Keep Your Friends Close
Danny woke up to a knife held to her throat. The knife wasn't what was worrying her all that much, just the person gripping the knife tightly.
His eyes were hard and unyielding, and a startling cobalt. His dirty-blond hair wasn't held in it's usual swept up position by gel, and hung in his eyes. His breathing was calm, his hand steady. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he was doing it to the best of his abilities. After all, he had already driven a stake through Danny's hand and into the ground. Since it took a lot more effort to remove a wooden stake as opposed to any other wound, Danny was effectively immobilized. Though, she was not defenseless by any means. Knives in hidden sheathes were still in easily accessible places, and all Danny had to do was casually, slowly reach to find one.
But she couldn't. She couldn't bear to draw any of her numerous blades on the one who now held his one knife to her exposed throat. The pain of the wound had awakened Danny from a light sleep, causing her eyes to instinctively turn their intimidating red and her fangs to extend menacingly. She had hissed like the predator she was without realizing it. But as soon as she caught sight of her enemy, she had frozen. Danny never froze in the middle of a heated situation, never hesitated whatsoever to do what was necessary. Her training didn't allow it, the reflexes she had honed for so long, the skills she had learned, the power she had gained wouldn't allow her to be in grave danger for something as stupid and unnecessary as doubt.
But the name escaped her lips with all the confusion and worry she felt, "Nick?"
Nick had grinned triumphantly, "You're coming with me, Shadow."
"What's going on, Nick?" Danny breathed, "This isn't like you."
"Does that matter now, Shadow?" Nick gritted his teeth, "You're not in the best position to talk back to me right now."
Danny, letting her inner Ripper start to take over her emotions before she could do something stupid, like cry or panic, growled with menace, her voice becoming as deadly as it was when she was really mad, "Get. Off."
He flinched, just barely, "Sorry. Can't exactly do that now."
Now? Shadow asked impatiently in Danny's head.
Knock some sense into him, Danny said back, already feeling the Ripper take over her body.
Don't worry, Princess, The Ripper said back, sounding oddly sympathetic, I won't let your boyfriend get hurt too badly. We'll get to the bottom of this mess, I promise.
Danny, taken aback by the uncharacteristic kindness Shadow showed, blinked and found herself in her inner world, Thank you, Shadow.
Then Danny closed her eyes and watched her Ripper pull off an amazing stunt. Head butting the Haunter on top of her, Shadow stunned Nick long enough to reach with her free hand and tear the stake out of her hand with her impressive strength. Next, ripping a knife from a hidden sheath up her jacket sleeve and jumped up to her feet. Nick, now out of his daze, thrust his blade into Shadow's stomach. Blinking, as if he didn't expect that blow to land, Nick twisted the knife. Shadow looked down at the wound, not even wincing at the pain that was assaulting her senses, and then back up to Nick's confused expression. Shadow slowly lifted her free hand, which still had a hole in it from the stake, and clamped it onto Nick's wrist. Gripping even harder, Shadow's efforts were rewarded with a satisfying crack as Nick's wrist snapped. All the tendons now severed as well, Nick's vise grip on the knife he had been twisting faltered.
Shadow tossed away Nick's limp hand, and planted a roundhouse kick so quickly that Nick couldn't have known what had happened until he slammed into the plaster wall of the motel they were in. As Nick recovered from the daze of the kick, Shadow closed her free hand around the hilt of the knife that was jutting out of her stomach. And, just as Nick was getting up from the wall, she threw that knife at him. The blade slashed the artery in Nick's neck before it sunk deep into the wall behind him. Clutching at his beck as blood gushed from the wound, Nick looked into Shadow's eyes. What stared back at him was, for all intensive purposes, Death. Cold, indifferent, absolute, unyielding, bone chilling, and immortal. The killer intent in those crimson eyes must have stopped Nick's heart, just as they stopped the hearts of her previous opponents. Savage and Shadow shared that trait, the only difference being that Savage had used that look so much that it had become his usual expression. Danny was starting to think that that was what she was becoming. That was was becoming just like the notorious killers of the West Branch, she was fitting in with the family just fine. Danny scoffed at the thought and continued to watch Shadow fight.
They were fighting with fists now, Shadow having sheathed her knife and come at him with her balled up fists. Nick had obliged, clipping Shadow in the jaw before she could counter, then sending his other fist into her stomach. Shadow gripped his forearm as it drew back from her stomach, snapping it effortlessly in three places. Growling in pain, Nick tried to wretch away. But Shadow's grip was like steel, her nails only digging in deep into his flesh. Blood pooling from her grip, Nick sent a lightning fast punch to Shadow's temple. In one fluid motion, Shadow dodged the blow and caught the punch just as easily as she had snapped his arm. With one option left, Nick lounged forward, aiming the crown of his skull at Shadow's. But instead of dodge it, Shadow moved the hand she had just caught in the way of the attack. As he slammed into his own fist into his skull, Shadow herself lounged with fangs bared in a snarl.
