Disclaimer: I don't own Iria (though I wouldn't mind it….) and I'm not making any money off this. (If I was, do you think you'd see this disclaimer?) The only thing I own here is this story and Shiv. She's mine, do you hear me? Mine! *laughs nervously* Okay…on with the show…..
Rating: PG-13 - language
A Knife in the Coat
Part 4: Wolf's Head

Shiv tossed her coat on the couch and slung two bandoleers across her chest. Rummaging through the pockets of her coat, she pulled out four blasters, put two in hip holsters, and put the other two in holsters under her arms. After strapping a fifth blaster to her thigh belt, Shiv checked her pockets again to be sure she had everything, then pulled the coat on. Picking up the blaster rifle, she turned to Iria and Fujikuro.
"Let's get going," she said. "You two take the creeper; I'll take Ship. That way, if we get separated, we can both get out of there."
The other two nodded and they headed to their separate vehicles.

"Shiv, are you sure you should be driving this fast?", Bob asked, sounding rather nervous.
"What are you worried about?", Shiv snapped. "You can't die twice!"
There was a pause and Shiv smiled. "Worried about me, are we?" She laughed. "Sweet, but unnecessary. You always did have a soft spot for me."
If computers could blush, this one would have. Shiv laughed again. "Why don't you have a chat with Daine? If your good I'll let you go on a date. But be back by 11."
While Bob made irate sputtering noises, Shiv pressed a button on the console and said, "Connection terminated."

"Should she be going that fast?", Fujikuro asked.
Iria shrugged. "Probably not. But that doesn't mean she won't."
Fujikuro winced. "Looks damn scary to me."
"It's scarier riding in it."
Fujikuro looked over at her. "You were in that thing and she drove that fast before?"
"How else do you think we made it back in less than two minutes?"
Fujikuro's eyes were wide. He swallowed nervously. "Glad it wasn't me."
"So glad you were concerned for MY safety," Iria muttered.
Fujikuro looked a little hurt. "I was. I just….um…hadn't gotten to that part yet."
"Whatever you say." Iria revved the engines and urged the creeper faster.

"Mr. Putubai…um….Sir? We have a problem….," the guard stuttered.
Putubai looked up from his desk. "What do you mean 'a problem'?", he demanded.
"Sir……" The guard tugged at his collar. "There's three hunters….Headed this way….In fact…..One of them is in the building, sir…." He dropped a piece of paper on the desk. "Pictures from the surveillance tapes…..Do you know them, sir?"
Putubai clutched at the print-out frantically. "Double the guard!", he ordered. "Nobody gets in or out! If anyone does, it will mean your job….and your head!"
The guard swallowed nervously and ran from the room.
"It's so hard to find good help these days," a voice purred from behind Putubai's chair.
Before he could turn around, he felt cold steel against his throat. "Don't move," the voice hissed. "Unless, of course, you want to bleed out all over this nice shirt of yours."
"Who the hell are you?", Putubai whispered, fear straining his voice.
"Don't tell me you've forgotten your old buddy Shiv," the voice said, a note of faked sorrow in the words. "I'm serious. Don't tell me." She let the flame-like edges of the knife dance across his throat, leaving a thin red line in their wake. "You can call in your guards if you like. However, a wolf's head cut off can still bite. Even if they shoot me, I'll still have time to see that you don't give them any more orders."
"What do you want?", Putubai asked, his voice unusually high.
Shiv smiled. "That's more like it," she grinned. "I want my compensation. And I want your blood. Give me the money or I'll slit your throat and find it myself."
With shaking hands, Putubai pressed a button under his desk and a hidden drawer slid open. A sleek black case lay inside.
"That's it," Putubai hissed. "That's all of it. Take it. Go. Please. Leave an old man to die."
Shiv snorted. "For an old man, you've got more lives than a hundred cats. I will finish what I start. If your blood isn't mine now, it'll be mine soon enough. Remember, Putubai, and be afraid."
There was a banging sound on the door and shouting from the other side. Shiv snatched the case up and ran to the window. "You can live your life, such as it is, for a little while longer. But remember, and be afraid." She drew a finger across her throat to illustrate her point. Putubai swallowed nervously. Shiv smiled and leapt out the window.

