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  1. February 19, 2012 “Out of bed!” The voice snapped through Imriel’s brain, jogging him awake. He was on his feet before his eyes opened, so he was already halfway awake before he saw the time. His mentor and roommate was annoyingly awake, fully dressed and ready to go. He was still wearing his tank top and flannel pants. Whisker liked it a little colder, so he adapted. “Whisker, it’s three in the morning,” he said, realized he’d said it in slurred Japanese, and repeated himself in English. “Yep, and we have work to do,” she informed him. She grabbed his head and he felt something flow through him. Sleepiness fled as she stepped back, grinning. “You might want to call into work now.” -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- I’m going to lose my fucking job, Imriel sighed as he drove down Foothill Boulevard. This was the third time he’d had to call in since the start of the year, and that wasn’t a good track record. Unfortunately, Seers didn’t wait for convenient times to act out. Whisker pointed at a parking spot on the side of the road and Imriel snagged it. As he parallel parked, she pulled out a tiny spy glass and peered through it. When he shut off his engine, she passed it to him. It looked like a run-down apartment complex of a dozen buildings. The sign out front said it was Last Foundations Retirement Home, but it looked like it had been retired. The building that Whisker pointed out wouldn’t have caught his eye, as it was a dirty, broken-down building in a row of dirty, broken-down buildings. A second look revealed signs that she was right; all of the windows were still in place and the doors was firmly locked rather than just nailed shut or kicked in. According to Whisker’s intel, there was a Seer cell operating in the building. The word was that they had captured supernatural creatures and were running tests on them. This could not be allowed, not just because it allowed others to possibly learn about magic but because it was wrong. It was something his mother would do, and so when he’d learned about it, he’d been as ready as Whisker was to kick some Seer ass. Imriel sighed as he glanced at the dashboard and saw it was now just after four-thirty. Whatever Whisker had done to him had been like a Red Bull, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be up right now. But his mentor had a lead on Seer activity and this time it sounded far more important than the usual Seer bullshit. It sounded like something needed to deal with immediately. Whisker waited until he’d had a good look before she asked, “Did you see the light? On the first floor of that building?” “No,” he admitted, not at all surprised. Whisker’s eyes were much sharper than his. “They painted over the windows, but they didn’t go a perfect job,” she said, her sexy voice serious and smug. She really liked having anything she could hold over the Seers, no matter how trivial. “I can see a spot on one of the buildings.” Her exotically-shaped gray eyes focused on him. “Where’s that friend of yours?” “She’s not my friend,” he said absently, still scanning the building’s black windows. “She’s just another mage I know.” “I wish we had more Arrows,” Whisker sighed. Imriel agreed, but Calypso had been the only one to answer her phone when he’d called around for backup. “I’m going to get some eyes on the inside.” Imriel nodded as she hopped out of the car and slipped over to a shadow. He watched, but only saw her kneeling. A moment later, she returned, looking smug. “A rat’s going to check it out for us. We just have to wait.” Whisker was silent, then asked impatiently, “When will she get here?” “When she gets here,” Imriel replied, used to her impatience. She’d wait, though not happily. And she’d make sure he was unhappy about having to wait, too. “She has the address, and she said she was coming.” -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Thad groaned and pulled the pillow over his head as the beast roared again. He was trying to sleep damnit, and he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to do that when that monster was making so much noise. The spell soundproofing the apartment complex kept people outside from hearing the noise, but he could hear it and he needed some god damned rest! “Fucking furry monster!” he snarled as he rolled out of his cot and stormed for the door. The noise was even louder when he opened the door that had once separated the studio apartment from its bathroom. This room mirrored the other bathroom, which had been left intact for their use. The far wall of this bathroom, along with all the facilities, was long gone and emptied to make a storage room. The opening led to another former studio apartment. This one was now a large kitchen and dining room for the six-man team who lived here. Emilio was standing at the butcher’s block, chopping celery. The ingredients for an omelet were arrayed around him. The former Mexican was the best cook and usually pressed into service for cooking. “I haven’t gotten any sleep,” Thad bitched to the older man, stopping to watch him. “No one is,” Emilio said, looking up at Thad through salt-and-pepper hair. “I told her we should kill the hombre-lobo.” Thad winced. “You and everyone else, Milo.” The Biologist was super creepy, and when Emilio had told her to kill the werewolf, she’d just said ‘No’ and no one had said anything else. Just that single no had made his skin crawl. He tried to avoid The Biologist with her staring eyes and face that never, ever showed a single expression. He preferred DeathFire, sorta. The guy had the corniest name ever, but after seeing him make black fire from his hands, Thad had never ever laughed at the name again, even privately. He looked like nothing; just some punk with stringy hair and the tendency to wear ripped t-shirts that had band names on them. All the bands had Deth or Death in the title, so at least DeathFire kept to a theme. He was scary too, but not in the testicle-constricting way that The Biologist was. DeathFire was terrifying because of what Thad had seen him do; he didn’t ever want to see what the Biologist could do. Thad once again wished he’d never answered the ad for a vet tech specialist working with exotic animals. A wealthy employer with a private collection who needed round-the-clock vet techs and were willing to pay were few and far in-between. Only once he’d taken the job did he learn why he’d gotten it: he saw magic without freaking out. DeathFire had shown off his fire-tricks, The Biologist had stared – and then things had gotten weird. He was so not suited for this. He was a vet tech, for fuck’s sake, not a… whatever you called people who looked after fucking werewolves. He’d been watching Emilio prepare breakfast when another roar tore through the kitchen. Scowling, Thad pushed himself off the counter and walked over to one of the industrial fridges in the room. This one was the one for food, he knew, not the other one – that was a mistake you only made once. Reaching inside, he pulled out a raw steak and a beer. “Whatcha doin’?” Emilio asked, watching him. “Bribery,” Thad explained and stomped over to the next door. This door led to a library of sots; the room held bookshelves and the Biologist’s desk. Thad wove through them, crossing through another set of former bathrooms, this one with only support studs left. The autopsy room was next and Thad winced at the smell. A man was on one of the tables, his chest and other parts splayed open. Yvette, a slim, petite black woman, was examining something from the dead man that Thad deliberately didn’t look at as he stalked past. He was supposed to be working on animals, damnit! Yvette glanced up at him as he walked by, her dark skin clashing with the blue hospital coverings she wore. “What’s up, sugar?” she asked, glancing at his hands. “Can’t sleep,” he snarled as he entered the next studio apartment. In this one, both bathrooms had been removed again to make room for six cages. Thad’s steps slowed as he looked at the newest occupants of the cages, freshly arrived last night. Of course, then they’d all been unconscious and blissfully quiet. The first cage on the right held a shivering woman. She was actually more of a girl, younger than he, at twenty-nine, would have been comfortable dating. Even with that discomfort, he admitted that the girl was blonde and gorgeous, with a body that would not stop. She was also high out of her mind, shivering and muttering softly to herself. The first cage on the left held a young man; he was in his early twenties with short black hair and pale green eyes. There was something unsettling about that one, and Thad glanced away. There were two empty cages, then the last cage or the right held the source of the noise. Thad’s lips curled in an angry grimace as he understood the cause of the monster’s outrage. Roman, Yvette’s half-brother, was stabbing at the beast through his bars with dowel rods. The monster was snapping them, but Roman just picked up another. Thad considered shoving Roman against the bars and letting the monster do as he would to him; the bars were too close for the werewolf to get his muzzle through, but he could rend the man with claws. Thad settled for kicking Roman in the backside. That was bad enough; Roman spun and glared down at him. Unlike Yvette, Roman was big and ugly. Yvette had been hired for her medical skills; Roman had been hired because he broke things. “You lookin’ for hurt, Tad?” he grumbled, his voice like rocks grinding. “I’m looking to get some fucking sleep,” he snarled, ignoring Roman getting his name wrong again. “Leave it alone so it’ll calm down.” “It was making noise before I started,” Roman protested. “Stop it,” Thad snapped, “or I’ll tell The Biologist what you’re doing to her experiments. If she wanted you to be riling them up, she’d say so. Now get.” The threat of The Biologist was enough. Roman scowled, but he pushed past Thad, bouncing him off one of the empty cages. “Asshole,” Thad muttered when he was sure that Roman was far enough away he wouldn’t hear. Now alone with the werewolf, Thad tossed the steak between the bars. “Truce?” he asked, then held up the beer. “I’ll give this to you, too, if you agree. I just want some damned sleep.” Lips curled back from teeth as long as Roman’s fingers. “I know you can understand me. Just nod and you get the beer.”
