12 – snake eyes
The Staff of Ra. A few thousand years ago, it was held by Egyptian rulers as a symbol of ultimate trust, and now David Bateson is retrieving it from a hermatically-sealed glass chamber for this evening, up in his private chambers.
He's just finished checking on the hotel's finance records, certain that tomorrow's gigantic event with the Black Rose will give his shareholders the huge boost they've been waiting for – over ten millions in ticket profits (not including the other income sources).
When he goes to check on the Black Rose's rehearsal backstage – they've already gotten the gist of their acts, with Renton now being able to fish out yin-yang (Baoding) balls from an unsuspecting audience member – having practiced on a waitress who has free time to spare.
Good.. if everything runs smoothly, along with the auction, I'll be sure to go down in the hotel's history as its best owner. Not to mention a suave retirement.
"For my next trick," LeBlanc twirls with her staff, smirking, "I'll make your 5G reception bars disappear."
Satisfied with the proceedings, David sips a small brandy from his pocket bottle. The Black Rose's itinerary of magic seems solid:
1. Opening act – Lulu and Heimerdinger are French chefs, serving ratatouille (real). LeBlanc is a demanding food critic. Involves one or two audience members.
2. 2nd act – Swain and LeBlanc have a tango ("Roxanne"), involving the dizzying heights of the ceiling.
3. 30 Minute Intermission
4. 3rd act – Twisted Fate and Renton try to outfox one another in games involving cards, chess, etc. leading to heated duel of words and tricks.
5. Finale – A ballad involving all cast members, leaving everyone with the promise of finding magic in their own lives (metaphorically speaking).
Swain calls everyone over for a group huddle.
"Remember what we need to do.." he goes, once he's sure David has gone away. "While our show is on, the auction will be occuring during the intermissions and afterward. I just found out David will be giving away his staff the first thing."
He nods at Heimerdinger. "Heimer's come up with a duplicate, based off observations. It'll look like the real thing, more or less, just that it will feel a bit off to a familiar hand. We'll be swapping the staffs, so no one will be alerted. By the time they find out, we'll already be stepping foot in Italy."
Renton gulps at the mention of Italy. It's only been around three days since dropping through the rabbit hole to this alternate reality, and he's just getting used to the idea of grandeur – the feeling that you could do anything you wished for, the stuff you'd see in TV, movies and comics, and now being in another country?
He'd never even contemplated that possibility, except as a young child when his father was still alive, promising him someday he'd get to see those beautiful gardens his father's seen in Belgium, where the white water lilies seem to sift on the ponds.
And now, it's as much in his reach as Evaine's billowing cape before him.
She smells like.. a bizarre mixture of oranges and plums that hit the nose in such a manner as to bring your senses to an allured stillness..
"Renton..? Renton!" Swain is calling out his name. "Can I trust you with the actual swapping of the staff? Nobody knows your face yet, and your innoceous looks can prove disarming."
Renton feels like being the lead role of a spy movie, so of course he says "Yes!"
"This is what you'll be doing before the 3rd act.."
Being canned is an uncomfortable fit. Singed, in a waiter's outfit, is lugging a cart of canned fruit – along with Zac (in a can).
They are part of backstage catering, and will be checking in on the Black Rose, hoping to glean any info out of their doings. In short, they're just like villains-for-hire in a Saturday morning cartoon.
So far, what they've found out is that there's an auction they're really concentrating on, and a staff of Ra they want to acquire.
"A staff of Ra?"
Yes. Those artefacts which are fabled to ascend anyone to a higher plane of existence. Viktor has searched through his data files and discovered the thread which the Black Rose has been chasing after. A fascinating thread – that would seek to quench that underlying question about magic. He isn't sure what they've already acquired, so he is hoping to forge a temporary alliance with them, despite their long-standing rivalry.
It is a bit of a long-shot, but Swain is enough of a reasonable man to be swayed. A long time ago, Viktor pulled Swain out of a messy situation from the Russian Mafia..
Now Singed puts the cans under the catering table, where Zac is to listen in, and heads on back so he could refill the drinks.
While this is going on, Rumble and Veigar are putting on the finishing touches for the stage lighting.
"Spotlight check!" the head electrician goes, and up in the control booth, the coordinators test each of the spotlights, one-by-one, making sure everything is in working order.
Rumble has set his Tristy mecha on standby, by the ceiling, when everyone else has left the stage. He's dressed it up in a Super Galaxy outfit. Having seen the Black Rose's perfomance itinerary, the idea is to interrupt their finale – giving the audience a real shocker, like something out of wrestling when another wrestler comes by unexpectedly for a showdown. It might seem rude initially, but whatever makes the crowd cheer, so Team ROCHAT can have some publicity, as well as getting the Black Rose's attention to their joint-venture proposal.
