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"Mhm…"

 

There it was. The change. The silence. The awkward "now what" that came whenever someone found out what they perceived to be her handicap.  After thirty years it really shouldn’t bother her anymore and yet…..

 

She merely listened in the silence. The food somehow unappealing as her stomach folded on itself. Soft clink caught her attention as he plucked things from a wooden box based on the faint echo they made as he lifted them out. Thick lashes quit the faint open crack to close against the tops of high cheekbones.

 

"You gonna eat or not?  Didn't know what you liked so I ordered everything."

 

Head shook, not caring if he was looking or not. She was usually more careful and always vocalized with her affirmations and denials to ensure that others knew her response in the event they were not looking at her and she didn’t know it. Now it just didn’t…. seem to matter.

 

"Got ya a souvenir. Thought they were just scratched up fancy jewelry.  Cleaned one up a bit and realized they're carved maps of the city.  Touristy things... ya know.  Not seen anything like em before. I'll buff 'em up after I get things cleaned up in the shop."

 

Brows knitted downward over the closed orbs. Why was he picking her up souvenirs in the first place?….. and after everything why was he still looking for her to take them from him?

 

Stomach turned at the rich scents as he began to open boxes and make himself a bowl of something. It wasn’t the food's fault, it was the knot in her stomach. The open bottle of bourbon was far more appealing to her nostrils than the food at the moment.  Pushing from the wall she headed towards his camp out. Form always had an elegant almost poetic motion as she had an unusual perception of the movement of her form in space but without her gifts engaged it changed slightly to something almost haunting.  Bare feet didn’t really lift from the floor, they floated, a hair off the surface so sensitive skin could feel the debris and slide it away rather than step on it. The affect was she didn’t "walk" so much as float like one of his ghost apparitions to get from point a to point b and it wasn’t done slowly like the sighted, but with a smooth and rapid pace of one who had lived this way always. With shoes, she just walked…without them… well.. a nail through her foot at age five had taught her that lesson.

 

Timing was perfect as she reached the side of the table, the soft clink of his charms on the bottle instantly gave her its position. Hand took it from him, the movement ever so slightly different than when she engaged her gifts and "saw" the shape. Hand had started slightly further back and targeted the middle of the bottle rather than the top of the neck so she could sweep through and "guarantee" success. It was a difference no one really ever noticed.

 

The graze on his fingers as she lifted it from him had almost caused her to release the capture but…. this close the scent beckoned of a decent bourbon and dammit…. she needed a drink. Weight was surprisingly light. Cajun was way ahead of her.

 

Without a concern for where his lips had been, the top came to her own for a healthy deep draught of the liquor followed by a second full swallow. She was a drinker…. had been since she was sixteen and the bars started forking her endless free drinks to keep her on their stage playing.

 

As the second full swallow hit her gut the bottle finally left her lips and the soft air oozed over them. Shoulders dropped ever so slightly in relaxation as the colorless orbs broke open out of habit to "look" at the broken window he had covered in a steel shutter. For the first time truly exposing the near white irises and faint gray pupils that didn’t contract and expand giving her an unnervingly accurate but ghostly stare when she locked her "gaze" on someone.

 

Got a glass guy…. send him over tomorrow for y' window… probably have it fixed in a day….

 

She didn’t bother to mention the offer was a bit selfish. Kip did all the Bakkhos buildings, he specialized in bulletproof glass, a rarity these days.

 

She didn’t care that things had changed between them….. she wanted him safe. Thought tickled brows downward as the bottle lifted again to her lips, heavy draught threatening to catch her up quickly to him before the bottle angled slightly and she moved to glide it on the table, ensuring the entire base was on the structure and not partially, dangerously balanced on the edge. …. early lessons of another life….

 

He was close.... it was a strange thought as she stood to the side of the table. Thumb lifted to wipe moisture from her cheek as thick soaked mahogany continued to drip from her temple and down her neck, hand unconsciously rubbing over the textured ebony markings that peeked out of his wet tee and crawled up the left side of her neck there.

 

Should be careful giving me maps………. I never forget them.

 

It was an odd quiet statement as she continued to "stare" at the destroyed window.

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She didn’t wanna eat.  Then what the hell was she down here for?  Barefoot, wearing his clothes.  If she was so damn pissed at him she should be hightailing it back to her own people… and apparently she didn’t want the damn piece of metal either.  Sigh was soft, fingertip poking at the one of the French Quarter gently absently with his fork hand while he chewed.  It was just a piece of metal after all.  Junk, he guessed.  Hooded eyes lifted to watch her come over, oddly enough everything began to fit together like a giant puzzle; a million tiny pictures of individual things making one large view of the world.  All the things she’d done… all the way back to her tapping on his display glass the first day she came in all made sense now.  It was intriguing, and amazing, but she didn’t wanna hear it.

 

So he said nothing, fingertip pushing this time at the snowglobe with the glum of a kid kicking a pebble because their friend couldn’t come out to play.

 

Expression snapped to a frown when she stole his bourbon.

 

“Damn it Mason…” mumbled from his lips.  It was quickly becoming a catchphrase.  “Give that back.  Yours is broken.”

 

Hand fell back to the table, lips quirked as he sat up a bit and dug more into his food.  Needed to anyway, been out in the crazy too long, almost too long.

   

Got a glass guy…. send him over tomorrow for y' window… probably have it fixed in a day….

 

He glanced up at her.

 

“I’ll be fine.  I can do it.  Just somethin’ I have to do on my own.”

 

Should be careful giving me maps………. I never forget them.

 

He was unusually quiet and still, watching her for a long moment.  Soaking in everything, he swallowed slowly.

 

“It ain’t,” voice started too soft to make noise, he cleared his throat slightly before continuing.  “It ain’t there anymore anyway.  Nothing to go to even if you knew where to go.”

