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Chapter 16.QuickBreath

“This is ridiculous. How the hell is he still alive?” A familiar voice piped up.

“I left instructions with his guardian that he needed to get a spoonful of powdered silver in his food every day. Although I’m fairly certain that we’re witnessing a miracle right now. Silver or no, there were just too many bullets for him to have much of a chance, but he’s still going… some how…” Another voice spoke.

Xavien fought to open his eyes and his vision was blurred. He could not focus his thoughts and knew that he was too weak to defend himself at that moment.

“Shit, you’re awake… Heh Heh Heh, you are one tough son of a bitch… hold still and don’t jerk around. I’m trying to get the last couple slugs out.” The familiar voice spoke, in awe of his patient.

Xavien thought it wise not to speak.

“Hey, Xavien…” The other voice spoke up; “I guess now is a good time to talk to you, since you are a captive audience. My name is Ron Taxer. Let’s just say that I was a friend of Myrna and your mother’s. I’ve been looking for you, since I was taken out of cryo. Now, I wasn’t expecting to have to bring you back from the point of death on our first meeting, but it works I guess. Anyhow… I have Bruce Crane here with me. He’s been keeping an eye on you, as best as he could, too.”

Xavien slowly regained his eyesight and watched as Bruce extracted a bullet, and then dropped it in a pan that had 8 other slugs in it.

“First off… I know I got shot in the head… but what was the deal with the other 7 slugs?” Xavien asked, groggily.

“Well, what probably happened is that you kept getting back up and surprising the shit out of them. Our kind doesn’t get along with silver too well… I think after awhile, whomever shot you just emptied their weapon into you until you stopped moving.” Ron chuckled, as if this was somehow funny.

“What is this with you saying… you told Myrna to feed me a spoonful of powdered silver every day?” Xavien asked breathlessly, suspiciously as he strained to speak.

“Yeah… that. She thought it was for a medical condition. Which, it sorta was. Saved your life right there, it did; built up a tolerance to it.” Ron explained.

“Any side effects?” Xavien asked.

“Yeah… it may have delayed your development spiritually, a bit. This isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you’re a late bloomer. Myrna told me that she gave Clara the supply and instructions to mix it into your food, when she first married you.” He cringed as he spoke, because he obviously knew the reaction this may cause. Ron Taxer was a ridiculously well-muscled man, but was much shorter and not nearly as bulky as Joseph Johnson. He also appeared older.

Xavien shook his head, slowly; this didn’t compute. How could Clara have known or kept this from him; “I have to know how Clara had known and kept this going for so long without my knowledge?”

“Honestly, I don’t have that info… sorry… She was likely sharper than you gave her credit for. I will say that the effect silver has on us can also dampen emotion and drain us a bit… even before the first change occurs. So, in short, you aren’t completely at fault or as broken as you think you are. Now is a terrible time to learn all this… but… well, hell, I was awakened out of stasis to help you.” Ron said, in a conciliatory tone.

“… the fuck? So this whole thing was a conspiracy? Wait… Bruce? You knew I was a werewolf?” Xavien said as he shook the metaphorical cobwebs out of his mind.

“My son is a werewolf; I knew it was in my bloodline… Let’s just say that I’m at least educated, even if I am not one.” Bruce replied, sadly.

“Then… how do you know Ron?”

“Well, through your mother. He was her… friend… throughout the time she was pregnant with you and after you were born. It’s a matter of course that I would have met him. Then, through that, he told me that he recognized my family name. Apparently, Giles is the same breed of werewolf that he is; which is another level of frustration that I feel since he has rejected all of it. He doesn’t have the… erhmm… excuses…. You do. Nor does he have the potential upside that you’ve always shown.” The captain spoke, frankly.

Xavien felt that the explanations would have to do, for the moment. He kicked himself for not being more observant; he’d been too trusting and apparently overlooked a few too many things.

“So why the big fuss over me; other than sentimentality?” Xavien asked.

“Your father’s family. Your father’s wife’s family. Your extended family. Your mother’s dire fate. Your father’s dire fate. The connection that the Kretchmar family has with the Masterson family. Which... I should probably mention… I am, officially, one-quarter Masterson on my paternal side. Doesn’t have any bearing as I’ve intentionally stayed away from my father’s family. But as the Kretchmar and Masterson family is so woven throughout your major formative events… it was worth mentioning.” Ron Taxer shrugged and sighed.

