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alderwitch

Clash On The Back Nine [IC]

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Although movie night scheduling had gone smoothly, Taylor had been forced to call and arrange to meet Jack at the Southside Putt 'N Play rather than at her apartment. For once, it had been utterly mundane matters. First there'd been something with her brother's upcoming nuptuals, and then a snag with her school schedual this quarter. As it was, once she'd gotten dressed and ready, she didn't even bother with fighting the ancient engine of the car and had just ported to a back alley within easy walking distance. Even so, she was still running a few minutes late, when she reached the entrance and started looking around for Jack.

Since this was the sort of activity that resulted in at least an hour or two of standing, she'd slipped on sandals to go with the flared skirt and fitted camisole top. As usual, she'd twisted her hair up in a clip as she'd simply run out of time to do anything like curl it. Not that the thick mass ever held anything like a curl with any but the most extreme of hair-products.

Taylor hurried up the steps, before realizing that even with the slight lift of her sandals, she couldn't see over anyone to try and find Jack. For a moment, it was very tempting to float up above the crowd. It was a little galling to realize that the crowd of high school students she was trying to get through all had a good few inches on her, even in shoes.

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Taylor's height meant she wasn't easy to pick out of a crowd, but Jack had the advantage of arriving earlier and being able to knife through the crowd of teenagers like a hot invisible knife through butter. He found Taylor by the expedient of simply looking for her until he stumbled across her. "Hi, Taylor," he said from behind her, grinning when she turned around. He was wearing a charcoal-grey sweater and black slacks, an absurd cloth cap on his head. "I went retro tonight," he said with a little laugh. "Classic golf stylings. Nice to see you."

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She looked up at him, and her cheek dimpled as she laughed, "So I see. You're not the only one. Although, all of my closet is arguably retro."

Taylor swept one hand down at the flared skirt and top with their definate 50s appearance and slipped through to his side. With an amused glance over at the teenagers, she gestured to the course itself, "I had no idea this place would be so popular on a Friday night. One last hurrah before school starts, I suppose. I hope you're as bad at this game as I am. My family used to come here all the time when we were kids. I wasn't the worst but Jackson would end up getting frustrated and just start aiming his golf ball at fouling up everyone else's shots."

Her eyes sparkled at the memory as they slipped in line to get their clubs and balls from the clerk.

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"It's been a couple of years," admitted Jack, "but I'll probably do all right." Indeed, with Phantom touching Jack's wiry, solid arm, it was hard not to think he'd be good at something vaguely athletic. "I have some friends who are regulars here, but they're more Saturday night people than anything else. They mostly come for the ambiance." He paid their bill in cash, putting his putter jauntily over his shoulder. "You'd be surprised the kind of people mini-golf is popular with."

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"Well, I'll just have to see how I do without someone knocking my ball into the lake on the third hole," Taylor chuckled and took her own putter in hand, her other still linked easily around Jack's arm, "You're probably right. I've been out of touch with any real social groups at school. I know my co-workers do the bowling thing though. I generally skip out on that group activity. My boss always drinks too much and then things end up turning awkward quickly."

At the first hole, Taylor dropped her touch on his arm and slipped to the side, gesturing for him to proceed her with a teasing grin, "Why don't you go first?"

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Jack did opt to go first, sighting carefully as he lined up his shot. "You sure you won't think less of me if I bobble?" he asked with a grin. Sure enough, despite Jack's proficiency in hand-to-hand combat, miniature golf was evidently not his thing. A good firm hit from his putter sent the ball through the hole right enough, but it kept ricocheting around the sides of the concrete pentagon that was the green, finally coming to a halt just beneath the foot of the heart-shaped bonsai that was just at the edge of the green. He'd barely kept it on the hole at all. "Ah, well. Your turn."

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Her admiring glance slipped down his shoulders and back as he lined up to take his shot. Once the ball finished zipping around the green, Taylor came up behind him to take his place.

"It would take more than failure at mini golf for me to think less of you." Taylor smiled, although she didn't look up as she lined her shot. Her ball sailed past the hole as well although it had much more to do with a poor aim than escessive strength.

She flashed him a dimpled grin, "It does mean that I can save my back up strategy to distract you at key moments until later on."

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"I'll keep that in mind," Jack teased, doing his own looking as they went. The darkened golf course was no obstacle to his eyes, letting him enjoy the show. He made a successful hit on his second stroke, thankfully, and scooped up the ball as a faint shock of static electricity went through him. "Bet you can't make par in 2," he said with a grin.

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"Hmm," Taylor glanced at the distance from the ball to the hole, and gave him a wicked grin. "Sure, I'll take that bet."

Taylor lined up her shot and gave the ball a solid little tap. It glided smoothly towards the hole before a slight change in the fake turf caused it to wobble away from the cup at the last second. It stopped only an inch or two from the hole and a final tap sent it in. Taylor collected her ball and slipped one arm around his waist as they headed towards the rise that started the next hole. She tilted her face up at him, her expression amused, "Well, I'd say you won-"

Taylor broke off her sentance, turning her head away and towards the second hole. It wasn't difficult to make out the slightly raised voices of two groups of teenagers that appeared to be bickering over who had arrived first.

