E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be-------------------------------------------
a patron of the arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
Summary: Marcus comes to L.A., seeking Logan's help in tracking down a deadly mutant that the Organization is after. But even if
they can find the mutant first, does he or she want to be saved?
Notes: Takes place after "X2" and immediately after "Reign In Blood".
Nepenthe - : a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow; something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering.
You’d think an undercover assignment at a club called Syn would be a lot more fun than this.
As it was, Bren sat at the chrome bar, Franz Ferdinand pounding his eardrums into submission as neon lights flared and faded, primary colors that stung and bled across faux aluminum and velvet lined walls, as dancers writhed on the dance floor like the tortured damned in hell.
Wow - he really hadn’t had enough to drink yet.
This was his second night in a row here, acting as bait for a killer Oghur demon. It had been staking out this club for some reason, always killing and eating the hearts of young men (fun). He struck at least once a week, and had been doing do for four weeks in a row. He hadn’t struck yet this week, which had given them hope of finding him first. The problem with an Oghur, as Angel told him, was they were complete chameleons; they could mimic their environment completely, to the point of appearing (and smelling) like anything, including a regular Human being. The one catch was they could only hold a disguise for about thirty minutes at a time, and often relied on their camouflage alone, never doing their homework on who or what they were supposed to be. But homework wasn’t necessary when you were only with a person long enough to lure them into an alley and rip their heart out of their chest.
Since young men were the victims (and Giles figured that it was because men’s hearts were generally bigger than women’s hearts - which was gross if you thought about it; the Oghur was a glutton), he was pretty much declared the perfect bait, and Bren was kind of sad Saddiq was gone. Of course, Sid was so stiff in social situations he would have been an obvious trap.
Logan had come back, and took Sid out to talk one day. Whatever he said to him, Sid decided he needed to go away and think for a while, decide what he wanted to do with his life. Bren asked him about it, and Logan told him that he only told “the kid” (Sid) that he needed to decide what he wanted for himself, and he needed to stop taking care of other people and following orders and just do it. Sid had been looking after the others in his “guard” since he was barely old enough to dress himself, and it hadn’t gotten any better; Sid was forever looking after other people. While such adherence to responsibility was heartening, Logan felt that that had trained Sid to ignore his own needs and wants as a matter of course. It was no wonder he was confused about who he was and what he wanted, because other people had always defined it for him. He knew of a beach place that was open near Malibu, not Bob’s, but a friend of Bob’s, and told Sid to go there and be by himself for a whil! e, doing nothing but thinking and taking care of no one but himself. He gave no one the number where Sid could be reached, and advised that no one ask for it, as they weren’t going to get it.
Xavier had actually okayed this, as he thought Logan would probably know Sid pretty well - he didn’t go into details on that, but Bren had figured it out for himself. They were both programmed, designed to be killing machines, although Saddiq was made for it before birth; Logan was jammed into the role much later on in life. Which was why Saddiq easily accepted and adapted to his role without question, while Logan seemed a rough and uncomfortable fit. Well, the killing machine thing he could do, but the taking orders part … that was a tougher oar to row, or whatever the hell that expression was. But the Professor seemed to feel that of all people, Saddiq had made a connection with Logan, and certainly Bren knew that Sid admired him, for his physical fighting prowess if nothing else. (There were very few people that could keep up with Sid there, and Logan was on the short list, although even he admitted that to beat Sid in a straight fight, he’d have to permanently cripple! or kill him, which wasn’t something he ever wanted to do.)
So Sid had followed Logan’s order (ironically) to do nothing for a while and try to figure out what he wanted for himself, and Bren found himself imagining Sid sitting stiffly in front of a big bay window looking out on the Pacific, a beautiful scene he couldn’t enjoy because nobody told him to do it. That actually made him feel bad for Sid. What would it be like to be a total stranger to yourself?
Which was another thing Logan had in common with Sid, although for totally different reasons.
He told Angel he’d stick to mocktails, because after last night’s strangely disappointing and boring “stake out”, he’d had a couple of alcoholic drinks, and got a little tipsy. He didn’t get drunk, like Angel claimed - not from a beer and a couple of White Russians. Okay, maybe three or four White Russians; and maybe a Metropolitan. They were frou frou cocktails, for gods’ sake - how fucked up could you get on them?
