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Guts. [Fin]
« on: September 03, 2016, 12:54:51 am »
Feathers in your teeth.

5062 BCE.

The sky was grey. In the upper atmosphere, where the air was thin and breathless, the Eternal City drew a silhouette against the dark of space. A wink, a moment, captured by a crack of friction-frenzied lightning. Ephemeral and daunting. The stern shadow over a little blue planet, lost in the brilliance of the sun. And so it had been, since the violent birth of the universe.

In the city square, there was an uneasy hush. Angelic citizens hurried on their way, eager to proceed as if all was usual. No one mentioned the throng of Seraphim guarding the steps to the High Court. A Cherub stopped to stare at one of the Divine soldiers before her companion anxiously tugged her along. “Do you think—“ the Cherub was silenced with a glance. The pair disappeared between a pair of spiraling buildings, prismatic and bright in the consuming light.   

“The humans are dangerous, in their own way. I am sorry it has come to this, but it is your own fault in the end.” Long nails, delicate against cold flesh. The fingers pulled, effortless, to wrench the skin free. It slipped away from the dead muscle with too much eager. “It is good you did not try to hide. There is dignity in that, at least.” A pair of wings, brilliant and bronze, curled back to unveil the Divine. Three mouths. Sharp teeth. The center mouth accepted the thick scrap from golden-scaled fingers while the other two spoke. “We will miss you, Brother.” Three eyes closed serenely. Two remained fixed on the bent figure.

Lucifer was an awful masterpiece. Hand-crafted by the Father, His Right Hand and the Judge of His own. Master of the Eternal City, she had been benevolent because she had not moved. Now, fire and brimstone flaking off her bladed feathers, she was frightening. At the foot of the steps, the restrained Angel took measured breaths. The Will of Angels is a tenuous thing. He had been made with an innate fear of the Archangels and he hated himself for it, now. 

As the Archangel took in the flesh, her closed eyes sealed and faded. A new and human mask. Lucifer folded two pairs of bronzed wings across a body that had adopted nakedness in its skin confines. Dark, beautiful skin. Her hunched brethren glanced up at his final judgment. “I was weak.” He said. Lucifer nodded. A cascade of hair like silk and oil. The golden eyes were blinding. “I wish I could undo it all.” Lucifer turned her face away. Repulsive. Human lust for God’s greatest Angel. The shackled Seraph shuddered. He was shameful. He deserved this. “I’m sorry.”

“You are the first, and yet I am already here. This price was known. Corruption was inevitable,” she said. The other Angel shifted, thick chains creaking. Lucifer descended the stairs. Light steps, hollow echo. She passed the Angel without pause. “Some of us are weak. As you say. But, you will be well spent. So will the others.” She grasped a fine blade in one hand when she turned to stare down the Angel’s back. Judgment above all Judgment. “Suffer and know humanity as your heart has longed.” Lucifer leaned over his shoulder, lips to his temple as she drew the blade across his throat. Molten gold from his arteries, hot and slick over her fingers. He gasped and gurgled.

She was meticulous. “You have known sin, and for that you cannot be forgiven. To learn Corruption is to learn the weakness of your Divinity and you must be culled.” She plunged her hand into the cavity of his chest. “This is for the preservation of the Eternal City, my Brother.” Lucifer murmured, pausing with her fingers curled tight around his heart. It strained in her hand. She licked the spatter of gold on his lips and he moaned.

The desire to serve breeds the desire to possess. A true and jealous Love. She descended on a flash of light, brilliant on the summit of the temple. A host of robed priests dropped to their knees. Faces to the stone, gasping and shaking. The Light of God is blinding. “For your devotion, you shall be blessed.” Miraculous Lucifer and her bloody hands. Gifts to the god kings, the final service of the Fallen. She extended her arms to the prostrated men. Even in this borrowed flesh, she was a terrible sight. Beautiful and petrifying, only the first of the priests had ever witnessed the burning Archangel. They had been told this time would come. For years they had carried out the ceremonies and waited on their temple mount. Generations of the faithful. And here, now, she had returned on behalf of their God. Several began to wail.

“A heart for your pious king.” One of the priests stood slowly, head bowed, hands raised and quivering. She let the organ, black and glimmering, slide onto his palms. Another priest scrambled to his feet and went racing down the temple stairs. The people must know their Angel had come. A new age. “A liver for the general who subdues the pagans in Our name.”

On the floor of the long hall, the first casualty of Heaven howled to the silence. The Eternal City turned from their broken Brother. Corrupted. Unfit. The Angel screamed and wheezed and choked, clawing at his empty chest cavity with fingers that crumbled to dust as he drummed against his broken ribs. The Fade and Fall. A consequence of this union, man and his Angels. Lucifer had been formed for the balance: to preserve the purity of Heaven, swift and merciless. 

“Eyes for the virgin priestess who minds the alter.”

Ash scattered from the clouds. A thin film heavy with anguish, caught on a breeze. In the long hall, a single red feather twirled across the floor and came to rest against the bottom step. Light is never satiated. It consumes darkness with an unrelenting hunger until it burns itself out. The Divine hand in the dirty toil of humanity, grasping for adoration in exchange for petty favors. Heaven cradled the illusion of superiority dearly. Humans were so easily satisfied. The weak deserved to Fall. This Brother would not be grieved. This Brother would not be remembered. In the city square, the others continued to pass by without pause.

“A tongue for the High Priest.”

And so formed the Cult of Lucifer, blessed bearer of Divine gifts for the faithful. Lucifer left the temple monument the same way she’d come, with thunder in her wake. Continued faith would bring continued gifts; prayer to feed the Eternal City and waste handed back down like miracles.

Lucifer sat at the end of the long hall, red feather twirling between her scaly fingers. Awash in Divine fire, the borrow flesh dripped away from the Archangel’s mouths. “Uriel. A report for Father. Regarding our first loss.”

Dust from your bones.


“Another one so soon?” A taxi cab tossed a flume of murky water over the sidewalk as it raced by. A spray of droplets made it to the mouth of the alley, chilling her spine and making her shiver. Disgusting. “I don’t want to play welcoming committee anymore. I’m tired.” A wide yawn and a flick of her forked tongue. “Seriously, it’s annoying. Can’t you guys be a little pickier?”

The man in the dark trench coat shrugged his broad shoulders. “Lucifer hands down the names and the customers. I don’t ask questions.” He said. “Nobody makes you do this anyway,” a little gruff. Ehlvie yawned again.

“I guess. But it causes everyone less trouble if somebody collects. You know that.” She scratched her chin and blinked at him slowly, thin pupils carving jet slashes in her yellow eyes. “You call them customers these days?” she yawned again. The Angel tensed.

“The deserving benefactors.” Ehlvie giggled and waved a hand at him. She didn’t have a reason to care what he called them, really. “Either way. There will be a new arrival tomorrow.” Ehlvie sighed and pouted, folding her arms across her chest. The Angel bared his teeth. He hated this part. Sometimes, he thought there might be something wrong with associating with the Demons. Like Corruption was simply part of an inevitable process that drew him uncomfortably close to the Fall. The Angel told himself Lucifer would not approve of those kinds of thoughts. Dealing with this filth was a sacrifice he made for the betterment of the Eternal City. He was an honorable creature. He should be proud of himself. He scowled at the Echidna. He was better than these sad shadows. He was above them.

 “Ehlviekol’amirael. You have no shame for as far as you have Fallen. It’s repulsive.” Ehlvie stared at the Angel, impassive. She’d been around too long to care about silly insults. On the other plane in the Eternal City, the conflict that had stirred between the Angels and their Fallen comrades was volatile and raging. Here, in this grimy alleyway, he wasn’t any different from her. He just had more rules to follow. If anything, it emboldened her.

“Shame, in front of something like you?” She asked. “You’re Pure by technicality alone. Just like Her.” Ehlvie spat on the ground for emphasis. “And I like being called Ehlvie. The rest is too long to say.” She turned away from the Angel to squint at the bright sky. Had she been so irritating, once? Ehlvie couldn’t remember. She supposed she’d had the ego, at least. Pride cometh before the Fall, and all of that.

“Watch your tongue, Demon, or I will tear you limb from limb next I see you. It is hardly your place to question the Right Hand of God.” The Angel snapped. It was his business to be offended. Ehlvie groaned. How high strung. Like he had some right she didn’t. Like she followed His rules anymore. Did this Angel realize how many of Lucifer’s little dogs came by? He wasn’t special. She grinned, but kept her mouth shut.

“Whatever.” She ambled off down the street. It was hardly a threat. Without a Divine weapon, there was nothing to concern herself with. As if an Angel could understand it, regardless. She rubbed her chest with one hand. There was agony beyond anything that pompous ass could conceive. Emptiness. “Watch your tongue,” she whined under her breath, mocking. Idiot. He knew as well as she that things had changed. The Eternal City was dirty. Everything was dirty.

Ehlvie had earned her fate. She was sure of that. She’d pressed well beyond the point of no return before her Judgement had come. The poor saps showing up these days had hardly recognized their own Corruption. Hasty. Lucifer had disemboweled Ehlvie herself. That was practically a point of pride now. Judgement from Lucifer was merciless. Judgement on behalf of Lucifer was simply cruel. Sometimes, Ehlvie wasn’t even sure Lucifer was making the call. It was rancid. All of it.

Ehlvie turned down another alleyway and skulked behind a dumpster. She was sleepy and holding this form was tiresome. The vast majority of humans couldn’t see the difference, either way. Still, with the growing number of “Divine benefactors,” it was generally best to be cautious. Humans became violent so quickly when they were frightened. She leaned against the old brick wall and let out a sigh of relief, slumping as her legs unraveled into a thick coiling tail. The serpentine demon yawned again and pulled her fingers through her tangle of thick auburn hair, eyes shut. She stayed perched in the side of the alley until the stench of the dumpster became uncomfortable and she resolved she’d not be napping there.


In the white room, the sound of the EKG was oppressive. Violet couldn’t remember what the world smelled like, slowly marinating in the aromas of bland food and antiseptic. Her father came by daily to tell her she’d be out soon. He meant it as encouragement and she smiled for his effort. Still, she wondered if he’d considered all the possibilities toward that end. A donor and recovery were not the only option for leaving. Sometimes, she thought she should talk to him about it, but the set of his teeth when he was determined to be cheerful always dissuaded her.

She could hear the nurses talking outside the room. Uniformed caregivers who wanted to be empathetic but had seen a little too much. She wasn’t special to them. That was fine, if they could stop pretending. Once, about three weeks into her stay, she had heard a nurse chatting with the attending physician. They felt bad for her father, facing so much loss. Like she was already among that number. If her father was forcefully optimistic, he’d not shared that plan with the medical staff.

If she was going to be honest, she didn’t disagree with the idle chat of her nursing staff. Her mother had been a cruel woman, in the end. Congenital heart defect, they’d known, and a high risk of health problems for the child if she were to successfully conceive. Her mother had not survived childbirth and Violet had carried the imprint of her mother’s defect. The doctors had lied to her mother, before she passed, and told her Violet was healthy. Supposedly, her mother had cried tears of joy. She wondered if that made her father feel better. If he’d ever regretted it. Vi held her hand up in front of her face, fingers spread. An IV port dangled from her wrist, tape peeling.

“I guess it’d be alright to meet you.” She said to her hand. “Insult to injury for Dad, of course.” Her father was not a lucky man. She didn’t want to die. But, it didn’t seem worth kidding herself, either. In the end, she was more concerned about her father than herself. She didn’t imagine she’d have many complaints after she was gone. No man should have to lose his wife and child, though. Mother had been cruel. She would be too, for leaving him behind. It had been just the two of them for her whole life. A small commotion outside the room drew her attention, and she set her hand back down on her lap.

“My, my, to what do I owe the honor, Police Chief Abad?” She hummed, when her father stuck his head through the doorway, still in uniform. He smiled at her from beneath a bushy moustache. He seemed energetic.

“Just checking in on my favorite in-mate.” He said. A pause, and then he stepped into the room to show her the crumpled brown bag in his hand. Violet inhaled deeply.

“Oh my god, you’re a saint.” She said, reaching for the bag with outstretched hands. Chief Abad crossed to stand by her bed, dangling it just out of reach.

“Anything for my ViVi.” He said, finally setting the greasy parcel in her hands. Fries from the hotdog stand outside the station. They’d been her favorite since she was a child. “Besides, we need to celebrate.” Violet glanced up at him, mouth full. She made an inquiring noise and he patted her head, stroking her thick raven hair. Just like her mother’s. He took a deep breath. He was almost afraid to say it, like it might break a precious spell.

“You have a new heart, Vi. It’s arriving tomorrow.” He said finally, voice cracking. Violet froze, staring hard at his face. He was tearing up. He was serious. Her head was spinning. She felt like all the air had been sucked from the room and now returned in a frenzied rush.

“Wait. How? What happened? I haven’t even hit the top of the list?” She was stuttering. The EKG blipped faster. Chief Abad wagged his finger at his daughter. He laughing, shoulders shaking. Frantic relief as he shook his head.

“Calm down, Vi. And don’t worry about the details. All you need to know is that you’re getting a new heart. That’s all that matters.” She nodded numbly. It occurred to her that she must have resigned herself to a different fate quite some time ago. It was surreal, suddenly spiraling toward a hope she could grasp. Like stepping into sunlight. It almost hurt. “Our prayers have been answered, Vi. My prayers have been answered.” She realized he was crying, then, and she shoved her bag of fries aside to reach for her father.

His embrace was warm. He smelled like home. “Oh my god.” She mumbled. “Oh my god.”

Blood for your nails.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2016, 09:16:56 pm by VenomousEve »


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2016, 08:32:33 pm »
In one corner of Heaven. There were memories in this gated Garden. Time belonged to the triples, and much of it had drowned, bathed and parched their Eternal City. But the angel that governed the Garden was of time too, bones humming in tune with the songs of the triples. It was paramount that Eden be here, always, so he had seen the beginning with the many colors of the cut on his eyes. Rocks, almost eternal, catching light between the lashes. The lashes were forever, as well, but different length. Like the eternity you love is shorter than the eternity you suffer. At the end of every strand curving outward from the gemstone eyes; a light, a little star at the conclusion of every hair.

Eden had his arms, so that Paradise could benefit from them. Out of the white sternum, and at the top of his spine, sprung hyphae that wove into fibers resembling muscles, making up his chest and shoulderblades, shoulders, arms and fingers. He was proud, didn't dress them in skin, and so it was no secret that the essential pair of limbs were simply woven threads of sapien design. The hyphae were slightly yellow to contrast the ivory of his body. His hips and legs were fused, legs coming to a sharp point where feet should be, like a fin without its fan. Sometimes he flew so low the sharp of his gathered legs made paths in his garden.

Eden caressed the Life Wheat, and the golden stems with sapphire fruit swayed with their caretaker's greeting. Music, as the life seeds brushed. Came a guest through the gates and Eden turned quickly, lazy wings swirling to have him meet the eyes of the almost grown cherub. Eden's hair was gray but the roots were as white as the scalp, and it was caught in the will of the wings. "Hauminxielle." he said with a smile on the red lips, a chock of color in the muted palled that was heaven's gardener. The cherub, very sapien in design, bowed and then carried an expression that begged before his voice could.

"Haumin. You know I like you to call me Haumin." And Eden had to nod at that. "Please, Eden. I think I've decided." Haumin continued. And Eden had to nod again, with laughter this time. Most of the citizens wouldn't bother. What does it matter, anyway, but it was clear Haumin was of the mind to become male, the way his body had grown to resemble the typical aesthetic. "I would like to be gendered. Just like we talked about." The lake where angels were grown held a few ripples for Haumin's resolve, and the Life Wheat played.

"Then you will be male." Eden congratulated as the handle surfaced through the threads of his left forearm. The limb birthed a sword without an edge for the right hand to grasp, and Haumin looked at it with fear at first. All of the oases connected by light paths that made up all of the Garden were silent now. Eden spoke to the hand-guard, vine prongs, and the blade sprouted. A lacy design, with a hook at the top. The length would be exactly that between Haumin's pelvic bone and the center of his stomach. "Would you like to lie down, Cherub?" Eden's free hand toward a bed of granite. The younger nodded and turned quickly toward the stone block.

Eden bid him sit and turn and he obeyed. The older celestial towered over the angelic youth and waited for him to rest, wings down. Those wings fanned on the stone when Eden parted Haumin's knees. Just a cap, where the gendered would have their sins and delights. Lancing the frightened angel was quick, but retrieving with the hook was not. When Haumin, after beautifully indignant gargles, asked to be silenced, Eden obliged with the hand he had left. The fine roots that made up that palm loosened to seize the tongue and fill Haumin's nostrils. Eden retracted the blade until a good length of angel anatomy was out, bloodying thigh and leg, and Heaven could start to heal the new part. Another miracle in the Garden.

Eden kissed Haumin and let him cry as he laid there, waiting to become his own design on the rock which let the blood travel to water the emerald grass. There was still blood on the blade when the Court's Guard trampled the path. Eden looked at the evaporating rose fumes from the tool as the blade coiled and shrunk. "You're early, but I have been working." The angels did not wear their ornamental plates, but rather their thicker metals. Surely they wanted what they'd requested last time. Eden reached into the right side of his chest, through the fibers that opened for the intrusion, and puled out an orb. The cavity closed around the round object intimately, like a mouth produces a pit while cleaning it. "About the power of a star, but it's slow." he held the globe out to the closest visitor. They seemed troubled, the scales of their lowered visors latching into a feral expression. Eden tilted his head as someone took the weapon quickly. "What is it?" he asked, tucking the sword away into himself. "It's made to recognized only Heaven's children. No need to fret."

But he was about to be broken and shaken.

They descended upon their senior with practiced efficiency, and Eden recognized their formation as hostile. He went along with the impolite handling in the motherofpearl Paradise that had always welcomed them. There were no echoes through the wells and flowers because there were no protests. Iron on the base of his wings. He rested his head back on someone's hands when he was carried away from his home. What dark leisure. "I am sorry you had to do this." he said and closed his eyes. He wondered if the new cherubs would be at the shore of the lake when he returned after this misunderstanding. "Please come back soon, after this. Heaven needs its guard." he assured them.

When he could smell the judgement and old angel death his eyes opened again, tension in his limbs. "The Court?" he asked and the guards held him tighter. The feathers of the wings flexed but he didn't try to flee. "What is this? Where is my Laugivar?" he laid back down, huffing, a bit of fear in the next intake. "Perhaps let me walk myself?" he asked, but knew he wouldn't be standing until it was time to kneel. Such a mistake this must be.

There were more guards in the court and Eden supposed he must be flattered by the amount of angels needed. Procedure. He let go of the balance needed to stay upright on the tip of his one leg, and landed on his bound knees. Knuckles on the floor, palms up, head lowered. He'd been consulted in judgings before, he was familiar. And there she was. They hadn't met much lately. She'd been absorbed by her duty. Father's duty, they said, but Father had been quiet. Laugivar was their voice now.

But a mouth do not have ears. And Eden could not accept that he'd been corrupted. Still, as violently as he spoke his own defense, it was not in him to shake the guards that pulled at his raincloud hair and held back his arms. "Laugivar! Take back your judgement! Something is wrong with this justice!" he implored as he saw the angel of angels come down in silence, reaching her executioner hand toward his chest. "You know you can't take the virtue from my left chest! You know what's in the right half of me will do!" But there was blackness where her form had been. And unholy pain.

The guards had to let go when sparks flitted along neural pathways, setting ablaze their gardener. The body was wrapped in snaking flames, coiling tightly around the beauty. In his struggle against the pain, heartless, his legs divided, each with a tip to scar the floor. His wings were eaten first by the flames. The cuffs made signals when they fell. The burning ghost pointed an arm that tried desperately to grow back faster than it was consumed. "You're mad! Give me back Temperance! What will you do if I burn down Heaven's Gardens?" he demanded, swallowing back howls when he reached for her as she climbed.

But Lucifer left. His heart made trails in the air, glistening rose lines following her when she ascended just to dive. Eden couldn't follow without wings, and instead turned to swat the guards off him. They wanted to rest of him. They couldn't have it, if this was the verdict. They flooded him like rats and eventually, at the platform, Eden fell with a handful of guards still on him. The moving air made him burn faster, and the clouds couldn't quench the flames. There were parts littering the court, but they were clad in armor, and none of them were Eden's. Some of the elders were sick from the rage still impregnating the mood of the room when they alerted the battle angels of who had escaped.

With the rage that comes with any betrayal, Eden ripped the guards off his body, his flesh turning to dust was little to hold on to anyway, and crushed their wings before he flung them outward. He was a satellite fracturing, loosing debris to his hurl.

They had pushed him off and down.

But without the fight, as he gripped at the clouds that wouldn't take him, the fall became lonely. Solemn, even inside the coat of fire that held him everywhere. Heaven was becoming smaller, and the floor of their world would send him toward that of the prayers soon. He'd not visited earth often, even though he admired the crude design. Small trails of vapor from his eyes that were loosing their stone formation, those many colors shrinking to a circle in the center, as though he was not of Heaven, and just dirt born. Truly dust, when magic ripped him apart and set him back together to fall from earth's sky.

He landed close to his heart, he made sure, in soaked soil. And slept death's sleep. There was fog, as though the ground was warmer than their atmosphere, though it had not been hours before.

A body encased in ice, or so it would seem. Heaven's fire makes no great issue of sand and earth. The heat had bound the ground to him, and melted it, days later. When he woke it shattered. The flames were gone, Eden still crowding his memory, because Eden's memories were all that he could draw from. But he wasn't the keeper of life. He couldn't be their Eden anymore. A figure, bipedal, stood from the jagged, clear mouth as the silver rustling marked his rise. This park was not often visited, then. The hyphae were still growing, but they were being eaten by embers too, and without his rebellion in decay's eye, he had not arms at first. An ashen thing he'd become, a night sky with orange stars. His cheeks were taken, partially, and there were dirty teeth behind.

He looked at his fingers, and held his breath to make them grow to their true length. "Laugivar." he said and looked up at the hospital, rising against the day he'd fallen through. No wings, but roots reached out from his back. A crescent of people stood by the treeline, staring at him. They should be a secret, angels, that man could make his own decisions. Eden did not want to carry Heaven's duties, today. The roots moved behind him, and he lifted. Flight of the bumblebee instead of the eagle. What the crowd thought of the ascending ashen creature with embers in his wake, Eden did not care.

He laid himself in the courtyard, a fountain that had seen better times, its waters were green and overgrown, and rested his head at the feet of the statue. A saint of medicine, staring down at him as he waited, human skin, one of the easiest to grow, started creeping over him.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2016, 05:31:42 am »
“Lucifer, Eden is Fallen.” Uriel said quietly. His twin voices echoed in the hall, twining syllables from a single mouth. Lucifer had been somewhat fond of their gardener, if Judgement could learn fondness. At the end of the long hall, she was perched on her throne. Towering pillar of fire ensconced in crystal. Cold, to pass down finality. Words that were the gates of their City.

“Of course, it is rather that he leapt as much as he Fell.” Uriel said carefully. “And was primarily intact.” The flame soaked Archangel was silent, though all of her eyes had opened to stare back at her brilliant brother. Slowly, she unfolded the sets of her wings which had shrouded her four arms, and held them out toward him. In the swirling volcanics of her limbs, sparse symbols crawled.

“His name is gone. That is all that matters.” Less Corruption. Fondness was easily purged by fire. Uriel hesitated and then bowed deeply. His sister, made apart from the Archangels, had the capacity to be impartial. Perfectly righteous. She formed answers on behalf of the Father, so there was no purpose in questioning. Capacity never had dictated necessity, though.

 “His heart was taken?” She asked. Uriel affirmed. A flurry of bronzed feathers and flaking ash. “Ensure it is sent down to the priests. There is a benefactor waiting.” Uriel pressed his long fingers together and bowed again. There was nothing else to be said of it, then, as she wished. Uriel left the Court hall quietly. Surely, Eden would be like all the rest. It did not matter how one Fell once it had occurred. On the ground, in the dirt, they were all equal.


In the hospital, Violet was serene as the nurses hooked the IV to her port. They bustled around her with sudden energy, purpose restored. Violet with a fighting chance was worth their time in a way Violet who was waiting for another gelatin cup or to die was not. Through the commotion, she was staring at her father. There were grey whiskers in his moustache, she noticed. He was clutching his cap in his hands, the bag of French fries, discarded, seeped grease onto a chair.

Vi had learned that organs did not wait for families to share in their joy and express their apprehension. They quivered on ice and died with each second, whittling down the chances for a new life every moment they were not in their new home. “I’ll see you on the other side,” she had called out to him when the doctor and his assisting entourage had pushed into the room not moments after her father had given her the news. He had nodded, a little breathless, and given the medical staff space.

