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[L&S] Black and Blue


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The door to the small apartment was swung open and a large man stumbled through the threshold, clutching his side. A few droplets of blood found their way to the floor as he walked to the bathroom, followed by two others. His shirt came off only to be wadded up and held tightly to his side where a large gash spread nearly five inches between his ribs on his left side. He sucked his teeth as his makeshift compress flared the injury with pain. Things fell from the medicine cabinet into the sink below as he fumbled with his one unoccupied hand in search of something.

"Everything okay in there, dude?" Dierdre asked, his long time friend and one of the people who'd left with him so he could get his injury looked at. She'd known him for the better part of three years now where he bounced at the club she danced at. She was the spry, energetic type who always had her mind on tomorrow and rarely on today. Not only did she work with him, but she lived across the hall. "Adam?"

"Fine." Answered a gravelly voice barely loud enough to hear.

"I feel bad." She said softly, too low for Adam to hear. "I always feel like these things are my fault, y'know?"

Markus Marko, the guy who lived one floor above Adam and was on his way out to hustle up some food for his dinner caught the couple on their into the building and helped them to his apartment. "It's not your fault, Dee, you know that. It's his job to protect you and the other girls, and sometimes, it gets out of hand. He knows the risks and he takes them, every time. That's not on you, honey."

"I know, but still..." She attempted a reply but Adam's appearance through the hallway pulled her attention away. "Adam, it's bleeding really bad. Maybe we should get you to a..."

"No." He sad flatly. "No hospitals. The angle is a bad one, I can't do the stitches myself. One of you..."

"Woah!" They both managed to say in synch as the stepped back from him, their hands in the hair like they wanted nothign to do with this brand of home surgery madness. "Don't get me wrong A-man, I love ya, but dude I'm not a doctor. Just looking at that mess is making me wanna yodel groceries. Have Markus do it."

"Sorry, mate, but I don't think I could stick needles in people," Adam's disapproving glare at his two 'friends' inspired Markus with an idea. "However, I do think I know someone who could help us out. That one lady who lives in 4C. The quiet one who keeps to herself... she knows a thing or two about this stuff, trust me, we've talked a few times, she's a nurse or something, I think."

"Doesn't she do homo empathy?" Dierdre asked, vaguely remembering meeting the woman sometime back.

"Dee, love, I'm so happy you're beautiful," Markus placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled sweetly. "At least you have something going for ya."

Dee smiled brightly at the compliment. "I know, right?"

Adam shook his head and bled some more. "Homeopathy. Alright, let's see if she's home, I can't stitch this myself, and I'd prefer not to have to go to a hospital."

By the time they walked to 4C Adam's shirt was soaked like a sponge and his complexion was getting a bit peaked. With a hard pound Markus banged the bottom of his fist on the door...

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The thunder roared ominously over their head, but the party-goers didn’t seem to mind—or notice. It had been sunny; it still was. Sabine could see the dappled shadows from the light coming through the leaves. Late May high in the Torngat Range meant that the trees were just starting to put forth their greenery, so it wasn’t exactly shaded under the trees. But that was good—the sun was warm after the fridgid winter.

Her father grinned proudly at her; he’d worked hard to secure a good marriage for her and he was pleased she was happy with it. Her fiancé was a handsome man and Sabine shyly exchanged a smile with him as thunder rumbled again with a strange, wooden boom.

That wasn’t thunder. The thought penetrated her dream, drawing her out of it before it became a nightmare. She didn’t dream of that day often, but when she did, she relived it fully. She was just awake enough to be grateful she’d been pulled out of it when she heard the third knock followed by, “Sabine?”

One hand grabbed her bug-out bag the second she realized someone was at the door. The paranoia that had fueled that action faded a moment later as she recognized the voice. It was that man on the second floor; she couldn’t remember his name. But he was not her family.

