The motels were obvious places, places that Rosa wasn’t about to get caught staying in. While some teams of hunters wouldn’t go after wolves in, say, a Motel 6 (too many people there, too much risk of police getting involved), Rosa couldn’t rely on this group of hunters being that considerate. She didn’t know anything about them.
Well, she knew Amy was a part of them. That was something, something that made her temples throb every time she thought about it. She didn’t want to consider what kind of hunter Amy was, exactly. She couldn’t afford to; in spite of the fact that deep in her chest, Rosa was still convinced, still positively sure that Amy had at least an ounce of honor in her compared to other hunters, she didn’t want to bet on it. Not when Gina was still missing.
The place that they ended up staying was a shitty week-to-week, a room with two beds and an air mattress. There was heat and there was basic electricity, and there was a front desk guy who spooked when Rosa stared at him for too long. For what they needed at the moment, a place to sleep in between nights spend looking for Gina, it was perfect.
The city made it hard to look for Gina; the fact that they had to assume that if they went back to the warehouse hunters would track them made it worse. Rosa had assumed, at first, that Gina stayed away because of that first text message, but after the next morning, it was clear that wasn’t the case. The werewolf hunters covered their tracks well, too; their routes through traffic had brought them through high construction areas, where the potholes smoked and made it difficult to keep up the trail. The pack could, and would, find Gina, but it was taking longer than it should have.
Even Jake had stopped cracking jokes, going scarily quiet whenever he was sitting still for any length of time. Rosa had to order him to sleep, while promising to stay up in case Gina tried to call one of them. Boyle was trying his best to keep Rosa and Jake from losing their minds, but he could only do so much- Jake deflected with anger, and Rosa refused to talk about it. She much preferred going into the back alley and working her aggressions out by beating the trash dumpster with a two by four.
Which was what she was doing the next time she saw Amy. “Don’t swing!” Amy said, her hands up. “I swear, I don’t have any-”
“Weapons? I know, idiot,” Rosa snapped, abandoning the dented and abused trash dumpster for a beat. “And I smelt you around the corner.” It was lucky for Amy that was the only new scent that Rosa had noticed- if there had been anyone else there, Rosa would have done a lot worse than swung a piece of wood at Amy’s head. “How did you find me?”
“Oh, I looked for Jake,” Amy explained with a wave of her hand. “He’s pretty easy to track, if you know what to look for.” Which, of course, Amy would. If Amy was any good at her job, she could track them all. She knew them- she knew Rosa, and there was nothing that Rosa hated more than being known.
“I’ll kill him later,” Rosa assured her.
There was an awkward silence then, as Rosa’s grip tightened around the two by four. Amy looked…good, okay, not hurt, albeit a bit tired, and that pissed Rosa off. Amy’s black leggings pissed Rosa off, her floral dress-top over it pissed Rosa off. The messy side braid was so achingly normal and cute that it infuriated Rosa. She didn’t look at all like a hunter- she looked like a stupid grad student, Rosa thought.
The two by four cracked in Rosa’s grip before the silence broke. Amy looked down at the piece of wood and gulped. Rosa caught the expression and rolled her eyes. “What do you want, Amy?” Amy’s face collapsed in shame, and she bowed her head. Rosa grimaced, looking away. One of them was going to have to say something, and Rosa suspected that if it was Amy, there would be a lot of rambling. If it was Rosa, well…Rosa wasn’t entirely sure what she would say. What could she say? Fuck off and get shot didn’t encompass what Rosa was feeling, and neither did assuring Amy that Rosa wanted to forgive her. Wanted an excuse to forgive her, if Amy gave her the slightest opportunity to.
Amy broke the silence, and it wasn’t with babbling. “I know where Gina is.” Rosa took a step forward, Amy took one back, her hands shooting back up defensively. “She’s not hurt…Holt caught her on her way back to the warehouse. Thought that she’d work well as bait.”
