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After living in Evermore for two years, Caleb could finally find his way home in the dark, which was useful seeing as he often left his studio at in the early hours of the morning, just before morning arrived in the sky. The city crossed a hub between tranquility and turbulence around 4 am. It was only in those wee hours that many creatures cared to come out of the shadows, both human and other alike. He'd learned from Giselle how to keep himself safe, but there were also others around the city who helped clean the streets of the worst crime. Many of them wore masks to protect their identity in day-to-day life and despite his gratitude for their help in keeping the human sector of Evermore free of rogue werewolves and disingenuous valkyrie, Caleb never expected to meet one face to face.There seemed to be some honor bound code between these masked individuals and citizens like himself. It kept them anonymous and him at arms length from any danger.
He had never been the type to rush head first into a fight without thinking, especially considering that by trade he was a painter, certainly not a soldier. His job was to help recreate the light and beauty that teetered on edge during the night in the city.
Only two weeks ago, during an evening seminar on the development of art in the community where he was speaking, a band of armed robbers had blasted down the front doors of city hall, demanding that everyone give up their valuables.
The ones he carried weren't obvious: a silver ring with twisted diamonds and rubies, which had belonged to his mother, now hung from a chain around his neck.However, the raiders were clearly professional and had an eye for detail. The light reflecting just so off the silver chain on his neck reflected in the visors that protected the captain's eyes.
Under the point of a gun, he'd refused to hand it over.
Perhaps, Caleb was a fool. Standing still at 4:05 in front of City Hall and feeling the absence of the stolen jewelry felt foolish. He should be in bed, at home, asleep.
It was just a ring, wasn't it? The emotion attached to the small physical object was only temporary.
Relationships, despite as he knew they ended, didn't seem like they should be temporary to him. It was hard enough to see the good in everyday life. When certain people brought it back, shouldn't they stay?
Sounds of a ruckus in the back alley drew him away from his thoughts. He would never be out on the front line, but neither would he be able to hesitate when it came to helping someone else who was -- like the Scarlett Archer. She was easy to recognise, in costume, at least, and it helped that it hadn't been Caleb's first encounter. The light from a nearby street lamp just barely illuminated two figures making an exchange. One was tiny and clothed in red and the other was tall, muscular, and wore black down to the ski mask. Every instinct told Caleb to walk, as quickly as he could, home; yet, curiosity beckoned him closer to hear what was being said. However, no words were exchanged before the large man took the slim figure of the younger woman by the throat, pulled her an arrow from her own quiver, and stuck it firmly against her chest.
The threat was obvious even to him, but unarmed, he could do nothing. Caleb could only watch as the giant of a man dropped the masked stranger into the street, and snapped her arm in two in a single crack. As he left, the alley's former darkness dissipated into the normal shadow of night.
The young woman wasn't moving.
Careful that he wasn't seen, Caleb picked up her and carried her back to his apartment a block away. The least he could do was make sure she made it through until morning.
Pain. That was the main thing that she was feeling in that moment as she felt the strike against her chest which completely crippled her, from all the bruises and cuts she’d already gotten in the fight before now along with her ribs still not having healed from the last time she had run into this guy, it was safe to say that she had underestimated how much danger she found herself in and without backup or anyone to call for help, the movement she felt an arrow dig harshly into her chest she had to wonder if this was the end. At first it was the sharp feeling in her chest that she immediately recognized as being stabbed, she felt her whole body collapse beneath her from the overwhelming shock of the pain until she was left feeling uncharacteristically helpless on the ground, to add insult to injury the final blow was given when she felt her arm come under pressure, she barely even felt the pain before her body gave in and she faded into the darkness.
She laid there writhing in delirium for a long while, her breathing shallow as her body tried to recover from the wounds she had received and handle the pain she had gone through. Her mind was rushing through what had led to this very moment, every mistake, every time she had underestimated who she was up again, insisting she take this one alone and inevitably having the guy she had been trying to take down not just entirely evade her but hire a damn phoenix hitman to come after her. There were singe marks on her arms from the attack and her entire being felt exhausted because she had pretty much given everything she had. It was the first time she had actually been directly targeted, someone trying to take her off the board so she couldn’t find out any more about them she supposed.
