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A while back (read: ages ago) I asked for prompts about YOUR characters, so I could do some exploratory writing and stretch myself a bit. And I got lots of wonderful responses, and then never finished any of them. Because I am lame like that.

I'm trying my hand at tackling them again. So, without further ado, here is the beginning of the drabble-response for [livejournal.com profile] doll_paparazzi's request. [Christian, Trent, and Apollo (and the rest of the Loft) dealing with an injured Darryl (and vice-versa). Trent hitting on Darryl. Possible side-order of smut.]

(As a bit of background and to hopefully head off any confusion, this is Darryl before he was Darryl, back when he was still property of Zymogenetics and got "deployed" on missions by them with completely false identities and underlying programming that he himself wasn't aware of. And for information on Mercy's characters in this, check out The Loft, specifically the Time Knights photocomic series.)


________________________________________________________________________________


It was dead week, but that wasn’t keeping the professors from loading them all up with more projects and papers than they could feasibly stuff into one seven-day period. Christian was almost done with his ethnography of digitally enhanced social networks, and he finished preparing his portion of the group presentation on covalent bonds and the Lewis structure earlier that evening, so that would be a breeze in the morning. Once he had the ethnography out of the way, he just had the portfolio of his revision process and final papers to put together for English 203, and then he’d be able to dedicate the end of the week and the weekend to studying for finals – assuming none his teachers dropped a last-minute assignment into his lap. GUR classes were such a pain.

He hiked his backpack up on one shoulder and raised his head. The bus was just pulling up to stop across from the student center, and if he jogged he’d be able to make it. Christian got a better grip on the strap of his bag and took off. He really didn’t feel like waiting another half hour for the next bus – this late at night they didn’t run very often. Besides, it was getting kinda’ cold out, and his jacket was pretty lightweight. He hadn’t planned on being on campus this late tonight, but the queue at the copy center had been insane! At least they’d managed to get the large scale printer working again…his partners wouldn’t have been amused if he’d fallen through on getting the posters ready for the presentation.

The driver was just about to close the doors when Christian reached them, and the man didn’t say anything, just gave him a look that asked, plain as day, “What are you playing around for, punk?” He ignored it, jumping up the steps and swiping his student bus pass. Sometimes long legs came in handy. He even managed to pant out a brief “Thank you.” Not that the driver noticed. The card reader beeped and he made his way up the aisle of the bus, falling into his customary seat in the back corner. His backpack went onto the floor out of habit – not that it was really necessary. This late at night, the bus was far from full.

In fact, looking around, he realized that it was even less busy than usual. There were a couple of exchange students up near the front, two girls and a guy chattering away. He couldn’t hear them well enough to tell what language they were speaking. Korean, maybe. There were a lot of Korean students at his school. A couple seats farther back, on the other side of the bus, one of the local transients was huddled. Scraggly hair stuck out from under the hood of their sweatshirt, gray from age or hard living, he wasn’t sure which. Probably both. They were wearing so many layers of clothing, he couldn’t say whether they were male or female.

The bus skipped the next two stops, which were empty, and began winding its way away from campus, deeper into the city. Christian settled back for a long ride, arms crossed.

Just before the fifth stop after leaving the university, one of the exchange students pulled the stop request wire, and the driver turned the steering wheel, managing to scrape the wheels against the curb. Christian winced. The little trio piled off, and just as the driver was about to pull away again, someone rapped sharply on the closed door. The driver started, and though he couldn’t hear it Christian was pretty sure he swore. But maybe that was just his expectations talking.

The driver opened the door and a man climbed up the steps into the bus, dropping a few coins into the slot and moving down the aisle without waiting for the machine to process them and beep its mechanical acceptance. Christian watched him make his way along the length of the bus. The transient didn’t even twitch when he walked by.

The man settled in the seat directly across from the rear exit doors, halfway up the bus from Christian, and turned slightly so he was almost facing toward them. He looked totally at ease.

Instincts Christian hadn’t had reason to use in months perked up and started noticing things. Things like the way the man had been moving as he went up the stairs, and the way every single muscle in his body was now totally tense despite his relaxed posture, primed and ready to fire like the string on a crossbow. The way he was being very careful to hide the fact that his eyes were sweeping the bus, taking in the occupants much more thoroughly than Christian himself had earlier.

Those same instincts decided to point out that it would be nice to have a sword on hand, and wasn’t it silly that carrying such things in modern times was considered odd? Amazing there weren’t more violent killings, what with people not being able to properly arm themselves in public. Christian told his instincts to shut the fuck up.

Besides, with modern weaponry being what it was, a sword probably wouldn’t do him any good.

