"Hold the elevator!" without looking up from his I-phone or the irate email he was writing to Adalind about why wesen kept coming to the precinct in droves – just to see the Grimm was not an acceptable excuse and frankly he was getting tired of chasing their children out of his office – and how much the practice needed to stop before he snapped and ripped their teeth out of the skulls, Sean Renard shoved his hand out, blindly arresting the forward movement of the elevator doors.
"Thanks, cher." The drawled endearment made him look up, fingers stilling over the screen, a half-formed angry retort on his lips that died away as soon as he saw the new elevator occupant.
The young woman blinked at him with big blue eyes framed with thick dark lashes, eyes that were set in a delicate heart-shaped face surrounded by a halo of short coppery curls that bobbed with every movement. Instead of a caustic reply, Sean simply nodded in response and tried to return to the email, but the young woman had destroyed his concentration with a crooked half-smile and the flippant 'cher'. It did not help matters that she wore white earbuds and was dancing to the music as she turned to the button panel, music that he could hear even though he was not the one actually plugged in.
Sean took his eyes off her swaying hips just in time to watch her finger hover over the already pressed button for the top floor before withdrawing. With a shrug, she moved to the opposite side of the elevator, still moving to the music in her ears. No. She was not going to the top floor. Sean refused to allow that to happen, but the doors slid shut and the elevator began to rise and he realized that any control he assumed to have over the situation was merely a delusion. Where was his original neighbor, the only other human being on the top floor? The one who was never there and who never stood in the elevator in dusty Docs and danced inappropriately in public, but more importantly, the one who was never actually home.
Battling mild irritation that made his temples ache, Sean shoved his phone into his pocket, folded his arms across his chest and stared at the elevator doors. With an ease that came from years as both a member of a backstabbing royal family and a police captain, he surreptitiously watched her out of the corner of his eye. On the tall side, her body type was of the variety that wavered between athletic and curvaceous: full breasts, strong torso, and generously curving hips. It was those hips that he kept getting distracted by, which to be honest was a rarity as of late. A dual-occupation of police captain and ruler of the territory tended to cut into his social life. Not a lot of time for dinner and a movie when there were wild packs of blutbadroaming the homeless camps down by the river, wreaking havoc. Still, those hips… Sean abruptly cleared his throat and shifted his focus fully to the gleaming metal elevator doors.
Someone should warn her against dancing like that in public. One of these days, someone big and burly was going to get the wrong idea at a bus stop and well, then this girl with the big blue eyes and fantasy-worthy thighs would be another case-file that floated across Sean's desk some Tuesday morning. He scowled at the thought, eyebrows furrowing. At least she was dressed in blue jeans and a washed-out black hoodie, not exactly lust-inducing.
The buzz of her phone was audible in the elevator, even over the leaking strains of whatever bubblegum-infested music she was listening to. Sean watched as she dug a black I-phone encased in enough rubber to protect a tank out of her pocket and flicked her thumb across the screen. Whatever she saw there dragged the little half-smile off her face and her fingers – nails unpainted and chewed to the quick – flew across the screen, tapping hard enough that Sean was sure it would break. When the message was sent and the phone shoved back into one of the pockets of the hoodie, she folded her arms across her chest and scowled at the tips of her Docs for the rest of the ride. No dancing, just a scowl that balanced on the edge between cute and petulant.
The fact that she had a key for the apartment at the opposite end of the hall – the only other one on the floor – did not escape his notice.
Annie Grant. Age unknown, but looked like she was fresh out of high school. Probably from Louisiana based on that accent, raised by swamp people judging by her atrocious manners (eating Poptarts in the elevator is crude). Occupation unknown, but she dressed like a man so probably something menial like a barista or a mechanic. Believed to be single, but was probably the mistress of the mysterious man who actually owned the other apartment on the top floor.
All this "information" were drilled into Sean during the trip from the ninth floor to the basement parking garage by Mrs. Camper since he hadn't been quick enough escape the elevator after she got on. Sean had listened as patiently as he could while he imagined strangling the nosy octogenarian with the strap of her purse. It was a thought process that he followed often. She was in the process of hinting that perhaps he should run a background check while at work when he finally escaped the elevator.