Fujikuro and Iria crouched as low possible behind their temporary shield up on the roof. Every so often, they'd turn and fire and the row of Tedon Tippidai guards hunkered down on the other side of the roof. It was a stalemate; no one was going anywhere.
"Where the hell is she?!?", Fujikuro roared. "How long does it take to slit a man's throat?!?"
"I wouldn't know," came a voice behind them. "The bastard lives." They turned around to see Shiv standing there with a small black case. She dropped to the roof and scuttled over beside them. "I've got the cash, though, so it wasn't a total loss."
"Great," Fujikuro snapped. "Can we get out of here now?"
Shiv smiled. "Sure, Fuji. But I thought we were having fun." She drew a small orb from a pocket and threw it in the direction of the guards. There was the sound of a soft explosion and startled cries from across the roof.
Iria raised an eyebrow. "Those things come in handy." Then, she turned to her gun, checked the chamber, and swore. "Outta ammo."
"What size cartridge you need?", Shiv asked.
"8 ½ standard. Why?"
"Here you go," Shiv said, pressing the 8 ½ size cartridge into her palm.
"You got any 9 and ¾ specials?", Fujikuro asked, raising an eyebrow.
Shiv tossed him the cartridge and he looked shocked. "What else do you have in that coat?", Fujikuro asked, amazed.
Shiv grinned. "If you're a good boy, I might show you."
Fujikuro turned a shade similar to Iria's hair.
Suddenly, they were incredibly aware of how quiet it was on the roof. Shiv took a tentative step up and her jaw dropped. "You guys," she whispered, "they pulled out! They're gone!"
Iria and Fujikuro leapt up. "You're right!", Iria exclaimed. "I can't believe it!" Then, she turned to Shiv and asked, "What do you put in those little grenades of yours, anyway?"
Shiv laughed. "Who cares? We got rid of them!!" She threw back her head and yelled her defiance at the sky. Despite themselves, Iria and Fujikuro began laughing as well, then began jumping up and down and hugging, It was several moments before they realized Shiv was staring at them and several more before they realized exactly what she was staring at.
"Oh….Um…I'm sorry…"
"Me, too….Caught up in the moment I guess…"
"I suppose we'd better…"
But before they could part, there was a flash of light. Iria and Fujikuro turned to see Shiv grinning widely and holding a camera. "I always come prepared. After the last incident, I made sure I always have one of these."
The pair sputtered angrily, but before they could say more, large flares came rocketing up the side of the building. Shiv yelped and they fell to the roof. "I think we'd better get out of here," she hissed. The others nodded their sentiments.
Slowly, Shiv began to crawl towards the side of the roof where the rockets were coming from. "Are you crazy?!?", Fujikuro demanded. She didn't answer.
Reaching the edge, she called to them, "I'll distract them. You two get off the other side and head for the creeper. Meet you back home."
With no further warning, Shiv dove off the side. Iria screamed, Fujikuro shouted, and from two throats came guttural moans that were like the sound of dying creatures in pain beyond all description. Not caring about anything save being comforted, Iria sobbed and buried her face in Fujikuro's chest. He wrapped his arms around her, his voice catching every so often with sobs that could not be contained. It may have been years before they finally left the roof; it may have been minutes. Staggering onward like the walking wounded, the pair made it to the creeper. Iria drove without being asked. Her vision was blurred by tears, but she knew the way and she knew if Fujikuro drove, he would be far blinder than she and end up driving like Shiv. The thought of the surely-dead bounty huntress brought another sob to her throat and the creeper swerved. Fujikuro didn't notice.

When the teary-eyed pair walked in the door, surprises greeted them. Kei was sitting on the couch, twirling something between her fingers. "Where were you?", Iria choked out.
"Botherin' Grandpa," Kei said, still twirling the object. Iria found herself sighing. Annoying Dr. Toulka had become one of Kei's favorite pastimes. "By the way, the bloody lady told me to give you this." She walked up to Iria and handed her a small, folded-up piece of paper.
Iria swiped the back of her hand across her cheek and opened the note. It read as follows:

Hey, you two. Quit crying or I'll have to drive back here and make you. Sorry I scared you all like I did. Good-byes are hard. That's why I never say them. By the way, if the little short shit you have running around the house calls me the bloody lady, smack her for me, would you? It's not my fault I had to stain a perfectly good tank top to fake my death and keep those damn guards from carting my to jail. Just made it out before they were gonna cart me to the morgue. I'll be back…..Eventually. Enclosed is a certain snapshot that I think you'll like. Have it framed and hang it on your wall, but don't you dare throw it out or I'll send you another.

Iria paused and turned to Kei. "Where's the photo?"
Kei grinned and handed it to her. "I wanted to look at it a while longer. Wish I was there. Think we can get it enlarged? I'd like a poster."
Iria and Fujikuro turned various shades of red at once and Kei laughed. After a moment, Iria continued reading.

Just don't forget your old buddy Shiv when you're making the invite list for the wedding.

Iria and Fujikuro turned red again.

Stop blushing, you know I'm right. See you around.

PS I kept the negatives.

Iria and Fujikuro looked at each other again. Suddenly, Iria turned to Kei. "Kei, what is that you're playing with?"
"This." Kei held up a slender stiletto knife with flame-like edges. "The lady gave it to me. She told me to keep it. Said she'd be back for it someday. Can I keep it?"
Iria smiled. "Sure, kid. You can keep it." Turning to Fujikuro, she asked him, "So, what kind of stationary do you want?"
He turned the color of Iria's hair again and Kei hit the floor laughing.

Well, that's all for this one, but trust me, the sequel will be up shortly. Thanks to those that stuck with me this far through the insanity. BTW again, first person to tell me where I got the line about a wolf's head cut off gets the first chapter of the sequel before I post it on FanFiction.net. Sugoi, neh?
Until the sequel...
*Kat-chan out* ^_^ \/