Foreword: Alright, so I'm a little behind schedule here…. …This week and next week are going to be HELL for me. XD Why? Because I'm going to attempt to get two chapters out this week, this one and the following that is actually SUPPOSED to be coming out this week. …Plus I have between now and the end of next week to complete my thesis paper ON TOP of my regular classwork. …I'm also looking for work again, because I got fired. …I didn't participate in the (non-mandatory) cheering during a meeting and my manager seemed to think that I was being insubordinate and rebellious. :/ …yes. He IS indeed a jackass. Moving on!

Disclaimer: Why? …why do you need me to tell you this again? Are you deaf? …or better yet …do you just have bad vision and couldn't see the last ten disclaimers? …and honestly…if that's the case…what the hell are you doing even reading fanfiction?! ….but just in case you have some other plausible excuse…let me say it again….I DO NOT OWN KATEKYO HITMAN REBORN!

The Nature of the Beast

Chapter Ten: Prey Vs. Predator

"Take that off."

He raised an eyebrow at her words. She'd had the most bewildered look on her face when she walked in and he'd taken pleasure in her disheveled state of panic. Not because of her physical appearance itself, but because of what it meant. They'd finally arrived. So he was thrown off a bit when she'd suddenly commanded him. And a command it was, he realized as her hard glare bored into his condescending stare.

He didn't take long to think about it. "No."

He was mildly fascinated as he watched her jaw clench, "Take it off, now." The words hissed through her clenched teeth and he smirked momentarily, before telling her once more…

"No."

It wasn't too often that he saw people get this worked up—not around himself anyway—let alone a female—well, there was Sawada's little puppy, Gokudera, but he wasn't even going to dwell on that thought. Incensed by his one word response, her shoulders snapped back; he didn't react, only stared as she crossed the floor with hurried strides.

"Take it off! Now-" She'd lunged for the suit jacket, more than likely intending on snatching it off of him—he didn't give her the chance.

She stared at her hand in his grasp. Sneering, she snatched her hand back from him. He said nothing and kept his expression limited to barely concealed amusement as he straightened the jacket. She gave him a look of annoyed disgust before attempting to snatch at the jacket once more. Again he caught her hand, but this time she struck out with her other and this one he swatted away. Exasperated, she pulled her limb back and continued to try her luck…as well as his patience.

Eventually he grew tired of fending off her grabbing hands and with a quickness that far belied his previous bedridden state, he seized her right wrist and spun her by her left shoulder into the wall. She gasped both in pain and the sudden lack of air as he pushed his palm into her back, pinning her arm against her throat—her socket beginning to ache from the strenuous pull of her arm.

"I've tolerated your moods quite enough. You have long breached the limits of my patience, woman and I'm afraid that if you continue to push me any further, I may just consider overlooking my debt to you."

He glared at the back of her head when she—seemingly ignoring him—attempted to shove free of the wall. Scowling, he reapplied pressure between her shoulder blades. He ignored her pained grunt and spoke again, "Don't test me woman. I'm only warning you once. Stay out of my way."

He released her just as she was starting to claw at his hand, desperate for air or perhaps just trying to antagonize him more. She dropped to the floor with a gasp. He glared down at her choking form and just for good measure decided to add, "Better yet," his tone was undeniably condescending, "stay out of the way in general. While I couldn't care less, it would be a shame if in your stupidity, you got yourself killed."

When she tilted her head up from the floor, he was expecting to see fear, maybe even the same look of bewilderment he'd witnessed cross her face when he grabbed her. Instead, he couldn't help but want to smirk at the look of resentment that shown in her eyes. He could feel her desire to attack him and he was half tempted to urge her into it. He'd be only too happy to show the woman her proper place—to let her know just who was the predator and who was not.

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She wanted to kick him, no…she really wanted to kill him at that moment. It'd been years since she'd been manhandled—not since she still a girl. She'd seen to ridding herself of that vulnerability…or so she thought. Bastard. He'd caught her off guard. She sneered up at him, all too aware of Kyoya's sudden strength. Where had it come from? He hadn't even been under her care for a full week! That kind of recovery was just insane! She thought back to her examination of him and his remarkable healing. Something wasn't adding up. Her gaze hardened on his form, striding around her house with a smooth unhurried gait, seemingly unhindered and completely recovered from his injuries…she felt like there was another wolf in her home.

Dakota.

