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Pass the Mic
Ivan chuckled at Nox's joke. Beard burn. Every woman was different. Sara made her preferences known, though. He'd give her this. Hired girl she might be, but there was nothing phomy about it. Nox seemed to relax a little, which was good.

Ivan was gonna comment when she came to him and pulled him standing to then peer into his face. He still held the power and if she had been gorgeous before, she was radiant now. He could smell the light perfume she wore as if his face was buried in her neck.

Her eyes softened and there seemed to be the shine of tears as she commented on his bruises. In truth, he hardly thought of then unless he looked in the mirror. He grinned goofily. "Not hell. The fighting pits of the Almaz. At least I won." He laughed, touching his cheek. "Looks worse than it feels."

Her attention returned to Nox and his request. Ivan sat on one of the benches. He was not competing for her interest, after all. He checked the time and messaged Danya, asking how she and Zara were doing. The answer was brief- she was purposefully keeping a wary distance- but he also got a picture of Zara. He smiled. All was good.
Nox never really was good with other people - wing man, or being the wing man weren't his thing. This whole dynamic was not really there. Sara was flirting with both of them, and Ivan didn't seem interested almost distracted. He'd been doing this for a purpose. But they hadn't gotten into details. And how he'd gotten beaten up hadn't come up either. Or rather Nox hadn't asked, but Sara had.

Sara said Pan wouldn't like him. He had no idea who she was but he didn't care either. Nox let the bubble go and the bee flew off into another direction. "I wasn't going to take it. Just that I wanted to. I have a friend who could do magnificient things with this tech. And I could put it to use." Nox grinned at Sara as she looked around for her smokes. A nasty habit. He tried not to glare at her for the bad habit and sat down next to Ivan as he texted someone. "The Almaz? You mean something like the movie "Fight Club" Nox had watched it with his father. It was one of those things that were good in his childhood. A good memory of his father, but still tarnished by the fact that his father hated him and he'd ignored it his whole life. Not just hated him but his choice of 'friends'. The whole thing was a fucking mess.
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“At least I won,” said Ivan, flashing a quick grin as he sat on a bench and finished texting.

Sara didn’t reply. She stared at Ivan. Then Nox.

Nox looked funny. There was a funny look on his face. Sara sat on the bench opposite Nox in a heap of her folded skirts, deflated. The pack of smokes lay beside her. Funny looks didn’t agree with Sara. Besides, she had things to do. Urgent things. She had smokes to enjoy. And there was half a bottle of vodka back in the lounge that won’t just drink itself.

Then a new expression crossed her face as Nox moved next to Ivan. Since the start of their conversation, she’d shown little more than concern. Now she wore an expression of shock.

Nox asked gently about the Almaz and turned to look at Ivan. Ivan liked Nox, he treated him with affection and concern. Better from Nox.

The two men sat back, side by side, on the new, polished bench, and talked.

The Almaz. Sara couldn’t imagine it. She had tears in her eyes. She sniffed hard and rubbed her eyes. It was very hard to stay professional… and calm.

She needed guidance. She decided she’d go to the balcony and reflect. The calm view of the city would soothe her, and allow her mind to rally. The night was nearly done. The first grey stains of the day had begun to soak into the sky... a translucent morning fog hung upon the silent cold city like the breath of winter.

Sara, excused herself to go smoke Smile
Ivan grinned at Nox. "Not really. Think more gladiator type stuff. The richy-riches of Moscow pay big money to come in and watch people fight. Swanky place. No recordings. Bottles of vodka that cost more than I make in a year. I got in only cuz a I went with a guy I knew." He shrugged, looking at the skyline, remembering how Danya had laid into him. His grin fell to something more embarrassed. "I was spoiling for a fight and this chick from the ball decided to set me up with one. It was dumb. The guy was like an animal, all wirey and crazy looking. Yellow eyes too. He put some hurt on me, I'll tell ya." 

Yeah, he did. "Guy was an animal, practically. Tore at me with his hands like claws. Tried to bite. Eventually, I took him though." And ripped down the lighting with the power, he did not say. He'd felt like a god at the time. Now he just felt...stupid. Feeling Zara fall asleep next to him as he read to her....that was real power. Or at least life. Not the fighting.

Not that he would avoid fighting. You had to, after all. He wasn't gonna get out from under Yun without that. But it wasn't what gave him purpose. He looked at Nox. "If you're looking, though, I know of couple actual fight clubs. Exactly like the movie. One of the trainers at Gracie's has a hookup."

He looked at Sara in the distance, and nodded in her direction, mood changing. "Something's up with her, you notice? She had tears in her eyes." He stood. "Doubt that's part of her companion training." Had the MIO changed that much? 

