Welcome to the Hotel California

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: Dartz is not mine, but Alexander, the other characters, and the story definitely are! If anyone reading is confused as to who Alexander is, he was introduced at the end of Life After the Tears, and his story is the (unfinished) Der Engel des Todes. This is based on an old dream I had. Recently I found this fic again and decided I still wanted to tell the story. And why yes, the reference to the Eagles' song is not a coincidence. But I can't guarantee how often this will be updated. Right now I'm just posting it to see what people think.

Chapter One

San Francisco is always a busy city. People are constantly moving back and forth, tourists and residents alike, as they bustle to and from work, stores, and the places where they are living or staying. The magnificent skyscrapers loom over them---concrete giants that observe everything taking place below.

A building dwarfed by these towers, but still regal and of importance, is the Hotel California. It was built during the Victorian era, and despite undergoing several remodelings and refurbishings, its nostalgia has still been preserved. As one steps inside and witnesses the antique furniture, chandeliers, and lush carpets, it is as though they are transported to another time and place---though, one that is still dangerous in its own ways. Perhaps, after spending a bit of time in this world, they long for the outside realm once again, where at least they have the luxury of knowing that what happens is much more predictable. . . .

"Try to keep up, won't you?"

The turquoise-haired man looked over his shoulder, frowning as he watched his companion stop to stare at everything in wide-eyed awe. This was the third time the boy had nearly collided paths with someone else in the airport, and the second time he had nearly knocked over a display near the gift shop. Honestly, he could become fascinated by the strangest things! The older man was not even certain of what had captured the redhead's attention this time. With a sigh he walked over and laid his hands on the other's cloak-covered shoulders.

"What on earth is it now?" he asked. "Have you even been listening to me?"

The boy blinked ice-blue eyes at his annoyed friend. "I was watching those people," he said, pointing across the terminal to where a mother had lost her temper and was verbally exploding toward her two children. "She seems so mad. . . ." His voice was soft, and he was obviously confused by the display he was witnessing. He was a sweet and unassuming being, who went through life with wide-eyed wonder and rarely ever became angered. As with most children, he seemed simple on the surface but in actuality possessed a complex soul.

The man stared at him, then sighed. "Well, I don't doubt it," he retorted. "Her children are probably being difficult, whether on purpose or not." He half-turned, studying the area with his golden eyes before grabbing the younger one's wrist. "We need to leave."

"Okay," was the amiable reply, and the childlike entity followed him as they weaved through the crowds to the exit. Their baggage was already loaded in the taxi, and the driver watched impatiently as they arrived and as the boy started to climb in.

A bit of downy whiteness floated out from under his cloak as he got settled on the seat. This went unnoticed by him, and he shifted uncomfortably as he tried to sit sideways without leaning back.

It did not go unnoticed by his companion, however, and the man quickly picked it up before it could hit the ground. Frowning, he climbed into the cab as well and reached to put the object in his pocket. But before he was able to, the driver had already observed.

"Holy Mackerel!" the man yelped, turning around in the seat to look back. Immediately he snatched the thing from the aqua-haired man's hand, turning it over and over in his own. "This has to be eight inches long, if that!" He looked back to his passengers, one of whom was giving him a dirty look and the other of whom simply looked confused. He waved the object at them. "Where the heck did you get a feather this big?"

Glaring coldly at him, the golden-eyed being reached and grabbed the feather back, placing it in his pocket. "That," he said, "is none of your business. Your business, I believe, is to take us to the hotel where we are registered." Honestly, it seemed to him that the world was filled with nothing but people who could never mind their own business. Well, either they were so apathetic that they would never even help someone in need, or else they were so nosy that they were rude in that respect. It was all so different from how things had once been. He often longed for those days to return once more, but he had come to accept that it would not happen. Paradise most likely would never reign upon the earth again.

