Sex, Drugs, and Runners' Luck

Chapter One

Fandom: Shadowrun

Pairing: Feral/Ghost

Rating: R

Warnings: sex, drugs, violence, references to past abuse, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts

Archive: Ask

Author: Lily Zen and Alex Kade

Notes: This story takes place a few weeks after the events of About A Girl, which can be found as chapter five of the Feral series. Things you need to know are as follows…

1. During their first 'run together, Ghost and Feral were part of a team tasked with smuggling an experimental drug out of Horizon research labs. The drug was released into the air system. It's function was a top secret bioweapon designed to destabilize a population mentally. Basically, what it did was remove all the blocks and filters in a person's mind, unleashing all violent impulses, fears, hallucinations, and other behaviors in them. Ghost was infected and attacked Feral, but when his attempt to force himself on her resulted in retaliation the attack switched from something sexual in nature to outright homicidal mania. Feral was able to subdue him, but it resulted in issues being brought up for the both of them.

2. The events at Horizon were a catalyst for Ghost's suppressed issues. He became depressed, suicidal, an insomniac, and a drug abuser.

3. Ghost's traumatic past is not stuff for the weak-stomached. To summarize, as a boy he and his cousin were given to their uncle after their parents' deaths. The man was a pedophile and a sexual sadist, and tormented them for years before he was finally caught and jailed. Ghost's cousin was unable to cope with the trauma and committed suicide.

4. Just prior to the events of this story, Ghost received news that his uncle was being released from prison. His attempt to kill the man failed, and instead resulted in his own brutal beating and rape via magic.

All of this is explained in more detail in Alex's story, Ghostly Reflections. I'm trying to badger her into publishing them and Chronicles of Switch, but she's stubborn. Maybe if you guys badger her with PMs too, she'll listen.

Disclaimer: Shadowrun concepts aren't mine. Original characters belong to Alex and I.

Monkeywrenchers was Feral's version of Switch's tech bar, only the crowd that hung out there tended to be a little more rough-and-tumble than technically gifted. They were the gunslingers, the blades, the "actives" in any run; drivers, smugglers, pirates, killers, and people who blended in with the shadows. Monkeywrenchers had their fair share of them all. Running the whole thing was an old tech-savvy dwarf named Crawdaddy, or just Cray for short; if you were feeling particularly daring, you could try calling him Daddy.

Like the name implied, Crawdaddy was born and bred in the bayou, and his voice was thick with that lazy Cajun drawl. He had dark hair with a little reddish tint to it, though it was hardly ever visible underneath his bandanna. Feral only knew what color his hair was by looking at his long, Texas-style beard. Cray was proud of his beard, and it showed. It was always well-groomed and healthy-looking, and whenever he had a job for a particular 'runner he would slowly pull it through his hands.

He was doing just that as he was approaching Feral's table. She had her feet kicked up on the chair opposite her, and was picking at a basket of onion rings as a way to pass the time. Cray's scuffed, steel-toed motorcycle boots made heavy sounds on the old floor. Feral looked up long before he got to her table, and shifted her own booted feet onto the ground so he could take a seat. She eyed his beard curiously as it slid through his hands, and he smoothed it back into place.

"What's up?" she wanted to know.

Cray took a seat. "Chat, why you always in such a hurry?"

She shrugged a shoulder, sipped at her synthaholic beer, and purred, "Must be the shitty beer."

"But you keep comin' back!" he laughed, and lit up a cigarette, offered it to her, which she accepted, and then lit another one for himself. They were the hardcore, unfiltered kind, and Feral was a little shocked. She exhaled, feeling the buzz immediately.

"What is this?" she waved her hand with the cigarette perched between her fingers.

"That, cherie, is real, one-hundred percent genuine tobacco grown on my cousin's land, harvested at peak potential, and then dried naturally. It's organic," Cray replied, puffing out his chest with pride.

"Bullshit," Feral chuckled, and took another hit.

"Truth, girlie," he argued. "I buy papers and roll 'em myself."

Exhaling, the adept offered a conciliatory nod, and told him, "It's not bad."

