A/N: This is not a sequel to Pluto, but a completely different story.
I live in a suitcase. Clothing neatly folded, layered, packed within the confines of an otherwise empty shell. Articles of mild importance and dull necessity fill the vacant space, often times slipping loose to rattle fervently during my repetitive travel.
Toothbrush. Toothpaste. Sense of direction.
With each passing trip, my bag grows increasingly bare as things get left behind. Useless things, perhaps, if I can't name what's missing when I stare down at my belongings spread out across a bed that isn't mine. There is a chasm inside my suitcase that's slowly consuming me. Things that were once important to me, precious, are now gone; sitting on shelves, in closets, on a desk in a place I long to be but can't quite attain.
I excel at what I do. But if you asked me ten years ago what I would be doing when I reached twenty-eight, it certainly wouldn't be flying around the world as the pilot of private jets. Turns out, all my youthful bad luck aside, I had a knack for flying. It was honest work, decently exciting, and paid well. I had a great deal of money, actually. I owned a very nice house in St. Louis, filled with all the essentials any urban housewife could dream of, that remained vastly unoccupied because the job that earned me the money to afford the house took up the majority of my time. The irony of the American Dream. I contemplated selling it, but then what purpose would I serve? What would I do with more money?
At one point, I had someone to share my life with. And like an idiot, I threw it all away. No, that's not exactly accurate. I ran away. The very notion of that statement is laughable, though. You see, when your special someone can slip between the boundaries of time and space, the idea that you can escape them just seems silly. Why did I run away? I was afraid of falling into the depths of her eyes. Afraid that by settling down with her, it would somehow change me, consume me. Because I fell for her, hard, and she still managed absolute composure when I felt like an awkward teen. She was terrifying, beautiful, dangerous, and intelligent. I was scared.
I haven't been graced with her presence in half a decade, but I still find myself pausing before crossing a dark alley. I still nervously look over my shoulder when I'm unlocking a door. I don't go out on Halloween. Remember that saying "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…?" Imagine that fury coming from an honest to god demon-woman. Even the boogie man checks his closet for my ex before he goes to bed.
Don't get me wrong, now. She's not a bad person—well she's not that bad of a person, I think. I can't say what she's been doing these past five years. She has the capacity to do horrible things. Frankly, I'm mildly surprised she hasn't offed me yet. Perhaps my punishment for leaving her alone in an apartment full of our things is the fear of the unknown. It's working.
But I digress. Life has been so very busy, chaotic, and yet still so… uneventful.
London had once been exciting to me. I absolutely adored British accents and their dry sense of humor. It was a very different atmosphere from the States and no one knew who I was here. They'd never heard of some obscure illegal school for meta-humans on the coast of California. They didn't care. My once extravagant pink hair was now a simple, unremarkable brown that I kept long. Dressed in casual pants and a dark, thin-strapped top, I blended in to the dull roar of a busy contemporary bar. The only quality that served to identify me without a doubt was my fuchsia eyes; slitted and slanted like a cat. Surprisingly, most people in Europe didn't even spare a second glance at the odd shade of irises I was born with. It was kind of nice.
Tonight was like any other night for me; spent alone in a room full of strangers. My current client decided to stay a few extra days in the UK to go shopping, so I in turn had to spend the next weekend here instead of back home, alone in my house. Are you noticing a pattern? I had stopped counting how many times I'd visited this very bar after twenty-three.
"Do you want another?"
I looked up from staring at my reflection in the highly polished bar top and glanced at the ice melting in my glass. "Yes, please. But will you make it a tall?"
Frank, the young punk bartended, managed to rock out the bright green mohawk he was sporting. I'd never seen him here before, but he had kept my buzz at a nice and steady pace. I watched him pour a more than generous shot of vodka into a glass, finished off with cranberry juice. He set it in front of me and leaned on the bar top, bright blue eyes inquisitive. "You been in London long?"
I watched his accent shape his lips as he spoke, still mildly amused when I heard one as colorful as his. I took a sip of my drink. "I've been here many, many times before."
He was looking at my eyes, smiling as he leaned closer. "From across the pond, eh?"
I nodded, returning to my favorite position; hand holding head propped up, other hand tracing the rim of my glass. The poster child of disinterest.
"I always say I'm going on holiday there one year. Las Vegas, Nevada. You ever been?"
Again I nodded, slowly. "Many, many times."
"Oy, you don't sound too happy about being able to travel all over the world," he straightened, pouring himself a glass of coke. "With how expensive petrol is, I'm lucky if I can make it to Liverpool to visit my mum at Christmas."
"Well then, I must sound like a snobbish prat," I managed a lopsided smile. "I'm a pilot. When travel is your job, it kind of loses its appeal."
