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Around the City
January 24, 2020, 08:25:07 PM »
It would be radio silence from Tucker in the following days. The younger man holding onto that irritation and stewing in it to the point that even when he did start going back to classes a couple of days after he wouldn't contact Rabi to ask for his school books back. He'd borrow from classmates, only long enough to get his homework done, and when asked why he'd been so scarce lately he'd told them he'd caught a bad virus that'd knocked him on his ass for a week and change.
The story was the same for his coach and his teammates. A stomach bug, something that would have made practicing a nightmare, and they hadn’t pushed it.
Having a routine again helped with the ever present low buzz of anxiety he'd been existing in since he'd gotten wrapped up in everything. It was easier to ignore it when he was busy, and for small pockets of time he even forgot his world was a chaotic mess, if only for a few minutes.
Certainly not in art class, though. It'd be the only place he'd run into Rabi, if he was even there teaching.
The first class it was a sub: a reprieve, for Tucker, not only because it
Rabi, but also because the woman seemed into his work, gave him easy high marks for his classwork. But the second, Rabi showed up: with his hair wildly red and dressed halfway to rockstar, with flame colored boots and pants that
and probably most of the class was going to be distracted, today.
Tucker would stare at him for a handful of moments at the top of the class, brows drawn, before shaking his head and concentrating on whatever work they had for the day. And maybe he had learned something from Rabi's constant picking, or maybe he was just making adjustments so he didn't draw attention, but he'd put more creativity into it than normal. More mediums, less structured.
If he'd thought that Rabi nitpicking was bad, this would probably be worse: completely ignored in favor of any other student in the class, his focus gone elsewhere. He got no critiques, no comments or suggestions for improvement. He'd have to figure it out himself.
Would have been worse, if Tucker hadn't still been obviously unhappy with the man. He didn't try to get his attention, didn't even try to catch his eye. He worked quietly, and as the time started rounding out at the end he'd clean up his supplies and put everything away without so much as a word. Then he waited, patiently, for the clock to tick over so he could leave.
Still not a moment's hesitation; no call after for him to stay after class, just Rabi focused on one of the simple blondes who'd decided to make her assignment with makeup. Maybe more focused on her than it really deserved.
He wasn’t the first out the door when it was time, but it was close. He slung his bag up on his shoulder and walked out, his free hand slipping into his pocket. Heading to his next class like there was absolutely nothing going on.
Maybe there wasn't; maybe it was just on his end. But Rabi didn't show up to help him out or hand him more money. He had his own projects on his plate.
A break from the constant chaos, then. Rabi could go about whatever tasks he had without Tucker calling and bothering him, and Tuck could pretend his life hadn’t been turned upside down, at least that week. Eventually Lukas would call about the charm.
Eight or nine days; it wasn't
a week, that was for sure. And he called around eleven at night, when Tucker was probably not at his best.
He'd already been asleep for about an hour, and it'd show in the grogginess of his voice when he answered. "Hello?" It'd taken a tired moment to remember who the number belonged to.
"Drinking yourself under the table again?" In contrast, Lukas sounded chipper, fully awake.
He rolled into his back, rubbing a hand over his face before answering. "Not this time. I started going to class again earlier in the week."
He made a quiet, amused sound, rustling through some papers. "A likely story."
"Likely cause it's true," he tossed back easily. There was a pause as he tipped his head to look at the clock. "What's up?"
"I have something for you." It wasn't suggestive. It shouldn't have been. But the laugh behind it made it that way, maybe. "When can you get out?"
Quiet as he thought it over. There was certainly a part of him that wanted to say he could meet him
, but not only was that reckless, he didn't have the rest of the cash on him. But maybe Lukas would hear that little bit of regret in his voice. "Tomorrow evening?"
He hummed a tiny bit, amused again, and it came through in his voice. "Afternoon? I have to run out tomorrow night."
