Neri and the Wolf: Part 1

May 17, 2016:

Werewolf By Night goes a-huntin' across Gotham, and finds himself tracking a strange scent all over the city. Nerina Rosso finds herself pursued by a beast — but that is not the surprise that awaits her…

Gotham By Night

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The sun sets on a young ninja as she creeps her way out of the nook of an abandoned building and yawns through her mask. A dark haze of rain pollutes the night air, falling from dreary clouds that have hung over the city all day. Bright neon and floodlights below push back the encroaching dark around them, trying to fight back against the fog of danger and crime that seems to ooze from Gotham's alleys, underground, and cracked facades.

To anyone else, the weather might be an awful burden on a night-time escapade, but even as it dampens her hood a darker shade of black, the ninja and nymph welcomes the added dark and wetness. She steps out fully into the rain and slides down tosses a crude grappling hook to an adjacent rooftop before scampering across. Ahead is a long, slow night of searching and behind her, there's no record left of the ninja's passing except some small scuffs against the concrete, a drying wet spot, and the smell of cooked fish.


Jack Russell had no particular aversion to water — he loved it — except when he was trying to hunt. The russet-furred wolfman stands in a basement of an abandoned building, looking over what appears to be someone's private stash.

A cache, rather: water bottle, camp stove, jar of peanut butter, pilot bread, some Burger King wrappers, a bag reeking of salt water that's filled with women's clothes… nothing at all of any real value. It is just the sort of place where a runaway might hole up for a while.

The scent here… is strange.

He had been catching faint traces of this scent in the rain, all night long, and had it not been so peculiar he might have just let it go… He scowls. Russ hated to let things go. Glancing around the hidden room once more, Russ ducks out into the night air — and the rain. The scent is still there, close by… With a low grunt he lopes toward it.


Try as she might, the ninja outside is no Spider-Man or Batman and in her aimless search, unfamiliar with the city's layout, she's only covering a few blocks at a time. Her dark form almost completely vanishes against the rain-blackened night sky but a faint, nearly imperceptible scent trail has time to gather in each rooftop and alleyway before she moves on. Up, down, and around, she meanders over, across, and between Gotham's thick stone edifices while her orange cat-eyes peer into shop windows, storefronts, and skylights. It's a good workout to follow it exactly and more than once, the accents of her smell grow so faint that only a touch of bay water is left to point the way. Further from her basement hideout, even that begins to disappear.


Whatever is making that scent is… "Fast," Russell mutters to himself as he leaps out of an alley and onto a low rooftop. "So many better things ta be doin'…" he grumbles while loping across roofs, then jumping down into alleys to keep on the hunt.

He almost gives it up. Halting above a bar — some sleazy place tucked in between two other sleazy places — Russ paws at his hairy face. He is drawn to the aroma of cigars and cigarettes from within the building, and it immediately has him craving a smoke, himself.

It takes a modest amount of effort to keep on with the hunt. As the scent continues to fade, Russell's speed continues to increase. Bounding across the roof of an adult bookstore, he launches himself into the air — crossing an entire street in a single bound — landing in another alleyway.

Close, now. So very close.


The splash of Russ' clawed feet slapping a puddle on the ground breaks up the dreary white noise of falling rain. Car horns sound in the distance, somewhere further off is a siren, and the scent finally grows stronger here, too fresh to have been washed away. Its volatile accents are more noticeable again and a clear match for the clothes hidden in the basement.

Overhead, metal clangs faintly as the black-dressed ninja makes her way stealthily up the fire escape, only to freeze solid like a lizard on a wall. She's far too wet now for her jacket to flutter in the rain and the thick canvas of her hood clings to her head as she slowly turns it downward to cast an orange eye into the darkness below her, squinting. She's a story off the ground, perhaps two. For a normal human, that might be a long distance.


The Werewolf By Night pads across the alley floor, almost directly beneath his quarry, his paws making little noise upon the ground. The whole alley is about an inch under water, due to a blocked drain and debris. And it smells.

Actually, it reeks.

Resisting the urge to put a hand over his snout, Russ scans around the cramped area, looking for heat signatures. "I can smell ya…" he murmurs under his breath — although it would come out as little more than a growl.

Then he hears it.

