The Gathering Storm, Part 31

Posted: 23rd August 2013 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in The Gathering Storm series
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So, yeah, I’ve been slack on new material. But let me catch you up on recent happenings for “The Gathering Storm.” (Or, you can click on the link not too far below and read or re-read the previous several chapters.) Query has recently rescued Zoe from the clutches of Janus (though, admittedly, she had already escaped those clutches on her own) and helped secure her shelter with Fortunato, who is planning to form a transhuman team to deal with crime generally and to deal some vengeance against Janus specifically. Zoe, while settling into her new digs at Fortunato’s building and negotiating a deal for her services that won’t get her screwed over, gets off to a rough start with another member of the future team: Vanessa Santos, whose codename is Allison Wonderland. Meanwhile, Janus and Underworld are forming their own team, even as Underworld becomes increasingly close to Crazy Jane and increasingly committed to killing Janus. And, over in the DA’s office, Andrea Yates has been getting her bearings in New Judah after living and litigating in Cleveland for several years before.

[ – To view a list of all current chapters, click here – ]

Eyes on the goal.

That was what Underworld had been telling herself for weeks now as she continued to push herself. Always a new goal and always more challenging, but the mantra remained the same.

This time, the goal was the far end of a large, abandoned warehouse.

Eyes on the goal, she reminded herself as she eased into the interdimensional “between space” where she did her shift-running, since she was the kind of Speedster who seemed to run ultra-fast only because of thousands of split-second shortcuts through normal space that the human eye rarely could perceive.

And ever since I planned and executed my second prison escape five years ago, I now know I can use the same power to teleport, something all the experts said was unlikely to be a transhuman power that ever emerged. I wonder how many other shift-running Speedsters out there can do this and don’t even know it yet? And probably never will.

Then she was between and then she pushed—hard. There was a lurching, sickening drag on her, not unlike what a roller coaster could do to one’s stomach, but this was all over her skin and all through her innards. But she kept her focus, leapt into the fearful unknown, and came out the other side.

As always, she was surprised a few seconds later, when she to dared look, that she still had all her parts attached to her and that she was still alive.

Although she hated that Janus even knew about her teleportation power, she at least held out hope she could keep him from finding out how good she’d become with it.

She’d only missed her mark by a yard or so. She was dizzy and tired, but not as tired as when she’d first started teleporting more than a few feet at a time. During her escape from prison that last time, just a handful of strategic jumps of no more than three feet each—and spread minutes apart from one another—had left her feeling like she might pass out. After a couple months of actually seriously practicing with her teleportation, this jump of nearly 80 yards left her feeling much the same as those few tiny journeys has before. These days, a shift-jump of a yard or two hardly fazed her.

Well, except for that time a month ago when I moved my arm and my hand was inside a crate when I shifted back into realspace too fast, she recalled with a shuddering horror. She had expected to find her hand severed at the wrist, but instead she simply came out of the between space roughly, her hand forced back from the already-occupied space before she returned to her own reality.

She’d been in pain for days—one of Janus’ pet doctors at the headquarters said she had a wrist sprain and a bunch of microfractures throughout her hand, and she had ignored the woman’s questions about what might have caused the injury. But at least she’d discovered that teleporting wasn’t as dangerous as she had feared. She didn’t want to ever do anything like that on purpose, or try to teleport completely blind to an unknown location, but her confidence had grown.

The trepidation and sometimes outright fear were still there, but now she realized she could teleport so much farther than she had ever thought or dared before. She could carry fairly heavy objects with her when she did. She could re-teleport with less and less rest in between big jumps.

Satisfied with the conclusion of her big workout, she went through some teleportation “sprints” for a few minutes as she made a series of quick, furious shift-jumps, some very short and some several yards, until she couldn’t take the sickening rumbles and lurches that threatened to make her release her lunch onto the floor.

The very expensive lunch she’d consumed shortly after buying the black yoga outfit she currently wore. The outfit that she had replaced for the clothes she had worn when she left the headquarters, after leaving her car in an airport parking lot and renting a new one to go shopping. And after that, leaving her former set of clothes in a locker at a gym downtown before coming here.

Clothes that were probably carrying tracking devices.

As, no doubt, her car had been.

It wasn’t the first time she had done this little sleight-of-hand out of very justifiable paranoia. But she’d never dragged out the process so long and made it look so much like she’d run instead of just slipping away briefly.