He's also reprogrammed the routines in the control room, so the lights will dim and re-focus accordingly when they crash the party. "It's a change of plan sirs," he told the control guys, showing them a written letter with Swain's signature (faked). "They're orders directly from the Black Rose," and with the time pressure, coupled with his convincing tone of authority, the control guys don't bother checking the purpose of these routine changes. An extra dim here, some spotlight focuses there – these seemingly innoceous changes – and the show goes on like normal afterward.
Veigar wipes his forehead. Mon dieu! Thank god it's over, everything is set to rock.
"They have Kool-Aid in this place, non?" he says to Rumble, when the rest of the technician team are busy congratulating themselves.
"There's 20-year old Merlot and Sherry," Rumble goes, having glanced at their fine wine collection. "I'm pretty sure they have your favourite somewhere."
Alone in her makeup room, LeBlanc is playing around with the blushes and lipstick, experimenting with her new look she'll be presenting outwardly. It's like with Madonna, who's able to reinvent her image with every one of her new albums, which is something LeBlanc's always admired.
Currently, she dabs a bit of lipstick just in the middle of her lips, and pulls back her hair in a fanciful bun. When she spent time imitating a geisha, she found it suiting to be poised like a mime. Ready to suggest people through her hands and gestures, not with her words.
The door creaks open.
"Evaine?" Renton goes. He sees her wiping away her makeup, and catches a momentary glimpse of what she was going for in the brightly lit mirror. She is immensely talented, and his already pounding heart is erupting now, like a volcano.
He inches himself inside the same room as her, and the scent of vanilla caresses his nose. Bursting out of him, those moments which have been underlying himself the whole time.
The way she's kissed him, sliding her lips back like how the ocean waves retreat, before diving deeper in his mouth for more.
Losing all sense of himself under her embrace..
It touches the innermost recesses of his mind, that he's yet to feel comfortable revealing.
"Why do you love me?" he says. "It was so sudden, and.. and.." Nothing can express the confusion he's having over this. "I don't understand. Do you know me from somewhere, like distant cousins?"
"Non." She exits her chair. "Renton.. you don't know what I've been through. Seeing you brings back so many memories. I'm not related to you or anything. I just.. used to have a son, and his father.. that's such a long time ago."
This revelation isn't really that stunning for him.
"I'd have thought you were together with Twisted Fate or Swain," Renton goes. "You're so beautiful, why aren't you in love with-"
"I was. But it grew exhausting on them after a while, and so we had to break it off, keep professional. Ever since, I've hidden my feelings from everyone, though they know about it.. how I had my heart torn to shreds, and left with nothing but despair."
"What happened..?" Renton approaches Evaine's still figure.
"My lover was killed! And they took my son – he was all I had left in my world. My SON, Renton!" Her arms are clasped over her chest, like trying to stifle a bleeding wound. "It's not the Black Rose. Someone else. Katarina.. Cassiopeia.. Riven! Oh god, I can still remember all their names..!"
And she slams the table with her fists, the items on the table clattering. It takes a second for her to recollect herself.
"My son's name was Booker, Renton," she goes, her eyes partly caught up in her memory. "I was going to look after him, hold him tightly in my arms, grow older with him. I don't even know if he's even alive! The last 23 years, I sought to find those bitches who took him – hoping that the next city we'd venture into, I'd find them, and my son with them. Or the next city after that. But they're all gone now, and.. I'm sorry.."
She is weeping, and Renton is agape trying to comprehend what she's saying. He just knows her feeling of loss, thinking of his long-gone father, and that he feels this pull towards her.
"Hey, there's no need to be sorry." He tugs at her shoulder. "When I was around 10, I lost my dad in a truck crash, and it's never been the same for me since. I miss him every day that's passed – it's just something that happens, and I live the best I can for his memory. I try to, at least."
It makes Evaine smile. "He must be so, so very proud of you.."
"I can't imagine how it's like to lose your child like that. But if Booker were here, knowing you still care about him after so long, he'd be so happy." Renton flashes her a reassuring grin. "You never stopped believing in him."
A lipstick falls to the floor.
He finds himself suddenly cradled in her embrace. Passionately warm and soothing and intoxicating. His cheeks pressed by her neck, while his breathing is slightly constrained within her arms – every inhalation makes his chest press back against her soft breasts.
It's like before, where he is shuddering at experiencing the entirety of her being up-close. Her fingers running along the back of his neck, curling up at the soft parts she finds.
"Does this.. feel good?"
They look like lovers caught in a still frame of an intimate waltz.
"You're so beautiful.." Renton goes.
"What are you talking about?"
