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Dueling Dragon's
Continued from Changes

Lucas' wallet went off at a precise 7:30am. Aria had already grabbed a shower after quietly doing her morning routine. Her apartment wasn't exactly the place to practice forms, but it was all she had in the cold weather. He had to get home, he had a class to catch and then head into he shop. Aria nodded. She told him s he'd be by later if he had the time to start on the tattoo. It's not like she was going to be up this early too often and may as well get started sooner rather than later.

Aria hated shopping but she had a few things she needed to do. A few things in the fridge might be a good thing if she was going to have company over. It was a bit to late for it now, but next time she'd be able to offer him something. She didn't know when he'd be over next, and she hoped that the hunger didn't hit too soon, but it was going to hit again. She knew it. But for now she was content and it stayed away. But hunting would pull it out. It always did and uneventful nights, those without a fight always made it so much stronger the following day.

She needed to replace the candle from that night with Dane. It had been her last of the stash she'd brought with her from Vatican City. The last of the ones she'd had from Father Dimitri. If it wasn't a comfort to have it in her pocket, she'd have left the tradition behind. But the candle and the zippo had provided peace, now it was part of her, they serve no more than a reminder to what she needed to to.

The streets were crowded in the market. But Aria found everything she needed easily. And a curious place caught her eye. The booth was decorated with 'artifacts' from a medieval time period it was mostly cosmetic stuff, things that the LAPRers would use. But a blacksmith in the back of the shop was actually smithing weapons. It was all for show, and she was sure the weapons were as blunt as they could be but still a blacksmith selling as part of the show, it was unique in and of itself, but Aria hoped she could get what she wanted. She'd already found the perfect dagger, but she wanted something a little more up close and personal. The darkness drifted in but Aria kept it at bay. The daggers and knives called to her. The small kitchen knife Dane had used to kill the Dranaika sat on a shelf in her apartment. It was just that a kitchen utensil and right now Dane was not what she wanted to think about, but she couldn't help it.

Aria looked through the stock and found a nice dagger she liked, it was blunt, she carried the silver hilted blade to the blacksmith. "Any way you can make it sharp? I'll pay extra for it to be usable."

"What's a pretty girl like yourself wanting with a dagger that is functional?

Aria smiled. "That's my business, can you or not?"

The smith looked at Aria with curiosity and shrugged. "Yeah sure, but it'll be a few days I've got a lot of orders to fill."

Aria nodded. "That's fine. I don't need it right now."

Aria handed the dagger over and paid a hefty sum from her wallet. That Atharim would cover the weapon. As long as it was useful for the job they covered it.

Aria finished her shopping and dropped everything off at her apartment. She could go to headquarters, but there was nothing really to do. She didn't feel like sitting in the darkened room combing through books and the database for information. The sun was up and despite the darkness linger at the edge, she was happy to walk the streets for awhile. Though she knew she'd have to hunt tonight. Father Stone was already angry with her, and there was no need to not do so.

Aria wandered around the streets of Moscow, for another hour before finding herself in front of Lucas' shop. She smiled, but she'd left the paper at home. She walked past the window, they were both busy anyway but the pain was nearly too intoxicating. Aria pulled herself away from the window and stated back to her place to get Lucas' drawing. She hoped the wait wasn't going to be too long, she wasn't sure how much of the pain she was going to be able to handle with them both working so hard to create a tattoo for others.

When she returned Lucas' was busy with someone. She smiled and hung up her coat and put the drawing on the counter. She had carefully brought it to the shop, making sure the wind didn't catch it and bend it. Aria wanted to keep the drawing when they were done. She hoped he'd let her.When

Aria looked at all the drawings on the wall while she waited. She tried to find all of Lucas' work.

Edited by Aria, Jul 28 2014, 08:30 AM.
Lucas looked up when he heard the door chime over the buzz of the gun. The winter sun was a bit brighter today and silhouetted the person who'd come, cloaking them in shadow. It didn't matter. He had a feeling she'd be in today.

A part of him was excited to see her. They'd shared a connection last night and he'd been thrilled to be let inside. But there was also a thread of fear. This woman had needs that he'd never encountered before. She spoke of pain and wanting it, being drawn to it. She could give emotion and experience at a touch. In the bright light of day, it was a heady experience- terrifying even.