“I hate family ties.” Xavien snarled

“Tell me about it. So, yeah… we were trying to give you a fighting chance to get your feet under you. We couldn’t have predicted that you would excel quite like you have… nor could we have predicted that you would have remained relatively unawakened during this time; it must have been excruciatingly difficult. But, well, there was some help along the way.” Ron added.

“Feather Darkheart?” Xavien asked, as he recalled the old man.

“Nah… that one was totally out of nowhere; as the Lynx typically are. Let’s just say that you’ve had a silent guardian that has kept his eye on you as fulfillment of a bargain. As long he kept getting paid, he was to keep the vultures off of you. You’ve likely no idea, because he was also paid to keep his mouth shut. His name? Half-Mouth.” Ron nodded, as if to confirm Xavien’s disbelief.

“Who paid him?” Xavien questioned.

“We’ll back it up a little bit. Your mother made a deal with him, one that ultimately cost her life. Unfortunately, the deal wasn’t to keep her safe.” Ron took a breath and forced it out of his nostrils; “But as far as the funds… I provided the cash flow. I loved your mother a great deal. She was a late-blooming pistol in her own rite. Somehow, she got to me… I can’t even explain… but she was truly amazing.” Ron spoke with tears in his eyes.

“You make it seem like it was yesterday…” Xavien said, as his own heart threatened to break.

Ron sniffed a joyless chuckle out; “Yeah, that’s the thing about cryo-freeze… as far as my body knows, she died three weeks ago. As soon as you told Myrna what had happened to Clara, she had them resuscitate me.”

Xavien disliked this attempt to shatter his emotional baseline, so he located it within himself and traveled along it once more; “So, if I get this right… Your money kept Baskerville and others off of my back while I shook off the poison that you had Myrna give me. Once I either figured myself out or got pulled in… you were to come back as a long-lost father-figure to somehow guide me. I’m supposed to regain emotion and feeling as if I were suddenly a whole individual and all of this is something good. Am I following so far?”

Ron shook his head; “Look, I had lived my life poorly in the past… then I turned to the simple pleasures of the flesh. Then I found your mother and swore that I would make it work; to make a real imprint on this world. But the thing is? I’m too old and I just don’t have ‘it’ any more. You mother had ‘it’ but she wasn’t remotely supernatural, for all of her charms. We wanted you to have the best chance at survival. We didn’t know that you were a shifter, but we knew that if you were, feeding you silver would protect you against our biggest weakness. Your mother effectively sold her soul and traded her life for yours, to give you a chance. I hate to say this, but not only were we right about you… You became something so much more than anyone could have expected.”

“Do you know of a benefactor for the Van de Leur family?” Xavien asked.

“I know of the Van de Leur family, and their role amongst the Baskerville, Taggert and Sykes family lines. Beyond that? Hell if I know.” Ron said with his palms upward to indicate uncertainty.

Xavien pondered; “Another thing that wasn’t really an option, was the potential that I may have been even better if I’d been given the choice in certain matters. I understand the paternal need to protect a child… but to deal with an organized criminal? To feed me poison to toughen me up ‘just in case’, even though it would literally slow my growth… to tell me all of this and then have the balls not to commit suicide upon being released from your cryo-sleep, instead choosing to tell me all of this like it matters? You can’t possibly be this fucking stupid… you had to know that all this would do is to piss me off and ruin some otherwise tender and sweet memories that I have by removing the, apparently, illusory mantle of trustworthiness and honor the people closest to me wore.”

“And Bruce? You fucking knew this entire time?” Xavien said, angered beyond further conversation.

“I had two criminal organizations threatening either one or both of us, as well as the life of my son. The best thing for all involved would be for me to keep my mouth shut and to hope that you realize your potential and assume your seat as the Van de Leur family head.” Bruce sighed as sadness drenched his voice.

Xavien blinked and studied the two men. He seethed, visibly. Not only did he have trouble trusting new people, now he could no longer trust the people he had grown accustomed to trusting. This would spell disaster for future relationships if he did not calm his mind to a point of relaxation and assign value to their missteps.

