Half a restaurant away, Svorak was doing what any good well-trained plain-clothes bodyguard would do. Watch the premises and look… well, harmless wasn’t possible, but at least busy doing something else. Like look as if he was agonizing over a decision made, knowing it was the correct one, despite the very strong urge to listen in. So many answers. However, this was personal, private, and she didn’t know about the wire. This was for her to tell him and Christoph in person, to their faces, willingly or not at all.
The merc drummed his fingers on the laminate table and pulled out his cell phone. In barely one ring, the line picked up. “Hi Blondie.”
“Is she running?” Christoph sounded resigned.
The black man chuckled and shook his head. “Nah, she bucked up and is now sitting down, spilling her guts to her sister.”
A gust of a breath. “Painful,” his lover said knowingly.
“No shit.” Svorak spared a smile as the waitress brought over the beer he had ordered. No whiskey while on shift. “Hey, wanna get dinner sometime?”
Over at the ‘family meeting’, Lucy sat back, frowning. “Then what…?”
“The rule of three,” Arana replied softly. “Karma. Do a deed wrong, and thou shalt receive punishment threefold.” She reached up, rubbing her eye with the bottom of her palm. “Lucille died during childbirth. The baby suffocated in the womb-”
“And you were forced into immortality,” Lucy breathed.
“No.” The three with her blinked, and Arana smiled wryly. “That’s not really the curse…”
“Does it include chocolate syrup?” Christoph asked silkily. Svorak smiled as he took a swallow of his drink, feeling the cool slide of the brew down his throat.
“What’s the curse?” Ember blurted, blinking.
“‘Eternal death’,” Arana replied, and Lucy blinked hard.
The group was quiet for a long time, each falling into thought. The waitress came to give them refills on their drinks (none of them had ordered food, except Arana; Drai ordered her a steak), and left. Lucy shook her head. “So… I’m… what, Lucille’s reincarnation or something?” she asked, understandably skeptical.
“I guess,” Arana muttered on a gusty sigh.
She picked up her fork and poked at the untouched steak before her. It had been sitting there for nearly ten minutes. Drai abruptly jerked the plate over to him and started cutting the steak up with a knife. Then he pushed it back, keeping the knife away from her.
“And no one noticed?” Lucy asked suddenly.
Ember blinked. “What?” Sometimes it was incredibly hard to follow the blonde’s trail of thought.
“The murders,” Lucy said. “I was thinking that this is so unreal and-”
“Jack the Ripper,” Drai drawled.
“… oh.” The blonde blinked a couple times at Arana. “… oh.”
The woman across the table from her nodded, not looking at her as she reluctantly put a bite of steak in her mouth. Why did it taste like sandpaper? “Yes. That’s what they called me. People got all excited about it, but no one did much. Sure, they had people out looking… but no one tried overly hard. The women were only whores to them, people that didn’t matter.” She frowned. “They meant less than the orphans.”
“Aah, steak. Thank you.” Several tables away, Svorak thanked the waitress. “Goldie, I got dead cow in front of me, I’ll talk to you later. Love and kisses!”
Laughter rang over the line. “Wow, must be good meat,” the chemist mused.
“So.” Lucy stared at Arana. “What now? What do you expect out of me?” she asked, and winced when Ember elbowed her not-so-subtly. “Ow! Why’d you do that?!”
Ember scowled at her. “Empathy, you wannabe sociopath. Empathy.” She frowned, sighed and turned her attention back to Arana. “My name is Amaya.” She jerked her thumb to indicate the blonde. “And as you know, this is Lucy. Not Lucille. Just Lucy.”
The brunette’s gaze softened. “Elizabeth. But I go by Arana these days.”
Drai coughed. “I’m Drai…?” he asked more than said.
“What do you mean, empathy?” Lucy interrupted, ignoring everyone else to glower at the redhead beside her.
“She just told you her life story, and you asked her what she wanted out of it?”
“We don’t know she was telling the truth!”
“Look at her. You have all the proof, idiot.”
Lucy’s head whipped around so fast it was a wonder she didn’t get whip-lash. She glared at Arana for several tense minutes, before she sat back. “I shot you twice.” It wasn’t a question, and Arana didn’t bother answering it. “I know they were both fatal; I’m a damn good shot.”
“It hurt, if that helps,” Arana replied softly.
“No. My question still stands. What do you want?” Lucy asked.
“I don’t want anything,” Arana replied bluntly. Then she shook her head. “No. I’m lying. I do… want…” She sighed. “But it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask.”
“And that stopped you before, being fair,” Lucy pointed out.
A wry smile was her only answer. At least, until Drai pinched her. The brunette started and scowled at him, receiving an innocent blink. She sighed. “I want my sister back.”
Lucy blinked at her, for once drawing a blank. She had no answer, no come-back for that. The longing in the other woman’s voice quashed all thoughts of being nasty in response. “But I don’t know you.” It was just… said. Not really an objection, or a reason. Just… words.
Arana smiled faintly, hopefully. “You can get to know me.”
Several hours later, Christoph picked up the phone again, this time smiling.
“Goldie…” His boyfriend sounded pained.
Taking the call into the kitchen, the blond chuckled as he smiled at the few other mercenaries at the long table. “Yes, Tiger?” Several eyes locked onto him as Svorak’s codename left his lips. Christoph waved them to relax. “What’s up?” If it were an emergency, the man would be using the wire.
“Look, I understand that they are girls–” Blond brows arched up and the grinning man quickly hit the speakerphone button, placing the cell in the middle of the table. The others leaned forward. “–but shit, do they really have to talk this much? Is it genetic? Blame the funky chromosome or something?”
Ruby’s expression was priceless. Medic just looked amused.
“Svorak…” Holding in laughter made Christoph’s gut hurt, so he didn’t have a problem with letting it out. It took a few seconds, but eventually he had himself under control. By that time, so had Ruby. “Are you drunk?”
“Nooo,” the man drawled. The good doctor snorted. There was a beat of silence. When Svorak spoke again, he sounded a little more sober. “Okay, probably, but not drunk enough to miss that. Speakerphone? Really? Aw, fuck. Is she there?”
The glare the sniper had levelled on the tiny gadget of the latest communication didn’t change.
“I’ll take the killing silence as a yes. Anyway, the two of them are going at it with words, some of it’s rough, but most of it seems promising. I need someone to switch with me. I’m not drunk enough for this.” The merc at the restaurant turned up the charm. “Hey Ruby. Want girl time? Chat about fashion? Boyfriends? Admirers? Chang?”
Christoph leaned away from the tiny female as her eyebrow twitched. “Er, Tiger…”
There was a sigh from the kitchen doorway. “I think I felt the world tremble,” Simon said dryly, eyes on his partner. When she refocused her ire on him, Wolf held up his hands. “I’ll get the car?”
“Perfect! I’ll see you soon then. Later.” Svorak hung up.
Grunting, Medic shook his head and shared a wry glance with the chemist as Ruby stalked from the room.