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Let Me Introduce Myself

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"I earned my place, just like the rest of ya."

Fury circulates hot and liquid through Akinbode's veins, warming his skin, but he doesn't let it show. He's been a fool, thinking the men accepted him as one of them, that it didn't matter none Rogers was gone. That he proved his worth as a fighter, proved his dedication. But white men, it seems, are all the same, and all they see is the surface.

None of them ever look further than skin deep.

The words he had hurled at them still echo in his ears as he prepares to fight. Ignoring the sticks of wood mockingly thrown to his feet, his own fists will have to do against cold steel. White men never follow none of their rules. But this one will regret ever starting a fight with him.

He raises his hands, places them in position and slowly breathes out. Usually he has more time to do this, to make sure he doesn't make a mistake that could cost him his sanity at best and his life at worst. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do; he pushes the words out under his breath with an effort of will. Marinette Bwa Chech, he calls her. Help me win this fight.

The cold sweat that breaks all over him is to be expected. He grits his teeth and resists the urge to shudder. His head feels too large and too small at the same time, like a leather belt pulled to twice its original length and then made to fit into a tight case. But he is still able to think, and that means his call had been answered. He closes his eyes only for a second, but when he opens them the world is tinted red. Somewhere in the distance an owl screeches, and he almost smiles. Bring it, white boy. Anytime now...

Before either one of them can attack, a figure on a horseback disturbs their circle. Akinbode recognizes Simcoe immediately. The others all turn to the newcomer and miss the fire flaring unnaturally bright, a foolproof sign of a Loa present.

Simcoe reveals he is to be their new commander and immediately a quarrel starts. Akinbode listens, but he is distracted, all too aware of the quiet humming at the back of his thoughts. The red's trying to wash his focus away and it will succeed if he just lets go for a moment... Akinbode shakes his head and forces himself to breathe through it. One, two, three – hold- one, two, three... the steady rhythm calms him. Whispering thanks and apologies, he holds on to that calm while the red recedes and the humming slowly dwindles to silence. Then he catches the last words of the dispute.

"Let's line up and fall in."

Ain't no way that will end well, Akinbode thinks. Sure enough, the men react predictably: fidgeting and readying their guns. Simcoe is a skilled fighter, but no one can hold his own against twenty something men with guns. Well – no one human. What's surprising is Simcoe's invitation for them to do their best to kill him. Once the words are out of his mouth, Akinbode shuffles back a little. Only two kinds of people invite others to try to kill them when outnumbered: Fools and those who can back their words up. Simcoe is no fool, and he had even offered them a plausible excuse to avoid charges.

Akinbode is proved right the next minute. Simcoe deals with his attacker effortlessly, first blocking his lunge and dislocating his shoulder, then elbowing him hard in the face – twice. He tops it off by plucking the knife from his opponent's unresisting hand when he collapses to his knees, and cutting off a part of his scalp. Akinbode knew Simcoe had a reputation, but to destroy a man so thoroughly without breaking a sweat is something else entirely, especially considering Akinbode knows the Ranger's strength personally.

He's almost tempted to let the man shoot Simcoe, just to see if he bleeds, but his instinct takes over. The "No!" is ripped from his throat as soon as he sees him reaching for the pistol. Might be even better this way, gratitude of a commander is nothing to scoff at. Simcoe shoots the man without a flinch, and for a moment Akinbode could swear he feels something. An uneasy tingling he usually gets around others who are in the know. He isn't one to ignore his instincts and vows to keep an eye on their new captain. Many times the true nature of people can only be seen over time.

He doesn't have to wait that long, in the end. Simcoe orders them again, and as the men drag themselves to stand in two neat lines, Akinbode takes his place on the captain's right. He sneaks a glance at Simcoe and finally sees it.

Captain Simcoe's eyes turn black.