Disclaimer: All characters, settings, etc., are the property of Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, respectively. No infringement of copyright is intended - only my sincere admiration!
Author's Note: This is an out-take from "Fox Fire" that took on a life of its own. The problem was it didn't fit with the canon, and did nothing to further the story. Nevertheless, it was a whole lot of fun to write and I have been able to save portions of the dialogue for use later in the book.
"What's this place called, again?" I asked Alice.
"Atomik. With a 'k'," she replied, smiling.
"With a 'k'? That would make it an alternative nightclub, would it?"
"Don't start," she warned, turning me this way and that in front of the bathroom mirror.
"That shirt is far too cheerful for a Goth night," she decided. "I wish you'd gone with the Armani instead."
"I like this one." She was only griping because I hadn't chosen any of the designer clothes that she had laid out on the couch.
"And what have you done to your hair?"
As usual, that was a disaster. Bone-straight except for the cowlicks, my hair refused to comply with any current style, no matter how much gel I gooped into it. It was the one aspect of my physicality that becoming a vampire had not improved upon. I'd given up in frustration and let it do what it wanted.
Alice tsked and turned on the tap.
"Rinse," she commanded.
Then she hopped onto the bathroom counter in her stockinged feet, grabbed a towel and rubbed viciously at my head. More gel, more pawing, and she leaned back to admire her handiwork. It looked as untidy as always.
"You have a very singular style," she replied to my unspoken complaint. "You do. You just need to learn to work with it."
"Finished?" I demanded.
"Hmm… still too wholesome. Oh, I know!" she whipped out a kohl pencil from behind her ear.
"I am not wearing eyeliner."
"Okay, Okay. Just kidding. Let's go!"
I wasn't convinced that the drive to Olympia for this outing would be worthwhile; leaving town for any length of time made me anxious enough these days. But Alice, Em and Rose loved clubbing. None of them were exactly aware of where I spent the majority of my nights lately, so in the interest of keeping them in the dark (pardon the pun) about my weird little hobby, I was joining them. Besides, how much trouble could Bella possibly get into while she was asleep?
As usual, Jasper abstained, claiming he'd rather study. I would never have revealed to Alice that he was afraid of making a fool of himself on the dance floor. As graceful as the rest of us in every other respect, he was somehow the only vampire in existence who possessed two left feet.
Despite slick roads and trees downed from the latest windstorm, Alice and I made the journey in a little less than two hours. Her entertaining chatter helped to pass the time.
"I'd like to learn to drive a car with manual transmission," she announced. "Is it difficult?"
"No, once you've figured out how to time the shift right, you should have no problem."
"Good. Can I practice on the way home?"
Destination met, and coats checked, she waited at the top of the stairs while I got my wrist stamped for re-entrance. Trance music pounded from below. She took my arm and we descended into the gloom.
The décor was black, all of it: the walls, the floors, the tables, chairs, and risers. Black, splashed with yellow and pink neon paint. A girl danced in contorted rhythm on a speaker near the DJ's table. At least, I think that's what she was doing.
Nightclubs had become a lot more tolerable since smoking had been banned in public places, I decided, searching the strobe-lit cavern for Emmett and Rosalie. They weren't hard to find. Even in this crowded space a careful berth had grown between them and the humans on the dance floor.
"What took you guys so long?" Emmett asked when we caught up with them.
Alice giggled. "We got carded. The bouncer didn't believe that Edward was twenty-one."
"Mr. Jenks is going to have to do a better job with the next batch of IDs he makes," I said. "I mean, look at this! The picture doesn't even look like me. Not worth the money I paid for it."
Emmett laughed, and gave me a high-five. His attention then returned to Rosalie, and the music. He was really good at those complicated hip-hop moves, the result of watching hundreds of hours of MTV and VH1. A tentative crowd encircled him as he spun on his head.
A song that Alice liked began to play, and she was grooving. "Dance with me, Edward."
"Spin me," she ordered. She twirled like a top. "I wish Jasper would come out with us more often," she said, wistfully. "He'd have fun if he only gave it a try. Now, dip me."
I did as I was told. "Edward, do you tango?" she asked, arcing effortlessly to standing once again.
"Never tried it."
"We should learn," she decided.
I nodded, distracted by the thoughts of the crowd around us. My own form of people-watching.
Two women sat together at a nearby table. One glumly nursed her drink. She should just put herself out there, thought the other. She needs to get over him.
Man, I need a smoke… from a jittery male sporting a mowhawk.
She's really cute. A woman, thinking about Alice. Too bad she's with that pasty guy.
There was a small commotion at the bar as a young man slid off his stool, asleep. A woman, in an only slightly less inebriated state, attempted to prop him up. He was lucky; no blood poisoning. He'd just have a very bad headache in the morning.
I'm not calling that guy a taxi, the bartender thought grimly.
