Posted by: Aliddotia | June 2, 2013

Suppose (oWoD)

The line between Ryoki and Dream-Feather-Paw was not a firm one.  Ryoki was the creature drowning in love, choked by the chains of adoration; oh, Dream-Feather-Paw still loved, still adored, but he could at least look down on it with the dispassion of the disinterested observer, at least realize, with a wry smile, how very screwed he was in this.

But there was work to do.  Dream-Feather-Paw always worked.  He gazed down at the two men – boys, really, and he could recognize that – in the cheap hotel bed, and then turned away.  One of those bodies was his own, or at least was Ryoki’s, chained to the other by the slim white line of an iPod earbud.  Cunning Fool slumbered on the other end, lulled to sleep by nature sounds on the iPod.  Ryoki had offered, when Cunning Fool had been unable to sleep.  And then his nearness had kept Ryoki from sleep until exhaustion had claimed him.

I’m a goddamn idiot.

Dream-Feather-Paw let it all go, let it drift behind him.  The world of the unconscious, the land that existed between minds, between dreams, came to different people in different ways.  For him, it had always been standing on a street, or in a river, and letting the flow of traffic or water, whichever, carry him to a place where everything flowed together.  Water, traffic, cars, people across a busy intersection – it varied, really, once it had even been Tokyo – but what mattered was that people flowed in all directions.  Minds, really.  Dreams.  They pulsed to him in different ways, always moving, all at different speeds, all glowing at different wavelengths, beckoning, welcoming.

He had earned the name Dream-Feather-Paw when he had stepped so subtlely, so delicately into the dream of one of the Ancient Ones that none had detected him entering, or leaving.  He stepped into dreams as lightly as a feather settling on the surface of water, or so they had said.

Cunning Fool’s dreams tempted him most nights he came to this place, and he had spent several nights crouching outside those dreams, touching them so gently, so delicately, that he had not entered them but merely had peered inside.  They were filled with a time long gone, with White Howlers and blinded Garou and roaring black horse trains, belching smoke into a perfect sky, and kai-otes singing to the sky in mournful howls.  Loneliness, too, but also wariness.  He wanted no one close.  Dream-Feather-Paw wasn’t so sure he could even enter Cunning Fool’s dreams.  Cunning Fool wanted no one to see into his mind, nor understand him, least of all someone like Dream-Feather-Paw.  He feared others.

There was no time for that tonight.  Dream-Feather-Paw skimmed along the surface, letting the scent he had gained earlier guide him.  Cunning Fool had played his part well – had born back to the hotel room a tube of lipstick.  It had touched the Fianna’s lips.  It was enough.  It would have to be enough.

There – her dreams like a jewel, delicate and hopeful.  Dream-Feather-Paw extended his mind and brushed them lightly, his touch as tender as a lover’s.

Attraction, of course – she had seen Cunning Fool earlier, and had thrilled to him.  That wasn’t much of a surprise.  Hope.  For the one known as the Tearsweaver, the girl had much hope for the future.  She aspired to be known across the country, maybe even the world one day, for her songs.  But little else… nothing to connect her to what Dream-Feather-Paw knew was coming.  So he made an image and pushed it into her dreams, again as gently and subtlely as he could – blackness first, just the idea of utter blackness, utter negation.  Dancing bodies around a fire.  Destruction.  The Wyrm –

The dream shattered, Dream-Feather-Paw shoved away with enough force and violence that he almost awoke himself.  The girl had awakened.  Had he created a nightmare?  He floated there for a moment, troubled.

You two are meant to be, Cunning Fool, though you don’t know it yet.  I’ve seen it.  You two are to spend long years together, to bring each other joy and happiness.  I want nothing more… I want you to find her, to seek solace in her, before I leave.  Then at least, I can return to my homeland knowing you will be happy.  Then at least, I can return and do my penance in peace…

A sharp rapping at the window woke Ryoki.  He started up, the earbud from his iPod tumbling from his ear.  Cunning Fool stepped out of the shower, only a towel wrapped loosely around his waist, and gave Ryoki a defensive, almost condescending smirk; he opened the window.  Corvina fluttered in, fixing them each with a black, beady eye in turn.

“You’re too late,” she announced, fluffing her feathers, growing to half her size again.  “The girl has gone to a tower by the water’s edge.  There’s a panther inside, they say, that has been touched by the Wyrm.  All I know is, I would not set foot in that tower for my life.”

Posted by: Aliddotia | May 28, 2013

One Moment’s Weakness (WoD)

“Well?” Pence demanded tersely, twitching and staring at Clover from where he stood off to the side of the tub.  “Can you use him?”

Clover ignored him, for several reasons.  First was, of course, that it pissed him off so much.  Master mages of the Consilium or whatever the fuck weren’t used to being ignored, especially not by common strippers in off the street.  She knew Pence well enough after a week of his company to know every detail about his worthless life, his shallow ambitions, his hollow emotions, and she was already thoroughly bored by him.  Only two things about him entertained her:  his fits of pique and his unhealthy obsession with creating a “homunculus.”  The first was easy enough to trigger, and the second was her entire purpose here.

The other reason she ignored him was her interest in the corpse.  He had laid the corpse, fresh from the morgue bodybag and all, in the shallow bathtub he had prepared behind a false wall leading off of his Sanctum’s library.  Not really an auspicious place, even with the Alchemical runes she had etched along the walls and the tub, but it would work.  A week of his attempts to woo her, to pour through her brain like a man sifting for gold, of his aimless flattery and increasing desperation, had all led to this attempt.  Clover felt her lush lips curve into a sensual smile.  She couldn’t wait for the Pandorans to erupt from this corpse and tear Pence apart.

She’d forgotten how long she had walked this Earth – not on a Pilgrimage, as some fools did, but in search only of ways to increase her own power, ways to bolster her chance to survival – and for most of that time, she had been Centimanti.  She walked the Path of Flux, harnessing the power of the instability that caused each dance of the flame within her, the power of chaos in the world itself.  If reality was truly ruled by a set of mathematical rules and principles, then even those equation-like rules were toppled by entropy; the bolt of lightning out of a clear sky had far more power than the wind and heat that birthed it, destroying whatever it touched and setting off wildfires that raged for weeks afterward.  Clover was fascinated by chaos.

She had reproduced before – several times actually, all Pandorans.  She could even control Pandorans to some degree, though she had not bothered to control her “progeny,” letting them run rampant instead.  Let others clean up the mess.  She had enough mastery to keep them from coming after her, which was all that was truly required.  When Pence had approached her in her current place of employment, a strip club on the east end of Richmond, and begun his week-long campaign to win her assistance in creating another homunculus… well, it had amused her to allow him to sway her, with the delicious prospect of watching him die a painful death at the hands and jaws of newborn Pandorans awaiting her.  And then, access to whatever riches his house contained.  A win-win scenario.

Clover unzipped the body bag and felt a moment of surprise.  The corpse inside was of a boy, barely a teenager, beautiful and unmarked, pale and rigid in death.  Something felt… different about him.  Had he been dead too long?  Perhaps there were markings on the corpse, marring it.  She ripped away bag and clothes impatiently, ignoring Pence’s crude, suggestive noise behind her.  No, not a mark to be had on him.  He was a flawless specimen.  “Where’d you get this?” she demanded.

“Let’s just say a friend provided him.”  Pence was smirking.  Clover shot him a suspicious look over her shoulder.  “Get on with it.  I don’t have all day.”

“What, not interested in one last fuck before I work, Pence?” Clover purred, running her hands up her body with an arched eyebrow.  “That was plenty distraction for you a minute ago.”

“Tch.  Once was more than enough to see what you had to offer.”  Pence’s lip curled as he looked down on her.

