Hidden 29 days ago Post by Rawk
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Rawk Perfectly Broken

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Like many places throughout the world, as the sun begins to melt behind the horizon and the last vestiges of light give way to the shroud of darkness, the whole landscape seems to transform. What could be considered to most a colorful and enriching experience during the day, would slowly morph into something so much more. Perhaps not as vibrant to the eye as one would normally perceive, but rather the other senses are opened up to new experiences of which could be found lurking in the shadows.

Within the urban playground of New York City’s Five Boroughs, a place just below the surface of the normal psyche, a “Shadowland” resides, perceived under the light of the moon -from dusk ‘til dawn- and only to those individuals brought into its fold. Normal humans live out their lives on a daily basis, many never knowing about the otherworldly existence. But it has been there long before the settlement of man, and it will no doubt be there at their extinction. The Shadowland is but a mirror image of the realm it resides in, but much more exotic yet void of natural color, where just about anything you can imagine may be procured, and where shapeshifting creatures known as “Changelings” exist, serving or -sometimes- enslaving humans for their own interests.

Residentials, businesses, and a myriad of other establishments are a secret home to these creatures, but one doesn't simply waltz unknowingly into this realm. No. These select humans must be invited by a creature who visits the mortal realm under the guise of humanity, but actually lives in the Shadowland, which then reveals their true form.

For the most part, those humans fortunate -unfortunate?- enough to have delved into the ancient, secretive society of the Underworld and are allowed to return to the mortal plane, are stripped of any recollection of where they had been. A void in their memory, which other memories quickly collapse onto, covering any trace of memory loss and maintaining the integrity of the Changelings realm. However, there are those who carry with them a piece of the Shadowland. A fragmental memory you could even call it, and something that, while isn’t wholly apparent to the host, conjures up flashes of the otherworld whether in dreams, or brief waking glimpses. Generally, these mortals are hunted down by a Shadowland “memory plucker”, pulling just enough from the individual to satisfy their mission, because anything more may cause the target to fall into insanity or worse, death.

If all is successful, then there is nothing more to do, however, if the secrecy of the Shadowland is compromised in any way, or the rare death of a mortal caused by removing memories does occur, it is up to an appointed “Fixer” to clear up any loose ends. Fixers were generally those humans who, for one reason or another, proved their loyalty to those within the Shadowland, and could be trusted to assist in keeping its anonymity within a certain region of the mortal plane. The title of “Fixer” can be given to any human, in any walk of life or profession, but is generally bestowed upon those who have contacts and influence within governmental and local agencies to call upon for assistance. Each Fixer’s own memories and knowledge of the Shadowlands existence are slim to none, believing rather that they work for an underground organization who pays them well enough to keep their affairs in line.

No questions asked.
Hidden 29 days ago 29 days ago Post by Rawk
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Rawk Perfectly Broken

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“There’s two kinds of people in our world. The ‘business leaders’ and the ‘business followers’.” The tall, lean, clean-cut man stood at one end of a black rectangular conference table which was situated in the center of the large room. “Unfortunately, from what I am seeing in the last few years, this club has been following the wrong trends, and chasing that white rabbit down into a hole of failure.” The man speaking motioned toward the projected image on the whiteboard behind him, which showed a comprehensive business plan with a few barcharts and marketing concepts to supplement the information given.

At the other end of the table, seated in high-back leather office chairs were three of Black Rhino’s management team, each seemingly captivated by their charismatic presenter as he glided through infographics and statistics regarding the past and current profit trends for the company, as well as subtle yet very relevant mistakes the nightclub has made in the past years which drove profit margins into the ground. What had once been a hotspot for not only the everyday working class, but for all those higher-ups on Wall Street, was slowly being eaten up by competitors all over New York City, and the Black Rhino felt the hit. Fortunately for them, Ethan Campbell, a friend of the owner and long-time advocate of the New York Nightclub scene was happy to impart his years of experience and wisdom on yet another struggling entertainment spot.

“Look, at the end of the day, folks, it’s not about who can throw the best parties in town.” He concluded after almost a two-hour session, closing down the PowerPoint presentation on his laptop, and clicking the projector off. “It’s about making a name that screams ‘WE THROW THE BEST FUCKIN’ PARTIES ANYWHERE IN MANHATTAN!’ “ His voice bolstered with excitement, momentarily flailing his arms out to drive the point, and then settled back to a normal tone. “It’s about having an identity that leaves an impact your guests will never forget.”

Ethan was a lot of things, to a lot of people, but everyone could agree that he would do what he set out to accomplish, or die trying. Born and raised in the Crown Heights neighborhood of central Brooklyn to a lower-middle class family and attending one of New York’s worst public school. In an attempt to not end up like his alcoholic father, or mother, who shacked up with other boyfriends just to get away from her husband, Ethan decided to get part-time work at restaurants and also attend night classes at community colleges, hoping to one day get the hell out of Brooklyn and perhaps even New York altogether. Well, long story short, he stuck around New York, but thankfully found bartending work at a few stripclubs in Manhattan and could eventually afford to live pretty decently. It wasn’t until his late twenties that he’s finally gone into business for himself, as not only a consultant for many of the clubs he’s worked for, but others across the Five Boroughs. A tough gig, sure. But well worth the effort.

“Thank you for your time, Ethan.” An older lady, one of the management staff, smiled as she shook his hand. “You certainly gave us something to think about, and I-uh” The woman still held firm to Ethan’s hand. “Hope to be seeing more of you.”

“It was my pleasure, Susan.” The man nodded with a pleasing grin, placing his other hand on top of hers. “And without a doubt, I’ll be happy to assist once you guys are ready.”

