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[Fic] Truthiness [Complete]

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June 8th, 2009

The men were still following her, still content to hang back and not do anything other than watch. And while it had been innocent to this point, it was starting to get on her nerves. Impatiently, she sat at the red light, watching the gray car that she was sure was tailing her. She’d seen it before.

“I knew I should have driven,” Sherman bitched next to her. “You always get so addle-brained behind the wheel.”

“Huh?” Liv glanced over at Sherman, blinking. “What?”

“I said, you coming out tonight? Or are you going to do the old maid routine again?” Sherman asked. His tone sounded catty, but after two years of being one of his closest friends, Liv knew that was how he always sounded.

“I don’t know,” she said, thinking. Wakiki had to work late tonight, and she didn’t have any students to tutor. Plus, she wasn’t too far behind on her homework, and it was a Friday night. “It’d be fun.”

“Oh, girl… you know you want to,” Sherman said, tilting his head so that his dyed blue bangs fell strikingly over his forehead.

“Yeah, I do,” Olivia laughed, turning to glance at him. The watcher three cars back in the red SUV caught her lovely smile on his telephoto camera.

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An hour later, the same surveillance photo was on Rochester Sykes’ desk. The businessman pursed his lips and stared at the beautiful black woman in the image, noting her youth and carefree attitude. “Is this her?” he asked the man across the desk.

“Yes, sir,” Brian Mommens replied, sitting casually in Sykes’ chair, his hands folded almost primly on his lap.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sykes roared, rising to his feet. His face went red as he stomped to his wet bar and splashed some scotch into a tumbler. As he snapped it back, he snarled, “She’s barely out of diapers. I have shits in my pipes older than her.”

“She is a journalism student at Boston University,” Mommens replied. If his employer’s agitated state bothered him, he didn’t show any signs.

“Oh, great, my six-digit chief of security is getting his panties in a wad over an undergrad.” Sykes looked completely disgusted.

“She has the Rexrout file.”

Sykes stared at his ‘head janitor’. It was a closely guarded secret that he didn’t actually clean up the floor, but that he cleaned up messes for Sykes Industries. “Fine. Take care of it.” He shoved the photo across the desk. “I don’t want to deal with this anymore. If she has an accident, it’d better never come back on me or this company.”

“Of course, sir,” Mommens said easily. He hid his offense at the boorish statement. He was a professional, not some two hundred dollar thug with a sawed off shotgun.

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The music was way too loud, a pulsing beat that could be felt like a physical blow in the dancers’ chests. Liv was flowing with the beat, despite it being a little too fast for her style of dancing. Of course, her ‘style’ was picked up from a pole-dancing class she’d taken on a dare with Ashley. It tended to be a little suggestive; Sherman had once told her it looked like she was dancing for bus fare, his ‘cute’ way of calling her a stripper.

Her dancing was probably why a total stranger had just come up behind her, grabbed her by her hips and thrust his crotch against her ass.

Liv didn’t stop him; every second the guy dry-humped her like his personal blow-up doll only made it that much more likely that he wouldn’t get anywhere with her. It was arousing, but she had a lover waiting at home, one who knew her inside and out. This guy was a raw novice in the Book of Liv. All he was doing was riling her up for Wakiki’s benefit.

Across the floor, Sherman glanced at her, somehow pulling his attention away from the hottie he was speaking with at the bar. His expression said it all – did she need a beard?

Liv shook her head, rolling her hips back against her dancing partner a little harder. He responded by wrapping his arms around her waist. Laughing, Liv unwound herself from him, wagging a finger at him. He sagged in mock exasperation, then shouted, “Sorry!” She nodded, but side-stepped him when he reached for her again. Sighing, he moved off to try his luck elsewhere.

Ashley slipped up next to her. “Ready?!” she screamed over the music.

Liv nodded. She was buzzing with endorphins and felt pretty damn good. The night’s mission was accomplished, even if they’d had to come all the way to Southie for it. They waved at Sherman, but he didn’t see. “I’ll get him!” Ash screamed, then started to work her way toward him.

Liv headed for the door. She wanted to get out of the music and start to cool down. She had a long ride home, and a long wait until Wakiki got home. No point in boiling until she got there.

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“Remember,” One-Two said, pulling his ski mask down, “we’re here to rough her up, not kill her. Just make sure it’s bad enough that she has to go to the hospital.” The thug wasn’t nervous; he’d done plenty of stuff like this before for the man who called himself Conner. In fact, his nickname came from his success: one phone call, and you’d have an enemy in the hospital within two nights. It was One-Two’s specialty, and he took pride in his work.

“Why?” Gump asked.

One-Two didn’t roll his eyes; he just looked at Mad Dog, who sighed and told his slow cousin, “We don’t ask that, remember, Forrest Gump?”