She leans in to kiss him – holding still in his mouth, before slowly drawing back. And then another, this time with a trail of saliva linking their lips which makes her smile.
The excitement proves too much for Renton, and his breath noticably trembling, he tries to lunge towards her life-giving mouth, but she draws away from his unrestrained eagerness.
"Slowly.." she instructs him, a finger on his cheek – not wanting to break the feeling of delicacy – and when he kisses her again, he remembers to relax, and let his mind be saturated with those sensations her soul delights in showing him.
Tomorrow evening's show has almost a hundred thousand showing up. The parking lots have been congested with varieties of car colours – when a spot is filled, the ground underneath it is set aglow, which is a nice touch for the event. There's also small business owners inviting other cars into their backlots (with cheap Christmas lights to replicate an MGM Grand spot), and a huge lineup of viewers, reporters, stretching down the sidewalks as far as the hotels some of them are staying at.
Police and security dot the vicinity with their presence, from the parked cruisers that help redirect traffic, to the guards who do random patdowns to check for weapons and laser pointers.
Even refreshment tables are there since the entire line has been growing for hours long.
In the actual hotel/exhibition centre, David Bateson is chewing on a Snickers bar – his reflection silhouettes his walking cane behind the glass. It's like a piece of him is going away with it. And a weight off his mind. Then the custodians tow his cane away, along with the numerous treasures he's found throughout his travels.
And Renton, he is also chewing a Snickers bar. While his stage outfit is ready in the dressing room, he's wearing normal clothes.
"Just talk with David Bateson and lead him into letting you have your hands on the cane. The loading area has a few blindspots in their surveillence, and I'll show up moments later to congratulate Bateson and his crew in their efforts – that's when you make the switch. Hide the real staff in a blindspot, and we'll retrieve it later."
Everyone is already murmuring in the stagearea, and Renton can feel the hefty weight of the retractable cane in his pockets, as he wanders into the loading bay, where David is overseeing the process of every item, film memorablia, jade doll being fitted into its display case.
How am I supposed to get his cane? It's not they'll be willing to undo the boxing just for me..
Doubt gives Renton pause over Swain's idea. A part of him wants to turn back and ask Swain if maybe he should rethink it. He continues forth anyway, and with a slight change of perspective, sees the glass case beside David in which the cane rests.
"Young lad-!" David goes, spotting Renton. "I know you're not one of the faces I usually see here! It's not an appropriate place for you to be – were you looking for the washroom?"
The loud whirs of the drills intermittently erupt through the room.
"Yeah.." Renton scratches the back of his neck. "I was. I got a little lost – I'm in a hurry for the show. Can you show me?"
Bateson checks his watch. More than enough time. So he leads Renton back to the halls..
"Around your age Renton," he says, with a slight lisp in his step, "I didn't really dream big, truth be told. I was what you'd call lazy and modest. I thought the best I could aspire to was being a content pencil-pusher in the offices."
"I don't know yet what I want to aspire to," Renton goes, feeling a tinge of embarassment go through him as they pass by a WC sign that has the gendered stick people pointing in the right direction.
"There's no need to hurry yourself. A lot of the historical greats didn't know what they really wanted to pursue until they were well into their middle ages.. you, my lad, it seems like you've got a lot of spirit showing through you."
"That's really encouraging."
The men's washroom, you turn right at a juncture between the men's and women's. Some music from the first act plays very distantly, as the frightened yelps from Heimerdinger suggest that LeBlanc is slapping his ass over the poorly-made Antoinette cake.
"There we are," Bateson says.
Renton is at an impasse – Bateson is just going to turn back around, and he'll be left in awkwardness if Bateson sees him stumbling by again. Why did he even run along with 'going to the washroom'? That was foolish-
"Oh, now that I think of it," David Bateson goes, "I could use the little men's room too."
So after Renton takes a whiz, he mentions to David about his 'famous' cane that he used to be walking around with. "What happened to your cane?"
"I'm giving it away for the auction tonight."
Renton notices his frown in the washroom mirror.
"You're going to miss your cane, aren't you?" Renton goes.
"We've been through so much together." David pats his face after he's given it a splash. "It even saved my friend's life."
"Really? That must be one cool cane..! If I could have had the chance to touch it beforehand.."
A beat. David eyeballs Renton, and then the idea hits him – the last thing he does with his cane should be something happy, and what better moment for finality, than to let this boy take a look with his own eyes?
"Tell you what Renton," he goes, "You can run your fingers along all its intricate lines if you like. The auction isn't for another half-hour anyways."
"Oh – you're so gracious!" Yeesss!
Coming back to the loading room, David is opening the cane's display case. The workers ask him what he's doing, and he's explaining that he's giving his cane a last, sentimental hurrah. After the case's security alarm has been deactivated, he unlatches the cover, and lets his fingers carry it over to Renton.