He was glad the day was winding down. Four client meetings, all at different corners of the city, and one of which was about as sketchy as they came. He often wondered why he took certain business on in the first place, realizing that they aren’t going to benefit much from his help, nor is he going to see much in the way of monetary gain. At least he had something to look forward to later in the evening.

Ethan couldn’t help but smile to himself, thinking about the chance run-in with Clarissa. How long had it been since they saw one another? At least a few years. Time flew by like most things do, and with career, traveling, and the rush of life as it was, it seemed there was little time to dive back into anything serious. But damn if it wasn’t good to see her again. It had really been like the memories of old times came flooding back all at once. Some good. Some bad. But mostly awesome. But what the hell was a man like Ethan to do with a girl like Clare? Sure, having a cop as a girlfriend was more of a turn-on than the guy would admit, but it always felt as though things were becoming distant for each of them. As though he was going in one direction, as she was moving in the opposite.

Hmm. C'est la vie.
Hidden 29 days ago Post by Xandrya
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"And there she is! Hey, you've got that CI you've been trying to get a hold of leaving you multiple messages. It's like you two are playing phone tag or something." Lillianne, the young secretary for the squad, trailed Clare as she walked into the office, coffee in hand and a smile that quickly disappeared.

"Thanks, Lilly, I'll make sure to call him back."

Clare made her way over to her desk, plopping down on the chair as a stack of unfinished reports and a beachy screensaver greeted her. She was behind on her work, no doubt, but it seemed that as of late, crime was increasing at a higher rate than most within their precinct. Her sergeant, Chris Reynolds, knew this, and he did his best to relieve the workload for his crew. But there was only so much he could do, specially with a squad that was constantly short-staffed.

Her shift had just started, but to Clare, it might as well have been noon. She pulled herself forward on the chair and leaned to one side to put her stuff away in a drawer, the coffee still in hand as she took one last sip before placing it on her desk, the red lipstick stain on the cup marking it as her own. Clare then typed up the password and logged in. She had left her Outlook open and she noticed she had a lot more e-mails than before. Messages from a few of her co-workers as well as those mass e-mails meant for the entire department. Even though it took a bit of commitment, Clare liked to declutter her inbox on the regular. She could leave the important messages behind so she knew what she had to do next, sort of like a to-do list. As she started the process of deleting e-mails, her phone rang.
"If these people were trying to make it look like a suicide, then they certainly failed," Detective Lucy Harrison knelt down next to the body, one gloved hand pulling back the victim's sleeve to check out the expensive watch on his wrist. "He's hot for being older, too bad he's dead or I would have invited him over to play with my handcuffs." Clare and Lucy where well out of earshot, the boys in blue mostly keeping to the taped perimeter as the two women did their job inside the abandoned warehouse.

"You're desperate," Clare laughed, kneeling down opposite her partner and closest friend. She bit her lip for a second before deciding to tell Lucy the news. "So, I may need you to take this one alone tonight...I'm going out with Ethan this evening. I know, you don't have to say it, but hear me out. We talked this morning at the Starbucks and it went really well. Besides, it's just one date; it's not like we're running off like two crazed lovers."

"But there's something about him..."

"No, you're wrong. Besides, I'm the one that's going out with him. Just because you never liked him doesn't mean I have to deprive myself of that beautiful man meat of his."

Lucy suppressed her laughter, shaking her head. "Now who's the desperate one?. Let's get to work then, if I'm doing this shit alone tonight you're going to bust your ass until the last minute."

"You're the boss," Clare replied, reaching for a pair of gloves in her back pocket.
Hidden 28 days ago Post by Rawk
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Traffic sucked, and there was still about an hour to go before peak rush hour kicked in and every electric and gas powered vehicle hit the road at the same time, clogging up the Manhattan streets more than they already were. Ethan sat with his head tilted back against the seat rest, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel to the steady beat of Would?, by Alice in Chains and staring blankly out across the lines of cars ahead through a pair of black RayBan Wayfarers. He couldn’t tell you how many times he’d run the same gauntlet in the afternoon, eventually stuck at a dead stop on Park Avenue, on his way to the gym to get a bit of tension out of his mind and body before starting the evening off right. And yet the incessant waiting just to move a few inches never seemed to get any better. Although, fortunately, the man that he was, needed car that could keep up with his hectic lifestyle while still maintaining the comfort and convenience needed for day-to-day work.

Enter, the midnight black Maserati GranTurismo, four hundred and fifty-four horses of raw beast packed into a sleek and sexy automobile that would probably be considered one of Ethan’s most prized possessions, if he could consider himself attached to anything at all. He just about sank into the heated leather seats as the warmth relaxed the stiffness in his lower back from a day of walking and standing.

Shit, Ethan. Thirty-Five years old and you’re already feeling the aches and pains of life.

Forty-five minutes later landed him at the gym and into his typical workout sweats and tank for about an hour of intensive -but maybe not too intensive- workout with Jack Williams, a longtime friend. The man was balding, slightly shorter but much wider and heavier set than Ethan, and knew how to pack on the carbs and calories like they were going out of style. Oddly enough though, he tended to maintain a steady weight regardless.

“Alright, so how’d she look?.” Jack inquired as he stood at the head of the weight bench, spotting his friend who was benching his usual one-thirty-five.

“Who?” The other asked with a wry grin as he lowered the bar to his chest on his fourth rep.

“Oh don’t play fuckin’ coy with me dude. Was she hot?”

Part of Ethan wanted to really mess with his friend and just straight out lie about Clara, maybe tacking on some kind of horrible story like she was in a fiery car accident that left half her body covered in third-degree burns and no hair or eyebrows. But, honestly, the man couldn’t even bring himself to that point. Not with her.

