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May, 2010... Fantasy became reality. Worlds overlay for the briefest moment. Outworlders became stranded on earth as more than half the human populace vanished. Our World, our universe, was transformed.

Fiction is now reality. Humans and those now bound to this world will either learn to coexist, or battle for supremecy.




Gavin de Luc

Old spectres and new phantoms

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March 25, 2020

After that close call at the Harbor a few days ago, Gavin finally decided to use some of his vacation hours to clear his head and attempt to recenter himself. It was the first time on the field in a long time where he had been put in a position where he could not perform up to his standards. He made it out alive, sure, but that was entirely too much risk for his liking. He needed to be better than that, but such a close call with death meant that he had deserved a few days off to just relax and do whatever he wanted.

Today, doing whatever he wanted meant he was headed for a short trip out of town and he had loaded up his armored Toyota Land Cruiser with enough alcohol to kill him and a few firearms so he could just shoot, practice his powers, and then get shitfaced away from any police or innocent bystanders. The last thing he wanted to do was get into a confrontation with the police at this point over something as stupid as intoxication, especially after that near-death encounter with the CDC putting him even more on edge with the government types.

He was dressed in what was for him pretty standard attire when he was pretending badly to be a civilian. Dirty, unshined steel toed boots, carpenter style jeans, and a black leather jacket over a flannel shirt. The brim of a black and beaten up Atlanta Falcons baseball cap saved his eyes from the worst of the remaining sunlight from the sun that had just started setting in the distance. He hadn't fully gotten the orange decontaminate out of his hair, yet, so small traces of the orange gunk still stubbornly remained glued to his skull. He had only drank enough today to stave off the craving for the stuff, so he was also more sober than normal at least for the moment.

Portable ward package and an M4 carbine with 2 filled magazines adorned the passenger seat of the vehicle as he drove, because his growing paranoia made him wildly uncomfortable without some sort of firepower within arm's reach. Especially when night fell, it would not be the first time that he was attacked outside the city and he would definitely rather be overprepared for nothing than dead in a ditch somewhere for the maggots and crows.

He had a once professionally created and maintained shooting and training range built on a field a few miles out of town, out of the way of anything else and purposefully so. These days, it was still professionally built... but the maintained part had gone by the wayside years ago. Old whiskey bottles littered the place from the times he had drunkenly driven over to shoot at ungodly hours of the night and shell casings lined the ground. Looters had found the place and made off with a lot of the casings and a lot of the lighter targets and ammo boxes along with the occasional misplaced weapon, but there was still spare ammo and litter around to account for quite some time of neglect.

He wasn't exactly trying to be subtle when he drove in towards the bottom of the small hill the field was on, mostly because he was not expecting anyone else to be there. As he was pulling up, though, a gunshot rang out and the soldier immediately lowered his head and reached for the carbine. Still keeping his body low, he loaded the damned thing before putting it back in the passenger seat. He was still out of sight of the hill, but that cut both ways. His windows weren't broken, so the shot didn't hit the vehicle. He could take the safe route and scare the intruder off by being loud in the armored truck, or he could get out and physically confront them.

Fuck it. He turned the key to turn off the vehicle and locked the damn thing before putting his keys in his jean pocket. He was going to go for it, because damned if he wasn't going to do something else needlessly risky this pay period when the opportunity presented itself.

Gavin grabbed his carbine and pulled a Springfield Armory XD .45 out of his glovebox for a sidearm since the rest of his were in the back of the vehicle and not worth getting at the present. He also still had his karambits, but those wouldn't see any use unless he got desperate. He put the small sidearm into the right jacket pocket of his leather jacket and put the one point sling of the carbine over his shoulder before opening his vehicle door and immediately activating his cloaking and noise dampening abilities to mask the door closing and his approach up the hill.

Carbine in hand, the soldier marched forwards in the direction of the shooting range fully expecting the worst. It could be anyone or anything up there, and with his luck it would be a pack of lycanthropes or something equally unfortunate. Since he was dampening the noise he was making to almost imperceptible levels, Gavin was not concerned about anything but speed and making sure he would not be blindsided.


If it was a human, he would be effectively invisible and silent with all of the growing shadow around with the sun halfway through setting in the distance. If it was a monster, he would know immediately just by virtue of the fact that they had noticed him and could react accordingly. It was a gunshot, so chances are that it was a human or magic user. 


Gavin liked his chances at remaining unseen against a human or magic user until it was far too late for them to do anything about it. And who knows, maybe it was just a random person who had happened to find the place and was not out to kill him and take all of his stuff.


But he doubted it, because with his luck lately it probably was the pack of lycanthropes. Or more CDC agents, which was a somehow even worse option.

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The day had been quite long and she had been trying to work more shifts at work. Mainly to keep herself busy so that she wouldn't be bombarded by the numerous amounts of dead that had to search her out at all hours. Most seemed to actually bother her more as she was walking from destination to destination, but there had been quite a few that would interrupt her time at her own home. For the most part they seemed to stay away from her work place. She really had no idea why they seemed to steer away from the place, but she was thankful for spending so much time at the restaurant. However, there were days when she had horrible customers that almost made her second guess even working at the restaurant in the first place. Today was one of those days and she felt like she needed to blow of some well built up steam.


This decision of wanting to get out of the city and find somewhere that she could be alone, or at least as alone as she could get, to fire off some rounds of her Glock 26 into bottles or even anything that she could find. Of course with her track record it really wasn't a good idea for her to go off at night out of the city, but she'd had a shitty day and instead of drowning herself in alcohol she figured shooting would be a much better way to manage her time. After her decision was defiantly made she had went out of the city, keeping her Glock in her holster that she had purchased 3 years ago. It always made her feel better if she kept it on her, especially when she went out of the city.


It didn't take her long to find her spot of choice and it wasn't too far outside the city so if she decided to hurry back into town it hopefully wouldn't take her too long. The only thing that made her a little hesitant about even choosing the spot she was at now was that it most certainly looked like people came here to do whatever it is that random people do. She took a deep breath in as she left the safety of her car, keeping her keys in her front pocket. She also left the lights of her car on which would slightly help put her at ease. Granted it's basically like a big sign telling people she was there, but she did have a gun and she does know how to shoot. So whatever.


She had been shooting for a few minutes, but stopped as she got that feeling that she usually always got when a spirit was around her. Her eyes closed and she shook her head slightly. Not now, she thought, please not freaking now.... all I want is a god damn break. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she opened her eyes slowly, knowing that she would see something that she would rather not see. She knew it was going to happen, but that didn't make her that anymore prepared. The man appeared in front of her and if it wasn't for the fact that it looked like his throat was ripped out she would wager that he was quite good looking when he was alive. He looked to be anywhere from 26-28 years old when he died and from the looks of his hideous injuries it looked like he had been killed by lycanthropes. "Hello. Is there any possible way that you could leave me be and let me get off some steam on my own," she asked the spirit that stood before her.


NPC : "Hey there. Well right now wouldn't be that great of a time for me to do that. See there is a guy that is going to be coming here. He's an old buddy of mine, but he isn't really too much of a people person. If he sees you here he will probably consider you as a threat. So all I will need you to say is that Little G says to chill out and that she's good people," he replied to her.


A slight pause from Aingeal as she listened to the spirits words. Her first instinct was to just head on back to her vehicle, get in, and drive off. Then this guy that will be coming won't even have to have any interaction with her at all, but then her stubborn side kicks in and makes her not want to leave because she was here first tonight and she would be damned if someone was going to run her off from releasing some tension that had built up over the day. Another sigh escaped her lips before she asked, "Well. Why don't I just leave before he even gets here?"


