My breath came in short gasps as I tried to stay ahead.
Sparing only a second to look behind, I turned back quickly to focus on the road in front of me. People were staring, but I didn't care; I was running like there was no tomorrow. Even if I wasn't running, they would probably be staring anyways, what with my messy hair and the tan trench coat that I was wearing.
Don't get me wrong; I love my hair and my clothes very much, but a grungy, tattered, obviously-sewn-back-together-multiple-times trench coat and hair that's been streaked at least 5 different shades of blonde, brown, red, and black do attract a fair amount of attention most of the time, both good and bad.
Both my hair and my trench coat flew back and billowed furiously against the wind as I ran with all my might. Although I couldn't see him, or her, or it, or whatever the hell that thing was, I knew it was still behind, somewhere, chasing me. It had been for a few days now. If it weren't for the fact that I was in the middle of New York City, I would've turned into a tiger and shook off this demon already, but obviously, I can't.
Sorry, I'm confusing you aren't I? Was too engrossed in my current situation to introduce myself but as you can see, I'm kind of preoccupied, but hey, the name's Tiger. My real name is Krista Langley but people usually call me Tiger because, well, I can turn into a tiger. Why? To make a long story short, I met someone that I shouldn't have, and I walked away from the encounter with a cursed tattoo on my back that allows me to change into a tiger whenever I want. Cool right?
Sorry, I'm blabbing again aren't I? I do that a lot when I'm nervous, or excited, or scared, or ― okay, so I do that all the time, but the reason is understandable this time. Getting chased by some creepy demon isn't exactly my thing, and I doubt it'd be anyone's but ―
A car just blew up.
I couldn't tell where it was, but it didn't sound far, only a block or two behind at most. My forehead was already covered in beads of sweat, but I forced my muscles to propel my body faster. I gotta get outta here , I thought to myself desperately, but how?
A slight tension in the air showed me my way out. I planted my feet to a stop as I felt the air change, a certain type of charge taking hold of the particles and matter in a small alley to my left. A portal is opening, I thought, not sure whether to be relieved or scared. I took tentative steps into the alley, keeping my ears open for my pursuer while trying to see who was creating the portal. A portal was a magical door created using a spell that could take its creator wherever they desired. Assuming that whoever was opening it would let me in as well, it could be my ticket out of this tiring pursuit.
Are you sure about that, whispered a small voice in the back of my mind, you of all people should know the risks.
I gulped. I've had my fair share of experience with portals before and I knew what they could do for me. Sure it could take me away from here, but there was no telling where it would open up into: I could land in the middle of the Arctic, pop up in someone's shower (that'd be awkward), or even get dropped ten feet in the air (don't laugh, it happened once!).
As I crept further into the alley, the lack of man-made sound finally made me spring a light bulb. Was there no one here? I wondered, my ears hearing nothing but the cracking of the air, my eyes seeing nothing but the faint outline of the brick walls and dumpsters.
There was a sudden snap of electricity, and in front of me opened a portal. It was in the shape of an oval, elevated a few centimetres above the floor and opening up to a door's height. The sides of it sparkled and shone so bright in the dark alley that it made my eyes wince. A swirl of white, blue, and silver, the portal was mesmerizing and also very appealing.
But I didn't know where it would take me.
I looked around again, trying to see if whoever created the portal was lurking around. Only the creator of the portal can set where it will lead to, so blindly stepping into someone else's portal wasn't exactly the best idea in the world.
If it was actually anyone's in the first place.
I've never known anyone who could open a portal long distance; usually the creator was near when a portal opens. Having an unknown portal popping out of nowhere was a first for me, and its origin ―or lack of, in this case― made it all the more dangerous.
Again, another explosion, but this time, it was definitely closer.
It's closing in , I thought anxiously. There was no longer any time to think about this. If I wanted to get out of New York City alive, I had nothing to rely on but the portal. Don't think, just act.
Taking my own advice, I was about to place my foot through the portal when a force started to pull me back. No! I glanced back nervously, seeing nothing. Whatever was chasing me was close enough to pull me in with its powers now; I had waited too long. I tried to push my limbs forward, but the energy was slowly being drained from them. It's a power-web , I decided, shaking my head in an attempt to clear the oncoming haziness. So it was a demon after all.
I had to act fast; power-webs were a known ability of a demon that could drain both the magic ability and life force of whoever it was attached to in order to power a spell, meaning that my pursuer had more in store for me, and needed the power up.
Biting sharply down onto my lip, I felt the pain as the taste of blood seeped into my tongue. I had been in webs before, and the best way to focus was with a little pain. With my mind clear, I fought against the force, reaching my fingers towards the portal that was still shining in front of me. Just…a little…more , I thought frantically, stretching forwards so much that it hurt.
My body was released from the web's force the moment my fingers came into contact with the portal, but my relief didn't last long. No sooner had the pull been released did another come on; my body was being sucked into the portal. What's happening?
I felt like my body was being ripped into pieces; a kind of fire spread through my joints, and it was as though my limbs were being disconnected, muscle by muscle, bone by bone. The pain seemed to last a lifetime, and a small part of my mind reminded me that if this took any longer, my pursuer would catch up. I felt another force that came from all sides, giving me a squished kind of feeling, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wisp of white hair.
A white-haired woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties stopped before me, and at that moment I was sure of two things: one, that she was my attacker, and two, that I was going to die, her sudden, swift change into a blue, red-eyed demon confirming both guesses.
But before either of us had a chance to react, there was another snap of electricity, and I was pulled vigorously into the portal.
I knew I shouldn't have tried the portal , I thought, head groggy and limbs still sore from the abnormal entry. But at least I was safe now. The matter concerned me though; portals weren't supposed to be violent. They were also not supposed to slow time down for the traveller, but that was how it felt.
Everything was black; I couldn't open my eyes or move my limbs, but I felt like I was floating, slowly, through wherever I was within the portal. Every muscle weighed a ton, yet I was drifting in this unknown dimension. As I tried to process what was happening, a sudden "whoosh" by my ears gave me only a split second warning before I was thrown out of the portal.
