When Wufei returned, there was a battered army surplus duffel bag waiting
for him on the landing. She stood in the doorway, watching him as he
climbed the stairs. Her expression was firm, though her eyes shown when he
looked up to meet the, -- she was wearing her new shoes, and the three inch
black stilettos gave her the advantage of height. Make-up hid the rings
under her eyes and evened out skin blotchy from crying.
She'd made her own illusion to get herself through this, he saw; she'd made
herself taller, and covered the signs of stress on her face. He could smell
red wine on her. It would have matched the brave flush in her cheeks and
the nail polish she wore. Unlike a magic glamour, this one didn't dissolve
when he recognized it; instead, it became tawdry and unsatisfying.
"Take your shit and go," she told him without preamble. If she had done
this a month ago, he might have been able to respect her.
"If that's what you want?" he asked, arching one eyebrow.
She laughed. It was an ugly sound. "You never cared what I wanted before.
Don't start now."
He bowed mockingly and scooped up the duffel bag. Everything he owned in
the world was in it, he was sure, but it wasn't even half full. By the time
he straightened, she had ducked inside, not quite slamming the door behind
her. He could picture her leaning against the wall on the other side, ready
to break after the effort of working her own kind of spell to get rid of
him. Or maybe she was watching through the spy hole. Snorting at the
thought, he turned and walked away.
He'd been kicked out before. This one hadn't cried or screamed, which put
her in the minority. Most of them did. They cursed him, or they attacked
him with words, or they pleaded with him even at the end. One had pulled a
gun on him. He remembered them, mascara smeared and eyes puffy with tears.
Before that, he remembered them pale and thin as they wasted away.
When his powers had been sealed, he had thought that his geis had been as
well. He had hoped it had been. Even when it became clear than his nature
was not altered by the ban, he had believed that without the glamour which
had compelled them, the pattern would be broken.
When one woman fell for him, it was sad. The second was a coincidence. The
His mind drifted through the blurred string of faces as he walked. With
nowhere to go, he let his feet lead him through the wet streets. He nodded
an absent greeting to a girl as she jogged past him, not seeing her at all.
She flashed him a wide smile, and the smile was the same as others.
I thought it might be justice, Wufei recalled harshly. I was a
He had been lying to himself then. He'd wanted to see some grace in his
fall. Deluded and aching, he'd almost believed it.
The air around him grew dimmer, and the flicker of sodium streetlights
picked out a sputtering, inconstant rain. It soaked his hair and trickled
down the back of his neck. There was no sunset, just a deepening grey
gloom. The sky, the grass, the pavement, all blended into a monochrome
sweep. A green walk signal looked vibrant by comparison, and the traffic
light switching from amber to red.
Glancing at the cars crowded up to the crosswalk, Wufei crossed the road.
He tried not to think of Meilan, but the paths were too well worn in his
mind. His thoughts went that direction like water running to storm drains.
The shape he had been trapped in was the one he'd used in his attempt to
seduce her. He almost smiled at the memory of her reaction to it; she had
been less than suitably impressed. The urge died, though, as it always did
when he remembered her. In the end, she had glowed like a candle, growing
brighter and thinner until suddenly she sputtered out.
Spotting a familiar neon sign, Wufei ducked out of the weather. Music and
smoke rolled over him in a bitter, impersonal greeting as he shook off his
memories along with the rain. Choosing a booth at random, he dropped into
the seat, tucking his duffel under the table.
The bar wasn't too busy yet, the first of the after work crowd just starting
to trickle in. The waitress came by and Wufei ordered gin, to which the
woman made a light jibe about pine scented air fresheners before walking
off. She cast a glance over her shoulder as she left, making a show of
seeing his bag and dripping hair. The sidhe took in her observation
stoically. A moment later, the waitress returned with his gin. When she
turned to go, she held her tray behind her and waved it just a little, the
motion drawing attention to the lower curve of her hips.