Nora had never been close to death before but it was a surreal feeling, her whole body ached and agonized for a while but eventually the pain just kinda faded away and all she was left with was a sense of peace, she was breathing shallowly as her system tried to cope with everything she had inflicted on her and if she was a regular human, she would have likely died. The blood in her veins, however, was working overdrive to try and bring her around. Her mind kept replaying the mistakes she made, what led her to this moment, what she could have done differently and mostly, how lonely she was in this very moment, possibly her last moment, she had no one that came to mind that would miss her and that was a chilling thought which practically paralyzed her entire being as she fought to push for her healing to kick in.
She didn’t know how much time passed, it all felt like a blur of pain and memories and regrets before she eventually felt everything come back to her at once, she groaned softly as the nerve endings in her body kicked back into action and she felt the sharp throbbing in her arm which she recognized as a break, her chest was what felt like complete agony though, no surprise considering what had happened. She remained there for a few moments, eyes still closed as she attempted to case he surroundings, she couldn’t hear the hum of any machinery which would indicate she wasn’t in a hospital and everything was silent, too silent to be any kind of public place. She could feel soft plush bedding below her which told her she wasn’t still layout out on the concrete. Just then her hearing picked up the sound of a single heartbeat, one person.
If whoever they were intended her harm she was sure they would have finished her off while they had the chance, so either this person wanted something from her or had a heart of gold, she tended to lean towards it being the former. She very slowly opened her eyes, her gaze adjusting to the light of the room and slowly introducing her back to the land of the living.
The apartment was nearly silent that morning and Caleb was enjoying a good dose of the peace and quiet. A teapot whistled on the on the stove and the a soft wind bristled through the open window. He was enjoying the weekend with the home to himself, while Giselle was out of town at a conference. As he kept a watchful eye on the boiling peppermint, Caleb every so often would rise from the couch and peek through the door of his bedroom to check on the wayfaring stranger that he'd brought home last night. So far, she'd done nothing but turn over in the bed. It had been a long night and he hadn't caught more than a few hours of sleep. It seemed important to wash the dirt out of the cuts on the small brunette's face and do his best to set her broken arm in a cast. She had been moving in and out of semi-consciousness as he worked quietly, removing the outer layer of the armor that she wore and tucking the sheets up to her chin. He decided to leave the red leather mask positioned around her eyes. It seemed like wearing a mask to protect one's identity was a choice that he didn't have the right to take away.
It was now approaching noon. and had been a good twelve hours since he found her lying half-dead in the middle of the street. He'd gone about his work, choosing to do the commissions that he'd normally do in studio at home. It seemed odd to leave the young lady in his bed and go to work without leaving her any idea of where she was or why. As Caleb dipped his fingers in the paint, he often found his eyes wandering towards the bedroom door. He had no clue what had made him scoop up the bite-sized vigilante after her valiant struggle and take her to safety. Perhaps, it was a current enactment of what he had for so long wished to do for Ava after he'd received the news of her plane crashing. If this young woman had family, surely, Caleb knew that they would want her to be cared for in the same way that he had always imagined someone had taken Ava in and helped her learn to live and breathe again, somewhere, in his absence. Caleb's brush still on the canvas as soft noises stirred from the adjoining room. He stood and brought two tea cups from the cupboard ignoring how the black paint on his fingers tinted the porcelain. He was well used to different dyes coloring his clothing, person, and possessions by now. Nothing ever stayed one color for very long. He took a long swallow of the peppermint tea letting it wash over his senses. It was his favorite and he always enjoyed a good day to introvert and art.
As the noise coming from the bedroom grew louder, he placed the cup on the counter and headed towards his bedroom. Perhaps, she was awake enough that he could give her some medication for the pain. Caleb poured a second cup of tea and opened the door, hoping to aid his guest, but the bed was empty.
