Tres watched her make the last symbol, and then jerked around as the door to his right – one of two into the room – was jerked open.
A man stumbled in, pale-faced. “It’s fucking over,” he stammered in Russian, and collapsed, a dart in his back.
Arana just blinked at him, even as a masked figure stepped into the doorway. “Give it up,” he drawled. “We’ve got you surrounded, and your friends are dead.”
The other door opened, and another masked figure stood there, gun aimed at them.
Arana tilted her head. There wasn’t one sign of recognition. Dari cursed. “Kitty!”
“Duratus,” she replied, voice an echoing boom around the room.
Dari had ducked out just in time, and the spell lost contact. Wolf, at the other door, wasn’t so lucky. He’d been frozen stiff in place.
“Main hub, contact made.” Sheltered behind a door, Svorak hissed into the mic. “She’s not happy.”
“Kitty, it’s me!” Dari yelled into the room. “Me and your boys!”
She blinked slowly. “Boys?” she mumbled. “Kiddos…”
“That’s right, your boys,” Dari said, gritting his teeth. “Are you okay?”
“I told you not to follow me,” she deadpanned, face expressionless.
Dari’s gaze darted toward Svorak, whom was a few feet away. He swallowed, and peeked into the room. “Can’t we talk? You know, without the threat of you turning me into chicken fodder hanging over my head?”
She blinked again. “I won’t hurt you, Dari. But you need to leave.”
“Won’t hurt him?” Tres hissed, paling.
“Then let Wolf go!” Dari ordered. “He’s just a kid, Kitty.”
She turned her head, spying the frozen youth in the other doorway. “Oh. Sorry, kiddo.” Her spell snapped off, and she turned once Wolf was released, and took a step as if to go toward Dari.
But Tres, now in full on panic, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her backwards, toward the opposite wall where he could keep both doors in sight. “Come any closer and I’ll fucking cut her open!” he yelled, jerking her knife away. He put it to her throat. “Leave!”
To the side, Ruby stepped in next to Wolf, red eyes narrowed and lips thin. Wolf himself looked a little shaken, but still standing firm. Svorak shook his head slightly, swearing under his breath. “Goldie. All accounted for. Tres has Lady at knife point. Tres is the last of the opposition.”
There was a growl over the radio. “Tiger, take command. You’ve got the better eyes.”
“Roger,” the merc acknowledged and stepped out into the room. “Scorpio take a step back, please. Ruby, Wolf,” blue eyes took in the counters and the tables around them, “ghost.” The two mercs at the other door nodded and slipped back several steps.
Then Svorak turned his attention on the main attraction. “Tres, we only want her.”
Tres snorted. “You think I’m fucking stupid? I’m not getting out alive at this point, asshole,” he snapped. “Less I gotta little leverage, that is…”
Arana’s face was blank, and she said nothing. Secretly, she was hoping he never got around to cutting her. That would mean her secret was out, and that could not happen.
Ruby stepped back further while Wolf stayed still. She back up further up the hall and dropped into a side passage, unslinging the small pack she had on her back and ripping into it, pulling out slim parts and snapping them together. The sniper would only need a few seconds.
Svorak tilted his head, hands clearly at his sides, fingers spread, palms out. “And she is leverage,” he said quietly. “But she is also our target. You can walk your way out, if she’s left alive.” Christoph would whine, but Arana alive was worth one black spot on their record.
Tres laughed softly. “Your target?” He smiled. “Funny. How ‘bout we do something a little different, jackass. You get your monkeys to back off, I leave with the witch, and I’ll leave her alive in the parking lot. Then you can do whatever the fuck you please with her. Get it?”
Svorak shrugged. “Sure.”
Down the hall, Ruby narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. Wolf turned his back on the situation and jogged up the hall towards her, nodding as she fell into step with him. “This is the shittiest job I’ve ever had to run around for,” he muttered as they made their way to Christoph’s location.
She shrugged. “You rigged the cars?”
Grey eyes rolled as they stepped over the front entrance guards. “Of course.”
Tres eyed them, but backed towards the now empty door. Arana stepped with him, expression closed. He stopped at the door, glancing out to find the hall apparently empty. Then he looked at the men in the room. “You really shouldn’t fucking cross me,” he snarled, and drew the blade across her throat before taking off.
“Arana!” Dari yelled, paling, and dashed past Svorak toward his partner.
