Closed RP Haemorrhaging

This RP is currently closed.


[TRIGGER WARNING: Self harm, blood, anxiety attack]

Cain sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose, the whole damn place smelled like piss and gasoline. An unholy trash heap of steel and heathens, if it weren't for the promise of pay, Cain probably wouldn't have figured himself heading this far north for business nor pleasure. He stood leaned against his beige 2005 Toyota Tacoma on the outskirts of Pittsburg. He lit a cigarillo and slipped on a pair of aviators over bloody-brown eyes, he figured he might find a bit of fun in this place yet, if God favoured him. His moment of peace was interrupted by his phone buzzing.

"Cain here"

"It's Titan, the payment just got wired into our account, we're in business"

"Heard, I'll be making contact with the target then"

"Sure you wanna go in there alone, boss? I mean there's at least five of them from what the file says, plus that other asset of interest, Cryptid? Lot of risk for half a mil"

"Client requested we take this all quiet-like, and ya'll are as subtle as a bull in heat!" Cain laughed. "Besides, imma big boy, and if all goes to plan I won't be even fightin' no one, I can be very convincing when I wanna be... and hey, that's half a mil up front, another half for each head, hell, they're takin' anything I can get my hands on, whether its this Obsidian character, his little island of misfit toys, that Cryptid freak, the Phoenix babe, or even..." Cain couldn't help the wicked grin on his face, Titan groaned.

"Don't tell me you're going after the damn Wolfhound again, boss, listen, I want to use his skin as a rug as much as you do, but this is becoming an obsession of yours."

"Hey now, a little side project on my downtime ain't no one's business by my own, and besides you ain't the one in the field that's me, so you take yer damn criticism and stuff it now."

"Alright, alright, Titan out." Cain closed his phone with a snap, taking a long drag on his cigarillo before tossing it to the ground. He spat in indignation.

"Obsession his ass," he grumbled, he grabbed his brown gambler style cowboy hat and placed it on his head, he double-checked his revolver was loaded and stuffed inside his jacket. As he turned his keys and revved up his trucks' engine, he tapped a concealed button right around his collar on the skin-tight vest that bound around his entire torso. The Auto-Revival Vest began running diagnostics on itself, making soft bussing and beeping sounds as it checked every feature. Cain turned the radio up as the vest reported back fully operational.

There's a reckoning a-coming
And it burns beyond the grave
With lead inside my belly
'Cause my soul has lost its way
Oh, Lazarus, how did your debts get paid?
Oh, Lazarus, were you so afraid?

Cain turned the music up louder as he barely watched the road and turned to the built-in computer in his truck, he tapped the keys and began navigating through several filed that he kept open in different tabs. Many of them were from Panopticon, a rather helpful vigilante watch blog that had been more than informative in the who's who of the Pittsburgh metasphere. Others were clips and tabloids, claims of a cannibal serial killer, a werewolf hunting in Pittsburgh's surrounding green area. As a mysterious gang of freaks, Slate, run by some light-in-the-pants poof Obsidian. They laid low, or tried to be, but ever since their takeover of the Jackals gang it wasn't hard to find someone who was willing to talk. And slowly Saturn Group had compiled a whole file, names, profiles, and an address, a bar called the Diamond.

That's where Cain pulled up to now, it was past happy hour, in that lull of time between lunch and dinner where the place should've been just about dead. Cain pulled in right close to the front door with his music blasting obnoxiously loud.

When the fires, when the fires have surrounded you
With the hounds of hell comin' after you
I've got blood

I've got blood on my name

Cain shut off his truck and hopped out with a series of jingles from the various clasps and fastening from his vest. He sauntered confidently through the front door of the bar, every step brought jingles and jangles as his vest shifted with his movements, Cain adjusted his waistcoat to keep the contraption hidden. His eyes scanned the room, it was a classy place, but trying to not be too classy. Low-key, but not so low-key that it seemed like they were front. Even though they very much were. He swung onto the bar stool, took off his hat and placed it on the bar. He looked over and saw the bar was staffed by a familiar black feller, Cain grinned devilishly and softly but politely rapped his knuckles on the bar the get the bartenders' attention. He slid a fold of bills onto the bar, well enough to pay for his drink with a fifty-percent tip on top of it.

"Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium if you have it, my friend, and keep that change for yerself," Cain smiled friendly, taking off his aviators to show off his oddly-coloured eyes and facial scar. He also pushed up his sleeves of his jacket, showing the tattoo on his right forearm showing the alchemical symbol for Pattern with words reading under it "Gen 4:15"
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Hazel came back to the Diamond, despite the last time. Of course she did. James Fielding hadn’t done anything to actually deter her. Vague threats and a new camera? Those didn’t have any substance. She hadn’t even been banned from the establishment. Not that that would’ve stopped her either, but at least it would’ve made her think harder.

So it was with absolutely no change – although without Isaiah, this time, much to his chagrin – she followed a tall man into the bar. The place was almost empty, except the two of them. Hematite [Raphael] was behind the bar, the other guy made a beeline to a barstool, and Hazel’s table was empty. And both Obsidian and Sulphur were in their usual spots.

She took a few seconds to set her bag down, and to take off her coat, hat, mittens, and sweater. That left a pretty green long-sleeve shirt that stopped at her midriff and her high-waisted blue jeans. The sleeves just covered her wrist tattoos until she moved her hands just so. Her hair fell around her ears just enough to do the same, even if most of it was contained today in a braid that curled around one shoulder. The green headphones were present as always. She turned the volume down on ‘Questions’ by World’s End Girlfriend and adjusted her mic sensitivity as she stepped from the booth toward the counter, ignoring the camera that was watching over her backpack.

Her credit card was already pressed to the palm of her hand as she adjusted to the sounds – mics, speakers, cameras. The man had a cell phone, but there was another microphone on him, too. She’d heard his order three times at once. Still, she didn’t stare. She stepped up to the counter and smiled, waiting for Hematite to finish with the man’s order before starting her own.

“Hey, Raphael! I’ve got a big paper coming up and I need a sugar rush. The usual, please.”

Of course, she’d probably be better off getting a coffee at VULTURE. But they didn’t even know she drank coffee – it was rude to come into an establishment with someone else’s drink, and she wanted the designated drink space on her table to be for her cream soda, anyway.
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Obsidian only briefly looked up at the man when he walked into the bar and made his way to the counter. He asked for a decently pricey whiskey. He paid up front, with a decent tip that Hematite nodded his head toward, tacking it and tucking it into the tip jar. He checked the man’s ID, and then the young black man set about pouring out a neat of whiskey for the man. A few seconds later, Hematite’s face brightened up a bit, his lips quirking into an involuntary smile.

Because Hazel had just walked into the Diamond.

Hematite’s eyes flicked over to Obsidian as Hazel addressed him with his birth name, a name he gave to patrons without much concern. This, this Obsidian paid attention to. His anger built silently as the young woman got her drink and retreated to her seat. He let out the air in his lungs in a hiss, then rose to his feet and approached the bar. He sat on the stool at the very edge, just two down from the man who had yet to identify himself.

“Hematite. Grab me something to drink, if you would.”

“Sure, boss. Just a moment.”

Hematite disappeared through the door behind the counter, hurrying down the steps and into the cellar. Obsidian took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His eyes flickered over to the man with the whiskey and then away. He didn’t speak to the patrons unless they spoke to him, though many chose to. After all, Obsidian was young, had a pleasant expression on his face at any given time, and was relatively good-looking. Enough to be mistaken for being several years younger than he was, at least. Even now, he had a pleasant smile on his face, his eyes holding no sharpness behind his square glasses.

He could hear Hematite– Raphael– downstairs, rustling through the bottles as he tried to hunt down Obsidian’s personal bottle of Teeling Whiskey Co. Vintage Reserve, a bottle of single cask 24-year-old single malt Irish whiskey. He leaned his head forward into one of his hands while he waited.​
Cain swirled his whisky around in the Glencairn glass, taking a delicate whiff and savouring the aroma. He glanced over at the girl who had walked in, a bright little thing, perhaps a touch too young to be hanging around some place like this. But none of his business really, he just wished she hadn't stepped in, poor thing didn't deserve to see what was gonna happen. He turned back and took a delicate sip of his drink, just in time to catch a look at something even tastier.

