It is a cold, snowy, dark winter night. In the deserted streets of the big city, the street lights illuminate a tiny girl hauling a large man up a set of stairs.
Annie unlocks the door with her key and then flings it open.
ANNIE: Honey, I’m home.
Jake gives a pained groan. Raven is watching something on the TV. She looks pleasantly surprised at first as she turns around and sees Annie – then she sees the bloody form of Jake and her smile vanishes.
RAVEN: What the – Annie, what’s going on?
ANNIE: I found him in a dumpster.
JAKE: Not… true.
RAVEN: Shut up you. (to Annie) Did you do this?
ANNIE: I wish, but no. I just found him like this. Clearly my first thought was to bring him here. I’d get a sheet you don’t really care about ruining. The quicker the better.
JAKE: I’ll be… fine. (pauses) … tomorrow. (pained groan again)
RAVEN: Jesus, he’s barely holding together. Be right back with the sheet.
She leaves the room.
JAKE: Why am I… here? Why didn’t you… take me home? Or… shit, careful… leave me on the floor?
ANNIE: Honestly didn’t think about it. And I wasn’t going to leave you in a dumpster like this, despite the temptation.
Raven returns with a sheet. Annie places him down…’carefully’. He makes noises of pain and unhappiness as she put him on the floor on the sheet.
RAVEN: So… (she looks between the other two) Who wants to tell me what happened?
ANNIE: Well, I don’t know the particulars. Just that he got mixed up with the wrong people. (He laughs and then coughs.) He can tell you more if he wants to.
JAKE: Fuck’s sake woman. What are you… even doing?
ANNIE: Assessing your injuries.
JAKE: Trying to find the best… place to prod-AH! Fuck!
ANNIE: (sighs loudly) I’m going to need some towels and warm water. Hydrogen peroxide if you got it.
He looks at her, utterly perplexed and slightly disdainful.
JAKE: What kind of theurge are you? Or are you… bleaching my hair?
ANNIE: You didn’t think I was going to waste anything on you, did you? No, you get to heal the human way tonight unless absolutely necessary. It’s slower and much more painful.
He laughs again and lifts his mangled hand. All his fingers are broken and it’s obvious his nails have been ripped out at the bed. The pain is obvious, but he does it anyway to prove a point.
JAKE: Humans don’t… heal this. How’s that… nurse work treating you?
RAVEN: Can I leave you two alone together without you killing each other?"
ANNIE: As I’ve already told him it would be no fun to kill him now. (Raven leaves to look for the stuff.) Unless necessary.
JAKE: Fun? (Coughs) Wow, didn’t figure you the type. Guess we… have more in common than I thought. (Coughs some more)
JAKE: With the… sadistic streak. Julia always speaks… so highly of you.
ANNIE: it was meant as a joke. You know, to lighten the mood. I’ve been told I’m too serious sometimes. So I’m practicing… (pause) Does it hurt to breathe?
JAKE: You should… probably keep practising. (Coughs) Think I have a rib in my lung.
ANNIE: Be nice to the lady who’s stitching you up.
RAVEN: Water, towels, as ordered. No luck on the peroxide though – will vodka do?
ANNIE: Better than nothing.
JAKE: God yes.
He reaches for it. Annie looks like she’s about to say something, but doesn’t. Raven doesn’t look fazed, hands it over.
RAVEN: Don’t drink it all, save some for your wounds.
JAKE: I wouldn’t… drink this. You got a bowl?
ANNIE: What do you want it for?
He ignores her, waiting to see if Raven gives him a bowl. Raven is looking expectantly at him, eyebrow similarly raised, waiting for him to answer. Annie will start washing off some of the blood now while waiting for a response. He shrugs, winces as he regrets that and then pours a bunch in his mouth. He swills with it, then spits out onto the floor. There’s a bunch of blood, some weird blackish fluid and a back tooth.
The floor melts slightly. Then he puts the bottle on the floor, collapses back and just lets Annie do whatever she’s doing.
RAVEN: What the shit, Jake!? There goes my deposit…
JAKE: I’ll pay you ba-
ANNIE: (turning her attention away from Jake and focused on the black acid bile.) What the heck?
JAKE: Hah. You think… peroxide will help?
ANNIE: With the cuts and bruises, yeah. If you can’t heal those yourself then your body wouldn’t be able to fight off infection as well as it normally can, even being a werewolf. But that… What the hell is that?