It's really thrilling to hold a piece of history in your own hands. By touching it, it's like you become a part of its history. No longer is it just a vague idea you'd find off a library book, with the old picture to prove its existence outside of words.
The light faintly sheens over the staff of Ra's surface as Renton turns it over, revealing the numerous micro-scratches it's accumulated. Somehow it feels lighter than the fake staff Renton's been carrying, and then the thought hits him – wouldn't Bateson know right away that it's fake from the switch? If he gets his hands on the fake..
Where is Swain? He's supposed to show up any second.
"I like it very much," Renton goes, hoping that light talk will let him hold the staff longer. "What did it look like when you first picked it up?"
David snatches the cane from him. "There were bronze gildings over it. 1952. The excavation site of Hamunaptra, where we were looking for the Egyptian tomes buried by Nasus's tomb. Mon dieu, it was so hot. It was a souvenir from what we found, and I kept it – helped me trek back through the desert."
"Ooh. You were an archaeologist?" Renton's hands are just eager to get the staff back.
"Yeah. From China to Greece and the Mayan ruins. Now I'm selling off the last of what I have. It'll be lonely with just my memories, but my work will go on better appreciated once I stop clinging to the past, so to speak." Bateson runs his hands down its whole length, and Renton could swear that there was a weird glow from the staff, before his focus snaps back to his mission.
"Hey, I'm not done looking at it."
The magic show is being broadcast on TVs, and Renton hears the applause over the first act's ending. Swain's going to be in the second act..! It's going to be starting very soon, and he hasn't even come yet.
"I have to put my cane back now, young lad," Bateson goes.
A deluge of confusion. What is Renton to do now? His head is swirling, wanting to snag the staff away and run, or just plain head off and report back to the dressing room.
Then after he hears: "Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise. One of our principle cast members is currently unavailable. But we promise, the show will go on! He should be around shortly." And the groans and uneased murmurs of the audience.
"Umm, excuse me," Renton pips. "I need to be somewhere." And he is striding off – his hesitation dispelled with the fact that Swain is missing from the whole picture. Everything is starting to go wrong..
"What's that all about?" David asks to himself. "Funny lad."
Whenever Ekaterina gets a request for a photoshoot, the first thing she considers is if she finds it anything potentially interesting. She's at the point in her hobby-turned-career where people offer her at least four photoshoot requests per day, and she can pick amidst several of them. Before, when she was just starting out, she had to actively hunt down people who needed a photographer, and they were too cheap to pay for a real one (which can cost thousands of dollars).
Photoshoots aren't always the glamorous prospect many people make them out to be. To make the actual shooting happen, there is a lot of logistical planning involved – discussing with the clients how they want their photos to be done first, then the location scouting, obtaining shooting permissions (if necessary), lighting and outfits, and booking the date.
One of the most exciting shoots she's had was around Milan, where she had to recreate a Renaissance painting, the pagans making a tribute to the goddess Ceres. It was painstaking. She truly felt the aura of the ancients in her mind, as she shot purely under the moonlight – having to use f1.6 Zeiss lenses (the smaller the aperture value, the more light the camera lens can absorb, at a cost of shallow depth-of-field) and an exposure time of 1 second.
With wedding shoots, which take place in some rented-out venue – it saves her some work – usually, the couple just wants to be shot in their happiest moments, when they kiss, when they dance to the music, and when they share the creme cake together.
In the Queen's Center mall, this couple (their names Jeanne and D.J.) are having a Noir cabaret-themed event, along the lines of Broadway meets electro-swing.
They're having it in an Applebee's.
Ekaterina checks her phone's notifications; "Where are you?" her crew is saying. "They're going to kiss in like 20 minutes!" and that was 23 minutes ago. What's a few more minutes? The priest takes like forever to get through their rites and vows.
She is running down the mall, where the fountains spill glistening patterns under the daylight. She must look like hell is breaking loose, while her hands assemble her camera kit together on the way.
The Applebee's has a special sign by its entrance. It's being rented for the sakes of Jeanne and D.J.'s wedding, where anyone is free to come and witness the event.
It's claustrophobic squeezing by the stacked stools, and even more claustrophobic when she could see behind a second set of doors, the whole stage set-up with Jeanne and D.J. under the spotlight, wearing Steampunk-themed outwear, about to pledge 'I do' to "In sickness and in health, will you care for D.J. to the best of your ability?"
She is interrupted by bouncers, who are suspicious of her gear.
"We'll need you to leave your bag aside." They point at the pile of purses and backpacks gathered by the janitor's closet. "Can't have people pullin' stuff-"
The bouncers do this with uninvited guests, and she has no time for their hassle, as she just hears the priest say "You may now kiss the bride."
