Protège-moi

Faerie tales from beyond the veil to the streets of RhyDin

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Bailey Raptis
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Protège-moi

Post by Bailey Raptis » Mon Sep 16, 2019 1:04 am

“Horny and burned out now is how it always ends for me and
Chemicals wear me down in your summertime bacchanalian”
(“Faster”, Third Eye Blind)

“C'est le malaise du moment
L'épidémie qui s'étend
La fête est finie on descend
Les pensées qui glacent la raison”
(“Protège Moi”, Placebo)


July 5, 2019
The Callow
Dockside


In the wake of my ordeal in Arcadia, and the fallout from the choices I made there, I threw myself into my work. Per’s band Syreengel got unexpectedly tapped to support some hugely multiversally popular metal band on a tour of various realms, which meant more shifts for me to cover at Black Magic Burger. Between those extra shifts, the usual wedding and reception catering on weekends, and attempts to squeeze in some wedding dress design on the side, I had little time to contemplate what I had become -- or what I was becoming.

It left no spare time for me to duel, or to even really live on the Isle, besides nights spent sleeping in the Celestial Tower. There were conversations that I needed to have -- with Eden, with Jewell, with Mallory -- but I put them all off, brushed them aside or did not even bother to talk to them. I fell into a new variation of the old familiar coping mechanisms, and trusted no one would call me out on my behavior. If they could even track me down.

Still, even I had to decompress eventually, and when the time came to do so, I could think of no better place than the Callow. It followed in the footsteps of countless Dockside warehouse rave spots, appearing rather plain and almost abandoned in daylight. Its white paint peeled and chipped off of faded red bricks, and a long-abandoned Hammerhead crane sat nearby, arcing out over the ocean. At night, though? It came alive. Lights dangled from the span of that rusted metal crane, illuminating the entire block near the club, and the kids waiting to get in. That was where I found myself, chit-chatting with some of my acquaintances from the scene while also exchanging texts with a dealer to drop something off to me in line. Fortunately, he outpaced the slow snaking progress of the queue, sliding me a small baggie with a half-dozen white pills that I promptly teleported to my Hollow. Once I got inside, I would run off to the bathroom, open that portal again, and secure the remaining Molly along the side of a shoe.

The half-hour wait to get in was good for a Friday, and I had been often enough (and most of the bouncers also knew me as a duelist) that I did not pay a cover charge and did not get hassled by the bouncer. Inside the Callow, nothing immediately made it stand out from other discos in the city. The tall glass windows that let sunlight in during the day had blackout curtains drawn over them to keep the exterior illumination from breaking through the dimness. Shipping pallets formed makeshift dividers between the main dance floor, the entrance, the coat check, and the primary bar. They covered up the original concrete floor with black portable rubberized tiles, a temporary aesthetic shared by the DJ stage. Spotlights spun around the interior, converted into shades of red, blue, and green with gel filters, while a white strobe light bar flashed occasionally above the DJ. The design was well-done, but familiar to any raver in the city.

So why did I love this place so much? Somehow, despite its location, despite how standard everything felt, the promoters managed to draw in some of RhyDin’s top DJs. Mori Midori. DJ Shifter Talk. Valère Sauvage. Tonight was no exception. Part of what nudged me into that line and not into my bed for needed sleep was the promise of sets by Estiva and Mr. FijiWiji. Posters, online message boards, and social media sites lit up with the news that some of EgoTrip’s hottest spinners could be seen here at a more affordable cost.

I ducked into the men’s room and retrieved my pills from the portal, slipping one into my mouth and washing it down with water from the faucet before the taste lingered in my mouth for too long. The music thumped against the bathroom’s thin walls, bursting to life when I stepped back into the hallway, the lights and the bass pulsing like heartbeats. My usual walk shifted into more of a strut, arms moving just a bit more, hips twisting and turning, each foot step bouncing into the next one. I strolled to the rhythm in the air, slithered through the writhing bodies on the floor, and found my space. Alone in a crowd, just the way I liked it. I shimmied and waited for the E to kick in.

It never quite did. It must have been bunk. Cotton seemed to line the edges of my tongue, but mostly I just felt slightly nauseous. I thought about the pack of pills in my shoe that I would not get to hand out tonight, and a wave of melancholy crashed over me. When the DJ started playing something with a long build towards the drop, I drifted off the dance floor and over to the bar. I thought about ordering a cosmopolitan or even just a beer, but I worried the X might kick in later when I did not expect it and mixing it with alcohol was never a good idea. Instead, I ordered a bottle of water.

