Closed RP Enter, Viper

This RP is currently closed.

A snarl of rage was ripped from Obsidian’s throat before he could even process that he had done it. He stood up as straight as he could, His shoulders back. “Don’t pretend you know anything about me. My brother’s death is going haunt me for the rest of my fucking life. I will never allow myself to forget it was my fault that he is dead. He is irreplaceable to us. Even if you accepted my offer, I would have to lie and say you had nothing to do with his death, or you would be torn apart by the rest of our family. You are not as important to me as he was.

Obsidian stopped himself at that, his teeth clicking shut. The rage made him warm again, almost back up to the temperature of a normal, healthy person. He quelled it, bringing his internal temperature back down to an icy touch. He breathed out the rage and tried to breathe in calm.

“I apologize. You’re only speaking on the facts as you’ve seen them.”

Then, he was silent for a long moment. His thoughts were trying to come together in order, in a way that would explain why he wanted “the predator”. There were a lot of mixed feelings and thoughts on the matter. Especially now that he knew more about the way that Cryptid’s powers worked. While he hadn’t said it directly, he obviously could heal through severe trauma. If Mal had turned to concrete and dropped on him, every bone in his body would have been shattered. He should have been dead. He should have at least been unable to move.

So he was a scrappy fighter at least and an experienced one at best, with a healing factor, who ate humans and gained at least enhanced strength judging by his grip before. If his power was as well-rounded as it seemed, he’d be faster too. He would be the perfect predator for humans. And in Obsidian’s line of work, having something like that would not only be practical, it would be a blessing. It would also make a statement. Especially with how the man wanted to live as though he wasn’t what he was.

“You’re right, it’s practical. You’d be great in a revolution, a… symbol, of how we have all the power and they have none of it. But that’s not why I want you so bad.” Obsidian paused to examine his arm. The bleeding had almost completely stopped and was now oozing out at a slow pace. He let it drop to his side, and he finally returned the almost spent cigarette to his mouth for a quick puff.

“I see in you something that I see in myself. You don’t make attachments, do you? What you are makes it hard for you to form lasting and meaningful relationships. I imagine you’ve been alone for most of your life, haven’t you? I have too. Even my brothers, they never quite understood the feeling of being a real monster, one who kills to live. It’s hard to be something like what you are. I understand that. I want to help you. I want you to not be alone.”

He took another puff off the cigarette before dropping it and crushing it under his toes, his black dress boots flashing for a second. His posture had significantly as he spoke, relaxing back into a casual stance, his gloved hands going into the pockets of his neat slacks. There was a sadness that had crept into his voice as well, something that said he really meant every word he was saying. They were being honest with each other, so Obsidian stayed honest. Then, he looked directly into the frosty eyes of Cryptid, and in a soft voice, he asked, “So are you lonely, Cryptid?”
Cryptid endured the anger that came from Obsidian. He endured it, because it was justified, and because it was the truth. Honesty was not something he was used to in conversations like this. He was getting used to it in other conversations, but he never exchanged words with another carnivore before. Not like this. Not someone who understood hunger and pack and – loneliness.

And there was no doubt that Obsidian understood the loneliness he was talking about.

He couldn’t look at those golden eyes, with all their sadness and all their desire and all their rage, and answer this question honestly. It was too easy to lie to her. Much too easy. Easy to lie so that she wouldn’t pursue the thoughts in his heart, so he wouldn’t lose her too soon. So for the first time since the conversation began, Cryptid really broke eye contact, averted his face so he wouldn’t see her in the other predator. Let the Obsidian’s instincts take that as he would.

“I am.”

He should’ve just left it at that. He could’ve and still been honest enough to answer his own question. But the familiarity with another creature – the draw of someone who might finally get it, however fundamentally different their beliefs might be – even if they disagreed, Obsidian would still understand. Even if Todd didn’t want to be a part of his revolution. Even if Obsidian liked having the power over life and death, and Todd despised the part of his own psyche that agreed with that.

It was a chance that Todd might never see again. And now it wasn’t the monster that made the wrong choice, it was the man, the man that really was alone and had come to accept his loneliness but who was still human enough to need to say the words out loud.

“People… they don’t like being prey. They try to write it off, try to… to be better, to think that because they’re smarter than rabbits they can’t be rabbits. But – they know, somewhere in their instincts, when there’s a predator nearby. It makes them… uncomfortable.”