NPC : Little G moved a little bit closer to her and spoke once more. "Maybe that's because he's literally almost here already. And you won't see him either. He has this special talent that keeps him from being seen from people who aren't looking for him."


She lowered her weapon and kept it at her side for a second and then slid it into her holster, thinking that if some guy was going to be coming up on her that wasn't too keen on social interaction that he probably wouldn't want to see a person pointing a gun at him or even having one in her hand. "Alright. I guess I'll have to take your word for it and I'm also going to hope that you'll help me out when talking to him, yeah? Also. What's his name?"


NPC : He turned his head slightly back toward the hill over his shoulder then back to Aingeal. "His name is Gavin, but first tell him that I said hi. He will hopefully relax slightly after that. Also. Just stay where you are. No sudden movements. He's almost here."

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The evening breeze was still chilly, and the soldier suppressed a shiver as one gust hit him right in the face as he made his approach. Carbine forward, stance tight and sweeping left to right with the barrel and his eyes both to ensure that he didn’t get blindsided. On one of the scans on his way up the hill, he saw a the top of a car parked on the opposite end of the hill as Gavin was with the damned lights on. It was hidden from view from the spot where he had parked, and the lights were pointed up the hill presumably to make it easy to spot if someone tried to steal it.


He moved closer to the car to make absolutely sure that nobody was lying down in the damned thing, extremely careful to avoid the lights and being ready to move in case the car started moving unexpectedly to maintain his cover. His finger was off the trigger the entire time, mostly because if it was an actual threat he would use his powers first and the bullets second and also because by the look of the car it didn’t seem to be a bandit – or maybe a very poor or new one. Just as he initially suspected, there was nobody in the car. It was well maintained and much cleaner than the inside of his, but unremarkable otherwise.


Lycanthropes tended to not be on the richer end of society, though, and lots of mages were not wealthy either. Just because the car was basic did not mean that the person occupying it was not a major threat to Gavin’s physical well being. From there, again avoiding the front lights of the vehicle but no longer concerned about them moving the soldier moved up towards the top of the hill and onto the field on the top.


He thought he was ready for anything at this point, and for physical threats he was probably right. What he was not expecting, however, was to find an unarmed young woman raising her voice to call out to him while also staring directly in his direction. That on its own was odd but not entirely unexpected, but the content of that hollering was.


She called out his name, for one, and also relayed that Little G was wondering why the soldier was still wearing his Atlanta Felons cap. At that, an uncommon thing happened. Gavin completely froze, because he had absolutely no idea what to do. The woman had a smaller concealed carry in a holster on her side, looked like a Glock, but no other visible weapons. What was clear, however, was that she had magic. How much, he had no idea, but judging by the fact that she saw him pointing a rifle in her direction and still chose to keep her firearm holstered he had to assume it was formidable.


What the soldier could not understand, however, were the words that came out of her mouth. Gibson was not here, of that Gavin was almost certain due to the layout of the area making it pretty impossible to hide once you were on top of the hill, but she knew exactly what to say to cause him to doubt everything and freeze. Which meant at the very least that she was likely part of the Vanguard, and was likely one of the altered that joined up that cause.


Which meant that he needed to lower his rifle before he got blasted with whatever that woman preferred to use instead of her sidearm. If he was completely sober, he might have stood his ground here, but seeing as the woman wasn’t even flinching… he decided to at least outwardly yield for now.


He lowered his rifle barrel to the ground and walked forward enough to where he would not have to raise his voice to talk before deactivating his cloak and noise dampening. Immediately upon deactivating both, the soldier crouched down to place his M4 on the ground and let the woman see both of his hands as he got back to a standing position. It was a mostly placating gesture instead of a full disarming, because he still had full access to his powers… which the woman would probably know if she knew his name and had contact with Gibson, but he wasn’t getting blasted with whatever it was that she had yet so that was a good sign.


Gavin had not had contact with Gibson, his best friend during his entire stint in the United States Army since he had left to go to Ireland. Honestly, he had thought the man was likely dead due to his tendency towards stupid bravery. They had fled Colorado together, right after the Resonance hit and everything went to shit. Gibson had joined up with the Vanguard after the two of them proved themselves by dispatching a lycanthrope in a nearby village… and Gavin decided to board a shipping freighter on its way to Ireland to fight. They embraced at the docks, both fighting back tears, and never saw each other again. The soldier had absolutely no problem showing a bit of deference in order to have the opportunity to see his old friend again, though he couldn’t help but wonder why the hell Gibson wouldn’t come himself if he was in the area.


”Sorry ‘bout that, ahm not used t’ seein’ te Vanguard in plainclothes.” the man started, his accent an odd blend of native southern drawl and acquired Irish brogue. His tone was neutral, even slightly deferential as he moved to clasp his hands together slowly in front of him before he continued speaking again. ”If Gibson sent yah, shit must be real bad. Fucker isn’t te best at keepin’ in touch, so what’s the situation?”


The woman obviously wasn’t here to kill him, because if she was here to do that she would have at least attempted to do so already. With that out of the way it meant that she was here for another reason, and since his old friend’s name was invoked it probably had something to do with that idiot. Gavin had never gone back to Georgia since he left for Ireland, and had been avoiding any notion of going back since he came back. There was nothing for him there but hate and persecution, but it also meant that he was cut off from everyone that he used to know that survived the event. He could have tried to get back in touch, he supposed, but after his return from Ireland it just seemed like too much time had passed.


Gibson apparently didn’t think so, which was odd. Why now, of all times? Why Gavin in particular? Why here, and in this inefficient manner? Waiting in a random shooting range outside city limits wasn’t exactly their style, but he wasn’t about ready to say anything verbally when he still had no idea what or who he was dealing with.


Steel gray eyes scanned the area around him as discreetly as he could manage to find concentrations of shadow that he could use in case shit hit the fan. If she was Vanguard, she sure as hell was not a lycanthrope or a magus so that left her as an altered with strong enough abilities to see through his cloaking and to be confident enough to keep her sidearm holstered this entire time. With those conditions being true, Gavin needed to be ready to unleash absolutely everything that he had on a moment’s notice. He had always considered himself one of the strongest Altered when it came to combat ability, but if someone knew him and his skill set and was this unafraid and casual about it he had very good reason to be cautious.

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There wasn't much to say. Things like this didn't seem to happen too often for her. Well. The seeing spirits did, but the whole basically being stalked while technically ordered by a spirit usually never happened. So she stood there, trying to be as still as a fucking statue until she couldn't take it anymore. Being silent right now she figured was the best way to get herself into an even worse situation. So she opened her mouth and spoke, "Hey Big G. I'm just letting you know that Little G is wondering why you still wear his Atlanta Falcons cap." She knew she had said the words loud enough for him to hear, but not so loud to draw more attention to either of their locations.


Being inconspicuous out here was one of the major rules of being outside the city. If something or someone caught wind that you were out here alone, you were toast. Hell, even if you weren't alone sometimes things could just get a little too scary too quickly. Especially for someone like her who didn't really have a gift that could help her persay, even though she did know how to shoot. She was basically a sitting duck at all times, unless there was a spirit to help her. Like now, for example. A moment or so later she saw the man, Big G she was guessing, kind of almost just appear out of nowhere. Oh boy, she thought, someone who has gifts and gifts that actually help him when he needs them. After realizing that he was much more of a threat to her than she was a threat to him she kept her eyes on him. Practically glued to him.


