A wall hanging crashed to the floor, the tough plasglass cover splintering.
As everyone else turned toward the sound, Brenna squeezed his hand. The warning worked. He pulled his rage under control, but it was an uncertain control at best. "When did you remember about the van?"
"That smirk." She almost spit out the words. "It made me want to kill and then I knew why."
Hawke kicked aside a piece of debris on the floor - a large splinter from the door. "No wonder you blocked it out. One of us served you up to die." His eyes had gone pure wolf.
"Yes." Her tone softened, grew sad. "He killed Tim, tried to kill Drew, gave me up...and for what? Money."
"I'll find out what he knows." Hawke glanced at Judd. "Can you help?"
He thought of how Dieter's heart had felt in his hands, so slick, so crushable. "Give me a week. I'd kill him right now."
"It'll take him longer than that to heal the damage Brenna tells me she did." Lara's tone was without its normal gentleness. "I've got to go stitch him up now."
Hawke went with Lara. Judd looked at Drew and Riley. "Give us a few minutes."
Both men left after a short, tense silence. Judd took Brenna into her room and closed the door. She stood with her back to it as he leaned over her, palms braced on either side of her head. "You're okay." Not a question, because even bruised, she was standing strong.
"You're not." She took a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at his jaw and he realized he was bleeding from his ear canal again. Worry laid another bruise in her eyes, turning the areola of blue almost indigo. "You can't wait much longer."
Taking it from her, he finished the task and shoved the cloth into his jeans pocket. "You didn't need my help."
She smiled, teeth sharp. "I knew you'd come. That's why I fought so hard. I knew that by the time I got tired, you'd be there." Her smile faded. "Go, calm down. I'm okay."
He left her and it was the hardest thing he'd ever done. The urge to crush out Dieter's life beat in him with every pulse of his own heart, a pounding echo that knew nothing of logic or sense. It just wanted justice. In his current state, he couldn't even act on his decision to break Silence. He was too unbalanced.
Walking out into the snowy spread of the inner perimeter, he attempted to work off some of his energy by going through a number of strictly choreographed hand-to-hand combat moves. He had to wipe more blood from his nose before he began. The color was close to black - the countdown was reaching the final stages.
When Tai materialized out of the forest an hour into his session, he had to force himself not to react with unwarranted aggression. His control was still fragmented, his rage to kill a trapped beast inside him. "What are you doing here?"
"I was heading back to the den after a run. Been out since this morning." He thrust a hand through his hair. "I don't suppose you could teach me some of what you were doing."
"It requires discipline," he replied, realizing Tai had no awareness of the chaos that had ruled the den less than an hour ago. For some reason, that knowledge broke through his anger. "You can't fight instinctively - you need to think before you react."
Tai put his hands into his pockets, bunching up his shoulders. "You think I can't do it?"
"I think you'd be going against your nature, but that's not a bad thing. It'll teach you to focus and channel the abilities you already have."
Tai's grin was young, cocky. "Yeah, I'm not too bad, huh? I got in a few shots with you and you're a lieutenant."
The smile faded and Tai took his hands out of his pockets. "Thanks for not ratting me out to anyone. About going clawed, I mean."
Judd remembered Lara's advice. He just listened.
"I got frustrated and lost it," Tai admitted. "I apologize."
"Fine." Judd jerked his head. "If you want to learn something, follow me."
Tai came to stand beside him. "What do I do?"
"Think. Stand in place in this position." He showed the position. "And think about what your body is capable of, what will push it to the limit, what won't. To use a tool effectively, you must first know its capabilities."
Tai took a deep breath. "My body as a tool? Okay, I get it. I think."
Oddly, teaching Tai discipline brought Judd's own darkness under almost total control. By the time Brenna found him a few hours later, as the trailing edges of the day faded into night, he was thinking relatively clearly.
"I'm sorry," she said after Tai left, pulling her thick coat tighter around her body. "I needed to be with you. Stupid after I acted so strong and unaffected by the attack. I should go - our being close will hurt you."
"Never be sorry for coming to me." Picking up his discarded jacket, he shrugged into it. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
She nodded, lower lip trembling for an instant before she got it under control. "I'm such a baby. I was fine as long as I was cleaning up, but as soon as I stopped, I got so angry. Almost as if I was picking up everyone else's anger, too."
He matched her smaller strides as they walked, choosing to focus on the lighter aspect of her comment - they'd discuss the other later. "You might be a baby, but you're mine. And I like babysitting."
Her laugh was surprised. "Very funny. Anyone else saying that would be dodging claws right now."
He thought back to D'Arn and Sing-Liu's interaction the day of the war games. Finally, he grasped what had seemed so puzzling then. But the similarity was only on the surface. He and Brenna were different in one crucial respect, a difference they had both gone to great lengths to avoid discussing - the lack of a mating bond between them.