Would Obsidian have noticed that? Probably, but it didn’t hurt to say it out loud.

“Even if they don’t know what I am. It’s an effort to get a job, let alone make a friend. And meaningful relationships are off the table. Prey can’t love a predator, at least not the way the predator loves prey. They can’t understand how much it’s a risk. How much hunger and lust feel the same if you’re not paying attention to it.”

His voice was soft, but held a determination and a familiarity. Like a mantra he had repeated over and over again until he could believe it. The words started to tumble out, and he was too tired to stop them. His hand dropped to his side, still dripping, but even as his fingers curled into a fist to bare the claws again there wasn’t any rage in the movement. He didn’t realize he had started to shake again.

He thought of Arlo, of how badly he had wanted to tell him, to explain everything, to lay it out and be judged for that and not for the simple act of surviving. His mind reached out for that memory, in another warehouse a thousand miles away in the darkened dead of night when the man across from him had been filled with the same kind of rage, but where understanding had been replaced with abject horror.

“And I have to always be aware that the hunger is everything I am. Everything I’ve ever been made for. To be able to blend in, not just my face but the way I can – I can make them not notice what I am, I can hide it enough that they don’t listen when their instincts are right. And to be able to survive human weapons, to outrun and outmatch and outwit. And to take – to take everything, down to the bones, to take an entire person no matter what they were, and turn them into meat, and still be starving.”

His voice broke a little, and his eyes closed, his brow twisted in self-loathing under the mask.

“And to be worse than a predator because you enjoy it. Because the blood sings, and the hunt makes you feel more alive than the act of being full and satisfied, because there’s something in the pain of intelligent food that– that brings out a monster.” His voice softened at the last word, and remained soft as he pushed through to the end of that thought. “Monsters like us. We don’t get a Katherine.”

We don’t get a Sam.

He needed to digress. He needed to – stop talking to this monster that wanted his monster despite the love he held, despite the anger, despite the grief the Cryptid had caused him. The monster that he already knew would get it, who would understand. The monster that looked so much like her that he could say what he wished he could say to her and wouldn’t, because her rage would take him in the span of a breath, and he wouldn’t stop her even to survive.

The first question that came to mind was one of curiosity, but he let it come out, because it was better than letting the other predator address his hunger. He made himself relax again, made himself look up, and even if he couldn’t hide the hatred in his eyes he would still change the subject.

“Katherine – is she human?”

Obsidian was silent. He didn’t move a muscle, he didn’t speak a word. Especially not once eye contact was broken. The other predator spoke and his heart tugged for him. He understood everything, every last word. A part of him, a deep part that hadn’t wanted anything in a very long time, wanted this kid. He wanted to help him weather the storm that clearly raged inside him. And that feeling surprised Obsidian. He wasn’t used to feeling compassion. He loved his family, yes, and he extended a lot of mercy toward them. A lot of sympathy. Things that could look like compassion, but weren’t.

This was a true sense of compassion. It was only broken by the way that he talked about Katherine. That gave Obsidian pause. That wasn’t just the voice of someone who wanted what Mal and Katherine had had. That was the voice of someone who knew from experience.

Someone who had killed a person they loved as well.

He took a few slow but calm steps forward. As he did so, he gave his answer. “You’re right. Katherine is human. One of the only purely good humans I’ve ever met. I’ve done my best to stay away from her. I was always afraid I’d hurt her by accident.”

He stopped moving and he hesitated, for the first time that conversation. He knew what he wanted to say. He knew it, but he hadn’t talked about Zeheb in years. Not since the months following the event. But they were being honest with each other. They were being open with each other. He could feel the gap between them bridging. That was what he wanted, wanted the distance gone, wanted to convince him to…

To what?

What would talking about Zeheb really accomplish? It wouldn’t recruit him. It wouldn’t convince him to join their cause. So what was Obsidian really trying to do here? He thought for a moment before finding the conclusion. He was trying to earn the man’s friendship. Maybe, with that, he could slowly convert him. So he took a deep sigh, telling himself that it was all about recruitment, and not at all about the aching loneliness that was rearing its ugly head.

“About a decade ago, I fell in love with a human. A regular human, not a meta human. His name was Zeheb. He didn’t know what I was, but he loved me, and I loved him more than anything else in the world. He became the only thing more important to me than figuring out how to stay alive.”

