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Swara-Ann

World of Darkness: Attrition - [Fic] "Rawr! N'stuff!"

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The cool night breeze embraced her, enveloping her snow white coat like a loving mother held her child close to her breast. The scents and the sounds of the night were like a narcotic, each one a new and wondrous experience and curiosity for her to discover. The pads of her paws crunched the leaves beneath her as ran and leaped over elder fallen trees and slid swiftly under others. She was a wolf but her mind was that of a woman. She could think and act on more than instinct but now she was consumed by the wolf, the scents, the adrenaline...

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...the hunt.

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Hurriedly the young woman ran through the woods. Sweat poured from her brow and her skin was bleached from fright. It was close and she knew it. She stumbled and fell to the soft earth blanketed by leaves of uncounted autumns and in a panic she crawled feverishly on her stomach before scrambling to her feet. She collapsed against a tree, tears roiling from her eyes down her young, unblemished cheeks. She looked down at the palms of her hands. Blood. She cried tears of fear and pain as she pulled a broken stick out from her side.

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The leaves crunched in the distance... it was close. She ran.

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The trail was warm, the scents in the air were like a stream of of invisible smoke she could follow to exactly where she needed to be. She'd find her. She couldn't have gotten far. She lost traction and slid on the leaves as she adjusted her weight towards the direction of her prey. She snarled and sped on. Nothing could outrun Swara-Ann, not in these woods, not tonight. Her pursuit took her around the eldest trees in the wood and the youngest saplings, their scents, pure and awesome, were like instants shots of adrenaline. The more of nature's splendor she took in on the hunt, the more it invigorated her. She was close, real close.

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"Oh, God no..." The young woman whimpered. "Please... someone help me..." Her sobbing and heavy breathing just added more scents in the air. Fear. Anguish. Desperation. The meat and drink of the beast that hunted her. The pain was unbearable in her side so she leaned against a thick trunk. A rest, just a small rest. That's all she needed. Her breath was visible in the chilled Los Angeles night. She could hear it getting closer and closer. Running was futile and she knew it. Maybe death wasn't so bad...

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The snow white wolf leaped on a fallen stump and launched itself into the air, spiraling around and like a space robot from a Michael Bay movie her form rippled and shifted until it's protean form resembled a lovely blonde woman with sparkling blue eyes who landed expertly on her newly formed, perfect feet. She cracked her neck from side to side. "Aaaaaaaand she nails the dismount!" She threw her arms back like an Olympic gymnast. "Oh, yeah. I am so treating myself to some Ben and Jerry's later, that was awesome."

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"Why are you doing this to me?" The student sobbed, gripping her side.

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Swara had been watching too many supernatural T.V. shows that featured a strong female lead lately. The brown leather vest she wore was a slight too small for her to better accentuate her breasts and the matching brown leather pants hugged her urathan booty perfectly. Yeah, she needed to lay off the Buffy for a bit. "Seriously!?" she looked the student of the campus with a cocked brow and half grin. "You're going with the innocent victim routine? Oh my gawd... dude... I'm new to this but not that new. Cut the crap psycho. I totally saw you kill those campers. Why do you guys think we're all as stupid as you? So, c'mon, cut the retarded crap and let's get on with this... I still have studying to do tonight and I have this track meeting tomorrow really early. Oh my gawd, you wouldn't believe this coach I have, he's like, really, really, cool but he always schedules these really early meetings where all we do is just go over an itinerary for the meets we already know are coming up." She paused for a breath. "Oh, and I have that Ben and Jerry's to pick up, and Jersey Shore is on in a little while. I'm totally addicted to that show, have you watched it? Oh, you should check it out, it is sweeeeeet, so much drama. It's great."

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"Would you shut up!?!" The young woman was rubbing her temples, apparently her side didn't hurt so much anymore. "Jesus Christ you are fucking irritating. Is that your plan? Annoy me until I put a gun to my head and do the work for you? God..."

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"Wow, pissy little duguthim, aren't you?" Swara-Ann raised her hand dismissively, scoffing at the student. "I'm just trying to be friendly before I force your colon and your head to trade locations. Chill, geez."

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The woman head and appendages began to twitch with an unnatural speed and pattern, like those freaky ghosts do in the movies. Her abdomen was sucked in like she'd went from healthy to emaciated in the link of an eye. Bone cracked and sinew tore and rearranged itself in mere moments. Her spinal column suddenly pushed her head clean from her shoulders as her rib cage tore open in a splash of gore. Her fore arms unfolded, tearing through the skin like a preying mantis's scythe-like talons. Within a moment the poor young woman's body was flayed and all that remained was the physical manifestation of the evil spirit that inhabited her. Her neck was nothing more than gore and viscera, her head hovering high above her shoulders attached to a spine that was twice the size as normal, like a demonic giraffe. Skin sloughed off her new grotesque form in heaps of bubbling ooze, consumed by the essence of the transformation.

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"I am so not cleaning that up." Swara-Ann mentioned pointing to the oozing mess. She took a few steps away as the creature finished it's final transformation. It was a risky and more strategically sound to simply strike while she had the opportunity, but there was no honor in that path. She would challenge this beast on equal terms. This honor was hers to claim. "You wanna play!?" She felt the wolf roiling up inside her. The adrenaline, the anticipation of glorious combat in Luna's name. This night with see the purge of one more evil. "Fine!"

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She slammed her fists into the earth in a hammer blow and the impact triggered a change within her. She looked up like Bill Bixby at that pivotal moment in every Incredible Hulk show. He reyes were bleached white and her form began to grow. Muscles expanded, bones cracked at they lengthened and ligaments popped at they acclimated to her new size. Her coat returned as her clothes faded into her form, melding with her body. The Gauru within her was unleashed. Rage consumed her heart and the spirit of war was her companion. Her massive claws gripped the earth, scooping up handfuls of soil that left sizable holes in the ground. She rose to her feet, standing nearly twelve feet in height (few werewolves ever stood taller than ten) and offered a bellow that bordered on a roar and a howl. Her feet dug into the soil and she braced herself for the conflict.

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She leapt forward with the rage of ten thousand angers in heart.

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And they played.

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Ten minutes later, for miles all around, Los Angeles could hear the howling cry for Luna to accept Swara's victory in her name.

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*****

She hoped no one saw her. The pain was intense and she'd lost a lot of blood. but thankfully the wounds were knitting swiftly. She could barely walk though, often stumbling and her boots refused to gain traction in the damp alley with her legs wobbling like they did. She hated this part. The pain, the misery, the aching reminder that her power came with a price. She felt woozy, she'd lost a lot of blood by under estimating her opponent and should have simply stayed in the forest and healed, but Jersey Shore was on tonight...

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She leaned against the back wall of the Golden Dragon, a Chinese restaurant close to campus, but she was too tired to continue on. Just a moment... just going to rest for a second...