"What time? I have practice at three, so I could do it early afternoon." He might have to skip a class, but what was another absence?
"Before or after?" He tapped fingers against the phone, fidgety. "I have sunset plans."
"After would be great, anytime after five. We should be done by then." No missed classes, either. "Where?"
"Coffee shop, called Neutral Grounds." It was immediate, unhesitating. "I can text you the address."
"That works. I'll meet you there at five thirty then?" Which gave him plenty of time to get the rest of the money.
"Five thirty, but be quick because I'll have to run." He let Tucker go, to get his own things together.
He said goodbye, and then lay there for a long moment debating before scrolling through his contacts to find Rabi's office number. It was late, but he could leave a message. But better to reach out now, so it wasn't hanging over his head while he tried to get back to sleep.
It rang through; he wouldn't have to deal with Rabi tonight, at least. He could leave a message for later.
There was something a little unsettling about Rabi not answering. "It's me. The charms finished. I need the rest of the money so I can pick it up tomorrow after practice." Short and to the point. There was a slight pause before he hung up, but he didn't add anything else. Just rolled over to go back to sleep.
Rabi's call back was at four in the morning. Which
to be intentional.
He sounded half dead when he answered with a groan. "It's four in the morning, dude." It also sounded like he'd dragged the phone under the blankets with him.
money?" Rabi sounded smooth, just a little mean. "How are you planning on getting it?"
There was a silent pause, but when Tucker spoke again he sounded more alert, less groggy. "By reminding you that this was your idea." He sounded restrained, like there was more he could have added but had biten it back.
"I don't think the charm was my idea." It was still casual. Expectant. Mocking, but subtly so.
"You suggested enhancing physical strength. I'd call that your idea." It was level and sure.
Rabi laughed at him, though, so maybe it wasn't that good an argument.
Tucker didn't say anything at first, but there was the subtle shift of blankets. "Is this how it's going to be now?
"I don't know." He let his tone go easy, pointedly relaxed. "You told me I couldn't be a dick, but then you expertly took over that position yourself."
"How am I being a dick?" He pushed his hand through his hair, settling against his pillow in s resigned sort of way.
"You called me this afternoon to demand that I deliver you a large amount of money." Something crept in; something that sapped the casual edge from his voice and made it sharper, more dangerous. "Does this mean you can demand money whenever you want? You don't need to speak to me, you can just make demands?"
His brows dipped at the tone. "I wasn't demanding, I said I needed it. I assumed at least some of that money was meant
for this reason.
" A slight pause. "Are you pissed I wasn't talking to you?"
"I'm pissed that you think you can call me and demand things without..." He drew in a careful breath. "I'm pissed you think I'm at your beck and call."
"I've never thought that." The frown carried through his voice, puzzled. "I don't think I've demanded anything from you. I've
for help, but that's not the same thing."
"If you don't think that message was a demand, then I don't know what is." It didn't soften him a bit. "Think on it." And he hung up.
He'd opened his mouth to respond but Rabi had hung up on him. And at that point he was too irritated by the entire interaction to go back to sleep so he'd gotten up and showered, gotten ready for the day.
And it was still too early for class at that point, so he made his way towards the art building, because maybe things would go better if they talked face to face instead.
The office door was closed, but the lights were on -- so if he knocked, Rabi might let him in. Or not; it wasn't exactly office hours.
He lingered outside for a few moments wondering how he'd gone from feeling justifiably pissed to vaguely guilty, and finally knocked.
There was a movement -- a beat of silence -- and then Rabi came to open the door, still dressed up. There was even more red in his hair, now, and one rough streak of yellow. He looked Tucker over without inviting him in.
He flicked his gaze up to the yellow streak and then back down. "I should have phrased it better." He was tired, unhappy, his hands disappearing into his pockets. "I was mad before and that made it awkward, so it came out very curt."
"Uh huh." He cocked his head just a little bit, eyebrows raised. "And now you're here to ask nicer?"