The man wasn’t dressed in anything remarkable. Black cargo pants, very much so in keeping with the local fashion of late. A khaki jacket over what looked like a dark green turtleneck sweater. Simple clothing. He had a charcoal gray cap on, the beanie type worn by bikers with shaved heads and bald people on cold days. There wasn’t any kind of logo on it.

Christian’s instincts wondered how difficult it must be to find one of those hats without any kind of brand marking on the outside.

The lighting on the city buses late at night made everything seem high contrast, threw off color tones, but he thought the guy’s skin looked a bit grayish, pale. A wisp of blond hair poked out from under the edge of his cap. His face was vaguely Asian, but not in any way that Christian could pin down. He could be from anywhere.

Christian’s stomach was starting to feel tight, and his palms were itching.

The man reached up without looking and yanked the wire. The bus stopped, and Christian didn’t realize it was his stop, the one just up the block from the Loft, until the man got off and started heading up the familiar street.

Christian considered riding around the city once, just to avoid the guy and the wasted two-and-a-half hours be damned, but the thought that he might be there because of the Loft and Trent and the others inside had him on his feet and off the bus before he had time to think much more about it. His instincts were kicking up a real fuss by then. The bus pulled away from the curb and a few moments later disappeared around the corner, trundling off into the darkness. Christian was alone on the street with the man, who was already half a block ahead of him and getting damned close to the front steps of the Loft.

He knew that the man had to be aware that Christian had gotten off the bus. The guy didn’t look back, didn’t start walking any faster, but Christian’s instincts were screaming at him. This guy was trouble.

Christian looked down, attention caught by the light from a street lamp glinting off something on the sidewalk, and found himself faced by a smear of blood, wet and gleaming on the cement. Looking ahead, he could see another several feet away.

Oh. Well. That complicated things a little, didn’t it?

The front door of the Loft opened just as the man was passing it. Trent was standing in the doorway, wearing black jeans covered in buckles and straps, obviously about to go out for the evening. Christian could see Wendy in the hall just behind him, smiling and about to say something. Trent was looking back over his shoulder. He hadn’t noticed the man on the sidewalk.

The man, however, had certainly noticed the door opening.

Christian didn’t realize he’d reacted until after he and the man were both on the ground, wrestling for the pistol the man had started to draw from under his jacket. The fucker was tough – he wasn’t as tall as Christian, but he definitely knew what he was doing. They rolled, Christian’s bag forgotten, both of them focusing on the weapon. Distantly, Christian heard Wendy give a little cut-off scream. He heard Trent swear explosively.

The man put up a good fight, right up until the struggle made Christian’s knee land on his right thigh, with most of his weight behind it. He didn’t pass out – quite – but he certainly lost his grip on the gun. Christian threw it away from them. He didn’t want to risk the man getting a hold of it again. It landed somewhere in the bushes along the front of the Loft, hidden in the foliage and the darkness.

Then Trent was there, and Apollo right behind him, and they were hauling the two fighters apart. Apollo had the man by one bicep, and Trent had an arm wrapped around Christian’s chest.

“What the hell, Christian?” Trent’s voice was confused, and a bit angry. He obviously hadn’t seen the weapon.

Apollo was a bit more on top of things, not that it made Christian any more willing to cut him slack. He spoke before Christian could get his breath back.

“This guy’s hurt. He’s bleeding all over the place.”

From the top of the steps, Eve was all authority. “Bring him inside.” No one dared question her when she used that tone of voice.

The man looked like he wanted to argue – actually, he looked like he was about half a second from trying to turn Apollo into so much godling pulp, and wouldn’t that be fun to watch? Apollo didn’t give him a chance, just walked him up the stairs and in the door. The man’s beanie was gone and his ash-blond hair was mussed, and there was bit of blood in it, probably from bashing it against the cement in their fight. Christian knew he had a scraped knee, and his left hand felt like he’d been beating it against a brick wall. Eve stepped out of the way to let them go by.

Trent let go of Christian, finally, and let him turn around. “What the hell got into you?”

Christian didn’t answer, still seeing things in a bit of a haze. Though maybe that was the fact that he’d lost his glasses. He found them again, a bit bent but thankfully still intact, and put them on, then went over and rooted around in the bushes. He came out with the gun, which caught the light from inside the door, despite the matte black finish. Trent’s breath at the sight was a sudden rattle, sucked in quickly.

“Where did…Christian, what is going on here?!”

“I don’t know. He was on the bus with me. He was acting…funny. He got off at our stop and when you opened the door he started to pull this out.”

“…and you decided to jump him.” Trent sounded tired already, and the night had only just begun.

“I decided not to let him shoot you or Wendy!” Christian’s tension hadn’t been released by the little scuffle on the cement, was bleeding out into the nearest available outlet. They both knew he hadn’t intended the words to sound so harsh the moment his mouth snapped shut again, but Trent just looked at him.