His file pictures didn't do him justice, Cain couldn't help his eyebrow twitch up and a small grin cover his face. His eyes slowly trailed up and down Obsidian's face and body. Thus'un was... well, damn, prettier than a peach, Cain licked the droplets of whiskey off of his moustache. Damn shame, damn shame, pretty things like that should be savoured. Ah well, nothing for it, still, looking never did hurt and Cain was having a good time looking.

Poor guy looked just about done, Cain took a note of the Glencairn glass in front of Obsidian and was pleased to see Hematite return with the top shelf bottle. Always good when a mark had an appreciation for good taste, made the exchange feel more honourable somehow. Like they were on equal terms, after all if you couldn't respect your kill what kind of man were you really?

Cain raised both his eyebrows when he watched Obsidian knock back the whole glass in one go, and he couldn't help the small laugh he made. Ah, felt bad to make what was clearly a rough day even worse, well not that bad, opportune really. Cain got Hematite's attention, pointing at Obsidian, and he insisted that his next drink be on his tab - with another healthy tip on top - and he watched him pour it and explain it to Obsidian, raising his glass when he looked over.

"Ya'll having a rough day there, partner?" Cain asked, not attempting to be subtle with how much he was checking him out. Damn, he could cut himself on that jawline, and he might just want to.
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Obsidian didn’t bother to look up until money was placed on the table to cover his drink. That, that was amusing. Hematite whispered as much to him, whispered about how the guy was new and didn’t seem to know who he was. That brought a smile to his face. He turned his head slightly toward the man, just enough that he could eye him up.

He was… pretty. He had soft-looking dirty blonde hair and the strangest red-brown eyes that Obsidian had ever seen. The whites of his eyes were slightly tinged, just enough to make them look like cream as opposed to white. It made them soft, made them welcoming. His hair was styled in the kind of undercut you’d expect from a military member, and not like Ethan’s own cut that left his curls tumbling down from the top of his head. He raised an eyebrow at the man.

Aside from being pretty, a few other things came to his attention. His sleeves were rolled up and that presented him with a view of a set of tattoos on his left forearm. A bible passage and a symbol, one that looked familiar but that he couldn’t place. The top buttons on his shirt were undone, just enough to give Obsidian a small view of the man’s collarbones. He had good taste in fashion, even if he chose slightly drab browns to dress in. Everything about him matched or accented what he was wearing.

The man was definitely gay.

That wasn’t surprising. He’d had people from all walks of life come through the Diamond. Ethan himself was gay, so it wasn’t like this bothered him. It didn't bother him, but something else did. Unless Ethan was very mistaken, the man might have been checking him out. And was there just a hint of something in his voice? Ethan was accustomed to being hit on– mostly by women, and not by pretty men. Sometimes another gay man would clock him, but it wasn’t as often as he would have liked.

“... You could say that. Just a small annoyance that seems to keep rearing its head. Thanks for the drink, but it wasn’t necessary. I own the bar.”
Cain saw the look, and he could've sworn he detected a hint of a smirk. Obsidian liked what he was seeing, that much was obvious. Cain had to remind himself he was here on business, not pleasure. This damned wannabe two-bit gangster, playing some metahuman Al Capone copycat. Cain's grin took on a wolfish, almost mocking quality in order to hide the malice boiling up inside of him. He kept it all in check, and kept the flirtatious look in his eyes, it was better if this snack didn't know he was being hunted just yet... or at least assumed he was being hunted in a different way. It wasn't hard, Cain cursed at himself for how much he liked the man looking at him like that.

"Oh, I figured you ran the place, ya'll got the air of a man who's in charge..." Cain let the statement trail in the air as he sipped whi drink, allowing the implication set in. He then stood up and slowly approached over to sit right next to his mark.
"Besides the good taste in whiskey, the nice clothes, not hard to figure you out, is it? Man like you, probably gots a lot on your plate... probably in dire needs of a distraction... so what's on your mind? Maybe I can distract you."
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Ethan’s eyebrow quirked up as he turned in his stool to face the man. He was being forward. That was something Ethan was used to from women, but men tended to be more hesitant about flirting with him. Maybe it was something about his aura. Ethan knew he gave off vibes that put a lot of people off. He smiled and let his eyes move more languidly over the man, something starting to burn behind his eyes.