"Not bad? This is what the Amerindians used to smoke, not that pre-packed shit they sell at the Stuffer Shack." Cray scoffed, and blew his smoke up toward the ceiling. "Kids these days." Raising an eyebrow, Feral wordlessly told Cray he'd better revise his statement. The dwarf grinned unapologetically. "To the point then," he chuckled, "I've got something right up your alley. You were the first person I thought of. Got a client who needs a little in 'n out action on the west coast."

In 'n outwas Cray's way of saying it was a stealth job, and since there were typically two kinds that Feral did she asked for clarification. "Stab in the dark, or sneak and creep?"

"Sneak and creep, bebe," he laughed. "It's a low tech building, but security's pretty tight. Should be a challenge for you. Interested?"

Yeah. Yeah, she was.

Ghost was lying on the floor in the middle of his living room, his journals scattered all around him like some burglar had just torn through his place and tossed his shit everywhere while they were looking for something valuable. He knew exactly what order they went in, though, knew by the color of the leather or velvet or simple cardboard covers. He'd been reading them almost nonstop since he got back from the clinic, afraid to go to sleep, something still holding him back from following his cousin's example, probably the fact that he felt he still couldn't quite let go until Lonnie was burning in Hell.

The old entries fueled him, kept that fire going inside his mind while the drugs kept his body awake. He didn't want the kind that would help him sleep past the nightmares anymore. He didn't need it. Once Lonnie was gone he'd have the rest of forever to catch up on his sleep.

His eyes were glazed over as he stared up at the ceiling blowing out little smoke rings. The last book he'd just finished was some time after Lonnie went to prison. The entries were a mixture of him and Nate being genuinely happy for the first time since they'd started keeping the journals, and sort of lost and scared because they were just kids trying to figure out how to live normal lives after what they'd been through. Nate's entries always had a shadowed quality to them after that, up until the time he stopped writing in the books. Except that last entry. His last entry was clearer than he'd ever written before. That wouldn't be for another several books, though. The dark red, soft leather one.

Ghost's entries had gradually gotten lighter and lighter as the years went on, more and more normal sounding, and he'd always been more diligent in updating. Chalk it up to the durability of youth.Or just a keen ability to shove everything in a nice little lockbox inside his head until a mutant virus/drug thing opened it up and turned him into his fucking uncle.

Images assaulted his mind of him grabbing at Feral's arms, then Lonnie turning him around and pinning him against the coffee table, then himself as Lonnie pulling off Nate's belt, then Feral screaming as he pushed himself into her, then his own stomach catching on fire in a mix of bullet-riddled pain and something even more intrusive and sickening than that.

Scrambling to his feet, he stumbled down the hall to his bathroom and threw up what little he'd had for lunch. The drugs didn't mix well with the mnemonic enhancer sometimes, blending memories and illusions like that even while he was awake. If he wasn't going to be gone soon, he'd think about getting that removed, too, but that surgery was a hell of a lot more invasive than removing the pheromone implants. He couldn't risk dying on the table while Lonnie was still out there somewhere. He had a demon to kill.

She went to L.A. alone, but told Madden where she was going and promised to check in every couple days so that if something happened, and she didn't check in, at least there would be someonewho knew she was missing. Feral knew she couldn't do the job by herself, but she'd also need to be on site to do a little groundwork. There hadn't been a whole lot of details in the assignment other than "bust in here" and "steal this shit."

Since it was technically her job, and she was "team leader"-god help them all-it was her role to do all the pre-planning. Feral tended to be more hands-on than Red was. Mostly it was because she wasn't tech savvy. So she bought a wig, and skulked around taking pictures, learning the patterns at the temple until she could be reasonably assured of what she'd need to pull off the job.

The goal was to steal their precious artifact, an ancient statue of the Hindu goddess Kali. In her golden arms she held the sacred symbols, the weapons that signified her wrath, a dead man's head, a platter to catch his blood, a bowl of fire that never burned out, and a brazier. There was one palm left empty, facing outward, and within it was a ruby the size of an eyeball. The statue was a sacred object. It was said that if one prayed and left offerings at its feet that one's enemies would be struck down. It was also a source of protection to those that housed it. Since they weren't sure which of the sacred items actually held the power, or if it was the whole piece, the first thing she'd have to do was hire a mage to assense the statue.