Prostitution was legal in the CCD but still Ivan had never liked it. It wasn't exactly what most girls grew up dreaming they'd be. Usually, it was an indicator of some really bad life decisions. Desperation. And just because it was legal ad regulated didn't mean people weren't get trapped in the lifestyle.

People being trapped really didn't sit well with him.

He came up to her, Nox trailing, ignoring her cigarette smoke. "Hey," he said gently as he looked down at her, blue eyes filled with concern, and lightly touched her arm. His voice was warm, the same one he used when speaking to a freshly battered wife; to a man clearly at his end; to a child laying in the street, scared and hurt, as they waited for the ambulance to come. "Are you alright?"

[[nox modded w permission]]
Ivan spoke of a wolfkin like it was a normal thing. The creature was still man obviously, but he was also crazed. Elsie was in full control of her wolf, Nox wondered if this man was. He didn't think so. That alone might mean a trip to this Almaz. If one monster fought what else might lurk. But he wasn't jonesing for a fight. If he wanted a fight he knew where to look for one. He smirked. "If I want to fight I'll throw it at something that does some good. A whole shit ton of monsters to kill down in the tunnels." He remembered the shit storms he'd been in with Aria, and Bas, and even Ivan. He should remember them. He'd learned to channel at will down there.

But Ivan went on with his concern for Sara. She wasn't doing a great job of being a companion leaving them all alone. Though Nox hadn't been disappointed in her work or her companionship, or even with any of it all. He left his beer at the bench, he didn't need to drink. Though a good workout might be a good drain on his emotions. Nox glanced at the texts messages in his phone before following Ivan to Sara's position. There was a picture worth staring at, though Nox didn't open up the message. Sort wished Jay hadn't flow out. Not that he wasn't already tangled with a girl. He had noticed that in the fray of it all. Nox growled at himself - he needed to get lost in something productive.

And right now there was nothing but a damsal in distress. Ivan wanted to play hero he'd follow for now. Nox leaned against the railing and looked down and thought better of it and stared across at the growing mechanical things and asked, "Anything we can do to help?"
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Ivan made a short explanation, just a few words. It didn’t need much. Sara wasn’t ready, and now it was upon her… Sara blinked. She started to tremble. She breathed deeply to control her panic response.

Sara turned and walked away, leaving Ivan gazing after her, wide-eyed.

“I will do everything I can,” the doctor said. “The prognosis isn’t good. They brought her into the hospital after she bled a long time..."

Sara nodded.

“Thank you,” she said. The beds of the ICU were full. There were so many injured people from big underground fight that some of the other hospital facilities had been coopted by the ER, too.

Only one bed concerned Sara. She sat down at the side of her sister’s cot and held her hand. Lea was very pale against the old, poor quality bedding. She did not stir.

Sara wiped her eyes.

The door opened. Father came in. He shut the door behind her and looked down at her.

“I don’t know what to do now,” she said.

“Then we’ll think of something,” he replied.

“The silly brave girl,” she said. “She was never going to die in bed, was she? In bed, being cared for, where she belonged.”

“I don’t think that’s where she actually belonged, do you?” said father. He plonked a bottle of vodka and two small glasses on the chair next to Sara, opened the bottle and poured shots.

He handed one to her and took the other himself.

“I’m no good at this,” she said.

“At drinking?” he asked. “Bloody hell, Sara, the other night that certainly wasn’t true.”

“At saying goodbye,” she said.

“Ah,” he nodded. He raised his glass.

“To the best of us, who leave us too early,” he said, “and to the worst, who outstay their welcome.”

“To my beloved sister."

Father was exhausted and empty inside, too but he stayed with Sara until she was calmer. 

Nox and Ivan exchanged looks—they came to her, moving together through the garden path. 

Sara jumped.

“What? Yes,” she said, blinking.

“Yes, all right,” said Sara, shaking the ash from her cigarette, trying to regain her wits, incapacitated by shock. “I... I’ve lost my sister to the fighting pits last year. But… but this is awkward for you. Sorry.”

Nox looked uncomfortable. A shiny butterfly shuffled and fluttered on its nearby perch.

Sara looked sad, but didn’t reply. Slowly, carefully, she exhaled another puff of smoke.

“I know,” said Sara.

She nodded across at Ivan, who was genuinely puzzled. Concerned.

“I know,” she repeated, her eyes hooded, a wicked smile on her face.

Her grin broadened.

“You don’t like to smoke or drink, do you? You can just take pretend puffs and beer with me.” Sara said to Nox, as though this was news and had just come up in the conversation.

“Out of curiosity, Ivan how long ago has this fighting pit… the Almaz... been going on—" She stopped herself.

“Forget it,” she said, closing her eyes and shaking her head. “It isn’t my business, and it was inappropriate of me to ask.”

Ivan took a step towards her. She held up and hand and turned away.

“Don’t,” she said. “Just come down to the bar, please. I’ll wait for you there. I came out because I was already struggling to cope with the volume inside… but it’ll be quieter at this hour."