He boiled his life down to facts. He then pulled back and viewed it under an emotional microscope, to understand the motivation. Then he processed it and recognized that their steps saved his life. He looked at his career and remembered the many times that ‘Half-Mouth’ had helped him. He then pondered Bruce’s words and understood that a good father will still protect his child, no matter how wayward they become. He scrutinized Myrna’s behavior and recognized that, in spite of her humanity and mistakes… that she put forth a remarkable effort and sacrificed many things to further his development and education. There were players that remained silent because they had to. All things considered, Xavien had always preferred to know the truth; no matter how unsavory.

He sighed and nodded; “Thank you.”

Ron and Bruce glanced at each other, and then back at Xavien.

“I apologize for reacting poorly. It was a shock. I recognize that it was just a lot of people that cared about me to sacrifice whatever they could to help me. I especially appreciate the fact that you told me how my mother found love. I can see some similarities to her from events and thoughts in my own life.” Xavien sighed; “but; I’m not living for anyone or any purpose but the one I so choose; no amount of appreciation will take the place of my desire for freedom of choice. I’ve got half a mind to refuse the help of this benefactor, as well. I just find it so strange that so many people were willing to sacrifice for me.”

Ron smiled; “You know how to tell how bad the world has gotten?”

Xavien shook his head, as he humored Ron.

“It’s not the total amount of bad people; it’s how many good people that are willing to take a stand at any cost.” Ron continued.

“You know it won’t make one bit of difference, don’t you? This world is going to burn with or without me.” Xavien added.

Bruce nodded; “That’s no reason to stop trying.”

Ron smiled; “Before we get into the vomit-inducing inspirational speech category, I would like to point out that we pulled 8 silver bullets out of you. This sort of thing is likely going to be a regular occurrence if you aren’t more careful. You may not need a partner forever, but you need one now. I have been all over the map of corruption, redemption, divestment, investment and even froze my body because I had nothing else to live for and was too cowardly to raise a kid that probably could have used my help and direction. It’s not going to make up for all the bullshit, but… I’ll teach you everything I know. I’m not a Rogue, but I’ve never been comfortable in a regular pack situation with others of my breed, or even other shifters. What do you say?”

Xavien furrowed his brow; “I guess I have to trust someone at some point… Are you immune to silver, too?”

“Nope. I’ll just stand behind you.” Ron chuckled; “Don’t you worry, I got into a fight once and didn’t lose. We’ll figure this out, and likely die trying…”

Bruce smiled; “And I did some research; smart move on the contractor bit. I was worried you’d actually sold your soul, turns out it was a short-term lease.”

Xavien cocked his right eyebrow up; “You could say that they’re just paying me to do what I wanted to do anyway. Ron, do you have a bunch of cash that I’m going to be able to draw upon?”

Ron shook his head; “Well, I’m pretty much broke, to be honest with you. I trusted the wrong person with my portfolio… and then the rest of my cash went to keep you in bullet-proof diapers, so to speak. I have a few bills stashed, but I believe you’ve got more money than I do.”

Xavien nodded; “Well, when I got shot, I was attempting to buy a car.”

“I have my old Lexus. It was in storage… just in case. That’s how we brought you here to Bruce’s place. Interior could use a deep cleaning, in all fairness.” Ron grinned.

“Last question, before I let this go… how the hell did you find me in time?” Xavien asked.

“A little bird told me.” Ron replied.

“Karl?” Xavien offered.

“Yep! Seems to like you. He said he overheard that Charles Baskerville called out a hit on you. Most werewolves are so eager to get rid of one of your kind, that an elder doesn’t really have to say much. But, when an elder of your breed authorizes a hit on one of their own kind and offers a reward? That’s kinda like overkill, honestly. I know the Tellam family well. Misguided, easily bought… but they mean well.” Ron added.

“Riiight. Well… he’s a good sport, at least.” Xavien shrugged.

“That, he doesn’t like large groups of werewolves and I think we all would love an opportunity to spit in Charles Baskerville’s eye.” Ron nodded ruefully.

“So, right now, I’m pretty much target practice every time I go outside? How am I supposed to get any work done?” Xavien asked, without asking.

“Train harder than ever because each fight will likely be your last, so your life depends on eeking out even the smallest victories, like this one. This is the proving grounds, here. If you win a few fights, they will assume you’re tougher prey. Tougher prey deserves more focus. If you defeat a couple groups… you might get some space; because then you become too much effort that it’s not worth it. That is, provided you don’t do anything else to make their life more difficult.” Ron explained.