The clang of metal above him. Looking sharply upward, the wolfman spreads his arms out to either side, his hands kept low and fingers splayed, then gathers his paws beneath him. Russell leaps — clearing about eighteen feet in the effort — and lands upon the fire-escape. The heat signature is clearer now (confound all that blasted rain cooling everything down), and the wolfman makes his way toward the object of his hunt…


The fire escape rattles loudly when the werewolf falls on it, creating a startling metallic din that echoes off the brick alley. The ninja sucks in a breath and remains stock still until the noise dies down.

A cool foot turns slowly on the staircase beside the wolf-man's head as she pivots quietly to face him, an unbroken silhouette of heat that warms as it rises up her legs, brightest just before disappearing under the hem of her rain-soaked jacket. Three little points of warmth, her hands and face, peek down from above. The ninja's scent is unmistakeable and the sparse railing between them now feels like a token separation.

"You are very bahd at quiet," she murmurs against the sound of falling rain. It's the same voice and the same accent as the werewolf heard once before.


When the beast-man sniffs up her leg, the ninja stumbles back and clatters against the other railing behind her. The rain-covered smell that floods his nostrils is familiar but spiced by her recent surroundings, like the modest twin sister of the wild aroma he was hiding behind less than a week before - softened and muffled by water, less ear-perkingly female, and no longer bloodied. Against the backdrop of leaking sewage, she's practically a rose.

"Nosey volk," the warm face above complains from beneath the cold shadow of her mask as she tugs down the hem of her jacket. "—Net, dostatochno, stop!" She presses when the werewolf keeps sniffing her, shrinking back and swatting at his face. With only the empty darkness of the alleyway behind her, she can't truly move out of reach.


The wolfman snorts as his snout gets swatted as if he were a bug — rather, a dog sniffing up a human's leg, which is rather what he was doing. "Well, ya left th' mall without s'much as givin' yer name, Pup," replies he while protectively putting a hairy hand to his nose. "How'dya manage that then? Changin' yer scent. That takes some serious voodoo shit — unless… are ya a shape-changer?"

He backs off a little — no sense in crowding someone who is not prey (well, not any longer), and Russ isn't one to play with his food even if she /were/ prey. He blinks and peers at her anyway — partly to memorise her heat-signature if nothing else, and partly because he has rain droplets getting into his eyes and it is annoying him.

Normally he likes the rain, but on his terms.


The ninja's eyes widen in surprise and she puts the fat of one hand in her mouth, clamping down on it like a dog with a bone. The heat signatures blur together into a lukewarm mass while she glances aside awkwardly and tugs her jacket down again, pulling out any slack in exchange for more concealment from the werewolf looking up from around her shins. It doesn't hide much and the wolf has plenty of room to study the slender limbs growing like willows from the rain-soaked staircase; he can even count her toes.

After a few moments, the hand comes back out of her mouth and grips against the railing behind her. "Do I smell that different?" She asks in embarrassment.


The wolfman doesn't… dislike the view, and while he appreciates it, he has enough manners to look away — and then climb that little bit further up the fire-escape to where Nerina stands. Slowly the werewolf's form shifts back into something a little more human — but notably lupine, or at least 'feral'.

"The nose don' lie, pup," he remarks with a lopsided smirk, showing sharp canines without intending to. "Came this way trackin' somethin' weird — turns out that somethin' was you." He gives the area around them a quick glance before shifting his amber gaze back toward Nerina.

"Ain' no jewellery stores 'round here — so what gives? Also, ya gotta name? Or d'ya like 'pup'? yer all… salty — an' ain't you cold? Should I call ya 'the little mermaid' then? Whats'erface — Aerial. Aeri? Haerial." The wolf has lots of questions tonight, it would seem.


The ninja turns her head to follow the wolf's hulking silhouette, tracking him by the clanking of his boots more than the shifting of his dark fur within the alley. A slight gleam in her orange eyes make twin pinpricks of light but the brown werewolf disappears almost effortlessly under the clouded sky, making his transition from beastman to manbeast a subtle thing. The darkness affects the young ninja in its own way and watching her mostly by heat, the small creases and shine that mark her outfit blur to the point where it's hard to tell where clothing ends and her flesh begins. Under the constant splattering of cool rain, the two conduct a phantasmal dance of traded heat - here a sleeve clings, there a fold is blown loose, and the warmth of young vitality makes red-orange beacons of her legs and face.