Let Janus’ goons wonder at my empty car in an airport lot. I hope they’ve scrambled for a few hours trying to figure out what airline I fled on—oh, wait, that’s right, I didn’t flee, but that’s what they’d think. Trying to figure out where I was before telling Janus they didn’t know where I was. But I think Janus knows better. He knows I have precious little desire to run, especially not before I’ve killed him. Perhaps he’ll be just be amused at his lackeys’ pointlessly furious search for me.

Or maybe he’d just kill them for losing track of her. Underworld didn’t care either way.

But now it was time to return to her old clothes and old car, and go back to the headquarters bearing her ever-growing trove of secrets inside her.

* * *

Zoe and mornings were generally a bad combination, and being up at just after 8 a.m. on a Sunday would have been doubly dangerous—particularly for anyone who might irritate her. On the other hand, it wasn’t so bad when one was up because they had never even gone to bed the night before, she considered. The pillow would likely be beckoning before early afternoon, though—of that she was certain.

In the meantime, though, she was feeling laggy from dancing hard for hours and drinking what would have been way too much if her damned Regenerator powers didn’t make it nearly impossible to get drunk for any meaningful length of time. But that exhaustion was nothing strong coffee couldn’t temporarily cure. And the café to which she had free and unlimited access in Fortunato’s building served very good coffee indeed.

A shame there’s not a smoking section in it, too.

As Zoe saw Vanessa Santos stroll into the café, though, the taste of the coffee turned from something bitter and welcome to something a little sour. She didn’t regret her recent words to the woman, but she also didn’t relish conflict with someone she was likely to be seeing a lot of day-to-day in the very near future. After all, they’d both be sporting costumes for Fortunato’s new team project.

Vanessa got a coffee of her own and nodded curtly to Zoe on the way to her own table. The gesture wasn’t rude—it was outwardly polite, in fact—but it was quick and utilitarian. A duty. A reflex.

Zoe sighed. She hated eating crow, even a small bite. But she stood up and went to Vanessa’s table all the same.

“Mind if I sit with you—just for a couple minutes?” Zoe asked.

“Sure,” Vanessa responded without enthusiasm. “I’ve got a few minutes before I leave to head over to early mass.”

Another reflex; another duty, Zoe thought, probably born of Catholic guilt. But she sat all the same.

“Look, I’m sorry,” Zoe said without preamble. “Actually, I’m not sorry. What I said was honest. It just came out too harsh and at the wrong time. I didn’t mean to insinuate you couldn’t handle your own business or that you were some failure because Fortunato outmaneuvered you. I just didn’t like that you were trying to handle my business.”

Vanessa’s smile was thin, but Zoe felt a little of the tension release between them. “Zoe, I’ve been dealing with Fortunato a lot longer than you, and I know what he’s capable of. But if you think you’re savvy enough to go toe-to-toe, go for it. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re a lot like him and can dodge his tricks and traps. I hope you’re not too much like him, though,” she added as an afterthought, “or I may be hitting you really hard, really often on the practice mats.”

Zoe chuckled at that. “I’d like to see that, lady,” she teased lightly. “You in your shiny blue and white Allison Wonderland suit trying to make a dent in my morphed skin.”

“Oh, worry not,” Vanessa said, her smile much more genuine now, “Fortunato will make you do a lot of sessions without protection. Seriously, thanks for apologizing, however reluctantly. I suspect that’s a big step for you.”

The observation stung Zoe a little, but she was too honest to deny that she had a callous edge to her at times. She might not be willing to go through the effort of shaving off the emotional calluses that made that so, but she also knew she could be more than just a cold-hearted bitch.

And who knows how many women are even going to be on this team? I need whatever allies I can get to watch my back and not my ass. Plus, I earned that dig from her in response to my own before.

“Mass, huh?” Zoe ventured. “I prefer my church services at 11 a.m. myself. Too many churches start at 10, though—or earlier. Ugh. Probably why I don’t go much, even though I’m into Jesus and all.”

“Go Catholic, then. Afternoon and evening masses aplenty at any big Catholic church—even a lot of smaller ones. The priests don’t have families to go home to, so they’ve got nothing but time to preach and serve. I just like getting it done early. That’s why I do 9 a.m. mass. ‘Into Jesus’ indeed—sounds almost dirty, Zoe,” Vanessa said with a smirk.

