Jump to content

Only Doing Good When I'm Having Fun


Recommended Posts

August 28, 2020 

 

In the first week of August, a strange email landed in the boxes of certain graduates of Claremont Academy. It It had a scrambled sender line and was flagged high priority by whatever email system received it, with a header reading BIRTHDAY TIME, BITCHES!!! When opened, the email contained a truly obnoxious number of pictures of balloons and beer glasses, and the words 

Hey losers! Guess who's finally turning 21? 

That's right, basically all of us! But especially Raina! 

Come celebrate August 28, 8pm, the Evening Sky Lounge, Freedom City

(it's lame but they don't care about magic, ha!)

Monkey buys the first round, come dressed for fun. 

RSVP regrets only but you better not

 

Those who looked up the Evening Sky Lounge would find a small bar in the Theater District, wedged in on the end of a whole street of bars and clubs. A small disclaimer at the bottom of the place's webpage said "cape friendly, no fighting!"  Anybody who really dug in might turn up the fact that the proprietor was one Betty Munroe, a retired hero from back in the bad old Moore days, who'd once gone by the codename Evening. 

 

On the night in question the weather was clear and hot, the velvet shadows after sunset just beginning to close in by eight. The Evening Sky was not a huge place but it had a long bar, a half dozen tables and twice as many booths, and a small stage with a dance floor. A four-piece band was doing an enthusiastic cover of some nineties rock songs as they were largely ignored by twenty or so chattering patrons. In the corner was one very large round booth with a very large bunch of helium balloons fixed to one side and a monkey sitting on the table, eating pineapple chunks off a plastic drink spear. 

Link to post
  • Replies 52
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Riley parked his bike in the alley behind the club, securely chaining it to a metal bracket someone had driven into the brick wall. He'd stopped to drop his bag and most of his gear off at the hostel where he was staying this week, but still wasn't foolish enough to go out in Freedom City without at least a few of his work clothes. Still, he looked presentable enough in his own mind: grey shirt and black slacks, with even a black tie on that hadn't cost him too much money, with just a few discreet leather pouches on his belt. He stood out under the Freedom City sky and ran his fingers over the smooth top of his head, then brought them down to stroke his short dark goatee. It had been a long time since he'd come back into town, maybe too long. Full of old ghosts; some of them older than others. 

 

He walked through the open front doors and noticed where the exits were, and the bathrooms for that matter - and the monkey. He smirked, just a little, and headed that way, his footsteps light from years of practice even if he wasn't actually trying to hide himself from anybody yet. 

Link to post

Merlin seemed pretty intensely occupied with his spear of fruit, but he did look up and give Riley a nod of greeting as he approached. The monkey made it clear that he had not been left to hold the table like a pile of coats, he was here because it was Raina's special day and he was doing her a favor. It looked as though he'd been well paid for his favor, if the hurricane glass full of fruit chunks and wedges were any indication. He gestured to Riley to have a seat anywhere he pleased in the booth. 

Link to post

Riley looked the seat and booth over, then sat down opposite the monkey, his back to the wall where he could see the door. "You're getting by. Didn't see the guest of honor," he commented sotto voice to Merlin, as quietly as he could while remaining audible over the sound of the band. His voice was deeper than the last time he'd spoken face-to-face with Merlin, his goatee noticeably thicker without actually being any longer, though his shaved head was as bare as ever. 

Link to post

Merlin finished his pineapple chunk, eating neatly with both hands, then chirruped a congratulations to Riley on his improved facial fur situation. Raina, the monkey explained, still with that very odd effect where Riley just sort of knew what he was trying to say, had needed to step out and take a call that might involve people singing to her. She did not want to be in public for that sort of thing, but she would be back shortly. 

 

Sure enough, Raina chose that moment to appear through the doorway that led off to the bathrooms. She was wearing a snug red and black dress with black leggings, with the sort of makeup and shoes that said she was planning to use her brand new legal ID to go clubbing later. She grinned at Riley as she approached. "Hey loser, glad you got the invite. Nice beard, you look hot." 