The next problem came in the form of something unexpected: women weren't allowed in the temple, at least not in the places she needed to get to. When the temple doors closed at night, Kali was removed from the central prayer room, and placed somewhere within the devotees' living area. She couldn't get in there to find out where it was or what the security was like. Feral tried looking up the building plan, but that told her nothing except for the general layout, and since there always seemed to be devotees walking around, it would be impossible for her to sneak in.

She needed a spotter, an infiltrator; someone who'd blend in, and be able to get in and out without attracting a lot of attention. Somebody who could convince them that he was part of their little group. Sadly, only one name came to mind.

So once she'd verified the statue, indeed, was where the magic lay, Feral contacted Ghost. Well, actually, she contacted Red, who gave her Ghost's comm number, then she contacted Ghost. When he didn't answer, Feral was forced to leave a message: "Hey, Ghost, it's Feral. I've got a job that could use somebody with your skills. It's small, and pretty easy, not like the Horizon debacle. If you're interested call me back at this number." From there, she had nothing left to do but wait.

When he got the message he listened to it in stunned silence. Then listened again. And again. Then just stared at the number for a long time. A longtime. He was having trouble wrapping his brain around the fact that it was real and not some figment of his drug addled, sleep deprived mind. He kept blinking, but it still didn't go away.

Feral was asking for his help. Feral. Not Red. The girl he tried to rape actually wantedto work with him again. It didn't make sense. He wouldn't call Lonnie up out of the blue and ask for a magic lesson or something. Unless it was a ploy to lure him out so he could kill him. Maybe that's what this was. Maybe she decided she wanted to kill him, after all. If that was the case, her timing fucking sucked. He wasn't supposed to die until after he'd killed Lonnie.

What if this was her only chance, though? What if she needed to kill himas much as needed to kill Lonnie, slay her own demon before she could move on with her life? Who was he to deny her that type of freedom? The demons didn't get to make those types of decisions. It was their job to die at the hands of the righteous. Or at least die at the hands of other demons. That's all it would be when he struck down Lonnie, or would've been if Feral wasn't going to take him out first.

Where? he sent back via text, fully expecting to get a simple location that would become his gallows.

He dug his most recent journal out of the pile and simply wrote:

I'm going to see my executioner. Looks like I don't have to do it myself, after all. I hope she makes it hurt. It'll make up for what I couldn't do to Lonnie.

Feral glanced at her comm, looking away momentarily from the adult film ordering section on the trideo. Since the thing went down with Red, she admitted she'd been a little more fixated on interpersonal relationships than usual. She stopped dating again, because that wasn't going to do the trick; she began avoiding Red because a little distance just might. She was determined to get over him, and step two in her foolproof plan was 'become sexually active again.' Starting out by dipping a toe into the raunchy waters was probably the best way to go about doing so, Teva thought, so maybe she'd order up a porno and feast her eyes on some badly acted fake orgasms.

Oops, no. That's not gonna work.Now that her brain knew it was all fake, she was just going to sit there making fun of it the whole time. The illusion was ruined.

Ghost's reply was a simple text message: Where?

She gave him the address to the small restaurant across from her motel, and added, 10am tomorrow. Why ten in the morning? Simple; she had plenty of time to get the statue. Why skip breakfast? Teva could kill two birds with one stone: her constantly hungry stomach, and briefing Ghost about the situation.

"The diner?"

Well, that was an incredibly public place to kill someone, especially right in the middle of the breakfast rush.

"Fuck, she's not gonna kill me," he realized as he scrubbed his hands over his face, feeling the scruffiness of the beard he'd let grow unchecked since his last encounter with Lonnie. He'd need to shave that off. If Feral just wanted to confront him about shit...or maybe she really did actually need him for job...he owed it to her to look at least a little presentable. Shit, he hadn't taken a job since Horizon. He hadn't done much of anythingsince Horizon except get high and drunk and shell out nuyen to the clinic once every few weeks.

Actually, he had to be running low by now. He'd need to have somethingto fund his going after Lonnie with. Maybe a job wasn't a bad idea.

But with Feral?

Maybe he could pull it off. If he made a move towards her that again, she'd kill him. No problem. And if he even thoughtabout doing anything he'd have his own weapons at hand. He'd stop himself if she didn't get to him, first.

