Thing about being a silent partner was that silent often meant that you were never seen in the public eye. He had offered money, time, absolution from debts but debts the size of what he had given Cielo for the opening of her business were not something that could just be forgotten and lost. Especially considering the terms he had set to their contract, a contract that was mostly loose lipped convictions instead of notarized documents as it should have been from the beginning. His curse was that he was too trusting of his victims, his toys that sometimes he often forgot that they were people and people were greedy. Still, she had not gone back on her word yet and the idea that she would was preposterous.
The halfling stood outside the L’Obscurite, swathed in fine clothing as he always was when meeting with her, rings adorning fingers that denoted his status among the second rate citizens who often stood outside, hoping to steal some handouts offered by the richer subjects who frequented the woman’s club.
Chiseled jaw, unshaven but shadowed and kept short, hardened as he waited, watching that entrance and the bouncers that stood outside the doorway. They would know who he was, why he was here.
He kicks off the light post, straightening the cuffs at either wrist and patting down his immaculate suit front before lazily wandering toward the doorway. It takes only moments to reach it, moments in which the guards regard him with a nod of their heads, leading him to the front of the line that has gathered there rather than allowing him to wait. Doors are pushed open with a finely dressed foot, closing behind him with a flourish. Music is the first thing that greets his ear, followed by eyes that take a gander in his direction.
Fingers comb through his previously cut hair before those violent blues of his, crackling a storm’s, pass through the room and he sets himself on a trail for the bar front, hands cuffing themselves within his pockets as he settles in one of those priceless looking chairs, served his usual drink of brandy without ice. Cold, but not freezing.
The staff seem to know him, to regard him with a sense of respect. But he also isn’t one to toss out manners and respect. He’s sure that the individual he’s here to see will know, eventually, that he’s here. If she doesn’t… well, there are plenty of women here to keep him occupied.
Cielo still had so much book work to do, but two glasses of champagne had drained her motivation for doing so. The night was going well, the numbers were speaking for themselves with an almost constant stream of customers mounting the stairs to whatever Heaven they had paid for, and returning with smiles and leaving through the door at a speed that would indicate their wives were waiting at home. With the job done- why tarry?
A smile as she slides from her seat and sees Xander working a john with all the avid fervency that he had as a teen. They looked well suited. Both big, brawny, well- built men. She only hoped they would not destroy the room they chose. It wouldn’t be the first time a bed gave way or a sling tore away part of the ceiling. They could be very enthusiastic, these young scamps.
She had decided to leave the books for the morrow and stay near the door and speak with Danny the door bitch for the evening, when she saw a familiar figure- one not seen for many weeks.
“Kai?” she speaks, mystified at his sudden appearance, but that profile really was unmistakeable. He had been missing at the club, had not shown even for the opening night and she was beginning to wonder if he would ever return.
“Oh my- Kai- it IS You!” a bright and welcoming smile initially gracing crimson stained lips.
The brandy was part way to his lips when he heard the click clack of heels directed in his particular way. While he could have turned around to greet them with voice, he chooses to finish his drink in peace, tossing it back with a sense of reckless abandon that is proven in the way he slips his jacket from his shoulders as if getting comfortable, the black and red velvet of his inner vest glistening with the light’s reflection off of him. He unbuttons first the button of his right wrist’s cuff, following suit with the left’s, rolling them one by one till they had reached a suitable location at his forearm. Buttoning them into place, securing them so they would not loosen unless he deemed it fit, he heard the sound of her voice, the distant call of familiarity that came with its sound of pealing bells.
He turned just as the tender and keep poured him another drink, wrapping hands and fingers around the veneer glass, facing her with all the confidence of someone in his stature. His other hand grabs hold of his coat, tossing it over his shoulder, held by a single size tag on the inside of the collar as he shifts in place and begins walking in the woman’s direction. There’s an icy purpose to his steps, a hardening of his jaw as lips curl in that devilishly bleak smile of his, flashing half-fangs. Perhaps it’s hunger or the absence there of that gives him that color to his cheeks he’s obtained since arriving.
Perhaps he’s simply perplexed on how to act toward the woman since he had heard that, unbeknownst to him at the time, she had stayed during the cloud of death, incurred the wrath of the Fae who were behind the attacks, had even fallen into a state of disrepair he could not see on her in the instant he approached.
