Chapter 33 - Q & A
Sometime later found Brandon alone. Clean, exhausted beyond words, a soft throb of pain on every inch of his body, and tucked back into bed.
A good two hours had passed since the female Shifter, Glen had left him to rest and to await his second interrogation of the day and third interrogation of the week and he just wanted to get more rest. And yet try as he might to fall back asleep, he struggled to fall back into unconsciousness. He tottered on the edge of awake and darkness. His mind felt too heavy, the dreams floating there and the memories he didn’t want to visit would torture him. He was too weak, and worried to fight off his subconscious, and too scared to submit to it. So he had forced himself to stay awake and this is how the Shifter with blue eyes found him.
Sleepy. Pissed. And in no mood to have a chit chat. But somehow the Shifter almost shattered all of that with nothing but his presence.
A soft knock at the door, pulled his tired eye lids up a moment later the door cracked open slowly and in a familiar and unfamiliar face appeared. Eyes shining like two lights made of blue florescence caught sight of him and....for what felt like the longest time, but was only a minute, Brandon realized that the Shifter wasn’t hard on the eyes at all.
The Shifter was tall as all the men in his family seemed to be and even though he wasn’t a roided out monster of muscle like the Shifter Mantilo, it was easy to see that he was all definition and lean beneath the faded blue jeans, the barely there sleeveless layered t-shirt that he wore over a chest and dented stomach, that Brandon guessed was the same hard definition as his arms and the same warm vanilla colored tone as the rest of his skin. Dark brown Tim’s on his feet and blond hair, streaked with dark brown locks, combed back from his face in a haphazard way that, made Brandon think that he had done it with his fingers.
But no more than his body...his face set in a natural, but expectant expression was just as hard to ignore.
He coolly looked the Shifter up and down and tried to forget that not hours ago he had had this strangers body locked against him. And even then....he had found the blue eyed Shifter to be quite stunning. IT was impossible but the more that he saw the Shifter....the more mesmerized and more visually stunning he seemed. And Brandon had only been awake for a few hours. He was embarrassed by his reactions and thoughts and he refused to let them show.
The Shifter nodded at him silently, closed the door behind himself.
Dammit....why am I all anxious?
Brandon thought to himself as the Shifter came closer to the bed.
He hated to feel a bunch of nerves in his stomach....but couldn’t turn it off because he was anxious no matter how hard he tried to fight it. And Brandon hated that. He also hated that he suddenly felt just a smidge better for no discernible reason since the Shifter had walked in. But....he did.
Until the Shifter walked up to the bed and reached out toward Brandon to shake his hand. And that’s when he saw it. A blade. His blade. OR more pacifically the grip and handle of the blade that he was currently missing.
Not really thinking about what he was about to do. Brandon went to sit up and pretending to be weaker than he really was he took the hand that was offered to him. And ignoring the terrible strain that it put on his hip, he surged forward and attempted to wrap his hand around the blade on the Shifters hip.
Suddenly he had a hand at his throat like a clamp of steel it held him as the Shifter pressed a hand full of claws to his face and slammed him back into the pillows. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” He hissed, his face inches away from Brandon’s were slit and glowing a brighter blue the only seconds before. He glared down and Brandon tried not to be dominated by the animal that he saw there. Something calm, calculating. Something that was analyzing him. Hunting him.
Brandon wanted to yell at him and fight him off, but with the Shifters hand on his throat and the wicked claws inches from his eye...Brandon quickly decided that movement wasn’t the best idea just then. His eyes, his mouth and even his chin. He was a terribly handsome specimen, there wasn’t an inch of him that Brandon found visually unappealing, from his hair, to his size.....it was disconcerting.
Brandon hardly liked anyone he met. He couldn’t waste time liking people when he had to keep on the move all the time. But.....he didn’t even have a negative thought to attach to the Shifter sitting over him that could have possibly snapped his neck with a flick of his hand.
“Hey!” The Shifter snarled snapping Brandon back into the moment. The hand around his throat tightened slightly and the claws below his eye socket grazing his skin made a chill of surprise go down his spin. “Are you listening to me....do you have a fucking death wish or something? Why did you just try to attack me this time?”
“Fuck you blue boy, you don’t scare me.” Brandon bit out trying to pull his eyes away from the Shifters and failing. “I want what you took from me. Give me back my blade, you thief!”
“Give you my knife? Why in god’s name would I ever hand you anything sharp! You just tried to stab me a few hours ago....in the neck....WITH A NEEDLE!”
