“I dunno about this.” Jan frowned as he flexed his burnt fingers, sheathed under the elbow-length black leather glove. “I feel like Ian Curtis beat up Michael Jackson and stole his wardrobe.” The reflection in the rear-view was blurry once again. Earlier he’d managed to pull it into focus for awhile, long enough to don the black trousers, shirt, vest and boots, and properly knot the red tie, the look Violet called ‘High Goth’.
“So, wear both of them instead?” Violet glanced at him from the driver’s seat as she steered them off of the highway and onto Harrison.
“Hmf. Maybe.” He made a frustrated growl again, slowly working his fingers and trying to ignore the hot ache. Under the clothing, his flesh was a dry, blackened lakebed of cracked skin and seared muscle from shoulder to fingertips. “It’s been a weird fucking night already. All that shit that happened in the morgue. The… bodies. And me… and you and Mila… and the fire… and this hurts like hell. And I’m… so… damn…”
Violet nodded, eyes unblinking as she took the turn past 11th, parking near the Eagle. “Hungry. I know. Me too,” she whispered.
Their eyes met for a moment, and that weird territorial feeling briefly stirred, bonds tugging at each other before settling. Jan busied himself pulling on the other glove, buttoning down the sleeve once more, but glanced up at her once in awhile. “I still say we could just… I dunno… find a farm.”
Violet’s doll-like features twisted in a moue of distaste, and she shook her head. “Ugh, no way. Besides… you said it yourself: You need to learn to do this too. Maybe it’ll be easier to control yourself in a public place.”
Jan winced involuntarily. “Yeah.”
“So… how do you want to do this?” Violet asked.
He rubbed his gloved hands together in thought, then looked up at her. “Hm. We … go in separately. Maybe dance for awhile… go from there… leave together?”
Violet nodded. “Sounds good,” she said. “And… what about a signal? How will I know if something’s gone wrong?”
Jan gave a wry snicker. “You’ll probably hear screaming, and see people running. One of them might be me.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Inside DNA Lounge, Deathguild was in full swing. The usual wall-shaking bass of industrial pounded Jan’s ears, and he clenched his teeth against the sound, already feeling just a little more agitated. He and Violet glanced at each other now and then across the room, until the DJ played something more appropriate for couples.
They came together on the main floor, eyes locked as they danced, keeping close and moving in unison through the steps, spinning, dipping, arms winding around each other. Even in the dimness of the club, he could still see others watching here and there, fully visible even in the dark to his and her eyes. As the song drew to a close, he swung Violet out by one arm, lunged, turned, spun her back in and dipped her low, tilting her nearly horizontal, before setting her down again. Both of them drew back a step from each other, before he bowed, giving a tiny crooked smile.
As Violet turned to reply to someone near her, Jan heard a voice behind him. “Nice dancing. You guys are awesome!”
He swung around, taking in the sight of a girl who had been observing: lacy skirt, choppy dark hair, plain-faced, blue-green eyes. Immediately that part of him came awake, and the urge to just grab her tugged at him. No, dammit, not yet, he thought. Instead, he smiled briefly, eyes just slightly narrowed.
“Thanks. What about you… do you dance?”
“Well, kinda, but not like that…”
“I could give you a really brief lesson, if you want?” He struggled to say as calmly as possible.
“Um, I dunno, it looks hard,” the girl said.
He shook his head, forcing himself to stay in place. Don’t blow it, don’t get too close, don’t creep, he reminded himself. Eye contact. Interest. Engagement.
“It’s not too hard once you know how. Trust me,” Jan told her. He blinked, as inspiration struck him. “Tell you what: I need to get a… drink, after this. But if you want, I can teach you a basic step or two, and if you don’t approve, I’ll buy you a drink too if you like, and then I’ll let you be.”
She mulled it over, then shrugged. “I guess? Sure.”
He flashed a sudden grin, then nodded. Patience. C’mon… On cue, the intro for the next track kicked into another one he could dance to. “Here, take my hands, like this…”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jan pretended to take another sip of his gin and tonic, nodding as he listened to the girl, Ashley, talk over their drinks. On the other side of the room, he could see Violet deep in conversation with another girl she had acquainted herself with, and they were moving off into another area of the club.
“So, you two know each other?” she asked, following his gaze.
“Yeah… we’ve taken the same dance classes together, known each other awhile,” he said, somehow managing to keep his voice even. “First time she’s been here, though.”
“Oh, yeah? What about you?”
“I…” He paused. “I actually haven’t come here in a couple of years. Feels a lot longer.”
Ashley smiled and nodded. “Right? Me too, I haven’t come here in like, months. Feels like a lifetime!”
He involuntarily snorted a soft laugh. “Hah. Yeah, I know what you mean.”
