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[Seraphim] When Trouble Brings Friends (Closed)

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Tuesday night brought the first inkling that something had gone wrong. It was the first full night after Phoebe's assault on the Red Door; after her quest to lay vengeance on the Phoenix and reduce the Seven to Three. Aristotle knew this- he knew a great many things about the operation, having spent nights shaping the plan with his lover until it struck her unique balance between wrathful vengeance and excellence. He wouldn't expect her to check in immediately afterward- in the chaos of a victory, there wouldn't be time, but now it was Tuesday and the Empire's news outlets lit up with breaking stories. Headline after headline reported an evolving tale of destruction and death, all of it centered around Martial Town.

'Massive Blasts Rock Martial Town!'

'Explosions Devastate Martial Town Peripherals!'

'Hundreds Thought Dead as Explosions Burn Through Martial Town!'

But it was only Tuesday. Weeks earlier, over a glass of white wine and a plate of seared steak, he and Phoebe had planned for her to relay her status on Wednesday; she would take a day to conquer, a day to rest and rebuild, a day to resume.  Still, if the Mage reached out to the spiderweb of contacts and information he still retained access to, he would get confirmation the meat of things, but little more. All that he could be sure of was that something violent was erupting in Martial Town, and no one knew its cause, yet.  

Wednesday morning broke with a brilliant sunrise, but no Phoebe. The remainder of the day passed in silence, while both the official and unofficial lines of information coming out of Martial Town began to fold in on themselves and emerge as a single crafted story.

'Unknown Explosions rock Martial Town Peripherals; Few Dead, but Popular Nightclub Destroyed.'

Pictures of the Red Door - of its crushed remnants - began to flood the wires on Wednesday afternoon, lending a visual to all the tragedy's written depictions. If the photographs hadn't had captions, the once recognizable nightclub would have been wholly unidentifiable amidst the piles of debris and the coating of ash lain across its remnants like a blanket. Its namesake front doors were broken, caved entirely inward, and destroyed to such a degree that wooden fragments, and shredded fractures, were all that remained. Yet, the worn sidewalk outside was remarkably free of rubble- the force had been inward, not out toward the throughway where the once grey concrete walkway bore a flowing, liquid, labyrinth of mottled crimson stains which drew the mind back to the tall, stately red doors, and the violence needed to literally flood the street with blood.

Thursday morning, it rained a cloud-heavy drizzle that coated the Last Chance's streets in a slippery mixture of oil and city grime. The news articles shifted to the absurd as interested parties seized the narrative and began to spin the attacks toward the normal.

'Gas Explosions in Martial Town on Tuesday Linked to Faulty Resistor Couplings.'

'Martial Town Utilities Deny Responsibility for Explosions.'

When Phoebe slipped into the apartment before light had cracked into Friday morning, it was marked by little more than silence, lingering shadow, and the coppery, acrid, smell of blood atop 'scentless' soap which floated in with her. She caught the heavy reinforced door on her scraped fingertips, whispering her authentication to Seraphim as she guided the door shut, then paused to rest her forehead flat against its polished surface, and breathe. The preset algorithms embedded in the architecture began to bring the lights up to greet her, only to have the woman cut them off with a sharp thought, leaving the apartment uplit in an eerie yellow-orange glow that etched the bruises around her neck in sharp contrast. She was still resting there a moment later when the blooming realization that she wasn't alone crept across the back of her neck and she slumped in acknowledgement, her shoulders sagging down toward the floor.  

"We were ambushed.." She began, but quickly corrected herself.  "I was ambushed."

Her words dashed against the door, muted by its solidness and the weight of her memories.

"He knows me."


Random thing: Phoebe is currently wounded, poor girl, which I mention because the stab wound in her abdomen is magic in origin and not healing.  The wound is a nasty puncture which is continuously burning (not on fire, but kept raw by fire arcana).  She's tried to pull it together with her psionic bandage trick, but no go.



Edited by Noko

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No news is good news, except when you’re in this line of business.

When you’re in this line of business, the only good news is good news.

That Wednesday with the brilliant sunrise, Aristotle had been chasing his own demons—men and women he’d made enemies of during his time as Architect, and had been eager to exact their vengeance when word of his return found them. By sunset, as bloody as the streets and alleyways he’d left their bodies in, he’d returned home with two less fingers on his left than when he’d departed, a bullet in his thigh, a deep cut across his cheek, a gash across his stomach, but victorious. He didn’t hear from his wife that day.

When Thursday came, and with it a rain to wash away his sins from the city, Aristotle nursed his wounds while tuning in to the news. It seemed all of Lagrimosa was exclusively focused on Martial Town, which was to be expected, though Phoebe’s lack of communication turned matters grim for him.

