RP Kismet



Across the shore from Brunot Island, several men worked in the dark. The district had long since shut down for the night, and these weren’t men who worked out on the docks. These were the men of Leo Vasquez, there to pick up a fresh shipment.

Well, except for one.

One woman stood, watching the group as they worked. She seemed to make no move to help them. She was leaning against a shipping container, her legs crossed at the ankle as she watched with mild interest as the rest of the party worked. She wasn’t dressed like the rest of the men, who had all donned dark clothes as if it would hide them should someone stumble upon them. The woman was dressed in a bright red leather jacket, slung over a black v-neck and black leggings, which were tucked into equally red patent leather combat boots. She wore it all with ease, looking comfortable and at home as she examined her black painted nails.

“Come on, Opal, ain’t you supposed to be helpin’ us?”

“I was sent to keep an eye on things. Not to help you cart drugs out of this shipping container.” She slapped the side of the container she was leaning on, a cheerful smile on her freckled face.

“We’d be done in half the time if you did, though. I’ve seen how much you can lift on your own. Whaddya say?” One of the men adjusted his gloves, shooting the small, red-haired woman a smile. When Opal smiled back, it wasn’t a smile of camaraderie or politeness– it was all teeth. Her eyes narrowed and the veneer of politeness seemed to slip for just a moment to show something feral underneath. The man balked and got back to work. There was no more talking after that.

Fire Opal watched and waited until they were done. Their three vans were full, and there were two men to each. They started to pack in and start the cars up, but still, the red-haired woman stayed leaning against the shipping container. She had decided to wait for them to file out before hopping in her Kia and following. That way, if any of the vans got caught, she wouldn’t be with them. She watched as the first van started to peel away from the warehouse.​
The Cryptid was, first and foremost, a predator.

Todd Fowler was well aware that was the only purpose for his peculiar combination of biological traits. Chameleon, carnivore, sturdier than the things he was designed to kill. It wasn’t healthy for him to think of people as prey, but sometimes, that made the job easier. By compartmentalizing, he could allow for casualties without losing control completely, and it let him get a better look at what he was up against.

Six of Leo’s guys, which was typical. Each dressed in a black that most people would lose in the dark, if their eyes weren’t adjusted to it. Todd’s were, and he could watch from behind his grinning mask on the chosen perch a little down the road. He didn’t need a full view of the warehouse for deliveries like this, just the caravan, but Leo had conveniently put this warehouse somewhere the vans could reach without the cargo having to go too far on foot. Probably due to yours truly, but he didn’t have time to be flattered. Three of Leo’s unmarked vans and a strange Kia.

Near the Kia, up against a shipping container, was the lookout. He had to assume she was a lookout of some kind, anyway. She was dressed differently from the other men, and more than that, Todd knew for a fact Leo Vasquez didn't have any women on his payroll. He had been known to hire mercenaries from time to time to protect shipments, though. Usually they came in groups of two or three, and were spread around in sniping positions, but maybe he’d tried to shake it up once his people started to mysteriously get the shit beat out of them.

At the very least, there weren’t any other snipers on the buildings around. Cryptid had checked.

As an unknown, that merc was probably the most dangerous out of the bunch, despite her size and visibility. Cryptid watched her the closest, his blue eyes following the interaction between the thugs and the hired help. That smile was a familiar one. Predatory, threatening. All teeth. He squinted at that smile, because it made his instincts say danger.

All the same, the Cryptid could’ve gone down and taken them head-on, but that wasn’t smart. That’d been smart when they’d had to transfer cargo down a few alleys to avoid being followed, when they’d been squeezed into a choke point with packages that would cost more to Leo than their lives. Now that they had the vans right up front, Cryptid had an altered method in mind. Still ambush, but not quite as direct.

There were a lot of reasons to hit the first driver. If the second driver got started – and he waited the right distance to make sure he had – there might not be enough time to register what was happening up front, and there’d be a crash. Two for one on the vans, might even take out the driver and passenger. If not permanently, the airbags would slow them down. And even if they stopped, they wouldn’t have the range with the position of Van Number One to shoot properly without risking friendly fire.

Van number three was always the hardest. Van number three could stop, letting the men get out with guns drawn. Which was why Cryptid busted through the windshield if he could – he usually could; bulletproof glass didn’t account for boots and weight crashing right down on it. This tangled him with the passenger, most of the time, leaving the driver to untangle himself from the wheel and pedals or else lose control of the van. The passenger was more dangerous; gangsters still took shotgun in its original context. So if the shower of glass didn’t stop him, the claw up the side of the wrist would usually do the trick.

