unaffected

It's the end of the world as we know it

From: Lara Raith <lara@houseraith.com>
To: Thomas Raith <godofcologne@livejournal.com>

Subject: Our Mutual Problem

Brother-mine,

I know how much you adore our dear father’s presence, but several matters of business have arisen here that require his personal attention. I’m sure your presence as a companion will soothe his nerves. Papa does hate to travel alone.

I’ll see you soon,
Lara

*****

Thomas stared at the computer screen for a long, long moment, sorting through his thoughts. The idea that his father was leaving (for good, if he hadn’t misread between Lara’s oblique words) was a relief, but why he had to be the one to escort the old man back was a troubling thought. Was her message a means of simply reasserting her influence over both him and his father, or an attempt to pull Thomas into some unknown game? He tried not to think of the possibility that it was an attempt to remove him from a game in motion, because that meant betrayal, and from a source he had wholly considered safe.

He sighed again and hit print on the screen, taking the moment to stand up as the printer spat out a single page, the contents of his sister’s email. Gesturing to one of the crewmen for a pen, Thomas added a few lines to the page:

The Bitch Queen calls. I’ll be back whenever she lets me off the hook.

He left the message pinned to the kitchen counter and headed out.
Thomas

Time to dance...

Even after a demonstration of Alice’s considerable talents at distraction and his own extensive ability to avoid uncomfortable knowledge, the matter of just what had happened to Edward (as well as the uncomfortably large number of questions regarding his father’s sudden appearance) pushed their way back to the front of Thomas’ mind. The house was still quiet with the sun so high above, but the omnipresent white noise of emotions seemed an irritant when his head was already so full.

So on came the boxers and the jeans, the Desert Eagle tucked at the back of his pants and a handful of items went into his pocket. Thomas turned for the door, then thought better of it and threw on an unbuttoned shirt to cover up the grip of the gun. With the familiar weights of the gun at his back and his mother’s amulet at his neck, Thomas headed out of his room, down the stairs, and out the garage.

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sidelong look

I'm the kind to sit up in his room. Heart sick and eyes filled up with gloom.

When Thomas woke up, the sun was streaming in through the window, and he could see brilliant blue sky through a space in the thin curtains. His mouth felt bone dry, but his head didn't throb, a pleasant surprise. Some part of him had expected the vampire safe tequila to have given him every effect of real alcohol. As it was, Thomas couldn't remember coming back to the house and falling asleep; the last thing he remembered was getting back on Lestat's plane and deciding he was going to take a nap.

Maybe someone had dragged him back to the house and tossed him on his bed.

With the shambling, bleary gait of a sobering college student, Thomas shuffled into the bathroom and set himself to the not-inconsiderable task of sluicing off the remnants of debauchery and alcohol.

*****

Half an hour and a thoroughly steamed up bathroom later, he stood in the middle of the bedroom he shared with Alice, a towel around his hips, as he checked his voicemail. The blearily blank expression on his face faded into worry and perplexity as he listened, and, by the time Thomas clicked 'save', a deep frown was growing. He sank into a seat on his bed, staring at the phone in his hand, while the other ran absentmindedly through damp dark hair.

((Tag Alice!))
Justine

Hold your breath now it's stacking up

This is Thomas. Leave a message.

Thomas? I don't know how she did it or when without me finding out but Lara's sent your father to Las Vegas. He's going to be staying on the show. She has to realize what I'm doing for you. Or something's changed and made her want to keep a closer eye on you. This isn't what we expected, Thomas. I never thought she'd let him out of her sight. Please be careful.

Call me back.
hiding from the world

Party's over and you don't look so good.

Sunlight was already painting the sky orange when Thomas made his way back to his room. The night had been full, extremely so, but it had ended well enough. A hundred different thoughts, each with its own implication, ran through his mind, each of them shoved away for a later time, when he was ready for doubt and caution and self loathing. The only thing he allowed himself to keep in mind was the game, a thread of conscious thought simmering in the back of his mind, always looking, waiting, finding weakness, opportunity.

