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Going Through the Motions
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The tears ended. No one came near him or interrupted him. He left the club without saying anything to anyone.

The train station where he kept Lily wasn’t far away and grabbed his small back and the Lotus and slipped into the tunnels to find a dark place to curl up and die.

He didn’t go far, he needed signal. His face was on fire. His body numb from everything else. If he thought about it too hard the horde rose up and filled the pain with the need for more. He wanted to feel numb.

Nox needed to hear Raffe’s voice even if he wasn’t speaking to him. But he didn’t dare call. Nox walked into the emptiness of the tunnels. Water dripping in the distance. No scratching to be heard.

He found a cranny in the wall and wove a ball of light and let it shine down on Lily. She’d need a good walk for real light, but it would do for now. He unrolled his bedroll and curled up in it and started typing a string of texts to Raffe (@"Raffe")

I know I said space and time.
Full disclosure.
I ran into Jay at the Almaz.
We fought — literally. It ended badly.
I’ll tell you about it all if we get through this.

Nox sighed and sent a final text.

Lily misses you.

He set the wallet down and tried to sleep.  His nightmares awaited.
Nightmares came as always when sleep eventually came. He woke in more pain than he went to bed. His face was a mess, he didn’t need a mirror. He felt it, probably had a swollen eye. He knew his lip was busted in several places.

But he had a few jobs to do. If he closed his eyes he felt the horde, he could track them down, kill them. End this connection. But Nox knew this wasn’t going to end with it. He had to learn to live with it, control it or he was going to end up like his father — a drunk, dead in his own vomit.

He sat in the dim light of his orb hanging over Lily. He checked his phone to see if Raffe had responded, finding it empty he turned it off and stuffed it in his hoodie. He needed a shower. Safest place was the club but that meant seeing the girls with his face a mess.

He pulled his hoodie up over his head and wrapped up all bedroll and secured Lily’s in her water bed and headed to the club via the tunnels. Last thing he wanted to see was people.
Nox pressed the call button and didn’t look up at the camera. The door buzzed and he pulled the open and was immediately greeted by Juls. She pushed the hood back on his hoodie and winced. ”I’d say you should see the other guy but pretty sure I lost.”

Lost a friend. Lost the fight. Gave up.

”Seen Raffe?”

”Carmen took him off the schedule for a few weeks. You can talk to her. She says it’s nothing to worry about, he’s fine.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him after her. ”But you on the other hand, look like shit. Come one let’s get you cleaned up.”

Nox followed dutifully and set Lily down in the nearest window they past. ”I need a shower, then I’ll let you fix whatever is wrong. But I need a long hot fucking shower, and Lily needs a better window, just not Raffe’s window I don’t want to bother his stuff.”

Juls sighed. ”What did you do?”

Nox sighed. ”Broke a promise and I don’t want to talk about it. I want a shower.”
Juls let him go, but he wasn’t alone for long. Mae stood just outside the shower room. He felt her more than saw her. ”You fucked the soldier again.”

”Might as well have, the results would have been the same. It’s not the infidelity that broke things.” Nox said. ”It’s the broken promise.”

”What you going to do about it? Cause if you fuck with this happy family I’m going to hurt you.”

”I’ll leave if it comes to that, Mae. You guys can live happier lives without me in it anyway. I’m nothing but trouble.” Everything in his life told him that — from the moments he could first remember. He and Aurora hadn’t been wanted. Living a life on the road was hard, and Bryan Durante had been nothing but Atharim.

Nox spat on the floor.

Mae was wrapping her arms around him despite the water falling down and the fact that he was soapy and naked underneath the cascade. ”You are part of the family too. But we understand.”

Mae pulled away and shook herself off with a giggle. ”Now I’m all wet.”

Nox rolled his eyes as he finished washing the fight off him. The water stung his face, and he could feel some of the cuts opening back up. But it was a small price to pay to feel better. Music rolled in from the stages and Nox realized how much he’d miss this place. How much he already missed it and it had only been two days.

A fifteen minute shower was all he took. Anything more and his mind would wander and tears might fall. He was tired of crying. It was time to stay busy.
While he got dressed he turned his wallet on and checked his messages. Nothing…

Nox turned off the expectation of a response anytime soon and pulled up his notes he’d been working on, and grabbed his laptop from his bag that sat on his former bed with Lily in the window. Juls just put him back where he ‘belonged’. It hurt and made him smile at the same time.

He made himself at home at a table in the back rooms with his laptop. He did his normal routine of checking schedules and noted Raffe’s absence, and scheduled made sure that the bouncers were all set before he went on to his skit notes.

It wasn’t twenty minutes before Mandy shoved the laptop lid closed and sat down in his lap with a foundation brush and started applying. ”You can’t go out on the floor looking like you lost.”

