Sex, Drugs, and Runners' Luck
Warnings: sex, drugs, violence, references to past abuse, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts
Author: Lily Zen and Alex Kade
Notes: A shortie. This is the final chapter of SDRL. I hope you've all enjoyed it. There will be more of these stories. Alex and I have already finished the next three, which all sort of occur simultaneously. You'll see what I mean.
Don't forget to bug Alex Kade about uploading her Shadowrun stories.
And finally, whether you're a writer or a beta, feel free to stop on by The Beta Branch. thebetabranch (dot) prophpbb (dot) com
Disclaimer: Shadowrun belongs to Shadowrun peeps. Original characters belong to Alex and me.
One minute he was there-she was laughing delightedly, pleasantly surprised to find a partner who could actuallydance, not just bob in time to the beat-and the next Brandon was gone, swept away in the arms of another woman. She gaped for a second, her eyes trying to search through the thick crowd for where they had gone, but it was impossible to see even with the extra height of her heels.
Move,something prodded her.
Teva dove into the crowd in the general direction she'd seen them depart in, scanning for any sign of them.
A hand grasped her shoulder, and she spun, ready to attack.
The woman flinched back, and raised one hand, laughing, "Teva! I thought that was you, but I almost convinced myself it wasn't! What are you doing this far out of N'awlins?"
Forcing herself to calm, she laughed sheepishly, and tugged off her hat to run her fingers through her hair. "Crysta," she acknowledged, "Hey. I was going to come say hi after the show."
"Well, say it now!" the girl shouted back, and tugged Teva into a one-armed hug, the other occupied with a drink.
Teva found herself spitting out a mouthful of chartreuse hair, and iridescent extensions, but laughing a little tensely. Pulling back, she shook her head mournfully. "I can't right now. I've lost my date," she said close to Crysta's ear.
Looking at her, the smaller woman raised her eyebrows, mouthing the word 'date?' incredulously. Then she turned a slow smile onto Teva. "Good for you! Come on," she tugged on Teva's hand, "I know just how to find him."
Without further ado, she found herself being led to the stage. The bandmates, of course, saw Crysta coming, and instructed security to let them through the line. She waited until the song was done, then hopped up on the stage with the rest of the musicians, tugging Teva along with her. Crysta grabbed the mic from the male vocalist, and crowed, "Is everybody having a good time?" A wave of cheers met her question. "Great! For those of you who don't know, I'm Crysta, the othervocalist, and sometimes they let me play instruments though mostly I just fuck up the timing for the other players." Applause, laughter, and more cheers met her statement.
"I bet you're all wondering who this little piece is?" Crysta asked, twirling Teva under her arm, and bringing her back to rest against the other woman's chest.
The adept laughed, and tried not to let her face burn with embarrassment as people whooped in agreement.
"This is Teva, and she is not my date, though..." she paused dramatically, and wiggled her eyebrows, "if her date doesn't show up to claim her, I'll happily take her back to my place for a little comfortingafter the show." Crysta pressed her lips against Teva's cheek amid the catcalls and screeches, and purred finally into the mic, "So what do you say, Teva? Gonna come to the dark side?"
With a wink, Crysta adjusted the mic so Teva could speak into it. "Brandon," she chuckled, "Save me from this lech."
The bandmates started laughing, and Crysta faked an incredulous face, spinning away from Teva like she was hurt. Quickly, Teva said hello to the band members she remembered from Esmeralda's last show in New Orleans, and was introduced to the new male singer, shaking his hand.
"So, Brandon," Crysta sighed into the microphone, "If you'd care to come to the front, you may collect your date. That concludes this evening's PSA."
Teva slipped off the stage, letting one of the big, burly dudes working security help her down. She waved her thanks at Crysta, who launched into a sweet, a capella number. One by one the band members joined in with their instruments, creating a slow, romantic vibe in the air.