I saw all this in less than a second. Alice was still talking.
"That's what I love about you. You're not afraid to try something new. Dip me again. And, enough with the smouldering eyes. I'm your sister; it's weird."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're a terrible flirt."
"I am not."
"You are. You're dreadful. If you weren't so shy, you'd be really popular."
"I'm not interested in being popular."
"Pity," she surmised. "Girls really like that whole brooding, tortured act, you know."
I shook my finger at her. "I am not a flirt. And, I do not have an act."
"If you say so." She shrugged.
Emmett circled us smoothly, moving backwards.
"Nice moonwalk," I complimented.
Shortly after midnight, the atmosphere of the crowd changed, and heads began to turn. Dry ice smoke descended from the ventilation ducts and the music became ominous. Nine Inch Nails.
Two dozen of them descended the stairs, decked head-to-toe in black, wearing white make up, dark lipstick, and long cloaks. Some had pentagrams hanging from chains around their necks. The tallest male, sporting shoulder-length black hair and a top hat carried a cane with a skull grip. The crowd made room for them while they crossed the dance floor. Most took their seats among the booths, a few fanning out to the bar.
The long-haired man took possession of a riser. He was flanked by a female on each arm, one red-headed, one, an ice-white blonde. Half the group gathered around him. He initiated an earnest dialogue about dwarves, elves, and the maintenance of hunting grounds. As he paused and took a swig of beer, there were shouts of affirmation and much serious nodding of heads. His thirst quenched, there followed some gibberish about clans, wizards and – lycans? Had I heard that correctly? It was as if he was holding court.
"Good God. It's the Death Eaters." It just came out; I couldn't help myself.
Alice was delighted. "It's one of those role-playing groups. You know, paper pushers by day, online superheroes by night? This must be a meet and greet."
"And they're supposed to be vampires?" I narrowed my eyes at her. "You knew about this beforehand," I accused.
"I may have," she admitted, batting her eyelashes at me unapologetically.
The music changed again. Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi's Dead.
"Of course…" I rolled my eyes. "If they play Bloodletting next, I'm leaving."
"You are such a snob," she chided.
"I'm sitting out for a while," Rosalie announced. She was enjoying herself, though; she assumed custody of a recently emptied booth, smiling widely. She only had eyes for Emmett.
The long-haired man began to lose the interest of some of his disciples, so he finished his rant with a shout:
"We meet in the graveyard at the zenith of the moon!"
"Can't wait to see that, "I muttered, as the rest of them cheered and dispersed.
"Oh, do you want to..?"
"No, I do not!" I laughed, giving her a little shove. She spun, and went off to dance on her own.
Most of the newcomers made their way to the dance floor and one girl sidled up to Emmett provocatively. Alice and I stood back to watch the show. There really should be a law against moves like that, I mused while she closed in him. She spied his wristband. When the song ended, she pointed at it, and reached up on tiptoe to whisper something in his ear.
"Uh, oh. Rosalie!" Alice whispered.
I already felt her fury. "I'll go sit with her," I offered.
Rose was growling audibly when I got to her. She started to get up but I patted her shoulder.
"Relax. He's got it under control."
Emmett knew what he was doing. He pretended that he hadn't heard what the girl had said. He cupped his ear to make her repeat herself. When she did, his eyebrows disappeared into his hair and he dissolved into peals of laughter.
"No, thanks!" he replied, leaving her behind, glowering. He joined us, still chuckling, slinging an arm over Rosalie's shoulder.
"What'd she say to you?" she asked, through gritted teeth.
"You don't want to know, Babe." He smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Just let it go," he whispered. She scowled but let him kiss her again.
"Whew, I need a break," Alice announced, appearing out of nowhere. She flopped down beside Emmett. "Squish over."
"You've got enough room. You're the size of a bug, anyway,"
"I'll sit on your lap," she threatened. He grunted, shuffling himself and Rosalie into the middle of the booth.
"Why aren't you out there?" Alice demanded of me. "You're letting the team down. Dance!"
"I'm taking a break, too."
"Oh, no you're not. Go! Find a nice girl and ask her to dance."
"I hate this song."
"Go!" she pointed at the dance floor.
"Oh, for goodness sake…"
It was a relief to get away from her badgering. I ordered a glass of water and leaned against the bar to resume my observations. The thoughts of the seething mass of humanity flew around me. There was nothing new to hear. I could pick out the usual inanities directed at me:
Ooh, now there's a fine young thing!
Baby, where've you been all my life?
He's a little young, but he'll do.
It was the same Goth girl who had come on to Emmett, smiling up at me, invitingly.
"Hello," I replied, without enthusiasm.
"That's a good look," she complimented. "You could pass for the real thing,"
"Thanks." I bit back a smile, noting the vial of dyed-red corn syrup she wore around her neck. You couldn't.
"Can I buy you a drink?"
