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Lament’s listener did have a name, printed on his driver’s license. Watts, Ivan. Normally Todd would look into his partial-rescue-partial-prisoner, but a full web search would be a waste of Ivan’s time. He as lucky Todd kept first aid supplies in his vigilante kit, just in case he sustained an injury his healing factor couldn’t handle right away. That didn’t include any kind of anesthesia, though. No amount of naproxen was going to help Ivan through what had to come next if he was going to survive.

The best Todd could do was lay him gently on the floor of his selected location – an old factory, like the one he’d used with Jasper. It felt… right, given his intentions with Ivan. A counterbalance to last time. Like the other one, this place still had some running water. It wasn’t great, but Todd didn’t have time to boil the bucket or stop to pick up anything distilled. All he could do about the infection was mix the water with rubbing alcohol. And that was going to hurt.

Todd apologized under his breath as he stripped the layers of clothes off, then zip-tied Ivan’s wrists and ankles together. Flailing would make the experience worse for both of them, and to survive the night, the injury had to be cleaned and bandaged ASAP.

Preparations done, he sighed, then shifted his face. Jasper’s features felt heavy, like a burden, but he coudln’t exactly let Ivan see the real him, and if he was going to use the villainous face he wore in costume he might as well leave the Cryptid mask on. So Mal– Jasper it was.

No more putting it off. He sighed again, taking in the injury and infection, the burn, the dust from Lament’s lair, and the faintest smell of cigarettes. Whoever he was, his base scents were hidden under what Lament had done to him. Todd didn’t know how much he could undo. But he could start by sitting at Ivan’s bare back, dipping a clean towel in the purified water mixture, and gently starting to dab the wound clean.
There had been windows, of course. Brief moments where his eyes fell open and the sound came back, when the signal cable to his brain was held at just the right angle before being yanked out again. But there were no thoughts in these moments. There was no-one to look out of the window, no-one on the other side, in the house, with the curtains and the heat and the endless ring-clatter of chains. Ivan wasn't a passenger in his body, he was still at the airport, waiting to board.

And the call came as he felt his back split in two.

Ivan screamed, lurching forward as far as he could go- over and over, over and over, like a tape stuck on repeat. His body hadn't quite caught up to itself yet, the finer details of his situation had been blurred by the searing pain. It didn't know about the zip ties, or the chair, or the fact that his jacket and bag had been removed--stolen--by the murderer who had taken him here. It was as if he had woken up anew with each brief push to escape, having forgotten why the previous hadn't worked, only to fall back into the void once he failed.

It was in this hellish recursion that his thoughts came back. Simple, at first. Emotional. Pain, fear, misery- then the realisation he couldn't escape- then vague memories of who could be the one doing this. The rock and the hard place. The hunger and the chains. The serial killer who left questions, not bodies, and the stage director who dealt in cruel certainties. A saner man wouldn't know which was worse. Ivan, unfortunately, did.

Death would be better than him.

Death, as a cannibalistic metahuman, would have to suffice.

Ivan realised what the burn was now- it was sanitiser. He was being cleaned. Clearly, Cryptid didn't want to poison himself with whatever had infected the burn wound, and he didn't seem like the kind of guy to cook before he ate, so sanitiser was probably the best option. The zip ties made him uncomfortable, though. Would it take long? Would he start by cutting off a limb, eating that first, then moving onto the next? Would he just take bites, choosing random points of his body until there was nothing left? He wasn't going to kill him first, that was for sure. This sadistic piece of shit was going to eat him alive.

He lurched forwards again, trying to drag the chair along with him. Maybe, if he proved enough of an inconvenience, Cryptid would just tear out his throat and get it done with. He wasn't going to be let go. He had a warrant that only he and- him knew was false. And it was for homicide, as well- not something small, something serious, the type of guy Cryptid usually went for. The type of guy who wouldn't be missed, wouldn't be mourned. One less murderer in the world. Who cares if he went out screaming?

But, still, he couldn't accept his fate. He couldn't accept anything. He was cold, he was scared, and the pain down his back kept screaming into his head every time it was touched.

He remained silent.
Ivan’s response was expected, and Todd wished he could’ve stopped for drinking alcohol or at least distilled water. He paused in his work, aware that if he tried to touch Ivan again with this much struggling would cause the wound to split, and there’d be blood added to the mix on top of everything else. Blood would be a very bad thing to add, in Todd’s current condition.