He pulled his hands from his pocket and he started to undo his gloves, slowly. “I let myself get too weak too many times, but he just thought I was frail. That was until he caught me feeding. He caught me one of the few times I had waited too long, one of the times I was the most hungry I had ever been. And he did not take it well.”

He flashed his right hand, which had a horrible scar running along the palm, as though someone had tried to sever his hand halfway down. He gave a sad chuckle and then looked at the scar himself, tracing his other gloved fingers over it. “I don’t fault him for trying to kill me. He had just watched me kill a defenseless man. I would have been upset with him if he hadn’t tried to kill me. No, that’s a lie. I would have been so relieved. But it wasn’t what I expected of him. He was such a good man.”

He took a few more steps toward Cryptid, his eyes sad. His voice was turning hoarse enough to hint at how difficult it was for him to talk about this. His hands worked at putting the glove back on. “I killed him, to save myself. I took all the life he had to give, and then I took what was left. I killed the only man that the monster in me had ever let close enough to find me like that. You’re right. We don’t get a Katherine. We break them when they get too close.”

He was close enough now that if they both reached out, they’d be able to reach each other. He didn’t dare move any closer. He didn’t want to threaten the young man. He had already tried that, and he wasn’t keen to have more holes in his arms. “I don’t need you to tell me there’s someone you’re afraid of killing, or who you have killed. That was evident in your voice. My question for you is would you like to have one relationship, one friendship, where you don’t have to hide or pretend? Can I offer you that?”
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Todd listened. He was good at listening, when he wanted to be. He was designed to hear well, but listening wasn’t just in the ears. It was in the mind, in the way someone could experience empathy. And for Todd it was in the other senses, in the way he could see body language, in the way he could catch the strongest emotions on a breeze.

Sadness had a scent. Todd didn’t know what caused it, and there was nothing he could compare it to – but it was there. Grief and regret. And he could hear those, too, and he could see them in the fidgeting. Everything about Obsidian communicated truth. And either he was a good actor – he almost was – or he was being honest.

And Todd chose to believe him. Maybe that was a bad choice, maybe he should’ve been more suspicious of how closely the story followed his own. But the love and the mourning were there. And the scar was real enough, the cut. The idea that this predator would ever willingly starve himself was – not completely foreign. Odd to think about, with the displays today, but not foreign.

Then, Obsidian extended his hand. Not his literal hand. Todd hadn’t responded to his closeness, had only watched him come nearer. But he extended the hand of friendship.

And Todd heard the truth in that, too. In the way that the loneliness between them was the same. And that filled him with something, something that he hadn’t experienced today, not yet. Even with the predation, even with the threats from the new predator – even in all of that, Todd hadn’t felt the emotion most tightly tied to his survival instinct since he stepped into this warehouse.


Fear sat in Todd’s bones and on Todd’s shoulders the way rage burned in Obsidian’s blood. Fear was based in survival instincts, in responses to danger, and Todd responded to danger to himself and others with fear. Never obvious, rarely even conscious. But threats didn’t anger him, unless he was already somehow irritated. But the point of everything was to survive, and the heart of survival was in the fear he held, the fear of dying, the fear of incompletion. An animal fear and a human one, the one place in which the two halves of his soul held together.

His fear was in his eyes, in the way he tensed, froze – but he didn’t back away from the offer, or from the man offering. Even as he closed his eyes and shivered, looked down and shook his head, he didn’t make any attempt to shift away from Obsidian.

“I can’t.” He took a deep breath, trembling. “I can’t let it out. Not even a little. Not knowingly.”

Again, he could have left it there. He should have left it there. But Obsidian’s story about Zeheb was – well, like Sam’s story of Alice, it moved something in him. He wanted to understand, and he wanted to be understood, and he wanted to share his grief because it had stayed so still in his heart for so long that it felt as inescapable as the cold in his bones. If he couldn’t lose that – maybe he could warm himself at the fire of friendship. For a little while.

He needed Obsidian to understand. The same way he understood. We are the same. And that scares me more than anything else about you.

“Arlo was like us. Not– predatory. But gifted. He thought of it like a gift. A gift he needed to use to help. Nothing made him angrier than the idea that – that any of us might use our ability to hurt. The strong protect the weak, he used to– to tell me.”