Clover laughed, a low, sultry sound that masked her own confusion and irritation.  Bastard.  What was he playing at?  It was almost as if he understood this process better than she.  But that was impossible.  He still seemed to think if he watched a Promethean birth another Promethean, that he could duplicate and even perfect the process with magic.  Idiot mages and their hubris.  Her hands fumbled to fill the tub around the corpse, which lay serenely at the bottom of the tub, its hair floating in a golden aureole around its head.  She dissolved crushed lime and pearl into the water, fragrant salts and rich oils; were any of these necessary?  She had used far cruder implements when she had attempted before.  Pyros danced within her, and even seemed to burn across the surface of the water; it steamed away, slowly boiling away the water, until the last of the water drained away from the corpse and hung in the air around them.

Now, the last.  She climbed into the tub and looked down at the corpse.  The boy was truly beautiful, his eyes closed, his expression as calm as if he slept, his skin covered with a faint sheen of mineral and lime.  He looked more like a statue than a body.  Her lips parted as she approached him, bending over him, and for a split second – for a single moment of weakness – she hoped it would work.  She hoped he would come to life again, just so she could see the look in his eyes when they opened and he saw her.

Her lips touched his, and she exhaled steadily but forcefully, filling his lungs with her air, her Pyros surging into his body, into the hollow space where his soul had once been.

“Whore.  Do you lust even after the dead?” Pence sneered, grabbing her arm and yanking her back.

Clover staggered back, breathing fitfully, wiping at her lips.  His had been cold and disgusting; she was suddenly revolted by the corpse in the tub, by what she had done, by having longed for even a moment to bring that thing to life.  “I did what you wanted,” she snapped at him, jerking her arm away.  “You and I are done with.  Pay me and I’ll go.”

Pence extended a bag of coins and she grabbed them, turning away and stalking down the hall to leave the Sanctum, not waiting to see if she had been successful.  Deep down, she knew the answer already, and though she buried it under disgust and anger, the reality of what she had done terrified her to her very core.

Posted by: Aliddotia | May 14, 2013

Waning Moon (P3P)

I always thought the point of good memories was to give you the strength to face the future.

Wasn’t like I woke up suddenly and Mitsuru was there – I’d been drifting in and out of that hellhole of beeping machines, pain, drugs, and scratchy blankets for a while, couldn’t tell you how long really.  But I wasn’t surprised Mitsuru was the first person I saw that I recognized.  I felt like shit by that point but alive, which was more than I expected to be, and seeing a familiar face in front of me, well… it drove in the fact that I wasn’t dead.  Despite all my best efforts.  Dammit.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, rising smoothly when she saw I was looking at her.

I tried to swallow.  Throat was bone-dry from the meds that were making my head swim and weren’t entirely effective at dulling the ache in my chest.  Mouth felt stuffed full of cotton too.  Even the air coming in through the oxygen mask smelled medicinal.  I shifted a little, a weak-ass attempt at sitting up, which we both knew wasn’t gonna happen.  “Like I got shot,” I mumbled around the mask.  My voice didn’t sound like anything I recognized, hoarse and strained and so damn weak.

“You barely survived you know,” she told me quietly, coming to stand next to the bed.  She gave me a wan little smile, her eyes full of mysteries as usual.  “The bullet would’ve hit you right in the heart had it not deflected off your watch…”

“Granddad’s watch?”  I tried to lift a hand to fumble at my chest where it had been, but that was too close to the heavily-bandaged wound, and my arms were all trussed up with IVs and whatnot anyway.  “Aw hell, I just got that back.”  I paused, that memory swimming back up to the surface, my chest tightening with a different pain.  “She’s gonna be pissed.”

“She hasn’t stopped crying since it happened.”

“When was that again?”

“Two weeks ago.  I told everyone you were in a coma and couldn’t receive visitors.”  Mitsuru’s lips tightened, a surefire sign she was pissed, though her anger was always ice-cold and contained.  “You didn’t want to make it out of that night alive, did you?  And now they’re all acting like you’re as good as dead, and–“

“Better for them if they think that way.”

“All of them?”  Her tone was challenging.  I kept my eyes away from hers for a moment, then forced myself to meet them.  It wasn’t as easy to lie anymore for some reason, wasn’t as easy to put up the walls.

“Yeah.  All of ’em.  Aki will be happier without me and my damn issues dragging him down, keeping him tied up in the past.  All he’s ever wanted to do is move forward and forget anyway.  Let him.  Hell, tell him I’m dead for all I care.  Let him mourn and move on.  He’s better off.”  Why was it so hard to say?  Must’ve been the dry mouth.  I swallowed hard again, but it was just as useless as the first time.

Mitsuru’s eyes were flashing, but her voice could’ve frozen a hot cast-iron skillet with a single sentence.  “And what about her?”

Damn, but I was grateful for the oxygen mask covering half my face.  Made it easier.  “What about her?”

“Don’t be a fool.  Do you really expect us to think you two haven’t gotten close this past month you’ve been back with us?  We’re not blind you know.  If there’s something going on with you two, then she really–“

“She’s better off.”  My voice sounded harsher even to my own ears, but I didn’t get why.  My face was still the same, fixed hard into my usual stare; I should’ve sounded the same too.  I really needed some water.  “She’s better off now anyway.  Leave it.”

A nurse came in, fussed with the bandages, stuck medicine in my arm tube.  Mitsuru turned away, the lines of her shoulders and crossed arms radiating frustration and pain.  What had her so upset?  Couldn’t just be me.  Another memory, floating up like an air bubble from the bottom of the ocean.  “Her and Aki get together?”  I was proud of myself that time, my voice sounded light, casual.  Like I didn’t care.  I DIDN’T care.  Good for them.  She’d take care of him.

Mitsuru didn’t answer, but her arms slipped to her sides.  “So that’s why you’re trying to force us together,” I snorted, turning my head away so I didn’t have to look at her.  “She’s cute, but she’s just a kid.  So’s Aki really.  You’ve never told him right out how you feel huh?  If you’d just do that–“

“I have my responsibilities.”  Her voice was diamond-hard.  Damn well put my efforts at the same to shame.  “And my duty.  That’s all that matters.  He’s liked her for a while now, though I don’t think he really realized it until–until the last full moon.”  The diamond was cracking now, showing the strain of what it was holding back.  “You were gone, she was hiding it all and crying all night in her room, then coming out in the morning with a smile and puffy eyes.  Iori and Takeba are half-mad with worry for her.  Akihiko’s torn up inside himself, and he wants to protect her.”

“Fine with me,” I muttered.  “That’s fine.”

“Is it really?  Is it really fine with you?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll come again.  You should get some rest.”

A man’s got plenty of time to think when he’s laid up in the hospital like that.  Half the time the meds had my mind wandering.  Well, after all that shit Mitsuru was saying, it was natural for me to think about the last month, dream about it.  Longer than that really, since I’d met the girl a while prior.  For the first time in the hospital, back when Aki broke his ribs playing the damn hero.  She was definitely just a kid then, in a flock with that Junpei kid and his silly-ass hat and ridiculous goatee, and Yukari, sharp-dressed and sharper-tongued.  I couldn’t forget that girl though – red eyes, short brown hair in a bouncy ponytail.  Seemed like everything I hated about women actually, always smiling or laughing at things you don’t get, wrapped up in stuff that’s not really important.  And nuts for Aki of course.  They always were, even back in the orphanage.  Our eyes met a second after they asked where he was, and she smiled, and I got the hell out of there.

Turned out she was the new leader of S.E.E.S., though how that happened when Mitsuru was still around is beyond me.  Then Aki kept bringing me the dumbest tales about those kids.  “The underclassmen took out a speeding monorail by themselves!” he’d say, grinning like an idiot with pride.  Or, “We almost got trapped 30 meters underground, but our leader got us out!”  The girl wasn’t a figurehead, it sounded like, even though Aki and Mitsuru were still in the works.  I didn’t wanna get interested, but I admit I was a bit.  What kind of girl was she?  It didn’t seem like a cute girl with barretts in her hair should be kicking ass and tying Shadows into knots in her spare time.  And wrapping Aki round her finger.