She took a sharp breath in after hearing his words and realizing that he didn't even know that his friend was deceased. Oh, she thought, this is going to get awkward real quick. She bit her bottom lip for a second before replying back to him. "I'm not sure what you mean. I'm not apart of any Vanguard." She spoke in an even and calm tone, partially knowing that when she said her next words he was more than likely going to think she was a looney and probably blow her brains out, but she had to say something. Even if Gibson didn't want her to tell him. She always felt it was her duty to say something. "I hate to tell you this guy, but I don't think your friend is still..... alive." She spoke her words and then glanced over at Gibson, then straight back to Gavin.


This was one thing that she hated doing. Telling someone that a friend or loved one has passed away. Being the bearer of bad new was literally the worst way to introduce yourself to someone, but she felt he needed to know. It's always nice to be able to fully know what happens or has happened to someone instead of wondering day after day. It sometimes could make someone go crazy. Or at least she has seen someone go crazy from it. "I'm serious though. I hate to be the one to tell you. I mean. It seems like you didn't know......" A slight pause before she finished her words. "It looks like he might have been taken out by some lycanthropes or something. At least that's what it looks like to me."


It was funny though. Little G had seemed to go silent after Gavin had come on the scene. Maybe he had missed his friend and getting the chance to speak to him was kind of nerve wrecking. She could understand that. She figured she wouldn't know what to say if she was able to speak to some people again. Actions were much more easily understood than words.

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Gavin looked a hell of a lot different than before he had left for Ireland, and not in a good way. He was older, for one, and visibly more haggard from his years of combat tours since then and at this point years without a routine and healthy sleep schedule. His demeanor was also completely different, because that wide-eyed idealist that sailed across the Atlantic to go out and save the world was long dead by now. What was left was some sort of monster wearing human skin and trying to masquerade as a great man who had long since left this Earth in spirit if not in body.


When the woman said that she wasn’t part of the Vanguard, Gavin’s entire demeanor changed in an instant. Shadows visibly pulsated in the area around both of them as the soldier slowly but deliberately pulled out his sidearm from his jacket pocket in complete silence as his eyes carefully studied the woman for any sudden movement. The woman kept glancing at something that the soldier couldn’t see, and while her next words were not exactly surprising the American had gotten his hopes up given the circumstances that he would be able to see his friend again.


The shadows continued pulsating as the soldier slowly and deliberately pulled the barrel of his sidearm to point directly at the woman’s heart as she continued talking. If she wasn’t part of the Vanguard and knew Gibson and the fact that he was dead – it was a logical conclusion that she had killed him. If she had killed him, it meant that she was part of a hostile faction or a bandit, which meant that a gun pointed at her was a perfectly reasonable measure. It didn’t click until the woman continued talking and said those last words, and suddenly the glancing made sense.


Or the woman was a goddamned liar and loved fucking with people. But she didn’t seem the killer type if the soldier was being honest. Her posture was all wrong, and her demeanor was too resigned. ”So you see dead people.” Gavin said, more of a statement than a question.


The pulsation of the shadows lowered to almost imperceptible and the soldier lowered his sidearm so it was pointed diagonally towards the ground rather than directly at the woman, but he did it slowly. ”Which means that either you summon them, or they’re wandering around.” he continued, again a statement rather than a question. ”Which means that either heaven is a lie or my best friend before this conflict is stuck in purgatory back here in Earth, and is standing right there where you keep glancing.”


Another pause occurred, and the American cracked his neck slightly while keeping his eyes locked on the woman in front of him. His tone was casual, a complete contrast to the actual words coming out of his mouth. ”I’m not much of a holy man, but I’m real good at making things die. Is it possible for me to kill him and send him on to the afterlife he deserves? I can make it quick and painless if you point me to the brain. Sorry to hear the dogs got you, friend. That’s a terrible way to go, and our people have suffered greatly at the hands of those fucking monsters as well up north. I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to visit your shitty grave back home, but I am willing to try and kill you better than that lycanthrope did.”


He paused for a moment, and letting his eyes refocus and meet the woman’s gaze rather than watching her hand. ”Happy as shit I didn’t get your power. Seeing corpses all the time is a real shitty way to live your life.”

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It wasn't that hard to tell that this guy had been through some stuff. She had an inkling that maybe he had been apart of an army before all the shit hit the fan and that in and of itself was probably hard on him. Not to mention now everyone seems to go through something that they don't want to. Weather it be obtaining powers that they wish they didn't or even losing a loved one or loved ones. People die everyday and that was one of the main reasons she hated her gift. They just seemed to seek her out right after they pass. Like maybe she'd be able to do something to avenge their deaths. Um, hello, she thought, I kinda don't have anything like super strength, healing, or the ability to cloak myself. She sighed softly at herself and still kept her eyes on the man in front of her. It wasn't that she felt unsafe, but more that she was beyond paranoid nowadays.


It wasn't like it was hard to miss, but seeing the shadows around them visibly pulsate was almost enough for her to take off running for the hills. However, she had learned a long time ago that with people you need to stand your ground. Let them see that you are strong and not afraid. Typically that helped in tense situations and right now was definitely one of those. She wondered slightly if he would flip out if he could see his friend again. She'd only done it once before and it hadn't really gone that great. All she would have to do is touch Gavin for a few minutes and concentrate, but right now she more than knew better than to move at all toward. Hell. She knew that she shouldn't move at all. I probably look like a god damn deer caught in headlights, she thought. Then wondered if she was easy to read in the fact that she was pretty scared right about now.


As she saw him raise his weapon up at her she instantly knew that probably just coming right out and speaking so open was probably not a great idea. She took a small step back, fighting the need and the urge to turn heel and run the fuck as far away from him as she could. She was willing to be though that he was an excellent shot and that running would probably not do her any good. So she closed her eyes for a second and seemed to hold her breath for a few seconds. So this is how it's going to end, she thought, randomly in the middle of nowhere. She opened her eyes slowly when she didn't hear the sound of a gun shot and looked at him, still standing still. His words were almost like a sigh of relief, making her realize that he wasn't going to kill her. Good, she thought, I do not want to be like one of the dead walking around because I sure as shit would haunt the fuck out of him. "Yes, I do. All the fucking time," she said softly.


Seeing him lower the sidearm made her relax even more, but not too much. She was still a little tense and even though she had the spirit of his buddy there she really still didn't trust the man. It was hard to trust anyone these days even if they were vouched for. People can change in an instant. She's seen it happen before and she was sure she'd probably eventually see it again. She tilted her head at his words and shrugged slightly. "To be honest I'm not really sure. I think once the dead get done doing whatever it is that they need or want to do that they cross over to wherever they are meant to go. I haven't ever talked to a spirit who has crossed over and then came back. I'm not even really too sure they can do that," she spoke back to him as her eyes moved to Gavin's buddy once more.


NPC : He shrugged as well while looking back at her. "Hey. Don't look at me. I don't fucking know the answer to that."


She raised an eyebrow at Gibson and shook her head at him slightly. Then moved her eyes back to Gavin and a small smile came across her face for a second at his words. He really has no idea how the other side works, she thought. "I'm sorry to say that it doesn't work like that. Or at least not that I've ever encountered. I don't think you can re-kill a spirit. I can't even touch them. I can only see and hear them," she answered him the best that she could. She found it heartrendingly sweet that he wanted to help his friend get to a better place rather than lingering around here. She kinda hoped that someone would care about her that much one day. His next words really hit home with her. It was one of the things that she thought on a daily basis. To just be able to go back to being a regular normal person would be such a dream come true. Sure she helped people sometimes, but seeing dead people was not a luxury and for the most part the bad out weighed the good. "Thanks.... Normally I wish that I didn't have this ability, but had I didn't.... would you have acted the way you did?" She asked the question, but almost certainly knew his answer.

