RP Kyanite

Obsidian

Member

This is a trigger warning for Violence, Gore, Torture, and Cannibalism. Please read with caution.

Obsidian had just gotten home from Columbus, and no one would dare look him directly in the eye. The amount of rage and heartbreak coming off of him was palpable. No one knew what to do about it, not even Mal or Sulphur, though they discussed it in hushed tones when they were out of earshot of their long-time friend. They had known Obsidian for twenty-two of the man’s twenty-six years of life, and still, they had no idea how to help.

It was hard to help a friend who had just discovered that his family hadn’t even missed him. He had gone to try and find his family, his blood family, and he had found a happy family of four, with a younger sister who was every bit as powered as him. A little sister they had kept. A little sister whose warmth and light had been brilliant, who he had watched soar through the sky with the biggest grin he had ever seen on someone.

A sister who wore a suit of red and black and a mask that barely disguised her at all.

That had hurt. That had hurt him deeply. He couldn’t face the parents who had apparently given him away, the parents whose faces he barely remembered. Instead, he had gone to see her.

He hadn’t meant to let his anger take over. He hadn’t meant to kill them. Not really. He had just wanted to talk, but seeing her, his little sister, with that other girl, and how happy they looked, hearing the other girl scream her name as she ran toward her, her with the copper hair so much like his own– the rage had taken him. She had everything he should have had. She was everything he should have been. Instead, he’d been stuck in Brightheart for twelve years.

Instead of running free through a small town at night with two younger siblings, he had grown up in a cell.

Instead of having understanding parents who helped him control his powers, he had been torn to pieces in a lab.

Instead of having everything, he had nothing.

She had everything. She had the loving parents, the adoring friend, the brother he had always wanted. And he couldn’t stand that. He couldn’t help the rage that had risen up in his chest. One moment he had been watching her from around the side of a building, and the next he was storming through the downtown of their little suburb, taking as much as he could from anyone who got too close. That had drawn the two girls in, and while the dark-haired one had gone and gotten everyone out of range, he had grabbed his sister by the throat.

She had been so pretty. They’d had the same eyes, the same hair, the same skin. Looking at her had given him just a flash of memory– their mother’s face, crying as he was led away by the scientists at Brightheart. He had barely been four years old. But he remembered her soft, heart-shaped face with her wild red curls the moment he saw his sister up close, through the haze of his shadows. She never saw him. He couldn’t decide if that was for the best or not, that her last moments hadn’t been of his crying face.

So Obsidan sat, chain-smoking in the downstairs office of their huge house, his head lost in memory as he tried to banish the sight of her fear-filled eyes. Killing her had killed whatever part of him felt remorse. That wasn’t why her eyes were stuck in his head. No, it really wasn’t.

It was the rage. It was the fact that he felt like she had died too quickly. He wanted her to suffer, and instead, he had given her a few measly seconds of fear. It was nothing compared to what his quickly darkening heart had wanted to do after the fact. He’d almost gone to try to pump enough energy back into her to bring her back, so he could figure out what he really wanted to do. But by then, the police sirens had been closing in, as had a few cars, one of which he had recognized as the Walsh car.

So he had faded into the dark of the night and escaped. The next day he was back in Philly, and that had been that.

If only he could forget about her. If only his hate for her wasn’t so intense. If only he didn’t regret her quick death.

There was a knock on the door of the study, and he looked up, shaken from his reverie. Standing in the open doorway was Sulphur, his tall frame just barely fitting in the door. Behind him was their “oldest” recruit, Lapis, her short hair streaked with blue and her eyes a wide and steely grey. Lapis had been with them for the last three years, the moment she’d graduated from the foster system. She had been the first one that Obsidian had found, the first one who had a reason to hate humans, with her broken bones, her starved frame, and her dirty face.

Now, she was healthy, even if she never really got bigger. At least she no longer had broken bones that she had to pretend weren’t.

Obsidian looked from her back to the hawkish face of his brother. “Sulphur. What can I do for you?”

“Oh, can I tell him, Phur? Please let me tell him!”

The tall blonde man, whose mouth had been open to speak, stopped and chuckled. “You can tell him. You’re the one who found the lead, after all.”

“Yes, yes, yes! Okay, listen up Boss, I found something interesting. I think there’s another meta-human in Philly! I’ve been tracking some missing persons reports and watching the serial killer forums, and word on the street is there’s a meta who's taking scumbags out. And the online reports are calling him a monster. Like a real monster. Some of them refer to him as a carnivore in human skin!”

Obsidian immediately paused, listening with intent. A monster meta, hmm? He was quiet for a long moment afterward, and then he turned around, swiveling his chair until he was facing them entirely. “How reliable is your intel? How soon can we move on this?”

The girl gave a sharp-toothed smile, her petite and sharp-boned face taking on a dark cast. “Well if the patterns are right, this guy kills once every two weeks, maybe twice.. There are some descriptions of what he looks like, and there are some patterns to where he appears. If my information is right… We should move tomorrow. He’ll be killing then. Or whatever it is he does.”

“What do you mean by that, Lapis?”