  2. February 13, 2012, 11:30 p.m. “You’re gonna lose your shirt,” August threatened as they cleared the dishes from the late dinner. Her internship had her keeping odd hours, and fitting her workouts around the demands of her last semester was always interesting. “You say that every week, frail,” Declan chided her as he started to run the water for the dishes. “And yet, I always get my fill of the peanuts.” “This time will be different,” the woman insisted, shoving the sleeves of her shirt up her arms. The spaghetti and meatballs were long gone; August tried to make enough for leftovers, but every time they had a post-training dinner, Declan ate every scrap. “Washing or drying?” “Washin’,” he said and plunged his hands into the water. “I made it hot.” “You always make it hot,” August snorted as she grabbed a towel. A second later she blushed, then blushed harder as the werewolf unleashed one of his slow sexy chuckles. “Hey, you wanna get spanked, I have no problem delivering,” he told her, automatically washing the dish in his hands. He rinsed and handed the steaming plate to her, adding, “In poker or anything else.” August flushed again, taking the plate and drying it. “Not this time,” she vowed. “I’m winning tonight.” “Well, better hurry up and get to it then,” Declan said, doubling the speed of his dish-washing. They kept of the light banter as they cleaned the kitchen and wiped the table. Then Declan went to get the cards while August located the peanut tin. When the werewolf came into the kitchen, August was holding the tin and frowning. “We have a problem,” she said. “What’s that?” he asked, about two seconds before he remembered having a craving for nuts a couple of days ago. “No peanuts.” “No, three peanuts,” she said, smirking a little. “You ate all but three? Really? And put the tin back with three peanuts in it?” “I only ate what I wanted,” he defended sheepishly, racking his brain for appropriate stakes. August was thinking, too, but her mind was going somewhere different. “Alright,” she said, then drew a deep breath. “Strip poker it is, then.” She colored at the look he gave her and said faintly, “Unless you have a better idea? I mean, with two people, it’s gonna be a short game…” She rather hoped he didn't think of anything better. Tomorrow was Valentines, and being alone on that day was really pathetic. Sure, she, Oneca, Araida and Kaitlin would go picking up men, but that wasn’t the same. August didn’t want to pick up strange men for meaningless sex. She’d rather have meaningless sex with Declan. Hell, she’d rather have sex with Declan altogether. She knew it. He knew it. Only that little sliver of doubt was holding her back and on the eve of Valentine's Day, it wasn't enough to stop her.
  3. February 9, 2012 August jerked into sudden wakefulness, blinking at the sunlight-bathed wall opposite her bed. Green eyes rolled wearily upward and she groaned and shut them again when she saw it was seven in the morning. Why the hell was she up at this hour? A second later, the culprit identified itself with a muted buzz. It was her cell phone, buried under yesterday's jeans. Mumbling curses at the caller, August fished out the offending machine. "What?" she snarled as soon as she'd thumbed it open. "August, are you alright?" The sheer concern in Madeline's voice removed August's anger. "Yeah, I was asleep," the brunette said, sitting upright and pulling her knees to her chest. She hadn't meant to put so much emphasis on that word. "Oh, what time is it? Eight, which means its seven for you. Oh, hon, I'm sorry," Madeline said apologetically. "I just woke up and immediately called you." "Alright... apology accepted," August said, aware that she was being way too nice but too well socialized to stop herself. "Now, why did you call?" "I think I had a bad dream," Madeline said. "It must have been. A ghost was warning me that you were in danger." August swallowed. She'd seen ghosts here and there; it'd gotten better for her once she'd accepted them. They'd ignored her for the most part and she'd ignored them. It had worked well for her to this point. The thought that it might change soon was disheartening and terrifying. Why couldn't they leave her alone? "But you think... it's a dream?" Madeline paused. "I think so. I was asleep and usually ghosts only contact me when they're awake." "Alright, so a bad dream," August said. Her phone beeped and she pulled it away from her ear enough to see that she had a call from Remy. "Madeline, Remy's calling. I should take this." Even if I don't want to take it. "Just be careful, please," the older woman said, the relief that had been in her voice being replaced by worry. "Ask him to call me as soon as he's done with you." "I will, bye!" August said and switched over to catch Peter. "Hey, there. What's up?" "August, I need some help," Remy said with little preamble. "I have some associates who have gone missing. They were filming a haunting in a mental asylum - one of those reality show things - and have all gone missing. Given the setting, this calls for your particular talents." "Wait, you want me to go into a haunted asylum?!" August barked, her green eyes growing wide. "Do you think I'm dumb or suicidal?" "There are people missing," Remy said with quiet intensity. "They may not have been the smartest people, but they were decent. Jack's got a little girl and a wife. Duke's his mother's only living child. Renee is a film student at the Academy of Art. Neil's -" "Stop it," August sighed. "I get the idea. Tell me everything you know." "The show is called Grave Encounters," Remy said immediately. August could hear the relief in his voice. "They were filming their seventh episode. The usual pattern is that they get locked in the haunted area overnight. The caretaker was supposed to come back and let them out in the morning. When he opened the door, he found some of their equipment in the lobby but no people. He hollared for them but became upset when he saw one of the lights was broken. You know the big lights?" "Yeah, I'm a film student," August reminded him. "Those are pricey." "The caretaker was concerned by this," Remy told her. "So he called me." "Why you?" "Because he was instructed to do so," Remy replied. "If there were any problems, he was to call me immediately. It will be another twelve hours before we can file a missing persons report and I fear for their safety if we wait that long." "So you want to go now," August sighed. She could call Declan and ask him to go with her so she wouldn't be alone. Thank god this was a Saturday and he had the day off. They'd planned to go hiking up into the mountains together. Not as a date. No, no... just two friends hiking together for the day. "Hey, Dec, I know we were supposed to go kick about in nature today. How about hunting down idiots in a haunted asylum instead?" "Yes and I need a medium." He didn't see her wince; she hated that term. It made her sound hokey, and she wasn't comfortable with having that label applied to her. "I've got two other people going with me..." His voice trailed off into a sigh. "And if I don't include Oneca, she'll set me on fire." Shit... August wasn't sure if Declan would be alright working with other people. She knew what he was and that was awkward enough. More people knowing wouldn't please him. "Uh, I had plans, but I'll cancel them." "Thank you, I appreciate that," Remy said sincerely. "I'll be by to pick you up in thirty minutes." "Right. See you," August sighed as she hung up. She immediately called Declan, sure that unlike her he would actually be up at this ungodly hour. He was much better then her about maintaining a 'normal' schedule, ironically. "Hey, you," she said, smiling involuntarily as he answered. "Sorry to call so early, but something's come up. I wanted to yet you know that I have to cancel on you sooner rather than later. Maybe we can go tomorrow?"
