Whist Vs. Wolfwood
His vision blurred and a light flashed before his eyes, as pain ripped through his body once more. With a sigh hissing between his clenched teeth Whist leaned back again and waited for the nausea to subside. His hand was pressed firmly against the gaping hole in his side that was slowly and steadily oozing blood. Blink lapped at the wound with a soft whine, his helplessness filling him with anxiety and fear, they had been hiding here for a long time, and Whist's wound had not stopped bleeding, and barely slowed. Whist had the terrible feeling that his life was literally slipping through his fingers, to lie in a massive puddle beneath him, useless and cold.
- EARLIER -
Whist sat at the window-bar of a coffee shop and watched the crowds mull through the mall whispering in excitement, debating who would be victorious at the end of the day, who would make the biggest fool of themselves, who would take their breath away or make them cry, everyone had become so enthralled with this tournament they had started to completely forget that lives were at stake. To them, it was one big show. Whist merely snorted and wondered how long that magical sense of detachment would last after one of them found a stray bullet or blade in their belly. Beside him Blink groaned to express his boredom and chewed at an inch on his foreleg.
"We'll be done soon." He murmured, and gulped down what was left of the coffee he had ordered. "Then we can back to our lives."
He had been in this mall too long, his feet were itching for the road, and he ached for the freedom, especially now that it would be like the old days, just him and his dog. He took another gulp of coffee to fill the hollowness he denied feeling at that sentiment. When he lowered the mug again he paused, and then tightened his grip.
Across the hall in shop for hiking and other road-heavy traveling was an all too familiar face, chatting with some outdoorsy fellow about boots and backpacks. He slammed the mug and the counter and scowled, a hand thoughtlessly running through and tugging the odd lengths of hair that still felt foreign after their recent cut. Blink looked up at him and whuffed, but was ignored as Whist's teeth began to grind. With an offended grunt Blink stood and loped out the door, across the hall and into the shop Li'ain occupied.
Whist didn't immediately comprehend Blink's destination, and was disinterested enough not to notice until the dog appeared at Li'ain's side, yapping brightly until she patted his head. Whist bolted out the door so abruptly he was out the door before his mug had shattered on the ground. He stalked into the store and up to Blink, grabbing the dog by the scruff roughly and glaring at Li'ain.
"Haven't you left yet?" He asked.
"Didn't you not want to see me anymore?" She replied, cold as ice.
The man Li'ain had been talking to made some fake excuse and scooted away, wisely deciding this was an encounter he'd rather not be in the middle of.
"I just came to get Blink." He said, patting the dog.
"Since when do you need to come find him?"
Whist set his jaw and looked away, doing his best to control himself, but quickly loosing his cool. And yet he stayed.
"Is there anything else you have to say?" Li'ain asked.
"Is there something you expect me to say?" He replied.
"Well, you are just standing there. I assumed you would be in a hurry to get away from me unless you have something to say."
"No," Whist shook his head. "Nothing to say."
Whist turned to walk away, and Li'ain went back to examining the boots. Whist took a step, and then turned sharply, stalking up to her side.
"No. No, I have something to say." He snapped, leaning forward so he could get his face close to hers. "You don't know me."
"No—fuck you—listen. You have no idea, who I am or where I came from and why I do the things I do. So you need to get the fuck off your high horse and admit that you have some serious fucking problems and I'm the only person to put up with it for more than an hour that you didn't have to pay. So, I think you owe me an apology for the way you've been treating me."
Li'ain looked over at him, calmly and then laughed a single, harsh note. "Really? Are you really going to be this much of an idiot? You, the man who's so awful his only friend is a dog, are telling me that I don't treat people right? I don't owe you anything. You have been nothing but sarcastic, cold and cruel to me, and all to preserve whatever image it is you think you have. I don't think you know who you are, Whist. You're…nothing. You're just a leaf in the breeze, wandering pointlessly and not making a single difference in the world."
"I SAVED the whole fucking world!" Whist snapped.
