Closed RP Double Dealers

This RP is currently closed.


Todd did not like where the blood trail was heading.

He didn’t like the blood trail to begin with. It was wide, over-exaggerated. Whoever had left it could not be alive anymore, dragged along carelessly (he didn’t dwell on the fact that it seemed to be effortless, too, because that meant this was a meta, or a really, really big guy). Not even the river-wind could get rid of the scent completely, and Cryptid didn’t bother trying to swallow back the ache of hunger. It wasn’t a dangerous ache, just yet. It was taking all his focus to try to pick out any scents above the river, or the blood. Any kind of clue.

He patrolled the area often. Warehouses gave way to some more open spaces, factories and industrial spaces the city infrastructure had conveniently forgotten about. It was convenient for a lot of people, the kind of people Cryptid targeted – and for Cryptid himself. He didn’t like recycling the same spot, but this one seemed to have avoided most attention for the last few months. The warehouse district had a Wolf hovering around it. And anywhere else might have some surprise characters, even if he’d scoped it out before. But this place had a reputation for mystery blood and a masked monster patrolling around it. He partly controlled that reputation with the regular patrols. The rest was, admittedly, paranoia.

But it was only paranoia until he came across a blood trail a block out. Wide enough, erratic enough, to be two bodies. Dragged together, probably by a leg. It wasn’t the kind of trail he’d leave. That was partly because it was cleaner to knock prey out and stick them when he got somewhere quiet, or he needed them alive for something else, like he’d done with Jasper.

If it crossed his mind that this was a trap, that this might be someone else from Slate – it could really only be Lapis or Hemie, at this point, and neither seemed like the type for… this. If that crossed his mind, he pushed it away. A trap made of blood meant someone was trying to play on his predatory instincts on purpose. No, the simpler answer was that this was a very messy murder – pair of murders – and that whoever had done it, was going to go dismantle the bodies at the closest big, hidden structure. Occam’s razor.

That didn’t change the way his gut tightened, or his skin bristled. There was something else in the scent, under the blood and wounds and the faintest hint of what had to be the victims’ skin and clothes. Something about the killer. Something that made him drop to a stalk as he came close to the edge of the towering structure, his refuge for his most private moments. He was well aware of the blood stains he’d never be able to get out of the concrete. But right now, he wasn’t the monster. Just the hunter.

His fingers flexed gently around the bagh nakh – the new, sharp, lightweight carbon fiber. He was still getting used to the armor Nat had made for him; it was somehow both more comfortable and a lot heavier than the kevlar he’d gotten used to over the years. He’d had a short adjustment period. Besides the incident with Hematite and Wolf – and whatever had followed – he hadn’t had many chances to experiment with it. That had been another relapse, bringing the count from this month up to three.

He’d have to control himself. He had to. If it wasn’t for Sam…

Focus. In the moment. He was at the door now, as silent as the combat boots and new armor would let him be. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, waiting. Listening, sharp ears tuned to the acoustics of the open factory floor to get something, anything about his target. Size, weight, how far in they were. What they were doing with the bodies. He didn’t like the way his instincts were reacting to the scent. Any proof this was the suspected especially-big-thug would be enough to restore his confidence. Even if it was against the evidence.
This time, he had begun with a man and a woman.

They'd been together, on a date, perhaps in love; then they had been made to know evil. From out of a shadow, two hands wrapped around two heads and clasped them like they were baseballs; then, they had been brought to his garden, for a greater purpose.

What a life - ! What a night - ! After what felt like ages, he was free, free to shed the skinsuit that was Creed and do as he pleased for as long as the moon was out. And above all, he craved novelty. Something that would stimulate him. He'd looked through Creed's eyes and read the things that he had; he knew that there were others like him who lived and died here, in Pittsburgh, and wanted to meet them. To go out and walk among them. It was joyous - better than any high. Just existing was better than sex. He had to keep it going for as long as possible, before his limbs withered down to a mere husk of what they were.

Here he was powerful - omnipotent. He wanted a devil to contend with, and by Jove, he'd lure one in. The blood trail was obvious enough. Would it be police? Someone better? He didn't care. He wasn't that clever. Plans were Creed's business. He was a being of action.

Cryptid would know at once that the perpetrator made no effort to mask his position. Instead, he whistled a merry tune - the Ode to Joy, on-pitch, up-tempo. It reverberated throughout the steel mill, and as Cryptid followed the blood trail, he'd eventually come to an open room -

- where he stood.

