there will be thunder | Jess & LeRagester

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  1. Violet crossed the backed up lanes of traffic, weaving between cars sitting bumper to bumper. She held her head up high and walked with purpose. Funny enough, she was hurrying, not for the first time, to wait. She had ears on the inside - an invaluable connection for a journalist. Just a friend, honestly she thought him too stupid to notice she used his leads. He'd come bumbling into her apartment some weeks ago, swearing on his mother's grave that he saw them. It had been nearly seven years since the case was closed, older brother charged with the crime. Years passed even since he'd disappeared, but Grant swore he saw them. It wasn't as if he could tell this to the station guys, though. No, of course not. They'd think he'd lost his marbles.

    However, this information had Violet on the trail with her nose to the ground. She was a stubborn one, willing to sit, day after day, in that same spot Grant had been, waiting for these two to come around again. And what would she do if they did show? It didn't matter. First things first, she had to make contact.

    In the bag slung over her slender shoulders there nestled a trademark manila envelope filled with every publicly known case detail on the twin siblings she'd been so fascinated with recently. There was the initial thrill of a reappearance of a criminal after years, but the added goodies of this story proved too much to pass up. She kept it with her, although it wasn't as if she need read from it to recreate it down to every, dark period. She could spend her days any other way, but the idea of catching something like this...her nerves bristled in anticipation.

    Her mind drifted to other things while she waited, perched on the edge of her seat on the patio of a café. The coffee grounds at the bottom of her cup dried into the paper and the barista glared at her from the window wondering how long Violet would use that seat and not buy anything more. She wondered how many minutes a single cup of coffee, $3.75, bought this chair for and reveled in the thought that she'd gotten away with so many extra.

    She was thinking of getting up to buy another cup to renew her lease out of spite to that snotty barista, but there flashed a spot of red at the periphery of her vision. There were many bodies bumbling about the market, but none with such singularity as these two. She'd lost them, but their heads eventually bobbed back up to the surface of that pedestrian ocean. And it was them.

    Violet sprang from her seat, pulling her bag over her shoulder again. In that moment, her excitement overcame her, but by the time she was crossing the way her calm motivation returned. Her mind raced through the possibilities of entrance. She could borrow that bike leaning unlocked against the lamp post and feign an accident. She could fake evangelism. She could simply faint.

    "Could I buy you a cup of coffee?" Too late, she was already there in front of them and her instincts had kicked in. Fine, she could fake this sort of interest. It meant ignoring the sister completely, because who would approach a man with another girl, but she was so slight it wasn't hard to believe that anyone wouldn't notice her. She kept her eyes locked with the boy's. Whatever he responded, it was fine, because now there was contact. If (and when) she saw them again, she could come back with a fancy seeing you here.
  2. A fine day to buy flowers. Or at least, it had been. Kain didn’t usually take to the streets in full, garish daylight. It didn’t appeal to him. To the paranoid man, perusing the market in broad daylight felt very similar to being pushed into the boxing ring, beaten down by hungry eyes and heavy rays of blinding light. Of course, there were a few key differences. In the ring, he basked in the light which fell, along with heavy fists and curses. He embraced all these torments willingly. In the market, he felt exposed in a different way, an unwanted way. He felt like prey. The light that beat down wasn’t familiar; instead a loathing glare. It drew unwanted eyes. In the arena, Kain knew his opponents and their positions. He heard their inner whispers clearly, above the din. Here, the enemies were numerous, lurking in the shadows, a thousand eyes devouring him suspiciously. Their whispers blended into an incoherent, confusing mess. Kain couldn’t predict where the strikes would come from, nor could he brace himself for incoming blows.

    Being out of control made him vulnerable, and that made him weak.

    Shivering, Kain felt that the shift in weather was appropriate to his mood. He momentarily turned his eyes skyward. The bleak grey of the sky was reflected in his irises, the quickly moving clouds chasing away what lively blue was left. With the lack of color, Kain’s expression seemed a little more bleak. The tall man flicked his eyes back to his sole companion: his sister. Despite the change in weather, she was still having a good time. Kain hunched his shoulders, preparing for the oncoming cold, and pulled up the grey hood of his black jacket. It did little to hide his shock of ginger hair, but it did make him look even paler in the process. “Hurry up, slowpoke. You know you’re allergic to those.” When he spoke, the man’s voice was quiet, but gruff in tone. He hid his impatience well, though a fierce protectiveness emerged in his pale eyes whenever somebody neared the target of his conversation.

    This, apparently, was Karoline. It usually was. In reference to the small girl’s allergies, her brother was right. Karoline had been flouncing from booth to booth excitedly, but alas, the only one to attract her more long-term attentions held pollen-infested blooms of agony: Sunflowers. Karoline began to protest, only to sneeze rather violently, confirming Kain’s rather nonchalant words. Karoline’s eyes watered with both itchiness and sorrow, and she internally lamented that she would only ever be the beholder of such beauty from a distance. Using the corner of her olive cardigan, Karoline sniffed mournfully, rubbing her puffy green eyes. “I know. Just one more booth?” she pouted woefully, using her best begging expression on her brother. Due to their height contrast, the younger sibling looked even more childish, with her bun of ginger hair askew and her kinesthetic sundress in hues of green, decorated with small blue flowers. Though the dress reached her knees, the frail girl was still chilled, drastically unprepared for the change in weather. She would rather freeze to death than go home so soon, though.

    Little did anyone know how precious this insignificant outing was to Karoline. Not even the weather could dampen her mood.

    “One more,” Kain admonished. Karoline had been repeating that question for the past hour, but he didn’t mind too much. He did, in fact, know how rarely Karoline got out. He was letting her enjoy herself, for now. Noticing the goosebumps on his sister’s arms, Kain’s steely expression showed bemusement, briefly.