Decision made, he put away the bottle of synthahol he'd been nursing and began the process of cleaning himself up. He wanted to make himself look as close to how she remembered him as possible, because if she didstill want to kill him he wanted her to believe she was taking out the demon, not the pathetic shell of himself that he'd gradually become. Kinda took the thrill out of the hunt when you got to the end and found out the lion was nothing but a sickly, weakened, walking corpse. He'd even go with just the stim patches to get him through the night, none of the heavy shit. That way his head would be clear when he talked to her.

Yep, he'd be the old Ghost. The cool, confident, kind of cocky, a little bit flirty - no, not flirty, not with her- put together infiltrator that he used to be. He could do this.

He felt his journal tucked into his inside breast pocket of his leather jacket, pressing up against his chest as he made his way into the diner. He'd added beneath his last entry before he left his apartment:

Don't think I'm going down today, after all, but just in case, figured whoever had the honors of picking up the body might be interested in what went down. If someone does read this, Lonnie's info's in my comm. It'd be nice if you killed the bastard or maybe found someone else that's willing to. Guy like that shouldn't be out there fucking up other people's kids.

He saw Feral right away, sitting in a corner booth where the sun was coming through the window, lighting up her hair. She looked...

"...pretty. You always were the pretty one, Brandon, even after all these years. It's been so long..."

His knees buckled, and he had to grip the back of the empty chair beside him to keep himself from going down. It took several deep breaths to get himself under control, to keep the nausea at bay, and he nearly jumped out of his skin when the hostess touched his arm.

"Sir, are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he answered, pulling away from her as if her touch was burning him. He wiped the sheen of sweat off his brow that had appeared there, irritated at the shaking in his hand. Stuffing them both in his pockets where Feral wouldn't see, he sniffed, took another deep breath, and made his way over to her table.

"Hey," he said casually as he slipped into the opposite side of her booth, immediately turning his gaze to the menu. The whole eye contact thing didn't seem to want to happen just yet.

She'd seen him the second he walked in, had chosen this particular seat because of its optimal view of the entrance and proximity to the emergency exit near the bathrooms over her shoulder. Feral played it cool, pretending not to see his stumble, and stirred the spoon in her soycaf even though she always, alwaysdrank it black.

Ghost slid into the seat across from her, giving his back to the room without a second thought. That was interesting. Most 'runners she knew were paranoid to a fault, and would have at least shown some hesitance about taking a position that would leave them vulnerable to an attack.

Feral looked up at his casual salutation, and offered him a polite smile. "It's good to see you again..." she hesitated. Instinct had her wanting to use a name, but it occurred to Feral for the first time that she didn't know Ghost's name. She didn't even know his alias' name. For prudence's sake, she refrained from using street names in public like this. There was never any way of knowing who you were or weren't within hearing range of. "You look..." Again, there was that little beat of silence. She didn't want to lie; he looked like crap, like he hadn't slept in weeks, and hadn't eaten a proper meal since before then. Oh, geezus. "You look like shit," Feral finally concluded harshly. "What the hell, man? If you're sick or something, you can just say so. I'm not gonna lose my cool over it."

Well, her polite...ish...behavior confirmed it. She really, honestly did want him for a job. Odd.

"No, I'm not...not sick." Physically.

He moved to run a hand through his hair, saw the shaking again, and dropped it back down into his lap. She probably caught that. That was okay. She wouldn't be afraid of him if she saw how easy it would be to take him down now, how he wouldn't be able to overpower her...again.

The nightmare images flashed through his vision, him taking her down to the ground, then Lonnie, and himself, and Nate, back to her, hearing Lonnie's voice in the background asking him if it felt good.

He gasped and blinked away the memories, then turned to a waitress who was passing by. He instinctively reached out to grab her arm, but jerked back before he actually touched her. "Hey, can I get a...a shot of...fuck, whatever you have. I need...just need a shot, just one."

Fuck, he was royally fucking up acting like his old self. What made him think he could fucking pull this off to begin with?

The waitress gave him a skeptical look, the one that said, It's ten in the morning, you fucking drunk,but she nodded and went off towards the bar. Ghost kept his eyes downcast as he turned back to talk to Feral.