 

The melancholy betrayed where his drunken thoughts were settling.  Normally a contemplative drunk, a conversational and quirky drunk, this time the fatigue had worn down the surly grins.  Fork was set down quietly and he straightened in the chair, both elbows on the table as he rubbed his temples with his fingers then ran them into his hair, pausing.  He let the silence sit, heavy in its implication.  The Cajun always spoke of the place as if it was alive, always alive, always able to come back from the dead.  This trip though… it was gone, and it wasn’t ever coming back.  He felt like he was alone on an island.  His need to wander, to be free from whatever he should have been happy with had yanked it from him.  If he was home when the world went to shit, he could have done something… maybe?  He drew a long breath and pushed it out, rubbing his eyes and picking up the snowglobe again.
 

“It’s all underwater now,” bracelets twinkled as he twirled it slowly.  “It was hot.  Always hot, air so thick it felt like a warm and wet silk shirt, clinging at ya.  The air always seemed to smell like magnolias, or wet concrete as weird as that sounds.  When it got dark you were still hot, eyes cooled by the gray moon or the reflections of lights on the river.  I liked the cemeteries because they were cool at night, all the carved marble reflecting a soft glow made ‘em magical.  The air would be thick, but the stone let go of the heat of the sun.  Sit and talk with friends, sit by myself and just talk with the gray angels.”

 

He twirled it again, the purple and green glitter flitting about the white plastic building on the inside.

 

“It looks different now, not much left of it still above water, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love it any less.  Doesn’t mean it still don’t have the power to get me to think fondly of it.”

 

There was a heaviness to his voice, he was sad. Truly.  There was a confession in there somewhere, not aware yet perhaps, but something was different.

 

“Been looking into gray eyes and seeing magic all my life.  Never once have they not looked back at me until now.”

 

Snowglobe was set on the table.

 

“The only person being treated different right now is me.  You shutting me out.”

 

He was playing with the bottle of bourbon, twirling it slightly by the neck.

 

“Got nothing to prove to me Mason.  Trying ta prove you ain’t broke is gonna kill you.  We all broke, anyone that says otherwise is a liar.  It's the ones that make the broken into beautiful that are gonna survive.”

 

Bottle tipped up again and he picked up the bracelet and set it closer to her, leaving what was said settle so he could move on.  Move on to what, he wasn't really sure.  Something was different.  Maybe when he sobered up he'd know, right now... he was just rolling with it.

 

“French Quarter.  Got into a lot of trouble there.”

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“Damn it Mason…Give that back.  Yours is broken.”

 

Ya well…. got shot for ya and lost my favorite shades….. so think entitled…

 

There was almost humor in the tone. It was a brief moment where they were back in the cemetery splitting a bottle and exchanging quips and grins…… a brief moment.

 

“I’ll be fine.  I can do it.  Just somethin’ I have to do on my own.”

 

Too alike….

 

The murmur barely more than a breath. He wouldn’t take help from her…. she wouldn’t take help from him… fuck.. weren't they a pair. Fingers kneaded the side of her neck before the right hand rubbed roughly over the left arm.  The textured "ink" was uncomfortable…. she was upset and it was pulling at her skin in response, edges having the most minute of undulations.

 

“It ain’t,……………..It ain’t there anymore anyway.  Nothing to go to even if you knew where to go.”

 

It hurt him that it was gone. It was betrayed in his voice, in the way he breathed….in the way the nostalgic remorse crept into his words.  She knew what that felt like once.  She had gone back after the end of the world to the first club she had played in… three years of her life had been spent there, Jimmy had always looked out for her there. The very smells of backstage could melt her soul. It had been the first real home she had ever felt a part of.

 

It wasn’t even standing anymore.

 

She listened as he reminisced about wet silk heat….and cool marble nights…. descriptions so much more than visual. It had been one of the reasons she had tolerated him in the beginning… grown fond of him in the end… the way he spoke elicited understanding for her in a way the sighted rarely did.

 

“It looks different now, not much left of it still above water, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love it any less.  Doesn’t mean it still don’t have the power to get me to think fondly of it. Been looking into gray eyes and seeing magic all my life.  Never once have they not looked back at me until now.”

 

Silence lingered between them as she listened to him twirl the bottle of bourbon, charms softly tinkling against her eardrums.

 

“The only person being treated different right now is me.  You shutting me out.”

 

Frown ghosted her brow. He seemed to believe that.

 

“Got nothing to prove to me Mason.  Trying ta prove you ain’t broke is gonna kill you.  We all broke, anyone that says otherwise is a liar.  It's the ones that make the broken into beautiful that are gonna survive.”

 

Lips pursed tight as arms folded over her wet chest once more, unconsciously protecting herself.

 

So you are going to be different?

 

The words were incredibly soft…… a vulnerability in them she showed no one.

 

Different than every other person that ever came before in my life?

 

The side glance was eerily accurate. The colorless eyes meeting his within millimeters of a true gaze as his breathing gave away their location to her.

 

I used to believe everyone would not ask for proof after…. not treat me different….every damn time…I thought "they" were "different"…. I was sure every time…… and I naively trusted….. and every damn time I was suddenly not complete……. not trusted. Not expected to perform as successfully…… not trusted to cross the damn street on my own…. not trusted to protect with any accuracy. Never mind that I had done it all flawlessly before and that nothing had changed…….  that one insight into my life suddenly changed their perception of me….every…..damn……time.

 

The words never came up more than a mere whisper and yet there was anguished power behind them, a vulnerability that didn’t match the guard dog… at least not for most that knew her. She had finally given up believing….. trusting. When no one ever was different… not even the Bakkhos family…. she had finally just given up.  And so she protected her secrets so as never to be destroyed by their discovery again.  Throat cleared faintly as she swallowed the vulnerability she had been showing.

 

I gave up that naivety long ago………..

 

Eyes slid to the table when the soft clink came, he had moved it closer again. Hesitation was there before the left arm flicked out… fingertips lightly dragging on the table to smoothly pluck it from the surface. Fingers ran over the grimed surface and "saw" more than someone sighted would have seen. The hidden grooves couldn’t hide from her sensitive skin.

 

“French Quarter.  Got into a lot of trouble there.”

 

Another pass gave her intimate details. It was a standard grid pattern city.

 

Sits on the river…..

