You couldn't sleep for the awful fright
That kept you up in bed last night
But curious shapes shift in the dark,
They vanish with the sunrise spark

vi. (Or: Ryodan, Redux)

Dani has been having some fecking fucked up dreams lately.

First off, what is with this whole dreaming thing? Dani's never dreamed before. Usually, she's so drained after days of buzzing around that she just conks out into blissful nothing.

(This is a secret, and a big one: Sometimes it's just too exhausting being Dani, and she needs to just lay her head down and close her eyes and shut down into nothingness.)

But for the past few months, every time Dani sleeps she … dreams. Nightmares, actually. Ones where she sweats and moans and moves and when she wakes up in the morning, her fecking hand is down her fecking panties, and she's terrified as shit that Ryodan has cameras in here, too. And even though she's pretty sure in the dream that she's come, and more than once, when she wakes up she needs so badly she hurts. Dani's never given a crap about pain, can handle it with the best of them, but this? This is torture.

Dani's still a virgin. Still never even kissed a boy. Had a moment one time where it seemed like Dancer was going to kiss her; it didn't happen. Lately, Christian has been fucking around with her, bringing her on the brink, but she's been threatening him with the sword and he's been backing off, a bit. She flirts with Lor sometimes, mainly just to piss Ryodan off.

Dani's still a virgin, but in her dreams she's not. Actually, to be more precise, in her dreams she starts as a virgin every. goddamn. time, then loses it to one of the men constantly orbiting her life. And then something shitty happens. And that shitty has a name.

Luckily, that SOMETHING (note, something, not someone), thankfully, never plays leading man. The only dream she has where Ryodan plays opposite her feels like a near miss, and it pisses her off - who the fuck does Ry-O think he is, nodding at her. Right. Like she's some skanky sheep willing to be that night's booty call. Not the Mega. The fire, the frustration, and the final satisfaction in the dream is a goddamn relief because these days when she's with him, she's seeing, feeling, something else. Noticing stuff she wishes she didn't, and pretty sure that she's walking some tightrope and the tightrope is burning up behind her and all she can do is go forward, fast, too fast, even for Dani, or she'll fall into the abyss below. The next day, she smirks around him, because in her dream, she's the one chick who turned him down, who he couldn't have.

When he looks at her, it's like he knows somehow, and when he shows her his fangs she knows it's not a real smile.

The next time Dani crashes (this time, a whole week, no sleep), her dreams move from PG-13 into R-rated territory. She dreams about Dancer. It starts off sweet and warm and when he is inside her, it's like the sunlight that usually warms his skin, but everywhere. But when her dream gets weird, and he morphs into the Unseelie King, something in her goes, oh. Now when they hang, she watches him super, super carefully.
For a while, things are … quiet. Until things jump up, fast, into really, really heavy R rated territory. Not quite a porno, but it's getting there. That one at least wasn't so scary, just made her uncomfortable around him that whole week. Had to be real careful, because the last thing she needed was Ryodan giving her shit about how she had a crush on Lor and Barrons.

The worst of course, is the Unseelie Princes. That time, Dani wakes up with tears in her eyes, and she's not sure what for or why. And to add goddamn insult to injury, now she can't fucking picture Ryodan without picturing what happened in her dream. She gets now why Ryodan calls it fucking - if he's anything in real life like he was in that pri-ya nightmare, boinking doesn't even begin to cover it.

"What's with you." He asks her the day after the UP dream. Dani refuses to look at him.

"Nothing, boss." He reaches for her chin, but she freeze frames away, fast. "Didn't sleep well. Do you even do that? Sleep?"

He doesn't answer her. Dani is panicking, 'cuz last thing she needs is for him to reach in her head and … see stuff. Not about to give him that sort of power over her. So what if she thinks he's kinda hot? She's 16, it's natural. Just cuz she thinks he's hot doesn't mean she doesn't still hate him. Basically.

Then he's on her, and his hand is on her chin, and she knows he's about to do his X Ray vision thing into her head. In her panic, she does something real, real dumb.

"What. The Fuck, kid." He pulls back, rubbing his hand and stares at her. "Why did you bite me."

"Felt like it." She flashes a gamine grin at him, even though she's just flashed into freeze frame and she's vibrating all over the place and papers are flying everywhere.

He looks at her, considers, and she knows he's about to go digging inside her head again. So she does her second, surprising thing of the night.

"Please, Ryodan," and she hates the sound her voice makes, the way the P and L combination taste on her tongue.. "Just let it be. Some things... I need this to be private, okay?"

And Ryodan does something equally surprising.

"Okay. For now."