“DDing?” It took me a while to register that the question was being asked of me, as I grabbed the bottle and twisted off the cap. Instead of taking my first sip, I looked at the person asking me. She wore a sapphire open-backed jacquard dress that skimmed the tops of her knees with black heels that still left her an inch or so shy of my height. She wore a small diamond stud nose ring and sported an aqua dyed undercut I had been seeing more and more of in recent days. Her right forearm had a tattoo with a series of geometric shapes and letters I could not quite identify.

“Waiting to roll, but I think my dealer just sold me placebos.” I frowned, and she mirrored the gesture, before taking a sip of her drink, something pink with a white foam layer on top.

“A shame,” she said, just barely loud enough to be heard over the music.

“I know.” I snuck a peek at her dark blue eyes, then waved a hand in the direction of her tattoo. “May I ask what that design symbolizes?”

“The chemical formula for 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine.” I stared at her dumbly, and she laughed, rubbing the back of her neck. “Sorry. MDMA. You probably call it ecstasy or E or X or -”

“Molly,” I finished the thought for her.

“Exactly. I’m a...scientist. The letters stand for the elements that make it up, and the lines show how they all come together to make MDMA.” She suddenly began wagging a finger at me, though her smile suggested she was not too serious in her scolding. “You really should have tested it first. You’re lucky it’s just not working. Who knows what you might’ve taken?”

I held my hands up in mock-surrender. “Next time, next time I will. Hey,” I looked over to the stage and the flashing strobe, as the pressure kept building in the music. Goose bumps popped up on my arms, and when I glanced over at her, I saw the same thing on hers. “Do you want to dance?” She responded by slamming down the rest of her cocktail and crooking a finger towards me as she moon-walked back onto the floor.

She moved like quicksilver, fluid and free, uninhibited and fiercely alive. She put a hand up and out, ballerina-esque, and spun around me slowly. The synths grew more and more insistent, pleading with all of us to dance, to revel, to cut loose and free and to be our truest selves. And so we were. We gave our bodies -- heavy with drink and drug and sex and longing -- to the beat, and the beat nourished our souls. We were inseparable, the ravers and the DJ, and we didn’t even care about the consequences of our co-dependence.

When the beat dropped and the chorus kicked in, sung by a keening soprano over simple chords, a cheer welled up from the crowd, and the dancing began in earnest. I looked down at myself for a second, and saw ribbons of gold, silver, and bronze magic peeling off of me, rippling through the crowd and fanning out in all directions. I could also see similar streamers firing off from the other partiers: yellow, green, pink, purple. They twisted and tangled as our bodies writhed in time. I tried my best to ignore the sensory overload and follow one of my own magical tendrils: a gold one weaved its way past a couple making out near the bar and seemed to wrap itself around the waist of a young man in a tight white t-shirt and jeans that looked painted on. Our eyes met, I winked, and his smile sent orange blossoms shooting off in every direction. He gulped down whatever was in the rocks glass in his hand, set the empty on the bar, and began walking towards me --

“Eyes here, champ.” My dance partner pulled me off to the side, just enough that when I tried to find Orange Guy again, the throng obscured him. Before I could protest, the lady with the chemical tattoo threw her arms around my neck and began swaying slowly, stretching out every last bit of her height. Silver and bronze snaked around her, mingling with a myriad of blues. I blinked, and the mystical hues all disappeared, but it did not matter. She must have been on her tip-toes, her eyes shut, and I knew what was coming but I pretended I did not, leaving mine wide open.

She kissed me, and it almost felt like a hit. Something slipped into my mouth from hers, a tab that began dissolving on my tongue as soon as ours touched. She pulled back, smiling, and then my lids fluttered closed.

When they opened again, all the colors in the room smeared to neon.

((That turn of phrase at the end borrows pretty shamelessly from the Spiritualized song “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)”))
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Bailey Raptis
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Re: Protège-moi

Post by Bailey Raptis » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:06 pm

I think I am growing. Not in the physical sense, of course; I am far too old to grow taller, and I exercise and work and train enough to keep myself muscled but lean. Not in the magical sense either, though I have obviously become much more skilled and powerful in the arcane arts over the years. I mean on the mental side of things. Or is it emotional? The precise word escapes me, but I know it is not just me growing smarter in the traditional educational sense. It is me moving beyond the self-destructive loops of behavior of the past. I will always make mistakes, I am sure, but now when I make them, I learn from them, and I do not repeat them.

I have two examples that stick out in my mind. The first occurred early in July, the first time I really had a chance to talk with Eden since my trip to Arcadia -- and all the consequences that spun out of that. We were eating lunch at a Cuban sandwich place in Old Temple, and she immediately noticed something was wrong with me. She has a way of drawing out all the poisonous things I tend to bottle up inside of me, and before long, I laid out the whole story of what I had been through. Facing down my kidnapper. Rescuing a woman who had been Taken. Being faced with the choice of whether or not to kill him. And I told her she was the reason I did not slay him. Because I knew that one day I would talk about this with her, and that she would never forgive me if I killed him.