So he paused, towel at the ready, waiting until the moment Ivan calmed before touching him again. It was a long process. But as long as he was screaming and struggling, he was alive, and so Todd took it as a good sign.

When the screaming stopped and the struggling didn’t, Todd knew that he’d gotten past blind pain, that his thoughts were human again. He placed a strong hand on Ivan’s good shoulder, aware of how cold his own skin was. The grip wasn’t meant to be reassuring, but the strength in his cold fingers might help ground Ivan enough to actually focus on the situation at hand.

“Easy, easy. Take it easy.”

The voice was not the voice that was used earlier. It was heavier, deeper, softer, and carried an undercurrent of exhaustion. The hand, too, was wrong; too heavy, too blunt, too soft, the skin tone different from even the borrowed face Ivan had seen under the mask, a dark shade of olive. Both actions had the air of someone gently but firmly coaxing a wounded animal to trust them enough to help.

He let go of his prisoner, and circled around the chair. Even without the piercings and tattoos, Malachite’s face and body were human perfection. ‘Pretty’ was the only word Todd could use to describe it. He wore a cheap t-shirt and sweatpants in the right size for the figure, not a perfect fit but good enough to do the trick in a bind like this. The towel hung over one arm. In the other hand, he had a plastic cup full of water.

“This is going to taste awful, but you’re extremely dehydrated. Drink.”

He raised the cup to Ivan’s face. A peace offering.
But the voice... the voice was different. Uncanny, almost; everything about this man was uncanny, was wrong, but it was wrong in a different way than Cryptid had been. He was too cold and too warm, too strong and too tired, too rough and too soft, all at the same time. On a good day, the contradictions would be overlooked. Now, they made his head spin. He didn't feel real; like a face in a dream, or a character in a stage play. Even his voice, his different voice, seemed a little too detached. Happy, almost, like he was reading lines fron a script he couldn't see. Like Ivan.

He didn't have the presence of mind to understand that his perception might have been warped a little bit. All he knew was this man was odd, didn't fit within himself, and was more than likely not the cannibal who had been chasing him. Ivan nodded along to his words, trying to squash down the growing fear that- oh god, was this part of it too?

The offer of water was appreciated, at least. He drained the cup in one, not even noticing the taste; the pain numbed almost all of his other senses, save for his hearing. His hearing was still good. Still sharp. Sharp enough for him to flinch once the cup was empty and the plastic crinkled in his hand.

"Who are you? He asked, more scared than sympathetic, "Did... did he get you as well?"

Because it would make sense, wouldn't it? To send someone to bring him back to health, after pushing him in the path of a raging animal. A lame dog couldn't do tricks. Ivan shook his head, about to say something else, but choosing to remain silent until he got an answer- for at least that second question.
Todd sighed, then nodded a little. He smiled, but the face he’d borrowed was tired. The wound in his neck had healed, and the scar looked different on Jasper’s skin. He could still smell the fear in the air, and shook his head as he went back to the drinking-water bucket to refill the cup.

“I’m Nick. I’m a friend.” Not a lie – going by Nick in high school had been easier than being recognized as the Redding Butcher’s son by name alone. It was his go-to name for this kind of thing, little interrogations where the people he was helping needed a rescuer, not a predator. He brought the cup back, and gave Ivan another drink. “Lament didn’t get me, no. I’m looking into him. I want to stop him. Don’t worry about that right now, though. I don’t have anesthesia, so this is going to keep hurting. I’m sorry for that, but you won’t make it long enough for me to get you to a hospital without it.”

The truth, Todd had learned, was more useful than any lie when it came to these things. You just needed to know how to use the truth, and when, to make a difference. He studied Ivan’s face while he waited for him to finish the second cup. Old scars cutting diagonal lines from his forehead to his jaw, and intense seafoam-green eyes. The fear stared out of those eyes, warped the lines of his face that would otherwise be natural or even ordinary. Lament had gotten under Ivan’s skin, and had used Todd to do it. He didn’t let the anger about that show. That would defeat the purpose of using Jasper’s face and his own ordinary childhood nickname. Instead he waited, the picture of patience, to see if his new friend had more questions.
"Nick..." Ivan repeated, "Ivan. I'm- my name's Ivan."

