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Paranoia Abounds
It had taken a few days, and a mishap at Dorian's estate before he had set up an appointment to meet his pet channeler.  His little informant of the Atharim.  His traitor.  Not that the detective wasn't his own traitor of all sorts.  But he'd been true to his word.  Not surprising after the death of Abt.  The investigation into Vega had ceased after a few words from the right mouths.  And with that settled the Detective had sent details.

The boy wanted to meet in a public place.  He wanted coffee.  All doable, and since Yun wasn't concerned Slav was the only man she brought with her.  He sat at a table with in eye shot, but he was not with in hearing distance, that that it mattered he had a listening device planted on Yun.  Blackmail was ever so useful.

Dorian had given him a name - Nox Durante.  The file associated with the boy were non-existent.  He was a ghost.  His birth certificate, gun licenses from the US, his CCD identity.  All very clean, not even a parking ticket.  The only mars on his record were the two CCD registries - the channeler and the Atharim.  A man of both worlds.  He'd come here to Moscow, gotten into an accident and here he stayed.  Why or how that was even possible was not lost on Yun.  These Atharim must have powers beyond even her.  He was nothing but a boy.

Yun was dressed in a warm parka in an business suit dress.  Not uniform. This wasn't about being a cop informant it was purely business related.  And she wasn't on the clock.  That was later that night.  Where her talents were more often needed.  Her gun was tucked under the parka in it's leather holster it was a familiar weight, and brought her comfort.  The cold hard steel pressed against her ribs.  

The waitress came again with her coffee.  "Can I get your guest anything?"

Yun looked up at the girl with a soft smile.  "I'm early, it will be cold by the time he arrives."  Yup picked up her own Chai latte and sipped at it while she got the lay of the land.  This was the boy's choice.  Why?  It was what she was here to figure out an hour early.
Sleep was elusive. Nox had walked home from Cafe MIO. He'd spent most of the wee hours of the night pounding the punching bag until Sage groggily came out to ask him to keep it down. So he'd moved his attention to the dojo floor and played with the aurora borealus light show weave he'd learned at the Methos concert and dancing to the classical songs in his ear buds.

Nox had focused on how his body moved, and how the lights moved with him. It was peaceful and Nox eventually crashed, though sleep was always tinged with darkness and nightmares. And Nox was up before everyone else. Yoga, shower, coffee and breakfast were all had before Christian was up and moving about doing all his morning chores - except breakfast - that was taken care of. Nox was sure that Christian enjoyed waking up to a hot pot of coffee and breakfast.

Dorian was coming down the stairs when Nox was leaving. "You're leaving early."

Nox smiled and glanced at the door that lead down stairs. Dorian only nodded. "You can't keep avoiding them."

"Watch me." Nox was good at avoiding things. He'd been doing it most of his life. Today he had a meeting with a big bad cronie who was some evil leader of some police thing who wanted to know about gods and the Atharim. The price of Dorian's freedom. Nox was the only one who knew, well Sage did too, and Christian. But no one else. Ana and Cruz knew that the people outside were there to protect them. Why was asked, but Dorian evaded the question. And Ana and Cruz were used to it. They didn't like it but they were used to it.

Nox was out the door and walking to the market where he was going to meet Yun Kao. For a so called talk. As long as she didn't try to kill him or kidnap him he'd be fine. Nox picked up another cup of coffee on his way past the first coffee shop. And a thrid and forth before he actually made it to the open air market. He was early. He liked it that way.

And the Market was always someplace fun to wander. Always something new to see, someone new to meet.

Nothing caught Nox's fancy but then he wasn't looking for anything specific either. Just looking. Nox was finishing his fifth cup of coffee by the time he reached the coffee shop. Yun Kao was easily identified. Dorian had told him about the scar and the woman sort of held this air about her. Like she owned the world. He put on his best smile and sat down without an invitation. "I'm Nox." He said offering his hand. "Dorian said you had some questions I might be able to help you with?"
A tall young man sat down opposite her and Yun had to smirk at his audacity. At least he wasn't shy. He was a good looking boy, but young. He got right to the point. Yun liked that to a point. But he wasn't exactly tactful either.

"Nox." She rolled his name around on her tongue. An American name, his accent American too. "Detective Vega is correct, but before I ask my sensitive questions I'd like to get to know you first."

Nox laughed. "Look lady, I'm Atharim, and a reborn god. That's all you need to know. If you want my answers you can take it or leave it."

Yun smiled. "I like you." The boy smirked. "Alright then, Nox. Tell me about your organization, this Atharim. What are they?"

The waitress came over before he answered "What can I get you?"
The waitress took Nox's order - coffee black and when she came back with it the interrogation started.

There wasn't much to tell. "The Atharim have always been, since the gods themselves walked the earth."

"You mean like Zeus and Poseidon? Yun interrupted. Nox leveled an annoyed look her direction but nodded.