 

Murmur was more to herself than him as the thick lashes half closed letting her fingers do the "seeing". Bubba had never mentioned that… not that she could recall. The old black man had pined for the city but she didn’t remember him mentioning it was practically surrounded by water.  Fingers rolled over the band again, weight gauged as the delicate touch was able to tell far more than most before adding quietly.

 

It's silver…..

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“Damn it Mason…Give that back.  Yours is broken.”

 

Ya well…. got shot for ya and lost my favorite shades….. so think entitled…

 

Quirked frown responded, then thoughts were lost to the willingness for her to find someone to help with his glass.  There had to be strings attached, there were always strings attached when you were in the firearms business.

 

Too alike….

 

“Maybe…” the word slipped out.  “I gotta rebuild myself. We always rebuild.”

 

He’d said that all his life, somehow in the fuzziness of his thoughts there was crawling doubt.  It made it that much more important that he stand fast in his insistence.  He had to do it himself; he might very well be the only one left.  There was a lingering silence, where everything before had always been so easy, it now felt like a giant wall sat dead between them.

 

“The cold water makes ‘em hurt,” he commented quietly on her seemingly itching tattoos.  “Do for mine anyway, become these… itchy, raised lines.”  It was all he divulged.  His were unusual, and elaborate, a very interesting night in the Phillipines that he remembered very little of.  Plus, it was in an area not many people saw.  This was not going to be a whip-your-shirt-off and compare moment.  His wasn’t on his upper body.

 

So you are going to be different?

 

He looked at the snowglobe, incredibly quiet, picking up the bottle to polish it off.  He really didn’t understand what she was asking.  Different from what?  Not being a dick and treating her like she was inept?  He never thought he did.

 

Different than every other person that ever came before in my life?

 

“I don’t know every other person that came before in your life, I wasn’t there,” there was a bit of aggression churning in the quiet response.  This wasn’t fair, hazel lifting just in time to finally catch the gaze, opening his mouth to defend himself when she continued.  It was his turn for arms to cross over his chest.

 

I used to believe everyone would not ask for proof after…. not treat me different….every damn time…I thought "they" were "different"…. I was sure every time…… and I naively trusted….. and every damn time I was suddenly not complete……. not trusted. Not expected to perform as successfully…… not trusted to cross the damn street on my own…. not trusted to protect with any accuracy. Never mind that I had done it all flawlessly before and that nothing had changed…….  that one insight into my life suddenly changed their perception of me….every…..damn……time. I gave up that naivety long ago………..

 

Aw hell no.

 

“So did I, the naivety that I was a harmless party boy.  We all got dealt a handful of bullshit, but you ain’t the only one that’s been used and abused.  You just dealt with it better.  I just ran.  I ain’t running no more.  I didn’t insist on protecting you because I thought you were incompetent, I just didn’t want to fry your ass,” an uncharacteristic terseness set onto his features and into his voice, betraying that he' d known or at least suspected for quite some time.  It was also suddenly clear how vehemently he revered his power and his insistence not to hurt anyone.  “Going off all half-cocked, you stepped right into my line of fire. It’s my responsibility to protect what’s mine, and you while you’re in it.  You don’t gotta prove you got balls by steppin’ into someone’s line of fire.”

 

So yah… he wasn’t exactly the most honest about himself either.

 

“Now is you gonna be different from everyone that’s come before that I’ve told what I can do?  You not going to ask me to crack safes and scramble security protocols?  Eavesdrop on phone conversations?  Block and fry communications?  Unlock car doors?  How about level street blocks?  I don’t tell people because I’m useful, and I’m dangerous, and what I do you can’t avoid.  I HURT you Mason, and I almost killed you and your damn back-up because yall had to get in the way!”

 

Lips quirked, arms tighter across his chest as an almost harrumph settled across his features.  Expression was sullen, and he’d become quiet.  He was so pissed at himself, because of the level he was pushed to use his abilities because it got so out of hand, and she’d still ended up hurt.  He was way too fucking sober for this, eyes closing a moment, flicking back to her when she chose to pick up one of his scavenged items.

 

Sits on the river…..

 

Eyes were on the few tiny bits of glitter that refused to settle in the globe, “no, it don’t.”

 

He didn’t elaborate for a moment.

 

It's silver…..

 

“I think so, probably.”  Arms released from his chest and went to the table, picking up the other.  “Nola ain’t on the river, it is the river.  It was born from the river, it lived from it, and it died from the river.  Thought the cuffs were something more... probably just pieces of junk for drunk tourists.”

 

It was strange of him to be bitter.  She'd plinked a nerve.  He got up, faint lock click along the floor allowing him to pull up the floor storage door that had his things in it.  Rustling a few of the vintage ammo boxes he used to store his stuff in innocuously while he went on his gallivants, the distinct clink of a bottle was pulled out and the trap dropped.  Definitely not what he’d prefer, he was still pissed about them breaking that first bottle. 

 

He returned to his perch, stuffed another mouthful of food in and pulled one of the last things out of the crate.  A few other bits and bobs left in were a few shells and gator teeth he was going to add to his cords, some gun parts he’d found en route and random bits of seaglass.  The larger object was somewhat heavy, yet small, swathed in a t-shirt that he carefully unwrapped.  It was made out of concrete, or something similar.  Carved and cast as a miniature that was unusually heavy.  Another tourist piece of junk.

 

Bottle cracked open, the long swig hoping to just obliterate the entirety of the conversation.  Fingers reached up to wander over the wings that draped down the base of the weeping angel, feeling the heavy pull of more alcohol flooding his system.

 

“Don’t give two shits about your sight Mason.  I give a shit about you."

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“I gotta rebuild myself. We always rebuild.”

 

I gotta protect myself… I always protect myself….

 

The mirror between them was always there as her soft words answered his own. Silence once more lingered. It felt different than it had before. Silence was always comfortable between them… now it felt….  foreboding.

 

“The cold water makes ‘em hurt,”

 

Brow quirked at him, unaware she was itching at her arm. Covered the instinct to hide them was natural, but exposed she fell into her habits that were normally reserved for the privacy of her own home.

 

 “Do for mine anyway, become these… itchy, raised lines.” 

