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Your Arms Feel Like Home

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Reggie’s Sports Pub and Grill.

Maker

Solona glanced back and forth between the documents on her counter and the garish photo of the pub front open on her phone screen. Another place she wouldn't be caught dead in if it weren't for this job, but, well.

Money was money, right?

She crammed a stale bagel into her mouth and stuffed two extra clips of ammunition for her Beretta nine millimeter in the back pocket of her jeans. Jacket—she needed a jacket. Where the fuck was her coat? A cursory scan of the bottom floor of her loft yielded….

Nothing.

At least, nothing pertinent to what she needed right now in the middle of a small tornado's worth of art supplies strewn across every corner of the room. Four easels, a stack of half-opened canvases still partly covered in plastic wrap, a paint splattered workbench holding an assorted disarray of pencils, pens, brushes, chalks, pastels, and probably literally anything else but her fucking coat.

Two art school degrees and she was spending another night chasing down some dipshit who thought he could get away with skipping bail. What a world this was.

She gave up halfway on the bagel and spat the rest of it into a trash can that was already dangerously close to overflowing. The documents on the counter fluttered as the heater kicked on with a metallic groan.

Sean Matthews. Age 29. 6’1. 187 lbs. Brown hair. Hazel eyes. Tribal tattoo around left bicep. Missed court appearance on aggravated assault charge.

“Maker, fuck, where is that damn coat—”

Her phone rang. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene.

Solona snorted and answered the phone. “Hey, baby. Nice new ringtone you gave yourself; something I should know?”

Jowan’s quiet laughter sounded from the other end of the line. “Just been stuck in my head lately is all.”

She laughed. “When did you find time to get to my phone this morning?”

“You take longer in the shower than you think you do.”

“You think you're so smooth,” she teased. “I'm about to go do work stuff. Want me to bring you some dinner when I'm done?”

“Ah, no. I was calling to tell you I'd be stuck in the office late tonight.” She could already see the remorse in his soft brown eyes. “I'm so sorry, sweetheart. This proposal, it's—”

 “No, no, don't do that. You know it's alright; it always is. Work is work, it gets like that for both of us.” 

His sigh was heavy and mournful. “I know. It's just. I was hoping we'd get to spend tomorrow together, but the board rejected the last set of edits and I—" 

“Jowan,” she interrupted. “Shush. I'll bring you dinner at work then.”

“Sweetheart, you really don't have to. I know security at the university gates never treats you well. I just—"

“So, chicken parm, double broccoli?” she interrupted again with a laugh. “Let me take care of you.”

“Should be the other way around,” he grumbled. 

“Shall I see you later then, Professor Penrose?” she teased.

“Oh, Maker, don't call me that, not when you make it sound so sexual,” he groaned. “You don't know how often some of these students make passes at me in my office.”

“Serves you right for looking so damn cute when talking about the industrial revolution in the Free Marches.” She stepped around the corner to the kitchen sink and practically tripped over the leather jacket she'd tossed carelessly on the floor. “Oh! Found my coat. I love you, baby, gotta go catch my bad guy now.” 

“Please be careful.”

“Don't worry. I won't bleed too much on your takeout.” 

“Solona, I'm serious. Check in with me, alright?”

“Scout's honor. Love you.”

“I love you too.”

She shoved the phone into her pocket and scooped the jacket up with one arm. Keys, wallet, gun. Papers. She grabbed the folder on her counter and stepped out onto the street.

“Another late night?”

“Hey, Skip.” Solona waved amiably at her neighbor, an older man who lived alone with a massive bearded dragon bigger than most cats she'd seen. “What are you doing tonight?"

He shrugged, shaggy salt and pepper hair matching the ash he flicked from his cigarette to the concrete. “Season two of Antivan Runway comes on in ten minutes. TiVo broke, so here we are. How's that cat of yours doing?”

Shit. Fuck. Right. She was out of cat food. Where was Razikale anyway?

“Um. Actually. Haven't seen him all day. Probably off down the street terrorizing Dimetra’s dog again.” 

Skip shot her a toothy grin. “Doing the Maker’s work, that cat. You give the little shit a kiss for me.”

“Will do, Skip. Night.”

“Later, doll.”

Razzy would have to take care of himself until she got back. She bit back a grimace and unlocked her Jeep, glancing at the screen of her phone for the time. Sean was supposed to be on a date at Reggie’s in ten minutes, but she had no idea how long he'd choose to stay.

The ignition sputtered uncomfortably for a few seconds before the beat up Wrangler roared to life. “Yeah, I know,” she groaned at the check engine light that had been on for, shit, was it going on three weeks now? The panel dinged at her again. “With what money?” she demanded as she jammed her foot on the clutch and shifted into reverse.

The Jeep didn't answer.

Typical.

She was halfway down the street when something small and fuzzy brushed against her hand on the gear shift. She yelped in alarm and swerved onto the shoulder before straightening back out and seeing a pair of huge yellow eyes gleaming at her from the passenger seat.

Razikale just chirruped at her and brushed his head against her hand affectionately as she swore at him. A swat earned her a playful nibble on her knuckles, and when she lifted her hand to shift gears the entire cat came up wrapped around her forearm. He blinked at her twice and trilled again, digging his claws into her coat sleeve as he stretched lazily and climbed his way onto her shoulder.

“Goddammit, Razzy,” she grumbled. “You know you're not supposed to come with me on pickups. What if one of these fucks hurts you? You're so—ugh.”

He chirped again and nestled comfortably into the crook of her neck as she drove. Honestly, what even was this night?

Her phone chimed with a series of texts from Jowan.

Jowan<3(sent 7:04pm): No walls can contain // the radiance of your smile // my wandering heart finds solace // in the sweet memories of my love // my love, like the dawn, who ushers in a new horizon

Jowan<3(sent 7:04pm): Found it in a book of love songs in an old dialect from the Free Marches.

Jowan<3(sent 7:05pm): Translated it just for you. :)

She grinned in spite of herself. Maybe the night wouldn't be so shitty after all. She responded at the next red light.

>> Why, Dr. Penrose, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever told me.

>> Just be careful, babe. :P

>> The last time you got caught up in old Marcher literature, I found you passed out in your office at seven in the morning using an old curtain as a blanket.

>> Love you, nerd.

Her phone chimed again as she pulled into a parking space on the street in front of Reggie’s. From the looks of the revelry on their patio, the night only seemed to be getting warmed up. A chorus of cheers erupted from the building as Kirkwall U’s quarterback scored a touchdown on the giant projector window screening the game.

Jowan<3 (sent 7:10pm): You say the nicest things. <3

She chuckled as she shut off the ignition and swung herself out of the Jeep and stuffed her gun and a pair of handcuffs into her back pockets. “Stay in the car, Razzy,” she ordered as she unraveled a rather disgruntled cat from her hair and set him on the passenger seat. “I mean it.”

Razikale yawned and stretched out across the seat before opening one yellow eye at her sleepily and closing it again. She shook her head and sighed, glancing at the bar in front of her.

Go time.