  4. [Late evening, 25 Jan 2012] I have got to be out of my mind. As she looked westward from the edge of her territory, a light and cool wind wafting inland from the coast, Sarah considered once more what she planned to do, how dangerous it was... and yet, how necessary. The land to the west of here belonged to someone else. And try as she may, nobody else came to mind for the advice she badly needed. Had this been territory back home, Sarah would have shifted to her wolf-form and let out a howl of greeting. But this was the middle of suburban Los Angeles, not a half-dozen blocks from UCLA. People noticed a wolf howling in their backyards. Nor should she leave a note on a tree or rock and hope it might be noticed. People took care of their yards here, and stray paper tacked up wouldn't last long. With one last look around, Sarah stepped out of her territory and into that of the werewolf she knew only as Owns-The-Night. Her neighbor. --- Half an hour of sniffing and scouting and furtive glances later, the Dead-Wolf stood before the door of an unassuming and tidy little house on a corner directly across the street from campus. The signs were unmistakable; the scent was strongest here, and there were tell-tale marks on the trees that were as loud a message of "Stay Away!" as anything man had ever made. Unfortunately, staying away would leave her no better off than she'd been these past several months. With no small amount of trepidation, she reached up with a cold, dead hand and knocked on the door of the wolf's den.
  5. Word spread through certain groups in LA like fire. People that knew the right people got to hear the whispers of a get-together up on Copa de Oro Road. It was mostly people somehow associated with the UCLA campus, but a few others caught wind of it as well. People who made it their business to know where the good times were going to be happening were very aware of this party. They also knew that Lucian and Oneca, the host and hostess for this epic End of Summer bash, didn't mind what zip code you lived in, so long as you didn't drag down the party with anything that would rouse the interest of the cops. The winding road of Copa de Oro was one of the wealthiest in LA and the houses there were home to people with more money than things to spend it on – usually. In this case, the house housed the offspring of people with more money than things to spend it on and their broke friend. Tonight, the house was already thick with cars, with several parked on the U-drive and more in the yard. A line was building in the street as more and more people showed up, ready to have some fun. Most people were following the path around the outside of the building to get to the fun. The outdoor fireplace faced the patio; despite the summer heat, a fire burned merrily in the hearth. Massive speakers played music loudly enough that everyone at the party could hear it, even if they weren't close to the house. Entrances to the living room and dining room off the patio gave ready access to both air-conditioning and the kegs purchased for the party. The pool, just down the steps from the patio, was open as well, with a wet bar near the water to create more pool-worthy drinks on demand. An electric bull was not far from the pool, surrounded by hay bales and set in a sand box to mitigate the impact of a fall. Carefully maintained lawns were now host to a variety of games and groups mingling and chatting. Trees, set back from the lawn and house, gave convenient shadows for couples looking for a bit of privacy, if not comfort. Those inside found the luxurious house a delight to chill out and drink in. The floors were hardwood and tile in the public areas. The kitchen's granite counters were full of finger food and drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Spacious rooms had plenty of furnishings and places to sit; the numerous rooms allowed people to form groups and chat or play party games. There were a few locked doors but the party-goers had plenty of places to play. Cowboy hats and boots were the unifying apparel tonight. While the cowboy theme was there, it wasn't overstressed; country music wasn't the only music blaring out of the speakers on the patio. A mix of songs kept playing, though most people weren't here for the tunes. Most were here for the host and the fun. Even the 'charity case' as Saja had so eloquently put it, was here for the host. August had a final project to worry about, but she was going to party tonight. She'd had way too much stress this summer; this was her turning point. She was going to have fun tonight, damn it! August peered at herself in the mirror, inspecting herself from all angles. Her green bikini top was daring, as was her Daisy Dukes; she'd cut them earlier today and like most self-tailors, she got them a little shorter than she'd meant to. Buck up, she ordered herself, fighting a blush as she took a look at her backside in the mirror. You want Lucian or not? The answer was yes, so she put up with feeling nearly naked. Her boots were black with silver stitching, while her cowboy hat was a simple black one. She hesitated, her fingers on the cording, but she finally left her wolf's head pendant alone. It hung between her breasts, the silver glinting in the light. Satisfied wither appearance, August shut and locked her door; hard experience told her that if she didn't, she'd find her bed occupied when she wanted to use it. And if she finally snagged Lucian, she damn well wanted her bed free and clear. At the very least, if she wanted to sleep, she didn't want to have to kick people out of it, strip the sheets, deal with any wet spots and have that icky 'strangers had sex in my bed' feeling. If people wanted a bed, there was the guest room, or the guesthouse. Shoving the key into her back pocket, she wandered downstairs, fiddling with the camcorder as she came. Oneca would probably roll her eyes at August, but the pretty grad student didn't care. If something interested happened tonight, she'd catch it on film. People were already thick in the house; August scanned the crowd before plunging into it with a grin. This was the last hoorah before she had to start facing school again. August wanted to make it count. Click to reveal.. All and sundry are invited; feel free to assume that your character has heard of an epic party where Lucian Hunt will be attending. The main OOC rule is: if you join the party, you must leave the party - remember to write yourself out if you're done.