”You should see the other guy.”

Juls laughed as she sat down in a chair and opened the laptop lid. ”You going to do this?”

Nox nodded and earned a tisk from Mandy ”Sit still.”

”You should inspire yourself with the hair. It’s a good look for you.”

Mandy clapped her hands. ”Yes. That’s what he needs. Pampering.”

Nox felt guilt rise up. He didn’t deserve this.

Mae was already in the other room with the make chairs and bright lights. Nox blinked. ”He’s feeling like shit.”

”Raffe was here first. And he deserves you guys more than I do.” Nox whispered.

”Hog wash. We love you both.” Mandy laughed,
When it was all said and done it didn’t look too bad. Nox thought as he ran his fingers through his currently styled hair with blue tips. He liked it. The girls had covered all the bruises on his face and the cuts didn’t look too bad as he touched them. Nothing they could do for the swelling. Though they had tried — Cucumber slices and ice. It was nice to feel loved and it really helped pass through a few moments.

Mandy smiled as she gave Nox a last look. ”You have such beautiful eyes. Long Eyelashes I’d die for. And the guyliner just makes them pop so much more. You should always do it.” She said as Nox stared in the mirror examining their handy work. He couldn’t say he didn’t like it. But he hated wearing the foundation but they were right — Nox couldn’t look like he’d been beaten to a pulp.

But as with life — all things end and the girls went their own ways and Nox was left sitting at his laptop. He’d found some great tracks and the lyrics would work, except Nox didn’t want to have lyric distracting from the skit itself, so he had to render them into instrumentals. It had been a while since he’d used the software Aurora had written for him as kid. She said it was easier to dance to when he wasn’t distracted by the words.

She hadn’t been wrong. But the songs needed to render and he had to do something else. Instead of checking his wallet for missed messages he walked over to Carmen’s door and knocked on the open frame.

”Juls said Raffe is okay? I noticed he’s not on the roster for a while.”


Carmen was eyeball deep in accounts, the screens fanned out around her on the wide, curving desk, but she paused from the work to glance up at the knock. Her open door policy was both figurative and literal. Nox lingered in the frame, and her eyes ran him up and down, lips quirking for his hair and makeup; it looked good on him, though it would look better when the cuts and swelling eased. She did not ask about that, though she’d heard via the girls of some of the drama passing under Kallisti’s roof at the moment.

“He’s taken some leave, that’s all,” she said. Whatever the boys were or weren’t to each other now, confidentiality prevented her from sharing exactly what she knew: which was to say it was medical leave. Raffe had been upset last she saw him. Carmen hadn’t known why at the time, though she had a better idea now of course. Still, she found the decision Raffe made odd. Knee-jerk, maybe. The trial was all above board though. She’d checked it out thoroughly after they called. “I can get a message to him if you wanted me to, though I can’t guarantee a response. Juls is right though, he’s okay.”

Carmen wasn’t about to take sides. Kallisti’s rules never extended to fraternisation between employees, but workplace romances were a risk in any setting. Still, she cared about them both, and if it helped to ease Nox’s mind it was the least she could do.


Nox was glad she didn’t ask about anything and nodded. He hoped she’d have extended the same to him in the reverse situtaion, not that Raffe would have fucked up this badly. He smiled at her. ”I’d appreciate that. Can you tell him I’ll be doing the skit I’ve been working on since before I lost the arm, the second in my greek myths thing.”

He took a step away from the door. ”None of this will affect Kallisti. I promise. This is family. Whatever changes that doesn’t.” He dropped his eyes as he made a promise. The guilt spread through his body and he took a deep breath and gave Carmen a teary eyed smile. ”Thanks.” He paused, then added. ”For Everything.”


She nodded. Two fingers dragged one of the screens closer and she paused to make an annotation on it, not that she was likely to forget the message. But with Carmen everything was business-like, even though everyone knew the soft heart behind that serious expression.

“I know it won’t affect Kallisti,” she said sternly. Had he not said it himself, she likely would have reminded him of her expectations. But if Carmen was a strict boss she was also a kind one. Nox’s eyes glistened a little wet, and it made her frown to see. “Family,” she agreed firmly. “You don’t have to thank me.” There was no smile, but her expression was a little softer. If he had more to say she’d listen, and her door was always open if that day was not today. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d consoled a broken heart. Otherwise she made a shooing gesture with her hand, and returned to her work.


Carmen shooed him away. Not that he needed the dismissal. He didn’t want to talk about it.

