Monday Night Character-oke! (part 3 of ???)

Welcome back to NaNo Relief Bash, 2014! The party’s in full swing with Monday Night Character-oke at Rook’s bar! I’m hosting for a long time reader, whose characters are really making a splash! Hijinks are undoubtedly about to ensue…

Part 1   Part 2

His tone said irritation, but again, Seth couldn’t detect any actual anger. Then again, what did he really know? Their auras wouldn’t necessarily be the same as what he was used to. Still, he felt safe exiting the bar with this man. What harm could come from someone who sent him such a wonderful gift?

Seth held the door open, gesturing for Luke to go first with a flourish of his hand. Once outside, Seth moved to stand near the bench beneath the big window, allowing Luke to sit first, content to wait and see what the man’s posture invited.

Luke acknowledged Seth holding open the door with a nod but didn’t look at him. His shoulders were tense when they got outside and he paused to take a deep breath of the night air. He watched Seth move over to the window and saw the bench in his view. Was he waiting to see if he sat? He knew that he saw Jon giving Seth something before they left but he could not read what it was. He could clearly see the magic shimmer through the air, though. Did anyone actually think that he would harm Seth? Luke gave a half-hearted smile. He didn’t even decide to consciously make the decision when he realized that he was walking toward the bench but he did not feel like sitting. He kept a few feet from Seth and ran a hand over the back of his neck. He was glad that Seth was allowing him to lead the conversation, and he knew that he had to talk about Mela. He knew that the situation was very delicate that he actually came here to talk about but knew that if he didn’t speak about Mela, it would probably not make much sense. He glanced to the window and turned so that his back was to Seth. Still silent, he cleared his throat before speaking.
“It seems that you know how to handle my wife.” There was no anger in his voice. His emotion that came through almost sounded sad or wistful.
He paused, waiting to see if Seth would say anything or move closer to him.

“I’m well practiced at dodging overenthusiastic fans, yes.”
Seth willed himself to move, a shift of his weight, a blink of the eyes- anything to keep from going serpent still. He didn’t want to give the wrong impression, so while he was sure to tread lightly, he was also careful not to be too careful. Sometimes, diplomacy made it seem more like you had something to hide. The old tale of the lady protesting too much and all that.
Luke turned to face Seth, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “Yes, of course,” he said softly. “I forgot.” He rested his eyes on Seth’s. “Your fame is well deserved, my friend, and thank you for talking to my wife. You’ve made her very happy tonight.”
It seemed as though he wanted to say something more but he closed his mouth and looked at the ground a moment before looking back up at Seth. “If she bothers you, let me know,” Luke said and his voice turned almost teasing. “My Mela has the most funny effect on people. It’s called annoyance.” This time, he did flash Seth a real grin.
“I do believe that my wife enjoys throwing herself at other men to see how jealous I get. I think that if I show jealousy it still proves how desirable I find her.” He shook his head, his smile fading momentarily. “It can get very tiresome.” He shrugged and let out a puff of air.
His voice was warmer when he spoke again. “Anyway, everything will be fine when we come back in. She’ll no doubt drape herself over me and croon about how romantic I am.” He shook his head after a moment. “Then she’ll go back to flirting with other people, my little minx.” His voice spoke clearly with all the love he had for his wife. He said her name, Mela, like a gentle caress.
He smiled and looked at the ground again. “Anyway, I did not bring you out here to talk about my wife. I actually wanted to talk to you about something else.” He paused and looked at the ground again. He looked up and He saw the bench and walked over and sat down. He paused and blinked a few times, folding his hands together. His whole body posture relaxed as soon as he sat down and he glanced momentarily at the stars that were shining in the sky, as though hoping to find the right words that he wanted to say to Seth.

Once it was clear they were in the clear, Seth melted into his usual relaxed self. He leaned up against one of the deck supports, arms crossed casually over his stomach. He wouldn’t comment on the other man’s wife- there was little he could add, and no point in clinging to a conversation that neither of them really wished to have. A change in topic would be most welcome.
“I’m all ears.”