“They don’t find the bodies of the people he’s reportedly taken. Not even pieces. It's a mystery what he does with them.” Lapis collapsed her hands together in front of her, practically bouncing on her heels. She looked so excited that Obsidian smiled.

“And what makes you think he’s a meta, exactly? Why isn’t he just a serial killer?” His hands came up to fold under his chin as he leaned forward. He was hoping that Lapis would have something concrete, but they had gotten Rhody with far less information before. Hell, they only got her because Mal had a hunch. So while concrete was better, anything was worth going off.

“Sorry Boss, only vague reports of excessive strength and speed. Nothing concrete or provable.”

Obsidian thought on it for a moment, then nodded his head. The way he figured it, there was nothing to lose. If it was a human serial killer, it would be good food for him, especially now that the glow from his sister and her friend was finally wearing off, and he was back to being colder than normal. He would have to feed in the next forty-eight hours no matter what. But if it was a monstrous meta, maybe something with the ability to get rid of bodies after kills, well. That could be useful. An unfortunate amount of people needed to disappear at times, but even with Mal’s experience, there was only so much lye you could buy before it became suspicious, and there were only so many ways to make bodies disappear.

“Alright. We move tomorrow. Get a map planned out and we’ll suit the others up. Remember, vests and 9 millimeters, for everyone, I don’t care what Mal thinks about it.”

Lapis squealed and ran out of the room, Sulphur stayed and was quiet for a moment. He was waiting for something. Obsidian wasn’t going to be the one who spoke first, however, so he stared up at his brother. “Will this help? Help you get out of this fucking room again and stop obsessing over it?”

Sulphur didn’t mince words, even as he spoke in such a clear and almost analytical way. He didn’t bother with niceties, or with beating around the bush. He hit you with exactly what he thought, what he felt. Obsidian smiled, feeling a bit of warmth at the man’s concern.

“Go help her prepare. She’s nowhere near as good a tactician as you are, Sulphur.” As close as he could get to say yes. As close as he could come to saying he needed it, he needed someone new to love. As close as he could come to saying that he needed another monster in his life, a vicious one whom he could share the newly unleashed monster in himself with.

But Sulphur understood, and he nodded his head in agreeance before leaving the room.

~0~

It was dead of night as Obsidian walked the streets of Philly. He had taken up position on the upper end of South Philly, the furthest north that their reported meta was likely to be. It was chilly as it was nearly December, and the man pulled his coat tighter around him, trying to preserve as much of his body heat as possible. He was passing by the remains of the Royal Theatre, trying to light himself a cigarette. The breeze was strong enough that it kept putting out his lighter.

With a sigh, he took a quick look around and then walked into the decrypted building. It wasn’t like anyone was going to see him, not this late at night, and the place was long since abandoned. There would be no security, no cameras, no anything.

Honestly, it was exactly the kind of place his family was looking for.

They’d been searching all night for this meta, but so far had come up empty-handed. Obsidian wasn’t too hopeful at this point, but still, he persisted. Maybe they would get a lucky break. He carefully climbed in through the rubble by the door and found shelter from the wind. Well, enough he could light up his cigarette.

He clicked the lighter, and as he did, he knew something else had started to make noise further into the building.

Well, maybe he could be lucky after all.
 
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The prey wasn’t much older than him. Still somewhere in his early twenties, not quite done with the first third of his life – or, well. He wouldn’t be, if not for circumstances. Jack Strather was young, sure, but the Cryptid wasn’t a complete monster. He didn’t eat children. If anybody asked he’d joke about not enough meat, but nobody had asked yet. It was a fucking shame that probably nobody ever would. Obviously he had everything he could want from this – power: the huntsong, a high that made morphine seem like aspirin. Perfect control and a hum of energy that burned in his veins even after. But it wasn’t something any human being would ever understand. Of course not. They were prey, and he was predator.

The world spun now around the predator, the air itself tinged red with the swirling scent of blood. He didn’t bother to stay the flow of drool into his mouth, washing away the blood already on his tongue. The cold that sat in his bones begged him to take the rest, more than the mouthful he’d taken. But the hunt sang over that hum, and it knew that the meat would still be there when the predator had his fun.



Jack had woken up in the center of a huge, dark, empty room. It was cold, cold as Philadelphia winters got. The ground under him was rough, but with a soft coat of dust or dirt that meant the hard concrete didn’t hurt. Something hurt, though. His bleary eyes dragged lazily across the ceiling above him, trying to remember what had happened.

He’d been on the corner. Right. Doing his job. Someone… there’d been someone else, right? Yeah. Someone had come up to him. Not a customer, he didn’t move like an addict. No nerves about him at all. And that mask. A demon mask, white – plastic, maybe, or plaster, with grinning, crooked teeth. It seemed to swallow up the face behind it until the man stepped into the streetlight, until the orange light caught his eyes. Intense, steady blue eyes, that remained unblinking on Jack.

The stranger had been tall but hauntingly thin. He wore a black overcoat, black combat boots. He didn’t look like he was armed, but his hands were in his pockets, so Jack assumed he had a gun. Had… had he been mugged by the costumed freak? He– no, that wasn’t right. The creep hadn’t asked for the drugs, or for money. He’d just stood there for a while, looking Jack over. There was something in his eyes that made Jack’s stomach squeeze tight, made his heartbeat spike.