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This was an odd experience, to say the least. He wasn’t drunk enough for this shit right now, but luckily for him he knew a spot that should have some alcohol left. The soldier stuffed his sidearm back in his jacket pocket and let the shadows go back to their normal state as the woman talked. He took his intense gray gaze off of the woman for the first time and walked off in a seemingly random direction and kicked at the ground a bit to unearth a small shovel buried approximately an inch into the ground.


Gavin let her continue to talk and only kept her at the edge of his vision as he pulled up the small shovel and started digging in a seemingly random spot in the ground. After about a minute of digging in silence, the man unearthed a small sack that clinked as he lifted it up from the ground. He quickly undid the string on the small sack and pulled out a half-full bottle of Fireball whiskey that he had left there maybe a month or two ago and set the rest of the sack down with another audible clink.


The American unscrewed the cap of the bottle and tossed it to the side before taking a long swig of the stuff as he turned back to face the stranger in his shooting yard. ”Sorry,” the man said halfheartedly in between gulps of the drink, ”I’m not nearly drunk enough to deal with this shit right now so I am trying to rectify the situation.”


The bottle emptied completely, and he tossed it carelessly to the side as he pulled out a three quarters full Jameson bottle out from the same sack and unscrewed the cap to that as well and started drinking. Once he had gotten about a fourth of that bottle down, he stopped drinking so quickly and cocked his head to the side slightly and exhaled heavily.


”So, does the spirit know what stupid task they need to complete or is the spirit ignorant to the reason why it is trapped and creepily following around young women in New York when you clearly died in Georgia you fucking shit how did you even get here?” His voice was extremely calm until the end, where the insanity of the entire situation finally caused him to raise his voice up an octave in frustration and confusion.


There was another long exhale and the soldier allowed himself to close his eyes for a few moments and forced his shoulders to relax if only for a moment before the next words came out:


”To answer your earlier question, I wouldn’t have killed you regardless. Worst I would have done is fired a few warning shots to get you off of my property and then get shitfaced like I was planning to do in the first place – without the haunting.”


With that, Gavin did a small test. He had seen where the woman kept glancing, and decided to try something out. He pushed – hard with the shadows on one side where the spirit would have been. It would not have touched the woman, but she would have likely felt some amount of wind from the speed at which the shadow had moved. If that moved the spirit, he knew he could affect it – and if it did not… Well, Gibson was fucked because there was no way in fuck the soldier was going to ditch everything he had in New York to go plant flowers on some idiot’s grave or something.


Another swig of the Jameson and the man met the stranger’s gaze once more. ”Alright Casper, I guess I’ll overlook the trespassing just this once.” the soldier started, his tone deathly serious. ”But if I see you corralling any other dead people to my land again I’ll shoot you dead because I do not want to be haunted like you for the rest of my life. God knows if I had your power, I would’a done the deed myself and been done with it. Hell, purgatory, or whatever has to be better than waking up every morning to a fuckin’ corpse every day when you roll over in the morning or when you curl up at night.”


A shadow of a smile crossed across the man’s face as he said that last part, just a part of the gallows humor that he had grown so accustomed to over the years since the Resonance. With that last barb, he tilted the bottle of Jameson back and downed the rest of it before tossing that bottle aside as well. Fucking hell, all he wanted to do was get drunk alone in peace and he had ghost whisperers come over and disturb his tranquility. At this point he might have just preferred the pack of lycanthropes, because he could have just killed them all and gone on with his day with a clear conscious. Gavin couldn’t just kill someone with a worse life than he did and feel good about himself afterwards, that would just cause that awful emotion of guilt and quite frankly he had enough of that in his life as it was.


So here he was, getting drunk while this woman was staring at him like he was a fucking idiot. Because he was an idiot, and he needed a drink or twenty to deal with this shit.

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The whole time she talked she had kept her eyes on him. After seeing him start to walk about normally and it seemed not even caring that she was even there was something of a blessing. It meant she wasn't going to die tonight. Well, at least not at this very moment. The night was still young and she wasn't too sure that he could stand his ground against whatever might or could come there way being out so far from the city. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she watched him still. Then her eyebrows raised as she saw him just utterly down half a bottle of Fireball. Huh, weird that that was his first drink, she thought, considering it's literally my favorite hard liquor. She instinctively licked her lips, but then bit her bottom lip, hoping to hell he just didn't witness that slight moment of weakness.


”I’m not nearly drunk enough to deal with this shit right now so I am trying to rectify the situation.”


Aingeal wasn't too much of a drinker, or at least she didn't want to be, but it seemed to be the best and only way that she had found to keep the spirits at bay. She didn't necessarily go walking around like a drunk twenty-four seven, but for the most part she wasn't completely sober most of the time. She held up both of her hands and shook her head. "Hey, no problem here. I tend to usually drink a fair amount myself. If I don't then I tend to see spirits all of the time and that isn't something that I really enjoy in the middle of the night," she replied to him and then realized that it might have been a little bit too much information, but it was the truth.


There had been one night that she had been woken up at about three or four in the morning to the sound of someone trying to open her dresser drawer. Come to find out that the spirit had once been a peeping tom and had been wanting to go through her underwear drawer. It had been enough to make her skin crawl. Plus add on the fact that he didn't look all that appealing with a slit throat. Though I guess that's what she gets for accidentally making eye contact with the guy in the middle of the day and then ignoring him. She had probably downed 2 bottles of Fireball that night and she was completely ashamed to admit it.


”So, does the spirit know what stupid task they need to complete..."


A small laugh came from her lips at his words and she smiled as she spoke. "I'm not too sure they do. I think it's a more of a they have to figure it out type of thing and for the most part they don't typically interact with me unless I accidentally make eye contact with them. Then they know I can see and talk to them. At which point they tend not to leave me alone. I didn't see your friend until just now. He hasn't been following me all day. Thankfully...." she said her words somewhat slowly. She knew it was a lot to take in and that sometimes it was hard to completely understand.


"...then get shitfaced like I was planning to do in the first place – without the haunting.”


She had gone quiet and nodded her head after he spoke. She understood where he was coming from. Normally she didn't do this kind of thing. There was no helping of spirits talk to their friends or family. It was more of a 'if I drink then I don't have to see them and help them' kind of thing. In a way that made her realize just how majorly selfish she was, but seeing dead people tended to make her stomach upset. "Trust me. I get it. All I wanted to do was find a place to practice my shooting. I wasn't planning on talking to any dead folk either," she replied to him softly.


After her words were spoken she noticed the shadows doing something weird. Something that naturally they weren't supposed to do and she figured it had something to do with Gavin. She looked over at Gibson and watched as the shadows went right through him. Ah, she thought, he's trying to see if he can do anything to Gibson. Her eyes moved back over to Gavin and she tilted her head slightly to the right. "I'm sorry to say that if that was your attempt at trying to do something physical to him..... it didn't work," she spoke her words with a hint of sadness to them. She almost wished it had worked.


”Alright Casper, I guess I’ll overlook the trespassing just this once.”


