Obsidian had done something very weird. He had taken the bus. Lapis had insisted upon driving him, but he wanted to drive Malachite’s Jeep back. The least he could do for his brother was return the car and his wedding ring that he always left in the cupholder while he worked. Hopefully, he would find a body. Hopefully, it was still mostly intact. All Obsidian knew was that his right hand hadn’t moved in a week. He was either dead or being held hostage. But Obsidian’s gut told him the truth.
His brother was dead.
The initial wave of sorrow that he had felt on the third day had quickly been overwhelmed by rage. He wouldn’t send anyone else. He couldn’t. He wasn’t going to needlessly throw away someone else. If Mal was dead, then whatever this was could kill all of them, except maybe Fhody. But a good clean slice at her spine would kill her too. So that left the only person he could send in as himself.
Sulphur had begged to be the one to go. His left hand certainly had a chance at survival. But he wasn’t willing to risk his second brother, and after a softly spoken conversation, their foreheads pressed together, his brother had agreed to remain behind. After all, he was the only one the others would listen to if anything happened on this retrieval trip.
The devastation that their little family as a whole had experienced was palpable when he left on his mission. There was nothing he could do to staunch their sorrow and despair. Even Lapis had cried when she was told. And Lapis had never gotten along with Mal. Even her heart of ice thawed for their rock.
All this to say, Obsidian took the bus so he could drive home the jeep with whatever remained of Mal’s body. Clearly, something he to have utterly destroyed him for him to be dead. Mal got back up. Mal always got back up. He had always been the strongest one out of all of them. Obsidian could never hope to be the kind of rock, the kind of stability that Mal had been.
Obsidian was going to miss him every day for the rest of his life.
There wouldn’t be a moment where the guilt of his death didn’t echo through Obsidian. There never would be. It was entirely his fault the man was dead, his man, his best man. Now it was just him and Sulphur.
Obsidian walked casually into the warehouse district near Brunot Island. He had a cigarette lit as walked, breathing in the smoke and letting it settle in his lungs before he let it out. He smoked it down to the filter, pausing just outside the warehouses where the tracker had stopped. He stamped out the smoldering flame and then sighed. He had already spotted the jeep, and it only served to confirm what he already knew. Malachite’s body was somewhere in here.
He took a long breath in and exhaled it slowly. As he did, tentacles of shadow reached out from his skin and obscured his features. There was no point in having his real face captured by whoever had done this. They didn’t deserve the courtesy of being relieved of their lives by the man. They only deserved the faceless nightmare.
He turned away from the warehouse wall and started walking, following the tracker on his phone. When he finally arrived at the building, he was… surprised. There were no cars, no guards, nothing but a padlocked door. He looked at it, his head tilting. Someone had tried to make it look old but beneath the dirt that he scratched off with his gloved thumb, the metal shinned like new. Someone had gone to the trouble of making it look old. To hide the body? That raised a red flag.
Obsidian walked the perimeter of the warehouse. Every other door was jammed shut, and Obsidian didn’t have the physical strength Mal or his dead sister had. No, he couldn’t have been lucky enough for something like that. So he circled back to the first door. There were some stones on the ground, do Obsidian found the heaviest one and walked back to the door. This was definitely going to alert anything that might be inside. He took the lock in one hand and brought the rock down as hard as he could on the edge of the lock where it was secured. The lock popped open and he let it and the chain fall to the ground.
The warehouse itself was nothing special, and it wasn’t why after opening the door did Obsidian stop short. No, in what little light there was, Obsidian could see the gleam of metal, and nothing else. There was no one inside– no No there was. Something was in there, and it was already watching him. He waited a few long seconds for his eyes to adjust as he stopped in the doorway, his rage boiling up. The longer he stared, the more he came to understand what he was looking at.
A white long-sleeved shirt and a spiked leather jacket, a pair of faded dark jeans, a pair of burgundy Doc Martins. They were carefully laid out. And resting upon them were a series of artificial body parts. Metal joints, artificial valves, a spinal tube. Laying in the middle of the shirt was his locket, and laying at about where his head would have been glinted his earrings. And, right where his left hand would have been, there rested a wedding ring. The wedding ring, in perfect condition. And right where his right arm would have been, there rested the tracking chip. There was blood on the clothes, but not on anything else. There were footprints in the dust, and it was obvious that they had come in, arranged the leftover bits of Mal, and then left.
They had butchered him. They had fucking butchered him like a piece of meat and removed all of his surgical bits, and laid them out in this disgustingly macabre display.
This was, of course, a trap.
Obsidian wasn’t stupid. He knew a trap when he saw one. But still, he walked inside the building, his steps slow and precise. His duster flapped around his knees as he moved. He knelt next to the “body” and sighed softly, shaking his head. His curls shifted at the top of his head, not that it would be visible to anyone else. He nodded, though, and reached out to take the locket in his hand for just a moment. He set it back down with tightly controlled motions.
“I know you’re there. I’ve felt your eyes on me since I walked in the door. Why don’t you come out so we can… chat.”
Cryptid had barely slept all week. Even if he didn’t have to eat regularly, he needed to sleep, and he slept more after a big meal. The last time he’d eaten two men in one go was – well, the only comparable time was after Arlo, and sleep had staved off the guilt for more than twenty hours that time.
But there was work to do. There was a hunt on, and he had to monitor his trap, because it wouldn’t close itself.
Jasper Torres had been torn apart and put back together for the last time. This time, he’d at least been dead as his component parts were taken out and put to better use. Todd had taken his time. At first, it had been because he had a lot to think about, and most of the night to think about it. Sam wouldn’t be awake until four the next morning, and for all that had happened, it was still before midnight.
That was before he found the first valve. His body could process just about anything organic, and medical equipment did not fit into that category very well. He’d been lucky he sifted through organs before getting his teeth into bones – he would’ve chipped something. And he would’ve eaten right past the chip.
The chip was a game changer. If it hadn’t been for that, Todd would’ve just packed everything up in a box and left it in the Jeep, then just watched that. But with a chip – which could theoretically be for anything, but tracking was an educated assumption – with a chip, Todd could set a trap.
And he did. He spent most of the rest of the night on that, with just enough time to get home and wash up before Sam could wake up and see all the blood. He covered the scent as well as he could, and then went about using the same methods that cured motor oil stains, the same hard orange soap and bleach, to erase all evidence from her apartment. The longer he could keep her away from all that, the better.
After that, he called in sick to Vik’s. Some kind of stomach flu, didn’t want to get anyone else sick. Wouldn’t wish it on anyone. He’d call as soon as he felt well enough to turn a wrench again.
That was a week ago.
Seven days had passed, and he’d barely slept a few hours each day during times he was sure no one would come looking for a corpse. He was tired and stiff, and doubting his plan. If nothing happened by midnight tonight, Cryptid was going back to the box-in-jeep method and washing his hands of the affair. He was starting to think Jasper might have been wrong about his family – about how much they cared. Or very right, about how patient his boss could be when it came to vengeance. Not liking the second option, Cryptid had started to hold to the first one as he crouched on the second-floor scaffolding, crouched like a hunter in a duck blind, watching the tableau he’d set up.
