The gray cigarette smoke floated up into the air, crowning his head like some hazy halo of a fallen angel. But Arik knew that Ciaran was the furthest thing from an angel that had ever been born. With a sigh Arik pushed his glasses up his nose a bit, staring at the slender young man who leaned against the metal railing on top of the hotel roof, looking out across the lit up city. It was night and the Qolian was dressed in black slacks and a mesh shirt that reminded Arik of when Ciaran had tricked to stay alive several years ago. He was chewing on a cigarette; the nicotine burnt down halfway.
He was beginning to annoy Arik.
“You shouldn’t be smoking.”
“Fuck off,” Ciaran replied.
So was Ciaran.
“Are you going to go trick?”
A drag from the cigarette. “Does it matter?”
“It does if you’re going to revert to old habits.”
Ciaran turned around and lounged against the cold metal, his long legs crossed, hips tilted to one side. Kohl rimmed his brilliant green eyes, his generous mouth painted black. Black against pale white flesh. The only color on his frame came from his eyes. He arched a slender brow, lips forming his usual devil may care smile. And like always, it didn’t reach his eyes.
“And are we repeating orders from your master, hm?” Ciaran asked. “Or is this coming out of your own mouth?”
Arik frowned. “They cleaned you of everything that you had been addicted to, Ciaran. Don’t make the same mistake twice. They don’t appreciate failure.”
“Sounds like you’ve had experience with that.” Ciaran tilted his head. “Have you ever failed, Arik?”
Ciaran chuckled softly. “No. I don’t believe you have.” Putting his cigarette to his mouth he finished it in four deep drags before sending the filter spinning over the edge into the night. Pushing himself straight he walked over to Arik and came to a stop so close to him that their noses very nearly touched. Blue eyes met green and Ciaran leaned forward until his lips brushed over Arik’s softly. “You’re not perfect, Arik. One of these days you’ll fail. And when you do, I’ll be there to watch.”
He traced Arik’s lips with his tongue once before walking past him. Arik turned slightly and watched as the door closed behind him. His own tongue flickered out to lick his lips, tasting the saliva; the faint trace of nicotine and the flavor that was solely Ciaran’s. Grimacing he bit down on his bottom lip until it bled, the coppery taste of blood washing away the taste of the Qolian.
“I’m already failing, Ciaran,” he whispered softly. “And you’re already here.”
The line for the club XtaC stretched around the block and overlapped. It catered to those from the streets to A-list stars and blue-blood families. Everyone wanted in, few were admitted. There was a subculture that you were expected to know to be able to gain entrance. Many hopefuls were turned away nightly, much to their disappointment, anger, and humiliation. One such group was arguing with the half dozen bouncers who guarded the front door when the young man glided up in long legs and leather.
“Excuse me,” came the cool voice, cutting through the shrill protests of the group. “I’d like to go in.”
The people in the front of the line started to shout and demand that he move to the back. The bouncers, however, had a different idea.
The tall, burly man jerked his head at the door. “Fee is seventy-five. You pay inside.”
“I’ll pay if I want to,” came the cool reply as the man moved past them, ignoring the angry shouts and protests from those in the line. One of the bouncers opened the door for him, giving him a slight smile.
“Oh, I think I will.”
The door shut behind him and Ciaran’s eyes adjusted to the slightly crowded, small lobby. A woman wearing a leather leotard, fishnet stockings, and stilettos eyed him with curious eyes. “Aren’t you a bit young?” she asked.
Ciaran smiled easily as her eyes took on a distant look. “I’ve never been young.”
He moved past her with indifference, chuckling once he had passed through the second set of doors into the actual club scene. Loud music assaulted his ears and he drank in the atmosphere hungrily. It had been so long since he had been to a place like this and his body ached for the beat that it had been missing while he acquired the silence. Moving into the crowd he headed for one of the two bars set against a wall, intending to get a drink and someone to either dance with or fuck. Either would do fine and it didn’t matter what sex they were.
He passed a group of college boys who were chugging shots of vodka and drinking beer. As he passed by the table a hand shot out and snagged his wrist, halting him in mid-stride. “Hey, beautiful,” one of the boys said. “What’s the rush?”
Ciaran turned slightly and cocked a hand on his hip. “I’m in no rush,” he said calmly.
The older youth smiled at him, eyes bright from too much alcohol. “Good. Why don’t you join us?”
“Some other time.”
The hand on his wrist tightened. “Now’s perfectly fine.”
Ciaran was gone before the boy realized he was holding empty air, disappearing into the crowd with an easy grace. It was strange how simple it was to slip back into old mannerisms, to revert to old habits.
“Martini,” he called out from the counter, catching the bartender’s attention with ease. He was served fairly quickly, earning annoyed glances from other patrons. He ignored them and took a sip of the drink, turning around to scan the strobe lit crowd. People who tricked, people who bought, people who were addicted, and those few who were looking to belong only to be sucked into the underground without wearing, never to leave again.
Ciaran smiled mockingly and took another sip.
He was startled for a moment at his own thoughts. It had been years since he had thought about the pretty, haunted, eighteen-year old woman who had kept him sane for so many years the only way she knew how before he had finally found his true escape. His fingers of his right hand danced over the inside of his left arm, tracing the needle tracks up the many veins.
Too many years in the underground.
He was free now and still looking for an escape.
His teeth scraped against the glass with a shiver and he finished his drink in three gulps, leaving the olives untouched. Setting the glass down he would have moved on except a body slung itself onto the stool beside him. “You’re new,” a flat voice said.
Ciaran slid his eyes over to the youth who was lounging seductively on the stool. Brown hair fell over empty brown eyes in a too thin face. Ciaran studied him for a moment. Thin from addiction, bruised from sex, dead from life. Ciaran saw himself in there in the boy’s place easily.
“I don’t intend to stay.”
“Then why are you here in the first place?”
The youth rolled his eyes. “Nothing’s funny down here.”
He gave Ciaran an odd look. “So you trick?”
“In a way.”
“You either do or you don’t. There is no middle ground.”
Ciaran smiled and the boy flinched away. “I make my own middle ground.”
“Fucking insane,” the boy muttered before he got up and left.
Ciaran chuckled softly. “You have no idea.”
He turned his head to look at the man who had spoken to him. Blonde hair, blue eyes, he reminded Ciaran of Arik. Reminded him of what he lusted after but could not have. Look but don’t touch. Don’t get involved. Rules of the trade that Liebe had taught him years ago.
Ciaran arched an eyebrow. “Have a problem with that?”
The man shook his head. “No. I’m just curious as to why someone like you is amused in a place like this.”
“Because I can be.”
The man smiled slightly and took a sip of his beer. “I see.”
Ciaran tilted his head. “Want to dance?”
The man studied him for a long moment before putting down his mug. “Why not?”
He reached out and grabbed Ciaran’s wrist, leading him into the crush of bodies on the dance floor. Ciaran was pulled up against his lean body and he wrapped his arms around the man’s neck, molding himself to him. The man slid his hands down Ciaran’s back till they cupped his ass, pulling him hard against his hips.
“What’s your name?” the man asked as they began to move.
“I have no name.”
“Then what do you call yourself?”
Ciaran grinned up at him seductively. “Questions are for those who want to die. Ignorance is your bliss. Leave it at that.”
And then he kissed him with all the skill that he had. The man groaned and dug his fingers into the flesh of Ciaran’s ass, thrusting up against him. Ciaran smiled against the man’s lips, eyes closing as he gave himself up to the music and moved to a beat that had claimed him years earlier.