weird [nate solo]
He went back to work just as soon as it was feasible for him to go back to work. A month had gone by since then and aside from the ribbing that he'd had to endure from the old-timers and the other young reporters and his editor heaping more work on top of him under the caveat of everyone else having picked up his slack while he was in the hospital - again - Nathan had gone about his days without complaint.

On his first overnight shift since the attack he sat with his feet up on the desk responding to sporadic texts and staring at the squad of televisions mounted on the far wall. For a time the police scanner was silent but for the occasional burst of code-chatter and the bullpen was not entirely empty. Plenty of the other reporters stayed behind to finish up edits on their stories from the day that just passed and they hollered across the room to each other so they wouldn't have to get up and walk.

Only once did someone interrupt Nathan's caffeine-addled texting.

And then a call came through at 23:40. Shots fired. Someone at another desk glanced over from what he was doing and let out a high-pitched imitation of a siren. Someone else cat-called. They were getting punchy. Next week would be a slow news week but they had no way of knowing that.

Nathan grabbed up his jacket and his cigarettes and held up his middle finger to the men he passed as he walked out of the bullpen.


The crime scene was a house on the edge of town where the city butted up against the suburbs. The neighborhood around it was decent and the neighbors concerned enough that those who didn't have to be awake in the morning stood out on their porches to watch and lingered on the lawn to talk to the cops who were canvassing the street.

One of the responding officers fielded a few questions from the reporter and then told him to get lost. He had too many people to talk to. Nobody saw or heard a goddamn thing. You'd think someone would be paying attention when someone else goes into a house and blasts another person with a shotgun.

Nobody noticed when a tall blond rumpled-looking guy ducked under the police tape and went inside the house.

The victim lay sprawled in the living room with a pool of blood where his head used to be. A shotgun lay nearby but it was already apparent from the way the body lay in relation to the weapon that the wound was not self-inflicted. The cops were dusting for fingerprints and scouring the upstairs and it didn't take long for one of the evidence technicians to notice that someone had wandered into his crime scene.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Marszalek!" said the tech.
"What?" Nate asked. Feigned innocence. "Am I not supposed to--"
"I swear to god, man."
"Alright, alright."
"Every fucking time! Like you haven't been to fifty hundred fucking crime scenes! You know you're not supposed to be back here until the body's gone!"

Nate held up his hands and backed out of the living room. Turned around to face the front door. No cops behind him and none right in front of him. He was about to head back out onto the front lawn to find someone who looked new enough to humor him when he heard a voice at his right shoulder.

help me

No one to see him whip around with his eyes wide to see his breath start to come faster for how close and icy the voice was to see him put a hand up to his breastbone to still the beating organ beneath it and calm himself down.

No one to hear him say: "... tell me how."

Shades don't always answer right away. He knew this. But he couldn't see them unless they were old and strong and so run through with pain and some strong emotion that anyone with eyes could see them. The young ones were confused and often didn't realize they were dead and flocked to him because he was like a beacon of light in the middle of a goddamn storm.

He turned to where the voice had come from and saw nothing worth attending to and then he heard the voice again.

basement please he didn't find please

He only had a few moments before someone else came through the hallway and told him to leave. If he left now he could trust that the Shade wouldn't ride his clothes but he didn't want to leave now. Nate glanced at all of the doors in the hall and found the kitchen at the far end of the corridor and waited until the technician had his back turned before he rushed past the living room's archway.

One would think he would have learned not to go into basements by himself by now but Nate is a very slow learner. The kitchen was momentarily unoccupied and he ducked through the basement door before that could change.

At the bottom of the rickety stairwell he took his phone out of his jacket pocket and awakened the display so he would have some light. Shone it around the floor so he could orientate himself and found four walls and a set of wooden steps leading to the outside. He could hear the floorboards creaking over his head but none had the cadence of someone approaching his location so Nate took and let out a breath and asked, "Are you here?"