“Yeah, she was alright.” He said cooly, not wanting to give too much away.

The truth of the matter was that she looked even better than he remembered. Happy even, like nothing in the world could unhinge her in the slightest. But then again, the Starbucks meeting was brief, as they both had places to be, so it could have all been a combination of her hiding any emotional baggage really well, and Ethan simply being infatuated with one of the most beautiful women he knew.

“Bullshit!” Jack exclaimed with a chuckle, pushing down on the bar, causing the other to strain under the pressure. “Tell me the truth, or this thing’s gonna crush your neck.”

“Alright, fine!.” Ethan growled, not really amused by his friend’s sense of humor at the moment. “She was hot.”

The spotter continued to push. “But how hot, bro?” Okay, now he was being an asshole just because.

“Fuck you Jack.” The other growled again. “Now let go before I drop this on your ugly ass feet.”

Ethan pushed the bar up finally and rested onto the vertical supports before sitting up and taking a few long, deep breaths as beads of sweat broke and ran down his face.

“Oh yeah, she was more than hot.” Jack snickered, clearly amused. “I know I can’t wait to see her again.” He made a mocking, guttural growling noise. “Double date then?”

Yep, everyone had to have a friend like Jack. Maybe not to the same extremes he went, but just about anyone who was anyone had the obnoxious “gotta-love-him-anyway” kind of guy who seemed to keep their friends in line by shaking up their world a little and constantly getting under their skin.

“Yeah, I’m thinking not. In fact, I’ll probably keep her far away from you.” Ethan shook his head as he wiped the moisture from his face and neck. “Now that I think about, isn’t there still a pending restraining order against you from a few years ago. You know she hated you anyway, bruh.”

“You mean that ‘ass-grab’ thing at that salsa club in Midtown all those years ago?” The short, fatter man laughed for a moment and then the jovial expression began to melt away. “So-ah...you think she actually remembers that?”

“Dude, Clare remembers everything.” Ethan stood to his feet and turned to Jack. “Sorry bruh.” He said with faux sympathy, patting the man on his broad shoulder. “You’re doomed.”

His friend stood there with a rather down-cast expression, then a moment later shrugged while grabbing his gym bag and bottled water. “Ah well, I’m sure she’ll be thinking of me anyway the whole time.” He grinned to himself before taking a gulp of water. “Probably more so when you two are fucking like wild monkeys.”

“Jesus, Jack, shut up…” Ethan sighed, looking forward to getting the hell out of the gym, away from his idiot friend, and back home into a hot shower.
Hidden 25 days ago Post by Xandrya
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The detective knocked on the door at 170 East End Avenue. She waited for a moment hoping the widow was home; not that she was in a hurry to deliver the news to Mrs. Dunsworth. But that was the case for every death notification, and she had done more than fair share of it. It was mostly always shock, denial, and finally grief. In all her years of running through he same routine, Clare had cried only once. The surviving family that time included children; the mother was locked away and their father had been killed by some thug on the streets. Nice guy apparently, from the few interviews she conducted. But once the children found out and she witnessed their reactions, Clare had to bite her tongue. She eventually went back to her vehicle to cry. The whole thing was extremely sad, and she hadn't had an easy day to begin with prior to meeting them.

Eventually, Mrs. Dunsworth opened the door. The woman appeared to be in her late 40s, possibly early 50s. She wore a black dress with high heels and expensive-looking jewelry. Her hair, an ashy brown, was pulled up into a bun. Clare then introduced herself, displaying her badge.

"Mary Dunsworth? Hi there, I'm Detective Clarissa Lopez. May I come inside?"

"Uh, yeah, sure. Is everything okay?" The woman suddenly became concerned, her face giving it away but she nonetheless stepped aside to let the detective into the apartment.

Clare bit her lip instinctively, her back to Mrs. Dunsworth before she turned to face her as the woman closed the door. "I'm afraid not. Please, have a seat," Clare motioned towards the loveseat positioned beside her and after a moment, she circled around and took a seat across from the widow. "Mrs. Dunsworth, we found your husband in a warehouse--"

"Oh, that cheating bastard! I knew he was up to no good!" She was suddenly worked up, her fist clenched up on the armrest. "Maybe he'll behave now that he's in jail, unless he's gonna fuck those men too...I'm sorry dear," she suddenly apologized with a softer expression on her face, "it's just that it isn't the first time he's caught doing things he shouldn't be doing. He never came home yesterday evening and he's ignoring my calls."

"Mrs. Dunsworth...we found his body. I'm afraid he's dead."

That was all Clare said before Mrs. Dunsworth went pale in the face, her hands starting to tremble. It seemed as though she was trying to get some words out, but she could only make little gasping sounds.

"Please, can I get you something? Maybe some water?" Clare suddenly stood up, rushing to her side. Mrs. Dunsworth looked up at her for a moment before her eyes rolled to the back of her head and her body slumped to one side.

"Shit!" Clare grabbed the radio that was clipped to her belt. "Dispatch, this is Delta-13. I need fire-rescue on a 3 to my location."

"10-4 Delta-13. Fire-rescue on a 3 to your location." the female voice verified.

Clare put the radio down and turned to the unconscious woman. She was the only first responder on scene so she had to take immediate action.
Hidden 23 days ago Post by Rawk
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What was it about certain images randomly conjuring within his psyche at the most unusual of times? What triggered them? The brief flashes of memories that seemed so real yet he barely remembered ever living it. They’d been haunting the man for years, ever since the other world chose him. Ever since they decided he was to be one of hundreds to help solve their problems in the mortal realm, and continue the trend of anonymity for the Shadowland.