As she kept talking in between sips of her drink, he watched her, reminding himself to blink and nod once in awhile. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, he reminded himself once more. And still, that impatient feeling was rising. That part of him, this aching, angry, hungry part was stirring in him, and up close, he swore he could hear her heartbeat, even over the heavy bass throbbing from the speakers below the balcony where they stood.
Just grab her, he thought. No. Don’t do that. Just… wait…
And as she kept on talking about her classes, her job, and her friends, he nodded, replied, still pushing at the feeling as it pushed back harder. Jan just wanted to let it slip, to take hold of her, shove her into the corner past the coat-check, crank her head back and sink his teeth in and tear and that desire was getting harder and harder to hold by the minute. That wanting was its path out, the wish to just abandon thought to sensation… to possess, to fuck, to eat…
No, dammit, I’m in control, fucker. But it was still threatening to break free, and getting worse by the moment. Maybe… just a little… no more…
His eyes locked on Ashley’s, and she paused, smiling up at him, and something in that part of him, something made of lust and hunger and impatience lunged out, seizing upon her.
The girl took a breath, blushing slightly, and even in the dark, to his eyes, he could almost see her skin glow ruby with the warmth that coursed through her suddenly. “Sorry…” she ahem’ed. “Think I’m a little lightweight these days.”
He nodded, still keeping his eyes locked to hers. Whatever had happened wasn’t like Violet’s weird charm, or that terror she’d pushed out onto him that first night, or that raw mindless rage they’d all felt. It was… something in that part of him, filtered through hunger, desire, and it had latched onto her briefly. How, though…
Fuck it. Just go for it.
“You, uh… want to sit down?” He kept his voice level as he leaned in, offering his hand. “Promise I won’t bite. Well, not much.”
Oh my fucking God that sounds so stupid…
And yet, unbelievably, the words seemed to hit her just the right way. She bit her lip, smiling a little more, her gaze fixed to his as well. “Yyyeah. Think I’d better.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In the dark corners behind the upstairs dance floor, Ashley sat close to him, and Jan leaned closer, almost hesitant, but she didn’t draw away as he moved slowly to kiss her. Her hair smelled like some sort of tropical shampoo, but her clothes were laced with old smoke. She tasted like stale cloves, and vodka cranberry, a little heavy on the vodka; she was responding even faster than he thought she might. He almost broke the kiss, but stayed close until she came up for air instead.
As he watched her, he thought briefly of Violet, mingled envy and a little guilt rising, then subsiding as that hunger kept stirring, stronger, the longer he stayed this close.
Ashley looked up at him, eyebrows raised, and he moved in again, pushing back that urge to let go, and kissed her again, still tamping down that awkward thought of how did I do this, the sense of just a little wrong, the feeling of this is just too weird. And yet, he slowly tilted his head with hers, and carefully put his lips to her neck. This close he could hear her pulse pounding faster, and feel the rush in her carotid under his mouth.
Before he could stop himself, he slowly bit down, and she winced, then moaned, and relaxed against him, hips tilting a little, thigh sliding under his hand. Heat flooded his mouth, sweet, metallic, traced with a little bitterness, brief embarrassment, shades of triumph, tiny feelings of fear. Her heartrate was cranking up, and she was going languid in his arms.
He opened one eye a hair, peering up, and seeing Violet across the room, quietly watching him. Ashley’s heart was pounding heavier, working as he took from her, and just for a moment, the urge to keep going pushed at him, to take more, more, MORE…
Jan pushed it down with an effort, feeling it settle back, a little easier to negotiate since it had some of what it wanted. NO… you’ve done enough already. He drew back, kissing at the girl’s throat, feeling the tiny marks close over beneath the tip of his tongue. Too fucking weird.
And yet, he hadn’t harmed her… well, not much. Ashley looked a little pale, and opened her eyes, her gaze a little poleaxed as she looked up at him. “What, uh…?”
“I, ah…” Jan looked up at Violet, and saw an empty seat where she had been. “I just realized, I … I have to go… but…”
Just fucking go for it, jackass.
Jan took a breath, even as he realized he didn’t need to, before saying, “…May I have your number?”
She looked a little disappointed, but she gave a tiny smile. “Yeah… here…” they quickly exchanged numbers, tapping out on smartphone screens.
“I’ll, uh… I’ll be around. I’ll… give you a call later. Promise.”
“Okay…” She sat back, taking deep breaths and shaking her head a little as if to clear it.
“You have a safe night… get one of your friends to drive you when they get here, if you need?”
He nodded a few times, then turned and headed to look for Violet. As he reached the bottom of the stairs by the main deck, she spoke up from behind him. “How’d it go?”
Jan shook his head. No aching pit in his stomach. Just soft heat rushing through him from feeding. But still that feeling of oddness just wouldn’t go away. “Went… okay. How about you?”
“Good… I’m okay, actually. What happened up there?”
Jan thought about her watching him briefly, thought about the girl. “She’s… alright. I didn’t… well. She gave me her number. I just… can we get out of here?”
Violet shrugged, and took his hand.