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Chasing the Sun

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Had Phoebe tossed that lifesaver, her soft and elegant hand, for a second time -- Gabriela would have been unable to resist. There was something inside of her, a memory of her interaction with Saul just before the world went black and everything within her reality was shaken up and then thrown-up literally on the other side of the continent, in which she could recall the awful ache of loneliness and a deep and horrible craving for touch. More than anything, she felt the echo of that need so profoundly that it made her very bones hurt. Her mind and her heart longed for contact -- physical contact -- even though her body was still reeling from the physical trauma she could not recall. It was a perplexing duality that made her vulnerability glaringly authentic. 


But that second chance never came. Their moment, and the awkwardness of it, was interrupted by the purple haired woman who came bearing gifts -- gifts Gabriela could not refuse. Those golden eyes widened, much like a child’s, at the sight of the plates that were presented and placed before them. 


She had always been of the opinion, back when she was a vampyre, that if she should ever have to consume human food, then her preferences would be for savory dishes, although she was more attracted to the sweet scents of fruit and sugary concoctions. She simply figured it would be a matter of taste, and being that roasted meats were more akin to blood… she simply figured that one truth would follow another. But she couldn’t have been more wrong. As a newly-born human, one powerful pleasure that remained was that of sweetness spreading across her tongue, and spilling into the spaces behind her teeth and against the inside of her cheeks. She loved the way it loosened everything inside of her throat, how easy it was to chew, to swallow, and how heavy it felt when it settled in her stomach. 


Phoebe was talking to the woman. She could hear their pleasant voices, a sweet backdrop to the sweet offering set before her. And after glancing up, through rich, dark lashes, and ensuring she was not being watched, Gabriela reached out and scraped her finger across a pool of white, hardening glaze. With a sigh of sheer delight, she stuck her finger in her mouth and felt how good the sugar was to her body, almost immediately. It warmed her far beyond the brandy ever could, more so even than the hot chocolate, which was delicious but too diluted in the milk it had been mixed with. The glaze, instead, was fine sugar, and vanilla extract, and a little bit of orange juice -- and it was like nectar for the little queen who had been away from her hive for too long. 


“..what I meant to say is, why go home when all the adventure is here?”


Gabriela’s eyes opened and she saw Phoebe staring -- perhaps studying -- her own face. Her finger was still in her mouth. Pink color her cheeks like someone had splashed her face with a bucket of pale-rose paint. However, she smiled -- she was far too glad for the sweetness that was slowly traveling down her throat to pay much mind to embarrassment.


Because home is where the heart is, she thought of saying to Phoebe, but instead remained silent. Why confess that she was a shell of a person? Why give away the fact that she was half-alive, but mostly dead? It was too much tragedy, and it was too much honesty. 


Phoebe seemed to smile in reply to Gabriela’s embarrassed grin. 


“You don’t know what I want. Maybe I’m open-minded enough to want what you want.”


It was Gabriela’s turn to watch the woman, to examine the way she broke her bread, and how she brought it up to her face, and how her eyes, forest pools of green, examined the delectable morsel. 


“..or maybe I’m easily led astray into new and interesting friendships with people who tease me with supposed impossibilities on days when I’m playing hooky.”


This whole time Gabriela had tried to concentrate on the words that Phoebe was speaking, but all she cared about was that little piece of pastry floating a few mere inches away from those plump, soft lips. Her ache for physical touch changed. It metaphorized into something beautiful, something that made her stomach ache and her muscles clench. But then of course there was pain, an actual ache from trauma suffered and not remembered, there in those parts of her that felt awakened as this woman, this physical manifestation of temptation, parted her lips and finally took a bite of the apple. 


Aware that she was staring, she went to work on her own pastry. She was nowhere near as elegant as Phoebe in her eating, a rather strange fact considering just how regal Gabriela was in nearly every other respect of her existence -- how she stood, how she walked, how she spoke. But when eating, a skill she had never learned beyond the sheer violence and brutality of the hunt for blood, Gabriela was not quite so elegant. She tore into the pastry with both hands, and took an overly large bite that pushed out the cheek on the side of her mouth where she was chewing. She might have tried harder to be polite, but she was very literally starving. 


