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Meet Me Halfway

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"Finally" shouted Jonah, pulling his wrinkled fingers out from the large sink of water and raising them into the air as he arched out his back and stretched. The smaller clock hand had finally reached the hour mark much to Jonah's pleasure. His shift was officially over for the day... no more dirty dishes to clean or tables to wipe. Dipping his hand into the sink for the last time today, he reached down deep for the rubber plug and pulled it out; the slurping sound of the water draining into the pipe; music to his ears. With the sink steadily draining, Jonah walked over to the wall and undid his apron, hanging it on one of the vacant hooks before turning around to look at the others; a smug expression inched across his face. He was the only one scheduled to clock out at this time and he just wanted to let the others know that. However seconds into his silent moment of immature bragging, a cold chill snaked its way down his spine as the all too familiar presence of the boss entered the room. It was now or never... he had to make his 'escape'. He quickly bolted towards the back door.

 

"Oi.. Jonah! Where do ya think your going?!" shouted a rather obtuse man as he stuck his head in through the rectangular opening in the wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant. While traditionally, this gap was used as a way to relay the orders to the chefs.. recently the manager of the restaurant has found a more ingenuous and rather annoying use for it. "You've still gotta dry them dam dishes!... Oi.. Don't just ignore me ya brat!" he shouted, squeezing a hand in through the gap and shaking his fist in the air to emphasize his point. "Get back here dam it!" he barked.

 

Jonah was having none of it. His shift was over... no way was he gonna work overtime not when the sun was still out and the day was still ripe for adventure. He quickly ran through the kitchen, sidestepping several of the staff as they prepared various dishes and almost knocking over a man with a scolding hot pot of boiling water. "Sorry!" he shouted, looking over his shoulder, in the process spotting a rather large piece of salami being sliced and diced for toppings on a pizza. Half of it was still spared the inevitable slicing and it was up to Jonah to rescue it. Reaching a hand out, he grabbed the intact half of the salami and rescued it as it was inches away from being sliced. The knife struck the wooden chopping board before falling to the floor, the cook raising a hand upwards as his wrist ached from the impact. He was not prepared to strike wood and the backlash had sent a discomforting feeling up through his wrist. "God dam it! $@&@#" he cursed, glaring at the back of Jonah as he disappeared through the back door with the salami gripped in his mouth.

 

"Thasht dinrer Stretled" he spoke to himself, as he chewed on his meal and made his way up the back stairs towards the small room above the store that he lived in.

 

((Bold = Jonah, Green = Store Boss/Manager, Orange = Random Chef))

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Hazuki walked out of the library happily with a new book in her arms. She looked up at the sky and took in a deep breath as she savored the feeling of being outside. Her long dark violet hair was hanging to her mid back and she was wearing a puffy red and black dress. She looked like a China doll, which was strange to the normal humans walking around, but it was how she liked it.

 

She promised her Mother that she would get milk for the two of them on the way home from the library, so she headed over to the convenience store to get some. She was passing the park when she noticed a few other halflings around. She looked at them for a moment and immediately recognized the small one as Azet. She was a curious little girl who talked too much and frankly got on Hazuki's nerves. She looked to be bothering the older boy, who Hazuki remembered was named Lucas. She thought he was pretty cool because he was quiet-seeming like her. There was also an older girl near them that Hazuki knew was familiar but she couldn't quite put her finger on who she was.

 

After a moment of debating on whether or not to walk up to them, Hazuki heard Lucas say something about the convenience store. Suddenly deciding that having company wouldn't be so bad, she started to walk up to them.'Wait,' she thought, 'He'd probably think I was being annoying if I just went up and talked to them.' Letting her fears get the better of her, Hazuki sat down under a tree near them and opened her book, hoping one of them would notice her first.

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Cordelia nodded her head at Rowe's observation. "That doesn't surprise me, she's usually out and about on good days, from what I know. Hopefully she sticks to our side of the city though, I really don't feel like chasing down all of our adventurous teens today," the dark redhead said with a small yawn. She was still tired from staying up all night scouring the city, even though at this point she was used to the fatigue. A guard's duty was never finished, and her father made sure she was well aware of that.

Not that Delia minded that much. It made her life exciting; she couldn't possibly begin to understand those that lurked around inside all day and night.

 

She had noticed the physical change in Rowe and wondered if it had been the wrong choice to tell the youngster about the potential hunter. She didn't want to frighten the poor girl, but Delia wasn't the type of person to let others live in ignorance. She believed in action and awareness.

"Come on kiddo, let's see who's slumming it at the park today," Delia said cheerfully, and she gave Rowe an encouraging squeeze of the shoulder. Dolores Park was just at the corner up ahead, and like usual there were throngs of people walking around the massive slope of grass, with varying groups mingling in different spots throughout the park. Delia made sure to steer clear of the people out walking with their dogs; even animals not trained to detect a halfling's scent could still pick up on it, and Cordelia could remember countless times where dogs had harassed her, both friendly and non, when walking around the city. It was likely the same reason that Delia was so successful with raising the kittens she found on the streets.

