Warnings: mild gore, mild violence, character death, nostalgia
Author: Lily Zen
Notes: This is an original character for a game in progress.
Disclaimer: Not mine…kind of?
Life in the fast lane wasn't all it was cracked up to be, she thought as she fished a pack of cigarettes out of her cargo pocket. The box was crushed and stained bright red along the lower corner. Blood had gushed out of her leg wound where a bullet narrowly missed something vital, soaked through her olive green pants, and run down into her boot. Of course the shot had come after she'd used her last slap patch on a teammate, and there wasn't enough time in the middle of a firefight to hop over to one of the other runners and snag one. So she'd bled, tying a makeshift bandage around her thigh to try and staunch some of the flow.
She flipped the lid up on the cigarette pack, and pulled out a stick. The first one was too wet, and she cursed out loud to discover that the blood had soaked through. A good half inch of the tobacco and paper was ruined. The young woman tossed it in the rinky-dink trash bin under the bathroom sink, impatient fingers closing over another rounded end in the same package, and yanking it out. "Not bad," she shrugged, observing only a small, mostly round dot about the size of a pencil eraser on one side. It would dry by the time she smoked up to that point, she was fairly confident. With a morbid grin like the cut of a razor, she struck up her lighter and touched flame to tip, watching the red-orange glow flare as she inhaled.
She blew out smoke up into the cycling exhaust fan, watching it creep out slowly, transparent ribbons curling against the water-spotted ceiling, waving like the ghost of an octopus before they were sucked up into the ventilation, vanishing wherever unwanted scents went when they died.
Someone began pounding on the bathroom door. "Teva?" The woman's voice leaking through the hollow-core door rolled with the accent of Aztlan. Though she couldn't see through the door, Teva silently extended a middle finger in the air, and bounced her arm up and down in a little dance.
"What?" she replied waspishly.
"Nothing," the woman said hesitantly, "Only that you have been in there for awhile. I was worried something may have happened."
"Something already happened. This is the after-action, the shitty part," Teva ground out, and ran a hand through her short, boyishly clipped hair, the burnished gold strands sticking up after she'd dropped her hand.
"Oh. Well, yes, I know…" The woman's voice stuttered to a halt as Teva whipped open the door and glared at her roommate, exhaling a long, steady stream of smoke right at her. Maria's face took on a pinched look of displeasure. Teva suppressed a grin.
Maria looked like most Aztlans with golden brown skin and dark brown hair that she kept long. It looped and curled wildly, almost overwhelming her handsome features. Teva suspected she kept that long fall of hair even though it was so impractical in order to make herself look more feminine; she did the opposite, clipping her hair short to balance out the delicate look of her own visage. It was also more practical in a fight. However, Maria wasn't a fighter. No, not at all. Maria was an illegal immigrant from Aztlan living in the heart of the CAS, and since she was an illegal, she was willing to put up with a lot of Teva's shit. After all, it wasn't like she could go running to the authorities without drawing attention to herself, not even if Teva's work followed her home and blew a gaping hole in their apartment wall. That had been fun to explain to the super (gas accident in the kitchen; Teva was pretty good with arson incidences and staged that scene with an elegant touch). Thank god for slum lords; as long as nobody was injured he was content to simply patch it up, no investigation required.
Of course, if Maria had been a little smarter, she might have wondered why Teva had never bothered to report her to the authorities, why she'd agreed to room with an illegal in the first place. It was pretty simple, really. Teva was SINless, meaning she didn't have any way to prove her existence. The less contact she had with the system, the better it was for all parties concerned. A roomie who couldn't call the cops was the perfect antidote to the situation.
She took another drag off her cigarette, and Maria rolled her eyes and walked away, taking the obvious hint that her presence wasn't wanted.
With a little chuckle, Teva closed the bathroom door once more. Balancing carefully, she placed one booted foot up on the toilet, bending over with her smoke still perched between her lips, and undid the laces with quick fingers, pulling them off the open-ended tabs and letting them drop, the double-knotted bow still tied. She then loosened the tongue, put her foot down, and toed off her boot, then repeated the procedure with the opposite foot.
Her ruined pants followed suit, and she hissed as the drying cloth pulled on her wound. A combination of adrenaline and magic had kept her from noticing it at first, but now that the battle rush was long past, her body was slowing, normalizing, and the pain was truly being felt. With a grimace, she shouted for the woman she shared her living space with. "Maria!"
"Que?" the Aztlanian woman shot back, her voice sounding far enough away that Teva knew she was in the living room.
"I'll take ten nuyen off your rent next month if you bring me the vodka from the freezer!" she barked, the sound at odds with the purr that years of living in Louisiana had given her.
The floor creaked in spots under Maria's footsteps, and the bathroom door swung open. A brown-skinned hand clutched the neck of a cold bottle of booze.
Teva tugged it away from her.
"Remember," was all Maria said.
"Yeah, yeah," Teva grumbled, waving her off, "I'll mark it on my calendar." Never mind the fact that Teva never used the calendar function on her comm. It wasn't that she had anything against calendars; she just didn't care enough to update them. The passage of time between jobs was boring, gray. Who wanted to be constantly reminded of the drudgery around them?
She unscrewed the cap and took a long pull straight from the bottle, then set it on the edge of the sink, using both hands to push and pull at the skin of her bare thigh. It hurt, which was good, and started bleeding again, slow oozing in time with her steady pulse. There wasn't any permanent damage, just torn muscle and a bullet lodged against her bone. That wasn't a hindrance though; no reason to put herself through hell by trying to dig it out.