And then it came back to him. The look, what it meant. What the man had said to him in a cool, purring voice that left no doubt about his intentions.

You should run. And when Jack just stared at him, the blue eyes had smiled with a cruel glint. Unless you’d like to make dinner easy for me tonight.

Jack sat straight up, his heart picking up. Now he remembered. He remembered that he tried to fight. But the stranger hadn’t pulled a gun on him – he’d been prepared for hand-to-hand, and hadn’t fought like anything human. The costumed freak had fought like an animal, all unfair strikes at any spot left open for more than a second. There’d been something – claws, right. He ran a hand along the burning spot in his chest. The freak had clawed him open, and laughed at him as he reeled and backed away.

The freak had waited for Jack to look at him again before pushing the mask up, and licking its fingers clean with obvious relish.

Then, he’d run. He’d run and run and run, but he’d only gotten a lead when the monster let him, when he’d been about to run himself right into a corner. The freak had run its claws across the stone walls of the alley, toying with him, taunting him. Whispering softly in a voice that carried all the same about what he wanted to do to Jack. Speculating about taste. Wondering what would give first – his body, or his mind. Maybe Jack had already lost it, and was running from nothing. Maybe he was high.

The pain in his chest told him he wasn’t. But then he was cornered, and there wasn’t anywhere left to run. There was nowhere for Jack to go. His muscles burned, and he was exhausted from fear. He’d still turned to make his stand, turned with his knife in his hand.

The fucker had hit him in the forehead with a metal bar before he knew what was happening.

And now he was on the floor of a big building. His muscles still burned, as did the shallow cuts on his chest. He started to push himself up when a chunk of concrete skittered up to him. He followed the line it had cut in the dust with his eyes, and traced the other man in the big, empty room with him with his eyes, up the leg, up the coat, to the demon mask and sparking blue eyes that seemed to glow in the dark.

Jack was tired. He was scared, and because he was scared, he was angry. Angry at this fuck for playing fucking games with him. He knew he could work up the energy to fight him, if he wanted to, if it struck him the right way. He opened his dry mouth to tell the costumed creep to just fuck off, when he went to put weight on his left foot, and it buckled suddenly. There was no way to catch himself, nothing nearby, and he was back in a heap on the floor.

Pain screamed up his leg, and he curled in on himself for a few seconds before he found it in himself to pry his eyes open and actually look at the throbbing ankle. His sneakers and socks were on, but the back of his sock was stained a glaring red. His breath hitched, and he looked back at the monster, who watched him with a hunger in those ice blue eyes that made his skin crawl. Trying to play brave, he tugged down the back of his sock.

A chunk, a huge, horrible chunk, had been torn out of the back of his ankle.

He looked up at the creep again, eyes betraying his sudden fear, breath short and shallow. The monster tilted his head, then raised the mask just enough that Jack could see his mouth. The mouth smeared with the same gaudy scarlet as the back of his ankle. The sudden rush of adrenaline, of absolute horror, pushed him back to stand as well as he could. The monster bared pink teeth.

You should run.

And this time, Jack didn’t need a second warning.



See Jack.

There, in the dark. A silhouette to those who couldn’t see clearly in the cold winter night. A silhouette that couldn’t see clearly in the darkness, couldn’t hear what crept behind him, couldn’t smell the cold and the hunger that must roll around his predator the way the kick of adrenaline was thick in the air around him, marking his trail clearly. His heartbeat echoed around, impossible to ignore, the kick of adrenaline thick in the air around him, even as the predator kept his distance, gave him false hope.

See Jack run.

He tried to be stealthy, a few times. He thought he was clever, the prey-thing that stank of fear and trailed blood and pain. He tried to hide. But like most humans, he couldn’t hide well, and only succeeded in cornering himself. Of course, letting his choices be his doom was hardly fair; the creature didn’t know better. The predator nipped the prey – broke the damaged leg with its hands, then when the message seemed to be unclear as the begging, weeping thing tried to hide again, the wolf delicately crushed the rabbit’s collarbone between unmerciful jaws, flooding his own hunger again with renewed joy and flooding the prey with renewed pain and horror.

Run, Jack.

It was impossible to run on a broken leg. The prey had sadly lost speed, and had fallen twice in such a way that the bone had broken through, but the circling monster had been more than enough incentive for poor, beaten Jack to stumble back up and run again. The predator could smell that bone, under the blood, right down to the marrow. The scent promised warmth to the winter that lived inside of him – when the chase was done. When the prey had neither fight nor flight left over.

See Jack fall.

They were back in the theater’s antechamber. Jack dragged the leg behind him, but his mind and body were both worn through. He was crying. Softly, more softly than the rending screams he’d given the monster for the last hour or more. Had it been an hour? It felt like a lifetime. It had been a lifetime. His lifetime. He’d spent the last hour of his life chased like a deer, and he was back where he started.