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Before she realized she slid down the wall, her knees finally giving way as her body craved the rest it needed to mend such grievous wounds. Slowly he eyes grew heavy and the world faded to black...

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A short while ago, the great howl had rattled his bones. It had also scared away the ghost, the elderly man whom had panicked by the noise and went skittering away, heedless to Gary's call. Fortunately, no one was present there to hear, else they would have seen the young man speaking to no one - or so it would have appeared. Gary groaned a tad in frustration at the wasted plasm and blood, pulling out a bandage from his coat pocket and slapping it onto the long shallow cut on his right hand.

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Mr. Kevin Larichi would already be far enough away that trying to catch up with the poor murdered man would not occur before the substance of the Sin-Eater that enabled a coherent, aware and fruitful discussion was consumed in the mingling with the ghost's corpus. One that could have restored the balance of life and death, and brought justice to a heinous and self-interested murderer.

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Gary did after all, despite his search for knowledge, take certain other Sin-Eater duties more seriously, even the more violent ones in the proper circumstance. And Evelyn Ragussen certainly needed to be stopped. As far as Gary had been able to dig up, Ragussen had been an affluent druggie, until she discovered a method of keeping herself alive and youthful and able to indulge her habits with no consequence.

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Somehow, injecting victims with her special cocktail of drugs every month did that, and Gary feared with revulsion that she'd picked the method up through a pact with a powerful ghost. As well, it granted her some enhanced physical abilities. Gary had found it firmly confirmed the hard way, when he had originally ambushed the killer in an alleyway as she sought to murder a prostitute.

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Shooting her point blank in the head did nothing to stop her in the least, as her massacred face grimaced despite the brains strewn and started to regenerate. Only through the occlusion and the sense-altering properties of the Phantasmal Shroud - which Gary had been thankfully prescient enough to have active - kept him from getting lethally knifed or stabbed with the injector. Enough for the scantily dressed woman to flee, and the combatants had had to break off when sirens were heard.

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That had been two days ago, and Gary knew that she'd go after another victim, but he needed an edge for next time. So he'd found his way to the ghost of Larichi, who had just begun talking when the howl had broken off the discussion.

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Gary shook his head and started walking, trying to decide his next option, when some sounds caught his attention from behind. He turned - nay, whirled, to see a blonde girl slumping down into unconsciousness. A stunning one too, a corner of his mind noted in male appreciation. But the other part...

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*SCRAAATCH SCRAPE SCRIT*

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The Rotting Scholar, already pensive over the continued existence of the abmortal, had picked up something else that the Sin-Eater observed too. She was exhausted, and severely injured, determined from the weight of death that was on her like a morbid skin-tight suit, but it was receding at a strong pace!

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This was curious, and certainly marked her with some supernatural stamp. For his curiosity, ok, more than academic curiosity... Gary self-acknowledged from the boobs in leather, he went and with some effort lifted her up, eventually letting the feel of the Rotting Scholar - a sensation like swimming in burning paper and not pleasant - pour into his body as the plasmic invocation of the Phantasm Caul shaped his body subtly to enhanced his lifting capacities.

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Quickly, he brought her over to his car in the Chinese restaurant parking lot, and placed her in the back seats, snoozing while he drove to take them to his rented bungalow.

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The howl had cut across the campus grounds like a knife through cake, reaching a pair of dark-furred ears. Owns-The-Night raised his giant head and growled softly, under his breath, as he clearly interpreted the sound. It was a kill-cry, and not made by a normal wolf. Though it had echoed around a bit, the vargr was fairly confident that he had a good bearing on the sound and so, pushing himself to his feet, he loped off through the night. It didn't take him long to find where the howl had come from.

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He came across the churned, blood-and-ichor-spattered ground where some battle had taken place. There was a foul smell here, mingled with the smell of a wolf and a girl. The girl's scent was familiar to Owns-The-Night, but he couldn't place it, try as he might. The only clue his memory threw up was blonde hair... a chick at a party, wasn't it? She'd growled...- Ahh, yes. The girl who'd growled! At Oneca's and August's party at Casa Del Chica. The hottie. He'd lost track of her that night (having other things going on...) and always wondered if she'd been another vargr... or a moon-caller.

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And she smelled wounded, too. That was her blood everywhere, smelling of equal parts wolf and girl. Owns-The-Night snuffed up the scent and began to follow it. It was slow going, mainly because she had crossed the road, heading towards the Golden Dragon. That meant he'd had to double-back and fetch some sweats and a t-shirt from one of his caches, and so by the time he got to the alley where she'd fallen, the girl was gone.

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"Dammit." Declan crouched in the alley and examined the smears of blood. There was another scent present, and he focused on it for a moment before recognising it. Gary. The whatever-he-was that had been stuck with Dec in those cages not long ago. That guy's scent was all over the place here, and blondie's scent was leaving with his. Dec tracked that trail to a car - or rather, where a car had been - but that was enough for him. He knew where Gary lived, maybe ten minutes from the UCLA campus. Declan paused, hunkered down in the parking lot, and thought for a moment.

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Odds were that Gary, spooky bastard that he was, probably meant no ill to blondie. If he'd found her bleeding in an alley, then it was a fair bet he'd load her into the car and take her somewhere safe. But where? He might not know the girl was a werewolf, so might take her to hospital. On the other hand, he might have figured out something was up and taken her home. Best to check there first, the vargr reasoned.

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So it was that Gary, having just settled his guest onto the couch, was a little startled to hear a knock at his door. He was even more startled when he glanced through the peephole and saw a familiar, but not entirely welcome set of silver eyes staring right back at him. He sighed, then opened the door: it wasn't as though it would keep the werewolf out if he really wanted in anyhow.

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"Howdy, Gary." Declan murmured as he stepped in over the threshold, eyes casting about the room and alighting on the blonde on the couch. "Damn, thought it was her." he muttered to himself, then turned to the slender man. "Sorry to come unannounced, like, but I was tracking yer guest."

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Gary looked surprised for a moment at the mention of the tracking with the hot girl lying asleep on the couch, but then he nodded, as it seemed to fit into place. "Friend of yours then? I found her staggering into an alleyway. Dropped out cold right as I saw her. I would have brought her to the hospital but..."

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He paused and then decided to bite the bullet, at least partially since he was dealing with the big silver-eyed werewolf, casting a hand to the girl. "She's regenerating, at a surprising and superhuman rate." Gary could read the curiosity in Declan "I'll have to explain what I am really some time, but right now, I'll just say that I can see her 'death factor.' Think of it as her height where you must this tall to die."

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Garry indicated that morbid end point with one hand raised high, Declan noticed there was a long bandage across the palm of said hand, with lingering scents of recent bloodletting. "She was here," now Gary's left hand was positioned parallel a little before his right. "And every moment she shrinks quickly, so to speak. By the way, was that you making that noisy howl?"

