Black 13

The first time I met Roxas was, maybe, like two months after my parole had ended.

First time I saw him wasn't like some huge miraculous event. He was fast asleep, sprawled across a bed that was so big it could have easily held about eight more of his scrawny body.

Not that I was there for him. I was there to deal with Luxord for the first time. Jesus, the first time dealing with someone is a wreck on my brain. Should be a wreck on anyone's brain if they've even fucking got one.

Luxord and I had resolved not to do one of those drop where I'm left standing around in some public place wondering if I'm gonna get stiffed, arrested, or if—maybe, just maybe—I'm about to make a hell of a lot of money. The stupid fucks expect the latter, and the paranoids sweat about the rest. My bravado probably put me somewhere comfortably in between.

So, Luxord knowing all about those jitters (and not only knowing, but also sympathizing?) was a good sign. That was why I let him take me onto his turf, a blind visit that I didn't send anyone out to scout beforehand. That might have had more to do with the fact that if my little scout had happened to get caught… Luxord never seemed the type to take that well.

"It's good to be working with someone who knows what they're doing," I offered in the smooth voice the new kids liked to hear.

Luxord ignored me and unlocked the front door of his apartment. It was a normal looking place, a little ways off the square and a few blocks from a quaint little grocery store. I felt pretty safe there what for all it's commonality. Though, honestly, maybe I felt safe because I knew Vexen's lab was up the street. What's more, I knew Zexion had tipped off the cops to him. I wasn't really worried about Luxord and my's little 'misdeeds'.

Honestly, you know how, when you're driving down the highway and you're already in the fastlane and some dick curves around your left side and just keeps on going? And then everybody speeds up because they've got a point man now, and if anyone is gonna get pulled over it's that asshole?

It was pretty much like that, and I felt no sympathy for Vexen of all people.

I wasn't worried about cops, not when he was cooking crank on his stove up the street. Thanks, Vexen, you're that asshole today.

So, Luxord smiled at me a little bit; that really soothing, confident smile of his that had probably tricked plenty of people before, plenty of people smarter than the likes of me. It made me fidget and wonder if I was being played. Then I tried to tell myself I wasn't one of those paranoids.

Luxord's apartment was pretty well decorated, clean and kind of nouveau, which was what you did when you had got the money and I asked, "Is this your party place?"

Luxord—tall and broad shouldered and blond, like one of those Yale boys you learn not to count on real fast—just sorta, looked at me with his fucking blue blue eyes (I'm no poet. When Demyx was down enough—or high enough, I don't fucking know—he was in charge of the poetry). Those eyes they hadn't looked worried or concerned, so much as once since we'd started this shit. It was like he knew what I was thinking, what I was planning, and what the rest of the city was having for lunch, pretty much everything.

"I don't keep a place for parties," he said, turning towards me a little, his hands in his pockets, picture of nonchalance (nonchalance my ass). He toed off his shoes and I scrambled awkwardly to do the same. Damn, imagine what a guy-like-him would do to a guy-like-me if I got whatever shit was on the bottoms of my shoes on his creamy white carpets.

"You're that well connected?" I asked him, incredulous that someone could get away with not having a place to bring people and pass around the goods Luxord didn't answer me, he just shrugged and headed down his shadowy little hallway into the main room, with me following anxiously at his heels.

It was right about then that I saw Roxas. Luxord kept his office in their bedroom, so the bed was in the middle of their living room. Sometimes, later, I'd see it bent in half as a couch.

But… shit, don't get distracted. Roxas. Lying spread across that huge thing, his face hidden in the pillows and blanket thrown over his shoulders so all you could see was the waist down. Really pale legs, really toned legs more like a basketball player and less like a runner, but ripped, sleek, curving, taut.

"Who is that?" My mouth inquired before I could really make it stop and I wanted to punch my own teeth out.

See, it was that kind of shit that got me thrown in jail the first time—and not that it wasn't damn good fun while I was doing it, but—nobody trusts a dealer who's in and out of the slammer all the time. One time and some tattoos gives you some credentials, but any more than that and they start wondering if you and the cops are cutting deals, if you're gonna leak names to get yourself back out like you did last time, for all they know. Point to case: I didn't want to repeat my mistakes.

Luxord humored me though; maybe he could tell I was making an effort to be serious (fat load of good effort ever did me).

"That's my younger brother."

I nodded like a good boy and Luxord told me to sit down at the kitchen table while he went to get his books from his office. I was more curious about his brother and was headed over to the bed to pull back a bit of the blanket and look at his face, search out family resemblances, but Luxord glanced over his shoulder and said in his very-serious-drug-pusher voice, "Don't touch him."