"I'm Ekaterina! I'm their photographer!" She flashes her ID and wiggles out of their grasp, rushing down to the aisle, where she rapidly focuses her camera on their kissing faces and snaps a clear photo.
"Kat!" It's her partner-in-crime, Marvin, in a hushed whisper under the shadows. "Dude, where've you been?"
"I guess I got caught up in traffic," she goes.
The tables have been setup for free dinners, with incandescent orbs placed in their midst for illumination. LEDs hung from the ceiling glow and dim like ice stalactites, and a wift of glowing smoke emenates from the floor – this is what Ekaterina has asked for, two weeks before, when she visited the venue in its unmodified form, and allowed her mind to conjure up and suggest associaions, looking around.
Many of the uninvited guests are brought to awe at the atmosphere, with some regulars remarking that it's wonderfully unrecognisable from what they've grown so used to.
And for her, that is one of the greatest complements. To reinvent the familiar with a fresh magic of her own, and have others recognise it.
The actual shooting, it is a mixture of improv and direction. For the most part, she just captures the best parts of the scene as they unfold with the natural liveliness that just is, with the cheers, and the people dancing to the music, the young kids in the corner playing Pokemon on their DS.
When the people have settled down to dinner, she quickly has the couple huddle together for her camera – Marvin managing the lights, while April fixes any blemishes on their cheeks, and Viktor unleashing the trained doves to the background (who will be lit faintly by their outlines).
You can barely hear her camera shutter.
Afterwards, she shows them the unpolished result on her camera's display, and it amazes her how they're gleeing already.
"Ooh, we look so dashing!" D.J. goes, pointing out when he has Jeanne in a tango dip.
"That one there is pure genius!" Jeanne says. "You're incredible Miss Belinskaya! Absolutely incredible."
Kat is a nickname that's evolved from when Marvin stumbled across calling her Kit-Kat, like the candy bar, and it just stuck. So she's gone with having her close friends calling her Kat ever since, or Kitty if in a very playful mood, although her clients just address her formally. A wall of professionalism which helps reinforce a healthy distance – so she doesn't lose her sense of boundaries when working. It's gotten her into trouble earlier on when she acted too casually.. pried into her client's private matters, joked around too much, and left them with a great offence.
Not all her clients are like this, but there's the one type who pays very high and won't stand to be made a fool out of. Or pompous clients who just can't take a joke.
She finds it awkward though to work in a stictly formal atmosphere, and that's where her comrades-in-arms come in, to help liven the working mood. It's like trying to sleep in your own bed, and you've got a suit on – you need your soft pajamas.
"Thank you," Ekaterina tells them; her sweet lingering scent wades up everyone's noses. "I'll have them edited and published, soon as possible." She reassures the couple with a smile. "Stay tuned."
The evening is spent outside in the mall's courtyard, where the water fountains spill shapes and dazzling patterns. Ekaterina has taken a few more shots of the couple against the backdrop of the city, and now, she is wistfully gazing away at the streets which are just beginning to blossom in their luminescent livelihood.
New York. The place she's come to call her home. A metropolitan centre of organized chaos, where there's always something interesting to pique the eye on every corner. It's like a piecemeal anthive, the way most everything seems to blend with to one another, from the homeless tramps to the apartments and graffiti, and all the neon signs shouting to be heard above the rabble.
It's always busy and moving; the people clamber to reach the next place from where they're at – whether it's another street or another rung of the social caste.
The only downside (besides the occasionally musty subways) is finding a quiet place to reflect, and recover one's sense of peace. Besides Central Park or the greenhouse gardens, there aren't many natural calm areas.. along the lines of talking a walk through a quiet suburban neighbourhood, or lying down upon a hill in a secluded region.
Luckily, she has the privilege of travelling wherever she needs to be, with being connected to the International Photographer's Guild (IPG) – which offers monthly air miles that can be saved up, so she can travel back home to Moscow to be with her family on their beautiful estate, or Japan if she is in the Oriental mood. Or the majority of Europe for sightseeing and inspiration.
"Kat..?" Marvin's voice interrupts her reverie.
She's leaning over the balustrade, holding her sleek e-cigarette to her mouth.. savouring the sweetly-flavoured smoke as it cascades out her lips.
"Yes yes yes?" she mumbles.
"You've been out of sorts," Marvin says, joining her in her 'chillout corner.' "It's the third time recently you've been late for a shooting, and I know you don't think anyone would notice, but I catch that occasional gaze of your eyes - it's like a part of you ain't really here."
She sighs out wispy smoke – a fulfilled exhaustion running through her body. "It's been a busy couple of weeks.. I should really take the time off.."
