Predictably, I left the RPG shortly afterward. These were my closing posts.

Fading Shadows

Wraith paced, boots giving a faint clang that would have been clipped had the carpet not been muffling her steps. Her nerves were stretched thin and taut, and the events of recent weeks had been pulling them back and forth in a mad tug-of-war that threatened to snap them, one by one.

Too many people, she decided, knew where to find her and her human ward, and most of them were of the worst sort possible. Not that the mercenaries she'd been associating with -- however minimally -- were pillars of society, but they at least wanted little from her. They wanted more from Douglas, who was all too happy to provide his expertise, but he was the social one. It was her job to stay in the shadows, something she had not been doing so well at, and keep him safe, which was going even worse.

Douglas himself, who had largely been ignoring her anxious display, swung himself suddenly to his feet and ambled into their modest kitchen area, where he could shortly be heard rummaging through the shelves.

"Groceries?" he said suddenly, wandering back into the room.

She stopped in midstride, looking at him with some puzzlement. "What?"

"Groceries." He wagged a can of baked beans at her.

"Ah," she said distractedly. "Did I forget again?"

He shrugged. "We both did, actually. 'Ceptin' I'm hungry right now, so.."

"Groceries," she said.

"Yeah!" He tossed the can into the air and caught it, then sidled over to the coffee table and set it down with a flourish. "Just like old times, you think?"

She smiled weakly. "Very old times."

He trotted over to the door, offering his arm in the most courtly manner he could manage while grinning like an idiot. She took it with a sigh and resigned herself to being sashayed up and down the aisles of the supermarket.

"What do we need?"

"Ahhh." He tapped his chin with his free hand, gaze drifting toward the ceiling, and after a moment snapped his fingers cheerfully. "Milk, bread, soda, butter -- oh, and some cheese, too -- canned junk.. maybe a couple of those instant dinners --"

"Those instant dinners are disgusting."

"You're not the one eating them."

She sighed again, gaze drifting up the hallway toward the muted bustle of the barracks' main lobby as Douglas continued to tick items off his impromptu grocery list. He had just reached "instant mashed potatoes" when she caught sight of an amazon of a Reploid woman with maroon eyes and waves of deep purple hair. Their gazes met at the same moment Douglas' fingers tightened on her arm. Wraith forced her eyes to drift on naturally, glancing over at her ward, who was still babbling about groceries, though his face had gone a shade paler than she remembered it.

Then, very suddenly, he released her and brought his hands up to smack his forehead melodramatically. "Ah, CRAP," he said, approximately as loudly as he could without shouting. "I forgot my tuner! I wanted to hit a hardware store and see if I could get a replacement."

She gave him a bland stare. "It isn't far to walk back, you know."

"Guess not," he agreed, spinning on his heel and retreating up the hallway with her in tow.

She cast him a sideways glance but said nothing until they had breached the doorway to their quarters, at which point she disentangled herself and double-checked the door. "What is it?"

He didn't answer immediately, giving her a sideways glance and rubbing his chin as he paced between the coffee table and the door. She was about to stop him with an out-thrust arm when he turned toward her abruptly. "That woman out there --"

"The one with purple hair?" Wraith hazarded.

"You saw her too?" He reached a hand up to run through his hair, frowning at the floor. "She's one of Bantau's cadre."

A chill washed over her at the sound of the familiar name, and her shoulders gave a sharp jerk as she straightened. "How do you know?"

Douglas gave her a hard look. "I did some research." Then, overriding her immediate objection, "Nothing dangerous, I promise. Somebody had to."

She folded her arms and said nothing.

"We have to leave."

Wraith looked up at him, startled. "You --"

He tossed a wry grin over his shoulder. "Better pack light. Think we should leave town again?"

"It.. might be best."

He walked over to his one piece of luggage -- he called it his toy box -- where he kept his machine supplies and textbooks, and Wraith watched him begin to pack. She had nothing to take with her but what she always carried.

They carried on that way in silence for several minutes, until a thunderous patter of footsteps clattered up the hallway, accompanied by jingling bells. An expression of resignation flitted across Wraith's face.

"You'd better let her in," Douglas remarked. "You know she'll just break down the door if you don't."

Wraith didn't trust herself to respond with more than a noncommittal grunt, reaching over to flick the unlock key as a boisterous knock sounded at the door. It was followed shortly by the door opening without any pause for a response, and a feline figure bounded into the room, tail switching inquisitively.

"Hallo, Munchie!" Douglas called cheerfully from where he was seated on the couch, sifting through his belongings for things he could sell or dispose of.

The cat-creature made a pleased mrring sound and trotted over to leap on the coffee table, batting at his hands while he worked. He flicked his fingers at her absently in an effort to keep her away from the more sensitive of his electronics. After several minutes of watching, the young feline turned away from him and looked at Wraith, uttering an inquisitive meow.

The Reploid arched an eyebrow at her and then scowled. "You tell her."

Douglas looked up, blinking, then glanced back down with a faint grimace. Munchie's tail began to switch, and her next meow took on a worried tone.

"We're packing," Douglas said finally, gaze firmly fixed on the equipment hye was reloading into the trunk.

The cat gave a startled squawk, then wheeled to glare at Wraith, ears flat.