The moment she opened her eyes, light from the window filled her vision and she blinked a few times to adjust to it, she pushed herself to a sitting position and immediately regretted it when she felt a sharp pain in both her chest and her arm, both of which had been pretty seriously damaged in the blows but it seemed her dhampir healing had kicked in just fast enough to stop her bleeding out in the alley. Which only left a few pretty important questions, where was she? Why hadn’t the attacker stayed around to make sure she was really dead and who the hell was in the next room? Despite the pain she was feeling she did her best to keep her mouth shut, her breathing shallow as she cased the room for something, anything she could use as a weapon. The place was pretty empty, aside from a few art supplies and the usual things which told her this was likely someone’s home, picture frame of someone she didn’t recognize on the bedside table, clothes here and there, homey things.
She pushed through every bit of common sense which told her to stay down because paranoia was one of her closest friends and nothing about this felt familiar or good to her. Admittedly, that was probably because someone had put a hit on her and tried to have her murdered for all to see. It was at that moment she suddenly realized that while her jacket had been taken off her and her wounds dressed, the red leather mask she wore when she was her alter ego was still fitted neatly on her face. How strange, surely whoever brought her here would have taken the very first opportunity to expose her identity. She knew she would have if it had been her on the other side of it. She clutched her hand to her chest feeling the heat searing pain surround her ribcage as she grabbed a pen off the table, it wasn’t ideal but if she needed to fight then it would catch whoever it was off guard.
When she heard the door to the bedroom open she moved behind it, her breathing quieting as she debated what to do, it wasn’t like her to attack without provocation but then she couldn’t be sure whether she was currently a prisoner either so she was erring on the side of caution. The moment he stepped into the room she snuck up behind him, her good arm wrapping around his neck and pulling him down while she held the pen to his neck “Who the hell are you?” her voice was slightly shaky and it was clear she was unnerved and agitated.
As Caleb opened the door, he found himself swiftly (although not steadily) overtaken. It had been a bad idea to take a vigilante home with him, in hindsight, he was aware of that now, but only as he was stuck against the door with his wounded guest holding a calligraphy pen to his throat. The cup of hot peppermint tea he was carrying jigged in his fingertips, causing piping hot liquid to jump from the mug and slip towards his bare feet. Stuck in place, Caleb couldn't avoid the mishap and hot tea burned his toes. Ouch....the Frenchman slowly raised up his hands in a peaceful sign of surrender to the young woman who looked like she could collapse where she was standing. "I mean you no harm. I promise." He was certain that the promises of a stranger meant little to someone who spent her life working to eliminate evil doers from the city streets, but the very least he could do was try to keep himself from being stabbed with his own art supplies. That seemed like a terribly ironic end. "You should lie down." Caleb suggested, trying to avoid looking down at his pained foot. "Look, I found you last night in the alley and I thought maybe whoever....that man in black was might come back for a second dose of..." He motioned to her broken arm. "you know."
As the pen slowly moved away, he took a seat on the edge of the bed to inspect his burnt foot. It was red, but it would likely recover with some aloe gel. "Is there anything I get for you?" He shrugged, "I'm sorry...I spilled the tea."
Maybe, he should give her some privacy. After a moment, he got up and headed out, but stopped at the door. "You can stay as long as you need."
She was pretty much running on adrenaline, she wasn’t used to anyone being able to get the upper hand on her and she certainly wasn’t used to anyone helping her, not to mention her current thoughts spinning around the fact that whoever tried to kill her was still out there causing havoc or was plotting to try again. She wasn’t the type to just lay down and take it, even when that was probably the best thing for her own health and sanity. So here she was, holding the pen to this guy’s throat feeling him tremble under her touch and then spill the tea he was holding over his feet. She took a long breath to try and calm her own emotions and slowly but surely lowered the pen and tucked it in her back pocket, his voice, despite being shaky, didn’t strike her as obviously lying so she backed away from him slowly “I should get out there and kick that mother fucker’s ass” she spoke bluntly but when she moved she felt a sharp pain in her chest and doubled over in pain, sinking to the floor.
When he mentioned her arm she glanced down to it and winced visibly, that was her shooting arm and right now, while set in a cast, it was going to be zero use to her which means she was essentially powerless. She sighed audibly and took a moment to look at the stranger who seemingly brought her home with home “Most people would have taken me straight to the police, at the very least they’d have” she gestured to her mask to imply he would have taken it off.