Roxy had moved in close, one of her hands moving through his hair as she used her grip on his vest to pull him down to her much shorter height. She smiled at him, revealed to him the little teal pill on the tip of her tongue, and began to move in for the trade off - a pill for a kiss. It was something he'd done a thousand times before and had no intention of doing again, yet for some reason he found himself staring at her lips in longing not for the girl, but for the prize she was hiding. As those lips moved closer to his, his brain screamed for him to back up, tell her to stop, put a hand over her mouth, something, but his body refused to obey. That little pill was almost his when...
His head snapped around as whoever was on stage said Teva's name, and then there she was, laughing and calling out for him. With a smile he turned back to Roxy and clasped her around the arms, forcing her to back up a little.
"Sorry, Roxy, my girlfriend needs me," he said with a wink, and left her pouting in the middle of the floor. He had nearly shoved his way to the stage when someone stopped him, yet again.
"Hey, thought your girl's name was Sarah?" Nix asked. With Gabe standing right beside him.
"Nickname," Brandon explained with an easy smile, and tipped his head a little at Gabe. "And she's waiting for me, so I have to-"
Gabe stopped him with a raise of his hand. "Relax, man, she's not going anywhere, and I only want to ask you a question. Nix says you haven't tried your sample yet. Why not? You don't look sick anymore..."
This was ridiculous. Was he not allowed to just have a good time with his girlfriend, without the aid of anything chemical in his system? "Because I don't know what you're talking about," he snapped. "What sample?"
"I mailed it to you. Don't you open your mail?"
The package.With a roll of his eyes, he threw his hands up in the air in frustration.
"I'm not taking them, Gabe. I was sick because I was detoxing. I'm done, okay? No more drugs, no more booze, no more bullshit. I just want to get back to my girl." He slapped Gabe on the shoulder as he began to move past. "Thanks for thinking of me though. Good seeing you again."
As he pulled away he found his wrist gripped tightly in Gabe's hand, and he had to refrain from turning around and breaking the man's arm. Now knowing that Teva was apparently friends with the band, he reallydidn't want to do anything that would get them kicked out of the club. Ruining her night was not an option.
Instead, he turned back and smiled at the drug dealer. "I'll give you back your drugs, Gabe. Just let me go."
"I don't want them back," Gabe said in an overly pleasant tone. "I want you to take them. See, I liked that I could always depend on good ol' Brandon for a paycheck. You're too valuable a customer to be lost to a girl."
As he spoke, he slipped his fingers down into Brandon's vest pocket and pulled out the packet Roxy had stashed there. They weren't the simple teal pills Brandon had been expecting. These...strangely looked like jelly beans, all bright colors with little mottled specks on them.
"You will take one. Now," Gabe ordered, dumping the little beans into his palm. Two of Gabe's crew, people Bran had thought he was somewhat friends with, came up on either side of him. Nix stood off to the side looking guilty and a little afraid at the same time. There wouldn't be any help from there.
Sorry, Teva,he mentally apologized with sigh.
Before the men could make a move on him, he stepped back and brought an elbow up into one of their faces, then twisted around to quickly punch the other gang member. The man stumbled back into some other people in the crowd, knocking some of them to the ground in an awkward heap. One of the downed club-goers didn't take that too well at all and proceeded to also try to punch the guy, who retaliated violently in return. It was only seconds before a full fight was started, and in the ensuing confusion Brandon bolted for the stage.
"What the hell?" Teva muttered to herself as the fight broke out.
Spotting Teva, he reached for her hand as he took a quick glance back at the growing chaos. "I didn't technically start that," he explained with a little grin as he pulled her towards the exit, "but we should probably get out of here because they're going to blame me for it anyway. Sorry."
Teva had to trot to keep up, he was walking so fast.
At the coat check, she picked up her bag, and turned to Brandon with a very bewildered expression. "What just happened in there?"
"Later," he said anxiously, throwing a look over her shoulder, and hustled her out onto the street, back to the lot they'd parked the car in.
As she buckled in, Teva got a message on her comm, a simple block of text that said: "What the fuuuuuuck? Now I know why they call it LaLaLand. I am nevercoming back to LA for a gig! You ok?" At the end of the message was Crysta's persona, a dancing hamster with a purple, orange, and green mohawk.
She started laughing as Ghost backed out of the parking space, and he asked tensely, "What?"
