disappears to hike once a month and proverbially shakes their fist at the Vanguard. I’m not. I'm dangerous. I was dangerous before. I'm even more dangerous now.[/kai]

 

Blue towels were crunched into a ball in his fingers and tossed successfully in the trash ten feet away with a snap of hairtriggered muscles. Pupils widened slightly, lips leaning in and pressing against the side of her temple.

 

[kai]You never have to be afraid for me. Or for yourself. You never have to be afraid of me,[/kai] long inhale took in the scent of her hair. The cat in his gut knew her, wanted her around. Voice hummed with a confidence that normally wasn’t there. It was dangerous to skirt the line of his duality. He always had to lean away from the cat to fall into the center balance of being socially acceptable. When he settled where his demeanor lived, the world was a bit darker, and so was he. [kai]You’re not going to lose me, and I’m not going to lose you. Forget the truck for now.[/kai]

 

He took a step back and held out his hand for her to take, nodding toward her helmet. Mild mannered neat freak he may have been to the world, but at the core he was not. On the edge and agitated, yes... but with her it was different. He was in control. It’s time she knew that and decided for herself whether or not to walk away. He would accept her decision either way.

 

If she said yes, she might need a drink for this.

 

He didn’t have a bike at the moment.

 

That could be remedied.

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☽ "You’re not going to lose me."

He stated it like it was a fact that it would never happen.  How in the hell could the man be so sure of this in a world gone mad?  Hell it wasn't certain that anyone would be alive.  She could get eaten by a vampire or something just as much as hit by a car these days.  

 

Maybe he wasn't as confident as he sounded though with the shifting about and rubbing at his eyes.  It was like he was nervous but what did he have to be nervous about?  He repeated himself before finding an interesting bug on the floor.  Thumbs tapping on his arms like he was counting or listening to a song.

☽ "I wasn’t black ops, that’s just the easiest explanation because people understand generally what it means. I wasn’t practically an army. I was an army. I killed a lot of people. Sometimes it was one, sometimes it was whole teams. I could get in anywhere, get close to anyone. Point is, that was before the Nevus. We don't lose that. It stays a part of us, with everything on top of it."

 

Mack's brow crinkled even as Kai grabbed some towels and stopped her in place, cleaning off her hands for her.  She did not entirely understand the difference he was talking about beyond Black Ops having teams and him usually being alone.  So...he was a spy and assassin instead?  That fit, but it still had her cringing thinking of him going up against Vanguard, no matter the experience he had on top of being turned into a Were.  He had a point that it wasn't something that was likely to vanish from him, even she had habits still from the military.

 

☽ "I was on assignment in Ethiopia when the Reso hit. I wasn’t infected. I was turned. If there was ever a wrong place at the wrong time, I was in it. I’ve seen the inside of the thing, changed me would be an understatement. I didn’t choose this, I know nobody chooses this… I wanted you to know that. I’m not going to let you be apprehensive because… because you think I’m this mild mannered psychiatrist that disappears to hike once a month and proverbially shakes their fist at the Vanguard. I’m not. I'm dangerous. I was dangerous before. I'm even more dangerous now."

 

Mack's eyes grew wide and she recalled him saying something about not being the bitten kind before.  He was saying...he was a kind of patient zero or something?  Jesus on a stick but that was kind of a big deal.  No one really knew how the were virus got started and worked...

 

Christ the Vanguard would want to do more than kill him, they'd likely lock him away and study him like a test subject!

 

Kai tossed the paper towels before leaning closer to her.  Mack felt her now cleaned fingers trail to his biceps even as she heard him pull in a breathe.  She practically went cross eyed as he started talking again, almost purring in her ear.  Damn but he always managed to get under her skin and turn her head.

 

☽ "You never have to be afraid for me. Or for yourself. You never have to be afraid of me,"

 

"I'm not afraid of you," Mack managed to say though it was barely more than a whisper.  She had plenty of good reason to be afraid of him, really it was a long ass list.  Even as she stood there though and pondered it for a moment she had to admit that she wasn't.  It was an odd thing to her, after all anyone in their right mind would have been.  Why wasn't she afraid of him?

