1. Superheroes of the Fairy Slaying Nature
Unfortunately, the law still states that shooting your annoying partner counts as intentional manslaughter. Vesper Adams was as disappointed by this fact as she had been the moment Caden Moore had shoved his way into her life. It was especially bad right now, when he was being particularly infuriating.
"Vesper…Vesper…still sounds like a superhero name, Ves. Can we get uniforms? You'll have to wear the spandex, so no complaints there, and I'll wear the dark, mysterious cloak. I would make the greatest super villain, don't you think?" He said quickly, glancing over every once in a while from the passenger seat of her '67 Impala.
It went on and on and on, until Vesper was about to snap and rip his head off his shoulders. Unfortunately, she knew Caden well enough to understand that the only reason he was being this annoying was to pull her out of her bad mood. Strangely enough, he usually succeeded in doing this with his mad rantings. At the moment though, she was too irritated to think positively.
"Caden, have you ever wondered what it would be like to not have to suffer through the sound of your own voice for five minutes?" She asked, manually rolling down her window to let some of the early afternoon air in. Another glance at Caden showed him doing the same, and she couldn't help but watch his recently shortened blonde hair flip around in the wind.
Vesper had also given in and chopped off her dark brown hair a few weeks ago, shortening it to a slightly-longer-than-chin length bob with a pair of kitchen shears and a hand mirror. Of course, the weather had chosen the next day to begin cooling down for fall and Pace constantly told her that she looked like a rabid Cabbage Patch Kid, but it was easier to deal with, especially considering her job, so Vesper didn't care. Plus it gave her an excuse to punch her brother more than she usually did, which was particularly desirable right now.
"My voice is so enchanting, I'm sure no one could feel that way, least of all you."
His reply was so snarky and mocking that Vesper couldn't help but narrow her eyes, which didn't help with her vision as she swung the next corner at breakneck speed. She looked at Caden again, smirking in satisfaction as his grip on the door tightened. He had this theory that if the car only had two wheels on the ground then she'd taken the turn too fast. Vesper had the frequent pleasure of telling him to shove it.
"You know, Vesper, the point of your brother and I buying you new tires was not so you could burn them into the asphalt all over the city."
She glared at him meltingly, "You know, Caden, I could always make you take your car, if you think that's safer."
The fact that his car was a joke had been the driving force behind that comment; his old, flaky, and debilitated Corolla was so near death that it was practically a zombie. Compared to her impeccably cared for Chevy Impala, with its perfectly glossy midnight blue paint, his Corolla was obsolete. He knew this quite well and threw her a crooked grin.
"I'm not sure. You're questionable driving skills or the threat of impalement?" He moved one hand up and one down, weighing the choices, and Vesper's eyebrows drew together angrily.
"You know, those two might not be as far apart as you think. I can include some impalement for you in my driving if you absolutely insist."
"Depends on who's doing the—," he started, but Vesper cut him off.
"Caden, if you don't shut up, I'm going to kick you in the throat." There were things she needed to focus on right now that didn't include thinking up useless replies to his stupid banter, and she had just reached the edge of her tolerance.
"You must be pretty flexible then, and you know how that can come in handy."
The tires screeched across the pavement again as Vesper slid around another corner, lips pressed tightly together. The sudden movement almost threw Caden across the center counsel and into Vesper, but he managed to snatch the handle of the door and jerk himself back into his seat at the last second. He was lucky in that respect, since she may have opened her door and let him sail right past her and onto the speeding concrete.
When she straightened the car again, she snapped, "I am not in the mood, so I suggest you shut up before you learn the finer points of being road kill."
Vesper felt Caden's eyes lock onto her face, almost sensed the small frown he formed as he realized that something besides the excessive supply of idiots in the world was bothering her. Great, now he was going to get all empathic on her. Seeing as he was an empath and could generally always sense her emotions, this wasn't really anything new, but now he was going to get all invasive and disgustingly intuitive, and if there was anything Vesper couldn't stand it was someone prying into her private business. She should have just kept convincing him that his presence was the only thing getting on her nerves.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"
Her expression questioned his sanity. As if she had ever freely told him anything besides her newest choice method of his murder.
