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Calling Card
Cruz left Manifest in a hurry.  He wanted to be away from the glitter and glamour and settle back into his own life again.  He tired of the boys who wanted to pretend they were rich and famous.  But more importantly he had a mystery to solve.

Once he made it home to his small yet upscale apartment he took a picture of the coin and sent it off to Sage.  His friend had been offline a while and Cruz was starting to worry.  Yet not enough to send out a search party.  There was no telling where Aiden had whisked Sage off too, they were two peas in a pod and yet when they had lived with him they had been stationary.  Same as Nox, he missed his friends.  Maybe it was time to throw an old fashioned party.  But Nox was off on some mission and Sage was missing in action.  Cruz sighed.  And all he had left were the annoying snot nosed wannabe rich kids.

There wasn't much left to do so Cruz took a shower and went to bed.  Waiting for Sage could be like waiting for water to drip a hole to the other side of the world.  No point in waiting, on to other things and a clean body and sleep were first on that list.
They returned from the land of strange and Sage was quiet the whole way. Aiden reflected upon things, and Sage used the interlude to catch up on all things he'd missed. And it was a lot. the moment he had reconnected to the internet his world flooded in. He felt at home -- at peace. His body felt awake and alive. Nox would call him a junkie and he wasn't far from the truth. Aurora had understood, Nox not so much. But he missed both of them. Nox was incommunicado. His signal had faded and then dropped and Sage worried. He'd gone into the tunnels... and there was only so much signal he could boost, even with the boosters Nox had planted.

Cruz was alive and well and he was requesting information which Sage immediately sent out into the world scouring the net for all things related. It might take a while to figure anything out. And it was late.

But Sage found his way to a quiet corner of Aiden's estate and that's where he hid from the world. Building his new server and silently planning his return. Aiden was busy -- left Sage time to rebuild all that he lost.

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Morning dawned and Cruz the light on his wallet flashed a missed message. Except it had never beeped in the middle of the night, it was sent without his knowledge, The Wicked Truth relaying his message silently in the middle of the night.

Back from the land of strange. Coffee?

Sage was a strange kid, but he always came through. And he helped him build the machine that was going to make his name for himself. If only he could connect what he did with his gift w with the program Sage and Aurora had written. Nox hardly utilized it to its full potential, Cruz had other plans. Big plans, world altering plans. But the coin sitting on his night stand comsumed his thoughts.

He'd dreamt of it. The black metal and the gold pain floated in his mind. It lead him down winding paths and into greatness. He knew he had to find it's source. Whoever or whatever it was called to him. And he wanted to find it's power over him. Maybe he could harness it too... that obsession.

Sage had sent along a GPS location with his message. And it didn't surprise Cruz any that it was their favorite coffee shop. The only place Nox could afford on his nothing salary. Though he had jobs now. Strange at it was to think of Nox working as a dancer or bouncer much less working for the Ascendancy himself. To meet the man was godly, to have a conversation with him like peers, that was something even Cruz's grandfather would die for, and his American friend all but fell into it. Fucking lucky bastard.

It was still early, Sage was likely in bed still but Cruz went to the location, found a table and studied for his biochem test he had in a few days. Nothing like coffee and biscuits to start the day off right.
It wasn't early but it wasn't late. Sage had been a wake for hours. He hadn't slept much since coming back from the land of the lost world or wherever the fuck they'd gone. He'd sent Cruz a message to meet for coffee and he left Aiden a message saying he was going out.

@"Aiden Finnegan" Going for coffee with Cruz. xoxo

But he wasn't just going to meet with Cruz. He had other things to do as well all of which centered on the underground and getting back in touch with Nox. He didn't like that his friend had gone so deep he lost touch with the world. What if he was hurt again? What if he died... Sage didn't want to think about the haunting Aurora would do if her little brother came back dead on his watch. Not if he could help it.

Cruz sat at a table with his bio chem book in hand and a plethora of wrappers from discarded confectionaries. Sage joined his friend after having ordered his own coffee and he waited for Cruz to finish his train of thought. He had his own things to handle while his friend was busy.

Sage hadn't actually every met Nox's boyfriend. But since Sage hadn't heard from Nox, maybe he had. He had followed the man around Moscow, tracked his wallet and kept a watchful guard on him so no Atharim would catch him unaware -- or at least let Nox know he'd been approached by the snakes he used to work for. So far it had been nothing more than stalking a friend -- nothing out of the ordinary for Sage. But he sent Raffe a normal message the normal way on his wallet, with typing and everything.

@"Raffe" Have you heard from Nox? (Just got internet back and it's troubling me) ~ Sage Hopefully Raffe knew who he was. At the very least he should he'd seen Nox's wallet enough, and knew about more things than Sage could count -- things Sage wished he hadn't. But that was the price you paid when you were friends with Nox -- a boy who had no secrets -- not even ones he should hold on to with an iron fist.

