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Will you be mine?

Etienne looks down into the box in his hand as he floats around nervously outside the doorway of the library, where Renee's sitting with a book on arcane hexes.

He looks down at the Claddagh ring, remembering the last time he'd loved enough to want to give it. How he'd spent long hours trying to make sure it was ready before he had to leave home forever to start his new life. Time he probabably should have spent making preparations for leaving, as he'd ended up rushing around last minute, but he'd loved Amelia so much for sticking by him when he was about to lose everything he'd known his whole life.

At least he'd thought she was sticking with him. How could he have known she'd leave him then, a fading image on the docks as he sailed away... having to go down and meet the pitying looks of the only two friends who'd chosen to go into exile with him.

The ring was a claddagh. A little thing he'd seen and learned about in Ireland when he used to travel, and he'd loved it right away. The stone in a claddagh ring was usually a diamond or emerald, but this one was special, made with a ruby; symbolic of passion, of love: of giving the heart.

It was odd, how a heart could heal so. He loved Renee more than he knew it was possible to love anyone, eclipsing half-remembered feelings for Amelia like a matchstick beside a vast, burning sun. He takes a deep breath, not because he needs it, but to clear his head, and strides in slowly, closed ring box clasped tightly in his hand, at his side.

Lesson planning.

Renee stands in the center of the ballroom, stretching her arms up to the ceiling while up on tiptoe. The chunky, high-heeled boots are gone; this is serious stuff now. She's donned a pair of loose gi pants paired with a tight army-green tank. Her feet are bare, but the pants hide this fact. The ties of a white and part-red bikini top poke out the neck of the tank and the bow on her left hip is partly exposed. Her long, blonde hair is back in a ponytail at the back of her head and looped against itself causing the ends to fan out every which way. The ivory-hilted, dragon-head katana lays sheathed at her feet beside a simple sash. She's jogging on the spot now, finding her heart rate with two fingers on the carotid in order to stay warm.

In account with her last look at a clock, it was probably nearly time for Annie to arrive. As patient as she was however, the idea of a kata beforehand was prevalent in her mind. She bends to the floor and takes up the sword and sash, attaching the sword to her waist. Her left hand holds onto the saya at the tsuka at the left of her navel, her right hanging down by her side. Somehow wrapped around the saya are two interconnected golden circular glints, accentuated by the dazzle around it. Magic. That and the sharpening of her katana with the enchanted whetstone definitely had already proved a bonus. She drops to her knees, feet turned inwards and calves out further than her thighs. Her hands go to rest upon her thighs; she takes a few deep breaths...

To sleep, perchance to dream

"Wake up, my little pixie." An all too-familiar voice whispers softly to Annie. She'd almost forgotten her old nickname. Only one person had ever called her that.

"Hm?" She opens her eyes slowly to find herself cuddled against someone under the willow tree in the old garden under the noon sunshine. Annie looks up and smiles at Stephen. "I guess I drifted off." She murmurs.

"So it seems." He replies.

She reaches up to tuck back a dark curl from his face, looking up into his warm grey eyes. "This shouldn't be possible." Annie sighs, drinking in the sight of him like a man in the desert who has found water for the first time in days. Stephen looks exactly the same as he did the last time she saw him alive. "You're dead, honey."

"And you've grown up." Stephen replies. "More lovely than I'd expected." He remarks with an appreciative look, then shakes his head sadly. "I know I'm dead, but I promised you, remember, that I'd always be here when you needed me."

Annie nods. "Under this very tree, I recall." She recalls warmly, snuggling closer. "I miss you so much...I'm sorry."

"You must know I've missed you, too, but, dear pixie, for what do you apologize?" Stephen asks.

She sighs, "For so much... For not begging you to stay that night, for not looking for you sooner... For leaving France."

Stephen shakes his head and kisses her forehead. "Don't apologize for that." He admonishes, "You no longer had anything holding you to that land, or that time. I was gone and there had never been anything you could have done to stop it. I had to die. To motivate you to find the murderers." He explains. "So that others might live. You know I'm not fond of the thoughtof being pawn, but from this side of it, I see the necessity. I only regret the pain it caused you. Do you understand?"

"I suppose." Annie sighs again. "I'm not complaining or anything, Stephen, dear, but why are you here? How did you know where I am?"

Stephen thinks a moment before answering "You never could hide from me worth shit, Pixie." He teases, "As to the latter, I needed to talk to you. You need to be careful, and to remember that not all is what it seems."

