Sage Monroe

That which does not kill us makes us stronger

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Its like this. The world and its variances.  Sage was now almost sure she could function in New York. She achieved a flat of sorts, was working for one or two museums freelance, her background gave her glowing references, and once a month rather than be reaching for midol she was crawling into a building that would hold the pain and agony of becoming.... It's like this.  She supposed there was a trade off. Menstruation had once been the bane of her existence to the point had there been a way to rip those offending ovaries out by their roots once a month she would have. But now that seemed nothing. Now she knew what true pain was. That comes wrapped up with the whole getting bit, and that messed up world far and away to the present messed up world.

 


Which led to the brunette seeking what shades of normalcy she could because she had learned it helped balance those times she had no memories of, the times waking with bits of flesh and sinew sticking to her naked form. Normal. That was a word that really was so far out of the ball park for her. But normal she would do. So she had found a favored cafe, a bookstore she haunted and like all good responsible city dwellers, now she was hunting a fitness center. Long ago before things- she had gone twice a week, more because it helped clear her head. Running did that but she enjoyed that time just working out and working on her self. It was not that she needed it, her lifestyle forced her to keep in top shape, but the actions of the once normal life balanced out the other, and it helped ground her. That was extremely important to her.

 

Grounding in her own thoughts. Though she no longer was a welcome addition to the Van, the whole infection thing had doomed her rising career to ashes, she still occasionally missed those she had become used to working with. Though most of the people she met were nice enough when they were not doing whatever they did on their own, she felt isolated to a degree that spoke of her own careening thoughts. Thus it meant physical action was needed. That was her go to for such times.


Through chatter and research she had decided that her best course of action was merely to visit or explore them and make an informed decision. This also gave her an excuse to get to know her surroundings better and get out of the flat. The day was not too cool, but she had tugged a  jacket over the loose cotton shirt and jeans before heading out. She had even watered the plant she had convinced herself to adopt. Responsibilities. Who knows, maybe she might get brave enough to buy a fish? ( probably not....cats and fish are not exactly warm and fuzzy buddies )

 

Sage reached to tuck a stray strand of hair back and push open the door, well the  place seemed to be busy, that and the smells told her  ( gotta love being able to smell sweat a mile away ) others were doing what she herself was looking for. Large eyes surveyed the entry way looking about for those in charge or whomever handled innocent queries from potential members. Membership, such a nice mundane word.

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 It had become methodical, each stride perfect, a welcome lullaby to an OCD riddled brain. Breath was even in sync, much slower than he would have preferred, but letting the entire world know he could run flat for hours didn’t help much to blend into the new neighborhood.  The whine of the belt on the new treadmill was a bit distracting to his nerves, power of his stride wanting to push it faster than the speed he’d set.  Water was lifted from the cup holder without skipping a beat, watching the news.  The rest of the place preferred to watch it CC, he could actually hear it when it was almost all the way down.  Still talking about the giant clusterfuck a few months back.  A whole new reason to hate Weres.  It was everything they didn’t need, and required him to lock the place down tighter.

 

That was exactly what brought the tick to his jaw as he ran on the furthest treadmill from the main door.  Half a dozen were using the others at various speeds. The clink of free weights, even the sound of the showers in the small locker rooms on either side, tickled his ears with the burgeoning irritation.  Katey, his gym manager was changing out the hand towels and wiping down equipment.

 

Somebody was using way too much cologne in the men’s locker room.  Eyes flicked to Katey and she nodded. She knew. Apparently people couldn’t read. No scents or cologne while in the gym. Owner had allergies, of course. Of course.

 

He didn't want Weres in his place either.... of course that wasn't posted.  It wasn't something he shared with anyone.  They were everywhere however, walking amongst the normal.  It was inevitable.  Even though he fought for their plight, it was just something that brought him over the edge.  First cologne.  Now a Were.  The cat that curled deep in his gut raised its hackles. The man, kept his pace and eyes on the news.

 

Katey, being human, was just doing her job- greeting the woman that had just come through the door as she returned to the main counter.  There was absolutely no way to tell her a Were was coming through the door.  Katey was new, the woman had no idea who her boss was yet.