'Unknown Explosions rock Martial Town Peripherals; Few Dead, but Popular Nightclub Destroyed.'

I’ll give her ‘till Friday, he thought to himself. It wouldn’t be enough time to heal, not fully, but that was as long as he was willing to wait. Then I go looking.

Restlessness, or perhaps a sixth sense, stirred him that early Friday morning. Heavily bandaged and still drained, he slogged out of bed for a drink of water when he heard the door open. That the apartment hadn’t notified him and safety protocols hadn’t engaged told him it was her, and instantly, several days of anxiety flushed from every joint, muscle, and tendon that had been welded tightly in place. When he turned the corner to greet her, that didn’t change, despite her downtrodden state.

There was a time not so long ago when Aristotle would have panicked at seeing his beloved in distress, let alone wounded. He would have called every medical specialist this side of Lagrimosa, every artificer, and every hack-job stitcher just to make sure they had as many options as possible when it came to treatment. But when she came into the apartment that early morning, smelling of blood and woman, catching him not several moments after a much-needed rest to recover from his own offends, Aristotle breathed.

It still didn’t sit well with him, and it probably never would, but seeing her with cuts, scraps, bruises, and the occasional gun or knife wound had become so common it had dulled the shock’s edge. This was part of the business, and this business was a part of who they were.


The word alone offered a lot more information than one might suspect, taken in context. You had to know someone, really know them, to pull off a proper ambush. Their habits, routines; where and when they’d be; how many they had with them; what they could and couldn’t do; what they had with them. It was the first time either of them had ever been handed such a shitty deal, and already, Aristotle’s mind was working recent contacts, new hires, old grievances beyond the obvious, anyone that might have crossed her – or one of her aliases – for a bit of extra cash.

He knows me.”

Aristotle limped his way over to her, smelling no better, but no worse, and palmed the slumped mounds of her shoulders. “You made it out though,” he said, breathing the words against the base of her neck. He rolled her shoulders against the swells of his palms, working them with his fingers just the way she liked. But then he wrapped his arms around her chest, all at once protective and possessive, and held her close. “Tell me what happened.” There was never a ‘Talk about it later’, or ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ with them. They were in the business of information, and information turned vague the longer time was allowed to run off with it.

The next question, though, he always hated. “And what’s the damage?”

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The stress melted off of Phoebe in waves as she sank backward into Aristotle's embrace.  Here, wrapped in his arms, she let her dark lashes drift closed and slipped into the mulling shadows and silence surrounding them.  It was still, like an early morning lake; the building was silent, the staff had gone, and the two lovers were left to their own intimacy.  

Reaching up, Phoebe wrapped her hands around his biceps and dipped her head, letting her dark locks fall free as she pressed her lips to the swell of his muscle.  "I missed you.." she answered softly, momentarily side-stepping any further foray into discussions which would pull her from the welcome respite found in his arms.  Her lips hovered close to his flesh, tickling the fine hairs as her breath warmed his skin.  Around their bodies, she watched the twining of their auras- the way they swelled and dipped together, gently twisted and caressed, and even in the fatigue which darkened them both danced in a way that wrote their intimacy with the playful eternity of spring winds.  Almost a minute passed in her reflection before she pressed her lips together and took a deep breath inward, then turned to face Aristotle.  Slipping her right hand up, she rested it gently on the side of his face and tickled the scrub that had come in since his last shave.

"Why don't I just show you," offered Phoebe, searching his eyes for acceptance as her psionics flickered out toward his intricate and beautiful mind.  She would never intrude without welcome- never even considered it, though she'd grown so much since training with the Mindgorger that it was hard to fathom where her boundaries lie any longer.  When he allowed it, he would feel her spread across his thoughts, warming and lively, like ginger-spiced cider on a crisp autumn morning.  The light in his thoughts began to collate into shapes; those shapes into pieces of faces and settings, then those pieces stitched together to form the violence of the past few days.

First, there was the blade; a runed, arcanic, dark-edged thing, that from Phoebe's point of view came slicing through the air to rip through her psionic armor, shearing its threads with a razor's edge.  It felt like fire when the pain came through, escaping for a moment before the woman muted it and severed that channel of her memory.  She was very much still learning- he could feel the fumbling and the newness of this ability, the way she still tripped over the control, even as her raw power thrashed against its binds.  The blade transitioned to stillness, clasped in the cold hand of its wielder, and the memory shifted to an office and the metal-clad man who had crashed through the wall like a battering ram.

He's so familiar...

Phoebe's thoughts intruded into the scene.  The man was familiar- hooked nose, strong jaw, and an identifiable scar carved into the skin over his right eye.  Phoebe hadn't been involved in the day-to-day fighting when the Dead had claimed Last Chance- if she had been, she would have recognized Caden Fuller, or at least the familial characteristics of the Fuller family.  The memories came in a bombardment- Caden from all angles, exceedingly close up as his hands wrapped around her throat, from a distance as he summoned fire from the curl of his fingers.  It was a torrent; a rampaging river of information that begged for restraint, and temperance, but never found it.  

