April Fools  ;P

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;P

Yay to people who didn't storm off thinking that I only posted two words!  Like I'd post that much so late at night anyways.  I'm also in perpetual terror of the FF.Net Attack Chiwawa, so I wouldn't dare, but some people might picture me as capable of such a hanus act.  Hmm, why isn't "hanus" in the dictionary?  ...but I digress.  

Anyway, here's the update for you.

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...after some review responses

Nite Sky:                 

There we go.  Nice review.  Yay for advice.  I was semi-quasi-thinking along those lines for that dreaded revision.  I could in fact split this up into three different sequential fics for the same story easily.  When I get that damned revision done, the story should dump Katherine and the vampires to a point in time weeks...months(?) past the point where I get to say, "Houston, we have a Romy."  Hell, they'll probably end up as sequels.  Thanks for the tiny complements within the criticism.  It helps to know what I'm doing fairly well at.

(Please, anyone that reads this and feels ticked off that I'm tearing apart and redoing my fic in the middle: remember that it's the first fic I've really put an effort into finishing.  I want it to end up interesting and right.  On the bright side (yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm repetitive), remember that it will make the fic a pure, 100%, unadulterated (hey, I'm redundant too), complete and total ROMY.  And as Hemingway said, "The first draft of anything is shit."  Raise your hand if you want a shitty Romy...minds out of the gutter!!)

heartsyhawk:           

Hmm...if I've lost you, it would do you some good to tell me where you got lost and ask some questions.  I could have spent my time typing up an answer and figuring out how to fix the problem for future generations instead of writing this.

Steph Silverstar:         You have no concept of patience, do you?  I said maybe in probably two days, or something like that.  You've gotten three updates in less than three weeks, so sit your tush down, get reading, and be grateful.  I could have been working on that stupid revision that is the current bane of my existence...excluding the watery hell that is the swimming unit of my gym class.  However, thanks for being such a devoted stalker reader.     

Lonewolf, sarah, Exacty, etc.:

Yep, you guys are getting a Romy.  Break out the Bouillabaisse and have your Fat Tuesday in April!  ...Note that Mardi Gras always comes right before Lent though.  It's gonna take me a while to implement the changes, so please find some Romy elsewhere for a while (and tell me if you find a good one!) until then.  It's not like I've really had any for a long while anyway. (Repeat:  Minds out of the gutter!)

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Ch. 22: Lycans, Corpses, an' Ghosts, Oh My!  (If there are mistakes, I'm starting that mass revision 4/2/04 anyway.  Bear with, future English teachers, bear with.)

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Nakor leapt from shadow to shadow along the rooftops, carefully cradling in one arm the reward for his efforts, who was rapidly becoming more trouble than she was worth.  The girl named Mell somehow had relations with a half-breed Moon Child and a Changed, yet he dared not listen to what the spirits said of her.  He might catch her insanity.  It was an infectious disease he didn't dare expose himself too.  Still the whispering voices nagged at him, begging him that it was important.  The spirits started to remind the lord of very young children; they had no sense of priorities.  Even if he could stop to listen without going mad himself, dawn was swiftly coming and he had to go the long way around.  The shortest of his rooftop routes took nearly an hour longer to reach home than by car.  He had originally intended to take Mell's car and add it to his people's supplies as he usually did, but it had suddenly seemed a bad idea next to a Changed who couldn't be physically stopped.

As it was, he fretted about the girl's vehicle.  There was a large chance an opportunist human would highjack and solve his problem, but he had learned that over a long time, the unlikely but very bad thing happened every so often.  However good Club Mist was for hunting, Nakor wisely made the decision to avoid it for a few years or until he knew no one connected the girl's disappearance with the location.  His thoughts then turned to the other girl, the Changed.  He snarled; a girl who wore Suith.  There was no way of telling whether she was a threat or had only stumbled into them.  Whatever it was, she was dangerous.  Her air and way of speaking seemed foreign to him.  The Night Child hoped she was only visiting his hunting grounds and would soon leave.

