Brayden was down at the bar he was always there as if he’d never or at least hardly slept. The mess had been cleaned up an the jukebox was playing some soft balad.
Needless to say….CJ was not a happy girl. Between her mentor going missing, the scene and mess at the bar, Cat nearly killing herself with fire, the sight at Sydney’s apartment, and her computer, which was her baby, being on the fritz because of the computer spirit…CJ was pretty fed up with the whole being a werewolf thing.
Her life had never really been THAT normal, but it was a hell of a lot more normal than this. It was the year she was going to graduate college too, if she hadn’t completely killed all her friends and her boyfriend….that had been weighing on her as well.
After cleaning the bar, she’d slept pretty soundly, but she was kind of a night owl and with all the thoughts racing around in her head, it was pretty short lived. It was about 3 a.m. when she came stumbling down to the bar. She was dressed in a pair of black and white boxer shorts with a black shirt that said, “I void warranties”. She had on a big black zip up hoodie over it and black knee socks. She lived at the bar, so she didn’t really think anything of padding down to it in just her socks. Her curly blonde hair was pulled into a loose side pony tail and she was chewing on a piece of jerky that she seemed to be pulling out of her pocket.
She stopped when she saw Brayden there. She paused, eyeing him a bit suspiciously, but then decided to pad on over to a stool and take a seat anyway.
“Sorry about the bar…” She said a bit miserably as she chewed on her jerky.
Arched his brow still at his age of nearly thirty not quiet ok with the padding around instyles of clothing wet dreams where made of in his teen years.
He smiled he could always smile it seemed knee deep in bodies Bray could find a joke he poured her a drink an slid it her way.
“Tis just a thing nothing some scubbing an washin. Diddunt fix eh.. so what’s on yer mind pretty lass?” He leaned back to listen.
CJ couldn’t help but be a little amused as Brayden slid into bartender mode. With as much as he kicked people out of the bar, it was kind of funny that he wore the role so naturally.
“I know…” She said, her own Southern drawl coming out a little more than usual since she was sleepy, “But doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad…I did try and stop them…”
She looked at the drink. It was sweet, the way she liked them, but she just poked at it with the stirring straw. She did smile a bit, though her eyebrow raised slightly, “Are we really going to do this now?” Referring to the bartender thing, but there was a strange kind of comfort in Brayden being this way, especially since she had seen the other side several times now…
She looked over her shoulder, as if making certain that no one was around to listen. Of course in a den of werewolves, and…other things, you could never be really sure.
“Did you know I was supposed to graduate college in four months?” She said, and with that, she did take a small sip of the drink, but followed it up with a few bites of her jerky. Since he was being nice though, she reached in and pulled out a strip, offering it to him, “It’s just normal beef, nothin’ weird this time…” CJ was such a meet counisseur that she was always carrying around strange bits of jerky when she found them, much to some people’s delight and some people’s disgust.
He chuckled a moment and took a piece chewing it and nodding a bit. “I knew you where close to that age, me I am a little old for that..” He smirked.. “We can do it any time you want but hey why not?” he motioned to the empty bar even the little song bird was quiet for the time.
He pulled out a little rag and wiped the bar down. “I know but seems your still not settled into your own skin lass..” he motioned.. “Your worried and don’t want to be what you are.. but no way not to be.. once you settle you will be more.. in control of things. You still think like a girl, an not like a Lupus.” He tapped his head.. “I may seem crazy..but you know.. I am aware of tings in his life that you could not understand not till you accept it.”
He held up a finger.. "I know what happened to you was horrible.. not many of us have a good change.. "
CJ nodded. It was kind of hard for her to believe that she was that age too…it felt like she’d just started. Of course, there was the same picture of her that kept getting circulated. Her senior picture, so pretty, so young, so full of hope…and here she was. Directionless, and part of a doomed species who were expected to put their lives on the line…for what?
She nodded some because everything Brayden was saying was true, but when he said about accepting it, CJ shook her head, “I don’t think I ever can accept this, Brayden…It’s not just the change…” Though that was certainly part of it. CJ didn’t have the strongest stomach, which became painfully obvious sometimes, though she did better now than she used to. None the less, she was still relatively softhearted, “How do you make it look so easy? The fighting…the watching others die? And now Sydney’s been kidnapped?” She took another slow sip of her drink as she raised her eyes to him, “What if we don’t get her back? I don’t know how much more of this I can take…How am I supposed to be comfortable in my own skin when sometimes it’s a giant werewolf??”