“I don’t know who I am anymore,” I said to her, holding her hand across the table and squeezing it lightly for comfort. “Did I do the right thing?” I asked her, and then I continued to ramble when she did not have an immediate answer. “Should I have killed him? He killed...God, who can even guess how many other people he may have killed. All the others like that woman who had been there…” She pulled me back into the here and now with a tug on my hand, and then she hugged me.

I asked her, “Where do I go from here?” and I have been trying to follow her answer ever since.

“Now you start over. Free from it. Free from all of it. Now you let it go.”

And that is what I have done, more or less, this summer. I kept the bullshit at bay. I follow what the Sandman, his cronies, and the Court do from a distance, but I do not interfere. After all, their end of the bargain is being held up. I also brushed off offers from Jewell to join her Wayward Court -- I spent years of my life fighting off the slings and arrows of one such organization, so what sense does it make to immediately tie myself to another? Instead, I dove into work, and God knows there was plenty of it to do.

The second example came from Mallory’s advice on what to do once I got my revenge.

“There was... a hole in me, after I found my revenge. Fill it with love.”

Well...that, and another piece of advice she had given me earlier. I spent a little too much time (and was a little too intent) staring at a lamia in a Cadentian bazaar, and she lectured me about leering. I took it to heart, so that the next time I went to meet Mallory at the Monster Salon for lunch, and I saw an attractive tiefling with a mohawk getting her horns polished, I managed to avoid burning a hole through her with my gaze.

I did not catch more than a name (Zevarrna) and a handshake from her at the time, but Mallory definitely noticed later the way I changed around her. How my voice shifted into a deeper, smoother, less nasal tone in the few words I shared with her. It’s- it is hard to explain, attraction, at least for me. Certain things pull you towards certain people, push you away from others, but it is not usually an all or nothing consideration for me. Desirability is a spectrum, a scale with levels from repulsion to fascination, but people usually fall somewhere in the middle. Zevarrna, though…

Yes, she has a tail. A very nice one, in fact. Reddish-pink like the rest of her skin, only a little shorter than the rest of her body (though she usually kept it coiled up close to her), more like a reptile than a mammal or a devil. But that, really, is just a bonus. She is someone with a distinct sense of style who knows precisely how to pull it off. That blonde mohawk, the undercut around the sides, the well-polished horns, the piercings in her nose and ears, the perfect fits of the t-shirts and jeans she typically wears. It speaks of the complete confidence she has in herself, confidence that carries into the extroverted way she interacts with others. Do not get me wrong, I find her physically attractive, but that self-assurance puts her over the top of that desirability scale.

It is what made me so nervous, especially once I found out my friends “helpfully” asked Mallory if Zevarrna would be at her yacht party at the end of August. I do not have that belief in myself, the way she does. I know that I do not fall in line with typical or traditional masculine attractiveness: I am shorter than most males and a fair number of females, my facial features mark me as an androgyne, and, well, I like to wear dresses and skirts sometimes. As it turns out, though, those things did not matter to her. Or, perhaps, even better, they worked in my favor. I wound up running into her at the party, which turned into a dinner date the following week, which then turned into a concert the week after that, and finally, a relationship of sorts.

Is it love? It is hard for me to say, but at least right now, we are on the same page. We want the same things: someone to hang out with, someone to eat meals with, someone to catch concerts with, someone to sleep with. It feels casual, but it feels really good, and I like that feeling. I have missed it.

I am content, for the first time in a long time, which also means I am paranoid. Experience has shown this is right about the time where life drops a bomb on me, rips my world apart, leaves me shattered and damaged, but I am trying my best to dash those thoughts away. I have my jobs, I have the Celestial Tower, I have my friends, and I have Zevarrna. Right now, that seems like it will be enough.

((Eden Parker and Mallory’s dialogue is written by their players, and scenes with the two inspired parts of this post. Many thanks to you two!))
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Bailey Raptis
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Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
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Re: Protège-moi (Metamorphism)

Post by Bailey Raptis » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:33 pm

October 17, 2019
The Hedge


I do not know exactly what term best describes my Hollow. A sanctuary? No, that is not quite correct. There is some safety there, in that it is a place that only I, and those I grant passage to, can enter. Though really, that only holds true for your so-called “mere mortals.” Why is that the case? Well, Hollows are little slices of the Hedge that Stolen Ones carve out for themselves -- some use them to store their possessions, some use them as break spots from whatever might trouble them in their more mundane lives, and a few particularly odd Stolen Ones chose to be buried in their Hollows. But the Hedge is not paradise -- far from it. It connects RhyDin, and other worlds I am sure, to Faerie itself. And a connection to Faerie is a connection to the Fae, and trying to bar the door to them is like attempting to stop a tsunami with your bare hands.