"Even at your busiest, you're always very focused. I didn't see that today. We're just lucky everything turned out the way it did. Hell, I had a good time."
Ekaterina passes Marvin her e-cig, an indirect kiss for him to take. "I dunno. I've been feeling a little dissatisfied. It's always other people's stuff we're working on – and I just want to take the chance to do something that's just.. personal to my heart. You know what I mean?"
He huffs and puffs. "Yeah. I get you."
"It's like I've been going all over other places for so long, and I've all but forgotten what it is to just relax and have fun at my own place."
The smoke which comes out of Marvin's mouth, it is deep and voluptuous. It reminds her of Barry White's voice, when he hits those deep notes.
"What do you got in mind Kitty?" he asks.
She turns her head to the mysteries beneath the streets, hiding the uncertainty of her expression. "I dunno yet."
But that's a white lie.
At her apartment, she relaxes. She greets her pet kitty Monsieur Kibbles – "Awww, miss me already?" and tucks away her equipment in her room.
It's a fairly large suite for just one person, which she's lovingly decorated every inch with a personal touch. The view outside is good; she can catch glimpse of the sunrise as it happens, and has a mounted camera set to take images of it every morning.
It's the place where she's free to be herself, without anyone around (except her cat). She microwaves herself a TV dinner – and settles for a while to finish watching LeBlanc, the captivating mini-series about a stage magician and her romance with a young boy.
Finally, after glancing at her schedule and confirming that she has nothing major going on for the rest of the week, she turns to the erotic images that's been at the back of her mind.
The male virility. Those things seductive of a man, which captivates her so, and all this being vitally linked to the essence of his heart. His desire, his way of showing passion. His naked soul. And her wanting to capture it all in her photos, that beautiful thing she feels about it – that not many other erotic images seem to respect.
She is too embarassed about her display of sexuality, even to her working comrades. That's why she chose not to mention it to Marvin, or anyone else.
It'll be just herself and another man – her willing subject, on this intimate photoshoot.
She could post about it on FB and her blog, ask for someone who lives in the city who'd want to participate for her (thousands will, many of her male fans).
Her arousal washes over her like a drug though; it's impossible to concentrate like this..
Thus, sitting down in her bedroom, lit mainly by the computer monitors, she just concentrates on the purest sensation her fingers give, and indulges herself to relieve that swelling bliss of her loins. The very air seems to heat around her in the minutes which pass.
10 – preparations, pt. 2
There are more ways to kiss someone than by mouth.
By hands, for example. Your hands are clutching his, your fingers intertwined as you feel every tension translate through his joints. Or your fingers would be running over his body, touching his skin and adoring the way he just feels under your presses, his underlying muscle and body fat and skeletal construction.
Or by body, when you're laying atop of him, sliding yourself up and down to the drive of your senses' pleasure, his chest pressing against your breasts,tum-tum-tum you'd feel your heart pumping, and you feel satisfied that you aren't just sandwiching [crushing] him against the flat floor in full embrace. You'd swallow all his shudders, cradle him tightly to you, and take an occasional break from his mouth as it suits you.
"Uahh.. hh..!" you hear him go in-between. "You're going.. too fast.. I.."
It's been a while since you've really made love with someone, so.. it is only natural you are hungrily into the act, like someone who hasn't tasted sweet Belgian chocolate in a very long time.
It is Renton's first time, doing this. When she'd guided him, gently coaxing him into her, he did not immediately recognise the sensation, a soft feeling, vaguely pressing upon him, making him stiffen especially – and even thought that he was still outside of her somewhat, until they'd begun moving.
At first, he does not feel the urging pleasure he'd usually get by himself, at his own hands. It aches for him though, and then it hits him that he should not be so hasty to rush to the end.. it's already nice, caressing her whole body.
She'd felt his ankle bracelet brush by over her leg, several times (she'd have to do something about it).
It is a claustrophobic embrace throughout, so close to each other; a beautiful contact with another person. Nobody's ever told him about this, his whole life. If he'd get light-headed from a wonderful romantic moment in a show, you could multiply the feeling ten-fold and you'd not be close to this.. expression of love.
It is so suffocating. Like most of the air he inhales is shared with her also – in the moments when her mouth is locked onto his, he'd feel her moaning from her very core, and he remembers to breathe in fresh air through his nose, as to not be overwhelmed by the suffocation.
He is feeling like in a daze.
Then the urge comes, arriving, welling up in him, like wanting to pee. A sense of inevitability. When her lips pull away from him again, he tells her, "Please.. Evaine, slow down.." I don't want this to end, ever..
But she doesn't..
He opens his eyes and sees her – as if she's gazing off somewhere past him he can't see. Now she is in a frenzy, and she is rapidly, desperately rocking back and forth by his pelvis, a tear escaping from her eyes.
