More Interesting than
A Bargains fanfic
By Willow Taylor
Once upon a time, in New York...
Aerael hung up the phone and stared at it, full lips pressed into a thin, worried line. He pressed a hand to his head, and rubbed his eyes, sighing.
"Now isn't that ironic..." laughed a voice behind him, a scaled hand touching his shoulder and sliding over it. "A incubus with a headache." He brushed the hand off his shoulder and gave its green skinned owner a disgusted look.
"Very funny, Jade. Piss off, would you?"
She chuckled at him, golden, narrow eyes getting even narrower in her amusement.
"Not to break character and expedite the plot, but what's up?" He turned and raised an eyebrow at her. Jade did her best to smile innocently. It didn't work. Fangs are usually detrimental to innocent smiles.
"What have you been reading?"
"Terry Pratchett. All hail the footnotes."
The incubus winced again and put a wing in between them. "I'm not going to talk to you until you're back to your normal annoyance level. I've got something else to think about."
"Several, no doubt. Try and keep them straight. After all, it wouldn't do to fight with Carlie, and bang Richard."
"What?" Long white hair snapped around and Aerael glared at the monster. "How...?"
Jade held up her other hand, which had a cordless phone in it, and grinned.
"Tacky, Jade. Really tacky."
"It's my house, bouncy-buns," Jade said, tossing the phone onto the couch and following it. "And shit keeps happening in it. There was that whole mess before..." There was no need to go into further detail.
"Well, it turned out alright..."
"And if you're about to be in the middle of some weird sex-game/war, then I'd like to know about it ahead of time."
Aerael sighed deeply, and shook his head. "It's not a sex game. Honestly Jade, you of all people should know there's more to my people than that."
"Not much more." She smirked. "Anyhow, I only came in half way through, gimmie the full story."
"No," Aerael said with as much dignity as he could muster, and turned to walk away.
"Just tell me if this is gonna affect my security deposit!?"
Aerael perched on a chair and drummed his fingers against one knee thoughtfully. He needed to make a decision about this. Night was approaching quickly. His first instinct was to blow it off, after all, it was none of his business. But if the excrement hit the rotating blades, it would be his business. It would be everybody's business. Hell, it might be Hamlet. He rubbed his forehead again, and the base of his horns. If it weren't for Carlie, he'd think about leaving the city. There were just too many incubi in New York. Not that there wasn't enough room, space and energy to go around, hell, in that case there was room for plenty more, but there was that small tendency of rams to butt heads and prove who was stronger. Generally speaking, his race did not get on well with each other. Succubi and Incubi could share territory, and even the same house, at times, but there was a less than friendly rivalry automatic. Sort of a strong male competition, and since they were so strongly male, it got worse. So there were rules, and a sort of society.
Richard was one of the other Incubi in the city. He actually lived on Long Island, but it was considered inside the city. Richard was a decent guy, Aerael supposed, but in a different style than he was. But that wasn't the problem. The problem was Richard was young as Incubi went, and he'd gained a lot of power, very quickly, with the death of his wife. That whole affair was so messy that Aerael skimmed over it mentally, not wanting to think about it. But Richard was content to live quietly, not unlike himself. Unfortunately, being young, he was a tempting target. Another Incubus wanted what Richard had - and ŚLord' Harrington wasn't playing by the rules. And if he didn't play by the rules about that, he might decide to try and chase all the other Incubus out of the city.
It had been attempted before, and despite his assertion to Jade, it was rather like a war. There were more similarities between them and angels than the wings.
So he could join forces with Richard, or stand back and watch what happened. He didn't really like either of those options. He had an absurd urge to tug on his horns in frustration.
"Hey there..." He looked up to see Carlie entered the room. "What's up, I haven't seen you look that serious in ages. Is there something the matter? Anything I can help with?"
"No, not really."
Carlie looked at him seriously, deep crimson eyes calm. Aerael had to smile softly. He loved seeing her in her true form. She was getting more and more comfortable in it - and was even learning how to walk with floor length hair.
"Well then..." She draped her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the nose. "Maybe I could cheer you up?"
He chuckled. "Weren't you going out with your father to practice your abilities?"
"He can wait."
