The Blues [Attn: Jamie, Howl]
#1
The stranger (who-was-not-a-stranger) left the place; slid back into the warm, smokey night. Sera turned with a stiff, almost military straight-posture and headed back to the bar. Shoved the glass from her drink back at the 'tender and ordered two shots of tequila. He laid them out one and one, in front of Sera, then Justin, but she herded them back over the bar, the dull, tinctured music of glass on old wood. Threw back the first one with the full ceremony - salt, tequila, wedge-of-lime, eyes closed with the stark acid of the lime juice cutting through the burn of the booze.

Then just sat brooding over her second shot, swirling it around the glass. Watching the thread and spill of her reflection over its oilslick surface. The pattern of her own fingerprints on the glass, her dark nails flecked with irridescent glitter and the bands of light gleaming in the polished surface of the bar.

"How long?" Five fucking minutes later. More or maybe less, but the question feels like a non-sequitor because it is. Because it has nothing to do with What Just Happened. She lifts her attention from the shot then, cuts a sharp look aslant at the Verbena. Registers what is likely the confusion on his face as a slow-crawling half-smile asserts itself across her mouth. "How long'd you have to think about it before answering my text?

"Me, I thought about sending it for fifteen fucking minutes."

The edge of her gaze then, this rich, wry, self-aware look shining through the haze of alcohol and hashish. Justin doesn't know her well, but can easily guess that fifteen minutes may well be an eternity for someone like Sera, who does not think about things. She just fucking does them. As she does now, tossing back the second shot of tequila with no salt beyond the salt on her lips. Already signaling the bartender back for another shot, oh and this time leave the bottle.

--

They have a quiet conversation then. Not precisely oblique - but oh, some details are papered over. Still, both of them saw the fading threads of Work around the woman's head, as much as they saw her run-down-to-the-dregs-and-then-some addict's demeanor. Sera supplies the pertinent details gleaned from her vision, admitting that maybe she-and-Kelsey have some acquaintances in common, with a breezy, brazen front. Because you know how it is. A girl like Sera meets more people than she will ever have time to remember.

With that, the slash of her familiar grin, and Justin has grace enough that he pretends not to notice the haunted edge behind it.

While he's sitting there with her, she texts one Richard Fairchild. To-wit: Hey. I wanna come over tomorrow. Cool? Justin wants to go so Sera promises the Verbena that she'll give him a call when the dealer texts her back and they'll make a date of it. He can think of himself as a field researcher into the lives of cultists.

Except now: Justin is no longer interested in the pub-crawl they had planned and fucking Serafíne is more interested in it than ever. He's still nursing that whiskey he ordered when he walked in the bar, and she looks like she's never heard of moderation as an abstract concept, let alone a way of life.

Still, he's concerned enough about her that he hangs out a while longer, waiting for the cavalry. Which arrives in the form of Dee and two or three girls from her rollerderby teammaybe half an hour later: or Deedee, as Sera greets her, already sliding off the barstool and opening her arms and wrapping them around her housemate and bassist with this easy and liquid familiarity. We found the place for your fucking party.

And so Justin is relieved of any Cultist-sitting responsibility. Easily able to extricate himself from the group. If he stops to remind her of their plans for the morrow, Sera gives him a weaving, glassy-eyed smile over Dahlia's shoulder. They're already planning where to go next. This place is too damned quiet, and Serafíne wants live music and a crowd that pulses in time to it like the chambers of a stutter-stopped and plosive heart.

--

The next day, Justin receives a text from Sera, proof that she apparently survived her night:

4:30. My place. You can drive but we'll take my Jeep.