Speaking of which, he was done with the apple “mocktinis”; the next time the bald, tattooed, and heavily pierced Latina bartender came by, he asked for a Black Russian. She looked pretty tough, with a platinum nose ring and a black tribal tattoo that covered the left half of her naked scalp, and looked like it probably hurt like a bitch when it was being done. Although he hated to stereotype, he was relatively certain she was a “bull” lesbian, one of those really macho gals that could handily kick the ass of your average man, gay or straight. She didn’t wear any make up, but the surprising thing was she actually was kind of pretty. He got the feeling if he mentioned that, she’d smash his head repeatedly into the bar top.
Most clubs were either gay or straight, with maybe a night reserved for the “other” group, but Syn was on the very edge of West Hollywood, and was one of the few clubs that still had a good mix of sexual orientations. Bisexuals felt more comfortable coming here, because it wasn’t an “all gay” club, but that did confuse the guise the Oghur must have been taking. It was assumed it was disguising itself as a woman - surely a beautiful one, to get the men to drop their guards so easily - but once Bren explained the nature of the club to them (okay, he’d been here once before - but only to check out a band), they realized this could go either way. A beautiful man or woman could be the Oghur, and they could change the gender of their guise weekly, which would also explain why the cops hadn’t progressed very far in their investigation. (So far they seemed to be quietly investigating this as a work of ritualistic killings by a “cult”, as they seemed to think different people were! responsible.) Luckily, Bren could go either way himself, being bisexual, so he fit in here. But the contacts were starting to kill him. “Breathe with your eyes” his ass.
Because his eyes were always Brachen red, he’d have stood out as a demon (hybrid), and all the victims so far had been Humans, and it was more than likely he/she had a taste for Human hearts alone. So he got himself some colored contacts, “sea green” they were called, and they were far too green to be believed as a natural eye color, but that was okay, as a lot of people wore colored contacts nowadays. He’d counted three separate violet eyed women here tonight, and that was only so far; he was roughly sure the numbers would increase before the club shut for the night. If anything, having patently fake color enhanced eyes probably made him seem that much more Human.
He glanced around the club, a casual and hopeful glance, and he wondered why no one had tried to pick him up. It was starting to really hurt his ego, even if he was waiting for a heart eating monster. Did he look bad? He glanced down at himself, and felt he looked like he fit in. He was wearing shiny black PVC pants, which made him feel like a Britney Spears back up dancer, but was highly popular in the club. He also wore a tight, retro trendy t-shirt (rusty maroon in color, with the phrase “Free‘N‘Easy” across the front in big, goofy balloon letters, now so broken up with age and repeated washings that it looked more like an ungainly stain than an actual phrase), aware he probably should have gone with a sexier shirt (like many of the club hoppers), but he just didn’t feel that good about his body; more specifically, his torso. But how could he? No, he wasn’t out of shape, but after seeing the naked chests of Logan, Saddiq, Angel, Matt, and Bob, he was roughly certain he! was a pasty, soft, formless and shapeless lump of cold oatmeal. Jesus Christ, how did you ever have a good feeling about your body image, not just your chest, when you were surrounded by guys like that?! Greek gods, the lot of them. By comparison, he was a skinny little geek with not so much “six pack” abs as “sack of potatoes” abs. Whereas you could bounce a quarter off Logan’s abs, he was certain a quarter would sink into his belly button and get lost. If he had a chest even remotely resembling that chiseled piece of granite, he’d never wear a goddamn shirt. He’d probably also never spend a Saturday night alone again.
After gulping down his Black Russian, he decided to try a Vodka Espresso (just the name was intriguing), and wondered why PVC pants didn’t come with a warning: “Once you start sweating in these - and you will - you will feel slimy and gross, and your underwear will cling to you in uncomfortable ways. Wedgie factor 9.9.” Also, Fall Out Boy started playing, and he was sure this was the exact same music rotation that was playing last night. Would it kill them to pony up the dough and get a decent DJ? Or at least swap out mix tapes a bit more often.
He got the vodka espresso he ordered, but before he could take a sip, someone slid onto the stool beside him, and ordered a sea breeze. Glancing over, he took his first sip and choked. It was a lot stronger and stranger a drink than he anticipated. Also, the guy next to him was the most fucking gorgeous man he’d seen in ages.