    Just as he shrugged off his jacket, wrapping it around his sister’s shoulders, a voice from behind surprised him. Jumping slightly, Kain’s expression flashed to something dangerous for a few seconds. He quickly turned, nervously straightening the folded cuffs of his dark blue, plaid shirt. His position allowed him to face his new…. opponent, and keep Karoline at his back. It was a defensive position, one Kain always instinctively took in times of surprise or stress. Almost instantly, he was assaulted with a barrage of excited thoughts, all abuzz. He could make little sense of the mess, but the deluge was enough to give him a mild headache. It was definitely a cause for alarm. Grimacing briefly, a few of the man’s freckles melded together. “Unless you’re buying for the both of us, I’m busy,” Kain replied with little regard for manners. He wasn’t well-known for his brevity. He eyed Violet suspiciously, nearly hostile with a mixture of intense suspicion and curiosity. His expression was rather impassive. When he had spoken, at first, his words seemed calculated. He stood like a rather tense and aggressive statue, his bulk obscuring most of the figure behind him.

    Alerted to the presence of a stranger, Karoline shyly peeked out from behind her brother, dwarfed in his large coat. Despite her allergy, she was clutching a less potent flower: a daisy. The scattered girl was even oblivious to the petals falling into her black galoshes. Karoline’s green eyes were innocent, but surprisingly shrewd. She wasn’t half as suspicious as her brother, but meek instead. Childishly, she refused to come all the way out to confront this new stranger. Instead, her voice wavered out from behind her tense counterpart, a tentative and shy echo.

  3. Oh, he was mean one, all right. Violet smiled up at him, expertly masking her grounds for satisfaction. The smile - interpreted perhaps as simply a forced nicety - was certainly involuntary. She liked his fire already.

    People swarmed past them in volumes, but they stood locked as mirror images of one another. Each offered the other a challenge.

    "As a matter of fact, I am," she assured him. Then there was the sister, peering out from behind her protector's back sheepishly. Violet broke their gaze to smile at her, "Coffee, yes, or anything you'd prefer." Her warm tone would have disarmed anyone familiar. It usually meant she was playing her game. Each syllable slid from her tongue with well-practiced ease. Her voice was naturally sweet and pleasant to the ear, which made the moments when it got nasty all the worse.

    "Can I take that as a yes, then?" she asked brightly, sweeping her eyes back to Kain. "You can call me Violet," she added, sticking out her hand first to Karoline. The girl seemed to need a little encouragement and Violet aimed to be as friendly as possible.
  4. Kain wasn’t one to smile, or at least, it didn’t seem like his face could morph into such an expression. Instead, as Violet grinned, his glower seemed to deepen in equal measure. He was not pleased. If anything, the girl’s smile seemed suspicious to him, rather than kind or nonthreatening. Clinically impassive, Kain almost seemed to bristle with distrust, refusing to be soothed by verbal assurances. To the average passerby, the behavior of the two would’ve seemed strange. Some would’ve even reprimanded Kain for his lack of manners. Not only was the rough man downright unfriendly, but he seemed borderline hostile. Kain realized that he was trapped in somewhat of a standoff, only one which he could escape by using his wits, and perhaps a touch of gentility. Diplomacy.

    In this case, they were doomed.

    Of course, Karoline was oblivious to this standoff. One could say that the poor girl was blissfully ignorant to most social contention. She didn’t understand social niceties, nor shrewd decorum. She was entirely too easy to take advantage of, a fact that her brother was well aware of. Some would say that she needed to learn her lessons the hard way: Kain didn’t believe that would truly work. Too little too late, Kain saw that his sister had been snagged by Violet’s pleasantries, hook line and sinker.

    Gullible, he lamented mentally.

    It took only the promise of free beverages and a little friendliness to coax Karoline out of her shy shell. She emerged from behind her brother, straightening from her hunkered position. Without the slouch, Karoline seemed a little smaller, though still quite slender and frail. The contrast of fragility and demeanor between the siblings was rather striking. Karoline beamed at Violet, eagerly shaking her hand. “Yes, yay!” she replied before her brother could rain on her parade. It already looked as if the weather would try to do that anyway. The girl’s grip was slight, but her handshake was enthusiastic. Karoline was a bit tentative, but she had a kind and friendly demeanor. Unfortunately, she was also eager to trust anyone that extended kindness to her. Green eyes alight, Karoline hasted to introduce herself. “I’m-“ breaking off, she cast a blank look at her brother, which he tried to avoid. “…. Daisy,” she blurted, obviously improvising. Kain couldn’t quite hide the look of embarrassment and disbelief that he bestowed upon his younger sibling, as if he couldn’t quite fathom how terrible she was at being secretive.

    A weary sigh escaped Kain, involuntarily. Karoline would be the death of him.
  5. Violet shook the Daisy's hand, looking up in minor victory to the brother who so clearly did not want to be a part of this. "Then I know the perfect place," she said, beginning to lead the way. She didn't address Kain along the way. It was no secret he wasn't a man for small talk. Instead, there was Karoline. She asked simple things that didn't mean anything and wouldn't be suspicious. "Did you see the film that came out Friday? No? Well you've got to." Nothing that could be taken for a red flag.

    It wasn't long before she sat across from the two in a small café, tucked in an alley that looked, to the unobservant eye, like a place you didn't want to be. Kain still wore a face of iron. Violet had quieted down with the entrance of coffee into the conversation. She sipped from her cup, careful not to burn her tongue. Her eyes swept around the room and out the window, only occasionally observing her new companions. They were an interesting pair, certainly.

    "So - where would you rather be?" she asked, leaning into the tabletop towards Kain with an expression that seemed to say because I know you don't want to be here. She still technically didn't know his name, but she would let him keep his secret for the time being.
  6. Kain didn’t bother to hide his dislike for this idea. Instead, he openly glared at Violet, the woman who had so brazenly charged into his life naught but two minutes ago, only to rapidly seize more and more control of it by the second. Kain didn’t like this woman; she was entirely too suspicious and friendly. Nobody was friendly to a rude person unless they themselves were a genuinely kind person, or they wanted something. Kain hadn’t the shadow of a doubt which one it was, in this case. The look that he gave Violet was cold, and the promise of a short-lived victory. He wouldn’t let her celebrate long.