“Blondie! Lady is down! Tres fled. Medic to me now!” The merc barked into the mic as he ripped open a side pocket for gauze.
“FUCK!” Christoph stabbed down on several channels. “Ruby, Wolf, Tres is fleeing. I want eyes on him now!” Surging up from the cover on the side road, the tall blond stalked towards the East entrance of the complex, one hand reaching down to the dart gun holstered at his thigh.
Svorak gazed down into dark eyes as the woman they had been tracking tried to gasp past the hot liquid flooding her throat. “Shit, shit, shit…” The blood poured out from between his fingers, the gauze making not a difference.
Her fingers were lifted, as if reaching out for someone, something, and Dari grabbed her hand. “Arana…” The wound was fatal. He knew it was fatal. And Svorak had to know too. This wasn’t good. This was so very Not Good.
Her hand went limp as she lost consciousness, eyes rolling back into her head.
“Dammit! Doc get your ass over here!” Svorak grabbed her other wrist, feeling for a pulse.
But even as the stocky man pounded into the room, her pulse fluttered, slowed, and then faded. Svorak closed his eyes and barely felt it as Medic shoved him to the side. He staggered back to lean against the closest wall.
When he opened his eyes, the other man was shaking his head. ‘Her throat is slit. What did you expect?’ Medic’s brown eyes said.
“Fuck.” The merc thumbed the mic. “Lady is gone.”
“Lady is gone.”
Christoph’s world lost focus.
“Tres spotted. East gate.” Ruby’s voice cut through the haze and threw his surrounding into sharp relief.
And Wolf narrowed it down to a hard monochrome point. “Baba, he’s coming straight towards you. Coming out of the gate… Now.”
The chemist didn’t bother to hide, to smirk, to speak. Tres emerged from the doorway exactly as foretold and stalled on the threshold eyes widening.
It was a simple matter of raising his arm. He barely needed to think about aiming at twenty feet. The dart took Tres in the throat.
Christoph holstered the gun as he walked over to the shivering man. In four seconds, three, two, and there he goes. Flat honey-brown eyes watched as Tres began to convulse.
Six seconds after that, the blond leaned over and touched the dead man’s pulse point. And that’s that.
“Tres is gone. Svorak, we’re collecting at Lady’s location.” The chemist closed his eyes for a moment. God-fucking dammit.
Dari watched her face, his own expressionless. He didn’t bother timing it. Apparently, it varied. Dammit, wish I could move her! But there would be no point, right? No point in–
And then a pale, slim hand snapped up, fingers grabbing Medic’s wrist (the closest) as she sucked in a strangled breath. She bared her teeth, furious, tears of frustration springing up as the wound on her throat sealed itself slowly. Dari showed no surprise, but Medic looked like he was about to fall over in shock.
“FUCKING HELL!” she screeched as soon as she was able.
“Damn,” the Arab whispered, as her secret was revealed. “Welcome back, Kitty.”
“Shit…” Medic breathed out, grabbing her wrist in turn. “You have a fucking pulse.”
A few steps away, Svorak collapsed in a heap of Kevlar and matte-black gear, blue eyes wide. It took several tries, but he pressed cold fingers to the mic. “Belay that last order. Baba, come alone.”
He got two sharp “Rogers” and a flat “Tiger?” but he didn’t elaborate. How would he elaborate this? And what was this?
‘This’ was a dead Arana swearing a blue streak while Medic was trying to understand a scientific miracle. The wound was gone. She obviously had blood in her, as red as her face was. Her brain functions were working just dandy; she was speaking and gesturing–profusely–in perfect coordination.
“Arana?” he called, seeing but not understanding.
Dari was rubbing a hand over his eyes in a resigned manner, even as she went perfectly still. The brunette sat up slowly, knocking Medic’s hands away. She turned around, and blinked at Svorak. “Um… I’m in trouble, huh?” she asked weakly.
The tall Arab groaned.
The merc stared at her. “Trouble?” he repeated blankly. “How is this trouble? You’re alive. That’s…”
“That’s insane,” Medic completed for him, near vibrating with the need to know. “How is this possible?”
Svorak had a bare moment to twist around, and then Christoph was frozen at the doorway on the far side of the room.
“Lady?” the blond blinked, frowned. “But…” the tall man turned to glare at the merc on the floor. “You said that she was gone!” There was a whole wealth of emotion in that one statement.