 

As Delia guided them around the outskirts of the park, she noticed a few familiar silhouettes on one end of the lawn. She was just about to mention her findings to Rowe, but as they passed by a lone figure on a bench, she felt the hairs on her neck prickle. Delia didn't expect Rowe to recognize or understand the waft of unknown-- and yet to Delia, known-- scent that trickled by them in the breeze. The redhead didn't even blink or tense, but instead smiled down at her young companion as they continued past the bench. "Hey, I think I see Katerina and Luke over there with Azet. Go ahead and go check on them real quick for me, I think I saw an old friend a little ways back. I'll catch up with you pretty soon, okay?" She nudged Rowe kindly, and then stood in place to watch the young halflings in the distance.

 

When she was in the clear, Cordelia turned around and slowly traced her steps back to the area she first caught the scent. Guards were incredibly sensitive to scents of loners, given they were viewed as hazards to the Clan's safety and security. As she walked, she let her jaw hang slightly, like a cat on the hunt, even though she didn't possess the same organ on the roof of her mouth as felines did when she wore the skin of a human girl. Finally, she halted at the end of the bench she and Rowe had passed minutes earlier.

"Enjoying your novel?" Cordelia's voice was not the same warm, cheery voice she used around Rowe. Her tone was hard, though neutral in regards to a welcome. She wasn't one to immediately chase rogue halflings from the city unless she was given absolute reason to do so. Even if Cordelia was an aggressive individual, she wasn't cruel.

 

{Edit just to point out that Cordelia is talking to John, not Hazuki}

Edited by Shiny Hazard Sign

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So wrapped up in the weather as well as his book to match, John never realized another halfling's presence until it was too late. He started at the sound of her voice, mentally berating himself for his wayward actions. He should have known better, did know better, than to throw caution to the wind - literally. For a few seconds, he desperately wished he had ignored his love of breezes. It was a stupid thought, one he quelled as soon as he felt its existence. He had to focus on more pertinent matters.

 

Until this time, he hadn't really spoken to any halflings involved in the clans. He could recognize a few vaguely familiar faces here and there that he'd seen more than once in this dense city, but other than that, he preferred to stay away from their radar. It never occurred to him, really, how easily they could pick him out should he come too close for comfort. Even still, he glanced up at Delia warily, furrowing his eyebrows as he tried to go over the situation at hand in his mind.

 

"I..." he trailed off, unsure of what to do with her tone. It wasn't... cold, but it wasn't warm either. It was a neutral sort of firmness, as if she was daring him to tread on the wrong waters and spark and alarm. The doubt and hesitancy began to fester in his mind like an open sore, even whilst he provided the rest of his semi-accomplished answer. "Yes; I enjoy reading of fantasies. Who might you be?" For now, he'd play it safe. Pretend he wasn't as aware of the possible dangers.

 

He didn't know what Delia or her clan were really like; all he knew were the stories his parents told him. And those were never oh-so-detailed. For all he knew, that tone of hers could very well be a way to determine whether he was a red flag. And if he was... he didn't know what he'd do. An entire clan against one halfling wasn't very good odds. And he wasn't intent on leaving the city of his birth any time soon. Carefully, carefully he would tread through those waters.

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The park was beautiful, and for a second Rowe hesitated, her breath lost. She rarely travelled far from the Clan, and the park was too exposed for her to feel safe among the people spread out throughout it. She could tell that Delia was deliberately avoiding the dogs, and Rowe followed her lead, not wanting to approach the slobbery creatures which were so attracted to halflings. She had had little contact with them back in her home. But no, this was her home now. And hopefully soon it would feel like it. Rowe knew that she should explore the city more, even for the basic safety purposes of knowing areas to escape too should something happen, but the outside world seemed so unknown and unfamiliar, sometimes she wondered if the places outside her headphones held anything for her. But then again, the park really was beautiful.

 

Looking in the direction that Delia had pointed, Rowe could see a group of familiar halflings further into the park. Rowe had no wish to talk to so many people, as she was even becoming tired of Delia's company, she knew that vanishing now would probably cause some kind of alarm, especially with some kind of hunter presence in the city. Hunters seemed to be always be around in cities like this, and Rowe couldn't help but wonder if she would be better off on her own. Shaking her head, she knew that this was rubbish. She'd barely survived the journey to the Aegis Clan, and with hunters…she'd never last a week.

 

Still, she should hang around. Seeing a tree nearby, Rowe walked up to it, leaning back against it as she watched the other halflings converse with one another. Reaching into her pocket, Rowe could feel the soft weight of her ipod knock slightly against her leg. As she reached to pick it up, Rowe lost her balance slightly, slipping haphazardly to the ground. For a second Rowe froze there, but after realising there was no damage, she looked up, only to see a girl sitting against the tree, reading a book. No, not a girl, a halfling. Rowe observed a lot, so could recognise most faces in the clan, but names were something that never quite worked with her.

 

"Oh. Sorry."

 

Rowe muttered, and then slid down to sit next to the tree. Her legs were aching anyway, from all the walking.

 

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Inside the room, Jonah quickly turned the lights on; already shifted into his halfling form. He simply felt more comfortable this way, it just seemed all the more natural being this way as opposed to being a simple human. He knew for a fact that no halfling looked the same... even if they were the same type and it was that uniqueness which drew him towards prefering this form. As a mere human he was hands down similar to everyone else... well not everyone.. but most people and he didn't like that. As a halfling however, he doubted there was another out there with the exact same markings that he had.

 

Throwing his shirt off and pulling his pants down, he made his way towards the small shower cubicle at the corner of his room and quickly soaped up, rinsing off the smell of various cooking ingredients that had clung to his body throughout the day.

