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I know, I know, just what you wanted, another Sen2 spoiler fest, another conclusion to that terrible "to be continued" that flashed across our screens. I'm sorry, I can't help it, these ideas come and the only way to escape them is to write them. Hope someone finds this one of interest of least.
DISCLAIMER: They ain't mine. If they were I wouldn't have tortured my fans like that— well, okay, actually I might have, and I would have loved to see their fantastic responses, too, but truthfully, I have nothing to do with them except that I wrote this story.
Slowly she exhaled, feeling her warm breath flowing under the roof of her mouth, silently hissing out between her barely parted lips. The exquisite softness of the sensation would be in and of itself motivation to continue, even if she didn't have the constant plea of her lungs for oxygen and the involuntary rhythm of her diaphragm to keep her breathing.
How must it have felt for that boy-man to inhale the polluted fountain water? First the acrid taste, then the choking heaves at it filled his throat, at last the dying aches of drowning lungs. Imagining it so completely sent a shiver of companion pain through her own chest, mixed with the orgasmic perception of power. She had killed before, and more directly, with a gun, with her hands, but this most recent murder thrilled her as no other had. To have stolen life from him, to have extinguished the light in those blue eyes-the responsibility filled her, obsessed her now.
Her partner, ugly, dirty, small-minded...he understood nothing. On the plane he asked her derisively if she felt guilty, if her silence was because she was mourning or regretting her final act in Cascade. Fool; it wasn't regret, it was exhilaration, so intense that she lost her last remnants of patience with the man. She would have killed him the second they had disembarked in the Bolivian airport, had she not wanted to avoid spoiling the memory of that other death.
So now her partner sat in his squalid hotel room and plotted elaborate schemes around the poison she had stolen, while she toured the city, enjoying all the sensations too subtle for others to experience with her newly harnessed senses. He had taught her that, how to control those abilities, use them instead of being used by them. Perhaps that was the reason behind her excitement, the student proving her absolute mastery over the teacher. Or maybe it was because she had broken free of any dependence on him, verified that she had no need of anyone beyond herself.
Or perhaps it wasn't because of him at all, but that it had been a successful attack against the only man she had ever met that was a true rival, a match for all she was. Any advantage he had over her had resided in the now-dead body of his partner. She had proven herself equal. Almost embarrassing to have fled from that challenge.
She was unsurprised to find that he had accepted it. In a week's time he had arrived in the city; her dreams told her as much, and soon enough she saw him, tall man striding determinedly through the colorful streets. His pale skin and his height stood him out somewhat from the crowd, but it was his direction, his powerful certainty that truly distinguished him. Ever movement was without hesitation or indecision, cleaving through crowds of lesser people where ever he went.
He searched for her, that was obviously his goal. Asking questions, demanding of vendors and innkeepers her whereabouts, with a photo of her to show. She was amused to hear that he had a mug shot of her partner as well, trying to pretend he was doing the proper duty of a police officer, but she was all he actually cared about.
None of them gave her away, none who had seen her. Those that knew her better feared her; the others hoped for thanks and good feeling. She gratified a few, brushing her lips across their swarthy cheeks or rubbing a slim hand down their rough chests. Those that pushed for more soon learned why she was feared and afterwards kept their distance.
Meanwhile she watched him. Always from a great distance, using binoculars to increase the range of her enhanced vision, to be certain he wouldn't sight her. Even so he sometimes would frown, turn and face her as if sensing her presence with more than eyes. When it happened she hid and stayed concealed until she could be certain he had passed by.
Occasionally as she watched he would change to her eyes, his body lengthening and darkening into a sleek feline form, a black panther prowling the streets. The first time it happened she almost cried out in shock, but it was obvious no one else saw anything unusual, and when she looked again he was a man. At first she thought she might be hallucinating, but it happened again without her experiencing any other effects, and she realized that she was simply seeing more than most, something real but not in the manner she was accustomed to.
And so she understood when the panther finally opened its great mouth and roared to shake the heavens, when the local cops bashed down the flimsy hotel door and snapped the cuffs around her partner, dragging him to prison and confiscating the deadly canisters he had had such high hopes for. She had fled long before they arrived, knowing from the growls that had filled her dreams that they were that close. But she couldn't run from him, not again, not when he roared his challenge to her.