Rosa clenched her jaw, lifting her chin as she considered Amy’s words. “Bait only works if you can capture us. Which you can’t. Anyway, we figured she was with you, if she wasn’t dead.” If she had been dead, regardless of how Rosa felt about Amy, the hunter would have likely followed soon after. “So why are you here?” ‘Without Gina’ was implied.
“I’m-,” Amy started out fumbling, before taking a gulp of air. “I’ve been training to hunt werewolves since I was thirteen. My father hunted demons, my brothers…well, they hunt everything, just take your pick, one of them has probably tracked it down and…handled it. That’s what I wanted to do.” She stood a little straighter. “That’s why I joined up with Holt’s hunters.”
“Holt’s Hunters?” Rosa snorted. “You guys got varsity jackets?” She sounded as stupid as Peralta, for a brief second.
“It’s not what they call themselves, it’s just what we are,” Amy explained, but the look on her face made Rosa suspect that she had definitely, definitely called them Holt’s Hunters before. Amy tilted her head as if gauging the situation, before taking a slow step towards Rosa. She stood stiffly, her hands clasped behind her back. She must have practiced this speech a few times. “All I thought I wanted was to be a hunter like my brothers- no, to be a better hunter than my brothers. That’s why I’m here, in this city.”
“All you’ve said so far is why I shouldn’t trust you.”
“It’s not that simple!” Amy interjected, and Rosa blinked and her vehemence. “We’re not just running around going after any werewolf. I wouldn’t do that. Holt wouldn’t do that- he’s a good man, a good hunter.”
Rosa gestured with the cracked piece of wood in her hand towards Amy. “Then why go after my pack? Why hold Gina hostage? Doesn’t sound like a good guy to me.”
The expression on Amy’s face was odd. Upset, with her eyes doing that idiotic watering thing that always made Rosa uncomfortable when people did it. Not quite crying, but like if Rosa said the right thing she might. “Tell me the truth Rosa- have you ever killed a human?”
“Ever?” Rosa narrowed her eyes. “Yeah, once. Jake got shot in the back leg once by a sadistic little shit hunter back when we were teenagers. Had to protect him.”
“No, not self defense, although oh my god, I’m so sorry that happened to you guys,” Amy said. “I meant-”
“You meant for fun. For the thrill, or food or something sick like that,” Rosa finished. She shook her head as she tossed the two-by four to the side. “Of course not.”
“And the rest of your pack…Gina, Charles, Jake…”
“We don’t kill unless we have to. Makes it difficult to stay in one place. What, do you really think I was going around hunting humans? Just because you-”
“Holt and I are tracking a series of werewolf related deaths across the east coast.” In a better mood, Rosa might have pointed out that there were were more than just two people involved in Amy’s little werewolf hunting operation, but instead, she waited until Amy finished. “I’ve seen the aftermath, these people were absolutely killed by werewolves. And our trail ended here.” She finally stopped holding her hands behind her back, to gesture helplessly at Rosa. “With you.” She looked as if she was the one who’d been knocked out by Jake, or as if she was the one who was desperately searching for her missing pack member. “I want to believe you when you say you haven’t killed anyone, Rosa, I do, but it doesn’t make any sense that all the evidence comes back to you guys.”
Rosa’s jaw ached from clenching it, Her palms hurt from clenching them too. But she could handle this. “My pack doesn’t kill. I don’t care if you believe me or not.” It had been a long time since Rosa had told a direct lie, and it made her tongue feel thick and useless. She prodded the inside of her cheek with her tongue to try to make her mouth feel less foreign. When it didn’t work, she sighed and continued. “What will it take to convince you? What will it take to make you give Gina back to me?”
“I need an explanation for why all the evidence says that it’s you.”
“That’s easy enough. It’s the damned Vulture.”
A half an hour later had Amy sitting in a diner surrounded by three werewolves. Knowingly surrounded by three werewolves, which made it one of the weirder moments in her life.
“Can I ask a question, though?” Jake raised a hand jokingly, but the humor was belied by the dry sarcasm in his tone. “A couple of questions, actually. One, there is absolutely no way you were able to track me.”
