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Razing Cain

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Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm

Joined: 12 Aug 2014
Posts: 299
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Can Be Found: at Iron Clad forge
18324.14 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 7:07 pm    Post subject: Razing Cain Reply with quote

March 9, 2015

Fin had decided it was time for another night time adventure into the streets of West End. He felt like doing something destructive, even if it was a passive sort of destruction. It still helped to perform some tiny bit of good in the world and that helped to lighten the heavy feeling that had taken up permanent residence in his chest. He sometimes felt that if he was cracked open, nothing would be found but a negative space, a black hole where his heart used to be. Hijinks like this helped to distract him, soothe him, lift him out of the shadowy purgatory of the heartbroken. They had met at the Blind Pig as before, shared a few drinks and then meandered outside to wend their way through the dark and chilled streets. It was an overcast night, the lights from the city reflected in the opaque sky and things seemed a little brighter than usual. It was easier to judge alleyways for vacancy, search for the gang symbol that they sought to cover. They were quiet for the most part, not wanting to draw too much attention to themselves.

Ketch was much as he had been last time they went on this sort of adventure: plain black, nondescript hoodie with a few tell-tale paint blotches, threadbare around the elbows and fraying cotton threads around the sleeves, thumb poked through a hole in one of them. Dark-rinse jeans. Boots were always a requirement. Tonight they were black as well. Wisps of hair answering the wind in seven different directions. Scrub of two-week's overgrowth itching his jawline. He'd have made a good hipster had he not looked so decidedly un-emo with a cigarette clenched in a field of gleaming white teeth like a madman. His smile was whiskey-greased and loose as he readjusted the pack he carried over his shoulder. Folded within: his latest stencil endeavor, 8 cans of paint, 1 can of spray adhesive, matches, lighter fluid, whiskey and some ticket stubs he'd forgotten about. Did he know where they were going? Didn't really matter. His gait was free-wheeling and he let Fin be the rudder.

Almost all of Fin's clothing fell into the category of non descript, as well as lived-in and comfortable. He didn't have nearly the varied wardrobe that Ketch did (even though he felt free to borrow from it at will) and all his clothes bore the whips and scorns of time. Ketch's laissez-faire attitude was starting to transmute itself to the oft-sullen Scot and he glanced aside at his friend, lips twitching. "Is everyone growin' a beard for the spring?" he muttered as if the idea were abhorrent. And if he ever dressed like a hipster, Fin would punch him in the mouth. Right in the mouth! "I think ye still ha' bits o' food in it." Heathen.

Well, that certainly wasn't saying much for Ketch's wardrobe, and if things continued as they were with Fin helping himself freely to his closet and drawers and Sabine managing to steal every other shirt, he truly might be tempted to take Lucy up on her offer of shopping. He did not think she was the type to put him in hipster clothing, thus saving him from a fated fist from his friend. Though if Fin punched him in the mouth, he ought know well enough by now that he'd be getting an equal or worse return. "Hm?" Slanting a gaze across to Fin; it'd previously been fixed upon another alleyway farther down. "Is everyone growing a beard?" turning the question back upon Fin, and then musing. "I'll bet Helena could grow a fierce beard." He felt like they'd already had that conversation. "Nah, just been lazy. Maybe scared to use my razor." A hand rose to touch the growth. "Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Can you tell?"

Ketch should definitely allow Lucy to take him shopping. She wouldn't put him in filthy hipster clothing, she would make him look less like he slept in the clothes that he donned every day. Or maybe Fin was sleeping in them and putting them back on the hangers the next morning? It sounded demented enough that the Scot could be a likely culprit. What was a little fist fight between friends? Clearly, the rough housing pair didn't mind a few punches to the mouth here and there. He cracked a laugh at the Helena comment - if they'd mentioned it before, Fin couldn't remember so that made Ketch funny all over again. Lucky for Ketch. His own stubble was no more than a few days old but now he touched a fingertip to his chin speculatively. He should look like the barbarian Ketch accused him of being. "Shall I grow m'hair long, a thick beard an' look like a real Scot again?" looking askance to the other man. Then a brow arched and the other dipped down. "Scurt o' yer razor? Why? Ha' ye let it go rusty?" Fin snorted. "I will lend ye m'own." It was a straight razor, the older style like barbers used to use on their customers. "Make sure it be freshly sharpened an' oiled." Then he looked to Ketch again, one corner of his mouth lifting. "I could help ye, if ye be too afeared to do it yerself." Smirk.

