Monday evening, 7:35 PM. Although mostly hidden, the moon periodically peaks from behind the onslaught of clouds. Chill winds creep across the city, which keeps the temperature fairly low. Temps: 3C/37F lows and 8C/46F highs.
skin credit goes to miss texas, custom structure scripts go to black, and the toggle cbox goes to subdevo. credit for mini profile goes to bee.
With the click of a single button, Sam sends her most recent article off to her editor back in San Francisco, ignoring the nagging knowledge at the back of her mind that if Alyson were here she’d be getting the third degree about maintaining a job.
Killing vampires didn’t pay for overseas plane tickets.
Sam sighs and sits back in her chair, suddenly tired. It’s been a long day. A long last few days, if she was going to be completely honest with herself.
Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago when the most pressing item on her to-do list was finishing an assignment and making it home in time for dinner with her dad at the end of the day while planning out her writing career.
Now here she was, sitting in a tavern somewhere in Istanbul, waiting for...
Or Alyson, although given the disappearing act her Whitelighter has pulled this last month, she wasn’t going to hold her breathe on that front. Part of her still hoped that Alyson would magically appear nonetheless, but deep down she was beginning to suspect that chasing this psychic dream of a blonde, vampire queen, was probably going to be the latest in a long line of Sam’s Independent Adventures in Vampire Vanquishing Abroad.
It would make a compelling book, one day. Maybe.
But first she will gratefully accept the food she’s ordered while she tries to piece together the little information she has on this particular hunt.
It’s not much to go on, but she’s gotten used to working with less.
"Back to work," she murmurs to herself, picking at her food and pulling up the files she's already began to compile on her computer.
Matt would never guess the same Whitelighter who abandoned him is the same one who disappeared on the blonde girl he spies from across the bar. Then again, his thoughts are not all that focused on Alyson. He is more concerned with figuring out a way to make a connection with this town's gypsy clan.
The young shaman was going to head to the local "magic" shop, but it was closed by the time he made it into town. The only other option was to hit the local tavern to see if he could get information by word of mouth. Afterwards, he would search for someplace to camp out for the night.
He scans the room and uses his judgement to determine who would be best to approach about his goal. While the bar is somewhat full for a Saturday night, he doesn't pay too much attention to the entire crowd. Not normally one to get distracted, Matt finds his eyes glancing towards the small table adjacent to the bar where he sits. Or more so, the woman typing away at her computer.
It seems odd to him for her to be working at bar. Maybe she is a manager here? No, then she'd have her own office, he decides. Maybe she's a student on holiday? The bar owner's daughter who enjoys the chatter and atmosphere of where she grew up. Studying for a big exam or working on a paper for when the spring semester begins. Regardless as to whether Matt is right or wrong, the girl seems to be the least approachable person in the room. Matt assumes this given how consumed she appears to be by her work.
Still, he decides to approach her.
He finishes the last of his beer and stands up from his bar stool. He starts the small trek from bar to table and mentally works on his introduction. Matt doesn't want it to be so vague that it sounds like a pick up line. Or too specific where he risks coming off as a crazy person talking about magic to a potential mortal.
A burly stranger drunkenly pushes past Matt and undoes his smooth introduction. Matt's body bumps into the woman's table and gives it a hard shake. He produces a glare for the stranger and then turns to look apologetically to the blonde.
"Sorry about that. That's not exactly the introduction I was hoping for."
Matt smiles. It is short and simple. There is almost a hint of buried down sadness behind it.
The first thing Sam does whenever she makes her way to a new town - or, preferably, before she makes her way there - was make a list of local sources. People and places she could turn to if everything went to hell. She’s been in Istanbul for two weeks. Traveling mostly, taking note of everything she’s found so far, which is less than what she would have liked, but better than nothing at all.
All of it sits in files on the computer in front of her. Notebooks with random scribblings about vampires, magic and weapons are a little harder to explain than encrypted files. She has a pretty good memory, and the device is merely a repository for her now.