There are those who might say a Hollow is a home away from home, but that implies the Hedge, and by proxy, Arcadia, is home. I refuse to believe that, because down that path lies the destiny B-BO1 laid out for me. The more I think of the Lands as my place, the less attached I remain to what is left of my humanity. So if my Hollow is not a sanctuary, not a residence, not a burial ground, and not quite just a storage spot, what, precisely, is it to me?

I do not have a good answer, just a general definition, and a description of what my so-called neck of the woods looks like. I have seen illustrations of other Stolen Ones’ Hollows, and they tend to follow a pattern: Dark, shady places, usually clearings within copses of trees. A lot of them build cabins from the timber, and shield themselves from the rest of the Hedge by forming its natural vines and brambles into defined barriers. When it came time for me to create my Hollow, though, I went a different direction. Yes, the Hedge has its fair share of old-growth forests, gurgling swamps, lava-blasted mountaintops and snow-covered ice sheets. No one ever said the Fae did not have a flair for the dramatic -- or foreboding. I, however, managed to find a place in the Hedge that was a little friendlier, a little bit more like -- well, never mind that thought. It’s nice, is what I’m saying.

It resembles, in a small way, the beaches of Twilight Isle or São Amador. White sand, waves gently lapping at the edges, a sunny and cloudless blue sky overhead. A little on the hot side, like in São Amador, but I prefer it that way. The area is empty, except for a purple-and-black beach towel, a long aluminum beach chair with a rainbow cushion, and a wooden lifeguard station with a half-set of stairs that leads to the interior. Some days, I rest in there and look out the windows at the ocean, but most days, I sit in that chair or on that towel, sunbathing and napping. Like today.

The line between tanning and sleeping is blurry, and I could feel myself swinging back and forth between the two. My mind raced with thoughts of work. Being in charge of people for the first time ever in my career felt strange, but it also felt good. It meant a lot to be chosen for that position, and each day served as a reminder that I deserved this, that I was good at this, that I earned this just the same way I earned the Talon of Redwin, the Tower of Water, or the Celestial Tower. I might not be the Governor, I would never be the King of the Stolen One Court, but getting all the new servers, hosts, bartenders, barbacks, and bussers on the same page seemed like a pretty big deal to me.

You’re predictably small-minded, Bailey. I should have figured.

I snapped fully out of rest, reached to my side to grab a sword that was not there. The voice in my head chided me, in an androgynous tone - it could have been a high-pitched male or a low-pitched female, for all I knew.

Now that’s just predictable. Come now, I expected better from the heralded Archmage.

“Who are you? Where are you?” My experience with mind-speech was somewhat limited, and it had been nearly a year since I had last experienced it with Malleus at the Fae rave in the Underground.

An irritated sigh sounded in my brain. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, given how little you’ve fought in the Outback, or with your fists. Those that fight for me call me PathFinder.

Speaking aloud seemed a bit pointless, since the Opal clearly was not going to, and so I switched to telepathy. "What do you call yourself, then?"

There we go! Just the sort of question I’d expect from a Fae.

"I’m not Fae-" I tried to protest, but PathFinder just plowed right through.

Fine, fae, lower-case. It’s half-clever. I’m not going to answer it, but I’ll give you credit for trying.

I pinched the bridge of my nose. "What do you want?"

Another predictable question. Fortunately, I’m in a generous mood today.

My hand waved in the air, spinning in circles as my head-speech took on a bored tone. "Get on with it, PathFinder."

So impatient! Fine, I can be blunt too. I want you to challenge Runt for the right to hold me.

The Opal’s request had me laughing out loud, despite my best intentions. I could feel its irritation tickling my mind, and I tried to compose myself. "You do know that I am three ranks away from even being eligible to challenge him?"

True, but Fists is now loss-free. With sufficient motivation, you can make it to Emerald, and challenge him.

"You assume someone else will not beat me to it."

True, but we can cross that bridge once we get to it. Right now, there are certain things we can control.

I finally stood up off of the beach towel, and walked the stairs up into the lifeguard station. Piles of my personal effects (including my sword) were strewn across the wooden floor of the otherwise empty room. My eyes danced across several pairs of high heels, winter jackets, and a candy tin with some edibles inside, finding a pack of cigarettes and a blue lighter. I sighed as I picked up the items, retrieved a smoke, and lit it. "Why in the world do you think I would help you? Or trust you? Anyone with half a brain who pays the slightest bit of attention knows the rumors about your kind. The two friends of mine who held your ilk previously, Eva and Eden, barely ever carried you around. What makes you think I will be any different?"