"That too." His frowned smoothed from cranky into something more confused.
"Naturally." He slid hands into his pockets, rolling his shoulders back carefully. And waited.
Tucker sighed, looking down at his feet for a moment before bringing pale eyes up again. "Can you pay for the rest of the charm, please?"
He mulled it over, resting his hip against the doorframe and thinking it over. "I'm not just a bank."
Tucker blinked, a little startled maybe, and he stood up straighter. "This is to keep you safe as much as it is me, isn't it?" Something had changed, and he wasn't sure what it was. "I thought-" It sounded stupid in his head, and he bit back the rest of that statement, exhaling sharply. "Can we talk about this in your office, please?" Standing in the hall, he felt very exposed.
"Fine." He stepped back, finally, to go take a place behind his desk -- where he was going through sketches.
A little tension seeped from his shoulders as he followed him in, but he reached up to rub at the back of his neck like it was sore. Maybe it was. "This isn't just about me." He glanced around maybe looking for his school books before looking back at Rabi. "You're not a bank, but the charms not just to keep
"If you don't talk to someone aside from when you want money from them, that makes them a bank." He didn't look up at Tucker as he said it.
He made a rude sound. "I didn't talk to you because I was mad at you. It's got nothing to do with you having all the money we need right now."
Rabi snorted at him, finally flicking up a look. "Nursing imaginary wounds."
"You implied I was too stupid or too horny to keep from putting us
in danger, and that's after getting pissy for whatever fucking reason. You were being an ass." He folded his arms, dark brows drawn down. "And it doesn't even matter, because you were avoiding me as much as I was avoiding you."
"You were being stupid. You were flirting with a magician who straight up hinted you should give him hair and blood." He leaned back, then, voice sharpening. "You were
"Drunk or not, I
give him either, and I didn't tell him anything about you, the pin, why John's after me, or any of it." Pale eyes narrowed in response to Rabi's tone. "And it doesn't matter if I was flirting, he's not interested in me aside from the money he's making off me."
He shrugged, indifferently, head tilted to the side. "How do you know?"
His shoulders hiked up a little, head turning to look at one of the paintings. "Because, as you say, I'm transparent as hell. If he'd wanted anything to do with me he would have made a move."
"If he wanted to fuck you he'd make a move." It was clearly deliberately blunt, his chin tipped up.
"He didn't, so he doesn't." He still wasn't looking at him, and pale cheeks were a shade darker
"That doesn't mean there's
else he wants from you." Rabi snorted at him, unimpressed.
"There's nothing else I have that he's got any knowledge of." He glanced back, finally, frowning.
Rabi shrugged, frowning at him still -- annoyed, definitely, though it was hard to tell why.
He watched him for a long moment like he was trying to puzzle something out, chewing at his cheek, and finally just shook his head. "We don't have to deal with him anymore after today, cause I'm not hiring a bodyguard."
"That's fine." He stared at Tucker back, arms folding over his chest. Considering it. "I have cash."
Long breath in, slow exhale, and he nodded. "We already paid half, so I have to give him the second half today, then that's it." He wouldn't need Rabi's money after that.
"Mhm. How much?" He looked Tucker over, his head tilted just slightly to one side.
"Eleven hundred." He shifted, tapping the toe of his boot against the floor as he looked down, arms still crossed."
He counted it out of the bag and then dropped it onto the desk in front of Tucker, roughly.
He looked down at it for a moment before unfolding his arms and stepping up to the desk so he could collect it. "Thank you."
Rabi shrugged, folding arms over his chest again. "You're still fucking with my life when you do stupid things."
His head tilted as he looked down at him, and there was something conflicted there, for just a moment. "That goes both ways."
"No, the only reason you're involved at all is because you're holding onto that fucking pin." It was sharper than he meant, definitely; it prickled at the edges of things. "You have the option to leave all this."