A monolithic creature out of a nightmare, with exaggerated muscular proportions, the skin nearly cracking in some places but for the forcefulness of the tissues; he towered over the room, standing at 8 feet high (he'd selected a steel mill for its wide open spaces, of course, so he wouldn't have to hunch.) In one hand, held tenderly between thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, was a butcher's cleaver - it appeared almost like a needle in his oversized grip, but was suspended delicately between his claws, rolled back and forth like a trick coin. He was horrifically ugly, deformed - his teeth jutted out of his mouth, pulled back in a rictus-like grin, and his eyeholes were sunken, black as pitch, with two reddish orbs suspended therein: his photosensitive lidless eyes.

The bodies were absent, discarded. Chains and hooks hung about the production floor, rust accumulating on each. The smell of blood tainted the air.

Anticipation seized him - but he would wait. He was invincible.
A predator’s eyes narrowed into the dark, stolen black eyes that stood sharp against softer features. Ears tuned into the open space, nostrils flaring under the grinning mask. The music resonated behind his ears, and the blood roiled into his chest like cigarette smoke. This was a trap – or at least a lure. There was no way around that. But whether it was meant for him, or whoever would come up? That was a question that couldn’t be answered by a single glance.

The other question, though? The one about the big thug? That one was answered right away.

Todd had never expected to see someone bigger than Arlo. Connor was a good contender, but he carried himself in a way that hid it, ready to run on all fours. This guy was probably at least a foot taller than that. The size alone made him want to back down, to leave before things got hairy. His ribs ached with scars that hadn’t stuck.

But the blood was a problem. The blood without bodies. He scanned the room, looking for viscera, for bones, for meat. He hoped he was wrong about what he suspected. Part of him was pretty sure he was wrong, almost certain, because this? This wasn’t a predator. The body told a story of power, the crooked jaw and deep-set eyes were disturbing, sure. But there was something about the way it moved that didn’t tell him, the way Ethan’s body language had told him, that this was a predator.

That didn’t change how far out of his league he was. Cryptid backed off, swallowing back the undercurrent of eagerness filling his mouth. He put his back to the wall around the corner, listening to the movements of a creature that big while trying to put his thoughts in order.

Okay. Okay, so he couldn’t just… leave that. The whistled tune was “Ode to Joy,” by… Handel? He didn’t really know classical music, but he did know that it had to be pretty specific, given the circumstances. Memories of a music with a much deeper beat hummed under his skin. He ignored those memories.

He licked his lips, and took a slow breath, ignoring the blood as well. That room was a terrible place to meet something that big. There were smaller halls that led into it, and catwalks all along the walls, but there wasn’t any way to utilize those catwalks without being seen or heard. He had no idea what the big guy’s senses were like, but deep-set eyes like that…. He struggled to remember what he knew about animals. Photosensitive, right? Like cave animals. Maybe. He shouldn’t count on that.

His fingers twitched around the claws. He couldn’t just stand here all night. Eventually, the big guy was going to get bored. He had no idea if it would understand witty banter, classical music taste or not.

But he did recognize the song.

It was a bad idea. He didn’t know the lyrics. But the tune was familiar enough. If this was a trap, well – a little reverse-bait couldn’t hurt.

He waited for the – he decided “big guy” was the best way to keep thinking of it – to finish out the verse, and then gently hummed along underneath as he started again. A test of sound, a test of intelligence, and a test of follow-through.

No point wasting banter on something that couldn’t understand him.
The tune was joined; a friend had come to play. Someone brazen. Someone metahuman, obviously, or they'd be shitting themselves in abject terror. Oh, how he longed for the days where nobody knew something like him could even exist. The glee with which someone's mind snapped in half trying to comprehend what they were even seeing had been infectious. Unlike many, he'd been doing this for a while.

Creed - the man he wore day-in, day-out as a fleshsuit - was forty years old now. Over those four decades, the creature had made his way out into the world, ripping through his skin on various occasions, each time for longer. And while it'd been fun in the early years, when nobody knew what was happening, the modern era had its own brand of pleasures. It had more variety. He'd ripped angel wings off a strung-out teen - (Mat?) - he'd smothered a woman with unbreakable skin - all of these little challenges. That was part of the thrill.