She thought she was supposed to be nervous, but the preparations for surgery were dizzying and she had hardly processed what was beginning. Instead, she found herself thinking about who must have died to produce her new heart. She wondered if they would mind it. She thought it was possible the surgery would not go well, but then realized it hardly mattered. This was motion. Acceleration toward anything was better than lying listless in that hospital bed. Vi was not a religious woman, but made a promise to herself to pray some kind of thanks for her donor. Growing up, she’d only ever wanted the chance to try. Trying had always been the only thing that mattered.

As the nurses began to wheel her bed from the room, she reached for her father’s hand. “I love you. I’ll be coming home soon.”


Ehlvie slithered behind a tree, peering out at the fountain. The park was safe for her preferred form, because the ill weren’t fond of walking its paths and the families who visited weren’t fond of paying attention. She’d seen Eden at the dump, in his glassy destruction, and waited for him to wake and form. Above her, snapped tree branches evidenced the tumbled Angel’s stuttering flight. He’d have to stop doing that, now. Flying like that. The courtyard he had finally prostrated himself in was empty.

She let out a long sigh. He was so energetic. Ehlvie didn’t even want to think about what sort of thing he’d be once he’d really met the dirt of this planet. Made it part of him. Conjured skin out of the passions of the humans here. Shed his Angelics and learned a new nature. Another sigh. Slowly, she wove her way toward him. When she came near, she frowned. The hyphae which was losing to a more human fungus was unmistakable. Gardner.

“I thought Lucifer liked you.” She said, leaning over him to eclipse his view of the fountain statue. Perhaps he’d not remember her from so long ago. Ehlvie had fallen two thousand years ago. She had been born in Eden’s Garden centuries before that. Angels did not forget Eden, though. Demons did not forget either. She coiled next to him, crossing her hands beneath her chin as he grew his new skin. “Either way. I’m your welcoming party. Or something like that.” Ehlvie yawned. “So, welcome. Maybe you haven’t been to Earth as often as most.” She tilted her head curiously. “Don’t worry, I won’t ask how you ended up Corrupted. That’s considered bad form.”

He was probably in pain. Ehlvie didn’t have much to offer there. “I can put you to sleep, if it hurts too much.” She suggested. “It’ll take longer that way, though. If you care.”


In the operating room, the surgeon made startled sound when Violet’s new heart was brought in. “One of those?” he asked. The nurse transporting the organ nodded.

“That’s why you were called in, Dr. Marx, specifically.” She said. The other nurses in the room nodded. The surgeon adjusted his face shield with the back of his hand.

“Lucky girl. Or blessed.” He muttered. The heart was iridescent green, like a beetle’s shell, and beat comfortably on its own. Most of the time, the gifts of Lucifer were black as coal and gleaming like oil. There were a few exceptions. This was one. Dr. Marx had often wondered what it meant to be given gifts like this. In the end, though, he’d always been too afraid to ask.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2016, 06:42:33 pm »
Eden continued the simple task of making a human shell. His form had shrunken from that of the angel he was no longer allowed to be. Better a disguise be only that. The new wrap needed to be of a certain nature, as it must contain the embers that turned already ashern fibers into gray dust. In the lakes, he'd tried making humans. Useless experiment, always rebelling, and their souls could never settle, but he'd learned the recipe for their parts, at least. The crude materials in this pool were barely enough, and he had to borrow from himself to at least cover his face. Kindness still on the cheeks, before they were complete, but wicked corners on the large mouth. Heart-green eyes.

Alarms inside. Something near, something that had fallen. In the life he’d lost, he’d reacted strongly. Eden knew what perils earth could offer. But there is courage in being damned and cast out. He’d built this coming shadow once. So he didn’t move when her slithers made themselves known. He was curious to see who might have come for him. A smile on the new lips, that softness breaking thrice low, and once above, all the way to one nostril, revealing the scorching land underneath. The gardening angel hadn’t been taught to fight, only to nurture and make. It had been of no use to send him to earth since they hadn’t known of his innate violence. But he appreciated the evolution of everything. His visitor was beautiful, the way she moved and the way she held herself. His smile remained but the cracks healed over.

When she spoke of Laugivar sadness pulled the black brows together and a profound wrath hardened the eyes. “Lost, my Laugivar.” He said and tried to get some comfort from this snake, reaching hands that had not received skin yet toward her face. He continued to seek her when she settled by his side, determined to examine her texture, that he could learn what was the most appropriate layer to wear. At the very least, he’d put a few knuckles on her cheek, by those cut eyes. Impressive, modest sensation. He laughed and the mouth held, but the breath pushed out a flighty flower of red stars, dying between them.

“Thank you for welcoming me.” He sat up. Her tousled dark inspired him, he wasn’t secretive with this, and drew fingers over his scalp, leaving tufts in the wake. Silver coiled and descended in waves. Some delight, a bit of whimsy as he combed it with barely intact fingers, showing the ends to her. Look at this mercury treasure I’ve made. Ehlvie should see the blanketing sadness in him as he tried to take in the beauty of putrid earth while making himself a human suit. Rosy shadows on alabaster. “You’re kind.” That sadness sometimes bled into a fatigued rage, as though Eden had already been angry for millennia. A wrath that whittled and rotted the celestial.

He looked around as he moved closer, bones clad soon, naked man. “No. I haven’t been here much. So many things to do in Heaven.” He said and then suddenly laughed, fat tears coming down, pregnant with oily ash and ruby remnants. It was a miserable, short sound, and he trembled as he took her wrist because her hands held her head. The squeeze was full of withheld fury, but from a hand with skin, at least. His other palm closed around the green eyes and he shook his head, theatrical, as only angels can be. A last huff. There was a tongue inside the mouth, now. The busy of heaven wasn’t his concern, anymore. He took the cover from his view and smiled bravely at Ehlvie. “Your name?”

There wasn’t any lingering pride that fought his impulse to tell her why he’d crashed to earth. “I don’t know.” After all. “I was carrying out Laugivar’s orders, trickled down through a few mouths. And then the Angelic Guard came for me. Like a fool I followed. Maybe that was my sin, being Heaven’s fool.” He coughed when the scorn choked him. Growls between every hack. Every other breath he seemed so volatile, and other times so broken. “And you?” he asked, offering none of the tact back. “Vanity?” he suggested, waving at her tail. His concept of beauty was not conventional. Even in the Eternal City his tastes diverged. He was a maker, not the usual citizen.

Complete now, before her eyes. In a few angles, the skin wasn’t enough to conceal the fires within, and he would seem as a vessel containing traveling stars. Clothing should remedy that. “I should like to sleep, but not now.” It would be like smothering a fire. He wanted to be arson. “Do you have anything I could use to quench myself?” he asked. “I need to find my heart. I should like to hurt something on the way.” He looked at his hands and they remembered the echo of angel bones that he’d destroyed when the guards had tried to hold him after his heart was claimed. “Is it true that you demons are base beasts?” there was no insult in this that he’d intended. He’d been given this information without much emotion, so he’d taken it for fact. “Are you in the practice of eating excrement and waging foul war, all the time?” Some of the information was colorful, despite the tone. “Ah, I should like to try anything that could rid me of this feeling.” Touch to his right chest, where his vice was. It wasn’t wrath.

He stood and held out his arm, stark naked, new born. Fortunate, indeed, that this place was not well visited. The collection of roots where his wings should be vibrated, eager to create a vacuum and let him fly. He did not know of modesty yet, but that flaw was forming, too. “Come, please, Demon friend. Teach me those things. I would like to do wrong for wrong’s sake, and copulate until—“ he tried to remember the wording. “I’m blind? Oh… maybe not all the way to that point. I would like to see my way in this new life. And slay too. So much to study. And in return, I’ll give you a war worth fighting.” Because surely she wouldn’t have her own reason for existing.


Kou Wing Tzeng stood up on his knees. The black pants were close to his legs, tailored well. His jacket was off to the side, intact. His face was not. Brown eyes imprisoned by the snakes of his hair, favoring one nougat orb especially. Cheekbones from a neglect and pretty mother. The partition of his bleeding lips were perhaps a sin Ehlvie could have understood, or was it spite? The blue tie had been pulled low and the shirt was quite open, collars pointing up. Another blow to his jaw and the impact tasted like expensive rug. He had fibers on his superficial wounds when he stood up on his kneecaps again. “Are we quite done?” he asked his father, sitting behind the desk. The man who’d given Kou the spear jaw nodded, but not to his tattered son. The man who’d been dealing punishment took out a silver gun and rested the cylindrical mouth on Kou’s temple. Kou tilted his head to accommodate.

“Why did you give away the heart?” asked the stoic man who could be both cruel and loving.

Kou licked his lip and thought of a few disrespectful remarks. The beating was a formality. No mercy, even for the son of the king. Kou didn’t mind. “Takeda died before he could receive it, anyway. A heart in limbo. I made use of it.” He said and felt the barrel press harder. The lighting of the room was soft, white. His blood was the only offensive color in here. His father kept a beautiful office atop the casino. There were fresh flowers in cold vases. There was steel and glass. The son continued to bleed as the father considered.

“And where is the heart now?”

“I will tell you if you press, but I’m playing this one close to the chest.” he offered. The gun shoved into his head and Kou had to admit it was rather painful. His back was straight again. His father huffed in disapproval and waved for the man to step back. “Yeah, Bolo. We’re trying to have a conversation here. F@ck, man. Temper.” Kou spat back at the right hand. “Also, nice shoes.” He licked his lips and sampled the vault of his mouth. “Is that shearling? Tastes like shearling. You fancy bastard, you.” Three in a corner laughed.

“You have to grow up sometime.” The King said. The prince nodded and his jacket was brought to him. “Will you come to the boat tonight?”

“I might.” Kou said, standing and shrugging into the dinner wear, buttoning up. He took out the pocket square and wiped the blood off. Hopefully there’d be a new shirt between here and the hospital. “But I’ll be helping, either way.”


New shirt was in the car. He was appropriately put together when he stepped out by the hospital. A teddy bear from the gift shop. He cared mostly for the bright, red heart stitched on its belly. Get well. He certainly hoped so. Kou nodded at passing doctors and nurses, sometimes shaking the bear at them. There is something charming with a battered face, with purple shadows creeping under beauty, and a good suit. The cut was youthful, vain, but the long limbed steps suggested he was not from elegance, originally. A trust fund artist, partying himself into the ground? Or self-made eccentric? Someone who donated to the hospital, surely. He found his way to the right wing, and stood beside the worrying chief, who was formidable any day, but today he seemed worn, appropriate with the gray in his hair.

“Don’t be so grave.” Kou said and smiled at the man, cradling the cotton pet like a child, lending its mouth his finger as though it had asked. “Have some heart, man.” The aspiring head of syndicate continued. “What was my gift for, if not to make you happy, Abad?” He was the human equivalent of the actual demons that existed around them, underneath this unkind light. He extended the bear to the father. “She will be fine. And she’ll continue to be fine.” Kou put his hands in his pockets, which of course was offensive to the silhouette of the jacket. There was a casual point to this sartorial atrocity. “And oh, you being a pig farmer. I am getting a load of truffles with a boat today. Please make sure there are no pigs by the dock at a late hour. I prefer my truffles unmolested.”

He produced a cigar, the favor a law-abiding as his heritage. Kou liked symmetry to the dramatic. He now owed the driver some contraband. But this would be worth it. The man of same age as Abad’s daughter held out the fragrant roll for the chief. “Congratulations. I gave you a daughter.”


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2016, 03:54:21 am »
Ehlvie covered a yawn with spread fingers, somewhat ineffective, and flashed her needle teeth in the spaces. He didn’t quite annoy her, but she considered it a nuisance to have had to follow him in the first place. “Laugiver?” she hummed. “Friendly, were you? I had generally thought mercy was a virtue.” She made a face when he reached for her, tail twitching, but couldn’t be bothered to stop him. He wasn’t the first to seek some familiarity after the Fall. A root, an anchor. Ehlvie was not generally of the mind to provide comfort, but did her best to remain inoffensive at the least.
Her skin was human; which he would find familiar with the sheath he was growing for himself. Stretching into the silky spans of a finely scaled lower half that had a peculiar sense of modesty. Mottled in shade of amber and brown with tracing dark. It wasn’t an uncommon form, in so much as it was simple to maintain, but those Fallen with more refined egos tended to dislike such unconventional shapes. Ehlvie was impressed by the sparking embers that danced off his tongue. Most fires had died by the time the unfortunate Angels met the dirt of this planet.
She watched him draw hair from his new scalp, silvery bright, and Ehlvie had the sense to be a small bit ashamed of her poor effort into her own auburn tangle. But Ehlvie had known this planet too long to be overly concerned with capturing starlight. He was a sad creature, though, not a vain one. It made her dislike him less, and passively curious about what had cast the eternal gardener from his roost. “I’m not particularly kind, no. But I’m not mean.” She corrected him, when she couldn’t be bothered to ask him questions.
Ehlvie twitched when he grabbed her wrist, the silted eyes narrowing suspiciously. There had been a new Demon, or two, who had thought to take her carefully constructed energetics for themselves. Malicious creatures. Ehlvie had put more work into her form than she cared to think about. That had been centuries ago and she didn’t much want to do it again. Eden had found his own confidence somewhere, though, and she shouldn’t have been surprised. The Gardener was a creator, after all. All this work here must not have felt so foreign. “My name? I’m called Ehlvie and so on. Ehlvie will do.”
He seemed to ignore her lesson on niceties and asked her for her Sin, which made her laugh. Ehlvie didn’t mind it, but she did make note that Eden was lucky she’d been his introduction rather than another. A little squeal of delighted humor when he suggested Vanity. If a Succubus of Vanity’s persuasion had been here, he’d surely be getting some form of beating now. Asking Vanity for their Sins. What a delightful insult. “Hardly.” Ehlvie said, arching upward so that she could twist and prod at her own tail. “This is because I’m lazy.” She told him. “Sloth, Eden. Sloth was my Corruption.”
She tossed a lock of dark scarlet over a freckled shoulder. “I hid for a hundred years on this planet, sleeping mostly. I didn’t want to service humanity. They get gifts from on high in exchange for a little gratitude. Energy I never saw, personally. I don’t know what we ever got out of it. I don’t know why the humans get by so easily.” Ehlvie waved off the end of her own story. “Honestly, I didn’t mind it all that much when Lucifer sent me out.” She rubbed her chest. “It hurt though.”
Ehlvie groaned a little when Eden had stoked his own temper into something worth acting on. There were other Demons who might like the enthusiasm. It was mostly a pain, so far as she could tell. “Ugh, how crude. We don’t have to eat any more than you had to eat up there,” she said, gesturing upward. “Some Demons like to, but nothing like that. That’s rather disgusting.” Ehlvie settled back down onto her belly, coiling into a thick spiral with her chin back on her palms. “There are Demons who like a fight too, certainly, but most of them are banging on the gates of the Eternal City and all of that. Nobody down here bothers, because there isn’t a point. Better just to find a good source of energy and hang on to that. Humans are as easily swayed away from righteousness as they are toward it. More easily, even.”
She was scowling. “I don’t know what they’ve been telling you up in the Eternal City, but I’ve got nothing to teach you, other than how not to make trouble.” Ehlvie muttered. She stretched and prepared to go. This was the part she was least interested in. There were Demons who chose to exist in commune with one another, but Ehlvie wasn’t one. Whatever war Eden had conjured in his rebirth she was disinclined to rally to. “I can’t help you with any of that, and I don’t care about your war. Don’t know where your heart is, either. Maybe somewhere in there.” Ehlvie shrugged and pointed toward the great structure of the hospital looming behind them. “I was just here to make sure you didn’t get too lost during stabilization and you seem just fine. I’m good for answering questions, I don’t want any part in the rest.”

It is typical to forget the things dreamt in a surgical suite. Drug induced slumber, thick with every floating thought and muddled into something surreal. Violet was sure she’d not forget this, though. A grand garden with colors she’d never seen and great crystal pools stretched as far as she could see. It was clear as day, faintly pink light bathing the trees in a rosy hue. A breeze rustled the branches of strange trees and she thought she heard laughter in the leaves. It was lively, and yet it was empty.
“Eden, Eden!” soft voices called and she was certain they were asking for her.
“Where am I?” she asked, and the voices went silent. “Hello?” No one answered. Violet walked through the garden and found her feet bare, acutely aware of the unnatural lushness of the grassy foliage beneath her toes. As she went, she felt as if the trees bent away from her, just so, as the fullness of the garden was receding from her touch. Like it had noticed she was not its Eden.
Violet felt like she’d been walking for hours in the silence, the rustle of life perpetually shivering a few paces ahead. She could not tell if her unseen visitors were guiding her forward or fleeing. The trees and long hanging vines opened up before her. There, in the center, a great multitude of bronze wings. Fire spilled out from behind the edges of the feathers and dripped and spattered. The feathered tower turned, and it was something like a woman. A series of eyes opened, pits of burning gold, and a curled forward set of wings were torn back to unveil a set of screaming mouths.

As the piercing shriek reached her ears, she jolted suddenly into a rapid and painful consciousness. The blip of the EKG chopped and stuttered the wail from her dreams and seated her roughly back into her own reality.

Eternal seasons change.


Chief Abad was too weary to be offended by the Tzeng son. He’d been waiting for several hours, but the procedure was tedious and the nurses that drifted in and out of the double doors were rushed and mum. He was a good man. He’d done quite a bit to clean up the city streets and had even taken some cleaving stabs at the organized crime running rife in the shadows. The syndicate to which Kou aspired was a deeply rooted operation, though, and Abad had yet to begin unwinding those strings. As such, the earnest policeman hadn’t quite made those enemies.

He had never intended, of course, to find himself a bedfellow. Abad winced when the younger man hummed his expectations. It was a dirty thing, here in the sterile halls. Desperation did strange things. Chief Abad had been faithful to science for many years, unhindered by the guilt and circumstance of conventional religion. He’d become something like a believer when it seemed certain that Violet would be needing a divine resting place, if not divine intervention. And then Kou had whispered some miracles from the Cult of Lucifer and Abad had prayed sacrilege to his precinct.

“I hear you, Kid.” The chief muttered and waved off the cigar, pride intact despite his debt. Violet would be deeply cross with him if she caught him smoking such a thing and this young man was practically a boy. Just as his Violet was barely a woman. At least, it was a sentimental thing to think of his daughter. Never mind that she’d made a name of herself within the department. A promising rookie detective worth being proud of. “A phone call would’ve been plenty fine.” He said. He didn’t want Violet anywhere near this punk.

Abad grit his teeth. “But thank you. Unfortunate as it is, you aren’t incorrect. I know where I stand. My Vi is worth any price, though.” He gave Kou a hard stare, dark eyes lacking in any of the brilliance of his daughter’s hazel. She’d gotten it from her mother. “But, don’t think you’ve got some new play thing. I’m a man of my word, but I sure as hell am nothing more. Not for you and yours.” He folded his arms across his chest.

Tall, burly man. Fit for his age. Unarmed, neither man should’ve been unsure of who would get their ass kicked. But Chief Abad was a father now, nerves on edge with a daughter split open behind those doors. The grim set of his lips twitched back toward a worried expression below the full moustache. He didn’t have time to concern himself further with the Tzeng prince and whatever games he was in the mood for. “Don’t even think of getting near her.” He said to the silence. As if Kou was the one he ought to worry about. 

« Last Edit: September 14, 2016, 04:12:45 am by VenomousEve »


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2016, 06:37:15 pm »
Her yawn was beautiful. Symmetric to her jaw. The hollow formed by her mouth complimented her skull perfectly. He remembered helping a cherub up from the beach of humming crystal melt. Peculiarly, it had been asleep for longer than it ought, hand around a few of his hyphae. Some of the angels were delivered into existence with flaws, but lingering in drowsiness wasn’t such a defect that warranted the child be expunged even if it was curious. That heaven’s child had also yawned. Could it be that she had been that little life? It made him think of the garden, so he let the fires eat that remembrance. It could be built again, if he needed it.

Eden nodded, had to. Mercy surely was promoted as a virtue. He touched his own arm, unaware that the gesture would tell the lamia ‘yes, and somehow I wasn’t worth it.’. That self-reflection was taken by fire, as well. She helped him out of this somber with her correction, as though to contradict herself. He gave soft gratitude on his face. In turn, he wouldn’t point out her kindness again, if she did not recognize it, or did not care to. Instead he counted her scales and organized them by color. His fingers had twitched in the direction of her black ones, as though she wasn’t aware of them, herself. He liked the pangs of stark on the otherwise sandy palette.

Ehlvie. The sound was even more fitting paired with her sin, which was not vanity at all, so much not it was laughable to her. He watched the arc she made and nodded, attaching her form to what she called herself. Angel names are rarely short. Truly, she could not have been of her vice if she’d chosen to give him all her first names. “Well, Sloth becomes you, if that’s worth anything.” He assured her and smiled again. This time the lips did not break, but there was an orange thread of lightning lighting his lower lip from behind. What a reminder it was, when she went over the toil of other angels. His throat locked around laughter and only the smallest spray of red came out. “Oh you are lazy.” He commended her when her story was finished. He also touched above the emptiness where his verdant heart had been. A frown, then.

Sitting down as she defended the fallen, he reconsidered what he had been told. He had no great urge to eat what the body produced, certainly not that, and he felt much the same as he ever had, only full of mission. Perhaps the ones who were down on earth had been misrepresented by those Eden mended in his garden. Clearly this must be the case. Eden chuckled at his naivety. “Ah.” He looked inside for another plan, now that she had revealed his original initiative to be less than likely to yield results. “Then I shall have to take back Heaven myself.” He tugged his hair on one side. “Is there a viable scheme to do so, Ehlvie?” But her musings lead to less activity. Energy source. Heart, maybe.

“Trouble is what I need!” Making trouble. What a delightful turn of phrase. His shoulders quaked from his need for it. Those far separated cups dropped as his head moved in circles to follow the unwinding of her tail. He looked at her with surprise, and then with the kind of disappointment that might follow betrayal. Sad, not angry. “What?” he asked her body language. A quick toss to follow the flicker of her hand toward the hospital. He stood and came closer to her. “but you must help me. I have more questions for you.” Vibrations in his voice, on the verge of a fit. Tears in steam shrouded his silver eyebrows. As someone who might have things in common with reptiles, she would be able to detect the new heat of the ground.

“Haven’t I been left enough?” he asked, those tendrils of salt smoke dissipating to reveal green eyes as lit emeralds on a firebed. The skin he’d built on the inside of his forearms split and vines spilled out. Worms out of a corpse’s mouth. The new roots, black and dusty, with fire beads as fruit, reached for her, not unlike how Lucifer liked to cocoon herself with her wings. “I’ll let you sleep. I’ll carry you around like my infant.” He promised, fire on vocal chords making the sad voice erratic, and revealing a strain of anger in the plea. If she moved away, and the rootverk missed her form, the veins would instead spread into the ground, and chase after her, and try to lift her form underneath.

His curling branches would slither like her, to her. He wanted to hold her up, her tail hanging off one woven limb while her body was haphazardly bound in another. Warm, but he wouldn’t let the active embers touch her. Perhaps, if she was caught, he’d squeeze a little tight. Heaven had already left him. She wouldn’t too. He’d take flight, if he needed to, if her escape was too successful. “I’ll give you leisure but I want you.” He said and would hunt her, or shake her if she’d been caught. Eden was a demon now, with all of hell’s forests available to him. Surely more ferocious than any errand bird. He was a fool to think he could lay siege to heaven, but not so much a fool. “I want you.” And there was his sin, since she did not ask. “I want Heaven, too. And I’ll collect all things on my way.” The tongue, the one she’d liked, split, making new tentacles to fan out of his mouth. No motion of his jaw, his voice came out of the bouquets of spindly twigs and their burning jewelry. “Now. Don’t help if it doesn’t suit.” Insistent former angel, though. In Heaven, trees needs their serpents, it is said. Arms out when he beckoned her back, would lift her toward him, if she’d been caught. “But you’re not allowed to go.”


Kou had a different relationship with his own father. King Tzeng. It was dear to him to watch the distress of the large fellow. Could this all have been sweeter, if there’d been a real feud between the Syndicate and the department? Father had spoken about days when the police was easier to handle. Helpful officers, back then. Now, with Abad, surely, things weren’t as comfortable anymore. Nobody likes an honest cop. After doing grunt work and finding himself deep enough in university books to appease father, Kou had decided to explore the world that was his birthright. Establishing himself had been paramount. Better do it with something that would last, and with as little implied or applied violence as possible. He did not want a game of escalation when the men didn’t look to him. And what is more peaceful and lasting than a heart? An angels heart? Takeda had a little help on his way, the chief had a piece of muscle for his daughter’s chest.