Yeah, yeah, I knew about that from the start.  It’d be hard not to.  He was so damn enamored of her.  Couldn’t stop talking about her over ramen, though I think he thought he was just talking about the team, trying to make me come back.  He’d brighten up when he talked about her.  Only Miki used to make the guy smile like that.  And he didn’t even realize it.  I almost said something a time or two, but hey, girls only get a guy in trouble.  Maybe he’d grow out of it.  It didn’t really bug me til I moved back into the dorm myself.

Hell, moving back into that dorm.  Worst decision I’d ever made maybe.  Suddenly she was always there around me, sitting on the couch with the others in the lounge, making coffee in the kitchen, walking the damn dog.  And she seemed to be always talking to me too.  Not that she was a chatty Cathy like most girls are, but she kept going out of her way to talk to ME for some reason.  “Senpai, want to go walk Koro-chan with me?”  “Senpai, would you like to go get something to eat?”  “Senpai, how are you feeling?  Would you like to go to Tartarus tonight?”  It bugged me a little at first, not because it was annoying – I dunno what it was.  I thought it was because she was always in my face, but when I thought back to it, it wasn’t all that often.  It just felt like it because I began thinking about her more and more.

I’m a dumbass, really.  Last thing I needed was to get involved with some girl, much less THIS girl.  Gotta admit, when we got into battle she was all Aki had said and more.  She had this fearless way about her in battle, just throwing herself in there without seeming to give a damn if she got hurt or not, and I found myself charging in after her just the same, trying to keep her ass from getting knocked around by Shadows.  If Aki was there too, he nearly went insane trying to protect her, not that I think she noticed.  Not that she even really needed our help.  All I knew was, it damn near made my heart stop whenever Shadows got too close to her, or whenever I saw her raise that gun to her head, one hand on her heart as she blew out her brains (yeah, yeah, I know, not for real, except it was and is on some level) over and over again.

She just kept pushing me.  Not hard, not noticeably, but it was almost every night for that month.  Asking questions.  Wanting to know my opinion on stuff.  Listening to me.  Complimenting me.  I hated it, but each time it happened, I wanted more.  I’d wake up the next morning and prowl around the dorm til it was night again and she’d come home.  I’d get damn pissy on the few nights she left me alone.  Withdrawal, I guess.  And then she’d do something so damn stupid, like invite me out to a film festival about pets or some such shit – and I’d have such a good time with her – that it was even worse the next day.  It was so easy to get wrapped up in her, damn her.  Even when I remembered to try to keep her away, to try and warn her not to get attached to me, to try and keep up the walls I had up around everyone else, even Aki – it was like she could just throw one of those little carefree smiles my way and it’d all go to hell.

Which wasn’t to say things were romantic.  I didn’t have my hopes that high.  I’m an ugly cuss and I know it, and she had Aki there making goo-goo eyes at her all the time.  I’d sometimes kinda hint that she and Aki should get together or something, and she’d either brush it off or ignore it.  I just wanted to make sure someone would look after his sorry ass when I was gone, dammit.  But when I told her that, she looked me right in the eyes and said, “But what about you, Senpai?”  That hit me like a punch to the gut.  She looked… sad.  Lonely.  Shit, that hurt.  I’ve never been fond of myself, especially not since the accident, and I had Ken there every damn night reminding me that the check was coming due, and yet – when I hurt her, I wanted to rip myself into shreds.

Then one night, she came up to me with my granddad’s watch in her hands.  I’d lost it.  Heh, it’s pretty funny it ended up being the thing that saved my ass.  She put it carefully in my front coat pocket.  I had a watch for her too, a little leather thing.  I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t see things in stores and not think of her, not think of buying her stuff.  I wanted her to have something that reminded her of me.  Y’know, when I was gone.  My hands shook when I put it on her wrist.  They say watches and clocks and stuff are bad news.  But the check was coming due.

Then that stupid girl… the next night, she came right up to me in the lounge, in front of God and everyone, her eyes shining like rubies.  Just walked right up to me as if she’d been thinking about me all damn day just like I had been thinking about her.  That couldn’t be true of course.  “Don’t look at me like that, I’ve got nothing for you,” I growled at her.  I wanted her to go away.  I didn’t want her to go away.  She had to go away.  “Go spend your time with the others.”

“I love you, Senpai.”

She didn’t say it loud, but it sure felt loud to me.  Think my mind shattered like a dropped glass.  She was still staring at me like that, her feelings out like a banner and one hand clenching the front of her uniform.  She declared her feelings like she fought Shadows – fearlessly and with her whole self.  They were right there for anyone to see, even a fool like me, but I still averted my eyes and tried to deny it.  “What are you saying something so stupid for in a place like this?!”

She asked to go to my room.

Her words were like taking a sledgehammer to the walls I had up.  Each word was a blow of that sledgehammer right into the bricks.  Damn, but I admired her chutzpah even as I told her to quit being an idiot and go to bed.  I said anything I thought would make her stop, make her go away.  She just stood there and asked again and again, her voice low and fervent, her eyes glued to my face.  I couldn’t look back in her eyes or I knew I’d relent.

I relented anyway of course.

It was so stupid, once we were up in my room – heh, I say my room, but it was just a hole Mitsuru and Aki were keeping for me, nothing in it but a bed and a dresser.  I knew I wouldn’t be there long, and I didn’t want to leave stuff for them to clean out.  The walls were thin and shaky now, and all the stuff about her that I didn’t want to think about were pressing up against the walls, like water undermining the foundation.  I asked her to leave.  She refused.  I TOLD her to leave.  She refused.  She just looked at me, that same look she gave me in the lounge.  I refused to see the longing there.

Somehow, she wound up in my arms.  I heard myself telling her everything.  That she’d crawled into my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about her and everything was all wrong now and why the hell was this happening?  She just looked up at me as if she loved no one else in the world, and I shit you not when I say that letting her go – letting that amazing girl that I cared for so much go – it was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life.  But I had to give her one last chance to go.

She refused, smiling, her eyes full of tears now.  She knew why I’d given her one last chance to leave.  She didn’t want to go.

I wonder if she knew we didn’t have much time left.

“I’m not going to hold back anymore.”

But when I pulled her to me and bent to kiss her, she was there reaching up to me, too.  How the hell could anyone feel for me one-tenth of what I felt for her?  How in God’s name could anyone kiss me like that, like they wanted me and needed me and adored me and wanted me with them forever?  I told you she’s a stupid girl.  How dare she fall for a dirty mutt like me, three steps from the grave, walking right into that grave of my own volition, when Aki was at dinner every night in the lounge looking at her with a boy’s eyes full of love.  How could she do that to him?  How could she do that to me, too?  How the hell was I supposed to walk into that grave now that I had someone like her?

I shoved all of that to the back of my mind.  For one night, I wasn’t going to hold back, or hold anything in, or lie, or pretend something was okay when it wasn’t okay.  She loved me – I couldn’t deny it anymore – and if I gave her this cherished memory, this night together, then she would be strong for the future.  That’s the line I fed myself so I didn’t have to think about how much I needed and wanted her.  That’s the bullshit I told myself to get through the next day.

She came home, and walked right up to me in the lounge, her eyes still shining like stars, even brighter after our night the night before.  And I shut it down.  “Go spend tonight with the others,” I told her in my coldest voice.  The walls were back up, higher than before.  Ken was watching us, with hate he thought I didn’t see.  “I have nothing to say to you.”

You ever see someone’s face right as their heart breaks?  You ever look right into their eyes as you’re the one that breaks it?  What if that person is the person you care for above all else?

