|Adriana 'Sal' Salazar|
Nearly holding her breath as Kenneth responds, Sal is relieved to see his smile and the warmth in his eyes. The first touch of his lips sends an electric tide through her, almost making her hair stand on end. She responds gently, almost languidly, to the first tentative kisses, but as their understanding grows and embraces become more intense, she has no need for words to inform Kenneth that yes, Sal is indeed in favor of passion.
Some time later - minutes, hours, perhaps days - Sal is jarred from her blissful haze by the scrape of a chair on the wooden floor upstairs. She finds that, somehow, she ended up perched lightly in the bard's lap, her good arm around his shoulders to avoid his pained ribs. She breaks off to catch her breath, dropping brief kisses wherever her lips happen to land between quick snatches of speech. Awareness of others in the house annoys her, as her only wish at this moment is for the two of them to be alone together.
"Kenneth, I could use some air," she whispers quite truthfully, "If I remember right, there's a bright moon out tonight. The grounds here are huge and... very private. Care to walk with me? I could show you how beautiful it is by moonlight." Seeing no point in wasting precious time together, she occupies herself while waiting for an answer by nibbling on his neck. "If your poor ribs can stand some exertion," she adds as an afterthought.
At the Club
The digital light show skitters across the haze and across walls augmenting the graceful moves of the Fey. Entranced by the motion and artistry of the event, more than a few people watch on. However the rave isn't focussed on the duo, for there are many stranger sights too. The bald 5' woman rocking out in leathers, the 400lb man in lycra doing jumping jacks to the rhythm, the twins dancing in perfect synchroncity
A quartet of Bohemian looking types walk over to the graceful pair and introduce themselves, inviting them to a local coffee shop to discuss philosophy, poetry, art.... or basically 'shoot the s@@#' as one of them eloquently puts it. However they seem genuine, thoughtful and most importantly not out of their mind on anything.
Laverna jumps at the chance and soon they find themselves in the shadow of the giant cathedral, the glow of a heater warming the outside - whilst fresh South American coffee prepared in the best Italian styles warm the inside.
Danny's first thought when the 'hip bohemian' crowd introduces themselves is to make sure they're actually human.
What can I say? Hanging with the Fae has made Danny a paranoid sumb!tch.
But he can hardly see through the fog and lights, and even the thought of opening up his Third Eye for a peek makes his aching head throb. Well, Laverna certainly seems intrigued at the prospect of 'shooting the s#%%'. The cool kids wouldn't have noticed, but the calm, cool affirmative that the Fae princess gave was the human equivalent of shouting 'What? intelligent conversation from a human? YES please!' AND jumping up and down like a 5 year old that just got herself a pony.
This once, Danny decides that the risk is on her. (Although some small part of him KNOWS he will likely live to regret that impetuous choice.)
But right now, with the brisk night air slapping his senses back into consciousnesses, and the excellent coffee helping from the inside, Danny starts to feel awake again. He might even be able to participate intelligently in the conversation, if he doesn't forget to turn his brain on first.
Danny decides against trying to steer the conversation into 'safe' territories, as he normally would when riding herd on a Fae who is likely to be insulted as something a normal person would probably find amusing. The entire point of the evening is to teach Laverna about being human. The unspoken agreement is that she will (hopefully) take any untoward comment as part of the educational experience, and not as the immediate call for the man's head, A-La The Red Queen,...
(Funny side note. Danny has found out that the Alice novels were neither drug-induced, nor a thinly-disguised condemnation of the modern government of Lewis Carroll's day. They were based on Carroll's actual experience when the author made his way to Faerie by mistake one day. But that's another story,...)
,... Fortunately, Danny's paranoia seems to be putting in overtime for no reason. The quartet of modern-day beatniks appear to be genuinely interested in actual conversation. And while the looks they give Laverna are appreciative, they refrain from any commenting on her appearance. (Other than one guy who notes, politely, that she made a bold choice with the modern-day conservative business-cut of an,... what was that again? 'pre-apocalyptic adaptation of a post-modernistic nihilistic referenced skirt in a Calvin Klein-esque draped Jacket'.
At which point Danny silently ordered another coffee. And prayed he wasn't out of his league.
From there the conversation went much better than Danny could have hoped. When asked if the lady liked sports, she responded in an enthusiastic affirmative. Then demurely apologized that she hadn't had time to keep up with the local teams in years. (Which was true, as the Lady in question preferred sports from the Medieval era or prior.)
After a few minutes Danny realized that Politics was universal. Even the poor yank from across the pond managed to keep up with what was essentially a commentary on the state of the world in general, and not any one particular leaders faults. (Although a few were mentioned, naturally.)
Danny almost had a heart attack when the most dapper of the group asked Laverna is she had seen the new Star Wars movie yet. But he managed not to spit out his coffee before waving a frantic hand.
"Spoilers mate! Sorry, but I'm pretty sure that she hasn't seen four five and six yet! You do NOT want to ruin that for her now do you?" He grinned. At Laverna's inquisitive eyebrow, Danny knew that he had just volunteered himself for Star Wars Marathon Duty for her highness.
