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    Just after Dark

    February 11, 2021

    Alley near the old Western Union building




    Blood was hot.


    So was his breath.


    As it quivered in and out of his chest, in came the frigid air… out came the anger of a devil.  A thousand devils.  Cerberus.  Hell, Satan himself; in every tradition, in every faith, every level of purgatory and hell tangled tightly into a frayed knot that was breaking free.  He was a ghost whose presence would reverberate across the globe, the building pressure finally bubbling to a volcanic tirade, one small droplet of blood from his finger splashing on the broken asphalt.  Thera.  Santarini.  Vesuvius, the tales from his childhood, his home and corner of the world.  A man that had played as a boy in what was left of dormant volcanic caves a harbinger of what would inevitably come when the world broke apart and skinned the callus from a man that had been made into something unthinkable.


    A man that needed to cleanse the world of the evil that created him.


    He finally blinked, lifting a palm to look at the red peppering his fingers that everyone always assumed was so bright. It wasn’t.  Hot, sticky… leaving yellowish smears as it ran from skin and dried.  The assassin was always so clean, meticulous, humane.  This was just, just brutal.


    Hand was shaking.


    He’d never stayed, never longer than to whisper a gentle last rite over those that had been marked and he’d taken without question.  That was a lifetime ago, a life that required of him total conformity and discretion.  Now, one last cough from his target curdled stringy blood from the man’s lips, then crackled wheezing as he watched him die.  It had been ragged, vicious, unrefined and effectively violent.  Water magus unprepared for a magus that didn't need his power to kill.  The same bloody fingers curled tightly into a fist, a signet ring so fragile against his burgeoning heat on cue threatening to cave entirely molten as he pressed it against the side of the man’s throat… leaving the brand of the Order in a scalded bubble of flesh.  A conundrum for the law that would find the murdered Order magus; the third in as many weeks.  Credentials were always left scattered over the magus' chest.  The Order signet branded into skin above a throat so deeply cut it was almost severed to the spine.  Starting with the "army", the foot soldiers, to flush the generals out of their offices and onto the streets.  Out of the Long Lines and into his fire.


    For a moment, his soul felt at peace until the vitriolic rush of native tongue hissed forth...


    È la fonte della mia energia e il mio legame con tutti coloro che così toccato


    Noise woke his senses from the rush of justice, the ghost in the gray hoodie moving suddenly with the agility of a gymnast to kick off a dumpster and catch the bottom of a fire escape- the vertical leap almost impossible, but made with the ease of a trained killer.  Up the fire escape, to disappear onto the rooftops and into the urban tangle that was New York.  This was only the beginning...


    ((Translation/Italian- the third line of the Oath of the Order of Light; "It is the source of my power, and my bond to all those so touched."))

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    • 2 weeks later...

    The next morning




    “These ones,” his smile was easy, calm.  Choosing fresh bread and produce was always something he enjoyed.  Weirdly simple.


    The older woman behind the counter returned the smile and nodded.


    He truly was a peaceful soul.  If he’d had a choice, the small café in the south of Italy would have been his home for life.  Nothing but familiar faces and happy tourists, a small place, a few employees.  Cooking.  Coffee.


    He shivered slightly as he stepped out onto the sidewalk to go grab a coffee across the street and wait for the small grocery store to pack up his things.


    And no winter.


    Matera got cold, but not like this.  This was hell.  Some feared fire and brimstone; then there was salt, the scent of brackish car exhaust against dirty slush and frigid air to hammer it against his skin.  His hell.  Torture to another level.  Hood was pulled closer to his features as he trotted across the street to make the already blinking crossing light, ducking into the bustling coffee corner to sigh softly at the line.  Seems everyone else had the same idea at the exact same time.  Hands slid into his hoodie pockets and patience took him through the wait, not ignoring the prickle on the back of his neck that had begun the second he stepped out of the grocery and onto the street.


    He was being watched.


    It was always a concern. The odd stalemate between the two giants quiet for some time, his recent bloody extracurricular activities had made him certain they wouldn’t leave anything a stalemate for long. He was systematically killing Order members.  Their rekindled aggression toward each other wasn't his intention, but they would probably start blaming each other soon… or looking for the bastardized scuttle that had been haunting them from some other corner of the world; the ones that had almost drained him within a drop of his life.  They had been quiet as well.


    Order checking in on him perhaps, or maybe they already knew what he was doing and were trying to confirm.


    Order and Vanguard knew where he was, at least the top of the food chain did.  They would come knocking on his door sooner or later, he wanted them to.  This, wasn’t that.  It was an observer, someone that was actively following.  Quietly.  At a distance.


    He smiled and thanked the guy at the counter, but eyes had already scanned the crowd- a familiar face catching his attention, not sure of from where.  Nothing recent.  Had he drawn them out of their high tower already?  It was a memory from a different place, from mind bound in another time… enough familiarity to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable put him on alert.


    Cup clicked softly on the counter, the magus picking up few napkins and a coffee stirrer, popping the top off to stir in something that had never been put into his black coffee in the first place; a moment to pay attention to everything around him while doing a useless task.  Heat rifled up his skin the second he placed the face, top clicked back on the cup as he tossed the stirrer, making eye contact over the cup as he took a first drink of the scalding liquid.  Back hit the door to push it open on the way out, cup held up over a shorter woman as she entered and he ghosted out into the street.


    It could have been a foot chase, then a showdown, but he wasn’t a brawler.  Everyone made that assumption because his job was to kill.  Coffee tossed into a trashcan as he turned the corner, the zip of his hoodie tie snapped from the hood and was wound around his hand in oiled precision.  Hood was pulled up.  He didn’t like being pursued, and it never ended well.  Street was crossed, making a quiet beeline for the subway drop.  Someone was closing the distance.


    Trotting down the steps, he vaulted over the railing at the bottom and stepped aside almost underneath, watching the passengers board a train and it whoosh away.  His pursuer slowed toward the bottom of the steps, the magus still to the side of the stairs.  The guy might just leave, thinking he was on the departing train…


    “Rhome Del Santo.”


    Before the entire phrase had been uttered, the cord was around the man’s neck.  The large magus was ruthlessly agile, torquing his pursuer over the railing and effectively slamming him face down onto the ground to the side of the stairs. 