“There’s always a lot on my plate, friend. But if you’re offering… I could be distracted.”

It had been a while since Ethan had slept with someone. Almost a year, by his count. The last guy had been during his trip to Bismark when the place had been decimated by that hammer-wielding psychopath that had been– Oh god. Was that Samantha? Was Samantha the one who had been destroying his sects? That made a lot of sense given the map of places where the hammer-wielding psycho had been. He… would shelve that thought for now. That was going to lead him down a spiral he didn’t want to go down right now. He would think about that when there wasn’t an attractive man sitting there offering him a distraction, in a way that could only imply one thing.

He refocused his eyes on the man with a slightly sharp intake of breath, realizing his smile had started to fall. He brought it back in full force, the kind of smirk that signified his willingness to let this happen.​
Cain gave him a look, putting on a clear and obvious signal of an offer to give Obsidian what he was clearly interested in getting. Cain couldn't help but be a little proud of himself of how he'd managed to reel in this morsel even this far, he wondered if he could bring this all the way home... ah but no. Still, the game was still in play, but Cain could see the finish line. He leaned forward and clicked his glass against the other mans, using the motion as a pretence to lean in close to him. His other hand reached out and lay gently on his knee.

"Oh, I think I could distract you for as long as you wanted," Cain said with a small laugh, there was a touch of longing loliness there. He crushed it. He was having too much fun, best wrap this up soon. "So tell me, sugar, what ya'll call yourself?"
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Ethan smiled wide, letting some teeth in to give it a wolfish quality, and leaned toward the man. He let him rest his hand on his knee, a touch that surprised him but… felt nice. He didn’t let people touch him too much, and aside from hugs from the family when Mal had died and the recent touches he had exchanged with Todd– well, Ethan didn’t let people touch him. It was too dangerous.

He looked at the hand for a moment before letting his golden eyes flash back up to the red-brown mahogany eyes staring him down. And then, in a smooth and slightly lowered voice, he replied, “You can call me Ethan. What’s your name, friend?”

He drew out the word friend, as though he meant it as something other than what it meant. As though he was trying to draw more out of the man than simple flirting. He was surprised at the almost purring quality of his voice as he spoke.​
Hazel was just going to pull her laptop out and take notes later, but this was something that couldn’t wait. The voices at the bar, in full stereo, were so much more interesting than the homework she’d been planning to do on today’s stakehout. So she scattered her papers over the table, and did pull the laptop out, but didn’t open it. With her yellow notebook in one hand and her green gel pen in the other, she set her backpack in the seat across from her and slid into the booth. Her fingers turned the pages of the notebook as her mind clicked into the camera behind the counter, the one that looked at both men there.

She’d seen less deliberate flirting at gay bars – and she’d costumed for a lot of gigs at gay bars. She hid her smile from the camera with a strategic hair-tuck as he mentioned a small annoyance.

Her shorthand was unique, but the individual symbols were distinct enough that she could write it blind and still read it later. She’d gotten really good at writing blind. She took down every bit of dialogue as it happened, and if Panopticon had been a gossip column, she would’ve had a whole story right there. But Arcane Eye wasn’t a gossip. She was an investigator, and something in her gut said there was more going on here.

Especially when the cowboy mentioned he knew James ran the bar. And James’s response was accepting a distraction. Hazel really, really hoped that James’s bedroom was out of her range, given the cowboy’s wrist microphone. Even if he took it off, he might not turn it off. If that happened, she’d have to suspiciously leave.

She took a sip of her Italian cream soda, just so she didn’t have to leave it all behind if she needed to go.

Obsidian was getting so into the flirting that he gave his middle name, even though the cowboy just revealed he already knew who he was. It was honestly adorable, not that Hazel would tell him that. Kudos to the cowboy for getting the local metahuman crime boss inches away from crawling into bed with him, even if she’d rather sit that part out.

If it hadn’t been for her reporter’s gut telling her there was more going on here, she would’ve probably stopped paying attention at that point, invested as she was in how it’d turn out. But she trusted the instinct that said there was more, there was a story here. She glanced up, returning sight to her own eyes long enough to meet Raphael’s and arch one brow, a knowing smirk on her lips.