"Yes. Exactly like. Gods were men who could do extraordinary things. Some humans rose up against the gods and eradicated them. But in their god wars before they created horrible things - monsters and weapons of mass destruction and other unimaginable horrors. After the gods were gone the remaining me waited for the return of the gods and removed from this earth their stain. We fend the human race from all things that go bump in the night. The nightmares, the oni, the dreyken. Things you can only possibly imagine exist, we exist to kill them."

"And kill these so-called gods?"

"That is the theory."

Yun Kao sat and listened and Nox talked. She looked at him like he was crazy, but she listened anyway. An hour long question and answer session on who the Atharim were, how they operated, information on who's who. Not that Nox's information was 100% accurate he didn't have access anymore - traitor and all. And he reminded Ms. Kao of that repeatedly. He also told her continually that he wasn't exactly the best person to ask. He was an American Atharim who had just come to this side of the pond so to speak. But she kept asking information. But she never asked for any of the files, just kept asking questions - for an hour.

The waitress came by and refilled Nox's cup he'd lost track of how many cups of coffee he'd had. "And you are a reborn god?" Yun rolled the term in her mouth like it was foul. And he was pretty sure it was. Any man who claimed to be a god was going to have a power complex and would need to be taken down. Nox wasn't a god. He wasn't anything but a tool to be used. In the hour long discussion he hadn't once thought about his own problems. Focused on what it was to be Atharim and he was telling a stranger. Not that it mattered he was not Atharim anymore - he was nothing.

"I weild the same power that the gods of old did yes. But I'm not a god. Reborn or otherwise."

"Show me."

"While I'm not exactly in hiding anymore, that is not a good idea. Not here."
Liv was tired. It had been a long day and she still had two more classes this evening after work. Mother and Father told her she was pushing herself too hard. But being busy was good. It kept her mind focused. Mother's gentle advice had put her on an interesting career path, even if it was something she would never thought of on her own. Challenging, but that was also good. Even something as easy as taking orders and making drinks was enough for her.

It wasn't what she'd do forever. But she got to study in during her breaks. And the people she worked with were mostly ok. Not that she she was close to them or anything. She wasn't ready for that, not yet at least. But between work and classes, and their casual acquaintance, she could have some semblance of normalcy, even if it was only surface.

And making designs in the foam...well, it wasn't art, not really. She didn't think she could put charcoal to paper ever again. That cutting insistent voice was so loud. But the foam? It pleased her in a way she missed very much. And they way people's faces lit up when they saw it made her smile shyly.

Sleepwalking through life, she knew. It felt like she had been doing that for over a year.

Jalisa needed to take a break. The rush had come and gone and only a few patrons were left, only one of which she had been serving. Liv had no problem covering for her. For the most part, Liv didn't pay much attention to people any more. They were just faces to her. Customers to fill and refill.

She went to their table. "Hi. Get you another?"
"Come with me." Yun signaled Slav to bring the car around.

Another server came to them and asked if they wanted another. "We were just leaving." Yun said. It sounded rude but they had a car waiting.

The boy gave the waitress a smile and spoke with a voice that tripped with honey. "Actually, can I get another cup of black coffee, and whatever you'd recommend for a sweet." He looked at Yun with that sweet smile. "I'm hungry, and Dorian told me I shouldn't go anywhere with you alone."

She smiled in that way waitresses did and said in a soft voice, 'A lot of people like the cheese danishes. And the chocolate stuffed croissants." She looked at him and Yun expectantly.

His smiled turned into a genuine grin, if Yun didn't know better she'd just suggested the perfect treat. "Chocolate. My favorite. I'll take one of the chocolate stuffed croissants." And Yun had been right, she rolled her eyes.

She nodded and turned to Yun. "Anything for you ma'am?"

Yun shook her head. "No, thank you. Just the check." She turned her ire on the boy who was smirking at her with a shit eating grin she wanted to smack off childish imps face.

He interrupted her thought again "In that case, if you don't mind Duckling, I'd like a second cup of black coffee in a to go cup. That would be awesome."

Yun glared at the boy and shooed the girl off with a wave of her hands. The girls smile never faded as she left with his new order. Yun's gaze grew darker and the boy just laughed in her face. "How dare you?" Her anger silenced her unable to actually decide what hole to rip through the boy first.

[[ with liv ]]
Yun was getting angry. Dorian hadn't mentioned anything about a temper. It made him smile. After the girl left with his order Yun's glare moved from I hate you to I'm going to fucking kill you. And she thought that was dangerous. Nox sat forward and spoke in a low sweet voice. "Look Duckling."

The simple phrase turned turned the livid woman into a rampaging bull. She leaned forward just like he did and her voice was angry. "You are an impetuous child. How Vega works with you I don't know. But we are going now."