She moved out of the direct light and her features resolved into dark eyes. They seemed to glow- probably just a trick of the light- but for a moment, he could see her again as she had been last night. So much had come to those eyes- tears, laughter, loneliness, and most of all fear. She had never shared herself like that. He knew that. They'd lain together, fully clothed, and it was the most intimate moment he'd ever had, this woman who placed herself in his hands.

He breathed. The thread of fear was still there. But there was also determination. Valentin faced challenges with him. He'd have to had those fears himself, the realization that he was making himself partially responsible for this damaged and hurt boy. But he cared enough to put himself at risk. To his secret shame, Lucas quashed his own dark thoughts from those first few nights. Valentin never knew how close he came to dying in those early days, when the hunger was so strong and the desperation so intense. Or maybe he had. Maybe he'd slept in his rooms in fear, wondering at his foolish risk, his willingness to help someone life him.

Strange. Now that the shoe was on the other foot, he found himself thinking of Valentin in a whole new light, understanding now what a sacrifice and effort it had been. His appreciate for the man doubled. If he could do it, so will I. He would too. He was not going to accept Valentin's gift without passing it on in some measure. He would not respect himself if he ran from Aria because he was scared or it was hard.

Reassured, he smiled at Aria, his drawing hand stopped while his other wiped gently at Nika's shoulder. Her shoulder was exposed so he could work, the anchor already outlined in black and shaded, lilies wreathed delicately cream colored with hint of pink. This was the kind of piece he liked doing. Nika's father had been her only parent. An old sailor, he'd raised Nika after her mother died. Nika said that every week he took a lily to her mother's grave. He made sure that Nika knew how much her mother had loved her and was proud of her. For 15 years, this was the story Nika believed. And then she learned that her mother had abandoned them both not long after giving birth. She had died when Nika was 2, too soon for her to remember.

Nika had cried, imagining her father living with that rejection, with the knowledge that he had a daughter to love and care for, a daughter that would believe her mother hadn't wanted her with all that implied. Pavel refused to do that to her. He found where her mother was buried and gave Nika the fiction that got her through her youth.

When Nika learned the truth, she had been angry and hurt- furious that her father had lied to her, had let her believe in and love a woman who'd abandoned them.

Until one day, somehow, realization dawned on her. Her father had been her mother too, had been her world, her anchor. He'd loved her enough to endure his private pain, bearing that cross on himself. In that day, Nika truly understood the depth of her father's love. And this was her way of immortalizing it in her body, the truth of a father- her father's- love. Pavel would always be with her.

It had been a beautiful account and Lucas had cried as she tried to explain what she was trying to do, what this meant to her. Together they had worked to come up with images that would encapsulate Pavel for her. Lucas felt so touched at being let in, at being allowed, just for a moment, to see the depth of love a father could have for his child. He wept, for what he'd been denied, for what Valentin had ended up for him, and for the young girl who lived surrounded by such pure love.

These pieces were always like this. And know, he was forever emblazoning it in her flesh. It hurt, they always did, but the pain was like child-birth, he imagined. A tearing and great pain, but with such emotional release too.

He thought of Aria and what he'd made for her. He hoped she liked it. He saw her put it on the table. "Hi Aria,"
through a big smile. He patted Nika's shoulder. "Almost done here with Nika."
To Nika he said gently, turning her face softly, the sheen of tears in her eyes. "Are you alright sweety? I'm almost done. Your dad will be proud."
He meant it to and he tried to make her see that in his eyes and the way he smiled.

He looked up and could see Aria wandering around, looking at the different pieces. He wondered what she was feeling. For the first time it occurred to him that as a man, he wouldn't have to guess. She could just show him if she wanted to. He laughed.

This was going to be an interesting ride.
Lucas ran through a whole gambit of emotions when she entered. It made her smile and sad at the same time. He was excited and afraid, she wished the emotional insights came with more information. Afraid of what? her? her problems? It seemed unfair that she knew what he was feeling.

