It was after a recon mission that things changed. They’d been following some lead of Tony’s; a new leech hideout down at the docks. He and Parke were scouting ahead when the swarms of leeches came pouring out the doors, coming right for them. Just a sign of how much all this shit was getting to them; Tony used to be able to spot a trap from a mile away, now he was leading them right into one.
He barely made it out. If it wasn’t for Parke hanging behind at the fence a second longer than he needed to, to stake one of the stampeding fuckers in the chest, more than likely he wouldn’t have. He could feel them there, sharp teeth nipping at his heels, hot metallic breath on his neck. In that moment he could taste death. But in the end they got away, like they always did, Parke with only a torn shirt and a few choice words for Tony to show for it.
He wasn’t so lucky; arm ripped up something shocking, gouges taken out of the flesh on the back of his bicep. There was blood all over him when Lyla slipped in through the door, closing it behind her.
It might have been his, it might have been leech blood, for all he knew it might have been Parke’s. Didn’t matter, he still hated that look she gave him whenever she saw him looking like this. Like he was some sick fuck for going out and fighting for them, even though she was doing the exact same thing.
“I thought you were going to die,” she said, like he’d never heard her say anything before.
He smiled at her, because despite everything, he still wanted nothing more than to make her feel better. “Not this time.”
“Charlie…” He understood her tone. They’d been close to death before, but never that close. Sometimes it was easy to forget that what they were doing was dangerous. But the pockets of rebellion all over the city were dwindling. It used to be that they would encounter another group like them every other week. These days it was a rare occurrence; once a month if they were lucky. They were a dying race, more and more of them being shipped off to camps, or prisons, or worse.
Still, Charlie knew that would never be him. He would die before he let himself be cooped up, reined in like an animal; anything would be better than that.
“Here.” She picked up the cloth which he had been cleaning his cuts with before she interrupted. So gentle, and yet it still stung like a bitch when she pressed the alcohol soaked rag onto his arm.
There was silence for a while. He wanted to say something reassuring, but he didn’t know what to say. Lyla broke it.
“I don’t want you to do it anymore.”
He frowned at her. “Do what?”
She couldn’t make eye contact with him. As soon as she spoke, he knew why. “Don’t fight anymore. Leave, go out to Lister. They’re saying there’s a bunch of weres out there, hiding out. You could be safe.”
Anger flared up inside him. He gritted his teeth, both in pain from the stinging, and to suppress the growl that threatened to come out. “Why would you even say that?”
“You could be safe,” she repeated. “You wouldn’t have to put yourself in danger anymore.”
“There’s danger everywhere, Lyla.” He jerked his arm out of her reach, standing up, moving away. He couldn’t even be near her, he could feel his jaw twitching, skin shivering as his anger threatened to take over. She would have never even suggested something like that to Tony, or Parke. Not even Don would’ve warranted her concern – it was only him she insisted on treating like a child. Nothing he would do would ever be enough to prove himself to her. “You think I’m scared of some vamps?”
She looked down, hair falling over her face. Hair that used be golden, turned dull brown with dirt. “I know you’re not. That’s what I’m worried about.”
“And leave Parke? Leave Don and Tony and…” He choked on the word. “And you?”
She didn’t reply. At first he thought it was out of embarrassment, until he saw the tears dripping down onto the backs of her hands, tucked neatly into her lap. He wanted to stay angry; wanted to yell at her that he wasn’t 16 anymore, but he couldn’t. Instead he walked back over and wrapped her in a bloody hug.
He had never been good with girls before the purge and not much had changed in that regard. Even now, with her, the hug was awkward. What were you meant to say to stop girls from crying? He had no idea, so he had to wait for her to speak.
“I’m just so scared for you. I can’t lose you too; not another person I love.”
He thought the words were meant to make him feel better, but they had the opposite effect. His stomach roiled unpleasantly. Love. How, he wanted to ask. Not like Don; the unnecessary answer that he already knew, like a brother. Like a brother. The last thing he wanted from her.
"Better get this blood cleaned up," he said with a pained smile, because everything else seemed too cruel. And that was the last they said about it.
She ended up in a bar, just far enough out of the city centre to be safe from leech officials and just far enough in to get away from the crosses.
They’d been there when Rae had shipped out with Connell just before the purge began; vivid Xs spray painted onto Were doors in bright red, dripping down the wood like congealed blood.
Three months ago when they’d left, the marking had just begun. On her way back in, there were so many crosses the sight had knocked the air out of her. Every second door – more than that in some places – with busted in windows and smashed lights and the stench of death pouring out of them and everywhere more and more Xs. Like some kind of sick fucking treasure map.
Almost enough to make her rethink coming back. Almost.
The bar she was in was dingy, smashed glasses and dried rings of blood all over the table. The leeches in it weren’t the black suited type she was used to seeing on TV, they were all filthy, or drunk. More than likely both.
It was loud though, and busy enough that she didn’t stick out even in the slightly bloodied up clothes she stole from the leech guard corpse she left on the outskirts of town. The girl was taller than her and she’d had to roll the sleeves of the leather coat up a few times before she could make proper use of her hands, but the bunch in here weren’t the type to notice rolled up sleeves. With any luck the only thing that would stick out to them would be the Crims pin the dead leech girl had had on her collar and it would keep them the hell away from her.
Rae had never been lucky though.
“Ain’t seen you around here before.”
The leech who said it was just as filthy and as old as the place he was in. Too drunk to see the badge, or too drunk care. He was pale as ghost; or a corpse. Pale as the girl she’d dragged behind a tree after ripping her dead throat out. All of them, the same colour.
