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Michael Asmund

"Don't suppose you could spare some change?"

0 · 564 views · located in Tartarus

a character in “White Asphodel”, as played by Aethyia

Description

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xxImageImageImagexxxxxxMichaelAsmund
xxxxxxxxx◙◙◙◙* Male xxxxx◙◙◙◙*xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 6'6" xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 240 lbs. xxxxx◙◙◙◙* Archangel

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AASPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAINT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAWPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌


--Image- DIVINITY angelic capacities and powers; diminished
KINESIS elemental manipulation; favors light
ENHANCEMENT increases to physical capacity; diminished
PHOTOSYNTHESIS heals and regains energy in sunlight



Image When you’ve made it / won’t ya tell me what to do
- - - - - - - 'Cause I’m playin' it all wrong .


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The scruffy man with bowed shoulders and a hunched posture looks like a bear, but his demeanor is more like an old hound than anything. One who's seen a fair bit more than his share of the worst the world has to offer, at that. And like any dog kicked often enough, Mick (as he calls himself these days), suffers from a fundamental contradiction.

On the one hand, some part of him still looks really hard for the good in the world, still has a tendency to pick up pack, as it were. To settle himself amidst the starved homeless of the city's grimiest areas, and do what he can to assuage the burden of living in such conditions. To his fellow homeless, he might even qualify as a light: a candle rather than the sun, to be sure, but something a little bit warm and a little bit reassuring nevertheless. He always seems to have a little bit to share, just half a sandwich or a nip of something warm on a cold night. He's no miracle worker, though, not anymore, and remains fundamentally powerless against the conditions that create such suffering.

On the other, a dog long enough stray and kicked learns to keep outsiders at a distance, to growl and snap when they draw too close. Painfully slow to trust, cynical, and so tired he sometimes wonders how he's still alive. He doesn't tend to socialize much, and spends a lot of time inside his own head. He's slowly losing what little sense of humor he has left, and is deeply convinced that trying to do much beyond surviving is useless.

There's a lingering sense of melancholy about him, a perceptible thing that serves to keep everyone a certain distance away even if he's not outright hostile. Even streaked in dirt, even layered in castoff, threadbeare clothes and with his hair permanently disheveled, there's something untouchable about him, something that retains the faintest hint of his divinity and cloaks him in the kind of sorrow that other people cannot touch. It's so much a part of him that he hardly notices anymore.

One upon a time, Mick was a military commander, and the most physically powerful member of the Heavenly host, but it would be impossible to guess that interacting with him now. There's a certain physicality about him, a way of being that occupies space even beyond his bodily dimensions. He tends to draw attention without seeking it, something he does his best to diminish. His body language is more communicative than his face or words most of the time, and he still has a certain way of moving that evokes deadliness and strength. Small, subtle reminders of things long gone.

Perhaps some part of him is still more wolf than stray dog, but it's buried deep, and hard to rouse.


Image 'Cause you know that you gotta / get out of the middle
- - - - - - - And rise to the top now.


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It's a long way down from the top of the world.

The thing is, Michael's descent from the Left Hand of God to Mick the local bum wasn't really a fall, as such, but the result wound up just the same as if it had been. He's barely even a shadow of his former self, and has lost anyone and anything he ever held dear, now left to languish for the rest of time in a Hell of his own making, quite literally.

It all started with Samael.

Back in the day, Michael ad Samael were actually close friends. Brothers, of a certain kind, and not just because they happened to both be angels of the LORD. Michael had a legitimate, personal respect for Samael, and though he was the general of the Firmament's army, he often sought out the other angel for strategic discussion and plain old companionship. Something about their personalities just meshed, in a way he didn't have to think about because it was simple. Easy, even. They were also both quite close with Azrael, and Raphael.

Of course, there was also Sariel, who Sam was so obviously head-over-heels for that the others often teased him about it. It wasn't exactly permitted, but the three of them kept Sam's secret for him, thinking that it was ultimately harmless. Besides, the Father of them all knew everything, and hadn't done anything to stop it, so how bad could it possibly be? Pretty bad, as it turns out. It resulted in a horrible misunderstanding, some deception, and an incident in which Michael was left with a choice: cast Samael down with his own hands, or kill him. He couldn't bear to kill him, so he threw him out of Heaven instead. He doesn't know how he knows, but he is quite certain that is the day that set him down his eventual path.

That path led to the war for the mortal plane. It was a war Lucifer was never supposed to win, and yet he seemed to be. Michael and his angels did everything they could to protect the earth, but another, growing faction was pushing for the army to just grab all the 'chosen' humans and retreat to Heaven, sealing it off beyond the intervention of anyone but God. Eventually this became the majority opinion, and Michael was faced with another possible choice. He chose to defy his orders, and Azrael and Raphael went with him. Brothers, till the end.

What happened after that resulted in Raphael's death, and the stripping of most of Michael and Azrael's power, and the isolation of the remains of earth from Heaven and Hell. Unfortunately, there were plenty of demons still about, and before long, they had rigged everything in their own power. Michael and Azrael, weakened, were powerless to stop it. Azrael eventually seemed to resign himself to this fate, living as a human and eventually even having children. The damage to his power had rendered him mortal, though, and soon he, too, had died. Michael, now calling himself Mick, was entirely alone in a world ruled by demons, having lost everything he ever loved.

Unsurprisingly, it's a complete crapshoot.


Image Oh why can’t you let go / like a bird in the snow
- - - - - - - This is no place to build your home.


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Luna
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
Well, shit.

He needs to get his mind out of the gutter, is how he needs to handle this one. He's literally older than dirt, and Luna's barely an adult. End of story. He likes her, as a person, because of course he would. The occasional intrusive thought that suggests more than that? He'll keep stamping those out until they're completely dead. Her old man once asked him to look after them, and on that better late than never, but that's it.

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Samael
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
I wonder...

Mick isn't sure what to make of Samael's apparent involvement in the Nishants' lives. His first instinct is to be highly suspicious of it—Sam's near on a demon now, and there's no coming back from that. Except… except he's met Abaddon now, too, and maybe there is something like coming back from it. If there's any chance that's what's happening with Sam… but even that isn't worth playing with the lives of Az's kids.

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Soleil
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
Not sure what to do about this one.

Soleil surely now knows he's not what he seems. He'd never intended to break his cover in front of either her or Luna, but he supposes it's too late for that now. He did exactly what Azrael asked him to, all those years ago, even if it's not enough to make up for all his preceding failures. If she distrusts him for it, well, she probably should. It might help balance out the fact that her sister seems to trust him too much.

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Coding by Aethiya, inspired by maccotango's guide to the same.


So begins...

Michael Asmund's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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12 Asmodeus
Shelter #301 - Afternoon - Haze
Lunaria Nishant


The lower slums of the city weren't exactly any better than where Luna lived. The buildings were all structurally unsafe, and any one of the beams could give way at any moment. The result would be multiple people crushed, and possibly killed if they were human. Most of Tartarus's homeless people were human, but there were a handful of cambions as well. It wasn't like the media would care, though. Why would they? These people were nobodies, and that meant that no one cared.

“Hey, Lu, you doin' alright over there?" Kasey called out as Luna turned in her direction. At least some people cared about these nobodies. Luna would be damned if she didn't help out where she could. She knew how these people felt, not having a home or a place to hide for shelter of the elements. It was depressing, however; she shook her head.

“I'm fine, Kase. Just getting lost in my thoughts," she replied as Kasey huffed slightly. She pushed the red fringe in front of her face, away, and continued stirring the pot. They would occasionally take turns cooking, but it came down to whoever could find the most ingredients for the week.

“Luna, do you think you can help find a few hands to help move this beam out of the way? I'm gonna need at least three more guys," Kato called out, sighing softly as he pointed to a fallen beam. His brows were furrowed, and he tucked back a black strand of hair that had become loose from his tie. The beam was in the way of a door, though, and if it could be cleared, they'd have more space to put things out. It'd even give someone a nice place to sleep if they couldn't find other places.

“Sure thing, Kato!" Luna replied as she glanced in Kasey's direction. “I'm going to go see if any of the guys can help Kato with the beam. I'll be right back," she stated, dusting off her hands. She smoothed out her torn black shirt, and glanced in the direction of the people they were helping. Some of them always lended an extra hand when they needed help, maybe a few of them would like to help out, now?

“Hey, guys," she called out, waving towards a small group. “Do any of you think you can help Kato and Ravi with the beam?"

A few of them looked at the beam in question; one of them winced outright. “I dunno 'f it's gonna budge," he said. He was an older man, grey and grizzled, wearing a misshapen hat. She knew his name to be Carlos. “Terry, you seen Mick around today? Maybe he could help."

Terry blinked pale blue eyes, tugging at his dense, wiry brown beard. “Yeah, I bet he's 'round. Saw 'im near the bridge. Always goin' on about what a shame it is the water's dirty. If you can wait a bit, Lu, I can see about goin' to get him?"

“Sure thing, Terry, I can wait," she replied, offering him a smile. She knew who Mick was, at least how he looked. She had seen him a couple of times, burly red-head who was probably one of the tallest people she'd seen, and he wasn't even a demon, or a cambion. Of that she was fairly certain. She turned her attention back to Carlos, though, and offered a smile.

“Thanks Carlos, do you want me to see if Sofia has your jacket today? I think she was finished with repairing it so it should be a little sturdier for winter," she stated. Sofia was, perhaps, a gifted seamstress which was a little on the rare side of things. No one really had things tailored unless they could afford it, but Sofia was charitable, and did what she could for those who needed it.

Terry nodded and disappeared out the door, while Carlos hummed, smiling broadly enough that she could see the gaps in his yellowed teeth. “Would appreciate that, Lu."

By the time Luna had returned with the jacket and Carlos folded it to stow in his grimy backpack, the door had opened again, and Terry stepped through, an absolute bear of a man in his shadow. Mick was as big as she remembered, easily six and a half feet tall. He wasn't thin like a lot of the others, either, but it was hard to tell what kind of broadness he had, because he like most of them wore what seemed like three changes of clothes at once. Necessary, when you had to carry everything you owned.

He was layered in dark colors, with the occasional touch of something brighter, like a hunter green or burnt orange. His hair was an obvious shade of red, thick and shaggy to his shoulders, the fringe heavy over eyes of an uncommon amber color, almost gold. He had whiskery stubble along his tanned jawline, but nothing approaching the beards of the others, suggesting he shaved at least every now and then.

"Heard someone needed something heavy moved?" His voice was a bass suited to his dimensions, a little rough around its edges but without any of the bitten ends or elision of most of them. He talked like someone who'd been educated well, though it was hard to imagine it, looking at him now.

Luna smiled up at the man, and nodded her head. “Kato and Ravi need help moving the beam that's blocking the way," she replied, tilting her head in their direction. “Carlos said that you might be able to help?" it was more of a statement than a question, but she was still asking him. She was giving him that option to help if he wanted to; if it was too much for him, he wasn't obligated to say yes. She pursed her lips together, though, trying to think of a way to word it better. She couldn't just say if you can't, it's fine. She didn't want to sound like she was guilt tripping him, which she wasn't.

It really would be fine if he couldn't help. How did you say that, though, without sounding condescending?

“If you can help, that would be great, but don't... think of it as something you have to do. I'm not forcing you or anything like that."

Because that sounds so much better, Lu. She inwardly rolled her eyes at her self.

He snorted, an inelegant gust of air. "I'd be interested to see you try to force me to do anything," he said, arching a wry brow and looking pointedly down at her from his lofty height. A couple of the others laughed.

“Don't underestimate our Lu, now, Mick. She's spunky." Carlos tipped her a cheeky wink.

The man named Mick shook his head faintly, but there didn't seem to be anything mean-spirited in it. "You just want it out of here, or set back in the ceiling?"

Carlos wasn't entirely wrong, though. Luna and her sister were always stronger than most people, but she had stopped questioning that a long time ago. She could have helped Kato and Ravi move that beam, but she'd promised Sol that she wasn't going to do anything unneccesary that would expose that. Instead, she focused on Mick's question.

“Well, I don't know if all of you would be able to set it back, but..." she trailed off, glancing in Ravi and Kato's direction. It would give the building a more stable foundation. “You guys can try to set it back, but if it starts getting too dangerous, I want you to stop, alright? I don't need you all getting hurt."

“Are you questioning my manliness, Lu?" Ravi called out from behind her, his lips twisting into an amused smile. Ravi had what Luna liked to call a pretty boy complexion. His skin was near flawless, darker than Mick's, with shoulder length jet black hair. The only thing that stood out more was his eyes. They were a deep blue color.

“Wait, you've been a man all this time?" Kato joked, causing Luna to chuckle and shake her head. Ravi just sighed dramatically and pursed his lips together.

"Don't worry about it," Mick said, shaking his head at the two. "I'm not this big for no reason." He shrugged a little and made his way over to the beam. Bending at the knees into a squat, he fitted both hands—heavily-callused, she could see, even if most of them were covered by fingerless gloves—under the beam, and slowly rose back to his feet. The metal creaked in protest as he shifted it, but a look at his face revealed little strain.

Kato moved to clear some of the debris from the fall out of the area, making it possible for Mick to tilt the beam back into place where it had fallen down, walking his hands further down the thing to get it close to vertical. Once it was set up against the wall, he and Kato took hold of either side and hefted it carefully into place while Ravi scrambled to get the ladder so he could make sure it braced back in the right spot, and weld it in.

“It's always fun t' watch Mick do stuff," Terry said, chuckling to himself.

“Always seems to be right where ya need him, right?" Carlos added.

Luna could understand why they thought it was fun to watch Mick. The man was doing most of the lifting, it seemed, and barely showing any sort of strain. She wondered if he did some kind of construction back in the day. He had to be at least in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. She was bad when it came to telling people's ages, mostly because some people didn't age quite the same way. Shoving the thought away, Ravi chuckled at something Kato said, and by the time they were finished, it looked like the beam was fixed into its proper spot.

“You know, I have a cousin who works in construction," Kato started, grinning in Mick's direction. “He's always looking for people to help out. If you want, I could put in a good word for you."

Kato seemed genuine in his offer, which Luna knew was true. “I think what he meant to say was, thank you, Mick," Luna spoke, shaking her head in Kato's direction.

“You know him, though, Lu. He's always trying to scout people," Ravi chuckled.

Mick smiled a little. Not enough to show teeth, and it was a little wry, but he nodded anyway. "Wouldn't say no to some honest work," he said gruffly, and a couple of the others nodded. They knew what he meant—honest work was pretty much anything that didn't involve selling a soul or working directly for a demon. Considering just how much of things they were in charge of, it was hard to come by, and employees willing to trade in their souls were usually given priority.

It meant that people like these, the ones unwilling to make that sacrifice for whatever reason, were dwindling in number. And usually, well, homeless or pretty close.

Dusting off his hands, Mick settled his eyes on Luna. "Anything else need to be done around here? I'm not bad at odd jobs."

Luna smiled a little at that. “There's always things to be done," she started, frowning a bit. “I just... don't know if we'd be able to pay you for it." She would feel bad if he did work and wasn't paid for it. She didn't get much for an allowance, but maybe she could give it to him the next time she saw him? That was a huge maybe. It felt like their paths crossed only a couple of times; Luna would have remembered someone as large and burly as Mick.

“Oh, maybe I can see if Sol will let me cook you a dinner as payment," she suggested, earning a light snicker from Ravi.

“You make it sound like you're asking him out, Lu. Careful how you word things," he stated, earning a flat look from her.

“Don't be jealous, Rav, that I'm not asking you," she retorted.

“Oh, burn, Rav. Burn," Kato stated as he pat Ravi's back.

Mick didn't seem inclined to misinterpret though, the expression on his face remaining much the same as he slid his hands into the pockets of his large brown overcoat. "No need," he said, shaking his head. "I've eaten here enough times that I'm pretty sure you have made me dinner. Feels good to help out, all that considered."

Luna pursed her lips together, but nodded. She didn't think it was quite the same, but she wasn't going to push the issue. He was right about one thing, though. It did feel good to help out, but maybe she was just being selfish about it.

“If that's the case," she began, glancing back up in Mick's direction, “would you mind helping us move a few of the flat stones over?" They weren't particularly heavy, but they would provide some comfort as a makeshift bed. Kato had been kind enough to bring them from his cousin's construction site since they weren't needed. Even if stone wasn't particularly comfortable, they could lay down some blankets to soften it for the others, especially the older homeless people who needed softer places to lay.

"I can do that," he said simply. "Just show me where you want them."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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#, as written by Aethyia


10 Be'elza
West Street Office Park - Late Afternoon - Drizzle
Michael Asmund


Mick sat back on the bench, one leg crossed over the other, arms splayed over the backrest, face turned up towards the sky. It was raining, but only barely, tiny spots of drizzle occasionally flicking the parts of his face not insulated by scruff.

Have you heard what the humans call it when it rains lightly like this? Angel tears. Isn't that quaint?

He snorted softly, cracking his eyes open and studying the grey slate overhead. His back itched; he shifted it slightly against the back of the bench, figuring he probably looked like a bear in the woods. But that was all right. No one bothered him, that way. The people he cared to help knew he would if they asked, insofar as he was able, and everyone else left him the Hell alone. That was about as good as life was going to get from here on out, and he was okay with that.

At least nobody depended on him this way.

He felt the corners of his mouth pull down as a new presence entered his awareness. A very memorable one, but not anything he wanted to remember. A nephilim was like... a flame held to the fingers. Or a fragment of the song of the spheres, when you knew you'd forgotten the whole song. She in particular was... well, it was a light strain of the melody, to be sure, in the major key, and the fire wasn't really the burning kind. That didn't make it any better.

He closed his eyes again. Maybe she'd just pass him by without saying anything. That would be nice.

“I really wish Mrs. Bailey would have at least made the address a little more legible," she muttered lowly as she did, indeed, begin to pass him. There was a slight ruffling sound as if she were moving a piece of paper around, however; her footsteps came to a stop.

