Rated T for strong language and sexual references

How High

1. Distractions

The fast food joint was nearly empty when Vesper Adams stalked in to place her order, her partner, Dalia Smith, trailing behind. A few scantily clad teenage girls were gathered at a back table, their shrill voices slicing through the otherwise silent restaurant. Closer to the counter, a man who's slightly drunken thoughts were loud and vulgar enough to make Vesper wince inwardly sat staring hungrily in the young girls' direction. The lack of customers was unsurprising considering the ungodly hour of the morning and the general shabbiness that had a habit of destroying people's appetite.

Vesper didn't want to be there anymore than anyone else. Not only did the entire place smell like something had died in it, but even the restaurant's name seemed to be aimed to induce vomiting. What kind of self-respecting businessman names his restaurant the Green Burrito? The only reason she was there was that Dalia seemed to have to eat her body weight in food everyday and had dragged her to the closest restaurant as soon as the small infestation of harpies inhabiting a warehouse up the street had been properly shot.

A small bite mark on her hand was all she'd received from the short gunfight with the disgusting, winged monsters, but it was enough to put Vesper in a mood. She hadn't been injured in years, and yet tonight she'd managed to get scratched by a stupid harpy. She was one of the best hunters, hell she was probably the best, a harpy shouldn't even have had time to think of biting her.

It was the damn Agency's fault, distracting her right before she was about to go out on a call. They had politely informed her that they were giving her a new partner, but what they had really meant is that they were dumping another fucking newbie that couldn't seem to follow the rules onto her and expecting her to set it straight. She had just managed to train the last one how she wanted her and now she was going to have to start all over.

It didn't help that the newbie also happened to be an empath. The kid was probably going to have a headache the first couple weeks being around her, feeling everything she felt, and end up being even more of a liability than Dalia had been when she had started out. That was all she knew about her new partner and that was how she wanted to keep it until she absolutely had to accept it.

She realized that her own power could be a hazard sometimes, distracting her when she needed to focus, but she couldn't even imagine knowing what everyone around you was feeling. Vesper knew how fucking impossible it was just to get used to hearing what everyone within a ten-foot radius was thinking. Like the idiot staring at those girls, thinking about getting his hands up their short skirts or the woman behind the counter thinking about how she hated people who took forever to order.

Vesper's mind snapped back to the present and she realized that Dalia was obediently waiting for permission to order, glancing back and forth between the menu and Vesper. She sighed. Just when she'd gotten this partner how she wanted it, the Agency had to go and toss her another one.

Vesper waved her hand at Dalia dismissively before stomping over to a booth as far from the other customers as possible. The cheap green vinyl stuck to her back and legs, but she leaned against it heavily anyway, already eager to be back in her crappy, but reasonably safe apartment so that she could sleep. She wasn't even twenty-one years old yet and part of her felt like she should be retiring.

Peeling her black tank top off her skin, she waved it a little, trying to coax some cool air in, but failing. The Green Burrito was too cheap a place for air-conditioning and since it was the dead of summer the temperature was scalding even though it was the middle of the night. That, combined with the increasingly nasty thoughts of the pedophile watching those girls made Vesper want to leave as soon as possible. Or give him a glance of the Glock she had holstered on her thigh.

She almost swallowed her tongue when Dalia came back to their table with a tray stacked so full of fake Mexican cuisine that she could have fed a small army. The tall, skinny girl plopped the food down and dug in immediately while Vesper sat staring. It never ceased to amaze her how much the bony blonde girl could shovel down in a small amount of time but she managed to nip a taco off the mound without getting her fingers bitten off and ate it slowly, her eyes flickering around.

The man was getting tired of just watching and was bracing himself to stand and approach the girls. Vesper considered for a moment, wondering if he might be a satyr, but then put it out of her head, crushing his thoughts until they were no longer audible. The contents of his mind could belong to a satyr, but the tone was all wrong and she could clearly see from here that his ears were perfectly round not pointed.

Fifteen minutes later Dalia had managed to devour the entire tray of food and was politely cleaning up, dropping their trash in the waste bin. Vesper stood, fighting off exhaustion, and began striding over to leave, but was abruptly stopped by a hand on her elbow. She wasn't surprised, she'd heard the man coming, but she hadn't expected him to have the nerve to actually grab her.

She stared up at his dark, dull eyes for a few seconds before quickly twisting her arm out of his grip and snatching two of his fingers at the same time. His slow, drunk reflexes were still trying to figure out he was no longer holding on to her.