She turned away from me and staggered back over to the others.  Good girl, I thought, as she pasted on a smile that surely the dimmest of them would know was fake, but they all seemed to buy it, welcoming her over and chattering about their days and whether or not we were going to Tartarus.  I heard her voice and her laughter that night as she hung out with them, her back turned to me.  I should’ve gone off to my own room.  I should’ve gotten ready for the full moon the next day.  I stood there in my dark little corner, my hands shoved in my coat pockets, and I listened to her laugh and chat, and stared at her back and the little sliver of her profile I could see.  I burned them into me.  And when I did drag myself back to my room and laid down on my bed, I could smell her rose-scented soap on the blankets, and I burned that in too.

It was for the best.  I was dying the next day, and she’d be free from grief.

Only I didn’t die.  That damn watch she found for me… and now here I was in this bed.  She couldn’t be allowed to come see me, to look at me and cry over me and suffer as I hurt and healed or maybe died, I dunno.  I had to keep her away.  I didn’t want her to feel the weakness I was feeling – a weakness that only seemed to grow with time spent away from her – longing and heartsick and God knows what else.  She had to be strong and take care of the others and conquer Tartarus and all that shit.  She had to put an end to the Dark Hour forever.

So I laid in my bed night after night as the Dark Hour came, and I’d remember that night we spent together, and the Dark Hour we’d shared.  I’d never been grateful to the Dark Hour before or since, but that night, it’d meant one more hour we could spend together.  And I’m nothing if not a greedy bastard.  I needed every second, every instant of her.  I’d thought at the time I’d drown in her, and then maybe that would satisfy me.  But in the hospital, I felt more like a man dying of thirst, who’d finally gotten a drink of water – only to be thrust back out in the desert again.

Funny thing about memories though.  They fade.

Mitsuru came by one more time.  She said a bunch of truly crazy things, about the Dark Hour and Tartarus and something called Nyx, and how we humans were all longing for death.  I thought about it a lot after she left, and during my rehab and everything.  It’s not that I was longing for death.  I just thought that was the only way to pay the check I had due.  I took a life; my life was owed.  Simple as that.  I’d tried my best to make sure no one else paid with me.  But that night before the full moon, that girl had paid too.  Aki paid.  Anyone who gave a damn about me – and despite my best efforts, it seemed there were a few – they paid.  And yet I’d just ignored all of that and ran headlong into death.  And as time went by and I got well, and this Nyx thing approached, it’s like I stopped caring whether or not it was the right thing to do.  If we’re all going to end up in the grave anyway, it seemed, maybe the way I’d chosen wasn’t too bad.  That girl was just the one to screw it all up for everyone.

And I forgot her, too.

Graduation day.  I drifted up the stairs of the school.  Tartarus no longer, or so they said.  Wasn’t sure why I was there, really.  I’d barely been in school the past two years, ever since the accident.  My chest still twinged when I breathed deep.  But it was spring, and the others were going up to the roof – there was someone they had to meet, they said, to say goodbye to on graduation day.  Sure, yeah, I’d go along.

She was there.  The sight of her, lying like that – it was like someone yanked a veil off my eyes.  I knew what was happening.  I knew I’d forgotten.  But she was smiling, and she wanted me there by her side, and it was like some force was keeping sadness and pain away.  Maybe that was her too.  Maybe it was because she didn’t want me to be sad, watching her die.

I knelt down and pulled her into my arms.  Don’t remember what I said really.  Thanked her, I think, for meeting me, for being with me.  What I really wanted to do was ask forgiveness.  For being a dumbass and pushing her away.  For running into death when I could’ve been holding onto every last moment of life.  For choosing months in a hospital bed alone over a night in my bed with her.  For not being with her until now, the moment of her last breath.  But I knew she forgave me.  Her eyes didn’t shine anymore, but I knew when she looked up at me that it was me she loved most and best of all.

She took my hand and placed it on her heart.  The place I would’ve gotten shot if not for her; the place she touched to call forth her Persona.  I could feel the last fluttering tremors of her heart under my fingers, like a frightened animal.  She was still smiling.  Then she was gone.

A damn fool once thought that happiness in the past could make up for sadness in the future.  Take your happiness when you can, before the chance passes forever.

Posted by: Aliddotia | April 27, 2013

Gabriel’s Trumpet (E-fed)

Sarah snuck into catering, relieved to see it empty since the show had just gotten underway.  She could hear the distant screams of the crowd as the pre-show got going, getting the crowd warmed up for the Monday night show.  She lifted lids on the slow-cookers, peeking inside; she didn’t like much on her stomach before performing, but she needed something.  She’d come right over to the arena from visiting her sister and her new nephew.  She’d heard Strong was looking for her, all the more reason it was a relief catering was empty.

An appetizing, meaty aroma wafted out of a crockpot full of chili, and she inhaled the steam deeply, wavering for a moment before spooning out a ladleful into a paper bowl.  Just a bit won’t hurt.  She skipped the cheese and sour cream – though it was pretty damn tempting! – and took a plastic spoonful, eyeing her reflection in the crockpot and turning this way and that.  Many of the girls were obsessed with their weight and physique; Sarah had never been before, but it was hard when you were poured into skintight leather 5 days a week and had everyone in the world addressing your body rather than yourself–

“Don’t worry, you look great,” a friendly voice said from behind.

Sarah jumped, almost dropping her chili, and turned around.  Her breath stopped, and she was fairly sure her heart did too as her eyes went up, and up, and up.  “R-Reaper!” she gasped.

Anyone who even remotely followed wrestling, or had ever liked wrestling, or knew someone who liked wrestling, or even walked through the wrestling aisle at the toy store had heard of Reaper.  He was a living legend in the business, over twenty years with the company, adored by fans and near worshiped by the workers.  He was a relic from a bygone era, a more cartoony time when all the wrestlers wore outlandish costumes and had bizarre gimmicks, and Reaper’s was no exception – he was supposed to literally be the Grim Reaper, the Angel of Death, among his many other titles, as he was over seven feet tall but had a long, lanky frame.  One of his other “powers” was that he could control men with his eyes and brainwash them into doing his bidding, something that had explained away dozens of heel turns over the years.

Those eyes, intense and dark, were kindly and smiling now, sagging with puffy dark circles and framed by wrinkles now.  Reaper was pushing 50, and rumors surrounding his retirement swirled on a near-annual basis, mostly because he only worked one or two PPVs a year.  But the fans still adored him, and Sarah vaguely recalled hearing that he was in one of the main events in next month’s big show, scheduled for a highly-protected 35-minute match with another old-timer that wouldn’t make him look bad.  He was already in his gear – That’s Reaper, that’s really Reaper! her 12-year-old inner mark squealed, and as they shook hands Sarah was transported back to sneaking shows on a TV in the basement, her little sister on her lap, ignoring their mom screaming at them to stop watching that dreck and unload the dishwasher.

“Silhouette, right?  I saw your debut.  You’ve got a lot of talent.  Av trained you, right?”

Sarah shook her head, more to clear the cobwebs of hero-worship than anything else.  Up close like this, Reaper had a gentle smile and looked tired.  His hand had engulfed hers; he wasn’t a giant or anything, or even bulky like Avalanche was, but he had a John Wayne-like physique.  “Y-yeah, he did,” she choked out, feeling ridiculous.

“He’s a good kid.”  Reaper smiled nostalgically, and Sarah smiled despite herself; only Reaper could get away with calling Avalanche a “kid.”  “I remember when he debuted, we did an angle that first year and he dislocated my shoulder.  I don’t think he could look me in the eye for two years after that.”  He chuckled.  “Part of the business I told him, but he’s got a good heart, hates hurting people if he can help it.”  He paused a moment, looking down at her thoughtfully.  “Is it true you and Strong–?”

“NO, definitely not,” Sarah said emphatically, her stomach turning a bit, and Reaper chuckled again at her vehemence.

“Good.  You’ve got too much talent to waste it on that fool.”

Sarah blinked; she’d never heard of Reaper talking badly about anyone backstage, but there he was, a faint look of distaste on his face as he glanced away.  “S-so… you starting your buildup to the big show today?”