She marks out locations she’s searched already on the map on her screen, ignoring the looks from other patrons in the bar wondering why she’s on her computer in the first place. Another reason why being a journalist proves useful - it's an easy cover when she just needs to work where there were other people. She's not somebody who copes well in isolation. She may not need conversation, but she takes comfort in knowing that other people were around her.
Trained as she was to take in the details of her surroundings, she’s made note of two individuals who keep glancing in her direction. The first being the tavern’s owner, although she suspects it’s more out of curiosity than anything sinister. The second is a man sitting at the bar. Also potentially curious, she suspects, but she can’t confirm it from this distance.
Regardless, neither demand enough attention to shift her focus at present.
Beside her table, people walk past on their way in and out. She asked for this table in particular because of it’s close exit route. One could never be too careful.
The approach of the man from the bar isn’t a concern until he’s knocked against her table by one more stranger. The sudden shaking of the table threatens to knock over her glass, but she’s got good reflexes and one hand’s on it before it does, the other looking up at the stranger from the bar with concern.
The look she receives is apologetic.
"Sorry about that. That's not exactly the introduction I was hoping for.”
He has a nice smile, tempered by something Sam can’t quite put her finger on. Sadness, perhaps. Loss. Regardless, it calls to her sense of compassion.
“Don’t be,” she says. “Are you alright?"
He’d been meaning to introduce himself, or so he said. Maybe she will be forming a more in-depth profile of this man after all.
She taps on of the keys absently, and screen goes blank, her eyes never leaving the stranger’s face.
Matt notices her lightning fast reflexes and is quite impressed. However, he assigns her great catch to luck more than skill. Unfamiliar with her background, Matt can't very well venture to say he knows so much about her that he'd paint her as some secretly skilled ninja assassin. Thoughts of watching that old Tarantino film with The Bride comes to mind. Wouldn't it be interesting if this woman had much in common with one of cinema's greatest assassins?
"Heh, I'm fine."
Lips curled into a half smirk, Matt finds the first of her two questions the easiest to answer. It is the one that could be absently glossed over and forgotten. However, the follow up question is of much more importance. It determines whether or not approaching her was worthwhile or an embarrassing mistake. So, he decides to respond with tact.
"Yeah, you can. You see, I'm new to town. I just got in and I…" Matt blanks on a word to use to describe his reason for visiting Kaz Ida. While cultural research for a thesis project would have been a strong cover, Matt isn't quite able to pull out that particular card as an excuse. Instead, he finishes with, "…wanted to look into the history of the town."
Matt gestures to the open chair as if to ask if it would be okay for him to join her. "I'm Matt, mind if I sit?" As he waits for a response he feels the burning gaze of another. Looking towards the bar he sees the tavern owner and notices that he is watching them. Matt wonders if his suspicions of her being the bar owner's daughter are actually well founded. He looks back at the girl and holds his smile.
Satistfied that being knocked by the passerby hasn’t left him with discernable injuries, Sam relaxes slightly.
Once, being approached by a total stranger in a bar in a foreign country might have left her with the natural instinct to be on guard, but a few years doing what she does best have allowed her to at least appear to be at ease.
"Yeah, you can. You see, I'm new to town. I just got in and I…”
He pauses and Sam wonders whether the finished explanation would be the truth or not. People who had nothing to hide didn’t have to stop and think about what to say next. Usually.
"…wanted to look into the history of the town.”
Sam’s expression never changes from the relaxed, polite interest. She suspects that part of his explanation is true. Or even most of it, in one form, but she does question why he’s come to her and not the owner of the tavern, or even one of the patrons who clearly appear to be regulars. Of everyone, she’s the most unlikely of sources, and that makes her curious as to his decision to speak to her.
Before she says anything, he gestures to the chair opposite her. "I'm Matt, mind if I sit?”
She’d be a liar if she doesn’t admit - at least to herself - that she’s intrigued by this turn of events, and she nods her head once, motioning for him to sit.
“Nice to meet you, Matt,” she says as she closes the screen on her computer. She holds out her hand to shake his. “Sam."