Xavien nodded; “Well, let’s get started. No more time to waste.”

Bruce chuckled; “Okay, yes, we know you’re eager to get going… but you’re still mortally wounded and need a bit of rest before you can take any more punishment.”

Xavien narrowed his eyes as he glared at Bruce; “I think that this would be a perfect time to train. Why train me when I am strong? Tax me to my absolute limits. I’m already physically hindered and don’t feel that I have much energy. Why not?”

Ron sighed and nodded; “Ya know… there is something I could teach you...”

Bruce nodded; “I can’t say I’m surprised that you would crawl off death’s doorstep ready to train; but ya know… that’s what this life is going to take for you. I can appreciate that, even if I worry for the rest of us.”

“What do you mean” Xavien asked, somewhat surprised.

“Criminal organizations, even unofficial ones, have a tendency to ‘put the screws’ to everyone if they do not get the object or person they desire. You may think you only have one person to worry about, but there are others of us who have made sacrifices and risks on your behalf.” Bruce paused; “Now wait. I see the indignation in your eyes… before you get all bent out of shape… I know you didn’t ask for this help. I’ve been in the periphery for your entire life, but that didn’t mean I didn’t care. I’ve had to maintain distance, but I’ve often regarded you as a member of my family.”

As Bruce finished, Xavien extended his hand as a warm smile replaced his sharp glare; “Thank you. I don’t need to know if you don’t wish to enumerate the items right now. But please understand that I truly appreciate it. I only wish that this life had permitted us more time for more familiar contact.”

Bruce nodded, as his eyes reddened; “Those of us who are merely kin often become casualties of the ongoing war for superiority. This life is shit, but it’s all we got; while we’re here, we fight the best way we can.”

Ron nodded; “So, are you ready, Xavien?”

“Are you?”

Ron nodded and threw a punch toward Xavien, which caught him completely off guard and knocked him out cold.

When Xavien woke up, he was angry and ready to fight. His wounds had healed and he felt fully rested in a manner that he had not for many days prior. He vaulted out of bed in a room he did not recognize and looked around for clues as to his location.

He was alone in an older female’s bedroom. There were dainty porcelain baubles on the ornate cherry-wood vanity. The pictures on the wall were of a young boy that looked like Giles. Of particular interest was the fact that Xavien did not know of an older female in Bruce’s life. As far as he’d known, Bruce was divorced and did not have any romantic connections of significance.

His anger doused as he realized that the lesson Ron had taught him was a valuable one. He read it loud and clear; take a break once in awhile to recover.

Amidst the sad arrangement of the room, that showed a lonely older woman’s truest love, he noted that the effects in it were likely family heirlooms and mismatched enough to have come from many different eras and family members. This woman was likely Bruce’s ex-wife. He did not wish to draw someone else into his life, as he felt that he had to now remain in hiding like some sort of criminal; which endangered all he would meet.

It was all very overwhelming and dulled his urge to leave the room. He scanned his face in the vanity mirror, pleased that there weren’t any scars. He wasn’t vain, but acknowledged that men with scars imprinted into the memory of others easily.

He noted that he was wearing a shirt that was too big for him, but too short for his torso; likely one that belonged to Ron. His black silk pants were not his own, and he was without socks or shoes. There was a note on the pale green and gold-painted nightstand.

Come down when you are ready. If it is late, do not hesitate to wake me as I may be resting on the sofa bed. -Marcy

Marcy was Bruce’s ex-wife. This was irregular and unexpected, as he had understood their divorce to be rather messy and contentious; particularly as it pertained to the custody of young Giles.

He eased his body back down on the bed and sighed.

Xavien had finally been able to sleep, and his mind had gotten the precious time that it needed to process and organize the information that he’d been inundated with. There were things he did not understand, and even more things that did not add up; yet he did not have the ability to bring those to mind.

He did not feel any additional weight of obligation caused by the revelation that many people had helped him without his knowledge. It provided him peace, as that was one of the mysteries that he’d been previously unable to fathom. He could at least put faces and reasons to why he’d made it this far unscathed.