“Yeah, I’m scheduled for a 10-minute promo here in a bit.”  He grinned ruefully, his gaze returning to her.  “Not that anyone really wants to hear what I have to say.  I think they just want to make sure I’m not dead.”

“You’re not THAT old!” Sarah protested, before really stopping to think.  “You’re a legend!”

“It’s sweet of you to say so.”  He smiled at her, that strangely gentle smile from a man said to be the Angel of Death.  “Been looking to retire for about five years now.  But they won’t let me.”  He jerked his head toward the distant roar of the crowd.  “The bigwigs don’t want me to either of course, but it’s beginning to feel ridiculous, going out there once or twice a year, pretending I’m 15 years younger than I am.”  He rubbed the back of his head, apparently a bit embarrassed to have said so much.  “Well, I’ll see you around I hope, Silhouette.  Tell Av I said hi.”

“Will do,” Sarah promised, staring after him as he walked off with a slightly starstruck look.

“Oh, and that chili’s amazing,” he called back to her with a grin.

Sarah found her way to a monitor to catch his promo, watching him stride out to the ring in his long hooded cloak, ornately embroidered in velvet with arcane symbols.  The entire arena seemed to tremble with the roar from the crowd; no one else had even gotten close to that response.  He pulled down his hood, and turned his eyes on the hot cam; there was nothing gentle or kind about them now.  Sarah’s breath caught again, and she shivered despite herself; the crowd adored him, hanging on his every word.  Then she laughed and turned away to get ready for her match.

“Wait til I tell my sister I met Reaper in the flesh…”

Posted by: Aliddotia | April 14, 2013

Careless Cuts (RB)

Those days weren’t so bad, I guess, if it wasn’t like having a front seat at everyone’s Mental Instability World Tour.  Musicians are pretty effed up in general, I know, and I’m not exactly on the Sanest Keyboardist Master List, but I swear to God, seeing Naomi try to pass off that wig as her own hair (as if) or Molly stoneface her way through another practice… I’d about had it.

Funny how it was Claire in the end who had the biggest breakdown – but I guess that’s typical.  You seem normal on the outside, mature, with-it, together, inspire the band to keep it going, drag us to gig after gig, line up tours and promotions and music festivals and bust your ass day in and day out to make Damage Control a real thing… then find out your best friend is quitting the business through the trades.

It was Rock Your Face Off! Monthly that broke it, though I think that Suede article from a few weeks’ prior hadn’t helped.  She got all twitchy after that one broke – 20 pages from that Anne-Marie girl on Four Twenty Three, kinda hot honestly if you ask me, but I was kind of into them back in high school.  (Okay, I’ll admit it, I had a poster of Ryan up in my room at home, free from a back issue of RYFO!)  But yeah, it didn’t seem to help our fearless leader’s mood.  I guess there’s things about your friends you never really wanna know.  And though I’m not Molly, a.k.a. way up in everyone’s personal business especially when it comes to Four Twenty Three – it’s cute how Molly thinks we don’t all know her little secret, you can’t keep secrets from someone when you’re around them 24/7 – I figured hey, what they wanted to sell to a porno mag and share with the world was their business, not mine.  But I could see how it would bug someone too.

She clutched that copy of RYFO like it was a stress ball, curled up in the ball of her fist, and just stood there for what felt like forever.  Naomi and I pretended studiously not to see her, me messing around on the keys, Naomi’s eyes glued to one of her fan letters.  She got a lot back then, mostly from this one girl out in California somewhere.  I think Naomi actually became pen pals with the girl, she certainly was glued to the mail whenever it came in, waiting on the girl’s letters.  But yeah, Claire just stood there, her eyes staring off at nothing, the magazine in her fist, then turned and headed out of the studio.

We weren’t allowed to keep our cells with us in the studio, so Naomi and I immediately knew she was headed to the conference room across the hall to make a personal call.  We’d all done it.  Of course, there was a connected phone in the studio in case you had to call out.  We saw the red light go on the shared line and Naomi and I almost collided beelining for the phone.  Molly scowled at us and walked out, wanting nothing to do with our eavesdropping.  I got the phone up from the cradle as delicately as fishing out one of those little plastic pieces in Operation, keeping the receiver covered with the flat of my palm, and Naomi and I jostled each other to hear.

“–not even bother to give me a call to let me know you’re retiring now?!” Claire was angrily demanding.  I was pretty sure she was making enough noise that she hadn’t noticed the subtle click of us joining the line.

“Yeah, just like you poached my drummer without bothering to give ME a call about it, either.”

“That’s different!  She–she wanted out, you know that, and you’d probably know why if you thought about it for half a second!”

“Doesn’t matter to me anymore.  I’m done, Claire.”

“But why?!”  There was an edge to her voice, a barely-restrained wail.  “You’re young, you’ve got so much still to offer, Fourtwentythree has been a huge hit, hell you guys just won a Grammy last year–“

“Just not into it anymore.”  His voice was apathetic, really, closed off.  He wasn’t giving anything away.  “I’ve made my money.  I’ve made my music.  Not much left to do.  It’s all been done.  Maybe I just don’t want to belong to other people anymore.”

“You’d rather just belong to Ryan, huh?”

“Jealous?”  His tone was more mocking than anything else.  “C’mon Claire, you knew it was heading for this someday anyway.  What’d you want me to do, be like the Stones, haul my ass all over the world, never letting it go, pissing all of my money away?  I was never that dumb.”

“It’s–it’s not about the money!  Or at least it shouldn’t be.  You said that yourself.  I guess I–I just thought you’d never lose the love for the music…”

Her voice was shaking imperceptibly.  I glanced at Naomi, her face up close to mine; she was frowning.  I almost hung up the phone.  It made me feel weird, hearing Claire sound so vulnerable on the other end of the line, vulnerable in a way she never was around us.  But I guess certain people have power over us that way, the power to break through the shields we have up around ourselves to keep shit like this from happening.

“Yeah, well.  It’s done and I don’t regret it.  I’m not going back to it.  It just wouldn’t be the same.  You know it’s not the same, even though you keep trying to make Damage Control work when it clearly isn’t.  Fester’s Quest is long dead, Claire.  So are the Liaisons, while I’m on the subject.  Wil and I aren’t going to just swoop in and turn back the clock to 2008 again.”

She didn’t say anything.  We could hear the soft rasp of her breathing, ragged and stifled.

Even he sounded a little regretful when he spoke next.  “I’m sorry, okay?  It’s just–I’m done with it.  I’m tired of it.  I don’t want to do it anymore.  I really only kept with it for so long because of Ryan, and because of you.  But if you don’t want to do it anymore, deep down, you’re just lying to yourself.  And you end up resenting the person you’re doing it for.  I’m sorry, okay?”

“… Yeah.  Yeah, I get it.”  Her voice was hoarse, almost unrecognizable.  “Well, thanks for–for telling me and all.”

“I thought you were pissed because I DIDN’T tell you?”

“N-no… really, I’m just–no, I’ll be okay.  It’s fine.  Take care, and–um, say hi to Ryan for me too.”  Hate trembled in her voice now, the kind of self-loathing only artists seem to have readily available.  Disgust, I guess.  We’re all pretty disgusted with ourselves, under that veneer of creativity.

“Hey, wait, Claire–I–“

But the phone came down, cutting her and us off from whatever it was he was about to say.  I hastily scrambled back to my keyboard, flustered by what I’d heard, and Naomi returned to the couch with her letter, but we just stared at our distractions, not really captured by them.  We needn’t have bothered though.  She didn’t come back the rest of the night.

Posted by: Aliddotia | February 19, 2013

Tearsweaver (oWoD)

In this sort of place, the clove cigarette smoldering in between Ryoki’s fingers got a slight frown but little else despite the ban on smoking outside of the door.  San Francisco’s artsy district was littered with places like this–struggling little coffeeshops and bars that catered to the self-conscious bohemes of the nouveau riche, the children of new money, investment bankers, and Silicon Valley millionaires.  Ryoki highly doubted that most of the people here would notice him even if he were smoking a joint.  Hell, he might blend in better that way.  Certainly he stood out far less for having come here with a man as his date.

