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I Know It's Strange (Another Way to Get to Know You)

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If Sam had been there he would have laughed and laughed. He'd been the one to lure Goodnight into being a warrant officer, amused to see Goodnight's attempts to use charm and liquor to get information on his bounties. Goodnight missing his bounty walking into the saloon because he was too busy trying to get some good ol' boys on his side would have made Sam laugh for days. In his defence, he'd never known a werewolf go strolling into a saloon in human form while there was a full moon in the sky.

Honestly, if the bartender had just sold Billy Rocks a drink, instead of trying to cuss him straight out of the bar, Goodnight might have missed that he was there entirely.

Silence followed the bartender's outburst, rippling across the room like a rock thrown into a pool. If Rocks noticed, he didn't say anything; he was utterly methodical, his face expressionless. He put his hat down on the bar, eyes on the grinning bartender, then stripped off his gloves and dropped them inside. His gunbelt was next, dropped on the counter like it was nothing. The he stepped out of his boots like it was the most normal thing for a man to do before he was thrown out of a bar.

"What the hell are you doing?" the bartender asked, still smirking like Rocks was doing a trick. And Rocks just – tilted his head, like he was considering the man's words, flexing his fingers. Goodnight would swear they were growing claws.

"To hell with this," the bartender said, gesturing to the cowboy at the end of the bar – the saloon's bouncer from what Goodnight's sources said – with one hand and pulling a shotgun out from under the counter with the other. Rocks straightened, like he agreed.

Then he reached out and smashed the man's head into the bar.

Once, then twice, and a third time, until there was blood on the bar and the man hung limp in his grasp. Rocks let go, and he collapsed out of sight.

No one moved. Most of the people Goodnight could see were staring stupidly, like rabbits before a fox. The cowboy who'd been moving to grab Rocks was fixated on the definite claws that clicked together when Rocks turned to face him.

And Goodnight thought about his rifle, upstairs in his room, the silver bullets beside it. He had a good chance of making it up the stairs before Rocks could make it across the room, could have a pelt labelled "Billy Rocks" before the judge first thing tomorrow. But.

In the war, the shifters he'd seen were more monster than man. They tore through everything – through their own flesh to let the wolf out, through the army in front of them, and when there was nothing left in front of them? Through the army behind. No thoughts as far as he could tell, aware of nothing but the killing that went on and on.

(Some days, Goodnight can understand that more than he likes.)

This... This definitely wasn't that.

The cowboy at the bar fumbled for his gun, and Rocks lunged. They crashed together, the shot going wild into the air. The sound was like a signal to the crowd, and Goodnight lost sight of the scuffle as people started rushing in every direction. Most pushed past him, screaming for the exit like Rocks was a hound from hell ready to drag them to their eternal rest, and from the meaty crunches coming from that direction he couldn't exactly blame them – Goodnight grabbed his drink on instinct to save it as the men and women at his table scrambled for the exit – but a dedicated crowd of farmers and cowboys was trying to shove against the tide, guns in hand.

There was a loud crack from the bar. A scream. The crowd recoiled enough that Goodnight could see; the cowboy Rocks had been tussling with was on the floor, alive and uneaten, curled around an arm that hung limp from the shoulder. Rocks stood up slowly, his shirt in tatters, shreds of his own skin caught in thick black fur. He was small, as werewolves went, barely taller than Goodnight himself, but he was compact, muscles shifting beneath fur. Rocks reached up with a hand that still held a vaguely human shape and ripped the last lingering bit of human skin off his snout.

Goodnight had seen all kinds of men becoming wolves – brave men and coward alike – and all of them had hollered and howled their way through the their bones shifting inside them. He'd never seen anyone bear it in silence.

Billy Rocks bared his teeth at the room – and then he moved. The first man was backhanded hard enough that he crashed into a table. The second managed to dodge away from the initial swipe, but he was off-balance for the follow through. Rocks was fast, and once he was in motion he didn't stop. He rolled under gunfire – an awkward move with the limbs he's got, but he has speed on his side – and came up claws first.

Goodnight stayed at his table and watched. As people started firing, he could feel the tendrils of panic reaching for him like a creature trying to drag him under dark water, but he kept his eyes on Rocks. Rocks moved with controlled, methodical brutality; he smacked one woman down to the floor and bounced the head of the man behind her into the wall. The next man wouldn't let go of his shotgun, so Rocks grabbed it and hauled him in by it. There was a pop and a crunch, and the man dropped to the ground, clutching him shoulder.

Rocks wasn't trying to kill anyone, Goodnight was sure, because no one seemed to be dead. If he wanted, Rocks could have ripped out the throats of any of the fifteen sons of bitches in the room, Goodnight included, and been on his way. It was what he'd done at the railroad, according the the warrant Goodnight had. Instead, he was taking on the room with his bare hands, and leaving them unconscious, or mewling heaps on the floor.

Goodnight should get his rifle, if he was going to. He wasn't going to get a better chance to claim his bounty. But honestly? He couldn't imagine pulling the trigger.

Rocks looked around the room again, appearing to notice Goodnight and dismiss him, then doubled over. This time, Goodnight could see the transformation, and it looked exactly as painful as he remembered. Rocks' back arched, and his pelt split across the line of his spine. It sloughed off him to puddle at his feet as muscle and bone grinding beneath the new skin, and the wolf face tore off like a mask. Rocks stepped back, gasping, propping himself against the bar, then reached for his gloves. Goodnight had never seen a wolf become human again while the moon was still in the sky.

This was not a man to arrest. And this was definitely not a wolf to shoot.

Goodnight touched dry tongue to dry lips, then downed his glass. He was going to need all of the courage he could find for this one. "Pardon me, sir," he said, his voice remarkably steady to his own ears. "Are you Billy Rocks?"

Rocks turned to him, gaze sharp and wary, hand dropping to his gunbelt on the bar. Goodnight did the only thing he could do under the circumstances: he slid his bottle across the table toward Rocks. "My name's Goodnight Robicheaux, and I was hoping to buy you a drink."