The hotel Persephone had taken Xenia to was nothing special. It was affordable, the sheets looked clean although from the way Persephone wrinkled her nose they might not have been, and the decor was that version of bland that came only from large hotel chains. The best part was a small fridge and a coffee maker. Xenia had promptly taken over making coffee and detailing food that could go in the fridge and make meals that didn't require cooking.
Persephone had slipped out to grab some supplies, even bringing back clothes for Xenia. Nothing special, just some cheap jeans, t-shirts, bras, underwear and socks. A zip-up hooded sweater went over the top, the hood a good way to hide her face and be anonymous, as Persephone explained. There was also a bag to put some of her stuff in. Not as good as her old backpack but she was sort of glad it was gone. It would have been a mess anyway after that night. Not to mention it would remind her of going after Marcus.
Xenia found herself bored as she sat in the hotel room, flipping through television channels. She was used to having something to clean, having a job - something she hadn't thought of in the days since the attack - or working on some project. Here, there was nothing. It was utterly strange to her. She didn't even have any books, at least not until she begged Persephone to grab her something.
It had been made quite clear to her that she was not to leave the hotel room. Persephone made it sound like it was to keep her safe from something, some boogey man, although Xenia had suspicions it was equally to keep other people safe from her. As the moon approached she felt control slipping, felt rage building. It didn't happen all the time, but it snuck up on her. It was terrifying... and it was freeing.
Persephone was gone during the day since she was still going to school and absences would make life far more difficult for her, but when she was back they talked. Xenia helped with a bit of homework, things she remembered well enough. They spent time discussing what was happening to Xenia, what would happen. Persephone told Xenia about the otherkin and showed her what it was like for a shifter to change.
In Xenia's eyes, it was a mix of dream and nightmare. Some of the things Persephone told her were wonderful, and she was a bit awed at the way the girl's body changed so seamlessly - her own change would be anything but, she had been told. Other things... Nightmares roamed. The werewolves that had attacked her. Vampires.
Any time Xenia asked about Persephone's family the girl got very quiet and changed the subject. Still, the girl would sometimes get a look in her eye like she thought there was more to be said, something she thought Xenia should know, but she held her piece. Xenia assumed it was something Greg had not wanted said, and did her best to respect that. Of course there were things she was not ready to know. Secrets.Curiosity, however, ate at her in those times when she was trying to fall asleep.
Curiosity, and worry over Marcus. Where was he? How was he? Why had he not wanted to see her at the hospital, and yet brought flowers? None of it made sense to her. It hurt. She missed him.
Only a few days had passed including the one on which she'd been released. Still a couple days to go until her world would truly change forever. Until she would change forever. When Persephone returned Xenia was in bad shape. She was curled around a pillow, every line of her body tight. Heat radiated from her as she trembled.
Seeing just how unstable things were, Persephone seriously considered bailing. She did not want to be responsible for something going very, very wrong. Xenia shouldn't change, not yet, but what if she did?
Greg wouldn't understand though. So Persephone stepped back out and got a bucket of ice. Then she came back and packet it in towels and started laying them around the woman on the bed.
The cold helped. "Xenia? Can you understand me? You have to relax, ok? You have to let it go, whatever made you get like this. Can't do it here. Not now. You're gonna need the moon, and somewhere safe. This isn't it." The girl tried to make her voice soothing, although she knew there was an edge of panic to it.
It took a few minutes, but slowly Xenia opened her eyes, fighting to focus on the girl before her. A few more minutes, and she sucked in a slow breath. It was a little longer before she could unclench her hands from the pillow. Tiny tears were in the pillowcase and she looked embarrassed.
Xenia sucked in a breath, looking at Persephone. The fear was evident in the girl's eyes and Xenia felt ashamed. She should be looking after this girl, not falling apart and needing someone to look after her. It wasn't fair. This girl was too young.
And Xenia felt too old. How did people adjust to this, embrace this? Sometimes she felt like it was going to make sense, like it would be ok. Sometimes she was sure she could not handle it. Persephone had said it would be different, that she would understand once she changed. Persephone tried to explain what it was like, what the beast meant within her. Xenia just wanted it over. Wanted to understand, wanted to make sense of it.
All in all, Xenia just wanted it to happen. It would, there was no stopping it. Part of her even thought it might just be good for her. In those moments, when the rage shivered in her veins and she felt like maybe she was more in control with it than without. Maybe she could stop accepting what happened to her, start choosing what happened.
Half an hour later Xenia had taken a shower and was sipping tea and munching on some crackers and dip. Persephone was curled up on the other bed, working on some math homework. It was nothing Xenia could help with, so Xenia was trying to relax and read a novel. It was a historical romance, not exactly Xenia's type, but it was what Persephone had grabbed for her.