The full nickname made the man shake his head. “Not Forrest Gump,” he said sulkily.

“C’mon, Gump, get with the fuckin’ program,” Smiles said, his harsh smoker’s voice making the admonishment even harder. There was one man One-Two wished he could replace. Smiles got his name from the care he took in giving people second smiles. The dude was creepy, but he fuckin’ followed orders.

Tylus was the final man in the group, the only white guy and the other guy One-Two wanted to be rid of, the sooner the better. As normal, he didn’t say anything, watching the banter with cold blue eyes. Suddenly, he uttered a rare sentence as his eyes flicked down to the reference photograph again. “She’s pretty. What’s allowed?”

One-Two’s skin crawled. Tylus had made some off comments before, things that made One-Two sure he wasn’t just twisted, but downright evil. There were just some things that a man didn’t do. “We’re just hospitalizing her, and we ain’t got time for what you’re thinking.” Tylus nodded once in acknowledgment, his expression not showing any disappointment. Dude was weird.

“Everyone ready?” After he’d gotten four nods, One-Two said, “Let’s go.”

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Outside, the air was chilly compared to the steaming sauna of the club, and Liv smiled as she inhaled cold air into her lungs. She could feel the heat dissipating from her body as she waited for Ash and Sherman to exit the building and join her.

It was so fast. One moment she was glancing up the street, looking to see how far it was to the car; the next, someone had grabbed her arms and a hand was clamped over her mouth. Liv shouted, but it was muffled by the gloved hand. She struggled, but there was one on each side and they were both stronger. Terrified, she opened her mouth, twisted her head and bit down on what she got between her teeth.

“Fuck!” He didn’t scream sadly, but she was pleased to know it hurt. She tried to deepen her bite, but the glove allowed him to wiggle out. Immediately, she started to scream, but something hit the back of her head, and she went limp, dazed.


“Bitch bit me, damn it. Next time, you can cover the mouth.”

“No problem, I have this trick with duct tape my mom taught me...”

Liv let them talk around her as they pulled her into an alley. She was dropped on dirty concrete, skinning her knees and making her wish she’d worn pants instead of a skirt. Stay alive… gotta get back, for Wak… survive… gun… purse… gun in purse… It took longer than it should have for her to remember that the gun Wakiki had gotten her was in her purse. Moving slowly, she found the strap, still crossed around her neck and shoulder like a bandoleer. She fumbled into the purse itself, digging past her wallet. Her fingers closed around the handle of the snub .38 as she heard one of them say, “Heyhey! She’s going for a phone!”

Someone grabbed her wrist and yanked. She pulled the trigger the moment her hand was pointed at a blurry form, and the small revolver retorted in the dark night. Someone shouted, and the hand on her wrist pulled again, changing her aim. She pulled the trigger again as her hand was jerked away, and jerked it again and again as her arm was wrenched high. The hammer clicked on an empty chamber before the gun was taken and her arm dropped.

“Bitch fucking shot me! Oh, god…” Someone was wailing in pain, and Liv felt grim pleasure. That faded when someone delivered a vicious kick to her back. Despite her attempt to keep up her tough girl appearance, she shouted in wordless pain and felt the first sobs. “Fuck putting her in the hospital – fucking fuck her up! She fuckin’ shot me!”

She started to go for her purse again, this time for her phone, but was stopped when someone stepped on her hand. “Well, we killing her?” a cold voice asked.

“Stick with the plan-” The one giving orders was cut off when all hell broke loose.

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Legend has it he come from on high to rescue her in the moments before her great Awakening. Surely the Goddess, the Loa, directed another God's Son in the same way she moved the whole of the world in her dance. Such was the way of the Persuader.

He was close, cruising around at night and drifting away from his companions. Reider was alone, Zen'd out when the shot broke his revelry. Guns were wrong. They were the sign of violence and the hallmark of the failure of peace. That made the young Scion angry in a slow, subtle way. He changed his path.

He came close as five more shots rang out and and heard the wordless scream of a woman in pain. There were loud voices, people yelling something about how they had been shot. He skated closer, wheels barely making a noise as he came closer. Reider pulled out his axe and knife in two fluid motions. He came upon the alleyway and one of the men spotted him but couldn't make sense of it. Then it was too late.

Knife slashed and axe fell. The board crashed into one farther in the alley, tripping him up slightly. The man who saw him got cut with the knife while a surprised thug to an axe to the arm, collapsing in pain. The shot man went down, his gunshot wound no longer a priority then crawled a way and fled. Two of the men drew knives and stabbed at him. Reider expertly caught the blade on his axe then stabbed up the arm. The man screamed. The second knife man cut past his guard but failed to penetrate the light leathers Reider wore.

