Wonderland Ch. 06byLillithArchivist©
Author's Note: Wow. Chapter Five got seriously antagonized, especially with the arrival of Thatcher. While I won't go into detail about some of the comments that really just *irked* me, I will say this:
Everything I write in these chapters *is relevant*. See that? RELEVANT. So, the dream, Thatcher's arrival and Talon's subsequent M.I.A., Tempest's confusion, so on and so forth, are all part of the "grand scheme of things." So spare me the nonsense about rewrites and all that. My story is going to play out the way *I* want it.
Okay, I'm stepping down from my soapbox. As usual, this work is copyrighted and any resemblance to actual events or persons is entirely coincidental.
Enjoy the mayhem everybody!
I dumped my British Lit book into my locker and briefly rested my skull against the doorframe, moving only when I felt someone brush against my shoulder. I opened my eyes wearily and pulled out the chunky A&P brick before shutting my locker door.
A soft chuckle brought my attention to the person leaning against the locker to my left. Thatcher adjusted his jacket before smirking over at me.
"You look like hell," he noted.
I set my jaw and put the book in front of my chest, crossing my arms over myself. "I had a bad night, okay?" I retorted bitterly, warily taking a step back from him at the reminder. "I don't need you to get on my case about it."
Thatcher held up his pale hands in surrender. "Something happen?" he asked, watching as I shifted my weight so the crowd would stop bumping into me as they passed by.
I shook my head curtly in reply and gestured to the crowd. "I have to get to class. Walk me?"
I took off before he could reply and only got a couple feet before his fingers caught my elbow.
"Slow down, Tempest," he muttered into my ear before putting his arm around my shoulders. I stared up at him in surprise and noted his nose tape was gone, and so was much of the bruising. Wow, he must be one of those fast healers or something.
"So where should I be walking you to?" Thatcher asked, his expression tightening when I stiffened under his arm. Heat rushed to my face as I recalled last night's vivid dream, which was partly responsible for why I was in a mood today.
Jerkily I pulled away from his grip and crossed the busy hall to Coach Hernandez's room, trying to push those thoughts out of my head as the real reason for my pissy routine nagged at me.
Talon still wasn't back.
I know I had been the one to promise an easy relationship. I had told him that he could stay for as long as he needed and leave when he found some place better. It was never a permanent fix. But why had he talked about the bonding and the mating just to get up and leave the very next day? Why had he made his stay sound so long-lasting, if it wasn't really that? Had Talon just been playing mind games with me? And if he had wanted to leave so badly, why didn't he just tell me that in the first place? I wouldn't have been offended then. But now, after all that "bonding" mayhem, I felt like I had just been kicked in the face and left to deal.
I sat in my seat in the back left corner of the class, my gloominess deepening when Thatcher sat in the desk in front of me and turned so he was sitting sideways in the seat. "Kitten, what's wrong?" he asked quietly, his black eyes sweeping over my face. "You look sad."
I stared up at Thatcher blankly. I was pulled by so many conflicting emotions, that I wasn't sure how I wanted to react to his question. Cry? Laugh? Blush? Scream? Punch him in the nose? How could I answer him even?
I licked my lips to wet them and swallowed hard. "My...my friend just left without saying anything," I said slowly, my jaw tightening as I fought tears not for the first time this morning.
Thatcher, to his credit, didn't press for details or ask questions. Instead he turned in his seat further and took my right wrist in his hand, squeezing gently. "Well, now you have me," he said quietly, ignoring the bell when it rang or Coach Hernandez shutting the door behind him as he trooped in to class late as usual.
I swallowed hard and smiled timidly back. "Thanks, Thatch," I said quietly, noticing how concerned he looked. Desperate to lighten the mood, I said the first thing that popped into my head. "I guess you'll do," I teased.
Thatcher smiled broadly, the laugh lines around his mouth deepening, and his dark eyes went from solemn to twinkling in a heartbeat. "I'm glad you think so, Kitten," he chuckled, his laugh deepening when I made a face at the nickname and mimicked him.
"Cohen? Mind telling us what's so funny?" Coach Hernandez barked out.
My face turned red when I looked around to see the entire class was staring at us. I sank further into my chair as Thatcher turned to the front.
"It's nothing, sir. We didn't mean to disrupt class," he replied smoothly, his neutral tone making his apology believable.