He took a long breath… and watched her a moment he pondered it a bit. “Let me ask you this CJ.. is not accepting it.. going to change it?” he tipped his head a bit. “If you just stand still in a tornado it’s not going to blow over you.. its going to slam into you rip you apart.. and anything you COULD have done is lost.” He let that sink in as he moved to pour a beer for himself and took a long drink.
“So how do I make it look easy.. its never easy Lass.. you just have to ask yourself.. do I want to stand and let it wash over me? Or do I want to blow a hole so big in this world when it gets to me it falls in the hole and winds itself down.” He shook his head.. “I always been a fighter.. but I used to not know what mattered to me and fought for anything any reason any way.”
He poked her across the bar. “Yes, she has been, what will you do about it little wolf? Will you cry I want to be the pretty girl at the prom.. or will you stand up an go.. I am built of gaia I CAN kill something.. I WILL kill something for my friend.. to save her life.. or to avenge her.”
It was a little hard, not to buy into what Brayden was saying. He was speaking with such fevor, that CJ couldn’t help but to feel a little tug. She wanted to believe him. She wanted to just give herself over to Gaia and fight for this supposed purpose they all had, but that seemed impossible.
“It’s not that easy, Brayden…” She said, shaking her head, “What CAN I do? You’ve seen me in a fight…if there isn’t a computer involved, there’s a 90% chance I’m going down…and for what??” She shook her head, “I wish I felt like you…I really do…”
And then, because she was curious, and she’d never asked before, her voice lowered and got a little softer, “What was your first change like? You don’t have to tell me…but I was told many people’s aren’t that bad…if they’re raised in this…”
Shook his head.. “The only thing you know for sure..is this.. if you never try.. you will never succeed so you will always fail.” he shrugged and drank his beer.
“I was Huge.. I got huger.. things happened I came to America.. what happened to you?”
CJ blinked and her head tilted for a second. Was that really his response? She leered at him momentairly as though she seemed like she was going to ask for more of an explaination than that, but CJ had known Brayden long enough now to know what a futile venture that would be. She didn’t immediately respond though, just raised a brow, but then she shook her head.
“I was at a party and I walked in on my boyfriend having sex with another guy…” She said. Brayden would know that it wasn’t easy for CJ to frenzy, but she did seem to have a big case of ‘the dumb’ when it came to the male population, “When I woke up, everyone was dead….Well, I thought every one was dead…one person survived…but she can’t walk anymore…” She said with a frown, “And then my parents put up those stupid billboards everywhere, thinking that’s going to help..” She said, shaking her head.
Brayden nodded a bit and sipped his beer. “Bout the same.. was at a match for underground boxing.. was doing ok.. this guy came out he smelled.. I didn’t know at the time but he was wyrm tainted and put a beating on me.. when he thought I was down for the count… broken jaw.. broken ribs.. coughing.. spitting blood I went to get up and he kicked me in the face.. I woke up in a blood bath.. everyone in the room was dead.. my cousins showed up the next night an explained a few things then off to America..”
Brayden was evidently at the bar it was near 3 am an he was talking to Cj.
And that was about when the grinning, wide-eyed (with dilated pupils) Sammy wandered downstairs. Luckily he was wearing a shirt over his binder this time, but unfortunately he wasn’t wearing any pants. Scrawny, pale, freckled legs and red briefs were all hangin’ on out there as he staggered his way over to the two.
“Heeeey… I thought… I thought I was the only one still awake in here. Lookit that. Wha-whatcha two up two down here? And why… why do you both smell so good. Like not good, but kinda really… interesting. Or something.” He reached a hand out for CJ as he approached, half leaning, half falling forward against her to sniff her hair.
CJ raised her brow. She hadn’t known that bit of info about Brayden, but before she could say anything a high Sammy was making his way in. Her attention turned to him. Truth be told, this was kind of a nicer Sammy…didn’t seem to be nearly so angry, but she knew it wouldn’t last very long. It really was hard to get solititude around here.
She didn’t bat at Sammy, but instead just scooted her stool a little away from him. She too, was clad in pajamas, black and white plaid boxes with knee socks, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. She had a fruity drink in front of her, and she took another sip, “That’s because I’ve showered in the last twenty four hours…how about you?”