Sean didn't give the details another thought until returning home from work later that night and finding Annie in the parking garage, fighting to drag a massive duffel bag out of the trunk of the black Escalade, ever present headphones firmly implanted. The Escalade was also not hers, according to Mrs. Camper; probably belonged to the sugar-daddy (and yes, the eighty-seven year old had used the word 'sugar daddy') Annie saw him across the parking garage, nodded in a distracted kind of way, and continued jerking one-handed on the bag. It wasn't until he got closer that he realized why she was flailing about like a drunken monkey. Her left knee had been trussed up in a complicated looking black brace that extended from mid-thigh to her shin and she couldn't quite get her balance to achieve maximum lift. Well, that and it looked like the duffel bag had hooked on the trunk hatch and was exacerbating the entire situation.
"Need some help?" Sean asked then realized she probably couldn't hear him over her music. Retrospectively, his next move was not a well-advised one. He was a battle-hardened warrior and a trained police officer, but apparently neither of those had any effect when it came to his common sense. That's why two seconds after he tapped her on the shoulder, he found himself with a gut full of elbow and a brain full of stupid. Once he could breathe again and felt like the blood that had all rushed to his face had equally redistributed itself through his system, he accepted the flustered apology and freed her duffel bag.
Introductions were exchanged – "I'm Annie. I think we're neighbors." "Sean Renard." "Oh, the cop. The scary old lady from the ninth floor talks about you all the time. Nice to officially meet you. Sorry again about the elbow." – and he had been about to offer to carry her duffel bag since it was large and unwieldy and his mother would have boxed his ears if she knew he didn't live up to the standards put in place by his etiquette teachers. His phone chose that precise moment to ring, Sgt. Wu on the other end, dryly announcing that two rival gangs had met for pizza at a Southeast restaurant and ended up exchanging bullets. Two dead, three headed for the hospital and another half-a-dozen with unregistered weapons scurrying about the streets.
He excused himself from Annie who had been politely not-eavesdropping a few feet away, flicking through something on her I-phone and strode back to his SUV. The conversation was pushed to the back of his mind, replaced by a night of paperwork and crime scene visitation.
"I swear to God, Damien, if you don't let me in right now, I'm gonna rip that damn ring out of your fuckin' ear and make you eat it." Drawn to his front door by a pounding noise, Sean stuck his head out just in time to hear Annie deliver her threat, her accent thickening until the words were almost unintelligible. A few seconds later, he understood why.
Wearing only a towel, his next-door neighbor stood in front of her apartment door, banging on it with one hand while the other clutched the towel to her chest. He wanted to be irritated at the situation, at having his peace and quiet disturbed, but the towel was short and he was only a man. Her exposed tattoos were interesting – big and colorful, painting her back and biceps – but he didn't have time to study them in-depth, although he felt that the words Semper Fi in gothic letters running down one shoulder blade said plenty. Not enough time to just stare, not if he wanted to end this situation before Mrs. Camper was drawn upstairs by the shouting – he was sure she listened at the air vents for the sounds of stirring drama – and came upstairs to find a half-naked Annie in the hallway and Sean acting like a boy at his first strip club.
"Damien!" Annie shouted again, switching from the flat of her hand to a fist. Sean took a moment to admire the strength in her muscles, the way the ink on her skin stretched over them before he politely cleared his throat. Annie jumped and whirled around, eyes wide in surprise. The flush blossomed across her chest and bled up her neck into her cheeks as she stared at him.
"Trouble?" he asked, leaning against the doorjamb. The rules of polite society insisted he not notice the gentle sway of her breasts under the towel. Then again, Sean highly doubted that polite society would be capable of remaining polite if they saw a half-naked Annie Grant. Aiming for what he was sure was nonchalance and ending up somewhere between flustered and murderous, Annie took a step back to lean against the apartment door. Hard to do casual when wearing only a towel and looking like she wanted the floor to open up and swallow her.
"Nope. All good here." Recognizing embarrassment when he saw it, Sean convinced the muscles in his face that smiling would not help the situation. Amusement stirred in his chest despite his best efforts. She looked like she was going to start climbing up the walls to get away from him. "Just… hanging out."