Dani decides that it's staying at Chester's that's screwing her. No, no, screwing with her. Dani is making more and more Freudian slips these days. Fuck Freud. The little shit knew nothing about women, or orphans for that matter. Anyway, for a while, Chester's was going swell. She and Ryodan had come to a sort of compromise on the subject. Dani stays at Chester's, checks in, and answers her magic cellphone when he calls, and he lets her come and go without a goddamn escort. Doesn't even lock her in anymore. And she's grown used to it, but probably being around that much sex and testosterone is fucking with her hormones and is to blame for all the sex dreams she's been having lately. Not to mention the camera thing. If she finds out he's been watching her … you know, she's going to smash every single fucking one of those cameras, and then kill him again.

It's an easy enough fix. When Ryodan announces work is done for the day, she heads upstairs, past his office, past Ryodan and his fucking head nod to whomever, down the hallway to a door with a sign on it that says, "Dani's. Keep the feck out or I'll feck you up." Lor laughed when he saw it, but nobody has taken it down. Nobody's given it mind, either. She'll go to her room, with its huge, comfortable bed and TV and piles of DVDs and books, an arsenal of candy bars and even chocolate pop tarts, and let them close the door. She'll pretend to be asleep when Ryodan comes by to check to make sure she's still there, and even though they both know she's just faking it, he'll wander off. She'll wait a bit, until the time she knows Ryodan has some chick with him (he's like clockwork, that guy, having sex at the same time, all the time. Thank god the walls are thick, or she'd lose her mind), and the rest of the men have probably gone down to level 4.

And then she'll zoom the fuck out of there.

But the annoying thing is that he's present in every single one of them. Extending a hand, making her watch as his men take Dancer down, getting between her and Lor and then locking her up, touching her cheek and vowing to fix it after she's killed him. And she can feel him. Breathing down her neck, his hand on her arms like a vice. And then inside of her, all around her, a feeling that Dani doesn't even know how she knows, but it's destroying her and even when she gets her damn equilibrium back, it's time to get away.

If Ryodan knows she's been sneaking out like some kid after curfew, he doesn't say anything. The bastard's full of surprises these days.

Leaving Chester's doesn't help. Dani runs into Christian, things get tricky, and that night she has the most ridiculous dream. Like, all flowers and chocolate and music and silly romantic stuff Dani doesn't really want. But in the dream, she's in love with him, and it's all perfect and magical. And the end of course, is ruined by Ryodan, who comes in and kills Christian, just in the middle of them getting married, some weird old fashioned Druid way. Which is just nuts, because 1) Dani is never getting married, and 2) How the feck would she know how druids get married? And then she kills Ryodan, on purpose, and it's pretty awesome.

That, more than anything else, makes it easier to look him in the eye these days.

On her 17th birthday, Dani's out, looking for Dancer who's gonna beyond AWOL, when her phone rings she reconsiders throwing it in the Liffey.

As if that would help.

"Aw, come on, boss. It's my birthday! I'm like, officially an adult. Need to celebrate. You gotta give me the night off."

"Get your ass over here." He hangs up.

When she drags her ass into Chester's, Lor grins at her. Looks her up and down. Dani's gotten a hell of a lot better at controlling her blush.

"Sure you're only 17, honey?"

"Sure you're only 30?"

He laughs. "Got you something."

He hands her a box, wrapped and everything. Only person who ever gave her gifts was Mac. Mac, who has been MIA with Barrons doing god knows what, who knows where. Dani could really, really use Mac these days.

She tears it open, then freezes, goes all slow mo joe.

"Dude," Dani says, appreciatively.

"Like it?"

Dani picks up the gun, considers it. Not that she has any interest in killing humans, but it slows Unseelie down, and it feels great in her hand. Heavy and hard and … nope. Not going there.

"Lor, you are the fecking shit, you know that, right?"

"You keep telling him that, you don't know what you'll start."

She jumps. Ryodan's behind her, and she can't even think about words without thinking about placement without thinking about position without thinking about …

She turns to him.



She follows him. A part of her wants to bitch, to dude him, to play at being 14 again.

Instead she's silent.

In his office, he closes the door, turns to her. Crosses his arms, says nothing, just nods to his desk. On it is a piece of paper. Nothing else. She moves closer to look.

It's her contract, with her blood. Should be dried black from the years its been hanging out in his desk drawer, but where it dripped onto the runes, it glows gold.

Dani is speechless. Then pissed.

"What, for my birthday you were gonna rub it in my face that you essentially own me? That I promised you who the fuck knows what for my entire goddamn life? All to save Jo's life, which was fucking pointless since you didn't even keep her alive, you fuck, even though you were fucking her?!"

Dani's pretty sure that's the most she's ever said fuck at one time, ever. If Mac were here, she'd chew her out, but Mac's MIA, and Dani's her own damn woman. Ryodan just leans against the door, watching her. Doesn't even interrupt her as she screams.