He was young - maybe his age, or up to his early twenties - with fine boned features in a face that could only be described as “boyishly handsome”, except he had just a hint of ruggedness, enough that he didn’t look feminine. His eyes were the most amazing thing about him, though - almond shaped yet a high sky blue, the kind Paul Newman was supposedly famous for. He also had scruffy but sleek black hair, mid-length and messy enough to let you know he didn’t fuss with his hair, but also didn’t have to, as he just had the genetic luck to be born looking fabulous.
The guy’s gorgeous blue eyes widened as Bren continued to choke, and he patted him on the back. “Need the Heimlich?” he asked, somewhat amused.
He shook his head, and finally managed to clear his throat. “Wrong pipe,” he rasped, sure he thought he was an idiot.
But the guy just smiled, showing off bright white teeth, and held out his hand. “Kier.”
Kier? Oh jeeze, what a Hollywood name that was. He shook his hand, which he noticed was cold. Cold hands, warm heart, right? “Brendan.”
“Oh, Irish. We have a bit in common there; my full name’s Kieran. But Kier just sounds cooler.”
Bren could only nod, feeling himself smiling dumbly. He tried to stop himself, but he wasn’t sure he succeeded. Maybe Angel had been right about the booze … “Love the shirt.”
Kier was wearing artfully torn jeans, leather biker boots, and a sleeveless black t-shirt that had slashes all over it, a retro-punk kind of look that looked terrific on him. Also, one of the slashes across the chest revealed the colorful marks of a tattoo, something red. He also wore a necklace, a flash of silver with a pendant that looked like a tiny dagger. “Oh, thanks. I made it myself.”
“Hell yeah. I saw a shirt like this in a boutique on Rodeo, and it was like two hundred bucks. For a torn shirt? That’s idiotic. I just bought a plain old Hanes one, and made the slashes myself with a razor blade. I now tell everyone it’s a LaCroix, and everybody oohs and aahs over it.” He gave him a smart ass smirk, proud and yet slightly sheepish, and Bren couldn’t help but smile back.
They ended up talking - well shouting - to one another, and Kier was charming and funny, and just about everything he could want in a guy. So of course he had to be the heart chomping maniac; Bren was well aware of how his luck ran. His eyes kept drifting to that tattoo, which was centered just above his heart. Was it a heart tattoo? Maybe that was meant to be funny.
So much for the idea that the Oghur didn’t do his homework. Kier was very up on pop culture, and even agreed that the Death Cab For Cutie song that came on while they were finishing their drinks seemed a little too wistful for this place, and not really danceable (The New Year - Bren pretended not to know what the name of it was, even though it popped up about a half dozen times in the song. Then he wondered if that was a lucky guess on Kier’s part …)
This was bad; this was so bad. He told himself it was the alcohol, he tried to blame it on that, but he was really starting to like Kier by the time he suggested they get out of there. He definitely had a strong lust on for him, but how could he not? He was the perfectly beautiful lure to a deadly trap, and he hated to think that Angel was going to kill him. But if he was a heart eating, man killing fiend, there was no other solution to it. Oghur’s weren’t known for their reasonableness; they were simply predators. Just his luck.
They stepped out onto the sidewalk, where Bren took a deep breath of smoggy, warm L.A. air, and hoped it would clear his head. (No.) “So what is it you wanna do?” Bren asked, smiling as though it was a come on, making sure Kier walked ahead of him so he could always keep his eye on him. Oghurs were apparently ugly bastards, and their transformation could be extremely sudden.
“It’s gonna sound stupid, but I really wanted some ice cream.”
Bren gave him a funny look, and had to squelch the urge to exclaim, ‘That’s the best you can do?’ “Ice cream?”
“Yeah. I know it sounds stupid, but I had this sudden urge for daiquiri ice, and I know this place near Vine that should still be open. I haven’t had any for ages. You game?”
Maybe this was the “not doing the homework” part. “Uh, sure, okay.”
“Besides, it’ll be nice to talk to you without shouting over music. It was starting to get to me.” He reached into the back pocket of his jeans, and Bren tensed, but he just pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes. “Wanna butt?”
“No thanks. I’m trying to quit.”
