“Oh big guy, you got this all wrong. That’s what I want.” She reached up, fisted her hands in his shirt, and pulled him closer. She leaned in, raising on her toes, until their mouths collided. The kiss was anything but soft. She tasted him, the iron that was still on his lips from the blood, earthy and sweet ginseng, and something underneath, something umami in flavor. Her lips moved against his in a way that demanded everything and left no room for arguments. She used the tree at her back as leverage to arch her back into him, to align their bodies. Electricity ran through her, starting a fire like her body was fresh kindling.
If she’d had the space, the support, she would have jumped up and wrapped her legs around his waist, forcing him to hold her up. Instead, she broke the kiss, but only to trail her lips down and onto his neck, the scent of pine, rosemary, and earth filling her nose. Was there anything about this man that wasn’t delicious? She laughed as she pulled her lips away from him, tilting her head all the way back up to look up at him. “Now, why don’t you take me back to where you’re staying, and we can have some fun? Hmm?”
She pulled away, slipping under his arms, keeping one hand buried in his shirt. She walked backward pulling him into the treeline after her, where they disappeared amidst the deep green leaves. The cedars and firs swallowed them whole as the moon disappeared behind the clouds once more.
Lapis pulled her boots back on over her pants. Her body was sore, but in the best way possible, a way she hadn’t felt… really ever. That previous night had been everything she’d been hoping for and so much more. Her throat was still hoarse, her legs shaky, and as she stood, she stretched her body out, moaning at the ache.
There was a table and a chair near the front door, and she went to it, sitting down. She lifted her phone from where she had left it. One single message, from Ethan.
Come home when you’re done. I have questions.
She rolled her eyes and tucked the phone into her pocket. She stood, turned the chair to face away from the bed, and then sat down in it backward, straddling it. The movement and position made her thighs scream in protest, but she just smiled, laying her head cross the top of the chair. She would wait for him to wake up, because she had something to say before she left to head back to the Diamond.
The night had become very different from what Connor had planned. A swirling cascade of desire and what, now fulfilled, when Connor awoke he felt an unfamiliar pair of feelings. Soreness, but also deep satisfaction. The softness of the bed was all around him, also an unfamiliar feeling. And instinctively he reached out, grasping for the one who had given him this gift. But she wasn’t there.
Of course she wasn’t. Connor felt himself naive for thinking she wouldn’t be. Even if he hasn’t scared her last night, this was clearly a one off thing. Of course it was, Connor understood that, but why did he already long for her touch again? Connor was just coming to terms he'd never see Lapis again when he rolled over and saw her sitting there.
The sight of her made his chest tighten, she was frazzled and rough looking from what they had done last night, looking like she may have taken a tramp through the woods. Connor thought she was the most gorgeous thing he'd ever seen.
"You're still here," Connor said, it was a statement but also a question, and he couldn't help the touched and excited tone that slipped into his voice. He was glad she was here. He sat up, Connor's clothing was thrown onto the floor and he made non effort to retrieve it. He just stared at Lapis. She looked the same as she did really, but something changed about her in this new light, Connor didn't know what. "Last night was..." he couldn't find the words to describe the most intense pleasure he had ever felt. The more he thought about it the more Lapis seemed to shine beautifully to him, and suddenly his face went red, and his gaze broke away. He snatched his clothing up and hurried to dressed while trying to keep himself covered.
Had he really done all that? Had he really bedded this beautiful woman? His face only got redder. The things the nuns would say if they knew...
Lapis looked around the cabin. Where Connor was staying was too far for her to wait, but luckily, they were in the same woods that Ethan’s personal cabin was in. The one he had just bought with the intent of building a vault beneath it. They had yet to start work on that, so she’d had zero qualms about bringing him here. Then she looked back at Connor,
“Intense? Amazing? The best sex of your life? I get that a lot. Rarely do I ever mean it in return. But boy, are you something else.” She leaned forward in the chair until it was balanced on the two back legs. She gave him a sultry but satisfied smile, lazy and languid. Her phone buzzed on the table, and she rolled her eyes, gave a small huff, and picked it up. The blue case with the gold flecks flashed as she lifted it to eye level. The screen unlocked and she read the message.
Lapis. Home. Now.
