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  • Martini Bar Early Nightcap

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    June 12, 2018 - 7pm


    There had been an intense relief when he had exited the operating room to find order restored to his sanctuary of blood and pain. Gretchen was once more barking orders to nurses and orderlies and the rest of the shift was as uneventful as fourteen hours in the emergency room could possibly be.


    Hot water pounded on sore shoulders as his hands rested on the tiled wall. He had spent the better part of seven hours in one surgery or another, bent over operating tables and performing magic where others dared not try. Wet lashes were nearly closed as silver watched the crimson swirl down the drain.. the hazards of working the ER of a city like New York…even his hair had been coated. Long fingers itched over the healing scar at his ribs… the thin line was not even raised anymore. Last week's ER hazard as one gang tried to finish what they had started with another gang in his operating room.


    Eyes closed as the forehead rested on white tile between his spread palms… sensitive ears listening to the patter of drops as they shattered against his skin… keenly aware that he did not hear the normal flurry of female voices outside the locker room trying to find an excuse to get in… blocked by his ever watchful mother-hen.


    A last scrub over his hair and features and he snapped the water off. The towel pulled from the wooden bench outside to slice over his skin in rapid succession as he looked at his clothes neatly displayed on hangers where Gretchen had set them hours ago. He was convinced at times that the woman was a saint.


    The soft dark slacks were pulled on.. belt hanging open as he went to the sink and checked the reflection. It was as he knew it would be, the silvery gray were a bit too molten, like liquid metal pools under icy moonlight. His temper had gotten the better of him several times tonight. He could go months without an eruption but then the lingering PTSD reared its ugly head.


    Hand snapped through the waves of wet aged mahogany, frowning a bit at the length, wet locks clinging all the way to the base of his neck in the back. He needed a haircut…. and a shave…..both would have to wait… what he needed more than anything right now… was a drink. Fingers paused at the foreign tips, so many years and they still got in the way feeling like false rubber attachments on his ears. He could get them cosmetically altered, he knew some humans that had gone that route to hide that the Nevus had attacked them. After all they were the only outward sign that he wasn’t simple human anymore. Who knows why he didn’t, self abuse perhaps… a constant reminder of all that he had lost, all he could not save.


    Growling softly under his breath, the heather gray turtleneck was pulled over and tucked neatly inside his pants before the belt was finally done up. Long fingers run several more times through the wet waves before he slid on his shoes and finally slipped out of the ER locker room.


    The halls were quiet except for Gretchen who already had her coat on to leave, the others likely giving him a wide berth out of his outburst. His leather riding gloves were held out for him as the sigh oozed his chest apologetically… head a bit low as he walked over to the small, round woman and slipped the gloves from her fingers as he laid a kiss on her cheek…


    A damn godsend……


    [npc]..Goodnight Dr Asher….[/npc]


    [declan]Goodnight Gretchen...….[/declan]


    They never said more than that on nights like this, she seemed to know that there was something deep behind his outbursts. By tomorrow he would find that his schedule would be short, someone else covering the later part of the shift… she was that damn good.


    The ’42 Harley felt good under him, restored engine thundering loudly as he kicked it out into the night air, whipping between cars like a teenager on a Hayabusa. He had a tendency to push the vintage bike beyond what it was made for, especially on nights like this, when the simmer of rage was so close to the surface and all he wanted to do was have the wind whip it away.


    By the time he reached the Lounge, the anger in his heart was cooler. The bike was set up near the bouncer who nodded at the doctor… he was a regular here.


    Bike safely chained to the lamppost, he headed inside, shaking hands with the big guy as he passed, a large bill slipped into the palm as he did every night he came to be sure his bike was still there when he came out. In this part of town it wasn’t that much of a threat, the Lounge known for being of a higher class than other bars in the area. But he had a particular liking of that bike and it never hurt to stay in the good graces of the employees here. Besides... money was something he had plenty of... and frankly he didn’t really spend it on anything else.


    It was early yet.. the place fairly deserted. This was typical fair for the doctor… they were used to him finishing his shift here.


    [declan]Evening Ethan..….[/declan]


    [npc].. usual Doc?..[/npc]


    He smiled and nodded as he slid onto a leather bound stool at the bar as the tender set to flipping a crystal highball glass over onto the counter to prep his vodka tonic. Ethan only ever used Stolichnaya Elit vodka, expensive but the good doctor’s preference and he always made it a bit more vodka than tonic.


    The glass slid his way and he offered a smile before taking the first sip…


    [npc].. rough day?..[/npc]


    The man was too keen a bartender, he tended to notice when the doctor was a bit more drained than usual. He sipped his vodka before answering to ensure nothing came out snarly at the man.. the smile that was offered was genuinely tired.


    [declan]Lost a few today and had some pretty nasty construction accidents come in….bit more than we normally see...[/declan]


    The man nodded heading back to organizing his liquors but not before he slid a small bowl of cashews towards the doc who rarely ordered any food when he came in for his after work nightcap.


    Long fingers pushed through the damp bangs, the waves flipping down to lay against his temples as he sipped again. There was another bar waiting for him at home, between the two he sought respite from the hell that was now his life.

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    It wasn't fair.  It simply wasn't fair.  The incredibly handsome man had walked right past Mana without even noticing her.  He probably was tired, but still.  


    Mana's wounds from the winter blast were long healed.  Her relationship with Saranna was, well, she didn't know what it was.   It was SLOW!  


    Mana was really, really, really ready for something, some adventure, some romance, some action so that she wouldn't feel like life was passing her by.  


    It wasn't uncommon to see handsome men in NYC.  And Mana did notice them--seeing as how she still had not even been in one healthy female/male relationship in her life.  She was wondering a lot about herself, and her self-esteem was at an all-time low.  A graph of her self-esteem would have looked really funny--a steady slope downward ever since the Nevus event.  


    The man was nicely dressed, snappy, with a beard, and Mana didn't, as a rule, like beards--but, his beard was actually pretty darn good looking.  He had slipped off of this ancient Harley as though he were truly a dancer (very graceful-like).  Then, as he had walked past Mana, Mana had slowed down, hoping her gawking was not too obvious--but no, apparently she was invisible.  


    He went into the lounge.  Mana had completely stopped and had watched him open the door, step in, and disappear.  Mana didn't have any money, so going into the lounge would have been embarrassing--unless . . . well, unless she asked to simply use the lady's room.  But, no, that was not Mana.  She would instead sit at the bus stop outside the lounge and wait, figuring maybe he would be out in 20 minutes.  She wanted to see him again.  My god, Mana laughed at herself, you have a crush on a complete stranger.  "Desperate" was the word Mana was thinking of to describe herself.  


    Mana sat down, her faded Goodwill jeans from the children's section were on their last leg, and her white sleeveless blouse also was about ready for the trash heap.  She sat primly with her left leg over her right and wrapped almost twice around--and there was a slight tenseness to her posture.  She had nothing to do so she thought of another Haruki Murakami quote: "I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them.  I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions.  I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world."  


    Mana thought it wasn't bad advice.  What possibilities were there for her?  If the man came out in a short while, would he notice Mana this time?  Not very likely, Mana admitted to herself.  Still, just getting another look at him might suffice to fuel a few fantasies for Mana.  

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    She was finally finishing up, pulling her mask down and looking at her feet, booties covered in blood spatter.  The day, shitty.  After the nurses, the doctors, everyone that saved lives had gone home… she was left cleaning up the aftermath.  Without her, more people would die- infection, sepsis.  It was a bit of comfort to think she also was important in saving lives. Maybe not a doctor, or a crash nurse, but in her own way.  Even when she was done, she wasn’t done.  Everything had to be disposed of properly, sterilized items returned to their places, herself disinfected.  Almost an hour later in worn jeans, sandals and a light well-worn favorite sweater, she stepped into the ER to see the triage off, smiling and waving lightly to the night crew and refraining from the “hope it’s a quiet one” curse that was akin to Macbeth in a theater.  Except here, there wasn’t a ritual to make it go away.