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Declan just snorted, then shook his head. "Not hardly. I don't usually celebrate that noisy." He crossed over to the couch and examined the sleeping girl, then nodded, satisfied. There was a faint odor about the blonde, something otherworldly. "Met 'er once before, but we never got acquainted." He moved away from the couch and perched on the arm of a chair. "If it's all good with you, I'll stick around and say 'Hi' when she wakes up. Which she will, by the by. We're damn hard to kill 'less you put us all the way down."

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Gary nodded his acceptance of that, and settled into a chair himself as he regarded the werewolf. Declan glanced around at the lounge, then looked back at Gary with his silver eyes narrowing.

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"So why're you bleeding, buddy? Been in a fight?"

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"Funny, yes, but that wasn't the cause. They're related though." Gary said, leaning back, and Declan could swear the eeriness of Gary had jumped up a notch in that long moment. "There's a well-off junkie who thinks killing people once a month with her special serum gets her immortality. Unfortunately, she's got damn recovery better than even you guys are claiming. I put a bullet through her brain and more in vital spots and she kept going, and recovered faster than I believed could be possible. And I believe a lot these days. I managed to get out of that clash intact, and the victim to be got away... but Evelyn Ragussen? She's still going to go after someone, and she needs to be stopped. I was contacting a ghost of one of her previous victims for advice when I heard the howl. A lot of ghosts aren't aware and comprehensible until they get some blood, specifically like mine."

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"Gotcha." Dec nodded, though his understanding was far from complete. Gary could talk to ghosts. That was cool, so could August. Gary knew how to get something useful out of them, though, and that was interesting. Maybe he should introduce them.

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Hmm.

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"If some crazy bitch is going around killing off folks, perhaps I could help. I don't need a ghost to follow a trail, after all." he asserted. "But you say she's healin' fast? Wonder what she is - any idea?"

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2 hours later...

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Swara moaned and stretchered. She yawned and opened her hands, slowly closing them again like a cat or dog might flex its paws. She didn't' register right away that she was on a couch, it was comfy and her relaxed mind was quite content until her higher brain reminded her she'd been bleeding in an alley and leaned against the wall for rest. She shot up with a sense of urgency and shock with the sudden realization that she was in someone else's home. She was covered in dried blood from over a dozen different wounds, yet her clothes weren't torn or shredded, but certainly blood soaked.

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"Oh my gawd, what time is it?!" She said with a panicked scan around the room, not really noticing the two men, but aware that they were there. She leaned back on the couch and slumped with the palms of her hands pressed firmly in her eyes. "Ohhhh... dang it! I missed Jersey Shore!" Her arms fell limp as she pouted, bouncing on the couch a couple times before settling. "This night officially blows."

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Then it sunk in. A few moments later it actually processed. Her eyes darted around the room from left to right. "This is so not my dorm." She glanced at the two men, eying her like she was deficient in some way. She got that a lot. "Uhh...hi?"

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She cocked her head at Declan, he could tell the gears were turning but the electric bill hadn't been paid. "Don't I know you?"

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"We've met." Dec grinned at her engagingly. Well, engagingly for him. That is to say, the baring of his teeth didn't cause an immediate urge to cover one's throat. Declan usually had such a poker face that, when he smiled for real, it was a shock to find out that the scary dude with the silver eyes was also kind of hawt. If you liked smoldering bad-boys. Or liked to hate them. Or whatever.

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"We have?" Swara's blue eyes widened. Dec's smile skipped a beat as he realised that, no, she wasn't playing coy. There was no trace of guile in that curious stare. There wasn't much trace of anything, come to that.

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"Uh, yeah." Declan nodded. "You growled at me?" he tried, hopefully to jog what passed for memory.

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"I did?!" Swara giggled a little and tugged at the ends of her hair, staring at the gorgeous silver eyes. Cool, a cute guy she'd probably made out with at a party and forgotten about had found her, all helpless and asleep, and brought her here safely. Wait...

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"I growled at you?" she asked again, blue eyes narrowing. "Like 'rawr' growled, or really growled?" Declan sighed.

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Then growled.

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The sound made bits of Gary want to climb the nearest tree. It was a warning rumble, a not-quite-a-threat, and it sent shivers up Gary's spine and down Swara's. It was a good growl.

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"Like that." Owns-The-Night said with a toothy grin.

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"Oh, yeah... the hot guy at the party." The recollection was nearly monumental, judging by her expression. She didn't growl now, she didn't have it in her, she was too tired. "Dude, I would totally begin the whole growling thing with ya now if I could, but seriously, this little blonde is plum tuckered." It was about this time she realized she was wearing her dark brown Buffy-esque leather outfit, the one she bought for her late night hunting so she could feel cooler and sexier... and no one was supposed to see her in it... ever. She turned beet red and folded her arms, covering her chest as best she could.

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"So... uhh... what brings me by? Dinner, movie... someone... garbage pick me from an alley way by chance?" Declan pointed to Gary.

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"You just scooped me up?" Swara rolled here eyes, her hands were limited in their gestures considering she was trying to cover herself from the leering guys. "Dude, do you garbage pick every blonde you find in the trash? You have no idea where I've been." There was an awkward silence, neither guy was quite sure ho to answer. "Please tell me you at least washed your hands, cuz, like... ew."

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She hunched over in the couch, stretching her back and popping her spine and neck. "But, uh... thanks though. Guess I lost more blood than I thought."

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Gary pinched the bridge of his nose, learning that the famous dumb blond stereotype wasn't always wrong. Occasionally it had a flamingly bright avatar. "Well, something caused that, undoubtedly." And was cut off for a moment as her stretching showed off her butt to him and Dec. "So.... intros. I'm Gary, the Growl-man over here is Declan, and your name is?"

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"Swara-Ann."

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"Swara-Ann." Gary noted. "I do want to know... what the hell did that to you?"

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"Huh?" She looked at her self, there was nothing wrong aside from the dried blood. Did what? She was fine. Then it clicked and she realized he must've been talking about earlier when she was wounded. "Oh! A duguthim." She said it like everyone knew what it was and there should at least be two in every home. "A real nasty one too!"

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"I'm sorry, a what?" Gary asked, curious.

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The blonde Cahalith leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "A spirit claimed." The girl had probably broken about fifty rules of werewolf society tonight just by getting caught. Hell, what was a few more? It's not like she ever had any help with this stuff. The Cahalith prepared for story time, and if there was one thing Swara-Ann could do, it was talk. "So, like this farm girl, fresh off the bus n'stuff came to U.C.L.A. from like, Kentucky or Georgia... I dunno." She waved the thought off with her hand and a shrug of her shoulder. "...and she meets this guy Josh, right? Totally hot, been in L.A. all his life, they hit it off, everything is all groovy n'stuff, right?"