"People who touch me get their fingers broken," Vesper hissed quietly, sending him a glare that could have melted iron, but he was too intoxicated to notice.

Now to most people Vesper may have looked weak, being only 5'1" and very petite, but what they didn't know was that almost all of her body weight was muscle and she could probably take a man two feet taller than her with the proper artillery of weapons. She was in no way frightened of the moron that had been latched onto her arm.

"Apologize and maybe you'll be able to save the hand."

The man was stupid and drunk enough not to recognize her and started talking, "Come on, dollface, I'll get you a drink. There's a bar just down the street."

Vesper tensed, "What did you just call me?"

She heard Dalia's intake of breath and thoughts of, oh, great, but ignored her. Dollface. Vesper hated it. Everyone always expected her to be a nice, polite little girl just because she was cursed with large eyes, a cherry mouth, and a 'cute little button nose'. Dollface. The only doll she was anywhere close to being like was the kind that was possessed and went on rampant killing sprees.

The idiot just kept on talking, getting himself in deeper and deeper shit without even realizing it, "I think you could do with a drink, doll. Let me get you one."

Her hand tightened on his fingers, jerking them back and bringing him to his knees with a loud yelp. The girls in the back stopped talking and looked up to see what all the commotion was, one of them getting unsteadily to her stilleto-ed feet.

Vesper's tone was icy when she released his hand, "You're lucky you have witnesses."

The man cradled his fingers gingerly against his chest, looking up at her angrily, thinking of bringing her in line with a couple of blows. Attack me damn it, give me a reason to kick your ass, Vesper thought threateningly, glaring at him darkly before spinning to leave the shitty restaurant. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Dalia bend down over the man.

"That was Vesper Adams. If I were you I would sleep lightly from now on," Dalia whispered to him, before smiling brightly and following her partner out. Vesper distinctly heard the man's initial thought of oh, shit before the door swung shut behind her, blocking out his mental racket.

Outside the city was dark and abandoned, although the skyscrapers downtown were well lit and busy. Not many of the streetlights worked and most of the buildings were boarded up and empty. In the Outskirts, where Vesper and Dalia were moving along the littered sidewalks, not many people dared to be on the streets at night, not since the myths had started showing up.

Vesper was too young to remember a time when the myth monsters hadn't been plaguing the city or to even bother wondering what had caused them to suddenly start appearing everywhere. The city of Weirlan had suddenly been over-run with them about thirty years ago and oddly enough it seemed that the myth creatures seemed to prefer it within the city limits. To her they were a normal part of life; a hindrance, but normal nonetheless. Her job, quite simply, was to exterminate those that got in the way.

And it would have been simple too, if the damn government hadn't taken it upon itself to name the myths an endangered species. An endangered species. She wasn't allowed to kill them legally because there weren't enough of them. Fucking politics. And even worse killing the 'sentient' ones who actually had the mental capabilities to think and speak was considered murder. It didn't matter that they didn't seem to have a conscience to go with their 'intelligence', the government protected them anyway.

It all added up to make her job harder than necessary, but she honestly couldn't complain. She liked the challenge and she wasn't going to deny that she loved the adrenaline rush. Breaking the law was just a bonus.

The Agency, a not-so-secret organization that took care of the myth problem in a semi-legal manner, had noticed this attitude and recruited her to be one of their 'hunters'. She'd only been seventeen when one of their senior officers had came across her gutting a banshee that had gotten on her nerves and decided to ask her if she did that a lot. Vesper had finished what she was doing and then had politely told him to fuck off, but he wasn't one to be deterred so she ended up being thrust into a political battle that she had no interest in until someone told her that she would get to kill stuff. They had taught her the rules and the regulations, but she had told them to stuff it and had quickly become one of the best myth hunters in the city.

Even now, she didn't understand why they kept giving her these new hunters to train; it wasn't like she was the most obedient of the Agency's employees. Vesper wasn't even subtly disobedient; if she didn't like a guideline she flaunted that fact. She guessed that it was because she always got the job done and she rarely caused a lot of collateral damage. As long as the government didn't complain, the rules remained…flexible.

The only problem with her job was that she didn't get paid much—just enough to scrape up rent for her apartment and to fill her refrigerator. Vesper paused for a second outside of her apartment complex, waving Dalia, who lived on the next block in a similar building, on. A few crappy cars sat outside in the faded parking spots. Some of them had been parked there so long without moving that Vesper wondered if their owners were just trying to grow rust.