The cigarette was rejected. No surprise. It had done well as a prop. The driver would have it back, surely expecting something, still. So the treat was put away. Kou looked at the bear, its glass eyes. No adoption for you, either. A blade of black fell from the top of his head to tease at a cut on his cheekbone as he examined the seams that held the cotton innards inside the little kid’s comfort. “I’d like to think we’re face-to-face friends, Abad.” And how could I possibly see you like this on the phone? The well-planned exterior faltered into something that was initially free of sarcasm or theatrics when the man thanked him. Even a crime prince can be surprised.

“You’re very welcome, Daddy.” He said, the bear turned toward the man to mock the gestures of someone speaking. The tactless game died quickly, Get Well hanging by Kou’s side. The eyes, clear despite the abuse he’d suffered by the hands and shoes of his associate, hardened, though their setting suggested a casual expression. “You’re not some toy. No. I think you’ll be a weapon, sir.” A first step toward the throne. Better Abad know he wasn’t some bleeding whelp, but that they could be civil.

Upon the warning, Kou did look toward the doors that hid her. Hah. Wouldn’t that be something? Surely such a whim would not be dictated by what her father had said. But Kou shook hands with bakers, sat in their floury chairs and spilled their curds on his jackets. Indulging Abad was the same. Anyone had a limit, and all business Kou did was pushing them toward that last line. He’d rather not spend this asset sooner than he needed to. Besides, a good father shouldn’t be troubled more than necessary. “Piglets aren’t good for anything. I’m not interested. We’re not.” Abad should like that. It was hard for Kou not to make jokes. A powerful dismissal from the chief. Kou remained with the man for a few more nurses and doctors passing. A long inhale – people’s musk and unoffending cleaning fluids spread with loud ventilation – and then he turned. “A phone call, next time, then.” He said, bear squeezed in his arm as he headed toward the exit. If the girl wasn’t alright with even an angel’s heart, there had been no hope for this plan from the start.

Violet must live.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2016, 01:44:57 am »
Ehlvie arched, serpentine, and stared back at him. She hadn’t expected Eden to be quite so needy. There was a succubus of the Lustful persuasion that would have been a better disposition to welcome their weeded out gardener. It hadn’t been her turn, though. Ehlvie reminded herself to stop showing up. In truth, there had been something nice about a schedule. Lazy as she was inclined to be, a little work made it more satisfying. Kept her from sleeping her years away. She decided whatever reward she thought she was getting out of it wasn’t worth the kind of energy Eden wanted out of her.

“Well, you can find trouble on your own.” She muttered. A drawn out groan and sigh. Of course he had questions. She didn’t like the way he looked like he was going to cry. Petulance was exhausting. Through the lower expanses of her scaled belly, she could feel something bordering on vibration, emanating from this silvery, overly energetic being. Ehlvie would be lying if she said the sensation wasn’t pleasant, but the context of this warmth was disconcerting. Eden was going to be powerful.

“How much of you did they take?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. “You’re awfully spry.” Ehlvie had been a shell when she’d fallen. They’d even taken her tongue. He was immersing himself in some entitlement she didn’t understand, though, and she did not get an answer. “You say it like it’s my responsibility to make you feel better. I assure you it is not.” A scowl. She’d intended to be back in her glass terrarium home, napping, by now.

He was reaching for her, damnable creator, and she recoiled from the cinder-laden roots. “Excuse me?” she hadn’t a response for this bizarre creature. Had Eden been so greedy in the garden? She couldn’t remember. His roots dove, then found her long coiling tail, and she was lifted from the ground. A startled hiss, and she even bothered to struggle. It wasn’t a long attempt, of course. Ehlvie would have argued her quick submission was a matter of practicality, though, with little relation to her sin. “Why are you being so difficult?” she demanded, tail swinging from the warm dark roots. “Wouldn’t it be better to find some other Demon? One that might find you more exciting?” she suggested.

A frustrated whine. What ridiculous determination. “Fine, you fantastic idiot.” She snapped. “But I’m not doing anything. You take me wherever you like, I don’t care. Just stop bothering me, would you?” she was shrinking suddenly. The delicate patterns of her scales crept higher and, like strange iridescent ribbons, she was bound to the crown of her head. A modestly sized python dangled finally from his radiating black vines. The snake flicked her tongue peevishly. “Put me on your shoulders, ridiculous beast, and let me sleep.” The golden eyes were unchanged. She would not go to him, stubbornly limp in his grasp, and waited to be transported to his person. “And make yourself presentably Human, or you’ll cause an obscene mess. All the organs Lucifer passes down come through this hospital. There’s bound to be at least one patient that can see you.”

Ehlvie could not recall such an inconvenience to her way of life in centuries. Frankly, she supposed this might be the least pleasant thing to occur in all her time on Earth. Existing as a Fallen being was supposed to be a punishment, if you asked around the Eternal City. Ehlvie had never really felt it so. Perhaps this was the penance she’d been destined to pay. What a terribly determined Demon this root-bound prince was. He made her tired just by proximity. Awful.


Chief Abad watched Kou go. Staring at the younger man’s back, he might have imagined the boy had a chance at an honest life. He sighed. “Kadar Abad? Mister Kadar Abad? Oh, there you are, Chief.” A resident waved him over. “Your daughter is stable. She’s just woken up, in fact. I can take you to her room now.” Kou was immediately forgotten.

“Yes, please. Thank you.” The man’s shoulders had slumped visibly in relief, tension unwinding. He let out a deep breath he’d not quite realized he’d been holding. It didn’t matter if he had to sell his soul to the worst rat in this whole city. Violet was worth that and more. He had to slow himself down to stay behind the resident, eager to reach his daughter. As he walked, he offered a silent prayer for his wife. Our little girl is going to be okay.

Violet was sitting, propped up, when he entered the room. “Dad!” she smiled broadly. “Seems like it’s working.” She laughed. He rushed to her side, went to embrace her, realized the foolishness of that action, and grabbed her small hand in his large ones.

“Better be, Vi, you’ve got no excuses now.” He said. Violet made a face. The guys down at the station had no idea how soft this man was. They wouldn’t believe her if she told them, either. Chief Abad was nodding and rolling his eyes. “I got it, Vi, don’t worry. No crying. Can’t embarrass my little princess…” Violet gasped in mock horror, swatting at him with her free hand.

“You’re ridiculous.” She said. “And I promise. I’m not going anywhere.” Violet pointed at her chest. “I have to make sure this huge scar is worth it, you know?” The surgeon knocked twice on the open door before he stepped in. The surgery went well; he was happy to report a success. Violet needed rest, so the Chief ought to leave. Abad was reluctant to go. He’d just gotten there. Did it have to be so immediate? “I’ll be here in the morning, Dad. I’m certain they won’t be letting me out before then.” He waved his daughter off. She was plucky, his girl. He supposed he was being selfish. She did need to rest.

Still, his steps were slow to carry him away. She knew he’d made that walk many time, unsure if she’d be smiling at him the next day. They had never spoken of that looming possibility. He hardly knew what to do with himself now, the weight of tragedy lifted so abruptly from their shoulders. He couldn’t even wait in suspended enthusiasm, holding back relief before the procedure. It was perfectly real now. The surgeon was right, of course. Violet needed her rest. He sat in the parking lot for a long time before he finally threw the car into gear.


Violet stared up at the ceiling. “Did he have to go so soon?” she asked when she was alone with the surgeon. He cleared his throat.

“Unfortunately, yes. You do need your rest, Miss Abad. You’ve just gotten out of major surgery.” He said. Violet glanced at him with a skeptically arched brow.

“How about you tell me whatever it is you’d really like to say, Doc?” she hummed. She hadn’t made a name for herself as a keen detective by being poor at reading the circumstances. The surgeon closed the door behind him before walking to her bedside.

“Yes, of course. Thank you for understanding the situation, at least.” He said, and she believed he was at least superficially apologetic. “Well, to the point then. Is it safe to assume you know very little about your transplant?” he asked. Violet frowned.

“Yes, that would be safe. I was informed on rather short notice, of course.” She said. The doctor rubbed his forehead. It wasn’t really his job to question how his patients came into position of the peculiar gifts of Lucifer, but it was difficult to stay too impartial. Chief Abad was a well-liked man. He was fairly certain neither he nor his daughter would have been pleased to learn she’d been stitched up with black market goods inside.

“Well, how shall I put this. Your heart, Miss Abad, is a bit special.” The doctor said. Violet stared at him, waiting. There was a small, sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. Like he was about to tell her the surgery hadn’t been quite perfect after all. “Are you aware of the Cult of Lucifer?”


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2016, 12:28:40 am »
How much of him was gone, she asked with her earthly voice. Eden was not so unfortunate, he'd not been plundered overmuch of anatomical riches. A heart, a restriction. Now the right side, the unheart ruled his body. But he still had his rich liver and his lungs. His spine. The folds and ridges of his brain. Though they were consumed by his vice, they were built again with his will. Heaven had held him too high for that to matter. The slighted don't think of circumstantial mercy. The court's fault was the taking of anything at all. Heaven had given him purpose, to uphold Heaven itself, to grow it. What is father if not the name of one caretaker? How undone is father when the familly denounces him? That was the sin of pride that they'd planet. Not his sin, but he could see it, too. They had made him into one thing, a purpose. Silver haired and bitter souled. Anger, some of the embers in him, fed by the new base of his being. Exhelerants on those embers. Spry I am.

He watched her escape from the first flight of roots. Some fear in him, of being alone, of not having her when he'd decided he wanted her. The spread throughout the ground, and threading burning pearls through the dirt were more succsesful. A clasp of thin shadows and orange spills held her shoulders and waist to dance along while she led with her struggle. It allowed him to get a sense of how much power she intended to perrish into this attempt at fleeing, so he could match it with pressure. Eden was not going to hurt her. What would be the point? Ehlvie did not struggle long. She was a pretty catch, with her tail stirring the air from where he had her suspended. Satisfaction drew the nest of branches back into his throat. It would make his apperance imediately more personable. Positive reinforcement for her, for ending her fight.

"I would rather pick my allys myself." Not base my collection on their willingness to participate, thank you very much. Yes, what a lovely passtime, rounding up creatures. He was surprised over how easilly he could accept her terms, though it should have stressed to him his sin. As her size changed, he brought her closer, nets of black and fire retreating into his held out arms. What a glorious thing, she was. When he could have her in his hands, he turned her to see her fully. Small, impressed laughter.

Eden needed no more incentive to wear her, and quickly did as he was told, placing her atop his shoulders. She seemed to like the heat, and heat he could provide. The back of his neck and the twin rounds that had become her bed gave off moderate temperature for her. He wasn't sure what would be harmful, and what would feel luxurious. Really, he argued inwardly, this was a good arrangement for her. He examinated the scales on her head all the way to the slits of her nose, close to where the flicking tongue was. Tuch a pretty texture. Already he felt better.

Green eyes fixed on the building she revealed to be his salvation. His heart did speak to him from there, though its song had changed. No longer lonely. It darkened the whites of his eyes for an instance, before he took back the clean color. Another stroke on her head as a wrap of white threads started where the shadows between his muscles were. Eventually he was tightly held by them. He'd even exstened a disguise for her. "Is this presentable?" he asked, but suspected Ehlvie would only answer if he pressed, being both bothered and cross. At least they were covered, the gardener and the snake.

He wandered toward the hospital and soon encountered a more lively bustle. Eden wanted council from Ehlvie, but decided to observe from the back of an establishment facing the large centre of medicine, instead. It was abundantly clear, as humans with bodies he understood flecked the world proximate to the revolving and wide glass doors, that Heaven's whites wouldn't be fitting, down here. A woman with particularly thick neck adornment became his inspiration, and he turned Ehlvie's sock into a chuny knit instead. He made sure the texture was soft for her as he wound her once around his face. Denim for his legs, cowhide on his feet. A jacket of thicker cotton over an equally somber shirt. Because an aged woman had her silver tressed tied back, his were too.

The hospital was a delight to the maker and genderer. As he visited the different places that were open, and saw the pretty blood from well made wounds and splintered bone, he felt a bit like he was back in his garden. This was crude to say the least, but it was in the right category. Eden didn't allow himself to stray too long with the prettilly broken and the persistently rebuilding. His heart was almost audible in these halls. Not pumps, no contractions to usher blood on its way in a closed system of pipes. Explosions, rather, inception of life to charge a stream of energy that allowed him to have excess to spark other life. Though, today, it seemed the heart was doing some pumping too. Green eyes sought out the ways to arrive.

"She's resting. And talking to the surgeon." Someone told him as he peered in through the crack of a door. "And you're not supposed to be here." Aya had worked here long enough to know most of Violet's regulars. She was sure she'd remembered red scarf and silver hair. He seemed offly handsy with that scarf, too. And despite the impact of his eyes, she felt unnerved that she wouldn't show his face. "How do you know her? are you a related?" he did not look like an Abad.

"By heart." he said and took a few steps away from the door. "you want me to wait." he determined, proud over his conclusion. Nurse A. Yamasaki did not become friendly, but it seemed the compromise was enough to keep her from alarm. Eden nodded at himself and his decission and found a chair by a machine that smellt of roast and boil. With the back of his head to the wall, it wasn't hard for his senses to catch the conversation inside. A molar in his lower jaw broke from the pressure of his wrath when he heard the mention of Laugivar's following.

"How many humans slain is too many? Perhaps I'll set fire to every acolyte. Laugivar will see me then." he said into his scarf.


"You should have shut your mouth and clenched your jaw." she said.

She was good to him because he was good business. Kou shrugged and reached for the cigarette in the glass near the roll of cash he'd broken the ice with. Never an ashtray in this apartement. He'd been bleeding, coming in. It looked at a lot more sympathetic than he felt. He was always able to take the violence laid upon him. Long limbs made for quick jabs and good reach, but his real strength in a scuffle wasn't damage put forth. It was that his face could take as as much punishment as a wet sheet. "And keep my chin in. I know." he addded, words comming from the bottom of his throat. Fatigue.

In the recent past, Kou had had a fever and still gone to an important exchange, sipping rice wine until the dawn while making love and idle chat. Once the deal was brokered, he'd been in a coma for the better part of a week. His father even complimented him on it, once. The fucking King himself. 'Boy always does the work first. You can trust him.' What choice did Boy have after that? Always eat knuckles standing, and always move your feet when you're wearing your blood.

"Boy won't be able to dance for shit when he's old though." with this method. She was used to ramblings out of nowhere in her business. Maybe the cult could get him a new nervoussytem. And a brain that wasn't punch-drunk more than it was regular drunk. He held his palm to his mouth with the cigarette against his teeth. His lips pinched the filter. The inhale was deep as he waited for the aid. She was his secret weapon. Not that he thought about it in the moment of abuse. But he knew where he wanted to go when the bruises started to form and the cuts started to leak.

Bolo's balled hands came back like nightmares always do. Cracks of light behind Kou's temples. Glorious sears across his face, where the sides of those shearling shoes had cut a path without breaking the skin. At least not on every kick. He put the cigarette back in the clear cylinder and leaned into the chair, arms listless for a moment. Then his right set of digits uselessly wiped an amount blood from his upperlip. He sent out the smoke and blinked slowly. young men were always a thasand years old in her chair.

"Pretty stitches, pretty stitches. I still wanna be the cutes son in the bathhouse." he mumbled, laughing through the blossoming pains.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2016, 11:53:10 pm »
Ehlvie did not care how Eden felt, but was glad he was warm. She wanted a nap. It was possible that she would attempt to leave him when she woke, but there was not too much disagreeable about her present situation. He had seemed to accept that she was in no mood to attend to his cause, which was good enough.

Eden seemed to accept her advice, fashioning clothes for himself with a thought toward the fashion of the city. It was a nuance she had never cared about which had always made her current form an advantageous one. She shifted on his shoulders slightly when he wrapped her as a scarf but made no verbal complaint. She did not compliment him either, though. A mystery as to whether the silence was because she was sleeping or because she simply did not wish to participate. The lidless eyes gave no real clue.

Ehlvie had not been in the hospital except for once, when a newly Fallen blunder went crashing into the halls because he was sure he could smell his kidnapped liver. She had followed and played the distraught next of kin, fretting and calling for orderlies to drug and restrain him. The young Demon had not appreciated her scheme, but it had bought him the luxury of a 48-hour watch and quick discharge. She knew of other frenzied ones that had not received such understanding treatment. Ehlvie had wanted to tell the Demon to thank her, but decided the effort to extract that praise would have been at least twice as much as the satisfaction would have been worth.

For the same reason, she had not bothered to ask Eden for thanks when she had told him where his heart might be.


“That’s a bit ridiculous. You’re trying to tell me that my father—or someone my father contacted—made some sort of deal with the devil?” Violet asked, skepticism in the arch of her brows. The surgeon waved off the notion.

“Quite the opposite, Miss Abad. You’ve been given what is tantamount to a miracle. On the other hand, these days those miracles often come from less-than-pure sources. That is all. That’s hardly the point of all this, anyway. I’m not here to judge anyone or anything. It is only to tell you that occasionally these organs have curious side effects.” He cocked his head to the side and gave her a half smile. “The good news is that you will most surely recover. Beyond that, I can only say that I suggest you believe what you see and be surprised by nothing. And… perhaps, think before you share your condition.” He adjusted his frameless glasses higher on his nose.

“I’ll let you rest, then. You should be free to go by the end of the week, I should think. Congratulations.” He bobbed his head as he departed. Violet watched him go, unsure of what she ought to have said to him. She was certain, at the least, that her father must not have known her transplant was so shady. That being the case, perhaps she had been given a miracle personally—if she was to believe the strange things the surgeon had said.

“A good story, at least.” She said to the empty room. She could tell her father that Mom had been looking after them, maybe.

Outside the room, the surgeon paused when he saw Eden and his not-quite-human elegance. The form was hominid, clearly, but he was a shade off in the way Violet’s heart had been. He squinted at the man hard for a moment. “Can I help you?” he asked and then gestured with one thumb back at Violet’s room. “She’s resting right now. I kicked her dad out so, don’t stay long if you go in to visit. Wouldn’t be fair.” He chuckled awkwardly to himself and scratched the top of his balding head. His gut said it might have been best to tell the man to leave, but he knew better than to interfere with these patients and their visitors. He just put the organs in and sewed them up. The rest wasn’t his business. He didn’t ask questions because he really didn’t want to know.

The surgeon gave Eden a little wave and strode off.


Something had clearly tickled Ehlvie’s interest, because she stirred on his shoulders when the doctor took his leave. A minor struggle with the scarf Eden had wrapped her in and she poked her head above the fabric to flit her tongue against the lobe of his ear. Poetic, in some sense, this serpent whispering to the former gardener of Angels.

“Is that your heart I smell in there? It’s quite strong, isn’t it? You’re quite strong.” The snakes brilliantly topaz eyes glittered. “Be careful, you oaf. Humans make a ruckus when you scare them and her heart will know its former owner.” A breathy laugh that was more of a hiss. “She will see parts of what you were, probably. Whatever your sin has marked you with. Hopefully it’s pretty.”

Ehlvie tightened her coils just so, a sinuous tightening of smooth scales and muscle over the fabric of his shirt, and then withdrew her head back into the folds of his bulky scarf. “If you are hasty, you will jostle me. I won’t like that.” If Ehlvie had Fallen for her slothfulness she had acquired some lower vices in the last centuries. Conceit, or some sort of selfishness. It suited the snake, though, one way or the other.


Chief Abad stared at his phone. If he was to make good on his bargain, he ought to be calling in a change in patrols this evening. He’d had the determination to make such a deal but now he was sick with the thought of doing something so blatantly crooked. If it weren’t for the fear that the syndicate might lash out against Vi if he stepped away from their contract, he would surely have turned in his badge and alerted his replacement of the circumstance. But Chief Abad had not traded his services for that heart, so much as he had offered his conscience for twisting. He tugged at the corner of his moustache and let out a deeply tired sigh.

He hadn’t slept since the day before, when he’d heard there might be a heart up for grabs. He’d never been fond of Kou’s cocky grin except for at that moment. Presently, he hoped there was someone out there to punch it off the younger man’s pretty face. Chief Abad couldn’t know that such a wish had already been granted. Perhaps he was a lucky man of unlucky circumstances. If it were the case, he should try for a third imposition on fate.

Another sigh, like expelling those large breaths might somehow purge his unfortunate duty. Picked up the phone. Made his call; a little gruff. Tossed the little handheld roughly over to the other sofa. He looked over at a framed photo on the end table. “For our little girl, My Love. Forgive me.” He said with a weary smile for his wife’s timeless face. Violet looked more and more like her every day. The keen hazel eyes. The big dark waves. The unmatched curl in the corners of their smiles. 


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2016, 03:25:11 pm »
Eden listened closely. This scarf did do well with the incognito he was hoping for. Violet did not accept the story, as it was told by the human male. Eden suposed he could have suspected some doubt when presented with a completely different structure of the world she'd known. To her credit, Violet was well acquainted with the virtue of courtesy. It was to the former angel's benefit that she was waded through some of the things she'd be submerged in soon. He almost coughed into Ehlvie when the doctor predicted her rate of recovery. That heart could build the early bases for new angels in minutes. Resowing a human body should not take long, even without the rest of him to calibrate and direct the magic.

Eden thought he should deny the doctor's attention. Why else had he tailored this new skin and grown these clothes? Not to consider what he'd put Ehlvie in. Before he could tell the homely man no, you can not help me, - may not - he'd already continued his assumption. A joke, as true as any jest had ever been. Angel and father. Though it was not as humerus as it could have been, Eden parted his lips wide to provide a song of amusement. The laughter came out as gasps without real traction on his still hot vocal chords. Most of those breaths were muffled by Ehlvie. The doctor was left with almost no reward at all for his attempt at wit.

"I will be fair." he assured the man. Quickly, a long arm came up, straight and with a pointed palm, when the man waved and left. Eden nodded in to Ehlvie. A good interaction. Very convincing, if he were to judge himself.

His long passenger jolted him out of pride's depths with her swift tongue. Aya, passing by, was quite frightened, two-steps worth, when he kicked and stood up to bump his shoulder into the machine by his side, and upset the chair to screech against the floor. He performed the hollow, silenced laughter again, for her benefit. It wasn't enough to sooth her, he could tell, but she went on her way with that anxiety. What a beautiful human trait. He should commend her for it, if he ever had the chance.

He nodded with more pride at Ehlvies question, minding to keep his voice low, just for her. "It's the heart that belongs in Heaven's Garden." Her reason for asking was not entirely to compliment the exuberance of his lost part. "It was glorious." My form, he assured her and touched her head to attach more of a guarantee to the words. He liked her texture, and lingered on the scales until she retreated. He scoffed when she wanted to preserve her comfort, dissuading him from stirring her too much. He squeezed her through the knit. She'd agreed to stay with him. He could take a level of insolence.

While the man could not have stopped Eden, it was good to know visiting the heart would be appropriate. Eden did not delay, quickly striding into the room and closing the door carefully. The room was filled with its power, and he turned in reverence to it, where she sat in the bed. Pretty he was, sudden visitor, with silver halo of hair brimming out of the scarf, and with those expensive eyes, but perhaps not so glorious as an angel could be in the imaginings of people.

The room was a testament to the hubris of humans. And their fears. He could smell the liquids that negotiated with inflammation, and heard the hum of machinations that replaced one or two functions of the living body. As a maker, he didn't know quite how to feel about it. They did not make a fire to burn forever, theirs was not a design that was meant to exist in tandem and along with time, so it was against their purpose to survive for too long. He could not deny the ingenuity of it all, or the beauty of repurposed elements toward a new mission.

The woman in the bed was pretty in her ascension from decline. In this room, this separate little pocket world, she embodied their striving. Humans had even borrowed from Heaven to keep her alive. His exaltation, as he moved closer, darkened somewhat. Borrowed from him. The heart was singing her tune now, processing and blessing her blood. The power and violence of the ocean forced to flow in a brook. Did she see the angel he used to be then, one leg, luxuriant wings, or did she see the demon he was to become, black jaws and burning tongue?

"Violet Abad." he said when his leg touched her bed. Quickly he pulled Ehlvie down from his lips, so she could see his face, the way he'd remade it. "Violet." Again. A hand and its quavering knuckles journeyed toward her face. An important vessel, and yet, a mar on his pride. A reminder the love he'd thought he shared with Heaven he'd only just given away. In his human suit, did he look enough like an angel, already? Violet Abad was a skeptic. The hand dropped before it could grace her cheek like it wanted, and sought out her left side of ribs instead. At once the jacket and shirt fanned out, unmade, like flaring and dying firework, so the arm could grow and take on an old white complexion. Tears down the green eyes. "I am Eden. Its real owner. See what you've taken from me?" he asked and held the palm up for her to see.

