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Sterling ran through the streets of Moscow taking alleys and other short cuts she and Rissa had found over the years all the way to the University.  Mom and Dad couldn't keep tabs on her if she didn't stay on the roads like she was supposed to.  Her wallet was of course tracked but that was easy enough to disable and fake to stay at home.  No one would know she had slipped out.

The University Hospital was a large place she wasn't sure how she was going to find her cousin.  She didn't even know what he looked like.  This was probably a bad idea, but she walked into the front door and to the desk where people asked questions. "I'm looking for Nox Durante."  

The world around her felt clear and everything seemed more colorful as the woman in front of her blinked at her then smiled. "He was checked out just a little while ago.  I'm sorry, maybe you can catch him.  He was on the third floor."  Sterling was heading towards the elevators even as the woman said, "Though there are many ways out."

In her haste, she bumped into a couple holding hands...
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Nox didn't care how long he's been here, or if he was well enough to go.  The euphoria of the power that once exhilarated him was painful and agonizing but still, the power called him.  The sludge was disgusting and even more painful now than just his imagination had been after the Ijiraq had pulled so much power from him.  The memories made him shudder, but Nox focused on the warmth in his hand.  The other man's hand that anchored him to this world and not in those memories.  The plant he balanced precariously on the bandaged stump sloshing against unseen walls Nox forged with the hidden power.

The power pulled sights and sounds to his ears and eyes that otherwise wouldn't reach.  The scent of the hospital plagued his nose with the too clean smell.  But it was the warmth of the man next to him Nox focused on.  The scent of the flower he'd given him, or the man himself.  

Nox heard his name at the edges of his hearing in the lobby they were now exiting through.  There was a shiver of the female power in the distance that was too quick to make out any direction.

And then a small child smashed into his body and the flower sloshed against the invisible wall.  The only thing Nox saw was red hair.  The girl looked up about to apologize he was sure but he knew that face.  "Sterling?"  Seeing the face in person was like a stab in the gut, she shouldn't be here.  "What are you doing here?"
The monitor beeped on his monitors and Jer pulled up the screen blinking the red light. The image of the hospital they sat in front of with a little girl passing through the automatic doors. "The girl is here too." This was a complication. The girl needed to die - a relic of an age past, but not here, not like this. Whatever the sins of her parents the rules were the rules. But not here.

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Kali reached across to calm the man down but he swatted her hand away. The bleeding had stopped and she didn't need medical attention but the boy was inside. She was torn between toying with this man or going after the boy who was more curious than anything. He'd lured her away from a much better prospect. Now this man... What webs did he weave?

Jer was not playing fair anymore and sending her off with the quiet one. "I'm fine. Really. I don't need a hospital." She protested, her mouth speaking not what her mind was wanting. But still a truth none-the-less.

Kali opened the door of the van to get get out so that she could leave these hunters before she fell victim to their ways. She'd avoided people like them. Though the boy was inside...
Raffe was hyper aware of the other man’s movements; hopefully, they could get out of the hospital in one piece. And yet as if summoned by those very same careful thoughts, a kid chose that moment to barrel right into them. He moved to steady Nox beside him, though it didn’t seem needed. The water sloshed in the plant pot. A frown flickered Raffe’s expression, but the irritation did not linger long. He presumed the collision to be an accident. No one was hurt.

Nox clearly knew her, but something in his tone suggested he was not pleased to see her. Perhaps he just hadn’t wanted her to see him here. She looked young. Nox had mentioned a sibling before, but Raffe had moved carefully around the subject after stirring the ghosts of his dead parents.
Sterling took a step back after jostling the men in front of her. She looked up but before she could say something rude her called her by her name. "Sterling. What are you doing here?" He sounded very disappointed and maybe a tinge of anger. She wanted to growl at being thought of as a child. Much less how he knew her name. And then she realized those big brown eyes looked familiar, like the photo of the man in the image who was her father.

"Nox?" Sterling asked cautiously but then her own realization got the better of her and she danced around a little before calming herself. "I was coming to see you." She took her cousin in. He was tall - very tall compared to her, but she was only fourteen after all. But still taller than her by far. He was carrying a plant on his bandaged arm. It was only a matter of moments before she realized why he was in the hospital. Her hands covered her mouth as she gasped. "How did you lose the arm? Oh, my, god, does it hurt? Can you feel it still? They say that amputees sometimes feel their missing limbs."