    He had moments before the next train, the garrote pulled so tight it had cut off air and was drawing blood.  This wasn’t his terms.  Choke the man to unconsciousness… or kill him….


    ...he pulled harder, hearing the next train less than a minute out, the weight of his entire body focused pushing his knee into the middle of the man's spine.  He was a fighter, the guy still trying to reach behind him to grab hold of something to make him let go.


    This wasn't on his terms...

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    • 1 month later...

    Heat surged over his skin. Not his terms… his brain didn’t want to do this, but his gut did.  He needed it.  The restraint he’d shown for over a decade was screaming from his subconscious to break the chains, tightening from his psyche like snapping cables.  He had to remove himself from the situation before he couldn’t turn back. 


    …but he didn’t know the guy, but the guy knew him.  He didn’t know if this was the same people that had tried to kill him before. Or someone else entirely…  It was unlike him to have been on someone this long; torturing them while strangling to death.  Christ.


    “All you need to know about me is that I left you alive... follow me again and I'll kill you.”


    One last jerk made his point, whipping the cord from its mark in such a way it would draw blood, sting and disorient the person that their throat had been cut- long enough a diversion for him to disappear.  He was a ghost.  For his size, he could move, gracefully, blending in to a group just exiting the train.  Stairs were taken multiple at a time, hands stuffed in his pockets, hood pulled closer around his features and he was up and out.


    He had to breathe.


    He had to breathe.


    The air too cold, breath to fast.


    Alley and he would disappear.


    The guy was fast after him, faster than he should have been, running up the steps and picking up speed.  Following him.  This was a hit of some kind, or a forced confrontation.  Somehow the bastard could follow him, like he could smell him?  Muscles were twitching, the cold, the frustration, the need to power up like a blast furnace and get the hell out of there.


    But he didn’t.


    He did the worst thing imaginable.  He turned a corner and stopped, back on the wall.  Waiting, the cold wind funneling through the alley, where the fuck his mind was churning he had no idea.  It was violent.  It was chilling, and the second the man turned the corner he was thrown back against a dumpster by the force of the magus’ fist.  Blood, was everywhere.  The punch, so uncharacteristic- he didn’t know he could even be so gauche.  He had always been an elegant killing machine.  This, was just rage.  The man’s nose was broken, still… the magus pulled him up by the shoulders of his coat and slammed his forehead into the metal of the dumpster, taking the frustration out on someone he hadn’t even determined was a threat.  Logic seemed incontestable.  He was following him.  He knew his name.  He was a threat.


    Kicked onto his back, the Italian wrapped both hands around his throat and pushed.  Skin was slippery.  Blood everywhere.  There was so much.  On him.  On the ground.  On the dumpster.


    It’d never been like this… the blood almost, egging him on.


    He was going to choke the life from him and snap his neck… he wanted to.  He HAD to.

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    • 3 months later...

    His brain was chaotic, so focused yet so frantic.  His deathbringing was normally a surprise, a slice and it was over. This man fought back, his hands at first trying to pull the magus’ hands from his neck, then thumbs going for the Italian’s eyes.  Rhome was tall enough, with long enough arms to pull his face out of the way on every reach until a sharp “THWAK” to his throat from vicious fingertips caused him to gasp for air.  His split second break in pressure was all that was needed for the man to get a sharp uppercut in edgewise and squirm out from under him.


    They both gasped for breath, ragged and raw, reassessing this altercation… the fire magus wiping his lower lip with the back of his knuckles.




    He was bleeding?


    He’d bled before, the church, repeatedly during his training.  Not like this.  This was disorienting, an odd familiarity that he couldn’t place, brow frowning at the bright red on the back of his hand, and then the man who had done it.


    All hell broke loose, launching at each other like two fighting dogs.  It was a brawl, his opponent clearly with some kind of boxing training, and the elegant assassin… something else entirely.  There was training, but in a ‘no holds barred’ way.  Brutal, effective, and craving the need to beat the other man to a pulp without ever engaging his magic.


    Higher reasoning screamed at him to just knock the bastard out and leave it at that.  Something else, more human, needed this… and needed him to suffer.  Drums in his head.  Trumpets in his head.  Sand and fields and cheering... endless cacophony of a crowd... his headbutt sending the man snapping back and again clattering to the ground.


    This time he didn't move.  He wasn't dead.  Unconscious.


    The magus fell back, hands at his sides, chest heaving.  Blood from his brow, blood from his lip.  Cheek.  Knuckles, the growl through his teeth an unrequited anger that was spilling to get out.


    Breath was slowing, but not by much.  Waiting for the man to get up.




    Or go.


    Stay.... or go...

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    He wasn't getting up.


    Knocked out cold, not dead... quivering fingers reached down to check his neck for a pulse.  Bruises fresh, blossoming a painful pink and already flushing purple.  Voices in his head telling him to finish it off, every shred of his being screaming at him to beat the man to death.  To get it over with, unleash the anger that was raging at his very core against some shadow in his soul that couldn't claw to the surface.


    Several steps were taken backward, his thumb clearing the blood from his eyelashes but the sting of salt still lingered.  He was trying to get on the straight and narrow, or at least pick a side.  Thoughts so fractured, body becoming so cold.  The first gust in the alley caused a severe shiver, so hard he almost crumpled into the wall.  Cold, was a vice, and he'd never been this hurt and trying to call on abilities to get him home.  He would leave the man where he lay, he would survive and be found to follow him another day, understanding the fire magus could have seared the man's flesh from his bones, yet didn't.  The bogeyman of the Order that was to be killed at all costs... had left the man trying to kill him, alive.


    A new leaf perhaps.


    The cold wall felt like needles on his palm, needing the damn brick building to hold him up as he staggered toward another alley to a short cut home back to the church.  He could hole up somewhere, but most likely the witch hunt that was going to follow would leave him in prison, or dead.  The magus had to get back to St. Patrick's.  There was no more shoot to capture in this venture.  It was shoot to kill.


    How many blocks he traveled, he lost count.  The wind whipping, rattling his bones, gray hoodie pulled up around his features and cuffs over his hands as he walked on and shivered violently, sniffling at the frozen blood on his lip.  The dark Carhart coat and jeans did a little to keep the cold out, but not enough to keep him conscious.  He was lost.  Miles from where he needed to be, miles from where he wanted to be, and miles from where he'd left the man unconscious in the street.