When the hand moved, it left traces of itself in the air. These ghost replicas were important when he assembled new angels. Some of the hands could only hold ethereal things, and some handled the physical. He had to work hard in the garden. But without the heart's warmth, cloth grew back and the limb itself shrunk, until it matched its human twin again. Tears gathered from the surface of the green eyes until rich drops made a shining path down to his lips and chin. The hand curled into vengeance. "How are you, human girl?" but it was not so full of concern, green eyes growing black wings as he looked at the meat doll that had taken his birthright. "Do you think you'll return it soon?" The heart warned him when it recognized his intent, and he was made to take a single step back. He, Eden himself. The heart was loyal to her now. "If you were to live the best of human lives you still wouldn't be worth all this." he hissed, scorned.


Kou was not so upset. He enjoying the crawling pains that took over all life underneath his skin while she made sure to keep him intact and pretty. It was hard to stay still, but points of pride will drive a man to do a lot of things, or nothing at all. He wondered if her apartment was reality as he ought to see it. Furniture that cost almost as much as their materials. A tv with dust on top but not on the glass. He reached to his chest and realized he'd put the jacket over the chair. No flask. She'd advice against it, anyway.

Escaping from the infernal pricks of her needle and the incessant burn of her care, he thought of tonight. He'd drink a thousand illegal things, swallow all the pills it took to be presentable. It was the maiden voyage of his new system. The boy had no real intent to bother Chief Abad, tonight might as well have been done without the luxury of Abad's absence, but this was a show of power. Father Tzeng would have to acknowledge his son's worth. He hung the terminal cigarette in his lips again, staring at a corner of the quiet television so he wouldn't flinch when she did her work.

Was this how she felt, his daughter? She was in her father's world too. Hard to walk around the shadow of a great man. He laughed, short, into the filter and drew some comfort until he could taste the oils and feel the heat in his chest. The smoke looked as beautiful coming out. It was Abad's warning, of course, that made Kou curious about Violet. "You've lost your touch." he said to her, finally ending the shrunken stick inside the glass. He liked to crush them thoroughly. "I can't feel a thing." A challenge.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2016, 03:40:07 pm by Verse »


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2016, 12:37:54 am »
Ehlvie wasn’t fond of being pet on the head, but it was less of a nuisance than the various other options she saw with Eden. She considered herself long suffering and squirmed deeper into the scarf. She, like most Angles, had been rather sentimental toward Eden and his garden. She was no longer and Angel though, and neither was he. She stopped paying much attention when he made his way into the hospital room. The place stank of chemicals.

Violet had just closed her eyes when the door swung open and nipped away her attempt at settling to sleep. She was still groggy from the anesthetics, and made to rub away the fatigue from her eyes. Perhaps the doctor had more to say.

It was another voice that greeted her, unfamiliar and yet she knew it by a sharp ache in her chest.  She looked up, ready to be confused, and was horrified instead. “Oh my—“ she had expletives prepared on the tip of her tongue but clapped her palms across her mouth instead, snuffing them in her throat. Silver hair and ash dark chin, prominent bones and flames licking past the lips that said her name like she should not be surprised. Her mottled eyes were wide and bright with fear but it was admirable the way she held her trembling at bay. Two deep breath later she let her hands fall. She rubbed her eyes again. He was in turns a beautiful man and an awful sort of monster, hazy and flickering between the forms. It must be the drugs, she told herself and did not realize her skepticism was kept him human to her eyes.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” a weak question. She looked a bit pale. “I don’t think I know you and… Christ, I think I’m hallucinating,” she said and reached for the nurse call button. Her resolve in that endeavor faltered when he reached for her and she saw his arm changed, clothes bursting like an illusion. He said strange things. “Definitely hallucinating.” She told him again, the man that called himself Eden. But she didn’t press the button, fingers curling into a tight fist. Her surgeon’s babble about Angels came quickly to mind and she wanted to slap herself for indulging the thought.

A thin laugh. “Hallucinating or you’re some Angel, then, yeah?” she suggested dryly. ‘Its real owner,’ he’d said. “Doc says I have an Angel heart now and that I’ll see funny things. He didn’t say anything about something like you showing up. Are you trying to say it’s your heart I’ve been given?” her tone was snide because it gave her courage. If she was hallucinating, he’d assume it was the morphine talking. It wasn’t like she knew this guy, anyhow. At least, it was nobody she remembered. His face was still shifting between ominous and lovely and she thought she could smell a bit of smoke in the air. Was she having a stroke? Was that even a reasonable complication to a transplant surgery?

Violet reached for the nurse call button again. But then this Eden sounded so serious it unnerved her. Human girl? His eyes were unnaturally green, sure, but that and her drug-addled delusions didn’t really equate to him being anything else. “The heart? Are you seriously talking about the heart?” she asked. And he was crying. Violet’s fright was rapidly shifting to a uniquely irate sort of bafflement. Maybe it was this guy that was delusional. At least she had her wits about her. “Look, mister. My dad’s going to be pissed if you’re asking me to return my heart. Also, Eden, was it? Seriously, you seem to be doing fine without it and trading back organs sounds gross as hell.” She stared at him hard. She wasn’t trembling anymore. “Are you even real?” Maybe, she thought, this was just a bizarre dream.

Ehlvie, who had wanted to sleep as well, had started to vibrate with what was approximately laughter. Poor, dear Eden. A strong Demon, certainly, if he’d accepted that much. But dumb, Ehlvie decided. Hopelessly dumb about humans and this world. She couldn’t have said why, but she almost wanted to help him a little bit. Not with his mad campaign against the Eternal City, no, but regarding his absolutely horrid assumptions about this world. This was a creature that had spent his life in a celestial garden, after all.

The serpent poked her head above the scarf and flicked her tongue against Eden’s cheek. “There, there. Best be gentle, Oaf. These creatures are delicate, but not in the way you’d figure.”

“Is that a snake? Did it just talk?” Violet was shaking her head. “If I’m not dreaming, you’re either a freak or you’re making my brain do some really uncomfortable things so… I think you should leave.” She said. Ehlvie had slithered out from the scarf entirely and was coiling down one of Eden’s arms to drop onto the bed. She fell with a light thump and slowly moved onto Violet’s lap so that she could arch to look into the woman’s eyes. In so much as a snake can do such a thing.

“I did just talk. But I’m not a snake and he’s not an Angel.” Ehlvie said. Animal forms held better, when viewed by human eyes. A quirk of their egocentric species was the prevailing assumption. Humans didn’t much bother to look at anything but other humans very closely. Violet might be able to see more with Eden’s heart, but that didn’t mean she was looking for it yet. “He was an Angel, until his heart was ripped out and he Fell. Now he’s a Demon. That’s what I am too.” Ehlvie said practically.

Violet wanted to be scared again, but felt sleepy instead. She didn’t know what to say. “I can feel your weight. Does that mean I’m not dreaming?” she asked carefully. Ehlvie nodded, and the gesture was ill-suited for slinky creature. Violet pursed her lips. “Demon? So are you going to steal my soul or something?” she said. Ehlvie made that sound again; the one that was supposed to be laughter.

“No, that’s not particularly helpful. That guy wants his heart back, though. You understood correctly.” Ehlvie said. “He’s moody, too. But don’t worry too much. He can’t take it unless you die. Rather, he can’t take it until you die.”

Violet glanced back at Eden, who was no longer flickering. He looked mostly human, save that monstrous jaw. She blinked. “I get the impression you’re trying to tell me the surgeon wasn’t making things up then.” Ehlvie made the strange nodding gesture again. “But you’re saying that guy there can’t actually take my heart by force.” Ehlvie flicked her tongue thoughtfully.

“We Demons can’t hurt your kind directly. Most of you can’t even see us as anything but other humans. Unless, of course, you’ve received some of our parts. But we can influence your environment. The people around you. That kind of thing.” Ehlvie would have shrugged if she’d had shoulders. The had the same rules that governed Angels, the only difference was Demons encouraged the vices that fed them. Angels were after faith. It was almost funny that Violet Abad seemed to have none. Vi rubbed her eyes again and yawned. The circumstances didn’t seem to call for her fatigue, given the spike of adrenaline Eden’s arrival had sparked. Ehlvie’s tongue flicked idly.

“I think this is all kind of unbelievable.” Vi declared at last. She was still talking to the snake. Both seemed content to ignore the fact that Eden was still glowering by the side of the bed.

“That’s fine. You won’t have a choice but to believe, if this guy stays around long enough.” Ehlvie said. She dropped back down on her belly and slid toward Eden, where she wound her way back up his wrist and onto his shoulders. “She’s calmer because I made her tired.” Ehlvie told him matter-of-factly. “You’re welcome. It’d be troublesome if she called the nurse.” She buried back down into the scarf.

“Does that mean you’re planning to stay around?” she asked Eden, brow furrowing. It was a pretty expression; one she made while she was thinking and had earned her a few admirers at the station. “Are you going to try and kill me? Because, if you’re going to try to kill me, I’ll beat the shit out of you. I don’t care what you are.” Definitive answer and her mother’s fiery streak.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2016, 07:49:29 pm »
Her initial startle was curious to him. She would see his head drop to the side as he examined first her fear, and then her bravery subduing dread enough that she could be civil. Ehlvie had warned him of this. Perhaps some prudence would have been advisable. All things from snake tongues aren’t venom. He had to admit it had not been distrust that had him discard the caution, but rather cavalier. Eager, also. Violet was something he’d wanted to see with haste. Her ramblings lead to a question he could answer for her, eventually. “My heart, yes. My power. You spent yours, or it spent you, or it spent itself. You have no right to mine. I didn’t sin to lose it.” Tone level. In every other aspect, Violet Abad was innocent, remember.

She became defensive. Usually, when he ushered battle angels into the healing waters of his Garden, they would just go, but some, who had seen war for the first time, were a bit apprehensive. He would treat them with kindness and patience. He should do the same for her. “Your father sounds like an unreasonable man, then. You did not find it gross to receive my heart in the first place. The procedure reversed shouldn’t be so detestable to you.” He reminded her instead. Nothing with the exchange of parts should be disagreeable to a human, when the other participant was angelic. Eden looked around in the room, as though he was searching for proof that would convince her. He did not find anything that would cement to her the truth of his being here. “I am more real and of earth than I have been in a long time, Violet Abad.”

He was about to lecture her on how rude it was to persist in keeping his heart when Ehlvie let herself be known. Eden did what he could to help her as she moved from around his neck to Violet’s lap. A frown, when the snake categorized him as a demon. Eden did not protest aloud, but made sure there were daggers in his humming eyes. Was it really necessary to call him a demon when he wouldn’t be for long? He would get his heart back and reclaim his garden. Perhaps he’d set fire to Heaven itself on his way. And eat Laugivar’s cooked wings. “Freak?” Eden echoed. “I am to you. Beauty is always a freak in the land of the lesser.” He replied and wanted desperately to hurt her. But Ehlvie took word, instead.

Eden was learning, too, from the snake. Demons would have been much more successful if their parts could be taken back easily. Eden pouted and clenched his jaw. Tendrils bled upward from the black of his jawbone until those oily reached set his green eyes ablaze. Blinking eyelids tried to smother the fire, but they burned from inside his skull. For an instant, his skin was ridged leather, quilted over the skeletal structure of a larger being. A crown up and back, sharp prongs, black ice. Despite appalling texture, the beauty of his cheekbones and brow remained, the edge of the jaw a parody of the ideal, but stunning like only monster can be, because of it. She could see this truth.

The new demon was well aware that he was not welcome to the conversation. What insult. And still, all he could do was stand there until he found something poisonous to inject into their interaction. He thought of nothing until Ehlvie returned to him. That much, at least, was satisfying. He squeezed the scarf once it was filled. Her responding muscles were fascinating to touch. The familiarity served as gratitude or acknowledgement for what Ehlvie had done for him, as well. Looked at the human woman it was easy to confirm what the snake said. Her lids were a burden, surely Ehlvie’s spell cooperated with her recent medical ordeal.

He was going to say something reassuring. Better she not fret when Ehlvie had decided she should sleep. In fact, lips with a spoiled thick moved to tell her not to worry before she pressed her asinine personality again. While the hard, coal jaw and its abyssal coat were gone, the skin of his human face wrinkled with real ego. “You rude little beast!” he hissed. “I would beat you to the point that you defecate long before you extract any excrement from me!” Her words back. What do you think of that? He sat himself down, pulled the chair close, roughly petting Ehlvie out of anger. “But I can’t kill you can I? And I won’t let you be. Better I keep an eye on you so my heart can’t pass to another if you should expire suddenly.” He looked over the machines, and then her IV. It would not be hard to know what he was wondering about. Laugivar could not have chosen a worst host if she’d picked from the demons themselves.


But Laugivar was not to blame. The real culprit to Violet’s and Eden’s entanglement was walking over the bridge, his car by his side, a rock in the flow of traffic. Most drivers knew the make of the car and even their faces. Very few horn their way. Kou was not pretty yet, but the swelling fit him. So much abuse on youthful handsome. It would be better by tonight, she promised. He laughed at the memory and waved through her image. “Yeah, sure.” He muttered.

His driver took a disapproving breath. “Mr. Wing.” Calling him Mr. Tzeng would be confusing, after all. “Please get into the car.”

Half of Kou’s face took on the folds Eden had worn for Violet’s insolence. “If I fall asleep I might slip into a coma. Don’t you ever watch sports animes?” he snarled, stabbing his pockets with a finger to see if there were any vices left. With the medicine she’d given him, he shouldn’t drink. There’s no alcohol in vodka, right? He pulled out yellow pill revealed by plastic and wrapped in tinfoil. A swollen eyebrow lifted. He shoved the favor into his mouth and rolled it thrice before spitting out the wrapping. Swallowed and sighed with relief. Too soon for the effect, but Kou enjoyed good placebo.

“You’re gonna wish you were in coma, Kou.” Teddy said from the backseat. He had Kou’s attention, though the prince was still trudging along. For fun, and to see if it was at all possible, he shoved a bicyclist passing him. It was possible. The experiment was a bloody success, and the howling, fractured man almost attacked the prince of the Tzeng group with his remaining arm before prejudice and Kou’s over-all confidence announced to the injured athlete who he was. A whispered apology from a scraped up face. Kou shrugged.

“What do you mean, Tee?” Kou demanded before a low key on a synth lived a long life between his temples. “Oh.”

“It’s the new stuff.” Teddy said as he stepped out just in time to catch his friend and employer.


Evening came. Kou was not excused by reason of coma. He sat ontop of the car that had followed him on the bridge, and he – quite frankly – felt immortal. He flicked his cigarette at the back of Teddy’s head. Teddy rubbed the seared hair and grimaced up at Kou. Sitting ontop of the car was only for royalty. “My face looks like a strong ten again.” Kou said and held up his chin with his knuckles. “She knows her shit.” Teddy lit his own cigarette and Kou laughed nervously, smiling wide for peace.

The boats had been in for about an hour, and the early workers were already making lanes in and out. Most of the cargo wasn’t even illegal. Kou laid down and looked up at the night. His suit was new, of course, so he could celebrate having done none of the lifting, later. “Don’t you sorta miss the cops, Tee?” he asked, shooting his finger at a passing red light.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2016, 02:39:21 am »
Violet had enough tenacity that Ehlvie’s offhanded drowsiness was insufficient to lull her to sleep. She blinked heavily though and eyed Eden’s scarf with some distaste. Talking snakes and demon hearts. Vi would have been satisfied to wake up from her present state to find this all a drug addled dream. But she could feel something in her chest, a tightness in that new heart, that told her she would be better served to open her mind to a new and bizarre world. The organ throbbing life through her starved veins had brought a history with it.

She stared at Eden’s shifting face as the new Demon considered appropriate ways of hastening her end. He was looking less and less intangible the more she considered this possible reality. The ashy dark jaw on the otherwise lovely face. The silver strands and brilliant eyes. What on earth did everyone else see when they looked at him? “Do Demons even have excrement?” she chuckled to herself. He should have been frightening, but something about the way he blustered struck her as naïve more than terrible. She was certain that he was as new to this predicament as she, regardless of what worlds they had come from. “It’s just a saying, Tough Guy. But, if you’re immortal it shouldn’t be such a big deal to let me keep this heart for a while. Don’t be selfish.” She grinned at him, and it was a bit gentler.

On his shoulders, Ehlvie shifted curiously. It would be good for him to be near this human, she thought. Perhaps Violet Abad might tame him a bit. Or, at least, subdue him enough that Ehlvie wouldn’t have to deal with his nuisance anymore.

Violet settled deeper into her pillows. “I mean. I’m sorry, I guess. It’s not like I asked for your heart, if it is really yours.” The tightness of that organ told her it was, but she had a job built on healthy skepticism. “But I’ve got stuff to do on this little ball of dirt for a while longer, I think. My dad’s lost a lot already. If nothing else, I need to be around for him, okay?” She inclined her head slightly. “Is that the kind of thing you can sympathize with? Not wanting to lose a child or… not wanting to abandon the person to whom you owe your existence?” she blinked. Her eyes looked a bit greener with the way the setting sun flared through the window. On the table beside her, several of the blossoms on a sympathetic plant swelled and burst into full bloom. Lieutenant White had brought that particular flora to her last week.

Side effects.

“Maybe you would be able to beat me up. You look like you could. But the point is that I’m not just going to let you take back my second chance without a fight.”


Mei rolled onto her side, the thin sheet slipping over the soft curve of her hip. Beside her Stanford yawned and made a sound in his sleep, dragging the blankets with him as he shifted on the bed. She pushed her fringe out of her eyes. She needed to get them trimmed again. A lazy stretch and she reached for her phone. She fished it out of her uniform, piled on the bed side table.

What are you up to?

Send. Her brother had been annoyingly elusive the last few days. She stuck her tongue out at the screen as she closed her messaging app. Two smiling faces beamed back at her. Hers, and Kou’s. She pursed her lips and stared critically at the display. It wasn’t a great idea, but it wasn’t like he’d be able to stay mad at her for long anyway. She rolled back toward Stanford and adjusted herself beneath the sheets and opened up her phone’s camera. Enough cleavage so he’d know it was purposeful but not enough that she couldn’t play dumb about it. Angled so that he could tell she wasn’t alone in the bed. Send.

I miss you. <3 When can I have a slumber party at your flat again?

Send. Mei sighed and tossed the phone back onto the bedside table. “Hey Stanford, wake up.” She hummed, running her fingers lightly down the boy’s spine. He was a few years younger than Kou. A few years older than her. The blue-eyed blonde breathed deeply as he was roused by her touch. He rolled to face her and pull her slim body close. He gave her a crooked grin. She smiled back and arched to press her ample chest against him. “I don’t like being ignored,” she said and jutted out her lower lip in a feigned pout.

“Ignore you? Of course not.” Stanford assured her and stroked her dark hair. Mei giggled.

“Good.” She said, casting a brief glance over her shoulder at her phone. She hoped it made Kou mad. A happy sigh and she kissed Stanford deeply. 


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2016, 07:06:49 pm »
Through her blanket of fatigue, a bit like the waking cherubs he lifted out of the waters and ushered toward their angel caretakers, she was almost cute. The spell should indeed be Ehlvie’s doing. He expected the lids to glide closed but they wouldn’t. How easy it would be to cause her harm. How little that would do for him. “I don’t know.” Eden answered honestly. He’d not grown demons. He wasn’t sure what the fall did to them. “But I said all that because you made me angry.” Wrath is a sin, yet angels in battle relied on it, sometimes. He shrugged where he sat, and hung a finger over the scarf, to bother Ehlvie and keep himself busy.

Being selfish was another sin. Especially taught to the gardener of Heaven. He frowned behind his hot, thick scarf and then turned his head from her. Green shine colored his lashes before that surge of emotion retreated into the set orbs. “You’re selfish for not dying when you’re asked.” He muttered. He supposed there wasn’t much of a choice. There were limits to what he could do to a human. He wondered if this shell could become a particularly effective murderer. Even so. Former angels were prohibited by Heaven’s law from taking back their parts. Perhaps becoming a proficient murderer could prove to be cathartic, though. Builders like to destroy. He tried not to remember the fetters that held their hands back from that, too.

Her confidence in the presence of no-longer-divinity wasn’t misplaced. It wasn’t as though he had a choice. He had to follow her until she decided to give him back what had been stolen, or risk never seeing it again. At the very least, he could protect his heart from things that weren’t human. Greed saturated this age. He was already a formidable being, though he didn’t like to recognize the terminology, right now. He turned back to her when she tested his empathy. Another pulse that bled from the irises for an instant. Eden nodded slowly. “I… In heaven I made angels. It hurt when they died. I was cast from heaven for sins that weren’t explained to me by someone whom I trusted.” Loyal beings have short stories. “Don’t think you could comprehend the scope, but I suppose I can relate to your theory.”

He sighed and slumped in the chair. It was as dramatic as it was honest. He wondered if his heart would break for him. “People like you interest heaven. You’re not corrupted.” He said and squeezed the arms of the seat a bit. “But I’d rather you be rash and romantic.” Sullen gave way to the fire of his scorn. “But you’re good, instead. You love your father.” What use was such good things to him now? Feeling like this was a rite of passage for what he’d become, hater of virtues. “You’re going to be endless trouble for me, aren’t you, Violet?” he asked and looked at the sleepy woman in hospital sheets. He shook his head and tried to forget the little embers that wanted to breathe in his upset and set this house ablaze. “Is life terribly dreary as one of you?” he asked, molesting the scarf at the side of his neck again. It was becoming quite a comfort to him. “I should like to try some things. Kill something with my own hands, maybe. Acquire a country. Have hordes of those who love me. Have children and raise them better than Heaven ever could. Lots of money, too.” He went on. “I feel entitled to some of your time, now that I’ve given you your life, as it is. I would like to sample human pleasures.” And he nodded, agreeing to the logic for her. “If it helps with your motivation, I most certainly could beat you up. But I think the failsafes in me might save you before I could demonstrate.”

He’d heard of strange relationships where the human hurt the angel they’d gotten organs from. It was unthinkable. The false scriptures alone were usually enough to earn Heaven’s former citizens reverence here in the dirt. But overly practical and innately sinful people would see through the cracks and abuse the now demon terribly. Auxielle was a known participant in one of those relationships. She was now in possession of her liver again, from time to time, but it seemed impossible for her to shake the picturesque and disgusting habit of seeking punishment from humans. That liver saw a new home every decade. Even in the gardens he’d heard of the abomination Auxielle. Heaven’s failsafes were atrocious to him, if only for that.


“What’s wrong with Boss Boy?” Ouran asked Teddy. Teddy, who’d already readied his barely breathed cigarette to be flicked toward his employer, looked at the shorter, rounder man. Also a good suit. Kou made sure his people were well-dressed.

“Prince of elves here thinks he’s off Wondertown.” Stupid name for such a serious substance. “But that’s just the real beauty of that particular pill, isn’t it?” Teddy said and was about to release the tension in his finger and return the burn Kou had given him when the best tailored jacket started to vibrate.

Kou closed his eyes and let the quake numb his heart. Paired with view of the stars, though dulled by city lights, it felt rather decadent. Eventually his curiosity got the better of his lazy, and he reached in to pull out the onyx plate. “What now, sys?” He demanded with some disapproval as his thumb revealed the answer. Brown eyes fell upon the sweetly provocative picture, and turned the ambience from the sleepy captured scene into something more potent and incendiary. He sat up on the roof in such a manner that Teddy put the cigarette in his mouth instead. “Huuuut!” Kou shouted and cocked his arm back. Teddy shook his head in protest and Ouran ducked down and clasped his ears.

“No, Kou! We’re supposed to be low key today, what if the cops show…”

“Hut hut huuut!” Kou persisted and finally launched the phone into the air. Teddy had no choice but to draw his gun from its holster in his jacket and make the expensive plastic and circuits into hard snow and black hail. The shot echoed and it startled the stream of workers. Ouran’s waves calmed them enough to continue working.

“The fu…” Teddy started.

“Mei.” Kou explained. Everyone knew that matters of the girl overrode everything. She was the princess of the Tzeng syndicate. Despite the reigns Mr. Tzeng had on Mr. Wing, all bets were off with the girl, and those in the know knew this most of all. “Give.” Kou held his hand out and receive the gun Teddy hadn’t put back. The seething brother hid it on his person but extended his palm again. “I meant your phone.” He pressed. Teddy, annoyed and out one weapon, quickly slapped a silver case into the demanding fingers. Kou knew her number, but saw Teddy already had it saved.

Whenever you want. Who’s the guy? He’s dreamy. Have him call me. Nice tits btw. No need to study anymore, we got work for you. Looks like you’d be right for it. Don’t have an appropriate emoji for this.

