A/N: As usual, this stemmed from an idea I've had for a while mixed with the 100 Themes Challenge. This is Number 83 - Heal. And yes, it's also set in the same kind of world as Grey, Into the Night and Back to Hell, though you don't need to have read any of them to grasp this. I've started writing the actual story for this, though it won't get posted up here until I've finished Back to Hell. I wrote this to kind of flesh out some of the intial ideas - as always, reviews are returned and I'd love to hear what people think.
A slim figure, dressed all in black, dropped down from the building. It scanned the streets, eyes a brilliant, sharp blue shining out in the darkness of the night. Broken street lamps lined the pavement on either side, the glass smashed on some, the whole pole uprooted and on its side with others.
The figure was all too used to scenes like this. They had become part of everyday life, for anyone lucky enough to still live outside, anyway. Hands moved up to the small device that was connected to the figure's ear. Fingers tapped a small button, before a smoky feminine voice spoke.
"How far away is he, Springbok?"
"Near the museum, not too far from you." The South African replied, and she could hear the clicking of keys on a keyboard as he did what he did best. Even he, one of her best friends from what she considered her 'old life', had no idea who she was. Still, he willingly helped her, using his skills with technology to direct her and help her from his base, hours and miles away from her.
He had no idea she knew who he was, either.
"Springbok," she twisted her body, turning it to face the road that led to the museum. "Did you find out why he's headed here?"
"Our friend," Springbok sighed. "The one I told you about. He's come up with the same theory as me, that she made it back home."
"But you didn't find the need to travel hours to get here," she growled in reply, before catching herself. She could not let her feelings get caught up in this; his survival, and him getting back out of the principality of Wales alive were more important than that. "So why's she so important to him?"
Why was she even asking?
She couldn't let this be important to her. She'd already almost messed up when saving an ex-boyfriend from Amaris, and it didn't help that another ex was currently working in the resistance, a group she sometimes teamed up with.
"They dated," he explained, and she found that she could almost picture him leaning back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. "For a while. I never really liked the guy but..." he paused.
She didn't need to fill in that particular gap.
"Anyway, it tore him up when she disappeared. All of us, really. I've told you that."
"Yeah, c'mon Springbok. No emotions, remember?" She forced herself to chuckle, closing her eyes to slow her breathing. No emotions. It was why she never called Springbok by his real name, not even in her thoughts. It was the only way she could get through the whole nightmare.
"He's looking for her."
"I guessed that," she muttered. "Does he know about me?"
"Of course he does!" Springbok cried. "Everyone under Amaris has heard of The Black Cat."
"Does he know I've been looking for her?"
Springbok fell silent, and once more she heard the click clack click of his keyboard. It was unfortunate, she thought, that she couldn't have had someone closer doing this for her. The resources were available across the border; after things had calmed down, a while after the blasts, England had been rebuilt. It was nowhere near perfect, but the truth was, the uninfected had a better way of life. The infected were treated like they were here; taken off the streets, away from their families and friends, and experimented on.
Absentmindedly, as she walked towards the museum, she scratched at the back of her neck. The marks were still there, the small points where they'd jammed the needles in.
The Cat let out a sigh as she glanced around. Nerves fluttered in her stomach, her legs felt weak, and she cursed herself. She hadn't seen him for two years, not since she'd left him in bed one morning after making the decision to return home, to find her family and those she'd left behind when she went to University. It had been a year after the blast, and she'd had no word from them.
Now, she was about to face the boy – no, he'd be a man now - she'd fallen head over heels in love with, and he wouldn't have a clue it was her facing him.
Her feet touched grass as she pressed the button again. "Spring, you still there?"
"Yeah. You're close to him – you should be able to see him."
"Well, it's dark, genius."
"What's he look like?"
"The only other person around, Cat."
The momentary panic she always had when he called her 'Cat' fluttered through her. All it was missing was a h, and it'd be her name. Her real name. The one no one called her now except her surviving brother.
"Right, OK. I'll keep an eye out. Black Cat out."
She pressed the button once more, eyes scanning the immediate area. She heard the flick and click of a lighter, saw a flash of flame over to her right, and in the light from it, she saw him.
Old wounds long forgotten suddenly opened up once more. Scars that she thought were healed started to hurt once more, just at the sight of him. Two years later, and he still looked the same. His dark hair fell into his face, his eyes, concentrating on the cigarette, were still the same deep green she remembered. Her knees shook, as she stepped backwards, closer to the protective shadows of one of the few trees around them. She bit down on her lips.
No emotions, Cat.
She had a strong advantage over him; she was one of the infected, and thanks to that, she could see further than an uninfected, she could move quicker than one of them. Plus the training she'd gone through, the fighting skills she'd built up...
Taking a deep breath, the woman sprinted forward.
She was behind him before he realised what was going on.
"Who are you?" she whispered, causing him to spring forward and whirl around.
She had a charade to keep up, a mask to keep her identity covered, and under that mask, as The Black Cat, she aimed a kick towards him.
To her surprise, he grabbed her leg, flipping her around.
She wasn't named after one of the most nimble creatures for nothing.
Skilfully, she landed on both feet, body half twisted around, eyes focused on the distance. She had not expected that. He'd never been a fighter, nor overly-strong.
Spinning around, she threw a punch towards him, smiling as he moved to the right to avoid it. Her leg flew upwards and she managed to land a kick on his hip, pushing him back left. He dived forward, managing to pin her down by her shoulders.
