Disclaimer: ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Oh, if you hear silence, that's because I shoved a gag into the disclaimer's mouth. I can only take so much of its jabbering, you know...

A/N: Hi, guys! Boy, aren't you all lucky? This being the first chapter and all, you don't have to put up with all the usual long, long Author's Notes. Savor it while it lasts. ; )

For this fic, I decided to experiment a little. (Experiments in the hands of the insane? That can't be a good thing, can it?) See, most of the other stories under my thumb have been extremely plot-driven. Right from the get-go, I more or less knew what was going to happen and how the fic was going to end. This sometimes took away the excitement of writing for me because I knew what the outcome was going to be once the last chapter rolled around. So I thought I'd do like The Madness Series and kind of "type by the seat of my pants." (Which might not exactly be an easy task 'cause, let's face it, how do I type with that particular body part?) I have some vague ideas about certain scenes and situations that I want to happen, but nothing concrete to actually string them all together, no solid end in sight. So if anyone wants to randomly throw in a suggestion here or there, we can see if it meshes with the stuff that I had in mind. Anything I use will of course be accredited to whomever suggested the idea. : )

So that having been said, let's see where this takes us... (Hopefully, it's not into the center of the Earth or deep into space where we have no possible hope of finding our way back... ; )

Smoke and Liquor

She entered the poorly lit room. The first thing she took note of was the overpowering smell of alcohol and sweat. Not the most pleasant combination in the world, but one that she was accustomed to. There were more people present than usual, making her trek across the floor slow but not impossible. In places like these, the phrases "Excuse me" or "I beg your pardon" held little to no significance whatsoever, so she used neither when accidentally jostling a number of shoulders along her way. The constant cloud of lingering tobacco smoke felt heavy in the air, clinging to her skin like a tight layer of clothing. It was almost smothering, suffocating, pressing down on her lungs and causing her to breathe just a little bit harder. The room was hot, uncomfortable... and welcomingly familiar.

She could feel several wanting glances being cast in her direction. With an air of confidence and nonchalance, she pointedly ignored them. She had to admit the attention was flattering as hell -- what girl, after all, didn't love to be admired? -- but she would have preferred to be hit upon by someone who wasn't reeking of smoke and liquor.

Pushing a lock of pure white hair behind her ear, she slid herself onto one of the stools at the bar. From her vantage point she had a pretty good view of the room. Most of the other patrons were wandering about, excitedly awaiting the top of the hour. A jukebox in the far corner was turned on, playing a strange mix of jazz, rock and metal that she couldn't quite identify. The music just barely pushed itself through the overwhelming din that would have otherwise drowned it out.

As she completed her sweep of the area, her eyes came to rest on a brown-haired man sitting on the opposite side of the bar. A second look confirmed that the word 'man' was being kind. He looked more like a kid, fifteen at the most. How he managed to get past the bouncer, she could only guess. His hand was wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle, nursing the contents with steady attention. He seemed all but oblivious to the noise and movement around him. She wondered about the melancholy expression on his face and the reasons for his being in a bar at this time of night.

As if feeling her eyes on him, the teen looked up, surprised that someone was watching him, but ultimately pleased that it was such an attractive woman who was doing the watching. He squared his shoulders and sent her a tentative grin.

She almost wanted to smile at his attempt. There was something boyishly charming about the way he was trying to 'pick her up,' puffing out his chest to make himself look bigger, broader -- and yet contradicting that action with a less-than-confident smile. It was pathetic and yet incredibly cute at the same time. In response, she gave him a flirtatious look, one that was tinged with shy seduction and interest. If she didn't know any better she could have sworn that he'd blushed.

Obviously gaining more confidence from her actions, she watched as he called the bartender over. As he spoke, the older man glanced in her direction and then nodded. She followed his movements as he expertly prepared a drink and then came over to set it down in front of her.

"Only five minutes in and you're already getting fellas to buy you drinks. You're really good for business, you know that?" he said, placing his palms on the countertop and leaning slightly towards her.

"Nice ta see you too, Sal." She smiled up at him. "Miss me?"

"You know it."

Discreetly nodding toward the boy on the other side of the bar, she commented, "Kind o' young ta be in here, ain't he?"

Sal scoffed. "Not like you care all that much about how young these kids are, sweetheart." He looked over his shoulder at the object of their discussion. "He's with Miles. A cousin or something. Trying to cheer him up a little 'cause his girlfriend broke up with him."

