I was scanning through Devil Lily's chapters the other day, brushing up on the events in the story thus far, and I was shocked at what I saw. My grammar has gotten very sloppy! I mean, to be perfectly honest, it wasn't squeaky clean to begin with, but. . .damn! I even forgot to use spell check on the first few chapters, which to me is just inexcusable. I've gotten lazy, I have. So I plan to go back and do some editing. I may request a beta in the future (beta reading is still something that's fairly new to me, sadly), but I'm still mulling it over. Also, I've seen some fics floating around featuring chain-smoking!Jack. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks he could be a smoker. ;) And I believe someone asked if Jack still wears his eyeliner? The answer is: yes! The only thing I took away were his goggles, which I already felt bad for doing but it had to be done for the sake of story. That's my excuse, anyway.
This chapter seems a bit choppy in some places. Eh, if it bothers me that much I'll edit it along with all the others later.
Chapter X - Industrial
Girl - Stone Temple Pilots
Sunglasses at Night - Corey Hart
Poison - Groove Coverage
turned away, what was she looking at?
She was a sour girl the day that she met me
Hey, what are you looking at?
She was a happy girl the day that she left me
Sour Girl - Stone Temple Pilots
Classes let out thirty minutes ahead of schedule that day due to a faculty function that the student body, as a whole, could not have cared less about, Kimiko included. It was only three in the afternoon when she strolled out into the midday sun, her classmates billowing out around her. She surveyed the mundane scene with absent minded interest as she contemplated where to go from there. She had a previous engagement later that night, yes, but if she went straight to her dorm now, Suzume would undoubtedly rope her into confessing what her plans were and who they were with. Kimiko was not in the mood to deal with her room mate's antics at that particular moment. Plus, she still had not picked out an outfit to wear! As vast as her wardrobe was, the Japanese trend-setter did not have many black garments, and none that she did own seemed appropriate for the occasion in mind. Logically, she could either make do with what she had, or she could take the only other option left available.
Kimiko tipped her chin up and tented her hand over her squinting eyes to better view the sky. Then she smiled and reached into her purse for her cell phone.
The number she dialed took three rings before the voice of a very grumpy Jack Spicer answered. His bad funk faded as soon as he understood who he was talking to, and he asked her what she wanted in the most friendliest tone she had ever heard him use. Which changed instantly when she informed him she was taking him shopping, and that if he didn't pick her up in 30 minutes, there would be hell to pay.
The next thing either of them knew, Kimiko was dragging Jack around from mall to mall, dashing in and out of various stores, trying on dark colored apparel, and generally behaving like a typical girl on shopping spree. The ex-Heylin watched in unveiled boredom as she carefully chose each and every accessory to her liking (although, he noted sourly that she never asked for his opinion on anything. . .).
When all was said and done--and paid for--Kimiko had decided on a "classic" look: a long skirt with a slit up the mid-thigh; a corset-styled top; stiletto heeled boots that hugged just below her knees, and fishnets galore. Donning a few pieces of jewelry, then some eyeliner here and some black lipstick there, all that remained was her hair. After many attempted styles failed to impress her, she opted to leave it down, something she didn't do often. It was something few people rarely got to see, and she wondered if Jack would mention anything when he saw her.
However, judging from his expression as she sauntered into his view, she realized her hair held the least of his attention. His eyes trailed over her appearance in slow awe, relishing the kind of scrutiny that usually made her livid. Yet, this time, she found herself twirling around for him like a model displaying the latest fashion trend.
"What do you think?" she inquired in a playfully curious tone.
Jack appeared to come to his senses at the sound of her voice, prompting him to blush and look away. He coughed before muttering, "You look good." And watching the way he seemed to swallow an invisible lump in his throat, Kimiko could easily take that as an understatement of what he really thought.
The half hour that it took to travel to their destination was spent in companionable silence. Kimiko had tried prodding Jack for information one last time, and the result had been the same as her previous attempts--negative. So she sat back in his jet car and enjoyed the ride, anticipating the night ahead with little expectations.
The moment they arrived, Kimiko immediately knew she wouldn't like the place. Even just standing outside, waiting to be let inside, gave her an uneasy feeling. Most of the people in line with them looked like they had just walked out of a bondage store rather than their own houses. She had never seen so much vinyl at one time, not even in the shops she'd visited to put together her own outfit. She was suddenly glad that Jack had never been into leather.