She sits back in her seat. “I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask,” she tells him. “I’m pretty new around here, too. I’ve only been in Kaz Ida a few days.” She smiles, and adds, “I’m still trying to find my way around."
A wave of relaxation floods Matt when she nods her head and motions for him to take a seat. Matt never considered himself to be as suave as his father or brother. Especially when it comes to winning people over. Sure, he's a friendly enough guy, and the good looks he's inherited from his father help him out in sociable situations. But his father's quick wit and charm? That was passed down to Max. Or taught to him. In either case, Matt never got the chance to develop such skills.
So, the mere fact he's managed to not come off as a creeper is a small victory for the shaman. Hopefully, this exchange will pay off and he'll get some useful information from…
She gives him her name and extends her hand. Matt grasps it firmly and gives Sam's hand a brief shake. He then takes a seat upon releasing her hand from his grasp. As Matt makes himself comfortable, he also puts forth the effort to listen to Sam intently over the white noise of the bar. He files away the information that Sam is also new to town.
"Oh, so what brings you here?" Matt asks in response. His question doesn't have the intent of learning anything important. It is merely a natural reply to learning that she is not a native to the gypsy town. In the moments between waiting for an answer, Matt casts a glance the tavern owner's way. He misjudged Sam's purpose and role in the bar. This misjudgment subsequently includes the man's interest in watching them. Maybe the tavern owner is just keeping a curious eye on the non-locals?
Matt's brown eyes shift their full attention back to Sam and become accompanied by a small smile. His lips are parted slightly, almost as if something more is to be said by him. However, Matt remains courteously silent and he waits for Sam to speak.
Sam’s dad used to say that you could tell a lot about a person from their handshake. She’s never put too much stock into it; her understanding of people is based on the observance of other characteristics. Still, Matt doesn’t come across as someone to be wary of.
He sits and asks the question - really, the only one that could be asked - given the information she’s given him.
"Oh, so what brings you here?”
A simple enough question, really, and one she has a prepared answer for. The same one she gave the tavern owner the first night she came in for dinner and ‘work.'
She shrugs her shoulder, easy smile still in place. “Travelling, mostly,” she says, and not a word of it is a lie. She’s been in Istanbul for two weeks and moved around a lot. Her fingers tap softly on the metal case of her computer. “Some work, because I seem incapable of taking an actual holiday, but mostly just sight-seeing. Trying to see as much as I can before I head back home."
Whenever that would be.
“And you?” She throws the question back to him. “You said your interest was in the history of the town? For study, or personal interest?"
She’s still aware of the curious gaze of the tavern owner on her and her new companion, and has seen Matt notice it, too. She makes a mental note to tip well and be generous with the praise on the way out. It wouldn't hurt.
Matt is surprised by Sam's answer when she admits to being in Kaz Ida mostly for travel. He was almost certain she'd confess her visit was for a more specific purpose based on his earlier observations of the woman. Instead, Sam's answer paints her in a more spontaneous light than the dedicated and focused woman he imagined her to be prior to introducing himself.
His lips cock into a curious smile as this is the second time he's misjudged her. Matt mentally kicks himself for not being a better judge of character. Neither his brother or father would have struck out so consistently in such situation. Especially with their power of telepathy. It's true Matt's own individual power would allow him to dig deep into another person's head and discover the real intricacies of their life, but it comes at the cost of looking like a narcoleptic.
Subsequently, Matt takes a moment to really study Sam. From the blue of her eyes to the slight dimples that accompany the curl of her lips. He noticed her beauty from afar, but up close it's hard not to be aware of it. Matt realizes he finds Sam to be really attractive.
Breaking free from his distracted thoughts, Matt catches that Sam redirected the focus of the conversation onto him. His mouth hangs slightly open before he answers her question. "Heh," he begins, "a little bit of both, I guess you could say. I'm looking to find out about the gypsy culture here and their connections to the psychic world."
Matt rises an inquisitive brow at Sam. He determines now is as good as time as any to find out if Sam can help him connect with the gypsies of Kaz Ida. If she knows anything about them, that is.
