This chapter turned out kinda short... Sorry 'bout that 😐
- XIV -
When he got to the house finally, the first person he saw was Gabriel.
“Enjoyed your walk?” he asked when he saw Desmond walk through the door.
“Immensely,” Desmond muttered, glancing around. “Where is everybody?”
“Around,” Gabriel shrugged. “Tension keeps growing; I guess Julian told her that he is not dumping Raven. You should’ve seen the way she looked at him,” he hemmed. “If looks could kill...”
“Rayhe, there is something...” Desmond started saying quickly when he heard soft footsteps behind his back. “Crap...” he said inaudibly and turned his head.
“Tony...” Vivienne said quietly, and Gabriel sighed, realizing that she never knew Desmond’s real name.
“I am going to run to the store,” he said. “I am out of smokes.”
“Get two cartons, would you?” Desmond looked at him, and Gabriel nodded and walked out of the house without saying anything else.
Desmond looked at Vivienne again, and she returned his gaze without a smile.
“Listen,” she said slowly in a very low voice. “You are not my most favorite person in the world for obvious reasons... However, I would appreciate it if you kept certain information to yourself. You know what I mean,” she wouldn’t look away, her gaze somber and very intent.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Desmond said calmly, and she let out a tiny smile.
“Good,” was all she said before walking away.
Desmond followed her with his eyes, and let out a sigh. “Do not leave her alone with him,” he thought irritably. “And how exactly am I supposed to do that?”
He sighed and headed towards the kitchen, thinking about making coffee while waiting for someone to show up. He didn’t even care who it would be – Julian or Raven; he had to tell to at least one of them about the message from Nex. He got into the kitchen, absent-mindedly opened the door of the dry goods cabinet, and grabbed a bag half-filled with coffee (that was a hell of an awesome brand, he had to admit it) off the shelf.
“Even if I tell it to Raven, it will be fine,” he thought while opening the bag. “Dammit, Nex...! Hurry up already, would you? Work the bloody streams! You are a goddamn Hunter, for crying out loud...! Shouldn’t be a problem for you!”
He muttered something under his breath and reached for the spoon drawer, and that was when every single inner alarm of his shrieked in full volume. He didn’t even think of wasting time on trying to figure out what was wrong. He whirled around and threw his coffee-bag-holding arm at a straight angle, making all that coffee spill around him in a dry, whispery wave, while throwing his own body sideways.
There was a surprised and angry yelp behind his back, and when he turned his head, he stared into a pair of light-brown eyes that were blinking rapidly, getting the remnants of coffee out of them.
“Impressive,” the owner of the eyes nodded seriously, and Desmond lunged at her without saying anything.
A fraction of a second before his fingers wrapped around her throat, she disappeared out of sight, and he almost lost his balance.
“You know,” he heard a second later, behind his back. “I am really tired of you poking in my head the whole time... Damn...!” This time, there was soft laughter. “You have no idea how hard last night was for me! I couldn’t get any sleep; had to kick myself awake every time I was about to doze off, worrying that you’d end up in my dream again... Mine this time,” the owner of the voice nodded and disappeared out of sight once more when Desmond tried getting hold of her yet another desperate time. “Not hers,” she finished a second later, appearing in the opposite corner of the ridiculously large kitchen.
“He can walk between the worlds without any portals, spells, or help from any streams,” Desmond remembered immediately. “He just slips from one layer of reality into another.”
He pressed his back into the wall, staring at her without blinking. The tall woman with dark-auburn hair nodded seriously when she met his stare.
“I know that you figured it out by now,” she said calmly. “Oh, by the way...” Here, she did smile. “It’s just you and me in the house right now. Thank God for small favors, huh? Julian and Raven left twenty minutes ago. No idea why and where,” she shrugged indifferently. “And your mate won’t be back for at least another half an hour, since he walked to the store and not drove...”
She flashed him a brilliant, predatory smile.
“I know for a fact that you do not possess anything but dream-walking and mind-reading. Again...” she nodded. “Thank God...! I have no idea how and why you would end up here, and right now, I couldn’t care less... I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time being locked up in that hellhole, and if not for the mirrors, I would still be there... I am not wasting another minute on this...”
Suddenly, her entire form shimmered ever so slightly, and Desmond had less than two seconds to throw himself sideways, away from that wall, before she popped out of nowhere right next to where he was standing before he performed his desperate maneuver.
“Huh,” she said somewhat thoughtfully. “Interesting... Is there something else in you...? Something I missed, perhaps? Anyway,” she shook her head. “As I said, I am not wasting any more time on this...”
