Moonlit Prologue

The story of how Brand and Leonie crossed paths again.


The back room of the bar is practically carpeted with discarded playing cards. Red backs and blue, and black with casino logos, all scattered over the floor in the wake of an upturned table. Plastic poker chips hide among the cards like a poor man's gemstones, mingling with petty change and a few dollar bills that have been swept aside in the sudden degeneration of civilities. Four men had been sitting at the poker table, and the odds have changed dramatically. Three men, rough flannel shirt-wearing truckers in caps and ornamented with poor teeth and alcohol breath advance on a fourth. This fourth is a mess of dirty blonde hair and a bloody nose, might be broken. He wards them off with a flimsy wooden chair pointed at them like a sword as he backs towards the door leading into the bar.

A sudden crash, and the door flies off its hinges, striking one of the three men in the legs and staggering him back with an audible 'oof'. One hundred pounds of bad attitude walks in, and Brand's already backing away from whatever freight train brawler could take a door clean off its hinges. And then..


"Holy shit, there must have been LSD in that cigarette," the blonde-haired man blinks blood out of one eye from a cut on his forehead, squinting in amazement and lowering his guard with the chair.

For a few nerve-jarring heartbeats, the brunette in the ruined doorway simply stares, wide amber eyes - weren't they blue, once? - regarding the bloodied man in a curious entanglement of abject horror and tremulous wonder. As Brand lowers the chair, at first the motion is disregarded, such is her fascination in studying his features. But then…

"Nonono.." Leonie's nostrils flare a little, the scent of blood suddenly dizzyingly thick in the air, saturated with the anger and tension still very much present in their fellow occupants. Three truckers are hardly intimidated by a hundred pound girl and after a momentary hesitation borne of confusion, they're advancing again. Gritting her teeth, a flicker of pain marring her expression, the girl simply reaches to grasp Brand by the front of his shirt and haul him forward. And then sharply to one side, placing herself subtly between he and his assailants.

Tension ripples through her lean form, surely too much even for this disenchanting scenario. It's as if she's barely holding control of.. something. But as one of the trio takes advantage of the confusion of the moment and surges forward, everything becomes rather blurry. Literally. There's a vague sense of momentum's breeze that stirs the blonde man's hair, and then everything is chaos. The initial attacker lies amid splintered fragments of the table, chips and dollar bills strewn over and around. The second finds himself flung bodily -through- the open doorway, crashing to the floor out in the bar itself. And the third? Most unfortunate. Within the blink of an eye, Leonie has him by the throat, dangling in mid-air with bulging, fearful eyes.

Her lips are drawn back furiously, revealing her white teeth, and a continual soft snarl purrs from somewhere low in her throat.

The chair falls to the ground limply from Brand's amazed hand, and it's his turn to stare bug-eyed. His jaw drops in amazement (though he spits out blood a moment later that'd been dripping down his throat, splattering against the playing cards on the floor). When the amber-eyed berserker takes control of the situation he's still standing there numbly, trying to piece together if he's hallucinating or not. An old adage comes to mind and he literally pinches himself on the exposed skin of his arm, the right strap of his tank top falling off from his participation in the scuffle. He shrugs it on right and takes a few tentative steps forward after Leonie seizes the final, unfortunate white trash fellow by the throat.

"Uh… tiger?" He speaks the old pet name uncertainly, still obviously not believing his eyes. "They've got friends in the front room." Brand starts moving at a limp from where his hip was struck with a chair (now in broken pieces on the floor), stumbling over to the remains of the table. He kneels next to the fallen man and digs through the playing cards, finally scoring a jingle of metal. He holds up car keys looped through his index finger, shoving the unconscious trucker's wallet into his back pocket.

He takes a few steps towards the growling Leonie, reaching a hand to press two fingertips against her shoulder. "We should go. Quick-like."

Leonie's attention is rapt upon the man in her grasp, her body easily absorbing the shifting weight as he kicks feebly and tries to pry her fingers from his throat. How utterly futile. Short, huffing breaths escape through her bared teeth as she glares up at the trucker. A lot is hanging in the balance, aside from the gambler himself. She barely seems to hear Brand's words of warning. In fact, she doesn't react at all until he touches her.

With a vicious snarl of warning, she spins on a heel, flinging the trucker after his counterpart, across the room, where his head rather solidly connects with the far wall. He slumps, motionless, to the floor.

