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World of Darkness: Attrition - Price of Peace

z-August Turner

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September 5, 2011, 1:55 p.m.

Holmby Park

August walked nervously next to Dec, her anxiousness evident in her stance. She was really glad that Declan had agreed to come and even happier that he’d been able to get the time off. “You sure this won’t get you in trouble?” she asked, more because she needed to talk than needing more assurance.

“Nah,” Dec said, looking around more casually then August, but still attentive. “My boss owed me time off.” Something about his smile after that statement made August raise an eyebrow. She was suddenly glad Dec didn’t work for her, for reasons she couldn’t name.

Okay, then.” His grin widened some more at her tone, and he lifted a hand. For a second, August thought that he’d hug her but instead she got another manly pat on the back. However, those thoughts quickly faded when she saw Shane.

That wasn’t technically true – she saw the ghost first. Lilly was hard to miss; she floated half a head higher than Shane like some spectral weather balloon. “There,” August said, her voice hoarse. She caught Dec’s arm and subtly pointed. “That dark-haired man on the bench.” She swallowed and glanced up at Declan. “Maybe I should approach alone. Let him know you’re coming. I don’t want to get this started off wrong.”

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"Sure thing." Dec's low tone held an unmistakeable note of reservation, and August didn't miss the narrow-eyed gaze he was keeping on the other wolf-man. She thought people only looked at other people like that in movies, usually right before some action sequence involving gunplay or a down-and-dirty knife fight. Was it a wolf thing? A male thing? Or just a Declan thing, one of those little quirks that made him... well, him. She laid a hand on his forearm.

"Remember you said you wouldn't start trouble." she murmured. He looked at her as though surprised.

"I'm not. I'm just lookin'."

"That look is starting trouble." August told him.

"I don't like 'im."

"You don't even know him." The girl wondered why in the hell she was defending Shane, then realised it wasn't so much that as... trying to help Declan not start a fight in a public park in the middle of the afternoon.

"Don't really need to." Declan replied with surly logic. "He's a dangerous nutcase who killed his wife and kidnapped you. I know enough."

"You're not making this easy." August complained softly, then squared her shoulders and walked towards Shane, leaving Declan behind her. She didn't escape his rejoinder, muttered in that low, growly voice of his that normally caused shivers somewhere low down in her torso.

"Never been good at easy. I'm awesome at hard."

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The last two weeks had been hellish. Shane had no idea where to stay in L.A. and his only connection was that woman he had bumped into earlier who had a striking similarity to Lilly. Ever since he met her his nightmares got worse and he felt constantly observed. His shoulders ached as if he was carrying an impossibly heavy load and he was slowly running out of money.

Holmby Park was easy enough to find and he could park his truck within range of sight which was a bonus in his book. Everything he owned was inside that vehicle – his entire life which was sadly a total mess. If this meeting would end up badly he was really screwed and he had soon given up hope finding his sister in this moloch of city. Everything has gotten so impossible recently...

He took another sip from his flask which was filled with Tullamore Dew, his favourite whiskey and tried to calm down his anxiety. Just thinking about meeting her again send spikes of adrenaline through his system and he found himself constantly thinking about her despite his nightmares. Ironically he didn’t knew her real name, only that she wasn’t Lilly... obviously.

And there she was. Apparently she had come with a friend which he totally understood but now she seemed to leave said friend behind and walk over to him. Shane nervously looked down and stared at his hands feeling suddenly very uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure why he was feeling this way. Was he betraying Lilly when he met this woman? But she did know something about her so there was a connection. Unfortunately there was no time left to think this over again as she was already too close now. He waved at her somewhat clumsily and tried to put on a friendly smile but he still looked like the walking dead. His complexion was pale and his eyes still had those deep cut rings. A short stubble had grown since they last met and August wasn’t sure if he actually had showered since their last meeting...

One thing was sure, he smelled like a homeless drunk...