    It was the scent of smoke that caught her attention in the dark, the light of a cigarette bobbing a bit before it disappeared toward the subway drop, allowing her a full look as he walked away.  People just didn’t hang out in the doorway of the ER, then leave without checking in.




    It didn't feel right, the odd emotional throb one she'd learn to pick up on.  It made her skin crawl.  She followed.  She thought she’d seen him before, the face rolling through the Rolodex of visages in her brain that she saw on a daily basis. It itched along her skin, it wasn’t good but she couldn’t put her finger on it.  Her truck was down, and she was walking to work lately, so the subway wasn’t going to take her out of her way.  Nothing to do tonight, and a hunch to follow, she stayed behind far enough.


    Didn’t hurt that she wasn’t afraid of the world anymore. Ardal had seen to that.  A baby she still was in terms of the time she had been learning what was under her skin- instead of fearing it, she pushed it, and it seemed to furl at the aggression.  Was it a good thing?  Absolutely not.  She still would not hide from it.


    Eyes were on her feet, shadow about a block ahead out of the corner of her eye.  It wasn’t until she saw a familiar bike parked out front of a bar and the shadow veer off into an alley that she put two and two together.


    Oh.  Shit.


    She kept walking, the woman sitting at the bus stop now a concern.  Quietly unzipping her messenger bag slung cross way on her chest, she pulled out three twenties and stopped nonchalantly at the bus stop.  Dropping the cash next to the woman without notice, she reached up to let down a mass of peachy curls and pull them back up in a messy bun on top of her head.


    “I need you to go inside and get something to eat,” she whispered for only Mana to hear.  “It’s not safe out here.  Please, just go.  If you don’t, it’s your ass.”


    Would they go after the woman?  No.  Would she be caught in the middle of whatever was being planned?  Yes.  Inside the bar she would have places to hide.  If they chose not to start shit like they had several weeks ago in the ER, then she’d have a great dinner on Maree.


    Without another word, she stepped in the bar, scanning the room with light eyes.  Feet made a beeline, standing next to the doctor without a word and nodding at the bartender that asked if she wanted anything.


    “Czech Pilsener.”


    Without acknowledging the doctor visually, she pawed through the zipper pouch on her messenger bag to pay the tab plus a bit, voice quiet and only for the good doctor.


    “I followed a gangbanger from the ER.  He’s in the alley next to the building.”


    The mug appeared and she sat, enjoying a long drink before putting it down and watching one of the televisions.  Thumb began to turn the ring on her right middle finger, voice still hushed.


    “Not a coincidence.”

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    He was on his second vodka tonic, the bar still blissfully deserted as the untouched cashews remained where the bartender had slid them. He never drank on the job, his hands a beacon of assured stoicism with every cut and stitch. He only drank….every other waking moment.


    He didn’t sleep much these days, Sam was haunting him again, torturing his dreams with her vile accusations. The hands that had saved so many, had not saved her. Eight years had passed, and still the loathing came through the depths of subconscious to control, manipulate and traumatize. There were periods of calm between storms, at times he went a whole month without an episode. He consciously and unconsciously avoided things and places that held hidden triggers.. a restaurant they once ate at, a song that she loved… the subway….that damn subway that used to fill with her laughter as they rode the rails, the environmental activist always encouraging him to take public transport because it saved the world.


    The end of the drink was coming to his lips, finger raising to indicate one more when the door to the bar opened. Inwardly he groaned. The night crowd was coming early tonight. He typically had the place to himself until almost 9pm. This was a swanky place that people came to after going home from work and changing into sheik evening attire, when music filled the small stage it was normally jazz, there were not brawls, but intellectual battles of wits in here.


    As Ethan slid the glass from his fingers to refill, the flinch ran through the lean back as the footsteps came right up beside him. Really? Whole empty bar and the intruder was going to invade his space? But before he could change his location, the third tonic was sliding his way and a very familiar smell was assaulting his senses.


    The hospital?


    Blink was profound as the silver orbs flicked to the side and upward to catch a glimpse of the peachy curls and the side of the smooth features. Disinfectant, she smelled of hospital disinfectant. It was subtle but there. He knew her…. Mary?...Maria?....Molly?.....shit he was bad with names.


    The fact that the first letter had stuck with him was telling. She was quiet at work but took her job seriously, something that had been truly lacking in the previous staff. She understood that cleaning up in the aftermath was as important as him scrubbing his hands before plunging them inside some poor kids guts.


    Lost in his thoughts he had missed her order, but the small hairs on the back of his neck bristled as he did not miss the shift towards him. What did she…..


    “I followed a gangbanger from the ER. He’s in the alley next to the building.”


    Blink up at her was a bit dumbfounded as the expressionless features molded into a faint "huh?" expression. The second blink slower at her "Not a coincidence" comment, the brows dipping as dark lashes fall towards his cheeks to stare at the clear ambrosia in his own glass. A faint sigh lifted his chest as she sat down.


    Wet curls pulled at the skin by his ears as head shook slightly.


    [declan]….deficit of the job am afraid. Surprised took this long. Guess they were waiting to see if that kid from last week lived.[/declan]


    Glass came to his lips, pausing as the eyes flicked her way, searching again for her name, feeling like a complete incompetent that he couldn’t find it.


    [declan]….lived by the way..[/declan]


    Clear fluid vanished past his lips as the good doctor made no move to get up for now.

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    This was a new one.  Just sitting minding her own business, Mana had been bestowed $60 by a semi-redhead.  Mana wondered what Saranna would say about that.  Still, $60 was more than Mana had seen at one time in months.  The problem was that Mana wondered if the woman had mistaken her for a bum.  


    Mana looked at herself and decided she did sort of look like a hobo.  Now the question was this: did she look presentable enough to go inside?  Would the handsome man look right through her, as though she didn't exist?  She sniffed once to see if she smelled as bad as she looked.  No, she smelled clean enough.  


    The woman with too much money had gone in.  And just what did she mean by saying, “I need you to go inside and get something to eat. It’s not safe out here.  Please, just go.  If you don’t, it’s your ass.”  Was there danger?  How not safe?  Too weird!  


    There was always danger nowadays, Mana thought, though she really didn't notice anything amiss at all. So, without any real sense of impending doom, Mana glanced at the door of the bar/lounge.  


    She was aware that by going in she would have the chance to observe the man.  Then Mana balked.  Mana thought, how desperate are you Mana?  And the answer was not a kind one.  


    Mana was 24.  Had anyone told her 5 years ago that during the next five years she would have no healthy relationships, that she would have in fact no semi-healthy relationships with men.  Well, Mana would not have believed that.  How hard was it for a pretty girl to get the attention of men after all?  Not hard at all.  So, Mana wondered, why, why, why has she been totally shut out, to use a baseball term?  


    So, taking the $60 and hoping it was real, Mana pushed into the bar.  She saw the man immediately, by the counter, and the woman too.  My god, he had a girlfriend.  Well, Mana knew that any man that handsome would probably have one.  Still, to learn this so early on ruined any fantasy value to the encounter.  


    Still Mana sat at a table, one that gave her easy access to view the man.  She got a ginger ale and ordered a sandwich: grilled hot peppers and gruyere cheese.  It was not something she had ever tried before.  She overheard the man talk about a kid living or something--so is he a doctor?  


    Mana had one more worry: what would Saranna say about Mana spying on a handsome man?  