That's all periphery, of course. Already, the brunette is prepared to attack whoever has dared to intrude, her forearm rising with the intent of slamming Brand back beside the doorframe. She halts herself, just in time. Confusion and shame war across her gleaming amber eyes as she struggles to order her thoughts, then she's looking past him to the bar proper. True enough, the first of the trio is being helped to an unsteady stand. A swift assessment apparently makes her decision easy. Taking a firm grasp of Brand, a fistful of fabric between his shoulders, Leonie moves forward, out into the maw of the beast. Or so one would assume. Again, it's a blur of motion, and one that likely confounds the blonde man's senses, without the chance to accept it. Within a breath, they're out on the street and she abruptly, unceremoniously releases him, leaving him to find his own balance as she casts a wary glance over their surroundings.

"What th-" The abrupt transition in surroundings leaves Brand's head spinning and he staggers a pace, grabbing onto the pole of the lone street lamp out in front of the bar. It flickers and fizzes orange light into the stale, humid evening air, surrounded by a halo of moths. His hands slide over old carved graffitis as he pulls himself upright from a half-bent slouch that was bordering total collapse, a few staggering steps accompanying the motion. He looks back over his shoulder and blinks once, swearing under his breath once he unknots his throat with a few ragged gasps. The head trauma he suffered seems to unbalance him, and he leans a shoulder drunkenly against the lamp post. No trace of alcohol can Leonie smell on his breath, however, just cigarette smoke and a few of those obnoxiously red cherries with a strawberry milkshake.

"Fuckin' truckers and giving LSD smokes to the new guy.. fuck me," he swears, not seeming to grasp the entirety of the situation yet as he pulls back up to his feet. It's only then that his blue eyes find Leonie again and he exhales unsteadily. He murmurs her name in the same ragged, raspy tone he's breathing in, before clearing his throat. Normal ears wouldn't pick it up, but her augmented ones probably hear it the first time. Nonetheless, he repeats himself. "..Leonie? Is that…?"

Her attention is drawn back to Brand long before she's addressed. Sharp golden eyes acutely take in his staggered stride and unsteady stance. Not drunk. Not hurt.. well, not badly, as far as she can tell. Hmm. The fractional upward tilt of her jaw and she scents the air, unthinkingly. No longer used to being in 'polite company', she has a habit of falling back upon her natural tendencies. And yet, she seems horrified by the notion of this young man being aware of them.

As some of then enraged tension begins to ebb from her - in degrees, by no means swift - the brunette ventures closer to Brand, extending a hand more gently this time to smooth his attire where she had ruffled it so rudely. A slow nod, before he repeats himself even, affirms her answer on both counts, then her amber eyes meet his.

It's difficult to describe. Fury is still ominously, prevalently smouldering there. But there's an underlying suggestion of distance and inexplicable upset. Her hand wanders upward, briefly cupping his stubbled cheek to tilt his face upward in the streetlight, then rising higher to thumb across the cut on his brow. "You should go." It's stated dully, flat and toneless. But, judging by the clamour in the bar behind her, she has an undeniable point.

"Yeah.." the vertigo begins to fade from Brand's eyes as he quickly bounces back to his circumstances - all things considered - and straightens himself up more fully with a wince. Despite bruises making themselves known, he leans slightly into the cool touch of her palm, closing his eyes. A shout from the bar brings him back to the moment and his gaze snaps open again, looking down towards her and grasping towards his pant pockets. He pulls the jingling keys out from them that he'd procured from the floor of the back room.

"Yeah, should go all right. Come on. I'm parked just in that abandoned Pay As You Go lot down there," he gestures towards a mostly empty asphalt lot with only about four cars parked in it, all likely patrons of the bar. As the shock fades away Brand smiles roguishly down at the unfamiliar amber eyes, blinking once to clear blood that's dripping into one of his own. "You certainly know how to make an entrance." He tries a step, mouth twinging into a grimace as he leans weight on his right leg. "Hey, uh. Saw-mouth beamed me with a chair, could you..?" Pride chokes him for a moment despite the obvious, and he clears his throat. "Could you help me with the whole walkin' thing? Otherwise I'm gonna be the world's slowest escapee."

Damnit. She can't exactly abandon him now, can she? Leave him outside the bar, with a screwed up leg? Flitting her eyes between he and the seedy establishment, then simply levelling them again on his own crystalline hues, Leonie seems to resign herself to -not- disappearing into the night. She does that part rather quickly. So why is she still standing there staring at him as he smirks down at her? Men have found their jaws dislocated for less than that.