“Hey... I’m glad you showed up. I wasn’t really expecting to see you again. Thank you.”, his voice was soft and warm and he really sounded grateful. She could see the sincerity of his intentions in his eyes.

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"Oh, my god," August said, recoiling a little. Part of it was his smell and part of it was the glare of wrath from the ghost hovering over him.

"Kill him!" Lilly hissed, which wasn't a good sign for the peace process, in August's head.

"Look, Shane, I'm glad you came," the green-eyed woman said. "Next time, please shower first and I'm not trying to be mean... just... dude. And you pipe down." August pointed up, just over Shane's shoulder. Shane looked confused. "Not you, Shane. Now, I brought a friend, someone who can hopefully help us out. He... explained how sometimes you guys have bad reactions, so if you have a bad reaction, he's here to... mediate that. Okay?"

"Okay," Shane said, still smiling.

"So, I'm going to wave my friend over, and you two are going to make nice," August ordered in as firm a voice as she could manage. She waved for Declan to join them. "I'm going to be honest - I'm not sure how much I can help-"

"You just being here helps," Shane told her, with that same smile.

"Comments like that don't help me," August said stiffly, looking a little freaked out. As Declan arrived at her side, August pressed a hand to her forehead and said, "So, first thing, introductions. You can call me August." She glanced at her silver-eyed friend. "I'll let my friend tell you his name." She wasn't sure if Declan wanted Shane to know his real name or not.

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There was a brief look of surprise on his face and then he realized what she meant. He must've been smelling worse than he was aware of. The booze had dulled his senses which was actually what he wanted to achieve - a numbed state which made things less painful, less desperate but to her he must've been not better than the bum down the street in the slums.

Shane didn't want to be thought of like a hobo... but he had to admit, he looked like one, he smelled like one and currently he even felt like one. "I'm sorry.", he apologized his eyes glued on hers as he absorbed everything she said like a sponge. He did realize she was about to introduce him to her friend, probably her boyfriend or someone real close. A protector of some sort, that's what he would've done in her place. Shane had no intentions of starting a fight whatsoever so he tried to be as calm and relaxed as possible despite the anxiety of being close to her.

He removed his eyes for the first time from her beautiful face to look at Declan and looked the other man straight in the eyes. There was no challenge in his look but Declan could tell that Shane wasn't afraid of getting into a fight. Something about his general posture and the lack of blinking gave away such things. Shane was a Rahu and he only knew violence. Problems always got solved through violence... at least as far as he could remember. It was that part that any human would've lacked and it had acquired another quality. He had nothing to lose. Shane had the look of someone who was seeking death - a death he couldn't bring upon itself since he was too proud to commit suicide - so his only other option was to die fighting... or drink himself to death if he didn't stop this habit anytime soon.

"I'm Shane. Shane O'Neally. Nice to meet you?", he raised an eyebrow not knowing what to expect from the other man. Probably a fist straight to his face. It wouldn't have surprised him if he was honest but he was probably making things up. The booze had already taken its toll on him. Something inside of him had already died and he was struggling...

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"Declan." the Vargr said, his nostrils flaring very slightly as they tried to shut down in self-defence. This sorry sack of despair-riddled booze and BO was a werewolf? Shit. He tried not to let the mixture of pity and contempt he felt show on his face, to limited success. Looking into his eyes, Shane saw something that, in his dulled state, he took for simmering aggression. The guy was looking at him like he wanted to paste him in the mug for breathing in the same zip code. But who the hell cared - Shane was Uratha - he could certainly take this guy. Big and tough though Declan might be, he wasn't one of Father Wolf's kids.

Of course, alcohol as always played the deceiver - if Shane had been sharper, he would have felt the Wild in Declan, something older and more unrelentingly ferocious than a mere 'pissed off boyfriend'. If his nose hadn't been dulled with drink, he'd have smelled the Wolf... though not the same wolf Shane shared with Luna's children. That familiarity combined with strangeness would have set an alert Uratha on their guard, as it had with Swara-Ann. But as far as Shane was concerned, Declan was human - tough looking, but normal.