With a frustrated sound the Shifter pressed the claws deeper into his cheek, but Brandon noticed that he was careful not to actually cut him, nor did he squeeze Brandon throat so tightly that he couldn’t breathe. He was unable to attack the Shifter anymore, but he wasn’t in any discomfort as the Shifter held his throat. “Now calm down or, I’m gonna get my mother to sedate you.”
“And again I say “Fuck you!” Brandon rolled his eyes. “That knife belongs to me. You stole my stuff now give it back to me!” Brandon tried to demand next, but the Shifter ignored his outrage.
“This isn’t yours...its mine!”
Brandon tried to push his hand off his neck....but he was too weak. “Liar!” he barked defensively.
“Ouch! So now Im a thief and a liar? So unfair.” He spit, turning his head and looking at the blade on his hip. “Im telling the truth. I haven’t stolen from you. This is my knife.....the blade grip I’m wearing just looks similar to the one you had.” The Shifter rolled his eyes. “Besides I would remember the blade that you stuck into my chest cavity after all and this one isn’t it.”
Brandon tensed in fear as he removed his claws from Brandon’s cheek and reached down and unsheathed the long blade at his hip. Lifting it into the light a few inches and instantly Brandon realized that even though the grip and size were similar, the metal of the Shifters knife was completely different form his own currently lost blade.
“God Damnit! I must have dropped it along with my pack out there in your forest.....” Brandon mumbled to himself, relaxing his muscles and ignoring the Shifter completely for a few moments as he tried to retrace his steps and failed. He stabbed around in his scant memories of the last few days...then gave up...when all he seemed to bring up was empty darkness.
“Wait...is that it?” The Shifter said, a frown on his face as he pulled back slightly. His blue eyes filling with incredulity. “One moment you’re screaming thief and liar and the next...nothing?”
“Yup....” Brandon said tilting his head as much as the current situation would allow. “...Was I supposed to say something else?”
The Shifter laughed looked away... then back at Brandon. He appeared to be lost for words “Seriously, I just told you that stabbed me in the chest and you don’t know what to say back to me?”
“What do you want me to say!? ” Brandon tried not to scream as the tedious back and forth and strange looks started to irritate him. He watched the Shifter close his blue eyes and shake his head as though something were hurting his head.
What does he want from me?
Brandon thought to himself. He honestly had no idea what more needed to be said just then so he tried to move on.
He couldn’t move much, but the Shifters hold had lessened enough that he was able to tile his head down and looked at the long clear claws pressed into his cheek he frowned as an important question from before suddenly became very pressing. “So you have claws and glowing eyes huh? So what kind of Shifters are you people?”
Suddenly the Shifters blue eyes opened and he let out a sharp laugh of disbelief. “Your terrible....do you know that?” he began.
“First you try to steal my knife and then you ask me a question?” The Shifter smiled at him all predatory and tickled as he pulled his claws away and shook his head. “What kind of Shifter am I? The kind that you don’t wanna get too angry. So...lets lay some ground rules right now” The Shifter sighed looking down at his hip where the partially pulled up blade sat in the sheath at his side.
Brandon didn’t say anything, he didn’t miss the fact that the Shifter had avoided his question, but he let it go. He wanted to ask him to elaborate further about just what kind of animals his family could shift into...but he got the sense that like Glen....her son wasn’t going to tell him the answer.
“First rule....no more attacking me! You don’t seem to understand that we don’t mean you any harm.” The Shifter said his blue eyes going soft for a moment. “You don’t have to act so feral and defensive with me.” He hissed, sitting back on the bed, giving Brandon some space, even though he still held him by the throat and down on the bed. “I promise I’m not gonna hurt you, but you have to stop trying to hurt me.”
“Whatever...” Brandon said looking up at him. “I’ll be calm...Now let me go already.” Brandon went to push up off the bed slightly and leaned back on the mountain of pillows that Glen had given him, but Ezekiel held him to the bed a moment later before relenting.
The Shifter helped him and pulled him back into a sitting positions still holding him by his throat. After Brandon was up he released him and held his hands out to the sides of him, in a symbol of surrender.
“Ok.....I’ll let you up....but seriously think before you do anything else aggressively. You’re not in the healthiest state right now so if you pop those stitches again it could be really bad. Just keep your hands to yourself. That can’t be too hard.... “The Shifter said in a teasing manner as he slowly, but confidently sat on the edge of the mattress and dropped his arms into his lap.
Brandon scoffed softly and as the Shifter settled in beside him. Brandon waited for him to do something...or say something, but for the longest moments they just...looked at each other. The Shifter, Ezekiel sat inches away from him and his proximity was oddly nice. Brandon watched his face, his blue eyes that were so strange and slit roamed over Brandon’s face as he watched him back. Then suddenly the Shifter was staring at his throat, his nose flaring as he seemed to catch a scent. Brandon had the feeling that the Shifter was scenting him.