Her lips part, with the intent to actually say something. Nothing comes of it. Instead, she simply steps forward, drawing his arm over her shoulders with one hand, the other settling at his waist. Despite her smaller stature, she takes almost his entire weight, his toes barely grazing the asphalt as she sets off at a brisk pace. Not running, exactly… loping might be the way to describe it.

If it's pride constricting Brand's words, it's something else entirely keeping Leonie silent. Fear of what she might say? Or fear of what his response might be. Regardless, she focuses for the time being on putting distance between themselves and the bar, not slowing until the parking lot is spread before them. Still holding the man securely upright, she dares a sidelong glance to him again, though generally avoids his eyes. She doesn't trust what they do to her stomach. "..can you drive?" Her tone is soft, and low in timbre; a new growling, velvety quality in comparison to the light chatter of the girl he knew.

Shock. When he's manhandled to that degree by slim Leonie, it's shock that keeps Brand silent at first. One of his arms moves around her shoulder for support, leaning against her fully and allowing her to take the weight after a few moments of hesitation. But the rocking quality of her movements lulls him into restfulness and he leans slightly against her shoulder, eyes drifting partially closed. His head is obviously swimming and he tries to get it on right in the interim. He seems to trust her to guide him, making the obligatory leg motions ineffectually as she leads them along. When they approach the parking lot, he opens his eyes through a veil of sandy blonde hair. His free hand rakes through it a few times before it finally parts enough for him to see, and he points towards a marina blue, 69 Chevelle that looks like it had just been run through a car wash and waxed.

"That's my ride. I can drive her in my sleep, sure." He smiles proudly, fatigue showing through. The expression still lingers when he turns his head, glancing towards Leonie and studying her face when she looks at him sidelong.

"Can I get you dinner or somethin'? Not sure what the proper way to thank superheroes is," he smirks again, though the gratitude is obvious in his voice. He looks over his shoulder towards the bar with a hint of wariness at pursuit, but his attention returns a moment later.

"…you can't drive." It's not a question, nor does it seem up for discussion. He's tired, he got hit in the head, and his leg hurts. Plus whatever else is in his system. And, of course, the undeniable shock of seeing -her- again. All that is weighed and swiftly summarised in Leonie's mind, and they're off again within a splitsecond, headed for the car. Still, her gaze does skim admiringly over the vehicle. He always did have good taste. Except perhaps in girlfriends. "Give me your keys and get in."

She half-carries him to the passenger side, before affording him the opportunity to lean on the car instead and do as she asks. Meeting those blue eyes again, forgetting to avoid them, Leonie looks oddly hurt by the suggestion of reward, almost visibly flinching from him. "..I'm not a superhero." she murmurs, her expression willing and pleading for him to understand and accept something she can't explain. But then, there's the temptation. It's -Brand-. She can't just walk away. Not even if she wanted to. Not even if it's going to get her in a world of trouble. "..a burger. Assuming you scraped enough for one. What the -hell- was that back there?" Ah, annoyance is always easier than.. whatever else she's feeling.

A quiet laughter follows from deep in Brand's chest and he raises the keys to place against her palm, curling her fingers over them with a gentle pressure from his hand. "Take good care of her, now. The old geezer'll kill me if she's… what am I saying, you're the responsible one." He chuckles a second time, moving to open the passenger side door.. and then realizing it's locked. He waits for Leonie to unlock the vehicle before he gets in, reclining back into the dark blue seat. "You're not a superhero, huh? I woulda died back there, Lee. Straight up, with a tombstone and a wake for whatever bloody pulp they left me in," he drapes one arm over the back of the seat, not wearing a seatbelt.

Brand smiles, looking over to the side at her and relaxing visibly as he settles into the vehicle. "So.. that makes you a superhero in my book. No arguing with the wounded guy who's buying you dinner." He pauses, rubbing a hand to his forehead and putting pressure on the bleeding cut. With one clear blue eye he watches her from the passenger seat. "What I'm trying to say is.. damn, it's good to see you."

The smile turns into a grin following this, and he exhales slowly as the tension of the situation impossibly leaves him in the confines of the vehicle. "A burger? I know a good burger joint across from the hotel I'm stayin' at, uh.. bounty huntin'. Those guys are wanted in conjunction with a human smugglin' ring, big reward. Just got the Bird here fixed up," he places a hand on the dash of the vehicle affectionately, "Yesterday afternoon, an'.. well. She's expensive, and just beggin me to stretch her wings. Thought if I brought one of them in I could pay 'er off." He laughs, self depricatingly. "Sounds stupid, I know, but.. well. I kinda needed the money. Anyway, I got the ID of one of the guys, that should be enough evidence for the cops to handle the rest."

