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The Beast Within

Chapter Text

That's How People Die in Horror Movies

Roxanne waits in the truck for a good five minutes before she gives up and completes the drive home. This is the first time she and her brother have ever had an argument like this- since they were about ten years old or so, anyway- and she doesn't know what else to do.

"Where's Rob?" Gramps asks when she enters their cabin. He frowns when he sees the look on her face. "Roxanne, what-?"

She grimaces and goes over to collapse on the dilapidated sofa in their living room. "He jumped out of the car when I told him about the Anchorage job," she explains. "He was… he was mad that we talked it over and you agreed to go already. He-" She shakes her head and blinks back tears. "I had no idea how much he resented me for leaving you guys here to go to college. I knew he didn't like it, but I thought..."

Gramps waves off her despair. "Robert will get over it, Roxanne. He's used to being the decision-maker around here. Making the money and deciding how to spend it, taking care of this old man… Once he gets past that bit I'm sure he'll be thrilled to get out of here," the old man says, full of the confidence age brings.

"And you?" Roxanne asks. "Are you sure you're ok leaving here? I know how much this place means to you."

He shrugs. "It's been almost sixty-five years since I settled here in Eagle Village. Time is nigh to move on," he replies, chuckling. "And besides- where you two are, that's home for me."

Roxanne gives him a slightly watery smile. "Thanks, Gramps," she whispers.

He waves off her thanks and leaves her to her own devices- namely, cooking dinner.

It's autumn, which means the sun sets early here in Alaska. It's well towards dark by the time dinner is ready and the table is set.

And Robert still isn't back yet.

"I'm going to go look for Rob," Roxanne announces. "He got out at the top of the road, so he shouldn't be far."

Gramps looks uneasy.

"What?" she demands tartly. She mentally braces herself to hear some sort of comment about her feminine self traipsing around the woods at dusk.

"Something doesn't feel right," the old man mutters.

Roxanne rolls her eyes. "I'll take the shotgun, then."

She loads the old twelve gauge with a couple shells and stuffs a few in her pocket, just to be safe. She's a cautious woman- when she's thinking clearly, at least. She has to admit that in the heat of the moment she tends to act rather rashly.

Darkness is coming on fast by time she steps outside, but Roxanne can see just fine by the light of the stars and crescent moon. A perk of her mutation is excellent night vision.

Her steps are almost silent as she heads back to where Robert took off on her, another feral trait. She finds his trail easily in the snow and begins to follow it.

Moving through the forest like this is second nature to Roxanne. She grew up in these woods, learning from Gramps how to channel her feral instincts in ways that weren't destructive, the way their kind tended to be.

Robert seemed to think that everything came effortlessly to her, that it was easy for her to leave him and Gramps behind for New York. He had no idea how homesick she felt, so strongly that at times she wanted to just quit college and come back to them. No idea how much she struggled, a feral mutant in an oppressively big city, cut off from nature and surrounded by too many people. How out of place she felt, a girl with a white face who grew up with Inuit traditions. A mutant, surrounded by humans.

Apparently she shouldn't have hidden her true feelings from him that way. Perhaps then they wouldn't be at this pass now...

Stop ruminating and focus, she tells herself sternly, bringing the shotgun into a low ready position.

The forest at night is no place to daydream.

The deeper into the darkening woods Roxanne goes, the more wary she becomes. Her body begins to scream at her, louder and louder with every step she takes, to turn around and run back home.

She sets her teeth and pushes through it, until-

Oh, God.

The scent of blood makes the very breath choke in her throat. The air is thick with it, a miasma that hangs in the air and threatens to suffocate her.

Roxanne steels herself, brings the shotgun to a high-ready position, and slinks forward to find what looks like a scene from a horror movie.

Blood, blood everywhere in the heavily disturbed snow, the vivid red painful to the eye even in the gathering darkness. It wouldn't take a medical professional to realize that the person whose blood this is has to be dead. The sheer volume can mean nothing else.

"No-" she gasps.

Roxanne looks around desperately, hoping against hope for some sign that this blood does not belong to her brother. That it belongs to some sort of animal that's been savaged by another. Not Robert, not Robert-

But then she spies the scraps of his jacket among the gore. And worse- one of his boots.

The sound she makes when she realizes her brother's dismembered foot is still in his boot is half-scream, and half-sob. She collapses to her knees in the snow as the tears sting her eyes, creating freezing trails down her cheeks.

"No," she moans, rocking back and forth. "No no no-"

But it doesn't take her long to realize that this is not the time and place to have a nervous breakdown. Whatever- be it man or beast- killed Robert may still be close by and decide that it wants dessert.

Her burst of good sense happens at a very fortuitous moment.

The smell hits her just as Roxanne gathers herself and rises to her feet, gun in hand. The stench of something foul and rotten carries to her even over the scent of her brother's blood. She quietens her sobs enough to hear the hoarse breathing of a large animal approaching, its footsteps crunching in the snow. It chuffs and wheezes softly in the silence.

She can't see much at this distance in the dark, but she can make out enough to see that this creature is white and massive- and definitely larger than any polar bear she's ever heard of.

Not a bear, no. But what exactly is it, then?

Roxanne shakes off the thought as unimportant at this juncture, especially considering that the creature has stopped moving and is now staring at her from several yards away. She can't see anything beyond its general size and color.

And also the blood red glitter of its eyes in the dark, staring right at her.

Instinctively, she bares her fangs at the thing, a snarl rising in her throat.

It's not a smart move, she'll admit.

The creature growls, takes a step forward-

Oh shit.

Roxanne raises the shotgun up to her shoulder before the creature can take another step. The thing- monster, whatever- must understand what a firearm is, because it turns its head to dodge just as she gets a shot off.

It howls in fury and pain as the shell hits it in the neck- without its evasion she would've gotten it right between the eyes. The creature's agony increases when Roxanne shoots it again, this time in the shoulder as it turns in earnest to flee.

Should she feel bad about shooting an animal as it tries to run away? In any other situation she would say yes, but this isn't other situations. This is a girl trying to get vengeance for her brother, and there is no time for such notions as fair play.

Especially when the damn thing was looking at her like she was its next snack.

Rather than fumbling with reloading the shotgun, Roxanne takes off. She runs like the wind back home to the cabin without looking back once. She doesn't know if the creature is following her, but she sure as hell isn't going to risk tripping on a tree branch to check. That's how people die in horror movies.

She slams the door behind her and locks the deadbolt in place.

And then she sinks to the floor and begins to cry in earnest, finally giving in to her despair and terror in the safety of her home.

Her brother died angry with her, and now she'll never be able to make it right. It's her fault, her fault that he took off into the woods to get away from her like that, easy prey for whatever the hell that monster was.

"Roxanne? What-?"

"I'm sorry, Gramps," she whispers. "I'm so sorry."