Link to post

"Hey witch, happy birthday" he said, grinning back. It wasn't a huge smile as smiles went, but it was bigger than Raina had usually seen on Riley back in the day. "Glad you think so," he added. "Mostly me and the mirror who sees it." He hadn't seen anyone else from their party here. "Here, I got this down in V'bora." He hesitated just a moment, then produced a small wrapped box too small and rectangular to be a phone, and definitely too thick for jewelry. "Rode with it all the way up." 

Link to post

Raina's eyes brightened immediately at the prospect of a gift. "Hey, present!" She made an imperious version of gimmie hands and took the gift, unwrapping it with great efficiency. Merlin turned to look as well, momentarily abandoning a somewhat clumsy effort to pull an orange wedge off his plastic spear. Raina's familiar had never been great at more traditional monkeying skills. "If this is a puka shell necklace, you and I are going to have a serious conversation about what is and is not allowed to come back into style," Raina warned Riley as the last of the paper came off. 

Link to post

The object inside turned out to be something different entirely from a necklace. It looked at first like a good, high-quality folding knife with the word WITCH carved on the white bone handle, before Riley showed Raina the trick blades inside the haft. "Multiswitchblade," he offered. "Regular steel, cold iron, silver. Found 'em all, checked 'em out. Figured, magic, doesn't hurt. Steel is blessed," he added, "had a guy I know in V'bora who talks to God do it. Seems to work okay. The endcap's bone." He shifted in his seat, hand resting on the menu, and waited for Raina's reaction. 

Link to post

Raina looked a little confused at first as she examined the knife, with Merlin archly inquiring if she was really ready for a witchblade. When Riley explained what it was, though, her expression changed to one of honest surprise, then interest. "Wow, this is..." She looked up at Riley. "This is really lit," she told him, sounding almost like she couldn't believe it herself. "It's a triad blade with bone, I can use this for a ton of spells. Thank you." Merlin immediately demanded custody of the knife, his fingers much cleverer in working out the mechanism of the blades than they had been with the fruit. 

Link to post

"Nice," said Riley, looking pleased with himself for a moment. "Don't cut anything I wouldn't cut." When the waiter came by, he ordered a root beer and explained wryly, "Gotta drive back to the hostel." He pointed to the knife and said, "Little piece of V'bora with you. Bone's out of a gator, steel's from a robot, church fence iron, got the actual knife bits from Black Mask, she's one of the supers down there, and the silver's from an actual magic pirate. Think of it when yer freezing yer ass off up here this December," he added cheerfully.

Link to post

Enjoying the warm weather while it lasted Winfred Wei entered the bar with a recognizable clipped stride and cool expression but an outfit that was a significant departure from her high school wardrobe. A backless forest green halter left her sleeve tattoo on display, metallic ink catching the low light so that it looked like spun wire set into her skin. The chemical structural formula set into a music staff wound up from her wrist and over her shoulder. The space between had been filled in with flowers in warm bronzes, wrapping around the music staff like a trellis, reflected light flickering like embers the disappeared past the neckline of her top. She'd kept her black hair short, making no attempt to hide the jagged tears in the top curve of one ear, even drawing attention to it with a row of piercings. Loose off-white slacks flowed around sharp brown boots as she scanned the crowd imperiously. That look gave way to a pleased smile as she recognized the occupants of the back booth and headed in their direction.

Link to post

"I don't plan on freezing my ass off, I'm gonna-" Raina flicked a glance to the door to see who'd come in, and took a full two seconds to even recognize who it was. Merlin, catching the look on her face, swung around as well and chittered surprise. "Oh my god, Fred!" Raina jumped up from the booth and covered half the bar in three long strides, catching Fred by the shoulders and looking her up and down. "I didn't even recognize you! When did you get cool?" she demanded. 