The brunette remains very quiet throughout Brand's monologue, ensuring he's comfortably settled in the passenger seat before she circles to the driver side. Hauling open the door and dropping in behind the wheel, she casts him the occasional furtive look. Considering she just mopped the floor with several guys far larger than her, she seems oddly ill at ease and… well, frankly, almost afraid of looking at him too long. Maybe she's self conscious, though.

Bumping the keys into the ignition with the heel of her hand, she turns the engine over. There's even the twitch of a smile at the rumble of the impressive car's heart, and her free hand skims reverently across the steering wheel. She doesn't voice the admiration, though.

"It's good to be seen." she murmurs, eventually, in throaty response, relenting to meeting Brand's gaze. Arching a brow as his tale of woe continues, she tilts her head a little to one side, an amusingly wolfish mannerism. "Bounty hunting? ..well, whatever pays the bills, I guess." Gently pressing the accelerator, she eases the big car forward with obliging care. "Where's this hotel?"

"Here we are, born to be kings, we're the princes of the universe…" A Queen casette in the stereo starts playing from the first track when the car starts up, and slightly embarassed, Brand reaches over to turn down the blaring stereo. "Here we belong, fighting to survive, in a world with the darkest powers.." Consigning Queen to background music, the blonde-haired man gives directions to a hotel only a few miles out from the bar, mostly with hand gestures and vague "It should probably be that way"s. His memory is mostly spot on, however, as the Burger Joint down the street gives it away.

The hotel itself is an inn with a continental breakfast deal in large display on the sign and some gold rush gimmick to the name. 'No Vacancies' glows neon red underneath the continental breakfast, and the parking lot wraps around the side of the building. "I'm in room sixty one," he murmurs as the building comes into view, leaning forward in anticipation. "I think I was smart enough to bring some bandages."

Leonie keeps her attention determinedly on the road as she guides the heavy vehicle through the streets. It's remarkably sane, traffic-wise, despite the hour. But she seems grateful for having something upon which to focus. Anything that isn't the man sitting beside her. Her fingertips occasionally drum an absent accompaniment to the music, but other than that she's silent and detached. It looks, to the observant eye, as though the young woman has a lot on her mind. And none of it pleasant.

Pulling into the parking lot, coming to a neat stop facing the street - old habits die hard - she kills the engine and slumps suddenly back in her seat, gazing unseeingly out at the night for a long few moments. Then, just as abruptly, she rouses herself, flinging open the door and departing the car. Though she has the capacity for that whirling sandstorm of movement, she deliberately keeps her carriage 'normal', strolling around to Brand's side. He'll need help walking again, after all.

Equally contrived is her tone, when she opens his door and leans inward, bracing one hand on the roof of the car and fixing him with those oddly-colored eyes. "I'll help you up there, and I'll patch you up, alright? But that's -it-." The irritation would be entirely convincing to most people. Whether it works on him remains to be seen. "I shouldn't be here." she adds, for good measure, in a foul-tempered mutter as she looks to the tacky hotel. But she offers him her hand, all the same.

Accepting the hand and seeming much more collected after the car ride, Brand gets up to his feet unsteadily, though he seems much more capable of walking on his own. Whatever nerve or bone was hit no longer seems to have rendered his leg totally numb. He doesn't comment on his, however, and seems quite content to accept the support Leonie offers, placing an arm around her waist and letting her support his bad leg. His smirking smile fades for a moment after she speaks, and a brief expression of wistful sorrow passes across his expression. It's gone not long after, replaced by a contemplative compress of his lips.

"The room's there," he says softly with a gesture of his free hand, indicating the door. "Sorry. I wasn't exactly expecting company here, and.. well. Money's tight." He smiles through a measure of embarassment as he glances aside towards Leonie's amber eyes, making his way towards the hotel room in question and pulling the keycard from his pocket. He swipes it through the reader next to the door and a green light appears, leading him to turn the handle and open it into a dark room. The pride comes back, and he looks towards Leonie with a vague, sadly amused smile. "If I'd known you were in town I'd have worn something nice."

Gauging the extent of Brand's injury by a watchful glance over his movement, Leonie continues to support him regardless. She said she would. And there's a glimmer of genuine regret, when his expression changes. Their last encounter wasn't much better than this, so far. "..I'm sorry." she mutters, in that same undertone, as they cross toward the indicated door, her fingers reaffirming their grip on his side. "It's not you, alright? It's complicated."