The last man, the wounded one who had seen him, swung with his fist but Reider dodged beneath. He cracked the axe into first knife wielder chest and the man fell crying. Reider was able to move so that the two remaining opponents were in his front facing. The second knife man lept forward, cooly and confident. The first man he had cut turned and ran.

Reider slashed down, knife and axe, at the knifeman overwhelming his defenses and taking him down. He raced to his board and was about to take after the fleeing man when he hears a soft moan. He wiped his blades on the pants legs and pulled around his sleeping bag and put away his axe. He kept his knife out.

He knelt down beside the enchanting woman.

"Lady ... Lady, are you okay? I'm here to help you."

She looked pretty bad now that he could see her better and would be hurting in the morning, if not tonight. All he could do was take her hand and rub it with his thumb.

"Please be okay."

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“Lady… lady?”

The voice came from far away, and Liv had to fight to focus on the words. “Uhnn…”

“Please be ok…”

Someone was holding her hand and talking to her. Her eyes didn’t want to stay open. “Help… me…” she whispered.

“How?” The man’s voice was slow and dull.

With effort, Liv opened her eyes again. “I… don’t know,” she whispered. She couldn’t think. All that came out when she opened her mouth was, “I want Waki-chan.” Unfortunately, she said it in Japanese, leaving Reider frowning.

“Liv! Oh, my god!” A attractive man with short, dyed hair dropped to his knees next to her, his hands fluttering for a second. A blond woman bent over them both, frowning.

Liv smiled when she heard Sherman’s wail. “Hi,” she said woozily.

“We need to get her out of here,” Sherman said firmly.

“Shouldn’t we wait for the police?” Live heard Ash ask.

“Hi, Ash,” she mumbled, then gasped and opened her eyes. “Don’t ferget… the ghun…”

“That one?” Sherman asked, and Liv turned her head. After a long moment, she saw the .38. “I shouldn’t… have it… concealed.”

“Crap, we really can’t go now.”

Reider heard them first. “Sirens,” he said.

“Who are you?” Ash asked.

“Later, Ash,” Sherman said. He eyed the handsome man and asked, “Can you carry her?” When Reider nodded eagerly – that he could do! – Sherman said, “Then let’s go. I know of a safe place to take her nearby.”

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He hefted her up and did so easily.

"I've got her. Lead the way."

"Oh, Nice Lady," he said to Ash, "Could you get my skateboard. It's by the body of the Bad Man over there."

He followed Sherman as quickly as the man led. The funny little man was constantly moving his hands and worrying his lip. Reider being larger, curled Olivia to his chest, getting some blood on his shirt, but not caring. All he could fit into his mind right now was getting this woman and her two friends to some sort of shelter and safetly.

Ash caught up with the skateboard and read it under the light of a streetlight.

"Raider," she said then looked at Reider. The tall, blonde warrior nodded but kept his eyes ahead or on Olivia's face.

"What happened?"

"Bad men ... came up ..."

"That's enough for now," Sherman hissed. "Big and Blonde is coming with us. We can put it to him when we are safe."

He was too anxious to realize what he said.

Soon enough ...

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Callum was sitting at his rather small kitchen table with a cup of tea in his hand; papers covering the table when someone pounded on the front door. Glancing at the clock and just now and realizing it was well past midnight Callum grumbled and set the tea cup, his mother’s favorite, down and made for the door. He was normally a coffee drinker but switched to tea when he needed something to soothe and relax him. His mother however, had been big tea drinker and she even had a whole cupboard devoted entirely to her many varieties and flavors of tea.

There was another, more urgent pounding on the door Callum passed the living room on his way to answer it. He noticed Fiachra, is rather large Irish wolfhound flopped on the couch sound asleep. The dog was a gift from his father a couple of nights ago and while he found it’s presence comforting, they were currently entrenched in a custody battle over the furniture and Fiachra’s right to sleep on it. So far the dog was winning. A third pounding came and by now Callum was seriously annoyed. Who ever was at his door better be hot and covered in baby oil otherwise they were getting his foot up their ass!

“For the love of Mary and Joseph, what!?” He practically yelled as he yanked the door open. There was a small gaggle of people on his front walk. Sherman, a friend of his from the clubs, was just getting ready to pound on the door again but jumped back startled when he opened the door. Callum flicked the outside light on and saw that Ashley, Olivia and some young hot blond guy he didn’t know accompanied Sherman. The Blonde was carrying Olivia. He didn’t know the girls all that well either, having only met them at Sherm’s last New Years party but friends were friends and clearly something was wrong. The group just stared at him for a moment. Sherman’s eyes raked over Callum’s body and he realized he answered the door in his black silk boxers and muscle shirt, his standard bedroom attire.