Coach Hernandez blinked but nodded, gesturing to the teacher version of the A&P book that was open in front of him. "Glad to hear it. We're on page 372. Get there."
Thatcher looked over his shoulder at me and I had to fight a laugh. A couple minutes into Hernandez's lecture, Thatcher excused himself, but only after I promised to sit with him at lunch. I watched as he left to go to his real third period, whatever that might be before turning back to Hernandez with a sigh.
The small Tayo'c Gargoyle, Elijah, had been talking nonstop since the moment Talon had arrived at the camp earlier that morning. His excitement at first had given Talon pause, for he had never seen a child so hyper before. Then, gradually, his surprise drifted to accepting the inevitable. This child was not going to shut up.
In Talon's youth, he had never been like the other children in the clan. As the successor of his father and future clan leader, his duties had been directed at making him the best possible leader, even at an early age. He had not grown up playing games, unless they were designed to teach him about war strategy or aid him in his decision-making. He had not grown up running around with the other young boys -- he had attended every council meeting his father had been a part of, no matter how miniscule or important they were. Some adult of rank was constantly teaching him policy or correcting his fighting techniques. It was all he knew.
So to hear this young Gargoyle chat on and on about these plastic toys that changed from cars to robots -- called "Transformers" -- Talon could not help but note the differences in this youth and his childhood.
"Elijah," Connor interrupted when the small boy had taken a breath. "Ursula and Quincy are going to scout. Would you go with them?"
This was exactly the diversion Talon needed. Elijah released his hand with a pout but nodded and smiled up at Talon. "You aren't going to fly ahead, are you?" he asked, his big blue eyes wide and pleading.
Talon ruffled his hair and laughed as the boy punched his thigh in recant, smoothing his hair as he backed away. "I'll be here, with the others," Talon vowed, watching Elijah's face light up.
"Good! I'll be back!" he called over his shoulder as he followed the two females through the forest undergrowth, his chatter picking up again when he caught up with them.
Connor turned to Talon, his clawed fingertips clicking together thoughtfully. "You aren't much of a kid person, are you?" he asked after a while, his dark eyes twinkling with unreleased laughter.
Talon shrugged his shoulders and looked around the forest. "I have little experience with them. It was never part of my training."
The Drul, Damien, let out a snort of disbelief. "How Spartan."
Talon's brow furrowed but he did not ask the obvious, instead turning his attention to the still unconscious frame of the Raspan tracker. He took a step forward and looked down at the body, his eyes trailing to the bloody crescent across the left-side of the Raspan's forehead, where Talon's left wing forearm had struck. The Raspan had gone down almost instantly after his attack, much to Talon's surprise. The Raspan's, in their natural form, were usually difficult to defeat. But like his Gargoyle brethren, they too had been diminished in stature. That could be the only reason as to why he was so easy to take down.
"He isn't trained for combat," the Drul said suddenly, as though he knew where Talon's thoughts had gone. "Trackers are slimy little shits...they are known to take cheap shots whenever possible -- which is exactly what he did."
Talon mentally recanted his earlier thought and eyed the Drul. "Have you seen the warriors?" he asked curiously.
Damien's eyes dropped to the Raspan, but not before Talon saw the fear in those amber irises. Damien, undoubtedly, had encountered Raspans before.
"Yes," the Drul whispered, taking a step towards the Raspan. "It was a long time ago, but...I will never forget what I saw." Damien swallowed hard as he squatted down beside the Raspan, his amber eyes raking over the scrawny male's face. "They were part of the Raspan elite. They were 'training' in an old warehouse on the Jersey side of the Bay. I had followed them there under orders to obtain one of my own who they had kidnapped earlier that week. When I got inside...they were torturing her for her magic."
Damien's eyes flashed as he looked up at Talon. "The Drul's are the only ones capable of the magic that can transfigure one form to another. The Raspan elite were the first to obtain human bodies. It became a meaning of survival for the Gargoyles and the Lunar to do the same." He looked back at the Raspan, who seemed to be stirring. "These elitists were not of very high rank, but they wanted human forms too. After she gave them what they wanted...they cut her into pieces to prevent her magic from returning to the earth, each one taking a piece of her with them once they parted."
"What did you do?" Talon asked quietly, watching as the Drul's expression became smooth. Cruel amber eyes met curious grey.