She looked to Brayden, “And you’re telling me that I have to learn to accept….this?” She said, indicating Sammy. She was alluding to the fact that he was drugged, not him himself. Despite their differences, CJ didn’t really have much of an issue with Sammy except that he was a bit of a button pusher. CJ was hard to ruffle, but Sammy somehow still managed.
She shook her head some.
He shook his head.. “No your looking at people not the picture.. Sammy is like you he handles it with obliviousness..” he pointed out smoothly “You handle it by trying to make excuses for why it sucks..” He shrugged a bit.. “I do the job that needs to be done for all of you..” He pointed at Sam.
“Sit your ass down..” he said evenly.. “You don’t touch less someone invites you boyo..”
He poured him a drink mixing it up smoothly an sitting it on the bar.
“We Messed up the vamps good.. but they will strike back..”
Sammy pouts some as their reactions were not what he was hoping for. But rather than start something about it, he obediantly followed Brayden’s order. To the letter, even, popping down into a crouch on the floor before flopping onto his bum and folding his legs in front of him. “Aww, but you guys aren’t gonna do any invitin’… none of you know how ta have fun like that. All work, work, work…”
He huffs some, not sure exactly why he was being referenced or what the two had been talking about, but recognizing the bit about vampires. “Yeah, I kinda thought that’d happen. The whole… burnin’ the place down without any understandin’ of subtlty kinda like… started a war or somethin’, didn’t it?”
CJ frowned a bit at Brayden’s words, shaking her head, “I’ve lost too many people not to look at it that way…that’s all this is…death, death, and more death….” She said, though CJ’s greatest lost she wasn’t even sure could be attributed to werewolves. Now that she knew more about, she had her suspicions, but her parents fevor to find her wasn’t completely unwarranted. They’d lost their other child…
She didn’t say that though. She indicated Sammy with a flick of her head, “He’s right, ya know…That is pretty much all we’ve been doing. This place hasn’t filled up in ages…”
Then CJ almost seemed to go a little pale when Sammy said that about a war with the vampires. She took another somewhat absent minded gnaw of her jerky, “…Did it start a war?”
Laughed suddenly.. “Started a war.. you think we are that importiant.. this war has raged since man lived in caves and did not come out at night.. when the shadows held things that made us look like children..” He shook his head. “just another skirmish.. there is more then death though.. Some of us will die yes.. some of though will save others.. and they will go on to save others.. and again and again..”
Sammy blinked several times at both of them from his spot on the floor. “So serious, both of ya… Just meant that I’m thinkin’ there’s lots more vampires and they’ll be really after us after what happened. And, ya know, that… that’s gonna really suck and stuff…” He trailed off a moment, then burst into a giggle fit. “Suck… ‘cause… ’cause they’re vampires… No but really, there’s gonna be lotsa fightin’. Before all this, the biggest bad I had ta look out for was the cops.”
CJ’s face didn’t look any happier at this exchange. She looked to Sammy. He was so new to this and while he was angry, he didn’t quite seem to feel as…sick…at being a garou as she did. She took a long sip of her drink, just listening for a moment, which was rare for the girl. Her brows furrowed as she pursed her lips together, “And to what end is it we’re giving our lives? Cat almost died tonight…and for what?? I nearly got trampled to death…why?” She asked softly. It was a question she asked before and depending on the garou, you got a different awnser. Sydney was all about Gaia and saving the world from a fate worse than the one they were already living…
Sydney seemed ready to die though. CJ wasn’t…
He looked at the pair somberly. “Our fate.. is our fate.. what you choose to make it is the point.. an you almost died for not getting out of the way of people..” He pointed out.. “or not going into your warm from and driving them from you.. Cat.. She made a judgment error and got blown up.. it happens with explosives..” He sighed..
“The truth is.. its our job to fight, to carry on histories.. and in one way or another beat back the tied of evil that will wash over this land and destroy our mother. Your problem is your too connected to your internet and your chats.. you don’t go in the woods and feel the mother you go into the woods and see mosquito.. and no internet.. an no wireless.. and no power plugs..”
He pointed at both of them. "Nothing wrong with the city but close your eyes.. reach out… feel for her.. hear her pain.. shit go watch the fecking “Spirit” movie from that guy who did 300 the city talks to him it can talk to you.