The cab driver frowned, shaking his head and turning back to the wheel. "Sure thing, buddy," he muttered as he started the engine. "Sheesh." Carefully he began maneuvering his way out of the parking lot. "Businessmen sure are a crabby bunch." He continued to mumble in this vein as he turned the corner, but his passengers were already talking quietly and ignoring him.

"You have to be more careful," the turquoise-haired man scolded in a quiet voice, looking to the younger one. Suddenly he realized that the seatbelt was not being worn. Frowning more, he reached over and pulled the strap down from the top of the inside of the door, handing it to the redhead.

The boy sighed. "It's harder to shift around when I'm wearing this," he complained softly, but accepted the belt and tried to snap it into place. "I'm starting to feel really cramped." He shuddered. "I can't stand small places . . . and not being able to spread my . . ."

"Hush!" The businessman glanced over at the driver before looking back. "You know that people here would never accept you. Really, it was against my better judgement to bring you along with me. I'm sure you'll manage to get involved in some sort of nonsense that will result in some sort of uncomfortable situation." He paused. "More uncomfortable than having to hide under that cloak for a few hours." The being with him was innocent and did not understand at all, but he would never be accepted for what he truly was. This man knew that, and he knew that it would be bad for both of them if the word got out. The boy might not even be allowed to stay with him if his true identity was discovered. There would be many greedy scientists that would want to find out his secrets, and perhaps even the government might get into the act.

"I'm sorry. . . ." The redhead moved about, desperately trying to get comfortable, and then leaned over to snuggle as best as he could. He looked up at his adopted father with adoring eyes. "I don't mean to complain. . . . It's just that, after being trapped, I get scared of small, cramped places." Then he smiled. "But being with you makes up for it! I'm so glad you let me come along!"

The man flushed, somewhat embarrassed and uncomfortable by the contact. The boy with him was a child in a man's body. He looked to be around twenty years of age, not that much younger than the business tycoon himself looked. But he knew that the other was innocent and simply idolized him, and he awkwardly laid a hand in the fluffy, shoulder-length red hair. I swear, he thought idly to himself as the cab turned another corner, if Alexander was a cat, he would probably purr almost constantly. Then he frowned and wondered why he had thought such a random thing.

He sighed, noticing that he could see the vague outlines of Alexander's wings folded under the cloak. Hopefully no one else would notice.

Alexander was again in awe once they arrived at the Hotel California. He wandered through the revolving doors (and luckily, did not become so fascinated with them that he repeatedly spun them around, as he had done the first time he had encountered them) and stepped onto the carpet, blinking up at the sparkling chandelier in the entryway. He looked as though he wanted to reach up and touch some of the crystals that were dangling just over his head, but when he saw the warning glance that the man with the aqua hair was giving him, he simply followed him in obedience to the front desk.

"Excuse me." The man's voice was sharp. His ill mood was not helped when the desk clerk seemed to ignore him. He repeated his statement, louder, upon which the bespectacled clerk finally looked up.

"Oh, good day, sir," he said, glancing with curiosity at the person's long mint-colored hair. It reached down to his knees, whereupon it was held together by a dark clasp. The clerk blinked, never having seen anything like it. And he wondered about the man's companion as well. The strange redhead was gazing about the lobby, having taken an interest in watching several people argue with a hapless bellboy. It almost looked as though his back was deformed in some way, as two shapes were visible under the black cloak he was wearing. The clerk shook his head, trying to concentrate as the golden-eyed man spoke again.

"I have a reservation," he announced calmly, half-leaning on the desk with one arm. Alexander wandered over next to him.

The clerk nodded, going to the nearby computer. "Yes, sir," he said, using the mouse to click on the link that would take him to the reservation list. "And under what name did you place your reservation?"

"Dartz Paradius," was the flat reply.

The teenager at the desk raised an eyebrow. "Okay then," he said, his voice filled with confusion. He typed in the name and clicked, then leaned back as he blinked in bemusement. No results were coming up.