"Who's Damien?" he asked, politely ignoring the blatant lie. Annie half-glanced back over her shoulder at the closed apartment door. Sean was almost certain that she growled.
"Cat. My cat." She said, turning back to him and clutching the towel even tighter. Sean thought about telling her that each time she changed her grip, the hem of the towel rose half a millimeter, but she was flushed enough, so he simply kept his gaze above her shoulders. "Damien is my cat. He likes to play practical jokes sometimes." Sean was about to make a comment that fulfilled both the sarcasm and bullshit quota for a lie like that when the apartment door behind her opened and a blonde man around Sean's age who was the kind of physical specimen only found in a Marvel comic book stepped out, clearly fresh out of the shower, wearing only a pair of low-slung jeans, towel draped around his neck. Sean bristled on instinct alone.
"All yours." The new arrival mumbled around the apple he held in his mouth while he fastened the band of a large black diving watch around his wrist. Annie grumbled something that sounded like a bevy of four-letter words and stomped back into the apartment. The Thor-look alike gave Sean a once-over, finally taking the apple out of his mouth and tearing out a big chunk with his ridiculously white teeth. Scars traced his bared torso, some old and white, others pink and still fresh enough to look painful. He looked like the kind of man that Sean had spent his entire life trying not to be.
"Hey," he said, jerking his chin in Sean's direction. Sean didn't respond, just glowered. All good will had disappeared into the apartment with Annie. The man shrugged and stepped back into the apartment, closing the door with a definitive not-slam. Sean went back into his apartment, trying to diagnosis the irritation that had blossomed in his chest.
Two weeks after towel-clad Annie, the elevator doors opened to the parking garage and there was sundress-clad Annie. Sean was just returning from an all-nighter at the precinct – a combination of Wessen bureaucracy and Burkhardt blundering through a wesen case with his usual wide-eyed lack of practical knowledge and his blutbad sidekick – and Annie was obviously on her way out, wearing an airy pale yellow dress that clung just so, making her look fresh and young. She was on the phone as she stepped out of the elevator, heels clicking on the concrete and it took a minute for Sean to realize that she was speaking something other than English, another minute to realize it was Creole-laced French.
"No, mama," she said as she walked past, nodding and smiling even as she spoke, clearly confident in the fact that speaking another language would ensure the privacy of her conversation. Sean blanked his face, nodding at her, trying not to let onto his eavesdropping. The duffel bag bounced off her hip as she walked.
"I'm not asking him out… because, mama. He's my neighbor and I happen to be walking past him as we speak. Yes, mama. I know women are liberated now. I know we're capable of making the first move." Distracted by the topic of conversation, namely himself – not to mention those heels – Sean let the elevator door close in his face. With a curse, he punched the button, but the car was already on its way upward and wouldn't be back down for a bit. Sean stood facing the doors as he continued to eavesdrop, for once glad that underground garage had acoustics designed for the activity.Ridiculous, the part of his brain that sounded like his uncle chimed in, a prince protectorate of the Portland territory interested in a human… and one that was practically an infant at that. The other part, the part that was remembering the towel told the first part to shut up because he was still trying to listen to how much his next-door neighbor wanted to ask him out. This was decided un-princely behavior.
"Because Damien was here and blew any chance I had." Annie said over the top of sounds that indicated she was putting her duffel bag in the trunk. Her French was smooth and well suited to her drawling accent, laced with Creole intonation. The slam of the door echoed through the space. "Mama, Damien locked me out in the hallway in a towel so he could have the first shower. The hot next door neighbor saw me in just a towel; I was practically naked. What? No! I didn't accidentally let the towel fall off. Stop watching the Lifetime network, mama." Sean couldn't resist stealing a peek at that. Annie was standing behind the Escalade, her forehead pressed to the back window, shoulders slumped and looking generally defeated. He wanted to say something, but that would have tipped his hand and alerted her to his prying so he just turned back around to face the elevator, mulling the whole thing over with his exhausted synapses.