 

Fingers instantly stopped scratching as it sunk in what he was referring to. Hands crammed into her pockets as the head shook.

 

Cold usually calms it….. it only gets angry when I'm…..

 

It was an odd way to reference her tattoos. Words trailed off. Not able to confess the angst of the "ink" was due to her own unstable emotions, feeding off her and exaggerating the effect.

 

She laid bare her fears and he got defensive….. took it personally. This was going downhill so fast it had her head spinning. This is why she never confessed anything about herself… why she didn’t share…. why she let no one in. Her words never came out right and they never understood the sentiment behind them.

 

"…..didn’t insist on protecting you because I thought you were incompetent, I just didn’t want to fry your ass. Going off all half-cocked, you stepped right into my line of fire. It’s my responsibility to protect what’s mine, and you while you’re in it.   You don’t gotta prove you got balls by steppin’ into someone’s line of fire.”

 

She was silent… letting the aggressive roll continue.

 

“Now is you gonna be different from everyone that’s come before that I’ve told what I can do?  You not going to ask me to crack safes and scramble security protocols?  Eavesdrop on phone conversations?  Block and fry communications?  Unlock car doors?  How about level street blocks?  I don’t tell people because I’m useful, and I’m dangerous, and what I do you can’t avoid.  I HURT you Mason, and I almost killed you and your damn back-up because yall had to get in the way!”

 

And it was her fault he was attacked in the first place. Too much to say…. no idea how to say it. Instead the bracelet was slid from the table and the silence that lingered was finally broken again.

 

Sits on the river….

 

"no, it don't."

 

Then your map is defective…..shows your french quarter is lined by the…….

 

Soft words ended with brows etching ever slightly downward as sensitive fingertips traced the piece again. The carved letters were so minute and some filled with hardened clay…. but some of the river name could be made out… even if the naked eye couldn’t see them yet…. an "m"…. an "s"….two "p"s….. it was enough for her to fill in the blanks from her memory.

 

…. by the Mississippi……...    It's silver…..

 

“I think so, probably. Nola ain’t on the river, it is the river.  It was born from the river, it lived from it, and it died from the river.  Thought the cuffs were something more... probably just pieces of junk for drunk tourists.”

 

They are what they are to you. Nothing more……. and nothing less.

 

Quiet words were almost reverent as she set it back in front of him. Why did she still have an extra light plastic guitar pick in her dresser at home. It was an absolute piece of crap pick that made dick for sound on any guitar… junk to anyone else. Yet she wouldn’t part with it. She had played her very first notes on a guitar with it, one of the few memories of her youth she clung to.

 

She listened as he got a new bottle of liquor and came back to the table to finish emptying the basket. The last item set on the table with far more weight than the others. It was also set down with a deliberate caution. It too meant something to him.

 

“Don’t give two shits about your sight Mason.  I give a shit about you."

 

Lips pursed slightly as the brows knitted over sightless eyes. Hands shoved in wet pockets as the head shook ever so slightly. The words rolling in her head for every time they had been said to her… by managers… promoters…. bar owners…. musicians…. fans….. boyfriends….

 

Words I have heard many times before……       for once………. I really hope they are meant.

 

Why did he pull at her so much. The cop she had been smitten with yes…. but this pull… this deep seeded need to believe…. to trust…..that had not been there.

 

Hand slid from her pocket and finally reached for the structure across the table that kept reverberating in her awareness each time something was set down on the surface. She had assumed it was a chair and was not disappointed as a leg was caught. Pulling it and flipping it over she set the back against the table as long limbs straddled the seat, arms folding over the back to "watch" him, soft rumble in her gut getting annoying as she reached for the bottle and took another deep swallow of courage before setting it down once more. Tongue snaked over her lips as the thick unpainted lashes half closed listening to him breath before finally breaking the silence.

 

Don’t give a shit what you can do…..never did…..there is a small army of people out there right now watching this area that can do shit.

 

Chin rested on the folded arms, rubbing a moment over the itch of her left as the breath in her chest slowed to match his, it was an odd habit that had started about the third time they met up in the cemetery by "accident" to share a bottle of booze. Just happened naturally now.

 

My job to protect you…. and your place. Its my fault your place was targeted.  I brought you into this deal. That group tonight…. built by a traitor looking to undo what we built. Means dealing with us is….dangerous…. now.

 

She was opening a real big door for him to say he wanted out. She would figure out a way to explain it to Gaspari…. she just wanted him safe. The thought that he would take the offer ached her chest…. but she didn’t want him to be looking over his shoulder just because he was selling to them either.

 

Dry lips were licked once more, teetering on the edge of a giant leap of faith. One last time. Then never again….. one last time.  Finger picked absently at the edge of a bold ebony swipe on the back of her left hand before she opened secret doors she shared with no one…. not even the family.

 

Its not ink…… I am playing parasitic host to a piece of the sky. It likes to amplify emotions when its ticked off….. I try not to have any.

 

The quiet confession explained a lot…. but she wasn’t stopping there. Right middle and forefinger struck the table before "marching" several steps in front of herself, head tilting ever so slightly before pointing to nearly every object he had in front of him to indicate she knew exactly where they were.

 

My brain works different apparently….can echo-locate… not an enhancement… something I could do by the time I was three…  gives me distance and size, even if it is hard or soft material. How can tell your best product from average… I can hear it.

 

It was a skill that rarely existed prior to the Resonance, even among the blind. She knew that because a teacher had flipped out when she figured out what the seven year old was doing to get around without the aid of a guidedog or cane and had wanted to make her some project for a thesis or something. Her mom had promptly pulled her out of that school.

 

Can tell that one is metal… that is stone… and that in front of you is food. Sense of smell been amplified since I was a kid as well… why don’t like perfumes and scented soaps and shit… gives me headaches.

 

All her little secrets spilling as doors were quietly unlocked and opened.

 

Can recognize anyone I have met at great distance by the gait of their walk and their scent… even under perfumed crap people have their own smell.

 

Head tilted slightly at him before adding.

 

Rain…. spice and a floral I don’t recognize on anyone else…. that’s you….