“That’s not a question,” Amy pointed out.
“But it’s an incredibly important point that needed to be made, so I’m making sure that it’s out on the table,” Jake continued, completely unphased by Amy’s retort, “Two, why are we sitting here when Gina could be getting hurt right now? We should be making Amy take us back to Gina and cracking some skulls!”
“Shut up, Jake.” Rosa was sitting across from Amy, and Amy wasn’t entirely sure what the woman was thinking. She wished she knew; she wished Rosa wasn’t so damned unreadable when she wasn’t at one of the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum. Amy wished she knew what was happening in her life in general right now though; she wished that she could just be professional and…and what? Instead of tracking Jake down to find Rosa, having tracked Jake to put down the whole pack? It didn’t feel right- she’d spent plenty of time since the other night thinking about the situation, and she couldn’t convince herself that Rosa was a bad person. Wolf. Werewolf. Girlfriend.
She absolutely wouldn’t think of the word girlfriend right now, because that had obviously gone up in flames. Werewolf hunting flames. Amy attempted to hide her misery behind a glass of soda.
At least Rosa was offering up a story, even if it was one that was a little difficult to swallow. “Third,” Jake finished, “Why are we even sitting here talking about the Vulture when we should be clearing out of town if they’ve found us?”
“Because I need to know about the Vulture in order to keep Holt and the others from coming after you,” Amy explained. “And to get them to let Gina go.” And to redirect the hunters’ efforts to this supposed other pack, Amy thought but didn’t say. After all, she wasn’t so sure that things would be okay that she was going to test the ‘going to hunt other werewolves’ waters. “So Jake, I know you don’t like me right now, I know that I have no right to ask you guys for anything, but please help me understand. Please.”
Rosa glanced over at Jake. “Jake, just explain.”
Jake sighed in annoyance before stealing some of the fries that Charles had ordered. “The Vulture is the affectionate nickname we gave to this obnoxious little alpha wolf from our hometown.” Jake spoke around the food he was chewing, and Amy tried to not grimace too much at the sight of it. “Bitter that Rosa wouldn’t submit, and too much of an asshole to submit to her, he decided the thing to do was basically become the anti-us. You know, full scale evil villain type with a weasly face and a tendency to go around hunting humans. He had this whole thing about being better than humans, them being at the bottom of the food chain, you get what I’m saying. Personally, I’m pretty sure he did it just because it is precisely the thing that we wouldn’t do, but you know, Evil Villain Weasel Vultures always have some sort of ‘reason’ for what they do.”
“Are you telling me you guys have been running from a single werewolf? For years?” Amy shook her head. “No way. You guys could take a single werewolf.”
“He made his own pack,” Rosa replied simply. “Other werewolves looking to beat up on humans, a human or two that he changed instead of killed.”
“And technically,” Charles spoke up, “We’re not running from him. He’s following us.”Amy frowned. “He kills humans when he lands in a place where we’re settling down.”
“Thinks that either we’ll end up taking the fall…” Jake explained.
“…Or that I’ll cave and submit,” Rosa finished. “Which isn’t happening. He pinned- or is trying- to pin all this on us. Keep us on the run.”
“And so far,” Charles said with a frown, pulling his fries further from Jake’s grasp. “It’s worked. We don’t really want to fight him.”
“I do,” Jake and Rosa both said simultaneously. They looked at each other. Jake sighed, and continued, “But he’s not the type to fight fair. He always finds a way out of a fair challenge fight, or he’ll spring the rest of his pack on Rosa, so…”
Rosa shrugged, but somehow the shrug said ‘fuck him’ more effectively than if she’d actually put the effort into putting up her middle finger. “So we move.” There was an emphasis on the word ‘move,’ and Amy felt embarrassed just to hear it. Move, instead of run away, which was really what the pack was doing- because they clearly didn’t have much of a choice one way or another. Rosa was clearly far more mortified than Amy could possibly be when she said it, though, and so Amy didn’t comment on it.
