He hadn't even known Romania had anything to offer outside of toothless gypsies that thought themselves witches, and that was just based off of the stereotype. What he did find waddling off the plane somehow just as tired as he was getting on it, was that Romanian people had the usual European colorings, but with a heavier percentage of black hair, black eyes, and olive skin. No one smiled at them. No one tried to say hello. And if eye contact occurred, it was swiftly done away with. The streets they passed had dull, no-silly-business look about them, and quite a few looked in sad need of an update to modern times.
"Romania is relatively poor compared to the rest of Europe in part to the fact they didn't leave Communism until forty-so years ago," said Carol, as though she had swallowed Romania History for Dummies while they weren't looking. "Their traditional dishes are heavy on tomatoes and meat, and if you call anyone a gypsy be ready for a sound tongue lashing, or whip lashing, whichever comes on hand. They're also comparatively conservative to the rest of Europe and have strong Catholic roots."
"Wow and thank you," said Danny, yawning, though looking more awake than Seth or Hasani probably felt. "Did you happen to catch any useful Romanian phrases while you were reading wiki or wherever you got that?"
"Uh, not really. And even if I had, I couldn't pronounce half of it. Romanian's this weird squash of Latin and Slavic, and since English is Germanic—"
"Nerd down. Way down," said Seth. "You've shown off plenty enough this morning. Leave the lime-light to the professionals."
Carol did some half way squirm between a glare and a blush. Hasani did, however, catch her shoulders rising slightly and her eyes going to her feet, which riled his ire. Sometimes he really couldn't stand how much of an ass Seth was. Yeah, all three of them could be real priceless piles of turd when they wanted to be, but self-made-Albino-vampire was feces number one.
He'd have special words for him tonight. Whether or not Seth would hear those were a different story, but Hasani had his ways. They hadn't been able to make this band work without some degree of cleverness on the cellist's part.
Until then, he'd concerned himself with Tea. Danny caught on quick enough and joined Hasani in asking her various questions about the sights passing them by in the taxi taking them to their hotel. Her knowledge wasn't nearly as encyclopedic as Seth mocked her for. She had just done some light reading that morning while they were all sleeping (probably while she had been making them coffee). Somewhere in the back of Hasani's mind, a small voice wondered at her energy. She had woken up earlier than all of them, had been woken up by them at some unknown hour the night before to be kicked out of her room, and still was bouncing around on the sidewalk the moment they got out.
"I want to look around!" she yipped. "This is the first time we've gotten to a place with daylight to spare. Come on, Mai! Let's go find some shops and some weird Romanian food!"
Hasani sighed and readied himself to counteract Jillian's grumpy comeback. She hated feeling like a babysitter and had almost always made attempts to mash their desires to wander when out of town for concerts.
And was turned on his head, as a warm, glowing smile spread across her face.
"Of course, sweet heart," she said, shocking Hasani even further. The crocodile using endearments without a drop of sarcasm?
Danny let out a befuddled, "Nyegh?"
Seth just gave a grumpy puff that sounded like an unamused old dog. "Whatever. I'm sleeping."
Despite the sandpaper under his eyelids telling him to follow suit, Hasani found himself trailing after Jillian, Carol, Danny, and two unassuming bodyguards dressed in inconspicuous t-shirts and jeans, with an over shirt to hide the armory hung on their belts. Mostly non-harming weaponry to disperse crowds or warrant authority. They didn't talk much to them, but mostly to each other in quick, whip-like Spanish. They wouldn't be protecting the president anytime soon, but they'd do their job in a pinch. Besides, their fan-base wasn't entirely out of hand in Romania like it could be elsewhere.
Crack-sniffing, one-hit-wonders. Where did that jerkwad even get ideas like that?
Especially once he caught sight of a newspaper and magazine stand on the side of the road, or namely, the front of a quick-print review-sometimes-tabloid journal.
And it had his face on the front.
Or, more accurately, it had Carol's as he played the cello besides her. Unfortunately, the news splashed on the cover was in Romanian.
The girls and Danny stopped and followed his finger to the stand. Jillian made a beeline for it with a mad clip-clop of heels as Danny slung his arm over Carol's shoulders.
"Lookie there, pretty miss, you're on the front page."
"That's not always a good thing," said Hasani warily, flicking at Danny's wrist—hard.
