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Getting Attention
#1
Leaving the Ascendancy's office was like a breath of relief.  He'd survived the most dangerous part.  And for the better.  Not only was the Ascendancy providing access to a new arm.  But he was going to get to learn from the man himself.  Fighting alongside someone spoke a lot about who a person was.  And Nox couldn't wait.  It was such a bad thing he had to wait.  He had to wait to heal enough they could actually fit an arm, and then there was the building of the arm.  There were so many options. Nox needed to talk to Sage about it all.

And then there was so much to plan.  So much to learn.  He'd gone to the doctor's lab and sat for scans.  He even insisted on giving blood.  Under strict instructions of never let anyone else touching it.  He'd out over it and his heart was still racing but he'd allowed it.  It wasn't for science, it was for the Atharim when he got her to go see Dr. Weston.  It wasn't what the Ascendancy had asked, but Nox wanted the Atharim to understand it. What if others were doing this too?  Moscow wasn't the only city with nefarious scientists.  It sure didn't hold a monopoly on bad guys.

But Nox was anxious and he sat on a bench in the Red Square and sent a message to Raffe.

@Raffe
I made it out of Ascendancy's office with my life.  Going for a very visible walk now and will end up in a park somewhere. I'd ask you to join me, but I don't want them to hurt you. But I wouldn't say no if you found me." 

It was a subtle hint that he wanted Raffe to come, but Raffe had his own life and it didn't revolve around Nox.  He knew that but he also liked his company and otherwise, he might be a little bored.

His plan was to be very visible in front of every camera he knew about from here to Dorian's estate to see Ana and Christian.  And then he'd walk to Sterling's house passing as many cameras as he could, and end up back in Red Square on a bench facing the monument the Ascencandy made out of Lennon's Mausoleum.   He sent the route to Raffe with a tracking program so Raffe would know where he was.  Another of Sage's creations he'd hijacked for his purposes.  But put it in the hands of someone else who might care he was gone.

With his heart at a normal pace again, Nox started his walk.  He waved at the first camera and started walking to the Vega Estate.  There was no reason to hide today, he had every intention of the Atharim finding him.
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#2
Carmen was at her desk, sorting through papers with a line of thought pressed between her brow. It was a terribly traditional way to do it, not that anyone would think to point it out to her -- Raffe certainly wouldn’t dare. Whatever fears she had harboured about the club’s reopening, Kallisti had risen apparently unscathed from the ashes. He leaned in the doorway, watching her work until those sharp eyes drew upwards with a sigh that suggested she had been aware of him for some time. His grin brightened.

“I don’t want to know why you’re smiling like that, Rafael,” she said, one brow arched in emphasis. She softened a little too though, her red lips almost curving into a smile of her own. “How is he?”

“Alive,” Raffe said. “Though he seems to think you’ll be angry with him.”

“For losing a fucking arm?”

“Because of the show.”

Carmen frowned, but she did finally pause from working around the conversation. Her brows slashed low, making her look somewhere between irritated and angry -- which might have been true, but Raffe knew her well enough to guess the ire was stabbing inwards, not at him. He held up a consolatory palm. “It’d just be better coming from you.”

Her gaze broke away after a moment of brief consideration, and though she didn’t nod, Raffe understood the dismissal. She had a heart of gold but a tongue like razor-wire. Most likely she would even be annoyed that Nox had doubted his place here now, whether he could dance or not. But she wouldn’t let any misunderstanding persist. She’d talk to him.

The club was mostly quiet as he passed through, though he could hear music beating faintly from behind the theatre doors. He’d overheard the girls talking about new faces, and it seemed the seeds Oriena planted grew shoots even in her absence, but he usually skirted around that business. He had no intention of intruding on practice either, now there was extra work to do. If they wanted his opinion, and he was more than happy to watch, they would ask for it.