“I identify with Mary Magdalene, I guess,” Zoe joked back.

“Oh, Jesus never did anything with—”

“Not saying he did, Vanessa,” Zoe said with mock defensiveness. “But you know she was looking and thinking about it. That girl had hardcore gospel groupie written all over her. Hey, do you mind if I go with you? I’m already up; might as well get some of the good news in me and a little holy spirit.”

“Do you mind kneeling frequently and getting up and down out of your seat a lot? We Catholics do a lot of that. It’s like a religious version of the hokey-pokey.”

“The choirs at my other churches have always had us getting up and down a lot out of the pews. It’s a black thing. I think I can handle adding some kneeling in there.”

“Sure. Why not? Come along with me,” Vanessa said. “Those bright dreads on your head will be a nice change from blue-haired old ladies I normally having sitting next to me. Besides, we both gotta go work off the sin of thinking about Jesus and Mary making out now.”

“At least it’s not as bad as imaging Jesus and the other Mary, his mom.”

“Zoe, you’re incorrigible! But…maybe I need some of that in my life before Fortunato turns me bitter as hell.”

“Glad to be of service, Vanessa, one impure thought and statement at a time.”

* * *

In Janus’ office, Underworld sat and waited for him to speak. She’d learned long ago not to offer up anything for free. He was too quick to seize on any new piece of information. He might be a psychotic, murderous whore, but he was also a data junkie and an information hoarder. She wouldn’t feed that habit any more than she had to. Wouldn’t give him any more edge over her than she had to.

So they just looked at each other, more or less eye-to-eye, since she’d dragged over one of his larger chairs, refusing to sit in the usual ones he made people use, which put them noticeably lower than him unless they were really tall to begin with.

Several minutes went by as Janus peered across his massive desk.

That’s OK, Underworld mused. My desk is big as hell, too. I’ll just pretend it’s mine and I’m staring you down from behind it. Besides, I’ve always been patient.

Finally, Janus caved. “As attractive as you are, even in early middle age, I don’t have time to waste just looking at you,” he said. “Why were you gone so long and where did you go? You left your car and your clothes and vanished.”

“So nice of you to confirm that you have tracking devices on my personal property, Janus. Not that I hadn’t already figured that out early on with my own tools of the trade. But confirmation is nice. One more thing to put in your debit column so I won’t feel as bad when I eventually kill you.”

“Where did you go?” he asked more forcefully.

“None of your business. I like having time to myself. If I end up making your people run around like headless chickens, that’s not my problem. I’m not your property, your employee or your whore. Last I checked, I helped run things around here.”

“Where did you go?” he repeated, more tension in his voice.

“You want to know where I was?” Underworld responded, and stood up, walking around the desk and right up to his chair. He looked at her with a strange mix of irritation and interest, but no wariness.

She pulled a concealed gun out with smooth assurance and graceful speed, and put the barrel right up under his chin. She gazed into his eyes—the only part of his face visible through the simple half-green/half-white theater-style mask he had chosen today to wear—and smiled.

“It stops today, Janus,” she told him, seeing no fear in his eyes and expecting none. There wasn’t even anger. If anything, there was an amused glint there. “Your people will remove every goddamn tracking device from everything that is mine and you will never hide them in my shit again. If I find a single such device at any time from noon tomorrow until the end of my life, I will put the barrel of this gun right back where it is right now and I will unload the magazine into your megalomaniacal fucking skull, and I will gladly wear your blood and brains all over my face and clothes for hours afterward.”

“You don’t get as far as I do in this business by being a trusting sort,” Janus calmly pointed out.

“If I wanted out, I would have vanished a couple months ago and you know it,” she countered. “I will have secrets of my own whether you like it or not.”

“You know,” he said, eyes flicking downward for a second toward the gun pressing hard against his jawline, “Jane probably wouldn’t like it if you killed me.”

“I’ll risk losing her favor over this,” Underworld responded, and the keen edge of her anger was enough to make it true. Despite her addiction to Crazy Jane’s attention, this was more important. “I swear to God. Lose the tracking devices on me. Non-negotiable.”

“I will need longer than until noon tomorrow,” he said. “Give me until noon Friday and it will happen.”

“Why that long?”