"That chick I was on stage with," Feral elaborated.
"She sent me a message. 'What the fuck?' With like five extra u's in it. 'Now I know why they call it LaLaLand. I am never coming back to LA for a gig!'" Teva chuckled again. "Oh, man, I love that girl."
"I didn't know you knew the band," Brandon commented idly as he shifted gears, and took some route to get them away from the club as fast as possible.
"Not the entire band," Teva replied while she typed out a reply to Crysta. "I saw them when they first formed, but that was quite a few years ago. Since then, a lot of the original members have left. All that's left from the original line-up is Crysta and Jimmy, the drummer. Crysta and I hit it off immediately. Jimmy's pretty quiet and laidback, but we're cool. The rest? Well, it's like it is any time you hang out with friends of a friend."
Brandon made some noncommittal sound, and checked the rearview mirror.
"We see each other when we can. She's from New Orleans, but because of the band, she's rarely there."
"She's also a raging lesbian, and is really awesome at cunnilingus; I got a toaster from her lesbian club for letting myself be converted," Teva deadpanned.
"What?" The steering wheel jerked ever so slightly as Brandon looked at her, but he quickly corrected the car's course.
She cackled, and purred sweetly, "Just checking to see if you were listening."
"I am now," he mock-grumbled.
"So..." Teva drawled, and fished her cigarettes out of her dress, "Two questions: number one, can I smoke in here? And number two, what the hell happened back there?"
"Sorry, just a sec," he answered, checking the mirror again to make sure Gabe's crew wasn't coming after him. Yet.
He folded back the top on the car and nodded at Teva. "Nowyou can smoke." Pressing down on the gas pedal a little more, he kept his eyes on the road behind him as well as on the cross streets as they passed. "Remember that guy at the cafe, the one who palmed me the drugs?"
When she nodded, looking even more confused as she was probably wondering what the hell that had to do with anything, he continued.
"He's got a little more of a crew than the few guys you saw at the table with him. And apparently he's not quite ready to give me up as a client just yet. He made that pretty clear back there."
"And this led to crazy-club-brawl-time?" she asked for clarification.
"Yeah, and now racing-through-the-city-time because he kind of knows where I live. I don't want him starting shit there, getting innocent people hurt. When we get back you get your stuff and we'll go to one of my safe houses."
A thought occurred to him, one that twisted a little knife in his gut, but he had to ask. It wouldn't be fair not to. This wasn't like his uncle, something he could avoid. This was a group of dangerous men he had aligned himself with all on his own; not that he ever thought quitting drugs would apparently be the equivalent of turning traitor to Gabe's gang. Still, he should've known better than to go through that man to get his supply...except Gabe was the best, and the best was what he had craved. Plus, at the time his own safety wasn't anywhere near the top of his list. Hell, it wasn't even onhis list.
Fucking drug addict, suicidal fuck, you did this to yourself.
"Or I can take you to the airport," he said, albeit a little more quietly than he had intended. "These guys are serious, Teva. They blame you for me quitting...which is technically true...but I don't want you getting hurt over this shit. Yeah, you need to get out of town. Tonight."
"First of all," Feral drawled as she shook a cigarette out of the pack, "ignoring how fucking irritated I am that you just insinuated I can't take care of myself, why the fuck would you tell some piece of shit gangers where you live?" She took a second to light her cigarette.
Brandon opened his mouth to reply, but Teva railroaded right over him. "Secondly, if it's too dangerous for me, then it's too dangerous for you."
Looking annoyed, Ghost went to speak again. She exhaled a stream of smoke while continuing her tirade, if someone speaking in an utterly glacial tone of voice could be called a tirade, but there was definitely a tirade lurking under her calm.
"Finally, we address the fact that you're attempting to shuttle me off to some ivory tower. I have been fighting since I was twelve, training seriously from the time I was fifteen, and 'running by age seventeen. I am not some defenseless girl-" Teva spat the word like the worst possible curse, "-in need of protection, and you don't ever tell me what Ineed to do. Am I clear?" As she spoke, Teva's demeanor changed, sliding away from the upright posture and crossed legs to something slouched and lazy, both heels flat on the floor. There was a sense of coiled tension in her, of tightly controlled rage as Feral's thought processes overlaid her own. She became someone else; she became the job, the killer, utterly heartless.