Fear ran into resolve, and Aria wished she knew what he was thinking. Feelings with out context could be harmful to anyone. But his smile light her heart. His smile pulled at her heart, she wanted to see it all the time. He had a strange affect on her. Aria knew she was staring, she turned back to the pictures and got lost in them. The pain from the two customers were accompanied by Lucas' emotions. Both of them pulling at her in opposite directions. She knew the hunger would win out in the end. The need to be feed was always there, but Lucas was so much different. His emotions showed sympathy and understanding and strength.

He said her name with a smile and for once the hunger fled for more powerful emotions - her own. She smiled back. "I'm not in a rush."
She could stay here all day and be happy. The thought rang true in more than one way, she was actually happy, not just surviving the moment. How things had changed in the course of one day, over meeting one person. Aria didn't think that was ever possible.

Aria tried to focus on the pictures on the wall, but it was not quite the task that kept her mind busy, she'd rather watch Lucas. Instead Aria sat down in one of the chairs to wait. She pulled out her wallet and flipped through what data she had on it. There was a lot going on in her head. The pain still called to her, and she let it in to a small degree, but she focused on Lucas. Her mind wandering from the articles to the pain and back to Lucas. He was very distracting.

The girl under Lucas' needle was in tears, from happy or sadness or the pain Aria didn't know, it was all there in her emotions. She wondered her story. Something she'd never have wondered if not for Lucas' intervention. People never really mattered before. Today, they did. It made the cause she'd started with Tehya all the more clear. The reborn gods were people too. And maybe the prophecies weren't exactly accurate either. War was coming regardless. The CCD and the US would definitely see to that, but was it because of reborn gods, or coincidence. Aria started to wonder what had really happened with Ascendancy. He had a story. Maybe it was time to start looking into it, instead of the now. Aria started pulling up as much of the data from Ascendancy's past as she could find on the internet, the Atharim database would be full of it. Maybe it would shed some light on things.
Edited by Aria, Jul 29 2014, 04:02 PM.
Thalia had sent Rune a message with the time and location of their appointment, and for once she was running early (small miracle). She arrived bundled against the harsh Russian winter in a multitude of artistic layers, from the heavy floral boots on her feet to the patchworked scarf wound tight around her throat. A satchel hung over one hip, and she carried various sketchpads in protective cases under one arm as she backed into the glass door. The cold had blushed rose into her cheeks and settled little ice-crystals amongst the length of hair spilled down her back. A traditional ushanka snug on her head was quickly pulled off once faced with the warmth of inside. She waved gloved fingers at Sergei, and smiled vaguely at the other man working on a woman's shoulder.

She'd never set foot in this shop before, but Sergei had been the one to ink every excruciating shade and line into her back years back, and she trusted his artistry enough to seek out his new place. Now that she had Rune's designs planned out she wanted a tattooist to cast their eye over them before she allowed Rune to take the work. The woman was free to choose whatever artist caught her fancy for the actual tattoo, of course, but Thalia was nothing if not a perfectionist, and if her art was going to be immortalised in someone's flesh then she wanted assurances that it would look right.

"Hey Sergei. I'm early. Fancy that. Rune should be here soon."
She grinned, setting down her sketchbooks carefully before shedding her coat and scarf and gloves onto one of the chairs, about that time setting eyes on the other waiting client. Recognition skittered across the grey of her eyes, curiously trying to place the face. It tugged at her memory, a name on the tip of her tongue. "Hi. I think we've met?"
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Information on the internet about Ascendancy's past was about as enlightening as the dark. There were secrets layered upon secrets and Aria knew that things weren't as clear as the media made it out to be. Aria wished she could get to the data at headquarters, she could link in but not all the data was available. And she didn't exactly want to look at the information where anyone could see her screens.

The bell chimed and Aria looked up and saw a familiar face, the voice was familiar too. But it was the name she said that caught her attention, and brought back her first day in Moscow. She couldn't remember the woman's name exactly. It had been a rough day. Nearly passing out because someone brushed up against her. Things had definately changed since then. A whole lot!

Rune had been on Aria's mind, well not her specifically, but the fact that she had gone after a godling. The world was growing smaller and smaller everyday. And even living in a vast city like Moscow, Aria didn't really think she'd run into a hunter not only once but twice when they weren't at headquarters. Aria doubted she could ask about her mission now and get answers. But maybe later, someplace else? Aria looked to Lucas and frowned. She'd rather spend that time with him... Aria's priories seemed to have shifted with meeting him.