Another laugh came from her lips at the word 'casper'. She had never really had a nickname before and even though that name reminded her of a boy name she kind of thought it would suit her in a way. Huh, she thought, go figure some random person in the middle of nowhere picks out a badass nickname for me. "Hey. It isn't like you keep this place posted with signs saying that it's your area. I just assumed it was okay for me to practice at. Next time I'll make sure to do some recon," she said the last few words teasingly. "On another note. I don't suppose that you would happen to have any other alcohol on your would ya," she asked hopefully. "Though if I get enough alcohol in me I won't be able to see your friend anymore."




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”There has to be a better way of fixing your dead people issue than drinking yourself blind… You could always see if you could get your powers curbed or whatever. You might even be the first person who actually wants that shit, seeing as how they seem to have no use that I can ascertain.”


The soldier had made the mental judgment that the woman was harmless, so his tone was almost overly friendly and comfortable. Words were slurred, but only a small amount due to the practice that he had in covering up his drunkenness to the authorities when needed. Her power set, frankly, sounded absolutely fucking atrocious and he couldn’t understand how she managed to live day to day with life that bleak. With his attempt to influence the spirits an utter failure, there wasn’t exactly a lot else to do other than drink and just ignore the man at this point. He couldn’t help in any way, shape, or form so as shitty a situation as it was it wasn’t like there would be any point in communing with spirits or whatever the fuck.


When she mentioned practicing her shooting, the soldier’s head cocked to the side as he thought out loud for a bit. His intense gray gaze bore through the woman as he inspected her like a piece of meat instead of a human being. ”Cop? No, too timid.” he paused for a moment before continuing, ”Security guard? No, too pretty.”


Another pause, ”You also don’t have enough mods and excessive gear to be a competition shooter. Too soft to be a vet…”


The man ended up just shrugging his shoulders and just stopped guessing. When she mentioned if he had any more booze, he had binged enough alcohol to not care about a convenient use of his power and ended up just gesturing to a patch of land about ten feet away from the woman and just used the shadows around the dirt to violently eject dirt into the air and quickly create a hole around the sack of rum and whiskey in that larger stash. Most of those bottles were at least half empty, but it was a sight better than nothing.


”There’s a good chunk of booze in that hole over there, Casper. Guns and fresh booze back in the truck, if you want something a little bit more powerful than the sidearm you have on now. Melee stuff, too, more effective in alleys and spots like that.” his tone remained friendly and casual throughout, but at this point his eyes were completely off the woman as he sauntered towards the last spot the spirit was located.


”I told you that we could have stormed Ireland together.” he murmured, underneath his breath. The words were coming out with a clear disappointment and a particular type of venom. ”But your dumb ass decided to take your chances with the fucking Vanguard instead. You knew damn well we would never be able to recreate the armed forces, not with that fucking rabble. The cutthroats rise to power in the fuckery, like they always do, and they shove it down the throats of the projects like they always do. You knew that, you fucking idiot.”


There was a small pause as the soldier collected his rage and his balance before continuing, but he did continue in a voice too low to be overheard by anyone. ”You were my brother, but you also never made an attempt to make contact. I did, God knows that I did but you know how fucking unwelcome someone like me is in the South. You’re dead, and I can’t help you figure out whatever dumbass quest you need to accomplish in order to leave. That’s between you and God, and God knows I’m too broke to help myself … let alone you. Good luck, but I think it’s time you went back home and stop haunting random women. I realize you’re a horndog, but holy shit dude… you’re fucking dead and couldn’t do anything anyway. You have to understand that running around with your throat slashed chasing after women who aren’t dead is creepy as shit.”


With that, the man stalked off in the direction of the young woman once more. He adjusted his leather jacket to cover up the fact that he was adjusting his balance on the fly with mixed success as he hollered out to her: ”At least this spirit should be leaving you alone now, if he has any human decency left.”

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A small shrug from her shoulders came after listening to his words. There was no doubt that she had constantly considered that there might be an alternative to getting her abilities under more control than just alcohol, but to be honest nothing seemed to ever work as well. "I'm not going to lie to you. There have been a few other things that I've tried in order to not have to drink so much, but nothing has ever come as close than drinking," she paused for a second. "Trust me. If there was another way I would take it in a heartbeat, but I suppose I'm just going to have to deal with it. That's why I have a therapist for when I come into contact with a super nasty spirit. I do appreciate you somewhat trying to help me out though. It's just something I'm gonna have to live with for now."


Aingeal had noticed that Gavin's tone of voice changed drastically. He seemed much more friendly and comforting when he wasn't being paranoid, but she supposed everyone had their moments of paranoia nowadays. Was just something that came with living in the world now. Sometimes it wasn't always too smart to trust strangers. Which was why she was still slightly on edge. If there was one thing that she learned through everything was that it wasn't always smart to completely trust someone you just met.


Her eyebrows raised up as he began to try and guess just why she was out in the middle of nowhere to practice shooting. Each time he made a wrong guess she would shake her head no and then scrunch up her nose. After he was finished with his horrible guessing she decided to explain herself. "If ya must know, I just feel it's particularly important to train myself in anyway possible of protecting myself. Obviously my gifts don't offer much protection. So. I need to go outside of my comfort zone and find ways to do it for myself. Shooting is just one of the ways that I feel most comfortable doing." She said her words quickly and with a smile on her lips as she stared at him.


At the mention of the booze he was talking about her eyes moved to the area that the dirt had moved. Really isn't fair that people have better abilities than me, she thought, and that just makes me outright jealous. She looks over at him and then walks over to the booze crouches down to pick up a few of the bottles. "Thanks. I really do appreciate it...." She put the bottle back down for a second and stood up as he continued to speak for a second more. "I.... You're going to give me a better gun? Or just for practice..." She was slightly confused. Even if just letting her use a gun for practice would be weird. She oddly felt a sort of connection to her own gun, but that was because it had been the only one she'd owned for so long.


She crouched back down to pick up one of the bottles and unscrewed the lid, taking a sip of the alcohol that was in the bottle. Typically she never really liked to just drink straight from the bottle. More often than not she liked to mix her drinks with something, but this would do. It didn't taste too bad. The only type of alcohol she could not stand was beer. The taste of cornflakes without actually eating the cereal made her want to vomit. She had stood back up and looked over at Gavin. It seemed like he was talking to himself, but she noticed that Gibson was standing close to him. Almost as if they were having a private conversation between themselves. As Gavin walked back toward her she noticed that Gibson was too.


NPC : He shook his head and laughed quietly. "You tell him that I wasn't running or following after ya on purpose. Tell that fucker that if I were still alive he best bet his ass I'd try to date you. And that he'd be a fool to not be the least bit interested." He paused for a second. "I'm sure ya won't say that, but tell him that I'm sorry shit went down the way it did. That I wish I could be there for him." Gibson looked over to the right off into the distance and then back at Aingeal. "I think I will take off though. It was nice meeting you and I wish you all the best."


Her eyes moved to Gavin and for a slight second she thought she was going to break down in tears, but she held herself together. This was always the part she hated. The part when the spirit was basically giving her a goodbye message to a loved one. "Gavin.... He says he's sorry about everything and how it all happened. He really does wish he could be there for you," she paused for a second. "I think he's leaving. As in crossing over.... Maybe it was only you that he needed to talk to...."


NPC : Gibson started to walk off then stopped and turned slightly, looking at Gavin and at Aingeal. "Tell him he'll be alright. He's stronger than he knows. And will ya watch out for him for me. I know it's a lot to ask, but.... I think he needs it." He didn't wait for an answer because he almost already knew what she'd say. Instead he turned his back toward then and began to walk off. Then just slowly disappeared into nothing.