Still, the sun was rising and even Thomas had to admit he was exhausted. He shrugged out of his jacket, with the rare intention of hanging it back up in the closet, and stopped as his eyes landed on the boutonnière, the single blossom Dru had made. The shadow of a smile playing at his lips, Thomas reached for the flower and unpinned it from his lapel with deft fingers. He held it for a minute, the bloom and its accompaniments a warm, fragile weight in his hand, contemplated what to do with it. It couldn’t sit on his jacket forever, nor did it seem right to toss it into the trash, withered and dead.

He looked around his side of the room, considering options, until he saw Lacci’s iron box, Justine’s letters tucked inside. Except for one, a new but familiar envelope. Thomas set the boutonnière on top of the box and reached for the gloves he kept in the dresser’s top drawer. As he pulled on the right, he glanced down at his palm, where the faintest imprint of a crystal bead lingered on his hand, the skin around it pink, as if sunburned.

Thomas froze, the gloves falling to the floor. He glanced from his palm to the flower on his dresser, crystal beads adorning the stem. He swallowed, breathed slowly, then reached down to pick up his gloves, returning them to the drawer, suddenly in no mood to read the new letter. His words to Lacci on the range reverberated through his mind.

It was only a matter of time.
reading

Letters from Home: Everybody's Playing the Game But Nobody's Rules are the Same

It was late on Night 39 when the letter was delivered:

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At around the same time, a sizeable box was delivered to the kitchen. The box contained:
an assortment of French perfumes, colognes, and aftershaves
a half dozen Wiffle Bats
a singularly odd plush cat/apple (with a tag that read For Isaac)
a copy of a video game
and a note

There's no name on the box, nor any identifying marks regarding who would have sent such a thing. The only thing on the box that is a clue to its origins is a postmark: Chicago, IL.

smiling

The devil may smile with an angel's face

After the conversation with Edward, Thomas stayed in his room and let his mind wander, let the Hunger guide his thoughts through a maze of possibilities. He tried to ignore how the exercise, even the planning, was a rush, how it made the blood rush through his veins. Between his fingers, he toyed with a business card, once in a while rereading the short message, conjuring up in his mind the slender, redhead with emerald eyes. She was a lot of things, but she was human, and had a human's vulnerabilities. But it was too soon. Too soon to attack that particular pawn.

It was going to take some thinking on. But fortunately for him, his night was wide open.

((Tag Alice))
Thomas

This is the night that never ends...

A few minutes of quiet and the scent of gunpowder managed to do what all the interminable talking had not: clear Thomas' mind to the point where he could actually stand being in his own head. Still, just because he wasn't in danger of hurling insults or spewing his guts didn't mean he wanted to see any of the housemates who had been informed of his departure. Not just yet, at least. After a good day's sleep, he'd be more sociable.

So Thomas bribed one of the grips to sneak into the kitchen where Isaac was holding court with something that smelled amazing and bring back a bottle of every kind of liquor in the bar. Thomas contented himself with sitting on the patio, a bottle of bourbon at his elbow, as he took the Desert Eagle apart and began wiping down the interior.

((Tag Vlad))
Thomas

Roadtrip of Denial: I'm staring at the asphalt wondering what's buried underneath

Given all that had happened already, it took comparatively little for Alice to convince Thomas they needed to find out what Dru's package meant. A GPS purchase and a flurry of phone calls later, Thomas found himself signing paperwork for his motorcycle to be shipped to Los Angeles while Alice printed out their boarding passes for a non-stop flight from Chicago to LA.

They chased the sunset to Los Angeles, and true to the shipping company's word, the motorcyle was waiting outside the baggage claim when they picked up their bags from the carousel. "We should find that taco truck you like so much again," Thomas said, strapping their bags onto the back of the motorcycle. The GPS sat in his back pocket, but he made no move to take it out or turn it on now that they were in the city. "Maybe you can bribe the owners to let you ride along for a night."

Just because Thomas had agreed to come didn't mean he wasn't hesitant about the whole thing.

((Tag Alice))