She's waiting for him on the sidewalk in front of that nice home with the overgrown garden, sitting on the front step with Dan, sharing a cigarette. When Justin pulls up and climbs out, Dan tosses him keys to the Jeep. It's an old model, mid-90s, still with temporary tags on it and, most importantly, can't be traced back to Justin. There's that sketchy transparency to her demeanor, a certain care she takes when she stands up to suggest that she's under the lingering threads of what may have been a monstrous hangover this morning. Sera hands off the cigarette to Dan as he stands up behind her, kisses his bearded cheek, and directs Justin to the Jeep parked further down the street. Climbs into the passenger's seat and gives the Verbena the address Fairchild gave her, looking out through the window as they drive. Wait, what's that scent threaded through her hair? Maybe it wasn't just a cigarette she and Dan were sharing, after all.
But my heart is wild and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.

- Phosphorescent, Song for Zula
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#2
How long?

Serafine asked how long it'd taken him to answer her text. Justin responded with a grudging smile and a (slightly guilty) lift of his eyebrows. "More than fifteen minutes."

He watched while Sera drank her tequila shots, gazing pensively at her face as though he'd forgotten about his own drink. His manner now was entirely different from what it had been only minutes ago. Watching someone (a friend? is that what they were? did fighting alongside a person and sleeping with them mean that you got to skip the small talk and the casual social outings?) fall apart in front of you had a tendency to do that.

There was a moment, between the shots and the conversation, when Justin leaned into her space and put his arms around her - slowly and carefully like winding ivy. He leaned his forehead against her own and breathed soft puffs of air against her cheek and stood there silently for as long as she wished it. And maybe for that moment they forgot that things between them were supposed to be awkward, or that they didn't really know each other beyond the shape and fit of their bodies, or that lately they'd both been holding themselves together against a world intent on finding and fraying apart their every vulnerability.

Because hey - they were still here. Vibrant and strong and still so very alive.

So they broke apart. And they talked. And Justin didn't acknowledge the haunted edge to Sera's smile, but neither did it surprise him. He told her he wanted to go with her to see the dealer, less because he thought he'd be useful and more because he didn't want her to deal with this - whatever this was - alone.

They parted ways not long after that, as Sera found companions more suited to her needs and Justin went home to his apartment. And then for a long run. And then probably to sleep.

-----------------------

The next day he showed up at her place, as requested, at precisely 4:30. He caught the keys that Dan tossed him and nodded to the consor with a friendly (if a little reserved) smile. Justin's voice and posture were relaxed, but he had a gun holster clipped to his belt.

When they climbed into the Jeep, Justin started the engine and pulled away from the curb without much delay, following Sera's directions to the dealer's address. He was quiet on the way there, but flipped on the radio at a low volume so they'd have something to listen to, cycling through the still-unfamiliar channels until he landed on one that was playing Ocean Breathes Salty by Modest Mouse.

When they hit the right street, Justin parked the Jeep a few buildings down from their intended destination and jumped to the sidewalk. "So how well do you know this guy, exactly? What should we be expecting?"
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#3
In the interstitial space between the shots and the conversation, there's no telling how long Serafíne sat there at the edge of her barstool, elbows braced on the lip of the bar, eyes closed. Justin's arms around her and his breath warm against her cheek. Just still. Well: Serafíne's a seer, so perhaps she could tell. Perhaps she could measure it out in heartbeats and breaths, in the firing of neurons and the movement of the hidden stars in the smoke-filled sky. Longer than you'd expect, not so long as it seemed, and when she finally roused and moved to shrug him off, well. Maybe she was steadier for it.

Otherwise, she didn't fucking acknowledge the moment at all.

---

So, the next day. Justin parks the Jeep and jumps out. Sera is slightly less vigorous than he today, treats the world as if it were (or should be) coated in cotton wool. She sliiides out of the passenger's seat, and meets Justin on the sidewalk. If you imagine that she is half-clothed, you are correct sir!

Today: a white Jesus and Mary Chain t-shirt that has been altered with scissors to be a cut-off tank. PSYCHOCANDY in crawling black block letters just above the improvised hem, that shows an inch or three of skin above the waistband of her skirt. Black bra visible beneath the white t-shirt and a thin black hoodie slung over it, sleeves pushed up to her elbows because hey, it's hot, the hood drawn up over her hair.