All of this would be within the span of ten seconds. Even if he didn’t catch the bastard’s wrist, Cryptid would withdraw himself from the glass, drop to the asphalt with a roll, and catch the tire with his other wrist to blow it out in case the driver got any funny ideas. He could usually use the body of the van as cover from fire from all angles. Cryptid’s home turf was within the brawling category, because what he lacked in formal training he made up for in speed, durability, and dirty tricks. Unless little miss mystery had a some tricks up her sleeve, he’d be able to hold his own in hand-to-hand.

Better than against all those guns, anyway.

She knew he was there, of course. She had felt the vibrations of his feet, the beat of his heart, the strange emptiness of his body. He had been scouting the area for the last ten minutes, at least, in a circle around them. He had gone in and out of her range, but now he was close. On top of a nearby building if she wasn’t mistaken. Then, his vibrations disappeared, and she snapped to attention.

Things happened fast, but Fire Opal was able to track at least part of it. A dark shape crashed through the windshield of the first van, and the second one crashed into it when it suddenly stopped. A spray of red filled the first van, and then the shape was back out. Opal watched as the spray of blood hit one of the windows, bright and crimson. She didn’t panic or rush over immediately. She wasn’t there to keep those idiots alive, after all.

She was here to deal with the dark shape.

She shrugged out of her jacket and kicked off her boots, leaving her in just leggings and a long-sleeved black v-neck. She was barefoot, and she wiggled her toes. She tossed the jacket to the side, over the bar on the shipping container’s door. From the third car, the driver and passenger threw open their doors and took up positions on either side of the car, guns pointed in the direction of the shape.

Opal knew it was a person, most likely a metahuman after that display. That was off-script, but Opal was confident in her power and knew she could take whatever it was. They’d have to have a talk with Leo when this was all over, the bastard. Throwing her in at a metahuman without any preparation.

She reached behind her and grabbed the oversized hammer that rested against the inside of the door, where it had been hidden from view. As the idiots opened fire with their handguns, Opal started stretching, twisting herself at the hips and reaching her arms above her head. There was no point heading into combat all stiff. As she shook herself out, she paid little attention to the gunfire ahead of her.

It was only when she was done that she started at a stroll toward the fight. That stroll became a leisurely jog, then a gallop, until finally, she was sprinting, covering the ground between herself and the dark figure. Ahead of her, she heard empty clicks and then cursing. As expected, they had quickly burned through their clips and probably hadn’t even really gotten a good hit on the guy.

A meta-human. That was going to be fun. Opal and Malachite had a contest going of who had beaten the shit out of the most metas. So far, they were tied, with her catching up quickly in the last few years. None of the contracts that Opal was sent on were kill contracts. Obsidian was against the idea of her killing unless it was necessary, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t still fight and pull her own weight. Collections contracts were just as good and gave her a space to throw her frantic and violent energy at something.​
You’d think the fuckin morons would learn after the second or third time this happened, right?

All Cryptid really had to do was keep his feet out of the way while Thugs 5 and 6 wasted Vasquez’s ammunition budget on him. There was no movement from Van One, and nothing but a lot of swearing from Van Two. Well, and the screaming, but the man really should’ve protected his wrist better. As for Van 3, Cryptid was just counting shots before he slipped forward and vaulted over the front of Van 1 for momentum, crossing the space at an Olympic speed, and clocking Passenger 3 in the nose with the metal bar that kept the knives on his bagh nakh in a straight line. With him stunned, Todd used the door for leverage and hopped onto the roof of the van with the intention of hitting Driver 3 over the head with something, probably a boot.

The sound of oncoming footsteps was able to momentarily distract him, at just the right moment.

For just a second, both Cryptid and the tiny woman were both illuminated in the moonlight for the other to see. She was barefoot, While his eyes were hidden in the shadows of his mask, his curiosity would be clear to read in the tilt of his head, almost like a dog, as he actually registered what he was looking at, what he was smelling.

Her base scent was hot, with a semi-sweet kick that tingled his nose and filled his lungs. On the surface were other scents – apples and vanilla, with just a touch of jasmine, sweet as apple pie; a touch of pepper, of all things, although that was faint – but something about her scent held his full attention for just a second longer, before he registered the fuck-off sized hammer.

Cryptid allowed himself a second longer to just watch her come, smaller than she’d seemed under the red jacket, leaned up casually on the crate. But that hammer was going to do some damage once it hit. His ribs ached with the memory of the last time someone hit him square-on with real intent.

He was pulled out of that lovely train of thought by a movement in the corner of his eye. He acted before he really registered whether Driver 3 had actually pulled a weapon, or just moved too fast, because he let his foot stamp down off the roof to give the man a concussion through the ski mask. He’d probably live, but that was all six down for the count, at least momentarily. Thug 5 still posed the risk of a problem, but only if he could get his gun reloaded through a clash of the titans.