Her gaze shifted to the back of the house and she rolled to her feet, ignoring the bastard for the time being. She'd left him outside in her hurry to reach Kyoya. She scowled at the reminder and pushed open the door to the backroom and was pleased to see that Dakota had entered the mudroom through the rather large animal entryway in the backdoor and was now pacing about. She didn't have to say anything as he automatically followed her into the house when she turned back to the door. This time when Dakota placed himself between her and her detestable houseguest, she didn't complain.

Kyoya had seated himself at her office desk and was staring at her as she settled herself into the worn leather loveseat on the opposite side of the room. Dakota laid at her feet. She scowled at the bastard—dressed in her father's suit. It fit him well and she was startled to realize that her father had had such a lean frame. She'd never really seen it that way; he'd always seemed somehow larger in her memory. And now, she realized with a scowl, she'd never be able to imagine her father without Kyoya's image clouding over it. The insult was right on the tip of her tongue, but he spoke first.

"How far away are they?"

She blinked, slightly taken aback, "What?"

A minor narrowing of his eyes betraying his annoyance, he clarified, "How far back did you run into the scavengers."

The word was spat from his mouth and she stared at him in surprise, "…about 7 miles out."

His eyes glazed over for a moment as he considered her response and he muttered to himself, "…11 kilometers."

Something occurred to her then. "You knew."

His eyes refocused on her, questioning.

"You knew…." Her anger reignited as she snarled at him, "You bastard! You knew they were coming! You didn't intend on getting away…did you?" The accusation in her words answered for him. "You knew that they'd find you…you were waiting for them…" A sudden clarity found her. Perhaps not all, but some things were beginning to make sense…. His confidence of "biting" her by the end of the week…the consistent pushing of his body…the rapid healing of his body—although to be honest, she still couldn't wrap her mind around that one—and of course finally, dressing in her father's suit. He knew what was going on before she even left out that morning. He was already prepared by the time she stepped a foot back into her house.

The look she was giving him was positively venomous, yet his only response was to raise a single eyebrow as if to say: what of it?

She nearly lost it then. She was on her feet before she knew it, but the moment she met his stare, she froze—hesitated. He was smirking at her and she saw now, twirling slowly in his grasp, a small tin can like object. She clenched her jaw. The same weapon that had nearly put a hole in her head.

It took every bit of her self-control to sit back down. What else could she do? Sure, she could shoot him, but her anger wasn't worth injuring him that badly and she could see now that if she attacked him bare handed…it wouldn't end well for her. Slumping forcefully back in her seat, she met his gaze head on. "When this is over," She gave him a strained smile, "I can't wait to kick your ass off my property."

The smirk on his face made her want to kick his teeth in. It was like he was daring her to try it. Thankfully he didn't hold the expression for long. After a moment, his gaze fell to the floor in thought. She continued to seethe in her seat; Dakota growling at her feet, picking up her agitation. Minutes passed before he spoke, "There's no reason for you to be tense over it. It's likely to be a few hours before they arrive. I highly doubt they'll arrive before night fall." It was rather obvious how low his regard for his pursuers were.

She scoffed at him. Did he really think she was freaking out over a bunch of men in suits? …well…it's not to say that she wasn't worried…but it wasn't really for her sake. She rolled her eyes. Whatever. No, what was holding her attention was the man in front of her. She gave a snort before standing up, Dakota rising with her. It bothered her just sitting there—waiting. Annoyed, she began pacing. If it bothered him, he didn't show it, instead she felt his eyes suddenly attach to her, his gaze trained on her striding form. It wasn't long before it started to bother her. Where did he get off making her feel like prey in her own home? She could see him from the corner of her eyes—worse, yet…she could feel his presence on the other side of the room. She felt like she was being stalked. Not once in the past few days had she thought to consider him a real threat…and it grated on her pride to know she may have been wrong. She didn't want to admit it, but perhaps Dakota hadn't been overreacting.

Tired of waiting and of feeling his cool gaze pinned to her, she huffed and stormed off into the kitchen. She was hungry and if she understood properly, her house was likely to be "under siege" in a few hours. …best not to go to war on an empty stomach. She frowned at the thought, but quickly tuned it out in favor of throwing something together.

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She hadn't planned on feeding him. In fact, she really didn't want to, but common sense won out in the end. If they really were about to be attacked…then it might not be such a bad idea to make sure her only ally—correction, she thought as she glanced down at Dakota, only human ally—actually ate something today. Of course she didn't actually hand him the food—a thrown together dish of leftover stew and rice—but had instead nearly tossed the bowl with a clatter onto the desk beside him.

