Wordcount: 2,796 words
Summary: Hunter arrives and things go from confusing to downright odd.
Please note, this is currently a very rough draft from NaNoWriMo 2007. There will be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, flat out contradictions, and uneven characterization and pacing. (Content is also subject to constant change as I take an editing chainsaw to the story.)
Insanity Loves Company
When Jon was woken again in the middle of the night, he was almost expecting it. What little normality he had in his life seemed to vanish when the sun went down. He almost ignored the noise coming from the main room, because if he did not look maybe it would go away. Of course that idea lasted all of a nanosecond because there was always the possibility that it was something less ghostly and more solid and there had been way too many people shooting at him recently.
He carefully slipped out of bed, trying to make as little noise as possible. The dog who’d stayed with him was staring at the bedroom door with a look of shock. Or something akin to shock, she did not seem mad just startled. Then with a soundless bark she was running through the door and into the main room. He followed, much less enthusiastically, but without playing ninja. After all the dog would hardly lead him into danger, in theory.
He did not see anything other than the dogs at first when he stepped into the room. They were dancing about in a mass of faint blue dog dom and he did not see the new arrivals for a moment. Then he did see them, and he took a startled step back. In the middle of the pack of dogs was a shadow dog, an inky blackness in the shape of a dog, with only the faintest details visible. Behind him stood a human shaped shadow, but it did not look threatening. The shadows solidified first into a dog almost identical to his own, with embers for eyes and coat that rippled with every breath; then into a woman, as faint as the echo of and echo with ice blue eyes that chilled the air around them.
“Uh, hi?” Jon was not sure what to do with the visitor.
It turned to look at him, and there was a flicker as it solidified around the eyes until he could see shoulder length hair, bushed back from the face with some sort of cloth binding that reminded him of the fluffy 80’s headbands. She was wearing only faint hints of clothing, but they looked like functional work clothes, jeans, vest, some sort of jacket, all rough and tumble and nothing but vague hints. The only thing perfectly in focus was still the eyes. They did not look angry, just amused and Jon relaxed slightly.
The shadow woman said something, but Jon only heard the barest echo of sound.
It tried again, looking rather frustrated. Then, fell into a pantomime.
“You want, um, something?” Jon had no clue what she wanted, or why she was here, or why the dogs seemed so eager to welcome her into his house.
There was a nudge from one of his dogs against his knee and he looked down. The dog looked up with annoyance then pushed him towards the fridge. He started at it stupidly for a moment and the dog sighed, then scratched at the door. Jon opened it, suddenly remembering the myth of Persephone and the fact that she had to eat something to remain in Hell.
The fridge, sadly, was mostly empty and he ended up having to offer her Fritos and bean dip. The ghost blinked a few times, said something to her dog and then took a chip from the bag, the rest of her body fading back into shadow as she focused on grasping the food.
There was a short pause while she ate. Unlike the dogs, which had solidified fully, she only darkened somewhat. But after she’d polished off a handful of chips and some dip she turned and handed him the bag back with a smile.
“So, uh, why are you here?” Because he could not think of a polite way to ask and he really sort of needed to know what the hell was going on.
She blinked, then looked down at the dogs and back up at him. “They did not tell you?”
“Hate to break it to you, but dogs do not talk where I come from.” So maybe he had a crazy ghost lady in his living room and that really did not make it any less strange.
[Skip a bit, not sure what goes here, more talking?]
“Then we must find them.”
“What, right now?” Jon glances at the clock. It was still early and even though he did not have to work tomorrow he really wanted a rest. The past few days had been pretty draining, all things considered.
“They have attacked you, have they not?” Hunter raised an eyebrow. “These are not the simple villains you suppose them to be; do not judge the whole by what little you have seen.”
“Well yeah, but ”
“Then we must go.” She gestured toward the door imperiously. “Unless you wish to wait for them to come here?”
“No, definitely no.” This was the very last place he wanted them to come. He could deal with the dogs and the ghosts and the unreal chaos of the past few days, but only as long as it left real life alone. The instant things crossed over and started messing up other people’s lives was where he drew the line. They weren’t getting his family too.