The thought rises, unbidden, when Sam notices the distracted look in Matt’s eyes. He’s there, but not really, his mind on other matters, clearly. She’s not offended. Not in the least.
After all, she doesn’t know a thing about the man except that something’s brought him to her and she’s curious as to why.
Sam doesn’t believe in coincidences; hasn’t since she became a Guardian.
Her words - her question - seem to bring him back to himself while she waits with a patient smile. They are both, after all, foreigners in a foreign land.
”Heh, a little bit of both, I guess you could say. I'm looking to find out about the gypsy culture here and their connections to the psychic world.”
A decade’s worth of pretending to be unaware of the magical world that’s interlaced with the every day world of most people is all the prevents Sam’s jaw from dropping. Instead, she let’s the corner of her mouth pull up to one side, like she’s amused - and on some level she is, but what she thought about coincidences?
Yeah, this was not what she’d expected to be faced with tonight.
"What are your thoughts on that type of stuff?”
The smile never leaves her face. “On gypsies?” she asks lightly. “Or the psychic world?"
She’s never been one to shy away from a conversation on anything connected to the magic world when prompted directly, and she doesn’t get the feeling that Matt means her harm. Quite the opposite really. He’s looking for information - although she wonders if it’s really just information he’s after - and it has nothing to do with her.
It’s something else and she can’t quite put her finger on it.
“My thoughts on gypsies vary depending on where I am in the world,” she says, “but my thoughts on the psychic world do not. I think it exists, if you’re willing to understand it, and I think there are people out there who are connected to it."
Her fingers drum along the edge of the table, almost silently while she thinks. “I know there are people in this town that believe in that sort of thing. I think there’s a store, not far from here, that caters to those who do.” Sam’s met the woman who runs the store; she was lovely and full of advice. “The woman who runs the store is a local; she lives with her family on the edge of town. She might be your best bet."
Her fingers still and watches Matt closely. If she was curious earlier, it’s just been stepped up a notch. Or three. “There’s plenty of lore on the psychic world,” she says slowly. “Why the particular interest in the gypsies?"
Then, Sam realises she’s probably being forward and holds up a hand, as if to forestall him. “I’m sorry,” she apologies, “I don’t mean to be rude. You don't have to answer that, if you don't want to."
Matt's smile grows bigger and lights up with more life than usual when Sam questions whether he's asking about her thoughts on gypsies or the psychic world. It's not the questions that ignite this, but the airy way she asks them with the support of a half smile. The slight lift of one corner of Sam's mouth reveal to Matt a sense of amusement that has been missing from his life for awhile. It's an attractive sight.
"Something tells me you have opinions on both." Matt says with teasing lilt. Whether or not the statement is true, the young shaman starts to think his choice to approach Sam over the others in the bar was a worthwhile decision. Even if she is just a clueless mortal.
Then Sam confesses her thoughts on gypsies are based on her location in the world. Matt lifts a brow. He is unsure of what she means. However, Sam quickly shifts the discussion to her views about the psychic world. It soon becomes clear that she has a more than passing interest on the subject.
"…I think it exists, if you’re willing to understand it, and I think there are people out there who are connected to it."
Matt leans back in his seat and crosses his arms. As he does this, his eyes drift down towards Sam's fingers. He watches her drum her fingers along the edge of the table. He can't hear the actual drum of her fingers over the boisterous sounds of the bar, but he is able to fill in the familiar sound based on memory. When Matt returns his gaze to Sam's face he realizes the drumming of her fingers is done absentmindedly as her eyes betray the fact she is lost in thought. She is thinking before she speaks. A strong indication of the character this woman possesses.
It is no long before Sam speaks again and she gains Matt's full attention. Especially since she gives him the information he has been looking for. Sam makes mention of the store Matt tried to visit earlier, but what really gets him excited is Sam's admitted connection to the woman who runs it. Sam was the right person to approach after all.