Ketch did in fact sometimes sleep in his clothes, roll right out of bed, shuffle to the coffee maker, stare mutely out the window until caffeine hit the "on" switch in his brain, and then walk right out the door. Or else he slept naked. The living was easy, man, when you did it simply. Ketch brushed lightly at the growth to unsettle any epicurian hangers-on there in case the Scot had been serious, and then he turned an equally ponderous look back upon Fin. Even went so far as to turn around and walk backwards, framing Fin's face between the angles of index fingers and thumbs. "Not necessary, really. You manage to look like a filthy Scot even when you're freshly shaven." He turned around again, hiding a smirk. "Thought maybe you used mine in your nether regions or something. Just to be a dick." And then a squint. "I'm not 'afeared' of using one. You just want an excuse to put a sharp blade to my neck. Then you'll cry wolf and say nicking me was an accident." Sharp-eyed now as they rounded a corner.

Fin had been introduced to the idea of pajamas by a woman and generally only employed them when he was sleeping next to a woman of his acquaintance such as Lucy or Taneth. Otherwise, he too preferred to sleep in the buff because it was more comfortable, especially in places with controlled climates. The man strode ahead and spun to walk backward - a strange quirk of his, Fin had noticed, when they were out and about. Was just waiting for the day he walked right into something and Fin would never let him live it down. Ketch was shot the finger and shoved just before the rounded the corner. "I had no' thought o' tha' but now tha' ye say it, the idea has merit." He'd have to remember that for the future. "Well, if ye be fool enough to trust me wit' a blade near yer throat, I canno' be held responsible for what comes after." He was grinning and glancing across the way when he clapped a hand to Ketch's shoulder, nodding to a building across the way. It was just ahead on the corner of the block, an old neon sign gutted and the letters no longer legible hanging from one side like a faded and forgotten memory. He could see one of the symbols near an entry that was missing a door. Fin glanced back and headed across the street.

It was possible Ketch might one day stumble into a signpost or building if he was particularly stoned or drunk. But otherwise, he had an innate sort of sonar that kept him very in tune with his surroundings. Perks of not being entirely human. Fin gave him the bird and shoved him and Ketch smiled sweetly in return before hooking an elbow against the man's ribcage. "Merit and repercussions. Sabine would be beside herself, clawing the walls trying to decide whether to scream or lick up the blood. You'd get swallowed by your massive guilt complex at having set her off. I'd have to chase your mopey ass down and try to convince you it wasn't your fault. Which it surely was. It sounds exhausting. Better not." All of this discourse in spite of the fact that he'd undoubtedly trust the Scot with a blade along his neck. He stood to lose just as much, at least in the way of free clothes and a place to stay. They were symbiotic that way. Go figure. The hand clap to his shoulder did not make him flinch, he just shifted in the implied direction and cast a thoughtful look over what was to be the evening's canvas.

The likelihood of Ketch being quite stoned or drunk while in Fin's presence was pretty high, all things considered, so Fin would continue to wait for his day in the sun. To sit astride that moral high horse that belonged only to those that walked forward instead of backward. Cue disdainful sniff. A grunt to this scenario painted so bluntly by Ketch's forked tongue. "Tha' no' be how I see it goin'." He was envisioning something that shut Sabine up via disappearing clothing and he let that distract him a moment or two. But perhaps it wasn't meet to slice the hand that fed him so the idea of slitting Ketch's throat in twain was discarded silently. The black yawning entrance was something that made Fin's back itch, right between his shoulder blades, and he didn't like how vulnerable it felt to be near the empty doorway without at least seeing what lay directly beyond it. Pulled a flip knife from his pocket and shicked it open, holding it close to his forearm so it wasn't immediately visible. Was Ketch going to stay outside or join him in exploring?

Disdainful sniff met a scoff, and it was a noisy union that had him laughing quietly, mostly air, because he, too, was steadily awarding more caution to their surroundings. Ketch studied the entrance, then looked to each side of the building and up. Did he have weapons on him? Absolutely, but his preferred weapon was and always would be his hands in a hundred unfolding variations, and the way Fin looked at the entrance had him defaulting to that rather than fooling around with his knives. Those were for premeditated targets and disguise. Of course Ketch would be joining him inside. If there was exploring to be had, he was a virtual Magellan this night, though he did look aside to Fin and speak low, "Are we looking for something specific or just jacking around?"

The building was squat, its neighbors on both sides taller by a story or more. It was clear that it had been vacant for some time, judging by the wear and tear evident on the fa?ade. Mortar eroded where it was exposed beneath crumbling stucco that was used as a cheap repair method some years ago. There were pock marks that could be the result of bullets or something else entirely, knowing how Rhydin could surprise. The hinge plates on the empty door frame were long rusted and would no doubt have to be pried out and replaced. Windows on the second floor were completely broken and shattered across this side, most likely on the other, as well, if Fin had to guess. It was the perfect victim for their late night artistic bint but it could also be housing transients and vagrants and other, less savory individuals. Fin didn't mind the homeless at all, thought it was good they find a shelter rather than face the elements unprepared. However, there were others in the West End that might find such an empty structure useful and maybe the Scot was being paranoid but was fully aware that to be seen covering up gang signs put a target on their backs. No need to be more reckless or stupid than was necessary.