5/6 was good enough. Satisfied, he shifted his weight, but stayed where he was, perched on the van. He needed absolute control of the direction he’d be able to take.

“You’re a lot prettier than any of Leo’s guys,” he quipped, a grin forming under the mask’s sharp teeth as he shifted his weight into his preferred loosened boxing stance. “What brings a girl like you to a warehouse like this?”
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Opal grinned as she ran. Usually, her targets didn’t flirt with her. That one was new. Usually, when they saw a person running toward them as fast as she was wielding as big a hammer as she did, they tended to fall back and run away. Just because Fire Opal was small didn’t mean she wasn’t terrifying. A small woman might not be intimidating, but a small woman swinging a forty-pound hammer and whose feet were on fire usually did the trick.

Still, the flirting was interesting. Something about that made her want to pause and tilt her head in response. The voice was a bit hoarse, but for some reason, she found she liked that. He sounded like a smoker. She bet he was a smoker. Despite her desire to, she didn’t stop or slow down. She kept running, her feet quickly covering the rest of the ground between them. With a giggle, she called out, “I’m here to see you, big guy. You kept me waiting a while. Don’t you know that’s rude, curly Q?”

Almost all of the men were down. The passenger of van three, Gavin if she wasn’t mistaken, had a hand trying to stem the bleeding from his nose while he tried to reload his gun. She almost wanted to stop and tell him to stop being such a wuss. A broken nose, oh boohoo. In fact–

“Pull yourself together, man. It’s just a broken nose.”

Then, she was close enough to the van, roughly ten feet from it, to really start to show off. Her speed was one thing, but boy was she about to show Mister Demon Mask a real show-stopper. She coiled the tension in her leg and on her next step, she vaulted herself into the air. Her feet ignited at that moment, as she pushed heat out from her feet to push her through the air. It shot her higher into the sky, just high enough that as she came down, she swung her leg for his shoulder, trying to bring him down.

“I don’t like to be kept waiting, handsome.”
She flirted back. His smile shifted a little, his focus closing in on her completely. He shifted his weight and followed the arc of her body into the sky, with only a moment’s pause as he took in her speed, agility, and the clearest sign of all.

Her feet were on fire. He hadn’t noticed it before, his focus had been on the fuck-off hammer. Now his eyes widened just a touch. Metahuman. His brain kicked on, a low thrum. His brain switched gears right away. Meta, sent to kill him, specifically? There was only one logical conclusion. He’d had a hunch that had brought him to Pittsburgh, and wouldn’t you know it, he was fucking right. Slate was here.

It wasn’t the kind of right that made him feel better about his situation. Every meta he’d faced before, with one exception, had been a member of Slate. Five of them had fucked him up badly enough that he hadn’t had a choice but to take their lives to heal. He wasn’t looking forward to that. But then again... then again, he hadn’t had to kill all of them. Five out of twenty was a good track record. He didn’t want to make it six.

So he grounded himself in the moment, waiting until the last second to kick off the van in an arcing backflip that would put his feet right back on the ground just as the roof of the van caved under her. He waited long enough to get a good view of her face, however. Just so the playing field was fair. His eyes met hers for a moment, gold on blue, and he felt his smile grow a little brighter, as well as sharper.

“Gee, Freckles, I’m so sorry. Leo didn’t tell me I had a hot date.”

His hands stayed loose as he rocked back into an upright position, face turned towards her. He didn’t want to close the distance first – when he did, it had to be timed just right, so he could actually get a strike in with his much smaller claws at a range that made her hammer mostly useless. He could run, of course. Technically now would be the ideal time for it, get a head start, but there was something about her that told him she’d chase. Losing her would take as much energy as actually standing his ground here. Besides, even if it was thinly veiled as flirtation, he’d already gotten more info than he’d started with.

Under his skin, his muscles shifted, turned denser. He had the extra mass to spare for this, and it’d save him energy later. His skin tone darkened, just slightly, although it was barely visible through the eyeholes and grin.

“Let me make it up to you. Got any dinner plans?”

That one was funnier to him than it would be to her, he knew. In fact, it was almost an outright threat to any member of Slate who knew anything about Cryptid. Still, he couldn’t keep the humor out of his voice. He probably wouldn’t have to go that far, if he stayed on his toes and kept his eyes on the head of that hammer. Though, he didn’t know what he’d do if she just accepted on the spot. Take her to that Chinese buffet, maybe. He’d probably have to change his face, and be careful about whose face he took instead. Good thing the Slate members he’d had to take so far were all women. Including... no.


One step at a time, Todd. It surprised him how easily those ideas came and went, but he was probably just trying to distract himself from the world of hurt that was coming if he let himself get genuinely distracted.
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Her foot crashed into the van roof, almost completely collapsing it between her strength and her momentum. She swung herself up on top of it and into a standing position. She yanked her foot free and groaned, rolling her ankle. The joint that had come out of position popped back into place with an audible clicking.