Fishnets (natch) and hey! she's short today. Those are practical shoes she's wearing, old, broken in and beaten up Doc Martens in lieu of heels.

"He's a WASP and a dealer and that means he's kind of a shit," Sera returns, quiet as they walk. Hands in her pockets. She's got cash on her. She's always got cash on her, though. A weavering shrug. " - but I've never really had a problem with him."

Quiet a moment, then, " - he might call me by a different fucking name. If he does just ignore him. I knew him a while back and he's just being an ass, trying to get under my skin. Sometimes though, he's solicitous." Trying to get into her pants. "Never know which one you'll find."

Guess they're gonna find out.
But my heart is wild and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.

- Phosphorescent, Song for Zula
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#4
The text came back after about 20 minutes, and it came back thusly:

ICE COLD. WHAT TIME.

Dick Fairchild texts in all caps. That's all Justin probably really needs to know about him.

-----

He's kind of a shit but at least he's quiet. Quiet dealers don't tend to have the cops roll up to their place near as often as the loud dealers. All his neighbors like as not assume he deals drugs because otherwise the only thing they know him to do all day is sit on the couch and play Xbox until an acquaintance comes by.

Like now.

The name Dick Fairchild conjures up all sorts of interesting mental images, and the man belonging to it falls fairly short of most of them. He's in that amorphous area between his late twenties and mid-thirties where his physique hasn't yet fallen off with the force of his metabolism slowing down, has swarthy skin and curly hair and probably gets asked "What are you?" a lot. Serafíne knows he's one of those dealers who doesn't partake in any of the crap he sells and thinks this makes him intelligent. His personality presents itself unaltered by substances controlled or otherwise.

Might drink and do a little nose candy if I'm off the clock. A man can't go through his whole life without indulging a little, amirite? -- is the Dick Fairchild philosophy. He's joked about framing that shit and putting it in his living room. Which he calls his office. The last time Serafíne was here all he had on the office walls were maps, framed one-hour-photo photographs of him and people she's never met, drink recipe posters. Nothing remotely philosophical.

Anyway: he throws open the door before she has a chance to knock and they can hear the soothing sounds of Grand Theft Auto or some other loud video game whose sole objective is to drive real fast and kill lots of people while blaring loud music. He wears pajama bottoms and a white A-shirt and a day's worth of beard, looks like he's either been up all goddamn night or just woke up.

"He-eyyy!" he says. "Chastity, babygirl, how you livin'? Long time, no." Justin, who he's never met before, is afforded a high five all the same. "Hello, hello, New Person. You're not a cop, are you?"
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#5
"Dick. You magnificent fat bastard," Serafíne gives him her razor grin and full on eye contact, walking into Fairchild's 'office' in a way that has her walking not-quite-into him but close, without giving an inch or a beat or a flinch over the fucking name he fucking calls her. They all wear different ones sometimes, right? She's standing there framed in the doorway, Justin behind her and the two of them sort of high-five over her head and then she's just sauntering in, dark eyes flicking him up and down. " - still hiding a six pack under there?" With a faint, purse-lipped smirk and a direct, challenging stare at the bottom hem of his fucking A-shirt. "Or are you spending too much time killing hookers and delivering fucking pizzas to get your ass to the gym these days."

"Course New Person's not a fucking cop. He's just my fucking ride." And Justin comes in behind her and she tips her head aaalll the way back so she can sort of see upside-down Verbena behind her and gives him this faintly high, noodling sort of grin. The hood of her light jacket falls back, of course, followed by a few long coils of her curling hair. "Are you, New Person?"

Brows lifted in arch and upside-down query, this fucking light just gleaming in her eyes. Hard to imagine that she could ever fall apart the way she did the other night just briefly, entirely undone.

Then, she rights herself, hands in the pockets of her hoodie, stretching it out as she saunters into the room. Spreading out to take in the space and the walls and the blare of the video game console and soak in the general aura of a guy who texts ICE COLD in ALL CAPS. Back to the dealer, then a glance at Justin, her mouth crawling wry.