Staggering off her mattress on the floor, Sabine crammed her feet into slippers and shuffled to the door. Just to be safe, she checked the peep hole. That nearly sent her scurrying back into the bathroom to hide; he wasn’t alone. The woman with him looked harmless, but the big guy wasn’t. Sabine had avoided him once she’d gotten a good look at him. He wasn’t quite human; he could be a werewolf. If so, he had a masterful ability to disguise himself—except for his eyes. They marked him as other and Sabine was taking no chances. Despite his reputation around the complex for helpfulness to anyone in need, she’d never sought his help. Thankfully, he’d never sought her, either.

“Shit,” she muttered in French, even as her eyes checked to see if the door chain was in place. She didn’t want to open the door, but there was only one reason why Markus would knock on her door at two-forty in the morning. Someone was hurt.

With a sigh, she opened the door to the limit of its chain. From the vantage of the people in the hallway, she was a shadowed blur of rumpled clothing and a blue eye. “Markus.” The word was a greeting, but it was also a shy question.

“Sorry to bother you so late, Sabine, but Adam has been hurt.” Markus moved so she could see the bloody shirt.

Sabine felt her eyes widen at the amount of blood; then she shoved the door shut and unhooked the chain. “Hurry, come in,” she ordered, standing back and clicking on her light. She winced as the bare bulb in the overhead fixture blazed brightly but it didn’t stop her from moving to her cabinet of supplies. She grabbed a towel from the top of the cheap furniture and thrust it at Diedre. “Put him on the bed. Lay the towel under him.” It was probably a futile effort to save her bedding from bloodstains.

There was nowhere else to put him. The apartment was a studio; the room held the pressboard cabinet, a small fridge, a folding table for the second-hand hotplate and microwave, a counter with a sink and a mattress. A radio sat on the floor next to the mattress and several library books were piled inelegantly within grabbing distance of the bed.

The cabinet held her clothing as well as her healing kit, and Sabine grabbed one of her tattered shirts to use for bandages. The soft cotton had several holes in it and she’d been saving it for this purpose anyway. She just hadn’t known she’d need it so soon. “What happened?” she asked as she set her basket of herbs and first aid gear on the floor next to the bed. Impatiently, she grabbed her mess of disheveled curls and scraped them into a ponytail as she waited for them to lay him down and let her get to work.

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"Please, forgive our intrusion." Adam said while lying back on the bed. His deep baritone breaking momentarily as a flare of pain ran through his side. His voice was perfect 'American English', straight out of the Dakotas... somewhere. He did that sometimes, forget he was in Paris, and his Frech was most often laughable. When out he'd sometimes have to have Dee or Markus order something for him. After six years, French was just one of those language his country boy accent just never stopped butchering. "I know this is an inconvenience, I'm sorry we've woken you at this late hour."

Dee never stopped getting a kick out of the altruistic way Adam spoke, she never knew it was simply a throwback of his noble kith. What still lingered in the dying light of his faerie soul pushed out from every crack it could, trying to remind him of who he was. Adam simply accepted it as how he talked and never paid it any mind. "Wow, even bleeding to death Sir Galahad talks like Sir Galahad. Me? I'd be like 'BLAAAAGH'..." She made choking/gurgling noise and fell backward onto Sabine's futon of mattresses next to Adam. The sudden jolt of her movement made him wince in pain. "Ew, sorry dude, just trying to make your final minutes on Earth all... surreal and entertaining and stuff. After all, you did take a broken bottle to the side for me. Help a girl kill some of her guilt, would ya?"

"You are safe, and that is what is important. Now stop fooling about and let me find solace in Sabine's ministrations." Everyone thought Adam talked funny. Back on the Bureau he was indeed nicknamed 'Galahad'. Not that anyone here knew that. "I will pass on Dee, but it shan't be this day. Please forgive her, once you get to know her, she quite... fun." The last part almost seemed force, like a borther trying to offer his annoying sister a compliment because their parents said he had to.

He was still as she examined the wound. Yes it was big. Yes it was deep. And yes it looked very bad... to someone who'd not seen what werewolves do to people. By comparison she should have slapped a band-aid on it, told Adam to put on his big girl panties and 'suck it up pansy', but Adam was just a mortal man. In truth the wound looked a lot worse than it was. Thankfully nothing aside from skin was cut open. The bleeding had already begun to slow down and congeal by the time she pried all the sticky, bloody shirt away from the cut. Several stitches and a balm to prevent infection looked like all the big hero would need once she staunched the rest of the bleeding, she had to admit to herself, this guy was handling it well from someone who should have been in a lot of pain.