“Mick?" she sounded almost unsure if it was him or not until the raindrops were no longer falling on his face. “It's going to start raining more; you shouldn't be outside like this unless you wanted to catch a cold or something," she stated, seemingly recognizing him.

When he opened his eyes, there was a dotted black and white umbrella blocking the sky. He suppressed the urge to sigh, shifting his eyes slightly over to look her in the face. "Looking for someplace?" he asked, making no comment on her remark about the weather. He was out in the rain plenty, considering he didn't have any permanent place to live. He had a shelter inside that derelict office building, but more often than not someone else was in it, because everyone knew that Mick's stuff was free for other people to use as long as you were polite about it.

Plus he couldn't get sick.

Her brows knit together, but she nodded her head. “I'm looking for the West Street office building. Do you happen to know where it is?" she asked, leaning back a bit. “I'm supposed to let the occupants know that there will be a formal inspection in Belphegora. There was also a concern that it might need some work just in case something isn't safe for those currently using it," she added, smiling just a bit.

"Well, this is the West Street Office Park, so you're heading the right way." Mick straightened a little, sitting up properly and regarding her a little more keenly. Honestly the place hardly deserved the name 'park,' being more of a plaza with a couple stunted trees, but they were trying hard. He liked them.

More to the point, the building she wanted was currently very illegally occupied. He didn't think she was here to make trouble about it, but there were only so many reasons to be looking for a place like that. He had to be sure. "You know who the residents are, right?" It wasn't quite an accusatory question, but there was a little wariness there, beneath his unruffled demeanor.

“I'm quite aware that the people living there are doing so illegally, but the Baileys do not mind. They just want to let the people know that they shouldn't be there when the actual inspection happens so that they don't get in trouble, and that they are welcome to return once it's over. It's also my job to make sure everything is working properly so that the people here are comfortable. If something needs to be repaired, we'd like to know so it can be."

He bought that the Baileys wanted to make sure the building wouldn't collapse, but repairing things in a derelict building so the homeless inside could use them? He doubted it. She might have read that into whatever they said, but Mick had been around the block enough times to know that it wasn't going to happen. The Baileys weren't bad people, but they were pretty well-off for humans. And humans didn't get anything other than dirt-poor unless they strictly limited their generosity.

Mick considered just pointing out the right building and letting her have at it, but that was mean-spirited even for him. Pretty face and clean clothes like that wouldn't get two feet into that place without someone either trying to chase her out or take her shit. Running a hand down his face, he suppressed a sigh and stood. Sometimes he wished his body creaked, that he felt sore or physically tired, instead of just this constant state of mental exhaustion and apathy that never translated. But he was as fluid and able as ever. Well, almost.

Sometimes it made him think he'd just imagined it all, and in those moments between sleep and full wakefulness he'd have to remember all over again that it was real.

"Follow me." He stepped out from under her umbrella—it'd be pointless for her to try and use it to protect them both from the rain, even if she were inclined to such kindnesses, so he precluded the issue beforehand. "It's this one over here."

“Oh, thanks," she stated, clearly surprised that he was going to show her where it was. “I haven't seen you since the last time at the kitchen," she began, glancing up towards him as if to make small talk. She furrowed her brows as if what she was going to say next might not be quite what she was looking for.

“I'd ask if you're doing alright but... well, it might be kind of moot all things considered," she stated, a wry smile forming on her face. “I guess I should ask something along the lines of is there anything you might need, or some of the others might? I think Sol has an old coat that might fit you, but if it doesn't, it might fit someone else?"

Mick blinked, glancing at her sideways before shaking his head. "Actually it's not moot for most people," he said, shrugging his massive shoulders. "We're still people even if we don't have much of a place to live. A lot of us work, or have hobbies, or take care of pets, or all kinds of stuff like that. You don't have to keep asking us if we need things."

He understood that it wasn't ill-meant, but sometimes it rubbed him the wrong way a little. What didn't? But what all of these people needed was money, or a permanent address, and she couldn't give them that shit. Not her fault, but after a while he wondered how much anyone really saw them. He'd been wearing the same big coat he was wearing today when she saw him last, after all—why would he need another one?

He stepped inside the office building first, holding the door for her to come in after. It smelled a lot like wet dog—Jim had probably brought the strays in again. He didn't like leaving them out in bad weather. Arrayed before them was a vista of blanket tents, some of them made of little more than chicken wire and newspaper, irregular shapes and colors giving the place an air of disorder. Margie was sitting out in front of one of them near the front, using two sharpened wooden dowels to knit a scraggly ball of pink yarn. Her eyes narrowed at the woman behind Mick, but she offered him a gap-toothed smile.

"Didn't think I'd be seein' you again for a week or two, Mick. Need a mat?"

Mick shook his head. "I'm all right, Margie. Just here to escort her." He tipped his head towards Lunaria. She could explain herself—that wasn't his job.

Lunaria cleared her throat a bit awkwardly, perhaps having caught the way Margie's eyes narrowed in her direction. “I'm Lunaria Nishant," she introduced herself first, stepping to the right side of Mick. “I work for Mr. Robert and Mrs. Ida Bailey. They own this building," she continued, offering Margie a small smile.

“I'm just here to inspect it to make sure it's up to code and that nothing is in danger of falling apart. The Baileys also wanted me to let you all know that there will be a formal inspection happening in mid-Belphegora, and that you might not want to be here when it does happen. You're more than welcome to come back once the inspection is over, though. The Baileys are not trying to make you leave. They just don't want you all to get in trouble if the inspector catches you all here."

“Since you know this place better than I do, is there anything you can tell me about it? Anything that's out of the ordinary or might be in danger of falling down or apart?" she asked, keeping her gaze on Margie.

Margie blinked at her, then shifted her eyes to Mick, the expression on her face conveying her skepticism perfectly well. He nodded slightly, and she snorted.

"Girlie, the building's called derelict for a reason. It's standing, but that's about it. The elevator's broken, so a lot of us can't go upstairs. You head up that way, be careful." She shrugged and went back to her knitting.

"Anyone who lives further up does it because they want to be left alone," Mick explained. "Only thing that makes climbing loads of rickety stairs worth it, if anything does." He shrugged. "There anything you need to see to do this? Bathroom or what-have-you?"

She glanced up at him, brows slightly knitted as if she were thinking about something. “Well I have to inspect the entire building," she stated softly. “I'll have to see everything to make sure things are at least up to code. If they aren't, chances are the city will try to make this a condemned building and make it so that the Baileys have no choice but to tear it down. We don't want it to come to that."

“It shouldn't take me too long if it is up to code. I'll try to be as quick as I can so I don't disturb you any more than I have to," she continued, glancing towards the left side of her. “If that's the case with the top, though, I'd rather not disturb those who don't want to be," she pursed her lips together as if she were thinking out loud. “I can just check the general foundation and make sure that it's at least stable and that anything that needs to be fixed will at least get looked at."

The question had been asked mostly to get her to pick a starting point. In the absence of that, Mick sighed under his breath. "Well if you want to check the foundations, let's head back outside first. Margie, if you can get everyone to move their stuff far enough away from the walls that Ms. Nishant can walk the perimeter, I'd appreciate it."

She didn't look entirely pleased; that was a lot of moving. But he knew it was necessary for the structural assessment the girl wanted to make, and Margie probably sensed it. He could just tell her that the building wasn't currently in any danger of falling down, but then she'd want to know how he knew that, and it wasn't something Mick could just explain.

Heading back out, he held the door behind him again and paused for her to figure out the umbrella before beginning a counterclockwise circle around the building. It was big enough that it'd probably take a while, but Mick kept quiet. To let her do her work, but mostly because he just didn't have anything to say.

She didn't seem to mind regardless, and held her notepad closer to her to shield it from the light rain. She would occasionally mark something down on it, hum some satisfied note, before moving to another section of the building. In total, it took twenty minutes for her to assess the building, perhaps because she had wanted to be thorough.

“Nothing seems to be wrong at the moment," she murmured more to herself than to Mick. “But there is a slight crack that might become a problem if it's not dealt with properly. I can ask the Baileys to get that fixed, but..." she pursed her lips in confusion before shaking her head.

“Thanks for the escort?" she seemed unsure of the word. “I'm mostly done with this, but... I have a question for you," she started, glancing up in Mick's direction. “It's not much, and I can probably get the funds to do it myself, but... do you think they might benefit from rainwater barrels? That way they could at least collect the rainwater for themselves and use it? I know it can't be used for drinking, but they could use it as a means to clean, or even if they had a small garden to attend to, they could..." she paused and shook her head.

“Sorry," she apologized. “I'll write this report up and be out of the way, soon."

Part of him wanted to tell her to go ask them what they needed, but he did understand that to her, he was one of them. And there were certain ways in which he was. He slept rough as anybody, when he slept, had nothing but the clothes on his back and a small satchel of possessions to his name, and a few local stray animals who followed him around sometimes.

But the truth was, he wasn't in any danger of starvation, of disease or death. He didn't feel discomforts the same way. He felt them, to be sure, but not the fear they could put in people. He didn't have to live with that, and it meant, in some important sense, he didn't suffer the same way they did.

He'd listened, over the years. Really listened, to what people were worried about and wanted. And he knew because of that that her ideas weren't bad—it was just that they wouldn't work.

"Anything like that has to be installed," he pointed out. A proper rain barrel wasn't just a barrel; it was a feature of a building. And without the heavy filtering that even the most basic home plumbing system had, even bathing had a certain risk of making people sick. Not as high as ingestion, but enough that it was better to bathe at a shelter. Of course... he could and did occasionally make sure some other source of water was clean, but he couldn't make that obvious. "Especially a garden. And that's not something you can just tear out when the real inspector comes by, you know?"

Mick paused, suppressing a sigh. He shouldn't be bothering, but... "But if there was something like that at the shelter, and you let people take food away with them, some of that would eventually reach the people who don't come for meals. And the ones who take it wouldn't feel as guilty if they could contribute to the garden. Assuming you can find decent seeds and soil for less than an arm and a leg." That alone was doubtful.

Her eyes widened a bit at the suggestion with a bit of warmth to them. “I can see what I can do about getting something like that set up. I can save what little I can, and maybe I can have Sol build me a decent garden box," she stated, turning over the notepad and writing something down. “She can probably make one that's a little more self-sufficient if I can find her the right parts. Oh, there's a junkyard not too far from here that if I'm careful, I can..." she seemed to be talking mostly to herself at this point, writing a few more things down before turning back to Mick with a smile on her face.

“Thanks, Mick," she stated, “I'd... uh, I'd give you a hug as thanks for the suggestions but I'm not sure you'd want me to, so," she continued, holding out her hand in a clenched manner. “Sol says fist bumps are easier to do."

This girl could not read a room for the life of her, could she? He knew that everything he'd done thus far carried the weight of somewhat-disgruntled reluctance, because that was pretty much how he felt about it. Or, well, he felt a little more than that, but he was still polite enough not to be outright rude. But here she was, acting like this had been the friendly guided tour. Was she just oblivious or what? How on earth had she survived this long if she was?

It came to mind to refuse her gesture, and he did leave his hands in his pockets for several beats too long, staring with faint incredulity at her extended fist.

They're perfect, don't you think? I never imagined this, but—maybe in some way it was all worth it, after all.

With a heavy sigh, he pulled one hand out of his pocket and knocked a heavy, callused fist gently against hers.

She smiled nonetheless, and pulled her fist away, seemingly satisfied with the gesture. “I'll see about getting that garden started at the shelter, and with any luck, we can have a decent one by Leviathanus. Hopefully sooner than that, but I'm not going to push my luck," she stated, shifting so that she was holding the umbrella properly.

“I'll see you around the shelter, Mick. Thanks again for the help," she stated, shifting the notepad back under her arm.

"Sure, kid. Whatever you say."

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3 Abaddonus
The Pits - Late Night - Chilly
Michael Asmund


The cold nipped at the exposed skin of his face and fingers; really the only parts of him that were exposed, anymore. He vaguely remembered things like true summer, and even before that memories that were more like dreams, of a time before anyone had thought up anything like clothes at all. He didn't really feel one way or another about that, however much Raph had liked to joke that it was too bad wearing them had caught on.

How do they deal with the chafing? he'd ribbed, pretending to tug uncomfortably at his pant leg.

I for one am glad they were invented, Az had replied. Means seeing less of you.

And then they'd laughed in that way only brothers quite could, at once mocking and affectionate, and finished belting their armor into place.

Mick took another swig of the bottle situated next to him, exhaling long and hard and leaning back against the tree behind him. He could vaguely feel bark poking at his back through his layers, but it wasn't a discomfort. The stuff in the bottle was the cheapest they sold at the grocer, and it didn't really do much for him, except put the faintest of warm feelings in his belly and blur the edge of the memories just a tiny bit.

Well, not even that. Maybe all it really did was make it easier to accept the barrage of them as something that was just going to happen to him, on nights like this one.

Running a hand back through his hair, he registered something crawling in it and pulled it away, lifting it in front of him to find a small spider crawling over his knuckles, back towards his gloves. "Sorry, girlie," he said with a little snort. "I'm a bit too mobile to make a good spot for a nest. Try up the tree." He set her down at the roots, and sure enough, she began to climb. He felt a little twinge in his chest, and took another drink.

There was a rustling sound from his right, and it wasn't long before someone entered his line of vision. It was someone he knew vaguely, a young person by the name of Ribs. Called that mostly because they were nothing but skin and bones at one time, however; they had seemed to manage over the months, putting on more weight. They approached Mick cautiously, matted dark brown hair stuck to their face with smears of grease across their cheekbones. Wary grey eyes locked on Mick for a moment, before Ribs approached, shaking a little.

“Mick. Hey, Mick, is that you?" they called out softly, rubbing their hands together as if to find some comfort or warmth. Given that Ribs was only wearing a thin jacket over a torn shirt and dark baggy jeans, they probably weren't getting much as far as warmth went. It was also a known fact that Ribs couldn't see too well. There was something wrong with their eyes, but without a proper doctor, it would be hard to tell what it was, exactly.

"Yeah, Ribs, it's me." Mick kept his voice soft so as not to startle them. Ribs was one of those who'd grown up out here, instead of being pushed out at some later point in life. It had made them hardy, in a certain sort of raw, gritty sense, but they could also be a little skittish around other people. It was hard to trust people—he understood that very well. Still, he knew he'd at least made some inroads with them, enough apparently that they were approaching him for help now.

"What do you need?" They wouldn't be asking for help if it wasn't important though. He knew that much.

Their posture relaxed a bit when Mick responded, and they nodded their head in Mick's direction. “There's... there's something in the waterway. It's blocking the good pipe, but it looks... strange. Mangled, and a bit torn up. I don't know, but it's blocking the way. I can't pull it out 'cause it's stuck on something. You're the only one I found that can help," they replied as they took a step in Mick's direction.

“Can you help me unplug it?"

Mick clicked his tongue against his teeth. That could be anything from a bag of trash to a dead dog or something. Hefting himself to his feet, he shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and nodded, speaking so that Ribs wouldn't have to rely on their eyes for the cue. "Sure, I'll take a look. Lead on."

They smiled and nodded their head, waving a hand in Mick's direction so he could follow them. “It's not too far from here, just around the block," they stated, leading Mick down one of the old alleyways. Ribs never really took the main roads or sidewalks, mostly so they could stay hidden and away from other people. They knew different ways around the city that involved little to no interaction with anyone, and it was one of these pathways that they took Mick on.

“I'm surprised no one else has tried to clear it. It's the only good source," they spoke once they reached what used to be an old pond. Now it was used as a dumping ground. Trash bags littered the area, and there was a stench that resembled something that had stayed in the sun too long that had died. Ribs, however, moved towards where the open pipe was. It was large enough that someone could crawl through it if they had to, but just as Ribs said, there was something caught just in the corner of it.

It looked almost like it was dangling halfway out of the pipe itself, and Ribs turned towards Mick and nodded their head towards it. “See. Mangled, torn, something."

"Stay here; I'll have a look." Truthfully, Mick was pretty sure he already knew what they were dealing with, and he was glad Ribs couldn't see very well. Even with as much shit as they'd surely seen in their short life, there were just some things no one should have to deal with.

He could smell it, actually. The stench of death. For a human like Ribs it was probably masked by the stink of the garbage and so on, but Mick had a nose like the old hound he was, and he could separate the kinds of rot from each other. He frowned. Unless he did something, the 'good' source wasn't going to be useable much longer.

Sure enough, as he got closer, his eyes pierced the dark, and he could make out a mat of dark hair, fallen forward over a scruffy face. The corpse was pale, bloated and saturated. He looked like he'd been stuffed in the water pipe; as Mick approached he could see the torn pieces of a trash bag nearby. So they'd cut him up, stuffed him in, and tried to push him through the pipe, only for the flow of water to push him back out... and maybe the bag had caught on something and torn.

Alby, Mick's memory supplied. Jax Alby. Occasional shelter volunteer, at the one on Second Street.

And then his stomach dropped out from under him.

The guy's soul had been ripped out. It was something Mick could feel, the way he could feel when the weather was about to change or feel the bark of a tree at his back. An awareness that required no effort, and could not be shut off. The soul once tethered to this body had been torn from it before physical death.

"Motherfucking hellspawn."

“Mick. Mick, everything alright over there? Did you find out what it was?" Ribs called out as they took a step in Mick's direction. “It's so dark. What'd you find?"

Ah, shit. And now he had to figure out what to do with the poor bastard, or Ribs was likely to have an anxiety attack. "Don't worry, I've got it. Just need a second," he said, frowning down. Alby was in pieces, still half-stuffed into a torn trash bag. Mick was pretty sure he knew where the guy lived, or could find out, but how was he supposed to hand him to his mother in a garbage bag? The indignity of it, the way he'd been tossed out like garbage once some sick fuck had robbed him of his soul

But no. That wasn't how it worked. In order to take a soul, a demon had to have permission. They could bribe and extort for that permission, short of threatening a life, but Alby had to have agreed at some point. If Mick had to guess... he'd probably tried to renege. Got scared and run. And this was what he got. Fucking demons.