  6. The Seers came for him just before dawn. Wakiki was going to get his ass tumbled out of bed in just twenty minutes by Whisker anyway, so his body was preparing to cycle into wakefulness. When the covers where wiped back, Wakiki jerked fully awake, his fingers reflexively curling around the handle of the gun he kept under the pillow. Before he could react further, something grabbed his ankle and pulled him off the end of the bed. He hit the floor with a thud, only the sheets already strewn on the carpet saving him from friction burn. To his surprise as much as his attackers, when Wakiki rolled off his stomach, his Glock 9mm was still in his hand. He saw several shapes in the room and reactively fired at one of them. In the cramped quarters of his apartment, with no ear protection, the sound of the gun was an ear-killing roar. He saw the form spin away into the darkness but he was trying to focus on the next attacker. A hand closed over his hand, shoving the gun down and clawing it away from him. Wakiki twisted toward his new threat, trying an off-hand punch that barely connected – he could tell it was useless. With a roar of outrage, he tried to get his gun back, only to have a fist connect to his face. The blow jarred him to the bone, leaving his jaw aching from the attack. It also left his senses swirling like water down the drain. His vertigo wasn’t helped when the bag was thrust over his head. “No!” he shouted, but he might as well been speaking in Japanese for all it helped. In short order, he was tussled up into something; it felt like his living room rug. Whatever it was, it wrapped around him completely, pinning his arms, restraining his legs and making it hard to breathe. He felt someone pick him up and carry him; when he tried to shout for help, he felt like he couldn’t get enough air in his lungs anymore. How long he was in there, sucking in and out stale air that stank of his floor, the young mage wasn’t sure. All he knew was that after he was put on the floor, something shoved him the side. He went rolling, and when he stopped, he ripped the hood off. He was lying on the floor and gasping for air in a room he’d never seen before. It was well lit with white walls and a white tile floor; his black and red rug was a garish mark on the floor. He wasn’t alone; he was surrounded by six other people. His first question, who the fuck these people were, was answered when the blonde women just in front of him said, “Hello, Atlantian.” “Fuck you.” Only one group used that term with such scorn. “Your mother says hello,” the blonde said, smiling at him. “Fuck her, too.” “For someone with your Shadow name, you really need to choose better words,” she told him. “You aren’t worth better than ‘fuck you’,” Wakiki growled. He spat on the floor and suggested that she do something anatomically impossible in Japanese. “Eloquent enough for you?” “You’re such a charming, young man,” the woman said, smiling. “I see why your mother is leveraging favors to have you returned to her.”
  7. June, 1992. Somewhere in Montana "He was always striving to attain it. The life that was so swiftly expanding within him, urged him continually toward the wall of light. The life that was within him knew that it was the one way out, the way he was predestined to tread." He didn't like the truck. His uncle had explained that it was necessary. That the machine was no different in essence than a rifle or a stove. But Declan didn't like the truck. It smelled funny, made too much noise, and for a six year-old boy who hadn't even seen or heard of an automobile before his uncle had retrieved it from the old shed and spent yesterday repairing it, the contraption was terrifying. "Don't fret, boy." His uncle told him without real impatience as he glanced sideways to where the dark-haired boy was moodily kicking at the underside of the dash. "You got to get used to riding these things. They make life's journeys a little faster and easier." "Why can't we walk?" Declan didn't quite whine: his uncle was a kind enough man in a rough-hewn way, but didn't tolerate whining. The odd cuff around the back of the head had quickly cured the boy of that. But his question was definitely accusatory. "I don't care how far it is. I want to walk to Livvy. I can walk to any place." "It's Libby, Dec. And yeah, you're a good strong walker. And yeah, we would get there... by evening." His uncle grinned through a short dark beard streaked with grey, pale blue eyes twinkling. "All the shops would have shut, and you and me would be stuck in Libby for the night." He reached over and ruffled the child's hair, prompting a mutinous glower from his nephew's silver eyes. Bob Perault was a little taken aback. Damn, last time I saw anyone with that look, his dad kicked my ass. "Don't you look at me like that, boy." he said, forcing a growl into his voice. "You got to get a lot bigger and whole lot meaner before you can throw looks like that one around, goddamnit." The tone worked, and Declan dropped his gaze and mumbled an apology under his breath. Bob reached out and laid a hand on the kid's shoulder. "Is it that bad, Dec? Look outta the window, kiddo. Ever go this fast before?" His question roused the boy from his sulk, and Declan clambered up on the bench seat and watched the world go past, face pressed to the window as he forgot his gripe in the way children do. The rest of the trip was more harmonious. The kid was a quiet sort anyway. Apart from the occasional question about something he saw, he would just watch the landscape blur past. Bob privately wondered what he'd do on the day that he couldn't face down his nephew. It was coming, sure as snow in winter. Pulling the truck into a parking space outside the store, Bob got out. "You stay with the truck, Dec. It needs watching." Declan's disappointment at being left behind was softened by being given something important to do. He started to get out, but his uncle shook his head. "Stay inside the truck, Dec. Folks around here aren't always friendly. If anyone causes trouble honk the horn, okay?" The large man indicated the horn button, and Declan nodded. "It'll make a big noise, and I'll come running out." Declan nodded again, then watched his uncle walk into the general store. He spent some time watching the street, but Libby was a small town and there was not much to see. After a few minutes, however, a small knot of local children gathered to stare at the beat-up old truck and the pale-eyed boy staring out at them from inside it. Eventually, a group consensus achieved, they approached the truck behind a chubby ten year old wearing an orange t-shirt and faded jeans. "Hey!" The leader, a kid called Joe, said, looking up at the open window that Declan was currently staring out of. He knew how this was supposed to go: harass the new kid, see how they fitted into the pecking order. But this weird-eyed kid didn't answer, he just stared at Joe like some kind of creepy dummy. "Are you a retard or something?" Joe asked, not entirely unkindly. It wasn't nice to pick on retards, after all. "He looks like one." giggled Steve, one of Joe's friends. The strange kid just tilted his head to one side as if considering Steve, then answered in a soft voice. "What's a retard?" Joe blinked and glanced at his friends as though seeking some sort of advice, then looked back at Declan. "Wow. You must be real young to not know that." He said patronisingly. The weirdo frowned at that, looking defiant. "I'm six!" He said with some heat, falling for one of the oldest pieces of bait in the schoolyard fishing compendium. "Oooh! Siiiiix!" Steve giggled again. "Are you a big boy now?" The other kids laughed. Declan felt his teeth clench at that sound, shrill mockery and humor at his expense causing his hands to grip the window's edge harder. "I'm plenty big enough to do lots of things I bet you can't! I can track, and hunt, and one day my uncle will teach me to shoot!" Declan said with anger in his voice now at their continued laughter. "Which is more than you all can do. You stink so bad that you'd scare the game away!" "I don't stink!" Joe stepped up to the truck door, clenching pudgy fists as he looked up into Declan's silver eyes. "You come down here and say that to my face, or are ya chicken?" Declan was torn now; on the one hand, his uncle had told him to stay with the truck and honk the horn in case of trouble. On the other hand this fat boy, with his soft features and smelly breath, was calling him chicken. The inner conflict didn't last long. It couldn't. Something inside him whispered that a challenge had been made, and something in Declan's soul rose to it, teeth bared. He jumped out of the truck window with a little growl, landing on Joe's upturned face and sending them both crashing to the floor. The yelp of pained surprise from Joe stifled the noise of the other kids as Declan rolled and came to his feet in a crouch, not even concerned about the grazes and cuts on his arms and bare legs under the shorts. The older boy struggled to his feet less gracefully, touching one finger gingerly to a bloody lip. He looked at the blood and glared daggers at the unflinching boy crouched before him. "You're DEAD!" With that shrill battlecry ringing in the sleepy main street air, Joe rushed at the wiry kid with his arms outstretched. Growling under his breath, Declan swayed to one side before launching himself at Joe's ample midsection. They went down in a tangle, punching and grappling with each other. Size and experience was on Joe's side, however, and despite the wiry strength and ferocity of his opponent, the older boy gained the upper hand and was soon kneeling on Declan's chest. "Give in?" Joe was sweating and breathing hard from the effort of the fight. Declan's answer to the civilised question was as simple as it was primal. A fist-sized stone, held in a small hand, came up and smacked the larger boy on the side of the head. Crying out in pain, Joe rolled off Declan and tried to get back to his feet, shaking his head to clear it. The watching kids saw the strange boy roll to his feet in one smooth motion, a killing light in his silver eyes as he stalked towards the still-kneeling Joe, taking a firmer grip on his rock. He raised it high, teeth bared in a snarl... Only to have it snatched from him by a large hand. Growling, he whirled on the interloper, only to receive a cuff that sent him sprawling as Bob Perault tossed the rock to one side. "Stay down there, Dec." Though he didn't sound angry there was steel in his uncle's voice, and the boy heeded it and stayed put as Bob helped Joe to his feet and examined the lump on the boy's skull. "You're alright, kid. Get some ice on that and you'll be fine." He told the other kids to get Joe home, then turned and moved over to the prone Declan. Squatting down next to him, he reached out and ruffled the boy's hair. "Let's get you home, boy. You need some lessons on handling your temper in a fight so's you don't kill folks." Declan took the offered hand and was pulled to his feet. "You also need lessons on what "Stay in the truck" means, dammit all ta hell!" His uncle growled at him before walking away. Scuffing his shoes on the ground, Declan followed. Sure as snow in winter, Bob thought as he opened the truck door, a chill running down his spine as he remembered the look in Declan's eyes. I just hope it ain't the death of me.