His impression of Arlo had nothing to do with his ability. It had the familiarity of old friends, even if it should’ve been rusty. For two years, Arlo had been the only person in his life.

For longer, actually.

“We met when I was coming out of – a bad time. After I first realized how deep my hunger went. I found a way to justify it, to be – everything I wanted. Anything I wanted. And all I really wanted was the hunt. I didn’t– I didn’t realize I couldn’t be full. I wouldn’t have cared, if I knew.”

He laughed. It wasn’t nice, but short, sharp, and barking. Cold. Nervous, maybe.

“Arlo scared me, at first. Really scared me. That’s what got me to– to pull myself together. He never noticed because I didn’t let him but – he wasn’t just mad. At first. Because he didn’t know all of it. He assumed I was some kind of addict – and he wasn’t really wrong. But that meant… that meant he wanted to – to fix me. To show me that there’s more than power, more than the violence and the hunt. And that saved me, after –”

He stopped, and realized finally how badly he was shaking. If Obsidian reached out and took him right now, he couldn’t have resisted. He wasn’t afraid. No– no, that wasn’t true. He wasn’t afraid of Obsidian, but he was afraid. Not of the Arlo he had met, but the Arlo he had killed, the creature of pure rage and strength and earnest protection. But he’d never let himself mention it. He’d started to, with Sam, but – but she couldn’t know everything, she wouldn’t understand. Obsidian might not even understand.

But Obsidian understood the grief, and the pain. And, most of all, Obsidian understood the regret.

And the little bit of humanity he’d let slip – the humanity that he didn’t realize until now that he kept on a leash, just like his animal. He didn’t know why it felt like such a relief to open up, fear and all, to this other predator, this man who could completely consume him, who he didn’t want to realize could completely consume him.

“I killed him. He didn’t – didn’t give me a choice. He— he didn’t just attack me. He didn’t believe in killing people but –”

His voice caught, and he felt the tears that had been sliding between his face and the plastic of his mask. His entire body shuddered.

“I wasn’t people to him anymore. He caught me – eating. And he didn’t give me a chance. He was all rage. He just saw– the blood. And that it was on me. And he recognized me. He knew it was me. But I wasn’t a who anymore.”

The look Arlo had given him had never left him. The fear that came with being seen, the fear that lead to pure survival, when all his focus had to go into not dying as Arlo lashed out again and again, all muscle, each hit enough to dent metal and crack concrete. The one that had hit that had sent him flying — made all his ribs hurt just breathing in the memory.

Was this how Jasper had felt in that last minute? The breathing, rapid and shallow like a dying rodent. He couldn’t control his body anymore. His ribs hurt again, he could feel the old bruises. Why now? Why not in the weeks of fear after? Why not in the memories he carried with him when he was alone? It wasn’t Obsidian – no fear he had of Obsidian would ever match the fear he had of Arlo, of his only friend, of the best man he ever knew.

He needed to finish. If Obsidian hadn’t been so close to him, he might not have heard the last part.

“I was lucky. I was just lucky. He would’ve killed me. He knew it was me and he died only knowing me as the monster. And then I–”

And he couldn’t anymore. There was no way he could say the rest, what he’d said already was too much. This wasn’t like the cold, or the hunger, or any fear he’d ever known. It wasn’t even like the guilt. It was – it was raw fear, the likes of which he hadn’t felt since that night, the kind he’d forgotten about until right now. And that fear, as it did in its lesser moments, that fear turned inward, because to think of Arlo was to lose himself completely.

His voice was the softest it could be, while still being raw, still being human.

“I can’t. I can’t let it do that again. Never.”

The change in the man in front of him was alarming. Gone was the predator who had stabbed his arm and fronted to him. Gone were the questions, and the answer that he was given was so much deeper than he thought he’d get. By the end, the man had started to shake, his voice raw and worn. Obsidian would have placed money on there being tears behind that mask. He listened, quietly, still, and he heard what Cryptid was saying.

Now would be the perfect time to strike. Now would be the time to try to radicalize him. Now would be the perfect time to–

Obsidian stepped forward and jerked the man by his shoulder into his arms. He pulled him down just enough that his mouth would be by Cryptid’s ear. “I won’t ask you to do that. Alright? I won’t ask you to do anything.”

