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Owns-The-Night

World of Darkness: Attrition - Comes With The Territory... [FIN]

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{Wednesday, 10th August, 2011}

Some nights thought Declan, as he ran down Cornstock Avenue, I dunno why I try to be nice!

Of course, nice was a relative term. What Dec meant by nice, in the case of John-Henry DeWitt, date-rape-drug dealer to the morally maladjusted of the UCLA students, was forgoing his usual approach of 'chew face off, negotiate later' and simply going for the word to the wise attitude. Collaring the little shit and slapping him around the face a few times, he'd told John-Henry in no uncertain terms that if he was seen on UCLA campus once more, he'd be peddling his pills and solutions in the ICU, and having to use sign language to conduct his transactions. He'd done this from behind the dealer, and hadn't let him catch a glimpse of his face... until when he pushed John-Henry away with an injunction to move his fat ass, the fucker had turned, seen the silver eyes, and recognition had dawned.

"I know you!" he'd shouted, half fearful and half triumphant. "You that psycho vet that put Ray-Ray in the hospital last year." Made bold by distance and his discovery, DeWitt had puffed himself up. "Look atchu, all playin' Batman and shit. Me and my homies c'n play TOO, fucker. We'll be seein' you around."

First mistake John-Henry had made was trying to make a quick buck dealing his shit to other sleazes on UCLA, despite his other low-rent dealer buddies telling him that the place was bad luck for their kind. His second mistake was turning around and seeing Dec's face. His third mistake, and this was the doozy, was threatening a vargr.

Now Dec didn't particularly care if John-Henry and his fucknut buddies wanted to come after him, but it would be inconvenient to be the victim of a drive-by or a knifing and having to explain why the holes healed up. Plus, of course, there was no way he'd let his enemies have the initiative in any struggle. One of the roles he'd played as a light infantryman was to skirmish, to eliminate enemy intelligence gathering and leave them blind. Letting DeWitt run back to his buddies with a lead on who'd been stepping on their profit margins was a bad move and gave them the wherewithal to act and put Dec on the defensive. So Dec came to two conclusions, the first one being that reasoning with bottom-feeders was a waste of his time.

The second was that John-Henry had signed his death warrant.

As Dec started to walk after him, DeWitt realised his peril. It was 3 am on a Wednesday night, he wasn't carrying anything more menacing than a switchblade, and some nutjob ex-Green Beret or whatever was stalking after him, not saying a word, but his lowered head and steady gait spoke volumes. John-Henry turned and ran for his car. Slamming up against the side of it in his haste, puffing and panting, he fumbled his keys out of his pocket, only to squeal in fear as a strong hand grabbed his shoulder and he was slammed up against the side of his Ford, considerably harder this time.

"Leggo me! Leggo me man! Leggo me!" he yelled. Declan cuffed him around the ear and took the keys, throwing them into the nearby storm drain. Then he grabbed the squealing man, distaste obvious on his features as he gripped him around the throat and squeezed.

"Shut up." he growled. "You're walking tonight, Johnny-boy. Better yet, you're running. I'm going to give you a thirty second head start, but there's conditions. You run up that way." Dec point at the nearest road away from UCLA, Cornstock Avenue. "You stay on the road or sidewalks. If you head for someone's door, I'll kill you. If you try to use a phone, I'll kill you. If you yell or holler, I'll kill you. You keep running until I say stop. If I catch up to you, I'll kill you. Got that?" he asked, then shook the man by his throat. "I said, you got that?"

DeWitt nodded, and Dec let him go. Snuffling and coughing, the overweight dealer started to run, unaware of whether the terrifying man with the gleaming eyes was behind him or not. After a minute of jogging, he looked over his shoulder.

Dec was about ten paces behind him, moving at a simple trot, and looking right at him.

John-Henry moaned and sped up. The psycho behind him likewise increased his pace, matching speeds exactly. John-Henry knew this because when he looked back again, silver-eyes was exactly ten paces behind him still.

And he was grinning.

"The fuck, man. What's wrong wit' you!?" John moaned aloud. His lungs were starting to burn, the product of too much weed and nicotine and not enough exercise.

"I'd save my breath in your shoes, Johnny." came that deep-ass voice from behind him. The fucker didn't even sound winded. "We've barely gone any distance, and you're already startin' to punk out on me. Oh, and I'm nine paces behind you now. Every time you look back, I close the distance. Call it incentive to watch where you're going."