“You can believe us or not,” Rosa said after a beat. “But that’s the deal.”
Amy took a breath, a shakier one than she was comfortable admitting. There were two options. The cynical and logical one was that they were brilliant, practiced liars. As much as Amy wanted to do what she thought Holt would do right now- be wary of liars, trust in the fact that they were werewolves, and she was a hunter, and she had a job to do-, that option fell apart when she looked at them. She couldn’t believe that Charles was capable of killing someone. She didn’t want to believe that Jake would kill just because.
And she couldn’t handle the thought of Rosa being a murderer. She needed her not to be, and frankly, Amy believed Rosa. Aside from her hopefulness, the second option- that they were being straight up with her- felt true. She didn’t know if that made her a terrible hunter or not, but it was difficult to care, in the circumstances.
“I believe you,” she said, unable to look anywhere but directly into Rosa’s eyes. Rosa raised an eyebrow, suspicious. “I do.”
Jake opened his mouth, but Rosa spoke first. “Prove it.”
Amy blinked. “Huh? I don’t know- isn’t the fact that I’m not grabbing a gun right now-”
“I can’t,” Amy admitted. The three werewolves looked varying amounts of annoyed, pissed, and heartbroken. She held up her hands. “I mean, I can’t just go in and let her walk out the door. There are always other hunters there, Rosa, it doesn’t work like that.” She paused, toyed with the top of her glass again. “I can watch out for her- figure out a way to…fix this situation. I can at least- I can get you on the phone with her.” Amy frowned. “If you still have your phone.”
Rosa still looked suspicious. She and Jake shared a look for a beat before she replied. “I got a new one. Look,” Rosa rested her forearms on the table and leaned in. “How do I know this isn’t a part of a trap? How do I know you’re not here fucking with us?”
How indeed? How was Amy supposed to come up with a response that was good enough? It was difficult to come up with anything ‘good enough’ when she’d held a shotgun in Rosa’s face. “Because I’m going to help you get the Vulture, obviously.” She hadn’t thought before speaking, but she was certain that she’d made that decision as soon as Rosa and Jake started telling her the truth. She definitely meant to stick by her words, at any rate.
Rosa blinked, honestly surprised. “You for real?”
It was difficult not to smile at Rosa’s surprise, Amy managed to keep her smile small. “Yeah, for real. Definitely. It’s the only way to make sure…” That Rosa was safe. That Gina could go home to them. That Amy had put her trust in the right people. It was the only real choice she had left.
And the smile that broke across Rosa’s face was more than enough to tell Amy she’d made the right decision.
It was pretty obvious to Amy how to approach keeping an eye on Gina. Everyone had their rounds playing babysitter, and it was a matter of figuring out who was most likely to actually leave her alone for the entirety of her time on shift. As bumbling as Scully and Hitchcock could be, Amy knew that relying on them to behave in a specific way was a bad idea. While they might clear out immediately, they could also decide they wanted to talk to her about foot fungus or opera, or they might keep poking their heads back in to ask a hundred useless questions. So as easy as it would to pull one over on either of them, it was a crap shoot.
She absolutely wasn’t going to try to actually talk to Gina right before or after Holt’s shift. If Holt asked her anything, even ‘how are you today,’ Amy wasn’t positive that she could straight out lie to him right now. The amount of stress and embarrassment wasn’t worth the risk- she already flailed while talking to him under the best of circumstances. Which left Amy arranging it so that she was before Hitchcock’s babysitting duty, and after Terry’s.
Amy forced a wide, beaming smile and held up the snack food in her hands. “I brought yogurt!” Terry jumped up from his seat quickly, practically running to Amy’s side. She handed him a yogurt cup and a spoon, blinking in surprise. “I, uh, knew you liked yogurt, but I didn’t realize it was that serious…”
Terry frowned, confused. “What? No, it’s not the yogurt, although Terry does love yogurt.” Amy pasted her smile back on her face, although this was the particular smile saved for the awkwardness of Terry referring to himself in third person. “It’s her.”
