1. Meeting

The tale starts in an alleyway, somewhere in the slums of the city. Trash and old newspapers blowing about at the entrance. The buildings looming to either side are abandoned, supposedly, and in the doorways and dumpsters the occasional transient can be seen trying to rest by the faint moonlight. Still hidden by shadows, the sound of footsteps, combat boots on tarmac, sounded from further in. Not too far into the alley, in one of the piles of newspaper-covered forms, Dara was sleeping. Not really hearing the boot-steps, only her head and her delicate pale hands showing in the moonlight, the papers about her like a blanket. Her nose ring and earrings glinting in the pale light.

The boot-steps slowly revealed themselves to belong to Paul, his clothing contriving to hide him, the raven's head necklace shining slightly along with his rings. The box at his hip covered by the greatcoat, and the sunglasses not visible. Walking slowly obviously deep in thought, his eyes did not register the glinting or the curled-up form.

Sleeping a bit restlessly, Dara mumbled in her sleep, moving about with slight jerking motions, as if fighting someone or something. This motion combines with the gleaming to alert him to her presence, and he deviated in his course, ever curious as to what is happening. His head tilting, bird-like, as he observed her, recognizing the face. His own countenance rendered almost alabaster white in the moonlight. As he watched her she shifted more, eventually moving the papers off her, her form curled up into a ball. Once or twice she whimpered, flinching as if hit by something, then gets an angry but somehow sad look on her face

He crouched by her, concern for her evident on his face as he gently reached out a hand to her, softly calling her name. His poise combining with the pale moonlight to make him look almost as an angel of the streets, though he is simply a man.

She felt his touch and barely heard him calling her in his soft voice, quickly flinching herself awake. Her heart racing a mile a minute, her breathing rapid as she, in her 'not quite awake' state didn't recognize him, her eyes looking him over with severe caution, arms raised almost as if expecting to be hit.

Automatically, he stumbled backwards a half-step, hands raised, his breaths hurried, his pulse jump-started by her reaction. Desperately wanting her to recognize him, to see him as anything but a threat. When he spoke, his voice was soft yet clear, betraying his fear for her. "Dara? It's Paul. The guy from the apartments?"

She peered at him with her slowly waking furrowed eyes, eventually recognizing him and slowly lowering her arms. Her face softened to regret at her reaction, embarrassment, and some relief. "Paul? i..izzat you?" His breathing slowed as she lowered her arms, relief and embarrassment settling upon his countenance, regret at causing such a reaction plain in his eyes. His voice still soft, but having lost the slight edge of fear when he spoke next. "Yes, it's me. Are you okay?"

"I... uhh.. y..yeah. Im fine, w..why?" Trying to play it off as a tough, something she looks used to doing but having seen her just a few minutes ago, he knows it isn't truly her "You always hang out in seedy places like dis, man?" She gave a nervous chuckle in accompaniment to her words. His face was still a mask of concern as he heard her reaction "You didn't seem to be fine..." His eyes showed that her deception hadn't worked, but he didn't want her to lose self-confidence "And as for your second question, I hang out places like this 'cos I live in one'a these." he gestured to one of the seedy, low-rent, no questions appartment blocks that formed the walls of the alley.

"Nah, s'cool. I'm fine, really.." She nodded and smiled slightly, looking away with a touch of embarrassment showing through, her act still up "You live in onna dese?" She pointed to the buildings as she asked. He smiled slightly at her unwillingness to admit defeat, deciding it would be best not to push it "Not one of these exact ones, but one just down the street...only place I can afford, an' I'm on limited funds." 

She nodded, his explanation good enough for her "S'cool... you on yer way home then, huh?" Carefully, she ventured a look at him again. Her not quite healed eyebrow piercing still missing, but a new piercing almost right next to it. He smiles slightly and nodded. "Yeah, only so long even I can pound the streets, and even the mattress I got is better than the street..." He trailed off, looking down sharply, aware of what he just said, his necklace still resting on his shirt.

