Warning: Contains cursing and some teenage emo. Also some perversion as I attempt to characterize a Real Boy.
"I'm telling you, Sky, the chicks at this place are so hot!" Dennis threw an arm over his best friend's shoulder, gesturing flamboyantly and generally drawing a lot of attention to the two young men slumped against the wall near the front of the line. His friend winced, glared, and they projected a lugubrious stare at the usher, looming at the very front of the line. The line, by the way, was to a club. Dennis had finally succeeded in dragging Michael out of his ex-girlfriend's basement to go to a club, get drunk, and pick up girls. Mostly because Michael was nothing if not lonely, and as much fun as Cass was, she'd told him on no uncertain terms that it was time he moved on before her boyfriend pounded his face in.
"Like, unbelievably hot," Dennis continued cheerfully. "See that girl over there? Nothing. She's small potatoes compared to some of these chicks. I think they're let in based on how hot they are. Cause they are more hot than you'd believe."
"Sure," Michael drawled, shuffling closer automatically as someone was let into the building. "But if they let you in…"
Dennis gave him an incredulous look, gesturing to himself as only one with a very inflated opinion of the object of gesturing can do. "Dude, the chicks dig this." Whether that meant Dennis himself or the leather he'd embalmed himself in, Michael had no idea. He rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, sure." He craned his neck around the small mach truck posing as a black guy in front of him and made a face. "Dennis, we are never getting in there. Can't we go somewhere else?"
"You want to go somewhere else dressed like that?" Dennis pointed out with a smirk, and Michael was forced to groan at the remembrance of what he had successfully forgotten. It had been Cass's idea (although Dennis certainly hadn't helped any); getting dressed up in what she dubbed 'club wear'. His wasn't even leather. To be honest, he didn't know what it was, except that fur had been involved. He didn't want to think about it.
"We could go change first," Michael offered. Dennis snickered and Michael tried not to look like he was shivering too obviously. "Besides, it's frickin' cold out here."
"True that," Dennis replied cheerfully, and Michael was about to respond with something about how perhaps a large, concealing coat could be procured when his friend let out a wild whoop and seized Michael's wrist in a big, gloved hand, dragging him forward. "That's us! That's us! Sky, c'mon!!" He called loudly, grinning at the other line-goers, who seemed to be caught between relieved that the noisy presence would be gone, or irritation that he had gotten in first. Michael almost hoped it wasn't them and that Dennis was making a fool of himself for no reason, but the usher did let them through and Michael found himself hastily deserted, blinking against the soupy dark and feeling his eardrums slowly dissolving. He didn't know where the fuck Dennis had gone.
It was too loud to actually risk calling his friend—plus Michael had manly pride somewhere—so he walked briskly in the direction he thought the sound was coming from, catching faces in the flickering light and only bumping into someone obviously twice, because he had a hand out in front of him. Finally the rush of people was gone and Michael was sure that was a good thing until he ran face-first into a wall. He cupped his nose, eyes watering, and hoped dearly that somewhere in the club had a light source, because he couldn't seem to find one.
Whatever he grumbled to himself was swallowed up by the music, pounding even in whatever waiting area he'd gotten trapped in, and he dropped his hands quickly, putting them against the wall and inching forward, which became totally unnecessary because his eyes were getting used to the dark and because he found a light source in the door he presumed to be looking for. Beyond it lay an enormous circular stage surrounded by a sea of flailing people, multicolored lights blazing off of everyone and everything. There were balconies higher up with more of the dancing people, bars around the edges, and a big glittery thing suspended in the air that might have once been a disco ball. Michael didn't make it a habit of going to clubs, but even he could tell it was impressive. He even felt slightly excited. Slightly.
He nodded politely at the hulking slab of muscle he presumed to be a bouncer and stepped through, head spinning a little as he glanced around. It packed still more of a wallop inside, because something about the walls magnified and clarified the music, the lights were playing on him also, and the sea of people dressed like movie stars was flowing around him and making him dizzy. He spotted Dennis then, waving at him, swore to kill him, and approached.
Dennis had a drink in each hand and won back some favor by passing one to Michael. "Sky!" He managed to shout over the roar of the club, and then gestured at one of the two girls he had with him. "Denise!" He burst out laughing then, apparently thinking this was funny. Michael nodded at the girl, reluctantly admitting to himself that Dennis had been right. She was sexy. "And this is Carol!" This girl was a little less pretty than the first, mostly because she was being compared to the first, but she stuck out her hand to be shaken, and Michael complied.
"Didn't know you had such hot friends," Carol commented, making it sound completely casual that she was screaming her head off.