Wufei closed his eyes. It was already starting; it had never stopped.
He traced the rim of the glass idly, not drinking immediately. The shaded
lights cast hazy reflections on the liquid. Backlit, all he could make out
of his own face was a wavering outline and the impression of severe black
hair, the rounded corner of his jaw tapering in to his chin.
It wasn't long before more customers came in, by ones and twos, or in loud
groups. At some point a band appeared, folksy and local, fronted by a man
with fast hands playing the congas. Most of the crowd ignored them. The
sound of their conversation was louder than the music.
"Need anything else?" the waitress asked at some point.
Wufei just shook his head, still nursing his second glass. She touched his
hand briefly before she left again. Her hands were soft, the fingers long,
narrow and feminine.
"Just call if you do."
"I'll keep that in mind," he said and watched her leave. She would take him
home, he knew, if he told her he had no place to go. She'd get that look in
her eye, tell him it was only temporary, then take him back to her
apartment. Maybe she'd make the pretense of setting him up on the couch, or
maybe she wouldn't bother with that. He thought it would be the latter.
Disgust simmered in the back of his mind, and he wasn't even sure if it was
for the waitress or himself. Smothering the feeling, he finished his gin in
a single long swallow that burnt his throat all the way down. The warmth of
the alcohol spread through his chest and into his empty stomach.
One girl or another, it didn't make a difference. One bed to sleep in, one
couch, one body laying still next to him. It was all the same. He cradled
the empty glass in his hands for a long time before he ordered another.
The waitress reappeared, smiling gently as she set down his third drink.
"So, kid," she said, "what's the story? Did your girlfriend kick you out?"
Cocking his head to one side, Wufei looked up at her. "Are you supposed to
be my Psychic Friend?
"No," the woman told him, laughing. "I've just seen it before. Do you want
to talk about it?"
"Not particularly. Let's talk about something else instead."
"What did you have in mind?"
"What time you get off," he suggested, smirking humorlessly.
_____ _____ _____
Mark had the best theater system, which made his house the natural choice
for watching the movies Cam rented. The big, flat screen television
certainly dwarfed Quatre's own twenty-four inch at home. Tall speakers
flanked the entertainment center like honor guards watching over those neat
lights and gauges. The man had probably mortgaged his soul to afford the
set up, but explosions shook the furniture and every spaceships or monsters
reared up on screen in nearly larger than life detail.
Traditionally Cam picked out the worst movies she could find, and tonight
she had outdone herself. As close as Quatre could tell, the last one had
been about some kind of flesh eating mermaid who had terrorized a ship
transporting her to a sideshow, and who'd formed some kind of connection
with only woman onboard... apparently, this had something to do with the way
mermaids reproduced. He'd stopped looking for a plot after the first twenty
minutes. Mark snickered at both actress's and mermaid's performances, and
one of the Nicks had made a comment about the actress's boyfriend not
appreciating the threeway action when she started channeling the mermaid
during a sex scene. Meredyth wondered aloud about the logistics of one
woman sailing the ship into port after the entire crew had been killed. In
general, it was standard Tuesday night fare.
"I can't believe I watched that," the other Nick said, chuckling as the
credits scrolled past. "I actually want my two hours back."
"I'm more interested in my braincells," the first Nick retorted. "I feel
stupider for having watched it."
Cam did her best evil laugh, falling somewhat short of evil stepmother, then
prodded Mark with her foot. "Put in the other one."
"The other one?" asked Quatre out of habit. "Dear god, there's more?"
"Of course there's more," the girl assured him, shooting him a smile. Her
teeth were unnaturally straight from the braces she'd worn through college.
She kicked Mark again, and he stood.
Picking up the other movie, he eyed the title dubiously. "Blood and
Meredyth groaned at the mention of blood in the title, a habit she'd picked
up when Cam had inflicted The Bleeders on them months before. Quatre could
hardly blame her -- a movie that could combine a drunk Rutger Houer with
cannibalism, incest, and hermaphrodites was justifiably traumatic.