He rolls away from her a bit, grimacing.
RAVEN: Not the right time to be an ass, Jake.
ANNIE: That’s what I thought, because you didn’t tell me different. I can’t keep you alive if you keep me in the dark. What did they do to you?
He grins bitterly again, and then leans over and grabs Annie’s arm. In an instant her mind is overwhelmed with a vision of the last two weeks of his life, condensed into mere seconds. She sees everything they did to him – every bone they broke, every cut they made, every instant of pain and punishment. It’s not a pretty sight, even by werewolf standards.
When it ends, he pulls away. She starts up a cleansing ritual. He raises an eyebrow, then grimaces again.
JAKE: Shit… you’re messed up. Just… kill me already. Stop… dragging it out.
ANNIE: This isn’t something you can escape from by just dying.
JAKE: Don’t… care. (He sounds desperate, and a bit petulant.)
ANNIE: Then care about Julia.
JAKE: I do! (He sits up, then doubles over in pain and clutches his chest and arm.) Why do you think I-?!
ANNIE: The way to keep her safe is by keeping you alive.
JAKE: No, it isn’t! We… did this already!
RAVEN: I’m missing something here. Keep Julia safe from what?
JAKE: From ME!
He snarls, twists and displays his wounded arm. Raven steps back, hands on her temples.
RAVEN: Fuck. Shit, fuck shit. FUCK!
ANNIE: You have information that we can use. If you die they’ll just send someone else. Someone we don’t know.
JAKE: If you won’t do it, maybe she will.
ANNIE: (ignores everything else that’s going on.) And others like you. Not just you. If you want to die so bad, then I will kill you. But not before you help save Julia.
JAKE: From what? Are you that… dense?
He moves like he wants to get up, then fails.
RAVEN: Annie, maybe you should move away from him…
JAKE: They want me to… do something. If I don’t… they’ll hurt her. In… every way you can imagine… and more. If I do… it will fucking destroy me. That’s what… we do. We… go after the things you love. (He takes a deep breath and then sags.) And she’s… the only thing I give a shit about. I… don’t care about me. I’d spend the rest… of my life doing this (gesture to self) if she was safe.
ANNIE: How dense are you? If you just go off and die then they’ll do all of those things to her anyway. They won’t stop just because you died.
JAKE: …It’s all I’ve got. You don’t… know them like I do.
ANNIE: No I don’t. Maybe you can enlighten me.
He laughs and then chokes a bit.
JAKE: You think you can… take me… at full strength. It’s cute. But… I’m Pentex top floors. I’ve… seen shit you can’t… imagine. I’ve done it. This is… probably your best shot. (He looks thoughtful) "I guess it… depends who they send after me. It wouldn’t be… the foot soldier types… you guys normally see.
ANNIE: Right, I wasn’t expecting anything less. What I want to know is what they want you to do.
JAKE: I don’t know. Haven’t… seen the paperwork yet. But I’ve been waiting for it… long enough. Probably not simply kill her. Too obvious. They might want… me to be public. That would be… messy, right? Queen of the werewolves… pregnant with a Spiral baby. That would… mess things up, ruin the… uniting the tribes. (He pauses uncertainly.) Maybe they want… the baby.
RAVEN: Why are you here? Is this some… trick? What’s your play? Why are you telling us any of this?
JAKE: (looks at her earnestly) I want you to kill me. Then she’ll be safe, and she’ll never have to know.
ANNIE: How do you know she’ll be safe? Why don’t you think they’ll just send someone else to do whatever it is?
JAKE: It’s taken almost… six years for them to get to this point, the point where they want me to… do something. It’s not just… bam… done.RAVEN: Annie, we can’t trust him.
ANNIE: Well, I’ve never trusted him. (turns back to Jake) Look, if you don’t want to live, fine. You can kill yourself for all I care. But I think the fact that you have information about Pentex is worth something.
RAVEN: Annie, he’s in league with the Destroyer. How can you trust a word he’s saying?
ANNIE: Because I believe he truly loves Julia.
RAVEN: How can you be sure? He just admitted himself that he’s been ‘working on her’ for six years, whatever that meant. Their entire relationship, everything he did for her, if he did it for them…
ANNE: I guess now that I know that they haven’t given him any orders I don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t explain why they would beat him this badly.
RAVEN: I… shit. FUCK. You’re making sense. It’s just…
ANNIE: I don’t trust him. That’s why I think he’s telling us the truth now. Why would they beat him unless he refused something?