The tap always took a long time to heat up, and she smoked as she waited, ashing in the sink, watching the charred vestiges of plant and chemical swirl in the water and disappear down the drain. Finally, when she judged it was hot enough—there was steam rising up from the sink—Teva stuck the smoking filter under the rushing water, letting it extinguish her guilty pleasure—not as guilty as you'd think; Teva tended toward an attitude of unrepentance—and balancing the butt next to the bottle of vodka. She took another heavy swig to brace herself, and then stuck her hands under the spray, refusing the flinch as her pale skin immediately reddened. Antibacterial soap and vigorous scrubbing, and then she grabbed the rough washcloth and wiped the blood off her leg. The iodine made her skin orange as she circled the wound like a bull's-eye with a white square of cotton, which she then tossed in the trash. She washed her hands again, and turned off the tap with her forearm.
On top of the toilet she'd laid out her supplies. The curved needle was soaking in a little cup, disinfecting, and she took it between her thumb and forefinger, and used her left hand to thread it. Teva's teeth sank into the lower lip of her rosebud mouth, eyes narrowed as she made small, careful stitches in her skin. Her breath hissed out of her nose, the feel of pushing the needle through her skin an excruciating torment that even she couldn't ignore.
Why not just go to a doctor? For the same reason she wouldn't report Maria; she was SINless. A hospital would tag her in a heartbeat, and her local connection had fled New Orleans after his employer found out about his nasty habit of using company supplies to treat patients for free. She was fucked until she found somebody else who could be trusted. Doc Wagon was the obvious answer to the problem, but Teva hated forking out the cash for something so minor.
By the time she was done, sweat was beading over her brow and at the edge of her hairline, matting her hair to her temples. She was shaky and nauseous. Hastily, she laid a couple gauze patches over the hole and taped it down.
When she left the bathroom, she left her pants and boots on the floor, and took the booze with her to bed, and deliberately did not look at her face in the mirror, knowing what she would see and where her mind would go this close to exhaustion.
Later on, drunk and numb, her mind went there anyway, and whispered the word she hadn't wanted to hear when she looked at her delicate features and the violet circles under her eyes; the bruises and blood, and pain carving deep lines around her mouth. Tamsin.
I wonder if this was how Tamsin looked when she died.
Teva squashed the thought, but after she passed out she dreamed of two girls lying with limbs intertwined under a patchwork quilt, giggles spearing the night as they told ghost stories in whispers while they ignored the strange sounds coming from the room next door.
They hadn't understood what a hooker was then, hadn't realized that their mother's many visitors weren't really her friends at all. Tamsin and Teva had watched the parade of men with innocent eyes. It wasn't until they grew older that they began to understand their mother's life, and why they did not have a father as most other children did. It wasn't until their bodies began to change and their mother hid them away more and more, worried over what messages a customer's lingering gaze sent, that they knew what it all meant.
Teva hadn't been fazed by it. Their mother was still their mother regardless of her career.
Tamsin had spiraled out of control, unable or unwilling to deal with the implications of such a thing. At fifteen, Tamsin fled their home on the outskirts of Tampa.
Teva didn't see her for almost two years aside from the occasional postcard, during which time she focused on training and growing her gift. At seventeen, she left home as well, and their aging mother whose beauty was growing tired with overuse and under-appreciation; she seemed to be perpetually exhausted now, but adamant that Teva leave when she shared her plan to track down Tamsin.
She caught up with her twin sister in Shreveport just in time to collect her blackened remains from the morgue. Teva hadn't understood much of anything that the coroner said except that evidently Tamsin had fallen in with some bad people. The brothel she was working at—oh, the irony—had mysteriously caught aflame, and the girls trapped inside had been burned alive.
Teva called her mother with the news.
No one answered.
She raced back to Tampa as quickly as she could, but it was a futile effort. Her mother had been taken into the authorities, where it was discovered that she had emigrated illegally from Romania. She was immediately deported.
By the time Teva was able to contact someone overseas her mother was also dead, perished due to untreated disease.
Cut adrift by so much tragedy in so little time, she had fled the place where she'd grown up and wandered the CAS in her crappy car, sleeping in cheap motel rooms and doing odd jobs for quick cash. When she ran out of money, she slept in her car; when her car broke down, she walked with her thumb out and her possessions on her back. Somehow, Teva found her way down to New Orleans, no money, no family, and no idea what to do next.
She couldn't remember exactly when she started shadowrunning. It wasn't like it was something she just woke up one day and decided would be a good career move. It was a gradual process, she supposed. Odd jobs led to other jobs, jobs that grew more and more particular, tailored to her skill set. It started with little things like finding someone who was lost—Teva was good at that kind of work. As time went on the jobs got bigger and bigger. It was right around her twentieth birthday that she was in her first big retrieval op; things went bad. She wound up with a pistol in each hand, a ring of dead bodies on the ground, and a couple of slack-jawed teammates. She got better at fighting, at dealing with combat scenarios; she got to be great with guns, and pretty passionate about explosives. At twenty-six, she felt practically like a veteran.
Teva Dalca snorted in her sleep and turned onto her side, one arm sliding underneath her pillow. The warm vodka rolled down the dip in the mattress and bumped her thigh.
In the hallway, a board creaked.
The doorknob turned slowly, and shuffling footsteps approached the bed.
In an instant Teva went from asleep to alert, and her fingers closed over the hilt of the knife under her pillow.
The air shifted in a way that told her louder than any words that her assailant was preparing to strike.
She moved first, bursting up, her hand a blur of movement as she flipped open the butterfly knife with a practiced flick of the wrist, and buried the blade in her attacker's carotid artery, ripping her open in a fantastic spray of red liquid.
There was the sound of something light hitting the bare wooden floor as Maria's body gave up.
Feral got up out of bed, surveying the carcass of her former roommate, and the small hypodermic syringe glistening in the dim light of her room. She toed the woman's body over her cheap jeans, and clucked her tongue. "Damn, now I'm gonna have to find another roommate."