He held him like that for a moment, feeling no warmth between the two of them. All that was there was a chill and a shiver, a cold that extended beyond both of them. It was the kind of cold that killed if you weren’t careful with it. Obsidian didn’t know if he was going to be able to control the winter storm once it started, but he knew one thing. He wasn’t going to let Cryptid suffer alone. For the first time since Brightheart, Obsidian set aside the monster inside him, the predator, and let himself be the thing he hated most. He let himself be the human,.

Mal was right. Mal had always been right, so it wasn’t surprising he was right about this as well. Obsidian wanted the kid, wanted him on his side. But more than that, Obsidian wanted this kid. The last thing Obsidian had wanted had been his family and, well. That hadn’t gone well. Before that, Zeheb. Also hadn’t gone well. He was determined that this time, this one fucking time, he was going to get what he wanted, and it wasn’t going to backfire on him.

So he held the kid for a moment longer, then he let go and pulled back, keeping his gloved hands on Cryptid’s shoulders. “You don’t have to join the revolution. You don’t have to be a part of anything you don’t want to be. I won’t ask that of you. Just. God, just be my friend. That’s really what I want. Even Sulphur and Mal, they can’t give me that kind of connection. They aren’t like us. No one is like us.”

A small smile crossed his face as he looked into the mask. It was like he thought. He could see the tear streaks around his eyes. The man was still shaking, but there was nothing that Obsidian could do about that. The shaking would stop on its own. But not before he said his peace. “You acted in self defense. You acted on instinct and survival. I could never blame you for that. It would be hypocritical of me, but also… I don’t think you did anything wrong. Not really. I know you feel guilty. That will never go away. But I don’t think you did anything wrong. You are what you are. Normal standards don’t apply to you.”

Obsidian’s shoulders rolled back and he thought for a moment. There were so many choices he could make here, but he was sure that most of them would scare the guy off. There was only so much of his real thoughts he could give before the man freaked out on him and maybe attacked him again, and Obsidian didn’t want that. He couldn’t say that Arlo was on the wrong side of history, and would be when they won against the humans. He couldn’t say that. So instead he walked over to his coat on the ground and picked it up. He draped it over his still-fine right arm, then dug through the pockets. With his left hand, he withdrew a notepad and a small pen.

He was quick to scribble out some digits and words. He looked up occasionally at the Cryptid while he did so. Then, with a genuinely friendly smile, showing no teeth at all, he ripped the page out of the book and passed it toward the other man. “I might regret this, but fuck it. The name is Ethan Walsh. This is a number and email you can contact me at. Both are untraceable, so you don’t have to worry about any paper trails. Take it, take it.”

He stepped all the way up to him again and pressed the note into Cryptid’s left hand. “You don’t have to decide now. You can think about it. But the family and I would love to have you over for dinner. I won’t tell them who you are, the vigilante part, and I won’t tell them what you do, but they will ask and they won’t be disgusted by you. They’ve dealt with me for the last eight years, after all. Who knows, maybe you’ll like them. And if you don’t want to do that, then just you and I, we can get drinks. I bought a bar downtown when we set up our base here.”
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Todd felt Obsidian’s hand on his shoulder, and there was nothing he could do to stop it as the other monster dragged him in close. He had no energy to fight it, his muscles still tight and rigid, the only warmth that of hot tears under his mask. This was how he was going to die, then. He always knew it’d be doing something stupid. There was nothing more stupid than admitting weakness to a predator.

In the face of certain death, Todd should’ve found peace. He’d come across moments when he was sure he’d die before, and the moment was almost always accompanied by a calm knowledge that this was it. There were exceptions, of course, but if he was given time to see a death that his instincts knew was inevitable, then there was suddenly no more fear.

This wasn’t going to be that kind of death. It should’ve been, because there was no way to resist what was coming. It was inevitable. But there was too much other fear to embrace it, the way the other predator embraced him and spoke softly. No aggression, no threat, just the promise that it was done now, nothing more would be asked of him. It was the tone Todd used in the moment when prey made their peace with death, to let them know that he understood.

It took Obsidian letting go and pulling away for Todd to realize he wasn’t getting any colder. He had chills that ran across his skin, but no one point where they met to leave him and take his life with them, not even where the pressure of the other man’s palms was on his shoulders. He was breathing more evenly, the raw terror having subsided to simple fear, and now starting to give way to mild confusion.

It was because of what they were that he’d been sure he was going to die.