 

.....

 

Freshened up and no longer smelling of cooking ingredients, he shaked his body in a similar fashion to a dog, getting the water off his body before pulling out a clean set of clothes. As he got dressed, he glanced at one of the many watches he had stolen to check the time and smiled as he still had hours before nightfall. Satisfied and ready, he exited his room; locking the door and bolting down the stairs.

 

It was just as he reached the bottom of the stairs that his canine like features disappeared and his normal and boring guise as a human returned and it was just in time too, as around the corner stood two of the kitchen staff members that were on a cigarette break. Had he held his other form any longer, he might have revealed himself to them. A fragile and nervous smile crept across his face and he held a hand behind his head as if trying to hide something.

 

"You.. you guys on.. your smoke break..?" he asked rather nervously, his hand now reaching around behind him for any signs of his tail.. just in case.

 

"What does it look like... " replied one of the men, it was the same one that had hurt his hand thanks to Jonah's actions. "Get outta here already... this is no place for a kid yeah... last thing I need now is being shouted at by the boss for smoking near some underage brat" he hissed. That was all that Jonah needed to hear to know that he should make a quick exit. He slunk past the two adults and left through the door, walking down the back alley towards the main street, the half eaten salami in his hand.

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Hazuki heard the sound of someone falling next to her but didn't completely acknowledge it as she was so into her book. She then sensed that the person was not just human, but a halfling. When she heard the girl say sorry and sit next to the tree, she put down the book and finally acknowledged her. Hazuki looked up and immediately recognized the girl as the one who wore her headphones everywhere, but the girl's name escaped her. 'Might as well try and initiate conversation,' Hazuki thought, and then gently stuck out her small pale hand.

 

"Hi, I'm Hazuki," she said quietly almost in a whisper, "I definitely recognize you, but I'm kinda bad with names." She smiled lightly hoping that the girl understood that she was just naturally quiet and not trying to be mean. "What brings you to my tree in the park?"

 

((Sorry it's so short. I couldn't think of anything else to say))

Edited by StarriAngel

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Extending her hand slightly, Rowe awkwardly shook the other girl's hand.

 

"Rowe. Rowe Weir." She said, unconsciously wiping her hand along her leggings once it escaped the girl's grip.

"I'm not really a big character. Most people don't know me. At least I think." Grimacing slightly, Rowe thought about how she must appear to others. But she didn't really care. Keeping to herself, that's all she needed now. You love someone, then they die. Everyone dies eventually after all.

 

"But you're Hazuki right? The cat girl." Rowe enjoyed the irony of the shy retiring girl being the embodiment of the seductive and fiery Catwomen of the movies. Not what humans would expect, but then again, humans were never the most intelligent of beings.

 

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Free of the rigorous duties of work and now able to enjoy his freedom Jonah made his way down the street... ignoring the one or two sets of eyes that seemed fixed upon him as he walked along the sidewalk with salami in his hands. Of course it was not out of the ordinary to see someone walking down the sidewalk with a snack in their hands.. but plain salami with no bread... that drew a bit of attention.. not that it really mattered to Jonah.

 

He was hungry and food was food... putting it simply.. there was nothing wrong or weird about what he was doing. With a gleeful grin across his face, he took another bite out of the salami and tore a rather huge portion off. He was very canine with how he ate his food... or in other words.. messy. The word etiquette was not a part of his vocabulary, evident by how he ate. Had Jonah been in his halfling appearance, his tail would have been wagging from left to right, such was his mood right now.

 

....

 

Salami finished, Jonah stood at a rather crowded bus stop among several adults all making their way to one place or another. It was at times like this, that Jonah found it easiest to do what he did best, when not working. A bus approached, its number not really an issue to Jonah.. as long as the majority of the people here got on.. which thankfully they did... this stop afterall only catered to two busses.. so it was a 50/50 chance that the people standing here would get on. Sneaking onto the bus, Jonah made his way towards the middle where a rather old man was standing. The man in question busy chatting away on his mobile phone.. and by the sounds of the rather feminine voice blaring through the other end.. he was in trouble with the misses. This was the perfect target.

 

Positioning himself to the right of the man, where his wallet was; obvious by the bulge in his right pocket, Jonah prepared his little trick. Hidden in his left arm sleeves were a pair of metallic chopsticks with a small hooked end, which he let drop into his hand. The close proximity of everyone on this crowded bus allowed Jonah to be this close to his target without drawing any suspicious eyes and it also reduced the chance he would be spotted, as countless bodies hid his 'show' from view. The chopsticks were in place and if memory served him right... there was a bump on this stretch of road.

 

 

As it on cue, the bus drove over the bump causing everyone standing to jostle around, trying to maintain balance. It was at this time, that Jonah struck, lunging the chopsticks into the pocket and pulling the wallet out in one fluid motion without the man noticing. A couple minutes later, the bus came to a stop.

 

 

"Excuse me.. Coming through.. Excuse me.. this is my stop" spoke Jonah, squeezing his way through the forest of people blocking his way out. Jonah ducked under outstretched hands, clasping around the handle bar and squeezed his way through the bodies, before finally making his way out of the bus, his pocket heavier than when he had entered the bus. Likewise

 

Clasped in his right hand was a watch that he had taken, seconds ago from one of the bodies blocking his way.