DeWitt moaned again, but shut up and concentrated on his running, on the slap of his shoes on the sidewalk. He tried to tell if nutso was gaining on him, but couldn't hear the other guy at all. Not even his breathing. Was he still there? Five minutes passed as his legs protested and his breath came in gasps, and there was still no sound of the other guy. He looked back.

The fucking dude was behind him, alright, jogging along like he could do this all damned day. He was also barefooted, a detail DeWitt had missed before. Of more immediate importance, though, was that he looked right at John-Henry's terrified eyes and closed the distance another pace, his grin wider.

"Oh shit..." John-Henry muttered under his breath as he tried to coax more speed out of his legs. "Ohshitohshit." Amazingly, fear seemed to lend him a little more strength, and he surged forwards.

"Nice. But pace yourself." came the voice from behind him. "We've got a long way to go, you and me. We're goin' the distance."

"f'k y'rself." John-Henry gasped, then shut up and concentrated on running. One foot before the other, his heartbeat in his ears. Time passed, they passed turnoffs, the road curving south towards Holmby Park. It was a long, neverending nightmare, the occasional lights of a house, indicating that someone there was awake, nothing more than a cruel torment. The occasional car passed, taking the two for joggers out late, and John-Henry didn't dare try to flag one down. He still couldn't hear the crazy guy behind him, but he was there. DeWitt knew it. And if he looked around, then the dude would be only seven paces behind him. Fuck that.

His legs gave out and he tripped, falling at the junction of South Beverley and Cornstock. Too breathless to scream, he panted and wheezed in fear as he scrabbled to his feet, heedless of the damage to his clothes and skin.

"I'm still runnin'... still runnin'!" he gasped, expecting to feel steely fingers around his throat any moment.

"Relax." came the guy's voice. "You've done good, John-Henry. Real good." DeWitt turned. The dude was still looking fresh as a daisy and regarding him with an amused smile.

"You fucker!" John-Henry spat. "You.." he gasped for breath. "You sick fuck. What the fuck was that running for, huh?!" He wheezed, trying to get his breath back.

"Whoa, there." the man looked taken aback, raising both hands. "I thought you'd be happy we made it. I know I am."

"Made it... where?"

"To the park. I'm lifting some restrictions, Johnny-boy. As a present to you." As he spoke, Declan peeled off his faded sweatshirt. Bent over double as he was, John-Henry didn't see this, nor did he see Dec shuck the sweatpants and, balling both up, shove them in a mailbox. When he did look up again, though, his eyes nearly bugged out.

"What the fuck?!" he exclaimed as he saw the naked man. "You plannin' on raping me now, you sick fuckin' perv?!"

"Rape's your thing, Johnny-boy. Yours and those little shits you peddle to." Declan said breezily, swinging his arms back and forth. "But we are going to do some more runnin'. Don't worry, it won't be for long. The good news is..." he grinned, grinned wide, and this time there seemed to be way too many teeth for the mouth containing them. John-Henry gasped and stepped back.

"..You can scream now, if you want to." Declan said with a growling laugh, and Changed. His mind flooded with primitive terror of what he was seeing, John-Henry turned and fled from the massive, horse-sized wolf, uncaring of the shit and urine running down inside the legs of his jeans as he tore with terror-renewed strength across the road and into the park, gasping, weak screams trailing behind him.

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The screams, thin as they were, largely faded in the warm night air, blending with the ambient noises of Los Angeles. Faded, that was, to human ears.

Loping into the park from the northeast side, a creature that no longer fell into the human category happened to have the benefit of very good ears at the moment. Good ears... and a good nose, that was already picking up on the smell of piss and fear on the wind.

Oh no, thought Sarah Dead-Wolf. No you don't. Not on my territory.

The lope turned into a run, angled to head off the vector of the screams. Muscles strong and utterly tireless powered the wolf across the narrow width of Holmby Park, veering to meet whoever this problem was head-on.

She was still out of clear sight of John-Henry when she saw him.... him and the ungodly huge wolf behind him. Oh no. No, no, no. Some Uratha had ignored her markings - markings that were a royal pain to make and maintain, she mentally added - and chased one of the herd into her territory. Herd that reeked of all kinds of unhealthy traits beyond the urine in his pants.