"I could frisk him for you though, Dick. If you wanted. Just to be safe."

And lo, Justin and Sera waltz the fuck into the apartment of Dick Fairchild, Philosophe.

"So, fuck. You'll never guess who I saw last night, right?" This only once the door is firmly closed and shut and latched, depending on how paranoid Dick is feeling at just this moment. Only once Sera's had a chance to amble into the room, "Fucking Kelsey. She said you had something new, man. Or was it fucking Byron? Maybe it was fucking Byron, was she looking for Byron?" another tip of her head toward Justin, all lazy, "do you remember New Person?"

[OOC: startin' some magicks here. Will FPM and roll later!

Addendum with first roll!

liz @ 10:10AM
Sera: Watching the Weaving Dif 4-1 (focus)

Roll: 2 d10 TN3 (3, 7) ( success x 2 ) VALID
niko @ 10:10AM
I can witness all the things

niko @ 10:10AM
Witness@]


]
But my heart is wild and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.

- Phosphorescent, Song for Zula
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#6
Dick is not nor will he ever be Awakened. That isn't his purpose in life and he doesn't tend to hang around people cut from Sera's cloth. Without possessing knowledge of what sort of cloth produced Sera he goes around believing himself to be. But their mutual appreciation for inappropriate fashion choices and the life-enhancing effects of pharmaceuticals doesn't translate to anything other than a fruitful business arrangement.

So he invites them into his house and Justin passes muster whether or not he responds. Maybe he trusts Sera. It's a dangerous thing for him to do but then so is selling controlled substances when he doesn't possess a pharmacist's license.

"Hey, man," he says as he saunters deeper into his abode, where locked cabinets hide scales and translucent orange bottles and bags upon bags of things meant to alter a person's consciousness, "frisk away. This is a free country."

And then he'll never guess who she saw last night. Fucking Kelsey.

"Kelsey?" Astonished for thinking that girl had surely shot herself up for the last time by now. She's still alive? astonishment mingling in with admiration. Good for her, man. Keep on keepin' on. And then the matter of Byron comes up, and Dick sighs and flops back down on the couch where his wireless controller sits alight and ignored. "Man, fuck Byron. That googly-eyed cocksucker still owes me a G. You see him, tell him I'm not moving any more of his smurf shit until he spots me."

And nothing comes of her glimpsing into the Tapestry. This place is about as magical as a state police evidence room.
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#7
"Yeah, well. What I wanna know," Serafíne circles to the back of the couch, boosts herself up so her skinny ass is sitting on the spine of the couch, then spins around. Her fucking boots on the couch cushions, her fishnet-clad thighs more or less on the level with Dick Fairchild's eyes, if he turns his fucking head twenty degrees to his right. The forgotten X-box controller slips down between the cushions as the weight of her boots depresses them.

" - is whether you're still holding any of that smurf shit. Because you fucking know," she is close enough to him that he can smell the scent of marijuana in her hair, on her skin. The joint that she and Dan were sharing between them right out on the sidewalk when Justin rolled up to accompany her on this outting. "I have always. Always, had a thing for papa smurf."

Asshole knows no such thing but assholes like this are nearly always inclined to agree with girls like her. Part of the job description. Sera's head tips aslant and she regards Dick Fairchild from above, humming beneath her breath, pulling her focus back into her body, finding the cushion of that high in her veins, the way it wraps up her sense of her body while opening her back up to -

"When the fuck was the last time you saw him, anyway?"

- maybe Justin will feel it. Maybe he'll see it in her eyes, sense it in the way her breath catches in the back of her throat. Her attention just - slips, then. She cannot keep pursuing the effect and banter with a shit of a WASP drug dealer, and Sera just - checks out, spaces out, leaving whatever conversation she had started hanging.