Changelings never intended to disrupt the lives of their human hosts, but rather allow them to live it to the fullest in order for the essence that flowed in each to fuel the strange world beneath. It was their dependency on the mortal realm which ultimately kept humanity from dwindling.

Warm water cascaded from the stainless steel shower head onto strong, broad, tired shoulders, each muscle in his body slowly beginning to loosen as the heat and steam penetrated and relaxed him physically and mentally. Ethan had been standing there for a good fifteen minutes before realizing he'd still needed to wash, his mind doing it's best to reconcile the dark glimpses into strange places and beings he didn't understand. It had, for the last few years, become almost like a puzzle he was determined to solve, but just when he thought he had all the pieces in their proper places, they would scatter once again, putting the whole process into a chaotic spin and back to square one.

“I suppose I'll simply go nuts before I figure any of this out.” He muttered under his breath, letting out a sigh before grabbing a washcloth and soap to actually finish cleaning up.

His date with Clare was about an hour away, and while he hoped for a little downtime before then, he also wasn't one to be late for anything. Not even “fashionable late” as she used to call it considering the girl's track record for not being very punctual. However, that was then, and they were older, perhaps even wiser to some degree, so it was nice to start fresh. Things in the beginning were good, no, they were great actually. Two people couldn't have been more right for one another, and the sex...well that was icing on the cake. Ethan and Clarissa didn't just make love passionately, they made music. It had been a symphony of moans, pushes, pulls, screams, fingernails, and sweat.

Life was good then. Simple.

Ethan’s ears perked up at the subtle, indistinct sound of what could only be considered echoed whispers. He quickly rinsed soap from his hair and body, before turning the water off, standing in the large gray two-toned tile shower with glass doors, alone and in silence, save for the leftover water trickling from the showerhead. About ten seconds had passed before he stepped out and onto the floor mat, grabbing a towel to wrap around his waist and listen once again for something that could have easily been all in his head.

“Hello?” His commanding tone echoed in the master bathroom and out into the bedroom, but no response came, and he shook his head in disbelief while a half-smile formed along his lips. “Get your head in the game, Ethan.” He sighed, sliding open the wide pocket-door which lead into a walk-in closet more organized than even the most chic of men’s clothing stores. Overall, he felt everything needed to be in it’s spot, something that wasn’t always prevalent in his life up until he began contract work as a “Fixer”, and which now could almost be considered borderline obsessive compulsive.

Being in the entertainment business, specifically as a consultant for nightclubs, he had always been quite the sharp dresser, keeping up with the latest trends in men’s fashion as well as holding onto more casual and simple clothes for days where he just didn’t need to put on a facade. Although each day felt like he had to put on a mask for someone, little by little losing a piece of himself to an unseen world, all while maintaining some semblance of a decent single life. It had been difficult to keep relationships, always springboarding from one to another, but never settling, never allowing the other person to delve too far in his life.

Dammit. Why did Clare have to walk back into my life again?

The face in the wall mirror glanced back at the man with satisfaction as he adjusted the collar on a dark gray fitted button-down, and slid on a pair of simple black slacks that hugged just enough to allow flexibility. A pair of black dress shoes and blazer finished off the wardrobe. Ethan suggested casual dress for tonight, nothing too over-the-top, but also giving them both a chance to impress the other, even if for no other reason than because they could. Neither would care though, not if they had enough to catch up on. And besides, it was a place they’d gone a handful of times before many years ago, and probably one of the best sushi bars in all of Manhattan, so at least it would be comfortable and familiar for them both.

Nerves. It was a strange sort of feeling for someone like him considering very little unhinged the man. But there was something about the thought of seeing Clare again that brought him back to the first time they’d met at a nightclub he had been bartending at. But what was there to be nervous about? Two lost souls coming back around in the circle of life for good food and few drinks. Perhaps. But she’d also been one of the only women he truly loved, and that in and of itself scared him.
Hidden 22 days ago Post by Xandrya
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After rescue took Mrs. Dunsworth to the hospital, Clare went ahead and radioed dispatch that she would be clearing the call. They had Mrs. Dunsworth steady and breathing, so she didn't need to stick around anymore. As she got into her car, Clare placed a phone call to Lucy. The phone rang until it went to voicemail.

"Hi, it's Lucy. Leave a message."

Clare then spoke after the tone. "Hey, it's me. Mrs. Dunsworth didn't take the news too well so I called rescue, but she's stabilized and on the way to the hospital. I'm all done here so I'm going home to get ready. Talk later and I'll let you know how it went."

After hanging up, Clare started heading home to her cozy Williamsburg apartment. Traffic wasn't too bad in the Upper East Side, although it only went downhill from there. Nothing she wasn't already used to, of course, but she had a good reason to be home on time. The Clare from a few years ago would have slapped her silly if she knew the plans for that evening, especially since Ethan was picking her up and all. Though Clare couldn't help but smile at the thought. It had been a while since they had last seen each other prior to their quick morning greet, but the anticipation was getting to her. To such an extent, in fact, that she raced through a fresh red light without noticing until she was midway through the intersection. No harm came from her recklessness, aside from the lights and sirens appearing behind her a few moments later. Clare looked at the squad car through the rearview mirror, cursing to herself for being such an idiot as she was already pushing it with time. She signaled her turn into a smaller side street and pulled over onto a vacant space. Clare lowered the windos and waited for the officer to approach her unmarked vehicle.

"License, registration, and proof of insurance."

Clare rolled her eyes, reaching for the documents in the glove compartment but also including her badge in the stack, placing in underneath her driver's license. The moment the officer took her documents and noticed she was also a cop, his expression changed. He no longer appeared to be the hard-ass he was portraying.

"Oh, I'm sorry ma'am, I didn't notice," he apologized, handing her back her documents.