It was a very good thing he had waited, though. Because even if his predator’s patience was wearing thin, it had paid off.
He first stirred to life to the sound of something striking the padlock he’d placed on the front door, specifically to keep anyone not looking for a body out and to alert him when someone was trying to get in. He blinked a few times, focused on the sounds he heard, the steps, the strike of stone on metal.
A sleight breeze blew in when the door was opened, and Cryptid smelled the prey before he saw him. A cigarette, recently finished. Then cedarwood, sandalwood, masculine-coded perfumes. The leather of an expensive car’s interior. Under all of that, on a more natural level, was something herbal, earthy, with a little kick. Pepper, maybe. He remembered the scent of pepper that Malachite had carried secondhand, and came to the logical conclusion that his visitor was the cause of that.
Under all the surface scents, though, was the smell of rage.
It was, of course, just adrenaline. Adrenaline and sweat constituted most emotion’s scents. But there was a subtle difference in the scent that came with fear, anger, excitement. Usually, anger of any kind – especially at a scene like the one the Cryptid had arranged – was affiliated with fear, or some secondary emotion. But there was no fear, nothing else that rolled off the prey. The only other person Todd could remember meeting who experienced anger so purely was – well, Sam.
Or maybe he was just thinking about her too much. He’d spent a lot of time with his own thoughts in the last week, after all. But he wasn’t alone anymore, and he needed to get into gear, to focus. He focused inward, to a few small, well-planned shifts of body, of voicebox and face, what would be visible under the mask.
And he focused outward, to the man below who was wrapped so completely in shadows that all the time in the world spent studying Malachite’s photo album would not have helped the predator identify him. He’d need to hold onto the scent, to keep it for later, assuming this didn’t end right here, right now.
I’ve felt your eyes on me since I walked in the door.
He froze, ears pricking as he was addressed, sifting through the man’s tone and voice to identify him better later. His own heart picked up the pace, though whether from nerves or excitement was hard to tell when he was so focused on what was in front of him. He couldn’ tell, off hand, if this was the predator Obsidian, or if it was the other one. Either way, he’d have to be careful. In some ways he still hadn’t recovered from the last fight – his left bagh nakh had been twisted up beyond recognition, and he’d have to use Vik’s tools to fix it.
He was ready as he’d be allowed to get, though. And he’d had a week to prepare for this. Now it was showtime.
He stood slowly, the movement likely to draw the eye, but he walked quietly as someone in combat boots could on a rusted steel scaffold until he reached the hole above the door, and simply… dropped through it, so his feet struck the ground, both at once, causing a cloud of dust to form around his feet. He caught himself with barely a bounce of his knees, and then stood, slowly, now between the target and the door.
He reached his unarmed left hand behind him, and closed the door until it clicked softly. The box closing over both predator and prey.
And for the first time he looked at the man, looked at him full-on, with golden brown eyes visible in the faded afternoon light when the rest of his face was hidden. The cold look, detached, tired, and predatory as it was, did not belong in eyes quite so pretty.
The voice he used to speak was tight, but betrayed no emotion.
As expected, there was movement in the raptors. Obsidian didn’t bother to look up at it… until he realized it was a single set of footsteps. He looked behind him as the body, dressed all in black, hit the ground. There was a flash of white as he straightened out. A mask, rigid and with a mouthful of sharp teeth. So this was the vigilante that Leo had asked him to take care of. The vigilante that had taken Mal from him. He straightened out, dusting off the hem of his coat with slow, practiced motions.
Until he heard the voice, he had been ready to just kill the man. He’d already started tugging on his leather gloves when he spoke, and Obsidian froze. He froze in the way that a cat whose dinner had gotten within striking range froze. He slowly turned to look at the man again, and from behind the mask, he saw golden brown eyes, pretty eyes, watching him.
A slow, invisible grin crossed his face. One man, one man who could shapeshift, had taken out Mal. What kind of monster was this guy? The longer that Obsidian looked at him, at his relaxed posture, at the seemingly bored expression in the eyes of his best friend, his brother, he knew. Obsidian knew he was looking at someone like him. He was looking at a predator. A monster. A kindred in body and power. Maybe a kindred in spirit, if he was lucky.
His smooth voice, smooth despite the excessive smoking, was tightly controlled as he spoke. “That’s not your face, now, is it? Neat little trick. Want to tell me what you did with his body?”
There was an edge to his voice, despite the control, as though he couldn’t help the subtle creep of rage and danger. His grin stayed in place, just barely visible through the shadow if you knew what you were looking at. In the fading afternoon light, Obsidian hadn’t gone for full darkness, just enough that it would impair someone in an already dark room.
He took in a long, slow breath, and when he let it out, he hissed softly, a frigid chill filling his body. Anger expended energy, and energy expended meant he needed to feed again sooner. He was already due for a meal. Maybe this shapeshifter would feed him. Who knew how much voltage was in a body like that. Meta humans had different levels of energy than regular humans. His younger sister had been such a full meal that he thought he might have overloaded had he not used almost all of it to kill the girl with her. But metas like Sulphur, they didn’t have much extra to spare.
He stalked around the display, looking at the shiny and worn joints. Every step was slow and precise, and he folded his hands behind his back, leaving his gloves on. For the time being, he’d rather have answers than to outright kill them, man. If he wasn’t going to be able to return a body to Katherine, well. He needed to know that. He glanced up again from the pile of metal and clothes and he gave the man a look.
The control in the man’s movements were what started to raise Cryptid’s hackles. Body language was intuitive to him – he tended to read a person more in their actions than their words, to figure out truth when the tongue lied. This man’s body was pulled taut, every motion made with absolute precision, the way Todd’s body moved when he was consumed by the hunger, by the hunt. And it was his voice that betrayed his rage, outside of his scent. His voice said danger, and his body was in agreement, even under the mask of civility.
And he knew from that alone that this was Obsidian.
In the dark, animal eyes picked out teeth bared in a grin. Cryptid kept his own mouth closed under the mask, lips pressed together in a neutral expression. Now that he was sure, he didn’t want to issue any kind of challenge or threat beyond what he’d already done. He wasn’t arrogant about his position, recognized when he might be out of his weight class. But that didn’t mean he was going to roll over and surrender, either.
Cryptid stepped forward. Not very far, just a few paces, just so his back wasn’t against the closed door, so he could move if need be – and to telegraph you do not frighten me. He crossed maybe halfway toward the other predator and to the bait he’d taken, and paused again there, looking down at his own work. His eyes changed in the shadows of his mask – just a moment, a hint of rounded ice blue, and then they were nearly black, more hawkish. Better suited to a monster. He did not start to move away when the other predator started to circle back toward him.