Jack looked around the big room, frantic, exhausted. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to run, no exit he hadn’t yet tried to take. There was no sound behind him, but he knew better than to look. Either the monster would be hiding, or would be close, so impossibly close that it could reach out and put him out of his misery, and chose not to. Chose instead to smile with its icy eyes at him, and start whispering again, now praising his taste, the weight that his adrenaline gave the flavor of his blood, the perfect crunch of his bone, the way his skin flaked back under unrelenting teeth –

The leg gave out. Jack fell forward. His face hit the ground. He didn’t have the strength to catch himself this time. He felt something in his nose burst, and managed to raise himself up on one arm and touch his face with the fingers of the other hand, even if the stunning pain and smell of blood was enough to tell him what had happened. He saw double as he looked at the red smeared on his fingertips, then blinked. The toes of a black boot appeared in his vision. Slowly, he raised his eyes to meet the grinning demon mask.

Then he collapsed under his own weight again. He didn’t even try to turn himself back over.

This time, he heard the boots crunch away, as if now the monster wanted him to know where he was, what he was doing. He heard the zipper of a bag jingle, heard the clatter of metal bits being jostled together through cloth. Then he heard the monster come back.

He felt the boot under his ribs, and couldn’t resist as the monster turned him over onto his back. He’d read somewhere that mountain lions did that to porcupines, sometimes. It made the soft insides easier to access.

He was the porcupine. The blue-eyed man above him was the lion. He’d worn Jack down until he was too tired to fight, and now, he was going to be eaten. The lion tilted his head, then set down the duffel bag and sat down next to Jack’s head. One of its hands pulled the mask free, and Jack could see for certain that this wasn’t a fever dream, this wasn’t a faceless monster. It was a man – no. No, for all its angles, for the pale exhaustion and cruel predator, this wasn’t a man. The thing that had chased him for hours without slowing down was a teen, a kid.

God, he thought, wasn’t that humiliating. He was a rabbit caught by a wolf cub. Batted around for a fledgling predator to learn from, or just for entertainment, it didn’t matter now. The outcome was the same. Jack was going to die. And judging by the gentle smile as the kid rummaged around in a black duffel bag, it wasn’t going to be for a while yet, until either the predator got bored, or Jack’s body gave up.

Jack wasn’t religious. But as the bonesaw made contact with his wrist, forcing a raw scream from his throat, he prayed that the predator got bored very, very easily.​
 

The scream caught his attention. He looked up from his lighter, flicking the zippo shut. He returned it slowly to his pocket and pulled the cigarette out from between his lips. As the screams continued, he was quick to pull his carton of Dunhills out and to replace the unlit cig in it’s box. He tucked it back into his coat pocket, and from the inside breast pocket, he pulled out his phone. He listened to the screams with a shiver of anticipation. Screams like that, well, they were far worse than the ones that he pulled from his victims.

He looked down at the phone and opened the group chat he had with his family, with his pack, and he began to type, his fingers still stiff from the cold.

I found him. Royal Theatre. Get up here. I’m going in.

He set the phone to silent, turning off the buzzer, then tucked it back into his pocket. He didn’t want a stray text alerting the man to his presence. He paused and listened to the screams for a minute longer, trying to calm his instinct that said to chase after the sound, to feed on whoever was making it. He wasn’t about to compete for territory with this predator, and he didn’t want him to think he was. This wasn’t about competition. This wasn’t about fighting for dominance. This was about the possibility of a new pack member, of a new family member. This was about the possibility of another monster like him.

This was about the potential for them to never have to be lonely again.

So with that in mind, Obsidian moved forward, deeper into the theater. As he walked, his feet silent from his precise steps like a wolf creeping up on a deer, he let the darkness creep in around him. It started slow, moving like smoke, the tendrils slow and languid, just like his movements. Then, it rushed up his body, climbing from his feet to his legs, all the way up to his face. There was a glint of yellow in the dying light before he faded completely into the shadows of the theater, not a trace of him to ever prove he had been there.

He slipped into the antechamber, following the sound of screaming as it stopped. Now, he heard whimpers and whispering, soft murmurs. He kept to the wall, gliding into the room without a sound, with the same ease as if he were about to pounce, as if he were about to laugh and send someone running. It didn’t take him long at all to adjust to the increased darkness of the room. His eyesight had always been better in the dark than in the day, and it was for that reason that he removed his glasses and quietly tucked them into the outer breast pocket of his coat.

His eyes adjusted and a smile crept across his face. Sitting in the middle of the room was a young man, who couldn’t have been more than eighteen, nineteen at best, and on the ground in front of him was another young man. One who had a tourniquet wrapped around his wrist, and was sobbing quietly. The one who was sitting had icy blue eyes that seemed to pierce the darkness and dark curls that blended into the night. He also had a face splattered in blood, and a severed hand held in his own.

He was eating that severed hand.

Obsidian couldn’t help the way his whole body buzzed as he watched the man bite off a joint of the hand, snapping it up like an alligator might a fish, or a wolf might a mouse. A single bite, barely a mouthful, but oh did he look like he was enjoying that mouthful. Between bites, Obsidian could hear soft words, words about the chase– about the hunt– and words about the taste and texture of the man. He finished the fingers, and as he started in on the palm, he heard the young cannibal say something about all meat tasting the same, but how the texture was different between parts of the body.