Annie nods, "That much I knew." She replies, thinking of her unexpected blood relation to Etienne, whom she'd previously simply called her Uncle.

Stephen looks as if he's about to say something, but appears to let it go. "And I need to warn you Annie. Something is coming. I'm not allowed to say anything more. Something is coming, and it will make the Angel War look like child's play.

"What should I do?" Annie asks, nervous suddenly.

Stephen shrugs, "Nothing you can do. But remain in condition, improve your skills. When the time comes, be ready."


Annie sits up suddenly in bed, looking around only to find herself still in her room, everything looking oddly normal. She sighs and tries to grasp at the dream, but sleep eludes her.

She gets up and gets dressed, stalking about the house swift and silent as a shadow, deep in thought.
Etienne looks around before sneaking down to a small, comfortable room in the lower levels of the house. It was two floors down from the first one, but not the sort of level he'd really consider a cellar. The room was small, as mentioned, but comfortably furnished, in the deep jewel tones he preferred. This one seemed to be an emerald room, the woodwork in dark reddish hues.

He looks around a moment more before closing the door and opening a small chest and pulling out the case to his old, much loved violin. He looks down at the instrument before carefully tuning it and picking it up to play. The first few notes aren't as clear as he would have liked but it's been a long time.

After a few warmups, he finally decides to play a newer song he's heard and liked. "October wind" by Eric Whittaker. He's so lost in his playing that he wouldn't notice if anyone came in, thus his care looking around before coming down.

Homecoming.

"Oh look, they're back again," one gargoyle remarks.
"Yeah," the second chimed in. "First you scurry out, now you scurry back in... what was so important?"
Renee takes the few steps all at once, keen to get back in the door. A turn of the key and the door swings open.
"Doesn't even stop to say hello, how rude..."

She's preoccupied by that time, her sword dripping blood as she's had to fight her way back home. Each step of the way it was like she was wearing a neon sign proclaiming: 'Please attack me, I have somewhere more important to be.' Fur, feathers, scales or rough hide, the Powers of the Nightside weren't too picky. Anything to hold her up, it felt like.

With a quick stop to her room to throw off her coat and boots, she's back to being barefoot, practically running back to the library where she'd left Etienne last. He'd been quiet ever since she stepped into the bar and she couldn't disguise the fact that she was worried. Even Annie had difficulty maintaining her widening gait.

She finally reaches the library, dropping her sword to the floor with a clatter and sits down on the couch beside Etienne, her head falling upon the backrest. She's turned towards him, a tiny smile on her lips. She's relieved he's alright, but doesn't say anything.
"Alright." Etienne says, looking down at his niece. "Now you've learned to see energies, forces, and connections. You've sucessfully contained your power behind a wall, now you have to turn that wall into a vessel, open at the top. In this way, you keep it freely accessable to yourself, while also keeping it from spilling all over."

Annie looks up skeptically. "Is that safe?" She asks. "It seems awfully risky..."

Etienne smiles, "Don't worry, the first step is only forming it. Until you can fully control your energies, they will remain firmly behind the wall."

"Well, I guess I can handle that." She nods.

"I know you can." Etienne reassures her, then carefully forms a circle of stardust around her. "Now let's begin by--augh!" He cuts off with a strangled noise of pain, distantly hearing Annie scream as something detaches from the shadows in the corner of a previously bright, comfortable room.

Research...

Renee is curled up on a large couch in the library in an oversized, wide-necked sweater, blue jeans, no shoes. Lately, she's not felt a need to make herself taller. She smells faintly of cinnamon. She has her hair spun up with what looks like a pencil, pen in one hand, pad of paper in the other and the book she's reading in her lap. A pile of books sits upon the table before her and an empty row in the shelf of Etienne's occult tomes. The day before she'd read through the shelf above it and so on and so forth.

It's been a few months since Renee had gotten the idea to search through his books for a solution to their most immediate problem. So far, not many leads. Didn't mean she'd give up any time soon.

... It's for your own good

Etienne floats around his great-great-great-something niece.

"Annie. I know you don't like this, but do you understand why I'm telling you this?"

He's just informed her that he doesn't want her going to Strangefellows unaccompanied anymore. It hasn't gone over very well, but he's heard stories about the oldest bar in the world. Hell, he used to go there before it was called Strangefellows, and it was never what you'd call safe. The things that happened there... well, he doesn't want her exposed to that. To those dangers.