If only he'd—

Sighing quietly, Mick resigned himself to what he needed to do now. Stripping off his gloves so they wouldn't get ruined by the blood and offal, he eased the bag away from the metal protrusion where it was caught. No point calling the cops. They'd do nothing, and they'd get up in Ribs's space to do it, possibly depriving them of water for days. Ribs wasn't one of those who felt comfortable going to shelters for that kind of thing. Assuming they ever even made it out here. A dead body in The Pits wasn't even a blip on the radar, especially if this was a punitive murder.

Once he had the edges of the bag, Mick carefully fit the escaped parts back into it, face set and stony as he picked the head and torso up by the hair. Lacking arms, it was about the most respectful way he could do it. Once he was sure he had everything, he tied the mangled ends of the bag together. He'd... figure something out. Scrap wood for a box, at least.

At least.

This was what he could do for people now. Boxes instead of garbage bags.

For a moment, Mick paused, staring down at the black bag in his hand, the earthly remains of a human being inside. A bitter feeling welled in his chest. Bitterness for sealed gates, for dead brothers. For being the only one left. For being alone.

More than anything, for his own failure.

Expelling a breath, he looked up at the sky, only to be hit in the cheek by something cold and sharp for a moment, before it faded to lukewarm damp. Snow. First of the year. In the month they used to call October.

“Didja get it?" Ribs asked, moving closer towards Mick and glanced at the bag in his hands. “Thanks a lot, Mick. That'll keep the good source, good. Smells like death, though," they stated, wrinkling their nose as if to emphasize the point. They rubbed their nose with their hand, though, and gave a toothy grin towards Mick.

“If I find anything good, I'll make sure to bring it straight to you. Oh," they stated, rummaging through one of their pockets, and pulled out a small bag. “It's honey. Good for lots of things. It'd be good for you to have it, too," Ribs stated, holding it in Mick's direction.

It was Mick's first instinct to refuse, but the offer actually provided an opportunity. "I'll trade you, fair and square," he said, setting Alby down carefully and shrugging out of his large overcoat. It wasn't shelter, but it was big, and warm, and if winter was this early this year, Ribs would need it soon. Mick didn't.

He accepted the honey, handing over the coat in exchange. Crouching to retrieve the bag with Alby in it, he touched the stagnant surface of the water with his fingertips and murmured a soft word, feeling a wave of fatigue wash over him, slackening his limbs uncomfortably for a moment before he fought it back. He picked his burden back up carefully and straightened.

"You take care of yourself, Ribs," he said softly. "And come find me if anything else plugs up your source, okay?"

“Thanks, Mick! This'll surely be a warm winter," Ribs replied, donning the coat and offering Mick a thumbs up with both hands.

"Sure hope so," Mick replied, keeping his tone nonchalant. It was really a good thing the kid couldn't see his expression, though, because he had no idea what kind of face he was making. He expected it didn't match his words.

His grip tightened on the bag, and he took his leave.

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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20 Abaddonus
Shelter #309 - Afternoon - Sunny
Lunaria Nishant


Luna sighed softly, glancing at the wooden boards that lay off to the side. It wasn't easy coming up with the money to buy them, nor was it easy coming up with the money to buy the soil and seeds, but damn it if she hadn't been persistent. With Soleil's new job, Luna had been able to save a little more of her own check. It wasn't a lot, but it had been enough with some help with Ravi and Kato donating what they could. Kasey wasn't able to do much at all since her child came down with a fever. Without access to a proper doctor, her child required what little money Kasey made and her time.

It was partially the reason why Luna was currently at the shelter alone. Kato had something to do with his cousin's construction company, and Ravi had to pull extra hours at his job. Hours he wasn't going to be paid for. There weren't a lot of people around, maybe four at most, and part of Luna wondered if it was because something had happened to them. It wasn't unusual for someone to disappear, especially if that person was homeless. It made her insides feel like they were tied in knots. Sighing softly, she pushed the thoughts out of her mind and made her way towards the boards. She'd borrowed one of Soleil's hammers and a few of her other tools with the promise that she would be very careful with them.

Luna had worked with them a couple of times to know how to handle them, and it wasn't like she'd borrowed any of Soleil's advanced stuff. Luna knew she couldn't handle that stuff, and she really didn't want to bring out the more expensive kind. As much as she wanted to believe that people were decent and good, the area she was in wouldn't provide that comfort. Still... she needed to build these planter boxes. Pushing a sigh through her nose, she made her way towards the pile.

“Alright, Luna, you can do this. It's just a large square, right? How hard can that be?" she stated to herself.

Turns out it was a little more difficult than she'd thought it was going to be.

She was in the middle of trying to figure out where she went wrong nailing two boards together at the corners when a throat cleared behind her. "Far be it from me to assume, but... need a hand?"

The rolling bass could only belong to one person she knew, and indeed Mick was behind her, bereft of his usual long, heavy coat. In its place he wore a thinner jacket of wool or something similar that fell a little short of his knees, over a thick oatmeal-colored sweater and a reddish scarf. "I'm all for letting people do things themselves, but... you might ruin the lumber if you try too many ways is all."

She blinked slowly in his direction. “No, no," she began, lifting the hammer in his direction, “please help. I'm not the builder in the family and I have no idea what the Hell I'm actually doing. I don't want to ruin the lumber if that's all I'm going to do. I tried looking up a schematic for something like this that was simple, but I couldn't find anything."

Luna wasn't skilled in building things like Soleil was. She tried, but in the end she left it to Soleil. She also didn't want to ruin the wood since it wasn't guaranteed that she'd be able to afford more. She wanted to get this planter box finished as quickly as possible so that they could start planting the seeds before next Mammona.

Mick nodded, accepting this readily enough, it seemed. "Trying to make planter boxes?" He moved to the wood pile, withdrawing his hands from his pockets and beginning to sort the timbers into three piles, by length it seemed. "How many do you want?"

“Trying is the keyword there," she replied, frowning slightly before nodding her head. “I don't think we have quite enough to make three," she began. Three would have been ideal. She had at least four different vegetable seeds: carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and tomatoes. She wasn't entirely sure how they would all fare together, but she knew it could be feasible.

“How many do you think we can get? I don't have a saw or anything, but we could probably figure out a way to cut the boards, and then sand down the edges so that they'll work," she stated. She only had two sheets of sandpaper, though, so it would have to be precise. Otherwise they'd just waste the wood.

Mick finished sorting and rose back to his full height, considering the piles in front of him. "It's not number that's the problem so much as area," he said. "We could make five with this; they'd just be small. So how big did you want each to be? What are you planting? That'll tell us how deep they need to be, too—some stuff needs a lot more room."

“Well..." she began, trailing off slightly. “I only have four types of vegetable seeds right now. I have carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes. I know tomatoes are vine fruits, and they'll need some room to grow." She just wasn't so sure about the other seeds. Carrots might require some room, too, but she wasn't sure.

“I do plan on getting more seeds, though. I want there to be a variety of food for everyone to get. They might be able to do with potatoes for awhile, but the other three won't last as long. Cabbage will rot fairly quickly, and tomatoes bruise very easily." Potatoes, at least, were a little more sturdy. Carrots were another thing, though. It was a hit or miss with them.

Mick clicked his tongue against this teeth. "They're going to need more than room," he said, referring to the tomatoes. "The vines are going to need stakes or a lattice to grow up, and that means more wood." He crossed his arms over his chest, contemplating the pile. "Since you don't have a saw, I think we're going to have to limit it to two boxes. The vegetables should be mixed in each, anyway—they all take different amounts of different stuff from the soil so that's the smart way to do it in any case."

"All right. We're going to split each of these piles in half. Do you have a drill or screwdriver, or just the hammer?"

“I brought just the basics," Luna replied, glancing towards the table where the food pot was. “There's the screwdriver, the flat head, pliers, extra nails and screws, the hammer," she listed off the things she'd brought with her. “I couldn't take the drill, so I have to make do with the screwdriver and hammer."

She didn't trust herself with the drill, even if she'd be fine if she messed up. It was more a concern that she'd end up breaking it, and she really didn't want to do that. “Which ones do we need?" She honestly wasn't sure if she'd actually need all of those, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Mick considered this a moment longer. "All right, uh... pull the screwdriver, the sturdiest screws you have, the hammer and nails, and I think that'll probably do for now. A saw would have been nice, but at least the boards are pretty evenly-sized."

The two of them got to work. Mick mostly asked Luna to hold things in place for him while he worked; he shed his coat and rolled up the sleeves of his sweater to do it, pulling his hair back into a low tail with a rubber band. His hands were steady, and it seemed like he must have done this before, or something similar, because aside from a few pauses here and there to assess their progress, he didn't seem to have any difficulty working without plans or blueprints or anything like that.

A couple hours later, they had two large planter boxes, both of them solid and sturdy, as well as enough leftover wood to build something to support the growing tomatoes.

"You'll want to plant those in the back," he said. "Honestly, the weather and climate aren't idea for growing things, around here, but if you're careful about soil and sunlight you'll be able to get some of everything, at least."

He wasn't wrong; growing things without the proper conditions wasn't easy. Most of the food that was grown nowadays was done so in controlled environments. Ones that were owned by demons and controlled by the humans they employed. She smiled, though, and nodded her head.

“Thanks for the help, Mick," she stated. “And for the suggestion. I wouldn't have been able to do this without either." She wouldn't have been able to think of something like this, at least not in the way that they would have needed to help them. Now... hopefully more people could be fed, and wouldn't have to go hungry for too long. If they could mange this well, keep the produce from being destroyed, there could be a real chance that most of the malnourished people would be able to get healthy. To have enough food in their stomach that they wouldn't have to go hungry at night.

“I owe you for this, really. This will help a lot of people as long as we can maintain it."

He shifted, then shrugged, rolling his sleeves back down. "You don't owe me," he said bluntly. "I did it because I felt like it, is all." Picking up his jacket, he shook it off a few times. Oddly the scent it wafted towards her was fresh, like a summer afternoon—clean air, sunlight, something a little woodsy and something a little citrus.

Donning it, he left the buttons undone. "Anyway, guess I'll be off then."

He really was a hard one to make conversation with, wasn't he? She'd noticed it when she'd went to the building the Baileys wanted her to inspect. He'd been... a little reluctant but the fact that he still helped her not once, but twice was enough to at least earn Luna's respect. She just didn't want to let it bother her, even if he did seem a little peeved. Crabby he might have been, but Luna supposed that she and Soleil might have been the same way if they'd still lived on the streets.

“You don't have to go, you know," she stated. She wasn't entirely sure what he did or who he might spend time with, but Luna knew that most people were often solitary. They didn't like being in the company of others. “I might not be the best company, but... well, sometimes it's nice to not have to be alone."

If it wasn't for Soleil, Luna wasn't entirely sure what she would have done. She would be the first to admit that she didn't want to be alone, and she was fairly lucky she had Sol. These people, though... they didn't have anyone like Sol. They had each other, sure, but... well, Luna wasn't sure if it was the same. Mick didn't have to stay if he didn't want to. It's not like she could force him to, and she wouldn't. If he wanted to leave, that was his decision, but she just wanted him to know he didn't have to.

He gave her a look she couldn't immediately read. His face tended to always have a certain kind of... irritated look to it, and with his hair still tied back it seemed somehow more obvious than usual, the rough, sharp planes of his face even more prominent. His eyes were... hard. It wasn't an unfamiliar look, out here, but somehow he wore it differently than just about anyone else.

"It's not you," he said after a long moment, shrugging those massive shoulders again. "I'm no good at being company anymore, is all."

She wasn't entirely sure why she smiled, but she did. “I don't think that's true, but that might just be my own opinion," she stated. “It might have been awhile since you last had a chance to be good company, but no one ever really forgets. It might just take a little longer than people might want to put the effort into."

“But if you ever feel like you want company or just need another presence, I'll do what I can to be there. I'd say you know where to find me, but that's kind of obvious already." Luna couldn't explain why she felt like she wanted to be someone he could trust. Maybe it was the look in his eyes, or maybe it was something else. Luna didn't know because she knew that trusting people was hard. Soleil was the only person she trusted, but... for some reason Mick seemed like someone she could trust too.

Or maybe it was because her bleeding heart wanted to trust other people, even if she knew it wasn't a good idea.

"Yeah," he said, and there was something thoughtful in the tone, almost assessing, but it was something else, too, harder to pin down. "I guess I do."

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Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
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16 Victorianus
Shelter #309 - Evening - Cold
Soleil Nishant


Soleil frowned at the carrot under her hand. It was turning the fingers of her latex gloves orange, but that wasn't the cause of the frown. Rather... did there have to be so many people here?

She understood, of course, that it was cold and a holiday and people needed to eat. And if people were going to eat, someone needed to make the food. But none of that explained why the someone had to include her, or why she had to be basically shoulder-to-shoulder with the closest two people. It was just... really uncomfortable.

Making her best attempt to ignore it, she diced the carrot, mindful that it was going in the next batch of soup and they were already behind. So small bits for quick cooking, so the carrots didn't delay the whole thing or come out still mostly raw.

Luna was going to owe her for this.

Luna was helping set up small tables around the area. They didn't have a long table for everyone to sit at, and likely it was going to be about four people per table. She didn't seem to mind, though, occasionally fixing a chair that was crooked or setting down a paper plate. She glanced up and smiled in Soleil's direction, making her way to stand in front of her.

“You're a big help, you know that, right?" she stated, grinning slightly as she tilted her head at Soleil. “I'm actually kind of glad you're helping out. I don't think we had enough people and the extra pair of hands was much needed," she continued, glancing slightly to her right and furrowing her brows. “I see a few new faces, but..." she trailed off and shrugged her shoulders.

Soleil resisted the urge to sigh. Charity wasn't exactly her wheelhouse. It wasn't that she thought anyone here deserved their situation, just that she'd always been too busy keeping her head down and trying to keep herself and her sister alive to ever really do much for anyone else. More than that, she hated that there were this many people so close to her. It just... felt uncomfortable. Itchy.

"Yeah, whatever," she said, shaking her head and trying to keep the grumpiness to a minimum, for everyone else's sake. "What else do you need me to do? I'm done with enough carrots to last the rest of the night, probably."

Luna blinked in a thoughtful manner as she glanced around the area. “Well..." she trailed off, perhaps looking for something. “Food is prepped, the tables are mostly set," she listed a few things, seemingly talking to herself. “If you want to take a rest, you're more than welcome to. I think everything is pretty much set up already. All we have to do is wait for the food to finish cooking, and then we can pass it out to everyone."

She leaned a little closer towards Soleil, and held up a hand near her mouth as if she were trying to tell Soleil a secret. “I know how much this is bothering you. You were never one for large crowds," she stated in a sympathetic manner before folding both of her hands in front of her. “I promise I will make this up to you. Whatever you want, your favorite dish, a night to yourself in the house... I really will make this up to you."

This time, Soleil did sigh. If Luna knew how much this bothered her, she wouldn't have asked her to do it in the first place, but she wasn't going to say that.

Resigned to her fate of later playing waitress, she nodded slightly and stepped out into the main room, picking one of the last empty tables and making a beeline for it. Unfortunately she wasn't the only one who'd noticed it, and she arrived at about the same time as two people.

Ordinarily, the woman might have been more noticeable, what with the bright pink hair and all, but Soleil's demon-sense was smacking her in the face, and the source of the sensation was definitely the tall guy lurking in her shadow. Never socially adept, Soleil wasn't exactly sure what to do with this situation, and ended up blinking wordlessly at the odd pair in front of her for several beats too long, without anyone taking a seat.

"Uh." The diminutive woman was the one to break the silence, though it wasn't exactly gracefully either. "If you don't mind sharing, we can just take this side? There's only two of us; looks like the table seats five in a pinch." She smiled, a slightly-crooked expression that seemed genuine to Soleil at least.

She cleared her throat. "Sure, I guess. I just need somewhere to be until the food comes out anyway." They didn't exactly look homeless to her, but apparently the kitchen served poor people of all types, not just the ones actually living on the street. They didn't look like they were made of money, either—the repairs on their clothes were definitely done by hand.

The demon didn't seem to know what to say or do. He just took a seat next to the pink-haired woman, and glanced in Soleil's direction before glancing down at the table as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. There was a slight furrow in his brows, though, as if he'd sensed or seen something he hadn't in a while. It took him another minute before he glanced back in Soleil's direction.

“I'm Vinny," he stated, clearing his throat in an awkward manner.

For some reason, this made the woman smile, a soft thing that somehow made Soleil want to turn away, as if to give them privacy. But it wasn't like it was a particularly intimate thing—it was just a facial expression, and a benign one at that. Only somehow it made Soleil sure there was something between them, and she'd been sitting here for all of thirty seconds. Maybe because she'd never seen anything quite like it before? Smiles like that existed as descriptions in books to her, and nothing real at all.

"Soleil," she said, concealing her awkwardness by talking, or trying to, in as normal a fashion as she could. It was a little easier, now that she knew they were awkward too.

"Nice to meet you, Soleil. I'm Éva." The woman extended her hand across the table and Sol took it, holding carefully so as not to hurt her. She wasn't getting any suggestion that Éva was anything sturdier than a normal human.

"So, uh, stop me if this is rude but... what brings you guys out here?" She didn't say it, but a demon was about the last kind of person she'd expected to walk through those doors today. Next thing she knew, there'd be a whole damn angel, never mind that the non-Fallen ones were all dead or locked into some other dimension or whatever it was.

Vinny stared at Soleil for a moment, almost as if he were trying to think of an answer, but in the end, merely shrugged his shoulders. He didn't seem the type to be talkative, and perhaps wasn't unless he had to be. Still, he glanced towards Éva before turning his attention back to Soleil.