"More to be certain tha' there be none inside, layin' in wait." That they weren't going to get snitched on or that someone wasn't going to take the opportunity to prey upon the two lunkheads outside. Fin sidled up to the doorway to peer around it, not wanting to make a giant target of himself silhouetted in the frame. Squinted but couldn't see much further inside, up to three or four feet. Ears strained to make out any noises but there was nothing beyond the distant scuttling that could be a rat or some small animal. With a nearly silent grunt, he slipped around the doorframe quickly and pressed his back to the wall just next to it, not caring what Ketch thought of his precautions; if he thought the Scot was crazy or being a little overzealous. Once inside, his eyes adjusted to the darker shadows and he could make out some things here and there. Garbage and debris littered the ground - things to trip over, things to make noise underfoot. Stealth would take effort. There were large wooden spools sitting forgotten against the far wall and lumps of fabric in between showed spots where people had bedded down though they were empty at the moment. Seemed empty, anyway. Papers and broken glass were everywhere and old chairs sat in random points rather than gathered around a central space. This lower level was empty as far as Fin could tell but he'd rely on Ketch's fancy super senses to confirm that.

In a place like West End, odds were an equal split on an empty building harboring transients or less savory individuals. Ketch usually assumed the worst, though there were no apparent signs of anything amiss as they approached the entrance. ?Laying in wait,? he echoed with a curl of a smile as Fin flattened himself against the wall, but he bit a comment back for the man?s extreme caution. Ketch stepped lightly inside and to the opposite edge of the door frame, going still to listen and wait for his eyes to adjust. Nothing, nope, not at the moment as far as he could tell. Eyes took in the detritus of the misplaced and left behind, the large wooden spools, shadows collected as thick as the layers of grime on the windows, paper and shards of glass. Given that the neon sign outside was gutted much as the inside, he was having a hard time figuring out what this building had been in its former life. Too small to be a factory. Maybe a storage facility? A poke against his back was revealed to be a light switch, and instead of flipping it, he followed the exposed housing to the ceiling, crunching glass underfoot as he trailed the wires to a breaker box on the opposite wall. He set his backpack gently to the floor and swung the door to the panel open, flicking his Zippo to life only to reveal a disaster inside. Wires snaking everywhere, tangled upon themselves, frayed at the ends, corroded in places. He thumped the panel closed with a disgusted grunt and then went still when a muffled thud sounded from beyond the back entrance. Motion; a body. No. Plural. Bodies. Just outside the door. A tremor ran down his forearms, stood the hairs on end. Not in fear, but with the rush of adrenaline. He cast a quick glance across the distance to Fin before stepping a half foot closer in the direction of the door. Still listening warily.

Fin might be overly cautious but he was still alive, wasn't he? Most likely by the grace of whatever deity existed, if any, but still. Principle and all that. Leaning against the wall, he was starting to relax because it didn't sound like anyone else was here - no movement that he could see, no noises coming from upstairs that he could pick out and was about to push off the wall when Ketch got all...curious. Really *** loud and nonchalant and curious like he was taking a stroll in the park rather than skulking around a dark building. Crunching glass and kicking a can and scuffing his feet along as if he were trying to make noise Fin scowled at him unseen because the other man was hunting for something and...Christ. Flicking his lighter to look at something. Why didn't he just go out into the street and shout that they were here? Asshole.

He considered throwing something at his friend when he heard a noise and froze. Exhaled slowly as his heart rate kicked up, energy flooding his limbs.
Scuffle. Footsteps. The ring of metal pinging and bouncing on concrete. A voice. Voices. Low and murmured and rough - male. Moving closer. Then there was the push of...something; not a door but something blocking the entry way on that side. Ketch was moving toward him and Fin slid a sidelong glance his way before fixing on the four figures that entered. Slowly, so slowly so as not to be noticed in the dark, Fin's free hand sought the hilt of his dirk at his side - he'd taken to carrying it with him all the time.

The figures were silhouetted against the door a moment so that Fin could count them, note their varying sizes - one large, two medium, one slight. Backlit, he couldn't see any of their faces but he thought one of the voices sounded...well, it nagged at him. Not familiar in that way but he thought he'd heard it before. That was filed away as he watched them move, how they carried themselves - relaxed. Hadn't seen the other pair of trespassers yet. They were talking amongst themselves, voices low and he couldn't hear the words at first, strained to make out anything familiar. They moved farther into the space, heading for the stairs to go up to the second floor. They were going to look for something? Talking about a man. A missing man, he thought. Up the stairs they went to do whatever it was they were going to do.