 

He arced his back out and stretched, taking in the fresh air, before opening his right hand to examine the watch, a cheeky grin appearing on his face.

 

 

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"Yeah, that's me," Hazuki said softly. She could tell Rowe wasn't really interested in her company but she continued to speak anyway.

 

"You're the girl who's always has her headphones right? You seem to really like music." Not one for small talk, she tried to move the conversation into interests.

 

"I like music too. I do ballet," she said, "What's your favorite kind of music Rowe?"

Edited by StarriAngel

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Watching the boy jump gave Cordelia a little sliver of pleasure. Had she been playing a trick on one of her brothers, Delia would have had a wide grin spread across her face with amusement, but this boy was not one that she knew, even if he did smell similar to her brothers- probably a dog. It was strange that his scent was not completely alien to her city, she noticed, but even with the large surplus of halflings living as a part of the Clan, she knew almost automatically that he was not a member of her gargantuan family. No smile surfaced on her mouth, and her round gray eyes bore down on him with a blank stare.

She placed one hand on the arm of the bench and leaned toward him slightly. "I am trying to figure out whether or not I need to chase you out of town," she answered in the same flat, stony voice. Her head tilted to the side a little as she spoke, like a curious animal.

 

He was careful, and seemed timid in her presence. Even though he appeared docile enough now, Delia was more than aware that halflings (and humans, respectively) were capable of flipping facades in a matter of seconds. The encounter was not unlike ones she had before; the reminder was borne on her exposed neck, with the ribbons of silvery pink that traced down her neck and over her collarbone. She almost had the urge to touch the scars as she watched him; the memory of the fight, her very first experience with exiling a rogue halfling, played like a movie reel behind her eyes. It had been another woman, around Delia's age, with an attractive physique and seductive flair. Her name was Danielle, and she was a fiery hawk halfling that had a very dangerous habit of transforming in broad daylight. Cordelia had been too emotionally invested and involved with her, but Danielle's risk taking had threatened to expose their existence. Delia was forced to...

 

Delia's lip twitched from the memory of the altercation, and she blinked to clear her thoughts of the painful images. The powerful anger she felt from the memory simmered in her bones as she fixed her gaze on the young man sitting before her. However, as much as her trained thoughts demanded that she run him from the city right then and there, her instincts pulled her back. She remained silent for several more minutes as she stared at him.

 

Eventually, with a short sigh, Delia stood straight up again and the hostility that had been bristling under her skin appeared to evaporate. "I'm Cordelia," she said finally, and this time her voice had lost the sharp, unfriendly edge. She pointed at the book in his hands and added, "I like that series. I don't get much time to read, but that one's worth losing sleep over." She attempted a small smile, but it was half-forced, since she was still uncertain on what to do with the loner. There was no saying how he would respond to the acknowledgement of the Clan, much less a guard that had grappled with her fair share of loners before. Not that he would know that, Delia surmised, but she knew that he was uncomfortably close to finding out if he so much as placed one toe out of line.

"Who are you?"

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John couldn't help the feeling of extreme discomfort that nearly shivered down his entire form. He attempted with his absolute best effort not to delve to deep in that discomfort, but the way he felt the other halfling looking at him was an unnerving emotion. His suspicions of her tone and stance were confirmed as the stranger made her intentions readily known. "No need for that," he answered curtly, a line forming across his lips in slight irritation. He hated this feeling of being cornered into a trap. As if the only one with the key was this woman he had no affiliations with nor any desire to speak to another second.

 

Even still, though his eyes remained wary, and he stood slowly so as not to raise an automatic alarm, he tried to loosen his features. It didn't work very well. His eyes flashed with their golden hues as the sun flared overhead, and suddenly John found it ironic that such a horrendous occurrence would happen to him with the day so nice and clear. What need was there to chase him out of town? He was a stranger, correct, but other than that, she had no business telling him such things. It allowed John's irritation to prickle again, and he mentally fought with himself over how he should proceed. If he let the hostility of his wolf's side out, he'd most certainly be outnumbered and chased from the town. But if he remained neutral... submissive... no, he couldn't do that either.

 

"Cordelia," he repeated. Had he heard that name before? He thought so, but then again there was the vagueness of those stories his parents had told him. They'd wanted so badly to live amongst the humans and not worry of the clan's 'rigidness' that they'd neglected to give their son the tools he might need should anything happen to them. And now he was left with nothing but his own intuition to guide him in predicaments such as this one. "It's a good series, yes..." he answered without really caring for his own response. He simply said it to fill a gap in the silence.

 

"John," he said, in response to her last question. After a gargantuan argument within the confines of his own mind, he'd finally decided that saying his first name would be answer enough. It was a common name, he provided. It wouldn't give away too much, he hoped. "Chasing me from town wouldn't do you much good," he added, looking towards the trees nearby and not allowing his eyes to travel towards her form again. His tense body gave away his irritation at the situation, even as he tried to remember the breeze around him in an attempt to calm his nerves. "It would be quite the waste of your efforts." His tone was neutral, almost uncaring.

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Cordelia's body mirrored John's in the tension of the muscles and frame. She could tell, just by looking at him, how uncomfortable--and probably annoyed-- he was to have a stranger randomly threatening him in the middle of the park. She watched him for a long moment, her gray eyes taking on a twinkle of green as the shadow of a cloud moved off of her face and allowed the sunlight to pour across her features. The pupils in her eyes contracted into an odd shape when he spoke; similar to the vertical slits of a feline when enraged.