"Vampire movie?" The Nicks both brightened at the prospect.
"This is not a good thing!" Meredyth protested while Cam goaded Mark to put
the damn disk in already.
The movie started with the vampire waking up because the bag he was sleeping
in was struck by a golf ball. No one even bothered making a joke at that;
they just laughed. Quatre smiled with them, listening as they began tearing
into it. The vampire (the most attractive man within budget, Cam jibed,
taking a sip of her beer) was pitted against a small Toronto crime
syndicate, based out of a bowling alley.
"Someone actually made this?" the Seelie asked no one in particular as the
vampire punched through a wall to catch a rat, then claimed to be an
"I know. It's hard to believe, man," a Nick told him sympathetically.
Quatre heard him, and said something in response automatically. He didn't
even know what the words had been once they left his mouth. Nick laughed
and nodded an agreement to whatever it had been.
His friends continued to joke, loud and human. Trowa's quiet came to mind
unbidden; the way the faerie musician had moved and spoke, smooth where
mortals were rough, contrasted sharply with the scene playing out before
him. The differences reared up like the old battle standards Quatre
preferred to believe he'd forgotten.
He tried to push aside the memory nearly as soon as it sprang up, but it
would not be banished completely. Trowa still carried himself with the
dignity that had always marked him. Beat him, break him, strip him of
everything, and he could still give you that look, like there was something
in him beyond your power to touch. Quatre had seen him at his lowest, when
Treize had ordered his Knights to smash the flautist's hands. It had taken
years for him to regain the dexterity to play again...
"What the hell is going on?" Meredyth asked, breaking Quatre's disobedient
train of thought. He focused on the movie, and then blinked in confusion.
The film cut between the vampire taking a bath, and the lead actress gasping
and arching in the throes of some dream, which it seemed the vampire was
"I have no idea," he told her honestly.
"He has a thing for girls who don't pluck their eyebrows," Mark explained,
giving the actress a pointed look, then shrugged. "Different strokes."
"Don't give him ideas, please," one of the Nicks muttered while the other
shook his head and said, "How about next week we rent good movies. Just for
"Shut up," Cam commanded. "The taxi-driver guy is coming back."
"So, I want to see what he's gonna do--"
"Because it might be of great importance to the nonexistent plot?" Meredyth
interrupted, rolling her eyes and pushing her rusty bangs out of her face.
Quatre frowned as her fingers brushed her forehead. The itch to use his
Sight struck him unexpectedly, despite the loss of his power. Fate pressed
in, laying heavy on him for just an instant. The feeling rose like nausea,
barely under his control. Then, as quickly as it came on him, it vanished.
"It's not that bad," Cam raised her voice in Blood and Donuts'
defense, and Quatre realized he'd missed part of the conversation. Shaking
off the tingle that still charged the air, Quatre picked up the threads of
his friend's talk.
"At least there are no narcissistic hermaphrodites."
Mark sighed. "Saying a movie is better than The Bleeders is like saying a
shot to the nuts doesn't hurt as much as a shot to the nuts with cleats.
It's probably true, but it's not fuckin' saying a lot."
Quatre snorted at the example, and one of the Nick's agreed while the other
fought not to spit out his beer. Throwing her hands up, Meredyth said she
was renting the movies next week, period, which Cam protested vocally, and
things fell back into their usual Tuesday night routine. The vampire got
the girl, saved the taxi-driver, defeated the mob, and decided to kill
himself on the trunk of a car. There was an old woman thrown in there, the
vampire's ex from thirty years or so before, demanding to be turned into a
vampire as well, and some pseudo-philosophical bullshit about the moon.
"A suicidal vampire?"
"Why, oh, why couldn't he have killed himself two hours ago?"
"Because this movie was made by the devil."
"This movie is the devil."
"She's right. It's the only reasonable explanation."