“Listen, Leo didn’t mention you’d be so fun. I’ll have to thank him for that later. But for now, well. I would love to see you for dinner. Maybe you can come home with me, how does that sound, big guy?”

She looked down from her perch on top of the van. This time, she did stop and tilt her head. She took him in for a moment as she tensed her body for another leap. A white demon mask with horns that twisted up from his face, with a jagged smile. He was taller, far taller than her, easily over six foot. He wore a trench coat that was done up over dark pants and heavy black boots. She could just barely see the hint of a pair of kneepads peaking out from where the trenchcoat parted. Claws came out from between his fingers, sharp and curling.

So this was the Slasher, the Scarecrow, the Cryptid. This was the man tearing through Obsidian's organization. This was the man who had killed her friends, her extended family. This was the motherfucker who had taken Jade from her. Who ate Jade. That mask was exactly the descriptions and the drawings they had received from other Slate members, from the dispersed sects.

But that wasn't what really what caught her attention.

It was the startlingly blue eyes behind the mask. They almost glowed with the moonlight. She was drawn into them, and her heart did something strange in her chest. It twisted, and then it felt like a dozen tethers snapped tight toward the man. Her entire world seemed to fall out of focus and recenter around him. It was like everything else stopped existing for a moment except for him and her.

What the fuck.

Fire Opal chose to ignore it. She was still angry, despite whatever this weird feeling was. As she watched him, something... changed. But she didn't have time to pinpoint what it was that had happened. She pushed off the car and propelled herself forward, hitting the ground in a roll, bringing her hammer straight toward his knee. She could figure out what just happened after she had bagged him. He was a metahuman, after all, and he could have done something to her. He could have been like Sulphur, or Lapis, and had some power that affected your body.

“Or, we could go out somewhere. I’m new to town, so maybe you could show me around!”
He heard her ankle pop out of place, and then heard it pop back in. His head tilted a little toward the sound, and he felt the monster under his skin stir a little. Her scent didn’t help, sweet with a kick. Under his mask, his jaw tightened as he put those feelings back in their place. Never while using Arlo. Never while wearing Arlo. It hurt to wear Arlo at all, but it had saved his life more times than he could count. And if he didn’t survive, Arlo’s death would be a waste.

So he pulled himself together and slid back as she hit the ground in front of him – another gift from Arlo, this time from when he was alive. It hadn’t been much, but the training had helped almost as much as the ability to make himself dense enough that even if the hammer had hit, it wouldn’t have broken his leg.

Still, he didn’t want her to find out about that this early.

“Whoa, there, hot stuff, if we’re going anywhere I kinda need that kneecap.” Her scent had shifted, just a little bit. Just enough to feel the way her rage radiated off of her, a sudden kick. She must’ve recognized him. Didn’t help that he had a penchant for choosing fear over violence – spreading the word that he was fucking up Slate’s operations, rather than completely obliterating the people running those operations. Of course anyone who knew anything would see his mask and know exactly who he was.

That wasn’t good. Anyone who did that and started to fight harder was bad news.

He needed space, distance, to make a better plan. If he’d know Slate would be involved, he would’ve prepared better, had more tricks already on hand. Instead, he had to think fast in the moment between his dodge and her move to follow him.

With barely a thought, he flexed his right hand. Pain shot up to his shoulder, warning him about tearing muscle and flesh. He powered through it, warping the already-shifted muscle so he didn’t have to waste energy cutting through it. This was a trick he’d picked up early, his second year into facing Slate. The pain was familiar, and he greeted it with a gentle breath, like an old friend.

In that second his opponent would’ve needed to get to her feet to continue following back, Cryptid now held thin shards of bone. This time, they were in a pair, needle-sharp and aerodynamic. He took another step back and flicked his wrist, having to aim down but hoping they at least stung enough to change the trajectory of the next hammer swing.

“As for taking me home – that’s a little forward, don’t you think? At least let me buy you a drink first. I know this place on the Strip I’ve been dying to try out. We could make it a date.”

Opal wasn’t going to let him the space he so clearly was trying to get. She moved quickly from her knee to her feet, Hammer swinging overhead. He was tall, but if she brought it down just right on his chest, she would be able to crack his sternum, and she knew from experience how much that hurt. After that group of mercenaries that Maxwell had hired to try and keep him safe earlier that year, Fire Opal was a lot more careful about protecting her chest during fights. Four broken ribs and a cracked sternum would do that to you.

Sure she could heal it, but that didn’t mean it hurt any less.

“Am I moving too quickly for you? I can take this slow if that’s what you want, baby.”