  8. December 22, 2011 August was not in a good mood. Despite the festive nature around her, she had no desire to participate. She was alone in this mood; the other film TAs were excited to be shutting down for the semester. All their cheer made her feel even sorrier for herself. This wasn’t entirely unusual for her; she usually dreaded the upcoming mandatory family-time. Thanksgiving was bad enough but Georgie would be home for Christmas. It was always harder seeing her black-haired, green-eyed cousin. Georgie was the same age as August, and they could pass for sisters. It was like seeing what should have been. And there was Declan. Two days ago, he’d dropped her off at her house after their workout, chipper and eager for his trip into the mountains. August doubted he’d even noticed that she’d been brooding and silent, already missing him. He’d given her an odd look when she’d hugged him, but said nothing as he climbed in his truck and headed northeast. Sighing in disgust, August tried not to think about the handsome, brooding werewolf anymore. Sadly, he was like the elephant in the room, albeit much sexier: the harder she tried not to think about him, the more she found herself daydreaming. She missed him a lot, there was no doubt, and she’d expected that. What she hadn’t expected was the missing being an actual ache in her heart. The depth of her unexpected emotions were scaring the crap out of her. Do not fall in love with him! she ordered her mind, pretty sure she wasn’t there. Yet. And it could also be somewhat innocent: she could love him non-romantically. August was sure that was possible, assuming they could ever get past all the lust that tangled up her head. So in truth, all she really knew was that she was definitely very fond of him, enough that his absence was noticeable. Her phone rang and she checked, a wild hope that it was him calling to ask for a tow or saying something had come up and he was coming back. It wasn’t him; it was Aunt Molly. “And so it begins,” she muttered before thumbing the call to active. “Hey,” she said with more warmth than she was feeling. “What’s up?” “I just wanted to know when you were coming over, honey.” Aunt Molly’s voice was slightly too high pitched for a woman of her age, making her sound like a teen when she was over fifty. “Mom is already here, and Tracy and her brood are due at six.” August glanced at the clock; it was just after three. Less than three hours to hell. “Uh… between five and six.” She heard the disappointment without Molly saying a word and added, “I have work at the lab that I have to finish first.” “Sure sweetie,” Aunt Molly said and had August not known the woman, she’d have never heard her unhappiness. “Just be sure you bring a side dish, ok?” She’d planned to make roasted veggies but now remembered she hadn’t bought any of the groceries. Fuck! I am the worst niece ever. “I will,” August promised, resolving to get something on her way over. A nice veggie tray from the store should be sufficient.
  9. August 27, 2011 Enough was enough. August was lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. She had been assessing her life for the last few weeks, and she’d come to one inescapable conclusion: she couldn’t take care of herself. She’d always thought of herself as a survivor. She had survived things that would make others crumble. But honestly, instead of surviving stuff, why didn’t she try to stop it? It was a new concept for her. But it had a certain allure to it. Of course, the question was how. August was pretty sure that she didn’t want to learn this the hard way, by picking fights until she was proficient enough to win them. And learning cost lessons. She’d had free self-defense classes provided by the UCLA cops, but having done that once didn’t infer the ability to kick ass. No, she needed something more, especially since the weirdness that was her life wasn’t slowing down. So where could she get some tips on self defense that wouldn’t actually cost any money? August thought about it for a moment, then rolled over onto her stomach. Her fingers dug into her purse, fishing out her phone. Once she had recovered it from the purse-ian depths, she selected a number and hit talk. “Hey, Dec,” she said in greeting at the hello. “Whatcha doin’ tonight?” Her voice was hopeful, but also a bit shy. She didn’t know if he’d be interested in this; the only way to know was to ask, and she didn’t really what his reaction would be. The uncertainty left her feeling a bit vulnerable and it was clear in her tone.