"Do you have a wrench?" half-awake and mildly disoriented, Sean looked down at the redhead in his doorway and blinked. Hands on her hips, determined set to her mouth, Annie looked ready for battle, clad in sweatpants and a Marine Corps t-shirt, a black bandana suppressing her usually wild curls.
"A wrench?" Sean repeated stupidly, still trying to scrub sleep from his brain. He'd passed out face-first in a pile of reports on the dining room table almost two hours ago, overtime finally catching up with him and he was pretty sure that there was dried drool on his cheek. Annie was just lucky he even understood what a 'wrench' was at the moment.
"My hot water heater is being stupid so I'm going to beat the fuck out of it until it works." She said as if it were the simplest thing on the face of a planet and he was a moron for not understanding all the implications that went along with the phrase 'do you have a wrench?'. "Thusly, I need a wrench."
"Did you call the super?" Sean asked because even if he did have a wrench, there was no way he was giving it to Annie 'I-look-obscenely-good-in-just-a-towel' Grant and good God, when was he going to forget about that? He suspected the action – the giving of the wrench, not the overindulgent fantasizing – would be similar to giving matches to a pyromaniac.
"I called Damien who was supposed to call the super, but that was yesterday and the former is duckin' my phone calls, so I'm gonna go with no. I really need a hot shower, Renard." The use of his last name was kind of a jolt, but looking a little closer he recognized the strain in the set of the young woman's shoulders, the way her eyes were tight at the corners and knew this was more than just a water heater on the fritz.
"Use mine." The words came out of nowhere, but Sean had never been one to backpedal even when he said something monumentally stupid – see: offering his possibly crazy and too young neighbor the use of his shower – so he threw open his apartment door, indicating his habitat with a wave of his arm. This was a bad idea, but he was allowed at least one of those a year and this seemed like as good a time as any.
That was how Sean ended up spending a half hour of his Wednesday night staring sightlessly at the paperwork on the table before him while the sound of running shower taunted him from the bedroom. The smell of her shampoo clung to the walls of his shower for days afterwards, teasing his nose every time he stepped inside.
Begging for a wrench turned into dinner. If the shower had been a bad idea, dinner was an even worse one, but he was allowed one of these a year too, so he went with it. Annie sprung it on him in the elevator Monday morning, both headed to their respective vehicles, Sean with less than the proper amount of caffeine ingested required to politely demure. She volunteered to cook for him as a way of saying thank you for the loan of his shower. Sean had been feeling mildly amiable – due to the lack of caffeine – so he'd agreed.
His kitchen was chosen for the event, some excuse about hers not being stocked with anything but Poptarts and Redbull, but Sean had seen the Thor-look-alike in the elevator the night before and assumed that was the real reason. He was informed bluntly that she knew how to cook 3 things: macaroni & cheese, spaghetti, and gumbo and that he needed to pick one or dinner was going to be cooked by a complete stranger and delivered.
Sean chose gumbo, expecting palatable food and awkward small talk and an early evening. Annie barefoot in his kitchen with her face flushed from the heat of the stove was a sight that he had been woefully unprepared for. Clad in jeans and a silver tank top, stirring and chopping things, all in time to the music that she insisted be playing, Annie was a blur of energy and laughter, curls bobbing with every movement of her head. He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard a woman laughing in his apartment. Adalind was usually scowling and on the rare occasions, throwing things.
Sitting at the kitchen counter – because any attempts at help had been rebuffed with an indignant drawl – Sean watched and listened to the first signs of life that his kitchen had experienced since he moved in almost ten years ago. It was disconcerting, realizing just how still and quiet his apartment was on a daily basis and how full it felt just from the presence of one human woman. He wasn't entirely comfortable with this new revelation.
They exchanged abbreviated life stories over beers. Sean filed away tidbits like the eleven year age gap between the two of them, the three tours in Iraq and a medical discharge for IED shrapnel in her knee. He in turn, shared edited stories of being the middle son in a family of all boys, one of six children of an ambassador and growing up on international flights with flight attendants as his babysitters. They discussed life in the building, both agreeing that Mrs. Camper was a menace and had probably worked for the CIA at one point. Touchier subjects were avoided: the blonde giant whose apartment she shared, Adalind popping in and out at all times, or anything to do with their careers because that added a whole new level of intimacy to the situation and it was just dinner.