    As they walked, Kain did his best to not let his eyes dart. His cool was rather forced, but he was a good one at keeping up appearances. For every gaze he stifled, however, he felt a new itch on the back of his neck. Most of the eyes he felt were imagined, but he couldn’t tell which ones were fake without actually looking. Kain trailed sullenly behind the girls, giving a good show of sulking, but also protecting Karoline’s back. It was a position he was used to. Even in his most casual glances, there was a certain shrewd sharpness, or intensity. Mostly, his eyes were boring angry holes into Violet’s back.

    Karoline, on the other hand, probably couldn’t have been happier. She scampered along beside Violet, completely enraptured by her newfound friend, one she was far too naive to question. She chatted happily with the new woman, unbarred and very open. Karoline seemed like a slightly awkward, rather adorable human being, with bubbly kindness that was barely touched by her normal timidity. It was difficult to figure how two such drastically different people were related.

    Kain and Karoline seemed used to being squished. Beside her brother, Karoline looked quite small, almost consumed in his shadow. Childishly, she busily kicked her feet, easily distracted and entranced by the setting around them, as well as her own beverage. Her green eyes excitedly darted from the lights to the machines, a few more ginger hairs coming loose from her head with each swing. Though she avoided eye contact with anyone, she seemed rather content, humming beneath her breath.

    Kain, surprisingly, was a little more relaxed now that he wasn’t in the open. He had given everyone in the cafe a quick once-over before becoming visibly less tense, though still sullen. He retreated into thought, his large hands resting around two beverages, one his own and the other his sister’s. Such hands were covered in fingerless gloves, but the scars were visible, as well as the slight misalignment. Kai’s hands, like their owner, had seen rough times. Gazing toward the window, Kain’s grey eyes seemed clearer in unnatural light, his face a little more sharp. He was thinking, when Violet’s words startled him. Looking toward the woman, Kain deftly pushed Karoline her beverage - hot cocoa - deeming it cool enough to consume. Checking for marshmallows, Karoline quickly downed the drink at an alarming rate before extracting a pen from her hair, doodling on the paper cup as if it were a canvas.

    Knowing that his sister was completely occupied, Kain gave Violet his attentions. Studying the woman shrewdly, he withdrew his hands to place them in his lap, slightly uncomfortable. For a moment, he assessed what words he could best use to reveal as little as possible. “Alone,” he said shortly, taking a sip of his coffee. “Where nobody wants anything from me.” He gave Violet a sharp look, as if shrewdly attempting to assess just what it was that she wanted from him. He obviously didn’t believe that she was attracted to him. It was painfully obvious that he didn’t believe in her faked attraction, and wanted her to cut the crap.
  7. Violet took another sip from her drink, nodding at the same time. Alright, she could give that one to him. Alone, then. "I think I've given more than I've taken so far," she responded, holding her gaze steady. She didn't glance at the drinks, they were a negligible kindness; instead, her eyes flicked over Karoline, who seemed - although still shy - content and happy with the day. A little kindness and companionship for two who she realized were more isolated than she was led to believe.

    She looked back out at the room. A couple who had taken a coveted window seat stood up to leave, causing momentary ruckus when the table was bumped and some drops of remaining drink spilled. Violet let this fill the silence for a few minutes, observing them in their embarrassed laughter. Violet never laughed like that - so apologetically happy with a mistake. She didn't make mistakes.

    Once the table was cleaned and the couple gone, she turned her attention back to Kain. "And anyway, I promise no harm will come to you while in my company." She might have said the same jokingly if she didn't know better, but she knew exactly the grain of fear Kain must be cradling down inside that angry appearance and she said it knowing what it meant. Even knowing this, she was confident in her promise and her eyes held steady.

    Despite their differing situations, they were one in the same - Violet and Kain. Things didn't touch them, couldn't touch them because they didn't let them. Life was easier this way for people like them.
  8. Violet’s assumption that she and Kain were alike was true, though it wasn’t a concept Kain had bothered to visit. Though the man was shrewd, he was also weary in body and soul. This made him indifferent to many things, including what similarities he had with the woman seated across from him. Kain seemed very withdrawn as a person, and perhaps even lonely. While Kain had a cold shoulder turned to the world, it was definitely a mutual situation. Compassion wasn’t something often shown to this gruff man. Weariness was etched in the hollows of his face, in the light scars upon his jaw, in the dullness of his eyes. His eyes were most attentive when Violet’s own moved, or when he was alerted to an outside movement or noise. Despite being weary and tense, Kain remained sharp. The man hadn’t relaxed since entering the cafe, nor did it appear that he would anytime soon. As if becoming conscious of his own tension as well as the ache in muscles, Kain rubbed the back of his neck, doing his best to conceal his perpetual exhaustion.

    Momentarily distracted by the noise of the coupe at the table, Kain’s sharp eyes flickered to life, and they checked the table before also checking Violet’s expression. Kain had long ago given up envying the normal. It did no good for him, and only bred discontent. Of course he missed normalcy, but he had also forgotten what it felt like to the point that he probably wouldn’t be able to recognize it, even if it happened to him. Everything was much more complicated. He wasn’t naive enough to believe that the cafe was a safe haven, just as he couldn’t just assume that the girl who’d dragged him here had good intentions. Hardening his heart, Kain gave Violet a long, assessing look. His own eyes searched hers with suspicion and even a slight glimmer of desperation.