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She paused as if waiting for a reply but her mosaic audience did what mosaics do best: sat there impassively trying to follow the story. "Wrong-o. They totally scrumped for a few months, like bunnies from I understand, and the girl, Lori, totally went all head over heels bonkers for the guy. First love n'all that. Well, as you may have guessed, Josh turns out to be a total d-bag, like all guys eventually are, no offense."

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"None taken." The two men said in unison, causing them to share a glare at the other.

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"As I understand it, she was one of those 'score card girls' that the fraternitys do. Y'know, see how many girl you can sleep with? He was like sleeping with her because the sex was good and she was always willing but still going out and trying to score with half the campus. So, yeah, Lori's spent the last six months falling apart. Missing the guy, stalking him, and single handedly keeping Häagen-Dazs in business, she snapped."

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"Alright," Declan asked. "But where does the duguthim enter the field?"

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"Lori became spirit-claimed. She gave up on life after Josh hurt her. A moderately powerful spirit of sorrow had been feeding off of her anguish. Eventually it hollowed her out, so to speak." They could tell that it hurt Swara-Ann to talk about this. She didn't know Lori, but still having something like that happen to someone must be a terrible thing. To have one's will broken to the point where they simply give up on life and are nothing more than an empty shell in a skin suit. She felt for people who ended that way. "Sorrow evolved into envy, envy into wrath. The spirit had all of Lori's emotional imprints so it went on a spree of damaging or evening killing who looked remotely happy in a relationship. It wanted to make sure no one found love on the campus. I was in the Shadow last week when an alath of mercy requested my help. I couldnt' refuse after he told me the story, so I've been trying to track her since. I caught up with her tonight, preing on some campers doing the ol' pre-martial sex in a tent bit when she Voorheesed them."

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She sighed, taking a breath. "She was a toughy, I admit, I underestimated her, but I won. I just with Mother Luna would let me find Josh, but apparently being a complete self-absorbed ass hat isn't part of the People's jurisdiction. God what I wouldn't give to just throat a bastard like him. But, hey... there ya have it. Swara-Ann - one, d-bag spirits - zippo."

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"Nice work." Declan allowed, then narrowed his eyes slightly. "So yer a Moon-Caller. Uratha."

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"Well, duh." Swara snorted indelicately. A warning note chimed in the back of her head and she peered at Tall, Hunky and Growly. "So are you... right?"

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"Nope." Dec shrugged. "I don't talk to spirits, I wouldn't know an alath of mercy from a hole in the ground. I don't worship the moon, though I do sing her the occasional song. UCLA is usually my turf, but it sounds like you did me a favor along with the rest of the campus, so let's just gloss over that."

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"You're not uratha." Swara said levelly.

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"Nope."

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"And you're not gonna kick my ass?" she asked hopefully. "Well, I say 'kick my ass', but what I meant is 'try to kick my ass'." she amended, trying to look all Buffy-like and tough.

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"Nope."

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"So you're not one of these Pure ones I've heard about?"

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"Naw. I ain't part of that little psychotic war you guys have. And I don't aim to be."

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"So... you're a werewolf. But you're not a werewolf."

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"You guys aren't the only werewolves." Dec shrugged. "Congrats, your world just got bigger." He stretched, then grinned at her. "Now, I was warned that you guys would have a problem with me, so I'd take it as a kindness if you wouldn't lead your pack on some kinda fucked up holy crusade to kill the lone wolf. I just want the same thing you do: to keep the place clean of drug dealers, rapists, fucked up monsters, vampires and other shit."

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A werewolf who wasn't a werewolf? Cool.

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"I uh," She slouched a bit. "I don't have a pack. I'm a lone wolf too. I haven't met any others like me since I got here. Back home there's a few of us, but when I got a scholarship to go to school they were so happy for me that they shipped me right off. Big party and everything! They were so sweet, I miss them." She sighed, thinking of her kin back home.

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"Um, yeah, I kinda haunt the UCLA campus too, but I spend a lot of time in the Shadow, which is prolly why you never noticed me or picked up my scent." She crinkled here nose a bit looked at Declan with those baby-blue puppy dog eyes of hers. "Um, even though it's yours, maybe we could not kill each other if we see each other about? I don't really have a territory, yet. I've the instincts to get it done, but seriously, with my class schedule, oh my gawd... who has time for primitive peeing rituals? But dude, seriously, I totally am in your court, don't worry about holy wars or stuff like that. I'm totally down with you being... uh, you..." She gave him a once over and suddenly he felt like he was prey. Please god... keep being you... "And, uh... I'll be me, and they can all be uh..."

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"Them." Declan helped her out.

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"Right! Them." She pointed at him with an awkward smile and half hearted chuckle. Wolf politics didn't sit well with her. She didn't think like them, as much. She was more human than wolf it seemed at times, but she didn't let it get in the way of her duty to Mother Luna. It's not like she had anyone to show her this stuff, unless she went back home to Alaska. She looked to Gary, assuming this whole time he was just another wolf guy. Had she listened to her Primal Urge welling up in the back of her mind, she'd have known he wasn't, but she was too busy waking up and thinking about what she missed on Jersey Shore and talking to Declan and what sort of Ben and Jerry's flavor she wanted later... it was too much going on to have time to listen that... "So uh, what kinda wolf is he? A newbie?" She asked looking at the bandage on his hand. "Dude, we totally regenerate. Bleeding stops n'stuff, you totally don't have to wrap it up..."

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Gary clicked his tongue as he did give Swara his own once over. "Half-ghost." Swara blinked as she tried to interpret that phrase. "Half-ghost wolf? Uh... cool?" Gary stifled a laugh and shook his head. "No, no. I'm not a werewolf." Though a portion of his mind eagerly was trying to keep record of all the terms and information being thrown around for his research logs, he rose and stretched his arms a little.

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"So-" he raised a hand to cut off Swara before she asked the obvious, "I suppose I can give you the essential elements of the story. Declan, you too."

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"Ok, first off. There is an Underworld... and there are ghosts. And then there are geists. The difference is hard to explain... geists are ghosts that have changed themselves somehow... more... like symbols... little conceptual gods of death in their own ways. As for me... one night, I ate a bad burger, and died. Seriously, it was that bad. That's when a geist came by, as I was on the very edge of going dead. The Rotting Scholar gave me an offer, it wants to see the living world again, I wanted to live. We do a sort of merge, and I came back to life. Nasty puking night, but alive and empowered. I'm what our sort calls ourselves a Sin-Eater. I can see ghosts 24/7, talk to them, do all sorts of tricks, visit the Underworld, and such. I can't regenerate."

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"Actually," he corrected himself, "I can sort of make it better with plasm, and it would have healed faster, but... meh. It's not that serious."

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Sarah had heard the howl.

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Oh, to be certain, very nearly everyone north of Lynwood had heard the sound; it was window-shakingly loud. Still, this was Los Angeles, and weirder things had happened; people tended to chalk it up to everything from a custom car horn to a very minor bit of tectonic activity... and as befitted their jaded nature, dismissed it (even if it had raised the hairs on the back of their necks).