After Gibson had walked off and went to wherever it was that she supposed he moved on to she turned her head back toward Gavin, blinking away tears and clearing her throat. "Sorry...I...." She took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. "He told me to tell you that you're going to be alright and that you are stronger than you know," she repeated back the words to Gavin and sighed softly, keeping the rest of the conversation to herself.

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When the woman gave her explanation of why she was out there, the soldier just shrugged in apathy. That was much more mundane and boring than he thought, and he made no effort to conceal that feeling in his facial expression. It was not exactly a secret that Gavin had an ego, and despite the fact that ARMA tried its best to instill the idea that those with powers were not inherently better than those without… there were some holdouts. The soldier was more prejudiced than most, and one of them included a consistent habit of talking down to civilians that he saw as trying to play war and having the body language to match.


This time was no different, though he left the comments to himself this time. Truth be told, he was starting to mentally disconnect from the situation in front of him and just let himself enjoy the feeling of the alcohol taking effect and spreading throughout his body, until she started talking about Gibson again. That got him to stop spacing out and actually pay attention to what Casper was saying, if only for a moment. But unfortunately, a moment was all that was required.


When the woman said that the ghost was disappearing and that it was likely talking to Gavin that kept it in this world, the soldier’s steel grey eyes unfocused completely as he abruptly sat down to process the statement and what it meant. God damn it, he hated having a rush of emotions flood through him. That was why he started drinking in the first place, to avoid the rush of emotions that always threatened to drown him in their intensity.


While he went off on Gibson for being an idiot and getting himself killed in the Vanguard, Gavin didn’t exactly do a whole lot better. The ruthless took power in Ireland as well, because they were simply willing to force out or kill those who did not comply with demands and lacked the stomach for political assassination. As much as he wanted to say his friend’s life would have been better if he had followed Gavin across the sea, the simple fact of the matter was that the shadowcaster only survived himself because he was lucky enough to be attached at the hip to someone who death himself seemed to be uniquely terrified of.


In the end, every cause that either of them had ever fought for had failed. The United States was fractured and barely a shadow of its former glory. The Vanguard of Humanity was never able to destroy the monsters had that infected the planet Earth with their presence, and indeed could not even maintain their initial standing across the world and was confined to very narrow areas in most nations outside of their native South. The Republic of Ireland never reclaimed the eastern half of the island, and never approached the prosperity of even the other major nations post-Resonance. Everyone that pushed for progressive, reformist policies like Rebekah did once upon a time were forced out of the country or stripped of all power to resist in favor of a system of warlords with no transparency and no accountability.


As for ARMA, they never had the ambition or the guts to seize a truly global agenda and would likely never even attempt to. Can’t fail in a task you never try, eh?


There was no point in telling him that, though. Sometimes the kindest thing was a harsh word and an omission of truth, to let him think that Gavin had somehow done better. He would not burden a dead man with the failure of the living. By the time his eyes refocused, he was already up and walking to pick up his carbine and head back to his truck. His footsteps grew visibly more unsteady the more that he walked, but he bent down to pick up the carbine and just kept walking.


He couldn’t stay here.


Not now.


He needed to leave, to put some distance between himself and this place. His right hand held the carbine lazily, barrel pointed downward while his left hand fumbled in his pockets to retrieve the keys to his vehicle. He was in no condition to drive, and once the alcohol that he had binged fully hit him he was going to be even worse off.


But he didn’t care. He was not going to stay in this place and be forced to deal with his own failures. To be forced to confront actual emotions and fears that he had been bottling up for years. He might be the only one left, but damned if he was going to sit here and cry about it.


What right did that fucker have to come back, just to throw some shit at him and then just fucking vanish into nothing? What right did he have to put his death and failure on Gavin’s shoulders? Fucking hell, why was his face starting to get wet all of a sudden? Why was his breath bottled up in his chest and coming out in gasps as he walked?


Oh, right. The drunk crying, the type that he didn’t have the self-control to stop once he started. Just when he thought his week couldn’t get worse, some supernatural shit started happening to catch him completely off guard and send him further down that hole of drinking to cope with emotions he didn’t know how to keep a handle on.

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it wasn't hard to miss the shrug and the facial expression that Gavin expressed at the reason why she was out here. She couldn't help it she never found that she wanted to put herself in the line of fire. Though there were plenty of times that she felt like she would have a great knack of talking people down. Especially if she would be able to tune into her ability more and maybe be able to talk to the loved ones of people. Maybe to try and get them to see reason. It was something she thought about often, but there was the flip side that she really had a thing against getting hurt. Pain was something that she was not too keen in experiencing and doing a job with security would probably put her in the line of fire.


There were always those moments in her life where she thought that she had let her mouth run away with her. That maybe just staying on her own and by herself would be much better than even attempting to form any sort of emotional bond with someone. There was always that chance that a spirit would waltz it's happy self right in and then things would go south. It seemed like, in this situation, that that had seemed to happen from the get go. Although she knew that if she hadn't been able to communicate with Gibson then the events might have went very differently.


She had finished the bottle she had had in her hand and threw it down on the ground, looking over at Gavin and noticing that he was sitting on the ground after explaining everything with Gibson. There was no doubt in her mind that it had probably had some sort of emotional effect on him, but she wasn't going to just tell Gavin that Gibson was leaving. It wasn't fair to Gibson and she knew that in the end it wouldn't be fair to Gavin if she kept words back either. However, some things she would not be explaining. How in the hell am I suppose to look out for him, she thought, when I don't even really know who he is.


The whole time she kept her mouth shut, observed him get up, and walk in a very drunk way. He is hurting, or at least he's trying not to focus on the pain, she thought. Every once in a while Aingeal also thought she might have a little bit of a gift of empathy. She wasn't really too sure if it was true or not, but sometimes she could almost just know when someone was feeling something. This was sort of one of those moments and she knew she had basically given Gibson her word. So instead of standing there and letting him walk to his truck and then drive off to possibly wreck she walked after him.


Hell, even she was quite emotional after seeing Gibson practically walk off into nothingness, or walk off into where ever the hell else spirits travel on to. She had moved her right hand up to her eyes, wiping away the tears that dared to travel down her cheeks, but crying in front of people she basically didn't know made her feel completely uncomfortable. Though on occasion it tended to happen. Especially if it was a heartfelt reunion between old lovers. Or there was one time a daughter was able to talk to her mother one last time before her mother moved on. That one had really messed Aingeal up.


At first there was a sudden fear of what exactly she should do, but it really didn't take her but a second to realize that he defiantly shouldn't be driving. She had caught up with him as he was still fumbling with the keys in his pocket. Her left hand quickly moved up to grab his left upper arm. "Hey. I don't really think you should be driving, Gavin...." she said the words loudly and tightened her grip slightly, trying to stop him. She didn't know if she was asking for trouble as she made physical contact with him. For all she knew this could completely set him off and she could wind up dead, but a promise is a promise. She wasn't going to back down now just because she might be a little scared.


This is probably going to end very badly for me, she thought.


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If there was one thing Gavin was not expecting, it was to be grabbed. Instinct took over a moment as the soldier’s left hand stopped fumbling with his keys and reached up to grab the offending arm and yank it forward. The shadow caster was only a little over two inches taller than the woman, so this had the unintended side effect of pulling her in quick enough for the top of her head to crack him on the jaw. That bit was not pleasant, but the warmth of the woman’s form against his own for a fleeting few moments was something a little rarer than just mundane pain. Standing at such similar heights, he could feel her breath on his neck and the soldier’s steel gray eyes locked with the woman’s light brown for just a moment too long.