He'd heard Pittsburgh had the highest population of metahumans in the United States (of which he was one). That wasn't why Creed had chosen to work here - or was it? He couldn't say. He often felt that the stern little man created situations for him to enjoy - that he was always in the driver's seat, one way or another. During the day, he watched from behind his eyes, and whispered in his mind. At night, it was his time to be in control. And when sleep couldn't find Creed, or he had a reaction to something, that was when he came out.

And he came out for this. For someone to finish the song.

The yellow eyes scanned the darkness. His stance was straight-backed and unbothered; he merely rolled his neck around, letting the crack echo through the corridors of the corpse factory.

"Well? We're waiting," he said, bare chest rising and falling with light laughter. Only the tattered remains of his pants were the only sign he'd ever been human at all. Sometimes he changed his clothes before changing his skin; often, he couldn't really control it. Once the time came, there was no choice but to let it happen.

"Come on out. Let us get a good look at you, boy. Or girl."


“You’re a lot smarter than you look.”

And that was a problem. Plural nouns aside – which was its own problem – the vocabulary meant that this wasn’t a stupid animal. It was never just a stupid animal. Animals could be predicted. It’d be so much easier, but alas, Todd never got things easy.

Karma, at it again.

The crack of his neck brought images of Arlo. Unwelcome memories. Todd bit the inside of his cheek after his comment and pushed them back. The monster had heard him, and he’d laughed. The laugh wasn’t like Arlo’s laugh. It was the sound Todd made, sometimes, when he edged too close to hunting. It was a sound he did make, when hunting. He didn’t like knowing that.

But it was useful to know. Because the laugh was the sound of a monster in control. If anyone had experience with that, it was the monster that had claimed the old steel mill first. Maybe not the first person to spill blood here, but the last one before this thing had showed up.

Fake it till you make it.

His clawed hands slipped into his pockets. He rolled his shoulders, easing back into his own skin – or, well, the one he was borrowing. The armor was still unwieldy, but for the sake of the situation, he could act unbothered by it, invisible under his long coat. His hair was already a bit ruffled, lending another layer to the devil-may-care attitude. He was the devil, and he didn’t care.

At least, on the outside.

Heel-toe, heel-toe, his boots clicked against the concrete floor. Combat boots created more of a thud, but it echoed all the same as he strolled into the metaphorical light – into the doorway. Into the line of sight of those little yellow eyes, and met them with impunity. The big guy was a monster, but he wasn’t a predator.

Cryptid, behind the grinning mask, pulled his hands from his pockets to spread them, inviting the gaze. And more, from the safety of just behind the narrower doorway.

“I’ll give you a minute to take it in, big guy. S’more than most people get to see before I wreck their shit for trespassing.”
"Hmm. Boy."

The rumbling acknowledgement that bore its way up from the beast's gullet was almost contemplative.

"Could make you a girl."

The creature spared a quick glance down at the butcher's cleaver, which looked more like a scalpel in his oversized hands. He wanted it easily accessible, but didn't feel like fighting with his hands full. Thus he made a languid move as if to sling it over his back. THUK. The blade bit into his skin, and the handle stayed put when his fingers left it. A small trickle of blood ran down his shoulder. He rotated his shoulder until it was comfortable.

Such bravado! Too much. And alone, too. This might take more than one lesson. It'd be fun to see him change over time. Couldn't get it over with all in one night.

The monster stepped forward, looming towards the man, pupil-less yellow orbs deep-set in his skullish face.

As adrenaline set in, he grew a little more. Blood pumped, skin cracked, bones crunched, and muscle strained - it was no illusion that he gained at least another five inches in height as Cryptid drew near.

"Let's start."

Coiled muscles in his legs snapped to life and he set off towards him like a missile, his back foot slamming against the factory floor like an anvil had been dropped on it; as the noise reverberated, he'd raise his leg and execute a devastating kick, aiming to punt the smaller being like a football across the room in the blink of an eye - a show of utter athletic dominance, reflexive muscular coordination, and unrestrained superhuman brutality.

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Crytpid’s own muscles started to tighten as, somehow, the gorilla got bigger. He tilted his head arrogantly at the commentary – exposing his throat, even though that wasn’t actually what was going to put his life in danger right now. He didn’t pay too much attention to the way it set the cleaver aside, either. Healing factors, or weird durability, was turning out to be a dime a dozen.