On the one paw, there was the possibility of a mutually beneficial arrangement here, if she helped against the human. Alliances with the People these nights were damned hard to come by in L.A., as she'd found out over the past several months. On the other paw... this is my damned territory!

The compromise that resulted was no great win for John-Henry. As he ran for dear life from the wild thing behind him, his path was suddenly cut off by a snarling, red-eyed beast in front of him, teeth showing white and sharp in the moonlight.

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The dealer, gang-banger and sometime pimp screamed again and turned instinctively away from the red-eyed wolf. Unfortunately this brought him face to face with Owns-The-Night, whose snarl was an unrelenting herald of painful rending death. John-Henry wheezed out another shriek and turned once more, fleeing for the distant moving lights of traffic. If he had been able to think, if his reason had not been stolen by mind-numbing terror, he might have wondered why the giant wolf hadn't just killed him when he'd had the chance.

The answer to that was simple enough: Dec was trying to keep a lower profile on the police radar. And there was more than one way to skin a cat. He paced the dealer, casting one silver-eyed glance at the dead-smelling wolf who loped along ten feet to his left.

Running-prey, prey-fear, prey-stupid he 'said' in wolf-speak, his tone somewhere between explanation and warning. He was harrying the man to his death and had come across the strange vampire who'd 'marked' a territory bordering his. This was an eventful night, to say the least, but Owns-The-Night would deal with one problem before dealing with the other. As the main road drew near, John-Henry staggering drunkenly as he ran, the huge wolf gave a loud reverberating snarl that caused the man to leap forwards.

Right into the path of an oncoming truck. There was a squealing hiss of brakes and the sound of an impact - the dealer didn't even have the breath left to scream before the grill of the vehicle smashed him across the road like a stone launched from a catapult. Owns-The-Night paused in the bushes at the edge of the park for a moment before he was satisfied the man was dead, then dropped his head with a 'whuff' of pleased satisfaction and turned back into Holmby Park, away from the lights and the people. He found the red-eyed wolf behind him, watching him carefully, and bared his teeth in a warning, but he didn't growl. There were no other vampires near - this one was alone, and wasn't moving to attack the wolf three or so times her size.

Not-fight dead wolf. he said simply. If the bloodsucker had come into his range, he might well have confronted and killed it, though it's lupine affinity might have accorded it a warning first. But he was in it's range, so lingering manners prompted him to declare peaceful intent and depart. He began to trot back to the north end of the park. Leave your place now.

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Sarah didn't have a ton of time to react as the massive wolf - in Urshul form, she guessed - herded his stinking, exhausted prey into traffic with predictable result. She had to admit, it was a damned fine way of putting an end to the mess, though the whys of the matter were unknown.

Then, something unexpected happened. The intruder acknowledged his trespass and made to leave. That was unusual; she was used to being treated pretty much like dirt ever since the end of her nights with Presidio's Pride up in Monterey. And she'd noted certain scent-marks just to the west of her territory... scent-marks that, now that she had a moment to process things, seemed to match up with this monster.

Well, if I'm gonna have a neighbor....

Shifting back to her human shape, Sarah called out, "Hold up. Mind a short talk? Kinda like to know my neighbors."

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The great wolf paused and half-turned, the lambent silver eyes over the dark muzzle swinging round to regard her warily. He didn't like vampires, didn't trust them. It wasn't so much blind prejudice as experience combined with instinct. Pretty much every vampire he'd (briefly) met was a greedy parasitic predator who thought they were God's gift to the fucking world, and how dare anyone say different. In his two years of staking out his range, he'd dealt with more than a few of the little leeches. This one, though, marked her territory like a wolf, and took a lupine shape. This one, then, might be different.

Sarah found the scrutiny unnerving, and was relieved that she had no adrenal glands to pump fear around her bloodstream. The wolf wasn't so much like an Urshul as it was a giant Urhan, and the damn thing was as big as a Gauru to boot. It also radiated... well, wolfiness, as though it had distilled it into an essence that screamed ALPHA in loud letters twenty feet high. She fought the phantom urge to shift footing and waited, outwardly calm.