I sneered a little at his back and went to sit down at their table, an expensive oak thing with a big slab of some gray rock set into the center. It was certainly nothing I was able to afford to have just yet. If I'd popped up with shit like that so soon after the cops stopped dogging my doorstep, somebody was bound to be a bitch and haul me back in.

The kid on the bed didn't stir so much as once and Luxord came back with his little black book of secrets and began reading me numbers. This was why Luxord had sought me out in the first place, because I knew the shits in this town like the back of my hand. Knew Xigbar would be expecting his yellow jackets once a month, that Larxene would need enough coke for all the girls in her modeling agency, and that Xemnas would trade his White Elephant for something cheaper and easier to pass around at his parties.

I stopped him about midway when I realized something that was making me twitch at the lack of etiquette.

"Is it all right to talk with him in the room?"

Luxord raised a condescending eyebrow at me and I knew that we would work well together, but we would never like each other. I looked away from him quickly and my eyes got caught on a picture of him and his brother.

They were obviously related, the gold-blond hair and blue-bird eyes and sharp nose were the same, but Luxord was tall and squared off at the angles, while Roxas was small and wiry.

"Even if he weren't sleeping," Luxord assured me, and continued on.

(red thir-teen)

I didn't see Roxas again for a damn long time. Luxord had the smoothest operation I'd ever experienced in all my thirty some-odd years. My life was going fucking great, but then Zexion decided to get bitchy with me. With Vexen's little kitchen crank lab out of the way, Zexion's big scale meth warehouse was in deep shit and I think he planned on ripping me off, ransacking my place if the guys watching my comings-and-goings were any kind of clue.

So I had to take off, throw some clothes in a bag, make my last rounds so nothing pretty was left in the walls and only furniture remained. There wasn't much of it, and I hadn't been that fond.

I had to make my way up into town through a real circular rout that Xigbar had promised if I didn't use he would kill me, and I totally took his word for that.

Xigbar was a high-grade assassin who lived in a high-rise in the middle of town with his pretty-boy apprentice. When they weren't out taking hits, they were 'art dealers', which mostly meant they trained the way old school assassins did and had a fair bit of negotiation in them too.

About halfway there, my cellphone rang and I flipped it open as I tread the sidewalks. It was a voicemail from Luxord, which told me, "In light of your troubles, Roxas and I have also opted to move. You've been an erstwhile friend, should our destinations cross, I will find you."

He had always talked like that because it fucking intimidated people, fucking erstwhile and the way he looked at you… like he was born to be a mob-boss but had thought that would have been too boring.

I deleted the damn thing and ran the last three blocks to Xigbar's place, the doorman said I was expected and gave me a key and told me it was room 916 on the 6th floor. I could've rolled my eyes, if it'd been anyone other than Xigbar. Keeping himself and Demyx living comfortably was the only thing aside from the job that he took seriously.

I knew this from years of experience, the guy had been a hitman for as long as I'd known him, but Demyx used to be a pretty-boy frontman and he used to be real hard on heroin. I probably used to take some sick pleasure in watching him kill himself like that.

One day, someone, namely Xigbar, had dug up pretty-boy Demyx's old records from when his parents had sent their unruly-boy off to military school. I've got a theory that Xigbar pulled some serious strings to get first dibs on the top marksman to come out of that place.

Demyx was twenty-one then, just dropped out of college after failing most of his classes, and I was nineteen, just getting in. I think I was the closest thing to a friend Demyx had back then, but that's the way it gets with the heroin-kids—I've learned. When they get like that, what you've actually gotta do is shake them off like flies.

We became better friends over time, once he got off the junk, once Xigbar took him out and started letting him do things like shoot peoples' key rings off their belts from the rooftop across the street. Demyx had a fucking infectious laugh and he and Xigbar could make up the wildest stories when they worked together. They could make up names and faces and childhoods at the drop of a hat, I bet that's come in handy for them more than once.

When I knocked on room 916, it was Xigbar's face that greeted me, kind of smiling.

"How long are you staying?"

"Until I've got a connection to somewhere else?" I offered, trying out the cocky grin that the cops never like.

He knew what I was asking, I wanted something bigger and I wanted something smooth. Xigbar shifted against the doorframe, glaring with that one good eye of his. I didn't even want to know what happened to the other one.

"None of my guys are gonna take you without a suit."

"I'll borrow one of Dem's, we're about the same size."

"Like fuck you will, I'll give you the money for it, but you pay me back."

"That mean you'll play match-maker for me?"

"You'll owe me."