    Darkness, sparse traffic, but a warm light in the window of a small restaurant closing for the night caught his attention.  He was giving up.  He'd never given up in his life.  Quivering fingers tapped lightly on the window to get the lone server's attention, the tapping the last thing the magus remembered.



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    The ER hadn't been too busy in the afternoon and she knew better than to say anything like, 'It's quiet tonight.' Those were typically the words that always brought something bad into the ER, ranging anywhere from people being shot up badly to car accident after car accident. It was nights like this that she was most thankful for. The quiet ones when there were hardly any injuries coming in at all, which for the most part in the city were few and far between. Altheia had decided to take a bit of a break before her night would more than likely get busy. Daytime was always pretty much calm, but nighttime seemed to bring out the crazy people.


    The break room near the ER wasn't the best one in the hospital, but it did have a mini fridge stocked with some drinks and a few snack which she was indulging on when a nurse quickly came to the doorway of the room. Her eyes looked up quickly, food making her cheek look like she was a chipmunk. Go figure, she thought.


    NPC : "Altheia you need to come quick. There's a guy banged up pretty bad that they just brought into the ER. He's in trauma 2," she said quickly before leaving the door way and hurriedly going back to the ER.


    Welp, there ya have it, she thought to herself. She got up quickly and grabbed a napkin while doing so. She threw her drink and the wrapper of her snack bar into the trash bin before heading out the door, swallowing the last bit of food in her mouth. This was supposed to be my quiet night damnit, she thought. She rounded the corner and went into the trauma room two, almost taking a step back. This guy looked like he had been beaten two ways from Sunday. It almost hurt her to look at him. For the most part it was almost impossible to make out any complete features on the man's face and she knew without a doubt that his cheek was badly broken.


    After initially taking in his face injuries she moved into the room and to his side. Some other surgeons and nurses bustled around the man as they assessed his injuries as Altheia stood there for a moment taking in the sight of the man. After hearing a couple of the surgeons and nurses agreeing that he had some broken ribs, two broken fingers, a broken cheekbone, and tons of cuts and bruises she cut in. "Can everyone leave the room," she asked as she looked around at every person. For the most part they all knew what that meant and no one said a word in disagreement as they all left the room. One nurse turned the blinds down and closed the door behind her.


    Her feet quickly took her to the man and she stood to his right side, peering down at him. As she looked at his cheekbone she spoke softly, "Hey, can you hear me?" She waited for what seemed like forever to see if the man would say anything and for the moment he seemed to still be unconscious. "Listen if you can hear me and possibly wake up within the next 10 minutes, please do not freak out on me," she said the words as a soft plea to a man that probably can't even hear her in the first place.  I hate it when they are unconscious, she thought. She always ran the risk of the person waking up to her hands on them and them potentially freaking out on her. That she most certainly did not need. Her right hand moved up to his cheek, lightly touching it, but then pulling away quickly as she noticed he was a bit warmer than your average person. Hmmmm, she thought, could he have abilities. Her hand laid back down on his check, hesitating before actually starting to heal him in case he did respond or wake up.

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    He didn’t hear the phone call, or feel the cold sidewalk as he lay there with the panicked server hovered over him.  He’d never been in an ambulance, and wouldn’t remember it anyway.  Dead to the world. Vulnerable.  Eyelids flickered every so often, the fight or flight response ingrained in him viciously trying to right the sinking ship and bring him back into the land of consciousness.  It was dangerous for him to be this way on so many levels; it was more dangerous to others because he woke in fight mode.  Always.


    He was so close to the surface, almost touching the light… warmth in the ambulance starting to thaw his chill.  Fingers twitched slightly when the gurney hit the ground and wheeled into the ER.  Breath quickened, the pound of a body in pain dragging him back into the depths of unconsciousness.  Shadowed fingers whispered dangers in his subconscious, uncertainty.  There were faces there.  Familiar ones, others he’d never seen before.


    "Hey, can you hear me?"


    Don’t touch me.


    The thought existed noiselessly, and then fell away into a lifeless chasm.


    "Listen if you can hear me and possibly wake up within the next 10 minutes, please do not freak out on me"


    Cheek began to flinch, twinkle of his Uriel charm on a black cord wound around his wrist catching the metal on the side of the gurney as his fingers twitched… the sound between barely touching fingertips eerily like the flick of a lighter.  His skin was becoming warm like the sun, flashes and pops of light illuminating the depths of his unconsciousness.  Numbness was replacing pain, a cheekbone knitting back together, soaking into his skin and flickering the dormant mind to life.


    Thoughts were in Latin, moving to Italian, faster, repetitive.


    It was at that moment he thrashed, and there was a flash of fire in his palm that quickly snuffed.  Through some kind of blessing, the higher thought process had “won” and there wasn’t a wild, crazy mess of thrown tables and knocked over metal instruments... or scorched surroundings.  The grace of a lethal killer had taken him up and off the gurney to the opposite side from her.  Pale gray glared back at her trying to orient himself; freezing cold, to this.  He couldn’t focus.  Dizziness won out, hitting the floor hard as his legs crumpled and he almost took the gurney with him as he tried to catch himself.  Squeal of skin and shoe sole was still dangerously quick as he slid away from her until he was backed completely into a corner, finally able to assess… outstretched palm warned her not to come closer.


    “Hospital,” breathing was ragged, absorbing his situation, stating the obvious.  Then the pain hit again, hand that had briefly lit with flame moved to hold his side.  “Where am I?  What hospital?”


    He tried to push himself up, unsuccessful, flinch and seethe deep. 


    “You're a healer....” again, the obvious.  He was reassuring deadly reflexes that they didn't have to be deadly.  Head thunked quietly on the wall behind him, finally resolved that he wasn't getting out of this on his own.



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    There was one life lesson that she had been taught early on in her schooling and that was to be as observant as possible when it comes to your patients. Things like noticing their movements, listening to them as they talk about their either existent or non-existent problems, and making sure that they don't do anything to harm themselves while under her care. So when she slightly noticed his cheek flinch it should have been her first clue to perhaps back the fuck off, but that side of her that had to help every single person who was injured was telling her to ignore the movement. The sound of whatever was wrapped around his wrist and it hitting the gurney was probably another good sign to back off, but she could feel his cheekbone healing and he hadn't woken up yet. Maybe I can finish this healing before he completely wakes up, she thought. In times like these when things were somewhat dangerous she always tried to think on the bright and positive side.