Oh, right, never mind, she isn't.

"Are you extending it? Adding more fucking caveats? I thought we finally were on the same wavelength. You know what, fuck it. Just kill me. I'm sick of your gilded cage."

"You done."

Dani collapses into a chair, suddenly worn out. She feels old, really, really old, and massages her temples as she looks at him but doesn't say anything else.

"Tear it up."

Once again, she's speechless. Shock, or something? It grips her on the inside, doesn't feel good. Dani's not an idiot, but she's also not about to admit that tearing it up feels wrong, somehow.

"Is this some kind of trick?"

"No." He moves over to her then, and she can feel the air molecules he's disturbed.

"You've finished your prison sentence. You're free to do what you want."

There's a weight in Dani's chest. Opposite feeling than what she's expected.


"You're free to be your own woman. Isn't it what you always wanted." His mouth mocks her, his eyes say something else.

Dani, for some reason, remembers a time, long ago, when she saw Mac inside BB&B, and was jealous for one second of the border collie, loved and cared for, curled up by the fire. How she was just the mangy dog looking in.

"Am I being like, excommunicated or something?"

"No. Stop dithering, kid. You want to rip it up, rip it up."

"Don't. Fucking. Call. Me. Kid." Dani's pissed. Shouldn't be, not sure why, only that she feels like she was tied to an anchor and that anchor broke and she's drifting off to sea and there's a huge ass tidal wave coming.

"Are you, Dani?" She's so pissed it takes her a second to realize that Ryodan's talking like a normal human being. He hasn't moved, hasn't taken his eyes off of her, like he doesn't need to be up close and personal to see inside her head. "Are you a kid? Or are you an adult? Are you ready to grow the fuck up? Choose now. I'm not going to ask you again."

Four question marks. Dani manages to pull one out of him, every once in a while, but never four in a row. She's speechless.

In response, she freeze frames to him, grabs the contract. Next second, it's shredded in little pieces, all over his desk and the floor. For a second, she expects something fucked up to happen - die or a cage to descend.

Nothing does.

Ryodan presses a button below his desk. The door slides open. Out there, it's loud and frenetic and not nearly as overwhelming as this office. She hasn't felt frozen like this since the HFK.

"Happy Birthday," he tells her, and then he's pulling a pile of papers from behind him and doing work like she's not even there.

Dani doesn't even realize she's doing it, only that something in her explodes and then she's somehow right next to him and her mouth is on his and she barely has the time to think, well, feck. Had she known it was like this...

Dani is no longer on her own two feet. Instead, Ryodan's got her, and she's climbing all over him, and he's kissing her like he's trying to eat his way inside of her and that tightly wound place inside of Dani is out of control, and the shreds of her contract are whirring round his office like little paper butterflies on speed. She closes her eyes, dizzy.

This isn't what a girl's first kiss should be like, but Dani's a woman and in her dreams she's done way, way more than that and -

"Who the fuck cares about should anyway."

When he pulls back from her, sets her down, they're no longer in his office. She was so caught up, she didn't even feel him move. She's never seen this room before. Everything is sleek and modern, dark wood and chrome and glass. There's a bed, a huge one, low to the ground, covered in white. A book, an old one, lies open on top of it. Nothing else.

Dani feels wobbly, hates it, so she turns her back to him. She's vibrating all over the place, wanting to jump back on him, throttle him, turn and run and never look back.

"Dani," and something in his voice, something urgent and unfamiliar, forces her to stop moving and look at him. What stares back at her is alien, and vicious, and cruel. His eyes, usually so clear, are going red. Dani's only ever seen him like this a few times, and she's pretty sure he's talking around fangs right now.

"I told you once," and he takes a single step closer to her, "that I'm an extremely patient man. That I would wait for a long time for what I wanted." He takes another step, and Dani, who never backs off in a Texas stand off, feels her feet move backwards without her permission.

"You get a choice," Ryodan continues, "right now. Walk out of this door, and I'll leave you alone for the rest of your offensively short life. Or you can stay. It's a concession I've never made for anyone else. It's a concession I'll never make again."

Dani thinks of the shreds of that contract, and she thinks she gets it, and her throat is closed like all the times she chokes on candy bars.

"But know this," and now he's right in front of her, "I can make compromises. I can concede. But I do not, will not change. I don't do take backs, Danielle O'Malley."

Dani tries reaching for her anchor, or crossing back over the tightrope to the side of the canyon she left behind, but someone got metal cutters and the chain holding her boat still is broken and there's barely any tightrope left under her feet and she's falling and she's drowning and she knows either she can sink deep or grab the hand that's just been offered, open, palm up, in front of her.