She got to her feet, hammer already swinging as she went to close the gap between them, when something sharp pierced through her long-sleeved shirt and into her skin. She breathed in a sharp breath but kept moving. She ignored the sting of whatever he had just– was that bone sticking out of her stomach?

She pushed through the sudden desire to stop and examine whatever it was he had just done. There would be time for that later after he was caught. And for all that was holy in the world, she was going to bring this man in. But she couldn’t deny something.

When he spoke, her insides warmed up in a way that had nothing to do with her fire and everything to do with him. She felt it rising from her core and spreading through her chest. She had no frame of reference for what it was. She knew what rage felt like, was all too familiar with its burn. This wasn’t it. This was unlike anything she’d ever felt in her life, and she had to repress the shiver that his voice made her feel.

That was definitely not a good sign.

She moved through the pain, and brought her hammer down toward his clavicle– only for his arms to raise and block her. She thought for sure they’d buckle and shatter, and while that would make it easier to bring him in, it made her feel… uncomfortable? Why was she uncomfortable with this? She didn’t have to think about it, because his arms didn’t so much as crack beneath the blow of her hammer.

Her eyes widened slightly and she smiled, her white teeth breaking through in what looked like a genuinely happy grin. Oh, this was going to be fun. He was durable, just like her. She could actually go all out if that was the case. Next, she was going to have to see if he was fireproof. God, she almost hoped he was. Then she could keep having fun for a while. Made he’d even be a challenge for her. Wouldn’t that be something?

“Let’s make a deal. If you survive for five more minutes, I’ll actually let you take me out for drinks, curly Q.”

She pulled her hammer back and skipped back a few feet. With her free hand, she reached down and ripped the bones shards from her stomach, giving them a quick glance before tossing them away. She held the hammer low in front of her, her curling hair falling over her shoulder. It reached down toward her hips in long and perfect spirals. The smile on her face then was real and bright, and she had the faintest hint of a blush on her cheeks. She looked for all the world like she was actually serious. And maybe she was. She certainly wouldn’t know until those next five minutes were up.
She was a lot stronger than she looked. He’d never been happier that he’d shifted to Arlo this early, mostly because a blow like that would’ve normally shattered both his arms, and he would’ve had to use more energy repairing them than he had in the shifts, and he would’ve been unable to fight in those conditions. They’d bruise now, throbbing gently under his sleeves.

Her scent became complicated as they made that first contact. He couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was going on, but the rage was fading out, and something else was fading in. He didn’t really have time to think too hard about it before she made her offer.

Under the mask, he flashed his own white teeth, straight and in a jaw tight enough that they’d crack after this. “Five minutes? Piece of cake. I’m not the one who should be worried about makin it that long, Freckles.”

She’d pulled back, and now, he decided, was the time to close in. What he’d normally do was pull away, fake an escape, and draw the person attacking him into a position that gave him the high ground. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of space to do that. They were in a wide open area surrounded by warehouses, and she’d already proved that she could at least match his speeds. He wasn’t getting many opportunities to think this through, which sucked for his ambush-predator tactics. So instead he’d have to move her.

He was faster than most people expected, and never went for the vital points until much later in the fight. With blood still dripping from his palm, he flexed his hands and took the rapid steps needed to close the gap. One hand went for the hammer’s head. The other went for her shoulder, intending to grab her by the shirt to throw her off to one side and again give himself enough time to figure out what to actually do about her.

His hand closed, and he moved without fully registering what exactly his hand was wrapped around. Rather than the shift of fabric or even the puncture of claw on flesh, there was a weird tearing sensation, and while he felt her weight shift with the hammer-holding arm, his other hand wasn’t holding her tight enough to actually toss her as far as he would’ve liked.

The one hand released the hammer’s head. The other stayed wrapped around whatever he’d torn away from her, and he slid back again, this time towards the van. He pulled himself tight, ready to draw her into another charge, when his eyes glanced back down at his hand –

And the ponytail length of curling red hair clutched between his fingers, draping down in long spirals.

Before she could decide how to handle him, he moved in, grabbing her hammer in one hand, the other going for her shoulder. But he didn’t grab her. Or at least, he didn’t grab her shirt or her shoulder. She would have felt those claws dig into her skin if he had. Instead, there was a yanking sensation on her scalp, and then her head flung up, as if she’d suddenly lost several pounds of weight on her head.

Between that and his push, Opal stumbled backward, barely managing to find her balance before she fell over. She stabilized herself and held her hands out as she tried to figure out why her head suddenly felt so light. Something was wrong. Something had happened. But what it was, she couldn’t figure out. She blinked her eyes a few times as she repositioned, her head snapping back forward almost too hard.