Aerael smiled again.
"No, no," he teased, kissing her on the nose. "Do family bonding. Right now, I have to go talk to someone. I'll be back at about the same time as you." He roused all his feathers and shook them.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." Another kiss, this time on the lips, and the incubus swept out of the room. When Carlie remembered how to think, she realized the phone was ringing, and picked up.
"Oh hi! No, I'm fine." Pause. "Actually, I'm concerned about something, so I have to cancel tonight. No, nothing personal. Yeah, why don't you go ahead." Pause. "And be careful. Yeah, he was a bastard, after all the time you spent in that identity to ruin it for you - goof." She laughed. "Bye."
* * * *
There was a pause and a blink. "You know, if you look for a double entendre in everything..."
"Cut to the chase, Richard." Aerael folded his wings around himself.
"Fine, fine." The younger incubus flipped his own wings uncomfortably. "Where do you want me to start?"
"You still haven't convinced me I shouldn't just fly home."
"Fine." Richard pushed dark brown hair out of his eyes and sighed deeply. "About two weeks ago, Harrington got a mortal witch to trap me in a circle."
"I didn't think anyone knew how to do that anymore."
"Not properly, no." Richard rubbed the back of his neck. "But it was properly done. Called me right out of my bed and into a subbasement of Kismet's that I didn't even know existed."
"So if it was that well done, how did you get out?" Aerael asked suspiciously. For all Richard's youth he didn't lack guile. This could very well be Richard's excuse for starting a large scale battle against a rival. Richard winced. "Prism."
At the sound of her name, a female lion padded out on to the balcony, as if summoned. After a moment, it became obvious it wasn't a lion, but a lion with a woman's head. Then it became a kneeling woman, with a lion's ears, paws and tail, wearing nothing but a broad golden collar. She licked a paw sensually, dark brown-gold curls falling around her face.
"Oh. I heard about that."
"It really did seem like a good idea at the time."
Prism began sniffing about Aerael suspiciously, as if he was expected to try and kill her, still faintly cat-like teeth bared.
"She's still a little nervous." Richard put a hand out, and the lion woman moved to rub against it. "But she did show me a few interesting things. For one, my wife was just as stupid as I was, once a long time ago."
"Could you can the melodrama? I want to get home tonight."
At the sharpness in his voice, Prism jumped, resumed her lion form, and hid behind Richard.
"Fine." He scowled. "In yet another Subbasement I knew nothing about was a creature a great deal like Prism here, only stronger. She freed him, and he freed me, on the agreement that I would give him leave to do as he wanted in my house. Then he helped me, free my staff and drive Harrington away. Since then, we've been... recovering. It wasn't easy."
"He beat all of your staff?"
Richard's staff was the stuff of gossip. Very few people could make such an odd conglomerate of creatures work together, let alone live in one estate on Long Island. At last gossip session, after the death of his succubus wife, there was a mage, twin spider demons, Richard's own son, also an Incubus, Prism, who was a lamia, two werewolves, and a horde of zombies raised for the purpose of guarding the house. Seeing that he'd need it, Richard enumerated what had been done.
There were now no zombies, they had all been destroyed, Richard's son was recovering from having a wing almost ripped off, one of the werewolves had regressed to animal state and hadn't recovered from it, one of the twin spiders had died, torn into a thousand bits, and the mage was exhausted.
"I actually came out the best of all of us," Richard said, running his hands through his hair again nervously. Prism reared up and licked his face.
"I'm still not sure why you wanted my help."
"In complete honesty, Aerael, you're the only one who answered the phone. I wanted more help. This is plain bad news." The purple eyed incubus made a face. "He postured, posed and explained his plans like a gods-be-damned movie villain."
"He did what?" Aerael said, disgusted. "That is clearly the sign of a diseased mind."
"No shit, Sherlock." A young man, arm bandaged, came out onto the balcony, arms crossed across his chest. "This is the result of your cry for pity Richard?" he demanded, dark brown hair with golden highlights in his eyes. "Well how's this, you've got mine, because you're going to die."
"Thank you for your support, Sphinx."
Prism came out from her hiding place to rub in a friendly way against Sphinx's leg. The effect was that of a giant housecat. Sphinx tossed his hair out of his eyes, and looked at Aerael.
