A Cat Among Wolves Ch. 03bykitten101©
Sabeen stretched out as much as she could on the office chair. She was slouched way down with her feet up on the desk. Her back was to the globe that Marcus had casually left on a pile of invoice books. Supposedly she was 'guarding' the damn thing while Bucky was away 'shopping.'
The second she had walked into the office she had realised that they were hoping for another reaction from the globe. Marcus had stared hopefully at the thing while Bucky stammered his apology and a weak-ass story about needing her to look after the phones. Coincidentally Marcus felt the need to have her look after the globe, and put her in charge of guarding it and being Buck's pseudo secretary. Rolling her eyes she had flopped grumpily down into the seat with her back to it. She sat in almost exactly the same position 3 hours and a numb arse later.
If they really wanted the damn thing safe they would have locked it up at the house and left her there with it. The only reason they were here were the cameras in the office and the illusion of privacy. She still hadn't puzzled out why Marcus didn't just order her to activate it. Despite her protests, they both knew that the order would have been well within her contract with him. And she would have done it too. She would have looked into those incredibly deep eyes and gone and done something stupid like pouring herself into the globe, and more than probably killing herself in the process.
The bell on the front door dinged and she sat up slightly. She wasn't going to make the effort to take her feet off the desk and pretend she worked there, any idiot with the gift of sight could tell that by looking at her. She was wearing her leather jacket, her hair was curling crazily all over her head, and she was fairly sure her cheek was sporting a fetching bruise from last night. It felt pretty damn tender along with her entire left hand side, and neck. Marcus had even winced at her when she came down for breakfast, and seeing the look she hadn't bothered to look in the mirror, she was guessing this one was way past concealer.
A tall man walked around the corner, stopping just short of the desk. She put her head on the side and scrutinized him. Not a bad body, from what she could tell under the suit. Reasonably tall. Perfectly groomed black hair. On the outside he looked normal, but something wasn't quite... Human about him. When she looked over him with her mind he looked much stronger than her, and very insubstantial. When he turned his head slightly the black hair shimmered silver for a moment before settling again against his head, and his eyes were grey... Not grey-grey, but silver-grey.
Sabeen nodded at the seat on the other side of the desk and waited for him to make the first move. In general, and with surprisingly few words, she could piss off the most gentle tempered person and get into some interesting situations. Rather than get this thing (whatever it was) pissed off with her she'd let it say its piece before politely showing it the door. They regarded each other for a few moments before the man sat and spoke.
"Sabeen, it is nice to meet you, my name is Aaron. I have heard you are an extraordinary woman and by taking the globe, you have proven the rumor to be true." She didn't ask how he knew her name, but decided to correct him on how she came into possession of the globe.
"Um technically I don't think I took the globe, it just happened to find its way into my pocket. Its really more of a coincidence than anything else." Sabeen said, dropping her feet off the table to face him more squarely
"Actually you did take it. That globe needs to be given freely, or taken by extreme force of will. It would not have left the council's building without one of those things, and I find it highly unlikely that Leon would pass one of its treasures onto you, or the Louvre Pack. Council members aren't normally so generous. From what I understand the Council just barely gave the Pack what it agreed to pay for the small slaughter they embarked on." Aaron looked at her with a calculating smile.
Actually Sabeen had no idea, having not been paying any attention in the meeting. She assumed that it was true though, and probably because she had insisted on saving Anya.
She shrugged "Ok so I 'took' it. More important, I think, is the fact that you want it. You do want the globe right? That's why you're here?"Sabeen asked.
"Correct I need that globe. And I will not take it off you, you are free to decide whether to give it to me, or not. I need this globe to free one of my kind from slavery to one of the members of the council. And now a small lesson, if you'll indulge me." Aaron paused, looking for her approval.
"My kind are excellent killers, it is what we do, and we do it well. As a kind of a check on the power, when young, we are fairly easy to entrap into service and it is near impossible to take back our freedom. Much like the situation you find yourself in now, correct?" Sabeen raised an eyebrow silently and waited for him to continue.