***

He spent the morning busy, visiting with numerous friends, catching up and fielding the questions and fawning over his new scars. His orphan roots mostly drew him to the poor places, plunging in and out of the shallow tunnels of the underground city at times, though he looked upon those shadows with new eyes now. Moscow did not much care for its vagrant poor, though, and those places were dry if not warm. He frowned, scrubbing a hand over his chin. Thinking of what Nox had said of the swarming creatures somewhere below his feet.

When the second message chimed some time later, he couldn’t stop the spread of his smile. He didn’t answer it, but he did load up the gps, and headed to the park.
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#3
Nox didn’t wave at anymore cameras but he also didn’t hide in the shadows like he would have. He made sure to look directly into a few obvious ones for good measure to give the facial recognition softer a good shot so the Atharim could track him.

On his way to Dorian’s his wallet rang. Thalia was calling. A message, then a call. He was popular. He was happy to answer and chat with her. And he slowed his pace to chat. It was concerning, knowing that she was getting attention she didn’t need. She was too sweet and innocent. The sorta person he needed to protect. He felt a warmth towards her, but not in the same way he did Raffe. He liked Raffe in a way he hadn’t really liked anyone. Jay was a friend. Sage was his sister’s friend. Attractive, but more importantly he had wanted Nox and that was more important to him. But then Aiden… And Aiden was another story - he was a crush he’d had long ago and… He didn’t want to think about that. Dorian’s old estate was around the corner and he told Thalia he had to go.

Dorian didn’t live there anymore - he’d moved out. He and Ana were getting a divorce. A small wonder. Though they’d never loved each other - well Dorian never loved him. And Nox didn’t think Ana loved Dorian in a long time - maybe ever. She loved Christian though, and it was them he had come to visit. He didn’t intend to stay but he knew the Atharim would be watching the estate - in case he showed up.

And that he was doing.



Nox stood outside of the old Vega estate and chatted with Ana and Christian. Christian had asked about coming inside, about moving back in. They couldn’t stop fawning over him and the missing arm. He looked gaunt and needed to eat. Ana asked if Elyse was alright. Nox knew she was alive. She was fine - her words not his. And she had contacted him after he’d lost an arm. Mist had entertained her. He hadn’t really wanted to chat at the time.

But he was finally away from them and on his way to visit with Sterling. Like he had with them he had no intentions of going inside. But he wanted to say hi. The Atharim were watching Sterling too. He hated it, but there was nothing he could do about it. But maybe he could make a deal with the Inquisitor. He didn’t really have anything to offer the Atharim, but he hoped anyway.

Nox walked past every camera between Dorian’s and Sterlings. He looked at a few, waved at others and ignored a few. But he was clearly not avoiding them. He wanted to be found.



Sterling wasn’t home - she was in class. But Nox talked with her parents. Rather he listened while her father yelled at him. Which was more than he had done the first time he’d met them.

Needless to say Nox didn’t stay long. But he made sure to wave at the surveillance van. He spoke to nothing as he lifted his wallet to his ear to speak as if on a phone. “Yeah, I’m going to the park, if you want to talk to me that’s where I’ll be.”



The walk was just the same as the others. He expected to have a drone following him or something but even with the help of the power Nox couldn’t find anything trailing him. Maybe he hadn’t been obvious enough. But it didn’t matter. Nox hoped Raffe would be there.

However when he made it to the park where he told Raffe he’d be, the man sat on a bench. Nox couldn’t help but smile happily. ”Fancy meeting you here.” Nox’s smile sliding sideways into a grin. ”How long have you been here?” Nox sat down next to Raffe, there was a slight hesitation at how close, but Nox inched closer, his leg pressed against Raffe’s and his good hand placed on Raffe’s knee for Nox’s comfort more than anything.
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#4
The weather had really warmed up, and the flowers were all blooming. Even the grass had a sort of soul of its own. The sun soaked into Raffe’s skin, his face upturned to it, eyes half closed as he did little more than relax. 

Warmth lit his expression when a familiar voice eventually intruded.