 

  ☽ "You’re not going to lose me, and I’m not going to lose you. Forget the truck for now."

 

She blinked at him before gnawing on her lip a bit, looking at the hand he held out with a bit of hesitation.  It was only natural really when one had no idea what they might be getting themselves into after all.  He was rarely so sporadic or so intent, maybe it was part of what he called the cat.  

 

Part of her mind told her to turn around and walk away.  Instead though she ignored it and took his hand.  She had walked away before without letting him talk to her or defend himself.  Had done it time and again with people she found out to be...well not quite human.  She was not going to make that mistake again.  She would at least finish hearing him out.

 

"Where are we going?" she asked.  "I'll need to know if we're going to be taking my ride here."

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The widening of her eyes at his confession that the Nevus made him what he was should have bothered him.  She was concerned, he could only imagine. It had crossed his thoughts on many occasions that he was different. Hell, he WAS different.  He did not turn into a raging frothing monster most of the time. The full moon, the pull was too strong and he fell into the trap that all the rest of the Weres were cursed with.  The other days?  Something else entirely.  He’d first become aware of it when waking and being hunted through the mountains by a pair of yahoos intent on putting him down.  His skills keeping him in a several day chase that allowed him to hunt them as well, listening.  He’d never confirmed it completely… but he was very different.  A game trophy.  if they killed him that way would he have changed back to human before they could mount his damn head on a wall?  No idea.  He didn’t have a chance to ask, because they didn’t have a chance to pull the knife out of their chests before they stopped breathing.

 

An odd wash of panic tickled the back of his throat, what in the world was going through her mind?  She wasn’t screaming in terror and running, but there was a concern evident she didn’t wish to share.

 

"I'm not afraid of you,"

 

Slight nod  was accepting… what was it then?  The obvious issue?  No, it was the Vanguard, it would always be the Vanguard. They had a reason to hate many things. There were creatures in this world that fell into that category- things that had no conscious ability between right and wrong.  Zombies, Ogres, and a multitude of other beasts.  Weres, were complicated.  Sure, they ran hot.  Three days out of the month they went on a killing rampage if they were idiotic enough to be an asshat about who they really were.  They were also people, with lives, like himself- trying to make himself useful in the rebirth of the world.  There were times he thought about walking into their headquarters to “chat”.  It still was on his mind.

 

For now though, it would wait until Mack felt he could, or should.

 

Stern features watched her bottom lip get the brunt of her indecision.  He’d planned a little R&R, however brief.  He knew she worked long hours and probably had to work in the morning, but there was also a reason he really wanted her to go with him.

 

The edge of his lip ticked up slightly when she took his hand, pulling it toward him to press his lips on her knuckles and let go, a few quick steps to the back of his truck as the tailgate was lifted.  Key flipped from his back pocket and clicked into a lock on the floor, the fold down seats had obvious been removed, the floor compartment flipped open. A sleek shoulder harness was pulled out and clipped on, two Paras checked with military precision and snapped into the holsters.  One Rockstead twirled through his fingers as his foot went onto the bumper, pantleg up and slid into a sheath that was already there.  A duffle was pulled out and slung over his shoulder, slamming the tailgate.

 

"Where are we going?"

 

[kai]On a date,[/kai]  he said quietly.  [kai]Overlooking the beautiful city of New York.[/kai]

 

"I'll need to know if we're going to be taking my ride here."