Stepping through the entrance doors did absolutely nothing to help her mood, as they were immediately greeted with a blast of hot air that reeked of cigarettes and vodka. She could vaguely make out a bar in the left corner, which didn't surprise her in a club that was 18 and over. Jack made no move towards it, which she was both impressed and grateful for. She half expected him to pull out a fake ID and try to pass himself off as 21. Instead, he seemed more interested in carting her through the festivities than with joining in on the fun.
The area in general wasn't exactly spacious, considering how many people were trying to cram together. Music unlike any she had ever heard before was booming all around them, and she couldn't move an inch without brushing against another body. It wasn't long before she found herself latching onto Jack's side and trying hard to ignore the leers of other men who were passing by more and more frequently. He had glanced down at her questioningly for a moment, but when she refused to meet his gaze, went back to leading her around in aimless circles.
Kimiko wanted to believe the only reason she was standing so close to Jack was simply because of the unfamiliar atmosphere she was in. Strange surroundings filled with strange people were bound to make one feel unsettled, so it was only natural that she would want to stick with the one person she was most conversant with. That was all it was, basically. At least, that's she told herself.
Time went on without her, and with it came a haze over her brain. The strobe lights flickered spontaneously, highlighting a sea of black shrouded people dancing (could that even be called dancing?) in the middle of the room. The longer she stared, the more she felt like she was underwater--movement slowed down, and the noise (or was that still the music?) grew muffled. She felt as though she were sinking; like she was drowning.
A soft touch on her shoulder was what eventually brought Kimiko back to the surface. Her eyelids fluttered as she looked up at the man standing next to her.
That's right. The only reason she was even there was because of Jack.
She watched him lean down so that his lips hovered just above her ear. His breath tickled her flesh when he spoke to her above the din.
The concern behind his words would have been touching if she were feeling a bit more coherent. Kimiko closed her eyes, trying harder to dispel her daze, and tilted her head towards him in kind. Practically cheek-to-cheek, she didn't notice him shiver at their close proximity when she responded.
"I think we should sit down."
She felt him nod. His touch moved down her shoulder to her upper arm, where he lightly gripped her bicep and tugged.
They sat against a nearby wall at a table made for two. He had pulled the chair out for her before sitting down himself. Had that been a conscious effort to be a gentleman? If only she'd been more aware of herself enough to ask!
"Are you alright?" he repeated, gazing at her from across the small table top. Breathing deeply, Kimiko nodded once.
"I'll be fine," she affirmed, then wrinkled her nose and added, "The smell is driving me crazy."
Jack blinked, sniffing at the air around them. After a minute he realized she must have been talking about the smoke. This wasn't a smoke-free environment, after all.
"Really? I didn't notice it," he said, sounding sheepish. Actually, he had noticed, but it never occurred to him to say anything before now. Why would he need to? Besides, bringing it up would only lead to things he wasn't certain he was ready to confess, for the simple fact that he did not desire a reprimanding from the beautiful sitting across from him.
"Jack, you don't smoke do you?"
He should have known. Kimiko was a smart girl, after all, and she knew him far too well for his own liking.
". . .not anymore."
"Good. Then I won't have to kick your ass."
His eyebrows dropped, and he looked like he wanted to say something snippy in reply, but wisely kept his lips sealed. It was just another one of those battles he could not win. He was more than used to that by now.
Moments passed before he worked up the courage to state what was on his mind.
"You look unhappy."
The Japanese girl stared at him from across the small space between them. Her lips parted, then closed, then parted once more.
"I guess I just don't understand what it is about this life style that you find so appealing."
Clear as crystal. He would have preferred it if she had been less sure of what she was saying.
"I don't expect you to understand," he replied, "and besides, it's not something I could explain anyway. It's my thing, and that's all there is too it."
She tilted her head to the side.
"You can't honestly tell me you enjoy this droning atmosphere? You weren't even dancing!" Her voice grew high and incredulous, and probably would have hurt his ears had they not been surrounded by so much noise. Eyes shut, he huffed and snootily stuck his nose in the air.
"I don't dance. I observe."
Kimiko rolled her eyes at his attitude. That was so like him.
"Oooh, I see. In other words, you're the creepy guy who sits in the corner all night and watches everybody else have fun, right?"
"Exactly. . .hey!"