There was a resounding snap as I crashed down from the middle of the air. My head was spinning from everything, and it took a while for me to register the fact that I had landed on something soft ― someone soft ― instead of the floor.
Whoever I was lying on didn't seem too happy, and I groaned as he (assuming it's a guy because of the difference in size) pushed me off of him. I hit the floor now, and the thump to my head didn't do it any justice. I lied still on the floor; face down body curled, as my head swam in pretty little circles. I could feel the stranger brush my hair away in order to feel my pulse, and I rolled over on instinct. Blinking open my eyes, I could see him (I was right!) leaning over me, looking oddly surprised.
His hair fell over his shoulders and tickled my nose. They were a nice, dark blond colour, and as I followed the trail back up to his face, I stared straight into his sapphire coloured eyes. What pretty eyes , I thought to myself, they accentuated his face so well.
I tried to lift my head, but my strength had still yet to recover, so I settled for turning it from side to side. Slowly so that I wouldn't make myself dizzy, I looked around; seemed like I was in someone's house or apartment. There was a dark green couch beside the wall closest to me, a small table to my left, and a TV in front of me. Must be in the living room , I thought, swallowing only to realize how dry my throat suddenly got. Coughing reflexively, I turned my head again and lifted it slightly to set my eyes on the stranger who had remained quiet throughout my entrance. He didn't do anything but stare back, so I raised my right hand and waved.
"Hi." I managed to croak out, and decided to smile instead of saying anything more.
He looked like he didn't hear me, or maybe he was just zoning out, but after a few seconds, he too, lifted his hand to return my wave. "Hi." He replied, in a slightly deep but warm voice.
At his reply, I let my head fall back, and despite the strange place I was in, I fell comfortably into unconsciousness.
I wasn't out for long though.
I felt something cool brushing across my face and woke to the guy wiping a cool cloth gently across my forehead and cheeks. The cold was both shocking and refreshing, and my eyes fluttered open to see him leaning over me, again.
"Hi again." He said, smiling at me while setting the cloth aside.
Our minds think alike , I thought, as I smirked at him. I opened my mouth to say something but wound up coughing instead.
The stranger immediately reached back behind him to grab a glass of water off the table and offered it to me. Flashing him a grateful smile, I propped myself up enough to gulp down the water without spilling it. It felt like heaven, having the cool water run down my throat, soothing the sudden dryness.
"Thanks. Mind if I crash on your floor a little bit longer?" I asked, my voice still a bit hoarse as I thanked him and returned the glass.
"If you want…" He began tentatively. Then, he smirked. "But I have a couch; it's more comfortable than the floor…"
"I'm a mess." I admitted, closing my eyes and as I grinned. "I'll ruin it on ya. Floor's fine…I just feel…weird… kinda…drained…" My vision took another spin for a moment there, and I paused for a minute to recover. "I'll be outta yer hair in a bit."
I was having difficulty finishing my sentence; the world seemed to be moving so slow yet so fast at the same time. Stupid portal. I had to roll my head back while blinking furiously in order to stay awake.
"Everythin' so slow…" I mumbled, trying to explain to him what was going on inside my head. "Why's it slow? Is this what it's like fer you? How awful… "
And my eyes closed again.
My body was tired out from travelling across that bizarre portal; it felt like the earth's gravity somehow got stronger, and I could do nothing but lie down obediently as the pressure kept me from getting up. My mind was alright though; albeit the world seemed to be passing slowly, I could still process thoughts just fine.
I didn't even have the chance to start drifting off before I heard feet shuffle and broad hands shaking my shoulders. I snapped my eyes open to see the stranger's blue eyes filled with concern.
"Hey…come on, the couch is just over there." He said while helping me up.
I let him, though I probably relied on him heavily because of my weary body. He gently sat me down on the couch before swinging my legs onto the seat so that I could lie straight. "Go on and lay down." He instructed, standing back up again. "Are you alright? Do you want me to call someone?"
What a kind person , I thought happily while I stretched myself out on the couch. I shook my head, and replied, "Don't got no one t'call…m'fine anyhow…don't worry…" My words were beginning to slur, but a sudden snap in the back of my mind reminded as to why I was here. Turning my head around, I tried my best to blink my eyes open. "He didn't follow me, did he?"
"Who?" The stranger asked, his eyes filling up with wonder. "Is someone after you?"
Judging by his reaction, I was pretty sure that no one else but me came through the portal. "The weird guy…" I answered, closing my eyes in relief.
"No…no one came through but you." He replied, confirming my guess before moving on to soothing me. "Hey, don't sweat it. You're safe here; got lots of friends who'll come running if you need them. I'll grab ya a blanket, okay?"
I heard his footsteps as he walked further into the apartment to find some blankets. He's being so nice…and I'm just a stranger too. It took me a moment to realize how I completely forgot about what a total mess I was. I got the couch dirty , I thought, feeling guilty. Reaching out to hold onto the couch, but at the same time trying to not touch too much of it, I pulled myself up into a sitting position, with only the small of my back resting against the couch.
I was in the middle of pondering if I had enough energy to get off the couch and stand, so as to not dirty it even further, when he came back. Holding a nicely folded, soft-looking blue blanket, he walked straight to me and offered it.
"Nah…" I said, gently pushing it away. "I'll wreck it on ya. Don't worry, I'm fine. Shouldn't even be on yer couch…"
"Forget it." He snorted, eyes full of amusement. "If you can stand, you can use my shower. I can find you something to wear and toss your clothes in the wash."
"A shower?" I asked incredulously. "AND clean clothes? Wow…that sounds great…now you KNOW I gotta take ya up on that…" I was so excited that I jumped too quickly to my feet, and the sudden head rush caused me to wobble. He reached his hand out to steady me, and I gave him a look of appreciation. "I can do it…I think. Well, how far away is yer bathroom?"