His concern over the state of the mysterious room -does- elicit a wry look, tossed in his direction disparagingly. "I've been sleeping under a burned out truck. Trust me, I'll have seen worse." Wait, what? On a second glance, all the signs are there. Leonie's leaner than she used to be. Her long hair is tousled beyond the natural tumbling waves, and doesn't seem to have seen a cut in a while. Her clothing, which used to be her -thing- back in the day, looks like it was hauled from Goodwill or something. None of it fits her. It's undeniably the same girl, peering out from behind those feral golden eyes. But she's a stranger, too.

"Do I look like I'm headed to a black-tie event?" she growls, as they step into the room and the weighted door glides closed behind them. Typically bad-timing, as they're plunged into darkness. Curiously, she doesn't fumble for the light switch.

There's a stack of vintage cassette tapes on the bedside table, a dufflebag and a suitcase on the floor. Shaving cream, deoderant, and a razor sit on the counter of the bathroom. A deck of playing cards and a Colt Anaconda revolver surrounded by scattered .44 magnum shells sit on top of an empty pizza box. Brand exhales wearily as the door closes behind them, but is content to lean on his supporting companion for the moment in silence for a period. He's not in a hurry, but eventually after listening to her breathing in the darkness, he places his free hand against the wall and runs it over the wallpaper til he finds the light switch.

A flick causes a dim-glowing lamp on the bedside table to light up, casting the room in long shadows and pale orange splotches. The young man looks aside towards Le, compressing his lips momentarily and then smiling, more heartened. But also concerned, perhaps overwhelmingly. He's probably forgotten about the scrapes he's suffered already. "Sleeping under a /truck/?" he inquires flatly. "None of that, I can at least see you to a proper bed," he shakes his head, exhaling long and slow to bring himself back to center.

"Look, I dunno what's up with you, though I have a couple guesses. But Le. …if you want to stay here a while and catch up, I'd.. like that."

When the light flares to feeble life, it illuminates Leonie's features and expression very plainly for a fleeting moment. Even in the pitch darkness, her gaze was square upon Brand's. Was she just standing watching him, in silence? Either way, a sudden blink and she withdraws from the slightly improper proximity, drawing a deeper breath than she had been prior.

His words are processed, but the questions go unanswered for the time being. Not bothering to take in the contents of the room, the brunette summons a wan curve to play across her lips and ushers the man forward with gentle pressure at the small of his back. "Sit." She doesn't follow after him, instead circling around the room. "Bandages?" she enquires, succinctly. A glance, again, is stolen toward him from beneath her dark lashes. That stance, added to the peculiar lighting in the room, brings a jolt of predatory threat to her countenance, made somehow more horrifying by the fact that she herself seems unaware of it. And by the cheap, flickering light of the bulb flashing in yellow reflection across her eyes.

"Uh.." those eyes snare Brand in conflicting emotions and it takes him a moment to produce an answer. "Dufflebag. Side pocket." He gestures towards the grey dufflebag on the floor. The side pocket has a small, rectangular first aid kit in it, a roll of bandages, a leather dice cup, and a few clips of .44 magnum bullets.

He clears his throat after answering, somewhat uncomfortable about his hesitation in the first place and the abrupt way it seized him. He makes his way to sit down on the edge of the bed and watches Leonie, hands coming to a rest on his knees. Something about her proximity sets his heart racing, though the discomfort isn't from fear.. at least not fear of her. "Thanks," he offers quietly, watching her in quiet.

She saw it. That reaction. But she doesn't comment on it, just offering a single nod before stooping to rummage through the indicated bag. Producing the first-aid kit and straightening back to her full height, she plucks one of the larger sticking plasters from within before tossing the rest to the bed, letting them settle to one side of the seated man.

Careful to move slowly, she approaches Brand, seeming to wait for some sort of permission, unspoken, to extend a hand and gently tilt his head back, looking down at him. Again, she's avoiding his eyes, focusing on the cut marring his forehead. "'s not too bad." she informs him, softly. "Does it hurt?" A fingertip tenderly explores the bruised edges.

When her gaze collides, inevitably, with his in the wake of the question, something shifts in her expression. Lightly draping her arms around his neck, bending at the waist to diminish the height difference, she pulls him tentatively into an embrace, drawing a deep inhalation of his scent. "Brand.." Whatever she was going to say, if it ever really formed in her mind, trails off. The comfort of his familiar presence, battered as it may be, pushes aside her defenses, just for now.

