Chapter 2

Ecstasy on an empty stomach

The cold bite of the night air was intoxicating, it seeped into and burned Saint's lungs as he lit a cigarette to cut the edge. He grinned, the sparks lifting into the air, carried across the street towards a pair of soft-soled sandals. A girl in a cropped tutu and purple fairy wings darted with a man in expanded plaid pants towards a squared off building surrounded by barbed wire and chain linked fencing.

All down the street people had started to immerge, cars parked as far as the eye could see. Each of the runners was dressed in a costume more extravagant and odd than the last. His gaze slid over the pinpoints of glow sticks, marking the travelers as they converged at the entrance of the large building, milling in the parking lot. He let the smoke from his cigarette curl past his lips, blowing it towards the heavens. Despite the people dotting the area it seemed deserted and hollow, the only noise besides hushed voices was a steady thumping beat. It resonated in Saints chest, pounding against his ribs matching his heart.

He took another long drag before dropping the half finished cigarette on the ground, crushing it under his heavy boot. Creeping out from a stairwell he made his way across the street. Hopping up onto the curb Saint passed a pair of scalpers, offering fifty dollar tickets to those who hadn't the sense to buy them earlier.

Pulling his wallet from his jacket pocket he flipped it open, bypassing fake ID's. He ran his tongue over his lips, spitting on the curb. Taking the metal stairs two at a time he slid past loitering guests, smiles painted on their faces.

Cigarette smoke replaced by that from a fog machine he felt the stiffness in his lungs as they filled with the thick smog. It was more of a dampening choke than the cigarette. Falling in line with the rest of the men in the cattle hold he let the security guards pat him down, his ticket held between his teeth.

The event, as they had been so amply named to draw attention from the fact that they were indeed a rave, had started hours earlier. Saint, as usual, had sent Ignatius ahead of him to babysit. He dropped his arms at his sides, the rough hands of the security guard sliding down his sides and patting up his thighs. He regarded the man with disinterest, a plush toy clutched in one hand.

It was ripped from his grip and examined. "What's this?"

"A toy." Saint's tone was even, flat. He held his hands out for it. "Don't hurt him." He made a grasping motion and the toy was returned to him. Tucking it under one arm he moved to the counter leaving the guard. He placed his ID and his ticket down, offering his wrist for the brilliant orange band.

Replacing the wallet in his pocket he exchanged it for a cell phone, flipping it open to click through the few contacts, finding Ignatius' name. Before he could finish a halfhearted demand for him to appear a hand closed around his shoulder. "Present and accounted for Boss." He wheezed, voice barely rising above the heavy pound of base and hum of the lights in the vendors room.

"Fuck-" Saint whipped around, his phone pointed directly into Ignatius' face in surprise. "Don't sneak up on me." He growled low, his shoulders raised and tense, heart still thudding, double timing the music.

"I'm sorry you're so jumpy, Saintly." He drawled, his movements slow, tilting his head to one side, watching the other man with one eye trained on him. "Forgive me."

"Like I have a choice. Where's the kid?" He clicked his phone shut, pressing it into his pocket with the rest of his survival items.

"The bathroom. Par usual. Last stall on the left." He murmured, causing Saint to lean in to hear him. Ignatius watched him with lazy, half lidded eyes. A sleazy grin spread across his lips, white teeth catching the light.

"Thanks." Saint brushed him off, pushing past him, moving down the hall. His hand caught the rounded bottom of a girl standing in his way. "Pardon me." He chuckled.

"No problem." She chirped, greeting him with a broad smile and sparkling eyes.

"I couldn't help myself, the stars." His thumbs ran over twin rainbow tattoos running over the curve of her skin.

Saint found that things generally went more in his favour when the people he greeted were high out of their minds. Everyone wanted to touch everything, and so when the urge struck him, he was more inclined to go with it.

A few paces away was the door to the bathroom, a long counter with half a dozen sinks, water fountain, soap and sanitizer and of course the stalls. Behind the last beaten and rusted door stood a young man, shivering. He leaned against the wall, the toilet paper holder digging into his thin lower back. He wrung one hand over the other, fingers sliding over the bones of his hand, waiting.