And then another thought occurred to her, she smiled over at the other man, he was cute if you like the boy next door - except he had a ragged scar across his neck and she frowned. What sort of things did these two do? Was it really that dangerous? Sterling offered the other man her hand. "I'm Sterling Mishina. Are you Nox's boyfriend?"
A steady hand from Raffe was distracting, but the barrage of questions fired at him made him focus on the teenage girl standing before him. Every question she asked was harder to answer. Just like she had been in her messages. He was grateful she wanted to see him, but her parents didn't want her to. Her father had sent a scathing message and he didn't intend on pissing them off. She was still underage - kidnapping was a thing. And that was so something he didn't want to be accused of.

But before he could get angry she introduced herself to Raffe with a biting question that he really didn't want to answer. Not to her, and he definitely didn't want to hear what Raffe had to see. He didn't want to say no, or yes, or anything at all. He stood staring at her with heat creeping up his neck and ears. "Raffe's my friend and flatmate." That wasn't all. They had shared a kiss only moments ago. They flirted. Nox wanted to say that and he looked over at Raffe to try and relay the sentiment that he was more than that too but he didn't know how to say it. Boyfriend was so far from where they were at the moment.

Sterling giggled, "But you were holding hands."

Nox sighed and made a show of taking Raffe's hand in his with a bright smile. "I didn't say what kind of friend, Sterling. Raffe, this is my cousin, Sterling. Sterling, this is Raffe. She should not be here, her parents don't want her seeing me. So obviously that means come visit me in the hospital." Nox scowled at Sterling but her knowing shy smile made it soften a little.
The girl looked utterly blank for a moment, offering Nox’s name almost like a question, but it was the barely concealed happiness straight after that Raffe regarded with some curiosity. A barrage of questions followed like a mini whirlwind. He shook the proffered hand, amused. Heat swept Nox’s features at the question. It had been an innocent enough one considering they’d been holding hands, yet Nox’s quick glance suggested discomfort for the label. Or for Raffe's reaction. He needn’t have worried.

“Cousin, huh. And bonafide rebel. A pleasure.” Raffe grinned, hand sweeping a half-bow amidst Sterling’s giggling protest of their relationship. The fountain of her questioning was too naive to suggest she had the first clue of how Nox might have gotten his injury, and it should probably stay that way. Nox could do with the rest rather than the complication, and Raffe doubted he’d want her to know where he was living either (besides which, Kallisti was really no place for a kid), but looking at the enthusiasm sparking in her eyes she was not going to be easy to shake off.

Raffe knew what it was like to be unwanted. Especially by those who shared your very blood.

“I’m trying to get him home to recover. Discharged himself against the doctor’s advice, you see. You want to help me convince him he should be resting up? Maybe he’ll listen to his little cousin.” A grin played, good natured. He almost winked in Nox’s direction, though refrained. It was fabrication, really, though he did doubt Nox would rest for as long as he ought. If he acted pathetic enough perhaps Sterling would let them pass and feel she’d done a good turn in the process.
Annoyance bristled her hackles, but she didn’t argue. How her Athari cousins had plucked out such a man for a position of power was beyond her. She shot a beleaguered look in Jacinda’s direction before she made some attempt at schooling her expression. Her lip wanted to curl, though.

Attention diverted to the job, Tenzin contemplated the contact lenses for a quiet moment before she inserted them. She rarely found promise in technology over her own nose and instincts, so it was unlikely her hesitation would be remarked upon. But returning them might be an issue without dislodging the dark-hued pair already in residence.

The wire fitted after, the inquisitor’s orders ringing like the buzz of flies around a carcass. He sounded more desperate than in control. She realised his dominance chafed; an imposed hierarchy, not a natural one. No wonder Moscow had imploded so badly with the death of their Regus. Lips thin, her dark eyes turned to the woman.

“Don’t have to come,” she said. “Leaving better, as he said.”
Sterling grinned at Raffe's handshake. He wasn't being rude like her own cousin was. She wanted to glare up at him but she was too excited to meet him. She had so many questions. "Why are you leaving against doctor's orders? My mom and dad would have you back in bed if they thought you were sick."

Sterling turned to Raffe. "I think stubborn runs in the family." She said it with a smile. "I don't think he'll listen to me. You can take him home if you make him promise to call me." There was a but attached to it. A threat maybe. Nox was worried what her parents would think of him. Her Dad already disliked him. And this wouldn't help any because her dad would think Nox was the bad guy here. All she had to do was make a call. "I could call my parents to take you both home." There was a wicked little smile across her lips.

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