Then she looked up at him, a question on her lips to ask what he had done, when she saw it. Dangling from his hand was roughly three feet of curls. Perfect spirals that bounced in his hands. She immediately dropped her hammer and her hands went up to her hair. On one side, there were a few long coils reaching down to her hips still. But the other side and much of the back of her hair was gone. There was a short tuff of hair coming out of her hair elastic. She took it out, and her hair sprung out in a cloud. It brushed her shoulders, and she could see the ends, sheared unevenly. She looked back up at Cryptid, dumbfounded.

“Are you– Did you just– My hair.” Her hands went back to her hair, running her fingers through her suddenly short locks. “Do you fucking know how long it took for me to grow that out?! Twenty-three fucking years! I haven’t cut my hair since I was two years old!”

Fire licked at her fingers and up her arms. It stopped as it reached her clothes, which were made of a special fire retardant material that Lapis made all of her “work” clothing with. But it licked up her arms beneath the fabric and shot up her neck and into the back of her hair. The shortened curls began to float around her. It stayed off her face, but the rage was apparent.

Even with the sudden spark of anger, she was still feeling something that softened it. Her pupils were blown wide as she looked at him, and her skin was flushed across the neckline of her shirt and cheeks. The moment he had touched her, she realized belatedly, that warmth she had been feeling had suddenly coiled sharply inside her. She realized with a start, her eyes going wide, exactly what was happening.

It only made her blush deepen, making her freckled face stand out even more, making her cheekbones pop. She swallowed against the sudden realization and tried to push it down, to ignore it, because that was not something she was going to address right then. No matter how keenly aware of it she now was, and how she shivered from it. She fought the desire to look away and smile like a schoolgirl, and the warring desire to walk right up to him and rip that mask off his face and–

“Why the fuck would you do that? My fucking hair, curly Q! My hair!” She looked around them before her eyes landed on a rock on the ground, roughly half the size of her palm. She picked it up and threw it at him as hard as she could, hitting him in the shoulder.​
He stared at the hair for a few seconds, as if trying to figure out what was happening, like he’d never seen it before. He looked at it, then back at her, then back at the red hair, then back at the girl, and then he found his eyes lingering on her, growing wider with every second as something processed. Not the rock; he didn’t even seem to notice the rock. No, he was looking at her, and the realization blotted out everything else for just a moment.

Fire began to spread across her body, and with it, a suspicion grew to confirmed bad news. Only one member of Slate that he’d heard of had full pyrokinesis. Female, full of fury, with a head full of red hair. And Obsidian’s little sister, to boot.

Cryptid’s eyes locked on Fire Opal’s face, and they momentarily betrayed his panic. If Opal was here, then… Obsidian wouldn’t let her that far out of his sight. That meant Obsidian was here, in Pittsburgh. To say that was a problem would be the understatement of the year. He was the head of the largest metahuman terrorist cell in the country. He was the head of the people Cryptid had been deliberately fucking with for years, who he’d deliberately ensured recognized him as their biggest fucking problem. He was the person who, on earth, wanted him dead the most.

And he’d just cut Obsidian’s little sister’s hair. He glanced back at the curls with a little more panic, taking a deep breath to try to settle his heartbeat. The breath let in the scents radiating off of her with her heat – cinnamon, apple, vanilla, jasmine. Furious outrage. And…

He blinked. His mind cleared instantly. His head tilted, and he looked at her again, this time actually seeing past the fire into her expression, at the blush and the look in her eyes, the way she was looking at him. His own fear evaporated on the spot, the panicked clench of his jaw loosening into a flirtatious smirk.

“I just thought I’d take a souvenir, Freckles,” he waved the bundle off to one side, opening himself up from the front – apparently, at least. “The hammer just wasn’t my style. I’ll admit this… might be a little overboard. You could have some of it back, if you wanted!”
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When he said Freckles, her face heated up even more, this time with actual fire as well as the spiraling heat inside her. God, that was a problem. That was a big problem. Now, she was torn between beating the everloving life out of him with her bare hands and striding right up to him and kissing him full on the mouth. Her lips twitched in response to his comment. He was still flirting with her. If this was Cryptid, then her fire would have given away who she was.

She licked her lips and drew in a deep breath. When she let it out, it was as a wave of heat, like a steam vent opening up. It fogged the area around her but quickly dissipated as it spread away from her. Then, she finally smiled. The flames that were licking her skin died down, and she put her hands on her waist, shifting her weight so one hip was curved outward.

“Curly Q, if you wanted something to remember me by, I could have given something a whole lot better than my hair. I mean, I still could. What do you think, Cryptid? You feeling like a date?”