"I'd appreciate an introduction, if you can manage it." Matt replies when Sam suggests the shop owner would be able to help him. Before Matt can offer to buy Sam a drink in appreciation - and perhaps flirtation - she poses a query of her own. Why the interest in gypsies?
Matt's mouth hangs open in response. He stalls in giving an immediate answer. His hesitation gives Sam ample time to interject once again.
"I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. You don't have to answer that, if you don't want to."
Matt unfolds his arms and waves off Sam's apology. He casts a glance down at her computer on the table and his lips curl into a sincere smile.
"No, it's okay. It's a fair question." He looks up from the table and out towards the crowd of the bar. While Sam has a clear fascination with aspects of the magical world, Matt isn't sure how fair it would be to really pull her into his world. Confess all and let her know his interest in gypsies and magic is deeply personal.
He settles on providing partial truths. A method he has taken since walking over to Sam's table.
"I'm soul searching. I recently loss my dad and he was really into the spiritual world at one point in his life." Matt drops his eyes again. He stares down at his hands as they rest on his lap. "He never really got a chance to teach me all about it, so I guess you could say I'm looking to learn about it to honor him in a way." Matt eyes find Sam again. He gives her a small smirk. "As for gypsies, they are rumored to have a…" Matt pauses for a brief few seconds as he mulls over the right word to use. "…connection with the psychic and spiritual worlds. Much like the shamans of more indigenous cultures."
Outwardly, Sam smiles a small, relieved smile at not having offended Matt. Inwardly, she lets out a sigh of relief that is neither seen nor heard. She doesn’t need to be giving anyone in this room the third degree - or, at least, not according to her research so far - Matt least of all.
It would be kind of awkward - not to mention unfair - to spill the beans on the magical world to someone who’s not already aware of it. Once you’d seen it, you couldn’t unsee (or, at least, not easily) and she decided long ago not to drag anyone unnecessarily into her world.
Nothing kills a conversation faster than, Oh, and by the way, I hunt and kill vampires. Yep. They’re real.
"I'm soul searching. I recently lost my dad and he was really into the spiritual world at one point in his life.”
That truth was enough to drag her back into the conversation at hand and her expression automatically softened. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that."
"He never really got a chance to teach me all about it, so I guess you could say I'm looking to learn about it to honor him in a way.”
Sam nods. It’s actually kind of lovely.
"As for gypsies, they are rumored to have a… connection with the psychic and spiritual worlds. Much like the shamans of more indigenous cultures.”
Again, Sam nods. “That’s true,” she says. Then, realising what she’s said, Sam adds, “I mean, I’ve heard that it’s true."
Sam resists the urge to out-and-out lie, I’ve never met a gypsy who could just to cover her slip.
Instead, she redirects again, asking, “If it were true, what would you do? What would you like them to do?"
There is a hesitation in immediately answering Sam's questions. Matt bites down on his lower lip and drops his gaze once again. The act gives him away and informs anyone observing him that he has succumbed to an internal contemplation. Matt knows very well what he would like for the gypsies to help him with. However, his concern is whether or not it is beneficial to share this information. Surprised by the journey of this conversation, he looks up at Sam and gives her an amused grin.
"This is getting much deeper than I expected."
Matt leans forward and his stomach grazes against the edge of the table. The furniture moves slightly underneath his weight, but it is subtle and doesn't result in any real disturbance. Matt shakes his head at Sam and his eyes begin to sparkle with an honest glint of curiosity. He's truly intrigued by her.
"What is this strange magic you have over me?"
When Matt chuckles one can tell it is a genuine laugh. Heartfelt really. Matt has long kept silent on his relationship with his father and his brother, but here he is ready to divulge his past with a complete stranger. Even if it is an abridged version. He finds it nice to actually share. Opening up to a stranger seems much easier than opening up with someone close. Perhaps, because you unburden yourself without running the risk of revisiting your confessions again. Especially so if you talk to someone you might not ever see again. Then that begs the question: does Matt not want to see Sam again after this encounter?
There's something in him that thinks he'd regret it if that were to happen.