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Sage joined him with a cup of coffee and sat waiting while he finished his chapter. Sage was good like that -- he was always patient. But when you have the world a thought away he probably was busy doing his own thing. And when he pulled out his wallet to type a message he meant for Cruz to know.

"You are worried."

"Yeah. He's been incommunicado for too long."

They didn't need to say who. There was only one person Sage cared more about than Aiden and that was Nox. They'd bonded over Nox's sister, and were more family than anything at this point. Even Cruz felt the same, but if Sage were worried, he probably knew more than he was telling Cruz.

"Did you find anything on that coin?"

Sage nodded and Cruz's wallet beeped with incoming messages. It was always very disconcerting when Sage did that. But he immediately opened up the images and information Sage had sent. It wasn't a lot.

"Not much I could find. Others looking for this man. I don't have a name or a picture only know he can be found in the Underground." Sage summarized. "Care for a trip, I can check the beacon's and see if I can ping Nox with a physical local closer?"

"Sound fun. I don't have anything today."
A message from Raffe came back and Sage wasn't thrilled about the answer.
Not since he lost cell service down there. He said the job might be harder than he thought. If you're worried I'm worried. More worried. Fuck. Is this what it's like? There's gotta be something we can do.

Not that he had expected anything less, but now he'd worried his friends boyfriend even more so. Sage sighed and nodded with Cruz's acceptance of his invitation. Two fold. Sage sent Raffe a quick reply, this time he didn't bother typing it out like he had before. Cruz was already packing up his things.

Heading down to the tunnels. Can't go looking for him, but maybe I can push the beacons a bit more with physical proximity. You are welcome to join us. Think my friend is looking to follow a dark path while we are there. @"Raffe"

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Sage sat at the table for a while longer. He stared off into the nothingness that told Cruz he was busy on the net doing whatever thing he was. So he packed up his things, ordered another coffee and waited for his friend to finish whatever deep dive he had going on.

Cruz used the time to orient himself with the images, and the small bits of information Sage had found. It wasn't much to go on. But the underground was full of things both horrific and wonderful. They had a front door to the depths -- or rather a back door. Nox had dug an escape tunnel into the darkness while he had lived with the Vegas. Christian had installed a vault door impenetrable from either side. It served as an easy access escape hatch and kept the ghouls and thieves from entering through the basement. Nox had used a large rock while living there, but the Atharim were still a threat to his family and Christian intended to keep Cruz's mother safe -- and whoever else chose to live in the newly fortified mansion. Though no one but the newlyweds did.

Cruz still found it hard to beleive that his mother had finally left his father. And that her affair was no longer that. Christian had been family longer than Cruz could remember -- he hadn't remembered anyone other than Christian having the head of the house title. Now someone else had the job, though Christian was not his father and the staff was much less and more casual than they had been under Vega rule.

When Sage was ready Cruz gave him a smile. "We can go through the escape hatch?" Sage grinned -- going home meant hot food and good wine. Cruz wouldn't mind either of those things either.
Raffe had replied to Sage as Cruz offered to leave from the Vega estate as if he still lived there. When Dorian had betrayed Nox, he had lost everything, his whole family, his house -- everything. But the kids were always welcome. Cruz being naturally welcome since he was Anastasia's only child. But Ana loved all of the boys -- and Elyse too. They were all welcome for as long as they wanted. It made Sage happy knowing that he had a place to go if things fell out with Aiden. Not that there was trouble in the waters, just that safety net. Nox lived in above a not-so-stripe club and it wasn't exactly a place to get much quiet.

Raffe had asked where to meet him and Sage sent his reply. His return message also stated he'd been staying with the displaced refugees. Nox's work he was certain, but Sage wondered how many survived if those creatures were the cause of the burnings. So much he didn't know, and it made him miss Aurora, at least with Aurora he'd know his friends were safe or at least Aurora would curb her brother's risk-taking tendencies. Maybe love would temper Nox a little. Sage would hate to lose another friend.

"Nox's friend is going to meet us at the Vega estate."

"He knows where to go?" Cruz sounded concerned that Nox's red light friends were finding their way to his mother.

"Nox took Raffe there, but I sent him the coordinates as a reminder. He's a do-gooder like Nox."

Cruz chuckled. "That doesn't surprise me. Why were they at my house?"

Sage shrugged. "I didn't ask. I just know they were there together. Something happened outside that the cameras caught. Atharim I think showed up, there was a gun involved and Nox looked panicked afterwards." After a short pause he added. "We should go. I'd like to see what Christian's made before we head down."