It was because of what they were that Obsidian was going to let him live.

Todd started to ground himself, focusing not just on breathing, but on the scents Obsidian carried. Focusing not just on hearing, but on what Obsidian was saying. And what he wasn’t saying.

Because before he said his name, Todd had known, had seen it in those amber eyes, smelled it in that kick of pepper, had felt it in his deeper instincts. He could hear it now, in the way that Ethan Walsh didn’t say mine, but felt it, exuded it, buried Todd in it with his words and body language. The desire was different; not the fierce burning hunger Sam felt for him, but something else, no less natural, no less animal, no less human.

They were lonely, the two of them. They were predators, the two of them, and for a long time they’d each been the only one. They’d found others similar – Arlo, Jasper – but never the same. Nobody who understood cold, hunger, instinct. And he knew that Obsidian still wanted his monster the same way his predator wanted Sam – but like him, Obsidian was suppressing that.

Like him, Obsidian was choosing his humanity. And only Cryptid could understand how much that meant.

His shaking had died down to a slight tremble. The cold was still there, but his body was recovering from the energy expended in terror. He was tired, so tired, more tired than he’d been this whole week. He wanted to say something, to do something besides stand and watch in silence, but his mouth was dry, and his breathing – sobbing, or the last dregs of it – still caught in his throat.

He couldn’t help but notice that like Sam, Ethan was left-handed. That made sense, somehow, in the grander scheme of things. It made sense that he’d still be like her, despite his earthy cold. It made sense that he’d use his dominant hand to make an attack, and Todd had cut right through it. But he wrote anyway, and the writing was legible enough that Cryptid could read it later, when he’d had space to think about it more. He felt his lips twitch toward a smile when Obsidian mentioned dinner. The joke really was right there.

But when he opened his mouth, what he said was, “Mine’s Todd. My name, I mean. Todd Fowler.”

That wasn’t smart, but Todd was so tired. And Ethan Walsh had told him the truth about his name, he didn’t need to check that. They were being honest with each other, two predators, and one had invited the other into his pack. Todd wasn’t a pack animal, but the idea of somewhere that he could be himself, that he could safely be, now that he’d moved in with Sam… somewhere that the monster could exist, so that he wasn’t wearing himself down every day trying to protect her from it –

“I’ll think about it. No- no. I’ll call you. Drinks sound good. Give me a few days and I’ll give you a call.”

Thank you didn’t cover what Todd was feeling about Obsidian right now. His gut told him that this was wrong. This was a bad idea, an unnecessary temptation, and that he’d regret this. That Obsidian was playing him, that his deeper want was more real than the simpler desire for someone who understood. But his heart felt like someone had finally put a stopper in it, kept it from bleeding the cold and the hunger all over everything he touched, gave him a choice, an outlet that wasn’t the violence. Especially if Obsidian wouldn’t force him into the revolution, and if Cryptid could maintain his vigil while Todd finally let himself experienced that understanding.

And maybe, because he had that outlet, he could let himself love elsewhere, too. Maybe this would help him, help banish the predatory hunger that wanted Sam as much as the rest of him, absolved him of the guilt of not telling her everything. Because she wouldn’t understand, couldn’t understand. And he wouldn’t ask that of her. She was too – her, for him to ever ask her to change.

Ethan grinned, his teeth flashing, but with none of the edge that it would have carried earlier that night. There was an almost palpable relief and thankfulness around Todd. Todd. Such an unassuming name for someone who was so genuinely terrifying, someone so much like Ethan himself. Such an unassuming name for some so desperate for the same connection that Ethan was.

He put his left hand on Todd’s shoulder again, mirroring his movement from earlier, but this time he took nothing, he simply said, in a soft voice that carried so much of the compassion from earlier, “I look forward to your call. I look forward to seeing you again, Todd.”

Then he stepped away and over to the pieces of his brother, where they lay on the ground. He shook his head and sighed, a genuine sound of regret and sadness. He looked up at Todd and Made a small gesture toward the pieces. “I don’t blame you for this. I understand that you were surviving. I’ll never be mad at you for surviving. Not like that.”

He checked his arm again, and saw the bleeding had stopped. He undid the tourniquet he had made, and no blood rushed from the wounds. He rolled his blood-splattered sleeve down over the wounds and rebuttoned it “This, however, is going to take a long time to heal. But if scars are what I needed for us to become friends, then I can accept that.”