His breath caught in his throat as the door was pushed open, heart hammering. "Saint," He said in relief. "God damnit-be on time." He whined, black and orange hair falling over his eyes. "This would work a lot better if the people weren't already high by the time you got here."

"I got held up. So shoot me." Saint grunted, digging his fingers under the loose stitching of the stuffed toys head, ripping it off. He pulled out a small bag of green pills and tossed them into the boys fumbling hands. "Convince them they're not high enough, I don't give a fuck what you do, just try and unload that. I need to talk to the host about expenses." He turned on his heel, dropping the dismembered plush in the trash bin.

The boy clutched the bag to his chest, letting out a breath of relief.

"Such a little bitch isn't he?"

He slammed into the wall, the dispenser digging into and under his ribs through a thin band T. "I-Ignatius." He stammered, his fingers clawing at his chest trying to still his heart.

"Xerxes." He chuckled, panting through the smoke. "I don't know why I scare you so."

Xerxes looked up to the top of the stall where Ignatius had climbed, leaning over with his elbows against the divider. "If you didn't crawl out of the woodwork-you could do me the favor of at least coming at me like a normal person."

Ignatius dropped out of sight and slunk around the edge of the stall to stand in front of the boy. He took a step forward, Xerxes took a step back. "Is this better?"

He shook his head quickly. "Uh-I have to, Saint wants me to, you know, pedal some merchandise." He tried to move around the tall man without touching him. An arm shot out and hit the wall, blocking his path, making his hair stand on end. He jumped back at the loud noise. "C-come on man." He chuckled weakly, looking up. "What do you want from me?"

The smile he received sent chills down his spine, his stomach twisted making regret the question. "You know, on second thought, never mind." He tried to duck under his arm, skin crawling when Ignatius' large hand splayed across his chest pushing him back.

"Saint's gunna be pissed-" He stumbled backwards, jerking away from Ignatius as he stepped forward, towering over Xerxes. He grabbed the back of the toilet, legs straddling the seat, pressed back as far as he could away from the man.

"Forget Saint." Ignatius wheezed, leaning over uncomfortably close. "There will come a time when you will have to choose your loyalties. I truly, truly hope that you pick them wisely, little Xerxes." His thin fingers closed around the boys chin, ignoring the trembles that spread up his thin body. "Keep in mind, you have six months until he loses a use for you."

He flinched, eyes darting anywhere but the man in front of him. "He'll find a new one-" His heart pounded, careful of crushing the pills in the bag. Not sure who he was more afraid of, Ignatius or Saint.

"No. He won't. And you know a lot." His thumb slid along Xerxes cheek. Tilting his head up, forcing his violet eyes to meet his own neon green. He watched the boys pupils shrink and chuckled, loving and basking in the control that was so similar to the hold he had on Saint. Though it was far more muted with the other man.

After a moment waiting in the uncomfortable silence he chuckled and raised an eyebrow. "When Saint finds someone new, someone who will last for a year or two…" His lips parted, the sleazy smile returning to his face. "Perhaps, I could find a use for you." His tone dropped.

He started, jerking his head back, cracking the back of it against the cement wall. "I-I don't like dudes-especially not you." He yelped, wincing as his head swam.

"Oh I hate how your mind jumps there. It used to be so innocent." Ignatius tutted softly. "That's not exactly what I was thinking… and who ever said I was a fag?" He laughed. "No, no that's just Saint. But… if you're offering." His sleazy grin turned wicked. "A mouth's a mouth."

"Is there a problem here boys?" Xerxes knees buckled with relief, shoving past Ignatius to slip behind the security guard.

"No, no there isn't. I'm sorry." Ignatius slowly turned around, his smile sickly sweet. "Just a simple discussion with my friend."

"Good, clear out you two, bathroom stalls aren't for discussions and there are people waiting." He shoved his thumb in the direction of the door.