[ROLLS. Denver @ 6:57PM

How YOU doin', jamie
Sera @ 7:10PM

Time 2 / Mind 2. Dif 5 +1 fast casting +3 distracted -2 (Merit) -1 (specialty focus)
Roll: 2 d10 TN6 (3, 6) ( success x 2 ) [WP] VALID
Sera @ 7:15PM

Extending: Time 2 / Mind 2. Dif 5 +1 (fast casting) +1(extending) NO LONGER DISTRACTED -2 (merit) -1 (focus)
Roll: 2 d10 TN5 (6, 6) ( success x 2 ) VALID
Sera @ 7:22PM

Extending: Time 2 / Mind 2. Dif 5 +1 (fast casting) +1(extending) SPACED OUT YO -2 (merit) -1 (focus)
Roll: 2 d10 TN5 (5, 7) ( success x 2 ) VALID
jamie @ 7:25PM

AWYEAH WITNESSED NOW I HAVE TO WRITE STUFF
jamie @ 7:25PM

<3]
But my heart is wild and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.

- Phosphorescent, Song for Zula
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#8
It wasn't the first time Justin had been to see a dealer, and truth be told, Fairchild was pretty much exactly what he'd expected. All the same, he had an eye on the man's body language when Fairchild appeared at the door, watching for signs of trouble (suspicion, aggression, subterfuge.) Justin saw the high-five coming before it manifested, and although he hesitated a moment before returning it, he managed not to make it look too awkward. "Hey man," he offered by way of greeting before walking through the door. Sera answered the man's question for him, and Justin rolled with it, giving a little smirk. "Not a cop," he reaffirmed. He didn't address the subject of frisking, either because he didn't think it necessary or maybe because he was hoping they'd drop it.

So Sera did her thing and told Fairchild about Kelsey, and when she deferred to Justin for specifics, he nodded and said, "She was looking for Byron." Fairchild seemed surprised by the news. Maybe he was, or maybe he was faking it. Hard to tell. So they talked, and Justin watched. Now and then his eyes would slide over the apartment casually, taking note of their surroundings. After a moment he pulled something out of his pocket and popped it in his mouth - bit down until a sharp burst of mint seeped onto his tongue.

Justin @ 12:23AM
[First thing's first - Alertness. Does he notice anything weird or interesting in the apartment?]
Roll: 6 d10 TN4 (1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 7) ( success x 1 ) VALID

Justin @ 12:24AM
[Probably not, with rolls like that. Ok, second roll, Awareness - any resonance anywhere?]
Roll: 5 d10 TN6 (3, 6, 7, 9, 9) ( success x 4 ) VALID

Justin @ 12:26AM
[Third roll - Per+Subterfuge on Fairchild. Be he lying about anything?]
Roll: 5 d10 TN6 (6, 8, 8, 10, 10) ( success x 5 ) VALID

Justin @ 12:30AM
[Fourth roll - scanning for all the things. Life (anyone else here?) Prime (we sure there's no magic?) and Forces (no hidden cameras right?) base diff 4 - 1 (practiced, yadda yadda,) needs 4 successes]
Roll: 2 d10 TN3 (2, 6) ( success x 2 ) [WP] VALID

Justin @ 12:30AM
[extending +1]
Roll: 2 d10 TN4 (8, 10) ( success x 2 ) VALID

Tithe, The Witness @ 12:34AM
[This thing: it has been seen.]
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#9
Unfortunately, for both of them, nothing immediately apparent or interesting throws itself at them. The place doesn't have the appearance of belonging to an inhabitant who takes time out of his busy schedule to hide things from either the Sleeper police or potential magically-inclined invaders.

"Therein lies the motherfucking problem," he asks, picking up the controller so he can make progress in his game if Sera is just here to shoot the shit before coming up with something she knows he has, maybe to maintain the appearance of having enough self control not to stare at the thigh a few inches from his eye line, "is people want to buy the shit, but Byron's flaky ass won't pick up his phone."

They're both so distracted of a sudden that what he says, now, doesn't matter, only whether what he says has any truth or ulterior motive to it. Other than the Working of the young woman on the couch, Justin cannot feel anything of their world in the room. He can tell that whatever else Dick Fairchild may be, he isn't lying about thinking Byron is a flake who owes him money.