    He turned his eyes to his sister, and his expression softened slightly. She was still doodling, but kept absently patting her hair, unable to find something. Kain knew his sister well. Absently, he pulled two pens from her hair again, one blue and the other green: her favorite colors. Karoline vaguely smiled to herself, accepting the pens and getting back to work. Crossing her legs, she hunched over her work, brows cutely furrowed as she vigorously scribbled. Kain continued to watch her, a flicker of fear training his expression. He seemed to be contemplating something heavy that extended beyond himself. He was making considerations that would benefit his sister. She was his priority.

    Turning his eyes back to Violet, Kain crossed his ankles underneath the table, leaning back slightly. To the visible eye, he seemed to relax a smidgen. It looked like he was attempting to be less tense as a physical cue, but had forgotten just how to unwind. Due to Violet’s behavior, Kain had decided to grant her an inch, though he was stubborn about anything more. An inch already felt like more than he could afford. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Kain admonished quietly, his tone rather flat. He wasn’t holding this false promise against Violet, of course; he simply found it unrealistic, given her naiveness to the situation.
  9. Their conversation moved slowly, like a great crocodile prowling a deep jungle river, floating lazily down the stream. And like a crocodile's temper, their words could turn to lashings at any moment. Knowing from prior experience in dealing with strangers and their delicate lives, Violet reminded herself she knew next to nothing about these people. Their written history, perhaps, but not their personality or triggers. Even the past seven years of their lives, which played out off the grid, she had no idea. She worked hard to let the balance of harmony stand.

    She understood his hesitation and was somewhat enthralled by the ominous tone of his words. Promises you can't keep. Yeah, maybe the last seven years had been very interesting, after all. Ex-convict in hiding...Words swirled around in her head, a story writing itself from fantasy speculations. She was a writer to the core and day-dreamed in prose.

    She pressed on in jest with a small smile, "Or your money back, guaranteed."

    They finished their drinks in relative silence, a comment or question here and there. Violet knew she had to let them go. These two needed space and careful planning. She wouldn't want to overstay her welcome in their cozy existence with one another. Get too close and the subject recognizes an intruding presence. So she scribbled her number down on a piece of paper and handed it to Karoline, "If you ever want to get together sometime." Violet looked over to Kain and smiled, holding out her hand to shake, "It was nice meeting you. Until next time." Violet's handshake was firm but not crushing and never too long. There had been a time when she obsessively practiced this maneuver after being laughed at for a pathetic first shake at her first job at the paper. She took criticism to heart, but would never let it show.

    She didn't see or hear from the brother and sister again for some weeks. Not a peep. But her curiosity was sated for the time-being. She was able to get back to other work, all the while considering her potential subjects. Knowing their personalities helped her change the angle. She no longer stumbled through ideas of getting more information. There could be direction.

    After such time, however, she was ready to go ahead. She walked home one night, crossing through busy streets with lights and dark ones, too. Tomorrow, she thought, she would go back to the market and wait. They may show up again, one never knew.

    It was a Saturday and most were out partying, already stumbling up and down the sidewalks. Violet ignored them and their catcalls or angry shouts, stepping with purpose around the shenanigans. One man, particularly rumpled and drunk, called after her, "Hey pretty lady," along with some other things she didn't hear. She noticed some blocks later that his feet dragged on the sidewalk behind her. She rolled her eyes and sighed, not feeling like dealing with a stalker. She was afraid, certainly, of situations she didn't know, but outwardly her face was a hardened stone.

    Violet turned a corner quickly, hoping the man following her wouldn't catch up by the time she made it to the next one. Unfortunately she found herself smack into another man's body. She stepped back quickly, pulling the loose strands of dark hair from her face and screwing up her mouth for some verbal admonishment. She never found the words, recognizing just who it was she'd collided with, his stark red hair unmistakable. Her face softened, caught off guard by this encounter, and instead she uttered only a soft noise somewhere between a grumble of words and a sigh.

    The other man had caught up by now and stopped also, smiling now ear to ear because she'd stopped - clearly in his drunken delusion - for him. Violet looked back up at Kain, lips still parted in the confusion of the moment. The man started moving closer, mouth sputtering out vague words, but he finally noticed Kain and stopped. "Hey," he said loudly, coherent now with volume. He held up a hand and pointed lazily at Kain, struggling to steady his arm, "Why don't cha get yer own pretty lady?"

    Violet grabbed Kain by the elbow and led him down the sidewalk away from the man. "Just leave him," she said in low tones as they went, hoping the man would fall over if he started coming after them.
  10. Kain had simply wanted to forget the whole ordeal of that rainy day. People like Violet had mysteriously inserted themselves into his life - much like an insect’s forcibly lodged stinger, but perhaps more innocent - to create chaos. Kain had no faith in their intentions. Generally, reporters were a ruthless breed. Kain was never moved to indulge their whims. He and his sister were more than just than a story. They weren’t fictional characters to be exploited for the entertainment of the masses. They were people. Bad people, but still people. Kain could often see the hunger in the eyes of reporters or detectives, selfish people that wished to devour the siblings and make a spectacle of their remains, willing to sacrifice the lives of two struggling people for the sake of a headline, and maybe riches. Such people didn’t hunger for justice - they hungered for applause.

    But Violet was different. No, Kain wasn’t convinced, but Karoline had been annoying him persistently with questions as to her new friend’s whereabouts. Kain just wanted it to be like all the previous times that Karoline had become obsessed with a new buddy. Routinely, Karoline would timidly pester, while Kain would remain stoic to her pleas. Eventually, her requests and hints would peter into nothingness, and her new friend would be put on the mental shelf and forgotten. They would move on. Karoline seemed particularly stubborn this time, in Kain’s opinion, or he was just more easily annoyed this round than last. Kain was both suspicious and irritated with the two women who seemed hellbent on complicating his life. He didn’t trust Violet - she was just another hound on the trail of a good story, selfishly pursuing her goals without a care as to who she trampled.