Another flash-forward carried Aristotle through the singular agony of feeling each Skeleton's death, then watching the overwhelming flood of Kobolds and Nymphs retreat to the alleys and clouds, to riding the Dead's blood-bond up to the deck of an unknown airship.  There, the broken but living remnants of the Fuller Gang and Vito licked their wounds and retreated, victorious.  Phoebe's memory lingered long on the Fuller cousins and their familial similarities, then their scars, and Vito's mask and suit.

They're related.  I stole some of his memories- he lost someone in a mage attack, a fireball, out in the country.

Her thoughts slipped through again as the energetic pinpricks which came with her projection into Aristotle's mind began to fade and creep out, like the pitter-pat of a thousand dancing fingertips across his thoughts.  His mind became his own as Phoebe fell back into herself, guiding Aristotle with the brush of her fingertips against the edge of the new wound on his striking cheekbone.

"I couldn't help but notice this..  you saw the Fixers, I assume?" she began after a moment, flicking a glance up into Aristotle's unique gaze as she gently pressed her fingertips to his jawline, turning it so she could look for further injuries.  A stray fleck of dark, dried, blood lingered by the hairline next to his ear; she scraped at it with a squared-off fingernail, then brushed it off into the air like dust.

"I thought I was the only one planning for an action-filled week-- yours went better, I hope?"

Edited by Noko

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The memories still rolled through Aristotle’s mind like a slowly descending boulder, leaving a deep imprint in the earth of his thoughts wherever it touched, when he replied. “Soon as I got back,” he replied, leaning into the feathery touch of Phoebe’s fingertips on his jaw, and then the scrape of her fingernail. “Just letting some of these smaller ones breathe, is all.” Life with Phoebe-- or here any realm, any world, they chose --came at a cost. Aristotle didn’t heal like he used to, shrugging off deep bruises, broken bones, or gruesome gashes. His body needed time now, care and feeding, and it was still something of an adjustment for him.

“Wasn’t able to do anything about this, though, try as they might.” A depreciative smirk on his lips, Aristotle lifted his left hand between them, heavily bandaged, the first two fingers visibly gone to the lowest knuckle. It might have been a different story if he’d been able to locate the severed appendages, but he hadn’t spent much time searching. There were more pressing things at the forefront of his mind-- like the knife-wielding lunatic that had removed them, in the first place. “They’re all been dealt with, though. One less thing we need to worry about.”

Even with their minds separated once more, traces of Phoebe still lingered, a light caress that promised to retreat fully in just moments. He reached out with his right hand, slid it over the swell of her hip and took hold. The boulder slowed as it tumbled away, and across its rugged and battered face, he saw the memories more clearly, sharper than they’d been just moments ago. That knife, runed and arcanic, he’d seen one like it before, knew what it could do. It sliced through the air with purpose, found its mark. Pain. It flared in him where she’d been struck, hot, deep, and burning as a viper’s bite. Pain. . . but not for lack of care, or attempt. Pain.

Turning the massive stone over in his mind, Aristotle found the face: Caden Fuller. A no one, until he’d become a someone. Weak, until he’d become powerful. An enemy of circumstance born from conflict over territory and resource. No one, until he’d become a target.

The memories faded after a spell, utterly and completely, and once again they stood singularly in the present. Aristotle closed his eyes, easing her forward as he dipped his chin, and gently pressed his forehead against hers. He didn’t need to see her, hear her. He could navigate the world with her at his side by feeling alone, so well he knew her body, her shape. “I’m glad you’re alive,” he finally said, just barely above a whisper. These were the situations that reminded him that they weren’t invincible, that every moment together truly was a gift. Aristotle lowered his mouth to hers, kissed her deeply, hungrily-- as if uncertain whether it would be the last time he’d ever feel those lips, taste her tongue.

Pulling away with a palpable reluctance a moment later, Aristotle guided her deeper into their sanctuary, to the long stretch of sofa he’d occupied for much of their time apart this week. He sat first-- only with minor difficulty from the bandaged wound on his stomach, and some aches and bruising on the legs hidden by his pants --and with both hands on her hips, maneuvered her to the stage between his legs. “Show me,” he said, gaze already fixated on the bloody strip of fabric on her shirt. That blade had struck true, and without proper mending, it would only be a matter of time before it spread.