Hoping, guessing –he hated to do both.  He wasn't supposed to need to formulate answers; he could hear them clearly from the spirits.  Yet he could not find answers about the Changed; he dared not listen to what the spirits said of Mell; and social law demanded he not look to the lycanthrope's secrets for answers, even if it was half-breed.

Thoroughly dissatisfied, Nakor made his way home.  For a moment, he mused that at least some good had come out of that night.  His son would not starve.  Shilf would feed after the alcohol left the girl's blood and he could no longer fight against the hunger.

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Katherine nodded as three men walked out of a no-nonsense steel door set into the hotel.  They had to be the team that was coming to help her get Leo inside.  "I see them," she said, letting the sound carry through her ear clasp to the blue woman, "but Mystique, it's really important!"  She gasped as she heard the audio communications cut out.  The fool had actually given her the mute button.  Angrily, she looked around for something to kick.  There was nothing nearby that wouldn't shatter her foot on impact.  Katherine ran her hands through her hair, tugging it all to the back of her head.

"Idiot," she growled.  The LeBeaus, they knew her face, and Mystique wanted her to rush out and save the girl who had the damned photo in her car!  She looked around for something -anything- that she could break.  Of course there was nothing.  She crossed her arms, ghosted her hands through her jacket sleeves, and dug her fingernails into her skin. She wasn't about to cry, but the temptation was there.  She sighed. Life was shit.

The men walked straight past her towards the car.  Like they did it every day of their lives, one man slid into the driver's seat as the other two loaded blanket swathed Leo –still a wolf- onto a cart they had conveniently brought along.   The pushcart reminded the girl of the kind used in large warehouses to transport boxes.  The team worked so synchronized, as if they were machines on an assembly line. 

With nothing better to do, Katherine started to pick at the torn skin of the palm she had scraped badly back in the alley.  Her prying fingers only encountered smooth flesh.  Frowning, she looked down at her hand.  There weren't any cuts or bruises, just that pinkish new skin that formed a while after an accident.  Her eyebrows twisted into a confused expression.  It didn't make any sense.  The hand should have been raw, bleeding out of the rips, not to mention infected by that strange blue substance that had come off of Leo.  Instead it looked like a day had gone by in an hour.

The girl's car roared with life, forcing Katherine to leap into action.  She rushed over and stopped the driver from taking off into the night by rapping on the passenger window.  When the dark window rolled down, she blinked.  He was looking straight ahead at the road like she didn't exist.  It gave her an odd, jittery feeling.  Banishing her trivial thoughts, she reached in through the passenger window and pulled out the folder holding her and Kurt's information.  It wasn't something she wanted lying around.

Much to her indignation, no sooner did Katherine withdraw her arm from the car, then the man hit the accelerator -hard.  As the car tore away, she winced.  Never again would she be able to watch a fast car (or a car at all, for that matter) without getting the shivers.  Sitting in one again was going to be a nerve-wracking experience.  When she got her license, she decided, it would be for a motorcycle.

'Motorcycle...oh, shit.'  She remembered her bike and where she had left it.  Looking up, she noticed that only one of the team was pushing Leo and the other was walking inside empty-handed.  The girl called out, but he didn't seem to notice.  Katherine rushed over and placed a staying hand on the jobless man's shoulder.  He finally looked at her.  "There's a dark blue bike in the MVP parking of Club Mist," she told him clearly and a little loud, fearing he might be hard of hearing.  "Pick it up before the place closes and bring it back here.  Check it in with the valet and send me the parking ticket."  She briefly remembered Emma Frost and bit back her groan.  Wasn't her night so nice and complicated?  "Make sure you're not followed."  As she handed the keys to the tall redhead, she hoped he had the right sorts of skills or knew someone who did.  It would be damned inconvenient to lose the bike, her only safe mode of transportation, or to get tracked down by the Ice Bitch.

The Ice Bitch, the Blue Bitch, why was her life plague by such "charming" ladies? 