She waited until Brandon seemed to acknowledge her words, but started talking again before he could get a word in edgewise. "Now, the way I see it, you've got two options at this point: you can either leave with me, or we can slink off to a safe house. Just in case you don't quite grasp the subtext here, I'm not leaving you behind with people gunning for you, you stupid fuck."
Feral subsided into silence, smoking and staring through the windshield with cool disinterest, as though everything in her wasn't hinged on what his response would be.
Now it was Brandon's turn to be irritated. If she wanted a real first fight, this was about to be it because he wasn't going to back down so easily, not when her safety was on the line.
"Do you really think I'm that fucking sexist? Really? Since you've been here how many times have I stood by and waited for you to kick someone's ass, huh? Fuck, I've had to straight up ask you to rescue me once or twice, and I did it without feeling the least bit ashamed. You know why? Because I damn well know a strong fighter when I see one, so that's not even a factor here. This has nothing to do with you being a girl or needing protection or not being able to take care of yourself. It's about the fact that you having to be that fighter right now, with this fucked up situation, isn't because you're getting paid for it or choosing to stop some random crime or volunteering to put yourself at risk for some grand worthy cause. You'd be putting yourself in the line of fire because your drug addict whatever-I-am-to-you was careless. And why? You're asking me why I was careless, was stupid enough to tell a guy like that where I lived?"
A bitter laugh escaped his control. "In case you forgot why you decided to make me your little pet project in the first place, I was kind of a fucking mess before you got here. Maybe it was just easier to get my shit delivered when I was lying on the floor wishing I was dead. Maybe I was hoping one of his guys would come in, decide he liked my stuff, and put a bullet in my brain just because it'd be easier to take it that way."
Losing a little bit of his steam, his tone softened some as he continued. "And maybe the thought of you possibly getting hurt over that, for that pathetic excuse of a person I was, it isn't worth it. It's not worth megoing up against these guys either, I know; and trust me, if it wasn't for Lonnie I'd be on that plane with you, but I can't leave here until he's finished. When it's done I can come find you though; it'll be the first thing I do, but please, Teva, I'm asking you not to get involved with this, not for me. I lo-"
Swallowing, he ducked his head for a second, then decided to go ahead and just get it out. His voice was practically a whisper when he spoke again, all traces of anger completely gone. "I love you too much to put you at risk over something so stupid."
He sped the car up a little more, just wanting to get back to his place, get her stuff, and get her gone as soon as possible before the notion of her actually being gone really sunk in. He'd change his mind when it did; probably resort to genuinely begging her to stay as opposed to his little trid show from last time. Of course, with his little love confession he might have just scared her off anyway, so it might not matter anymore beyond this point.
The part of him that wanted it to matter stopped the air in his lungs as he anxiously waited to see what her response would be. To everything.
Love, Teva thought numbly, the metahuman condition; the saddest facet of their pointless little lives.
The demon whose grasp on one's soul was deceptively sweet, at least until it turned sour and squeezed the heart until it stopped, all the blood flowing out of it like juice from an orange. A blood orange, she thought a little hysterically.
Of course it was for love.
As she flicked her cigarette out of the car, and turned to watch it land on the road behind them in a shower of red-orange embers, it occurred to her that she must love him too. Only love could hurt that much. Only love could make a person so joyful one moment, and so miserable and angry the next.
Teva turned her head back around, and very calmly put her hands in her lap. Her earlier almost-epiphany mocked her. She'd known, but hadn't wanted to acknowledge it, to give that terrifying name to the state of being she suddenly found herself embroiled in.
It must be love, this insane desire to protect, to cling so tightly. It had been so long since she'd felt the emotion, she'd almost forgotten the way it could grip a person mercilessly.
Love was the greatest joke embedded in their DNA. Somewhere up there, some deity was howling at them, at their sickness, at the way love had taken two people and put them at odds with each other.
She loved him so much, she was willing to fight for him, to die for him, to risk it all.