 

However soon after, Delia snorted and leaned her hip against the bench with her arms folded casually over her abdomen. "You wouldn't be my first and likely won't be my last," she scoffed. "I was trained for that job, I don't see why you would be so different." The redhead let her gaze travel to wherever he was looking, although he didn't appear to be examining anything in particular. The breeze made the leaves whisper gently around them and brushed her cheek with a salty breath of ocean air. She contemplated on whether to alert the others of his existence... a loner in a city like San Francisco, where a predominant Clan had been already established, was a rare occurrence and usually one for alarm. But, Cordelia decided she would use her best judgment on this case, and she knew there wasn't enough evidence to support that John would be posing a risk to the safety of her family.

Not yet, anyway.

 

Delia forced her shoulders to untighten and she yawned slightly. "Relax, John," she said after a minute, and she adopted a much less challenging tone than before. "I'm not going to start a witch hunt after you for reading a goddamn book at the park. I have no intentions of chasing you out of the city this very second. But to my family, you are seen as a hazard, and it is my duty to be sure that no one violates the safety of this city," she said, and even though he wasn't looking at her, her eyes were fixated on him sharply. After a moment she added, "I don't want to make you leave any more than you want to be thrown out. It's a great city. So please, for both our sakes, don't give me a reason to track you down."

 

It was true. Cordelia loved this city very much, and she could understand why anyone else would be drawn to it. Suddenly forcing someone from their home was definitely not her idea of a grand time, especially since for all intents and purposes, he had been sitting respectfully on his own. Still, rules were rules, and Cordelia had sworn an Oath to the Elders of her Clan, and there were children she needed to protect.

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John tilted his neck to the side in an attempt to crack some of his bones and loosen the muscles in his back, though he refused to look back at Delia. He could tell from the corner of his vision, however, that she was taking on a much friendlier pose - if you could call it that. It was almost as if she was hinting for him to relax. And then, as if on cue, she confirmed that thought as well. His eyes narrowed, however, at her words.

 

He allowed a chuckle to escape his lips, though it was slightly bitter. It wasn't particularly aimed at Delia, though it could have been given the way it sounded. "I'm not the one you should be worried about, Cordelia." He finally turned, looking at her straight in the eyes, despite the unnerved feeling he still could pinpoint in his bones. He got as close to her as he dared, given the circumstances (he knew nothing about her, and so, he was naturally taking precautions, just as he should), and said with a slight growl to his tone, "I'm sure you're aware there are hunters in this city. And they've been here for a long time. As have I. And yet, I've never hurt anyone I didn't have to." He backed off after that, moving away from Delia and walking off from the bench a short distance away. He hoped desperately she wouldn't bother walking within his close proximity again.

 

"You clans... you train so hard and fight to protect the humans; those of which that have discovered our existence hunt us down like dogs." He laughed with that slightly sour tone again, though his expression seemed... haunted, sad to a certain extent. "Though I guess that's ironic, because there must be one or two of us who actually are dogs. I guess I can include myself there... Though wolves aren't dogs, by any means..." He stared up at the sky again, not registering that he had reached rambling territory and not truly caring despite himself.

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"Loud music. That drowns the world out. I like it that way. Silence is too unnverving." Rowe rolled her ipod in the palm of her hand. "Most people claim to be into music. It's a fashion in a way. But is it the music they like, or being alone?"

 

"Yeah…ballet. People looking at you." She paused, considering what people did there.

 

"Very precise. Very delicate. Flying is like ballet in a way. You have to control all your body at all times, or you could overbalance or just look stupid."

Rowe settled back down, looking back over the park.

 

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Satisfied with today's score, Jonah pocketed the watch on his right side and began walking down the road, a little skip in his step. The bulging wallet in his left hand pocket causing his trousers to sway ever so slightly due to its weight. While eager to see how much exactly was in the wallet he had stolen, he also knew that opening it in such an open area would likely draw some unwanted attention.

 

He tapped his left pocket with a smile on his face and turned the corner heading back in the direction he had just come from whilst on the bus. A passing cop car caused his heart beat to race momentarily, but proved to be a false alarm as it stopped at the red light. If Jonah had actually paid attention, he would have noticed that its sirens and lights were not switched on.

 

"Oh my... I'm sorry about that.." interrupted a feminine voice, causing Jonah to turn his attention back in front of him. Standing there was a rather old lady, at the very least in her late forties and beside her on a leash a little white fluffball; a Bichon frise. Jonah looked down at the small dog who was busy sniffing around Jonah's legs and every so often standing on its hind legs as if trying to get Jonah's attention. "My little Lucianda isn't always this bold when it comes to strangers.. I honestly don't know what has gotten into her" spoke the lady,

 

"It's.. it's fine.. I get this all the time.. really.." offered Jonah, holding a hand behind his head and smiling. "I can't really explain it... but animals just seem to like me.." he gave a halfhearted smile. Across the road, another dog walker was struggling to contain his Rottweiler as it barked rather ferociously at Jonah's direction. "S..see" he laughed nervously, a bead of sweat beginning to roll down the side of his face. Jonah pulled the watch out of his pocket and looked at the time, before looking back at the lady in front of him. "I.. I really must be going.. My mum will be mad If I get home late.." he lied as he slunk his way around the old lady and hurried down the road. Both dogs were trying their best to follow as they pulled against their leash.