He watched as the man crunched through the bone and meat like it was nothing. Human teeth couldn’t do that. Humans couldn’t just eat each other whole and raw. It was physically impossible. Blood dripped from the pieces as the young man ate, splattering his clothes and the floor and his hands and his face. Surprisingly, Obsidian didn’t find himself to be in any distress over watching this. Maybe it was because his own form of eating, while much cleaner, was just as much a destruction of life as what this cannibal was doing.

Obsidian crouched down in the darkness and sat, as quiet as ever, and watched with fascination. The young man pulled off his coat and his gloves, tossing them both to the side past a work bag. He listened to the screams as the wonderful young cannibal went back in with the bone saw, taking off the forearm at the elbow. He talked quietly, in a voice with just the faintest trace of humor in it, and gave the man pointers about how he could have escaped better for next time. If Obsidian hadn’t been trying to hide, he would have laughed at that. Instead, he watched as the man banded up the elbow.

Then, he heard him say in a soft voice how he had how to keep his prey from bleeding out from the brachial artery, and how it had taken him more than a dozen tries to figure it out. Then, in a soft voice, he continued with, “It’s the legs that’re trouble, if you make it that long.”

The young man took another bite, this time crunching straight through the bones in the forearm. He clearly wasn’t as excited about this piece of the body, but the look of delight never left his face. Obsidian licked his lips and stretched out one of his legs, then leaned forward on the other bent knee. He rested his chin on top of it and watched with rapt fascination. Then, he let the shadows slowly fade away.

“Do they normally last that long? What kills them first, would you say? The blood loss, or do they die from the pain? I’ve heard some pain can be so bad, the shock can kill you.”

Obsidian’s voice rang out in the darkness, his form now revealed in the almost pitch darkness of the room. His yellow eyes glinted, flashing like a wild animal’s, an almost glow to them as they continued to watch. He pulled his coat back into place, neat and tidy, and gave a big, sharp-toothed smile. There was no danger in the smile, even full of teeth as it was. It wasn’t a polite smile either, full of greeting and calmness. It was a smile that one predator gave to another, a smile of knowing and approval and glee.

This was definitely his guy.
 
Cryptid’s head snapped up to face the voice that came from the shadows. He’d started to relax, post-hunt. Now, all that vanished. Every angle went sharp at once, and his attention, previously on Jack, now sat undivided on the stranger that had apparently been watching him.

The red-haired man had yellow cat eyes. Those cat eyes stared unwavering back, holding the predator’s face. Normally, Cryptid could categorize anyone who wasn’t him as ‘prey’. It didn’t mean he intended to eat everything he came across – that would be impractical, and panic the greater populace around his hunting grounds – but it did mean that he felt unthreatened by anything that came across his path. Still, this one was different. Not a threat, but something that understood eye contact, the number of teeth in a smile. Distance from an animal enjoying a meal.

Another predator. He took a deep breath, identifying the scent as one of black pepper and an undercurrent of either terror or the purest rage he’d ever smelled. Given the circumstances, the distilled, almost base-scent rage gave him just enough pause to not immediately tell the bastard to fuck off.

“Blood loss,” he said, carefully, never letting his eyes leave the other predator. With the short reprieve from his killer’s attention, Jack let out a soft sob that he’d been holding back between screams. He was crying freely, but even now, the stubborn prey didn’t want to give his predator the satisfaction of his suffering beyond raw, bestial screams.

The predator ignored him, for now. He wasn’t dying yet. In fact, with the right medical attention, he’d live through it at this point.

“Sometimes it’s other things. Sometimes they make it long enough for me to pick which major organ they get to experience losing.”

Jack’s body spasmed at that. Cryptid heard his breathing speed up, smelled the new wave of fear. Even with the other predator watching, he couldn’t help the little smile. A tingle of anticipation ran through him. Maybe he’d be able to give Jack the choice of which organ’s failure he’d die from. As long as he didn’t say anything boring, like the heart, Cryptid might actually comply.

But for now, he had an audience. “I haven’t killed anyone by shock, yet. Usually if they try to give up on me I’ll give them space to get over it. Most of them don’t realize that being stubborn is just making it harder on themselves.”

He studied the man again, compartmentalizing his observations for when he was more human in case this turned out to be a real threat. He nodded up, gesturing with his blood-soaked chin.

“Why the interest?”
 

Obsidian listened with his full attention, his eyes only shifting when the young man smiled. He looked, for just a moment, down at the prey lying on the ground. It was a brief glance, one done in a casual motion, and spoke volumes to how unafraid he was then. He seemed comfortable being around the young cannibal, and when his eyes returned to his, Obsidian simply smiled. He tilted his head to the side for a moment as he thought.

“Why the interest? I find it fascinating. How long have you been doing this? I mean, you’ve been doing it long enough for us to catch wind of it, but that’s beside the point.”

He gave a small huff and moved his legs so they were crossed in front of him, then leaned back against the wall. His coat protected his nice sweater and dress pants from having contact with the dusty and dirty floor. He moved with slow and even motions. Not like he was trying to avoid scaring the other predator, but like he didn’t care that he was even there. Obsidian kept the smile, his eyes flashing again, slightly wider now, like he was excited.