"I guess," Matt shrugs as he decides to give Sam an answer, but not the full and complete one. Maybe to preserve some of his privacy. Or to keep from sharing all of his skeletons and having her run for the hills. "I'd want them to help me find my brother." Matt pulls back, but he doesn't break eye contact with Sam. "He disappeared before our dad died. I doubt he even knows about it. He deserves to know, I mean, he always had the closer relationship with our dad."
Sam wonders if she’s gone a step too far in her - admittedly, well-intentioned - questioning. She may have misjudged Matt slightly; she didn’t know too many people blissfully unaware of the true extent of the magical world who would have a deeper reason for seeking it out. Usually there was some glimmer of understanding already that prompted such a venture, in her experience.
Matt laughs after questioning whether she has some magic, and it’s one of the most honest sounds she’s heard in a while. Genuine. Not a lot of laughter fell in to that category these days. It lights up his face and she knows without any reservation that Matt’s one of the good guys.
It’s almost enough to take her mind off magic. No, she has no magic, and while it would probably be useful, the magic she has access to is not her own. It’s not a bad thing, really, because nothing ever comes without strings attached in this world, and yet...
Something best not to dwell on.
“No magic,” Sam promises, adding, “and no obligation to answer my question either."
But he does, and she wonders if Matt - a complete stranger - just needs someone to talk to. Even she has her moments like that; there’s a sense of security in confiding in someone who has no need to judge your past or future.
"I guess. I’d want them to help me find my brother.”
It’s not an answer she was expecting, and suddenly she feels doubly bad for prying - although in her defense, she wasn’t prying to be rude. Matt had come to her table asking for help, and even though he was probably sharing a lot more than he’d initially intended, she was someone who genuinely wanted to help others.
Although this might be a little out of her realm.
"He disappeared before our dad died. I doubt he even knows about it. He deserves to know, I mean, he always had the closer relationship with our dad.”
“I’m sorry about your brother,” she says. Had she known Matt a little better, she might have reached out to cover his hand with her own. Instead she meets his steady gaze with one of her own, letting him know that she’s willing to listen if he needs someone to talk to.
Funny how they’re both here searching for people.
“Do you think he’s here?” Sam asks. “In Istanbul, I mean. Is that why you think the gypsies here may be able to help you?"
Sam could ask a lot more questions - considers it, too - because she's spent a great deal of time learning how to find things that didn't want to be found. She's just not sure how Matt would take such an offer. She resolves to make the introductions he requested when Matt's ready and keep her offer in reserve. At least for now.
It's not Sam's apology about the misfortunate circumstances with his brother that holds Matt's attention, but her steady gaze. The comfort and compassion sparkling in her eyes bears great sincerity. He can't help but smile in kind. The curl of his mouth even remains strong when the question Sam poses next gives pause to their conversation.
Matt grows silent and not for the first time since taking a seat at Sam's table. However, his silence is not the result of contemplation. It is because his initial answer is nonverbal. Matt nods his head to give affirmation to Sam's suspicions.
"Yeah, I think he's in the area." Matt speaks candidly, and then casts a quick glance around the bar. His conversation with Sam has caused him to forget the company they share in this space. There are a few tables scattered about that are occupied with old friends and some even hold what appears to be seasoned lovers. The bar itself seems to be supported by the most recurring of locals. The tavern is the epitome of an ordinary small town bar.
Matt isn't sure what he is watching out for, but he sees nothing worth being cautious about. This makes it easier for him to relax a bit more. Unwarranted concerned brushed aside, Matt turns to look back at Sam. He rests his elbows on the table, drapes his arms across the surface, and then folds them against each other.
"I've been following his trail, but it's turned cold since making my way to Turkey." Matt shrugs, "I've come this far already and to lose track of him now… I know he turned his back on our family a long time ago, but—" Brown eyes shimmer with recognition when Matt realizes his words have become tinged with a harsh bitterness. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to burden you with my family baggage."
There is an adoption of an apologetic grin on Matt's part. "I swear," He begins with a more moderate tone. "I'm not normally this depressing."