She paused.

“Actually, I’m not sure you need more drinks. But I think I need you both to be there.”

Sara was all over the place. Here one second, gone the next. Nonsensical answers or off the cuff responses to things they never even asked.

He remember Ma and Pop taking him and his brother and sister to the park. A Moscow winter changed everything enough you could hardly recognize the same place. The river was frozen over, solid looking. But his hesitant steps had freaked pops out, pulling him free before he'd taken more than one or two. It had been enough.

Frozen though the surface was, the water still flowed underneath. Fast and furious. And the barrier was very thin.

And he got it. He couldn't imagine his sisters dying. Or his brothers for that matter. But in a fighting pit? Beaten and bloodied? It was weird. He didn't think anything of it, going into one. Not a worry. And his injuries really were annoyances more than anything else.

But what if Ma had seen them? He was always her little boy. That never went away. So Ma is seeing her son beaten and bloody and would she feel about that?

Danya's touch to his cheek, the pain in her eyes, the lace of anger in her throat. So casual, he was, with his safety and health. The idea of was alien to him. Scars and bruises and bloody lips were things to laugh off- or even be proud of. "Chicks dig scars." That's what it meant to be a man. But to those that loved him...He remembered Danya's accusatory look, her appraisal of his injuries. "Whatever that is, can’t come here and those things tend to follow people home."

Ivan's choices had consequences. But then, more personal. More cutting. More real. "Loving others can’t happen if you don’t love yourself." Her whisper. Being cavalier was not showing love. To anyone.

He'd be true to himself. He had to. But risking himself on stupid whims. That was over.

Danya would not cry over him, carry the pain of his loss due to his stupidity or ego. Nor would his family.

And somehow, he wanted to share with Sara. He stepped toward her, but she held him back. Which was ok, he realized. His revelation was not hers. Just for the moment he had thought he understood.

But she didn't want to be alone. And yeah, he could do that. He and Nox. Somewhere, the line was crossed. Sara was not a goal to make Nox feel better- not that he was was really out to score anyway, truth be told. The guy seemed overwhelmed, was the truth. No, she was a person who had entered his personal sphere.

And that was all the difference. He had never been disrespectful. Some women knew what they wanted and were comfortable with that. Alex was like that. Honest. And he didn't mind the game, then. If Sara had been that person, if he was single....yeah. Game on.

But Sara needed something more.

So ivan met her down at the bar. And his demeanor was different. Yeah, she was was still hot. And yet that had no bearing on his interest in the slightest. She had entered little sister territory.

He sat down. "I'm sorry about your sister. I have a couple. The older just had a baby. The youngest is 13. I can't imagine how hard that must have been for you." Another girl came by trying to catch his eye and he ordered a beer- close enough to water, after all- and popped the top.

He watched her for a moment, taking a swig of his beer. "We'll stay around however long you need . Don't worry about performing or duties or anything. Relax. Pretend its a break. Or a night off. If your boss has has an issue, I'll talk to 'em."
When the truth came out - the reason for her sadness Nox felt all the pain he'd been keeping back. Innocence dies when you do stupid things. Losing someone because of their actions. It was all too real. Sara went down to the bar, requested their presence. But Nox stood at the railing even after Ivan went down. "I'll be down in a second." Maybe.

Nox stared out over the mechanical garden and wished for a moment he was self serving enough to just jump. Not that falling out of a plane had had any affect. He hadn't died then. He hadn't died with the Atharim. In all his failures he survived. The hell hound attacked his mother in front of his eyes. He could do nothing even if he hadn't frozen. How do you kill something you can't see? He remembered his dreams. The big black dogs with their red eyes. The fear, the pain, the loss... it was all so very real.

He saw his father waste away in front of him. He lost his sister in front of him. Only one failure did he actually solve himself. Take care of end. He couldn't even take revenge on his sister's killer. He was grateful for Aria's cold hearted demeanor then, but it had been her down fall. Dane's death pushed her over the edge she teatered on a daily basis since meeting the sociopath. The world was a better place without them. But the fact that he'd not pulled her back, that she tried to kill him. He had killed her in the end. And even as he fulfilled his promise to her he failed.

Everything was a failure. But the world went on. His sister would hate him if he jumped. She'd kill him again and again until the end of time if he ended his own life. There was only one thing to do. Enough self pity. Enough of the world to seeing his pain. He'd mastered the subterfudge of living a normal life. This was no different. A quick smile and his fingers through his hair and Nox was a different person. Happy, free, a smile for anyone, a scarastic comment to make a day different. Not always for the best but made them change emotions.