RAVEN: To get our sympathy, for all we know. Say he refused to do something. Say he truly loves her. Hell, say he’s genuinely here meaning well, and whatever he tells us is the truth. He’s still tainted. He’s danced the black spiral. That marks the SOUL. The kind of mark that won’t go away, not ever!
ANNIE: I’m not saying that. I’ve never said that. But he still has information that could be useful to us about Pentex. About his tribe. But if he wants to die and you want to kill him…fine. (Annie throws the towel she’s holding back into the water.) I’m tired of trying to save someone who doesn’t want it.
RAVEN: Annie…" (She puts her hand on Annie’s shoulder uncertainly) I get it… I think. I’m not saying we should kill him – well, we should, but… I don’t think I want to. He’s been good to Julia, and to… her friends.
ANNIE: (angrily) He hasn’t, not really. He clearly doesn’t want to live and I’m tired of going round and round the same argument. I’m not getting anywhere. Obviously nothing I say is going to convince him to tell me the truth or that him being alive is some kind of asset. Let him die.
RAVEN: No, you were right to bring him here, and you’re right to save him. Doesn’t matter what he thinks of it or what he says. If you’re in this state, of course you’ll beg for death.
ANNIE: (looks genuinely confused, but shrugs her shoulders and finishes the cleansing ritual for the floor.) Kill him, don’t kill him. I don’t know anymore. I can’t cleanse him, or his soul. And you’re right, we can’t trust what he says. I’m just tired. Of all of it. I’ll patch him up, but after that I’m done. If he truly loves Julia, he’ll either kill himself or he’ll ask for help whenever he gets his orders.
JAKE: I killed… my colleague. (His voice is quiet, almost distant.) That’s… why they did this to me. Because she… threatened… Julia.
ANNIE: Good for you. My point still stands.
JAKE: And no, you… can’t ‘cure’ this. An aspirin and a… good night’s rest won’t undo time and make the… teenage me not sell my soul to the fucking Wyrm. Nobody… gets out.
ANNIE: You know, Raven keeps telling you that now is not the time to be an ass. I’m not going to kill you now and I’m tired of explaining my view of keeping you alive. If you really want to die, you’re more than welcome to when you get home after I’m done.
JAKE: Jesus, I just…don’t get you. You bring me… here to help and now you want me to… die. You keep saying you… want the truth, but… you don’t give me a chance to speak… properly, and you don’t… believe me anyway. I’ve got a… fucking rib in my lung, woman!
ANNIE: You wanted you to die! I still want you to live, I’m just tired of explaining to you why. I said if you want to die, I can’t stop you. And I’ve give you plenty of chances to speak, I know about the lung, but healing takes time you twat!
He looks at her with a curious and slightly calculating gaze, as if she said something he didn’t expect and he’s weighing something.
JAKE: Ask. I’ll… answer, if I can.
ANNIE: (glares at him slightly) For starters, who threatened Julia?
JAKE: Besides… basically everyone you guys… ever meet? Her name was… Miranda Luther. Not that it will mean much to you.
JAKE: How did she… threaten? Or how… did I kill her?
ANNIE: How did she threaten?
JAKE: She was going to… tell them the truth… about me. About… Julia and how I… (He coughs some more.) We’d been at each other’s… throats forever. It was… only a matter of time. When we know each other’s… weaknesses, that’s where you strike first. I only have… one. (He looks at her earnestly.) Just one. Pentex is cut-throat. Nobody… retires or resigns. You climb over… the bodies of your predecessors. Mostly, you cause the… bodies. They’ve been… waiting for a weakness forever, to take out… the competition. The Wyrm destroys everything… including its own.
RAVEN: Figures. If either side of this war could put aside their differences and work together, the war’d be over by now.
JAKE: (laughs) You have no idea.
ANNIE: What do you mean they sent you to her?
She starts poking around the ribs. It’s clear she knows how to do this a little more gently than what she’s doing.
JAKE: Ah, jeez! Watch the… ah!
ANNIE: May as well talk, it’ll help get your mind off the pain.
JAKE: She was… my promotion ticket. Pentex keeps an eye… on a lot of magic… shit, prophecies. When they think… somebody could be involved in a big one, one they want… to influence, they’ll send people to influence. (He shifts uncomfortably away from her fingers a bit) Fuck, I was twenty-one… I thought I owned the fucking world. And she had… fate coming out her ears.
