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Merciless by dee
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"The female of the species is more deadly than the male."
-- Rudyard Kipling

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When she can't get out the door - crammed full of crypto-hackers so jubilant you'd think they'd averted the apocalypse themselves - Olga seriously considers the idea of leaping out the window. They're only on the second floor, after all. Then she gets an elbow in between two chortling bodies, applies leverage, barges through with brief disregarded protests in her wake.

She's been gone too long. No one would have got in her way, before.

The delay was enough. When she sprints out into the easing rain, Simeon's truck is pulling out, hitting the fury gear as it reaches the corner.

Taking Anton away.

She swears, spinning about, and Geser's standing at the top of the stairs back into the building. Watching her. There are old habits clawing at her, and Olga can almost see herself going to him, being cradled in those age-strengthened arms, his fingers pressing victory into her skin.

But it's been sixty years, and she's been wrapped in plastic in a box on a shelf, and she hasn't forgiven him. So she holds her ground and says, "You gave me to him."

Geser turns his head, barks something into the building behind him. A young rabbit comes tumbling out, looks wide-eyed at her, and Olga twitches. She doesn't know him - he's too young - but he looks like he's been told stories about her. On the drive he keeps eyeing her sidelong, but even when she snarls at him to go faster, he can't match the reckless disregard of Simeon's driving, and by the time they get there, it's well and truly too late.

Everything's quiet.

Jumping down from the truck, every instinct Olga has screams. She puts on her sunglasses, and tosses, "Stay here," over her shoulder to the rabbit. He doesn't look likely to disobey.

Halfway across the lot, the building's door slams open, half off its hinges. Alyss stalks out first, the world flipping into slow motion, and Olga's fingers clench around weapons she hasn't carried in at least a century. They stop, facing off, dueling distance between them.

Alyss says, "Love the fashion."

By that time, there's a dog by her side - the sort of mindless violent breed that Zavulon's always preferred - and the devil himself at her other side, with a small, pale figure half behind his hip.

Oh.

Olga looks at Yegor. It's dangerous to take her full attention off those two - that one - for so long, but this deserves it. His eyes are big and dark and they stare back at her, defiant. A little too much so; he's feeling a tremour of panic now at this decision he's made. Understandable. Natural. Completely fucking useless. Olga knows, better than many, that once that choice was made, it could not be unmade. Not in all the ages of the earth.

She grieves for only one moment, one keen shriek to the night sky that she does not allow to escape her at all.

And then she looks up to Zavulon. She's going to say something, perhaps a quip about running with dogs, a petty barb to sling at Alyss when that's all she has left tonight. But Zavulon says, "You're taking it better than he did."

It's almost like a leash slapped around her throat. She feels the tug. "What have you done to him?" There's a growl in her voice that the dog returns.

Alyss laughs, and Olga thinks fleetingly that sixty years have let her get cocky, but her attention's mostly on Zavulon, who is not, she notes, amused. Just quiet. Perhaps tired. But it's a fatigue redolent with satisfaction bordering on smugness. He can afford that, she supposes, given what - who - he has clutched to his side.

"We've missed you, Olga," Zavulon says, and with a jerk of his head, they step aside. There's no victory in it, but Olga takes what she can get, pushing past them. "Be seeing you," he calls to her back as she runs into the building.

Anton is slumped in the elevator, curled in on himself against the grille wall. Bear was lumbering down the stairs, Lena already leaning over Anton, hand hovering, voice uncertain. Mothering has never been Lena's strong suit; that tigress has never had cubs.

Olga shoulders past her to crouch beside Anton. His arms are up, over his head, and when she grabs them, he jerks. "Sshh," she breathes, fingers against his hands, around his wrists; he's so thin, doesn't he eat? It feels like the first time she's touched him, but of course it can't be. She doesn't have time to think about it now. "Hush," she's saying, talking, just words, just the sound of her voice - "It's me, it's Olga, your Olga, it's me, hush now" - as she's drawing his hands away from his face. His eyes are open, staring up into hers.

"Is he OK?" Lena's asking from over her shoulder. "Is he hurt?"

Anton's eyes close and his head knocks back against the grille. His lips move, but he makes no sound, and Olga doesn't make the effort to read the words. "No," she says. "He's not hurt."

It's the truth. There is no injury. There is only pain.

She helps him to his feet, taking up space so that neither Lena nor Bear can get into the elevator to help. With his arm across her shoulder, he's leaning on her more than it appears, but Olga's strong. She can bear the weight. Once he's up, he makes an effort to stand, his grip on her shoulder tightening, and she knows they'll be alright.

A nod to Lena communicates this and more. She tugs on Bear's lapel. "We'll report in," she says.

They don't mention the obvious. That Geser will want to talk to Anton. That Geser will want to talk to her. Olga will cross that damn bridge when she comes to it, and not a moment sooner.

Lena and Bear go off to find Simeon, and Olga shoves Anton into the truck she came in. She sits with her arm around him the whole way, holding him up, holding on, and it's been sixty years since she held a man in her arms. The rabbit takes them back to Anton's place, where Olga tells him to scram before getting inside and remembering the stairs problem.

"I'm not useless," Anton mutters against her shoulder, and though she tells him to shut the hell up, he is actually at least half capable of managing the four flights to his floor.

He is useless by the time they get there, though, so getting him into bed isn't a matter of helping, more of letting him fall. Olga gets his shoes off, and his coat, and doesn't bother with the rest. Just lets him lie there, sprawled out on his stomach. She crouches down beside him, and his eyes are open.

"He took him," he says.

Olga doesn't believe in sugar-coating. "No," she says. "He didn't."