“This is magnificent,” she said, her mouth still full of pastry...she had enough sense to lift a hand and cover her lips. “Absolutely, hands-down, the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my entire life…” she took another big bite -- wolfish in nature. And just like that, she seemed to have done away with all the bleakness which they had been discussing, and all the temptation, and all the mystery. 


“And why are you playing hooky?” she asked, suddenly, while sucking the sweet white-glaze off of her thumb, “...does it have to do with the gentleman giving you problems?”


The world seemed right. The world was full of sweetness and good company. Gabriela took her cup of hot chocolate and drank, and felt herself curve inward with the heat that filled her mouth and traveled down her throat, between her thighs, down to her belly. Her shoulders pinched in, she dropped her elbows off the table and held the warm cup close to her body, under her chin, breathing in the sweet steam. 


“You seem tenacious to me -- not the sort to take a day off because of difficulties, but definitely the sort to take a mental-health day before there are difficulties. That’s smart…”

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The moment, that chance for something more, something deeper, came and passed, as elusive as a thief in the night.  

It mattered not; the First planted seeds she harvested in time- hours, or days, or years, once nourishment and tending had guided them along her want, making her feel familiar to them, and they to her.  Some were left fallow, it was true- those that were not useful, or virile, or vibrant, or had been trampled to nothing by unkind feet, but from time to time, even a crushed seed could be coaxed to rise up and pull down a city.

The water was delivered, two tall quarter-iced glasses placed next to the wide, hot-chocolate mugs and crowded the middle of the small circular table.

With the introduction of the warm, decadent apple dessert, Gabriela's aura had burst into something akin to pleasure, and with its maudlin shroud dissipating, Phoebe found it easy to let the other woman's energetic enthusiasm take front-seat and displace the worry in her mind like the scent of apple had set aside the fire smoke.  She ate alongside the golden-eyed beauty, not driven by hunger but tactile enjoyment, each flaky piece of apple carved from its parent with deliberate precision and set on her tongue with the sole purpose of indulgence.  If Phoebe had her way, this would be every meal- business set aside for good company, with food that nourished her spirit as well as her body, and time to spend on it.  

It was the point, wasn't it?

She'd spent literal years, nearly half her life, mercilessly cleaving through the obstacles life threw at her - taking, killing, using, deceiving herself and everyone else until she barely knew her own name any longer - just so the field would be even and she could do as she wanted. So there would be no hand to rise against hers, no lips to round around the word 'no', no person to dare stand between her and, well, anything, but, there was always something; a new weed to crush, more soil to till and make ready, trimming and pruning, coaxing, nurturing, killing.

So much killing.

Gabriela drew her back-- that silly pouch in her cheek, the fleck of golden flake that clung to her soft lower lip before she hid her mouth... There was nothing in the world that could have prevented Phoebe from half-laughing at that moment, a desperate failed attempt to stifle it swallowed with an apologetic scrunch to her sculpted brows, as the other woman wolfed down her dessert in awe-inspiring gulps.

"This is magnificent," Gabriela had said, "Absolutely, hands-down, the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my entire life…"

"It is, I agree... do you want more?" A peace offering, it was all in good fun, and in the moment, Phoebe would have sold cities just to continue to eat amidst the other woman's playful zeal. "We can also go for an early dinner," offered Phoebe, as her laugh faded like the last brilliant flare from an eclipse, tempering out into a wide and relaxed smile, as natural and carefree as the drape of her dark locks.  She waited, the shift of Gabriela's shoulders as she chewed was taken as a thoughtful response, and leaning forward, Phoebe set her fork on the edge of the flowered plate and lifted her warm mug.  Lips pursed, she reflexively blew a stream of air across its simmering surface, even though it was no longer scalding.

"And why are you playing hooky?" Gabriela asked, drawing Phoebe to look up from the pool of chocolate back into those warm, golden eyes. "...does it have to do with the gentleman giving you problems?"



The remembrance set upon her like a witch stone, suddenly heavy and crushing.  She blinked, dark lashes swept downward, shrouding her light eyes in a gesture that was too long, too deliberate, to be a simple reflex.