    The next instant almost kind of had her wishing that she was more careful and not as positive as she had been a second ago. The second he thrashed her hand pulled away quickly and then she took a couple of steps back as she saw the fire in his hand. Great, she thought, fire.... just great.  For a moment she had a thought of going out of the room and getting someone to help her, but then she wondered if she would be putting someone else in some kind of danger. No, she thought, I better not do that. She had taken a couple of steps toward the door just in case though, watching him now crumple down onto the floor. The sight of his hand up almost made her dash out the door, but the sound of his voice made her stay.


    “Where am I?  What hospital?”


    First thing that came to her mind was that he was okay enough to talk, but second thing that came to her mind was that he was still in pretty bad shape and he wouldn't let her come near him. So, she thought, I'll talk and try to let him let me finish healing him. She sighed softly and smiled softly and kindly, "You're at the New York Main Hospital. I'm a doctor here. They brought you in not too long ago. Some server at a restaurant saw you outside and called 911." She explained to him everything that had happened because she knew that sometimes with head injuries there was some memory loss that tended to go along with it.


    “You're a healer....”


    This could be dangerous, she thought. She already knew that he was a magus of some sort, but she didn't know who he was or who he worked for. However, she nodded her head at him slowly and took one step toward him. "Yes. I am. And you're still in pretty bad shape, but I'm sure you know that. So if you'll just let me finish healing you.... you can be up and out of here," she said the words softly as she took a few more steps toward him cautiously. "I just need you to not start any fires. Especially on me," she took another step and stopped. She wanted some sort of reassurance that she wasn't in any immediate danger from him. She wanted to make sure that none of her staff at the hospital was in any immediate danger from him either. "And if you're going to be a problem I don't just heal," she said the words not as a threat, but as a slight warning. I'm fairly certain that he could kill me in two seconds though, she thought. It also came to her that she probably should not have said anything like that toward him. Someone like him probably gets provoked easily, she thought.

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    Her presence registered in his reality, finally.  She was peripheral at first to kneejerk training; the scalpel that had been instinctively swiped as he’d fled the gurney was tucked up further under the Uriel charm’s cord on the inside of his wrist with deft fingers akin to a magician’s card trick. It would stay hidden under his hoodie sleeve until this was sorted out.  He could set the world on fire, sure, but fire tended to catch people’s attention.  The magus used his abilities as a last resort, he was first and foremost a trained assassin, and that’s what made him dangerous.


    Pale eyes focused on her face, proximity, the time it would take for him to get to the door versus her alerting security.  He registered injuries.  Cheek no longer throbbed, but his side did, his small cough producing a wince.  Broken ribs.  He felt like hell, but torture and punishment in the form of pain was something the Order had doled out freely.  They were too careful about head injuries though, they couldn’t demand compliance if you were unconscious.  It was the unconsciousness he was worried about.


    He was now conscious again, he had to get out of there.


    "You're at the New York Main Hospital. I'm a doctor here. They brought you in not too long ago. Some server at a restaurant saw you outside and called 911."


    Nod was slight, listening to her confirmation of being a healer.  He'd just intended to ask the man for a moment inside out of the cold... seemed to have become a clusterfuck.


    Mind ticked, brief moments of fog twisted with the calculation of the dangers of staying to get patched up as much as possible versus leaving now still banged up.  He wasn’t any closer to St. Patrick’s than he’d been before.  He was now conscious… he needed to try to make the trek.  The longer he stayed, the more in danger he was; especially now since he was certain the Arma bastard had been found.


    “So if you'll just let me finish healing you.... you can be up and out of here"


    Her step closer was met with the slide of eyes back to her direction.  The initial flee had evolved into behavior much more fluid and calm in the face of danger and pain.  It was unusual enough to be a curiosity.  He’d also placed a pretty good guess on the amount of people outside based on noise and footsteps he could hear, how fast it would take him to get to the outside door.  He was most likely in an ER which meant main doors were close and usually led to a parking lot, which was exposed and not in his favor.  The magus was in no condition to run.  Eyes scanned the room again.


     "I just need you to not start any fires. Especially on me"


    Gaze moved back to her; moving closer was the worst thing she could do.  Too trusting.  But, she was moving away from the door, which was better for him.  It was apparent the brief disorientation was over.


    "And if you're going to be a problem I don't just heal"


    Brow cocked slightly.


    “Fires tend to catch a lot of attention" he said quietly.  One would definitely not expect the refined voice from his appearance; educated, definitive accent and exceptional calm despite his appearance and injuries struck a sharp contradiction.  “…and attention for me is a problem, so that’s the last thing I want to be.”


    The ‘wink-wink nudge-nudge’ deal was tossed into the mix.


    “I’m conscious,” he began to push himself up, elbow tucked hard in his side to compact the pain of his ribs.  “That’s all I need to be to get home.”


    That wasn’t a good idea.  World was spinning.




    He slid back down.


    “I just need a minute.”


    He needed more than a minute, and it was getting more tangled for him by the second.  Fingers went up to kneed between his eyes.


    “I think perhaps it’s best I let you continue, for a short time at least.”

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    The notice of his brow cocking at her words made her realize just how much she should have kept those words to herself. She didn't want this man thinking that she was some sort or any kind of threat to him. In all honesty she wasn't. She was the furthest thing from a threat, but she wondered if he had had much contact with anyone who wasn't a threat to him in some way. Well, she thought, that's a fucking heartbreaking thought. Also the fact that his brow had raised made her stay her ground and for the moment not move an inch closer to him.


    “…and attention for me is a problem, so that’s the last thing I want to be.”


    A very soft sigh of relief passed through her lips. "Well then I guess that's a good thing for me. I mean, not that you don't want attention, but that you aren't going to set anything on fire," she said her words and then blinked a few times. Why do I always make myself look like a weirdo to people, she thought. Her eyes focused on him and she could still see that he needed medical attention, but most of all healing attention. If he would just let me get close to him, she thought. It almost made her mind go off on a tangent of how people get stray abandoned dogs to let them get close to the animal. Treats, she thought, yeah I can't see that happening. She smiled slightly and bit her bottom lip. No time to smile, she thought.