There was so much left that Obsidian wanted to say, to offer, but he was going to take this one step at a time. The first step was drinks, with the family maybe popping in at the end to say hello. Everything else could wait until after that, until after he got the young man’s trust. HE was okay if Todd didn’t want to be a part of their revolution, but he would have him become part of the family, part of the pack.

“I should get these back to Katherine. She’s going to hate me, and I’ll deserve it for this. This, this is my fault. But I know exactly who will be paying for it.” The tone of his voice changed then, from the soft one he had taken up to talk to Todd, to one dripping with sweet venom, one that said Obsidian would be out for blood.​
Todd didn’t freeze under Ethan’s touch, literally or figuratively. He took it for the reassurance it was meant to be, some of the last tension left over from the all-consuming fear that had claimed him in the last few minutes, because in that touch – in Ethan’s words and tone following that touch – was forgiveness. He’d had no idea how deeply he craved that, how deeply I don’t blame you would hit him. Ethan had said it before, of course, about Arlo. But it was for Mal that he could give his absolution.

He pushed up the mask when Ethan went about covering the bloody holes in his arm, and wiped his face on his coatsleeve. Was it the tears, the fear, or the lack of sleep that left him feel this perfectly exhausted?

Or was it the relief that swept through him? Relief in being forgiven, relief in – in knowing that there was an outlet for his predator, a way that he could hold Sam and remind himself that she was his, without the temptation to dig his teeth into her skin? Or relief in Obsidian’s venom, in the way he could only be speaking about one person?

Because Leo Vasquez needed to die, and Todd would have carried out his execution in the exact way he’d promised Malachite. But there wasn’t any hunger for the man’s blood. Leo’s death wouldn’t be personal to him. It’d be no tragedy, but he also knew the hunger in Obsidian's eyes. He wasn’t just out for Leo’s life. He now knew, or at least suspected, how Mal had suffered. If he was shifting blame from Todd to Leo, then Leo’s death wasn’t going to be clean.

Even in his newfound relief, he couldn’t shake the distaste for that. So he spoke instead, and hoped Ethan didn’t hear the tightness at the edges of his voice.

“He’s yours.” For once, his inner animal didn’t buck at the idea of such a concession. “You have the right. Jasper said he thought that man deserves to be eaten. It’s only right if it’s by someone who cared about him.”

He didn’t know why he’d half-expected relief by saying those words. He knew what sort of man Leo was; he knew he deserved to die, and he knew he could rest easier without the bastard hiring people like Mal, or Red and Orange, to take him out. It wasn’t his predator balking, either. This was a gift to a new friend. Maybe a pack member, even if he didn’t fit into a pack.

But it left something in Todd’s soul uneasy, as he pushed the mask back down. He was just too tired to identify what.

Obsidian understood he was being given a gift. Even with the tight edge around the young man’s voice, he knew he was being offered something. He nodded softly and murmured, “Thank you. Mal– Jasper was my best friend. Sulphur and I will be lost without him. I can’t and won’t blame you for surviving, but this bastard isn’t making it out alive.”

He remembered the way the man had treated those around him, remembered him yelling at his ex-wife over the phone. It would be a pleasure to rid the world of that scumbag. He’d get the entire family involved, and have them go on a hunting party. That would help them process Malachite’s death.

Obsidian looked up just in time to see Todd’s face before he covered it again with the mask. His face was all angles and bones, with very little meat on him– exactly what Obsidian had feared. He looked like he was starving himself. He watched as the face disappeared back under the sharp-toothed mask and tried his hardest to not look sympathetic.

Obsidian knelt down by the pieces of medical implants, by the bloody clothes, and he reached a hand out and gently placed it over the locket, but he didn’t touch it. He held his hand where Jasper’s chest would have been had his body been there, at just the right height to have laid across his heart. He sadly tsked and then rose to his feet. In a soft, but much more dark voice, he said, “I’m going to pull the jeep around and load him up. I’ll clear everything out. You don’t have to stay. You look like you’re about to drop dead, kid.”

He walked over to him, and placed his right hand on Todd’s left shoulder as he passed, a soft touch. “I’ll see you for drinks, Todd Fowler.”

Then, as easy as could be, he walked past Todd and to the door. He smoothly opened it and disappeared into the night.​