"I used a spell to freeze them in place and then another to burn them alive," he answered quietly, his amber eyes returning to the wide-awake Raspan. "And I would do it again in a heartbeat," he vowed to the tracker.
Talon fought a smile as he looked at the tracker as well. This Drul, Damien, was full of surprises.
The Raspan checked his bound wrists and ankles, wincing as the earth magic in the bonds began to take effect as to prevent the Raspan's transformation and therefore his escape. He hissed loudly and arched his spine as he fought the magic, collapsing back onto the ground, his chest heaving when he realized his struggle was pointless.
Talon smiled when their eyes met and the Raspan tracker shivered, cowering away.
"We are going to ask you a few questions," Connor began, breaking the tense silence between them.
"The Drul will know if you are lying, so I suggest you try to be as sincere in your answers as you possibly can. If not, I am positive that you will die."
The Raspan chuckled and shook his head. "You think I fear death?" he whispered, the thin, slick tone sending shivers of disgust through Talon. Clearly evolution had not bred out the characteristic smoothness of the Raspan kind.
Talon leaned forward and the Raspan's face shot to his. Despite the brave words, Talon could see the fear in his eyes. He smiled again. "You fear me, Raspan. Worry about what I will do."
The Raspan's right eye twitched and he jerkily turned his face away, his black eyes looking down at the bindings of his ankles. "What do you want to know?" he asked in a small voice, his thin lips trembling as he spoke.
"Why were you following us?" Connor asked, watching Talon warily as the Gargoyle stroked the dagger at his waist, threatening the Raspan without words to answer -- and quickly.
"Those were my orders," the Raspan scoffed, as though it was obvious. And it was.
"Sent by whom?" Damien inquired.
The Raspan lifted up his chin, a shaky smile crossing his narrow face. "I don't know," he taunted. "They come to me by mail."
A split second later, Talon watched as the Raspan grew stiff and bone white, his black eyes widening before suddenly he began to tremble all over. His mouth flopped open in a silent scream as he body began to spasm violently against the hard ground, his eyes rolling back in his head.
Talon looked over at the Drul and saw the male's amber eyes had turned the color of blood, his eyes wide as he stared at the Raspan unblinkingly. The Raspan's spasms began to grow in violence, and with each passing second Talon noted the ground around the Drul was turning black.
"Damien," Connor murmured. The Drul blinked and released the spell on the tracker, who in turn gasped and moaned incoherently as he shivered at their feet.
"Who gives you your orders?" Connor tried again once the Raspan stopped gasping for air.
Talon admired the fear and hatred within the Raspan's black eyes, especially when they rested upon the Drul.
"I work for whoever hires my services," the Raspan shuddered, his head twitching slightly. Talon noted how he was working the binds on his ankles and wrists and with a sigh he pulled out his dagger and showed it to the Raspan.
"Keep still, or you'll experience firsthand what it is like to have your innards carved out of your body," Talon said quietly as he deftly sliced open the Raspan's thin cotton shirt, exposing the scarred and pale torso. Just to rattle the tracker's cage a little, he let the tip of the blade trace down the Raspan's stomach, the male drawing his belly in away from the touch.
"Keep still," Talon reiterated, punctuating his words with his own magic. The Raspan shuddered and the smell of feces reached Talon's nose. Pulling away his blade, he met the Drul's eyes purposefully. In his youth, magic had not been used for means of torture. They would be no better than the enemy if they resorted to such methods. Damien recanted after a second of inner fury, his golden amber eyes dropping to the ground in shame.
"Who hired you for this job?" Talon asked patiently as he proceeded to sharpen his blade.
"Commander Saun," the Raspan admitted in a hiss.
Talon eyed the other two but Connor merely shrugged. "There are so many of them, I am not surprised if I don't recognize any of their names anymore," Connor explained, crossing his arms as he stared down at the Raspan. "Or he could just be pulling a name out of his ass."
The Raspan hissed and received a blow to the face from the Drul for his efforts.
"Why does Commander Saun want you to follow this camp?" Talon asked as he watched the Raspan straighten up.
"They know the way to the Elders," the Raspan murmured, spitting out blood onto the ground beside Damien's feet. The Drul raised his hand threateningly and the tracker cowered, glaring with muted rage all the while. Talon sighed. This was getting them nowhere.