Fin, being the nosy Scot that he is, let out a slow breath and then glanced to Ketch and gestured his head in the direction of the stairs, arched a brow. Was he interested in playing spy?

The interlopers were certainly human not to have noticed the presence of Fin and Ketch standing there still among the shadows. Incautious bastards, and proud, too, it sounded like from the strains of conversation Ketch could hear. Probably used to having claim on this building and not expecting anyone else to breach such a clearly marked territory. They should have known better; too many kinds of dangerous in this city for any one of them to hold court for long. The next beast was always less than a misstep away.

Ketch counted them off one by one, fingers ticking soundlessly over his thigh in a litany of calculations characterized by assessments of size and proportion, distance between bodies, weak points and vulnerable positioning. The hairs along his forearm rose and the skin there twitched and shivered with a familiar collection of energy that crackled like static dispersed from the base of his spine. Air moved in and out of his lungs with hardly a sound, and he tracked the mens? passage with a predatorial glint in his eye. Sidled closer to Fin and this time his steps made only a whisper of sound, as if the rubber soles of his boots simply absorbed the broken glass and debris, read the question attached to the lifted brow and hitched one shoulder up in reply. Sure? Why not? said the motion.

Ketch looked down at the Scot?s feet and then pointedly over to the wall five feet beyond them where the sediment of garbage and glass wasn?t as thick. Moved in that direction and traced his passage with a fingertip running along a seam of concrete in the wall. All the way around with pauses here and there to slowly edge a piece of litter out of Fin?s path, because he was a noisy bastard, and then around to the base of the stairs the men had disappeared beyond. At that point, he inched back beneath the well and ceded the foreground to Fin, since he was the one itching to listen in on the riffraff.

It would be advantageous if all of the interlopers were human though there was no way Fin could confirm that in any respect, not like Ketch. Arrogant pricks seemed to be even more so at night when the darkness helped to inflate their egos to twice the normal size as if they owned the nighttime terrain. Hyper awareness settled in as his kidneys started to pump the excited hormones through his bloodstream, heart beating faster to speed the process. Waiting until Ketch moved closer, Fin followed his gesture to the path along the wall and nodded, waiting to follow along behind other. A half smile flicked over his mouth as he watched Ketch solicitously remove debris from the path and even though it was a very self serving act, he found humor in it nonetheless. A mad-cap sort that didn?t favor reason or logic in its existence, the sort that birthed the yawning grin found on Death?s skeletal face.

Along the wall like church mice they moved, silent but wary. Furtively did they creep up the stairs and Fin paused halfway up the second flight with a hand held in the air; motioning for Ketch to stop. At the top was an open doorway and he swore he saw a flash of light swing across it but it disappeared just as quickly. While they were still in the stairwell and still unseen, Fin pulled his dirk slowly and stealthily from its sheath, changing the grip on his flip knife so that the blade was pointed down, held back along the edge of his forearm. One step at a time he ascended, pausing at each one see if he could catch what they were talking about. At the edge of the doorway, he stopped again and peered around the side of it to get his spatial bearings. About ten feet from the door were the men though their configuration had changed. There was an old, dilapidated sofa on which three of the men sat - the large one, one of the medium ones and the small one, the latter?s head a small curve as the owner slumped in his seat to the far right. The fourth was standing at one of the broken windows, just off to the side so as not to create a shadow visible from the outside. All of them were facing away from the door, looking out over the streets. Seemed a common meeting place and the small group was relaxed. Their guard was down.

?We?re not gonna see anything,? said the man on the left end of the couch. He lifted a bottle and swigged it upward while the smallest one looked on in contempt. ?Don?t matter,? said the one at the window without turning around. ?Maybe we?ll see something else. If someone is coming into our neighborhood, we gotta know.? That could have pertained to anything, turf wars sparked every day in ways that were invisible to the general public, but Fin wondered if maybe he?d helped inspire it by covering their symbols when and where he could. Gave him a warm, fuzzy feeling. Unable to conveniently pull a throwing blade, Fin weighed his options quickly and then stole silently into the room, just beyond the door to the stairs while pausing here and there with a keen eye to the four men in front of him. All of his senses were trained on them, tuning himself to the most subtle of nuances in case he had to fight or flee from one breath to the next. Still he moved inexorably forward - right up to the back of the couch, ducking in a very low crouch behind it. The conversation carried on amongst the unwitting prey, light banter between them covering mundane subjects with none of them the wiser until the very last second. Fin slowly rose behind the back of the couch and the one on the far right, the smallest figure, spied him with mouth open and widened eyes just before Fin?s dirk sliced neatly and efficiently across the throat of the largest man. Then all hell broke loose.
“[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.”
~Jack Kerouac
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Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm

Joined: 12 Aug 2014
Posts: 299
See this user's pet
Can Be Found: at Iron Clad forge
18324.14 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ketch was slowly gathering bits of information, snippets of conversation here and there, but was mostly unaware of their purpose as they crept like thieves up the stairs. Apparently Fin just intrinsically trusted to Ketch to come to some sort of abstract conclusion regarding this sudden and nebulous plan and also to follow along with it. Bastard. Ketch watched with a growing incredulousness as Fin stole through the room without much warning and secreted himself behind the sofa. It was an unbelievably bold and unexpected move in Ketch?s eyes, for he?d only known the man to take similar initiative on the night they came upon the large man in the alleyway. Clearly there was more to both Fin and this situation than he?d given him credit for, and things started to fall into place.

He knew by the way Fin had situated his blades that he wasn?t intending to just listen in, and in preparation for the ensuing violence, Ketch immediately picked the man at the window as his target, since he was at a distance that would allow some calculation. If Fin was going to use shock value and surprise as his means to an end, then Ketch would assist by taking out the guy that might have those all-important seconds to actually come up with a half-decent retaliation plan?not to mention the potential of a gun from that distance. Thus, Ketch was poised crouched in the doorframe when Fin made his first move. Employing the rarely-used, but fairly magnificent gift of speed, he was upon the window lurker just as the man reached back into his waistband, and it was a handy position for the way it allowed Ketch to pin the man?s arms with his own body weight and seal their bodies together with the crook of his arm, hand cupped towards the man?s chin. The other hand settled swiftly atop the man?s head and Ketch was so charged with adrenaline that when he broke the man?s neck with a brutal upward twist, the man?s head continued to swivel in an unnatural arc that pleated the skin of his neck grotesquely. It was a quiet and clean kill, and something about that satisfied him.

Ketch felt around the man?s waistband, expecting to find a gun, and gave a humored snort when he found a taser, instead. Though he didn?t discount it entirely since there were some tell-tale marks suggesting it?d been modified. Something to experiment with later, maybe, since there was not enough time to properly assess it at the moment given the amount of grunting and general sounds of struggle coming from the couch where he could see Fin embroiled with the other two men. Sometimes decisions were easy, and Ketch went sailing into the fray, careless of any flying blades as he grappled for a hold among the soup of flailing limbs.

When the petite face looked at him with shock, Fin finally recognized him from the dim ambient lighting from the broken windows - it was the teenager from the alleyway, the one that witnessed Fin?s beating back in December. The one that kept trying to recruit little Laric. Though he hadn?t been completely certain before, he now knew that whatever happened tonight, his conscience wouldn?t suffer a single pang of guilt. There were no innocents in this room.

It was the gurgle of blood, a wet attempt at breath through a severed windpipe as lungs spasmed, a useless flailing of hands upward toward the source of sudden pain, that gave away Fin?s presence but by that time, he had abandoned the idea of stealth. The man in the middle of the couch gave a cry and a loud curse, not wasting a moment in twisting to meet the threat head on. Something smashed into Fin?s face and he felt a crunch as his nose was broken, seeing stars as warmth flooded over his mouth in the form of blood but he only fell back a step, trying to shake it off. Rising to his feet, his saw the teen had climbed over the back of the couch in a flurry of coltish limbs, was coming at the Scot low and fast to bowl him over. With a bony shoulder planted in his gut, Fin let his legs buckle and moved with the other body to help lessen the force of the blow, rolling them over bottles and garbage that dug into his back though he didn?t feel it in the moment. They struggled against each other, grunting and cursing and threatening. Ending up on top, Fin pinned the youth with the weight of his body, the sticky wet blade of his dirk pressed to the lad?s throat. The teen struggled and flailed underneath him, trying to gain some leverage but his body went slack when he felt the hard steel edge resting firmly against his Adam?s apple. Noises were heard from beyond the other side of the time-worn furniture but Fin didn?t look over, confident that either Ketch would prevail or Fin would be attacked in a few seconds from behind. Wouldn?t be a guessing game for much longer. Panting for breath through his mouth, face aching sharply, narrowed blue eyes were kept trained on the boy, honestly debating whether or not he should be allowed to live.