I could hear the smirk, even if I could not see it. Because I can give you what you want.

"Being Fae? That is not-"

Maybe not, but you do want to be in love.

"Sure, but with-"

Not with her. I clicked my tongue in irritation at the repeated interruptions. Can I finish my thought? PathFinder did not give me a chance to reply before continuing. Not with her. With -

I screamed internally, as PathFinder accidentally (or perhaps it was intentional?) flashed an image of a person in my brain. Or did I bring the image up myself? At any rate, the telepathy cut out at that moment, leaving me alone with just my thoughts, a slow-burning cigarette, and a sinking feeling in my gut.
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

User avatar
Bailey Raptis
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Posts: 406
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

Re: Protège-moi

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sun May 10, 2020 11:37 pm


"Fall asleep to the radio
Try to keep what I got from you
Hard to do in these dreary days"

("Skeleton Key," Banner Pilot)


May 3, 2020

I woke up tangled in blue linen sheets, soft and cool and smelling like her. Behind the bedroom door, I heard Zevarrna shuffling through the kitchen, smelled eggs frying and bread toasting. I knew that she would burn the toast a little, because that is how she preferred it, that she would go a touch heavy on the pepper and light on the salt, and that there would be mango jam to go along with the butter. I had slept over enough times to know which door led to the bathroom (on the left), where she kept the bath towels (third shelf up in the closet, right within a hand’s reach) and which of the many different bottles in the shower was shampoo (and which was horn polish). And I also knew she would let me sleep in as late as I wanted, even if my breakfast turned cold. How many times had I wound up here? Enough that I had lost count, as the end of summer turned to fall, and fall then gave way to winter.

Things ended well between Zevarrna and I, as well as could be hoped for two people who dated casually for almost four months. Like with Diane years ago, I told a half-truth, a sideways truth, about why things needed to end. My work with the Wayward Court had picked up, on top of everything else that I did, and it was also going to keep me out of town for quite some time. I wish I could have waited until after the holidays, after the New Year, but Sandman left me no choice. I could not bear the thought of putting Zevarrna through the pain of me dying or disappearing in Faerie. If she had to think a little less of me for breaking things off at a less than ideal time, it was worth it to spare her the larger pain of my death, or never knowing what precisely happened to me.

But then I had to run into her at Beltane. Everything rushed to the surface, the way I felt when I first saw her at Monster Salon, that night on the Overlord’s yacht, every time we got dinner or drinks or danced together. Even after several months apart, she still hugged me and kissed my cheek. Then, she saw the bandages on my hand, the thorn necklace that served as proof of my station as Knight of the Hedge, and maybe, probably, the haunted look in my eyes. She leaned in close, heat and whiskey on her breath, and whispered precisely what I wanted to hear. “I think I know what you need,” she purred, with a final puff of breath that sent shivers down my spine. The moment I smiled, the moment I nodded, she grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away from the fires, and how could I resist? I barely got my free hand up in time to wave to my friends before our hasty departure.

Want. Need. I struggle sometimes to find the space between the two, if such space even exists. I wanted Zevarrna. I’ve always wanted Zevarrna, as a friend and as a lover. It took just a tap on my shoulder, the sight of her face, and all those feelings came rushing back from the well deep within my heart where I had buried them, to do the things that needed to be done. But do I need her? Does she even need me?

I buried my face in the pillow, hoping against hope and all knowledge I had of how time worked, that I could freeze this moment in amber forever. If the clocks stopped, I could live in this comfort for an eternity, and not have to worry about what faced me on the other side of the bedroom door. A conversation. Conversations. About “my” erratic behavior earlier in the year. About the bandages on my hand. About why I agreed to go home with her so easily, even after we had finished in the Wilds. We would almost certainly have to Define the Relationship. Again. And that scared me.

Because I needed her. I wish I had a better word for how I felt, but that is all that came to mind. I need something casual, something I could pretend was casual, someone who could pretend this was all casual. Right now, we were just two lovers, reunited by fate and Beltane magic. The moment I opened that bedroom door, though, everything would change. It had to.

“Bailey, eggs are getting cold!” I heard her call through the walls, and I groaned into the pillow. She might have been willing to let me sleep in late, but it would just be added to the pile of topics to discuss. I allowed myself one last deep breath, one last squinch of my eyes shut against the daylight slicing through the blinds. Eventually, though, I untangled the sheets, threw on some jeans I had left at Zevarrna’s some time ago, and walked to the door on the right. I grabbed it with the right hand, not really thinking, grimaced, and then shifted to my left. After a second or two of hesitation, I turned the knob and stepped into the living room.
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

User avatar
Bailey Raptis
Seasoned Adventurer
Seasoned Adventurer
Posts: 406
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

Re: Protège-moi

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sun Jul 19, 2020 11:36 pm

July 2020
Kabuki Street


Home is...a complicated concept for me. When your very first memories revolve around a place where you were tortured, how can it not be so? Some might say that Arcadia was not really home, but I do not know what else you would call a place where I lived, where I was fed, and where I slept. A prison? Yes, but prisons can be homes too.