“Cielo,” he murmurs, his voice damn near monotone as he regarded her, stepping in close to graze his cheek against hers, his lips nearly to her ear lobe.
“I’ve missed your company.”
He drawls the glass to his lips shortly after, washing away whatever displeasure he had garnered over her disobeying his request in favor of sending her women and the people away in the trucks he had offered.
“The place looks like it’s doing well. How long have you been back in business?” As if he didn’t already know.
Cielo was still stunned that Malakai was here. For weeks there had been nothing but silence. No message. Not since the yellow plague had his presence been a factor at this place. He had been missing for the crisis, been missing for Cielo’s rapid descent into a madness that she could not remember in anything but fleeting images of horror and degradation. Been missing for all of the preparations and now- that all the speedbumps had been traversed…no doubt was showing up to see how his investment was flourishing and greeted her as though the weeks and weeks of absence was nothing more than a few days.
How could he say such a thing when she had been right here all along, doing all the heavy lifting, and on the back of a recovery that had left her a wretched bag of scarred bones.
That smile slipped slowly from her lips and there was a flash of righteous anger at the nonchalant way in which he suavely sloped back into the picture, which was apparent only by the two spots of high color that appeared upon prominent cheekbones.
Replaced by an expression was as neutral and as mask like as if he- Malakai -were a client.
Time was fleeting for individuals like himself. He had spent most of that time under city, in the tunnels of an underground world and facility he had built to house himself in the case of an apocalyptic event that would have torn away everything he built. His time had not been spent idle and the talent that showed itself on the streets and in the clubs of the Red Light District seemed to prove as such.
There was an influx of nymphs who had gone around, scrounging up business in the remnants of the golden plague. They had gathered an endless swarm of men and sexual deviants who were clean and devoted to ensuring that his business kicked off the ground with an earnest speed. The way they left his clubs, doused in pheromones, had others asking where they had been and by word of mouth, three of his establishments had become some of the most frequented places in the midst of the most recent events, space and otherwise since they brought an influx of out of town patrons.
The trip to L’Obscurite was only out of respect to Cielo, though perhaps it had come a bit late. In truth, he was an average customer, albeit a partner in this venture though he had been quiet and allowed her to build the place back up after herself since he had given her all the resources needed to save herself and even members of the city. He was a no-nonsense figure, someone who gave chances to survive and nothing more. Like providing funds to buy the place, like giving more up when she had turned it, instead of a club, into a shelter for the people on the streets during the crisis. He had even given her men meant to protect the place from looters and plunderers, though little good that had been.
His tongue traces the outline of his lips as he notices that coolness in the tone of her words. Like any stranger who could have walked in here, he approached with fluid, liquid grace, like that of a cat rather than the human figure that stood before her. Hand rose, fingers thumbing over the lines of her cheek, perhaps even before she can stop him from making such an action.
“I’m glad you’re safe,” he admits, coy smile in place of that half-fanged grin from before, even with the coolness of her tone. “I’m not here to see the books. I’m here to see you. I trust that you’re doing the place justice. I figure it was about time you and I caught up, seeing as to how I’ve been mostly absent the last few weeks.”
He takes a gander at looking around before letting that hand of his fall away. He moves to the closest table, seat, wherever he can reach, letting the glass of half-emptied brandy settle against its hard wooden surface before returning to her.
“There some place more quiet we can go to?” The way he says it indicates he’s looking for more than idle words, though he keeps most of that hidden behind a near emotionless facade.
“Don’t worry. I don’t intend on making a move on you, unless you want me to.”
“Unless you want me to”.
She had agreed to so much back in the days when she was looking with longing through the window of the real estate agent, a premier client was what he would be. This was part of the deal that was offered to her and she had taken with a desperate agreement when money to buy the bricks and mortar had been whispered into her ear and Cielo had grasped at it like it was a life line.
It had enabled her to buy the club, establish it. If anything, she should be glad that he had stayed away as it had given her the opportunity to do with it as she wanted and realize the dream that she had been planning for longer than the year it had taken her to save for it.
And with this thought, Cielo thawed just a little. Malakai had promised to be a silent partner- and he had been true to his word- as silence was what she had received, even in those nights of recovery when she had craved something- anything- to ground her back into the land of sanity.