Her territory, her rules. She sought him out, waited for him to enter his own hotel room before dropping onto the balcony. Still, he knew she was there, just as she felt the prickling of his presence raising the hairs on the back of her neck. Strange and fantastic and incredibly charging to finally come face to face, lock her sapphire eyes with his ice blue ones. The square jaw tight and the hand white-knuckled gripping the gun, muzzle very slightly shaking as it pointed at her.
"Don't shoot," she requested coolly, "I'm unarmed." Testing him, ready to dart to the side if she saw the finger start to clench on the trigger.
But it stayed paralyzed, cop instincts or perhaps his own brand of chivalry preventing him from doing the deed he wished. "Alex Barnes," he told her instead, "you are under arrest."
Difficult not to laugh in the face of such a trivial statement. "Don't list my crimes, I know my rap sheet. Burglary, assault, intent to harm," she ran her tongue over her lips to moisten them, so they would glisten in his perfect vision, "homicide..."
"You have the right to remain silent," he began.
She silenced him instead, "I know my rights," and advanced toward him, watching the gun tremble in his grasp, enough so that now the tremors would be visible even to a normal observer. "But you're out of your jurisdiction, Detective."
"Citizen's arrest." Making the ludicrous statement sound serious.
She stopped a mere foot away, closed her hand over the barrel of the gun and gently pushed it down. "Forget the right to bear arms," she purred, "we're not in America. This isn't Cascade, Detective." The slightest twist and he dropped the weapon, clattering preternaturally loud on the wooden floor. He made no effort to retrieve it, but she did not release her hold on his wrist. "So you wouldn't kill me." Pleased with her influence.
"Why?" He was angry with himself, for following his training and his mind instead of his desires. "So will you kill me instead?" Bitterness turning his voice harsh.
"I could," she allowed. "But why?"
"Because," he glared at her narrowly, "we are enemies."
"We are rivals," she corrected. "We are equals."
"No. You're a killer, and I am not."
"You never have killed?" She saw him jerk, heard his heartbeat jump and then steady. "But you are a soldier, or were." That was obvious in his bearing, in his speaking, in the entire air of command he projected. "You know death, and you've given it." And he didn't, couldn't deny it. "You know the pain and the thrill. How it haunts you, every face, every expression, dreams, visions, memories. Don't tell me you've never felt the rush of power, either, the realization of your own strength. No, there's no difference between us there, only similarities. Equals, just as we're equal in our abilities, in what we can sense-"
"I am a Sentinel," he stated, as if the word was a badge of honor. "You're a criminal."
She shrugged off the condemnation. "Everything I do, you could do. Everything you do I could as well. Our only difference is our motivation-in everything else we are alike."
"And I'm motivated now to take you to the proper authorities." He was but barely restraining himself; his true motivation was far more vicious, in keeping with the ferocity of his panther-self. She could see the fury burning behind his eyes, feel it in the tension of the wrist she still touched. The rage flowed through her from the contact, scalding her, more exciting than she could have dreamed possible because it was directed solely at her own self. For all that he called her the murderer, he would kill her. If she allowed him to.
"You think you could get justice from them?" she asked, a mere whisper. "Do you think they could try me, give me what I deserve? Only peers have the right to pronounce sentence, the ability to judge one another."
So swiftly even her eyes could hardly track the movement his hands swept up, closed around her neck. Loosely, but the palms were warm and rough against her skin. "I could kill you now."
"You could," she agreed, tilting her head back so she could meet his flashing eyes. "Your right. As I kill, so you do. We are the same." She placed her own hands over his, pressing a very little.
With an oath he ripped away, stepping back. "Cut the cliches and come with me, I can give you over to justice but I'm not going to try to deal it out myself."
"But you want to. And you have the power."
"I'm a policeman."
"You're a Sentinel," she reminded. "Two of a kind. You would give up one of your own? I know what you're feeling. I know what you're seeing, what you sense now. No one else does or can. But me-I know how my voice sounds to you, all the discordant overtones singing in my throat. I know the smells, not only of soap and sweat and perfume but the scent of another human being. I know how this feels," and she took him by the wrist again, "the curved ridges of my fingertips, like folded velvet, cool then warm."
"You're a lousy seductress," he informed her, though his throat almost cracked as he said it.
"I'm rarely so obvious," she murmured. "I'm rarely so motivated."
"Trying for bail?" He was attempting to sneer, and failing.
"No-you've felt it. You feel it now. Doesn't my touch burn? Like electricity, running through your arm. Look at my eyes and tell me what colors you see-I can answer it already, in yours there's every hue, sparking behind the blue. I want to kill you."