I know what you are, the black eyes said, in the intensity with which they watched. And I am not afraid of it, the lax posture added, deliberate though it was. He was not afraid, just wary. Fear was prey behavior. Wariness was a survivor’s boon.
But all the wariness in the world would not stop him from meeting the gaze he felt leveled at him. Both predators, assessing each other through their camouflage. Cryptid wouldn’t be the first to look away from this unless he had to prioritize survival.
He did not tell the man from Jasper’s group that he had eaten the body. Jasper had said enough to tell him what a horrible idea that was. He needed to hide the carnivore, or risk Obsidian trying to convince him to unleash it.
But he wouldn’t lie to something like him, either. Something like them. Instinct said that he’d know better than accept buried, burned, dumped in the Ohio as answers. So he didn’t say anything at all about it, and took up the second subject.
“Do you want the details?” His voice wasn’t his own, but the borrowed, gruffer one he used to mask his identity. Low, quiet, calm. “Or just the simple version, for his headstone: I waited for him to fall asleep, and then I cut his throat.”
No motion accompanied the statements, nor emotion. Had this been a man, Todd would have crossed a line immediately, might have taunted. Were he not so tired, he might’ve done it anyway. But he didn’t have the energy to spare, and he couldn’t risk a situation where he wasn’t capable of wrestling control back out of the jaws of a bigger monster. So he was honest, if indirect through his honesty. Draw out the conversation, lead it, control the conversation by taking Obsidian’s curiosity by the nose, and hope it didn’t snap his hand off.
“No. No, that isn’t the truth. It may be part of it, but Mal has never fallen asleep on a job. He’s never done anything but turn up results. You killed my brother, and I want to know how. I want you to tell me what you did that bested him.”
Obsidian casually stuck his hands in his pockets as he got closer to the masked man. He’d watched, in the dark, as the eyes on the face changed until they landed on a pair of black, sharp eyes. So definitely a shapeshifter. No question about that. That also meant that it wouldn’t matter if he unmasked the thin man, he couldn’t trust that whatever face he saw was the real face or not.
He examined his posture and felt an inkling of frustration. The man stood casually, relaxed even, but Obsidian could see through it. Or maybe he was seeing exactly what the man wanted him to see. The casualness was as deliberate as Obsidian’s tenseness. Although it was a great effort on his part, Obsidian breathed in, then breathed out. As he breathed out, he allowed the tension in his body to fade out. At least, the visual tension. He kept some coiled like springs in his muscles, still ready to move at a moment’s notice.
“Where are my manners.” His smooth voice evened back out, becoming almost cordial. For the time being, anger wouldn’t serve him well, so he shelved it. He stopped his approaching a few feet out from the man. He didn’t offer him a hand to shake, that would tempt him far too much, but he did give him a small, acknowledging nod of the head. “I’m Obsidian. Please, tell me your name. Or whatever moniker you go by, that is.”
He tucked his hands into the pockets of his coat and waited, his body perfectly still. Even when he tried to play the civil man, it was clear in the way he held himself that he was anything but. Much the same way the man across from him failed to disguise his own predatory tendencies. Obsidian wanted answers. He wanted to know what had truly happened before he passed judgment. Everything in him wanted to just end the man, to take him by surprise and grasp his arm, pulling it behind his back, holding it in place until the man fell unconscious. Every bit of his rage and sorrow demanded payment for the loss of his friend.
But Obsidian didn’t kill people like them without cause. Every metahuman deserved a chance to be part of his dream, their dream, the collective dream. And as much as it pained him, he was going to need a replacement for Malachite.
So instead of killing the man in front of him, he let his sharp-toothed grin recede into the depths, instead displaying a well-mannered smile. It would only be ever so slightly visible, but maybe more so now that they were closer. He could possibly even see some shadowy outlines as Obsidian contained the swirl of shadows to his identifiable features. He kept his eyes and nose more obscured than his mouth but left the sharp angles of his face fairly visible. His flop of hair, of curls of an indeterminable color, was barely traceable through the shadows. He wasn’t going to let this man have his face, though he likely already had his voice.
Todd knew that breath. That deep sigh, and deliberate relaxation. He just wasn’t used to seeing it from an outside perspective. The concern now unfolded into worry as he realized he’d been on the edge of doing the opposite – of creating deliberate tension as a warning to keep the other predator from stepping closer, to respond to the shift. To tell him without speaking I’m warning you.
And because of that, he didn’t. The look around his eyes took on the tension until he reflected the other man’s action, breathing through his nose, taking in the odors under the perfumes – pepper and rage. If it wasn’t so earthy, if it had just been the little kick, it might’ve been enough to actually calm him. For now it was enough to breathe, to center himself, to remind himself that he could sense the difference. He wasn’t prey, he was here on equal footing, footing he created.
That was how his voice came out in the same soft calm when he said, “He used to turn up results. Now he’s turned up dead.”
It wasn’t a calculated risk – he was just tired, and uncomfortable, although he packed that part up and hid it. But he’d prefer to have that anger where he could see it, and he was prepared for any consequences to his actions. He could pretend any response was acceptable. That was part of the charade.
He licked his lips, a bad nervous habit that he only caught himself in after he started. His eyes stayed fixed on Obsidian. “Cryptid’s fine. I’m surprised Leo didn’t tell you before you sent Mal to die. His guys certainly know it.”
Were they talking about him more now? Probably. Bloody clothes were a pretty fucking clear sign. Or maybe he’d missed news of Leo’s death. Mal had been sure that one way or another, the slimy bastard was going to die. Now that the predatory hunger had been sated, for now at least, Todd didn’t really care who got him. What really mattered was preventing the power vacuum that his absence would cause, figuring out his next move before –
Focus. Leo wasn’t here now. He wasn’t Todd’s problem at this exact second. He’d created a good bridge for himself, and he pushed over it.
“You’re sure you want to hear how I did it?” He shifted his weight to his back leg, head tilting. The fingers of his left hand slipped into his pocket. His right hand remained relaxed, fingers curled to conceal the claws. The dark would help with that.
How far should he push? He wondered. There was something in the face that was slowly becoming clearer, the face that his mind placed in a black-and-white photo alongside Malachite and a blond man who must be Sulphur. Obsidian, Malachite, Sulphur.
Jasper’s last minutes replayed in his head. With them, their memory, the control slipped back for real, and his calm became genuine. If anger and instinct took over in the other man, Todd would have an advantage. He needed every advantage he could get with this one.
“I made him watch me rip him apart again. Death by a thousand cuts. If I’d known about the trauma sooner it would’ve made the whole process easier, but that’s what eventually got him. A one-minute panic attack’s more effective than hours of torture for wearing someone’s mind out.”
Consequences, he knew, were either going to be a bitch, or were going to be incredibly delayed. If Obsidian shared even a fraction of the love that Mal had held for him – brother, they called each other – then casual discussion of torture and death was going to get real old real fast. He’d just have to see where exactly a frayed thread became a broken one before whatever nasty ability the other meta was hiding could cross the yard or two between them.