”Fine,” he finally said after that moment’s pause, releasing his hold on the girl at the same time. ”You drive, then. It’s armored up pretty thick, so it’s a little lower to the ground and a lot heavier than a normal SUV. Please don’t crash, it’s fucking expensive and I can’t exactly get a replacement right now.”


The earlier contempt in his voice was gone, replaced with an odd blend of confusion and acceptance. He had no idea why Casper was doing this, but he also didn’t exactly care enough to ask too many questions about it.  It was what it was at this point, and he was fine just going along with it. He reached for his keys again, and once his fumbling hands finally got a hold of the damn things he tossed them unceremoniously to the woman beside him. The doors were unlocked to the vehicle anyway, so there was no need for him to open the doors.


”I can give directions once we’re inside.” he added, not missing a beat with the rapid acceptance of the latest weird thing to happen to him today. ”It’s not parked that far from here.” There was something off about the delivery of the words, though. His tone was friendly and conversational, but his body language was all wrong. The shift in the latter was quick, and had only happened in the last minute or so.


The man’s footsteps were unsteady, but nevertheless moved at a deliberately faster pace than the woman behind him. Every time she sped up, so did he. For the moment at least, the soldier simply seemed to be refusing to look in Casper’s general direction as he kept moving forward through the field of shell casings and empty liquor bottles. His left hand was clenched inside of a pocket of his leather jacket, and his right hand clutched with similar tightness against the grip of the carbine.


Gavin still had no idea what he was doing, or what he was going to do five minutes from then. At this point he was just kind of going with it, anything to get him away from this area and this feeling. He needed to put some distance between himself and the place where Gibson went off into the fucking ether, and he needed to do it quickly. If Casper was coming, she had better hurry up and start driving.


Soon, the man reached the bottom of the hill and started jogging to get to the vehicle just a few seconds sooner. Though the windows were tinted, he could still see just enough inside to verify that everything was in there through the outlines. His ARMA badge was on the dash, and the half dozen or so duffel bags filled with ammo and other firearms that he had brought with him were directly behind the passenger seat, with some of them partially unzippered out of laziness. While the haphazard setup was normal to him, it did not exactly occur to him that it was not normal for anyone else. The thought that not everyone drove around with enough weapons to stage an impromptu bank robbery or military coup would baffle him, so he did not bother to warn the woman in the slightest of the weapons cache inside of his own vehicle.


What would be the point? Wasn’t everyone just as paranoid as he was these days?

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Yup, this was defiantly a bad idea, she thought as Gavin's hand grabbed hers, pulling her forward. She stumbled and let out a small yelp as her head his his jaw. The hit wasn't enough to cause too much pain, but it was sudden and shocking. Even though she had had a feeling it probably wasn't a good idea to grab his arm. However, keeping him from driving drunk was far more important than what consequences grabbing him would be. Her breathing quickened as well, now feeling slightly scared to be this close to Gavin. Go figure, she thought, I'm more afraid of an alive human being than I am of creepy ghosts. She kept her eyes locked onto his for a moment, wondering just what was going to happen next. Would he harm her? Had she gone too far? It wasn't too hard to understand why some people liked to keep a certain distance from people.


After he had released her she stood up straight, still feeling slightly shaken up what had just transpired. She tried to slow down her breathing as best she could. She tried to respond with words, but found herself only nodding her head in a reply to his words. He had a somewhat odd effect on her and she couldn't really pinpoint what it was. It was frightening but at the same time comforting. Like maybe finding someone that should could really connect with in a world where so many things went wrong. Where people would suddenly disappear without a trace or die within the blink of an eye. Finally her words found her. "I'll try my best not to wreck your precious SUV. I'm sure I'll be able to manage," she said, but really she didn't know if she'd be able to drive a larger vehicle. Her preference of transportation was a smaller vehicle. That brought another thought to her head. How am I suppose to get my own vehicle back to my place, she thought.


She watched him as he fumbled once more for the keys in his pocket. Yeah, she thought, I'm really glad I decided to drive him home. For the most part she didn't trust him driving himself home, but then she wondered just how many times he'd probably driven this drunk before. She knew that she had done it a few times, stupidly so. That's what happens when you just want the voices to go away, she thought. She responded again with a quick nod and followed him. It wasn't hard to notice that he probably didn't trust her that much. Even though he was going to let her drive his SUV. Maybe he's just as confused as I am, she thought. Her eyes stayed on his as they walked back to his SUV.


As they had made it to the bottom of the hill she noticed the SUV, then watched him as he jogged to the vehicle. She sighed softly and began wondering just how awkward and weird this car ride was going to be. Then she wondered if she would just have to take a taxi back out here. She shrugged to herself and walked a little faster to make it to the SUV a minute after he had already reached it. She walked to the driver side door and opened it, hoping into the seat. She slightly adjusted the seat and the side mirrors, as well as the rear view mirror. She put the keys into the ignition and turned over the engine. Her hands gripped the steering wheel and she sighed again. "About how far away is your place?"

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It was funny how hard being drunk hit you when you finally sat down. The world started spinning a bit and the soldier had to catch himself leaning forward a bit, overcompensating until his back was pressed firmly in his seat. He could catch his slurring almost perfectly, but he had never quite learned how to stave off the physically obvious signs of being drunk. This was rarely a problem, since he wasn’t exactly in front of people who weren’t already aware and desensitized to his raging alcoholism very often. In the moment, though, he couldn’t help but feel a little self-conscious.


“About 13 miles. Easy drive, though, basically just following the Hudson south until you get to Upper West Side.” The man responded, matter-of-factly when asked how far away his house was. The area had been an affluent part of even New York City before the Resonance, and even afterwards it remained an area where most people had a net worth in the millions. It was one of the safest areas of the town, mostly because the individuals living there had enough pull to make sure law enforcement always had a presence there and a lot of places even hired their own extra security.


Gavin was keenly aware that the only reason those same people didn’t force him out was that he made damn sure to be a nuisance and a drunk away from the actual neighborhood. Most people in the area didn’t know who the fuck he was, and that was just how he liked it. Paranoia normally kept him from letting people he just met know where he lived, but this woman was pretty harmless. Probably.


”How long you been in the city? I’ve always wondered what New York must’ve been like before, y’know, with all the cars and people still around.” he floated, mostly to focus on something else other than staring out the window and stopping the inevitable drunken lean forward just inches before he hit the window. He thought he saw some movement flickering outside once they started moving, but decided to ignore it for now. He learned early on that freaking out at shadows and hallucinations was not the best way to live life, and if it was an actual threat the armored car would serve as more than enough protection until he could react.


Before. That was a fun word. He was up near Colorado Springs, then, and on the second half of his active duty stint. He didn’t hate the Army, but also wasn’t exactly enamored enough to re-enlist straight up. He was going to go to college finally and possibly re-up as an officer, or say fuck it and stay a civilian if he ended up liking that life better. Funny how a kid at eighteen joins the service to get money to go to college, and twelve years and an apocalypse later still never went.


Not that there was a point in doing it after. Or even now, because there wasn’t anything to be gained from doing it. There was no starting over, not for him. To become a goddamn civilian and be shitty at everything again? No. Not in this lifetime. Gavin had way too much pride to do that, to go back to being normal. To go back to having no control.