Then she tuned back into the show, pen already resting against her page to note how this would end.
Cain matched Ethan's animalistic smile with his own, to a passer-by it might look like two wolves challenging each other over territory. Ethan, so he was relaxed enough to give him that name. Cain had reeled him in hook, line, and sinker, poor guy must've been really in the mood; or just damn lonely. Either way, Cain couldn't help but want to close the gap and kiss the pretty bastard right there and then. Bastard.

"Ethan," Cain repeated, his voice like honey. "Well, sugar, most folk call me Cain, and if you're lucky maybe you'll get to say that name some more later... but I'm curious, Ethan? Not James Fielding? Or maybe... Obsidian? Which one would you prefer I whisper to you?"
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Ethan was about to chuckle until he fully registered what Cain just said to him. Obsidian sat up straight again, his expression turning from flirty to neutral in one smooth move. He took Cain’s hand on his knee and moved it to the table, his eyes closing off. He gave the man a neutral smile and despite his best attempt to control it, his eyes hardened around the edges.

“I see. And which of those names were you looking for, Cain?” There was a harshness to his voice where there had been a purr, and his posture, while still relaxed, was back to being professional. Of course, he couldn’t have anything nice. Of course, this man would be looking for Obsidian. Of course, because why would Obsidian ever get to have a break? He looked at Hematite and drew his hand across his neck, telling him to cut the cameras.

From behind the counter, Hematite stopped drying the glasses. He set the one in his hand down as he looked at Cain and Obsidian, his hand moving under the counter to slide across the camera controls and turn them all off. Earlier, Hazel had caught his eye with a suspiciously knowing smile for someone sitting almost fifteen feet away from a hushed conversation. Now, as he looked at her again, she was frozen, unmoving, a completely blank look on her face. There was something about her that was… too still. Hematite couldn’t quite place it, but– it was her breathing. Her breathing had all but stopped.

She could hear them. And she had just heard the name Obsidian.

At the table next to them, Sulphur tapped the earpiece in his ear. The sound on it shorted out, fuzzing and then snapping off entirely. He tapped it twice with his finger to bring it back to life, and it made a sharp noise. He winced and waited for it to clear, which it did almost immediately. That was… strange.​
The pen on the page was dutifully scratching out her translation of the words she’d heard. Then it slowed. Then it stopped.


The word hung in the air, in her mind, and sat there like its namesake stone. CainCain was its own problem – but Cain was here to see Obsidian. Cain was here to talk to Obsidian, and all the cameras were on. Cain had just surprised Obsidian. Her mind flashed across the cameras, one at a time. Nobody else was here. It was just Cain, Hematite, Sulphur, Obsidian, and – Hazel. Just Hazel. Just Hazel, sitting alone at a booth. She could see herself sitting there, sitting still, her eyes fixed on nothing, but her face blank as she focused on something, anything else except for Obsidian. Her breath was tight and close, her hand lax with her pen resting on the page. She could even see the last word she’d written on the page.


And then the cameras all died. And then she heard the speaker behind her die, too, although that hummed back to life.

She took a sudden, but soft and deep breath. It caught. She focused on the breath. Four – breath in. Seven – breath held. Eight – breath out. Two more times, eyes closed. Eyes reopened.

Hazel. That was her. Arcane Eye. The emotion bled back into her face, and she looked down at her hands, turning one hand over so she could see the tattoo on her wrist.

She could leave. She could leave, and she could choose not to come back. This was the test. She had panicked over a single word. Maybe she wasn’t made for this, maybe she wasn’t ready to be Arcane Eye, maybe she should go home, maybe she should stop –

But there was a story here. Her face finished settling, reset into a calm that would be eerie from anyone who’d seen the dead stillness and then the moments of doubt. But she’d gotten over it. She couldn’t watch anymore, and she really didn’t want to. But she wasn’t going to run. She still had a way to listen, after all. She tapped her pen twice, and gently wrote the word Obsidian several more times in the same shorthand before moving on, finishing the note.