"You seem tenacious to me -- not the sort to take a day off because of difficulties, but definitely the sort to take a mental-health day before there are difficulties. That's smart…"

"They say I'm a smart woman, so it's on-brand.."  The statement was an off-handed joke, and it set her lips angled, pressed and smirking, as she blew non-existent steam from the hot chocolate again and took a sip to claim time.  The why of her playing hooky was a complicated question, even if she told the truth; she wasn't sure she fully understood it herself, other than to realize she had been too angry, for too long, and that anger made her sloppy and sloppy made her dead.  She swallowed, exhaled, and watched Gabriela from above the rim of her sunshine-colored mug.

"I suppose?" she granted, frustration tightening the corners of her eyes.  "I think the stress might just be creeping up on me.  My job can be.. high-pressure, and it rarely wraps up by 5pm.  I travel a lot, there's a lot of competition for my position... It can be a bit much sometimes, but I have a lot of freedom because of it," she granted.  Lifting her right hand, she waved it off to the side as if the complications could be so easily dismissed, then brought it back to again cup the mug in front of her lips.

"My gentleman friend is going to be trouble, though.  He'd really like my.."


"..job, and he came very close to getting it."

Very close.

"But, very close doesn't count, now does it," Phoebe pointed out, hefting both a razor-sharp grin and the cup in her hand as she reached forward to toast with Gabriela.  "So, now it's time to go on the offense.  In reality, his attempt just took me by surprise-- he's not even in my league, which makes the whole thing just a bit embarrassing, and I really like to clean it up before people start to think it's something just anyone can do, you know?

I mean, probably not.. "  She squinted over a canary yellow rim and chuckled at the awkwardness.  "The corporate world is a shark pit.  What about you, do you have a job?"

Edited by Noko

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“This is magnificent...Absolutely, hands-down, the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my entire life…”


“It is, I agree… do you want more?”


Gabriela stopped mid chew, with a mouthful of decadently sweet and buttery pastry melting onto the surface of her tongue, all but torturing her to continue with the pleasurable act of consuming. But she couldn’t. There was something undeniably suspicious about this woman. From her sudden appearance, to her indisputable charm and the ease of her words, of her gestures, and of her features. The deposed queen may have been exhausted and starved, beaten and bruised, but her mind retained enough of its sharp edge to notice some of the more subtle characteristics of a master manipulator. And she had known, at least on some level, that by accepting this invitation to a warm drink and an apple pastry she was agreeing to much more than what was currently on the table.


There was no such thing as a free lunch.


“We can also go for an early dinner…”


Or a free dinner.


She swallowed her mouthful and smiled in reply to the woman’s siren-like laughter. Truly, everything about Phoebe invited adoration -- from her expressive brows, to the depth of her eye-color, and the musical jingle-jangle of her silver jewelry. The woman was like some character straight out of a fairytale, some gypsy princess… or quite possibly a gypsy witch. 


Gabriela licked her lips clean and set down what remained of her pastry, which wasn’t all that much -- but suddenly she became painfully aware of seeming overly eager, and certainly, overly hungry. But she was quite literally starving, and a part of her didn’t have the energy or concern to try and hide this fact. Phoebe drank her hot chocolate, and Gabriela reached for the bottle of bourbon and poured even more into her mug, utterly forgoing the tall glass of ice-cold water. She knew she needed the water more than the smoky-vanilla of that burnt-caramel-tasting liquor. However, the sweet intoxication was coming. She could feel the edges of the world growing fuzzy and dim. It was quick acting when one didn’t have anything in their stomach, and she took full advantage of the liquid courage that was working quick to loosen up her very high-strung perception.


So she laughed -- she laughed just as Phoebe took a turn toward internal worry and recollection. They seemed constantly at odds, as if they were tittering upon a sea-saw, rising and falling through hot and cold. But she giggled regardless as those wonderful fingers of exhaustion began to wrap around her shoulders making her feel heavy -- oh so heavy


“They say I’m a smart woman, so it’s on-brand..”


“Do they say you’re a beautiful woman? Utterly entrapping...” she smiled, a little lopsidedly, as she sat there holding onto the bottle of bourbon -- but then her smile vanished, and then she was frowning, “...who are they?”