 

It was oddly intimate knowledge.

 

How she "worked" was being laid bare in a way no one else knew. Her breathing still matched his… but her heart rate was skittishly jumping around, trying to warn her to stop… yet she kept pushing forward.

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Then your map is defective…..shows your french quarter is lined by the…….

 

Eyes slid up to watch her, he didn’t really know what to think.  Raging against the world and claiming herself not to be “broken”, but now showing him the vulnerability and limitations to what she could do.  It made no sense… she was still trying to either prove to him that she was competent in different ways, or she was finally starting to strip away all the bravado and…

 

…ohhh.

 

…. by the Mississippi……...    It's silver…..

 

Thoughts darkened away from his original ah-ha moment.  He was so eager to share his findings, and now because of all this destruction, it was almost as if there was a hint of defeatism in the normally easy rolling Cajun.  The sullen expression was starting to slide into something much more melancholy, there were no big items to find anymore.  Faded and chipped plastic beads… the metal skeletons of everything else that was rotting away and bring reclaimed by the wilderness and the river.

 

They are what they are to you. Nothing more……. and nothing less.

 

Lips pursed, the frown replaced by the bottle when his word was questioned again. 

 

Words I have heard many times before……       for once………. I really hope they are meant.

 

Brow furled into that darker place, finding the bottle again.  He wasn’t going to fight for anyone to believe him.  They either did or they didn’t, reluctant to give up the bottle when she reached for it.

 

Don’t give a shit what you can do…..never did…..there is a small army of people out there right now watching this area that can do shit.

 

The cynical expression reappeared, quirking slightly as his arms found their place over his chest again.  Thumbs tapped his biceps absently.  She just didn’t get it.  Nobody got it.  Nobody except the people that tried to exploit the invisible catastrophe he could bring down.

 

My job to protect you…. and your place. Its my fault your place was targeted.  I brought you into this deal. That group tonight…. built by a traitor looking to undo what we built. Means dealing with us is….dangerous…. now.

 

“Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not the first time my place has been targeted.  Dealing guns is dangerous, always has been.  There’s a reason the back room has steel reinforcement and the place is covered in cameras.”

 

Long breath was drawn in, picking up the silver cuff again to look at it.  That was his way wasn’t it?  Hunker down until someone got a whiff of what he could do with arms and magic, and then disappear until it blew over.  Come back, rebuild.  He really did like the transparency of it all, no roots, no worries… but hell, it was lonely. Surrounded by people in the clubs he visited, the parties he threw. Still, felt so alone.  Thumbnail ran over the tiny little grids, streets he’d walked, places he’d loved.

 

Its not ink…… I am playing parasitic host to a piece of the sky. It likes to amplify emotions when its ticked off….. I try not to have any.

 

Brows quirked as he looked up at her with the hooded hazel.  She just kept peeling back.  Even he wasn’t sure he could take it all in.  Somewhere she felt like she could trust him, and he wouldn’t be judgmental, but was mad because he probably would be?  He’d heard of odd things like that, so it wasn’t that… just opened up a whole layer of extra… reasons he just couldn’t pick up and leave anymore.  Someone would miss him?

 

“I’ve heard of that,” voice was very quiet.  “When I was training with the order there were some whispers of people fundamentally changed by the thing, caught in it somehow, pieces of them trapped, pieces of it trapped.  Just thought they were stories…”

 

The explanation of her “sight” though, was intriguing; about to ask if she was throwing the mojo that was fraying his sonar…

 

Rain…. spice and a floral I don’t recognize on anyone else…. that’s you….

 

He blinked at her, lifting his forearm to sniff it without thinking, turning his wrist over to a small waterfall of tiny bits and bobs.  Tiny silver charms on black cords, small stones; nothing unusual.  It left him curious what she smelled, fingers reaching to his chest to touch the gris-gris he always wore.  He pulled it from under his shirt and lifted it over his head, leaning forward to hand it to her, something he’d never done... for anyone.  Ever.  It was as much a part of him as the air he breathed.

 

“Might be it,” it felt weird not wearing it, fingers a bit reluctant to let go, brushing her palm as he relinquished it.  “It’s my gris-gris.  I had, we all had, a caretaker… nanny I guess.  Mine was more like an accomplice.  Taught me to cook, covered for me to keep me out of trouble.  She gave me that, said I always come out after a scrape as long as I had it.”

 

He didn’t tell her exactly what it was, the small quarter size skull so intricately carved out of bone that there were things inside of it.  He never remembered Alma not having it around her neck when he was a kid, when she cooked, cleaned.  It was probably so engrained with the potent scents of unique cooking it would always be there.  There were seeds in it, a few feathers and slivers of bone.  The other scents… no idea?

 

“Magnolias maybe…” he offered, was really stumped, sniffing the back of his forearm again.  “Others are just… charms. Gris-gris are charmed to you.  Powerful stuff.”

 

Bottle was stolen back and tipped up again.

 

“So this… thing you do.  Any more to it?  My particular brand of mojo… I can scan, sweep, thermal, infrared.  Kind of like radar.  Something kept jamming up my signal… was that you?”

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Melancholy and angst itched at her as it seemed to roll off him. The trip had not been what he had expected….. not in the least.

 

“Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not the first time my place has been targeted.  Dealing guns is dangerous, always has been.  There’s a reason the back room has steel reinforcement and the place is covered in cameras.”

 

Wont be the last either am sure…… all am sayin' is we bringing a focused kind of nasty to your door.

 

Words were quiet. It really was dangerous to associate with the family when they got targeted. Most of the time it was actually a boon… it helped keep people safe. But with a traitor specifically stupid enough to try and target a takedown of the largest syndicate in the world…. It put a new perspective on what it meant to be associated with them.

 

Highly sensitive skin.

 

It was an incredibly random statement yet it came because things still itched at her thoughts… things he had said.

 

Nerves always on fire, sense temperature… able to read more subtle texture than braille. Don’t tolerate rough fabrics well….

 

There was a pause as she drew the breath… released softly.

 

I knew that rail was scalding when I came down….you didn’t hurt me…. I hurt me…. knew what I was getting into…rare that I don’t know what am getting into….

