She was in Starbucks today, it had been a very long time since she stepped foot in here. Mostly... because she had had a habit of blowing it up every other weekend. Weird things had happened here, often, years ago. But the city kept putting it together.
She was sitting at a table leaning back, her phone in front of her and sipping a cup of black coffee while looking over a file.
Starbucks; good coffee I guess. Tried to swear off of the caffeine addiction from my earlier years, right down to coffee, but it always came back. Today? Today was no different, and while the line went quickly, I hadn't failed to notice her sitting down at one of the tables in plain enough view. Made operational sense, I guess. No point trying to look suspicious by sitting in the back in the dark; everyone checked there first when looking for someone suspicious.
"Can I take your order," the person at the counter asked, and I glanced up, choosing something at near random; pretty sure it was just some variant of a latte and in size medium. Yes, I know what the sizes are in Starbucks, but that's not the point. It only took a minute or two to get my drink and I walked over to where Rachael sat, sipping the drink as I did.
"Good read," I asked, pointing the cup at the file while I sat down. Sure did a lot of that these days; shouldn't make it a habit.
She looked up after he sat down and smirked. “By all means join me." She chuckled. "I’m kidding; I don’t mind... it’s interesting," she said and added, "Fancy meeting you here, huh? You’re not following me are you?" She knew he wasn’t. How? She was a euthantoi and they dealt in probability and she had cast the stones, so to speak, earlier and knew he would be here.
Basically, she had precogged that he would be here. So, she was precog-following him?
"I told you, give it some time and you'd discover why I'm not popular," I replied, keeping my tone just light enough to show I was kidding. Mostly. There were definitely a few who couldn't stand the fact that I wouldn't roll over like some of the others. Not in me, no. It'd fail one day, but that didn't change what I was. Stubborn, obviously.
"No," I continued, shaking my head, "Just going with the flow and enjoying a short break from the grind." Oh, and it was a grind. It was honestly a wonder they even let me out by myself, but I could handle myself better than most. Just took a peek underneath the cotton jacket to figure that out, but most people didn't bother to look around them. Pity, that.
She snickered softly and shook her head. "Ah yes, you did tell me that, didn’t you?" She closed the folder and lifted her coffee, sipping it before putting it back down.
To his second, she laughed and said, "Pity; being followed might be fun." Dangerous for someone, but maybe a little fun all the same. "So, you have today off then?"
"That's a strange thing to call fun. I did plenty of it in my other life, and it wasn't anything except a giant pain in the ass." It was true even, true enough that it tinged my kidding voice a little. It'd been hard work; lots of nasty, wet nights spent climbing or getting into a spot and waiting. Sometimes we even rolled up on the compound and that hard work became interesting in the academic sense. Academic, because it's simple math; kill them or they'll kill you.
"I'm in the middle of transitioning work sites again, so I have some discretion over my working hours. Makes it easier to get in the occasional break or two during the day instead of the usual sprint through a shift."
"Well, in truth it wouldn’t be fun for whoever was following me. I think maybe that’s my way of saying I might be a little bored." There was a nod to the tone in his voice, before she went on, "That’s got to be a pain in the ass, transitioning. Again, not so much the ability to take your breaks as you wish."
"I don't doubt that following a federal agent would be a terrible idea." It was easy enough to agree, not just because I'd see the way she'd looked around at her surroundings so often. The gun that had to be there, though I hadn't bothered to check, or the magic crap she had to be able to do. No idea how that part worked, but I didn't strictly need to either.
"Bored, though. That's a strange thing to hear; that file just some light reading for a coffee break?" I teased, just a little, but it may not have sounded like it. I wasn't very good at separating my teasing voice from the one that told people to sit down and listen. Maybe I should work on that?
"It's the way of things in my field of work. Always moving to another site, always another job to do. It's these periods that you get to screw your head on straight again before the next job starts up." I shrugged. "It's life."
"There is that too." She nodded.
Her eyes looked down at the file and she laughed softly. "Hey don’t knock it, I read medical journals for fun." And she did too, her smile faltered. "Maybe I am the boring one."
There was a slow nod and she asked, "What does your significant other thing of all the moving? She cool with it?"
I didn't miss the way her features wilted a little, although I'm not sure why they did. Must've not seen something else.