Fortunately for Danny, Laverna HAD seen many of the older classics. And a discourse about the various film styles from the Golden Age of Hollywood was far more diverting to both Laverna and the Fab Foursome than possible Star Wars Spoilers. (Yes, Danny nicknamed the four guys in his head. He does that.)
After that Danny's bleary brain cannot recall what was discussed. But it ran the gamut, as 'good' conversation should do. Noting the time, Danny takes (another) chance, and asks the group if they would like to join them at the blues club.
|Kenneth Evander Finley|
Thus the group head to the blues club. Not a smoky bar of old, but a dimly-lit bar with booths surrounding a dance-floor before a stage. Soft smell of fire-smoke has permeated into the wooden furniture and the band upon the stage are a mismatched group.
Around the room, the few patrons that have shown up are engrossed in the intricate music that seems to soar and take twists and turns so that you never know where it's going next. As Danny and pals, sit down and take notice of blues it seems to have a bit of a jazz riff underscoring some of the melodies. Thus the unexpected roads of harmonies seems to merge with the soulful deep vocals.
Musically it pulls the emotions and you can almost feel that you're on the edge of one of the great American rivers sipping your drinks. The conversation slowly drifts away as the room is gripped by the inspired performance of those on stage - who seem to be performing a one-a-lifetime performance.
After a while Danny looks over to Laverna sat beside him, but....
All that's left on the table is a poker chip, the centre of which has a simple snowflake symbol; an ornate silver cigarette case. Open the case there's a little whoosh of frigid air and inside is a trio of 'cigarettes'. These pale blue cylinders are obviously meant to be lit from one end, however it's not certain that they're meant to be inhaled. Tucked away handily just inside the lid is a calling card;
"If you need me, just light up.L."
In the morning - at the Manor
Molly's sat at the table still looking a little sheepish and at the same time pale, she looks up as Kenneth enters; "Brother." she says with a hint of warmth and a look of contrition. That simple word and the look in her eyes reflect countless conversations left unsaid, both hers and their fathers.
Arjen puts his hand on the crook of her elbow and tells Kenneth that perhaps they'll stay out of Amsterdam for a while. He's thinking of getting a nice gite in Northern France and doing it up, that'll be best to heal their wounds. His tone implies that maybe not all the wounds are physical, but the compassion in his eyes certainly imply that their on the mend.
Spring has sprung and soon the daffodils that surround the walls of the city like a yellow army fade. However they soon fade with the warmth of summer...
April is unusually warm, whereas May proves to be full of showers especially during the holidays - but June becomes a return to a more continental temperatures; which is where we'll rejoin our players.
There's a power vacuum in York. With Lawrence dead, no-one has stepped up to take his place. In fact no-one has seen or heard of any Red Court vampires since....
The werewolves have been very subdued, as Andrew is still recovering from the betrayal of his pack-leader but not yet ready to attempt to challenge for leadership. Whilst Bunny is still working at her club - which is a trifle intriguing since Lawrence was the owner?? However she's doing alot more modelling for Andrew & internet modelling if asked.
The ghouls have been silent for the last few months, they seem to be staying out of the city as is their want. Some rumours say that they're afraid of it or maybe that they have better sense about forth-coming troubles. The ghosts of the city seems to be more prevalent, with the number of sightings going up. This is great news for the mundanes of the city, since tourism has increased too. It's said that the ghost of Dick Turpin has been seen in the streets, recreating his famous ride to London.
There's some dissension amongst the Coven of the Evil Eye. Sara and her mother seem to be having a little disagreement, whilst Tim has fallen in with the artistic crowd that Andrew hangs around with.
|Adriana 'Sal' Salazar|
Still riding the adrenaline rush from an explosive night, Sal grabs a packet of bills the next morning, dresses in her best urban chic, and, ignoring the day-after throbbing of her elbow and burned skin, boards the train to London.
She spends a couple of days in the city catching up with old friends, getting a new phone, visiting the street where she, Trip, and Axemius had stopped the dirty bomb from exploding, and trying to persuade her old clubbing companions to quit using. Their offers to bring her back into the scene are surprisingly easy to dismiss, paling in the glowing future she'd built in her head back in York.
But a couple of days' stay is enough time for the euphoria of victory to wear off and paranoia to set in. She slips out of the city on a train bound for Bristol, spends a couple of hours there, then boards another train for Manchester. Then it's Manchester to Leeds, where she buys a bicycle and pedals the half-day to Trip's manor, thanking the stars for Google Maps on phones.
Back in town, she calls her friends to see if anything has fallen out from the debacle with the Poppy Queen, checks in with Letitia and Soph Lauren about the favor Letitia had asked of her, and is pleased that they are able to wrangle a cheap apartment in York and a part-time job at the University without a lot of checking of IDs.
The job, though a cover for the favor, starts out interesting but quickly feels pointless. She tries to tell herself that it's helping educate future generations, but shoving around piles of paper seems so pointless after disarming a nuke and destroying a vampire. Boring, pointless, mundane... if it weren't for her little covert mission, she'd quit in a heartbeat.