“Of course!” she replies a little too brightly now, and indicating to Robert that she would take leave of the remaining Kristal and the bottle of brandy Malakai was consuming, she- with bottles in hand- would lead that halfbreed away from the thrumming activity of the bar, down a small passageway that led alongside the stair risers and through the back to an office that sometimes, served as a bed chamber for Cielo when she was just too exhausted to make it home.
The door closes behind them, and Cielo indicates Malakai can sit where he wishes. The luxuriant leather office chair before the desk. The couch that runs along the back wall.
The lighting is dim, discrete. The room has touches of Cielo about it. A portmanteau on wheels that was her stock and trade back in the day. The scent of jasmine and rose. Cielo herself perched upon the edge of the desk and filled a water tumbler that had been placed next to the pc with Champagne, having quite forgotten a glass.
Now in the silence that stretched like a chasm between them she offers neutral pleasantries.
“You look well”
A little of the warmth she’d used to have with him seeped back into her words but he found it hard to discern whether it was a farce or real in the light of their exchange and the way he had approached her. She didn’t not react to being touched the way he expected her to. In fact, if he were her, he would have slapped his hand away but in the light of the moment, that in and of itself could have been partial to a road where she did not find herself on the winning side of his ire.
He knew how to hold a grudge. All she had to do was look at his past, a past that had never been opened for debate between the two for a reason. Garbled by her warmth, led through the venue, he finds himself wandering the stairs at the back of the main ball room into the beyond where her office lies.
He had given her space and time, conviction enough to gather her wits and rise above the life she had been dealt when the storm had threatened to pass through her but, to him, the building looked better than ever and he seriously doubted that the golden cloud had done anything to the infrastructure like it had some of the buildings he’d torn apart and rebuilt within the weeks that had stretched between their last conversations.
He kept to his schedule of the night, feeding when he could of his employees who found it both a privilege to serve him since he still paid, despite some of that money coming back to him. They had commission. They had tips. He only took a quarter of their earnings unless they were the more popular of the girls and then he took less as a form of a raise, offering lenience in the shape of apartments and living situations where they could work from home rather than blowing their expenses at lavish apartment buildings that had risen in price throughout the area after disaster struck. The city had to earn its keep and as a member of the financial team in charge of Red Light, he was one of those members on the board who whispered plans in the ear of Antinous when he could.
He slid into the plush comforts of the couch with the utmost ease, the cushions giving way to the man’s solid weight. He was every bit as masculine and fed as he had been the last time they had met. There was no wonder why, though if she had kept up on the rumors in the street, she’d probably know already.
“I am. Very well, actually. You do too, for someone who stayed behind in the midst of all that happened.” He tilts his head, as if suddenly curious, though it’s all a feigned act.
“Why didn’t you leave like I asked you to? You had to know it wouldn’t end well for you or the people under your ward.”
Cielo would turn her gaze away from him at this very assertive questioning. She had asked herself this many times, with rueful regret, when she was set with rebuilding what was left.
“I ensured all the refugees left and were away to safety.”
A pause and that tumbler was pressed to her lips and a hefty mouthful of the wine taken in to steady nerves that were now thrumming in the presence of that half breed. Cielo could feel his gaze piercing through her despite her own unwilling to meet it.
“I suppose I left it too late.” With a shrug.
The conversation was bringing forth those flashes of imagery that were nothing more than a montage of disjointed sensations and scenes.
Birds hanging by their necks.
Maggots falling to the floor to feast upon the shit and innards of rot and ruin.
The darkness that would cloud her mind when she recalled that bright rectangle of light in the gloom and although she could almost reach the significance of that laptop in that course of madness, it would bring forth nothing but more confusion and if she thought too hard upon it- would give her a headache.
And so she did not think about it.
She would not now.
Cielo looks up with a brightly artificial smile and says “Its past Kai. Its history. Consequence has recovered and I with it” as though her wellbeing was a benchmark for the health of the city.
It was after all- her city too.
But there was something about the way he looked at her- a familiarity of those eyes as though she had been held in thrall by those eyes before- but not when they belonged to him. This concept in itself caused an almost palpable reaction from her. A tremble that would have her disguising it by sweeping a hand up to her crown and plucking at the pins that held her hair.