"Don't look at me," she retorted. "It was his idea."

"Well, you would have said it anyway, eventually," the human answered her nastily, earning him a chilly stare.

Munchie yowled, preventing further discussion on the topic of blame. She looked back and forth between them in evident distress, then dashed over to Douglas -- scattering parts as she went -- and butted her head against him beseechingly.

He fumbled with his packing, attempting to avoid her, and finally pushed her firmly away. "Stop it, Munchie."

With a frustrated cry, she sprang to the floor again and dashed over to Wraith, attempting the same treatment with her. The white-haired Reploid was content to ignore her until she head-butted hard enough to cause a stumble, at which point she walked out of range into the kitchen and preteneded to take stock of what little food they had left.

At this, Munchie made to run back and give Douglas another try, but he had already left the couch and was resealing his trunk, most of its contents returned to it exactly as it had been before. She gave another yowl, this one of intense frustration, then ran to the door and burst out of it, scrambling up the hall amidst another clatter of bells.

"Well," Douglas remarked. "That went smoothly."

From the kitchen, Wraith uttered a low snort.

"I didn't think she'd give up that easily," he added, rising to his feet and ambling over to where his clothes were kept.

"You think she has?" Wraith asked darkly, returning to her post at the kitchen doorway.

Douglas shrugged. "Not a lot else she can do, is there?" He began cramming his clothes into a duffel bag, pausing occasionally to consider the worth of this t-shirt and the merits of that pair of underwear.

Wraith shook her head again, but he didn't notice it, humming tunelessly to himself as he finished with his clothing. The next half-hour passed in relative peace -- a small argument broke out over the state of Fisker's activation, but it ended swiftly when Douglas demanded to know whether she would like to carry the small robot's several-hundred pound secondary body. Wraith fumed silently as the semi-canine waltzed around the room with a jaunty swagger.

They had finished their preparations, double-checking every nook and cranny of the rooms for anything they could possibly need, and were about to start for one of the back exits, when the the door burst open again, admitting a slightly ruffled and fluff-furred Munchie -- along with the man Wraith had begun to consider the bane of her existence. He was Dan Crasher, a self-proclaimed mage and heartily unwanted suitor. He was also surprisingly dishevelled, and he looked for a moment as if he was in a state of panic.

"You're really leaving?" he gasped out before she could formulate a suitably rude demand for him to exit the room immediately.

Wraith glared at the cat, who fluffed a little more and stalked over to Douglas, then looked back at him. "Yes."

"Oh," Dan said, straightening and running a hand through his hair with a slightly puzzled expression on his face. "Well," he said finally, sounding cheered by his own statement, "I guess we'll always have Paris!"

".. What?" Wraith stared at him in unfriendly incomprehension, and Douglas hid a titter behind one hand, the other occupied with keeping Fisker from licking Munchie to see what she tasted like.

"They say love can span thousands of miles -- even thousands of years -- so I'm sure we'll meet again!"

Douglas attempted unsuccessfully to smother a splutter of laughter as Wraith's expression of disbelief grew. Hacking quickly to cover the sound, he ordered Fisker still and finished settling his trunk on the dog-thing's back, tightening the straps that held it in place. He then rose, slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder. Munchie howled, this time in Dan's direction, but the man was wrapped in his speech, apparently unconcerned by the fact that Wraith was elbowing him indelicately out of the path to the door.

"-- so I know it must be a tough choice, but hold your head high and just keep walking, after all, it isn't really the end. No --" Here she gave him another shove, gesturing for Douglas to follow her. "-- matter how much it hurts, you mustn't look back, but resolve to go forward without me."

Wraith gave him a pointed stare, and Douglas dissolved in another coughing fit, trotting hurriedly past. She walked out, and the door shut behind them all. After a moment's consideration -- Dan had stopped for breath -- she gave him the room's keycards and started up the hall. The man looked at them for a moment in puzzlement before declaring that he would keep them close for her inevitable return. Douglas fought a smile as he started after her.

"And I --" Dan called at their retreating backs, then he fell silent and looked down at Munchie, who was twining herself disconsolately around his ankles. He scooped her up, fiddling absently with the keycards. "'We'll always have Paris?' Where did that come from, anyway?"

Munchie sighed.

Hours later, nightfall had done little to lessen the hubbub from the mercenary headquarters' personal tavern, but the hallways were quiet, much to the relief of the two Reploids who stalked in silence toward Wraith and Douglas' former quarters.

"Fun little place," remarked the female, slightly shorter than her companion, who grunted in response.

Reaching the room, they fanned to either side of the door, waiting for a sign from within. When none came, the larger darted out and kicked the door open with one, sharp blow. The female lunged under his leg, ready to dispatch the first defender, but she stopped abruptly on reaching the inside and finally straightened.

"Darmot," she said.


She flicked a hand, gesturing for him to come inside. "They aren't here."

"What?" He stepped across the threshold, fist clenching at his side. "They can't have --"

"Looks like they cleared out."


"The boss won't be happy, sure enough," the woman remarked. "Guess we better go back, though."

"He can track them, though. Right, Ellen?"

She shrugged. "Maybe. But either way -- no point hanging around here."


Then, again in silence, both teleported from the room and from the base.