It was easy to imagine a sea of suitors fawning over this green-eyed vixen. She was magic, Gabriela realized with a narrowed gaze as she took a moment to consider both her words and her upcoming response. And Gabriela could only sit there, truly entrapped by the way Phoebe’s face changed. There were some feelings there, after she had asked about the gentleman, and Gabriela fully intended to harvest what she had, not so carefully cultivated in the way of curiosity. 


“...I think the stress might just be creeping up on me. My job can be.. High-pressure, and it rarely wraps up by 5pm. I travel a lot, there’s a lot of competition for my position… It can be a bit much sometimes, but I have a lot of freedom because of it.”


Her lids felt barely heavy then. She relinquished her grip on the bottle and set it back on the table, but not without plucking her hot-coco, which now consisted of at least fifty-fifty percent of bourbon -- if not more. She drank as well, but it could clearly be seen that she was mulling over the partial confession that Phoebe had given. 


“My gentleman friend is going to be trouble, though. He’d really like my...job, and he came very close to getting it.”


The golden eyes shielded behind those tired, heavy-looking lids were no less sharp now, as she peered at Phoebe over the edge of her mug, while she drank again. The tell-tale pause had given something a way, but Gabriela could not begin to guess at what exactly it was. But my, oh, my -- how her imagination took off with her. She thought of death, of course, because what is more suspenseful and worthy of pause than the imminent threat to one's life? Then there was of course, romance, and she could easily see how normal-run-of-the-mill work-place competition might flip into something more intimate, especially for someone like Phoebe. So she sat and wondered, and imagined a whole made-up life for the green-eyed beauty. 


“But, very close doesn’t count, now does it.”


Phoebe grinned, and Gabriela felt a blush bloom in her cheeks. It took her becoming a human to better recognize and appreciate the predatory nature of humanity -- and just how attractive it could be. Phoebe held out her cup, and Gabriela could not deny her. Their mugs clinked gently.


“Nothing counts until it doesn’t count anymore,” she replied, murmuring her near-drunken nonsense. 


“So, now it’s time to go on the offense. In reality, his attempt just took me by surprise-- he’s not even in my league, which makes the whole thing just a bit embarrassing, and I really like to clean it up before people start to think it’s something just anyone can do, you know.? I mean, probably not…The corporate world is a sharp pit. What about you, do you have a job.”


“Sounds cut-throat,” Gabriela chirped, wondering -- whimsically -- if she just so happened to be having hot chocolate and apple pastries with some ridiculously dangerous mob boss. It wouldn’t even surprise her, truly it wouldn’t, but assumptions were dangerous -- even more so when they were right. But didn’t Phoebe just stink of it? Of that, fuck-you-I’ll-leave-a-horses-head-in-your-bed-to-send-a-message-kind of attitude? 


No, certainly not.


Gabriela felt tipsy. 


“As for me? I was…” she gave a little shrug, “...I had a small leadership position with a PR firm, nothing important. I quit about a year ago to pursue my ‘life-long dream’ of getting into politics, you know -- I wanted to make a difference.” 

She smiled at her diminishing hot chocolate as she swirled it within her cup, as if it were some fine wine.


“I figured out, rather quickly, that the powers-that-be were never going to let me get away with what I wanted to do -- so I said fuck it. And now here I am, not entirely sure if I am running away from what I wanted or confirm that I wanted it in the first place.”


Gabriela wore a young face, more so perhaps due to her recent change into humanity. She appeared as a twenty-five year old, but with skin so smooth and so near-flawless that it might be compared to a newborns, save of course for the bruises and the dark, dark circles around her eyes. But there was something undeniably fresh -- new -- about the skin that she wore, and the blood in her veins, and muscle and organs that pushed her forward through the world. And it wasn’t in a metaphorical way. Gabriela did not sound naïve -- if anything, her tone and her words could have been compared to someone tired of living, someone who had in fact lived for a very long time. A conundrum. 


“So, short answer -- no, I am not currently employed.”


