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The Evening After

The Evening After

When Doug was woken by a hangover that threatened to fry his brain like a scrambled egg, the first thing he noticed was that he had no idea where he was. This wasn’t necessarily an unheard of occurrence for him, but one that he had never been all that fond of, nonetheless.

Looking around, even half-asleep he could see that this room was an absolute disaster zone. Like a tornado had localized specifically within the vicinity levels of disaster. Clothes, furniture, everything that wasn’t nailed down was strewn around the oddly-shaped interior. Ahh, yeah, that explained it. Based on the weird angles of the walls, Doug imagined that he must still be somewhere in the clock tower. His thought was only confirmed when the ringing in his ears abated somewhat and he heard a very subtle, repetitive ticking from somewhere above him. Considering the actually pretty damn comfortable bed and the fact that he’d been sleeping on it in the first place, this was probably Bacchae’s old bedroom.

Sans the room’s construction zone status, it actually seemed pretty normal. Considering everything he knew about him, it was clear that Bacchae had never spent a lot of time in here. It was considerably more normal than Doug’s usual post-drunken-bender wake up spots. Though to be fair, that wasn’t necessarily a very hard bar to clear.

The second thing that Doug noticed was another on-going trend of said post-drunken-benders: he was not alone in the bed. Immediately to his left, arms wrapped around one of his, was a woman.

At first he was convinced that she must be a hallucination, just one more fuck you from his screwed up brain to let him know that it was not happy with his life choices. He’d turn over and it’d be Conscience staring at him, blood still dribbling out of her mouth, no doubt. Or even Cocaine. She seemed to be showing up all over the place lately.

But, after a good five minutes of waiting, the weight of her next to him hadn’t faded. Odd, usually if he ignored them they’d go away by now. But wait, now that he was a little more conscious, he could hear her steady breathing, feel her breasts press pleasantly against his arm with each inhale. His hallucinations never breathed. Why bother? They were dead, after all.

His second thought was that she must be one of those daemon chicks from the party last night. He didn’t remember a whole ton, but there had been a couple of ladies who had been pretty persistent in talking to him.

Finally, his third thought was to stop speculating and just look to see who it was. So he did, turning his head slowly to avoid exacerbating his headache. Oh, shit. This was… not good. The woman next to him, thankfully fast asleep, was not a random daemon chick. She was a very specific daemon chick.

It took him a second to recognize her, as this was the most peaceful she’d ever appeared in his presence. No narrowed eyes, no cocky smirk. But at the end of the day, there was no mistaking her bleach-blonde hair, fading into brown at the roots.

Yup. It was Kei alright.

For a long time, he didn’t dare move, horrified that she would wake up. Oh, fuck, what had he done last night? Okay, that was sort of a ridiculous question, but what in the world had happened? And why? Well, at the very least, that explained why his mouth tasted like seafood.

The last thing he wanted was a confrontation with her, which is exactly what would go down if she woke up. But he also thought that if he didn’t get out of this room in the next five minutes he might seriously toss his cookies. Not because of her, mostly because of the hangover. And then there’d be some real explaining to do.

So carefully, slowly, he slipped out of Kei’s grip and almost pissed himself when she mumbled something, before turning over and laying still again. Shivering without the blanket, Doug desperately searched the trainwreck of a room for some clothes.

Luckily, it seemed like Kei had thought ten steps of ahead of him yet again, as he found his clothes neatly folded on top of the only untouched chair in the room. Not Bacchae’s clothes, Doug’s. He almost cried as he picked up his sweatshirt only to find his heelys underneath. But sobbing would have only woken Kei, if only for the sake of bullying him some more. So he dressed as quietly as he could and snuck down the staircase that snaked around the outside of the room.

He passed several other rooms in the clock tower before he reached the bottom, but he didn’t look too closely at them because they were all dark and he was itching to get some air. There was just this feeling of… wrongness in here. Whether it be the ongoing roller coaster of impersonating a self-proclaimed god, the relapse into past poisons, or waking up next to Kei of all the people in the entire world, worlds, whatever. Something was making his skin crawl. Getting back into his own clothes was helping a little, but he was really hoping that walking it off would take care of the rest. Maybe it would help his head too.

Now that Bacchae was back, Doug was sure that no one was going to give a shit about a kid who happened to resemble him a little. So he pulled his hood up—just to be safe—and crept out of the door, crossing his fingers that nobody saw him.