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Sage stalked everyone he met. He wondered how much his hacker friend knew about him. Wondered if he'd been hacked so thoroughly that Sage could pull off being Cruz Vega for a day. But Sage was always hungry, even when he was sick cause of that dead computer in his head he was still always eating. And of course he wanted food. And Christian would happily feed him. Cruz was glad his mom was finally happy.

But even the thought of food didn't make Cruz worry any less about Nox's friends arriving at his doorstep. The Atharim? His bar tender boyfriend? He knew that Raffe was a good man, Nox wouldn't fraternize with anything but. Sometimes Cruz thought he was nothing but a goodie-two-shoes until he remembered Nox was prone to doing stupid shit for stupid reasons. And since losing half his arm he hadn't gotten any better -- maybe even gotten worse. One reason he avoided is friend and mentor more than usual. Well that and the fact that he was the reason his family was broken. It wasn't a bad thing, but it was still broken. And things had changed between all of them. Maybe the three of them needed to make a date -- him, Sage and Nox, to do something fun together -- like the concert.

Except that had turned dark and ended badly for Nox. Or good. Cruz sighed it was all a matter of perspective. At least they weren't dead.

Cruz would have hailed a cab, but Sage didn't he jumped on the train and Cruz had no choice but to follow. Some things Cruz would never get used to about how normal people lived. Sage didn't own a car, hell he didn't own anything in the CCD except the things he could tote around in a bag. Maybe living with Aiden would change that, it hadn't changed at all for him or Nox when staying with him. They never made themselves at home. It was rather insulting come to think of it.

But Cruz pushed those thoughts away their stop came and they walked through the streets he'd become familiar with in Moscow. He'd run many times through their avenues and he missed it to a small degree. And when the family estate drew into view, it still amazed him that there were ten feet high walls jutting from the earth. Fortifications Nox had called them. Christian had painted them an off white, as the house as well. It looked so much nicer and like they were meant to be there. Cruz knew the traps were s till set, he come by once a week to tend them. The Atharim knew Nox had lived her once, they might still come after his family.

The Stay off the grass signs were new. Cruz chuckled "Make sure you stay off the grass."

Sage giggled like a childish boy. "Will I blow up?"

"Not out front, but I think the back courses have some wild effects. You should warn Raffe. Hate to blow up Nox's boyfriend." It still felt weird saying that. Nox had been a player since the moment he met him, and now not only was he into guys, but he was with one guy. A total one eighty and it didn't seem to surprise Sage at all. But they had a history that went back to their childhood -- maybe that was why. Cruz wouldn't ask.

They approached the door via the side walk and Sage knocked. Cruz would have just knocked and walked inside, using his key if he had to but still just walked in. It was his house after all.

Cruz was surprised when his mother answered in a blue gigham dress covered with a white apron covered in green paint. She laughed "Christian, darling, we have guests." She wrapped Sage in a hug careful not to let any of the wet paint touch his clothes. "I'm just doing some redecorating. Who knew painting could be so much fun." Ana lead them down a hall to the study. "We are finally making this horrid room presentable." Half the walls were painted a light green, and it looked good against the dark woods that still remained.

Christian came in with a platter of sandwhiches. "We were just fixing to take a break. Would you like a sandwich?"

Sage took two from the top before the sentence had completley left Christian's mouth. Sage mumbled his thanks and Cruz shook his head. "Can we use the tunnel entrance? We are going to see if we can get any information on Nox."

Sage interrupted. "We have to wait for Raffe first." Sage sat down in the middle of the room and drifted into nothingness with a sandwich halfway to his lips while he sent a message most likely -- or something else caught his attention. Maybe Nox had pinged? Probably not. Besides Cruz wanted to ask some of the underworld citizens if they knew about the coin that sat in his pocket. He resisted the urge to fondle it. No point it worrying his mother.
[[Continued from Out in the Light]]

Raffe dozed on the metro. He’d paused in a public restroom to splash water on his face and straighten himself up as best he could, unwilling to waste the time travelling back to the club for a shower and change of clothes. Feverbright eyes had stared back in the grimy mirror. He felt as weightless as he had at the cabaret, aware his racing thoughts were not altogether rational, but sure the Sickness would pass soon like it had then. Inside he flushed hot then cold like his body was making a racing journey all of its own. The Vega estate felt like years away. Another life. Someone else’s life. The train rattled on, rattling his bones with it.

By the time he arrived in the affluent Vega neighbourhood, Raffe felt out of place in his own skin, let alone amongst such flagrant luxury. Since he had no money for a cab, he walked from the station and hoped no one would find exception with his appearance enough to call the police. Time felt like it was slipping away from him. Each footstep taunted an echo of too late, too late, too late. When his head spun, he paused against a tree. Felt a moment of calm, if not quite clarity. Pushed on.

He’d only been here once, but he recognised the house when he came to it. The slow simmer of memory was pushed down somewhere deep. He knocked, and waited.

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