Her patience was rewarded. The wolf turned fully towards her and changed, shrinking and reshaping, fur flowing into tanned skin, muzzle shortening to a nose and mouth, and paws becoming hands and feet. Only the eyes stayed the same, regarding her with calm wariness as the huge wolf became a naked man. Very naked, in fact. And totally unselfconscious about it.

"Okay. Short talk is fine by me." Declan said, his voice this close to the change still possessing a growling component. "Whatcha wanna know?"

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She did blink once at the man's state of undress. She'd seen it before, but usually only with the newly-Changed, and this guy did not feel like a newcomer to his second skin.

Eh, maybe he hasn't learned the trick. Or doesn't care to learn it. Or is a loner. The last possibility bothered her; loner's generally didn't stay all that sane among her cousins.

Still, he'd shown the willingness to at least talk, and that was something.

"Something to call ya'd be a great start - deed-name or whatnot. I'm Sarah Dead-Wolf," she said by way of introduction. The usual offer of a handshake was replaced by a dip of the head, something more animal than human that served well enough when dealing with those as comfortable on four legs as two. "And I'm curious what Shit Britches back there did for you to run him t'death like that," the redhead added, thumbing back in the direction of the street.

"Oh, and y'might wanna get a little more, um, outta sight if you're not gonna wear any britches of your own."

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The strange werewolf made a snorting noise, but nodded and jogged easily away from the road and the possibility of casual discovery. Sarah kept up and fell in alongside him as he slowed to a walk, still heading northwards.

"Left my clothes nearby." he said by way of explanation. "And you can call me Owns-The-Night." He looked sideways at her as he spoke, looking the red-head up and down evaluatingly.

"Interesting name." Sarah said, keeping things conversational and glad of not having hormones or a blush reflex. That glance had been somewhere between wary study and male appraisal of the female form. "Can I ask how you got it?"

"I chose it. Killed some vampires. One of them told me before he died that the night belonged to his kind. I disagreed." was the answer as Owns-The-Night kept up his steady, long-legged stride. Naked as he was, it was hard for Sarah to miss the fact that he didn't seem to bear any auspice brand or tattoo. Odd indeed.

"Fair enough." she answered. "And what about-?"

"Him?" Dec looked at her with a lopsided smile. "Dealers and other scum ain't welcome in my range. They have accidents. Every now and then one of 'em gets more balls than sense, so I need to cut 'em off."

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That elicited a nod of agreement; Sarah was of a similar mind regarding dealers and other crooks in her own territory; had she known of this one, she might have made a meal of him.

"Sounds solid to me; I'm pretty much of the same mind when those fuckers try that shit in my territory." She gazed back at Owns-The-Night, meeting his eyes with an appraising look before making a decision.

"So... I'm gonna guess that you've been on your own for a while. Haven't seen sign of a pack, just your own markings. And the whole leavin'-your-clothes-behind thing kinda hints that you've stayed separate. As one packless to another, mind if I ask why? I mean, my own reasons are kinda obvious - not many want somethin' around that doesn't breathe - but I don't quite figure you."

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"Not met any others of my kind except my cousin, and she's not local." Owns-The-Night responded. "I'd have thought bloodsuckers would flock together though." he added curiously, looking at her once more. "I mean, it ain't like lack of breathin' is a crime amongst you people, is it?"

"Besides, I like bein' the only werewolf on the campus. Means I can do things my way, not havin' to answer to nobody. Means I can find out what bein' vargr means without some fuckin' greymuzzle tellin' me what it should mean in his opinion." Dec sniffed at the air and growled softly. "My cousin tells me we're the Free People, and so I'm done takin' orders or answerin' to anyone but me, girl."

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Now Sarah's eyebrow went up. Way up. And stayed there. 'The People' was a common enough term in the Uratha community, but this was the first she'd ever heard one calling it 'the Free People'. And how on earth had this one avoided the other werewolves in the area? And what the heck was a vargr? The word, whatever it was, sounded like it might be First Tongue, but she'd never heard it before... and nothing was offering up a translation at the moment.

Maybe a sect of some sort, she pondered, a group of isolationists. Dear Luna, please don't let this be some kinda fucked-up Pure. But still....

"You know," she said, choosing her words with care, "I'm sorta surprised you ain't had a visit from the Topanga's yet. They seem to think they're king of the hill around L.A. for werewolves; didn't much like me when I pulled in.