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Sage smiled at the pretty girl heading her way when another scent founds its way. Dammit….if she was right that smelled like her but male. Sage had only one run in with a male and it had been unpleasant. Like she chose to be some face eating monster once  a month, jeesh. But the leopard pressed and curled inside and for a half second Sage almost felt like hissing. Yea that is way impressive Sage….Hi I came to hissssssssssssssssssss. So she swallowed and refrained from sorting scents, she knew she was not an expert at it- but inside there was a whole lot of pissed off feline feelings.  “Hi. “  The girl introduced herself as Katy and Sage reciprocated and explained she was seeking a place to work out that fit her schedule.

 

 

That the gods Katy enjoyed talking about the place, it helped her shift her focus. Its not like she was an angry internal monster but in her limited experience none of them played well with others. “I work late sometimes and most places have time limitations” Katy went to retrieve some information which made Sage grateful, after all if there was some bull around it would be ugly and she would get mad and even without the infection she was a stubborn temperamental woman. She tried hard not to be but sometimes it just happened.

 

 

Her parents used to say she would argue the sun its color. It had led to a lot of trying to choose the right career, law being a thought. But more than her love of a good debate- her absolute addiction to research made the choice simple. She had also considered science but being stuck in a lab would have bored her to death. Now she was almost starting from scratch after her removal from the V. They don’t like to hire or keep the infected. Stupid law.

 

 

While she stood there a few people passed and she dismissed them as human, that much she could tell. She knew logically she would get better at it, it was on her bucket list!

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He could feel everything.  EVERYTHING.  The hearts of those spattered around the quaint gym pulsing, down to the vibration of the air when feet hit a treadmill.  Focusing.  Focusing.  Making plans in his head to make sure he knew the habits of his patrons on the sign-in sheets and to avoid seemingly new members.  It was bound to happen eventually, and Christ he’d built the damn vaults downstairs specifically to help other Weres.

 

Problem was, he couldn’t be around other Weres.

 

His brain, was logical.  They were all in it together, he had to create a safe space for those like him to learn and understand their limitations so they could all survive and surpass the stigma.  His gut, just wanted to rip out throats and roll around in their blood.  The thought, raised the hair again on the back of his neck as he reached to turn up the speed on the treadmill.  Muscles had already began to make the belt slip slightly forward as his strength pulled at the limitations of the electronics.  He wouldn’t be able to keep this up for long without attracting odd brow quirks from other members.  They knew he was the owner and was extraordinarily in shape… but… there were limitations to what a “human” could do.

 

Teeth clicked on edge, eyes trying to watch the news on one of the overhead televisions.  Aware… every move, every heartbeat, each bead of sweat.  Katey giving the new member information, a tour… and finally-

 

-blink proceeded feet stepping nimbly to the rails on each side of the belt in mid-stride to stop.  Hands clenched on the railings, triceps twitching slightly under his tee-shirt as he watched the spin of the belt keep moving, chest heaving. He was growling inaudibly from the depths of his psyche, the powder keg so close to blowing.

 

Katey was talking to him, introducing him, the owner, to… Sage...  his top lip shivered slightly over unusually pronounced canines, still watching the belt. Head down… Just. Breathe.

 

Katey didn’t know.  It wasn’t her fault.  The female Were had kept moving around inside his domain… there was no way she couldn’t know by now.  Either she was taunting him, or…

 

Lips pursed upward slightly to an easy smile, mask clicking on like a light, hand reaching steadily for the slide to pull the speed down to a fast walk.  He stepped back on, picking up his water bottle for a long swig before responding.  Control.  As controlled as a compressed volcano.  Fingers clutched the tee shirt over his stomach to pull up and wipe his forehead, setting down the water bottle and wiping his hands on the small towel hanging over the rail before he stopped walking and rode down to the end to step off.

 

“Hello Sage,” he smiled easily with an outstretched hand and a swig of water.  “Kai.  What brings you here?  Other than the obvious, of course.”

 

Besides wanting to die?

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It was easy to return the banter with Katey. She was a human, just a girl in a world of madness. Sage, however, was doing more internally trying to not get antsy. If her human ears, small shell things against her head were not so – they would have been back. With an absent gesture, she pushed the chestnut hair back ( checking- hell her luck they do go back) with her usual humor because there is no way really not to expect there are others of a similar infection.