"Slow down-!" Renton wants to say, but his voice is muffled in her mouth, drowned out amidst her intensifying utterances as she clutches him all the harder over his shoulders, on his cheeks. Stop.. stop.. I can't.. it's.. I'm..
His dam bursts, and all the pleasure that's mounted in him is letting out, in her, in her- he sees lights dazzling before his eyes, and a surge of adrenaline spilling out- he convulses, losing control of his limbs-
But she still continues on, far past when he is done letting it all out – and then she clenches, and yelps out, a very beautiful agony reverberating, and kisses him as the very room seems to dizzy, so disorienting, like free-falling from the roller-coaster she hasn't rode in forever, and she holds onto him in every way she can, like when she was young and she held onto Philippe with her eyes closed, afraid of the acceleration and the rush of velocity, and the turns and twists of the tracks.
She holds onto him, even after her shuddering has subsided, and when she pulls her lips away from his, she realises she is crying.
The salty tears drip onto Renton's nose.
"I.. I.." Evaine goes, her voice hoarse, unsure of what to say. She notices how Renton is shuddering like her, his head in an apparent Cloud Nine. "Are you alright, Renton? Did I hurt you?"
It takes him a moment to get his mental awareness fully back into the room with her.
".. I'm so happy.." he tells her, smiling, as his chest seems to expand relievingly, a warmth of pure, blissful euphoria spreading from his heart all over to his arms and legs.
"I'm glad.." She blows her strands of hair aside, and fondles Renton by his face, as she senses their mutual wetness dripping out of her.
Together, they linger like this, feeling so warm and sweaty and spent.
"Evaine.." Renton goes, gazing at her. "You're so beautiful.."
And so they take a shower together, the water steaming, spilling over their contours, washing away the detruitus of last night and this morning, and that silky scent of pheromones. It's pleasantly comforting, the water.
After, when they've dried themselves with the towels, Renton sees her pick out her wardrobe – an elegantly casual dress of a fur jacket over dark shirt, where you could see the white fur on the inside, and she swiftly applies miniscule dots to her cheeks, and dyes her right hair white. It would suit her nicely for the bustling streets – her own brand of Las Vegas savoir faire.
She is a bit unrecognisable compared with without makeup on.
Then she scavanges through her bags, looking for something – the birth control pills. But nothing; it's been a while since she last did it with anyone, and she'd tossed out the pills earlier for expiring.
"Merde.." she goes. "We'll have to make a trip to the pharmacies. Hold on Renton, I'll get you your outwear.."
While LeBlanc fetches his clothes from the dry cleaning, Renton checks the Weather Channel for today's climate – it'll be purely sunny for the whole day, with some minor showers over the week. And do they have 'Francois Deux-Deux' the cartoon on somewhere? He flips through the channels..
She bursts in the room, his clothes all wrapped up in plastic sheets. It smells lemony fresh when Renton pulls out his jacket and pants, and LeBlanc gets him his socks which were drying overnight.
So he is all fully ready to go.
When they head downstairs, LeBlanc shows him to the hotel's dining lounge – a large chamber of red chairs and fountains and overhanging chandeliers, where they sit down and she gets a coffee with the eggs, sausage and toast with a yogurt. (The yogurt is there as a 'digestif' – to help ease the digestion.)
I guess I'll have the same, Renton thinks. Well, except the yogurt; he's never had a taste for that thing, and adds on some hashbrowns to his plate, with a cup of milk.
At the table, Renton's groin aches.
"Oohhh.." he goes, drawing a curious look from her. "It's numb.."
"It was your first time with a woman, oui?" LeBlanc goes.
He nods. She's the one who he's lost his virginity with, mere minutes ago, and she is innocently grinning, a light scoff out her mouth.
"Physiologically speaking," LeBlanc explains, her voice lowered so others don't easily overhear, "your body recognises naturally when it is truly going to fertilise someone. So- I think you touch yourself, oui?"
"Mhm." Renton blushes.
"So it's just your hands, alone. But it's like eating potato chips and calling that a satisfying, wholesome meal. You miss out on all the other things, the bodily embrace, the scent, the warmth and my quivering. Let alone the fact of my presence with you. As you have more encounters, you get used to it. Your loins aching after a session, because it's poured much of itself out. I'll show you more.. later on, if you want."
She bites on her buttered toast. "It will be our secret, Renton.. you and me. Please don't tell anyone else about it – not Swain or Lulu, or anyone."
Her eyes invade him; she's entrusting him with her naked heart.
"I won't, ever," Renton says. For how can he betray her – when he's said she's beautiful back in the washroom, he doesn't mean her outward appearance, but how she's made him feel in that moment, and that wonderful, enlivening person he'd sensed existing at her very core.