Nick yelped in surprise as Shadow sliced open his neck with her fangs. But as he jerked away, Shadow tore out his throat with her fangs. Blood was all over the floor, Nick's body, and Shadow's chin. Nick collapsed to the ground, clutching at his throat. But there was too much damage for him to recover before blacking out from blood loss.
"What have you done with yourself, Nicholas," Shadow said in her trademark voice, one that was twice as ghost-like as Danny's, as she shook her head.
You don't mind if I stay in control until this is all sorted, do you, Princess? Shadow asked Danny.
I don't see a reason why not. Thank you, Danny breathed, still unable to comprehend that Nick had basically betrayed her. Grateful for the exemption from dealing with the aftermath of this, Danny turned her thoughts to what could have told her that this would have happened. Nick had been as an amazing boyfriend and superior as always throughout the month they had spent together in Texas behind enemy lines. She hadn't even thought of how he had been away a little too long on missions when he went alone, because she was too excited of what they would get to do when he came back. They always enjoyed each others company, never found a dull or awkward moment in any of their conversations. So why this sudden and frightening change of heart that he would bring his blade to her throat and demand she comply as if she were the enemy they shared?
Danny sat down in the sands of her inner world and screamed. Clutching her head as if it were about to explode.
Nathaniel slammed his fist down on his desk as he heard the latest news from the North Branch. Savage, his ever stoic and emotionless Brother, remained in the rafters. That's what they always did, Nathaniel took all the calls and called all the shots while Savage watched and waited for when he was needed. Nathaniel, through the memories and experiences he shared with his brother, knew that when Savage started to toss a knife up and catch it over and over again without seeming to notice he was doing so, he was angry under his mask of apathy. Currently, that was exactly what he was doing, the knife that was being tossed in that manner was a perfectly balanced throwing knife. Nathaniel, whom had the same anger issues as his brother chose to vent them in a different way. While Savage waited in the shadows with a blade in hand, Nathaniel would go out and demolish multiple items in a nearby scrap yard. Entire cars have been flattened in the past as the result of his unending ire. Savage most of the time accompanied him to these trips to the scrap yard, since the noise and destruction usually attracted bystanders and enemies alike and Nathaniel would be too enraged and irrational to notice as she flattened the occasional eighteen-wheeler.
Now, Nathaniel would have to settle for a restrained pounding of his thick desk that almost resulted in it shattering from the assault. His tone was eerily neutral, despite it being rasped through his clenched teeth, "What did you say?"
"We were over run, sir," The Haunter said, worry etched subtly into his carefully neutral tone, "We had to retreat to the southern part of our territory."
"How could you weaklings let this even happen?" Nathaniel growled, "How could you let those dogs beat you?"
"Well, to be fair," the Haunter countered, "We are one of the smaller branches, only bigger then the Central branch by about five hundred soldiers. And they attacked our outposts at just the right times so that their overwhelming numbers crippled our defenses and forced us to flee."
"Flee?" Nathaniel was visibly angry now, "You, vampires that have been trained since you were new bloods to kill Rippers, fled from mere dogs?"
The Haunter grumbled in response, "What are you implying, Commander? That I am not worthy of the title I've held for a century?"
"If the title is recruit, then yes," Nathaniel growled, "Let alone a Lieutenant Commander."
"It is not fair to compare me to your Lieutenant, sir," The Haunter protested, "Since he is, after all a Prodigy, four hundred years old, and an assassin before he was even Turned."
Nathaniel heard his brother grunt in the rafters above. That grunt meant, He has a point.
Nathaniel rolled his eyes and responded simply, "I don't compare anyone to myself or my brother, since that would be unjust to the entire world population in general. What I meant was that if you so much as thought about fleeing, then you should not claim any right to the title of Haunter. Even the pacifist East Branch knows that, for God's sake."
An explosion sounded in the background, as the response came back, "You were not there, sir. You have no idea what they were capable of."
"You're right, I wasn't there," Nathaniel grunted, ignoring the sudden explosion entirely, "And if I were, you would be trudging through a lake of our enemy's blood. And your's as well, if you fled during that same instance."
"I have to go, sir," The Haunter said, "We are making hideouts in the hills and canyons to escape the sunlight."
Nathaniel rolled his eyes, "Very well."
Nathaniel cut the transmission. He sighed, and so did Savage. They both knew that they mutually felt irked by the cowardice the North Branch always seemed do display in times of war. It's why they were given the task of crafting the special Gear clothing, in case they were taken over like they were now. The Gear, essential enough to satisfy their superiors during times of normal "peace-time" operations, was not needed as much as time of war. The South Branch, which encompassed Louisiana and part of Alabama, was given the job of making weapons. Since they had strong witch allies, they were entrusted with that task. The East, with it's level headed leader Michael and former-West Branch Haunter Nicholas as his Lieutenant, was perfectly suited to handle strategy and advise the Central Branch in it's decisions. The Central Branch was the overall commanding branch, and held the majority of the weaker Haunters because of the low rate of Rogues in that area of North America.