"By bringin' him here? Boy's likely ta become even more depressed," she quipped.

He chuckled at her joke, turning back to face her.

Continuing, she inquired, "Why're you servin' him? Ain't he illegal still?"

"Technically yeah, but I doubt you're gonna run off and tell the cops, now are you?" He chucked her under the chin. "Anyways, he's family -- well, Miles' family at least. 'Sides I'm cutting him off after that one beer."

She nodded, looking past Sal's shoulder to her young benefactor. He was staring at them in open curiosity, probably wondering why Sal was still there, chatting her up. "Well, Ah guess Ah should get ovah there an' at least say thank you."

"Hey you, no funny business."

She shot him a look of pure innocence. "Why, whatevah do you mean, suh?" she asked, deepening her accent and reminding him of a proper southern lady, which she was not.

He shook his head, amused. "You know what I mean. I don't want to have to pick that kid off the floor 'cause you went and broke his heart."

"Ah promise," she declared, sliding off the barstool, "if there will be any breakin' o' hearts here t'night, it won't be by mah hand." She grinned and picked up her drink.

"Yeah, I'll just bet."

"How much?" she challenged almost automatically, though they both knew she wasn't serious. Changing the topic, she questioned, "He here?"

Sal nodded, tilting his head to the right. "Usual place," he answered shortly. "How long you here for?"

"'Til y'all decide ta kick me out." Smiling evilly, she turned to leave. "Be seein' you, Sal."

"Yeah," she heard him reply.

Moving back into the outskirts of the crowd, she made her way around the bar, until she stood beside the young man.

"Hey, sugah," she greeted. Indicating the empty seat next to him, she asked, "Mind if a lady gets off her feet fo' a while?"

"N-no, not at all. Please." He was almost blushing again, she could tell. It was so adorable how easily he became flustered.

She offered her hand. "Mah name's Rogue."

"Brian. Brian Travis," he answered.

"Well, Brian, thank you fo' th' drink." She raised the martini she'd set down on the bar before pulling out the olive and placing it in her mouth.

He merely nodded. Her movements had caught his eye and he was following them with interest. He wasn't really sure if she was doing it on purpose or not, but he thought the way the olive slipped into her mouth was incredibly sexy.

"Uhh... do you come here often?" he asked, uncertain of how to continue the conversation.

She laughed lightly. "Why, sugah, are you tryin' ta pick me up?"

"Could be." He was making an attempt at playing it cool.

"Yoah a li'l young fo' me." She smiled to lessen the sting of her words, then took a sip of her martini.

He took in her appearance. "You couldn't be more than a handful of years older."

"That's still older, sugah." Sliding off her seat, she placed her hands on his knees and stood between his legs, leaning in close to his ear so that she could whisper, "But if it weren't fo' that, Ah'd prob'ly be interested... very interested." She took hold of his chin and planted a kiss at the very corner of his mouth. "Thanks again fo' th' drink, Brian."

She stepped down and away from him, without another look. She was happy that she could take his mind off his breakup for at least five minutes, boosting his teenaged ego at the same time. After all, how many boys his age could boast that a hot, older woman had flirted so openly with them?

Traveling through the main floor proved more difficult than it had been fifteen minutes earlier. While she'd been preoccupied, the number of people increased, all waiting with anticipation for the big event. The slight struggle didn't faze her. She was used to maneuvering around people who didn't seem inclined to move of their own accord. It didn't take long for her to reach her intended destination.

It was the best table in the house, by far the largest and most comfortable, as well as having the best view of the floor with which to see all the action. Seated around it were five men, all smoking and drinking to their hearts' content, while deep into a game of poker.

"Hey, y'all," she purred smoothly, sauntering over with a hand on her hip. "Anyone care ta cut me in?"

One of the men, clearly the leader of the group, lifted his gaze to where she stood. Rising to his feet, he approached her.

"'Bout time you got here, darlin'," he said, pulling her into his arms and greeting her with a kiss.


You're possibly wondering, "Why the heck stop there?" Believe me when I tell you, "I have no friggin' idea!" The bunnies are in control and I've got no say. You should see them, all snug in the cockpit, even wearing those huge pilot goggles like they know what they're doing... Hey, wait a minute... where are all the parachutes on this flight...?