“That story that you told me about your mother…” He paused. “I didn’t know my mother. I never did. The woman who gave me life, who I believed love me…” His voice now trailed off. “I never knew her; I’ll never get the chance to know her now.” His eyes looked at all the stars in the sky. “I started to learn magic in an effort to connect to her in some way and even in that, I failed.” He shook his head. “If she is in the Universe, she’s not responding to my call and it took a long time for me to make peace with that.” Unshed tears sparkled in his eyes and he swallowed and bowed his head for a moment but when he looked up next, his eyes were dry and his gaze shifted to Seth.
“Seth, your letter—and your words—touched me deeply. To know that I gave you something that reminded you of something so personal—a charin, I think it was—and that my present brought you comfort.” He now smiled and something lit up in his blue eyes. “It brings me true joy to know that my present perhaps healed a piece of you that was missing.” He pushed his hands together and his expression clouded over for a moment.
“I am not worthy of the thanks that you gave me Seth,” he said, looking momentarily troubled before the expression cleared. “However, I am happy that my gifts gave you comfort and continues to do so.” He paused before continuing.
“I am grateful that you shared with me a part of yourself and your history. It meant a great deal to me.” He smiled again and his blue eyes were deep, clear pools of blue. “Thank you for writing your letter. It made me feel closer to my mother, knowing that I gave you something that reminded you of her. It made me feel closer to mine that even though she is not here—I cannot see her nor touch her, she is still all around me and always will be. You have brought me peace in my heart and spirit more than you will ever know, my friend, and for that I honor you.” He bowed his head low to Seth.

Seth dropped to one knee without a thought. In matters of family, of the heart… No one stood greater than those who went before. Luke’s mother, his own mother, and their mothers before them- he bowed his head to all of them. And to the friend that shared such joy and pain with him now.
It was good that he was already kneeling, or the force of Luke’s emotions would have surely made him stagger. As is, Seth had to swallow hard past the tightness in his throat, sympathy coming unbidden in the face of so much raw emotion.
When he finally could speak, he reached out and clasped the other man’s hand.
“My friend…”
He stared at him with shining eyes for a moment, before giving up and shaking his head.
“There are no words for a moment such as this, no?”
He smiled warmth and affection filling his face. “For those who understand one another, no words are needed.”

Luke smiled, his eyes filling with tears again and shook his head, he swallowed hard and nodded. He hesitated and closed his eyes and let his magic fill him again and whirled it around Seth and himself.
Words echoed through both of their minds: Love, Joy, Spirit, Community, Friends…Luke reached deep within to find the peace that was always burning. The ember and stoked it until the fire burned hot inside him and he could feel his chest getting hot. He saw the flame traveling from his chest…up his torso…down his arm and gently pushed it toward Seth so that peace’s flickering flame would give him some peace. He saw the flame gently licking at Seth’s finger and watched as it went into Seth’s body gently, moving like water now and Luke sighed with relief. He was grateful that Seth understood what he was feeling.

Seth quickly put a wall around the magic his friend offered him – no telling how it would affect the many spells linked to him. He would save it, study it, ponder it for later, but Seth was always the better safe than sorry sort.
Except when he was being completely reckless, of course.
But he could feel the peace and joy radiating off of his friend, and was certain this ember would bring a quiet smile to his face just when he needed it most. Seth was so prone to losing himself in the darkness of grim “realistic viewpoints”, he knew this moment of faith and friendship would serve him well.
He touched Luke’s hand to his heart, nodding his quiet gratitude.
“Thank you, my friend. You are truly very generous of spirit.”

Luke realized that he had miscalculated with his magic since it looked like it wasn’t flowing into Seth’s body as easily as it normally seemed to and remembered that not all people accepted magic as easily. He very slowly pulled back on it, so that he wouldn’t make Seth dizzy and felt his hand resting against Seth’s heart. He knew what Seth was telling him without words and knew that he was thanking him and was glad that Seth understood that he was only trying to offer comfort with his magic. He gently removed his hand from Seth’s heart.
“I suppose that this is party and I’ve made it unnecessarily emotional, haven’t I?” He asked gently, turning a warm smile in Seth’s direction. “I would have just felt remiss if I didn’t thank you. I’ve never felt close to my mother except for your letter. It reminded me that one day I may receive a similar gift that will connect me to her in some way.” He gently stretched his arms over his head. “I suppose that we should go back in to join in the festivities–” he paused and then added, “Unless you have any questions or something that you would like to tell me?” A slight curiosity danced behind the peace in his eyes.
Seth grinned. “I’m a serpent- everything we do is unnecessarily emotional.”
He sobered a bit, knowing he had soured a tender moment. “Forgive me, but there are too many forces at work within me, and too many people dependent on the delicate balance I keep. I believe magic is shared more freely in your world than in mine.” A wicked glint came to his eye as he remembered his first encounter with this culture difference. “I’ve had to explain the same to Master Kyp, though that situation was a good deal more delicate.”
He didn’t know if Luke was privy to Kyp’s particular talents in the bedroom, but it wasn’t his secret to share anyways. Seth stood in a single graceful motion, holding his hand out.
“Shall we get back to the party, then?”