    “I’m conscious.”


    Ever so slightly her eyes rolled as he said his words. People just do not understand medical stuff, she thought. Then as she saw him slide back down the wall she took a few more steps toward him. Now she was only about a foot away and she knelt down slightly, looking at him. It was easy to tell now that his rib or ribs were most certainly broken and her only concern at this second was that him moving around so much might cause them to puncture his lung and if a rib did that then it would mean way more for her to heal than right now. Which then could lead to her possibly blacking out. "I don't think you understand, but you are badly injured and there is no way you are getting out of here until you are healed," she said softly.


    “I think perhaps it’s best I let you continue, for a short time at least.”


    Another small sigh of relief came from her lips because of his words. "Thank God you came to your senses," she said as she moved up next to him. She hesitated for a second still very unsure if she should even touch him. With Boone it was different. She didn't feel in danger at all around him, but this man. He was different. He was extremely dangerous. Not right now obviously, she thought. But there was no doubt in her mind that he could cause damage to people. "I just need to place my hands on your sides," she said, giving him notice of what she was doing before she moved. Her hands rested on either side of him lightly above his ribs. Her eyes stayed open and she watched him the entire time. This was weird for her because when in the ER she found that she had been closing her eyes more when she healed someone. It's because I don't trust him, she thought.


    "This is only going to take 10 minutes, then you are good to go," she spoke softly, feeling the energy slightly drain out of her. "I'm guessing I don't want to know why this happened to you," she said, trying to make conversation with the man. "And I'm also guessing that if I ask your name you probably won't tell me, right," she said with a smile on her face.

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    "Well then I guess that's a good thing for me. I mean, not that you don't want attention, but that you aren't going to set anything on fire"


    “I only do that for parties,” the humor was soft despite being beat to hell, it really spoke of how used to functioning under pain he was.  Fingers touched slightly and there was a soft flash of blue flame that arched between them before extinguishing.  It was the odd little trick he actually didn’t do often.  It really was a party trick.  Lighting candles, manipulation through his fingers like a coin flipping, it was the most harmless thing he did.


    He blinked at her eye roll, noting the cautiousness of her movement toward him.


    “If I wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead,” words again were quiet, not trying to frighten her… but the same free hand turned upward, a nimble middle finger sliding a scalpel from underneath his sleeve to offer to her and then set next to him on the floor.  Fingers slid it out of his reach, surrendering his need for it.


    Nothing though… was ever really out of his reach.


    "I don't think you understand, but you are badly injured and there is no way you are getting out of here until you are healed"


    “Only… the serious issues if that is your intent. There are more deserving people that can use your assistance more than my bruises.”


    "Thank God you came to your senses"


    There was a genuine subtle amusement in his features.  She’d never believe him if he did tell her anyway.  A beat up priest in jeans and a worn-out hoodie.  There had been stranger things in the world.  Her hesitation was noted.


    “I don’t hurt people that have done nothing to warrant it.”


    "I just need to place my hands on your sides"


    He reluctantly pulled his hand from his side, not because he wanted it there, but because people tended to clutch things that were injured.  For security, peace of mind… some reason or another.  Arms lifted slightly, palms visible, reminiscent of hands up and getting arrested.  It was for her own comfort.  His hands were in her sight, no weapons, nothing to worry about.  From what he knew of many, healing was a vulnerable sport.  She was probably weakening herself so he would gain strength; an incredible sign of trust from someone that still seemed leery of him.


    The sensation… was very odd.  He was used to an internal hum, a pressure that would dissipate out through his skin to give off unusual heat for a human.  He’d never had it pushed back in before.  He was watching her hand on his right side for a moment, blinking a few times to squelch the mercurial silver in his irises that was shifting to the surface.


    "This is only going to take 10 minutes, then you are good to go.  I'm guessing I don't want to know why this happened to you.  And I'm also guessing that if I ask your name you probably won't tell me, right"


    “Rhome,” he said quietly.  There was nothing else for several minutes, he was trying to focus on whether or not whatever she was pushing into him, was going to have to be controlled or released somehow.  “I’m a priest from St. Patrick's.  Someone picked a fight when I was out buying food.  I took care of it.”


    It was all true, yet not.  He was no ordinary priest, and normally secrecy was the utmost concern.  Lately, it seemed to not matter.  The invitation to come at him, was there.  He almost needed the world to confront him now.


    Hand finally reached to clutch her bicep when he felt his rib pop back into place, brows downward over eyes that were clearly not normal.  It wasn't a transfer of mana that was causing it, it was almost like instead of burning on the outside, he was being lit on the inside.  He wasn't truly certain what would happen if she continued, but he didn't want to alarm her.  Already too many things dangling unspoken in the air.


    “Only what’s necessary.  There are others that need your strength more, including you.  I understand what it's like to be seriously injured.  It's just luck this time there's a healer around to help.”

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    Now that is an interesting name, she thought to herself. "Well, my name is Altheia," she said while deliberately withholding her last name. She replied to him as he went quiet, thinking that that was probably all she was going to get out of him conversation wise, but she was surprised when he spoke up again. To her though it sounded a little off. "Times are so bad that people are willing to attack a priest," she asked mostly to herself. "These really are shit times we're living in," she said softly and in a sad tone. It was the truth though. Times were rough and more often than not there were more bad things going on in the world than good.


    The feel of his rib popping into place made her wince a little. Even to this day it still made her a little uneasy to feel the major wounds repair themselves under her hands. She knew it wasn't and shouldn't be a normal thing that happened, but that wasn't how things were now. She looked down at the hand on her arm and looked back over at him. "Sorry. Repairing things can almost be as bad as being damaged. You....you should feel a lot better now though," she said softly and closed her eyes for a moment to try and regain a bit of her strength. Her eyes re-opened and her hands slowly slid away from his ribs. She took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. "Ya know.... you're pretty warm. You sure you don't have a fever," she said not really thinking that him having fire abilities wouldn't mess with his core temperature.


    “Only what’s necessary."