But not her baby. The shiny, midnight blue '67 Chevy Impala looked like a king among the other cars, snug in its parking space. Vesper made her way past it, running her hand across the smooth paint and smiling at her little indulgence. She loved her car and every spare penny she'd ever earned had gone into it. She worried about it often because she didn't exactly live in an upscale neighborhood and she knew that she wasn't the only one who wanted a car that nice.

Vesper's hand slipped off the Impala and she closed the distance to the chipped wooden door of the apartment building, glancing at the near dead shrubbery that the landlord had attempted to grow this year. She made sure to touch the doorknob with as little skin as possible as she opened it, then stomped up the stairs to her rooms on the second of the six grimy floors. The stairs were wooden, chipped, and she was careful to avoid the ones that she knew to be weak, stopping on the landing to kick a discarded needle out of her way in disgust, listening to it clink as it rolled down the steps.

The walls didn't have a solid color; just different layers of torn wallpaper that covered sections of the dark hall and peeled a little, some spots rippling because they had gotten wet. Her door didn't look any different from the others; wood, shabby, but she was almost positive that the inside of her apartment was cleaner than anywhere else in the building. She wasn't a neat freak or anything, Vesper was actually pretty much the opposite, but she wasn't a rat. She didn't want to have the impulse to throw up when she woke up in the morning and looked around.

She fumbled with her keys, eager to get inside and sleep, but stopped suddenly, a tingling feeling running up the back of her neck. Someone was watching. Her head whipped around, her hand automatically going to the gun holstered on her thigh, but the hallway was as empty as it had been a moment ago. All the doors were closed and she couldn't hear any minds anywhere close. Vesper shrugged her shoulders and went back to shoving her key into the dead bolt on her apartment door, muttering under her breath about being overworked.

Inside the apartment was dark, stuffy and Vesper immediately threw open the window in her bedroom to attempt to coax in a non-existent breeze that might cool it down a little. Like the restaurant, her apartment was without air-conditioning, and tonight seemed to be one of the hottest so far this summer. She locked the door behind her, turned the light on, then maneuvered effortlessly around the coffee table that sat in front of the ratty couch to reach the counter separating the living room area from the kitchen, before grabbing a beer out of the refrigerator and throwing herself into a chair. It didn't matter that she wouldn't be twenty-one until next week; she had friends who were and they didn't mind providing her with alcohol.

She was still pissed about being bitten earlier and Vesper knew she wouldn't be able to sleep until she calmed down, so she sat, drinking and staring at the red-painted walls, thinking about the fight. From the moment that she and Dalia had entered the warehouse, guns blazing, Vesper had been distracted and she knew, even though she didn't want to admit it, that her new partner wasn't the only reason she hadn't been able to concentrate.

This morning, before she had left for work, she'd picked up a letter from her mail cubby that had surprised her, then made her fists bunch in anger. Her brother was coming to visit her. Pace Adams had written a page worth of crap and sarcastic humor that had made her want to backhand him right then and there, talking about his work at the car shop and his new hooker girlfriend that he was bringing along when he came to bother her shamelessly. Vesper's fingers tightened around the glass bottle in her hand as she thought about it. Pace hadn't spoken to her for over a year and all of a sudden he had decided that it was time to pay his forgotten sister a visit? She couldn't help but wonder what his hidden motive was. He probably needed money.

And yet it hadn't even been the unwanted letter that had pulled her mind so far away from the harpy that had swooped down at her from behind while Vesper had been firing at another. What really had her head tied in a knot was the single red rose petal that had been sitting inches from her nose, lying on the white pillow case like a spot of blood when she had woken up that morning. Vesper had stared at it for a moment before shooting upright and grabbing the Glock from the table beside her bed, checking her bedroom for the invader. She couldn't deny that the fact that someone had slipped into her apartment while she had been sleeping and placed a completely mysterious rose petal by her face had her slightly nervous. Even more than nervous though it had her angry. If this was someone's idea of a joke then she was going to punch that someone until they were properly unconscious.

Vesper sighed and tossed the bottle into the trash can, forcing herself up out of the chair. She was too tired to try and figure out who the hell had snuck into her apartment. Instead she dragged herself to her bedroom and promptly stripped down to her underwear, placing her gun on the bedside table and immediately feeling better without the excess clothes. The heat no longer pelted her uncomfortably, so she laid down and tucked herself under the thin cotton sheet, wondering one last time about who could have done something as completely random as putting a rose petal on her pillow before passing quickly into darkness.