Cain [cowboy] surprise visit to Obsidian [gay]. Cameras out. Voice only. Wrist bracelet – mic. Phones – mic, speaker, camera. Bluetooth [shorted, operational again].

She tapped the pen again, glanced at the door, then focused back down at the page. No. She’d stay. It was a horrible idea, but she’d stay.

She was probably going to die. But she’d stay.
Cain couldn't help the impish laugh which escaped his throat. He leaned back and held up his hands in mock surrender, his chest bubbled up with laughter as he saw how the up was pulled up from under Ethan's feet. It gave him intense satisfaction that he could lead him on like that, how pathetic, and hilarious. This was shaping up to be one helluva job.

"Hell, I'd take all three names if ya'll give 'em to me! Sorry, sugar, couldn't help myself, gotta have a lil fun every now again, don't we? 'fraid we got business to take of first but Hell, one we got this sorted, we can get back to havin' fun. I just couldn't let that keep goin' without telling you everything first. I am on the clock and all." Cain lowered his hands and offered one in a handshake, he maintained his flirtatious smile and look but was acting far more businesslike. "Like I said, my name's Cain, I've been subcontracted by an interested party to... well, reclaim assets as it were. That's what I do, Mr. Walsh, I track down missin' Metas and seems like someone's missin' you there, Mr. Walsh..."

Cain's smile turned predatory "My, my what a naughty boy you've been, Mr. Walsh, gunrunning, theft, extortion, blackmail, most interestingly this little club you got going, Slate, was it? You didn't really think you could start recruiting Metas into some wannabe rebel cell in one of the biggest cities in these United States, without no one noticing? But that's alright, I'm a reasonable man, and I like you, so let me lay all the cards out for ya, and then you decide what you wanna do huh?"

Cain leaned back and took his drink, swirling it and taking a sip. He crossed his legs across one another while remaining on the stool.

"Like I told ya'll someone wants you back, and they're willing to pay me a pretty penny for your safe return. You, Hematite over there, Lapis Lazuli, Rhodonite, and Sulphur, the whole bag of gems. But you're probably awfully fond of this little island of misfit toys ya'll got going on here, you don't wanna just hand that over. So tell ya what, I just need one Meta. Could be anyone, one of your minions if they wanna volunteer... or yourself, and hell, you wanna come with me now we can take our time, find a nice hotel, and make an evening out of it. Or, as I understand it, there are some others you could tell me about. Lets see... some freak, called Cryptid, eats people? We got reason to believe you got info on him, he'd be a nice catch. Or maybe the lady they call Phoenix? But More to my tastes... there's one slippery bastard some folk call The Wolfhound, but it calls itself Connor, real wild beast, damned if I know what it's doin' down here 'round decent civilized folk, but if you can tell me where it is, hell, I'll give you a cut of the pay and maybe you and I can pick up that lovely conversation we were having, how's that sound darlin?"
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Obsidian didn’t shake his hand. Instead, he crossed his legs and sighed. The name “Mr. Walsh” sent a shock through Obsidian’s system. Fuck. Fuck. Brightheart was looking for them. Brightheart knew they weren’t dead. But they had killed every single person in that building– His eyes widened slightly. Dr. Emily Russo hadn’t been there that day. Of course, of course she was looking for them. He closed his eyes as he listened to the rest of Cain’s speech.

Then, his eyes fluttered open and he gave the man a slow smile. The smile was anything but pleasant. He slowly let his eyes travel from the countertop up to Cain’s eyes, which he held, his own eyes now unnervingly steady. Then, in a sudden and fast movement, he rose to his feet and grabbed the front of Cain’s shirt, just above where the vest began, and pulled him in close.

“Did you really think you could waltz in here, threaten my family, threaten my associates and my friends and even those I don’t care for, and then expect me to just, what? Roll over? No. No, you don’t get to just sit there and try to play me. Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to stand up and walk out of my establishment, and then you are going to never come back. You’re going to go fuck off somewhere far away from Pittsburgh, and you can tell Brightheart to kiss my ass.”