But August had said that Declan knew about the bad reactions, and would mediate if things got out of hand. Was Declan then a wolf-blood? The silver eyes were striking. Yes, that must be it. An experienced wolf-blood would know a lot about how to placate an angry Uratha.

"Let's leave the 'nice to meet ya's' until I decide that it is." Declan bluntly told the reeking man. "August's here to help you. So you and me are clear, I'm here to help her." He stalked past and sat upwind of Shane, watching him and August with his arms folded and a narrow-eyed stare.

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August smiled tightly at Dec's statement, wondering if it was really going to go so well. So far, it was good, but how long could that last? "Alright," she said softly, taking a seat on another bench. She was close enough to talk but not so close that she'd be overwhelmed with odor. "Shane, your... wife is screaming at me right now, insisting that I should kill you. I'm going to ignore her for a moment to talk to you."

"She's... here?" Shane looked so wildly hopeful that August winced.

"Her ghost is," the green-eyed girl admitted. "Don't get too excited, she's rather angry at you. That's partially why I'm ignoring you right now." August drew a deep breath. "Now, I'd like to hear about her death, from you. I know it will be rough, but I think it might help me figure out how to make this good for her. Right now, the only restitution available is your death but that's not cool." Dec gave her a look that said while not cool, it wasn't necessarily off the table, either. August ignored the look and added, "Maybe something you tell me will help."

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Something about Declan managed to cut directly through Shane’s booze-induced haze. A very immediate sensation which almost instantly sobered him up causing a terrible headache in its wake.

Shane blinked a few times as his vision refocused but Declan had already moved out of way but remained within reach. His instincts told him what the other wolf was saying non-verbally.

Shane’s handsome face and open smile faded as he settled his eyes back on August. There was a serious threat in shape of Declan now and it wasn’t like he was scared of Declan or afraid getting into a brawl. His presence just changed the nature of this meeting, whether August wanted it or not.

“I wish I could just tell what happened...”, Shane started slowly as he looked over to Declan. The other man would hear his story and part of him didn’t like this... but he was here and August said she’d try to help and if he wanted to get out of this downward spiral he had to start accepting help.

Shane’s eyes looked into the distance as he recalled that fateful day. His voice was soft and distant tinged with regret.

“I... Lilly and I.”, he broke off again and looked at Declan. God, why is this so fucking difficult!

“You can see her?”, he opted to change subjects. He needed to know something else first, before he decided to trust not only her but Declan, too.

“You’re some kind of... Medium?”, Shane wasn’t unaware of the Supernatural although he had preferred if his live was entirely devoid of it. He was sure he would be a happier person today if there were no Uratha, Vampires, Mages and whatever other supernatural creature existed out there. Why not Ghosts? He knew about Spirits so Ghosts weren’t too far off from that.

He nodded at Declan while he was waiting for her answer. “He’s not just your friend, isn’t he?”, there was no accusation or aggressive undertone in his voice but Shane had gone from being desperate to alert and cautious. This whole thing could also be a set-up from his tribe. An attempt to reign him in again and tell him stories about things he had little knowledge of. Or maybe he was just getting paranoid...

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The woman flinched when he used the term 'medium'. August cleared her throat, glancing at Declan for moral support. "Dec's my friend," she said simply. "He was worried about me, so he'd here to help me if you... lose your temper again. Like we suspect you did with Lilly. He's not... my romantic partner or anything like that." Either she didn't really understand what Shane was asking, or she was great at dissembling.

"And yes... I can see her." August looked up at Lilly again. "I could describe her... but I don't know that it would help you."

"Tell me," Shane said tightly.