“What I’m hearing is that Mr. Vaquez and I need to have… a discussion.” There was a dripping venom to his words, a slick coat that said far more about what kind of a discussion they’d be having than anything about the words he used ever could. Obsidian withdrew his hands from his pockets and began to fiddle with his gloves, pulling them taunt and resnapping the fasteners. He examined them while he spoke, almost dismissive of Cryptid.
He wanted to reach out and grab the fucker by the throat, to pin him to the wall and take until he had taken everything the man had to give. He wanted to scream and punch something, preferably a wall. He wanted to break something. The way this scarecrow was talking about Mal enraged him more than anything else about the situation. The fucker was right– Obsidian had sent Malachite to die, not even knowing what was waiting for them. If he had known, if he had known something was lying in wait, he would have sent Sulphur as well, or maybe Hematite. Someone to back Malachite up.
"You still haven't answered how you actually took him out long enough to do whatever it is you did, which... I'll accept that you did something to that effect." He looked back down at the parts that had once been inside his brother, and he willed himself to calm down. It wouldn’t help Mal now for him to be in a rage. He looked back up at the man and noticed a change. What had been a tensed and forced relaxing of his body was now genuine.
Either the man had been struggling with control, or he had finally decided that Obsidian didn’t want to fight him.Obsidian took a few more steps toward the man, tucking his hands back into his pockets. If this Cryptid was going to be calm, then so was Obsidian. There was no use expending energy, energy he had precious little of at the time, on needless rage. He could discuss this without becoming furious at every word. He had to. He’d promised Katherine he’d find out what happened.
Something about the Cryptid was making his hackles raise. He took another good look at him, then at the pieces on the ground. He turned away from the man completely, not dismissively, but in a way that suggested he wasn’t afraid of him. He started looking at the pieces, looking for any signs he could find of how his brother had been dismantled. He could barely quell his rage as he picked up one of the heart valves and started turning it over in his palm.
He froze. He looked over his shoulder and then back at the piece in his hands. There were a series of marks on it. Something had crushed it pretty thoroughly, almost snapping it in half. The marks were familiar, but Obsidian couldn’t be sure they were what he thought they were. But, the longer he looked at it, the more he felt it looked... chewed on. He set the piece down and lifted the spinal tube to examine it. “What did you do with the rest of him?”
At first, Cryptid got the results he wanted. The rage burned back up under the facade of absolute calm, and burned in his nose. He wasn’t afraid of the rage, especially since it was his intention with the commentary. What was interesting was that all the rage seemed to be directed at Leo – or, maybe, that Obsidian didn’t want to direct it at Cryptid.
From what he knew, it was probably the latter. He didn’t back away as the man finished his circle, as he bent down over the arrangement of metal and plastic. He just watched as the man put his back to him. He went right for the most obviously gnawed piece, and that only because Todd had put his teeth right in it. He hadn’t realized how much of Malachite wasn’t organic until that point; replaced bone was one thing, but bits like that in the soft tissue was an unpleasant surprise.
He could give Obsidian a surprise right now. He was in a weak position, his back apparently exposed, his neck definitely exposed. A broken spine or slit throat could save him some trouble in the future. And if Mal was to be believed, it could save a lot of lives.
But only short-term. Their leader was still out there, the kind of person who wanted predators with teeth to set into the rest of the population. And while Todd hadn’t met other metahuman carnivores before, they couldn’t be the only two out there.
He needed information. So, he swallowed back the killing instinct, and decided it was worth talking, and hope maybe he got something in return.
“He should’ve been more careful about his weak points. He was too heavy to move all that fast. It only took one opening. I severed something that bled a lot. Not the carotid or jugular, because he wouldn’t’ve made it long enough for me to ask him anything that way. But it was enough.”
He skirted the rest. He had to skirt, because the human part of him didn’t want the predator in front of him finding out about the predator inside, and the predator inside of him didn’t want the other predator to know how fragile he actually was. He hadn’t forgotten that one more round with Malachite could’ve killed him.
And he didn’t forget what he was looking down at. What he might want – or what whoever sent him might want, if he figured out what he was looking at. If Todd answered his second question.
He met Obsidian’s eyes with a humorless smile that only barely touched his eyes. He still showed no teeth, but he’d seen the moment when the other man froze, the tension of muscles, the renewed fury. He knew better than to bite, but it was so hard not to through the haze of exhaustion, through the knowledge that he was still in the position where if he knew a little more, he might be able to take this man before he could turn on Todd.
Time to change the subject.
“What do you plan to do with what you’ve got?”
Maybe his voice carried just a little more challenge than curiosity, but he could hope Obsidian didn't notice that.
Obsidian sighed. It was a sad sound, soft and low, filled with remorse and understanding. “I see. Thank you for telling me.”
That told Obsidian a lot. First, the Cryptid was clever. Even with Malachite's armor, he had found the chinks and took advantage of them. That took not only cleverness but also speed and dexterity. The Cryptid was very acrobatic, it seemed. He could picture it in his head. The weapon wasn’t important so much as the movement and the way he must have dodged around Malachite.
So he was fast, he was dangerous, he was clever. And as Obsidian turned over the soft pieces of medical-grade plastic, a grin broke out across his face. It was a horrible, twisted grin. There was nothing pleasant about it as he stood and turned to face the man. The piece in his hands had teeth marks on it. There was no mistaking it. Someone has cleaned the pieces off with teeth. He looked over at the other man, no longer needing the second question answered.
“I’ll give the important pieces to his wife. He had a wife, you know, before you ate him. She would have liked a body, but it is what it is. She’ll get the ring, the necklace, maybe one of the smaller pieces of the medical gear, but to give her all of it, I think that would be cruel. Tell me, did you eat everything else? How long did that take?” There was a manic energy to his voice, as though he had discovered something particularly pleasing. And to him, it was.
If he could convince the Cryptid to return with him, to take Malachite’s position– though he would never replace him– then he’d have just as deadly a hitman on his crew as ever. And a hitman who could make bodies completely disappear? That was even more worthwhile. For the most part, Mal had been able to make bodies disappear, but sometimes they weren’t entirely lucky. A guarantee of a clean disposal, that was worth something. A lot of somethings.
“Do you eat just the meat? Do you eat the innards of a person? What about the hair? What else can you do besides shapeshift? Ah! Can you only take the shape of people you’ve eaten? You haven’t started using my voice yet, so I assume that means you can’t”
He leaned back over and returned the valve to the pile, right where it had been before. His anger was all but forgotten in the buzz of his excitement.
For the first time, Todd took a step back from the other predator, and let the warning show in his expression, in his tension. He may have growled a little bit. As Obsidian stood up to address him, he moved away.
He needed space, or he was going to rip Obsidian’s grinning jaw off.
He wasn’t afraid of the sudden energy. It hadn’t even startled him, even if the grin, the purr of glee, was more predatory than being attacked would have been. Because Todd could feel the sudden, radiating want that came from him, a hunger that had nothing to do with meat.