"No. No you protected yourself, because you are terrified of dying. And not because you love life, or because there's something you need to do with it, but because you haven't even started to live yet. There is no point to your life, you travel to hide the fact that you are going nowhere, and you fight to make yourself forget that you strive for nothing, you just keep moving, hoping that some purpose will jump out at you and teach you how to fucking live. Well, I'm alive, Whist, and I will not be dragged down by you any longer." She paused and raised her eyebrows to see if Whist had anything more to say, but he merely re-set his jaw and turned away again.
"Good luck with the fight." She said, and then walked off.
"Have a good life…princess."
He didn't know if she heard it, he didn't care. The next moment the start of his fight was announced blaringly over the loudspeaker, and he sprinted out of the store and into action, grabbing the distraction happily.
He sped down the hall, looking all around for Wolfwood; having done some background searching on him earlier he knew basically what to look for. He tried to stick to the shadows, using his years of sneaking for all they were worth, but he was not used to motion-sensors, and as he crossed in front of a seemingly harmless display of dolls and trees it suddenly burst into glowing, singing life as they tried to educate him about forest fires.
The next second he thought the world had exploded, as a massive banging filled the air. He had half a second to spare on panic before he lunged behind the display to protect himself from the machine gun fire. The smiling children and spinning trees were obliterated into a smoldering pile of tin and fizzing wires, but the steel base protected Whist from being turned into Swiss cheese. He peered out, and saw Wolfwood on the walkway one floor up, scanning the hall for the tattooed boy. In his hands he held his famous trigun, and Whist couldn't help but give a low whistle of polite awe before ducking behind his defense again.
"Long-range huh? Ok, two can play that game." He mused, and then pulled a shuriken off his belt and jumped out.
Wolfwood fired immediately, the machine gun raining bullets on the rogue. Whist broke into a sprint, staying just ahead of the spray, and then chucked a shuriken up at the gunman. Wolfwood ducked to avoid it, forcing him to cut off his fire briefly—long enough. Whist leapt up the side of a fountain in the middle of the hall, more disks in hand, and then threw them to either side of Wolfwood, leaping off the fountain afterward and landing on the walkway across from Wolfwood and pausing to check his work.
He was sorely disappointed to see Wolfwood unfazed, one shuriken harmlessly on the floor, the other stuck in the hard casing of his gun, causing no real damage. Whist cursed and grabbed more disks. Wolfwood held his gun up, and with a large rattling the back opened and he pulled out a handgun, aimed and began to fire just as Whist threw the first blade.
They broke into a simultaneous sprint, running down the opposing side of the hall, bullets and shuriken volleying between them, spreading chaos and panic before and behind them. Wolfwood tossed aside handguns as they emptied, pulling out new ones in the same, smooth motion, his massive luggage not hindering his mobility in the slightest. But both of them only had so much lung power, and so far until the hall ran out (although in this place, that could be miles) and Wolfwood could only take the monotony so long. Suddenly he stopped, swung up the short end of his gun, smacking aside two more shuriken as he did and primed and fired the rocket with one sharp move.
Whist swore massively and reversed his momentum hard, barely avoiding the rocket and falling just on the edge of the massive destruction in reaped. He barely had his footing back when the machine gun was on his heels once more, giving him no choice but to run forward towards the crater he had created. Whist was just tipping over the edge when Blink snapped his hand into his jaw and they blinked out.
They reappeared just below, among the rubble and shrieking patrons—many of whose shrieks were of excitement rather than the proper emotion of horror. The crowd had really become desensitized to this nonsense.
"Shit." Whist gasped. "Two may play but that not as good as that…fuck…"
Blink grumbled and nudged Whist into the momentary shelter of the shop they stood outside. Whist panted to regain his breath and then patted Blink's head.
"I appreciate that, but don't do it again, you here? You're still tired from all that teleporting last round, and I know it, so unless I'm about to really get my ass handed to me you don't get yourself involved. No offense but you can't do much against a gun-toting Jesus-freak…" Whist trailed off, considering, and then grinned broadly. "I got an idea."
- - -
Wolfwood patrolled the hall below where the explosion happened, trying to find where that boy and his damn dog had gotten to. Using his rocket launcher so frivolously usually wasn't his style, but he really wanted this round over. This whole tournament was getting under his skin, and he had more important things to be doing and people to punish.