“A friend of ours mentioned that they were in need of extra hands today. It was the most logical thing to do," he finally stated as he glanced over Soleil's shoulder. His brows furrowed further, though, when Luna appeared, blinking mildly in Soleil's direction and then towards Éva and Vinny.

“Oh, uh, hi?" she stated, unsure of what was going on, it seemed. Vinny nodded his head in her direction, but didn't say anything immediately. “The food will be done in about another ten or fifteen minutes," she continued, taking a seat on the left side of Soleil. “And I hope you don't mind, but I invited someone else to sit with us," Luna said as she directed it towards Soleil.

“Oh, also, I'm Luna," she introduced herself to Éva and Vinny.

“Vincent, or Vinny. Whichever is your preference," was his reply.

Éva repeated her name as well, offering Luna a handshake also, before glancing around. "Who'd you invite? There's loads of people h—ah." She seemed to come to some kind of realization, and Soleil turned her eyes in the same direction.

If Vinny's demon-ness had hit her like a punch, whatever this guy had going on was more like being bathed in sunlight. Summer was, if rumor was to be believed, a joke now compared to what it had once been, but somehow the guy gave the impression of summer, and she knew it was the real kind, without knowing what the real kind was like.

It was sort of a weird impression to get from a bum the approximate size of a bear, with shaggy red hair and scruff stubbling his chin. She didn't doubt he could get a full-on mountain man beard going if he wanted to, but he was well short of that now. He took the seat at the end of the table, clearing his throat softly. Soleil wasn't sure if she imagined it, but she thought he threw a wary look at Vinny, too. Was that a coincidence, or...

Could he tell?

"Sorry to intrude," he said, voice rumbling lower than Soleil had known voices could go. Any louder and she might be able to feel it through her feet. "Mick. Nice to meet you all."

"Éva, Vinny, Soleil," Éva replied. "Just to cover the bases." When she stuck her hand out towards Mick, he accepted it with a vaguely-perplexed look, clearly taking care not to shake too hard. His hands were probably over double the size of Éva's.

“Soleil is my older sister, the one I told you about," Luna stated in Mick's direction, offering a short smile before turning towards the others. Vinny cleared his throat softly as well, trying not to keep eye contact with Mick for some reason.

“What brings you out here?" Vinny asked, directing Soleil's question towards Luna and herself. Luna grinned lightly as she sat back in her chair.

“I volunteer here," she stated, sighing softly. “On a regular basis, that is, or as regular as I can," she continued, clearing it up a bit, it seemed. Vinny made a vague 'oh' before returning his attention towards the table.

“What about you two? I've never seen you around here before?" Luna asked, tilting her head. “Not that you aren't welcome to be here; everyone who wants or needs something is free to do what they'd like," she said.

"We just dropped by for a visit," Éva said vaguely, lifting her shoulders in a shrug. "You don't have to feed us or anything. We're just kind of new to this part of town and wanted to know what was around, as resources went. We're okay, but we know some people who aren't, so we figured we'd check the place out for them. They're a little shy."

Mick seemed to accept this, nodding slightly. "I know some people like that," he said simply. "If it helps, I can say that the staff here are well-meant, even if some of them are a little nosy." He glanced askance at Luna as he said it, but Soleil interpreted some amount of humor in the implication.

How well did her sister know this guy, exactly?

Luna gave him a flat look, though, that suggested she wasn't amused. “I am not that nosy, alright?" she murmured, pursing her lips together and folding her hands over her chest. Vinny looked like he wanted to roll his eyes slightly, but seemed to refrain from doing so. “But... he's not entirely wrong. Mean well, but sometimes I do get a little in over my head," she added as she rolled her eyes somewhat before smiling a little.

Vinny pushed out a soft gust of air and turned towards Éva. “She gets like that, too," he stated as he laid a hand on her head before dropping it.

She stuck her tongue out at him. Soleil rolled her eyes a bit, but Mick was watching the interaction with something akin to curiosity. For just a moment, something like comprehension flashed across his face, only to be quickly replaced by something more neutral, and a little... sad? She didn't really get it, and wasn't good with feelings in the first place.

"I don't," she said bluntly, her best effort to contribute to the conversation. "No offense, because you seem like cool people, but if you never tell me anything about yourselves, I'll be okay with that."

Éva laughed, apparently genuinely delighted. "Oh but now it seems like you must be great at keeping secrets. No one would think to ask you for them!"

“Even if they did ask her for them, Sol wouldn't say anything. She's very tightlipped," Luna stated in a nonchalant fashion, grinning in Soleil's direction for some reason. “But it's not every day we see a pair like you," she continued, tilting her head slightly in their direction. “Well, not one so open with their affection for each other," she clarified. Vinny blinked slowly at her before turning towards Eva.

“We're not..." he trailed off, still keeping his gaze on Eva. He furrowed his brows softly before shaking his head. “It's not like that, I don't... think," he murmured.

“Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to assume it's just that... well," Luna stated nervously as she rubbed her forearm. “You just seem really close is all." That prompted a small quirk of Vinny's lips as he nodded his head.

“I've known her for a long time," he replied.

Éva cleared her throat, shrugging in what Soleil almost thought was a casual manner. She was fidgeting with her hands, though, and decidedly not looking in Vinny's direction. Her hair fell forward enough to kind of hide it, but her cheeks looked to be turning pink. "He, um—yeah. What he said." She chuckled again, but it was strained.

Mick, perhaps deciding to have mercy, changed the subject, though not before lifting an eyebrow at Luna as if to point out that he was right to call her a little nosy. Soleil couldn't decide if she liked him or not, but she thought with a little time, she might.

"Looks like they're getting ready to serve the food," he noted, before turning to Vinny and Éva. "I appreciate that you don't want to take what you don't absolutely need, but I'm pretty sure there's more than enough to feed everyone here, so I wouldn't feel too bad about it if I were you."

Vinny nodded his head. “It is appreciated," he simply stated as he glanced back towards Éva. Luna, however, glanced at Mick and furrowed her brows. She didn't say anything though, perhaps because the look he gave her might have been a little true.

“A bowl would be... nice."

"Then we'll get you one," Soleil said, surprised at the fact that she'd said it. It wasn't an outrageous thing to say, of course, but... it wasn't really like her, either.

Standing, she gestured to Luna. Maybe if she actually did the thing she wouldn't feel weird about it.

Or maybe she was just always doomed to feel weird around people. That seemed more likely.

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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#, as written by Aethyia


20 Victorianus
Shelter #309 - Afternoon - Snow
Michael Asmund


The snow was coming down in thick flakes this afternoon, the light of day already fleeing, ceding its position to the deep grey of a long pre-twilight. Not uncommon here, especially not in winter. And fittingly enough, the month the demons had named for their victory over heaven was very much a winter month, when sunshine and warmth were scarce.

Still, this had some small benefits. For example, Mick had been able to secure the four large bags of potting soil over his shoulders for the price of a few hours' work at a construction site. It wasn't the right time of year to plant anything, and the bags were dusty, leftovers from a landscaping project in some warmer month. But it'd last just fine until the spring, provided the shelter could find somewhere to put it.

He caught himself wondering if she'd be there. He'd not run into Luna for a good week and a half, which was not at all unusual. The last time had been... interesting. Admittedly he'd been a little wary, considering he'd run into bloody Abaddon of all people at the same time, but it seemed that he, too, was going by a different name these days. Living a different life. It was something he'd have figured for impossible, once. Now all it did was stir the old memories, of the only other person he'd known who'd really managed to adapt to the new world they were in, instead of trying to assert himself over it like the demons did or opting out of it as much as possible like Mick did.

They weren't exactly welcome recollections, but he didn't hate them. The side effect, of making him think about Luna and her sister, was less nice. But he'd live. He'd see her eventually, confirm she was all right, and... that would be that. There was no need for anything else.

He approached the shelter, opening the door only slightly awkwardly given that he was carrying over two hundred pounds of soil over his shoulders. It wasn't the weight that made it difficult, just the volume. Stepping through, he was hit with a wave of warmth, and nodded to a couple of the regulars seated at a table.

"Who's in?" he asked, elevating his volume only slightly. The nice thing about having a bass like his was that it carried. "I've got a, uh, donation, I suppose."

“Lu's in today," Louis replied, jabbing his finger in the direction she was presumably in. “Been muttering to herself all day like she lost it or something," he continued with a light shrug of his shoulders. Louis was sitting with Marianna, and she offered Mick a short smile.

“You say that as if she doesn't talk to herself often," she stated, shaking her head at Louis before turning back towards Mick. “I'm sure she'll be grateful for the donation, though. She's been in a weird mood lately. Looks mostly good, but who knows," she continued as she mimicked Louis and shrugged her shoulders. It was only a moment later that Luna arrived, though, and she blinked in Mick's direction.

“Thought I heard someone," she stated as she glanced towards the bags. She had a smear of dirt on her cheek, but her hair was pulled into a ponytail, probably to keep it out of her face with whatever she was doing.

“What can I do for you, Mick?" she asked, smiling somewhat in his direction.

He arched an eyebrow at her, a soft whuff escaping him. He'd have thought that'd be fairly obvious. "Well, uh, if you can find me somewhere to put all this down, that'd be appreciated," he said simply, his voice taking on its usual gruff edge. He didn't try to put it there, it was just... how he talked most of the time.

It didn't seem to bother her, though since she smiled and nodded her head. “Oh, yeah, sure," she stated as she motioned for him to follow her. “You can set it down in this corner over here if you don't mind," she continued as she pointed to a corner near a couple of broken tables.

“Thanks Mick, but, uh... what is it?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

He full-out snorted at that, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Soil," he explained. "For your garden boxes. You don't want to use the normal dirt around here—almost nothing will grow. This is the lab-made stuff. Simulates old-Earth dirt."

Carefully, he eased the bags off his shoulders and onto the ground, stacking them neatly so they wouldn't be too difficult to pick up for the next person that did so. She could probably handle a few no problem, but the others around here were mostly just humans, and not all of them especially strong.

He eyed the broken tables. One of them was in fact out and out busted, but another looked to just have a badly-bent metal leg, and the third seemed workable. "I can fix these?" he offered, pointing to the two in question. "They won't look pretty, but they'll work."

“Really?" she asked, arching a brow in his direction. “I mean, that would be great because they'd be usable again. They don't need to look pretty; I think everyone would appreciate just to have more places to sit. Also, that would mean more people could come if they wanted to," she stated as she moved towards the broken tables.

“Oh, but... I don't have any tools with me right now, and it might be awhile before I can get them, especially at the end of this month," she said as she pursed her lips together and furrowed her brows. “Do you think you'll need tools to fix them?"

Should he need tools? Yeah, definitely.

Did he?

Not even slightly.

Of course, this itself was a conundrum. He got by because he never made the fact that he was something other than human obvious. His supposed humanity was the foundation of these people's trust in him. And yet... it had never been what helped them. What he had to give anymore was relatively little, but even he was capable of this.

"I think I can manage without," he said, choosing not to make a big deal of it. With a little luck, they'd just believe him unusually handy and creative. "I've got a little wood glue leftover from my job today anyhow." That was true enough, at least; he tended to take the last little bits of things, what would otherwise be thrown out, from any job he worked, and in so doing had accumulated a modest stockpile of useful supplies. He'd used to carry them around in the pockets of his big coat, which due to a trick of magic were always just roomy enough to accommodate whatever the wearer thought would fit. Now he had to stash them, because the coat he had left wasn't really large enough to make that look plausible to the human eye.

"Why don't you go clear out whatever spot you want them to be at?" he suggested. He couldn't do this with an audience, after all.

She arched a brow at him and stared for a moment longer before she pursed her lips together. “Well... if you don't need the help," she began, glancing over her shoulder for a moment before turning back to face him, “I can go do that. Shouldn't take long, I don't think." She gave him a thumbs up before turning on her heel and making her way towards whatever spot she'd choose.

He rolled his eyes at the gesture, turning back to face the tables and reaching for the one with the bad leg first. That, he just bent back into shape, making sure not to get it perfectly straight because that would be unusual, and likely impossible for even a cambion to do, unless they were particularly physically gifted. Setting that one aside, he withdrew the tube of wood glue from his pocket.

There wasn't nearly enough, but abundance wasn't a particularly-difficult trick for him, not in small measures, anyway. He'd never be able to feed a crowd on a few fish and loaves, but he could at least manage enough to fix a crack in a tabletop. Once the tube was full again, there was no real need for secrecy, so he took that one a little more meticulously, applying the glue and pressing the sides of the crack together as well as he could.

It was, as he'd suggested, an ugly fix, but a fix nonetheless.

“You were not wrong," Luna stated with a mild hint of amusement in her voice. “It really is an ugly fix," she continued, huffing slightly. “Thanks for fixing it, though. There will be more places for people to sit; they'll also be able to sleep on it if they need to," she stated as she folded her arms over her chest.

“The shelter doesn't have many beds to begin with, but even if it's not exactly ideal to sleep on a table where so many people eat..." she trailed off as she scratched her cheek in a thoughtful manner. She shook her head, though, as if thinking against it.

“You've been a big help, you know that? And I'm not just saying that because you're so tall. You... well, thanks," she murmured softly, smiling a little awkwardly.

"Was that a pun?" Mick asked, almost incredulous. If so it might well be one of the worst he'd heard, but for that exact reason he huffed a soft chuckle. "You're a strange girl," he said, shaking his head with a vaguely mystified expression. "Ah, though, perhaps I should say woman. Girl's a little rude for an adult, I suppose. Pardon me."

Luna snorted and lifted her hands when she shrugged. “It's not like I'd be offended if you called me a girl. I am one after all, no matter what age the word is tied to," she replied, rolling her eyes seemingly at herself and smiling.

“Do... you mind if I ask your opinion on something?" she asked suddenly, her smile fading as she wore a somewhat serious expression.

Mick adjusted one of the tables so it was in the spot she'd left for it, then took a seat, gesturing for her to do the same across from him. "Sure," he said, wondering if this had to do with the 'weird mood' the others figured she was in. "Something eating you?"

“Kind of wish something was eating me, then I wouldn't have to feel so awkward about this," she said softly as she took a seat across from him. “There's this event thing going on at the end of the month and... well, I was hired to be a hostess for it. But the thing is..." she paused, furrowing her brows lightly as she stared at Mick.

“The reason I was hired was so that my sister wouldn't have to pay some asshole, protection fees. She works as a mechanic to a demon, or whatever he is, named Samael so she's protected from the asshole whom we pay the fees to. I'm... not, but Sam suggested that if I wanted to be in his employ, that I could work as one of the hostesses at the charity event." She grimaced slightly before leaning back a little and folded her hands in front of her.

“I just... well, there's going to be a lot of demons there, and I just thought that maybe you might have some advice or something like that. I mean, I don't know what your experience with demons has been, but..." she trailed off slightly.

Samael.

The name slammed into his thoughts with all the finesse of an eighteen-wheeler sans brakes, and for a moment, he was sure some of his shock must have registered on his face. Mick struggled to get it under control, but at the same time he knew there just... was no hiding it.

So he dragged his hands down his face, giving himself a moment of reprieve, then ran them back through his hair, blessedly free of tangles or he'd have snagged them for sure. "Uh..."

It wasn't a matter of whether he needed to explain his reaction. It was a matter of how. "Look—" He grimaced. "Do me a favor and don't mention me to the guy, but... I'm familiar with him."

Only then did he start to put together the rest of what she'd said, only it didn't make any sense. "Can you... back up and give me a little more context on... all of that? Who's asking for protection fees, and how did Samael get involved, exactly?" Maybe that would help him make sense of this.

“Alright. I won't mention you to him," she stated first before furrowing her brows deeper. “Soleil and I live in the Pits, which is part of the territory Alastor owns. He's a wanna be cambion crime lord who only gets away with the shit that he does because of his father, Crowley. Unfortunately if we want to keep Alastor off of our backs, we have to pay him protection fees."

“Of late, though, he's been a little more persistent. He wants Sol and I to be his caged pets," she made a face of disgust at the word before shaking her head, “but we turned him down. He didn't like that so he increased our protection fees. Originally, it was five hundred, two hundred and fifty each, but he increased it and put an increase for each month after. Soleil was hired by Samael to be his mechanic and... well they must have become close somehow because he pays her really well. Well enough that we could afford the protection fee increase, but... Alastor found out about it."

“He made an outrageous demand that we pay him even more money because of who Sol works for. She must have told Sam about it because the next thing I know is he's inviting us to his manor and telling us that Sol is safe from Alastor, but that he couldn't do anything for me. I don't... hate or blame him for it, really. He's been very nice to us that it's kind of hard to believe that he has an ill-intentions. And the way Sol smiles with him, and he with her, it's..." she paused and shook her head.

“Anyway, he invited us to his manor the other day to tell us of a plan that would help me if only temporarily."

"Well shit."

Mick wasn't oblivious to the organized crime element in Tartarus, of course. It was just one of those things that he had never been able to do much about, aside from chasing the occasional enforcer off when he happened to know someone being harassed. He could offer the same here, he supposed, but it was kind of a different thing when the crime lord himself was personally involved. A cambion, as she said, backed by a powerful demon father. Both of those things were rarer, and complicated the situation a great deal.

And then there was Samael.

Mick didn't know what to make of his involvement. It didn't sound like him. Or at least, didn't sound like who he'd become. If anything, it sounded like... like the way he'd used to be, before everything had gone to shit. He sighed heavily, forming one hand into a fist and resting his jaw on it. "I... don't know what to tell you, honestly," he said, choosing his words carefully and speaking slowly as a result. "There's... there's good in Samael. But last I knew of him it was buried pretty deep."

His lips pursed. "I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you to be careful around him. But... there's a chance that he's genuine in his desire to help." If so, it was something Mick hadn't imagined he'd ever see again. And, well, he wouldn't. All the more reason for them not to ever mention him—it might sour things, and he didn't want that.