“G- her?” Although Gina’d had no problem introducing herself to the hunters when she was first captured, Amy was trying her best to hide their familarity. More often than not, it meant that Amy was tripping over saying Gina’s name. “Is she causing a problem?” The tension in Amy’s body was worry, although it could have been- was hopefully misread as- preparing for an altercation.
“She’s driving me nuts!” Terry exclaimed, already eating. “Keeps asking me about what I think about soap operas-”
“I thought we were having a very important discussion about evil twins and car accidents,” Gina piped up. She was in a large cage, about the size of a small bathroom, sitting in the corner. Somehow she didn’t look as if she’d been in there very long. Or that she was remotely alarmed. Amy couldn’t say she was surprised. “My bad.”
“-or about whether Holt is dating someone-”
“-Not for me. I’m not his type, but you never know, maybe he likes them big. Strappy, beefy, muscular, shirt buttons slightly-”
“She won’t shut up.” Terry looked at Amy as if somehow by begging her for mercy, Gina would stop. Amy knew from prior experience that nothing on this earth would get Gina to be quiet. “I haven’t had a moment of peace since I got on shift. Even Holt looked like he was gonna lose it-” Terry paused. “I think that was what it was. Or he’d dissociated from the whole thing so much he was in his happy place. I can’t take much more of her.”
Amy wasn’t sure whether to laugh or sympathize, or a little bit of both. “Well,” she said, gently leading Terry towards the door. “You don’t have to for at least a few more hours. I’ll take it from here.”
“You don’t understand-”
“I’ve got headphones, if it’s really serious,” Amy reassured him. “You go, get some rest, call your wife.” It only took a few more seconds of prodding before Terry left, and Amy closed the door behind him. She leaned against the door for a moment, exhaling loudly.
Gina didn’t seemed fazed by any of the situation. She leaned forward just enough to throw Amy a dry look. “How do you guys actually hunt anything?”
Amy scrunched up her face, offended. “Excuse me?”
Gina went down the list, raising a finger with every point. “You’ve got sexy man meat over there who jumps at big noises, Hitchly and Scul-cock-”
“Hitchcock and Scully,” Amy corrected.
“Um, do they know that? I don’t think they actually know that they are, in fact, two different people.” She continued as if uninterrupted, “And I also don’t think your illustrious captain knows how to spell smile, let alone how to smile.”
“What does that have to do with hunting werewolves?” Amy queried, moving away from the door and towards the chair that Terry had been sitting in. She placed a hand on the top of it. “He’s serious about his work. His personal life.” Amy tilted her head. “Everything. I think that’s a good thing.” She stood straighter. “It’s an inspiration to me.”
“Of course it is, Studious Sally, but let’s be real for a minute,” Gina drawled. “That serious is super creepy.”
“It is not!” Amy countered, even as a part of a brain told her it was ridiculous to be having this conversation with a caged werewolf, instead of getting straight to the point of things. “It’s dedication.” Gina’s stare was better than her responding directly, Amy supposed. Amy cleared her throat. “Are you…okay?”
“Me? Oh, I’m great. The cage thing? Definitely not lame, definitely not upsetting.” There was a swift flicker of emotion. It was easy to lose track of reality with Gina, sometimes. Everything was a sarcastic joke or an insult- it was such an automatic thing to either laugh or be offended with the woman. It was only in short bursts, flashes, that Gina even reminded Amy that there was something else there.
Amy chewed on her lip and felt horribly ashamed of herself for forgetting, even for a second. “Look I…I’m sorry.”
“Well, if you’re sorry, I guess we’re besties again,” Gina retorted.
This was going just as well as Amy deserved, but Amy’s grip on the chair tightened all the same. “Rosa sends her love.” Gina’s head shot up for the first time in the conversation, her eyes flashing a golden-yellow before she locked down her expression again. Then she pseudo-bored again, checked out. “Okay, so she didn’t say it like that, but I promised her I’d help you guys.”
