Those sharp talons cut through leather-synth and flesh without effort, but Judd didn't give the boy a chance to cause him any real injury. Pressing down on a very specific pressure point in Tai's neck, he slammed his erstwhile opponent into unconsciousness. Only when the changeling was completely out did he release his hold. Tai slumped down into a seated position, head hanging over his chest.
"You're not supposed to use Psy powers," a husky female voice said from the doorway.
He had no need to turn to identify her but did so anyway. Extraordinary brown eyes in a fine-boned face topped by a choppily cut cap of blonde hair. Those eyes had been normal and that hair hadn't been short before Brenna had been abducted. By a killer. By a Psy.
"I don't need to use my abilities to deal with little boys."
Brenna walked to stand beside him, her head just reaching his breastbone. He had never realized how small she was until he'd seen her after the rescue. Lying in that bed, scarcely breathing, her energy had been contracted into a ball so tight, he hadn't been sure she was still alive. But her size meant nothing. Brenna Shane Kincaid, he had learned, had a will of pure, undiluted iron.
"That's the fourth time this week you've been in a fight." Her hand rose and he had to stop himself from jerking away. Touch was a changeling thing - the wolves indulged in it constantly and without thought. For a Psy it was an alien concept, something that could ultimately foster a dangerous loss of control. But Brenna had been broken by an evil spawned of his own race. If she needed touch, so be it.
Faint imprints of heat on his cheek. "You'll have a bruise. Come on, let me put something on it."
"Why aren't you with Sascha?" Another renegade Psy, but a healer not a killer. Judd was the one who had blood on his hands. "I thought you had a session with her at eight p.m." It was now five past the hour.
Those stroking fingers slid to linger on his jaw before dropping off. Her lashes lifted. And revealed the change that had taken hold five days after her rescue. Eyes that had once been dark brown were now a mix he'd never seen on any sentient being - human, changeling, or Psy. Brenna's pupils were pure black, but surrounding those dots of night were bursts of arctic blue, vivid and spiking. They jagged out into the dark brown of the iris, giving her eyes a shattered look.
"It's over," she said.
"What is?" He heard Tai moan but ignored it. The boy was no threat - the only reason Judd had allowed him to land any of his punches was because he understood the way wolf society worked. Being beaten in a fight was bad, but not as bad as being beaten without putting up a solid resistance.
Tai's feelings made no difference to Judd. He had no intention of assimilating into the changeling world. But his niece and nephew, Marlee and Toby, also had to survive in the network of underground tunnels that was the SnowDancer den, and his enemies might become theirs. So he hadn't humiliated the boy by ending the fight before it began.
"Is he going to be alright?" Brenna asked, when Tai moaned a second time.
"Give him a minute or two."
Glancing back at him, she sucked in a breath. "You're bleeding!"
He stepped away before she could touch his shredded forearms. "It's nothing serious." And it wasn't. As a child he had been subjected to the most excruciating pain and then been taught to block it. A good Psy felt nothing. A good Arrow felt even less.
It made it so much easier to kill people.
"Tai went clawed." Brenna's face was furious as she glared down at the male slumped against the wall. "Wait till Hawke hears - "
"He won't hear. Because you won't tell him." Judd didn't need protecting. If Hawke had known what Judd truly was, what he had done, what he had become, the SnowDancer alpha would have taken him out at their first meeting. "Explain your comment about Sascha."
Brenna scowled but didn't press him about the scratches on his arm. "No more healing sessions. I'm done."
He knew how badly she'd been brutalized. "You have to continue."
"No." A short, sharp, and very final word. "I don't want anyone in my head again. Ever. Sascha can't get in anyway."
"That makes no sense." Sascha had the rare gift of being able to speak as easily to changeling minds as to Psy. "You don't have the capacity to block her."
"I do now - something's changed."
Tai coughed to full wakefulness and they both turned to watch him as he used the wall to drag himself upright. Blinking several times after getting vertical, he lifted a hand to his cheek. "Christ, my face feels like a truck ran into it."
Brenna's eyes narrowed. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"
"I - "
"Save it. Why did you come after Judd?"
"Brenna, this is none of your concern." Judd could feel blood drying on his skin, the cells already clotting. "Tai and I have come to an understanding." He looked the other male in the eye.
Tai's jaw set, but he nodded. "We're square."
And their relative status in the pack's hierarchy had been clarified beyond any shadow of a doubt - if Judd's rank hadn't already been higher, he'd now be dominant to the wolf.
Shoving a hand through his hair, Tai turned to Brenna. "Can I talk to you about - "
"No." She cut him off with a wave of her hand. "I don't want to go with you to your college dance. You're too young and too idiotic."
Tai swallowed. "How did you know what I was going to say?"
"Maybe I'm Psy." A dark answer. "That's the rumor going around, isn't it?"
Streaks of red appeared on Tai's cheekbones. "I told them they were talking shit."