“Send.” He said, sour, and pressed the animated button so hard the glass cracked. Teddy frowned and reached for his secondary firearm. The audacity made Kou laugh as he threw the device back to its owner. “Think I’m gonna donate a blonde punching bag to Bolo.”

And with that, both Teddy, who was almost weeping over his phone, and Ouran who was just standing again, knew what was going on. A smaller emergency. Didn’t mean Kou would hesitate to involve them. On the abused screen Teddy could see what had been communicated.

That was your brother. Tracking your phone now. Sorry.

Teddy wrote and sent before he activated the app to find her. Kou would probably be hasty, and would want a location fast, despite passive aggressively pretending nothing was bothering him, resting back on his crossed hands on top of the car.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2016, 03:13:33 am »
Violet chewed at her lower lip. It was getting harder to stay awake. Even if Ehlvie hadn’t been spinning her dreamy auras it wasn’t as if she could be blamed. She’d just come out of major surgery. Never mind that, had either she or Eden looked, there was hardly a scar to prove it. Thin green trace, luminescent and like roots, where the incision had been. The divine heart pumped faithfully.

She felt a bit bad for her uninvited guest, watching the drama of his Fall play in ghosts beneath his eyelashes. Vi couldn’t have understood it even if she’d wanted to. He was right to think he was beyond her scope. He was, more or less, beyond her realm of reality. Violet was a good detective because she stayed grounded. Knew her limits; didn’t get cocky. She was willing to accept talking snakes and burning men were well outside her area of expertise. “Of course I love my dad. He’s a great man. I think he’s raised me well enough.” She agreed. Vi wasn’t sure what any of that had to do with being a bother for this so-called Demon.

Her left eyebrow crawled high on her forehead when he laid out his new ambitions. She was glad to hear that extracting her heart from her chest seemed to have fallen low on his list, but the rapid romancing of potential tyranny was strange when posed earnestly like that. It wasn’t how the civilized world operated anymore, after all. At least, not superficially. Black market kingdoms were a different sort of conquering. “I don’t know if you’re really entitled to anything, but human pleasures aren’t too bad. You’re aiming a little low… or high, depending on how you look at it. But, really, if losing your heart was your ticket to Earth you shouldn’t be too disappointed. I like it here well enough.” She shrugged and smiled for him. Honest, because she was tired. She yawned and shook her head. “Sorry.” She mumbled.

Violet sighed and closed her eyes. “You can call me Vi. Most people do. Your snake says you’re probably going to be hanging around for a while so we may as well skip the formalities. Sorry. I’m really sleepy.” She yawned again. “No trying to kill me in my sleep or anything, okay? That’s really lowbrow.”

Ehlvie squirmed beneath Eden’s tugging and poked her head above the scarf when she felt Violet had fallen asleep. “Odd human, isn’t she? Your heart could’ve ended up in a worse place though.” The serpent flicked her tongue thoughtfully. “Or you might have lost more than just your heart. Most do.” Ehlvie wavered as she stretched a bit more out of the scarf.

“Are you going to stay here until she wakes up? Humans don’t sleep very long.” She arched around so that she could look Eden at least somewhat in the eye. “In the meantime, I have to admit I’m curious. Were you so close to our dear Lucifer that you feel personally affronted by this? It seems so.” If snakes could smile, Ehlvie would be grinning. “It’s considered rude to ask, but you did ask me. What ever did you do? What makes you speak as if you were betrayed?”


Mei took after her mother, whom she did not share with Kou. Honestly, both in looks and personality, she could very well have been her mother’s twin. It was a fact that Mr. Tzeng had commented on more frequently as Mei had gotten older, occasionally to the discomfort of his company. Either way, the girl had grown keenly aware of her own charm and was eager to use it. She leaned against the headboard, back arched, and hummed her approval of Stanford’s hard work. Good man. He made her feel like a queen, just like he should. The phone vibrated on the table and the blonde paused to glance up at her. Mei pursed her lips. “Don’t worry about it,” she assured him sweetly, curling her fingers in a fistful of his hair as she pressed him back to his task. He wrapped his arms up around her legs and she gasped pleasantly at his enthusiasm. “Mm—you spoil me,” she giggled.

Mei grabbed her phone and grinned at the message on the screen. Of course they were nice. She pressed thoughtfully at one youthful swell. “Oh… Stanford do you remember my brother?” she asked, though her hand on the back of his head gave him no room to move and reply. Silly Kou. She wrapped her legs over Stanford's shoulders. Mei might have had the mind to feel guilty about teasing her brother a few years ago, but she’d more or less figured it was his own fault by now.

“You should be careful; you know? You could get in a lot of trouble if he found out you’re messing with his little sister.” She was laughing again. Stanford didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t his thing, really, the way she liked to talk so much about it. Sure, she was kind of young, but her mom had been a whore and Mei was the sort of minx that didn’t seem interested in falling far from the tree. If it got her off to pretend like this was some kind of violation on his part, that was fine with him. Admittedly, there was a thrill with making the princess of the notorious Tzeng syndicate writhe like this, regardless of her kinks.

See you soon.

She snapped a photo of herself blowing a kiss for the camera. It was tasteful, at least, going to Teddy’s phone. Mei tossed the phone across the room and it tumbled across the carpet with a few dull thuds. Whatever. There was still time to enjoy this. It was better knowing Kou was on the way. Mei shuddered. She probably wouldn’t see Stanford again after this. It was almost a shame. She stroked his flaxen strands. Good man.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2016, 06:33:21 pm »
She wasn’t as agreeable as she ought, but he supposed with some disappointment that she was behaving better toward him that he could have expected. Surely even this much courtesy was because of Ehlvie’s involvement. This world continued to fascinate and underwhelm. She was sorry. He didn’t know what for, in the growing sack of things that any human should apologize for. He was interested in the nickname, though. Dark brow flicked and her sluggish battle against sleep caught his attention again. “Vi?” he repeated and looked inward for something similar. “You should call me Ed, then.” Not exactly creative, given it had followed close what she’d done with her own name, but he was still proud that he could stoop to such barbarities. She excused herself and he waved his hand dismissively at her. Not a promise she’d be alive when she woke, but perhaps enough annoyance that she could believe he wouldn’t put in that kind of murderous effort, yet.

He had a different expression for Ehlvie. He was suspecting any effort on her part should be cherished. The smile was unhindered, and he studied her after she’d presented her head out of the hiding place. “They tried.” To take more than my heart. A dramatic frown. He was sure a higher angel like himself would be plundered well. Green eyes blinked with question as he looked the snake over. “What did they take from you, again,” he started and then his tongue hitched on another thought. “Ehl.” Since they were giving nicknames. He didn’t worry much about her being vengeful. In fact, Ehlvie if anyone should appreciate it, since her sin inclined her to do as little as possible.

He nodded without much thought. Of course he would stay. Without wanting to, he had invested in Violet. It was important he watch over her. She wasn’t unpleasant to look at either, he realized, throwing her a glance where she was, out cold. He’d never thought that’d have such impact on him, but it did. The reply to Ehlvie’s next question did not fall as easily. Eden burned from the inside now, but he channeled it into something productive, lining his inhabited shoulders and neck with that heat, and even gathered some in his hand so he could pet the snake’s head and make it pleasant for her. “Before your time.” He didn’t expect that Ehlvie was of a generation that would remember a present and vibrant Laugivar. “We were friends.”

He found Laugivar inspirational up until his fall. “We haven’t spoken for quite some time. But affection lingers, and it was strong from my side.” The highest angel, the heaviest shoulders, the brightest wings. You were required to love her, and Eden had been loyal with his actions and his heart. He’d wandered in the garden, wishing feverishly he’d been allowed to gender her, but that task had not been his. The hand lost some fire before the heat came back, double. Angry, again. “I suppose that was the first break of my heart.” And then Eden gasped, letting go of Ehlvie’s head to grasp his own wrist, pitifully. “What if that is my sin?” had he loved Laugivar in the wrong way? Had he been unfaithful to heaven in this adoration?

“No matter.” He decided and pressed that hot palm to his cheek, staring at the snake that posed the query. “I hate her now. I have nothing because of her.” He leaned in, touching his forehead to her nose. An attempt at finding comfort. He took his head back soon, and dropped his shoulders. “Would you even know those things?” it felt more like a defense than a real question. “Are you too slothful to know either hate or love?” it wasn’t fair, but the world hadn’t been fair to Eden so far. Heaven threw him down and this human selfishly decided to live her life. “Perhaps someone kept you from a nap once. Or rocked you while you slept. Do you hate me for bringing you along?”

There was a charge to his level voice. Pores opened on his arms inside the sleeves he’d copied and hyphae slowly slithered along his forearms and coiled around his wrist, as though afraid of the lemon light that this hospital provided. Shyly, the small threads wandered out toward the snake demon. An ill-contained desire that Ehlvie would no hate him in this aspect. Greed, after all.


“You ok, Kou?” Ouran asked after assuring the workers with his body language again.

Kou shrugged and continued to not see the stars. “Sure. Why wouldn’t I be? My sister gets to have her own life.” Never mind the obliterated phone and my obvious irate energy.

“So you don’t want to go over there and be your charming brotherly self?” Teddy asked with a sigh, shaking the cracked device that now had her location. She’d not turned it off. Cruel girl.

“Of course not. What do I care?” Kou replied with admirable lightness in his voice. “I’m cool.”

The next message and image changed that.



Teddy was on his knee, undoing the hinges holding the door of one Stanford Andresson’s apartment. “So cool.” He said as he lifted the door off. Kou chuckled and shrugged as he walked in. He wasn’t wearing the thin veil of not caring anymore. When he unbuttoned his jacket with no intention of sitting down, the two knew there’d be trouble. This place had been closer than he’d thought. No time at all to get here. Stanford kept things neat. Kou hated him more for it. Closer to the obvious location of the bedroom, he could hear appreciative sounds from lips he’d grown up with. Teddy and Ouran were appropriately uncomfortable, and he let them raid the fridge instead of following.

She saw him before the other man did. Kou was on the bed with them soon, knee on Stanford’s spine and hand on her hand in his hair. He pushed Stanford’s attention tighter against her as he looked her in the eye. Would she like it? “Hello, Mei. You’re keeping up your classy routine, as always.” He looked down at the mop of blond hair between them. “Still happy hour down there, I see, Stan.” The guy was starting to struggle, that fight for air, and Kou grinned at her. Some traces of today’s chastising was still there, but his go-to girl on the matter had done great work with the swelling. Darker than the scabs was the underlying aggression and those upturned lips. “Really don’t have an appropriate emoji for this.” He said before letting the gossamer head go. “Somebody raised this one right, eh?” he commended before rolling to the side and kicking Standford in the chest to have him roll off.

“Borther in law!” Kou said, sitting up and tossing a sheet over his sister. “Welcome to the family. I think it has to be real love when a grown man loves a twelve-year old girl.” Would that scare Stanford more than the threat of unhinged violence? Hard lie to sell considering her uniform on the floor, but frightened men are stupid. Kou held his arms out for a hug, as though the doubtlessly terrified other person would come. “We’re usually a kissing family, but you know.” He flicked his own lip to bring focus to the salt on Stanford’s. “Bring it in. My father’s outside with a bullet bouquet. He’s sentimental like that.” If the guy ran, Kou was sure Teddy and Ouran would make it worth their trouble and play with him. Teddy had a habit of being lazier than he was malicious, though. If he didn’t run there was a good chance Teddy’s gun in brother’s hand would look him up and down.

"You know, you really were cuter when you were twelve." he said, looking at her over his shoulder.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2016, 08:58:13 pm »
Violet dreamed of the garden and a flurry of petals. Carnivorous plants snapped the pale drifts from the dewy air with vines that looked like strands of silver. Violet sat beside a crystalline pond, toes in the soft grass. It was haunting and lovely here. It felt so real, too, despite being unlike anything she knew to exist on Earth. She looked into the water and saw Eden stare back. A little gasp and she scrambled back from the unexpected reflection. In the hospital room, she frowned in her sleep and shifted on the bed.

Ehlvie glanced at the sleeping woman. It must be nice. Sleeping. The snake retreated a bit into the folds of the scarf when it became warmer. A pleasant sensation, though she understood it was a product of instability in his form. What a passionate creature this gardener was. Ehlvie had not required very much energy to find and maintain her form, but she’d been generally uninspired about it. Eden had ambitions she simply couldn’t sympathize with. It led her to think it might be Violet of the two of them that was more reasonable, lower existence aside.

She stared at him when he gave her the nickname, flicked her tongue twice, and said nothing. It didn’t bother her; Ehlvie had already taken a shorter name to suit her. Rather, she wondered if she ought not to have thought of ‘Ehl’ herself. But Eden was telling her a bit about his past and a Lucifer she could hardly imagine. Ehlvie did like stories. Speaking of it seemed to unsettled Eden further, though, and the snake hissed softly.

“Now then, there isn’t any reason to be rude.” She chided and squirmed when his hyphae brushed her cool skin. “I don’t have a reason to hate you, though I’ll admit you’re annoying.” She assured him. He had, perhaps, intended to be a bit cruel to question her emotional capacities but he wasn’t terribly incorrect. “I can understand it, though I’m not one to invest that way. I am capable of hating things and loving things, same as you. I was an Angel before this too, you know.” She reminded him. “But I don’t care for it. Either way is too much effort, so don’t worry. I don’t hate you. I don’t like you either.” She wriggled away from a creeping tendril. She wasn't inclined to tell him again how she'd had every vital organ stripped from her body, so she ignored that half of his query. It seemed, as well, to be the less pressing issue.

“I don’t think your issue was loving her, though.” Ehlvie mused. Being entitled to her, maybe, and she didn’t see Eden as being above that. Not with how eagerly he sought to keep lowly Ehlvie by his side. How funny, if Eden had Fallen for coveting the highest Angel in the Eternal City. She made that strange, breathy laugh again. “So tell me, what will you do with Miss Abad when she wakes up? There’s no way they’ll need to keep her here long. Not with your heart working.”


Mei heard the door and rolled her eyes. They were so dramatic, Kou and his little friends. She smiled for him, though, when he came into the bedroom. “How unsightly.” She said, and made a poor attempt at covering her chest with one arm. She was infuriatingly smug when he pressed Stanford into the bed. Fine with her. “You should knock first, don’t you think?” she sighed.

Stanford began to struggle. He’d not noticed anyone had come into the room until Kou’s knee was against his spine. Mei was saying something above him. “I told you that you’d be in trouble if he found out.” Cruel girl. He didn’t have time to be bitter over it, though, gasping for breath when he was thrown to the side. Twelve? Mei had said she was seventeen. That her birthday was in a month. She had a uniform from the local high school. Maybe she was a freshman, then? Still, she couldn’t be twelve. The possibility was frightening, regardless. Not that almost-eighteen would get him too far if the Tzengs wanted to press the matter. He looked from brother to sister. She didn’t look worried.

Mei pulled the sheet around her a bit tighter and frowned at Kou. “Like you can judge,” she said and stuck her tongue out at him tartly. “Wearing that nice suit with a busted up face. I’m sure you’ve just been an absolute angel today.” She hummed. Mei flicked a strand of hair over her shoulder.

Stanford was already scrambling off the bed and attempting to locate clothes on the floor to cover himself. “Ah, jeez Kou, it’s been a while. What’ve you been up to since you graduated Kingsman Prep?” nervous laughter and he was speaking too fast. He had a fair enough idea about the sort of crazy Mei was. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get overly acquainted with Kou’s variety. He stopped cold when Kou mentioned Mr. Tzeng. “You’re kidding, right? Mei came here on her own, you know. She said she was seventeen. You’re dad’s not really here, right?” He stammered.

Mei crawled toward the edge of the bed so she could tug at the hem of Kou’s jacket. “I mean, I just wanted your friends to like me. He took advantage.” She said. It wasn’t a lie Kou would believe. At least, not most of it. It was true she’d only ever gone after guys she’d met through him, though. Rotten sister, and proud of it. Stanford looked like he was ready to piss himself. Mei watched him past Kou’s shoulder. She liked it when he scared them like this. Kou was so cute when he was angry.

He could be mean, too. “Everyone is cuter when they’re twelve, Dumbass. Doesn’t mean you liked me better then.” She snapped. Mei had gotten an Angel’s eye when they were children. She’d lost her own in an accident. One of Kou’s friends. Dad had blamed Kou and beaten him for it, even though he’d had no part in it and Mei had recovered fine. If anything, Kou and Mei had gotten along the worst when she was twelve. The only thing left from that incident was a blue ring around Mei’s left iris.

“Please don’t kill me. I swear to god I’ll never even look at your sister again.” Stanford was saying to the barrel of Teddy’s gun. Mei made an annoyed sound in the back of her throat.

“Man up a little, Stanford, seriously.” She muttered. Stanford didn’t bother replying. “You’re so possessive, Kou. So uncool.” Mei said, but she couldn’t quite hide her delight. “Come on, leave him alone, right? You already made him look dumb.” She suggested. Stanford wasn’t above agreeing with her. He just wanted these people out of his flat.

“Yeah, Kou, please. Listen to your sister. I mean you gotta know what she’s like anyway, right? You gotta know I didn’t do anything wrong. She’s a slut, right?” Stanford said. Mei’s hand fell away from Kou’s jacket and she let the sheet drop. Quietly, she slipped off the bed and went to her uniform to dress. As she buttoned her skirt and smoothed the pleats meticulously, Mei laughed shortly.

“On second thought, never mind. Probably shouldn’t just let sleazy guys who force themselves on high school girls just get away with it.” Flat tone, sharp stare. “I’ll wait for you outside. Do whatever. I swear to god I’ll never look at this guy again.” Mei shoved the tail of her shirt into the waistband of her skirt and grabbed her phone off the carpet.  She just didn’t like being alone. She wouldn’t have done a damn thing if Kou would just pay more attention to her. Stanford was an idiot.

Stanford was shaking his head as Mei left. “Shit, I’m sorry. I mean, she’s not—well, Kou, you know what I mean, yeah? It’s not like I’m the only guy she…” He stopped short and made a run for the door, tripping halfway and sprawling out on the floor.

« Last Edit: October 14, 2016, 07:30:52 pm by VenomousEve »


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2016, 08:13:56 pm »
The movement of his heart drew him to look at the patient. He could remember the garden clearly, the way she was allowed to see it. Though the heart itself had healed in a physical way, all its other existences were wounded. It had only found a compatible body. Human souls were not made to fuse or read the energies that angelic hearts and brains put out. You can put a music-box beneath a chair to steady it, but you won't hear the tunes that way. She was displeased with something in his garden, he saw. He didn't know why that was endearing. "Go see the lights in the lake. They're battle angels being made." he whispered and reached out to touch her waist.

He was not used to being chastised, but did feel that sting when Ehlvie pointed out his rudeness. His head, crooked, lowered at the suggestion. He huffed back into his usuall quiet pomp at the thought of being annoying. Amusing. He shifted in the chair and turned the concept of Ehlvie's sin over in his head, trying to fit it into the mold of what she was explaining. Sometimes it sounded like a lack of ambition, and sometimes it sounded like good self-preservation. He supposed every demon had to have an out-look that allowed their absolute vice.

It was a strange comfort that the snake defended the innocence of his love for the highest angel. It was spoken with such a casual, split tongue that he couldn't draw full satisfaction from it, though. He looked at the pregnant scarf. What to do, indeed. "I'll stay with her. I imagine she'll think that I am nuisance, but she has the most important thing in the world to me, so I'll not let her wander off." Humans were hilariously breakable, their souls capricious, their minds always failing. He'd have to keep her upright in the end, probably. No. This world was far too jagged for such meat to simply carry his precious self and powers.

"I don't know what to do short-term." he admitted and rested his head onto her thick body. With the knitted exterior, it felt luxuriant on the human skin he'd grown. "There are things that are prohibited in Heaven that I may do here. I think I'd like to meet an angel, one day soon, and break them thoroughly." Black jaw smile. The individuals he'd made had won many battles for The Eternal City. They owed him a few soldiers, now. He nuzzled Ehlvie as he became excited to have that kind of useless, indulgent retribution.

"But I'll mostly follow Vi. Perhaps we should show her to the demons in this city?" More work for the demon of sloth. "Surely there is a place where the fallen converge. I hear of brothels and watering holes. Ah, where would I go, afflicted with greed?" he asked his guide. His lips pressed into the knit so his voice would vibrate into her. He was whimsical, also. "With my heart, as you say, it should take her no time at all to heal. She'll have some spare time, thanks to me, in fact, all her time, so she should go where I go. Perhaps she'll learn something." He doubted it would be so simple, with the gusto Vi had already shown. Eden frowned. Endless trouble.


”Seems like all you ever do is ask people to knock, Mei.” Kou replied at the smile she’d given. Admittedly, the fear spreading over the clean-cut face of her current lover did much to elevate the brother’s mood. Did distaste of unsavory relations really carry that much anxiety with the blond? It should not be worse than losing your life over a lay, Kou though. But then again, he’d never had Mei. Maybe a romp would be well worth it. In the end, it was hard to know what part of this situation Stanford feared the most. It was clear though, that this carnal partner wanted her to reel her brother in. They always hoped for that. Sometimes Mei would be so generous. Kou suspected her benevolence had to do with their performance.

“I’m always dressed well with a fucked up face. Doesn’t mean I’m not nice sometimes.” Kou pointed out. She was lovely, he knew. A little lively bolt that didn’t mind sharing warmth. He had sympathy for the lovers. It was also in him to hate them. The charm of the flustered and panicking Stan called his attention back. Kou continued to grin and cross his legs on the sheets through the niceties. Was he really trying to buddy-up? Kou would play. It made him out to be scarier, anyway. “I’ve been doing what you do, but not to my sister.” After Kingsman Prep. “You have sister, if I remember. How would you feel?” Perhaps that would be a revenue of revenge, also.

As he was in the process of shrugging to encourage Stan to see for himself if Mr. Tzeng was indeed here, little sister did the irresistible thing of pulling at his jacket. She’d do it sometimes, donning that persona. On occasion he’d act annoyed, but he liked it. He wanted them to be that kind of siblings. Upon her tattling, he gasped. Playing along was more than she deserved, but it worked toward causing Stanford misery, so he might as well indulge. He twisted back to the standing male. “Advantage! Of all the things you could have taken from my sweet baby sister, it had to be advantage!” It was starting to become a bit of a task to keep a straight face.

The begging and pledge into the barrel was expected, but it was Mei’s eventual throw-away mercy that really helped Stanford. He’d been lip to lip underneath her belly button, after all. He deserved to keep all his limbs. But her kindness was quickly rejected in Stan’s continued plea. It was a mistake to appeal to the prince when the princess’s favor could shield you. A true flash of anger roiled in the dark eyes on Kou’s side of the gun. His jaw pulsed with the pressure between his teeth and he quickly stood, hammering his heels into the floor while pulling the mantle back. Her somewhat sullen walk to her uniform cemented Stanford’s fate. “You fucker.” Kou said slowly and followed when the man failed to escape.

“At least you got laid, man.” Kou said. “shoulda been nice about it.” He grabbed a pillow off the floor, they’d had their fun, alright, and put it underneath Stanford’s face. “You scream into this.” He said through his teeth before pinning the man to the floor with his shoe. Belly down. The animal snarl pulling at his skin and nose, those blodthristy eyes, softened when he looked at her. Her caring brother again, that liked to wake her in the morning by kissing her on her fringe. “Sorry we was an asshole about it.” He said gently before shooting off Stanford’s recently used limb. He did scream into the pillow, and his hands hurried to cradle and squeeze the bleeding, halved part. Kou let him go. “Don’t call anyone until we’re gone. Tell them you’re into this kind of stuff.”

He lead her outside and closed the door to the audible agony. Kou threw one arm around her and pulled her into his side, placing a kiss on top of her head. “Hey, Meimei.” He said and let the peck linger before walking them toward the kitchen. “Are you ok?” he demanded, swaying slightly, bringing her into the rhythm, as he examined Stanford’s home. He remembered Stan being something of a proper person. Too bad he had to be a coward, too. “Why do you have to give me so much trouble?” he asked but didn’t let her go. He did want that answer. No joke in the voice. Mei was one of the things that could pull him out of his games. He regretted some things with her.

Teddy had found a mineral water, and was studying the automatic watercooker while not drinking. Ouran was doing his best with some questionable takeout. They were impressed by the quality of the kitchen. Both of them became particularly stiff when the siblings rounded the corner, entering the well-lit space. Somewhere from where they’d come there were muffled cries. Ouran had a real crush on Mei, and Kou had often told her to go easy on him, since the attachment seemed real. Little Bao bellied Ouran. And Teddy, who had a sweettooth, knew what the girl was capable off with her particular method of war. So they were right to be on their guard around her, even though they’d basically gone through their formative years together. Kou frowned and let her go. He knew why they were like this.