He seemed to get the message, because he turned the rest of his body toward her slightly and raised an eyebrow, lips quirking into that stupid, crooked smirk. Even Vesper had to admit, the man was attractive; with his ice grey eyes and sharp, even features, any woman would be more than willing to jump him. Fortunately, Vesper wasn't any woman, and had always kept herself firmly in check. His obnoxious personality was frequently enough to keep her from being overwhelmed and her own cold disposition filled in for the rest of the time.
"Well," he said, tone sly, "I guess the question should be; are you willingly going to tell me what's wrong? Because face it, you know I'll get it out of you eventually. It's these mad super villain skills of mine."
Damn it, he was right. Caden had gotten annoying Vesper down to an art, and often used his knowledge to wheedle information out of her, whether she wanted to give it or not. Usually it was less painful to just tell him rather than waste time trying to get him to leave her alone, because if there was one thing Caden had, it was determination. He was like gum on the bottom of your shoe; stuck forever and quite distasteful, but attached nonetheless.
Vesper shot him another glare, daring him to begin his inquisition. Just because she knew she was going to lose didn't mean she wasn't going to fight with everything she had. Plus there was always the possibility that they might reach their destination before he could coax her issues out of her, then he'd have to shut up and focus on handling his gun, not bothering her. There was also the option of using violence to make him close his mouth too, but Vesper knew from many previous experiences that this rarely worked.
It's not like she had anything particularly important to tell him anyway; she was just having problems with her older brother again. Pace Adams had once again gone and decided that his wellbeing didn't matter anymore. If Vesper had done this there would have been hell to pay, and she probably would have ended up tied up in a closet 'for her own good', but no, Pace could do whatever he wanted, including set up a meeting with a bunch of myths that he knew good and well would end in bloodshed. Hell, he was counting on it.
Of course, maybe she shouldn't be complaining, since he was working diligently to find out who had murdered their father fourteen years earlier, but honestly, he should think of a better way to go about it than to simply torture myths into talking. Not only was it unethical—though this was the least of Vesper's worries and generally unimportant—but it was dangerous, and he already had more than a few enemies waiting for him in the shadows.
Vesper was starting to wish he hadn't reappeared after his vanishing act that had lasted an entire year, simply because at least then the worry had faded away eventually and she hadn't had him hanging over her shoulder every waking minute. Now he was doing stupid things every day and she had to deal with him criticizing her 'risks' when he got back. Fucking hypocrite. And here she was, anxious about his health once again, when he was supposed to be the one who was ridiculously overprotective. It was enough to make her want to shoot something, although that wasn't really a hard emotion to make her experience.
"You know, for such a small person you can be awfully maddening, Vesper," Caden said conversationally, snapping her out of her momentary reverie and insulting her small stature in one go. If anyone was maddening it was most definitely him. Even though she was only five foot one and built like a ten year old, Vesper could sure as hell make him regret making fun of her, and had on many an occasion. Usually he just ended up laughing at her as she pummeled him though, which obviously didn't help the matter.
Right now she had the funny feeling that he was commenting not only on her stubborn silence but also on her turbulent emotions, which he could read easily—or taste, to be more accurate. Her own power of reading people's surface thoughts seemed relatively useless lately because anyone worth listening to had learned to block her out. She wished Caden had the same problem; then she wouldn't have to worry about him sensing something he shouldn't.
Vesper jerked her mind away from that path, instead focusing intently on their mission. The condo they were heading toward was just around the next corner, outside of the edges of the city where the houses were nicer. Vesper wasn't used to having to come out here to deal with business, seeing as the myths preferred the relatively close quartered, dirty, and crime-filled inner city to the suburbs, but apparently the couple who owned the condo had a pretty bad bogle infestation that somehow warranted one of Weirlan's top myth-fighting teams: Caden and herself. Sure, the annoying little flying creatures did like to mess with humans on a regular basis, and they did have a penchant for driving people to insanity, but still, Vesper had a feeling that their boss was just trying to get the two hunters out of his hair.