“No, I am curious how you figured out what you were. Is this a genetic thing, or did you just have a really unfortunate accident one day and find out through sheer coincidence? Or, was it a curiosity thing? Seems like such an interesting thing to discover, that your teeth can crack through human bone like a bag of chips.”

Obsidian gestured with his hand while he spoke, keeping eye contact as he did. There was no challenge in his gaze, but he couldn’t hide the sharp gleam of interest. He was conveying his curiosity and comfort through the gaze, trying to lull the other predator into an equal sense of calmness. He wasn’t here to fight, and he wasn’t here to challenge. He wanted that to be as clear as possible. Hence the easy and open body language and the friendly tone.

He pointed down to the body– because it might as well have been a body and not a person anymore to him– and in a clear and even voice, he said, “You can finish eating, I won’t stop you. I just want to talk. Well, we just want to talk, but the others aren’t here yet. They will be soon, as long as you’re alright with that…? I don’t think you’ve given me a name yet. Well, allow me to introduce myself first. You can call me Obsidian.”
 
Cryptid reflected Obsidian’s motion of pulling his legs Indian style. Imitating the movement would help keep the other predator at ease while he figured out what, exactly, to do with the information he’d just been given. He was a little surprised not to find himself alarmed at all – although, that might just be the fact the hunt hadn’t worn off yet, and wouldn’t for a while. But the other man had a lot of questions, and that was a good indicator they weren’t the same kind of predator, if any kind of doubt existed in his mind.

“Cryptid’s fine.” His head tilted. “And it seems you know a lot more about me than I know about you. Who’s us? How’d you find me?”

The second actually felt obvious in retrospect. Spreading fear among criminals was an important part of his work as Cryptid. Were these people criminals? This predator? Was this a dog on a leash? He had no idea. He didn’t like not knowing, even in the hunt, but he didn’t want to start a fight as he was coming out of the hunt. He’d tired himself out a bit with the chase, and after a few dozen pounds of meat were in his system, he’d start to get lethargic. Did they – whoever they were – know that? Or were they completely ignorant?

He had more questions than answers right now, and Obsidian seemed to at least be in an interesting mood, so he’d have to let the other predator stay. He did, however, take the invitation to take a big bite out of the forearm, taking both bones in a single grating crunch that, as Obsidian had noticed, was quite a bit like a mouthful of chips, without actually answering any of the questions. Obsidian wasn’t going to get his tragic backstory that easy.​
 

Obsidian didn’t miss that Cryptid hadn’t answered any of his questions. Still, he smiled wider. Giving a little to get a little wouldn’t hurt. Especially given he wanted to bring this kid home with him. He scratched his forehead, right at his hairline, and then shook his head. He wanted to appear as though he was making a much more difficult choice than he actually was. He had a decision to make, but it wasn’t whether or not to tell the kid anything.

No, his decision was whether or not he’d tell him the usual spiel, or the truth. In the end, he picked the truth. “‘Us’ is me and my pack. Slate. We’ve only been operating a few years, but we have a decent network right now. We think that metas like us are, well, better than humans. Better than people like them.”

He nodded toward the guy on the ground, ignoring his silent cries. He pressed a hand to his own chest and his eyes caught the minimal light just right again to flash in the darkness.

“Our people aren’t treated well by humans. People like us.” He punctuated that statement with a nod toward Cryptid. “Not all of the pack is a predator, but we all have the mindset of one. They have all been persecuted somehow for their abilities. They all have had to live in the shadows to protect themselves. They’re not like you or I, not real predators. But, they’re my pack.”

Then, he leaned forward and away from the wall, leaving his legs crossed. He gestured to the kid, gesturing toward his outfit. “As for how we found you– you’re not very subtle, kid. You go around hunting people in a demon mask and a trench coat and people take notice. At least, the kind of people we get our information from do. Lapis and Sulphur, they’re good at tracking down just about anything and anyone. I don’t really know all of how they do it, but they found you.”

He pulled out his phone while he spoke, and checked the messages. Three confirmations and eta’s, and according to Sulphur’s he’d be there any second. He tucked the phone away into his coat again and then shrugged, catching the kid’s icy eyes again, yellow meeting blue. His smile faded just a touch, but it didn’t disappear. He just wasn’t used to grinning quite so much.

“That’s all I’m telling you until you give me something. Tell me what else you can do, or tell me what put you on this. Or,” He stopped, smiling, and gave Cryptid a sharp grin. “Or, tell me whether you’d like to be able to eat without consequence. Whether you’d be interested in a world where you could live freely and openly, where you could be whatever you want to be. Tell me if you’d like to have someone who understands what you are, really understands you, at your back.”
 
He savored Jack’s arm while Obsidian talked. The information was absorbed, skimmed, and then put away for his more human side to actually sort out once he came down from the hunt. He still had quite a while, but he picked up on the important parts.

First. They were human. Meta-human, maybe, but human, weak enough to suffer at the hands of humans. If Obsidian was being honest – and he was, Cryptid would know if he wasn’t – then the pack was posturing, posing a threat. They weren’t like him. Even Obsidian, another predator, wasn’t like him. He didn’t suffer at the hands of humans. Like Jack, they suffered at his hands. And that was the joy that bled through him, alongside the satisfaction of the hunger, as he tore the arm apart bit by bit while its last owner whimpered on the floor.