The corners of his lips pulled up into a grin as he pointed to the far side of the room.
"Well…" I pondered hesitantly, before giving him my own lopsided grin. "In that case, maybe I could use a hand to get there…if ya don't mind."
"Not at all." He replied, letting me lean on him as he guided me to the bathroom. Flipping on the switch, he began to point out the basics. "Shampoo and all is in there. Hang on and I'll grab you a towel and something to wear."
I was leaning against the counter when he left and I decided to start showering. My body was plastered in filth, and although he was kind, even he might not be able to stand me for much longer, what with all the dirt and scents that covered my clothes.
Peeling the clothes off of my body, I left them in a neat pile on the floor before stepping into the shower. "Hmmm…" I groaned as the hot water hit my body. This feels so good.
There come my clothes. "I'm in here." I called, cracking the door open just a little so that I could peek out and wiggle my fingers at him.
"I'll uh, wait till your done then toss these in." He mumbled, face blushing furiously as he set some clothes and a towel on the counter. Scooping up my clothes from the floor, he added, "You got anything else you want washed?"
"Yeah that'd be awesome. If my bag came through…" I smiled at him, and then felt bad for asking. "You sure you don't mind? You really don't have to ya know?"
"Nah, no prob." He grinned back, scratching his ear a little awkwardly as he backed out the door. And with a small little wave, he was gone.
I took forever in the shower.
With the hot water, I had taken the time to let my tensed muscles relax, relishing the warmth. I had stood in the shower and simply let the water hit me, again and again, as it trailed down my body and cleaned the grime off of me. Even after the shower, I had wiped the fogged up mirror to stare at my reflection. I made sure to towel myself off properly before putting on the clothes that were given to me.
After I had decided that I was finally presentable, I stepped out timidly, wearing an oversized red t-shirt with a pair of blue lounge pants that was kept up only by the drawstring. I could see the back of the stranger's head, as he was sitting on the couch in front of the TV with the volume up unusually loud. Before I could say anything, he somehow knew that I had walked out, and turned around.
I saw his mouth drop; literally.
I didn't know whether or not to be embarrassed or scared of his staring, but after what felt like eons, he managed to put on a small smile as he waved. "Hi again."
"Hi." I smiled while waving back. If he was smiling, that was a good thing, right? "Thanks heaps…that felt great. Sorry I took so long; I just couldn't bring myself to leave…"
"No prob." He replied, before looking away. "I tossed your stuff in when I heard the water shut off, so it should be almost ready for the dryer soon. Are you hungry? There's some leftover pizza."
My eyes lit up at the word pizza. Smiling, I was about to walk over and thank him when the slowness hit again; time seemed to suddenly slow down for me, and my vision was a little hazy. I made it to the couch eventually though, my smile turned into a frown as I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, step by step.
When I finally got there, I sank down in relief. "Whew…that was a long trip, hate being so slow. Boy I hope this goes away. I wouldn't be able to stand being slow all the time. Food would be awesome, thanks." I blurted everything out, maybe a little too fast due to the time warp. Taking a small breath, I babbled on. "Name's Tiger by the way. " I said, finally able to introduce myself. After debating about it for a split second, I added, "You're cute, but what's with the hat? It's a nice hat and all, kinda cool, but I think you'd look better without it. The colour just ain't you."
To my delight, he didn't look offended by my comment. On the other hand, he was actually blushing, for some reason that I couldn't quite fathom. It took him a while to process my long slur of words though, but a minute or two later, he finally replied. "Hi Tiger, my friends call me Bull." He reached out to shake my hand before moving to the kitchen. I could see him pull out pizza from the fridge and I already knew what he was going to do next.
"Reheat or cold?" He shouted from the kitchen.
Right on , I thought smugly to myself before quickly replying. "Cold!" I yelled back, and then thought out loud to myself. "Gimme gimme...hmmm...food..."
I got myself comfortable while I waited for him, pulling my feet up into a cross-legged position. When he walked in with a box that I assumed to be filled with pizza, my eyes zeroed in on it so quickly that he started laughing. I was so hungry that I had almost an entire piece shoved straight into my mouth as soon as he handed it to me. Then I realized that I forgot to ask him.
"Want some?" I offered, a little embarrassed by my poor manners and mouthful of pizza.
He shook his head, smiling at me. "I just ate before you dropped in."
"HA! Dropped in..." Right. I had randomly fallen into his house through the portal. At least he didn't seem mad or annoyed about it. "So...what's with the hat?" I asked, reaching over to grab it.
He leaned back fast enough that I missed only by an inch. Fast reflexes , I thought, letting my hand fall.
"I uh, always wear hats." He said, blushing as he tugged the rim down a bit more. "I like hats."
I said nothing to his statement; instead, I pretended to lose interest as I continued eating my pizza. I tried to look nonchalant, bouncing the pizza box that was on my lap while I secretly scrutinized him. If I timed it just right...
I gave him a quick smirk before I reached out and pulled his hat off. "Liar." I began, but stopped when the hat caught on something, causing it to hang awkwardly off his head.
I only caught a glimpse of it before he grabbed for the hat, fumbling with his fingers as he tried to put it back on his head, but a single glance was enough for me to have goose bumps as I figured out who the stranger was: A demon , I thought, wondering if he was the one that was after me. It didn't seem likely though, or else why would he help me? Just play it out, my mind told me, go along with things and see what happens.
Didn't do me much good the last time now did it? I pouted mentally to myself, but seeing as there were no other options, I followed what my mind had instructed me to do.
"That was better!" I complained loudly, trying to cover up the miniscule pause that I had while conversing to myself mentally. "You look much better without it...why do you wear it? Really now, I mean, fashion and crap aside, I'm not one for hats; I think people generally look better without them, and they just give you hat head. If ya wanna shade yer eyes, get sunglasses."
"I need it." He insisted, voice slightly defensive as he pulled the hat back down securely on his head. He stood up abruptly, and for a split second, I thought he'd gotten angry. "Sorry. Should've grabbed you a drink too...soda okay? I got root beer, cream soda, mountain dew...ewww orange, where'd that come from?"