 

And that was all she was going to say about her sensitive flesh. Instead she moved to the ink that wasn’t and could feel a faint shift in his oppressive mood.

 

“I’ve heard of that. When I was training with the order there were some whispers of people fundamentally changed by the thing, caught in it somehow, pieces of them trapped, pieces of it trapped.  Just thought they were stories…”

 

Shrug came as she dismissed any importance of it even as the words said something different.

 

Apparently only living example of an "actual" integration… apparently host croaks within days… least that’s what some big scientist thought.

 

Thumb ran over her bottom lip thoughtfully before adding…

 

'course he wanted to experiment on me so…….. who knows what the truth is…..

 

Conversation came more easily as she spoke of her echo location but as she shifted into his smell, she could hear the shift and flare of nostrils as he apparently sniffed himself to see what it was she smelled. She almost burst out laughing at the gesture, listening to the charms on his wrist spill over as he sniffed again.

 

Air shifted and instantly so did his breath, it was closer. He was leaning over the table, likely to give her something so the hand simply turned over and opened to let him. At this point she didn’t think he was trying to stick a knife in her throat, though the brush of his warm fingers on her still cold hand shivered a bolt up her spine.

 

Palm rocked the small weight before fingers elongated along the cord. It was the one from his neck, the scent stronger now that it was out of his shirt.

 

“Might be it….It’s my gris-gris.  I had, we all had, a caretaker… nanny I guess.  Mine was more like an accomplice.  Taught me to cook, covered for me to keep me out of trouble.  She gave me that, said I always come out after a scrape as long as I had it.”

 

Fingers rolled it, instantly mapping its surface as a skull… the material too light for wood… more likely bone. It also had things loose inside. It was a unique piece as far as she was concerned. She hadn't felt anything like it before. The scent while potentially missed by others was very potent for her.

 

“Magnolias maybe…Others are just… charms. Gris-gris are charmed to you.  Powerful stuff.”

 

The unexpected chuckle licked of warm rum and familiarity as she listened to him sniff himself again before stealing the bottle back. Her head shook as long fingers turned the odd charm over once more.

 

You wouldn’t smell it yourself. I know this scent too… you always have it on.  But I am referring to you… no one else can smell it… least that is what it seems to be to me…. I guess its like why can a dog track something you cant?..... I smell the scent that bleeds from people's skin. It… I don’t know how to explain it….. seems to be a mix of where they were born…. the food they eat….. the water that makes up their body…if you drink… smoke…. everything that makes up you internally…. it gives a unique smell that I can read. Used to tell people what they smelled like…. got yelled at to stop making things up…. but its real…. I can recognize a person I haven't seen in years by that scent…. no matter how much perfume they use to cover it up or where they live and eat now…..

 

Shrug was a bit indifferent. It was like breathing to her…something she had done from when she was little. His charm was brought up to breathe deep of it, head tilting slightly.

 

Some of the things in here are entangled in your scent but it still is not your scent.... you are rain...spice... and a flower.

 

Smile was a bit lopsided as hand extended to give it back to him.. the gesture clearly understanding its importance.

 

“So this… thing you do.  Any more to it?  My particular brand of mojo… I can scan, sweep, thermal, infrared.  Kind of like radar.  Something kept jamming up my signal… was that you?”

 

Shrug came again…. unsure if she affected anything. Never had before.

 

Since the world went fuck-shit crazy… I have an….

 

Nose crinkled up looking for words. She had never explained it to anyone before and wasn’t entirely sure herself what it was or how it worked.

 

….an amplified mode?....

 

The questioning tone further betraying this wasn’t a normal topic of conversation for her as fingers scratched the back of her neck where moisture still was dripping down into the collar of his tee.

 

I can echo locate a surrounding area in all directions at once…. guess my brain is used to um…." seeing"… in all directions….. simultaneously….. so when I push it engages and I can do it for miles all ways including up and down and through things…makes things more precise too, rather than just mass and distance I can truly understand size and things like if a person is armed or not… more noise around…  more I can hear sound move around things…. the clearer I can map things.

 

She was quiet a moment as a frown settled over the sightless eyes the murmur half to herself….

 

Doubt it was that interfering though…..

 

Fingers picked once more at the edges of textured ink. It was quiet now, the threat of patterns moving and really freaking him out was subsided…. for now.

 

Ever since been guinea pigged by sky debris….. seems has tapped into something….. else….things sometimes…. move….. fly….

 

Shrug came as she drew patters with her finger on the surface of the table.

 

Happens when am pissed……… or protecting……..

 

The unnatural telekinesis had been on display in their battle, the flung bike its culmination before she finally calmed enough for the unconscious ability to shut down.

 

Can make a shield with it too…..

 

Now she was delving into secret territory. No one knew she could do that except Gaspari as he had been the recipient once of her shielded protection and even he wasn’t exactly sure what had happened so it had not been discussed.

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Wont be the last either am sure…… all am sayin' is we bringing a focused kind of nasty to your door.

 

He scoffed slightly, in his own charming way.  His apathy at his own danger was unusually settling… honest and true, he wasn’t afraid.  The Cajun just didn’t want to be bothered with things that weren’t enjoyable.

 

“Again… sorry.  I’ve been on the inside of the Order,” words hummed quietly, he was slipping past the tipsy stage.  “…don’t get me wrong, playing wild west with yall was entertaining, but Order is a kind of nasty that I could never begin to explain.  But… I don’t want more baggage.  If I’m gonna be flashing mana on a regular basis to deal with yall, I gotta decide if it’s worth it.  Order don’t like being told no.  They think I’m dead.  Wanna stay that way.”

 

Dead.  Yah, they did.  That was a can of worms that might come back to bite him in the ass sooner rather than later.  Would have to be on point for a while.

 

Highly sensitive skin.

 

He blinked at her, the comment pulling him away from old dogs he didn’t want to get in a fight again with.

 

Nerves always on fire, sense temperature… able to read more subtle texture than braille. Don’t tolerate rough fabrics well….