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    The magus didn’t miss the once over the woman did on herself as she set down the money.  It wasn’t really a worry, ego that is.  If the jerk that followed the doctor here was brazen enough to be a part of an organization that would take a slash at the man in the middle of a busy ER, when given the chance at night in the open?  It was a thought that had brought her here.  The woman would either get over it and take her advice, or stay outside and find out later she might be caught in crossfire.  Either way, she would rather she be inside.  Baby of a magus she was, but wasn’t one to not  let loose when the occasion called.  Taking a pot shot at the doctor would warrant utterly unleashing what she had… if someone was in her way it snarled things up quite seriously.


    “Relax, I’m not here to try and jump your bones…” the gentle voice held a lick of humor as the bartender handed her the bottle with a slight crinkle in his nose.  Seems there were a little more high end for her international tastes.  The cringe at her voice had echoed out from him like a ripple in a dark pool.  He was always a dark pool to her.  Ardal had definitely opened abilities she didn’t realize she had, and the dots were starting to connect. The world had colors, depths like water that she could either see, stick her hand into, or that reached out to touch her.  Strong emotions bounced off her skin now instead of sinking in and playing with her own emotions.


    Long drink was nice, it wasn’t chilled nearly enough.  Light eyes watched the woman finally come in from the corner of her eye.  Good.  She’d turned slightly in the doctor’s direction, but he was such a melancholy thing.  Seems he didn’t care?


    "….deficit of the job am afraid. Surprised took this long. Guess they were waiting to see if that kid from last week lived.”


    No.  No no.  It didn’t matter if the kid lived.  Gangs didn't play by normal rules.  She’d been in the harbor district long enough to know that whether he lived or not the second the doctor touched him would put him squarely in their radar.  If he caught the concern under her lashes as he briefly looked at her she didn't know, she definitely caught the indifference in his.  She wanted to reach out and strangle him.  She was probably the only one in the world that wanted to kick his ass instead of grab it.


    “...lived by the way….”


    “Of course he did,” words were quick, quiet. There was always an overwhelming sense of gentleness from her, with a steel countenance.  Now?  Slightly annoyed at him. 


    “Two things are going to happen,” she took another long drink of her bottle and oriented herself back toward the bar.  Seems he was not fond of talking like normal people.  “They’re going to try to kill you, or… they’re going to try to strong-arm you into being their personal surgeon.  Either way, the choices suck.  Maybe you do that sort of thing, that’s not my business…  but… he wasn’t coming here for good things,”  she finished, leaving the ‘how’ of how she knew that to herself for now. Wasn’t the time or place. 


    She finished off the bottle, unlike her brother she could drink most in this world under the table.  Eyes narrowed slightly, she just wanted to shake him and tell him to go straight home.


    “I’m going to go talk to him,” she said quietly, voice barely in her chest.  “Sit tight.”


    Form whispered off the bar stool as easily as it had appeared, smiling and nodding slightly at the woman that decided to come in.  Good.  If she had to light someone up, the coast was clear.

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    • 2 weeks later...

    [maree] Relax, I’m not here to try and jump your bones… [/maree]


    Brow made a faint furl. He would have lost any respect he had for her had she been there for that. She was about the only female in the ER save for Gretchen that had yet tried to get "close" to the good doctor. Hell, few of the guys had even tried to hit on him.


    None of them understood, the long thin titanium chain around his neck held the truths at its end, a powerful reminder hidden always beneath his shirts.


    Gray eyes flicked towards his shoulder as the door to the bar opened again. It was rare this much activity happened this early. What he got for grabbing a drink here instead of going home to drink. Gray eyes perused the female a moment, she was not normal clientele for the martini bar it seemed.


    Then again neither was Maree……


    MAREE…that was her name!


    Silvery grays flicked back to the peachy curled woman beside him as he mentioned it was a hazard of the job, falling once more to stare into the clear liquid before it came up to his mouth, muttering about the kid living.


    [maree]Of course he did.[/maree]


    Glass paused at his lips, long lashes blinking. Why did he feel like he just got scolded? Pupils shifted once more to her with a faintly quizzical expression. Weirdly scolded and complemented at the same time. He vaguely listened to the explanation of the gang wanting to kill him or strong arm - both were scenarios he was familiar with.. what was far more interesting was the girl herself.


    What exactly was her deal? She didn’t seem to want to jump his ass, and yet she wasn’t really like Gretchen either. She seemed like the dedicated but shy quiet type at work and yet right now was all…. caring authority figure. Chin pulled a bit back as her eyes narrowed at him, getting a confused blink in return.


    [maree]I'm going to go talk to him. Sit tight.[/maree]




    No wait a minute.


    Hand snapped out as she got off the stool, catching her at the elbow, the grip oddly light, controlled.


    [declan]…now wait just a second.[/declan]


    He never touched anyone that wasn’t a patient or Gretchen, so the touch was uncharacteristic, retreating quickly into his own space once more.


    [declan]…and then what? I have to put you back together? How does that solve anything?[/declan]


    Chivalry? Ws that what stopping her was? Hard to say with the doctor that seemed to be fazed by nothing, feel nothing, close to no one… but with a temper that others couldn’t predict and cowered from.


    [declan]…it happens all the time. Last month it was the mob following me home.[/declan]


    He wasn’t as unaware as some might think. Eyes fell to the glass once more, swirled gently.


    [declan]…this month it’s a gang….next… who knows… Vanguard perhaps…[/declan]


    Tips of the abominations on the sides of his head burned faintly… there was more than simple rattling off behind that last potential.

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    Mana was probably too obvious--gawking was looked down upon, in general.  She had not looked at anything but the man (and his girlfriend) since sitting down.  She lifted the grilled hot pepper and gruyere cheese sandwich and slowly sunk her teeth into it.  She STOPPED!  Her eyes grew in size.  Her face turned color.  She released her teeth-grip on the sandwich and started hyperventilating and fanning her mouth with her hand.  


    Next she grabbed the glass of iced water from the table and emptied it, which actually made the intense burning worse.  The serving lad was watching and clearly amused.  He was thinking the young Japanese woman clearly didn't understand the word "hot" in the sandwich's description.  


    Well, at the very least it stopped Mana from gawking more at the man. So, Mana wondered, was this what the woman meant when she had warned Mana of danger?  Had she intended to warn Mana of the food in the place?  Well, she could have been a bit more explicit, in Mana's opinion.  


    As the water had not helped, Mana stood, doing a little impromptu dance still fanning her mouth with her hand and hopping from one foot to the other, as though this dance would in any way lessen the intense burning inside her mouth.  


    Mana was now thinking about what she knew of hot peppers: don't drink water, instead, find something acidic.  Was ginger ale acidic?  It didn't matter, Mana grabbed that too and drank it all.  Hopefully there would be a clean ladies room in the lounge because Mana was already feeling bloated.  Plus, the ladies room might offer a bit a privacy since a few eyes had begun to watch her "dance".  And dressed as she was, she felt even more conspicuous.  This really wasn't the kind of place for Goodwill hand-me-downs that were threadbare and ready to be woven into rag rugs.  


    As Mana went in search of the ladies room, she walked right past the couple and heard the handsome man say,  "Last month it was the mob following me home."   Holy Moly, what kind of a man was he?  


    Now, back in LA Mana had been marginally connected to the gang through her employment at Gianna Benz's brothel.  But, this was NYC and Mana had a healthy fear of anything scary and mob's were in the category.  Well, the woman didn't look like a gangster or even a gangster's girlfriend.  In fact, she sort of looked like an X-ray technician.    


    As she pushed open the ladies room door, she glanced once over her shoulder at the man, and sighed: my he was handsome, the kind of handsome that leaves a girl breathless.  

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    She wasn’t going to wait for the solutions to fall in her lap.  The last thing she needed in her ER was cleaning up more blood from kids that walked in to take pot shots at any of them. Security was lax as it was. It was that way in all hospitals, even before the Nevus hit.  Hospitals were one of the last places on earth where people believed decency still existed.  She knew better, it was only a matter of time before some gangbanger walked through the doors pissed off and popped the lot of them.


    "…now wait just a second."