Somewhere in the middle of all of it, delicious food was produced and plated and eaten. Sean was hard-pressed to remember an evening he'd enjoyed more.
Singing? Someone outside his apartment was… singing? At least, he assumed that loud off-key squawking was supposed to be singing. Who knew, some wild animal might have been going into labor out in the hall. Adalind shot him a deadly look as Sean rose off the couch, drawn to the loud noises, noises that he now realized were interspersed with another voice, an irritated voice, a very heavily-accented voice… Sean cracked his front door an inch and peered out. It took a minute for his brain to full take in the scene before him.
Annie in sky-high heels and a little black dress was propping her roommate's massive bulk up against the wall, the latter obviously shit-faced drunk and the source of the squawking. The woman didn't appear to be having much luck keeping the man upright though, his legs kept bowing out and lowering him even closer to the floor and finally with a sharp curse, Annie stepped back, letting the man crash to the carpeted hallway. Impressively, Thor – because Sean refused to call him Damien in an internally passive-aggressive kind of way – kept up his song, words slurring together into a molasses of noise.
"Hey there, Army! Dirt-baggin' Army!" Thor bellowed as he tried to reach out and snag Annie's ankle with one paw-sized hand. In response, she kicked him, hard in the wrist, earning her a squinty-eyed glower. "Get in your tanks and follow me! I am Marine Corps Infantry!"
"Say the word and I can have them evicted in five seconds flat." Adalind's voice startled him and Sean barely repressed the urge to jump. He glared at the hexenbeist over his shoulder; the traitor already had her phone out, looking like she smelled something rotten.
"It's not her, it's him." Sean replied and against his better instincts, he opened the door all the way and stepped out into the hall.
"Oh, god, please don't judge me. This isn't what it looks like." Was the first thing out of Annie's voice when she noticed him standing there. He hated the fact that he wanted to smile at that especially with Adalind still standing in the entryway of his apartment, blatantly eavesdropping.
"Hey there Air Force!" Thor bellowed, louder than before, fighting his way up into a crouched position where he wobbled dangerously on his own two-feet. "Low-flying Air Force! Get in your planes and cover me! I am Marine Corps Infantry!" Sean switched his attention from Annie to the drunk man.
"How many verses of that are there?" He asked as Thor made another grab for Annie who danced away with surprising grace, considering her footwear.
"Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard. Plus the requisite dick-swinging 'I'm a badass U.S. Marine verse." Annie said, arms folding across her chest, pushing certain things up and distracting Sean.
" ' Dick-swinging'?" Adalind chose that moment to step out of the apartment and Sean scowled, especially when Annie's face closed off, becoming impassive, but not before he could see a hint of hurt in her eyes.
"Marines are notorious dick-swingers." Annie said in reply to Adalind's question, a semi-irritated expression on her face. "Even the women." the last part had connotations and Sean sensed more than saw Adalind bristle at the unspoken challenge. Of course, Annie speaking to Adalind meant that she wasn't paying attention to the drunken singer on the floor who took advantage of the distraction and launched himself at her like a 6'4 250 pound five year old, arms wide in the universal gesture for 'hug'.
The consecutive thunk of Thor hitting Annie and Annie hitting the opposite wall made Sean's teeth ache. Common courtesy sent him stalking over to the two, grabbing Thor by the back of his neck and pulling him off Annie and all right, so it was less common courtesy and something more along the lines of jealousy. He tried not to think about it as he held the larger man at arms length, utilizing more of his inhuman strength than he probably should have. Still, Annie had hit the wall hard, shoulders, neck and head impacting in the motion of a wave and he held out his free arm, wrapping it around her waist, hauling her in close.
"Ow," she murmured into his shoulder and leaned a little more heavily on him, hand clutching the fabric of his jacket tightly. "God. Ow." Sean would have made a joke about it, if he knew any that were applicable to the situation, but he couldn't think of one, so he just released his grip on Thor and watched the man crumple to the carpet, no longer singing, just mumbling under his breathe, one hand working convulsively against the front of his button down shirt.