Glad that he wasn't mad, I shoved the rest of the pizza in my mouth, chewing happily. It was only when I swallowed down my food (remembered my manners this time!) did I reply to his question. "I'll have the orange, thanks. Yer avoiding me…why? Am I being a nosey brat? Sorry," I apologized, putting the empty pizza box onto the table so that I could take the can from him with my free hand. "Just don't know why you wanna hide under that silly hat. Come on…take it off."
"Nah. Anything you wanna watch?" He asked, trying to switch the topic. He seemed to be uncomfortable, fidgeting in his seat. Maybe I shouldn't push him, I thought, watching him as he leaned back and looked towards the TV.
Letting out a loud burp as I finished off my soda, I set the empty can aside and grinned at him. "Oops, sorry." I looked at him meekly, pulling my knees up before wrapping my arms around them. Then, I decided to go straight to the point. "Come on, is it yer horn?" I asked indifferently, keeping an eye on him so that I could see what his reaction was to such a direct question. "Why do you keep it covered by that hat? I think it looks cool, why would you wanna hide it?"
His blue eyes opened wide as they met my green ones and he shot me a suspicious glance. "You think it's cool?" He exclaimed in disbelief. "Come on…I'm a freak."
I rolled my eyes at him and before he could react, bounced onto my knees and snatched the hat off his head, careful this time so that it wouldn't get caught on his horn. "There," I grinned, pleased at my successful attempt while I smoothed out his ruffled hair. "Much better. You got nice hair, kinda like mine I think…well, before I started playing with it anyways; it's not like mine now."
He sat still, and I wondered if he was simply motionless due to surprise. Leaning forward, I peered over his shoulder to admire his horn. "Wow, how long's yer horn? That's gotta be almost, what, three feet? Yeah, gotta be…like the way it kinda curls up at the end. That's neat…so you don't stab yerself with it, huh? Gee, guess ya can't sleep on yer back, huh? I don't sleep on my back either; like to curl up in a ball…much more comfy. Boy you blush a lot. I'm not embarrassing ya, am I? And what do you mean, 'yer a freak'? There's nothing wrong with being a freak…I'm a freak. Freaks are more fun; normal is boring. Why be boring when you can be fun?"
Now he just seemed to be overwhelmed by my motor mouth. He swallowed, looking like he was trying to wrap his head around my words. His face was still flushed, maybe even in a deeper shade of red if it were possible. Judging from the look on his face, he understood what I was saying, but just didn't know what to say in response. Oh well , I thought, fingers running gently over his horn. He talks little and I talk too much.
I chattered on, admiring his horn and then thanking him for the shower and the caffeine, which I said must be what was making me so chatty. It wasn't exactly the truth, since I was usually this talkative anyways, but caffeine or sugar does tend to increase the amount of chatter to a whole new level.
"Um…do you ever breathe?" He asked, finally speaking after I paused in my stream of words for a small break. The shy/weird look he gave me was so funny that I burst out laughing.
"So uh…My name's Bull, by the way. Well, it's actually Brice, but everyone calls me Bull." He introduced, having difficulty trying to catch my eye since I was still laughing in a curled position, with my hands covering my stomach.
"Bull?! That's so cool…we're both critters!" I shouted, sitting up brusquely and giving myself a once-over before I presenting myself as well. "I'm Tiger! Legal name Krista, but I don't use it, so it doesn't matter anyway."
We continued our conversation, me talking more than him of course. I learned that he and I both had tattoos, though they were in different areas and were of a different design. He was called Bull because of his last name, Turnbul, which I thought was pretty cool too, although I do admit that I was kind of disappointed that it wasn't because he could turn into a bull.
He kept giving me weird looks though, and at one point, I just couldn't help but ask, "Yer lookin' at me weird again."
"Sorry." Bull replied, blinking before giving me a sheepish smile. "I just…I've never met anyone quite like you before; definitely haven't had anyone fall on me in the middle of my kitchen either. Well, not out of a portal anyhow…and uh…not in THIS kitchen, at any rate."
I bounced up and down on the couch, giggling at the blush on his face. "Right, sorry….must be kinda weird, huh?"
He opened his mouth to respond, but jumped at the sudden ringing of the phone. So he blushes lots AND is easily scared, I thought, interesting…for a demon.
He walked over and cleared his throat before answering the phone. From what I could hear, it seems as though he was in some kind of trouble for having me over. Wow, what a strict place.
"Umm…that was security…" He began awkwardly, a light blush surfacing on his face once more. "I'll have to take you down to see them in the morning; kind of…bypassed procedure with you popping in like that and me not reporting you. Don't worry, just some papers to sign. No biggie."
I was right. "Security? Wow…how'd they know I was here?! That's weird…they got like…camera's and stuff watching in here?! Must be someone important, huh? Having security and cameras and stuff watching out for you…"
"Nah…I'm nobody."Bull snorted, walking back but veering over to sit on a chair instead. "The security is for the whole building. And no, no cameras in here. Well…actually, I think there is, but they're not turned on unless I request it."
The whole building? I thought incredulously. Where the heck was I? I rolled onto my side as I considered this, wiggling my toes and tapping my fingers to hide my curiousity. So he could have me out of here whenever he wanted to; all he had to do was say the word. Watch what you say Tiger , I thought grimly, might just get yourself kicked out of such a nice place.
I couldn't help it though, so I let just a small question slip through. "So…how did they know I was here then?" I asked, sitting up on the couch. "I didn't get ya in trouble, did I? I mean…I didn't mean to drop in on ya like that…"
"No…you didn't get me in trouble, although I might've gotten myself in a bit. I should've reported you being here right away, but I…kinda forgot." He explained, smiling at me while shaking his head at himself. "As for the security thing, the whole building and most of the grounds are covered in high tech gizmos and spells and stuff. Everyone that works and lives in here is on file. They can tell if there's anybody new around here, or who opens a portal." He paused for a moment, looking unsure as to whether or not to continue, but tacking on a comment at the end. "Me especially…which makes it weird that they thought your portal was one of mine…"
"Wow…" I began, putting my feet back on the floor. "That sounds…wow…"
I was silent for a moment, thinking about what this could mean. So they could sense the entrance of a stranger, huh? I contemplated this, and then it hit me: The portal signature was HIS?! So he WAS the one that was chasing after me? Or was at least in cahoots with whoever was?