Demyx picked then to come in, prettiest hired sniper anyone will probably ever see and never get to touch, on account of how he belonged—from head to foot—to a grizzled old bastard named Xigbar.

"We were thinking of heading out towards L.A.," he yawned, big. "There's always work out there, but pills are taking over, your recreational shit is getting outsourced by dirty doctors."

I wondered where he'd learned to talk like that, but also knew he'd always been smarter than the heroin addicted dropout he was at twenty-one.

I smiled at him, slow, "Yeah, well I've still got New York and Chicago on my side."

"For as long as we're not asked to kill anyone you care about," Xigbar muttered from the kitchen. Then he asked if we were hungry like it was perfectly normal.

I almost said no because the both of them had become health nuts upon getting together. All they had was soymilk and fresh vegetables and fucking wheat grass. Between the two of them the only weakness or vice was Xigbar's monthly supply of yellow bullets. I wasn't even convinced he took them, more like he used them in some of his dirtier 'art dealing' talks, whether it was to entice or threaten.

Xigbar, like a damn party clown, cut up a cucumber into shapes and told Demyx and I to go watch the news while he made some calls. He muttered something about wanting me out of their apartment as soon as possible. I replied that he and Demyx could still have sex, even with me here, and that I knew they were a loving couple and that's what couples who love each other do.

Demyx gave his infectious little laugh and threw himself over an exercise bike, one hand working the remote control to their gigantic plasma screen TV, the other with a bit of cucumber.

I think it might've been fair to say I'dve killed, just like them, to live that plush.

Instead, I tossed myself on their big-ass couch, ate cucumber slices shaped like circus animals out of a white porcelain ramekin, and watched the news on a fifty-inch plasma TV.

white 13 - favored

Xiggy got me a date in Cinci that I never kept. I went all right, spent the day in downtown Cincinnati immersed in some of the most redneck sons of bitches north of the Ohio.

When the streetlamps flickered on and the boys who hide their shivs in their hair picks started slithering out of the shadows, I went back to the hotel Xigbar had been kind enough to set me up in and got my suit on. Nice charcoal pinstripe thing that Xigbar had picked out, said it would impress this Xaldin guy.

We were all set to meet on one of those riverboat casino-slash-seafood restaurant things that I usually avoided like the plague, 'cos for reasons unfathomable I'd found that seafood and the Ohio River just do not mix.

It didn't really matter, I got on the boat and started looking for Xaldin but instead found a pretty blond thing in a clinging black dress that I knew had no lady underneath.


Blue eyes decked with a dark liner turned towards me and his plum-wet mouth quirked. With his slim ladylike eyebrows he did the same imperious arch his brother was so fond of.

"Do I know you, sir?" he wondered in a lazy drawl, leaning back against a pool table and slanting a hip to show the same smooth legs I remembered.

"Friend of your brothers."

Fuck Tiffany, Roxas's eyes were Aphrodite blue as they sparkled like the ocean or some shit.

"You've gotta be Axel," he laughed. "He talked about you quite a bit, I was curious if the man could live up to all his gossip."

I think I was blushing, but Roxas did that to everyone. He liked to make you hot for his backhanded compliments. I licked my lips and nodded and he grinned at my brilliantly and all I could think to say was, "So what brings you here?" And it was far from smooth enough.

I really wish I had the words to describe all the sharp nasty ways Roxas smiled at me that night. I really don't, so all I can say is that it got fang-sharp, knife-bright.

"I'm here because my brother's associate believes I am good luck."

"Being good luck involve dressing like that?" I think I indicated the garter clinging to his silky white thigh, visible through the slit in the dress.

He fluttered glued-on eyelashes at me about as coyly as a brazen whore. "I dress however I deem appropriate."

It was pretty much there—right fucking there—that I was fucked; my asshole stretched wide open.

...time to place your/bets

Luxord's associate Marluxia lost the card game.

He lost miserably, in fact, and ended up getting knifed by one of his opponent's grunts and tossed into the Ohio 'cos he couldn't pay. Roxas said he felt bad for the river, that greater men than Marluxia had been enveloped in her depths.

I got reintroduced to Luxord that night and—after I received Xigbar's irritated call asking just where the fuck I was—started to fuck Roxas behind his brother's back any chance I got.

Roxas told me his brother would kill me if he knew, but that didn't stop the little blond bitch from going down on me in their new kitchen while his big brother was in his new office barely a-room-and-a-hallway away. It didn't stop him from dragging me down onto their bed while he whispered, "Luxord'll be home in fifteen minutes, fuck me." And it certainly didn't stop him from following me into a bathroom stall during a fucking job and getting me bent over the toilet seat, gripping its white rim while he fucked me blind.