“Sure you’re not just following me?” He laughed as the other man joined him, and opened his eyes. They hadn’t had a chance to catch up this morning, and he noted the brief hesitation before Nox sat, but chose to set it aside. He shifted to rest his arm along the back of the bench, fingers light on Nox’s shoulder. “I found your note,” he said. “So I should be flattered you bumped me up the schedule, yes?” The knee Nox rested his hand on bumped gently against his, playful.

“So how did it go with the, uh. With him.” His brows rose, not really sure if it was something they could talk about out in the open.
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#5
Nox couldn't help the smile on his face. There was so little in his life that made him happy and Raffe did that with his wit and banter, and other things Nox hoped to experience at some point. But there was no rush. Nox rested his head against Raffe's arm and pulled through the sludge of own power. He wanted to relax but he had to be aware, the Atharim were around. At least that was the point of the whole show.

Nox laughed, "At least you aren't thinking I'm needy or something, considering I bumped you up the schedule cause I missed you." It hadn't been long since he'd seen him but still, he hadn't really wanted to leave Kallisti.

Raffe's question and lack of identity made Nox chuckle and squeeze Raffe's leg. "I walked away with all my limbs in tact. I found help with the problems under the city. The Ascendancy plans on joining me in the fight." Nox grinned, "And the best part, a new arm out of it. All I have to endure is some tests and science people poking at me like I'm some sort of alien."
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#6
When Nox’s head rested gentle, the curl of Raffe’s arm deepened around him. There was a foolish grin spreading all across his face, and he was somewhat glad the other man couldn’t see it. His heart sped a little fast, fluttering something in his stomach at the admission, but all he did was laugh and press a kiss into Nox’s dark hair, warm from the fall of the sun. Inside he was practically glowing.

“Don’t think I didn’t already count them,” he grinned. Raffe knew why they were here, but his body lounged utterly relaxed on the bench. The leg Nox did not touch stretched out. He watched the park’s denizens and their ordinary lives idly, content to exist in the moment. It had always been easy for him to find happiness in small things; this was certainly one of them.

“He is?” Raffe blinked, surprised at that particular revelation. And shivered a little, recalling the force that had brought the Arch into being. Though he supposed at least Nox would have good support down there. He shook his head. “Some of my friends live in the upper levels. They don’t have anywhere else to go. Will they be safe? You won’t let him do anything…” he trailed off. Moscow was not known for its care of the poor; the vagrant and homeless and destitute who clung to its underbelly. It would likely be where Raffe was too if he’d not found Kallisti. Not that he’d shared much of his own past with Nox yet. “It’s just, I remember those fires last year. It was pretty devastating for a lot of people.”

He half smiled, but pulled himself out of the conflict in his heart; the need to do something, and the utter powerlessness he felt. “A new arm, huh. So I guess you won’t be needing my help after all.” He nudged, teasing.
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#7
There was just something about Raffe that made Nox happy. Like life had finally given him something other than lemons. A pie maybe? He smirked at his comments and at Raffe's humor. He was falling fast - way too fucking fast, a little voice in his head said. "You can check a little more closely later." Nox quipped in return. His entire body surging with the warmth of possibilities.

"No one is more surprised than I am. To fight along side the most powerful man on the planet." Nox groaned. "I hope he's not one of those who bitches when he gets dirt under his fingernails." Nox lifted his good hand for a moment and inspected them with a smirk on his lips. "Oh my god, my manicure." Nox placed his hand back on Raffe's knee and resigned himself to the comfort of the other man while he could. The Atharim would be there - he hoped.

Nox patted the knee. "I'll clear one of the larger caverns first. Though were they live most of the time is pretty monster free except when they are hungry. As long as they don't wander they should be fine." Nox smiled over at Raffe, "I'll keep your friends as safe as I can." Nox knew people down there. They weren't friends, but he knew them. He'd had runins with some while hunting. He was pretty sure a guy he helped was trying to make a living down there - god knows doing what.