Cielo shakes tresses loose, ruffling them with that free hand while taking another mouthful of the bubbling wine. It was a casual display, and used more to disguise a building trepidation than to shake loose the tensions of the day.
It is then that she looks up and her gaze locks with that of Malakai.
“I’m fine–really. It’s done.”
But there was something- some pit of disbelief in the twist of her guts that would make her think that there was unfinished business from that whole episode…if only she could recall what it was.
Malakai did not forgive easily. He had been hurt in the past. People had used him when he was trying to use them and it was often unforgivable. With her, he could see himself giving in, letting her walk all over his regards as if they meant nothing in the end. To him, this was no longer about the money but it wasn’t about emotions either. At least not of the romantic variety.
He did not fall for whores, not really. And Kestrel was still waiting for him back in his primary club, in a residence of her own upstairs. A place where she was safe. She was anything but the typical street walkers, nothing like those behind the closed doors of clubs like this either.
Nothing like Cielo, but then again, he liked the thorough differences in each of his partners, whether they were created by business deal or pleasure. But something had changed.
When she looked into his eyes, she would certainly have to ask herself whose eyes she was truly looking into, that devilish fiend that had come to her through the connection of the Weave or Malakai, the halfling who had been there for her for the most part until the cloud struck fear in the people of Consequence, till he had gotten out and fled to the underground facility with his nymph companions.
He watches her in her state of well hidden concealment but he can hear, even from where he sits, the trepidation that courses through her. Her heart beat’s speeding a hundred miles an hour, convulsing in its sudden fear that rages in the deep recesses of her mind. She shakes her hair loose, one pin at a time, and he shifts on that couch, offering more than enough room for her if she so wished to join him.
Of course, she doesn’t. Her voice is full of contradictory excuses that he’s no longer willing to listen to. Out of all his partners, she was the only one to go against what he had ordered, had requested, especially when he had done more for her than any of them out of a state of obligation.
It was hard for him not to feel used in a scenario like that, as if his good graces had been taken advantage of. He’s suddenly boring those eyes into her, compulsion more than anything licking at the corners of her mind, a vampiric power that weaken’s one’s defenses. But his weakening of her defenses is not to drawl out any particular memory from her time of madness or the purging of her demons.
He wants her to look at him, to really, truly look at him.
“Come here,” he orders, no longer making a request of his desires. Arms fold over his chest and his jacket is tossed to the side to pool against the floor. Blue eyes fiercely regard her own without a lack of urgency, flaring near pupils that have become near slits at his face. He had promised not to come onto her, had promised not to take her by any uncertainty this time and he was true to his word but she did not know his intentions and he did not make them well known.
Instead, his jaw had hardened and the softness bled out of him, replaced by a stern, ruthless visage of someone who was used to getting what he wanted, someone who would go to the ends of the world to make such things happen.
“If it’s done, come here,” he repeats. “That shouldn’t be a problem, right?” Fangs glimmer in the light, flitting from his gums to reveal themselves. He probably very much seems the half-vampire that he is. They’re like sabers in his gums but he’s still able to speak.
There was a tickle at the back of her skull, as though a hatch had been formed from her skull exposing the creamy folds of brain tissue and the chill of such exposure was causing it to crawl and squirm as though with a life of its own.
Malakai would see all will slide from Cielo’s heart shaped face, and her eyes adopt that glazed and fogged attitude that he would be very familiar with whenever he used that particular facility. What Malakai was expecting was for this petite woman to stumble towards him, as so many others had in the past, no longer adapted with free will and their own compunction, but rather muscles manipulated to move as he wished it- and he wished for her to come to him.
So why was she not moving?
Her hands gripped the edges of the desk, knuckles bleached white with effort. Thighs that were straining beneath that diaphanous fabric to move towards him despite the fact that her feet felt like they were nailed to the floor but not by her hand, nor by any who were present in L’Obscurite that night.
Cielo’s breath caught in her throat, shallow sips of air that were sucked desperately into lungs that were burning with lack of oxygen. There was a struggle going on within this human. But none of it was her doing. None of it, had anything to do with a conscious effort on her part to deny him what was rightfully his.
There was more at play than how it appeared. No human was strong enough to deny the glamor that was this metaphysical power gifted to his kind to allow the feeding upon foolish humanity, who would not even be aware that they were nothing but cattle.