He loved her so much, he was willing to send her away, to fight alone, to risk it all.
The fact that their love took such parallel, yet separate paths, made her want to laugh, and she'd have done it maybe if she hadn't been trying so hard not to cry.
They pulled up outside of Brandon's apartment building with a hard stop, and Teva became aware that she still hadn't said a word in response. It occurred to her then that she couldn't; she wouldn't give him those words despite having realized the true depth of her feelings for him.
Because if he died, and she'd given him that last little piece of her heart, she would die too. This way...this way she got to keep that tiny bit all to herself, and it wouldn't hurt as badly. She could wish it away, as she'd done all those years ago. With a certain childish flare, Teva thought that once something was voiced, it somehow became truer, more powerful.
Instead, she gave him this: "Fine, I'll go." It was said quietly, with a hint of defeat in the words. That said, Feral stepped out of the car, and maybe closed the door with a little more force than necessary just to illustrate the point that she was still in a fit of pique. Without waiting, she strode inside the building.
Love was a more dangerous predator than she had ever been; a monster eating her heart up.
"Fine," he said quietly after she'd already gone.
Stepping out of the car as the need for urgency drove him on autopilot, he tried his hardest to find that numb state of carelessness. It would've been better than the rotating emotions taking turns with his heart, trying to confuse him into losing focus on the current danger.
Relief - she'd agreed to go, to be out of harm's way. He wouldn't have to be worried about her getting hurt, or being weighed down by the guilt it would cause, or the loss he would feel if she was morethan hurt. It was good. Her leaving was good.
Grief - she'd agreed to go, to be away from him. She wouldn't be there to ward away the nightmares, or keep him from taking the easy way out and just giving in to the very person he was protecting her from. He wouldn't see her smile or hear her laugh or feel her soft touch any longer. He would be alone.
Hurt - she hadn't said it back, hadn't even acknowledged the words. It made him wonder if he'd been kidding himself the whole time, if maybe he really was just her pet project, something to do to whittle away the time while she waited for some other man to decide she was worthy of his love.
Anger - at himself for letting her use him like that, at her for playing with his heart so easily, at fucking Red for being too much of a blind idiot that he couldn't see what he was throwing away, that he could hurt her so easily and not even know it, that he was capable of making her feel the same way Brandon did now. How could anyone throw away that kind of gem?
Confusion - at what to do when it was over. If she didn't love him back then it wouldn't be right to go invading her life, interfering in her reality when he was only meant to be the fantasy. What was his role, his place, his final task that would make her happy? Would slinking away quietly to some other corner of the world do it, or did she want him to at least check in so she'd know; should he try to make that blind man see so maybe she had a shot with the right guy, after all?
Hope - that maybe her response was just another shield going up because she did love him back. But did he dare believe that? If he was wrong, if he really was nothing but a project or a rebound, it would kill him to find out the truth. But what if he was right?
None of it mattered right then. What mattered was getting her out, getting her safe. He could take the time to unwind his twisted emotions later when potential death wasn't on its way to his door.
Avoiding eye contact with her as he came in, he pulled out a large duffel and quickly began gathering some of his own things, the important things. His weapons, his journals (both the filled and empty ones), the contents of the cubby under the trash bin sans the cookies he should've just shared with her, the box of bitter memories in the coat closet that he didn't want but couldn't go without, and just a few articles of clothing and overnight necessities. Everything else was replaceable, expendable.
By the time Brandon followed her into the apartment, Teva was mostly packed. Her clothes had been scooped up off the floor, and jammed into her bag haphazardly, toiletries tossed on top. She snagged her journal off the top of the pile as well, though she knew she wouldn't write in it any more. If Brandon died, there would be no need to write. She'd never written for herself, but for him...because he wanted to know her, and she couldn't tell him in any other way than unemotional and detached.
Her eyes followed him as he moved with purpose, gathering the things that meant something to him. There wasn't much. Like her, Brandon lived without much sentiment. Everything she owned served a purpose, but she could replace it all if she had to.
Bran left the hidden present behind the medicine cabinet. That was meant for two people. He wouldn't need it anymore.