Danny recoiled his arm back with a hiss. "What was that…" he stopped. Then let loose a Chesire smirk wide enough to cut his face in half. "'Scuse me, I almost forgot. You can take the honors."
Before Hasani could properly respond to that, Carol was already gone, flown to Jillian's side, acting as though she hadn't even felt the boy's arm on her shoulder or noticed what had happened.
That irked him almost as much as Seth's assholery. Was she so completely unaffected by boys, then? Let alone him? Then again, he shouldn't be so irritated. He should be grateful he didn't have to deal with the embarrassment…wait…would it be embarrassing? Wasn't he a man? Wait, what? He shouldn't—Seth's warning—
Screw it. Whatever. Just past the stand was a tiny Starbucks. Chocolate. He needed chocolate and a frappacino with the power turn his brain into Pop Rocks. Screw girls. Screw the world.
"Well, aren't you moody as a girl with Aunt Flow," said Danny, falling into step besides him.
"Shut up. And don't follow me."
"Hey, I want a beverage too. Got the nappy drags."
"Then will you at least stop it with the teasing? She's not interested, nor will she ever be."
Danny actually fell a little quiet at that, and Hasani managed to focus on ordering his frappacino, which turned out to be harder than he expected when he was confronted with the fact that the teller's English was broken and hardly there at all. Not to mention he seemed about ready to pee himself with excitement for some reason. A fan? Or just someone happy to practice their English? At least he dragged out his manager, who also didn't know a spat of English and ended up pulling yet another employee, a tiny spit of a girl with the traditional dark Romanian colorings. She looked completely unamused and unimpressed with, not only him, but life in general, and Hasani found himself thinking that, if there really was such thing as Romanian witches, this girl would be it.
"What do you want?" she asked, in clear, if accented, Romanian.
That broke Danny's silence. "Holy crap, you sound just like Dracula! Say some more."
The girl gave Danny a dead panned stare. Then turned her attention back to Hasani, expectantly. Seemed she didn't want to speak more than necessary now.
Hasani gave his order, she punched it in, then handed him his double chocolate muffin with tame courtesy and watched with dead-man's enthusiasm as Danny hopped up.
"I didn't mean to offend you. I just think your accent sounds really super cool. And sort of sexy, if you think about it."
Her eye twitched. "Tell me that is not inappropriate to say in America so I can have a reason not to be insulted."
"Insulted? I just complimented you—and hey, a whole sentence! Super cool. Super cool."
She sighed, gave her manager a droll stare, which the manager exchanged with a pointed glare, then sighed again.
"What do you want?" she asked.
Danny leaned an elbow on the counter. "You're number. I want to fall asleep each night to the sound of your voice."
The girl paused just for a moment to give him an expression of utter disbelief before tearing off the order-sheet she'd been about to scribble on and stuck it to his face.
"You are a filth munching maggot."
With that, she slammed the pen down and marched away, leaving her manager and coworker aghast. As the manager fluttered after her, spewing what could only be heavy Romanian reprimands. The boy with the failing grade in his English class managed to parrot Hasani's order, which since Danny was in so much shock, he took as a yes, punched it in, and accepted Danny's outstretched money.
Hasani's mood had become all-forgiving and light when Danny sat down, chocolate muffin and frappacino in hand. Danny had gotten punishment enough for his teasing and more.
At Hasani's amusement, Danny put down the muffin he'd been about to eat and frowned.
"I don't know what you think is so funny. She's totally thrown off her guard." He lifted the muffin to his mouth. "Probably doesn't even know how to handle a guy this hot hitting on her."
"Sure. You keep telling yourself that."
"She wasn't that pretty, after all. Probably doesn't get much in the way of attention."
"If you say so."
"Flat as a board."
"Freaking nothing but bone and skin. What, are people around here so poor they have to starve?"
"The other two looked plenty fed to me."
"Yeah. Then maybe she's just anorexic."
"And maybe you should stop talking, because she can understand everything you're saying and can probably hear from over the counter, where she's gone back to cleaning dishes."
Danny blanched and looked up where, sure enough, the certain black-haired girl was all but throwing parts of a coffee maker into a sink. Her long black ponytail could have given the unwary passerby whiplash from how quickly she jerked her head.