He took the second cup and drank it, though it was a little slower this time, a little less desperate. Nick was watching him, looking at his face, looking for something, perhaps. Maybe he recognised him from the arrest warrant, the wanted posters, the listing on the city police's website, or from some other, more nefarious source. Though, given his situation, prison might be a good idea. If Lament followed, if he got to him again, then his presence would be signalled to people like Nick, wouldn't it? Vigilantes, metahumans, people who could help- unless... fuck, unless that was part of his script, unless he wanted to control them too, unless he already did-

Nick mentioning the man's name was enough to make him wince. His spiralling thoughts clearly hadn't helped.

"Stupid question, maybe, but- uh- where did you find me?"

Ivan grimaced.

"Did anyone... follow you?"
“Outside an unfinished suburban house.” He stepped away, and put the cup in the bucket but didn’t pull it back out. Any more water, and Ivan would just throw it up. “There was some shit going on inside, you could hear it, but somebody just left you in the yard. I picked you up and high-tailed it. I don’t think we were followed. And for all the rustic charm, this was the safest place to go.”

He sat back down behind Ivan, in a matching chair sans zip ties. It groaned under Nick’s weight. “Like I said, this is going to hurt. As soon as I’m done we can take those zip-ties off, though. They’re just so you don’t hurt yourself – or me, to be honest. I know this hurts like a bitch, but we can do the rest of the questions when I’m sure you’re not going to pass out and not wake back up. Just hang in there.”

He dipped the towel back into the bucket, loud enough for Ivan to hear, and unless he got a clear objection or a good reason why not, he’d get back to work.
So, he hadn't moved- hadn't done anything he couldn't vividly remember. That came as somewhat of a relief. At least Ivan knew everything that had happened to him, everything he had done, even if he didn't know how or why. And- shit going on inside. That was Cryptid, probably. Ivan knew he was alive by the time Lament had left the house, which meant he had done what was asked, but confirmation like this at least tempered any further paranoia.

"He- he must've got Cryptid, then. That's why I wasn't- y'know." Ivan shivered, "But, Jesus, if he managed to get a beast like that on his leash, then..."

His voice trailed off. Cryptid, for all his brutality, only went after criminals. Lament, on the other hand, did not. The conclusion was obvious; too obvious to say, even.

The pain returned like a blessing, drowning out his thoughts once more. Ivan hissed- not a scream, this time, since he was more or less expecting it. It felt worse than before, but maybe that was perspective. Either way, it had to be endured. Ivan had grown used to that sort of thing, over the last few hours- that which had to be endured. At least this pain was treating a wound, rather than opening one.
Nick didn’t respond, but Ivan had given him something to chew on while he finished bathing the burn. He hadn’t really known what Lament could do, beyond make irritating sounds. But Ivan clearly hadn’t been acting of his own free will when they met. Ivan was bait, a recycled lab rat. Nick had no idea how to handle that. But it did help him better develop his questions.

When he was done, he put the towel back in the bucket, and got Ivan another cup of water. He pulled his chair around so he could sit across from his patient, instead of behind him. Then he pulled out his big knife, a kitchen knife that was cleaned often enough to not have any suspicious stains or flakes. He pressed it into the plastic, cutting through it cleanly and freeing Ivan’s wrists, then his ankles. Then he sat down on his own chair, backwards and comfortable, and handed Ivan the cup. The knife was set on the ground, out of arm’s reach. Far from a threat.

He sat heavily, tiredly, with the gravity of someone who was more than ready to rest but had far more work to do. His smile was real, and sat naturally on Jasper’s face, but his eyes were serious and even the smile faded into something almost neutral. “I’m not sure about Cryptid, but… what do you mean by ‘a leash’?”
It hurt, still--moreso than it had before--but at least it was safe. Ivan hadn't really been thinking about infection until the wound was being sanitised. He wasn't really thinking about anything. But he could think now, more or less, and he realised just what a blessing it was that Nick had showed up to help when he did. The wound was wide and deep and unclean; back pressed against a rusty grate, falling over in a filthy house, running around outside in a warehouse district, each swing of his arm tearing it open. He'd go to a hospital, if he could. Perhaps if he started feeling sick, that would be the kick in the teeth he needed to get himself to one.

The kitchen knife, clean as it was, was hardly the least suspicious thing to carry- though, in Nick's case, at least Ivan was assured that it was innocuous, or, at the very least, benevolent. He leaned forwards, when he was able to, and buried his head in his hands, running his fingers through his tangled hair. He didn't see the knife being set down, but he heard it. The sound of metal on concrete. The sound of metal. He flinched, more violently than before; head snapping up, posture quickly straightening.

Nick's question made the tension worse.