Ketch?s wild, scrabbling launch earned him an elbow to the mouth and sharp, searing pain to his right side as he knocked the last man back onto the couch from where he?d begun to risen up to clamber over the back. Dead weight of the middle man sagged forward onto Ketch, and he writhed against it, fists pummeling against the one still alive in rapid succession that had him hitting soft tissue and bony mass alike while he felt his knuckles swell and rend in places. He wasn?t precise with it at the moment; the intent was merely to flood the other man with such an onslaught of action that he?d either get overwhelmed or stop lashing out and start trying to protect himself, and Ketch suffered in return for it, too: another sloppy hook smeared against jaw, and another flailing tear of serrated knife blade across his shoulder, but they were too tangled now for the other man to really use it effectively, and Ketch?s knee finally found purchase against the dead man?s inner thigh and he grasped the other by shoulder and ear to haul himself from beneath the body to loom over the other man before careening his weight suddenly to one side in order to throw them both off the couch. Ketch wasn?t operating with any sense of fury; there wasn?t indignation or a keen sense of justice motivating him, rather it was a sense of loyalty that tapped into the rage always kept so quietly, so carefully checked to a low simmering undercurrent in his blood.

When the duo thudded to the floor, Ketch took advantage of the other man?s sudden disorientation to roll them once more so that he was atop the other man. He reared up and gave the man enough room to graze him lightly against the other shoulder with the blade before he could swat it away with an open hand. The knife went clattering off to the side and when the man twisted after it Ketch shoved him the rest of the way over onto his stomach and planted himself at his lower back. Grabbed up a fistful of hair and slammed the man?s face to the ground. Found the crunch of the man?s nose so damn satisfying that he decided to stick with the method and did so doggedly and in spite of the hands that tore against his jeans, the hips that bucked trying to unsettle him. Thump after thump came in sick, wet percussion upon the ground until Ketch no longer felt the man?s chest rise beneath him or the squelch of breath through shattered nose and broken teeth. He released the man heavily, sat back on his heels, and waited a moment to make sure, testing the depth of the cut to his shoulder with the prod of an index finger, and then another prod against the bloom of red spreading across his left side, sense mostly dulled by adrenaline so that he felt little at the moment. At last, palms to knees, he stood, swayed once, and then started behind the couch where he assumed Fin and the fourth man were.

Fin heard the impacts of bone hitting flesh, that meaty thud that didn't quite echo as the sound was absorbed by skin and muscle. Unmistakable noise of flesh giving way to blood and sinew beneath, grunts and forcibly expelled breaths and the general sounds of two men grappling for their lives. But he didn't dare turn around or take his attention off the teenager he had pinned underneath him. The lad struggled when he could, always attempting to throw the Scot off of him, arms straining underneath the weight of the blacksmith who forcibly held them in place with one hand while a knee dug into the boy's thigh. Fin applied weight to watch the boy wince and make a noise, face scrunched up to show pain and his unwillingness to give into it.

Still debating whether or not to end the boy's life, Fin was waiting to gauge the winner of the fight going on behind him. It wasn't wise to have put himself in a position with his back to the majority of the room but he had to work with what he had right now, even if the spot between his shoulder blades was itching like crazy. There was confidence in Ketch's ability to defend himself but the other man, the stranger, was an unknown variable and those could never be predicted. Adrenal cocktail coursed through his veins, pupils dilated and wide as he took in every subtle detail of the lad's face underneath him. Thoughts raced while his attention was split - listening keenly to the fight behind him, flinching when the weapon clattered across the floor, leaning his knee into the boy's thigh reflexively though he didn't regret it. Little *** deserved everything that was coming to him for walking this path. The sound of meat hitting a hard surface over and over made him tense, the keen edge of his blade nicking flesh and slicing into it less than a millimeter but it was enough to draw a thin bead of blood, make the boy's eyes widen and his body freeze underneath Fin. A tiny sliver of satisfaction winnowed its way through him to see that reaction and he smiled slowly, whispering sinister promises in Gaelic.

The crunching of bone and squish of meat against the floor finally stopped and then there was just ragged breathing and the pound of Fin's heart in his ears, the rush of blood that he could actually hear racing through his veins and the baited, thread breath of the teenager. Footsteps that came around the couch until Fin angled his face slightly to put them in his periphery, knuckles whitening on the handle of his dirk. Anticipation was not something to be enjoyed in a situation like this but the gait and movement of the figure coming his way was instantly recognized without conscious thought - Ketch. Muscles loosened incrementally and slowly, slowly Fin eased back but kept the blade to the boy's throat. "Alrigh'?" he murmured, not sparing a glance for his friend. Not yet. "Best call Nat," considering the bodies laying around, too many to hide or get rid of inconspicuously. "I will pay."