It got easier for a while, calling a residence home, when I lived with Fletcher, Lyeorn, Kass, and Boris. I may have been confused at the time -- and I am still confused to this day at times -- as to what to call our grouping. A motley, a family, a surrogate family. It felt to me that Common limited me in the description, either by suggesting that our living situation made no sense, or that it was a replacement for something lost. Which, of course (at least for me) it was, but that made it no less valuable, no less real, no less worthy of praise and fighting for. But I never had a problem calling the house that we lived in a home.

Of course, all the platitudes and praises one might sing about the comforts of home, the safety of home...reality cares not for those proverbs. My second family was murdered in and around our home, for starters, and it never became any more of a sanctuary as I grew older. I have been attacked on the doorstep of my apartment. I have been woken up in my own bed with my enemies’ guns pointed in my face. So forgive me if I give the idea that a person’s home is his castle about as much credence as the bullshit words of my Keeper.

Perhaps these experiences explain my...flightiness, when it comes to staying in one place. Or even the temporary nature of the places that I reside and have resided. Because while the Tower of Water and the Celestial Tower are not going anywhere anytime soon, my time residing in both places was wholly dependent upon my ability to defend those titles. And my Hollow, while a nice and quiet place to stash my things and crash when necessary, is subject to the whims and fancies of the Hedge, a place I trust only a touch more than Faerie.

Honestly, I have lost track of how many places I have resided in. Even the places that should have felt permanent -- my apartment in São Amador, most notably, when I fled there to find my fetch and instead wound up owning a dress shop -- seemed fleeting. Perhaps that is why it took so little to get me to abandon that store, abandon that life, and join Locke in his foolhardy endeavor back in RhyDin City. Or why I left São Amador so quickly a second time, even when things were going so well there. There are a million excuses and reasons I could cite for coming back to RhyDin, but it more likely stems from a character flaw of mine. That one of my core philosophies is this: Nothing is permanent. Everything is borrowed.

RhyDin is a city -- a world -- that teeters on the edge of apocalypse each and every day it draws breath. One day, you are the young son of a dock worker and a baker, and then the next you are ripped from where you sleep to be tormented by the Fae. There are a thousand tragedies like that each day.

And yet, the city continues to grow. Opportunity knocks in that chaos, and some folks seek to tame the evil that masquerades as disorder. People like me, I guess. I am not even sure I actually love RhyDin, but there are people here that I care about and people here who have been oppressed for so long they do not even know that they have been held down. So I stepped into the gap.

In order to do so, though, I have been forced to finally put down some roots. I am not embarrassed to admit that I traded on some of my fame and goodwill garnered from working on the wedding dress of the Kabuki Street Rengou-kai’s sukeban to get a better deal on a mortgage for a row house in that neighborhood. I will be the first to admit that it is not much to look at at first. It is a bit out of the way, located on a narrow curling alley off of a fairly sleepy side street. Wedged in between a large concrete apartment complex and a larger row house with white clapboard siding and glazed blue bricks on its second floor patio, my house is decidedly more modest than anything nearby. The kitchen and dining room are the same space, the living room seems unlikely to fit more than a television and a sofa, and there are just two small bedrooms and a bathroom with room for little more than a shower and a toilet. I still have to figure out how to get rid of the cast iron fencing and gate up front. But there are more advantages than disadvantages to living there. I am maybe a two-minute walk from a convenience store that has the best Makunouchi bento boxes I have had in Kabuki Street. The Hedge pathways that originate and end in that alley are safe to travel. The folks who live in the apartment complex are mostly quiet, and the older couple who own the house beside mine actually gave me a mint plant as a housewarming gift. And I am lucky enough to have a fairly sizable patio off of one of the bedrooms with an overhang to cover it up when it rains. In addition to that mint plant, Eregor also brought me a raspberry bush and Eden brought me a fern to keep out there. And really, that is the most important thing of all. I have a place for my friends to come visit me, a place that I can lay my head night after night after night. A place I can decorate with potted plants and the heavy metal album cover posters that Zevarrna buys me periodically as a half-joke -- mostly because we both appreciate staring at the ridiculously muscled men and the skimpily clad women as they stare down dragons and demons while volcanoes erupt in the distance. I can paint those white walls red (mostly likely a shade somewhat closer to pink), tear-up the cigarette-burned shag carpeting in the living room to the original floorboards, install a new gas stove in the kitchen, or hang a full-body mirror in the bathroom.