What surprised him was the speed.

Between the announcement and the actual follow-through, there was barely enough time for him to process movement. And rather than come in with his fists, the big guy decided to start with a kick. Way harder to avoid.

Todd only moved out of the way on a gut instinct, dropping hard into a somersault typically reserved for parkour. He felt the kick clip him, the toe catching on his hip right in the armor, putting a little more force than intended into the roll and sending him sliding as he came back upright. The joint throbbed, but as far as he could tell, the armor had helped keep him from anything worse than a bruise.

It’d still hit. And it’d still hurt. But he could keep moving.

“Ooh, close!” he quipped, exhaling heavily so he didn’t start panting. Keeping the words coming might distract from how fucking close that call was, but probably wouldn’t.

He had to focus. He turned his crouch into a spring, on his feet and moving again before the big guy could turn his attention back to Cryptid. He wasn’t nearly as fast as this thing, which would be a problem. Normally he relied on being lighter and more maneuverable when fighting people bigger than himself. Now, he really had to focus on being smarter.

Which might be its own problem.

For the moment, he decided that his best option was to try to stay behind his opponent. Keep back, out of range, and somewhere he wouldn’t be seen. He needed a better plan than this – or his backup plan, of using the catwalks – but to plan, he’d need time. This was like Lament all over again. Should’ve scouted out better. Should’ve thought this through more.

Should’ve, should’ve, should’ve. He was in this situation now, and until an idea dawned on him, it was going to be all about playing keep-away, which meant paying attention. Body language, movements, shifts of musculature. Anything that’d help him with a long-term solution so he didn’t wear himself out completely in the short-term.

When he laughed, it devolved into an iron rumble, like gears grinding against one another. But when he lashed out with his kick, there was a flourish to it - not a lurching, drunken blow, but an almost graceful animal lunge. The connection sent Cryptid almost sprawling, onto his back foot - the physically domineering creature towered over him, bones cracking into place. It had been close - too close for his adversary. A mere opening jab, a test of reflex and reaction time. The titan pivoted on the balls of his feet and stopped suddenly, his full weight bearing down on the cold floor.

Then, slowly at first, then speeding up, he shifted his weight back and forth from foot to foot, like a boxer would, a nearly playful combat stance that belied the lethality of his intent. Lighthearted and inspired by the complete confidence that he could not be harmed by the man before him - not permanently. He'd been alive for four decades, and killing for three. Nobody had ever put him down.

Bouncing lightly from foot to foot, he suddenly lunged forward again, this time aiming to deliver a punishing downward cross, relying on his gargantuan reach advantage to lash out like lightning. Fighting him wasn't like fighting a blindly charging rhinoceros; it was more like trying to wrestle an octopus. He was a veritable kraken, and if the first blow connected, he'd follow up with more, each strike delivered with precision, and enough power to break through any guard.

The chase was on. And if Cryptid backpedaled, he'd find the goliath bearing down on him even further, taking one stride for every three of his foe's.
Cryptid backed off as the – god, he really needed a name for this thing. Monologues normally got names, right? He’d need to keep that in mind. He backed away as it pulled its stance tighter, and started an ever-shifting bounce that was so, so familiar to him.

Instinctively, or maybe just on an old reflex, Todd fell into time with the other boxer. He’d learned the basics from someone that much bigger than him, and he’d spent the last month sparring with someone a good head smaller than himself. He’d learned what he could from watching Sam, but people taller than himself were hard to come by, so he didn’t exactly have practical experience.

Which meant falling back on old tricks.

Cryptid didn’t have speed in his favor over the big guy, or agility. He made a mental note of the other fighter’s guard as he moved, his own loose. Todd was used to ignoring hits from almost anyone he met in combat – and training with Arlo, he’d learned that with someone just as strong, a guard was pretty useless for mitigating damage. He’d need to rely on his healing factor for that part.

But that led to the actual number one rule of combat: don’t get hit. A guard getting hit still hurt. A healing factor took a second to kick in. And while he was usually just fine getting a nick here or there with bullets, any blow here was going to be devastating, armor or no armor. And pulling back was only going to put his back to a wall when he wasn’t paying attention.


Unlike the gravel tone, Cryptid’s laugh was a clear and sharp bark into the dark of the factory floor. It caught and echoed for a second as, instead of backing off, he moved into the space left behind on the monster’s recoil. Swing out to the thug’s side, then try again to get behind, to the exposed back. His hands weren’t held in the full fists he’d use in sparring; they were loose, open, so he could try to get a grip with his claws as soon as he saw an exposed spot.