Trent turned and walked toward the door to the Loft. “Grab your bag and come inside. Let’s find out what’s going on with our new guest.”

Christian didn’t really want to find out anything – he wanted the man out of the Loft, right then, no delays. But it looked like he didn’t have a choice. Fuck.

The man was standing on unsteady legs in the middle of the kitchen when Christian walked into the building, Wendy peeking around the corner into the room – she squeaked and jumped back when Christian came up behind her. Apollo and Trent and Dylan were watching the man, Apollo with his arms crossed and eyes narrowed, as Eve hunted under the sink for the emergency medical kit they kept on hand. Though this wasn’t the kind of situation they’d had in mind when they bought it.

Christian dropped his bag in the hallway and stepped into the room, and the man choose that moment to lose consciousness, his knees buckling. Trent and Apollo both lunged forward, and between the two of them he didn’t even hit the linoleum. They manhandled him into a chair. Trent’s hands were smeared with blood when he stepped back from the man, and there was more of it on the floor where he had been standing before he collapsed.

Looked like they wouldn’t be getting answers anytime soon.

#


Unconscious, the man looked much younger than he had when he was on the ground with Du Lac, rolling around fighting over possession of the gun. Oh yes, Lin had shown it to all of them, after making Du Lac take Wendy out of the room. Apparently they considered the girl too young to see such things. He was inclined to agree, despite the fact that not that long ago in his view of things, she would already be of an age to be bearing children and treating the wounded after battles. It was strange to think that of her, when the man stretched out on the sofa in the den couldn’t be much older than she was.

They’d stripped the man down to his underwear without any hesitation, though Eve’s cheeks had pinked a little, and he’d noticed Trent’s eyes lingering on the man’s shoulders, his stomach. There were a few minor injuries, mostly the beginnings of bruises, but the blood was nearly all from a large gash on the back of his right thigh, haphazardly wrapped in what looked like a torn up black t-shirt. It was too ragged to have come from a sword, and Apollo knew gunshot wounds well enough after his days as a mobster to rule that out. Whatever had caused it didn’t seem to be still in the wound, and so they set about cleaning and treating it.

There was a long tear in his pants that matched the location, on closer inspection, all wet with blood, enough of it to have formed clumps as it began to clot. The color of the pants had hidden the blood loss until now.

Eve did a very good job at the cleaning and such, gloved hands working carefully, with a gentleness that reminded Apollo of his Liege Lady. It was a bittersweet thought. She’d seemed at a bit of a loss when it came to the actual stitching, and Apollo was somewhat surprised to find himself relegated to the role of stitcher. He’d done it often enough in the past, true, but it certainly wasn’t his calling. But when Lin looked at him, he couldn’t argue. They’d had to explain the necessity of wearing gloves, and it had made Trent’s hasty washing off of his hands after they got the man into the chair more understandable.

No one had seemed to think it unusual that the possibility of taking the man to a hospital, or calling in professionals, hadn’t even been brought up.

The man’s body bore scars, though not as many as those of some of the men he’d seen. And yet the ones that were there…they weren’t from minor injuries. He stretched his fingers against the length of one that crossed the man’s abdomen, and imagined the wound that must have caused it, the slash of a knife splitting open the skin and allowing intestines to push through into the cold air. Not an easy thing to survive.

In Apollo’s eyes, the man was obviously mortal. There was none of that particular sheen to his soul, his being, that suggested that he was long-lived, or in any way instilled with unnatural forces, powers from beyond the mortal plane. And yet still…something about him spoke of a strength not unlike that of Du Lac, or even Apollo’s own. Something about him didn’t feel quite right.

The thigh wound taken care of, they turned to the cut on his scalp, which was revealed after washing to be a bit messy, but not very serious. There was a nice bump forming underneath it. It would probably hurt quite horribly for some time, as head wounds were wont to do, but it wouldn’t be a danger, assuming the blow hadn’t addled his brains. Somehow, Apollo didn’t think that was likely.

The man woke up as Eve was applying some kind of little sticky bandage to the man’s scalp, crosswise over the cut there. His hand darted up and caught her wrist, and she made a startled noise and jerked back, but was unable to free herself. Trent and Christian and Dylan all started forward, but Apollo took hold of the man’s thumb and peeled it back, bending it away from Eve’s wrist in a simple joint lock. The man’s eyes swung around and focused on Apollo as Eve pulled away.

“Who are you?” Apollo kept his voice carefully neutral, and he noticed the way that both Lin and Du Lac looked at him. It was unlike him, to be so calm in the face of possible harm to those under his protection. But…he’d seen many men battle, for many reasons, and what he’d seen so far of this man made him think that the whole incident was some kind of misunderstanding. This man had been fighting with the peculiar desperation of someone who wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but was perfectly willing to go along with the easiest and hopefully fastest way of getting out of a situation. And Du Lac was a hothead, hovering in the doorway with his arms crossed, anger and suspicion practically rolling off of him as he watched the man and kept Wendy from trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on in the room. It was obvious he had acted without thinking.