    Fighting was the only spectacle Kain willingly participated in. Perhaps it was for the sake of irony. He could thwart the dogs of the media, yet he chose to case the dogs of the underbelly.

    Violet had preoccupied some of Kain’s attentions during his match. It had negatively affected his fight, furthering his vexation with the infuriating woman. He was more tense than normal, extremely paranoid, and a little bit easier to irritate. He’d taken most of this out on the poor sap who’d been cocky enough to catch Kain off guard. He’d broken Kain’s nose, and Kain had broken his ego with silent and terrifying fury. It had been a surprisingly brutal fight. For Kain, it was paid stress relief. Unfortunately, boxing wasn’t a profession he’d able to keep for long.

    Having exited the ring and the building, Kain brooded per usual. The night was yet young, in his opinion, though he wasn’t the life of the party. He preferred solitude, away from idiots. Having showered, Kain tugged at the leather collar of his jacket, missing the familiar scent of leather, oil, sweat and gasoline. His broken nose throbbed, but the stubborn man had refused to ice his most prominent wound. A split lip didn’t so much as phase him, nor a few bruises and scrapes to his torso. He had a fractured rib beneath his plain white t-shirt, and a small aura of steam rose from his body. The skin around Kain’s eyes was already beginning to discolor as he lit a cigarette, making his grey eyes stand out in further contrast. Scuffing a boot, Kain rounded a corner… only to be jolted out of thought by abrupt physical contact. His cigarette fell to the ground, quickly forgotten in a puff of ghostly smoke.

    Grunting in pain, Kain resisted the urge to clutch his rib. Glaring vehemently at the object of his newfound pain, Kain’s anger melted into an expression of surprise, quickly followed by dismay. Openly, he groaned rather rudely, rolling his eyes heavenward. “Why did it have to be you?” he demanded with a surprising degree of offense in his tone. He bore a surprising amount of resentment towards this determined individual, and he obviously felt no need to hide it. Subtlety wasn’t his strongest suit, nor etiquette. He was greatly inconvenienced by Violet, in every way. He had never been so vexed by one female in all his life, and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it. Aside from passionately irritated, of course.

    Obviously resentful, Kain reluctantly kept in step with Violet. Violet would probably assume that Kain was shortening his stride for her benefit, but truthfully, the tall man was just dragging his heels glumly. Unfortunately, physical contact also had a slightly strange, if not unnoticeable affect on the poor man. He allowed himself to be led, though he cast a venomous glance over his shoulder at the drunk, contemplating the idea of kicking ass with chilly apathy. “What, you don’t want me to defend your honor?” Kain asked sarcastically, looking to Violet. His bump with her had caused the pale man to lighten another shade, though he didn’t show such pain. Overcoming his distraction, Kain suddenly realized something.

    You’re scared.

    Not of me.
  11. Violet scowled up at him, the harsh lighting of streetlamps pulling glaring shadows from already sharp features of her face. "If you want to go back and fight him, be my guest." Her words cut the damp night air like a knife. She spat them out with something akin to disgust. He wasn't too happy to see her, either. An anger swelled in her chest. Defend her honor? She could take care of herself and always had. Just like a man to go chasing the hero dream.

    Violet told herself to calm down. For a moment she'd let this become personal.

    "You've got nothing left to lose with that nose, anyway," she added with less vigor, looking off to hide the mistake in showing her anger. His pale face showed bruises like ink on paper. He actually looked downright awful and yet the reds and purples didn't look out of place on his hard expression. Violet sighed and raised a hand to her face to rub the angry tautness from the skin. She thought about apologizing, but the stubborn hog in her wouldn't allow it.

    "If you don't have someone set that, it'll stay that way," she said, relinquishing some of her animosity. She stared at his nose openly for a minute as they walked, scrutinizing the painful zig-zag it had gained. She was of course curious as to its origins, but knew this wasn't the right time to ask him questions about anything. He was guarded and suspicious enough when he wasn't pissed.
  12. Kain cast another wary glance over his shoulder, evaluating the receding shadow of the drunk, toying with Violet’s angry words in a rather fickle, nonchalant manner. Fighting had given his eyes and posture a new life, one that Violet probably hadn’t seen before, as if the fight still scorched through his veins. Kain seemed to have very good control over his body and mind. However, as he traversed away from the arena, the exuberance seemed to fade, as if it was tethered to the arena itself. Kai’s heart had began to calm itself, and his emotions slowly retreated back into their compartments, where they were used to staying. They’d had a good run of things for an hour or so, but under the influence of their master, they padded back to the shadows, waiting for a call. Abruptly, Kain decided that neither the drunk nor Violet’s honor was worth his time. Besides, Violet was being childish about the ordeal. The least she could do was show a little gratitude towards his offer. He hadn’t asked for her to go full-feminist on his ass.

    Unable to maintain his brisk pace, Kain slowed slightly, quietly grateful for his rather passive facial features. At this time, his resting bitch face had no emotional connection. Making any expression hurt his face. “I’ve got plenty to lose,” he retaliated, shooting Violet a glare. Steeling himself, Kain reached up with a bandaged finger, sucking in a deep breath between his teeth. With extremely stubborn determination, he pushed his nose roughly, making a rather funny, high-pitched noise of pain in the back of his throat, though his teeth were clenched. Unfortunately, he’d pushed it too far. Unfortunately, it was misaligned in the opposite direction, now. “That’ll do,” he grunted. The sharp inhale, however, had stretched his fractured rib ever so slightly. He suddenly stopped walking, making a wheezing noise.