"I've had worse lately," he smiles in response to her question about the injury, though the self deprication only goes so far and the rest just seems tired. Her permission comes in the form of a smile, fatigued but genuine. Brand continues to watch her, and when her golden eyes meet his, he holds them in his own tempestuous blue gaze. Full of emotion, conflicted, but the caring is there, burning a hole through the storm of other thoughts that fight for his attention. It gives him a singular purpose, and when Leonie pulls him into an embrace, his reaction is warmly accepting. He doesn't speak, hands gently clasping the sides of her waist and pulling her into his lap, and against the comforting solidity of his presence. He strokes her untamed hair out of her face with one hand, leaving the other arm resting snug against her.

"Hey," he murmurs quietly, still holding her eyes in the proximity. His own gaze partially lids, and a smile turns up his briefly solemn expression again. "Don't leave, this time."

The young woman allows herself to be pulled into his lap, albeit reluctantly at first. But her own hands come to cover her face, even as he sweeps her dishevelled hair aside. "Please don't look at me.." The words come on something of a whimper, and she recoils a fraction from his touch, instinctively. Not enough to remove herself from him entirely, but lending real weight to her plea. Against him, even through the layers of clothing, her slender form is noticeably heated, far warmer than… well, a human. Surely he knows, by now, exactly what manner of monster he holds in his arms, and Leonie seems despairing of his impending reaction when he remembers it.

Pushing her palms back from her features, across her hair, she shakes her head miserably, her eyes lowered. "I can't stay. I shouldn't even -be- here." Yes, she said that already. "I just.. I had to make sure you were alright."

Brand doesn't try to reason with her, though he notes all she says with attentiveness. His lips compress for a moment, then his arms wrap around her entirely more thoroughly and pull her against him. He runs his fingers through her tangled mane slowly, beginning again if he finds a knot and taking a different route. He exhales softly and leans forward to place his forehead against hers, closing his eyes. At length, he murmurs softly, "You saved my life, Leonie. Shhh." The injured cut touches against her skin, but he doesn't seem to care, if he notices the pain. "Stay. Let me get you dinner. Or breakfast. Or both. And a bed." His hand continues its motion through her hair. "I can help you, too. If you let me."

He shivers, and it's not from the touch of her tongue. "Married? I…" Brand seems entirely distraught, and a flood of thoughts and emotions rushes over his features. He looks up towards her, and a certain confused sorrow wins out. "But how can you be living like that, and getting married?" He lowers his hand from her hair, gently touching her features. "How can you be sleeping like the homeless and.. well. I guess it's not my place." His fingers run over her jaw as he watches her. "If you've found someone that you want to marry…" He blinks once, looking away. "That train left the station a long time ago, I guess." He leans into her kiss, still holding on to her. "Sorry. If I made it harder."

"Brand." she commands his attention with a mere, softly-uttered word, though her gaze remains out across the room, focused on nothing in particular, for a few beats before she can bring herself to look at him. Her palm flattens against his stubble-rough cheek, gently pressing until his eyes return to hers. Damn. She needs to remember to steel herself against the effect those baby blues have on her. "..there was never anyone else. I don't have a choice." Frustration makes itself known on her features, a slight frown darkening her expression. "You don't understand, and I can't explain." Trailing off once more, she seems to consider the truth of her own words. She -shouldn't- explain. That would have been a better way to phrase it.

Gently extricating herself from his arms, she rises from his lap, only enough to take a perched seat beside him on the edge of the bed. One foot is tucked up beneath herself, and she clasps her hands about that knee, watching the young man steadily. Now that she's made eye-contact, she seems incapable of looking at anything but him. "You know what I am." It's not a question. He'd have to be an idiot not to have worked it out, and she knows he's nothing of the sort. Swallowing hard, she continues. "How much do you know about us?"

"Nothing," Brand admits quietly, bringing his gaze back to hers and leaving it there. He blinks once and listens, letting his arms fall aimlessly into his lap. The fingers curl inwards, desiring to grasp something and holding on to air. He watches her next to him, the churning in the pit of his stomach apparent. The sudden rush of important events obviously has him off-balance, even if his head's mostly cleared up from the back room brawl.

"Nothing solid, anyway. Everybody 'hears' things, if they.. well, live in Vegas long enough. And I do. So.." He exhales unevenly. "I don't know anything other than that they.. you.. exist, and a general idea of what you can do. Which.. I guess was confirmed tonight." Brand shakes his head, keeping his eyes on her. Her amber gaze seems to have locked him in just as surely, or maybe it's her achingly familiarity. He can't look away. "So..?"