Knowing his part, Quatre added a line when it was his turn. The familiar
role helped him forget the older, more atrophied instinct that had come over
him during the move, and he fell into the steps with an ease perfected
through years of practice. "Alright," he said on cue. "I'll see you kids
"Later Quat!" they chorused as he stepped out into the rain.
_____ _____ _____
Heero woke all at once to a sharp beak probing his scalp, tugging roughly at
his hair. Jerking away from the cause of the discomfort, he found himself
looking straight into a pair of beady black eyes. The elf blinked slowly
and smoothed his hair ineffectually with one hand. The bird cocked his head
to one side as though to say, "It was like that when I found it."
He shot Duo a glare as he straightened, stretching his back and shoulders
with deliberate care. Duo looked away, fluffing his feathers nonchalantly.
"Did you wake me up for a reason?" Heero asked after a moment of being
The crow's head swiveled back his direction, bobbing incredulously, then he
gestured toward the window with a broad sweep of his beak. Heero followed
the motion. Through the window, he could see the blank brick face of an old
building, red pocked black and white. The glass was dirty, mildewed in the
lower corners and, and rain streaked.
Then Heero noticed that it wasn't raining. Leaning forward, he looked up at
the sky. It was a uniform slate blue-grey, like a wash of watercolor.
Turning back, Duo met his eye and gaped a quick grin at him. "If you're
gonna pull us both out anyway, might as well take advantage of the weather,"
Heero thought, Duo's voice shading the words. "Besides, you slept long
"I guess you're right," Heero allowed, reaching automatically for a
cigarette. Duo cawed a half hearted protest, making his opinion of the
habit abundantly clear as he continued to click and croak. The sounds
filled the interior of the van. Heero rolled his eyes, lighting a match
from the book in his pocket. "Yeah, whatever. Are you ready to go?"
The crow paused a moment before nodding emphatically. Heero could almost
see Duo in his mind's eye, the human form he hadn't worn in so long drawn
into an exaggerated mask of long suffering patience. Blue eyes, pointed
nose, and wide, mobile mouth, his braid snaking over one shoulder while the
hair framing his face stirred slightly with or without the aid of a breeze.
Shaking his head, Heero levered himself off the seat, out the driver's side
door -- the only one which still opened -- and into the rain soaked morning
outside. The still air smelled fresh, and the ground was spongy under his
feet. He heard Duo take off a moment before the air moved by his ear as the
crow settled on his shoulder.
"I don't suppose you have a place in mind?" Heero asked, taking a drag off
Striking a thoughtful pose, the UnSeelie made a show of considering. When
he'd had enough of the game, he gave another nod, this one short and
purposeful. "Yeah, I think I do." Then he leapt from his perch on Heero's
shoulder, wings beating the air in heavy strokes. The elf shook his head
and followed after.
_____ _____ _____
Sleep didn't find Wufei in the waitress's bed. The street sounds that
drifted up through her slightly opened window weren't the ones he was used
to. The sheets were flannel instead of jersey, a different texture against
his skin. The animal scents of sweat and sex clung to him, clogging his
nose and clouding his sleepy thoughts. The woman lay pressed against his
back, breath tickling his neck, breasts moving in the same steady rhythm.
Her arm was draped over his hip, where it made a warm, gentle weight.
She sighed, gave him a squeeze, then pushed herself away as she woke up. He
could feel her smile over his shoulder. "Good morning," she said, her voice
rough. "Sleep well?"
He made a noncommittal noise in his throat, and she laughed. "Not a morning
person, sweety? Don't worry. I'll make some coffee. Later on, we'll see
if we can't get you sorted out. What do you say to that?"
The bedsprings groaned as she stood. Her bare feet thudded softly on the
carpet as she began moving around. He tracked her footsteps to the chair
her robe hung on, then out the door. Her voice rose and fell as she spoke,
belatedly asking if he had a job, if he had anyone he needed to call, or had
any friends in the area.
Wufei closed his eyes, turned his face into the pillow, and stopped