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Jack sighed, scrubbing his face. "Dang kids," he muttered irritably. "Did you catch what was going on over there?" he asked her, putting his club over his shoulder like a sword. "Or are they just arguing because it's Friday night and they've been drinking?"

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"I couldn't make out much," Taylor admitted as she turned back to him with a dissaproving shake of her head. Whatever else Taylor had been about to say was cut off by three short popping noises that could have been mistaken for a backfiring car. Pain blossomed along Taylors ribs and she stumbled against Jack as the velocity of the bullet slamming into her side almost spun her around.

I would manage to get shot at a game of miniature golf, her brain tried to rationalize as she over-rode the almost overpowering instinct to turn insubstantial at the threat. She'd been shot before. Enough to know that it was, all things considered, a minor enough injury and her supernatural nature would seal the wound up shortly. Taylor pressed a hand quickly to her side, glancing up at Jack, "I'm okay. The guy with the gun?"

Behind them, people were starting to scatter away from the rival gang members, roughly four to one side and three on the other. The leader of the smaller group was the one waving a pistol but the others looked as if they might also be carrying some sort of weapon under their coats. No one else appeared to be injured as the boy had fired vaguely up in the air but he was still waving the gun and things were escalating.

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Jack picked up his club and advanced on the gang members, murder in his eyes. The shooter pointed the gun at him, shouting incoherently, and Jack snarled a single reply. The man fired, the bullet evidently missing Jack from all Taylor could see. Jack swung the club and smashed it down on the man's hand, hearing bones break as the gun hit the astroturf beneath their feet. He kept moving and swung the club again, bringing it down on the man's knee, feeling more bones break as the man shrieked and dropped to the ground in shock from the shattered joint. Jack lifted the club again, his face eerily expressionless, raising it high over his head as he prepared to bring it down with finality onto the ganger's head...and stopped, gazing down at the man. No, the boy.

One of his friends pulled his gun. Jack looked at him, his eyes as flat and cold as his voice. "Put. That. Down." The gun hit the floor. "Sit down. All of you." As they dropped, terror writ large on their faces, Jack turned and headed back to Taylor, humanity returning to his eyes as he hurried to her side. "Someone call 911!" he shouted, holding his hand to her side, holding onto himself as best he could. "Now!"

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Taylor winced at the crunch of bones and blood. Jack's violent side was terrifying to behold. She took a step forward, pulling her hand away from her side as she thought she might have to stop him. Fortunately, for them all, Jack pulled himself back from the brink. Taylor sagged with relief as he came striding back up, and the tips of her bloody fingertips brushed the stone wall next to her hand as she pushed away.

"It wasn't a central enough shot to do any real damage. It's fine," Taylor assured him. "I'm quick to mend and it just knicked me."

Unnoticed, as Taylor's back was to the wall, the smear of blood from her fingertips began trickling down in fresh grooves carved into the low walls surface, slowly painting malevolent sigils dark red.

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Don't look at the blood, Jack thought as he pressed his fingers against the wound in her side. It wasn't easy; it looked good, and he knew how good she tasted. "It'll be all right," he promised her. "They're not going anywhere, and you'll be all right." She was in no shape to notice the hole in the front and back of his shirt, and the broken bones and shock he'd given the shooter meant he was in no shape to notice such things either. "Seen plenty worse than this," he promised her.

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She grinned at him, a flicker of expression not exactly in keeping with the current situation and reached out to touch his chest. Her voice was soft, and meant for his ears only, "I know. We both have."

Taylor was going to try and reassure him further, but that insistant tingling at the nape of her neck drew her attention. There was no reason on earth that her sixth sense should be screaming at her, but it was. Taylor lifted one hand as if to rub her eyes but paused at the blood on her fingertips. She paled, with a look of dawning horror at her hand before she began to glance around for the source of her mystical agitation. Frankly, she never considered looking at Jack for it and eventually her gaze lit on the ivy hidden wall.

"Jack, look," she said slowly, pulling away from his hand to shove the ivy away from the scratch marks. The lines of harsh script were slowly filling, far more than any such small amount should ever have managed to do so. Taylor didn't even bother casting her spells. She could recognize on sight that this was blood magic and it was calling something. Probably something ugly. She brushed her fingertips over the latin words, silently mouthing a few of them as she tried to make out the chicken scratch. "...Not good. I can't stop it."

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Jack drove his fist into the scratch marks with sudden, sharp force, the punch looking hard enough to have broken a man's hand. He seemed unfazed, though, and bit his lip as he did it again. Jack was also intimately familiar with blood magic, as it happened, though he didn't need to dwell on the whys and wherefores of that. "Let's get you out of here," he said, suddenly scooping her up in his strong arms. "Whatever it is may eat the wounded."