?Fine,? came the measured reply from somewhere just beyond Fin?s right shoulder as Ketch looked down assessingly at his friend, the stricken teen beneath him, and the swell of blood that jumped with the boy?s pulse beneath Fin?s dirk. It wasn?t an entirely honest answer, but neither was it dishonest. Fine simply meant survivable in this situation. ?What?s the plan for that one?? he asked as he searched his pockets for his phone. Turned up empty, so Ketch spun about to stalk the room, hunting for it among the debris and bodies until he found the corner of it protruding just beyond the base of the couch. Giving it an unnecessary shake, he thumbed the screen to life and let his finger hover over the contacts while looking back over to Fin for his answer. There?d been only curiosity in Ketch?s tone when he asked the question, even if he didn?t particularly like leaving loose ends himself. And though he was now party by necessity to this foray into violence, the boy?s fate was left entirely to Fin?s discretion?whatever it might be, the way Ketch stood there cool and calm said he was outwardly amenable to either. There was no reflection of his internal thoughts in outward expression. ?Call Nat, sure, or burn it down if you?ve got it in mind to send a message.? He looked around the refuse-strewn room, the rotting couch. It wouldn?t be a very difficult task, all things considered. A loose shrug of his shoulders as he opened a text to Nat.

What to do with the lad. That was the question of the hour, wasn?t it? Something had held Fin back from outright killing him as he had the others, some little whisper that floated from the back of his mind where instinct and intellect oft warred with each other without him ever realizing it. This one was instinct, or maybe it was born of relatability - seeing something of himself in this lad, some spark or tiny sliver of hope that said the boy didn?t have to end up the same way. That he could leave behind this stupid and senseless life of violence and soullessness and make something better of himself. But first...Fin had to make him want it.

Eyes widened when the lad realized that all of his compatriots were dead and he was left here with two men - one that had beef with him and one that was completely unknown. Fin could feel his heart rate pick up, could feel it thud softly against the blade he held near the pulse point. That blade was turned so that the flat of it was against the warm skin, smearing the few drops of blood that had oozed out slowly. Cool metal dragged up the curve of the boy?s jaw and along his cheek until it rested just at the corner of his eye, the reflexive blinking and flinching caused by the way Fin let steel mingle with delicate eyelashes. ?Shall I take his eyes so he canno? point us out?? spoken with nothing more than idle curiosity. ?Or just his tongue so he canno? speak of us?? The boy?s chest was thudding quickly under the Scot?s hand though he tried not to show it - failed miserably but he tried. Had to give him points for that. Fin looked down at the boy with a fierce expression, baring his teeth. ?If ye stay on this path...tha? will be yer end. Killed in a piss filled alleyway, forgotten, none to mourn ye, fightin? a battle that is no? yer own. Ye want to die for someone else? Ye want me to end yer miserable life righ? now?? asking as the point of the knife was angled against his temple. The boy quaked and whispered no pathetically, predictably, while Fin vacillated. Uncertain of the consequences of either path, he had to listen to his instincts which were telling him to choose life and be the factor of mercy rather than vengeance. ?I am goin? to do ye the biggest favor tha? anyone has ever done for ye an? I no? be certain if ye will even know it for wha? it be. Ye will no doubt waste it an? I shall be sorry for it later but I can do naugh? else. I am goin? to let ye live in exchange for a promise tha? ye flee this place. Go anywhere else, be anyone else, ***? do somethin? wit? yer life tha? does no? hurt others. Can? ye do tha??? The boy nodded vehemently, eyes wide. Again, it was predictable because who wouldn?t agree with anything when being offered another chance at life? It it was the stupid thing to do but also the right thing to do and try as he might, Fin just couldn?t justify taking this life, not in a way that he could live with.

?If I find tha? ye went back on this deal, tha? ye broke yer promise?? Bending low, the rest of the threat was carried out in a whisper for the boy?s ears only, his eyes growing wider and wider. ?Now, so tha? ye do no? forget or think I will no? carry through?? With a vicious smile, the edge of the dirk sliced a clean line from the boy?s temple down to his jawline first on one side and then the other; a reminder, a threat and a promise all in one. The boy struggled but Fin paused and dug the blade in deeper, eventually kneeling on both arms until he was finished. While blood beaded and slid, the hilt of his dirk was slammed into the side of the boy?s head and he was left there unconscious for the time, the Scot finally rising to his feet. ?I think it would be a message if we left them here, did nothin?. Burnin?...migh? be best.? If Ketch didn?t feel like calling Nat, that was fine, he could keep his memories for another day. With a quick glance around, Fin moved to start sliding the bodies toward the couch, making a larger source for the flames.