It would be a strange kind of relationship – a far deeper connection than marriage, he feels, or even parenting. Maybe it is like both.
Maybe it is more than either.
The taxicab carries them to a shopping mall, where there are outlets for clothes, shoes, jewelry, electronics, and the like. Actually, it's more than that – it is quite lavishly decorous, with balloons floating under the ceiling lights, and the animated display maps, where you can tap on the screen, and it will show you the path to get there from here.
It is around 7:10 am.
"We should do it fast," LeBlanc goes. "They'll be up around 8:20. I'll sort out your clothes first, and then my contraception.."
She strides, swift steps, Renton having to almost jog to keep up with her. He's much energised – look around! He's never been in a mall this large before, and he's breathtaken by the rich sights, the diversity of outlets.. if he weren't so occupied right now, he'd easily spend a whole day exploring the mall for himself.
LeBlanc finds one of those maps, and she's looking for a boutique shoppe, one for males. Alors – there's one called 'Unicorn,' and it's just short walking distance.
So she leads him to that store.
She gets the occasional glance from guys, and a few women too.
"Hey, why are we up this early anyway?" Renton goes.
"We'll be very pre-occupied for the whole day," LeBlanc goes. "Morning to night. This is the only free time to get you your things. A luggage bag even, and personal belongings-"
Suddenly, Renton's ankle bracelet is buzzing – to Renton's shock, the bracelet's light is glowing a menacing yellow, shining through his pants, and he's hopping on one leg, pulling his other pant leg up, as if to confirm that this is really happening.
Oh non, what a nightmare!
"Why's it buzzing like that?!" Renton yelps, as LeBlanc tries to tug away the offending ankle bracelet – the scene drawing attention of passers-by.
Then LeBlanc decides- she hauls Renton over to the privacy of an alley, and tells him to hold still as she clasps her hand on the bracelet, frying its electronics with a small jolt of her energies.
It's a dead bracelet now, and Renton sighs with relief.
"I don't get it.." Renton goes. "I thought I'm far out of range for this thing to work – I mean, it's Las Vegas, right? Not Vancouver."
"I'm not an expert on these bracelets," LeBlanc goes. "I think.. it might have been a radio wave or something that made it throw a fit. From an electronics store. I should get this off of you when I can. But at least, it won't be bugging you again." She smiles.
They step back into the public area, and a few bystanders are awaiting them.
"Hey, are you folks alright?" a bald fat guy goes. "Sounded like an emegency."
"Oh.." LeBlanc thinks of an answer. "That was his insulin bracelet – my young friend here needed a sudden injection.."
Renton nods in agreement.
"Hm," a lady goes. "Well, take care, you too."
And they wander off.
"Apparently," LeBlanc goes, "they don't know about the house arrest bracelets. It's lucky for us. I think you should roll down your pant leg, in case someone does recognise it."
After Renton does just that, they finally enter the Unicorn boutique (based from Belgium) where she heads to the l'hommes section, and-
"What's your size Renton?" LeBlanc asks him, before she puts her fingers by his collar and checks the tag – L, for large. "And your pants.."
"I dunno my pants.." Renton goes.
"Sit down for a second."
So Renton sits on his bum on the bench, and LeBlanc loosens his belt, and checks the inside back of his pants. Hm.
"Alright," she goes, resetting his belt. "I'll get you a new wardrobe set – the one you're wearing now, your sports jacket, I'd call it 'civilian.' When you show up on stage, you must fit in with the atmosphere – a stage attire."
Without hesitation, LeBlanc is picking out a stage attire for Renton; the white dress shirt/skirt (shirk?) and black pants she gets him resemble pajamas, or a karate robe.
"Try putting it on yourself," she goes, "and let me see the result."
In the dressing room, Renton gets everything but his underwear and socks off, and to his amazement, he finds the wardrobe easy to put on, with the shirk sliding over his head and the pants only needing a string to tighten it by his waist.
It's a loose yet comfortable fit, and he sees himself in the mirror – he almost looks like an elfin jester; just needs the cap with bells on it.
He comes out of the room; it takes LeBlanc a second to gander at him, before she bursts out giggling, her hand to her mouth.
"Awww.. it's cute," she goes. "I like it. What do you think of it Renton?"
"I.. it fits me nice."
"I think you could be my partner during my show routine. I just need to get you a cap to complete the picture.. maybe Lulu has a Santa hat handy." LeBlanc glances at his feet. "Hm."
She winds up buying the outfit, along with a pair of soft, fuzzy slippers – a suitcase too, and a bottle of perfume (Van Cleef & Arpels) that will fit him when audience members get up-close. A total of $475 spent, not including the taxi journey.