 

 

 

Infection. What a horribly underrated word for a life changing shit that no one would ever willingly want to deal with on a monthly basis. But as she grew to grasp the utter mess that became what she was, she also grew to try and accept this is what her life would be. She supposed that was why she strived to keep the rest of the month normal. Things that normal girls do. Stuff and nonsense that she could call to memory. Not the days of the moon which were a blur of blood and flesh. And pain. If you dwell on those things they ate you alive. Maybe her choice in spirituality helped that part, she hoped so, because the next life was going to be chock full of ramifications otherwise.

 

 

 

She knew intrinsically the moment they neared the thing. Hackles within rose and she felt her muscles gather. Great……….But on the surface, her gamin smile was offered tentatively as Katey spoke. This close now she could feel the same echo of violence coiled. It was obvious he was maybe older as in longer infected. There was a skin comfort she envied momentarily while her insides were shooting images of throats torn. This was such a grand thing on a sunny day. With a quick smooth of her hand down her jeans, she offered her own. “ Kai. That is an unusual name” well that sounded normal right?

 

 

 

Sage stood with the balls of her feet tensing. Jeesh this was definitely not what she had expected. “I like this place you have here. I am in the market for a new place to work out.” Okay, so the conversation with guys who smelled like homicide….which she knew she probably had done maybe a few times…was not on her mind when she walked in. You strive for that normal world and sometimes it bites you in the tail.

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The hackles.

 

Every curse he knew in every language in kind flickered through his educated self, the primal self also reacted.  Cat was alert, tail twitching in the metaphoric corners of his mind, and ready to kill.  Kill was something he could not allow.  It would ruin everything.  Everything he'd built to sustain.  After the mess of several months ago, the city was on complete and utter fucking edge.  Any dream he'd ever had about fighting for some kind of equality and understanding was dashed for the moment.  So. Control. Control over rage that was so potent even Katey seemed to unconsciously sense it, the concerned glance around the room a tell tale sign that even a human's primal senses could still be engaged.

 

"Kai, that is an unusual name."

 

"Welsh," he answered easily, a little surprised at how easily it did come.  Maybe it was the self conscious need for his still present, yet faint accent, to be separated from the giant lump that was British- unless somebody was drinking themselves into a puking frenzy on St. Paddy's day or trying to be cool enough to wear a fucking kilt.  The Welsh were overlooked quite a bit, and mistaken for everyone else.  "Over the pond transplant I'm afraid."

 

The handshake he dreaded became just that, dreadful, a full on baring of metaphorical teeth until his hand returned to his side.

 

“I like this place you have here..."

 

....fuck

 

"I am in the market for a new place to work out.”

 

...fuck... a duck.  Say something Kai.  Fucking Christ.  He caught himself scanning the room, then glanced back to her, pulling the knit Navy cap he had on and rifling the shorn hair a few times.  Skin was on fire.  Obsessive thoughts of everything else than standing there at the moment and being polite were triggering through his muscles.  She was feline.  It was so much worse...

 

"We're small, but get the job done.  I can't lie, this gym is selfishly more for me than anything, I just thought there was a need for safety away from the general meatheads for my clientele base so I expanded.  I teach self defense classes in the evenings, but my behavioral health offices are in the rear of the building.  Antagonised, abused, assaulted, I counsel.  Women mostly, though people who have been traumatised by the last ten years span all kinds, types and races."

 

There was the jab.  Now she knew he knew.  Wasn't this nice?

 

*npc*  I can get you all set up if you like?

 

Katey was the vision of welcoming.  Fuck her hospitality.  Goddamn it.  Brain was ticking, unusually green eyes had become much darker, pupils large.  Powder keg.  A powder keg that wasn't going to blow no matter what happened.  He was exceptionally at control. It was now up to the other Were to decide whether or not this was something she could bear.  Other Weres could deal with their own kind, he, at this juncture, had never been one of them.

 

Why in the hell had he built the vaults then? Wishful thinking?

 

No.... a dreamer.  The thought had always been philanthropy, now that one was standing directly in front of him, all that was beginning to crumble.  They needed to talk, privately... but the world wasn't going to let that happen at the moment without definitive baring of identity.

 

Fuck.

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Sage counted herself as pretty level headed. She also knew inside that diminutive frame lived a creature whose hackles were risen, the faint lines that appeared and disappeared were but evidence of such a ‘struggle” inside. The only real outward shift – and this was only because she had caught it once in a mirror in Bangor, those eyes were a shade of cerulean that was not exactly humanesque. She swallowed and offered a smile as he explained tersely – yea she must not be exactly what he expected walking into his own domain either- his name origins. She had only briefly been through that country and it had been before the fall. Come to think of it she wondered how much it too had changed.