 

[kai]Nope, we’ll pick one up along the way,[/kai]  he snatched his pea coat from the rack and twirled it on.  [kai]A bit of a romantic walk. A ride, then dinner.[/kai]  he shrugged the shoulder with the duffle lightly.  It was one of his survival packs for when he left town for the month.  It wasn’t a sit down, fancy, dress up dinner… he didn’t think she would enjoy that.  Maybe she would.  [kai]You’ll be home at a decent hour, promise.  Haven’t ridden a bike in almost ten years, might be a little rusty.[/kai]

 

Lie.  He could ride like a bat out of hell.  He opened the door for her, about to embark on a bit of mischief.  She still had the chance to say no, he was hoping she didn’t.  She needed to see the mild-mannered psychiatrist wasn’t just all talk when he claimed he wasn’t afraid.

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Mack was having a hell of a time trying to gauge Kai's mood.  She didn't know this mischievous side of him so well.  She knew it was there and loved when it came out in small ways at times.  Something in her gut told her this was not a small way though and she was mildly nervous where that would end them up.  It was strange to her, as if roles had been flipped.  Normally she was the wild one and Kai seemed like the steady as a rock type. It had occurred to her more than a few times that if she let him Kai would have taken care of her like a pampered girlfriend.  

 

She just was a bit stubborn about having her own space and such.

 

Her eyebrows only rose in curiosity and weariness as Kai pull out guns and gear.  It wasn't uncommon for people to walk around the city armed to be fair but something about it seem to...preparing for her.  She didn't say anything though because she didn't know what kind of trouble they might be stirring up.  

 

Mack did however laugh and look down at her messy self.  Under the coverall was just her usual jeans and a t-shirt which who knew how clean those were.  "Don't think I'm dressed much for a date.  Then again last time I got dolled up I got stood up," she commented with an air of long suffering.  

 

Still, her curiosity was running and she followed Kai in spite of her wardrobe, peeling the coverall off as she followed.  "Always good to know one of us will be the responsible adult," she joked as she hopped along when he commented she would be home at a decent hour.  Granted it didn't matter overly much to Mack since she could crash at his place.  She actually preferred it since nightmares didn't follow her to Kai's.  That was still a strange thing to her but she didn't talk to Kai about that.  He'd probably jump on the thought of her having someone after her again.

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"Don't think I'm dressed much for a date.  Then again last time I got dolled up I got stood up,"

 

[kai]I’ve never been on a date,[/kai]  his brow furled slightly at her.  [kai]Except events with my mother.  I don’t consider mother and son graduation dances a date so I don’t know how one dresses for one.[/kai]

 

It was a small window into his past.  Uniformed and formal, he had gone out with his mother on events.  His sister had done the same in a daddy-daughter capacity.  He hadn’t thought about it in such a long time.  It was a world he didn’t know anymore.

 

[kai]I could get dolled up.[/kai] brow quirked.  [kai]I have suits for work… but really dressed up?  All I have is my uniform.[/kai]

 

He hadn’t kept it, it had been there when he came back, along with every other thing a panicking world didn’t need to survive.  He didn’t know why he kept it.  Feet were already moving into the darkness, two fingers to his forehead to nod to Bills as they left. It was dark, and quiet, the shop out in the middle of an old industrial park that had long since knocked down factories to flat fields of concrete surrounded in fenced razor-wire. Monk’s, her back lots with part cars, and an impound lot several blocks over.

 

"Always good to know one of us will be the responsible adult,"

 

Smirk was light.

 

[kai]Which one of us will that be?[/kai]

 

He didn’t exactly know what was burning in his blood- the strange odd flush he’d been feeling lately blurring the lines between both sides of his coin?  Their trek ended near a large privacy chain link gate, worn and cracking plastic woven through the diamonds to hide the forgotten from the rest of the world.  He’d seen the glint through the tiny cracks numerous times he’d been out here.

 

[kai]What do you want?  Speed?  Power?[/kai]  the question was quiet as he glanced up at the fifteen foot fence topped in barbed wire.  [kai]Be right back.[/kai]

 

It was effortless, even as a man it had been effortless, grip sure as he climbed hand over hand up one of the main supports and carefully hung from one hand on the angled top. Foot pushed silently off the support and he hoisted himself up and over to drop over out of sight.  After a few seconds, a silent click and the gate cracked open slightly.  Lock picked.  It was just padlocked chain.  Not nearly enough for all these vehicles.