It was the first leech she’d killed in a long time. Even longer since she killed one with her teeth and the taste was still hanging around in her mouth, foul and bitter as ever. Still Connell always told her the taste didn’t matter, so long as you got the job done. Used to tell her, anyway. Now, God knows what he’d say. Probably a lecture about something or other she didn’t give a shit about.
Better that than this leech though, reeking of sweat and old blood. She flashed the pin at him. “Don’t talk to me again and we’ll keep it that way.”
“Oh ho, well looky here. Don’t see much of your lot in here, officer.”
That got some glances; the last thing she wanted or needed. Hostile ones too, all leeches with near as much reason to hate the Crims as the weres had. Still, safer to be an official than a were, no matter where you were.
“Water,” Rae said to the equally filthy vamp behind the bar.
“You here to take someone in?” he said back. He didn’t want her there anymore than the rest of them did. Scared most likely and she didn’t blame him. Too scared to kick her out though, she’d bet on that.
“I just want water.”
It came in a grimy glass, which would have looked more unappealing if she hadn’t gone without water since her shift back. At this rate she would’ve taken it if he gave it to her in a boot.
“Here, I got a joke for you officer.” The stupid fucking leech didn’t know when to let up. “What do you call a lyco with a wooden leg?”
“Shut up Lonny,” the bartender said.
“A waste of fucking wood.” He laughed so hard his chair shook and threatened to tip him over onto the ground if the leech beside him hadn’t grabbed it.
Rae’s water tasted like it had been filtered through dirt. She gulped it down anyway and set the glass down. “Another.”
“Oh, another?” Lonny the leech wasn’t fazed by her icy glare. His eyes were so unfocused, most likely he couldn’t see it anyway. Too much whiskey and not enough brains. “What’s the difference between a lyco and a bag of shit..? The bag.”
He collapsed into drunken giggles again. When she didn’t join in, he scowled at her through cracked teeth and blood caked whiskers. “Fucking Crims, got no sense of humour.”
Rae didn’t see the man beside her until a soft chuckling drew her attention. He was in his forties by the looks of him, although in times like these, she could easily have been 20 years off. Hard times made for hard faces and his was one of the hardest she’d seen. Grey stubble, wrinkled eyes, a nose that had been broken at least twice.
“That was a good one,” he said, looking straight at her. Too straight, too brave; it wasn’t right. “You didn’t like it?”
“No,” she said, because what else was there to say?
The bartender set the refilled glass of scummy water in front of her. Rae took the opportunity to break eye contact and take another swig.
“I’ve got a better one.”
“A lyco walks into a bar,” he said and then he leaned in close, so close she could feel his breath when he spoke. Breath that was too hot to belong to any leech. “And she thinks no one notices.”
He’s been watching the girl for a while now. Secretly, always secretly from behind windows and around corners while she skips around and pretends she’s not a filthy dog just like him.
Been doing better than most he’s come across, and he’s come across a lot. Too fucking dumb, the lycos who come from money and cities and lives that were more than what any of them deserved. Don’t know how to keep themselves hidden, keep themselves safe. Not like him. Not living rough like he did; always the underdog, always the bottom of the heap. Not anymore though.
Now he owns them all; the fighters and the spenders and the beauty queens. The girls like this one, who wouldn’t have looked twice at him before the purge. He’s got so many like her now who grovel at his feet to keep their filthy little secrets for them.
Don’t tell them, they beg. I’ll do anything, they say. Oh, how Wylie loves it when they say that. He takes it as a test, because these desperate ones, when they say anything, Wylie finds they usually mean it.
But this one, she’s different. A pretty little blonde, virgin lyco. He’s smelled it on her; clean and white and not your usually filthy bitch like the rest of them. And he wants it. He wants to be the one to ruin her. To have her beg him to ruin her, just for the sake of a few nicely kept secrets. God, how he wants this one. Like none of the others before.
That’s why he’s been watching, sneaking around in the shadows like a rat, making sure none of the rest of the dog watch find her first. She’s his, all his. He just has to wait for the right moment.
He thinks the right moment has come early one morning, when she slips outside in the dim grey light before sunrise. He’s seen her do it before; picking up some tricky fake papers from a nasty little leech. It’s how she’s kept tricking everyone so far. Everyone but him – no one tricks him anymore.
Her sweet, sweet scent is even tastier in the crisp air. So sharp, it fills his nostrils, makes him dizzy with excitement as he follows her. That same filthy, lyco blood that’s in his veins, but so untainted; it’s just begging to have a bit of sin put into it.
She picks up the papers. She walks down the street. Her clean little white dress flaps around her thighs in the breeze. Every curve of her makes his blood run faster. She has no idea he’s there… The things he could do if he took her now, before the sun comes up. He could have her sinning before nightfall. His fingers itch to take her.
But that’s not what Wylie’s about anymore. He doesn’t beg, doesn’t play the pathetic little dog anymore. Now he lets them beg. He’ll let her beg too, won’t give it to her until she’s gagging for it. He doesn’t need to take.
And so he lets her go inside, and it’s when she sat back down on her tiny little single bed that he makes his entrance.
“Someone’s been a naughty girl.” Wylie lets the emotions flood her; relief when she realises he’s not a leech, fear when she realises that won’t help her. So many emotions, and his blood is racing, his fingers tingling, his dick getting hard at the sight of her whimpering.
“You shouldn’t trust leeches, my lovely. They can’t keep secrets.” Her eyes are so beautiful when they’re full of fear.
“Please.” She begs just like the others. The same voice, the same fear, the same hidden lust that he knows they all feel; all the lyco girls have that wild in them. She’s got it too, he just has to find it in her.
“They could kill me if keep secrets for you.” He strokes her cheek. Such soft skin. “How’s a beautiful girl like you going to make it worth my while?”
“Please. I’ll do anything.”
There it is. The wolfish grin can’t be hidden. Sweet, sweet victory.