"Don't make me jealous," Dennis warned, and laughed again, getting her to laugh to. He raised his glass, toasting to something Michael couldn't hear but was perfectly happy to throw back a shot to. It was good alcohol, with just the right amount of burn, flooding warmly through his mouth. When Michael's eyes opened again he found himself smiling at Carol, who happily smiled back.
"Come here often, stranger?" She asked, leaning closer than she had to . Michael caught a whiff of her perfume, something cool and sweet at once. At least he thought it was hers—it was hard to tell.
"First time," he admitted, and Carol raised an eyebrow.
"To first times," she purred, and took a sip of her drink as Michael took a fortifying gulp of his own. That was probably supposed to be witty and seductive and whatnot, but as it was, he was stricken with a sudden longing for Cass's couch, frizzy blonde hair in his face instead of straightened brown, video game controllers instead of booze in hand. He glanced over at Dennis for something—moral support, guidance, a distraction—but he was busily chatting up Denise, who was just as busily chatting him up. Michael wondered sourly if 'hot' in Dennis's mind translated to 'loose'.
He then regretted that, because it was unfair to expect too much from them; they'd come for a good time. It powered his smile and his question as he asked, "You?"
"Every once in a while," Carol replied, giggling, even if he couldn't hear her laugh. "The music's good and it's cheap. Great way to cut loose after exams."
"Exams?" Michael found himself back on familiar ground and the smile turned a little more natural. "You're in college? Which one?"
Carol heaved a sigh, frowning as she flicked hair over her shoulder. "I don't want to talk about school…" Which translated in Michael's head to 'underage'. It wasn't like he didn't ignore the rules every now and again, but there was a difference between rule breaking and delinquency. And judging by the way she was knocking back her drink, he was willing to bet she was a bit more on the delinquent side. Inevitably he found himself comparing her to practical, steady Cass, and had to fight against the resulting frown.
You're going to have to date someone, he told himself firmly. Not just so you can stalk your ex, but because this is pathetic. You're bored, lonely, need a life, and Godammit, Michael, you cannot live on Playboy alone!
"What do you like to do, then?" He asked, forcing his smile wider, and feeling like his face was going to split open from the blatant lie of it.
"I like to go out with my girlfriends!" She exclaimed, adding coyly, "…And boyfriends, sometimes." She left a pregnant pause there, probably calculated with feminine wisdom to give him just enough time to fantasize her sticking her tongue into Denise's mouth. Sadly the technique had failed; at the moment the only thing Michael was interested in her doing with her mouth was closing it. He laughed, nodding like he totally understood, and looked back over at Dennis, who was still just as absorbed with Denise as before, except now he had a hand on her thigh. Michael thought terrible things about his friend.
The song changed then, and Michael didn't even have to fake excitement, because he actually recognized this song from the radio and he didn't think it was too bad. It was better than the last one, which had sounded something like a porno soundtrack. He swallowed the rest of his drink quickly, and set the glass down, edging towards the sea of people. "I'm gonna go dance," he said to the girl, who was now not even bothering to smile at him. He felt a little bad—that conversation was no better on her end—and added as an apology, "Want to come with me?"
"That's OK," she said a little more coldly than before, probably thinking he was ditching her. In all fairness, he kind of was. They exchanged one last strained set of smiles and then Michael was darting away, determined to get several waves of the people ocean between him and that girl. He'd tried and no one could say that he hadn't. In a minute he'd probably go try again with someone else, even though that would probably fail too. Hot was hot and yes, sometimes he didn't give a damn. In theory. In practice none of them could compare to Cass.
It occurred to him once he was actually on the dance floor and being jostled from all directions by all manner of bobbing and rather flexible limbs that he wasn't much of a dancer and had no clue how one actually danced in a club. He got the hang of it pretty fast—there were lots of other rhythm deficient dancers from which he could take his cue. The name of the game was just to move and not hit anyone too hard, but even if you did, in so crowded a club, there was no point in getting upset or trying to apologize. It was all forgiven instantly. Just listen and move however you want to.
Michael swayed in place like a loser for a moment before he managed to trying out a ridiculously simple—and, good Lord, pretentious move. No one laughed—it later occurred to him that he couldn't hear even if they did and that was a nice thought—and soon enough he was dancing. He shut his eyes, eyelids intermittently lit by strobe lights, music beating around him so hard that the floor vibrated. He tangled up against warm flesh or fabric once or twice, then bouncing away, a mindless extension of the sea. His eyes opened when the song ended and he could no longer tell which was the way back to the bar. Michael didn't mind. Dancing was actually kind of fun. It was a chance to act weird in public and not get called out on it. There was something very soothing in that.