For the first time in years, I have a home, and a reason to keep fighting here.

((Kabuki Street and the Kabuki Street Rengou-kai are Eri Maeda’s player's creation, and used with much gratitude and thanks! Many thanks to Eregor and Eden’s players for plant ideas for Bailey’s patio too!))
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Bailey Raptis
Seasoned Adventurer
Seasoned Adventurer
Posts: 406
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

Something Changed, Part 1

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:20 am

September 25, 2020
Black Magic Burger


At some point during Bailey's shift, he took his usual smoke break. Through the "Staff Only" door, back into the kitchen, past the walk-in refrigerator and onto the small loading dock at the back of Black Magic Burger. He looked around to make sure there weren't any employees from either of the boutiques that the restaurant neighbored nearby, before taking a seat on the edge of the concrete structure, pulling a pack of Red Apple cigarettes and a light blue Bic from his back jeans pocket, and firing up a smoke. With that task complete, he retrieved his phone and looked to see if he had received any text messages or phone calls. Nothing. He frowned. He tapped in his security code, went into the texting app, scrolled to the bottom of his contacts list, and opened the very last one within. All he could see were his own messages, in colored bubbles -- nothing in gray to indicate a response. He heaved a sigh, secured his phone again, and rested his elbows on his knees as he slowly puffed away.

"Hey." Mallory normally wasn't that sneaky, but maybe Bailey had been a little absorbed in his worries. She was stepping up onto the opposite side of the loading dock from him, upwind from the trail of cigarette smoke. Her phone was in the palm of her hand, and she gestured it towards him vaguely as she apologized, "Meant to text you a heads up on my way to see you, but I got sidetracked. Dance at the Kabuki Street school tonight, and the planning committee's throwing a fit about half a dozen things," she explained with a smirk, and leaned back with her hip against the railing.

The only sign Bailey might have been startled was the quick way he looked up from his rather intent stare at one of the puddles stubbornly refusing to dry out on the ground in front of him. "No worries, Mallory. We are both very busy people these days. I saw you briefly at the challenge on Monday, but we did not really get much of a chance to talk there. I hope you do not hold that against me." He shifted his elbows off of his knees, glanced over at Mallory, and put on a well-practiced smile from his days of modeling that came nowhere near reaching his eyes. They were tired, lined with bags that not even his best make-up skills could cover up.

"Holding it against you forever, in the deepest corner of my banished heart. I'm crafting a hex for you as we speak." Something about her grin may have tipped him off that she was bullshitting him. The expression softened, though, as she took in the state of him. "You doing okay? Looks like they're running you pretty ragged here..."

"Not here, not really." Bailey glanced back at the large steel doors that led back inside the kitchen, waving his free hand at it for good measure. He peered around for a little while, as if searching for eavesdroppers or recording devices, and then continued. "They do lean on me a little more than perhaps I would like, but when I need to make time for other concerns, I have it. It is said other concerns..." He trailed off, took a long drag off of his cigarette, and finished the thought. "...sometimes I feel like I can barely keep my head above the water."

"Delegate." Simply. She folded her arms, shifting in her lean against the railing, and continued to study him. "You've got people you trust, right? Capable people. And I know you've got some capital, now."

"A few. Lasiodora, Jolberto, Starkud. But the people I trust most are the people I cannot involve in this any further, or even at all. You, Eden, Z-" He shook his head, tossed the finished cigarette over the edge of the dock, and snapped his fingers so that it turned into crimson glitter before it struck the ground. "Jewell is the only one on House Royal who knows about my double life. As for the capital, Lasiodora is still digging through the records there. I want to present them all with the truth about Sandman, but I need an airtight case first."

"...If you named them... you can trust them enough to give them more to do. Let them know what's swamping you. They'll step up." Mallory watched him for a moment longer. She pocketed her phone, then braced her hands on the railing behind her, and went on, "Zevarrna came by earlier."

"Yeah?" Bailey couldn't help sounding a little more excited when he heard her name, though his expression immediately fell, when he had a moment to consider it. All the times he'd looked at his phone, with no texts, no voice mails, not even a tag on his Tweeter account. Radio silence since Monday. "Is she okay?"

"Yeah. I mean... she's mad enough that we had an entire conversation in Infernal without ever touching English, because nothing speaks anger quite like the Devil's Tongue, but she's okay." She laughed softly, but her expression was not unkind, and she tipped her horned head to give him a curious look. "You know why she's so pissed off?"