The red haired man nodded simply and walked away, just letting her hand slide off his shoulder.  Katherine rubbed the palm of that hand.  It felt odd, like she had just touched something she shouldn't have.  She slowly fell into step behind the last man trundling Leo into the building.  Studying him, she felt the same faintly terrible feeling she had with his teammates.  He didn't take any notice of her eyes boring holes into the side of his face.  He didn't seem tired or bored or focused on his work or anything at all, really.  It was like he was sleepwalking or a puppet or –no, she decidedly did not want to say he felt dead.  New Orleans had already grown frightening enough in the last two minutes, she didn't need animated corpses.   

Katherine shook her head.  It had been a long night, and it was about to get longer; she was just sleep deprived and paranoid.  The man led her to a service elevator and they rode it to the seventh floor.  After she opened the door to her room, the Napoleon Suite, he pushed Leo in.  He deposited the wolf on the couch, making sure to keep the blanket in between it and the cushions only after she told him to.  He left the room, but not before Katherine heard an odd groan –or a yawn.  She felt instantly relieved and a little foolish.  Animated corpses indeed; the only thing those men had been was dead on their feet. 

Leo huffed in his sleep, bringing her attention back to him.  She decided his unconscious self was a glory hound.  Staring at him and his large size, she found she was glad he had been put up in her rooms without her having to lift a finger.  'One problem solved,' she thought miserably, 'but not the big one.  The LeBeaus know my face.  Tattoos aren't going to disguise me when there are pictures to compare my face with.  I need to look different.  Damn her.  It's the most important thing right now.'  Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about it.  Katherine undid her choker necklace and took a deep breath.  Somewhere along the line, she had gotten hot.  The heat was making her tired.  Looking at the wolf mutant, she decided it would be best to wake him up as soon as possible so she would still be awake enough to interrogate him.  Searching around the series of rooms, Katherine wondered where her goodies' box had been placed.  She needed that nasal spray Mystique had talked about.  What she really wanted to do was storm down to the Blue Bitch's lair and cram her photograph down the woman's throat, but it had been heavily stressed that there was little time. 

As Katherine looked through drawers, she wondered exactly what Mystique had meant in their short, one-sided conversation.  Was Nathan truly going to eat Knave's fille?  Why had the woman called him an it and talked about "its" kind?  Hopefully she wouldn't have to know.  She straightened and threw her hands up in defeat.  The box was no where to be found; Mystique hadn't had it brought up to the room for her.  Her eyes angrily flicked to the hotel phone resting on the desk in the lounge.  She strode over to it, determined to somehow get the woman on the line.  As she did, her eyes slid a little to the right, and she wanted to smack herself in the forehead.  The metal box lay there neat and prim at the desk's center, waiting to be opened.  She walked the rest of the way muttering something about things always being in the only place one didn't look.

She ghosted her hand through the airtight box and tripped the mechanism that opened the lid.  After fishing through the many papers, a computer lock pick, a bottle of the dreaded pill, and several odds and ends that she had no clue of the purpose of, she finally found a small, unmarked bottle of nasal spray.  She hoped it was the right one.  Katherine started to shut the lid of the box, but stopped.  There lay her little wrapped present with an important looking attached note reading "open me."  She took it out as well.  Then she took the folder she had taken from the fille's car and placed it in the box.  After closing its lid, she set her present on top of it.

Inserting the spray's tube into Leo's nostril, the girl shoved thoughts of death by overdose from her mind and pumped once.  As she capped the thing and ghosted it into the storage bin otherwise known as her belly, there was a loud snort and an odd crunching noise.  Leo –now human- shot from one side of the long couch to the other.  He sneezed several times in rapid succession and shook his head vigorously, then sneezed some more.  The spray obviously worked, and violently. 

It took him a while to become aware of his surroundings.  Katherine took advantage of the time by looking away.  Silently, she berated herself, 'Fool!  What do you get when you take a wolf and morph him into a human?  You get a big, naked man!!' 