    The sound of air hitting her gut was sharp, jerking her arm away from his grip about the same second he’d realized what he’d done when he’d moved to stop her.  God she hated that reaction, she hated it.  Stronger more than ever since Ardal had been coaching her.  It was so heavy, like dark waters, barely touched by light in the form of alcohol.  Weird.


    "…and then what? I have to put you back together? How does that solve anything?"


    Her smirk was hard in coming, but quick.  He knew nothing about her, she had to keep telling herself that.  Eyes flicked to the woman that she was hoping would come in and away from whatever excitement there may be outside.  Bad choice of food?  Something hot?  About to ask her if she was okay when…


    "…it happens all the time. Last month it was the mob following me home."


    Attention moved back to Quinn.  She felt her nerves burn, the twitch on her cheek a warning she had come to recognize.


    “Well then, I need to speak with them too,” bag slung back cross ways over her chest.  “Don’t get me wrong, following you is complete bull… but if they think they can follow you and get away with it, then they have the guts to walk into the ER and hurt us.  My people, the people that help you do your job because we’re the most visible.  I’ll take care of him.”


    Her strides were quick.  She wasn’t that tall, intending on returning to see if the young lady she’d sent inside was okay when her own business was finished outside.  Enjoying the quiet for a moment before stepping into the alley next to the place.  It was quiet. Damn well better have been, but she wasn’t going to just let it go… until she knew he was gone, her job wasn’t done.

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    His touch had been light but her reaction had been strong. It did not go unnoticed. The intimacy removed quickly as he grabbed the other side of his glass, nimble long fingers tapping its side softly as he asked what then.


    Something about her stiff smirk reminded him that he didn’t know anything about her. Who was to say she wasn’t able to shoot lasers out of her eyes and fry the troll outside. If anything, the last eight years had taught him that the world was not what it once had been.


    Silver eyes were drawn by movement, glancing over his opposite shoulder as the other woman moved towards the back restrooms. Hell, to his earlier thought, SHE could actually be the assassin the gang had sent in to off the doctor. It was rare anyone was what they seemed.


    [maree] Well then, I need to speak with them too,….[/maree]


    Silver snapped back. She was….persistent. Since when did he need some guardian angel?…. eyes dropped to the glass as soon as he thought it, after all, Gretchen was already one for him. Weight sat on his chest as the breath pulled through nostrils in defeat, glass lifting up to his lips, clear ambrosia vanishing quickly before finger tapped the top as he set it down, Ethan immediately fetching him another.


    [maree]….Don’t get me wrong, following you is complete bull… but if they think they can follow you and get away with it, then they have the guts to walk into the ER and hurt us.[/maree]


    Small grunt agreed with her as the glass was set in front of him once more. Which one was this? Second? Third? He normally paid attention, heading home before he hit the fourth or fifth one to retreat to his own stock, but she had interrupted and now he wasn’t sure if he had one or two left before he raised eyebrows.


    [maree]…. My people, the people that help you do your job because we’re the most visible. I’ll take care of him.[/maree]


    Before he had another say in the matter she was striding out. Left hand rubbed over his features in tired frustration. There was a chuckle in front of him that flicked steely orbs upward.


    [npc]… quite the woman you got there.[/npc]


    Frown at Ethan was sharp, silver narrowing menacingly behind thick dark lashes.


    [declan].. not…my…woman.[/declan]


    Words growled out slowly. A dangerous nerve had been hit.


    [npc]..ok..ok Doc…. Just saying she feisty one is all.[/npc]


    The threat of explosion fizzled out quickly, the grunt soft as he threw back the rest of the ambrosia with the right hand, left fingers reaching up to rub something hidden beneath his shirt that hung from his titanium chain. Ethan was lucky the good doc had already had a minor meltdown and a really long and grueling shift at the hospital. Fatigue took the edge off his "episodic" outburst…. this time.


    Did he go out and check?


    He didn’t want to, not right now, but he also knew she was one of the few in the hospital he had any respect for which meant he would later regret it if something happened to her. Chest sighed as the cash was dropped onto the counter.


    [declan]…. don’t worry about it Ethan… catch you next week.[/declan]


    He found himself standing outside in front of his baby. He could just get on and go home. He really could. Both hands came up to rub roughly over the gruff cheeks and covered his eyes a moment before growling under his breath and dropping them again to slide into the pockets of his slacks as he moved towards the alley.


    God… this was stupid.

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    Mana wasn't, she decided, dressed well enough to stay long at this nice establishment and make more of a spectacle of herself.  Her sandwich, she also decided, was not edible.  Plus, both the handsome man and the woman were gone.  There was no one left to gawk at.    


    Mana would have liked to have traveled with him, and maybe, who knows, she might have made a friend.  God knew she needed one.  Six months ago she had thought that Saranna might be that one--that person heaven-sent, to rescue her.  She still really knew nothing about Saranna--talk enigma.   


    Rescue her from what though?  From herself?  From anarchists?  From demons?


    No, Mana was simply not equipped to be alone in this post-Nevus world.  She had heard stories of humans joining various organizations--Humanity Leagues and such.  Groups that fought against the horrors of this new world.  Maybe that would make them feel wanted and safe.  But, to join such a group required some beliefs.  It was like joining a church when one couldn't really accept the idea of a caring god.   That simply didn't work well.  


    Mana had traveled all the way from LA, not an easy task, only to find herself penniless and friendless in NYC.  LA was so much warmer.  


    But, to be brutally honest, Mana was getting desperate--for anything.  


    It came back to Mana that the woman had warned her about some nebulous danger.  Why Mana recalled this point was perplexing.  Still, Mana had been injured in the big blast last winter so she wasn't really feeling confident that staying put was wise.  She had a long walk ahead of her, but she still had nearly $50 of the money the woman had bestowed upon her.   So, she just rushed out of the lounge, her mind flitting from one thought to the next with no pattern.  


    There were so many things that Mana wanted to do.  Fifty bucks wouldn't quite be enough though.   Then Mana did a completely Mana thing--without having even seen the figure in front of her, she bumped right into him.  It was the man, standing in front of his bike that he had chained to the light-post.  Oh, man, this was embarrassing.  He will think she had done it on purpose, especially since she had so shamelessly followed him into the lounge and gawked at him.  


    "Oh, I am really, really, really, really sorry.  I do this all the time, walk without seeing where I am going.  I truly am sorry." Mana didn't even notice that he was tired  or really needed a shave and a haircut.  She was too embarrassed to notice anything.  

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    It was quiet, the same quiet that was so loud it wouldn't have been any different if there was a street parade marching up and down the asphalt.  She could feel eyes; an electric oddity that weren't just the ones she was looking for.  Others, knowing maybe what she didn't and were unwilling to get involved.


    [maree]I saw you at the ER again today.  Is there something I can help you with?[/maree]


    Hands were in her pockets, thumb winding the ring around her finger as she walked deeper into the alley.  She was not afraid.  There were so many other things in the universe to be afraid of.  A man with a gun was not one of them.  When the worst thing you could ever think of was yourself, it was difficult to find fear leaching in from anything else.  She was deliberate, footsteps calm as the air around her held a tension she was purposefully coaxing.




    No answer, nothing.  He was here, she knew he was.  Hiding, knowing he'd been had.  The only decision was whether or not to teach him that the ER was not a safe place for him to troll, or that she wasn't here to mess with him- maybe then he'd be a bit kinder with the intent of following people around.  A year ago, she would have been trusting of the heart, now... she was convinced there was no more true kindness.  She had been the last of it, and even she turned out to be capable of being a monster.  Hell, she was a monster.  An angel.  Angels weren't kind, they were soldiers of death.  If people wanted to see her as a figment of comfort- it was their own illusion.  She could be both, but at the core she was dangerous, and capable of cruelty she wished she could give back.