He spun around and saw Blink lope down the hall and disappear within a large, arched doorway. When he drew closer he realized it was one of many churches that were nestled throughout this mall, and with an uncertain scowl he slowly opened the door and peered inside.
What he saw made him go pale in horror.
The church was deceptively big, with twenty pews four benches wide covered in red velvet fitting comfortably within. In front of them was an elevated platform made of white marble, where there sat an altar and behind that a massive, gold-faceted wooden cross—upon which Whist was hanging with his arms looped around the cross beam, his feet hooked around the back of the main shaft.
"What's up?" He asked, cocking his head in acknowledgement.
Wolfwood's trigger finger shook, his restraint only extending out of shock and a trembling respect for the sanctity of his location.
"Get…down…" He growled.
"Why? This is really great exercise, stretches your shoulders like you would not believe, and it is quite an endurance test. How long'd he do this? The man musta been freakin' ripped."
"WHIST!" Wolfwood howled, raising his gun and leveling it at him. "Get down, NOW, or I swear I will blow your head off and pay penance to this house of god later."
"This?" Whist said, cocking an eyebrow. "This is God's house? …He needs to get a better interior decorator…and I kinda thought it'd be bigger."
"Jesus Christ, calm down, I will…I will…"
Whist unhooked his arms and hopped lightly to the floor, standing behind the altar now. Wolfwood ground his teeth as he watched Whist look down, raise his eyebrows and the duck below.
"Well hello!" Whist quipped, popping back up with a plate of communion wafers in hand. "Snacks! The man's a pretty good host after all!"
Whist then grabbed a handful of the wafers and popped them into his mouth, handing a few off to Blink as well.
A vein in Wolfwood's neck throbbed, and with a snarl he lunged forward, ready to grab Whist and drag him somewhere he could rip his face off. But Whist was ready, and ducked below his swiping arm, grabbing it by the wrist and sinking a punch into the gunman's floating rib. He then gripped a shuriken between the fingers of his gauntlet-protected fist and began beating and slicing Wolfwood with it. He kept his strikes long and wide enough to keep Wolfwood's arms spread so he couldn't get his massive gun between them or draw a handgun from its arms. Wolfwood was left defending one-handed, and Whist kept on coming. Wolfwood stayed on the defensive, unwilling to cause suffering in the Lord's house, but he tried to guide the fight to the door. But he just wasn't as good at this, Whist was in too close, and the multi-colored boy was far more accustomed to tight quarters than Wolfwood, and he found himself at a painful disadvantage. The blade never sunk very deep, but the slices it left stung and distracted him further, ad Whist's knuckles bruised bone and sinew and just kept coming.
They started moving sideways, between the pews, making it all the more cramped—something Whist had no argument against. But then he sorely regretted losing that control, as Wolfwood reached the seam of two benches, and with his foot reached out and kicked down a knee-rest from beneath the bench Whist still stood before, knocking Whist sideways onto one of the benches. He pounced, grabbing Whist's hair and pinning an arm behind his back, holding him so his neck was pushed hard on the back of the bench, making him gag and choke for air. Blink growled and started forward. But Wolfwood kicked him hard in the head, knocking him back and stunning him so mightily he whimpered and lay down, his head between his paws.
"You'd best do some penance for the sins you just committed." Wolfwood growled, turning back to Whist and hissing in his ear.
Whist scoffed, and spat on the floor. Wolfwood growled, jerk him up by the hair and started dragging Whist to the door. Once there he tossed Whist to the floor, placing a foot on his spine as he pulled out another handgun, his last, and aimed it for the back of his head.
"You are a sinner, Whist, I can see that clearly. You have no place in this world." Wolfwood growled.
He squeezed the trigger.
Just as he did so two hundred pounds of fur, teeth and claws slammed into him from behind, altering the bullet's course at the last-minute as he tumbled to the floor. Unfortunately, the bullet didn't fly far enough, and though it didn't hit anything vital, it ripped through Whist's side above his hip and burned awfully. Whist screamed in agony, as Wolfwood knocked Blink off of him with a heavy sweep of the trigun. The beast instantly rebounded, running in Wolfwood's way as he made for Whist again, blocking his path and jumping on Whist's back to spirit him away to safety.