    Kain would rather puncture a lung than ask for help. “Slow down,” he requested rather breathlessly, sounding hilariously asthmatic. He bent over slightly, favoring his rib, to catch his breath, wiping a bead of blood that dripped from his nose. He pulled in a cautious breath through his nose, attempting to suck up the damage, only to sound like a clogged drain. He would’ve got five stars for his impression. Though the exasperation didn’t show on his features, he did look slightly more frustrated than usual.
  13. Violet's insides twisted up like a clot of worms at the sight of this man wrenching his nose back - almost back - into place. Outwardly, however, she watched stone faced. The result was not much better than what he'd started with and would probably result in even more bruising.

    She stopped just a few feet after realizing he'd slowed down. Violet turned and crossed her arms, her face still showing her irritation. It quickly faded, however, to a reticent worry. Kain did seem to be hurting. The man just ripped his nose into place - he wasn't the type to show pain if he could help it and right now he clearly couldn't.

    Violet's arms dropped to her side and she took half a step closer, bending over to the side to get a better look at his face. Having assessed the situation silently and without him, she straightened back up. "Come on, I know what you need," she said rather easily for the potential situation. She waited patiently for him to gather his strength. Her dark eyes stayed on him, waiting for some sort of answer. The destination wasn't too far as it turned out, just a few blocks. She hoped he would simply trust her and come along. Trust was maybe a strong word, but they'd started off strangely enough tonight.
  14. Being a rather stoic man, Kain was relentlessly stubborn in his pride. Showing weakness, like fear or pain, was a struggle for the burly man. His pride was usually stronger than whatever negative emotions he harbored, aside from anger. Wrath was direct fuel for physical strength, though it often made him blind to an unfamiliar spectrum of fighting - mercy. Hesitantly, the big man slowly straightened, though he kept his posture casually bent. It was a forced position, of course, devoid of the relaxation Kain’s occasional, broody hunch harbored. Physically, Kain couldn’t stand with arrogant rigidity without stretching the fracture. Therefore, he’d been reduced from a menacing man to a angsty boy. Kain hid his mild humiliation well, but his suffering was a little bit more difficult to conceal. Emotion was easier to hide than physical pain, or Kain had more experience in suppressing the former.

    Despite his obvious pain, Kain still had a bit of fight left in him, or at least enough to be a jackass. He noticed Violet’s irritation turn to worry, and didn’t hesitate to jade her benevolent sympathy. She was worrying about him. How cute. Rather openly, Kain’s mouth contorted into something of a crooked smile, or perhaps a sneer. Whatever it was, despite being the closest thing to a smile Kain had ever shown Violet, the expression was somewhat infuriating, or downright cheeky. Broken bones failed to still Kain’s rudeness. However, in this instance, karma was also a bitch. The expression caused a scab on Kain’s lip to split, and the expression vanished as he tasted blood - again. He cussed under his breath, chewing at the new gash.

    “Do you, now?” he asked, managing to sound both sarcastic and skeptical. Despite his ungrateful attitude, however, his actions spoke differently. He took a moment to look at her, as if trying to read her. With a small pause of caution, Kain decided to follow Violet, albeit stubbornly or hesitantly. He was far more tired than he let on, and getting home would be too much of a bother at this point. Impatiently, he motioned for her to lead the way, if only so he could hunch more effectively behind her back.
  15. Violet didn't give a shit about his pride and his infuriating obstinacy was enough to make her want to smack some sense into the boy. Violet could be mean; she could even be cruel, but this sort of physical suffering was not the kind she enjoyed inflicting on a person. She cocked her head at his sarcasm, waiting patiently for a real answer with upraised brows. When she finally received it - though unsatisfyingly silent - she took it and began to lead.

    They made their way slowly down the sidewalk, passing in intervals from darkness into light and back again. She kept her hands in her pocket and was careful not to walk faster than Kain. The streetlights in this part of the city glowed with a mucky yellow light, splashing brighter or fainter light on the pair. She pulled out her phone for a moment and wrote a text, glancing at her company before sending. Violet gave him the silence she knew he desired. This was her one kindness, because she knew also that he wouldn't enjoy their destination one bit.

    After a few blocks and maybe twenty minutes, she stopped outside a barred alleyway that just maybe could have been two and a half feet across. Violet rang one bell in a field of two hundred and leaned back on one leg to wait. Out of habit, she glanced up at the façade, scanning across the darkness to a few lit windows near the top. After a long moment an angry buzz sounded and Violet reached for the handle of the door. She opened it and held it as Kain shuffled into the alley. They rode the small, creaking elevator to the sixth floor and went right into the unlocked apartment 617.

    "It's Violet," she called out into the apartment. It was surprisingly well furnished for the rest of the building leading up to it. There was one warm colored lamp switched on sitting on an end table in the living room, but the rest was dark.

    "Yeah, yeah, I'm here," an answer came gruffly, accompanied by a heavy-set young woman in pink pajamas and fluffy slippers. "What'd you bring me this time?" The woman sounded irritated, but her face showed only amusement. Violet knew her friend secretly loved these sneaky late-night visits.

    Violet glanced at Kain, still hanging back in the shadows, "This is my friend, Jenny. She's a doctor - but she's willing to patch you up for free if you promise not to bite." Jenny smiled at Kain in a flirty way and shrugged, "Maybe I could let that rule slide this time." In an instant, however, that feeling was gone and she moved past them into another dark room to switch on the light, "But let's have a look, come on." Jenny could do that - one moment she was all jokes and the next as severe only as a doctor with cold hands can be. It was difficult sometimes to tell which she was in a single moment.

    Violet glanced back at Kain, trying to judge his enthusiasm for this idea. She didn't expect much. "I didn't figure you for a hospital person, so this is the next best choice ahead of the vet," she said. Jenny's voice could be heard form the kitchen, "If you don't get in here and tell me what hurts, I'll just start exploring with my reflex hammer."
  16. The yellow splashes of light did Kain didn’t little justice. In his opinion, yellow was a sickly color. Karolin was always prattling on about the symbolism of colors, and Kain had begrudgingly retained some of this knowledge. Despite his hatred for yellow - and most “happy” colors - Kain would admit that, at this moment, the sickly hue suited him. The slowly passing luminescence did more to enhance the darkness of his features, rather than illuminate his facade. The shadows contorted his expression, turning the downcast glower into a figment of the imagination. Was the broody man bitter? Angry? Insane? These were all questions without clear answers. Even an interrogation would find little yield in Kain’s expression. The yellow light, however, did an excellent job of illuminating the spreading bruise. While it marred his already crooked features, it made the shifty man’s eyes surprisingly light in contrast to the surrounding skin.