“Where is she, anyway?” Cunning Fool grumbled, drumming his fingers awkwardly on the metal tabletop.

Ryoki supposed it followed that Cunning Fool was jumpy in cities.  It didn’t suit him or his kind, though he blended in surprisingly well in a place like this, with his long hair and scruffy chin.  Something of the coyote lingered about his lanky jawline, the way it dropped open when he grinned or yawned, the light in his eyes.  Something of the Old West lingered too, but that made Cunning Fool stand out in a way that didn’t do them any favors.  Ryoki could only hope they took Cunning Fool’s smooth brown skin as heavily Hispanic rather than the kind of pure-blooded Native American that one rarely saw outside of Hollywood or casinos nowadays.

An Indian and a Japanese walk into a bar.  Not that this was much of a bar.  Ryoki waited.

She came out, finally, and the only reaction Ryoki gave was for his eyes to flicker over to her.  This place was too self-consciously low-rent for a stage; she sat on a stool under two small floodlights, wearing only a nude-colored body stocking and holding an acoustic guitar.  He’d expected her to be beautiful, and she didn’t disappoint.  The Tearsweaver, in her human form, was a young woman with milky-white skin just a shade too pale to make that body stocking give the tantalizing allure of faux nudity.  Her jet-black hair was in a shaggy, delicate bob; she had straight white teeth and shining blue eyes that lit up when she sang.  Ryoki supposed the music was good, though he hardly listened to it.  It seemed artsy and pretentious and full of heart and feeling and dramatic sadness from what little he listened to it; but then, it was said she only sang sadness.

“That’s her, right?” Cunning Fool muttered in Ryoki’s ear, his breath unexpected and warm.  “That’s the one?”

“That’s the one,” Ryoki affirmed.

Cunning Fool’s eyes narrowed to inquisitive dark brown spots.  “Black Spirals, huh?  And fire?  Right up my alley.”

“Her, and many others.”  Ryoki dropped the long-cold butt of the cigarette and brushed his fingers off on his leg.  And much else about her fate as well, not that I’ve told you yet.  His thumb brushed his chest under his shirt subconsciously.  The spot was smaller on his human form–just a black dot, the size of a bee sting, directly over his heart–but it still hurt, even three months later.

It had taken them a while to recover from the centipede’s poison.  They had taken the journey through the Sierra Nevadas in easy, short stages, not talking much, digesting.  That had been fine with Ryoki for the most part.  He had much to consider, much to think on, much to try and change, and even more to try and live with.  No lasting effects had plagued them save for the black spot on the kitsune’s breast where the sting had entered him, and they had found something like peace with what had happened, and each other.  Privately, Ryoki had found something like peace with the curse, as well, that grew a little heavier and a little tighter on his skin every day.

Then the dreams had started.

Fire, and dancing wolves around a burning warehouse.  The stench of roasting fur and charred bones.  Corpses.  Death.  Wild howls of jubilation.  Perversion, offered up to the Wyrm.

Ryoki was a walker of the Fog, one who flowed with water and float on air; he had not earned the name Dream-Feather-Paw for nothing, for he stepped through dreams, both his own and others, with a touch so delicate it could not be felt.  And his interpretation of the dreams had led them here, to this bar, and watching the werewolf bard as she slid nimbly down from her stool to accept the applause and stares of the sex-hungry humans all around her with a pert smile and a flirtatious turn of her shoulder.  Men clustered around her, offering her drinks, asking her questions, and Ryoki studied her face as she spoke to them.  She was beautiful and animated.  There were no hints as to her true nature on the outside; if only the monkeys knew.

“So, what’s the plan for getting her attention?” Cunning Fool asked him, a bit impatiently.

“I was kind of hoping you’d ask her if she wanted a drink, actually.”

“Me?  Why the hell me?  Why not you?  You’re the pretty one.”

Ryoki nearly fell off of his chair.  “Me?!  B-but–“

“You can do it.”  Cunning Fool smirked, clapping Ryoki’s shoulder firmly.  “Just waltz up there and turn on the charm.  Schmooze her.  I’m sure you can do it.”

“Dekinai,” Ryoki said flatly, putting on his best puzzled, no-speakee-English look.  “Eego hanasenai.  You do it.”  She’s more likely to respond if you do it anyway.

The two glowered at each other momentarily, neither one particularly wanting to push themselves over into that group of men.  “Fine,” Cunning Fool said finally, heaving a put-upon sigh and scraping his chair back.  “I still say you’d have better odds.”

Posted by: Aliddotia | September 3, 2012

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Posted by: Aliddotia | August 26, 2012

Calling you (oWoD)

Ryo pulled the rattling old Toyota off the dusty road and roughly in front of the tiny diner that had beckoned him.  It wasn’t long before dawn, and he’d driven all night; Cunning Fool, the One-of-one-hundred, slept in the back seat with his head tucked under his own side, disdaining things like trucks and diners and gas and roads.  It wasn’t his way, nor was it really Ryo’s way either, but fear had whipped his heels, spurring him to steal the truck in the first place.  Foxes were not common in that part of the mountain, and if someone had seen him, or guessed at what he was up to…

And all he did was just laugh and say if that’s what I wanted.  But it’s not his way to offer help.  I was the one that wanted to flee so badly I was willing to steal for it.

Ryo leaned on the dirty, too-big steering wheel, exhaustion gnawing at the backs of his eyes, at the crease between his eyebrows, knotted up in his shoulders and along his spine.  Cunning Fool snored a little in the back, oblivious.  Gold-orange light stained the eastern horizon, but it wasn’t quite time.  “Mama’s Diner,” this place was called, the R in the sign no longer lit and the N flickering feebly so that the word seemed to be DIE.  An ill omen.  But it was so bright inside, and the doors flung open and propped with chairs, that it didn’t seem unsafe to go in.  Some coffee would do him some good, Ryo thought absently, or just some time out of the truck.  He jerked up the parking brake with unnecessary force.  It’s not like I could sleep anyway.

He felt a prickle of self-consciousness as he stepped into the diner, but there were only two other people to be seen, an old trucker in a blue cap at the bar seats and a single old, gnarled waitress, her face as lined and creased as a walnut’s shell.  Ryo slipped up onto one of the stools.  “Coffee, please,” he asked the waitress, who set a cup on a saucer in front of him without a smile and poured from a pot with glass stained a smoky brown from years of use.

“You speakee English then, kiddo?”  The truck driver down the way cackled a short, mirthless laugh.  “Didn’t think Chinks could do that, but didn’t think I’d see a Chink out this way either.”

Ryo’s back stiffened, but he kept his face and voice neutral as he glanced over at the man.  “I speak English fine, thanks sir.  And I’m Japanese, not Chinese.”

“Among other things, eh?”  The truck driver’s face was weathered and worn, but hinted at past handsomeness.  He sipped coffee for a moment through stained teeth, surveying Ryo with a bright, dark eye.  “Been a long time since ‘yotes and foxes ran together.”

Ryo felt his throat constrict, as if someone had grabbed him by it.  “W-who are…”

The waitress’s back was turned as she threw something onto the grill.  The sizzling sounded unnaturally loud to Ryo’s ears.  The truck driver laughed again, and Ryo fumbled at his own face, his head.

A raven’s wing, a bright black eye, a painted, smiling mask, a crown of feathers, lumps of clay on a potter’s wheel, fingers tracing through earth, humans huddled together around a fire, the smell of burning herbs from a pipe, woodfire–

He was shaking all over.  He resisted the urge to throw himself down on his face on the groutless tiled floor.  Or at least, he thought he’d managed to resist it; it was only the smell of Pine-Sol and stale food that brought him back to his senses, doubled up on the floor, his face pressed down before this man.  He heard a slurp of coffee, and his shoulder got a gentle prod from the tip of a dusty brown boot.