The Black Cat had long ago hidden her identity beneath a dark bandana tied around the top half of her face, eyes visible thanks to the cuts in the material but the hazel colour lost beneath a pair of blue contacts.
"Who are you?" he hissed, knees straddling her, face so close to her she could feel his breath.
"I'm The Black Cat," she replied, eyes narrowing as she smiled at him. "And this is my city. You're not from here, are you?"
That said, she brought her legs up to her body too quickly for him to respond, kicking upwards and sending him flying through the air. Before he could land, she'd leapt upwards and caught him, landing gracefully before slamming him to the ground and adopting the same position he had with her.
"You smell like England."
"So what?" he growled, fidgeting beneath her grip. Eventually, he gave up and let out a sigh. "Actually...I was hoping to meet you."
"Yeah?" she chuckled. "Why, England?"
"Because," he bit his lip, eyes darting away from her, "I think you can help me find my friend."
Rolling her blue eyes, the woman stood up and stepped away from him, offering him her hand. Smiling gratefully, he took it, and as their hands connected she felt the same tingle throughout her that he always gave. That same safe feeling he projected.
"What's your name?" She pulled her hand away, sticking it into the pocket of her trousers.
"Oliver. Oli. Yours?"
She rolled her eyes, watching as he took out a pouch of tobacco and papers. "Roll me one. And I told you, I'm the Black Cat."
Oli started to roll, glancing at her from under his dark eyelashes. "Seriously? No like, real name?"
Crossing her arms, she surveyed him. He looked...not well. His skin was pale, his eyes darker than she remembered. Though, now she had a closer look, she realised he'd put on a few muscles in the last few years. Remembering them, together, was painful, but right then she couldn't help it.
They had been good, together.
She wondered if he'd slept with anyone since she'd left.
"No. No real name. Who're you looking for?"
He finished rolling the cigarette, and handed it to her along with his lighter. Slowly, the Cat raised the end to her lips, gripping the rollie between her teeth as she lit it. Oli rummaged in his pocket, pulling out a piece of paper with a photo printed on it. Taking it, she tried not to show any emotion as she scanned it.
Jesus, she thought, that's what I looked like, before all this.
The photo showed the pair of them, smiling and happy, skin rosy red. He had his arms around her, both of them were grinning at the camera, nothing but pure bliss in their eyes. She'd never feel that again. She'd never have that love again. In the picture, her hair was sleek and dark, cropped neatly around the top of her neck. Now, when it wasn't beneath the bandana, it was often slightly greasy, dank and, for convenience's sake, chopped short.
The girl from the photo was not the girl who stared back at her in the mirror.
"Her name's Kath. She's...well. You can see. She's beautiful."
She glanced upwards at him, unable to hold back the smile as she handed back the photo. "I know who she is. Her brother's in the city, too. I've looked for her before, Oli."
"Did you find anything?" he asked, inching forward, eager and excited.
Shaking her head, she could have kicked herself at the look that crossed his face then.
"But her brother thinks she came back here, too?"
"Yeah. Theory we came up with was she came back here looking for her family. She could have been taken by Amaris..."
"I thought that," he whispered, starting to roll his own cigarette. "She was...infected. Don't you know if she made it here?"
She couldn't lie to him; he'd find out anyway, eventually. "She did. She managed to see her brother and an old friend. She...disappeared. Not long after, though."
There was more truth to the theory than guessing; Kath remembered that night well. The last time anyone really knew her as Kath.
She'd disappeared, been identified by Amaris as one of the infected and taken to one of their institutes not far from Cardiff. It was what they used Wales for, now; storing the infected, running tests on them, monitoring them...
They'd ruined her home, and Kath hated them for it and everything else she'd done.
Her mind briefly flashed to Rick, her first proper boyfriend who she'd pulled from the institute, who she had half-carried, as he slipped in and out of consciousness, back to the city.
She fixed her gaze on Oli once more. "Face it, Oli. She's not here. She was, and now she's gone. You won't find her."
"But you've rescued people from Amaris!" he cried, stepping forward and staring at her with wide eyes. "The Resistance have broadcast what you've done across the UK. You're my best hope to find her."
"And I've tried!" she snapped back, growing angry at his stubbornness.
They'd been a fiery pair; both as stubborn as each other. They had been lucky though; the majority of the time they agreed on the same issues. They'd faced down battles together, arguing for the same side and the few times they had argued together...well, it had resulted in angry sex.
But right then, she hated that part of him.
Because she knew he wouldn't let go.
"You have no idea how many people in this city have asked me to look for her," she carried on, shaking her head. "A lot of people cared for her, Oli."
She hadn't realised it, either; not until 'she' had disappeared.
It was her brother's stubborn refusal to give up the fight, to track down 'The Black Cat' and even put himself in danger in his efforts that made her reveal herself to him.
But it had almost got him killed.
It had got her best friend kidnapped, tortured and killed, too.
She was not going to tell Oli who she really was.
She'd been through the predicament enough times. No matter how much it would hurt him, she knew it would be worse if he knew. The pain of thinking she was missing would be easier to deal with than the pain if Amaris discovered him.
"You should get back, England."
"I'm not leaving. Take me to her brother. I want to talk to him."
"Fine," she grumbled. "You're on a fool's errand, Oli. It'll hurt."
Of course you will, she thought, taking a deep breath and turning on her heel, leading him back towards the streets she had emerged from. I just don't think I will.