“Well come in if your coming,” Callum said, leading the stunned group into his living room. Fiachra was instantly awake off the couch. He sniffed everyone neutrally while still managing to stay out from underfoot and when he was satisfied he padded out into the hall and laid down in front of the door. The beefy blonde laid Olivia on the couch.

“Sherman, what the hell is going on?”

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Reider stood around looking lost and helpless. Carrying someone was easy and had clarity of purpose, but now he was in a strange place, with strange people, feeling strangely. The man before him was close to being perfect, lacked most clothing, and smelled of cut grass and clovers and around him you could hear the faint creaking of wood, like the floorboards of an old cabin beneath his feet.

It was comforting at the same time as it was accompanied by a warning of some kind. He couldn't help but stare at the man and that brought problems all its own. He wanted to ask a question but didn't know how and more importantly, he couldn't irritate the shorter man whose name might be Sherman. It was with some comfort that Ash pressed his skateboard into his hands and distracted her.

"Thank you," he whispered then looked down instead of meeting her gaze. His tongue couldn't find any other words to say.

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"Some thugs jumped Liv and we came here," Sherman said quickly, his pretty face entreating. "We didn't want to wait for the cops because she had a concealed weapon." He was almost wringing his hands. "Oh, um... we need to keep her awake, I think. She's been hurt and I don't know if that means a concussion."

"Pretty doggie," Liv muttered, her eyes on Fiachra.

"Good god, Callum!" Ash yelped. "When did you get a pet polar bear?"

"Sher..." Liv said softly, and her friend dropped onto his knees next to the couch, taking her hand. "Where?"

"Callum's, Ollie-bug," Sherman said, reverting to his nickname for her. She was in trouble, then - he only used it when he was worried or teasing her. And given how awful she felt, it had to be the former.

"Ah." She let her head fall back, but Sherman yelped.

"No, no... don't go to sleep. Raider, pick her up, hold her upright so she doesn't sleep, please." He looked around. "Anyone know first aid? Not you," he added when Liv raised her hand weakly. "That's a good sign, though, darling. Responsiveness and all that."

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Reider immediately put his board down with a thud and picked Olivia up. Sherman litterally had to slap his arms around when Reider tried to pick her up and carry her.

"No, keep her standing!"

Reider nodded his understanding. In his senses he felt his board glide across the floor toward the dog. The woman was so much near-dead weight. He almost put her down when she asked him do, but a quick look from an angry Sherman stopped him.

"Come on Pretty Lady. You need to walk around. The Little Man said so. We had better do it or we will get in trouble. No more trouble for you tonight, okay? You stay safe now. You keep walking."

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“The Eskimo I screwed last night left him behind, I thought he’d look cute on the front porch with a garden gnome clutched in his teeth” He quipped to Ashley on reflex and immediately regretted when Fiachra huffed from the front hall. Callum wasn’t the deepest of thinkers but he was quick minded and while the others tried to keep Olivia awake, he slipped out to the kitchen and got a glass of water and his mother’s first aid kit.

When he came back they were fussing around her and trying to keep her on her feet. Her head flopped to one side. This wasn’t good and Callum could clearly see the signs of a concussion. All this hovering and hysteria wasn’t helping her either. “Okay guys very carefully take off her jacket and lower her back onto the couch, sitting up.” He said and was fussing with the kit when the odor he’d smelled in the background jumped out at him. The smell of burning amber assailed his nostrils and was accompanied by the sound of the hum and crackle of electricity. He looked at its source, the young nameless blonde, and instantly knew. Aislinn had described it, ‘The Scent of the Divine’ she called it but the description didn’t do it justice. The boy was a Scion like him.

Callum turned his attention back to his friend. “Olivia? Olivia its Callum. Do you remember me?” He asked her. And when she mumbled something he didn’t quite catch he continued. “Olivia I have some water here and I need to look at me and take a drink. Can you do that?”

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Liv slowly nodded. With Callum's help, she drank some water. When he was sure it was staying down, he gave her some Tylenol as well. That should help with any bruising. Both helped, and it was with somewhat clearer eyes that Olivia turned to look at Callum again. "Thanks," she managed, then looked at all the others gathered.

She had no problems until she came to Reider. Whoa! Pretty... Without realizing, she leaned against him a little more, letting her head loll onto his shoulder. Her dark eyes settled on Callum again. "Sorry for the trouble. I'll pay you back... somehow."

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The fact that she was speaking in full sentances was a good sign but Callum didn't want to take any chances. With only the briefest of thoughts he made up his mind. "Don't worry about paying me back girl, that's what friends are for. I want to make sure you are okay though so you are gonna stay here tonight. No arguments!"