Behind the counter, Hematite made his way to the opening at the side of the bar. He kept his eyes on the pair, moving slowly until he was coming around the counter. He stopped, at the far side of the bar, leaning up against the stool furthest away from them, Hazel long forgotten. Behind Ethan, Sulphur was slowly removing his earpiece, tucking it into a box sitting on the table. He looked up, side-eyeing the pair sitting at the bar. He wasn’t moving as readily as Hematite, but his body was tense.​
Cain's grin didn't falter when Ethan grabbed his shirt, he met his gaze steadily and didn't even spill his drink. He let Ethan vent his anger at him, guy really was worked up, he almost felt bad for stopping when he did. Seemed like he could've really used that distraction. Cain calmly downed the rest of his whiskey and placed the glass back down politely.

"Could've fooled me for a bottom," Cain said with a wicked grin, he then bit down hard on his own lip. Blood spurted from his lip like it would from an artery. It immediately formed hard crystals and struck Ethan in the face like a fist, Ethan's grip loosened as he flinched backwards. Allowing Cain to break free, his boots struck the ground and Cain ran his wrists against the in seam of his jacket where he had sewn razor blades. They cut open his skin and blood came free in a shine of scarlet, he shot his arms forward to a still-reeling Ethan and two pillars of crystals struck out and connected squarely into Ethan's stomach. They didn't penetrate, but they sent him flying into the booth with a heavy thump.

Cain stood back up and with a flick of his wrists the blood that was still spurting out formed two spikes of crystal the size of steak knives in each hand. With a practised flick oh his wrists, he chucked both of them with deadly accuracy towards Sulphur. They flew through the air like darts. Cain began backing into the centre of the room and repeated his actions, tossing two projectiles towards Hematite. He curled his hands into fists, letting the blood drip over his fingers, and it rapidly solidified into sparking gems.
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Arcane scribbled furiously in the notebook as she listened to the conversation at the bar. Right now, it didn’t matter if anyone saw her – first, they definitely weren’t on camera, and second, it seemed like the cowboy [Cain] was keeping everyone’s attention. He even had a villain monologue prepared. A villain monologue in another villain base was bold, Arcane decided, especially since it gave prying ears a lot more information than the local villains really wanted. The green pen glided across her page now without any hesitation or faltering, her eyes focused on the paper as her ears picked up every word in threefold stereo.

*Mr. Walsh. Ethan Walsh? Gunrunning, theft, extortion, blackmail… rebel group – Slate metahuman rebel group, not organized crime. Or both. All metas? Cain knows other metas – Cryptid, Phoenix, both local. Wolfhound [Connor]? Research.*

The pause in between gave worry the space to crawl back in. Did Slate know she was a meta? Would they give her away? Obsidian didn’t much care for her. She felt her chest starting to tighten again. They couldn’t know. He couldn’t know. Obsidian couldn’t –

Obsidian didn’t. Either he didn’t know, or he was being honest. She breathed again. Slowly. Inhale, hold, exhale, repeat. She could listen again, her eyes closed, and her pen scratched another name onto the page in her unique, illegible scribbles.


That’s all she managed before a crash behind her snapped her back into the real world. She looked over her shoulder to see Obsidian’s shoes sticking out of his corner booth. There was a shimmering red mass between Cain and Obsidian, and Cain turned similar red blades on Hematite and Sulphur. Arcane was about to be in the middle of an all-out brawl.

But she’d decided to stay. And so instead of letting the panic claim her, she thought as fast as she could. She took the notebook and pen in one hand, and her Italian cream soda in the other – the sweet, fizzy drink would help ground her – and slid under the table. It was cramped and uncomfortable, but even if someone else landed on top of her, the only casualty would be the poor laptop that, like her, kept finding itself in the middle of situations it couldn’t control.

There was no way to get a good angle to see from here, but that was fine. The attacks mattered less than the words, and she could see general movement. She made a quick note of Cain’s apparent blood crystals, and then settled in as best she could to watch without completely breaking down.

Obsidian hit the wall in the booth, hard. Hard enough that his vision doubled and spun for a moment before clearing up. He caught sight again of Cain as he threw two daggers– daggers? Crystals?– at Hematite. Hematite immediately turned into steel, the crystals striking him uselessly. In the next booth over, he heard a grunt of pain as Sulphur raised his arm and took the crystal knives straight to his arm. He couldn’t move fast enough to get out of their way.