Of course, if anything suggested otherwise, Du Lac would have to discuss with him who would have the honor of…taking care of their little problem on the sofa.

The man looked at him for a long moment, then relaxed his hand in Apollo’s grip, not fighting the hold. “You can call me Shou.” For a few seconds just before that, Apollo felt almost as if something had been tasting his intentions, the fringes of his soul, and he tensed.

You can call me. Apollo was sure no one in the room missed the import of those words.

“Why did you draw a gun on my friends?” No real point in dancing around the subject.

Shou didn’t seem to consider the question much at all. He simply answered, no change in his expression to indicate that he was surprised or shamed by Apollo’s abrupt interrogation, or even particularly cared about it. “They startled me.”

Apollo waited for a moment, but Shou didn’t volunteer any more information. Lin spoke up then.

“You normally try to shoot people who surprise you?” There was a lazy drawl in his tone that made Apollo look up. Lin obviously wasn’t amused by this incident, but something in his behavior seemed…off.

Shou’s eyes darted over to Lin at the words, his expression still almost casually neutral, but his gaze assessing, weighing. A little furrow appeared between his brows after a moment, but his response was just as bland as before. “No.”

Again, he offered nothing more. Eve made an impatient noise in the back of her throat and crossed her arms. “Well, at least tell us what happened to your leg, since we were kind enough to take care of it for you!”

“I landed on the end of a pipe sticking up out of the ground. It punctured my thigh, and when I rolled off of it the wound tore open further.” Again, no indication in the words or his tone that he was at all bothered by what had happened. It was a purely factual reporting of the event, with no feeling attached. Apollo felt prickles run up the back of his neck. This was wrong.

There was a moment of silence. Eve looked a little pale, suddenly.

The man sat up abruptly, swinging his legs over the edge of the sofa and obviously intending to get to his feet. Apollo’s hand landed on his shoulder to hold him down and he paused, looked at it, then up at Apollo’s face. “I need to go.”

Eve snorted. “You need to stay right where you are, mister. You’ve got a nasty hole in your leg, you hit your head, and you’ve lost blood. Lay down and shut up.” Obviously, being upset hadn’t done anything to improve her temper.

Du Lac broke in before Shou could say anything. “Is your being here a danger to us?”

Shou looked at Du Lac, seemed for the first time to think about what he was being asked. “Maybe.”

Dylan shook his head and flopped into one of the armchairs. “Well, you sure are talkative, aren’t you? Here’s one – how about you tell us why you were carrying a gun, why you landed on a pipe, and why we might be in danger. In fact, I think you should throw in why you need to leave, too. And maybe where you plan on going.” His gaze was challenging, and Apollo had to fight down the urge to smile.

Shou stared at Dylan for a long moment. “I had a gun to because my targets also had guns. I fell on the pipe because one of them pushed me off of a roof. You might be in danger because they might be able to track me here, but I doubt they will. I have to go…” – and his brow furrowed again, almost as if he himself wasn’t sure of the answer there – “…meet someone. I’m late.”

Dylan’s and Du Lac’s eyebrows both climbed toward their hairlines, but Lin was the one who asked, still in that strange drawl, “Targets?”

“The men I was sent to deal with.”

Apollo tried to consider that from all angles. He didn’t like most of the answers he found. He also didn’t like that Shou was being so forthcoming about such things. It put him in mind of phrases like “get rid of the witnesses” and “it doesn’t matter if they find out.”

“Are you a cop or something?” Wendy said from behind Du Lac, and the man muttered something about persistent little monsters and tried to push her back into the hall.

Shou nodded, eyes moving to find her.

Wendy beamed, peering under Du Lac’s elbow. “So, the blokes you're after, what are they? What did the blighters do?”

“Wendy, language,” Eve said absently.

Shou glanced at Eve, then looked back to Wendy. “They were political activists. They had been causing problems for the local authorities. They were suspected of having ties to an eco-terrorist ring responsible for several bombings over the last two months. I was sent in to find out if those suspicions were correct, and deal with the problem.”

Wendy looked thrilled.

“Why are you telling us this?”

Shou looked back at Apollo. “You asked. And there’s no danger. Who would believe you? And how would you prove it? And even if you did, who would you report it to? They were criminals.”

Apollo wondered if anyone else noticed the casual past-tense in that sentence. Somehow, he didn’t think that the “criminals” were going to be tracking anyone, anywhere, ever again. Part of him approved of that.

“So you’re saying you’re some kind of…of black ops spook or something?” Du Lac’s tone was derisive, skeptical.

“Something like that.”
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