Re: Charmed [Rabi/Tucker/Lukas]
Reply #1 on:
January 24, 2020, 08:25:54 PM »
Tucker bristled, reacting to the sharpness in Rabi's tone. "I'm involved because
involved me. And yeah, I could just give it back, take you at your word that you'll do what you said you'd do, but that's a lot of trust to put in someone, and you've never done anything to earn even a sliver of my trust." He'd had a week to mule it all over, and there was something more than just answering anger in his tone. Something tired and worn down. "So no, it's not just
life being fucked around with."
have the option to leave." He leaned forward again, still sharp. "You think you get to make this choice, why, because you have it now?"
, Rabi? Where am I gunna go?" His hands came up, palms pressing into his face as he sighed before dropping back to his sides. "You think any of this is what I want? I don't want this. I don't want to keep you trapped here, but I don't want to get fucked over, either."
He shrugged, gesturing loosely at Tucker. "That's still your decision. You have the choice."
He looked almost miserable, like he would have preferred to be almost anywhere else. "It's not much of one, is it? Make us both unhappy, or give you what your want and hope you're feeling charitable enough to not only make all this mess disappear, but also not simply burn me where I stand the second you don't need me anymore."
"It's still an option." He shrugged, tapping fingers against his arm. "It's a choice."
Pale eyes flicked away from Rabi and around the room before landing on the clock and he made a small sound at the back of his throat. "I have to go to class." It was an out, and he was going to take it, backing towards the door with a hand back to grope for the handle.
"Uh huh." He didn't look impressed, or like he believed it -- just watched Tucker somewhat flatly.
His fingers wrapped around the handle, but he paused just long enough to look around the room for the books he'd left there the week before. When he didn't see them he looked back at Rabi like he wasn't entirely sure if he wanted to ask for them back just then. Not the best time. He'd ask later.
Eyes too wide, he pulled the door open and hurried through it, letting it close behind him as he moved swiftly back down the hall to leave the building.
He'd have time to stress about it -- or get over it -- before he was due to meet Lukas that evening -- in a coffee shop that was
hip, with communal coffee table seating and high ceilings and an island bar. And Lukas nowhere in sight again.
At least he had class as a distraction, which did help. He'd put all his focus on that, and when the last one wrapped up he'd make his way to the coffee shop with the help of the pen, dropping the disguise before he arrived after ducking into a convenience store bathroom.
Then he'd wait, nudging the handle of a mug sitting in front of him in an absent, twitchy way. Gaze turned out the window, but his mind was elsewhere.
Only five minutes late or so, Lukas sat down next to him with a coffee that smelled like lavender and a pastry that was huge and flecked with chocolate chips. "Rough day?"
He looked up as Lukas sat down and flashed him a wane smile. "Little bit." Tucker had most of vanilla latte left.
He broke the pastry in half to offer Tucker half, absently. "Some days are like that. And others, you make a couple grand."
It made him smile softly, lips tugging up at the corners as he pinched a piece off the offered pastry to try it. "Thanks." Though it was followed by a small snort and a laugh. "I'd like to know what the latter feels like."
"It feels like the opposite of being caught and ending up in prison." He smiled at Tucker, a little more gently this time.
He flicked his eyes up, brows arching. "Is that experience talking?"
"I plead the fifth." He grinned at Tucker again, easy, leaning over to hook his bag.
The answering grin came easily, and tugged another piece of the pastry off, bigger this time. "Well I definitely don't want to know what
"It happens to the best of us, clearly." He dug into the bag to pull out a small box -- not actually a ring box, it looked like a takeout container.
Tuck sat up straighter when he saw the box, leaning on his arms as he finished off the bit of pastry he'd torn off. Eager to see just what Lukas had come up with.
He wiggled it in his grasp, but didn't hand it over just yet: instead he held onto it as he took a sip. "Trade you."
"Oh, right." He straightened so he could pull the bundle of neat bills from his pocket, and then handed it over after counting it just to be sure. "Here."