Dominic Slaid, the head of this district of the Myth Control and Protection Agency, cut quite an intimidating figure, but that wasn't about to make Vesper ignore being placed on one more of these juvenile jobs. She wasn't just boasting when she said that she was one of the best myth hunters in the city, and she was tired of the menial tasks she'd been slaving over for the last couple weeks. Not to mention the strange tension between her and her boss ever since she'd managed to off the god of love.
Just add those issues to the long list of problems currently clogging her life. Fortunately Vesper had a perfect way to relieve some of this pent up frustration; killing anything and everything she could get permission to kill. And some that she couldn't. Which was why she was more than ready to be out of this car and into the clean, air-conditioned interior of a suburban condo, locked, loaded, and prepared for destruction. She would probably end up putting a few too many bullet holes in the walls out of sheer spite.
Vesper's hand slid over her Glock with anticipation, tracing the straps that firmly latched it into her shoulder holster beneath her arm. She only ever wore the shoulder holster for dramatic effect since it showed up the most, especially when worn without a jacket, whereas usually she just stuck her gun into the back of her jeans and ran with it. Safety precautions weren't really her biggest concern. Today though, she'd wanted to look a little more threatening in order to keep the couple who owned the condo from trying to make small talk with her. There's nothing quite as proficient in deterring pleasantry like a highly visible firearm.
From across the car, Caden chuckled under his breath and touched his own gun where it rested in his holster, laughing at her fixation with her weapon, and her jaw tightened. He was just jealous because his Colt Commander didn't have quite as respectable a reputation.
"We both know my Glock outclasses your Colt, Moore, so don't try giving me that look," Vesper said snippily, glad, at least, that the conversation had drifted away from her personal problems. If there was anything she didn't want to think about, it was the possibility that her brother wouldn't come home tonight.
Caden grinned back sloppily, "Mine has more firepower and you know it."
Vesper shook her head slowly. Firepower wasn't everything, although even she had to admit that Caden wasn't a bad shot. Nowhere near her of course, but at least proficient enough to hold up his end of the team when in a tight spot. Which happened far too often.
"I still think you're compensating."
He sent her a mock outraged look then slid straight into a cockily arrogant smirk, "One of these days, Vesper, you're going to find out that I'm not."
"Is that a threat?" She knew the answer already: yes. To her it was, because she most definitely didn't want to get attached to this idiot, despite how difficult that was proving to be.
"No, darling," he purred exaggeratedly, successfully removing the sudden tenseness, then wiggled his eyebrows ridiculously, "It's a promise."
"God, Moore, how do you look in the mirror and not laugh?"
"It has something to do with being this damn adorable."
The side of Vesper's mouth was starting to twitch spastically, so it was a good thing they'd reached their destination or she may have actually laughed. It was clear Caden had absolutely no dignity, but Vesper had far too much to actually let him know that she found him funny. Her fingers were shivering a little with repressed laughter on the wheel as she pulled the Impala up to the curb, making her parking job a little shaky, and Vesper prayed that Caden didn't notice.
The building that Vesper observed from across the hood of her car once she got out was only two stories tall—relatively short compared to the those she was used to further into the city. There were three doors on the lower floor, separated by a couple windows each, then steps over each of those, hugging the brick façade, that led to the three on the top. Overall it looked far nicer than Vesper's own six-story apartment building. The flowers were still alive, for instance, and the sidewalk appeared to be clear of drug paraphernalia. The buildings to her left and right appeared to be identical, and Vesper glanced down once at the little yellow note in her hand where the address was written, then checked it, satisfied.
Vesper swung her door shut, and began circling her car. "Let's go."
"Yes, master," Caden replied snarkily, before stepping up onto the curb and leading the way to the designated door.