  10. [september 19th, 2011] "I don't believe it." "I told you. Didn't I tell you? The guy's a fucking animal. Eighty minutes on the heavy bag and he ain't slowed down. And he isn't love-tapping it neither, look at the momentum he's putting on it." "No gloves." said a third voice heavy with grudging admiration. "Not even wraps." "Fast, heavy hands." a woman said in a soft Gaelic brogue, as though evaluating a car. "Balanced mass, too. Look how he dips his right shoulder and raises his left to bring it down into the cross. That's old-school barroom bareknuckle. Whoever taught him to fight didn't do it with gloves on. What did you say he was called, Kieran?" The woman speaking had dark blonde hair and a beach-tan. Currently in a halter-top and shorts, her arms, legs and exposed midriff were all taut with hard muscle. She stood against a far wall, idly talking with her three friends, all of whom bore the same logo on their t-shirts as she did on her halter-top: a green neon hawk's head, beak open in a silent scream, with 'Raptor MMAS' written around the central design. "Perault. First name's Declan, I asked around. Most call him 'Crazy Perault', but not when he can hear 'em. Word is that he's some vet got sectioned out two years back and he's been here ever since, and the guy's like the proverbial fucking honey badger - he just don't care. Rumor has it a dealer pulled a gun on ol' Perault there one month after the V.A. released him, and the man just took the gun off the druggie and beat the everloving shit out of him. Put him in hospital, and a bunch of his pals when they came round a week later looking for payback." The current speaker was the youngest of the four, a freshman at UCLA and obviously the junior of the group. He looked at the woman eagerly. "What do you think, Mary? Was I right, or was I right? This guy's got 'bank' written all over him." "Big deal." said the third speaker, a towering, bulky man with a crooked nose, scars and a bunch of biker tattoos. "So he beat up some crackheads. That shit's different from being in a cage with a real fighter. He's got potential, though." he added as though grudging the words. "Yeah? Well pretty much every Chuck Norris joke told around UCLA has Crazy Perault's name swapped in." Kieran said defensively. "He's a scary son of a bitch. Caused a jock to piss himself with a look. Didn't lay a finger on him, and the tough-guy just folded. So if you think he's no big deal, why don't you go up there and tell him, Rack? I double-dog dare your ass." "I reckon I will, then." Rack said, straightening away from the wall with a smirk. An outstretched hand stopped him as it slapped against his chest, and the big man looked down at Mary. The woman had a speculative look in her eye as she watched the burly, dark-haired figure, sweat soaking his hair to his head, continue to pound on the body bag. "Uh oh. I know that look." said the first speaker, who'd remained quiet till now, in an amused tone. Mary flicked a glance his way and shrugged, her lips curling in a smile as she looked back Perault's way. The man who'd spoken looked at Rack. "Looks like Mad Mary's got her sights locked in." The others chuckled. "Hush, you blatherin' girls." Mary said irritably as she unloaded a short jab into the ribs of the one that'd called her Mad Mary. He 'oofed' and moved away, rubbing at his bruised ribcage. "And I told ye what would happen if you kept on with the 'Mad' monicker, now didn't I?" "Now waitaminute." Rack said, scowling. "You ain't allowed to sleep with a member of the team, Mary. We all discussed that shit. It causes nothin' but ill feeling." "Relax, Rack." Mary reached up and patted his cheek, smiling with a mischievous twinkle in her light brown eyes. "I'm just going to feel him out. And besides..." she added as she started to move away from the others, winking over her shoulder. "He's not a member of the team yet."
  11. Sunday, August 21st Kaitlin puttered around the house, an ice-pack strapped to her left ankle. It had been two weeks since she had moved in with Oneca, August, and Aradia - and Satan - and she was both relieved and chagrined that the issue of rent hadn't come up yet. She still had some (dwindling) savings though, so she was able to buy most of her own food and contribute to the household larder. Which she was happy to do, since there wasn't as much meat in their diet as she preferred, and the other girls found out Kaitlin was also actually a pretty decent cook. It didn't stop mentions of her carnivorous appetites, but Kaitlin didn't apologize for them either. An active girl, Kaitlin spent a lot of time outside - sometimes even looking for a job she could tolerate between idly eying the rich homes in the neighborhood for easy opportunities of wealth equalization actions. She would have been today as well, except she had sprained her ankle yesterday when a loose roof-shingle had slipped out from underfoot. It wasn't that she couldn't fight against the pain when she had to, but like more freerunners, she was conscientious about exacerbating a minor injury into a more major or long-lasting one. Which didn't mean she wasn't disappointed. She had had the idea of trying to find out where in and around LA MTV's Ultimate Parkour was being filmed and she didn't want to find it while driving her rust-bucket Camry or not being in top condition to show the stars what she could do. So, instead, Kaitlin wandered around the luxurious house, seeing what she had overlooked before. There were quite a few books on the various shelves and in the study, which made sense, since the other four girls were all in college. She sighed with bitter melancholy. She wasn't all that interested in more years of school, but she was pretty sure her athletic scholarship to UNLV was going to be a lost and she wouldn't be able to afford college otherwise. Not without a serious score, at least. She cocked her head to the side, a finger tracing the bindings of the books, only now really noticing the titles. These weren't sciency or arty textbooks. They were about the supernatural and occult! Just fiction - of course, they had to be - but maybe they were based on the real thing, from way back when. Kaitlin glanced over her shoulders, self-consciously making sure nobody was watching her, then pulled the heavy hardcover Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters from the shelf. She hobbled over to the couch, flopped down onto the plush cushions with her legs thrown over the side and propped the book on her chest, leafing through the pages, looking for a heading on powers and weaknesses... Gonna need silver. Stupid silver! It gives me a rash.
  12. September 5, 2011, 1:55 p.m. Holmby Park August walked nervously next to Dec, her anxiousness evident in her stance. She was really glad that Declan had agreed to come and even happier that he’d been able to get the time off. “You sure this won’t get you in trouble?” she asked, more because she needed to talk than needing more assurance. “Nah,” Dec said, looking around more casually then August, but still attentive. “My boss owed me time off.” Something about his smile after that statement made August raise an eyebrow. She was suddenly glad Dec didn’t work for her, for reasons she couldn’t name. “Okay, then.” His grin widened some more at her tone, and he lifted a hand. For a second, August thought that he’d hug her but instead she got another manly pat on the back. However, those thoughts quickly faded when she saw Shane. That wasn’t technically true – she saw the ghost first. Lilly was hard to miss; she floated half a head higher than Shane like some spectral weather balloon. “There,” August said, her voice hoarse. She caught Dec’s arm and subtly pointed. “That dark-haired man on the bench.” She swallowed and glanced up at Declan. “Maybe I should approach alone. Let him know you’re coming. I don’t want to get this started off wrong.”