Dartz leaned over the desk to see the screen. "You spelled it wrong," he announced. Before he could tell him the proper spelling, Alexander was grabbing the monitor. He turned it so he could see, studying it for a moment before looking up at the amazed clerk.

"It's with a 'Z', not an 'S'," he announced.

Another raised eyebrow. Well, the name was odd enough already. Why not throw in an unexpected letter to boot?

He tried again, typing in the spelling Alexander had given. This time he had success. Relieved, he handed the card key to the Atlantean. "You'll be on the seventh floor," he said. "Room seven-oh-five."

Dartz gave a curt nod, accepting the card key. "Thank you," he answered, turning to cross the room.

The clerk curiously glanced at Alexander, wondering what relation he was to this Dartz, if any. Dartz did not offer any explanation as he went to find a bellboy, but Alexander was more than willing to share information.

"He's my adopted father," the strange boy said proudly before hurrying after the man.

The teen watched them go up the stairs, shaking his head. He did not really care one way or another. It was time to get back to work.

Elevator Out of Order. Please Use Stairs.

Dartz turned away from the sign taped to the elevator's doors. It was mildly irritating, but he did not mind all that much. Outside of things to do with his business, he preferred to have as little to do with modern technology as possible. After all, he did not easily forget that it had been technology that had corrupted his people and had largely led to their destruction. And as far as he was concerned, the people in this modern age were headed down the same path. Their over-reliance on modern inventions would be their downfall. It was all much too familiar to him.

He turned to go up another half-flight of stairs, gripping onto the yellowish banister as his thoughts wandered. There was something about this establishment that he did not care for. The mixture of the old and the new should not be a problem, yet in some way it felt so ominous. Perhaps it was only his imagination, but after so many millennia of existing, he had long ago determined that to ignore his intuiton was very unwise.

He snapped back to attention as Alexander grabbed his arm. "This is the seventh floor," the blue-eyed young man declared, pulling him away from the stairs and past the balcony that overlooked the lobby far below.

Dartz was slightly amused as he allowed the doppelganger to lead him to their suite. Each floor looked exactly like the previous one, and the former ruler could have easily passed over the correct level, since he had not been watching where he was going. But trust Alexander to be very attentive. He would have to follow the boy's example and be on guard during this trip.

Alexander tilted his head to the side as Dartz opened the door after using the card key to unlock it. The suite's living room was richly furnished with antiques---a pine desk, kerosine lamps, a nineteenth-century golden chandelier with crystal baubles dangling from it as they glistening in the light. . . .

The winged boy smiled, pleased. He walked in, immediately thrusting himself onto the softness of the old-fashioned couch. He hugged a pillow in bliss, spreading out his wings at last. It was such a relief, to have them free! He did not want to coop them up again, never! Wings were not meant to be hidden like that. It was hard to understand why most people were not accepting.

Dartz shook his head as he watched. He would have to keep the bellboy from seeing what Alexander had just done. He reached for the luggage, setting it down just in the doorway, and nodded to the uniformed young man. "Thank you," he said in a businesslike manner. "That's all." He gave the hotel employee his tip and waited until he was going down the hall. Then Dartz brought the suitcases further into the room and shut the door.

After locking it, he turned to face Alexander with a slight frown. "You should have waited another moment," he scolded. "What if he had seen you?" He surveyed the wings, which were draped over the furniture. The feathered angel wing was draped over the back of the couch and the leathery demon wing was hanging down to the floor on the other side. Alexander looked as though he had been released from prison, and he blinked up at Dartz.

"Well, he didn't," the doppelganger said, his tone slow. Now he stretched, his wings stiffly going out in a horizontal formation.

Dartz stared. He was still awed at times by the fact that Alexander possessed the wings, and that they were fully working appendages. It had seemed more likely to Dartz that they would be deformities of some sort and that Alexander would never be able to fly with them, as he managed to do. But of course, Alexander was not a normal sort of mortal being, nor could he have been born of normal mortal parents. Mortals did not have wings, as he did.