Second. These humans thought of themselves as a pack. Obsidian’s pack, Obsidian as alpha, which made sense. Sheep would follow a wolf. Humans had trained wolves to become shepherds. Lapis and Sulphur – and Obsidian. Stones, all of them. Pretty gems. Pretty nicknames for delicate things. Well-loved livestock.

Third. Maybe he was overhunting a little. He’d only been in Philadelphia for six weeks. Three hunts, including this one. He might’ve made some assumptions about his visibility in a population center. He’d have to be more careful.

Except… maybe he wouldn’t.

Obsidian’s last offer got a visible response, even if it was just in the form of a slight tilt of his head to the right. Of course, he already lived in a world where he could hunt with impunity– humans were prey, and they were prey that was convinced it was top of the food chain. But as Obsidian just reminded him, he had to move with care. The hunt didn’t like it, but survival came first, above even food and chase. Hadn’t he just thought that he needed to adjust his hunting patterns? It was natural to him, even if he was resistant.

Those were thoughts better saved for the human part of his hollow soul. Later.

“I’m a predator,” he said, with a shrug as he tore into the meat again and settled back. “I’m built to hunt. Stronger, faster, better senses. My nose is my finest feature, but I’m not one to brag. No, I’m – maybe not designed, but definitely evolved, to have all the tools I need to get specific food. And really there’s only one food that does it for me anymore. Humans just hate being reminded that’s their place in the world, just the same as anything else. Like Jack here.”

Jack went very still, apparently not liking that his predator knew his name. Cryptid ignored it, crunching through both bones again and chewing a little before talking again.

“Don’t really do ‘packs’, though. I see the point, but I ah. Never really needed one. What you all have sounds well and good for what you all have going on, but I’ve been just fine out on my own. Thanks for the offer, though. Real generous.”
 

“You’re just fine on your own until you aren’t. What are you going to do when they figure out what you are? What are you going to do when you’re alone and there’s more than you can handle? No offense to you, you’re a perfect predator, but even lions can be taken down by a pack of hyenas. Humans, when they’re scared, band together. They’ll come for you eventually.”

A second man walked into the room. He moved just as easily through the dark if a touch more carefully. He was taller, strikingly thin, and wore a suit that fit him well under a light coat. His hazel eyes took in the scene with a blankness that betrayed nothing of what he thought or felt about what he was seeing. He leaned against the wall, right next to the window.

The clouds were starting to part outside, the winds blowing them across the sky. The moonlight was finally shining through the room in scattered beams. The man looked outside the window, saw something that caught his eye for just a moment, and then turned his attention back to the young man– the boy, really– in front of them.

“Of course, if you’d rather face the hyenas alone, well. That’s your choice.”

Obsidian smiled, his grin sharp and full of teeth as he gestured up toward the man above him. “This is my brother, Sulphur. He’s never wrong. I’ve known him most of my life, and never once has he been wrong about anything. They will find out what you are eventually. Wouldn’t you rather have friends willing to defend you should that happen?”

Obsidian pushed himself to his feet, Sulphur making no move to help him. Obsidian caught sight of what Sulphur was looking at just a moment later and then looked back at Cryptid. His face betrayed nothing of what the two saw outside. He simply turned his smile back on the young man and watched him, waiting for a response.
 
Cryptid’s head turned to the new face. His nostrils twitched to pick up the new scent under Jack’s blood, his chewing paused for just a moment. Then it resumed, and he took note of their exchange without actually acknowledging it.

Instead, he laughed. It was a pleasant sound, as real as laughter ever was, light and entirely unburdened by worry or care. “Humans aren’t hyenas, Sulphur. They’re gazelles, mostly, with a few exceptions. Of course, I’ve gotta be careful not to let ’em stampede, but they won’t miss a few around the fringes of the herd.”

Under the surface, he was watching the interaction between the wolf and his sheep with admittedly more than a little interest. They weren’t hyenas, either – not here to scavenge his kill. They wanted him, but neither really understood what he was. It was funny, to him, at least, but he was careful not to laugh at that. They didn’t know what he knew. They didn’t know what they were.

But he needed to pay more attention. He recognized that. While neither of them – or the others, Lapis Lazuli and whoever else – could actually hurt him, he was sure, he was doing himself a disservice here. It’d be embarrassing at best to be caught off-guard by one of Obsidian’s sheep-turned-wolf, after all. Wouldn’t do at all. What would Jack think? It’d give him a bit of hope, to be sure. Maybe he’d try to run again.

Focus, right, focus. His eyes flicked between the two men, not letting his distraction show. He looked like he was sizing them up, measuring them, maybe even worried about them. It’d keep them from knowing how easily his mind could wander, now that he had food in his mouth.
 

“Even gazelles have horns to protect themselves from things like you!” From the window, a young woman jumped up. She was out of breath, as though she had just climbed from the ground up to the window, a good story above thanks to the stairs at the front of the building. That was because she had climbed up the side of the dilapidated building. She pulled herself up and swung a leg through the window. Her very dark blue hair shined in the moonlight and her steely grey eyes were sparkling.

“Don’t you think that would taste better if you cooked it? I can’t imagine raw humans taste very good. Do they taste like gazelles, is that why you made the comparison?”