Gina gestured towards Amy’s free hand. “And yet no keys to let me go.”
“I don’t have access to the keys, but…” Sighing, Amy proceeded to explain the conversation that she’d had with Rosa and the others. She told Gina that she knew about the Vulture, about their running. She told Gina that she promised Rosa to help clear their name, and to make sure nothing happened to Gina during all of this.
Gina might have said that Holt’s seriousness was super creepy, but at the moment that paled in comparison to Gina’s unaffected facial expression during the whole spiel. Amy wasn’t sure what Gina was thinking- whether she was more scared or upset or angry. Whether she even believed anything that Amy was saying.
“Stop looking so hopeful, it’s gross,” Gina said, when Amy was finished. “If you did talk to Rosa you have to be telling the truth because she would have left you unconscious in the back of a creepy subway car somewhere if you weren’t.” Well, at least they were both certain of that much. “So tell me, Amy: on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being vaguely concerned about eating a spoonful of someone else’s ice cream, and 10 being you being a party to the kidnapping of your girlfriend’s family, how guilty did you feel?”
“Uh…10?” Amy frowned. “Obviously? If you don’t want me to talk to you, okay, I deserve that-”
“You do, and I kind of don’t want you to, but the only snack for me right now is the taste of your regret and the disaster that is your love life, so…if you’re really here to help me, you’ll just have to suck it up and deal.” Gina stood up and strolled the couple of feet from her seat to the front of the cage, leaning on it with her forearms so she could rest her forehead on them. She might have been posturing to cover up her actual feelings about the situation, but it didn’t matter; Amy felt whatever tiny sliver of control she had in the conversation evaporate.
Amy licked her lips. “Okay. I’ll suck it up and deal then. I’m a big girl, I can handle some words.”
Gina smirked. “You better, girlfriend, because we both know you’re not doing this for me.” Amy opened her mouth to argue, but Gina cut her off. “You’re doing this for Rosa.” Amy’s mouth clamped shut so quickly, she couldn’t help but imagine the sound of a giant gate slamming closing. “It’s okay. I’d say I won’t tell her but,” her voice lowered to a stage whisper, “everybody kind of already knows.”
“I’m helping because it’s right.”
“You’re helping because you need to prove your honey-bunny innocent so you guys can keep doing the nasty. And that’s cool, I respect that. Kind of.”
“She’d kill you for calling her honey-bunny,” she replied, managing the saddest smile she’d donned since the whole fiasco began. Amy’s cheeks burned, and she looked down at her feet. “I know how badly this all went down, Gina. I know that there’s no me and Rosa. There can’t be.”
“Why not? That starcrossed lovers thing is huge. Destined for misery, the world basically saying they’ll die. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Katniss and Peeta, Jet Li and Aaliyah in Romeo Must Die, Regis and Philbin.”
“That’s his last name.”
“It’s a tragic love story,” Gina didn’t drop a beat. “Point is, I think you’re giving Rosa either too much or too little credit. Yeah, she’s big bad alpha girl, ready to kill and be killed to protect us, but she’s not actually the heartless ice queen she pretends to be. Mostly she does that to hide the fact that the true Elsa of the group is me, okay?”
“Right.” In spite of Gina’s flippancy, Amy was trying her hardest to blink away the stinging in her eyes. She sniffled. A little bit. “Sure.” But she couldn’t help her eyes growing a little larger. “You really think…?”
“I know Rosa better than nearly anyone, except for Jake. I haven’t seen her since you guys invaded our place, but I know she’s still totally into you,” Gina shook her head. “It’s near impossible for her to let someone in, but once you’re in, it’s basically a lifetime membership. If you’re for real, she still ‘loves’ you.”
Amy sniffled again. A little more. “While the quotation marks are a little weird…thanks, Gina.” She exhaled, and finally released her grip on the chair. She sat down, and the weight off her shoulders made her head spin.
“Any time. It’s not like I’m doing anything else in here.”
If it wasn’t so inappropriate, Amy would have laughed.