Every Commander of their respective Branches held equal say in all final decisions as to what the North American Legion's actions were to be, but the two big ones that were called upon the most in times of war were the West and East Branch.
The West Branch was headed by Nathaniel and Savage, both of which were notorious soldiers that had solidified their reputation as ruthless killers. The West Branch was home to the largest force of Haunters, and where most of the highly talented Haunters usually were stationed. It held the West Coast, and all states that bordered California, Oregon, and Washington, in its territory. Every one of those states seemed to be bristling with Rogues and Rippers. It was because of this that Nathaniel was given charge of this section of North America. Savage was put in the position of Lieutenant Commander since he wasn't as much of the strategist as his brother, and because that would require talking.
The East Branch, under the care of Michael, was the third largest Branch. Since Michael was an extremely accomplished strategist, the only one that could best Nathaniel on the subject, however minuscule the margin of victory, his branch wasn't in great need of a large force. The streets of New York, a breeding ground for Rogues and Rippers, were clean of the former withing the first year of his command and but washed of the latter in the first month. He knew exactly where he could place his subordinates to get the best possible result. He instilled such fear in the population of his territory within that first year that no Rogue would show his face but once every three or four years. During the first war with the werewolves, his branch suffered the fewest casualties.
Now the weakness of the North Branch was going to hinder every other operation within the United States thanks to the South Branch also losing ground. The Central, West and East were now bordered by the werewolves. And Nathaniel and Savage knew that meant they would have to find someway to handle the situation. Nathaniel was grateful to the newest edition to his family. His new Sister, Shadow, was doing them proud. Nathaniel had heard the tales of her exploits, and was happy to hear that she was sent into Texas to shut down the werewolves' advance. Trusting that she would succeed, Nathaniel could now completely focus on the North Branch. He thought of sending Savage to aid them, and take back their territory, but Nathaniel felt that that would leave them wide open to an attack if Savage wasn't doing what Nathaniel couldn't.
Nathaniel feared that if the werewolves attacked while Savage was away, they would come with vervain tranq darts and possibly a witch or two. They had connections, Nathaniel knew that much from the numerous reports from the various Branches, and they could certainly muster enough warriors so that the chances of a lucky shot striking Nathaniel down were in their favor. Sadly, even though Nathaniel had trained his body to resist the herb over the centuries, he was not immune to a direct injection by the tranq darts. The dosage for him would be extremely potent if Nathaniel could believe the reports of the werewolves extensive knowledge of the Haunters, and would most likely subdue him long enough for Nathaniel to be captured or killed. And that would end terribly for both sides.
Nathaniel chuckled despite himself at the thought of Savage's, Shadow's, and his death. If one of the three of them were to die, the other two would be on a warpath that could possibly spill over into the public from the shadows it was currently being fought in. What a sight that would be. Werewolves and Vampires fighting in public to the death. World War III would ensue, the news of the war the North American Legion fought causing the werewolf clans of the rest of the world to strike the Haunter Legions given charge of the rest of the World. It would be catastrophic. It would be amazing for bloodthirsty killers like Nathaniel, Savage, and Shadow by the looks of her progress.
"Brother," Savage's voice, rough from it being almost never used out of private conversation, "I haven't heard a report on Danielle's status for a good day now."
"So?" Nathaniel said, shrugging. He trusted that Shadow would not get into any stupid situations, that she would survive.
"She has consistently reported to the East Branch ever since she went behind enemy lines," Savage said, hooking a finger into the scarf wrapped around his face and pulling it down to his neck, "You know that she doesn't break consistences without a good enough reason. And she knows we know that, so she would maintain her actions so that we don't come after her blindly because she's family."
Nathaniel merely nodded, as he listened to his brother.
Savage sighed, shaking his head, "I want to go check on her, Nathaniel."
"Why? Don't you think that says that you don't trust her to take care of herself?" Nathaniel raised an eyebrow.
Savage growled, "No, because by the time I would arrive there, it would have been about four days since her last report. That is a reasonable time difference to warrant concern, Brother."
Nathaniel blinked at Savage's earnestness, "Are you okay? You're showing more emotion then all of last year."
Savage growled, "Shut up."
"Are you worried about her? Despite knowing her skill and strength?" Nathaniel said incredulously, "I can't believe this is happening. Maybe Hell froze over too while I was sleeping..."
Savage growled like his namesake, saying through grit teeth, "I'm going, Commander. If I receive word that she has reported and is alright, I will redirect to the North Branch and deal with the issue there in the quickest way I know how."