He wasn’t pleased about the silver poisoning, but acknowledged the fact that his life had been recently saved by it. He’d seen the powder before but just took Myrna’s word for it that it was a special blend of spices. Yet…he wondered if the silver had drained, impinged or otherwise hindered his emotional capacity? Perhaps his mind had been forced to adapt to compensate. The bullets themselves seemed to do the job, regardless. Perhaps they did not injure him nearly as much as they should have.

As his eyes darted around, he searched for anything else that was noteworthy. No windows in this room; which was remarkable and convenient if one should wish to hide. Xavien stretched and yawned; it was time to get up and rejoin the outside world. He would just have to take things as they came. He did not place his trust in anyone to begin with, but understood that he would need to have even more caution as he walked about.

As he turned the handle to exit the room, he thought it interesting that he’d never actually met Marcy. He disliked that he was not dressed in his own clothes, but understood that his own were likely blood soaked and a spare change in his size may have been unavailable. The door opened into the common room, which held the kitchen, dining area and two other doors; likely the bathroom and the door to the outside.

There was an attractive woman in her mid-fifties seated at the table in the dining area. She had her silver and brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and a simple black T-shirt and black denim pants; she, too, was barefooted. He noted that her toenails were carefully painted, as were her fingernails. She snacked on a plate of chopped vegetables and dip as she turned her head and smiled at him.

Her smile was wide, toothy and stunning; he caught a glimpse of what had drawn Bruce to her in the first place; Giles had a similar facial structure, although he’d not seen Giles smile at him quite like this. Marcy spoke first, in a sharp voice of someone who had been born much farther North; “Good morning! Did you sleep well?”

“Quite well, thank you. I dislike that the first time I meet you has been in quite this fashion. But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation of the kindness in the slightest; so, I thank you for your generous hospitality.” Xavien bowed slightly.

“Quite the gentleman. I’ll admit it was a little strange to see my ex-husband and a strange man bring your unconscious body to my doorstep. They said you would be less likely to shift up and hurt a female or destroy my bedroom when you woke up.” She chuckled; “But I had heard all about you on the news and figured it was my ‘civic duty’ to help out.”

Xavien chuckled; “That’s mighty big of you. I take it that you know of my nature, then.”
“Not completely, beyond the fact that you’re a Silver Mane; which I understand to are more political than productive. I don’t mean any insult, just that my limited understanding of the breeds covers the major ones.” She smiled again and then burst out laughing; “And let me tell you… I was baptized by fire, ever since a scared little boy showed me what he could do.”

He tilted his head; “Care to enlighten me?”

“I suppose it won’t hurt to tell you. My son, Giles… was twelve years old and came to me crying one day… told me he wanted me to come into his room to look at something. I was nervous and worried it was something relating to his boy parts; had Bruce already dialed on my phone when I went into his room. That phone left my hand when I saw him shift up. I couldn’t scream. All I could do was hug him; figured it was the best way to keep him from eating me, I guess… but yep… Giles had…” She snorted; “I guess I’ll leave that up to you to ask him how it first happened… but the second time, I was the first he told. After that, I tried to learn what I could… Which isn’t much, I’ll tell you that. Enough about me… how are you feeling?”

“Fine; better than, actually. Did… Ron or Bruce say when they’d be back?” Xavien asked.

“They did not. I got the impression that they were a bit nervous; they told me that they’d hoofed it from some sort of accident. There had been an attack at Bruce’s house; whole thing went up in flames. Then Ron’s car had been chased and they’d gotten into a rather fiery accident. It was rather dramatic. In another time, I would have thought that this was a bunch of bullshit… but the life of your kind is never a dull one. They seemed no worse for the wear, but had certainly gotten their thrills for the day.” She paused and cast her eyes downward; “Ron did tell me to relay the message that he would find you soon so that you two could continue the conversation.”

“I worry that you are in danger; because of them and me.” Xavien sighed and furrowed his brow with concern.

“I probably am. I will be honest with you, it’s been about twenty years since Bruce and I had a conversation that didn’t involve sharp objects or broken dinnerware. This is likely one of the last places anyone would look. I’m sorry, totally forgetting myself. Would you like something to eat? I have some chicken.” She said, as she shook herself out of the distant sadness that had crept in.

Xavien was hungry, but did not wish to put her out; “I’ll be alright. Thank you, though.”