“I have a lot of devices in a lot of places, and I think my staff may need to make a few sweeps and triple-check the inventory and logs to make sure they have them all. I do have significant self-interest here, you know. My life being rather important to my future criminal success and all that.”

Underworld put the gun away. “Noon Friday. Not a minute longer.”

“Agreed,” Janus said. “Good to see you with your edge back. I feared perhaps you’d gone soft. But bear in mind I have a limited amount of patience for having guns drawn on me, even from my business partner. Now, where were you?”

“Again? We’re back to that? I plan to have secrets, just like you have yours.”

“Other people’s secrets can be bad for me. Did you meet with someone to make plans against me?”

This is what I was waiting for, Underworld thought with an inward smile. The interrogation. I know he can tell when a woman lies, though I don’t know if he knows I know. In any case, I’m now on the ground I wanted all along.

“No,” she said flatly.

“Then…what? Did you pass along information to someone that could damage me? Did you set up a trap for me somewhere? Are you recruiting for a secret team of your own?”

“No, no and no,” she said. “Are you going to ask about every possible scenario or just get to the point?” she prodded.

Janus sighed heavily. “Fine. Did you do anything or plan anything while you were gone that works against my interests or interferes with my operations at all?”

Underworld smiled. “No,” she said with a smug intensity.

“You have a lover you’re trying to hide from me, perhaps? Seeking to keep one person close to you out of my reach and my knowledge so I have one less point of leverage over you?”

“I won’t answer another question about this, Janus. This isn’t ‘20 Questions.’ You’ve already established that I’m not working against you on these private outings.”

“Oh? Simply because you’ve answered ‘no’ doesn’t mean that—”

“Janus, I’m tired of the games. Let’s cut to the chase. I know you can tell when someone’s lying,” she said, carefully leaving out how specific and gender-related she knew that power to be. “I don’t want to dance anymore. Suffice to say that what I’m doing is my business, and it could quite likely save your ass and the collective ass of this operation one day. But unless and until that becomes necessary, my secret stays my own. Oh, and I hope we understand that not tracking me electronically means not having someone tail me either.”

“I gathered as much,” Janus said. “I don’t know that I like you knowing one of my powers, since I’ve been so careful to keep them to myself, yet I don’t know what you do in your hours away from here for several weeks now.”

“I don’t know that I like you knowing I have a family I tried to keep secret and that you threatened their lives to get me to join up with you here,” Underworld retorted. “I’d say we’re even. Let’s not push it. After all, I still intend to kill you someday, and I’ve made no secret of the several reasons why that’s on my to-do list. No need for you to spur me along in causing your demise.”

“No indeed,” he agreed. “There’s still so much more for us to accomplish. Still so much more time to convince you that killing me is pointless and counterproductive.”

“We’ll see,” Underworld said as she got up and turned to leave. “Noon Friday,” she reminded him without looking back, and strode out of his office, her secret still her own.

* * *

Crazy Jane was good at getting into small spaces. Staying in them for hours without a single groan of pain. Holding her bladder for hours past any kind of level of comfort when needed. Without moving, making a sound or attracting any other kind of attention.

It helps when your boyfriend sometimes likes to keep you locked in a giant bird cage, Jane thought, smiling a little at Janus’ choice of occasional confinement for her. Stuffing myself into a cupboard in my boyfriend’s office isn’t all that much less comfortable.

She knew she’d need to be here, hidden in his office. She had to know what would happen.

I knew Janus would summon Undie here after she went missing for so much longer than normal. I had to be here, though I’m not sure what I would have done if one had tried to kill the other.

The meeting had passed with no violence, but now Jane faced a quandary: Underworld wanted to kill Janus.

Crazy Jane couldn’t let that happen.

But neither was she willing to give up Underworld.

There is time, though. Underworld won’t move quickly because she wouldn’t want me to know she killed him. I would be angry, though I don’t know if I would punish her by denying her my company. Undie is always cautious and controlled. Janus isn’t, but he needs her co-leadership too much to do anything soon against her, if he plans to ever harm her at all.


Crazy Jane didn’t know how much. But she had a fair amount of it.

Whether it would be enough time to keep both her treasures alive remained to be seen.