"No, thank you." I waved my glass of water in the air. "I'm the designated driver."
"Too bad," she consoled. "Buy me one, then?"
She was very forward, but I acquiesced. "Whatever you like."
"Paralyzer, please," she told the bartender, and I paid for it. Both of them took note of my black American Express card.
"My name is Persephone." Her avatar, of course.
I supposed she was attractive in a pedestrian sort of way. Her unnaturally black hair hung below her waist, iron-straight, with a heavy fringe framing her dark eyes - eyes that didn't sparkle, and held no depth. Her cheeks were heavily rouged and her lip liner was darker than her lipstick; the effect was odd.
"Athos," I replied, picking the first name that came into my head. I guessed that made Emmett and Jasper Aramis and Porthos, respectively. I coughed to hide a laugh.
She grabbed my hand, noting I wore the same wristband as Emmett. "I haven't seen you around here before. Are you playing, tonight?"
"Maybe," I hedged.
"What coven are you?"
"Um, Cullen," I replied, deciding to go along with it.
"Never heard of that one."
"We hail from northern climes, the land of the midnight sun." I sounded completely ridiculous but she seemed impressed.
"You have travelled far," she replied, theatrically, loud enough for some of her nearby compatriots to notice. Among them was a wan looking male with lank blonde hair, who watched morosely.
"Do you wish to join End Game this night?"
I glanced over to the booth where my siblings sat, amused. Emmett gave a thumbs-up.
"We do," I concurred, in what I hoped was an equally theatrical voice.
And, you say you don't have an act! Alice scoffed.
"Then you shall meet with Garidian. He will consult the Tarot. If you are lucky, he may find you worthy. How many in your clan?"
I pointed at my family. "We are four. My sister, my brother, and his wife."
Wife? Her shoulders sagged in disappointment as she recognized Emmett. "What powers have they?" she asked, recovering somewhat.
What the hell, I thought, I'd never see any of these people again after tonight.
"My sister is a sooth-sayer. Her visions fortell the future. My brother possesses the strength of the Colossus. And his wife is fairer than any creature of the heavens."
Rosalie glanced up at that remark. Idiot, she smirked. She gave Persephone a withering glare for good measure.
The girl gulped. "And you?" she asked turning away. "What is your gift?"
"Me? Oh, I read minds," I confided, leaning in with one elbow on the bar. Her eyes went vacant for a moment.
He is so hot. There was an image in her head of an apartment and a bed with rumpled sheets.
Flirting! Alice yelled in her head. Big time!
I regarded the female before me. She stood much too close. Her eyes were too knowing, her stance too brazen. Her scent neither drew nor repelled me. I could hear every single one of her thoughts and they were of absolutely no significance. There was no mystery there. Nothing to draw me in.
Even here, in this place, I felt the exquisite pain, the pull of Bella's hold on me. It was like a live thing. I had to take a breath to steady myself.
Is he tripping? Persephone wondered. Unfortunately, that really turned her on.
"Tell me," she breathed. "what I'm thinking right now."
I wanted out of this game. She needed to know that I had absolutely no intention of going home with her.
"You're wishing that you hadn't dropped that tab of Ecstasy earlier. It's not mixing well with the three Paralyzers you've had since," I told her.
"You're hoping that you made your ex-boyfriend jealous when you danced with my brother. Well, you didn't. He's not a fool."
"Oh!" her face went white under her makeup as she glanced from Emmett to the wan-faced Goth.
"And you were wondering, earlier, just how 'married' my brother is? I can assure you that he's very married," I smiled. "And his wife is very jealous."
She backed away, frightened now.
"Now you're thinking that maybe it was a mistake to play with the kid brother. Because he just might be the real thing, after all." I winked at her.
She turned and charged across the dance floor. I resumed my seat at our booth, relieved.
"No love with Bellatrix LeStrange, then?" Rosalie asked, not looking up from filing her nails.
"Not even close," I replied, curtly.
Emmett was mortified by my lack of success. "It's not like you had to try, Dude. She was all over you!"
"Yeah? And now she's all over someone else."
Persephone had already set her sights on her next quarry. With any luck, she'd get too drunk tonight to remember much about our encounter in the morning.
All the enthusiasm I had mustered for this outing had left me. I wanted to go home. Back to Forks, to comfort. If I left now, there would still be a couple of hours of night left, and I could watch her sleep.
"I've had enough," I told them, thankful we'd taken separate cars. "Alice, do you want to go? You can drive, if you want."
"No, I'm staying."
"Fine, then. I'll see you at home."
Dude needs a sex-intervention. Stat. Emmett grumbled as I stalked away.
He was wrong. What I needed right now was to see that angelic face, asleep in a path of moonlight; to smell her very essence as it escaped the soft curve of her chest, rising, falling… rising, falling…
To hear her sweet voice as she whispered my name in the dark.