Magic Hollow 

As if it would help, Rika cried extra hard between the hours of reaching out to Niamh and getting ready for tonight. Her face was maybe still kind of puffy. She was still wearing the belladonna necklace because she was heartbroken and sentimental.

She'd been stupid, but who wouldn't be. But she was playing with danger and he'd knowingly unnecessarily not filled her in on everything she needed to be wary of and she was just so... so tired of it.

To think she'd been so desperate for his attention.

Okay. But now she was here, out at night, at Bonus Round, ready to play video games and talk to Niamh and say what she could and not think about a man she couldn't even talk about.

She got out of the car, waited until she saw Niamh eventually. Her smile didn't feel convincing, but she tried. Maybe she just came across as exhausted, and she sort of emotionally was.


 She looked sad. It was her first initial assessment, she would try to piece together the rest throughout the course of their evening. It would be a lie to say that the whole thing didn't feel awkward like a first get together, but this was important so she swallowed it. Smiling in return to Rika and lifting a hand from the pocket of her jacket to give her a little wave of a greeting as she made her way down the sidewalk from where she'd parked down the street.

 She'd practiced how she was going to go in with a chisel and shatter the ice, but then and there all that planning went to shit as she stiffly reached out to hold open the door for the both of them. "Long time no see, you ready to head in?"

"Yeah. For real," she agreed, shaking her head a little. It was so so stupid that they'd fought at all. Not that Spencer was any degree better than Beauregard.

Maybe all vampires just sucked like all shifters sucked.

"Are we drinking tonight?" Rika asked, gearing up to get whatever at the bar whether it was liquored up or not.

 "I figured you'd probably want to?" She looked her over as if the final answer was written along her arm or across her face. "I might grab a beer or something but I figure I'd be the DD, keep us on guard or whatever." Just paranoid enough to think that it was important to keep up some of their guard this far into the evening.

Did she want to? Drinking a lot reminded her of Beauregard. How many things were going to remind her of him before she remembered they were a natural part of her too?

Rika felt the threat of something in her throat and swallowed against it. "That works. We shoulda ubered here."

Dumb Rika dumb decisions dumb feelings you had. And still have.

She would go to order a beer for Niamh and some vodka double cocktail for herself. "What games are your favorite?"

 It wasn't necessarily the most balanced reunion, spending her evening watching Rika drink and lament a vampire while she sipped one beer as long as she could and played skeeball until her wrist hurt. But if she could help keep her distracted and at the moment, sure - she'd happily do that. "I like air hockey, and I'm a sucker for those stupid games where you have to hit the button at just the right moment so you can when a shit load of tickets."

 She waited for their drinks, a step behind and mindful of Rika's personal space as she skimmed over the specials on the chalkboard overhead. "What about you?"

The kind of concentration for the second thing was probably best left to Niamh. But air hockey! That sounded appropriately active and maybe even kind of violent enough to be a good choice!

"Air hockey," Rika nodded. "Well I also like, um... Pac-Man. But air hockey first."

The drinks were poured and she moved to wander with Niamh to where the air hockey was, only to find a pair of people were already there.

"Down to wait if you are," she decided with a shrug.

 She mumbled a thank you as she took her glass, sipped and turned round to fall in side by side with Rika. Watching the two at the table, the concentration as she tried to gauge their degree of interest. "Mm." Pac-Man, personally, was a stressful anxiety show that lasted far too long and made her brain short circuit in little arcs of panic. But then again, tonight wasn't about her.

 "Fuck that, we got plenty of time - let's see how Pac-Man and friends are looking." Taking the lead as she passed the tables and headed to the rows of older arcade games. She turned the corner and there ... Pac-Man and his wife, occupied. She glanced over her shoulder to Rika, shrugged as she took a sip. "Okay, fine - patience."

Niamh sought to take charge on the Pac-Man thing, and Rika just smiled a stupid sad smile and followed dutifully, sipping slow on a drink that would do little to buzz her because she absolutely didn't want to do the thing where she helped it along.

"Patience," she agreed. "So... what's been new with you?"

Anything but having to talk about herself when hey she really couldn't even share a good chunk of it anyway!