"When under the compulsion of another's will, we have a certain quota of kills, if we exceed that then we forfeit the right to hold substantial forms. We become more like ghosts than people, and eventually we will cease to exist. For decades we have been entrapped, used as weapons and then left to die a very lonely death, it is a high price for some very powerful and intoxicating skills.
"I'm trying to free a young woman from her service. She has been taken dangerously close to the edge of her quota, and I can think of no other way to free her."
Aaron's eyes cut to the globe and the false seeming persona dropped from his eyes. He leaned forward and met her eyes, seeming much younger and more vulnerable. Sabeen wondered for a second whether there was more to the relationship than what he implied.
"She needs this globe to free herself, and even then it will not be an easy thing."
Sabeen thought for a moment. "What are the the risks here? You said yourself killing is an intoxicating experience."
"She will need help when she is free, a place to live, money, and it can take time to adjust. She will be free from her quota. I will take her under my wing, and limit any damage she may cause to those around her."
Sabeen picked up the globe, wincing as it shone gold and pulled a little at her again. "Aaron, the globe is yours in exchange for the promise that you will appoint yourself her guardian, for her protection, and more importantly the protection of those around her." The gold died to a cool silver as she handed it over the desk to him.
"Thank you Sabeen, and in exchange for your time I have a very small parting gift for you." He reached across the table and laid his hand for a moment against her cheek.
She tried hard not to squirm back out of his reach and had only just managed to squash the instinct before he pulled his hand back. A large bruise appeared on his cheek. It faded almost the moment she spotted it and he turned to leave with a smile. "Thanks again. Good luck with Louvre, he's going to be annoyed."
Sabeen sighed and slouched back down in the chair, putting her feet back up on the desk. Like Marcus was ever happy. It seems like he was constantly being hit with the grumpy stick.
Five minutes later she was woken from her nap by having her feet roughly pushed off the desk by Marcus. Finn swung around the corner frowning and Bucky stood back in the corner away from the more senior wolves.
"You gave him the globe. We don't even know what he hell it is, and you just gave it to him. Why?!" Marcus yelled.
"Because he asked nicely." She said calmly.
"Never mind we'll look at the tapes and find out for ourselves. You are answerable to me. I am your damn Master, and you are answerable to me! You directly disobeyed me. Why didn't you call me? And you let him grab you, no questions asked. He could have been doing anything. You don't even know what the hell that thing was, or how much trouble you were in." He looked like he was about to blow a gasket.
"Actually, I didn't directly disobey you. You told me to look after it. And I did. And I know exactly how much trouble I was in. You're forgetting that I've lived my entire life with people like that, and if I couldn't read a situation like that and take the right action then I would have been dead 10 years ago."
She stood up and walked towards the door.
"If that's all Master then I'll be heading home now."
Marcus grabbed her arm as she walked past. "No that is not all. You're in trouble. Royce will keep sending his hunters after you until you're dead. You defied him, and he's not going to let it go, you need to take better care of yourself."
He brushed his thumb over her cheek, where the bruise had been. Sabeen's breath caught and she froze in her attempt to put some distance between them.
"You exchanged your life willingly for the life of that baby's and you don't get the option of whether you live or die any more. I say you live, and start taking better care of yourself. And you will. You gave your word. Willingly."
And she could breath again.
He wasn't doing this because he cared. He was angry because she was damaging his property... Marcus let go of her arm and turned his back to her.
Before she got out the door he was issuing orders to Finn to track down Aaron and retrieve the globe. Everyone knew there was no way in hell they would get the globe back.
She headed back to the house through the centre of the town and back up onto the highway. About 1/2 an hour into the trek she got the feeling she was being followed. Chances were it was a few of the wolves sent by Marcus to keep an eye on her. Higher chances were that it was one of her fathers' cats, sent to finish Robbie and Taj's job.
Sabeen cut through the woods. She wanted to look like she was taking a short cut. She needed to be a good distance from the road in case it ended in a confrontation. The last thing anyone needed was a concerned citizen noticing two escaped zoo animals brawling in the open. Marcus would probably order her to go play kitty-cat at the zoo for the rest of her life just to keep her out of his hair.