Now that the immediate fear and panic had subsided in the others Callum gave Livy a once over to make sure she wasn't seriously hurt. He didn't see copious amounts of blood which was a good thing but there was a bruise forming on her hand and her knees were skinned. "Livy, hon. I want to take care of you knees so don't freak okay?" He said, keeping his voice calm and soothing. Who knew shacking up with a paramedic for a few months would turn out to be this handy? "Sherm, hand me the rubbing alcohol? Thanks. Okay Liv, this is gonna sting a bit but I gotta get the dirt and crap cleaned off."

Callum busied himself getting Olivia's knees taken care of while Ashley flopped down in an old recliner, the tesnion finally starting to drain out of her body. Sherman continued to hover like a some stage mother who's kid just went on for the first time. He was soon banished to the kitchen, busied with the task of making tea to get him out of the way.

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The rubbing alcohol hurt a lot. She held herself still with effort as Callum cleaned her knees. She half-wondered if they'd scar, and it shouldn't have seemed that important. She was aware that she was being vain, but her legs were awesome, and ugly scabs would run that.

Still, there was a more pressing issue. "Someone needs to call home," she said, after mulling over the words to make sure they were right. "Waki-chan will be worried."

"English, doll," Ash said.

"Um, Wakiki will be worried."

"I'll call," Ash said and dug out her phone. She got up and walked into the next room, the easy, sexy sway back in her hips as she moved. "Hey, Wak..." Then she was in the other room, and Livy couldn't hear anymore.

By the time Callum was done bandaging her legs, Ash was back. "He's worried, but I assured him you were fine," she told Liv. "He was ready to drive over here, but I dissuaded him. He doesn't need to come all the way out here."

"Tea's ready," Sherman announced, bringing out mugs for everyone. Liv took her cup gratefully, enjoying the heat of it on her skin.

As Callum eased away from her legs, Fiachra took over, edging Ash aside so that he could lay his head on Liv's lap. Smiling hesitantly, she scratched his ears, and his big eyes drifted shut in contented bliss. She moved to his neck and shoulders, which was all of him she could really reach in her current position, and he made a happy grumble noise.

The distant aches and pains of Liv's body were starting to make themselves known, and even the painkillers couldn't help. "I'd like to get some rest," she said, and she sounded almost normal.

After exchanging a glance with Ash, Sherman nodded. "Callum, could we stay here?"

"Oh, no!" Liv said softly. "I don't want to impose." Fiachra lifted his head and curled a massive paw over Liv's thigh while looking at her intently, as if commanding her to stay.

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"I told you no Arguments Liv. See? Even the dog agrees!" Callum smiled as Fiachra showed his affection. "I sort of have space enough for everone. Ash, you'll get the guest bed, and Livy will take my room."

"I'm sleeping where Liv sleeps," Sherman piped up in the butchest voice he could muster.

"Of course Sherm. I have an inflatable air mattress and I'll get you some spare sheets. "That just leaves our new friend here. I'm sorry I didn't get your name stud." Callum held out his hand to the adorable blonde that had carried Olivia from the car.

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Reider looked at the Pretty Man. He seemed to be looking at him. Reider looked over his shoulder to see what he was looking at then realized it was him.

"OH," he mouthed then followed that up with, "I'm Raider. He went over to his board and picked it up. Painted on the board was the name 'Raider' and Reider pointed to it.

"Raider. It's my handle. Are we in trouble? I hurt some men back there pretty bad because they were hurting her. Is that okay?"

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"Good to meet you Raider. Cute name by the way. You are welcome to the couch, or you could always join me in the master bedroom so we can keep each other warm," Callum said with a wink, never mind that it was June and the weather was already warm for the season. "And don't worry about those scumbags that hurt Liv. I doubt they are gonna report in to the cops and I certainly don't have any problems with you playing white knight."

Callum turned to Olivia and Said. "Okay pumpkin, lets get you into bed. Betcha never though you'd be hearing me say that to a girl huh?" He chuckled, trying to lighten the mood a bit. The next half hour was spent getting everyone settled, making sure they had bedding, pillows and towels for a good shower in the morning. When Callum had a moment with Raider out of earshot of the others he said quietly. "We need to talk."

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Innocently Reider says,

"The Pretty Lady has the couch. I'm sure your room is nice, but I'm not tired. Thanks you. I'm glad the Bad Men won't be causing trouble. I'm sort of sorry I let two get away. They were very bad."

When Callum pulled Reider away he went dociley, but he did take his bed roll with him.

"Sure thing ... Callum," he experimented with the name. "You are like me, but different. I can tell. You smell like fresh grass and you make a noise like wood does. That means you ares special. Father tells me I smell different too. It's amber - burning. I need to find out what that is like."

"I'm not making sense, am I," he says with some deal of shame. "Can I help you?"