This time, she didn’t even shimmer; she simply blinked from one spot to another – that’s what it looked like to Desmond, anyway. One second, she was a few feet away from him, and another – she was right there, behind him, pressing a dully-shining butter knife (an object that would make Desmond laugh under different circumstances) firmly against his throat. He thought that the damn butter knife was ridiculously sharp, and tried performing another sideways body-twist while aiming for that one spot on her neck with his slightly bent fingers, when she kicked the back of his knees with surprising strength and ease, and then that butter knife dug deeper into his flesh.
“Oh, no, you don’t...” she muttered and grabbed a fistful of his hair with her knife-free hand when he collapsed onto his knees. Her grip was inhumanly strong. “Goodbye, Tony...” she said in a low voice, her lips tickling his ear. “According to Vivienne’s memories, you were a hell of a good lay...”
He growled something unintelligible, trying to throw her off, knowing that he would fail, when suddenly, there was a bright flash of white brilliancy, and suddenly, there was nobody near him, and he realized he could breathe again without worrying about slit throat too much.
“Hello, Doriel,” someone said seriously, and Desmond coughed, hating the way he felt right then. “You made me run all over the place; you have no clue how frustrating that was!”
“About time...” Desmond muttered, rubbing his neck and loathing the slick warm sensation that immediately spread onto his fingers. That son of a bitch almost did slit his throat, he thought furiously, and stood up, making sure he didn’t cough too much. “Took you a while... Bus-fare trouble...?”
“You are welcome,” Nex nodded without a smile and shifted her gaze towards the suddenly-frozen in the opposite kitchen corner woman. “I have to give it to you,” she continued in an almost monotonous voice. “You are one smart son of a bitch. Hell...” she laughed softly, and Desmond looked at her when he heard pure satisfaction in that laughter. “If not for one certain phone call, Specter here would be dead and buried God knows where, along with Raven; Salamander would cease to exist, and you would be one of the most powerful men in the entire goddamn world...! Hail for technology, I guess...”
She looked at Desmond.
“He is a shape-shifter,” she said calmly, her red pupils slightly dilated. “Which wouldn’t be a problem if he were just that. However, he is the kind that doesn’t simply make himself look like someone; he becomes that someone. That was why I never sensed anything. He wasn’t himself anymore.”
She looked at the woman in the corner, who was seething with silent hatred right now.
“When he shifts, the only things of himself he retains are his power and his memories. Everything else erases itself. The scent, personality signature – everything. He can only become someone who is already dead, though, because otherwise, he would be nothing but a copy...” She looked at Vivienne again. “That’s why it was so incredibly difficult to get him in the first place,” she nodded. “Every time he would change into someone, every single Hunter would lose his scent... It is very impressive that he managed to hide this for so long,” she added thoughtfully.
“I suppose it was one hell of a Hunter who finally got him, huh?” Desmond let out a crooked smirk, and Nex shot him a dirty look.
“Yes, it was,” she answered evenly. “All right, Doriel,” she said a few seconds later, her gaze fixed on the immobilized woman in the corner of Salamander’s kitchen, and her expression became suddenly-hungry. “Let’s get to it, shall we?”
She closed her eyes, as if preparing herself for something, and Desmond looked at the person in the corner of the kitchen. He frowned when he saw her expression – it was pure glee, dark and satisfied.
“Nex...!” he called without taking his eyes off the woman, and the Hunter opened her eyes, a small, irritated frown forming in the middle of her forehead.
She looked like she was about to impatiently bark, ‘What?!’ when the immobilized woman purred darkly:
“Never refilled your Air, did you...?”
Nex snapped her mouth shut and her eyes darted towards the captured person.
“A big mistake,” Vivienne whispered intimately. “A very big mistake...”
Desmond cursed loudly and desperately when Vivienne’s form suddenly glowed sparkling-black. Nex’s entire body stiffened as soon as that happened; it seemed like all of a sudden, she had an enormous difficulty drawing a single breath. Desmond lunged at the black-sparkling woman, forcing his hand into a certain shape, knowing that he would be too late (the damn half-breed was neck-deep in those bloody black streams, it seemed), when all of a sudden, the woman’s shape became rigidly-still, her smile freezing in mid-air, and the Hunter drew a wheezing breath.
Desmond brought himself to a screeching halt and turned around.
“Huh,” Julian said with mild amusement. “I guess this spell works on anyone... Handy!” he nodded, and Desmond let out a shaky breath while closing his eyes.