Once she had made it a good distance into the forest the cat (she was now sure it was a cat) stopped concealing its movements. She walked a little further to a small clearing and waited for her stalker to appear. A few seconds later her brother, in his tiger form, burst into the clearing.
"Now that's disappointing, no war party this time?" She quipped.
He growled and half changed back to his human form. "He's impressed that you held off the others and is willing to give you another chance. If not, I'm here to kill you. Royce thinks that you won't fight me."
"Royce is right. I'm not going to fight you." Sabeen said dropping her jacket to the ground.
"Why the hell not?!" Adam asked, changing the rest of the way back to his human form. Neither of them paid any attention to the fact that he was naked.
"Because I didn't give up my dysfunctional-ass life and family, to save your daughter, only to go and kill her only remaining partially sane family member. I could kill any of them without a thought, but you're my family, and I can't have that hanging over my head. I've got too much there already, and you might tip the balance."
"I have to either bring you home, or bring home your head. Those are my options. I can't just walk away, Royce will set the Pack on me, and then what the hell is Anya going to do?" Michael said changing a little back again. He thought he had her.
"You wouldn't let that happen idiot. And neither would I." She threw herself into her change ripping off her clothes as her body stretched beneath them.
When she was done she stood there looking at him. He had shifted the rest of the way too, and they matched colours almost perfectly. In her mind she mapped the fight, knowing that she would have to be crafty to get the outcome he needed. And then she charged.
She caught him a little off guard, like she knew she would. He ducked to the side with the softer landing, she sprung sideways after him, tumbling him through the leaves easily until he was in position for her next strike. She extended her claws fully for the first time, and swiped him quickly across his back. The cut was deep enough to hurt and bleed impressively, he'd have an awesome scar, but it was nowhere near as life threatening as everyone would think. She pirouetted on the spot to meet his inevitable charge, and split seconds before their impact she hesitated, lifting her head slightly and giving him a clear shot at her throat.
Adam was so caught up in his fight that he never noticed her paving the way for his victory, he could feel the fur of her throat on his muzzle and was about to engage his jaws when he was bulldozed heavily into the ground to the right of Sabeen. For a moment all he could see were spots before he slowly came into the realization that he was surrounded by wolves.
Marcus body-checked Sabeen, stopping her from moving to her brothers aid. He looked her in the eye and the very clear message passed from the wolf to the tiger. 'Stay clear.' There was a tense moment before Sabeen dropped her head slightly in submission, and Marcus went to deal with her brother.
She paced up and down trying to see through the screen of snarling wolves. It was an unsuccessful effort, and she could only use her imagination as to what was going on in there. Would Marcus kill Adam?
There was yelping from her brother, and she smelled fresh blood. A frisson of excitement went through the wolves, and they pressed forward. She sunk down to the ground, her head low, and her claws digging in to the dirt. Then Marcus spoke.
"Get the hell out of my territory cat. Moon sends us anymore chew toys and we're going to start taking him up on the offer. You'd do much better to take your kid and leave that pack. Its not a healthy one. Go somewhere like.. Oh I dunno... Paradise City."
The Wolves parted and Adam limped out, looking back at her once before heading back the way they had come. Several wolves, Theo and Ange included, turned as if to head after him. Marcus circled the group, half changed and growling.
"No! He leaves my territory unharmed."
There were some barely disguised growls before one by one the wolves turned to head home. Finally it was just Theo and Marcus facing off, Ange had backed off and hopped from paw to paw in indecision.
"Go home Theo. I run this pack." Marcus's voice was gravelly, far more beast than man.
With a final lip curl Theo turned tail and left, snapping viciously at Ange who followed. Sabeen had watched the entire spectacle from the ground. If she had drawn attention to herself it would have been perceived as an attempt to back Marcus up. He had to keep control of his Pack through his strength alone to be considered a strong leader. But she did want to get up, she desperately wanted to back him up, it would have killed her to see him lose the pack to Theo.
