The wee hours of the morning were coming around, and by the time everyone had gathered in the dingy basement apartment, yawns were spreading throughout the group. There was still the matter of fully explaining and comprehending what had occurred a mere hour prior. Victoria had remained silent for the entire walk to her abode, and when she opened the front door and slammed it against the opposite wall, everyone breathed a sigh of relief at discovering no one else home.
"My grandma's visiting her sister in Vermont," Victoria muttered, walking right through the small living room and into her bedroom, leaving the others awkwardly standing around the ugly plaid sofa. Selina stood in the doorway, locked in place. Technically, Victoria hadn't invited her in. She sighed, crossing her arms indignantly.
"Come in," shouted Victoria, her voice echoing in the near-empty apartment. Not wasting a single moment, Selina marched inside, slamming the door behind her. Victoria was already getting on her nerves.
"Uh" grumbled Stephen, rubbing the back of his head, "so can we get that explanation? You know, of everything?"
"In due time," came Victoria's reply from the bedroom. A moment later, she emerged holding a small blue vial in one hand, and a pure white rag in the other. She motioned for Alex to follow her, and he didn't even try to protest when she poured the liquid from the bottle onto the rag and pressed it to the wounds on his bare chest. He winced.
"Ow, ow, ow" he seethed, trying to look brave for her but failing miserably. She rolled her eyes and pressed harder, wiping away the flecks of blood still gently oozing from the cut.
Across the room, Selina scoffed as Will fell onto all fours and took a purely canine form. Now appearing as a wild wolf, he quickly darted into the bathroom, his canine nails scraping the tile with each step.
"Damn dogs," Selina snarled, hissing slightly as the bathroom door closed. Coming up behind her, Gregg crossed his arms and shook his head disapprovingly.
"Let's at least try to get along," he advised, "I know your creeds don't get along, but there are bigger problems to deal with."
"Yeah, yeah," replied Selina sarcastically with a roll of her eyes, "I got it."
"Anyway," continued Victoria, finally pulling the rag from Alex's open cuts. "You're probably wondering how I knew."
"Knew what?" asked Alex with an innocent smile.
"Don't play cute," ordered Victoria harshly, her normally high, pleasant voice dropping drastically. "I saw the tattoo on the back of Stephen's ear. It's hard to hide."
Embarrassed, Stephen scratched at the ink behind his ear. It was just as he had feared. She had seen right through him, as if he were an open book. Stephen had to admit, Victoria was a lot smarter than people played her off to be. She wasn't insane. She was amazing.
"I know you must be really confused," began Victoria, watching as Alex's wounds healed before her eyes. Placing the vial of liquid down on the nearby coffee table, she took a seat on the ugly couch.
"You could say that again," replied Stephen as he sat beside her, though leaning away on one elbow.
"Fine," Victoria sighed, copying Stephen's elbow-lean, albeit on the opposite end of the couch, "I may as well offer some sort of explanation. Fire away."
"Questions" Gregg muttered, rubbing the sides of his temples, which had begun to pulsate since the night began, "okay, let's start with how you drew the conclusion from a simple tattoo."
"I know what a deal looks like," said Victoria matter-of-factly, "it's only logical to assume that a rational person wouldn't just go and get the number of the beast on the back of their ear."
"Simple enough," said Gregg in response, "but how did you know it was a deal? You jump to conclusions much?"
"I've seen it before," Victoria admitted, shrugging it off as though it were an everyday occurrence, "a lot."
"Where?" asked Stephen before Gregg could even open his mouth. Slightly shocked, Gregg let his mouth hang open for a moment before sheepishly closing it.
"Everywhere," replied Victoria coolly, "on many, many different people."
"Alright, how do you know all this?"
There was a pause as Victoria looked up at Stephen, her eyes bright with the reflection of light in her tears. But she didn't sob; rather, she calmly rubbed the tear from her left eye and looked back down at her lap, suddenly quite calm and somber.
"Long story," she muttered, "look, you're dealing with forces far beyond your comprehension, and I know how to help you. I'm the only one who's encountered all this before."
"Well, if you're not willing to share some history," rambled Alex, shoving the door to Victoria's bedroom open, "then you won't mind if I do some of my own investigating."