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Liv frowned but let herself be led to bed. She was too tired to argue. Some part of her hated the mothering, but she allowed it.

"Reider," she murmured, looking at him. "Thank you." That was all she could manage tonight. She'd have to thank him more properly later.

She fell asleep almost immediately once she hit the pillow.

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Callum regarded Raider for a moment as he came to the realization that he was fairly slow although every now and then he could see a glimmer of greater intelligence. "Actually you make perfect sense," he said smiling and took on a more gentle, paternal tone.

He realized his normal banter and wit would be lost on the poor kid. "Your father is a god, like mine, I take it. My father is Lugh, of the Celtic gods. They are from Ireland. What is your father's name?"

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Reider gave Callum a dazzling smile as he nodded in understanding.

"My Father is Uller of the Norse Gods who are from ... umm ... the Norse lands. My cousin is a daughter of ... Affro-dity of the Greek Gods from Greece. She is beautiful like you are. She owns a club by Fenway Park. It's really nice."

He looked past Callum for a moment,

"Is she going to be okay? This isn't the first time I've seen people do bad things, but this was the first time I've seen so many men attack one lone woman. It didn't sit right with me. No, it didn't," he says in his slow, melodic voice.

A pregnant pause follows as if he's going to say something but doesn't.

"If you don't need me for anything more, I should be going. Can you give the Lady this card," he says as he pulls a card out of his wallet in his back pocket. "If she needs someone to help again, or questions answered.

The card read 'Venus' with and address on the front and the name Reider skrawled on the back.

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"Afro...Oh! Aphrodite. So, your cousin is one of us too? That is interesting," Callum said more to himself than to Raider as he turned the card over and over in his hand. "And a different Pantheon to boot. I wonder how that works?"

He looked back up at the blonde Norseman, Mmm, big and dumb..too bad he's straight. He thought but instead he said "I think you did the right thing; and if I can't convince you to stay here the night then at least let me get you home safely."

He saw the pensiveness and worry on his face and said. 'Don't worry about the pretty lady. She is with friends and I'll make sure she is taken care of properly. Now let me just go slip on some pants and let Sheman know I'll be gone for a few and we'll get you where you belong," Callum smiled reasuringly. "I'll bet someone somewhere is worried about you."

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"Ummm ..." the guy seemed nice and trustworthy, but could he fight? Well, Sapphire said he was pretty too, and he could fight so you never knew.

"I'll stay," he declared bravely. "I'll stay at her door," he hesitates, "if that's okay?"

"If you could point me in the right direction in the morning, that would be nice. I was just cruising when I came across this place ... not really paying attention to were the currents moved me, ya know?"

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Callum smiled and breathed a little easier, he really didn't want to leave the house to drive Raider anywhere. "Olivia is covered, Sherman is sleeping in her room." He said. "But the couch is comfy, and you'll be close to the door so if anything bad happens you'll be right there."

"So let's get you set up," He said as he shook out the bedding. Once eveyone was settled Callum finally crept up to the master bedroom, his mother's old room and slipped into bed. Sleep didn't come easy for the young man. Nightmares about his recently deceased mother haunted his dreams along with the gost of his own sordid past and he was up early in the morning. He showered quickly to make sure there would be enough hot water for everyone and then crept quietly downstairs to let Fiachra out for his morning buisness and then to start breakfast

Callum emptied the fridge of all the things he'd never eat but his mother loved and soon the house was filled with the delicious smells of cooking bacon, eggs, sasage and so forth and the others awoke to one one of the biggest breakfasts they'd seen in recent years. Callum was just slicing some fruit when Ashley staggered sleepily in. "Mmmmm, what smells so good?" She mumbled. "Holy crap are you feeding an army? Please, please, please tell me you have coffee brewing in here somewhere!"

Callum smiled and handed her a mug. "What kind of host would I be if I didn't properly feed my guests? Enjoy darling."

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Liv woke up slowly, feeling like shit. Her head, back and right arm all hurt viciously. She hissed when she started to sit up, and Sherman was right there, reaching out his hand. "Girl, you ok?"

"Not really," she said. "I'm not sure I can move." Sherman made soft, consoling noises as he helped her sit up. "Think," she said in a voice whisper-soft with pain, "that Callum would mind if I used his shower, and maybe every drop of hot water?"

"I'm sure he wouldn't mind the shower," Sherman said. "Let me get some towels. He left her sitting on the bed while he confirmed with Callum. When he returned, he was smiling and had towels draped over an arm. "Callum is such a sweet duck. Of course you can use his shower."

With Sherman's help, Liv was able to get to the bathroom. Moving helped loosen up her stiff muscles, and Sherman got her some more painkillers and some water. She took a little longer in the shower than she probably should have, but part of her time was spent just restoring her ability to move without being doubled over like an old woman. She felt worlds better when she exited and dressed, even if she was in yesterday's clothes.