Luke grinned at Seth’s reference. “Indeed, Kyp did speak to me about that and it actually worked out as he got to try it on me.” He nodded and cast a sly look Seth’s way. “I do believe that is the one time that Mara and Mela were in a room and did not fight. Of course, we both made it worth it to them.” He took Seth’s outstretched hand before he chose to add “And no, sharing magic on my planet is not common. I only exchange it with people that I care about.” He looked to the ground a moment, his expression darkening slightly and looked up at the sky as though looking for something and pursed his lips in slight irritation.
“We should get back,” he said, quietly and laughed gently. ,”Oh, and by the way, about Dante, our mysterious traveler with us.” Luke laughed, his earlier troubled emotions vanishing on the spot and he gently shifted some strands of his blonde hair away from his eyes. “He’s our cook. He just decided to give himself a name tonight and thought that Dante suited him.” He shrugged. “He’s acting a little crazy because he’s realizing that with a child on the way his life will never quite be the same.” He winked at Seth. “He decided to try and be a bachelor again tonight but I don’t think that it’s working out so well.” He laughed and started to make his way to the door that they came in from.
Seth raised an eyebrow at the implications, but let it go. What consenting adults did with one another was their own business. As a serpent, he himself didn’t care, but he was surprised to see the man with the flirtatious wife issues actually engage in non-traditional relations. Ah well. The Universe was full of wonder, as always.
He was not as able to casually digest the news of “The Cook”, however.
“That wild-eyed madman made all those delicate sweets for my birthday?”

Luke laughed, casting a look back in Seth’s direction. “Indeed. Strange the way that the world works, doesn’t it? You give that man a spatula, a bowl and a few ingredients and can make a feast.” He shook his head. “And no idea how he does it either!” He shot Seth a teasing look and said in a serious voice, “we nearly starved when he went on his honeymoon and he left us for a week!”

Seth chuckled. “I shouldn’t be surprised- our own lord of the ladle is well over six feet tall- approaching seven, honestly.”
He stopped just in the doorway, scanning their usual table to see if Kain was still seated there. Perhaps the two men would enjoy a chat. Kain was easy to spot, and Seth pointed him out to his companion.
“See that shadow in the corner, back by the dartboards? That’s our own mountain of a man, Kain. If Dante’s done touring the restrooms, perhaps we should introduce them.”

Luke looked where Seth was pointing and had to admit that this man was an extremely dominating presence. Dante would be happy to have someone to talk to about cooking. Luke spotted him sitting at the bar and downing another shot and talking to Kyp who was laughing at a story that Dante was telling him.
As they opened the door, Mela immediately threw herself into Luke’s arms and Luke slightly staggered back. “My husband! My sexy husband who is all mine!” She immediately started kissing him and Luke laughed and tried to extricate himself from his wife’s arms.
“Give me a moment to get my breath, sweetheart!” He said laughing, as she proceeded to kiss his neck.
“Mela, honestly, you really need to get your priorities straight.” Mara appeared as though out of thin air and Luke’s eyes slightly narrowed as he looked into her eyes. Mela was kissing his cheeks all over and though he smiled at that momentarily, Mara’s presence seemed to drain much of the happiness out of him.
“Were you watching Seth and me?” He asked, his irritation showing as Mela continued kissing his neck and ignoring the conversation.
“Nope,” she said in a casual tone. “Just…checking out the patrons. And look, Kain is here. He’s a big hulking thing, isn’t he?” She asked and Luke frowned at her. He knew that she was lying.
“You just happen to be right by the door that I went through with Seth?” He added as Mela started putting her hand against Luke’s chest. “Darling, just a minute,” he said, and gently pushed her away. Mela huffed angrily and wrapped her arms against Seth’s middle instead.
Mara gave him a look of wide-eyed innocence and scoffed. “Please, I know that you can take care of yourself,” she said her tone slightly snotty and walked back to the bar. She acted as though Luke was insulting her. Luke frowned after her. He knew that Mara was protective of him, being as it was him who had taught her in magic and she had many times said that she would give her life for his, they had forged a strong and unbreakable bond, but Luke had shared such an intimate moment with Seth and it bothered him to think that she had been watching them when he had been sharing something so personal with Seth.
However, he decided a moment later that it would be pointless to affect him. What was done was done. Instead, he rolled his eyes and turned to Seth and spoke in a suffering tone. “Yes, let’s introduce Dante to Kain. And then you’ll have to recommend something with alcohol in it because I think that I’ll need it.”
Seth grinned, arm going around Mela without a thought. “Of course- I’ll have Jon make a pitcher of Long Islands- good, stiff stuff, and a favorite at the table. You round everyone else up and we’ll do a meet and greet.”

Instantly, Mela snuggled into Seth’s chest gently and literally purred against him. “Ohh, Long Islands! I can’t have one but how exciting! Luke hasn’t drank in nearly 10 years! How fun for him!” Mela giggled like a child and Luke looked surprised at the drink suggestion but had to agree with Seth that it was definitely a stiff drink. He grabbed Mela’s free hand and they all walked up the bar.
Mara had a face like a thundercloud when they approached. It was clear that she was angry at how much attention that Mela was getting. Kyp and Dante were oblivious to her anger. Dante was pounding down shots and Kyp got a drink, clinked glasses with Dante, and then they downed them.