The moment she'd stepped into the room, his eyes were on her, he hadn't even looked away from her when she set the bowl down. In fact it wasn't until after she had plopped down into the leather cushions with her own food that he finally looked away. She watched as he plucked the bowl from the wooden surface and stared at its contents with something akin to annoyed discontent. Still, he apparently knew better than to complain. She remembered well, his complaints over their first few shared meals and even better remembered the scowl on his face when she told him 'he was welcome to get up and fix his own food.'

Not surprisingly, they ate in silence. She didn't want to look at him—not dressed like that—and so she definitely didn't want to talk to him…not when all she could think about was throttling him. And even less surprising, he had nothing to say to her—he rarely did—unless it was to voice a complaint or insult. It was shortly after dusk when it happened. She'd been cleaning up the dishes from the small meal, in need of something to do that wasn't being watched by him. She gave a start when a snapping noise followed by a loud thwack echoed in the woods and immediately following, the power fizzled out. They'd cut the power lines.

"Son of a—" the words were hissing through her teeth when she jumped.

Her eyes were still adjusting to the sudden dark, but she could just barely make out Kyoya's shape as he entered the kitchen. She didn't say anything; Dakota's growls spoke for her, but managed to glare at him over her shoulder.

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He was just passing into the kitchen when the lights went out. In all honesty, he'd gotten bored in the office and was coming to amuse himself with the woman and her pet mongrel, however the moment the electricity was cut, he felt a smile spreading on his face…and it wasn't the pleasant kind. They were finally in range. Without a moment's notice he turned on his heel and headed for the backdoor. A moment later and he heard the woman hurrying after him.

"Are you insane?" The trace of confusion lacing her tone almost made him laugh, "Are you trying to get shot?"

Not turning to face her, he pushed open the screen door and reminded her, "Stay out of the way."

He couldn't see them. Not just yet. But he knew they were there. He could feel them watching him…like weary rodents in view of their natural predator. Releasing his tonfa, a feral grin stretched his lips as his ring burst into violet flames. "Have you come to die, rats?"

Almost immediately the clearing was under a hail of gunfire. He didn't spare a moment to consider his actions, dashing into the forest without thought, he narrowly dodged the streams of projectiles. Not even flinching, only sparing a glance, when a bullet came close and laid a hairline cut across his cheek. He may not be able to see in the dark, but he didn't need to, their firearms gave them away and he leapt.

He lunged forward, up and in, plunging his foot into the gut of a shooter perched in a tree. He didn't bother to watch him fall, instead his ring found the Vongola box with a subtle punch and by a stream of blazing violet hues, Roll was sent barreling into the chest of a rat attempting to sneak his way behind Kyoya. He was dead the moment a silver spike pierced into his chest cavity. The rain of bullets came to a lull. The mercenaries watching and circling cautiously as the floating hedgehog began to glide back to his owner's side, his propagation ability causing purple orbs laced with silver lances to drift lazily about. They were hesitant to fire, ensuring that they were all aimed at their target and not at each other.

"Weak little herbivores…" The predatory grin that surfaced, left many of them uneasy, "…always crowding." They pulled their triggers then.

The spiked orbs pulled inwards, surrounding Kyoya and shielding him from the storm of bullets. His make shift shield did more than that, they realized as cries of pain rung out with the sudden dispersing of blood into the air…their bullets were ricocheting off the spikes. No sooner had the mercenaries bit back a curse and called a cease fire had the orbs of pointed protrusions burst apart with violent force, burying their points into pliant flesh.

The area quickly fell into chaos as screams and gun fire echoed the sounds of blunt force, occasionally enhanced by the roar of flames.

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Charlie watched with Dakota, entranced by the violence and sounds of bloodshed. Almost disturbed by the crunch and wet smacks of broken bones and spattered blood…she'd caused the same sounds herself before…but never had she born witness to so much of it. She lost herself in the fight, mesmerized by the erratic violet flame, its light vibrant in the darkened forest. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she watched him. Who was this man?

She was still dwelling on that thought when she was interrupted by a suspicious rustling near the side of the cabin. Before she could stop him, Dakota had bolted out the door and dashed around the corner in pursuit. Cursing his name beneath her breath, she hurried further into her house, searching for a window; she could hear his footfalls on the side of the cabin. However when she got to the window, she paused. There was a stream of pale moonlight flooding into the living room and the thin moth-eaten curtains fluttered in the breeze. A breeze that shouldn't have existed…she didn't open that window.