She laughed because it was funny -- because it sounded funny. Her job had always been to rule. She had been born into it, and then, after the powers-that-be made it impossible for her to retain her autonomy, and therefore, anything truly resembling sovereignty, she decided to walk away from it. More accurately, she walked away before Raphael could turn her into a breeding-mare. It was funny because it was utterly ridiculous, but here she was, having succeeded somehow. 


“And, just to answer your earlier question...dinner sounds wonderful, but I don’t know how long I’ll last out there. I think you may have been right. I really do need a better coat,” she blinked -- perplexed suddenly by her predicament, before setting down her cup and stuffing her hands into her coat pockets. The sheer memory of the cold outside was enough to make her shudder and seek comfort in her worm pockets, but rather than comfort.


Tension filled her limbs as her fingertips found the smooth, stain-like ribbon that had been stuffed into her pocket. In silence, and with a face drained of enjoyment, amusement, or even those tingling sensations of tipsiness, for this was quite a sobering discovery, Gabriela fingered the jewel-lined ribbon in her pocket. 


She knew exactly what it was but she dare not pull it out to confirm her suspicions.

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"...who are they?"


Mid-sentence, Phoebe read the weight of Gabriela's intonation-- the way her tongue held the Th before laying it out, flat and heavy with implication.  In it, she inferred exclusion-- as an other-ing or the emergence of space between them, a degradation of their newly-birthed connection, and set her mug down to wave Them off as if They were nothing to her.  They didn't even have a name, after all.  They had nothing so grounded as the here and now, as the rich, decadent after-taste of the apple tart or the spine-tingling warmth of the bourbon.

They were the other, not Gabriela-- or so Phoebe would have her believe.

She couldn't help it.

It wasn't even a con; it was just her.

She would claim the elusive space back even as she spoke, slipping her hand from her canary yellow mug and gesturing forward, reaching, only to find some edge of the woman-- the cloud-like fringe of her sweater, the angle of her wrist, the too-thin muscle of her forearm-- something, some piece of Gabriela, which her warm fingertips could graze and re-connect the pair.

She went on.  

The story danced around the truth like nervous virgins around a maypole.

They toasted; the ritual a light-spirited agreement that very close was close, but that close didn't count, and in fact, nothing counted until it didn't count at all.  Phoebe found a nonsensical distortion of free will in Gabriela's bourbon-drowned statement, and it tickled her - the thought that nothing mattered until it didn't matter suited her personal imperialism just fine.  

One mattered when one was hers, and everything that wasn't hers didn't matter until it was.

It was a twisted interpretation she gladly clinked her mug to.

"Sounds cut-throat," Gabriela chirped, and Phoebe chuckled, ducking her head in an agreement that was perhaps too fast, or too honest, or too reflective to obscure itself in the shadow of truth she played in.  Most days, she wore a suit-- skewered enemies with legalities and undercut them with hostile takeovers, or market share dominance, and sometimes, just sometimes, she straight-up murdered them.  

But, only sometimes.

If there wasn't any easier, more beneficial, or more comfortable choice, of course.

She was pragmatic if nothing else.

From the corner, still curled up in its miraculous sun-patch, the old grey tabby loosed a meow as if to throw its agreement into the ring.  Whose side it was on was anyone's guess-- its own, more than likely, along with whatever supernatural entity caused the light to peek through the clouds during such a dismal turn of weather.

"As for me? I was… I had a small leadership position with a PR firm, nothing important. I quit about a year ago to pursue my ‘life-long dream’ of getting into politics, you know -- I wanted to make a difference."

Phoebe had turned toward the vocal feline, drawing a smirk at its interruption, and leaned back into the conversation as Gabriela described her descent into public relations, then politics, with both of her elbows on the table as if she were held rapt by the unfolding story and the pieces of Gabriela it revealed-- and she was.  These conversations, these little side engagements, were the master-class she'd leave behind when her lifestyle finally caught up with her and her corpse lay cold.  They were her bread and butter, where she learned the fabric of society, saw it laid bare with its motivations, and trials scrawled clear in the difference between what was said and what was felt. 

