Chapter 9


Yoko scowled slightly--or at least it might have been a scowl. It might have been a straight-face-turned-pout for all Julian, kohl pencil in hand, could tell only foot away from the other man’s face. He ran a thick line above his lashes, smearing the black residue with his thumb to make Yoko's large eyes look smaller, with a sultry, smokie allure. He still looked a little like a child playing in mommy's makeup, but when Julian leaned back on his heals, getting a good look of his entire face, the signs of maturity in the cheeks and chin were as pronounced on Yoko’s face as on any other man's.

"Will you kill me if I bring out the mascara too?"

Yoko rubbed at his eye. "I think this is enough."

Julian smiled a little and straightened up, dropping the black pencil on to the coffee table as he eyed his small, fashionable friend. Where Yoko got black leather pants in his size was almost too frightening to imagine, but they were worn in and soft to the touch, like a second pair of skin dyed dark as sin specifically for evening engagements. He wore tough boots for strong steps, painful kicks and an inch or two of added height, along with a black tee emblazoned with a gray and white emblem that invoked the combined image of a butterfly and archaic runes. Nothing but his stature looked childish, though Julian chided himself for thinking “cute” before “sexy”.

If he’d asked anyone other than Yoko to go with him to the clubs--well, for one thing, anyone else he knew would have said “no”, but more importantly they would never have dressed up appropriately. Rabbit, for instance, would have spent his time criticizing Julian's clothing choices. Not intending to impress anyone, Julian had kept it tame with black cargo pants and a mesh top. He could almost hear Rabbit's voice in his head pointing out the visibility of his nipples or the impracticality of wearing a shirt at all if that shirt was see-through. But Rabbit wasn't there and would likely be far away from the club scene. He could keep his imagined criticism to himself.

"So, do you know where he is?"

Julian shook his head at Yoko's inquiry, a little embarrassed by his lack of planning. "The Oracle only asked for me to find Sasha; he didn’t say where to find him. But he's a bar tender, so if he's gotten any work lately it'll be within the club scene."

He didn't bother adding his suspicions of drug use. It wasn't a secret that the albino had taken illegal substances in the past. Alone--if in fact he was still alone several weeks after their break up--and dealing with the voices and visions of the Witness, he wouldn't have been very surprised to find Sasha high on a whole cocktail of drugs, chilling at a bar or half passed out on a bench or in an alley, riding his high.

"You will find him."

Julian smiled at what he thought was optimism, but Yoko’s stoic expression made it obvious he meant something else altogether.

"If you can't trust in fate, then at least we can rely on your resonance."

Resonance: just one of the many things about being a Shard that Julian had discarded.



The club was loud and yet Julian could hardly hear the music. Here the smell of sweat and sulfurous body odor masked nearly everything except the feel of warm bodies pressed against each other. In some ways, things were still very much as they had always been. But everyone in the city had been to hell and back, and no place echoed their desperate need for affirmation quite like the clubs that still operated in the lower Core. Business seemed to be booming. All around was a multicolored nightmare of flesh and sound driven more by the need to feel alive than by the pulse of the music. Julian put his hand against Yoko's spine as the world shrank in around them.

"You want a drink or something?"

Yoko shook his head, eyes locked on the dance floor.

"Want to dance?"

He shook his head again, this time turning his face to look up at Julian. "You go. I enjoy watching people."

"You sure?"

Yoko pointed towards a couch that was empty except for a couple kissing against its arm. "I'll sit there. When it becomes boring, I will let you know."

Julian smiled, laughing a little at the idea of Yoko just sitting for hours, watching everyone else have fun. "And I'll just follow my Shard-y intuition to find our needle in a haystack?"

"It's one way of putting it, yes." He gave Julian's back a pat and walked off towards the couch, sitting down as if this were his living room and everything in front of him was a program on his terminal. It would have made Julian regret asking him to come if he hadn’t seen the interest in Yoko’s eyes as they swept over the neon-lit, glittering crowd. There was a bit of a voyeur in Yoko, Julian supposed, as much as there was a bit of an exhibitionist in himself. The Healer delved into the throng with a small smirk, wondering what secret worlds opened up to people patient enough to sit and watch.