"That's alright, you be a little bit more careful next time and run the tag, alright?"

"Yes, ma'am." The young officer started making his way back to his vehicle without saying another word. Clare found it amusing that she was telling him to be careful. But the kid had a lot to learn still.

Back in her apartment, Clare had already showered and was in a denim button-down and black shorts. She was just about done with her diffuser to maximize the look of her natural waves. Her playlist was going off in the background, the music alternating between a mix of Spanish trap and pop. Clare liked to sing along as that was one of the many perks of living alone; no one to tell you what to do or judge you.

A little while later, while she had already applied some powder, her doorbell rang.


Clare looked up at the time displayed on her phone before she went to greet Ethan. She already knew it was him as for the most part, no one showed up unannounced. When Clare opened the door, she couldn't help but smile. Somehow, her date looked even more handsome than before. Was that even possible?

"Hey, come on in." She went with a simple hug, nothing more, nothing less. "I have to finish my make-up and get dressed, is it okay if I leave you out here for like 5 or 10 minutes?
Hidden 18 days ago 15 days ago Post by Rawk
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The sun had already dipped below the cityscape, engulfing the city in a blanket of fresh darkness, lit only by the endless sea of street lights, neon billboards, and a myriad of luminescence that made Manhattan glow with life. Traffic was relatively good, allowing the Maserati to weave in and out of traffic at a steady pace without causing a stir from other drivers, or the local NYPD officer. That was all he needed right now: to be pulled over by a traffic cop on his way to see his detective girlfriend.

Girlfriend? Was that what he already considered her? It was a dinner date for fucks sake and for whatever reason the man had it in his head that they might actually be a thing...again? Ethan had to admit that it was a nice thought considering they'd both gotten along pretty well for the few years they were together so why wouldn't things work out?

Besides, if there was ever one thing he could say was consistent in his life, that was remembering the little things about a person. Sometimes it seemed trivial, but to Ethan it actually meant something. Like pieces of a whole. Clare, for instance, loved dark chocolate. And what woman didn't like dark chocolate you might ask? Not many, but this particular woman was finicky enough to like a certain German dark chocolate called Schogetten, which could only be found at a single place in all of New York City. And that was Ethan’s first stop before heading to her apartment…

Neuhaus, the only place you could find the rarest of chocolates and other assorted goodies on the East Coast, conveniently located in the heart of the city, and even moreso, about halfway between his place and Clare’s. The place wasn’t too busy as Ethan made his way to the far side of the store, passing all kinds of treats in every shape, size, and color from around the world, and stepping up to the counter where the owner, a nice elderly woman named Helena, had been running the store for most of her life. They both exchanged a few pleasantries before she handed him a beautifully decorated box of the delicious German chocolates, as well as a bouquet of Red Roses and white mini Calla Lilies. Overkill? Perhaps, but then again, the man was never much for subtleties. On his way out of the shop to his Maserati parked near the curb, a young man dressed in a dark hoodie and shorts with no shoes, was leaned against the lightpost a few feet away staring directly at the sharp-dressed fellow holding the candy and flowers. Generally this wasn’t an unusual thing to see all kinds of people loitering everywhere in the city, but this particular figure caused Ethan to stop and turn his attention toward the other as though being called.

“Did you need something, bro?” The man asked with a raised eyebrow, unsure of why he even stopped and quite ready to get back in his car.

“Ik’sah verat unah jaheh.” The strange kid whispered through a wry grin, shaking his head as he walked away and down an alley.

“Okay…” The man muttered with a confused expression as he slipped into his car and headed off toward Clare’s apartment.

The lobby of the apartment building was fairly quiet as Ethan passed through toward the elevators, waiting for an available car to open so he could go to the fourth floor. Entering into one, he pressed the “4”, which lit up, and just before the doors closed, a woman’s voice called from across the lobby.

“Hold the door please!”

The man reached his hand out to hold the doors, which parted as the slightly older, slim red-head, dressed in black yoga pants, a pink tank, and black sports bra trotted in. “Thanks!” She nodded in appreciation while pulling both earbuds out and switching her music off from her phone.

“No problem.” Ethan smiled, admiring the woman’s bright green Nike cross-trainers, which were certainly not hard to miss. “Which floor?”

She looked over at the console, with the “4” lit up already. “Looks like we're headed the same way.” She smirked, allowing the next comment to linger quite subtly under her breath. “How lucky…”

Ethan curled one side of his lip into a slight smile, not quite sure of her meaning aside from simple flirtation.

“So how long have you lived here?” He asked after a few moments of dead air between them, something the man never enjoyed. He always had to keep the momentum going even if between two people in a short elevator ride.

“Oh, I don't live here, really.” The woman said with a smile, keeping her attention on her phone rather than the tall, well-dressed, and clearly attractive man standing a mere two feet from her. God he smells good. “Um, I’m just visiting a friend.” She glanced at the decorative box and beautiful bouquet of flowers in his hands. “What about you? Girlfriend?” She raised a curious eyebrow, somehow intrigued no matter what the answer would be.

“Something like that.” Ethan gave a friendly smile just in time for the elevator doors to open at the fourth floor. “After you.” He stepped aside and motioned for her to exit first.

“Karen.” The woman blurted out as she started to walk down the opposite end of the hallway.

“Excuse me?” He turned to look at her.

“My name is Karen.” Her voice echoed down the hall as she waved from behind her.

A few doors down from the elevator, Ethan found Clare’s apartment number and knocked, a wide grin across his face when the door opened and she was standing there looking gorgeous as ever. At her invitation, he stepped into the apartment, handed her the flowers and her favourite chocolates, and placed a soft kiss on her cheek.

