A.N.: I figured this story is due for an update!
Oh wonderful; just what I need. William, Kane thought with an aggrieved grumble, glowering as Anya's buoyant pet sashayed into the room. Less house-trained than an alligator, with more testosterone than a bull, the ego of a god and the same sense of personal boundaries as a curious Lykae toddler, William was possibly the most annoying immortal Kane had ever met.
And he partied with a mad Valkyrie, the Proto-Valkyrie, Soothsayer Without Equal, demigoddess Nïx the Ever-Knowing. Otherwise known as Nucking Futs Nïx, an oracle with unparalleled powers of foresight, who distributed information like a miser did their gold.
Kane had dealt with insufferable Sorceri enchantresses, overly sexually-aggressive demonesses, tipsy witches, and battle-hungry Valkyrie, but no immortal had ever before grated his nerves like nails on a chalkboard like William. The guy was okay, in small doses, like Regin the Radiant, a particular favourite Valkyrie from the New Orleans coven, but Regin had Lucia the Archer as a partner in crime.
William had Anya, least-favourite consort to one of the Lords.
Considering Gwen came with a handful of Harpy sisters, that was saying something.
"You gal-pals done chitchatting about Britney's latest faux pas?" William said, ignoring Kane and addressing Paris, his new teammate in bedroom-athletics. It wasn't enough that Anya kept William around as if he was a beloved Labrador or something—Kane loved dogs!—but they hardly needed Paris encouraging him, taking him out to Budapest clubs and sharing lovers.
"Give us a second," Paris said, casting Kane a look that he didn't miss.
"Come on, man; we're heading into town. I've got several disreputable ladies expecting me, and they don't mind sharing," William grinned, his eyes sparkling.
"Or searching for treasure, either," Kane said drily, glancing at the immortal warrior Anya the Annoying insisted on keeping as a pet, who, according to several sources, had a tattoo winding around his torso to the 'family jewels'. The only person Kane knew who could instil paralysing fear into the black, selfish heart of William the Beloved, brother to Lucifer, was Màiri the Mauler, Strider's wife, and she was in New Orleans.
"So come on; drag a brush through your hair, put some slap on; let's go," Paris remarked, sounding as if—
"Did you just tell me to put some makeup on?"
Kane sighed, shaking his head. A photograph-frame fell off the shelf near him and smacked him in the temple, bouncing onto the duvet. "You are the oddest person. Anyway, I can't get changed. These jeans are the last piece of clothing I have that isn't…" He was going to say torn, but noticed the slashes at the knees… "Burned or covered in debris."
"No sweat; chicks dig the dishevelled look," William said, sweeping his eyes over Kane. "However, you might just take it to the extreme. Is that soot on your cheek?"
"Most likely," Kane chuntered. He'd burned his eyebrows half off two days ago. He knew why most mortals feared pyromaniacs as a scourge. He couldn't be trusted near an unlit fuse, let alone a live flame. The only reason he'd lit a fire in the first place was because the radiator had ruptured and he'd had to bleed it; the water had gone everywhere, and then a great slab of the mosaic tiles on the bathroom wall had smacked him in the head. The next day he'd dented the side of the bathtub when he'd fallen over a knitting-needle and the shower-door had cracked because the shower pipes had burst.
"Borrow some stuff from us," William shrugged.
"Come on, we've gotta get you laid!" Paris exclaimed.
"Why do you care if I get laid or not?"
"Told you already, dude, you don't want it enough. Maybe you wouldn't be so grouchy all the time," William remarked, smirking.
"You'd be grouchy too if you kept getting concussed every other half-hour," Kane grumbled, rubbing his head, where a conspicuous lump shot pain through his head at touch.
"Come on, you're coming out," Paris said. "Don't make me let Promiscuity loose on you."
"Planning on pimping me out?" Kane muttered.
"I reckon we'd get a few thousand for him," William said to Paris, who nodded in agreement. Kane rolled his eyes.
"I hope she likes lightening," Paris smirked, and Kane recalled what he had said a few weeks ago, about the first girl he would come in contact with most likely getting struck by lightening just for approaching him. Dragging Kane out of the room, they stopped outside Paris's door long enough for him to delve an emerald-green silk shirt and a pair of boots from the wardrobe.
"Thanks," Kane grunted, shrugging the shirt on as he stuffed his feet into the boots, buttoning up the shirt.
"I think Ashlyn's going into town tomorrow; she can get you some new clothes," Paris said. "Anyway, that shirt's not really my colour." Paris spoke lazily, but he jangled the car keys and there were faint lines of strain around his striking blue eyes. He needed sex to survive; Kane felt it was safest for everyone involved if he remained celibate. But he was tired, and he'd heard the soft chink of hipflasks in his friends' pockets.
Before Hunters had bombed the city and attacked them with immortal children, the people of Budapest had regarded the handful of warriors had retired from active warring as angels.