Link to post

"Sometime around 1850, as I recall," Winifred replied with a smirk, easily falling back into the familiar style of banter. Her lip colour was almost black with a subtle emerald undertone while the rest of her makeup softened or accentuated her sharp features in just the right way. She'd gotten a lot of lessons from the very best in the industry over the past few years, after all. "Although I suppose there was a moment a short while after than when someone insisted on helping me pick out a bra that fit properly. That likely didn't hurt my unfaltering, meteoric rise." She was still piete, especially next to the taller woman but there was noticeably more definition to the muscle under Raina's fingers and the small wedge of hip visible between the waist of her pants and the bottom edge of her top. Green eyes shone with amusement and a faint bit of colour rose to her cheeks while she waited for the blonde to finish her inspection. "It is tremendously good to see you, you know. Happy birthday."

Link to post

"It's good to see you too." For a rare moment, Raina was entirely sincere with no extra layers of bravado or indifference or cynicism. "I'm sorry I've been, you know, out of touch." Her grin was rueful. "Things were kinda... you know. I just wanted to try and get past all the stuff with my folks, but I should've been a better friend. I'm glad you came." And just like that the enthusiasm layer was back, and she was spinning to give Fred a side hug and direct her towards the booth. "Come on, you should see this knife Riley made for me, you'll get a kick out of it. And you might as well see Riley too," she added with a cackle, loud enough for him to hear. 

Link to post

"Hey there Fred," said Riley with a grin. He'd seen a little more of Fred than he had with Raina. "Didn't she tell you? Came down and saw gators with me." If his friends thought Florida was all gators and swamps for him, well - that was okay. He didn't need a lot of prying questions. "Like the outfit." He got up to give her a hug, body hard under his secondhand-but-still clean dress shirt, and sat back down. "You still rich?" 

Link to post

"I shan't pretend I didn't fret on occasion but we all respected that you needed the time and space." It seemed best not to mention that Robin had had to persuade her once or twice against marching up to Raina's door to check on her after the extended trial. "Thank you, Smith. And wealthy enough to have a guest room if you were planning to do something absurd like sleep atop your motorcycle while you were in the city, yes," she told the rugged survivalist as she returned the hug, both of them considerably more comfortable with the physicality than they'd once have been. "How many times has he mentioned the 'gators' so far? I believe he feels a sort of spiritual kinship with them, it's really quire beautiful."

Link to post

"He only got here a couple minutes before you, so I think it's only come up seven or eight times," Raina assured Fred. "Check out this knife, three kinds of magically sensitive metal and a bone handle. Guess where the bone came from. Go on, one guess," Raina urged, then ran right over any possibility of Fred getting a word in. "That's right, gator!" She picked up the knife and did a fairly credible job of deploying the silver blade. "Pretty cool, huh?" 

 

 

Link to post

"It's the miracle of nature," Matt called out, making his way over to the booth.

 

There was a large black dog already there; there hadn't been, before, but there was now, and it was avidly watching the monkey.

 

Matt's hair was as shaggy as ever, but he wore it better than he had as a teen - he wore a lot of things better, all told, nicely filling an almost indecipherably faded band shirt under a tailored black linen blazer and slacks. He wasn't quite clean-shaven, short stubble clinging to a pleasant jawline, but it was the kind of not-quite-clean-shaven that probably took more work to maintain than it would have taken to grow and trim a proper beard. He looked like he hadn't slept for a while, but nobody had ever seen him well-rested so at least that was nothing new.

 

He was swinging a nondescript paper bag on a pair of twine handles, which he carefully sat on the booth's table before it could get bumped on something or someone. "Soon, Riley will return to his swamp to dwell among his people, lurking just below the surface to protect them from becoming handbags and awful boots. How've you been?"

Link to post

"Matt. Dog." Riley's smile didn't turn unfriendy at the sight of the dog, but it did get a little sharper. "Doing a bad job of that. Don't tell anyone." Matt got a firm man's handshake as Riley sat down. "Like the beard. You oughta let that grow, see what the ladies make of it." He leaned back confidently in his chair. "So where's my mixtape, man?" 