"'s true, I 'member what one o' dose tings feels like..." Not wanting him to feel embarrassed for what he said, she quickly picked up with her reply and chuckled slightly "Been a whiles, but I 'member..." She smiled encouragingly, trying to straighten her clothing and appearance out a little bit. Smiling slightly, he looked back at her, straightening his shirt, obvious that he's not had the chance to change it since they last met. "Well... I know it ain't a lot, but if'n you want to crash back at mine, yer more than welcome. It ain't much, I'll admit, but..." He trailed off, subconsciously straightening his shirt still.

She didn't even pay attention to his shirt-straitening, smiling at him inwardly yet smirking at him outwardly. "Yeah? You always invite strange chicks up ta yer place den?" She chuckled as she stood, brushing off the papers left on her, her hair near perfect and straight. He grinned when he realized what she's probably taking it as, nervously fiddling with the raven's head, inwardly blushing crimson "Not always, just those I recon I might be able to trust..." 

Still she smirked at him, her eyes grinning impishly, letting him know she caught his true meaning and was just having a bit of fun with him. "Ya trust me?" She looked slightly surprised, but that was only how she appeared. Inwardly, she was VERY surprised at his trust. "heh... Cool, ya don't know me very well, but cool. " She nodded, and smiled, the corners of her lips curling up irresistibly.

The grin resolved itself into a proper smile, believing she realized to what he was referring. "Don't see why not... after all, Raven looks after his own." His eyes sincere but smiling, hoping that she believed him, knowing it to be the truth for himself "I don't know you that good, but I did help patch you up a bit, you trusted me for that." He nodded, smiling the same kind of infectious smile that her.

"Raven? huh?" She looked to him like she had no clue what he meant by that, but was curious as to its meaning "whatcha mean, Raven?" His face fell imperceptibly, in his own mind kicking himself for not checking if she knew first. "Ah, just something to do with that tattoo you've got, the one you was born with? I got one kinda like the top of it... just figured it looked a bit like a raven. I thought mebbe whoever gave them us was lookin' after us."

"Huh, you got ones too?" She smiled widely at the thought.

"Just like the top bit. It's kinda easier to hide mine, though... " He smiled slightly, wondering what she would make of that statement.

"uhh..yeah?" He face twisted into a sly grin, still smirking at him "So we gonna stands here all day er get goin'? C'mon, tell me more bout yer tatt as we go..."

He nodded, returning the sly grin, as he began to walk, his combat boots sending slight echoes of his footsteps down the alleyway "It ain't as bad as yer probably thinking, I only said that because my shoulder-blade's usually covered up. It's just the four marks, the ones that look like a bird, y'know?"

"Yeah... yeah I know whats ya mean." She grinned again, almost wider, brushing some of the hair back from her face that flies in it as they walk, her boots making the same basic clomp clomp on the ground as his "But you said something about summun watching over us?"

He nods, obviously wondering how to put this "Weeell, you said you didn't know how you came to get it, yeah? And I know I haven't a clue how I got mine. A couple of times me dad mentioned about Raven, like it was some spirit or somethin', and I know he had one same as me. So I figure this raven-spirit thing's maybe watchin' over those of us with the mark?"

"Yeah? Huh, a raven spirit... kinda likes the injuns an stuff?" She smirked, nodding "Cool..." 

"He smirked, nodding "Maybe that kinda thing. Dunno where me dad got it from, though, he's never been farther than London his whole life," he chuckled

"Way cool... this sounds neat n stuff..." She grinned, upon hearing his words.

"Yeah, well... when I saw you with the mark I figured maybe you was like me an me dad, and some others I've met."

"What? Dat protected by raven thing? I dunno... Ive always had a thing fer them boids though..." She nodded slowly "Gots anudder tatt that's cool. Ya might like..." Her face lit up in a grin as she spoke.

"Yeah, ya never know... after all, there's a fair few of 'em in the city that I've seen." His eyes lit up slightly at the mention of another tatt "Oh aye? What's that then?"

"A few of em, huh? Hmmph, Ida neva thunk it" She smirked, her eyes lighting up at his mention of her other tatt. "Its way cool... gots it back home." She took off her leather and handed it to him quickly "Here, hold dis..." Turning around with her back towards him, she lifted up the back of her half-shirt, baring most of her back, a massively BEAUTIFUL and very well done picture of what looks like almost real glossy black feathered Raven, wings placed as if they were on her back.