Her sandals ascends the stairs with light, quiet steps as the wolfman draws up behind her, and the ninja slinks across the next landing on her way to the roof. He might have to suffer through seeing her legs for a little longer. "''Haerial''?" She echoes, putting an awkward lilt on the word with her accent. "My name is Rusalka and I—"

The ninja freezes as her form comes suddenly into view - swathed in black that's been soaked to an oil-like shine with her hand inches from the brown metal railing, and two cat-eyes wide in surprise as they echo the light streaming out through the apartment's window beside her. Russ' ears will be the first to hear footsteps approaching the fire escape's door.


"Rusalka," the wolfman murmurs, his voice sounding a little more 'man' and a little less 'wolf'. He 'hmphs' a moment later and shakes his head a bit, sending droplets of rain flying. "I like it. Ya can call me Ru — ."

Upon hearing the footsteps approaching the door to the fire-escape, the werewolf hisses, "Company!" and leaps sideways. This time, however, he does it much more quietly, and lands upon the brick ledge just above the next apartment's alley-side window.

It is a thin ledge, and Russ's claws dig /into/ the wall itself to hold him there. "C'mon, Sea-sponge!" he mutters softly, with some urgency.


Rusalka returns to her senses quickly and where the wolf goes up, she goes down, crouching as she slides legs off the side of the fire escape and swinging under the railing, dropping like the falling rain to hang from the floor grate, before shimmying one bar at a time towards the wall beneath the door. The wet brick crackles and chips as Russ' claws scrape against it before they finally carve a deep enough grove to support his weight. Small bits clink against the metal escape and Rusalka barely finishes swinging one leg up into the groove of a support beam when an exterior light turns on, painting them both with an aged yellow pallor.

The blind of the window is pulled aside and a face peers out from the brightly lit apartment, out of sight from either thief's hiding place. Two magenta eyes peer out at the wet metal railing, its floor grate, and the staircase leading upstairs… then the blind falls down again and the lock of the fire escape door clicks.

A woman peeks out into the rain with a newspaper held over her head. She stands tall in the doorway and is dressed in a white lab coat that's worn loosely and half-buttoned as a sort of night-wear, with a pair of rubber sandals on her feet. Her head swivels from side to side as she surveys the old light's domain with a sharp gaze, looking up at the floor above her… then down at the floor below.

Then the tenant steps fully outside and admits the night rain to patter against her coat and the bronzed skin of her hands. She closes the door behind her and takes full stock of the fire escape; the newspaper draws back as she squints up at the floors above her, then forward as she peers down at the alley and the floors below - directly below Russ and directly above Rusalka.


/This is ridiculous./

Russ would give a head-shake of ruefulness to himself, but his snout is pressed up against the apartment wall too hard — and now he has rain-water dribbling down the wall, onto his head, into his eyes, and over his nose. Otherwise, his grip upon the wall is relatively secure — he has done this sort of thing before — and yet this night has not turned out exactly as he had planned.

He hasn't decided yet if it has been annoying or amusing.

Probably both.

Attempting to glance down at the woman now standing in the rain upon the fire-escape outside her apartment, Russ frowns. She doesn't /look/ dangerous, this lady in a robe. So why is he hiding? "Ahem," he grunts, loud enough to be heard.

Or so he had thought.

Nothing happens.

"Ahem!" he tries again. And this time, when the woman looks upward and sees the big, hulking werewolf clinging to the wall… Russ spreads his lips in a wide, toothy grin. "Uh… 'let me in, let me in'? Rainin' cats 'n dogs out here…"


The newspaper over the woman's head darkens and folds over as it soaks in rainwater and the upper edges of her open lab-coat adopt a damp hue as the night weather falls upon the curious tenant. Her scent wafts into the moist air, fuller than Rusalka's water-logged odour and perfumed by bath soap and lavender, but also tainted by a sharp accent of alcohol and smoke - some of which might be rising from her lightly frayed coat.

Drawn by the werewolf's gruff voice, she turns around and looks above the door-frame, suddenly finding a wall of brown fur within arm's reach.

"Aww cripes, not another one!" She grumbles roughly as her face contorts into a yellow-tinted scowl in the aged light. "What are yew, Wolf-Man? Get off my fire escape, some of us sleep at night." The woman sweeps her free arm away in a wide gesture as she makes her demand with a less-than-melodic southern twang that's stilted by inebriated pauses.


The Wolfman… blinks.