"Good basis for a relationship."
"You feel the same, it's not even for revenge, it just is. This urge, bloodthirstiness-but we're people. We aren't slaves to our instincts." Not to instincts, no, but to passions humans had always been vulnerable. The mind could give direction but emotions running high could only be suppressed, never vanquished.
This feeling, so intense, could take but two forms, hatred, the lust to kill; or the opposite of hate, fuel for the libido. And along the line between the two was the fire she lived for, the danger more thrilling than even murder. "You don't have to take my life, no matter what you desire. But you could. You have reason-but perhaps I did as well for my crimes."
A chord struck; his jaw clenched, the faint click of teeth ground together. He listened to her speak. "I feared for myself, for my safety. And for what was happening, is still happening-you understand how frightening it can be? To suddenly realize you are different from all others, that you aren't quite human, perhaps more than human? Your senses can help but they divide you. How many would accept what you are, without fear or prejudice? I never belonged, not anywhere, because I was an orphan, because I was a criminal, because I was a woman. And then my senses came out and I knew that I could never be accepted, because there were none like me, I had no peers.
"Do you see what you mean to me? What you are worth? The only equal I've ever met, the only person who can understand. But we're enemies, by nature and nurture. Don't you think that hurts me? Does it ever hurt you?"
"It does," he admitted quietly. "But I've found acceptance. From better than the likes of you. There are a very few who don't need to know firsthand to understand what it is to be a Sentinel. Who will accept without question their own limitations, and mine as well. Friends-if you can understand the word."
"Very well," she allowed. "But have you wanted something more? When you learned of me, did it ever cross your mind that we could be other than enemies? Did it occur to you what I meant, what my existence meant to you?"
"A jaguar," he said suddenly. She refused to break her concentration to ponder this seeming non sequitur, let him continue, "a spotted jaguar, threatening me, though I didn't understand."
But she did. "I saw a panther, warning me away. Sleeping and waking I saw it. It growled at me where ever I went, as if it followed me. Once I saw it spring, but its claws never touched my skin. A beautiful animal, I admired it even if I feared it. Jet black and so sleek, every motion flowed like water."
"The jaguar was beautiful," he admitted. "Yellow and brown, flickering like a flame. And I did fear it, without knowing why."
"Because it was the wild," she explained, "and we civilized peoples fear the wildness. But we are attracted to it in spite of our fears. Because of its beauty, its intensity. I can see the panther now," she whispered. "Its eyes are watching me, golden."
"The jaguar is watching me," he replied, equally soft, not noticing when she drew closer, stepping near himself, as if to escape that unblinking gaze. She stared into his eyes, seeing the tawny wild gold behind the blue. Not yet touching, but she could feel the heat of his body by her skin, the soft brush of his breath on her cheeks.
"It is beautiful," she told him, "isn't it? The wildness. The power of the jaguar, its strength, smooth fur over smooth muscles. Can you see its claws? They're sheathed, but the tips show, the knives in the paws."
"I can see the claws."
"The weapons of the cats, a defense, but more a way to feed their hunger. Predators feel no guilt over taking a life, over killing their prey. They bring down lesser animals, for meat, not out of fear or anger or vengeance. Without emotion but the most basic, the life instinct. They live by instinct, but we deny our instincts, and thus we can feel the other emotions, the greater ones, pleasure, pain, sorrow, joy. But there is something beautiful in the purity of their one motivation, isn't there?"
"I see the claws," he repeated, "and there's something on them, red..."
"The jaguar," she described, "it calls to you, as a foe but as something greater too, wouldn't you like to touch her, feel how soft that spotted pelt is? I can almost touch the panther's fur, it is the warmest and gentlest sensation I've ever felt." She reached, yearning to stroke the imagined hide.
But he pulled back, suddenly shoved her away. "Blood," he stated, not angrily but cold as ice, and the gold in his eyes flashed, "There's blood on those claws."
"Of course there is," she hissed, "the jaguar is a hunter who brought down her prey, and her success leaves the claws stained scarlet. You understand this, it is part of your nature, part of our nature. Don't deny it," when she saw his jaw clamp down, his face freeze into an empty mask, "you can't ignore this. Friends you say you had, but could any of them show you this? You're angry with me, you hate me, is there any greater experience than that intensity?