"I'm not, uh...shit. I can do the job, okay? I'm okay to do the job. I need to do the job. Just tell me what you need me to do and I'll do it, and I'll stay out of your way for everything else."

"You're okay?" she repeated incredulously. Teva gestured toward the waitress, then at him. "You just ordered a shot... at ten in the morning. Dudah, you are so far from 'okay' that it's painful to watch." Sighing, she propped her elbow on the table, and rested her head against her index and middle fingers, rubbing her temple while she eyed Ghost. "I don't know, man. Maybe I'd better find somebody else. I don't want you detoxing in the middle of daily prayers."

Glancing away toward the approaching waitress, Feral drawled, "Hope you don't mind, but I ordered ahead of time." The woman slid a plate in front of her that was covered in fake breakfast foods, and set a glass in front of Ghost.

"Sorry, hun, we don't have any of the good stuff. That's synth-bourbon. Hope that'll do," she stated insincerely.

While the waitress was still there, Feral gave Ghost a critical examination of his person, and told him, "Order whatever you want. I'll buy. You look like you could use a burger or two. You've lost weight. The emaciated look is great on the runway, but not so much up close and personal."

"Don't...don't do that." He picked up the glass, hesitated for a second with the edge against his lips, then tipped it back. He'd already blown the act, anyway. There was no point in trying to keep it up. "Don't be nice to me. You want me to do a job, give me the details. I can buy my own breakfast. If not, there's no point in me sticking around."

The waitress glanced back and forth between the two impatiently. "Look, I've got other custom-"

"Then go," Ghost snapped at her. "Shit, I'll probably be gone soon, anyway."

She took a calming breath and said very curtly, "I'll be back in a couple minutes to see if you want something."

Slouching down in his seat, he ran his finger around the edge of the shot glass and mumbled a little, "Fine," as she walked away, still refusing to make eye contact with Feral.

Feral sneered just a little. What the hell had happened to him? This was not the guy she remembered meeting. For one thing, his scent was all wrong. With a start, she realized he'd had his implants removed. Flicking her eyes toward the ceiling, she huffed a little in exasperation. "Alright, be a shithead," she drawled. "Also, maybe next time you could tell the waitress the intimate details of why we're here? I'm sure you've piqued her curiosity with the mention of a job." The unspoken 'get it together' was there in her waspish tone.

She used the side of her fork to carve her eggs up, took a bite, and then set down her fork again to speak. "There's a temple here dedicated to worship of the Hindu goddess Kali," Feral began, voice quiet just in case people were listening in, "My client wants the temple's prized statue. Normally that wouldn't be a problem for me. The place is low tech-I'd get in and out just fine on my own. The problem is that the order is restricted to men. I can't even get in the public part of the temple. At night the monks move the statue into the residential quarters; that's the part I need intel on.'s your monkishness?"

Waiting for his response, she went back to eating. After one bite though, she just couldn't resist the snide comment trembling on the tip of her tongue. "You're gonna have to watch the drinking though. From what I can see, the monks are teetotalers."

A monk? He couldn't help it. He started laughing at the notion of him playing a monk, someone who was supposed to be "pure," a holy man, one of sound mind and spirit. Losing count of how many times he'd been to the clinic for suicidal or otherwise idiotic incidents resulting in his very near death didn't add up to sound mind orspirit.

"I know the place," he stated, still chuckling. Despite the humor in it, he nodded his head and briefly glanced up at her eyes for the first time since he'd walked in. "Yeah, I can do it. That ismy job, right? Just one big game of pretend."

A furtive look out the window had the smile dropping right off his face. There, right across the street, walking at a clipped pace like he had something important to do-

"Did you miss this, Brandon? I bet you did. I bet you secretly begged for someone like me to come and give you more. Maybe you even indulged in a little, yourself? I bet you did just that, picked out a nice, ripe little weakling of your own...God, you still cry like you did. That's not fair, you know. You're making me all hot. Too bad I have somewhere to be, otherwise this would be more physical, more pleasurable for me. I can certainly say that I missed it. Ah well, I'll have to find someone else to have my fun with later. You just enjoy the rest of my little spell. Call it a gift. Not many people can say they died with the kind of pleasure I'm giving you right now. I'm almost envious."