* * *

Assistant District Attorney Andrea Yates gave the man across the desk from her a practiced, “don’t shit me” look. She wasn’t the best prosecutor in the New Judah DA’s office—just as she hadn’t been in Ohio before that—but she had her skills nonetheless. Just like her charm overcame many of her limitations in terms of beauty when it came to dating, her ability to manipulate people a little in the conduct of her job overcame her only slightly-better-than-average courtroom skills.

“Mr. Caspian,” she said with a combination of exasperation and disbelief, “do you really expect me to believe you don’t have any idea where your daughter is? That you have had no contact with her whatsoever?”

“Jesus! What is it with you people!” the man snapped. “How many of you in how many cities and how many times are going to drag me into an office to ask the same questions?”

“You are the father of Janet Caspian—the woman known as Crazy Jane. She is responsible for a number of gruesome deaths and physical assaults, she has driven at least two known people insane—probably through drugs and jolting them with her Transmitter powers—and she escaped incarceration here in my jurisdiction,” Andrea said. “I don’t believe for a second that there has been absolutely no contact between you or your wife—or both—and Janet.”

Eli Caspian glared at the assistant DA. After a few moments, he clasped his hands together on the desk, leaned forward and hissed—even before he spoke and that hiss mingled with his words.

“One of these days, one of you is going to ask that and it’s going to be the time that I finally lose my shit and choke out someone in some DA’s office somewhere,” Eli said. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hate Janus for luring my baby away. For turning her into what she is today. For ensuring that I haven’t heard from her in—”

“Mr. Caspian, I’m going to need you to compose yourself. Another threat—”

“Threat?” he said indignantly, cutting her off. “Threat? I didn’t threaten you. I’m scared that one of you might push me over the edge. But I’m tired of this shit. I haven’t heard one word from my daughter or gotten so much as a letter, text or email from her since 2007. Three years ago, when she dropped out of law school to be Janus’ pet fucking psycho. And I barely heard a peep out of her for three years before that, meaning that sick fucker has been in my daughter’s head since her freshman or sophomore year. I—”

“Mr. Caspian, I’m sure you can help shed some light on where she might be or how to contact her, and the sooner we do, the sooner you and a lot of other people can rest easy. We’re trying to save people, possibly Janet among—”

“I don’t know where she is!” he spat. “When she was put in the goddamn Givens facility a few months ago, here in your jurisdiction, I’m told she didn’t even ask about seeing or contacting us. Do you know how much that hurt? My wife and I can barely keep our marriage together the past few years. We had to move, and we use fake names in our new neighborhood now, because people who’ve been victimized by our daughter come looking for us to get their revenge or unload their anger. And now you drag me here from Arizona—”

“We didn’t drag you here, Mr. Caspian. We asked—”

“It’s never a request, Ms. Yates. Never. You make it sound like one, but you all pick at the bones of the corpse of our family. If I didn’t come here, you would have come to me. Or sent someone else to talk to me. At least this way, my wife doesn’t have to share the damn pain. Maybe I can even get back home before she knows that yet another goddamn district attorney or detective has decided to harass us to get at the daughter we only wish was in contact with us.”

By the time Eli Caspian finally left her office, unable or unwilling to help her, Andrea actually felt guilty.

Then she looked at the thick case file on Janet Caspian—aka Crazy Jane—and thought about all the victims.

Crazy Jane’s family is just one victim, and far, far from the worst of the victims, she considered. Screw you, Mr. Caspian. I’ll be in touch again just because you might be lying or you might have insight you don’t know about. Your pain is nothing compared to the pain of all those other victims. I have a job to do, and that job is to put your ‘little girl’ back behind bars and, ideally, her kingpin boyfriend, too.

* * *

Coldraven was a creature of habit. Regular patrol patterns. A small number of neighborhoods that she frequented, most of them known for heavy concentrations of drug dealers and drug houses.

It’s a wonder that the criminal community hasn’t caught on to how regular and predictable she is, Query thought. Then again, most common criminals are stupid, which is why they get caught.

Query-closeupWhen she passed underneath him, as he crouched on a fire escape, he called down to her.

“Got a moment?”

The suddenness of his greeting from the shadows startled her, which was precisely what Query had wanted. It was always good to see the reactions of a transhuman up close and in person. She spun backward in a crouching sweep and then came back up to her feet with a discarded chair in one hand that had been sitting near a dumpster a split-second earlier.