Seth did his best to ignore his attachment- he didn’t want Luke to have to miss more of the party again. He caught Jon’s eye and leaned up against the bar, drawing Jon in for a chat.
“How’s it been going?”
Jon shrugged. “Pretty quiet. Not too big a turn out, which is fine by me. Rain’s made friends with the other new girl, though I don’t think the drinking is agreeing with her. Hopefully, the two of them can entertain each other to make up for it.”
Seth nodded, glad to hear the night had been going well for Jon. He had worried that the bartend would wind up overwhelmed. “Rook behaving?”
“Oh yeah.” Jon gestured down the bar to where Rook and Dante were downing shots as fast as Rook could pour them. Which was getting admittedly slower as Rook began to slosh about.
“He found the party crowd right away and settled right in.”
Jon shook his head, but it was clear from his small smile that he was pleased with how the evening was turning out.
“And you? No bruises, far as I can see. Not for lack of trying though.” He gestured to the blonde still wrapped around him, though she was more engaged in teasing her redhead friend than anything else.
Seth grimaced. “We’re fine- just my exaggerated reputation preceding me. Make me a peace offering I can take back to the table?”
Jon stifled a laugh. “Sure thing. Singles or doubles?”
“Better make it singles- I think the party crowd is following me tonight. No need to rush things.”
“You got it.”

“I wanna live here!” Dante yelled excitedly and Kyp laughed.
“Goddamn, I forgot how much you can drink,” Kyp said his face slightly red. “I don’t think I can do anymore. You got me beat,” he said and glanced at Mara blearily. Seeing her expression he rubbed his eyes and went over to her and put his arm around her. She glanced at him, her demeanor softening as he whispered something to her. To Luke’s surprise, Mela gave Seth’s hand around her waist a farewell pat and she turned to Mara.
“Hey, you gotta deal with a girl who was quite surly with me,” she said, interrupting Kyp, who was still whispering something to her. Kyp looked up, his arm still around Mara.
Mara glared at her, her anger simmering against the surface which made her voice short and irritated. “I gotta do nothing. She probably didn’t treat you like a special snowflake like you think that you are.”
“I think she’s an assassin,” she said in a sing song voice and Mara immediately perked up.
“Where is she?”
“The girl sitting next to Zig. You know, we saw her.”
Mara turned to look at her.
Mara’s eyes narrowed as she found the girl sitting at the table. This was probably the table that Seth and everyone were going to bring drinks too so she didn’t move yet. What a perfect excuse to talk to the girl. However, this girl was in jeans and a tee-shirt, not unusual. As an assassin, Mara had worn a variety of outfits. She’s assassinated people in everything from skin tight leather dominatrix clothes to old lady dresses in garish colors. However, this girl didn’t move like an assassin. She wasn’t watching or readying herself for any attacks that might come her way. Mara had learned how to make fighting stances or defense postures look natural but this girl was just sitting in her seat. Mara picked up her drink and sipped it, studying her. She decided that she would introduce herself when they got to the table and feel her out. She wasn’t going to kill the girl, especially not on Mela’s untrustworthy words, but was very interested to find out if another assassin was in the area. Mara had been friends with many of the fellow assassins in her guild.
“Let’s see, who wants drinks? Dante raised his hand enthusiastically. “Ohh, pick me!” He said, laughing. “Dante, of course. Kyp, you want one?” Kyp made a face and shook his head. “Maybe a water?” He asked weakly which made Mara tear her eyes away from Rain and laugh, kissing his cheek.
Mara shook her head and held up her margarita. Luke smiled and said, “And one for me and everyone at the table who wants one. I’ll buy.”

Rook interject with a burst of laughter. “Buy? Who said anything about buy? It’s open bar tonight, ladies and gents.”

“Shit!” Dante banged on the bar, it sounded almost like a gunshot. “Then make me two long islands my friend! We don’t have to pay here, Luke!” He said, shaking the poor man in his enthusiasm. “Sweet! I’ve never been to a bar where you don’t have to pay!” Luke managed to shake himself away from Dante and walked over to Mela, where he wrapped his arms back around his wife as she crooned at him.
“One for everyone then!” Mara said in a celebratory voice. Fuck this being jealous bullshit. We’re here to party!

Jon produced a tray of ice filled glasses and a tray with a pair of pitchers on it, which Seth intercepted before Rook could.
“To the table then?”

“To the table!” they all yelled. Luke was still wrapped up around Mela, Kyp linked up arms with Mara and Dante stood in front of them and started singing a song.

Rook appeared by Dante’s side, wrapping his arms around one of the big man’s.
“We’ll have to get you up on the mic, my friend, with a singing voice like that!”
Seth took up the rear, almost amused. So much for introducing everyone. Ah well. He had the important part- the drinks.