"The only thing to match it is death. To kill, to take life, the hunter's power. Nothing is quite like that, and the greatest of all is the death of an innocent, to take down one's prey for no reason except the kill. We don't need to feed our bodies but our hearts, and you'll see that it fills you like nothing else to kill someone undeserving, someone young and trusting and beautiful, who has not hurt but helped you-that is the greatest of all, you'll understand-"
"I never will," and then she understood her miscalculation, but could neither move nor speak quickly enough to rectify it. His hands around her throat again, but now the pressure was enough that no air could leave or enter her throat, so tight that she couldn't feel the fingers but only the force, the nerves squeezed into muteness, just as her voice was. The room tipped and blackened, his golden eyes fading last, and she was left in an empty silence, falling. Her fault, she had pushed too hard, underestimated his rage at what she had done to him with that killing. But all the same she was enraptured by it, and the ecstatic nature of death now granted to her.
Somewhere distant came a cry like a wolf's howl, and then nothing.
"Jim!" At the cry he dropped her. Alex Barnes fell like a rag doll from his hands, crumpling on the sandy hotel floor.
A blurred shape dashed past him and dropped to his knees next to her, one hand pressed against her throat, then dropping away as he rocked back on his heels. "Well, she's alive. God, Jim, that would've been a hard one to explain to the authorities." When he got no response he stood, folded his arms and faced the Sentinel resolutely. "Well?"
"She's alive?" His voice was as raspy as if he had been the one almost strangled.
"Her heart's beating at least. More than you got from me at first." At the other man's wince, "Sorry, Jim. I'll put on the cuffs?"
Wordlessly they were handed over. Again crouching he snapped them around her wrists with a great deal of satisfaction. "Damn but I'm glad that's over." Rising again, "You okay?"
"I-I guess." He wiped his hand across his brow. "Sorry, Chief..."
"Don't be. I heard most of it."
"You did?" He was pinned with a sharp glare. "The only reason you were allowed to come at all is because you promised to stay in your room the entire time."
"Whoa, excuse me!" He raised his hands defensively. "I didn't think those rules kept me from walking five feet across the hall."
"Considering you're supposed to still be in the hospital-"
"Okay. Okay, I'm sorry." he soothed, tone suddenly gentle. "Jim, I'm fine. No cuts, no bruises. I wasn't in any danger. But it's a good thing I came when I did." He nodded significantly down at the body on the floor, her labored breathing audible to both of them.
The Sentinel sighed shakily. "We better call..."
"Ambulance and police are on the way. Actually I think the way it works here the police are coming in a pickup to drive her to the hospital. Under lots of guard, I hope."
"I'll make sure." Glancing at his partner. "We'll make sure."
The answering smile was not as bright or wide as it once had been. "This is one screwed up...woman. I can't wait to see her on trial. Check that, I can't wait to see her behind bars."
"Sounds good to me, Chief." He looked at her and then away. "You heard what she said?"
"I was at the door for most of it I think, yeah. She was so focused on you that she missed me-what about you?"
He shook his head disbelievingly. "I didn't know you were there until you yelled." After a pause, "Thank you for that. If you hadn't, I..." He trailed off, unsure.
"Maybe you would have." His response was hushed. "God, you sure looked like you would have." And then he grinned. "But all's well that ends well, that's the Shakespearean solution."
"Thought your minor was psych, not literature." He looked toward the window.
"Sirens, they'll be here soon."
He waited until he could hear them too. "Good. Then this will be over." He hesitated, finally decided to ask it. "Jim, you let her talk for a while. What she was saying, how much is true? How much did you really understand, like she thought you did?"
"I don't know, Chief." Honesty is the best policy, if nothing else they had learned that much. "I could think it over, but I'm not even sure I want to."
"But you were listening to her..." He swallowed. "Would you have given in to it, maybe, if I wasn't around? Did it make that much sense, would it have made sense, if I hadn't been here, if I had-if she really had killed me, like she thought she had?"
"I can't say," he admitted. "Except I can tell you this much-if you had died," and the flexing of the jaw was the only indication of how truly disturbing that proposition was, "if she had killed you then she never would have said that much for me to listen to. Because you wouldn't have been there to stop me. And I would have shot her the moment I saw her on the balcony."
"But," he flashed the briefest grin at his Guide, relief in his eyes, "that's a moot point, because she failed at that too, just like she's lost every other game she's tried to play with us. I can tell you this much, Chief. We're not the same. Even if we're both Sentinels we're not alike, regardless of what she said. I have you. That's the greatest difference-that's the only one that mattered, in the end."
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