  13. July 26th, 2011, Las Vegas Giggling, the two athletic girls hopped the back fence of the luxurious residence, fleeing the yard-party they had crashed and raced across the rolling, moonlit expanse of the Las Vegas Country Club. After several dozen yards with no signs of pursuit, they slowed to easy saunter, holding hands, excitedly going over the loot they had swiped and hid in their purses and the celebrities they had seen at the party. A moment later, they stopped, falling into a passionate embrace, soft lips pressing against soft lips, tongues entangling. They were young and beautiful and in lust, the night was late and pregnant with potential, and the neon jewel that was Vegas beckoned, home and playground both. The heat of the day dimmed with the setting of the sun and the night was their domain to roam, their favourite time to wander the city. They were free and wild with youth and though there were dangers sharing the dark with them, they scoffed at them, secure in the immortality of adolescence. Life was an adventure and though they both knew some for whom it had ended, surely it wouldn't for them. Kaitlin sighed as the kissed ended and they continued on their way, slipping through the trees bordering the backs of the fine residences lining the golf course, basking in the night noises of the city that never sleeps. Through her lowered lashes, Kaitlin eyed the girl walking at her side. Madison was a few inches taller than her, willowy as a model and with a face that belonged on fashion magazines. Two months ago, they had gone to prom together, and before that, Madison had spent the semester chasing her. Kaitlin's cheeks reddened in remembrance, but her grin widened and she gave Madison's hand a squeeze. She might still have been embarrassed to discover the sapphic desires residing within her, but she certainly didn't regret them or the fun she had with Madison. Cock is fun but she knows damn well how to get me off better than any guy I've ever been with... "So, what now, love?" Madison asked, blue eyes gleaming and dark beneath the stars, auburn hair dark and glistening under moonlight. "We can hit a club, but..." with a graceful twist of her wrist, she glanced at her watch, "... there's only a hour 'til close. I don't wanna head home before dawn, but I'm sure we can find someplace to have some... fun..." The throatiness of her voice and her hand on her ass gave no doubt to what she meant. Kaitlin was in full agreement, heart pounding with too much excitement to return home for the night, despite the presence of a comfortable for them to tumble in. Not that finding a bed was onerous when there was always the possibility of some short-term squatting. And there were other benefits too... "You're on, babe," Kaitlin agreed, green-gold eyes brightening as she noticed the open window of a house she had been keeping an eye on for a few days. It didn't seem like the residents of the fine home had been there for the last several days. Surely they wouldn't mind someone borrowing a bed for a few hours, and they could suffer the lost of a few small items, right? Kaitlin pointed out the means of access with her chin, a wide grin on her face and a rising thrill beneath her breast. "I've had my eye on this place for a few days, Madison. Betcha ya they have a bed they aren't using. And maybe a few things they wouldn't mind losing so we have a bit more spending cash on our trip to LA?" "Well, I did want to stroll Rodeo Drive..." Madison teased. She tilted her head down and gave Kaitlin a kiss, a thumb and forefinger tweaking a firm and perky breast. With her girlfriend distracted with the sensation, Madison chuckled and darted away. "Last one to the house has to take the loot to Greasy Pete the Pawn." Kaitlin blinked, then snorted. "It's on!" With her long legs and headstart, Madison was at the tall wall surrounding the house before Kaitlin was halfway there, but the blond girl was the stronger and more athletic of the two. By the time Madison dropped down the other side, Kristin had reached that wall and was hardly slowed by its height. With momentum and her hands, Kaitlin hauled herself up and launched herself off the top of the wall, coming down in a wall and flowing to her feet... ahead of Madison. "You took the wall to slow, Maddy," Kaitlin opined, slapping the back door of the house with a smile. "But you're getting better." Madison scowled, but stuck her tongue out at her. "You've been freerunning longer than me. But I'll catch you yet." Both girls paused, waiting and listening for any sound from within the house. After five minutes, Madison nodded, indicating it was clear. Kaitlin leapt onto the railing of the deck, then made a short wall-run to boost herself to the roof of the of the breakfast nook. She gave Madison a hand up, then staying low, both padded to the open window. It would be tight, but they should fit. Kaitlin peeked in, and finding it clear, gave Madison a thumbs up, then pulled out a folding knife and flicked it open. With a pair of quick cuts, she cut an 'L' into the screen then slipped inside. A moment later, Madison followed suit. The girls shared a grin then proceeded to explore the empty house.
  14. August 22, 2011 Life is what happens when you’re making plans. August really hated that saying, especially now that she was its effects in full force. She’d made a lot of plans to get her degree and get a job, then her insanity had started. August had gamely made plans to accommodate that, then she’d gotten dragged into a cemetery and nearly knifed by some guy. Aside from the trauma and all the accompanying issues from the attack itself, she’d then had a medical bill dropped into her lap for her ambulance ride and emergency room visit. “Cocksuckers!” she snapped as she stared at the letter and attached bill. Outrage and helpless anger flooded her and she tore the bill up instinctively. Throwing it on the floor, she flopped onto her bed, blinking back angry tears. It’d be fine. She’d be fine. She wanted to believe that, more than anything. But it was damned hard to feel anything other than kicked while she was down. “Fuck,” she snarled, pissed beyond reason and irrationally hurt that they’d bill her for getting attacked. “Fuck!” Pushing to her feet, she grabbed her last forty dollars out of her hiding hole – her emergency funds that she kept for the end of the semester, when she ran out of money. This money had to buy enough food to feed her until her loans paid out. Fortunately, she wasn’t eating a lot, and she could snitch some food from Oneca’s food, if she needed. The green-eyed girl winced as she remembered the last time she’d done that: Saja had given her a knowing, cool look the next time they’d met. Satan hadn’t said anything; she didn’t need to. August had gotten the message. It was a short walk down to campus, where August caught the bus. Her bus pass was one thing she kept up, paying months in advance to ensure she wouldn’t become completely dependent on Oneca. It bothered her to rely on her roommate so much, even if Oneca didn’t care. Plus, this shopping was better done on her own. The walk and the ride gave her time to calm down. There were probably victim advocacy groups that would help her pay her bills. She just needed to find them and jump through their hoops. It seemed like so much work, and August pressed the side of her head to the bus window, feeling the creep of despair. Should she even bother? At this rate, she was just going to end up in the crazy farm, so what did a few missed bills here and there matter? Her stop was reached and August piled off with everyone else. Like part of the herd, she ambled into the store, breathing a sigh of relief when the air-conditioning closed in around her. Grabbing a basket – a cart was just going to depress her over how little she had in it – she headed for the pasta aisle. They should have plenty of Top Ramen there. Yay, August sighed to herself, even as she accepted her lot in life.
  15. August 17, 2011 “So that’s it,” Javier said, his thin face made longer with worry. “No one’s seen Brad in two weeks.” “Wow,” Marley said, her eyes wide. “Seriously. Nothing?” “We had a date last Friday, which he missed,” August told them. That raised a few eyebrows. Brad’s interest in her had been well-known throughout the School of Film. “That’s when I started to think that he wasn’t just laying low after that stupid bastard conned him.” “He was looking for him,” Gabe told the table somberly. “Who?” Marley asked. “The con-artist.” Javier was the one who answered, though Marley was looking at Gabe. “He told Gabe and I that he’d gotten a lead on the guy. Someone named ‘Jackson’ was going to sell him information on the guy.” “You let him go alone?” August asked, her cheeks flushing as she turned a dire eye on the two men. “There was no ‘let’, August,” Gabe told her, his brown eyes somber. The Asian American looked as upset as she felt. “We tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined to get his money back.” Javier crossed his arms and snorted, his wide, dark nostrils flaring as he stated, “Get his pride back. That’s what was messing with him.” “There’s only one thing to do,” Steph said. She was Gabe’s half-sister, and the resemblance was clear despite her white father’s genetic influence. “We have to take this to the cops.” “Devon already called the cops, and filed a missing persons report.” Javier didn’t look mollified as he spoke. “Seriously,” Marley grumbled, “Devon’s just his roommate. He doesn’t care about Brad. He’s probably glad he doesn’t have to share the remote anymore.” “Is this something we want to get involved in?” Gabe asked uneasily. “Yeah. Brad’s our friend. Let’s take what we know to the police,” August said. She rose and the others stood with her, pleased that someone was pushing them to action. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Campus security was great for crimes on campus, but no one knew whether the crime had happened on campus. So they went to the West Los Angeles Community Police Station. The group of five had to wait for almost an hour before a detective from the Missing Persons Unit could see them. Their first look was promising; an older man, thick but not fat, with cool, calculating eyes. He introduced himself as Detective Robinson. The five gave their information to him; he wrote it all down and then said, “Thank you for the information. We’ll keep looking for your friend.” “Wait, is that all?” August asked, her brow furrowing. After their trek, it didn’t seem right that it should end with a five minute conversation. “Yes, ma’am. We’ll continue to look for your friend, but I’ll be honest – there are a lot of missing persons,” Detective Robinson told them. “We’re doing everything we can. If you’re not satisfied, you should hire a private investigator.” That seemed to deflate most of them, but August asked, “Do you know a good one?” “I know lots of good ones, and some affordable ones,” Robinson said, cracking a grin for the first time. “Lemme give you a few names.”