It wasn’t a good plan, by any means. But there weren’t any good options here. And what was a good option, really?

To avoid thinking about that too hard, he opened his dumbass mouth instead.

“Y’know, that’s a lot of blood on the floor. What’d’ya do with the bodies? Eat ’em?”
This one was a cut above the rest.

Remarkably bold, uncannily nimble, and above all, audacious - running his mouth while weaving around jab after jab. He'd stepped closer rather than backtracking, showcasing not only hypernatural agility, but extensive training as well. He had honed himself in a way that the Creature had not. The goliath didn't exactly spar. There was a significant power disparity between him and all others he'd encountered thus far. A fascination began to take hold within his nefarious mind - beneath the sworl of ecstasy, of manic kill-urge, there was real interest. Who was he?

A larger swing, a deeper step, left his back open. His fist left a crater in a near wall, and as he extricated it with one fluid move, the Cryptid struck, lunging through his guard to plant a set of claws deep in his side, under his rear right shoulder. They bit in as the scalpel had, but would find the meat tough, tumoresque; the damage was appreciable. It was a feat to strike him at all. But the wound was thus far as superficial as the self-inflicted one at the start of their bout. And just as his grasping claws found their way enmeshed in his exterior muscle, blood seeping out, the Cryptid would face the retaliatory strike.

The behemoth grew another couple inches in height as his adrenaline surged. The rictus that made up his never-changing skull like expression seemed to crack apart further.

By this point, wrapping his enormous hand around Cryptid's head would be like clutching a golf ball. And that was exactly what he tried to do.

The Creature's pummeling strikes had been avoided, but Cryptid had opened himself up to a vengeful counterattack. Though he was a nimble opponent, the juggernaut before him would scarce sacrifice an opportunity to try and seize him by the head. As the vigilante's reach exceeded his grasp, so too did the ogre-like killer's reach exceed Cryptid's - putting him in a position to try and pluck the vigilante from his side by his skull.

"Mouthy little thing," he'd say (either way), before attempting to complete his intended maneuver - repeatedly slamming his comparatively diminutive foe into the nearest available surface, be it wall or floor - until he stopped talking.

That was the new game he was going to play.
There was something very wrong with the monster Cryptid was fighting.

It was one thing to judge by appearances, or to note the sickness in his scent. It was another to dig his hands into the exposed back and have to squeeze to get any kind of traction, when the sharpened carbon-fiber claws should rip cleanly through exposed flesh. Instead, it was like – well, he didn’t have a comparison. One memory flashed of trying to get a cleaver through muscle that was designed for pure density

And the memory was interrupted before it could sink in. The swift movement was well-telegraphed, and it wasn’t like Todd’s claws were in that deep. But he was still slower than the monster. He moved as soon as he saw the motion, and he was still too late to avoid all damage. He wasn’t going to risk his head getting juiced like an orange just for a little more long-term damage. But for all the blood, soaking up inside his sleeves under the armor, the damage was… negligible, by comparison to what Cryptid was about to lose.

A handful of loose black curls, and a PVC Halloween mask, would be left behind. Todd’s skull burned cold as he lost skin and hair to the grasping hand, but between his strength and the monster’s, he could pull free before his head got squeezed like an orange. The face exposed wasn’t his, though his forearm went over his eyes just in case he lost the shift. The dark curls, the sharp brown eyes, the straight nose and twisted mouth – all borrowed from someone long-since dead. All clearly visible, as he sacrificed his other barrier between his identity and the giant to preserve his own life.

This time, he fell back quickly. His steps echoed as he darted into the center of the big room again, taking the time to recover, to flex his features so that he was sure didn’t lose his altered face, to push past the pain and give the monster the chance to notice his catch had slipped out of reach.

“I’m–” his voice faltered, as he wiped blood from his forehead with the back of one hand. His scalp was going to heal, but that didn’t change the number of vessels around his skull. His head was going to sting, and be very damp, for a while yet.

He cleared his throat as he slipped back into his fighting position.

