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Rae spent the next week seemingly on autopilot. Everything seemed... peaceful. One could call it almost normal, except that peace wasn't the norm for Sunshine, anymore. Each day passed as just another busy day at the coffeehouse. Charlie hadn't even commented on the cinnamon rolls being slightly late, the morning she found the fetch. The new apprentice was a quick learner, and a great help around the bakery, as the usual crowd at Charlie's grew willing to stay later as the days got longer. On the surface, everything seemed fine.

Except that Rae couldn't trust it. Her sleep was troubled, blanketing her days with an exhausted fog, a numbness that she had to fight her way through. She couldn't trust that at any moment she wouldn't suddenly stumble upon some thing sent after her by the Goddess of Pain. To find her car or bakery bugged again? A space-folding door installed at the coffeehouse, so that when she walked into her bakery she'd suddenly find herself in SOF HQ? A fetch planted in her home? Well, no, not that one. Sunshine trusted Yolande's skills at warding too much to worry about that one.

But the fear remained. Rae found her own behavior patterns changing. She stopped using the local parking garage, choosing instead to park on the street, even if it meant she had a longer walk to Charlie's through the pedestrian-only section of Old Town. Rae had hardly touched her combox at home - instead choosing to drive to the cross-town branch of the library to use their free connection to the globenet, so she could look up any information there might be on possible illegal use of fetches by law enforcement, and some background on the Goddess of Pain. Surprisingly, there was little information on either.

The changes in her behavior didn't go unnoticed, either. The look on Mel's face the day he happened to walk in on her thoroughly searching her bakery for surveillance devices nearly broke her. And she couldn't tell him why. Couldn't tell anyone.

So on a Sunday morning, when Rae looked up from kneading rosemary sourdough to find Pat standing in the doorway of her bakery, the surprised SOF agent found himself the recipient of a sudden hug. Never mind that it meant he got flour dusted on his uniform. It hardly showed against the khaki.

"Steady there, Sunshine," he said with a slight chuckle as she pulled away again. "You guys can't be hurting for business that bad without us here every day." Her Dark Sight showed her what she wanted to see, that he was genuinely glad to see her again. But also in the textured blue edges of his shadows she saw that he really didn't want to be there, and that he didn't want her to see that. Thus the attempt at levity.

"So I miss you guys - sue me," she retorted, moving to make up a plate of Killer Zebras - Pat's favorites. There was a time when she had denied him even the use of the chair in the corner of her bakery. But times, and people, and situations, had all changed.

"Thought you'd be too busy with that new apprentice to miss trouble like us always coming around," Pat replied. Sunshine met his eyes as she passed the plate to him. He was trying to warn her. Or, perhaps, ease her into the warning, and make sure they wouldn't be interrupted.

"You know morning shifts are brutal - I want to make sure she's ready first, before I risk scaring her off," Rae answered, going back to kneading the rosemary sourdough to give her something to do with her hands, and to keep her from having to look at him. There won't be anyone needing to come in.

Very slowly, Pat went and closed the door.

Taking a measured breath, Sunshine rested her hands on the floury board, feeling the fine, dry dust between her fingers.

"What have you been up to, Sunshine?" Pat asked, quietly. "I was told to bring you in for questioning, this afternoon."

Rae closed her eyes, briefly. She almost smiled at the ridiculousness of it. Aren't they approaching the situation backwards? They're supposed to send fetches only after sending agents doesn't work. Ah, so of course they would send Pat to bring her in. One of her friends. She'd be less likely to fight.

"Been doing what you wanted me out there doing," she answered, simply, glancing at him. They had needed her out there doing what she could do, and that's what she was doing, willing to sacrifice her own familiar world views and a good chunk of her identity on the off-chance she could stop the world's slide into darkness. Rae just knew what she is doing and what her SOFs thought she was doing don't match up. It was much more complicated than they, with their easy understanding that the only good vampire is a dead vampire, believed. "But apparently, my help's not as wanted as I was led to think."

"Hey, now," Pat started, but Rae cut him off.

"You said you'd cover for me, Pat, with the Goddess," she said, turning towards him. Flour from her hands drifted down to the otherwise spotless floor. "But now she's apparently sending you to fetch me in, since the actual fetch didn't work."

Though his look didn't change much, Sunshine could see surprise flicker through the shadows on his face. Surprise and grave concern. She pressed the heels of her hands into the dough, roughly, and continued to knead.

"Yeah, didn't know about that, did you? I came in last week to find a fetch planted in my bakery. My bakery, Pat." Rae was suddenly glad he had thought to close the door. This is what had been roiling under the seemingly peaceful exterior, and it had found its outlet. "It had spent a lot of its energy trashing all the wards my mom had left around the place, or else it probably would've gotten out and come after me. It's lucky I was even able to contain it in time. And don't worry about us being overheard - I've already found all the bugs that'd been planted here and in my car. I check every day to make sure they haven't been replaced. It might get strange looks from the people who know me, but then, they know something's up. They've already been questioned about me."

The Killer Zebras were untouched.

"What you're saying, Sunshine," Pat began, watching her, "are some very serious accusations."

"You're kali goddamn right they are." The poor rosemary sourdough never did anything to deserve the kind of punishment she was giving it.

"It is one thing to question civilians - that's a large part of what we do, even when they don't want to talk to us. But unauthorized surveillance on private property, and the planting of an illegal fetch..."

"Two," Rae cut him off again.

"Two?"

"This is the second one. There was one planted in my car, a couple of years ago. With the Ticker and the extra wards - I assume those were you?"

"Those were Jesse and me, yeah," Pat's voice was quiet. "We didn't know about the fetch, though. How did you-"

"Doesn't matter."

Fetches were designed to be resistant to any ways a normal citizen could try to deactivate it, and they both knew it. Rae was glad he decided against pressing for information. She wasn't just keeping her own secrets.

Pat finally took the chair in the corner, sitting down with an emphatic sigh. "Gods and friggin' angels. Sunshine, if the Goddess is focused on you... I don't have to explain to you that it's bad news. Or just how bad. And to go up against her..." One of the Killer Zebras disappeared while he mulled over the implications. Rae moved the rosemary sourdough into a loaf pan, knowing that it would likely not rise as much as it needed - over-kneaded dough never did. Leaning back, Pat peered up at her. "Do you... do you still have the fetch?"

"What, need evidence that I'm not lying?" she snapped at him, more harshly than she intended. Rae immediately regretted it. It showed in the glance she gives him, then, but she did not apologize. The whole situation was messed up, and she needed him as her ally. Pat ate another Killer Zebra while he considered how to answer.

"Not evidence against you, Sunshine," Pat replied.
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Rae "Sunshine" Seddon

May 2016

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