The way he talked about meat twisted Todd’s chest into a tight knot again. Not of fear, not his nerves returning, but – he realized after a second – disgust. He was the one who actually did the eating, and he didn’t revel in it. Enjoyed, sure, to the small extent he let himself enjoy it. Enjoyed it because it was animal to enjoy being filled. Enjoyed because there was a shadow of himself that loved the fear, the blood, the pain.
But he didn’t revel in the blood. He could list the horrible parts off hand, of course: his favorite, his least favorite, his reasoning. He would never say them out loud to any soul that was going to survive the day. And even in his flash of fury and disgust, he still knew nothing about the man across from him. The two halves of his soul had already agreed – this was a bad sort, and he would not take anything offered by him.
“Maybe,” he ground out, “I don’t want to.”
That was an answer. He stopped hard at the end of it, because he wasn’t going to answer the other man’s questions. He wasn’t a weapon, he wasn’t a hunting hound. And the man who he could already feel was about to try to put a collar on him didn’t get answers. He wouldn’t get to know what kind of monster he was thinking about keeping. If he knew Todd could be taken by force, full force –
He needed something else. He needed anything else to think about, to focus on.
“I know about his wife.” Breathe. Two deep breaths, and the edge dulled. It was still a knife, but it wasn’t going to tear open anything he had to say. “Her name is Katherine Torres. I know who she is. And I know that he loved her. He lived for her. He wouldn’t want you to keep any part of him from her. She deserves whatever’s left of someone who loved her that much.”
She had loved him, monster and all. It wasn’t a punishment to someone who loved him like that – it was a gift. She had taken every part of him; let her have every part of him, not in punishment, but because it was what she would want, if she was the person Mal thought she was.
Thinking about her started to soothe the animal in him. It reflected in his speech, as he finished talking about Katherine. This was a person. A motherfucking bastard of a person, a person who could smile like a starving wolf that wants a stronger one in his pack, but a person. And Todd wasn’t a stronger wolf. He needed to be civil, if he could, because if he drew out the other man's hunger he might not walk away from this with his freedom.
Something about the Cryptid’s words slowed Obsidian down. He stopped buzzing, his grin falling away. The sudden show of aggression from the man told him all he needed to know. This was going to be the hardest sell of his life. This man didn’t want to be what he was. And that put a big stop on Obsidian’s initial plan. Of course, he didn’t want to be like this. He was the same way Obsidian had been when he first left Brightheart. Back when he used to starve himself to the point of collapse when he wouldn’t touch anyone for fear of what might accidentally do.
The scarecrow was thin, and Obsidian could tell from the way the leather duster sat over his body that he was thinner than he should have been. Poor thing was probably starving itself. He tilted his head and sighed softly.
Then he spoke Katherine’s name, and Obsidian’s brow shot up. He waited for a moment, examining the way the man stood now. “I apologize for my behavior just now. That was… uncalled for. I’m simply curious to hear about your unusual abilities. And you are, of course, right. I should give all of it to Katherine. Though maybe I won’t give her the crushed heart valve. That might be a bit… gruesome. She doesn’t need to know he was eaten. Agree upon that, at least?”
He looked down at the parts on the ground and then looked up at the man. His lips quirked up into a morbid smile, his teeth sheathed for now. “I don’t suppose you have a box, do you?”
He took a few slow, even steps closer to the Cryptid, his hands emerging from his pockets to once again fiddle with his gloves. There was a small flash of fair skin at his wrists, fair skin that matched the barely visible skin of his neck. He reached up and adjusted his sweater, adjusting the cowl neck to sit how he wanted it to. Then he pulled his jacket tighter, not out of cold, but almost as though he was checking his clothing to make sure it was in place for some kind of movement.
Then, his gloved hands returned to his pockets. He hummed a little and pulled a box of cigarettes out of his pocket. From the other, he pulled out a lighter, an old-looking zippo. He tapped out a Dunhill, catching it with his teeth. The box returned to his pocket, and he turned away from the vigilante. He lit the lighter, and brought it up to his face, igniting the thin stick. The light briefly pierced through his shadows, and if Cryptid tried to catch a glimpse, he would see a flash of golden eyes and a straight nose before the light went out. Then, he turned back around, taking a long drag off the end while he listened to whatever the man might say.
The pity in Obsidian’s sigh. That raised Todd’s anger to a new fever pitch – or dropped it down to frigid.
He knew what he looked like. He emphasized it, in his costume. He emphasized it as Obsidian approached him, more slowly, as Cryptid drew himself up to full height, shoulders braced, muscles winding. Rail thin, the picture of malnourishment. He could eat five hundred pounds of person – more – in a single night, and he would still look like this.
He knew what Obsidian looked like, too. It was part of the reason why he moved his weight on his spread feet, braced to slide back again or push himself forward. Even in that position he had to look down as the man edged closer. His hands didn’t move. He didn’t really have anything to adjust – he’d come ready for a fight, after all. But he did tilt his head a little as he heard the voice change, as he watched the body language shift yet again as he pulled his lighter.
The fire pierced the darkness, and Todd couldn’t help but stare just a little. Golden eyes, and a straight nose. His eyes started to narrow again, but he caught himself before the recognition could show. Golden eyes were uncommon, but this was a metahuman. Sam had just been the first person he’d seen with ones quite so striking. There were probably a lot of people in the population that had quirks like that. Adelyn didn’t have irises at all, for example.
The resemblance was a coincidence created by his tired mind. And he’d only seen it because Obsidian wanted him to see it, so he decided to take a little leisure, too, and not waste energy. Maybe he’d think it was a trick, a lie.
Maybe Todd was just tired.
But his own eyes shifted, natural cold blue, in the name of fairness and balance. He wouldn’t hide if the other monster didn’t, because that would be an admission that the other monster made him nervous.
His voice, though quiet and hoarse because of the short distance between them, was his own as well. “Agreed. She doesn’t need to know what happened. She’ll just have some closure from having what’s left of him. No box, but the Jeep will roll right up to the doors and you can load from there. That’s how I got him in here.”
I don’t intend to kill you, unless you force me. If Obsidian picked up his brother’s pieces right now and left, Crytpid would not stop him, and he was very clear that he wouldn’t stop him. Despite the standoff, Cryptid was still in control of the situation.
He didn’t relax again. In fact, it was his turn for a very slight flash of teeth – amusement, less than threat, but no real humor.
“You’re quick on the gear shift.” He gestured with a little nod to Obsidian’s body language, behavior. “That’s the second time since this started. I’m not even that fast. You might think you’re throwing me off, but you’re not.”
If he’d been thinking clearly, then maybe he’d think that calling Obsidian out on his crap might be a bad idea. But he just wanted this over with, and he wanted to encourage this to be over. There was information he needed – but he’d gotten information enough from that buzz, that grin. Now he just wanted him away.