"As for your larger problem..." He hesitated. He shouldn't be getting involved. It was none of his business. Sure, he'd said he'd look out for them, but that was a long time ago, and then he'd lost them. What right did he have to play knight in shining armor now? That wasn't the kind of thing he could be anymore.

Maybe he could just let her decide. "If there's anything I can do, just ask. I've scared off a few idiots in my day." He tried for a smile, knowing she'd probably decline because she figured him for a human. Fragile, and unlikely to be able to do much.

Part of that was even true.

"But the plan, uh... that's this job you were talking about?"

She nodded her head, but seemed occupied with something else. “You'd... really be willing to put yourself in that kind of danger for us?" she asked softly, almost as if she didn't quite believe him. “I appreciate it, really, but... I wouldn't want anything to happen to you because of some idiot," she said, smiling ruefully.

“I mean, you might be able to scare him off; you've got the grumpy bear look going for you, and I'm sure you could pull it off very well in the end," she rolled her eyes in a joking manner before shaking her head.

“But yes, that's what this job is that I'm talking about. It would put me in Sam's employ temporarily which would mean that Alastor could effectively shove off for a month or so, but... well, it's only a temporary fix."

Alastor. Crowley. At the very least they were names he'd heard of once or twice. Names he could begin to dig into a little bit. Mick knew people, and those people knew things. Maybe he'd be able to unearth something useful.

Tucking that thought away at the back of his mind, he focused on the more immediate part of things. "Hostessing for a charity event, you said?" He knit his brows. "Demons' idea of charity uh... really isn't. Most likely it's a pretext for all of them getting together to party, make backroom deals, that kind of thing. A couple private schools will get whatever money they claim to make for 'charity.'"

Mick shook his head. Off-topic. "Uh, anyway. Be... careful with that kind of thing. Samael might be different, but... most of them don't see humans as worth anything. Even if strictly speaking it's against the rules you might be asked to, uh..." He realized a bit belatedly that he next part wasn't necessarily comfortable to talk about. It wasn't that Mick was ignorant about how the world worked, but he got the sense that Luna had been protected from a lot of this stuff, and he wasn't exactly happy to be the one breaking the news.

"Well, sometimes 'hostess' isn't that far removed from 'prostitute,' at these things." Mick knew plenty of sex workers. They weren't, in general, any better or worse than anyone else. But it wasn't the kind of work everyone wanted to do or could handle, and he definitely didn't want her to be blindsided by such a demand.

“Kind of figured as much when Sam threw around the whole buying bit," she replied dryly and sighed heavily. She rolled her eyes a bit but offered him a smile. “I'm not four years old, you know. You don't have to be gentle with me. I know the world isn't rainbows and butterflies, or however that idiom goes," she continued before her smile stretched a little wider.

“But thanks for the headsup, Mick. It's just going to suck so much," she said with an exaggerated sigh.

She may well not be, but that didn't quite quash the instinct to be gentle. "If I'm not, I squish things," he said, trying for a bit of humor and drumming his fingertips on the table top. "And yeah, it probably will." He wished he could offer some kind of help, but if he got within a block of an event like that, someone was bound to sense him, even diminished as he was, and then all bets were off.

"I'm uh... around if you want to talk about it, though," he said, feeling a little irony in echoing an offer she'd made him once.

She chuckled at his first statement it seemed before she nodded her head. “I suppose that would be a bad thing if you just squished things all the time," she stated, clearly amused. “Thanks, Mick. The event is on the twenty ninth so... if you don't hear from me or see me a week after that, well... I suppose it was nice having what little freedom there was," she seemed to be joking in her statement, but there was something in the way her shoulders slumped that suggested a sort of defeat.

“But if all goes well, I'll tell you all about it. Who knows, something interesting and funny might happen. Alastor might somehow find himself falling down the long flight of stairs demons seem so fond of having."

Mick resisted the urge to frown; honestly he wasn't sure how successfully. If she did end up captive somewhere, he at least would know where to start looking. His word might not be worth a damn anymore, but he wouldn't just ignore it if she vanished.

He didn't say that, though, instead nodding slightly at her joke, though given her previous statement he couldn't find it funny. "Try not to draw too much attention to yourself," he drawled. "He'll get what's coming to him even if no stairs are involved."

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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3 Satanus
West Area Park - Early Afternoon - Light Snow
Lunaria Nishant


Luna wondered when this good luck streak her and her sister were on, was going to turn around and bite them in the ass. It had to be soon, right? When had life ever been so easy for them? Since when was there ever a time when they actually had food in their fridge and not have to worry if they'd have it tomorrow, or the next day, or even next week? Sometimes Luna wondered if it scared Sol as much as it scared her because this was just too much to believe.

What was Samael really after? What were his true intentions? He had to have them, right?

Sighing heavily, she pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind. She had prior plans for today, and those thoughts didn't need to ruin it. She had something she wanted to do, but first, she needed to find a certain someone. The information she collected, well traded for, said that Mick was somewhere in the nearby park. She wasn't sure why she was seeking him out, of all the people she had readily available to her. Some part of it just... maybe enjoyed his company.

The other part of it definitely thought he was the best person to ask because he always seemed to have good ideas. The garden, fixing the tables, and this was one thing she definitely wanted his advice for. Plus, she just really liked listening to him talk. She wasn't sure why, but she liked the way the bass of his voice just rumbled. It sent shivers down her spine, but not necessarily the kind that were uncomfortable.

And she could feel her cheeks burning slightly.

“Get a grip, Luna, you fucking psycho. He'd think you were crazy if you told him that," she muttered to herself, tapping her cheeks just lightly enough to feel the sting. It wasn't the cold, though, that stung. She could never explain why she wasn't bothered by it as much as most people, and it was perhaps that reason alone that she was only wearing a charcoal grey puffer vest over a thin white long sleeved turtle neck. The shirt itself had a hole near her elbow, but she didn't mind so much. She'd had it for several years, and it was one of her favorites. The same thing could be said about the jacket. It was clearly worn, but remained mostly intact.

Her pants, however, were littered with random holes and tears, all near her knees and some near her calves. Those were covered by the dark grey long boots she wore, though. Still, none of the exposed skin from the holes were bothered much even with the light snowfall.

“Alright, let's see. Levi said he was around here somewhere," she murmured to herself, pursing her lips together. Maybe he'd left already? If he did, finding him was going to be a lot harder. She could ask someone else to accompany her, but...

Fortunately, he didn't seem to be going to any particular effort to keep himself hidden or anything. She hadn't been traversing the park for long before she spotted him, sitting on some brown grass with his legs crossed. He wasn't wearing a coat, either, just a cardigan and some fingerless gloves over a normal long-sleeved shirt. Even the scarf was missing, an omission that made a lot more sense when she spotted what he was doing.

In front of him, tucked into the space underneath a couple of bushes, was a battered cardboard box, filled with newspaper scraps and the scarf, and, it seemed, a mother cat and some juvenile kittens. Mick was slowly breaking apart a stick of jerky in his hand, feeding the mother cat by hand, it seemed.

It was enough to make her smile, though, because it was just too adorable. Here he was, this grump-bear of a man, hunched over a cat and her kittens and tending to them. She moved a little slower so as to not startle the animals, keeping a respectable distance from them. Luna didn't want them to scatter away from the warmth they were no doubt enjoying.

“Hey, Mick?" she called out in a tentative manner. “You have a minute?" she asked.

He didn't startle at the sound of her voice, so maybe he'd already known she was there. He usually seemed to, somehow, like he was ever really surprised by anything. He did turn his head towards her though. When he was no longer in profile it was easier to see the tiniest of smiles curling one side of his lips. "Sure," he said simply, gesturing to the spot next to him as he continued to break apart the jerky stick. "Have a seat."

She took it obligingly, situating herself next to him to stare at the animals. “As you can see, I made it back in one piece," she began in a light tone. After all, the last conversation they had was before the hostess job, and that had been something she'd said offhandedly in a slightly joking manner. She pushed a soft sigh through her nose, though, and inched her smile a little higher.

“And I need your help with something since you said you'd be around if I needed to talk about something." Maybe she could even get something for the kittens, something a little warmer than the scarf and box they were in. If she could, she would take them home and give them a nicer place to stay, but they were probably better off here. At least Mick was tending to them, right? Pushing the thoughts from her mind, she glanced in Mick's direction.

“Do you..." she pursed her lips together, frowning a little at herself. “Do you want to go shopping with me for the shelter?" she asked once the words formed properly in her mind. She might have had more experience than Sol when it came to talking to people, but that didn't mean she wasn't just as awkward about it, sometimes.

As the mother cat took a chunk of meat from his fingers and started to chew on it, Mick turned towards Luna and blinked. The request had evidently not been what he was expecting, if he'd been expecting anything in particular. "I don't mind," he said after a moment, laying the rest of the jerky pieces down in front of the cat and crinkling the wrapper up in one hand. "Where are you going to do this, exactly?"

He didn't ask the more obvious question—where did you get the money?—perhaps because he deemed it too rude or something of the kind. He could be a very blunt person, even rough in his mannerisms sometimes, but he did seem to have a sense of manners.

Either way, Luna was used to those kinds of mannerisms. Sol could be like that sometimes, even if there were miniscule differences, but Luna figured that's just how some people were. She furrowed her brows a little deeper, though, when Mick's question caught up with her.

“I don't know," she replied, sighing softly. “I want to get things that the people will need and can use, but at the same time..." she trailed off, chewing her bottom lip for a second. If she went overboard, that could attract unwanted attention. Demons and cambions of all sorts might show up at the shelter and cause unnecessary trouble for the people there. Luna didn't want that.

But she also didn't want them to be without. “That's why I need your help," she admitted, glancing up to meet his gaze. Even when they were sitting down, she was still much shorter than him. “I don't want to get things that will draw attention to the shelter, but I also don't want anyone to go without something they need. Food, clothes, those are all priorities, but if a demon or cambion sees someone who isn't usually dressed nice... they might get the wrong idea."

She really didn't know how else to explain it.

Mick blinked. "You've really thought about this," he said, sounding pleased, of all things. Expelling a heavy breath, he unfolded his legs and stood, oddly smoothly for a man of such bulk. "I think your best bets are disposables, like food, but stuff that'll last a while, so you can store it. And also secondhand things. For clothes and all that. Cheaper to get a lot of, for one. Also perfectly functional but not likely to seem out of place." He ticked the points off on his fingers, then belatedly offered a hand down to help her to her feet.

"I know a couple places for that, if you've got the time today."

“Of course I thought about it," Luna said, not bothering to hide the smile on her face as she took his hand. It was rough and calloused, but Luna supposed it must have been from the years he spent on the streets and the odd jobs he picked up. Once she was standing, she realized a little belatedly that she hadn't released Mick's hand yet, and pulled hers gently, setting it to her side.

“I, uh, I'm off today so I have all the time," she stated, coughing lightly before rolling her eyes. Mostly at herself because she sounded like she couldn't form a proper sentence with what she just said. “I have time is what I meant to say," she grumbled.

“Why don't we start with the closest place?" she suggested.

Nodding, Mick started out of the park, pausing long enough for Luna to catch up and walk next to him instead of behind. "It's not far. Maybe a mile or two. There used to be a bus that ran this way, but..." He shrugged. The end of the sentence was obvious enough. Some demon had decided it wasn't worth the expense to have a line of transport for the area.

"You... how did you find the other night, then? You'd mentioned a job. Seems it went all right at least?" He narrowed his eyes, as if searching her for any sign it hadn't been.

Luna snorted softly. “It actually wasn't half as bad as I thought it was going to be," she admitted, rolling her eyes at one particular memory. “One demon tried to get a little fresh but..." she shrugged her shoulders. It was kind of funny when Sol intervened during that. All she did was look at the demon and they backed off. Sol could be really intimidating when she wanted to be, but Luna had a feeling it might have had something to do with a particular Fallen who had been there as well.

“It went well enough that I was actually able to get," she paused as she glanced up towards the sky, trying to remember the exact amount she'd received in tips, “at least four credits in tips. I think it was a little more than that, but I'm not really keeping count because it's not entirely mine."

That wasn't true, exactly. Sure, it was her money, but Luna didn't want to keep it all for herself. The shelter and its people meant a lot to her and she wanted to do something for them. She wasn't entirely sure why it was especially so for him. It wasn't like they'd known each other for very long, but... well, maybe they were on the cusp of actually being friends? That'd be nice.

“What about you? How are you doing? I see you're missing your trademark coat," she noted.

Mick whistled, low and soft, at the number, but made no further comment about it.

"Good to hear it went all right, then," he noted mildly, hanging a left. "As for me, yeah I guess. I traded the coat away a while back, and the cats need the scarf. I'm all right though; the cold doesn't bother me much. The coat was mostly just for the pockets, and I can do okay without it."

He didn't seem much smaller without it, either, even ambling casually down the street with a slightly-hunched posture and his hands in his pockets.

In time, they arrived at what seemed to be a large consignment store, once-cheerful blue exterior paint faded and chipped. Someone clearly took the time to wash the building, though, and when Mick opened the door for her to enter, she was met with long rows of... well, a lot of things. Clothes, dishware, toiletry items and other disposables, and so on. It had a faintly-stale smell, and one of the overhead lights was flickering with a soft buzzing noise.

Her immediate thought was that Soleil could probably fix that, however; she wasn't here for that. She was here to find things that could be used at the shelter. Mostly things that wouldn't draw too much attention, though. She furrowed her brows and chewed the bottom of her lip for a moment. If she grabbed too much at once, that would definitely be suspicious.

She might be able to afford those things, now, but it would have defeated the purpose of remaining incognito. “Well, since we're in the beginnings of Satanus," she began, glancing towards the area where the clothes were located, “maybe we should start with that? I'd rather the people be warm enough to survive the winter, first."

It was one thing to die of hunger, but they would likely die from the cold, first, if they weren't properly clothed. Food would be the next thing to get, but she wanted to choose blankets and coats, first.

“We should probably get a variety of sizes, too. Nothing to big, although..." she trailed off, glancing in Mick's direction and snorting softly. He was really tall, and she doubted there would be anything here that would fit him. Sure, he had a coat before that looked like it fit okay, but he'd said he traded it.

“I guess we'll have to find something for you, last."

He offered her a small smile at that. "Don't worry about me today," he said simply. "I can usually get what I need. Someone always needs help lifting something, or with construction or whatever. It's better to worry about the folks who are already sick or disabled or have a hard time finding temporary work."

He did nod, though, after a moment. "Stuff for warmth sounds like a good idea. I recommend things that can be layered. Lots of us end up sharing, and clothes are useful currency, too. Having a bunch of layers gives us the freedom to prioritize, and means that giving up one or two of them isn't as bad. Blankets are good for the same reason." He started back towards that section, slowing his pace enough to keep next to her.

They drew a few eyes, mostly because of him, probably, though in a way Luna might be more unusual to see in a place like this. Mick did sort of fit the surroundings, in the sense that this was very clearly a part of town in which he was comfortable.

Luna supposed she could understand that. She might have lived in the poorer parts of the Pits, but she wasn't exactly dressed like someone who was. Sure, her own clothes might not be as worn down and beat up, but she was used to the eyes, regardless. It didn't bother her as much as she knew it bothered Soleil. She was just better accustomed to it, she supposed. She shoved the thoughts away and glanced at one of the racks that held a few jackets.

“Even so, I would at least like to get you something for today. You might have said you had time today to help me with this, but you could have spent that time doing something else. Let me treat you to lunch or dessert or something," she stated, pursing her lips slightly as she pulled a jacket from the rack. He really didn't have to help her, but the more time she spent with him, the more she learned how much he actually cared. It wasn't quite the same as the way Luna might have cared about Soleil, or anything like that. It was more pure than that. She couldn't describe it any other way even if she wanted to.

He didn't owe anything to anyone, but he worked very hard to help the people in any way he could. She admired that about him, really.

"Mm. I'll think about it."

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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#, as written by Aethyia


5 Satanus
Geraldine's Diner - Early Evening - Snow
Michael Asmund


Mick doffed his hat and gloves, setting them down on the bench seat next to him. His usual table had been open, fortunately, so he'd sat with his back comfortably to the wall and the steel and neon 'jukebox' that sat between the table and the long counter. Geraldine's had a so-called retro atmosphere to it; he recognized it as hearkening back to diners from centuries ago, though by this point and through no fault of its proprietor it scarcely resembled anything of the kind. It was a newly-post-apocalypse kind of retro now, a little more steel and xenon and soot than shiny chrome and polished wood and multicolored neon.

He'd somehow let Luna talk her way into treating him to dinner for his help, so he'd picked Geraldine's as a sort of... halfway point. Luna didn't know this, but the owner always let him eat here for free, since he'd done her a favor a few years back. Her name was Hannah—Geraldine was her daughter, and Mick had found her after she'd gone missing on her way home from school one afternoon. He was glad he had, and didn't take her up on the offer of free food that often, mostly just coming by to see them and maybe accept a cup of black coffee.

The food, though, was good. Simple stuff, and a bit on the greasy spoon side, but filling and tasty. He wasn't sure if it'd be up Luna's alley, but it wasn't like he could take her out to—

Take her out? What the hell is wrong with you, old man? That's not what this is and you know it. You'd be running for the hills if it were. As you should.

He sighed, smiling at Hannah when she came to take his order. He just ordered a coffee for the moment, as he hardly wanted to get started without Luna. Even though this wasn't... that, they were meant to be sharing a meal.

He didn't have to wait much longer for Luna to arrive. She'd spotted him almost immediately after he placed his order with Hannah, and made her way towards him. She stopped for a moment to speak to Hannah, probably to place an order for her drink so that Hannah wouldn't have to go back to the table. Once she was near Mick, though, she smiled at him and slid into the seat in front of him, placing a small package down to her right side.

“Cozy little place," she stated, turning her attention briefly away from him to glance around. “What's your favorite from here?" she asked, seemingly genuinely intrigued as she returned her attention to him. “I want to try what you'd suggest since you picked the place out," she continued, a small grin forming on her face.