Kimiko shook her head.
"I don't know if I can stand much more of this."
"Oh come on! You're not even trying to enjoy yourself."
That earned him another roll of her eyes.
"News flash, Jack, there's a reason for that. Believe me, when I went through my 'goth stage', I tried blending in with this crowd, but my heart wasn't in it. I hated it then, and I still hate it now. The gothic fashion can be very stylish, but I'll never be into the scene."
". . .you. . .you've been through a goth stage?"
"Wouldn't you like to know."
"Yes, I would. It was always hard to miss your ever changing style way back when, but I never once saw you go goth."
She scoffed, and to Jack's ears, it did not sound like the Kimiko he knew. It sounded too bitter. Too nostalgic.
"Surprised? I'm not. I suppose you look at me like everyone else does. . . as a naive little daddy's girl. Or in your case, a goody-goody Xiaolin Loser."
The bitterness seeped into her words, and the ex-Heylin was so distracted by it that he could not think of anything in reply.
"I. . .I guess I. . ." he stammered, his mind racing to correct the mistake he hadn't even realized he had made. He wanted the understanding back in her voice. He wanted the softness in her gaze to return. He wanted her to smile at him the way she did when they had walked through the rain together. If someone had asked, he would not be able to say exactly when her friendship had become so important to him. All he knew was that suddenly--without any previous thoughts on the matter--he wanted her to be a part of his life. He did not want to imagine being without her. Ever.
But Kimiko was caught in a net of old grudges, and for that suspension in time, she saw him as she used to: as a pathetic mama's boy with an over inflated ego and a god complex. The sympathy she had acquired up until then felt far away and undeserving. All she could remember was why she had hated him so much when they had been enemies. She'd temporarily forgotten what had compelled her to pursue a friendship with this. . .boy.
"You don't know me half as well as you think you do, Jack Spicer," she went on, not giving him the chance to compose himself, "I'm not as pure and innocent as I seem."
Jack looked offended.
"I never said you were."
Kimiko did not care.
"You didn't have to. It was written all over your face. But hey, don't worry about it. I get that kind of thing a lot, so I'm used to it."
The music, the dancing, the ashy smell and the atmosphere seemed to surround her at once. It felt suffocating, and without much thought about Jack, she instinctively rose out of her chair and began to move away.
His hand was on her arm before she even made it two steps.
"Hey! Where are you going?"
She glared back at him, irritation setting in her hues.
She violently shrugged him off.
He tried to grab her again, but she cleverly evaded and slipped into the wake of flailing bodies where he lost sight of her. Kimiko wasted no time, weaving in and out of the openings she could find, until she reached the edge of the dance floor. Feeling significantly less caged, she scanned the walls for an escape route.
Sorry Jack, but this just isn't working out. Maybe. . .we can do something else. . .some other time. . .
Even as she thought it, she knew she wouldn't see him again after this. But at the moment, she just couldn't find it in herself to care that much.
Them's the breaks.
Kimiko made haste as soon as she spotted a door marked with bright green letters, spelling 'EXIT'. She easily pushed it open and the cool, night air that hit her skin made her pause and bask in the refreshing breeze.
Slightly rejuvenated, she took a step forward and looked back, scanning the black scenery for a tall head of spiky red hair that may be following. . .
. . .and collided with another body matching that very description.
"Yo. Going somewhere?"
How he had gotten out there so fast was something she would never figured out. She did her best to try and mask her surprise as she snapped her chin up and glowered at him in a way that she hoped was menacing. Unfortunately, he was already wearing a glower of his own, which did not falter under her intimidation.
Oh well. It's his funeral.
"Move," she demanded.
"No," he defied.
Growling, Kimiko irrationally reached out and shoved him aside. He tumbled to the ground with a grunt, his face contorted in dull pain. A distant part of her felt guilty, and she forced it to remain distant.
"I said move! I'm leaving!"
As she began stalking away, she heard him scramble to his feet and trail after her.
"Wait! Kimiko. . .come on, wait will ya!"
She almost growled again.
Dammit. What has gotten into him? He just won't leave well enough alone!
As soon as he caught up to her, he stepped into her frontal view, bodily blocking her path. Then, seizing her by the shoulders, he shook her with a gentle force she never thought him capable of.
"Will you just stop for a minute and listen to me?!"