"You okay?" he asked, trying ignore the smell of her hair and the press of her curves and the fact that there was a drunk man at their feet. Her response was to lean heavily against him as she bent at the waist, gingerly rubbing her left knee. The position offered a straight shot down the front of her dress and Sean tilted his head towards the ceiling, praying for patience from whoever had been listening at the moment. Adalind's eyebrow arched dangerous high up her forehead when he caught her gaze and he scowled at her.
"Knee. Did something to my knee. Goddamnit, Damien, you asshole." Annie said and Sean knew the half-gasping way she said it had nothing to do with their proximity. That was pain in her voice, painting the vowels and consonants. Before he could analyze his actions before hand and say something asinine, Sean half-bent and scooped his next-door neighbor into his arms. She yelped, hands suddenly grasping his shoulders and turning so her chest was half-pressed against his. As if all that smooth bare skin under his hands wasn't enough of a distraction.
"Adalind, will you find Tho-, um, Damien's keys and unlock his apartment door, please?" Sean said, turning back to his apartment. He felt the hexenbeist's glare burning into his back as he carried Annie inside.
"What were you going to call him? You started to say something else." Annie asked as he carefully settled her on his couch, stretching her leg out in front of her. Sean didn't answer, staring at the visibly swelling joint of her knee, a joint cris-crossed with surgical scars, white and thick. Annie's hand nervously danced out of her lap and covered it as if embarrassed by it. He glanced up at her, the faint red flush in her cheeks and knew he was in trouble.
"I'll get you an ice-pack." Sean said abruptly and spun, fleeing the living room.
Two nights ago, Annie Grant had spend the night in his guest bedroom because after dumping the drunken oaf of a roommate into the entry way of the apartment, Sean had put his foot down on letting her sleep there with him, especially since Thor had roused enough to finish the last three verses of his original song and moved onto significantly dirtier material. She'd protested, but he'd put on his Portland police captain face and told her that it was either that or he was arresting the other man for drunk and disorderly. She'd shut up after that and meekly asked him if she could borrow something to sleep in and something oddly territorial had bloomed in his chest at the sight of her his clothes.
All that had happened two nights ago.
Now she was avoiding him.
Ordinarily, their morning schedules meshed just enough for them to be in the elevator at the same time, riding down to the garage, but the last two mornings, Annie had rushed – as much as someone could rush with their leg in a brace – out of the apartment earlier than usual, clearly avoiding him. Sean didn't like the fact that the knowledge hurt. His black mood was not helped any by the fact that Thor was waiting at the elevator when he exited his apartment that morning. The twenty-first and twentieth floors were silent and Sean began to believe that the trip would be uneventful, and then between the eighteenth and nineteenth, Thor turned to him.
"Have you ever seen the film Speed?" up close, the blonde man was older than Sean had originally realized, faint lines feathering out from the corners of his eyes. Sean simply arched an eyebrow and waited for this conversation to grow a point because they had seventeen floors left and then he was gone, not running away, but beating a tactical retreat.
"Anyway, that's what Annie and I are. We're the partners in Speed. We've got our issues because of it, but that's all we are. Co-workers, so…" Thor trailed off, tapping his hand against his leg as if he hadn't planned for his speech to go on longer than that and was mildly distressed to discover that they still had a long floor to the garage. Then without warning, he reached out and punched the button for the fifteenth floor. The doors dinged open a second later and he was gone, mumbling something about taking the stairs, leaving a very confused Sean in the elevator, wondering where the times had gone when an elevator ride involved people avoiding eye contact as much as possible.
Then he remembered one white scar on Thor's chest from the first time he'd seen him, thick and round just above his heart on his left shoulder and before he could stop it, Annie and Thor were superimposed into the film, the scene where one partner shot the other to get at a suspect. Sean felt his stomach clench. Certain things made much more sense as the elevator continued its descent.
The lowen waiting outside his apartment door was only surprising because Annie was in the elevator with him and Sean has been sideways staring at the side of her face for the last five floors, trying to determine if the reddened eyes were the result of tears or exhaustion. One minute the elevator doors were opening onto the floor, the next a paw was reaching in and grabbing him by the front of his shirt, yanking him out of the car.