"Well- it's Lament, isn't it?"

He spoke with such flat hopelessness, like the question didn't need to be asked at all. It should've been obvious. It was obvious.

"He makes threats- silent, implicit threats, like he's holding a gun to your head from the inside whenever he talks. I- I don't know what would happen if I fucked up, but-"

He winced, receding into himself again. His voice withdrew as well, resorting to vague, mumbled repetition.

"I don't know what would happen. I don't know. I don't want to know- I don't want to think about it. I don't. I don't know. I can't- I can't know. It's bad, I know it's bad. That's all. I don't know what would happen. I don't want to think about it."
Todd tried not to be frustrated with Ivan. The man was clearly traumatized. But a silent, implicit gun wasn’t exactly an answer. The fear of failure here didn’t seem to be rational, as Ivan devolved into soft muttering. He quieted the little voice inside of himself that said It would be a mercy to put him down, wouldn’t it? and instead decided to change tactics.

“Okay. Alright. He can’t do that to you here, Ivan. You’re safe.”

It felt like a hollow reassurance, but it was a reassurance all the same. He put his hand on the other man’s knee, gently, prepared to pull away if Ivan flinched again.

“I can help you, but I need information. I need to know how he works.” He took a deep breath, sifting through the options, but braced for another meltdown. “What did he ask you to do, and what does it have to do with Cryptid?”
Perhaps expectedly, Ivan flinched again. He was already so worked up, so tense, that any sort of movement towards him would've had that reaction, regardless of whether it made contact. At least Nick took his hand away. Ivan considered apologising, but quickly moved on.

"Can he not? I mean- I mean, the consequence was there outside the house- I don't think he has to be by me in order to- I don't know, I don't-"

He cleared his throat, forcing himself to slow down before he fell into another incomprehensible ramble. Once more, he considered apologising. Once more, he chose to move on. The best apology would be information, wouldn't it?

"The heat. I think it's the heat. Cooked my brain or something; softened it up so he had a way in."

Because that's all that was there, right? The heat, and that- well, for those few minutes, that pulse.

Hang on.


He looked up.

"Speakers. There were speakers. I- I think it had something to do with those." He explained, "God, that makes more sense, actually. I remember; I sat down in this chair, and he turned them on, and then there was... there was just this..."

The sentence was finished with a gesture; hands clawing at his ears, large motions, stressed.

"He... uh, there... there was this tape, yeah? God, it's stupid thinking about it now, but the tape- my case, uh, had some oddities, as he put it. I suppose he must've been there at the time, because there was this recording of my brother's last moments- before someone else killed him- one of his friends who suddenly just fucking snapped, I guess. Not me. You could clearly fucking hear it wasn't me; I was gonna take that to court, use it to at least re-open my case for investigation, but instead, I..."

He sucked in air through his teeth.

"Well, I threw it on the floor, didn't I? Shattered it into a thousand pieces. Case closed."

That, moreso than the burn on his shoulder, fucking hurt. It was the only reason he even met the bastard in the first place; all of this was for nothing, and it was never going to be for anything. Ivan shook his head.

"Burnt my shoulder, as well. Held it against this heat lamp until he told me to stop- like he was testing my limits, or something, I guess to see if I was capable of doing the real task- the, uh, the relevant one. Sorry- I know you didn't sign up for my fucking life story, did you?"

He attempted a laugh, and arguably succeeded.

"Anyway, I've heard of Cryptid before. Everyone has, especially if you're a fugitive- we all know a cop is far from the worst person to catch you out here. I knew approaching him was suicide, I knew what he did to his victims, I knew how much of them remained- but, still, whatever Cryptid could do to me paled in comparison to-"

Another gesture; more abstract, more frantic. He didn't want to speak any more on the thought-that-could-not-be-thought.

"So I, ah... brought him in. Let him chase me for a bit- shot him a few times for good measure, making sure he knew I was a threat." He frowned, "I was scared out of my fucking mind, Nick. I thought that was how I was going to die, but- fuck, I couldn't die until we made it back to that house."

He sighed.

"As for what he wanted with him- I have no idea. He said they were friends, or something. I mean, I'm not an idiot- obviously, he was lying about that, but I don't know. Leading Cryptid into that house with those speakers with that sound, it just-"

It all felt wrong. Ivan buried his head in his hands again. When he spoke, his voice was much, much quieter.