“Hail the conquering heroes!” Dante sang as they approached. “For they vanquished evil and slayed the foe and returned home…”
He cut off his enthusiastic singing at Rook’s comment. “A mic! I love it! I love singing and I LOVE THIS PLACE AND EVERYONE IN IT!” He yelled. Mara nearly collapsed with laughter, holding onto Kyp to stay upright and Mela looked at him in amazement. Luke was also laughing.
“Hear that!” He boomed to his friends. “I’m a superstar! Rook, you have to come home with us. Every time I need a shot or someone to stroke my ego, I’ll just come to you! You are a marvelous man!” He kissed Rook on both cheeks quickly and went back to singing.
“And the fairies danced past the ashes that burn and twirled in the air…”

With serpentine grace, Seth slipped around to Naj’s empty seat, handing the tray of liquor to Kain so it wouldn’t spill. He slid the glasses on the table behind it, then cleared his throat a few times to get everyone’s attention.
It didn’t work.
Kain chuckled softly as Seth slumped down in Naj’s seat.
“Are you really surprised?”
“No.” Seth did his best to keep the sulk out of his voice. He would –not- throw a fit like some child. Especially not when he was actually quite grateful for a moment out of the spotlight.

Dante noticed that no one at the table looked up at Seth’s quiet introduction. He wasn’t surprised since everyone was talking at once and making a racket so he decided to be his normal gregarious self and took charge. He took a deep breath and then bellowed, “What’s up, shapeshifters!” sounding like a cannon that went off. He gave everyone a huge smile behind his black beard, looking quite crazy at the moment.

Seth buried his face in his palm at the egregious faux pas. He might as well have completed the act by telling them all that he didn’t even think of them as animals, they were almost like people!
Kain shook with silent mirth beside him. The man’s thoughts had been projected loud and clear, and the big cat knew there was still more to come.

“Yes, let’s introduce everyone, shall I? He pointed to Mela who immediately smiled and curtsied. “That beautiful lady is named Mela and she is married to Luke,” he turned to the shapeshifters, and in a mock whisper said, “He knows magic, so if you want to see some exciting action then he’s the man!”
He pointed to Mara next who gave Dante a look of confusion. “This is Mara. Don’t make her angry, or she’ll break your arm!” Mara gave him a look of annoyance and flipped him off. “And that is Kyp, the man standing next to her is her long suffering husband but the nicest guy you’ll ever meet!”
“And I’m Dante and I’m here to have fun and I’m best goddamn cook that you’ve ever met! If any of you fine fellows had the luck to attend Seth’s birthday party I was the genius chef who made the treats! And here we are to party and have fun! Who’s with us!” He yelled and Luke and Kyp shot sparks out of their fingers and put strained smiles on their faces hoping that everyone didn’t think that they were crazy.

Stunned was about the only way to ever get silence out of the Asylum crowd, but Dante certainly managed it. Rook, however, was never one to let a party go sour, so he quickly steered Dante to the karaoke machine.
“Come, now, let’s get a song picked out, shall we? I’m sure the queue isn’t that long this early in the night!”
He physically dragged the much larger man over to the stage, hoping the others would follow.

Dante’s enthusiasm was not marred in the least by everyone’s shocked reactions to his introductions. “Yes! A song! Let’s do this party right!” He said, swinging an arm around Rook as they walked over to the karoke machine and after a look of astonishment, the others scurried after him after seeing the looks on the shapeshifters faces, whispering as they walked away toward the karoke machine.

“That went badly,” Mara said sourly to Kyp.
“You think, love?” He asked sarcastically.
“We’ll have to apologize to them! I think Dante said that we think that they all have big dicks! What if that is an insult?” Mela asked worriedly, thinking about what Seth had told her earlier. Something about his big cock…
“Maybe we can pick out a friendship song or something,” Luke said, shooting a reassuring smile her direction.

“Well, your friends certainly made an impression.”
Seth shot Kain a dirty look as the cat continued to radiate amusement. He was opening his mouth to say something nasty as Naj jumped down off the stage with Marie. Seth watched with bated breath as the pair engaged the out-of-towners.

“Oh! Are you signing up to sing?”
Naj hung himself on Dante’s free arm, mirroring Rook. “Have you ever done karaoke before? I can help? My name is Naj, what’s yours?”
Marie hung back, hiding a giggle in her hands. She loved watching Naj make friends- after how shy he had been at first, she was happy to see him so enthusiastic about things.

Dante looked down at Naj’s hand as though wondering what the man’s touch meant but after a moment broke into a big smile. “I always welcome a fellow for karoke!” he boomed. “And my name’s Dante!” He said, lowering his voice to not hurt the poor man’s ears. His eyes sought out Marie and he grinned at her. “Is that your wife there?” He asked, trying to be friendly.