    Kain was rather apathetic to Violet’s communication, or lack thereof. He wasn’t the type for chitchat. Typically, he couldn’t stand it. The only attention he seemed to pay Violet was the suspicious glare he cast her when she touched her phone. Keeping his eyes on her, he seemed to forfeit care when nothing bad immediately happened, though his shoulders seemed stiffer than before. Some would say that he was terribly paranoid, and Kain wouldn’t argue. He had good reason to be paranoid. He was paranoid, but he wasn’t dead. Kain could literally live with being paranoid, if it preserved his life. If it preserved Karoline’s. Currently, Violet was the main object of much of his paranoia. He didn’t like her, and he didn’t trust her. She’s not terrible, Kain mentally conceded, only to severely rebuke himself. A tiny kindness was no reason to trust this weasly woman. She had ulterior motives, but two could play; Kain was curious and observing this girl was a method of investigation.

    Some sleuth he was turning out to be.

    Twenty minutes was not very long compared to Kain’s usual victory limp. The steam had stopped rising from his frame, and the remaining drops had either vanished into his collar or had soaked into the jacket, becoming just another part of the trademark musk. When Violet rang the bell, Kain grimaced at her, his eyes darting around nervously. He was obviously hoping that the bell attracted no unwanted attention. Self-consciously, he hunched his shoulders, pulling the collar of his jacket higher to hide his face. In the elevator, he stood a respective distance from Violet, though he was very curious as to how big her personal bubble was. However, he wasn’t going to breach that bubble while injured. Kain wasn’t wise, but he also wasn’t stupid. As it was, elevators gave him a rather distinct feeling of claustrophobia. He was a bit quick to exit the elevator, and his eyes darted around the empty hall, absorbing the details before he ducked quickly into the apartment.

    For the sake of appearances, Kain forcibly straightened his back upon meeting Jenny. This was not for the sake of manners, obviously. Kain seemed to lack those, along with a heart. Despite Jenny being a doctor, Kain was very reluctant to show any sign of weakness, if he could avoid it. The pain made the red-headed man a shade paler, but he grimaced and bore it with foolish pride. He eyed Jenny skeptically, though he was too tired to be cruel in his scoffing. Glancing to the slippers, Kain raised one scarred eyebrow. “She seems overly-qualified,” he stated flatly to Violet, shooting her a doubtful look. Yes, the little shit had the gall to be sarcastic at a time like this. He seemed to be contemplating his recent life choices. Considering the woman who was supposedly a doctor, wouldn’t it have been better if he’d let one of the thugs patch him back up? Better yet, I should’ve just stuck to drinking, Kain reminisced woefully. He’d dug his own grave in this matter, and now he was being forced to lie in it.

    Kain wasn’t a fan of hospitals, this was true. He also wasn’t a fan of being ordered around. With a small spark of weary rebellion, he stayed exactly where he was. What a stubborn jackass, forever the ungrateful curmudgeon. However, Violet had done him a solid, in this case. He would’ve blatantly refused a hospital. Standing stock still, he seemed to be contemplating his options. Unable to maintain his straight posture, the man let out a breath, posture sagging in resentful defeat. Kain had been victorious in his previous fight, but meddlesome women seemed to have it out for him. He was damned.

    Kain moved abruptly, surprisingly quick despite his injuries. “I wouldn’t suggest that, slippers. I’ve already beaten up one asshole today, and women are less of a challenge,” he warned, though his rather sexist threat was empty. Truthfully, Kain had only hit two women in his life, both times in self-defense. Kain didn’t need these women to know that, though. It was as if he deliberately attempted to stir up hatred towards his own character. He didn’t need Violet to believe the best of him, much less Jenny. He didn’t care what they thought of him, but disdain made their honesty flow a little more easily. He didn’t want their pity, or their kinship. Besides… if they were ever going to think anything positive of him, it would only be achieved by Kain slowly whittling away their standards for human interaction.

    Kain plodded into the kitchen, cockily spinning a chair away from the table to straddle it in a less graceful movement, one which he would’ve executed skillfully if not for his injuries. Managing not to botch the movement, Kain’s frame seemed to settle as he sat, exhaustion forcing all his limbs to sag. He crossed his wrists over the shoulder rest of the chair, not even doing Jenny the justice of eye contact. “I have a fractured rib or two. It’s being a bitch,” he admitted with only a mild wheeze. Obviously, his various other injures weren’t important enough, in Kain’s book. Violet would probably protest, but Kain gave very little consideration towards his own injuries. He wasn’t being intentionally tough, as some would probably assume, but the state of his crooked face held little importance in his own memory.
  17. Jenny let out a course laugh. Of the things she appreciated, course humor and a challenge could be counted. Kain presented both.

    The doctor crossed one arm under her breasts and used it to prop up the other elbow. She gave the angry man a good look over before waving her free hand, "Lift your arm." She began feeling the side of his chest without answer. He was in her house now and she was in charge. Jenny treated everyone this way - temper or no. If Kain didn't respond to a command, Jenny would go in anyway; lift his arm for him, pull the chair around, tilt back his head with two plump fingers under his scuffled chin. Perhaps not assuming to the passing glance, but Jenny was a force of her own out as well as in the field of medicine.