That was such a curious thing to say that Bren slowed as they reached the end of the block, which seemed strangely deserted. But Bren felt the eyes on him, and knew they were being followed by a big guy who had a strange way of blending into the shadows and never being seen. “What do you mean?”
As Kier clamped the cigarette between his lips, he looked at him with something like regret, and he opened his mouth as if he was about to say something -
And that’s when the Ohgur attacked him.
Bren never even saw him. He just saw a movement out of the corner of his eye, and suddenly something big and dark hit him, sending him sprawling into the street. He instantly rolled over on his back in spite of the ache in his head from hitting the pavement, and he saw the thing standing over him was six feet, two hundred pounds of ugly, something like a bipedal lizard with some kind of skin disease that left his flesh mottled in an irregular pattern of ash grey and shit brown, and an expanding muzzle of sharp, urine colored teeth. Instead of hair, he had something like tentacles springing from the back of his head, moving of their own accord like snakes, and his eyes glowed like hot embers. It issued a sharp hiss, and held up a large, four fingered hand, showing off its thick yellow claws. So that’s how it ripped the hearts out.
“Hey ugly, back off,” Kier shouted, and suddenly grabbed the Oghur by its head tentacles and flung it face first into the brick wall of a closed adult bookshop, so hard that the bricks broke and crumbled around its head. That didn’t seem to do much to the Oghur, who instantly pivoted around with a snarl, but then Kier gave it a roundhouse kick to the face that sent it stumbling back on its clawed feet.
What the hell ..? How about that! Maybe his luck was changing. The hunk that picked him up wasn’t the heart eating demon, and he was a fearless kung fu fighter. If that wasn’t the best news of the year, he didn’t know what was.
As Kier followed through with a punch, the Oghur blocked it and gave him a backhand slap across the face, one so hard that it sent him flying out into the street. As soon as he landed beside him with a thud, Bren turned and sat up, reaching for him. “Hey, you o -”
But the question died in his throat.
Kier’s face had changed. Along with shallow scratch marks gouged by the Oghur’s claws, he had a suddenly prominent brow, yellow eyes, and a mouthful of jagged teeth. A vampire! His pick up was a fucking vamp! Oh god, he did have the shittiest luck in the world.
From the thuds and flurry of movement, Angel had made his appearance, but he wasn’t having much luck fighting the Oghur. The thing was these things were strong, even stronger than a vampire, and although Angel got a couple of good licks in, the Oghur had rallied, and was now using Angel’s head to pound a new hole in the wall.
Oh fuck it. Did Kier think he was the only one who had a surprise up his sleeve? Bren initiated his own change, letting his spiky Brachen side come out, and attacked the Oghur from behind, using his own doubled fists to crack it on the back of its ugly serpentine head. Angel then elbowed it hard in the muzzle, and much to his shock, Kier came in, grabbing it by one of its natural dreadlocks and throwing it into the street.
The Oghur, snarling and drooling a bit of dark liquid that could have been its blood, looked at the three of them and growled before seemingly disappearing. “Where the hell did it go?” Bren asked, raising his fists in case it was going to charge from somewhere again.
“It went dark,” Angel said, wiping blood from a cut on his own vamped out forehead. “It’s decided that hiding and waiting for easier and tastier victims is the way to go. Time for plan B.”
Bren didn’t even need to ask. There was a guy loitering in the shadows of a closed deli across the street, and when Angel made a subtle hand gesture, he sprang to life, walking down the street casually, like he decided the show wasn’t as good as he had hoped. It was Logan, of course, and the fight that he hadn’t participated in gave him something that was normally elusive - the scent of the Oghur.
If the Oghur knew Logan was with them, it probably would have run. But most likely, thinking he was just a Human unrelated to this melee, it would remain hidden as Logan wandered by. It wouldn’t know that all Logan needed was a scent; not a sight, not a noise. Just a scent, and he could track it down until the end of the world.
As it was, Logan started to walk towards the club, but suddenly paused, and pulled out a cigar. In the course of lighting it, he turned towards a dark, narrow alley, He seemed to be having trouble getting the flame to catch, so he took a couple of steps further inside, and shook his lighter like it was low on fluid.