Don't go jumping to conclusions , I chastised internally, trying to calm myself. He said himself that he thought it was weird right? That meant that he also didn't know why my portal carried his signature. A sudden realization made my heart jump: Could it be possible for someone to…manipulate his portal?
The thought of that was horrific; every portal was usually opened for a length of about 30 seconds, with the creator in front. If my pursuer was capable of manipulating another's portal…having the ability to REOPEN it after it had been closed… I've been underestimating her , I thought, a small touch of fear leaking into my mind. I'd never been in a portal like that, so whoever the person was, she was sure to be powerful. If she came after me, then I would be putting Bull in danger by being here.
It was then that I realized how I'd zoned out and ignored him. Don't think about it , I commanded myself. Just deal with it as it comes. Directing my attention back to Bull, I picked up from where we left off. Location? Right.
"Where the heck am I, anyhow? Must be some place pretty damn fancy for that kinda stuff? Oh and it wasn't MY portal. I don't do portals. I shouldn't even use them…bad, bad, BAD things happen when I use 'em…well…not always bad, but always not good…" I was chattering again, but I hoped it could cover up my confusion. I saw his face fall a little and it took a while for me to pick up on what I'd said. Oops, didn't mean to offend him.
I stood up awkwardly and looked around the room before I shooting a grin at him, "Except maybe this time…this time is looking pretty good."
A smile returned to Bull's face, but he too, was thinking about the same mysterious thing that I was. "Ummm…well…if it wasn't your portal…"
"It opened, I jumped in." I replied quickly, shrugging my shoulders as I ran my fingers along a nice wooden shelf that held many different star wars figures. "Figured it was a bad idea and all, but NOT jumping through seemed like a pretty bad idea too. Figured it couldn't be worse…Oh hey! This is really cool!" I exclaimed, taking a step back in order to get a better look at the shelf unit. The designs were amazing; each shelf had been hand painted into a scene so that the figures could be set up accordingly.
"Thanks…did it myself. They needed something." He stammered, a hint of pride in his voice. "So…oh, right, you wanted to know where you were. Umm…well…this is Chaos Inc. Uh…I mean this is my apartment in the residential section of Chaos Inc; the offices are downstairs."
"Chaos Inc…okay. Cool." I said, walking over to his movie collection. "Umm…what's Chaos Inc?"
He raised an eye brow at my question. "Oh…you've never heard of us?"
I shook my head, reading the titles of the movies he had.
"Never heard of Lady Chaos?"
I shook my head again. A Lady Chaos? That didn't sound good.
"Okay…well...we're sort of…" He faltered, trying to think of an explanation. "The guys call us monster hunter, which I guess is accurate enough. We do other stuff too. People hire us to track stuff down or help them get rid of things. Do a lot of gremlins, vampires, and other investigation stuff, sometimes for the cops…" I was up on my toes, trying to reach the top shelf, when he suddenly stopped. He was quiet for a moment, and I turned around to see his face flushed. "Ummm…yeah…" He stuttered again, looking like he was having a hard time remembering what he was saying. "So…you picked a good place to land. Whoever was after you won't dare come after you here; I'll introduce you to Lady Kay and the guys in the morning, and you can tell them who's after you."
"Morning?" I asked, walking over to sit on the arm of the chair he was in. "You said that before, about the papers…you mean I can crash here for the night?"
"Ummm…well yeah, sure. I mean, I'd say you could use my spare room, but…well…I never bothered to set it up with a bed or anything. I don't have guests usually, so…umm…you can have my room if you want. I'll sleep out here." He explained, his face red as ever when he mentioned the rooming issue. "Or if you don't want to, I mean…there are guest rooms downstairs. I can sign one out for you; you can stay as long as you need to."
I got off the arm of the chair and plopped back onto the couch. "Wow…You mean it? I mean, I can stay?" I had this dazed look on my face. He was willing to help a stranger who fell into his home, let her use the shower, feed her, and then let her stay over? I thought, amazed by Bull's generosity. But wait… I went still for a moment, narrowing my eyes as I asked, "What do I have to do?"
"Do?" He repeated, and then jumped at the sudden buzz that signalled the dryer shutting off. "Well, like I said, you gotta sign those papers in the morning…and register any weapons you have with you. And if you want one of the guest rooms, you have to sign for that too."
I followed him to the dryer while listening to him repeat himself. "No." I said, the tone in my voice hardening. He hadn't understood what I was trying to say. "I mean, what do I have to DO. I'm a fairly good thief; if you need something, I can probably get it for you…'course if you have all these gizmos and spells, you probably don't need a thief like me." I crossed my arms and took a step back as I thought of one of the worst reasons a guy like him might want to help a girl like me. "I won't screw you for a place to sleep. I don't do that, so if that's what you're expecting for all of this, you can go to Hell."
Bull jerked his head at my harsh words, and swiftly smashed his head against the door. "Ow…" He whined, covering his head with his hand. I almost reached forward to ask if he was okay, but the unanswered question kept me back. "What?! No! No! Gods…no, really…look…I…no."
That's a lot of "no"s , I thought, cocking one eye up at him while feeling relieved that he wasn't that kind of person.
"You can stay, alright? I don't…I don't want anything from you." He sighed exasperatedly, then jumped in embarrassment as he realized that he was holding my clothes, or more specifically, that my bra was dangling over the top of the pile.