Nox walked away letting the half faked smile fade. His mood was drowning again. He needed to eat. There were other things he could do but none of them appealed at the moment so Nox made sure the laptop had finished it’s last render and paused the others while he packed up his bag. ”I’ll be back. I need food.” The girls who were now practicing nodded and a few shouted a food order his way and he tried to remember exactly what they were but he had all their favorites on a list on his wallet. Wasn’t the first time he’d been in charge of the food run.
Nox made his way to one of the better diner’s near Kallisti and ordered a steak and salad. The greens arrived early and Nox devoured it before his steak arrived. His stomach continue to growl as he finished the medium rare steak and then ordered a bunless burger and the rest of the meals to go for all the girls including Carmen. He started to order for Raffe, but he wasn’t there. ”That’s all. Can I get the burger for here.”

The server gave him a look but made a note and he sent a text to Sage.

There was a girl last night, Danika something. She was at the gala. Can you get her number?

All ready moving on?

Nox rolled his eyes. It’s not like that. I was rude and owe her a diet coke.

A number popped into his contacts with her name.

Gonna be doing a show at Kallisti you and Aiden are welcome to come watch.

Nox looked at his wallet and sent Raffe a text.

@"Raffe" Where ever you are I hope you are okay. Carmen said you are okay. I believe her. I sent a message to reach you but I’ll tell you here too. Gonna do the Hades/Persephone skit. Get back on stage.

Tear slid down his cheek, every time he thought about Raffe he broke down. Two days… This was going to be hell.

Nox took a deep breath and sent out a string of texts to friends with dates and times to the performance with their invite. He hadn’t done that the first time. He knew Thalia wasn’t in town still, but he sent her one too. The only one he didn’t even think about inviting was Jay. Well, he thought about it, but he didn’t have Jay’s contact and that was done. Over. He had the bruises to prove it.

Nox popped open the new contact and sent Danika a text

@"Danika" Hey it’s Nox. Got your number from a friend. Wanted to apologize about that diet coke. I couldn’t deal with people after the fight. Let me make it up to you. I’ll be performing a skit at Kallisti. Not your scene probably, but I can buy you that coke afterwards. And just so there are no miscommunications. This is not a date. I am hoping I still have a boyfriend when the smoke of my life clears.

Nox tucked his wallet back into his hoodie and pulled the laptop closer and started finishing up the last of the audio for something he had no choice but to go through with after inviting all those people
It had been a whirlwind of practices. It felt wrong. Raffe wasn’t there, but Nox put it out of his mind. He was taking care of himself; he kept saying. And that’s what he was doing. Even if it was over, Nox still cared about Raffe. He could be just friends if he had to. Life moved on. He had to move forward, even if it wasn’t moving on. He had to keep getting up. Had to find that purpose that would drive him to live. Right now, it was a struggle.

He hadn’t stayed at Kallisti even after the girls urged him to. He couldn’t look at the empty door and not cry. He had to be away from his home. And sleeping in a hole in the wall where the sun didn’t shine fit his mood one thousand percent. Jay’s words still echoed in his head. He heard his voice still saying the words. ”If you ruined your life, it’s because you don’t fucking deserve it.”

He closed his eyes, and the nightmares played. Those words starting him awake when they spoke the first time. Closing his eyes had been near impossible. Nox did the only thing he thought possible, went for a run. He didn’t bother going topside. He grabbed his land warriors, wove an illusion over the hole in the wall he’d been sleeping to keep his possessions safe, and tied them all down with bonds of air before he took off at a run through the tunnels.

The tunnels weren’t always the same size, height or width, or even clear of debris. It was a new challenge. Nox took heart in the new adventure. He used the power inside to brighten the world and the surrounding sounds. He made easy work of his footfalls, ducked in time before smashing his head — most of the time. But with a quick weave of air, he was righting himself before twisting an ankle.

He wasn’t winded by the time he wound back to his starting point, but he was tired. It was a good workout for both his body and his ability. He didn’t stop with running; he was in a foul mood. And fighting an invisible opponent in the underground worked for him.

By the time Nox’s alarm sounded for him to get up, he was exhausted and sweating. Using the mind to create magic was tiring. Doing so in multiple flows while being physically active even more so — but that’s why Nox felt it important to do it. How could he fight a monster if his body gave out in the middle — What if he really had to fight someone like Jay or the Ascendancy? Jay was a soldier. The Ascendancy was the most powerful person in the world, and no one knew exactly how powerful he truly was. How powerful any of them were.

The Atharim had defeated the gods once. But it had taken traitors to do it — traitors to the gods. Maybe it was in his blood — destined to betray everything he knew and loved.

Whatever benefit he’d gained from his workout had shattered into a thousand bits when the thought shifted back into his own darkness. His failures…

”Fuck destiny!”

Nox pushed through the darkness, pulled the fake mask of his life on. A smile didn’t touch his eyes, but it was there. Fake it till you make it. With his belongings in tow, Lily held close to his chest as he ascended into the world to grab breakfast before the big day — before he took stage for the second time and hopefully not the last.

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