Naj giggled, high on the energy radiating off the big man. “Oh no, that’s my wife over there!” He pointed to Kain and grinned, giving him a little wave.
“I see our social butterfly is making friends,” Seth whispered drily.

Dante was delighted and it showed in the way that he spoke. “Oh you are married to a man! Fabulous!” He said and nodded happily to Kain and gave him a little salute.
He turned back to Naj. “I’ve never sung karoke before so you may have to help me.” Dante said, seriously and nodded wisely. “Can’t be too hard to do though, eh?” He asked happily.

Naj bounced with excitement. “Do you like animated movies? I know the perfect song, if you know All Dogs Go to Heaven?”

Looks of confusion appeared on everyone’s faces and even Dante’s perpetually happy expression faltered. “What is an ‘animated movie’, good sir?” He asked in confusion. “I don’t even know what that is. Um…I know some folk songs.” Luke and Mela exchanged glances. They had taken their daughter to puppet shows but they had no movies on their world. Their Author had told them about movies and invited them to watch movies with her but they mostly didn’t have the patience.
After a moment of thinking he added, “Oh, wait! My author let me and my wife see The Little Mermaid! Is that what you are talking about? I know “Kiss the Girl!”

Oh oh oh! I LOVE little mermaid!!” Naj’s bouncing doubled and a shimmer of scales erupted over his hand.” Do you know “Part of your world?”

Dante looked slightly startled as scales erupted on Naj’s arm but once he realized that he wasn’t having a reaction he smiled again. “Yes! My author sings it a million times a day! Let’s do that song!”

Naj didn’t wait for further response. He was already queuing up the song and climbing back onto the stage.

Dante climbed up on the stage and beamed happily at everyone. Mara rolled her eyes. Mela beamed. Luke gave him a thumbs up and Kyp giggled happily and gave Naj a little shy wave.

Naj waved back before picking up the lyric screen and mic. He handed the mic to Dante and leaned in close. “This will show us all the words and they’ll highlight as we’re supposed to sing them. Just follow my lead.”

Dante nodded happily and whispered, “Thank you,” to Naj before lifting the microphone to his lips. Luke looked back at the table. He wanted to apologize for Dante’s faux pas and Mara also glanced at the table but for a very different reason. She shifted from foot to foot and was slightly undecided if she should approach the girl or not. She decided to give it a few moments to see what happened next.

With her partner in crime gone, Marie scurried back to the table and tucked herself back under Nat’s arm. “Who are your friends, Seth?” she asked.
“They’re from another world, visiting like Bria Lana was.” He wondered for a moment where the other girl had gone, but Jon had said the night wasn’t agreeing with her.
“I like them,” Marie said with an enthusiastic nod. “Anyone that’ll just get up there and sing karaoke without fear is alright with me.”
Seth smiled. “They are fearless; you have to give them that.” He caught Mara’s eye and waved the crowd over.

Mara quickly turned back to her companions and quickly spoke to them. All of them then turned almost as one, looking at the table that they had abandoned. Mara and Kyp held hands as they approached but Luke and Mela held back. Luke said something to Mela, which made her blush and shake her head. Luke stopped and gently cupped her face in his hands and spoke to her with an adoring look on his face. She smiled and spoke softly but no one could hear them.
“Hi,” Mara said, giving everyone a bright smile that she normally never wore. “Um, sorry for Dante just blatantly insulting everyone. We have aliens where we come from and we usually just call them by their species.”
“But that isn’t done here,” Kyp said, in his friendly voice. “And we are all very sorry. We know that all of you are lovely people and we would love to share a drink with you.” Both of them gently grabbed a drink from the tray, hoping that they were forgiven.

To Seth’s surprise, it was Rowan who spoke up. “It’s not uncommon to call people by their heritage, but we’re not all the same sorts of shapeshifters.”Dancers” is probably the closest you get to unifying us, though “Seth’s friends” would have sufficed.” He smiled softly, lowering his gaze. That had been a bit outspoken, for Ro. “But we don’t expect everyone to know how things are done here- I, for example, have no idea how any of you would prefer to be addressed, should I wish to offer any of you a chair and a drink.” He gestured to the few empty seats between himself and Rain. “Feel free to pull extras over from the other tables- it seems we’re having a relatively quiet Monday night.”