"Hey," she said as she entered the dining room to find the others eating already. After fielding questions about how she felt, Liv turned to Callum. "Thank you so much for your hospitality. It is very much appreciated."

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Reider leaned against the counter, plate in hand, bedroll along his back, and his board against the drawers. In his other hand he held his fork that lovingly shoveled food into his mouth. The bacon was heavenly and the eggs were divine. The sausages had just the right bit of spice to go with the pork. It was a great meal.

No one had addressed him yet so he was free to keep his mouth full. It was a good thing, because the number of strangers made his heart beat harder and his pulse to race. It also made him a bit nauseaus. Hopefully the happy state of being ignored would continue until he had his fill and it was time for him to be taken home. Why was he here again?

The Pretty Lady and the Son of Lugh had started talking to one another and they seemed friendly and grateful. Things looked good. Maybe he could figure out a way for him to get along as well with the Amazons. Maybe he could convince Sapphire to make a breakfest this filling as well. One could hope, right?

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"It is entirely my pleasure," He said to Olivia as everyone chowed down and Fiachra hunted for scraps and cast offs; who knew a dog so big could beg so effectively, especially since he could easily reach just about any plate on the table without assistance.

"Do you feel like talking about what happened?" Callum asked with genuine concern in his voice. Unlike the everyone else he was eating a simple bowl of plain yogurt with fresh strawberries and granola mixed in.

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Liv sighed and speared another strawberry. "I don't mind talking about it," she said. "It's fine, it's not like I was seriously hurt, though I could have been." She smiled at Reider. "Thank you for that, Raider. I don't think I was coherent about that last night."

"Was it a mugging?" Ash asked, a golden eyebrow rising as she ate some hash browns.

Liv paused, frowning. "No," she said softly. "The one I shot... he said something about putting me in the hospital. They wouldn't pick someone randomly for that. They were looking to hurt me, and no, I'm not sure why." She didn't look scared; concerned, but also determined to find out why she'd been targeted.

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"I really don't know," Liv sighed, putting down her fork. "I have some idea of where to start looking, but... look, this is going to sound bizarre, but members of a local Voodoo temple have been following me around lately. Until last night, they hadn't done anything. I don't know why they're following me, or why they've suddenly gotten violent."

She waved her hand in sudden irritation. "It just seems so ridiculous," she groaned. "Like something out of a bad B-movie. Being chased by evil Voodoo priests. It's so ludicrous it's almost embarrassing."

"How long has this been going on?" Ash asked, her voice getting loud.

"About a week," Liv said, not acting at all repentant. "And I didn't say anything because Wak knew, and we did call the cops. But they always seemed to know when the cops were coming around."

"Which means they have someone on the force." Sherman might have been stating the obvious, but it still needed to be said.

"Right." Liv looked unamused. "That's why I had the gun."

"Now what will you do?" Ash asked.

"I'm not sure," Liv said softly, frowning. "Haven't worked that out yet."

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Voodoo cultists? I thought that was a peaceful religion that just had some bad press? Callum thought to himself, perturbed by the idea of a bunch of religious wakos following one of his friends around. He briefly considered marking her with a Vigil Brand, tapping into the Guardian aspect of his father's power, which would alert him to any danger she faced but reconsidered quickly. First off, he didn't have his tools on him and didn't want make a big show of putting on jewelry and making a scene. Second, Ash and Sherman were sitting right there and Aislinn had warned him about displays of power in front of mortals and how it could bind their fate to his. Thirdly, Livy was already stressed out about these Voodoo people and he didn't want to freak her out even further. In the end the drawbacks outweighed the benefits.

As breakfast wound down Callum said, "If you need my help Liv, don't hesitate to ask. You have my cell number, right?" He gathered a few of the empty dishes from the table and put them in the sink with his own bowl. "So what do you guys want to do now? You should probably talk to your brother," He gestured at Olivia. "I'll bet he's sick with worry right about now."

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"I should probably get home," she sighed, rubbing her face. "If I don't get home soon, Wakiki will either come over or try to report me missing. But I'll call him to let him know I'm ok."

She pulled out her phone and dialed home. "Livy?" Wakiki answered on the first ring, worry clear in his voice.

"Yeah, it's me, and yeah, I'm fine," she said softly. "We're having breakfast with Callum, then I'll head home. I'll be home well before my first class."

She knew he wanted to say more, but he said, "I'll see you when you get here, then. Drive safe - don't survive a mugging just to have a car wreck, ok?"

"I will," she promised. "Oh, and it might be those guys following me, so be careful, ok?"

"I will," he promised in turn. They hung up and she said, "I need to get going. Raider, can we take you somewhere?"