She widened her eyes when she realized he had actually hurt himself when he dropped the tea “Oh no, that was uh, that was me” he pressed her lips together, she wasn’t really good at letting people help her or being grateful so she decided to offer advice instead “You should get a cool compress on that, burns are a bitch if you don’t get them fast” honestly she just wanted to leave for a moment so she could get her thoughts in order. What reason did he even have to help her?
In truth, most people would have stayed out of a vigilante's way, but Caleb had always had a heart for people and it tended to go out to those who he saw going out of their way to help others, even if it was in a way most would overlook, like protecting the city at night. He hadn't ever been the type to put himself in the way of danger, but he could imagine that if you did it would be fairly easy to make enemies. A simple structure like a mask was very often the only thing keeping not only privacy at stake, but possibly her life, or even that of others on a line. He couldn't quite picture holding such responsibility on his shoulders - bearing the load of fighting for the well-being of an entire city would be too much for him.
Caleb grimaced as she mentioned his feet. They did sting. He didn't work often in the kitchen, but did prefer his tea hot rather than warm. The liquid which he was well equated with over-heating his tongue did not feel pleasant on his toes. He reached for the kitchen rag that he'd carried on the tray and used it to wipe his feet. Perhaps some aloe gel would come in handy later, but for now, his own injuries were less severe than hers. "You don't belong in custody." He shrugged, sopping up the wet ginger liquid from the wooden floors. "You're helping others. Protecting them."
Caleb cleaned up the dishes, not asking or demanding that she remove the piece of red leather from her face. "I wouldn't ask anyone who voluntarily puts their life in front of danger for...for citizens to surrender just because it may not be as peaceful as some may prefer."
"In my eyes, that's noble." He cleared his throat softly, taking the tea cups with him as he opened the door. "You're free to stay or leave. I...wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable."
As Caleb turned to leave, smiling over his shoulder, there was a slight wrinkle in his forehead. "If it's alright, is there something I can call you? It doesn't have to be your real name. I get it it. Code of the masked warriors an' all that?"
To say Nora was confused was probably an understatement, after she realized he wasn’t fighting back, nor did he seem to want to cause he any harm she had distanced herself from him and studied his face and the way he moved. Honestly, she had never met someone who had tried to help her like this before so she was pretty taken aback by it and the suspicious parts of her were trying to figure out what it was he wanted in return or what he could be gaining from doing this. Her mind was coming blank on it and with everything he said she found herself being more and more surprised by him, to the point where she didn’t actually know what to say.
She watched the way he grimaced at the mention of his feet and she could tell he was hiding his pain, she knew that drill well and if it wasn’t for the fact that he had likely been the one to splint her arm and treat her wounds, she’d probably be doing it now, but it seemed pointless when he likely knew the depth of her injuries. She pressed the hand of her good arm against her other arm and gave a soft sigh, this was not going to be fun to recover from at all, especially knowing the person who did it was still out there.
She was a little dazed as she listened to his perspective on the things she did, frankly, she didn’t do this for the thanks of the recognition, most of the time she was treated like a criminal as bad as all the others and she was okay with that as long as she was getting the job done “I think you’re the first person I’ve ever heard say that” she commented pretty bluntly “Most people tell me I’m reckless or just as bad as them” which wasn’t her looking for sympathy, just her expressing her surprise. “How do you know so much about me?” she asked curiously, the news mostly painted her in a bad light and lately had avoided covering her activities at all, which was to be expected since she was mostly targeting the drug trade which was something most people didn’t want to talk about or acknowledge.
She moved into the doorway, leaning against it as she watched him wash the dishes, she could now tell for sure that this was his home and from the layout of it and the sizing she guessed he didn’t live alone either “Does anyone else know I’m here?” she asked as she cased the area, her eyes naturally trailing to any exits and trying to figure out if they were on a ground of raised floor. It wasn’t her discrediting him at all, it was her natural survival instincts doing their thing.