Who was she kidding. She was infatuated with the damn dog and she wasn't kidding herself one bit.
He turned to her with barely controlled rage, the dirty look he gave her was enough to stop her thoughts in their tracks. "Go home. I'll deal with you later."
Sometime after midnight she woke to the sound of her door shutting. In the dark and disoriented she forgot where she was and sat up snarling.
Her bed dipped in the centre, a hand caught her fist as she wildly hooked in the direction she thought he man was.
"No, but interesting."
It was Marcus's voice. She relaxed and tugged her hand back, moving further over the bed to give him room.
"Your brother is safe. The wolves are at peace, although I did have to chase off Theo again. I'm going to need to put him back into his place again. And soon." Marcus sighed pushing his hair back out of his eyes.
"We need to talk about this agreement Sabeen. You're not listening to me, and I have no intention of putting you into the kinds of danger you seem to be so eager to throw yourself at."
"Trust me, I'm not so eager to throw myself into danger. I can handle the cats. The globe and Aaron was a situation that just came up. I'm not going to apologise for it. I used my head, because I'm assuming you don't want a puppet here. I work for you, you have ALL my skills at your disposal. Not just the running and jumping and killing ones." She sighed and looked down at the bed.
"I am good at those, but that's not all I can do. I have a brain too."
"I understand that you're used to making judgement calls like you did with the globe. That's fine. I was angry, because once again, I was uninformed, and you were in danger. You should have told me the cats were sniffing around my territory for you. You should have told me that Theo was making you uncomfortable, and you should have told me about this." He held up the diary that she had been writing in since she arrived.
"Where the hell did you get that?!" She was burning with embarrassment. "That's a diary asshole, Yes I'm in your service, but you are damn well mistaken if you think I have to let you read my diary."
Oh God! she thought to herself. She sounded like a 12 year old mooning over her first crush in that stupid thing. She knew it was a bad idea, but here it was, the great Sabeen Moon, brought down to look like a lovestruck kitten over a freaking diary. The only thing she could do was hope like hell he hadn't read it and burn the thing before she could embarrass herself any further.
"I'm not talking about the fact that you keep a diary, although that is a little improbable sounding when you think about the fact that I'm talking about Sabeen Moon, legendary fighter. I'm talking about whats in the diary Sabeen.
"You're keeping all this stuff to yourself, and its going to get one, or both of us hurt. Technically you haven't put yourself in danger, but once again, I'm uninformed. Why didn't you say anything?"
Crap. He had read it.
"Because you didn't need to know that I had a bit of a crush on you. It doesn't change anything. And Its not going to. Remember the deal - I choose who I sleep with."
Marcus turned towards her. Grabbing her wrists and taking her entirely by surprise he leaned forward and brushed his lips lightly against hers. He released her and stood back out of reach.
"Get some sleep."
He left using the door between their rooms, and only then did she notice that he'd moved the drawers back into their original spot. And he'd taken the diary.
Despite getting very little sleep that night Sabeen's morning ritual remained the same. She woke at 4.50 am exactly and lay there wide awake for as long as she could stand not getting up. At 5.00 am she exploded out of bed, thumping her feet on the floor and tripping over the bra she had worn the day before.
She tugged on her running gear, tripping over her shoes twice in her haste to get them on. When she was ready she left her room, whacking her knee on exactly the same spot on her door frame as she did every morning. She stumbled down he stairs muttering curse words.
She grabbed a drink of water, smashing the glass when it slipped through her fingers (the fourth since she'd moved in - the guys had all started wearing shoes in the kitchen just in case). She swept it up, wrapping it in yesterdays newspaper and headed out the door.
Leaning against the balcony was Marcus. His head was tilted forward and his hair fell forward into his eyes. He grinned down at her, making her knees weak and her throat ache a little.
"Another glass huh?"
She ignored him and they set off into the woods. They spent 10 minutes running slowly, and then she set a blistering pace, trying to work off her extra energy. She chose a nice wide path that they'd been down frequently.