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But Sarah wasn't them. Technically, she wasn't people (or People, in the culture of those she held dear). And Sarah heard the howl for exactly what it was: one of the People in victory.

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She spent most of the following two hours on four legs rather than two.

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First, trying to find the source of the howl, a search that eventually brought her to the remains of something that once had been a human being, torn asunder and shattered in a patch of woods. Yet, it bore no marks of claw or tooth... and from the copious amounts of blood and tracks on and soaking into the forest floor, there'd been quite a fight here after it had fallen.

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Once the scent of the Uratha was strong in her nose, the Dead-Wolf began tracking it south, noting as she did that it was going very, very close indeed to both her territory and that of her reclusive neighbor, Declan. Sure enough, the trail led to an alleyway behind the greasy Chinese eatery on their mutual border. There was, she noted, another scent here, one more human. And sure enough, a few small bits of blood against one crumbling brick wall. The old temptation was there, as the rich coppery scent called to her Beast, but Sarah choked it down; she refused to feed from the People, no matter how tantalizingly good they smelled.

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Unfortunately, the heady scent overpowered those of the Uratha itself, let alone the human, and she couldn't regain them. Sarah looked around while pondering what to do next. An unknown werewolf was wandering - and hunting - near her territory. And at the moment, she had no way to know if it was Moon-Sworn or in the camp of those fanatically devoted to Father Wolf... or for that matter, in the strange category defined in her mind by Declan.

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If nothing else, she thought to herself, I should probably let him know 'bout this. Drawing the cool air into long-dead lungs, Sarah let out a howl in the language of wolves that amounted to, *Neighbor/rival/friend, we must meet. Another wolf is here.*

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Gary clicked his tongue as he did give Swara his own once over. "Half-ghost." Swara blinked as she tried to interpret that phrase. "Half-ghost wolf? Uh... cool?" Gary stifled a laugh and shook his head. "No, no. I'm not a werewolf." Though a portion of his mind eagerly was trying to keep record of all the terms and information being thrown around for his research logs, he rose and stretched his arms a little.

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"So-" he raised a hand to cut off Swara before she asked the obvious, "I suppose I can give you the essential elements of the story. Declan, you too."

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"Ok, first off. There is an Underworld... and there are ghosts. And then there are geists. The difference is hard to explain... geists are ghosts that have changed themselves somehow... more... like symbols... little conceptual gods of death in their own ways. As for me... one night, I ate a bad burger, and died. Seriously, it was that bad. That's when a geist came by, as I was on the very edge of going dead. The Rotting Scholar gave me an offer, it wants to see the living world again, I wanted to live. We do a sort of merge, and I came back to life. Nasty puking night, but alive and empowered. I'm what our sort calls ourselves a Sin-Eater. I can see ghosts 24/7, talk to them, do all sorts of tricks, visit the Underworld, and such. I can't regenerate."

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"Actually," he corrected himself, "I can sort of make it better with plasm, and it would have healed faster, but... meh. It's not that serious."

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Swara Understood all that, mostly because he summed it up swiftly. He was mortal, choked on a burger, made a pact with a ghost that saved him... somehow. Plain enough, she thought. "Wow, so you can see ghosts n'stuff huh? Trippy. My people don't mess with ghosts all that much. I'm not sure the specifics, but we deal with spirits more than ghosts, and yes there is a big difference between a spirit and a ghost."

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"Anyway, good to meet you Gary. Tough break with the burger, sorry you died n' all. That had to suck." She squinted and looked off to the upper left in deep contemplation before sucking her teeth and waggling a finger at him. "I don't think there's any special rules in the Uratha handbook that says you Sin-Eater guys are an enemy of The People, aside from an unhealthy hobby of garbage picking, which I'm currently grateful for by the way, you seem alright so far. At he very least, if I get word that I have to end you, I'll phone ahead, least I could do for all the help n' everything." She certainly was casual about having to kill someone or something, but it seemed like that went with the territory of being a killing machine.

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Another howl pierced the night sky and was overheard faintly in the distance. Swara stood from the couch and looked towards the window. She tensed up. She didn't know that wolf, but she understood the language of wolves and it sounded enough like a summons for a hunt to her that she it caused her to clench her fists in anticipation for another brawl. "Groovy, someone must be looking for me." She seemed nervous, worried even and Declan knew why. She was a tough cookie, but she couldn't handle a whole pack if she'd pissed off the wrong people or they mistook her for an enemy. "Look, uh, guys... I really should get going. Thanks for the couch n' everything, I'll treat you to a coffee or lunch or something sometime."

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Declan's ears had also pricked up (figuratively speaking) at the sound of the howl, only he recognised this wolf. He scowled slightly as Swara got fidgety, but she got the sense that his irritation wasn't directed at her. In fact, given the aura of contained primal ferocity Dec possessed, even in repose, it was safe to say no-one could be in any error if he was angry at them.

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"Relax, frail. Night's young and that howler's no-one to worry about... well leastways not if you keep her where you can see her." he growled. "She's a neighbour, kinda. Her turf is to the west of m-... ours." The pause and correction were significant, and even Swara didn't miss it. It was about as big an olive branch as a wolf could offer. Dec gave her a lopsided grin and nodded towards the window. "She's a leech," he said with a wrinkle of his nose, "but she seems friendly enough and don't intrude unless she's got cause. 'Parently she's run with your kind before and she's a fan of uratha, which led to some confusion when she and I first bumped heads. She's probably just all excited because she smelled another werewolf." He fixed Gary, then Swara with a measuring look.

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"I can introduce you guys if you want."

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"Uh, sure." Swara said, relaxing somewhat. Dec's announcement of their shard territory helped somewhat as well, he certainly looked the type to mangle you and leave you for dead if you pissed him off, which told her he wasn't a good liar. People like him didn't need to lie, they were to direct. She could trust him, just not get on his bad side. "An I ain't frail," she corrected him with enough attitude to inform him she wasn't going to let the remark go. Yeah, she was an idiot, Declan was sure of that, but somewhere inside was a full fledged wolf always growlin'. "I'm not afraid of a fight, or even death, but that doesn't mean I want to sit here and welcome it to this guys doorstep. I mean, look at him... he uses band-aids. Not the sort of guy who deserves the sort of trouble we bring."

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"You mean leech like, vampire, right?" Swara cocked her head as if referring to the 'Werewolf Code Book' again. "Um, don't we not get along with them? Like some major war that's been happening since like, ever? She's not gonna like, be all 'vant to suck yer blud' is she? Because I totally don't swing that way, well not sober anyway. See, my roommateandIgotreallydrunkabouttwomonthsback,andoh,my,gawd..."