“I still remembered what you like.” He whispered before pulling back from the kiss. “And you look absolutely gorgeous.”

After a few moments, Clare left to finish up and Ethan, in all his curiosity, took a quick stroll around the kitchen and living room area just because he could. He looked at all the pictures hanging about the walls, some of her family and friends, others her police academy days leading up to when she made detective. One of the pictures of her and Lucy made him snicker.

“I remember you...” He muttered under his breath. Lucy never quite seemed to take a liking to him, at least closer to the end of their relationship, no matter how well he treated Clare. He always thought the girl was just jealous, maybe wanting Clare all to herself, but that probably wasn’t true. Still, he couldn’t figure out what her problem was. Maybe a guy like Jack would loosen her up, he mused, then again, he wasn’t sure he’d even set up his worst enemy with a guy like Jack.
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When she was back in front of the mirror, Clare lowered the music a little bit before she continued doing her make-up. Unlike a lot of women in New York, and just about anywhere else in the world, Clare hated pounding on a thick layer of foundation on her face. She always believed her skin should be able to breathe, and adding a bit of power to give her face a glow as well as hiding whatever problem areas she had, if any, was the way to go. But she did like her eyeshadow, especially her black one. Clare went for a smoky eye look, as she usually did on her nights out. She started with a black eyeliner, tracing the edge of both her upper and bottom eyelids. She then grabbed her dark palette and expertly started blending different shades of eyeshadow to achieve the desired look, which she finalized by putting on some mascara at the end. Simple, but effective. Clare then went on to add a matte, dark-brown shade to her lips when her phone went off. She picked it up and noticed she had a voicemail. The phone hadn't rang, but sometimes she went through dead zones in her apartment. After Clare dialed for her message, Lucy's voice came to life.

"Clare bear, I've got some news for you regarding our latest case. I know you're probably already out with your hunk, but if you're not partying it up until 3 in the morning, give me a call when you get home. No rush. Love you, and make sure he doesn't sneak anything into your drink."

The line then went dead and Clare hung up. She couldn't help but smile and shake her head. Lucy and Ethan's relationship was a complicated one, but nonetheless, it was amusing...to her at least.

Clare put the phone down and went into the bedroom. She walked to the closet to pull out a garment bag with a few dresses inside, although she already knew what she was going to wear. Without bothering to close the bedroom door, Clare undressed and then slipped on the strapless dress, both hands reaching up behind her back to zip up the garment. The rich, vibrant red color played well against her skin, and the hem went only as far down as her mid thigh, showing off a lot of leg. Clare also put on strappy black heels to match the three-quarter sleeve leather jacket she was taking with her. She would also accesorize with a black clutch and silver earrings and necklace.

A few moments later, Clare emerged from her bedroom. She had just spritzed a Calvin Klein perfume and walked towards the foyer to meet Ethan before the couple headed out.

"Sorry for the wait, babe. May I just say you look dashing as always," she smiled, not the least bit discreet as she looked him up and down.
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If anything was consistent in Clarissa's lifestyle, it was her assortment of books and knick-knacks from years of never getting rid of a damn thing. Ethan perused the bookcase that ran a few feet across one of the walls in the living room. The books themselves -an assortment of crime fiction, trashy romance, and even a few on psychology and criminal justice- seemed crammed into the small amount of space allotted on the shelf. As he continued his observations, the glimmer from something metallic caught his eye, and his hand reached into the glass bowl where it was being held. He lifted a thin silver necklace up to the light, and smiled when he saw the .45 caliber bullet hanging at the end with the inscription “unstoppable” etched along the casing. Ethan found that at a pawn store years ago and held onto it until eventually gifting it to Clare upon her graduation from the police academy.

No doubt one of the only significant items she had kept linking the both of them from another life.

“What are you looking for?...” An almost ethereal whisper startled him, causing the necklace to plink back into the glass bowl as the man turned around to find no one there. He assumed it was Clare but her bedroom door never opened, and as far as he knew, there were no other doors with access.

“What the fuck?” He muttered with a puzzled expression, glancing around the living room and connected kitchen area, but before he could investigate any further, the bedroom door did finally open as Clare emerged dressed to the nines and looking as stunning as ever.

“Wow.” Ethan grinned, as he couldn't take his eyes off the Latin beauty. The girl always had a flair for entrances, but couple that with an eye for fashion and she was, indeed, a treat to behold. He let out a slow whistle. “Oh, I didn't mind. The wait was definitely worth it. You look gorgeous.” He said, giving her a peck on the cheek and resisting the urge to cup her face and kiss those luscious lips full on.

Not yet anyway.

“But on that note, let's get the evening started, shall we?” He held an elbow out for the other to lock her own arm around just as they used to do. “I booked us a table at that sushi place over on forty-fifth street that you really like.” He shrugged. “Or, at least, I hope you still like.”

In the hallway, Ethan noticed Karen, the woman from the elevator, peeking out from the apartment a few doors down. As soon as they turned out of sight and waited for the elevator, Ethan snickered to Clara. ‘What’s up with that lady?” He shook his head as they stepped into the lift to go down to the lobby. “I imagine she probably has an apartment full of cats.” He said with a grin, making a circular motion on the side of his head with a finger. “Or worse. Hamsters.”

The black Maserati GT was parallel parked out front as they exited the lobby, and he opened the passenger side door for Clare as she approached. The leather interior still retained its “fresh from the factory” smell and flawless surface even after owning the vehicle for almost two years and hosting dozens of passengers. Although Ethan pampered the vehicle like he would a newborn baby, so it wasn't any real surprise the car sparkled as it did.