“Nonsense! I’ll have none of it! Sit your handsome rear-end down on one of these chairs and I’ll whip up something quickly. Chicken and leftover mashed potatoes alright?” Marcy insisted.

“Fair enough. Chicken will be sufficient. Thank you very much.” Xavien nodded as he complied, amused at the handsome rear-end comment.

She got up from her seat at the same time as there was a knock at the door. Xavien bolted from his seat to the peephole in the door. There wasn’t anyone there, but he did not trust it. He shifted up instantly and whipped his back against the adjacent wall. He had seen Charles Baskerville disappear into a mirror before, so this was likely a possibility anywhere.

Marcy had frozen in her position near the refrigerator, startled by Xavien’s burst of speed and instant transformation. His ears brushed the ceiling, even as he hunched over. He attuned his ears to the bathroom and bedroom; the common area did not have any mirrors.

He chided himself for his hasty shift, but he was without other weapons. He flicked his large ear to activate his phone; pleased that he still possessed it; “dial Agent Tommy Stillwell” He whispered.

The phone vibrated in acknowledgement, and Tommy picked up; “Thanks for standing me up, ass.”

“Not my intention.” Xavien hissed urgently.

Tommy chuckled; “Yeah… let’s just say I heard through the grapevine you’d run into some difficulty. Sounds like you weren’t calling to apologize either.”

“I feel that I need to request a resource for backup purposes. Can we do this and can it happen quickly?” Xavien asked quietly.

“I will do what I can. I have your transponder location; I’ll have someone there in three minutes. In the future, call dispatch…” Tommy said as he ended the call.

Marcy whispered; “What should I do?”

Xavien held up his paw as a motion for her to wait and sniffed the air. There was no one that he could smell in any room of the small apartment. He slipped over to the kitchen counter and grabbed a large knife as the smells and sounds processed in his brain. He did not trust his senses, so he stealthily crept to the bathroom door. His larger form was inefficient in this cluttered and smaller space, so he shifted down into his human form. He leaned against the wall next to the bathroom door and opened it so that it swung away from him.

No one there.

He did the same to the bedroom door.

No one there.

He cursed under his breath. His heart pounded as he twirled the knife in his hand and made his way over to the kitchen area. Suddenly, he noticed that he was naked. Xavien closed his eyes and sighed as he sniffed out a few sheepish chuckles. These weren’t his clothes, and he had not performed the ritual to bind them to his spirit.

“Ma’am I apologize. I…”

Marcy stopped him; “Shh! It’s… more than alright. Hell, I don’t mind” She chortled suggestively.

Xavien opened his eyes to see that she blushed as she looked away. He grabbed a knitted blanket off the back of her small couch and bound it around his waist as he approached; “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Oh, it’s fine. Umm… behind you, right there…” Marcy gestured with her head.

Xavien whirled around to see the amused face of Tommy as he exited the bathroom; “Do I even want to know?”

“There was a knock at the door, no one on the outside. I am… aware that this means nothing, so I prepared myself for a fight.” Xavien explained flatly.

Tommy sighed; “They were likely trying to gauge your reaction. Whoever it was left before I got here.”

Xavien’s stomach growled audibly enough that the other two heard it.

“How about some chicken, boys?” Marcy asked, in an oddly cheerful voice.

“Yes… about that, I’d love some right now.” Xavien asked, then caught himself; “This is… Tommy. Tommy, this is Marcy.”

“Nice to meet you Ma’am. Nothing for me, thank you.” Tommy nodded. He was dressed in his black fatigues and looked every part of the Interpol agent.

“You know, I guess a woman can’t complain about handsome company. I’d recommend you bind some clothes to you, unless you are trying to get a date…” Marcy smirked and winked as she cast a suggestive glance downward.

“Dually noted. I would be very fortunate to enjoy your company, if the timing was right.” Xavien smiled back and winked.

This comment pleased her as she lightheartedly flitted about the kitchen and prepared a package of chicken on an electric griddle.

Tommy tilted his head and gestured to Xavien; “Kin?”

Xavien nodded.

“Fantastic. Ma’am, please excuse us if we speak privately.” Tommy nodded to her.

Marcy nodded, seemingly unbothered and lost in her good spirits.