“Get up offa there.  Who knows where it’s been?”

Ryo got up on his feet, his stomach roiling, rejecting the coffee he’d drank.  He opened his mouth and hastily amended what he was going to say–using the name would be disrespectful.  “Father, what do you wish with me?”

The truck driver chuckled, pleased.  “Just wanted to have a few questions with you, y’know, sit and drink some coffee before I get back out on the road.  Your ken don’t often truck outside your kind, and you’re a long ways away from home ain’t ya?”

Ryo thought wildly of Cunning Fool in the backseat of the Toyota, sitting blindly back on his stool.  “I… I wanted to meet–”

“Yeah, yeah, One-of-one-hundred and all that.”  The truck driver waved a thick hand absently, dismissive.  “But if you’re gonna wait for pearls of wisdom to drop from that kid’s lips, best not hold yer breath.  That kid’s pretty sharp and all, but he thinks he’s a lot sharper than he is, and he ain’t the type that likes finding out he’s wrong.  Don’t like attachments, either.  Got burned a time or two in the past.  Best just to float where the wind blows, teachin’ and learnin’.  That’s our way.”  A kind of rough affection touched his voice despite his criticism, and Ryo breathed a bit easier.  A hot, dry wind from the open door brushed his back, and he felt like he was soaked in his own sweat.

“It’s not really about him, I guess.”  He remembered his coffee, and took a sip; it was black and hot and so strong that its bitterness curled his tongue.  “I suppose it’s because of me.”

“Of course it’s about you,” the other snorted indelicately.  “Was always about you.  But why?  What’re you so damned sure you’re gonna find out here but dust and heat?”

The word sprang into Ryo’s mind, and he gritted his molars hard to avoid saying it out loud, but of course the other seemed to hear somehow anyway.  The man threw back his head and laughed, far louder and longer than he had at any point before, a joyous, mirthful, slightly mocking sound that seemed like it went on forever.

Finally, it was over, and the man wiped at his face, a chortle or two still escaping him.  “Hoo boy, that’s funny,” he gasped.  “But… acceptable.”  He stood up suddenly, dropping coins onto the stained plastic counter.  “Alrighty then.  Good enough for me.  How long you got?”

Ryo didn’t dare look up.  “Eight months, eleven days, seventeen hours, give or take time zones.”

“And forty-nine seconds,” the other supplied helpfully, with a sound that sounded suspiciously like another choked-back laugh.  “Well, I know your type don’t break promises, but since you got so much riding on it anyway…”  He was suddenly there, behind Ryo, leaning close, so that Ryo could smell the scent of him, heady and powerful, his voice roaring like a waterfall in his ears.  “If you ain’t back by the appointed time, alone, then you will die.”  The words fell heavily, seeming to have weight and actual substance in the air before the air absorbed them, and the resonance of the curse vibrated in his chest as if his soul had been struck like a bell.

He didn’t bother to turn or to acknowledge the curse at all, but his head sagged a little over his half-drank cup of coffee.  “Guess that’s it then!” the truck driver exclaimed cheerfully, tugging on the fraying brim of his hat.  “Believe it or not, I’m rootin’ for ya.  Good luck then, to you and the kiddo, and don’t be neglecting your duties now.”

Ryo turned his head when he heard footsteps, and saw the man walking out of the diner.  He let his gaze drift back to his coffee, still nauseated; he didn’t want to catch a glimpse of the man’s human form dropping away, discarded like shed fur, drifting away on the breeze.  The sun had peeked up over the far horizon, and angry yellow-orange light slanted across the threshold.

“He didn’t mean no harm,” the waitress said suddenly, reappearing in front of Ryo with the stained coffeepot and topping off his cup.  “Think he just wanted to make it more interesting, that’s all.”

Her voice sounded like she smoked three packs a day, washing down the tobacco with strong whiskey.  Ryo lifted his gaze and froze when his eyes met her–the force of her presence was less than that of the other man’s, but infinitely more familiar.  A white discoloration, like an old burn scar, paled one cheek and part of her nose, and she smiled, her teeth largely missing and ajar.  “Cheer up,” she suggested raspily, and put down a wrapped package.  “Made up one of Mama’s egg-and-cheese sandwiches for you special.”

Ryo fumbled for the package.  “And what duties…” he asked hoarsely, swallowing hard, but she was already tossing a light shrug.

“Heard San Francisco’s up to no good.  Might wanna poke round there a bit.  That’ll be $4.23.”

He poured out the entire contents of his wallet and every coin on his person onto the countertop, and she smiled again.  Draining the coffee, he took the wrapped parcel and walked out to the truck on unsteady legs, clambering into the driver’s seat and turning on the ignition.  Cool air blasted in from the A/C, for the air was already starting to heat with those garish rays, and he leaned his head back against the worn seat.

The birdbrain alighted on the back of the passenger-s side seat, tilting her head this way and that, examining the wrapped sandwich in his hand.  “Where’d you get that?” she asked sharply.

Somehow it didn’t surprise Ryo to raise his head and look out of the dusted windows and see nothing but desert scenery, stretching for miles in every direction.  He unwrapped the sandwich, still warm from the grill that was no longer there, and peeled away a good piece, offering it to the bird.  He took a large bite for himself, his stomach rumbling, the curse that had landed settling in his stomach and knotted around his insides.  He supposed he’d get used to the feeling in time.

And he probably thought this would just make the whole thing funnier.  Damn him and his jokes.

Ryo saved part of the sandwich for Cunning Fool–and he resolved to make the Nu-Isha eat it even if he had to forcefeed him–and strapped on his seat belt.  They were quite a long ways from San Francisco, and he’d prefer not to have to walk over the mountains.

Posted by: Aliddotia | July 9, 2012

Camaraderie, pt. 2 (oWoD)

Dream-Feather-Paw settled onto his haunches, his ears flickering faintly as Cunning Fool gazed lazily into the foliage and addressed him directly.  It wasn’t particularly surprising–he knew the Nu-Isha had powerful senses, especially when it came to observing his surroundings and his fellows, as sharp as any Kitsune’s–but it still made him a bit jumpy.  Silliness, of course.  He knew Cunning Fool meant no harm.  Indeed, he’d even sent the Corax away for some reason, using her name (or something like it) for the first time in Dream-Feather-Paw’s hearing.

He clambered down from his hiding place and stepped cautiously out of the protective fold of the underbrush, the tips of his tails–the second mirroring the first and primary tail–flickering from side to side, betraying his nerves.  “I apologize if I made you uncomfortable,” he said formally, bowing his head.  “It’s not that the Corax bothers me.  I simply had no wish to intrude on your camaraderie.”  He settled again into a seated position, his tails curled around himself, his posture upright as he gazed at Cunning Fool with bright eyes.  “If I may say so, you two have a familiarity about you that bespeaks long intimacy.  I feel a bit as if I’ve intruded, so I thought I might be more useful to you both as a scout.”

He cocked his head slightly to one side.  “Forgive me if I’m being presumptive of course.  It’s just a sense I had.  Plus, in the Emerald Courts, the number three is not harmonious, although two is harmonious, so I feel as if I have intruded in that way as well.”  He barked a short laugh to himself.  “It probably seems a silly superstition to you of the Sunset Land… I apologize.”

In a land that might consider itself more of a Sunset Land than what Ryoki would think–a city of fog and steel–

Bautista surveyed his land, his kingdom, from the 26th floor of the Western Bank building.  So it was called, anyway, but Bautista’s company owned almost as much as the bank.  He just didn’t feel like putting down the cash for the naming rights.  And besides, with the Western Bank logos all over the building, it was a small cover.  There were times to be flashy and times to hide in the shadow, even if it was just the shade of a palm tree.

And besides, money.