Oh boy..that's kinda awkward , I thought, grinning inwardly when he shoved the pile of clothes at me. "Geez…you must deal with some ― never mind. Look, Tiger." He continued, awkwardness replaced by an odd air of seriousness. "It's up to you. You can have a room to yourself if you want. I'll show you where, there's a kitchen and stuff too…" He paused to turn back to the dryer and grab the rest of my stuff. "I hope your stuff is okay; some of it looked a bit…delicate. I hope the washer didn't ruin it."
"Okay." I said, voice void of all previous hostility as I plopped down onto the floor to arrange my stuff. I began shoving my clothes back into the bag, making a mental check list of what I put in. I stopped for a moment though, and spared a look of wonder at him. "You really mean it, don't you? You're just being nice…cause you ARE nice? I don't get that often; most people want something."
When he didn't say anything, I simply turned back and continued my packing. "I'll check this later to see what I have to replace or toss…no biggie. Thanks for washing it. Thanks for everything." I repeated in an attempt to show him how much I really appreciated this. That and how sorry I felt for accusing him earlier. "If you really mean it, about me staying, thanks…but you don't have to give up your bed. I can crash on the couch. The tour and stuff can wait; it's late and I've probably kept you up as it is."
"Yeah…I don't mind though. I can show you around, take you down to the guest rooms…"
"Trying to get rid of me, huh?" I joked, smirking up at him while hugging my bloated pack to my chest. "You've hung out longer than most."
"No!" He shouted, a blush ensuing immediately. "I mean…no, really. I was just offering…you're welcome to stay."
"Kay…couch is mine!" I shouted, childishly dibbing the couch when this was technically his apartment. I caught his eye though, and my hand involuntarily reached out towards him. Tiger! What are you doing! My sub-consciousness chastised, effectively stopping myself mid-act. Quick to react, I shifted the direction of my hand a little to the side so that I could brush away a chunk of hair from his face. "Boy you sure do blush a lot. Good thing you're so cute when you do it."
As I turned around to walk back into the living, my face flushed for the first time. 'So cute when you do it'?! Gosh Tiger, you just couldn't think of anything better now could you?
I woke up to the sound of footsteps coming from outside.
Blinking open my eyes, I looked out to see the sun just beginning it's ascension into the sky. Must be 8 , I thought, mind still heavy with sleep.
A flash of movement outside the window caught my attention though, and I rolled over and off behind the couch just as the door flew open.
"Yo! Up an' at 'em, lil' buddy!"
I caught sight of the loud stranger and shifted at once, taking no chances. Within a second, I had turned into a tiger, front paws resting on the couch while my hind paws were planted firmly on the floor, supporting me as I snarled at the man who had just randomly walked in Bull's door.
The guy had taken a single glance and ― BOOM ― turned into an exploding mass of clothes. As the pieces of his white t-shirt fluttered to the ground, in his place stood a large, ashy brown wolf that was growling viciously at me.
So he's a werewolf huh? I thought, thinking about what I should do next as Bull came in.
"Ummm…it's alright…really…." He said, blue eyes wide as they landed on me.
Crap, forgot to tell him. I grounded my teeth uneasily, feeling bad for keeping my secret from him when he had admitted to his own.
"Tiger, this is my best friend, Karl Reese. Karl, this is Tiger. She dropped in last night and I invited her to stay for a while." He explained quickly, obviously trying to prevent us from jumping on each other.
I took another look at the wolf, and shifted back. As I shimmered back into my pajamas, I could feel both men staring at me. Guess they were expecting something else huh? If the stranger was indeed a werewolf, then they probably thought that I would be naked when I changed back, since werewolves couldn't transform their clothing with them.
"Oh…damn, um…go change, Karl." Bull instructed while picking up his friend's clothes, although there were more pieces of cloth than actual clothing.
The wolf ignored Bull though, and turned back on the spot, butt naked. Can't say I didn't see that coming , I thought, not looking away but not checking him out either. I simply held his gaze, my voice cool as I greeted him. "Hi. You should try knocking; you're less likely to get eaten that way."
"Hey babe," He began, a smirk surfacing on his face. He didn't get to finish his sentence though, because Bull came over to push him to his bedroom.
"Don't, okay? Just…don't. Get dressed, okay?"
"Alright…I get it…going for dibs…I can appreciate it. She's a looker. For you, dude…I'll back off." He surrendered as he took the clothes from Bull and disappeared into the bedroom to change.
"Sorry about that." Bull sighed, turning back to face me with a red face. "I should've locked the door, I guess. Not much need for it around here with all the security though…"
I cocked my head to one side, surprised that he hadn't started asking me about my sudden change in form. I waited for another moment, and when it became evident that he was waiting for me to say something, I grinned. "No prob." I replied coolly, ruffling his hair as I walked past him to the bathroom. "You look cute with bed head."
As I closed the door, I heard a faint "You do too.", so I stuck my head out again, grin still intact. "Thank ya."
Closing the door, I turned to the sink to do the usually stuff: brush my teeth, wash my face, and comb my hair. I could hear the two guys talking outside, and if I really wanted to, I could probably extend my hearing using my tiger form to listen in on what they were saying, in case they were talking about me. But I thought about all the Bull had done for me, and in the end, decided to tune them out while I cleaned myself up.
It was only when I heard someone address me by name loudly did I finally clean up, packing my toothbrush and towel back into the small plastic bag that I had stored them in. As I ran back into the living room, the two guys were standing up and beside the door
"We're heading down for food." The man named Reese said. "Ya comin' with?"
"Definitely." I answered, stopping beside where I left my pack to throw my stuff back into the bag. "Never turn down free food. What are we having? Why are we going out? Don't you have anything here?"
Bull opened his mouth to answer, but was caught off guard as Reese interrupted him, shoving him towards the door. "Yeah there's stuff here…just nothing with a low enough sugar content to be called food." Right, totally forgot about a werewolf's diet. "And I haven't gotten around to ordering my groceries yet…so we'll raid the kitchen downstairs. If that's a bust, we'll order in."
"Hey…think we can get dressed first?" Bull asked, shooting me an apologetic look.