"Yes.." replies the brunette, her manner guarded, "..we exist." Lowering the practiced facade briefly, intentionally this time, she allows her wolf to come to the surface. It's a fleeting thing. But the change is apparent. Poor Brand would feel it down to the marrow of his bones; recognition and likely a sudden urge for flight. She conceals it again swiftly, only a subtle demonstration to destroy any lingering doubt. "What you saw tonight, that should never have happened." It's an odd mix of regret and frustration that laces her low voice now. "I hurt them. I would willingly have killed them. And not even for a threat to -my- people, but a threat to a human. Do you have any idea how bad that is?" Of course he doesn't, he just admitted as much.

Raking back her hair with her fingertips - an old, habitual gesture she never escaped - Leonie sighs, gathering her thoughts. "I can't tell you much, without putting you at risk, or myself. But.. well, you watch the Discovery Channel, right? Packs are led by a pair. Alphas. The strongest. Natural selection, blah blah blah." Dropping her hand to the bedspread, she extends her fingertips imploringly toward the man beside her, without seeming to notice. "..tomorrow, I'm supposed to become Alpha. It's not marriage in the human sense, but that's the best way to describe it. And here I am, sitting in a hotel room with the human I just put myself at risk for. Long story short? I'm in deep shit."

The abrupt lowering of the shroud between woman and wolf in Leonie does strike into Brand's psyche, and he reflexively moves away from her on the bed a few inches. A shiver runs through his body, adrenaline coursing through his muscles as irrational fear takes over. His pupils dilate, eyelids opening wider than their somewhat lazy resting to full attention. When it ends, the sandy-haired man shivers a second time and puts his head in his palms, exhaling slowly. "Fuck.."

Fleeting though it was, the exposure had an obvious effect on him. "I.." His hands drop slowly down into his lap, eyes closing. "Of course," he says quietly, as the point is driven home in its wholeness. "I'm sorry. I just.. when I saw you, I thought maybe.. I could salvage something. I hoped that it'd be all right, and we could start over, and I could.." He trails off, opening his eyes and grasping the bedspread with his hands. He looks towards her slowly, raising up to meet her eyes. "But it's way out of my league, isn't it?" There's a resignation that cuts through what used to be youthful fervor, daredevil intuitions that pushed him to do anything no matter how crazy. "I don't want you to get hurt, Leonie. If that's what you have to do.."

He reaches his hand hesitantly towards hers on the bed, touching his fingertips to Le's lightly.

Brand's recoiling from her, though it was likely both expected and partially intended, still hurts. A lot. Leonie hides her expression by rising from the bed as he speaks, turning to pad across toward the window. Resting a shoulder to the wall beside it, she tugs the blinds down a little with one fingertip, looking out. The contrast of shadow and neon obscures the presence of grudging tears that trail down across her cheeks and, with a slow few breaths, she keeps the pain from being too apparent in her voice. But she doesn't look back at him.

"I didn't ask for any of this." she murmurs, as much to herself as to the man still seated on the bed. "I was bitten when I was seventeen. Less than a month after I left. And this is how life has been, since then. Sleeping rough. Fighting in dive bars. Every day pulling farther away from the human world, as much for their sake as my own. And I bet you thought I was living the high life." A humorless chuckle. "It's alright, Brand. Really. This is what I am now… I can't just expect you to still want to be around me, knowing that. It's dangerous for you. And ugly, and frightening. You don't need that."

Leonie lapses to a thoughtful contemplation of the burger place across the street for a short time. She -is- pretty hungry. And she hadn't foreseen the events of the evening. Not in her wildest imaginings. "I could leave." It's said almost as an afterthought. "I don't have to stay here. I could leave, and someone else would just take my place. I could have left long ago but.. being this way, you sort of feel a need to stay with a pack. Safety in numbers. Not everywhere is welcoming to us. I.. guess I didn't think I'd make it, on my own."

Watching Leonie as she rises up to her feet, he folds his hands in his lap and listens. He blinks once, dropping his chin in shame as the effects of his reaction run their course on her. His lips compress, a weary exhale parting them a moment later. He unfolds his hands and folds them again before gripping his knees, anxious energy channeled through him. "Just.. don't do that without warning me, all right?" His voice is still somewhat unsteady. "It's like punching my mind in the face, with your.. wolf strength. Whether or not it seems like I should get a black eye cuz you're a hundred pound wimp, I'm going to. Okay?" He gets up from the bed slowly, not able to sit still any longer. As much as Brand fidgets, it's remarkable he lasted that long under such a serious circumstance.