Thankfully, the big, naked man felt very cold and wrapped himself up tight in the provided blanket.  He looked frightened and a little shell shocked, to tell the truth.  She could relate to the feeling.  Studying his face and trying not to glance towards other areas, she couldn't help but notice how terribly innocent he looked, like a huge puppy with big, bright eyes.  Katherine stared at him, wondering what to do; he seemed to be freezing to death very quickly.  It was odd, considering like she was about to collapse from heat exhaustion.  She considered her options.  She couldn't call up room service and ask for a set of men's clothes, nor did she want to give him tea or coffee.  He had enough chemicals roiling around in his brain; caffeine wouldn't helps things.  "Do you want some coffee?" she heard herself ask.  "Something decaf?"

Leo stared at her like she had spoken Eskimo.  It took her a minute to recognize his face, but she eventually recalled that she wore a similar expression whenever Mystique did something unexpectedly humane.  The look said, "I'm your prisoner; what the Hell are you playing nice for?"  She scowled, and told him frankly, "I did not kidnap you, so stop acting shocked."  While he digested that bit of information, she inwardly fumed.  The last people she wanted to be compared to were Mystique and Nathan –the kidnapper of Knave's fille, yet there he was, making the assumption that she had carried him off and was holding him prisoner. 

Taking the decision from him, she walked to the phone and dialed room service.  After deciphering what the Asiatic woman on the line had actually said to her, she ordered, "Bring up a large pot of decaffeinated coffee immediately."  As the woman repeated the simple order, still managing to get it wrong, Katherine heard a faint whimper.  She glanced towards the couch and watched Leo force out the word "food" through chattering teeth.  It took a minute before she understood.  Healing so quickly had to have taken a lot out of him; he was starving.  She quickly added a basket of hot rolls, bouillabaisse, cooked vegetables, lamb chops, and a pint of Ben and Jerry's to her request.

The mutant werewolf did a double take when she ordered the ice cream.  Katherine rolled her eyes at him.  "Just because you're an ice cube doesn't mean I am," she explained.  She schlepped off the leather jacket she had worn most of the night and pulled some damp hair off the back of her neck.  There was a tiny sound.  She glanced at Leo sidelong and watched him try to sniff without being noticed.  It reminded her a bit of Logan.  She briefly wondered what the big cigar smoking lug had been up to while she was gone.  After a few of his surreptitious sniffs, she said softly, "I don't have a scent, do I."  It wasn't a question.  "Don't worry your head over it," she told him. 

Katherine looked at him; he looked close to catching pneumonia.  She decided he needed another blanket or two –and some clothes, though she didn't know how to get some for him.  She looked around the lounge of the Napoleon Suite.  There were four doors.  One she knew led outside, and the other three must have been for the bedrooms and the bathroom.  Refusing to lower herself to eenie-meenie-minee-moe in public, the girl went to the door closest to her.

It opened into pitch blackness.  She spent a while fishing around for a light switch on the wall inside.  Finally, Katherine found it.  She wondered what it was doing at the level of her hip.  As she reached went to flick it on, a fist whizzed through her head and crashed into the doorframe.  The impressive crunch was followed by a flurry of what she assumed was French curses.  Katherine frowned, annoyed that the man she went out of her way to save had just tried to brutally attack her.  Fortunately, such brutish attacks didn't work against her anymore.  Ignoring him, she stared at her hand, which had plunged straight through the wall.  As she pulled it out, her skin brushed the electrical wiring, and the lights flickered for a moment before blowing out.  In the brief flash of light, Katherine was able to see that the room was indeed a bedroom.

Katherine turned to face Leo.  Thankfully, he still had the blanket wrapped around anywhere that counted.  Even if he was horribly rude, at least he had some sense of decency.  She couldn't help but notice the fear on his face.  People who liked to use their fists were terrified when they couldn't hit their target.  "Where is Monsieur LeBeau?" he asked in a slight French accent, taking a step back.  She tried not to stare at him.  Why did he think she knew where Knave was?