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"I'm glad you're alive,"

Back in the present, in the warm familiarity of their apartment, his whisper wrapped her like a well-worn blanket.  She sank into its embrace, her hand pressed flat above his heart and feeling to its steady thrum as it reverberated through her palm, passing from him to her until they felt like one.  Her thoughts took time to settle; at times, they felt as if they were almost a force unto themselves, free and wild.  He was her anchor, a strong comforting rhythm that beat alongside her heart, and she should have found its unyielding synchronicity comforting-- she should have found triumph in their mutual victories, in the ways they bent and broke the world to suit their collective will, but the pain was too near, and the cost too visible, and her smile spread short, clipped and ruminating.

"I'm glad you're alive, too.."  she whispered after a moment, pained with the implied alternative.  It was a criminal's 'I love you' - a soft, grateful expression for the simple gift of their continued breath, tangled with complications as it was, intermingled in the fast dying space between their bodies.  

"I'm sorry for your hand, we'll.."

There would be something, some cure, some fix, some thing they could do to make it as if it had never been.  A mask to slip over the ruin, as was Phoebe's way.

Her lids dipped in acknowledgment, her dark lashes as heavy as winter drapes as she took his injured hand carefully into her own, cupping it as a child would an injured bird, and brushed a kiss across the air above the wrapped bandages.  Her heart ached in time with its throbbing, and she sighed.  Her breath passed across his knuckles, and as she pulled back to meet his beautifully contrasting gaze, he bent toward her, and she lifted on her toes to him in a rush, needing as he did, wanting as they both did, longing to fill herself with something beyond the waiting tension of the past days.  

"Oliver.."  His name was a desire, a fire always smoldering in the center of her being-- a need, a hollow longing when they were apart, but its heat was never gone, never reduced to the anemic wisps of a dying love.  They were lucky in that; unlucky in so many other things, but in their bond they had found something others only dreamed of.

She slid her hand from the plane of his bare chest to the strong curve of his neck, worked her fingertips along the edge of his hairline and frolicked there, pulling him close as his hunger escalated.  He was so warm, so solid against her, and their crushing need swept them forward with its growing wildness.  Catching her breath, she felt the days' anxiety fall away beneath their growing passion, like so much dust to the wind.  She nipped his lip, dove into his deepening kisses, and eagerly threw her worry to the Fates until she felt him slowing-- her stretch to catch him, to set her palms against his jaw and pull him back to her, ripped a lightning-hot pain through her wound, stripping the color from her cheeks and dousing her heat as surely as an ice bath.

He turned and she caught his hand as he did, their steps one set echoing as they walked as a pair into their sanctuary.  The short walk gave her time to appreciate his injuries, from the stiffness in his gait from whatever injury lay beneath the bandages on his torso, and she cataloged them all with malicious, simmering efficiency -- if any of their dealers survived, they wouldn't for long, at least.. well, once she healed.

Settling, standing between his legs, she raked her fingers across the top of his skull, lifting and ruffling his hair until it was a mockery of the somber mage he sometimes was.

“Show me,” he spoke, and she sighed at its seriousness, replying with a tease, "I love how your brow wrinkles when you're being stern," as she began to work her way one-handed through the ivory buttons of her overly common shirt.  It didn't take long; she was a dexterous beast with deft fingers that remembered her days running sleight of hand cons and, before long, she shrugged the almond-colored button-up off and tossed it onto the couch.  Beneath it, she was a braless tapestry of purple-black bruises, hosting an angry, scarlet red centerpiece that drove into the flat of her lower-right abdomen. 

Landing the hit might have cost Amirah her life, but if the Phoenix looked back at the wretched trauma from beyond the pale, and saw how it had set and lingered, and threatened, she would probably choose to die again.  It was a masterpiece of pain, two-inches of ragged, torn crimson, seared raw and festering at its edges with the psions flailing, failed attempts to bind it futilely waving in the air like seaweed from the ocean floor.  From its frayed edges, the ruin crept outward like the blue-purple edge of a match marching down its wick toward the unblemished fingers holding it.  From several inches away, Aristotle could feel its heat radiating, focused along the outward spreading contagion, and his searching gaze would soon find the poisoning hexes set deep into the wound, ground into her flesh along the knife's path like dirt into roadrash.

As he looked, she played with his hair, gaze turned toward the ceiling like she would find morphine there.  A primp here, a pluck there, and the mage's pepper-flecked hair took on a flopping sort of faux-hawk that ran the length of his skull, distracting her from the pain she expected as Aristotle's examination continued.  The injury had to hurt, even with out his ministrations; it had to scream and batter at her self-control, but for the time being she bit it back-- aided by the nanites she'd ate earlier in the day, thank the gods for science, and the fact that he hadn't yet touched its ragged edges.  Before he did, she cleared her throat, traced the clean white beams overhead and wondered too-casually, with a forced idleness that didn't settle.

"..do you regret coming back?" she asked, drawing her light eyes back down to his familiar face. 

Edited by Noko

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