She rolled her head on her neck and groaned, slapping the phone back onto the table. She leveled a look at Connor, half-dressed now, and smiled. She could see scratch marks down his back, and bite marks on his shoulders. They made her surprisingly pleased. She had left marks like those on dozens of people, but for some odd reason, seeing them on Connor made her extra pleased with herself. Maybe because she knew how many bruises she was going to have, how many marks marred her own skin.
“My Boss is calling me home. I can’t keep him waiting too much longer, or he’ll just use the tracker and find me himself. And he hates doing that. So let’s talk really fast.” She stood from the chair and walked over to Connor just as he got the shirt on. She grabbed it with both hands near the collar and pulled him down and into a kiss again, her lips moving against his in a fierce way. “You, me. I want to do this again. Tell me exactly where you’re staying.”
Connor felt his face go even redder, it must have nearly matched his hair at this point. Her smell was intoxicating, the feeling of her lips on his sent his mind spiralling. His mate-centric instincts, satisfied for the moment, now left him completely to his own devices without an ounce of guidance to direct him.
And yet Connor moved to a different instinct, a new one, one that compelled him to wrap his arms around her and hold Lapis close. His hands found the small of her back and the other her hip, these were gentle and affectionate touches, not the possessive ones of last night. Connor kissed her back.
"I... here, I mean, in the woods... most days, I have some places to stay, but... uh, we can... Connor couldn't recall the last time he stammered or felt this embarrassed, why did she have this effect on him? There should be nothing to it, they mated, she wanted more, that was it, right?
She smirked. His stammering was adorable, and was in complete contrast with the night before. She chuckled and shook her head when he said he’d just been staying in the woods. “Listen, if we’re going to do this again, and we are, then you need someplace to stay.”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key ring, one with nearly two dozen keys. She flipped through them, their color coding making it easy for her to find the right key. She took the key and its small ring off her larger one, pocketing the rest of the keys. She held it up, took one of his hands off her, left the one on her waist, and dropped the key in it. She curled his fingers shut over it, looking almost comically small in his hand.
“This is the key to this cabin. Not only is this going to give you someplace to stay, but it’s going to piss Obsidian off that I gave it to you, so it’s a win-win for me. Now give me your phone number.” She moved away, her hips swaying smoothly as she reached for her phone on the table. She turned back to him, her lip between her teeth as she looked at the newest message.
Don’t make me come get you, lovely, or I’ll make a show out of it.
She rolled her eyes. "Lovely" had been her nickname for the last eight years. She remembered the first time that she had met Obsidian, back when her hair was long, her body rail thin, and he had extended his hand to her. "Hello, lovely." She knew that he had a particularly soft spot for her. He let her get away with so much more than anyone else. The term of endearment here, however, was a threat. Ethan had, on more than one occasion, threatened to eat her partners. “I have to leave, like now. So give me that number.”
Connor looked at they key in his hand, he'd never had a key to a place before. An actual home, sort of, and Lapis had just handed it to him like it was no big deal. He was astonished, only distracted from this by the sight of Lapis' hips, he didn't want her to go, but he did enjoy watching her walkaway.
"Oh! Number, right..." Connor fumbled around with his hunting jacket before his Nokia phone fell out of it. He was getting more use of the thing in the last few weeks than he had in years. He awkwardly punched the buttons on his fingers trying to navigate to where his number was on it, he decided he'd really have to memorize it.
After he had given the number to Lapis she made to leave, but Connor couldn't help himself when he grabbed her hand and presses his lips into it. She tasted like rose and almonds, sweetness and salt, he wanted the taste and her smell to flood his senses again, she was barely gone and he already missed her.
"Thank you... I will see you again? Soon?" Connor asked, bashfully.
Lapis gave him a strange smile, and then she laughed, a genuine sound with a husky pitch to it. “You’ll be seeing me again real soon, big guy. I’ll call you. Enjoy the cabin.”
She moved to leave, throwing the door open, and then paused. She looked back at him, her face becoming serious. “I should warn you. I don’t normally do this, but I feel like I should. My Boss is going to look for you. You turned us down, so he’s going to want to talk to you directly. Can’t stop him, unfortunately. Just… hear him out, okay?”
And with that, Lapis turned and disappeared into the sunlight woods, the door shutting behind her.