- - -
Now here he sat, tucked away in a tire shop not far from where the initial wound had happened, unable to move without extreme pain and nausea, his life slipping away slowly and steadily, Blink exhausted and hopeless. He had never felt so close to death, always able to dodge it and taunt it freely, always such a sneaky bastard he could cheat his way out without a second thought. Maybe that was why the would wouldn't heal, all that luck had finally turned, and it had quickly plummeted to the opposite extreme, and fate finally sunk it's claws into him.
"I think this is it boy..." Whist groaned. "I think...I'm done for..."
Blink whimpered and put his head in his lap, Whist weakly put his hand on his neck and rubbed the wiry fur. As whist faded Blink, too, was weakening, his life force slowly draining with Whist's. One simply could not survive without the other, not only because of the nature of their bond, but because they simply would not have the will.
"It's not so bad...at least, I just got rid of the one person that might have missed me..."
He quieted, but his last thought still raged. Li'ain. She had been right. Thinking about it now he saw how little his death would mean. No one would miss him, nothing would go unfinished, nothing would suddenly go unloved. The world would lack nothing. In the end, that was all he amounted to; nothing. And he would miss nothing from it.
Blink wuffed lightly in disagreement, and Whist's mind went to Li'ain once more, and vaguely he heard the words of Zoro, reminding him what he needed to become to make a difference. No chance now...now that he actually wanted the chance. Li'ain...amidst all the regret and sorrow he felt a sudden wave of frustration and resentment. The fact that she had read through him and predicted this spurned him into a new strength. Fine. If he was going to die here, then die he would, but he would not die hidden behind a pile of tires, shattered and pathetic. He would take something with him, he would prove to her that he could see this through to the end, that he could accomplish something.
He took a deep breath and found his feet. his head spun and he felt his stomach churn, but he closed his eyes a moment and waited to stabilize. Blink loped to his side, and growled with the same new determination that now fired Whist. He opened his eyes, and walked forward, fists clenched, chin up and eyes suddenly fiery with determination. He had found his second, last wind, and he would ride it to victory.
Wolfwood stood outside nearby, and he when he saw whist coming he stood to meet, able to clearly see that the man was near death. He would let him take a moment, and hopefully find repentance in the light of his coming demise. They walked towards each other slowly, Whist's shoulders awkwardly and tensely squared in an attempt to walk straight, and Wolfwood prepping his gun for the firestorm as he sauntered on. There was a death rattle on the air, issued in shuddering gasps through Whist's blood-flecked lips. and all the spectators were still and silent in respectful awe. Whist felt no fear, only determination, if he could do nothing else worth remembering, he would at least die in a manner that someone may speak of once it was done. Once he and Wolfwood stood only a few paces apart they stopped and stared into each other's eyes. Woflwood was impassive, he had done this plenty of times before, but Whist stared at Wolfwood with a determined glare, trying to say with that stare all the hatred and anger he felt in this moment, facing his executioner willingly, and without despair. They let the moment linger, seep into their bones so they knew they both were in this for all it was worth.
And then Whist went for his blades, even as Wolfwood was already pulling the trigger. The gun unleashed a torrent of bullets, all roaring towards Whist, each one ready to carve away a part of his life and rip it from him.
Just before the bullets tore into him, a bubble of swirling black and green energy formed around him and exploded outward, obliterating the bullets and fizzling out just before hitting Wolfwood, but the breeze that came in the wake of it reeked of destruction. Whist gaped in awe, and slowly turned to look over her shoulder, and saw Li-ain, standing with one hand forward towards him, still sparking with the energy that had dissolved the approaching danger.
"Li'ain...what...?" Whist stammered.
"You don't have to prove anything, Whist, you've done enough." Li'ain said, and a single tear rolled down her sculpted cheek. "I don't want you to die."
Whist was speechless, staring at her with his face blank in shock, but Blink yapped happily, and his tail began wagging more fiercely than it had in weeks.
"That may be," Wolfwood growled, hoisting his gun up again. "But I DO!"