Sera meanwhile has to cast her attention onto the man himself and reach back through his timeline. And Justin becomes distracted a moment later scanning for everything in the fucking place. Luckily they've so thoroughly rustled his jimmies that Dick starts ranting while driving a souped-up car through the glistening streets of Liberty City.

"Man, every-fucking-body is looking for Byron. That cocksucker went off the map like... I don't even know, what day is it?--yeah I ain't seen him since he came by all hopped-up on whatever-the-fuck looking to offload all this shit on me. He was all hey man you know people right can you move this stuff and I was like uh-duh? and you're really just wasting your time looking for him. I mean he pulls shit like this all the time, he finds some new thing and he gets all psyched thinking he's going to turn into the Tony Montana of designer drugs and guess what, man, if you want to turn into the Tony Montana of snorting mountains of your own product, congrats, you're it, dude. You're the Pacino of drugs."

By now Justin is beginning to return to cognizance. Nothing to see here. There's a cat prowling around and the cat has had all its shots and is well-fed and well-loved and isn't going to come out into the living room as long as there are people there. If there are hidden cameras - there aren't, but if there were - Dick Fairchild would have been arrested already.

Sera, on the other hand...

[Tag, Liz!]
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#10
Sera is spaced out rather longer than Justin. She's high, just enough, humming with it, her muscles feel like taffy when she thinks about them. Not taffy no but stretchy and fibrous and the porous boundaries of her body are opening up. Her skin full of light. This is an ordinary room and the X-box and the blare from the game as Dick takes it up again and starts ranting but she misses that, humming the way she is so thoughtlessly, her spine sliding from upright to something not quite sidelong. Not quite sidewinder.

And Serafíne slips her hands into Dick fucking Fairchild's hair without realizing or thinking about it and boundaries, Sera, boundaries. The strands slip through her fingers but it helps her find the proper channel, her head cocked, tuning through static, all the cross-hatched signal-noise, all the ordinary days, all the deals, all the dead hookers on that fucking game. Like navigating a raft by feel through some river delta, sensing where the current runs and where it eddies and where it sucks you in and -

- she's smiling a bit at poor Dick, whom she likes only so far as his utility. And perhaps the texture of his hair, but not the glassine stare at the game on the screen. Christ if she actually sold drugs the way three-fifths of her acquaintances assume she does to fund her lifestyle she would find a better way to spend her time between deals than playing that fucking game, but if she sold drugs she would be, yeah. The Pacino of drugs too. But see her: smiling, far away, notes vibrant in the back of her throat, some humming awareness that tunes into the frequency of the universe because that is how it works, and there's something a little off about that smile beyond the way she's elected for the moment to drop out of this particular point in the timestream and find some other one to study but you'd have to know her and the way she smiles to see it.

Then she comes back to the present, all at once. It's like rising from some great depth, bubbles rushing up and bursting all around you, erupting to the surface and breathing again and hey, she's here. Her fucking hand in Dick fucking Fairchild's fucking hair.

So that part stops.

Pretty much immediately.

But then she slides from the back of the couch onto the half-displaced cushions planting her ass right next to him and bumping him with her left arm to get his attention, all companionable now.

"How about this." A lift of her gaze past the screen to Justin. Then a cutting glance back to Dick Fairchild. "I'll pay you what Byron fucking owes you. His debt, right? Then you two'll be all square.

"But in exchange, you'll give me his number. And that fucking first aid kit he was carrying the shit in, and you'll text me the minute his ass turns up, if he turns up.

"Oh, and. Throw in the names of the people you sold that shit to, and I'll give you a finder's fee on top of that. Because maybe they got paranoid about the smurfs, and maybe they're still holding. Because I wanna try that shit." A precise, fucked up little pause. "Dick." And a lazy sideswipe of a grin. "You know me. I'll try anything twice."

Which is probably true.
But my heart is wild and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.

- Phosphorescent, Song for Zula
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