Just as the next song started Michael saw The Girl.
He couldn't say why his eyes didn't just drift over her and move on when he saw her, couldn't explain why he stood where he was watching with silent interest. Yes, she was as dolled up as any other girl in the place, yes her clothes were wondrously tight, and yes, she was pretty—even if it was in one of those stranger, striking ways that make you look at the person twice to see if they're just that pretty or just that ugly. He could tell she was pretty the way Cass was pretty, pretty without makeup or conditioner or jeans that perfectly hugged the contours of her ass. He could tell because her makeup was just strange—eyes so shadowed they seemed to glow, a spangle of silver stars down one cheek—so maybe that's what he was looking at. However, there were still plenty of other, weirder people around him, so the way his eyes just locked on her was odd.
She bounced on her heels to the music a little bit, swaying like he'd done before to the intro of the song. Her movements were completely synchronized with the sound, like she'd heard the song a million times before. She must have—it almost seemed like the music was coming out of her, that's how precise it was. She wasn't moving that much, but there was still a circle cleared around her and when the music picked up, Michael knew why. As the beat sped up and the singing began, what was eerily specific became an art form. It was more than dancing, it was illustration. The girl seemed to be dancing the song, the rhythm, and she did it with a kind of grace that turned her into the most beautiful girl in the entire room. She slipped through the crowd as if trying to escape her circle but it followed, people stopping to watch her twirl and stomp and rock like the world was coming to an end. Two heartbeats later and Michael was chasing after her.
The girl moved like one great big special effect, twisting in ways he didn't think were anatomically possible, that kept leaving him to blunder into a newly risen wall of dancers. But then she would stop, as if she knew he was there, manipulating her body as if it was water or wind or something equally cheesy and timeless. Her hair flew around her like a black halo. She was a goddess and Michael didn't care how ridiculous that sounded; that was what she was. He felt like his heart was straining out of his chest to get to her, felt like he'd suffocate if she didn't keep up her sinuous movements, knew he must look insane and didn't care. His body was buzzing with a spike of inexplicable energy, running on her electricity. Her eyes met his and they were green.
He should be dancing. He felt like he should be and he felt like somehow he knew she wanted him to. He wanted him to. All the nervous energy that had been with him before entering was back with a vengeance, weaving into the net of electricity pasted just under his skin. He wanted to move so badly, but he stood and stared into her eyes. She danced on. But her eyes stayed on his, and he realized she was approaching after a minute, gliding closer. She reached out, his breath caught for entirely no reason, and his eyes fluttered shut as she passed a hand over his face, fingertips just barely brushing the skin and leaving fire in their wake. Michael felt breath on his face and his eyes opened again, hypnotized and helpless, finding the girl twining around him, only just barely touching, but, he realized with no small shock, dancing with him.
Crap, Michael thought, and as if magnetized, felt himself start to move. The internal protests quickened. Crap. Crap! But he was dancing anyway, and loving it, and if he was as horrible as he must have been, she gave no sign of noticing. She danced with him, making him dance as she did, moving across the floor, going far out of the ordinary. He grinned at her, incredulous and excited, and her lips quirked back in a smirk that could only be described as devilish. A shiver of fear mixed in with everything else at that smile that said she was going to swallow him whole, and it only made the moment more intense. Better. His heartbeat sped.
"Do you always dance with random stalkers?" Michael quipped, a little breathless, but finding he had breath to spare for this girl. She raised an eyebrow, circling him, and he raised one back. "Or just the cute ones?"
She grinned, but said nothing, making him stumble a step or two back with a lightning quick advance to dance a little closer. She wasn't wearing any perfume. Michael thought that was just wonderful. No girl should ever wear perfume. It should be outlawed.
He also knew the direction his thoughts were turning all too well. As well as the standard response to these thoughts; no way in hell. So it was with Cass, so it would be with this girl. Life simply did not work out that way. She was a professional dancer or something and gorgeous and at the moment he probably would have married her on the spot. There was not a snowball's chance in hell that she would be at all interested in him. Not all the fake fur and contacts in the world could change that.
He tried anyway. "Are you always this straightforward, or do I bring out the best in you?"
The grin widened and the girl shook her head to the pulse of the music, leaning close and darting away so they could spin around each other again. The circle had gotten bigger, Michael noticed, encompassing them both. She still didn't answer, and Michael's ego told him this was because she thought pick up lines were as ridiculous as he did. Common sense told him to shut up. He'd never been very good with common sense.