 

[kai]Take your pick. We’ll put it back.[/kai]  he held the gate open quietly like a gentleman, rows of forgotten and not so forgotten impounded vehicles glinting in the dark. Bikes, mostly cars, but the bikes were there.  Would she take a chance at a damn sexy joyride, or would she tell him to get lost?  He wasn’t sure… 

 

[kai]We don't have to do this...[/kai] it was strange how all of a sudden he peeled back into the "logical" zone.  [kai]I feel... I feel like I can't exactly let you see... me.. all of me... because I don't want to frighten you.[/kai]

 

Oddly bright green feline eyes looked across the potential hoard of evening fun, he was apprehensive to see an answer already on her face.  Would she be mortified he pushed the gauntlet in his night hours? That he didn't go home to a perfect apartment and sleep in a perfect bed?  That he trained until he could no longer stand?  Burned adrenaline off until he was exhausted?

 

[kai]This is me too.  The person that uses the night to burn off what I can't during... during a normal day.  It's how I find balance. I adrenaline burn.  Run.  Train.  Find ways to burn it off... and when I can't, and the moon is too close, I leave so that I don't hurt anyone.[/kai]

 

It suddenly occurred to him she might think he was a dangerous nut.  Maybe he was.  She'd seen this, in another capacity of course, when she'd pushed him over the edge.  Instead of the blush, pupils dilated slightly, looking to her for an answer.

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[kai]Which one of us will that be?[/kai]

Mack couldn't help but laugh at the question. Kai had a point after all. Mack was not exactly the most responsible adult around that was usually his job. If Kai was kicking off restraints tonight odds of them getting into mischief and trouble were high. What the hell, she could probably afford bail.

As they approached the barbed wire topped fence Mack rose a brow in curiosity as Kai asked what she wanted that then just climbed over the fence as if it was nothing. Even she was impressed since barbed wire was something even in her army days people hated dealing with. She would have brought bolt cutters and gone through instead of over but that would have left evidence to be fair. So was that a new thing for Kai to do or just old hat?

She had no idea.

The gate cracked open and Mack was blinking at the padlock with a shake of her head. In this day and age someone was using a padlock? It seemed foolish when most things could rip the door down although with that thought why did anyone bother with locks?

 

The bikes and such had her looking about with big eyes and a grin.  How she loved the glorious machine.  She pondered her choices, wondering what to go for.

 

Before she could pick anything though Kai spoke up again.  Her brow wrinkled in concern as he seemed to do a one eighty on things and worried yet again about frightening her.  That kept popping up randomly and she was getting a little annoyed about it.  At the same time she could understand his concern.

 

"You realize that's why I trust you right?" Mack asked once Kai had finished talking.  "You're working to find a solution to problems instead of pretending there isn't one or being detrimental to the rest of us.  I know you don't have control over all of it but I respect that you are trying and I know that you would never hurt me if you had it in your power otherwise.  I'm not even sure that...'other you' would hurt me.  I would think though that if you thought it would at all you would have removed yourself completely from hanging out with me."

 

She put her hands on his cheeks, making sure he didn't look away.  "I am not afraid of you and I meant it when I said it.  I'll repeat it daily if need be.  There are plenty of things to be scared of in this world.  Hell I've seen more than a few.  Trolls, magus, vampires, dragons, zombies, people that don't have control over their abilities, and that's just the weird shit.  That's not even what the average person can do.  I almost ate the bullet from an angry sniper.  No powers needed just a pissed off man with a gun.  I would never leave my own home if I insisted on being scared of everything that could kill me.  There are people I'm sure that don't.  I do my best to save my fright for things that are actually out to kill me instead of cute guys that are trying to manage a condition while still being themselves."

 

She lowered her head to bump it against Kai's.  "I might not always be the most pleasant person, and I certainly can put my foot in it more than the average joe but believe me when I say I don't think your frightening.  We're all killers in this world these days, I can't say that's the greatest yard stick to use on who's got the higher moral ground."