"I'm growing impatient, tracker," Talon hissed, smoothly slicing across the Raspan's belly. It was a shallow cut, but the blood that dotted and formed a line had the Raspan stuttering quickly.
"I'll t-tell you, j-just keep t-that thing aw-way from me!"
Talon tried not to gag as the smell of the Raspan's blood reached his nostrils, but he did cringe and turn his head away to inhale the breeze that swept over them from the south.
When he managed to gain control again, he turned back to the tracker. "Tell me everything," he growled his voice husky with irritation and disgust.
And the Raspan tracker proceeded to do just that.
"Commander Saun sent me a letter a few weeks ago, after an attack on a small Raspan family was made in Florida. This group," he gestured to Damien and Connor, "were in the general area, as well as many others. Trackers were sent out to follow each hunting party. I've been following then ever since." He eyed the group of them. "Can I have some water? All this confessing makes me thirsty."
"No," the three males snorted.
The Raspan sighed and continued. "You idiots were talking about the Elders -- thanks to little Elijah, I have more information to send back to Saun, including the Elders location; Queensland Mountains." He grinned crookedly, revealing a mess of sharp teeth that made Talon tongue over his experimentally. Surely his didn't look like that?
"Is that it?" Talon grunted after a mental shake of his head, standing up when the tracker nodded. He turned to the Drul and watched a triumphant look filter through his reddening eyes. "Kill him. Be quick about it."
Talon turned his back on the trio and headed in the direction the girls and Elijah had gone; the Raspan's cries of mercy like sweet music to his ears.
Thatcher shifted in his seat on the bike when the final bell rang for the day. After only a few moments, the school lawn was a hive of activity and the parking lot became the Indy 500. He chuckled when a late model Jaguar rolled up the curb and a kid wearing a sweater vest and blue pressed shirt complained about the other kids seeing him being picked up.
He raked his dark eyes over the gathered masses and found who he was looking for practically sprinting towards the buses. Her hair was damp from a shower and she was wearing clothes he knew couldn't be on par with the dress code. For a moment he was content to study her tanned skin against the white tank and short pink shorts she wore, the fabric showcasing her curves. With a shake of his head, he reminded himself of why he was really here, and it had nothing to do with Tempest Cohen. Thatcher revved his bike once and watched her jump in mid-sprint, her eyes darting over to him in shock.
Smiling crookedly, he patted the seat and watched as her face went from flushed pink to delicate rose. Shyly she ducked her head to avoid the glances of everyone who was staring -- like who gave a flying fuck, really -- and quickly walked over to him.
"Yes?" she asked, a little out of breath, her eyes looking everywhere but at him. For a moment, Thatcher contemplated asking her what the problem was. She had been having trouble meeting his eyes all day. At lunch she went as far as to answer in monosyllables until he gave up having conversation completely. It was almost like she was embarrassed or something. As though Thatcher made her nervous.
Instantly, images of last night popped into his head and Thatcher stiffened. Surely, his dream had been private, a one-man show?
Thatcher held out the motorcycle helmet, and shook off the scary thought, fighting a smile as Tempest glared at the offering. "I was going to grab some pizza. I thought you might be interested."
In that moment the wind blew from the south, sending her scent over him like a tsunami. His first general reaction was to groan, but he managed to subdue it; though the second action -- his pants tightening considerably -- couldn't be overcome as easily.
To cover up the obvious, Thatcher swung his leg over the seat and started the ignition. When he realized she still hadn't moved, he gave her a look. "Pizza sounds better than a stinky long bus ride. Your choice, Kitten."
Tempest's eyes met his and she snorted sarcastically as she took the helmet. "I don't see much of a choice here," she joked.
"You could still leave and catch the bus," he pointed out, his chest tightening at the clean flowery scent that washed over him. Not the place for those thoughts. Never know who might be listening in...
"No thanks," she told him as she swung up behind him and adjusted her bag before putting her arms around his waist. Thatcher wasn't unaware of her hesitation, but could do nothing about it. What happened last night well...it happened.
Donning a pair of sunglasses, Thatcher put the bike into gear and darted between two minivans, laughing at Tempest's squeal as they sped out of the school parking lot. On cue, her nails sunk into the flesh of his stomach and he swore in that moment to supervise her future nail trimmings.