"Nah…it's just breakfast." Reese smirked, and proceeded to usher both Bull and I out the front door and down the hall.
Pushy , I thought, but I let it slide. It wasn't till we were almost at the lobby did I realize that we were still in our pajamas. "Oh dang! Bull, ya haven't changed outta yer jammies either? "
"Uh…I was just asking about that, remember?" He said awkwardly, turning his head to look at me. His face was flushed, and his eyes were darting from side to side. "Reese said that it's only breakfast…so it should be fine. Kay and Sylvie won't mind…much."
"Ha! I hadn't thought about that…but yeah, it should be fine. Sylvie MIGHT shake her head at you, but that should be it." Reese laughed, still pushing us from behind.
"Who's Sylvie?" I asked, cocking my head back to stare at Reese. "Bull only told me about a Lady Chaos."
"You'll find out." He smirked, nodding ahead. "Welcome to 'The Kitchen'. We either have everything here or nothing at all."
I looked around the room; it was actually a kitchen in the middle that was joined with two dining rooms on either side, no doors in between. The entire place was really just one, enormous room with three different sections. The walls were a nice beige colour with decorations hanging off the top. Well, it is almost Christmas , I thought, taking an involuntary step in.
My eyes fell on the lady sitting alone at the right dining table. Her hair was short and wavy, kind of like mine, except it was a nice, single shade of blonde. Dressed in a warm pink sweater with a pair of dress pants, she gave off a mellow feeling, yet serious at the same time.
"Hey Sylvie." Reese called out, leaving Bull and I standing at the door while he walked over to her. "Always the early bird eh?"
"Kay is up too. I think she went back to her apartment to grab something, but she'll be down soon. My God Bull, what are you wear ― oh…hi." Sylvie paused, finally noticing my presence as I stood awkwardly beside Bull, shifting my weight from my toes to the balls of my feet and back.
"Hi." I smiled timidly at her. Realizing the immense distance that we had between us, I closed in, Bull follow suite, and introduce myself. "My name is Tiger. I'm so sorry for dropping in unannounced. Please don't blame Bull; he was just being nice."
"Sylvie." The woman replied, a warm-hearted smile on her face as she held out her hand. "It's alright. I trust that Bull did what had to be done…though I think he should've offered you a change of clothes if all you have are these PJs…they're a bit big on you."
I shook her hand while ducking in embarrassment. "Actually…these ARE his…He was nice enough to lend me some clothes when I showed up, covered in grime."
"Reese was the one who wouldn't let us change." Bull muttered, speaking up from beside me. "I TOLD him that we should've ―"
I turned to the origin of the new voice, and at the door stood a woman dressed in all black: black jacket, black shirt, and black pants. All the black seemed to accentuate her beautiful white hair, which seemed to fall naturally on her shoulders, curling at just the right places.
Wait a ― it's her!
My body shifted as soon as I recognized her.
Snarling fiercely as I turned around to face my pursuer, I made sure that I was standing in front of Bull and the others. Better me than them , I thought, not wanting to put them in danger when I was the only one she wanted.
The woman had changed as well, shifting into her demon form as soon as I had changed into mine. She stood there, standing her ground, but not moving in. I kept my guard up though; it might be a trick for all I knew.
"Whoa whoa whoa…what're you doing?!" Reese shouted, running out from behind me to put a hand on my side. "Calm down, girl!"
Bull came out too, but stopped directly in front of me, effectively blocking my path to the blue demon. "Tiger! Why are you changing? This is the Lady Chaos I was telling ya about!"
Lady Chaos? I thought, my brows coming together in confusion. This was the woman who owned Chaos Inc? Bull had promised that none of his friends would hurt me, but this was HER, the demon that had pursued me so intently that I had to jump into an unknown portal.
"Look," Sylvie said, speaking up from behind to break the silence. "I don't know what caused you to shift so suddenly, but Kay won't hurt you. None of us will. So change back and we can talk this out, alright?"
I let out a small growl as I shook my head in confusion, not sure what to believe. Logic told me to listen to them, but my gut told me that this was her, yet I couldn't help be feel that there was something wrong with the picture.
"Tiger," Bull said again, this time in a softer voice as he placed his hand on my furry head. "Ya gotta trust me on this one, okay?"
I looked into his clear blue eyes, and all I could see was complete sincerity. Heaving a large sigh in my tiger form, I turned back, crossing my arms to glare at Lady Chaos. "She's the one that I was talking about, the weird person that was chasing me when I fell through the portal."
She pulled back her change too, and cocked her eyebrow at my accusation. "I did no such thing. I don't even know who you are."
"Okay everyone," Sylvie interrupted, clapping her hands to get our attention. "Obviously there is more to Tiger's story than just dropping by Bull's apartment. So why don't we snag some breakfast, go there, and then talk like civilized people?"
"Fine." I agreed, accepting Sylvie's proposal. Both Bull and Reese relaxed, and Bull flashed me a grateful smile.
As the others moved about to grab some food for upstairs, I kept my eye on Lady Chaos. This outta be interesting.
Four pairs of eyes were staring at me, disbelief evident in all of them.
We had come back to Bull's apartment, each holding a plate of food in our hands, and sat in the living room where I'd explained to them what had happened to me before I'd arrived here. After I told them my story, the entire room was silent.
"Are ya sure that ya saw Kay?" Bull asked, the first one to break the silence. "Couldn't it have been some other demon?"
"No." I confirmed, a solid tone in my voice. "I had a good look at her before being pulled into the portal; I'm sure."
"But it IS weird though, a portal that pulls someone in." Sylvie muttered, half to us and half to herself. "And with the symptoms that you were describing…this sounds like dark magic."
"Dark magic?" I repeated, eyes wide open. I've met plenty of bad guys in the past: vampires, demons, and gremlins alike. I knew of what dark magic was, but ones that could manipulate another person's open magic were unheard of. "Have you known anyone capable of opening a long distance portal?"
"No…" She replied hesitantly, her eyes revealing a sense of uncertainness.