“Why do we do it.. becuse it we don’t a world of Sydney’s will die.. a world of sam;s will be enslaved… and then.. what good is even living? Me.. I’d rather die taking them out.. then sitting back going.. oh god I am a big murder machine that turns into a dog.. I am the Mother Fin Meat grinder of Gaia.. nothin scares me.. an if I save ONE.. even one Life when I die.. maybe.. that life will spark a idea.. that will bring this world back around. to What it used to be a true eden.. "
Sammy listened to it all with wide, staring eyes and a slack jaw, blinking a few times but otherwise not moving. When Brayden was done, he looked away, brow furrowing with a sort of confused look. “I think… that’d have been really awesome… if I heard it while sober. But right now it just makes me want to taste whatever’s makin’ you and CJ glow all pretty-like.”
He gave a quiet, somewhat maniacal little giggle and scooted closer to them, still on the floor, and still as high as before.
“Hey, ya think that ghost man I saw in the building is okay? He really wanted us to kill this one vampire lady. Not sure if we got her or not, but not sure if he can haunt the place if it’s all burned down…” He blinked again, mind jumping from thought to thought without much connection between them right now.
“You know what would be really good right now? Strawberries.”
CJ listened to Brayden. It really was very hard not to get taken in by his speech. It was empowering. She didn’t really look like she felt any better, and when he said that about being too connected to her electronics, she did cock a blonde eyebrow.
“Mother Nature isn’t the only way to connect with Gaia…” She said softly. Sydney had taught her that. She frowned at that thought and then she shook her head, “I don’t have a choice, so I’m here….” And for a moment that seemed to be her only response.
Then after a moment she said softer, “I’ve never fought a vampire before….” She cleared her throat softly, “What is it like?”
Then looking to Sammy, she couldn’t help but to be a little amused. She reached into her pocket and held out a strip of jerky, “How about jerky?” She asked.
“It is like fighting a really strong man.. with fangs that hurt some of them have claws like outs that hurt.. but the truth.. honestly is.. it’s just another fight.”
“An true there are other ways.. but really what matters CJ is that you find it.. you hold on to it.. or you walk away and let all this shit happen to good people because you cannot or will not accept your destiny.”
Sam just blinked, watching the two of them with that same glassy-eyed stare. “I’m not sure if this is me being fucked up, or if our lives are seriously that fuckin’ bizzare now.” And with that he leaned back, letting himself fall so that his head smacked against the floor harder than sounded comfortable. He stared up at the ceiling, continuing to listen to the conversation, waving a hand at the jerky offer. “Nah, no meat just now, it’s fruit or get-tha-fuck-out right now.” He hummed softly to himself, feet moving from side to side with the barely-there tune.
CJ didn’t really look very encouraged at Brayden’s words. She shook her head, “You just don’t understand…” She said, sounding a bit like a teenage girl. After all, he just didn’t GET HER!!! She looked down, “How the hell am I supposed to reconcile being a monster?? How am I ever supposed to get okay with killing anything?? I mean I know, things are tainted blahblahblah…but they still move…they still breathe…” She said, and while it seemed his words were initially having an effect on her, now she just seemed distressed.
“People I love keep getting hurt and I’ve been TRYING…for years now, I’ve been trying to be okay with this…” She said, her grip on her glass getting a little tighter, and this time she didn’t sip, but instead drank down what was remaining in the glass.
Then she looked to Sammy, now more flabbergasted than amused at his drug induced stupor.
“And what are we supposed to do with THIS?? Just let him run around high until it wears off?? He’s going to give himself a concussion…”
“How is THIS my destiny?? I was going to run networks and shit…not murder my friends…I wanted a husband and a family…not vampires and….” She gave Sammy another pointed look, “You’re telling me this is really it??”
He shrugged.. “See it your way Cj.. tired of trying to get you cubs to see the way of things.. tired of putting my life out there for those who don’t want it..” He shrugged.. “a spirit fucked him up he’s going to be like this for a few days probably..” He dropped his rag on the bar and walked away from the pair downing the last of his beer as he went.
As Brayden got up, the weight of what he was saying kind of hit CJ. He wasn’t the first person to say it to her, but he was the first person who had given up on her while saying it. She was “Throws-Stones-At-Glass-Houses” after all.