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(Heheheheheheh... Don't murder me, but I thought you had moved on without me and didn't want to interrupt... For future reference, I don't post super fast and if other people do I generally just don't because there's no time for me to do what I do...)

 

As the two spoke, Kat simply took some time to look up at the clouds and ponder. She wondered how Raphael was doing all the way in the Middle East. She had been told that his job was to teach the soldiers over there how to fight. Or something. It was all military lingo, stuff she didn't really understand. Sure, she knew it, but it just didn't feel real. Besides, all she needed to know was that he was serving in the US military and that he was off in some country she'd probably never be able to go to. Well...good for him. As the breeze awoke her from her thoughts, she looked out into the crowd and saw an unwelcome sight.

 

Damn. Never thought I'd see her here. And of course she's with someone else already. Probably the girl she left me for. On principle, people never really like seeing ex-partners, especially not when they broke up and stayed on bad terms. This was especially true for Katerina, a young woman who had a tendency for jealousy. When Lucas asked if she wanted anything, she nodded as she struggled to tear her eyes away from her ex-girlfriend having a ball with someone else. "Uh...yeah. I, um, I'm gonna get a soda. But I can get it myself. Thanks for asking." Hurrying into the store, Kat took her sweet time "finding" the refrigerated isle and longer still finding the soda that she wanted. If only she could run away, tail between her legs, and forget about the fact that Leslie had cheated for several months before finally breaking it off in the painfully cold way of text message. But she couldn't just forget, so instead she browsed the isle and took longer than necessary to find a ginger ale and then walk up and down the dry foods isle in search of chips, but maybe she wouldn't even get them. Of course, she was just delaying the inevitability of the fact that she would have to leave the store sometime.

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Lucas who rarely offered to do anything for others was caught off guard by Katerina's decision to go to the store by herself. Katerina's reaction seemed unnatural and forced and completely out of character to how she was acting a few moments ago not that Lucas really noticed. But even he knew that it was strange to go get the drink yourself when someone else had offered to get it for you... much less go by yourself rather then simply going along with everyone else. Mometarily focused on Katerina's weird behaviour, Lucas failed to notice Azets displeasure and annoyance at Lucas getting her name wrong. With Katerina already halfway towards the store, Lucas turned towards Azet just in time to be assaulted by her barrage of questions which in turn elicited a semi depressed expression to creep along his face.

 

From a neutral's observation of the pair, they would have likely concluded that Lucas and Azet were polar opposites to one another, her curiosity and Lucas's indifference two contrasting traits. Where Azet would question and try to find an Answer, Lucas would ignore and leave things be or simply not notice that there was a question to be asked. He sighed, looking down at her knowing full well that she was expecting an answer. Had she been of a similar age Lucas would have just given her the cold shoulder but she was still a child and there were limits to how unforthcoming he could be.

 

It was Azet's last question that for one reason or another had piqued Lucas's interest.. albeit slightly. Lucas was apathetic towards most things and the sun and wind were seemingly no different... thus the effort of putting any thought into such a question was alien to him. Was the warmth of the sun and the coldness of the wind the reason he would often relax in the park and watch the world go by with a phlegmatic demeanor? or where they just passing luxuries that happened to be there? Lucas shifted his gaze towards the view beyond where he earlier sat and marveled at the ray of sun which warmed his face before being blocked out by a passing cloud. As if on cue a strong gust of wind blew across the pathway causing his long hair to blow across his face exposing his ear to their chilly touch. He sighed and brushed his thoughts aside already losing interest in the subject and choosing to simply appreciate it for what it was.. a nice serene afternoon.

 

"Come on.. lets go.." he suddenly spoke shaken out of his thoughts and not giving Azet an answer to her final question. He placed both hands in his pocket and waited for her to follow. "You wanted to know what ginger beer is right..?" Even Lucas was somewhat shocked that he had remembered something of little importance.

 

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Hazuki thought about Rowe's statements about ballet. It was true, in a way. If you were doing a pirouette and you leaned forward slightly, you would fall. And so, Hazuki thought, something similar must be true for flying.

 

"I guess," she finally said, "I always feel like I'm flying when I dance. It's special, like nothing can hold you back. Is that how it feels when you fly?"

 

She made sure to ask the question quietly so that none of the normal humans heard. She then looked up and noticed Lucas leaving while talking to Azet. While she was a tad jealous that Azet of all people got to talk to him, she decided to focus more on the conversation in hand and turned back intently to hear Rowe's answer.

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At first Delia was certain that John was avoiding her gaze, but after a few moments he turned and drew very close. The ocelot halfling's fur would have bristled had she been wearing her other skin, but instead she stared directly back at him with a dull expression, as if unimpressed with his bravado. The growl in his voice did not escape her notice, though it didn't appear to faze the redhead.

 

"Congratulations," she replied dryly, "For being a decent person. Of course I know you haven't hurt anyone, if you had you'd already be run from the city. And I'm highly aware that there have been hunters on these streets recently, which is precisely why you are of high priority now." Delia made a gesture at the surrounding park with one hand. "This place has been our home for centuries. When hunters come sniffing around with their bloodhounds and whistles, my Clan makes very sure that no one else will put us in jeopardy. As one of...our kind that is not under obligation to adhere to Clan rules, you automatically become a risk when it comes to a hunter invasion. We can't control you, and when situations are dangerous enough as it is, we have good reason to keep you under scrutiny."