He was up and over the back of the booth in a second, running towards the door, hand already moving towards the hilt of his hidden blade. If he was fast enough Lonnie wouldn't have time to defend himself. The old man thought Brandon was dead, wouldn't be expecting an attack right there in the middle of the day where everyone could see. It was the perfect opportunity.

Where the fuck is he?

In those few seconds it took to get out the door he'd lost sight of his target. It didn't matter. He'd seen the direction Lonnie had been walking in, probably just turned the corner at the end of the block. He could still catch him. He could still finish this.

Without even looking, Ghost stepped off the curb into the street, his only focus on killing the guy who had destroyed Nate's soul...and his. Lonnie had destroyed his, too.

Teva was aboutto shoot off another snarky comment when in a split second everything about Ghost's demeanor changed. Then the fucker just took off!

"What-?" she shouted, half-rising from her seat as Ghost booked out the door. Feral ran after him. She didn't know exactly why, but something compelled her to follow. She wasn't a nosy woman under normal circumstances, not unless Teva was getting paid to insert herself in other people's business. Maybe it was boredom or a need for distraction, maybe it was curiosity or guilt; whatever it was, it drove her out of the restaurant without paying.

The waitress yelled behind her, but Teva was impossible to catch, and with her comm on invisible, they couldn't even get a name to call the cops with.

Ghost was stepping out into the street, and about to be barreled over by a car.

Reaching out, Feral snagged him by the wrist, and yanked, swinging him out of traffic as the driver laid on the horn, missing him by a narrow margin. "Are you crazy!" she shouted, slugging him in the arm. "Look both ways before you cross the street! It's pretty fuckin' elementary! What the hell?"

Ghost ignored her for the time being, looking frantically at the wall of cars that was blocking him from getting to Lonnie. Each second that passed was another second that his target got further and further away. He was right there. Right fucking there, but Ghost had been too fucking slow to catch him.

"Fuck!" he yelled, and without warning hurled the knife into the nearby light post, the blade embedding itself all the way up to the hilt. He turned his anger on Feral. "Why did you stop me? You think a fucking car could take me out? I tried that once, and I'm still fucking here! I would've been fine! Now he's gone because of you! He was right fucking there, and I fucking missed him! I fucking...I...fuck!"

Breathing heavily, he paced back and forth a couple times in agitation, then simply dropped down to his knees on the sidewalk and hung his head as the anger and adrenaline slowly trickled away, leaving him with that familiar dead feeling inside.

"I haveto kill him," he murmured. "It has to be me. I can't...I can't sleep until I finish it, and then, then I can let go." He turned to look over his shoulder back at Feral, his eyes revealing the tortured little boy that Lonnie had created all those years ago. "Why didn't you let me go? You, of all people...why didn't you...?" He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I have to go."

He needed a hit of something, anything, whatever he could find that could just...take it all away...

He didn't realize that he'd babbled that bit out loud in a low, breathless murmur.

Feral felt some fission of something that felt a whole lot like concern zing down her spine. She wasn't a cruel person, not normally, and seeing Ghost again had confirmed one thing for her: she had put the events of Horizon behind her. So much had happened since then, so many other people had tried to kill her. It just wasn't worth holding a grudge. Hell, she'd forgiven her crazy sister for trying to off her, why should this man be exempt? It wasn't like anything had truly come of it. Teva had done what she did best, and taken care of herself (she was no princess needing rescue, and truthfully, she'd never expected one anyway).

Behind the concern came anger, which was kind of like her default setting. How dare he show up all out of sorts, and make her feel bad for him? And what the fuck was with the rude dine 'n dash? And geezus, how fucking strung out was he?

"You need a hit, huh?" she shouted. "Okay." Then with a little shrug, Feral drew back her fist and punched him hard right in the face. "How's that?" Teva screamed, oblivious to the on-lookers of their little street-side drama. "Feeling better? 'Cause I'm starting to! Now pull yourself together, emo, and tell me what the fuck's going on!"