    Her hand reached up and touched his face lightly, healing the cuts and bruises within a moment. "Don't be silly," she paused for a second. "The cuts and bruises are the easy things to heal," she said as her hand drifted away from his face, leaving him looking brand spanking new. "Besides the hardest things and the most draining things to heal are bones and gunshot wounds," she paused for a second. "And obviously ribs are a pretty important bone. So those needed to be healed." She smiled softly and moved away from him slightly before moving to sit next to him, using the wall as support. Is it just me or is the room spinning, she thought to herself. Her eyes closed and her head leaned back against the wall, trying her best to take a moment to recuperate. In a second her eyes opened as she felt something dripping from her nose. Her right hand went up and wiped away a little blood. Well, shit, she thought. "Huh, that's never happened before," she said softly. "My fault.... used my abilities a little too much today it seems," she said a little disappointed in herself.


    "Looks like I'm not that great of a healer," she laughed softly. A moment passed by as she stayed there on the ground, leaning against the wall. "Not going to be doing much healing the rest of the night. So please. For me. Don't go and get yourself hurt again."

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    "Well, my name is Altheia,"


    “Altheia.” he nodded, acknowledging the less than opportune meeting.  Bloody, beaten up and defensive, but he was still a refined gentleman.


    "Times are so bad that people are willing to attack a priest.  These really are shit times we're living in"


    I’m not just a priest… and it was always shit times.


    It looped through his head, but he was silent.


    The magus felt her wince as his rib popped, it was a testament to her character that she could see the worst of things and still feel empathy.  Either she was new and wasn’t as of yet desensitized or she just was a genuinely good person.  Though he wasn’t watching her directly, his senses were still splayed out in every direction. In essence, he was still a predator; every little sound, gesture, even the feel of the air was registered with intense accuracy. It was why when she apologized, his guilt bubbled up.  It was his fault she was now feeling the effects of her powers. He’d been the one to do something stupid because he was so aggressive, and it landed him here.     


    "Ya know.... you're pretty warm. You sure you don't have a fever"


    Blink brought him back to the moment.


    “I’m a fire magus, it’s just the way my body works.”


    He wasn’t sure why he divulged that either.  His name.  Fire mage. Priest. He might have well put a giant damn bullseye on his forehead.  It didn’t seem to matter anymore though, he was taunting the ethos.


    It was his turn to wince, more of a distinct flinch away from her when she reach up to touch his face; he'd almost grabbed her hand to stop her.  He wasn't used to being touched when something or someone wasn’t beating on him.  He didn’t particularly like being touched, it almost always was a precursor to someone trying to kill him.  People didn't touch him because they wanted to, they hit him because they wanted something from him.


     "Don't be silly.  The cuts and bruises are the easy things to heal"


    Fingers reached up and tapped at the spot on his eyebrow that had flooded his lashes with blood not more than a few minutes ago.  His skin was still covered in it, but the contusions and gashes that were once beneath them had disappeared completely.  He didn’t move after he let his hands fall to the floor on either side of him, enjoying the moment of time next to her in complete silence without pain.


    Gaze slid to the side when she wiped her nose.


    "Huh, that's never happened before.  My fault.... used my abilities a little too much today it seems"


    “My fault, I should never have landed here in the first place,” he reached up and fished some gauze off a rolling tray, handing it to her and going for some more to start to clean the major problems from his face and knuckles.  His clothes were really hopeless. He’d never get all the blood off and would have some explaining to do if the Vicar caught him before he could slip into the cathedral and change.


    "Looks like I'm not that great of a healer.  Not going to be doing much healing the rest of the night. So please. For me. Don't go and get yourself hurt again."


    He was still, brushing slightly at the blood on his knuckles that he knew was not all his.


    “I’m not just a priest… so I can’t promise that,” he wasn’t sure why he said that either, a deep sigh before he got up and extended his hand to help her up at least to a chair.  “I’m not a very good priest.”


    The furl of his brow was rather sheepish as he turned to wash his hands in the sink, then his face, slicking water through his hair to try and clean that up as well.  He actually retrieved all the things he'd knocked over when he'd woken up, setting the tray onto the cart with a soft clink, it just was how he worked.  Polite, but deadly.


    “Is there anything I can get you before I go?” he asked as he pulled off his hoodie and rolled it into a ball.  He was going to try to at least clean it when he got back to the cathedral.  The gray tee-shirt beneath wasn’t nearly as bad as the soaked hoodie.  Presentable at least.  Jeans were just dirty from the ground, a few spatters of either blood or grease. Tims, the same fate.  They were black though, so it helped.  He would put the bloody hoodie back on when he left the building, until then he didn't want to alarm anyone.  “Can I get you something to drink… food from somewhere in the hospital?”


    Fingers clutched the rolled up hoodie tightly.


    “I feel terrible just leaving you here to recuperate because of me.”

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    • 2 weeks later...

    “My fault, I should never have landed here in the first place.”


    Her head shook a little before she spoke, "Don't be blaming yourself because someone else beat the crap out of you. That isn't any way to live. Things happen and you just have to go with the flow," she said softly before taking the gauze that he handed her, wiping the blood away from her nose. She sighed once more and placed the used gauze down at her side as she stayed on the ground and said her next words. Her eyes stayed on him as he got the blood off of himself. The blood on his knuckles she had noticed and she wondered just how bad the guy was that attacked him, but she instinctively knew better than to ask.


    “I’m not a very good priest.”


    She watched him get up and smiled softly as he extended his hand toward her, helping her up. She took a deep breath in and let it out slowly, making sure she could stand on her own two feet without falling over. Luckily it seemed as if she was getting her strength back. Totally not healing anyone else though, she thought to herself. Her eyes stayed on him and she smiled a little more. "I guess we all can't be perfect at what we do or who we are," she said. And that's the fucking truth, she thought. If tonight was any indication she needed to be more aware of how much healing she did. The one thing that was on her mind was if she should tell anyone just how bad things got tonight though. Letting people know just how weak healing made her made her feel nervous.


    Her head tilted to the side as she watched him pick up the mess he had made. It was interesting to her to watch. That this man, who was obviously very dangerous, could still care so much about picking up a mess. There has got to be more to his story, she thought. There was a tiny voice in the back of her mind that was telling her to not get involved with this one. If there was one thing she didn't need. It was danger. "You really don't have to do that," she said softly before he spoke.


    “Is there anything I can get you before I go?”