    [maree]Fine then, but I won't see you around the ER again.[/maree]


    Footsteps were quiet back to the opening, just in time to see the woman she'd hoped would stay out of harm's way bump into the good doctor and offer her apology.  Brow quirked slightly, had he followed her out?  For what?  Good grief she didn't need a savior.


    [maree]No harm done I'm sure,[/maree] she answered for the broody mule.  In reality, it wasn't truly safe.  She knew the little shit had been in the alley.  It was anyone's guess whether he was still glowering in the shadows or getting the hell out of dodge since he'd been confronted.  Regardless, she made a conscious step to put herself inbetween the alley and the two that had come out of the bar.  If the shit was up to what she thought he might be, she had more firepower... per se.


    [maree]Sorry I was so vague, rough company on the streets tonight.  Thought it might be better if nobody was out here for a bit,[/maree]  voice was quiet as she smiled at Mana, the true kindness that she was made of.  The angel that everybody saw and she wished she truly still was.  Pale eyes flicked to the good doctor.  [maree]You need to get home, your hours were ridiculous today,[/maree]


    It somehow managed to come out NOT like a mother-hen, but concerned.  It's what made her stand apart from everyone else in the damn rush of crazy they spent their time in every day.  She cared, truly. 


    [maree]Coffee...[/maree] she finished quietly, a lick of the Czech in her timbre at soft volumes.  [maree]Try coffee in the morning.[/maree]


    She'd smelled him at the beginning of the shift.  It oozed from his pores.  She didn't care one way or the other what he thought of her.  He could tell her to fuck off, but she offered it anyway, hands still in her pockets as she stood as the wall between whatever waited in the alley and the two that needed to find their places in the worst of worst nights. The back of her neck bristled, prompting the urge to turn.  Maybe it wasn't over after all.

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    He was second guessing his decision to go after Maree into the alley when his personal space was suddenly violated. The bump ignited an instant and reflexive reaction as he spun, fist cocking back as lips snarled a bit off his lips.


    The girl that had come into the bar. So this was a trap then? Guy in the alley just a distraction as the "innocent" looking one did the dirty work?


    Tensed muscles through his arm relaxed as the fist released and fell to his side. The reaction was violent, but the man wasn’t. He was a healer, not a fighter. Silver orbs blinked at her babbling stream of apologies wondering if this was part of the act, or if she really was some innocent bystander in all this.


    Lips parted about to say something to her when Maree came back around the corner.


    [maree]No harm done I'm sure.[/maree]


    Lips snapped closed as the silver lifted to the woman that had answered for him. Blink was wary. Mind reader?


    [maree] Sorry I was so vague, rough company on the streets tonight. Thought it might be better if nobody was out here for a bit.[/maree]


    She seemed to be addressing the woman still, the tone of her voice reminding him of how she was at work, gentle and kind. He looked down at the woman that still seemed to be stammering her apologies wondering just what the hell was going on, head beginning to have that dull ache that told him he had yet to drink enough. He didn’t touch a drop at work, his hands were steady as the rise and fall of each day, but after work…... he had to make up for drying out every day.


    [maree] You need to get home, your hours were ridiculous today.[/maree]




    Chest seized at her words. Silver flicking instantly to her. Their tone, the caring. It reminded him of…..


    [maree]Coffee….Try coffee in the morning.[/maree]


    This time the brows dropped even as the sensitive ears tingled at the interesting timber of her voice at the lower volumes. What exactly was she implying.


    [declan]…..I take it black every morning…actually[/declan]


    Soft words were the truth. He would never jeopardize his patients. But if people at work ever got some notion he was…… the frown deepened but the eyes sank towards the other woman, hands sliding into his pockets. Rumors could kill reputations and the hospital was still pro-Vanguard in general which meant he was often on thin ice. They kept him for his skills but he was always one infraction from being tossed out of the ER.


    About to say something more, he stopped, chin lifting as the ears vibrated at the sounds of movement. More than one set of steps now. Chest swelled with a sigh that exhaled slow and resigned, shoulders dropping gently.


    Here they go again. How often had he been jumped in the last year? One good thing about his "curse" was he had picked up an agility that seemed to always manage to evade real damage in these encounters. Eyes flicked to the alley, a set of steps were coming from there as well. Three total then.


    [declan]… might want to go back in.[/declan]


    Quiet words might have been for Mana… or Maree…. or both…. or even perhaps himself. It wasn’t really clear.

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    Talk confusion!  Where had the woman come from?  And she was like the perfect distraction for Mana's distress.  Mana was not strong, nor able to defend herself, she had no super powers, she carried no weapon, she didn't even know how to recognize danger when it stared her in the face, nor was she even very smart.  Just a normal person.  And being so small, she was probably more frightened than most, and having been brought up as she was, by her extremely dominating father, she tended to be submissive.  But none of that was really foremost on her mind at the moment.  


    What was foremost  was that now that she was close up and looking at the man, the one who really did need a haircut, was that his ears were pointed.  Deformed?  Defective?  Mana's first reaction was a shudder of repulsion.  How could someone so handsome have such a deformity?  And how had she overlooked them up until now.  It wasn't like she hadn't looked long and hard at him.  But she had been mostly struck by his face, his manly beard, his fine nose, and his even finer mouth.  


    If Mana had been faster of mind, quicker mentally, she might have looked at the other woman for some cue.  Mana still didn't understand the other woman's generosity--her giving Mana $60.  


    Then Mana's training came into play.  The shudder was quick and Mana, being the good girl she was, chastised herself for her prejudice.  There was nothing really wrong with pointed ears, she quickly decided.  


    Nor had Mana really noticed the man's defensive and nearly hostile reaction to Mana's bumping into him.  


    She was vaguely hearing their conversation until she heard him say:  "… might want to go back in."


    Mana heard the words and blushed deeply.  She didn't even think that he might be addressing the other woman since he was sort of looking (glaring) at her.  Well, at least not immediately.  Mana asked herself: "What are you going to do, Mana, when the chips are down?  Nobody's innocent."  And Mana's answer shocked herself.  She reached out her delicate hand and touched the man's sleeve.  It was meant to be an indication that she would go back in, if he wanted her to.  


    Finally, a bit of sanity returning, Mana turned to the woman: "Allow me to introduce myself, I am Mana. How did you know I had no money?" 

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    He was an odd duck, eyes had narrowed at the near cold cock of someone that most definitely didn’t deserve it.  Violent when he drank?  A coping mechanism for the stresses perhaps.  Everyone coped in their own way, she just preferred to throw pots and create than throw punches.  Could she have stopped him?  Yes.  It wasn’t the outcome she was hoping.  Control.  He showed such incredible control in the ER, she was hoping it would win over, and it had… the young woman seeming not to know the wiser.  Was she used to it?  Expecting it?  Or just oblivious to it.  Odd.  They were both odd ducks.


    …and they were both itching at her resolve.  He made her spin, just when she thought she had him figured, it turned on a dime.  Emotional, and out of control.  A matter of time before he popped, so she… of all people, tried to urge some stability into the situation.  Another piece of her mojo she’d been working on, eyes narrowing at the edges of his blink when she apologized for Mana and tried to smooth over the situation.

    "…..I take it black every morning…actually"

    [maree]That’s not what’s on your skin.[/maree]


    Something had shut the man down, and she wasn’t quite sure what it was.  Odd ducks…  the lot of them, as keen on his reaction to something unheard, and the fall of his aura.  Defeatist.


    Oh hell no, thumb was turning the ring on her finger.  His eyes flicked to the alley behind her.

    "… might want to go back in."

    Her head shook once, eyes scanning for something, acutely aware that the woman seem to be retreating under the good doctor’s wing.  Which was fine.  What she wasn’t expecting was the miss of the urge to get inside.  It wasn’t for a date, it was because she was almost certain the doctor and his unusual ears had heard something the both of them couldn’t, and she knew what it was.  Her buddy hadn’t left, and most likely had brought friends.  The only choice was, blunt force, boil, or knock them on their ass.  Guns.  Probably.  That narrowed it down a bit considering the two others that were a good chance collateral damage.