"It really sort of depends on what you're into," he replied, turning one of the menus over and sliding it towards her. "Anything's good, about half the stuff is calorie bombs, but that's sometimes exactly the ticket." He found himself smiling wryly. There was something about comfort food, even for him, and he didn't technically need to eat ever.

It was a good idea in the winter though. Too many dreary days with no sun and even he could get to feeling a bit lethargic. "You can't really go wrong with the breakfast menu, but today I'm planning on the chicken and dumpling soup with cornbread."

Her eyes widened a bit when he mentioned breakfast, and she opened the menu almost immediately as if to find it. “Oh... they have blueberry waffles," she stated, seemingly excited about it. “I fucking love blueberries," she continued, speaking almost as if to herself this time. She blinked for a second before glancing up from the menu and smiled sheepishly at him.

“Sorry," she stated before turning back towards the menu. “I guess I can start with that. Oh, do you know if they do take-out orders? I want to take something back for Sol," she asked, flipping to the other side of the menu.

"Yeah, sure," Mick says, a little bit surprised to hear her use that word, though perhaps not totally. It doesn't exactly fit her image, but for her personality? It actually sort of tracks. "Just order it when Hannah comes over and ask for it in a box. She can do that if you have any leftovers, too."

He remembers something rather belatedly: a much younger Soleil stuffing herself on banana and chocolate pancakes. "She still like—" Abruptly, he cuts himself off, clearing his throat. "Sorry. Wires crossed in my brain. Happens when you get old."

Luna snorted before arching a brow at him. “Old? You? You barely look," she paused, narrowing her eyes slightly as if she were trying to guess at something. “You don't look much older than Sol, maybe thirty, thirty four at the oldest," she finally stated, amused by something, it seemed.

“I mean... if we clean this up a bit," she started, gesturing to Mick's entirety, “and maybe shaved your old man beard, you'd look younger, but it works for you." She shrugged her shoulders as if she'd just stated it on a whim. There was, however, just the faintest bit of pink on her cheeks.

Mick feigned a hurt expression as he lifted a hand to brush across his whiskers. "Old man beard?" he repeated, losing hold of his amusement and chuckling. "I guess it suits. I really can't do that fresh-faced thing anymore." He supposed that if he did clean up and shave, he'd look the same eternal late-twenties he always had, but it was better to avoid that, certainly. The scruff and the worn clothes served a purpose, to be sure.

“Listen to him, would you?" Hannah clicked her tongue as she approached, notepad in hand to take their orders. “Next thing you'll know he'll start complaining about his joints." She was in her early forties, Hannah, thickset and sturdy, with lush auburn curls.

"Well actually, my back is—"

Mick saw the pad incoming when she went to swat him in the head with it, and threw up his hands in mock defense. It landed anyway, of course, and he pretended to flinch, rubbing at the spot while she frowned at him. “Oh please. You lifted Geraldine with one arm the other day, and she's twelve years old."

Rolling her eyes, she stuck a hand out to Luna and gave her a warm smile. “Hannah Abbleby," she said. “Old friend of this lout."

Luna reached over to shake Hannah's hand, returning the older woman's smile. “Lunaria Nishant, Mick's newish friend," she replied, grinning slightly in Mick's direction. “I wouldn't say we're old friends, but," she paused almost as if on purpose before rolling her eyes at herself, “we're not exactly new friends, either. More like, acquainted friends, I suppose?" She didn't seem to sure how to word it.

“It's nice to see I'm not the only woman-friend in Mick's life," she stated, her eyes narrowing slightly in mischief towards Mick before turning her attention back towards Hannah. “I was almost beginning to feel special," she added as she chuckled.

Hannah grinned. “We all do, m'dear," she replied on a sigh, “but this one's not the settling down type."

It was clearly only a joke, and Mick took joking offense accordingly. "Hannah, you've really got to stop, or all the women I take out to eat are going to get the wrong impression," he drawled. "I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of Casanova."

She threw back her head and laughed. They both well knew that he was anything but that. “Oh don't worry, Mick. No one's going to tell you to turn in your Lonely Hearts membership anytime soon."

"Good. I get free drinks there; I'd hate to lose it."

Shaking her head, Hannah turned to Luna. “What can I get for you, hon?"

“May I get the blueberry pancakes with the blueberry crepes?" Luna stated as she glanced towards Hannah, the amused smile still on her face. “And may I get the banana and chocolate pancakes to go? Oh, and the pineapple upside down cake if you have it?"

“I want to get something for Sam since he's been a big help the last couple of weeks. Not to mention last month, but I don't know what he likes. The last time I was in his kitchen... it was full of unhelpful stuff," she stressed the last word as if that wasn't quite the word she wanted to use.

Hannah took it all down with a couple of nods and a smile.

Mick's own tensed at the mention of Samael; it was still a little weird to hear him given a casual nickname, especially by a human. He knew, of course, that the reason Luna had money to spend was because of a job he'd given her, but...

He cleared his throat softly. "An order of the bacon and cheese monkey bread," he suggested. "I'll have the dumpling soup and the cornbread."

Hannah cleared off to prep the order, and Mick sighed slightly, shifting his attention back to Luna. "Any music you like? I have the override code for the jukebox."

“Not really," she replied, placing her chin in her hand and rested her elbow against the table. “I usually just listen to whatever Sol's playing when she's in the garage. I don't really have any other means of listening to music," she continued, taking in a slow breath. “I suppose I've never really been a fan of things that have too fast of a melody."

“How about we just pick at random? That way I can expand my music palate a little more," she suggested.

"Sure." Mick shrugged, then stood, making his way over to the machine, currently playing some sort of jazz number, and punched in the code, bringing up a a roulette of selections. He used a pulse of magic to shuffle it more or less randomly, and selected the first thing that came up.

He was pretty sure the genre was called 'electric swing' or something of that nature. It was upbeat, but not extremely fast, and suited the atmosphere of such an antiquated place as Geraldine's. Mick nodded his head along with the first few pulses of sound, and resumed his seat.

Luna listened as the music played before she started rocking her head lightly. “This isn't so bad," she stated, turning her attention back towards Mick. “I bet you used to dance a long time ago," she said as she grinned lightly. “I wouldn't be surprised if you did, but you have the air of someone who knows how to move."

“Am I wrong or right?" she seemed curious if anything.

Mick chortled, a soft almost-laugh, and shook his head. "I'm curious how you figure that," he admitted. She wasn't necessarily wrong, but it'd certainly been a very long time since he'd done anything so celebratory.

She grinned while shrugging her shoulders. “You're not stiff," she finally replied, frowning as if that wasn't quite what she'd wanted to say. “I mean, your movements are very fluid and controlled. It was either that, or you're just super good at moving around. Not in the way that goes unnoticed, but... hm," she pursed her lips together, her brows furrowing slightly as she seemed to concentrate on how to explain it to him.

“It just seems like you did at some point. You know how to do a lot of things and I figured dancing would be in that repertoire," she stated.

"Well..." Mick shrugged, stirring the ice in his water with the straw. "I suppose you're not wrong. I do know how to dance, though don't ask me about any of this modern stuff people do in nightclubs." He wrinkled his nose and mock-shuddered, surely only cementing his 'old man' image.

"The ridiculous fancy and pretentious shit though—I can do that."

She laughed at his response. “Well, if you have time, you'll have to teach me, one day," she stated once she had managed to get her laughter under control. “The fancy and pretentious shit, not the stuff people do in nightclubs. That kind of dancing isn't as interesting since it's basically the same concept. The fancy, pretentious dancing, though, seems more... intimate? I don't know the word I'm looking for but," she shrugged as she trailed off, grinning just a bit wider.

She wanted him to teach her something—

Nope. We're not going there, old man. Get your mind out of the gutter, you degenerate.

"Sure, kid." Mick was not very good at lying—something about the residual power, but the words came out, probably because they were vague enough not to really constitute a promise or anything like that.

Hannah brought their drinks by first, a tall cream soda float in Mick's case, and he sighed with satisfaction after the first sip. He didn't even care that it was cold outside; these just always hit the right spot.

She arched a brow at his response but waited until Hanna set her drink down before responding, “I get the feeling that it likely won't happen any time soon, but I can wait. I'm sort of patient." She took a sip of her drink, a hot malted chocolate. Smiling with what seemed satisfaction, she turned back towards Mick.

“Thanks for letting me take you out," she began, glancing towards her side before turning back. “I, uh, got you something for helping me out. I know you probably don't need it considering that I've seen you wear one from time to time, but..." she trailed off, playing with her straw.

“I saw it and it looked like it suited you," she continued, reaching for the small box she'd placed to her side, and slipped it towards him. “It's just a plain grey scarf to help keep the cold away." There was a faint pink dusting her cheeks, and she seemed intent on staring at her drink.

Mick blinked, first at Luna, then at the parcel. He shouldn't, really, accept it. It wasn't a good idea for a lot of reasons, but—but he had the feeling it'd make her sad if he didn't. And he wasn't such an insensitive asshole that he didn't care at all about that, even if in some sense it might be better for the both of them if he were.

She really didn't need to be mixed up with the likes of him in any capacity.

But he opened the box anyway, carefully unfolding the scarf. It was nice, nothing fancy, the color a plain heather grey just like she'd said. Mick smiled a bit, and wrapped it loosely around his neck.

"Thanks, Luna. I appreciate it."

She smiled brightly at him and nodded her head. “You're welcome, Mick," she replied as her smile softened a bit before turning into a grin. “I would have given you a floral crown as well, but, well, flowers are hard to come by and I didn't want to ruin your grizzly bear look," it was obviously a jest from the way she'd said it.

He snorted; it was sort of a random thing to think of giving someone like him in the first place. He had no clue where she'd even find the flowers for a start.

"Your consideration for my aesthetic is appreciated," he replied with a solemn nod. "Can't go giving the wrong impression, now."

Hannah returned with their food, leaving it in front of them with a grin and a reminder that they could call her over if they needed anything, and Mick tucked into his soup with a satisfied sigh. He did take the scarf off, though, just in case of a very unlikely accidental spill, and set it on the side of the table against the wall.

Luna was grinning even as she took a bite of her pancakes. Immediately, her eyes widened and her nose wrinkled a bit. She seemed satisfied with her meal. “Oh, my love, my precious blueberries it's been a while," she stated, apparently speaking to her pancakes since her attention was on them. She glanced up towards Mick, and then back to her pancakes before she cut off a piece.

“Do you want to try it?" she asked, offering the piece in his direction. “They're really good," she added.

"I'm not sure I could bear to take them from you," he replied with a raised eyebrow and a trace of amusement. "It'd make me like a homewrecker or something."

Luna gave him a flat look before glancing at her fork. “I mean, technically you wouldn't be a homewrecker since I offered," she began, a smile tugging at her lips as she continued, “and besides, it's not like they'll mind. As a matter of fact, I'm almost certain they want you to try them."

"You realize this is getting a little weird, right?" Mick didn't especially mind, though, so he figured he might as well, and leaned forward, stealing the pancakes off the end of her fork. They clashed pretty terribly with his soup, but that was all right.

"Hm. I don't know if I love them as much as you do, but they're pretty tasty."

She huffed softly and arched a brow at him. “Um, excuse me, but have you met me? I am weird and things are always weird in my life. They're a special kind of normal for me," she stated with an amused smile. She took another bite of her pancakes before something more solemn crossed her face.

“Actually," she began, glancing down at her plate. “This is the first time I've actually been able to do something like this with a friend. I don't have many," she continued with a soft sigh. “I work and volunteer with a lot of people but it's not quite the same as having an actual friend."

“So... even if it's temporary, thanks for letting me treat you out as a friend."

There was something just a little bit sad about the idea.

Fuck it. I owe both her and her old man more than this.

Mick tilted his head, and told her something his heart wants to and his head thinks is a terrible idea. "It's not," he said. "Temporary, I mean. Not if you don't want it to be." He pursed his lips, and skirted the truth. "I don't really have much to offer you, but I can assure you one thing I'm good at is sticking around. Usually a long time after I should've left, for that matter." He smiled, a touch wryly.

“So," she began, glancing at him through slightly narrowed eyes, “that means I can hang out with you more than just a couple times a month?" She seemed somewhat hopeful for whatever reason. “I mean, as long as you don't mind or anything like that. I wouldn't want to intrude on your personal life," she added, stuffing her mouth full with another bite of pancakes as if to keep herself from saying anything else.

"Yeah, I'll see if I can pencil you in to my busy schedule," Mick drawled, rolling his eyes a bit. He was a little surprised that she wanted to spend more time with him, but... well it wasn't like he was going to say no if that was what made her happy. He could keep a leash on his damn mouth—he wasn't worried about that much.

"Sorta figure your job and stuff kept you busy," he pointed out. "You in school these days, or...?"

The question seemed to elicit a deep frown from her. She took another, slower, bite of her pancakes before she sighed. “Not really," she started, pushing some of her food to the side of the plate. “I'm mostly working, and when I'm not working, I'm doing one of two things. I'm either helping Sol around the garage, or I'm volunteering. School is more expensive than it has a right to be, and with Zinoviev..." she trailed off, sighing harshly and running a hand down her face.

“I guess I just don't have time," she smiled a little ruefully. “I mean, it's not that bad. Even if I had the money to go, I wouldn't know what I'd be going for, and I'd just be wasting money. I'm not particularly good at anything, at least not that I've discovered, and it's not like there are many job opportunities. At least not ones that don't require a soul, you know? I'm rather attached to mine and I'm selfish," she stated assuredly, grinning as she did.

For a moment, Mick was a little afraid he'd stepped in it with the question, but as the answer resolves, he finds him self shaking his head. "That's not selfish," he said quietly. "That's sane. You give away your soul, that's a part of you. It's not all of you, but... even if the demon doesn't do anything with it, you'll be missing part of who you are your whole life. I've... seen it."

He looked down at his food. It was probably much too heavy a conversation for casual dinner—

The bell on the door rang, signaling the entrance of a new patron. Mick looked up by reflex, and his brow furrowed heavily. A tall figure, roughly human-shaped, dressed in the typical dark blue uniform of a TCPD patrol officer. But their hands and face glinted dully under the lights, silvery and steel instead of any of the myriad colors of human skin.

Hannah looked a little wary for a moment, but her servicewoman's smile quickly took over. “Hey there, hon. Somethin' I can get you?"

“I—" Something is off about the android's tone.

Mick had seen and heard a few of them, mostly nuisances that chased his companions off park benches at night and couldn't be made to look the other way as easily as human cops. He knew they should sound even and regular. Modulated. This one... they sounded almost desperate.

“I—n-n-need—"

With a quick look at Luna, Mick stood, carefully placing himself between the android and Hannah, just in case. "Are you all right, officer?"

“Officer-r-r-r #3964—connection is—n-no, please—please help me. I can't—I can't—"

Abruptly, he straightens, clearing his throat. “Apologies for the malfunction, citizens. I will return to headquarters for maintenance."

As swiftly as he'd entered, he left, and Mick resumed his seat with a sigh. "Even the robot cops have problems," he muttered, shaking his head in disblief.

Luna had taken a slow bite of her food when Mick had returned, her eyes fixed on the door the android left out of. “I don't know about you, but that was just plain creepy. I know machines and shit will often have problems, but I thought TCPD was supposed to have the elite of AI? I'm not saying they don't; I'm not an expert in that field, but still..." she trailed off taking the last bite of her food.

“They shouldn't even have bots in the PD to begin with, heartless bastards," she muttered the last part softly to herself, it seemed. She sighed heavily before sinking into her chair a bit, arching a brow at Mick. “Have they ever given you any problems?"

Mick lifted his shoulders in a labored shrug. "I'm homeless, Luna. And the cops around here are, as you put it, 'heartless bastards.' A lot of them are also soulless, but that's not the same thing. Still... they don't usually give me personally too much trouble, but I've had my share of run-ins." He contemplated for a moment, breaking off a chunk of his cornbread with roughened fingers.

"I have an arrest record, but I've never spent more than a night or two in jail, so I'm doing a lot better than some folks."

She smiled a little wrly and huffed lightly. “Well, about that, your earlier statement," she began, setting her fork down on her empty plate. “I'll ask Sol about it, and I'm sure she won't say no, but I need to ask her anyway. If... if you ever just want a place to stay for a night or so..." she trailed off, biting the bottom of her lip as if she were trying to figure out what she wanted to say.

“I mean, we have a bit more than we're used to, anyway, and since I like you and you're a good person," she continued rambling, “you can stay at our place for a night or so." She had folded her hands in front of her by that point, and was fiddling with her thumbs.

Mick's eyes softened, but he had to admit he also felt a stab of concern. "Don't tell me you let all the strays into your house, kiddo," he said lightly. It was true that many of the transients in the city weren't bad people at all, but some were, and he could see her mistaking the difference.

"As for me, well, I appreciate it." He would not be taking her up on it, for many reasons, but he did appreciate it.

Luna furrowed her brows and pursed her lips together, almost as if she were pouting. “I'm not a complete idiot, you know," she stated, huffing slightly in an amused fashion. “You're actually the first person I've extended the courtesy to, mostly because you're a friend and I like you. I know Sol will like you, too, since I mention you a lot to her. She rolls her eyes at me sometimes about it, but that's just Sol's way of being affectionate?"

She shrugged her shoulders and pulled her hands towards herself. “Anyway," she started, clearing her throat lightly, “if there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know. I'll do whatever is within my abilities to help."

He felt himself crack a smile. "Yeah, got it. But that goes both ways, okay? I might not be the most reliable guy, but I'm pretty useful in a pinch."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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12 Satanus
West Park Building - Mid Afternoon - Light Snow
Lunaria Nishant


Demons were assholes.

Luna always knew this, but this was being a bit much, flaunting their authority just because they could. These people were seeking shelter from the elements of Tartarus City, and to be chased from it simply because a demon didn't like the sight of seeing dirty humans from a building they were going to build was just...