An image of Ezekiel holding Brandon to the wall suddenly sprang back up. His grip, his body locking him into the wall. His gentle lips...his fangs on his skin. The smell and heat of his form had nearly ignited unwanted shudders from him. Brandon shook the thought off, put a hand on his throat and looked away. The feeling of his own finger tips on his skin still shocked him and he flinched.
Not for the first time he wondered where his gloves were now. He had grown accustomed to the feeling of leather on his skin after donning his gloves in the morning and wearing them all day. A habit that had saved many lives.
Where did all of my stuff go?
Brandon thought to himself as he pulled his hands away from his skin.
I can’t function without those gloves for long....
“Why are you so quiet now?” He said to the Shifter trying to break the silence. “What do you want from me...?” He said looking down at his other bare hand in his lap. . “Your mother said you wanted to talk to me...so talk already.”
“Are you on drugs?” The Shifter suddenly questioned him. His nostrils flared again as his eyes moved from Brandon throat to his face.
“Wait.....Where the hell did that come from?”
Brandon asked looking back at him. He was so blindsided by the question that he laughed. “What are you talking about!?”
“I asked if you were taking narcotics stranger.”
Brandon wanted to tell the Shifter to go to hell, but the bewildered look on his face stopped him. He looked like there was some secret he was trying to unravel.
Brandon didn’t know what was bothering the Shifter and he didn’t really care. He just wanted him to get to the point. Something about Brandon that confounded him and for curiosity’s sake....Brandon wanted to know what it was.
“Oh that’s right, you guys are like the local law enforcement around here aren’t you?” Brandon said. “Your mother called it....something fancy....” Brandon trailed off as he tried to dredge up the name Glen had given him in the shower.
But the Shifter beat him to it. His blue eyes glanced away from him as he shrugged. “It’s not too fancy. We call ourselves Guardians, since it’s our job to protect and serve our Clan. ”
“So what is this.....an interrogation?” He sneered softly looking at the Shifter.
The Shifter looked back at him and without an ounce of guilt or hesitation he nodded his head. “Yes. I’m gonna interrogate you...but it’s simply information sharing. No pressure. No danger to you Pretend like your talking to a mortal cop if it would help.”
I’ve never even been within two miles of a cop in my life. So I can’t really pretend.
Brandon thought to himself.
But for some reason he appreciated The Shifters readily offered answers.
“All I care to tell you is that I’m a traveler. I hunt for my food so I have to be lucid since ill be using weapons. I’m not taking anything.” Brandon sighed answering his absurd question “I’m clean. I’ve never taken any narcotics. But I know I look bad and all so I can see why you would ask me that....I guess?”
The Shifter shook his head and looked like he wanted to say more, but Brandon interrupted him quickly.
“But, if I have to talk to you, then you’re gonna have to answer a few of my questions as well.”
“Well aren’t you an opportunist? Trying to turn an interrogation back on the interrogator...?” The Shifter smiled softly, a move that not only emphasized his incredible mouth....but the four slightly sharp teeth, two on each side of his front teeth. Pointy canines that no mortal would ever sport. The sight of them shocked him as much as the Shifters smile tried to charm him. “Fine, let’s do this. A limit of ten questions for each of us.....I believe that sounds fair enough?”
“Alright...you’re the cop here not me.” Brandon told him, somewhat thrown off by how casual, soft and serious the Shifter was. It was oddly inviting, where before Brandon had wanted nothing to do with the conversation.
“Im a Guardian, but who’s splitting hairs? ” The Shifter shrugged as he replied. “Anyway what is it you wanna know? Ask.”
“It’s only one question actually.....” Brandon told him. “Um, I want to know what happened when I was found. Your father and your mother say that you were the one that found me and....I don’t remember much about it.”
“Yeah I was the one that found you.” Ezekiel confirmed. “About a mile and a half out form the village....you were bleeding to death.”
“When you found me....was there anyone else with me?” Brandon asked him, trying to keep the tightness in his chest out of his voice.
The Shifter shot him a suspicious look. “Was there supposed to be someone there with you?”
“You’re avoiding the question.” Brandon told him, and the Shifter smiled at him. Some of the teeth in his mouth looking far too point for Brandon’s peace of mind.
“Tell me more and maybe I’ll give you an answer.” The Shifter tried to leverage. His blue eyes shining too bright to be normal. “Tell me who you’re looking for?”
“No...you irritating.....” Brandon sighed and closed his eyes, still feeling the sickness pounding at his head and eyes and side, but talking seemed to help....talking to the Shifter seemed to help, so he tried to moderate his anxiety. “Can you just tell me what you saw when you found me.”