 

“Ya ain’t getting any more of my tshirts,” he grumbled quietly before attention turned to the bottle again.

 

I knew that rail was scalding when I came down….you didn’t hurt me…. I hurt me…. knew what I was getting into…rare that I don’t know what am getting into….

 

The amused smirk was particularly to himself, he didn’t elaborate.

 

Apparently only living example of an "actual" integration… apparently host croaks within days… least that’s what some big scientist thought.  'course he wanted to experiment on me so…….. who knows what the truth is…..

 

“Then we a pair then… I’m nuclear winter in a bottle… they wanted to experiment on me too, kept pushing me beyond where I wanted to go,” he didn't divulge any more.  Bottle… he was nursing it pretty consistently.  “Blew up a lotta shit…”

 

The smirked chuckle was turning into the same “private” joke expression that captured his traditional charm.  It was becoming quickly apparent how much he’d had to drink before many of their graveyard conversations… and then he had his gris-gris off.  Something he’d NEVER done before, blinking softly as she rolled it through her fingers as if it sobered him slightly. What the hell was so special about her that he would slide it off...?

 

Some of the things in here are entangled in your scent but it still is not your scent.... you are rain...spice... and a flower.

 

Lips pursed, taking it back and looking at it a moment before putting it back on.  Oddly enough he’d never really looked at it before when it was actually off his neck, soft eyes studying the intricacies.

 

Since the world went fuck-shit crazy… I have an…. ….an amplified mode?....

 

Wasn’t surprised. Not one bit.

 

Can make a shield with it too…..

 

The quirked brow was amused, yet not amused as he slid it over his head.

 

“Ya think that might have been handy?” brow furled at her with the boyishly annoyed charm.  “...woulda have been nice to know that before we got all magicked-the-fuck up.  That hoodoo needs training. I might know somebody that has some kind of knowledge about that kinda stuff…”

 

He was clearly, though nonchalantly, talking about himself- finding his hands rifling through some more of the food to find something else. 

 

“Wouldn’t recommend it now though… I’m drunk as hell.”

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"….But… I don’t want more baggage.  If I’m gonna be flashing mana on a regular basis to deal with yall, I gotta decide if it’s worth it.  Order don’t like being told no.  They think I’m dead.  Wanna stay that way.”

 

Faint nod came as she scratched the back of her wet neck.

 

Well….not supposed to have'ta flash mana around…. If I am doin' my job should be quiet. Musta been sloppy somewhere along the way for them to target here.

 

Frown etched across her brow as she started rewinding all her visits looking for the one that might have been careless. Subject changed to lighter things, like her sensitive skin.

 

“Ya ain’t getting any more of my tshirts,”

 

It was her turn to smirk as her face dipped, fingers lifting the collar to rub it up over her chin and lips, snuggling it.

 

….. well am keeping this one….. rare to find them this soft….

 

Fingers trailed the collar a moment before letting it fall back into place once more with a shrug.

 

…besides…. people seem to have hangups about lack of clothin' so…ya…. figured you would prefer swiping your tee rather than neglecting to address the matter at all…

 

Fingers stole his bottle once more the moment it hit the table and betrayed its location, swig a bit thick before letting it back down in front of him, breath sighing from her lips before the stray escaping moisture was captured from her lips.

 

“Then we a pair then… I’m nuclear winter in a bottle… they wanted to experiment on me too, kept pushing me beyond where I wanted to go,….Blew up a lotta shit…”

 

Smirk came with a nod of understanding. She had done her share of damage as well. The faint ghost of his chuckle drawing her lips further upward. It was a tainted sound that came with a breath of liquor that even tired her delicate senses picked up on. His gris-gris was brought to her nostrils for a deep languid smell, emblazoning the different notes to memory before handing it back to him and declaring his smell was still different from his charm.

 

…….but ya sniff yourself again and am gonna bust a rib laughing.

 

Smirk had a softness it usually lacked as the thick lashes that had been closed fluttered open, the haunting gray pupils refusing to dilate in the white irises even as they targeted him with an unnerving accuracy. Habit.

 

 They somehow came full circle back to "powers".

 

Can make a shield with it too…..

 

“Ya think that might have been handy? ...woulda have been nice to know that before we got all magicked-the-fuck up. ”

 

Ya…..well…. also coulda suffocated you with it too…so… you know…careful what you ask for…..

 

The chuckle was warm and rum rich as a bare foot propped up on the edge of the chair, knee folding up in front of her chest with an easy flexibility considering the ridiculous length of her limbs.

 

"That hoodoo needs training. I might know somebody that has some kind of knowledge about that kinda stuff…”

 

There was a brief frown before a faint huff escaped her nostrils and the expression relaxed. She trained non-stop. Something he wouldn’t know about but was the vexation of many a family member that was on the receiving end. Everything she knew how to do she had taught herself.  Of course… this was also why progress of certain aspects, like her hand to hand combat, were extremely advanced and near unbeatable, and other aspects…….. like her abilities… had a decidedly …slower….progress.

 

“Wouldn’t recommend it now though… I’m drunk as hell.”

 

Lips parted only to clamp shut again as the head tilted at him, a bubble up chuckle starting soft in her chest before billowing into a melodic laughter.

 

Uh huh….. ok Yoda……….

 

Smirk lingered as the head shook.

 

Lightweight…….

 

The tease tripped easily off her tongue as she reached for his bottle once more, shaking it to hear the slosh of nearly no liquid in the base of the glass. They needed more….

 

Don’t suppose you got any other decent stuff lying around….

 

As much as she could drink she could feel the warmth billowing in her gut. Empty stomach was not exactly increasing her alcohol tolerance.

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Well….not supposed to have'ta flash mana around…. If I am doin' my job should be quiet. Musta been sloppy somewhere along the way for them to target here.

 

"Other gunrunners aren't all I have to worry about.  Coulda been anybody."

 

It was definitely his reality, and still weighed heavily in his decision to reopen the shutters.  If he was a bit more sober, he probably would have been upset about his tshirt.  There were definitely things that he had kept near and dear from his former life.  100% cotton tshirts and high thread counts were some of them.