Malakai would observe this struggle and be at a loss to explain it, until there was a gurgling from deep in her throat as though thickly coated with mucous and attempting to breathe through it.
Something was approaching. He could feel it.
There was something else..something….
Slack lips that were parted with an expression of complete imbecility, a sure sign that she was completely under his thrall. Movement at the back of her throat. Cielo dimly aware of two super powers engaged in a monumental struggle using her body to do so and none of it was clear until…
The slick of slime and rot infested her mouth, squirming about it as though alive and as though to taunt at the progeny of that masterful antediluvian, that creature that had survived famine and plague and flood and fire- Augustus- and showed itself to that half breed as a thick globule of blackened ooze, that welled upon crimson lips and dropped from them to land on the floor between her shoes with a plip.
A small drop of something insidiously evil that even now, was held together by the surface tension of a will stronger than Kai’s, and slithered away across the floorboards into the shadows that seemed to now shroud the corners of that room .
She was fighting him though he wasn’t quite sure why. She was human. That should have been enough, if there was still any allure left from the days of old they’d spent together. His jaw hardens but he puts no effort into trying to use that compulsion of his against her.
Instead, he rises to his feet, ensuring that his shirt is wrinkle free by brushing fingertips over its front till it is damn near immaculate. Compulsion was two sides of the same coin. If one wanted what he was trying to force them to do, chances were that it would inevitably work. After all, it lowered inhibitions, made light work of any thoughts that could have persuaded others against suggestions made.
That is, actually, until he takes a few steps toward her. Then he can see the whole picture painted before him. A familiarity rises from the coaxing black ooze dribbling from her throat and into open mouth and as she spits it up and onto the floor, magic twisting around it like the fabric of reality, he hurls a force of meglo-magic in its direction, the wood cracking beneath the pressure but the beast gone before it can ever even reach it. He’s left there watching an innocent, obviously violated, Cielo, eyes slits in perpetual anger, frustration, goddamn seething rage.
Until all of that is shielded behind a wall of momentary concern. He releases his compulsion, crossing that distance left between the two. Hands rise, one reaching for the back of her throat, the other settling against her face, feeling, if anything, for a fever or anything to suggest this is a sickness brought on by the intentions of his father whose magic he felt all throughout the Wages of Consequence war, the reason that his species was despised in the streets and looked down upon on a regular basis now that the city was slowly coming to terms with their most recent losses.
Growth was hard to come by and Malakai had done a fair share of it as of recently himself. If his father was back and he was toying with Cielo as it seemed, his presence in Cielo’s life would inevitably come to a halt in the near future. Unless things changed. Fangs retracted but in that fit of rage, he pushed harder against her than he intended, ripping her right from that desk if she didn’t fight him and into a wall close by it, his body pressing closer than he particularly wished.
Perhaps it was the beast within him that hadn’t fed on her so long that he could still taste her blood at the back of his tongue. Perhaps it was just that carnal reality that she was food or the fear of his father that drove him toward that edge of madness and insanity. Either way, he’s never been forceful with her and this is a promise broken when it comes to whether or not he’d come onto her the way he had promised her he wouldn’t.
“I…” he starts, his voice raspy and borderline empty. “I should probably leave.”
He didn’t want to know the story. Didn’t want to ask how it had infected her.
Cielo’s mind was a haze of misty images, none of which made sense. As with all humans, she would not recall this compulsion, that was the beauty of this artform after all, that they could be fed upon, drained of anything but what was essential for life and left with nothing but a thumping headache, the feeling of a very severe hangover and a weariness that would keep them in their beds for the next few days.
But this- this was different.
She would not recall anything of that event- in the midst of that madness, when a creature of such inherent darkness followed the traces of metadata that at one point had been its prison but was now proving to be the crack through which wicked intent would pour until it found a suitably challenged mind in which to dwell.
And dwell it did like a fat spider enclosed in a web of protection of its own making, and could have happily lay dormant there for many years- unaware to both creature and host- until Malakai had used that compulsion and awakened that ancient malevolence that had corrupted the corpus of that unsuspecting woman.
Realization may come slowly to Malakai that he was the catalyst for its release.
Perhaps if he had just remained civilized about it all.
Perhaps if his ego at being, as he perceived it, disobeyed had relented just this once.