 It didn't take a psych major to know that the last goddamn thing she was meant to mention then and there was Spencer Seville. So she didn't, sipping again and licking her lips as she watched some tween get completely smoked by his dad at street fighter in the meantime. "Nothing that exciting, really. Just working on school stuff - thinking of really trying to do NaNoWriMo this November." She looked at Rika with a slight lift of her brows as her lips turned to a straight line - clearly doubting her own follow-through.

"How're the chickens?"

Chickens. She'd gotten another one because he'd said she— stop it.

"They're okay. Still laying eggs and being cute."

She spent a lot of time with them when she was home. She'd get even more time with them now. Even more being the addition of several hours on the weekend.

"What's nanowrimo?"

 "Oh, it's like ..." She sighed, watched as the two people at Pac-Man lost a life and glanced back to Rika. "Basically you try to spend the whole month of November trying to write a 50,000-word manuscript. It's a lot of work and I've never finished it." She shrugged, picked at her nails. "How's work going? Still at the same gym?"

"Fuse, yeah. Do... you work?"

She figured Niamh probably didn't work at the planetarium, so. She wondered what she was doing for like, basic living expenses and stuff now. Did she even still live in the same place?

Rika's drink was half done.

 And there they were, at a widening gap that would grow difficult to jump - but like hell was she not going to try at all. "Um, I'm still in between jobs right now? But I'm hoping to get something soon that'll work with my school schedule and keep me from coming home too late."

Ah. Rika nodded, decided against further prying on that front for the moment. Instead she took a different track.

"Your lease — it expired in September, right?"

She was curious if Niamh still lived at the same place, or...

 "Mhm." She nodded and kept her glass close to her lips as she stared at the scuff marks along the side of the Donkey Kong cabinet to their immediate left. "Call me paranoid but after everything, I decided I wasn't going to renew their ... you're good at your house, right? I mean - not moving or anything?"

Should she move? The thought hit her very suddenly, and most of all she lamented for her hens. How stressful it would be to them to move.

And then, very stupidly, she thought of Annabel and their times together. And then very suddenly, oh no. Beauregard on the couch with her. Not the time they'd had sex, but when he fell asleep holding her and she'd been so afraid to move throughout the night that she'd just stayed there. And how he had to stay until the following evening.

It suddenly welled up and her eyes got all dumb and shiny and teary and she shook her head.

"I'm not— I'm not gonna move," she snuffled out the words, as if she wasn't feeling a heavy tear rolling down the corner of her eye.

 Oh no. Oh shit, oh fuck - no, no, no ... she watched it happen in slow motion, the gentle push that sent the cart speeding down a hill to certain destruction. At once she switched her beer to her far hand and gently moved to try to set a hand just barely between Rika's shoulder blades to try to gently coax her towards the restrooms.

"Come on ..."

And once she started, you know, the fun just didn't really stop? Niamh guided her elsewhere and she brought her hands to wipe at her eyes as the crying began in earnest.

Naturally, this was accompanied by her turning her hand over such that her half finished drink ended up spilling all down her front and onto her shoes.

A soft gasp of surprise at the shock of cold and everything was just awful.

 Yikes. Her corralling was a little more firm then, not cruel but direct as she pushed Rika towards the bathroom, reached out to take her glass and set it down on an abandoned table before they reached it. She downed most of her beer and set it down just as quick, went ahead to grab a handful of paper towels from the dispenser. "At least you're wearing black, we can fix this."

No Niamh, you didn't know how awful everything was. Because it wasn't this, by itself — it was everything plus this, how she couldn't so much as take one step without thinking about how things had been and how her feet were kind of wet in her shoes now and how she'd improved her magic so much under his guidance and how she now smelled like vodka something or other.

"I'm sorry," she wailed in quiet keens, pressing the paper towels to her jacket and down along her legs. "I shouldn't have — so dumb."

 "The only stupid thing we did was coming out here, Rika - you aren't stupid." She grabbed a few more paper towels, held them close to her chest until Rika was ready for them. "I should have brought over wine coolers and painted your nails ... we can still do that - if you want." Something a little less chaotic so that she could get out of her system everything she needed to in peace.

Her face screwed up in more crying at what could only be considered as loving scolding. She took the paper towels, nodding insistence in defeat.