Xerxes darted out of Ignatius' heavy gaze, moving down a crowded hallway to a staircase tucked away out of sight to the second room. He wasn't about to risk being caught in the open again. Not even Ignatius would try something with so many people around-or at least in the sight of the sober DJ's.

He gripped the railing, squeezing past couples and groups who chose to talk in the quieter area between rooms. The stairwell was barely big enough for two people to pass, but the skinny teenager was able to navigate into a smaller smokier environment.

Green lasers cut through the smoke, breaking patterns into the wall and floor, bouncing off reflective tape on oversized pants and contouring half naked bodies. Xerxes tucked his hands into his pockets, trying not to cough. Once he started coughing, he found it was hard to stop.

Pulling his hair back, Xerxes slicked it, exposing a black star tattoo printed behind his oddly mutilated ears. Three rings went down the center skin, holding it together and keeping the tips in points. With his hair held back by sweat and gel he moved into the crowd, standing in the line of lights that Saint had set up for him and his other companions.

His violet eyes scanned the first floor through a dim dirty window that took up an entire wall of the smaller room. Every once in a while he caught the flicker and glitter of another black star tattoo. When the ink caught the black light it fluoresced and glowed, a beacon to the partygoers.

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Across the expanse of dancers on the opposite side to the second room stood Saint, his arms folded over his chest, leaning against the table the DJ was set up on. His eyes were trained on the dark window, watching the bursts of light from the lasers catching colour.

He waited, finally calming when the purple-blue star flashed on a silhouetted figure. He looked across the floor, counting and finding all three in the crowd. With a satisfied nod he unfolded his right hand from the left, the black star on the back of his hand lighting up brilliantly.

After losing money the week before the group needed the paycheck this event would bring, and Saint was glad that, for a change, the entire crew had showed up to work the room in their own special and tailored way.

Behind him rainbow lights lit up in synchronized patterns to the music, casting shadows over the people before him. He pulled off his jacket, laying it across the table, fumbling in one of the pockets to pull out a cigarette.

He flicked open his lighter and brought both it and the smoke to his lips. Saint promised himself not to make a bad habit of it, but after running into Ignatius, he felt he'd reward himself.

Lighting the cigarette Saint added another point of light to the display. He let the cigarette smoke mingle with that of the smog machines on either side of the stage that pumped a steady stream over the edge of the stage.

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Swaying with the music Xerxes waited, his eyes half closed and trained on the floor. His arms shook, but it didn't take long before people were brushing up alongside him. Money exchanged hands and he fell into the routine he had become used to.

Security never made it onto the dance floor, and from delicately chosen locations Saint made sure that no one would become wise to what was going on. Not that it took more than a couple bills to convince said security that nothing of interest was going on.

His stomach ached steadily, the feeling having spread up to just below his ribcage. He closed his eyes, wincing, placing a hand over his abdomen. He bent over slightly, making his way off the dance floor he leaned against the wall.

Xerxes tossed the half filled bag of pills up and down on his palm. With a little less than half a bag left and a handful of bills in his pocket he let out a breath he weighed his options. "He'd never notice one or two… I'll just up the price a bit… or something." His stomach growled, the solid pain making him wince.

Undoing the twist tie he pinched two tablets between his fingers, dropping them onto his palm. "Ugh, he's gunna skin me if he finds out." He closed his eyes and shook his head, metal rings jangling in his ears. "Don't care." Without a second thought he popped the tablets in his mouth, pushing them against his teeth with his tongue. He crushed them, grinding his front teeth together ignoring the taste before swallowing hard. "Mph." He ran his tongue around the edge of his mouth, shuddering. "Ugh."

He placed his back against the wall, sliding down, to wait. He counted, at first the seconds, then the minutes, wanting his body to crash hard and fast into the drug. On an empty stomach he knew it would do the job. He drew his legs up to his stomach and sighed, his arms closing around his knees.

People danced in the center floor, they'd never notice the boy in the corner, sitting near the stage tucked out of sight, even if they were sober. And as Ignatius implied, they'd never miss him.