The hit sent him the rest of the way to the ground, and as he pushed himself up to his hands and knees and dabbed at the blood on his lip, he began to laugh. "There it is," he said with a smile. This was more like it, what he'd been waiting for. Getting to his feet, he locked eyes with Feral, really looked at her, and raised his arms to the side in an inviting shrug. "Is that it? Come on, Teva, I know you've got more than that. I remember. Don't you? Don't you remember the last time I called you by name?"

He flashed on a moment when he was still a kid, too exhausted to cry anymore as he sat still, allowing his uncle to heal him. Lonnie had his hands on him - not in thatway, but in an oddly soothing manner - patching him up, making the pain disappear. His voice was soft, gentle, almost hesitant.

"You liked it, didn't you, Brandon?"

"You liked it, didn't you, Teva?"

He took a step towards her, and blinked back to Lonnie taking a step towards Nate who was on his knees, crying and begging to be left alone. Brandon, as young and frightened as he was, snapped at seeing his role model reduced to that state. He'd rushed Lonnie, beating him with his small fists, demanding that he left his older cousin alone. Lonnie had laughed at him and grabbed at his arms, dragging him towards the attic stairs.

"You want another go, Brandon? I'll make it extra fun this time."

"You want another go, Teva? I'll make it extra fun this time."

His eyes burned and he faltered on his next step, dropping back down to the cement. He spit out more blood, and then he was suddenly lying on the ground in front of his uncle; his small, fragile, ravished body weak and dying, in desperate need of the healing magic. Lonnie told him that he needed to earn it, pulled him up to his knees in front of him, and demanded a different kind of pleasure. The man had Brandon's blood all over him, making him sick at the sight, but he had to do it. He had to do it or Lonnie would let him die. He couldn't die and leave Nate all alone with this monster.

"Come on, Brandon, give it a little taste. I bet you'll like it. That's a good boy. Very, very good, Brandon."

"Come on, Teva, give it a little taste. I bet you'll like it," he said shakily, choking on the last words as he showed her the blood on his fingertips. That was it, he'd had enough. Bending over, he vomited up the little bit of synth bourbon, and through his continuing dry heaves he got out the rest of the line. "That's a...that's a good boy. Very...very...good, Brandon."

Drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, stress, pain, everything collided together and swirled around him, and it became too much. Collapsing the rest of the way to the ground, he rolled over onto his back and blinked through blurry vision up at the sky. He expected to black out, but despite everything, the inviting darkness still didn't come. For some stupid reason, even as worn down and broken as he was, sleep refused to take him.

As Ghost spoke, his words were like water on the flames of her rage. She sizzled and stuttered out with nothing but plumes of smoke remaining. Teva couldn't hold onto them. They drifted away, and left her with nothing but charred wood and ashes in her hands. That was no defense against the growing horror within her. She stepped back without meaning to. Feral never backed down from a fight, but this time she did, feeling small in the wake of what was clearly some personal torment, an F5 tornado ripping apart Ghost's world, and it had all started with the 'run at Horizon.

They were all victims underneath their bravado, their words of armor, and smiles like weapons. Every one of them had suffered there, and left pieces of themselves behind.

Swallowing hard, she watched Ghost empty the contents of his stomach, muttering between retching, "That's a...that's a good boy. Very...very...good, Brandon." Teva bit her lip and looked away, fighting back tears. She'd seen victims of sexual abuse before-hell, she might have even been one herself, though she was reluctant to label herself as such-but this was extreme even compared to the shit she'd observed in others. Then again, what the fuck did she know about how a victim was supposed to react? Her way of dealing with anything was to play escape and evade with her emotions until they gave up and faded away.

He let out another breathy laugh. "This probably means I failed the interview," he ventured, not even sure if Feral was still there anymore. He couldn't hear much of anything beyond the blood rushing through his ears, the cries of two young boys, and the distant sound of a perverted man's moans of pleasure.

Teva couldn't help it; she started laughing. Not because the situation was funny or because she was happy. It was a sad laugh, a dry, miserable chuckle that said wordlessly that this world was fucked up, too fucked up for her emotionally repressed ass to deal with. Leaning over with her hands on her knees, she could barely breathe. Tears began to roll out of her eyes despite the fact that she was still gasping, choking on dark, dry humor and bits of irony that lodged themselves in her throat like dry food she hadn't chewed enough.