 

...figured you would prefer swiping your tee rather than neglecting to address the matter at all…

 

"...yep, not that kind'a storefront."

 

He was acutely aware she was sponging his bottle.

 

Ya…..well…. also coulda suffocated you with it too…so… you know…careful what you ask for…..

 

She was full of surprises.

 

"That's rather inconvenient."

 

...then she was laughing at him.  Why did everyone seem to not take him seriously?.

 

Don’t suppose you got any other decent stuff lying around….

 

"Of course I do... but I'm a lightweight, so gonna eat some more food," smirk was the cat that ate the canary as he chewed the forkful he'd just stuffed in his mouth, brow quirked.  "Oh?  You mean for you?  You get me shot, steal my shirts, compare me to a little green man and called me a lightweight.  Why do I need to fetch that for you again?"

 

He was quiet a long moment, leaning back on the chair and enjoying another forkful of something spicy.

 

"I'll get it if you agree to let me help you with the Force."

 

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"Other gunrunners aren't all I have to worry about.  Coulda been anybody."

 

Head shook as she rubbed her finger tip over the table, feeling the surface before the quiet words protested.

 

….nah…. this was family personal…. they knew what they were hittin'….

 

The faint scowl betrayed her thoughts had darkened back to the traitor. They needed to end him and his upstart gang. Nostrils huffed softly as she let it go and their conversation moved to his tshirt and she pulled it to her features, getting a strong whiff of his scent. She still couldn’t place that floral accent.

 

...figured you would prefer swiping your tee rather than neglecting to address the matter at all…

 

"...yep, not that kind'a storefront."

 

Brow quirked, clearly pondering the thought. It wasn’t that she didn’t get the insinuation of a brothel, she just really didn’t equate the two the same way others did.

 

Drink……. she needed more drink. There was a distinct impression that the cajun was way ahead of her in that area.

 

Don’t suppose you got any other decent stuff lying around….

 

"Of course I do... but I'm a lightweight, so gonna eat some more food,  Oh?  You mean for you?  You get me shot, steal my shirts, compare me to a little green man and called me a lightweight.  Why do I need to fetch that for you again?"

 

Smirk tickled her lips. She could hear the humor in his voice. Lips pursed with an exaggeratedly serious expression as finger tapped her lips in deep "contemplation".

 

Well… I could go home and drink my own good stuff…. leave Joey to babysit ya….I mean… he aint as cheerfully entertaining as I am but ya know…. I hear he is cute in a wet tee.

 

Smirk lit up the corners of hauntingly "dead" eyes before scowling at a faint rumble in her gut. The heavy scent of his foods was starting to permeate into her senses. It could be ignored before but as his breath heated with liquor and spice it was growing more invasive.

 

Silence lingered and again it seemed…comfortable. Bare foot perched on the front of the seat, long limb folded in half, knee pressing to the side and under her arm as she leaned on the table.

 

"I'll get it if you agree to let me help you with the Force."

 

Expression instantly darkened. The "glare" uncannily accurate as lips pressed tight together.  What was he?...family? They liked that "I do it for you if you do… or allow…. or don’t…..do something." Huff escaped her nostrils as more sigh than huff. Folded in half, her elbow rested on the table, chin rested in her hand as she "watched" him eat. The grump in her voice acquiesced.

 

…..be a pain to walk home now anyway…………

 

It was her way of agreeing, free hand reaching out adjusting slightly left the minute the heat of what she was smelling tickled her sensitive skin. Fingers accurately dipped inside the box and came out with a spiced shrimp that popped between her lips, oddly enough, the first thing she had ever eaten in front of him. They drank together often…. but she never went out of her way to eat in the first place, let alone when they met up randomly.

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"Don't gimme that look."

 

He could hear it in the way she breathed without even looking at her.  The huff confirmed his suspicions as he chewed and met the eyes that had not one clue what he looked like.  His push forward with the conversation completely ignored her broody mood.  He didn't give two shits about her mood.

 

"I mean it"

 

There may have been an eye-roll as he got up and returned to the same spot in the floor.  The entire foundation had been converted into storage space, the crisscross of antique throw rugs eclectic enough to give the place a vintage old fashioned feel and draw attention away from the perpendicular joints at the same time.  The beams underneath the sub-floor doors and reinforced ceiling below were a perfect size for the antique WW2 ammo boxes he kept meticulously lined up and organized with items.  The one that seemed his main personal storage was pulled up again, another bottle retrieved with a few clinks that betrayed there was more down there than he was sharing.  

 

Expression quirked as he dropped the trap door, dust and debris plinking everywhere.  He was not looking forward to cleaning this mess up.  

 

Charms on his wrist twinkled, unconsciously adjusting the still damp cords with a soft shake when he returned.  He put the bottle between them, and picked up one of the cartons before leaning back in the chair and putting one ankle over his knee as he ate.

 

....be a pain to walk home now anyway.....

 

"...yah, your hair would freeze and that sucks."

 

Fingertips went up to run across a jaw that felt a bit warm.  First shave after a while always made skin tender.

 

"Not being a mother hen.  Just don't want to get my ass blown up because y'all don't know what you're doing.  Ain't no joke, ain't no thing to ignore, and sure as hell makes you an idiot if you ignore it 'cause you don't want people to know."
 

It was rather brutal, and maybe in her circle they tapdanced around her moods... but he wasn't obligated to do that.  If anything, the Cajun was overtly practical, and didn't wax poetic to save face. 

 

"I ain't your people.  You got nothin' to prove to me.  Never had."

 

He was wayyy too intoxicated to be deep and philosophic, and it became apparent the drunker he got the more the mysterious aloofness fell away and the "no bullshitting" sign was displayed.  Some might have taken it for being dickish; it was anything but.

 

"Sucks not knowing what's inside you until someone you hate forces it out without your permission."

 

He spoke from experience. 

 

He upended the last trickle from his own bottle.  Air seethed through his teeth as he leaned forward and plunked the empty bottle on the table, eyes on the new one.

 

"Doesn't last long though... body burns through it faster than I can drink it.  Most zipped I've been in a long time, must be losing my touch."

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