Bautista turned away, a whiskey-soaked cigar in his teeth.  He caught sight of his own reflection briefly in the window–a broad African-American man of late middle years in a finely-tailored suit, cigar clamped down between his flashing white teeth, dark glittering eyes over a too-broad nose surveying all before him.  He’d never been considered handsome thanks to that nose–no “Top Ten Handsomest Businessmen” or whatever for him, only charity work and ruthlessness attributed under his picture in the papers.  Rags, really, but they had their uses too.

It’d been too long since he’d been part of a pride, really, but he had a few others working under him.  One of them was his personal assistant, who sprang to his feet when Bautista turned from the window.  Trained well, and broken to his whims, really.  The young had foolish ideas–felt they could see the Wyrm in every trashcan overflowing with garbage and the Weaver in every pattern of sunlight and shadow up against an alley wall.  That wasn’t the way of it.  Bautista sucked on the cigar with black amusement.  He had deep, old scars on his bald pate that spoke of another way, scars that made his business colleagues avert their eyes politely.  Well, leave ’em there.  They added something to his reputation too, made people whisper about Vietnam and shit in dark corners when he wasn’t around.

“Sir?” his assistant asked, his voice appropriately subdued. He knew how good Bautista’s hearing was, and how he hated unnecessary conversation.  “There’s a report in from west of Colorado Springs, something about an illegal Pentex operation flushed out by the EPA–“

Bautista didn’t answer out loud, just flicked an elbow at the TV.  They turned it on immediately and fell silent; it was only up barely into audible levels, but he could hear it as clearly as if he stood by the reporters.  Cable news idiots, talking heads, discussing whether this latest gaffe would lower Pentex’s stocks or not.  Foolishness, of course, but interesting foolishness.

“Brandy,” Bautista ordered, his voice sonorous and deep, and it was waiting for him at his desk before he made it over there.

He sat heavily, and took the glass.  He was no fool.  He knew how to translate from the mundane to the extraordinary, knew how to read between the lines of what the press was reporting.  Garou, probably.  No–too subtle.  Garou would’ve left bodies.  Or at the least, minds shattered.  Probably something else then.  Not his kind.  Coyotes?  They still wandered the West, no matter what they liked to nose about, not that Bautista was about to confirm it for any of the slavering mutts that passed his way now and again.  He only let dogs near him when they were as well-trained as his people, and they rarely returned to their own at that point.  So, probably not Garou.  Probably Coyotes or maybe a mess of idiot birds sticking their beaks in where they weren’t welcome or needed.  Loud-mouthed things.  Bautista could never quite like the things, even if they were ostensibly on the same side.  But then they were on the same side as some pretty unsavory characters.

Sometimes–alright, most of the time–Bautista felt he was on his own side.  The winning side.

He sucked on the cigar, tasting whiskey.  “I might have to send someone,” he mused into the cigar.  “Very soon.  Someone.”

Posted by: Aliddotia | July 8, 2012

Debut (efed)

It was a pretty obvious path to take when you thought about it from a booking standpoint.  There was already a storyline in place between the current Women’s Champion, Shyne, and her protegee, Amy Amelia.  Shyne was an older African-American woman who had held the Women’s title multiple times before and was on an eight-month streak, a popular face on the declining end of her career; Amy Amelia was an up-and-coming blond of the big tits and small body type.  Rumor backstage had it that she got her break after giving one of the head honchos a blowjob.  Either way, she was also a face, but lately she’d been eyeing Shyne’s Women’s title with open envy and seemed to be slowly-but-surely turning against her mentor.

It was already a recipe for disaster.  And how better to have that feud blow up than by a little strategic outside interference?  After all, some of Amy Amelia’s fans felt she deserved to come out from Shyne’s shadow anyway.  Having a crafty heel interfere would preserve everyone’s heat, and perhaps delay the feud resolving until the big pay-per-view a few months down the road.

Silhouette hadn’t really properly debuted yet, but she made her presence felt.  It was a tag-team match between Shyne and Amy Amelia and a team of two heels.  Shyne had left her Women’s title belt at ringside.  After the pin, as her music played and she celebrated in the ring, Amy Amelia turned her back, pandering to the crowd.  An arm snaked out from under the ring, nabbing the Women’s belt, and a figure in black leather suddenly hopped up onto the apron.  The crowd popped loud in surprise, but Silhouette didn’t have time to acknowledge them–she slipped into the ropes and decked Amy Amelia hard in the back of the head with the belt, then whirled around and did the same to Shyne.  The announcers were losing it.  Silhouette dropped the title somewhere between the two women and made her escape.  By the time they dragged themselves to their feet, she was long-gone, and of course they turned on each other, yelling and pointing at the belt, before Shyne reached to pick it up and Amy Amelia gave her a shove.  The two former friends grappled briefly before Amy Amelia tore herself away and stalked off backstage, leaving the Women’s Champion holding her belt and scowling after her.

It wasn’t until the next show that Silhouette got to properly debut.  She made her first entrance too–standing behind a backlit screen on the Titantron so only her sexy shadow was visible for a moment, before the screen dropped to reveal her in a classic smoldering pose, arms twined up over her head, boobs thrust out, hips curved, before she sauntered slowly down to the ring with her best come-hither smile plastered on.  Since it was a debut, she had some green rookie jobber that no one had ever heard of before; the match didn’t last too long before her music was playing again and she was sashaying back up the ramp once more.  The crowd seemed to be pretty into it, probably because of her dramatic interference the show prior, and she even had a backstage interview segment later on that same show.

“Silhouette, you were impressive in tonight’s debut–but some are saying it was you who interfered in Shyne and Amy Amelia’s post-match celebration last week, hitting them both with the Women’s title belt.  How do you respond to those allegations?”

Silhouette gave a sultry laugh, her arms akimbo.  “Brian, you have to understand, it’s not MY fault if Amy Amelia has finally decided to get out from under Shyne’s shadow.  I think the girl has a lot of potential, actually–and I’m glad she’s finally waking up to it.  Though if she wants the Women’s Championship, she may end up facing me as well down the line, and I can guarantee that won’t be pleasant for her.”

“So you have designs on the Women’s title yourself then?”

Silhouette started to respond, but suddenly Daron Strong was there, wrapping an arm around her, leaning in.  She masked her inward irritation with a slow-burning smile directed up at him.  He wasn’t written into this segment, the hell is he doing?

“Of course she’s got designs, Brian,” Strong drawled, his fingers tracing designs on Silhouette’s upper chest, getting dangerously close to boob-fondling territory.  She did her best not to react, keeping in-character.  “And why shouldn’t she?  You saw what she just did out there.  She’s sending a message to the whole locker room–and Shyne–that she’s here for business.”

“So are you two involved somehow?”

“That we are, Brian,” Strong smirked.  “This lovely lady here is my main girl–and she even leaves the mask ON.”

“Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen…”

Silhouette didn’t hear the rest as Strong led her away; once they were out of the shot she jerked away, hissing in a fierce whisper, “You weren’t supposed to be in that segment, what the hell are you doing?”

Strong took his damn time removing his arm from around her, and his eyes were insolent as they looked her up and down.  “Last-minute rewrite, sweet cheeks, you can ask the writers if you want to know more.  Though what’s got you so pissed about it?  We’ll make a fine team.  You don’t even have to work on getting over yourself if I’m with you.”  He chuckled and walked away.

Sarah–Silhouette no longer–stared after him and forced her anger down.  She didn’t like how he looked at her.  But to a degree, he was right.  Being involved in a relationship angle with one of the top guys would only help her initial push.  Still, it made her feel vaguely dirty.  It was hard enough for female wrestlers to make it without needing a man to push them.  It was certainly setting feminism back several years, she reflected inwardly with a wry smile appearing on her face.  She headed back to the locker room, inwardly steeling herself for having to deal with Strong’s arms all over her in the future.  The guy could stand to shower more than once every now and again.

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