“It’s a girl, not an exposed nuclear core.” He snickered and shook his head. “Grown men.”

“Hi, Mei.” Ouran said from the island. Kou scowled at her, protective of his love-struck enforcer.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2016, 07:20:33 pm »
Ehlvie sighed, which was nearly as odd a sound as her laugh. “I don’t really like getting involved with other Demons much. They always want me to do stuff for them. Like you, with all your questions.” Tart, but not cruel. The Fallen serpent had been cast out for her immense propensity for laziness, not for being malicious. A wide yawn, satisfying with the construction of her jaw.

“There are a few Demons around that I know, though. There’s an Incubus that has been sulking after his eye for a few years. It got passed off to a crime lord’s daughter before he could snatch it back. He collected his kidneys a few years ago, though, so he’s not been in a bad mood.” Ehlvie offered. “Incubi and Succubae end up with lots of friends, you know. He probably has a few other Demons hanging around that I just haven’t met.” If there was a sin that engaged other sins readily, surely it was Lust or Wrath. Ehlvie was not fond of Demons who carried either sin. They always wanted so much attention.

Ehlvie hissed softly. “Of course, if you plan on bringing Miss Abad with you… well, I don’t know.” Ehlvie mused. “She’s a policewoman. I don’t know how it’ll go, trying to take her to Demon’s with criminal ties.” It was curious, really, that there were enough Demons around without criminal ties that it was worth making the distinction. “Maybe just going to a brothel or a gambling ring is a better idea.”

Violet’s fingers curled in her sleep, tugging at the thin hospital blanket. In her dreams, she was sure he heard Eden’s voice. Something about lights. She got to her feet and walked back over to the pool. Again, as she peered inside, she saw Eden’s black-jawed reflection. This time, she gritted her teeth and looked past the unnerving reflection. Lights, as he’d said. She felt a growing heat at her back.

“Those are the next great warriors of the Eternal City being formed.” Violet whirled around. Column of fire wrapped in bronze wings. As tall as the trees around the pool, and humanoid despite the licking flames. It was the burning Angel she’d seen before. The heavily winged form began to shrink down to a more comparable size.

“Who are you?” Vi demanded. “I’m dreaming, right?” she said. Lucifer inclined her head, adjusting the feathers which covered her face.

“I am Lucifer, the Right Hand of God. You are dreaming, Human, but this is the dream of Eden’s heart.” She said. Violet clenched her fists. In the hospital room, the EKG blipped faster. “Why are you here?” Lucifer asked. Her three twining voices were stifling in the air, surrounding Violet from all sides.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” She said. “And if you’re Lucifer, shouldn’t you not be an Angel?” If she was dreaming, she had no reason to be fearful. It didn’t matter how real this all felt. Lucifer’s flames licked higher, spewing golden sparks.

“Not an Angel?” Lucifer asked and stepped toward Violet. “I am the Right Hand of God, favored among all Angels. I am the Judge of the Eternal City, the purifying fire of Heaven.” Lucifer said. “Disrespectful, pitiful human. I have no reason to answer to anything you say.” The words were angered, but the tone was flat and impartial. Violet took a step back and nearly slipped down the bank into the prismatic pool. The Angel reached out with an ash-dark arm and grasped at Violet’s throat with her golden claws. Violet gasped.

“This is just a dream!” she protested, and Lucifer unfurled her veiling wings to stare down the young detective with all of her eyes.

“The dream of an Angel’s heart.” Lucifer hissed. Violet jerked awake as a bolt of searing heat invaded her throat. She was sitting upright and clutching at her neck, coughing.

“What the hell?” she wheezed. She felt as if she’d just inhaled a cloud of thick smoke. It made her nose smart and her eyes water. Violet pulled her hands away from her neck. “What was that?” she demanded, looking at Eden as if he should have that answer and clearly unsurprised he was still in the room. An angry red welt had formed around her throat, though it was already fading under the insistence of Eden’s diving heart.


Mei didn’t flinch when the gun went off. She smiled at Kou. “I’m okay. Sorry for causing trouble.” She said, though she wasn’t. “Thanks for looking out for me, though,” and she meant it. She was happy when he pulled her to him and eagerly matched his stride from the room. A spoiled girl, but not a dislikable one when she was getting what she wanted, which was usually Kou. Stanford was still sobbing and gasping as he bled onto the floor. Mei glanced at him. He hadn’t been all that bad. Shame.

She hooked her arm happily around Kou’s waist. “Kou, you’ve been so busy lately. And you keep getting all busted up. Can’t you just take a break and spend time with me?” she asked. Because, if you don’t, I’ll keep looking for attention elsewhere. “I’m going to graduate soon and then I’ll have a break before I start working or go to Uni or whatever.” Mei had never put too much thought into her plans after school. She’d wanted to stay near Kou, and money was hardly an issue.

“Is it really just work with Dad that’s making you so boring? You don’t have a girlfriend or something, right?” she asked, and she sounded earnestly anxious. Mei had never seemed to mind who Kou took to bed. Any talk of a girlfriend, though, had sent her into fits of insufferable sullenness. It had been that way since she was old enough to grasp the concept of such relationships. “You’re not dating that old bag you get to stitch you up all the time, right?” That would be unacceptable of course.

She smiled sweetly at Kou’s tagalongs when they entered the kitchen. “I’d be careful with those. Stanford doesn’t clear his fridge frequently” Mei said, gesturing at the leftovers. “Hi Ouran.” She added, winking her blue-ringed eye. She’d never paid much mind to Ouran, though she flirted shamelessly. It wasn’t that she didn’t know he had a soft spot for her. Rather, he seemed close enough to Kou that she thought she ought not step between them. It would have generally defeated her goals to go screwing with Kou’s real friends.

Mei gave Kou a baffled stare. As if she couldn’t conceive where his tart expression might come from. She tugged on his tie. “Don’t look at me like that, Mr. Wing.” She scolded lightly. For all her antics, she was a good girl if Kou was there to inforce it. Their father joked about it often. “Were you busy before you came here?” she asked. As if on cue, Kou’s phone vibrated with a message.

Your guys better be clear of the dock. Patrols are returning as usual. –Abad

Mei poked his pocket, as if that would hush the device. “Take me to your flat? I wanna sleep over.” She said. “I’ll make you dinner and draw you a bath and everything.” She bounced on the balls of her feet, enthused with her own idea. Mei liked to play housewife, when Kou would let her. Always desperate to have his attention. She was a good cook though. She paused and glanced at Teddy and Ouran. “You guys can come for dinner too, if you want. Take care of your own baths, though. That’s only for my favorite brother.” Cheeky grin.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2016, 01:09:00 am »
Eden all but laughed when Ehlvie explained her relationship to other fallen. Of course that was the case. He felt a bit silly for having hoped otherwise. It was a bit of glee that made him smile with his new human teeth, the breath almost hitching to become breathy bubbles of amusements. Perhaps sloth was the best sin, since it was so passive. He expected her to betray him for her own leisure though, but he'd make sure not to count on her for anything but company.

Incu- and Succubae were well known breeds of demon. Their kind were no more common than angels ruined by other sins, but somehow lust was better appreciated by historians and story-tellers. And humans. The ambitions of greed and envy were not so beneficial to the victims. From the outside, people had been known to romanticize the paragons of lust. A particular few demons had been able to spread their legends as tails of gods, even. He wondered if the prayers to them did them any good. Most of those religions had no followers anymore, but the feat was still impressive.

He thought about what information she was offering, but was more excited about the advice. He took it as an offer of helping without knowing to stop himself from such an assumption, despite his mental note. "And there'll be demons there? Ah, of course. Lust and Greed." Ready to be recruited, surely, if he decided to do so. He could find kindred. They wouldn't want for the same things, but he was sure there was something on the way toward his own goal that they'd want. Without his heart he couldn't enter Heaven, but he'd been high in its rank, or outside of that hierarchy, actually, so his strength should be more than convincing. "We must go, then." Vi would have to appreciate it. He would let them know that she wasn't for anyone but him, too.

He was about to say something else assumptive, to engage Ehlvie, but instead slammed his hand onto his chest, gasping in shared horror with Violet just as she woke. The question she had didn't make sense to him at first, but her took part of what had been shown her, and the green eyes shadowed as he lowered his chin. "You can't be so reckless!" he warned and squeezed the fabric of his jacket chest as he glared at her. "What do you think a body does without a heart, a human body? You mustn't hurt yourself in your dreams."

He stood to move closer, hanging over her bed to examine her throat. The last of Laugivar's print were fading on her skin. It was a good sign that she was so animated, at least. He shook his head with some worry but soon returned to being stung. "She shouldn't be so noisy." he muttered. Laugivar. "But you're alive so that's good." He would have to wake over her when she slept. "Are you all better? How severe was this procedure on you? We need to leave. I want to leave." he pressed, and swiftly reached for the flimsy cloth she'd been provided, and drew it apart to see if there were still scars on her torso. He thought there should be none, and acted before either of the two could protest for either Violet's modesty, or his own education.


Having grown up the way they did, Mei was not very fazed by the violence. He was sure she'd not loose sleep if Stan bled out. He appreciated how candidly they could speak. There had been a time when father had thought it better to protect her, but she'd known because Kou had. There hadn't really been a point when she was brought into the fold, and she had never been bothered by it all. Eventually Mr. Tzeng had stopped enforcing the orders of secrecy around her. Father had said she was like this because she was loyal to the family. Said it like a lesson to his son. Kou was sure her heart was more focused than that. Her mother wasn't really staying close, and father, well, he kept himself occupied. It added to the guilt Kou felt for his absence.

"I'm here now, aren't I?" he answered. He didn't want to promise her anything she couldn't have. He knew what he was capable of with the amount of power he'd been allowed, and he knew that the syndicate would crumble if he tried to handle it now. He needed to cement his own legend to trickle down the ranks. What an insult it would be to himself if he'd have to unify the triad, yakuza and the other elements of this city again when father stepped down. He didn't like to think about the man he would have to become, or the life he'd have. What life that would leave Mei, if she continued to stay close. "You should totally study at Perseus Uni." he suggested. It was three cities over. Safer. Not the first time he'd tried to steer her toward it.

He grinned, brought out of the defeatist, familiar hole by her next question. "Oh, you mean Sweet Susie?" They both knew her name was Sue. Stitching-Sue. "Just because she's out of her school uniform doesn't mean she's an old bag." Mei had her buttons. "And boy is she ever out of her uniform when I visit." Though girl, couldn't pay for the rest of medical school but still had an interest in putting people back together. He wondered if she liked her MacGuyver set-up more than she ever would sterile halls and paper caps. Everyone's scrappy surgeon. He only pushed because he knew Sue was a very viable threat in Mei's head. "Nah, but who knows. I get busted up alot, like you say."

Ouran almost choked on a soggy onion and after Kou's initial snicker, he raised his eyebrows to stress his friend's awkwardness as proof that she indeed was doing something, after all. He rested his hands on her hips while she fussed with his tie, and was about to answer when the clone of the deceased phone, they kept spares in the car, alerted him. He read the message after she'd pointed it out physically. "Well, I was going to be a good son today, but now dad'll never know." This caught Teddy's attention. He could connect two dots pretty well if it meant leisure.

Appreciated. Be in touch.

Send. Ouran was very interested in her invitation. Kou thought to pull rank and keep the two out, mostly because Teddy would be happy anywhere that wasn't work, didn't need to be his flat, and Ouran would be safer without Mei, but the night sounded like something that used to happen a few years ago. He wanted something good to wash out the sullen from before. "Thanks for drawing the line at washing my friends, Mei." he muttered dramatically. No rejection meant let's go.

They left the apartment that faintly smelled of iron now. He hoped Stanford made it. The leather of the car was still somewhat warm, and he drew a cigarette out of nowhere. A bad habit, he pushed the lighter in with his foot from where he sat with his arm over Mei in the backseat. "Hey, remember when you caught Mei smoking and you spanked her?" Ouran said from the front. Truly, that man did not know his mouth from his ass when Mei was close. Teddy usually drove in silence when not spoken to. But now the largest of them all had to let go of the wheel to flick Ouran on the neck. Kou raised an eyebrow, cigarette almost dropping from his lips when the cigarette lighter clicked out. He was pissed, but as a brother and aghast friend, not as a murderous superior. It seemed though, Ouran did not recognize why the story would be inappropriate, even considering how it went.

"And you invited him." Kou said into the filter as Teddy turned on the radio.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2016, 02:30:37 am »
Violet was disoriented. “What? What happened? What do you mean reckless?” she demanded. It wasn’t familiar, this sort of being in the dark. It wasn’t like a new case, where the details were different but the terrain was the same. There were a different set of rules for all of this that she didn’t know. Violet felt the realization settle heavily in her gut. She touched her neck, which still smarted. She wasn’t left with much time to mull over her newly earned powerlessness. Eden was moving and saying they needed to leave and pulling her hospital gown up over her chest. She smacked his hand away, hard, though the deed had already been done.

“What the hell?” she snarled and made to yank the thin cloth back down over herself. “Are you nuts?” she demanded. But there would have been enough time for Eden and Ehlvie, who was finding it difficult to remain balanced across his shoulders, to see there was no hint of a surgical incision remaining. Instead, a wild scroll of green tendrils wound down the center of her chest and across her ribs. Slender vines emblazoned on her skin, organic and twisting like Eden’s hyphae. Quick work, that heart. Violet herself seemed not to have noticed. She was, instead, lividly wrapping herself in as much of the flimsy hospital blanket as possible. “You’re a pervert! I don’t care whether you’re a Demon or anything else, you crude, obscene man. Get. Out!” Curious, when she’d not been so flustered by his casual suggestions of bringing about her untimely end.
Ehlvie was making strange sounds. Tuts of disapproval, presumably, but completely unrecognizable with her forked tongue against her needle teeth. “Now, Miss Abad, calm yourself. This Oaf has had terrible behavior from the beginning. There’s no reason to kick him out now. I assure you, his perversions should not be taken personally. This one personally crafted Heavenly genitals you know…” Ehlvie offered. Violet was glowering.
“Out. I said, out.” Her hand shot for the nurse call button. “Out, or I’ll call for security.” She snarled. Ehlvie coiled a bit tighter.
“Perhaps you should apologize, Eden?” she suggested mildly. The snake was being uncommonly helpful, though she’d deny it later with a great deal of complaining. Violet’s thumb twitched over the button. Her eyes were so very green now. On the table, the potted plant’s buds snapped and popped little showers of petals.
Mei scowled at the mention of Perseus. “It’s so far away, though. When will I ever get to see you if I go that far away? What’s college going to be good for anyway,” she protested. She grew even more petulant with his teasing. “She’s a fucking hag.” Mei snapped. “Ugly bitch. That’s why she sews you up so well. She knows what it’s like to be hideous.” She said matter-of-factly. “I’m not going to Perseus University.” Sour taste in her mouth. Susie wasn’t an ugly girl. She wasn’t Mei, but she also wasn’t as conceited. That did swing things back in Miss Susie’s favor. But Mei wore her vanity like it was couture and it was hard to argue when she passed down judgement on other women. They’re horrid if you say so. She had not let go of Kou’s tie and her grip hardened on his jokes.

“There are too many cuties in this town to move off to somewhere else yet, anyway. You have the best friends, Kou.” She said, releasing the cloth and shrugging abruptly. A sparkle in her eyes. She hated it when he teased her, truthfully, but she liked it when he made her mad almost as much as she liked maddening him. They made their way toward the car and her mood was sugared quickly when he agreed to—or didn’t refuse—her suggestion. It had been a little while since she’d gone to his flat.
Mei smiled sweetly, immune to her brother’s sarcasm when it left her getting her way. “Of course, Dear Brother, I only spoil you.” She chirped. If he’d allow it, she’d dote on him in excess. Whether he was pleased with that behavior or not, she’d never stopped to consider much. It was as close to altruistic as the girl had ever come, and her fawning was still self-satisfying at its core. She was quick to snuggle into the backseat, lacing her fingers with her brother’s when he draped his arm over her.

She watched him draw the cigarette to his lips with some sort of enchantment. He always looked so cool when he smoked. She’d wondered if it would have the same effect on her too, when she was younger. As if the thought had been summoned to every mind in the car, Ouran burst out with an unsolicited story. Mei wasn’t embarrassed, but she blushed anyway. A dangerous girl to have those tricks at her fingertips. “Omigod, Ouran why would you bring that up?” she whined, tugging on a lock of her hair. Kou’s comment wasn’t lost on her, though, and she wriggled in her seat. As if that might hide her amusement.

“It’s alright though, ya know? I’m so lucky I have a great big brother. Not every guy would bend his sister over his knee to teach her such important lessons.” Mei hummed. It was downright lewd when she mewled it like that. She beamed at Kou. “You’re not going to do that again today, are you?” A cheeky laugh and she flicked a small fleck of lint from the corner of her skirt.

“What do you guys want to eat? You’ve got stuff in your flat to cook with, right Kou?” she asked. It wasn’t a long drive to the high rise and there was a grocer on the corner of the block if he’d neglected his refrigerator.   


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2016, 06:42:26 pm »
He recognized Laugivar’s heat on Violet. It was quite clear she’d been visited by the right hand upon her neck. It was worrisome. For all the hubris sticking to and polluting Eden, a complete and healthy adversary, Heaven’s best, still caused him to falter. Coming to this hospital was to arm himself, after all. Without his heart, he’d be no trouble for the judge of The Eternal City. “You’re between worlds now. My world is stronger when you sleep, if it chooses to be.” A gesture, irritated, toward the heat clutching her throat. “That was Laugivar herself, looking for you. She did not intend to end you, I assure you, but you see what can happen.” His hand fanned closed. What if this was your windpipe?

There were good news for him, but equally upsetting, underneath her robe. At  least he felt comforted when he saw the threads on her skin, which guaranteed the heart she’d received that he’d not given, and she’d not asked for, was well and strong. The sewing wasn’t perfect, not how he would have commanded the heart move, but this kind of healing was just power, no finesse. Whatever hollow the surgeon had carved never stood a chance against the power that could construct other angels. The sight was made better by the rest of Violet, of course. A pretty scene for a beautiful force. The girl was as cheap with it as he’d come to expect.

“Crude?” he asked, standing up straighter to get away from her obvious ruffle. “I’m anything but crude.” He explained to the woman who could not conceal the art of her body made intact fast enough. “And you’re not only a lower standing animal to me, you seem not to appreciate the miracle that saved your life to cover it up so!” Ehlvie’s voice soothed him a bit. Perhaps it was her sin doing good. Either way it was not enough. Hyphae were spreading from between his eyes and his lids to make dancing lashes. Eden saw the buds at the bedside table arrive at a plumb state, and fell in-love with the sight a bit, but none of it was enough to overshadow Violet’s outburst.

“Call security then!” he challenged. “See if they burn. I took apart warriors like you would crush a flowerhead.” He said, black jaw growing ragged bark. “Send the nurses to their doom, I’ll put their petals on the floor and smear their perfume on the walls so that more innocent beings alongside myself have to lose their heartbeats because you’re too weak.” He wanted that. He wanted this room in bloodied disarray for him. But the snake spoke again. He didn’t know why she had such sway over him. Perhaps because she was the only soul he’d connected to in this existence. He looked from the scaled head to Violets eager thumb. His expression gave that he felt a bit betrayed by Ehlvie, but not so much that she should be punished. The threads retreated into his skull and the jaw that Violet could see faded into a black shadow.

“I am sorry you are ashamed of your nudity. If it helps, it was quite fine. It is not of angel quality, but it had an imperfect charm.” He gave and huffed with disapproval that he’d have to submit to this kind of convention. There was also a defeated sympathy in the tilt of his head, to lament her falling short of angelic exterior. Surely that was all any person would ever strive for. If it was so simple, man was ugly and angels were all that could be desired, succubae and incubate would not thrive as they did when they fell. Eden would learn that human flaws were exactly why their prayers meant so much.

He crossed his arms. “Well. I saw that you were quite alright, and you even slept. Should we go now? I’ve seen this place. I want to see others. Maybe I’ll punish some hapless other human for your rude nature, Violet.” It was not meant as incentive to go with him. He did not imagine a woman of the law would like to protect others, especially from imagined slights that he connected to her. “I would like to see people gambling, like you said, Ehl.” He felt a bit weak at the thought, which was his being’s way of telling him it was famished the way a man might become famished from talking about his favorite eatery. “Do you like to gamble?” he asked Violet, already forgetting how angry her insolence and modesty made him. Eden too, would be a task.


“I had to go. I went even farther away.” He pointed out to her when Mei’s protest sounded alarmingly close to a tone he’d used to complain to Teddy. “You want some more smarts in that brain of yours.” He assured her. Honestly, he’d rather have her close. Shooting suitors was a lot easier when she was a short ride away. But he’d not have her around the escalation of his duties if he could help it. There’d be less time for him to play with his baby sister in the future, and his enemies would find it practical if she lived in the same city. He couldn’t help but grin excitedly when she treated his tie worse at the mention of Susie. Mei was cerebral, and it was refreshing to see someone so honest. He wondered what she would do if he ever returned the favor of a picture with a bare Susie in the background. They were polar opposites, the two. He’d not put his favorite field doctor in such peril.

He flicked her cheek when she proposed to stay in town for his friends. Ouran faltered a bit in his step at that. Kou shot her another tired look. Really, she should show the guy some sympathy by pointing out nothing could happen. Well, nothing should. The brother wasn’t sure her flame wouldn’t lash out at the sweet Ouran at the right time. Kou was certain she’d blame it on him then, too.

Well in the car, she was her bubbly self. He did like having her close, and kissed her hair, manipulating the cigarette to one corner of his lips, as she wiggled close. Her act was almost convincing, embarrassed, with Ouran’s verbal misstep. It was clear why that particular memory had surfaced underneath the spiked hair. If Kou remembered that punishment, she’d cried over his lap, but as with everything with Mei, that might have been because she wanted to. Ouran was proud he’d elicited the response she offered at first. It is a badge that a girl you like lets you tease her. Poor, sweet idiot friend. Kou thought to leave him to his fate, the way Ouran was obviously leaning in to it, always asking her why not me, when they came to torment her lovers.

Out of nowhere, Ouran started coughing at what Mei said next, about Kou’s virtue to guide her with a firm hand on the back of her skirt, and mention of a repeat of the event. Kou scowled at his sister. He’d not even seen Ouran indulge very much in the flowers that offered themselves to him in the brothels they’d go to for meetings. The only one Ouran would speak to had Mei’s exact haircut. “Maybe I will.” Kou said with a warning, but realized the futility in that threat. He kicked the leather supporting Ouran’s back to bring him out of the fit. “See what you’ve done?” he asked her, real disapproval in the dark eyes. He’d not trust the shorter male to save his life if needed if he didn’t also respect him a great deal. “Hey, Ouran, do yourself a favor and stop perving on my little sister. She’ll eat you alive.” And with that, Ouran must have choked on more saliva because the cough got worse.

In the end, Teddy started laughing and Kou joined in. The brother had a clear laugh when it was for pure amusement, and not some dark show of power. Eventually it hitched into a cackle and his legs lifted his knees to his chest, arm around her swaying her along if she would not laugh also. Ouran was soon cured from wanton by glee. Kou had to let go of her to gather his wits and was still chuckling into the cigarette he picked up from the floor when he lit it with the glowing lighter. “Women, eh, Ouran?” he asked, and it caused another small riot. The cigarette was rumpled, almost broken, but it fit better in his compromised face. Kou tapper her shoulder and then pointed at the popped lighter on their side of the divider. "Tsk. You're going to make me light it myself? You're growing up all wrong, Meimei." he scolded, filter secure in his mouth. He would light it himself if she didn't but that would come with his dirties look at her yet.

“Got a hot-pot. It’s a gift from the viets. Works like the others.” He answered her finally and sighed, exhausted from the laughter still coating the interior around them. “And some serious meat from the Russians. Knives form them, too. Do we have time for that?” he asked, sitting up, ashing into the pop up tray in the door. “Emily,” the grocer “is open too, so I’ll get us some ice-cream.” It would seem Kou was well in the mood for this evening now. He was skeptic to his own happiness, a hazard of his legacy and work, but the people in the large sedan were part of the few who could bring him out it. “What do you want to make? What do you want to eat?” he asked her, tilting his chin down to look directly at her, his cheeks rosy around a few cuts.

The cigarette was dead when Teddy pulled in to the parking lot. Kou lifted his head from her lap and held the door for her after stepping out. Teddy threw him a roll of cash over the roof of their vehicle and Kou only barely managed not to light another smoke on his way in. In the beginning, when he moved here, he’d made a point out of not offering protection to Emily, but that of course exposed the store to another set of problems. He was sure the owners knew he was connected to the rugged lot that came in here sometimes, keeping rougher company out, but it was a quiet agreement that they never speak of it. He touched his brow absently at her in the register and then quickly darted to the produce. “Where’s the chewy stuff I like? Get some mushrooms too.” He said to Mei, assuming she’d follow.