Quick reflexes. Picking up an unwieldy object with ease in one hand. That confirms she’s an Acro and a Brute, at least. Also, picking up an improvised weapon from local materials. Does that mean she patrols unarmed or lightly armed and wants to conserve her materiel or does she just like to play things fast and loose?

She still hadn’t said anything, though her gaze was fixed on the shadows in which Query lurked. She had pinpointed his location and wasn’t about to make any careless moves.

“That chair wouldn’t be good for more than one hit, and I think it would annoy someone more than hurt them with cracks in three places and missing a leg,” Query said, coming out of the shadows enough for her to see and identify him. “Still, I admire your poise and control. We need to talk, though. May I come down without getting hit? I’m not really looking to fight you, since we both take down criminals.”

If you really are Query,” she responded. “You could just be a villain playing dress-up to catch me off guard.”

“My, we are cautious, aren’t we? Normally I’d admire that, but I don’t have the time for small talk. Don’t you think if I was an enemy I’d have shot you from up here without announcing myself?”

Coldraven dropped the chair, and swirled her shoulders to loosen the tension. As she did, there was a rustle and a slight glitter against the dim lighting nearby, as her shoulders were clad in a feathered mantle of glossy black, green and purple feathers that covered part of her chest and back as well. The rest of her outfit mostly consisted of simple street attire—a short-sleeved white blouse, black leather pants and brown leather boots with sensible heels. She narrowed her eyes behind the large black domino mask and grinned with blood-red-painted lips.

“Well, c’mon down then,” she said.

Query dropped from above into a crouch and rose slowly so as not to arouse any suspicion or set her off. He didn’t really know how stable she was, white hat or not. And truth be told, her “hat” was grayer than most. He wouldn’t classify her as a black hat overall, but she had her days that she was.

“I wish I could say this was a really sociable call, but I’m going to be a little authoritarian and judgmental,” Query said evenly.

“Oh? Why’s that?” she asked, though he could see in her eyes that she suspected what was coming.

“You take down drug dealers. Bravo,” Query said. “However, you also steal their product and sell it through a network of dealers who work for you. Bad girl.”

“I don’t deal on the street to just everyone, Query. I peddle the drugs to adults only, most of them regular customers.”

“I bet some of those grown-up give the drugs to minors or resell them, so don’t get too morally secure, Coldraven. Also, some of those dealers who work for you—and whom you protect—have side businesses that do involve wayward youth as customers.”

Her lips curled into a Billy Idol-style sneer, and then she spat on the pavement in the alley, a couple feet from his boots.

“What’s it to you, anyway?” she challenged Query. “I’m mostly cleaning up the streets. If I have bills to pay and I sling drugs to grown people, you’ve got nothing to say about it. I bet you have dirty fingers, too.”

“Oh, I’ve been known to relieve some vanquished criminals of money and pocket it,” Query responded. “But I don’t deal drugs, and I’m not sure the police would see your actions as all that victimless. I don’t control drug policy, after all. The authorities frown on such things, though.”

“You gonna walk me into a precinct, Query? What’s up your ass anyway? Don’t you have some actual criminals to go after?”

“Not just this second. But I’ve always got people on my list. And that doesn’t just include targets to capture or neutralize, Ms. Poe,” he said, watching her stiffen slightly as he used her real name. “Sometimes, I just like to make lists and secure future help and favors.”

“Are you blackmailing me?”

“Ask around,” Query suggested. “You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. I’m a lot nicer in my negotiations with people who are squeaky clean. You’re not. So you owe me two favors, Christmas Poe,” he added, emphasizing her first name to hammer home the point that she would have no secrets if he decided to share the information with others.

“You’re a vicious son of a bitch,” she snarled.

“No, a vicious son of a bitch would keep you on the hook forever. Two favors and we’re square. Otherwise, I can just give the police your name and address. Or you can continue to complain and I can keep upping the ante, too, until you owe me three, five or a dozen favors. I’m flexible.”

“I’m sure you’re breakable, too.”

“Sure. Anyone’s breakable, even a Tank transhuman. But can you reach me, Coldraven? Are you better than me in a fight? Do you really want to test your skills against me? Or would you rather just owe me two measly favors?”

“Fine. Two favors. And fuck you.”

“No, thanks on that last part. I don’t have much time for or interest in sex most days—or nights. But I appreciate the offer.”

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