The machine gun roared back into life, and the bullets rocketed towards them, whistling with deadly intent. Li'ain reacted immediately, running up to Whist's side and waving a hand in a violent slash. From her hand a wave of the green and black energy rushed forward, destroying the bullets on their way and continuing on to hit his gun, where it connected the gun simply...dissolved. It broke into all the tiny, invisible particles that created it, and it fell into nothingness. Wolfwood cried out and dropped the gun, jumping back and getting out of the way of the wave before it dissolved. The essence of Li'ain's power, was undoing, the things it touched simply unraveled, and were no more. Wolfwood felt the immensity of her power, and shook in fear.
Li'ain stepped forward, standing tall and firm, and, looking him straight in the eye, said softly; "Surrender, or I will destroy you."
Wolfwood crouched low, his fists up, and replied, equally firm. "No."
She lunged forward, her hands enveloped in her anti-life energy. Wolfwood braced himself, and countered her when she struck, and they began a violent, back and forth brawl. They were mostly evenly matched, landing equal amounts of hits and dodging just as many, but every hit that Wolfwood landed left a bruise, but every time Li'ain hit, part of him simply disappeared. In a few seconds, the skin of his forearms was almost completely dissolved, and many spots on his torso bled for a lack of skin.
It all happened so fast Whist didn't even realize it had ended until several moments after Wolfwood was down, but Li'ain has worn him down to the point of no return, and Wolfwood had been overwhelmed by the system shock of so much of him becoming undone. He crumpled to the floor and was still.
Li'ain turned back to Whist and immediately went to work on his wound, gently encouraging him to lie back as she began pulling out strange bottles and bags of things Whist could only assume she had bought here, as he had never seen the likes in all his years of travel. As she applied several salves and liquids Whist felt some of his strength returning, and once more he came back from the brink.
"Why'd you do it Li'ain?" He asked softly, as she began to stitch the wound shut.
"I told you, I don't want you to die."
Whist gulped back a sentimental hiccup. "But…why?"
Li'ain looked up at him, her mouth a tight, thin line of frustration, and sighed. "Because…you're my best friend."
Whist was stunned, and so remained silent as she continued.
"For as much of an ass as you are, for all your short comings, you're the only who has ever just…let me be me, and not faulted me for it. I…I didn't realized until I watched you come two steps from death a few too many times." She laughed weakly, not actually finding anything funny in this terribly embarrassing speech of hers. "I've…never had a real friend before, Whist. I can't lose the only one I have."
Whist sat up slowly after she tied off the last stitch, staring at her with wide, misty eyes, and then pulled her into a tight hug, sniffling softly and whispering;
They separated, looking at each other shyly, like children all of the sudden with this foreign idea of friendship, at a loss with what to do with it.
"So…I'm sorry." Li'ain finally murmured.
"Fuck that, I'm an ass." Whist replied. "I apologize."
Li'ain grinned. "Accepted. So…does this mean…we're friends, then? You and me?"
Whist sighed. "I guess it does. You'll have to excuse me, I've never had one before."
"I told you, me neither."
"Well, good, then we can fuck up the friendship as much as we need to and we'll never be any wiser."
Li'ain chuckled, and then threw herself into Whist's arms again, hugging him fiercely, and slowly, firmly, he returned the embrace. They stayed that way for a long few moments, until finally Blink whined and reminded them not so subtly that he was still there, he was hungry, and he wanted attention. Whist gave it to him gladly, nuzzling him and praising him until Li'ain asked;
"So what now?"
Whist looked up at her, beaming brightly. "Let's start something." He said. "It doesn't matter what, and it's not too big a deal yet, why, let's just get something started and do it and make a statement." He took Li'ain's hand, "And let's get the fuck out of here and started before the last round when this whole places blows up."
Li'ain laughed and let him lead her on the way out.
It wasn't what she had expected or wanted, and it hadn't gone the way he was so used to things going, but the two of them felt that suddenly a chapter of their lives had closed, and the next one was begging now, and it would mark the start of the real action, the climax of their lives, and they walked into it together.
Hey all, a little late but whatevs. Here you go, last round of the tournament. I wish the end had been a little less cheese-ball and a little more drawn out, but I had one day and not a lot of sleep with which to write this, so overall I'm happy. I hope you are too!