He could never simply obey an order, which was yet another reason he got on Vesper's nerves so easily, and she grimaced as he rang the doorbell before Vesper was even halfway up the sidewalk. She had seniority in this partnership, by working time if not by age, and she should be the one leading, not him. Vesper considered kicking his legs out from under him, just to teach him a lesson and be able to see the looks on the homeowners' faces when they answered the door, but held the urge in. There would no doubt be retributions for such an act, probably ones that would make her regret ever being born.
When the door finally swished open, Vesper's face was crunched into an angry, restrained expression. As she sighted the couple inside, her mood only darkened further, making the two in the doorway stare back at her a little confused, apprehensive about letting someone that looked so pissed off into their home.
It wasn't that they looked like bad people—hell, she may have liked them better if they had—they just looked so in love. And there was nothing more nauseating than a couple who was still dealing with the disgusting onset of that horrible emotion. Blood spattered, shredded, and desiccated corpses were more attractive than the revolting look of pure happiness that sat on both of their faces, that sifted through their joined hands—at least until they sighted Vesper's expression. Good to know she could still do something useful in the world.
Although, Vesper may have only been extremely repelled by this emotion because she was so reluctant to even consider experiencing it herself. Destroying the god of love himself had taught her more than enough about that particular passion to realize that it could only hurt her. Not that she'd been too keen on it before, but once love is used as a means to control your mind, you're pretty much put off it all together. Vesper refused to think of the possibility that her current trouble with Caden had anything to do with her distaste of the sentiment.
"Hello, you're the team from the Agency?" The man said, choosing to focus on Caden instead of Vesper, probably preferring his sickeningly chipper mood to Vesper's death glare.
His upturned nose drifted slightly higher as he looked up at her partner, and Vesper noted with satisfaction that Caden, at a little over six feet tall, towered over the other man, who couldn't have been more than five eight. Well, he didn't really tower, but the height difference was enough to make the other feel intimidated, and give an advantage if the other man suddenly and unexpectedly decided to turn vicious.
Since Vesper's height obviously wasn't giving them anything. Sometimes though, her petite 5'1" frame gave her the surprise factor, when she turned out to be not nearly as delicate as she looked. She was proud to say that she packed quite a punch.
"Yes, and you're Mr. and Mrs. Donner?" Caden asked genially, face neutral. Vesper sent him a glare for being so polite, then returned to burning a hole with her eyes in the small, slightly frightened looking woman.
"Yes. Come in."
The two hunters were beckoned into a well-furnished, tasteful living room, shuffling their feet awkwardly. They weren't used to dealing with normal people in normal locations; usually myths tended to hang around in abandoned buildings and dank holes. Vesper felt more than a little uncomfortable in the civilized surroundings, unable to help comparing their nice environs with her bomb-survivor apartment. Not that she was going to let this show.
"Where're the bogles?" Vesper barked suddenly, anticipating the useless side conversations about to take place, ready to get to the point, shoot some myths, and get out.
Tact was never one of your more finely developed talents, love.
Caden's mental voice jabbed its way into her head, as unpleasantly annoying as usual as he took advantage of her ability, and Vesper snapped, "Don't call me 'love'."
She'd had enough of that from Eros, the god of love, and she could definitely live without that pet name—or any other nickname for that matter.
The two civilians were now staring at her like she was crazy, seeing as she'd just bit Caden's head off for apparently no reason, making up an exchange that didn't seem to have taken place since they hadn't heard his comment. Their own, relatively easy to ignore thoughts were confused and slightly alarmed. Good. They'd be even more afraid of her if they thought she was insane, then she wouldn't have to deal with social niceties like everyday chatter.
After a few seconds of ill at ease silence and Caden trying almost unsuccessfully to keep from laughing, the man waved his hand as if to dispel the tense atmosphere and began walking toward the back of the house.
"This way. We're on the lower floor so we have a little basement, and that's where they've been holing up."
Ah, so the dank and dark did come into play, as per usual.