    Violet leaned back into the counter, watching with passive eyes. For some reason a strange feeling floated into her, standing there in a kitchen that would be grimy no matter who lived there, under off-yellow fluourescents in the middle of the night. She felt like a part of a movie. She felt as if there were bigger things going on out there and this was just a moment's respite.

    Jenny moved seamlessly from one hurt to the next. "Can't do much for the ribs, but you're not in danger of further complications so long as you don't wrestle any more bears for the next two months. This nose, though..." She gave it a good look before turning around to open a cabinet under the sink. She pulled out a bottle, rattling full of pills, and set them on the counter next to a glass of water. She didn't need to explain their purpose. If he was too stubborn to take them before, she wouldn't be surprised if he was less so after.

    "Tilt your head back," she said flatly, looking at him but only seeing the hurt that needed fixing and not the man. She placed her hands lightly on either side of the nose, purple and crooked and oozing, "When you're ready, I'll count to three." On his mark, she counted one and jerked the cartilage back into place, slowly sing-songing two and three when the thing had already been done.

    When she finished, he had a dozen small, strip-like bandages in a number of places, mostly on his face. "You still look like shit," she admitted, "But it'll clear up better this way.

    Violet pushed off her place on the counter's edge. "He'll be hurting somewhere else next week, I'm sure," she said sarcastically, but her face was as serious as ever. She didn't know what his daily life looked like, but she wouldn't be surprised it her words were true.

    "I don't know what kind of mess you've gotten yourself into with him, Vi, but if you get bored, you can always leave him here." Jenny winked at Kain with a naughty smile spread across her lips.

    Violet rolled her eyes and walked into the darkness of the other room, "Stay or go, it's up to him." Jenny would certainly lay a sheet down on the couch for him as she did with all the patients she treated in her moonlit examination room. She herself, would be walking home.
  18. While Kain was initially taken by surprise due to abrupt physical contact, he submitted to the physical inspection with reluctant compliance. His response to the unexpected was a surprised grunt of pain and a twitch. The muscles of his side contracted under Jenny’s hand, a ripple of lithe muscle. Kain quickly fought to control the involuntary muscle spasm, forcing his side to relax as he lifted his arm. Despite putting on a good show, Kain’s face was a gross mixture of pale skin and dark bruising, a canvas of contrast. He was trying not to show weakness in his utter disdain for physical contact, but the glower he gave Jenny was surprisingly vicious. It wasn’t the woman’s fault, of course, but there were few outlets for Kain’s pain at present. She was a closer target to glare at than Violet.

    Bear-wrestling? Kain couldn’t help but emit a harsh laugh, which was a surprising noise from him. This man didn’t… laugh. Even this vocal emission was a mirthless one. Kain didn’t have the adequate joy required for laughter, and scorn instead took its place in a once humorous action. “Two months? Bear-wrestling pays the bills, Doc, but you won’t be seeing more of me,” he retaliated gruffly with a mocking salute. Truthfully, Kain did make most of his livelihood in boxing matches and petty crime. Boxing was his rather demented version of therapy as well. Keeping Kain out of the ring was like trying to keep a bear on leash - doomed to failure, followed by disastrous results. While he was being surprisingly honest, he was just plain rebellious as well. He showed no remorse over his rude refusal, but it wasn’t as if Jenny was able to place him under house arrest. Kain didn’t really have a home anyway, and mostly came and went from different places as he pleased, ungrateful bastard.

    To couple with his complete ingratitude, he also refused to take the pain pills. He gave them a long glance, much like a mournful, recovering alcoholic gazing wistfully at a cold beer. Deliberately, he simply took the glass of water instead, downing it as if it were a shot. He was pained and dehydrated, but at the least, he now wouldn’t be the latter.

    While Kain complied to tilting his head, he didn’t have nearly enough time to steel himself. Upon getting his nose jerked, Kain sucked in a sharp breath, which in turn made his ribcage expand. Hissing, his entire body stiffened, and he clutched the chair back, his knuckles turning white enough to blend fully with the scars. After a few seconds, there was a minor crunching noise as the chair began to rend beneath Kain’s meaty hands. To say the least, the man had impressive biceps. Releasing the breath in a muttered “Bitch,”, Kain forced his jaw to unclench by popping it. The pain had caused him to see spots, but even as he sat perfectly still, not all of his vision returned. He had experienced episodes of this before, chiefly with ring concussions. His eyes seemed slightly unfocused, and he blinked rapidly, blurry vision returning first to his right eye. Already, he could feel an intense migraine raging to life.

    Today was shittier than normal.
  19. "Won't be seeing more of me." Jenny clicked her tongue and tossed an apathetic glance his way. It never mattered to her what they did after they left her care. She couldn't help but pity the lot of them. Hers was just a moral duty to heal the sick. What they did once healed was none of her business. Always more of them returned than she cared to count, but after his nose was set, she thought she just might believe this one.

    Violet appeared again in the light of the kitchen after hearing Kain's quiet rebuttal to the pain signal the end of the worst part. Her arm hung from her jacket pocket, fingers wrapped tightly around a small bulge. Jenny wouldn't notice. Or Jenny set it out on purpose. Violet had never figured that out. One shoulder leaned against the opening and she felt the coolness of the wall on her neck as she rested her head there.

    "Is this your full time gig, then?" her voice entered the space with a hollow quietness. She'd completely calmed down from the previous run-in with both the stalker and Kain. She'd let the cool night air sink into her skin and through her bones.

    "Seems," she hung on the word, eyes darting to the ceiling as if the words she wanted might be written there, "Seems risky." She couldn't imagine how Karoline felt about his activities in whatever violence he got mixed up in. Her guess was some kind of fight club, but like in most things, he hadn't said much outright. She wondered if his sister even knew. Her dark eyes flicked over Jenny, back now turned to cleaning up her supplies, and then to Kain again. She noticed he hadn't taken the pain killers and she noticed now that his body punished him for it. His pride would be trouble of his entire life. Just like her own.
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