    She watched him take off his bloodied hoodie and shook her head, but then shrugged. "Not that I can think of, but...." she paused and stared at him. "Should I walk you to wherever you need to go," she asked the question hesitantly, thinking without a doubt that he was going to decline, but she was going to be going home after he left anyway. That was the best part about being her, she could leave work when she wanted. "I'm not feeling all too hungry right now. I had a fairly large lunch," she looked at him then moved to the window of the trauma room, seeing what everyone was doing. There wasn't anyone milling about to see what was going on which was a good thing. She turned back around to Rhome and looked at him. "The coast is clear," she said.

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    "Don't be blaming yourself because someone else beat the crap out of you. That isn't any way to live. Things happen and you just have to go with the flow"


    He wanted to say something, to spill his entire life out to a complete stranger because she would likely never see him again.  There was nobody he knew that he could do that with.  Everyone around him had a stake in the game.  The assassin spoke truths to those he knew, and trouble always followed.  It occurred to him at that moment that he really should find somebody he could confide in- but who in the world would listen to what he had to say and not call the cops… or ARMA?




    He knew he was being studied as he cleaned up, the magus noticed everything.  She had good instincts, but she was too trusting.  Too willing to trust first and ask questions later.  It would bring her trouble someday.


    "They didn't,"  was all he confided.  Tone of his voice made it clear he definitely wasn't on the worse end of the fight.  "They tried to kill me, I did what was necessary."


    His glance moved back and forth from the tray to her as he straightened things, looking for some kind of reaction, condemnation likely.  Judgment.  He'd said too much.  Not a very good priest.


    "I guess we all can't be perfect at what we do or who we are"


    Who we are. 


    The words resonated a moment. He wished he had the opportunity to figure that out.


     "You really don't have to do that"


    He blinked at her, what other choice was there than to clean up a mess he’d caused?  But, it was good advice. It was very possible ‘the other guy’ was going to land somewhere, even here.  Soon.


    "Should I walk you to wherever you need to go"


    Gaze watched her a moment, truly contemplating.  She was leaving, so that meant she was going home alone and not feeling well.  She’d mentioned walking, which also tossed up a red flag. He couldn’t help but feel responsible.


    “Then who would walk you home?”  the response was quiet.


    "The coast is clear"


    “I’m fine, you go home,” he answered, knowing damn well he was going to follow her to make sure she got where she was going safely.  “Just…” fingers squeezed the hoodie again.  “Don’t believe what you hear about me.”


    She may put a face with a name and figure it out eventually, maybe not.  For a time, his face was plastered across every ARMA most-wanted wall in the city.  She could be ARMA, might not be.  She was definitely a magus working in the public eye, and rogues didn’t tend to do that.  He just didn’t want to walk out and get shot in the back, or have to lose a tail before he could get home.


    He definitely didn't want her dealing with fallout from being associated with him.  The guy was still out there. He should have killed him; brow coming down at the dark thought before he smiled slightly at her and took his leave.


    “Thank you.”


    Door was pushed open silently and he moved toward the exit.  He could be completely invisible when he wanted to be, able to read where people’s attention was before he slipped past the corner of their eyes. Cold air snapped at his skin and he pulled the hoodie on and the hood up, shoving his hands into his pockets and turning the corner to wait until she left. 


    He was going to make sure she got home.

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    "They tried to kill me, I did what was necessary."


    She couldn't help but study him. She was curious about him. About who he was. How a priest could end up being hunted after. Then it sort of clicked. A light bulb going off in her head. He must be someone dangerous. There was no way someone would go after a priest. Then again morals didn't really matter much anymore. "Then that is even more of a reason to not be blaming yourself. Survival is important. If someone goes after you it's only fair that you protect yourself," she said softly to his words.


    “Then who would walk you home?” 


    His question she seemed to think was sincere. Was he really concerned for her safety? Or was he just wondering if she'd go tell someone what had happened tonight? It wasn't easy for her to believe that he didn't trust anyone. There probably isn't anyone in his life he can count on, she thought.  "My.... myself.... I mean. I usually always walk home by myself," she looked at him and smiled. "I don't typically have a problem when I do, but.... I suppose you never know what could happen." And that was the honest truth. Anything could happen. The way her luck was going. She would probably end up dead tonight, somehow. And without even having a good proper date with Boone. Now that's a sad thing, she thought.


    “Don’t believe what you hear about me.”


    A slight nod was made toward him after his first words. At least I made an effort, she thought. She knew it was probably for the best. Rhome probably didn't want anyone walking with him and especially anyone he just met. Granted she did just heal him at a cost to herself. But ya know, whatever. His next words though slightly worried her. Her head tilted to the right slightly and her forehead creased with a worried look. "What exactly do you mean...." she said softly. Mostly to herself. If there was one thing that she didn't let people do was tell her what to do or what and how to think about someone. So far there was no reason why she shouldn't trust him right now. He had done nothing to harm her.


    People change. All the time. If there were bad things about him she was more than sure, without a doubt, that it had probably happened in his past. And well. The past was the past.


    “Thank you.”


    She nodded once more at him as he said his thank you. "Mmmhmm..." she said as she watched him leave. A soft sigh came from her lips and she closed her eyes for a minute, taking some time to collect herself. She turned back to look at the room, seeing everything was in it's place. Like nothing had happened. She moved through the door and looked at some of the people moving about. She smiled at one of the nurses. "Hey, I'm heading home. I'm exhausted. Give me a call if there is an extreme emergency, okay," she asked.


    NPC : "Yeah. No problem, Altheia," the nurse smiled at her and nodded.


    Altheia headed out and rubbed her arms slightly, feeling the slight breeze. Crap, should have brought a jacket, she thought. Most of the time she didn't really care about what the weather was like, but tonight she kinda wished she had. She turned to the right, heading toward her apartment. It wasn't that far of a walk. Five or six blocks both ways a day seemed to pretty much keep her in shape and in the morning she tended to do it in a run. Exercise was important to her some of the time. A high metabolism helped her keep a nice shape, but endurance was something you had to work for.


    She passed by an alley way, glancing down it for a split second not noticing anything alarming. She turned her head to look straight ahead, keeping her feet moving and her hands still rubbing her upper arms slightly, trying to warm herself up.

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    "They tried to kill me, I did what was necessary."