The Tea Party was a goddamn mess, which thankfully left it pretty empty. Probably most of the city was at home sleeping it off. Glancing up at the clock face behind him, Doug saw that it was somehow six in the evening. Jesus, how long had he been up that he’d lost a whole day?

Didn’t matter. All that mattered at the moment was just getting away. Doug wished that it could be with more familiar surroundings. He almost found himself missing the grounds around St. Adelaide’s at that early time in the morning when the mist sat thick and heavy around the top of the hill. But he guessed that the rest of Discord would have to do. At least he found himself alone—for once.

There was only one real direction to go; down of course. Not to sixth avenue, that was for sure. And not to the Soul Market, too loud, and he was more likely to get recognized. No, Doug just figured that he’d keep walking downhill until he was satisfied, or he reached the edge of the city, whichever happened first.

So he chose a random side street and just started walking. One would think that his mind would be zooming along at about a trillion miles an hour trying to process everything that had happened in the past forty-eight hours, but for once, his noggin was blissfully blank. Maybe he’d ended up having some edibles after all. He just breathed, in and out, focusing on the strange collage architecture around him.

His earlier assessment had been right. This was a city he’d like to explore. The buildings, especially downhill from the Soul Market, were incredibly varied, and leaned in every conceivable direction. The gas lamps lining the streets shone through the slight fog, bathing everything in a purplish glow.

The people were pretty strange too. He didn’t even understand half of the words in some of the passing conversations he heard. For lack of a better word, Discord just seemed really… cool. He kind of wished he could experience it without worrying about everything Bacchae-related.

Maybe he could just step into some hole in the wall bar and nobody would notice him. Like that one, the one with the neon sign of the goat over it. That looked kinda fun—and a little ironic, if he thought about it.

The door stuck as he pulled it open, but wasn’t that just perfect for a bar like this? On the other side, it was pretty crowded. Luckily it was one of those spaces that was so old that it absorbed way more sound than it should have. He paused in the entryway, but none of the patrons even looked up at him.

There was a free seat at the bar, so Doug figured he’d camp out there for a little while and see where the night took him. He flopped down heavily, blowing out the air he realized he’d been holding. So far, so good. No one had even looked twice. Though he had to admit, with all the bodies it was pretty warm in here, and it would probably look weird for him to keep the hood on indoors. So he pushed it back off his head and reveled in the fact that there was absolutely no reaction at all.

Well, except for maybe the bartender, who gave him a quick once-over before noticing the lack of horns and discarding the thought. Doug wasn’t actually paying a lot of attention to his reaction, because he was too distracted by the utterly enormous pair of wings on the bartender’s back to really think about it. Was this normal for Discord? Nobody else seemed to really care, so Doug tried his absolute hardest not to stare.

“What can I get you?” the bartender raised a singular eyebrow on his otherwise stony face.

“Uhh…” shit, it’d be really odd to sit down at the bar and not order anything, wouldn’t it? Well, he supposed he’d just have one, just to take the edge off this headache. But he still didn’t know what to get. Ugh, stop overthinking it. Just… anything but rum. “Gin, please,” he’d had a shot of gin once, when Monty’s parents had been out of town and they’d raided their liquor cabinet, and he hadn’t minded it. Tasted like sucking on a pine tree, mostly.

“Straight up?”

“Uh, with ice, thanks.”

“I’ll have one of those too, Kuro,” the man next to Doug, the one with all the tattoos on his arms, raised his glass a little, before happening to glance over at Doug and doing a double-take. “Hey, I know you!”

Oh shit, here we go.

“You’re… Doug, right?”

Okay, that was unexpected. But now, actually, giving the guy a proper look, yeah, the bandanna hanging loosely around his neck and the dreads were definitely ringing some bells. “Oh, damn, you’re… Mike’s older brother! Uh…”


“That’s right!”

“You know this kid?” the bartender—Doug thought he’d just heard Tommy call him Kuro—set the drinks down in front of them.

“Yeah, he’s a friend of my brother’s. But how are you… here?”

“That… is a very long story.” Despite himself, Doug felt a smile breaking out across his face. The two of them had really only met once, but it was so unbelievably nice to see anyone even a bit familiar. “But I could ask you the exact same thing. Is… is Mike with ya?”

Tommy’s expression fell a little. “Uh, no,” he admitted. “I tried but I… think he’s busy. Cindy’s here though, and Niko Borozov too.”

Oh yeah, that guy. Somethin’, somethin’, ravaged by mercury poisoning, somethin’, somethin’, mistook a wannabe mobster for a Norse god. God knew what Doug had been thinking in that elevator.