Then the charade ended as Logan moved as fast as the Oghur had, his left hand whipping out and his claws extending in a sudden silver flash, the tips scraping the wall and scratching up brief sparks as he cut the camouflaged Oghur in half. As it fell to the ground in two separate pieces, its guts spilling out onto the alley floor, it became visible again. It also looked a little shocked. “I don’t need to see ya to know where you are, asshole,” Logan growled down at him, retracting his claws. It hissed at him in that angry iguana way, and he kicked it in the face, sending its upper half falling over, where, after a moment of twitching, it laid completely still.
“Okay, what the fuck are those?” Kier asked. “Claw guy and dread guy. And what was this all about?” He then backed up a couple of steps, pointing at the still vamped out Angel. “And who the fuck is he?”
Angel had a big knife he was going to use on the Oghur, although he never got a chance to use it. (It must have gotten knocked away; he thought he heard something.) But what he pulled out now was a stake, because that was his version of an American Express card - he never left home without one. “I could ask you the same thing,” he said, advancing on him menacingly.
Bren could hardly believe what he was doing, but he stepped between him and Kier, and because he knew Logan had to be coming up from behind - if Angel didn’t get him, he would - he gestured for him to stop as well. “C’mon guys, he helped us.”
Angel stared at him in disbelief, blood still trickling down the side of his face. “Are you drunk? He was going to kill you.”
“I was not!” Kier exclaimed, almost sounding offended. “He’s a Brachen! They don’t taste good at all.”
Bren looked back at him. “You knew?”
Kier scoffed, and reverted to his Human face. The scratches were still there, but they were smaller than before. “Of course I knew. I could smell you in the club. I thought it might be cool to hang out with a fellow demon for a while.”
“Really?” Was he lying? He could have been just saying what he thought he wanted to hear.
He started backing down the street, and shrugged, grimacing sheepishly. “Guess I should know better in this town, huh? See ya around.” With that he turned and ran off, disappearing into the night.
Logan looked like he briefly considered following him, but instead actually lit his cigar. “Sorry about that, kid,” he said, taking a puff.
Bren sighed, feeling like both the world’s biggest fool, and a hundred pound sack of shit. “Why does everyone I like always turn out to be evil?”
Angel put the stake away, and even as he reverted to his Human face, he kept giving him a disapproving, paternal scowl, but it faded a little. He seemed to glance at Logan first, which may be why he changed his tack; Logan was probably sending him a “go easy on him” look. “In this town? The odds are in its favor.”
He scrubbed a hand through his hair, aware he’d taken quite a knock on the head, and now it was starting to hurt. If he stayed Brachen, it would go away quicker.
He wondered if that would work for disappointment as well.
Poor Brendan. He had the shittiest luck with guys.
Logan felt bad for the kid, but tried not to show it too much, as he knew he might resent it. But it was unlikely he’d notice at the moment, as he was half-drunk and lost in a self-piteous funk. Angel wanted to take him home, but Bren stubbornly insisted on going back to the office with them, possibly so he didn’t have to be alone with himself and his dismal thoughts. Logan could sympathize.
He was just filling in for Faith tonight. She had to work, which meant they both had to get out of bed (damn it!), and since he was up, he offered to help Angel out with this Oghur demon problem. It probably turned out for the best anyways, since he had to chop the thing in half. Giles had underestimated how fugly that thing was. Angel figured that Brendan and his pal there were just too tempting a “two fer” for the Oghur, who attacked them assuming it’d get two nice, juicy young Human hearts, except of course they were both demons, and it was a trap anyways. And Bren thought he had shitty luck?
He knew Angel frowned on it - not as much as Scott; no one could frown on something as much as Scott - but maybe he could take the kid out tomorrow night for a consolatory beer, see if he’d like to cry on his shoulder a bit. The kid did good, he really did, but he was probably too depressed to care.
When Angel entered the office, he paused as if he was briefly surprised, and Logan put a casual arm on Bren, ready to shove him aside in case trouble reared its ugly, familiar head, but Angel quickly relaxed and said, “Hey.”
Once Logan cleared the door, he saw why. “Hey ya hairy bastard, how’s it hangin’?” Marc said, with a sparkling grin.
Logan smirked and shook his head, actually glad to see him. But on the other hand, he knew this couldn’t be good. Marc lived in Baltimore, and wouldn’t be here for a casual drop in visit.
No, if Marc was here, there was trouble. And Logan just knew it was going to be his trouble too, soon enough.