“I guess you two haven't met yet.” Ethan chuckled as he climbed into the driver's side and started the engine, which purred like a tiger. “Although I think she likes you.” He gave the woman’s thigh a little squeeze before fastening his seatbelt and pulling out onto the main road, the ride feeling smooth and comfortable even going over a lot of the uneven pavement. “Of course if you treat her right, she’ll give you the ride of your life.”
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The young woman smiled, wrapping her arm around Ethan's. He had managed to remember her favorite sushi restaurant, but maybe that was simply due to their frequent visits to the place when they were previously dating. Most employees, if not all, knew both of their names by heart. But that was then... and aside from the manager, Joe, the staff would more than likely be made up of new faces now. A bittersweet thought, really.

As the couple headed out into the hallway, Clare locked her apartment from within. She had just double-checked the door when Ethan pointed out some lady a few apartments down. Clare had never seen her before, but it did make her curious. For all she knew, she was being watched. It didn't happen often, but the department wasn't a stranger to past defendants coming after an officer. And it didn't matter the charge, whether a simple battery or a grand theft, the thirst for revenge could be fatal if the person was bold enough to go after a cop. But the idea didn't scare her, or much less change her attitude for the night. She would deal with that issue later when it presented itself.

"Those poor hamsters," Clare joked, squeezing Ethan's arm just the slightest. She loved his sense of humor, which to her, didn't necessarily match his striking looks. Someone who looked like him, in New York out of all places, would more than likely have the personality of a wet mop. But she liked that about him; a great body and even better character traits to go with it. It's as if she'd struck gold when they first met, and now they were going out again, and she was loving it.

Once they were outside her apartment building, Clare was clearly impressed by his new vehicle. She was speechless for a moment, especially after he held the door for her and she climbed in, putting on the seatbelt as Ethan went around to the driver's side. He knew she was impressed, and she knew he loved her reaction. He was a man, after all, so who could blame him.

"It seems her and I have quite a bit in common," Clare smirked, crossing her left leg over the right one as she shifted her weight. The dress rode up a little bit higher along her thigh, giving Ethan more of an eyeful if he so happened to look in that direction. She had deliberately positioned herself as such since she knew it would drive him a little crazy on the way to the restaurant. That was one of the things they both had in common: they loved messing with each other in more ways than one. You just didn't come across that type of chemistry too often, and they enjoyed that about each other.

"But honestly, you haven't lost your taste for the finer things in life," she went on with a smile, reaching for his hand before she turned to stare out the window. Clare loved anything and everything about the city life. There were the lights, the people, the million and one things to do. She couldn't get enough of it, and it was her type of environment, one that she could never see herself being pulled away from. Even well into old age, once she retired from the Police Department, Clare planned to stick around the Capital of the World.

"Speaking of the finer things in life, and by fine I mean truly a piece of work, how's Jack?"

Clare turned back to Ethan, legitimately curious about his friend. He was an oddball, to put it lightly, yet somehow him and Ethan tolerated each other enough to remain friends after all those years. But that relationship was similar to what she and Lucy had, except they also happened to work together. Clare knew the idea was always floating around their heads, for Lucy and Jack to hook up, but realistically speaking, that would never happen, not with their clashing personalities. "I believe the last time we spoke, you had to hold me back after what he said."
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Ethan caught the subtle yet very deliberate way Clare's skirt stopped a few inches above the middle of her smooth, toned left thigh, which elicited a half-smile. There was no accident there, even when the girl shifted her weight, because in any other scenario, she'd make damn sure her shirt wasn't showing off anything to anyone. Nope. Clarissa was doing a great job of provoking a response from the other on the sly. But that was them even back when they were dating. Always trying to show up the other.

But hey, it made for good times regardless.

“Clearly I haven't.” He smiled in her direction, taking her hand in his as they made their way through the evening traffic. Clare was most certainly one of the “fine things” he had allowed to slip through his fingers too easily. She had her issues same as he did, but they had a better understanding of each other than most.

“Jack?” Ethan snickered after hearing her bring up the subject of his long-time neanderthal friend. “He really hasn't changed much, sadly. Married three times in a little under two years, until he realized he didn't actually want to be married anymore to anyone.” The man shook his head. “Thank god he had no kids. Could you imagine the nightmare then?”

The thought of Claren beating his friend senseless would have been something worth the front row ticket, but all those years ago Jack wasn't making any impressions, especially not for a woman he seemed to think was below Ethan's standards.

“Yeah, he’s brought the subject of that night up a few times.” He smirked. “And while his stubborn pride doesn't show it, I know he feels bad about pissing you off, even though he still entertains the possibility of his sorry ass with two women.” Ethan let out a chuckle. “The man can't even handle one chick, so what makes him think two would be any better?”

Nakazawa's, nestled in the heart of the West Village, is probably New York's best sushi bar, with an intimate, yet casual atmosphere and a chef who always puts on a hell of a show. It was one of Ethan and Clare's hot spots during their dating years and fortunately for them, not much had changed with regard to personnel.

“Oh my god...Clarissa?” Jyn, the hostess and youngest daughter of the owner, exclaimed as she saw the couple enter through the doors. Her hand suddenly going to her mouth in surprise. “And Ethan!” The girl leaned in for a hug toward both of them. “It's been ages!”

“Wow. Jyn?” Ethan returned the hug. “Still in the family biz, I see...” Glancing at Clare and raising his brow in surprise. Last they saw her, the girl was leaving for college, which was a huge deal since she would have been the first of her siblings.

“Yah, well, dad needed the help and…” Her expression was noticeably downcast for a moment, but then perked up again. “Anyway, it's so good to see you both. We're filling up fast as usual, but there are a few seats near the end of the bar, or if you prefer your usual spots.” Her smile was back on as she motioned to the back of the room through an archway that read “Garden”.