And he left the unopened package right in the center of the coffee table as a blatant "fuck you" to Gabe.
"You ready?" he asked Teva, breaking the silence that had settled between them with a question that only required a simple yes or no answer. It was just easier that way.
She'd been standing in the living room, behind the couch. Her jacket slung on over her club clothes, the hat shoved in her bag, and a pistol in her front right pocket just in case Gabe's thugs made it to the apartment before they were able to flee. Watching Bran's back whether he wanted it or not.
"Yeah, I'm good," she nodded, and picked up her bag.
They took the stairs back down to the car, scanning the street for signs of any unwanted visitors before they left the cover of the lobby.
The drive to the airport was very quiet. Solemn. She wasn't sure what to say, so she spent the time purchasing a ticket home.
As they pulled up outside the drop-off loop, Teva closed her eyes against the wave of pain that rose up to try to drown her. A hand covered hers where it finally registered that the sharp little edges of sequins were digging into her palm because she was gripping the hem of her dress so hard. "Bye, Teva."
One second it seemed there was a canyon of space between them, then her lips were on his, arms tight around Brandon's neck. There was desperation in the pressure of her mouth on his, forcing his jaw open, letting her go deep as though she was trying to crawl inside of him; the kiss tasted like sorrow.
She pulled back panting, surprised to find that she had come to her knees in a decision not even conscious, leaning over her bucket seat into his personal space. "I'm not going to say goodbye," Teva said, her voice husky, raw with suppressed emotions. "All I'm going to say is that I'll be really upset if you die...so don't do that."
That hope he was trying so hard not to feel flared up in him with the intensity of an atom bomb, and that made him feel the pain of her leaving that much more. It would've been easier thinking she didn't love him back, that at least one of them could walk away from this with their heart still intact. At the same time though, it made him feel like sending her away was that much more worthwhile, that his need to protect her meant that much more. It also meant he couldseek her out when he was through, that he had someone waiting for him on the other side of the chasm, something to keep him going after all was said and done.
He let out a little sound that was supposed to be a laugh, but came out more like he was crying on tears he refused to shed. "Dying wasn't really in my playbook, no, not anymore. I'm going to be smart about this, just like you said, okay?"
His hand pressed against her cheek and he used his thumb to wipe away a stray little tear that escaped her control. "And as soon as Lonnie's gone I'm out of here, too. Made too many enemies lately to hang around; it's not safe. But I'll call you. I'll call and maybe we can-" He cleared his throat. "I can tell you where I'm going after that..."
There was a hint of a question in his tone, too chancy to outright ask. He didn't know if he'd be invited back to her world, if something might change between now and whenever he had his shit together. Hell, for all he knew Gabe would find some other schmuck to fill the hole he'd made and just decide going after Brandon wouldn't even be worth it anymore. Then he wouldn't have to leave at all, and then what? Would she want to come back? Would it be too late to ask her to? What if Red finally figured it out and asked her to be his instead? Then what?
Then he'd have to let her go, he supposed. Isn't that how it worked? Something about if you loved something enough you had to let it go, and if it came back that meant it was yours?
...And if it didn't come back?
This time his own desperation took over and he pressed his lips to hers before she could say anything, knowing she didn't want the goodbye but putting it into that kiss anyway. If this was to be their last he wanted it to count.
She was shuddering with suppressed sobs by the time Brandon released her, but she wasn't ready to go yet. Teva hid her face against his shoulder for a moment, drawing the scent of him into her lungs, and absorbing his warmth into her skin. "I-yeah, call me," she whispered hoarsely as she pulled away, and flung herself out of the car, yanking her bag out of the back seat.
Without another look, Teva waved over her shoulder and disappeared through the sliding glass doors. She had to get into the bathrooms, and change clothes to something a little more suitable for traveling. She had to put her pistol in the false bottom of the bag with the others. She needed to...
She looked back out the window, catching a last glimpse of Bran's car as it pulled away.
It was time to let go; time to go home...
Time to go bawl like a baby in the women's room like some fucking cliché, Feral joked to herself while the tears began to slip down her cheeks.