The woman spoke to Lucas' partner and then turned her attention to Aria. "Hi. I think we've met?"

Aria smiled. "Yeah I ran into you quite literally my first day in Moscow."
Aria stood and offered her hand. "Aria. Did I hear you mention Rune was meeting you here? Rather ironic that we'd all meet again at the same time."

Edited by Thalia, Aug 5 2014, 05:41 PM.
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
[Image: wentworth_miller_032.jpg]

Sergei had been drawing. It was nothing specific, really, just something to pass the time. Recently he'd been studying Mesoamerican art. He found their pieces particularly vivid and alien, with their stylistic faces and vivid imagery of jaguars and serpents. But he had yet to find a client who wanted to use one of these pieces yet. No matter. He was just doing this mostly for himself

Lucas was busy with Nika anyway, finishing her work. Sergei liked the guy. He might technically be the boss, but he viewed Sergei as more of a fellow artist. Which was appropriate after all. Sergei had been inking for 15 years. His clean lines, use of shading and color, and easy manner kept people coming back again and again no matter what shop he was at. The relationship between a tattoo artist was an intimate one, and once forged, was not broken so easily

So between the two of them, the shop did well, with a steady stream of clients and friends coming in to just see what was going on or to hang out. Closing hours was never really a thing anyway. You just hung around until everyone decided to go somewhere else to party. Well, except for Lucas, poor guy. He had to hand it to the kid. Rough life he had? Addiction? He did for himself. Sergei was the first to say it and anyone who twitted Lucas about staying sober heard about it from him. He'd seen plenty of his friends destroyed by drink or drugs or worse. He thanked God that had never been him. Precious few of his friends ever came back from that hell. But Lucas did. And Sergei respected him for it.

The brunette from the other night came in and Sergei smiled at her and went back to his drawing. She was here for Lucas anyway. She radiated pain and for some reason the poor guy was drawn to it like flies to honey. He looked up again, as she walked along the wall. She was cute, he would say that. Not his type, really. Too intense, too brooding. He liked 'em fun and goofy with a bit of sass. Just like him.

Speak of the devil, Thalia walked in. And she was early! She grinned at him. "Hey Sergei. I'm early. Fancy that. Rune should be here soon."

"Heya gorgeous!"
He made it a point to check outside ostentatiously. "Well, i guess it's official then. Hell musta' froze over."
He came over to her and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Good to see you Thal. I was happy to get your call. Here, "
he said, taking her coat and scarf to the rack to hang them up.

While he did that, she struck up a conversation with Lucas' brunette. He shrugged. They must know each other, he guessed. He was content to let them be as we went back to his drawing. Thalia would be over presently. You could never pin her down anyway. She always reminded him of a butterfly, fluttering from flower to flower, sampling and tasting and smelling, but always ready to flit away at a moments notice. She was free, and he liked that about her.
[[Hmm. In an effort to make the flow make more sense (I think Lucas and I slightly cross posted) I've edited and moved my post Tongue]]

The name blossomed the memory, filling in blurs like the details in a painting. She shook the other woman's hand warmly, still untangling herself from the satchel, which she dumped at the base of the chair she was about to sit in before Sergei came over and pulled her into a hug. His kissed her cheek, and she slipped into the familiarity of the flirtatious banter effortlessly, laughing at his quip. "Well, it is Moscow. In the middle of winter,"
she said dryly, knowing full well he was Russian-born. "Basically the same thing."

She grinned as he walked off with her coat and scarf, both items of which she realised she'd been content to leave spilling messily over the chair, like she was nestled in her own front room rather than a shop floor. Her mother would be horrified. She sat, turning back to Aria "I remember. Artskaf in Arbatskaya. I'm Thalia."
Her hair was damp, laying heavy against her back, so she scooped it over one shoulder and idly twisted out the moisture as she chatted. The tiny droplets of ice numbed her fingers.