"Take my advice. Walk away now. I'm stuck with this joker, just as I'm stuck with this house, this island."
Richard covered his eyes with one hand as the newcomer continued.
"If he hasn't mentioned me, I'm Sphinx."
"You don't look like one."
"No, that's my name. I'm like her." He rubbed Prism's head, and his own lion-like ears came forward through his hair. "Or rather, what she could have been."
"I don't get your meaning. Lamia are a completely female race."
"And yet, here I am." He gestured with a lion's paw. "Unique among the world. And believe me, that is a trick."
"If you're just going to mock me again, Sphinx, why don't you go back into your cozy little subbasement and wait until I'm dead, then kill Harrington like you threatened to."
"Because it was a bluff, you idiot!" Sphinx screamed.
Aerael tried to contain a burst of laughter, at Sphinx's exclamation, but on seeing the befuddled look on Richard's face, doubled over into gales of laughter uncontrollably.
"I'm so sorry," he choked. "Oh if you could see your face... Fuck it," he laughed. "I'm not that sorry."
"If you're quite done..." Richard grumbled icily. "Not all of us can be born this way."
Most of them were, of course, but Richard was right. Incubi could either be born, or re-born. Richard was one of the second, a human man transformed, with all his memories intact. Most supernatural distained it, realizing that it was a cheap shot at immortality. The last known case this had happened to committed suicide, a slow death by starvation. He'd gone insane. And Richard was just some guy that Kismet had chosen to be a constant meal, drawing him away from his wife and family, then decided, after he died, she couldn't live without his company. Of course, rumor had it that Richard arranged Kismet's death. There were many ways to go insane.
"Yes, you can ask for help, but what can you offer me?"
"Other than a chance to stop someone before he becomes a problem for you?" Richard spread his fingers. "Anything I own. People don't count. It gets messy."
"You don't own that much."
"At least I'm not employed as a living work of art."
"It's good work if you can get it."
"Well?" Richard asked.
Aerael paused, and looked back at Richard. "I'll think about it."
"That's more than anyone else has offered."
Aerael shook his head and took off. The clouds were low that night, and reflecting the city's light. A few moments put him above the lower strata, where it was much safer to fly.
"Well then, what are you up to?"
The voice came from behind and above him, languorous, bored and faintly familiar. He turned and blinked. It was another incubus. He was just running into too many, lately.
This one was entirely dark tones, black hair bound into a tail at the base of his neck, black spiraling horns that glinted with a gold ornament at one point, wings like starless pieces of night sky. He was wearing black too, a suit of some sort, with gold lace at the wrists and throat, that had to have some sort of special clasp in the back to let his wings through. Other than the golden hints, the only relief from the place was his paper white skin. He looked almost more like a vampire than a incubus. No accounting for taste.
"Who are you?"
"Why I think you'd know that, after talking to Richard. I'm Harrington."
Something about him was bothering the hell out of Aerael.
Magic. That was it, he was using magic to fly without properly using his wings.
So he was using magic purely to appear more impressive. That was pretty irritating.
"Well, I don't think I have anything to say to you," muttered the white haired incubus and continued on his way.
"Oh, but I have plenty to say to you."
"But maybe I don't feel like listening."
"I think you should." Aerael was suddenly jerked backwards as Harrington grabbed a hold of his hair and yanked.
"Hair pulling?"Aereal spat, yanking his locks free. "Obviously Richard seriously over estimated your threat."
"I doubt it. For all he's a fool, he's fairly levelheaded. Now if I have your attention...?"
"No." Aereal turned and this time banked before Harrington could get a hold of him again. "You supremely disinterest me."
"If you side with Richard it will go the worse for you."
"Get a new threat. That one's so stock it's practically dry goods. I haven't decided to side with anyone."
"You should. It may be too late soon."
"Go to hell you..." Aereal turned to deliver a scathing insult he'd picked up from Jade, but Harrington was gone. He paused for a moment. As uncomfortable a thought as it was. He had to consider - maybe it wasn't just Richard's strain that could go insane.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
More Interesting than Sex © 2001 by Willow Taylor
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