Kyp smiled. “Thank you, I am so, so sorry for what happened. We’ll learn your names and call you by them or Seth’s friends or however you would like to be addressed,” he said happily.
Mara and Kyp smiled at each other before Kyp looked to his side and seemed confused to not see Luke. Mela walked up, running a hand though her hair.
“You and Luke talking?” He asked, giving her a smile.
She nodded and patted her hair again. “Yes, my husband’s quite the chatterer, you know,” she said grinning and Kyp merely looked confused and gave a laugh as Mara spoke up.
“We got invitations to sit down!” She said. “They forgave us; they said that we can sit down with them.”
“Oh, thank you,” Luke said, relief written all over his face. “Honestly, I am so, so sorry.” Mela just beamed beside him. Mara helped Kyp bring some chairs over and then she conveniently took a spot beside Rain. If this girl was an assassin, she wanted to know. It intrigued her because she did a much better job of blending in then even Mara did and she had years of practice.
Everyone else took drinks from the try and clinked there glasses together, Kyp and Mela both having water. All of them sat back in their chairs, happy to put the disastrous start of their introduction behind them.

Ro flushed at their excitement at being accepting. It meant that their group had been the ones that were being rude, by not being more gracious about the mistake. Still, drinks were poured and small chat struck up, and Rowan was able to fade back to listening, as was his preference.
Rain shrunk in on herself. Of the brothers, she much preferred Naj, but of the people to either side of her, she preferred the aggressive serpent she knew to the “arm breaking” woman she didn’t.

Mara instantly noticed the girl tense next to her and her misgivings increased. Was she playing with her? Plenty of assassins were frightened of Mara but that was after she threatened them and she recalled Dante telling everyone that she would break their arm if she got mad. However, having an arm broken was something that all assassins dealt with at least once. Mara’s arm had been broken three times. Maybe the girl was new to the world of assassinating?

Seth was quick to lead the round of introductions, to keep everything running smoothly. “You all know me, red cobra,” he said, holding up a hand to flash scales. “And that was Rowan, he’s avian, a crow.” Ro nodded and let the feathers in his hair raise, then quickly averted his gaze again.
“With him is Emily, leopard and local artist.” The snow leopard smiled her classically charming smile, expertly done red lips showing no sign of fading, despite all the drinks. She gave a small wave, golden fur with black spots rippling over her skin.
“Then Marie and Nat, fox and African wild dog.” Marie waved enthusiastically, both with her hand and her bushy red tail. Nat smiled, golden of her bangs traveling down her face to lighten patches of her dark skin. Some spots went all the way to white, creating the classic marbled look before fading away again.
All of the out of towners watched in amazement as scales, feathers and fur rippled around them. They had nothing like this where they lived. It was fascinating and completely engrossing
“And this fellow is Kain, cheetah.” Another wave, more spots, but more regular than Emily’s. Seth settled back with a smile until Nat coughed and flicked her eyes to Rain.
“Oh, yes, and this is Rain, a …uh, dancer.”
If Rain could have disappeared, she would have.

Mara let out of a puff of air and quietly listened as introductions were made. She put a gentle smile on her face and leaned against Kyp, who was sitting beside her, hoping to say something to make the girl comfortable. What did girls like her talk about? Mela mentioned talking to her and so Mara wondered if she should apologize for her companion.
However, as soon as Nat mentioned dancing, she knew that she had an in. She loved dancing.
“Ohh, do you dance frequently?” Mara asked, making her voice warm and friendly.

“Uhh… not anymore.” She knew Nat had good intentions, but she wished she’d just been kept out of it. “I would have just called myself ‘college student’.”

“Oh, what are you studying?” Mara could have smacked Kyp for joining in this conversation. His voice was friendly as usual.

Uhh… veterinary medicine? I think… I haven’t really decided…”
Emily saw how she was floundering, and rescued the girl. “That’s not unusual for us here- I had three majors myself before settling into art therapy.” The look of naked relief was so clear on Rain’s face, Rowan found himself flushing again. This evening… it was certainly something.

Mara was now intensely confused. Mela must have been wrong and it wouldn’t be the first time. Everything about this girl screamed ‘poor college student.’ As she was used to being thorough, though, she decided to scan the girl’s aura and see if she had that dark taint to her that all assassins had.
Mara studied her aura with laser like precision. It spoke of great pain that occurred to her recently, that was normal for an assassin, that was usually what started them on the path, and she saw a shiny silvery threat that she had never seen before…it could mean a connection to someone. However, as she moved in further, the girls aura hit her like an icy wind and she took a deep breath and struggled against the winds that buffeted her, angry that she was here. She had not meant to get in so deeply for a moment, she felt lost in these icy cold winds. Both Kyp and Luke looked at her startled and Kyp noticed that when Mara’s breath came out like mist on a cold day that something was wrong. He instantly spread his magic around her and Mara collapsed into his arms and Luke looked on, looking confused and worried.
“Mara…” Kyp started.
“Bathroom,” she said, standing shakily. She tried to act normal and so she shoot a smile at him and Seth, realizing that she broke her iron clad hold on her emotions and she was so angry at herself for it. She didn’t even look at Rain. Something may be wrong with the girl but she was no assassin. She was just profoundly fucked up.
“Sorry,” Kyp apologized, looking after Mara as she went to the bathrooms, still looking slightly twitchy. “Sometimes she has visions and I think that’s what that was.” He was clearly still worried but turned his attention back to the table.