"No!" Victoria yelped, suddenly leaping from the couch and rushing to her bedroom doorway. Just as she arrived at the frame, Alex re-emerged, dragging behind him a large chalkboard on wheels. He bumped into her gently, attempting to prove his dominance.
"Calm down," he teased, pushing her back onto the couch and wheeling the board into the corner nearest the television, "you act as though I was going to sift through all your stuff."
He smiled smugly and erased the board, which had up until then been covered in a series of triangles and foreign words. As if by instinct, Alex began writing out the alphabet in a semicircle.
"You definitely have something to hide," Gregg added, circling the couch now. "But as you might have suspected, you're vastly outnumbered."
Across the room and down the hall, Cooper crouched next to the bathroom door. Placing his lips next to the knob, he whispered
There was the quiet sound of the door locking from the outside, and the shifting of Will inside the bathroom. There came a surprised gasp as Will pressed his body against the door to find it wouldn't budge. Cooper quickly slinked away from the door, aware of the sudden hivemind that had overtaken him in the preceding seconds. The boys were all thinking as one now, based purely on their need for information; their desire for survival.
Locking eyes with Victoria and smiling smugly, Stephen stood from the couch and walked slowly into the kitchen around the corner of the hallway. Spotting the wooden knife block as soon as he entered, he removed the biggest blade he could find. Running a finger along its length, he chuckled to himself. It had been a while since he had handled a knife. But upon returning to the living room, he was rather surprised to find Victoria hadn't moved an inch. This came as a curiosity to Stephen, as he had been highly expecting her to try to stop him. Nevertheless, she stood strong beside Alex, not even shivering from the anxiety of the situation.
"Now," said Stephen, his own voice fluttering in the heat of the moment, "why don't you start from the beginning?"
Her eyes locked on the sheen reflecting from the knife, Victoria cleared her throat. Naturally, she was terrified, but she couldn't let them know that. Never, ever show your true emotions
Before her, Alex snatched up the only piece of chalk on the chalkboard and held it loosely against its green surface. Almost instantly, he felt his wrist being pulled around the board by an unseen hand. In an instant, the transparent silhouette of Sam fluttered into view, still holding Alex's wrist. Seeming almost disgusted, Sam dropped Alex's wrist and let his arm hang loose at the shoulder.
"It started with my mom," narrated Victoria, not making eye contact with anyone in the room, including Selina, who had retreated to the corner closest to the door. Victoria now appeared to be staring off into space, reliving every sentence she spoke.
"She was a hunter," Victoria continued, "someone who literally tracked creatures down. She'd been doing it since before I was born. I don't even know who my father is. But I don't care. What matters is, when I was born, she realized she had to calm down and actuallyyou know, take care of an infant."
There came a scoff from Gregg, who simply leaned back against a nearby wall, looking very bored with Victoria's story. Not giving him the honor of a glance, Victoria continued.
"So she bought a small house in upstate New York out in the wilderness. Figured no one would ever be able to find her. She was looking to escape from her old life. I don't really know what she got into it for in the first place buther heart was in the right place."
"Right," Alex interrupted, his eyes narrowing skeptically, "nothing like some crazy woman who hunts hellions for a living."
"She wasn't crazy!" Victoria suddenly exploded, her eyes growing wide with an insane rage. Then, just as quickly as she had snapped, she returned to her calm demeanor, internally cursing herself for such a display of emotions.
"Andshe didn't do it for a living. She was a nurse by day. Hunter bynight and vacation. But anywaydespite hiding away, someone must have known where she went. She must have told someone. Because one night when I was just a few months old, something found us. Bael. It snuck in, silentand ripped her throat out. She didn't even see it coming. But I did. I was in my crib, and I sawI saw it come up behind her and"
She suddenly paused, attempting to stifle a sniffle. It was apparent her faade wasn't holding up. Suddenly very aware of his actions, Stephen looked down to the knife in his right hand and sighed, lowering the blade down to waist level and letting his grip loosen. A feeling of guilt swept across his brain.
"She was still alive for a second before she bled out. And she looked to me. It must have seen her look at me, because it knew I wasit knew I was the most important thing to her. It wanted her last sight to be her baby dying. So it scooped me up in its...its claws, and it bit at my back."
Victoria, now revealing the tears in her eyes, turned around and lifted the back of her deep blue sweater, revealing to Stephen a long, jagged scar running down her spine, stopping only where it disappeared behind the waist of her bluejeans. No longer hiding her emotional response to the disturbing memory, she continued, lowering the back of her sweater.