“So, what’s with the posse?” Doug asked. “What’re you all doing here?”

He shrugged, looking worried. “Truth be told, we’re looking for Gilveidan and Muirne. Oh, though I guess you’d probably still know her as Sonia, huh? We think they might be in trouble, and the last place that they were was, well, here. You haven’t… seen them, have you?”

“Can’t say that I have. Sorry.” He hadn’t really been in the state of mind to recognize anyone in a crowd the last couple of days. Though come to think of it, he was the goddamn king of Discord now, wasn’t he? Couldn’t he get some, uh, feelers out there and see if anyone had seen them? Maybe if he was a real king, but Doug didn’t think he really had any actual power here, and even if he did, it would probably just complicate things to let this near total stranger in on the secret, so he kept his mouth shut.

“That’s alright, I kinda figured. Nobody else has yet either,” Tommy sighed. “We’ve spent most of the day looking for them. Niko and Cindy are still out there.”

“So what are you doing here, then? Give up already?” Doug swirled his drink absently.

But Tommy suddenly got a weird look in his eyes. “Not really. Cindy’s all gungho about it, but if they’re really in trouble, sometimes it’s best to be a little more subtle about things. This is a pretty popular pub, so I thought I’d hang around here and see if I hear anything. But I guess that’s not the only thing I’m here for.”

“Ooo, keeping secrets from the cub scouts, huh?”

“A little,” Tommy admitted. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this.”

“I’m just a pretty cool guy.”

Tommy raised an eyebrow. “Sure thing, kid. But well, if I’m honest, I’m mostly just afraid they’ll try to help, but in this case, I think it might do more harm than good. She can be… kind of skittish at the best of times.”

“She?” Doug asked, tilting his head. “Got a secret lady friend?”

“It’s not like that. There’s just someone that I haven’t seen in a really long time. I thought that if she was still alive, she might end up here. A lot of people do. I dunno, maybe you’ve seen her. Her name’s—”

Except Tommy never got to finish his sentence, for he was cut off as a sudden commotion over by the door caught both of their attentions. Before they could really see what was going on, they could feel the change in the air. Suddenly the bar had fallen dead silent.

There was a man standing in the doorway. He hunched a little, his hands shoved in the pockets of a tattered, dirty overcoat, as his bloodshot eyes roved over the bar. “I see my reputation precedes me,” he chuckled in a husky voice, before his expression changed entirely in the single blink of an eye. “What are you all looking at?” He growled.

His head swiveled around lazily as he sniffed the air. Finally, he seemed to find what he was looking for, as his eyes locked on the woman who’d been flitting between tables since Doug had gotten here. “Flora, are we gonna play dice, or am I gonna have to start pulling fingernails?” He smiled, chuckling to himself. Though based on the other patrons’ reactions, Doug couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.

The woman, Flora, sighed. “Jack’s back,” she called to Kuro, then turned to the rest of the pub. “Alright, people, get out if you know what’s good for ya. Bar’s closed.”

The Smiling Goat emptied incredibly quickly, most of the patrons refusing to take their eyes off of the newcomer—Jack, no doubt—until they were well out of the pub.

Though Tommy and Doug shared confused expressions, the former didn’t move, so Doug stayed put too. Maybe he’d just quietly sip his drink and no one would notice him.

Meanwhile, Jack was already making himself comfortable, shedding his coat and giving himself a good shake. He’d made an attempt at a ponytail in order to tame his hair, but most of it was too tangled and greasy to really stay. He looked around the room, his eyes landing on Flora and Kuro. “Only three?” he frowned. “You can’t play a good game of dice with only three people!”

“We can make it four,” Flora sounded a little resigned. “Tommy, you wanna play some liar’s dice?”

“Sure,” he shrugged, standing.

“Wait,” Jack said, and pointed at Doug. “Who’s the kid?”

“Oh,” Tommy responded a little hesitantly. “He’s an acquaintance of mine. Friend of my brother’s.”

“Come on then, you play too,” his eyes locked firmly on Doug. “Five’s a much better number. Makes things more interesting.”

For a moment, Doug didn’t move. This guy had an… indescribable air about him. Excepting maybe Flora, everyone else in the room seemed to be walking on eggshells around him. He just read as a person that it would be bad for your health to associate with. But he also seemed like someone you didn’t want to disagree with either. So if he said that Doug was playing dice, Doug guessed that he was playing dice. He’d never heard of liar’s dice before, but he hoped for his own sake that he could learn quickly.

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