On the dance floor, there was only one world existent and it was claustrophobic and smelled. Women's perfumes clashed together, florals fighting fruit scents, and both nearly overpowered by the heavy sting of stringent alcohol. Julian was happy to be there, though. Pink dreds caught on his cheek as he pressed through the crowds of neon ravers. He loved it. Missed it. Thrived on it. Couldn't remember why he'd stopped coming other than the facts that Sasha had fared poorly in crowds and that he'd been busy with pretending to be a mature adult.

A redhead pressed herself against him, breasts flush against the tight weave of his shirt. "Hey, baby," she said, poison-pink lips pouting against the stubble on his cheek. "Dance with me."

Julian smiled, tilting away from her just slightly. "Love to. I'm looking for someone, though." He had to shout over the music but she nodded as though she understood.

"Anyone I know?"

"Know an albino, name of Sasha?"

"Oh, Sasha? White hair, black tips?" Her smile widened at his look of surprise. "Sweet Ass is over there by the speakers. Says he can hear himself think better with the noise drowning everything out."

Julian followed her ringed finger as it pointed out towards the large speakers to the left of the stage. He couldn't see anyone there past the heads of the crowd, but felt good about her directions. He gave her cheek a kiss. "Thanks. Friend of his?"

She shrugged, pressing harder against him before pushing off to join the others bouncing to the beat. She winked at him as she was swallowed whole. "Who isn't?"

As he approached the speakers, Julian placed his hands against the sides of his head, trying to block the external vibrations while his brain fizzled with its own internal variety. Resonance, he imagined. It wasn't obvious; hardly even a tickle in the back of his mind that alerted him to the harmonics of an immortal companion. He'd thought of it as that illusive chemistry before:--he thing between two people that sparks and lights the fires of passion. He'd felt it with Rabbit. He'd felt it with Sasha. He'd felt it with Surg, but in the end that strange feeling and any relevance towards compatibility seemed to prove a fluke. That wasn’t resonance. Resonance was something else entirely.

Sasha stood against the side of the speaker, body thrumming with the constant hum of music. His eyes looked sunken from a distance, and the dark kohl lining his eyes exaggerated the tired circles. His hair was shocked into spikes along his head with a few red tips mixed in with the usual black. He didn't seem to see Julian at first. He stood his arms folded across his chest, orange hooded sweatshirt only slightly wrinkled. His black eyes looked right through Julian as he forced a smile and approached. The albino’s faraway stare seemed clouded by phantoms and it was easy to imagine that that was precisely what he saw.

"Hello, Sasha."

Sasha blinked and turned his face, a scowl wrinkling his brow. "Julian." He pushed away from the speaker, hands finding there way into the pouch of his sweatshirt. "Big place. Is there really a need to bump into each other?"

Julian tried to keep his smile in check. "No, not especially. I'm here on business, not pleasure."

"That's why I'm smarter than you." Sasha gave a Cheshire Cat grin and began to walk away. "With me, business is always a pleasure."

"Sasha, wait!"

Sasha ignored him and stepped towards the employee doors at the back of the club. Julian grabbed onto his arm before he made it through.

"Sasha--"

"Let go of my arm or I'll have security show you out."

"Sasha, it's about the Shards."

The Witness stopped, looking back over his shoulder as though gauging Julian's honesty. "I'm not going to let the music decide whether I get to yell at you or not. Meet me outside."

Julian nodded. It wasn't exactly the kind of thing one spoke about in noisy, crowded quarters. "Where?"

"Outside."

"When?"

Sasha smirked. "Maybe I'll get a break before too long. Maybe not until my shift ends. You have business with me, serious business, you can just wait outside till I'm good and ready."

Julian scoffed. "You expect me to just stand around all night waiting?"

"You have no problem wasting other people's time." The bitterness in Sasha's voice cut like wire. Julian frowned. "You're not waiting for me when I come out there, forget it. I only make time for serious inquiries. My life doesn't revolve around yours any more."

Julian's jaw locked on words that felt good in his throat but would have become poison in the air. He swallowed them and let Sasha's arm go. "Outside, then. This is important. I'll be there."

"We'll see."

Sasha lifted his chin proudly as he pressed into the secured areas of the club. The door swung shut behind him and though the music drowned out all other sounds, Julian imagined he could hear the chiding laughter of whatever gods still cared enough to oversee the human side of life.