“Fucking stupid pieces of shit." She hadn't meant to say it out loud, but Luna was furious. She didn't blame the Baileys. She couldn't because it was their building and they were, perhaps, one of the few good people she knew. They let their buildings be used as temporary shelters for those who had none, but they were being threatened. Demons would block every opportunity to make sales which would, inevitably, cause the Baileys to lose their only source of income. Their livelihoods were at stake, and they were making the most logical decision.

If it were Luna, she wouldn't have cared, however; she'd lived on the streets before. She knew how hard it was, and she was a kid being raised by her older sister. They were young and more resilient. The Baileys were not, and they wouldn't last a month on the streets. Sighing softly, she glanced up at the building currently being occupied by a handful of people. She could feel a soft squeeze on her heart as she tried to steel herself.

“I wish Mick was here. This wouldn't be so hard if he was," she murmured to herself. It wasn't because she was afraid of the people here, but moreso because she knew she wouldn't have the resolve to tell these people they no longer had a sheltered place. That they were no longer welcome because of some asshole demon. Mick just had a way about him that seemed to make her feel better, but she wasn't even sure if that was the reason she wanted him with her for this.

“You can do this, Luna. You... have to," and with that, she made her way towards the front door of the building. She rested a hand on the handle and hovered for a moment before opening the door. Once she was inside, she glanced around to see if she could find at least one person.

“Hello?" she called out, hoping someone would answer.

As it had been before, the space was largely taken up by an array of ramshackle housing, rather ingeniously or in some cases just luckily assembled from the likes of chicken wire, newspaper, blankets, tarp, and in at least one case a section of chain-link fence.

At this time of day, it was hardly surprising that most were unoccupied, their residents likely out searching for food or other supplies. A few lingered though, and a familiar soft pink color caught Luna's eye. It would seem the woman who had been here last time she'd come had finished her knitting, and was now wearing the hat she'd fashioned from it, wisps of grey and brown hair poking out from beneath it. She blinked at Luna, eyes pulled up from where she'd been focused on what seemed to be newspaper want ads.

“Oh, it's Mick's girl." She frowned at her own phrasing and shook her head. “Or the girl that was with Mick, I mean. Lu-nar—Luna?"

“It's Luna," she replied. Luna tried her best to smile, but found that it faltered. How could she smile at a woman who was about to lose whatever semblance of a shelter she had? It was too cruel, Luna thought. She opened her mouth to say something, but found that no words would come out.

What could she say?

There might be another shelter they could go to, but with the demons cracking down on abandoned buildings, a majority of these people weren't going to be able to find anything. Those who couldn't find shelter would die, and winter was too harsh for them to survive without one. Luna swallowed past a lump that grew in her throat as she tried to keep her composure.

It wasn't fair to these people. They weren't hurting anyone; they weren't disturbing anyone. They were simply trying to live, just as she and Sol once had to.

“I'm sorry," she stated softly, glancing towards the floor. “The city is ordering the Baileys to clear the building," she finally stated, trying to glance up at Margie, but found she could not look the woman in her eyes. “Everyone needs to be out by tomorrow morning."

Margie was quiet for a long moment, then she folded the newspaper over with a rustle, splitting it again along the dividing line and then folding one more time, creasing it sharply as if it were a much more precious thing than it was. “I see," she said after a moment, sighing long and hard. “Well, thanks for the notice. I'll make sure everyone hears. Can't promise they'll all leave. Some of them are stubborn bastards."

For a moment she chewed her lip. “Can you find Mick, Luna? He might be able to help get everyone out in time. I don't want to leave 'em to the demons, not even Shotgun Pete."

“If he's around, I'll see if I can." She wasn't sure if Mick would be here. He roamed a lot and she didn't have a way to contact him. Sometimes she would see him at the shelter she volunteered at, but he was always the one who seemed to find her.

Maybe it's because she sought him out more and more, knowing that he was a friend she could lean on. “Do you happen to know if he's at least on the property? Or around?" If he was, then maybe she could find him.

“I think he's probably at the park," Margie replied, hauling herself to her feet with what seemed to be great effort. She leaned heavily on a wooden stick that had been shaped into a rough cane, and though it looked like it should break under the pressure, it held firm and steady. “He's usually there if he doesn't tell anyone where he's off to. Bit of a tip, I guess."

She managed a weary smile, then turned to begin waking those that were around but sleeping.

Luna muttered a weak, “thank you," before heading towards the park. It wasn't too far from the building, but that didn't stop the painful clench her heart felt when she'd watched Margie walk away. The woman probably suffered from arthritis and shouldn't be moving so much. Luna wasn't a doctor, she didn't know for sure, but if she was using a makeshift cane to walk with...

She pushed the thought from her mind and half attempted to rub at her eyes. She could feel the stinging sensation behind them. This... they shouldn't have to leave, especially if there were some in the building who couldn't. It wasn't fair to them, to anyone who couldn't afford to have a place to rest, or even call home. They should be taken care of. There should be more shelters in place to help them, to help anyone who so much as asked for it.

When Luna approached the park, she took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. She could do this. She could find Mick and she could tell him the situation, even if her heart felt like it was shattering to pieces.

Mick was, in fact, in the same place she'd last found him, humming softly in a bass tone, melodic and resonant. The reason for this seemed to be the mother cat and kittens. It's been a while, and already the young ones were moving around, most of them attempting to climb the big man with tiny claws dug into his trousers and sleeves. One of them had made it as far as his bicep, but was struggling, so he lifted his arm out to make the route more horizontal, catching another in his free hand as it fell from his knee. The mother cat was seated comfortably in his lap, rolled onto her side so he could glide his hand along the length of her, which she seemed to enjoy.

He was wearing the grey scarf along with his fingerless gloves and a thick, olive-green cable-knit sweater, a bit frayed at the edges, russet-orange shirttails sticking out underneath and dark khaki pants with his heavy boots.

She could feel the smile forming on her face, but had to surpress it when her bottom lip quivered. You can do this, Luna. Just go up and tell him the situation, she tried to steel herself once more, but found she couldn't. She didn't draw closer, and instead, took a deep, steadying breath. She didn't need to show him that she was on the verge of heartbreak for something that was out of her control.

“Mick," she stated loud enough so that Mick could hear her over his humming, but soft enough so that she wouldn't startle the cats. Still, her voice did not sound like her own. It was much too heavy to be light in this situation. “I need your help."

He turned towards her, and the humming halted immediately. Something of her state must have shown on her face, because almost immediately his brow furrowed and his mouth dropped into a frown. "What's the matter?" he asked, looking unsure as to whether he should stand, and then shifting his eyes past her as if to scan the area before finally patting the spot on the bench next to him.

"Is it something you can sit and talk about first, or do you need me to do something right now?"

Her legs would not heed her command to move, and for a moment, she just stood there, glancing down to the floor beneath her. It was a simple question, and the answer was just as simple, but why did it feel like there was lead in her mouth that felt so heavy? She answered the only way she could, nodding slightly as her legs finally moved forward. She took the spot next to him and folded her hands in front of her. She did not glance up at him, though.

“It's the West Park building," she finally stated after another moment of silence. “The one that the Baileys own. They... the people..." she swallowed past the lump in her throat, and squeezed her hands together.

“They're being forced to leave. They have to be out by tomorrow morning, or the demons under Baphomet are going to come and wipe them out." Baphomet was a demon who had a certain kind of interest in the West Park area. Apparently they had told the Baileys that they had seen potential in the area, and that the building the Baileys owned needed to either be demolished, or cleared out of unwelcomed inhabitants. They didn't want such a sight in their new neighborhood.

Mick sighed, long and heavy, and nodded a little. "It was bound to happen eventually," he said quietly. His tone suggested no forgiveness for those responsible, but a simple acceptance of the inevitable. In that, it much resembled Margie's.

He looked down towards her profile, though, idly running his fingers along the mother cat's flank while the intrepid kitten finally reached his shoulder and nuzzled its head into his cheek. "You know this isn't your fault, right?"

She knew.

She knew it wasn't her fault, but it didn't stop the painful stab of guilt that kept hitting her. What could she do against a legion of demons inclined on making life miserable for people, especially towards the people who already had nothing?

“I'm aware," she stated, loosening the grip on her hands. She'd held them too tightly that her knuckles had turned white. “It... it's just that there's nothing that can be done to stop it. Not even to just give them at least an extra day or two. How do they expect everyone to get out within a day? Some of them probably can't even move all too well, and there are probably others who just won't make it without that building acting as a shelter, and I..." she took in a sharp breath and shook her head.

“I can't do anything about it. I can't help them; I can't offer them shelter or a warm bed, nor anything else that might ease their burdens and sufferings. It's almost as if the demons want there to be people left," and honestly, they probably did. There weren't many laws that protected humans againt demons, and there were just as few laws to protect those considered homeless. If a demon wanted a human gone, or dead, it was perfectly within their rights to do so.

The man next to her reached over, setting a kitten in her lap and a hand on her head. "It sucks," he agreed, petting her hair in a way not entirely unlike he'd been petting the cat.

The kitten sniffed at her, its grey striped tail held straight in the air. It must have decided she was all right, because it butted her hand with its head after that.

"And you're not entirely wrong about the consequences," Mick continued. "But, I won't let any of them still be there tomorrow, at least. Don't worry about that much. We'll find somewhere else. We usually do, eventually."

It was probably meant to be comforting, but Luna couldn't find any comfort behind it. It was a shitty feeling, but at least there wouldn't be any people left for the demons, tomorrow. She might not have known these people on a personal level, but she understood their hardship. She wished, with all her being, that there was something she could do. There wasn't, though, and it was a hard truth to swallow. She placed her hand gently on the kitten's head, stroking it softly as she felt the fur between her fingers.

“I might not be able to do much for them, but," she paused, taking her eyes off the kitten to glance at Mick. “The offer still stands for you. Sol said it was fine so long as you don't cause trouble of any sort." It wasn't entirely what Soleil had said, but it was close enough. Luna suspected that Soleil wasn't comfortable with the idea to have someone stay a night with them. She had managed to convince Soleil that it wouldn't be a permanent lodge, though, and it would only be temporary. Mick was good at doing things which meant he could probably help her around the garage if need be.

As if sensing that his attempts at help weren't achieving anything, Mick lifted his hand away, returning his attention to the cats instead. Another had clambered up into his lap, and he rubbed at its belly with a large fingertip, drawing out a mew of protestation, which made him chuckle a bit under his breath.

"I appreciate it, Luna, but I can do for myself. Besides, I've got a new place in mind, and people are going to need me to get into it. I know I'm probably asking too much, but try not to let this hang over your head. It was a good thing we had this place for as long as we did, but everyone in there knows no shelter is permanent. We'll get by."

“Alright," she mumbled softly. She could try not to let this get her down. He was right, no shelter is permanent, and anything that seems too good to be true, is. The reality of it all hit her like a lead pipe, but she wouldn't let it get to her. She needed to be more optimistic, to try and see a better alternative.

“Thanks, Mick. I'm not the one who should be comforted, but I appreciate it nonetheless. You were right about one thing, though," she stated, feeling a small smile on her face. “You're very useful in a pinch. I mean... well, not useful, but helpful is the better term for it."

He snorted softly. "Don't feel like I've done much of anything," he replied, picking up the cats in his arms to return to their box. It seemed to have been upgraded, to scrap wood held together with a few rusty but serviceable nails, the inside lined with scraps of newspaper, fabric, and his old scarf. Once the ones on him were all settled, he held a hand out for the one on her lap.

She took his offered hand and huffed lightly. “Of course you wouldn't see it that way, but you've done a lot. I'm not saying you haven't done anything for anyone else, but you've been, hm," she paused as she tried to think of the word she wanted to say. He'd been helpful to her in a way she couldn't describe. Sure, he might have been a little curt with her when they first met, but the person she knew now was someone she relied on.

It was strange, in a way, relying on someone who wasn't Soleil. She wasn't even sure if that was what she actually felt, but it would have to do for now. “You always seem to be there when I need you the most, I suppose. Like today."

Mick shook his head, a bit ruefully. "You're giving me a bit too much credit for liking kittens," he observed, "but I suppose I won't argue with you. You're much more stubborn than I am, so I'd lose anyway. Also, uh... I was reaching for the cat, not that I mind helping you stand or anything."

You're a fucking idiot, Luna, was the only thought that crossed her mind as she let out a sheepish ha. “I knew that," she stated, trying to regain any dignity she might have and fighting down the heat that covered her face.

Of course he was reaching for the cat and not your hand. Now you just look like an idiot who is mean to cats and kittens alike.

“I'm just going to go find a hole and bury myself in it."

He chuckled, warm and rich, and shook his head, gently letting go of her hand to scoop the kitten up and returning him to the box with his mother and siblings. When he was done, though, he stood and offered the hand back down to her, gently pulling her to her feet. "Well, that's entirely your decision to make," he said, still wearing a half-smile, "but if it were up to me I'd rather you didn't. Things aren't always so nice up here, but I reckon they're still probably better than they'd be six feet under."

“You don't know, maybe I'd like just laying in the ground, buried in my shame and trying to forget it," she murmured, pursing her lips softly. She was such an idiot, really. “But since you put it so nicely, I guess I shouldn't. I'll just suffer the embarrassment and shame," she added, smiling just a bit in Mick's direction.

He smiles a little wider, and shakes his head. "It's all right, you know. It's a gesture that usually means something, and you thought it meant the normal thing. Not that embarrassing, I promise."

“That's easy for you to say," she stated with a soft huff. “You know, it should be a crime to look that handsome with a smile," she stated, realizing belatedly what she said. “I mean, seriously. It should be a crime to smile like that and look like that, and now I'm just shoving my foot in my mouth."

“Anyway, thanks, Mick." She wasn't going to be able to look him in the eye for a good while, but that was fine. At least... she didn't feel as bad as she did earlier. It wasn't going to be easy, but... she could at least try and trust that he would be able to find a place for everyone.

Since she wasn't looking at him, she couldn't see the expression on his face, but she could hear him clear his throat. "Uh... thanks? Nice thing to say to an old timer like me." His large hand ruffled her hair gently.

"So uh... if you wanted to help, chances are some of the older folks are going to need help packing their stuff. I'm sure they'd appreciate a bit of help if you felt up to giving it. Depending on how much time you have, you might be able to see the new one. If... you were wanting to know where to find me in the future."

“It would be nice to be able to find you," she stated. “It'd be nicer if it was easier, but this will do." She wasn't sure why her heart fluttered or why there was an onslaught of butterflies in her stomach, but she wasn't going to say no to helping out or knowing where to find him in the future.

“Lead the way."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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26 Satanus
Location - Mid Afternoon - Light Snow
Lunaria Nishant


The good thing about Rogenmart was that it wasn't too far from where Luna and her sister lived. It wasn't easy being without proper transportation, but they never really bought much to begin with. They'd always purchased what they could, and filched what they couldn't. Today, however, they were going to actually purchase things. Soleil and Luna had spent a good chunk of their lives on the street that neither of them even remembered when their birthday was.

As a rule, they didn't celebrate it, but they'd both agreed to share the same date so if the day came that they wanted to, they had a date to plan for. Plus, they needed something for the official records and things like that.

Today was the day before their birthday, and Luna actually wanted to make something for Sol and herself. She'd settled on cupcakes mostly because they were the easiest things to make. Luna could cook, but she was a shit baker, and she knew it. Even with things that came premade or packed, Luna would somehow manage to ruin it.

“So, what kind of frosting do you want for your red velvet cupcakes?" Luna asked, glancing in Soleil's direction. “You have a choice between cream cheese, butter, or vanilla."

"Butter? Do you mean buttercream?" Soleil considered her sister out of the corner of her eye before pressing her lips together and considering the options on the shelf. She eyed the price tags speculatively, then sighed quietly. "I don't know what any of these taste like. I don't think cream cheese would be very good on a cupcake, so let's try the cream one. Or maybe vanilla? It's cheaper."

“Cream one it is," Luna stated as she reached for the container. “We're not going with vanilla because it's cheaper. We're going for one that'll taste better because it's a semi-special day tomorrow. We're not sparing any expense for this shit, especially not with the year we've been having," though to be honest, Luna still wasn't too sure about it. She still had some reservations about Samael. He was too good to be true. He liked Soleil, that much Luna could tell, and he paid Sol very well.

So well that they really didn't have to worry about much like they used to. Alastor was another thing, but even he hadn't been around in a while. He'd sent some of the lesser demons in his employ to retrieve the monthly bill, but that was it. Luna was grateful for that.

“Speaking of which, how's Samuel treating you?" she asked, knowing full well that wasn't his name.

"Samael," Soleil corrected automatically, though chances were good she knew Luna was doing it on purpose. "And fine. I tried to teach him how to cook eggs the other day. I think they came out all right, but I'll be surprised if he can replicate them on his own. I'm not sure he absorbed much of what I said."

She shrugged, as if this was not a concern, and looked back down at their list. "We need coconut for your weird recipe, right?

“It's not weird," Luna grumbled, rolling her eyes slightly. “And you tried to teach Sam how to cook eggs? Eggs?" She emphasized the word she repeated mostly because she was a little shocked. “They're like... the simplest things to cook. How do you not know how to cook eggs?"

"Not needing to cook things for yourself, I assume," Soleil replied. "You've seen his house, right? At least he seemed reasonably interested in learning." She grabbed a large bag of rice from a bottom shelf, putting it into the cart.

"Pretty sure he'd never been to a grocery store before either. He wanted me to push him around in a shopping cart like a kid he saw on the way in."

He wanted her to...

“Somehow, that really doesn't surprise me," Luna retorted, blinking slowly. “I don't think he's been anywhere other than those fancy parties and his own home," she added, grabbing a bag of shredded coconut and placed it inside the basket. She supposed that there had been a sort of childness to him, but she didn't think it was anything like that. Luna felt a grin tugging at her lips, though.