August swallowed. "If you're sure." Shane nodded. "She's a pretty woman, looks a bit like me, with dark hair and green eyes. She's... torn up, from an attack. She's wearing a wedding dress, no veil, an off-the-shoulder on with lace trim around the bodice - or I think so anyway. It's hard to tell." August gave him a moment to absorb the news before she asked, "Now, can you tell me about the night she died?"

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Shane swallowed mirroring August’s response. He still gave Declan a suspicious look but decided to keep things the way they were. She was in charge of this ‘thing’ and he was just glad that someone decided to listen instead of running away.

“Alright...”, he started looking around again to make sure no one else was eavesdropping.

“I... ran away from my family.”, he started nice lie, Shane... Although it wasn’t so far fetched from a certain point of view.

“There was always trouble and I wasn’t really in agreement with my folks... so I ran away. For some time things seemed to be ok. I got a job as a mechanic, fixed cars at a car-stop – live was good. Then I met Lilly.”, he stopped for a moment as he remembered their first meeting. She was so incredibly beautiful in his eyes... and she didn’t run away.

“People normally stay out of my way... it’s hard to explain – it’s always been like that.”, he shrugged but deep inside he knew the reasons all too well.

“Lilly didn’t run away. She stayed... she stayed and listened. I was already in love with her. It didn’t take as much as a glance and... well. I love her.”, he bit his lower lip knowing that he was slowly getting to the unpleasant part of his story.

“We made plans, save some money, get married in Vegas and start a new live. I never felt happier before... but then...”, he took a deep breath.

“I was getting nightmares. Disturbing nightmares... and sometimes I woke up... outside... sweating all over. I don’t know if I was sleepwalking or anything. Fortunately Lilly didn’t take notice or she never told me she knew...”, August could tell that he was getting increasingly uncomfortable. His calm voice was gaining a certain edge, as if he was running out of breath.

“The night of our wedding... it’s a total mess... I... I can’t even remember how we got there. I had this feeling of being watched and... hunted... that’s all I can tell. I still have the certificate in my truck, so we must’ve signed it but what happened next is... is like something out of my nightmares. I still wake up staring at my hands and I swear they’re full of blood... her blood.”, he knew he killed her.

His eyes rested on hers searching for understanding, for something that gave away that she already knew what he was about to say.

“I’m... I’m a...”, he couldn’t say it. He knew about the oath... and he had no idea if August was one of the people or not. Declan might’ve been, something about him told him he knew what was going on, what he was but he couldn’t word it.

As far as he was concerned this could be a test of some kind... and if he failed his elders would simply kill him. Maybe he should take the risk? Then it would all be over. Hell, why not? They already took everything from me, what can I lose?

Suddenly his expression changed and he took a deep breath before he spoke.

“I’m a Werewolf... and I can’t remember what happened that night.”

Now strike me down whoever is watching. I’ve said it – game over.

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August glanced at Declan; the big man gave her a subtle nod, confirming his statement that Shane had become... another type of person on his wedding night. Talk about your shitty luck, August sighed to herself. Find the perfect woman and then have some curse rise up and bite you in the ass.

When Shane said 'werewolf', August flinched. It was the first time anyone had said that word; the first time that someone had made what they were dealing with real. August knotted her hands together and glanced up at Lilly. "He didn't know," she said softly to the ghost. Madeline had said that some ghosts could be reasoned with, but most were really irrational.

Lilly proved to be the latter. "He killed me!" she wailed, her fists knotting tightly as she shook them. "Unforgivable! Kill him!"

"Wow, I hope she was nicer when she was alive," August said to Shane, frowning. "Alright, here's the deal. She's probably not going to go willingly and to be honest, I'm concerned about that chain."

"Chain?" Shane asked.

"Yes, there's a chain that wraps around her neck and then connects to your chest, probably your heart," August explained. "I'm sure you can see the symbolism. "The thing is, the chain is just wrapped around her. She could release herself, if she were inclined. I can't see the chain in you, but it's likely the same way. Neither one of you is willing to let go."