No sooner had she thought to panic, a hand wrapped around her mouth and she was snatched backwards off of her feet. Furious, she plunged her elbow into her would be attackers gut. Her attack was followed by a wheeze. She lunged forward and reared back; slamming the same elbow into the spot she imagined a face would be. Her actions were rewarded with a pained grunt followed by the clatter of a fallen object as her attacker made to clutch at his face. She grabbed his right hand—the one that had covered her mouth—twisted and pulled. He cried at the arm lock and before he could attempt to free himself a well-placed kick to the sternum dropped him.

Glancing down at his hunched over form, his arm still in her grasp, her gaze landed on an object not far from him, highlighted by moonlight. A smith and Wesson handgun gleamed from the floor. He was going to shoot her…or worse…hold her hostage. She cringed at the realization that he'd probably had plenty of time to shoot her while sneaking up behind her. Gritting her teeth at the thought, she didn't hesitate to bend his arm outward and give a jerking twist. She leapt back at his scream. It wasn't the first time she'd broken an arm…, but it was the first time she'd done it so brutally. Snatching the Beretta from her jeans, she leveled it at the trespasser. He froze automatically, but then as he met her gaze, he saw what she didn't want to admit—hesitation. He gave her a mocking snarl of a grin and lunged for the Smith & Wesson with his good hand.

A shot and a scream later, the mercenary was quite abruptly without any good hands. She clenched her jaw as she stared down at him. He held his wounded hand close to him. She was hesitant to take a life…always had been… She narrowed her eyes at him and lowered the barrel to his knee cap—didn't need him getting up later. …but she had never been afraid to pull the trigger.

This time when he screamed, she silenced him with a kick to the temple.

Forcing her anxiety away, she calmed herself by habitually checking her ammo. When she finished she looked about her, the clicking of claws alerting her to Dakota's presence, the wolf sniffing cautiously at the downed attacker. She gave him a look, "You were a little late this time around."

With an aggravated sigh, she considered her position. It was depressing to realize, but she was quite vulnerable here—in her own home. Frustrated, she was forced to acknowledge that she couldn't stay here…or else she might really end up in his way—she pushed the thought of being held hostage from her mind—either that or she'd be dead before the night was up. And she wasn't about to let either of those things come to pass. She'd started pacing, but jerked to a halt a moment later and with a curious smirk she tilted her head up to gaze at the raftered ceiling.

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His grin was savage as he threw himself into the violent thrall of battle. Here, he was at home. Here, he was King. Here, the weak fell to the strong. Here was where he would tear out the throats of his prey. …Of course…it wasn't that simple and strong as he was, they were swarming him and to make matters worse, the trees were in the way. He scowled. They may have made him harder to shoot, but it also made it easier for the little mice to hide and scurry away, fleeing from his bite. He was considering just having Roll bulldoze the whole forest down when it happened.

He'd heard the shot and he growled to himself. He knew that he wouldn't be able to dodge it. He would just have to be glad that it was unlikely to hinder him too much, it'd be a flesh wound at best…but to his surprise the shot strayed to his far left and the shooter dropped with a yell clutching his thigh—blood leaking out of what could only be a bullet wound. He frowned and turned his attention back to the cabin.

The only sources of light were his flames and the gaze of the full moon. The latter of which just barely gave form to the silhouette of a feminine figure, stretched out on the roof, her arms wrapped around the slender shape of what could only be a sniper rifle.

He stared. And when she raised a hand to wave at him…a tick developed in his eye.


Afterword: Thank you, god. I was so afraid I wouldn't finish it by tonight! . It is complete! With a little bit of luck and an astounding amount of self-control and focus, chapter 11 will be up by Saturday! (within 4 days for you people on the other side of the date-line.) Thanks to the 3 reviewers(seriously, that's kind of a measly number, given that only 1 of my regulars reviewed…SERIOUSLY…where were you guys? -.^) who helped give me a much needed boost in motivation to get this chapter out! Which I'm sure I've said it before, but just in case I haven't….I am not easily motivated to write…I may love writing, but if I want to keep a story to myself…it stays in my head. I only write so everyone else can see it…so if it starts looking like no one's interested…there's a much larger chance of me just dropping off the scene. :/ I try, but I don't really have the focus to stay self-motivated majority of the time.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Please review and let me know what you think! ^^ Also…If you have any questions…just ask.

-S.T.