The way he smiled at her made her stern expression soften just a little, he really had put aside his whole like at the drop of a hat to help her and that felt admirable. She dropped her gaze to the floor for a moment as she considered what he could call her, of course he was right, her real name wasn’t an option “Scarlett works” she spoke softly and nodded her head as she slowly moved into the kitchen area, limping a little from the pain and set herself down at the table “And you are?” she asked it much more politely than she had the first time.
Caleb had enjoyed living in Giselle's home. It wasn't only quiet, but filled with bright light and fresh plants. He didn't always have a lot of time to spend there, now that he was starting a studio in the downtown area. He took a seat on one of the kitchen stools and pulled a little bottle of aloe gel from the counter drawer. He could be a bit clumsy at times and that mixed with ovens could lead to small injuries. They were never serious, but having medical supplies in the kitchen meant that he didn't have to interrupt dinner. Now, his host and living partner for the time was out of town. It was the only reason he could have brought an injured vigilante into the house. He did live with the mayor, after all, and vigilantism was not exactly legal.
"Scarlett." He nodded. "I can work with that." The young man finished bandaging his foot and then took a new mug from the cupboard. "I, myself, would enjoy some tea. Would you like something...or there's hot cocoa up here."
He himself happened to enjoy lavender and peppermint, but today seemed like a peppermint day. It was both refreshing and also may not make him appear overly sleepy in front of his guest. "I guess," He put the pot on the stove to boil and then turned around to face her. "I like to make my own opinion of things. So, even if I watch the news...I do my own research. I'm an artist, so I often find myself in usual places. Whether it's taking pictures or sketching and that combined with the fact that I have trouble sleeping, I could put together that you aren't a bad person. I think a lot of people feel that way, regardless of what the local stations say."
He shrugged. "People need a little heroism in their lives and you add that back into a city that isn't always clean from strife. The way I see it, you're stopping a place that keeps a lot of people safe with some...lifestyle choices some people don't approve of seeing on their bedtime strolls."
Caleb checked on the tea. It was almost done. "And to answer your questions, no. I room with the mayor, Giselle, but she is busy in meetings all weekend. That should be long enough that you can get back on your feet at least a little bit."
Nora observed him as he got to work on treating his foot, it seemed he knew a little about taking care of injuries considering that he hadn’t taken her to the hospital after the attack and yet she was still here and despite the pain in her arm being almost unbearable she wasn’t in a really difficult situation right now where her identity could have been compromised. She had been very lucky, that was for sure but she didn’t particularly like being lucky, lucky meant that she could not be so next time and that meant vulnerability. Something the dhampir definitely didn’t like being part of her current reality.
“Me too” she responded to his words and nodded a little, she still didn’t know the guy’s name but she had figured out quite a lot about him from the way he acted and held himself, she was good at reading people and more importantly, their intentions. She didn’t get a bad vibe from him, perhaps a slightly hazy wondering on his reasoning for helping her but maybe he really was just a good person. When he mentioned tea she paused for a moment and nodded “Do you have any green tea?” she asked with raised brows, she always used to have green tea when she wanted to calm herself before an exam.
She watched him thoughtfully as he talked about the way he saw the world, she would be the first to admit that she didn’t care much for what people thought of her and her mission, it wasn’t about glory or gaining favors for her, it was about doing the right thing and she supposed a little about atoning for the choices her parents made. “I don’t try to be a good person or a bad person” she admitted with a slight nod of her head “But I see so many people hurting and I can’t sit back and do nothing about it, so I play in the grey area” it made sense to her anyway “I don’t really care what they want to call that” she didn’t owe them anything.
“Yeah well I’m not going to be able to do anything for a while” she spoke a little disgruntled as she looked down at her arm in the sling and sighed, just had to be her shooting arm that he decided to harm. She sighed heavily shaking her head and running a hand through her hair. The very thing she wanted to do was go after the guy that did this and yet she had to sit here and ‘get better’ and that was incredibly hard when she knew whoever did this was out there.
She bounced her leg up and down a little restlessly as she looked back at him “Okay” she nodded a couple of times “No one else saw you bring me here? They’re not going to be able to track me here?” she wasn’t trying to be condescending but she was definitely a very careful person and she also didn’t want him to put himself in danger for her sake either. She did all of this alone for a reason. For the time being she had decided it was best to stay put and recover some.