Seth nodded, though he watched Mara leave with a worried expression. “It’s something I’m familiar with myself,” he said absently.

Kyp nodded but Luke was now looking at the girl Rain in sight confusion. Why had Mara’s eye been so intent on her? And did this girl do something to her? It seemed unlikely that something like that could have happened and that no one would have done anything to stop her so he let it go but exchanged glances with Kyp.
Do you know what happened?
No. Any idea?
None, Luke answered. Do you want me to check on her when she gets back?
No, that’s fine. It’s Mara’s fault if she got too far in something.
Luke couldn’t disagree with that, but it seemed slightly wrong to just abandon her. However, he knew that Mara would just lash out in anger, even if he came to ‘check on her.’ Mara hardly ever acted weak and he knew that she would never forgive him if he treated her like she needed help. Kyp knew that better than Luke did but he still would make a point to check in with her later.
Mela noticed that both Luke and Kyp were talking with their minds since she was used to it by now and she scowled and decided to change the subject. She could talk about herself some more and find out more about her new friends!
“Nat and Marie, both of you are simply lovely! Do you like my clutch?” She asked eagerly holding it up so that is sparkled in the light.

Nat simply blinked at the abrupt transition, but Marie was happy enough to chat at anyone willing. “I do! I especially like the M!”
Kain and Seth exchanged looks, but neither of them said anything.

Mela squealed in delight. “Yes, my husband had is custom made for me!” She cried. “Isn’t he the perfect cupcake?” She asked happily and grabbed his arm, jerking Luke out of his conversation and blinked and cleared his throat and looked at Mela with a blank smile on his face.
“Oh, are you going to?” He asked, apparently not hearing the conversation going on around them and referenced something completely different.
“No!” She squealed, hitting him with her clutch. “I was showing off my beautiful clutch that you my darling made for me! And Marie likes it because she has excellent taste!” She turned back to the table. “Does anyone have their nails done? Mine are blue to match my dress, see?” She fanned her fingers out, painted a beautiful turquoise blue.

Emily laughed. “None for me thanks. I would wreak havoc on my pottery.”
“I do!” Rook purred, returning to the table with Naj and Dante. “I know the most wonderful spa uptown- if you’re staying for more than just the night, I could take you?”

Naj strolled right up to Kain, planting himself in the big man’s lap, not at all concerned that took his spot. He stole a sip of Kain’s drink, shivering happily as the heavy liquor hit his system.

Dante was happily humming away and dropped in an empty chair near Luke. “Hell, that was fun!” He said. “We need to do this more often!” He grabbed a Long Island and started downing in in huge gulps.
“Oh, Naj, my author has told me all about you!” Mela said, her eyes getting all misty. “Would you like to sit in my chair and I can sit on your lap?” She asked hopefully.
“Dear, he’s with his husband,” Dante said pointedly, emerging from his glass. It was less than half full.
“Gods, I’m having fun!” He said, looking happily around the table.

Naj giggled. “Oh, we’re not actually married. But thank you.” He scanned the new faces at the table looking for his next victim. “Who’s going to sing next, hm?”

There’s still a few Mondays left in November if anyone else wants to join the party!

You’re Invited!

What: Character-oke nights with Rook and Raevenly

Where: Rook’s bar (and the blogosphere at large)

When: Every Monday in November!

Who: Any character who needs to unwind, including authors! This is your chance to do some quirky, no pressure writing to unwind, get over a road block, get the juices flowing or just play around!

Who, part 2*: As host, I’ll be bringing any and all characters to the bar that I can get a hold of. Most active right now are those from Rain’s story, or any of the Asylum Dancers, but if you know of someone you’d like to chat with, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can find them running around in here somewhere…

How: Always a good question. The short answer is: any way you want! Write your own blog post and ping back to this one, contact me with an idea and we can write a scene together, hire a sky writer and spell it out in the clouds – thought that one might be harder to see at night. 😛

Why: Why? Because we love you! In all seriousness, though, this is an idea that Alli and I have been kicking around for a while. It’s great fun, it stretches the brain, and getting your characters outside of their comfort zones (read: home stories) is a great way to get to know them. I wanted to do this during NaNo because I think it’ll be a really good way to overcome some of the speedbumps we all hit along the way. And, ya know, Rook is impatient. Once he heard we wanted to a drunken character get-together, well, he hasn’t shut up since.

*Naturally, if you’d like to work with one of my characters, I ask that you do so through me rather than taking them on and writing them yourselves. They’re all fairly young characters, they’re not allowed to cross the street by themselves yet. 😛


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