The wall rushed to meet him with alarming speed and he heard rather than felt the crack of his head against the drywall. Stunned, he hit the floor on his hands and knees. The lowen was on him in a second, growling and snarling and Sean had just started to rise up to dizzily defend himself when the very audible click of a weapon being taken off safety came from behind them.
"Let him go." Two Annie's, both holding black pistols aimed unerringly at the lowen swam before his eyes. Sean half-wondered if the whole thing was a concussion-dream. He'd had them before, par for the course as both a police officer and a prince. The expression on Annie's face was dead serious, one he'd never seen before even after the two split images finally merged back into one. The relief at no longer seeing double vanished as the lowen'sclawed grip on his shoulder tightened and those claws dug into his skin, slicing easily through his jacket and shirt. He could easily have shaken off the dizziness, given into his protectorate side, ripped the lowen in half, but Annie was there and, well, there were certain things that a relationship couldn't come back from. Not that they were in a relationship, his brain reminded him muzzily.
"I said, let him go." Annie said again, the gun trained steadily on the attacker. Sean doubted she could see the real face of the man bent over him, was probably seeing homicidal rage on a very human face. He wasn't sure what to concentrate on first: the attempt on his life or the easy way that Annie tracked the lowen's movements with her weapon. "If I have to say it again, I'll put a bullet in your knee and let the police sort out the rest."
"Bitch," the lowen spat, but he released Sean, claws tearing the skin as he did so. Sean slumped to the floor with a groan, knowing repairing this with his healing ability was out of the question, not with a human around. He suppressed that part of himself, felt the overwhelming weakness of a being human crash in on him. Annie's gaze wavered towards him and the lowen chose that moment to leap for the stairwell at the end of the short hall, crashing through it and out of sight.
The last thing that Sean was conscious for was Annie leaning over him, phone pinned between her ear and shoulder as she applied pressure to the wound in his shoulder, looking cool and collected and lethal.
"A mercenary?" was not the first thing that Sean meant to say when Annie pulled open her apartment door, but it was the first thing to pop out and in lieu of explaining his sudden bout of Tourette's, he held out the bottle of wine that he'd had Adalind purchase earlier that day. With slight furrows forming between her eyebrows, Annie accepted the bottle, glancing at the label. He did not want to explain how he knew so much about her, didn't want her to know that he'd pulled strings and read her personnel file, front to back three times in the last two days.
"We prefer the term private security consultants, but basically, yeah." Annie said, holding the door open and gesturing for him to enter. Sean hesitated. He'd meant for this to be an in and out kind of thing, "thanks for saving my life from the crazed assailant; here, have some wine; okay, bye." Annie looked from the wine to him, eyebrow starting to rise. Sean quickly stepped inside. The apartment was an exact duplicate of his, the layout just reversed. It was also not Annie who was laughter and big blue eyes and that almost-obnoxious drawl.
"You don't drink wine, do you?" he asked, trying to draw her attention away from his discomfort. She looked at him, head cocked slightly to the side and wrinkled her nose. The effect was disarming.
"Can I mix it with Red Bull?" She asked and it took a minute for him to realize that she was teasing him. He scowled, but it did nothing to diminish the strength of her grin.
"No," she shook her head, curls bouncing. "I don't drink wine, but the thought is much appreciated. Although, I didn't save your life so you'd buy me alcohol." Sean rolled his eyes, but didn't rise to the bait. Silence fell, Annie shifting awkwardly in her stocking-feet, wine in one hand, Sean desperately searching through seven years of etiquette lessons for something to say that wouldn't be offensive or ridiculous. In the end, it was Annie who broke the silence.
"Fuck it." She said and set the wine down on the entry table with a cringe-worthy thunk. Sean was about to protest the treatment when suddenly he found his hands full of curves with an insistent mouth pressing up against his, warm and soft.
Etiquette demanded a polite refusal, carefully extricating himself from the warm arms, a quick escape. Etiquette did not dictate that he nip at her bottom lip or slide a hand up to cup the back of her head, fingers tangling in her curls while the other finally explored those curves that he'd been fantasizing about since the first time she danced into his elevator.
Then again, Sean Renard had never really been good with etiquette.