With a snarl of rage, Obsidian was back on his feet and moving quickly. He used his inhuman speed to reach Cain, grabbing him by the back of his neck and slamming him down hard onto the counter of the bar. He held the blonde man there for a moment, a snarl still in his voice as he ground out his words. “I told you to get the fuck out of my bar.”

He began to pull, to draw on Cain’s energy. It was thick and syrupy and seemed to be clotted everywhere. It was the strangest feeling, like trying to suck ice through a straw. He pulled harder, trying to draw the energy out that he knew was there. But it stuck, like it was full of glue, and no matter how hard Obsidian pulled, only a little came out at a time. The trickle would have to be enough as he held the man’s head down on the counter.

No one hurt his pack.

Behind him, Hematite ran over to Sulphur. He pulled the tall man from the booth, looking at his arm, where the crystalline knives stuck out from his arm. Sulphur gasped in soft breaths, his eyes narrowed. Hematite shook his head and took off his overshirt, tossing the colorful green and purple shirt to the side, then removed his undershirt. He got it ready, then as quick as he could, yanked the knives out of Sulphur’s arm. The man gasped as Hematite pressed the shirt to his bleeding forearm.

Sulphur placed a shaky hand over Hematite's and took the shirt, gesturing with his head for Hematite to go and help Obsidian. The young black man complied and began to move away. Neither of them paid attention to the now missing girl.​
Cain grinned a blood-filled smile at Ethan, cold radiated from where his hand held his neck against the bar counter. His skin hardened around the area, inhibiting it from spreading any further.

"Like it rough, huh?" Cain laughed. "You gunna suck me dry?"

Cain cracked his neck, pushing against Ethan's hand. A barb of crystal shot out of his flesh and right through Ethan's hand, forcing the man to pull away in pain. Cain scampered away and turned to the approaching Hematite, who was barrelling down on him like a freight train. Cain's whole arms seemed to bend out of place, twisting and cracking unnaturally as seemingly hundreds of crystalline speaks burst from it in a shower of crimson. They shout out like vines and wrapped themselves around Hematites's legs, penetrating into the floor to attempt to hold him in place.

"Big tip mean nothin to ya big guy?" Cain asked, his eyes were manic and wild, he spread his arms in a mocking stance. His many puncture wounds of his own creation were either already closing up or were dripping blood that fell like hail in small crimon teardrops onto the floor.
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Rowe got to his feet at the first sound of commotion from downstairs. He spent most business hours in the building’s upstairs apartments, within earshot of the bar just in case of a problem the boss needed him to resolve. Most of the time, that kind of noise was the sound of something being dropped, or an over-inebriated customer crashing through a table. He still checked, because it was his job to check. And this didn’t sound like an accident.

The door at the back of the bar opened. Not all the way; enough for Rowe to look out and examine the damage. The bar was empty, except for the boss, two of the boss’s associates, and a blonde man covered in bloody spines.

Most people would hesitate when they saw that kind of thing. Jerry Rowe had gotten over surprises like this before he even met Obsidian. Seeing a meta-human in action wasn’t any more surprising to him than seeing a new kind of gun. Especially when the meta-human was getting in the way of his current job – keeping Obsidian alive.

He flipped the safety off on the employer-provided Sig Sauer P365 X-Macro Comp. The boss didn’t really like metas getting hurt, but he had a hunch Obsidian would make an exception for this one. He had some liberty to make hard choices when the boss’s life was in danger, and while he knew the boss and his associates were dangerous people themselves, they couldn’t handle everything. If they could, Obsidian wouldn’t need Rowe on his payroll.

Four shots rang out in the bar. Two headshots, one center mass – where the assassin would probably be wearing Kevlar or similar armor – and one to the back of the neck. A hard target to hit, the last one, but Rowe had good aim. And the man wasn’t doing anything to make himself less of a target.

Thirteen shots remained in the Sig, and he had another cartridge in his pocket. He didn’t waste time seeing what hit and what didn’t. In two crouching steps, he was behind the bar, using it as cover. He just had to hope he could hurt the bastard enough to distract him, to let the meta-humans in the room get their hits in while he waited for another opening.