"Boring is staring at a wall display all day, waiting for the day to pass. Reading anything, even a medical journal is a welcome change of pace." Yeah, staring at a bank of screens was boring, and also the reason why I never did any of it. Physical checks, walks of the area; those were my jobs. Yeah, even amongst us all, there was still the occasional pecking order and I wasn't usually the one to draw the short straw on these shit details.
"My lifestyle precludes that kind of thing. Makes moving or living out of a hotel, or in a tent just a bit easier, really." Of course, it wasn't that simple, but we weren't here to talk dirty laundry. Of course, I'm not sure why we were here to begin with, but the speaking with someone was another welcome distraction. Too easy to get stuck in a rut otherwise.
"I’ve been told otherwise, well yes the staring at a wall display is boring... I mean reading a medical journal for fun. I got called boring for it." She shrugs.
"Somehow I doubt it does if someone wants it," she said, looking the closed file over, she looked back at him.
"So maybe I exaggerated a little. But I also can't read, so there's that." Not even a hint of a smile at that, so I hoped she'd pick up on the joke. I know the Army had a strange sense of humor, one that bordered on fatalistic, but I wasn't really able to get myself free from it anyways. Sort of thing that just stuck with you once you picked it up.
Eyes narrowed a little at her comment, not enough to be threatening. Just curious. Focused, if you wanted to call it that. There were, of course, a few reasons for my stance on the matter, but this wasn't the place for that sort of conversation.
"With my parents? Trust me, it's safer for everyone this way," I admitted, pretending to joke where there really was none. They really were crazy.
It did make her chuckle. "Guess I’ll just have to teach you then."
She watched him, finally saying, "Okay, NOW I’m curious. You wanna go someplace more private?"
Oh, so I'd piqued her curiosity. Guess it was bound to happen. Too bad there wasn't much to say, but I suppose I could humor and, besides, this coffee was done. It never lasted long enough for my taste.
"I suppose we could. It's not hard to get back to the work site if I need to." While I preferred a car, it hadn't been that bad of a walk and I could run back quickly enough if needed. Which, who knew? Maybe it would come up?
She finished her coffee, and got up moving to the garbage and dropping the cup in it. She motioned for him to follow, as she put the file in her jacket and walked out the door.
So, a mage and a soldier walk into a coffee shop... Stop me if you've heard this before, because I haven't. Interested to see what the punchline was, I trashed my own cup and followed her out, careful to keep just a little bit of space between us. Sure, there wasn't any chance of a fight, but well, old habits. They died so very hard.
She didn’t say anything as they walked, her pace was brisk and clearly comfortable for her. They went down 3 blocks, and then she pulled something from her pocket and held it up to the pad lock, the red light turned green and she pulled the door open. She walked him through the lobby of an apartment complex that was fairly upscale, then into the elevator. She hit the button for the 5th floor and leaned back against the panel and bar. Her green eyes that had that weird agelessness to them turned to him and watched him curiously.
When the elevator opened, she moved through it into a very small lobby with one door. Once more she used a key to open the lock and stepped inside of a large apartment that ran the length of most the building.
"This is one of my safe houses, make yourself comfortable. I’m going to get some iced water if you would like some?"
I suppose it shouldn't surprise me; must be a snap to get a safehouse when you could do magic. Whatever the hell kind of abilities that gave, and good old Murphy had to have said it didn't have limits. Yeah, cliché talking about Murphy, but that didn't change the fact that he's an asshole. Rarely fucking wrong, too.
"I'll take a glass if you're offering," I responded, politely of course. Wouldn't do for a guest to be rude, although I remained standing, hands in pockets while I looked around the place. Can't say I was too inclined to sit anyways; too much of that lately and the coffee gave just enough spring to my step to make me want to stay moving anyways.
She went into a kitchen and came back a few moments later with two bottles of water, she offered him one and then moved past him to the windows that allowed them to overlook the water.
"So, tell me why your parents have anything to do with you being mated or not."
I'm not sure why it would make any difference, but as soon as she handed me the bottle and turned her back, I flipped it over, finger close to check for moisture. Paranoia, right? Well, I'd seen what paranoia got me, and I have to say, it's more comfortable than the alternative. Experience taught me as much.
Still, when she asked why my parents were involved? Part of me wondered if she'd gotten things mixed up and the directness of the question was, well, a little strange. The other part? Well, I don't think it knew either. Also, a bit much for just a single answer to a question, no?