"You and your wife will want to stay upstairs while we're working. We aren't responsible for personal injuries if you don't, and we don't do cleanup." Caden, business-like as he never actually was, rattled off the standard phrases, sighting the basement door and glancing between the two slightly nervous faces before tossing them a charming, reassuring smile and turning back to Vesper.
She glared at him, daring him to try the same trick on her. He didn't, instead delivering his usual lopsided grin, and asking, "You ready?"
"I'm always ready."
Her gun slid out of its holster easily, the snap securing it in place clicking open and releasing the Glock into her more than able hands. There was a collective gasp from the unobservant civilians as they noticed her weapon for the first time, and Vesper smirked in satisfaction as both she and Caden took another step toward the closed door.
Despite the fact that this would no doubt be little more than an extermination, Vesper's adrenaline keyed sharply. Even the knowledge that she and Caden should be working on harder hits than bogles—creatures that were little more than child's play—couldn't keep her from getting excited over the hunt. Vesper was a killer, born of vengeance and a naturally fierce nature, and killing myths was what she did best.
Caden's fingers tightened around the doorknob, then twisted suddenly and threw the door open, enticing another quick inhalation from the audience. Both hunters smiled at the reaction, then stepped into the dark, empty doorway, filing onto the stairs and closing the door securely behind them. The click of the latch catching snapped the light away and left them in complete darkness, nothing but the faint sound of the couple moving away on the other side of the thick wood. Both were too well-trained to actually make a sound, even breathing too quietly to be audible.
There was a slight rasping of skin against plaster, and Vesper's head jerked to the side, immediately locating the sound as right next to her ear. Caden must have felt the movement because in the next second his thoughts were snaking into her head again.
Don't be such a spaz; I'm just looking for a light switch.
Typical. He would make fun of her for being jumpy, when he was the one less than eager to work in the dark. Not that they could of, seeing as the bogles would be hard enough to shoot in the light, but the point was, he had been the one who had caved. It was really disappointing that she couldn't reply with a comment as peeved as she was, could only make him feel her emotion. Even though their partnership was more successful than most thanks to their separate gifts, sometimes their limitations still rubbed at her nerves.
She settled for feeling as angry as possible, hoping that the strong emotion would burn his tongue. Unfortunately, she could feel him shaking with repressed laughter on the step above her, and his amusement was clear in the warning he sent her next, telling her that he'd found the lights. Vesper clenched her teeth, confused for the millionth time by the fact that she could sense his feelings when he connected with her; an unexpected side effect that so far she'd told no one about.
When the lights flicked on suddenly, Vesper didn't flinch, expecting it. The narrow stairway snapped into view, but the concrete floor at the bottom was still dusky since the only source of light was a single naked bulb above their heads. It threw their shadows down the stairs as they moved forward, Vesper in front, Caden behind, both with guns drawn, prepared.
As they descended, leaving the safely enclosed drywall part of the stairway and stepping onto the section with railings on both sides, something bounced off the concrete wall far to their right, making both hunters pause. Bogles were masters of confusion, yet Vesper wasn't nervous at all, just alert. The worst they could do was claw out her eyes or peel back the skin of her face if they mauled her all at once, and Vesper was far too confident to worry about that happening.
Another click, this time to her left, of tiny nails on metal, then a scraping of claws on concrete in a completely different direction. The myths were trying to manipulate the hunters into whatever trap they'd set, but neither was tempted to move, not until something buzzed past Vesper's ear, so close she felt the air shift. It took serious effort to keep her gun steady, but she didn't lash out, waiting. She could feel Caden's breath on the back of her neck, almost too light to register.
Just as Vesper was about to snap with impatience, the myths broke, one of the hand-sized flying creatures flinging itself out of the dark at her face. Instinctively her Glock rose, not fast enough for her to get a shot off, but still quick enough to deflect the creature's attack with the barrel of the gun, slapping it away. It shrieked and disappeared again, but the low hum of many wings was surfacing from the silence, and Vesper smiled. Now that their little game was finished, the bogles would break formation out of frustration, making themselves much more vulnerable and the hunters' jobs that much easier.