Gabriela shrugged, but it meant nothing; it had no heft, and Phoebe took it as a show of what Gabriela wanted to present and went on to muse about the revelation of her companion's 'life-long dream' and wanting to make a difference.  There was so much to consider there-- and such a well-baited hook, glinting, golden, and beautiful, and one which Phoebe would love to bite.
"I figured out, rather quickly, that the powers-that-be were never going to let me get away with what I wanted to do -- so I said fuck it."

An idle smile crept across her lips, wry and rakish, like she knew the foolishness of trying to make a difference against overwhelming forces, because she did-- 'fuck it' was Phoebe's story, an utter dismissal of the laws, the norms, and the social contracts that kept poor people poor and rich people rich.  'Fuck it' was a statement she could get behind: fuck it, fuck them, fuck it all, and as she swept the bottle up in her hand she tipped it, mock-toasting the sentiment, before she floated a thin layer of bourbon atop what remained of her luke-warm chocolate and gestured, looking to top Gabriela's drink off or not.

"..dinner sounds wonderful, but I don't know how long I'll last out there. I think you may have been right. I really do need a better coat,"

"You can have mine.  I'll call a car; it's too cold to walk anywhere, anyway.  I'm sure the driver can manage to bring me something else to wear," she noted idly, gifting the jacket with the same nonchalance that she gifted the drinks, and the tart, and now the dinner, and probably the car and who knew what else if the night went on too long.

Drinks refilled, she capped the bottle and set it alongside the untouched ice waters, for a moment studying Gabriela's expression, contemplative, like a woman on the edge of a revelation.  Something was flirting with her memory, but it just wouldn't settle- like a sugar-high hummingbird, it flit from place to place but never landed.  It was the gap- not the is, but the isn't, and like a lost word, it danced out of her grasp every time she reached for it.

"I'm sorry, I.."  The apology began as Gabriela's hands dove for her pockets and the rail of tension lit her up like lightning, only to be chewed up and swallowed by her aura's constant churn.  Phoebe's glance flashed toward the table's edge, where she had lost sight of Gabriela's thin fingers to the open maw of her pockets, then back to her suddenly anxious golden eyes.  The acid rose in her aura as it probably did in her stomach, only to be swallowed up by the hungry-hungry-hippo nature of her emotions.  Even in Phoebe's experience, the behavior was bizarre-- emotion bubbled to the surface of Gabriela's aura like water through tar, only to be smeared and ground down until the Psion couldn't see it any longer.  

Fear rose; disappeared.  

The casual enjoyment Phoebe had fostered thinned like ink in an ocean, then vanished, and she leaned forward and extended her hand, palm up, to capture the sorority before it became another casualty of Gabriela's sudden anxiety.

"..I got distracted, I'm sorry."

She hadn't and wasn't, but apologies required answers and answers required thought.  It was reflexive for most, and not class-limited, and one of the easier ways to redirect someone's attention-- or had been, in her experience.  Somehow, people always manage to mumble an answer to 'have a good day' even when their own day is crumbling.

"Hey,"  Again, she sought to call Gabriela back with simple encouragement and the rigors of social interaction - - it was a dance, always, and most people followed along unconsciously.  Shifting to the side, she pulled her jacket off the back of her chair and offered it to the other woman, as if the sudden chill in the room was weather-related.  "I didn't realize how cold you had gotten, go ahead and put it on - - it's the new line from Argus; supposedly, the insulation has micro-runes etched onto each fiber, and they're supposed to bring your body temperature back to normal no matter how cold it is."

She shrugged, like it was all greek to her, and continued to hold her jacket out.

"So, you wanted to make a difference-- tell me about it?  I thought about running for office once or twice, but instead, I figured I'd be more likely to actually make a difference in my day job, crunching numbers, and managing risk."  

Her laugh was quick and easy and true for more reasons than one.

"Oh and dinner--"  She watched as she spoke, hesitated, adjusted to carry the other woman along and out of her pit if she could.  "There's a fantastic steak-house in the center of town, will that do?"

They also had a fantastic spiced-rye that she hadn't had since the Chameleon shut down.

The Chameleon.

Wait a minute.

Abruptly, her hummingbird-fast thought landed, and she remembered:


At the Feeding, Gabriela had looked like Dollya.


But why?

Edited by Noko

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