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Declan raised a hand to stop her. Not because he didn't wat to hear her finish, but because she talked so damn fast he couldn't make heads or tails of it. Did she ever stop to think about what she was saying? "Yeah, yeah... we get it. You watch too many movies, by the way."

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"You uh, you can tell me later." Gary offered now that she was quiet. Seemed the polite thing to do. When Declan gave him a 'seriously' glare he simply looked at the large man and shrugged innocently. "What?"

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Declan just rolled his eyes.

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"Okay!" She said gingerly. "Ever think that maybe you don't watch enough movies?"

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"Hadn't considered it, no." Declan said.

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"Well you should! This guy I know, his girlfriend's friend's cousin told me that a lot of what we see in the movies and on T.V. is just the truth glossed over by the mediums-"

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"Media." Gary corrected her.

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"-right, and that we are desythasized to whats really going around us. The truth is out there, he told me." Gary didn't even bother correcting her this time.

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"Is that so?" Declan asked as Swara nodded her head with smile so cute it didn't belong on any uratha. "And what's the truth?"

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She shrugged. "How should I know? Dude, I'm barely passing my classes as it is. I'm no rocket surgeon, that much I can tell you."

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"You just did," he said, holding in the devilish smirk. "In more ways than you know. C'mon, she's not o far from 'ere."

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The trio left the apartment and their footsteps could be heard on the pavement just outside. Swara wasn't to thrilled that she ran into all this excitement the night she decided to wear her Buffy crime fighting outfit, but the longer she walked along the less and less she realized she had it on. They passed by a street vendor where she wetted a few napkins and went about cleaning herself and spot wiping the mess of her leather. Aside from a case of bed-head, she was looking as good as new. A few cat calls now and again reminded her that she was in a bust enhancing vest and had come to realize, that apparently 'dat booty wuz fyne', which she assumed meant hers because the guys who said it didn't seem like the type that would be paying attention to Gary or Declan. Then again, it took all types.

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By the time they were there they were away from crowded streets and busy L.A. night life, back in an element all of them found strangely familiar and comforting: quiet and solitary. People like them, dispite their awesome powers and strange lots in life, always found that being alone with their own kind was sort of comforting, like a club for freaks. She wanted to go to Dalu, in case something happened she's be ready, but the outfit was too tight, she'd destroy it and it cost way too much for that. Instead she remained close to Declan and waited, hoping if something went south she could go urshul in time to defend herself (and save her outfit).

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"Um... dude..." Swara glanced about, her mundane human senses were she had to rely on at the moment. "I think she split, yo."

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"You kidding?" The voice came from about ten yards behind rather than in the empty park ahead, and those turning could see what was looking to be a mid-20's woman clad in denim from neck to combat-booted ankles. Green eyes peered out from beneath coppery red bangs, and there was a mixture of wariness and excitement caught in them. Indeed, the barest hint of a smile could be seen on her very pale face. "Owns-The-Night comes to visit, I ain't splitting."

She looked at Declan, then back to the blonde woman with him. "So you of the victory howl? Damn! That sucker had some reverb."

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"No kidding," Gary observed, drawing Sarah's attention to the seemingly ordinary human being, Gary looked strangely fascinated by her, which he was, in a manner. He'd only encountered a few vampires before, and it was still intriguing to see that complete and suffocating weight of clear death, and yet simultaneously recognize with your eyes that the body in question was still perfectly intelligent and animate.

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"Declan mentioned a bit about what you were. I don't know who though. So, introductions. I'm Gary and Blondie here goes by the name of Swara. You?"

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The red-head furrowed her brow a bit at Gary. He didn't move like the People, and sure as hell didn't smell like the People. Nor was he another leech; she'd have known immediately if that was the case. "Name's Sarah," she said to the conundrum, "Sarah Dead-Wolf. An' to flip it around a bit, I know who you are now, but not the what." She looked over to Declan, pointing at Gary. "Is he cleared with you for this shit?"

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"Relax, frail," her neighbor growled in an eerie echo of his earlier words. "He's cleared."

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Sarah did almost visibly relax at Declan's assurance. "Good t' know." Then she turned her attention to the blonde. "So, just t' be sure. You Uratha, or like Owns-The-Night here? And if Uratha, which oath if any? Kinda like to know things like that 'bout folks standin' in my territory."

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"Um, you invited us." Swara was a bit shocked. Here was a vampire bombarding her with questions that vampires weren't supposed to know. Her wolf seemed to clash with Sarah's Beast a bit and from within the petite blonde came a low guttural growl. Depite that, she owed Declan a measure of respect, this was his 'friend' and she didn't want to offend him by getting into a clawing match with her.

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"No oath," she said flatly. "I walk my own path. No pack, no tribe. I'm here on a scholarship from my home in Alaska. I wasn't aware the muth luzuk took territory, I thought they had like, feeding holes with people hooked up to those blood tube things drinking them like mortal Slurpees." It seemed when Swara's wolf was at the surface she was more lucid, more primal. More like one would expect her to be, like her primal urges brought with them a measure of clarity sweeping away the blonde fog. "So, months of nothing and now twice in one night I have wolves telling my they've peed on all the prime real estate. What've you guys been doing around here? There's all kinds of bad mojo around here and you guys seem blind to it. What's up?"

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It never occured to her they were three separate animals entirely. Declan couldn't see or interact with spirits, nor could Sarah, without powerful disciplines. Even Gary was limited only to the dead, something Swara herself couldn't commune with without powerful spirit granted gifts.

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"Good question. An' sorry 'bout the third-degree. You got no idea how rarely I get to interact with the People 'round here." The capitalization was audible; Sarah said it as though it was the most natural thing in the world for a muth luzuk to say, and that in and of itself was annoying.

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"Actually, now that you are here, I was hopin' you might be able to tell us what the fuck is happening on the other side, 'cause I know damned well we got spirits leakin' across. I hear 'em an' more or less understand 'em, but I can't see 'em, an' I sure as shit can't cross over on my own to find out what's what. And don't think that doesn't chap my hide." Again, Sarah was delving into topics that most Uratha just didn't plain expect to hear from a leech.

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She added, "I gotta theory, an' it bothers me, but I got no way to really find out." At Declan's raised eyebrow, she met his eyes and simply said, "Shane."

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"The other side?" Swara quirked a brow then it clicked. "Oh, in The Shadow Realm?" The tension seemd to fade as Swara, the Cahalith teller of tales took in a breath.

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"Here she goes." Declan said casually before he could respond do the Shane comment.

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"Oh, sister let me tell you. It's a storm of problems. I've got three duguthim, that I know of still on the loose. Azlu somewhere near the campus making the Zathu stronger every weak, and Beshilu in the tunnels beneath the campus and the city. So far I think the two are at war with each other, one working to strengthen the Zathu, the others looking to weaken it. I'm not sure but it's a flipping nightmare for me. I'm on patrols out here or in The Shadow Realm so much that I'm failing my Calc class and if my GPA drops any further I'll get booted from the track team." She was stressed and it was obvious, after she finished speaking her arms dropped limp at her side like she too tired to hold them up. They thwaped against her tight leather pants. "And now apparently, there's some dude named Shane in the mix too."

