Shinji stepped around the corner, all casual like and pretty as you please, and came up short. His brows lifted, and he beamed. “Kon bon wa, there, buddy! Been a few hours, hasn’t it?” he asked cheerfully, gaze darting to the unconscious woman. “Aahh, mononoke-san. You found my friend, too. How lucky for me.”
“–and your favourite window jumper is here too,” Svorak continued after a blink. He lifted his finger from the button and watched the male in front of him as his partner started to rant on the line.
“Not my favourite–How are there jobs out there that I don’t know of?!”
Shinji eyed the male before him up and down, then the woman again. Her finger twitched. His smile slipped slightly. “Oh dear.” Then he looked up at the male, mind racing, and smiled more. It was forced this time. “Mind if I get my friend there? Probably shouldn’t wait till she wakes, though.”
Pushing his finger back against the button, Svorak muttered, “Shut it,” and Christoph subsided, listening. Stepping to the side carefully, he backed away from both the soaked female and the grinning human bouncing ball. He gestured at the woman. “Your friend. Go for it.”
Shinji nodded. “Much obliged!” he chirped, and took a step.
Her finger twitched again.
Another step, his fingers brushing the weapon under his coat. A third step, and she inhaled softly. A fourth, and he was standing over her, and she exhaled.
Shinji stiffened, freezing in place. She slowly got to her knees, staring up at the man, and grabbed the fallen knife from the carpet. But she swayed. “Shit.”
Shinji abruptly jerked back and stumbled, making a noise that was somewhere between a grunt and a whimper. “Shimatta!” he hissed. “Mononoke.”
“Oh shut the fuck up,” she snarled, leaning against the wall. Her head turned, and she blinked up at Svorak, who was just sort of standing there. “… really?” It was actually more to herself than either of the males in the immediate area.
Svorak just shrugged. “Shit happens,” he sympathized. He tilted his head at Shinji who wasn’t looking happy. “I have dinner plans. And this mess isn’t changing it.”
The woman’s eyes darted from Shinji to Svorak, her safety the first thing in her head. Shinji, who would probably torture her and expose her, or turn her into that bastard that was hunting her (which was worse, believe it or not). Or Svorak. Who didn’t care.
“Sorry about the mess,” she replied, to Svorak. “Some men just don’t know how to take no for an answer.”
Svorak’s eyebrows rose. She was polite and collected for someone he pegged as the impassioned murderer. Maybe there was some hope for her yet.
“I,” he said clearly and calmly, “am going to walk the long way to my place. You two can hash things out. Preferably outside. Sound good?”
She smiled at him and staggered to her feet. “Well… no,” she admitted, her free hand automatically patting her pocket for cigarettes. Then she remembered that she was out… “Damn. You don’t happen to have a smoke, do you?” she asked distractedly. Then, “No, not important. You have a vacation to get back to, after all, huh?”
“Obvious huh?” And he thought of Christoph’s reaction to… Slipping one hand into a pocket, and pausing as the guy down the hall moved slightly, Svorak drew out a small pack of smokes. Christoph had wanted to experiment with inhalers. These would have been the precious guinea pigs. Lucky for everyone involved here, he had just been out to buy them and they were still untouched.
Shaking out two, he tossed them over to the woman.
“Cheers.” He smiled and counted down the seconds as he shoved the pack back into one of many pockets of his black cargos.
“Svorak… were those my smokes? Did you just give that bloody woman my experiment material?”
“Thanks,” she said, catching them one-handed, and tucking one behind her ear. Shinji moved, then yelped and dove behind the corner. The steak knife thunked into the wall. “Missed,” she muttered, lighting up. “Tell your friend I’ll pay him back, eh?”
Damn, that woman has some fine ears. Waving a hand, Svorak shook his head. “Don’t bother. He won’t wait that long.” No, the blond would probably take it out of his hide later, but that was alright. The reaction was worth it.
He watched as she swayed slightly on trembling legs, then glanced over at the young man peering around the corner. “Is he really going to give you trouble?”
“Oh, definitely,” she replied, inhaling the smoke. She exhaled and smiled ruefully. “Though I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to play with him for a little while. Sometimes it’s best to play with little boys. They get cranky otherwise…” She turned a smile on Svorak. “The name’s Arana, by the way. Arana Bella.”
One brow raised, Svorak looked at her and actually considered her. “Svorak.” They didn’t have last names anymore.
Another drag preceded her reply. “Nice to meet you.” She exhaled. “You know, if you shoot me, I will turn you into a toad.”
Shinji actually paused to consider that, glaring at her around the corner. Could she do that? His finger brushed the length of the gun. And how had she done–no, never mind, he was right. She might be some kind of demon. That must be it.