He crossed his arms and leaned back against the counter. "Ahh, I understand. You stranded here, then?"
"Indeed," I took another sip of my drink. "My fair decided to go shopping. Which means he's probably buying another house or something. God knows when I'll get to leave. Know of anything interesting to do around here that's not intended for tourists?"
He tilted his head to the side and smirked at me in that naughty way men do. "What fancies you, love?"
I smiled slowly, coyly, deceptively in return. "I fancy women."
Both of his brows shot up and he uncrossed his arms in obvious disbelief. "Get off it. Is that right?"
"Oh yes," I nodded sincerely, giving my glass a swirl before I took another sip and crunched loudly on a piece of ice. "Exclusively, I'm afraid."
He watched me for a few seconds, and I could see the thoughts color his eyes with thwarted possibilities. "Bloody 'ell, this always happens to me," he grumbled to himself, scratching the back of his neck. "Right, well then. That certainly narrows it down. Have you ever been to a Burlesque?"
Curious, I shook my head. "They have those here still?"
"Of course! You need to go over to The Peacock Bar in Clapham," he scribbled something down on a napkin and slid it over to me.
I glanced over the address with one brow raised. "This isn't some trashy strip club, is it?"
"God, no. This place is brilliant. Gorgeous women go there, work there, perform there. Very classy, an American would approve."
Moderately interested, I pocketed the napkin and downed the rest of my drink. "I will certainly look into it. Tomorrow night, if my client hasn't changed his mind by then."
"Better get there early if you do, love. That place is packed on Saturday nights," he pointed to my glass. "Another?"
"No," I rubbed my face with both hands, "just close out my tab. I'm about done for the night."
He slipped off down the bar and returned a moment later with my credit card and receipt. "Any time you're in town, stop by and say hello, Jen," he handed me a pen.
"I'm sure I'll be back here at some point before Christmas," I signed the check and pocketed my card, leaving him a generous tip. "Take it easy, Frank." With my buzz still going, I shrugged on my leather jacket, meandered through the crowd and stepped out into the dark streets.
It had rained a constant dreary drizzle all day, and now a fog hung in the air, crisp with the promise of autumn. Europe had a certain look to it, something only countless wars, revolutions, plagues, and hardships could instill. As I walked down the narrow streets, I could almost hear the stones whispering softly; feel them sigh beneath my feet as I passed them by. Folklore was rich in the UK, with rumors of ghosts, hauntings, and evil spirits lurking. People hung good luck charms in their shop windows, never stirred their tea counter-clockwise, and still celebrated the coming of spring with festivals, may poles, and copious amounts of alcohol and sex. In the birthplace of Paganism, you could find touches of it everywhere you looked. At least I could, but there have been more than a few occasions where I've been called a witch…
I'm not one. At least, I don't think. I couldn't be a witch. I'm horrible at following instructions and even worse at gardening. How I can manage to fly a plane is simply terrifying. My magic was all kinds of unnatural, and when I was a teen, I could have sneezed and accidentally brought the whole plane down in flames. I was a walking menace with a pretty face and absolutely no idea what I was doing. I should have taken up the stock market or something. With my luck, I would have cheated the system and made millions. Gods, how stupid was I? Talk about easy money…Then again, maybe that's just the vodka talking. I clumsily stumbled over a crack in the cobblestone path and caught myself on the side of a building. "Goddamnit," I muttered, looking around. I'd walked right past my hotel.
I turned around and focused my slightly blurry gaze on the bright lights of my upscale home away from… that place I sleep at in the States. There were still dozens of other inebriated people roaming the streets, so I felt relatively safe as I traversed the road and headed down the opposite sidewalk towards my hotel. Or at least had the illusion of safety. Everyone knows drunk people are useless when it comes to negotiating, simple math, and taking control of a situation.
The lobby smelled like fresh-cut flowers and pine, which was a lie. There aren't any pine trees around London. Must be pine-sol. I shuffled over to the young man working the front desk and leaned a bit too heavily on the counter. "Do I have any messages, Monsieur Remy?" That wasn't his name, he wasn't even French. I must be more buzzed than anticipated.
He gave me an amused yet sympathetic look. "No, Ms. Shalecrest, I'm afraid that Mr. Richardson has yet to leave you a message."
"Bastard," I sighed.
"Had a few too many night caps, eh?" he grinned.
"Well this is such a cheery city; I have to drown my enthusiasm somewhere." I dug around in my pockets, looking for my plastic key card for my room. "If Mr. Richardson does call, kindly tell him I'm not getting up until sometime after high noon. I'm tired of this run-around he always gives me. And I want a damn raise. Where the hell is that stupid thing?"
"I will be sure to tell him that," he fiddled around with objects behind the desk, and after a swipe and a few beeps, he extended me a key card.