She was momentarily stunned, but before he could get too far, she stood up, “Brayden! Wait!” She called after him.
“I didn’t mean….” But instead of making an excuse for herself, she changed and said, “I mean you’re right…I do need to stop feelin’ sorry for myself…I suck in a fight though…Could you maybe help me? Please? I won’t whine…”
Though he ought to know that part about whining was a lie.
She looked to Sammy, still not quite sure what to do with that. He and Painted-Face were both that way…Seemed wrong to just leave them that way…
Shook his head.. “No.. I am done with the bullshit Cj.. you want out..” He reached behind him and pulled out a big blackened .45 and sat it on the ber. “You get a silver bullet you put it in this gun you shove it into your eye till it hurts and you pull the trigger.. because your bullshits going to get someone dead.”
He shook his head.. "Fighting is not the only thing.. go out on the internet use the skills Gaia gave you an do something.. stop blocking us out an playing Fecking angry birds.. how bout you search on the names we got? How bout you find out and trace an track.. somone had to pay for that warehouse.. the ghoul has to have a handler.. names.. phone numbers.. DO SOMETHING.. do you have to get bloody? No.. can you help yes.. but you need to look at the picture.. I fight.. you hack.. painted know’s spirits.. can I Do it all.. sure but they will overwhelm and kill me some day. But your support.. your tech.. get us head sets or ear mikes.. work with us.. help us.. or " he motioned to the gun.
“Or Save us the fucking trouble of dying for you.”
Of course, this was the LAST thing CJ expected. Her eyes went wide as he placed the gun on the bar. She looked to it and then looked to him with a sort of ‘are you serious???’ look on her face. Of course, she knew her was.
Her lips parted in shock and she stumbled over her words for a moment, “I…bu—….I…” CJ was rarely lost for words, and she looked at Brayden, absolutely shocked.
“Brayden….” She said and then she looked down, “I mean it…I’m sorry…” She said, though she was shaking a bit, not sure if she wanted to cry or scream. This life was frustrating. And she didn’t understand it. She resented so many things about it, but he was making it very black and white to her…And he did bring up a very good point.
So far, it seemed like she couldn’t do anything because she couldn’t fight, or at least not well, but he just pointed out like 10 things she hadn’t even thought of doing because she’d been so disconnected from all of them…
“I don’t want anyone to die for me…” She said, and her fingers went to the gun. Not because she was seriously considering anything. Sammy had apparently passed out and so she didn’t even spare him a glance as she gently touched it and then pulled her fingers away, “I’ll shape up…I’m sorry…I’m just really sad and worried about Sydney…” She said, but before he could say anything, she added, “And I’ll see what I can do to find her…but I’ve gotta get that stupid spirit to stop downloading porn…”
She pushed the gun back over to him, but stopped, leaving her fingers on it for just a moment. Her face twisted in a bit of a small smile as she said, “…Do ya think you could at least teach me how to use one of these?” She said, nodding to the gun, “It’d help a lot…don’t ya think?”
Slammed his hand on the bar with a SMACK.. “GET A NORMAL COMPUTER AND USE IT!” he looked at it and nodded.. “Tomorrow morning.. I need a few hours of rest..” He looked a lot older ten he was and haggered for a moment there was something in his eyes.
“Yeah.. Tomorrow morning.. an realize CJ.. Your choices forward are yours. You choices behind you.. you can’t.”
CJ jumped at the smack, looking startled.
No, no, no…that idea wouldn’t do, but she wouldn’t say that out loud. It probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea to get something that the spirit HADN’T inhabited, but she was going to make that thing work for her. She didn’t say this to Brayden though. She wasn’t completely dumb, after all.
She nodded in agreement as her heartbeat slowed from being startled, “Yes…” She said thoughtfully, though she knew she wasn’t going to get much rest herself. She was still rather pensive, but Brayden had made a lot of sense, and there was nothing like being told to shoot yourself in the head to bring clarity.
She pursed her lips together, and then looked to Sammy, “I’ll drag him back to his bed…” She said, shaking her head, “Who knows how long he’ll stay there…” She walked over to the sleeping form, and then said, “And see if I can find anything to help us find Sydney…” Her voice was lower at that, but then she leaned down and picked up the redhead from the floor, lightly jostling him to get him coherent enough to stand.
“Thanks again, Brayden…” She said.