"As for the leaches...." Her voice trailed off for a moment, a dark look crossing her face before continuing. "Let's just say I don't like the fuckers much, and that I'm enough of an offshoot where I keep better company with your sort than theirs. When I can, that is. 'Dead-Wolf' ain't just a name."

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"Topanga's?" Owns-The-Night was mildly surprised. He knew of the park, of course, and the way Sarah was using the name indicated that there was a pack there. "Never heard of 'em, not heard boo from 'em, and don't much care either. They have their place, and I have mine. But they're a pack, huh?" He pondered that for a few more steps, then shrugged his broad shoulders. "Well, maybe I'll mosey over and say hi. Their turf sounds far enough away I don't need to give a shit, though its nice to know there's others around... Wait..."

Watch out for the Moon Callers, Lise had said. They've got some crazy spirit warrior bullshit going on, and they like to be the big-dogs. They always run in packs, too.

"These Topanga's..." Dec said mildly. "They Moon-Callers? Followers of the moon or some shit? Got more than two forms?" He stopped and faced Sarah, eyeing her curiously. "Cos sounds to me like you think I'm one of that kind of werewolf."

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Eyes narrowed, Sarah nodded. "They follow Luna, yeah. And...." What did he mean by "got more than two forms?" The only thing that shifted around here that she knew of with only two was her. Well, and that crazy damned raven...

Realization spread across her features. "Well, I'll be damned. You're not Uratha. A werewolf, but not Uratha." He could have knocked her over with a feather. "That's a helluva thing. Truth told, I didn't know there was another kind." A brief snort of wry amusement escaped her dead lungs. "Learn somethin' new every night, I guess."

She tried to think of what else to say to that, and came up short.

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"Yeah. Guess so." Owns-The-Night watched the street for a moment then, seeing all was clear, trotted across to the mailbox where he'd left his clothing, pulled it out, and started to dress. "Anyhow, now we're properly introduced I'll respect your markers. I expect you do do the same, mind." he said as he pulled his sweatpants up, tied them off, and then gave her a steady look before pulling on the sweatshirt. "I'll be straight: I don't like vampires. But I'm willin' to concede you might not be like most. So if you do come lookin' for me, I'll wait to hear you out before attackin', so long as the white flag is high and clean."

Finished dressing, he turned to face her once more and nodded. "It wasn't bad meetin' you, Sarah Dead-Wolf. Good hunting."

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"Sounds fair, all around," the Dead-Wolf replied. "Good hunting to you, too." Watching Owns-The-Night leave, she considered again the revelation of the night.

"More than one kind," she muttered to herself, then turned and stalked back into the heart of her territory.

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Well, she weren't so bad for a bloodsucking... vampire... waitaminute! Owns-The-Night paused as he crossed back over into his territory, an overwhelming feeling that could only be described as DOH! coming over him. Sarah... redhead... jeans and jacket... vampire... The fucking PARTY!

"Of all the stupid, bone-brained, tail-chasing idiotic wolves, I've gotta be the prizewinner." Dec swore under his breath, angry at himself more than at Sarah. It was the scent. I smelled vampire there, but the nose wasn't sharp enough to I.D. this vampire as the one. She's the one that jumped that poindexter. And tried to jump August.

"Great work, Batman." he grumped sourly at himself as he started walking again. "She left the little dude alive, so she's not all bad... But still, missing the obvious like that! I oughta be ashamed of myself. Fuck." I could go back and... And what, really? Tell her not to hunt in territory that ain't mine? Real neighbourly. Do I care about Romeo? Not really (and that's a really fuckin' funny name for a singularly uncharming guy). Is he dead? No. He lost a little blood and squalled like a fucking stuck pig about it. Can't blame him overmuch, I'd be pissed too. And August got away, so no harm no foul there. Best just to leave well enough alone. Still... He looked northwards towards where August lived. It wasn't far outside his territory, and wouldn't take much to expand and bring Oneca's house into it. That'd protect her from being munched on. At least in a feeding sense. Hehehehehe. Worth thinkin' about, though. Maybe have a word with Sarah and ask pretty-please not to eat the cute brunette, because I want to tap that and it'd be hard if she was weak from blood loss? He started to jog home, pondering the best course of action.

Still, can't believe I missed that. Dumbass wolf.

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