“So let’s cut the crap. I’m not going to talk about what I am. I’m not going to ask what you are. I’m not going to ask what you want. You’re not going to preach to me. You take him home to his wife. I don’t see you or yours ever again. I think that sounds fair.”
He didn’t move, as the eddying breeze from the broken upstairs window eddied the smoke toward him, into his face. He was being serious, and clear, the way – well, the way Sam would be. It wasn’t because of her, but she was now lingering in his mind as he looked at where Obsidian’s eyes were.
She wouldn’t want to distract him, not in a situation with this kind of tension, where it would get him killed. He could let his mind linger on her, though, just to stay grounded. While he waited for his offer truce to be taken, or the tension to break.
Obsidian breathed the smoke out and chuckled at Cryptid’s little tirade ended. He took another long draw, holding it in his lungs before he did anything. As he breathed it out, and as the cloud of smoke moved toward the face of the tall man, Obsidian took the cigarette between his teeth and shrugged out of his coat. In only a button-down shirt and dress pants, wearing a black tie with his black clothes, Obsidian looked rather unassuming. He looked like any business with a penchant for colorless clothing.
He took his time rolling up his sleeve cuffs to about halfway up his forearms, revealing sleeves of tattoos. They were black and white, with depictions of what looked like arcane symbols and Greek letters. He reached a hand up and pushed his hair back after he finished. Another puff off the cigarette, and then mid breath, he moved. One of the only things that he had gotten alongside his sibling’s much more tolerable and unique powers was speed. He was faster than either of them, he knew for certain.
After all, he had killed the one who was the strongest out of all three of them.
Obsidian closed the gap between them within a second, stopping just close enough that even through all the shadow, Cryptid would be able to see hazy, nearly black-on-black outlines of his entire face. He didn’t move any closer, or make any moves to attack him. Instead, he took the cigarette from between his teeth and tapped off the charred end.
“That’s incredibly fascinating. I have a counter-proposal. You know enough that I’m sure you got Mal talking. Especially if you know about Katherine. That must mean that you have questions. Why don’t you allow me to answer them for you? In exchange, you give me the answers I want. I’ll keep questions about your… abilities… to a minimum. Then, I’ll leave you alone, for, let’s say, at least a week to think about the answers I’m going to give you.”
He took the cigarette back to his lips and took in a long drag, a charming smile on his face. He tapped off the end of the rapidly shrinking tobacco and looked up into the eyes of the man in front of him. He breathed out in a cloud of smoke as he spoke again, “No fighting. No posturing. No wondering who’s going to strike first. Just a conversation, and then I leave with my brother's remains. Do we have a deal?”
Todd didn’t flinch, didn’t hesitate, when Obsidian closed the gap. The speed caused him to suck in a little air; but he didn’t see a weapon, and the man’s hands were now fully visible. The vital parts of Todd’s body besides the head were well protected, and a blow aimed for the face or skull could be countered with relative ease given his own reaction speed.
No blow, except the blow of smoke in his face. Cryptid looked impassive as it curled around his mask. Or, well, almost impassive. Almost, until he made out the face under the cloud, and realized that he could see through. He doubted Obsidian knew that he could see in the dark, or at least, could see above average; and he couldn’t see color. But the golden eyes, the angle of the jaw, the straight nose, the mouth, though curled in a mockery of civilization, and the curl of his hair all came together at once, and he realized it wasn’t just lovesickness that made him think of Sam.
He’d bet his bagh nakh Obsidian’s curls were a shade of burnished orange that shone like hot gold in the right slant of light.
The recognition would light up his eyes, but without context. It faded as soon as it came, as Todd took a deep breath between puffs of cigarette smoke. The kick was more like pepper than cinnamon, but the kick was what had first drawn his attention to Obsidian. He realized his instincts had been trying to draw his attention to the kick, the kick that said Walsh like a glowing billboard.
He exhaled slowly. His jaw twitched, as he looked into those eyes that in the darkness weren’t amber.
He wanted to go home. To the gym, where Sam would be. He wanted to see her, really see her, for the first time all week, not just ships passing in the night and day. He wanted to embrace her and forget about this monster that looked like her, just remember the Walsh that was his and ignore the one that only wanted his own personal carnivore.
And then he wanted to lay down in his bed and sleep for two days.
But he wasn’t going to be left alone to do that. Not for a long, long time, if this one was to be believed. And Todd didn’t make the mistake of thinking he was fucking around. At least a week wasn’t any kind of promise, and he wasn’t leading anyone back to his personal life to be found again. To be fair, that was his bad for starting to develop a personal life – but now letting it go wasn’t an option. Samantha Walsh wouldn’t let him.
“Counter-counterproposal.” Todd surprised himself with an even tone, even lilting at the end with the first hint of his usual Cryptid humor. “I let you leave with your brother’s remains. And I never see your smug face again, or any of your fucking goons.”
Wakeful Todd would yell at himself later about this. This was stupid. This was an unknown meta who knew that he ate people and remained unafraid. Obsidian wanted a fight as much as Cryptid for his own reasons. Cryptid was down a set of claws, weary, and actively trying to avoid a fight, or theoretically trying to avoid a fight, anyway. If he lost, and Obsidian gave him the choice to join or die, Cryptid would survive. At his best, Todd would have taken up the offer of an information exchange at the cost of a little future inconvenience in a heartbeat.
Obsidian had chosen the wrong fucking day to push him.
Not being at his best, Cryptid didn’t give a flying fuck about what this smug little man with his extremely punchable smile that was almost as predatory as that grin before could do to him, would do to him. He wanted him out of his face. He wanted him out of his life, unlikely as that seemed.
The fingers of his right hand were curled in the same shape as the remaining claws. He made up his mind. If this guy pressed his buttons one more time, he was going to punch him right in the Walsh-gold eye. And enjoy it.
Something in the man’s eyes lit up for a second and then disappeared as quickly as it had come. Obsidian didn’t pay it any mind. Whatever it was, it didn't matter enough to stay in his eyes, so now wasn’t the time to worry about it. What mattered was the here and the now. The here, in which Cryptid was rebutting his proposal.
That didn’t work for Obsidian. That didn’t work at all. A no wasn’t an acceptable answer for Obsidian. Especially not when he was being so generous with his offer. An entire week to process information seemed incredibly kind. He didn’t want to alienate the kid, after all. Kid, because with his natural voice, he sounded younger than Obsidian by what must have been at least a decade.
Obsidian looked directly into those blue eyes, watching them as a grin grew on his face. It was something predacious, something like when a cat plays with a mouse because it knows it’s going to win. The air around him seemed to deepen, to darken, and in a smooth and lightning-quick move, Obsidian placed his gloved hand on the tall man’s shoulder. He dugs his fingers in, keeping a tight grasp as he pushed down on the shoulder.
That wasn’t going to do anything, not on its own. Obsidian was physically about as strong as a soaking wet kitten, and he knew it. But he didn't have to be strong. He didn’t have to be unusually tough, he didn’t have to be anything other than fast and good at holding on.