“Yeah, I gave him the key to your cabin. He’s going to stay there, I think. I don’t fucking know, okay Ethan?”
“Lovely, lying is unbecoming of you. So did you sleep with him?”
“And if I did? Whatcha gonna do? Eat him?”
“You are dismissed, Lapis.”
The earlier conversation with Lapis had told Obsidian a few things. It gave him an exact location of where to find the meta-human who could rip people’s throats out, used a sword to fight, and who Lapis had definitely fucked. He shook his head as he looked at the treeline. Honestly, it wasn’t a shock she had slept with him. She slept with everyone. Well, anyone who wasn’t family.
He stepped out into the trees just as the sun fully set. He pulled the shadows in to cover his face as he walked. Soon, he blended into the darkness, in his all-black clothing. He has chosen much more casual clothes today. A black turtleneck, black slacks, and his peacoat. He had specifically chosen less formal wear with the intention of being less off-putting to the man he was about to visit.
Connor was his name. Connor, who had turned down their dream as being just that. A dream, with no substance behind it. Connor, who had slept with his little sister, who had come home from with bruises already forming on her sides and back, and bite marks on her shoulders and neck. Lapis didn’t let people leave marks on her, physical or otherwise. Connor, who was either on his shit list or a potential ally.
He took precise steps, keeping his matte leather shoes from the mud. Soon enough, the cabin came into view. He took out his carton of cigarettes, tapped one out, and lit it. He took a few long and calming drags of the nicotine, then walked up to the cabin’s door. Even though he owned the place, he knocked on the door, thrice, with sharp and precise motions.
Connor wasn't in the cabin when Ethan walked in, he was a few yards away and watched Ethan enter the cabin - his cabin now according to Lapis - probably looking for him. So this was the boss Lapis had mentioned, Connor sighed and adjusted the buck which was slung over his shoulder. Turns out, he was fairly popular today, which was yet another new experience for him. It was just that kind of day, huh?
Connor figured he might as well get this over with, and he walked right into the cabin where Ethan was looking for him. Connor raised his eyebrows at him before setting the deer carcass on the ground. Connor didn't sense any danger from this man, though something was a bit... off, something twinged as familiar, but Connor couldn't place it. He squatted over the deer, pulling his bowie knife out and examining his kill.
"Can I help you?" Connor asked as he began cutting into the deer, removing his flank.
Obsidian turned around and met the eye of a man roughly the same height as him, by far broader. He quirked an eyebrow. This was the man Lapis had spent the night with? Had liked enough to have given the key to Obsidian’s personal cabin to? He huffed softly and then smiled beneath the shadows obscuring his face. If Connor were looking closely, he would see a flash of white teeth.
“Connor, I presume.”
He took a few steps parallel to the man where he crouched. He stopped when he was directly across from the man. He tilted his head to the side and watched quietly for a moment as the man began to butcher his prey. He did it with a practiced motion that made it clear he was used to doing such an act. A man that good with a knife could do a lot for them, could be useful in– He stopped. He thought about Todd, and he had a similar feeling about Connor.
Connor didn’t seem like the kind of man, not by Sulphur and Lapis’s testimony, who would be alright with becoming an enforcer. But he might be interested in a position at one of their shelters. Some normal humans had just as much reason to be afraid of man as his family did. His work was for more than just meta-human supremacy, after all. It was at one of those shelters that he could see Connor working at He sighed. Not everyone had to be weaponized against man.
“I’ve heard from Lapis and the others that you weren’t… interested in joining us. I was hoping to persuade you with a different option.”
He smelled like cigarettes, Connor didn't like smokers, but underneath that a layer of cedar wood... and black pepper, that smell was familiar, the others had smelled like that... Lapis had too. Connor frowned, that bothered him but he tried to ignore it. The flank of the deer separated from it's body, Connor then cut the meat free from the rest of the leg and hoof.
He looked up and considered the man before him as he raised the bloody hunk of raw venison to his mouth, his sharp canines tore through the meat even easier than his knife has. Connor ripped into it, blood running down his chin, making snarling and growling sounds as he did so. The flesh was gone in less than a minute and Connor immediately went about cutting off more.
"Survival often requires great scrutiny of offers made by folk you don't know..." Connor peered at the man, the shadows were strange around him, as if they collected unnaturally around his face. This must be a power of his. "I am also not very fond of men who hide their face and don't offer their name."