“Absolutely.” Ethan didn't hesitate to accept, as that was one of their favourite spots when they just needed time away from the crowds at the sushi bar.

Jyn nodded and lead them both toward the rear, through the archway, and into a beautiful half-indoor/outdoor Japanese garden which had several small tables spaced out generously along the perimeter and fountain in the center.

“I'll let my father know you are here as I'm sure he'll be thrilled.” She smiled, placing menus on the table. “Sadly none of the servers you remember are here, but you'll love them regardless. Enjoy you two.” She nodded and walked back to the front.

Ethan pulled the seat out for Clare. “Brings back some good memories, eh?”
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"It really does..." Clare responded sitting down half-distracted as she stared around the area. The decor she remembered remained the same for the most part, but there were some minor changes she noticed. Some hangings on the wall that weren't there before, and the lighting had been dimmed just a tad to make the seating space that much more intimate. That was her perception anyway, although it was quite possible that it was all in her head. Eiher way, she was glad to be back at the restaurant, especially with Ethan. And seeing Jyn's familiar face was a pleasant surprise as well. The girl had the same bubbly personality from before.

What in the world?

Clare shifted her attention from the surrounding scenery to the man that was seated a few tables away. Ethan had his back to him, and she looked over his shoulder at the familiar face. The longer she stared, the more the guy looked like Stefan Cortez, a subject in one of her investigations.

"Sorry, let me just handle this for a minute...it's work," Clare smiled reassuringly at Ethan before she reached into her purse to fetch her phone. She logged in to the New York Driver Information Database, typing up her username and password to gain access to his driver license photo. After the page loaded, her suspicion was confirmed. Cortez was seating not even 50 feet from her. But she wouldn't move in on him, not in those heels and dress. He also wasn't alone; there was another man there as well she didn't recognize, one who was dressed rather fashionably too. They were definitely talking business, the type of business she'd been investigating for some time now. What straight man would come to Nakazawa's with another man? No one knew their sexual preference, so as far as they were concerned the pair were simply another happy couple. But it was additional reassurance for Clare, as if the photo confirmation wasn't enough on its own.

Out of all places... Clare bit her bottom lip and sent a quick text to Lucy, giving her the details of the situation at hand. She knew Ethan hated how her job got in the way, but she couldn't help it. She wasn't some secretary sending an e-mail with meeting minutes. This was a wanted felon, and he was within dangerously close reach.

"No more phone, I promise." Clare put it away once more and reached for the menu, even though she already knew what she wanted to drink, but couldn't make up her mind as to what she wanted to eat. Just then, their waiter stopped by.

"Good evening, my name's Carlos and I'll be serving you today. Can I start you both off with something to drink? And perhaps you're ready to order as well."

Clare quickly flipped through the pages, to see whether she would change her mind last minute.

"I'll have a gin and tonic for now, thank you. Not sure what else I want just yet," she smiled up at Carlos as he scribbled away on his notepad, waiting to take Ethan's order as well.
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Ethan noticed the subtle shift in the woman’s expression as she looked straight passed the man sitting across from her. As Clare proceeded to excuse herself from their conversation and grab her phone, Ethan turned his head slightly wondering what seemed to pull her attention away at that moment. There she goes again. He thought, realizing that this wasn’t anything new to him, even back when they were a thing. But if anyone knew how much your career could pull you down it’s own road at any moment, it was him. Although, he never compared his own job as a “Nightclub Consultant” to that of a New York City cop. They had their own shit to swim through on a daily basis, and that was just not something Ethan ever wanted to deal with no matter how noble the cause.

As if the girl could sensed the man's thoughts, she promised to put the phone away for good, which elicited a smile from the other. He hoped that was the last at least for the evening.

When the server arrived -a new face of course- Ethan ordered a bottle of wine that would match with their meal, as well as taking the initiative to order for them both. If the man could boast about anything, it was a sharp memory, and he remembered what Clare liked even in her indecisiveness.

“Let’s start with the Ahi tuna & spicy lobster rolls and see where we go from there.” He nodded, glancing at the latin beauty across from him and giving a flirtatious wink. She knew he knew. “And let the chef know that we'd like that special dipping sauce he makes upon request. He'll know what you're talking about.” Ethan grinned. Funny enough, neither he nor Clare ever found out what was mixed in with the usual sauces, but it was something that gave the sushi a hell of a kick as well as acting as an aphrodisiac to a certain degree. Overall, it was quite the experience.

Carlos nodded, thank them both for their orders, and went on his way.

“So, Clare.” Ethan leaned forward a bit with a serious expression and his hands folded on the table. “What's a girl like you, doing in a place like this?” Moments later, a smirk formed across his lips along with a slight chuckle. “God, what the hell were the odds of running into one another after all those years? And more importantly, how's it feel being one of the few female detectives in the Five Boroughs?” He shrugged, then leaned back casually in his chair. “I did a bit of research earlier. Amazing what Google tells you these days.”
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"Research, huh? Not sure whether you expect me to be impressed or not..."

She smirked, rubbing her leg against his under the table for a moment.

"But the job has its moments. Some of the other detectives see me as their little sister who needs to be constantly watched, others try to hook up with me without so much as buying me a drink first. Bottom line, that place is nothing but testosterone filled to the brim, so the girls and I stick together more often than not."

Clare then saw a busboy walk by and she waved him down, asking him for a glass of water. He politely agreed and took off again. "But like I was saying, it's a blessing and a curse. At least the pay is good," she shrugged with a little smile.

"So enough about me. What's new and exciting in your world? Were you stalking me for a bit before deciding to casually strike up a conversation? I bet that was your plan from the start; to ease yourself back into my life again... You're a sneaky one."
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