Arana sighed. “Well, if you don’t wanna get involved, kiddo, I suggest you hurry on to your room,” she said to Svorak. “Because I need to… hm. Play.”
Toad? Kiddo? The merc blinked, and then blinked again. Mystic. Ahh. “Well, watch the smoke detectors.” He nodded again, this time to a standing and conscious woman, then turned for a perpendicular hallway.
She smiled. “Will do, kiddo.” She turned towards Shinji, fingers pressed to the wall to keep her from falling over. “This is gonna suck…” Her bare foot slipped slightly on the carpet, and she stumbled, grimacing.
Shinji jerked back reflexively, finger moving from the trigger, then sighed. He was not getting paid nearly enough for this shit. Not at all. In fact… “You know what, fuck this shit,” he muttered. “See ya later, mononoke-san!” Demon and money, life and no money. Easy math.
Arana blinked, pausing. Oh come on. She’d been pretending to still be a weak, easy target for fuck’s sake! “Oy!” She darted to the end of the hall, stumbling a bit (or maybe not pretending so much…) and jerked around, watching the elevator doors close. She gaped after him. Was this for real? Had she finally met an intelligent hitman?
She sank to her knees, leaning against the wall, and just stared. What. The. Hell.
Back at the bend of the hall, Svorak leaned against the wall watching the mystic sag to the floor.
“You know, I got ice cream,” he offered, “and my dinner date is currently very grumpy with the world.”
She blinked, and turned her head, staring at him. Then she looked down at herself, covered in blood… “Gotta shower too?”
“Should be fine as long as you don’t judge me by Blondie’s shampoo,” he replied. “Any way you can not leave a DNA trail to my suite?”
Her mouth twisted thoughtfully. “That reminds me.” She stood and walked back to the open apartment, using the wall to stay on her feet. She tugged open the door, and picked up a pair of lime green shoes just inside. And put them on, careful not to put them in the blood. “There.” She closed the door. “Erm… Well, that was embarrassing…”
Again, Svorak lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “Christoph, we’re having a guest,” he spoke softly, pressing on the button. “Put some clothes on, please.”
The merc rolled his eyes, and held out an arm for the lady. For once it wasn’t just for appearance’s sake.
She actually gave him a sincere smile. The gesture brought back fond memories. And took his arm. “Christoph… What a fascinating name,” she murmured thoughtfully.
Coughing a little to cover the sudden laugh, he grinned. “Keep that happy thought,” he advised her, “because very soon ‘fascinating’ is going to turn to ‘aggravating’.” So saying, he adjusted his elbow to better support her and started off on the short route to his suite. “One good thing though, if you say “No” I’ll be able to back that.” He grinned a little wider. It was fun tussling with the blond.
“Good thing,” she replied dryly, as they stopped in front of the door. She shifted slightly, glad she was wearing black, but relaxed when she realized the camera on the wall was just shy of picking her up at this angle.
Humming a random tune, Svorak swiped the card through the reader and the door popped ajar. Pushing it open, he held up a finger for her to wait a second.
“Goldie, you decent?”
There was a snicker right behind the door. “Never,” an amused voice answered. “But, presentable.” The door was swung open, revealing a tall blond man wearing bright orange board shorts and a sky blue Hawaiian shirt.
Svorak groaned. “What the hell are you wearing?”
Arana’s brows lifted, and her eyes flicked up, down and met the blond’s gaze. She smirked. “Making a statement?” she queried.
“It’s a rare opportunity,” he grinned back at her. Taking a step to the side, he swept a hand out in a gallant gesture. “The shower is this way.”
Snorting, Svorak gestured between the blond and the woman. “Christoph, Arana. Arana, Christoph.”
She gave a careful curtsey, before stepping inside so Svorak could close the door. “Pleasure to meet you, Christoph.”
The tall cheerful man nodded. “Though, I do have a question. What are we going to do about clothing?”
Svorak blinked. Right. He glanced down and caught Arana’s amused expression. “Did you have an exit plan for today? A pack somewhere?”
“Nope,” she replied. “Actually, never do… Was just gonna go back out the way I came.”
The two males exchanged amused looks. “That is an exit strategy,” Christoph agreed. “I do have a few shirts that would probably hit you at the knees. I have shorts obviously,” he paused at his partner’s grunt, “or you can use his.”
She smiled at the offer, ignoring the teasing. “Whichever works. Thank you for your kindness, and sorry for the trouble.” She glanced over his shoulder. “Now… the shower…”
The blond flashed her a brilliant grin and lead the way to the washroom. Svorak left his shoes at the foyer and tucked the food away, leaving the carton of smokes out on the table. Then he went back to the entrance with a few cloths and a bottle of ammonia.
It was going to be an interesting vacation.