  16. July 28, 2011, The Red Dragon, 9:00 p.m. "Any other fund-raising suggestions?" Amy Zellker gazed around the table, her plump face set in cheerful lines. Amy was an Organizer. She lived to be the head of an organization, pouring her time and energy into it. It became the source of her self-worth and pride. And everyone else in the club let her, because it meant they wouldn't have to do it. August was relieved when no one else came up with anything else. They'd been here for three hours and the wait staff was starting to get annoyed. Maureen was doing her best to remain an actual customer by continuing her trips to the buffet, but even she was slowing down. August stifled a sigh as she eyed her empty glass; the staff had stopped filling them an hour ago in hopes of making them leave faster. Had this been a Film and Photography Society meeting, they would have already been done. The Graduate Cinematography SA was a different beast, far more pompous. "Then I think we're done," Amy said, still cheerful. Money appeared and was tossed on the table, until everyone had given their part. Then the club broke up into ones and twos, everyone heading their own way. August pushed through the door and into the muggy LA air. Her steps turned north, toward home. It was a longish walk, but she was short on cash until her student assistance started to pay out. Walking was much cheaper than driving. The problem wasn't the walk. It was what she might see on the way. They were always worse when she was alone. They were always worse when it was dark. This walk promised to be bad. Oneca was out tonight, Aradia didn't have a working car and August would sooner ask a live cobra for a ride than ask Saja. That chick gave her the creeps and was also hateful. August's sandals thumped against the concrete of the sidewalks. She kept her head down, trying not to see anything unusual. She didn't want to see or react to them. Sometimes they noticed when you reacted to them visibly. Clutching the handle of her backpack, she walked on, sweat gluing her shirt to her body.
  17. Monday, August 1, 2011, Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, 2:00 p.m. The sun was deliciously warm. August didn't feel warm often; lately, cold had been her enemy, a sign that she was still going crazy. Or perhaps that she was still insane. It was hard to tell if she was actually nuts or still sane and fighting the fall. Wasn't there a rule that if you were worried about being insane you were still sane? Or was that officially wishful thinking? Her therapist would tell her that thoughts like that weren't helping. August was supposed to be helping with her therapy, not questioning her level of insanity. Think pleasant thoughts, she told herself. Keeping her eyes shut, she let the heat act like a balm on soul as well as her body. The stone bench under her was also warm; with the firm heat under her and the golden warmth above her, she was completely at ease. Nearby, someone was turning over the earth; August could smell the scent of disrupted, heated soil. The occasional sound of the worker reached her as well, but she was concentrating on the sounds of the guys playing catch with a Frisbee or of the birds singing. They were very active, their voices pitched in high, nervous chirps. They sounded a little scared. Those are not the kind of thoughts you should be thinking about, she chided herself, but now that she'd noticed the nervous twittering, she couldn't shut it out. As a distraction, she let her mind drift to the final project for her independent study. Though summer classes were technically over, she was still working on her project. Her instructor had let her start late so she had until August 15. She had a couple of weeks, but she needed to start focusing. August had loved to play with light and film; styles like film noir were so interesting to her technically. The play of light and dark had been the focus of her summer project and now she had to submit a video showing her knowledge. But since her 'break' August had found herself woefully short on inspiration. What had once been easy, even exciting, was now a chore. Part of coming to this park was the hope that something would inspire her. Then the warm sun had lulled her into a nap. Just like a cat, she thought with a lazy smile. Carelessly, she shifted on the bench, pulling one knee up as her hands came to rest on her stomach. This was way too relaxing; the warm summer air combined with the lack of Saja-related pressure or school pressure was enough to draw her toward sleep. The Frisbee took care of that. It sailed over the hands of the guy jumping for it and right into August's face. Yelping, she sat up, clapping her hand to the spot over her eye. It was already throbbing but she could tell it was just going to be a bruise and wasn't bleeding. And the shithead who'd missed was laughing at her. August glared at him, as he giggled into his hand and pulled his sun visor low over his eyes. It was nervous laughter but she didn't care. "Hey, wanna get that for me?" "Sure," August said, turning to look over the bushes behind the bench. The Frisbee was on top of the bushes and she shoved through trimmed foliage, grimacing as they raked at her bare legs. She grabbed the offending disk, snatching it up off the plants. She was seconds from hurling it back- What would the Wolf do? As always, that thought made her stop and consider. And she was angry. She'd been having a good day. It wasn't being hit with the Frisbee. It was that he'd laughed at her instead of apologizing. There was a gardener nearby, one of the UCLA's fleet of groundskeepers. August darted over to his cart and grabbed the pruning knife off of it. She started to hack at the plastic disc, but it was too tough to cut in half like she'd wanted. She heard the guy yell and start toward her, and August switched tactics. She began to scratch letters into the disc instead, and by the time the boy snatched it from her she'd managed to get three letters in it: A-S-S. "Bitch!" he snarled when he saw her artwork. His friends weren't too far behind, but August wasn't afraid of any of them. They were all frat kids, over-privileged and rude, and she was still angry. "Try an apology next time," she told them, setting the pruning knife down in the cart. The kid opened his mouth, then looked over her shoulder and paled. "Good luck, bitch," he muttered before turning and fleeing. Frowning, August turned to see what had caused that reaction.
  18. January 30, 2007 The door squeaked open five minutes after the lecture started. August winced at the noise and then winced harder as several heads turned to look at her – including the teacher's. Why did I think that Sunday was a good time to go to one of Lucien Hunt's parties with Oneca? she sighed to herself. Feeling chagrined, she slipped into the first open seat, her face heating up from being the center of attention. Drawing out her notebook, she started to take notes on the class. Comparative Religion 101 wasn't that interesting to her, but she needed the humanity credit for her gen eds. With effort, she focused on the lecture. At least the teacher wasn't too old; he was handsome in a British-scholarly way. It made it easier to focus on him, if not the lecture. Ugh, she sighed after ten minutes. It was no good; the mild hangover she had from last night was cutting through her concentration. She could get the notes from that cute guy a couple of seats over; she'd spoken with him before. Letting her mind relax, she started to doodle instead. She wasn't very good at it; her wolves all ended up looking too soft for her tastes. Dr. Astor's voice became a soothing drone in the back of her mind; August felt herself slipping away. Her doodles became less and less about wolves, and more and more random. Then from the chaos, order began to take form. Faces peered out of the lines of her page, all of them shrieking in pain. A small mound of some kind of powder was the center of drawing. It was ominous in its simplicity. August was still drawing when the class was dismissed and the other students were gone.
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