Teddy and Ouran were the picture of good customers here on Kou’s orders, nodding politely and keeping away from the corners they’d already spotted for the best shoplifting.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2016, 09:15:04 pm by Verse »


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2016, 09:32:42 pm »
Violet tossed the button aside with some disgust. “You’re kind of messed up and awfully arrogant.” She told him with a frown. Not that Violet could say too much about pride. She’d only been dissuaded because these two strange beings were the closest thing she had to an anchor in this new world of frightening dreams and black market deals. Vi wanted to speak to her father. It seemed like a poor time to do so now, though. She needed to understand her situation better before she worried him. The dear man had been through more than enough in the last few years. She sighed and rubbed her throat again. The sting was subsiding, though her skin was still hot.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” she asked him dryly, unappreciative of his commentary on her body. “Because it just makes me want to kick you out more,” Violet informed. She pulled back her covers and slipped carefully out of the bed, using her IV pole for support. She found it was surprisingly easy to support herself and no pain where there should have been. It was incredible, really. She’d been out of surgery for less than a day. There’d barely been enough time for the drugs to wear off. Violet laughed. How peculiar that a dreamed up injury to her throat would be more painful than the aftermath of a heart transplant.

“Okay, so maybe you’re right and I’m miraculously healed. That doesn’t get me out of the hospital. If I disconnect the EKG, it’ll notify the nurse’s station that I’m coding.” Violet pointed out. She arched a brow out Eden, whom she was fairly certain was a ridiculous series of blunders waiting to happen regardless of any divine origin. “If you can convince the hospital to discharge me, I’ll go with you.” She said. As she saw it, there was a good chance Eden would get himself kicked out of the hospital and Ehlvie seemed disinclined toward letting things get violent. She was certain they’d not leave her alone for too long, but it might buy her the time for some rest and a normal discharge. If he did happen to stumble into success, she’d follow him as he liked. Learning more about these Demons in her life likely had its own benefits.

Ehlvie snickered beneath Eden’s scarf. “What a wager. She must be the gambling type after all. I wouldn’t have figured.” The snake muttered. She could grasp Violet’s idea easily enough and wondered if Eden would be able to taste that expectation of failure. How far he’d Fallen and so quickly. The dear gardener of the Eternal City, loved like a father by many of the Angels, being patronized by a human woman in a hospital gown. Ehlvie didn’t know where her organs had gone and into how many hands they’d passed. She’d never bothered to look. Privy to this exchange, she rather thought it good of her to have avoided searching. Surely, it would have been demeaning.

Violet sat back on the edge of the bed. “Am I supposed to get along with you, Eden... Ed…?” she asked him. “I believe your story, more or less. These dreams are crazy and my heart knows you, for better or worse.” She said. “But you’d like me dead and I find you aggravating.” A vague smile. “How’s this supposed to work?” As if Eden should know any better than she. “Ah, whatever. If you want to get out of here so badly, you don’t have to drag me along. Or, if you feel like you must, go figure it out yourself, like I said.” She waved off her earlier comment.  It was all a bit too ridiculous to consider too carefully.

If they left to negotiate her discharge, Violet would settle back onto the bed and peek below her gown. The fine green traces were foreign and foreboding even as they were curiously beautiful. How strange this all was. She would reach for her phone, to contact her father, and then stop half-way through placing the call. What was she supposed to tell him? Gambling, Eden had said. It wasn’t explicitly illegal in the city, but Violet couldn’t think of a single establishment with savory ties that hosted such games. Well, that’d be one way to jump back in the saddle. Eden would surely be distracting enough that she might be able to pick up some interesting information to take back to the station.


Mei was grinning wider than the Cheshire cat. She really couldn’t have been more pleased at the moment. If it was possible, she smiled even wider as she watched Kou’s expression change. How positively beautiful that face was when it made dark expressions. Her eyes grew a bit wide, though, when he began to laugh. It was a bit rare these days, to see him try at carefree. He was handsome like that too. Mei bit on her lower lip in a brief attempt to hold back her own giggles, but gave in to the lightness of the ride and Kou’s shoulder against hers.

When he teased her for light she was quick to oblige, poking her tongue out at him as she did so. “Growing up just as well as you did, Brother,” she replied and gave his cigarette the needed spark. A softer expression then, unusual for the calculated girl. “Which isn’t so bad, I think,” she said. She folded her hands in her lap and glanced out the window. Mei didn’t honestly know if she was growing up okay. It wasn’t like she’d known any other family, and other life. She supposed there must be something a little off, though. It wasn’t like she didn’t know her attachment to Kou was a little unhealthy at her age. Really, it might just be getting unhealthier with age. A small sigh.

“Hot pot will do, unless Tweedledee and Tweedledum up there have some place to be.” She answered. “I’ll get fresh vegetables. Do you want fish?” she asked. “I want the ice cream with the caramel in it.” She followed him into the supermarket and over to the produce. “Yes, yes, I’ll get all of it.” Mei said. She knew all of his favorites. She made a point of it. “Do you have rice?” she asked, when she was already headed for the aisle. She hadn’t known him to keep many staples in his flat. It had gotten worse since he’d left the university. Sometimes she wanted to seriously tell him to take a break from work, for his own good, but she never did. He’d just tease her for being lonely anyhow.

When they had paid for their supplies and hauled them up to Kou’s flat, Mei disappeared into his bedroom to change. She’d insisted on leaving some of her clothes there, so girls he brought over ‘wouldn’t feel special.’ Not that Mei knew whether or not he actually brought anyone over. She didn’t really want to. When she emerged, she’d slipped into some very tiny shorts and a low-cut tank top, which more or less disappeared beneath a pink apron. The apron had been a gift from Kou at some point, likely as a joke, but she had proceeded to wear it whenever she could find an excuse.

She was humming as she began to prepare the vegetables, wagging her hips as she danced around his posh kitchen. With Mei, most everything was a show. She winked at Kou. “Wouldn’t I make a cute housewife?” she asked. 



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Re: Guts.
« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2016, 06:18:51 pm »
Eden did smirk, arrogant, when Violet’s fondness for indenting the silicone wrap on the alert device did not surpass her distaste of possibly putting the nurses in danger. He should remember that she was inclined toward this kind of outcome when present with the choice. “I fell from a great height.” He explained with a shrug in his voice. The little victory was chased away by her unwillingness to accept his compliment on her physical composition. He thought it had been a very kind comment on his part. “Lack of gratitude isn’t a sin, I suppose, but it shows poor upbringing. Were you abused while being complimented, growing up, to hate it so?” he asked.

Despite his mood, he still stood close to catch her when she came out of the bed. His arms in a half circle did not need to close around a wilting Violet. Though she was a bad conversationalist, she seemed to be able to stand pretty well. He was not inclined to compliment her on it, in light of her poor manners. Ehlvie and the human agreed that getting Violet out might be a challenge, one he might not be equipped to see through successfully. He listened down at the snake and then gave Vi a shallow, judgmental nod. “It could not be very hard. People of earth never work with what’s precious to them. I only need to discover their other important things.”

Her other line of questions spoke better to him. He didn’t crave Violet the way he’d wanted Ehlvie, but he would prefer that his presence in her life was consensual. It was not beyond him to try and endear himself to the woman. “How this will work? Well, how about you lend me some consideration.” He said. Sympathy was a chord he’d seen play well onto the human heart, it was a strong string. His heart was not immune to it, either. And he felt enough sympathy for himself, already. “You’ve gotten a better life in a matter of moments. You speak of a father with whom you have a good relationship. In a similar time-frame I was robbed of a life I’ve known for longer than you could begin to fathom, a life I loved and one that fulfilled me. Now the world as I knew it has betrayed me. My children brought me to ruin, and my love was instrumental to all of it.” For effect, a small tendril of green climbed down one corner of one eye. He was not crying, but he understood the aesthetics. Violet did not know he had real tears, yet. A sob, for effect. “So if you’d be so kind, or decent, or if I could persuade you to be less apathetic, I’d like to have a relationship to the new vessel of my heart.” He sighed and squeezed Ehlvie again. “I suppose, like you ask, this will only work if you let it. And why wouldn’t you?” Green eyes dimmed. An expression of lost hope?

Whatever she would say, if anything, he would follow with a slow turn toward the door, assuring her he would be back, either way.

It would not be too hard finding a nurse who would know where the good doctor was. He had shown Eden a fair amount of respect, and seemed to be anointed in the dealings that kept some fortunate patients alive. Light glasses. Eden smiled, leaning against the doorframe of his office. Healers are always busy. The former angel took some pleasure in taking up the man’s time because of that. “Good day, Doctor.” He said and waved from where he stood. There was company in the room, and the pretty newcomer with pale hair looked at them as though they were intruding. “I would like to ask something of you.”

He wasn’t overly opposing in stature. There was an assumption on his shoulders and a power in his slender frame that suggested they would all be dealt with, that the consequences might involve great personal harm, if the room did not oblige. And yet, outwardly, there was just a perfect face, chin concealed in a thick knit wound around him. They must be investors, or people with a great deal of money strewn around in this establishment, because he felt nourished simply soaking in this air. He wondered if their greed would be enough to challenge their instincts that were telling them to leave. He lifted his palm and extended it, not to be shaken, but to invite them to make a good decision.

Upon privacy. The recent demon would pose that Violet was well enough to be discharged. “You can understand, doctor, can’t you?” Head to the side. “I would like to take her to one place or another, and she is worried about the particulars of it. So if you help me, I’d be grateful.”


Kou’s face was washed in fire-red and quick shadows when she put flame to his abused roll of fine tobacco. He’d always loved his sister, and he was proud of her in that loyal way a brother ought. He would agree that she was becoming an adult in a good way. He couldn’t reconcile this pride very well with his worry for her, on the occasions it flared. She was pretty laughing, and she was always her best with him, he knew. The ember end burnt a little warmer from having been born out of her cooperation. “We don’t.” Ouran injected for himself and his tweedle brother. Teddy objected as much as Teddy does.

“Of course I want fish!” Kou said in the store. In many aspects, he was also spoiled.

He enjoyed the experience of shopping for food as much as he liked the spoils. People in here knew him, not all of them knew what he was, but his eccentricities didn’t bother. He felt like an ordinary brother with his sister, picking things out for supper, then. “Why wouldn’t I have rice? Am I a barbarian?” he asked as he slid the tub of ice-cream she’d ordered into the basket. Coconut for him, and chocolate for the other two. He set his mind to some concepts, sometimes, and could be a bit stubborn. Today, it seemed, he was offended by the thought of not having rice. With a cavalier slip, however, he made sure a bag of said food was also in the basket before they left. “Might not have enough for everyone though.” He muttered.

The two friends were quick at home in the large flat. Kou liked to impress, which the original interior reflected, but he was also not one to keep up appearances when no one was looking. Most eyes coming here, if they were heavily lined, had already agreed he was worth the toss, anyway, so really, the Tzeng prince had very few that he needed to please. The result was a slightly messy, expensive apartment. Once again he was reminded of his mistake of buying her the apron when she came out of his room. He didn’t even bother to see Ouran’s reaction as he took his turn to access his own closet. It was mostly to hang up his jacket and tie, maybe even his belt. Teddy and loverboy couldn’t change their attire, so he just unbuttoned his shirt over his tanktop and rolled the arms.

Mei was already keeping Ouran’s attention when the brother came into the kitchen. She danced well, with the food. Kou had no problem coming up from behind and backhanding the silent spectator. Ouran just barely woke up. Kou rubbed the top of his hand. “Your spikes are dangerous. Is it carbon fiber or steel?” he asked. Teddy laughed, head in the fridge, despite the mileage on that borrowed joke, and Kou huffed a few chuckles before realizing Ouran was back to his old tricks. “At least help her!” he scolded and shoved the love sick friend with a foot in his back. “Chivalry. Or even decency. She’s making us food.”

Hypocrisy, rather, as Teddy brought Kou a glass and a bottle from the freezer. The meats weren’t the only wares the Russians had been generous with. Kou looked skeptical but Teddy’s careless first sip was enough incentive. Ouran was as close to Mei as he could – her shorts and top paired suggestively with the apron even drew Kou’s eyes - chopping whatever he was given. The Aitawa family were restaurateurs, their son should be able to handle himself well in the kitchen. Kou smiled to himself with a welcome tinge on his tongue, putting the frosted glass down. The two looked cute. If Ouran should be so fortunate, they’d make a sweet couple, even if Mei would forever have the upper hand in that marriage. Somehow, though, Kou didn’t like the thought of seeing Mei in a wedding dress. “She wasn’t asking you, Mr. Aitawa.” Mei Aitawa. What an abomination. “But yes. Very cute.” He winked back. “You know what would be cuter?” he started. Everyone in the room knew what came next. Teddy waited for it with some excitement. “A hazmat suit and an umbrella.” Teddy laughed in the glass and Ouran rolled his eyes.

More hypocrisy, quite picturesque, when the food was ready, and there were three glasses around the boiling pot on the table, but only one lonely can of coke. They had all been given water, too, as though that would make things more fair. If Mei protested – she was the Tzeng daughter, she’d tried all kinds of poisons already – Kou would kiss her cheek, warm from cooking, and return the grimace she’d given him before. “You’re our waitress. Waitresses don’t get to drink the good stuff.” Ouran, who had been engaged by the culinary assignment and was fussing over the broth, absent minded as the adept, mumbled that Kou actually had a particular taste for waitresses that drank with him. The brother promptly ignored his friend and held the chair out for Mei. “Maybe when you turn twenty one.” At least he sat beside her, and tended to her bowl first, to make sure it was full, as the other two had to fend for themselves.

“This was a good idea.” Teddy said around a mouthful. Kou looked to the others with exaggerated surprise. There was a bit of a blush on his cheekbones, already, courtesy of the Russians. Ouran was by the island, setting up his phone on a timer.

“It speaks!” Kou called and laughed again, leaning his head to Mei’s shoulder and almost spilling his glass. The picture In Ouran’s phone would feature also a full-cheeked Teddy and himself, standing behind Mei, smiling.

Kou couldn’t know what strength he’d get from that printed moment in the future.

Well there, cheek to his sister's shoulder, he picked up her least liked item and brought it to her lips. "Comon, baby sister. You have to grow up big and strong, like your brother."


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2016, 08:26:36 pm »
Mei pouted at Kou, but laughed too. “Don’t underestimate me, Kou,” she scolded. Mei was confident in her looks over most anything else. She bumped Ouran with her hip lightly. “You know I could make it look good, right?” she giggled and glanced back at her brother to stick her tongue out at him. His friend was a hostage, in some ways, and Kou’s attention was the only acceptable ransom. She worked deftly, taking care to cut things and portion them particularly to her brother’s tastes. For as long as she had known Teddy and Ouran, she couldn’t have said what they liked or didn’t like. Mei had never cared. She even added sprouts, which Kou fancied, despite her own preferences. There wasn’t another person on earth that could elicit even that much selflessness from her.

She served the table carefully, bending over the low table across from Kou whenever possible. She’d never caught him looking, but it didn’t prevent her from trying. Mei seemed happy to be serving them, initially pleased that she had gotten to make her brother’s supper, and then became rapidly annoyed at the disparity in their beverages. “Wait, that’s not fair…” she whined, reaching for Kou’s glass. She was thwarted quickly, distracted when he kissed her cheek. It was almost sympathetic, how earnestly delighted she was by the small affection. It didn’t matter if he was teasing. “You suck.” She mumbled, but her cheeks were glowing.

Unfortunately, Mei did not miss Ouran’s comment and wasn’t so willing to let it go. She shot her brother an offended stare and took a long moment before she accepted the seat he’d pulled for her. She was aloof when he served her and made a soft sound of disapproval rather than thanking him. “You have terrible taste.” She muttered, before shoveling a spoonful of rice into her mouth. It was beneficial to her brother’s friends that Kou was in an appeasing sort of mood. They ought to thank the Russians later. Mei was known for her tantrums; she had a remarkable stubbornness and little care for anyone else’s feelings. She could be caustic and unforgiving, a violent sort of storm that flared and faded without warning. With Kou, she was generally better behaved, though prone to sulking and lashing out at Ouran and Teddy when it suited her.

So, it was fortunate that Kou cozied up to her the way he did, as it set her intentions into a tailspin. She tried to remain chilly, lips twitching in frustration when he leaned against her. “Ugh, how ridiculous.” Mei told him, though a pretty flush was creeping brightly across her cheeks. “S-stop it. You’re being… you’re being weird.” She complained, clutching her hands into fists in her lap when he poked the sprouts between her lips. Mei gasped a little, and then choked a bit, but took the food so as not to embarrass herself. The tips of her ears had turned pink too. “B-baby sister?!” she started. It wasn’t a term she usually protested. “I’m a grown woman you know,” she blurted. How childlike.

It was all still over the alcohol, then, and the women he shared it with. She reached for his glass again, snatching it and downing whatever was left. She set the glass on the table hard. “I can hold my own.” She said. But Mei couldn’t really hold her own. She wasn’t a stranger to drinking, but it didn’t change the fact that she was a small girl despite her curves. Mei grabbed her spoon and shoveled another bite into her mouth, still out of sorts. “Hey Ouran, have you honestly ever had a prettier waitress?” she demanded. Never mind the bias there. She scooted her chair back to pull off the apron and hang it over the side. Adjusted her top, showed a little more and a peek of the lace lingerie beneath.

“Can I have my own glass?” she asked, and she was looking at anyone but her brother. “It’s just us here. There shouldn’t be a problem with letting me join in.” She couldn’t be sure that either man would go against Kou’s preferences, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. It would annoy Kou too. The blush hadn’t faded from her cheeks and it was anyone’s guess as to whether it was alcohol setting in or Kou’s proximity to her. Despite all of her supposed irritation, she hadn’t tried to remove him from where he had leaned into her.


The doctor blinked at Eden. Blinked too much to be comfortable, really. It was the man from before. He really wasn’t normal. The doctor stood from his desk. “Ah, well. It’s really too soon to let a patient who has had major surgery out of the hospital. I could… I could check on her though, if you like.” He said carefully. He was certain this silver-haired fellow must know a bit about the sort of heart inside of Violet Abad. Perhaps he was involved with the suppliers.

The doctor wrung his hands together as he walked back toward Violet’s room with Eden close behind. “Ah, what did you say your name was?” he asked gingerly. “Miss Abad’s transplant was a bit abnormal, you’re aware?” he continued. A breach of patient confidentiality to say these things, but Eden was a bit ominous somehow and the doctor hadn’t gotten pulled into black market transplants because he was a brave man.

Thirty minutes later, Violet was stepping out a side exit to the hospital with Eden, Ehlvie, and her doctor behind her. “Remember, your discharge date is going to read for next Tuesday. Uh, uh, please don’t report to work before then. I’ll have a phone call with your father. I’m going to tell him you’re going to be able to come home tomorrow, but you’re to rest until Tuesday at least.” The doctor rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ll call him tomorrow morning.”

Violet nodded at him. “Alright, I understand.” She said, and tried to give him an encouraging smile. This man should likely be put in prison. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and waved the doctor back inside. When they were alone, she turned to Eden. “Okay. So, I’ll try to be more understanding of your situation, but you need to understand two things. I didn’t even know about your world until today and I’m a police officer. I’m not going to stand for you getting people hurt or causing trouble. I guess I—I don’t know how I feel about you dealing with other… Demons… just yet. But the point is, this isn’t just some joy ride I’m coming along on.” She seemed satisfied with her decision and took a deep breath.

“Alright. I promised I’d go with you, so lead the way.” 


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #25 on: October 28, 2016, 03:53:01 pm »
Ouran, a happy captive and an asset in the kitchen, agreed quickly with Mei, yes you make it look very good, and continued to do the small tasks, skills shining through at some details, muscle memory and practice, as he let himself be an extension of her, making sure she wouldn't have to reach far or want for ingredients. But since Kou's tastes were not entirely traditional, and Mei knew them all, there were a few clashes of opinion, where Ouran of course backed down. Clearly she wanted to be able to say she'd prepared this meal.

The ransom for Ouran's help, however, was paid in full by her little plot to get Kou to admire her when she made good use of her shorts and young curves. Her sous chef was able to catch glimpses too, and it was more than he’d ever ask for in exchange for his assistance. It was odd that the brother seemed to look away when she reached low, but always saw when someone else was watching her. "Subtle." Kou rewarded his friend, who might not have heard him. When Mei's eyes were available again, Kou tossed his chin at Ouran, not to warn her, but to plead his friend's case. Mei would not go easy on the kindliest of the three men, though, and all three men knew that.

Glee returned to Kou when she noticed her soda can. Like any sibling, one of his purest joys was to throw his weight around her when he could. The two others were almost affected too, with her welling blush, when Kou's kiss stayed her protest. It was curious to see every time, when Mei would not practice her usual whirlwind of a personlity with her brother. They remembered again, how Mr. Tzeng had said she could be reasonable if her brother was in the room.

Whatever anchor the kiss and the attention had wrought on her wilds, they were easily stirred again, even though Ouran hadn't meant to. The marble-eyed - arguably sweetest - runt of the three males kept his eyes on her while she fumed over Kou's revealed preference in restaurant staff. From Teddy's point of view, it was very clear who connected to whom in which way, with Mei's anger rushing toward Kou who feigned ignorance, while Ouran almost forgot to chew, staring at the girl. The large enforcer grinned and took the opportunity to serve himself a healthy amount while everyone else was occupied with familiar dynamics.

Kou opened and closed his mouth dryly, mimicking, encouraging when Mei took the sprouts. It was always hard to know if he was privy to the source of his influence over Mei, since he'd not known any other relationship between brother and sister, but sometimes it seemed as though he was very aware of the nature of her feelings toward him. He became engaged, the way the lulled are by something new and curious, when Ouran's tattle came back on her upset. Kou’s mouth became smaller and one brow floated high with interest when she presented her case to win the right to drink, hint of lace and all. It was clear he was not invited to the verdict. The two others - Teddy because it was his way, and Ouran because he didn't know if here was a line he should not cross - waited for Kou to give indication.

Soon the brother laughed and tugged lightly at her top, as though that would make it longer, in the process his knuckles brushed her stomach. Ouran was too quick to finally say "Of course we've never had a prettier waitress!" It was followed by a sigh as though he'd been holding his breath around the confession. It made Kou laugh more as he snatched up her water glass and drank it for himself, all of it, quite quick. While his lips were still pulsing against the lip of the cylinder, he placed his shorter vial infront of her, the content she’d argued for roiling in there.

"Alright, Ms. Wing." he gave with a gulp for air, having claimed the longer cylinder for himself. "You can drink with the big boys because your food is so good. But there goes your tip." He was already pouring himself more of the industrial favor from the clear, elegant bottle into the glass he'd stolen. "Honestly, Meimei, one day Ouran's going to fall in duty, and you're going to feel bad for using him so much." Ouran just nodded along, happy to be mentioned in context of her affections. Teddy took a larger piece of meat than he’d been allowed if this was a dinner of wolves, and Kou held his glass out and waited for all of them to clink with him. Ouran was obsessed with drinking when Mei did, and held his glass up for her to touch hers with often. It was not to get her drunk, even if that might be a consequence, he simply liked the interaction. It is fulfilling to be able to influence your crush's behavior.

Kou was quick to for seconds, burn of the elixir fueling his hunger. He’d not had much to eat today. Susie usually did not feed her patients more than smoke and the same industrial thing that was in the glasses here. In the restaurants that needed to appease the second ranking lord of the syndicate that ruled this city, Kou was known to eat around certain items in almost all dishes. He had nothing to disagree with here, and became quiet for a longer time as he stuffed himself with her cooking. Once or twice he smile at her - lips strained to stay closed, face swollen to one side – complimenting her wordlessly. Kou’s mother was long gone, an accidental victim in a feud with a group that had been obliterated – which left her heavily romanticized in his mind, so Mei’s culinary ventures were the only he had come to know as home cooking.

He washed the last of the comfort down with her coke, and then chased quickly with another taste of vodka. Kou sighed and slumped in the chair, satisfied. Teddy was still eating, and Oruan had gotten up to see if there was anything else to serve. Both of Kou’s usual helpers had adapted his sartorial ques. Seemed the tail-pair were always ready to dress down when allowed. “You would make a good wifey.” He admitted at Mei and patted his stomach, as though it wasn’t the same flat state it had been. He moved his chair closer to hers. “Too bad you can’t cook for me every night.” It was a real woe when he spoke it. If she did offer to move in, though, he’d be stumped.