In return, he gave Tucker the box, and he could tear in if he wanted. The ring was a simple band, hammered, darker than silver.
He'd open it once it was in his hands to pull the ring out, turning it in his hands before testing to see which finger it'd fit on best. "What kind of metal is this? Not silver."
"It's silver, just oxidized." It'd probably fit best on his middle finger; big but hopefully not too loose. Once it was on, Lukas caught his hand to test the fit, carefully.
Lukas catching his hand would make him jerk, initially, but he relaxed quickly, pale eyes rolling up from tanned fingers to the other man's face, watching for just a moment before looking back down.
"I think it'll hold." His eyebrows knitted, Lukas looked serious for the moment -- thoughtful.
Tuck tipped his head, brows arching curiously. "What does that mean?" It didn't sound especially comforting. "There's a chance it won't?"
He blinked, once, then looked up at Tucker with the smile back in place. "If it were too big it'd slip off, and then what would it do you?"
"Oh. Yeah. I thought you meant something else. Not the fit." He flexed his fingers gently, eyes on the band. "How much stronger is it supposed to make me?"
"You'll have to make a fist for it to do anything -- it'll help keep you from smashing your phone when you hold it, and all that." He tapped the back of the band. "But you should pack a wallop. I wouldn't face off against a vampire, but...."
"Good thinking." Knowing him, accidently crushing his phone would have been a real concern. "I'll have to be careful with soccer."
He blinked at the idea, and then looked amused, picking up the rest of the pastry for a big bite. "Or take it off."
He worked his head thoughtfully, running his thumb along the inside of the band. "Or that." He'd hate to forget to put it back on, though.
"String around the neck." He chewed thoughtfully, his head cocked. "Not too hard."
That would work. That'd work real well. "That's a good idea. I don't want to accidentally knock a teammate out."
"No, I imagine not." It made him smile, all at once, eyebrows raised. "They'd wonder, if nothing else."
"Just a bit," he agreed, smiling back. "Might like the extra oomph getting the ball across the field, though." Which was absolutely cheating.
"They might wonder about that, too." He settled his elbows on the table and looked around the place, absently.
"Better to just avoid it." He reached out to pull his mug closer as he said it, lifting it to take a long drink now that it wasn't scalding.
He looked back to Tucker, quick, faintly amused. "I suppose so."
He shrugged somewhat helplessly, because he was out of his depth and Lukas already knew that. No sense pretending he knew what he was doing. "So is this like, indefinite? The charm?"
"Things like this usually gain strength over time." He spread a hand, absently. "It's just a little boost now..."
"Really?" Brows arched as he looked back at the ring. "I was worried the...I don't know,
or whatever you'd call it, would fade over time."
"No, not generally. But when I say over time, I mean..." He licked his lips, looking for words. "These things become stronger over hundreds of years. It probably won't change much in your lifetime."
"Ah." Mild disappointment, then a small shrug. "But so long as it doesn't get weaker over time that's still great."
"Right." He smiled at Tucker. "That or figure out how to survive a couple hundred years, right? Though most of the options I've found have some extreme downsides."
He cocked his head to the side. "Like being a vampire?" A very tiny smile played at the corner of his lips. Like even knowing they existed now, it was impossible to shake that last kernel of doubt.
"Yeah, like that." He made a little face, and picked up the pastry. "To never eat again...oof."
"Not being able to go out in the sun," he added, wrinkling his nose. It definitely wasn't for him. "Hard pass."
"No Mexican adventures." He took a big bite of his pastry, shaking his head. "Seems too much to me."
"Couldn't finish school. Couldn't work a normal job. It's too much to give up." He took another drink, looking thoughtful. "But I guess if the choice was between that and dying. Not eventually, but like, on the spot."
"I just feel like with enough effort I can find something better." He shrugged just a little bit, sipping at his coffee -- and sighing. Cool already.