While she spoke, she rolled up her sleeves. She examined her black nails before flashing a flirtatious smile, her shoulders slightly raised. She shifted her weight again, but this time, she moved. Fire Opal went from standing still to running in the blink of an eye. She charged in, her eyes glinting. While the violence in her eyes, and the anger, never left, something else began to shine in them, fiery and bright.

She didn’t like that she felt these things. But the longer she felt them, the more she wanted to act on them. The more she felt them, the less she wanted to fight him. The more she felt them, the more she wanted to stop. She wanted to stop, and see what touching him would feel like. She wanted to stop, and see if he would let her remove his mask. She wanted to stop, and–

She swung, her fist aiming for his stomach. She heated her hands up, until they were scorching and red hot. She wouldn’t risk full fire just yet. But maybe if she got him down on his knees, she could stop and really talk to him. Maybe when she had him restrained, she could see what these feelings were about. Because she’d be absolutely fucked if she didn’t figure this out. Opal had never felt attraction toward another human being before, meta or not. She needed to know what made him special, especially to her.​
The smile in return reached his eyes, warm enough to soften the ice at first glance. She was flirting hard, not just in words, but in body language. And she was meaning it. There was no mistaking attraction for anything else. He could’ve laughed, if he’d had time. Obsidian’s sister? Attracted to him? This was new. This was…

That was something that he could think about later. After this. Because if he let that kind of thing distract him, he’d just be taking the bait.

“Why, Miss Fire Opal, how forward.” She shifted, and he knew that this was the move. He was dropping before she crossed the space; her fist would go just over his head. “What would your brother say?”

He hit the ground and moved into a front sweep, awkward if taken too slowly, but he was used to putting his targets on their backs, where his weight wouldn’t put him at a disadvantage. This was a kick that didn’t require much force; contact between his calf and her calf should be enough to knock her off balance and let him back off for real space again, or to pin her and decide what to do with her from there.

He dropped the hair as he went down, the red mass forgotten. All that mattered for a second was keeping that punch from hitting, from keeping that fire from touching him.

When he ducked, her fist, bright and red, sailed over his head. When his leg swept out and connected with her calf, she went down. It was as simple as that. As she fell toward the ground, she waved her hands as if she would be able to balance herself again. She had, of course, allowed her emotions to get the better of her here.

The fire inside her was burning hot now and tinging all of her decisions. She should have been able to think about this with a clear and level head. And if it had been anyone else, Fire Opal was sure she would have been able to do that without any trouble. But this man, Cryptid, there was something about him that was making her wrong. That was throwing her off just as surely as he had just thrown her off balance.

Opal was smarter than this. She would never have gone for such an obvious opening, one that was clearly artificial, if she were in her right mind. She tucked her hands under her head, covering the back of it as she fell. Her feet kicked out in front of her and she hit the ground, shoulders first, her head bouncing in her hands that protected it from cracking open on the concrete. She’d had enough concussions in her life to know how to avoid them now.

She gasped in a breath, and despite being on the ground, she chuckled and threw back a flirty, “I don’t tell Obsidian everything. I won’t tell him if you don’t, Curly Q. After all, you clearly want me on my back.”

She pulled her hands from out beneath the cloud of hair, readying to push herself back up to her feet. She put them up by her head, pressing them palm down, and coiling tension throughout her body in preparation to jump back up.​
He slipped back and got up out of the way as she went down, but he didn’t waste time. She caught herself on the concrete, and even while she spoke, her body moved to push herself back up.

He couldn’t have that, now, could he?

As she positioned her hands, a boot planted itself in the center of her chest – chaste, but effective. It wasn’t about the weight on the leg; it was about positioning, and intention. He folded his arms behind his back, tilted his head, and lowered his voice as he met her eyes again.

“I can’t deny I have you exactly where I want you.”

Opal grinned, all teeth but no bite. She looked at the shoe planted in the middle of her chest, and then let her eyes follow up his leg. Her eyes moved slowly, languidly, across his body before meeting his eyes. And then, when he spoke, her eyes went a little wider, and so did her smile. She lifted her hands and let her body go slack.

She clasped one of her hands around the other’s wrist above her head, letting them rest on the concrete. She let herself relax like that for a moment before a soft and content noise resonated from the back of her throat. It turned into a giggle which turned into a full laugh as she looked up at him, almost all of the rage gone from her eyes. She looked at him with interest.

“I mean, if you wanted me underneath you, all you had to do was ask, big guy. Of course, you’d have to take the mask off for that. I’d love to see what’s–” A pointed look across his body to drive her meaning home, “ –underneath all of that.”