"Sabine?" He asked. In the shadows of her apartment at this late hour his eyes seemed to be the only thing visible at times. They glimmered, like the mirrored finish of a felines' the flickered about depending on ho he shook his head. "An Italian name. Are you from Italy?" He winced a bit as she plied her trade. "Forgive me," He said wearily. "I'm just trying to make conversation. To keep my thoughts off this... situation."

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“It is fine, I do not mind.” Sabine spared him a fraction of a second to smile, though she didn’t feel it. She didn’t like him prying into her past, but had he been truly interested in her, he would have been sniffing around her before tonight. “I am not Italian.” Her English was very passable and accented with French, but it sounded different than the French Adam heard daily. “I am Canadian, and I believe my mother thought the name beautiful.”

“It is a lovely name.” Adam’s honest statement drew a slight flush from her, as she had chosen the name for her new life.

“Broken bottle, you say?” Sabine glanced at Dee, who nodded.

“Yeah, this guy, he was getting hands-y… touching like he shouldn’t?” Dee waited until she saw comprehension in Sabine’s eyes. “Anyway, he grabbed at me and Adam is the bouncer and it’s his job to stop grabbing. So when this guy did, Adam totally pushed him toward the door, only the guy snatched a bottle off the table and smashed the bottom, then stabbed him with it! Then Adam hit him, knocked him right out!”

Dee had been accenting her story with gestures, such as a thrust of her arm when she described Adam getting stabbed. Each movement caused a gyration in the bed, making Adam’s body wiggle and causing him pain. “Get off the bed.” Sabine’s voice wasn’t cross, but it was commanding. “There, on the floor, that book light. I need you to stand over my shoulder and hold it above the wound.”

“Um, okay.” Dierdre swallowed nervously at being asked to do something that might affect the outcome, but she did as asked.

“Move it slowly back and forth. Yes, thank you.” After a moment, Sabine relaxed. “I do not see glass fragments, merci Luna. Markus, I will need a bowl, the rubbing alcohol from the bathroom, and bring me the ice from the refrigerateur.” Sabine had left the wound alone again so she could dig in her bag; Adam’s jaw set tightly when he saw her draw out a needle and thread. She also set up a candle next to the bed, lighting it from a match.

When Markus brought her the alcohol, she poured it into the dish and set the thread in it to soak. Taking the ice, she warned, “This will be cold. I apologize.” She removed the shirt and firmly pressed the bag of ice against the wound, wincing when Adam jerked in reaction. “When you are numb, we will begin.”

“How does a Canadian come to reside in Paris?” Adam asked, his voice terse with discomfort.

“Via Holland, and Germany before that. I wanted to travel and see the world.” Sabine had rehearsed this lie so well it rolled out of her mouth and seemed almost the truth. “So I left Canada and found a group of carnival… eh, entertainers, and traveled with them. I gave massages at stops. When they went broke, they were here, and here I stopped.” She tilted her head as she looked down at him. “How does an American come to France to be a bouncer in Paris?”

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Much of Adam's past the Mists had stolen, all that remained for the most part was just his mortal life, and the painful memories it had brought him. His lips pursed a bit as he scrounged the memories up. For a moment his eyes finally left hers be, their twinkle muting somewhat as he sifted through the Mists of his former life. "Well, t'was a long time ago, but I was a Federal Agent. I, uh, my children, they, uh, passed away. After that my marriage fell apart and I fled here for a vacation and decided to stay. That's the short version of it."

"I'm sorry, I didn't know." She was mildly embarrassed and lost focus on her work for a moment, giving Adam reason to flinch.

"It's okay, you didn't know. How could you have?" He relaxed a bit, letting her get back to work. "This is not a kind world we live in. It is a dark and dismal place filled with naught but tragedy and sadness. I guess I just wished I could find a place where I could live in obscurity and wait for things in this world to change. I don't know. I like it here now, no reason to live, nor any reason to want to leave. Who would look after Dee?"