"LeBeau?" she asked finally.

"LeBeau, Remy Etienne," he said, flabbergasted.  "Ze man whose blood is in there!  What did you do wit' him?"

She felt a little tic in her forehead.  Yet again, he was accusing her of kidnapping, even hurting someone.  It didn't matter that she didn't know who Remy LeBeau was or how he managed to spill blood in her hotel room; it was the accusation that stung.  "Look," she said angrily.  "I don't care if your Mister LeBeau bled to death in this room!  For whatever reason he was hurt in here, it had absolutely nothing to do with me.  Next time you want to attack someone, wait a minute.  Unlike France, in America, people are innocent until proven guilty."  She bit back a wince when the strange bit of trivia flooded her brain.  Katherine pointed to the couch and growled, "Sit back down before I decide to hurt you myself." 

The girl walked into the bedroom and pulled the blanket off the bed.  Taking it out into the light, she looked it over.  There wasn't any blood that she could see.  She took it over to Leo, who was curled up on the couch again.  Banishing cheap jokes about dogs and the "sit" command from her head, she held out the blanket.  He recoiled.  She rolled her eyes.  He obviously had a good sense of smell, but catching the scent of blood on a clean blanket and recognizing who it belonged to was ridiculous.  She wadded up the bedspread and threw it at him.  "Be offended when you aren't about to get frostbite indoors, Francois" she told him coolly.  The girl turned and went to crank up the thermostat, giving Leo the time to wrap himself up with the extra blanket.

With nothing left to do but wait, she sat down on the coffee table by the couch.  So the interrogation began.  "What happened out there-" she paused.  She had almost called him Leo.  She didn't want to let on that she knew who he was.  To cover her sudden break in speech, she snapped her fingers and ordered, "Name."

"Leo," he supplied warily, solving her problem.  She blinked, a little surprised that he would give her the time of day, especially after the fist through brain incident.  Still, she wasn't one to complain.

"Leo, what went on in that alley?" she probed.  He looked away, playing the silent stoic.  So much for him being helpful.  Katherine glared at him; she didn't have the patience.  "Before I toss you out the window, Leo."

"I failed," he answered vaguely after a moment of death glare gridlock.  Katherine wanted to hit him, only she would probably pull something if she did.  Damn the lean, strong, very muscular naked man.  She closed her eyes, wanting to hit herself.  Unfortunately, she wouldn't be able to make it hurt enough. 

A minute passed; she was getting nowhere.  An idea struck her, and she shrugged.  When in doubt, frighten into submission.  Placing her feet firmly on the floor, she concentrated.   She reached out and ghosted the couch.  Leo fell through it onto the floor with a thud.  He scrambled out from inside the sofa in a hurry.  "What happened in that alley," she repeated.  He stared at her up from the floor, and she quirked an eyebrow.  He likely couldn't see it from behind her sunglasses, but he got the message.

Leo looked down at the floor.  "Vampire," he murmured dejectedly.  Katherine's eyes shot up clear past the top of her shades.  Fortunately, he didn't see it.  'Vampire,' she mused.  'Well, that explains a lot.'  She sat a moment, digesting the bit of information that screamed, "Vampires are real!"  If it was just Leo's word, she would dismiss him as a nut or a liar, but that one word he had spoken made everything make a horrible kind of sense.  If Nathan was a vampire, then it would explain why Mystique called him an "it" and talked about its kind.  It would explain why he called her a human in the alley.  It explained his incredible power and speed.  It explained how he somehow seemed ancient and young at the same time.  Katherine bit her lip.  It was going to be a very long night.  She wondered if the nasal spray was only to knock unconscious people awake.    

"I thought that might be the case," she finally lied through her teeth.  "I'd hoped I was wrong.  Who was she?"