Link to post

"Now this is the sort of project I miss seeing. Tragically few opportunities for spring-loaded anything these days. Fine work, Smith." Winifred fawned over the switchblade as Raina turned it over and demonstrated its workings until the sudden canine appearance stole her attention. "Fang!" She wrapped the hound in a big hug and scratched her enthusiastically behind the ears. "You know to leave poor Merlin alone; we need at least one sensible voice of reason at the table." Still half leaning overtop of Fang she looked over her bare shoulder to the newest familiar face. "Matthew." Her raised eyebrow suggested she was waiting for either an apology or an explanation but she couldn't keep her lips from quickly upward into a fond smile.

Link to post

"Damn, I leave you guys alone for like five minutes and you're all glowing up without any kind of supervision." Raina slid out of the booth to give Matt a good up and down look, then a quick hug. "Glad you could make it, it's been way too long. Have a seat!" She waved vaguely towards Riley's side of the booth. "We've got a tab going at the bar already, but they card hard so you're out of luck if you're underage. The bartender's like a psychic or something." She rolled her eyes. "I got told in no uncertain terms that if I didn't go to a "safe" place for my party, my boss was gonna stake the place out from the rooftops all night." Annoyance was replaced by a quick grin as she added, "so I figure we'll start out here, then hit the clubs and see how long it takes him to notice." 

 

On the table, Merlin had given the dog one wary look before digging into a nearby bag and pulling out a porterhouse steak, wrapped in plastic and styrofoam from the store. He informed the dog in no uncertain terms that this was Raina's special night and there could be no disruptions, but he was willing to call for truce and provide an attractive incentive. 

Link to post

Fang craned her head out to sniff the offered steak, nudging at the plastic with her nose. And then she pondered, very seriously, before grinning a toothy grin. There would be peace between their peoples.

 

"You'll get your mixtape when you rekindle the romance, man. You never call, you never write, where'd the passion go?" Matt gave Fang's head a quick ruffling, but he looked at Fred, raising an eyebrow to match hers. He wasn't as good at it as she was. "Fred," he said, apologizing for everything and nothing. He was glad to see his friends again.

 

He did eventually slide into the offered seat, sliding the bag Raina's way. "If we do go clubbing, probably put that somewhere safe. I have it on good authority that it's a really good old scotch, it should burn something awful, and if it's not your kind of drink then it'll make a great bribe or something. Guaranteed to not be haunted, not that they didn't try."

Link to post

"Brought my own fun," said Riley, tapping his left sleeve significantly. "Four days difference is a bunch of bull." He looked from Matt to Fred to Raina, the way one looks at a play when one has missed the second act. "Know a guy who makes it." He grinned. "Should try off the grid. All I have is my weather radio and pager and it's sweet." This wasn't actually true entirely, as he made regular Internet contact at cafes in Vibora Bay, but it was true enough for his house. He put his hand under his chin and thanked the server when he came by with his root beer. 

 

While the others ordered, he considered his options before he said, "So how's the city? Anything not make the news?" 

Link to post

Raina dug into the bag and pulled out the bottle, giving it a speculative look. "What, I'm not good enough for haunted booze?" she demanded, giving Matt a raised-eyebrow look. Merlin, having peeled open the steak and passed it to Fang as promised, came over to have a look as well. He opined that it looked like something Talya would drink, so it was probably very good. "Good point," Raina agreed, sliding the bottle discreetly back into the bag. "Thanks Matt, I'll think of you next time I need to drink like a real grownup." She gave him a smirk that was nonetheless gratitude and turned to order another rebujito and another glass full of fruit. 

Link to post

"Clever as ever," Winifred congratulated Merlin, giving Fang another squeeze before releasing the hound to enjoy her bribe before standing to take a seat in the booth. She let Raina keep the the outside and slid in on Riley's other side while giving Matt a look and audible hum that indicated she found his monosyllabic reply satisfactory and he should be tremendously grateful for her magnanimity. "My card has an asterisk next to my date of birth. Still officially older than you, young Master Smith," she teased.

 

"Are we doing gifts, then?" She produced a slate grey envelope and slid it onto the table next to Raina's first glass, the witch's name written on it in flowing calligraphy using ink that did an excellent impression of thin lines of flame. "As someone only quite recently cleared to enjoy spirits in responsibly moderation, I'm not sure what to order. Suggestions for a poor, lost English girl, for old times' sake?"

Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...