"Oh my god, I- I did that. I led him there- I brought him into Lament's hands, didn't I? Oh my god-"
As Nick listened, he kept his face carefully neutral. But he listened, gathered the evidence, and then blinked once or twice. He waited for Ivan to start to spiral again before he spoke, hoping the sound of his voice, and what he had to say, was enough to ground him.

“Your brother’s friend didn’t snap.” He stood up, and started to pace. An apparently human behavior, even if Mal’s body gave him the smooth, ponderous step of a tiger in a cage. “I was wondering about that sound… but that’s not a sound made by the speakers, that was a recording.”

He remembered the rage that had filled him, that had led him to fasten his hands around a man’s throat until he was unconscious. He didn’t even do that to his prey. A sharp blow to the forehead would’ve been more him, then. The throat was an anger response. He’d used it a long time ago, when he really was the monster he wanted men like Ivan to think of Cryptid as.

“That’s Lament’s voice. He set you up from the start. If my hunch is right, he wasn’t going to give you the tape at all, whether you broke it or not. I’ve heard of it before, but I didn’t think… hmm. Interesting. I’ve heard it triggers an emotional response, but what you described about – your case, is basically mind control. I mean, destroying something that important to you, throwing yourself to the wolves, burning yourself…”

He paced a little faster. It wasn’t unusual for him to work through the detective side of things out loud with a captive audience. Sometimes more captive than others.

Okay. Okay. Best case scenario, Cryptid got Lament. More than you, he’s just the right kind of monster to attract that vigilante’s attention – probably why you’re still alive. Lament was more interesting. Which is… good and bad. Because of the worst case scenario.”

He left that unspoken, because he and Ivan both already knew that outcome, even if it hadn’t come to pass. Lament got Cryptid to do whatever he wanted. Except… he hadn’t. Todd didn’t like the implications of that. He hadn’t heard anything in that house, but he remembered the speakers. Had he been too injured to be useful? Was Lament just toying with him? Or maybe this was a warning – Lament had basically handed him Ivan, after all. He’d assumed the villain wanted him to clean up after him, but if this was a warning, or a threat, if Cryptid decided to keep interfering with the man’s “art”, then it needed to be taken seriously. At least he had the edge of being able to hear it coming.

He turned back to Ivan. “Thank you, Ivan. That answered most of my questions. Do you need anything before we keep going? More water – I can get the bucket. Or food? Being injured and running like that must’ve burned a lot of energy. Or do you need a minute to rest?”
It wasn't new information, not really. If Ivan had been left to pick through his own thoughts alone for a bit, he would've probably come to the same conclusions about what had transpired; his brother was set up, his mind had been altered, he had been set up from the very beginning as a pawn to become a pawn, it all fit together like some horrifying jigsaw. Still, hearing it said aloud almost made it true, didn't it? Like it wasn't before- like, if Nick hadn't spoken, then none of it would be real.

In fact, the only thing which came as a surprise to him was the part about his voice- and that made Nick's best case scenario sound more like a fairy tale than anything else. If it was the sound that did it, and the sound wasn't just localised to speakers, then that meant-

"He didn't get Lament." Ivan shook his head, "I-I know it's nice for me to think that, but he couldn't have got Lament- not if it's his fucking voice that can do this."

He sighed, slumping back in his seat. Despite his pessimism, he seemed a lot more composed than before, the blind fear having been replaced by cold, nihilistic apathy; an acceptance of his fate, whilst he could still accept it.

"Best case scenario is Lament decided to let him go, for whatever reason. Maybe they have a mutual agreement- like Cryptid keeps bringing him hapless fugitives, and he gets to leave with his sanity, or hack off a leg to chew on, or something."

Ivan shook his head.

"I don't know. I don't wanna think about that, either. Sorry, I don't- I'm not doing great, over here."

He wasn't looking great, either. Though the wound had been sterilised, Ivan still looked sick- though, whether that was from infection or stress was anyone's guess. His movements were stiff and laboured, his sunken eyes kept drifting into nothingness, he looked tired and haggard and pained, and he was only getting worse.

"A minute isn't gonna do much." He shook his head, "I just- I don't wanna be here much longer. I don't like being in the same place, I shouldn't stay still. If- if he finds out I'm here, and he finds me- fuck, Nick, if he finds you-"

His voice caught. Ivan composed himself before finishing.

"Let's just... just finish this, yeah? I don't wanna put you in danger as well, not after what you've done for me."
Nick nodded seriously. “I get it. Believe me, I get it. But you can’t run very far if you’re exhausted like this, man. ’Specially if Lament’s got Cryptid looking for you.”