Nothing for several minutes. He walked with his phone light slicing through the dark and looked for anything that could possibly irk a person from beyond the grave. He saw exercise equipment and a wet bar and several couches positioned around a television. He didn't see the pool table until he slammed his hip into it.


He jumped and swallowed a shout for the darkness had his nerves strung tight. Turned around and groped his way back towards the wet bar. Bottles lined the shelves and sealed faux-leather padded the top and his heel gave a bit when he stepped down on a floor mat laid behind the bar but didn't give in any other places.

Just as he knelt down to pull up the mat he heard footsteps approaching the basement door. He swept his phone towards the stairs leading to the outside and ran faster than he had since before he came back from Afghanistan. Someone must have been looking out for him. It was secured with a padlock once but the hinges had rusted over. It would have been impossible to open the door from the outside but once Nate figured out that it wasn't actually locked all he had to do was pry the rusted hinge apart and climb through the door and shut it.

It slammed behind him.
So he ran around the back of the house.


"Nathan, please tell me you weren't sneaking around the Aaronson house last night."

Carole knew her boyfriend kept weird hours. They both had to work the hours that their jobs dictated that they work but she had learned by now that he awakened in the middle of the night for no real apparent reason sometimes. It hadn't happened at her house yet but the few times she had spent the night at his he jolted out of sleep like he'd heard a noise.

He told her they were just bad dreams. She believed him. That's why she didn't return the phone call he left at one o'clock in the morning until one o'clock in the afternoon.

"Do you want me to tell you the truth," he asked, "or do you want me to tell you I wasn't--"
"That voicemail you left me didn't make any sense. What is it you want me to do?"
"Tell the lead investigator on that case that he needs to check the basement."
"Pretty sure they did check the basement."
"No, there's a--I don't know for sure, because I definitely was not sneaking around the Aaronson house last night, but if I were the lead investigator on a case where a law-abiding citizen was shot at pointblank range with a shotgun--"
"I would assume it was his weapon and he was disarmed during a break-in and sincerely hope one of the neighbors gives us something we can use so the case doesn't go cold."
"--and I would check under the rugs in the basement just to see if there was anything that could possibly give us a clue as to who would be in the house at the time. Especially if no valuables were missing."

Carole took the phone away from her head and sighed as she looked across the room to find the clock. If she called the homicide division now Tomlin would probably still be there. They only had 48 hours to get a running start on catching a fugitive and fourteen of those hours had already gone by.

"Nate," she said, "you realize how weird this is gonna make me look, right?"
"You're dating me. I'm pretty sure everybody already thinks you're weird."

She didn't want to laugh and she tried not to but a bit of laughter came out anyway.

"I'm serious," she said.
"Just... tell him you got an anonymous tip or something."
"Why would someone call me to leave a--?"
"Carole, please."

Fifteen of those 48 hours had gone by by the time Officer Klein hung up the phone and called Detective Tomlin.
Look. I have school. And RP. And all my other time is taken up by sheer, unreasoning panic. I don't have time for Reddit.
-- ixphaelaeon
Waking up in the morning without a hangover was a sensation Nathan had a good two weeks to acclimate to before he had to share his space with another person. That the two weeks passed in a new place might have helped. Turning one's entire life into a tabula rasa is ill-advised when seeking any sort of permanent change but all he really did was move into a rental that wasn't haunted and quit drinking. Maybe quit answering phone calls and text messages that had anything to do with vampires.

The building where he had lived for the first eighteen months of his life as a Denver resident was nine stories tall and boasted one double-doored entrance and an elevator. A shade roamed the corridors between the seventh and ninth floors and he could never convince it to stay long enough to talk. Fucker robbed him of so much sleep he still wasn't used to not jerking awake at three o'clock by the time he had his sister staying in the second bedroom.

The place was a single-family two-bedroom Victorian with hardwood floors and large windows. It boasted a garage in the back that Nathan parked his motorcycle in and threatened to move Hannah into if she threw too many wild parties while she was here for her internship.