He went down, saw Ivan and Sara and he let his smile widen. He wouldn't share his problems, but he'd be there for someone else. "We'll talk to them." Nox added as he sat down. The bartender looked at him with a question of what do you want. "I'll take a black coffee if you have one." He wasn't going to drink. "Water or coke otherwise." That they'd have. He wasn't his father. He wasn't going to give up on life on his family or his friends.
Her eyes opened, twin slashes in the darkness, expanding to silver ovals capturing the moonlight. Two hands, with slender fingers, rubbed these eyes furiously. She’d be sorry later when they swell, but now it felt great.

The winding passages of cafe MIO unfolded behind her eyes. She knew which way to go, and which routes were favored by the cameras of Pan’s security watch. The halls never ceased to intimidate her though, not from her mad idea to join the staff 3 days ago.

A few strides later and she was standing in the parlor, pursing her lips and selecting the appropriate sofa... It was several hours past midnight by Sara’s reckoning; high time for sleep.

She glanced across the dim room to its other occupants, still gaming. Good. This had to be done with the utmost delicacy and subtlety, or Pan simply wouldn’t be fooled, and Sara wasn’t strong enough to do it alone, much to her chagrin. No, it was necessary she had a willing partner in crime, and therefore she would be very, very insidious...

A short jump placed her on top of the cushioned sofa, and from there dropped down to straddle the sleeping form. “Claire, baby, I need a favor...” quickly fashioning a light from the power, she waited until Claire ran her hands through her hair and opened her eyes, however, blearily. “Good morning precious, look, it’s time to get up!” Sara pointed to the small globe “the sun is up!”

Claire’s eyes widened and she sat up so quickly as to almost dispose herself of Sara’s physical company, until she realized other than the small globe of light and the lamps surrounding the single gaming table the rest of the bar was still bathed in darkness, at which point she rolled her eyes, groaned and lay back down.

Sara peered down at her. “No, no precious I need your help!”

Claire’s answer was an unintelligible string of noises.

“Good enough for me!” With that, Sara leaned down and jumped off the sofa. She gave Claire a full ten seconds before flinging her blanket aside, grabbing her by the ankles and yanked her clean out of her sofa. “You may want to get behind your bar, and hurry, Pan’s coming!”

Amazing how quickly the woman could move with a little inspiration... Sara was very pleased with herself as she waited for Ivan and Nox at the bar.

Sara considered Ivan for a moment. He was handsome, but not enough to catch Sara’s romantic attention, either. He’s more like a sibling. Odd that she would add that last part, but she couldn’t quash the feeling that Ivan had been thinking that very same thing about her but a few minutes before. It was therefore highly likely that the entire thought from Sara was nothing more than retaliatory action against Ivan’s alleged friend zone.

She adverted her gaze quickly, feeling a moment of sympathy for that Ivan as he spoke. He came for her, and that was enough. Without thinking she took his hand and gave it a quick squeeze.

Had it not been for family, Sara would have never gained control over her power. She would have burnt herself out, not through surrender, through frustration. Were it not for Lea, Sara would have remained trapped in her hometown. The thought was accompanied by another reflective squeeze. Her only regret was Lea couldn’t be a part of it too, but she didn’t hold it against her sister—not anymore.

“Sure, love we’ve got the best coffee” The bartender grinned at Nox as she placed the cup in front of him. One quick glint, a grin of hidden mischief and Claire’s hands were pouring out shots from her special bottle for Sara and Ivan, “vodka for you two, yes?”

AKA tap water. Moscow’s finest.

Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Sara's squeeze was comfortable. No flirtatiousness. Just easy camaraderie. Good. No games. Nothing to be careful of. He squeezed back with a grin, then took the glass and took a swig- coughing it out in a spray. "What the hell?" He looked at her with a laugh and then at the server, heedless of the reactions of any of the patrons. He wasn't worried. He faked looking hurt. "Water?? Are you kidding me?" He took the little tapas menu and playfully smacked her on the knee. "You are a brat. Jeesh! Better not introduce you to my little sisters."

He gestured to the server, pitching his voice as if a supplicant. "Please, love, if it's not too much trouble. Can you bring me some real vodka instead of this swill? It's lost all its goodness." A smile.

She laughed, giving him a bit more of a smile than expected, before it fell slightly as she looked at Sara. He sat up a bit. "Now now....she may act like she's my Ma, but she's not." A smile at Sara, then back to the girl. "And I'm sober enough to swing you around the dance floor pretty easily without breaking your toes."

Her eyebrow raised, mouth small and knowing. "Oh really," she said mysteriously before heading off- flouncing? Was that a flounce? Hold on. He looked over and whispered at Nox. "Is she flouncing?"- before heading off.

As he waited, he put one foot up on the table, just like he used to. This was his old place, damnit!!! Get him a famn water when he wanted a drink! Well, while he waited, it would do. He swirled the little cup with the remainder of water in it. Keep it light and fun- for now. "So...from your're not from around here. How do you like Moscow?"

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