It didn’t take a predator’s eyes to see the weakness in Ivan. Todd internally kicked himself for helping to push the man to this point – chasing hadn’t been a smart move, on his part. He’d learn from that. He wondered if Lament would expect him to learn from that, or if he’d assume the animal was set in his ways.

He’d leave that line of questioning for later. Right now, Ivan needed help. Nick’s serious concern was replaced with a slight smile, and a twinkle in his eye.

“Don’t you worry about me. I’ll be able to handle myself. But you’re not in any condition to do that. Here, uh – just a sec.”

He got up, and picked up the kitchen knife as quietly as he could before he went back behind Ivan again. He rummaged around in his black duffel bag for a bit – careful not to rattle his other tools – and came out with a wad of cash and a notebook. He scribbled two addresses, a name, and a phone into the book, then tore the page out and offered it to Ivan along with the money.

“The cash and the first address are for this motel I know. It’s a good place to lay low for a while – out of sight, out of mind. I could drive you, no skin off my back. The other one and the phone number are for a buddy of mine. The address is this mechanic shop he works at. If he isn’t there, someone else will be. At the very least, it’ll be harder to target you with other people there in a public space.”

It was a risk, sending him to Vik’s. But it was better than sending him to the gym, and he wanted to give this man a connection to Todd Fowler as an excuse to give him a hand later if he absolutely needed it. He went back to his chair and settled in.

“Sorry I can’t do more for you. If there was something I could do about him, believe me, I would. I just hope this is enough, until I figure that part out.”
"You... I... I wouldn't be so sure, but-"

But Nick knew what he was doing, didn't he? He knew about Lament- more than Ivan did, aside from particular subjective experience. But, still, he couldn't bring himself to place much confidence in Nick. He couldn't bring himself to place much confidence in anything, but he was tired, and he was sick, and the adrenaline was wearing off. The terror had turned to nihilism, but at least he was starting to become self-aware. That bastard had fucked with his rationality. He didn't know which of his thoughts he could trust, positive or negative.

Ivan sighed.

"Don't meet him on his own turf, I guess. Anywhere with speakers, or- I don't know, anywhere his voice can carry. That doesn't leave much options, but- well, I don't think I can convince you to stay out of this."

He took the paper- not a perfect solution, but preferable to a prison he couldn't escape from, or a street he couldn't hide in. He'd take the offer. He had to. His eyes drifted back up to Nick once the paper was put away- slow, tired, and dead. There was no light behind them, no hope. It was a particular kind of hollowness that, unbeknownst to him, would seem horribly familiar.

"You're a good person, Nick." He said, quietly, "And he will take that from you."
There was a resignation in Ivan’s eyes that Todd had already seen once. Prey resignation, knowing that the next time a predator caught them, they’d just… give in. To Ivan, it was over. Lament had won.

That pissed Todd off. Not at Ivan – obviously not. The prey was exhausted, and a good night’s sleep could at least start his brain on the process to recovery. As much as Todd could’ve used the meal, he wasn’t going to kill Ivan. Not like that, and not for that. Not at all, if he could help it.

Even if the addresses had another purpose.

He was an ambush predator, after all; and Ivan was still prey. Just not his prey. Lament might’ve let him take the man, but that didn’t mean the other monster was done with him. As much as Todd would hate to admit it, no matter where he went, there wasn’t anywhere Ivan could be safe until he’d gathered a little more information about the vulture he’d faced down tonight. And right now, he was in no condition for a second round.

So instead, he forced a smile. Malachite’s winning smile, straight white teeth and all. A little pressure from his own predator added just enough to the effect, without – he hoped – scaring the exhausted man more.

“He’s gotta catch me first.” He stretched, then stood up, smiling still and offering a hand to help Ivan do the same. “You look beat, man. You need a ride to whatever’s next?”
Nick smiled. Confident. Innocent. As nice as his smile was, the fact that it was there at all made any effect it would have almost completely null and void- he stood a better chance than Ivan, but Lament... Lament wasn't someone you could fight, not in his eyes. He was more something that happened to you- an affliction, not a person. Although, he'd admit, his view might have been biased. Nick knew about him as well- maybe he wasn't as ill-prepared as he appeared.

Ivan sighed once more, and nodded.

"Sure." He said, "That motel, I think- that sounds like an idea. I could do with some sleep."