It was still the word Kane heard most often whenever he dared venture out of the fortress, especially if he was in the company of Paris or Strider, two favourites amongst the mortal women of the city. And they've never even seen Torin, Kane thought, as they strode determinedly through the lingering evening crowd in the nightclub neighbourhood.
They didn't pause at the entrance to a particular club. The bouncer saw them coming; no cover-fees either. The unclaimed Lords dropped more cash in one night in these places than these kinds of clubs earned in a week—which said a lot.
Inside, it was far darker, brilliant lights of different colours roving over the walls, drunk men catcalling and groping and flinging their rent-money at the girls dancing on poles and in cages and onstage. A mixture between a vintage burlesque club and an underground bondage bar, the only theme was the level of nudity. Colourfully illuminated windows featured other girls, dancing for enthusiastic audiences. Booths were set up, low sofas, but Paris just sauntered through the club, girls draping themselves over him and William as they strode to the VIP room. Kane lagged behind; one of the strobe-lights faltered. One of the raised cages trembled, the girl inside going wide-eyed. Another shake, and Kane passed, trying to rein Disaster in.
You destroyed Japan; be satisfied, he groused, ducking into the VIP room, and Disaster all but giggled with glee at the mention of the country it had all but decimated. The door smacked him on the arse on the way into the VIP room, and he sighed. Stay at home and get pelted with books, or go out and terrorise caged girls…
Reminded him of the slave-markets of old. The only good thing Disaster ever did was rupture the slave-caravans, provoking the slaves into rebellion. Ah, Spartacus, old friend, Kane sighed. When Disaster had upended those slave-markets, he could remember taking handfuls of grateful girls home.
Now, he couldn't summon the energy to seduce anyone, knowing Disaster would probably upend the bed or similar before they even got going. It had happened too many times to count.
Paris and William were already half-stripped by their admirers by the time Kane sat, emotionally exhausted, on a sofa by himself.
"Aw, come on, Kane," William pouted. "How can you look that miserable surrounded by so many beautiful women?" Kane attempted a smile, and the women cooed.
"We know how to make you smile," one of them promised with a purr, then to another of the girls, "Menj és kislány." Go and get baby girl.
"Kislány can make anybody smile," another cooed, as the first, in her little thong and thigh-high boots, sauntered off. Kane had gulped down half the contents of William's hipflask when the first woman returned.
Kane had expected a sweet-faced blonde in pasties and a pale-pink thong.
Oh, no, kislány was so far from a baby girl, Kane couldn't help but sit up straight and take notice.
It wasn't even what she wore that drew his attention. Her costume, much like the gear the other girls had donned, comprised of inch-wide strips of leather, one crossing her collarbones, connected by two strips to another band that just skimmed across her nipples; a third band caressed her tiny waist, each connected by little silver rings to two straps down her sides, connecting to a glossy black thong; two thin bands of silver-ringed leather hugged each toned, slender thigh; just below her knees; and her upper-arms. She bore a long leather whip, and her hair fell in wildly tumbling dark locks to her waist.
No, it wasn't the leather getup she wore; it was how she wore it, how she held herself, as if she was an empress. She might have been wearing a ball-gown and diamonds; the same unconcern the warriors had had walking through the crowd to the club earlier existed in her. He and the others may well not even have existed, for all the notice she gave them. The confidence she exuded in that leather getup was not from knowing she was completely comfortable in her own skin; it was from a talent of blocking out her surroundings to block out her emotions, her discomfort, her embarrassment.
Mounting the small stage, she just started to dance, completely surprising him. Wearing a dominatrix's lingerie, her wild hair tumbling around her slender shoulders, her face charcoaled and painted red, she could have been a ballerina, every movement so precise, delicate and inconceivably elegant, entrancing.
Yet for all the notice she took of her surroundings, she could have been at home, practicing for a boyfriend in her bedroom.
Kane couldn't keep his eyes off her, mesmerised.
Mouth suddenly dry, he knocked back another shot from William's hipflask, feeling no effects, still unable to look away. He didn't even hear the moans and lusty pants from Paris, William and their girls, because he couldn't think about anything but the weariness he thought he had glimpsed in her eyes, eyes shuttered off from any emotional tell that others could manipulate.
No, her eyes weren't emotionless, he realised, as she stumbled almost imperceptibly, and their eyes met.
He had thought her weary.
It was impossible to deny that her eyes held the bone-tired hopelessness of a person who had seen everything and lost all faith in humanity, suffered so much, and had long ago forgotten how to smile.
He had seen the expression too many times to count, always in the lowest of the low circles of society, the immobile, impoverished. He thought he had seen the worst in the ghettos of the Eastern Bloc, the slums of India and African shanty-towns.
The girl who had strode in with the confidence of a queen was gone in that instant, a broken young woman replacing her.
She continued to dance, and either refused to or physically couldn't make herself break eye-contact.