"Nice try hero," Dee snorted. "Dude, you only hang around because I feed you. Oh, which reminds me, Sabine, seriously, if you're ever hungry, stop by. I'm taking these awesome culinary classes and I always end up with a ton extra. If you can pry a plate away from "Eats-Like-No-Tomorrow" lying on your bed there."

He managed a laugh, wincing slightly. "She's right, I only permit her my continued company on the terms she keep me well fed." He could feel it in Dee's mirth that flicker, that glimmer of something that he used to call hope. "Your eyes, though," He said plainly to her. "They tell me a different story. One of sadness like mine. I wish you luck in whatever it is you're questing for."

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She had cleaned the wound; all that was left was to close it and bandage it. “I’m not questing for anything. I seek only to be left alone.” Sabine’s words were harsher than she meant. After she heard them, she sighed and did something she never did – she shared her pain. “My fiancé was not the man I thought him to be. He… I saw someone die at his hand.”

“Oh, shit!” Diedre’s exclamation escaped before she could stop herself. “Oh, god, what did you do?”

“I ran.” Sabine touched the needle lightly to Adam’s skin. It was cold enough that he didn’t feel the slight sting and she said, “Adam, roll onto your side. Diedre, I need the light above the wound so that I can keep the stitches small.”

Even as Adam complied with her order, he told her, “I am not a vain being. My scars are merely marks.”

“I am your healer, and it is my duty to mend you as best I can. That means minimal scarring. So be still and let me close your wounds as best I may.” Sabine’s blue eyes held him while she spoke, her sincerity clear even as she bent to her task.

For a moment it was quiet; the only noise was a soft grunt from Adam when Sabine gently pinched the skin together. “So why did you run? Was he trying to kill you?” Diedre asked suddenly.

“Diedre!” Markus said quickly.

“It is fine. A story might take our minds off of this.” Sabine wasn’t keen to tell these two her story; it was Adam who had touched her with his sad story and caused her to share. “He still wanted to marry me, and it was… agreed. None in my family or my community would release the idea that we should marry. It was an accident they told me, and yes, I know my fiancé did not mean to become that angry. But I couldn’t… I looked at him and I saw the blood and horror again. And no one would let it go. So I left. And still they tried to persuade me to marry him, even… if I did not wish it. So I ran, and still I run.”

Two stitches were done and she started on the third as she said, “I would appreciate if you tell no one, so that word would not get back to my family. It is easier to avoid them than to struggle against their desires.”

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"Forgive my hypocracy, but running away rarely solves our problems. Eventually we grow tired where as the wolf grows hungrier with the hunt." Adam had no idea how close to home his choice of words really were. "Eventually we must all give the Devil his due."

Dee scoffed and sarcastically added. "Well aren't you a bucket of sunshine."

"I've an eight inch laceration, courtesy of your admirer, in my side." Adam reminded her, despite his serious tone Sabine could detect sarcasm in his rebuttal. "Do pardon my lack of 'happy thoughts', Wendy." Dee smirked and stuck a tongue out at him, to which he smiled. Despite the pain, she kept his spirits relatively high. "In any case, Sabine, fear not. Regardless where your road takes you, as long as you are here, I will protect you from anyone who comes calling." There it was again... that glimmer in his eyes as spoke the words, like the spirits were reinforcing his vow. "And if privacy is what you desire, I'll see that you have it. T'is the least I can do after what you've done for me."

"Yeah, Adam's good at that." Dee's tone shifted to a more somber, kid-sister tone that showed a measure of respect for Adam. "All of us here, we... we don't have a lot, y'know? No one to turn to, no real friends or family. We're kinda on our own. Adam keeps us safe, what few of us there are. He keeps out the abusive boyfriends, the pimps, the dangerous dealers and bookie thugs. Sure, this place is still a real shit hole, but hey, thanks to Adam, it's a safe one. We can actually sleep peacefully. Oh! And the best part is, he comes with the building, so it's like nothing extra on our rent or anything to have him beat up ex-boy friends whose cars you totally didn't key because he was a douche' bag." She nodded emphatically. "Quite the bargain."