 

His next comment made Delia's mouth form a tight line, but she remained quiet for a long minute. She could tell by the edge in his voice that humans were a poignant subject to him, and he didn't seem to be very pleased that they were included under the Clan's protection. Delia glanced away from him as he moved back. She had no desire to be physically close to him though, so she stayed where she stood, arms slack at her sides. "I had a feeling you were one," she said with a small, breathy chuckle. "I know wolf when I smell it." Delia had lived with them her whole life; it was no wonder his scent had smell oddly familiar.

 

She sighed. "Look, John. Not all humans are terrible-- but that's not my point. We protect everyone in the city because it keeps us safe. If we ward off the dangers from the humans before they even suspect they're in danger, that keeps our family from getting discovered. We have enough to worry about already with everything going on..." She paused a moment, uncertain if he knew of the alarming disappearances of different Clans. "But that doesn't mean we stop caring about other dangers too. And as much as you want us to think you're a swell guy, you remain a danger to us as long as you remain a rogue."

 

Cordelia didn't want to come off as harsh, at least not until she got a better feel for what kind of person John was. He contempt for humans was a little unsettling in the very least, but didn't appear the kind of guy to want to draw attention to himself. She silently prayed he would keep it that way, since she was more than aware that her wolf brothers would pick up on the scent of another male wolf and track him down if Delia didn't give them a good enough reason not to. She rubbed at her temple for a minute, suddenly irritated with the responsibilities her father kept heaping on top of her. Track the hunter by night, corral the Clan at day, keep the loners in check, figure out how to stop her Clan from getting annihilated... she almost wondered why she agreed to become a guard in the first place.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched the other halflings from her Clan mingle amongst themselves. She was glad Rowe had found someone to talk to at least, and that the children were close to older halflings such as Lucas and Kat. The latter of which suddenly behaved strangely, and Delia frowned, wondering if she had picked up on John's scent. However that didn't seem to be the case, since the ocelot halfling followed the younger woman's line of sight and figured what the issue was. When Kat fled to the store, Delia's gray eyes flickered back over to John, and her thoughts returned to mulling over what to do about him.

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John's eyebrows furrowed in dismay at Delia's reaction. He hadn't been expecting the harshness of her tone, nor had he been waiting for any sympathy or pity - he didn't want it - but somehow her firm voice kept him feeling far too uncomfortable for his preference. He looked down at the ground for a fleeting moment, unsure of how he should proceed. He knew his beliefs, he remembered his past, and he knew the extent his pride and prejudice was willing to carry him by. In short, he knew his limits, or most of them, anyways.

 

He was certain he didn't want to be run from the city. Even if he did, what would he do then? He was grounded here. He had a life. It was a quiet, admittedly lonely one, yes, but his roots had always been here and - as far as he was concerned - always would be. If he were to be cast away from his home... away from San Francisco... what would become of him then? He could move to another city, but then what? Clans were scattered all across the map. And he'd never ventured outside of this city for too long a time to become familiar with separate landmarks. He'd be at a loss if he was forced to go, and the wolf halfling knew it. In fact, he was painfully aware.

 

But he also knew that was most likely going to be Delia's plan of action if he bluntly refused not to cooperate. Frankly, John had never been rebellious, but he was a bit stubborn, and that... when you were considered "rogue" to the Clans, was dangerous. He groaned out loud as his mind sped through his options at a thousand miles per minute. He couldn't join their Clan, he just couldn't. But what other option was he left with?

 

His shoulders slumped in an almost defeated fashion, as a sigh escaped his lips. "I..." he trailed off, mentally berating himself for his obvious hesitancy. "What would you propose?" he asked, raising an eyebrow ever so slightly before turning off a ways to the side. He was still looking at Delia, though perhaps not as directly as he should have given the severity of the situation. "I can't leave this city... I know nothing else," he whispered, though he was certain Delia would be able to hear him. "But I can't join your clan either... I just... I can't." His voice broke at the end, and he cursed himself senseless within the confines of his thoughts.

 

Once he regained his composure, John finished, "It would destroy everything... it'd make their deaths worth nothing, despite their dying wish."

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The look that crossed John's face gave Cordelia the sudden urge to run home, grab one of her orphan kittens, and then speed back to throw it at him in attempt to cheer him up. He was like a sad puppy, and given the circumstances, it gave Cordelia a very peculiar feeling. Comforting him was far out of the question, but the pang brought on by his expression and the obvious distress she had put him in had flooded Delia with a sense of despair. Her motherly side was often sensitive, given that she never truly experienced the extent of a mother's affection before, and she found it strange that a rogue halfling that had attempted to intimidate her could flare her maternal instincts at random.

 

Cordelia pursed her lips and gave another glance around to make sure no other humans were in ear shot. Luckily, the closest people besides her Clan members were several yards away, chatting heartily amongst each other as they passed a cigarette between themselves. She wondered briefly what it was like to live a life in blissful ignorance, completely unaware of the serious matters that wove through the city like a plague.