ARMA wasn’t the best. He was still a tiny, insignificant cog in a much larger machine… but he had control over a very tiny area that he operated most of his waking life in. That tiny piece of control is what kept him sane, because nothing else really did these days. Except the alcohol.


Back to making sure his forehead didn’t meet the window. Fucking hell.

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It hadn't been hard to realize before when they were talking just how drunk he was, but seeing him having a bit of trouble sitting down in the passenger seat made her realize that he was far more drunk than she had realized before. Which made her comforted knowing that she'd be driving him home. She didn't need another spirit of someone following her around, especially if it was because she couldn't take the time to drive someone home. If there was one thing she didn't need in her life, it was ghosts left and right telling her what to do.

She had nodded at him a little after he told her where he lived. She put the vehicle in reverse and then stopped for a moment to fix the mirrors. For the most part she was fairly familiar with the city after living here for a bit, but there were still parts of town that she had never been to. Luckily she had been to the Upper West Side at least once or twice. She had met a girl at a bar once and they had become good friends and had hung out quite a bit. But then she had died in a car accident. It always kind of irked her that she hadn't visited Aingeal, but then again she was sure she didn't want to see what her friend had looked like after the accident.

"Alright. ... That's a pretty fancy part of the city...." She said the words and looked over at him for a moment, wondering just how much he made doing whatever job it was that he did. On the other hand if he lived in that part of town she probably didn't really WANT to know what he did for a living. It made her embarrassed to even think about saying where it was that she lived. Her tiny apartment was probably NOTHING compared to his home, but that was the life you had to live when you worked as a waitress.


Her eyes shifted to him for a second. After their interaction earlier she felt that it was weird that he was asking her questions to almost get to know her. Her initial reaction to him was that he probably didn't let too many people close to him, but then again neither did she. With people came spirits attached to them. Inwardly she sighed and then answered, "I didn't grow up in New York. I was born and raised in a small town in Washington state. The only reason I even came to New York was to find my brother, which hasn't worked out too well. Then I kinda just sorta got stuck here, if you will." Though the reason I'm still here is because I have a gut feeling he's here in the city.... or at least on the east coast, she thought to herself.


Every minute or so she would glance over at him as she drove, wondering just what was going on in his head. She had to admit to herself that he was quite an interesting person and if there was anything that she learned from his ghostly friend it was that he was a good person. Even if he hid it most of the time. Then again most people hid there vulnerable parts nowadays. It wasn't something that you wanted anyone to see because if they did see a vulnerability then that meant they could hurt you.


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The tone of awe when Aingeal mentioned how fancy a part of town that was honestly irritated him more than he thought it would.


”It is now.” he started, but in his current state ‘subtle’ wasn’t exactly a word he was able to emulate so he continued his word vomit. ”Back when I bought my share in it, housing prices were much lower. Nobody wanted to front large amounts of cash for a house that could be destroyed the next day if you got unlucky, or be caught with worthless currency if the Eastern government didn’t hold up.”


Drunk and talking was generally a bad combination for him, because once he started talking while this intoxicated he could barely shut up.


”Security was a lot shakier, too, so people were happy to get paid a little less to have people who could respond a lot faster than police could in the area. Fucking great deal, but it’s a pain in the fucking ass to maintain now that everything’s much more back to normal.”


Luckily for everyone involved, a random glance around him disoriented him enough in his current state to stop the word vomit in its tracks for a little while. When the woman started talking about her background, Gavin moved one of his boots up in front of him to steady himself. This had the effect of tracking more dirt around than most would like, but it at least stopped the world from spinning for a little while.


”Funny how life works. I’m from bumfuck Georgia and have been stuck in this state for almost four years now.” he started nonchalantly, before pausing for a few moments and turning to face Aingeal with a much more serious tone. ”How long has it been since the search started?”


He paused for a few moments again before continuing: ”If you’re comfortable sharing some details, there’s the chance I may know someone who can help a bit.”


Conversation for the rest of the way was surprisingly easy, and it wasn’t until they got within striking distance of the house itself that it stalled. The police were out in force tonight for whatever reason, and the nearest parking was a bit more than full block away from the townhouse.


As drunk as he was, and looking like he did, there was no way in hell he wasn’t going to be stopped. ”So, y’know how I told you earlier that this was a parking lot next to the house? Somehow I don’t think they’ll buy that the drunk guy with the fucked up boots belongs here and I don’t exactly want to spend the night in jail again if I can avoid it.”


He turned his gray gaze towards Aingeal and asked, ”Can you walk straight? If so, I could probably lean on you if you’re up for it. You already have the house key along with the car key so I shouldn’t need to talk either if you can. It’s a little bit more than a block out from the parking lot we’re pulling into now.”


The area was nice, but at times a bit too nice. The old Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity was basically right down the street, and the current residents of the neighborhood were all big money who didn’t exactly want disturbances in the middle of the night. Gavin looked far away from the clean-cut businessman that would normally be seen around here, and the whole not parking in view of the police thing only made it worse. Not that the parking bit was his fault, really, it was just what he had paid for at the time of the purchase and what he kept permits for since.


Well, either way Gavin opened up his door and let the cold night breeze hit him right in the face. As long as he didn’t do anything stupid, he would soon be indoors and completely safe from getting his ribs kicked in by an overzealous patrolman.


As long as he didn’t do anything stupid.

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”How long has it been since the search started?”


It had been much easier when things had first changed. She would mainly focus on her brother, but after a few months and seeing dead people the only thing she concerned about was seeing her dead brother. It was almost like she had been running from herself. She was fairly certain that if she saw him she'd blame herself and the way she changed. Shit, she thought, everything freaking changed. She changed. She kept her eyes on the road, but every now and again her eyes would flit to the left or right, catching glimpses of people or spirits that would somewhat startle her just a little bit. It never got old. It never stopped being scary. You'd think she'd be used to it by now, but that wasn't the case.  "It's been a while since..... I just. I feel like I've given up hope. Who knows if he's still even alive. More than likely he didn't make it......" she said softly.


”If you’re comfortable sharing some details, there’s the chance I may know someone who can help a bit.”


She silently nodded at his words and shrugged her shoulders slightly. "I don't really know if there's anything anyone can do at this point. I do appreciate you offering your help though. Maybe there could still be a chance that he's somewhere in the city," there was a slightly pause. "I just don't know why, if he's still alive, he wouldn't be able to find me." It had always bugged her that he would just literally poof off the face of the planet. There was always some part of her that almost wished she would see his spirit if he was dead. Just to give herself some closure. Just to know what exactly had happened.


”So, y’know how I told you earlier that this was a parking lot next to the house?"


Her eyebrows rose as she listened to the rest of his words and her eyes slid over to him as she pulled into the parking lot, finding a safe space to park. She put the vehicle into park and turned the ignition off. "So, just wondering what exactly you would have done if we hadn't crossed paths tonight," she asked jokingly as he got out of the car. She smiled and opened her door, getting out of the car and going around the other side to him in a hurry. She looked at him as he stood outside of the car and still smiled at him softly, putting the keys into her front pocket.


Slowly she went over to him and stood by his side. "Alright you drunk, let's do this. So we can get you inside," she said as she slowly moved her arm slightly around his lower back. She remembered how he had reacted earlier to her movements and didn't know if he would react that way again. So she figured the best course of action was to take it nice and slow. No sudden movements. Kind of like how a terrified dog is and how you have to be slow to get them to trust you.

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