This had been a bad idea and she'd, on some level, honestly known that. Just tried to be all brave about it and ended up turning into a.

A jellyfish, really. Stupid spineless crybaby jellyfish.

 "Rika, ..." She was gentle as she said it, resisting the urge to try to grab another handful of paper towels. "Do you want me to take you home? I'll sleep over if you'd like - or I can just come to hang out for a little while." It was a shitty consolation prize in place of old man vampire royalty, but she liked to think it was still better than being left alone to wallow.

"Yes," she meeped, wishing she could just hug Niamh and cry a lot but she couldn't because she'd vodka cocktailed herself.

"Did you drive."

She honest to God could not even remember if Niamh had her own car.

 "Yeah." She didn't bother to make a big deal about it, because that really didn't matter at the moment. "Did you? I can either drive your car and Uber back whenever or ...?" It felt unfair to expect Rika to work out the fine details of all of this when she was in a brief lull of what felt like the start of a lengthy meltdown.

It would be very unfair of her to expect Niamh to have to follow through with that. But it was an outstretched hand, and who was Rika to not take it when she was undoubtedly and publicly such a mess.

"Thank you," she decided peakily of the offer, taking some fold of the paper towel to wipe at her face and what little makeup she'd messed up. "I'm so sorry for the trouble, I'm just a mess."

Sniffles and shuddering breathing and dimply chin and all and just trying to hold off the waterworks until they were out of public.

 Yeah. It was fine, she'd like to think that Rika would do the same for her if the tables were somehow turned one day. "No sweat." Brushing off any gratitude at once and reaching out to grab the door to the bathroom for both of them. She'd lead the charge once they were nearing the door if Rika would let her, a little sad to have not even gotten in one game but not so self-involved as to protest about that loss.

"You still talk to Minnie?"

Minnie. Minerva?

Rika shook her head, face still drawn in a pouty sort of sadness held at bay for the cool night air once they'd left the establishment. "Haven't really heard from her in a while. You?"

 "Mm." She wondered briefly if she'd set her foot in it by asking if it would incline Rika to reach out and lead to hassle. "No, not for a while now." Maybe it made the most sense to pretend to be oblivious, a case of mistaken identity. She'd let Rika take charge and lead the way to the car, glancing over her shoulder suspiciously from time to time after the past few months that they'd had.

Oh. Why ask, then? Rika offered a quiet him and wondered, naturally, if she should reach out.

Instead, silence sunk. She gave Niamh the keys and settled into her own passenger seat, thinking about how the last time she'd been in a passenger's seat was when she and Beau—

"Do you hang out with anyone," she asked, pushing herself towards listlessness as she frowned at her thoughts.

 Idiot. She cursed herself quietly as Rika asked the obvious question, adjusting the driver's seat and nudging the mirrors. The last thing she needed to do was fuck up the car after the week Rika was having. "Um ... not really, you know. Just trying to find a rhythm for myself." She shrugged, kept her eyes forward and started out. "Met anyone interesting since we last spoke?"

Rika, after all, seemed to have a way with people between both of them.

She had, you know. But she didn't really want to think about them. So she mumbled, "I dunno. Not really."

Didn't wanna talk about someone who had powers like Beau. Well, there was Ashley, too, but you know.

Rika folded her arm up on the windowsill and rested her head in it and wilted. She just shouldn't have come out at all.

 Well, that was surprising - and not all together believable but it's not like she would accuse Rika of anything. Accustomed enough to the silence, she said nothing, focused on the trek back to Rika's and would only break in to clarify directions once in a while for the most part. After a while, however, she caved a bit - found that it was probably best to try to yank Rika from her own thoughts.

"Spoken to the dude with the skeleton collection recently?"

In the silence, she could reflect. Tell herself this was for the best. He was destined to someday lose his self control again — how stupid she'd been for flirting with death.

And yet... she'd never felt safer than when she was with him. Any shifter, any vampire. She could just pull out his name if she really needed to, tell them to fuck off.

And much worse than that, she'd certainly fallen for him. How could she not.

How could she be so stupid to do so, but also how could she be so stupid to call it quits. Rika reflected over the texts. There was nothing in it that directly said "we are over." Even his "take care, Rika," could have just been a standard goodbye, until next time.