 

 

She had not returned after the   …   ‘infection’. The only friend she had known that knew that land was long dead. Something had taken his life the same night the world went to hell. He had been a really good friend. But that was not here or now. Here was a large musky world and she was very small in it. “I have heard that is a beautiful country…I also think everyone is a transplant anymore” She was. She had been born in a different world. What is could never be what was after all. Dear gods…..was he going to shake her hand? Easy girl just breathe and focus, this is normal and every day and no one would ever go all brutal and risk much. The echoes of that horrible night in the Library while the moon bled was too fresh.  Adjusting her small pack she reached out to curl digits about his own larger hand and offer her own greeting.

 

 

Ever stick your hand into mucky swilly water? That was a close likeness, well probably for him too. Sort of the childhood extreme of cooties from touching another kid with a force.  It was really easier by listening to his voice and as she released his own hand, the description of his work caught her attention, merely because it seemed a very unique choice in this world of chaos. Even in the new shifted lands, it was probably an after thought that abuse still happened. Some evil that men do never truly changes. 

 

 

Her gaze shifted to Katy and she smiled brilliantly “Yes, I think some information would be great. I am sure you both are so very busy especially with your own work Kai, so I do apologize for interrupting it, but I think this place might fit the bill for my needs.” Inside she was digging at her own self like a proverbial scratching post. Okay so maybe this was one of those horrible ideas that end badly but Sage knew that every step – even forcing to be in the company of one of what was obviously older then she beast was part of this life. You cannot avoid things forever. She would be a fool to think that she would only pass through another Weres’ world once in a life time. And the measure of a man or woman was their ability to adapt. Never mind she was growling inside and it was going to be one of those rotten nights because she had pushed that limit.

 

 

And then there was that part that was just Sage........and that was the part that needed to know more.

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Nostrils flared slightly, casual observer thinking he was just winded, closer inspection would see it couldn’t be further from the truth.  He’d just given himself more information about her.  Feline.  The kelly green seemed to shift in color slightly as he blinked it away.

 

“I have heard that is a beautiful country…I also think everyone is a transplant anymore”

 

It was.

 

“Now it’s full of dragons,” it was matter of fact and he had to snap himself back into the façade that everyone knew, gaining a relaxed smile as one was cast at Katy.

 

“Yes, I think some information would be great. I am sure you both are so very busy especially with your own work Kai, so I do apologize for interrupting it, but I think this place might fit the bill for my needs.”

 

An inaudible snap in his throat stiffened his hackles.  Dominance.  So that’s what this was, his cat was staking its claim.  Most of the time in passing on the street glares were exchanged, but nothing ever came of any of it.  Now there was one standing in front of him.  On purpose.  He knew he was unusual, the solitary Were particularly intolerant of others.  He also knew that others were not and would pack with others.  He’d never left any alive long enough to find out if that was his nature.  Lashes blinked slowly as Katy almost skipped off to get Sage some information.  His smile disappeared as he watched after her, then returned the flared pupils to the new member.

 

“I want to kill you.”

 

It was said so easily, not even a blink as the quiet sentence was passed to her.

 

“That being said, there are few that can control it like I do.”

 

Smile as he pointed out a cabinet to Katy’s questioning expression about the new paperwork revealed unusually pronounced canines switched on like a light.  That’s what was tearing at him.  He couldn’t hide, the switch between killer and the mask the killer wore was clearly visible to another Were. Everything he’d worked so hard to normalize, the animal he’d successfully been able to bury in a room full of humans was in plain view.

 

“In the interest of full disclosure, if you stay here you’re in danger.  No other Were I know would give you the courtesy of knowing.”

 

It wasn’t the time to disclose the vaults just yet.  He had to see if he could refrain from attacking her first.  This was not good, not good at all.  The feline didn’t know what he was feeling, was it death, the need for hot blood in his throat, the simple act of kicking someone’s ass into submission?  …he was feeling very bitey, as odd as that sounded in his brain.  He was rocketing back to a time when he didn’t care what he hurt, or who he took.  He’d made so much progress…made so many promises… to someone he didn’t know was alive or dead.

 

Teeth clenched in a long sigh, watching Katy return with the information.

 

*npc*  If you’ve made up your mind we can get you signed up right now!

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