    Eyes settled on her as she studied him.   There was no more hiding. Before, he could pretend to be studying at university for something or other and even pass as a scholar- now he didn’t bother. He didn’t need or want to anymore.  Had she asked questions, he would have answered truthfully- he just didn’t want to bring trouble to her doorstep.


    "Then that is even more of a reason to not be blaming yourself. Survival is important. If someone goes after you it's only fair that you protect yourself"


    “The trouble I deal with is fair penance for my crimes.  This though, was unprovoked.” 


    It was cryptic, but it was true.


    "My.... myself.... I mean. I usually always walk home by myself, I don't typically have a problem when I do, but.... I suppose you never know what could happen."


    He nodded, made sense.  He was old fashioned he guessed, or he just knew there were people like him out there.  Brow creased slightly at her worried look… maybe he’d said too much.


    "What exactly do you mean...."


    He opened his mouth to say something, then stopped himself.  Time to leave.


    …and wait for her to leave.


    It was a stupid idea, but it felt like the right one.  He could move just out of everyone’s sight line.  It wasn’t a talent, it was pure training.  Specialty, like walking a tightrope.  There were just some things that took unusual skill sets.  Three blocks into the walk and he was about to peel off and head home.  Back to almost full health and wits, it allowed him at first to smell it… then instinctively know he was being followed by someone who was bleeding.  The scent was stark against the snow and slush.




    Either the guy had sought out medical attention, or he wasn’t as injured as he’d left him and had tracked him to the hospital.  Either way, another confrontation was moving in his direction.


    Damn it.


    Peeling off into an alley, he went up with unusual grace for someone his size, finding a point where he couldn’t be seen- but could see the majority of the backstreet.


    *npc*  “Rhome, I know you’re in here.  We can talk about this.”


    There was no talking, was there?  The man had followed him before.  Was he really following him without ill intent? The fire magus had thrown the first punch at the subway after all.  Could they talk about this?  After several moments, he slid down the ladder and dropped from the fire escape.  Benefit of the doubt, maybe things had changed.


    ..aaaaand a gun.


    It was the one thing he couldn’t defend himself against effectively.  Bullets were weird things, and the risk of collateral damage to create a shield around himself hot enough to melt something moving that quickly was extremely high.  Predicting where it would hit him was another variable.


    He let the guy move closer to him, life expectancy was shorter every step he took to get closer to the former assassin.  The bullet would hit him quicker, sure, but he could torch the guy more accurately… and faster, before he ever got a shot off.  The fire magus didn’t need words to call on his power, he could do it without warning.


    The man stopped.  He could feel mana. He was smarter than to get any closer.


    “We just want you to come in.”


    Nope.  He knew with the disappearances he was enemy number one.  He would go in, and he wouldn’t come out.


    “And if I don’t, you’ll kill me here.  You’re going to kill me anyway, you just didn’t want to do it on the street where others could see you.  Wouldn’t want to look like the Order.  Kinda defeats the purpose of being the good guys."


    Flame flickered down the skin of his hands.


    “Leave me alone. You attack me, I will defend myself.”


    His brain was screaming… just kill him already.

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    “The trouble I deal with is fair penance for my crimes.  This though, was unprovoked.” 


    The first sentence kind of made her hesitant about her thinking it was okay to trust him. Then her mind went back to the fact that everyone had a past. Everyone had skeletons in their closet and things that they weren't proud of. She figured he was no exception and if he was trying to turn over a new leaf it wasn't up to her to judge him on things that he might have done in his past. However bad those things he did  were.


    It wasn't that she couldn't really tell there was anything out of the ordinary going on. She had spent most of her time, day and night, around blood and people that have been hurt more than they needed to be. However. She had always had fairly good hearing. Ever since middle school and they did those stupid hearing tests she always did extremely well. In fact, at one point some of the examiners thought there might be something wrong with her, but she had been just a normal person. Now, as it was with most people, was completely different.


    *npc*  “Rhome, I know you’re in here.  We can talk about this.”


    The voice wasn't someone that she knew and it wasn't anyone from the hospital. She stopped moving abruptly and turned around slowly, thinking she'd see someone down the street, but it was empty. Must be coming from down an alleyway, she thought. She took a few steps forward and then stopped for a moment. Is this really a good idea, she thought. She hadn't had much hand to hand combat or even any combat for that matter. She did have a way of putting someone in pain, but that required skin to skin contact.


    She continued to walk back to the alley way that she had passed only moments before. She tried to be careful and quiet with every single step. Hopefully whoever was cornering Rhome was too focused on him to even notice that she was now just around the corner of the alleyway. She kept her body close to the wall and then slowly leaned over slightly, peering from behind the wall to the scene that was unfolding. She could see the man had a gun pointed at Rhome. This was very bad because she didn't know if she would be able to heal a gunshot wound. Even just healing Rhome's broken ribs had taken a lot out of her. Could she push her abilities even more?


    "Wouldn’t want to look like the Order.  Kinda defeats the purpose of being the good guys."


    Wait a second, she thought, is that guy ARMA? Bad situations were never Altheia's strong suit, but it looked like she was in just that spot. The second in time she had no idea what she was going to do. There were many variables to think about. Many different outcomes that could come from this one situation. She could feel her anxiety beginning to climb as she mentally debated about what to do.


    “Leave me alone. You attack me, I will defend myself.”


    She wondered if Rhome really thought this guy was going to just let him walk away. If he was the guy that had jumped Rhome before she knew the answer to that already. She took a deep breath in and let it out slowly before walking out into the open at the end of the alley. "Excuse me, but I don't suppose either of you could tell me how to get to the nearest drug store. I heard voices and figured I'd see if ya'll could help me out," she said as she stood there. She positioned herself so that she wouldn't really be able to tell the guy was pointing a gun at Rhome. And she also knew that there was a drug store 4 more blocks down the way she had been going. She hoped Rhome would go along with it. She figured this would be her best shot at interrupting what was going on.


    "I really don't mean to interrupt anything, but a neighbor friend of mine is really sick and she isn't able to get out of bed to get herself medication. So me being me decided to help her out and go out for her," she said the words kind of in a nervous ramble and hoped that the stranger wouldn't be able to pick up on it, but if he was anything like Rhome he probably would be and then she would be fucked.



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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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