"Where did you say the portal opened?" Lady Chaos interrupted suddenly, speaking for the first time.
"It was in this alley…I don't remember the address or anything, but if we go out, I can probably find my way back."
"Take us there." She ordered, her voice suddenly urgent as she got up and put her plate in the sink. "I have a theory about what might've happened to you."
Unhappy that I was being ordered around by someone who might be the same as the one out to kill me, I was about to make a snappy retort when Bull turned his gaze to me.
"Let's go." He smiled, gathering everyone else's plates and placing them into the sink. "I'm sure that if we all tried, we'd be able to figure out exactly who's behind all this."
I sighed, understanding that they were all just trying to help me out; that didn't mean I wasn't still suspicious about Lady Chaos though. I turned to Reese and Sylvie, who were both giving me the same look as Bull. "Alright, alright." I surrendered, giving in with a groan as I got up and walked to the door. "Be prepared though…this might take a while."
I tried to retrace my tracks by looking for any familiar road signs, but the streets of New York looked oddly different today. It's like they're the same…but different , I thought, confusion evident on my face. It took me a while, but I finally found the alley where I'd stumbled upon the portal.
"Over here!" I called to the others. We had spread out, staying within hearing range but each looking down every nook and cranny of New York for anything that I had described to them from my run.
Everyone came running, and when they were all gathered around, I lead them down the alleyway. None of us said a word as we walked down the alley, each keeping our eyes open for any clues. It wasn't until we reached the end of the alley did I turn around to speak. "This is it." I huffed, my foot tapping on the dirty cement beneath me. "This is where the portal opened, and there was where Lady Chaos was before I was sucked in."
"Hmmm…" Sylvie said, hands on her hips as she looked around. "I don't see anything unusually about the place…Kay?"
"I wasn't here last night." She declared, bending down to take a closer look at the ground. "In fact, I don't think anyone was. If things really went down as you said Tiger, there should be some evidence, anything, of you or whoever attacked you being here."
"Actually…I was here."
Four pairs of eyes, my own included, looked up to see Bull's uncertain expression. "I stepped into this alley yesterday night after buying some food. I opened up a portal and went back to the apartment."
"Did you close it right away?" Reese asked, turning around from where he'd been inspecting the walls for any irregularities.
"Yeah I did. I always do." He answered quickly, bewilderment evident in his eyes. "It couldn't possibly have been reopened…could it Kay?"
"I think I just got the answer to my theory." She proclaimed, standing back up to look at us all. "Tiger wasn't lying when she saw me, but I don't think that it was actually 'me'. In fact, Tiger, I think you're from another dimension."
"What?!" I exclaimed, a perplexed expression on my face. "What are ya talking about? Are ya saying that I'm from some sort of parallel universe or something?"
"Exactly that." She replied calmly. "Meaning that the Chaos you saw wasn't me, but ANOTHER me from the dimension you came from."
"Wait wait wait…hold up." Reese cut in, one hand on his head. "So you're saying that Tiger is from some other parallel universe…so does that mean there could possibly be another Tiger in THIS dimension?"
Now even Lady Chaos looked unsure. "I don't know." She said, biting her lip as she thought things through. "The problem here is how she got through in the first place. Not many people know about the cross dimension theory, and it's always only been that: a theory. I've never been able to prove it, since it'd require someone with immense power, someone who would be able to bend time and also knows enough about portals not only to create one, but link it to an unknown dimension."
"But that's not all he did," Bull added, apprehension spreading across his face. "This person was also able to pull back a portal, MY portal, after I already closed it, and then used it to link the two worlds."
"And that's how I got past security." I commented, feeling the light dawn on me as everything finally pieced together. "The reason why the portal I went through had your portal signature was because it WAS yours, technically."
Sylvie coughed loudly, effectively getting all of our attentions. "Now that we've solved the mystery of Tiger's attacker, and how she got here, I think the only issue we have left is the suspect."
"Who's the one pulling the strings, right?" Reese tacked on, nodding his head. "The big mastermind behind who sent Tiger here, whether it was by accident or on purpose."
"It couldn't have been coincidence," I reasoned. "If it really does take so much power to open a portal that could cross dimensions, wouldn't the person want it spot on the first time?"
"She makes a fair point." Bull agreed, his brows furrowed together as he thought about the odds. "Which means that the Kay on the other side was most likely working with whoever used my portal, right? In order to corner her to a point where she had no choice BUT to use the portal…"
"Who did you tell?" Sylvie suddenly asked, the urgency in her voice surprising me. "Did you tell anyone of your theory before, Kay?"
"I ―" Lady Chaos began, before groaning. Uh oh , I thought, that didn't sound so good.
We were all looking at Lady Chaos now, who had her face in her hand while she continued groaning. Reese and Bull had this confused demeanor on their faces, obviously not getting why she was behaving like so. I barely knew the woman, but something told me that she had totally not seen this coming, whatever she had figured out.
"Who is it?" Sylvie chimed softly, putting a hand on Lady Chaos' shoulder. "Who did you tell?"
"Auron." She replied, a hint of bitterness and desire in her voice. "The only person I've ever spoke to about this was Auron."
"Who's Auron?" I whispered to Bull and Reese, both of whom looked like they knew who she was talking about.
"He's a time elemental who has also been through magic training with a witch." Lady Chaos explained, and I understood at once why he'd fit the bill. Elementals were powerful creatures, and if this one had both the time essence and was trained by a witch, that made him all the more capable, as well as dangerous. What I didn't understand though, was Lady Chaos' reaction.
Tentative, but still needing to find out, I dared myself to repeat the question again. "Who exactly IS Auron? Like what is he to ya?"
Lady Chaos lifted her face, and as she hesitated, I could see the pain and disbelief that circled within her eyes. There is something else though, I thought, what is it?
The answer came to me just as she revealed it.
"He's my partner." Lady Chaos confessed, voice strained with affliction. "My mate…my other half…Auron is my husband."