The glimpse he had had of the soul-sick young woman clenched at his heart, making his stomach ache as nothing else ever had. She danced, on and on, but now it was different. She gazed at him, something unreadable in her once-more guarded eyes, and occasionally, she nibbled her lower-lip, running the tip of her tongue over her lips, and all Kane could imagine was cradling her gentle oval face and kissing her so sweetly, that little tongue lapping at his.
Kane didn't know how long she danced, how long he sat mesmerised by the way her toned, slender body moved, entranced by the little flicks of her tongue across her lips, imagining the colour of her eyes as they widened when he entered her, whether he could clasp his hands around her tiny waist, whether her beautiful breasts would fit into his palms or just spill over, and whether her nipples were a delicate pink or a dusky rose, and how they would feel pressed against his chest and between his lips as he took her any way they could imagine.
Someone thumped his back, and Kane jumped, whirling to glare at William, whose colour was high, the glitter in his eyes pronounced, a hickey throbbing at his exposed collarbone. William grinned, expression the epitome of sated sexual energy.
"We're moving on," William said, indicating Paris, who was gently fending off his women as he zipped his jeans. "Since all you've done is look, not touch, you wanna find another girl?"
Either it was him, or Disaster had just gnashed his fangs. Another girl!
Me want. Kane froze. Usually Disaster was a silent but temperamental presence in the back of his mind, incurring tantrums that gave him concussion after concussion. He had never spoken before.
Can't have her. She's human. Humans break so easily, Kane thought, and he didn't know if he was persuading Disaster or himself. Either way, he knew he was right. If being paired with Disaster had taught him anything, it was just how fleeting and intangible human life was. At the fortress, he could never relax, too afraid of hurting one of the girls. He would never be able to let his guard down enough to have the same kind of intimacy with a woman as his friends had with their wives.
One tantrum from Disaster and any number of things could kill her. Kane struggled to cover a shiver.
"Come on, man," Paris said, counting out several large bills and laying them on the stage for 'kislány'.
With a reluctance that shocked him, Kane followed his friends to the door, allowing himself—foolishly—one last look back.
And that was it.
Their eyes met, and their fate was sealed.
It was extremely poetic. Classic, even. Very Shakespearean.
"Tristan beholds his Isolde," Kane murmured, tugged out of the VIP room by an already-impatient William.
It was an hour and another club later that Kane separated from Paris and William, making his solitary way back to the castle, alert for Hunters. It had taken five exploded light-bulbs, a row of shattered liquor bottles, an upended table and the ceiling dumping a chunk of plaster on his head for him to realise that while he had watched Kislány dance, Disaster had been soothed.
As mesmerised by her as he had been.
Paris and William didn't mind him leaving; he had been agitated since leaving the first club. Exploding glasses killed the mood. If anyone could understand that, Kane could.
So why was he walking back to that first club, back to kislány, when he knew how frail human mortality was?
If he could see her one last time, if he could just... Do what? he thought, exhaling sharply as he walked on. You know what happens when you take human lovers.
Gods, he missed New Orleans. Immortal women were the only way to go. Unbreakable, and not prone to expecting commitment. They didn't mind if the bed collapsed beneath them while they went at it. They didn't care if he had to leave the city for days at a time without calling to attend to the Lords' agenda.
The girls who had earlier worshipped Paris and William recognised that he had accompanied them; disappointed that the others hadn't returned, they nevertheless informed him, when he asked, that kislány's shift had just ended.
Knowing as he did the workings of the underworld of cities like Budapest, Kane crept around to the back of the club, where a few of the girls loitered, wrapped up, smoking cigarettes and shivering, moans echoing from a shadowed corner as one of the girls earned a few extra forint from one of the patrons.
The back door banged open as one of the girls darted back inside, banging shoulders roughly with—her. Nearly knocked off her feet by the other dancer, she shouldered a very heavy, oversized bag and strode down the few steps. Bundled up in a heavy black coat, she had donned jeans so old and faded they had to be threadbare. The coat bagged on her, making her look frumpy, aided by the ill-fitting jeans, undoubtedly by design. The red lipstick she had worn had been removed, but her incredibly thick, voluptuous hair still tumbled around her shoulders, and something glinted in her closed palm as she approached a dark alleyway.
Kane stalked after her, not certain whether he wanted to speak to her or just…just seeher. He had been down streets like these before—bringing to mind Victorian London in the height of the opium frenzy—and was horribly surprised by how quickly the wealth of the neighbourhood deteriorated into veritable ghettos, streets littered with the homeless, the drug-addicted, and the desperate, prostitutes with their backs against tagged walls hoping their johns would finish up early.
The reason for the silver glitter of kislány's palm was painfully evident as he followed her through the dark underside of Budapest, and Kane's stomach turned at the thought of her having to use the switchblade.
A.N.: What do you think? The girl's appearance was inspired by two pictures on a Gena Showalter fan site, originally intended as depictions of Cameo and Sienna Blackstone (Die again, bitch!); I'll post the links on my profile for you to check out.