"My name's Michael," he told her, staring into her burning green eyes, because he wanted to hear her voice. Even if she didn't tell him her name, he just wanted to hear her voice. That was all—just that pitiful allowance would have made his week. Would have made anyone's week unless they were completely blind. "What's yours?"
The girl paused with the music's caesura, and then was suddenly close, close enough that she might whisper her name just to him, close enough that he could feel her breath again, and smell it. It smelled like pure mint. Her hand ghosted along his face again, down his neck, and she caught her finger over her lips to ward away sound before the other hand slipped over his eyes, making them close by reflex.
The song came to an end as his eyes opened back up, her hand gone. The girl had vanished, even if the circle remained, and he was too disoriented to try to follow, too mixed up between the dance and his failure. His face was hot and his heart was still too fast and he really hadn't felt this way since Cass. It was perfect irony until he turned and saw Carol behind him, staring at him like an object of extreme fascination. She looked massively impressed and equally disturbed. Michael blinked at her, trying to think of why as she came up to him, circle already shrinking around them again.
"You were dancing with Ghost Girl," Carol told him in a tone of voice that suggested the nickname was well –deserved. Michael's throat went dry.
However, Carol was shaking her head at him, not catching his query, already melting back into the sea of people. Michael thought of stumbling after her, but that idea was even less appealing than trying to follow the other girl. He was pretty OK with the idea of standing where he was like a total loser until finally someone tapped him on the shoulder and ordered him to keep dancing or get lost. He tried to dance a little bit more but without the girl his heart really wasn't in it, and his brain was definitely elsewhere. After the third time he stepped on the same guy's toes he figured it was time to go looking for Denis and his underage kismet.
Michael succeeded in getting hopelessly lost before he decided to look up and risk blindness if only to find the disco ball-thing, which he managed to navigate his way back to the bar with. He didn't see anyone he knew there, just a bunch of eccentric people in black who gave him the evil eye until he started to walk along the wall, keeping an eye out for anything familiar, even if it was just the door. Because if he found that door ever again, by God, he would not be parted from it upon pain of death.
He spotted Dennis then, his redheaded accompaniment still present, and tried not to look to obviously thrilled. He hurried over to his friend to sink into the empty bar stool next to him and Dennis looked over. "Hey man, that spot's reserved for—Sky!" He grinned wickedly, clapping his friend on the back. "Good to see you man! How're you likin' it here?"
Well that question had several responses. "Uh." Michael had no clue which of them he preferred. "It's OK." Dennis leaned closer to him, obviously sitting on the razor edge between intoxicated and dead drunk, because he was totally missing the fact that Denise was shooting them both offended looks and that Michael was about to start getting offended himself at the blatant invasion of personal space.
"Seriously?" Dennis pried with spectacular determination. "Cause you look real shook up." He gestured in a way that might have made sense if he'd retained any coordination. But Michael got the message, and couldn't help being a little bit touched. He found himself smiling wryly. Dennis was actually worried about him. He must look like crap.
At least that would keep Carol away.
"Ah!" Dennis's attention was instantly focused on the next round of alcohol, cradling it in his hands like the Holy Grail. He smiled at Michael and then at Denise, who appeared to be somewhat gratified by this and stopped scowling at Michael's knees. "Denise and I were thinking of going for a spin on the dance floor," he declared, smirking at the girl, who looked very pleased with that and smirked back. Michael got the feeling she was less than sober as well. "How was it, Sky? Too scary?"
Michael forced a smile. "Maybe for me. Listen, Dennis, I'm going to go home, 'kay?" Dennis frowned at him and he had to force a laugh too, holding up his hands. "I'll come by some other time, OK? I just realized I've got... classwork." He winced as he said it, well aware that this was in the running in the lamest excuse ever contest. Dennis gave him a look that plainly said he agreed, but he didn't protest, probably because he couldn't remember how to. Michael left him to it and wished him luck. If Michael needed a girl, then Dennis did too. Dennis's need for a significant other was entirely different from his own, however. Michael needed someone to prevent his friends from kicking his ass. Dennis needed someone who wouldn't be afraid to.
Michael failed to see how Dennis's steadfast avoidance of that feminine presence was that different from his own. It probably wasn't. Neither of them wanted it, which was the tricky part. Michael had just given it a shot because it was that or incur Cass's wrath, which was not very pleasant, as far as wraths went.
And now he was probably being haunted. Crap, crap, and crap again.
A/N: This story is fairly interesting, but it builds slowly. A lot of it is spent watching things develop in a less subtle manner than my usual brick-to-the-back-of-the-head stories, so. Um. Hope it's your thing. And if it's not, that was why it's in the suspense genre.