    "Allow me to introduce myself, I am Mana. How did you know I had no money?" 


    Maree blinked out of her concentration, smiling through the urgency that prickled over her skin,  [maree]Jo,[/maree] she answered. She went by Jo to people she didn’t know well.  It was no longer as dangerous, or maybe it was even more so not too.  [maree]I didn’t.  I did know there are people around tonight that you don’t want to run into, and the prospect of dinner usually gets people’s interest.[/maree]  She smiled, wanting to grab them both by the nape of their necks and shove them back inside.  [maree]I think you both should take his advice and go back inside.[/maree]


    Why?  It was going to get messy.  Vanguard or not, job or not, the world could no longer put up with threats of aggression to those that didn’t have an army at their back.  Ardal had helped her understand that.  Whether a lesson he’d consciously taught, or something she’d learned from finding her own… there were no more victims if she could help it.


    Footsteps.  She could finally hear them, turning back to the alley and shifting the bag on her shoulder.  Talking probably wouldn’t work, which was why both hands flickered gently with the twitch of power behind them every few moments.


    [maree]Inside, a good idea,[/maree] she urged over her shoulder.  [maree]For both of you, I'll be in shortly.[/maree]

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    Eyes narrowed slightly as the little thing took inordinate interest in his ears. He didn’t miss the shudder of repulsion either. Frown was punctuated by a huff from his nostrils. It wasn’t the first such reaction they had elicited, nor would it be the last. For those that did not know who he was it always brought that gut reaction of "alien". He was often mistaken for one that had come to earth and not one altered in the event, prejudice magnified.


    Eyes flicked up from the small woman as Maree came forward again only to look down at the touch at his sleeve. He still wasn’t sure if she wasn’t a part of whatever it was that he was bristling at now. Something was coming, sensitive ears itching at the truth even as the girl introduced herself and asked Maree something about money.


    Completely oblivious or stalling so the gang could overtake them?


    Maree seemed not to give any reaction to the woman leading him to believe that perhaps he was just being paranoid. But the ears did not miss the noise of approaching footsteps nor the clear sound of more than one gun cocking.


    Coffee…. How had they gotten on coffee?


    [maree] That’s not whats on your skin.[/maree]


    Frown was hooded as the silver orbs slipped into a sultry dark gray, voice growled a bit petulantly but without any real hostility. What was she?


    [declan]… ya well, regardless… that’s all that’s in my system in the morning. [/declan]


    It was all he was saying on the matter. She could assume all she wanted, he never played with his work. Ears itched again at the noises. They were getting closer. Nostrils huffed again, head shaking.


    [declan]…always with the damn guns.[/declan]


    Words were half under his breath. Guns were not the measure of a man, not in the doctor's eyes. They were the cowards choice. Inflict as much damage as you can from as far as you can. Cowards choice. He also loathed what they could do to the body. How many arteries was he meticulously stitching back together in a week because some shard of metal had torn through them.




    Chin lifted and the gray eyes looked her over a moment. Jo? Had he been so wrong? Damn he was bad with people. For having as good bedside manner as he did, one would expect he was fundamentally more skilled in personal relationships. He listened to her explanation of people around that the smaller woman didn’t want to run into but the brow remained cocked a bit quizzically at her.


    Had he been THAT wrong?


    [maree]I think you both should take his advice and go back inside.[/maree]


    Frown descended again, a hand brushing the locks back that needed a haircut as the head shook.


    [declan]….four of them.[/declan]


    Quiet words held a note of concern as the hands stayed in his pockets, the haunting silver gaze finally turning down fully on Mana.


    [declan]….if you are with them, you are on the wrong side. If you are not, you really need to go back inside the bar before it gets ugly.[/declan]


    It was then he caught site of something, or perhaps heard it? He couldn’t really figure out what it was he became aware of but something about the ER janitor spoke of power. Silver dropping to her hands. An itch in his ears that he couldn’t place.


    [maree]Inside, a good idea….for both of you. I'll be in shortly.[/maree]


    This time the frown deepened.


    [declan]…hey… I patchwork back together as many would be heroes as villains and victims you know. [/declan]


    Words were quiet, almost gentle. This argument….felt familiar.

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    ♑ "Jo"

    Joe?  No, not Joe, but maybe Jolene, Jo for short.  Okay, cool, Mana thought, a name.  That was a step in the right direction (wasn't it?).  

    ♑ "I think you both should take his advice and go back inside."


     Mana was going to say, "Jo, but we just left," but she never got to speak.  Before she could the man with the Spock ears said:  "….if you are with them, you are on the wrong side. If you are not, you really need to go back inside the bar before it gets ugly.


     One of who, Mana wondered.  Wrong side of what?  What is going to get ugly? Oh, man, was he a weirdo?  Then Mana made a feeble effort to be flippant:  ""I've been schooled in the social graces. But no one has ever accused me of being from the wrong side of the tracks."  


     Mana missed how tense Jo was, and even missed most of the  tenseness in the man.  Mana was standing in the doorway, feeling like she was being pressed back into the lounge, where "With a Little Help from My Friends" was coming from the stereo.  It was not the kind of song Mana thought would be played in a fancy lounge.  Mana couldn't remember where she had heard that song before--was this song a portent?  Would she and her "new" friends be needing help from their friends?  


    Then, Mana saw four men dressed in hoods strut out from the alley.  Their faces were dark and indistinguishable under their hoods.  Worse, they seemed to be carrying weapons--hopefully toy ones.  


    Mana didn't like the way they moved, with legs slightly parted, macho, menacing.  Okay Mana, quick, inside, at least that was the voice speaking inside her head, but Mana was sort of mesmerized by the men, and frozen where she was.  


    Mana finally spoke, her voice almost too quiet to be heard, and with a shaking to it.  She spoke  to Jo"Is that the danger you were talking about?"  

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    "… ya well, regardless… that’s all that’s in my system in the morning. "

    She’d pissed him off, which for some reason didn’t seem to be very difficult.  Was that part of why Gertrude warded the damn door when he was showering after a shift.  More times than not it had made it incredibly difficult to do her job- it was hard to skip a spot that was close to go to the complete opposite end of the hospital and come back later.  Travel time was minutes, and minutes became things that didn’t get done.  Things she couldn’t  complete made Gertrude think she wasn’t worth the effort it had taken to save her job.  She had to understand that right??

    "…always with the damn guns."

    Her own sigh was light.  Guns were sort of a problem, depended how many were firing at the same time.  She could pull on her power, but multi-tasking was still a mystery to her.  Heating bullets enough to explode them in the chamber was relatively easy, doing it while shielding oneself from those coming at you was a bit more challenging.


    Eyes scanned the area.  She needed a bit more firepower, so to speak. Inside, there had been one inside.  Damn.  Everything was spinning in her head as she tried to get them both back inside, the young woman intent on making introductions, so she played.  The longer they were out though, the longer…


    Attention perched on the doctor’s expression at her name.  He might know it as something else.  Gertrude did. Did he think she was lying?  No… it was something she would have to explain later.  Not many knew her by her first name, it was too dangerous to her new found quiet in the world.  Brows knitted as he shook his head at her warning to go inside.

    "….four of them."

    [maree]Is that all?[/maree]


    It was the first break in the armor, although minute.  Her words were just as quiet, but concerned.  She didn’t want to have to worry about the safety of others.

    "….if you are with them, you are on the wrong side. If you are not, you really need to go back inside the bar before it gets ugly."

    She was thumbing the ring on her hand heavily, an itchy trigger finger so to speak.  It felt like the old west.


    "I’ve been schooled in the social graces.  But no one has ever accused me of being from the wrong side of the tracks.”