A slow smile crossed Obsidian’s face and he slowly dispersed just enough of the shadows to show a hazy, muted version of his face, his red hair still covered, but his honey-gold eyes barely visible. He left it like that for a moment so the man could take in his sharp features before recondensing the shadows. “My face is attached to my daytime activities. If I showed everyone what I looked like, the name ‘Obsidian’ would reach ears I don’t want it to. That is my name, by the way. Obsidian.”
Obsidian thought for a second and then, with a very smooth and practiced motion, he dropped down to crouch across from Connor. Standing above him like that was rude. At least, Obsidian felt it was rude. Especially when it was someone he wanted to convince to join one of his teams.
“My offer for you has nothing to do with what was pitched to you yesterday. I promise you won’t be expected to hurt anyone, kill anyone, or even do anything you wouldn’t want to do. But you would be helping a lot of people. Women, children, young metas.” That was his hook. Now it just mattered whether he would bite.
Connor took in as much detail if the face before it disappeared behind the shadows again, he didn't see much, only the eyes... golden, a rare colour. They felt familiar, and the way they were set into his face. Connor frowned at him, while ripping into the toploin of the buck.
"I've never been one for masks or fake names, I love my life far too honestly for that... unless you would prefer to call me Wolfhound, many do." Connor paused. "Obsidian, sharp, hard, but brittle, can cut through anything, shatters like glass..."
He considered the second part of Obsidian's words. Women, children, young metas, the vulnerable, the weak, Connor felt a stirring in his chest. But he dismissed it, what use was he to the weak? He was only good for killing.
"Go on and make your proposal, foolish as it is... I'm of little use to women and children."
There was a scratching at the door and without looking away from Obsidian Connor drew his sword and used it to push the door open, Mac and Brian pattered in. He halted next to Connor, sniffing quizzically at the new smell. Brian looked like he wanted to greet him, but Connor made a small sound in his throat and he remained where he was. Mac stared at Obsidian with strange intelligent eyes. Like Connor he didn't break his gaze when he leaned over to bit chucks form the deer carcass.
Obsidian smiled from underneath his shadows. His smile was softer this time, and he shook his head. “Not all of us can afford to have our faces out in the open, Connor. Some of us have to keep ourselves concealed to protect others.”
“My offer is a security position. I have a shelter off South Atlantic and Baum. We take care of abuse victims and young metas who have been kicked out of their homes. What I’d like to offer you is a position protecting these people. You’ll be well paid, with full benefits. I need people to protect them. My team takes a rotation… including Lapis.”
He gave the man a sly smile through the shadows as he turned his attention to the dogs. He took his hands from his pockets, undoing his right glove. Then, he stretched his hand out, holding it for the dogs to come and investigate.
Connor frowned at Lapis' name, in a small bit of frustration he abandoned his knife and took to tearing into the deer carcass directly with his teeth. He tore through it, coming back up with his beard and mouth spattered with thick blood.
Connor watched as Brian slowly inched forward and sniffed Ethan's hand, his tail swished back and forth. Connor wasn't so surprised, Brian looked a liking to anyone, the dog got closer to Ethan looking for attention. Connor watched it all while mulling over what Ethan had said, it was a twofold offer really, it gave him a job and money, but sweeter; an excuse to see Lapis.
Connor was still confused why that fact alone was enough to make him want to jump at the chance, but something stopped him.
"Why?" Connor asked. "Why me? Why bother? Why do you think I could... protect folk? Your people must have told you what they saw, I'm far more suited to be a hunting dog than a guard dog, so why risk putting me around those too weak to protect themselves? Why seek me out in the first place?"
Ethan smiled in a more content way as he scratched the dog behind his ear. Animals never provoked the same sense of “eat” that people did. If it wasn’t for Lapis’s allergies, they likely would have had dogs and cats all over the place at the farmhouse outside Philly. He sighed, audibly, as he continued to scratch his way across the dog’s head.
“Originally, we were searching for someone else. Someone that we want dead.” He lied because he had to keep up appearances. He couldn’t tell this man about Todd and Cryptid being the same man, especially if he was going to be sleeping with Lapis. Of course, she rarely slept with the same person more than twice.