Even though he’d been in the drive by, it hadn’t occurred to them that the Dead Man Mafia might be able to figure out where he lived. It was down right terrifying thinking of that same brutal (if thankfully ineffective) attack focused at his parents, or his cousin. Bethy was armed and dangerous herself, but she was the only one out of the bunch he though would have a prayer.
He grabbed his coat and his keys and headed for the door. “So let’s go.”
This was where things started to get messy. Jon was not sure quite how to ask if Hunter had the same ability to travel at high speeds as the Dogs did. He settled for just asking her if she wanted a lift. He was relieved when she said yes, not because he really wanted to be stuck in a car with a ghost, but because it made a little more human somehow. Some times she seemed less human than the Dogs and it was unnerving that something that looked so normal could be so oft. Well, not that she looked normal most of the time. She tended to only solidify the portions of her body that she needed to interact with the world. Which mean he spent most of his time hanging out with a pair of eyes and a few fingers that were just a shade thicker than smoke.
All things considered it was easier than the Dogs which solidified when they felt like it, without warning or reason. Except for Hunter’s Dog, Jon has never seen the shadow darken at all.
[They got out to the warehouse, the dogs go looking on their own and Hunter gets to talking again…]
“I am dark side,” the ghost said, as if this somehow answered everything. Jon was shifted backwards as she knelt and sifted through the pile of rubbish.
He gave her a moment, hoping she’d elaborate on her own, but she ignored him. “And dark side means what?”
She paused in her search and turned to look up at him. “You are a Huntsman, are you not?”
She just looked at him for a moment, then stood carefully brushing off leaf debris. “You are Huntsman.” She touched shadow fingertips to his forehead, “Huntsman here,” she touched his chest above his heart with the same feather light caress, “Huntsman here. As you are, so are they.” She gestured past him to the faint outlines of the Dogs down by the river. “You anchor them here, light side, as they anchor you to the Veil.”
There was a pause, and Jon tried to look slightly less confused. It did not work.
“You know of the Veil?”
She frowned, then clucked her tongue at the distance Dogs. “Ah, I see now,” she brushed back her sleeve to show an oval of silvered scars. “My blood gift was unexpected as well.” Jon rubbed his upper arm sheepishly, still wincing slightly as the newly healed skin protested. “But you are not part of the Singing, I think.”
“This is the simple thing,” she chided. “You have gifted them, but have they gifted you? I think not.” She frowned thoughtfully. “But this may work for our favor.”
Before Jon could react she had fished a slim silver knife out of one of the many half coalesced pockets and drawn a fine red line along her forearm. The blood glistened in the moonlight, heavy and real against the shadows of her skin. “Drink.”
“Wait what??” Jon backpedaled from the offered arm. “Are you crazy??”
She frowned, “Do not think I offer lightly. Nor would I give what I would not ask in return.” She tilted her arm to look at the cut. “But this will offer me purchase in your world, and give you the same in mine.”
“Wait, what world?” Jon trained his gaze on her face and away from the blood. “I do not understand.”
“There is the Veil, which cleaves life from death.” She nodded towards the Dogs, “They who are of the Veil protect it, guard it from crossings. We,” she grinned at Jon, “, we who are of the light and the dark, we anchor them that they might fight in our stead.”
Jon was not quite sure what was more disturbing, that the ghost was apparently actually a ghost or that the vampire dogs were contagious.
[Jon decides maybe this is not such a bad idea and pricks his finger with the knife (ow!)]
The dogs all looked over the instant their hands met, Jon’s dogs falling into a flat out run an instant later and Hunter’s dog simply vanishing an reappearing beside her. Dark side dogs apparently weren’t too caught up in obeying the laws of physics.
All five of the dogs were upset, although all of them seemed upset with him and not Hunter and he did not think that was fair. Jon looked over at Hunter, but she was staring at her dog, which stared back and he could hear the faint whisper of clashing notes. It sounded like they were arguing.
His own dogs commandeered his attention, Tos roughly shouldering him away from Hunter and Akela looping a paw over her arm so she could sniff his hand. After a second she pulled away, sneezing and glaring up at him.
“What? What?” He threw up his hands, frustrated. “I thought we could use the help, it is not like I have any clue what I’m doing!”
Athen looked over at Hunter (still arguing with her dog) and then back at Akela with a soundless whine. Tos grumbled, a rumbling snarl that never made it past his chest. Jenna seemed to be the only dog who had taken the blood gifting in stride. She pushed past the other three to look up at Jon, uncharacteristically bold.