Nathan was the first one awake this morning. Hannah had had her last final exam Friday morning and flown herself and everything that wasn't going into storage to Denver afterwards. Not until sometime before noon did she stumble out of the bedroom and walk straight past the dining room table where he was sat with his laptop and his notebook in favor of greeting the coffeemaker.

"Morning, Sunshine," Nate said.
"Mmph," Hannah said.

Nine years separated them. Despite her green eyes and tanned skin telling the two were siblings was not a difficult task. They shared a bone structure and a hair color that lent itself to bleaching out in the sun. His sister's skin had started bronzing even though summer had not yet arrived and she wore her wavy mane in a topknot.

This conversation could have waited for later but Nathan was already showered and dressed and fully intending to drive out to Littleton to conduct an interview this afternoon. He had been up for hours.

"So I'm not trying to bust your balls or anything."
"But She Who Shall Not Be Named called me this morning."

Baleful exhale. Just let me drink my coffee, Big Brother. Jesus Christ.

"At first I thought it was because she knew you were flying out. So that was alright. But then I actually answered the phone."
"It's weird, Han. It's like our parents still hate each other. I can't figure out why that is."
"Ugh," Hannah said. "Is this about what I said yesterday?"
"What'd you say yesterday?"
"You know what I said."
"Oh, where you decided announcing Shira wasn't speaking to either of us in front of Theodore was a good idea? That's what it was..."
"Yeah. Now: it's not like I get paid to connect dots all day or anything, so I may just be completely talking out of my ass, but... I'm gonna go ahead and assume what happened was that Theo got lit last night, called Shira, and said a series of awful things, and now she feels bad and thinks she needs to atone for being a bad mother."
"But like I said. I'm just assuming."

The sun come in through the sheer curtains had a softness to it though it was high overhead and bright. Hannah looked as if she was in actual physical pain independent of the brightness blaring at her fresh consciousness. Not a hangover. Not guilt either.

"Jesus Christ," she said. "So what'd she want."

Nathan checked the time in the corner of his screen and started to stand. The notebook went into the messenger bag he had slung over the back of the chair.

"She wants to come out and visit."
"... what."
"God. No. Why."
"I dunno," he said. Keys jingled. "I'm blaming you though."
"What! No! Don't blame me. I'm an innocent bystander."
"An innocent bystander with a big mouth."
"You're so mean."

The day was threatening warmth but he shrugged into his leather jacket anyway. Leather jackets in general had once proven a useful enough deterrent against claws grown from a possessed man's fingers. They might have saved his life that day. Road rash was another thing he had to worry about.

"There's cereal in the cupboard," he said on his way to the door. "And eggs and whatever else in the fridge. Make sure you eat so Shira doesn't think I'm keeping you locked in the basement."
"You have a basement?"
"I prefer the term 'dungeon.'" The front door locks disengaged. He stopped and pointed at her to grab her attention. "Listen: I should be back before seven, but if I'm not, order food or something. There's money in the drawer by the stove."
"Okay, Nathan."
"And if anyone comes to the door after dark, don't answer it."
"I'm serious. House rule: stay away from the windows after dark."
"Do you have shrapnel stuck in your brain or something?"
"What's the house rule?"
"Like, do they pick up space radio frequencies or something?"
"Okay. Weirdo. I will make sure the CIA doesn't know anyone lives here."
"Thank you."

He opened the door and was about to step out onto the porch when Hannah cleared her throat.

"Hey, Fartface."
"What, Brat."
"Love you. Don't drive like a moron."

Hannah went back to drinking her coffee and wasn't watching him process what she had said.

"Alright," he said when the heartburn wore off. "Call me if you need anything."
Look. I have school. And RP. And all my other time is taken up by sheer, unreasoning panic. I don't have time for Reddit.
-- ixphaelaeon

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