“Lapis. This is Cryptid. Cryptid, my little sister Lapis. I feel like you two will get along very well.” Obsidian offered a hand to the small woman, who accepted it and swung the rest of her body through the window. In comparison with the tall men, Lapis looked even smaller, child-sized, and easily mistaken for one if it weren’t for the curves of her body. She looked the man over and smiled slowly.

Obsidian watched her expression and then looked at Cryptid again, his eyes just a little sharper, and in a soft murmur meant only for Lapis, he said, “Maybe not this one, lovely. Not yet.”

The girl’s expression turned to a pout but she looked up at Obsidian and the two shared a soft look. Her face relaxed back into a smile and she gave him a small nod before turning a sharp smile back on Cryptid. “Listen, all I’m saying is that single cheetahs in the wild can be gored by a gazelle, but a pack of cheetahs is never caught off guard. Also, maybe, like, aren’t you lonely? This seems lonely.”

She tilted her head and her short hair fell out of her face and off her ears, revealing rows of glinting gold. She was looking at him with rapt fascination in her eyes. Lapis had always been attracted to violence, especially given she couldn’t commit it effectively herself. And this curly-haired guy, sitting cross-legged on the floor eating a living person, was clearly doing it for her. Obsidian didn’t know what to do with that. Not right then. He trusted Lapis to make good choices and to listen to him when he advised against things, but the look in her eyes as she watched Cryptid was concerning him.

One thing at a time.

“You’re very confident. Confidence is good. But when you become overconfident, you become too sure of yourself, you lose sight of what can easily be your downfall. If someone shoots you, will you die? Are you bulletproof? If someone stabs you, won’t you bleed? You might not be a human, per se, but you’re still human adjacent.” Sulphur was also watching with fascination glinting in his eyes, but he managed to remain neutral outwardly. It was only because Obsidian knew Sulphur that he knew that was the case.

Once again, he turned his attention to Cryptid, watching for any sign that they were affecting him. There were other tactics they could try, other methods of convincing him, but Obsidian was starting to get the idea they might have to get a bit more… hands-on.
 
The new voice wasn’t at all what he was expecting. Young, female, and edged like a razor. When she pulled herself through the window, he couldn’t help but glance across her body. Small as it was, there was a softness in the curves and edges that caused his eyes to glint, before he remembered this sheep had a guard dog. And he had a meal.

“I’ve never eaten a raw gazelle,” he admitted, looking down at Jack, who spasmed in what probably would’ve been a normal shudder if he hadn’t been dying. “or a cooked one. But to cook someone, they’ve gotta be dead first, and that takes half the fun away. Doesn’t it, Jack?”

The prey’s breathing sped up yet again as Cryptid put the last of the forearm in his mouth. He chewed on it thoughtfully, feeling the texture under his teeth. The flavor, it was true, wasn’t great. He could taste and smell the adrenaline and fear, but the raw meat was still just that – raw meat. Maybe Lapis was onto something there, but that was something he’d be able to consider later.

“Listen, I get what you’re all saying. But not every predator is designed for packs.” He shrugged and reached for his bonesaw again, ignoring Jack’s whimpers. “Most other big cats, weasels, bears, none of them live in complicated groups. Even a lot of canines prefer to hunt alone. It’s just not in their nature.”

And, by extension, his nature. He was sure they’d hear that part. The smile that had faded now quirked back up. There was a warning glint in his eye, like he’d heard something that wasn’t intended. A threat, maybe. Or a promise.

“As for injuries, don’t worry about me. Like I was just telling Obsidian, I can handle myself just fine.”
 

“Well, then don’t join us. You’re not required to do anything we ask of you. But maybe come and chill for a bit. Rest somewhere safe, in a real bed, after a real shower. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

A thicker-built young man stepped out from the doorway behind Cryptid, casually strolling past him. He smiled down at him as he passed, a glint flashing through his honey-brown eyes. He was dressed in a maroon leather jacket that matched his boots, and he strode easily over to the rest of Slate.

“Cryptid, meet Malachite. This is the last of my Pack. And, he’s right. You don’t have to join us. But we can offer you a place to stay for a bit. There are extra beds at the Emerald. I don’t know if you can eat ‘normal’ food, but Malachite’s quite the cook. You could talk with us over breakfast and then be on your way.” Obsidian clapped Malachite on the shoulder after he made it in range.

Then, all four were standing, spread across the wall, watching him. Waiting for his answer. Maybe they’d have a chance of convincing him in the morning if they couldn’t now. They could at least get him to agree to keep in touch, maybe. The eyes of the other three flickered between Obsidian and Cryptid.

Cryptid was just what their friend needed right then. Someone new to love, someone like him, in a way, and who could understand the difficulty and the anger and the hunger. Someone who could help Obsidian recover from Columbus in a way none of them could. This kid could fix him, could bring him back to life. All they really wanted was the Obsidian they knew back. They wanted that charming, flashing smile, and the light-hearted laugh. He hadn’t been the same since Zeheb, and Samantha had just been the icing on the cake for him.

Maybe this was what he needed. Who he needed.

But first, the kid needed to agree.
 
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