When the hysterical giggles began to pass, she straightened up, chest heaving for oxygen, and tipped her face up to the sky, wiping her cheeks with her hands.

The decision was sudden. She didn't remember even thinking about it. One minute she was laughing and crying, and inwardly cursing the world, and the next she was reaching out, grasping Ghost's hand in hers, still wet with tears, and tugging ever so slightly. In a rough voice still highlighted with hysteria, Teva ordered quietly but firmly, "Get up, you pathetic, melodramatic basket-case."

"Okay," he answered, still laughing slightly, and let her pull him to his feet. Drained, he leaned on her for support, then realized people were hovering around staring at them. He held up a hand, spinning around slightly to address them all, probably looking like a drunkard on his unsteady legs as he gripped Feral's shoulder with the other hand to keep himself from falling. That made it even funnier because he wasn't even drunk today. Orhigh. This was just him at his finest. "It's okay! Nothing to see here! Move along, folks! We. are. good." He spotted his knife still stuck in the post. "Oh, I should probably, should probably get that..."

Letting go of Feral, he stumbled over to the post and fell against it, gripping the handle of the knife. "It's okay," he huffed quietly as he tried to wriggle his weapon free of the wood, still sort of talking to the general public even though they'd already started moving away, the drama done, nothing more to see really that brought some excitement to their otherwise dull lives. "Just gotta, gotta get this free. Not gonna hurt anyone with it." Gritting his teeth, a small measure of desperation leaked into his voice as he struggled with the blade. "Except for, except for Lon- Come on, fucking piece of shit!" It held firm, and he resorted to punching at the wood a couple times, splitting his knuckles open before he just leaned against it in defeat. "I should probably just go home now," he muttered to no one in particular.

You are a nutcase. Feral thought it, but she didn't say it, her tongue stilled by a swell of pity.

Instead she sighed, and put her hand on his side, indicating he should move over with a little pressure. A blade was removed from somewhere underneath her leather bomber jacket, and Feral pushed the tip into the wood right next to the other blade, widening the hole where Ghost's knife was buried. She wiggled it a little, and felt the two blades scraping against each other. It was a disconcerting thing, like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard (not that most schools had chalkboards anymore), and she was glad to remove her knife when she'd judged she had enough room.

Putting the blade back into its sheath, Feral braced one foot flat on the pole, gripped the hilt with both of her hands and pulled. Slowly, it began to give way. She wiggled the blade, widening the internal pathway, pushing away from the pole with her body weight until it gave way with a noise unlike any other. Feral almost fell on her ass, but braced her leg that had been on the pole behind her in a fighter's stance, ceasing her descent.

She handed the knife over to Ghost, thinking smugly, 'Ha, I'm stronger than you.' It wasn't intentional on her part; it had just slipped into being without her permission. Internal commentary was funny like that. "Here. Now do you think we could have a conversation without the histrionics, ye olde tortured soul?"

Absently slipping the knife back into its sheath, he looked off down the street in the direction where home was at for a second, then turned towards the corner where he'd last seen Lonnie. Finally he gave her a nod, once again shifting his eyes around so he wasn't looking directly at her. "Yeah, probably. Maybe. I don't, don't really know, honestly." He huffed out a little laugh.

"I haven't really been myself lately. Or, I don't know, maybe I've been more myself than ever...or something." Placing one hand on his head, he abruptly spun around and pointed back in the direction where they'd come from. "Should we go back, they probably won't let us back in there. I wouldn't let me back in if I were them. I know another place not too far from here. It's got better food, and no bitchy waitresses. I can, I can buy...if you want. I probably owe you. I mean, not that breakfast makes up for it, I know that, but it's something, right? And I can give you some names. I know some guys that can help with your little...statue, monk...issue. Guys that aren't, won't..." He shook his head and started walking backwards as he spoke, pointing a thumb over his shoulder. "It's this way, if you want to come."

Without waiting for a response, he turned and just kept walking, sticking close to the buildings so he could catch himself if his legs gave out again. Maybe he did need something besides booze and drugs and the occasional soy burger in his system. And god he needed some fucking sleep.