The phrase itself was not enough to stun her, but the drive behind it, and the surprising strength in his hands did manage to spark her interest. So she wordlessly agreed, and stopped trying to march away.
What could he possibly have to say that was so damn important, anyway?
And. . .why did that look he was giving her make her stomach flutter instead of clinch?
"What is it? I would think you'd be glad to have me out of your hair," she tried to make light of his gaze with a snarky remark. Instead, her plan backfired, as his eyes only grew more intense, and much to her horror, she felt a blush begin to rise up on her cheeks. If he noticed, he didn't show it. And after a moment, he bowed his head, releasing her from the hypnosis.
"I'm sorry, ok?" he started slowly, quietly, "I shouldn't have judged you so. . .loosely."
In a snap, all of Kimiko's anger died, leaving hangdog in its place. His eyes were trained on the ground beneath his shoes, so he did not see the turmoil pass across her expression, even if only for the briefest of moments.
I don't know what came over me, she silently rebuked herself. I got worked up over nothing. Really, I thought I had learned a little more self control than that.
She focused on his anxious brow. She wasn't certain what had possessed Jack to chase her down and apologize, but she was glad that he did, because that very act was a signal. It meant she was not wasting her time on him--no matter how exiguous the results seemed, they were still there and improving each day. If she had went ahead with her gut instinct and left him alone again, she would have not only failed Jack, but herself as well.
Kimiko Tohomiko had decided a long time ago that she was not a quitter. This was no exception to that rule.
Jack's head popped up when her palm abruptly clapped him on the shoulder. The smile he had desperately needed to see was glowing on her lips, and his panic melted in its presence.
"Aw, it's ok Jack," she said in that warm tone he'd grown secretly fond of, "I'm sorry too. I've made plenty of judgements about you in the past that weren't true, so let's forgive and forget and just call it even, 'kay?"
His eyebrow twitched. He could point out that he had only misjudged her once (maybe twice). If she had already misjudged him more times than that, how could they be considered even?
"Sure, why not?" he heard himself comply, albeit with a hint of hesitation he was sure she could hear. If she did, she entirely ignored it and smothered her fists together in mock celebration.
"Good! Now, if you'll kindly excuse me. . ."
She moved to side step him, and found her movement hindered by his hands, which had yet to remove themselves from her shoulders.
"I know you're not still thinking about leaving."
Kimiko blanched and raised an eyebrow.
"You really think you can stop me?"
"No, but that's not the issue here. Your home is halfway across the globe, and I'm the one with the jet car."
His smug expression rubbed her the wrong way, and in retaliation, she folded her arms over her chest, defying him with body language.
"I could always call the guys back at the temple, you know. I'm sure Dojo and the others would only be too happy to relieve me of such. . .unsavory company."
The way she spoke made it sound like an innocent threat. Jack wasn't certain if he should take her seriously or not, so he settled for a small pout as he looked down at her with shining eyes.
". . .what happened to thanking me?"
That was not his best puppy dog face; she knew because she had seen it many times before. However, it was enough to serve its purpose and make her feel bad enough to grudgingly concede.
"Fine. You win. I-. . .oh!"
Jack jumped at her paused outburst.
"What? What's wrong?" he probed, concerned that he had somehow messed up again.
Her grin in response was sweet. Sugary sweet.
"All right, Jack," she started impishly. "I'll stay. But, if you expect to spend the rest of the night without. . .further complications. . .you'll have to do something for me in return."
Oh great, he couldn't help lamenting to himself. What have I gotten myself into now?
"And what, pre-tell, would I have to do?" he asked warily.
"Oh, nothing much, just escort me to another club," she answered with a casual shrug. Then, with that same too-sweet smirk, added, "of my choosing."
Jack blinked for a second or two, then slumped forward in premature defeat.
Blackmail was the best persuasion. He had learned that at an early age. Apparently, so had Kimiko.
She hopped up and down with joy, making the ball of dread in his stomach sink even further.
"You'll have to dress accordingly, just I like I did," she bubbled gleefully.
"Ok, fine! Let's just. . .go back inside," he concluded in exasperation. His exasperation vanished when she hooked him by two of his fingers and happily lead him back to the club.
She was true to her word--for the rest of the night, Kimiko was nothing but pleasant and personable. And for the rest of the night, Jack was able to forget about the inevitable doom he knew he would be facing the next day.