Nox smirked. "You and what army are going to make me Duckling." Nox seized on the power in the shadows and ground his teeth at the pain that seared through his body. The memory still painful every time he touched the power with in. He wondered if it would ever diminish. He wove a simple weave of air, as fine as a fishing line and wrapped it around the violent woman's neck and tugged just a little. "For all your power Ms. Kao. Don't forget what I am."

Nox smiled at her as he sat back and then he released the power. "It never pays to be rude to your server, or those you want answers from."
She ignored the guy. She knew the type. Thought a flash of teeth and a wink were enough to get a woman's attention. Cockiness was such a turn off, even if she were inclined that way.

Not fair, she knew. he was just being friendly. It wasn't like he had hit on her or was demeaning her. No, it was the woman who bothered her. Even without the scars, there was a hardness to her. This close, she saw a touch of cruelty in her eyes and her heart seized. Her face had frozen in its mask of calm as she left the table to get the rest of the order and the check.

But deep down, she was very uncomfortable. Thank god she was leaving. The woman had no problem throwing off disdain and dismissal like knives, casually thrown without a care for who it hit. A glance back as she plated the croissant showed the man's smirk had widened. He was provoking her, the fool. Her arm twinged and she realized she had accidentally touched the hot steam nozzle.

No. She didn't want to be here. The woman bothered her.

Where was Jalisa anyway? She sighed, preparing herself. She brought the coffees, one in a togo cup, as well as the croissant and check. Her voice was demure and she didn't meet the woman's eye. "I can take it or you can use the table interface." She hoped it was the latter. And she didn't care if she got a tip, either.
There was a cord around her neck, unseen by anyone. And if it weren't for the feeling of being strangled Yun would not have known herself. This power was dangerous. But this boy didn't know who he was messing with. He sat there with a cocky smile. His voice full of threat and then so sickly sweet should would tear his throat out.

He thought so much of himself. Did he think she was stupid. Dorian Vega was a smart man. He knew the boy. He'd made an extra offering to keep his family safe. The man only had one goal in life and this boy was just a means to that end. How very stupid this boy was.

Yun reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a long slender tube and set it on the table in front of her. Her finger idly flicking the switch with a slight smile on her lips. "Do you recognize this?"

There was fear in his eyes when the whelp of a girl came back with his order, but that faked smile of his never slipped. But fear was always in the eyes. Yun plucked the check from the girls fingers before it reached the table. "You can go now."
The tension between the two was growing thicker and thicker and Liv did not like the unease that was followed suit in her stomach. The woman. She hated that look. God, like her nightmare come to life, the promise of violence. The hole in her stomach was widening and she was breathing quickly but shallowly. She needed to get away, get out of here, before a panic attack took her.

Part of her felt sick with disappointment and shame. She had done so well. It had been so long. She thought this was done...

She rushed off, not caring at all that she was being unprofessional- and nearly ran into Jalisa.

"I have to go. Sorry." If the manager wanted to say anything, that was fine. She just couldn't be here.

Walk, Liv just walk Liv. Her eyes didn't really see anything. One step in front of the other, one at a time, deep breath in, hold for 3 seconds, exhale slowly. Little by little, the fear and panic gradually drained away.

But the emptiness wasn't empty. Sadness remained. Loneliness. Shame.

She realized why she hadn't been seeing clearly. Tears blurred everything. God, what a failure she was. She wiped her eyes on her sleeves and paused. In front of her stood a cathedral. She didn't know which one. She stared at the open doors for a while before finally walking in.

As if she were being swallowed up, she felt so tiny under the great arched vaulting ceilings, gorgeous gold leaf work, intricate statuary, and multicolored stained glass. Another time, long ago, she would have worshiped here as an artist.

She was here now, though, as a lost soul, coming before the Great Shepherd, kindly eyes and upraised hand looking down on her from on high. She kept her face to the ground, knelt and lit a candle. The flame flickered, the smell of incense soothing her. Her heart still fluttered, a bird on the ground, wing broken, chirping and flopping.

She opened her heart and emptied herself, tears dripping from her eyes. Through clenched eyelids only the vaguest of light penetrated. Failure. She was so weak.

In the distance she felt warmth. The Angel had come. But...Liv felt so unworthy. She couldn't bring herself to reach out. It called to her, her wings feathering her cheeks. But her fear had been nearly overwhelming. She didn't embrace the Angel.

And for a moment, she felt as if she had rejected God's kindness and love. But perhaps in answer, she saw herself. Just briefly. And she was smiling and happy, surrounded by Mother and Father. And there was someone next to her.

That had never happened to her before.

She opened her eyes, feeling the warmth drift away. And yet she was not empty.

Her knees were sore, her legs numb, when she finally rose. They shook. She shook, down to her core.

Stepping outside, she realized it was already mid afternoon. She was cold but did not feel like going back to the shop. Not now anyway. She wasn't far from home.

That night, in her bed, peace finally came to her and she could sleep. Mercifully no dreams or nightmares pursued her.

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