"A good amount, really, but the details? Well, they're kind of dry." And not without a good bit of family drama that I wasn't too eager to dig into, either.
Life Scan roll:
Rachael Constantine has rolled a Life Scan diff 4 -1 for known rote Diff 3 roll (5 dice), getting 2, 7, 3, 9, 10, with a difficulty of 3 on a 10 sided die. Rachael Constantine has 4 successes. This roll did not use the 10-again rule.
As she took a drink of the water she smirked: Spatial awareness allowed her to see 360 degrees and his checking the water was amusing. As she lowered the water bottle she said, "If I wanted to kill you, or harm you, I’d not poison you." She imagined a thread moving out of the glyphs that she had on her inner arm, glyphs that where currently hidden from sight. They wove mentally into a rote and settled on him allowing her to see his health.
"You’re healthy and clearly been through a lot, and you’re fertile. You’re not unattractive, so the question still stands. What do your parents have to do with you having a mate or not, and remember I read medical journals for fun... dry is not outside my dictionary?” She turned her face to him and looked him over as if she was REALLY looking him over, her lips curling a bit. "It’s my understanding that their laws include breed, breed, breed... I suspect there is a reason besides you’re a handful that has kept you single. And for whatever reason, I am curious."
I wasn't sorry, and the eyes in the back of her head would have to just take that for what it was. Still, I twisted free the cap and took a drink, careful not to down too much of it. May need it later. I recapped it and just nodded at her first comment. What was I going to say, really? Of course, as she spoke so directly, I couldn't help but feel just a little chilly and not from the cold water bottle. It tingled, but the feeling was familiar enough to ignore and slowly, warmth returned to my fingers.
"The Litany is pretty specific on that, yeah," I agreed, keeping my voice very still, although it was not a preferred topic of discussion. Oh, it was rather exacting, and I know more than a few who would use all of its room for interpretation to their benefit. That's why I kept my exposure to a minimum, so to speak.
"Less to do with my parents exactly and more with what they tried, just once. Arranged for a mate, because I hadn't Changed yet and they didn't want to waste any time waiting for another generation to train. I enlisted the next day and didn't look back. So, that makes it a complicated topic, and I'm not so eager to figure out how everything works."
"I take it the mate that was arranged hasn’t caught up with you yet?" She turned around and leaned against the wall, though she was not leaning on the glass.
Her nose wrinkled as she considered, then nodded. "So, you are not interested in that sort of thing, can I ask if you’re..." She stopped herself and shook her head. "Sorry, I’m not even sure why I am asking but the fact that you aren’t, and are making it hard to be is interesting to me. So, if you’re not interested in women..."
I shook my head, "Not yet. One of these days, but they'll have to get in line. I've got a lot of people with a bone to pick with me." Also true. Just ask any of the unfortunates who'd crossed paths with me on a mission. Turns out I was bad at a lot of things, but that? No, I was good at the mission. Funny, they'd taught me to do that too.
"Less interest in the idea and more a vague concern for the fallout. I don't suppose that it'll work out, but it'd be even worse if they wanted to enforce the claim. Half-moons can be annoying like that, especially when their deed name is Passes-Firm-Judgment. Terrible fucking name, but I didn't pick it." I shrugged again, not really caring that much. I'd done worse, really. Not to mention, if I stayed on the move long enough, maybe they'd even forget about me. Doubtful, just like the odds of people in Hell getting ice water.
At her last bit, I laughed a little and shook my head. "Like I said, damage control, that's all."
She gave him a look. "Oh my god, that’s a horrible name. Gotta agree with you there."
And then she shrugged and smiled a bit. "Just curious to why you’re so resistant to it. Me, personally? Let’s put it this way, I think Vetris is the only Garou trueborn that would hide in a broom closet rather than face me when I’m on the warpath. Funniest damn thing too. Big Crinos in a broom closet." She shook her head. "Everyone else seems to be overconfident and I don’t really look like that much of a trouble."
She moved from the wall and sat on a couch, crossing her legs. "Thank you, for not being overly upset with me for being insistent on sating my curiosity. If you want, ask me anything and Ill return the favor."