As soon as he touched the man, his power activated. Obsidian could feel the pull and the transfer of energy begin. The heaviness that had been beginning around his eyes receded, leaving him feeling awake and alert, even more so than he had been. He could feel a burst of warmth beneath his skin, chasing away the self-imposed chill that kept his body from expending energy. He basked in the warmth, like someone stepping out into the sunlight in the middle of summer, and then he breathed it out.
He kept taking, and would until his hand was knocked away. But he knew he had already taken plenty.
“Let’s try this again, hm? Question for a question, and then I leave with my brother’s remains. Are we agreed?”
In the span of a few seconds, Todd came to understand what kind of predator Obsidian really was.
First came the smile, the cheshire grin. It communicated hunger clearly. It told Todd that whatever Obsidian was going to try to do, he was going to try it now, and there wasn’t going to be time to run. And it communicated that whatever it was, it would hurt, and that Obsidian would relish the pain as much as whatever form of life he was about to start stealing from his perceived prey.
A mouse would have squirmed, at least. Even a brave or stubborn one. But Obsidian hadn’t chosen to eat a helpless human mouse today, and Todd knew, because he believed Malachite, that Obsidian didn’t kill metas.
The cat had a coyote by the tail. And the coyote wanted to know what sort of teeth the other predator sported.
So he held Obsidian’s eyes as the man rested his hand on his shoulder, let him grab him tight. The right shoulder meant he couldn’t lash out randomly with his fighting arm, and he wondered if Obsidian had seen his hand after all.
No time to worry about that. The teeth were in him, and he didn’t realize what was happening– until he did.
The cold cut through Todd’s week-long lethargy, the hunger moving energy around unexpectedly so that there was only focus, only survival, only the other living creature in the room with him. The one that smelled still of the initial rage when Todd refused him. The one that smelled like sandal and cedar. Cigarette and leather. Pepper, with the kick he knew to be like his own wildfire’s kick. And satisfaction, relaxation, real enjoyment.
There was only the cold, the way his warmth was being drained from him like blood from a single touch. The cold that locked his muscles like he’d fallen in a lake of ice, the way he had when he was twelve and one of his foster sisters had to fish him out. The cold that screamed down into him in momentary triumph. He started to shake, because of the cold being imposed on him, and the cold that rose up to meet it, jaws agape, ready to tear apart winter itself for its own survival. The cold that had teeth like a pack of wolves and the hunger of a bear woken too early for springtime.
And all the while the Cryptid held Obisidian’s gaze. He let him see the initial shock, the moment of fear before the survival swept in to gift him with understanding. He let him see the skin underneath the mask pale, and the way that, visible up through the jagged grin, Todd’s real jaw set in a firm line as he breathed, breathed, breathed through his nose. He waited until Obsidian opened his eyes and spoke, so sure of himself, sure that the concept of being consumed down to the very heart would terrify anyone into surrender.
Then he bared his own teeth. It could’ve even been called a grin, because there was real amusement in his eyes. But it was a wolfish grin, one that showed too much tooth, that creased his own eyes. His teeth chattered with how badly his body was shaking, and still he smiled, and his voice hitched and stammered with the cold while still being fully intelligible.
“Cocky. Same mistake Mal made.”
Stiffly, controlling the trembles that racked his body by long, experienced, deep breaths, Todd brought his left hand across, and rested it on Obsidian’s, a slight pressure at first, then something firmer, especially if he tried to jerk away. Pinning it with superhuman strength as he jammed the thin blades of his surviving bagh nakh directly up, between the radius and ulna of his would-be predator’s left arm.
When the pain visibly registered, he’d release his left hand, let the other monster tear away. The curved ends of the claws would leave nasty gashes, but Todd wouldn’t bother to try to hold him. He’d take two steps back, stiff, still shaking all over, his slick right hand flexing as if numb as crimson dripped from his fingertips and the odor of blood sang out to him, to the cold, to the energy drained. Already, he could feel warmth starting to spread from the reserves his body stored, from Jasper Torres and Mark Peters. With a last full-body shudder he wrestled his instincts back under control.
He swallowed hard, then turned back to Obsidian, still wearing the same smile, although now all of his muscles were pulled tight by either the cold. Or preparation, now that he knew what to expect. His voice shook, but the chatter and stammer had faded to nearly nothing.
“How about – I make a new proposal.” By an effort that took most of his will, he didn’t give in to the instinct to intimidate by licking the blood from his hand. Instead he kept it outstretched, palm-up, bloody claws visible and dripping onto the concrete beneath them.
“We can talk. When I say we’re done, you can leave, and take him. And I’ll find you if I want to talk again.”
Having a cleared head was nice. He couldn’t backpedal, not now, but he could negotiate again without the cloud of exhaustion making it hard to think, and the reminder that his first purpose was survival, long-term. The implied offer to think about it was there, and it left Obsidian the opening to refuse and leave if he thought he’d bitten off more than he could chew, without losing face.
But he could promise all that the other predator really wanted, without promising anything at all.
For a moment, Obsidian was fully in control. There was no longer this equal balance between the two of them. He was full of warmth and confidence that the cannibal would kneel and agree to his arrangement. He was full of life, spiraling through his body and filling every part of him. He breathed it in, breathed it out, and tasted it on his tongue.
And then there were knives through his fucking arm. The strike of pain broke him from his sated trance and brought him crashing back to the ground. The sound that left his lips then was unearthly, a howl with the edge of a shriek and the undertones of a growl. It was as far from human as you could likely get with actual human vocal cords. He ripped his arm away, looking at the wound.
Four piercing holes, all the way out the top of his arm. He was furious, his body shaking as he looked at the holes. The blood loss from something like this wouldn’t kill him, but the energy needed for his body to repair and replenish the blood would use everything he had just stolen. He leveled narrowed eyes on the man as he felt the rush of warmth disappear. Cocky, huh? Well, that would be the last time he made any kind of mistake like that around Cryptid.
Consider it a lesson learned.
The image of that gruesome grin behind the mask rested in his mind. That was the grin of someone who hunted and ate other people if ever Obsidian had seen one. He wouldn’t be forgetting it for a long time. Even as the younger man placed down his new proposal, Obsidian was memorizing dark curls and bright ice-blue eyes for his future hunt. There was no way he was going to let him go. He would take Hem and Lapis and Rhody and he would come after this motherfucker.
At best, they’d take home a new dog. At worst, they’d kill the bastard that killed Mal.
Either way, Obsidian would have Cryptid.
The copper-haired man threw his head back and laughed sharply at the proposal, and then leveled his gaze on Cryptid. His gaze wasn’t visible, as he had started to increase his shadows again, but his eyes were full of fury.
“Alright, then. I’ll accept that arrangement. I’d shake on it, but I don’t want any more potential tricks like that one. Do you want to start us off, or should I?”