“We need her help.” He looked down at her, trying to figure out a way to make them see reason.
She snuffed, then stood up, planting her forepaws on his chest and pushed him back against the tree. He opened his mouth to object and before he could close it she rubbed her head against him, leaving him with a mouthful of bloody fur. He pushed her off, spitting out dog fur and cursing the general strangeness off ghost dogs, she had jigged backwards and was looking at him with a big doggy grin, tail wagging.
He was about to complain to Hunter when suddenly the world went a bit sideways and he sat down with a thump. There was a sort of shimmer and suddenly the dogs that he’d finally gotten used to seeing (or at least as used as he was going to get) changed. No longer were they a ragtag group of mutts with no real thematic unity. Now they were a set of four almost identical dogs; long legged and large eared sight hounds with a soft blue glow to them. He started, which in turns made them shy backwards a step. Hunter’s lurked in the background, completely uninterested (as normal), and he noticed that it hadn’t changed at all. It was still the same inky black dog shaped void it had always been. It took a second for his vision to stop spinning and when it did he found Hunter looking down at him with a bemused look.
“Well that was unorthodox.” She offered him a hand up and he took it gratefully.
“What the hell was that about?” He spat out the last of the stay dogs fur and glared at Jenna in annoyance, she grinned back and he heard the faint whisperings of what he could have sworn was a guitar.
“You just got the other half of the blood gift,” Hunter to share Jenna’s amusement, although the rest of the dogs looked a little taken aback. “It was not a proper gifting, of course, but that should means it’ll just take a little longer to settle in.”
“Oh,” he wiped his hand on his jeans and stared down at Jenna. “So, uh, I really do not feel any different.”
“You won’t.” Hunter was gathering the last of their stuff up and seemed ready to head back towards the car.
“What, do not I get super powers or something?” Jon started to help her gather the gear and stopped as soon as he realized his balance was still off. “I thought that was part of the deal.”
“Super power?” She raised an eyebrow.
“You know, like invisibility, or living forever, or running after than a speeding bullet, or some such.”
“Hmm, no.” She headed back towards the car and he followed. In the background the music was getting slightly louder, and it reminded him a bit of the muted howling the dogs had done earlier.
“So what does it do?”
“You live longer, but not forever. You heal faster, but not immediately. And,” she stepped carefully over a fallen tree, “You can hear the Singing.”
“Singing?” He took the long route around the tree and she waited for him to catch up. “You mean the music I keep hearing?”
She frowned, “Music? I do not know. Everyone hears it differently. I hear the river when they Sing, bubbling and frothing over calm and rapids.”
“Oh.” Jon looked over at Akela, and he tried to sort her out of the melody. She looked over at him after a moment and he could hear the bell like theme change tone and focus. “So that’s you, hey?”
She sniffed and the bells chimed in unimpressed agreement. There was an emotion to the sounds, although he was not sure if he was projecting it or if it was really there. Either way, it seemed to match the visual cues so he figured he’d trust it for now.
“So now what?”
“Now I find out what this means.” She patted the bag slung over her shoulder. “You will continue with your life and pretend you know nothing.”
“That won’t be too hard.”
[So now Jon can hear the singing and he is got a bit of the other gifts as well and he is about a million times as confused as when he started. So Jon ditches them to go hang out with Sebastian, who was always the grown up of the group. If anyone can help him sort out this mess it is Bastian.
Sebastian listens to everything (including the fight and the drive by and all the fun supernatural stuff) and takes it all in stride. He is nothing if not imaginative and he is more than willing to suspend disbelief for a bit. Jon is more or less expecting that reaction (which is why he came) but it is still a relief to have someone else who believes him. After all, he is still not sure he believes it all himself.
This is the point where Hunter shows up (avec Dog) and Sebastian gets a little more involved than he’d wanted to. Crazy things happening are always more palatable when they are happening to someone else.
But Hunter assures them that the Dead Man Mafia and the Dogs won’t care that he knows, since he is not really involved. No one is going to believe him anyways, so there’s no risk. So yay for friend’s safety and boo for the hunt’s general disinterest in anything other than Veil business.]