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She sighed. So who's Shane, anyway." She perked right up and smiled brightly. "Is he cute?"

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Swara's mention of Azlu elicited a distinct shudder from the Dead-Wolf. Further mention of Beshilu and a likely war between them got a nod that said, that makes sense. The story as a whole earned a lopsided grin, and Sarah did actually chuckle and say, "You're a Gibbous-Moon, ain't ya? Crescent-Moon myself, but I like the story-tellers, an' you do it well." The look of confusion came back to Swara's face; did the leech just say it had an auspice?

Then the Cahalith asked about Shane, and Sarah's grin faded to something between worried and sad. "Shane's... a problem. Uratha who killed his wife during the First-Change and never got past it; sank real low. Didn't help that she was literally haunting him. I lost track of him 'bout a year ago, an' got the bad feeling he's gone over to the Shadow and more or less stayed there, which I understand can fuck things up." She hesitated before adding, "And he's my brother."

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"And he's also batshit." Declan commented from the peanut gallery. Sarah glared at him, and Declan shrugged unconcernedly. "It's true, frail. He's a nice guy underneath it all, and he's had a hard run, but bein' haunted by a vengeful bitch ghost is gonna make a man batshit." Declan was all heart, truly. His brow furrowed as he looked from Sarah to Swara.

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"I got what a duguthim is. So what the hell's an ass-loo when it's at home? Or a bech-eeloo? Or any of them other things ya'll said. Cuz if they're over in the fairy-land spirit world place, that's waaay off my beat. I deal with the monsters on this side of the mirror, thanks."

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"Seriously?" Swara blinked at him. "You can't see spirits and stuff?" She giggled. "You really can't smell the bad mojo going around?"

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"No. I can't see spirits and stuff." Declan replied in that special, patient tone of voice that was the verbal equivalent of a fizzing fuse. "I've not learned how, though some others in my family can. I've ripped a few monsters around here a new asshole or three, but the ones that ain't vamps I don't have a fuckin' clue about other than the fact they're dead now." He paused, thinking back. "There was a big ass mutant rat thing three months ago that dissolved when I killed it, and some leech made a play on the campus a few weeks back, but other than that it's been the usual druggies, gangbangers, and fratboy date rapists needing a good castratin'."

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He paused again, considering.

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"If you say there's other fuckers around here hiding from me... perhaps you could, uh, show me how to spot 'em? Or smell 'em?" It plainly wasn't Dec's comfort zone to be asking for help, but he was in earnest as his silver eyes met Swara's baby blues. "I'm still learnin' the ins and outs of holding my turf, and this sounds like a big part of it."

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"I'd wish I could help..." Gary added to the melange of commentary, "but all this spirit stuff and esoteric lore will only go as far as my research notes and logs." However, the mention of details about Sarah's brother got him wonder. "Though, Shane... we talking actual ghost or the spirit that seems to be your Ura-thaa beeswax? If it's a ghost, that's my forte. Besides, I have a rather serious supernatural serial killer to deal with as well."

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"Actual ghost. Everything but the fuckin' rattlin' chains. Hates his guts. Got him deep in the bottle as well as the batshit"

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Sarah paused, then gave Gary a second look. "You deal with ghosts? Like an exorcist or something? And serial killer... no shit?" She pondered for a moment. "Tell you what: if we find Shane an' you help with his late-wife issue, I'll help with your serial killer. You do me a solid, I do you a solid."

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Gary grinned, both at the offer and at how Sarah so casually took him for at most a medium or an exorcist. But he supposed it would be harder for even other supernaturals to see him as more than human. Versus say, a werewolf, or a vampire. Or Swara, who seemed to honestly fit more into a category belonging to herself.

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Albeit as a product of her personal traits rather than any presumed abilities. "Oh, I'm more than just a simple exorcist. But that's a deal I could accept."

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The distant sound of whistling, lackadaisical and oddly incongruent with both the late-night environs and the unusual nature of their present company, reached their ears before any other sign of a human presence. Faint at first, its source could almost be dismissed as someone out for a midnight stroll, save that it continued growing louder and clearer at a consistently unhurried pace, and from precisely the same bearing. Even more perplexing, and somewhat annoying by virtue of being utterly apropos, was the gradual recognition of the actual melody: "Strangers In The Night." It couldn't possibly have been an intentional choice, of course, but if it was...

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A brief pause- the scrape of metal- a faint whisper of alcohol on the wind- and the whistling began again. Whoever it was, they'd almost reached the little group, judging by the volume and clarity of the song.

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"Sounds like we might all have a stake-" Declan began, then fell silent as the distant whistling reached his sensitive ears, and the vargr took on an alert look that both Swara and Sarah recognised immediately. Gary was no dummy, and though he looked as though he wanted to ask a question, he held his peace until they could all hear the tune.

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Dec glanced at the others, an eyebrow crooked. After over a year of supernatural stuff, he was ill-inclined to believe in coincidence. That someone could be blithely walking around in the dead of night at a time when even the crack dealers sought their beds, and in a place where even crack dealers were afraid to tread (mostly due to him), was unlikely.

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They smelled human though, and his ears and nose only picked up one approaching person. A woman. Not that women couldn't be trouble or a threat, but considering he was in the company of an uratha, a vampire, and a geist (he still wasn't entirely clear what that was), Declan was not overly concerned. Still, he was curious about who would be wandering off the well-lit paths at this time of night, and so his gleaming silver eyes scanned in the direction of the whistler, piercing the darkness easily in search of his quarry.

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Sarah likewise went silent - truly silent, as she lacked even the whisper of breath or the tiny involuntary movements that defined the living - and listened with keen ears as her eyes sought out the source of the tune. Who in hell, she wondered, would be wandering through my territory this late without being sloppy drunk?

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Swara-Ann squinted as if looking through the darkness her head slightly bobbing about to and fro in synch with the whistling.

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"Hey! I know that song!" She suddenly blurted out enthusiastically, obviously proud of herself and destroying any chance the small group may have had to lurk in secrecy. "Stranger in the night..." he started singing along with the tune of the whistle. "Exchanges glances... Wondering in the night... what were the chances..."

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It was suddenly like she was 'that guy' in a comedy and everyone glared at her with that look in their eyes like they all wanted to slug her in the arm. She stopped singing and looked at them. "What?" Before anyone could say anything else her eyes blossomed wide like a cartoon My Little Pony and she shook her hand excitedly. "Oh. My. God... that is so creepy. I mean... think about it... we're all, like strangers in the night too n' stuff! That's so cool, what're odds? It's like the world is totally reading our minds right now."