Obsidian undid his belt while he spoke, his arm dripping scarlet. He got the belt off and then wrapped it just above his elbow. He pulled it tight and then knotted it when it felt like he wasn’t going to cut the arm off. At least this way, the bleeding would stop sooner. He raised the arm, resting his bloodied glove in his hair. He wasn’t terribly worried about it, knowing it would wash out easily enough.
Cryptid watched Obsidian with all his senses as he recovered from the pain. As the scream died down – a scream that was no surprise to Todd, except that it came from this other predator following a relatively nonlethal injury – he listened to his breathing, its speed, his pace. He smelled the blood, which drowned out all the other surface scents that followed Obsidian except for the pepper.
And the rage.
From that moment on, there was only rage in his blood. Todd felt the level of the glare, but didn’t need to see the other man’s eyes to know the level of his fury. The adrenaline was there, mixed with the other, more subtle chemicals. It was in Obsidian’s sweat, in the pace of his breaths.
It was in the laugh, and in the answer that he gave Cryptid, not reluctant, but not overeager, not anymore. He’d learned his lesson, at least for the time being, at least before something other than the anger came out. It was in the tightness of his motions as he formed a tourniquet for his injuries.
“You’re saving me the trouble of politely refusing after that little display, so I’ll take it as it is. I’ll go first.”
And it was nowhere in Cryptid’s body language or voice as the last of the cold died, and he was whole. He wasn’t upset the other predator had attacked him. That was in his nature, in both of their natures. He would’ve been fucking upset if it had gone farther than it had, or if the man had been smart and come in for a second attack looking for more once Todd’s cards ere on the table. But what Obsidian had taken would go to the injuries he’d received in return.
All things in balance, as it usually happened around Todd. Like a question for a question, an equal exchange between temporary equals, just until Obsidian realized that Todd had used up his last trick and his sleeves were empty. He needed the distraction, and he’d offered one already, so he rolled with it.
“Why did your boss agree to send Malachite to kill me?”
Obsidian watched as blood slowly dripped down his elbow. The anger was keeping him warm, which was bad. He was going to need to get back, to see Rhody. With her body’s ability to heal itself unconditionally, she was going to be the best solution now that he was without Malachite. There weren’t going to be many people outside by the time he made it out of this clusterfuck of a first meeting.
Then, Cryptid said something interesting. It was interesting because he knew Katherine’s name, but he didn’t know that Obsidian himself was in charge. He passively examined his wounds and then sighed. His scream had been as much from surprise as it had been from pain. His adversary seemed more alert than less, even after how much Obsidian had taken. He must have been one of the metas with a deep energy storage.
“You’re mistaken. I have no boss. I’m the one in charge. And I agreed because I wasn’t given all the details. I was told it was just a regular vigilante, one whose powers were minimal if they had any to begin with. If I had known what you were, I would have come myself alongside him. I never would have sent my brother in alone.”
He dropped his arm about halfway, still keeping the forearm elevated above his heart. The bleeding was already slowing, though it would be a long time before a wound like this healed for him. He had no healing factor, though he didn’t need to tell the other predator in the room that. Instead, he turned his attention back to the icy blue eyes and gave a polite grin.
“I believe that makes it my turn. I want to know why you did it. You don’t seem like you like what you are. So why did you eat Mal?”
There was an undercurrent of danger to his words as he asked his question. One that said if he didn’t get a real answer, he was going to strike again. As his body focused on trying to stop the bleeding, he found it more and more difficult to maintain the shadows. They didn’t require energy, but the focus he had to maintain in order to utilize what little energy he now warred with the focus for his secondary gift.
The shadows flickered and he knew the young man could see his full face, colors and all, between the broken streams of shadow. He sighed heavily and then let it fade out. No use trying to maintain it when his focus was divided. It melted away and revealed fiery curls that fell down across the left side of his face, the sides shorn close to his head but slightly grown out. It let his several days unshaven face show, and with it his gold eyes that he knew his entire family possessed.
Obsidian didn’t realize it, but he’d just handed Todd the key to the puzzle that had been bothering him all week. He didn’t have all the pieces, but now he could see the bigger picture. Obsidian, the man in front of him, fit neatly into the spot Todd had been trying to figure out.
Who else would want a monster? Who else would want to hunt with impunity? Who else but a predator? Of course no sane person who didn’t understand the hunger would trust Obsidian under him. And Obsidian didn’t take orders. He was a pack leader, not a follower. He was the arms dealer feeding the gang war, and Todd had just personally slighted him.
And while his display might give the wrong impression, he didn’t just rule by strength. The people who worked under him loved him, agreed with him. Todd had been dancing with an alpha wolf the whole time, and was just glad his animal hadn’t known that when he’d been bitten.
But Obsidian was the kind of alpha who would also die for those loyal to him. Why else would he be here and not another lackey? Why else would he be so angry about Malachite’s death – and why else would a man like Malachite die protecting him?
If it had been both of them, Cryptid would’ve died. He’d almost died with just Malachite. He was going to have to take a lot more lessons from Sam before he fucked with this group, if they were all the same level of dangerous. A pair of them would completely screw him over, even if he didn’t know what other metas belonged to the little revolution.
The answer was more important than the why of sending Mal. Leo being a liar was nothing new. So Todd just nodded, and took his turn, forcing himself to stay calm, to be clear. He didn’t need to be embarrassed to talk about his eating habits here – not with another monster, one who clearly enjoyed the feeding more than Todd did. One who would’ve liked every gruesome detail, even if it was his brother they were talking about.
“I don’t waste food.” He shrugged. “I eat to survive. I store what I eat, and when I run out, I eat again. If I’m hurt, I run out faster. Jasper Torres was a hell of a bruiser. You’re gonna miss him, I’m sure. He fucked me up twice. The first time he actually could’ve killed me. Roughed me up some and then backed off. Probably about then that he figured out I wasn’t just human. I could’ve walked it off if he gave me the space. Being good at what he did, he didn’t. You ever had a concrete man dropped on you, Obsidian? It’s not nice. That time was all luck. That’s when I managed to get him bleeding. To keep it short, I couldn’t let him live and run back to – you, I guess – and I didn’t want to die, because I was out of food. So I didn’t waste him.”
Todd licked his lips, not in any kind of predatory manner, but because they felt dry. He didn’t talk about this, as a rule, not if the person was going to live. And he couldn’t kill Obsidian. It felt like a risk, like a loose end, like an unseen threat. But Obsidian had been kind enough to be honest with him, he had to return the favor.
He didn’t react to Obsidian’s real face, not the way he would’ve if he hadn’t already pieced that together. Instead he cleared his throat and shifted his weight, and the conversation: “Why do you want that? The… predator. The carnivore. On a practical level it makes sense. But you want me. Before he died, Malachite said you would, and said I should take it. I can see it on you right now. I saw it when you realized what happened to him, like what I can do is more important to what you’re doing than what happened to your brother. So explain it to me. Tell me why.”