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Sabine didn’t look pleased at Diedre’s assurances. In fact, she looked a little freaked out at Adam’s promise, particularly given the hint of spiritual mojo behind his vow. Scowling, she bent to her task, rapidly stitching the wound shut. The numbness from the ice was fading quickly, and Adam could feel the sting of the last two sutures. He lay still and silent despite the pain.

“There. You are done.” Sabine pulled away the materials she’d used, shoving them aside and slumping slightly. A moment later, she reached out and took Adam’s hand, holding it as if to kiss the knuckles. “I have no wish to stitch you up again. Do you understand?”

“I have no desire to be sewn upon,” Adam assured her but Sabine shook her head.

“If my family were to come calling, promise me you won’t fight them.” Shadowed blue eyes held his with quiet desperation. “Promise me, before I see another good man turned into a corpse.”

“I shall not fall so easily.” Adam started to sit up, but a hand on his chest stopped him. Sabine seemed to have forgotten that he was shirtless; she did a double-take, looking at her hand against his impressive physique.

“My family are dangerous. Please, Adam. Others need you.” Sabine managed a smile. “I shall survive, but not if I’m the cause of your unnecessary death.”

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A slow smile formed on his lips, the iridescent hue of his eyes once again seemed hypnotic in the low light. Indeed shadows crept in from all sides but dared not come too close to the fallen Knight and his rescuer. Like in the story books, they sat within their circle of light, just the two of them, and the world beyond seemed none to important. "Sabine, what you ask, I can not promise you."

He squeezed her hand with his. "You, Dee, Markus, Mrs. Connelly in 7F who hates everyone. I couldn't allow anything to happen to any of you. It's simply my nature, it's who I am. While I shan't interfere with your life, or your business, I can't allow others to simply walk in here and do you harm, or to take you away some place you do not wish to go." He looked down at his wound and rotated his shoulder to flex the muscles below. "Nice work," He smiled warmly, his body had a few scars on it from old service injuries, but he was by no means a walking battlefield. They all seemed to add to the mysterious energy that drew people to him. "Like me, you are running. You are left to wallow in solitude in fear of what lurks in your past. I'll not judge, nor tell you your business, but while you're here, fear not, for you are not alone."

He looked to his wound and looked back up at her, "They are only men. This world, no matter how dark it may seem, no matter how evil it may seem, all our fears and boogie-men are just flesh and blood. There are no demons, monsters, or things to go bump in the night. Dangerous as they may seem, your enemies are just men, and men we can deal with, together."

He tried to stand, and on the second attempt he painfully managed to rise to his feet. Some blood seeped through his bandage, but it was to be expected with a wound that large. "Tis' late and we have imposed on you long enough. You've been most kind. If there is anything I can do, please, let me know. Dinner perhaps?"

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“You should stay the night.” Sabine flushed a second later as she heard her words and realized that wasn’t a proper answer for a request for dinner. “So I can watch you.”

“I have imposed enough.” Adam assured her, that smile still on his face.

Sabine was going to worry about him all night, but what did that matter if she patched him up now only to have her relatives rip him apart later? Adam was dangerous to her, not because he posed a threat but because he made her want to believe he was right. Standing in the light from her bare bulb, holding her hand and smiling, Sabine felt as though she could trust what he was saying. She knew she couldn’t, but that didn’t change the way that she wanted to trust.

There was something special about him and now that she’d interacted with him, she could see that. It wasn’t anything bad, but a sense that he was greater than this world. And as much as she knew she should tell him to stay away, a lonely, sad part of her wanted him to save her from her nightmare of running. She couldn’t save herself; that much she knew. It wasn’t a matter of desire but pure strength; she wasn’t capable of defeating her family. All she had was the ability to hide in cities, where they didn’t dare to go, and avoid their cousins that resided in the shadows of the urban areas.

Sabine drew herself out of her fugue and took a deep breath. “If you will not stay, then please come see me in the morning. I wish to check the bandage again.” She drew another deep breath and added, with a touch of her usual shyness, “I would accept dinner, as well. If you are still offering.”

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