Sometimes Dartz wondered if Alexander even had parents at all. He knew very little about the doppelganger race, and Alexander did not seem to know much about it himself. Most of his memories from before meeting Dartz were in a confused jumble, though occasionally he seemed to remember various odd bits of information. Each doppelganger had unique wings, he had said once. Some had two angel wings, and some had two demon wings, and others had indescribable wings. Another time Alexander had said that doppelgangers existed only to cause chaos and that he had been breaking the rules by caring about Alister. But there was a chance that his recollections were incorrect, or that having all of his memories would put a much different slant on the tale.

Now Dartz sighed. "I'm going to unpack," he announced, picking up the luggage and heading for one of the suite's bedrooms.

Alexander sat up. "Okay!" he said cheerfully, getting off the couch and hurrying to follow him.

The bedroom Dartz chose was just as magnificent as the living room. The king size bed was old but still in obviously good condition, as was the soft down comforter quilt. Another chandelier was in the room, and to the left of the bed there was a door that Alexander discovered led to a walk-in closet so large, it was like another room.

Slowly the former king of Atlantis opened the suitcase and began taking the clothing out. He laid them in the oak chest of drawers, and Alexander came over after a moment to help him. They finished in silence, Dartz lost in thought and Alexander being blissful.

Dartz knew that even though there was more than one bedroom, Alexander would be staying in this one with him. He had learned ages ago that Alexander was paranoid about being alone. And though it had been strange and even perhaps uncomfortable at first, he had come to accept that Alexander wanted to sleep in his bed. Alexander was purely innocent, after all, and thought of Dartz as a father, so the Atlantean had finally determined that he did not mind. Alexander physically looked to be twenty years old, but his mentality seemed to be around seven.

With everything unpacked, Alexander now jumped onto the bed and laid on his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows. His wings spanned the length of the bed, and slightly more. "When do you have to have the business meeting?" he asked, wondering what he would do during that time. Dartz would naturally not want Alexander at the meeting, and Alexander doubted that he would be able to understand what was going on anyway. He would end up very bored.

Dartz sighed. "I'm not sure yet," he answered, "but they mentioned something about having a dinner either before or after, and that it would be in the dining hall of this hotel." He wondered himself what Alexander would do, and it was one of the main reasons why he had initially not wanted to bring him along. The doppelganger was so curious, it would not be surprising if he took to wandering through the hotel. Especially when it was such an old building.

Alexander smiled. "I like food," he announced. "Maybe you could save some for me."

Dartz nodded. "Fine." Though he wondered if the other businessmen would want to meet the boy. He had not wanted anyone to know that he had brought Alexander along, but he supposed that the others could find out without too much trouble. The thought of taking Alexander to the dinner did not especially please him, as he was certain that something would go wrong, but he imagined that he needed to be prepared for the possibility. If they invited him, Alexander would not have a reason to refuse---and he probably would not want to, either. In addition to loving food, Alexander loved people and thrived on being around them. He was the exact opposite of the anti-social Dartz, who preferred to be away from all people save his family.

Slowly the Atlantean sank onto the bed, looking over at the curious creature that was still stretched out and relaxing on the soft mattress. "They may ask you to come to the dinner, you know," he said finally, deciding that Alexander should be informed.

Alexander blinked up at him. "I'd like that," he declared.

"Yes, I'm certain you would." Dartz rubbed at his eyes. "But you would probably need to wear a suit, and I really don't know how I'd ever get one on you." He eyed the extensive wingspan. Getting Alexander into a suit would require cutting holes in both a dress shirt and in the jacket, and it would not look proper for him to wear his cloak through the meal in order to hide the appendages protruding from his back.

Suddenly everything sounded like a nightmare. How, exactly, had he been talked into this?