“I’m taking that as a yes,” he finished, his throat recovering. He stayed on his toes, watching, ready to move. The plastic mask wasn’t going to keep the monster distracted for long. The handful of hair wasn’t, either. But something in being called mouthy seemed to trigger more words to follow. “You’re not a predator, though, are you? Flat teeth, small eyes. You’re not designed for hunting. So what’s in it for you? Sport?”

Asking the question out loud pulled an answer into his brain. An unpleasant one. The increasing size – where was the body mass coming from? The blood on the floor – he didn’t have time to do the math, but it was more than one body for sure. And if there was a giant man-eating gorilla running around, someone would’ve said sooner.

The dark, slanted eyes narrowed, but the mouth twitched up a little. A bitter smile, one that showed off too many teeth and an over-tight jaw.

“You’re not like me. But you’re close, aren’t you?”

He didn’t expect a real answer. Maybe he’d get a monologue out of that, but he wasn’t hopeful. Really he was just trying to kill time while he pulled the threads of half-baked plans into something that would keep him from losing more hair.
Bit by bit, he was picking the vigilante apart. Physically, mentally - he felt him getting desperate now. He'd literally torn himself away from the enormous creature's grasp, leaving behind his mask and a clump of scalp, which he discarded. It'd felt like tearing velcro.

The mask? He held onto it for a moment in his gargantuan palm, and regarded it with mild amusement. The lidless yellow eyes flickered over Cryptid's face, which he tried to cover with his elbow. All the while, talking, yammering, trying to get something out of the hulking killer. He crumpled it like a soda can and dropped it as he advanced.

The silence was Cryptid's answer, coupled with a renewed onslaught. No pause, no space to breathe - nothing but adrenaline-infused relentless violence. He used another series of swipes from grasping hands coupled with ferocious forward movement. The force exerted in his grip could crush steel. It was brutal and simple - and historically, highly effective.

Being asked if he'd eaten the bodies was amusing. (He hadn't.)

The question about being close was funny, too.

At no point had the towering thing ever felt anything resembling kinship with another living being, and that hadn't changed now. His wants appeared arbitrary to the outside world, aimed only at inflicting misery, or creating amusement for himself. He was something of a collector - it was invigorating to possess something, to take. The Bundyesque side of greed and lust, fully embodied in a disproportionately large, nameless, hideous monolith of a man.

So as he reached out for Cryptid again, repeating his attempt to thrash him, he gave no answer - no answer but the cracked smile etched into his protruding skull.

This was even better now that he didn't have the mask on.

Despite having started the conversation, Big Ugly wasn’t chatty. Todd could tell he was starting to run on adrenaline when his brain switched from pure survival to survival with a touch of asshole. He let it go, though. He had bigger (and uglier) problems than his inner monologue starting to get snarky.

When he came again, Todd was ready. The changed shape hardly took any focus as he found his rhythm. He weaved rather than just dodging, using every ounce of mobility the reduced size gave him. He would’ve followed up with more commentary, but he knew better than to waste breath. Verbalizing sass could wait until he was out of arm’s reach, but he wasn’t getting any time to dash, only evade. Still, he reflected the monster’s smile back to him with predatory sharpness, broad and tight. He wouldn’t let himself get too comfortable with the violence bubbling up in his own chest; but if he let slip just a little –

He slipped. The toe of his boot caught where the blood was still wettest, and his ankle betrayed him, twisting the wrong way just as the big hand clasped around his head.

He thought fast, and as his muscles tightened and his clawed hands reached up to try to agitate the massive palm, he had the idea to grow, just a little. Be just a little less delicate. Under the coat, his weight changed, his shape shifted into someone denser. Someone heavier, a little sturdier, he didn’t care who. He might not have the spare body mass for Arlo – and this definitely wouldn’t last long with what could break here, even under the armor – but being briefly constricted by his own clothes was a lot more favorable than getting his rib cage shattered. The armor would absorb a lot.

He’d gone through so much trouble to get it, he really hoped it didn’t just break because of this. He had to trust Nat’s craftsmanship. And his own body weight, now that he thought to conjure some up.
He'd got him.

Cryptid was tiring, and the creature was just warming up. A moment of slippage was all it'd taken for the darting fist to again clutch at him, overpowering the resistance with sheer brutish resilience. On the periphery of his sensation, he felt Cryptid's claws dig into his palm and rake across his wrist, leaving behind deep red scratches that drew more blood from his huge veins. But that was the price he was willing to pay, for he now had the man in his grip once more, tight and unforgiving. There was no slipping away this time around. As Cryptid's ankle went out beneath him, he'd find himself hoisted upward, his full weight taken off the ground.