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He loved her laugh.  LOVED.

 

That first moment in the grocery store when he was trying to find his “sea legs” and branch out from his practice into the general public instead of work to home seclusion.  Shampoo.  It had been about shampoo that wouldn’t offend his highly irritable senses.  The laugh was a trigger, it seemed it had always been a trigger, the off switch to his anger.  Something that grounded him.

 

An odd change from the silence and recluse that normally did it, devoid of any outward stimuli.

 

Eyebrows quirked slightly at her head shake after he opened the gate.  He looked up to where he had shimmied over, then to the lock. Was he not supposed to do that?  Wasn’t the point to get in and out without detection?   …but the grin, she looked like a kid in a candy store.  Hell, they both were… breaking and entering, “borrow” a vehicle for a joyride, bring it back, no one the wiser except for a night completely devoid of responsibilities and a little glimpse into his world that he had a hard time talking about.

 

Because it was so dark.  Because he tried so hard to hide it.

 

That darkness made him put his foot in his mouth again.

 

"You realize that's why I trust you right?"

 

He blinked at her, the lock sliding into one of the links in the fence as he hung it there for later, listening to her talk about the ‘other him’?  He’d thought about it probably way too much.  Would the ‘other him’ hurt her? His immediate reaction was yes.  There was no control, no memory, no idea of the rage that coursed through him when he lost the one thing that he’d fought for all his life.  Rationale answer…  no.  He didn’t think it would.  He knew all the ins and outs of the thing he was supposed to be, hell he could even help others understand if he thought they would give him the time of day instead of shoot him in the forehead.

 

But, he was also something different.  Would that different, recognize her?

 

Green fractals blinked at her as she held his cheeks.  It was at that moment he knew the answer was yes.  Whatever he became… would know her, and perhaps even protect her.

 

"I am not afraid of you and I meant it when I said it.  I'll repeat it daily if need be.  There are plenty of things to be scared of in this world.  Hell I've seen more than a few.  Trolls, magus, vampires, dragons, zombies, people that don't have control over their abilities, and that's just the weird shit.  That's not even what the average person can do.  I almost ate the bullet from an angry sniper.  No powers needed just a pissed off man with a gun.  I would never leave my own home if I insisted on being scared of everything that could kill me.  There are people I'm sure that don't.  I do my best to save my fright for things that are actually out to kill me instead of cute guys that are trying to manage a condition while still being themselves."

 

Brows quirked a bit, lashes fluttering at the head bump.  That did it, the calm cat in his gut responded in kind.  It knew her.  Top lip pursed slightly away from an unusually pronounced canine, metaphorical head bump ‘received and approved’.

 

"I might not always be the most pleasant person, and I certainly can put my foot in it more than the average joe but believe me when I say I don't think your frightening.  We're all killers in this world these days, I can't say that's the greatest yard stick to use on who's got the higher moral ground."

 

[kai]So a fast one you say…?[/kai]

 

It was his way of acknowledging that he understood, teeth a nip on her lower lip.

 

[kai]You go that way, I’ll go this way.  Pick one and we’ll meet back here in five minutes.[/kai]

 

It suddenly felt like a mission. A totally irrational, naughty mission… and it felt, good?  Kiss was stolen before he disappeared into the darkness.  Was the sudden daring spontaneity a coping mechanism?  He believed her, truly, that she was not afraid of him.  It occurred to him that he was afraid of her getting hurt BECAUSE of him. What if anyone found out?  What if she tried to protect him when he was out of control?

 

…what would happened if he visited her at work for a change?

 

Glint of silver caught his eye partially under a tarp sandwiched in between two beater cars. Yes..  yes yes… if it was what he thought it was.  Tarp was pulled off with a quiet crinkle, kick stand creaking lightly as he rolled it out.  It was banged up a bit. Someone had road-rashed it, but the damage was superficial.  Dust was recent.  Tires were shiny.  Unless the owner had fried the engine, he could get it to start.