With a huff, I took it from him. "It would be easier to keep track of if it was really a key," I grumbled, giving him a wave as I glumly shuffled to the elevators. I used to be a happy drunk, once upon a time. Now I'm the depressed kind. It's a travesty, really, but I don't have much motivation to care.
The lighting inside the elevator was blindingly bright, and I squinted, deftly punching the number 14 without even looking. I felt like crap all of a sudden, and as I listened to the ding of each floor pass, I contemplated going to the gym floor and taking a nap in the sauna. However, that probably wasn't the most intelligent of decisions, considering my current state. Wouldn't it be a shame if someone found me there dead the next morning? However would Mr. Richardson get home then…
I laughed, morbidly and to myself as the doors opened onto my floor. To say I was a mess would be the understatement of the millennium. My door swung heavily open and I switched on the lights, glancing at the pristine arrangement of my few possessions across the room. Sometimes it really bothered me, to the point where I'd leave the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door for days at a time, just so I could wallow in my disarray and misery without housekeeping shining on my parade.
This room was non-smoking, but it had a balcony with sliding glass doors that overlooked the city. I nudged open the door and slumped down into the lacquered wooden chair while I fished a box of camels out of my coat pocket. I wasn't a very consistent smoker. Months could go by without a single one, and then I'd smoke non-stop for a few days, only to stop once again. It seems I couldn't even handle a physical addiction properly. Regardless, I just wanted something to do with my hands.
I slipped a cigarette between my lips, cupping my hands around the end while I lit it, and took a long drag. However ridiculous it may seem, I was proud of myself for learning how to blow smoke rings. I leaned back, watched them fizzle away in the air and listened to the low hiss of cars passing by on the wet road below me. It was comforting, soothing almost, and I didn't try to fight when my eyelids grew heavy. My subconscious lulled me into a dark, warm place only slumber could bring.
A voice. What does it want? I'm sleeping.
"Jiiiiiinx, wakey-wakey ma petite chat."
Only one person has ever called me that. Alarm shifted my thoughts to lucidity, and I jerked awake to find a pair of very familiar violet eyes inches from mine. The yelp I was going to let out got stuck in my throat, somewhere behind my heart. Instead I froze, breath held and eyes wide as I stared at the last person I was expecting to see.
"So surprised. Pour quoi?" Raven said lightly as she sat straddling my lap, dressed in tight leather pants and a corset top that left her shoulders bare and my terror just as naked. Her hair was still cut short and expertly styled, looking wonderful in the shade of black that highlighted blue in the light from the balcony. She leaned in closer, smiling now, trailing the tip of her finger along my jaw. "Didn't you miss me?"
It took two swallows before I could reply. "How did you find me?"
She arched an eyebrow, elegant and sophisticated in her amusement, as if I shouldn't have even asked that question. That smile faded to a firm stare that sucked the warmth from me. "I've always known where you are. But let's pretend that I didn't, and this has been a long time coming," the tips of her hair fluttered faintly with the press of power seething from her. "It will make this more enjoyable for me."
Panic surged through my veins and I tried to sit up, knowing it was hopeless. She smiled again, more of a bearing of teeth than an expression of pleasure, and wrapped her hand around my throat as she held me in place.
"I can hear your heart," she whispered against my lips. Her free hand pressed against the left side of my chest. "It missed me, you see? Look how it races…" The grip on my throat tightened. I could feel her lips and teeth down my neck as she continued to murmur in a tone I hadn't heard in years; a tone that filled me with fear and longing. "You can't lie to me, Jinx. Just give in," she still smelled the same; lavender and rain. Her words vibrated along my skin, giving me goose bumps. "Give in, and I promise it will be glorious."
My lips parted but no sound slipped past. With a growl, Raven sunk her teeth into the muscle of my shoulder.
I sucked in a deep breath to scream and started awake, falling right out of my wooden chair. Terrified, I scanned the balcony, only finding my long extinguished cigarette lying on the deck and everything else, myself included, covered in a light dew. The night sky had the soft glow of pre-dawn, and I couldn't seem to catch my breath. I was shaking.
"Son of a bitch," I rubbed my face, trying to calm down. That was a pretty intense dream. I hadn't had one about Raven in ages. Speak of the devil… After vowing to stay off vodka from now on, I climbed to my feet, went into my room and closed the sliding glass door behind me. The warmth of the room brought a little relief to me. I was still exhausted, but I wasn't quite ready to go back to sleep. Besides, I was all wet, and slightly aroused. But let's not talk about that. My clothes were difficult to peel off in my still drunk haze, but I managed. After turning on the shower, I went to brush my teeth while it warmed. And as I glanced at my tired, shaken expression in the mirror, I froze.
There, clear as day and bright red, was a set of bite marks on my shoulder.