"But it hadn't expected my mom to have preparations. When I was born, she immediately placed a protection spell of some sort on me. And when thatthat thing removed its teeth from my back, it shrieked this awful sound, and it was gone. But it had done what it set out to do. My mom bled out on the floor while I cried in my crib, not able to comprehend what had happened."
The silence in the room could be cut with a knife. At the same instant, Stephen looked down at the knife in his hand and, disgusted with himself, threw it aside. It clanged as it struck the floor somewhere nearby, breaking the awful silence. In the corner, Selina muttered something along the lines of "oh, my god."
"I'm sorry," Alex whispered, hoping to defuse the situation. But Victoria was too lost in her own memory and misery to still be upset with the boys; her head hung low, attempting to mask the flow of tears seeping from her vibrant blue eyes. Hoping to redeem himself, Alex patted her on the back comfortingly, but she seemed completely inconsolable. Having made her relive the memory, Alex felt a wave of guilt and humiliation floor throughout his body, and his knees began to shake.
"How can you dowhat you did on the playground?" asked Selina from the corner, awkwardly destroying the bonding moment. Victoria looked up, her blue eyes still wet.
"This?" she asked. As soon as she closed her mouth, her figure began to fade from sight, and in an instant, it appeared that she had left the mortal plane. Her voice emerged from where her body had once been.
"WhenBael bit me," Victoria muttered, obviously feeling a tinge of pain at simply uttering the infernal's name, "some of its saliva seeped into the wound. And rather than do what it usually wouldyou know, the uh, ink effect"
Alex blushed, scratching at the tattoo adorning the small of his back. Now faced with the alternative, Alex felt quite ashamed as his decision to go for the tramp stamp' number of the beast now seemed downright childish in comparison.
"It gave me one of his abilities," she concluded, fluttering back into visibility.
There came a sudden smashing sound from down the hall, but before Cooper could even turn to discern its cause, he felt a massive, furry claw grab the back of his neck. Almost instantly, Cooper was flung across the living room, stopping only when he struck the opposite wall, leaving a massive imprint in the drywall as he slid to the ground, unconscious.
Will, in full lycanthrope form, charged further into the room, somehow grabbing Stephen by the throat mid-leap and landing stop the boy on the couch. From the opposite end of the room, Selina snarled, her limbs distorting and extending to a sickening degree. Her arms, now ending somewhere around her knees, raised a hand of long, slender fingers ending in massive, sharpened black nails. She charged forward at the lycanthrope, moving at an almost inhuman speed. But Gregg, knowing how she operated, moved faster, stepping just far enough into her path to wrap an arm around her neck as a restraint. Holding her in place, he began whispering inaudibly in her ear. Just as Will raised one claw to ruin Stephen's facial features, Victoria grabbed his wrist, and he froze.
"Will, relax," she ordered gently. Almost as if he were a dog obeying his master, Will released Stephen's throat and crawled off him, reverting back to human form. He dropped to his knees in front of Victoria, his still-tattered clothes barely hanging to his average frame. Seeing the coast was clear, Alex rushed over to Cooper's unconscious body.
"Shh," Gregg whispered, holding Selina's head close to his own as he attempted to calm her. A moment later, her red eyes faded back to a light blue and her limbs retracted, sending her back into a more human stature. She nodded to Gregg, and he slowly removed his chokehold.
"Wolf scum," Selina growled, glaring down at Will, who only smiled back smugly.
"Excuse me if I can sense what you freaks are doing in here. I was doing what I had to."
"Thank you, Will," sniffled Victoria, signaling the lycanthrope to return to his feet. She began glancing around at the destruction in the apartment, wondering how she would explain it to her grandmother. "But I think that's enough for one night. I have a lot to clean up. All of you, please leave. Now."
And with that resignation, she turned on her heel and pulled the chalkboard with her as she trudged into her bedroom. As the door slammed, the living room went silent. A few glances were shared between those remaining, but all shared the same conclusion: this had been a poor turn of events.
Sam scoffed aloud, pushing a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. He shook his head dismissively and turned to the nearest blank wall.
"You all disgust me," he concluded. Defeated, he walked right through the wall and out of the picture.