Tommy continued telepathically; “So, word on the wire is that you are correct in your paranoia; everyone is out to get you. At least now they are. We have Myrna in custody; she should be landing in Stockholm as we speak. Also of note: your silver tolerance has only increased the interest in your bounty. To be honest, for such a relative babe, I’m surprised that this interest ramped up so quickly. Agent General Stillwell, my father, has suggested that you consider a more formal position with us; this would open up a variety of options as it pertained to protection, training and steady backup. I know how important your freedom is to you… so I won’t push it. Just keep it in mind.”

Xavien nodded and responded; “This is intense, I will admit. I was caught flat footed during the first attempt on my life. It’s a little hard for me to trust people as it is, but I’d allowed myself to remain open since this whole mess is new to me.”

Tommy nodded; “I get it, I truly do. I was born a half-breed, myself, but I have seen a lot of cubs get run through the ringer; albeit at much younger ages. But you have much more in the way of natural tools that you have no further excuses for lapses of that nature. I will say this: The more nervous you act, the quicker you will die. Just act like the calm, cocky son-of-a-bitch we have on record… and you should come out just fine. Even in the realm of the supernatural, truly unique cases like yourself are so very rare. Sadly, you are lashed directly to another dramatically unique creature; Irving.”

Xavien nodded; “I’d also wager that Andrew is… unique.”

Marcy gestured for Xavien to sit as she brought the plate of chicken over to him. It was fairly simple: chicken with a bit of salt and pepper, but it still smelled delicious. He sat down with an appreciative smile.

Tommy visibly paused; “About… your ex-partner… I’ve got a particular interest in him. Something is grossly out of whack, there… I’m sure you’ve questioned how he exists… We’ve got no mother on record for him and no real explanation on how he can be nearly the same age as you, since Irving is only a few months older than you are.”

Xavien’s heartbeat slowed but pulsed harshly. This was one fact that he had noted but stored as he chalked it up to an unanswerable riddle that would need to be solved later. He responded; “Yes. But how?”

“I haven’t gotten that far yet, but it is something worthy of focus on your case. Honestly, I would recommend that you refrain from approaching Andrew, because this could be a question that ends up with an answer you don’t want. Just keep your eyes and mind open. One thing that I do know is that he didn’t officially show up on our radar until you joined the academy, at least according to our records.” Tommy advised.

Xavien smiled at Marcy, who had sat down across from him at the small table. Tommy had sat down on the couch and stared at the blank television screen as they spoke telepathically.

“This chicken is fantastic, Marcy. Simple, but exactly what I needed.” Xavien said with enthusiasm in his voice. It was good, plus it fit with his re-aligned dietary plan.

“I’m glad you approve.” She said with a smile. There was a small dose of wistfulness in her tone that Xavien picked up on. She enjoyed having someone to cook for. He looked about the small apartment and noted the humble nature of the decoration. He had understood that she had gotten the house in the divorce settlement; she must have sold it or lost it. Giles was the most likely cause of this, which unsettled him. She seemed so sweet; it was hard to see that she could involve herself in a violent domestic dispute. Life was tragic, even for those outside of the supernatural.

He wolfed down the four chicken breasts, gratefully. He’d seen that she had only one pack of chicken in her refrigerator, and not much beyond that. Xavien wanted to help her. He knew that he could not save everyone, but why not one? If it was a simple matter of food or some extra cash, what would be the harm? Pride was often something that precluded overt gestures of repayment, so he made up his mind to investigate privately and provide a subtle remedy, if needed.

“So, was there anything else you wanted to talk to me about? Obviously, you had wanted to do so earlier, when I’d rescheduled.” Xavien said to Tommy telepathically.

“Nothing more than a get-to-know, maybe give you a couple answers to help you get started. I appreciate a lot of who you are, but am excited for what you could become; you’ve got a better shot than most of us. Many shifters are stuck in some organization or family that either forces them to operate under their command or causes hindrance to their greater goals. Independents have a hard road to hoe, but the good ones… they generally become drifters that don’t live in the middle of controversy. Honestly? I would like to see you buck that trend.” Tommy responded.

“I plan to, but I understand that I have to dance around the political rose bush a bit before I can strike out on my own. I appreciate your candor. For some reason, it seems that you have your own ideas; as if Interpol is only your first stop. Am I wrong?” Xavien asked.