Anton's eyes close, and then close more, screwing up his face as if he's trying to cave in his whole head. "He's mine," he whispers. "Mine and I never even... He heard it from her."

She leans forward, and it's awkward as hell, and she's never been much good at the maternal thing either, but she puts an arm around him and her cheek against his and tries her best. He huffs and shifts, rolling up beneath her until she can get an arm around him almost properly, and his arm goes around her back and he pulls her closer, fingers a fist in the back of her sweater. He makes a snuffled noise against her shoulder, and she strokes his hair, because it seems appropriate.

They stay like that for a while, though her knees are killing her on the floor and her right hand goes to sleep. There's a moment when he shifts a little away from her, and Olga realises that if she follows suit, leans back just a fraction, they're going to kiss. His mouth on hers, despairing and desperate, and perhaps that's something he needs, right now.

She presses her face closer against his neck and holds on, and after a moment he settles back into the hug, and it's passed.

When she moves back, it's completely, sitting back on her heels with her hand trailing on the edge of the mattress. Anton's eyes are raw, and he turns his face further into the pillow.

"Sleep," Olga suggests, standing (and almost staggering - Christ! her knees; she's getting too old for this). She finds her coat again and shrugs into it.

"Where are you going?" he asks, muffled.

She doesn't know herself, to tell the truth. "I'll be back," she promises. "You need sleep."

She waits in the doorway until his eyes close. The little flat is very quiet. There are still feathers in the kitchen, clustered in the corners of things, scudding about the floor, but not much else. Olga goes out entirely.

On the landing, someone is standing. Loitering. Unhappy to see her. Anton's tame bloodsucker. Olga is not feeling charitable towards the Dark just at present. When she bares her teeth at him, he flinches. But he stays. "Is he--" he says.

"He doesn't want to see you." He glares at her, and Olga grins. "Trust me on this. Not right now."

This does not make the boy happy. That's all he is, a boy. Olga remembers that period of her own life. Being angry all the time. Burning over with emotions and power. She sighs. He'll be thumping on the door as soon as she's gone, and whatever Anton might need, it's not that. She could tie him up, she supposes. Break his knees.

Or just get him out of here.

"I need a drink," she says. It's true, actually. It's been a long full day, and twenty-thousand-odd long empty days before that. Two steps towards the stairs, and then she looks back at him. "Coming?" She throws the word across the landing. "Or are you frightened?"

His chin comes up. "I'm not afraid of you."

So he's a stupid tame bloodsucker.

But he knows the area, and takes them both to a basement bar around the corner that's still open at this hour of the night. Olga doesn't even know what hour that is, and doesn't particularly care at this point.

They get a bottle of vodka and two glasses. Kostya - that's his name, apparently - is pricklish and aloof, closed off on his stool while Olga sprawls against the bar, vodka rattling crisp and welcome against her back teeth. The takes the first in two mouthfuls and the second barely slower, and the boy of course feels the need to keep up. He loosens up as the liquor flows. Starts relaxing. Talks a bit, mostly about Anton. Olga rolls her eyes, draining her drink, because the kid's got such a flailing crush and she wonders if Anton even realises. Probably not. He doesn't seem the type to notice that sort of thing.

By that stage, Kostya's dropped his guard enough that she's got him. A hair plucked fallen off his collar, knotted around her heart finger. She switched glasses when he wasn't paying attention, so now she has his saliva under her tongue, and those two combined are all she needs, even rusty as she is. She could kill him right now. He's a vampire, a child of the Dark, and she knows he's going to be trouble.

In another time and place, she does it. He starts to choke, and she shouts for help, screams at the bartender to call an ambulance. Knocks over their stools, getting him up and onto the bar, and then it's all chaos, people crowding around and trying to help. By the time the medics arrive it's too late. They're both, in their separate ways, gone.

Kostya is looking at her, young and tipsy and half-wild, half-pathetic.

Olga flexes her fingers, and feels the hair snap. She turns her head and spits on the floor. "Hey!" the bartender hollers, but Olga ignores him, picking up her glass and taking everything that's left in one gulp.

She stands up, straightening the collar of her coat. "Stay out of -" my way "- his hair for a bit," she says. And shrugs. "But who knows." If anyone's capable of keeping a pet vampire, maybe it's Anton.

She goes. He stays. Nobody dies. This isn't the Moscow she knows, but it's only been two days.

Standing on the street with false dawn cast across the sky, Olga realises she has nowhere to go that doesn't throw her on someone's mercy. But there is a choice.

She goes back to Anton's. After all, she has his keys in her pocket. She promised him. Maybe she's intended this all along. It's not just that she was given to him. It's that he claimed her. His feathered wonder. His partner.

Coming in, she's as quiet as she can be, moving on ghost wings. The light's starting to come in through the kitchen window, so she closes the bedroom door behind her. It's a close, still darkness, and Anton is asleep, turned away from her on his side. In the sluggish gloom she can see that he's stirred enough, at some stage, to get under the covers, to take off his shirt and throw it on the floor.

Olga picks it up and hangs it in the bare cupboard. She hangs up her coat next to it, and then her sweater. She realises, as she's undressing, that she's singing again. That same song. It was on the radio, the night before they condemned her. It's been stuck in her head for sixty goddamn years.

She wants something new.

In camisole and knickers she crosses the room. Anton stirs when she pulls back the covers and slips in beside him, but she presses her palm against his shoulder. "Don't turn around," she whispers.

He doesn't. Half asleep still, he waits as she wriggles around, getting comfortable. There's not a lot of room in his bed for both of them. She threads an arm under his neck, drapes the other one around his waist. He relaxes back against her. He's warm and solid and his hair smells of cement dust. It's been sixty years since she held a man in her arms. She doesn't quite remember how to be herself any more.

This will do for now.