Just like in her dream.

Ryodan doesn't move, just leaves his hand there. Dani doesn't move either.

(Looking back, she'll claim that time itself froze, but Ryodan will laugh and tell her she's fucking full of it and being 17 does not mean she gets to go ahead and be a drama queen.)

Then, slowly , almost as if she's in a dream, she takes a step back from him.

Ryodan's hand drops, then fists. Something weird starts going on with his face, but Dani can't see, because she's pulling her shirt over her head, trying to be all sexy like sexy people are, but she's shaking and vibrating and somehow her shirt gets caught over her head and she's stumbling around like a fucking idiot.

She hears a roar, and realizes it's laughter, and then a pair of strong arms pull her shirt off the rest of the way.

"Damnit," she mutters, while he laughs. "Don't you fucking laugh at me right now, dickhead. Ever heard of ruining the moment?"

He laughs so hard, he doubles over, and she now knows that when Ryodan was fucking that girl down on level 4 when she was just a kid and spying on him, that wasn't really joy. Doesn't even come close to what she sees right now.

Whatever. She doesn't care, she's so embarrassed and angry. And don't," she says as she shimmies out of her jeans, and now Ryodan is staring at her like he can see through her, and is shaking, and they both know it, so HA!, "ever. fucking. call. me. Danielle."

"I'll call you whatever the fuck I want to," he tells her, and then he's on her again.

And it's everything at once, and so much better than a few lousy sex dreams, better than bullshit porn. Better than freeze framing her way around the city and laughing it up with Mac and steak and the sunset and everything that Dani has ever loved... it's almost better than killing Unseelie.

(Aw, who is she's kidding. Screw killing Unseelie. Right now, Dani could give a crap about Unseelie. Sex is The. Fucking. Shit. It's like, the best fucking shit ever. Top of the shit pile.)

She tells Ryodan that, while he's inside her. And did she mention that superheroes just do it better? She feels bad for normal folks. They can't freeze frame, and they can't like, isolate certain muscles, and they can't...

"You do realize you just compared fucking me to excrement."

"Get familiar with this century, old man, words change."

"Get familiar with a dictionary, kid." This, he punctuates with his body and Holy Feck that's amazing."People change."

"Thought you said they didn't."

"I have been known to be wrong."

There you go, a concession from the king. Triumphant is Dani.

When they emerge, literally days later, the club is a complete mess. Lor is more irritated than she's ever seen him, and as soon as Ryodan and her walk in (not holding hands or anything because Gah, who the hell do you think they are? Batman and Robin don't hold hands) Lor stands up, declares he's never looking after anything or anyone, ever again, and disappears, she assumes, to go do the nasty with some blonde down in the bar.

Mac is back, and all she has to do is look at Dani and Ryodan, and she just knows, which is … embarrassing. Because Dani might be like, the Sex Goddess, and Ryodan's Best Lay Ever (well, according to her, at least). But she's still 17 and doesn't really want to be talking about this stuff in public. Sometimes the fact that she's with someone who has lived a gagillion years is weird, creepy even, but then she remembers that the world is different, and she is different, so who the feck cares? Mac looks ready to kill Ryodan, and Ryodan smiles back like he's ready to kill her, and Mac smiles at him like she has some trump card over Ryodan, and Dani is pissed.

"Aw, you're kidding. Seriously? You're still holding out on me?" But Barrons breaks it up, says something to Ryodan along the lines of, they agreed. Besides, Barrons says, they've got bigger problems.

Apparently, there's a new Unseelie terror in town, and the world is going to shit, and Christian has been by a few times and from what she's hearing, he's looking for blood. Ryodan doesn't seem to give a shit, but Dani reminds him that just cuz he can't die doesn't mean she can't, and he mutters some nonsense about someone getting too big for her britches. His men make some lewd suggestions that has Dani blushing and she's off, zooming around the club, and just as payback, she decides to stab a few Unseelie with her sword and cause a fucking scene, which has Ryodan roaring and her back under lockdown, freaking chains and all (which, um, well, never mind that). And Dani is escaping and he's chasing her down and they're yelling at each other and they fight, like, actually fight, and it's like they're back at square one but better because now Dani has one hell of a trump card, too. And she's going to find out whatever it is he's hiding from her. She always does, anyway. She's the Mega.

Ryodan absolutely, positively, refuses to call her that. Not even in bed. Not even if she begs, and she's embarrassed to admit it, but she has. Says he'll only do it if she starts addressing him as My Lord and Master, both in private and in public.

"Never. Going. To. Happen."

So rise, and shine
Nows the time to be alive
To stay awake with me a while, and smile
(The Submarines, "1940")