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Reider blushed slightly when Livy thanked him and held with the moment of silence when his came. His mind was mostly an empty seive for the most part. Livy called somebody, but he didn't remember who. She was being followed by some ... some ... maybe some rejects from a Scooby-Doo movie. He'd liked that one. The people had meant to put her in the hospital, but he wasn't sure why. No one said so.

Lastly, Livy asked him a question. He struggled to remember what it was around the piece of bacon he had been eating - and succeeded. He swallowed hard and put the plate and fork down. Reider reached around and pulled another card from his wallet. He handed it over to Livy.

"That's my cousin's place. She's Phe ... Sapphire. I stay up top in a nice room she lets me use. It has lots of ladies there."

The clube was white with a raised V done in silver and on the bottom 'Venus' and an address.

Realizing he had probably said too much, Reider looked down at the floor and took up his breakfast once more, trying to finish off every last morsel.

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Liv blinked at the card. "Well, we can get you there. I think it's even on the way." She glanced at Sherman, who nodded. "Callum, can we help you clean up?"

"No!" His emphatic denial was firm and not unexpected. "I'd never let a guest clean and you know better than to ask!" He winked at his mock-sternness. "If you need to go, go."

Liv gave him a long hug. "Thank you. You're the best. We'll get together soon, ok?"

With that, she gathered everyone and herded them out the door. Sherman drove, heading straight for Venus. I've heard of this place, Liv mused. It's a strip club. She glanced into the back seat, where Ash was trying to flirt with the young man, more out of boredom than real intent to pick him up. "You live at Venus?" she clarified. At his nod, she blinked and murmured, "Fair enough."

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The woman, Ashley, was talking to him and putting her hands on him and that made Reider squirm in his seat, flush red through his pale features, and mumble replies to her questions. He didn't know what to say, or what to do to make some sort of move on her. Hell, he wasn't sure what to do IF he got his hands on her.

He was confused. He was confused a lot these days. He missed the solitude of the ride and the quiet of the late night atmosphere of Boston, were decisions were a no-brainer. Girls ... girls just messed things up. Like, why did he want her so, and why didn't the words come out right.

The Pretty La ... Livy said something to him. Reider nodded and a whirlwind of words came into his mind and he couldnt' figure out what to say. By the time he made up his mind, the moment had all but passed.

"It's my Cousin's place - Sapphire. Most of the men and women there are nice to me, like family. I have a dog too named Bob. Want to see him. He's friendly and smart," his head hung low as he added, "not like me."

Into the pause, a question came to him.

"Were those men Monsters? They didn't feel like Monsters, but like men - normal men. I shouldn't fight men if I can help it, only monsters. Were they Monsters?"

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"Yeah, I'd like to meet your dog, though not today," Livy answered, turning around in her seat to speak to Reider. As such, he was able to see the look of dismay on her face as she continued to realize the lack of maturity in the boy before her.

"That's... complicated," she said, aware that she'd just probably made it difficult for him to understand. "Humans can do bad things. Sometimes, those things are monstrous. That doesn't make them monsters. There are no such things as monsters."

She looked to her friends, hoping one of them would help her out. "You covered it pretty well," Ash said, having slid over the seat to be a little closer to Reider. Her fingers twirled his golden hair around them, weaving in and out of his strands. She smiled coyly as she added, "I don't have anything to add."

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Okay, now he was getting ... agitated and well, he liked it in a hot breathing, heart racing, tunnel vision kind of way. Had he been better read, he would have realized this was how many a hero was tempted from the Rightful Path, but he wasn't well read.

"Hey. You're nice," he told Ashley, oblivious to the rest of the world. "Do you want to see my room? I'd like to do nice things to you."

Well, he had gotten that out, and to him, it sounded like he did a pretty job of things. He had said this loud enough for everyone to hear too, but that was lost in the testosterone of the moment.

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Livy looked at Ashley, and the question was clear in her eyes, Are you seriously going to follow through on this? Ash thought about it, shrugged and turned back to Raider, "You know I think I'd like to see your room, too."

"And people call me easy," Sherman muttered, earning a kick from Ashley that thumped into the back of his chair. "Sorry, sweetie, but Forrest Gump there wants to make you his Jenny, and you remember how that ended - a nine-month condom-advertisement and fatal cancer. Were I a pussy - and what a cosmic joke that would be - I would go with smart and ugly before pretty and Gumpy."

"Sherman," Liv said, "I think that's enough. No need to be mean."

"No need, but it happens," Sherman said. "Ah, I think we're here." He pulled into the Venus' parking lot and stopped. "There you are Reider, safely home."

"I'll call sometime," Livy promised, looking at him. "We can hang out someday."

"Bye, Raider," Ash said, waving at him. "See you, cutie."

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