"I still need to heal. I'll still need help, for a little while anyway." Nox smirked again. "I could act all needy if you want to take care of me, I could say no." It was a joke, but Nox wondered if Raffe said yes seriously if he would comply. He'd talk about it of course but would he say no to something of the calibr that the Ascendancy was offering. Was he that far gone?
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#8
An alarm went off waking Jer from a deep slumber, the prior night had seen a late end. Between the late night run and the drinking that followed when he landed himself in his rental bungalow. The bottle was empty on his nightstand. Jer grabbed his wallet to see an alert from his little moles in security around Moscow while he hunted for the traitors who signed the registry - and specifically Nox Durante. But he hadn't expected to actually get a notification that the boy had been seen.

It was a blatant ping on the radar from the short clip of the boy waving at the camera. He wanted to be seen. That was the only explanation.

Jer sobered quickly. This was big. He dressed quickly and sat down at his computer and he tried to extrapolate where he was going. He was at the Red Square, now where.

Several minutes later another facial recognition notification went off. The boy was heading in a given direction. And then ten minutes later another went off. Jer was getting excited until he realized the direction the boy was heading. The Vega estate. He was just being carless.

But Jer watched from the hidden camera outside the Vega's estate as he chatted outside before he left with hugs for his former patrons. And then he was off, waving at the camera hidden. How?

Jer wondered. What was he doing?

He watched the notifications continue to ping as the boy stayed in obvious sight. He was looking at the cameras. He knew what he was doing. He was taunting him!

His next stop yielded little more than maybe a revelation - the boy was asking for a meeting. There was no sound, but Jer knew what he said. The last of the pings went off with an image of the boy god sitting in front of Lenon's Mausoleum with the other man from the day before relaxing as if they were just lovers out for a stroll.

Jer watched from his camera in his apartment. He wanted to chat. This was a trap.
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#9
He laughed at the idea, but actually, now that Nox pointed it out he couldn’t even imagine Nikolai Brandon in a place like that. He always looked completely immaculate on the videofeeds.

Raffe nodded slowly to the reassurance, offering a small smile, but the worry crowded in anyway. Not that there was anything practical he could do to help. He didn’t even really want to think about it, even though it made him feel guilty to push away from the concern. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Nox -- he did, so much so that he’d stepped in front of a bullet knowing the man would protect him. But Ascendancy’s power was immense. The Custody had always turned a blind eye to the destitutes in the Underground, but they knew what went on. What if he decided to use this as an opportunity to scour the whole place clean?

His knee bounced a little in agitation, but he grinned despite himself. It was hard not to with the touch tingling up his leg, and he knew Nox would do everything in his power to keep a promise like that. Really that ought to worry him too. He tugged the man a little closer, enjoying the touch. “It’s good news,” he laughed, not quite sure why Nox would even joke about saying no. The thought of needles, probably. “Guess I’ll just have to figure on another way to make sure you can’t ditch me. Make myself indispensable, you know?”

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#10
Nox was grateful Raffe thought so. He felt the nervous bounce in his hand. Nox wasn't sure what to say or how to comfort whatever was bothering him but he relished the touch was easily pulled into a tighter embrace. Nox looked out upon the archway the Ascendancy had created. His voice was low as the words spilled out,"You don't need to become indispensable. I'm not going anywhere if I can help it." Nox closed his eyes as the honesty fell from his lips. "You make me happier than I've been in a long time. Just sitting here is heaven. You are the bright spot in all this darkness."

Nox sat forward and turned to look at Raffe from a bowed head. "As long you want me to stick around you aren't going to get rid of me. I'm not walking away. I've been so afraid you'll tell me to fuck off. I've given you every reason to, yet here you are sitting with me, even though you know I'm about to meet the people who have tried to kill me twice."

Nox sighed and sat back against the chair hoping the arm would find his shoulders again. "I cheated on a girl I thought I liked with a guy I do like. And I don't know... " Nox frowned. "This." he waved his good hand between them. "This is happy." He waved his hand everywhere else. "All that. It doesn't matter, as long as I have this." His hand finally resting on Raffe's knee again squeezing in confirmation. "And I know serious talk but I almost fucking died. I might not get another chance to tell you."
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