“Aah…” Svorak opened his mouth, and then snapped it shut when nothing useful came out. “She… was,” he finally uttered softly.
Christoph shook his head and looked at the woman on the floor between Medic and Scorpio. And he saw the blood. On her. On the floor. On Svorak’s hands and on Medic’s. But there was no wound. “Lady?” he repeated, sounding completely lost.
Her whole expression crumbled at the look on his face, and she stumbled to her feet, almost falling over but righting herself. “Chr- I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to know,” she murmured, heartbroken. “I didn’t… I couldn’t… Dari found out… But I didn’t… I didn’t want you two… you to know.” She stopped, halfway between Chris and where she’d been. Eyes slipped closed. “Remember when I was nailed to that wall? You said I’d almost died, that it was a fluke you got there before I did… I was there for a week and a half. I died four times, before you found me.”
Dari looked up, eyes wide, and then they narrowed furiously. She hadn’t mentioned that.
“And… Those burns… They were on my chest too. Killed me.” She shook her head. “When we met? Shinigami’d shot me right in the head. Freaked out and jumped out a window after I stood back up.” She took a step toward the blond, then stopped and slipped to her knees. “I didn’t want you to know… You shouldn’t know…”
The chemist swayed a little where he stood. His partner’s position by the wall made complete sense now. In the past few minutes, the world just couldn’t decide how it wanted to be.
“You died?” Those words didn’t match with reality. She was right there. Breathing, talking, emotional and stuttering. Bringing one hand up to his eyes, Christoph took a moment to empty his mind. “Tiger?”
There was a grunt, and then, “Yeah?”
The tall man dropped his hand and turned his head to lock eyes with his lover. “Swear?” he asked.
Blue eyes blinked, and Svorak sighed. “Swear. Holy shit.”
Staggering a little on numb limbs, Christoph knelt in front of Arana. He brought up one gloved finger and traced her cheek. “You’re alive,” he said, eyes searching and memorizing her features.
“Medic,” Svorak’s voice snapped out. “Shut up and sit down.”
Medic sat down.
Arana nodded slowly. “Yes. Forever, and ever, and ever,” she said. The dam broke, and she lowered her chin, hair falling over her face to hide the silent tears that fell down her face.
“Oh, fucking Christ,” he murmured. “No, don’t cry.” Long arms wrapped around her and drew her close and rocked. “God, woman. You’ve already got us whipped. What more do you want?”
“Whiskey, for a start,” she muttered, laughing hoarsely, and hugged him back tightly. She was trembling slightly, despite her bravado.
Dari coughed. “Well, um… We should… probably move the party to another location. That isn’t criminally indicative. And covered with her blood.” He paused, glancing off to the side. “And some random dead guy.”
Off by the wall, Svorak sighed and heaved himself to his feet. Medic also rising a bare moment later, a large white bottle clutched in one hand and his kit stowed on his back.
“Man’s got a point,” Svorak muttered, then thumbed the mic. “Lady is up and moving. Call it a medical miracle. Regroup at base.”
Medic rolled his eyes, already falling back into his usual role. “Folks may want to move away from the blood, I need to clean up.”
“Don’t bother,” Svorak told him. “We’re leveling the place.”
“Call it professional pride,” Medic snarled back, upending the bottle of chemicals over the spread of red.
“Okay… Let’s not aggravate the medic, please,” Christoph murmured as he straightened up with Arana still clutched in his arms. “Scorpio? Get over here.”
Dari rolled to his feet gracefully and strode over–around the mess on the floor–to stop beside them. “What do you need?” he asked, eyes sweeping over her in concealed worry.
The blond flashed him a wobbly grin. “You’ll do,” he said and promptly passed Lady into the Arab’s arms. “I have my own partner to hold together. But,” he pointed a finger, tip barely an inch away from her nose, “you are not running off until the whiskey is gone.”
She chuckled. “Sure thing, angel-face,” she replied dryly. “Could use a little revelry.”
The grin firmed up and he gave them both a nod before turning on his heel, striding towards Svorak who was standing and staring blankly at the pool of blood and ammonia.
“… odd guy,” Dari mused thoughtfully.
Snorting, she turned around, reaching up and dragging the Arab down for a well-needed kiss. Dari grinned through the kiss, and swept her off her feet.