She could still go back, act like all this wasn't real. It was a dangerous idea to toy with, and her stupid human dinner heart ached for to go back on the last day or so and fall right back into it.

No. She had to be done. He'd lied and hidden so many things. She'd told Niamh she was.

Niamh, who was asking about... someone. Kim? Kris. Rika shook her head. "Just kinda too creepy."

 "We can agree on that." It's all she'd say about the other necromancer, more confident in that assessment these days than not. She took their exit on the highway and relaxed the slightest bit. "On the real, Rika - while I'm happy just spending time with you until the worst of it dulls, let me know if you need anything. I'm not like, loaded but - I could figure something out." She paused. "Could always go invisible and pull the planetarium fire alarms if you're feeling petty."

No, not seriously - not mostly. Sounded like more trouble than not..

It felt weird, being offered money instead of time. Or whatever. Niamh probably didn't mean it that way but it was how Rika took it at first.

And then came something that was probably a joke, but. It was a very dangerous suggestion.

Rika shook her head, not even moderately humored by the idea of going back to the planetarium. If she did, it was because she was weak. And she was, but it would be complete defeat. She'd have to accept that about herself. And.


"Don't do that," she answered quietly.

 Yikes. Was she spending too much time around people with shit senses of humor? Was Rika just in too deep to chuckle? Was it both, perhaps? "I can't go invisible anyway, Rika." A low murmur as they slowed on the turn onto her street. "I wasn't planning on ever going back there, for the record."

Yes, yeah, she was not capable of humor right now and she recognized it made her shitty company. She didn't know why she's ever decided to do this. Bother Niamh instead of breathing and taking time for herself.

Of course Niamh wouldn't go back to the Planetarium. She'd decided he was awful even though he'd helped her with—

"Are you still taking money from him."

 Well, that felt more like an accusation than a question, if they were to be honest with one another. Like she'd been caught doing something heinous and now the warden was just waiting for her to confess. She parked the car, didn't move to get out just yet as she killed the engine and offered out the keys to Rika.

 "Only if I need it. He doesn't volunteer anymore, but when I overestimate what I need - yeah, he'll come through." At least he had so far. "I don't make a habit of it." She'd neglect to mention anything else, leave it at that as she was mindful of how she held the keys to avoid contact.

She didn't even know if she had the energy to be heartbroken about it. At least Niamh hadn't lied and denied it entirely. Then Rika could have had one or two months of believing she had a friend that she felt safety and honesty with before that was inevitably ripped away too.

She nodded quietly and took her keys, eyes out the window to some faraway place that didn't exist in this plane or time.

"Thank you for the ride."

Oh, it was that kind of wording again.

 Oh, okay - so she was still too good for free money. She supposed that it was good to know in the same way that honesty was good even if it hurt. What stung the most was the idea that they had gone through an earthquake, rebuilt and took a stride towards normal, and now here they were back to square one despite all of it. The lack of movement spoke volumes as far as she was concerned, the distinct absence of an invitation inside saying what she couldn't.

 "No sweat, I'm happy to help." And that much at least was the truth. She pulled up her phone, swiped in her code and went to pull up the Uber app as she pushed the door open. "I guess ... let me know, you know, if you want to hang out."


Yeah. Just. Yeah. She'd been dropped over Beauregard, over his former associations. How was it fair that Niamh stayed with Spencer after what he'd made her do with him, against Minerva.

Opening the door, she'd cross the threshold of her property and find herself inside in a quiet daze, feeling like a terrible and intensely lost person.


 It was shame and guilt, and then as she got out of the car and found that the shame started to blossom to something else. Indignation that she was such a fucking hypocrite. Yeah she took the money, but she was honest about it - and he couldn't harm her anyway, a pet in a way brought to heel at he side. It wasn't like she fucked him for protection like some sort of supernatural sexploitation film. But even she knew better than to say that, watching the screen of her phone as she walked down the driveway and reveled in just how much her personal affairs were none of Rika's fucking business.

 Hurting and spiteful, her eyes shifted to orange as she felt the prickle of focus, glanced over her shoulder to make sure a once invisible Rika wasn't creeping behind her before she went to her contacts and pulled up a familiar one.

"I need you to come pick me up."

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