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The sudden movement almost startled Taylor out of phase again. She watched the stone wall crack under the punch and blinked, giving Jack a sidelong look that was interrupted when she found herself scooped up abruptly. At least, in all of the chaos, they were going relatively unnoticed by the rather freaked out crowds.

Automatically she put her arms around his neck for balance, and leaned in to him to quietly point out, "Let's hope it comes after me. There's way too many people here to deal with the collateral damage. Maybe there's some empty field we can lead it to? If we get out of here, I can teleport us."

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"There are a couple of vacant warehouses around here," said Jack, not looking inclined to put her down despite the fact that she wasn't as badly hurt as she'd first appeared. "We can hit those up." After a moment's thought, he did set her down, shaken by the spilled blood for his own reasons. "What do you think it is?" he asked. "What did that summon up...and why is it on the dang golf course?!"

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Relieved to be back on her own feet again, Taylor set off towards the back of the course. She knew people would be streaming towards the front gate and the fence at the back should prove little problem to either of them. She wasn't running, but she moved quickly and with purpose against the flow of people, "It's a trap. The whole place is a trap, designed to be set off by the shedding of magic-tainted blood. Not designed for us, I imagine, but it wasn't that well written a spell. The conjugation was all wrong, to start with."

Taylor reached the fence and nodded for Jack to go first while she stepped into the shadow of a few bushes, to start stripping her shirt off quickly. Under the smear of blood on her side, the skin was smooth and un-marked. Standing there in her bra, Taylor began to rip the shirt into smaller strips, knotting the first of them through the links of the fence.

"I really liked this shirt, too," she sighed, before answering the rest of his questions, "I think it's another demon. Probably an enforcer. I'm not sure why the trap was laid here, of all places. How many supernaturals show up at the mini-golf course."

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"I left my costume in my car," Jack muttered to Taylor. "Which I left in my slot at work, because no one's tried to mug me in years." He ran his hand over his jaw. "What kind of firepower are we looking at?" he asked her. "Do we need to call in backup?"

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"Want me to go get it? I can teleport out and back easily enough." Taylor offered, resisting the urge to try and pop her ears against the gathering energies. It wouldn't help, her sixth sense just manifested itself in certain ways. There wasn't any actual pressure on her eardrums but it certainly felt that way, as the veil between dimensions thinned for something big and ugly to cross over.

She finished turning what had once been a very nice (and favorite) shirt into a handful of bloody rags and considered the question before giving a shake of her head, "I don't think its anything we can't handle. It's not a nemesis demon or one of the lords of hell."

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Jack knew Taylor could summon up a costume perfectly well, but with a momentary shrug he was out of his jacket and handing it to her. It was what a gentleman did, dang it. "If you can do it fast enough. I'll keep an eye out here and hit anything with big teeth that shows up." He gave her a quick grin. "I was sure I had you this time, too. You still owe me a distraction."

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"I'm pretty sure that I owe you more than a destraction. You won the bet after all," The flash of her smile dimpled both her cheeks as she traded him the handful of bloody rags for the jacket. She didn't bother to explain that the scent would draw the demon towards Jack, as that seemed self-evident. "I always pay my bets."

"Time me," she teased in response as she slipped into his jacket and held the material closed over her breasts with one hand. She leaned up to press a firm kiss against his mouth before she teleported away. It was certainly an odd sensation to feel someone turn insubstantial against your skin.

It took under ten seconds for Taylor to teleport to the garage and, as locks proved little barrier against her insubstantial hands, getting the bundle out of the trunk and into the void took little effort. Meanwhile, as Jack looked out over the golf course, the air above the bright pink miniature castle began to warp and bubble in odd and wholy unnatural ways. It was certainly less elegant than most dimensional travel that he'd been witness too. Apparently, it really was all in the conjugation of latin verbs.

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Jack took the costume easily from Taylor when she handed it to him, slipping away into the darkness to change as the universe itself warped and shifted in front of them. He was back quickly, having slipped into Avenger's costume and persona like a hand into a glove. "Suggest we hit it hard. Break it now when it's in front of the portal. Do it where the others watching can see."

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Phantom nodded her agreement. She'd changed into her costume once she'd finished having to craw into Jack's trunk. Resolidifying in an enclosed space with that much cloak was never a good idea and she had to be solid to grab his costume. With a little toss, she strewn the rest of the bloody rags over this section of the bushes. "It'll follow the blood scent. You can expect that it will orient this way. It should fool the creature long enough to act."

Once they attacked, of course, all bets were off.

-----------------------

The pink castle would never be the same as reality disgorged a red and warty demon. From the cloven hoof that crushed in its turret to the leathery bat-like wings that lifted it aloft, even a layman would have been able to recognize the hellspawn for what it was. The horned head swung towards the back of the courses and it bellowed, "WHERE IS THE BOY?"

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