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Declan listened in silence as Shane told his story, which went pretty much as he had expected. Dude started to have his Storm, nightmares and all, and then he went and Changed on his wedding night. Fuck. That would have likely torn Declan up too, the Vargr privately admitted. How would he have reacted if his First Change had happened whilst on leave and fooling around with Jennifer? Or out drinking with his buddies, rather than having a nice big group of Afghan guerillas to rip apart? That would be him sitting there now, stinking of booze, despair and apathy.

"It wasn't your fault." Declan said quietly, looking at Shane. He still had a hardassed stare, but there was a certain amount of empathy as well. "First times are pure hell. And you are not you when that shit happens. All you want to do is kill and run and run and kill some more. It was the wrong time and the wrong place - you and Lilly might as well blame a tornado." He sighed, looking up at the hazy sky. "That probably doesn't help much, but it's the truth. I don't blame the ghost for bein' pissed, though. She didn't deserve that. I guess neither of you did." He shrugged. To him, this was one of those cases of 'fucked up shit happens' and now there was nothing to be done about what was past.

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Shane had expected to be assaulted by Declan by now but instead the Vargr showed something like compassion... or understanding. Both things Shane wasn’t much acquainted with. He blinked a few times before he focused back on August and then repeated what he just said?


It was difficult to picture since he couldn’t see Lilly’s Ghost.

“I only want to see her again and tell her how much I love her... I want to understand what happened.”, although August had already very much solved the puzzle he still refused to acknowledge that he had his first change when they had married... the thought was just terrifying because it implied so much more.

You’re a murderer... you killed your own wife. The woman you loved above all. More than your own life.

Shane stared at August, frozen in his last thoughts. No matter how he tried to explain this, it came down to one thing. He killed her. He was a monster.

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August sagged a little. This was really hard. The woman hadn't thought it'd be easy but she hadn't been prepared to deal with both the living and the dead being stubborn. She wasn't equipped to hand the confused grief in Shane's eyes, or sure how to pierce his veil of willful ignorance. "She's here," August said, feeling like she was vomiting out bad dialogue from a horror movie. "She hears you... she's just too mad to listen to you. Shane, what happened... it's terrible but Declan said it wasn't your fault. Part of what is happening here, part of your pain is that you're not letting go of her or your guilt." I think. August wasn't sure, but Madeline had stressed that she had to seem sure.

"So the chain... it's voluntary," August continued. "On both of your parts. I think that neither of you can let go of her or what happened." She crossed her arms, unaware of how much the gesture pushed her breasts up. "So she's chained to you, and you're chained to her... Shane, I have to ask - are you going to let her go? Will you let her go?"

August could reason with Shane, or so she hoped. She already suspected that she couldn't do the same with Lilly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

From the expression on his face August could tell that he was struggling with the concepts she was revealing. He did understand what the chain meant but he had no idea why it was there. The only thing he did knew was this huge feeling of regret and guilt he felt for the loss... and the knowledge of being responsible for her death.

“But I love her...”, he answered. “I just can’t stop loving her...”.

He felt powerless and frustrated. Why was this haunting him? He already felt guilty for killing her. If he could he would trade places with her and be dead instead of her. She didn’t deserve this and he surely didn’t deserve living. He was a fucked up Werewolf... a Werewolf in denial most of the time and he didn’t know where to run anymore.

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"I'm not saying to stop completely," August murmured. "Just... stop trying so hard. You need to let her go some." The woman was getting in over her head; she had no idea how to break through to Shane. She was sure what he needed; he needed to love the memory of his wife, not obsess over her memory. He was enslaving both of them; the ghost didn't have a choice. She was locked in her emotions at the point of death. Shane was the only one of them that could let go.

August put a hand on his arm. "I know this is hard," she said, summoning a cliche to buy some time to think. "But I'm trying to help, and I need you to try to help yourself." She bit her lip, her green eyes earnest.

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