    She blinked.  Great, just great.  Even her patience was wearing thin with the both of them.


    [maree]Well this is a schooling in personal survival.  For god’s sake, get inside.  Both of you,[/maree] the plea was hissed, fingers opening to extend slightly toward the door as it moved to open with a gentle push then fell back into place.  A big fucking hint to the doctor that seemed incredibly keen on what was going on around him.

    "…hey… I patchwork back together as many would be heroes as villains and victims you know. "

    [maree]I’m not a would-be hero, I’m a former victim.[/maree]


    Was it too late?  She didn’t know, but it was no longer beneficial to pretend they weren’t there.  Four, hooded, and apparently too ignorant to realize when a woman walks unabashedly down an alley to tell them to get the fuck out of there, they probably should.


    "Is that the danger you were talking about?"  

    She nodded, quietly, [maree]Yes, can I convince you to go inside now?[/maree]


    Things were already in motion, the flinch on a machismo façade telling her it was working as she began to heat up two of the weapons.  The closer they got, the hotter it would become until the bullets exploded in the chamber- hopefully not within shrapnel vicinity of the three of them.


    Why, why was it only when she was angry that the world was so focused.  Magic that was a fight when she was really concentrating, became a blistering force when she was out of control.  She could really use a Hulk moment… right about now.

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    • 1 month later...

    [declan]….four of them.[/declan] [maree]"Is that all?[/maree]


    Head tilted faintly at her humor. Perhaps she really was that strong? Steely orbs looked at her a bit fresh. Few at the hospital captured his attention. The whispers behind his back had long ago pushed him to tune out anyone and everyone unless they were essential to his work. The hospital put out its "accepting" face to the public, but the inner workings were strongly bigoted. Much of the initial funding to get the New York staple back up and running had come from the Vanguard of Humanity. As far as he knew he was the only "altered" doctor on staff and it was not something others let him forget. But he was also the last bastion of true mastery in medicine. There was not another on staff that could perform the micro-surgery he was called to do on a regular basis. So they kept him well paid and in the ER where he never had to do PR work, which suited him just fine. So he got a reputation for being aloof when in truth he just was keeping his distance. He got to know those that mattered in his little world and it was starting to look like perhaps the "janitor" mattered to him more than he thought.


    "I've been schooled in the social graces. But no one has ever accused me of being from the wrong side of the tracks."


    Brow quirked upward at the response to his statement as he looked down at the woman. Was she that oblivious? Or was she overplaying her part in this? Ears itched again with the sound of footfalls approaching, chin shifting over his shoulder towards the alley even as she spoke.


    "Is that the danger you were talking about?"


    Skin was bristling with an inhuman static. Gray orbs fixating directly on the pale greens flickering behind a stray peach curl. She was…powering up. It was the only way he could think to explain the sensation.


    [maree]I'm not a would-be hero, I'm a former victim.[/maree]


    He believed her, the intensity in her voice and features far too honest. Frowning down at the smaller woman his hand planted on her shoulder and pushed her back through the door of the bar. Hand held the door as the gaze slid to the vintage Harley, hesitating before glancing at Maree.


    [declan]… kind of partial to that bike. Be nice if it…and you….were still in one piece.[/declan]


    Humor was rare, as was the concern for another. The elusive faint smile that touched his lips was fleeting before pushing through the door back into the bar.

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    Mana hadn't gained any weight since arriving in NYC.  In fact she had lost weight and was so light now Jo could have huffed and puffed and simply blown Mana back into the lounge.  Mana was not wearing makeup because, well, because she hadn't been able to afford any.  Her hair looked limp and unwashed.  That was because since arriving in NYC she hadn't even had enough money to buy shampoo.  None of these things, Mana figured, were going to help her make a good impression on Mr. Handsome biker guy.  


    One of Mana’s secrets (yes, she has a few) was that she appeared shy and even naïve to men, but in fact, she was anything but shy with men.  To Mana, men were not so hard to understand: at times they were literally babies needing to be coddled, and at times they needed to exert their “superiority.”  Mana was pretty good at coddling and excellent at letting men lead. 


    Mana thought that she had always been the type to attract strong men to her (that coyness was like a lure).  So far in her life that had turned out to be far more of a curse than a blessing. 


    Mana had also never felt like she was a target of anyone, any group, and even muggers seemed of pass her by without bothering her.  So, when those four guys with weapons came out of the alley, Mana did not assume they were “gunning” for her.  No, not at all!  She assumed they were gunning for the handsome guy with the pointy ears.   


    So, Mana asked herself, had she not been curious about the guy, had she not hung around, just to get a look at him (check him out), would she be in this situation?  Surely not!  It seemed about time to cry out for someone to call 911. 


    Mana figured that the generous lady, Jo, was right: it would be safer inside the lounge.  So, instinctively, not meaning at all to be “forward” or possessive or domineering, she reached out for the man’s hand, thinking she might take it, and then lead him back inside the lounge. 


    She had noticed him glance at his bike. Again, Mana assessed the situation and figured the guy probably loved his bike more than he loved life itself.


    Haruki Murakami would have visualized some surrealistic landscape for this scene: four thugs, a pointy-eared biker guy with a face that was a bit too handsome, a female protector named Jo and Mana . . . 


    When Mana’s fingers touched the man’s hand, finally, she noticed his reaction . . . 

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    • 2 weeks later...

    Her world was becoming warm, the normal calm that pulsed through veins from birth now being replaced by something else.  It was becoming common, the anger a tight spring in her gut until released.  Before it was the fear of something she didn’t understand, the memories of torture in the hands of the Order.  Now, it was a challenge- guided by Ardal to touch the very tips of abilities pulled from her bones by people bent on doing it themselves.


    At the moment, she’d gotten herself into a rather awful mess.  She’d followed the original thug, tried to be the nice one and clear the street, and they lingered, now threatening them all.  Well then, she would have to set it straight again.  Both hands snapped to fists, the tickle in her palms stifled for the moment, the Doc’s glance toward his bike lit a match under her normally long stream of patience. 


    "… kind of partial to that bike. Be nice if it…and you….were still in one piece."


    His pale smile brought a swift furl of brow.  Was he joking?  She looked swiftly to the thing, then turned to put herself between them and the alley as the two finally stepped back toward the bar.  The motion was instant, thugs seeing a potential loss of target as the Doc stepped near the bar.




    Her reaction was just as immediate, turning and shoving into the air, reminiscent of a rage in her shop that forced several hundred pounds of metal across the floor.  Instead of metal, it was the four, clattering to the cement behind them on their asses… not before the one prick got off a shot as he fell that pinged the streetlight above the Doc's bike in a flash of sputtering sparks.


    They were scrambling to their feet, the peppering of a popcorn sound brought a flurry of fumbling and pulling for various weapons to cast the blistering things away.  Pings and sharp pops mimicked actual gunfire, guns clattering to the pavement when the bullets began to explode inside magazines.  Knives were pulled, and she advanced with another push, those too a target of the rage that was building.


    Her blood felt like acid, the anger in palpable waves to make the heat of the air around her intolerable.  Vision was changing, pale eyes seeing the world through a haze of orange.  She had to shut it off, or the world around her was going to burn.

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    • 1 month later...

    The touch was reacted to perhaps too violently, hand snatching back as though she had tried to burn his fingers. Frown over the dark brow shadowed the gray orbs making them unreadable. There was a reason people kept a distance from the man, the good doctor tended to react to any approach with suspicion and hostility. Years alone after his wife's death had left him lacking in the finer social graces, this was where Gretchen came in so handy, running interference. Interference from the googoly-eyed nurses, from the snide doctors, and from the bigoted board of directors. She was the reason he was able to do his job.