“To be honest, I would have let you go if it hadn’t been what you were doing when they found you. Saving woman from a trafficking ring. Honestly, it sounds like you’re exactly what I need for this location. A lot of these people have others coming after them. We need someone scary there to protect them. Someone to ward off the unsavory types who think they can storm into a shelter and just take them back.”
He paused for a moment and turned his face back to Connor. He tilted his head and then in a slightly sterner tone, he continued. “I won’t lie to you. I want to use you for your powers. I don’t believe in being deceptive. Not about this kind of thing. I don’t know enough about you as a person to lie and say I’m choosing you for your personality, Connor. But I do firmly believe you would be good at this.”
Connor frowned, and his eyes narrowed, he made a sound, almost unable to be heard by regular ears that commanded Brian to retreat from Obsidian, which he did immediately; scampering to Connor's side. Connor stood, letting the dogs have the rest of the carcass. He stepped closer to Obsidian, his eyes unwavering from him, they were the same height, yet Connor carried the energy of towering over Ethan. Just a taste of fury entered his blood, and he seemed to swell slightly and grow larger, his hackles raised, his hair standing on end. His eyes flashed in the dim light with their animalistic quality, and his hot breath washed over Obsidian. Right now, he projected power, fury, the beast that he was if even just a drop of it.
"The last man who wanted to sue me for my powers... put me in a cage, and tagged me like cattle..." Connor reached up and touched the golden earring he had. "He was named Cain, he too told me I could do good by scaring the right people, how they could use someone like me... when I refused he killed someone I lo-" Connor cut himself off with a growl. "I don't belong... and I don't belong to anyone... and anyone who wants me just wants the beast I can be, if you're trying to convince me otherwise... you are performing poorly."
With a thoughtful look, Obsidian stood up and walked the rest of the way up to Connor. They were practically the same height, and he could look directly into his eyes. He tilted his head to the side and thought for a moment. “I want to use you for your strength– that’s true. I won’t lie to you about that. But that doesn’t make you special. Everyone gets used for what they are and what they have to offer. We use everyone around us, even the people we love. Especially the people we love. We use them for their love because it makes us feel good.”
He shrugged and shook his shadowed head, allowing just enough to fade for the outline of his features to become visible. So Connor could see the seriousness of his words as he continued. “They use us in return. For the reasons that we use them, they use us. I am frequently used for my money, for my status. Everyone. Gets. Used. Wouldn’t you rather the thing you’re being used for be something good?”
Having made his argument, the man waited. Whether he decided to accept or not was entirely on him, now. There was nothing more that Ethan had to say about the matter.
He wasn't afraid, that much had to be respected, he had walked right up to Connor in defiance of his display and looked him right in the eyes. He had allowed the shadows to retreat, showing just enough, so Connor could see the conviction in his words. It all sounded very familiar indeed, but with a different tone, a different breath. Obsidian didn't relish in this reality, he believed it was a sad reality. There was no malice here, not like Cain, no, they were different if only in attitude. But that was enough of a gap. Connor shrunk back down, his hair lay flat, he heaved a sigh as the tension left his body.
"No one uses me... but I can help you if you're really that insistent."
Ethan smiled softly as he watched the tension leave Connor. He didn’t sound happy about the conclusion of their conversation, but he at least seemed okay with the idea of helping out at the shelters. There was a bit of humanity in the smile that Connor couldn’t see. Just a touch of the human inside of him, the one he buried beneath the monster.
With that soft unfocusing, his shadows dispersed just enough for the shadowy outline of his face to be seen, with that ever-so-human smile. With those faintly gold eyes and faded orange-red hair. Twinges of color in the inky shadows that surrounded him. The shadows snapped back into place as he raised his head, his focus returning. He offered Connor his hand.
“I look forward to employing you, Connor. Lapis will come by later to explain the details and get a few signatures from you. You will of course be officially employed so you can be paid for your work. All legal.”
Connor slowly, reluctantly, took the hand. He wasn't fully convinced of anything Obsidian had said, and doubted his real intentions. But recent events in Connor's life had taught him of taking risks and chances can sometimes pay off. If nothing else, the promise of seeing Lapis again... that was reason enough. Employment though, that was new, Connor had never had a job, that was novel.
"I hope this proves to be a good idea... for both our sakes."