Things felt calmer and Xenia was starting to get the feeling that maybe she was getting things together. She could recognize when she was starting to lose control. She hadn't even broken anything that time, and with Persephone's help she had gotten it back under control.
Suddenly Persephone's head came up, tilted to the side like she was listening. Watching, Xenia saw the girl go on the alert. Slowly the book was set on the bed and Xenia glanced at the door, then at Persephone. The girl held a finger to her lips, then pointed to the bags. They had kept their bags mostly packed since the room was so small and they had so little. Xenia stood, grabbing the bags, then looking back at Persephone.
"We have to go. Out the back." It was a soft whisper, but Xenia caught it and nodded. Persephone had been adamant that their room have a window in the bathroom and now Xenia understood why. It took a minute for them to get the screen open, slip out. Then Persephone led Xenia across the street, over to an alley where it was shadowed. They hid behind a dumpster, ready to slip away, an escape avenue behind them.
"I think I know who it is. If I'm wrong, no big deal, but if I'm right, we're going to have to run, get down in the sewers fast. Gross, I know, but better than what could happen otherwise. Trust me." Steel there in the girl, a surprise to Xenia. Suddenly she understood why Greg had sent her with this girl.
Shapes appeared in the window, leaning out. Little to be seen, but Persephone clearly saw enough, grabbing Xenia and carefully tugging her back. The lid to the sewers lifted easily, a surprise from such a small girl.
Down they went, the lid slipping back on silently. It was quite a while before they talked again other than Persephone giving directions. There were no sounds of pursuit, no signs of it, but the girl did not stop. Not until they had navigated into what were clearly subway tunnels, then onward into a space that felt fairly secure, or at least Persephone seemed to feel secure.
"You could have left me. Thanks for getting me out." Xenia had become all too aware during their trek that the girl could have become a cat and slipped away easily enough. Instead, she had hauled along a woman who knew nothing of where they were going, nothing of how to get around in this world.
"No sweat. Don't like those guys. It's... Listen, don't tell Greg I told you about this, ok? That was the Fraternity. I've seen those guys before. They cornered me in the subway, nearly had me until..." She broke off, looking away, then back as she took a deep breath. "They hunt us. Bad group. Act like they're some religious order, but how religious is it to kill people who haven't done anything?"
Persephone continued to speak, explaining to Xenia how the Fraternity had killed her mother. They had broken into the apartment, tied them up, then tortured her mother. Killed her. Persephone had gotten out, slipped away as a cat and hidden. Greg had found her.
"Some of them are useless, just amateurs. Some of them though-" Persephone paused, looking at Xenia, then down. "Some of them are monsters. They kill without question, slaughter easily with no remorse. Well, most of them. There's one."
Xenia frowned, trying to take it all in. It sounded like a horror movie plot. Then again, so did being attacked by werewolves. It sort of made sense. Where there were monsters, there were hunters. Someone who is looking for the monsters, who maybe is just as monstrous. Maybe more.
"One? What about this one?" Xenia wasn't really paying attention though. She was thinking about how awful things had been for Persephone, how terrifying. She was thinking about how screwed up that such things happened, that these men would kill and torture people like this girl, like Greg.
"I don't know if you'll believe me. I'm telling the truth though. He... he's Marcus. I know you know him, I know you didn't know anything about it. But... he used to hunt monsters. Not sure now. He... he saved me the other night. Saved you too. He's the one who took you to the hospital." The torrent of information was more than Xenia could process. More than she could believe.
A tiny voice in the back of her head, however, said it all made perfect sense. The injuries Marcus had, the times he disappeared. The friends who never hung out, who looked just a little too tough. The attack.
"He wouldn't. He couldn't." The words were empty, though. Xenia had always known there was a part of Marcus that was driven, that could shut down. Now she knew what he'd done.
"He's different now," Persephone rushed to mention. "Things are different. Can't be the same, not anymore. He's starting to see." Sucking in a deep breath, the girl looked away, biting her lip.
"See? See what?" Suddenly Xenia knew the answer was going to be so important. It would change everything. As much as she was already changing. He killed monsters, and now she was going to be one of them. What awful things had he done? What was changing it?
"He's one of us too." The quiet voice shocked Xenia to her core. All she could do was stare at Persephone, mouth open. The irony of that hit her first. That Marcus, who had kept secret his proficiency for killing things that go bump in the night, who had rescued her rather than killing her - it was obvious to Xenia that it had probably been his duty to kill her - was now going to be one of the monsters. Just like her.