"Probably." This was definitely outside his wheelhouse, but he enjoyed the speculation. And Lukas was just easy to talk to.
"Worst case I sell my soul." He smiled suddenly, like it was a joke. Maybe it was.
It got a startled blink, Tucker lifting his head from the rim of his mug. "That's a real thing?"
"I'm sure it is." He said it agreeably, unconcerned. "To someone. The fae like that sort of thing..."
"They do?" Well now he was glad he'd avoided the fae on the list Beau has given him for another reason. He huffed a sigh as he took another drink.
"Sure. I'll give you power, all you have to do is promise to follow by my rules exactly and never step out of line -- if that's not selling your soul, I'm not sure what is." He shrugged just a bit.
He wrinkled his nose, glancing away. There was a familiarity to it that left a bad taste in his mouth. "Hard pass on that, too." The ring tapped lightly against the ceramic in his hands. "It'd be handy if there was like an encyclopedia for shit like that."
Avoid the fae
was sound advice, but now he knew why.
"There are dozens of encyclopedia; just look up any book of fairy tales or any myth. Not all of it is true, of course, but a good amount of it is grounded in experience." He watched Tucker out of the corner of his eye.
Maybe he'd give searching for the pin another go, now that he knew a little more about what Rabi could do. And it wouldn't hurt to have at least some minor understanding of what could possibly be out there. He spun the ring on his finger as he considered it. "You're pretty in the
around here, yeah? What would you say is the most dangerous thing in this city to cross paths with?"
Lukas blinked a bit, looking down at him -- and hesitated as he thought it over a bit. "One on one, or....well, I mean, physically or politically?"
Pale eyes rolled back to look up at him. "All of the above?"
"Politically, I'd say the fae; they're well connected, rich, and old. They know the rules better than most." He tapped fingers against his elbows, weighing it over. "Physically, a dragon. They're temperamental and hard to predict. And might eat you."
"Do they all just look human, or are there ways of telling they're not?" He'd set the mug down completely, head turned back to watch the other man.
"Some things look human, and some don't." He finished off the pastry, idly, his eyes flicking briefly toward the counter, where a twenty-something with facial piercings was working on orders. "Some things don't look human but are."
Tuck followed Lukas' line of sight but gave a small sigh, still confused. Not so straight forward as he'd hoped.
"You'll figure it out. Or you won't." That made him grin back at Tucker again. He finished off his (cold) coffee.
"Sink or swim, right?" He said it jokingly, but there was a thread of anxiety to it as he finished off the rest of his latte as well.
"If you're clever, you might do better than just survive." He shrugged, shoved the last bite of pastry into his mouth, and swiped his hands clean.
"If," he agreed softly, almost ruefully. He wasn't sure he'd count himself as clever, or he might not have landed in the mess he was in.
But he'd managed so far, so maybe.
Lukas laughed again, grabbing his bag and shrugging at Tucker. "Or you could end up chasing down vampires. Not sure that's clever at all."
"Ha, no. I think I'll pass on that." He stood, gathering up Lukas' plate and mug as well as his own. "Sounds like the opposite of survival."
"No one ever accused me of being smart." He stood as well, smoothly, head cocked to the side.
He chuckled as he grabbed his bag as well, balancing the dishes in one hand to sling it over his shoulder. "I dunno, you seem pretty smart to me."
"Kind of you to say so." He watched Tucker another moment, then shifted to fish out his phone and check the time. "Call if you have problems."
"Will do." He set the dishes on the little bit of counter designated for it and glanced back. "And I know you said not to say it, but still, thanks." It might have been a business deal, but Lukas could have refused.
He rumbled a little, amused despite himself. "Did I do you a favor?"
Tucker shrugged, smiling back. "You didn't know know me, still don't, really. You could have said no."
"Well, you can just owe me one." He took a step back as he said it, head tipped to the side.
He made a face, still smiling, and lifted a hand to wave him out the door.
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