A brief smile, "She's exactly everything that I despised in them. Overbearing, domineering, and without a lick of sense. Easy call, really, and the name just sealed it." Okay, so maybe not much of a smile at all. More just a shadow of one, but I was in good spirits for talking about a more personal matter.
"I can't stand a lot of them. At least most of the other Fenrir tolerate me, and the smarter ones realize what I bring to the table by keeping me on-board. Guess that makes it easier to ignore the eccentricities." I suppose that was as good a guess as anything; truthfully? I had no idea why anyone outside of Iona put up with me, and even then, I could push buttons like a typist. Several in succession, hundred insults a minute.
"One question," I said, still standing, though I shifted a little to keep my legs from locking too hard. "Third favorite Disney princess." A real smile at that one, because I had a million time wasting questions like that. "Always the hard-hitting questions from me."
There was a nod, she understood. Her dealings with the Garou had proven them to a be ...well they lacked a good bit of sense as far as she was concerned. She didn’t voice that though.
At his question she laughed and looked up at the ceiling as she considered it. "Um. I think Snow white...."
"Snow White," I echoed, smile still firmly planted on my features. I made to make it sound just like I was weighing her astrological symbol, checking the relative merits of her person and... promptly throwing all of it away. Of course, asking was nothing more than a jest, and the obvious fact of that was etched into my smile just as surely as the little divots in my forearms. Best not ask about that one, though.
"I had pegged you as more of a Belle person, really." She shouldn't be surprised that I know about such things; we all had a childhood and as crazy as mine was, I still could claim some things as having been part of it.
She laughed. "Belle? I strike you as a person who doesn’t understand Stockholm syndrome?" She winked and leaned forward, "That really all you want to know? Alrighty..." She tilted her head.
I shook my head, "Ask yourself why someone who had the chance to maybe escape all of this decided to stick around anyways. And still does, despite that. Think I may have a few words to say about Stockholm syndrome." No malice to what I said, either, just a gentle increase to the tone; a little injection of seriousness to an otherwise easy one.
"Read in a book once that there's always another secret." Actually serious at that, the smile falling off like a dead leaf. "I have plenty of unanswered questions, but like I saw somewhere else, there are things that I know that I don't know and still more than I don't know that I don't know. I'm more towards the second part of that right now."
There was a slow nod. She understood.
To what he said about knowledge she shook her head and half smiled. "Knowledge, even dedicated knowledge is little more than a drop of water in a vast ocean. Hell, there is crap I still don’t know and still don’t know more. I do feel like I am Alice who fell down the rabbit’s hole sometimes though."
"There's just enough to understand to make you go crazy," I agreed, voice dropping off at the end. Oh, I had some more things to say on the topic, but right now? Right now, I was more remembering than talking. Feeling, more like. Feeling the endless hours of practice, of indoctrination. Yes, indoctrination. They were always so good at that; just look at the rest of my family. Not me, though. What did that make me?
"Doesn't seem much use in worrying about what I don't know. I'll figure it out, one way or the other." Suppose I didn't have much other way to think; anything else really would drive me mad.
There was a nod. "That is true. Is there anything you want to do?"
Again, I shook my head. "As much flex as I have in my schedule, I should be careful how much of it I use. And they tend to get a little antsy if I stray too far from the compound." I shrugged, if only to show that while I understood the rules and their intention, I also didn't care overly much. I could, quite legitimately, take care of myself.
"Or was that an invitation to see what exactly it is that you willworkers do in those crazy get-togethers you all have?"
Her shoulders shrugged. "It was an invitation to get to know me, something I don’t offer many."
Part of me wondered just what all that entailed, and with the question of before, not to mention bringing me all the way over here? How did that go; curiouser and curiouser? I hadn't been sitting and now was glad for it, but even still, I only shifted a little bit, moving my weight to something that wouldn't aggravate knees all too tired from heavy burdens. Yeah, try carrying 40-50 pounds of gear up a mountainside for a living and tell me your joints are in good shape all of the time.
"Tell you what," I said evenly, "We gotta work together, right? Of course we do. Let me get settled back in at home and I'll take you up on that offer. If we need to work together, there should be more known than just who has a bone to pick with who." It was an honest gesture, and about the best I could offer for now. Nothing personal, of course, just can't be seen to be gone for too long; had to hack the mission just like everyone else.