 

For the first time in their meeting, Delia hesitated. "I don't want to force you to do something you don't want to do," she said finally, her voice quiet. "But it is also my duty to make sure I protect my family from all angles. I understand that you don't want to be apart of my Clan, and I would never ask anyone to join against their will." She stopped for a moment and pursed her lips thoughtfully. He spoke something about deaths and wishes, which piqued her interest, yet she couldn't bring herself to pry into his private life. After all, she had met him not ten minutes ago and already threatened to throw him out of the city; it wasn't like she deserved to hear his personal history anyway.

The breeze gave a soft hush through the leaves above their head, and a twig fell from a branch above and landed in her hair. As she picked it from the red strands, she started again, "It's normally against policy to keep information about loners from other guards, but it seems like I'm the only one so far to have noticed your presence here."

 

She looked around again, just to be sure. "I can't completely ignore you though and just let you off with a warning. I can check up on you every once in a while when I do my rounds to make sure you're not doing anything stupid, but I won't send anyone else after you if you promise to keep a low profile." She almost laughed when she realized he had been exactly that before she had happened across him on the bench reading a book. "Or at least, if you come across anything suspicious, will you let me know? I've encountered loners before that have tried to handle hunters on their own, and the result was not...favorable," Delia said, forming the last word in her mouth with a look of distaste. That particular incident had been extremely messy and took a long time to get covered up, but they were all extremely lucky that the human in question had been an old man from a senior home out for a walk, and was known for stringing together extensive fantasies. Cordelia wasn't sure what the Clan would do if they found out she was advising a loner, much less letting him walk free, so she mentally crossed her fingers and wished vigorously on any and all stars above that John would not breach the Aegis' alarm.

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After escaping the ruckus the two dogs were making, Jonah, by chance stumbled across a rather small and fairly hidden costume shop squidged in between two larger stores on either side; one of them a bakery and the other a locally owned laundromat. Curiosity and boredom where the two main culprits at work when Jonah decided to venture inside the dainty establishment. Along both walls where various costumes all divided by certain categories. Closest to the doors where the more popular superhero costumes, displayed in plain sight for the young children who still idolized their batmans and supermans and further down where the more 'frightening' costumes such as vampires, werewolves, witches etc. Jonah looked to the back of the store for any sign of other costumers and only coming across a mother and her two kids.

 

A rather mischievous idea began to creep through his head as he watched the store owner and her young assistant disappear into the back of the store. Both were currently preoccupied with serving the mother and her two children; her son vehemently demanding a black spider-man costume in his size and the daughter on the verge of tears at the lack of unicorn horns on display. The two employees of the store had gone to check their stockroom for any stock of the items in demand and had left the store floor unsupervised. With no one else in the store to pay attention, Jonah crept his way past the two mannequin displays and stood in front of the window. There was a back wall for the display; a backdrop of a pirate ship to suit the two mannequins currently dressed in a captains and swashbuckler outfit. The back wall itself fortunately hid Jonah from view of those inside the store as well as the CCTV camera's as he began to transform. As the change took place Jonah did his best to emulate the many werewolves he had seen on tv by making his claws and fangs as visible as possible.

It was a few long and boring minutes before anyone had walked passed the store, those that did were either too preoccupied with listening to their music or busy chatting/texting on their mobile phones to even notice Jonah's display. As a matter of fact, the only one who did notice Jonah was the boy from earlier, who stopped to examine the display as his mother stood idle, digging through her purse for her mobile. Jonah stood there motionless and watched as the mother began to dial a number and put phone to ear, her back towards the store. Her daughter; like her son had also taken an interest in the 'werewolf' and peered through the window. As she leaned in, Jonah could not contain himself any longer and suddenly lunged, his face now inches away from the display window and his canines in full view of the two kids.

 

"Mummy Mummy!! The Werewolf Moved!! It really moved!!!!" cried the boy, his finger outstretched and pointing at Jonah; the girl had burst into tears due to the sudden fright.

 

"Hush now Damien... Can't you see that mummy is busy on the phone" she spoke rather bluntly, "Rebecca Darling... what's the matter..." the girl continued to cry," Damien.. can you tend to your sister please... This is an important call..." The boy reluctantly went over to his sister and as he turned to take another look at the werewolf again, he got a shock. Jonah was nowhere to be seen.

 

"Mummy.. The werewolf is gone!! It just disappeared!"

 

"DAM IT DAMIEN.. I SAID BE QUIET!, I got you your costume already.. Just let me make this dam phone call.." she turned back to her daughter "Rebecca.. Stop Crying... Mummy won't be able to hear her phone.."

 

Jonah on the other hand was on the store floor laughing his face off with tears beginning to form on the edge of his eyes. His ears and tail were slowly disappearing as he returned into his 'human' appearance. The noise he was making had drawn the attention of the two store employee's, the owner urging her employee towards the boy; her face wearing an angry expression.

 

"Excuse me sir... your making too much noise.. Unless you are going to buy something.. I suggest you leave.." she looked over her shoulder at her boss, then back at Jonah.

 

"I.. I'm sorry ma'am.." Jonah replied, both hands clasped around his midsection as he struggled to contain his laughter. "I.. I'll be on my way... I.. I just thought that costume over there looked rather funny.." he lied, his hand randomly pointing towards a large pumpkin suit. Still unable to fully contain himself, he made his way out... noticing the mother and her kids disappearing around the street corner.

 

((Stealing and scaring kids... all in a days work for Jonah))

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