Fin?s question was mostly rhetorical, but Ketch played along and threw his two cents in anyway, though it was clear to him that the Scot had already decided on a course of action otherwise. ?Both,? he said, as if it was obvious. Ketch hauled the floppy-necked body of the fourth man by the window closer to the couch and angled the body that was already there alongside a wooden chair with a broken leg. The careful positioning would ensure the fire was kept stoked to spread once the outer layers of skin split and exposed enough body fat to make the men the equivalent of 8-hour candles. He moved steadily, method and purpose in every motion, in the way he laid out the bodies, bent to examine the floor beneath them, the couch--which he took the dead man?s knife to, slicing open the length of it so that the yellow, rot-dried foam stuffing belched out and became further tinder for the flames.

His shoulders began to sting and tingle, nerve endings waking up from their adrenalin-induced slumber and sending reminders streaking the length of his arms and back. One last thing remained. Ketch moved out of the room and back to the stairwell where he?d left his backpack, rummaging through it until he found the lighter fluid. He made a slow trip back to the room, topping off his gifted zippo before emptying the bottle in loose shakes over the couch and surrounding area.

Crouching before the unconscious boy again, he studied Fin?s handiwork tracking down the side of the boy?s face with lips pressed tightly together, and then handed over his lighter to the Scot as he laid the flat of his palm against the boy?s head, dipped his chin and fixed on a far wall when the static flooded him, speaking in a low near-monotone, ?It?s all set up. Go ahead and set it off if you?re ready. What do you want to do with this one?? Considering his current state, Ketch assumed one of them would be tasked with carrying the boy.

After making sure the lad was thoroughly unconscious, Fin helped drag the other two bodies closer to the couch, arranging them however he was told and helping in any way he could. Silently, as stealthily as he could. It wasn?t that he was afraid of anyone coming upon them - rather, there wasn?t anything much to say. The deed was done and they were both working toward a quick solution as a seamless team. Hand-warmed metal was pressed into his palm and Fin knew what it was without looking - how many times had he used the thing to light a smoke? Now it would aid in erasing tracks, erasing lives that were spent in sliced piles of meat that weren?t even good enough to fill the belly of some beast.

Speaking of set up...his broken nose was now throbbing fiercely, making the entire front of his head ache with each heartbeat and it would only get worse if he never got it looked at. ?Eh, while I be thinkin? on know how to straighten this?? gesturing loosely to his face. Ketch had been in fights spontaneous and planned, surely he could set a broken nose by now? Wasn?t that just part of the territory? ?The boy comes wit? us. For now. Later, dump him,? the Scot had a good idea where. Just wanted to make sure he wasn?t consumed in the blaze. ?Migh? want to muzzle him,? in case he woke while being transported. Turning back for a last look at the three dead bodies slowly oozing blood, Fin really weighed what just took place but couldn?t muster up anything more than a general relief that he was alive and they were dead. Wastes of life, wastes in death. Good riddance. Spitting out a heavy mixture of saliva and blood onto the floor near the one responsible for his busted face, a smoke was pulled from the case in his back pocket and lit. Took three good drags on it before he lifted the live flame to it again, waiting for the paper to catch before tossing it onto the rent sofa. Made sure it caught before heading for the door and down the stairs.

Once on the ground floor, Fin took over the burden of the lad?s body onto his own shoulder where the unconscious teenager hung limply. ?Think it best we go out the back, aye?? where the four figures initially entered. Maybe even part ways once they were in the alley, before the flames really took over the building and drew attention.

?Yeah, I can set it, but outside, ? Ketch offered while pulling off his hoodie. Beneath it he sported one of his plaid shirts, this a lighter cotton weave rather than a winter flannel. He tugged it over his head and tore one sleeve off, then the other. The first was tied in a knot which was then knotted in the middle of the other. Impromptu ball gag in hand, Ketch crouched beside the unconscious teen and fit it around his head, one more knot at the back of his head to secure it. Rising again, he surveyed the bodies, both dead and unconscious and then Fin. Unlike the Scot, he felt no sense of relief. Whether it was coping mechanism or simply the numbness that came from overexposure to this kind of aftermath, Ketch felt nothing whatsoever beyond a desire to press on and maybe find a drink somewhere once all was said and done.

He, too, waited to make sure the couch caught, and once a lick of flame showed over the back, he turned, threw unconscious boy?s body over his shoulder and descended the stairs before setting it down since Fin looked like he was ready to take over and had a plan in mind. He drifted ahead to hold the back door open for the Scot and his burden and it was only once they were outside that he verbalized a minor grievance, ?Maybe a little warning next time before you jump into the thick of things, yeah??

“[He] scares me because he has been the most miserable of all men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there's such a thing as love.”
~Jack Kerouac
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