"Not really? I mean, she sort of accepts the fact that I like to duel, even though it is not really her thing, so I thought maybe she was just mad that I won that Barony, for whatever reason. But, you know, usually, we just sort of joke about the dueling stuff when it comes up. Like, I will ask if she wants to watch my challenge, and she will say something like she would rather try to put out the fires of Phlegethos with a holey wooden bucket than watch a duel, and we would laugh. But she said nothing like that when we talked on Monday. It was very curt. And then nothing from her since then." Bailey's careful control over his Common slipped as they went further and further into their discussion of Zevarrna.

Mallory nodded her understanding about the duels... then she dug her phone back out of her pocket, and swiped over the glass screen a few times, the holographic images shifting whenever she interacted with the light. She found the post she'd bookmarked, something from Tweeter, and swiped through a few chaotic (and not all of them steady) pictures from the yacht party, settling on one in particular. She turned it around to face him.

"...She was probably curt on Monday because she knew if she really opened her mouth, she'd set your head aflame with the fires of Hell. Or thought you were keeping it from her. Or both. She's mad, yeah -- but honestly? I think she's hurt."

He looked at the photo on Mallory's phone, and his face fell. It showed Bailey and Jaycy snuggling together on a couch on the Overlord's yacht. He immediately frowned, before he caught himself and tried to put a neutral expression back on. "Oh. That." Instead of following up on that immediately, Bailey hopped off of the edge of the loading dock, landing on the concrete below with a light thump and grunt as his knees bent slightly. He lit another cigarette, paced for a spell, and then just as quickly came back up on level ground with Mallory. He seemed to look past her with his next quiet words. "...this was supposed to be casual."

When he shifted position and started to light another cigarette, she said, "--Sorry, you mind if...?" She gestured to the cigarette, as if she didn't want to be around it. That was a first.

"Oh, sorry." Bailey tossed the freshly lit cigarette to the ground and, after another snap of his fingers, some blue glitter joined the red already on the concrete.

Mallory shook her head at the apology. No harm, no foul. She folded her arms a little tighter. “How’d she find out about your... other gig? You tell her?”

"I told her everything. After Beltane. If she was going to be around me, she needed to know what might come for her. Who. She knows all about it."

"If she was gonna be around you. If anyone thought... or knew... that she was important to you," Mallory said carefully as she watched him. "I've seen the way you just-- light up around her. I said her name, and it was like-- suddenly you were rested again. Happy, and whole."
She paused. "Is it casual? Not, is it supposed to be... but is it, actually?"

Bailey settled back into the seated position he'd been in when Mallory had arrived. He stared out over the edge of the loading area, formulating his thoughts. "She gives and she gives and she gives, and I just take, take, take. And I don't know why she does that." Oh, he knew why. He just didn't want to give voice to it, to the one word to describe it.

"...It sounds like she loves you." She looked down at him, as if she could study his expression through the top of his head. "...Do you love her?"

He could be stubborn and evasive, when he wanted to be. It took him a while to look up and meet her gaze, and when he did, he answered the question she had asked him first, his tone far more unmeasured than usual. "No, it's not casual, I guess." Had some of that glitter blown back up into his eyes and irritated them? He wiped at them, as Mallory's final question could no longer be avoided. "Yeah. Yeah, I love her."

"I would... go apologize to her. And be completely honest." She poked the center of her chest with one finger, three times, and added, "About this. About how you feel. Yeah?" Her smile for him was gentle and kind, though, and she was offering a hand to him to help him stand up from sitting down.

He took the hand with a grateful smile, one that softly crinkled the edges of his eyes. "It's going to change everything, you know, although..."

"Although?" she asked, looking at him curiously as he got to his feet.

"Everything's already changed, hasn't it?" Bailey shook his head laughing. "I should know better than to try and fight fate, though, I suspect, that is a conversation for another time, once I am not on the clock." Bailey took a deep breath, his chest moving forward slightly with the exertion. "Thank you for talking to Zevarrna."

"Of course." Mallory smiled... then looked back at the door, considering. "I don't know about fighting Fate... but the clock, maybe. I think the security girls need a big delivery order from Black Magic Burger. Probably take the rest of your shift to get it done, with traffic this time of day..." She made a speculative face, as if considering the nearby road. "...might as well stay in Dockside, once you're down there."

Now Bailey's sigh was exaggerated, accompanied with a little wink at the end even as he played at annoyance. "I suppose I will just have to take care of that, Mallory. The things I do for this business..." A quiet giggle escaped him, as he dropped even the slightest pretense as to what Mallory was going for. "Let me get right to it, yes?"

"Sure. I'll meet you out front," she laughed, hopping down from the loading dock to stroll around the corner. As she went, she ducked a look over her shoulder, watching her friend with a smirk and a faint shake of her head.

((Edited and adapted from play with Mallory's player, with many thanks!))
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