She smiled at that. "Fair. Do you need me to take you out?" She asked curiously, a bit of an enigmatic smile on her face.
I smirked; apparently, she knew that little bit of the rules at least. Go figure. What I couldn't quite figure out was if she was serious or just joking. Either way, I would be at the Sept so this would be more of a Mexican standoff than she may have intended. I liked those; kept the blood flowing.
"May have some issue with that, seeing as how I'm supposed to move back to the Sept. Besides," I continued, shrugging, "I think that particular rule only applies to those of us without a demonstrated talent for persisting."
"Or breaking the rules anyways." Again, a smirk for that.
She smirked a bit and tilted her head. "Well I mean I COULD send you to the Sept, I don’t think you would like the delivery though." Not too many people liked being body slid without having an idea of what it meant. Course, Miles would tell him it was transferring his body to data and that only creeps out everyone who hears it.
Her hand moved so that her finger rested on her full lips as she considered and watched him, then said almost decidedly, "I think there is more depth to you than the blood on your hands. And you don’t seem too far gone that we can work together without me trying to straighten you out."
"I'm sure, but my feet? Well, they're pretty used to walking a lot and I can't let them forget it. Besides, I got some more boxes to move back at the Waystation."
Maybe she just hadn't seen all of the blood, or what lay beneath it. No, I wasn't a monster; the monsters all could shift into their true shapes. I was left with just my single skin and a hopeless amount of tenacity. That was the trick, I suppose; they were all so cocky with their tricks, but shot placement and enough bullets could overcome quite a bit. Just ask the one who'd given me the memento before I put a few rounds in his brainpan.
"I've worked with a lot of people for a lot of reasons over the years. Think we can make this liaison gig work fine." There was a nod at that last bit, but nothing else. Just business now, really.
"You would think." She said, leaning back and putting her hands behind her head as she laced her fingers. "There are some lines that I won’t tolerate, mostly for your sake and those around you." Her shoulders rose and fell. "And trying to bring people back into balance can be a pain in the ass. That though, you do seem a little to the left of, but not so bad that you need my kind of intervention." She paused and blinked. "Damn you’re comfortable to talk to. I’m babbling about things you have no clue about." She shook her head and considered explaining it, then just let it go.
She did have to ask, "Are you able to work with someone who seems to not bat an eye at killing someone else? I’d not ask if you were trueborn; they don’t have much of a sense of morality. Humans are cattle and all that and if they get in the way, they are removed. But the kin tend to have a bit more morality. "
That was a thing though, if she needed to remove someone...
I just shrugged at her comments; silence would have to be her answer because I had little to say about it. Was I imbalanced? Name a Kin who'd done what I'd done, seen what I'd seen and bled like I'd bled and remained balanced. No, I wasn't gone, not yet anyways. And that last bit? I bit back a grin, just enough to make it apparent that's what I was doing. Just give it time, you'll regret it...
As far as killing people, though? That drew a laugh from me, short and quick, more of a chuckle than anything else. "The wolves may have a monopoly on killing, but I still draw my share. The smart ones tend to put up with me because I can push where they can't. None of that burning anger they like to rely upon; just stupidity and a penchant for dropping people I don't like."
"No, I don't so much care about killing. It's the family business." True, too. How do you think I got to where I was in life?
Her brows rose at that look and she quirked her lips a bit, her shoulders rising and falling as if to say we will see.
"Well I mean not wanton killing but yeah." She looked at her watch and then up at him and smiled. "Well, it’s getting late."
There's my cue; I also glanced down at my watch and noted it. Not that far back to the compound from here and I could cover it quickly enough even with just a small bit of coffee.
"Of course," I agreed mildly, turning around at that to head to the door. Maybe it didn't need a card swipe for me to leave; only a single way to find out. Of course, because no one ever meant senseless killing. Except when they did, and you couldn't be seen to be saying to that someone who was effectively a stranger. No, I didn't mean that either, but I wasn't one to flinch when it came to killing either. Too much at stake for me to blink, to twitch when I didn't mean to, or even to not pull the trigger because I had something as petty as feelings on the matter.
"I'll reach out once I'm settled."
His watch seemed to be stuck on the time he had gotten here.
"Good evening," she said, not moving, and when he stepped through, he found himself walking through the bathroom door of the pub they met at, and his clock finally working... two minutes had past.