“Now who’s avoiding the question?” The Shifter shot back. He shifted on the bed as though he were preparing to stand up and leave the room. “Why should I tell you anything at all...?”
Brandon snatched his arm and jerked the Shifter towards him. “Answer me! Was there any one else there besides me when you found me!?”
The Shifter snarled at him and pulled back. Brandon released him as Ezekiel shot him a curious glare, but after a moment he shook his head. “I only saw you. When I found you, you were alone and two feet from death. I also didn’t sense anyone else out there at the time.”
The Shifter watched him. His eyes like blue lasers. The beast in him seemed to be analyzing Brandon’s every move. Every expression that he made “IS that a good thing? Or a bad thing for you?”
Trying to hide the mountain of relief that he felt at those words Brandon simply shrugged at him. “It’s not good or bad. Its fine.....That’s just.....fine.”
The Shifter shot him a soft glare. He didn’t seem to like Brandon’s cagey wording. So Brandon decided to change the subject. “You still have....about eight more questions to ask me, right?”
“So now were keeping count...?” The Shifter sighed. “Fine. I only have about two or three.” He began. “So...we’ve established that I found you out in the forest alone, but where did you come from exactly and how did you get here? Do you live around any of the nearby cities?”
“I don’t know about that. I kind of move from place to place not looking back.” Brandon told him.
The Shifter hissed at him slightly and Brandon almost jumped as he was reminded that the man beside him wasn’t a man at all. “How can you not know?” He said. “Do you know how you ended up with that cut in your stomach?”
“Oh that cut?” Brandon rolled his eyes. “I got that from falling on top of a sharp rock.” He supplemented the excuse easily...and part of that wasn’t a total fabrication. “You now have about five questions left.”
The Shifter growled at him, obviously not liking the count that Brandon was keeping. “You fell on a rock?” he said next. “Seriously mortal, you could at least pretend to be telling the truth.”
“Why should I pretend?” Brandon told him. “You can’t trust me. You don’t even know my name and I don’t want to know yours. We just met and for all you know every word out of my mouth is or could be a lie.” He pointed out.
And that was a lie as well. Brandon had in fact told the Shifters nothing but the truth since he woke up. He was just being careful about what truths he shared or didn’t share. He had to be.
“Stop being difficult...We can exchange names now if it would make things easier...” The Shifter offered.
“But I don’t want to.” Brandon said....the last thing he wanted was to get chummy with these Shifters.
“So you don’t want to talk seriously or exchange names. Well if you were going to talk in circles why you did even bother to talk to me at all? Im not one for wasting my time!” The Shifter snarled back at him shaking his head.
Brandon just shrugged at him and let him guess what it meant.
“Fine ...well skip names for a while, so don’t clam up on me now. I feel like we’re starting to get somewhere.” The Shifter said leaning towards him slightly. It was obvious from his smirk that he was being sarcastic. ” Look you said you travel and that you’re a hunter, so you must be good with directions. How did you get lost here? Were you trying to get home and ran into the forest? If so, we can get you back to your home at any time...you just have to tell me.”
“I don’t have a home.” Brandon said cutting him off quickly. “And as I was hiking... I slipped on a sharp rock and got lost. Im assuming I lost my way because of the blood loss and fatigue the fall caused me. That’s all.”
Brandon didn’t lie as a rule. He tried very hard not to tell lies and he didn’t concoct stories, simply because he didn’t like to do it. But.....that didn’t mean that he had to spill his guts to these people. Especially since he couldn’t really trust them.
As Brandon saw it, part of a story was still half of the whole thing. “I didn’t come from anywhere. And I’m not going anywhere.” Some of that was the truth. Brandon truly didn’t know where he was or where he was going anymore. He just had to keep running. The place he had come from...he hoped he would never return there.
The Shifter dropped his shoulders and sniffed at him. “Ok so what is that supposed to mean? You don’t have a home?” The Shifter asked him looking troubled. “Do you have anyone you can go to? Any friends or family close by or even a few cities away from here?”
“Nope and nope.” Brandon told him, refusing to elaborate. He didn’t have much to say about himself, because a normal person wouldn’t understand.
All I have are enemies
He remained himself. And he knew that no one could ever relate to that sentiment.
“You now have two questions left.” He told the Shifter softly. Smoothing a hand across his lap and doing everything possible not to look at the Shifter anymore.
Ezekiel sighed sounding defeated, he didn’t demand an elaboration to his answers either.
He seemed to be taking extreme care, but he didn’t seem to like the short answers he was receiving. But before Brandon could completely shut him out. The Shifter turned his back on him and pulled something out of his pocket. Thin black leather gloves.