“So... did you do it? Push him around in a basket?"

"For a while, yeah. Wasn't like I cared if he looked like a weirdo. He grabbed stuff off the shelves so it was actually a pretty efficient system." Deleting the two items from the list on the tablet, she pursed her lips. "Well except all those times when he didn't know what stuff was."

Luna chuckled lightly. “He really does bring out your inner child, doesn't he?" she stated. “Sounds like you had fun, yourself," she added, moving so that they were headed towards the dairy products.

Soleil seemed to contemplate this for a long moment, then lifted her shoulders. "Well, he's not an asshole to me, so I guess I don't feel like I have to be one to him either."

Luna feigned a shocked gasp. “Does that mean Soleil Nishant actually likes someone?" she asked, widening her eyes to give off the shocked impression. It was a little surprising, she wouldn't lie. Luna couldn't remember a time where Soleil actually liked someone, at least in the sense that she wasn't coarse with them. That she would actually indulge someone and push them around in a cart... well, Luna couldn't say it was a bad thing.

“Wait... so does that mean that you were both on a date at the grocery store? Of all the places he could have taken you..." she trailed off, shaking her head in feigned disappointment.

Soleil sighed. "I like him, but it's not the kind of like you're talking about, if you think a trip to the grocery store was a date." She sounded slightly annoyed, but as she turned away, Luna could see that the tips of her ears were turning red. "I was just appalled by the state of his kitchen or whatever, and it turned into a conversation about making food, and how he didn't know anything about it."

She shrugged. "And that was the impetus of the shopping trip. He normally has shit delivered from Wholesome Foods—remember when we lifted pasta from there and it tasted like cardboard? I felt bad for him."

“Ew," Luna drawled, giving Soleil a flat look. “Why would anyone want to shop there?" she stated. It was obvious that Wholesome Foods was just an overpriced grocery chain. Most of the things they sold there weren't even pristine goods. But she supposed since demons didn't really have to eat, it was considered good. It took her a moment to realize what Soleil said at the end, and Luna arched a brow at him.

The Soleil Nishant felt bad for someone? Are the pearly white gates going to be opening soon? Because that is a miracle in itself." She was only slightly teasing Soleil, but it was rare that Soleil felt bad for anyone, at least like that. To the point she'd take him grocery shopping? It might mean nothing, but then again, it might mean something.

Luna was an ass, she knew that, but she was only going to tease her sister so much.

Soleil rolled her eyes, but didn't seem too interested in continuing the argument, if it even really was one, as such. Instead, she moved their cart to the next isle—canned food— only to pause. "Hey isn't that Mick?"

The man at the other end of the aisle, brows furrowed as though something important rested on the difference between the two brands of beans he was holding, was indeed Mick. His sheer size was almost funny in the context; he had to be taller than the aisle proper. His face was whiskery in a way that suggested it'd been longer than usual since he shaved, and of all things his hair was tied back into a knot on the back of his head, a few strands falling free near his ears, but the profile couldn't have belonged to anyone else.

“Indeed, it seems to be my handsome friend," Luna stated, grinning just slightly. He really did look handsome, and she wasn't going to deny that fact. Sure, she'd met plenty of people who were aesthetically pleasing, but there was just something about him that stood out. It was weird considering that most people who were that pretty were usually demons, but Mick didn't even seem to be half of one. It was weird how pretty he was, and how his physique...

Luna, stop thinking about your friend that way. Sounds almost like you want to jump him, she visibly shuddered before clearing her throat. She didn't immediately move to greet him, though. She was unsure how to, for some reason. She could easily say hey, or even hi, but that didn't seem quite right to her. She rolled her eyes at herself before pushing forward.

“Hey, Mick," she'd have to settle for that. “You doing alright?" she asked, arching a brow at him, and fighting down a strange tingling sensation on her cheeks.

Next to her, Sol scoffed quietly, but she offered no comment, because Mick had turned towards them, blinking slowly and smiling a bit.

"Hello, Luna. And Soleil." He gave her sister a polite nod as well, which Sol returned with the slight arch of a brow.

"Didn't realize you shopped the legitimate way," she said. It could probably be interpreted as rude, but Luna knew Sol, as someone who hadn't often shopped the legitimate way either, didn't mean it as anything but an observation.

Mick certainly didn't seem to take offense, just smiling a bit more brightly. "I don't, usually. But I was lucky enough to find some work the other day. So I asked for a list of what some folks needed, and here I am. I uh... don't really know what the difference is between one brand and another, but I'm not sure 'cheapest' is the best decision criteria either."

Luna snorted softly. “It depends, really," she began, shrugging her shoulders lightly. “Here, all you're really paying for is the brand. Most of these taste about the same," she would know. She had eaten at least half of them, but that might just be her own tastebuds. It wasn't as if one brand was superior to the other one. Except for the brands at Wholesome Foods. Those sucked and tasted like cardboard.

“What it comes down to is the sugar and salt content. The more sugar and salt, the better it tastes."

"So I should just get the cheapest one?" Mick frowns slightly, but seems to find this agreeable enough for the moment, setting one of the cans back and withdrawing an entire flat of the other from the shelf, balancing it easily on one outstretched hand before he put it in the cart.

“Yup," Luna replied with a light grin. “Cheaper products usually taste better mostly because they're substituting something with something they really shouldn't. In this case, more sugar and salt. Not a bad thing when you're trying to put on weight or fluff for the winter," she added, inwardly cursing herself for the last statement.

“Uh, anyway," she paused for a moment to glance in Soleil's direction. They didn't celebrate their birthdays often with other people, but... maybe asking Mick would be fine? Sol could ask Sam, too, but some part of Luna thought that maybe Sol didn't want him to know? Maybe she did, Luna couldn't claim to know.

“What else are you looking for?" this was a safe option. She could ask Mick if he wanted to celebrate with them, however; this was a more private thing. Plus, she wasn't sure if Sol would be comfortable with it since Luna hadn't really asked ahead of time. It wasn't that she needed permission for things like that, but this was their birthday. That meant that decisions on things like that should be discussed prior to the event, together.

He hummed, adding another flat of cans to the cart. "Uh, well, the list says nonperishables and water, so I'm taking recommendations if you have any."

"Rice," Soleil said immediately. "It's probably the cheapest grain there is, can go with a lot of stuff and lasts practically forever."

Mick nodded appreciatively. "Rice, water... hm. Some protein would probably be good, though I guess there's plenty of that in beans. Other vitamins? What's a canned vegetable that's not expensive..." He cleared his throat, waving a hand. "Not that you have to keep helping; you two seem to be on a mission of your own. What's the occasion?"

“Hm, we're almost done," Luna smiled. “And if you're looking for canned veggies, best ones to go with are probably green beans and carrots. Canned corn is more expensive than the others," she added, glancing in Soleil's direction for a moment.

“It's not really an occasion. We're just getting cake supplies," she answered his question. It was a little vague, but it wasn't a lie, either. She pursed her lips towards Soleil and arched a brow before leaning towards her sister. They were still a bit far from Mick, so she whispered, “should we tell him?"

Soleil rolled her eyes. "Why are you being so weird about this?" She turned to Mick and shrugged. "It's our birthday. We're shopping for cake supplies. First time we've really been able to get whatever we want, so I'm having red velvet and Luna's doing some weird chocolate thing with coconut."

"Ah." Mick grabbed two large bags of rice and put them in his cart, offering them a small smile. "Happy birthday to you both then. And many happy returns."

Luna had pressed her lips together as she gave Sol a flat look. She wasn't being weird about this; she was trying to be considerate of Sol. She wasn't sure if Soleil would want anyone to know, or if she would feel comfortable about it. Despite her nature to tease her sister, she was trying to keep her sister's quirks in mind.

“Thanks, Mick," she replied, resisting the urge to sigh. “And it's not some weird chocolate thing. German chocolate happens to be my favourite," she added, sticking her tongue out at Sol. It was childish, she knew, but Luna didn't care at the moment. “We only need a couple of more items. Mainly the coconut for the frosting and," she paused, furrowing her brows a bit. “Oh, and pecans."

"Well, maybe you know where all that stuff is, but if you don't, I'm pretty sure I saw nuts ad stuff two aisles down. Came in from the opposite side." Mick points in a direction they have yet to go. "Don't let me hold up your celebration, ladies. And thanks for the help."

“Ah, thanks," Luna stated, nodding her head in thanks. Before she could say anything else, she was distracted by a commotion from the nearby registers. Rogemart wasn't that big of a store, being located near the Pits, but it wasn't exactly small. Luna could see the registers from where she was, and what she saw caused her to purse her lips. It looked like someone called the cops, though Luna couldn't exactly tell why.

It was just one android, though, but from the looks on the cashier's face, and the person standing in front of the android cop, it might have had something to do with theft.

Poor bastard.

Theft might not be an extreme crime, but sometimes 'droids could be worse than human cops. Androids were programmed to uphold the law in the upmost way. Humans could at least give the person a bit of leniency if it was their first offense.

“Anyway, see you around, Mick," she stated, deciding to ignore it. It wasn't her problem, and she didn't need to draw any attention to herself or Soleil. Not today.

Mick, though, had narrowed his eyes at the confrontation, and she could see in her periphery as they walked away. He was adjusting his cart to move in that direction.

"Something bugs me about those robots," Soleil said on a sigh, shaking her head slightly as they moved on. "Can't quite put my finger on it, though."

Luna furrowed her brows in agreement. She was about to reply to Soleil's comment when another, alarmed voice intervened.

“Officer, are you alright?" one of the cashiers asked. Luna, against better judgement, glanced towards them. The android was still, almost as if its programming had been shut off and did not budge. Its gaze was fixed on the person in front of them, but the usual light behind its eyes was gone. It was almost eerie the way it stared, and Luna felt a chill down her spine.

It made a sudden movement, then, bringing its hands up to its face as if to study them. Luna thought she saw it tremble, but that couldn't be right. Androids didn't shiver or shake like humans or non-humans did. They weren't supposed to because it was a sign synonymous with fear, maybe even excitement. Androids didn't feel. They weren't capable of it.

“P-please," it started, its head snapping from side to side, almost as if it were confused. The metal sheen glistened with each movement before it seemed to lock eyes on the person in front of it. The sound that came out of its mouth was ear-shattering, and Luna immediately brought her hands up to cover her ears. A few of the people did the same, however; there was a human scream that followed.

The android had surged forward, grabbing the young man by his forearms. There was a sudden cracking sound, one that signaled something in the man's arm had broken. “Please!" the android seemed frantic as it yelled at the young man. It tried to shake him, but it stilled again.

“Someone get this thing off of me!" the young man used the brief silence to try and get loose from the android, but he couldn't. Luna didn't think she would be of any help, either, but her legs were already moving. Eerie eyes snapped at her, and Luna felt her breath catch in her throat.

“I--I can't. I--I--c-can't. C-c-con," it didn't get the chance to finish before it seemed to release the same piercing sound, and tossed the man as if he were nothing into the nearby register. The screams that followed were haunting as people began running in fear.

"Luna, stop!" Sol's hand was on her shoulder in an instant, her grip firm where her fingers dug into Luna's shoulder. "That's not a human—you can't just outslug something like that." Concern edged the normally flat tone of her voice, and her lips pursed.

"Come on, we're getting out of here. Leave the stuff."

Soleil's voice snapped Luna out of her stupor. Her brows furrowed, though, as she shook her sister's hand off of her shoulder. “I wasn't going to fight it," she stated, lips pursing into a fine line. “But at least I can weather a beating a little more than they can. If someone gets caught by it, they wouldn't stand a chance and you know it." It wasn't like Luna was trying to play hero, either. She just... she didn't want anyone to get hurt.

Luna knew Soleil was only thinking about their well-being, it was always them before anyone else, but...

“Maybe we can distract it so everyone can at least get out safely?" she suggested. There wasn't much time, though, as the android moved towards another person, screaming the same horrific sound as they approached the young woman. It looked like the woman was trying to shield something. Luna didn't think. She moved, running towards the android and the young woman, placing herself between them as the android reached out.

It's hands clenched around her shoulders, and the pressure with which it squeezed was excruciating. Luna felt her mouth open, but no sound came out. She couldn't scream.

"Luna!" Soleil's voice came from behind the android, and then suddenly her sister's arms and legs were around it, as she jumped on its back, trying to force it away from her. But even as strong as Sol was, it didn't move much, and its grip on her shoulder tightened, the thumb digging into her collarbone until, with a sharp spike of pain, her clavicle snapped.

"Let go you piece of shit—" Soleil slammed her fist into its head several times. This seemed to have a bit more of an effect, at least enough that it turned its attention to her, tossing Luna into one of the aisles with an unthinking strength.

Before she hit the floor, though, she hit something else with a whump of fabric, and the person, not in the least knocked back by her weight, steadied her.

"Easy," rumbled a familiar bass. Mick. "You all right?"

“I'm fine," she replied, taking in a sharp gasp of air. The pain in her shoulders and collar bone were saying otherwise, but she couldn't focus on that. “I need..." she paused, taking in another breath, “I need to help Sol." She started towards her sister, intent on keeping the android from hurting her.

Mick clicked his tongue against his teeth. "I'll make you a deal," he said, moving to follow her. "I was trying to get everyone else out. If you do that job for me, I'll help your sister." He smiled, a little strained and a little urgent, still heading towards the front. "I can handle it, I promise. She'll be safe, if you can trust me with that."

This was her sister, though. If neither of them could hold off an android, what made Mick think he could? That wasn't important. Helping her sister and the people still in the store, was. Could Luna trust Mick with the person who meant the most to her? Maybe it was just the pain in her shoulder, or maybe it was the adrenaline in her veins; Luna didn't know, but she nodded her head and swallowed thickly.

“Okay," she stated softly. “Just... be careful, too," she added, pausing for a moment with a serious look on her face. Mick was human which meant he was just as capable of being hurt, if not worse than either Luna or her sister. He was her friend, and she didn't want him to get hurt, either. Taking a deep breath, she turned a different direction to ensure everyone else could get out safely.

Her trajectory took her past several aisles, all abandoned, in many cases half-full shopping carts left in the middle or crashed against shelves. One unit seemed to have fallen over.

“Help! Please!” A weak voice called out—seemingly from beneath the shelves and fallen boxes that has spilled from them. “Someone, please!”

“Hey, hey, I'm here," Luna stated as she approached the person. The shelves didn't look too heavy, but Luna's collar bone was still broken. Her arms were still throbbing from where the android grabbed her, as well. It meant that lifting the shelf off of the person was going to be difficult rather than easy. She moved some of the boxes out of the way, wincing when a slight pain shot through her arm. She did her best to ignore it, but she wasn't exactly tolerant to pain. She might have healed slightly faster than most people did, but even a broken collar bone needed some time to mend itself back together. Luna was almost certain she'd broken a bone in her arm, as well.

“I'm going to lift the shelf and once I do, I'm going to need you to crawl out, alright?" she stated once she'd cleared some room. She took in a deep breath and placed her hands underneath the shelf. “Ready?" she asked, lifting the shelf slightly.

There was a struggle; several more boxes emerged from beneath the unit, as if pushed. A grunt of pain and effort followed, and slowly, a person emerged. A close-cropped head of brown hair with a mohawk, a shabby brown jacket. The young man couldn't be more than a teenager, and his face distorted in pain.

“Leg,” he gasped. “Hard to… move. S-sorry.”

Luna cursed beneath her breath and shifted the shelf slightly. “Is it broken?" she asked. If his leg was broken, she would have to be careful. She couldn't risk making it worse.

“I dunno,” he said, tone hard with pain and frustration. He continued to pull himself out with his hands as well as he could. “Can't exactly see it. It just hurts.”

“Alright," she stated, taking in a deep breath. This was going to hurt her like a bitch, but she needed to get him out from underneath. “Not going to lie, this is going to hurt a bit," she stated, preparing him as best as she could. She lifted the shelf as high as she could with one hand, shifting her other one so that she could grab him, and pulled.

“Ah, fuck, that hurts," she grit between her teeth, dropping the shelf once the young man was free. She turned to him to examine his leg, sighing softly as she noted the torn jeans. Luckily, there wasn't a bone protruding, but that didn't mean his leg wasn't broken.

“Can you stand?" she asked, offering her hand to him. She could at least help him out if he couldn't.

He yelled as she wrenched him out from beneath the shelves, biting down on it once he was clear and no longer moving. Breathing heavily through clenched teeth, he took several moments before answering her question, long enough for the sound of shattering glass to reach their ears, followed by an emphatic, but not loud, ”holy shit.” It was unmistakably Soleil.

The kid nodded slightly, gripping her by the arm and leveraging himself to his feet, or rather one of them. The other, he held gingerly off the ground, still breathing forcefully slowly. “Thanks.”

“No worries," she replied, sighing as softly as she could. “Let's get you out of here, first," she continued, moving so that she could securely hold him and help him leverage his leg better. She didn't like the way the sound of glass shattered near Soleil, but she had to trust that Mick would keep his word to keep her safe.

It was a slow trudge, but eventually, they made it to where Soleil and Mick were. “What... happened?" Luna asked, staring slightly wide-eyed at a shattered window. The android wasn't in sight.

Soleil seemed uninjured save for a heavy scrape across one side of her face. The was also holding one arm slightly away from her body, but though it was hard to tell for sure under the sleeve, it didn't seem to be broken. She had been regarding Mick with furrowed brows, but flicked her eyes to Luna when she approached.

”Looks like the cop shut down or something.” She threw another glance at Mick and shook her head.

For his part, Mick smiled mildly. ”The idea was to go through the loading exit out back,” he noted with a small huff, ”but I suppose this way's just as good, now. You'll want to get clear soon, I'm guessing; it probably won't be long before TPD shows up to collect their officer.”

“Good call," Luna stated, glancing towards Mick. They should get out of here while they could so that she and Soleil could take care of their wounds, and so the young man could get his foot looked at.

Today sucked.