The behemoth held onto him with both hands now - one locked around his face, and the other wrapping around his upper shoulder. Fingernails scraped across his torso as he hefted him like a doll, his own muscles pulsing with the effort to keep him steady - this was a creature who had lifted entire cars before, but cars didn't exactly fight back. As the yellow lidless eyes peered at the form before him, his brain registered a few interesting details. For starters, the man in front of him was well-armored. This was unique, noncommercial stuff - kevlar and iron, perhaps, interwoven into a fabric. It was elastic at the joints, muted gray in color. He wanted to see how much strain that could take, too, and started squeezing harder.

Then something else happened - Cryptid started changing. He was getting larger too - stockier? Even the muscles under his face rippled, getting less lean - a bit of fatness creeping in, something to cushion himself maybe - the Creature didn't really understand it. It was funny to him though, like most everything was.

"Ever get the sense," he said, looking to slam his adversary into a near wall, "'ve bitten off more than you could chew?"

Iguanadons were said to have used their spiked thumbs as weapons. Creed had absorbed that fact passively at perhaps the age of eight or so, then ignored it for the rest of his life. The Creature, though, found it immensely entertaining. He channeled the mighty iguanadon here and tried to push his enormous digits deep into Cryptid's flesh, stabbing through muscle and scraping up against bone. Probing to see just how much this little snot could endure before -

- well, he didn't know. Would he cry? Would he quip? He wanted to find out.
Todd’s entire field of vision was filled with the heavy hand, and his nose was assaulted by the wrong stench that the monster’s blood carried. He felt the slickness under his fingers; his claws were doing damage, but they weren’t having the effect he needed.

He didn’t stop. Damage was damage.

It was, unfortunately, a sign of panic. The increased weight, scrabbling with claws that were too tight around his larger knuckles – knuckles that were now almost too tight for his gloves as well – the heave of his chest as he lost the ground, the growl that vibrated up his throat almost inhumanly as the back slammed against the wall. All indicators he would’ve preferred to hide, if he thought he was dealing with another predator.

But his brain wasn’t wired for something that didn’t classify as predator or prey. Even Arlo – God, he needed to stop thinking about Arlo – Arlo had classified as prey. Arlo hadn’t been this… off. Uncanny, on top of being a fucking problem. He’d just been a threat like any megafauna. This was so different that Todd’s brain was trying to short circuit itself as it tried to figure out a ‘correct’ approach.

The fingernails dug deep into the spandex of his right arm, meeting the flesh underneath. The only thing keeping them from cutting was the thick black coat. He was filling that to its limit, too; the extra weight was uncomfortable, all around. And under this kind of pressure, he had no idea if he could maintain it. For his healing factor to counter that kind of damage…

But the armor, bless beautiful, naive, innovative Nathaniel, was holding. The blue spandex was going to give, but the important parts of the armor were holding. That said, Todd didn’t know if he could regenerate a whole limb when the nails cut through. More than anything, that was where the panic was coming from.

And, when Todd panicked, he counterbalanced – countered the fear and the panic and the growing pain with a larger-than-life attitude.

“Ever heard of – ssss – picking on someone your own size?” He sucked hard between his teeth, his voice grinding out. Be predictable. Telegraphing was a great way to distract when he was going to do something new.

Not that he had too many ideas for that, but still. Still, he had to try.

No matter how calloused, hands were full of ridges and loose skin. Todd’s teeth weren’t like his artificial claws; they weren’t particularly sharp at all. They were, however, sturdy. And he had the force in his bite to crush bone. Crushing was his style. It was something he had in common with Big Ugly.

Who’s mouthy now, bitch? He bit back the comment – figuratively. He did have a mouthful, even if he wasn’t aiming to bite it off. And based on the taste? Chewing wasn’t on the table.

But he held. He didn’t know what else to do. It wasn’t a good idea; it wouldn’t resolve the hand around his shoulder, which was why he crossed his spare arm across his body to try to find the soft spots between the fingers to try to at least get a nerve response, a spasm, anything. He could feel the seam of his coat starting to split, and the spandex wouldn’t be far behind. His bare shoulder would be fucked when that happened. And he couldn’t do anything except hold and hope, physically bracing for whatever was going to follow.