Nathaniel's eyes widened ever so slightly, "Oh? How long do you think that will take?"
"Depends on if you let me use the ring or not." Savage responded, all traces of the worry he'd unwittingly let slip past his indifferent mask gone.
"True, true," Nathaniel said, "I'll let you use it just for this assignment, but we can't use them freely just yet. You know how upset the Legion would get if they found out."
"And not to mention how you and I feel about using them," Savage added.
"That's not an issue with regards to breaking our pact on the subject, Brother, since it was not sealed with blood," Nathaniel said.
"Right," Savage said, pulling his scarf back up to his face as well as flicking on his hood, "I'll go then, while I still have some moonlight to spare."
"Fine," Nathaniel said, "But make this quick, Brother, we need you here in case the dogs get any ideas about striking our territory."
Savage nodded, then disappeared from sight with his astonishing vampire speed.
Danny watched with a heart in turmoil as Shadow retrained Nick's unconscious body with spare vervain rope to a chair. She had prepared a blade by soaking it in vervain so that she could stab him with it. It was as good as injection thanks to the potency of the vervain. Danny couldn't have done what Shadow was doing now, and would be sitting on her bed staring at Nick's body. She would be as numb as she was now, as stunned as she was now, and wouldn't know what to do with herself until Nick recovered. Then what? When he came back, would he attack her once again while she watched from the bed without flinching.
For once, Danny was grateful for Shadow taking complete control. Granted, this meant as soon as Nick was secure Shadow would take the liberty to go on a killing spree, but Danny was grateful nonetheless. As Shadow tightened the last knot of rope, wearing the gloves supplied with the rope so that she wouldn't get harmed by handling the rope, she stepped back to check the restraints one last time.
Satisfied, Shadow turned away and sat down gingerly on the bed. Surprised at the action, as opposed the the aforementioned expectation, Danny spoke, "You're not going to-"
"No," Shadow cut her off, verbally though she could only hear Danny in her head, "I won't."
"Why?" Danny asked, curious.
"Because, we're merging slowly, Princess," Shadow said, "You're becoming more like me, and I'm becoming more like you. Though, it's good for me that you mostly turn into me while I just become a little less crazy. It's a lopsided blend, Princess. It's why Savage is like how he is. His good side is overshadowed by his Ripper. He can still show emotion, like you, but he chooses to save it for those who really deserve it. I noticed you were starting to do the same."
Danny blinked, "What exactly does this mean for me then?"
"It means," Shadow said, sounding the slightest bit impatient, "You're going to become a bad-ass, like your brothers. It means you are going to be a cold-blooded killer that will be able to slaughter entire armies like your brothers have. But you won't show any emotion towards those you kill, or the ones you call your allies. You'll scare the world, chilling it to the bone with your stare. My stare. Our stare. But don't worry, you still can chose to show emotion for the next fifty years give or take. But after that, the only people that will know that you have emotions to begin with will be the people you care for most, and the ones that remember what you were like at this moment."
"Why?" Danny asked, the full force of what Shadow was saying barely hitting her.
"The Curse sealed me away until you Turned," Shadow explained, 'But when you Turned, I slowly woke back up. Then that stupid witch back in L.A. Forced me to slowly start to merge with you. It started with me accepting you and letting you combine with my strength, but if that happened without the witch interfering if would have taken ten years for this merging to start and a century to complete. Now, because of the witch, you have lost a lot of time to be the girl you used to be."
"I see..." Danny said solemnly.
Shadow sounded surprised, "You don't seem to be as upset about that as I thought you would be, Princess."
Danny shrugged in her inner world, "It is what it is, I guess. Nothing I can do about it."
Shadow smirked, "I love and hate this new you, Princess."
"Oh?" Danny raised and eyebrow.
"Yeah," Shadow chuckled, "The old you was fun to mess with, but you were irritating and weak willed. The new you is better in every aspect now, but who am I going to mess with now?"
Danny smirked, "Thanks, and, sorry?"
"Not your fault, I guess," Shadow shook her head, "I was just mentioning it, Princess."
Danny's response was cut off by Nick's sudden intake of breath as he came back to life. Danny's and Shadow's attention went immediately to the Haunter. Shadow absently drew a blade, and watched as him regain consciousness. Her crimson eyes piercing and deadly, a predators gaze. She gripped the knife in anticipation of the unlikely scenario that the bindings were either too weak or an intruder would appear in the door, as those stunning cobalt eyes fluttered open. Groaning, Nick rolled his neck without seeming to notice. His eyes came into focus on the form of Shadow and he seemed to be confused.
"Danny?" He said, just like the Nick she knew and cared for so deeply always asked when he was unsure of something and he was making sure he wasn't going to hurt her feelings, "What's going on? Why do you have me tied to a chair?"
Even Shadow had no idea how to respond to that for the first few moments.