He paces slowly across the room, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He glances towards Leonie once or twice as he speaks. "I.. you're going to have to help me acclimate to your changes, and try to understand where I'm coming from. I'll do the same. But if you want out, tiger.. I'll help you. Of course I will. It's gonna be hard, and probably downright weird sometimes. But if you're okay with that.." he trails off, stopping in his pacing and turning to look at Leonie. He smiles slowly, turning up one side of his mouth more than the other. "Well. It's on the table, I guess. But it's your life on the line, I'm just some human, right?" The smile takes on an edge of his old humor.

The brunette nods a few times in acceptance of his request, still gazing out through the blinds for a while as the man sets to pacing. She can hear his movements perfectly well, she doesn't need to watch. It's not even just the sound of his tread on the old carpet of the hotel room. She's just… aware of him. The mingling scents upon his skin and hair, the shifting of his emotions. Even the rushing thrum of his heartbeat. She can't help but know precisely where he is, any more than she can help picking up on his every subtle reaction.

"I'm sorry." she offers, belatedly, dropping her hand from the window and obligingly looking up at him when his eyes settle upon her. "..but I had to make sure you understood. We're stronger, we're faster and we're -designed- to be predators. I'm designed to hurt you, Brand. And you're very much aware of it, on a very basic, primal level. It wouldn't be fair for me to be within a hundred miles of you, without being sure you grasped that."

Shifting her weight, she leans both shoulders back against the wall now, folding her arms and regarding the man coolly. "I'm the most powerful female in this territory. That means two things. One, you're perfectly safe so long as you're with me. Two… if you're -seen- with me, we're both screwed. I'd have to leave the city and find a new pack." Is that.. a suggestion? Taking a few steps, she closes the distance unhurriedly, giving him time to pull away if he needs to. Searching his blue eyes, her head tilting back in order to maintain the gaze as she nears him and her arms remaining folded, Leonie speaks again, in a low-throated timbre. "..I want to go with you."

Nodding slowly in consideration of the points that Leonie makes, he pauses in his pacing and turns to the side to face her. When she approaches him he watches and stands his ground, blue eyes searching her expression. "I'll get over it, I think," he murmurs, matching the softness of her voice. "Just need some time." And when she draws close, he holds out an arm towards her, offering an embrace and turning in her direction. "I…" he hesitates, wetting his lips with his tongue. He's surprised, no doubt. But not unpleasantly so. The bitter resignation that he had steeled himself with melts away, leaving a softer expression more prone to smiling. And one does surface on his lips afterwards. "All right. We can leave together."

He meets her amber eyes, studying them as he speaks in that soft-voiced tone. "Killing machine or no, you're still my Leonie. I'm just gonna have to be more careful when we get into arguments, huh?" A smirk, hesitant on his lips, enters his voice.

"It's not unheard of for our kind to serve as bodyguards, of a sort. I can keep you safer than you'd ever have imagined." An answering smirk twists across the brunette's lips as she raises her hand, lightly poking at the cut on his brow. It's already healing. "Perhaps you'll even start to win at poker, if I'm around." Accepting the offered embrace, she steps into the circle of his arm, leaning gently against his chest, not putting much weight against him, given his injured leg.

"I never realised how much I missed you, until I saw you tonight.." Slightly muffled as she leans a cheek to the hollow of his shoulder, the words are still audible enough, as is the note of genuinely amused sincerity that carries with them. "I don't understand it." Despite her best efforts, in such close quarters she can't help but nuzzle lightly, just once, at his clothing, savoring the scent of him. "I can -feel- you.." Her arms slowly unfurl, sliding around his waist and holding her pressed against him with a sudden overwhelming need. "..are you sure this is what you want, Brand? Having me around won't be easy, like you said.."

"I don't regret many things, but I regret letting you talk me into letting you leave alone. I.. wasn't in my right mind that night." Reaching his other arm around to cup her jaw, Brand tilts her face upwards to meet her eyes. A brief smile follows, "Leonie.. if tonight was a twist of luck, meeting you just before you got married or whatever.. I don't need to win at poker again." A chuckle, and he's content to stare into her strangely alien eyes. The golden hue glows in the dim light of the hotel lamp, almost seeming radiant of its own accord. Brand marvels at its changed color for several moments with an absent-minded half smile on his lips, but the reverie is eventually broken by action. He leans down to place his lips against hers, softly at first, but becoming more urgent. His arms curl around her, drawing her close and slowly shifting to half-remembered echoes of past embraces.

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