It wasn't a relationship; it was an affair, a whole lot of ado about nothin'.

If it were a relationship, I might've learned something about him at some point, but I never did. I never learned a thing about Roxas, not his age or his last name or why it was he shared a bed with his older brother.

I just fucked him when he wanted me to and let him fuck me if it was in the cards.

No questions asked… Even when he first started giving me those dark-dangerous looks… I didn't ask him any goddamn questions. After my time in jail, I knew better than to ask those kinds of questions, they led to answers and answers led to liabilities and liabilities were loose threads that were easy enough to clean up if you cut them off. I wasn't in the mood for that again.

With Luxord and Roxas, I got into the Cinci crowd and things were just as finely oiled as before. I finally met Xaldin one night and made a fat deal over some speedballs he needed to get out of his hands because they were too damn hot.

The biggest buyer in Cinci was Saïx, who ran an underground cult that worshipped the moon and claimed—with all the coherency of a bunch of tweaked-out, brain-friend stoners—LSD was actually comprised of various flavored moon tears. I told that story to Xigbar and he and Demyx laughed and laughed and laughed.

In Columbia we'd had our fair share locals, but in Cinci, we had some folks from nearby and not so nearby cities that'd come to us in search of the good shit. Kentucky folks complained vehemently about the ditch shit and some folks from Indy said they couldn't rely on their boy in Columbus anymore, not since he'd let a woman in and "wasn't that always the way?" They said they'd been recommended to us.

Which meant Luxord really was that well connected, but kept his trail so squeaky-fucking-clean it took a lot of Xigbar's favors to find any mention of him and even that was some benign scholarship he'd won seventeen years ago.

1:5 favoring a dark horse

When Luxord sent Roxas to spend a night with an associate, that 'associate' usually disappeared from the world by the morning.

More times than I think I could count, I saw Roxas hanging over a man or woman's shoulder like a specter, the unsuspecting prey growing steadily more ashen as events failed to fall in their favor—from lost card games, to botched pickups, to failed negotiations, even to getting busted by the feds.

It made me think that maybe… that was why Luxord seemed so calm and cool, because shit, seriously-bad-shit, happened to everybody but him. Like he was some kind of god of Good Luck and Roxas was his Unlucky little brother.

Don't know, all I really do know is that something was making Roxas antsy, more dangerous than usual when it came to fucking around under his brother's—my partner in crime's—nose.

He started to say things, little hints that Luxord wasn't being forthcoming, that we were making more money than he was letting on.

At first, I didn't listen to that kind of shit, because that's the kind of talk that leads to problems between one guy and another. Problems that might force me to try breaking off from Luxord and that would have been like amputating both my hands without someone to replace him. Not that anyone would replace him, people who fucked up in our circle tended to disappear. No one was gonna harbor me if I ticked Luxord off.

So, I tried to just ignore Roxas and not act like a greedy idiot, but… I'm an opportunist. When Roxas pulled out the ledgers and said he was getting cut short too and insinuated something about making this an even split instead of a three-way… I could see the values and I could see the potential.

It would be quick; Luxord had kept his hands so clean that Roxas's was the only face his contacts knew. None of them would even have the chance to miss Luxord.

All Roxas and I had to do was call in a favor to get his body out of the way. Then we were home free, rich, and comfortable and, yeah, fucking was a lot less fun without Luxord to sneak around, but we still did it.

I remember one night, the two of his in Luxord's old desk chair, the leather soft and warm and stuck beneath me, Roxas stretched over my thighs and I said,

"Luxord's luck finally ran out," and it felt ironic and I laughed and Roxas's eyes were dark and crackling like lightning in a way didn't remember them ever doing before.

He smiled down at me and shifted his hips and I groaned and he whispered into my ear, tongue tracing the curve, "Now that I'm free of him, I think quite a few more people will be hitting some spells of bad luck."

and the pied piper (b-black th1rt3en) comes calling

I don't know much beyond that: those first few weeks where we were living large, all the competition dropping around us like insects, one by one, zap, zap, zap.

I don't know, because my luck ran out too. It was almost like I should have taken Luxord a little more literally when he warned me not to touch his brother.

Shit, it's not like Roxas killed me or anything. He wasn't even there when the bus came careening down the street; brakes cut by a crazed driver… It would have been too improbable to coordinate something like that. But I was the only victim, even the psycho behind the wheel made it out of the twisted wreckage.

No, it was… just bad luck.

Standard D1sclaim3rs.