 

Time was up, lips pursing with an oddly present smirk as he trotted and rolled it toward their “break-in” point, anxious to see what she had chosen.  What the fuck was with him tonight... and lately for that matter?  This wasn't the first night in recent months the Were had been riding the line of what was prudent...

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[kai]So a fast one you say…?[/kai]

 

Mack grinned as Kai nipped at her lip.  She wasn't sure if he paid attention but his moods had been so random lately that she didn't think to much of it.  

 

[kai]You go that way, I’ll go this way.  Pick one and we’ll meet back here in five minutes.[/kai]

 

"Sounds like a plan," Mack said before Kai stole a kiss and disappeared into the darkness.

 

She couldn't help but shake her head as she headed in her direction, hunting for a ride that called for her to ride it.  She couldn't help but feel like a teenager again, stealing a ride for some fun.  This time though there was not likely to be the police escort home and ear blistering shouting lecture hour on how she was going down the wrong path in life.

 

The thought stung for a moment, grief ripping into her gut thinking of her family and missing them.  In spite of the troubles between herself and her father she had always thought that one day they would patch things up.  It hurt to know they never got that chance thanks to the world being shot to hell.

 

In an effort to banish the downer of a topic she finally picked a ride.  It looked to be in good condition and was certainly more of a speed model than her normal harley.  It only took a moment to pull out her screwdriver and see about hot-wiring it.  

 

With ghosts trying to haunt the corners of her mind she gunned it, not caring much for stealth since she had never been one for sneaking anyways.  Instead of simply stopping at their meeting point though she slowed just enough to make the turn out of the lot with a broad smile, her hair snapping behind her, and a challenging call.

 

"Catch me if you can!" she yelled before accelerating again quite possibly leaving the kitty in the dust.

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"Sounds like a plan,"

 

Never in a million years.  There was no way he ever could or would have predicted that it would happen. This was not the plan, it was not what was supposed to happen, and the second his brain realized the extent of the problem every nerve in his body sprung to life at the sound of an engine one row over firing.  It was a violent surge.  Panic.  When the hell did he start to panic?

 

When he realized she didn’t have her helmet.

 

This was not the plan.  The more he thought it, the more panic ruffled over his skin.

 

She was already moving.  She was supposed to wait at the gate for him.  This was most definitely not the plan.  What was the plan?  Returning to the shop to hotwire the damn things and grab her stuff.  A nice ride, a little banter, opening up the bikes on the more deserted highways around the city in ways they couldn’t on the crowded streets, prepared for any crap they might run into. Talking..  chatting…

 

That’s not what was going to happen.  Everything was beginning to run on instinct.  If there was a doubt he struggled to control his PTSD, there was none now.  It seized in the center of his chest, the surge of adrenaline hitching his breath when the ferocity of Were blood caught whiff of it.   Knife was pulled from his back pocket even as his footsteps sped up toward the meeting point. 

 

Before he could tell her to wait, her engine gunned, feline eyes narrowing at the smile cast back toward him. 

 

"Catch me if you can!"

 

She was gone. 

 

DAMN IT!

 

Fingers worked faster than anyone, even as a human he’d been fast.  He had to be, or he would die.  There was no way he could go back for her helmet and still be able to catch her- even with crazy senses he couldn’t circle back and catch up.  He could, he was not a newbie to this, but the risk was too great that he'd lose her.  He wasn’t working with his own life here.  What the hell was she thinking?!

 

Palm slammed at the knife without the delicacy normally meant for this type of work. Stealth had always been the key, there was no stealth here.  Heel became a pivot as the engine roared to life and he gunned it even as it was facing in the wrong direction, spinning the beast in a circle, spray of dirt everywhere from the back tire before lifting his foot and rocketing off after her, over sidewalks and cutting corners to make up lost time.

 

One thought in mind.  Catch her, and hit her kill switch.

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