Just then, Jillian and Carol burst into the shop and scuttled over to them. For a minute, Hasani's view was overtaken by the backlit view of Carol in her white, bouncing lace, bows, and pink knee-length skirt. Her eyes had gone all but blue with the pinpoint of her pupil from the bright light.
"Jillian used google translate on her phone!" she said. "Lookie! Lookie!"
It was only then he noticed the half tabloid, half review mag onto the counter, along with Jillian's phone, which Jillian snatched back.
"He has his own," she snapped.
"Sorry," said Carol, giving Jillian a tiny smile. "Not having my own kind of makes me forget sometimes. Do you have a translator on your phone?"
"If not, I can probably download it," said Hasani.
Ten minutes later, in which he lost Carol to a cup of hot cocoa and, surprisingly, the grouchy witch girl across the counter, he watched as his phone eked out the basic translation of the title page.
From unknown to star overnight. In a subtext, it said: Could this new prodigy bring new heights to Millenium Sands, or over shine them all?
"Rather wordy, aren't they?" said Hasani, who found that, once it translated to English, the page actually looked like a cheap imitation of the Time's magazine. "How'd they get this written and published in one night? This can't be reliable."
"I wouldn't be too quick to judge," said Jillian, back to her normal, no none-sense self now that the 'sweet-heart' was busy chattering to the witch. "It takes money to get journalists in the right place at the right time. He takes some pictures, writes up an article, and sends it before you two are even back from clubbing. Overtime, even."
"Okay, yeah, but front page stuff?" Hasani waved the magazine up in emphasis. "I wasn't on the school journal or anything, but I know they plan this weeks in advance." Not to mention there had to be a grain of salt in what Trempton said about their popularity.
"Perhaps the editor is a fan," said Jillian flippantly. "Hurry up with your treats. I want to actually see something besides the inside of a coffee shop before we have to head back."
It turned out what was the slowest part about getting out of the coffee shop wasn't the speed of Danny's and Hasani's coffee enjoyment, but peeling Carol away from her new best friend, who had transformed from witch to…a smiling, less intimidating witch.
"You've got an email address, right?" Carol had her new leather-bound journal out and ready.
"Of course," she said, though now the pleasant company made her words almost purr, or perhaps that had been the accent, as Hasani was starting to hear why Danny had laid it down so heavy.
They waved good-bye, Carol skipping along.
"I can't believe I found someone like her all the way out here!" Carol all but squealed.
Just as Hasani wondered about Mormons and their take on lesbians, Danny asked, "Like her? You mean grouchy and a general bitch?"
The look Carol gave him was one inch shy of searing bacon to a crisp.
"No," she said, tartly. "She's a Jimmy Hurst fan." Her glare turned blissful. "And she said she had all his albums and would be happy to share them with me. All of them, on high def headphones."
Hasani chuckled and, since he happened to be walking next to her, dared a playful nudge of her chin with his knuckle. "Watch out, there, you almost dropped your drool."
"Jimmy Hurst?" Danny asked, sounding as though he suspected it was some form of bitch-claw-formula for scratching the eyes out of innocent men.
To his immense pleasure, Hasani beat Carol in answering.
"He's a musician who specializes in cello based music. He's known for his haunting, gothic gypsy melodies."
"And he has these high cheek bones you could cut yourself on," said Carol, the verbal drool now more than apparent. "And always wears this black, Indiana Jones type hat and duster and then how his fingers move as he plays."
"Woa, watch it. Almost don't sound quite virgin, there," said Hasani, meaning to joke, but violently wishing to recant it once it was out of his mouth. What happened to his guilt about teasing her on her beliefs?
Carol blinked at him, confused. "How so?"
Danny gaped at her. Then laughed. Before he could say anything, though, Jillian gave both Hasani and Danny a swap on the back of the head. They protested loudly, despite it not hurting all that much.
"Stop your baby crying and your pervy jokes," she said. "Be considerate, will you?"
"What about all the perverted crap you pull?"
"Around Tea? Not at all, because I'm a mature adult, unlike you two."
"I'm plenty mature," said Danny with a swing of his head that brought his face angled against his shoulder and towards her with a lewd smirk. "My offer to prove that is still up."
Jillian gave him another smack upside the head. Harder this time.
Though it did give Hasani thoughts of his own, mainly in remembering how Carol had asked him to let her watch his fingering as he played the cello…