“Dessert!” Ouran saved and put bowls down, clearing the table around them with deft, lazy hands. Teddy was still attacking the pot and was left to it with his silverware and porcelain. Kou spun the dainty spoon to drill into the melting offering.

“So, how’s school? Do you have any friends your age for Ouran?” he asked, finally shaving off some cold sweetness and putting it into his mouth. It was a very noncommittal way of eating anything. Their father had given him a hefty beating for it, once. Teddy huffed, amused as he tipped the bowl into his mouth for the last of the broth. Kou touched his spoon to her hand, to see if it was cold enough to make her react. Ouran moaned in complaint at the direction of the conversation. It made it more fun for the leader. “Yeah. Maybe someone who dresses like you? A shopping buddy?” Ouran sat down heavily with his own ice-cream, sprinkled with dried fruit. His eyes were strangely sober, looking Kou over to see if it would be alright to protest or if he was pulling rank. Kou gave no solace and no reprimand. He liked to tease Ouran, and Mei did it best. What was the point of having such a vicious sister if it couldn’t entertain him, sometimes.

He was fairly certain she wouldn’t mind. She knew she was the kind of beautiful that made men into animals. Her mother in her. Hers was still alive. Fortunately, Ouran was more of a puppy than a bird of prey. It lead Kou to think, if and when she was done punishing Ouran for his crush, about the other woman. “How’s your mother?” perhaps it was the wyvern at home in his veins, the Russian spell, but he could not remember her speaking of her lately. Kou on any other day would not bring it up, but the woman held some fascination to him, and though he wouldn’t tell his sister, he thought about her sometimes, when he looked at Mei. Dad was no good for any intimate subject, and he was particularly secretive about the woman who’d born Mei.

If either Ouran or Teddy heard the question, the gave no such sign.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2016, 05:23:41 am »
Mei took her liquor like she was practiced, knocking back the glass like it belonged in her slender fingers. Her cheeks, flushed, wore the warmth of the drink well after her befuddlement over Kou had begun to subside. She hadn’t been too bothered when neither of her brother’s friends had given her the encouragement she’d been looking for after Kou gave in. “You weren’t going to tip me anyway.” She said tartly, though her lips curled upward into a self-satisfied smile.

“Using him?” she asked, toying with a strand of her ponytail. “Ouran, do you feel like I use you?” she asked. Big innocent eyes and the single blue ring seemed to pulse. “I mean, we’re friends, yeah? Ouran’s just sweet. I’m not using him.” She hummed. She wriggled her big toe against the top of her brother’s foot, beneath the table, and pressed hard against the innermost joint of his middle toe. It would hurt just a little, like a pinch, without anyone noticing. A little nuisance the siblings had used on one another since they were small, at one time to offend the other and eventually as something more affectionate if equally tart.

Mei let out a loud sigh and pushed her bowl away from her, setting her glass down hard on the table. Harder than she intended, in truth, but she wasn’t about to admit she was feeling the tickle of the alcohol. She laughed. “It was good, right?” she said as she tossed her head back. “I’m so full.” Mei almost jumped when Kou praised her in agreement. She would have had something snide rolling off her tongue already, if she hadn’t been sipping at Kou’s Russian gifts. Instead, she looked briefly beaming before she regained her practiced laissez faire flippancy. “At that rate, you could just marry Ouran then. It’d keep you from being so generous with your tips for other waitresses at least.”

She looked as if she instantly regretted her comment when he suggested even a mild desire for her continued presence. Mei coughed into her wrist. “Th-that could be arranged, you know. Daddy would be really put out if you starved to death. I mean, I can practically walk to school from your flat. Daddy would probably find it more acceptable than you shacking up with Aitawa.” She sputtered. It wasn’t a smooth recovery by a long shot, but endearing because she’d been unable to resist making the offer at all.

Mei looked deeply relieved when Ouran brought the ice cream. A much needed distraction. She shoveled a large spoonful into her mouth with a good deal of concentration. A soft whine when she paid for the impulse by the freezing shock to her pallet. She winced.

She wasn’t sure if it was out of sympathy or general obliviousness that lead her brother to move on to teasing his companion, but Mei wasn’t going to question it. She took another bite of her ice cream, but cautiously. “Of course I have friends.” She said, pressing the tip of her tongue to her spoon as she glanced between Kou and Ouran. She licked the metal round and dipped it back into her chilled caramel cream. “I mean, sure there are a couple that dress like me. Shopping buddies, as you say,” she mused. “But we’re all underage, you know. Besides, why would sweet Ouran want to settle for some lame substitute when I’m right here?” she asked. Mei closed her lips over the edge of her spoon and sucked the lingering sweetness there from it.

“You wouldn’t drop me for such a waste of time, Aitawa, yeah?” she took her time with the spoon. “You’re such a great guy, I’m sure any of my friends would jump at the chance but you’re not the type to make me feel so lonely, I don’t think.” Mei said. It wasn’t a lie and he wasn’t a bad looking guy. He wasn’t Kou, but he still had his charm. In truth, she didn’t have friends the way Kou had Teddy and Ouran. She wouldn’t trust a single of her social circle near Ouran. In part because she really did believe he was sweet. But mostly because being near Ouran meant being near Kou and that was unacceptable. She took another bite of ice cream and licked a smear from her lip.

“Ah, take another drink with me Ouran. You’re such a darling. Like big brothers, you and Teddy.” She said and poured herself and Ouran a glass. It should have been a little discouragement, that sort of familial comparison, but it wasn’t so set for anyone that had seen her with Kou. Whether Kou, himself, would find that sort of teasing a bit too sour she didn’t know and couldn’t have cared. Really, he’d somewhat started it and even Mei wouldn’t have been too fast to deny that she was a bit tipsy.

Either way, Kou swerved to another subject altogether and it left Mei uncharacteristically mute for a while. “She’s fine.” She said at last, taking the last bite of her ice cream and scraping her teeth against the spoon. “Why do you ask?” a little bitter off her sugary lips. She hadn’t been getting along well with her mother, as of late.

Suri Tzeng was all the minx her daughter was with twenty more years of experience. If anybody thought about it all too hard and considered Mei’s birthday, it wasn’t too hard to figure she’d been a vice of Mr. Tzeng’s before Kou’s mother had passed. Whether the late Mrs. Tzeng had known about it herself or not was anyone’s guess. Suri had her vanities, same as Mei, and her insecurities in the same vein. The relationship between mother and daughter had become more and more strained as Mei had gotten older. It wasn’t for lack of love, but Suri and Mei breathed jealousy like air and discord over the dear men of the family had become increasingly volatile. Any kind of attention was good attention.

“She tried to cut my hair last week.” Mei said, and the room was too quiet for the light atmosphere they’d cultivated over supper. “Because Daddy keeps saying it looks just like how she used to wear it.” Mei poured herself another swallow of Russian hospitality. “So I got my own flat. I meant to tell you. But, you know, you weren’t picking up your phone the other day.” She yawned and eyed Kou. “Ouran did, so I told him. But I told him not to tell you. I wanted to surprise you I guess. So, surprise.”

She was staring at him with the sort of face that he’d surely hope to punch off of another guy’s face. But it was Mei. “Daddy signed as my guarantor when I told him you had picked the place out with me and promised to check up. But I mean, I guess Stanford’s seen more of that flat than you, huh?” Merciless woman, and vindictive, but still a drunk seventeen-year-old girl whose pouting was out of a tangible loneliness that she’d always reserved just for him.   


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2016, 07:41:03 pm »
He liked when she played a long. But he always tipped if he had enough mind left to reach for his cash. Kou was particularly protective of staff at the establishments where he was expected to do his own business. The people he kept close had adapted that behavior and you could always tell a newcommer by if they deviated from the unspoken rule. Ouran wasn't lying about his favoritism of waitresses, though, he liked aprons and being a charming nuisance. They liked him back. Kou was about to reply, and plead his case - the vodka should be enough tip for anyone - when she instead turned her clever to Ouran, again. Kou realized he had to take some responsibility for that.

Ouran, who had a more conventional way of eating his dessert, stared at Mei when she gave him her attention. The blue ring was especially sweltering, but he'd been fond of her before the accident, and if it was the cause of his favor turning into something more adult, it had long since outgrown its need to shine at him directly to still have him under its influence. He was mostly sucking his own saliva from the spoon now. "She doesn't use me!" he protested, spoon weighing his tongue. It took him a few more syllables to realize the obstruction and put it down.

Kou smiled stiffly, unamused, and shot her a glance. How little it took from her to turn Ouran against him. "How simple are yo..."

"See? I'm sweet. That's what friends are. Mei and I are friends." Ouran continued. If his relationship with Kou and had been any less severe, Ouran might have been the kind of friend to abandon his circle completely to follow Mei. Kou hated people like that, and quickly stood to reach over the table and flick Ouran's fairweather lips. "Owf!"

"You're an idiot, Ouran, that's why you're sweet." he explained and sat back down, taking more of the treat to cool his mood. He laughed but it stayed stale in his throat. If the spiky-haired oaf had any sense, he'd just enjoy Mei with all her teasing edges, but Ouran would rather fall in-love and break on impact than entertain the idea of just flirting for fun. Kou was his friend's advocate on most days, but knew it wasn't Mei's fault that Ouran had selective eyes and ears.

A deeper felt amusement when she was so delighted, for a moment undone, by his compliment to her cooking. With a fast caress he tended to her reddening cheek before he shrugged and looked at Ouran again, with some more approval. “He would do well in a white dress.” A childish smile, as though the pretty, now rosy, skin was surprised by the innocent emotion. “I would be the groom and the best man, all in one day.” When one day that did come, would Ouran rather it be Teddy that tended to the duties of a right hand? Kou would feign being insulted, then, of course.

He almost felt bad when she was so eager to move in on his playful suggestion. Surely there were other motives than keeping him fed. He would rather not include her in the less than savory activities he hosted here, both ones of flesh and ones of blood, but mostly he didn’t want to press his strength to possible jackals when his greatest weakness did her homework in the next room. The attachment of those lower standing elements would also be less pure than Ouran’s. It didn’t make sense to snuff a perfectly good business partner for wandering eyes or hands, but Kou knew his own moods well enough to avoid triggers. He knew it was his fault, this little hopeful scenario, and all he could do was smile as though he might think about it, when in reality he couldn’t entertain it at all.

Ouran was pleased with being addressed and was glued to her when she spoke. He was visibly appalled by the idea of underage partners when Mei warned. Kou wanted dearly to point out the hypocrisy, but wouldn’t want to initiate a discussion of real love put against a more hot-blooded connection. Ouran had expressed he liked to make the distinction in the past, with Kou coming out of a particularly expensive brothel, hair upset, singing the praise of a pair of twins who’d really just been good at their job. The argument had become convoluted, and he’d never gone back to the skillful Fair sisters because of the bad taste it left in his mouth.

While Kou all but muttered to himself about that, Teddy watched Ouran’s fixation on Mei’s lips while they in turn fixated on her spoon. Ouran must be no sport at all to the daughter of the Tzeng syndicate. “I wouldn’t leave you lonely even for work if I didn’t have to go.” Ouran replied, still counting glints of light on the cold silver she tasted. Only because Teddy didn’t really care as long as neither of them were going to suffer irreparable physical or emotional harm did he not roll his eyes at that. He had some more dessert and leaned back, doing his usual work of observation.

Kou liked the likeness of a wolf to his working person. He preferred a proud version of the animal, a leader of a pack, with a well-groomed mane, maybe, but knew the ones who connected him with a wilderness totem meant a mangier, relentless beast, solitary, scuffed and ugly. He looked a bit like that symbol, right side of his lip curling, when Mei said his two friends were also brothers, to her. Thinking of it, the endearment wasn’t a bad one – he expected brotherly loyalty from them to her – but the word lashed him right on the nose and drew the reaction before he could think to contain it. He slowed the intent with more ice cream. He’d rather not give Mei the satisfaction and ammunition. And Ouran had more than earned it. Aitawa practically lived for these moments, and drank deeply when she said.

Kou waited patiently for her answer about the only mother either of them had. The answer wasn’t much, not as much as he wanted, but at least it indicated the woman was far enough out of harm’s way that his protection wasn’t required. Suri was complicated to Kou. Usually these kind of complexes are to be subtly nurtured and then taken advantage of by an outside participant that fits the role. Suri held both those positions to him, which might have been fine, if she didn’t play a bit of a game with him every time they met, too. He’d not armed himself to be in that kind of situation. Kou shrugged. “I ask because I’m curious. Whatever.” An uncharacteristic lack of poise in the reply, and a deviation from his well rooted persona. It had the sweet diverting of his dark eyes, as though he was embarrassed, but also a looming shame because of the subject. An ill-advised decision to dispel his own sudden dread had him lift a hand to touch the roots on the back of his head. He’d never done anything like it before. Teddy noticed it clear as day.

Mei was left to wonder, if her eyes were peeled, what his sudden interest in her hair was when it was revealed to be a cut Suri had worn. Kou caught himself quickly and concentrated on the softening coconut luxury, instead. His next spoon was a bit much, and didn’t leave him with a lot left in the bowl to enjoy. If anything, though, Kou Wing Tzeng had a big enough mouth. “You moved?” he repeated and then looked at Ouran with annoyance. “You should have let him tell me. Who helped you?” But that benevolence was thwarted by her daggers. He’d been busy with securing an angel heart, and sending Takeda to an early grave for it. Important doings, mostly done in radio silence, but when she stressed what his absence had done to her he felt negligent. More of the mangy wolf when she looked at him like that, and his neck straightened, a precursor to an attacking pose.

He realized he’d not swallowed all of the rich sweetness as he bit his teeth at her audacity, and the resulting, loud clearing of his tongue added much to the tension that Teddy and Ouran had to suffer with them. “Yeah.” He said and stood. The chair complained into the void between brother and sister. “Stan didn’t really like you for the apartment though, from what he told me today. So maybe I didn’t miss much.” He offered, leaning knuckles to the table as he reached across with his other hand to take the drink she’d poured for herself. He drank it down and slid it back to sing a pitched tune against her bowl. “I need a smoke.” Teddy stood with a lot less sound and pressed a good brand and a cheap lighter into his boss’s hand. Ouran was also in a foul mood, which was as allowed as a spoken protest wasn’t. The smallest of the three was a gentleman when it came to Mei, but wasn’t given the freedom of tongue to defend her now. “I’ll take it on the balcony.” Kou added as he started leaving. Odd, because he had no reservations against thickening the air in his home on any other day. She'd played on his guilt too, which was a potent thing in Kou, but also a volatile gamble.

“Well, we’ll see you then.” Teddy said. “Should probably do some work.” Always fingers to be cut and bones to be broken. “Ouran. Let’s go.” And Ouran went, touching Mei’s shoulder as he passed her. Kou flicked a wave at them with the fingers he’d secured the cigarette in. He would feel a bit guilty for halting their evening, later. The two others said goodbye to Mei and thanked her for the food, Ouran more verbal than Teddy, as always.

“Maybe you should go to bed too, Mei.” Kou said, hard, dismissive, and left the room. He expected no such obedience from her despite his voice.

His right eye was heavier as he looked out over the city, out in the air. Some paid-for girls had said it was a charming sign of inebriation. He liked to use it as a gauge. It was when both eyes started to drop that he could expect to wake up particularly heavy and sluggish. He'd usually get a discount looking so jagged with a whorish blush - their fathers and their sons, all at once. It was also when he did the most damage to them.

With most of the roll left, he squeezed his hand around it, murdering he ember and mashing the tobacco. A small comfort he’d learned from father. Kou then cocked the arm back and tossed a cloud of rumpled paper and dried leaves into the night. The energy expelled wasn’t nearly enough to soothe his mood and he quickly brought fire to a new stick. He’d wondered about the cost of angel lungs.

He tipped vodka, he’d claimed the bottle on his way, too, into the smoke crowding his throat. A dragon drinking a wyvern. Too bad he didn’t have more vices at home. A fleeting thought of running off to any of his haunts, but he didn’t want to leave his brat sister alone despite her behavior. She still got to him like no one else. The welling anger was confusing in a way that fueled itself. Smoke masked his jaw when he whispered little curses in their mother tongue. He saw the car leave and waved so the vodka sloshed and spilled over his hand. Teddy and Ouran wouldn’t see, anyway.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #28 on: November 01, 2016, 03:20:13 am »
She didn’t miss the way he lost him composure, albeit subtly, and it stung like all sorts of whiplash. Mei turned her face away from him. She didn’t want to see the way his mind turned curious thoughts over behind his eyes. How was it that Kou was so willing to play dumb with her, to deftly pass her earnest feelings off like they were child’s play, but he couldn’t ask about Mother with a straight face? It pissed her off and made her heart ache. In the end, Suri wasn’t related to him. Maybe that was what mattered. If it was something else, she didn’t really want to know. Mei reached for the glass she’d poured only to have him take it from her. Asshole.

“I hired people. I don’t know. Aitawa said they were good people and I trust him, so it was fine.” She said. Mei felt a bit bad for having made Ouran hold his tongue, it had been selfish enough of her that she’d realized it. She’d not wanted to add to that insult by asking him to help her move, though she knew the offer had been on the tip of his tongue. So she’d asked for advice on a good company and had strangers take her boxes of personal items and put them in her big, empty flat. Her room had been big back at their parents’ house, but it had still only been a room. She perched her elbows on the table and cradled her chin on the backs of her laced fingers.

“Yeah, well, Stanford isn’t an idiot. Not totally. He’d have been an idiot if my apartment was the most interesting thing I showed him.” She said sharply. Like maybe Kou was the idiot, if she’d had the mind to say it. But she didn’t, and she was beginning to falter under the way his mood had soured. Kou had started it though, asking about that woman.

The look she gave Ouran and Teddy was remarkably sincere. Apologetic and strained. “Thanks for coming. It was fun. I wish we could do it more often.” She said. Mei was still under Ouran’s brief touch. Sometimes she wished she loved him. Or at least, sometimes she wished she wouldn’t feel guilty for fucking him. Aitawa wouldn’t make her heart hurt. The blue ring in her right eye seemed brighter.

“Yeah, whatever.” She said to Kou’s back and made no move to leave the table, neither to follow him nor his suggestion. She watched him through the sliding glass door though, heady thickness of alcohol settling on her in the silence as she stared at his back. She took another drink anyway, realizing as it burned down her throat that it was probably already a few drinks too many. Mei wondered what he’d do if she tied up her hair and did her makeup like Mother. Would he lose his composure for her then?

A frustrated sigh and settled her cheek on the table, dipping her finger into her ice cream dish where the last of the sweetness had melted to a cool sticky syrup at the bottom. The worst part was the way he’d never seemed to acknowledge the way Mother tormented her. Mei fought back, sure. She could be cruel too. But really, Suri couldn’t be Mei’s mother if she couldn’t get the upper hand in the end. Damn woman. Mei sometimes wished that Daddy would meet somebody new. If he’d done it with Mei’s mother, surely it wasn’t such a hopeless wish to believe it could happen again.

Mei stood from the table, gathering up the dessert dishes that had been left behind, and shuffled toward the kitchen. On her feet, her inebriation settled into a humming dizzy that swayed her as she went. She bumped the island in the center of the kitchen and fumbled the stacked dishes, retaining three but losing one to a shrill shatter against the wood floor. “Ah, shit.” She muttered, setting the other bowls down and bending to gather up the pieces of the shattered glass.

She gasped and withdrew her hand quickly, when she cut her finger against a hefty shard. A minor wound, but it bled pretty down her long white fingers. It caught her attention for a long moment before she returned to collecting the pieces into her palm, ignoring the droplets of red on the light floor. She’d clean it up after she threw these pieces out. In general, such an event would have sent her tripping off to Kou for more comfort than the situation required. Tonight, she made no such ruckus. It meant she was angry, probably. The alternative was that her brother had managed to stumble his way under her skin and lodge himself more deeply than usual. “Shit.” She repeated as she let her knees drop to the ground, and it was only vaguely at the pieces of glass.

Mei reached up to touch the nape of her neck, leaving a small smear of blood there, and combed her fingers through the length of her hair. “Should have just shaved it all off.” She said to the dim lighting, a little slurred.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #29 on: November 01, 2016, 06:59:33 pm »
So Ouran had done what he could for Mei, after all. The brother had to be content she’d not suffered too much inconvenience. Should have been Kou’s job though, getting sweaty and dusty carrying her things, maybe buy some key pieces for her with his card. He would have liked for her to have a large tv. She didn’t hire other people to eat her cooking, she shouldn’t have strangers move her life from one space to another. The way she’d said it, it was his fault. He could carry that much, because if it wasn’t, then it must be Ouran’s fault, and his disposition made it close to impossible to blame him for anything. Aitawa was loyal. Kou had taken a couple of broken bones from father’s strongmen when Ouran started out, still making mistakes, so that Ouran didn’t have to. He would dub himself Ouran’s greatest bully, but he couldn’t really remember a time when he’d punished Ouran for real. That’d be a bad day.

Didn’t change that Mei had lugged herself through a move basically by herself. She was punishing him, of course, diligent little thorn that she was. Kou set the bottle down on the rail that kept him from traversing the height at which his flat was perched. The resonance in the metal was a bit rewarding were tossing the ruined cigarette had not been. He tried it again and chuckled to himself. Breaking things always help. But he needed what was left of the liquid, he decided. He pinched the filter between his lips and held the vessel up to the city lights. Vlad knew not to give him the tasteless fancier stuff. What was the point if there wasn’t a burn? Truth was, Kou wasn’t some kind salt-of-the-earth tongue, grown up in hard times to like hard drinks, he’d try and take to the premium pours if that’s what he was served. It had just become a burn kind of night. He’d been in such a good mood, too.

“You in bed yet?” he asked, still admiring the neon colors through clear surface. No answer. “Mei?” he demanded but turned in the same breath, and the ember made a perfect line in the darkness. He couldn’t see her in the kitchen. Odd. There was no chance she would have gone to sleep just because he’d said it to force his influence. That was not her kind of warfare. He strode in and dropped the bottle, silver crash joining the ghost of her mistake. She was bleeding. He saw the ruby down her neck. Baby sister on her knees in his kitchen. “Mei!” her name from a hollow throat. He was on his knees too, and reached to touch her neck, looking for familiar gashes. Her spine. It mustn’t be her spine.

“Tell me what happened.” He demanded, panic in his frustrated anger. He soon discovered the shallow source of the ruby smears. Kou sighed with agonized relief, shoulders dropping, her hand in his. “Clumsy.” He muttered and held the finger up to his face, studying the wound. He looked at her over her own palm and then put the finger in his mouth, pressing his tongue to the cut. If anything happened to her one day, he knew it would be his and father’s fault. Whatever indulgence in pride or wrath that he was guilty of living the way he did, she was very likely to pay for it. Moments like these he was certain something had caught up with him.

“Fuck, Meimei.” He mumbled around her finger and reached to hold her head in his hands. She always had the pretties hair. He blood was smooth over the chemical abuse on his tongue. Forehead to hers as he suckled the digit. The iron flavor was dissipating, which was good, even though he liked to court the edges opened by the glass. When he sighed her finger slid out and down. “Why are you always so much trouble?” Their mantra. He looked at her legs under them, not concealed at all by her shorts. Pretty little sister. He laughed and meant for it to be miserable, but it had real glee. Her breath puffed on his lips and he smiled, sleepy eyes turning up as his hands brought her in. He’d done this more times with others than he could think. A reflex, really. Bet before he could taste her, he woke up, the wyvern hissing but loosing inside his mind. Eyes wide, locked onto her blue ring.

Kou pushed her back, as though she was an enemy in his home. No doubt she would slide on the floor in the loveliest of ways, and he would hate it. His breath was fast when he stood. “Clean this mess up.” He said, defensive. A quick flail of one arm meant to bring her eyes to the shards he’d contributed to, but he only waved it at her. You’re the mess, Mei. “Then just go to bed.” He added with a bark. He hurried out the kitchen, her blood still on his teeth. Out of habit, he went to his room. A mistake, he realized, since there was nowhere to exit from here. He could either go back out, into his closet, or to his bathroom. Her uniform was on the floor and it made him huff. Kou threw his clothes on top of hers and closed the bathroom door. Strange, wretched day.

He felt alarmingly sober when the rays hit his head and made his hair heavier, until it was an upside-down crown around his head, in his eyes. He scraped his scalp through the black, slick tresses and rubbed his elbows to the tile. Hard rain and heartbeat. What a bad thing, that would have been. He pushed his hand with some force against the wall and killed the fat drops that lived there. She was not going to draw him a bath, as she’d said. He’d always hidden in the shower, from beatings, from ghosts, but lately he’d invited the beatings and made the ghosts, the world was running out of things that frightened him. But it still had Mei. He rapped a detailed ceramic square and it cracked accordingly.

Why are you always so much trouble.