"Winner gets to drive home," Caden said, his cheek brushing her ear he was so close.
"On the off chance that it isn't me, only one of us is leaving here alive."
She could feel the amusement, the excitement in his voice, his nearness, and her elbow instinctively drove backward, just missing somewhere that would have dropped him to his knees, instead hitting his hip bone so hard her arm went partially numb. She hissed a little, gun still ready, and shook her arm, trying to wave off the pain.
"Careful," he whispered again, a little farther away and completely undeterred. It took a lot to get Caden mad, and physical violence unfortunately didn't cut it.
Vesper didn't have the patience or the self-restraint to stay that close to him for much longer—though what exactly she was restraining herself from doing, she wasn't sure—so, with one last glance around the basement, she threw herself down the last few steps. Caden was just behind, snickering under his breath, to Vesper's disgust.
It only took half a second for the bogles to notice the hunters' new position, and another half for them to fling themselves forward, out of the darkness and into the dim circle of light where Vesper and Caden stood waiting. The swarm emerged lightening fast, a dark blur of wings and angry, stick-thin bodies that pitched itself as one toward their target. Immediately, the guns started firing, dropping as many of the creatures in their initial charge as they could. The tiny corpses piled up on the ground; five then ten and climbing, as the hunters alternatively covered each other to slip their extra magazines into their pistols.
When there were only about ten left from the original thirty, the monsters started to get smart, realizing that simply rushing forward wasn't going to get them the prize. This was when it got fun, in Vesper's opinion. At least as fun as it could when what they were fighting was essentially a group of glorified, pissed off fairies. With homicidal tendencies that ran along the lines of nudging people into offing themselves.
Vesper's gun clicked twice, empty, and she swung her hand over to the side of her holster that held her ammunition, fingers popping the snap on her last magazine and whipping it out in one quick motion. Her spent clip fell to the ground, and before she could even blink her gun was firing again, tracing the little creatures through the air, missing more than she hit. It was sort of like trying to shoot flies with a grenade launcher; not easy.
It didn't matter. Within ten minutes, Vesper was stuffing her gun back into her holster and rubbing her hands together to shake out the buzz from the recoil. The bogle infestation was no more than a pile of organic matter, i.e. corpses, littering the ground and spattering the walls. Neither hunter had so much as a scratch. A routine cleaning performed without a hitch.
Luckily neither had thought to keep count of their kills, so there didn't need to be a duel to the death to decide who would be driving the Impala back to base. Vesper didn't really feel like gutting Caden at the moment anyway, not when she'd just succeeded once again at what she did best. A good fight always put her in a spectacular mood.
But of course, Caden had to ruin it.
"What's this?" He was standing near the back wall, having just flipped the light in the center of the room on and started his trace of the perimeter. The two hunters were thorough and experienced enough to know to make sure they'd gotten rid of the whole infestation.
But what he was looking at, nose close to the concrete wall, was not a mangled bogle corpse, nor was it a live myth that required her immediate attention. From Vesper's distant position, it seemed to be a simple square of yellow paper, stuck to the gritty wall. What he was so fascinated with was a mystery to her, and Vesper blew out an angry puff of air before stomping over to examine whatever it was.
The light was still very dim despite the additional bulb now assisting the one at the top of the stairs, and Vesper had to strain to bring the scribbly writing on the paper into focus. It was black, possibly written with a felt tip marker since the edges of the words were fuzzy, bleeding into the coarse little sticky note and making the message even less legible. It fluttered against the rough stone wall with every breath that she and Caden took, more frantic than a heartbeat.
When she finally deciphered the two words on the tiny paper, Vesper turned her eyes slowly to look at Caden, finding his just as confused and thoughtful as hers and forgetting for once about their closeness. He shrugged, no help, as per usual, and Vesper returned her gaze to the slip of yellow on the wall, reading the innocuous words again.
Listening to: "The City Is At War" by Cobra Starship
a/n - Here it finally is! The sequel!