Then evenings alone in the apartment turn out to be so very, very long. What did I do with myself in London? You shot up, went clubbing, and did whatever you wanted with whoever you wanted, an unwelcome little voice answers. But that's not what she wants to do now. Is it? She buys a TV and watches a few lurid crime shows, the only things that appeal. One shows the capture of a fugitive after decades on the run. The camera lingers on the faces of the man's wife and children as he is hauled away, unforgiven after building a decent life for himself and supporting a family. She pauses the show, staring at the shock and disbelief of his family for a long time, feeling the cozy little fantasy of a normal life starting to crumble away at its foundations. Suddenly furious, she pounds down the stairs to the street, waylays a couple of young men, and offers them the new TV (complete with cash receipt) if they would just take the damned thing away. Once they examine the receipt and establish between themselves that it's probably real, they take it away, to Sal's relief. But then there's the emptiness and silence.
She makes a few brief attempts to patrol the streets at night, clambering across the tile roofs quite easily and silently, nearly invisible in dark urban camo. But beyond drunks, couples rows, and barking dogs, there isn't much to see. The Spiderman method of fighting crime is seriously inefficient, she thinks wryly as she swings back in through her garret window. The clock says it's only 11 p.m., though she's sure it must be near dawn.
What to do, what to do? Feeling like ants are crawling on her bones, she paces around the little flat. Go drinking? Dancing? Get high? The stupid thoughts keep sneaking into her head, along with the knowledge that the better part of a packet of Poppy money is stashed in the room with her. That potion Kenneth gave me sure helped. Maybe he could make something like that again? What, trading one addiction for another? the dark voice mocks. It's not addiction, it's just... a little help to get through the night. But she has to admit that mocking little voice has a point. Maybe that's what she is doing. Maybe she should quit kidding herself and admit that the Poppy Queen won after all; that she is just a damned junkie, pure and simple.
She dresses, jams the money in her pocket, and hastens out onto the streets.
Only to find herself jog-trotting past all the places she is likely to score what she wants. She settles into the rhythm of running, breathing, booted feet pounding the pavement, and clings to the habits of discipline like the edge of a precipice. She finds herself heading east out of the city, running while she can, jogging until she can no longer lift her legs, then walking to rest up before breaking into a run again. Miles creep by as she pounds along country roads under the starlight, stopping only to plunge her face into the occasional river or stream, not caring how muddy they might be. The sky grows light ahead, but she continues, pushing past exhaustion into a numb, automatic stupor, knowing that she is safe now, she'll never make it back to town in this state. All she has to do is keep going.
Fothergill is quite surprised to see Sal stagger, red-faced and drenched, into the kitchen in the early dawn light. She grabs a pitcher of water and guzzles it in short, controlled intervals as she paces around the courtyard, cooling down. An hour later, she demolishes a breakfast worthy of three farm hands and staggers off to her former bedroom. Wisely allowing her to sleep herself out, Fothergill has more food waiting for when Sal arises, but is disturbed before that by the arrival of a decrepit automobile on a flatbed truck. His efforts to send it away are interrupted by a limping Sal, who waves them in and has them push the old thing into a vacant bay of the garage. She counts out money - not a lot - and pays the men, then disappears into the bay, emerging only to lug tools from the shop into the bay. There's a great deal of pounding, squeaking, and cursing from the garage.
When she finally returns to the house hours later to polish off what must be most of the remaining food in the place, there's a new light in her eyes. She stays at Trip's for the weekend, then goes back to the University Monday morning, begging a ride of the patient butler. That night, a new TV populates the apartement, along with an Xbox and laptop. She settles in for the evening with Battlefield 4 and a repair manual for her latest vehicular acquisition. But tonight, there's no wad of cash stashed in the apartment - just a few bucks in her pocket for food. And that's how she wants it.
Two nights later, she pauses outside the door of a ratty, rundown looking building. A woman pushes past her, then turns and scrutinizes her closely. "This is probably the place you want. Come in."
Sal enters and stands a little away from the group of people in the room as they mingle and chat before finally taking their seats. Minutes later, she screws her courage to the sticking point and answers the call. "Hi. My name's Sal, and I'm an addict."
Sal falls into the habit of staying in town on weeknights and at Trip's on weekends, working on the old car she bought for cash. She spends evenings in her apartment, at meetings, or at the weekly church service. A decent tattoo parlor is also on her routine, where the tribal armband of her former squad is transformed into a band of black foliage, adorned with five blood-red poppies. Once that is finished, she has the artist start on a design around her left wrist, where a patch of skin made it through the inferno undamaged thanks to a set of charred beads. The design looks very much like her rosary, wrapped there as it was that night, only some flight of whimsy has her request an ojo de dios in place of the original cross.
Unlike her first, solitary sojourn in York, Sal contacts people this time, getting together to eat, drink, laugh, and talk with her new friends, cajoling Morien to take her out on Mote, trying to catch her musician friends' gigs, occasionally dining with Letitia, and doing her best to fill her life with... well, life.