"Yeah, Rune should be here soon. You remember she wanted me to draw up a design for her? That's why we're here. But it's nice to see you again! I'm a great believer in fate."
Her lips upturned in an impish smile, shrugging off the coincidence with a laugh. "How are you finding Moscow? Have you seen the snowmen in old Arbatskaya yet?"
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Sergei took Thalia's things and Aria sat back down and turned off her wallet. The last time they'd met Aria had been overwhelmed with the city and the multitude of emotions, today she shook hands with the woman. While not significant to others, Aria saw the difference. How a few months had changed her, and not all for the better. Despite the control she'd gained she feared much about herself. Last night Lucas had helped, maybe it would get better? One could only hope, she really didn't want it to get worse.

Aria didn't believe it was fate, coincidence. Aria could see no reason the three of them needed to meet again and in a tattoo parlor. It was just coincidence that they'd found themselves here. Maybe it was just God's way of telling her she'd come full circle. Which in and of itself was rather comforting. She'd changed a lot since coming to Moscow. She was living on her own, working alone and doing fairly well considering she'd not actually taken a monster out with out the assistance of a godling. Maybe that was God telling her something too. But those thoughts and self realizations were for later.

The snowmen in Arbatskaya? Aria had seen much of Moscow by night, but she didn't recall seeing any snowmen either. But she hadn't been out that direction in a while. Aria glanced at Lucas and smiled. She turned back to Thalia. "I've not been that direction in a while. Though I've seen much of Moscow since coming. Met some unexpected people."
That was really an understatement. She'd met men and a woman who were reborn gods. There were very few mundane people she'd met since coming to Moscow.
Lucas put the finishing touches on Nika's tattoo. "Alright Nika, I'm finished."
She turned her head and tried to look at it. He saw that there were dried tears in her eyes. He didn't think it was just from the pain of the needle. He saw pleasure and pride in her eyes. He smiled at her as he rubbed on the tattoo the anti-bacterial ointment and then sprayed it with a synthetic dressing to protect. She would get her own bottle of both so that she could repeat the process at home over the next few days.

He stood up, stretching. He'd been in the same position for an hour. Nika tried to stand up to go to the mirror and was a bit weak so he took her arm and helped her up and then took her. The look on her face was why he did this. She had sewed a memory into her flesh, had let him be part of that memory, the lengths to which a father would go for his daughter. It was a beautiful thing and he was honored.

He was smiling when she turned around and hugged him tightly. He held her for as long as she needed, though his eyes did note the new girl in the store. She knew Sergei, which wasn't surprising. The man was a brilliant artist. He had brought customers when he came to work with Lucas. And of course, the girls liked him for other reasons too. He was a good guy. The girl seemed to know Aria too. Small world.

Nika let go and said a few more words of gratitude to him. She was proud and couldn't wait to get home to show her dad. Lucas was happy.

After she left he walked to Aria and the other girl. He touched her shoulder . "Hi Aria."

Aria could feel Lucas walking up behind her, she couldn't help but smile. It was probably a good thing she knew he was coming, his hand on her shoulder brightened her smile. Aria looked over her shoulder at him. "Hi."
She wanted to lean back into him but there were too many people around.

She looked at him and smiled. It made him glad to see it. He'd had to get to class early, so they hadn't really talked too much this morning though she had said she liked his design and would be in for him to start.

He looked at the girl she was talking to. She was pretty and there was an easy and relaxed manner to her. "Hi, I'm Lucas,"
he said, holding out his hand. "So Sergei pulled in another one of his old clients, huh?"
He winked at her. "Or is it girlfriends?
he said playfully, shooting his voice to Sergei. He lowered his voice to whisper loudly. "He's a notorious flirt."
He smiled at Aria so that she knew that this was normal shop banter.

Sergei put his head up from his art and shot back laughingly, "Hah! Lucas you are so one to talk."
He laughed again and said. "Ever notice how many girls who come in here for work get the nice long hugs?"
His voice dropped to a parody of saddened femininity. "Lucas, I need a tattoo of my kitty that just died."
His voice then deepened into a mockingly comforting manly voice. "Come here babe. It's all good."
All the while he was trying not to laugh. Unsuccessfully.

Lucas laughed. He loved his shop and the people he met. "HEY! You're giving away my secrets man! What about the bro-code!"
Sergei really was his brother, though. An older brother who helped him out and gave him advice when he needed it. Lucas was happy.

Edited by Lucas, Aug 12 2014, 11:01 AM.

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