Perhaps he was used to a more compliant and subservient creature than Cielo and had misjudged.
Not once had he ever used that power upon Cielo. They had remained friends and partners and sometimes lovers though that was in the far distant past. It was clear now that his arrogance in doing so had caused an awakening.
Cielo’s last conscious thought was pulling pins from her hair and casting them onto the cluttered surface of her desk. Suddenly, Kai was upon her and as the light of awareness returned to the sloe orbs that were wide with shock at the sudden and violent treatment of her, the bottle of champagne tipping with the force by which he had reached for her and spilling the remnants of what had been a rather pleasant evening across the contents of her desk, there was a flash of anger.
Uncharacteristic anger that did not seem to belong to her.
The ridges of her shoulder blades were forced against the wall. The shock and pain of this brought her completely back to this moment and the injustice of her treatment. She had no memory of the compulsion, the event that had her consuming evil or knowledge of what had passed from her lips.
All there was- was affrontery.
“Not unless you want to.” Those were his words and now he was holding her against the wall as though his intentions were anything but voluntary. hands raise immediately and press against his chest, pushing him away from her. There was no power behind it that wasn’t her own.
It may cause him to stagger a step or two but her voice was what cut through the knowledge of her infection.
“What the hell…KAI!” outraged by such an invasion. To Cielo- this was unnecessary, unwanted and now, raised an ire in her that was both hurt by his treatment and infuriated by it.
“I think you should indeed leave!” her voice raised and shrill with emotion.
His breaths, despite being unneeded, came like billowing wisps, heaving inside him like an animal cornered against the wall, squeezed of its protective instincts and forced into a murderous state to protect themselves rather than anyone they cared for. The one way to get to Malakai was his father, his only weakness aside from what he kept hidden on the average basis. Lots of things could kill him, though he had his father’s and mother’s curse. For all he could know, he could wake up with his father’s soul, his own memories. He was of their blood line and he wanted nothing to do with their curse. If he feared anyone, it was the Abomination that had been set to this planet only weeks prior. Who had yet to realize his son was on planet, making a name for himself among the lowest of the low in Consequence.
His hold against the woman’s face, against her neck, was brief but hard, probably cutting off some air from her passage way as the unsuspecting woman came out of compulsion, having released more power for an entity she could not and would not understand the way Malakai did. But now that it was free, now that it had tasted of Malakai’s magic, his father would know. He would know that Malakai was here in this world and exactly who to confront to ask questions about it. Her eyes were wide, confused, but his own were fierce and malevolent, so strikingly blue and crystal clear that one could see the veins sprouting there within before they ever erupted truly across his facial features.
And then they did. She could see the monster he was, what he kept concealed from her all those months he’d been fooling around with her. She could see what kind of creature he was inside. He had only used that ability because he did not think she would, not when he had basically abandoned her for so long and hunger was an effect that burned at his throat like a wild fire.
He’d have to find someone else.
His charade was broken here and he had never even meant to really feed from her in that moment of force he’d exuded upon her. Cocky was right. He had been but now there was only anger and misplaced judgement. She had allowed that beast inside her. Her blood was tainted. As a toy, she was broken, no longer fit to be played with.
He hated when others played with his things, toyed with his life. He was not pushed back any further than he already was, though he does stagger from one foot to the other, familiar acts given in by his nature to not stand out among humans.
His jawline hardens, his lips twisting in momentary rage and his fist is put through the wall beside her head with a snarl. When had she ever known him to act like this? When had she ever known him to twist with rage when there wasn’t a desire to. Yes. He had pushed her against her will but that was his agenda, so stealthily spent. Time was a commodity and she would forget in time that he had done this. That thing was out of her now. All he had to do was get her alone when she wasn’t around others. Twist her mind to make her forget that this night was anything but enjoyable.
And then he would need to plan his next move. Kill her, take full control of her business, her earnings, take all her current clientele. Perhaps he would buy the businesses around the block, forcing a truce that she’d have to follow. Whatever the case, his hand parts from her face, the other from the goddamn wall and he steps back, deviating from all merciless thoughts running ruthlessly through his mind.
“I’ll be back. You should intend on making payments so we can end our contract. My lawyers will contact you.”
Then he stalks out of the room and is gone.