“Not wrong at all, but any explanation will have to wait for a much later date.” Tommy looked over from the couch with a cryptic smile.

Xavien felt a silent kinship with Tommy; this could be a fruitful alliance, even if it could not be utilized immediately; “Perhaps we’ll just go our separate ways and meet up at that time, then. I wouldn’t want to be perceived as a bad influence.”

Tommy nodded; “If that day never comes?”

“Worry about that then. You can help me a great deal now… but I suspect we could help each other a lot later.” Xavien said telepathically.

“Good to have met you. I wish you well.” Tommy said aloud as he got up to lead, this time through the front door.

Xavien nodded and waved toward him; “Good luck.”

Tommy left and closed the door behind him.

Marcy spoke up; “He admires you. He seems like a genuinely good guy.”

Xavien turned to her; “Agreed. I should be going, as well. However, I have no idea what to wear…”

She smiled bashfully; “My neighbor may have something you can wear. He’s a tall guy, used to play professional basketball many years ago; he may have something your size. I’ll be right back.” Marcy quickly got up, got her phone and dialed.

“Mrs. Willits? Hey, It’s Marcy Pollard. How are you? I’m fine. Great, thanks. Listen, I have a really odd request… Can you drop off a change of Reggie’s old clothes… something he won’t miss? I have a… gentleman here… gosh that sounds awful. I’ll explain later… but it’s not exactly what you think. You can? Oh, thanks so much! Please come on in” Marcy hung up; “We’re in luck.” She smiled proudly.

Xavien smiled and nodded at her; “Thank you once again for everything.”

“What’s this life for if you don’t help someone out once in awhile?”

“Indeed.” He acknowledged.

A few minutes passed and the door opened. A light-brown skinned woman in her early sixties came in. She brought with her a pair of brown slacks, a gray button-down shirt, dress shoes and a pair of brown socks. She caught a glimpse of Xavien and her eyes widened; “Oh my, Marcy… goodness lawd… why you need to cover him up?” The older woman smiled at the implication.

Marcy blushed; “Well, you know… crazier things have happened…”

“I’d tie him up and not let him out my damn sight, that’s what I’d do” The woman’s southern drawl was charming and plucky.

Xavien pondered the concept of sex with Marcy and did not find it displeasing; although it may upset Giles and Bruce more than a little. He banished the thought so that he didn’t complicate matters with a pronounced physical response.

“Well, I’ma drop these off here and you do what you do… just let me hurry on out of here so’s I don’t interrupt you none…” Mrs. Willits chuckled unabashedly as she draped the clothes over the back of the couch.

“Thank you, Mrs. Willits. I appreciate it.” Xavien spoke up, in appreciation.

“Oh, my word! I didn’t recognize you without clothes on! You’re that handsome Lieutenant that’s goin-a capture that awful killer… Marcy? I’d hang onto this one… Good men are hard to find! I’m gone! Call me later and we’ll talk some, honeychild…” Mrs. Willits waved as she laughed and closed the door behind her.

“Sorry about that… she’s very sweet, but maybe a little too interested in my life; or lack thereof. Anyhow… you said you need to be going, I won’t keep you.” Marcy smiled as if it was to prevent a pained expression.

Xavien nodded, stood up, collected the clothes, headed to the bedroom, closed the door and changed. These clothes were the right size around the waist, but too long all over. This man was likely closer to seven feet tall. It was no matter, this would do for the time being. He rolled the pants up into cuffs so that they didn’t trip him. The brown dress shoes were four sizes too long for him, so he stuffed the socks into the toes instead and slipped them on.

When he exited the room, Marcy chuckled; “Well, I wouldn’t hit the catwalk, if I were you… but it’ll at least get you down the street.”

Xavien headed to the door; “Thanks for everything. I’m going to get going.”

Marcy met him at the door; “You’re a good man. I want to believe that you will succeed in whatever you do. Take care of yourself.”

Xavien opened his arms and collected her. She willingly embraced him. He hugged her tightly, which she returned and held on.

“You take care, as well. Is there anything I can do for you?” Xavien asked softly.

“Nothing at all; just go and do what you are supposed to do.” Marcy said as a tear traced one of her crow’s feet.

When Xavien pulled away, she pulled him down gently by his neck and kissed him on the crest of his cheek; “Go now… Be a hero.”

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