A low growl escaped his lips.  She looked at him, bemused.  A blind man could see he was terrified for his life, yet he still tried to act tough.  "She is Mell," he replied coldly.  Katherine catalogued the odd name.  She stifled a sigh; it was time to bluff her way through the mess.  "I didn't say that she was dead, Leo.  Tell me, was this Mell drunk?"

He snorted, "When isn't she?"  Well, that was interesting.

"How long will her blood alcohol be spiked?" she prodded.  He stared at her.  The girl shrugged, "Let's just say his kind don't like Bloody Marys.  Mell is safe as long as her blood is an alcoholic beverage.  Do you how long that will be."

Leo looked at the ceiling and began to rattle off a list a drinks aloud to himself.  Katherine discreetly coughed.  The girl didn't need a vampire buddy; she should have died of alcohol poisoning hours ago. Finally, the mutant wolfman finished the long litany.  "Eleven hours, I suppose.  If ze girl didn't drink earlier, that is."  Katherine could scarcely believe her ears.  Leo was her bodyguard; he risked his life to protect her, and he just let her run off and nearly kill herself with alcohol.  Was she missing something?

"Why did you want to know?" he asked, his voice laced with distrust.

        Katherine cocked her head.  "You do want to me save her, right?"

There was a knock at the door.  Leo watched as the scentless young woman got up and answered it.  She didn't check the peephole but just swung the door open.  He didn't know if she was naïve or if she was invincible and knew it.  He leaned back into the couch only after checking that he wouldn't fall through it.  It had been terrible to find him self in the middle of a solid object.  What if she had decided to stop doing whatever she did and trap him inside?  He shivered.

He heard her say, "That was fast.  Where's the valet ticket?"  She leaned on the door, opened it a little further.  He balked when he saw what she was talking to.  The corpse stared ahead blankly and she asked for something that Leo didn't catch.  It nodded when she was finished and handed her a slip of salmon colored paper.  She closed the door, thankfully putting the zombie out of sight.  Leo tried not to shake.  They were horrible things, the undead minions.  Some necromancers turned a pretty penny by hiring out their less bright specimens as laborers that kept their mouths shut.  Unfortunately, if a zombie's master lost control, things quickly turned into a real life Resident Evil.  The werewolf once had the privilege of being near a dozen corpses that suddenly went berserk.  He still had nightmares about the experience.

The young woman finished reading something on the paper, and she angrily crumpled it up.  Ignoring him, she walked to the desk.  Her back obscured whatever she did, but when she left, he noticed a slim metal box on the tabletop.  She headed towards what his nose told him was a bathroom.  "Who are you," he heard himself ask.  She didn't look back.  Leo blinked as she walked straight through the closed door, much like he had fallen through the couch.

After a time, she walked out of the bathroom, using the door.  He asked his question again, and she met it with silence.  "Are you a spirit?" he questioned.

She turned and looked at him.  After the longest time, she whispered, "I'm Ghost."  The young woman heard a faint knock and walked to the front door again.  After opening the door, she bent down and picked up a pile of something.  She walked back to him.  After putting herself within range, she tossed him a pack of clothing and then a kit with a red cross on it.  She asked if he knew first aid.

He replied to the affirmative.

"Use it," she ordered.  She walked towards the door a third time, and then stopped.  Without looking away from the exit, she said clearly, "I don't mean this to sound like a threat, but stay in the room if you know what's good for you.  All three of us will go to your home when I get back with Mell."

He blinked, "You can find her?"  No one had been able to find the vampires' nest before, or at least no one that made it back to tell the tale.

She turned, smiled thinly, and told him, "Of course.  I know where the bad guy lives."

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Yay.  Done.  Hey, do you guys mind if I cut out here to work on the above mentioned exclusively Romy "Thief of Spirits?"  It will mean cliffing the Mell dies(?) part for an extended period of time.  Positives: it may take a few nail-biting weeks, but when I return, you guys can finally get the romance you came for. 

Damn, I'm getting damned redundant about that damn Romy bit.  Damn.  Repeating it every damn minute.

...Damn.  ...Damn.  ...Dam...shutting up.