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Sarah silently looked at the clueless Uratha - blinking in incredulity for half a moment out of her remembered habit, then sighing and burying her face in her hands almost immediately afterward. Gary simply stared more at her, but raised a finger to his lips, signaling the blond-haired werewolf to shush up for once. He could easily see this was no coincidence.

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The message though? Was this someone intending to approach them or something else entirely? Though a capable observer, Gary knew he lacked the senses of Declan and company, with his eyes not strong enough to pierce the dark, he decided to wait and gauge their visitor upon arrival instead.

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From amongst the shadows of the trees, a lone, female figure approached the four supernaturals, tucking a small hip flask into the back pocket of her well-worn jeans as she came into view. With her dark hair twisted up into a haphazard knot, her fair skin, and red, red lips, the leggy young woman could almost have been mistaken for a night-walker of either sort, though she smelled of neither sex nor death as she strode casually toward them.

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"Well, well, isn't this a coincidence?" she all but purred into the tense silence, dark eyes roving over the other three before fixing on the vargr. "Declan, wasn't it?" She tilted her head slightly, almost coquettishly, a faint smile tugging at the corner of her carmine mouth. "Long time, no see. If I'd known you were having another party out here, I'd have brought limes."

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"Another party?" Sarah turned an questioning eye to Declan. "Another party, out here?!?" The questioning eyes looked around Holmby Park, then narrowed as they turned back to the vargr. "Are you throwin' parties on my territory when I'm asleep, Declan? What the fuck?"

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"Another party, as in she and I have met before... at a party." Declan's words were held together by a thread of patience. But it was not a very thick thread, and Sarah Dead-Wolf decided that subsiding right now and hearing the vargr out might be the better part of - well, anything. "Out here, as in we are out here at the moment." His voice dropped an octave, subharmonics rolling in the night air with enough force that the others felt it in their bones. Swara murmured an 'uh-oh' under her breath as she caught the vibe, and Gary just plain took a step backwards, wanting no part of this discussion. Declan was not amused, though it was a coin-toss whether his annoyance was at the accusation of basic wolfly rudeness or simply because he didn't take crap like that from anyone. "You want to keep grabbing the wrong end of this stick, frail? Or should I just skip to the end of this line of enquiry and break the stick off in your ass?"

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Sarah blinked and shuffled back a half-step. Even when relaxed, Declan emitted a pure ferocity entirely devoid of human restraint, and when irritated it rolled off him like heat from a furnace. In some ways, it was worse than the uratha she was familiar with - Declan didn't adhere a Code of the Moon, or to a social tribal structure bound together by spirituality and a warrior ethic. He was what he appeared to be right at this moment - an apex predator currently deciding whether she was on the menu. Having grown up around apex predators, Sarah knew without shadow of a doubt that if she pushed any further she'd be in for a fight. Declan held her gaze for a moment more, then looked over at Astra.

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"Long time no see, Astra." he returned, amiably enough. One corner of his mouth tugged upwards in a faint smile as he looked the slender brunette down, then up. "No limes, huh. Not even a lemon drop?"

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"Nope." Astra said blithely, smile widening at the appraisal she was getting from the large, silver-eyed man. He remembered, which was nice. A girl liked to make an impression - and have an impression made upon her, too. She remembered how those eyes had looked, meeting her gaze along the line of her body...

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"Kinda a strange time and place to be out walkin', ain't it?" Declan stated rather than asked.

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"I could say the same to you four." Astra glanced over the others curiously, her nerves singing to her softly.

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"Neighbourhood watch meeting." Declan said laconically, his lopsided grin positively wicked. And charming.

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After backing down in the face of Declan's de facto alpha statement - enough so that her posture shifted subtly and subconsciously to a submissive bearing - Sarah listened to the back and forth between the vargr and the new arrival. In an attempt to be helpful, she grab hold of the line he was using. Unfortunately, tact was not the Dead-Wolf's strong suite.

"Yeah, neighborhood watch. Keepin' watch, ya know, over the neighborhood." She looked to Astra with what she hoped was a close approximation to a smile, then asked Declan, "So, Watch Cap'n, um, is Astra the sort that might be part of a neighborhood watch? LIke, ya know, we are? With our special, uh, trainin' an' stuff?"

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It was, Gary noted, almost amusing how Declan's wince and near-cringe at Sarah's words was almost exactly the same reaction the vampire had given to Swara's.

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"Kinda a strange time and place to be out walkin', ain't it?" Declan stated rather than asked.

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"I could say the same to you four." Astra glanced over the others curiously, her nerves singing to her softly.

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"But we're not walking." Swara said with the cute tone and blank expression in those baby-blues of her. Like Astra was some stranger with candy Swara walked right up to her with a perky everything, but mostly a smile and extended her hand. "Heya, I'm Swara-Ann. I figured I'd introduce myself while Declan here appears to be having a 'rawr I'm so fierce prostate your selves before me!' moment."

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She raised her manicured nails up like claws and swayed to and fro to help accent her point. She did turn to Dec though after Sarah stumbled around and waggled a finger in Sarah's direction. "Sarah has an excellent point, dude. Is she cleared for all the supernatural ghost hunting, werewolfy, vampire spirit stuff? Because if not, then I totally vote we not tell her. The less people who know what we are the better."

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She leaned in and whispered (loudly) in Declan's ear. "Safer for everyone. We need to keep a low profile." Proud of her unscheduled journey into the barren wastes her own discretion she cupped her hands in front of her and swayed on the tips of her toes. If there was a private circle of Retard Hell that existed... it seemed to Declan that he'd found it, or rather it found him in the guise a blonde, curvacious, sledgehammer insistent on pounding against his sanity at every opportunity.

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Declan went from staring daggers at Sarah to simply staring dumbfoundedly at Swara. For a long, long moment he was lost for words. Really, truly and completely. He looked into Swara's earnestly shining blue eyes and wondered if their radiance was due to ambient light getting in via her ears. He looked at Gary, who was trying not to laugh, then at Sarah, who was starting to look chagrined as she realised that yes, there was someone in the room who made her look positively manipulative. Then he looked back at Swara.

,,

His mouth opened a little. Swara-Ann perked up expectantly.

,,

He closed it.

,,

He opened his mouth again, taking in a breath, fully intending to rip a side of beef out of Swara's pert backside in true Ranger sergeant style.

,,

His mouth closed again, and the breath went out of him in a deflated sigh.

,,

"You, and you." he said wearily, jabbing a finger at redhead and blonde. "You are both why I prefer brunettes."

,,

He shook his head and stepped around Swara, looking at Astra cautiously. He didn't actually know what she'd do. Though hopefully she'd write them all off as crazy odd people, or idiots - that was always a possibility, as Declan felt his own brain cells dying right now.

,,

"Don't mind them, they're just drunk. Or high. Or both." he explained lamely. "Take your pick, it'll be the right guess."

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