    Touch was something he reserved for his patients, as nasty as he could react to the conscious around him, was as gentle and affectionate those fingers could float over the flesh and organs of those entrusted under his care. It never failed when the surgery was finished that a hand slid from his glove, fingertips softly brushing over the unconscious foreheads as though they were long lost members of his own flesh and blood.


    [declan]….inside…before we are all in trouble here….[/declan]


    The soft mutter was almost apologetic, as if to cover the sudden motion of escaping her touch he gave a nudge again on her shoulder to drive her inside as he glanced again to the…. Janitor? That static was playing havoc on the elven ears, setting the edges literally on a vibration that hummed with the sound in the air that likely only dogs heard.


    Furl of his brow deepened as she offered him a mimicked furl of her own before turning her attention once more to the impending danger. His own step after the petite woman to go inside triggered a firestorm. The thug quickly beginning to make his move to race past the woman to deny the doctor's escape. Shoulder instantly pivoted to face the danger only to blink as all four men were hurled backwards by an unseen force that drove them flat on their asses on the pavement. The second blink came as the ping of a shot striking too close for comfort sent sparks near enough for his skin to feel the rush of the warmth, body instantly flatting across the doorway of the club.




    Gray eyes peeked past the brick to watch the comedy of errors as weapons were being discarded like hot potatoes, and as the bullets began to snap off on their own he realized the analogy was likely an accurate one. She was… heating them?


    He had been exposed to so many abilities in the hospital that it was rare for him to be intrigued, but this sort of controlled heat without the lower class use of hurling fire balls was….elegant.


    But there was something else.


    Gray eyes narrowed as he watched the pavement begin to shine, tar reaching the point that it was re-liquefying along with the soles of sneakers that were now scrambling away from her as the idiots finally figured out they were about to become ashes on the melting pavement.


    As they made their sprint the other way, the doctor stepped out of the safety of the doorway, instantly flushing with heat that was permeating the air in waves that hummed in his elven ears.


    If she didn’t stop……….




    He softly used the name that didn’t match the one she had given but rather the one stuck in his head. What happened if she didn’t back down? Did they all fry?

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    There was a phrase that came to Mana's mind: out of her depth.  Wow! Just what was that?  The hostile response from the motorcycle man, the rushed re-entry into the lounge.  Mana's skid and tumble to the floor, crumpled and bruised.  The loud bangs that could either be a car or truck backfiring or gun shots.  Please, don't let them be gun shots.  However, she knew in her heart that they were.  


    So, what about the woman, Jo, the good Samaritan who had given Mana the money. She had not yet come inside.  Mana thought the worst--that she had been too slow and that those four men had shot her.  God, Mana thought, the world just wasn't fair--not even close to it.  


    Then, some wave of heat that seemed like the hottest summer days in Mongolia (a place Mana had never been) seemed to hit Mana.   Mana was sure she was suffering shock of some sort.  She thought that those four guys would be charging in at any moment.  Mana's eyes scanned the lounge from her place on the not-so-clean floor and began crawling like a soldier in basic training towards a table.  Maybe not the best hiding place, but it seemed better than staying where she was at now.  


    Mana's clutched the money that the woman had given her, not going to lose the one "paycheck" she had gotten thus far in NYC. It took her only a few seconds to reach the "safety" of the table.   


    Being in danger yet again just seemed too much like a bad B movie.  Then Mana finally managed to turn her head and look back, but she was unable to see anything.  


    So, Mana asked herself, was sixty dollars worth dying for?  Shit, she shouldn't be here, and all because of her bizarre attraction to a strange man who clearly disliked everything about her.  God, that was a new one, Mana thought, being treated like she were a leper by a man with a motorcycle.  Just what had she done to him?  Was it her lack of clean clothing?  Her unwashed hair? Just why was he so intensely cold towards her?  


    Mana decided that if things settled down, if the four men left and if it were safe once again, Mana would just make a straight beeline back "home", even if home were nothing more than a supply closet at the Kimono House on Third Street.  

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    • 4 weeks later...

    There it was…


    …a blossom deep from her bones, racing through muscle and nerve, erupting up her spine in a blistering sensation of anger that was quick to lick at the air around her.  She wanted to kill them, plain and simple.  She wanted it more than she wanted her next breath, the fogged brilliance in her vision focused solely on those that had attempted to hurt her and the others.  All the way to her fingertips, all she had to do was push…and the world would be on fire.  The mage held the inferno, dark veins standing out against luminescent ginger skin before turning to fractured light that seemed to come from within.  Flesh began to sting, not recognizing it for the warning that it was as the smell of melting asphalt made the air almost unbreathable.


    They were running.  No.  They weren’t allowed to run.  If they wanted to kill, they deserved to be killed.


    Teeth set on edge, air shimmering as it followed their attempt to flee, her fingertips prickling to blossom into sheer pain. It fueled the anger, the anger fueled the inner firestorm… a vicious circle that was heading for disaster…




    …breath sucked fiercely into lungs that had not been breathing for some time, wave of heat instantly releasing like a wall before dissipating.  The street still radiated heat as it cooled, but the rest evaporated.  They were gone.  Both were safe.


    The pain.


    Eyes that almost held their own luminescence blinked at him, a deer in headlights.  The odd light was gone from her skin, instead a flush settled over the fair complexion like a sunburn.  She struggled to take another breath, unable to move for a moment.  The softest brush of her skin against her clothing felt like she was being scrubbed with a wire brush and doused in alcohol.


    [maree]I have to go…[/maree] it was breathless, a shiver in her muscles as she swallowed hard and turned a heel in the other direction.  Salted tears bubbled at the corner of her eyes, stinging.


    The cool night air made it even more unbearable. Ice water on a third degree burn.  She was afraid to look at her hands as she picked up the pace to almost a jog to bring distance between them and prevent being followed.  If he hadn’t stopped her, what would have happened?  Killed everyone on the block?  Would she have consumed herself?  A death worse than anything she could ever imagine.


    Now, she had to live with the aftermath…which felt at the moment just as horrible…

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    • 2 weeks later...

    Her expression was almost heartbreaking, as if she had no idea where she was in time and space. Brow furled a bit deeper as he did not miss the burn to her fingers as she dismissed herself as though nothing had happened.


    The doctor tended to be socially inept. He was a loner that kept to himself. His appearance had made him an outcast in the early days, even today he was mistaken for a veil crosser and not earthborn. Not many places let him in. New York was still very "human". But even with his lack of social norms he didn’t miss the swell of tears before she turned and half ran out from under the gray gaze.


    What the HELL had just happened?


    The world had gone nuts…. Again.


    Lower lip tucked between his teeth, gnawed gently before huffing and heading back to the door. He had shoved that woman, he should check on her first. Strides killed the distance quickly but as he pushed the door open the bouncer was in the empty space the metal had vacated.


    [npc]…Ethan thinks its best…. you move on..[/npc]


    Sigh was soft. This had been one of the few places he had been welcomed despite the marred human features the resonance had molded. Weight shifted to look over the burly man's shoulder, gray eyes searching for the girl who now seemed to be cowering under a table. Voice was quiet as the gray eyes came back to the bouncer.


    [declan]… I get it… listen… do me a favor, see she gets a good meal and put it on my tab. You know I am good for it, will send it over so I don’t… you know… darken your door again.[/declan]


    The brute was not moving an inch but there was a faint nod. The doctor had been coming here for years and never caused trouble.


    Hand self consciously slid over an ear before scratching the back of his neck, finally turning and heading for the bike. So much for having a place to drink that wasn’t his own loft. The beast roared to life before he pushed it off the curb, back tire spinning a stain on the pavement before getting a grip and thrusting the bike forward.


    He needed to get in touch with Gretchen, the old hen was going to kill him for waking her up this late.

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    • RESONANCE - 18+ 3/3/3

      • A modern/fantasy, intermediate+ collaborative writer's rp. Caters to an experienced player base (25+) with a slower, more relaxed pace.

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