ANNIE: So… they just wanted you to get close to her.
JAKE: They wanted me to… trigger her Change… if she was going to have one. If not… Silver Fang kinfolk are valuable.
His voice is very frank, but he looks increasingly blank as he speaks, like he’s trying to distance himself from what he’s saying.
ANNIE: And after that?" Annie starts healing the ribs slowly and deliberately so that she doesn’t waste any Gnosis now that she knows which ones are broken.
JAKE: Job done. She Changed. ‘Murdered’ me… in the process. Got my promotion, headed west, met you – ow!
ANNIE: So you weren’t supposed to keep track of her?
JAKE: Ugh, you’re so rough. Definitely a nurse. Not at first. They… sent me back in.
JAKE: It was… never clear. They just said to… keep her close… and they’d tell me… if the prophecy was hers. (He looks at his hands.) And of course… it fucking was. For a while… I thought maybe they wanted me to… turn her to our side. If she’d been on our team… you guys have no fucking idea what you’ve got.
He breathes in experimentally, still wincing but a bit less.
ANNIE: You’re probably right about that.
JAKE: I’m under no illusion that I’m a monster. But she… makes me believe maybe I could… not be. (He looks back up at you, his face earnest.) She does that. Makes people believe… that things could be better. That if she’s on your side, you could do anything.
ANNIE: (sighs) I’m done. You aren’t fully healed but it’ll hold you till tomorrow when you might be able to heal yourself. Want me to carry you home?
JAKE: That’s it? That’s… all you wanted?
ANNIE: No, I want a lot more. Who are Pentex? What is the grand plan as you know it? What do they want with Julia now? But, despite the fact that your ribs are now healed and the hole in your lung is closed, you’re probably tired.
JAKE: As are you. And the guy… who was supposed to drive me home… is probably shitting a brick.
RAVEN: Can you walk that far?
JAKE: Dunno. I’ve had worse, I’ll get far enough. Besides, she’s… a foot shorter than me. We’ll look ridiculous if she carries me.
ANNIE: You’d look ridiculous. I would look awesome.
JAKE: You’d look like a homeless woman who’d found a body.
He pushes a couple of his fingers back into place. It’s gross. Annie rolls her eyes, but says nothing. Raven looks unamused.
RAVEN: She just stitched you up. You’ll wanna think twice before you call her homeless again.
ANNIE: He’s not worth it. I may want to chat when you’re feeling better, otherwise, I expect you dead or coming for help whenever they give you your next step.
He looks at her a little incredulously and then hauls himself to his feet. He staggers slightly and ends up leaning against a wall.
JAKE: You think that I’m going to find that out now? You think they don’t know what I just did? I know you’ve met some of our goons, but I promise we aren’t all that dumb. I’ll have to work overtime to convince them it was part of some ‘greater goal’ for me to tell you this stuff.
ANNIE: Maybe I should have left that hole in your lung.
JAKE: Like I said, nobody gets out of Pentex or the Spirals unless they’re in a body bag.
ANNIE: Then die. I’m not trying to get you out of Pentex. I’m just trying to get information. So, again, I either expect you dead or asking for help. And spare me your next long winded, self-important speech about how grand and terrible your life is.
JAKE: (laughs) You remind me of my old boss.
ANNIE: I’ll try and take that as a compliment. So, unless you need to stay for some reason, you can go.
RAVEN: One more thing. (Raven steps forward, grabs him by the collar of his shirt and stares intensely into his eyes.) Julia. You tell that poor, sweet girl. You tell her everything you’ve told us tonight. (She releases his and steps back to next to Annie again.) She’s been through enough shit without having to hear this from someone else.
RAVEN: She deserves to know. And she deserves to hear it from you, but if you’re too much of a coward to tell her, I swear by the whole Triat that I will.
JAKE: (slightly nervous laugh) I thought you… didn’t want me to be killed? Or is this revenge of some sort? I thought this was enough punishment. He points to his various injuries.
ANNIE: I don’t know how many times I have to say that I don’t care if you die or don’t. I don’t know about her, but you’re not as important as you think you are. And she’s right. Julia deserves to know the truth. And I don’t deserve to have to keep another one of your secrets.
He looks at them both for a moment, then nods and goes fishing in his pocket. He pulls out his wallet and shoves a handful of bills onto the kitchen counter.
JAKE: For your floor.
He leaves, with a surprising amount of dignity for someone as injured as he is. The women watch him go.