Inward he tucks his chin, giving an abrupt shake of his snout and causing his lupine ears to prick upward. Half a second later, he drops down from the ledge onto the fire-escape once more, although landing with less noise than he had before (he can 'do quiet'… when he wants to).

"Whaddya mean, 'another one', lady? You seen other weres' around?" Russ glances downward in the direction of Rusalka and then back up at the inebriated woman, his head tilted a fraction to one side. The scent of alcohol, cigarettes and soap has Russ pawing at his nose briefly, and shaking his head in irritation again.

"Fuck, didja take a bath in potpourri 'n gin?" He glances down again and mutters, "You gettin' this, or is it just me? Fuck me with a dog's bowl, that's strong…"


The woman stands her ground when Russ lands in front of her and even meets him eye to eye. She's a tall one and compared to the waterlogged ninja, she's practically glowing with body heat. "We've got a Killer Croc, a Penguin, a cat lady, and a Bat-Ma-" She covers her mouth as a loud yawn interrupts her reply and the werewolf gets another noseful of alcohol and smoke; smells like lager. "-aaaan. This city's a dang zoo already."

Her free hand balls into a fist and the dark-haired woman smacks her damp newspaper down across the wolf's snout the second time he looks down. "Hey! At least look at me when I'm talking to you, not down at my…" At that point she follows the werewolf's gaze and finds more than her lab coat in view, one ninja more. The southerner grits her teeth and takes a deep breath. "And who the heck're you?" She dead-pans as she steps slightly to the side.

Hanging from the grate directly underneath the angry tenant, Rusalka has been keeping her gaze slightly averted and otherwise does her best to imitate a shadow; silent, unmoving, with no reason to look at her unless —

The ninja shoots the werewolf an orange cat-eye glare and leaves her hiding spot by swinging back to the edge of the platform before starting to climb back up. "Leavink," she replies tersely, not wanting to get involved.


If Russell could have spoken right at this moment, he might have said something, but the sharp, conflicting aroma of this woman has him shaking his head, pawing at his snout as if he were a real 'Jack Russell', and coughing. Getting 'bapped' on the nose by a rolled up newspaper hasn't helped either. He ends up backing away from her, casting his amber gaze toward the departing ninja with something akin to betrayal in his countenance.

"Wha…?!" he stammers. "Slow down, a… uh, Croc? Penguin? What the /hell/ are you talkin' about, lady?!" ''How long was I in Hell, after all?'' he wonders privately to himself. ''An' since when is Gotham City a freakin' ZOO?!'' Instead of conversing (or arguing) more with the alcoholic woman on the fire-escape, Russell's clawed hand snaps outward and shreds the newspaper in a single go.

"Next time I shove it somewhere," he retorts over his shoulder as he prepares to leap away from the building — possibly to pursue Rusalka, now that he knows whom he has been hunting. "Hell of a night," the werewolf mutters to himself. Then he adds to the tenant: "I'd go fer a drink, but I reckon I just got my fill from yer breath. Jesus H. Christ."

And with that, the wolfman leaps away from the fire-escape and onto the roof of the building across the alley. "HELL of a night…"


Rusalka keeps her hood down and seems to shrink into her jacket as she tip-toes around the tall pair like a small shadow - just in time to get rained on by shredded newspaper, bits of which cling to her soaked clothes. The ninja tucks herself against the railing to cross the narrow fire escape and once free to the stairs, her sandals briskly ascend the steps towards the top floor. She pauses briefly to cast an orange glance down at Russ before continuing on.

Meanwhile the black-haired tenant frowns as she pulls back the jagged stump of her makeshift umbrella. "'at was neighborly," she grumbles, flicking the remains at the werewolf's fur. Her expression warms to something of a smile at Russ' threat and a challenging spark peeks through the haze in her eyes. "Try it and you'll be s***'in my cigarette packs fer a week," she replies, clenching a fist between them.

Up above, Rusalka's quiet footfalls disappear with a final clang as she leaps up onto a brick ledge and climbs over the edge of the roof. The tenant's eyes widen as Russ' powerful legs propel him just as high in a single bound. She cocks her head sideways and lets out a delayed whistle, perhaps finally realizing how much muscle and sinew she'd been antagonizing. It doesn't quite remove the lop-sided grin on her face as she fishes a cigarette from her pocket and shields it from the rain. A cheerful glow illuminates the space between her fingers before a gray cloud disappears into the night air.

"Yeah yew'd better run."


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