And with a bit of a sharp breath, she realized that her flirting was real. She’d always been a bit of a flirt with people growing up, and it had gotten worse as she had gotten older, but she’d never meant any of it. Not like this. But then, she’d never actually felt attraction for anyone before either. She let some of that heat roiling inside her into her eyes, into the way her smile changed, her teeth hidden but something much more feral in it now. That flash of desire in her eyes corresponded with her next words. “Tell me, Curly Q– would you like that?”
Cryptid felt color creep into his cheeks, and was glad for the mask. She was serious. She was dead serious. There wasn’t any resistance, no objection to the balance of his weight on her chest. He wasn’t really unnerved by it, so much as… he didn’t know what. It brushed up against his worse instincts, and he knew for a fact he wasn’t feeling the same thing she was, not with the way the cold stirred in his bones.

Rather than fully settle it, however, he just smiled a little, and let a little bit of his predator unfurl. Just a glint of the hunger in his eyes. He needed to focus. Fire Opal was – admittedly very distracting, but he had a job to do. A vocation to fulfill. While he didn’t want to actually hurt her, he needed to push past the attraction. This was Obsidian’s sister, a threat, someone dangerous. On top of that, she probably had information. Vital information.

So, this was how it’d have to be.

He held out one hand and grew a knife from his bones, letting it stretch out where she could see hit. His eyes never left hers, although his smile had certainly shifted its weight. His body, however, remained the same.

His voice was a deep, soft rumble that held just a touch of his anticipation. “Sorry, Freckles, but I had something else in mind for tonight.”

Slate didn’t know what he did to his victims. He didn’t let them see that part. But they knew his violence, and they knew how hard he’d refuse to be one of theirs. He valued his freedom too much – and he valued people too much. He hoped that she didn’t know that second part – because he didn’t really need to eat tonight, and while it was probably the worst decision, a catch-and-release was probably in order. He’d have to fucking skip town after, but that’d be worth it if he found what he was looking for.

Fire Opal’s heart stopped and started back up at two times the speed when she saw the change in his body language, in his eyes. There was hunger in his eyes, hunger that made her shiver. It wasn’t her hunger. It wasn’t the hunger of someone who wanted to sleep with her. She knew what that looked like in people’s eyes. She was used to playing on it, preying on it, to get what she wanted. Or she was used to softly declining it, watching it die in people’s eyes as she explained she wasn’t really into that.

As she watched him do… whatever the fuck had just happened, she found herself both shivering and greatly disappointed.

Now, it was her turn to be rejected. There was a flash of real disappointment and what could have looked like hurt on her face. That was because it was hurt. She sighed softly and went to say something, something that she forgot entirely when she watched the bone spiral out of his wrist. It twisted out in a grotesque manner that tore through the skin it came out of. It dripped blood down around her, but not on her, as it pressed further and further out of his arm. It didn’t take long for it to reach past his fingertips. And it was sharp looking too, the fucking thing.

Didn’t Beryl used to do this?
She searched her memories, the memories of traveling with her older brother to different bases when she was twenty, nineteen, eighteen. Beryl had been gone a long time. She had disappeared shortly after Jade, and Jade had been gone for almost five years. But Fire Opal could just remember it. Watching a rounded woman with a big smile pull weapons made of her own body out of her skin. They weren’t bone, but that didn’t matter. The way it slid smoothly out his skin in the rough shape of a knife was what mattered.

She didn’t let her observation show on her face. Instead, she stretched her arms out above her head in an alluring way, and then in the same suggestive tone she’d been using, she practically purred, “Well, it’s not exactly the knife I was hoping you’d stick in me, but I guess beggars can’t really be choosers.”

Keeping her body as loose as possible, she swung her right leg straight up. It went from the ground toward his back, sailing through the air smoothly and with more grace than most people had in their entire bodies. While Fire Opal had never finished all her barre courses, given her parents had died in her last year, she still remembered how to move like she was dancing. She still remembered how to make smooth and clean movements full of strength from a standing still position.

She aimed her leg to hit him in the middle of his lower back, or at least the top of his upper thigh. Just somewhere he’d go off balance. It was his turn to spend a bit of time on the ground.​
Her disappointment was palpable.

More than that, he could practically taste it in the air – not just disappointment, but the soft scents that came with injury, with heartbreak. Not intense enough to be heartbreak, but hurt all the same. In one half of his soul, he felt bad for this. But he felt pressure starting to build in the other half – in the animal.

“I mean, we can be. I tend to be a little pickier, but it’s not every day someone finds this hot.”

He tilted his head at her, his eyes knowing. Knowing how she felt, even when he was like this, still ever-present under the heartache. He flexed his fingers to break the crude bone knife free. He would’ve been able to make something prettier out of ice, but –

Something smacked into his lower back, and he arched in response with a cry of surprise. It didn’t do any damage, but for just a second, his balance was disrupted. All his weight shifted to the leg still on solid ground, but it’d take a second to get his other foot away from her as he reoriented himself.